Oh No! What is a Woman to Do?

Oh No! What is a Woman to Do?

When my husband retired, we sold our home of thirty-five years and moved to Deep Creek, Maryland. Leaving a lifetime of neighborhood friends was too painful to think about. We didn’t want to leave the care of doctors we trusted. Our solution was to buy a small condo not far from our old neighborhood. We travel back and forth as need be, sometimes together and sometimes apart.

I frequently make the trip alone with my dog, Davy.

He’s a people-loving, fourteen-pound bichon. The condo is a hundred-fifty miles from our home in Deep Creek. The drive is pleasant and is usually less than three hours–unless there’s bad weather, highway construction, holiday traffic, an accident, or something totally unpredictable.

I’m a woman of a certain age and–to put it delicately–I need to make a stop. This is a problem in the summer. I can’t leave Davy in the car. It’s hot. Putting the car windows down while I’m gone is not an option–I won’t risk him being stolen. I won’t tie him to a tree outside the rest room for the same reason.

My solution? Davy goes into the rest room with me. He loves it! So many women to charm, new smells to sniff, and cool things to explore.  We even go into the stall together, which is no easy task, believe me.

Davy’s good. He’s never used the rest room for his own needs. Only once did he duck under the stall divider to make friends with the woman next door. She laughed and said, “Well, hello!” They became friends at the sink.

All was good. Until yesterday.

My daughter stopped at the Sideling Hill rest stop on the way to visit me. She texted a photograph of the new sign posted on the women’s room door. Her text said, “They put this sign up because of you…Lol.”

Oh no! What am I going to do?

I called the State Highway Administration, was passed around a bit, and eventually spoke to Mark. He was sympathetic. “I’ve never heard of that situation before. I’ll look into it.” I’m anxiously awaiting the response of the State Highway Administration.

In the meantime, Davy’s going into the restroom with me. Tomorrow. You may see me on a crowdfunding website seeking bail money. This is a quality of life change I don’t plan to make without a fight.

Novel Gardening

Welcome to my blog! This is my first post. Let me introduce myself. I’m a wife, mother of two adult children, author, attorney, walker, dog lover, and gardener.  I became a Girl Scout at age forty, survived breast cancer at forty-two, walked in a sixty-mile fundraiser at forty-seven, and learned the Thriller dance at fifty-seven. I’ve always been a writer.      

My debut novel, tentatively called No Brakes, is now being offered to publishers by my wonderful literary agent, Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. My stomach is doing flips. I check my e-mails every hour and keep my phone in my pocket. I’ve been told the best way to make it through this anxious time is by writing the next novel. By coincidence, my new perennial garden is ready for planting.

In many ways, starting a new novel is like starting a new garden. When I wrote my first novel, I took the “seat-of-your-pants” writing approach. There was no plan, no thought. I sat and wrote, letting my novel take me wherever it wanted to go. By the time I tapped “The End,” I had a 136,000 word monstrosity. It took me a year to straighten out the mess.

I started an herb garden in the same haphazard way. The first herb was mint, planted straight into the ground, with Mojitos dancing in my head. A rookie mistake. The mint transformed into a wild beast. I sprayed, yanked and cursed.  Eventually, I slayed the beast, along with my taste for Mojitos.

These messes taught me a valuable lesson: I’m a planner not a seat-of-your-pantser. Believe it or not, one of the writing courses I took devoted a whole session to figuring out your writing style.  My daily to-do list should have given me a clue I’m not a pantser.   

Now I’m planning both my new novel and my new garden. Where do I start?  Foundation planting? The protagonist’s backstory?  This time I won’t plant perennials that spread through the garden like a virus. I’m determined not to introduce a subplot that twines throughout the novel, but goes nowhere. I don’t want to excavate either kind of mistake.

Each plant must contribute to the whole design. Each character needs to advance the plot. Otherwise, there’s no choice but to eradicate them later. Getting rid of hard work is a heartbreaker, whether it’s in the form of a plant or a fictional character. 

No more selecting an unfamiliar plant just because it’s pretty. This time, I’m researching each plant—sun/shade requirements, hot/cold tolerances, soil and water needs. Otherwise, my once-pretty plant will likely end up dead, dead, dead.  I learned this lesson with No Brakes. My protagonist, Lucy, pursued a path of investigation based on an intriguing fact I assumed was true. Oops, I was wrong. A week of Lucy’s life got deleted and she had to start her investigation over. My assumption caused me and Lucy a lot of trouble. This time I’ll research first—no matter how sure I am of an intriguing fact.

I’ll be saving all the identifying tags that come with the new plants. After many years of tending my first perennial garden, I had no idea what some of the plants were. Dawn, my wise agent, requires a list of every character mentioned in a novel, no matter how fleeting the character’s part. The list includes the full names, ages, occupations, and physical descriptions. I constructed my list after my novel was written. Oh my! Characters’ names had inconsistent spellings and physical descriptions varied. Sometimes I gave different characters the same name. It’s hard to keep it all straight as your writing thousands of words over a course of months. This time I’m making my character list as I write.

Here’s the beginning of my next novel:

 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you’ll visit again. I’d love to hear about your gardening and writing mistakes.

Ellen