To quote the one and only John Ward*. . . . it’s time!
And by that I mean it’s time to have a Bittersweet Creek Giveway. Enter for your chance to win one of 2 Advanced Reader Copies, autographed by yours truly complete with cartoon cows also drawn by yours truly. Giveaway starts on September 4th and ends on September 16th.
For the uninitiated, John Ward is the legendary voice of the Tennessee Volunteers, or at least he was until he retired a few years back. Long live Ward, and give…him…six!
I know what I need to do with the book, but it’s not working. I caught myself giving myself a pep talk and then thought, “Self, this is the sort of thing you should put on your blog so people can see how crazy writers really are.” And my self said, “Yeah!”
So, here’s the deal. I’m stuck just over halfway through the book while making revisions. Can’t move. It’s like playing chess when you know any move you make will lead to a piece being taken from you: there’s seemingly no change I can make to this manuscript that will get it to where it needs to go. This, of course, reminds me of that time I sitting in a Power Plotting workshop and said to Mary Buckham, “If I’m having problems right here, that means I messed up somewhere before this point and I have to go back to the beginning.”
And she said yes.
And I inwardly cursed my inability to plot my novel without having to back up. Now I’m not-so inwardly cursing my inability to revise my novel without backing up and going back to the beginning.
Then those thoughts reminded me of The Princess Bride and how Inigo knew to go back to the beginning when the job went wrong:
“I’m waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I’ll stay. I will not be moved.”
At this point I think I need Fezzik to dunk my head in barrels of water and then nurse me back to health until I gain greater understanding.
But then I remembered something from RWA: Jennifer Crusie mentioned how you get to a point where you go over and over the manuscript again and again tweaking here and there–this is where I am.
I am tweaking.
This is not to be confused with twerking. That, I cannot do.
So I’ve eaten a taco (sunshine from within–just ask Delilah Dawson) and I’m going to learn from Roxanne St. Claire (revision articles that are in my RWA eNotes somewhere) and, of course, I’ll start by rereading my editorial notes from Peter (#editorsareimportant). At the moment, though, it looks like I’m going back to the beginning. Again.
This, ladies and gents, is how the sausage is made.
This morning I looked at my pine island and whimpered.
Mind you, my husband, children, and in-laws all lovingly fixed up my pine island as a Mother’s Day present to me. And what a glorious present it was!
Unfortunately, I didn’t properly maintain the pine island. Kids went to camp. I had RT and Heart of Dixie and the national RWA conference and revisions and meet & greet and…oh, you get the picture. Life has been a flurry of activity, so much to do and so little time in which to do it, but this morning as I was whimpering I had an important realization: one of the reasons why that pine island bugs me so much is because it reminds me of who I was and who I am.
I can remember the infamously hot summer (either 1980 or 81) and sitting underneath the tree at the end of Granny’s driveway. I had a hoe, and I was going to do my garden work even if the adults had to take a break in the shade. My father, with a twinkle in his eyes, told me to go on, then, if I thought I could hack it. I lasted about thirty seconds.
All of my other gardening expeditions are mostly a blur. Going to the garden to hoe weeds or to pick beans was very much a part of my childhood summers. I don’t remember thinking to question it. I do remember a particularly hot July day in which I ended up picking up potatoes AFTER we watched an episode of Donahue, so that would’ve been close to lunch. I don’t recommend it. I remember another potato picking up incident in which my mother had gone along with our neighbor, Diane, to show West Tennessee off to some Mexican businessmen. They were from the northern part of Mexico and thus fascinated by how lush and green (read: humid) everything was and by the number of trees they saw. I can’t know for sure, but I think they were quite surprised that in the United States, wives drove dignitaries around while husbands, children, and the elderly picked up potatoes in the heat of summer. When Diane and mom brought them over the bumpy ruts that led to the garden, they seemed stunned. I still remember how my father didn’t want to shake hands with them. They were, of course, in business attire. We were in our rattiest tees and jeans, sweat pooling under our arms and dirt caked under our fingernails. Granny was wearing a bonnet that made her look like a Little House on the Prairie extra. I don’t think she ever stopped her methodically slow manner of bending over and picking up the potatoes that were closest to the top.
I have one last garden memory: I had come home from college and knew the green beans needed picking. Mom and Dad were both at work, so I put on my garden clothes and went up to the garden with an empty five-gallon bucket. I didn’t make it half a row. The plants were so damned itchy, and the heat made me dizzy. And to think I thought I was soft that day.
A few years ago, I bought an heirloom tomato plant from a vendor on theMarietta Square. I wanted to get back to my gardening roots, but she didn’t want to let that plant go. It’s as though she knew I wasn’t the right parent for a plant whose seeds had been so meticulously saved over the years. I also planted a jalapeño pepper plant to keep my tomatoes company. Both plants did well, but I made the mistake of planting them just outside my breakfast room window. Many slugs braved the journey underneath the baseboards to visit us. That was new, exciting, and….disgusting.
Even worse? I never ate those tomatoes or the peppers. I harvested them, but I wouldn’t eat them. Now I know why: I didn’t trust myself. Somewhere in my subconscious, I was afraid I had done something to those plants to make their yield inedible. I picked the perfect little jalapeños and looked at them, turning them over in my hand and marveling at the thing I’d grown, but I wouldn’t eat them because I felt like a poser.
And I am a poser. My soft suburban self doesn’t wash the car anymore. I could tell you it’s due to water restrictions, but I think I’ve gotten too lazy to
fight the weeds around the spigot and drag out the hose. Or perhaps overwhelmed by all the other things I need to do, things I can do from the air-conditioned inside. I don’t get out there and take care of that pine island, maintaining the good work that was done for me on Mother’s Day. I’ve braved it once or twice, savagely cutting back the bushes that refuse to curb their growth to meet the demands of civilized life. The last time I hacked at the no-name bushes, Ryan was afraid they wouldn’t grow back. But they did. They always do. I lopped off the crepe myrtles, hoping Google could guide me in what I was doing. The other yards in my neighborhood are perfectly manicured. Something about that manufactured perfection annoys me. Nothing is perfect. The plants don’t want to grow in those directions.
The greatest irony of all of this is that the weeds that insist on encroaching upon my pine island are pasture weeds, reminders that the land where my house stands wasn’t always suburbia. They’re thorny, so thorny that I don’t have gloves thick enough to pick them up without their biting through and stinging my fingers. They also grow up through my shrubs, and I wonder sometimes if *I* am not like those weeds, a stubborn interloper who doesn’t really belong in the suburbs. Sometimes I don’t want to grow in the direction that my neighbors do. I don’t feel the need to play at perfection because I’m mostly content with my lack thereof.
Of course, I don’t think I’d make it out in the country anymore, either.
Maybe those conflicting feelings are a lot of what led to Bittersweet Creek. I did have Romy try–and fail–to pick green beans on her first attempt, just as I did. She also snagged her leg while trying to hike it over the electric fence. I did that, too, once upon a time. But I didn’t have her dealing with the landscaping because that’s something I never once did out in the country. I like to think she got over being soft and suburban.
The jury’s still out for me.
Hear ye, hear ye! I’m preparing to send out my very first official newsletter, in which I shall be Preaching to the Choir!
If you would like to be the first to receive an excerpt from Bittersweet Creek, know when and where the launch party will be held, and get a special short-short prequel to the story, then please sign up over in the upper righthand side where it asks you to Join the Choir. If you’re not in the Choir, then you’ll just have to wait until practice is over. I’ll also be sending some exclusives to my Choir folk from time to time.
I also solemnly swear not to spam or to share your email address–I think they have a special hell for that sort of thing.
In the meantime, be brushing up on your Shakespeare, y’all!
Wanna preorder or go add it to your Goodreads shelf? This post has ALL the links.
In the weeks leading up to Bittersweet Creek, I’ll be talking about some true stories that inspired the book. After all, I kinda consider Romy and Julian’s story to be my love letter to West Tennessee. Today’s topic: cows. (Several of my friends are pointing out that cows are often the topic of the day in my world *shrug*)
Why would I write a story that’s all “Shakespeare. . . with cows”? Because I had a pet cow. (And a mother who frequently quoted Shakespeare, but that’s a story for another post)
So, the story goes that I, like just about any preteen girl you’ll ever meet, really wanted a horse. I read Black Beauty and all of the Black Stallion books. I read Misty of Chincoteague and just about every other horse book I could find. I even had an adult book that outlined the different breeds of horses, and I read that from cover to cover. Finally, I asked my Daddy for a horse.
My ever pragmatic father informed me in no uncertain terms that horses were more money and more trouble than they were worth. He offered to give me a cow instead.
Resigned to bovine rather than equine, I read up on the 4-H Heifer Project. I even dragged my father along to the information meeting. At the time I thought that all of this about showing heifers was too much pageantry for him–and that could be the case–but I really think, in looking back, that he was working a LOT of hours and knew we wouldn’t have the time to do the heifer thing the 4-H way. He offered me a compromise: he would give me a heifer and I would receive the proceeds from her calf sales as long as I helped him feed the cows and drove for him while he hauled hay, etc.
I’m glad we struck that bargain. Sometimes I still miss going with him to feed the cows. Of course, things are different now that he’s gone to round bales. Back in the day, we had square bales and would have to remove the twine and break them out for the cows. Now it’s a matter of taking a huge round bale and putting the ring around it.
Also, the current bull is a real ass. I’ve met many a bull and many a cow, but he’s the only one to ever really lower his head and threaten me. Sure, I was kicked once, but that was my own fault for standing too close behind the cow in question. I’ve also had my foot stepped on–I put that in my book–but, again, that was my own fault for standing between Bambi and the feed trough and–thank goodness–I was wearing steel-toed boots.
Speaking of my own cow, I chose a spindly little heifer with big ears and named her Bambi. At the time she looked a bit like a baby deer, but she grew into a squat, attitude-filled black Angus with, I think, a hint of Beefmaster. Poor baby’s growth was stunted a little bit because she was bred too soon, but she developed into a fine cow and produced several calves. If memory serves, she took her mothering a bit too seriously, often nursing other calves as well as her own. Many times the money that I earned from the sale of her calves went to pay for my college textbooks.
Come to think of it, Bambi was so gentle, I probably could’ve put a saddle on her and ridden her. She really only had two rules: not to hug her neck and not to push her nose into the ground while she was trying to graze. Pretty reasonable, if you ask me. (Also, if you’re wondering how we discovered these two things that Bambi did not like, may I refer you to my father who liked to…hug her neck and/or gently push on her head while she was trying to graze)
And that’s one of the reasons I included cows in Bittersweet Creek. I really have driven for someone while they hauled hay. I really did have a cow and helped feed her. I really have tromped through pastures.
So I’m the girl who wanted a horse but ended up with a cow that I named for a deer–and that probably tells you a whole heckuva lot about me.
This has been the craziest part of the ride yet! I still have events for The Happy Hour Choir going. Bittersweet Creek will be upon us SOON, and I’m working on edits for Book 3. Many thanks to everyone who’s made this crazy, magical, unbelievable–and, yes, somewhat stressful–time possible.
Take a look at the cover for my newest book baby and see what differences you can spot between the Satterfields and the McElroys because Bittersweet Creek is Romeo & Juliet meets the Hatfields and the McCoys or–as I sometimes like to say–Shakespeare….with cows.
Wanna be a pal and add it to your Goodreads shelf?
Wanna be a superstar and preorder?
Oh, and stay tuned for Launch Party info and the special commemorative glass that I’ll have for this book. If you want to be the first to know, you can sign up to join the Choir over in the upper right-hand corner.