It'll be better when it's better

I love a good redemption story. I go weak in the knees when the hero stumbles, makes big mistakes, and somehow finds his way back. There's nothing quite as satisfying as a generally good guy who self-destructs in a big way before figuring out how to make his life better than before, preferably all tied in with a nice romantic happy ever after.

Redemption stories, or at least the opportunity for that kind of story, are all around us. I've known plenty of people who made a big mess of their lives using alcohol or drugs or gambling or spending or sex or food. Modern life seems filled with addictions of various kinds. Sometimes addictions are benign, other times they're a train wreck. Maybe that's part of why I like redemption stories so much, most of the destructive narratives I see in real life don't end well. Thank God for fiction.

Studies show that novel reading makes us more empathetic. Maybe it's because they train us to believe that it's never too late, that love is just around the corner and it's all going to be okay. And in the end, even if everything isn't okay, isn't it better to believe in the possibilities of redemption for ourselves and for those around us? I think so. 

But then I would.

How about you?

A good predator is hard to find

 

There are rabbits in my garden. Lots of them. It's a community garden, so there are plenty of opinions about what to do. We tried live trapping, but some folks think that puts the poor bunnies at risk. I think not trapping them is endangering my beans, but that's a discussion for another time. In the meantime, we've reinforced the fence and are doing our best to keep the damned things out. What I'd really like to do is build a perch tall enough to attract a hawk or owl or eagle to eat or scare away all the bunnies and chipmunks and mice. 

Life isn't supposed to always be sweet and cuddly. The fox I saw trotting down the road with a small animal clamped in it's mouth was just another parent taking food back to the kits. I hope that dinner didn't involve a neighbor's cat, but I can't really blame the fox if it did. She's got to feed her babies.

All this death and destruction got me thinking about the editing process. It isn't always pretty. For the most part, I'd rather not add that extra scene or take out that wonderful anecdote or tighten up loose plot points or characters. But I know from experience that without a hawk-eyed editor, my stories can get as stunted as those half-eaten beans. If I insist that editors treat me gently, the story (and eventually the readers) will suffer.

I could extend this hawk metaphor further - talk about how editors can step back from a manuscript and see clearly just like eagles sitting on a perch - but I think you get the point. And I'm betting that those are the bits any sharp-eyed editor would pluck from this blog post anyway. I will say that anyone who tries to edit their own work is likely to end up running around in circles like I did the other day as I tried to chase a rabbit out of the garden. The slippery devil slid under a spot in the fence where I didn't know it could go. I did learn something that helped me plug one more hole, but I didn't solve the problem. At least not as effectively as a wise old owl would. 

Everything needs a little pruning. Even if it hurts.

 

Breaking habits

I've been going through line edits for my next book and the process has me thinking about my bad habits. Every time I go through this, there are a few mistakes that pop out as tics. No, I'm not going to give you examples because then they might jump out at you, too. Perhaps they already do. I am pondering the best ways to break myself of these little stutters.

They say the first step to fixing any problem is to become aware of it and I suppose that's as true for writing gaffes as it is for anything else. If only I could remember from one line editing pass to the next rough draft. Maybe I should make a list and post it on my wall. That would be sensible. 

I'm not that organized. Another problem I've identified but haven't yet solved.

When I was a kid we used to chant, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better." The internet says that phrase was invented by Emile Coue, not Brenda, the cool girl in my third grade class. Either way, I hope it's true and that someday I'll get a manuscript back with no editing suggestions at all. I suspect that the reality is more onion-like and that when one set of tics is cured, another will become more apparent.

One more time.... every day, in every way.....

All I can say is thank god for editors. And readers who forgive.

 

Happy Summer

Sorry I'm not around much but living up here where the summer is really only about six weeks long makes it tempting to spend as much time outside as possible.

I am working on the edits to Making Home, though, and picking away at a new story that'll be finding its way into the pipeline sooner or later. Don't worry, I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime. enjoy the summer while it lasts.

Learning from Isaac, free

Last month I participated in Jeff and Will's Big Gay Giveaway on Instafreebie and had a great time. I gave away over 1000 copies of Learning from Isaac. It was heartening to know that many people were interested in the story. Hopefully I've made a few new friends along the way.

Because the giveaway was so successful, I decided to leave it up. So Learning From Isaac is still free on Instafreebie and will be into the near future. If you haven't read it, this is your chance to pick up a copy and see what you think. Or to recommend the series to a friend. Learning from Isaac is the first in the Tarnished Souls Jewish Holiday gay romance series.

Click here to check it out

Gorgeous cover by Jordan Castillo Price

 

It’s hard to break out of a rut. For years, Nathan submerged himself into his job at St. Genevieve’s. He enjoys teaching, hates faculty meetings, loves his science and has committed himself to the cycle of college life. Along the way, he's become resigned to being a gay man in a straight culture, a Jew among Catholics, and single in a world of couples. Then the brilliant Isaac Wolf appears in his classroom. Isaac’s a few years older than his fellow students, gorgeous, self-composed and Jewish. 

Isaac has his own secrets, which Nathan finds out at the racy new club downtown where the boys who dance out front can be bought in the back room. Nathan thinks he’s about to get a lap dance, but behind the beaded curtain the man on his knees turns out to be Isaac. Nathan's mind isn't the only thing Isaac blows. Afterward, Nathan can't stop thinking about that night. The question is whether Nathan can let himself fall in love with a student, much less someone with Isaac’s checkered past. Is it too late for a student to teach his professor the true nature of love and respect?

This is a revised, author’s edition of the first Tarnished Souls story, originally published in 2012 by Loose Id.

Devy, Devy, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

I'm an avid vegetable gardener. Growing peas and beans and squash is a ridiculously frantic activity where I live. If I had any sense, I'd move south, somewhere where the growing season is longer than two months. 

The kind of gardening we do up here is to normal climate gardening as  high intensity exercising is to a stroll in the park. (You know what I mean, those 10 minute workouts, or 7 or I think I've even seen 2 - which is kind of my speed except I can't imaging working THAT HARD for 2 full minutes.) The gardening equivalent means putting seeds in the ground June 1 and praying that we don't have a frost before the end of August. 

Over the course of the last month, I've spent as much time as possible in the garden. But I have managed to get a bit of writing done in the meantime. Fortunately, the dreaded day job puts minimal demands on me in the summer. Otherwise I'd be seriously pressed for time, because unfortunately, I don't function well without sleep. 

This is what it looks like now - not too impressive but give it some time. Gardening is all about patience, which makes it a good lesson for me. Any gardeners out there? I'd love to see photos of gardens in warmer zones. Gives me hope for the future.

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If you write it, they will come

So here's a cool thing that happened recently. I live way up in northern Wisconsin in a tiny rednecky town. Over the years we've had a few progressive actions here and there, nothing very big. Since January 2017 there's been a lot more activity. Three hundred people came out for the Women's March and 200 for the March for Science. That may not seem like a lot to those of you who live in bluer places, but we've been feeling pretty good about it.

Now to the cool thing. Last year I wrote a short story for the GRNW Anthology. It was set in Lacland, my fictional town that's sort of like this one. In it, a couple of guys meet at the local library during a planning meeting for the very first Lacland area Pride parade. So imagine how I felt when I found myself a year later at the local library participating in planning the very first Northwoods Pride event. It's a picnic, not a parade and as far as I know no one hooked up at the planning meeting. Details, details. Something I wrote about is actually happening tomorrow and while I really didn't do much to help it get going, I do feel like there's a little bit of magic at work. Happy Pride!

If you're in the northwoods, come on by tomorrow for our first annual Northwoods Pride Picnic!

I get by with a little help...

I just spent a wonderful weekend with dear friends. As a group, we've been friends for over twenty years. We've since scattered and now live all over the place, from Seattle to Belfast, and yet we try to get together once a year for some serious girlfriend time. It's a sweet time, funny, deep and delicious, filled with good food and better conversation.

All that got me thinking about the value of longtime friendships in real life and in fiction. Generally I'm drawn to the magic of falling in love with a stranger, although in Buyout I really enjoyed the sweet sadness of rediscovering the one that got away. But I'm a big fan of non-romantic friendships and I love it when a main character has a best friend they've known forever. Getting to know someone through the eyes of their friends is such a great way to see their hidden depths. I also think that our ability to maintain friendships is an indication of our capacity for intimacy. Too bad so many of my characters are loners. I guess I'm drawn to the strong, silent, complicated and unpredictable type.

One of my favorite things we ate this weekend was a shaved asparagus salad. I'd never been served raw asparagus. It was surprisingly tender and tasty - the perfect spring salad. Here's a link to the recipe  Best with a glass of wine and a very good friend.

Dev's News Flash

I'm seven months into my newsletter. You may not think seven straight months is a long time, but consistency has never been my strong suit, especially when it comes to things like newsletters or blog posts. Life just has a tendency to get in the way. You know how it is. 

But so far, I've been having a great time with my newsletter, Dev's News Flash. I think it's because it's low on News and big on Flash. Every month I write a piece of fiction and send it out to my subscribers. The pieces are short and often a bit experimental and I'm having a blast doing them.

If you're interested in subscribing, here's a link. 

I spent some time this month at the bedside of a friend who was in hospice. It was sad and sweet and real. I'm hoping that's also true of this month's flash. I call it Afterlife.

 

My grandmother is dying. Maybe if I say it enough, the magnitude of it all will sink in. Because sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what’s really happening when I’m caught up in the mundane details of fluffing her pillows or getting her some juice.

Having someone die in a hospital bed in the living room is chaotic and gut wrenchingly boring at the same time. Friends visit, offering her comfort and companionship along with conversation she can’t always follow and food she doesn’t want. An aide or a volunteer shows up nearly every day to help her and to give me a break. The chaplain comes by sometimes. Or a social worker. There’s probably a schedule they’re following but I haven’t figured it out, so I never know when to expect them.

Except the hospice nurse. He appears like an apparition every afternoon between five and six.

I owe Gran my life. It might sound melodramatic but it’s true. I was fifteen and had just survived my second suicide attempt when she took me in—a scrawny gay kid with a bad attitude that did a terrible job of hiding my fear that no one anywhere would ever love me. She drove a hundred miles through a snow storm to rescue me. At the hospital, she told my parents that they’d have to kill her first before she’d let them send me into another conversion therapy hell. They washed their hands of the both of us and that was that.

Twenty years later here I am, sitting by her bed in my best shirt, hoping that when he shows up, the hospice nurse will notice me. I know that sounds pathetic, and maybe it is. I like to think of it as a coping mechanism.

Gran opens her eyes. “I don’t want you to be alone, John.”

I pat her hand. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

My last relationship and my grandmother’s chemotherapy treatments ended the same week. Nothing dramatic, we just both realized we’d been trying too hard for too long and it was time to move on.

The hospice nurse’s name is Simon. He has dark hair and brown eyes that are so sincere you could drown in them. Before he touches my gran he always asks her permission in a voice that sounds like the proverbial healing cloud of amethyst light. It’s after four. He’ll be here soon.

Loving someone, even living with someone, shouldn’t be that difficult. We all have our quirks and no one is attractive all the time. But in the end, isn’t it enough to treat each other with kindness?

That’s what I tell the kids. I’m a high school guidance counselor. Most summers I take a second job just to earn some extra cash, but this summer I’m back sleeping in my old room so Gran can die at home. She didn’t get really bad until June and will be gone by the time school starts in the fall. Considerate as always.

Gran has had boyfriends over the years but none of them stuck around. She jokes that she passed her terrible taste in men down to me. As I watch Gran sleep, I think the problem is we’ve been focusing on the wrong traits. She looks old and shrunken but still beautiful to me. And I’m not sure I’ve ever loved her more. I want to know someone for a long time, so long that it doesn’t matter if my face wrinkles or I go through an unfortunate haircut phase or my carefully cultivated six-pack disappears.

I think it might be Simon’s hands that I find most attractive. They’re strong, confident hands. Often, after he checks on her medication and examines her for bed sores, he’ll linger for a while and we’ll talk. One afternoon, while I watched him massage her feet, I imagined how his hands would move while making dinner. Another day I fantasized we were building a house together and Simon was swinging his hammer with the regularity of a pendulum or the second hand of a watch—predictable, steady and strong.

Every day, Gran talks a little less and sleeps a lot more. She doesn’t want to watch television anymore and music only makes her anxious. The house echoes with a sad silence as I pad from room to room wondering what I’ll do without her.

I know Simon’s knock by now, two soft raps. Gran doesn’t stir. I only hear him because I’ve been listening. I cross the living room to the front door, my heart racing like it’s prom night. Maybe that’s okay. Pursuing new interests can help with depression. That’s what the advice columnists say.

It’s hot outside, but Simon looks cool in blue slacks and a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He rests a hand on the handle of his roller bag and for the umpteenth time I wish he was just coming to stay for the weekend. Gran could make her famous lasagna, and after dinner Simon and I could sit out on the lawn watching the stars and telling secrets.

“How are you?” He cocks his head to one side, his eyes locked on mine in a look that’s probably just professional sympathy but that I decide to believe is real concern.

There’s no good answer to his question, so I shrug and open the door wider to let him in.

I gesture to the hospital bed that dominates the living room. “She was sleeping but she might wake up for you.”

Simon isn’t my type. I’ve always gone for the kind of men that I thought would make me look good. Tall, fit, musclebound guys that everyone can admire. I’ve always been on the lookout to trade up. It’s what one does.

That’s not a game Simon can play. Although, now that I look at him, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want him. He’s kind and patient, handsome with gorgeous eyes and those strong, competent hands that I dream about.

But he’s short. Really short. Little people short. And for some reason that doesn’t matter to me. Not anymore.

Gran’s eyes flutter open. She smiles at Simon. He smiles back, hits the button and Gran’s hospital bed descends until it’s even with his thighs. She nods when he asks if he can check her pulse. He goes through his routine, all the while talking with her in that soothing, calming voice. I watch from a distance. She’s happy with him. And that makes my heart swell. I imagine the three of us eating Thanksgiving dinner together or opening presents under the tree.

Gran catches my eye. She waves her hand vaguely in a gesture I interpret as a summons. I come over and stand on the other side of her bed. It’s as if Simon and I are her body guards.

She licks her lips and waves me closer. I lean down. She whispers, “I’m glad you’ve finally found a nice boy. He’ll be good to you.”

“No Gran. We’re not—” I glance at Simon. My face floods. I’m mortified that she’s voicing hallucinations that dovetail with my fantasies. “This is Simon. He’s your nurse, Gran.”

She waves her hand, dismissing the confusion and my embarrassment. “Ask him out.”

I look at Simon, who’s concentrating on fixing a wrinkle in her bed linens. I start to say I’m sorry, that Gran must be dreaming, but then I stop. Something about the way he’s not meeting my gaze tells me I might not be the only one who’s been looking forward to these visits.

When I stop talking mid-sentence, he looks up. I don’t know what to say.

Simon turns to Gran with a smile. “Not yet, Louise. We’re focused on you right now. There’ll be plenty of time for John and I to get to know each other better later.” He places his hand on hers and his gaze flicks to me. “That is, if he wants to.”

I stare at him as my heart does a somersault. “I’d like that.”

“Good.” Gran’s words come out in a whisper. “You’ll keep coming by after work until then?”

Simon chuckles. “I thought the extra visits on my own time were our secret. Of course. I’ll be by every day for as long as it takes.”

After work? The first time Simon came to see Gran was in the morning. He didn’t come again until the next week. As I look from him to Gran and back again I try to remember when he started showing up every day after five. Was coming more often than he had to Gran’s idea or his? Either way she’s taking care of me right up until the end. And beyond.

I cover their hands with my own. It feels like a pledge. The promise of a future.

Gran smiles and closes her eyes.

It's hot in the kitchen chicken

Enough heavy stuff, it's time for a recipe. This is my very favorite, very easy, chicken recipe.

The ingredients are simple: chicken thighs and hot pepper sauce(I like Franks but any of those sauces made mostly from chili peppers and vinegar will do nicely).

Preheat the oven to 420.

Pat the chicken thighs dry.

Place them skin side up, in a single layer along the bottom of a roasting pan or cast iron skillet.

Sprinkle on some salt.

Bake for an hour and ten minutes, until the skin is nice and crispy.

Take them out of the oven, drizzle on the hot pepper sauce,  stir so that the hot sauce and the juice in the bottom of the pan mix together and coat the chicken.

That's it! I like to serve the chicken thighs with a baked potato and a nice salad. It's a super easy meal that always feels special to me. I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

March for Science

In my other life I'm a scientist and I'm speaking at our little rally for our satellite march to the DC March for Science. All the conventional wisdom says that politics are kryptonite for romance writers. That may be true, but I've never been particularly conventional.

I thought I'd share a bit of my speech with you. I won't bore you with the whole thing, but here's the ending just so you know where I stand. Cheers - Dev

Today as we march in support of science, it’s important to remember that science is simply an investigative tool with which we seek to figure out how the natural world works. Scientists are in search of the truth – which is complicated and nuanced and impossible to know completely -but which exists. I think we do ourselves and the world a disservice when we talk about your truth or my truth when what we mean is belief. Facts are real whether I believe in them or not. The earth was round before we discovered that. And think of where we’d be now if we still believed that the earth was flat and that monsters lived at the edges. I doubt we’d have made it to the moon and beyond.

Climate change, which really should be called climate chaos since that’s what it is—unpredictable and uncontrollable—will continue whether I believe in it or not. No matter how much I may wish that I’ could float above the ground, the truth is that gravity doesn’t care if I believe in it or not. I can’t wish away cancer or invasive species or the threats to our drinking water that the crisis in Flint made clear. But I can study how those things work and develop strategies for coping with them, and then test those strategies against actual data and improve the plan and make a real difference. We’ve solved impossible problems in the past, from curing small pox to making heavy airplanes fly through the air. But we need money and training and skeptical minds to make that happen.

Thank you for coming out to support science on this forty-seventh earth day. Here are a few things you can do to keep this momentum going in the coming days:

Stay informed.

Fight for your constitutional right to vote and the right of every other citizen. And vote in each and every election, no matter how small. Think globally but act locally.

Write and call your representatives, even if you know they don’t agree with you. Let them know your thoughts.

Work on your own ecological footprint – recycle, reduce your energy use, clean your boat so you don’t carry invasive species from lake to lake and pick up trash (let’s leave this place cleaner than when we came).

Stay active. We can work together to end the war on science.

Ask questions. If science is about anything, it’s that. Don’t just believe. Look for the evidence.

And make noise. Science not silence.

Slothful conflict

Ah, the pitfalls of being a writer in the Midwest, where we avoid conflict at all costs. Fortunately I'm not originally from here, although I did grow up in a conflict-adverse household. And that was actually strange since my family has always been very political, which is inherently adversarial. I guess it was a matter of keeping all conflict outside the house. That was an interesting goal. And an utter failure.

There's no such thing as a meaningful relationship without conflict. We tussle with our friends and family because we care. It isn't comfortable, but the fact we're willing to engage is a measure of how much it all matters. Learning to "live and let live" makes our relationships run more smoothly, but it takes some detachment to accomplish.

Both internal and external conflict are critical to good fiction. It's relatively easy to create external conflict for a character. Just drop him in an impossible situation then add more stress. Nothing like starting a character out broke, cold and lonely and having him go downhill from there. 

Internal conflict is a little harder to convey. We all have internal conflicts. I'm afraid of sloths and yet I'm strangely drawn to them. I can't keep my mouth shut about the state of the world, which messes with my need for approval. You get the idea. The difficulty in writing internal conflict isn't thinking up the conflict, it's figuring out a way to telegraph it to the reader without having the character think, "That sloth is terrifying. And yet, I can't stop looking at it. Should I turn away? If I do, will the image still haunt me? Is there something about that sloth that I need to know? Maybe I should become a sloth biologist... or a hunter."

I think this is what's meant by "show, don't tell." Showing the internal conflict at work builds tension and makes us unsure about the final outcome of the story. Telling us what that internal conflict is might be interesting, but not compelling. You're not on the edge of your seat wondering if I'm going to start killing sloths. But you might be if all you had was me shuddering at the image of a sloth, looking away, then looking back, staring hard and maybe fingering my gun.

External and internal conflicts drive the interpersonal conflict necessary for a romance novel. Here in the Midwest we don't do interpersonal conflict. Except, of course, we do. Because otherwise life wouldn't be interesting. Maybe not wearing our conflicts on our sleeves is actually good practice for Midwestern writers, though. Learning to decipher internal conflict body language might be a very useful skill after all.

Now I just have to figure out what my neighbor means by that photo of a sloth that she slid into my mailbox. Does she know about my fears? Or did she think it just another cute pic? I can't ask her, that would be too direct. I'll just have to watch and wait. And plan my revenge.

Holiday love stories

Passover starts next week, which got me thinking about writing holiday stories. As far as I know, with Learning From Isaac, I wrote the only Passover romance out there - certainly the only gay one. And that's what started the whole Tarnished Souls series. 

 

I found writing holiday stories very challenging, maybe because I was writing a year's worth of Jewish holiday stories and  I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with all the holidays. I had to skip a few. Even so, my Purim story came out a few months late. Which didn't really matter because most people don't even know about our party-hardy religious observance day (on Purim you're supposed to drink until you can't tell the difference between right and wrong. I've never understood why more people don't get behind that kind of celebration.)

Writing holiday stories is hard, not just because of the calendar, although it's not easy to get into the Christmas spirit in May. It's also hard to find the right balance between the religious meaning of the holiday and the story needs. It's pretty easy to offend people or to get heavy handed and pedantic. Maybe in the future I should stick to secular holidays, like the 4th of July and Thanksgiving.

Although who knows, maybe this is the year I'll get excited about another Hanukkah story. I guess it's about time to start thinking that through. Outside my office window, the lake ice is just breaking up. Should I be daydreaming about snow?

Anyway, happy Passover to all. I don't have a new Passover story coming out, but I will be celebrating with family and friends. So if you need me over the next few days, I'd try the kitchen.  Happy spring everyone!

Happy Spring

The equinox has come and gone and it's officially spring in the northern hemisphere. Which is good to know as I look out my window at a still frozen lake. The trucks and ice huts are gone, though - a sure sign of spring in Northern Wisconsin.

This is the restless season up here in the cold, but a bit warmer these days, north. It's too warm to ski or ice fish and not yet warm enough to plant. We're on the cusp of mud season, but the ground is still too frozen to coat my boots.

Maybe that's why I've been writing hot weather stories lately. Writing about summer is a way to transport myself out of this in-between season and into the sun. I have two warm weather projects going right now. For one, I'm teaming up with the fabulous Clare London for a love story set on the Oregon Coast, which is never very warm but it's warmer than here. I'm very excited about this project. I love Clare's work and have always wanted to write with her.

My other steamy story is a murder mystery series set in Tanzania. The first book is almost done and I hope it'll come out in the Fall. I'm about to start the followup. Just thinking about that warm sun on my bare shoulders makes me smile. Too bad someone has to die.

Meanwhile I'll watch the snow and ice melt and click my heels three times in hopes that our short, sweet summer will arrive soon. 

Happy Spring! Dev

What do you like best about writing?

Someone asked me this recently and I thought it was an interesting question. The answer is different for everyone and for me, it changes all the time. My stock answer is that I love the moments when the story suddenly transforms. It always feels like magic when changing a few words makes a lifeless scene suddenly vibrant, or brings a character to life, or changes the tone of the whole story. And that happens during edits, so I usually think that editing is my favorite part.

On the other hand, there really is nothing like the feeling when the words are flowing and the story is writing itself. That's a rare event for me, but when it happens it's exhilarating. And that's a first draft thing. So maybe first drafts are my favorite part.

But then there's the moment when I type the end. That's sweet. And release day is exciting and so is holding a paperback copy of my book for the first time. And you know I love readings. 

What I liked about the question was that while there is no doubt that writing can be a lonely, frustrating and exhausting endeavor, focusing on what I like best about it makes me forget all that and feel grateful for all the parts I love. Which is true for everything, isn't it? If I think about the parts of my day job that I like, I don't get quite as irritated at the icky bits. Same with my relationships or the little town where I live.

If you've read my stories, you know that I spend a lot of time thinking about the hard stuff like grief, loss and anger. Mostly I love the promise of redemption at the end of those kinds of love stories. I'm not usually the "look on the sunny side of life" type. But I have to admit that focusing on the good parts is a way to love the work. And loving what I do makes life a lot easier.

I'd love to hear what you like about your work. We're all passionate about something, but sometimes the hard or frustrating or just plain boring parts get in the way. When that happens, what keeps you going?

Sidetracked

The lake is still covered in ice and the temperature this morning was under 10 degrees F but it's March so I'm thinking about spring. Which means I'm obsessing over my vegetable garden.

Here in Northern Wisconsin, the growing season is a short, fragile and precious thing. I can't plant tomatoes until June and the first frost comes in early September. Since I start buying seeds and making sketches in February, it's almost true that I plan for longer than I grow. It's two months yet before I'll get lettuce and spinach seeds in the ground, but I'm already up to my elbows in seed catalogs.

This, of course, has nothing to do with my book writing. Except it does. Because there's only so much time and if I'm gardening, I'm not writing. On the other hand, I can't think of a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than digging in the dirt and dreaming up terrible scenarios for my poor characters. 

If I bought all my summer vegetables and spent those hours here at the typewriter, I might get another book a year out. But then again, I wouldn't spend those pleasant hours getting filthy and seeing the fruits of my labor sprout up on their own. 

Still, I should probably stop mooning over ingenious plant supports and heirloom seeds. There'll be time enough for that when spring actually comes. Any other northern gardeners out there wishing for a nice warm day so they can get to work?

Researching Delis

There are few things I love more than corned beef with a heavy dollop of mustard and horseradish. Which is probably why I spent way too much time drooling over pictures of sandwiches yesterday. I'm editing a manuscript I wrote quickly a few months ago. There's a scene where the guys share a deli sandwich (I know, could I get more sexy?). One of the guys is from New York, so of course, in his head he compares the sandwich to the best New York deli. When I first wrote the line it went something like "it didn't compare to xxx". 

Yesterday I had to give xxx a real name. When I'm writing about places, I vacillate between using real venues and making something up. Often I go for the entirely fictional to make sure I don't get anything wrong. For example, the town of Lacland in Nobody's Home exists only in our minds. And a lovely place it is.

But this time I decided to user the real thing so I googled best deli in New York. There's some controversy about which deli is best, but after reading the reviews and looking at the luscious l photos, I went for Katz's. It has a nice Jewish name and has been around a while, so I figure they have to know how to do pastrami. Do let me know if I'm wrong.

I'm not sure there's a point to this, other than to share some gorgeous food pictures and to let you know what I'm researching. Food. It's for the book, really. And it's making me hungry....

I think of food as seductive, so it probably ends up in my stories far too much. How about you? What's your go to date food? Or maybe you don't think food and sex go together. Ah, but just look at these figs - almost orgasmic all by themselves, don't you think?

Finding balance

Anyone else out there feeling overwhelmed?

Between work, events in my personal life, some writing deadlines and the need to spill out onto the street in protest periodically, I've been feeling seriously time-short lately. During the best of times I tend to ride the line between doable and chaos pretty hard. Obviously, these aren't the best of times.

 

 

Here's what I think I should do when things get to be too much:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Assess what's really important and triage
  • Calmly and methodically go through my tasks one by one until they're all finished.

Here's what I actually do:

  • Panic
  • Whine
  • Run around getting nothing done but making a lot of noise.

Of course, the big problem is finding a way to carve out both time and head space for creative work, which really is the most important stuff I do, even if it's often the first to go.

Maybe I should quit sleeping. 

How about you? What do you do when you're overwhelmed?