excuses not to write

Sometimes, it’s a good thing to plug out the plug, disconnect from the universal grid, and do something entirely different from your daily routine. Sometimes, that can teach you a lot about yourself, your priorities (or the lack thereof) and where you energy should go.

For the past five weeks, I have been on vacation. I haven’t been anywhere exciting, or done too much that would be considered “interesting”. So far as anyone could tell, I have very much been right where I’ve always been.

So far as anyone could tell, I could just as easily have fallen off the face of the planet altogether, and in a manner of speaking, I have.

For the first time in a long, long, time, I have allowed myself to fall into:
a) the time warp of my book, and the rest of the world be damned.
b) books. Lots. Of. Books. History books and short story anthologies and source books and biographies and historical potboiler books. I used to pride myself on being a three-a-week person. Since the arrival of Damien, that went downhill fast. In a day and age where everything happens instantaneously, where we’re looking for fast – food, fixes, thrills, I had forgotten the indecent pleasures of staying up until 2 AM – reading.
c) the fine art of what the Italians call “dolce far niente”, or – “how sweet to do – nothing.” Contemplating the vagaries of existence, fine-tuning the art of making the perfect cake, or simply staring out into space and thinking – nothing at all, which has a lot to recommend it.

Most of all, and most important of all, I have been – writing the Effing Book. 10 – 15 pages a day, going back and ditching most of them, fine-tuning until it reads like poetry and flows like mead – sweet, smooth and golden.

All the while being only too aware of Colette. Once upon a time, Colette was approached by an ardent fan, a very young man. He had finally summoned up the courage to see La Grande Dame with his manuscript. She asked him to return in a few weeks. He did. Breathlessly, he asked: “So, Madame. What did you think about my book?”

Madame looked him up and down, marvelling at the impatience of youth. “It is a fine book, a magnificent book. Now, chéri, go take out all the poetry!”

I am preparing myself for the day when an editor slashes all those poetic passages I loved so much to write.

And meanwhile, I’m trying not to second-guess myself. Figuring out what happens next and in what order, figuring out points of view, untangling conflict and motive, realizing how little I know about what it means to be young and male in the testosterone-soaked society of Iron Age Ireland, realizing just how much the story has changed from first to third draft. What was once a Harlequin bodice-ripper of a sort became an action adventure story and then became – something else entirely. The characters took over and demanded to be heard. They still do, yelling in ancient Irish in my dreams, the dreams that do not include unlikely situations with metal gods who aren’t getting any younger, either.

When I get really stuck, I send a fervent thank-you to the inventors of Google Earth, who take me where I need to go when I need to kick-start my imagination.

So if I have been missed, if you have been wondering, that’s where I’ve been. I will be back. Eventually.

Now, excuse me please. I have to scare the bejeesus out of a Roman with pneumonia!

So long as I don’t take out the poetry!

Image: Cow Parade, “Meditating cow”

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In the spirit of all those “25 things you never knew” lists, here come mine, in no particular order. The bad news is, I actually had to think all this over. The good news is, it’s all downhill from there.

1. In order to get me in the mood to write on what I call The Effing Book, I have to clear my brain of the 21st century first. That’s where this blog comes in.

2. I will go to my grave without ever knowing who my father is, or was. I know only that I inherited his blood type and his eye color, among other things. This really narrows the field. Not.

3. I can go without makeup for days, sometimes for weeks. I cannot, however, live without perfume.

4. I love cats more than all dogs except Bassetts, and I’m not big on ferrets. Or reptiles. And if I ever buy a pedigreed cat, it will be a Turkish Van. More fun than a VW.

5. By the time I turned 12, I had known three stepfathers. One of them changed my life in ways big and small he could not have begun to imagine.

6. My first ever rock concert was at the West Palm Beach Auditorium, when I was nine years old. It was Alice Cooper. I brought my Dad. He loved every minute of it. It gave me a terminal case of rockaholism, that persists to this day.

7. The first album I ever owned that I’m not ashamed to admit to was Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America”. I can still listen to it today and not be embarrassed. The last album I got and received as a present on its European release day was Type O Negative’s “Dead Again”.

8. I was 22 before I ever saw a porn film. At a movie theater. With my boyfriend at the time. No, we didn’t.

9. I was 37 before I married for the first time. I’m still married. To the same man. That’s why I waited.

10. Now I know why mothers worship their sons. I worship my own. He’s the only other Capricorn in my life I consider a household god.

11. My sister is my all-time best female friend. With an added dimension, and added potential for danger. She’s known me too long.

12. Facebook is a total waste of time.

13. I have always believed that there is no such thing as owning too many books.

14. In a perfect world, I’d be eight inches taller. At least with heels, I’m halfway there.

15. My favorite candy bar is a Butterfinger. You can’t buy them over here. US friends – take note!

16. Yves Saint Laurent was the greatest fashion designer who ever lived. Period. Followed by Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier, both of whom are still alive and make clothes for women who have tits and curves and who aren’t afraid to show them.

17. At one point in my life, I sported a two-foot faux Mohawk. Blue. With the attitude to match. I still have the attitude. Actually, I have more of it now, because I care less.

18. You can take the girl out of Goth(am), but you will never quite take the Goth out of the girl. I fully expect to be wearing ripped fishnets when I’m eighty. You have been warned!

19. If not for the Resident Buttkicker, I would never have begun to write anything at all.

20. I also owe a debt of gratitude to an Ethiopian goatherder, who discovered some very tasty Energizer berries around 1400 years ago. A world without coffee is not a world I want to live in.

21. My favorite writer of antiquity is Aristophanes. My favorite Roman poet is Martial, for being such a pottymouth. Both of them wrote punchlines that are still funny 2000+ years later.

22. A large bunch of Easter lilies will turn me into a pathetic puddle of gratitude.

23. Sexy is all in the attitude. I’ve known plenty of drop-dead gorgeous women who were as sexy as used dishrags. And lots of not-so-perfect human specimens of both genders who are not exactly gorgeous, but still drop-dead sexy.

24. Some guys love smart women, and plenty of other ones don’t. I hang out with the first category.

25. Flattery does get you everywhere.

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