Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Post Vacation Let-Down

It's brought many a stronger mom than me to her knees.

Coming off a vacation is hard enough, but when a four-year-old kid has to return to structure and rules after six solid days of anything-goes fun-in-the-sun, it's especially hard.

In this house, there are no brand-new firetrucks (with water squirting action!) just because it's Tuesday. There's no sleep 'til whenever and then watch a movie every morning. There is no buy a chocolate cake for dessert just because it looked yummy.

And my loving hubby, home from his business trip? Not exactly helping. He somehow snagged leftover Easter Bunny chocolate for pennies on the dollar as the souvenir of his trip. (To be fair, I got some too!) But I'm the one doling it out, one lousy piece at a time.

In other words, I am now the Wicked Witch of the East. I drag his little butt out of bed, make him go potty, and issue threats until all the cars are picked up. He's gone a whole five days - five days! - without a new toy. If his loving Mimi hadn't snagged him a Bigfoot Monster Truck the last day there, he'd hardly have any fun at all!

I don't mean to make my mom sound like she let him have ice cream for breakfast or anything. She had a ready supply of carrots and ranch dressing on hand and wasn't shy about handing them out. In fact, the one time I finally got the kid to talk to me on the phone, he whined about something, and Mom said, "Can you say that without whining?" before I could get the exact same words out. She was doing her best to keep the little rugrat in line. And all in all, it worked. We've managed to keep the screaming (on both sides of the toys) to a minimum around here.

It'll be short-lived. I am frantically trying to fix books and get shoes broken in and business cards printed before Mom and I leave for the Romance Writers of America National Conference in just about two and a half weeks. My agent and I have been figuring out what's good, what's not, and how to pitch it.

And what will my menfolk be doing in my absence? My hubby will be working 15 hour days. This is his insane time of year. And since he has no car and can't drive, that leaves the kid . . . with his other set of grandparents down on the family farm. Fields, tractors, and toys dating back to the '60s. (My wonderful mother-in-law never threw anything away. NEVER!) A whole new round of spoiling, just as we were getting back into our normal routine.

Still, this is what summer was made for. He's four now, and getting out and exploring the wide world with people who love you and keep you safe is a pretty big deal.

Especially if those people aren't Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Vacation

Ah, summer vacation.

My hubby's on a business trip. My kid's experiencing the true joy of a whole week of being spoiled rotten by loving grandparents.

And I've got the house to myself. Just me and Jake, the Three-Legged Wonder Wiener.

It's such an odd sensation. For instance, I picked up the living room and even vacuumed. And then - you won't believe it - I came back down the next morning, and it was still clean!

Parents of small children can truly appreciate how rare and wondrous that is.

So I've done some housework, but only a little, because I don't have to keep doing it. Almost a vacation from clutter!

And the kid? My folks have a swimming pool. They went to see Up. And then they drove the big motor home down to the lake. Boat rides, fishing from the dock, and - kids these days! - a DVD player for when he gets 'bored.' You know what I got when I was 'bored' as a kid? A swift kick outside, that's what. He gets to watch movies.

Reports from the field are that he's having the time of his life. He couldn't wait for me to leave, frankly, because only Mimi will let him buy circus peanuts. You remember circus peanuts? A "candy" that's some unnatural shade of orange and has all the taste and texture of Styrofoam? Circus peanuts will never cross my threshold - but anything goes when you're on vacation.

He only gets upset when he over-thinks, which usually occurs at bedtime. He started crying about how much he missed me long after story time had ended one night - but wouldn't even talk to me the next day because he was playing with toys. Yeah, that's where I rank. Just below cars.

The person who's getting the short end of this stick is my husband. He's on a business trip, and having to do actual business. He emailed me yesterday that he'd already reached saturation point - and it was only Wednesday. Sure, someone else is cooking his food and making his bed, but he's still working. Poor guy.

Well, I'm still working too. I'm keeping my normal work schedule. Editing continues, and I had a job interview today to teach a second part-time job - English as a Second Language, which was the job I had when I lived in Chicago. So, I'm actually about to start working more.

It's been an interesting week. I've watched TV - but not BBC World News America or Lilo and Stitch - eaten chicken and pork chops, and slept in late in the middle of the week.

But I miss them. Sticky faces, socks on the floor, dirt tracked everywhere; hugs at story time, conversations with stuffed animals, and the kind of kisses that make a girl want to write romance novels - I miss it all. It's not being homesick, because I'm the only one at home. It's being people-sick.

Despite owning the remote, having unfettered access to the bathroom, and not being awakened by snoring or crying at all hours, I'll be glad when my guys come home.

It's not home without them.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The New Western

WARNING: The following blog was written by a woman (me) who has two degrees in English. I earned them. I might as well use them. Sorry.

What the heck am I writing? What on God's green Earth is a "new western?"

For Pete's sake, what was an 'old' western?

What we think of as the "western" genre today is largely defined by the people who did the defining. Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour wrote the classic westerns, set between 1860 and 1890, and John Wayne was the western for a long time. These were your standard lone hero, sweeping frontier, horses and cowboys and maybe some Indians who may or may not have been ignorant savages, and some sort of good woman who needed defending or hooker with a heart of gold.

Then along came Clint. Mr. Eastwood singlehandedly redefined the genre, first in the spaghetti westerns, and then later in Unforgiven. Heck, those of us with one or more degrees in English can even claim that his last acting role in Gran Torino is a western - set in urban Detroit. Westerns became less good-guy-white-hat/bad-guy-black-hat, and more morally ambiguous. Even the ultimate cowboy Wayne lost his cowboy moral clarity at the end of his career.

Science fiction - as western? It's true, and not just because Joss Wheldon made that TV show Firefly/movie Serenity. You got your hero (Hello, Kirk), your Final Frontier, your ambiguous legal framework, your barely containable savages (aliens) etc. Just with phasers.

So, given this non-exhaustive review of the 'western', what am I writing?

To be totally honest, I didn't even know I was writing 'westerns' until I had an agent reject me after reading the full manuscript of the Noseless Cowboy. Her short email said, "I normally love westerns, but the characters just didn't work for me." And I went, "DAMN!" and then, "It's a western?" I had been laboring under the impression that I was writing Women's Literary Fiction with STRONG Romantic Elements. So, when I sent out the next round of queries, I dropped the Literary Fiction part and stuck in Western (with Paranormal Elements). And my agent? She was looking for the "next new western."

So, what is it? Three of the four books take place primarily around or in the West. (Warrior, Lawyer primarily takes place at Harvard, but they do go west in the last half.) There are cowboys. They do cowboy things, like ride horses to herd cattle with six-shooters strapped to their legs. They have a problem with authority, and someone needs to be rescued. Bad guys pop up, too.

But. My cowboys are, more often than not, Lakota Indians. And why should cowboys have all the fun? I have cowgirls - who aren't hookers or the one-dimensional damsels who need to be rescued. They get to do some of the rescuing, too. My cowboys drive trucks. They have cell phones and Internet connections and DVDs of Disney flicks. They have advanced degrees in business, law, and secondary education.

Old stories of revenge and honor, love and loss, all set in a new world. Ours.

The New Western.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Insanity, Part 356

They say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.

Given the complete and total insanity I've been occasionally overwhelmed with this year - The Patio That Wouldn't Die (still not dead), the Call from the Agent, the New Project That Wouldn't Die (sun room windows from the 1920s - way over my head here!), Massive Revisions on one book while finishing up another, coworkers on vacation (which requires me to work - GASP! - a full work day, five days a week!), incredibly bad sleep, and oh, what the hell, let's scour the house from top to bottom for stuff we can sell at a last minute garage sale - I clearly see a bold new definition of insanity.

Doing a bunch of different things and expecting the same results. Because to think that in the midst of one of the busiest times in my life, I'm going to keep doing what I normally do is absolutely, totally, and hysterically insane.

I mean, in a few weeks, the contractors are going to rip out a wall in my office. I won't even have a place to write for a while.

Luckily, revisions - Massive Revisions - take a different kind of brain cell than the one that comes up with new characters and things for them to do.

Massive Revisions - like when the agent says something along the lines of "So, can you finesse everything that happens after the bad guy dies into one chapter? Or maybe an epilogue?" It's only four chapters. You know what I said? I said, "I think I can make it two short chapters." And she said go with that.

This is different, no doubt. But it's going to work. Insanity. It's the new black!