Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Point

So, what's the point?

I've had a few new readers (I LOVE new readers, even if they email me constantly) reading the blogs and the short stories on the website. And more than one person has read the short stories and asked me, What's the point? People generally seem to like the stories (DO NOT READ THEM AT WORK. THEY ARE "SAUCY," to quote a friend), and want to know why the stories are there, and what happens to the people in them, and why they aren't books in development.

In other words, what's the point?

The point is, I got this idea that wouldn't let me go, and it spiraled out of control. Here's what happened. I packed up my posse for a road trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. My posse was, at the time, my 92 year old grandmother and my 2 year old son. That's how I roll. I bring the party with me where EVER I go. So we drove down, stayed with some family friends, had a great weekend, and headed back just before a toddler's nap time. Now, Gram doesn't hear as well as she did when she was 80 or anything, so the radio playing really kind of bugs her (unless it's a Cardinals game. She likes Mike Shannon.), so I had a long 3 1/2 hour ride before me that I hoped was going to be silent. (Gram never naps. She just rests her eyes.) With the toddler and the Gram hopefully recovering from their crazy weekend of fun and no radio to hum along with, I knew I'd need major help.

Yup. Mountain Dew.

I drink a Dew maybe once every 3 years, because I personally feel it tastes like malted battery acid. But desperate times call for desperate beverages, so I drank one and packed another for the road.

I daydream. A lot. I take situations and spin them out, and then get distracted and my mind races off somewhere else. Always have. So I was daydreaming while hopped up on Dew in a silent car speeding through the back hills of Missouri, trying to stay awake.

And I thought of two people fighting in the rain. Why were they fighting? Because they loved each other. But why were they fighting, I wondered. Because they weren't supposed to be in love. The scene with the hero (hunky, of course) grabbing the heroine (delicate, of course) and kissing her really resonated. But why weren't they supposed to be in love?

This was the caffeine. Usually, my daydreams meander aimlessly with no point. But I wanted to know why these people were locked in this important battle. And frankly, I had another 2 hours to go, so why not think about it? And then I realized he was her brother-in-law. And he was a lot younger.

Things got interesting. I spent the next two hours imagining the farm they lived on, the reasons behind their complicated relationship, and how it would all work out. You can imagine a lot in 3 1/2 hours on two cans of Dew. A Lot.

So I finally deposited the 92 year old back at her house and tucked my 2 year old into his crib and tried to forget about the interesting tensions between these nameless people in the rain (and no, it wasn't raining on the drive home) as I told my hubby all about our crazy road trip. Usually, the daydream would be gone by morning. Ethereal things, daydreams. And I don't have the short term memory to hold onto much, more or less imaginary people. Hell, most days, I can't remember how old I am. I have to count. (Typical internal conversation when someone asks me my age: Okay, I was born in '76, and it's - um - 2008? Yeah. So that's, uh, that's 32, right? I'm thirty two?)(No, I'm not exaggerating.)

But they weren't gone in the morning. They were still there, waiting for me when I woke up. And the next day. Those people waited around all week for me to get off my duff and think about them some more.

So I decided that I had to get them off my chest. If I wrote their little story down, my OCD mind would stop obsessing about them, right? Sure. Twenty pages became 60, 60 became 200, and 200 pages spawned 548 freaking pages of love and loss and love again in the middle of the Great Depression. When I hit 300 pages, I realized I had a book in there, a real book with a beginning, middle, and end, and it was coming out whether I liked it or not. And then my people had kids, and hell, they got their own books, and the grandkid did too. Seriously. Nearly 2,000 pages of one family's saga in just over a year.

Now, the website. I thought about my hero's parents. I even started a prequel book for them, but I couldn't make a beginning for them that wasn't both dull and depressing. (When it bores me, why would anyone else read them?) But the actual action was pretty interesting, so I decided to do it as a short story - straight to the point. The result is "The Widow of Emerson Farm." And then I thought that the stories might be a good way to capture readers and drive them to the site - readers like me, who never bought books, but checked them out from the library. So I asked a good friend (same guy whose house I roadtripped to and from with my posse - same guy who provided the all-important Dew) to build me a site. And I love it. He's bravely going to teach me to maintain it some myself so I can post my own stories without bothering him (he hates it when I say that).

But the point is, the stories are extras. The stories on the website didn't make it to book form, and they probably never will. Instead they are rewards for people who liked the books enough to look me up online. And they are a marketing tool. That's why you have to enter your name and email address. I save those, and you lucky people then get emails about blogs and - I'm optimistically confident here - future book publication announcements.

It's really backwards. The stories are meant to be read after the book, because they fill in several blanks the books leave open. But, currently, no one but select family members and the Lovely Mary, Grammar Goddess, have read the books. And everyone has access to the stories on the website. So I understand your confusion. And I remain optimistic that one day, the blanks will be filled in. Hopefully soon, because natural patience is not something I have in abundance. But I'm working on that whole Zen and the art of waiting thing. Really. Ohm.

So stick with me. Things are getting interesting.


lucylucia said...

I've read them, Sally! I really enjoyed the short stories. I'm looking forward to reading your saga! :)

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Yah Lucy! Thanks for reading!!

I'm still trying to decide what the stories for the other two books will be. I know Eloisa James has reader contests to vote on what they want to read. I've got about four ideas, but nothing that screams at me.

Oh, and by the way, Great Birthday party! Totally awesome scrapbooks!