Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Own Personal Apocalypse

Summer. Oh, crap.

This last week was so busy with grads and awards assemblies and x-rays (I sprained my ankle) and spring cleaning (I missed spring cleaning because we had no spring this year), the end of school snuck right up on me. I was like one of those silent film heroines tied to the tracks--only I'm stuck untying myself because ain't no one coming to my rescue--and I know the train is barreling towards me but I'm too busy clawing at the ropes to even look.

And then SPLAT!

Summer. The season where I transform from a part-time waitress with three kids in school to a part-time waitress with 5 1/2 kids at home. My stepsons are 17 and 21, so they don't precisely count as kids--but they aren't adults, either, not by a long shot. They have to be reminded to pick up after themselves, to make sure their laundry makes it into the utility room, to pitch in around the house. It helps that the oldest brings his girlfriend. She offered to help me in the kitchen one day two summers ago and I almost cried.

Our house is small. Three bedrooms--my oldest (14) shares a room with my youngest (6). The stepkids sleep in the family room when they visit. Normally, the 17-year-old would already be here (his mom likes to send him ten minutes after school lets out in the summer), but he put his foot down this year and won't arrive until the 9th. 21 and his girlfriend arrive on the 19th or so.

But between the one and the other, I will be swamped. Overwhelmed. Invaded. Besieged.

Yes, my family--two sisters, the bil, gram and gramp, and six nieces and nephews--in their infinite and appalling wisdom, have decided to turn a cousin's wedding on the mainland into the perfect excuse to visit little Kirsten on the island. They will begin arriving on the 12th. They will cease arriving sometime on the 14th. They plan to stay for many days. And although they will be sleeping and recreating some at a campsite/resort where I've booked them cottages on the ocean, I'm sure they will spend plenty of time in my teeny tiny shoebox of a house.

I am of two minds on this. On the one hand, I am squeeing and peeing my pants for the joy of having everyone together. Just imagine the barbeques, the Sunday dinner sentimentality, the pitter patter of many, many, many little feet! We've recently made improvements on our house that make our nice backyard more accessible and there's a park right across the street. There are all kinds of awesome things to do and see on the north island in the summer, and I'm happy to show my family all of them.

On the other hand...I'm terrified. Just feeding everyone is going to be a major production. Not to mention the fact that among my relatives are a few...volatile personalities. These personalities have been known to clash when forced to coexist for any length of time. And all those kids--Oh my god.

So pray for me. And for now, I'll repeat that mantra: "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger. And provides fodder for yet another book..."

Monday, June 9, 2008

This Sex Scene is Doing Nothing for Me--It Must Be Good

I know. Sounds like I'm talking about Norman Mailer's work, right? But no.

I'm talking about my own.

Fiction is filled (one would hope) with emotionally charged scenes, and while I'm writing one of them, be it a death scene, a declaration of love, the HEA or a sex scene, I'm often entirely caught up in the moment. Me, I am an emotional animal. I'm the kind of person who cries at movies, whether they're sad or happy or genuinely moving or shamelessly schmaltzy. I've been moved to tears over episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama, for godsakes!

I cried once to the point of exhaustion while banging out the scene that mercilessly killed two of my favorite characters in my grand, huge, massive, epic WIP. I had to tell people for two days after that I'd had an allergy attack, and that's why my eyes were all puffy and red.

I read that scene now, and I'm "meh". From sobbing to stoic after four passes of my dispassionate editorial eye.

Sex scenes, too. While writing them, I'm affected in predictable fashion--sometimes to my great discomfiture when I have to abandon a scene in the middle and say, function at work in front of, you know, people and stuff. By the time a book is ready to submit, that same scene often leaves me entirely cold. I have to remind myself of how I felt while writing the first draft, tell myself over and over--"Yes, damnit, it is hot! The reader will think so, too!"--because usually, by the time I've polished the living bejeesus out of it, well, it pretty much does nothing for me anymore.

My latest novel, Bound by Steel, which should be out in October, was a major departure from this phenomenon. The hot scenes in that book are, well, still hot to me--even the ones at the beginning. I don't know exactly what this means. I didn't sit on the manuscript as long as I usually do before sending it off, and let my editor know this. I was concerned the writing wasn't ready. She came back with an enthusiastic "I love this book!", which is an enormous relief. Perhaps it's simply a function of increasing confidence. I know I write pretty damn clean (editorially speaking, not smexing-wise, heh) and if I can submit a solid story without agonizing over every sentence, that can't help but be good for my mental health.

And even if the back-and-forth of edits with this one takes longer than it did with Crossing Swords or Healer's Touch, well, I think I'll be able to live with that for the opportunity to keep getting misty over the happily ever after. Because for me, getting all emotional is what good fiction is about.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ugh, It's Raining. Again.

June. And raining. Not a gentle spring shower, a deluge with gale-force winds. The clouds are so low and dark, my whole house looks like a dungeon. Welcome to summer on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

At this moment, my five-year-old is having a school-sponsored swimming lesson in an outdoor pool in the middle of a freezing, torrential downpour. My handy-dandy-man Alan is chopping up my balcony railing while bent beneath frigid sheets of driving rain. For my part, I am debating whether it's worth it to get soaked crossing the yard to the place where my table-saw sits under its veil of spiderwebs, so I can rip this window casing to width (since the idiots who built my house didn't make anything standard, from window-depths to the length of drainpipe under the bathroom sink).

Can't install the baseboards until the sliding door is framed. Can't frame the door until the casing is ripped. Can't rip the casing until the table-saw is unearthed. Can't unearth the table-saw without going out into the rain.

So you know what? Screw it. I'm staying inside with my laptop, two lovely gentlemen and their reluctant bride, and I'm not even going to feel guilty about it. Maybe if I let myself get lost in the writing, I'll stop wondering why I live in this godforsaken soggy wilderness where porphyria sufferers roam free...