Friday, October 31, 2014
October was a great month for books. (Reading, them, not trying to write them. That is never great, because I set a goal like ‘500 words by lunchtime’ and then I remember I have laundry and papers to grade and stuff like that. Sheesh.)
First, I won a book at The Cottage Market! Do you know Andrea? If you don’t, you should. She is a clearinghouse of all things cool and trending, and she gives so much love to great projects and bloggers. She also has AWESOME graphics for sale…as well as Junkin’ Joe’s vintage finds. (Joe is her husband. He finds stuff. Like DL, but without the penchant for huge industrial pieces. Joe’s stuff is more refined. DL’s stuff is … well, stuff that only DL can love.)
Anyway, this book is by our mutual friend, Karah! She does AMAZING things over at her blog, The Space Between. I believe her strength is in her tutorials, which are incredibly well done. I teach for a living, and I can’t put together a tutorial to save my life. I’m more the “pace and talk while showing” kind of person, rather than the “write it down so that someone can actually DO it,” kind. Karah’s book is DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize your Space. It’s full of fun projects and you’ll find that you don’t even mind crawling into that dumpster to haul that pallet out.
The next book I won (which was for guessing a musical theatre question, which may have been totally unfair, but I don’t care because all’s fair in love and musical theatre) was Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint (a look book). I won that from Lorraine who took a road trip with me, but not the Thelma and Louise kind; we lived. She has a remark PUBLISHED IN THE BOOK!!
See? (She is the only one who has a quote who didn’t use her last name. I think it’s because she’s incognito.)
The last book is the one my book club decided to read: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. Hmmmm….how do I describe this book?
I have read approximately 10,000 books in my lifetime. This includes the 3/day I devoured between the ages of 9-13. It includes the 5 or 6 a day I read to my kids when they were little. (It does NOT, however, include those I read over and over and over again…I count each book one time. Because if I had to count that fireman book I read 72 times a day for a month? Sheesh.) Therefore, I know how books work. I know the patterns…all of them. I know when a book does not follow a prescribed pattern, that we call BS and throw the book across the room. I even had the cajones to ask Janet Evanovich if her publisher asks her to write the same book over and over, or does she think of that herself?
Books that are too predictable? Not interested. (Even though Janet Evanovich makes approximately seventeen bazillion dollars writing the same book again and again…so I guess most people WANT predictability in their reading material. Change is hard, peeps.)
So I wanted to put AJ Fikry down. I could see every single plot point coming as if it was a mile down a long, straight road on a sunny day. (That's a simile, in case you've forgotten.) Love interest? Check. Baby Daddy? Check. Cop and you-know-who? Check. All of it.
And do you know what I teach my students? I teach them that in order for a book to be interesting, there needs to be some sort of conflict. That our protagonist has to face something big. And AJ Fikry, other than being ornery, had no conflict. Yeah, his wife was dead…big deal. We never met her, so there was no buy-in. A baby showed up on his doorstep, but we knew what was coming there…so…
…and I was about to put the book down.
But AJ Fikry’s comments about his favorite short stories (which appear at the beginning of each chapter) had me intrigued. And I thought “well, I’ll just read those and skip the rest.” Luckily, just as I though it…WHAM! The conflict appeared. No, not appeared…hit me like a freight train going 75 miles an hour! Oh, lawd. I lost my $hit, my peeps. That conflict dragged me down a long dark hallway and beat the crap out of me. (That’s personification, by the way.)
Yep…it’s winner. winner, chicken dinner when I can recommend not just one or two, but THREE books to y’all!
Check out AJ Fikry at Cozy Little House!
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
*This is the rest of chapter one, which is really short.*
If you missed the first part of chapter one, it's here!
Susie stared at the boxes piled in the center of the living room. She glanced around at the bare walls as her eyes began welling with tears. This was her house; the house where she came as a young wife and where she and her husband had raised their three children. The modest suburban colonial had seemed a huge extravagance when they had first started out, but as Dave’s small company became more successful; they expanded and updated the home accordingly. Now it was time to leave, and a new family with small children was moving in. They had their own plans for the home.
Dave entered the room, carrying two plastic tubs. “This is the last of the stuff from upstairs,” he said. “Where do you want it?”
Susie wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater, sniffing before she answered. “Oh, honey,” Dave said. He put the tubs down and embraced her, his chin resting on top of her head. “It’s okay. You have known the Cartwrights for ten years. They’re going to take really good care of this house. If they don’t, I’ll come back here and smack them.”
Susie smiled to herself. Dave had worked hard his whole life, and he deserved to retire. His idea of retirement was not golfing or gardening, though; he wanted to begin a new adventure in a bed-and-breakfast five hundred miles away. Their children were grown and had lives of their own and Susie knew that it was time to move on. Still, it was hard letting go.
“Think about how much fun it will be,” Dave continued. “You’ve done such a great job with this house. Blueberry Lane needs us. The contractor will be there on Monday, ready to take directions from you. You’ve got carte blanche with the place. And it has room for all the kids and their families to visit at once--” The rumble of a truck signaled the movers. Susie wiped her eyes with her sleeve once more and walked to the door to let them in.
Monday, October 27, 2014
So...part of the #31daysofMurderSheWrote is to post excerpts from "your current WIP" (that's "Work In Progress" in writertalk). Let me be perfectly honest and say that ALL of my work is WIP--I don't ever get a chance to finish anything. Mainly because of that annoying little thing I like to call "teaching." At least as much as you can teach kids who have no interest in learning. So perhaps it's actually "attempted teaching."
This ISN'T the entire chapter, but it's the exposition to the page break. (Exposition = important background you need to know before the story actually starts. In case you've forgotten what your 7th grade English teacher taught you.)
Susie looked at her husband, Dave, as he signed the last of the papers. She was anxious, thinking about all the possible roadblocks. Dave was excited, thinking about all the possibilities. He saw Susie turn her head to stare at the check on the table. “I know, honey,” he said, grinning. “A half-million dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to.” He slid the papers back in front of the attorney.
She smiled back at him. “I guess not.”
The lawyer excused himself to make copies for the couple and when he left the room, Dave leaned over and kissed Susie on the forehead. “Are you excited?” he whispered. Susie shrugged. He continued. “Nervous?”
“Scared to death,” she replied. “What if this doesn’t work out?”
“First of all, I think it will. I’ve done all the research, you have everything coordinated…it’ll work out. Secondly….well, we can go live with my mother if it doesn’t.” They both were laughing at the thought of living with Dave’s seventy-nine year old mother in her two bedroom apartment as the lawyer returned. He handed the folder with the documents to Dave.
“Congratulations! The Blueberry Lane Bed and Breakfast is all yours. I want to be your first guest.”
“Thanks for all your help, Tom,” Dave said. “With everything. Your advice has been invaluable these last few months. I couldn’t have managed this transition without you.”
Tom smiled. “Anytime you have another multi-million dollar company to sell, you let me know. The friends shook hands, and Dave and Susie walked out to the elevator.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
I might be turning into Jessica Fletcher.
(This is where I wanted to put a video that I love, but the YouTube was being ornery. Sometimes it is. If you want to watch it, it is here. If not, I will recap. Jessica says that there’s no age limit on reinventing yourself. That you can become a writer at any age. It makes me love her even more.)
So I have been joking about my Murder, She Wrote house for a long time. You can read about it here. And you know what? I’ve tried. I’ve really, really tried.
I love y’alls Pottery Barn-esque homes. I love your uncluttered coffee tables and unadorned walls and clean lines and your fifty shades of gray. I love your moody blues.
But it’s just not me.
Murder, She Wrote and I go waaaay back. It came on television at a time when I needed a friend—I was a newlywed in a new town where I knew absolutely no one. My family and friends were 714 miles away, and Jessica was like an aunt who visited me every week while I ironed. My mother watched it on Sunday night too, and we would talk about it every Monday evening.
But now, Jessica stands for something else. I might as well face it. Jessica was a retired English teacher who wrote mysteries. I am an English teacher who will soon retire who wants to write mysteries. (The only difference is that I don’t want to be surrounded by dead people…even though I enjoy getting some of their stuff.)
See that collage above? (I got it from a blog called Mrs. Fletcher’s Closet.) I have that typewriter. I have that wall clock. I have jeans. And comfy knitted cardigans. I have some brass pots and pans in my kitchen. And all those paintings hanging in her living room? There are parts of my house where the walls are filled with paintings and photographs.
Honestly…this could easily be Jessica’s guest room in Cabot Cove instead of mine, right? (You know Cabot Cove, don’t you? It’s the place where one out of three residents is either murdered or accused of murder. It’s a wonder anyone wants to live there!)
So, what’s wrong with this, I want to know? Who says I shouldn’t have tchotchkes and pattern and color and the dead people’s stuff?
Was that you?
If it was, then I think it’s time you stopped the negativity and embrace the tchotchkes. I think you need to realize that you too will someday be the keeper of the dead people’s stuff.
You might find yourself turning into Jessica Fletcher.
After all, she knows a lot of dead people.
(If you want to follow me on #31daysofMurderSheWrote, you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook!)
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
How often do you find a graveyard across from your workplace?
And the ONE DAY you happen to have your good camera…
you get there early and have time to take some photos before the fog burns off…