Friday, June 30, 2006


I did it. I got to the end. At this moment, Victory stands at 84,233 words, which will change up or down, perhaps considerably after I "fix" the professor character. She is the one probably furthest from my heart emotionally so I intend to get in there and bolster her somehow. Classroom scenes will help, I think, and I have a wealth of material for THAT assignment.

My computer is making an odd whirring noise, which even I as a techo-jackass know cannot be good. Do computers have fan belts? Does it need an oil change? I hate when mechanics scold me.


Well, no, I don't think so.


Possibly not.


I know. I'm an inferior human.


One of these days we consumers, we car drivers, should stand up to these guys. YOU KNOW WHAT? I'M PAYING THE BILL, AREN'T I? JUST FIX IT, FREON BREATH.

My friends and I were talking about having rage parties. Different from raves. We could wear costumes---one of my friends suggested an Edward Scissorhands get-up and I like the sound of it. Jack the Ripper, Chucky, any psychopath will do.
Not that we have issues, but get out the magazine stand.

A bientot

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lost Day

I am goofing off big time.

I heard two days ago that my summer course is cancelled, so maybe that accounts for it. Deadlines and commitments seem hazy now, sorry to say. I am still bogged down in last chapter of Victory, though I'm thinking it will probably NOT be the last chapter after all. Good grief.

I actually did some housework, swept the back porch, polished my silver tea service (now THERE'S a useless task), and would have vacuumed if the vacuum cleaner wasn't broken.

Hot and humid here in New England with intermittent weird showers and power failures. You can't flush here when the power goes out and I have always said it gives everyone an immediate laxative effect. Heading off to Burger King to use the bathroom has been many a night's activity in the past.

I'm reading my friend Gail Stockwell's manuscript for DAVID AND MAX. It's powerful and very well written. Coming out in October.

A bientot

Sunday, June 25, 2006

police knowledge

I have tried to stay away from police procedure, etc., in this book, mainly because I don't know beans about it.

Right at the end, it can't be avoided, though, so I am madly reading up on criminal procedure, etc. WHAT? IS THIS A CRIMINAL BOOK? No, it isn't, but my girl is doing some shoplifting and gets caught. I need to know if the store would have the OPTION of prosecuting her or if the law requires her to be prosecuted.

I like the way Janet Evanovich has Stephanie Plum dating a cop, but we never actually see the inner workings of the cops. So the story has the SENSE of law enforcement without any details. Cleverly done and that's what I need for this chapter.

In other news, it's time to get my syllabus ready for summer school. Somehow, in the transition to my new computer last fall, the one syllabus that didn't get transferred over is the summer school one. RATS. ASS. SCROTUM. This means I have to do it all over again, which I suppose isn't a bad thing.

Prediction: 15 students. 5 bright and motivated, working ahead to get English 101 out of the way. 5 who failed it during the past year, maybe even in one of my classes. Reasonably motivated and willing to do the work. And 5 who failed English their senior year of high school and need to pass my course to get their high school diploma. You'd think these kids would be scared and really trying hard, but they are the worst slackers I get. I'm ready for them, though.

I have finished two of my characters in Victory--the professor and the old lady. It's fitting that the grocery girl goes last because she goes first. Fingers crossed that they are funny, interesting,brilliant, and compelling. Other than that, I have no goals. HAAAAAAAAAR

A bientot

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I'm plodding along on this ending now. I'm distracted and can't concentrate. Isn't it funny how we can get a huge task done in a short time but can't get it done in a longer time? That's me, in a nutshell.

I'm enjoying my new roof. I can look out the window right now and see its lovely sort of checkered pattern and revel in knowing I don't have to fear a rainstorm. If you've never lived in fear of rain, you won't be able to relate.

Squirrels and hail. Did I ever guess they would be my nemeses? Is that correct--nemeses? Sounds like something medical. She broke her nemeses and was never the same.

Did you know that rhododendrons are in the same family as azaleas? I really can't concentrate at all.

mes skis neufs,

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Exciting Conclusion

My last two scenes have to be BIG. I'm plunging through them but I think they are going to need further work. I passed 81,000 words and I think I will bring this puppy in at around 86 0r 87,000.

Endings are such a responsibility. Someone was telling me about Raymond Chandler, whose famous book and I can't remember which one, was being adapted into a screenplay by no less a writer than F. Scott Fitzgerald. Supposedly, Fitzgerald called Chandler on the phone and said, you know that guy who gets killed in chapter such-and-so? Yeah. Yeah? Well, who the hell killed him? It was never answered in the original book.

You can't do that. Your readers will rise up in a cloud of enmity and smite you. I don't think I've ever been smote. I've been smitten, though, a few times, and lived to regret it.

I'm not into this World Cup thing. The view on the television is so huge and panoramic that you can't see the little stuff. It just looks like EVERYBODY RUNS ONE WAY. OH MY GOD, THERE THEY GO!!!! Thundering, thundering, thundering. Now someone gives the ball a tiny shove and EVERYBODY RUNS THE OTHER WAY. OH MY GOD, THERE THEY GO. Thundering, thundering, AAAAAAARGH, DO IT AGAIN! I can't take it.

I'm still thinking about Big Love, the HBO series. My friend and I watched 12 episodes of it in 2 days. Of course if Bill Paxton is the polygamist husband, that's one story...but my luck it would be one of those gnarly old guys with the clip-on sunglasses. Yick. I'd be very generous about sharing my time with HIM.

La plume de ma tante est sur le table
p.s. Thanks for the title suggestions. I'm still considering all of them.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

My dad used to take my brother and me to the library every Friday night while my mother did the grocery shopping. He loved books. He used to have a big stack of them next to his chair in the living room. Once or twice I picked up one of them and found a sexy scene or phrase and I was shocked. I wondered whether Dad would be shocked and appalled when he got to that part.

My dad used to take us with a sack of stale bread to feed the ducks in the pond at Glen Oak Park in Peoria, Illinois. My brother would eat the bread, which I found appalling.

We went to Lake Storey and and Jubilee Park and Starved Rock and lots of other places. He grilled hamburgers till they were like the charcoal briquets used in the barbecue. I climbed up to the very high diving board and then, in humiliation, climbed down again. Dad encouraged me and I finally did jump off it. He would tell me to swim to him in the water, but he kept moving back so I would have to swim farther.

He wore a khaki work suit of some kind in the garage and I remember him wearing it when he tried to help us nurse a baby rabbit with a doll bottle. He helped me plant watermelon seeds in our first house and I was broken-hearted when we moved to another house and I never got to see if they would grow.

Dad would try and read the paper on the back porch and the little neighbor girl would come over and pester him. "Know what, Mr. Willis? Know what?"

He wore a hat when he went to work.

He woke me up every day and rubbed my back.

He went to church every Sunday for 60 years with my mother and never converted to her faith.

He slipped me money sometimes when I went out the door in my teen years.
He barbecued chicken on the back patio until it was like shoe leather. I grew up eating shoe leather of every kind--beef, pork, chicken, you name it.

He hated tuna noodle casserole.

He put sliced hot dogs in chicken noodle soup. In fact, to him there was no meal that couldn't be enhanced by sliced hot dogs.

"Who gave the kid that goddamn snake?" he yelled when my brother coiled it in front of the car tire on our trip to Florida.

There are too many.

I love him and honor him.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Thread Wrapping

Threads have to be wrapped up at the end and that's where I'm stuck today. I have to come up with a satisfying reason why a certain character has been acting a certain way.

I'm not an outline user. I pretty much paint myself into the corner on things and it's days like today that I regret it. BUT I WILL THINK OF SOMETHING. My fabulous writing partners are very helpful with stuff like this. We all try to do that for each other when we can.

In other news, I gained two pounds from my recent travels and though I had lost one of them yesterday, it was back on there this morning. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

I will say it again. My body wants to weigh two hundred pounds. It wants to. I have to fight tooth and nail and deprive myself of everything good in order for that not to happen. Okay, Okay, I'm feeling sorry for myself and I'll cut it out. But GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Today is not a good day of writing. Today it is HARD WORK. Everything I do today may have to be deleted down the road.

But it's still a beautiful summer day so I am thankful.

A bientot

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


As in I'm bludgeoning my way through this thing. Victory, that is, although yesterday someone gave me a suggestion for another title: Hot Times at Victory Market.

Is that good?

Although I sort of wanted the fact that Victory refers to a grocery store to be a surprise when the reader starts reading. So that brings me back to plain Victory again. AAAAAAAARGH.

Anyway, I have seen the ending. Hallelujah!!!! Tra la!!! It lay clear in front of me and I am following its shiny path. Well okay, I was following it until the plan fell apart on the first page. But I think I have fixed that problem.

I have three pov's so they have to go in order: Old lady, professor, young girl, old lady, professor, young girl. Etc. I think I have a fiendishly clever way to end it, but we'll see.

When I'm actually writing, I hate being reminded of rules for writing. Only do this. Never do that. Blah blah blah. Those things scare me and make me hesitant and timid, which never helps. SO THE HELL WITH IT. I'M GOING DOWN MY OWN ROAD, NOT STEPHEN KING'S OR ANNE LAMOTT'S OR ANYBODY ELSE'S.

That felt good.


Monday, June 12, 2006


When can you have too many of the little suckers? If you "tell" and don't "show" enough, that's when. One of my current plot lines in Victory is suffering from this and I am attempting to fix it. I figure three good "showing" grocery scenes are needed. They should be fun to do. I may borrow from my own Hanna--hanna--[choke] experiences.

I can't think who the writer is--Nicholson Baker?--who spends four pages on tying his shoelace and going down an escalator. Talk about every single tiny detail--but that's his style and it works. It's funny.

There are plenty of good books and very good books that violate every rule you can think of. I read a very good book, MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS that is completely "telling." Two people stand chatting in the elevator. This one is not sure if the other knows she wasn't invited to the party, but in truth the other one already knows but doesn't care because she is sleeping with the neighbor across the street [MH is written much better than that]. I loved it and really enjoyed knowing all that stuff about all the characters. I myself don't usually write with an omniscient narrator. I like speaking in a character's voice.

Feedback I'm getting indicates that my most successful voice in Victory is the old lady. She is fun to write. But of course the challenge is to make all three voices compelling and interesting. If one is more so, then that's not always good.

PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS. If you worried too much about each one, you'd never get anything done. So I'm bludgeoning ahead.

My mother used to make me something she called "blushin' bunny," which was a slice of white bread covered by a thick slab of Velveeta cheese and smothered in Campbell's tomato soup. Yum. I grew up in the Velveeta section of the midwest and one of my early East Coast friends was appalled by this delicacy. He called it "bludgeoned bunny" and sort of ruined it for me. I haven't had it for years and it certainly isn't on the South Beach diet.

Vive la Velveeta

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Grocery Rant(apologies to Pub Rants)

I went to Shaw's today in Leominster, MA. I wanted to see if B&N across the way had my book (they did but only one copy way in the back, that's another story for another time), and it seemed foolish to travel all the way back to Hudson to go to stinkin' Hanna--Ha--Ha [choking]. So I swept into Shaw's with an imperious sneer. Well, no, not really. I swept in with my usual tail-between-my-legs demeanor, ready to grovel and kowtow to anyone who spoke to me.

Guess how much I spent for supposedly one week. Remember, I live alone.


$94!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

How can this be? I vowed to analyze my purchasing habits.

The first thing they hit you with in any grocery is the produce so that you can crush it with heavier items as you continue to shop. Many is the watermelon I've gotten home to find soup can imprints on top of. Some stores have the bread aisle right next to this one so you can crush your rolls too.

Produce is expensive. I spent $20.72 on it. But in order to do this South Beach rigamarole, you have to.

Small bag of onions 1.29
broccoli crowns 2.99
cut watermelon 1.85
one red pepper 2.51 (I wish I hadn't bought this)

green beans 1.47 (a veritable bargain)

green pepper .67 (another bargain)

zucchini 5.80 (gasp)

red seedless grapes 4.14 (I'm getting the vapors)

BUYER'S REMORSE ITEMS (things I wish I hadn't bought)

red pepper (see above)
Lipton Raspberry teabags 3.49
Shaw's Light Cream 1.79 (shame on me)

All the rest, including extra large package of honey ham, I NEED, I TELL YOU!! Not to mention Cascade, Hefty bags and all the crapola we're taught that we need.

ISN'T THIS FASCINATING? All to distract myself from the fact that I have not inched forward on Victory yet today. I think I'm at 73,500 words and all I'm doing is fattening up the middle. Some drafts are meant to fatten and some to slash. I'm working on the first AND second drafts because I'm special (you may pronounce that "spatial").

A bientot

Friday, June 09, 2006


I took out about 800 words yesterday and put in around 1300, so ended up on the day 500 to the good. Word count isn't important right now, though (why do writers get so invested in that? I don't know), not as important as fixing the story.

I did what I said I was going to do. I revised from the beginning and shaped things more to the way they are at the end, except I still don't have the end.

I'm a pilot circling above my destination, hesitant about landing. But I'm a strong believer in the power of the subconscious. That's why you remember your keys or your wallet or other important things in the nick of time. It comes to you, not willy nilly, but certified delivery from your subconscious. So you may not even be working on your book, but your subconscious is. That's why I may look like I'm eating bonbons and lying around like a sloth, BUT I'M REALLY WORKING, haha.

I'm trying tea today instead of coffee. It tastes pretty weak. We'll see. I have to write a student recommendation, but otherwise, my time is my own, which I love. This is the very best time of year, except it's FREAKING COLD.

This is really strange for me, but on my recent trip I got super into nail care. I had a manicure and I was entranced by it. On the airplane I was constantly holding out my hands to admire them. I LOVE MYSELF!!! ME!! ME!! Of course ever since that wondrous day, they have done nothing but chip and shed, which is vastly annoying. Other women seem to already know this. "Welcome to nail heartache," my friend said.

I did get to go to SteinMart and it was a thrill, by the way. I was looking for a handbag, which I resent having to buy (I posted about this ages ago--my mother always bought my purses for me and I still feel entitled to that privilege, but I guess no one is going to). I ended up buying a pair of shoes, very cute. That is also out of my normal range of behavior. I think I was in some kind of girly retro phase.

I gained two pounds while I was gone, but am remaining calm. In the past when that would happen, I would become enraged and eat my way through Haagen Dasz revenge. I'LL SHOW THAT SCALE. DOES IT WANT TO SEE A GAIN? WAIT TILL IT GETS A LOAD OF THIS!!!
This logic has gotten me where I am. I'm staying with it. Solidarity. Be true to your school. F--- 'em if they can't take a joke.

La plume de ma tante,

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

home again

As of tomorrow, I am in official hibernation while I finish Victory. I found an opportunity to discuss it--people dropped dead of boredom while I did it--and may have found at least a strategy.

I will inch ahead, if only slightly, each day. I will add to the end a little bit every time I write. But mostly I will work my way from the beginning. I have to add in bits about the old man. When he walks out of the nursing home, does he bring his meds with him? Stuff like that. My professor character has changed vastly since I thought her up, so now I have to go back and make her in the image of the new character. Get me? I'm revising mainly, doing the second draft while I push the first one to its conclusion. I'm so hesitant about the conclusion and that's not like me. I usually bull my way without fear.

I am deliriously happy to be home.

Everything I wrote about the airlines is still true.

your friend,

Saturday, June 03, 2006

airline musings

I'm enjoying my last cup of coffee before leaving for the airport. No matter where you go or what time, traveling takes the whole day. My flight doesn't leave till 11:30am, but here I am at 6:30, packing and trying to remember what I will forget.

I've traveled a lot lately and have observed the following:

The airlines really want you to pay attention to the safety instructions these days. They stress the point that you should actually look at them and listen, much more than they used to. HEY!!! LISTEN UP!!!! WE DON'T WANT LAWSUITS FROM YOU CHUMPS! ANd what about this exit row thing? Weren't there exit rows in other years? Now, it seems, getting out of a fireball airplane is totally up to us. Not only do we have to take control of our own health care, our own retirement finances, but now our own emergency exits from airplanes. Maybe a few more people do listen to the instructions. Not me, though. Trust it to chance, I say. I'm sure in the event of an emergency, no one would remember how to attach their flotation devices anyway. By flotation device they mean measly plastic cushion that you're sitting on and that probably won't hold you above water anyway--not to mention it's freaking cold out there in the middle of Lake Michigan or the Atlantic Ocean or wherever your final destination may take you (see? I used another pet airline phrase). Most of the time you're traveling over land anyway, so what good will a flotation device do?

People who fly often can repeat these phrases along with the stews, not unlike a Rocky Horror Show viewing. "Certain electronic devices" is a good one. You may now use certain electronic devices--BUT NOT OTHER ONES!! NOT THE ONE YOU'RE THINKING OF USING!! Please bring your tray tables to their full and original upright position. THE WAY THEY LIKE TO BE! A stew on a flight of mine last week kept urging people to "work together" on the problem of storing bags in the overhead. "Let's all work together" means don't be a dipshit and try to put your bag in the front overhead because that's where EVERYBODY wants to put theirs and it gets CUCKOO. DON'T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE! YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE ME WIG OUT ON THIS AIRPLANE!!

"If there's anything we can do to make your flight more enjoyable, please don't hesitate to ask us." FREE BOOZE WOULD MAKE MY FLIGHT A LOT MORE ENJOYABLE, WHAT ABOUT THAT? YEAH, THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT.

They now announce what your choice of snack is like it's a big deal, and since everyone is weak with hunger, it does not go unlistened to. I can always hear part of it and not the other. "Lays potato chips. stamakinkegrin bar, rjskcldk beer and wine for five dollars, rhgkslke cookies, and rjgkslekjt." This is closely related to the unintelligible announcement from the pilot. "Good morning, ladies and gentleman. As you can see, ghsldkgh, we have reached our gjdlskgj. We're passing right over dkgslgkdj and there's a rare view of sldkgjdksl on the left. We're a little worried about sdkdfjsldkgjgdk, so keep your seat belts on at all times."

A bientot

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I am all a-tingle, boys and girls, because on Saturday I am jetting off to South Carolina, where they have -- yes, that's right, Becky's FAVORITE store--SteinMart. I thought I was going to be able to go while I was in Arkansas recently and indeed I drove by it about five or six times but never was able to go inside.

The history of my love for SteinMart is a few years old. [OH CHRIST, DO WE HAVE TO READ THIS?] There is one right near my parents' house in Little Rock. My mother and I would always go whenever I visited, but a)I had to help my mother walk around with the cart and she would get tired out and I wasn't really able to shop and/or b)my father would read the paper in the car and then get bored and come in to get us and that would be that. Wherever my father would take us to shop, the meter was always running. He would sit in one of those folding chairs near the cash registers for a while and we knew we had that much time to get with it. We moved fast, or as fast as we could with a cart and a cane. Then he'd get bored and come find us. "Why don't you buy it?" he'd ask my mother. "Go ahead," he would urge. He didn't care what the heck the thing looked like, he just wanted to get out of the place. The meter was up.

Now and then they would urge me to go to SteinMart on my own, with their car while they stayed home. Now and then I would. But I could still hear the meter running in my head. That's of course when I would see the most adorable outfits, great looking blazers and white pants with pink flamingos, home fashions, pillows, divine little cocktail toothpicks. But I could only look with longing.

Pawleys Island is where I am going and my friends have a beautiful home there. They live right on a golf course and it's fun to watch grown men act like babies while we eat dinner in the back yard. Once I saw a guy wrap his club around a tree. They look cute in those little carts buzzing around too. I'm pretty sure most of them are drunk.

I can hardly believe I am actually going to be able to go to SteinMart with a girlfriend. Unless of course we don't have time, which will be perfectly fine. I'm used to it. But I'm very very hopeful.

Tres bien merci,