March 24, 2006

I’m Smokin’ Again

Filed under: Pen to Paper — chapterhouse @ 5:27 pm

NO, not cigarettes. I quit those almost nine years ago. Woulo! (That's a cajun word I recently ran across. It means the same as Woo-Hoo!)

The mystery novel is coming along great now. I've written 7,735 words since last Saturday! Woulo!

I'm close to halfway through.

Writing such a joy when it's flowing like this, and such a pain when it isn't. Ah, the agony and the ecstasy! Some people just start writing their books, which is what I did with the first one, The Earthquake Doll. It turned out to be a mess. I kept having to go back and make major changes because I'd be writing along, and suddenly the story would take a different direction, forcing changes to be made on stuff I'd already written. I did not have a clue about writing novels then. It wasn't until I took a course on Basics of Novel Writing, taught by Pooks, that I found out there's this thing called Structure! That's when I was finally happy with an EQ Doll rewrite.

More recently, I discovered that wonderful book, Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder, and it gives the beats – 15 of them – to the basic Structure. Wow!

The key, for me, is the prep work. Get the Structure down; then start writing. Creativity still has a free reign, and your characters can still "take over" and do magical things for your story. But, you won't be sweating blood over what the next basic scene will be. No more dead-ends. No more writer's block.

Besides, as Snyder points out in his book, doing the prep work takes time, and it is time that your subconscious takes great advantage of! When you sit down to write, you are Ready To Tell The Story, which is what it's all about.



March 23, 2006

The Best Horses

Filed under: Pen to Paper — chapterhouse @ 7:36 am

When I was a little girl my grandmother would spend the night with us once in a while, and we would share my room. The best part about that was when she'd tell me her "horse stories," and I'll tell you one here. But first, a bit about my grandmother. She was the eldest of 11 children. She went to college (!) and studied astronomy (!). She wrote poetry. Her specialty was what she called "Star Sonnets," where she combined her knowledge of astronomy with her poetic talent. She taught "elocution," which is called "speech" today. Here's a story I wrote about her stories, 23 years ago:

The Best Horses
All Rights Reserved

We were in our nightgowns. I remember her brushing her hair in front of the dresser where I kept my collection of ceramic horses. Nannie's hair was white and gold and hung down to her waist. She wore it up in a braided crown during the day, but took it down and brushed it out every night, 100 strokes, religiously.

I showed her my horses, especially the red one reared up with its hooves in the air, my favorite.

"That's not red; that's a sorrel, honey. My hair used to be just that color – just like yours is now* – and the boys at school used to tease me and call me 'sorrel-tail' because I wore it in a long straight ponytail."

"Why do they call our hair red and not sorrel?" I asked.

"Because when you're talking about people you say 'red,' but red horses are called sorrels. There's all kinds of names for colors of horses. There's daple, which is gray with white spots, and buckskin, that's light brown with a black tail and mane, and chestnut, which is like a sorrel only darker brown." She looked in the mirror and laughed. "Now, I'm a palomina-tail."

"How come you know so much about horses, Nannie?"

"My daddy used to raise horses."

"He did? Did you get to ride any?"

"Oh my, yes, all the time."

"Did you ever ride any sorrel horses?" I held up my favorite horse.

She patted it with the tip of her finger. "I remember one sorrel Daddy had. He was the biggest horse anybody had ever seen. Daddy wouldn't let any of us ride him because he was just 'too much horse.' Daddy sold him to Sheriff Pate – old 'Two-Gun Pate,' we called him, because he always wore a double holster with matching pistols. We kids were all scared to death of him, especially when he was atop that great big sorrel. He could look right down into your eyes and he'd know if you were telling tales or not. He made sure that all the kids were behaving themselves and not getting into any trouble."

She finished brushing her hair and then she brushed mine. She gathered my hair up into a ponytail and said, "Yes, you're a sorrel-tail, alright. And even a little wild, like I was at your age. But I think old Two-Gun Pate was right about one thing: sometimes the wildest colts make the best horses."
* red was my natural hair color.

March 22, 2006

Muse or Snooze

Filed under: Pen to Paper — chapterhouse @ 8:14 am

That muse-o-mine is so funny. Seems she does her best work after my head hits the pillow at night. Problem is, that's when I need to sleep. But noooooooooo. After an hour and a half of trying to get to sleep a couple of nights ago, I had to get up, turn Harriett* on, and start typing. And typing. Then, along about three o'clock in the morning, I'm laughing hysterically in a darkened room, in Harriett's glow, at something the muse has written.

I'm not complaining, though, because for a long time, I couldn't find my muse. She also apparently likes to play hide 'n seek. And catch-me-if-you-can.

This morning I am at my desk, trying to prime the pump by writing this bloglet, just to let the muse know that I'm ready to go to work. Unfortunately, I think she's still asleep.
* No, I haven't Caught The Gay; Harriett is the name of my cute little laptop. (Not Scruffybutt, the other cute little laptop.)

March 20, 2006

Bad Times in Big D

Filed under: Uncategorized — chapterhouse @ 6:51 pm

Discovery Channel just started a new series, Perfect Disaster. Well, I love disaster movies and documentaries about disasters, plus I keep up on all the impending disasters I can, you know, like Avian Flu, the Reston, Va. strain of airborne Ebola from a few years ago, and of course, the Coming Global Superstorm. (Imagine, my shrink says that this is symptomatic of generalized anxiety disorder, like a normal person wouldn’t be concerned about these things as much as I am.)

So the very first episode of Perfect Disaster, aired last night, was about a Super Tornado (!) hitting Dallas! Where I live! Of course, I already knew that Big D sits at the apex of the three necessary conditions for tornado creation (and I’m sure you all do, too, so I won’t bore you with all that here.) But I had never heard the term, “super tornado.” How did I miss that!?!

The guy from the National Weather Service who always seems to be featured on these kinds of programs stood there in front of some houses in the neighborhood where Maxwell House is and said, “And the East Dallas neighborhood where I’m standing would be completely wiped out by the super tornado. It’s not a question of if, but WHEN.”

Oh. Thank you SO much for that. And my realtor thanks you, too. Asshat.

To top it off, last night we also happened to have the big drought-busting, frog-strangling FLOOD that we all knew was coming sooner or later. When I was driving around today, I saw neighborhood after neighborhood where there had been obvious flooding. But NOT on the street where Maxwell House is.

March 19, 2006

Three Years Ago

Filed under: Political Chapter — chapterhouse @ 7:06 am

Three years ago, we were in London, standing outside Parliament and protesting the war. I tried to find the pics of the sit-down that happened right in front of us, but with all the packing for our alleged move to NC, I couldn't. But it blocked traffic for hours, and the London police were marvelous about it all. We hated to leave civilization!

How is it that we, the protestors that night, were talking about the very same things before the war started that people are just beginning to talk about now, three years later? Like, there aren't any WMD's because the weapons inspectors said so; like, this is going to be another Vietnam, and we'll be mired in for years to come with massive loss of life on both sides; like, this is going to provoke bloody civil war; and like, why aren't we going after Osama; like, why does the president of the US think Osama and Sadam are buds, when we know that they despise each other? Why, exactly, is it that we knew these things then, BEFORE THE FUCKING WAR STARTED!?! and our alleged president ignored ALL of this information?

Just wondering.

P.S. and why are we paying a substantial portion of the cost to rebuild the mosque that the insurgents blew up, while our own citizens are still living in tents in Louisiana? And why are we rebuilding Iraqi schools and hospital, when our own are so badly in need of attention, not to even mention the lack of basic healthcare for our citizens?

March 18, 2006

Does She or Doesn’t She?

Filed under: Uncategorized — chapterhouse @ 10:59 am

I went to the eye doctor yesterday because I need new glasses. The last time I went, my regular doc wasn’t there, so I saw a sub. The sub said, “Did you know you have cataracts?” Nooooo, no one had ever mentioned that before.

Today my regular doc was there, so I asked her to tell me more about the cataracts. She said she’d have to wait until after my eyes were dilated before she’d know if I had them. I told her that the last doc told me I had them, and that my eyes weren’t dilated then. She said the way to tell is by looking at the dilated eyes.

Turns out, I don’t have cataracts, just some yellowing of the lens, which is caused by aging normal processes.

I doubt the substitute doctor will be asked to come back.

March 16, 2006

National Women’s History Month

Filed under: Uncategorized — chapterhouse @ 6:43 am

In honor of National Women’s History Month, I’d like to tell you about the changes in women’s rights in my lifetime. So far. I’m 56, and I do hope there will be more for me to see.

Most young women probably don’t realize how things were for us a few decades ago. I’m not making these things up, so read on:

At one time or another in job interviews, I was legally asked:

Are you married?
Do you have any children?
Do you plan to have any children?
Are you pregnant now?
Do you take birth control?

Men could smoke in the office; women could not.

Women could not wear slacks to work.

Men were addressed as “Mr.” – women by their first names.

If a woman was unmarried, she was assumed to be looking for a husband.
If she was not looking for a husband, she was a “Career Girl,” or worse, a lesbian.

If a girl got pregnant in high school, she was expelled.

Out-of-wedlock pregnancies were not openly acknowledged. Usually, a girl would be sent by her parents, or a woman would go, to another state, country, or city, where she would wear a wedding band and say that her husband was in Vietnam. Single, unmarried mothers would wear a wedding band and say their husbands were killed in Vietnam.

Abortions were illegal. (Get ready to march in the streets over this one, sisters.)

I was a legal secretary, and when I typed the Notary’s acknowledgment for a woman’s signature, I had to add the words, “that she read the above document, and it was explained to her.

Women could not get credit in their own name.

Women did not make the same salaries for the same jobs as men (not that women could even get many of the same jobs as men.) Women were told, legally, that was because “men have families to support.” Employers cannot use that excuse today, but women still do not make as much money as men in the same jobs.

I’m sure I could think of others, as soon as I hit “Post.” For the women of my age group and older, please share your experiences.

March 14, 2006

Bimbos, Sushi, and Psycho Birds

Filed under: Uncategorized — chapterhouse @ 6:54 am

Oh Well, It Was Only One of 24

Jack Bauer’s daughter, Kim, returned in last night’s episode of 24. I suspect that this character was removed from the regular cast a few seasons ago because she was so annoyingly stupid. Unfortunately, Kim did not grow a brain during her absence. (Of course, I am talking about the character “Kim,” not the actress who plays her, Elisha Cuthbert.)

Killing Edgar off just about broke my heart, as well as Chloe’s.

A show that can evoke such emotions in its followers — heck, a show that has loyal followers who can’t miss even one of 24 episodes — obviously has great writers.

Sushi, Anyone?

Scroll down to see the “Smoked Worms and Coffee” sign from North Carolina. Didja ever stop to think that smoked worms must be for fish who don’t like sushi? Think about it.

Love Birds

One summer we had the psycho-insomniac mockingbird from hell in our magnolia tree. Why psycho? He sang at night. All night. I normally enjoy hearing these birds, and after all, they are the State Bird of Texas. But they’re a lot less enjoyable when you’re trying to get some sleep. It is illegal to kill a mockingbird in this State (not that we would actually kill any bird.) But on a couple of those sleepless nights, Tom went outside, got the waterhose, and sprayed the little begger. Finally, the psycho bird went off to sing at someone else. I feel kinda bad about that. The reason mockingbirds sing at night is because they have lost, or cannot find, a mate.

Well, now we have a psycho love bird. Her mate died, and the other two love birds in the aviary ignore her. Lisa hasn’t taken to chirping all night, yet. Just during the day. Like when you’re trying to read or write or hear the television or talk on the phone or to each other or to yourself or listen to music. Especially if you are trying to listen to music, because then all three birds start chirping. (BTW, they prefer Mozart to Wagner, and they think that the beeper on the microwave is another bird, so they keep calling to it.) I can’t say that Lisa sings, exactly. It’s more like … ranting. She gets on these rants and won’t quit. Spraying her with the garden hose won’t stop the problem. Besides, it’s an indoor aviary.

March 13, 2006

Real Estate Comedy

Filed under: Next Chapter — chapterhouse @ 7:44 am

Our continuing Real Estate Drama has entered a comedic interlude, which began several weeks ago.


Daffy, real estate agent
Bozo, Daffy's client
Homer, acquaintance of Bozo's

Daffy brought his client, Bozo, to see Maxwell House, the one we've been trying to sell so that we can move to North Carolina (both of my regular readers are sick of this by now, but I can't help that, and besides, this is my blog, not theirs). Bozo is very interested in buying this property, so much so that he makes an offer, no option period, and says he'll pay cash and close next week. We thought the offer was low, so we made a counter-offer. No, he was not going to come up on the price. Period. For most people this would have been end-of-story.

But not for us. No, then Bozo brings his acquaintance, Homer, to see the place, and they both bring a contractor with them to give them an estimate of what it would cost to convert the house from a five-plex to a duplex sometime on down the road. Bozo makes another offer, this time with an option, but still cash, close next week. We turn it down. It's way too low.

Bozo comes up a little, we come down a little. Back and forth like that for a while. I'm trying not to bore you here.

We settle on a price and Daffy and Bozo say they'll have the papers to us "in the morning." A week goes by, no papers, nor will they return any phone calls.

Now here's the funny part: Daffy calls, finally, and makes another offer, much lower than the one we had all agreed upon. Hahahahhaaaaaaaaa. Not.

We're like, nooooooooooo, don't think so. So the clowns come up by $500. See? This is now getting close to hilarity, isn't it? I mean, who the hell would come up a measly $500 bucks and expect to close a deal? Bozo.

Here's the kicker: Homer faxes an offer that is $1,000 higher than Bozo's. This means that Bozo and Homer have cut Daffy out. They just used him to find properties for them, and have dropped him so they don't have to pay a fee! Furthermore, Homer's name is not on any of the papers, so they can get away with this if Homer is the one to make the offer. Okay, this part is hysterical: Homer demands an answer within 24 hours! Hehehehehheeeeeeeee. Told ya, huh? huh? (Take a breather if you need to here.)

Now then, it has been three days since Homer's offer and we haven't deigned to respond. The next time they call? We're going to say our price is back up where it was in the beginning. If they are true to form, they'll come up another thousand bucks, and so will we. Come up a thousand bucks. Or five hundred, whatever, to match them. We'll keep going up as long as they want to make offers. Isn't that funny? Aren't you glad you read all this?
Alrighty, then. To try to make up for this, here's a bit-o-comedy from the murder mystery I'm writing: the murder weapon is part of an antler (the Main Character is making a life-sized Christmas display of Santa's sleigh and reindeer.) Yes, folks, it's death by Rudolph. Antler Fu.
Now that's funny, isn't it?

March 12, 2006

More Kinky Cat Saving

Filed under: Next Chapter,Pen to Paper,Political Chapter — chapterhouse @ 10:39 am

Some have asked me what the title, Save The Cat!, means. I hadn't the foggiest idea before I started reading the book. Here's the deal: Snyder gets down to the basics of good story-telling, and one absolutely necessary basic is an early "save-the-cat" scene. That meant that my Main Character should do something, very early in the story, that will demonstrate that hey, this is a decent guy (no matter what he does later on). He could, oh … save a cat, for example. 🙂

I did not have a save-the-cat scene in Gino's Law, but now I do. This makes so much sense, and gives readers (both of them) insight into Gino's true nature right away.

Here's something that amazes me about writing: your subconscious knows the story waaay before you do. I needed a save-the-cat scene, so I went back to the beginning to look for a good place for one. It needed to be plausible, and to fit naturally into the story. Hmmm. I already had a scene where Gino, a landlord, is talking to one of his tenants, named Brandye.

Let me back up here a moment. The house that "Gino" lives in is based on Maxwell House, the one I've been trying to sell so we can move to North Carolina!

The apartment that "Brandye" lives in, in my story, is actually — in real life — occupied by a lady who is a Hurricane Katrina survivor. Viola! "Gino's" save-the-cat moment is right there, and was right there all along! All I had to do was have "Brandye" be a Katrina survivor whom "Gino" had let live there rent-free for several months until she found a job and put some savings together!

I got to shake Kinky Friedman's hand last night. He was in Dallas for the day. First, he was Grand Marshal of the annual Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day parade (see his site for a picture of that, and yes, I know it isn't St. Paddy's Day yet, go figure), then he went to the Wine Therapist (don'tcha love that name?), where we were, to meet and greet, and then on to a fund-raiser, which we didn't attend because we're cheap. Hey, we did buy some memorabilia at the Wine Therapist, though!

Did you know that there's a Kinky Friedman action figure? That sez stuff in his very own actual voice? My favorite slogans are, "Why the Hell Not?" and "How Hard Could It Be?" (to be Texas governor.) Did you know they also have Kinky Friedman Salsa? And CDs? I love this guy. Talk about low key — he just walked into the Wine Therapist — no announcements, no fanfare, just came in with his trademark hat and cigar and started chatting with people, shaking hands, and autographing stuff. My friend Grace, the artist, brought her daughters with her, and the youngest one got her jeans autographed by Kinky!

It was such a hoot!

After that I, along with Pooks, Grace, the artist, and her daughters stampeded went next door to The Tipperary Inn because we heard that men in kilts were over there (poor Tomcat followed along.) But we didn't stay long, even for men in kilts, because the air conditioning was out. So, we had dinner at La Calle Dolce.

then i'm afraid i got a little tipsy when I made the mistake of ordering more more wine …

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