Friday, March 31, 2006


This is what they used to call it when you re-enlisted in the Marines (and maybe they still do). There was a monetary bonus for re-enlisting, as I recall, and all the Marines said that the money wouldn't make any difference, they'd never re-up, no way, no how. But then they did, some of them anyway. (As a Marine wife, I found a lot of their behavior inexplicable.)
Unfortunately, there is no monetary bonus when you start working on your novel again. I've gained words (about 3000 so far), not dollars. Carl is giving a lecture on ghosts, standing on a shaky stage in front of the stained glass window that used to be in the Elks Lodge. Something is sure to go wrong, and I have to be there to catch it as it goes by.

Friday, March 24, 2006

synopsis, part 2, plus miscellany

I'm now working on an attempt at a synopsis of the last part (that is, the unwritten part). I have a list that includes such exciting (and probably misleading) items as
the fire
Halloween: cemetery

but also the more mundane--
walking with the dog in the woods
visit to the old man
Carl goes to church

I'm going to the dentist this afternoon, and this will probably prove fruitful. There's nothing like the dentist to provoke brainstorming, the writer's vain attempt to distract herself from the drill. Then, an evening of soft food and books from the library. Listen, young readers, and beware: the future awaits.

Friday, March 17, 2006

planning the end

"Planning the end" is the folder where I'm spending my novel time right now. Although it sounds like the title of a brochure you might get in the mail from your neighborhood funeral home, it is in fact full of hope and high expectations--because I can see the end in sight (even if dimly). The name of the file I'm working on is the story of what's coming up, a sequel to the story of what has happened so far, and so far it's a giant list of everything I thought might be in the novel but haven't used yet, culled from a raft of post-it notes, backs of the cards stuck in magazines, McDonald's napkins, and envelopes that once contained urgent messages from my bank, my electric company, my credit card people. These are all reminders of fleeting thoughts I've had while writing the novel, and it's a reminder of how fleeting my mind is, how tangential, how associative, how obsessed with trivia and minutiae--all of which is a strength I embrace and a weakness I'm always trying to cure.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I've been tagged by Erin O'Brien with the 7-songs-I'm-into-right-now meme. Just the very thought of having songs I'm into makes me feel like a giddy 18- or perhaps 23-year-old, which is a stretch. But here they are, in no particular order, songs I would always, always listen to when they come on the radio:
1. "Brown-Eyed Girl," Van Morrison. This reminds me of my 2nd husband.
2. "The Habanera," as sung by Maria Callas in Carmen. My sister and I absorbed this as we lay under our play table listening to the 2-record set, bound in a brilliant red, with Maria C's tortured face on the front. It's a hell of a song.
3. "Atlantis," Donovan. A lovely, spooky song that is about things that are lost and will never come again.
4. "Pink Cadillac." This has been sung both by Bruce Springsteen and Natalie Cole (what a pairing!), but the version I prefer was sung by D, when he was in a country western band. He was the bass player, and in a group with two (and sometimes) three other big egos, he didn't get to sing very often.
5. "The Sultans of Swing," Dire Straits. This is totally out of my era, but I just like it, so there.
6. "The Way," which improbably enough seems to be sung by someone named Gigi D'Agostino. This was playing the summer that my parents were dying, and I fixated on it. I suppose it isn't a great song, but it has some haunting lyrics.
7. "Ball and Chain," Janis Joplin. A song that says love hurts, but so much better than the song with that title, by whoever it was who did it. Nazareth?
I am tagging Plan B, Crazy Diamond, and Isaurine.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

imagining the novel

The novel is a house I have entered: I knew how to get in, but can I find my way out? The novel is rope to hang myself with.
The novel takes a nap, bored, while I check my email for the twentieth time.
When the novel goes out, it has my face--everyone knows what I'm thinking.
The novel is pile of post-its, a legal pad with a grease spot, a jar full of used up pens.
After the novel: there is no after.
If the novel is dead, who are the suspects?
The novel is an ache at the base of my spine, a burning in my eyes.
The novel dreams that Virginia Woolf has read it and thrown it down violently.
The novel is a part-time job, with no benefits; or if there are benefits, they are metaphysical. Note: to register for the metaphysical HMO.
The novel is a series of tea cups, crumpled chocolate wrappers, cracker crumbs sifted through the keyboard.
The novel says, “I am brilliant.”
The novel, wearing sunglasses, refuses to give an interview.
The novel is a glass of bourbon, drunk while weeping over the keyboard.
If the novel is tired, it will sleep, surrounded by thorns, for a hundred years.
The novel is a country whose language I had to invent before anyone could speak.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

the dreaded synopsis

Today I wrote the story of what has happened so far, which is a story about my novel, or, if you must, a synopsis. I've avoided this all along--avoided first of all writing a real synopsis, because I don't like to think too hard about what's going to happen when I write; and avoided second because I'm not good at summarizing in this way; and avoided third because I was afraid to stop writing for even a day and take time to think in case the thought that came to me might be something like: are you crazy? And then I would have stopped writing and be forced to go to one of my alternate life plans, like learn to graft fruit trees or go to law school.
But, at 438 pages, I thought I might have passed this state of panic, so I decided to stop and consider--both what had happened so far, and what will happen in the remaining pages.
I also made a point of view chart, marking how many times and in what chapters the four main characters take the stage (or page). Then I gave them each a color so I could see the pattern they form in a spatial way. Carl is blue, Jason is teal, Isabel is red, and Nancy is copper.
Stay tuned to see if all this was a bad idea.