Distractions

I’d like to preface this blog by telling everyone how much I love my mother and dispelling any notions you might have, based on some of my previous posts, that she’s anything short of amazing.  She gave birth to me.  Kidding!  Well, she did give birth to me.  (Or at least that’s the story she stuck with all of those times my older sisters said I was adopted.)   Anyway, I often comment on my mother’s unflagging interest in my love life but I know it’s only because she loves me.  She’s no more/less annoying than any other Jewish mother and she’s also a strong, loyal, loving, witty, business savvy and beautiful woman in her own right.  So please take my blogs with a grain of salt where she’s concerned.

Ok, Mommy?  I hope you feel better now.  MUAH!

The topic of this blog is distraction: things that prevent you from accomplishing what you set out to accomplish.  I’ve read so many articles from writers urging other writers and aspiring writers to set aside time each and every day to write.  I’m telling you right now that I do not set aside time each and every day to write.  Sometimes I feel guilty about it.  Sometimes I even panic that I’m losing my writing mojo.  But mostly I don’t fret because I know when I’m not writing, my life is full of other activities that combined, make me a well-rounded and happy person.

Currently, I devote at least one night and a few lunch hours a week to write.  I’m writing this from my Wednesday evening writer’s group which I only skip if something special comes along.  (And happy hour with my friends is not special enough, no offense to my fun-loving friends.)  I also write on the rare occasions I take public transportation, when waiting for a manicure/pedicure, hair cut etc., on line at the grocery store and basically any other time I have a few minutes to spare.  I write either short snippets of whatever novel I’m working on or a blog.  Lately though, I’ve been distracted – by other people’s books.

 Ever since I received a Kindle as a birthday present, I’ve been addicted to downloading and reading books.  I feel like such a traitor to the physical book but I freakin love reading on a Kindle!  I love how light weight it is.  I love that I don’t need a bookmark to hold my place.  (Mostly because I usually neglect to use a bookmark and wind up folding over the page.) I love that I can turn the page with the slight tap of my finger.  I love that I can’t skip ahead and read the end.  I love seeing my progress in percentages rather than page numbers and I love that I can read a page or two while waiting on line at the ATM and feel like I actually accomplished something.  I love my Kindle!  I love it so much that rather than my usual two books a month, I am averaging a book a week.  (Not sure my credit card loves it that much.) And I’m obsessed with deciding what book I’ll read next since it’s delivered to my device instantly and I don’t have to wait for it to ship or go to the store and stand in line.

It’s so easy to buy and read books on a Kindle, but I’m afraid I’m turning into an addict.  And I don’t buy the .99 cent or even the $2.99 ebooks.  I carefully choose the books I want to purchase through reviews and word of mouth and don’t pay much attention to the cost.  As a result, I’ve spent up to $11 on a few of them. And if that’s not enough, the books I’ve read of late have been so engaging that I find myself wanting to read every chance I get.  Two of the books I’ve read recently were just SO good – Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanan and Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee.  I started the latter on Monday and I’m already 87% completed.  And I’ve worked full days and I had plans after work each night so you might wonder how I managed to read almost an entire book when I was clearly busy doing other things.  The answer is I’ve been reading while eating my lunch; I’ve been reading while waiting on line to buy my lunch; and I’ve been reading while waiting my turn at the beauty salon. I’ve been reading every moment I should have been writing and when, before my addiction to the Kindle, I would have been writing. 

Yes, I confess.,  I’ve been reading other people’s novels when I should be writing my own.  I think I need an intervention.  And I plan to call upon my family and closest friends to help me detox.

As soon as I finish the last 13% of Save as Draft.  And download Beth Kendrick’s Second Time Around.

unusual sources of inspiration

To date, I’ve written two novels, one published, one in revisions, both fiction.   While both stories are make-believe, some of the characters, events, conversations etc. were inspired by true life events.  For instance, my relationship with my mother, the dynamic between two or more friends, my own dating experiences and those of my friends, work environment etc.  In my mind’s eye while writing my first novel, I didn’t picture famous people as the characters, but rather real people I’ve known.  Except instead of reenacting true events through my writing, the words the characters spoke and the actions they took were created in my head.  I think in my own way, I wrote my first book to get resolution on a few of my own relationships.  While writing it, I had different experiences with dating that inspired the plot of my second book, but it took on a life of its own pretty quickly.  And then I was stumped.  No inspiration for a third book whatsoever.  Until last night.

I had a dream, rather a nightmare, that woke me from my sleep and in tears.  The kind of nightmare that kept me up for a good hour, afraid to lose consciousness and return to the alternate universe waiting for me in my REM sleep.  Part of me also had trouble letting go of what happened in the nightmare and truly believing it wasn’t real.  Unlike my recurring dream about forgetting to go to my college classes all semester before the final or being chased by monsters, the tragic event which took place in my dream could, God forbid, actually happen.  Except that a portion of the dream also dabbled in the paranormal and I was struck with an idea for a book.  I jumped out of bed and only half-awake, jotted down the dream on a piece of paper and went back to sleep, still somewhat sick over the nightmare, but also excited about what could possibly be the plot of my third novel.  When I woke up this morning, I read my notes and, even in the light of day with cup of a coffee in my system, I think I might be onto something. 

Inspiration often comes unexpectedly and under strange circumstances and while I pray I never have that particular dream again, or anything close to it, I’m grateful for the muse.  If you are a writer or creative type yourself and care to share some of your own sources of inspiration, I’d welcome a comment 🙂

observations of the day

The man on the treadmill next to me this morning ran like the wind for five seconds as if being chased by a gang of armed men.  Then he stopped abruptly and jumped to the sides of the treadmill without adjusting the speed to stretch and breathe heavily for a few seconds.  Then he repeated the process over and over again for at least a half hour.  I suppose he could have been practicing some sort of interval training, but he just looked like an a$%ho%e to me. I find people like him, and those who walk backwards on the treadmill or sideways on the stair climber to be incredibly annoying.  If they were in awesome shape, I might give credence to their odd routines, but they’re usually not in awesome shape and, like I said, just look like a$%ho%es.

I couldn’t sleep on Monday night between severe allergies and an unexpected cold.  I took two Excedrin PM and tossed and turned for three hours.  Had I known the pills would keep me up rather than put me to sleep, I would have taken them in the morning before work.  This is not the first time medicine has had the opposite effect of what was promised on the label.  I had a chronic cough last December.  My doctor prescribed cough syrup with Codeine,  much to my delight since my sister said it would definitely help.  I took the medicine and sat up all night coughing up what felt like half a lung.  WTF?

Whenever I share personal information of a positive nature with my mother, it seems the planets misalign and what I was excited about and anxious to share loses validity.  This seems silly since my mother does not have magical powers and if she did, I’d probably have everything my heart desired, including a seven figure book deal, a marriage proposal from Bradley Cooper and a penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side.  (Actually, if my mother had a say, I’d be married to Andy Samberg – he’s Jewish, living in a sprawling house in the suburbs and raising three children.)  I digress, I think I’m just paranoid and pissed at myself that I let premature excitement entice me to share personal information with my mother since she will undoubtedly ask me about it each and every time she speaks to me from now until the end of time.  Note to self – STOP IT!  Sorry, mom…  Maybe for next Mother’s Day I’ll give a little.

Reading this back, I see that all of these observations are quite negative which suggests I’m not in the best of moods and easily annoyed.  Just last week, before the allergy monster took over, I was in pleasant spirits.  Even the endless lines to get into every bar to celebrate Cinco De Mayo couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.  Even the resulting hangover from one too many margaritas and the untimely onset of additional work assignments didn’t get me down.  So, my final observation for the day is that negativity breeds negativity.  I already knew this which is why I’m going to persevere and try not to trip the annoying guy on the treadmill, flush all of my medication down the toilet or screen my mother’s phone calls.  I hope my negative observations take a long sprint off a fast moving treadmill, choke on Excedrin PM and get buried under 20,000 questions from my mother.

SURPRISE!

My sisters and I threw my mother a surprise 70th birthday party this past weekend.  Anyone who has ever planned a surprise party knows that it can get a little dicey.  For instance, the party was planned for my mom’s actual birthday, Sunday, May 1st.  About a month before the party, my mom informed us that she was leaving for Florida on May 2nd.  Had she planned the trip for a day earlier, we would have either had to convince her to reschedule, or my sister from Denver would have needed to cancel the flight she reserved for her and my niece.  We also would have needed to notify the guests that they should disregard the invitation.  If the former, any excuse we gave my mom to reschedule would have raised her suspicions.  If the latter, my sister would have lost a lot of money and our guests would have lost all faith that my sisters and I had any idea what we were doing.  Timing was sensitive as well.  We told my father to get my mother to the restaurant at 1 and told the guests to be there at 12:30.  Except my sister from New Jersey got a later start than expected as did my other sister and I and we feared we’d all show up at the same time.  I had to send a text to my dad to delay their arrival to ensure we’d arrive first.  In any event, it all worked out and my mom was, indeed, surprised.  After the fact, she claimed to have her suspicions that ‘something’ was up, but we captured on film the expression on her face when she saw unexpected guests sitting around the table at the restaurant and she’s not that good of an actress.  (Trust me, she’s told me things I’ve wanted to hear many times but it’s always been obvious from the tone of her voice and facial expression that she didn’t believe what she was saying and therefore, neither could I.  And so I promptly changed my outfit knowing my butt did, in fact, look big!) 

Anyway, planning and executing my mom’s surprise party got me thinking about surprises in writing.  People often complain about predictability, especially in romance and chick-lit books, but depending on my mood, sometimes I prefer the formulaic over the “Holy crap.  I did NOT see that coming” ending.    Off the top of my head and as a result of perusing my own book shelf – since I just don’t have time these days to ponder the contents of my blog for extended periods of time…these are some of the books I’ve read which left me surprised, pleasantly or not.  Although I’ve tried to be somewhat vague in case you haven’t read the book and want to, I’ve highlighted the title so please feel free to skip over to avoid the risk.  

My “surprise” moments:

Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner – I was not pleased when Peter died.  He was my favorite character in the book and I didn’t thinking Weiner killing him off added any value, but it sure pissed me off.  (Ok, so much for being vague – sorry 😦 )

Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single by Heather McElhatton.  Based on the ending of this book, it should be categorized as “Chick-Dark” instead of “Chick-lit” but, personally, I liked it.  The author took a risk but the ending was actually more realistic as a result.

Sloppy Firsts – Megan McCafferty – Marcus Flutie’s ulterior motive for befriending heroine, Jessica Darling, really threw me for a loop.  Had it been a free standing book, I would have been sorely disappointed, but since it was the first book in a series, it was a clever cliff-hanger.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – when the relationship between Hassan and Amir was eventually revealed, I was moved to hysterics. Amir’s betrayal of his own brother was too much for me and I couldn’t finish the book.  I think I’m just too sensitive because the book was brilliant.  I guess it was a good surprise if it had that effect on me, although I doubt the author’s intent was for readers to stop reading!

Just Friends With Benefits – Yours truly – Yes, there is a twist in this book that most people have told me they didn’t see coming.  I *might* be too biased to render an opinion as to whether the surprise worked or not but I hope so!

Hmm, what I have learned from attempting to write this blog is that there are very little twists and surprises in chick-lit books, which happen to occupy most of the space on my book-shelf!  Since my list is so brief, I’d be interested in hearing from you – read any books lately that caught you off guard?  And were you pleased or moved to throw the book across the room?