Thursday, May 28, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Remember what I said about patience? (see previous post) a perfect bit of “we’ll show you,” the universe delivered...but in a cup-overflowing kind of way! I close on the house tonight at 5:30 (yes, I got the loan!), then I immediately race to my first readthrough for Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Dayton Theatre Guild (yes, I got cast!). Then, I immediately race to Louisville to be on a panel of writers tomorrow at Spalding University.

But wait. There's more. I get possession of the house next week, on THE SAME DAY I’m supposed to get the edits on my fourth novel.

How can you not laugh at the timing? It’s never boring!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Goat Girl

I am happily distracted by goats.

I need distraction right now.

There are many things conspiring in my life at this moment to teach me about patience. I’m still waiting to find out if I get financing to buy my dream house (hey...I understand that being self-employed in a field as capricious as publishing might make the underwriters a wee bit nervous in this current climate...but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!) and I’m still waiting on my edits on novel number four, feeling stuck in limbo land.

I don’t do patient very well.

So how perfect is it that I have goats to distract me? Or, rather, one specific goat named Humphrey.

Have you ever been around a goat? If you have not, you should try to remedy this as soon as possible. Goats are good for the soul. I firmly believe that if everyone had a goat in her life, anti-depressants would become obsolete. Goats are very very good at BEING HAPPY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT...which is something I need big doses of while I’m in waiting mode.

Humphrey is a stout pygmy goat with beautiful markings on his impish face. Humphrey greets you with a thin, warbling bleat when he sees you approaching his pasture (his voice is eerily childlike and once prompted the neighbor’s construction men to inquire if “that baby” was all right (what? you mean the baby locked in the barn who’s been yelling all afternoon? that baby?). Then, he comes trotting to greet you, switching his tail and throwing in a click of the heels, just for the fun of it.

That’s just it—Humphrey does lots of things just for the fun of it. When you’re near him, you can’t help but smile. I’m especially fond of the act of joy we’ve dubbed “the happy goat dance” in which he skips down a low stone wall as nimbly as a gymnast on a balance beam, then leaps off the end of the into the air, putting in a buck or two upon landing.

He is very playful. You can convince him to chase you—but be careful, as it is often hard to convince him that the game of chase is now OVER.

Once he’s good and riled from chasing, he’ll start with the head-butting, a personal favorite of mine. He rears up on his back legs, angles his (horn-less, ind you) head at a rakish angle, then lands and rushes in to butt you with his nubby forehead. He has twice knocked me down when he headbutted me while I was crouched to pet Ethel, the barn cat.

And the tail. He’s so expressive with that little switch of a tail. When he’s playful (contemplating a head butt, perhaps), it just switches back and forth, back and forth, giving his mischievous intentions away.

He has a charming burp.

He loves to scratch himself on fences, branches, rocks, and people and will often contort himself hilariously to do so.

Goats are clever. They’re every bit as intelligent and personable as dogs. Something about the way they mince around like women in high heels is highly entertaining as well.

It has struck me that there are important goat characters in both novel #4 and #5. Hmm...

Since I’m a Capricorn, it makes perfect sense both that I have trouble with patience, and that I’d be so fond of goats.

Capricorns are known to be tenacious, which is not at all the same quality as patience. Tenacious means that while I’m forced to wait, I stubbornly decide I will write an entirely different book in the limbo months—and do so—but fret about finishing book number four during every single day of the entire process. Tenacious means that I’m already scoping out cool houses to rent if I don’t get the loan.

I wish I could be more caprine about it, however.

Do you know the word caprine? I only just discovered it. Caprine means, you guessed it, “Of, relating to, or characteristic of a goat.” Just like equine means of horses, bovine of cows, feline of cats, canine of dogs, etc. Caprine is so obviously the root of words such as capricorn, caprice, and even capricious (which I used earlier to describe the business of publishing). If I were caprine, I wouldn’t fret. I wouldn’t necessarily be patient, but I wouldn’t waste energy stewing, either. I’d be happy in this moment. I’d know that when the edits come, I’ll be better able to tackle them, having been given the objective eye of distance from the manuscript. I’d know that if I don’t get this house, it means that something better must be out there.

So...I’m taking deep breaths. I’m trying to use Humphrey as my role model. Perhaps it’s time I start to develop a “happy goat dance” of my own.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Nancy Girls Book Club

On May 4th, I attended a fabulous book club in Centerville, Ohio. I’ve attended nearly fifty book clubs just for The Kindness of Strangers alone since its release in 2006, but I’ve never kept track of them all on my website. I sincerely wish I had! I’ve met with just incredible groups of people, such as the Novel Women, the Book Ends, the You Don’t Have to Read the Book Club, and the winner for my all time favorite book club name: The Beautiful Women Drinking Martinis Book Club! The keeping track and blogging about each group on my site will be a new thing for 2009, and I hope none of the book clubs of my past feel slighted.

I’m a huge fan of book clubs. I belong to one myself (we humbly call ourselves the Goddesses) and I really think book clubs help keep new fiction thriving in our society. I know for a fact that book clubs are responsible for keeping my books alive, so I’m eternally grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you to every book club who had ever chosen one of my novels, whether I attended your discussion or not! There’s just something so appealing about social gatherings revolving around books. Does my heart good!

I genuinely enjoy hearing clubs discuss my novels. It’s an entirely different dynamic than a book store reading. At a reading, you’re sort of convincing people to read the book, but at a club, everyone (well...almost everyone...there are always exceptions! I’ve been the exception a couple times among the Goddesses) shows up already having finished the book. So much of writing happens in such solitude that it’s a real gift to hear readers argue over plot events, describe how certain scenes and characters affected them, and what passages made them laugh, cry, or throw the book across the room! A fascinating (to me) argument often develops from discussing Courtney’, “resolution” (don’t want to be a spoiler) in The Kindness of Strangers, for example.

Every book club has a different personality, feel, and mode of operation. Book clubs are often asking me about other clubs, so I’ve decided to start recording them here, so they can read about each other!

It was with great pleasure that I ventured to Centerville to meet with the Nancy Girls (named because a Nancy happened to be the common person introducing these women in their early days of the club). The Nancy Girls were informal, interesting, and FUN. They socialize with each other in addition to book club. As far as books go, their selection process is pleasantly casual. Once they all even went to Barnes & Noble together, branched out, then came back to a common area to discuss their discoveries. I love that!

Another thing I love is that the Nancy Girls EAT. Books and food are two of my favorite things so their combination always makes me happy. Making me doubly happy was the fact that desserts were so well represented. A big fat brownie with whipped cream on top? Heaven. Ah, women after my own heart!

They were women after my own heart in other ways as well. By sheer coincidence, every woman in this club has experienced divorce (it is NOT a prerequisite for membership!). They were wise and strong and resilient as we talked about divorce phenomenons such as the “blindside” and the “blindside that turns out to have been self-imposed blinders.” I’m eager for this group to read my fourth novel (you know how my books always center around a social issue? This one is marriage, divorce, and same-sex marriage).

Whoever picked the book for the Nancy Girls is that meeting’s “leader.” Each leader can do whatever she wants, but our leader Bobbie had each person fill out a card listing one question they had, or one passage they wanted to comment on. This group had read TWO of my books (see why I love them so???)—both The Kindness of Strangers and Two Truths and a Lie—so the questions alternated. The questions were interesting and fun, and the group was totally open to tangents and followup questions. The time flew by.

One member, Nicki commented: "What I’ve found most interesting about the book club is that the books I think will trigger the most discussion, don’t. Other times, I’ll read a book and not find one thing I think we will discuss, yet at the meeting, that book will trigger a great discussion.”

If their insightful comments were gift enough, the Nancy Girls presented me with a wonderful Target gift card, and a sassy little gift bag full of cute notebooks, pencils, and a fridge magnet (I LOVE fridge magnets). This was such a lovely, thoughtful thing for them to do. They’d been following my blog and they knew I was soon to be buying a house, so they knew the Target card would be useful. I’m happy to report to them that the card bought me potting soil, gardening gloves, a shovel, and several pots—I can start gardening BEFORE I have possession of my house!

Book clubs often ask me what other clubs are reading, so I’ll report that past Nancy Girl picks included: The Sparrow, Three Cups of Tea, The Faith Club, The Last Templar, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, The Secret Lives of Bees, Eat Pray Love, and many books by Mary Kay Andrews (who I was tickled pink to report is a fellow Goddess Book Club member).

Many, many thanks, Nancy Girls! Happy reading!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sleeping with Joey

I have a new boyfriend. His name is Joey. He’s a little bit portly, with a belly that swings from side-to-side as he runs, and he sometimes drinks from the toilet, but I’m smitten all the same.

Joey is a cat.

Imagine, if you will, how the omission of that fact might lead to some...confusion. Take, for example, my mother's misunderstanding the first night I met Joey. I’m staying in that fabulous guest cottage on a horse farm, remember? (see previous post) The owner—a wonderful, inspiring friend of mine—happens to be a vet. There was this cat, Joey, living at her clinic. My friend knew that in my gypsy travels, I’d missed having a pet, so she brought Joey home to the cottage to be my roommate.

I’ll get back to my mom’s misunderstanding in a moment, but first let me say that I suspect my friend Kathy planned from the very start for me to fall in love with Joey and keep him. She’s smart that way. And I’m a sucker for big boycats with loads o’ personality. Kathy said she was bringing Joey to stay with me while her clinic undergoes some remodeling. Whatever. That just happened to be lucky timing. She would’ve brought him anyway.

So, a week ago Saturday I went to dinner at my parents’ house. While there I told them that Kathy was bringing me a cat that would probably be at the cottage when I returned that night. I swear I told my mother the cat’s name was Joey.

Maybe I didn’t...

In any case, I got home and the next day e-mailed my Mom: “Joey was here waiting for me when I got home from your house. We hit it off right away. After a little bit of shyness, he even ended up sleeping with me. Yay!”

Later that morning my mom called. “Um…now, who is Joey?” she asked in a voice very hesitant and worried.

“The cat.”

A pause. A relieved “Ohhhhh.”

I replayed the e-mail in my mind. “Mom!” Did she really think I would share that information with her if Joey were a man???

The wording especially rankles just a bit—the use of the word “even.” He even ended up sleeping with me. Hmmph. Is the idea so difficult to imagine?

And let’s not even talk about the “yay.”

To my mother’s credit, Joey’s human-sounding name has temporarily thrown a few others as well. Kathy was telling the story of Joey and I to her friend Mike, whose eyes widened in such a way that I could clearly see the misunderstanding as it happened. When Kathy quickly said, “Joey’s the clinic cat, remember?” Mike did the same “Ohhh” my mother had done, admitting, “I wasn’t going to say anything but it did seem a bit sudden. You’ve only been back a couple weeks, right?”

There are so many Joey stories and antics that are fun to tell, deliberately omitting the fact that Joey is a cat, such as the fact that when I leave the cottage, Joey waits for me on my bed, looking out the window for my return.

Or the fact that Joey likes to snuggle under the covers.

Or that Joey sometimes drapes himself around my head like a hat while we’re sleeping.

Or that when I hold Joey, he sucks on my sweater (or if I’m in short sleeves, the crook of my elbow).

I am open to dating at the moment, but I guess I wouldn't be willing to settle for a man who likes to sit on top of the fridge, who puts his hands in my coffee cup, or who sometimes closes my laptop while I’m writing.

On the other hand, I’m also not willing to settle for man who doesn’t adore me with the fervor that Joey does.

That’s the true test, don’t you think? Someone who rushes to greet you at the door and writhes around in pleasure simply because you showed up? Someone who will rise from a nap and cross a room simply because you said, “Hey cutie, come over here.” I think we should all make it our goal to treat our beloveds with such unabashed enthusiasm.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my new boyfriend is nibbling my toe and demands my attention.