It’s NaNoWriMo time and I’m writing…a kids’ book?

MatildaI really can’t believe it.

I mean, it makes sense. I’m a children’s photographer. I used to write kids’ textbooks. I taught school for five years.

But, gosh, I’m the purveyor of darkness–seamy literary-drenched tales of disaster and the black nature of humanity.

Maybe that’s what led to this sudden and complete reversal.

It happened on Day Three of NaNoWriMo (if you are unfamiliar, it’s the crazy race to write 50,000 words of a new novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30.) I’d been going along, writing a seriously heavy story about a group of frustrated art students trying to figure out how to make their work stand out. It was called, and yeah, it doesn’t get much darker, The Suicide School, because they were researching the connection between artists who killed themselves and the resulting success of their art.

I was only a couple thousand words in, and it was going well enough. But Friday night, the girls and I rented Matilda, based on the book by Roald Dahl (His Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of my absolute favorite stories.)

At the end of the movie, when Matilda finds a family who loves her, and no longer needs her telekinetic powers to exact revenge upon evil adults, I thought–this is what I want to do. I want to write something magical and fun and bright and with the most outrageously happy ending ever.

As I got the girls ready for bed, I knew exactly what I would write. A story about a girl who could grant wishes. I quickly searched on Amazon for how overused the idea is and didn’t find an overwhelming amount. One cute series for very young readers,  Little Genie  by Miranda Jones, is about kids who find a traditional genie in a lamp. Another very clever looking fantasy series by PB Kerr for older children, called Children of the Lamp, is about twin djinn who are fulfilling their destiny as more historically correct genies, not so much the Aladdin variety. Neither series worries me too much. Mine is very much a stand-alone book (although an idea for a series DID sort of pop into my head today…I’ll remain silent until I actually finish ONE) and written in a very different style.

It’s called Jinnie Wishmaker. She ten years old and the book is geared for the 9-12 set. So far it passes muster with Emily, but I’m not ready to put up excerpts or even talk too much about the plot. It’s too new, too tender, and I’m terrified about what I’ve done with my dark literary self!

But I’m happy, so I roll with it.

Crazy Tales and November Folly

In the last few years, Halloween has taken on a significance unknown in my previous thirty-um, thirty-some-odd years. No longer a holiday marked mainly by passing out candy or possibly going to some grown up party, it’s a big day for my children to demonstrate their personalities through their costumes, and at midnight, it’s the kickoff to National Novel Writing Month.

The costume search this year was harder than ever. Elizabeth, as usual, wanted to be some form of web-girls-as-princess-buttercup.jpgdecadent feminine explosion in tulle and roses. Emily, though, really is more male-oriented in her interests (math, architecture, heroes.) But those costumes are too boy for her. Or, transversely, too girly (one look at Wonder Woman and she shouted, “No!”)

We searched on the Internet, viewing over 250 costumes via and other online outlets. When we went through two complete sites with no luck, I turned to her and said, “Figure it out or you’re stuck being Hermione again.”

Both girls shouted, “No!” This upset me a little, as I had hand sewn under duress, a costume for Elizabeth that exactly matched Emily’s so that they might go to the Harry Potter Book 7 release parties as Gryffindor. I’d done it with the deal that Elizabeth would use it again at Halloween.

No dice.

After a lengthy discussion of movies they liked and characters they might portray, both simultaneously chose Buttercup from The Princess Bride.

An argument ensued, mainly composed of “I’m Buttercup! No, I’m Buttercup!”

I never dreamed Emily would pick a princess! And a useless one at that, falling in fear in the battle of the Rodents of Unusual Size when she should have clubbed the buggers with a stick. But that’s beside the point. I now had the opposite problem.

Eventually we came to an agreement: Emily would be the red-robed casual Buttercup; Elizabeth the resplendant white-gowned bride.

web-nano-midnight-write-dragons-lair1.jpgHalloween was not quite the same as last year: the usual crowd but less booze as we parents gabbed in driveways while the kids lumbered up to doorways. When the candy bags were too heavy to manage, we took them home and then as is tradition, I joined friends on Sixth Street for a walk-about before heading to Dragon’s Lair for the midnight kick off of NaNoWriMo.

I wrote 1200 words the first night from midnight until about 1 a.m. I’m about 3500 words in now, but more on the book later. I’m off to the Texas Renaissance Festival! (I just finished MY costume an hour ago!)

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

I do love the fall. When you feel the relief from the heat, the chill rippling across your skin, it relaxes your tension and slows your pace, no longer a rush from air conditioned car to air conditioned house. We can pause a bit, listen to the leaves rustle, push our hair out of our face from the wind. We are grateful for seasons and often sense the stir of the spiritual, the realization that our world was created well and in balance by forces we don’t always fully understand.

I’m always busy in October with the outdoor special, but it’s nothing compared to November when I combine my two passions–writing and photography–into one crazy month of a dizzying overabundance of both.

National Novel Writing Month is a marathon writing spree where you try to write 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days. We begin at midnight on Halloween as the calendar flips to November, and it stops at midnight on the 30th.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for two years now. In 2005 I began Helena the Muse (you can read the first chapter), which is completed. I’m in the process of querying agents for representation for that. In 2006, I wrote Baby Dust (also a first chapter available), which has a complete draft but needs a lot of work still.

This year I have a novel in mind about a circle of frustrated art students who are trying to figure out a fool-proof way to make their work explode into fame and recognition. In the style of Helena, which had significant historical fiction streaks as the main character forces herself back in time to serve as muse to some of the world’s greatests art masters, this book will also have a number of historical twists involving real artists who have either purposefully or inadvertently used suicide to catapult their oeuvres into infamy.

I’m very excited about the onset of both things–holiday pictures and the new novel. I’ll be posting about both things along the way

NaNoWriMo Progress

Despite a foray at the Ren Fair this weekend and a killer photo schedule, I managed to get back on pace for my 50,000 words in November.

The book is going well although chapter two did falter for a while (I started over completely last night), and readership is high over at the novel blog. I feel blessed to be so supported by both the trove of women coming from my miscarriage site to follow the book’s progress as well as all my writer friends. I managed to write almost 3K at Java besides the distractions of the waiter spilling wine in my lap, Brecca’s distress over her rat purchase, and James’ drinking two hefty shots of pancake syrup. Yeah, you can see the video.

My Thanksgiving just got sort of screwed up, so not sure what is going to happen or if I’ll get to travel, but otherwise all is good.

The book is done!

The book draft is done

I completed the first draft to Helena the Muse at 10:08 a.m. this morning. It finished out at 84,497 words.

And ended exactly the way it should have. Thanks to Nietzsche. And the song from Notting Hill.

And my writing friends. All were instrumental in my figuring out what the story was about and how it should conclude.

Now I refuse to think about it any more until I leave town to do the reorganization of the first third of the manuscript, to get the action a bit more up front.

What a ride it’s been since Nov. 1 when I began the novel with NaNoWriMo. It has been amazing–meeting all the Java crew–especially Audrey and Ivy and Henry.

I can’t believe I finished it.

I Did It!

50,242 / 50,000 words

It took four days to recover the rest of my life sufficiently to even think of NaNoWriMo again, but I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging!

I reached 50,000 words at about 8 p.m. on Nov. 30. To cross the big mark, I wrote a live “interactive” scene where a bunch of patients at St. Martins Hospital play Truth or Dare. To get ideas for the scene we actually played Truth or Dare at the coffee shop, and I took down everything that we did and said. All my NaNo pals now have cameos.

I’ll put that scene up here once I clean it up. This will hopefully be today, as I would like to read the scene as part of the party tonight. Several will be reading excerpts. I am also going dressed as Helena, in polka dot pajamas.

I will keep this blog active. A group of NaNos have decided to form a writing group of our own, so I will be working on Helena the Muse via it. I am entering contests in January and March with it, so I will be finalizing the first chapter and hopefully getting through a complete rough draft to make sure my synopsis is accurate. I am not totally certain how it will end, even though I have mapped out how I think it will go. I am not completely sure how Helena will change/grow as a result of her experiences. She has to just keep experiencing!

Thank for coming along for the ride!