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Archive for March, 2009

Several posts ago, I wrote that I have a goal to complete two chapters on my thriller by the end of March. I’m happy–no thrilled–to say that I’m sure I’m going to make it. The last two weeks have seen a real turnaround in how I’m working on the story and how I feel about what I’ve written.

It started with–index cards. Just the lowly index card. Part of my problem was being uncertain about part of the plot and the time line of the story. I finished the first chapter in the two-chapter goal, looked at it, and thought. “It won’t work with the time line. I am going to have to friggin’ well dump this entire chapter.” This did not make me happy. Think of it–you spend two weeks bullying your way through a chapter only to say to yourself when you finish, “it won’t work!” I suffered a crisis of confidence. (Translation: I felt very grumpy.)

I’ve kept my outline and story notes in a notebook, specifically an Apica CD-15 notebook, along with legal pad sheets of dialog and ideas. It’s very linear. Written from one page to the next, it’s flat and set. I got a bunch of index cards (alas, I did not care whether they were fountain pen friendly or not…) and put one plot element on each card and then started shuffling. I worked with that for a weekend, and the plot line fell into place. Fortunately, the chapter I had written and thought I would have to dump also fell into place. Scenes and dialog started coming more easily, more naturally to me. I’ve found the groove for this story again.

I’ll make my goal by the end of the month. The chapters won’t be perfect, but I feel like they’ll be good solid first drafts. Even better, I’m looking at the following pieces with a lot more confidence now.

Oh, index card statistics: Rotring 600 w/medium nib and Mont Blanc Bordeaux ink. Waterman Expert II w/fine nib and Private Reserve Midnight Blues ink. Index cards–whatever probably 10 years old from Office Depot, yellowing and fading slightly. There was *some* feathering from the Rotring, who really, who the hell cares? It worked! ~chortle!~

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Yes, I write with fountain pens, therefore I’m odd. This was made clear to me recently when a friend asked about my fountain pens and how I used them. I said I kept a journal with them, that I write fiction and non-fiction and draft my ideas with pen and paper. I said that I like the history of pens and the feel of good paper.

Parker 51, midnight blue w/gold cap

Parker 51, midnight blue w/gold cap

She honed in on the word “journal” and sped off on a tangent. “You can keep one on your computer, you know.” Amazing. Who woulda thunk it?

Yes, I know about computers, and Word for Windows and blogging. I even know about a little remembered program called Qedit, which was my first word processor back in the days when Peter Norton had hair. (Okay, Peter Norton still has hair, but he doesn’t have Norton Utilities anymore, does he?) She charged ahead, talking about how she kept a diary on her computer, so convenient for putting in photos of the kids and vacation snapshots, and emailing parts of it hither and yon.

I listened and, although I managed to get one or two words in, it was plain; I was missing the boat. Why use pen and paper when a computer and software can make writing easier, more flexible and, certainly, more decorative!

So, this is it, this is why I at times choose to use fountain pens and paper. Much of my life is already electronic. Sometimes I think more of me is bound up in digital 1’s and 0’s than is good for anyone. Computers are part of my work–reports, accounting, correspondence, online research. When I’m in the office, I’m in front of a computer. I moderate an online forum for an international singer. My electronic footprint is on the forum everyday. I maintain a website for said international recording artiste; more 1’s and 0’s expended into cyberspace. I keep two blogs.

I have enough “digital” in my life already. Pens and paper are my way of escaping from the digital and scurrying back to analog safety. I like the feel of putting pen and ink to paper. It’s solid, grounded, creative. It’s a return to a more studied, thoughtful pace. The feel of writing on good paper is a tactile pleasure. In this increasingly digital world, I find myself turning more frequently to fountain pens and paper as a way to untie myself from the computer.

Computers, pens, paper–they’re tools. No one tool is right for every job, and sometimes the best tool for the job is not the electronic box sitting on the floor by the desk.

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Chrysler and GM are seeking up to$39 billion in bailout funds, the Nation (that would be us, the Taxpayers) is already committed to bailing out failing banks and insurance companies. The nearly $800 billion stimulus package should keep government printing press operators working overtime for the next few months, and our kids paying off the debt for the next 200 years. My! My! Time Flies!

But does this stimulus package really get “down there” to the little people, people like us, who don’t own a bank or an insurance company or a U.S. car company? My husband and I considered this last night over the dinner table. Big companies who have done a crappy job over the last 20 years are getting massive amounts of bailout money, to help tide them over during the rough times and fund their 2010 Superbowl party, and conferences at Las Vegas resort hotels, and whopping bonus packages to CEO’s. (Glad to know they’ve got their priorities straight!) Meanwhile, small companies like our’s, that have done a pretty darn good job for the last 20 years, are getting nada. It just ain’t fair, ya know?

We want a bailout, too. Not a big one, mind you, just a small one. We think $750,000 is a nice roundish number, and with GM and Chryster getting $39 billion, it’s a drop in the bucket. It’ll never be missed.

Grand Premier Clannad

Grand Premier Clannad

We call it the Family Treecat Cat Show Stimulus Bill. For those of you who don’t know, two of our Maine Coons are show cats, recently retired from the ring with Grand Poobah awards, pretty photographs, ribbons & accolades, and major attitude problems about how important they are.

What we propose is to use part of our modest bailout money to purchase two Maine Coon kittens and take them to the show hall. Anyone who’s ever shown a cat or dog knows this is a major financial undertaking. Yet it is one where money is disseminated to many different people and industries, spurring their productivity and enabling them to spend money and stimulate the economy.

First, there’s the breeder, who spends enormous sums of money on food, litter, veterinary care, not to mention their costs in showing their animals. Buying their kittens enables them to maintain their hobby and avocation, and spend money doing it.

Showing cats supports transportation (gas for the car to haul the little moggies from show to show); the hotel and food industries. By giving us a small bailout, numerous pet-friendly LaQuinta hotels will benefit, along with Cracker Barrel and Waffle House restaurants! How’s that for spreading the wealth! Cat show registration fees keep cat show judges in business. The more cats that are in a show, the more spectators drawn to the show. The more spectators and cat show people at a cat show, the more money spent at the vending tables and booths selling pet products, including cat toys, cat shampoos, cat food, cat furniture, cat jewelry, cat clothing (for people, not for cats, who really wouldn’t want to wear a lot of what gets sold…)

As you can see, we’re not talking peanuts here (and especially not Peanut Corporation of America peanuts). The massive amounts of money spent to run cats for Grand Poobah awards has specific benefits for the “little people” of America, down at the grass roots level, who somehow seem to be missing out on the big bailout bucks the car companies, banks and insurance companies are getting. Yes, if they can get bailout money for being stupid (we’ll politely leave “greed” out of the equation), surely people like you and me can get bailout money for doing things right?

Yes, the Cat Show Economic Stimulus Package is a modest plan. Yet, I feel it is an effective one and, unlike the “big guys” we prommise to document every expenditure of our bailout funds. We’ll provide receipts for show registrations, food, travel costs, pet care needs. At the end of the show season, we promise to provide proof-of-success coupons in the form of Grand Poobah certificates to whatever new (and flabby) government agency is formed to oversee the bailout program.

We’re drawing up our bailout plan now, and we’ll see you at the cat show later!

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I have a goal: complete two chapters of a mystery/thriller I’m writing by the end of March.  Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming could pen entire novels in three months, but they didn’t have my family to contend with, they didn’t have flu for a week, or the increased work load brought on by a declining economy.

It’s inevitable that whenever I ensconce myself in my little home office to write, that something (in the form of a husband usually) wanders in demanding instant attention and answers to critical questions.  Where’s the big flashlight?  (I don’t know, I never use it.) What’s this charge on the credit card statement? (This has to be answered now?).  Things would fine if I could answer the question and that was it, but no.  As sure as night follows day and Roma Ryan penned Orinoco Flow, hovering follows, a sense that we must converse on something else! 

It’s not that I don’t want to answer questions or converse, I just want to do it later!   J.K. Rowling was lucky that she was divorced when she started Harry Potter No. I.  If she had been married, she never would have gotten to No. 7.  One of my favorite authors is mystery writer Sue Grafton.  If you go to Sue’s website, you’ll find photographs of her office.  You look at those photos and just know that Sue is never bothered by family distractions, credit card chatter or requests to find tools that she never uses. 

I have a goal.  I’m sure I’m going to meet it, but being an amateur writer dealing with all the distractions of the family republic doesn’t make it easy.

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