The day before NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. I signed up to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Ambitious, exciting, foolhardy. I remember feeling this last year. At odds about what I was planning to do. Too early to begin, yet not enough time to finish anything else up.

One manuscript is off in two directions. With a Beta reader, and being considered by a publishing house. Tonight I heard from the Beta. She loved it. I hope the publishing house falls in love with it as well. But they will hold it for 90 days. In the meantime, I will go bat-shit crazy waiting for a response.

Another manuscript is screaming at me for a rewrite of the first 30,000 words. My mind, in its continual state of OCD grinds over and over the endless possibilities of new beginnings. But, 30,000 words cannot be written in a night, and this challenge must wait until December.

The third lies dormant on my computer, leaving my main character alone in the outback of Australia for yet another thirty days. I hope his supply of food lasts. I hope the dingoes don’t eat the cows he’s been sent there to care for.

But tonight, I feel restless, anxious and adrift. I’m concerned that tomorrow my allotted 1,500 words for the day won’t come. What if I spend the entire month rewriting the first 75 words? Worse yet, what if my new manuscript consists only of one word, typed over 50,000 times. ‘HELP!’ Yes, that could be the title too!

But then, Halloween is meant to be scary. It’s a good night for it.




Forget You Not


Where do characters go after the story is complete? While the manuscript is shopped to agents and publishers? What space do they fill as the file awaits comments from the editor I hire to go over the words yet again?

Jaime, I miss our daily talks. Our arguments over whether you would return to Paris. I won that argument. Finally, the last word was typed, the file dated and closed. Where are you now, Jaime? I became very attached to your French accent over the last three years. You became an important part of my life.

And now, a new character speaks to me. His name is Cody and he is alone in the Outback of Australia, near Alice Springs. I must write his story now.

I will see you again, Jaime. In January we will open the Madeleine Diaries. Together, we will write what we find there, and we will see the cherry trees bloom once again.

A Puddle of Surreal Time


I went to Writer’s Group tonight. The prompt was ‘In Surreal Time.’ This is what I worked up.  

I awoke this morning to a song on my alarm. “It’s only words, and words are all I have …” An old BeeGee’s song. I’d forgotten about it, yet now it has become an earworm. It haunts me. Words. I got up and began my day. Another day of editing, reading over comments from a reader. Words.


My desk clock, I notice, is doing strange things. It is not solid as I remember it, but is rubbery in texture. I pick it up and it bends in my hands. It is melting, and the whole clock slides down the front of the shelf as I set it down. Like a Dalí painting, the face is now misshapen, the numbers unreadable, walking away as spiders. The hands are twisted and they point to nothing. Time is falling off the edge of the shelf into an abyss.

I go downstairs for a cup of coffee. My character, Jaime, exits the pages of my manuscript and joins me at the table. The colors of the tablecloth are swirling, creating new and magnificent colors. It is hard to listen to him because the colors are distracting me.

Everything slows down while I sip my coffee and I focus on Jaime’s words. He is demanding more paragraphs, more description in my manuscript that is already bulging at 135,000 words. He says gently, “It’s only words.”

I return upstairs to my edit and Jaime reluctantly climbs back onto the page. My hands hover over the keyboard. My fingers and the keys are melting together. “I’m melting,” said the witch in the ‘Wizard of Oz’. Strange words melting together.

Partway through the day I take a break to do the dishes, to fold the sheets. Didn’t I fold these same sheets, wash these same dishes yesterday? And the day before? Dishes, sheets, only words.

I return to the same sentence I’ve been editing all day. It’s as though all of the manuscript is composed of the same sentence repeated over and over. I read the pages, “All work and no play …”

Yet another edit. Someone asked me, “When do you know when you’re done?” I answer, “Never.” The word count moves and swirls, the words won’t keep their place or their meanings. Words, words, words. Yet words are all I have.

I check the time. The clock is no longer on the shelf, but has formed a puddle on the floor. A puddle of surreal time.

Living in a Reader’s Paradise


One of the biggest thrills of writing, is the moments when I can sit down and enjoy other writer’s work. I just finished a most wonderful book, Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. I couldn’t put it down! Within a few words, the author had me enmeshed in her magnificent description. I was in love with her characters and totally wrapped up in the mystery of the piece. I finished it early Friday morning, and am going through withdrawal. Only a very few books call me back in, but this one I plan on rereading in a few days. It was that good!

At the moment, while my manuscript is being read by three marvelous volunteers, I am taking the time to be a beta reader for a manuscript from a friend and fellow writer. We have swapped manuscripts many times for input. While he reads mine, I will read his. An Aussie, he writes historical fiction, almost always about Australia. Once again, I find myself in a tall ship on my way to Sydney. A convict ship packed tight with other desperate inmates. We have been held for months on the old hulks of ships in England until our transportation date arrives. Cold, wet, seasick. What will happen to me when I reach Sydney? Warren knows, and I will find out as I read.

What a wonderful opportunity! To have a few days to just enjoy reading. A cool breeze comes in through the window. Moxie is on the rug at my feet. Pepe is spread out over my lap, the book balanced on his head. Heaven.