Friday, January 26, 2007

Flustration, Mind Muck, and the Duh Moment

Have you ever been troubleshooting something and you get out the manual to read something like, “Confirm that the power cord is plugged into the source.” You say to yourself, “Duh.”

Yesterday I had what I call a Duh Moment. I’d left my house in plenty of time to make it into Santa Monica for a SITE-SoCal meeting where Brenda Anderson, author of PLAYING THE QUANTUM FIELD, was speaking. I’d helped plan this meeting and had Brenda’s books and the meeting materials in the trunk of my brand new, fun and flashy, Camry SE—a very dependable car.

I’m streaming down the fast lane of I-10 listening to Wally Lamb’s SHE’S COME UNDONE through the iPod connection in the car, when the traffic slows to a crawl. But that’s okay, because I factored the traffic into the morning commute. Then it stopped. So did I. Then it moved forward again. I pressed my accelerator and my car went whoosh like it was in neutral. I checked the gear shift and it was in the drive position, so I moved it to park and then back to drive and hit the accelerator again. Whoosh, not zoom.

I look in my rearview mirror and see a frustrated face glaring through the windshield of the car behind me. I turned off Wally Lamb. Flustered now, I turned off the engine and tried to restart it. No clicking, no whirring, no audio.

I put my hazard blinkers on and called Husby, who called the Toyota emergency roadside service. They promised a tow out to me within the hour. The cars behind me began moving into the emergency lane to pass on my left. Several minutes went by; cars passing one right after another in their own rush to wherever. One kind couple paused beside me and asked if they could do anything for me and I was happy to tell them help was on the way.

A charming CHP officer arrived a few minutes later and stopped traffic in all four lanes and then pushed me across the freeway to the shoulder. I assured him that help was on the way and he took off to help someone else. Help arrived about a half-hour later when a knight in a shining white truck pulled up behind me. It wasn’t the tow-truck. It was Husby in his Ford F-150. We shifted the meeting materials into his truck and he sent me on my way with a kiss and blessing for safety.

Back on the road again, Husby calls me and says he got tired of waiting for the tow-truck and decided to try the car. You know the rest. The car started for him. Then he asks, “When you tried to start it did you…” I cut him off. “Of course. I tried everything.” He drives it to the nearest Toyota dealer and leaves it for a physical.

I pulled my big white truck into the Fairmont Miramar valet right behind a gorgeous red Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. I was a half-hour late to the meeting, but I was there. My dear friends and colleagues Louise Lyon and Brigitte Lundrigan had stepped up to the registration table and had everything under control when I got there.

Brenda’s topic was synchronistic to my day. Using examples from her book, Brenda spoke about how we operate within a gradient between the fear zone and power zone. When we’re entrenched in the fear zone, we take head trips that loop through our mind, criticizing, regretting, or reliving all our mistakes. The fear zone zaps us of energy and produces confusion, poor judgment, frustration, and fluster. When my car first whooshed instead of zoomed I got flustered. The more aware of the cars piling up behind me, the more flustered I became. I call this “flustration.”

After the fabulous meeting I’m driving home in more traffic, head-tripping about my reaction to the morning’s flustration. I replayed Husby’s role, my response to his insulting question, “When you tried to start it did you…” and how I am the type that never gives up on a technological challenge. Then something Brenda said floated to the top of all what I call mind muck.

Brenda said, when you’re in a head trip pause. Stop thinking. Look at it from outside yourself. I paused, which wasn't hard because traffic was snarled. I wondered what Husby was going to ask in the question I cut from him. So I called him and apologized for cutting him off and asked what he was going to say.

He was going to ask if I had enacted the anti-theft device when I turned the ignition. That was the duh moment. No I hadn’t. In my flustration, I’d forgotten all about the anti-theft device.

Have you lived through a day like this? Need to purge the mind muck? Tell us about it. Just click the link below to leave a comment.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ode to Joy and Failed Resolutions

Well it’s three days past my first failed resolution. I did not finish the first draft of THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER by the 15th. January has been a month of mixed projects, beginning with follow-up from the SITE-SoCal Holiday Event, to learning how to make animated banners for a client’s website design, to supporting my son in getting his stuff together for college applications, to getting myself back in the habit of gymercise, to nursing my 17-year-old cat, to just being me.

THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER is five-thousand words richer than when I made the ambitious goal. Truth is, I lingered too long over a critical scene where Sheila is confronted with the ugliness of the world and chooses a new course for herself because of it. Some writers have a hard time at the beginning of a story; I have a hard time at the end. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown to love my characters so much I delay finishing their story.

Last week I got exciting news from my friend and fellow author, Karen Dionne, that her novel FREEZING POINT sold to Berkley. This news made my day and is still ringing into this week. I met Karen online about six years ago, commiserated with her when her first novel went the rounds in NYC. She buoyed me when my first novel met the same fate. Undaunted, Karen began writing a new novel and encouraged me to do the same. In the midst of writing FREEZING POINT, Karen co-founded Backspace, an online writer’s community that reflects her generous heart and her brilliant business sense. If you enjoy thrillers, watch out for FREEZING POINT.

It was on Backspace that I met Jackie Kessler, author of HELL’S BELLES. Like Karen, Jackie wrote a couple of novels that didn’t find a home. Until she got a hotter than Hades idea to write a novel about a succubus who’s kicked out of Hell and sent to earth to live as a mortal. Jackie wrote this novel in a matter of months and then polished it to perfection. I was thrilled to refer Jackie to my lit agent, Nephele Tempest at The Knight Agency. But by the time Nephele offered representation, Jackie had already signed with another agency. HELL’S BELLES was released by Kensington last week and I got my copy yesterday. Here’s to Jackie, who knows I’ll bring the chocolate to this summer’s Backspace conference.