Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bassaball Over...

...for Michigan, anyway.. :-P

But wasn't this possibly one of the best first rounds of the NCAA in recent memory? We had at least two #1 seeds, and one #2 seed, that almost got sent packing...in games that in no way should have been as close as they were, given the great wisdom of the authorities in question. (Yes, Virginia, I'm kidding.)

If these authorities ever get truly wise, the North Carolina schools will have to go on the road once in awhile between the first and second rounds...instead of basically being given home games for the first two rounds, year after year after year. Think about it. When was the last time Duke and/or North Carolina played a first-round game in anywhere but their backyards?

But there's no slanted playing field (in favor of the ACC) in the NCAA. Nope. That's why Big Ten schools got sprinkled all over the map...

Yes, I know Villanova was at home. Yes, that was wonderful. It's also proof that the only conference the NCAA planners like almost as much as the ACC is the Big East. If they can give either of those conferences a gimme the first and even the second rounds, trust me, they'll do it.

Yet despite being plunked somewhere where probably half their fans can't afford to go cheer them on, Purdue is still coming out of the pack as a dark horse; they wouldn't be, of course, to anyone who watched them for more than a quarter of basketball this year. But it probably stuck in the craw of the NCAA selection committee to even concede that the Big Ten was the second-toughest conference in the country this year. Good. A second helping of humble pie for those folks at the North Carolina end of the table, please, and don't hold back on the hot sauce!

Loved the first round, regardless. Turns out sometimes you get more than you ever bargained for...


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No Big Ten Title, but We're Dancing Anyway...

If dem Wolverines could ever figure out how to shoot consistently for two halves of a B-Ball game, we'd be unstoppable. Unfortunately...we have those cold spells, one of which we hit again in the conference tournament. (sigh) BUT, the good news is, we're in the NCAA anyway, for the first time since 1997, and that is good news no matter how you slice it.

Now, the trick is to keep from going down to Clemson in Round 1. (!)

Me? I watched most of the Play-In Game (gotta love that University of Play-In), until it became obvious that Morehead State was going to take it...and until it became obvious as well that the Bulls-Celtics game was going to go right down to the wire. (Which it did, this time with happy results!)

BUT...I digress.

For those of you wondering about such things, I did get a pick in the OSV NCAA pool...BINGHAMTON.


The best thing about that is, they play Duke in the first round. So I, as a card-carrying member of the People Who Can't Stand Duke And Want To See Them Lose, will have more than one reason to cheer for the underdog. :-)


More actual writing stuff...anon.


Friday, March 13, 2009

One Outta Two...and SIX?

Well, dem Wildcats did not do so well, alas. When a team goes over 5 minutes without being able to score, the other team's momentum gets to be...well, a bit much. (sigh)

That being said, no way did I expect dem Wolverines to BURY Iowa the way they did. Yee-HAH!

And I do have to say, for the sake of my workday today, that I'm glad I wasn't emotionally involved in either Syracuse or UConn. Just sayin'. :-) SIX overtimes. When did that game actually end? Or somewhere, is it still going on? (Via On Demand overseas, no doubt. :-))

Michigan plays tonight, 6 PM. Be there, or be square.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

"They're Playin' Bas-ket-baaaalllll..."

...and it came to pass, in the gray days of March, that the Lord looked down on his American people and said:

"Hey, word up, there's nothin' happenin' down there. This is neither spring, nor winter, neither hot nor cold. It is not good to have man living in these doldrums of halfway between.

"So let us shaketh things up a bit. Let us make of March a special time, that shall be henceforth known as 'Madness.'* At this time, men shall procure a roundball, made of leather, filled with the breath of the wind, and shall bring it to a 94-foot hardwood court. There, they shall string cotton beneath a wide orange cylinder of metal, one at each end of the court, at a height of ten feet from the floor. And groups of men shall band together, and shall make it a mission to launch the roundball through the cylinder, so that it makes a special music through the cotton cords. And yea, verily, when the roundball passeth through the cotton net, there shall be rejoicing and great jubilation in many lands.

"They shall do this in the city; they shall do this in the country. they shall do this in the small town, in the places time forgot. They shall do this in the Ivy League and in the Midwest Athletic Conference, on the Atlantic coast and in the heartlands; in the Mountain West and the Pacific lowlands; and the people shall behold it and marvel.

"And let us make this an annual feast, a time when small men can dream big dreams. Let us celebrate and rejoice, and make merry, when the Big Dancing begins. And let March be forever blessed with this glorious festival of team colors and cheerleaders, slammin' and jammin', 'diaper dandies' and buzzer-beaters...to bring joy and craziness to all my people."

And God saw it...and it was very good.

Leading up to the Big Dance, the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament starts today, with Dem Wildcats playing at noon Eastern, and Dem Wolverines playing at 2:30. They BOTH deserve to go dancing, but...first things first.

Let there be Roundball!!!!!!!


(*Yes, we are aware that the IHSA claims that Illinois High School Basketball was the original "March Madness," and we have no doubt whatsoever that this is true, as we can remember this term from way before it was used for the NCAA Tournament. We have merely exercised a little poetic license here, and trust that the reader will be accommodating.)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Deep Wall of Sadness

Some of you will read this title and think, “Huh?”
Some of you will read it and think, “Oh, no. The CWC has had another disaster!”
Some of you—bless your hearts!—probably think this is a typo.
That the title should be “well” of sadness. After all, everyone knows wells are deep, and walls…are not.

You’re partly right.

First of all, though, not to worry—the CWC hasn’t had another disaster hit. Well, okay, let’s amend that. The CWC has become embroiled in not one, but two legal encounters of the close kind, but neither of these is likely to end in disaster. They’ll be a pain in the butt, they’ll stress her out, but they’re not likely to end in disaster, just immense piles of paper that signify nothing. (Would that I were a lawyer, and got paid by the syllable. Obviously, they do.)

But stress, evil as it is in this case, is not what’s making up the wall of which I speak.
What is making that up is a little more delicate.

Over the past several months—okay, years—I’ve been in a creative funk. I’ve worked through some of it. I’ve even done some rather nice revisions on older work. But when it’s come to creating new work…I’ve gone dead cold.
Colder than I’ve ever been in my life.
And that’s a scary feeling.
So scary that literally, it has me unable get any momentum writing fiction again.

I can do it for short periods of time.
I can write a few new scenes.
I can come up with pieces of story ideas.
I can even write synopses for new work.
But when it comes time to dig in and really write…I fail.
I start well, and then everything stops.
Either I don’t care about the people I’m writing about…
Or I don’t care about their story…
Or I do care about both the people and their story, I just don’t believe I can write it.

And I’ve been spending no little time in this blog trying to ascertain why that is.

If this were not so sad, it would be funny. I don’t even believe in writer’s block...I’ve said that a hundred times.
But there's something there that checks me when I try to get up and running. I can feel it. I try to sit down and get up some writing speed and energy, and I stop myself cold. I can’t get around this. It’s a wall.
A deep, cold, sad wall.

Something’s frozen off in me, something that used to be alive and kicking and always thinking of ideas. I used to swear I could come up with half a dozen books just from the storylines of the Celtic songs I listened to.
Now, I think of that sentiment and cringe.

I actually tried being a romance editor for awhile, and I had to stop it…because I couldn’t stand romance anymore. I couldn’t stand reading love stories. Any kind.
Because, deep inside me, there’s this plaintive voice saying,
What’s the point?
Not only is the falling-in-love part not holding my attention anymore...but the romance of writing itself has flown the coop as well.

Sounds like someone’s coming off a bad love affair, right? Or worse? Only I can’t say that. I’m living in the midst of a long-term marriage. My relationship hasn’t broken up. My kids haven’t gone to prison. Nobody’s terminally ill in the family. I’m living in a great 100-year-old house, I’m doing a job I’m good at, I’m getting some freelance nonfiction work, I’m singing with a good choir at IPFW…

But somewhere in here, I’ve lost a romantic spark. Somewhere in here, I’ve lost a great deal of magic. Maybe I’ve just had to fight too damn many battles, beat back too damn many wolves from the door, and be too damn tough for too damn long. (Sorry for the rough language, but sometimes the bluntest Anglo-Saxonisms really are the best.)

Maybe going through the trauma of being sure my marriage was dead in the water, only to confront some demons, see them wrestled to the ground, and make the long, arduous trip back through learning how to love my husband again…took all the romantic sparks clear out of my eyes. (And yeah, it’s okay for me to say this out loud. My husband knows exactly where we stood then versus where we stand now, and we're in this together.) But oddly enough, I did some of my best, most romantic writing during the precise period of time when I was going through some of the worst personal emotional minefields you can imagine. I had to write…it was my way to stay sane.

So what has happened to my liking for, and ability to write, love stories—or for that matter, any kind of stories—now?
Did it die while I took care of my mother, scrambled to pay off her debts, borrowed just to get her buried?
Did it die when I kept struggling to hold ends together, only to have them keep slipping on me?
Did it die when I pulled up stakes and came to one of the last places on earth I ever thought I’d be?
Did it die when the biggest dream I’ve ever had—seeing my son play major league baseball—faded to black?
Or did it die because so much of what I’ve associated with writing fiction was tied up with RWA…and RWA and I have parted company on far from the best of terms?

I can’t honestly tell you why. I only know that every time I try to write, something chilling drops over my fingers and over my brain and I freeze. I wrote from hope before (the real thing, before it became a cheap political buzzword), sometimes nothing but hope. But now? The enthusiasm and fire that propelled my Muse seems to have packed up and left.

Something weary, something cynical, creeps into my writing now, and the people I want to write as warm and “nice” come out as wary, jaded smart-alecks. Part of me doesn’t even want to write “nice”…because something in me despises that in those characters. So I don’t write them that way, and I don’t tell their stories.

And that’s heartbreaking. Because I could do it once. I did it very well, several times in the past, in past manuscripts and in a pubbed book. I wrote sweet, funny, and genuinely nice people, and I cared about them, and I still do care about the ones who are like that in my old stories.
But I can’t seem to write them again. Or if I start to…I stop.
I hit a wall, almost immediately.
And I get very, very discouraged at the thought that I don’t know where to go from here.

My husband has a touch of a disorder they call dysthymia. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s a persistent sadness that permeates a person’s entire being. It’s closely related to depression (which he also has), but it’s slightly different in that a person can live with dysthymia for years and be functional; he just doesn’t get any joy out of anything. He would no sooner wake up thinking, “What can I do for fun today?” than the devil would wake up thinking, “Which virtue can I practice first?” Consequently, people with dysthymia live in a kind of perpetual fog. They’ll go along with plans other people make, but it’s beyond their scope to do much on their own that isn’t work, sleep, or other forms of routine.

Unfortunately, I see this disorder now taking over my writing. Sapping it of energy. Robbing it of a reason to be. Making me lose patience with boy-meets-girl, or even boy-saves-girl-in-jeopardy (or the other way around!). I don’t want this deep wall of sadness to be the way my fiction writing career ends…but right now, I’m in that gray cloud without a clue how to get out of it. Nothing seems to work, at least not on a long-enough term basis to make me think the worst is actually over and that the light at the end of the tunnel is not the proverbial freight train.

So is this where it stops? Or is there a way out?
I know what the way isn’t. It isn’t to write “one word at a time.” Because I’ve done that. One word, one page, a bunch of pages…and then it stalls out. And it’s happened too many times for me to think I can try the same thing again and expect a different result.



Tuesday, March 03, 2009


No, I haven’t been physically body-checked into the boards…but I have been up to my eyebrows in work of late. Yanno that other post about how the freelance work was coming in, and people were starting to ask for me to do stuff….? Yeah, that work.

Not to fear. I will be posting in more detail soon. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves in the combox. Throw me some new ideas for stories. Or just commiserate. I’ll be over here if you need me…