Baby, You Can Drive My Car (or not)

Now that two of my children have acquired driver’s licenses, I find myself scrambling for a car on many occasions. Yes, the cars belong to my husband and I, but I’ve fully embraced my retirement from taxi service and I handover the keys willingly.

Still, last summer’s daily negotiation over who would get the cars and who would beg for rides, firmed my resolve to buy a car this year. My car.

The last car I owned was a racy, little Geo Storm in electric blue. It handled like a sports car and had an awesome stereo and whenever I drove it, I felt cool. That was twenty years ago. Before kids.

Ever since I set off on my quest to become a published novelist, I’ve had the goal of making enough money to 1) buy my own car and 2) hire a cleaning person. I’m well aware that very few people make big money at writing these days, but I didn’t feel my dreams were unreasonable.

And so I have saved my pennies – from teaching creative writing and healthy cooking, honorariums I’ve received for speaking gigs, payment for articles, and of course, my royalties for my books.

Finally, I felt I had a sum that could afford me a vehicle. Not a new one, but a nice one. So I began my search.

I didn’t want a practical car that got good gas mileage and had plenty of room for a Costco run. And I was not looking for a four-wheel drive vehicle that could handle our hilly driveway, as more and more I don’t mind being snowed in. I knew I would buy a manual transmission; I grew up driving stick and when I got my first automatic car, it felt less like driving and more like simply steering. The added bonus of having a manual transmission would be that none of my kids know how to drive stick so no one would be asking to borrow my car! Bottom line: I wanted a car that was cool, or at least made me feel cool.

The more I thought about what I wanted, the more my heart became set on a convertible.

Why not? I’m fifty years old. If not now, when?

I’m finally beyond worrying about what other people will think. I’m old enough to stop making excuses, and it’s become less and less necessary to explain myself. I’m not having a mid-life crisis, I’m having a mid-life claiming. I’m claiming this time—I’m going after what I want. Life is too damn short.

So I combed the internet. I set up a very specific search and the moment my car appeared, I knew. It was a merlot colored BMW Z4 convertible. Powerful. Perfect. Exactly the car of my dreams.

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My husband made me go drive another more practical convertible (a cute little navy blue Miata which “has great ‘resale value,’ gets better gas mileage, and is less expensive to have serviced”). He thought I shouldn’t just buy the first car I saw. I should have some basis for comparison. But really, I knew which car I was buying, even as I nodded and agreed to the handful on our list as we set out on a beautiful, sunny, convertible-driving kind of day.

We called ahead to be sure my car hadn’t been purchased right out from under me while I was busy driving the more practical cars. But it was there, waiting.

Although it is thirteen years old, it only has 11,000 miles on it. It is in perfect condition, having never spent a night outside in its life. Leather interior, a kick-ass stereo, and most importantly – manual transmission. Perfect. Mine. I took it for a spin, a grin splitting my face, while Nick fiddled with the stereo and laughed at my excitement.

When we got back to the dealership, we sat down with the salesman (and his treeing walker coonhound – talk about a sign!). We agreed on a price, and I wrote the check that would zero out my checking account before I happily zipped home with the top down.

It’s not practical, my car; it’s presumptuous and auspicious and it makes a bold statement. It is the coolest car I’ve ever driven. And the most powerful. This baby can go. I’ve never driven anything that handled and shifted and purred like this car. I am completely, utterly in love with my car.

When I took my youngest son for a ride, he said he could never drive a car like mine. I asked him why. He said it’s too fancy, too rich.

“Maybe,” I told him, “But someday I hope you think you deserve a car like this.”

It took me fifty years, but I do think I deserve this. Think whatever you like. I earned it.

And here’s my words of wisdom to the rest of you –

You deserve the desires of your heart, but the ones that come too easy are nowhere near as satisfying as the ones you work for.

Go for it, friends. Life is too short.

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Writing Doldrums

I’m in the doldrums.

I’ve polished my manuscript until parts seemed to be wearing through and it began to feel like I was rearranging furniture. Now it’s safely languishing in my agent’s TBR pile. Even as it’s tempting to go back in there and fiddle, I’m staying out of that world. Jem and Liz and Jake and Fish and Coach are safe from my meddling fingers.

My other novel-in-progress is marinating. Marinating is what I call the time between edits. It’s very hard to be objective and see your story clearly unless you leave it lie for at least a few weeks between edits. Otherwise, it’s like trying find anything on a map on your phone—you’re too close to see anything in perspective. Which means I have to leave Kat and Dylan and Pilgrim and Gwen alone to work their problems out, at least for a little while.

So, no fiction. Which isn’t easy for me.

Instead, I’m working on guest blog posts for my upcoming blog tour for Practicing Normal (which comes out June 6!!) and mostly coming up blank. Plus, I’m putting way too much time into blog posts for my dog blog. And still my writing energies are stopped up.

I’ve become so desperate I’m thinking of trying my hand at a short story (again). I’ve never written a decent short story.  Every short story I’ve ever attempted either turned into a novel or landed in my ‘crap I wrote’ folder to languish for all eternity. But you never know, maybe this time I’ll figure out the genre. Either that, or I’ll have a good start on my next novel.

Writing is not a job for the unmotivated. There is no boss telling me what to do, although, true confession, I kinda wish I had a boss telling me what to do. If I had a boss and a specific job description, then I’d know when I was finished a job (plus I might have benefits and overtime and paid vacation). Instead, writing work is endless, spiraling into the land of all-the-ways-to-waste-productive-time-productively. Blogging, for instance. Writing this post is not required of me. And yet, here I am, musing on nothing much. Wasting time, really, but productively because if nothing else I’m honing my craft.

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And that’s just it. If you’re gonna be a writer, ya gotta write.

Every day.

Even if it’s just a journal entry or an email to a friend. Slap those words down, one after the other. Do that long enough and eventually you hit on a few good combinations.

That said, I’m gonna head out to the wilds and do some short story wrangling. (Can you tell my short story will involve horses? And maybe cowboys. Hmmm….) I’m toying with pasting the beginnings of that story right here on the blog, if for no other reason than to hold myself accountable. So watch for installment number one next week.

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What are you writing? Anything good? Well, I hope at least your writing is humming.

Have a great Thursday and thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my stories and blogs, please visit CaraWrites.com. If you’d like to catch up on all my adventures, subscribe to my (occasional) newsletter.

Writer or Brain Surgeon – YOU decide

Most of us writers are professional whiners. We know how to complain with colorful, compelling alliteration and perfect grammar.

And, truly, we have so much to complain about—low pay, minimal recognition for ridiculous amounts of work, a swamped market, the Big 5 monopoly that rigs the system and controls the best-seller lists. And then there’s the social media grind, endless platform building, the odds, the hours of harvesting the dregs of your heart, only to be dismissed because that genre’s not selling. Thankless work, really.

And whose skin doesn’t crawl when they hear the phrase, “Anybody can get published nowadays.” I read a well-written complaint recently wherein a professional writer said something to the effect of – Continue reading “Writer or Brain Surgeon – YOU decide”

Verbizing (yes, it’s a word!) (okay, it’s my word)

What’s the most important part of a story? The plot? The characters?

How about the verbs?

Okay, maybe they aren’t the most important part but wow, they can make or break it.

Secret wisdom of the earth by Christopher ScottonI’m reading The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton and I am dumbfounded (love this word – oh, and what a great verb!) by how he simply makes up verbs. Out of thin air. He takes ordinary words and he verbizes them (there! I just did it too! I verbized the noun, verb.).

Watch how he does this:

I remember watching my mother from the backseat as she stared at the telephone poles flishing past us, the reflection of the white highway line in the window strobing her haggard face.

The first time it happened, on the first page, mind you, I thought – flishing? huh, never heard of that verb.

But then again and again (and again) he simply created verbs where there were none. Jounced? (okay, that one’s real, but who uses it?) Vigiling? Birth-defected?

How empowering, I thought.

The verb you choose for a sentence can be the difference between eating vanilla store brand ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food flavor ice cream. Totally different experience.

For example:

He walked slowly along.

He lollygagged.

The bird flew across the grass.

The bird flashed across the grass.

She thought about it.

She sloshed the idea around in her head.

See? It’s easy. And what Scotton has proven to me, is that if you can’t think of a verb, you can simply make one up. Nobody minds. Really.

The toddler wasted time.

The toddler fiddle-de-dooed.

Cake? Right?

If you need a few lists of verbs check out foxhugh.com who teaches ESL and has lists of action verbs, PLUS a cat and the hat rap video and a number of other interesting posts. You could also check out ResumeGenius.com which claims to be the longest action verb list in the universe, although I’m quite certain that Fox Hugh has it beat.

If worse comes to worse, you can also right click on a boring verb in your document and look at the possible synonyms, there could be a more interesting alternative there.

Want to pump up your manuscript? Search out words like was, is, walk, sat, run, read, stand, etc., you know the standard stuff from your first grade primer, and see if you can liven up your sentences by plugging in more interesting verbs.

It used to be we had to stick to Webster’s for our word choice, but I’m pretty sure that rule is long gone. I can’t imagine how spell check or auto-correct keep up. That’s their problem, though, because clearly best-selling writers make up words everyday—why can’t you?

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to read more, meander on over to my website. We’re just getting my Street Team (Cara’s Cronies) off the ground. I’d love to have you on my side!

Oh, and if you’re totally into dogs, check out my blog about fostering rescue dogs!

Enough of the shameless self-promotion. Have a blueberry pie with fresh cream kind of week!

Blessings,

Cara

 

 

Getting Serious about Writing and YOU

Okay, it’s time to get serious about this writing gig. No more lolligogging about reading books about how to be a better writer. The excrement is about to hit the fan. I have a new book coming out June 6, 2017! We are now in the three-month countdown and I need YOU. (Yes, I’m serious. I’m tired of trying to do this all by myself.)

What? You don’t think there’s any way you can help? I beg to differ.

My first two novels, I’m Not Her and Girl’s Weekend have done well. There were plenty of lovely reviews from lovely people who took the time to read and then write about what they read. A bunch of other awesome people picked my book for their book club and then invited me to come to the meeting! That was super fun and luckily most everyone liked the book (there was this one grumpy lady….but even that was fun).

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Still other amazing people recommended my books or gave them as gifts. So all in all, both books did okay, even cracking the bestselling list on Barnes & Noble’s Nook and gracing the New & Notable section of Apple ibooks (right next to Hamilton!!).

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But this next book? I want it to do more than okay! Here’s what one famous writer (and you’ll have to either subscribe to my newsletter or buy the book to find out who!) said about Practicing Normal: Continue reading “Getting Serious about Writing and YOU”

Nature Vs Nurture: Am I a Story Genius?

I buckled down and got serious about my assigned reading this week, plowing through three chapters of Story Genius. The picking apart of the story writing process prickled my nerves a bit. I’ve never been good at following directions and details bore me to tears, but I pledged to read this book so I powered on.

I found myself, nodding, duh, duh, duh at some points and at other times I underlined sections like I did in American History class, thinking, “This is the part that will be on the test.”

And then I went for a run and thought about it. I don’t have time to read to be reading. My shelves are creaking with books I’m dying to read. So, what is the point here? Why am I forcing myself to read craft books? Can’t I just write? Continue reading “Nature Vs Nurture: Am I a Story Genius?”

Avoidance Techniques from a Master (Week 4 of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)

Reading multiple writing books at once has my head spinning. This past week, while distracted by my BIG NEWS, I had a hard time making myself sit down and follow my reading plan for becoming a better writer. I do my assigned reading in the evening, but each night I found a reason not to read. Instead, I spent a lot of time with my foster puppies…..

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And I caught up on The Crown and sorted my Netflix que and finished reading Dogged Pursuit by Robert Rodi (hilarious) 6480008 and The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (exquisite). 15705011Next, instead of doing my assigned reading Continue reading “Avoidance Techniques from a Master (Week 4 of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)”