Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father’s Day 2020

This Father’s Day has been tainted by the Coronavirus Pandemic … just not in the way you might think. So far, everyone in the immediate family is fine with wearing masks, social distancing, and staying close to home. The snag I experienced happened when I added “Father’s Day card” to the shopping list and didn’t go myself to make the selection for my son. Last year I sent him an “almost” Father’s Day card, so I thought I could trust my better half to make the purchase. Normally he’s good at card shopping, thoughtful and creative.

With Covid-19 in the daily news all our shopping trips have been be-masked with a quickened pace. No more pawing through tomatoes and bananas, no comparison shopping for pasta sauces. It’s been grab-and-go for the most part. Unfortunately, this practice resulted in a Father’s Day card that seemed to be more suited for my son to give to my husband than vice versa. I was left with a conundrum: How can I fix this? I can’t waste an otherwise perfectly good card.

Time to be a writer.

The gist of the card was the Titanic going down with a lone voice balloon saying, “Give me more duct tape. I think I can fix this.” Or words to that affect. At the bottom of the card was, “If only Dad had been there….” Or words to that affect. Inside the card was a reference to the Dad who could fix anything, especially when given an adequate supply of duct tape. Or words to that affect.

Two problems: first, “If Dad had been there” didn’t fit the family dynamics on this occasion; second, I have a wonderful son, don’t get me wrong, he is quite accomplished in his own way, but he’s not a Mr. Fixit type. He’s still young and I have hope, but this card didn’t seem the right fit at all.

Days passed and inspiration failed to visit me with a solution. Then it happened, and I had to give myself the metaphorical head slap while moaning a pathetic, “Doh!” It took that long to remember that my son, while in high school, did indeed go through a phase of constructing wallets made from duct tape. I even went out of my way to purchase different colors of duct tape when I found them. Finally, I used that bit of family history as a plot device in the book I’m working on. How could I forget something so important!

Apparently, it was far too easy for me to misplace the duct tape episode, AND the fact he saw the Titanic movie, like, FOUR times. I’m blaming it all on pandemic brain fog.

As a writer I made one tiny little edit, I masked out “Dad” and wrote in my son’s first name, and presto, it was good to go. His first Father’s Day card was saved. My husband’s card-buying reputation was intact. Sadly, however, my reputation has suffered.

Note: “I still struggle with using effect and affect. If I didn’t use ‘affect’ correctly here, I’m sorry. I’m going to blame that on my psychology degree,” she said, while sitting at her computer with a flat affect on her face.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

On the Hunt for the Right Words

Writing during a pandemic has been difficult for me. I get these cheery emails with writing prompts and seldom open them. Why? Because I don’t want to be uplifted, sidetracked—no, more distractions are not welcome at this point. I have a self-imposed deadline coming up. I must have an ending for my novel. The going has been tough enough as it is. So, sorry guys, I know you all mean well.

I do have something for my ending blocked out. It’s a fine workable ending with the potential to neatly tie up all the loose ends from plot and subplots. But I’m sorry to say my characters aren’t talking to me yet, not giving me the dialog I need.

Plus, everything is taking too much time. For instance, it took two weeks of subconscious stewing over the name of a new festival to come up with an answer that makes sense, that works on more than one level. I spent much of that time walking and thinking and waiting for inspiration. Of course, I’ll have to patch up the text when I do the next full edit, but I needed something solid to begin with.

This second Bishop Hill mystery contains quite a few stories: legends, second-hand accounts, and outright lies. I needed to find a way to draw them all together and I’m hoping the name of the festival that I came up with will do the trick.

The business with using Bishop Hill stories isn’t new. I had some in the first book. I’ve expanded on the theme for the second. My stories could never hold a candle to those of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow. (I listened to the audio book.) I must rely on my own interpretations of life in a small town—with a few fictionalized nudges of course. One must remember that conflict makes things interesting. One person thinking to themselves is fine; drag in the differing POV of another person and the dramatic happens. That’s why I’m going to call my gathering of historians, artists, and vendors the Bishop Hill Treasure Hunter’s Invitational … for now at least.