WIP

Friday Photos

I’m sure I intended to write a pithy, insightful post today.  Sorry.  The last several days have been a marathon of working on Astonishing.  I typed THE END a couple of hours ago, and I’m so drained I feel  gutted.  Crap, I think Little Incredibly Dumb Dog is playing with my small intestine.

I took my camera with me the other morning and shot some New York morning photos on the way home from taking Flower Child to school.  A couple of cool fog photos, and several of the ongoing and ever popular construction around the city.

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Poetic Meltdown

Shooting for the Moon

Shooting for the Moon, but not quite focused

I’ve been trying to get a good photo of the moon from my terrace.  As yet unsuccessful, but still trying.  I took a few  shots last night and when I was uploading them today, I realized that in some ways this photo nails what I’ve been feeling and thinking these last several days.  A little further away than I’d like, not as sharp as I’d like, out and visible just a little too early.

Writing, working on the WIP.  I’m getting close to the end, but it still feels very far away.  Further than it actually is.  And I’m antsy about it.  But if I’m honest, I’m also totally and completely excited.  So I’m doing exactly what you aren’t supposed to do, obsessing over my belief that this is the ONE.

I believe it, and I shouldn’t.  It’s good.  I think it’s really good.  I think it’s good enough to happen.  But is it marketable?  Is it marketable enough?  I fucking hope so, but I’m not an agent or a publisher.  And it’s magical realism, a genre that makes most people say “huh?” when I mention it.  Umm, surrealist fiction, sort of.  The conversation only gets more jumbled when the other person asks what it’s like, and the only authors I can think of who are known for magical realism are authors no one of the unwashed and unpublished persuasion should ever compare themselves to.  Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez?  Isabel Allende?  Salman Rushdie?  Paulo Coelho?  Toni Morrison?  Umm, it’s weird.  *I am not trying to suggest my writing is up there with the aforementioned authors.  It’s the style/sub-genre of literary fiction.

I should be cool.  Tattoo all the stats and odds against me across my forehead while I continue writing and face a mirror, and know that this might or might not be the ONE.  In the interest of balancing reality and dreams, I’ve been working on the query letter.  Another shouldn’t.  This one–I shouldn’t hate query letters.  They’re a tool, one of a few used to catch an agent’s eye.  But I do hate them, because I’m not very good at them, and so I figured it would be a good idea to start working on this well in advance of sending any out.  Less pressure.  But really, looking at a blank document and typing “Query” across the top, all I want to say is this:

Pretty sure that would be the ultimate cliche.  Would that change it from cliche to kitsch?  Hmmm.  I’ve been getting some feedback–questions and thoughts–from several excellent, skilled query writers.  I really want to stomp my feet and say well fine, you write it for me. Except a) that isn’t cool, and b) I would be even less happy with what any of them wrote than with what I come up with.  I have no doubts what they came up with would be enticing and fantabulous, but it wouldn’t sound like my “voice,”  or capture the tone in Astonishing.

Queries are always tricky beasts, and I’m having a particularly tough time capturing the right notes in this one.  One thing keeps sticking in my head.  I already tortured my buddy kk whining about this.  I can’t whine to Husband, his response is “just write, you lunatic you.”  OK, he doesn’t actually say that last part, but I can see him thinking it.

Your turn, Fringelings!   A couple of people used the word “poetic” in reference to what I wrote in the query–and I know that I still haven’t hit the right note.  Poetic sounds suspiciously like a polite substitute for “purple.”  For any readers who aren’t writers, “purple prose” is the phrase for overwritten, melodramatic scenes, usually stated with a sneer.  The manuscript is not purple.  Descriptive, but not purple.  I’ve been happy with the feedback I’ve received so far on Astonishing itself, and much of my feeling pleased centers around a few readers using terms like “clear,” and “clarity.”  (And squirm, but that’s a Mrs Fringe thing, I love it when a reader really feels the scene, mwahahaha)  Clarity is important in any writing, but when I’m writing lit fic, it’s probably the biggest compliment I could receive.

I wrote poetry a million years ago, in my angsty teen years.  In my mind I was Anne Sexton.  In reality, I was more like Patti Smith circa 1977 at the end of a show, angry and sweaty and wanting to make. my. fucking. point.

I’m nervous.  Because I do believe Astonishing is The Right One, at the Right Time, written with the Right Words.  God knows I spend hours reading and rereading and taking out the Wrong Words.

Dear Agent,

Please read my manuscript.  It’s better than my query.

Thank you,

Mrs Fringe

Anne Sexton

Cover of Anne Sexton

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Piss and Vinegar

English: Vinegar & Olive Oil

English: Vinegar & Olive Oil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs Fringe and guilt go together like oil and vinegar.  Sure you have to do all that mixing, blending, emulsifying to get them to unite, but once you do they make sense.  Unlike this analogy, but I’m under the weather and Flower Child is home sick today, so that’s the best I can do.  Besides, I’m a big fan of vinegar, have no less than seven  different kinds in the fridge at all times.

And I just had a little mishap on the terrace.  I keep a big jug of plain white vinegar for cleaning the reef tank equipment, very effective, inexpensive, doesn’t harm the critters–NOT that anyone should add vinegar to their tanks, reef or otherwise, but it doesn’t leave behind crazy levels of nitrites, nitrates or other nasties reefers don’t want measurable amounts of in our reefs.  I got a huge bottle at one of those big box stores for people who like to purchase 72 rolls of toilet paper at once, and left it on the terrace.  Because it’s big.  And I have a small apartment.  Well guess what?  Vinegar freezes.  And then it expands, and then the plastic bottle leaks, and then the terrace reeks of vinegar.  Maybe it will keep the pigeons away.

What was I talking about?  Guilt.  My most recent guilt episode is one that’s old and familiar, the guilt of slow writing.  Everyone has their process, I know this.  Some people write faster than others.  Know it.  But you know when you’re already feeling low, and then you read just the right thing to make you feel like shit?  And then you look for more things to read to make you feel worse because what the hell, you’ve been stuck and not making progress on the WIP, plenty of time to read about other people’s mind boggling daily word counts.  They are productive.  They don’t make excuses.  They are working on their 87th draft of their 120,000 word manuscript–pared down from 210,000–while I continue to watch the word counter at the bottom of my page stay at exactly the same number.  Which is still too far off from my 70,000 word goal of my first draft.  They are disciplined, they write, they earn money, they raise children, they work out, they save the fucking whales and feed croutons to the pigeons in order to soak up the excess vinegar.

Well I was stuck.  And I pondered.  And then I was more stuck.  And then I pissed and moaned and whined.  And then I stopped reading about the fabulously prolific and closed the open Astonishing file and said I’m taking a break until I’m not.   And then I found myself pondering again.  Yesterday I was able to unstick myself, wrote a little.

This morning I was cruising the writer’s forum and saw this link.  Hallelujah, I have found my people at last!  My perfect critique partners.  Ok, it’s true that all except one are dead, but doesn’t that sound like my pace?  Bed, grave, is there really that much of a difference? Just my speed.  Lying down is my favorite! and is there anything more secure than being in your own bed?

Couple in Bed

Couple in Bed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was inspired, wrote more than a little today but not anything another slow writer would boggle at.  Not in bed, in my corner on the couch, where I always write.  Half lying, half sitting, laptop on my lap.

Come to think of it, I got a new ottoman last week .  Maybe the next time I’m stuck, I can try writing from the other end of the couch.

Perfect height, on clearance!

Perfect height, on clearance!

 

 

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Pick-Up

You know those friendships.  We all have them.  Pick-up friendships.  The people you don’t see, or don’t speak to, or don’t see an email/post from for months and months, and then when you do it’s like you saw them last week and it feels so…good.  They are the sweetness in life that leave us smiling, seemingly small but full blessings within the frustrations and drudgery of day to day life.

I saw one of those friends this evening, Honor, and in fact I think it was from him that I first heard the expression, of friendships being like a game of pick-up basketball you find on the public playgrounds of the city.  Just walk onto the court and start playing.  He was a teacher of Man Child’s years ago, and over the years became a friend to Man Child, a friend to all of us.  I call him Honor because he is one of those rare people who lives his principles, always kind, always thoughtful.  He was raised by a mother who believes you never show up at someone’s house empty handed.  Old fashioned?  Yup.  Unnecessary?  Absolutely.  And completely lovely.

A frigid, snowy night.  Could there be a more perfect gift?

A frigid, snowy night. Could there be a more perfect gift?

After a little catching up, Honor, Man Child, and Miss Music left to go out for dinner.  They went to a local restaurant that’s about to close.  Priced out of the neighborhood after more than thirty years.  Oh New York.  I’m sorry I won’t get the opportunity to go in before they’re gone, but I didn’t realize they were closing in time to plan.  Ah well.

I didn’t get to have my favorite sandwich one last time, but Flower Child and I were treated to our favorite live music.

Thank you, Nerd Child!

Thank you, Nerd Child!

Now all is quiet.  I’m just watching the snow coming down, waiting to hear if the public schools will be closed tomorrow.   Thinking about the WIP, turning a few ideas over in my mind.  Tomorrow I write.  And continue avoiding the mirrors, I got my hair cut today.  Blech.

It's coming down hard and fast, a snow day is feeling possible.

It’s coming down hard and fast, a snow day is feeling possible.

 

 

Mrs Fringe Gets Nekkid!

Exposed

Exposed, and Overdue for a Pedicure

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the idea of posting one of my short stories, asking for thoughts from the Fringelings.  The majority opinion was do eeeeet.  I thought about it, and I’m doing it.

This certainly feels like I’ve stripped and opened the bedroom blinds.  Foolish, maybe.  But maybe some fresh air will do me good.

I’ve created a separate page here where the story is, and where any future stories might go, in an attempt to keep this house of Fringe clean and tidy. Perma-link to the page says “Fiction” on top of the home page, next to “About Me” and “Favorites.”

My short stories usually come into my head kind of fully realized as a brief scene, or a snapshot.  No muse, no magic, all the fabulous ideas and mental pictures don’t mean shit without that picture being followed up by BiC. Butt in Chair (or in my case, couch) and doing the work of writing.  Otherwise, I assure you, my imagination is vivid and fabulous, I’d have been on the New York Times Bestseller list three times over already, with at least one Pushcart Prize under my belt.

One afternoon last year I was out walking a dog through Central Park.  I had a moment, in my mind I saw the picture of an old, broken down  Brooklyn fisherman talking to a young girl by the water in the 1980’s, saying the word miserosion, the miseries of life translating into eroding body parts.  At the time I was working on Wanna Bees, so when I got home I wrote down the word, a couple of notes, and left it to be written when I was done with the romance/magical realism of Wanna Bees.

But the idea morphed, as these things sometimes do.  What if the story was hers, the young girl, long after meeting the fisherman, as an adult who has had years of broken souls drawn to her, a lifetime of if-it-wasn’t-for-bad-luck magical realism?  And so started Astonishing, my current WIP.

“Miserosion” is Tommy’s story, back in the 80’s, a snapshot leading up to his meeting with Christina, the young girl who becomes the broken woman of Astonishing.  Yes, it is magical realism.

Fringelings, I hope you read it, I hope you comment.  Most of all, I hope you feel something, whether it’s your kind of story or not.  It’s dark, and won’t be for everyone.

I hope you don’t mind, I left my socks on.  Now I’m getting a draft!

Window half open

Window half open (Photo credit: shinealight)

Stop Stepping on my Castle!

Fotosequenza - Castle Blaster

Fotosequenza – Castle Blaster (Photo credit: p!o)

I don’t know what it is, this inner drive that prompts me to write.  I can and have theorized, but I don’t know.  Clear to me as I try to find my way back to a disciplined routine this week–this “thing” includes whopping doses of masochism and delusion.

On masochism there’s the obvious, rejections.  But honestly, I haven’t faced that many rejections this year because I haven’t sent out all that many submissions or queries.  Yes, yes, I said I would have at least two pieces out on submission at all times this year.  I lied.  Sue me.  Then there’s the masochism of sharing your work with anyone.  Critiquing, being critiqued, or just being read.  I fall behind on official submissions, but I still like to be certain I’m being spanked regularly by sending work to a) people I know it isn’t their thing, and/or b) people who take for-ev-er to respond.  Gives me plenty of time to obsess about how appalled they are by my words, and how they’re never ever going to speak to me again.

Image of sado-masochism

Image of sado-masochism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there’s the masochism of connecting with other writers.  For the camaraderie, the understanding and support.  Mmmm hmm.  Sometimes it works that way, sometimes it doesn’t.  And usually when it doesn’t, I know better.  I know better as I’m digging that six foot hole, telling myself to drop the shovel and keep moving.  Don’t respond on that thread, Mrs Fringe, it’s a trap you cannot avoid.  Like, say, trying to explain and defend that nebulous category of literary fiction.  Ridiculous, really.  Who am I to defend the validity of lit fic?  Unpublished, uneducated, my roots are anything but the ivory tower assumed by many when they see the term “literary.”  I sit and sputter and shout at the screen.  But I don’t keep moving and respond anyway.  Why?  Masochism is the only answer.

No it isn’t.  Because now my old friend walks in.  Hello, Delusion!  Walks in and snuggles against me on the couch, plying me with café  con leche and unsweetened iced tea as I write.  Whispering, “You can do this, you have to do this.  A few people like your work.  One manuscript, one agent, one publisher.  That’s all you need, and then a few more will find your words and like them.”

That’s all I need.  So clear, so simple;  so ever-loving subjective I sometimes wonder if my time would be better spent dreaming of lottery numbers.  Or doing laundry.

I may be delusional and masochistic, but  I know we’ve got to have clean bloomers.  I also know that some of the very same people who sneer at lit fic refer to their manuscripts as their babies, being critiqued and sending out queries as sending their children into the world.

Yeah, no.  I put a lot into my writing.  I fall in love with these characters I create, no matter how broken.  I write, read, obsess, polish, rip apart over and over again.  I love my children, obsess over them, hold my breath in fear and pride as they move out into the world.  But I don’t rip them apart or ask others to do so, shrug and move on, dig one out five years later and say hey, if I trim some of the fat off this one I can try again,  think of the older ones as learning experiences.

Delusions or not, this day has to move forward.  I bet if I search all the way at the back of the dresser drawers, I can find a a pair of clean underwear.   Opening the WIP….

Marat/Sade (film)

Marat/Sade (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carb Coma

Breakfast for lunch!!! Mangu, queso frito, sal...

Breakfast for lunch!!! Mangu, queso frito, salchichon, y juevos #dominican #breakfast #lunch #foodporn -www.remolacha.net (Photo credit: Remolacha.net pics)

Husband and I went out for breakfast this morning.  There’s a local Dominican restaurant with the best (and best priced) coffee in the city a few blocks away, and there’s nothing like a big plate of yuca con cebolla–cassava with sweet red onions and vinegar–for comfort food.  It won’t even hit my large intestine until tomorrow, but hey.

Now I feel physically the way I’ve been feeling mentally; overly stuffed, and unable to even look at more food or another word of fiction, until I can process what I’ve already taken in.

Husband asked if I got a lot of writing done yesterday.  Nope, not a word.  Not the day before or the week before either.  I’m in overload, not to be confused with overdrive.  Not writer’s block,  just a pause.

Ink

Ink (Photo credit: heidarewitsch)

Sure, there’s that little voice in my head telling me I should be writing.  I’m telling that little voice to shut up.  There are certain perks to being forty thousand years old and having written off and on for much of that time.  I know better, know when to stop giving the voice an ear.  Uncertainty about what I’ve produced?  That’s forever.  But I know I will write again, taking a break can be a break without the ceremonial gnashing of teeth and wailing that I’ll never write again .

Six weeks ago I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t retreat from the world and do nothing but write for a month.  I was on a roll, and knew that inevitably real life would interfere.  And so it did.  Cycles.  Life will settle again, I will settle again, and then I’ll find myself muttering and clicking over Astonishing again.

 

Shhh, Chasing Sanity

English: Hide an seek Spotted amongst the hedg...

English: Hide an seek Spotted amongst the hedgerow beside a footpath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well here we are.  Fall, again.  Nerd Child is back to school, Flower Child goes back on Monday, and Man Child is fully immersed in his year up North.  Yeah, yeah, technically the season doesn’t begin until the 21st, but I needed a jacket when I walked the beasts last night, and it isn’t much warmer this morning.

Today was my last day to sleep in.  Luckily, Big Senile Dog was on the case and woke me up early.  Just because.  Fine.  Got up, made coffee, went to sit on my terrace with my WIP, and he began barking again.  This time to let me know Little Incredibly Stupid Dog had peed all over the floor.  Out of paper towels.  FYI for the fringelings, it takes an entire box of tissues to clean up the pee of an 11 pound dog.

I’d like to say my posts have been sporadic over the past couple of months because I’ve been busy having a fabulous time and upgrading my life.  Nope.

I’d like to say posts will be more regular now that it’s back to school season in Fringeland.  Probably not.

The  WIP I’ve been talking about, Astonishing?  To work on it, I have to tap into my inner muck.  The stuff I like to stomp down and pretend isn’t there.  You know, so I get out of bed in the morning and do things like make coffee and clean up dog pee.  Despite the slow progress, I think I’ve got the bones of a good book.  Honest.  Distorted for maximum impact, wrapped up in fiction, and tied with the bow of story, of course.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche (Photo credit: ulterior epicure)

Honest in a different way than Mrs Fringe, where I try to serve each platter of honesty spiced with enough humor to make it palatable for the amuse-bouches that equal blog reading.

Switching gears between the two is hard as hell.

When this summer began I was feeling, dare I say it? hopeful.  This was not going to be a summer of death, I was going to relax, destress, and take concrete steps to make changes in my life.  Let myself feel and plan.  What the fuck was I thinking?  I want my layer of numb back, please.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been poked by that little thing I like to call reality.   I’ve been grateful to have Astonishing.  For me, it is a refuge, my pretend world where I can take the shit that is too often life and manipulate it, tweak the character’s actions, reactions, and responses until I get a result I’m ok with.  Something satisfying.

Tricky, this.  This tapping into enough real to create honest fiction, while trying to get back a nice fat layer of numb.

Maybe tonight while I’m out at Friday Night Madness they’ll have some numb on tap.

Someday

I can do a lot of dreaming looking at this photo, how about you? ~Mrs F

I can do a lot of dreaming looking at this photo, how about you? ~Mrs F

Late August.  Time for the annual panic, “oh no, the school year’s about to start.”  I’ve been walking around saying this summer has felt particularly odd because of the cool weather.  Lies.

Summer is just never long enough for me.  If it isn’t cool temps, it’s temps that are too hot, or too rainy, or too many obligations or too many deaths.  Just not enough, which is an old and familiar song for me.  The theme of much of my writing, the guilty chorus that whispers about my parenting, the peek at my word count at the end of each day’s writing session, the ever ready want of more.

The other day I went with Nerd Child and Flower Child to my godson’s Eagle Scout ceremony.  Induction?  I don’t know, scouts aren’t a big thing here in Manhattan.  My suburban friends reassure me that scouting exists here in the city, but I’ve never met any beyond a small, half hearted cub scout group when Man Child was in 1st grade, disbanded by Christmas.

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges (Photo credit: honus)

 

It was very sweet–though I know better than to use the word sweet in relation to an almost seventeen year old boy– and made me feel old and nostalgic.  We took the train to Brooklyn and the Scout’s grandmother, where I sat with my kids on her couch in the living room I spent hours in as a teenager.  Not too many people from my past have stayed in Brooklyn, let alone the same house, so it was very alternate reality feeling.  We met up with a friend and traveled the rest of the way to Long Island.  There I saw more friends, and watched my kids goof around with theirs, and felt the absence of a good friend’s son who passed away last summer.

Obviously more goes into the Eagle Scout thing than I understand, Godson and parents were very, very proud. Local politicians and reps attended and gave brief speeches and congratulations.  A snapshot of a lovely moment.

I also missed Man Child.  Between boarding school and college he’s been away a lot, and I did get to see him this summer, but he’s already back in the dorm.  This is the first time he hasn’t come home to be “home” over a break, and it’s damned weird.

Kind of maudlin today, aren’t I?  Did get to the beach with Flower Child yesterday, which felt good, but didn’t quite recharge me in the way I had hoped.  A family of three, two parents and a little girl of about 4 years old settled next to us.  I couldn’t believe the amount of shit they had with them for two hours at the beach.  Six towels, two large shade umbrellas, three huge bags of toys, sunscreen, and snacks: three people.  The little girl was covered neck to calves in one of those bathing suit/lycra sun coverall things.  I swear Flower Child and I saw bathing suits that looked just like it in the museum last year, what women wore at the turn of the twentieth century. This was not a fair skinned family, but you would think they were albino (am I politically incorrect, is there a more current term?) with the amount of sunscreen they slathered on.  I’m not going to mention their little disagreement with the lifeguards about the safety of their sweet pea, and the rule against life jackets/swimmies in the ocean.  I know it seems counterintuitive to the Backyard Pool crowd, but really.  Big waves, riptides, small children, you don’t want them at all out of reach and where they can’t safely stand.

I know we’re all so much safer than previous generations, fewer kids will find themselves in the dermatologist’s office with a skin cancer diagnosis, but widespread Vitamin D deficiencies weren’t a thing when I was using baby oil and iodine instead of SPF 8000, either.

Listened to Creedance Clearwater Revival on the way home, remembered when that was my favorite beach music.  When I had to turn the tape over it was time to flip and freckle my other side.  I used to work odd hours, at the time I lived in South Brooklyn and worked in either Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn.  In the summer, if I was working overnights I’d leave work and head straight for the beach, get a few hours of sleep and sun before heading home to eat, nap, and go back to work.  Swing shifts, I’d get up early, get on the train and go back to sleep on the beach, leaving just enough time to shower before work.   Thinking a lot about those days as I work on Astonishing, tapping into those old work experiences and certainties that I would, when I was ready, be a published author.

It’s ok, you can laugh, there was no internet then to tell me that isn’t how it works.

Which Way?

A depiction of Bugs Bunny's evolution through ...

A depiction of Bugs Bunny’s evolution through the years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s that old quote, and who said it?  Something like, the only constant is change. Quite likely I’ve mangled it for my own meandering purposes.

I’ve been working on, trying to work on, the new WIP.  The new WIP, the old WIP, the WIP being queried, I’m getting dizzy.  Let me slap a title on there for convenience.  Working title–Astonishing.

Pretty sure I’ve already mentioned this one is much slower going.  Like glacial.  Wrote a paragraph yesterday and when I closed the file I wasn’t sure if I should think, “woot!” or “wtf?”  Afterwards, I was talking to a writing friend about it.  Told her this one feels different, the process is different.  Instead of feeling a fluid rush for each scene, it’s like the words have changed form, changed states. Instead of a flow, I’ve got nothing tangible and then whomp! I’ve been clipped upside the head with a hard-packed snowball.  That’s my paragraph.  On a good day, a page.  On a few notable days I was able to produce a few pages.

LOST: Snowball

LOST: Snowball (Photo credit: jaqian)

The strangest part is that while I’m not “flowing,” I don’t feel stuck, either.  The frustration is more theoretical.  It’s summer, my time is more flexible, I should be able to produce more.  It’s been a thousand degrees outside for a week here in NY.  There shouldn’t be anything frozen anywhere.  Stooped with a friend the other morning, and I swear I was melting.  When I stood up there was a clear outline of my butt on his stoop.  In sweat.    Stooping, for non-NYers, is an outdoor chat, held on the stoop of the front steps of a house or building.  A time honored tradition in the outer boroughs, second only to stoop-ball, both less frequently indulged here in Manhattan.

But I like it.  I like what I’ve got, and where I think I can go.  I tell myself this is better.

And then I beat myself up for the fact that I’ve yet to introduce my second main character.  He’s a hoarder, and after four weeks of obsessing and researching I’ve yet to decide on the primary focus for his hoard.

Then I wonder if this is just me tripping myself up again.  A metaphor for the rest of my life, not sure what the next step is until I’ve fallen into a hole and the only option is to climb out.

I think I haven’t gotten enough beach days.