Sunday, October 26, 2014

Warm Hugs

As I mentioned in my last post for the R8, I spent my summer sitting in cars with a girl. Also at splash parks, adventure land parks, pools, the indoor playground at the mall, and (Shhh, don't tell her mother...) the indoor playgrounds at various fast food establishments.

What can I say? Unlike her grandmother, the kid's a runner!

And because her grandmother's not a runner, the other thing we did was cuddle on the couch watching Every Kids Movie I Could Find.

There are a lot of really really good kids movies.

And still, by the time they flew home, my brain was:

Partly because that was her favorite of the lot. But mostly, if I'm being honest here, MOSTLY because I (all too easily, scarily scarily easily) put my writing aside for the 2.5 months she was in town.

Which left me, yet again, trying to find my way back into the writing. Sigh.

As my friend Deborah says, "Action is always the answer." And while I can't say that I've taken a lot of action in this direction, I have taken some!

First: I started making dates with one of my other writing friends (not naming any names here, but their initials are J. Keely Thrall) to meet up after work on Mondays and Wednesdays.

I still get a little panicky, just before I leave for a writing date. Will the words be there? But I don't give in to the fear and just the fact that I push through the fear to get there feels like a victory. New words on top of that? Bonus!

Second: I had to miss the RWA national conference this year, but thanks to my wise friend Deborah, I have in my hot little hands the flash drive full of mp3 files of the conference workshops.

So I've been listening to those. It's not the same thing as being there, but it's my RWA this year, and I'm finding a lot of information and inspiration in those workshop audio files. So yes, I'm counting that as action, too! And what's the rule here, kittens?

That's right. Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart!

Er, I mean, "Action is always the answer!"

And taking action feels like a nice warm hug... so get out there and take some action!

It will make you feel better.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Burdens (and Vintage Kitchenware) We Carry that Aren't Our Own

Over the last several months, my siblings and I have been clearing out my mom's house, and getting mom settled into a new apartment. It has been an all-out effort by all of us. Mom was actually very quick to decide what to take with her to the new flat. Until we came to the kitchen.  Drawer after drawer, mom needed it. From the wacky looking spatula thingy that is actually an egg white beater to the Tupperware Jell-o mold with interchangeable centers - Christmas tree, heart, Easter chick, St Patrick's Day shamrock, and I can't remember the July Fourth center.  She actually had two sets of the Tupperware.
No. I'm serious. Two sets.
Mom tells me, as she mournfully watches me discard 3 of her potato peelers (at least one of which is from the 60s and so dull I doubt it could shave butter let alone a cucumber), that she always wanted a complete kitchen because her mother "never had one". Besides, she insists, her three 2-quart saucepans, as well as her 4-quart, 1-quart, and 6-quart, are all Good Pans. Same with her frying pans, saucier, and Corning Ware casseroles.  She has a drawer full of strainers, another of measuring cups, and another drawer with potholders from when she moved into the Wehawken Road house. In 1965. The orange, brown and autumn gold are back in style, so no point changing those out.
Of course, every time I drove away from her house, I said, "I'm going straight home and throw crap out." Then parked my car, set down a box that held the egg-white beater and a pie dish, and turned on the TV. Because the emotions of disbanding my mom's house is exhausting. So exhausting that I also have one set of the Tupperware Jell-O molds because it was hidden in the cake carrier I brought home with me. The cake carrier reminded me of Wednesday Night church suppers and family birthday parties. We didn't have Facebook, we had every item in mom's kitchen to remind us of life events. The harvest gold fondu pot. The cookie sheets. The cheeseboard.
Yeah. It will come as no surprize that I have trouble separating the gift from the giver or the item from the event.  And every trip that I make to the thrift store feels like a victory. (and I have to do it quickly or the item gets piled up in the corner, because I might need it/sell it/gift it).A friend told me that my father's passions (his books, tools, musical instruments) didn't have to become mine, and nor does my mother's need to have a complete kitchen. Because, let's be honest, if I ever have to beat egg whites, do you seriously think I'll be doing that by hand? 

Do you have a difficult time de-cluttering or letting go of clutter? Or are you one of those who can live a Spartan existence where too many possessions would be more than 20 items of clothing, a chair, a bed, a toothbrush and a TV? If that's the case, tell me your secret? Because you much have superpowers.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

D.E. Ireland Bringing to Life Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, & Edwardian Mystery

D.E. Ireland: Meg Mims (left) and Sharon Pisacreta (right)
This week's guest is D.E. Ireland, author of Wouldn't It Be Deadly: An Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery released by Minotaur Books September 23rd. A delightful first book in a new series, Wouldn't It Be Deadly is full of rich historical detail, quirky memorable characters, and an intriguing mystery plot where Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins join together as amateur detectives to clear Higgins' name and track down a killer who threatens the streets of Edwardian London. You won't want to miss this 1913-set mystery romp. 

Let's take some time to get to know D.E. Ireland. D.E. Ireland is a team of award-winning authors, Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Long time friends, they decided to collaborate on this unique series based on George Bernard Shaw’s wonderfully witty play, Pygmalion. While they admit the lovely film My Fair Lady and its soundtrack proved to be inspiration, they are careful to stick to Shaw’s vision of the beloved characters from Eliza to Higgins to Pickering, Mrs. Pearce, Freddy Eynsford Hill and his family, while adding a slew of new characters they've dreamed up to flesh out their own version of events post-Pygmalion.

I posed a few questions to our talented writing team. Let's see what they had to say:

Q.: How did you settle on the time period and the detective couple (Higgins/Doolittle)?

A.: Inspirational lightning struck when Meg  was driving to Sharon’s house in west Michigan, something that frequently occurred since we are longtime friends and critique partners. During the two-hour plus drive, Meg was singing along to the My Fair Lady soundtrack when the thought occurred: “What if Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins teamed up to solve mysteries?” Every editor in New York says they want "something fresh and different.” Well, this idea was pretty unique. As soon as Meg arrived, she explained her latest brainstorm and fortunately Sharon also thought the idea of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins as amateur sleuths was fabulous. Since we had been looking for something to collaborate on, this seemed perfect. And what fun to bring these already beloved characters to life once more. 

Q.: What did you enjoy most about writing a cozy mystery set in the Edwardian period? (And I'm calling it a cozy mystery because that's what it feels like to me).

A.: It's both a traditional and a cozy mystery, since all the violence takes place "off stage" - meaning the murders have already happened or the victim is dying. And ours wouldn't be considered a "dark" mystery, since we infuse humor into the characters and situations. We also love that Eliza and Professor Higgins have joined the genre’s other celebrated male-female detective duos, and hope readers really love the rivalry and interactions between the two of them. In addition, we are huge fans of Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, Upstairs/Downstairs, Edwardian costumes, English teatime, the changes brought on with World War I, etc. Such an exciting era.

Q.: I understand D.E. Ireland is a collaborative team. Can you explain how a collaboration works?

Sharon and I both have similar writing styles, and have critiqued each other's writing for over twenty years. We have also been published separately under our own names: Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Sharon wrote four historical romances and one contemporary with Dorchester (one of them under the pen name ‘Cynthia Kirk’), along with several mystery and fantasy short stories. Meg has five books as well under her name--two western mysteries and three contemporary romance novellas. For our first collaborative effort, we came up with the pseudonym D.E. Ireland: D.E. is Eliza Doolittle backwards, and Ireland is a nod to G.B. Shaw's birthplace in Dublin. We also had to put together a way to write as a team. We plot the outline in great depth (from 20 to 30 single-spaced pages!) and then assign chapters to each other for the first draft. One to two revised drafts follow before undertaking a complete read-through aloud to each other. This is done over the phone – several chapters at a time – since we live so far from each other. That way we can hear any awkward phrases or catch any typos or punctuation problems. Whew. It works for us.

Q.: What's next?

A.: Book 2, Move Your Blooming Corpse is coming in 2015. It's set at Royal Ascot, of course, and includes horse racing as well as the suffragette movement. We're both also working on separate cozy series. Life is busy, but good!

Thanks so much for visiting us this week, D.E. Ireland. I loved your book. As I mentioned above, I found Wouldn't It Be Deadly a fascinating glimpse into the time period, with its skillfully layered historical detail and it's intriguing plot mixed with characters that are familiar and beloved. Nicely done. I love mysteries in general and cozy mysteries more specifically. This book had the feel of a historical cozy mystery to me. Rich in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Thanks for sharing your time and talent with us.

Readers, be sure to check out Wouldn't It Be Deadly. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this twisty, fun mystery which springs from George Bernard Shaw's beloved characters in Pygmalion.

Buy Links for Wouldn't It Be Deadly:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Writers on Writing

Photo credit:
            Since I’ve been able to write more now that I’m getting better, I’m discovering a new joy for writing.  I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy it.  How satisfying it is.  How easy it is to lose yourself in it.  But, I’m not the only one who’s carrying the torch for writing.  The great writers, both past and present, have as well.  Here are some of my favorite quotes.

            "I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark." Henry David Thoreau

            I’ve done this.  I’m sure you have as well.  The idea that burns a hole in your brain just as that sleepy feeling washes over you.  You know you’re tired but you can’t stop your brain.  You love this inspiration even though you’re going to be SO tired the next day.

            "Writing is a sweet, wonderful reward…" Franz Kafka
            Writing feels like coming home, getting back in touch with old friends and reacquainting myself with them.  Yes, they’ve changed and grown but they’re still the same people that I’ve always known.  And, they welcome me back with open arms.
            "You become a writer because you need to become a writer - nothing else." Grace Paley

            The times when I haven’t been able to write either as much as I’d like to or not at all, I don’t feel “right.”  Like something is missing and I’m not complete unless I’m doing it.

            "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." Gloria Steinem 

            I always begrudge the time I spend on things that I aggravate me.  Like waiting in lines, sitting in meaningless meetings, or doing errands that seem to take forever.  I want to be sitting at the desk and writing. 

            "Thoughts fly and words go on foot. Therein lies all the drama of a writer." Julien Green

            Isn’t it great when this happens?  When the words are coming so fast that your fingers on the keyboard can’t keep up.  What a rush.  It’s like a runner’s high—floating, not feeling any pain or difficulty.

            "Real writers are those who want to write, need to write, have to write." Robert Penn Warren

            This weekend, we went out of town.  I sat in the car and wrote while my husband listened to the ball game on the radio.  It was not something I thought I should do but something I wanted to do.  The sun was streaming through the window, warming me while I wrote with the computer in my lap.  Heaven. 

            What is it about writing that makes you happy?  I’d love to hear what makes you excited about the creative process.