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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Lighting Up the Sky

(c) Joseph Matthews, 1980
In my spare time lately, I've been playing around with a drabble I wrote for a dear friend. I can't post it all here for various reasons, but I decided I would post a little teaser for all of you. The story is called Lighting Up the Sky, and is about my second least favorite thing: storms in the South.

If you've ever spent any time in the South during storm season, you can probably sympathize with my abject hatred of the entire institution. I'm absolutely terrified of storms, so I tend to spend most of the Spring in a state of nervous anticipation and outright panic. It's not pretty.  

Luckily though, The Husbinator is pretty great at keeping me sane, and I could not be any more appreciative. My dear friend Melanie and I have spent a lot of time talking about the sweet things our husbands do to help us overcome or deal with our fears, and this story came about as a result of those discussions.

My goal is to post a little teaser of current projects or drabbles for you on Tuesdays as often as possible. I hope you enjoy this little peek of life in the South for our very first Teaser Tuesday!

Lighting Up the Sky

Dark clouds loomed in the sky like angry gray blotches in starless black. Lightning shot through in the distance, backlighting the ominous roil with silver flashes and distant claps of sound. The thunder that followed rumbled like a charging bull, rippling in echoes that seemed to shake the city spread out like a spider web as far as Alec could see.

The storm was going to slam the city. The television was already beeping its warnings from the house behind him. Another emergency alert. They were as endless as the storms anymore, screeching through the house until he dreamed them.

So did his wife.

Ilaria had jerked awake twice last night and grabbed for him, certain she'd heard tornado sirens. Her little body had trembled against him as he pulled her into his chest and tried to soothe her. She was terrified of the storms, and they just kept coming.

Alec sighed heavily and rolled his head on his neck, too tired to even bother wishing this one would go around them. It wouldn't. They never did. It was mid-April in the South, and the latest round of storms was pounding St. Louis like a nail. They had been merciless, hitting the city from all sides for weeks.

Tornadoes and flash floods had become the norm for the city, and this latest system promised more of the same. Alec could smell it in the air. Rain, wood, and the bitter stench of electrified air tasted like metal on his tongue, and felt like little shocks in his veins.

He wouldn't be sleeping tonight, he knew.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finding Perspective

Could Be Worse
My weekend has been difficult in an illuminating kind of way.

When I went to bed Thursday night, The Husbinator shouted "Holy Shit!" and knocked a spider off of his arm onto the bed. I dove out onto the floor while he commenced with the spider eradicating. Once he was done, I reluctantly got back into bed...

only to wake up Friday morning with a giant spider bite on my chest. It looks horrible, and it hurts.

I refused to let that deter me from the revelry planned for the weekend though. Wild River Country was hosting an annual Special Needs Day on Friday for kiddos like Losh, so the Keeper of the Cheerios and I took the plunge and decided we'd take the kids to check it out. We were both nervous about letting Losh on any of the slides since he has a trach, so we decided we'd test them out with the other kiddos first.

Once we got inside, I took Little Princess and Kai to the first slide to test it out. I asked the lifeguard at the top of the slide if it was safe for Little Princess. He assured me it was, so we got Kai settled into his tube, and I settled into mine with LP on my lap. We were all excited. Right up until we hit the bottom of the first decline. LP and I flew out of the tube and got dunked.

LP freaked out and wanted off immediately.

Naturally, there was no exit on the slide. Once you started, you had to go the entire way. So, I promised her it would be okay and we got settled and started off again. Let me just say... I still feel bad for telling her that.

Second decline, we flew off the tube again and I lost my grip on her. She flew into the water, face down, and the tube landed on top of her. She had a lifejacket on, but the tube was heavier than her and she was right in the worst part of the current. She couldn't get out from under the tube.


I don't know if the lifeguard just didn't realize she was missing or what, but I was trying to get to her and kept getting knocked down by the current, Kai was yelling that she was stuck under the tube and couldn't get out, and the lifeguard was just looking at us like we were speaking Mandarin. I finally got the tube off of her, and she was screaming bloody murder and coughing water everywhere. I was panicky. Kai was panicky... It was not pretty, and we had three more declines to go.

By the time we made it to the bottom of the damn slide, LP was terrified, I'd pulled muscles in my back doing acrobatics to keep her from going under like that again, and Kai had acquired a new fear of drowning.

We quickly decided never to do that slide ever again, and attempted to enjoy the rest of the day as best we could with LP and Kai both scared of everything. We came home Friday afternoon sunburned from head to toe and sore. But Losh had a great time, and LP and Kai eventually calmed down enough to enjoy themselves in the wave pool and lazy river. 

I went to work for a few hours Friday night, and hit my elbow on the counter trying to cook dinner for our families. It has huge bruises and hurts like hell.

I got home on Friday night to Kai crying, Tate upset, The Husbinator and the Keeper of the Cheerios stressed out. We all went to bed frustrated, and woke up Saturday to take the kiddos to Heifer International for an event being hosted there. .

After about an hour and a half, I was overheated and couldn't cool down, and Losh was hollering for milk and water because he was overheated. We attempted to head inside to Heifer Village to cool down and let the kids explore the awesome things Heifer does all over the world, but it didn't work out as planned. Kai had a tantrum, my head was starting to pound, Losh was hot, LP was fussy... We called it quits and headed back to the house. 

Once Keeper and the kiddos got on the road, I collapsed into bed in a miserable ball of crying defeat. My head hurt. My back hurt. My elbow hurt. My spider bite hurt. My sunburn hurt. The Husbinator and Tate were both being difficult. And I had to find a way to say goodbye to some very amazing people today.

I hurt from head to toe and just generally felt sorry for myself.

I woke up from a nap this evening though, and I realized that things could be infinitely worse. Despite the beating I took this weekend, I got to spend it with my friends and family, making memories. They weren't the perfect memories we wanted to make. Some were frustrating. Some were scary. Some were bittersweet. But we still got to make them together. Not everyone is as lucky.

Some of the families I fed Friday night may never get to take their special kids to a water park or on an outing, because some of those special kids may never leave the hospital.

Some of the people we taught the kids about at Heifer on Saturday don't have the opportunity to dive out of a bed to escape a spider. Many of them will die from conditions that are treatable, like infections from bug bites, simply because they can't afford medication, don't have access to healthcare, or even to clean water.

And too many people don't have the opportunity to make memories with their loved ones or say goodbye, because their loved ones are gone.

So this weekend may have been rough, and I may be battered and bruised, but tonight I found myself saying thank you anyway because, despite it all, I am blessed. And if you're reading this, whether you're down and out this weekend, or having an amazing time, you are blessed, too.

Hold that realization close, and cherish the memories that come with your imperfect life because it could always be worse. And for someone out there... it is.

I think we all need to remember that a little more often.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ready to submit? Forget it!

I've spent the evening editing, and I have to confess that every time I get into editing, I often find myself wondering what the heck I was thinking. It doesn't matter if I've read it a thousand times, at least once each editing session, I'm left scratching my head.

The Husbinator says this is become I'm special in the teasing kind of way. I do weird things a lot, there is no denying that, but these head-scratching writing moments are a common problem for a lot of us. 

If you've read something a thousand times already, you're no longer looking at it with a fresh set of eyes, or a fresh perspective. Your mind is cluttered with the way it should be written, your take on what it should say, or a million other little things that can be the difference between a great sentence (or paragraph or scene), and one that throws your readers for a loop. The same rings true for if you've just written it. What you intended to say can get lost beneath heavy prose, disjointed thoughts, rambling, and a million other little things we don't necessarily notice as we write.

And this is where editing can be crucial.

Anyone who writes can probably attest to how often they've been told (or told someone) to "forget about it". This doesn't mean hide your story in some dark corner and never take it out again. It's not a criticism at all, or not usually, anyway. It's a sound piece of advice that has saved more than one writer.

So, forget it!

Put down whatever you're working on for a while before picking it up again to edit. This lends a certain perspective we're lacking "in the moment". When we wrote that sentence two weeks ago, we might have known exactly what we meant, but when we pick it up again, we're able to look at it critically and decide whether a reader who has never seen it before is going to get it, or if we've lost them somewhere along the way. We can also better judge if that bit of background is truly important or if it's info dump.

We might need to know every little detail about John's life, but readers usually don't. If you're bored editing it, chances are your readers are going to be bored reading it.  Likewise, if you don't know what point you were trying to make, your reader probably isn't going to get it either.

That's pretty dang important info!

The last thing a writer wants is to force a reader to spend ten minutes trying to decipher a sentence, or to leave them wondering what the heck you were thinking. Better a head-scratching session in private, than one with a submissions editor, a reader, or a critic. And if you're like me, you're going to find a lot of instances where what you thought you said isn't anywhere close to what you actually said.

Not enough to make you "forget it"?

Putting aside writing before jumping into editing is also a great way to catch those little errors that we often overlook. Skipped a word? Used an incorrect spelling? Missed a comma? Added an extra word? Chances are you're going to read right over those little mistakes while writing, but once you've set it aside for a while, those fresh eyes are going to catch those mistakes right away.

No editor (that I know of) expects perfection from start to finish, but no editor wants to see a finished manuscript that reads more like a first draft either. Catching those little mistakes can be as critical as deciding how much info is too much, or whether or not John's story really does continue for 100 pages beyond the big finish.

You want your novel to have the best chance possible when you send it out into the world, so forget it now, and you won't regret it later. And don't worry, I'll be scratching my head right alongside you!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Evil Ninja Racoons... and the rest of the moving story

Yep. Pretty accurate.
In case you missed it, we've spent much of the last month moving into the new place. When I started packing, I decided that hell consists of packing boxes over and over again.

For the record, I was way off.

Hell is the actual moving part! It has been a series of headaches that I never want to repeat.

Miss Tate had surgery the morning we were supposed to move, so we didn't get to the new house to check things out until late. Lo and behold... it still hadn't been painted and the painters had left trash tossed all across the house. Unamused does not even begin to cover it.

I was ragey, so we told the painters to take a hike, and we took over the painting. Still not done, by the way. I gave up on the master bathroom. It'll get done eventually. At any rate, we painted all weekend, and started moving in while Tate rested from surgery (she's doing great).

It went something like this:

Moved the bathroom in... found a leak.
Called the plumber.
Moved the laundry room in...found an electrical short.
Called the electrician.
Moved the living room in...discovered that we had not a single cable jack in the entire house.
Called Comcast.
Comcast claims they came out and installed service.
They did not.
Called them again.
They came out, refused to install service.
Called Comcast and fired them for pissing me off.
Continued moving in.
Comcast calls and demands we pay them for the service they never installed. $62.70 for nothing. The heck?!?
Called AT&T and get UVerse installed with no problems.
Go to feed the cat and realize she's missing.
Spend 2 hours walking around the neighborhood looking for her.
Get approached by two drunks who take a liking to Tate (and tell me that the racoons ate my cat).
Tell them she's 14 and to give it a rest.
Listen as they drunkely go from college-aged to 16 years old.
Wonder if they're just naturally idiots or if they really thought I was dumb enough to believe any of that.
Go home, worried my cat has been eaten by racoons, and that my kiddo is going to be forever annoyed by men clearly way too old for her.
Finish moving in.
Leave food out for the cat.
Wake up to find that the racoons stole the food bowl.
Go to retrieve it, get bark thrown at me by the evil ninja racoons.
Call the husband and inform him that the evil ninja racoons can keep the bowl, I quit.
Start unpacking.
Cat reappears 24 hours later, not eaten by evil ninja racoons, thank goodness. (Men too old for Tate are still "Hey, pretty girl"'ing her... The Husbinator's head is going to explode soon).
Turn the stove on, get shocked.
Turn around to run the garbage disposal, pipes under the sink burst.
Call the electrician and the plumber again.
Start doing laundry, washer starts draining into the floor.
Call the plumber again.

Yeah... it's been one hell of a "Why me?!" experience. But we're FINALLY moved in, settled, and the house has more or less decided to cooperate now that we've had the plumber and electrician out to fix everything that could possibly go wrong.

So we took the weekend off from the insanity, and helped the Keeper of the Cheerios install her pool. Virgin margaritas and strawberry shortcake, poolside. Woohoo!

Now to finish painting...

Life does return to normal eventually, right?!