November 15, 2014, I’m back
Why not quit?
Well, I may have blown 50,000 words by the end of November. There’s a reason why I’m continuing anyway. I’m enjoying this so much. It’s like a quiet time all by myself. No one can do this but me. Each of us is busy typing away, or planning, or asking questions on the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook. Some of the questions they ask seem so basic. So what? That doesn’t mean they’re not going to write a draft of the debut novel for 2015 (it will take a while for them to edit their novel into readiness for print).
I think they band together because they like to write in a group. They talk about writing and what they’re doing, how they’re approaching the task and how far they’ve gotten. Like I said, I prefer to write by myself in the quiet of my office. I like to have the room to myself. I get up and down and wander in and out because it seems to help the ideas come.
I should, perhaps, be asking more questions myself, but other people’s ideas are interesting, but I never want to use them. I like to just go my own way.
A huge writer’s conference called Bouchercon is going on right now in Long Beach, CA. A lot of people I know and a lot more that I know about are there. They’re having a good time. They post photos on Facebook showing the panels and the food and the view of the Queen Mary, the harbor and the ocean (in the order that you’d notice them), and sometimes they do nutty things and post photos of themselves being nutty.
I’d love to be there. Just pop in and out. The truth is that I find all those people, all those things to do, the excitement of hearing authors tell me how to write, exhaust me. I mean truly, go to bed and fall asleep exhausted. I’d need to take a little walk along the shore and decompress or go over to the Queen Mary and walk around looking for the ghost. (My grandson Matt documented that there is a ghost there. He saw him.) Who could doubt an excited young man who had waited for a month or more to really be there and look for the ghost.
The Queen Mary is a lovely old ship from a different time. The essence of that time still lingers in the air. It’s easy to walk the decks, breathing sea air (always wonderful), and feel the presence of everyone who has ever been where you are.
But, I digress. We were talking about Bouchercon.
I think Bouchercon is the largest of the writer’s conventions. I may have attended the smallest in San Diego in October.
Caitlin Rother invited about 20 of us to spend the day with her and fellow authors, fellow wannabes, and just interested folks. We met her at a Beach House on Mission Bay, off of the sail bay (limited to sailing boats). It was really warm that day and the windows were all open. We could look out from the top floor of this upside down house and watch the comings and goings of everyone, or we could sit on the comfy sofa or dining table and listen to the authors.
Such a nice day, but a long one. I had about an hour’s drive to get there, a lunch to pack, which I could eat on the beach, but didn’t. Nice, but the only one I knew was Caitlin and her not well. The rest seemed to regard me as something of an oddity - I was easily the oldest and the biggest person there.
I also became restless first. I’m not accustomed to sitting for an hour or more at a time. I don’t even do that at church because I’m a Lutheran. Lutherans do a lot of standing up and sitting down in the hour or so of the service. At the Beach House I sat on the middle cushion of the sofa. I couldn’t lean either way and if I wanted to get up, I had to disturb everyone. So I sat. As the day grew into afternoon and the room became warm, I sat and tried desperately to keep from going to sleep.
With so few people you couldn’t sleep without being noticed. So, I stayed awake.
At supper time, Caitlin put out enough finger food to serve fifty people and there was enough variety to call it supper. Heat, sitting, food, I was soon ready to say good bye and go home. Walking the few blocks to my car was a relief. Not finding a parking ticket on my car was a relief as well. Maybe I was also relieved to go home.
I was totally exhausted and I still had a long drive ahead of me. Then I got lost. I’d left my phone on and the battery died so I couldn’t rely on my GPS program to help me. I’ve been lost before. I’ve never had to sleep in the car because I couldn’t find my way. I’ve never starved because I couldn’t find food. I wandered around, knowing the freeway home was east of me and the ocean was west. I just kept looking.
By the time I’d found home I was zonked. But it was worth the effort. In spite of the discomforts, I’d really liked being there.
You see now why I didn’t go to Bouchercon. I couldn’t handle three days of fun and there would never be enough comfy couches for everyone at the conference hotel.
However, if you’re reading this, don’t get tired. I want you to keep following me and the Nano experience. Every writer needs a reader.
|The spider door.|
My other Nano book
I’d been working on plotting and location for my previous Nano book long before I signed up for Nano. That’s OK because Nano is all about writing 50,000 new words in a month. Just the words. Just a draft.
I find that constantly adding words to the story without going back to fix everything exhilarating. You just put your mind in dream mode and hover your fingers over the keys and drift away into your imagination. When you have a scene and you have some characters, all you really need to do is give your characters something to say and do.
It’s a bit like the paper dolls I had as a kid. I’d buy a book of dolls and their clothing and cut them out carefully. Then I’d dress them up and move them around in a story. Someone else drew the book. I cut them out wondering who they were and what they liked to do. Sometimes there was a little story that went with them, but it was pretty slim.
So I’d hold their paper clothing close to their stiff flat little bodies and make up a story to go with them. There were no rules. My paper dolls were extremely compliant. They’d do whatever I wanted them to do. Eventually I had a big box of paper dolls and their clothes. I even made more clothes for them with pencil and crayon.
But I diverge. I was talking about the setting for my previous Nano book.
I lived and worked in downtown Los Angeles for about three years. As location went, it really was downtown. Really, really, downtown. Weekends and days off we liked to explore LA and the surrounding cities. I was alone and driving up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu one day I stopped to see an old house that was now a museum. I’d cleared Malibu and began traveling north, past miles and miles of sandy beaches and even more and more hundreds of fancy beach homes. I was ready to stop.
I followed a stuccoed wall to where decorative iron gates stood opened, with the usual signs about hours of operation and such. A small house sat by the gate, but a sign directed me past it. I drove toward the ocean through a grassy lawn planted with flowers. So pretty. Finally I came to a house with a tile roof and stucco on the walls and curious windows all around. A solid wall stood between us and the beach. In that wall was an opening with a gate, and a little roof over it. Later when I explored it, I found a little changing room and shower within the gate. Just for the inhabitants, not the general public.
Note: In California the beach is public up to and including the high water mark. The deep creamy dry sand belongs to the home owners. Because many people don’t know that rule, people are always basically setting their towels down on private property. That wasn’t the case on this day because we were quite a distance north of the favorite beaches of LA and the private beaches of Malibu.
I parked in a kind of courtyard paved in brick. The museum had taken over the commodious garage, leaving the house intact. It was a fascinating tour. First the museum had turned the garage into a history of the area: who came first, who built the beach house, who lived in it and how they made their living. I was astounded that they called it the beach house.
They called it the beach house because the family home was east at the foot of the mountains. The original owner had built the beach house so the family could move there in the heat of summer. So, it wasn’t a stiff old house. It was a house built for comfort, for reading and sandy feet and keeping your shells. It was beautiful.
I was the only one waiting for the tour so it was just the guide and myself. What luxury. I had once been a docent for an historic house in Phoenix and we had to limit the people going through to just a few, so they could be able to view it and ask their questions.
Now I was going through the beach house with a docent all to myself. It was fascinating. Docents almost always know more about the house they are showing than they tell you. This one was talkative and once she heard I had been a docent as well, we were good friends.
We entered the house through a doorway with heavy nails hammered into the door. It was the style, she said, and not for protection. We came into a huge reception hall. To our right was a small bedroom that they had used for an elderly relative. Next to her room was a small house elevator to the second floor. Straight ahead led to a gallery leading from where we entered it to the living area that faced the ocean.
The gallery itself was striking. I thought at first there was an oriental rug along the corridor. It wasn’t. After all this was a beach house. The original owner had owned a tile factory on the south end of her property and on the beach. She had had tiles made to resemble an oriental rug and they had done it so well, it took your breath away.
The gallery itself was a wall of windows and a huge door led to the courtyard outside, opposite of where I had parked. The glass here was protected by decorative iron grill work. The double doors featured a huge spider and web clinging in the flowers. I have wanted that door ever since. However, it belongs to this house and the time when it was built.
Directly facing the small patio was a nicely scaled, but small fountain. It was dry, but when we approached it, we found a tiny rabbit had fallen in. When we tried to rescue it, it jumped into the drain pipe. We left it for the gardeners and went back into the house.
Following the gallery we came to a huge darkish room, decorated with heavy furniture and dark heavy drapery. This was the living area and even had a piano. Lots of comfy seating with a table and a light at hand for reading, a table for playing games, and a stuffy smell. Not the right kind of furniture for the moisture of the beach, but it was the right design for the time of the house. One small, inconspicuous door led out to the scrap of lawn and the wall. Over the wall was the beach.
I found it disappointing, but it wasn’t my house to change. Not unless I wanted to change it in the book I was going to write. If I used this house as a setting for my book, fun things just had to happen. It was there the inspiration stuck.
Back the other way away from the ocean we found a dining room with a brick arch over the window to the patio. Large, heavy furniture again dominated the room. It was a large room and I could see rowdy dinners with kids already tired from playing on the beach all day.
The kitchen was hidden near the dining room. It was small and dark, being on the opposite side of the house from the ocean. There were tiles on the counters, and tiles on the floor. At the window there was a built-in eating nook with about enough space for four. Perhaps the servants ate there. I was told there were servant quarters, but they weren’t open to the public.
Back to the reception area. Along one wall by the front door there was a smallish staircase that curved around and up to the next floor. On the landing, there was a window made of bottle glass that threw beautiful colored shadows on the staircase. The window was made from the bottoms of colored glass bottles: yellow, blue, green, even red. Above the landing hung a small Spanish-style chandelier. I’ll bet it was pretty when it was lit up at night. Guests would see it when they parked in the court yard.
At the top of the stairs we found a landing similar to the one below. This probably also doubled as an indoor playroom for the children who lived there.
Come and see said the docent as she backtracked behind the stair and opened a door. She stood aside so I could see. It was a tiny kitchen with running water and a tiny stove. “They could have hot chocolate or some tea without having to ring a servant or go downstairs for it.” she explained. They seemed to have thought about everything. And this was what we’d call a vacation home, a beach house, not their only residence. I believe she said the family had at least three residences.
My hands are aching. I’m stopping here at 12, 781 words.