Thing I do when I should be writing

It’s quiet in the house, I’m sitting in front of the computer, (one of) my story/stories is open in Word and what am I doing? Making book covers. Big Huge Labs has a bunch of generators, for movie poaters, magazine covers, all that you can upload your own pics to and play away. Like I need something to waste more of my tie.

But it’s fun. And I get to try out ideas for what I think the cover should look like. Like this one:

Old Dogs

old dogs 2It’s Valerie and Daniel’s story, set in north central Florida.( Old Dogs is a working title, especially since I just found out there’s a movie coming out with John Travolta and Robin WIlliams by the same name.) There are swamps and stuff here, and they live on a lake. While the text could be classified as a contemporary romance, I don’t want it to look like one, with grappling couples and impossibly lush scenery behind them that has nothing to do with their real locale. The landscape is enough for me. If not this, then it will be something just as simple, a picture of a dirt road, or a pasture.

Okay, enough for now. Back to writing.

Or something.

So, what books have you NOT read?

GettyBookPileThis article on the NPR blog ‘Monkey See’ got me started thinking. And you know how dangerous that can be. I started thinking about the Great Books I have read, all those I purchased with the intent to read, and those I tried and couldn’t finish.

Great Books I have read:

To Kill a Mockingbird, The Good Earth, Pride and Prejudice, The Yearling, Cross Creek, The Sojourner (all three by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings), The Catcher in the Rye (I still hate Holden Caulfield to this day), most of Lewis Carroll, William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, A Confederacy of Dunces (Ignatius J. Reilly still irritates the shit out of me to this day), Gone With The Wind, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (yes, before the movies came out…) and others that I can’t quite remember. Some I had to read for school, some were foist upon me, some I read because I was curious and Felt I Should. The Good Earth was one of these. Pearl Buck wrote one of the saddest, most hopeless stories ever.

The list of books I’ve bought and not read (and may never get to them) might be a bit ambitious. NPR’s blog calls this The Shelf of Constant Repraoch. I like it. On my shelf I’ve got most of Faulkner, bought because he was a Southern writer. Maybe it’s a regional loyalty/pride/misguided idiocy that prompted me to buy them; I have yet to crack the cover(s). I have a couple James Joyce books. They’re innocently thin, enticing with their, ‘I’m not too thick; you could read me in no time’ profile. Still untouched. Same thing with The Three Musketeers, though, in my own defense I must say that it is a fairly recent purchase and that I did read a page to make sure that slogging through flowery turns of phrase wouldn’t bog me down.

Then, there are the Failures. Attempts to read, to improve one’s mind, to gain insight into an anticipated performance or simply because one Feels One Should, my Shelf of Shame is varied and long. Among the volumes is Les Miserables. Good God Almighty, was Victor Hugo ever in unholy love with words. I read 150 pages, trying to read it before seeing a performance of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s play. Yes, you snobs, I know it’s not the same, ‘there’s no comparison’. That would be correct. The play was actually comprehensible. 150 pages into the tome was the first ten minutes of the play.  Javert had just started his OCD search for Jean Valjean. Fantine hadn’t even become a glimmer on the horizon. I enjoyed the play. The book put me to sleep.

I’ve tried to read Moby Dick. I swear I have. I couldn’t handle the long drawn out descriptions of whale hunting any more than anyone else that has tried to read Melville. Same author, different book. Billy Budd. Same result. As wonderful a story as Schindler’s List was, especially with it being true, I couldn’t keep reading it. It didn’t engage me. Same with Wicked. I just gave up on that a week or so back. I didn’t like any of the characters; they were all annoying in some way. I got most of the way through Pamela before her idiotic innocence drove me away. Boccacio’s Decameron I might give another go at some point; I keep the copy on my shelf.

Just in case.

Why does writing new material sometimes make you frustrated?

waahI love talking to friends online and especially talking writing. We discuss our characters, read snippets of each others’ work, comment and offer constructive criticism. Except I’m not getting my usual dose. I have a friend I bore online every weekend with endless babbling about my characters. I’m pretty sure I monopolize the conversation, though my friend never complains. I know I’m still being a pain in the ass. A forum that used to be quite lively now has crickets singing. That’s probably why I’m annoying my friend with my endless yipping about my stories. Right now, our weekly converations are just about my only outlet. I’d love to find a nice, informal, small but active forum to post my work and read others. I’ve joined a couple of places but none of the ‘formal’ sites is the right fit. There are lots of rules or lots of people (or both) and I don’t know what to do. Granted, I haven’t really tried posting to these new sites because I keep hoping the lit forum I’m haunting will pick up, or our LJ group will have more activity. I know everyone is busy and I’m just whining again.

On the brighter side, one of our weekend ramblings did produce a plot change for Rayne. I like it much better, with her being less of a damsel in distress and more of a proactive, drag-her-own-ass-out-of-the-fire kind of girl. And it brings her oldest brother back into the picture and gives them a chance to understand one another better. I’m still working on it, and there’s lots more to write before I can wrap up this chapter of her life, but I’m liking what I’ve done so far. I’m bridging the cracks in the story, fixing the holes (where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from… sorry.;-) and trying to build a cohesive story from the mess of notes and ideas I have thus far.

If I’m honest with myself, Rayne’s story may not be the best one to pursue if I intend to ever get published. I know there’s a huge market for fantasy stuff; I walk past the shelves and writhe with envy. But is it any better to break into the market with something contemporary? Or someing paranormal? Of course, I’m nowhere close to having anything done to present to a potential agent or publisher. I wish I knew.

Wow, all this whining sounds familiar. I should really try to find something new to write about when I write about my writing.

Say that three times fast.

Writing Prompt response- feel free to play along

cemetery doveOver on a tiny LiveJornal writing community I belong to, the following prompt was posted:

“Depict a cemetery from the standpoint of a woman who, for the first time in ten years, visits her lover’s tombstone. Even if her emotions are strong, don’t express them in global terms “she was overcome with sorrow,” but show expressions of the emotion in what she sees, how she sees it—birds, plants, ants, other tombs, mourners.”

 Here’s what I came up with. This snippet didn’t come very easily, I don’t know why. Still, I’m satisfied with how it turned out. Always room for improvement, but I like it okay. Thanks for the prompt/kick in the ass, schadenkatze.

                It had taken four hours and several wrong turns but she’d finally found the cemetery. Lying down a rutted dirt road, Molly wondered what kind of shape the place would be in, secluded as it was. An iron arch stood sentinel at the entrance; as she pushed it creaked back on its hinges, screeching in protest as if the action was painful.

It had been in better shape ten years ago. The gate had opened in silent respect for the flag-draped coffin, the sky had rained warm tears onto the ceremony. Today the sun slanted through the trees, heading for bed in the western horizon, limning the stones and trees with a sullen orange glow.

“C’mon, Molly, move…” Still she stood by the gate, rooted to the spot. It was easy enough to see Adam’s monument from here. It stood out among the weathered marble and more mundane stones. It was a tacky black granite monstrosity his parents had insisted on buying, emblazoned with an American flag, a Marines emblem and a 1969 Oldsmobile 442. Smaller flags speared the dirt around the headstone, some so faded by the brutal Florida sun the stripes were gone, to one that could have been planted that day, its red white and blue fluttering in the light spring breeze. Molly glanced around; she seemed to be alone. At last, she found the will to make herself move.

Ten years later, that name engraved in the cold black marble still had the power to make her pause. ‘Garion Adam Belson, USMC’ stood in stark contrast to the shiny stone, reflecting the weed-choked gravel and ragged memorial flags. Apparently his parents felt their responsibility to his memory ended with paying for that enormous tombstone. Gravel crunched under her feet, muffled in comparison to the last time she’d stood here, long after the other mourners left, watching the box lower into the ground, watching his parents leave, the folded flag in his mother’s hands, not her own. Standing in the warm rain until the smell of rifle smoke was a mere memory, until night fell.

“Sorry it took me so long, babe.” She laid the white rose across the top of the stone and knelt before it, brushing the dirt that had splashed up from the last rain and dried to the shiny stone surface. Restless fingers tugged at the weeds poking from among the crushed gravel and tossed them aside.

“I know; I’m stalling. You could always tell. The bar is doing good. Fitz still comes by once in awhile; we talk about you for hours before I have to cut him off and call Ronnie to pick him up.” Molly could see her reflection in the granite. Tousled hair escaping from the confines of its braid, pale skin and dark-circled eyes from too many nights running the bar. “I look like shit, babe; I’m sorry. Probably not what you wanted to see on your birthday, huh?”

Her gaze dropped to the surface of the ground; a dandelion she’d missed in her cursory cleanup. Its sunny yellow head bobbed, nodding in agreement with her statement. She reached out to stop the motion and her knuckled brushed the headstone. Turned out it wasn’t cold after all, but warm, as warm as the hand she used to hold. Molly flattened her hand against the stone, just beside his name. It had never been her name, and Molly had never stopped regretting it.