The Month Formerly Known as “November”

NaNo 2013 FB CoverNational Novel Writing Month is again upon us!  My most favoritest month of the year is only a week away.  Where once boring old November heralded little more than grocery store pyramids of canned pumpkin and the beginning of Holiday travel mayhem, since my introduction to NaNoWriMo it has been reborn as thirty coffee-soaked days of work shirking, writing like mad, and Art for Art’s Sake.  This year will see the production of my eighth NaNo masterpiece, so I sort of have my pacing down, and I take a lot of vacation from my airplane gig, so I have more time in my month than most people, but 50,000 words in 30 days is still a challenge.  An ambitious yet achievable goal which every November 3rd I know for a fact I will trounce, and every November 17th seems impossibly, sadistically unreachable.  The hilarious highs, the finger-paralyzing lows, the character whose name you keep changing — it’s all part of the process, and the need to push, pull, or drag a story across the 50K finish line before midnight on the 30th smashes the limits of my creativity like nothing I’ve tried before or since.  Because they’re 50,000 words of Awesome?  No.  In many cases, quite the contrary.  But they’re 50,000 words I didn’t have on October 31st.  They’re words I can render into beauty or comedy or bird cage liner, and they breathe life into characters whose stories no one else was going to tell — whether anyone else reads them or not.

I’m already in love with this year’s characters, who I hope will love each other; if nothing else, we’ll have a Vespa-riding grandma to fall back on.  My blurb on the NaNo website reads thusly:

Santa Fe attorney Danny Hanrahan is the King of the Easy and Obvious Choice, and falling for sexy Ashok Rai is a no-brainer. Embracing Ashok’s alter ego, drag diva Raima Reason, is more challenging; Danny divorced his wife for a reason, and it wasn’t so he could go out and find someone who takes even longer than she did to put on make-up. When Raima’s career looks set to take off, Danny has to decide if he’s along for the ride, or if a boyfriend who’s sometimes a girl is more than he can handle.

"Love has reasons which Reason cannot understand." - Blaise Pascal

“Love has reasons which Reason cannot understand.” – Blaise Pascal

 

This year I revisited a Year One trick of inspiration and designed a cover for my book.  I’ve put pictures of guys that look like my characters around my desk, and I’ve been watching drag shows with a more critical eye of late, figuring if I can’t get a book out of what my husband’s intro to the drag scene has brought into our lives in the last year, then I might as well skip it.  And in case I’m not geeked up enough the night before National Novel Writing Month starts, this year my latest novel, Crazy Like Fox, which itself began life in November, is celebrating its print release.  Watching a NaNo novel make good (such as I did last year when Kiss Me, Straight was released in November, too) is sure-fire inspiration to write to the finish, whatever the cost to logic and grammar, and it is my hope that this year’s novel will one day have a crack at the world, too.  But first I have to stay home from work, slip into my jammies, put Sheena Easton on Pandora, and write like no one is watching, because the one book you can be sure no one will ever read is the one you don’t get around to writing.

Want to write a novel of your very own?  You’ve even got a week to plan!  Sign up at nanowrimo.org 

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Crazy_Like_Fox_400x600Want a print copy of Crazy Like Fox?  Get it at JMS Books for the introductory price of $12.00 starting October 31st!

Writing Exercise: 10 Minutes About This

So today my writing group warmed up with a ten-minute writing exercise.  We each wrote down a color, a place, an animal, and a name, and then passed them to the person on our left, who was then charged with shoehorning those four items into whatever else flowed from his or her pen in the ensuing ten minutes.  The results, as always, were diverse and mostly hilarious.  I wrote this.auburn tequila

My Color: Auburn

My Place: Tequila Bar

My Animal: platypus

My Name: Umberto

“You have such beautiful auburn hair.”  Thanks, Umberto.  Or whatever he said his name was.  When you’re still wrapped around your stool at the back of the tequila bar come closing time, you get a little fuzzy on the details.  All I remember for sure are the wide-set eyes/short arms combo that put me in mind of a duck-billed platypus, and the fact that he wanted in my pants so bad he was trying to pick the lock of my button fly before he even bothered with the pick-up line, such as it was.

I remember for sure, though, that is was my first time in Mexico.  I had run off to Mazatlan to try to drown my memories of Travis in ocean spray and cheap tequila when moving to Albuquerque and dying my hair that cheap Walgreens magenta — sorry, “auburn” — hadn’t done the trick.  It’s not like Umberto wasn’t handsome — as best I can remember.  But he was more desperate even than I was for a night of “Let’s Pretend This is My Life,” and that’s saying something.  “Gracias,” I said, wishing one of us would pass out already and spare us the morning’s awkward goodbyes.

I love a good writing project.  I write better and more freely with my eye on a submission deadline, or a word-count goal, or a photo prompt than if I’m just writing to see what happens.  Early on, my writing group, the Open Book, got in the habit of starting meetings with exercises wherein we’d all whip out a few words for a few minutes on a given topic or song or bouquet of flowers, and then share the results by way of bringing us all together and getting the ball rolling.  As an extension of this, our favorite pastime, this year we’ve decided to build an anthology of short, original work.  Not just from the “members” of the group, but also from like-minded cousins and grandmas and passersby, reflecting the fluid, Come Ye Who Wish philosophy that governs most of our meetings.

Loving prompts the way we do, we decided we’d all be more likely to participate more fully if we had a theme, and the topic of Food, it will not surprise regular readers of Mister S. to learn, met little resistance (and might actually have been the only theme idea we even entertained).  Thus was Twelve Months of Tasty Morsels born.  Here at the beginning of month four, the antho is still taking shape as a blog which, at the end of the year, will be compiled into a little book of poetry, 100-word stories, and food haiku, the proceeds from which our group plans to donate to an as-yet undesignated local non-profit dealing with the art of writing and/or the fight against hunger.

This 100-word story, “Nothing Fancy,” is a reblog of my (just-submitted) February entry.  Visit the blog if you have a taste for this sort of thing, see what my writing buddies are up to, and, if you find something yummy, please enjoy!

Tasty Year: A Food Anthology

A 100-word piece by Michael Thomas for February

Nothing Fancy

“I just did some chili in the crockpot,” he squeaks, chin down. “It’s nothing fancy.” It’s February, I almost had to cross country ski over here, the kitchen window’s steamed over and the whole place smells of slow-cooking cumin and crackling fire. My veins are packed with snow and my eyelashes are icicles — him in that green sweater’s all the “fancy” I need. Can of beans, hunk of meat, let’s eat. “I figured a ton of garlic was OK,” he’s saying. “Only person I’m planning on kissing is you.” And just like that, I’m warm inside before I’ve eaten a bite.

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My Work in Progress in One Hundred Words

Lorelei Lee

Lorelei Lee

(Always avoid alliteration…)

One of my favorite writing exercises, albeit one from which I enjoy the occasional extended hiatus, is the 100 Word Story.  As you will not be surprised to learn, one of my challenges as a writer is shutting the hell up about this over here and that over there and getting down to the business of telling the dang story already.  Micro fiction is something of a trial for a writer like I (as Lorelei Lee might have said), but is a great opportunity to practice whittling down the noise and the fripperie into What I Am Trying To Say.  So the challenge, of course (besides not overusing words like “challenge”) is to tell your story, or your snippet, anyway, in 100 words exactly — not 101, not 99.  It is a widely celebrated, if arbitrarily selected, Micro Fiction genre, and one to which writers of no less an impressive stature than, for example, this one have devoted entire (if neglected) Tumblrs.

Something I’m celebrating today besides the 100 Word Story itself is the fact that I have actually sat and put fingers to keyboard, for the first time in a while, and started crafting something that can (finally!) lay claim to the title Work in Progress (as opposed to a Tedious Edit or an Idea That Just Sits There Going Nowhere While I Watch TV).  To date, the story has only come to me in broad strokes, and I’m not sure yet where it will end up, but I do know where it starts, and when my opening paragraph clocked in, quite by accident, at 100 words exactly, I felt compelled to share.

Give one a try.  I find boys super effective 100 Word prompts, and I can usually scrape together 100 words about food — there’s at least one on that dusty old Tumblr that’s inspired by both.  Remember to use your hyphens like a madman to manipulate your count, and heck, maybe check back here every once in a while in case I manage to wring out 100 more share-worthy words from time to time.

From today’s newborn, and as yet untitled, WIP:

The rickety lean-to club under the train tracks is drenched in the glittering raindrop refractions of blue spotlight off blue sequins.  The lyrics of September in the Rain, swinging with a nostalgia only Dinah Washington could imbue, nudge some to reach for the little umbrellas they imagine adorn their cocktails.  No one is disappointed, though, at the lack of fruity drinks or paper garnishes; it’s not actual rain, after all.  Cheap beer and plenty of it has made The Crossing famous, and the sticky tables-for-one overflow with empties-for-three; when you drink to forget, pineapple juice just gets in the way.

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A fan of short fiction?  Learn all about my next short release here, and make plans to buy it on March 10th!

Best. November. Ever.

tumbler2Last weekend, we cashed in the Groupon that I gave my boyfriend for his birthday (in April) and spent the morning in a surprisingly awesome glass blowing workshop at a local studio.  While the only actual “blowing” I did was in the form of Breathing Through My Fear that what I hoped would become my New Favorite Glass (seen here) would break before it ever had a chance to decant so much as a drop of wine, we did get to pick out our own colors, and “help” as a small cadre of experienced glass artists coaxed vessels and vases from glowing blobs of molten orange nothing with pointy tools, spinning poles, and ever-helpful gravity, a great friend to the glass blower.

Except for when he is her enemy.  Before we got to jump in and play with solid fire on a stick, the artist who opens her studio to us neighborhood rubes gave a brief and flashy demo to help establish expectations and give us an idea of what we were in for.  While she blew and spun and swirled and fancily attached and detached various appendages to the Demo Goblet, she talked about Glass.  About the science that makes it predictable enough to work with, and about the petulant personality of the medium and the thousand and one variables in the process that make the outcome of every piece unique and surprising.  Tapping the finished project off of the pipe on the end of which she’d been spinning and shaping it, she broke it, then tossed it I-don’t-remember-where with a casual Oh, well.  You win some, you lose some, she had illustrated, possibly on purpose, and she explained that part of the appeal of working with glass was that even if she sets out with a very specific plan, she never knows exactly where it will take her. Continue reading