Monday, June 28, 2010

Full moons. Did You Know. . . ?

Did you notice the full moon this past weekend? I love full moons. Did you know that the full moon in June is called the Strawberry Moon? This is because, according to the Farmers’ Almanac, June is the month of the strawberry. That works. And yum, by the way.

This year’s Strawberry Moon included a partial lunar eclipse, meaning that half of it was obscured as it crossed through the southern portion of the Earth’s shadow. Due to funky positioning, people on or near the Pacific Ocean had a better view of this than those of us closer to the Atlantic Ocean. But at least we had strawberries. Yum.

Anyway, this inspired me to share more lunar vocabulary with you. And yes, I know that schools are out, so perhaps a vocabulary lesson isn’t appropriate. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I find word associations and vocabulary sort of fascinating. So here goes:

The words moon and month share a Germanic base. And, of course, the cycle of the moon resets itself every 29.5 days, give or take. Of course that equals a month. Ah-ha.

A new moon is known as a dark moon because it occurs when the moon’s orbit crosses between the Earth and the sun. When this takes place, the moon is not visible to those of us on Earth. Thus, a dark moon.

Have you heard the phrase “once in a blue moon”? Did you know that a blue moon is the third full moon in a three-month period that has four full moons? Since this extra moon business only happens every two to three years, these moons are rare (thus the “once in a blue moon” phrase). The next blue moon will show up in August of 2012. Mark your calendars, kids.

Finally, the word lunatic comes from the Latin word for moon--luna. And loony was once interchangeable with luny. Kind of a close relationship to lunacy, don’t you think? And let’s not forget that spotted, duck-like bird with the demented voice—the loon. You can probably guess where I’m going with this. Folklore claims that full moons tend to make people go a bit batty or loony. Which may explain this post.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stick to What You Know

Yesterday morning I hit a writing wall. Full on. Head first. It happens. Usually I start writing about plot or setting or a character when my work in progress and I are not getting along. Not yesterday, though. I wasn’t in the mood to write anything. So, I decided to bake an angel food cake as a little break from work. And I decided to bake it from scratch (mistake number one). People were coming over to celebrate Father’s Day. Why not impress them? (Thinking I’d be impressing anyone with my baking = mistake number two.)

I am usually the kind of baker who tears open a box and adds water to the pre-put-together cake mix. However, there were no Betty Crocker boxes in the pantry (mistake number three). What is a blocked writer to do? Break out a cookbook, of course.

I won’t horrify you with the gruesome details of how my little baking break went, but I will admit that it stretched into a long term commitment. Twelve sacrificed eggs, untold cups of frustration, and more than one inappropriate exclamation later, I had a one inch high angel food cake. Note: Angel food cakes are supposed to be tall, light, and fluffy.

The moral of this story for me is this: Stick to what you know. The next time I hit a writing wall, I may take a break, but I will go to the store and BUY a cake. Or, at the very least, purchase a box of cake mix. And then I will return to my writing and ignore my sour mood.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Once upon a dream

The other night, smack in the middle of it, I awoke with the perfect story in my head. A full-fledged plot from the explosive beginning to the twist, to the satisfying ending. And what characters--fully developed and fascinating in every way. Yes, this story was a gift. Finally! I mean, I’ve heard of writers dreaming their novels, but this has never happened to me. So, when this new story smacked me between the eyes (think Tooth Fairy with attitude), I grabbed a pen and as quick as a half asleep human can do, I blindly scribbled the basic premise and plot points of this new story onto a pad of paper. Under the light of the moon (yes it was full, but never mind that), I sketched out just enough about the characters to spark my memory in the morning. After I outlined my dream, got it down onto paper, I flopped back into bed and sighed with a satisfied grin. The work in progress that I’ve been laboring on would have to be put aside. This new story was too sweet to let sit.

Hours later, I woke up to the alarm. And I remembered the excitement of my middle of the night story. I couldn’t wait to start getting my notes into my computer. I even considered postponing the morning shower and feeding the animals.

And then I read what I had written hours before. Don’t ask how I somehow managed to make sense of my middle of the night scribbles. Imagine a page after chickens have stepped in ink and danced all over the paper. That’s pretty much how my notes looked. And the story… Well, (clears throat and shuffles feet) there isn’t one. There is nothing close to a story, much less a decent one or anything with a hint of potential (sighs).

Is it just me, or do the ideas that sometimes pop into our heads and seem like pure brilliance lose their shimmer and shine after they sit a while?

Now, please excuse me while I return to my work in progress. I need to apologize to it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oh, Deer

People sometimes ask me why I wrote a novel that involved deer when I’m not a hunter. Well, I live among lots of deer. LOTS of deer. This is usually wonderful. Except when they munch on my pretty growing things as if they were potato chips. But also, when Mother Nature shows her dark side.

A week ago, on Memorial Day, I discovered a tiny fawn curled up under our back porch. This little creature was adorable. Seriously adorable. Since I know that mommy deer hide their precious bundles in secluded areas until the babies are stronger, I was not concerned. I’ve discovered lots of newborn fawns under our porches, in our gardens, and under trees. Our yard is sort of a deer nursery.

Later on that Monday evening, though, I had a bad feeling. The fawn’s mom had not come to fetch her baby. The little one started on its own wobbling spindle legs toward the woodsy area behind our house—where a herd of deer sleep at night. Part of me was glad the fawn was going into deer territory, but my inner alarm was going off. Where was mom?

The next morning, I was on the lookout for a doe with “our” fawn. But I found no doe and no fawn. Hoping mom and baby had reunited in the woods and all was well (other than mom staying out partying too late), I left to work on my latest novel. Hours later, I returned home to find the fawn curled up in our garage, on the mat in front of the door to the house. Now I knew that the poor baby was in trouble. Upon the advice of my veterinarian, I called Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary for advice. Minutes after this call, I was lifting the fawn into a towel-lined laundry basket. Minutes later, I was driving this little deer to the sanctuary.

For most of the trip, the fawn was flicking its tail and ears and looking around, seemingly and amazingly calm, ever adorable. But two minutes before I pulled into the driveway of the sanctuary, the baby dipped its head down, resting its nose upon the towel it lay on. I was hoping with everything I had that my fawn was only napping. But I knew. Somehow, I just knew that the fawn had passed away quietly.

The wonderful folks at Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary ( ) examined the fawn nonetheless. They told me the deer was a girl about two weeks old despite having the gaunt and spindly look of a newborn. This, along with a faint smell coming off of her, and a few other symptoms, indicated that she was sick. Very sick. Fawns are not supposed to have a scent. And this sickness was probably why, I was told, her mother had left her. This is nature’s way, a kind veterinarian explained to a very sad me. This, I thought, is the dark side of Mother Nature.

For the next few days, I noticed a solitary doe wandering and grazing in our back yard and near the porch where the fawn had been. And I wondered if that was the girl-fawn’s mom. Maybe she had placed her baby near our house in the hope that the fawn would be better protected from predators. Maybe mom didn’t abandon her totally, but was checking on her now and then. Or, maybe the writer in me needed to make up a story with a happier ending.

I was broken-hearted over the loss of the fawn. And at first I thought it ironic that after writing Buck Fever, I should be a part of this situation. But then I thought, not ironic--appropriate.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rituals and Routines

Do you have any rituals or habits? I heard a writer at a conference talk about how he never completed a sentence when it was time for him to stop writing for the day. He always left an incomplete line to finish when he returned to his story. He felt that this got him back into the swing of the story. I get this, but it would never work for me. I’d be stuck for hours (or days) trying to remember what I’d wanted to write. Still, I find it interesting how different people work.

I know another person (not a writer) who stops at the same store for a cup of coffee on his way to work every day. Honestly, I’m pretty sure his day would go into a full out tailspin if the coffee shop happened to be closed or out of coffee beans. This could, possibly, set off a chain of events with devastating consequences. Who can be sure?

As for me, I tend to be a bit freakish about my writing schedule. I always get up early to work. Not just because the household pets have come to expect an early breakfast (I really think someone taught them how to read clocks), but because my day would be totally out of balance if I got a late start. And don’t even talk to me about quitting early unless this has been prearranged and settled on way in advance.

How about you? Any not to be messed with routines or rituals?