Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Facing My Fears

It's painful and shameful to divulge, but at the risk of reducing my reputation to that of a cowering idiot, I must concede: I'm afraid of mice.

The word 'afraid' doesn't communicate the full force of my affliction. Mice terrify me; they repulse me. I know and understand the reality of their minuscule proportions, and yet, when I witness one scurrying through the garage or (horrors! I'm trapped!) the basement, it appears gargantuan. The smallest mouse I've observed was the size of a football and the largest, a small dog. Yes, I realize my mental images are obscuring reality and the mice are actually smaller than my fist (eww! Imagine one touching my hand!) but my stomach retains its contents only because of my superior vomit prevention mechanism, often exercised this time of year when the mouse population is high and they are all seeking shelter.

When I was a child I read books about mice. The Mouse and the Motorcycle was one of my favorites, and of course I read Stuart Little and a collection of others. Unfortunately, real mice do not don Victorian waistcoats and tiny spectacles; they don't converse about erudite topics; they don't travel under one's hat or drive little cars. They certainly don't know how to prepare gourmet meals (or was that a rat, in the movie 'Ratatouille'? Must have been a rat. Shivers--even larger than a mouse!)

So the fear has become debillitating: the other night as I pulled into the garage at home, I noticed a mouse streaking across the floor. My reaction never varies, so I endured the entire anxiety/panic attack as my stomach clenched, I heard a rushing sound in my ears, I broke out in goosebumps, my hands gripped the steering wheel, my bladder threatened to release its contents, and I may have forgotten to breathe for a minute or two. The mouse was unaffected, frolicking happily, seeking a dark tunnel (of course I checked my pant legs: firmly pulled down around my shoes, no gaping invitation there). In light of this debillitation, I decided to face my fear and set traps for these dirty rodents. My husband normally sets the traps, but he's tired of my irrational fear and tired of emptying traps.

My method will be twofold: (1) a line of traps, which will be treated as disposables so I will never have to touch the cadavers and (2) a Polish mouse trap made with a bucket, a beer can and some peanut butter, which I can empty at arms' length while frantically inhaling fresh air over my other shoulder. The annihilation of the mouse population at Honeymoon Acres will commence this Sunday (Nov 29) after I gather my supplies. The result should also be twofold: (1) there will be no more mice on the premises, at least until next year's batch moves in and (2) I will no longer be handicapped by the mere sight of a tiny rodent smaller than my (gulp) fist.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Behold the Tote Bag

Whether I'm responding to an emergency or racing out the door to my full-time job (I work at an electric utility; more about that later) I grab more than just my purse. My "bag of things to do" is always over my shoulder, filled with: one - two books (if I'm past the halfway point in the one I'm reading, I stow an extra), my current writing project, usually consisting of two notebooks (the Levenger Circa notebooks--don't try them unless you're prepared for a new addiction and a much lower checkbook balance), my favorite pens, various loose copies and notes, maybe some junk mail, our business checkbooks (we have two businesses) and a snack. It's tiring carrying all of this around--a snack is necessary!

The great thing about transporting all of this is extreme preparation: if I get snowed in, end up in the ditch, have to leave work to sit in the hospital unexpectedly, waiting for a friend to emerge from a coma, or solve the latest challenge in my writing project, I'm ready. If luck is preparation meeting opportunity, I am always prepared and alert for an opportunity.

Carrying my projects in a bag separate from my purse has its advantages: I can leave it in the truck while I'm shopping, dining or visiting people; I enjoy the benefits of a large purse without lugging the large purse everywhere (my purse is mid-size, but manageable); I can stow items requiring action on a particular day such as outgoing mail, small items to be returned to the store, an extra pair of shoes, even my laptop and charger in case I'll be in the vicinity of a wifi connection.

Yes, tote bags are beautiful creations and make grand auxiliary carry-alls for life's necessities. Mine sometimes sports an unattractive bulge--maybe I'll stash an additional bag in the pocket just to be sure I can take it all with me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Does a Chapter Make?

I'm deep in writing production mode, cranking out a few words a day. I subscribe to the philosophy "write one word per day", expecting if I write one word, more will follow, but if I set the goal too high (some write 2000+ words/day) I will fail miserably and end up in a nice white room with no hard surfaces. My one word per day is rather loose: I'm allowed to write down one idea or outline a chapter or scene, or write an actual word that may appear in the actual finished product. This method words because I am inspired by the first word to continue with a second word, then a third, and so on.

Today's question, what does a chapter make, is about words. How many words do you consider necessary for a 'regular', 'average' chapter? I've seen chapters as short as one word, and as long as half a book. Most of my chapters in the work-in-progress are 7-10 pages long, which translates to 1750 - 2500 words per chapter. The latest guide I read suggests 18-20 pages per chapter, but since I can't sustain a thought or scene quite that long, I will write twice as many chapters. Or maybe not.

I may not have a clear point here, but I will say this: If you are a writer, struggling with appropriate word counts and page counts, take it from me--stop counting! Be creative, let it flow, write a word per day. Reread, revise, rewrite, add scenes, delete lines, etc.

Remember, I've yet to publish a fiction title. Take the above advice with a grain of salt and a shot of your favorite beverage.