Sunday, September 2, 2012

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

One thing you have to understand about me is this--I hate not turning in papers on time, not getting work done when I'm supposed to, and most of all, breaking my promises.My self-imposed deadline for my new book came and went. I set a new date. That one flew by me at light speed. The third one loomed closer and I knew it was a no go.

My agent, Jewelann Cone of Cascade Literary Agency has been patient with me.
Now I'm sure Ms. Cone has heard every excuse in the book, but I've given her some doozys. God bless the woman.

I'm currently writing a Cozy, or at least it started out as a Cozy. Who knows what genre it will be by the time I'm finished. I can tell you it won't be Inspirational or Paranormal, although I've been both inspired by some great ideas that came out of nowhere, and weirded out by my dark side. I write in many genres, but a Cozy isn't one of them. Ms. Cone and I discussed the possibility selling one. I said okay, then I'd dinked around with it in December, and put it on the back burner because it wasn't a priority at the time.
She phones me at the end of April with good news. She has someone who would like to look at it after it's finished. This is right before I go to Africa. Okay, I'll do it after the trip. I figure I can whip this bad boy hammered out in eight weeks--no problem. Things never go as planned.

Excuse No. 1: It's the little things that trip me up.
I spent two weeks in Liberia, Africa at the end of April. My previous blog explains the reason for my trip. The people were terrific, the food wonderful, but the insects not so much. Actually, a spider isn't technically an insect, however, they are my sworn enemies. I have an aversion to the darn things. So, I began my voyage home at Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, going through the torture of the security check, and endless waiting. While I sat in the boarding area, I felt a prick on my backside. I thought it might be some dry grass that had worked its way through the fabric of my khakis. On the interminable flight, I'm talking twenty hours over the ocean, an uncomfortable burning sensation pops up on my butt. I thought it had to be from sitting so long. I finally arrived home to the loving arms of my husband only to find that a welt had appeared. The pain got worse. I couldn't sit for long periods of time, so writing was out. What to do? I asked my sister the R.N. for an act of love that went above and beyond. I said "Can you take a look at my ass?" I lowered trow and the first words out of her mouth were, "Go to the doctor--now!"
A visit to the doctor was humorous and humiliating at the same time. I won't go into the gory details, suffice it to say, many medical personal pondered my posterior. Their diagnosis--a spider bite of unknown origin. An antibiotic was prescribed, as well as an teeny tube of ointment that had to be paid for with gold bullion. All was well in Spiderbiteville until--

Excuse No. Two: Alls not well that doesn't end well.
I had a reaction to the medication. My throat became sore, I couldn't speak without sounding like I spent most of my time in a smoky dive, and I felt like warmed over doggie-do. My tongue looked like it was wearing a fur coat. Another doctor inspected the location of the bite. It looks good, except the antibiotic gave me a bad case of Thrush. Another round of medication only complicated things. Needless to say, they are still working on getting rid of the side effects that keep cropping up. The doctor decided it's time to do a DNA sequence to figure out what little bug the antibiotic let run amok in my system. During the examination, I had visions of CSI doing a sweep over my body with a Maglight. It's hard to think by this time. Writing was the last thing on my mind.

Excuse No. Three: Life imitates art.
Time's a wastin'. I've missed two deadlines. This isn't me. I'm stressed out. My voice isn't coming through my writing like I want. A myriad of things seem to bog down my book. I finally get my act together, and whamo. Life does imitate art.
My story revolves around two chefs who are polar opposites when it comes to cuisine and life Sparks fly. There's a grisly murder, missing body parts, and chefs dropping like flies. Our heroine has a whole butchered pig delivered to her. She proceeds to stab Porky with various knives to determine the murder weapon. In the process, she slices open her hand and the hero rushes her to emergency room.
The scene is set for my next misadventure. Action!
Every Thursday my critique group meets for a good three to four hours. I'm a retired chef, I love to cook, so I usually make a luncheon. I decide on a fruited chicken salad. The chicken's done to perfection, the spring greens are readied, the strawberries, blueberries, fresh pineapple, and melon are cut just right. My kiwi is a bit soft, but still good. After I peel the darn thing, it was being particularly uncooperative. I began to slice it into small pieces with my santoku knife. This thing is razor sharp and it wasn't until I noticed the blood that I realized I'd sliced the top of my finger. It hung by a thin thread. It's one of those times where you notice things around you, but you're not really there.
The blood came out in little spurts to match my heartbeat. The whole time I'm watching it, thinking, "How can I incorporate this into a book?" Oh wait, it's already in there in chapter eight.
One of my critique partners shows up at the door to find me holding a paper towel and bleeding all over the place. She says, "I'm a teacher." That's shorthand for "I've seen and done it all." We wait, wondering if I've finished playing Sweeny Todd, or is it time for a trip to the ER. A half an hour later, it slows down to a slow drip. Goldie bandages me up. Great job by the way.
A couple of days later and the darn thing refuses to heal. My husband suggested super glue. I think he's nuts, but by now, I'll try anything. I douse it with antiseptic and get out my nail glue. Much to my surprise, it worked. Now a week later I'm on the mend and back to writing.

No more excuses. I should be working on my book instead of posting a blog. Now the trick is to see if I can catch up on my writing between this thing I call a life.

Remember, keep your knives sharp. Every chef knows a dull knife does a more damage. Hmmm, I smell another chapter with that line.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

 Out of Africa or What I Did On My Summer Vacation
  First let me say, it wasn't a vacation, it was a mission trip to Liberia. If you want to know more about the group I went with, go to the following website:

 Have you ever heard of fistula? I'll give everyone the short version. A young woman of eleven or twelve might be 'sold' off by her family to a farmer or a man of the village. Imagine getting pregnant at such a young age, having a difficult delivery of several days with only the village midwives in attendance. They sit on the mother's chest trying to push the baby out. When that doesn't work they take to beating her with sticks, and other assorted ways are used to encourage her to have her baby. If the mother isn't taken to the hospital in time, the constant pressure of the baby's head will rub an opening between the uterus, bladder, and/or the bladder. The child is usually stillborn. The mother is left excreting bodily waste from her vagina. Her husband and family are likely to throw her out of their homes and the village will turn their backs on them.

 There was no hope for them until Liberia came up with the Liberia Fistula Project. Dignity Liberia partners with them to bring in doctors, nurses, teachers, and people like me who just want to help.

Okay, so that wasn't short, but you can see why I felt it was imperative to make this trip. Actually, I didn't want to go at first. I'd hoarded my money for a trip to Italy, Venice in particular. I'm an avid video game player. What has that got to do with any of this? One of my favorite games is Assassin's Creed II. It's set in Italy and much of the game play is in Venice. It whetted my appetite to go to The Floating City. The graphics are spectacular. I can almost smell the water of the canals, see the paint fading from the buildings. I wanted to go to Venice, no two ways about it. However, I'm sitting in church one Sunday and I hear this quiet voice say 'You're going to Africa'. I had a conversation with the voice over the next several months, but I wasn't going to win this argument. So, several thousand dollars, a yellow fever inoculation, and a bunch of assorted shots later, I was on a jet to Liberia.

There are two things that hit me when I stepped off the plane. It's freaking hot and the humidity is like being slapped in the face with a wet towel. My group of thirteen piled into an old van that luckily had air-conditioning. It's when we got out into traffic that I notice the entire country has a problem with trash lying everywhere. Piles of it, some of it knee-deep. Still, it's a beautiful country that's been raped by two civil wars, and it shows. The people are trying to rebuild from the ground up. The electricity is iffy, there's no running water, except from gravity feed from storage tanks on roofs of buildings, no flush toilets. Even the hospitals are without running water. Those people who can afford regular houses stay within walled compounds with laced with concertina wire. The rest of the population live in whatever type of housing they can find. Businesses are often nothing more than shipping containers with names like God's Faith Business Center. Jesus Loves Business Center might be right next to it. Choices, choices.

Speaking of the traffic, sweet Lord. It was Nightmare on Elm Street crazy. Two way traffic for cars, if they decided to go the correct two ways, no stoplights to speak of, except in downtown Monrovia. Motorcycles and yellow taxis vied for the same place, whizzing in and out of traffic in maniacal abandon. It wasn't unusual to see up to four people on one motorcycle and usually a woman sat behind the group with a baby strapped on her back. The women have the best posture in the world, they balance washtubs of clothes or produce on their heads as easily as Queen Elizabeth wears a hat.

I'll tell you more about Africa in later posts. I wanted to say that the longer I'm away from Liberia, it makes me homesick for this poor, ravaged country. There are a hundred stories to be told of people who survived the civil wars, the horrors and heroism they've seen. Maybe one day I'll be able to write a book that touches on just a small part of their lives.

There's  new team of volunteers in Liberia as I write this. I envy them the new experiences they'll have, the exotic foods, and learning to love each and one of them.