Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Nature of Things

As I walked up the driveway this morning (on my way home from working out—go me!) I spied something under our boat trailer. A Northern Saw-whet owl stared at me with large yellow eyes. It had caught a small bird. I stopped, not wanting to scare the little guy (?) off his meal, backed up and took a more circuitous route to my porch through the heavy, wet snow that had fallen yesterday. I crept along the porch, against the wall, and peered around the corner. Still there, the owl had returned his attention to his breakfast. Or dinner.

Quiet as I could be in my clunky boots, I went inside and told my daughters what I’d seen. They were excited about the idea of an owl in our yard, even if it was chowing on one of the birds we’d probably been feeding for the past two months. Such is the way of nature, and my girls accept the facts of eat and be eaten with more maturity than I can give some adults credit for.

Now, most folks wouldn’t be fascinated by watching an owl tear into a song bird, but as a wildlife biologist-type, the natural order doesn’t gross me out in the least. My husband and I passed our matter-of-fact attitude about such things to our girls when they were old enough to understand that you have to eat to live. We’ve never forced them to watch a lion rip into a bloody zebra, but they know a lion’s got to eat something and grass just isn’t on their menu.

When our oldest was about 3, she had a fascination with sharks. With all marine life, really, but sharks in particular. Somewhere along the line, she received a bunch of plastic sharks as a gift. The Great White was her favorite, and when she asked us what they ate we told her seals, sea lions, fish, whatever they wanted, really. She took that in stride, despite the fact she thought seals were the cutest things around.

That summer, we went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. She took her favorite shark, of course, and happily watched sea otters dive for clams in their enclosure, touched sea stars, and marveled at the floor to ceiling tank of moon jellies. Then we went to the seal and sea lion exhibit. The exhibit was set up with windows to watch the pinnepeds swim in their underwater enclosure. They'd come right up to the windows then swim off to make their circuit around the pool. Lots of people crowded around to see the cute seals. My curly-haired, blue-eyed three year old squeezed her way between the other visitors to get a look. Folks were nice enough to let her through. After all, who can resist an adorable (if I do say so myself) small child wishing to see an equally adorable animal? As a seal approached, she whipped out her plastic shark, held it in front of the glass and, in front of fifteen or so mostly grandma and grandpa types, made loud munching and lip smacking sounds, “Ar ar ar ar!”

I thought the people around her were going to pass out from horror. Holding back a chuckle at their reaction, I gently moved my daughter away from the window, saying, “Yes, honey, sharks eat seals. Let’s go look at the sea birds now.”

There is a certain order to nature that I accept and respect. Not that I’m all “Let’s go live with Nature and be one with Her” or anything. I like modern conveniences as much as the next person. But I can explain to my kids how an owl and a pine siskin or a Great White and a seal fit into their places. It’s the “civilized” world I have a hard time with.

But that’s a rant for another time.

Here's wishing you a Happy 2007!

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Season of Hope

This has nothing to do with the holiday.

I wrote this a few years ago, after my first full manuscript was requested and then, well, just read it.


“I’m sorry to have to tell you this over the phone...”
Those crushing words come from an editorial assistant in New York. I called to ask about the manuscript they have had for the past six months. It seems there was a paperwork mishap
somewhere along the line and I should have received a rejection letter earlier.
“That’s okay,” I say with more pep in my voice than I feel. I thank her for her time and hang up.
Rats. Damn!
I was looking forward to signing a big, fat, multi-book contract with one of the largest publishers in the business. Wallowing in delusions of grandeur, I had imagined whirlwind promotional tours, multi-city book signings, and the New York Times Best Sellers list.
Me, and about a zillion other writers.
I stare at the phone for a few moments, wondering what was wrong with my story. Hopefully they will send the delinquent rejection letter and it will be more specific than “Not what we’re looking for,” and more personal than “Dear Author”.
Hope. The fodder that keeps writers putting pen to paper. Or rather, in this Age of Technology, fingers to keyboard.
This is not my first rejection. It won’t be my last. But in this moment, it is my worst.
Life jars me out of contemplation. There are kids to care for, a house to clean, meals to prepare. After dinner I have a commiserating phone conversation with my best friend, a writer who has been on the receiving end of rejection and eventually got published. She tells me that my day will come. From her mouth to the publishers’ ears, I pray.
The kids are bathed and in bed. The house is quiet except for the low murmur of the television. Sometimes I write after the kids are asleep, but not tonight.
Tonight I feel like I made a grave error when I decided to try my hand at writing. I know I shouldn’t take the rejection personally, but how can I not? It’s like disrobing in front of someone for the first time and having them reach over to turn out the light, or snicker.
I need a drink. Not to drown my sorrows, just to numb them for a little while. We don’t keep anything stronger than wine in the house, unless you count cough medicine and vanilla extract.
I rummage around the bottom of my refrigerator and come up with a bottle of merlot. As I’m pouring, I spy the brownies my neighbor brought over the day before. Perfect.
I sit on the couch, watching television, sipping and nibbling. Wine and chocolate, a balm for most of life’s ills.
I would have preferred to be celebrating my first sale.
After my second glass, I go to bed. The next morning I feel marginally better, but I have a headache. I am such a wuss. An untalented lightweight.
Something gives me a mental kick in the butt.
Snap out of it! That was one person’s opinion. You got further than most writers do when they asked for the full manuscript. So quit being such a baby and get back to work!
The voice in my head sounds like my own, my mother’s and my best friend’s all rolled into one. Not a voice to ignore.
It takes me the rest of the morning to heed the directive. I sit at my computer, fingers hovering over the keyboard. I’m almost afraid to touch the plastic letters.
Don’t make me hurt you, the voice warns.
The pity party is over. Time to go, folks. Sweep up the crumbs, take out the trash, and get ready for the week ahead.
I shake trepidation out of my hands and click on the file of another project. My fingers fly over the keys as my imagination soars. I polish and refine, turning a phrase here and making a scene come to life there.
This is a good story. Maybe it will be this story that gets me THE CALL.
I’ll make sure there’s a bottle of celebratory wine in the house before I send it out. There’s always hope.


Monday, December 18, 2006

American Title III Round Three Begins

Round Three, Story Summaries, begins today and runs through Dec. 31.

There are six contestants left. Meretta and Lindsey joined me and Sally on Exile Isle after Round Two. So we'll watch from afar, drinking frozen concoctions with little umbrellas in them while cabana boys wave palm fronds over us. Hey, there has to be some kind of compensation, right?

So go to Romantic Times and vote. I'll be there in a minute.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Better Late Than Never

Two of my friends/crit partners had books come out in the last month or so and I neglected to mention them. Yes, I suck, but don't let that stop YOU from checking out these talented writers.

The first is by Sharron McClellan. Hidden Sanctuary is one of the Madonna Key stories in the Silhouette Bombshell line. Sharron writes fabulous action-adventure-romance stories set in exotic locations featuring kick-ass women. Don't forget to read her blogs as well. She's a funny, snarky gal as well as a great friend and writer.

The other is by the naughty alter ego of one of my other friends and CPs. Ellie Marvel's novella Birthday, in Red Sage's Secrets 17, has gotten excellent reviews. I haven't read this one yet, but I've read some of her other work. Sexy, funny and engaging, that's what you'll get from Ms. Marvel.

To help me make amends for inadvertantly dissing my friends, go check out their sites and buy their books. Go. Now. Give yourself an early holiday gift.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful...

But not in the sort of good way the song implies. That particular carol suggests it's snowy and blowy and just the PERFECT weather for staying in by the fire.

Well, the sunny 20-25 degree days we experienced a few weeks ago, accompanied by just enough snow to make things pretty, have been replaced by mid to upper 30s and rain. At least we have the blowy part down. And no, I don't have a fireplace. Sitting before the Monitor heater watching the element glow just isn't the same thing. Plus, it's hard to roast marshmallows.

Unfortunately, what we're getting now is more typical of the weather here on the Alaska south central coast. Gray soggy days, near freezing nights, and slicker than a used car salesman's hair (please see NOTE in comments section) come morning. It's conducive to staying inside, hunkered down with a good book and a cup of tea.

Or maybe even writing! There's an idea. I have two stories vying for attention in my brain, and with winter break almost upon us I'll be refereeing kids all too soon. Maybe we'll get lucky and the temp will drop so the snow will come. I have no qualms about sending kids outside to play in the snow, but it's hard to justify outdoor time when it's cold, pouring and muddy. Damn you, global warming!