Tag Archives: Kim’s Soapbox

Second star to the right, straight on till morning

I’ve been doing what I’m doing for what seems like forever now, so I’ve become pretty good at realizing when something is off in my process and pushing on regardless, getting it done if not by the joy of it, by muscle memory, so to speak. Not to imply that I can push out a book with no thought, because even on the bad days, there’s the satisfaction of the technique.

But every writer, published or not, knows when they find the zone that time has little meaning and you purely experience what flows through your fingers and onto the page. It’s reaching back to touch what drew us to the written world when we were five, or ten, or fifteen; to be more than what we are, if only for a moment and remember what we knew then: to live it in your mind is to have lived it. Period.
The zone is the unicorn of the writing world, oft seen in the distance, worked toward, grasped for, interrupted and broken by the dog, the kid, the phone, the spouse, the printer running out of ink. Life intrudes. But when you find it, even for an hour, you connect to the essence of why we put up with the rest of the crap of plot holes, bad motivations and pacing, and the career killer, indifference.

I don’t want to say it’s been a while because I don’t keep track of my zone days. But I can say I’ve been finding them more lately, that the pure peace of creation has crept back into my daily routine again. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not roses and cream over here. Every day is still “the best day” my dog is going to have, there’s this winter that won’t let go, and the “6:00 pm” haze of background noise coloring everything. But what defines me is satisfying again. There is movement, a growth toward the pure simplicity of story as the heavy dross is knocked away.

I think you’re going to like who I’ve been spending my day with, and if you don’t? Well, I’ve still got the zone.

 

 

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What’s Left Behind is Waiting Before You

If you’re on my FB, you might have seen a quick post on Sunday about my ancient telescope which I got out of storage to take a look at Mars, seeing as it’s the closest it will be for a while. Spoiler: it looks just about the same, a medium-size orange/red dot. Jupiter was a lot more interesting with four moons all in a perfect row. (I found out why they form in planes like that. It’s not gravity or just things knocking about. It’s the planet’s magnetic field that corrals the dust and chunks into a flat disk. Same thing for solar systems and galaxies. So how cool is that?)

Grandpa'sScope

This thing is heavy. The tracking motor doesn’t work, and I have to keep adjusting it as the earth spins and everything moves out of the field in a matter of seconds. The mirrors are dusty, and one is damaged. I only have one lens. And yet, it has stuck with me for over thirty-five years and four major across-state-line moves, wrapped in cellophane to keep it all together.

I got it from my grandpa when he cleared out his garage one summer. I was 12? Maybe younger. We lived near a lake and the skies were dark, especially in the winter. So on the odd night when I felt my wanderlust the worst and my books could not satisfy, I’d drag that heavy-ass thing down two cement steps and point it at stars. It was taller then me, and awkward. I was usually in my long purple robe and slippers, freezing and blowing steam. I never knew which star would blossom into a planet, too impatient to use the charts more than a rudimentary, “that direction.” I found Jupiter and Saturn that way, and when I see them in the sky even now, I smile, remembering the first time I tightened my focus and they appeared, perfect and sharp against a more perfect black.

Last night, after thirty-plus years, I got my scope out again, ripped off the brittle packing wrap, and put the feet back on. I lugged it out over a step and put it in the drive, pointed it at a bright star to work at getting the spotting scope aligned, and boom, it was Jupiter–four little moons in a beautiful straight line.

And then something really nice happened. I went to move it so Mars would be visible from behind the trees. My arms tucked under the drive in the exact same spot it had thirty years ago. I lifted, already knowing the balance of its weight against me would be perfect as I shuffle-walked to a new spot.

The scraping sound as I set it down was familiar. The feel of the spin as I shifted the barrel was smooth and grinding all at the same time. I had a confident knowledge that the configuration was going to end up where the scope and lens would be at the right height for easy viewing. I bent low to find Mars through the scope, and my left arm curved around the barrel looking for the release toggle without thought. It met my fingers exactly where I knew it would be, and in seconds, I had everything aligned.

I found more than Mars and Jupiter last night. The things that make us up stay with us for far longer than we realize–they are there when we reach for them, meet us like habit and graceful patten, most times to our unawares. I’m not so far from where I was thirty years ago. Gotta bring more of that back into focus. I’m going to need it as things realign.

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Why oh why do I keep this stuff?

I’m not one for collecting things. I like a sparse house, and I sometimes kid Tim that my goal is to have so little “stuff” that I can pack up in four hours and be on the road in five. It will never happen, but I’ve gotten good at throwing things out. About the only place I will buy “stuff” anymore is for the yard, and I lavish on it like it’s my last child.

Candle

There are exceptions, and I have a few talismans on my bookshelf with my reference copies to remind me of things I need to not forget. There’s a string of three bells that mean nothing unless you read LOST TRUTH. A recorder I bought in Ann Arbor when I was like twelve because I wanted to be just like The Doctor and I’d already knitted the scarf. The bunny might stay . . . I’m not sure yet how deep it goes in my soul. There’s a pincushion you can’t see that reminds me I’m my mother’s daughter, and a piece of Petoskey stone my grandfather found and polished to remind me love is thicker than blood. There’s a red-bandanda GI Joe with a drink sword and wings. (Enough said about that.)

The nub of the orange pencil I used to copy edit all the Hollows books was added on a whim, but I think it’s going to be with me forever now. I bought a new pencil for The Drafter, but alas, I will never use it as that’s not how we do things in NY anymore. It’s a shame that I’m the last generation who will correct on paper, and I remember being terrified the first time I did it–writing on my manuscript. Soon, the elegant language of proofing will be dead at the hands of the “accept changes” button. Sure it’s faster, but who learns anything that way? It pains me that I will never know the intimacy of my editor’s handwriting again.

The candle, burned once and stuck to a coin, has been with me for over two decades. It was on the thank-you cake I made for Gwen (Faith) Hunter when our writing critique group got back from Atlanta and the Mystery Writer’s convention where, because of her, I met the man who later became my agent. There were five of us wannabes under her wing who went, and I made a vow that no one probably remembers that when we all got published, we’d get together and burn our candles down to nothing in celebration. I have no idea if anyone else even saved their candles.

Most of us did get published. Maybe all. I’ve fallen out of contact with the last and don’t know. Even so, I don’t know if I could bring myself to burn my green candle down to nothing now. It’s become a talisman of the stupid, frustratingly obstinate me who still thinks everything is possible when everyone says otherwise. I still feel that way, and I weep for the day I do not, but now I know how hard it is to balance on that high wire. I’ve been working there all this time not knowing the net was an illusion.

Good thing I have wings.

 

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Learned my lesson well. Ri-i-i-i-ight.

If you become known for something, don’t ever try anything new, or different, or stretch yourself. Just keep doing what you’re known for if you like the feel-good feeling of a job well done. Keep the course, don’t stray from the path. Run out of ideas? Just rewrite it from a different POV. Don’t know what to do next? Rehash and remake! Everyone likes leftovers. It might be stale, and flavorless when you sit down at your desk, but at least you will have all those laurels to cushion your butt, yes? And so easy to market to. No need to do anything different. You’re hash in the literary machine grinding out hamburger.

Yes.

Really? I suppose. I mean, how could someone who puts herself in other shoes six times a day, be able to write anything other than what she’s known for? Right? Yes?

Yes.

But what if that writer can bring what she’s known for and flavor something old and give it a new texture? What if then?

No. You aren’t allowed because you can only speak to women who read romance and urban fantasy. Be happy there.

Okay.

Right.

So . . . I guess I’m back to writing for one. Ya’ll can come if you want.

 

Twenty

Gratiot preferred the intimacy of a low vantage point when working, thick in the stink  and noise of the street to make the moment visceral and real. The sterility of a top floor of a distant building or library window would turn his actions into a flavorless pull of a trigger, and he avoided it when he could. His vantage point was directly across from the apartment building, a mere three floors up in one of the occupied apartments. The owner was a work, but her cat was present, watching him with curious-cat eyes from the couch. His exit was simple: out the back of the building through the sky bridge connecting to the parking garage. From there, he’d hit the streets and be gone.

Quelling his anticipation, he sat atop his one-legged sniper seat, deep within the unlit room, his rifle secure on its tripod trained on the roped-off path from the building’s door to the curb. The woman was taking a U.S. wide morning show tour, and the media hounds were already baying. It was his last, best opportunity to set the world right.

The pure scent of his rifle sifted through his awareness, the perfect smoothness of its finish against his fingers like a lover’s lost touch. He’d been demoted for questionable actions in the field, but when they needed a trigger pulled, they had always come to him. This time, though, he was acting on his own, and an unexpected thrill seeped through him. It was something he’d been missing, and hadn’t even realized. Practice kept his breathing light, his motions small and sparse. He liked his position, his chances, his weapon, and his job.

 

Spoiler alert: He doesn’t take the shot.

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Don’t Blog Drunk, and other writer rules

I’ve got a few blog rules that I hold everything up to before I make a blog post public, the first of which is don’t blog drunk. This one hasn’t been hard for me, because unlike a lot of writers who relax and find inspiration in the slow sipping of a good wine at their desk, I find it only puts me to sleep, and my dream-spawned ideas are sloppy and full of holes.

My second rule is don’t blog angry, because, really, who wants to hear that crap?

My third rule, which is why I’ve been so quiet lately, is don’t blog when you’re not feeling well, because even though it’s nice to get the “feel better soon” notices, I feel obligated to respond like I normally do, and then I’m even more tired and stressed.

Stress would also explain the piles of paper sitting about my desk the past week as I try to decide what to focus on. I’ve got half a manuscript I can adapt and add to, or a new idea. Both are in the same world, but one starts this way, one the other, and deciding has left me three-days paralyzed.

See, I know how hard it is going to be to create another book, and I can’t bring myself together enough to do it quite yet. I can even tell you why. With audio-visual aids even.

This is a three-minute interview that I believe that Jo-Beth in Cincinnati made happen.

ABC36

(I can’t imbed it, but to see it, just follow this link.) I love working with professionals who need nothing more than thirty seconds of reading the back flap and perhaps a moment or two with you to be able to ask the right question to open the door to a fast conversation designed to intrigue the listener. This is one of the better ones I’ve done, but I find myself smiling as I watch it, because she is desperately trying to lead me to talk about the sparkle-shine outside of the book, which is of course the fact that Peri Reed can replay a small section of time. The sparkle-shine is what attracts the TV people, because it’s easy to sell and the writers get to make up more outlandish things as they go along.

And there I am, trying to convince her the book isn’t about the sparkle-shine, but that it’s a story of a woman losing everything she sacrificed for, and how she finds her new normal.

Oh, you can read it and enjoy it on the level of sparkle-shine. Heck, that’s why I put the deeper stuff hidden behind it. I like sparkle-shine, adore it. And if you see the deeper story of Peri’s personal struggle, it connects a little more.

But you know what? That’s not what Peri Reed is about at all, either. Nope. The Drafter is my commentary on Alzheimer’s disease and those afflicted with it, being erased day by day, and their heavy dependency on first their intuition and patterns to hide the breaks, and their eventual and utter dependency upon those they loved to keep them to the person they were. That’s what Peri Reed is about, Charlie Brown.

I don’t expect everyone to see that. As I said, there are layers, and you can enjoy it at whatever layer you need to be at that day. I do however, hope people feel it. Maybe look past the sparkle-shine.

I’m going to be going silent here at the blog for a while, though keep an eye on FB for contests, interviews, and flash-sales. If you would like to know when I pick up the blog again, drop your email into my newsletter box, and I’ll shoot you a notice when I feel like being chatty about “butterflies and zebras, moonbeams, and fairytales” again. (Ten points if you know the song reference.)

Kim’s mailing list

 

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Summer is coming. I can feel it.

My yard is so green, I can hardly friggin’ stand it. I put in a good day’s work in my office yesterday before I went out into the green and gold and moved a bunch of rocks into a retaining wall. It’s one of my favorite things, believe it or not, and I’ve got stone walls all over my yard turning flat yard into interesting garden. One more afternoon, and it will be done and I can plant something.

Most of my day was with Peri, but I did spend a small chunk of it trying to figure out how I can use Instagram to my advantage.

After just a day, I can see how Instagram is a fabulous tool for someone who likes to share pictures, (me) and say a few things about it, (me again) but without an app (of which there are many and I don’t know which is best) I can’t share pictures from my work computer, just my phone. I can get around that by changing how I take and store photos, but it also doesn’t let you embed links in the caption, just hashtags, and hashtags get buried fast. Again, I can sort of get around that by sending viewers to my profile where there’s a link to my blog with the rest of the information, but it’s clearly not designed for what I’m trying to do: get information to you.

Sigh

Not enough time in my garden . . .

photo

If you are interested, here’s my Instagram account. I’ll be sharing more unique content there as time goes on because . . . frankly, my phone takes better pictures than my camera. https://instagram.com/kim_harrison_author/

 

 

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rain

Rain. We finally got rain, and not the freezing kind, but honest rain.

You know in the post apocalyptic movies, I mean the ones for grownups, not the recent flush of coming-of-age movies, (nothing wrong with those, they just don’t touch on what I’m talking about) where there was an ecological melt down, not a social one, where everything goes to hell because we can’t grow food? And then it rains, showing that the world is finding a balance again, and that rain becomes a symbol of hope? That’s kind of what it feels like today, listening to the shushh of the cars on the wet pavement, the last bits of ice being washed from the gutters and shadowed spots.

RainBut even as I feel that renewal, there’s the nagging knowledge that it’s a short rise in a trend of downfall.

Soon, if we’re lucky, we’ll get frog song. I can hear them if I listen carefully in the still of the night, but they grow fainter every year. They are such sensitive indicators. My kids will never know the annoyance of too many frogs singing, and that’s a shame, sort of like I never felt the thunder of bison under my feet, in my ears–the power of the earth my world for a brief span of time.

Everything gets chipped away under the pressures of our needs.

Even the rain.

 

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