Thursday, July 31, 2008

Smell the Testosterone

So, not done with the Emersons, per say.

I've spent the last three days bouncing between two different heroes. My sister Leah is editing The Best with an iron fist. It's not the slaughter I had on my hands when she did Marrying, but it's a little messy as I work in some better backbones for Bobby and Lily in the early going. She makes my books better, so it's worth the pain.

Simultaneously, my Mom is doing the first reading of A Part - "Engrossing," she called it, but as I thought it was, the setting is weak. And as I work in better descriptions of the land and try to get a better handle on a Lakota mindset, I've been in Jacob's head a lot.

And it's not easy to shift gears between 1960s sweetheart and 1990s noseless cowboy, especially when I lack the requisite testosterone.

So last night, I went about getting some.

That's right, we went to a demolition derby at the Adams County Fair.

Ah, the smell alone - ancient boats of cars leaking gas and coolants, wet mud mixed with the distinctive scent of pig, the collective sweat of a crowd eager to see some serious destruction blending with funnel cakes and corn dogs - was, well, smelly. In a manly kind of way.

So we ate carnival food - the toddler LOVES corndogs - he eats all the corn part first, dog part second - and sat to wait. Occasionally, a few tractors would move some dirt, which was just enough toddler entertainment to keep the tantrums at bay, but we got an extra 40 minutes of quality people watching as crowds filtered in and back out for more fried foods.

It's good to do some people watching, even if you are endlessly waiting for cars to crash. I tend to see the same seven people every week - Hubby, toddler, coworkers, boss, daycare ladies. Seeing every manner of human - teenagers trying too hard, farmers with their overalls unbuttoned on the side (why???), thugs smoking directly under the no-smoking signs, beautiful people, ugly people, kids hyped on candy and lurching carnival rides, and the fashion choices everyone makes - gives me a better worldview from which to base other viewpoints.

And then the cars rolled in.

There's no better way to get in touch with sheer masculinity than to sit next to the hubby - the man who makes the best damn chocolate chip cookies in the world, who does the dishes and spends time with his son - the perfect man, in other words - and see him transform into something more essentially, elementally male before my eyes. The harder the crunch, the deeper the rumbling "Yeah!" that sprung forth his chest until it was little more than a primeval growl of satisfaction. I swear, if I looked hard enough, I could actually see the testosterone levels increasing. Fists began to pump, and when a car caught fire, he actually stood and howled with the crowd, toddler in his arms, yelling with him.

The most dramatic part of the evening was after the red flag was waved for the flaming car. One car either missed the 8 red flags waving or purposefully ignored them, and, backing up, t-boned two stopped cars at full speed. The crowd held it's breath for a moment before it erupted, torn between cheers for the solid hit and boos for the new bad guy. Both drivers of the other cars climbed out, and we nearly had a brawl on our hands. One of the refs mucked through the mud as fast as possible to head off the fisticuffs, tearing off the offender's flag to disqualify him for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the crowd's reaction was classic.

The women, almost to a female, cheered heartily at the disqualification.

The men were doing their best to egg on the fight. Hubby included.

Distinctly manly.

And then we came home and he read the toddler a story and tucked him in. The perfect man.

So, after blending with a broader cross-section of humanity, I'm going to spend the afternoon in the heads of the men I've created. I think I understand them a bit better. And if not, there's another demo derby the next county over on Friday night.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye . . .

And I know I'm dating myself by quoting a Boys II Men song. If you remember the somewhat surreal video with suave, soulful R&B black guys (I liked the one with the cane) crooning to a TV set with Michael Landon's image on it, then you may just be as old as I am.

But that's not the point.

The point is, that almost exactly 6 weeks after my Muse took hold of my brain, I have finished A Part of Her, and sent it out to the first stage reader (aka Mom).

And I'm done with the Emersons. I'm going to miss them.

True, they aren't really going away. I'm still waiting to hear from the editor on Marrying the Emersons. Any time she wants to call me up and talk about whatever rewrites she wants me to do, that would be super. And I'm still getting chunks of The Best They Could back from people (reviews still good). Tweaking will occur just as soon as I finish this blog. A Part hasn't even gotten any outside opinions. I could still wind up in South Dakota before October if Mom thinks the setting is weak (yes, another road trip, this time with a toddler in tow).

And let's not forget that I've queried The Best to exactly one agent. I'm going to be spending a great deal of time over the next month writing queries and polishing synopses, and getting on a first name basis with the Post Office people again. (They give the toddler suckers. Good times had by all!)

So the Emersons aren't going away. But there is nothing else I can do to my people. Nothing else I want to do to them. Everyone has suffered enough. It's time for them all to live happily ever after, free of interference from the cruel Authorial Mom.

And I have to admit, I'm a little bummed by this semi-ending. I've spent a lot of time in three generations of Emersons' heads. As of this weekend, it's been exactly one year since I had the idea of Rose and Billy's tangled love story. 80+ years of family history in 365 days.

I believe the technical phrase is "at loose ends."

Oh, I have plans. I have a lot of reading to catch up on. Querying and such. Editing Pauline Friday's book, How to Be a Spinster in 29 Years. Working with some new friends to launch a local critique group. I'll still be here blogging, too, while tweaking the website. And all the normal Mom stuff that goes with late summer - the aforementioned road trips, baseball games, back to school shopping, etc.

I have a few other ideas bouncing around my head for what comes next - everything from completely, soul-crushingly depressing widow story to another Native American (Navajo this time) story to a light contemporary romance about cooking.

But my Muse is pooped. She needs a break. And I need not to wake up at 4 having conversations in my head. I know that, when I'm ready, my Muse will grab me by the collar and refuse to let go until I know who's doing what.

So this isn't really goodbye to the Emersons, like you never really say goodbye when your mom leaves after a three day visit. Not goodbye. Just see you later.

Hopefully in print.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

They got me.

I have resisted. Oh, how I have dragged my feet about joining Myspace or Friendster or, heaven help me, Twitter. I'm just not the kind of person who randomly socializes with complete strangers without wondering who's the nuttier one - me, for being friends with them, or them for wanting to be friends with me. And I'm a Luddite at heart. Frankly, I'm impressed I haven't imploded my computer blogging.

But finally, someone came up with a social networking site that I can - nay, want to be a part of.


My good friend Pauline Friday invited me to join yesterday. I've already rated and reviewed all the books I've read in the last two months, made 3 friends, invited more people to join me, and posted samples of my writings.

See, it's not just networking, it's networking about books! Finally, a place where I can vent my feelings on books that are good until the last three pages! A place where people can argue with me about whether or not Stephanie Meyer deserves the press she's getting! (I'm working through the Twilight series now. It's debatable.)

Instead of just wasting time making 'friends,' now I'm not actually wasting time, but expanding my literary world. I'm still not sure anyone else gives a fig about my opinions on anything, but hey, if someone wants to debate why second books seem so much more forced than first books, I found the perfect place to have it.

So, finally, the Internet got me, again. I suppose it was inevitable that it would come to this point - social networking for book geeks - but I didn't know we were already there.

So, I invite you to check out my profile on GoodReads. If you like it, you can be my friend. And I won't think you're the nutty one.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Philanthropic Reading

Boy, I hope everyone had as nice a Independence weekend as I did, minus the scorching, blistering sunburn. Hope no one else got one of those. You know that airplane rule? The one about making sure you put on your mask first before helping your child? Same rule applies to sunscreen. At least the toddler isn't burned, but still . . .

On to business.

The readers are coming back with opinions and corrections on The Best They Could (Book Two in the Emerson Series), and reviews are good. Very good (although my dad would say, "Never say very. Waste of a word. If you're going to say very, you might as well just say damn.) In the not too distant future, I'll begin querying it in earnest.

Today's topic: Philanthropic Reading.

Oprah and Bill Gates get a lot of press for their philanthropic givings (heck, Oprah even had her own show about it.) In our house, we try to give in little ways. The hubby and I bagged sand during the flood of '08, and gave to the Red Cross to make up for what we couldn't do. We help out when my sister Leah Runs for a Cure. We sponsor a child in the Philippines through Children's International.

We could do more. We've got a nice, comfortable life in a world where too many people go hungry or cold in the winter or die of heat stroke in the summer. The inequities of the world are unavoidable, and I'm not naive to think that I can save the world (Heck, Oprah can't even save the world, and she tries!).

But we could to more. So I'm going to advocate Philanthropic Reading.

As you may have gathered, I write what tends to be serious, even depressing stuff (See "Everyone Suffers, Everyone Wins"). Each book in the Emerson series deals with some horrible set of traumas that my people have to survive. The good news is that they do survive, and they do get to live happily ever after.

But first they suffer. In Marrying the Emersons, the first book in the series, Rose, my heroine, is stuck in a verbally abusive marriage and then savagely assaulted. In The Best They Could, Lily, Rose's daughter, is date-raped, and her husband Bobby suffers unspeakable horrors as a POW during the Vietnam war. And A Part of Her, the final book, with Mary Beth, Lily's daughter? Something is out there killing people while an evil man strips the land for uranium.

So here is my Philanthropic Reading plan. For Marrying the Emersons, I plan to donate either a lump sum or percentage of the profits to Quanada, our local Rape Crisis center. For The Best They Could, I'm going do the same for an organization (to be named later) that works with homeless veterans (because, sadly, those numbers are only increasing). And for A Part of Her, I'm going to donate to the Lakota tribe. I'm thinking about the Link Center, which helps pay for heat for elderly members of the tribe.

Now, I admit, part of this is selfish. I have to sell books to have the extra money to donate. Perhaps more people would be willing to plunk down the money for a book if they knew they were helping a pet cause. I sell more books, make a larger donation, and also make more money.

But this is my public pledge that some of those profits - profits on my end, not the publishers - will go to worthy causes. It would be nice if a publisher wanted to jump on board with that, maybe put the cause on the back of the book, but I can't control that. Heck, let's not forget that I'm not even published yet. Right now, this is all a nice plan and not much more.

But I have faith that one day, I'll see my books in print. And when I do, I'll share the wealth.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


The Authorial Mom is busy doing more Mom things than Authorial things this Fourth of July weekend.

Look for a new blog next week, and thanks for stopping by!

AuthorialMom -