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She’s Off and Writing!

Finally, I started jotting down the ideas that have been bouncing around my head for days, perhaps weeks by now. I'm on my way to another Maggie and Della short story, this time for a mystery short story competition.

I've got the first few paragraphs jotted down, the intro part where I set the stage and the readers' expectations. It'll be humorous, like so many of my stories are. Poor Maggie. She's in for another saga!

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Proud As Punch, And On Facebook, Too!

As if my life weren't busy enough, I decided to give my mystery series a boost by producing short fiction podcasts. It's getting there – it's definitely getting there! Still learning how to use the audio editing software and am realizing how hard it is to soften those b's and p's when I'm talking. I'll have to get a little bitty pop screen for my microphone headset and then take up a collection (strategically timed around Christmas!) for a proper microphone and all that.

Dang, it's fun, though! Those two troublemakers, Maggie and Della, now have their own podcast, facebook page and blog. Will they stop at nothing?

And on Facebook:

Ridiculously long site address, isn't it?

Bunch of over-zealous baby boomers, if you ask me. There's no stopping them now. Sigh…

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Family Secrets, With Music

I'm proud of this, and am putting it out on the airwaves, wherever it will go. It's a video I produced to accompany the Maggie and Della mysteries. I'm still puttering around on the second book, but hope to make more progress on it a) once my consulting website is done and b) after a local writing group starts up again.

I dunno…this life stuff gets complicated.

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Wednesday Rambles

It's been a busy week, starting with an unexpected intellectual property issue that has yet to be resolved. No harm done other than to my long-term plans, fortunately, and a website that will no longer be getting any of the copy I fork over to them for free.

Just finished writing another chapter in my book, bringing the total number of chapters to 14. I still have a long way to go, but there's significant progress at least. I had a hell of a time writing that chapter. It's more a transition from one theme to another and I needed to make it fit in there properly. I started and stopped more than once, before the prose started to flow on its own. After that it was just a matter of deciding what would happen, and in what order. Not too bad. I had to go back and rip a bunch of stuff up, then start over. I think I may be finally past that. If so, then I can get back to the rest of the book and finally finish up the first draft. Phew!

The hubby sent off a tax extension (sigh), but it looks like we both owe money. We enclosed a deposit to cover most of that. Hopefully, he'll have time to finish up properly this weekend. Other than that, I'm recovering from way too much food at Passover (I'm a non-practicing Catholic, but my husband's family is Jewish). Not that I objected, mind you, but large quantities of rich food is not something we're used to (gratefully!). His family did a terrific job nf the Seder, though, which included two young children and their very tired parents. They decided to hold the Seder on Friday, to accommodate work and travel schedules. Very nice overall. Easter was not a big deal. I basically spent the day reading or walking.

It's still cold, although the rain has let up. I'm tired of being cold morning, noon and night. Still, at least it's warmed up enough so that it's possible to walk almost every day. I like that part.

I think I'm going to go back to reading, now. Lots of activity at the computer keyboard today and my hands are a bit sore from it!

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Great Way To Spend A Night

I ended up on the couch again last night, although this time it wasn't my husband's fault. I kept tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable. I went downstairs again and crawled into the sleeping bag, trying to get settled there. This time, though, I kept a small digital recorder on the coffee table. My brain was exploding again, with ideas for the Maggie and Della novel. Like a good little girl I grabbed the recorder and spoke into it as soon as another idea popped into my head. In the all-in-all, not a bad mental haul as far as the story outline goes.

I wish I could do that during the day, and leave my brain to its needed rest at night. Sometimes, though, my best thoughts will come to me in the shower, or in bed at 1:00 am. I think it's when the rest of the babble is turned off that the deeper creative thoughts come bubbling to the surface.

Better yet, I wish I could "direct" my brainstorms into the direction I want them to go. I'm still puzzling over a progression in the story, one of those knotted threads I have to untangle before getting back to work. No help there. However, I do have some great additional material for a single character that kept my brain going last night.

Sigh. No rest for the weary. At least not this weary one.

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Food, Family and – *burp* – More Food

Just coming up for a breather. Long weekend, beginning with Thursday for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful night with more food than I've ever seen in one place at one time. My brother and sister-in-law drove over from the Albany, NY area for the event, along with their two young sons, both of whom behaved themselves admirably during the event. We also had a guest from Kenya, a graduate student at Brandeis who accompanied one of the other guests.

Not only was the table laden with food, the sideboard behind us was stacked full of tasty dishes as well. Turkey, potatoes, two squash dishes, several platters of roasted vegetables, a purple cabbage-chestnut dish, pickled beets, gravy and cranberry relish. Beforehand we had appetizers and I admit to being the guilty party who put them together in such abundance: basil pesto, a black olive dip, four different types of cheese (herbed goat, Manchego, brie and smoked Gouda), two different types of baguettes and crackers.

And dessert? Oh my God: pumpkin and mincemeat pies made by yours truly – and LOVED by all, by the way. I really shouldn't have worried. In addition to that, we had a berry pie, a cranberry-walnut coffee cake, a bowl of fruit and an apple crisp. *burp*

I had to work Friday, so left early at around 8:00 pm. We were all in a turkey-induced haze that day with very little done, to be honest. I remember spending a lot of the day staring at the computer screen and trying to stay awake. I wasn't much better Saturday. I wanted to get some work done on the Maggie-Della stories, and ended up piddling around with a new website for it instead. It was a wasted day, as far as I was concerned.

I've been a bit more energetic today. Put in a few solid hours re-writing the plot outline and have gotten myself through some sticky parts. For the life of me I couldn't figure out where some things were going with the story so I tore it up and wrote it another way instead. That's the glory of an outline for you. By the time I'm done I'll know exactly where I've gone and how I've gotten there. Wish I could say that for real life!

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An Update of Sorts

A while ago I took down the Maggie-Della website. I wasn't happy with it, and it wasn't getting visitors. I'm still hashing out what to do about it, since I own the domain name and would like to use the site to promote the book/s as they're published. For the time being, I've spruced up the storefront site, to include information from the old site, or at least some of it:

It's a start. I hope you like it. The web editor in lulu is not the most sophisticated and it's the best I could do, given the tools I had to work with. In the meantime I'm cranking away at the outline for the second book, under the ceaseless lash of my co-producer, Rosie. She's already got the movie mapped out and wants to talk to the actors no later than Labor Day of next year. So, I'm told, that's my deadline to get the $*$*#(@)$&&@ thing written and published. In fact, she told me Maggie and Della would be in the nursing home solving "The Applesauce Mysteries" by the time I finished, at the rate I was going.

Then she went and wrote a story by that name. Yes, it's set in a nursing home and it's about missing applesauce among the elderly residents. 🙂

Some people work quickly. Some people work slowly. Guess which one is which?

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Narrative Structure and All That Fun Stuff

I spent the day working on my Maggie-Della novel. My work has been on the narrative structure, not the actual writing per se. In other words, how do the events in the novel unfold? How do I make them compelling and believable? How do I build up tension and what events precipitate action on the part of one character or another?

This is the hard work of writing, the prep before the painting. It's the stuff that's not glamorous, that's not read directly. It's reflected in the final prose, but is not the final prose. It's the road-building, the path-finding, the who-what-when-where-how and why on a chapter-by-chapter basis. It's a slog.

And it's exhausting, mentally. I'm ready to crawl into a corner and turn into a slug. I'm only up to Chapter 19. Story events have been launched but not really explored yet. There's a lot that's happened and that's going to happen and it's up to me to make it a story people will want to continue reading. The hard work of writing. Yes.

But, it's getting there. It's getting there!

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Wow…Them’s Some Hot Flashes

50-something and, yes, going through menopause. For some reason, I'm being hit hard by hot flashes these days. They've been hitting hard at night and keeping me up. They're worse than they were before. I wonder if it's the weather, the stress, or anything else? I've been more hot than my husband, and am the one who's been opening windows and turning on fans. Just had a flash now and am feeling damp, albeit not streaming down water.

Functional but very uncomfortable.

On the upside, the vertigo has stopped (?). Maybe the medication has finally worn its way completely out of my system.

On the downside, very tired. Couldn't sleep, between the hot flashes and mental flashes going through my mind vis-a-vis Maggie and Della. Started in on Chapter 12 a bit too late in the evening. I was too tired to write but not tired enough to prevent ideas, snippets of dialogue and prose and imagery from, uh, flashing by.

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Getting Back to Writing – Part 2

Well, thank you for the comments. Yes, this will be a very intense story. I'm fortunate in that I've never been the recipient of such abusive treatment, but I know women who have – or have read about them. The trick will be balancing the many different twists the story will take. There will be several plot lines all, hopefully, running in sync with each other.

I'll put up one more chapter now, to give you an idea of the initial flow. It'll also introduce a few of the main recurring characters in the Maggie-Della series. I'd love your comments, as usual!

Oh…for more info:

The website is a bit of an experiment. Part of it is commercial of course – to sell the first novel in the series – but other parts are a bit more whimsical. I'm trying to give Maggie and Della "voices" and identities of their own, via characterizations and blogs.

Anyway, here's chapter 1:

The Ties That Bind
by Margaret Daniels

Please note: This book is COPYRIGHT 2008 by MDM Publications!

Chapter 1: Mt. Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Alice DesChamps sat and waited. She curled a two-year old Time Magazine in her hand and stretched against the hard plastic chairs of the Emergency Room. It was late and she was tired. They'd brought the woman in hours ago, in a condition that required immediate and intensive care. So much for dinner tonight with Maggie and Alex. It would have to wait – everything would have to wait. She stood up and walked around the spartan room: a dozen chairs with low tables interspersed and a television playing a bit too loudly in one corner. And magazines, like the one in her hand, at least two years old. She smiled, sat down again and tried not to fall asleep.

A door opened from the hallway and a slender, white-haired man emerged into the waiting room. "Ms. DesChamps?" he asked to the room, turning his head and smiling when Alice stood to greet him. He was dressed in green scrubs and walked over to her with swift, sure steps. "You're Alice DesChamps?" he asked.

"Yes," Alice replied. "And you're…?"

He smiled and extended a hand. "Ed Sheppard," he said. "I'm the attending for your case…uh…" He checked a clipboard. "Allison Lavery. You're the custodian in charge?"

"Yes." She handed him a card. "Is there some place we can go and talk?"

He slipped the card into his pocket and gestured back towards the hallway. "Sure," he said. "Follow me. I need to finish up her paperwork anyway,." They started down the hall.

"Is she alright?" Alice asked as they walked.

Dr. Sheppard hesitated. "Well," he started and then stopped when they reached a small office. He escorted Alice into it, then quietly closed the door. "It's not pretty." He pressed a key on the computer and the monitor opened onto a series of windows. He began to type as he continued. "She's gone up to surgery, that's what took so long. She'll recover, but she won't be comfortable for a while. Can you make arrangements for care beyond this visit?"

Alice nodded. "Yes," she said. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Department of Social Services was an unforgiving bureaucracy, but she'd been in it long enough to know how to manage it. "I'll make the arrangements."

"Good." He turned his back to her for a moment, excusing himself before he did so. He began to type from his notes. "She has a daughter?" he asked.

"Yes," Alice replied, rubbing at dark-circled eyes. "Did she talk to you?"

"Very briefly. Do you know where she is?"

"No." Alice shook her head. "We think he may have taken her with him after he finished with the wife."

Ed Sheppard stopped for a moment and swung around to face Alice. "Shit," he muttered. "How long ago?"

"They're still investigating. A while, though."

"I'm sorry." He meant it. He'd been an Emergency Room doctor long enough to know what that might mean. "Will you keep in touch, let me know if they find her?" Sheppard scribbled a cell phone number on the back of a note pad and handed it to Alice.

"When will she be out of surgery?" Alice asked. "I'd like to see her."

"I wouldn't try to talk to her for another 24 hours or so," he advised. "After that, I'm sure it'll be fine."

She imagined a face blackened and cracked with bruises, smashed teeth, broken bones and pain beyond reckoning. She knew this case, knew this woman. She wasn't surprised she'd taken him back, only appalled at the inevitable consequences. She rubbed her eyes again.

"You must be tired," Dr. Sheppard said, smiling softly. "There's not a whole lot more to do here. I'll have my report for your office and for the police in a few hours. Maybe you should go home and get some sleep. I have your card. I'll give you a call if anything changes."

She stood up, feeling raw and exhausted. "Thank you, Doctor," she said and left the office. Her cell phone beeped as she entered the waiting room. She flipped it to her ear. "Alice DesChamps," she said mechanically.

"Hi." It was Maggie. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything? I just wanted to check in, make sure you were okay." Alice had called frantically from her car en route to the hospital. Alex had answered the phone. "I understand," he had said immediately. "Don't worry about us. We'll give you a call later." This was the call later.

"Hey, girl." Alice smiled and shrugged into an overcoat as she talked. "Sorry to bug out on you like that."

"No problem. More lasagna for us."

"I'm on my way home. I'm ready to drop."

"I'm sure." Maggie knew better than to ask what had just happened. Alice couldn't tell her and Maggie didn't need to hear about these types of things anyway. "Can I treat you to breakfast tomorrow?"

"That would be lovely." After today, that certainly was true. "Bring Della?"

"Don't know about that." Maggie sounded uncertain and Alice wondered if there were something on her mind. "I'll ask her anyway. Can't say if she'll want to."

"Well, just us then. Ask her, though. I could use some humor at this point." Della was one of the funniest people Alice knew. She couldn't stay down around her.

"I'll give it a try," Maggie replied, after another slight hesitation.

"Everything okay with Della?" Alice finally asked.

"I think so," Maggie replied. "She may just need a break from the routine."

"She and me both," Alice said. "I'm heading home. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She signed off and reached into her purse for her keys. Faint streaks of light began to show in the sky. She looked up at the early dawn, then down at her car.

The world was fucked sometimes.

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