Inexorability

August 18, 2018 6:13 am
August 20, 2018 6:13 am

I had the good fortune to spend this past weekend at the beach. I read, stuck my feet in the surf, explored a little bit, and otherwise contemplated some of the more lovely aspects of life on this Earth.

My first morning there, watching the sunrise, the word “inexorable” occurred to me. There was the eastern sky, growing brighter, gradually. I knew nothing was going to stop the march of lightness entering my particular part of the world. Or, if something did, it would mean bad news for more people than just me. (7.6 billion more people, really).

It seems the word is more often used to describe human actions or ideas. Dictionary.com offers this definition–unyielding; unalterable: inexorable truth; inexorable justice. Not to be persuaded, moved, or affected by prayers or entreaties: an inexorable creditor. Merriam-Webster offers a similar definition, with the example inexorable progress.

And, don’t get me wrong…I’m not praying for or entreating the sun not to rise. It’s definitely a positive, and the alternative, as I intimated above, would not be.

It has more to do with this: I’m feeling time’s inexorable march most acutely these days. And I’m not talking about my aging body, or middle age. Not first and foremost, at least. No, top of mind is my productivity, and my desire to get more done in a 24-hour-period than I seem to be able to.

I’m in the throes of final edits on my second novel, and also drafting my third novel, and neither is happening as fast as I would like. Granted, my deadlines are all self-imposed, but I imposed them for a reason. Without the threat of an inexorable deadline, I’m sure I’d find a way to drag this work out over countless more sunrises and sunsets.

Back to the inexorable sunrise: it rose through a curtain of rain on the second morning, so I opted to sleep in and stay dry. My final day, conditions were favorable for a leisurely repeat viewing. It just so happened that I snapped a photo with the same exact time stamp as forty-eight hours earlier: 6:13 am.

And it occurred to me that sometimes a little perspective is all that’s needed to lighten the crush of inexorability. Because the sun doesn’t truly rise and set. The Flaming Lips sang it best: “You realize the sun doesn’t go down / It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.”

The Writing Spectrum

Last weekend was jam-packed with writerly endeavors. I spent all day Saturday down in Houma, Louisiana, at the Jambalaya Writers’ Conference. But Friday and Sunday each had significant entries, too. So herewith, in chronological order, the highlights:

Friday at Community Book Center: I had the pleasure of meeting Jan Miles of Brown Bird Books. She presented The Post-Racial Negro Green Book, which documents acts of racial bias against African Americans in the U.S., from 2013 to 2016. She read from a list of incidents—some from the recent years captured in the book, and some from the Civil Rights era—and had the audience guess the century they occurred. We got many wrong; it was an amazingly eye-opening exercise. She compiled this archive “for the sake of review, consideration, discussion, and action.” I would love to do my part to help spread the word.

Saturday at the Terrebonne Parish Main Library: This library hosted the 15th Annual Jambalaya Writers’ Conference. Houma is about an hour’s drive southwest of New Orleans, and this was my first time attending this event. I was so impressed by all the new voices I encountered; here are a few who stood out:

  • I started the day with a presentation by Chanelle Benz, author of a story collection titled The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead. These stories feature a wide range of characters from different centuries, so she was the perfect person to present the topic: “Write What You Don’t Know: Finding Diverse Characters.”
  • Maurice Carlos Ruffin, a New Orleans-based writer, moderated a panel on setting (called “Where to Hide the Bodies.”) He did an admirable job of making sure all the authors on the panel had equal time. (I recall him saying he’s a lawyer in addition to a writer, I think he was using that set of skills). Random House will publish his first novel, We Cast a Shadow, early next year.
  • R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series, is certainly not a new voice. While I definitely know who he is, he’s never been in my sphere, since I was far from the target demographic when Goosebumps hit its peak popularity. But it was great to hear one of the best-selling writers of all time talk about his writing process, how he got his start (as a humor writer, Jovial Bob Stine), and read from the really funny letters he’s received from children over the years.

Sunday at home: You always hear how writing is a solitary pursuit. That’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to it, I think. So, there had been a lot of people and lots of activity the twenty-four hours prior, and I HAD to finish the manuscript for my second novel. I had promised to submit to my publisher before the weekend was up.

I spent the entire day at my computer, only getting up to run two loads of laundry, and put a Costco lasagna in the oven. It was a beautiful day outside, it would have been perfect for a run. And, I could hear bands all day, at the finish line of the Rock’n’Roll marathon, just a few blocks away in City Park. But, I got into a massive disagreement with Word and inconsistent formatting of quotation marks, which ate up the break time I had hoped to take, for a quick jaunt into City Park.

All’s well that ends well, though. I submitted the manuscript around 10:30 pm Sunday, and had a contract in my inbox by 7:15 am Monday morning. The Trouble on Highway One is tentatively set to release in September. 🙂

Back to Running

Photo credit: S.M. Frost

So, I’ve still been hard at work, putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for The Trouble on Highway One, my second novel, and the follow-up to The Incident Under the Overpass. That’s how I spent the bulk of this past weekend, except for two breaks.

On Sunday, Husband Tim and I saw Black Panther. I really enjoyed it, and found it to be one of the better offerings in the Marvel movie franchise. And the character T’Challa as portrayed by Chadwick Boseman is a definite favorite. (I like to root for the good guys with a sense of humility. And for the record, I’m Team Cap all the way.)

On Saturday, I (mostly) ran the 504k race in Crescent Park. (504 is the area code for New Orleans. And this race is 5.04 kilometers long). For me, having run this race is worth noting for several reasons:

  • It’s the first race I’ve run in over two years. I really don’t remember the last race I ran. The years started catching up with my legs and lower back roughly two years ago, and I followed an orthopedist’s advice and took a break from running.
  • Strike that, I do remember the last race I ran. I (mostly) ran one of the two-mile races they hold in City Park over the summer. But that turned out to be an anomaly. Legs or knees or something started bothering me shortly thereafter.
  • This time around, I followed a physical therapist’s advice and got back into running s-l-o-w-l-y. Like build the miles slowly. Like try running for five minutes, then add a minute a week at a time.

Okay, didn’t mean to go so far into my wonky physiology. What I really wanted to say was how good it feels to be running again, and how much I missed it. And how much fun it was to run a race I’d never run before, in a park I had not yet been to.

Many thanks to my friend Samantha for the entry to the race. She’s on the Board of Directors for Youth Run NOLA, the organizers of the 504k. Youth Run NOLA partners with schools and the community to “help youth develop healthy habits for life through distance running.” All photo credits in this post go to Samantha, too.

Interestingly enough, it’s been about two years since I’ve written about running in this space (I think swimming has made more entries.) Take a look, if you’re interested, it still rings true for me: Writing and Running

Photo credit: S.M. Frost
Photo credit: S.M. Frost
Photo credit: S.M. Frost
Photo credit: S.M. Frost
Photo credit: S.M. Frost

The Second Time Around

The second time is
So much better, baby
(The second time around)
And I make it better
Than the first time

—Lyrics from “The Second Time Around” by Shalamar

I remember this song from my youth. It’s from Shalamar’s album Big Fun, which Wikipedia tells me was released the day after my tenth birthday. Like a lot of songs from that era, if they received radio airplay, there’s a good chance those lyrics and melodies are lodged somewhere deep in my cerebrum. Just waiting for the right catalyst to release them to get stuck in my current brain.

In this instance, the catalyst has been the work I’m pouring into my second full-length novel. I’m into the final edits, and I remember being at a similar stage with my first one, exactly twenty-four months ago. February 2016.

Shalamar sings “the second time is so much better.” Related to my own efforts, I agree—but on balance. The pressure’s higher this time around, so that has leavened my joy a bit. I guess stress has a way of doing that. But the reason the pressure’s higher is an absolute positive—my publisher has asked me to submit this manuscript. No one was asking first time around. Here are some other ways I agree with Shalamar:

  • Some readers have indicated they want to read the continuation of the story I began in the first one. That’s pretty cool.
  • Working with a developmental editor this time around was a HUGE improvement to the writing process.
  • I’m a touch more confident in my abilities. But just a touch, because I still struggle daily with anxiety, and “am I worthy”-type thoughts.

And finally, there’s the last bit of lyric quoted above. “I make it better than the first time.” On that point, I’m unequivocal. That is my intent, 100%. For every novel and short story I write to improve upon the previous.

There’s a quote I’ll see on social media from time to time, I think it’s from writer and editor David Schlosser: “The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.”

I think that sums up my thoughts nicely. Enjoy Shalamar’s catchy song, and their super-sparkly outfits: