Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No, no, NaNo.

Alas.  I think I'm sunk.  Although with great joy I can report that I'm doing great -- no, seriously, fabulously -- with the challenges of National Knee Month, I don't think I'm going to make the NaNo.  For all kinds of reasons.

I fear I shall never win the right to wear my NaNo Winner badge.  Or even the Rally badge for 5,000 words in a day.

I feel bad about this.

First of all, I am still just in LOVE with the idea of the thing.  The idea of almost a billion and a half words in half of a month.  Ordinary words like "duck" and "book" and extraordinary words like "perspicacious" and "fey."  Unleashed upon the world.  Wielded.  Set free by us writers to do their best and worst.

It plum makes me want to cry.

I have adored being an inadequate, limping member of such a magnificent crazy band of devil-may-care devils.  I already feel as though my cold little nose is pressed against the bakery window of camaraderie. (I am just about one step from lighting matches, here in the snowy night, to keep myself warm.  Oh, piteous.  I am.)

I hate The Quitter in me.  I know her so well.  She marshals excuses.  Identifies the nearest exit.  Tries to look brave and well-groomed instead of sneaky and churlish.  She sneaks and churls all over the place.  And then she tries to be cute about it.  Give her no quarter.  Let her have another box of matches and turn her back out into the snow.  The loser.

I also feel guilty as hell about Agatha Jane Porter and her cat named Hastings.  And Jack her deadbeat dad, the newspaper editor.  And Virgil her handyguy who doesn't want to fix the things she wants to have fixed.  And not the way she wants them fixed, neither.  And the doc.  They're all right there on the very eve of their big adventure: Knee surgery and murder.  Murder committed.  Murder revealed.

I already know who done it.  And I'm as amazed as anybody.  Wow.  Perfidy, most rank and vile.

But here's "the problem."  When I sit anywhere long enough to write anything, it hurts.  It's not agony or anything, but, for example, my hip, which does not have permission to throb under the current administration, throbs.  And other stuff, too.  It just doesn't feel like a smart thing to do for long stretches right now.  And let's face it.  I'll never make it without some very, very long stretches.  I had high hopes yesterday for manageable bites, but it got bad before I got very far.  And I quit.  Loser.

Here's something I don't feel bad about.  My fellow travelers.  Viv.  Maura.  Marilyn.  Viv is plain insane.  I believe she will make it, not because she loves it but because, by gum, she said she was gonna and she's gonna.  She's already poured too much aggravation on the altar of NaNo to back off now.  You go, Viv.  And do not be dragged down by trollish behavior on my part.  Maura and Marilyn, I salute your path.  I hear considerable doubt, but I also know this was a strong and positive step for you.  Keep going.  Everybody keep going.

Because that's what I'm going to do.  Not at the driven, must ... have ... 50.... thousand ... words pace.  Must wear the badge, come hell or high water.  But as much as I can and keep the peace with the hip bone which is connected to the the thigh bone which is glued to the new knee, God bless it.

I have said that I don't see a future for this novel after November.  I have three others that I still have a lot of confidence in and they're done.  They need support and promotion and, yes, dang it, an agent.  But I'll give Agatha Jane all the space I can make for her in November.  Then we'll see.

Want to know what she's like -- without revision or aforethought; all wacky the way characters are when nobody's looking?  Here she is. 

Chapter 2
I Know I Am But What Are You?
My name is Agatha Jane Porter. 
Isn’t that the very cross to bear for a girl baby born at the moment in American history when people of discernment were beginning to bestow upon their offspring imaginative, groundbreaking, exceedingly non-traditional names?  Like Moon Unit?
I can understand, though. By the time of my birth, my father had cleverly extricated himself from the family portrait by skipping town.  This scurrilous decampment left my mom entirely unsupervised in the selection of my name. And given the state of mind I’ve extrapolated for her, I get it.  I totally do.
An unconventional woman who let her MA in English Literature molder on a shelf while she cleaned other people’s houses for a living, my mother came into possession of a lot of her clients' cast-offs:  food, clothes, knickknacks.  Books.
  Someone had given her a couple of big crates of battered old detective novels, enough to fill shelves and shelves in her cramped apartment.  Since she was on bed rest for the last three months before I was born, she slipped between their dog-eared pages  for solace and company, and thus became a human incubator for Agatha Christie Appreciation. 
I suppose I got involved, too, marinating as I was in the emotional soup of it all.  A  petri dish experiment, warm, dark, quiet, kinesthetic with imagination. The small spark of a detective, glowing, there in my watery cell, shining with admiration for Hercule Poirot. I might have been the daughter he never had, but thank the good God that I didn’t get his mustaches.  And it’s also probably a good thing I wasn’t a boy.
I have read that we are shaped by our names.  That they offer a template for our development. Guide us, guard us, sculpt our path.  If I’d been named after Marilyn Monroe, for example, or had I been branched out as Moon Unit, I probably wouldn’t have grown up so completely bony and unabashedly plain.
As it was, here I am.  Skinny, smart, bookish.  Wry sense of humor. A writer from birth. Skilled enough to make a living at it.  Shy enough not to have garnered much in the way of fortune and fame. 
My mother had used the mystical power of naming to secure my future independence.  Old maid material for sure, was I. Born to sensible shoes, cardigans, reading glasses and distracted hair styling.  An Agatha Jane through and through.
Almost inevitably, I achieved a solitary middle age. Living in an eccentric Victorian cottage, on a shady, green old street in a rather backwater, Southern college town. Gardening.  Writing.  All in all enjoying the life my mother and Hercule would have wished for me. I found myself at 46 reasonably financially secure, congenitally free-thinking, blessed with the companionship of a supportive cat—named Hastings of course—and­ for the most part free from the perfidy of guys.
My mother’s final words to me, were by way of admonition and entirely typical.  Pale, wasted, unable to speak above a whisper but still sporting the irrepressible twinkle that was her trademark, she said, “Aggie, you’ve lucked out so far.  Remember, my dear one.  A man is a two-face.  A worrisome thing who’ll leave you to sing the blues in the night.  That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”  She gave me a weak parting grin, breathed, “You’ve been warned,” and closed her eyes.
Content as I was with my world at 46, I might have gone the rest of my life creating fictional murders without ever witnessing an actual one, without ever meeting my own, lost, perfidious sire, or finding my destined Dr. Blues In The Night, if I hadn’t inherited, along with my mother’s independent spirit and love of fiction, my father’s knee.

That's her.  I promise her November.  That's the best I can do right now.  


  1. Wow, and brava. . . don't give up on Novel Four, Agatha Jane P, or knocking knees. Take little bites. At your own pace. No apologies for taking the time you need to heal from the assault and battery of surgery this month, for God sake! And don't screw up your hip. You need it.

    Oh yes, FYI-- There's nothing magical, lyrical, practical -- or particularly productive -- in NaNoWhammoHell, as I can tell.

  2. My dead computer all last week left me dead in the water- a true whodunnit. Sadly, probably some hacker in the Ukraine, since Malware Bytes found 73 killer viruses. My Thanksgiving Weekend could be a NaNo blowout I suppose, but what if there is an Ava Garner marathon on TCM? That's where the fierce determination part comes in, I guess. OK, and my plot was gently petering out at page 1-1/2. Hmmm...