Negativity

Negativity can and does suck the joy out of everything.  Some people only see the negative in life, create a negative environment around themselves, and then want to see the glass as half empty instead of half full.  No matter what you do, people like this do not want to see how full the glass is and would much rather complain about the emptiness.
I was slammed up against a harsh wall this weekend at the collie specialty shows over in Ohio.  I’m not complaining about the judging.  I’ve been in this game long enough to know that judging is subjective and all I can do is be sure that the dogs I present in the ring are as prepared as they possibly can be for judging on that day.  No, I didn’t win, but that doesn’t change the fact that the dogs I had were presented to the very best of my ability.  Just because I think my dogs walk on water doesn’t mean others do.  Subjective, remember? 
That harsh wall rather was a rude awakening and not entirely subjective.  I was put into an incredibly difficult situation by a person that I thought would have known better.  One of the dogs I was showing this weekend was a pregnant mommy…who should have been home in the whelping box, NOT IN MY VAN PLAYING DOG SHOW.  The moment my girls get to that two week window prior to whelping, the ONLY place they go is the whelping box and out to the exercise pen and then back into the whelping box.  This poor girl went into labor at the show.  Thanks to a lot of friends, the situation was resolved as best as it could be.  One friend volunteered her van to take the mommy to the hotel.  One of the bright and sweet young women who went with me to the show to help took the mommy dog to the hotel.  Another friend went with this young woman. 
Yes, it worked as well as could be.  The original handler of the collie girl came to get her from the hotel.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, none of the puppies survived.  I trust the young woman who whelped these puppies and believe her when she said when they left, they were all warm and nursing and doing well.  This young woman has been involved with dogs, showing, and raising puppies all of her life.  Mommy dog was in very capable hands.
I was saddened to see that a ten cent ribbon was more important than this poor girl.  Whether or not the puppies were born prematurely (and I don’t think they were, because they were fairly good sized and fully coated), that poor mommy dog should not have been at the show.  I was angry with the disregard shown by the handler for the dog and the dog’s owner.  Never mind that with that girl being with me, and having puppies at the show site—even if she was not my dog—I could have been suspended by the American Kennel Club.  What infuriated me was all the text messages trying to apologize for putting me in this situation—not a word about how upset this person was on how this could have gone so wrong for this young collie—and the coup de gracewas the last text message asking me not to take my anger out on the other two dogs from this handler I still had with me that I was showing.  EXCUSE ME??????  Take my anger out on the dogs? 
I may joke about having an “evil persona” but I would NEVER take my anger out on a defenseless animal.  That was the message which did send me over the edge and made me realize that the negativity this person carries has become so pervasive in this person’s life that this person could even think I would stoop to that.  That was when I realized I had to be done with that kind of negativity and sever ties.  It hurt me.  It hurt me deeply, for a lot of reasons, because I was friends with this person.  But, I cannot continue to allow that kind of negativity in my life.  Negativity breeds negativity, and I don’t want to be a negative person.  I’d rather see the glass as half full.
So, to the young ladies who were with me to help me groom and show the dogs, to the people who stepped up and helped in every way they could in this less than optimum situation, to the people who put an arm around me and just gave me a hug, a huge heart-felt thank you.  You guys are truly the best.
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I HATE EDITING

So, I have Susan’s edits back for Gossamer Dreams and while I’ve been puttering around with Cole and Rebecca’s story, I realized this evening that I don’t want to play in their little world right now.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really like Rebecca and I like Cole (even though he can be such a JACKWAGON at times), but my heart just isn’t hammering for either one of them at the moment.  (And, I know, that’s trouble…with a capital T.) 
I try really hard not to be a fickle Creator and favor one couple I’ve created over another.  I really, really do.  However, I find myself really liking another couple.  I’m forcing myself to keep working on the edits for Gossamer Dreams.  I recently read an article by a multi-published author who said that he loves being an author but he hates to write.  Right now, I know exactly what that feels like.  I’ll be hashing out how to resolved a plot point in Gossamer Dreamsand my Muse wanders in with a scene from my current WIP and I have to tell Her, “STOP IT!  I don’t need any more back story for those two.  Stop tempting me to go play in that little world.”
I’m trying all kinds of mind games with myself to stay with Cole and Rebecca, including signing up for “Sneak Peek Sunday” over at my friend’s blog on Cowboy Charm.  I’ve also given myself my own deadline, even though Susan said there really wasn’t one.  I’ve given myself until February 10thto get these edits done and back to Susan. 
That all being said, here’s my six paragraphs for “Sneak Peek Sunday,” fresh from the edits of Gossamer Dreams. It’s the opening scene in the novel. 
“What does he say in the letter?” Beth demanded.
Rebecca clutched the latest letter from Dr. Nicholas Archer in the small town of Federal, Wyoming Territory, and stared out the window of Beth’s cold-water flat onto the narrow streets of Brooklyn. A butcher’s wagon made its way down the street, pulled by a rail-thin horse. Dogs of all sizes and shapes trailed the wagon, their only shared traits a desperate hunger and emaciated frames.
Rebecca moved from the window as several filthy street urchins threw rocks and sticks at the starving dogs. “He says he wants to marry me,” she finally murmured.
“Rebecca, that is wonderful. It will solve all your problems.” Beth crossed the tiny room and drew on a shawl against the damp chill permeating the flat.
“Or create even more.” Rebecca pulled a hand down over her stomach, attempting to smooth away wrinkles from the somber widow’s weeds. “I have to tell him the truth, Beth.”
“Tell him what? That you’re in a delicate condition? That some miserable excuse for a man lied to you, told you he loved you, told you he wished to marry you, took advantage of you and when you got into this state, called you all kinds of horrid names? As if you got into this condition all by yourself…Rebecca, any man desperate enough to marry a mail-order bride is hardly in any position to refuse you.”
Okay…can I go play on the train with the couple in my WIP? I’ve been a good writer and worked with Cole and Rebecca for about an hour…please?
Wanna see more sneak peeks from other incredible, talented writers?  Go to Cowboy Charm and you’ll find more.

Ghosts along the Natchez Trace

Dog show hangovers…SUCK!  While the drive to and from a show allows for a lot of one-on-one time with the characters and the plot in whatever novel (or novels) I’m working on, the exhausted hangover from the show does not lend itself to implementing those thoughts and ideas quickly into the latest WIP.
However, on the nine and a half hour drive from my house to Starkville, MS last weekend, and then the four and a half hour drive to a friend’s home in Tennessee and the then five hour drive the next morning I did find myself twisting around the edits Susan needs for Gossamer Dreams.  I must apologize to my traveling companion on this trip.  I wasn’t my usual talkative self on this drive.  I was caught up in figuring out how to manage those edits. 
During the drive Sunday night to a friend’s home in Tennessee, we were on the Natchez Trace.  I would strongly recommend this drive in the daylight because what little I could see in the dark was stunning!  At one point, very close to Collinwood (and I remember this because I was a HUGE Dark Shadowsfan as a kid and my first thought was about Barnabas Collins) while my traveling companion was sound asleep (she did show more dogs than me that weekend), the four-year old little man who went with on this trip because his mom promised him he could go to a dog show was also sound asleep, and my other friend was about half a mile in front of me, I almost went off the road in startled fright.
Standing on the shoulder of the road were about five or six men on horseback, flanked by about fifteen or so more men. 
The first words out of my mouth were “What the ****?” and I did a rubber neck to attempt to see them more clearly.  Who in the world would be out on the Trace in force like that, at nine o’clock at night, in weather just above freezing and in the pouring rain?
It had to have been coon-hunters, I reassured myself, ignoring the way the hair on the back of my neck was still standing on end and the way I was still covered with goose bumps.  Yeah, that was it…coon-hunters…in dark uniforms, and the men on the ground were hunting with bayonet tipped rifles.  Coon-hunters.
When we got to my friend’s house, I asked if there were a lot of coon-hunters in the area.  I was assured there were, but coon season hasn’t started yet.  (That wasn’t helping, BTW.)  And then I got talking with my friend’s husband, who is even more of a Civil War history geek than I am, and he started talking about how the whole state of Tennessee is riddled with battle sites, large and small. One look at a map of the United States reveals how important Tennessee was during the Civil War. The state lay like a protective blanket over the Deep South. Any invasion of Georgia, Alabama or Mississippi certainly would have to come through Tennessee.
I went to bed that night still not sure what I saw, but certain what I had seen was not a group of coon-hunters.  Can I swear that I saw was an apparition, in paranormal parlance a residual haunting?  Were these men so traumatized or frightened that they left a permanent imprint in the very fabric of space and time with the strength of the emotions they felt at that moment?  I don’t know.  I just know what I saw was not a group of coon-hunters, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself that had to be what I saw.

I HATE my Muse

It’s winter in my little corner of the world.  Winter means it’s dog show season.  That means packing up the van, leaving at ungodly hours of the morning (usually much earlier than Oh Dark Thirty), setting up, grooming, showing and heading home with a ten cent ribbon.  I LOVE dog shows.  Right now, the ground is mantled in white, which would have been nice to have for Christmas, but when has Ma Nature ever really listened to anything we say?  She does work on Her own schedule and Her own timetable.  Rather like my Muse.
Ah, my Muse…I adore Her and I hate Her.  She is a fickle bitch.  When She doesn’t want to be around and assist, She completely vanishes.  Erica Jong said of her Muse that She won’t be summoned.  She alights when it damn well pleases her. She falls in love with one artist, then deserts him for another.  She’s a real bitch! (No kidding!)  And, when She decides that it’s time to write, She usually dumps a story completely whole into my lap and then sits back to watch me try to capture it.  Like I said, She is a bitch. 
In November, I decided to take a story I wrote better than fifteen years ago and revamp it.  I have been toying with the idea for a long time of turning that manuscript into a historical romance, for all the reasons I outlined in a previous blog entry.  About 10,000 words into that revamping, I realized what I was doing wasn’t going to work.  So, I chucked it out the window…and the laughter started.
My Muse—Bitch Extra Ordinaries’—dropped a whole other idea for that romance onto me.  And the Bitch laughed.  I spent almost a week writing like a madman, operating on very little sleep, and even less food.  And, a third of the way through that version, I lost the hero.  The A.J. in that version wasn’t the A.J. he was supposed to be.   He wasn’t the A.J. I knew from the previous novel.  And, frankly, neither was the heroine.  Allison wasn’t the Allison I knew.  Oh, there are many similarities between their current incarnation and the original version of them: he’s still broken beyond belief and she’s still a unique combination of vulnerability and tough-as-nails, but they have changed.
I paced the floors.  I cursed my Bitch Muse.  I pleaded with her.  I begged.  And all She did was laugh at me.  I threatened to stop.  (Yeah, like I could.)  So, I paced some more, trying to find the couple I honestly love beyond belief.  Now, I know most authors love their characters.  We have to, because if we don’t love them first, no one else will.  But, these two are my very favorites.  I also know that as the creator of all these people who live in my head and talk to me, I’m not supposed to have favorites.  But, damn it…I do.
And, finally, I stopped fighting my Muse.  She stopped laughing and told me to buckle up, because it was going to be a wild ride.  I literally got the rough draft done in less than ten days.  I have now spent the last two weeks fleshing out the novel and fixing the plot holes I’ve found. 
While fleshing the manuscript out, I had to ask my dear Bitch of a Muse what gutters She trolls, because one of “those scenes” darn near went into the realm of porn…forget erotica.  I read somewhere that while writing “those scenes” if the author isn’t squirming just a little, the reader certainly isn’t going.  I’ve not written one of “those scenes” where I felt the need for a cold shower, until this manuscript.
I’ve also found myself asking if I like this incarnation of this particular couple more than I liked their original form.  The answer is yes…and no.  Yes, because they are uniquely who they are.  No, because they’ve changed so I can still love the original A.J. and Allison on their own merits—not that A.J. had many the first couple of chapters in that original version.  I will never forget my niece punching the daylights out of a helpless, defenseless teddy-bear because she was so angry with A.J. in that first version.  Not sure if she’d be punching that teddy-bear this time. 

Another thing that I found very interesting about writing this manuscript was I write with music cranking through the earbuds.  The music that I distinctly recall listening to while writing the original contemporary romance with A.J. and Allison just did not work for this version.  I ended up listening to a lot of Civil War era music (which makes my DH crazy because I’ve been humming Dixie a lot), a lot of the Zac Brown Band (their double live album is awesome, by the way), and Italian operas.  Fleetwood Mac, Madonna, and Travis Tritt went by the wayside. 
God, I hate my Muse…when I’m not proclaiming undying love for Her.