Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Christmas!

No post this week--Merry Christmas everyone!
(Would love to hear about your holiday celebrations if you'd like to share!)
Back to our regular programming next Sunday--see you then!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Diary

I know I’m in the middle of a Mini Horror Stories Blitz about places I’ve lived, but today was a milestone day--my son’s 18th birthday—and this is the year he got The Diary.

I did one for his brother, too, and really, they’re mostly just mommy mush. You know—entries about how adorable they are or what new milestone they’d reached, clear through their academic or sports or music accomplishments…that sort of thing.

I tried to just leave what I’d written over the years alone and allow the enthusiasm of being Mom override the critical self-evaluation of being Author. But as I was reading through the pages, preparing the text to take to the book binder, I found myself cringing over the number of times I’d used the word “awesome.” So I did do some snipping, but the end result is still more like a home movie than something anyone (besides the star) would actually want to see. That’s okay. It’s just for him, anyway. Mommihood gets a pass on real editing.

Now, in keeping this diary, I didn’t go back and reread it as I went. I would just add something to the end of the Word doc and close the file until the next time. The text added up over the years to more than 200 pages, but I confess to not remembering what was in those pages until I “edited” the entire thing a couple of months ago.

Being reminded of his little childhood antics and his first bike ride and how he came “from the Land With No R’s” brought back a flood of happy memories, but it was also interesting to read about things I'd said I was putting in for “historical perspective” –things like dreaming of getting a book deal, recording music, wish-wish-wishing we could move out of our rundown rental and into a house of our own—because it was all in the voice of someone who had no way of knowing what the future actually held.

I could dive back into the Mini Horror Story Blitz here and tell you about that rental, but despite the recurring mold, the peeling plaster, the leaky roof and the dangerous neighborhood, that little rental wasn’t one of the places I’d intended to tell you about.

Maybe because it was a place I lived after Mark and I got married and love makes anyplace bearable--even  if you have to share it with bugs and drips and drafts and dead cats.

Yeah. Let me stop right there.

Or maybe I should promise that someday I'll tell you about Dead Cat Bob and his clones, but not today

Today I’m feeling like a little excerpt from my son’s diary might serve a better purpose: to give those of you who dream big dreams to not give up hope. As I’ve learned from my own experiences, if you hold onto your dream and just keep working toward it, eventually your day will come. So here’s me talking to my very young son about my very big dream, not knowing if or when my day would ever come. (The excerpt picks up after I’ve explained what a typical working-mom day was like for me, and that Mark had already had many articles published by various music magazines, and had just landed his first sci-fi story in Aboriginal magazine.)

Me, I weigh in with the most words written for no money, but I keep telling myself that will change. Right now, Walking on Sensitive Grass and Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief are under consideration at HarperCollins Publishers, but the editor there is just taking her sweet time and I'm getting really frustrated. It's been over a year since I submitted the rewrite for Sensitive Grass and a good 6 months since I submitted Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief and was told that she'd get back to me "soon." So, what I've done is start on Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man and right before Christmas I sent her the first three chapters. I hope to hear from her very soon. Meanwhile, I'll try to keep writing, but it's slow going with this chronic lack of sleep.

As you know there’s a happy ending to this, but at the time I didn’t know what the outcome would be. And as it turned out, I still had a while to wait. The Sammy Keyes series wasn’t picked up until after I’d written the first four books. Still, day to day, I didn’t know that it would take so long. Day to day I just kept hoping that today would be the day.

So whatever your dream, wherever you may be wishing you didn’t live, keep working, keep believing.

Eventually, it will be your day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Living Quarters (Mini) Horror

Continuing from last week’s theme, I find myself realizing that the second place I was going to relate to you has never made it into a book. Probably because it’s not really that unique. Anyone who’s had roommates will likely say, oh, that’s nothing! So I probably should skip it altogether, but I tell you what—instead, I’ll use it as an invitation to have you tell me your favorite living quarters horror story.

Actually, the Place That Hasn’t Made It Into A Book might do so at some point because it was weird in a fairly normal way…which can be deceptively insidious. I rented a room (inside the house this time) from a family—a husband, wife, and two high-school-aged daughters. The room was cute, the rent was cheap, and the family seemed nice.

It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that the girls resented me being there—one of them eventually confessed that this was true but assured me that it wasn’t me—they just didn’t like strangers in their home and were mad at their mother for bringing in a renter.

So yeah. Awkward.

And even though I had been told that I could have full use of the kitchen, it also became clear that the mom was very proprietary about her kitchen. Any time I used it I was chastised for not cleaning up adequately. I was tidy, don’t get me wrong. I just hadn’t grown up in a household where you dried the sink after you cleaned your dishes, or folded the dishtowel before hanging it inside the drying ring. It was always something, to the point where I rarely used the kitchen. One evening, however, after daring to make some popcorn, the mom called me down from my room. “Wendelin, I need to see you immediately.” So down the stairs I ran and what was so urgent? A single kernel of corn. It was under the toaster oven and I have no idea how it got there, but she did the “big reveal” and what could I say? I apologized, cleaned it up, and that was the last time I used the kitchen.

Which was the intended goal, I’m sure.

What really put this place over the top was that one afternoon I was home studying (I was in graduate school at the time) and coming from the room beneath me I could hear a loud thumping. And then screaming! And then loud, obscene swearing and more cries and thumping!

So I tore downstairs and I flung open the door to the room, sure that someone was in the middle of getting murdered, only what I found was the mom and a man I’d never seen before wielding big foam bats.

“May I help you?” the mom asks as I’m standing there with my jaw dropped.

“I thought someone was getting murdered!”

“Oh, no. I’m conducting an aggression therapy session. Now, if you don’t mind….?”

I lasted there four months, and yeah, she kept my cleaning deposit.

Next week’s place will be a little more extreme…and it definitely wound up in a book. And the week following will be downright creepy (and probably much too long) and you Sammy fans will definitely recognize what book it wound up in.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to hearing living quarter horrors from you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scary Roommate #1

There is a long, convoluted thought behind this decision, and I'm not sure why I think anyone might be interested...but I'm going ahead with it anyway. You'll have to follow along for the next few weeks for this to really make sense because it's much too long to put down in one post.

So I'm starting off tame and ending up crazed, and your job is to tell me if you recognize where the real life event I relate was fictionalized and put into one of my books.

Or maybe more than one of my books!

All these mini stories are true, and all have to do with places I've, uh, resided.

This week's story takes place in a garage. This was no converted garage. It was your basic, swing-up door variety, with not even a service sink, let alone bathroom.

If you're wondering what in the world I was doing, living in a garage, well, I'll just simplify it by saying, Hard times.

There are no nightlights in garages. I guess I could have rigged something up, but I kept telling myself I wasn't staying. I had a desk lamp that I'd switch on, but other than that, it was me, some basic supplies, a backpacking mat and a down sleeping bag.


And a black widow spider.

Just one.

I think.

The garage was actually fairly new, and the only junk in it was me and my minimal stuff. And at first I didn't know about the spider because it wouldn't show itself when the door was up. But one morning I did notice it, and boy did it freak me out. I slept with that monster dangling above me? It wasn't, like, lurking in a corner. It was right there! Above my sleeping bag! It could have dropped down and...and...creepy-crawled all over me! Or, what if I was sleeping on my back with my mouth open?


I t tried to catch it. Or, you know, smash it. But I didn't exactly have a broom or long-handled weapon to work with and the sneaky booger got away.

I stuffed my bag back in its sack, worried that it would otherwise crawl inside it and lay in wait while I was away. (I had developed a phobia of black widows long before this garage--developed over the years by them dropping out of attics and roof tiles and air conditioning units.Oh. And there was the one that dropped out of the workstation at a hair salon right past my knee!) Anyway, when I came back that night I checked all over for the spider and it was nowhere to be found. I went to bed, but the garage was pitch black when the light was off, so I would never be able to see if it was rappelling down it's sticky thread to come chomp on me. So I kept clicking on the light, kept checking the rafters. Eventually I fell asleep, but in the morning when my alarm went off and I clicked on the light, there it was again, dangling overhead.


To make a very long, sleepless story short, I never did catch that sneaky spider. Instead, I moved out.

To where I'll tell you next week. For now, recognize anything in this story?