Monday, January 16, 2006

The twig-built house

I wrote this in a meeting last week and wanted to send it to my friend K, whose mother was just diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Her lifelong non-smoker mother, I might add.

But K is wrapped up in discussions about palliative care and whether or not her mom can fit in a trip to Hawaii before her meeting with the Great Asshole in the Sky (with apologies to my religious friends; I know that between the two of us, it is likely that I am the bigger asshole).

So I thought she might not want to read about a girl and a house fire. I thought instead she might want to get together for some wine and some cheese and some up-front talk about hard things. So I'll do that for her, and meanwhile I'll give this to you.

There is a twig-built shack in the forest, more bird’s nest than house, that is held up by prayer and gum. It looks abandoned but it has wood smoke coming out the river-rock chimney, and if you look closer, you'll see the herb border all around the walls, planted with hyssop and thyme and herbs that protect, and heal, and strengthen.

The girl who built it was hurt, and renounced the world, and made the house to be a refuge where she could be wild in peace. And as houses do, eventually it settled into her, and then her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter, until finally it worked its magic and this family of girls were no longer hurt, but wanted to rejoin the world.

So they built a shell around the house, a more normal, respectable, society-approved shell, to hide what it was so that it will look like normal, respectable, society-approved people live in it.

But the twig-built shack is still there, part bone, part pain, part quiet heart. It doesn’t hurt anyone, and hardly anyone remembers it any more.

That is, until the day the family is found out, discovered as not normal, not respectable, not society-approved, and the house is burned down.

The girl who lives there runs through the smoke to get out of the house. But she panics, she gets turned around, she loses her way.

As the smoke threatens to overcome her, as the flames beat at the white-painted walls and the perfectly plumb rafters and the kitchen island with its granite countertop, the one that was supposed to make everything OK, she knows this is the end of her life, at least as she knows it.

She drops to the ground and finds herself in the middle of the house, its core. Trapped, she watches the house burn down around her -- all except for the twig-built heart, which glows with the faces of her ancestors, gleaming from the walls, solid like steel but fluid like fog, and best of all, impervious, impervious, outshining the flames. Outlasting them. Protecting the daughter of their daughters. The house still stands, and so does that girl.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The muse kicks in

So what do you do when you're stuck? You pray a little, and then you go to lunch with your friends, and then you build an altar to your muse.

The altar should have:

  • Greenery
  • Liquor
  • Something good to eat
  • Incense
  • Money
  • At least one candle
  • Important images/symbols

I didn't have incense so I hit it with a shot of Chanel. There is, however, half a shot glass full of vodka stashed in it, and a good four dollars' worth of coins, two of which are those new gold-tone dollar coins.

For food, I stashed about 25 semi-sweet chocolate chips in a sandwich bag and wrapped it up tight with a teeny little hair claw thingie. I hope my muse likes it.

She seems to, because yesterday afternoon, after appropriately honoring my muse, I sat down and revised the synopsis for Fool Me Twice, cutting out all the plotty-plot-plot crap I don't need and trying to narrow in on the story. There's still stuff missing - for example, why the hero would be interested in our favorite neurotic, and what Lily's deal is - and there is still the entire freaking novel to be dealt with, but it's a start.

In other news, my fabulous father-in-law called the other night to ask some very important questions, the last of which was this:

"I have to know. Did Mitch commit suicide?"

So spake the man who has been married for nigh 25 years. Actually, he knows his son and I are stripping wallpaper, so he may have been fearing the worst for C. Option #3: he also owned a very old house for a very long time, and home repairs themselves, as my old friend Sara reminds me, can drive one to unnatural acts.

But I digress.

For you completists out there, no, Mitch didn't commit suicide - he died of a heart attack, but he wasn't supposed to die. Someone else (not Margaret) caused his death.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Things to do when you're not writing

  • Mope
  • Whine
  • Bitch
  • Drink
  • Talk about writing

  • Talk about *not* writing
  • Mope some more
  • Pick fights with your husband
  • Make up with your husband
  • Strip wallpaper

  • Work at something that actually pays you
  • Hassle people
  • Read blogs
  • Drink some more
  • Watch the Buffy DVDs you borrowed off'n a coworker

  • Ask coworker if he would be willing to part with them
  • Figure out how much you can get away with vis a vis DVDs, back at the ranch
  • Write two scenes of a novel that is totally out of your genre
  • Did I mention the Buffy?
  • IM coworkers with your demands

  • Think about moping in husband's presence
  • Give it up as a bad deal (see bullets the seventh and eighth)
  • Look for boxes with manuscripts in them (progress!)
  • Decide it's easier to drink
  • Resolve to be less of a general pain in the ass, going forward

  • Sigh, tip head back, finish wine, and go to basement to find manuscript boxes so you can go through the very simple steps of marking each scene in your (ultimately doomed) Third Draft, with a view toward doing scene-by-scene critiques of your own work
  • Which is pointless anyway because you are a hack
  • And really, you should just spell-check the thing and ship it off to your amazing bestselling novelist friend who has agreed to critique it, who won't be your friend any more once she realizes what shite it is

WHEN ACTUALLY, all you REALLY need to do are the following:

  • 1. Tell yourself the story so you can figure out what the story actually is.
  • 2. Go through Draft Three making notes of what you need to add and remove.
  • 3. Take it step by step from there. In other words, apply ass to chair and repeat.