Monday, May 26, 2014

Dances Not Danced

Last night I watched the HBO movie THE NORMAL HEART which chronicles the very early days of the AIDS epidemic and the struggles the gay community had in getting people's attention and help. The movie was excellent and I want to say I loved it, but love seems such an inappropriate adjective in this case. I didn't love watching people suffer and die from a disease no one yet understood. I didn't love watching the government and health officials turn dying people away because of prejudice and ignorance. I was on the brink of turning thirty when all this was going down. I remember reading about it in the news, in magazines and hearing about it on TV. I knew people who died from AIDS.

But the one scene from the movie that will always stick in my mind was the one where Tommy Boatwright, played by the very talented Jim Parsons, is giving a eulogy for a friend who was a choreographer. In the eulogy he talks about the increasing number of deaths and laments the losses in other ways: the plays that will not be written, the dances that will never be danced, and many other losses in terms of contributions these men would have made if their lives had not been cut short. I've watched that eulogy three times now and each time am struck dumb by the sheer enormity of the loss and its applicability to more than just the deaths from Aids.

A few days ago a college student went on a rampage in Isla Vista, a small community just a hundred miles north of where I live that is predominantly inhabited by college students. The gunman killed six young people, seven counting himself. How many promising careers, opportunities and important contributions came to a screeching halt because of that gunman?  We'll never know.

Today is Memorial Day - a day we remember our servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Again, the loss should be measured in more than lives, but also in lost potential.

I am not naïve. I understand that not everyone will reach old age or even make it to adulthood. Death is a part of life. It happens every day.  Cars spin out of control. Planes crash. Hearts stop beating. People fall and hit their heads. One day it will even happen to me.

What horrifies and sickens me are senseless killings and deaths. Sandy Hook. Boston. 9/11. Isla Vista, Afghanistan. Iraq. Viet Nam. A disease that people ignored that could have been helped and researched sooner than later. And the list continues.

It's Memorial Day. Remember and honor those who have died before us. And let us never forget that when people die, so do dreams and hope and endless possibilities and we are all so much the poorer because of it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Where Are My Pants?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, coming off of a big writing deadline is a lot like waking up with an epic hangover after a lost weekend.

This week I'm recovering from a deadline drunk. Or maybe that's coming down from a deadline high. Either way, I'm trying to find my way back to my normal life after spending 3 days this past weekend locked in my apartment in the final push to complete GHOST IN THE GUACAMOLE, the 5th Ghost of Granny Apples novel, and my 18th novel turned into a publisher.

18 - OMG!

How in the hell did I do that? Even I don't know.

This last book proved to be somewhat of a special challenge. You see, my muse disappeared a few months before deadline. I think she went backpacking in Europe and forgot to look at our schedule before leaving. For months I struggled with my manuscript. I knew the story. I liked the story. This should not have been a problem. But day after day I'd sit at the computer and little to nothing would come out.

And it wasn't the dreaded writer's block. If I turned my mind to other stuff, it flowed like honey. Only the book under deadline sat like a bump on a rock, jeering and mocking me. It crossed my mind that maybe I was tired of writing the Granny Apples books. But that thought horrified me, because I really love writing about Emma and Granny and all their adventures.

Then, about 6 weeks before my deadline, when I only had 100 pages done and was beginning to panic, my muse showed up, fresh and excited from her vacation and with a pocket full of kitschy souvenirs, and ready to get down to business.

"Where in the hell have you been?" I screamed as I injected myself with more coffee.

"Are you going to throw a tantrum or get down to work?" she asked with the calmness of Gandhi.

For the next month my muse and I worked non-stop - mornings beginning around 4:30, lunchtimes, evenings, weekends. A good night's sleep became a stranger. But we did it. The words, the pages, the scenes flowed out of my head and fingers like water from a fire hose. And I hit my deadline.  What's even better, my beta readers, those chosen few who read my work as I write, loved the book! I wasn't throwing down crap as I feared.  In my final go-through and editing, I stepped back and read the book, forgetting the hysteria that surrounded its birth, seeing it from page 1 as a reader might.  And it was good. I sighed with relief and collapsed.

Like I said, hitting a writing deadline is like coming off a major drunk. For days after I do little except catch up on sleep, read and watch TV. I don't even try to catch up on housework or other daily chores. I just wait for the deadline induced fog to lift and my mind to clear and readjust itself. I pick up the pieces of my forgotten life and hope I didn't do anything stupid while under the influence, like get a face tattoo or assault a police officer or run naked down Wilshire Blvd.

Up next is the 10th Odelia Grey novel. OMG! 10! (Take a deep breath, Sue.) The working title is JUNK IN THE TRUNK and I already have two chapters completed. It's deadline is October 1st and I don't intend to dawdle.

I also have another project that is in negotiations right now, so I can't really talk about it yet.

But what about Granny? Right now I have no more Granny Apples books under contract, but the publisher is considering more. Am I tired of Granny? Hell, no! In fact, just after I turned in GHOST IN THE GUACAMOLE, I wrote the first paragraph of the 6th book and can't wait to get rolling on it in earnest. It's working title is GHOST WRITER.

I've also given my muse notice that she's used up her vacation time.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Too Old For This Shit - NOT!

As many of you know, I started 2014 with the resolution to stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan. So far I've been doing okay. Were my efforts being graded, they would receive a solid B, slipping on occasion to a C.

There are lots of reasons for doing this and most of mine are not about weight, even though most of society judges women by the number on the scale, which is pure bull shit.  My reasons are to remain healthy and mobile, especially after having several knee and leg injuries in the past few years, which seem now to be healed thanks to time and exercise. 

But my journey is fraught with enemies. Some say I'm not losing weight fast enough. To them I say, in the words of my mother: MYOB.* 

Then there are those who feel my focus on health and fitness is in conflict with my message in my Odelia Grey books. Somehow, because of those novels, I have become a "fat advocate," whatever that is.

Let me say this out loud and in plain English: I do not advocate fat. I believe people, including myself, should take care of themselves and be responsible for themselves to their abilities, and that it's not too late to start. To me, unhealthy eating and not exercising is in the same category as smoking, taking drugs and being a total couch potato. There are lots of unhealthy, unfit thin people out there. My beef is with a society that believes thin equals healthy. And fat equals unhealthy. Or ugly. Or stupid. Or lazy.  I'm overweight, but I'm healthy, beautiful, smart and far from lazy. Get my drift...

I believe with all my heart that people should be accepted and not judged on their weight, age, religion, race, ethnicity, disabilities, or sexual orientation. We are all human beings on a very arduous road called Life, filled with potholes of pain, loss, challenges and frustration. We're in this together,  folks, so instead of throwing out snarky remarks at people you see struggling to be better, why not toss them helpful words of encouragement.

But in spite of the above, my biggest enemy is ME.  Every now and then I slip into the "I'm too old for this shit," syndrome and slack off.  What does it matter, I tell myself. I'm 61 years old.  I don't need to exercise or watch what I eat because it doesn't matter. I'm using my age as an excuse.

I've heard sixty is the new forty. To that I say, horse pucky! 60 is 60, we're just better preserved than generations before us.

Age has brought a lot of freedom. Society doesn't judge AARP candidates on looks like it does young people. Doors are held open for us. We get offered help with our groceries. We get discounts in restaurants. If we say something outrageous, it gets passed off as eccentricity. If we fart in public, it's excused.

But as a silver-haired sexagenarian, I say no more free passes. No more excuses. There are lots of wonderful exercise programs out there for people of all ages and abilities, even for people in wheelchairs or using walkers. And no one is holding a gun to anyone's head forcing them eat unhealthy things. We're never too old to change or to make the right choices.

You hear that, Sue Ann?!

It's time I take my average and sometimes wobbly B and turn it into an A.

Sorry, Danny, but you and your famous catchphrase have to take a nose dive.

*mind your own business