Sunday, June 23, 2013

Becoming a 'big' and taking a break

Writing News:

It took a while, but here's the novel (don't look too close!). I have completed a full, coherent draft. And this is my post-writing outline because I tend to do things backwards. I've tried to write to outlines, but my characters won't let me.

There's still a lot of work to do, but I have 73,400 words that encapsulate the world(s) of six people; two are major characters and all are interesting, I think, even if one will make you want to punch walls. My antagonist in this story is intense. I actually had to shake off her energy after I wrote long scenes with her in them, but hey, she's alive now on the page. I can honestly say that all these characters feel alive to me, though I'm sure they need the right lighting and camera angles before they are ready to present to the world.

I'm tired. I wrote this while working two jobs and battling the most debilitating migraines of my life (still getting them but less often... I attribute ridiculous amounts of water and Vitamin B serum for the reduction). I don't say that to make excuses for the amount of time it took but rather, to really emphasize that I am exhausted. Beat. Put a fork in me, I'm done.

Accordingly, I'm going to take a little time off from my novel and from short fiction, let the ideas simmer and try to think of what my next steps will be. I'm sure there are steps. I know it's sacrilege to take a break from writing when you're not blocked, but I think it might be a good time. I have so much good reading to do. I have the BEST class of my life to teach (these students are amazing... not a lazy one in the bunch, so far). And, I have a few new personal responsibilities to pay mind to.

In the meantime, I do have quite a bit forthcoming: 1. Uno Kudo, a literary arts production featuring poetry, artwork and prose in a beautiful coffee table style format will be featuring a story of mine about two folks in the animal control business who take their jobs very seriously. This publication should be out sometime in fall '13. Here's a link to V1, so you can check out a previous edition. It's an amazing book: UNO KUDO. 2. I have a new chapbook coming out, officially, from Monkey Puzzle Press (home to amazing writers such as Bonnie ZoBell and Meg Tuite). I signed the contract last week, and I'm so thrilled to be working with this amazing press. This book will be out in 2014.

Reading-wise, I've read a few great books. 1. The Magician's Assistant. I love this book. It took me a while to get around to reading it. I find it sweet and tough and sad and beautiful. 2. Beth Hoffman, my friend and mentor, has an amazing new book out entitled Looking for Me. Not only did I read this book, I listened to it on Audible, and it's a lovely experience both ways. I have a gut feeling this story will end up on screen.

Personal News:

My husband and I are becoming a 'big couple', not literally (I don't think). We've decided to volunteer to be 'bigs' for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I'm thrilled/scared/worried/overwhelmed by the idea. We attended orientation yesterday and were shocked to find out that this program has been around since 1903. Anything that can sustain and thrive that long must be doing real good, making real change. I hope we can be of some use and inspiration in a child's life. I really do. We'll see how it goes.

Okay, so off to find out if I can live up to my word and take a break from writing... have a good week!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sharp turns

I fell off my bike when I was young, around eight. I was pedaling at a good clip on a park sidewalk, but suddenly there was a large crack in the cement and then a step down. I couldn't remember how to break. All I saw was the inevitable until the inevitable happened. It was the ultimate lesson in how to psyche myself out. I lost control at the crack and panicked at the step. I fell, face to concrete. My glasses broke and cut a star into my forehead. A few stitches later, I decided to never ride a bike again.

I mean, what would I really miss? A workout? I could run. Fun? Yeah, not so much. Hanging out with friends? None of my friends had bikes anyway. I could honestly say that I wasn't missing out on much. But rationalizing and calling it logic or no, I knew deep down I was making excuses. Truth was, I was giving up on a thing I'd previously wanted to do.

I was never too embarrassed that I didn't learn to ride a bike, and the older I got the less it came up. It was a self-deprecating story to tell. The story of how I gave up. It'd come up casually then someone would ask, "What? You really don't know how to ride a bike?" And I'd respond, "Funny story! I was eight, and I still have the scar..."

San Antonio, in an effort to offset the amazing, over-indulgent food and slow pace the city offers, instituted a bike sharing program downtown. And for the first time in my life, I've felt a little left out in my inability to join the crowd. So, at thirty-three, I bought a bike. 24", pink, mountain with a low back and shocks (might be the first pink thing I've willingly owned). I went out for the first time in over twenty years last weekend. I went out again today.

How I roll now
Learning to ride a bike at age 33 is probably about the same as it'd be for anyone at any age. Balance takes some time, but can become routine rather quickly. Getting started on an uphill is tough, the adjustment from downhill to up or up to down takes some getting used to. Then, there are the worst: the sharp turns. There's a ramp, sidewalk, turn, bridge deal by my apartment, and it's where I practice. I'm working on my turns.

Who'd have thought? I'm working on my turns after having decided to never get back on the bike, that the thing has defeated me. Might seem silly, but in this woman's world, it's encouraging. If I can ride a bike, I can do something I told myself I couldn't.

Speaking of which, I am getting close to completing my novel, which is another thing I couldn't stop telling myself I couldn't do. No, I thought, I'd get sidetracked. I work two jobs; I have too much to do; I don't have time for such a concentrated effort; I don't have the attention span; I don't have the story. Go figure. Now I do.

I'll be posting updates about future writings and the novel soon. In the meantime, I'll be working and riding. Have a beautiful week!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dear John QuiƱones,

It might be a tough one to pull off, but I need a show about this: 

I was walking my dog on a relatively busy street near my apartment complex. My dog, though well-medicated and hanging in there, has heart failure. He is sweet and docile, a Blue Heeler--not an aggressive breed, yet I keep in on leash because a.) I want to keep him safe and b.) I know that dogs can be unpredictable when they feel threatened, no matter how sweet they are.

Yesterday, as we walked after a good rain, a soaking wet black Lab mixed with something stocky came rushing toward us. He charged my little guy, who is very laid back by nature and even more so on all his meds and with a tricky ticker. The dog sniffed my dog at first, then started growling, then started showing his teeth and biting. His owners were twenty feet away, walking leisurely. When their dog started getting aggressive, I yelled to the two women, one younger, one older, to come get their dog off of my dog. They didn't run, just continued to stroll, so I had to pull the Lab mix from my dog. I wasn't bitten, but it wasn't easy. The younger of the two of them finally rushed up, after I yelled at her three times, to get the dog.

Then what? Well, I was angry. I'm not sure what I should have done, and I'd love to know what you would have done, but here's what I did. I told the both of them, "You need to keep your dog on a leash so he doesn't go attacking other dogs."

In response, the older woman who didn't seem to care at all said, "He doesn't usually do this. He was just playing." This is the same comment a Chow owner made when I was a little kid and got bit on the eye by her vicious ("but usually so sweet") dog. It took everything I had to not attack that woman like her dog attacked mine.

Of course, I did not hurt the woman. Instead, I told her, well, "You can't say that anymore. Get your dog a damn leash." She ignored me. My dog is fine, but I was so incredibly shaken up because I know every time his heart rate goes way up, he's probably losing time. He's a happy dog, and he's in good shape, but I know these days are numbered and people that put his health in jeopardy are hitting every maternal instinct a dog mom can have.  

But when they walked off, I watched. The dog started running off, way in front of them again. What about that dog? That dog could just as easily chased a squirrel into the busy road we were walking along. It could have just as easily attacked a child or another animal that could have taken it down. 

In a city like San Antonio, with a population of 1.36 million, there are many busy streets. There are many large apartment complexes on busy streets, like the one I live in, and there are something near 200,000 stray dogs and cats. The odds that an unleashed dog will get hurt or hurt someone/some other animal are high. I don't understand why anyone who lives in the city, especially a big city like this, would be so incredibly irresponsible. But also, I wonder if I should have done more.

The ending of this story is bittersweet. The sweet part is this: my dog is not hurt, there are no bite marks, though he was shaken up and had a tough night (he breathes hard all night on days he gets really excited). The bitter part is this: the woman turned into my apartment complex, and walked all the way to the back. I live in a very large complex, and though I take comfort in the fact that I can pass on her behavior to the rental office, I don't have much confidence that this will that change her behavior. Should I have been nicer to her? Psychologically, I doubt my reaction did much more than amuse and maybe scare her.

But I'm calmer now. But this isn't the first time it's happened that a dog owner's dog charges me or my dog. Usually, the owner is apologetic or runs after the dog, but nice or not, this is a problem. Should I have reported her? And to whom, Animal Control? Should I get dog-repelling pepper spray? Would that hurt the dog more than help? I wonder what I should have done, really...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chapbooks and chopsticks

I didn't post this weekend because I was finishing up the first half of my novel to send (sent). Also, my husband came back from Japan (yes!), which means I had to buy the proper decorative holder for my new, extensive chopstick collection. Oh, and I was pretty busy otherwise. I designed the 2307 creative writing course that I'll begin teaching next week, and I think it's going to be a great course. I hope so. The weekend was great anyway. I mean, seriously, check this out. I asked him for one good set. The man goes above and beyond.

In writing news, a small portion of my manuscript of short stories received third place in a chapbook competition held by Monkey Puzzle Press, which means I'll be offering up a little chap, hopefully a teaser for the longer collection that will eventually follow. And to balance things out, I got some really encouraging rejections (always nice) for a long story I've been trying to place that I really love. Long stories are a hell of a lot harder to place, let me tell you, but I believe in this story, so I might try a few more places. If you haven't yet, please check out my last two published stories (right). I have nothing new to share this week, but I'm pretty proud of those two.

I wish you all a wonderful week, and if you're anywhere close to me in South Texas, I wish you air conditioning and shade aplenty.

Observations: Dublin Vacation

Dublin seemed the obvious destination. We would be close to various restaurants and tourist attractions. It would be easy to call a cab or...