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Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

So, let’s just play a hypothetical game to help me out with a dilemma.

Let’s say that 10 or more years ago, while toiling in obscurity in Tampa, I finished writing my first real novel. Let’s pretend it was before the internet was big, so my circle of writing friends was a lot smaller than it is now. I had this really great coworker, you, who read a lot and enjoyed talking about books. So I asked you to read my book, before I decided what to do with it–burn it, query it, weep quietly over it?

Continuing with our hypothetical scenario, let’s say you were an enthusiastic reader, who not only said nice things about my book, but offered some comments that proved helpful to me in revising.

Now, flash forward to the present. Sadly, you and I lost touch years ago. Before the internet, this happened all the time, remember? It was nobody’s fault. Sad, but true.

Except something pretty cool happened this year, hypothetically. After all these years, I sold that very first book to a publisher. I’ve hammered out edits, weighed in on covers, shilled other writers for blurbs and engaged in a growing variety of networking gymnastics. Then the publisher emailed me to ask, “Do you want to include a dedication?”

Um, yeah, yeah, I do. I particular, I’d really like to dedicate this book to my two first readers. The problem is, I don’t remember how to spell your name exactly. I think it’s Brianne May. But maybe it’s Brianna May. Or maybe your last name was LeMay. It’s just been too long since I worked with you, and I don’t remember.

So, in this hypothetical situation …

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And I mean that in the best way possible.  I love geeks.  I am a geek.  Geeks aren’t afraid of feeling passionately about the most obscure things.  It is their glory, that passion.  Jim Butcher has it in spades.

I went to hear him read, as it was billed, at the public library in Kansas City.  I was very pleased that he didn’t read but took questions from the audience, which filled the auditorium with glorious nerd glow.  Being around so many people passionate about reading is always a pleasure.  (And here’s the pleasure of going to see a home-grown writer.  He fielded a question from one his elementary school teachers about whether he still dabbles in ventriloquism.  Oh, yes, didn’t I say he was a Nerd-of-all-Trades?  Ventriloquism.  The answer is no, but he still has the dummy for the purposes of pulling pranks on his family members.)

The added bonus was a chance to meet some online friends–fellow Purgatorians from Absolute Write: Kari Stewart (who shares an editor with Jim Butcher for her book coming out in 2010) and Kasey MacKenzie (whose book is also coming out in 2010.)

Of course I have pictures.

Kari gets her book signed

Kari gets her book signed

Kari & Kasey with Jim

Kari & Kasey with Jim

Kari, Kasey, and me

Kari, Kasey, and me

A good time had by all.  Yes, we are all wearing buttons which declare us to be JimStalkers, but not in a creepy way, because Kasey made the buttons with plenty of glitter.  And creepy stalkers would never wear glittery buttons.  Oh, and I’m reposting this pic, which Kari already had on her blog.  Because I love a photo that can readily be misinterpreted…

Kasey & Kari get acquainted

Kasey & Kari get acquainted

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I’ve been tagged.  At least I didn’t wake up with a big, unfashionable GPS-locator collar around my neck.  Those are soooo last season.

Oh, crap, I’m such a slow, lumbering beast that I’ve now been tagged twice.  Gretchen and Karen both tagged me to list six things that make me happy.

1.) Driving in the country at night and looking at the lights in houses far away, or riding my bike through small town streets after almost everyone has gone to bed.  There is something so still and peaceful about moving through darkness with the stars overhead, and breathing in night air, which is magical in a way daytime air can’t be.  That feeling is good all by itself, but then add to it the sight of those small household lights, beacons of civilization trying to cast back chaos and uncertainty.

A porch light left on for someone coming home late.  A bare bulb in a barn, providing just enough light to do the last of the chores.  The light over the kitchen sink, illuminating someone doing dishes or getting up from bed for a drink of water.  My grandfather once quietly suggested that I ought to prefer the pleasure of being inside those circles of light at night, instead of looking in at them, but he never refused to take me driving when I asked.

2.)  Remembering completely ridiculous family stories with my sisters.  Like the time my dad convinced us to go rafting through the storm drainage system*.  Or family vacations where everything went wonderfully wrong–collapsed tents, my mother wedged into a too-small sleeping berth, shoes sucked off my sister’s foot by a mud pool at Yellowstone.  Or the way my grandmother punished my grandfather by making him rearrange the furniture every week.  He only ever had two responses: “Goddamnit, June!” and “Yes, dear.”

3.)  Animals.  Cats, dogs, cardinals, lizards, squirrels, rabbits.  It doesn’t have to be an exotic animal for me to be willing to watch it for hours.  My cats in particular make me happy.  Flanny yodels.  Even when she wants nothing, needs nothing, she likes to sit around and yowl for her own amusement.  Sippy is engaged in hydrological experiments.  To keep her occupied all you have to do is turn on a faucet or take a shower.

4.) Friday Lunch with my two best friends.  Moving to live in the same town as them has been wonderful and the best perk is Friday Lunch, which is a bit of a ritual now.  We go to our favorite little cafe, have coffee and our “usual.”  We go there so often we have a usual, so that the waiters are surprised if we order something different.  Some weeks, when I’m depressed or stressed, Friday Lunch is the only thing that gets me through the week.

5.)  The way a good, familiar book is like a friend.  You can rely on it to say the same thing every time, even if you come to it with a different state of mind.  For example, when I feel lonely, I reread Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, to remind myself what loneliness is.  When I have the flu or other death-dealing illness, I like to reread Stephen King’s The Stand.  (Perverse, I know.)  When I feel disconnected from the world, I reread Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, and sigh with relief for Paul and Hetta, and break my heart again for little unloved Marie Melmotte, who was willing to suffer anything for love.  Damn you, Felix!  Damn you!

6.)  Feedback on my writing.  I’ve spent so much of my writing life engaged in furtive scribbling that any and all feedback makes me happy.  Even if someone dislikes a story at least I know they’ve read it and reacted to it.  To have a sense of dialog, rather than a feeling of speaking to an empty room, that always makes me happy.

Oh noes!  And now I’m supposed to tag some other people, but who?  Okay, how about Lisa, Dana, and Elizabeth.  I’m so lazy!

*How could bring I this up without describing it?  I couldn’t.

My dad is a trouble-maker.  Yes, he really convinced us to raft down the storm drains.  This was in the summer, when I was maybe 11, and my other sisters were 10, 12, and 14.  (Our oldest sister was 16 and too cool for it.)  We’d had a HUGE rainstorm, the kind of thing that happens in southwest Kansas, where average rainfall is maybe 10 inches.  It’s not rare for 5 of that to fall all at once, and the land is so flat there’s no natural drainage, so our hometown had big storm drains to deal with it.  After the storm they were probably running 4 feet deep.  Dad came home over lunch and said, “Hey, girlies, I’ve got an idea…”

He got out the rubber raft, helped us air it up, and went back to work.  We went in pairs, rafting through about three miles of storm drains and then out of town into the county pond.  The other pair drove our crappy Subaru out to the pond to pick the rafters up.  Then we drove back–holding the raft to the roof of the car with our arms out the car windows–to the beginning and swapped.

When Mom came home and found out…she was furious.  She made us get tetanus shots.  And my oldest sister was furious, because I’d worn her junky lawn-mowing shoes to raft in.  On the second trip to the pond, we’d driven into a rut and torn the muffler on the Subie loose.  The only recourse: I crawled under the car and used her shoelaces to tie the muffler back on.

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