Clarissa Johal: 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Writing and Children

…don’t go together at all. Reading and children, yes. Like butter and toast, in fact. But trying to write with children around is like repeatedly trying to start a car without a battery. I know this now because I tried to work on my novel this summer with both kiddos at home.
Silly me.
Erroneously, I figured that while my little darlings were doing what darlings do while out of school (the stuff that didn’t include trips to the museum or playing board games together) I could get some writing done. I’m working on a paranormal fantasy and plan to have it done by October. But, I reasoned, if I could get some writing done this summer, I might move that date to up to September. It sounded like a perfectly reasonable idea.
Our first day of summer vacation, we had a lovely morning taking the dogs for a long hike. We followed that up by spending most of the day at the museum together and by the end of the day, were all pretty tired. When we got home, my darlings decided to spend an hour on their computers before making homemade pizza for dinner. Perfect. That would mean I could write for a whole hour.
Or so I thought.
He ran his hands over the steering wheel restlessly. Unbidden, something inside him slowly began to stir to life.
“Look mommy, I made an outfit!” My oldest was playing a dress-up game on her computer.
“That’s beautiful, honey. I like the color of the dress you chose.” I smiled at her enthusiasm. Okay, back to writing.
Parking the car in front of her house, he followed her to the front door like a shadow.
“I put make-up on mine! Do you like it?” My younger daughter is playing the same game and, not to be outdone, has dressed her model up in hot pink with matching eye shadow.
“Wow, sweetie. That’s really sparkly. I like it!” Okay…what was I writing again? Oh, yeah. My antagonist lead character was about to disclose the beginnings of his dark secret to the reader.
Wordlessly, he placed his firm hands over hers and pulled the key out. She left him at the open doorway, dropping her coat on the floor and leaving behind a trail of water into the kitchen.
“Do you like her shoes? I matched them with her dress.”
I look up, slightly bleary-eyed. Straddling two worlds is sometimes a difficult task as a writer. “I love them. They’re really fancy. She looks like she’s going to a party.”
My antagonist is restlessly drifting across the computer page. I hustle him back on-track. Okay. Now.
He crossed over and shut the door behind him, turning the lock with a quiet click. His icy eyes flashed as Darwin skated in the room. The dog growled menacingly and backed up towards the hallway. “Shall I let him out?” he grated evenly.
“Zeus wants out, mommy.”
“Okay.’ Distracted, I continue to type. “Can you let him out, honey?”
“I got up last time.”
I glance over at my oldest and see that she is completely absorbed in her game. “Okay, Zeus. Last time, buddy.” I let our dog out and walk back over to my chair.
She turned around and almost fell into him. Startled, she involuntarily drew in her breath.
“Oh, mommy, look at this!! You can give them a background!”
“A background! You can make a house for them!” My younger daughter’s eyes shone as if she’d discovered a diamond under her pillow.
“Great, honey. That’s fabulous. I like that pink you chose for her room too.”
I look back down at my computer screen to discover that my antagonist has wandered off and is sitting beside my darling now, marveling at what a great room her diva has. I shake my head to clear it. “Is there anything else you want to show me? Mommy’s kind of trying to write while you two are playing.”
“It’s okay. I was just wondering if you wanted to show me anything else.”
Both girls look up at me with blank faces.
“Just asking.” Taught smile on my face, I motion for my antagonist to get back into my computer and back to being sinister. I begin typing again.
He picked up the wine bottle from where it had been shoved in the corner on her counter top. “Do you have a bottle opener?”
Shaking her head, she dropped into the chair, shivering in her wet clothes.
“I’m hungry.” My oldest chimes in.
My computer screen seems to brighten for a second, but I figure it's probably just my imagination. “Okay. What do you want?”
“Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“Do you want one too?” I wisely ask my younger daughter. She continues to type on her computer, oblivious. Obviously, her game is quite fascinating and taking up 100% of her attention. “Sweetie?”
She looks up at me.
“Do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”
“Um, okay.”
Walking into the kitchen, I begin to make their sandwiches. Amused, my antagonist follows me, waiting patiently to be told what his next foreboding and sinister move will be.
“Here you go.” I set their sandwiches down and sit again, placing my computer on my lap. Quickly, I begin to type before I lose my train of thought.
“I’m cold,” she whispered to herself. Her damp t-shirt clung to her skin.
“You need to change into some dry clothes.” Pulling the cork out, he eyed her as he inhaled the cork’s aroma.
“I need the crusts cut off.”
“I always have the crusts cut off, mommy.”
“Of course," I reply, somewhat flustered, "what was I thinking?” My antagonist rolls his eyes at me like I should have known all along. Drifting off to sit beside my younger daughter, he smiles proudly at the fashion diva she’s created.
“Here you go!” I am cheerful. I am super-mom. I am getting a little pissed at all the interruptions. My antagonist laughs at me as he slides back into my story. “Anything else?” I ask my darlings patiently.
They both don’t hear me, of course, because the game they’re playing is so freaking fascinating.“Okay. Back to writing.” I wait to see if they answer me. They do not.
She watched as he opened a cabinet door and helped himself to the glasses in the cupboard. Vaguely, she wondered how he knew where the glasses were kept, but was too cold to ask. 
Pouring the dark, red liquid, he ran his finger along the rim to catch a stray drop.
“Oh my gosh, that’s sooooo funny!” Both my daughters explode into a fit of the giggles. I look up to see that my older daughter is peeking over her sister’s shoulder.
“What’s funny?”
“Look mommy!” More laughter.
I dutifully get up and have a look. Her diva is dancing around with a cat. A bright pink, feather boa is wrapped around their necks. My antagonist peers over my shoulder and begins to laugh as well. I resist the urge to smack him upside of his darkly handsome, yet foreboding face.
“How clever, yes, ha-ha. That’s pretty…silly. Did you make the cat too?”
Smile still plastered on my face, I once again, get writing.
“Thank you,” she said quietly. Still shaking, she watched as her wine trembled in the glass. “A patient died today. We had to put him to sleep.”
“Things die. You know that.” He crouched in front of her, placing his hands on her knees.
“Mommy, Zeus wants back in.”
I get up and stomp over to the door. Wordlessly, I stomp back to my computer and sit. Several seconds tick by before I furiously begin to type.
“Everything gets its time on this earth. The trick is, knowing when it is time to stay, and when it is time to move on.”
“Is that the trick?”
He smiled. “Drink. You will feel better.”
“I’m thirsty.”
My fingers stop. “Why don’t you get yourself some water?” I grate.
“I don’t want water. I want a glass of milk.”
My antagonist looks at me and shrugs his shoulders.
Knowing that the milk carton is far too heavy for my youngest to pour herself, I reluctantly get up. “Okay. Do you want some too?” I ask my older daughter. 
My words fall on deaf ears. 
“Do you want a glass of milk?” I repeat, a bit too loudly.
My older daughter looks up at me with a frown.
“Milk. Do you want a glass of milk? I’m getting some.”
“Yeah, okay.” 
And she blissfully goes back to her game.
I slosh milk into two large glasses, more milk than I know they can drink, and set the glasses onto the coffee table. Task done, I point firmly to my computer. My antagonist pulls himself reluctantly away from Diva Land and slinks back into my story. 
She raised the wine glass and drained it, pulling away from him.
“You will end up on your back at that rate.”
"Maybe that's where I need to be right now."
“Can I have a pillow?”
“Excuse me?”
“Nevermind. I’ll get it.” My older daughter hops up to grab a pillow and settles happily onto the couch again.
“This game is boring. What’s the name of that wolf site that I was on the other day?”
I close my eyes briefly. “The one that had a museum link?”
“Yeah, that one.”
I search my chattering brain for the name and can’t come up with it. “I don’t remember.”
My daughter sighs, exasperated. “It had a picture of a grey wolf on the page.”
“Yes, honey, I know. I don’t remember.” My fingers are frozen mid-type and mirror my characters who are frozen in their repartee. After several moments, I continue to, once again, write. Minutes tick by, or maybe seconds.
I practically jump out of my skin. “Great, honey. Why don’t you go there now?”
“I love WolfQuest.”
She could feel his breath on her hair. His presence was hard to ignore, it pressed behind her insistently. He murmured something in her ear.
“I thought you wanted to play dress-up?”
My eyes snap up to my younger daughter. Sensing her sister has gone onto something bigger and better, she is peering over her shoulder.
“Stop looking over my shoulder!”
“What site are you on?”
“None of your business! Play your own game!”
“Mommy, she won’t let me see what site she’s on!”
“Please tell her what site you’re on and stop arguing.” Both my characters are looking at me, eyebrows raised. I know, I know.
My older daughter sighs dramatically. “WolfQuest! Okay?
I wait. And start typing once again.
She backed away from him. “Why are you here?”
“In your house?”
“No, in this town. You seem quite…worldly. Why did you move here? I don't even know your last name."
“How do you spell quest?”
I can hear both characters yelling the letters out in my brain. I quietly spell it for her, however. Too quietly--because I am trying to not…lose…my temper.
“Thanks, mommy.”
Immediately, I feel like a heel. “You’re welcome, sweetie.” Okay.
A small, triumphant smile touched the corners of his mouth.
“Look mommy, you can pick what wolf you want to be! Which one should I be?”
And it is at that moment, my friends, that I give up on my writing. “How about I help you choose? I’ve always liked grey wolves.”
I save and close out of my novel and for the next twenty minutes, my younger daughter and I play with our wolf in WolfQuest. My antagonist cheers us on; a big smile on his face and a bright pink, feather boa slung over his broad shoulders.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summer Break

May 2010
I will be taking a Summer break from blogging.
Writing with kiddos in stereo is quite impossible.
Back in the Fall...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And it's not my writing but...

I absolutely had to share this because I think it's a freaking brilliant piece of writing. From American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen–I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones who look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of The Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies too. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

...and If I could ever have a writerly coffee with the man and not manage to make an absolute fool of myself, I would consider one of my three wishes granted.

**Neil Gaiman photo used with permission from Wikimedia Commons