Monday, November 20, 2017

Semi-random thoughts in advance of Thanksgiving

I'm in vacation mode, so if my thoughts are more scattered than normal, you'll know why! Having found myself needing to use approximately 8 days of vacation time before the end of the year, I decided to take the first half of the week off (we get Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving). I don't know if I've ever done that before, which is part of why I've got over 200 vacation hours piled up. This being Thanksgiving, here are some things I'm thankful for...

...loving the WiP! I spent a good part of the weekend reading and making notes, and while I'm only about a quarter of the way through, I'm loving the WiP! It's overly-bloated at 478 pages (!!!) and the writing is really uneven, but I really like the main character and the story. At the risk of setting unreasonable goals, I'm going to try to have the next draft done by Christmas. Possible? Ye-e-e-s. Probable? I guess we'll see once I start really rewriting it. Sellable? Not yet, but we'll see...

...the Catbird coming home! Yes, it means driving nine hours round-trip to get her, and another nine hours to bring her back on Sunday, but she'll be home, my little birds will be in the nest again and it will be very nice for a few days.

...the Magpie. I'm amazed at what a fine young woman she's become.

...the RiP is out of my hands! For real this time! I hope the next time I have to rewrite it, it will be under contract. We'll see. More on this (not a contract, it's not back out on sub yet) another time.

...good coffee.

...the dog is still with us. She's thirteen and increasingly neurotic. She can't hear when the oil man pumps a hundred and fifty gallons of #2 heating oil in our tank. She has to stick her nose in. Every. Single. Footprint. In the snow when it's cold and blustery and all I want to do is get back inside (that's not new, anyway). But she's a good dog and she's still here and I'm thankful for that.

...my wife. She's amazing.

...all of you. I know how many follow this blog, but I have no real idea how many read it. I do know how many of you comment and I thank you and am glad you stop by. I hope you get some value out of this, at least once in a while. Thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts and time.

That's all for me this week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Delayed Reaction

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 4, 1974 the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers squared off for game six of the Stanley Cup Final. For the Bruins, a win was needed to send the series back to Boston for one more, winner-take-all game. A Flyers victory would give them the Cup right there. Eight-year-old me sat on the edge of my couch, urging my beloved Bruins on. This was the Big Bad Bruins, the team of legends that included Esposito and Bucyk, Hodge and Cashman. And, most of all, Bobby Orr, my sports hero.

Late in the first period, Philadelphia's Rick MacLeish got his stick in the way of a shot and redirected it past Boston goalie, Gilles Gilbert. It would be the only goal in an entertaining, fast-paced game. The game ended in a 1-0 victory for the Flyers, and Flyers' captain Bobby Clarke lifted the Stanley Cup at center ice.

Is it too late to get this play reviewed?
Looks like goalie interference to me!
Eight-year-old me had been known to flip over a board game or two in response to losing (True Confession time: adult me has also flipped over a board game or two, as my friends who played Strat-O-Matic hockey and baseball can attest), but there were no tears. Disappointment, yes, but tears? No. Instead, I went out into a fine May afternoon and played hockey at the top of the driveway, where I fired tennis balls at the side of the shed, body-checked the house, and waged pitched 'puck battles' with the coiled up garden hose. I also suspect I altered history and scored a couple of goals for the Bruins, turning a 1-0 loss into a 2-1, sudden death overtime victory, followed by a game 7 win, but I can't say for sure. My memory is not quite that clear.

On the outside, not much had changed. I didn't swear off hockey like my father did on a regular basis (I think swearing off hockey was something common to New York Rangers fans back in the 70s and 80s). Yet, as I look back on it now, something definitely changed, because for the next three years, hockey was an insignificant blip, mere background noise in my life. I was aware of the biggest news of the day--the Bruins and Rangers pulling off an unthinkable, monster trade; Bobby Orr going to Chicago; the Islanders shocking the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs and setting the stage for the last great dynasty of the NHL--but it meant little. I still played hockey, quite passionately; but I stopped consuming the professional game for about three years. It's almost as if I suffered some sort of delayed action, sports-related post-traumatic stress disorder.*

I bring all this up because I've sent my RiP off to Carrie (True Confession time #2: I haven't. Yet. But by the time you read this, it will be in her inbox). Last year, this project actually gathered interest from an editor. It had me on pins and needles for two months or so while it worked it's way through the publishing house acquisitions project before it got rejected. Despite the rejection, I felt good about it. Really good. Someone had liked my manuscript enough to champion it in their publishing house! When Carrie and I conferred afterwards, she emphasized this fact and I assured her that I was disappointed, yes, but positive. I'd tinker with the manuscript and we'd try to get it back to this editor, hope that they would bite the second time around.

It didn't quite work out that way. What I submitted to Carrie last fall was, honestly, kind of rushed. We discussed it again around Christmas, and I received more notes from her and vowed to get to work on it immediately in 2017--and didn't. My excuse? Well, there was the lure of the shiny, but it was more than that. When I finished my first rough draft on the WiP and turned my attention back to the RiP, I dillied. And dallied. And dragged my feet. It's only now that I look back that I see the parallels between this fifty-something year-old writer and that eight-year-old hockey fan. Instead of sports-related PTSD, I think I have rejection-related PTSD. Both intellectually and in my heart there's no doubt this rejection was a positive thing, but deep down in my gut there's a defensive reaction to it, an involuntary hardening of the mental muscle to protect against another blow.

There is good news here, however. By 1977 I was back to watching hockey and passionately rooting for my Bruins, and I haven't stopped despite years of frustration: too many men on the ice, Steve Penney, Patrick Roy, Joel Ward, seventeen seconds. The Bruins have broken my sports heart many, many times over the last forty years, yet I still sit down to watch them. Last year's rejection at the editorial stage was my first. It hurt, more than I was willing to acknowledge at the time. But just as I kept playing hockey then, I kept writing. And just as I got past that 1-0 loss, I'm past the first rejection now. I may never get a rejection again. I may never even get a sniff from an editor again. But I'm going to be in the game.


*NOTE: Though I'm using a PTSD analogy here, let's be clear: a Stanley Cup loss or an editorial rejection is nowhere near equivalent to what so many people face as a result of traumatic experiences.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Extra Time!

I'm a little toasted around the edges this morning, due to the bending of space and time that is otherwise known as 'Daylight Saving Time ends.' It's funny, everyone always talks about how you get an extra hour of sleep, but I alwasy finds myself with an extra hour of day. And yesterday, it felt like I ended up with even more than that. I got up at about ten to five, which felt like ten to six (and at least one clock in the house said it was ten to six). Within an hour--which is pretty fast for me--I was working on the RiP.

I spent almost all morning working on the RiP, and then in the late morning/early afternoon (or maybe it was both at the same time), I got to work in our pantry, trying to reclaim it from mice. I recognize that we have to coexist with 'wildlife,' and that in old, leaky Victorian homes like mine, it's awfully tough to keep them out, but lines have been crossed. Either there's too many or they'd gotten too comfortable. And maybe our cats did more to keep them at bay than I ever thought, but as much as the Magpie wants (a) new cat(s), we're not going there now. Somehow, when I got done* it was only three o'clock, and this after an endless amount of time spent empying, sweeping, vacuuming and washing down with Mr. Clean. I showered, we ate an early dinner (though it felt like dinner at a normal time) and I had the whole evening to work on the RiP again.

I'm not a fan of the disruption that Daylight Saving Time causes, to be honest. I'll spend the next three days feeling out of sorts and like Henry in The Time Traveler's Wife. But at least for one day, it felt like I had plenty of time to do everything I wanted--and needed--to do. The pantry is one step closer to being done, and the RiP is now in the 'final tweaking' stage. It should be on its way to Carrie by week's end.

How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

*done as in "Stick a fork in me, I can't do anymore today" as opposed to "Finished"