October 02, 2009

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See you in court? posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken Friends, I have been laid low by a bug. A bug without a name--nothing like swine flu or even garden variety influenza. Just an annoying bug that has kept me confined to quarters for several days, and my doctor says I can't go back to work til Monday. In the meantime, I am hacking and rattling and not worth a damn to anybody for anything. I don't even have the energy to finish up the semi-final draft of the cancer book that is supposed to go to press in "early October". Gulp. I think I caught this bug last Wednesday when I escorted my husband to a teaching hospital for a routine test, the one with the prep that takes two days and proves that, at last for a while, the testee is not "full of shit." Anyway, we sat in a crowded waiting room for over two hours while other patients came and went. This did nothing to improve Mr. Grumpy's mood, which had gone south about the time of the second bottle of fizzy "bowel prep" stuff. There were no spare seats, some people were sitting on stairs and window sills, and the guy next to me coughed the whole time. I was faithful with the hand sanitizer, but apparently one must gargle with it for full efficacy, and I didn't. My bad. But don't worry about me. I now have excellent drugs and expect that I will be back on my feet pretty soon. In the meantime, I am stuck at home. I do have a huge TBR (to be read) pile of books, mostly mysteries, by my bed, and I've made my way through several of them, but a lot of the time I just don't feel like reading (which should tell you how sick I really am.) So I have been reduced to watching daytime TV, a questionable pleasure I haven't had for many years. With cable, there are a lot more programs to choose from. Quantity does not equal quality. Still, in an effort to use the time as research, I decided to limit my viewing to courtroom shows. Not fictional dramas--real live courtroom reality programs. Judge Judy was the limit of my acquaintance with these shows. Now I find that there are people's courts, divorce courts, and a whole bunch of other choices: Judge Alex, Judge Lynn Tolle, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Judge Mathis...frankly, I lost count. And I discovered the truth: it is impossible to overestimate the stupidity of some people. I saw people suing their spouses, their mothers, their kids, their boyfriends, their girlfriends, their sisters and brothers. They sue over high school yearbooks, cell phones (how do they rack up such large bills?), old pickup trucks...the list is endless. I couldn't help but think that any writer who wanted some plot ideas could pick up a lot of pointers from these shows. My favorite was the divorce hearing where the bride admitted the trouble started on the wedding night when they got home from the bar and faced the groom's kids, who, being underage, were too young to have joined the celebration. I don't know about you, but I might have suspected that the marriage was doomed from the start. I'd say it pretty much proves that truth is stranger than fiction.
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When Life Gets in a New Writer’s Way by Guest Blogger Rachel Brady For me, it often feels like there’s an arm-wrestling match going on between my real life and my writing life. The prize, of course, is my time. My children are still young and need me for many things—urgently, it seems, if they’ve seen me sit down with the laptop. A heaping serving of Mom Guilt is spooned out every time I say, “After I read this message” or “When I finish this scene.” Messages related to revisions and promotions are “work e-mails” in my mind, even though I read them from my home computer. I take them as seriously as I do the e-mails I receive at my day job, but my kids don’t see me at the office so they don’t understand the nuances between Fun Mommy and Focused Mommy. Fun Mommy plays Trouble, fills water balloons, and colors with magic markers. Focused Mommy is usually in a bad mood because she can’t finish this paragraph while you’re carrying on about the Hannah Montana eraser your sister just stole out of your backpack. Don’t get me wrong. Real life, especially with little kids, is great fun and these days with them will be the crowning jewel of my short time on the planet. But as a writer I confess I’m often torn. Don’t tell my son, but Dora the Explorer frankly doesn’t interest me, so when I’m snuggled up on the couch with him, I’m secretly working out plot points. And the mental multi-tasking doesn’t stop there. I think about writing while driving, when I’m working out, during boring meetings, and even when people are talking to me. That last bit sounds rude, I know, but let me explain. The truth is, the funnier and more interesting I find you, the more likely I am to be thinking about writing while talking to you. I’m stealing your material. But don’t worry. You won’t recognize it when I’m finished. My point is near. Sometimes I imagine a utopian scenario in which I get to spend full days with my laptop in a quiet house with no distractions. That’d be great for a while, but eventually what would I write about? Much as I long for more solitude to write, I sometimes think that life getting in my way is paradoxical serendipity. Real life and its quirky people and bizarre dramas are part of what make a convincing story. So I think as writers, when life gets in our way, once in a while we should step back and take comfort in knowing that somehow, it’s all sinking in. The next time we get a quiet moment at the keyboard, real life is what will brighten the page. -------------------------------------------- Rachel Brady’s debut suspense novel, Final Approach, was released in August. She works as a biomedical engineer at NASA and lives outside of Houston, Texas, with her husband and their three children. Visit her on-line at www.RachelBrady.net or read about her experiences as a new author at her blog, Write It Anyway. Fellow internet junkies can follow her on Twitter or add her as a friend on Goodreads. If you’re in Houston, please join Rachel at Murder by the Book next Saturday, October 10th at 4:30 for the launch of Final Approach.

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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