Dreaded Original Work

About fifteen years ago, maybe more, I began work on an original story.  In fairness it was my own fan fiction that I adapted and turned into an original story.

I wrote and wrote and wrote to make the characters original.  I didn’t want anyone reading it and thinking it was that guy from that show.  Then I had to change the setting.  Then the premise and finally, it became almost unrecognizable from the original work.

I re-wrote more times than I can count and then it was ready.  A novelette that might be publishable.  After sending it off to agents and getting a lot of rejections, I gave it to a school teacher friend to read it.  She procrastinated and never really read it, just sort of pretended so that fell flat.  I gave it to a voracious reader who gave me vague feedback and precious little of that.

Finally, during a cross country trip, I read it out loud to my sister.  When it was over, she declared that it was boring.

That was the final blow although it wasn’t a conscious decision.  I put it away for years.

Just recently, I’ve taken it out, dusted it off and started over.  It’s so clear now why it lacked power.  I was afraid to make it too grim despite a decidedly grim plot.  I edited myself away from the horror, worried that it was too dark for public consumption.

It has a slow build instead of instant gratification.  Some of the characters aren’t developed well.  And it’s not long enough.  I failed to mine a piece of the story that could make everything pop.

Re-energized and optimistic, I’m ready to push the boundaries and make this the novel that it should have been and not the tired work that it became.

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Teenagers

When I was a kid, you became a teenager at 13 but the real angst and rebellion started later.  I would say around the age of 15 kids started getting rebellious and experimental.  I could be wrong, maybe I was just a late bloomer, but that’s how I remember it.

In any event, I have a 13 year old grand-niece.  Her mother (my niece) and I have been co-parenting since she was born.  We all live together, mostly happily.  My grand-niece is a bright, intelligent, witty girl with the capacity for great kindness.  She is outgoing and personable and unafraid of the world around her.  She writes performance poetry, sings solos in talent shows, plays softball and volleyball and has friends.  I’m blessed to have her.

However, she’s also full of hormonal angst, disruptive and argumentative about thirty percent of the time.  She could try the patience of a saint during those times and I often think we should trade her in.  For a new model.  One that doesn’t fight about the color of the sky.

I realize that these times will pass.  She’ll be an utter pain in the butt for two or three years and then she’ll come back around.  Ultimately, if all goes well and she doesn’t get involved with bad things, doesn’t experiment with drugs and get sucked in, and doesn’t make a horrible, life-altering choice, she’ll emerge a newly-minted adult-like creature who can face the world.

I’ve already told her not to believe that all kids try drugs.  Not all kids do, and she can choose not to.  I’ve told her that underage drinking is illegal and not permitted for any reason.  If she decides to smoke, she’ll need to decide to live someplace else because I won’t have it.  If she wants a driver’s license and a car then she needs to behave responsibly now and prove she can handle it.

The rule of the house is “we’re rule followers, not rule breakers.”  We laugh about that one because she has a rebellious streak.  And even though she’s slightly prudish, she still likes adventure.

It’s a tough balance as we choose our battles, and make concessions in between holding a hard line on the big stuff.  To my grand-niece, it’s all big stuff so giving in sometimes or not rising to the argument makes an impact.

Every day is a new challenge.  But, when hormones crash in, it’s mostly about deep breathing and hoping that since this all started a bit earlier than expected, there’s always a chance that it will end earlier too.

Moving

A couple of years ago my family and I decided we needed to move into a bigger space.  We were living in 1000 square feet with three people, two dogs and a cat.  It was three bedrooms, two baths and clutter as far as the eye could see.

We talked about it for a long time until I finally put my foot down.  If we’re going to move, we need to take the steps to make that happen.  Thirty days later, we purchased a 1400 square foot, ranch style house.

And it’s nice.  Really nice.  Spacious, clean, filled with cherished stuff from the old house and brand, new stuff.  One of our dogs passed so we adopted a lab puppy who loves running around in the backyard.  An actual backyard with grass and space to run. The three year old malti-poo loves it too.

It’s perfect.

Except, I miss the old space.  Is that weird?

I miss the crowded living room when we all piled in there together under a dingy light because nothing ever worked quite right.

And the memories.  There were so many.  My grandniece lived from birth to twelve years old in that place.  We tracked her height in that cliche way that people do. But, she added to it with drawings and comments all around the lines that marked her growth.

Christmas mornings and the first day of school and the raucousness of just living in a space that’s too small but still just right.

It was my first purchased home and I thought I’d live there forever.  I think I’ll miss it forever now.

Even if the new house is bigger and nicer and perfect.  It’s hard to imagine it will ever be home.

Emotions

via Daily Prompt: Proclivity

I tend to be happy.  Even in dark, difficult times, my proclivity towards happiness overrides other emotions.

Often I tell people that I have Explosive Personality Disorder because when I lose my temper, it is sudden, ugly and brief.  Rarely, does fury rule me.  Yelling, cursing and stomping bursts from me in a tsunami of anger and then subsides, lapping calmly until the physical sensation dissipates.

Sadness is a battle waged at my deepest core.  I hate to cry; hate to feel the clouds of depression seep inside, making my body and limbs heavy with its weight.  But, death happens, disappointment happens, friendships die, lovers leave and terrible things sometimes happens to people I love.  Despair and helplessness rise up threatening to consume me at times and the war begins as I fight my way back.

It can be exhausting; having a need to be happy.  Others cling to different states of being which is just as exhausting.  If your proclivity is towards anger, it must be difficult when people love you.  If you lean towards a moroseness then swords will clash when good things come to you.

Whatever our true nature, outside forces will always impact and sway us, threatening our versions of ourselves.  So, we fight for who we are and who we want to be and we regain ourselves until the next battle arrives.

Life Goes On

via Daily Prompt: Miraculous 

“Life goes on.  Long after the thrill of living is gone.”  John Mellencamp wrote and sang about that while we followed Jack and Diane through a teenage afternoon.

Humans create life, spend about nine months anticipating that new life, celebrate it and focus on it and dream about it.  But, inevitably, there comes a time when the miraculous nature of that creation, of that life, diminishes.  We stop seeing it as something amazing.  We take it for granted.

It’s not that parents stop loving their children.  This isn’t about that.  But, we lose the wonder.

The shine wears off.

Creating life through an act devoid of anything except intimacy somehow pales.  The miraculous gift of that ability fades.  It’s common and requires zero innate skills.  Almost everyone can do and almost everyone does.  It’s not special.

Except that it is.

Because that spark that brings new life into the world and provides humans with a new companion is the most extraordinary thing we do.

Self-Publishing

I never expected to self-publish.  I thought that sooner or later some agent would snatch me up, sell my work to a publishing company and boom–

It didn’t work out that way.  Not to say that it won’t.  Who knows about the future?  I’m still writing and I’m still breathing.

But, self-publishing is interesting because it seems like if there are millions of readers then your book cover and description should, minimally, resonate with a few strangers.  But, that hasn’t happened.  It’s a little like standing naked in the middle of a room and no one notices.

It’s too early to be discouraged and I’ve designed an author’s page, put the link on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.  I’ve started this blog.  I’m sure there are more avenues to investigate.  And I plan to publish a few more novelettes and some short stories to add to the body of work.

As in all things, nothing is over until you stop trying or die.  Neither has happened to me yet.

Christmas Decorating

A few weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving, I put up my green, fake, pre-lit, Walmart Christmas tree.  It comes in three levels and I carefully put it together, unscrunched the branches and plugged it in.  The angels sang and the tree lit up.  It was joyous.

This morning we decorated it.  With it’s plastic needles and wires running through the branches, we “fluffed it”, unbent it and arranged it. It is cheap and tacky and far from the fresh trees of my childhood.

But, then it was time to bring out the ornaments.  We bought a special one each year for my niece then when she had a daughter, we began buying special ones for my grandniece each year.  We have two “baby’s first Christmas”.  One is a stork and the other is a cradle.  There is the Tasmanian Devil and Ziggy.  Even Hannah Montana and Barbie grace the limbs of our tree.

A beautiful flag that commemorates 9/11 and a couple of aliens who celebrate with us because I love them.  There’s a dancing cow on ice skates and huge, pink flamingo that I had to steal during a gift exchange.  It was one of those deals where you could trade your gift for someone else’s.  Showing no spirit of the holiday, I traded as soon as I could because I needed that flamingo.

As we hung the Starbucks ornament and the Disney ornament, we remembered when we bought them and how young the kids were and how much older we’ve grown.

We have multiple bells and trains that remind us of our annual trip to the Polar Express.  I miss going but when my grandniece stopped believing, we stopped taking the magic train.

We hung our treasures and laughed about the many figurines of lipstick and compacts because both girls loved learning about make-up. There’s the roller skates and the volleyball and the basketball to remind us of the sports they played.

A goofy Hallmark ornament has two women with tinsel hair holding hands.  It looks like my sister and I so bought it.  As my grandniece’s Godmother, we had to have another one that shows a woman and child looking up at a single star.  It’s one of my favorites.

We also burned hot chocolate that was warming this morning because we forgot about it.  And we argued about the exact placement of some of the decorations.  And when we were done, we sprayed the whole thing with Bitter Apple because our new puppy is likely going to eat the tree.

But, all of it, from the memories to the morning is what makes our life. It’s sweet.  It’s us.  And it’s family.