Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Great Writer -- I think.

I put down a really good book this weekend because it made me sick.

Justin Cronin's The Passage. Like Dean Koontz, Cronin combines drama, science, government conspiracy theory, and fantasy with an evocative sense of character and place. His prose makes me, as a writer, drool. But... I put it down.

Several great authors --( and I don't use that term lightly. Cronin has skills. He's going to be huge.) -- have used their considerable gifts for creating believable characters and inserted me, the reader, into the mindsets of these characters with dexterous ease and a blinding sense of being there. So much so, that I want to scream: "Stop it!"

Because, truly, I don't want to see into the mind of a sexual deviant. I don't. Koontz has done it to me, King, among others, and now, Cronin. The writing is good. The story engaging and creative and deep. But I just don't want to go there. I don't want to wonder "just how did you dream up this scene? How did you do your research? How much of this character, dear author, is within you?"

URGH! I'm ashamed to admit it, but I must. I've wondered. I know it's not fair. It's just how it is. I'm sure Monsiurs Cronin, King, and Koontz (among others) are truly lovely men who walk their dogs and help old ladies across the street, and teach orphans in Uganda how to knit or something. But while I'm reading that deeply-entrenched-in-a-sicko-freak's-brain scene, I wonder, "But what if....?" Like I said. It's not fair to the author. And it makes me mad that I think that.

But I'm a mom, dangit. And every time I'm reminded that there ARE these sicko freaks out there in the world, it makes the mama-bear within me roar.

But I'm also writer, so I'm torn. I don't want to question the wonder of imagination -- of sheer writing talent -- just because a character makes me say "ew" and shiver, and check the back seat before I lock my car doors. And warn my daughters about staying 2o feet away from vans and to never, ever, help anyone look for their puppy. Because there is evil in the world. Evil. And they are innocent and I want to protect them!

I want to see good conquer evil and truth stomp injustice and.... Sigh. In the end, I guess I just want a fairytale. Where the villain is the villain. And the hero is the hero. Maybe my problem with reading such true-to-life sicko characters is that I don't want to find anything redeeming in someone whose behavior is so vile, but because these authors are so freaking good at what they do, I find a tiny part of myself feeling sympathy for Mr. Sicko. And that makes me uncomfortable.

It's an interesting commentary on the state of my own soul, isn't it? As a Believer in Christ, what do I really believe about the possibility of redemption for all people? About definitive sin as being without weight or measure, but equal under the shadow of the Cross? Hmm.... Is it a comment on the hypocrisy of my grace-based faith, or is it maybe that I'm just grossed out by some stuff? Stuff that should gross me out because it is the very definition of "sick and wrong."

I can't not recommend Justin Cronin's book. But I'll do so with the fair warning that "thar be some icky within." From what I've read, Cronin is a true artist. A creative wordsmith of the first order.

But I don't think I can finish that novel any time soon.

Am I missing out? Maybe. I'd love to see how the story is fleshed out... but I just don't want to see into the mind of a convicted sex offender, even if he is a minor character. And that is my choice. To take the book back to the library, unfinished.

Fiction is born of imagination, but fiction mirrors truth, as we say here. And sometimes it's just a little bit too real -- a little too clearly portrayed. And it creeps me out.

I hope the next novel from Justin Cronin doesn't go "there" into the mind and, lets face it, sympathy, of a sexual deviant. I'd love to see more from him -- and maybe, someday, in a different mindset, I'll pick up The Passage again, and skim over those portions I now find so creeptacularly icky.

Time will tell.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Little Sabbath, and a Little Sin

Is it a sin to pretend you're not home when the Schwan's man comes by? I guess it probably goes under "lying", eh? Darn it.

Seriously. I forgot it was his week to stop. And I hadn't even brushed my teeth yet. The past week's writing activities sapped my strength. I was literally unable to perform basic hygiene prior to 11am today. Okay, maybe not literally, but.... The girls went out the door, I finished the last 2 pages of the book I was reading, and crawled back in bed until almost 10. I was asleep in like, 2 breaths and a sigh of "oh, how I love this pillow."

But alas, I awoke, chugged another cup of coffee and some chocolate, oh, and a few pretzels. I channel surfed a bit, folded a load of laundry and -- "ding dong!" So, I flipped the tv off faster than you can say, "Oh, I guess no one's home." Thankfully, the curtains were drawn and there were no lights on in the front half of the house, so... I tiptoed down the hall to brushed my teeth and washed my face. I'd only been dressed for about 10 min. at this point, so....

I kind of hope he comes back later. The Schwan's man, I mean. I'm still tired and, I hate meal planning even when I'm well-rested. I'm thinking I'd rather heat up something premade (though expensive) rather than have to dig around in my freezer and cupboards to concoct something homemade....

I still feel sort of fried from my weeks of insanity, I cleaned house literally all day yesterday (until the bug man came to spray for spiders at 3 and I had to take my dog out to the farm for safety -- from the spray, not the spiders, although, considering the size of some of the eight-legged monstrosities I've seen, it's entirely conceivable that my 60 pound dog could use some protection....) But most of my house (the upstairs, anyway) is seriously clean. I even washed the windows outside. And I haven't done that in.... well, that's my little secret, but I'll admit it's a time measured in years.

I'm a little sleepy. I might just take a nap. Seriously. I'm that tired. It's one of those tireds where you feel like if you don't just stop and REST your body will stop you with illness. Therefore, listen to your body, Shawna. Be lazy today. But don't forget about the laundry. And get an order ready for the Schwan's man, just in case he comes back.(Bless his heart.) And go rent a movie or something for tonight so you can just put up your feet and relax. Yes, take a nap.

Take. A. Nap.

Oh-- but did I? No. I polished a magazine query letter, and did the final edits on the article to go with it. After folding a load of whites I stripped my bed and washed the sheets, moved them to the dryer, and now...

BZZZZZZZZ, it would seem it's time to move my lovey sweet down comforter (which I love nearly as much as my memory foam pillow) into the dryer (yes, it's the washable kind. And now it will smell like cuddly little whitish bear with a funny voice. You know what I'm talking about!)

I didn't get my nap. and the Schwan's man didn't come back. Sigh. But I got a little rest this morning and it will go a long way.

I hope the Schwan's man forgives me. I really don't like to cook.

Check out Tracy Krauss's blog, Expression Express -- that sweet gal recently gave me The Versatile Blogger award! What a sweetheart! And her blog is always fun to read. Here's the nice award she gave me:
Stop on by and tell Tracy that I sent you over.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Surgery & Story

It's finished. It's done. I'm doing a happy happy happy dance. A jig really.


I finished the first draft of Intermission, my first young adult, coming of age novel and sent if off to my editor. Now I can --.


Did you hear that? Was that the voice of my editor, opening the file and calling for The BIG RED PEN OF DOOM?

Probably. You see, that's the beauty of a first draft. The blood. The guts. The gore. The slashing, the trimming, the slicing, the dicing. And this is my first opportunity to have my brand new baby novel gored by an honest-to-goodness professional. (Where's that Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom narrator guy when you need him? Oh. right.Likely dead. He was old when I was a kid watching the show on Sunday mornings in my PJs. And that was at least ten (and twenty) years ago. )

So, about the upcoming gore-fest. Am I scared? You bet.

Am I chicken?

Okay, a little. But the sky isn't falling, just probably, my ego a bit. I mean, I LOVE this story. I lu-u-uvv it. I birthed it. And it was agony. It was bliss.

I imagine that when I get that manuscript returned to me in a week or two I'm going to read it, read all the hashmarks and x'd out sections, the bubble comments, the suggestions, and then take about a 48-hour bubble bath (complete with copious amounts of Dr. Pepper and Chocolate!) before my ego recovers.

Yes, I'm that insecure. That prideful. That... obsessed with Dr. Pepper and chocolate. In fact, I'm getting a little thirsty right now....

Eventually, I will leave my bubbly, fizzy, chocolatey cocoon and raise my gloves at the manuscript for Round Two. DING! DING! DING! And then I will remember why I love this part. I love the editing/rewriting phrase. I love falling in love with my story all over again. It'll be soooo, so good.

Editing toward excellence. That is my mantra. Dang it, though, it's a lame-o sort of mantra. Give me time, I'll come up with something catchy. After all, it's what I do.

I imagine by the time I get to the end of Round Two the process will have imparted the same feeling one gets upon stepping on the scale and realizing, "Oh my gosh! I lost 60 pounds! I look like Catherine Zeta-Jones!"

(This is the imagining part. I've never actually experienced that feeling, but I have daydreamed about it. I've also dreamed about winning the Oscar for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture while clutching the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Black dress, of course. Or a bronzy brown? Michael Cors? Jimmy Choo, for sure. Harry Winston or Cartier? Hmm. What were we talking about again????)

So... fiction mirrors truth. Yes, it does. And this newest novel is no exception. (This is me, hoping to give you desire to read this book when it is published) But the truth hurts sometimes, even fictionalized. Examining our own weaknesses, our own areas of pride, our own blindness, our pain, and our own sin and then curving it, shaping it, pounding it, and sculpting it into into something new and fresh -- and without the possibility of a libel suit, har, har. -- results in creating richer, more believable characters and a deeper, more compelling story.

And that is why I welcome the scalpel. Why I'm willing to hand that sharp object to my editor myself, knowing how accident prone I tend to be.