Monthly Archives: October 2013

5 Novel Plots For Beginning Novelists

Many people think it would be fun to try writing a novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but don’t know where to start. While I would encourage you to write the plot of your wildest dreams, here are 5 ideas, my free gift to you, if you can’t think of anything. (Want to go for it? Go to nanowrimo.org to sign up – it’s free!)

1. Small town chooses one of their families to star in a reality show on their public access channel. Could be a group other than a family.

2. Cat vampires.

3. 65-year-old Millie, the new president of her gardening club, tries to continue the well-received plans of her predecessor, only to have her ideas trashed. She comes up with some great new ideas, only to have those trashed, too. Rumor has it that it’s all because she moved to town in her teens, and all the other members were born in the small town.

4. Aliens are going to destroy Earth, but they offer Cameron a chance to come live on their planet. Does he take it?

5. Jake and Vanessa think that the universe is trying to stop their love. They come up with ridiculous reasons that they can’t be together. Wait, that’s every romance novel.

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Your Own Little Political Party

How many political parties would there be if we took all the most divisive topics and founded a political party for every possible combination of beliefs? Even if we narrowed it down to A/B choices about foreign policy/military, gun control, gay marriage, abortion, education, business oversight, and welfare, we’d have dozens of political parties. And each of those topics could have several points of view. We’d really have to have at least A/B/C/D choices for each one. John wants an Old West gun-slingin’ free-for-all. Liam might be pro gun control, but Jen wants every gun confiscated and sent into space. David wants abortion totally illegal, while Carmen thinks it should be legal in certain circumstances, Su thinks it should be legal in different certain circumstances, and Logan thinks it should always be the woman’s choice.

How many political parties would we have? They would be so specific that we’d each have our own little, and I mean little, political party. I am a near pacifist, tight gun control, let people marry who they want (some people are born with male and female genitalia, for goodness* sake, are you going to check?) more money for education, heavy business regulation lefty who thinks government should help the poor, BUT, I’m in a little group of lefties who are pro-life except in the direst of situations. And I was soooo close to getting a bunch of lefty votes.**

We all have our own little political party. If you don’t have your own, you might want to think a little bit harder. There are a lot of variables here, and my list is nowhere near complete. What are the chances that you would agree with one of the major parties on every issue? Statistically, it’s unlikely in the extreme. Some issues you might not even (gasp) be able to come to a conclusion on. It’s okay. Enjoy your little party. Don’t be afraid to say how your views differ from the mainstream. Not that you shouldn’t vote for one of the big two, (I do) but at least think for yourself before making that important decision.

With love from the Marie party.

*goodness’s?

**since writing this I’ve learned a lot about abortion rates coming down to pre Roe v Wade numbers due to education and birth control availability, and I’ve thought more about the impossibility of policing abortions for certain reasons and moved to the left on this, too. Time to run for office? Millard 2020!

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The Second Scourge of Society

It is a still, warm, October day, and I am an hour early to pick my daughter up from school. I park in a shady spot in front of the school and pull out my current library book, A Year in Provence. Car windows open, I almost feel like I’m sitting on the patio outside the little cafĂ© that Peter Mayle so lusciously describes. Birds whistle and caw, leaves whish in a gentle breeze. I can taste Peter’s potato and onion galette and chocolate tart.

Another early mom takes the shady spot next to me. After a while, I notice that she hasn’t turned off her car engine. Rural France now smells like downtown LA, not to mention the constant whir of the motor. Other Early Mom must want to run her air conditioner. If she’d roll her windows down, she’d realize that she doesn’t need to. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I assume she suffers from allergies and drive to a spot behind the school where I happen to know of some secret shade. Ahh, back to Provence.

Whirrrrrrrrrr.

Merde! A leafblower! One house up the street, someone’s yard maintenance man is blowing fall leaves onto the sidewalk. The lawn looks perfect. Yes! He must be almost done. He puffs everything down the driveway and walks across the street to what I assume is his truck. While I’m wondering why he hasn’t turned the blower off, he passes the truck and starts blowing another yard. Multiple jobs! Merde!

My biggest pet peeve is scary commercials during family-friendly TV shows, but leafblowers come in a close second. No, not a pet peeve, a scourge of society. Really, people. Pick up a freaking rake. It’s lighter, environmentally friendlier, and, for Pete’s sake, it doesn’t drown out the birds and the breeze with a constant whine. If I want a constant whine, I’ll blog.

In my own townhouse complex, every Tuesday the yard maintenance men blow all the dust and candy wrappers from the parking lot into our small yards, apparently not caring that my potted plants end up decorated like tiny landfill Christmas trees. Not only am I stuck in the house until the exhaust and dust storm settles, but I know the sorry state my garden will be in when I do go out. I have half a mind to borrow a leafblower, wait in my yard next Tuesday, and have a wind war. Oh yeah? Blow this!

Autumn has always been my favorite season, largely because of nature’s colorful ticker tape parade. We have ruined the joy of falling leaves. Wherever leaves fall, you can be sure that a leafblower will be there to make sure we don’t enjoy them.

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5 reasons to join NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

November is National Novel Writing Month. Visit nanowrimo.org today! Need a reason? Here are five.

1. You’ll Have Permission To Be Crazy
Last year over 300,000 people signed up for NaNoWriMo. They ate, drank, and sometimes slept by their computers. They pretended they were Kafka (okay maybe they pretended they were Suzanne Collins.) They stayed up past their bedtimes. They forgot to shop for groceries. They yelled into their phones, “Not now, I’m writing!” And it was okay, because they had warned their friends. In fact, their friends thought it was kind of cool to be a part of it all, if only to be yelled at. And the best part of this craziness – it has an end date. December 1st, after a nice nap, you’ll go back to nice, normal you. But a you that has written a book.

2. You’ll Have WRITTEN A BOOK
50,000 words is approximately a 200 page book. NaNoWrimo will get you through your first draft, and it will be far from perfect, but you can still say “I’ve written a novel.” Start now with a character, give them a desperation for something (the last available box of Hostess Ding Dongs, founding a new city, setting the world record for high fives, getting the girl) give them some obstacles, maybe a nemesis, and then on Nov. 1st, start writing. You don’t need the perfect first sentence yet. You can go back and figure that out when you’re done and you finally know what your book’s about.

3. You’ll Appreciate Great Books Even More
How did Harper Lee make us love Scout? How did J.K. Rowling make us desperate to turn the page to find out who was good and who was bad, and whether good would win? How can the best writers get away with entire pages of description without boring a hole in our skulls? You’ll have an even greater appreciation for great writers, even if, maybe especially if, you are one of the 10% or so of NaNoWriMoers who finish their books.

4. You’ll Be Called A Winner
My first year, I only made it to 25,000 words. And hey, that’s 25,000 words more than most people write, and I have a good start to a book. But this year, I’m more prepared. I have an outline, and I know how to use it. Come December first, I intend to have some NaNoWriMo “Winner” paraphernalia even if I have to buy it myself (which I think I do.) My softball days are long gone, and I don’t play the lottery, so how else can I be called a winner, I ask you!

5. See #2
Everyone has one story in them. Tell it! If not now, when?

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Drama at the Dachshund Races

Today would have been my Grandpa George’s 100th birthday. I called him my funny grandpa, because he said things like, “Better to burp and bear the shame than not to burp and bear the pain,” and many other quips that caused my grandma to scold, “GEORGE!”

Because Grandpa George was of Germanic descent, my mom and I remembered him today by driving to a small-town Octoberfest. The accordion reminded us of him (he was a professional piano and accordion player) and while we waited for the dachshund races, we talked about how much Grandpa loved dogs. A few minutes before race time I noticed that people were starting to come to the racetrack in hordes. The only problem was that the racetrack was about twenty feet long, there were several hundred people, and there was no other attraction happening at two o’clock. My mom and I grabbed places standing right up front, and then we were pinned in by a crowd that had spent the last two hours drinking beer and dancing to polka music.

The man next to me had a toddler on his shoulders, and he sent his four-year-old son to sit in front of me. Before the races began, an old woman wearing a flowing black top and a cute black hat crouched down in front of the little boy and got out her camera.

“Thanks for sitting right in front of my son,” the man said.

“I’m with the newspaper,” the woman replied, as if that excused everything.

And the man said exactly what I was thinking. “I don’t give a $#!$.”

Everyone in our particular sardine can got very quiet.

She said, “All you people come downtown and all you do is complain.”

First of all, I’m not sure this place was big enough to have a downtown. And also (and I would have said this if I would have thought of it at the time) I had been there for over an hour and had heard nary a complaint until she showed up. Helpful hint: If you hear people complaining all the time, perhaps you’re giving them something to complain about. Grandpa George probably would have punched her. That’s how you settled things when he was a kid.

But she did move over. As she sank back down into a crouch, her shirt billowed out ever so slightly and the gray-bearded man behind me said in his best wicked witch voice, “She’s melllllting!”

I laughed out loud and he told me to behave myself.

Finally the first heats began, the dogs were adorable, and the winners of each heat lined up for the finals. One! Two! Three… but right before the word “Go,” Ginger’s owner set her free. Ginger rocked it down the lane. She won by a nose, but I knew that fifty dollars and canine glory (not to mention a picture in the all-important local paper) were riding on this. Should I say anything? Cry foul?

Luckily, someone else cried foul first. They reran the race and Ginger won this one fair and square, and hilariously close to the ground.

Mom and I pushed our way through the crowd, me thinking about my grandpa and Mom thinking about her dad. It seemed too short a time to designate to his memory, but I think Grandpa George would have been pleased with the music, the sauerkraut, the dogs, the kids, and even a little wicked humor. I can hear him cracking a joke about the photographer now. And I can hear Grandma scolding, “GEORGE!”

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Marie’s Dream Interpretation Guide

Long ago I had recurring dreams about having to use public restrooms with no stalls. As it was the only recurring theme in my dreams, that’s what I looked up when I came across a dream interpretation book in a bookstore. The book told me I felt guilty about something. I racked my brains. Did I feel guilty about something in particular, or was it a vague “I’m not good enough,” Catholic sort of guilt? I’m not Catholic, so I decided it must be something specific. I couldn’t figure out what.

Fast forward a decade or so. Last night I dreamed that I was cleaning a bathroom, and feeling a real sense of accomplishment. I found an online guide to dream symbols, and it said that cleaning bathrooms means you are starting to shed your inhibitions. Look out world! I might be unbuttoning my top shirt button! Stay tuned.

On the other hand, I don’t know how much credence I can give these interpretation guides, because, just for kicks, I looked up the whole ‘restrooms without stalls’ thing, and it said I might just be yearning for more privacy. That makes a lot more sense than the guilty thing. I could have avoided a lot of stupid soul searching. Maybe I should keep my shirt buttoned.

These variances made me think that maybe I’d be just as good at interpreting dreams as all the books and websites already out there. For instance, I happen to know from personal experience that dreaming about urinating means that you are dangerously close to peeing the bed, so I looked that up, and the website only said that it means 1. The release of negative emotions, or 2. A pun (wow you’re good at puns in your sleep) that you have a “pissy” attitude. Now those aren’t nearly as helpful as my interpretation. My interpretation? If you dream that you are peeing, wake the #%!@ up and get to the bathroom.

Here are some themes that the website says are common in dreams. I didn’t bother looking at their interpretations (see above) but here are mine.

Chase Dreams
I used to wake up overheated from scary dreams. Wow, I thought, was I running so hard in my dreams that I actually broke a real sweat? That’s a powerful dream! Wrong. Turns out that I was overheated from being dehydrated, and feeling overheated made my brain concoct a dream that would go along with how my body was feeling. I never drank water before bed because of the urinating dreams and sprints to the bathroom (see above) but I started to down some water before bed – nightmares gone. Bam. (I’ll take the sprints to the bathroom, thank you. Those were some freaky dreams.)

Teeth Dreams
I remember reading long ago that teeth dreams could mean you’re worried about money. My guess is that you’re dreaming about teeth because you’re clenching them in your sleep. Because of money worries? Maybe. But it could just as easily be worries about cooking for your in-laws or who will play the next Batman.

Flying Dreams
They seem so spiritual. Are you feeling closer to God? Superpowerful? Carefree? Sorry. If you’re like me, your back is out of alignment, causing numbness. I used to wake up from awesome flying dreams only to find that my arms, chest, and lips were numb. Once again my brain created a dream to go along with how my body felt. I thought I was dying of some rare condition where my heart stopped while I slept. Then one day my back cracked, ziiiiiiip! No more numbness. No more flying.

Falling Dreams
Inner ear problems? Spouse flopping around in the bed sending you on a roller coaster?

Naked Dreams
I’m sure the experts say that naked dreams mean that you feel exposed, vulnerable. And maybe they’re right. I can’t think of a physical reason that you would dream about being naked, except that underneath those jammies, you are!

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Blame It On Buster

Here’s a little song I wrote about the best baseball player of our time.

Blame It On Buster

I was born in the reign of the A’s of the seventies
Cheering for them from the womb
Someone swept me away like the twenty-twelve Tigers
I couldn’t help swishing my broom

Blame it on Buster
His game packs a wow
Blame it on Buster
I’m a Giants fan now

In college I lived near the A’s coliseum
Cheering from cheap bleacher seats
But somebody’s swing and his perfect pitch-calling
Swept me right off of my cleats

Blame it on Buster
His game packs a wow
Blame it on Buster
I’m a Giants fan now

Henderson and Eckersley
It’s true you were great
But who could resist
Black and orange twenty-eight

Blame it on Buster
His game packs a wow
Blame it on Buster
I’m a Giants fan now

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