Monthly Archives: February 2015

Dear Novel-in-Progress

Dear Novel-in-Progress,

I was thinking about you last night while I did the laundry, ate a snack cake, and watched a M*A*S*H marathon.  I was thinking about how I should be working on you, but that I didn’t want to.  I was thinking about how the last several times I sat down to work on you, I was so darn tired that I fell asleep over my keyboard.  I hadn’t slept much, but part of me was worried that it was you, not me.

I was thinking about how hypocritical you are.  Just when I start to get really worried that you’re super boring and could never be a good sequel, I tell a trusted friend about your plot and they tell me how exciting you are.  I should be happy about this, but I feel betrayed.  I mean, why do you have to wait until there’s someone else in the room to let your beauty shine forth?  Don’t I count?  The one who created you?  Or is this one on me?

I was thinking about you this morning over breakfast.  I have this horrible tendency to fall asleep over a good novel after the kids get on the school bus.  The house is so quiet, and is so perfect for writing…or for catching up on sleep.  I was thinking that today would be just like any other.  I would sit down, read the last few paragraphs, and either fall asleep or just get angry.  Angry at the idea that maybe I’m not going to get this done after all.

I’m thinking about you right now, and how happy I am with you.  (Who’s hypocritical now,  you ask?)  The hour I set aside in the mornings just to spend time with you absolutely flew by.  My characters made progress.  And they weren’t boring.  They were exciting!  They did things that I hadn’t planned out for them when I’d laid out your outline lo these many months ago.

Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s me.  Okay, it’s probably mostly me.  But let’s have mornings like this more often.

Love and kisses,

Ashley

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Snow Day…I Mean, Week

“Are you ready for the kids to go back to school?” the cashier asks me.  I know she’s just doing her job, making small talk, but as my three kids swarm around the cart, two of them arguing about god-knows-what-this-time, I reply “Yes!” with enough enthusiasm that it embarrasses me.

You see, there has been a much larger winter storm around here than we normally get, and the kids have been out of school for an entire week.  It goes like this:

Monday:

It’s President’s Day, and the kids are out of school! Yay!  I still need to try to get some work done, but I’ll at least be able to snuggle with them on the couch while I write, and then take them out to play in the snow later.

Tuesday:

Neat, the kids have another day off! I will cherish this one just as much as I did yesterday!  After all, the school will surely not be closed for a third day in a row.  Who wants to play Life?  And build a snowman?

This is Mr. Fuzzy!  Yeah, we don't have the greatest snowman-building snow.

This is Mr. Fuzzy! Yeah, we don’t have the greatest snowman-building snow.

Wednesday:

Okay, I’ve seriously got to get some work done.  Working from home is awesome,  except that nobody seems to realize you actually have to work.  I’ve relented to far too much video game time already, and they are still bored.  I knew when I became a parent that it was my job to keep them clothed and fed, but why is it my job to keep them constantly entertained?  Somehow, they’ve decided it’s too cold to play in the snow all of a sudden.

We get the automated call that school is out again tomorrow.  I groan audibly, not even bothering to hide it from the kids.

Thursday:

As soon as breakfast is over, the girls are whining (again) about how bored they are.  I respond by shipping them off to their room.  I have a paper and a presentation to do that I’ve been trying to get done all week.  Fortunately, the girls share a room and LOVE to build forts.  I don’t care if they use every single blanket they own (which they do, and it’s a considerable amount) and build a castle out of it, as long as I get this done!  My stepson has never been under the illusion that I’m cool, so he’s perfectly content to spend some time alone in his room.  By 2 pm, both my paper and my presentation are completed.  We celebrate with a trip to the library.

“You probably have school tomorrow,” I tell the kids on the way home from the library.  “It’s already four and they haven’t said they’re closed yet.”  They whine and moan, but I’m not really sure how I feel.

At seven, my phone rings.  I hit the speaker button so the kids can hear the robot lady’s voice say, “There will be no school tomorrow.”  They jump of the couch, shouting and dancing.  I smile a little.

Friday:

I take the day off.  We spend the morning watching TV and playing board games.  When the girls leave to go to their dad’s for the weekend, the house feels so empty I don’t know what to do with myself.  I sprinkle some salt on the sidewalk and wish for more snow.

Not my car, but it may as well have been!

Not my car, but it may as well have been!

 

 

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For The Singles on Valentine’s Day

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, time for all the single people to fill up Facebook with complaints about how single they are, how unfair it is, and when will it be their turn anyway??  If this sounds like something you just typed up in your status box, then I’m talking to you.

I understand how you feel.  It’s difficult to be solo on a daily basis anyway, and a holiday that specifically points it out is that much harder to deal with.  The lady at the cubicle next to you just got a big vase of red roses.  That guy you know from the gym has been bragging about the amazing date he has planned for his girlfriend.  Heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are literally everywhere, and instead of saying “Russell Stover” or “Whitman’s” on the front, they might as well say “Nanny nanny boo boo.”

But do you really think it’s going to help to whine about it?  Do you think that Mr. or Mrs. Right is going to see that sad-sack status and say, “Hey!  That’s who I’ve been looking for!”?

Yes, I am in a steady and wonderful relationship, but that is not why I’m talking to you right now.  I’m writing this because I have had PLENTY of Valentine’s Days/birthdays/Christmases/Saturday nights that I spent very much single.  There were PLENTY of times that it made me feel sad, or even made me think that I would just grow old and be a crazy cat lady for the rest of my life.  I have had some extremely lonely times in my life.

I’m writing to tell you to take this Valentine’s Day to love yourself.

Buy yourself that heart-shaped box of chocolates.  Take yourself out on a date.  Buy a bouquet of flowers to decorate your dining table.  Do what I used to do, and buy yourself a new book on a special day.  Heck, do all these things even if you’re in a relationship!  You’re worth it!

Don’t spend a random weekend in February moping and pining, and thinking that the negativity you’re pulsing out into the universe will boomerang back to you with an attractive date in tow.  Show yourself a little love.  I don’t care how cliché you think it sounds, it’s true:  You make your own happiness.

Stone.

 

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Rule of the Bone

Since I’m such a book nerd (try not to stagger in surprise at that revelation) I usually don’t mind mandatory reading.  In fact, I’ve come to think of it as a great excuse to do what I love to do anyway.  No guilt!  What?  The dishes aren’t washed?  Well, I have this mandatory reading that I’ve got to do, so too bad!

I decided last year to go back to school and (finally!) finish up my degree.  I haven’t regretted my choice for a single second (again, I’m a nerd….I LOVE SCHOOL!).  I have, unfortunately, regretted some of the mandatory reading I’ve had to do.

Now, I like reading lots of different kinds of books, so really being forced to read something should never be a problem.  Throw me some chick lit, sci fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, etc. and I’ll be just fine.  These classes have involved lots of nonfiction reading about writing and book publishing, which I voluntarily read on a pretty regular basis anyway.  Yay for reading assignments!

Then I had to read this book.

Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks

Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks

Rule of the Bone, by Russell Banks.  I had never heard of this book before, and I didn’t even get around to seeing what it was about before I started reading it.  (WARNING:  If you think you might want to read this book someday, stop reading this blog post.  It contains spoilers!)  Our protagonist is Chappie, a fourteen-year-old boy who is “heavy into weed but I didn’t have any money to buy it with so I started looking around the house all the time for things I could sell but there wasn’t much.”  And that sentence pretty much sums up what the first part of the book is about:  doing whatever he needs to do to get high.  How uplifting.  Oh, but it gets better, because we find out that his mom and stepdad are alcoholics, and his stepdad has been sexually abusing him.  With this wonderful family life as his basis, Chappie takes off into the world to find himself.  He finds a gang of bikers to live with until they try to kill him, a little girl that has been sold to a porn producer, a Rastafarian that is too busy growing and selling weed to make any good decisions in life, and general chaos and destruction.  Chappie also finds his real father, who happens to be quite the piece of work himself, but Chappie consoles himself by having sex with his father’s girlfriend. In the end, he only finds inner peace when all the people he has ever truly cared about are dead.  Also, there’s no punctuation to get in your way.  Our protagonist can’t be bothered with commas or quotation marks to clutter up his enchanting tale.

I’ll bet you can’t wait to read it, right?  I mean the New York Times Book Review says it’s “a romance for a world fast running out of room for childhood.”  Um, no.  It’s not romantic at all, and it only drives childhood further out of the picture.  I hope whoever wrote that got a frowny face memo, cause they obviously didn’t read the book.

I have to say that I don’t like to rant about books.  I’m a writer, and I know that reviews are important.  Nobody wants to hear how totally crappy their book is.  I’m thinking, though, that Russell Banks will probably never see this, and if he does he won’t mind since his book has done very well.  And I’m not saying the book was poorly done.  While the lack of punctuation will drive any typical English major crazy, it creates a style that fits in well with the story.  I just really hate the story.  I don’t want to read about drugs, child porn, crime, and sex between people that really shouldn’t be having it.  So good for you, Russell Banks, but I am not a fan.

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