Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thank You

I'm finishing up an article for the May issue of Kentucky Gardener today, so I only have a moment, but I wanted to pop in and say Thank You to everyone who read and passed along last Thursday's post.  My hope is that by sharing it with others we will start a dialogue and maybe change the way we interact with each other.  Although we're different, we're also the same.  We all want to be loved.  To be heard.  To fall asleep knowing that our life mattered.  To know that somewhere, someone cares for us. 

So again, Thank You.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poetry Friday

It's Poetry Friday.  Normally I'd be sharing a clip of a poet reading his or her work.  Since yesterday I wrote about my daughter Grace, I thought I'd share some of my poetry (which she inspired) today.  To give you some context, the following pieces are part of a book-length collection of poetry I wrote about adopting Grace and finding out that she is disabled.  The pieces below have all been previously published.  In a few weeks, I might share some of the poems in the collection that haven't been published yet. 

I hope you enjoy!



An Autism Fairytale
(Published in the Summer 2011 edition of Poetry Quarterly)

 
Smooth and river rock-round, the girl’s voice spilled
like spring water from her lips as she danced

in word-puddles and slept in a sea of songs.
Like all gods, the sun was jealous.

One day, the girl opened her mouth and the sun
melted her voice like lemon drops on her tongue.

Moss grew up the girl’s throat, stretched over her lips,
her nose, her eyes. Her hair grew like ivy,

twined around her toes, and pushed into the ground
until she was rooted among roses and delphinium.

Her mother scraped the moss from the girl’s mouth,
and scribbled words on red tissue paper,

words like Please and Hope and Love and Mommy,
fed them to the girl like lavender ice cream,

then pressed her lips against the girl’s and blew,
as if the girl’s heart had stopped and not her own.





Lost
(Published in the Spring 2011 edition of Tipton Poetry Journal)

I often wonder about your words,
whether they are lost or hiding,
instead of stolen by autism.

Maybe they are in that space
between your molars and your tongue,
trapped between your heart and your mind.

Once, I stuck my finger in your mouth.
I pushed it back into that gap,
hoping to feel something--anything.

Instead, you bit me,
and I wore bruise-marks
from your tiny teeth for a week.

Sometimes I pick words for you,
tongue twisters--
she sells sea shells by the sea shore.

Although I would settle for less--
play, hungry, thirsty.
Home, love.

Mommy.

My grandmother was born tongue-tied.
A thin piece of tissue trapped her tongue
on the floor of her mouth.

She could not speak
until the doctor clipped it.
Nothing is holding your tongue down.

Maybe your words are in a cosmic
lost and found, sandwiched between
lost socks and dreams.

I would go there if I could.
I’d root through forgotten hats
and misplaced pens until I found them.


I’d bring them home and feed you
words until they overflowed,
dripping from your lips.

Then I’d catch them as they fell,
and save them like pressed petals in a book,
in case you ever lost your words again.





Written on Rose Petals
(Published in the Summer 2011 edition of Poetry Quarterly)
 

In my dreams you whisper
my mother’s words.

I want to sink into that place
where you speak and she lives,

but sunlight on the roof
or the sigh of roses wakes me.

Is it the sound of God listening?
Or your own small voice?

The one I still don’t know.
Maybe it’s a hymn

the stones share with you,
His name on their lips

the silent song you sing
as I pull you from bed

and we tumble up a hill--
do I shape you or do you shape me?

My back bends toward yours
as you straighten toward me.

I push your feet into cool clay,
stretch your arms to heaven,

and compose a hallelujah of silence.
You breathe me and I breathe you,

as if air and clay are enough,
as if your name is written

on rose petals that spring
from the ground at your feet,

a storm of prayers in minor
chords my mother sings--

she holds the stones
and they speak your name--

as I wash clay from your feet,
and carry you home.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Please Read This Post--One Book Thursday

My daughter, Grace

This is not a post I wanted to write.  I like things that are bright, and shiny, and beautiful.  I like uplifting, encouraging posts. 

This is not one of those.   

A few days ago, I finished reading The Book Thief.  I know, I know, I'm waaaay behind the times.  The book was published several years ago.  That's what having four kids does to you. 

If you don't know, The Book Thief  is about a young girl living in Nazi Germany.  Appropriately enough, the book is narrated by Death.  The Book Thief is full of tender, beautiful moments juxtaposed against the horrifying backdrop of Germany during WWII. 

I could not read this book in one sitting.  I would read a little and have to walk away.  But just as much as I had to walk away, I had to come back. 

Let me tell you why. 

A few years ago, I spent two weeks in London.  I toured fascinating places like the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Harrods Department Store (hey, I like to shop!)...and The Imperial War Museum (IWM). 

Touring the IWM is difficult.  The exhibit showing how children were evacuated from London during the Blitz made my throat swell shut.  What if that had been me and I had to send my children away to keep them safe.  Could I do it? 

Honestly, I don't know.

Then came the Holocaust Exhibit.  I knew it wouldn't be easy.  My mother taught history.  I grew up in a house where we talked about the past as a way to prevent such horrifying things from happening again.  Dear Reader, I thought I could handle it. 

I was wrong.

The lights were dim as we entered the exhibit.  No one spoke.  I wound past a pile of black discarded shoes.  Survivor's stories.  Newspaper clippings.  A wooden funeral cart with use-worn handles. 

Across from the funeral cart was an impossibly white, child sized dissection table.  Above the table was a picture of a naked boy.  His body curved like a question mark.  His eyes were spaces a bit too far apart.  His tongue lolled from his mouth.  His stomach had caved in on itself. 

He was five. 

A plaque next to the picture explained that he was taken from his mother and sent to an institution.  Later, his mother received a letter saying he had died of a "respiratory illness".  The dissection table with the drain in the middle said a respiratory illness did not cause his death. 

He looked like my daughter, Grace. 

I looked from the table to the picture of this boy, so like my daughter, and I cried.  In the middle of the room, I sobbed for this boy someone labeled broken, worthless.  I cried for his mother who never got to hold her child again.  He wasn't worthless to her. 

This child was one only boy among millions killed because someone decided they were "wrong".  Jews.  Homosexuals.  Romas (Gypsies).  Slavs.  Dissenting Clergy.  Jehovah's Witnesses.  Anyone deemed "undesirable". 

People with physical and/or mental disabilities.  Like my daughter.

250,000 mentally and/or physically disabled people were murdered during the Holocaust.  People like Grace. 

So why am I telling you this?  Because I'm concerned, Dear Reader.  I'm concerned about the way we talk to each other in this country.  One both sides of the political aisle we are labeling each other.  Look at the list of people above who were rounded up and killed during the Holocaust.  It contains people vilified by the American Left and people vilified by the American Right. 

Dear Reader, Nazi Germany started with words.  As Markus Zusak writes in The Book Thief: "The words.  Why did they have to exist?  Without them, there wouldn't be any of this.  Without words, the Fuhrer was nothing."

Words have power.  The power to build up and the power to tear down.  In our rush to win, to be right, we seem to have forgotten this.  We choose the words that come out of our mouths, and too often we're choosing to wound instead of heal. 

It hurts my heart.  And it scares me.  The anger in this country--this country that was built on the freedom to be different, to disagree with each other--terrifies me.  It needs to stop.  Right now.  Not after the election.  Not tomorrow or the next day.  Right now. 

 We are not enemies.  We are brothers and sisters.  Mothers and fathers.  We are different, but different is a good thing.  Different makes us strong.  Different is why people from all over the world come here.  Because they believe in the dream of a place where all men are created equal.  All men.  Not all men who agree with you, or look the same as you, or speak the same language you do.  All.  Men. 

Dear Ones, we need to stop.  We must stop.  And it's so easy.  Really, it is.  I'm not asking you to change your opinions, or agree with someone you disagree with.  As I said above, our differences (including our differences of opinion) make us great. 

I am asking you to think about your words.  I'm asking you to choose words that heal.  Words that build up.  Words that create.  Leave behind words that destroy and tear apart.  If you agree with this post, please pass it along.

Remember the boy at the IPW.  He died because of someone's words.  Let's stop hurting each other.

Please.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gregory Maguire Amazon Interview

I absolutely adore Gregory Maguire.  He's best known for his Wicked series--which is Fantastic, if you haven't read them, get to a bookstore now!  I also have to give a shout out to one of his (slightly) more realistic books, The Next Queen of Heaven.  It's a funny and beautifully written tale of kindness and self-discovery.

Since Mr. Maguire is also an adoptive parent, I love him all the more.  Below is a recent interview he gave.  His remarks about his kids keeping him grounded really made me laugh! 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Progress Report


Yesterday I promised an update on The First Book.  There's a lot of information out there about query letters, selecting agents, making sure everything is perfect before you query, but not much about what happens after you sign with an agent.  I suspect it's because the process is slightly different for every author so what happens in my case may or may not happen in yours, and it's difficult to write a one-size-fits-all template for the process. 

Here's how it's working for me.  When I first signed with Dan, we talked about some of the changes/edits he had in mind.  As I've said before, they're pretty extensive.  One of the biggest is changing the POV for one of the main characters from 3rd person to 1st person.  If you're a writer, you know this is more than just changing pronouns.  It completely changes the lens through which that character (and therefore the reader) experiences the story. 

My novel is told through 3 points of view, so making this change meant I had to go in and rework almost a third of things.  That's okay.  I like working, especially when the changes make the story better.  Which I think (hope!) they did. 

I made those changes right before Christmas and sent everything off to the editor I'm working with.  After the holidays, she started working on it, graciously fitting me in to her already tight schedule.  (Have I mentioned everyone is so nice?  Really, there's no reason to be afraid when querying.  Book People are generally Good People.  Go forth and query without fear.) 

After sending off my manuscript, I sat around feeling stressed for a week or so.  This is what I do to relax.  I tell myself I'm taking some down time, and then sit around worrying that I'm not doing anything.  One week of down time was all I could take.  To de-stress, I started a second book.  By the end of this week I should have about 20,000 words. 

As for the first book, right now I'm waiting to hear back from the editor.  Possibly by the end of this month, but as I said, she's fitting me in around books she's already scheduled.  I just popped up out of nowhere, and she agreed to help.  (I love her for that!) Things could easily get pushed back a bit. 

So, that's where things stand.  Hopefully in a week or so I'll have a manuscript with lots of red marks all over it.  I feel a little bit like a kid waiting for Christmas.  Which is strange, I know, but as one of my professors once said--A good critique is a gift.

He was so right.  A critique is the best gift I could ask for, and I can't wait to unwrap it. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Squash Your Internal Editor

This is one of those days I don't feel like writing.  I don't even want to think about it.  In fact, just thinking about it gives me a sick little feeling in my stomach.  It's as if a little man is sitting in there, stirring things up, whispering, "The sun's out and it's January.  January.  That's a sign.  Don't write today.  It's not going to be any good anyway, so pack it in."

The man does not confine his remarks to writing.  He also whispers about my parenting skills, my cooking skills, and anything else that happens to wander through my mind. 

Welcome to my own brand of craziness. 

This little man crops up more than I care to admit, and he's never happy.  If you're reading this blog, I suspect you have some experience with this.  You might not be a writer.  You might be a mom.  You might be a college student.  Whoever you are, I'm willing to bet you've got your own little man filling you with negativity. 

So how do you deal with such confidence-sapping thoughts?  This is how I handle it, and it's pretty simple.  Whatever he says, I do the opposite.  "Don't write today."  I write.  "Sit on the couch and watch TV because there's nothing worth doing anyway."  I get up and do something.  "You're the worst mother in the world."  I kiss my kids. 

It's not always easy.  Sometimes (like today) I have to force myself to write (or whatever).  But I always feel better after doing something.  Even if today's writing is horrible, at least I've done something, and I can be proud of that. 

Try it.  I promise you'll feel better and that negativity will slip away from you like water down a drain.

Tomorrow, I'll post an update on the first novel.  See you then!
 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Li-Young Lee

This Friday, I want to introduce you to Li-Young Lee, another poet I love.  This clip is about 4 minutes and you're lucky enough to get two of Lee's poems and a short biography.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Three Book Thursday -- Quirky Characters Edition

I love reading about people who are a little...off.  In fact, I love it so much that most of the books I write feature one or more characters my grandmother would have called "odd ducks".  To celebrate my love of strange things, my recommendations this week all feature characters who live outside of the norm.  I hope you love them as much as I do!

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

Transcendent



Icy Sparks
Luminous
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Intriguing





Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The one thing you don't want to do...

My puppy Whitman after reading a particularly uninspiring bit of prose (of course, he prefers poetry to fiction).

is bore your reader.  After I finished the first draft of my novel I went back and read it, and guess what?  One of the main characters completely bored me.  At that point I had a decision to make.  Go with what I had written and try to find some other way to punch up the character or completely rework the character and thus the story. 

I chose the second option and like Frost's path less traveled, that made all the difference.  Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it. 

The bottom line, if you think something in your work is boring, your readers will too.  Do the work and fix it.  It's a lot better than putting something out there that's less than your best work. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's Behind Door Number One?

Tower of London, 2010

Two years ago, I spent a couple of weeks in London.  It was the first time I had ever been to London, and I fell in love.  There's an entire street dedicated to book stores, and the tiles at the Baker Street tube station sport Sherlock Holmes' silhouette.  I won't even mention Poet's Corner.  The city is built for bookish types.  

While there, I took several pictures (like the one above) through doorways.  I loved the mystery and the intense focus on a single object (normally whatever is right beyond the door) framing a picture this way created.

I'm starting on my next book which means I have to face things like The First Chapter.  The Inciting Incident.  I have to write something that makes the reader want to Turn The Page and keep on reading.  As I was writing today, I remembered my London doorway pictures, and I started thinking about first chapters and other scary things. 

I'm a visual person and the picture above helps me think about how to structure my first chapter.  The beginning of the book is the setup for everything else.  It needs to entice the reader.  It needs to have a bit of conflict and suspense about it, something that says, "Keep going, there's more just around the corner." 

Look at the picture above.  Note that the viewer is not out in the courtyard.  They are in the Tower, looking out at a blue lamppost.  There's a hint of the world beyond the doors, but nothing more than a hint.  The viewer wants to walk through the doors to find out what else is outside.  It looks good.  Enticing.  But this is the Tower of London and the viewer knows nothing is what it seems.  Beyond the door could be the crown jewels or the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded.  To find out the viewer must walk through the door.

That's what a good first chapter does.  It places the reader in an intriguing doorway, one they must walk through.  The chapter provides enough of a view to what's beyond the door that the reader simply must walk through to find out what's on the other side.  Note that the view is narrowed, focused on one thing--the other side. 

The first chapter is typically a more focused or limited view of your novel's world.  It provides bits and pieces of the world before opening it up to a more panoramic view.  In later chapters you can pull back and show the reader around your world.  But in the first chapter you just want the reader to walk through that door.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thank You, Dr. King

My family does not look "normal".  We have one biological son and adopted our other three children from China.  Every time we go out, people stare, trying to figure out how we fit together.  That's okay.  We know we belong to each other, and we don't mind answering questions about how our family formed.  Our unusual family is normal to us, and our children know that families are formed in many different ways.  Blood isn't the only thing that ties a family together.     

Not too long ago though, my family wouldn't have been possible.  The crazy blend that is our family would not have existed.  My children would have been considered second class citizens.  It is only because great men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up and pushed this country forward that my family exists.  It is only because Dr. King, and others like him, fought for dignity and respect for all people that three of my children are here. 

We still have a long way to go.  We still don't live in a society where people are judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.  We still don't give full rights to all members of our society.  But because of Dr. King, we are closer to the dream of a society where all men are created equal than we were decades ago.  So today I say, Thank You, Dr. King.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you for believing that we could be more than we are.  Thank you for your dream. 

Thank you for helping to create a world where my family could exist. 




Friday, January 13, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Mary Oliver

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I'm trying to live deliberately this year.  Poetry is one of the things that helps me pause when life gets too crazy.  In that spirit, on Friday's I'll be sharing poems that I love with the hope that you are moved as much as I have been.  If I get really crazy, I might share a few of my own poems. 

Originally I wanted to reproduce the poems here on the blog, but I don't want to infringe on the poet's copyright.  Therefore I'll be passing along clips of the poet reading his or her work or links to sites that have obtained the permission to reproduce the poem. 

Legalities out of the way, I give you one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, reading her poem Sunflowers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Three Book Thursday

People are always asking me to recommend great books (something I'm always happy to do!) so I thought I'd start a regular Thursday feature called Three Book Thursday.  Every Thursday I'll post three books that I've loved, accompanied by one word I feel best describes them.  Why one word?  Because I like a challenge.

I want to feature the unputdownable (how's that for one word?) books.  You know, the books you can't put down, even though it's two in the morning and your alarm will go off in four hours.

Without further ado, here are my first three picks.  I read all three of these over the Christmas break, and I loved each one. 
Charming!
Magical!


Shining-esque!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deliberate living

Oxford, England in 2009

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life..."  Henry David Thoreau

I do not make resolutions.  I'm old enough to know that most likely, I won't keep them so why set myself up for disappointment?  However, I have been thinking about the direction I want my life to take.  (Okay, I'm always thinking about that.  It's one of those weird things about me that I can't seem to shut off.  That and adopting more kids.  There's always room for one more, right?) 

Anyway, this week, I came across Thoreau's quote and it made me stop.  I haven't been living my life deliberately.  I've been stumbling along, getting caught up in the stress of parenting, life, and everything else without stopping to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."  Like Thoreau, I don't want to get to the end of my life and discover I haven't lived.  I've been close to death enough times to know how short our lives truly are. 

But sometimes I forget.  I worry about dog hair on the carpet or milk-soaked Cheerios stuck to the table.  I make To Do lists and diligently check everything off.

Now these things aren't bad.  After all, I get a lot accomplished with my lists and my worries.  But when lists and worries take the place of sucking the marrow out of life, well, that's a problem. 

Living is dear.  I want to live deep and deliberately.  For me, that means putting aside Cheerios and dog hair to live in the moment.  To be more present with my kids.  To take risks with my writing.  To stop everything and play with our puppy. 

This year, I will live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life.  That's not a resolution.  That's a promise.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On The Road



I took this picture when we were in San Francisco in 2010.  Someone had taped all sorts of sayings on the sidewalk.  This one struck me.  It's the beginning of 2012.  What road are you on?  I hope it's one less traveled (I know, I know, mixing Kerouac & Frost) and that it brings you joy.  And if you don't like where you are, there's always a way to make things better.  It might not be easy, but it will be worth it. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Carpe Diem



Classes start today at the University where I'm teaching a fiction writing class this semester.  I won't be scrambling onto any desks (I'd likely fall off and break my neck), but I will seize the day in my own slightly less neurotic manner.  Most likely it will involve brownies or other baked goods. 

Carpe diem, everyone! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Garden Pictures

Chrysanthemums from my fall garden.  Since my oldest daughter's Chinese name means chrysanthemum, we always make sure we have plenty of these in our garden!

In addition to writing fiction and poetry, I also write for Kentucky Gardener Magazine.  This week I finished up two articles for the April issues.  Writing for a magazine means you're always slightly out of step with the rest of the world.  You turn in your articles several months before the issue goes to print which means while there's still snow on the ground, you're writing about creating a garden of beautiful blooms. 

Since I provide the photographs for my articles, I also have to take bloom times for various plants into consideration.  All of this means I have to start eight months to a year out to write a three page feature article.  It also means I carry a camera with me almost everywhere and frequently embarrass my family by climbing over fences to snap pictures of particularly beautiful William Shakespeare 2000 roses. 

I thought I'd share some of the photos I didn't use in the article to brighten your January day.  All but two of the pictures are from my garden last year.

Hope you enjoy dreaming of warmer weather!

 One of the hanging baskets I designed and planted for my front porch.
 Morning glories, cleome (spiderplant), and purple coneflowers in my front garden.
 Violas I planted in my grandmother's teacups this past fall. 
 My front garden again.  This time showing the salvia and morning glories.  Believe it or not, in the spring, this bed is full of tulips, grape hyacinths, daffodils, and irises.
 Honeysuckle vine twining up the stone steps at the Spring Hill Cemetery.
Crape myrtle from my front yard.  I adore my crape myrtle!  I'm at the northern most part of its growing zone so it spends the most of the spring looking dead.  Then it bursts into bloom with these magnificent puffs of flowers that last most of the summer.
I took this picture when we were in Sonoma Valley at a vineyard.  I haven't been able to find out the type of flower, but it looks like an annual to me.  (Of course I could be way off!  California's growing climate isn't exactly like Kentucky's!)
I'm convinced a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet!  This is before rose rosette gutted my garden and we had to pull out all of our roses.  Even the hardy knock-out roses I have had flanking our porch.  Yes.  I cried a little.  Okay.  A lot (or alot).  


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hey Kids, Let's Play Name That Illness!



Today is Doctor Visit Day, so I don't have a lot (or Alot) of time, but I just had to drop and update those of you following my doctor-drama. 

Today I saw the ortho doc. Remember when I told you that this was NOT Crohn's related?  Turns out I spoke too soon.  Yes, that's right.  My shoulder bone is likely swelling due to Crohn's disease.  Fun.  The tear in my tendon, now that's from Grace.  But the swelling, that's all Crohn's.  Does this mean the disease is active again?  Don't know.  Aside from a sore shoulder, I feel pretty much the way I always do.  I see my GI (Crohn's doc) on Wednesday, so I'll ask him. 

The ortho gave me a shot it the shoulder.  Not on the shoulder, in the shoulder.  The bone people!  He slid the needle into a tiny space between my shoulder bones.  It was a Big Production.  It took four people in the room to prepare for this shot.  First betadine was slathered all over my skin and then it was sprayed with something that looked like those air cans you use to clean your computer keyboard.  Then came the needle, gently maneuvered between the shoulder bones.  When he pushed the plunger and injected the meds, there was a lot of pressure.  It felt like someone was stretching my shoulder-bones apart.  And yet, compared with most of my tests/procedures, it really wasn't that bad. 

After he pulled the needle out, the doctor looked at me and said, "You're someone whose had a lot of shots, aren't you?"  Um, yeah. 

He then gave me a scipt for pain meds, telling me I would be very sore for the next three days.  So far, it's sore, but not painfully so.   

Now I'm on my way to the hematologist to get hooked up to an IV for another round of iron (also due to Crohn's).  Fingers crossed that they get the needle in the first time.  Last time it took six sticks before the IV took. 

I know, you're all jealous...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Since my oldest son was smaller than this when he was born, I choose to believe the latter.  How about you?


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In With the New



Happy 2012!  I hope you had a wondrous holiday and that this new year brings you new dreams and inspirations! 

First of all, an update on the health front.  On Friday I had an MRI of my right shoulder.  It showed a small tendon tear, some swelling, and a bone bruise.  Bone bruise?  How did I do that?  I'm clumsy, but I'm sure I would remember hitting something hard enough to bruise the bone. 

The best I can figure is that the daily wear and tear of caring for Grace is finally showing up.  After all, it's not like she has stopped growing.  She's over 4 feet tall now and more than 50 pounds.  Almost half my size.  Sigh.  More fun in the life of parenting a special needs child.  Oh well, the good far outweighs the bad. 

I'm seeing an ortho doctor on Thursday, but luckily it seems like I should be able to get by with some physical therapy and NO SURGERY!!  YAY!!!  I've had enough of those.  The arm still hurts, but it's slowly improving.

Now, on to the writing content of today's post!  Since handing off one round of edits to my editor, I've needed something to keep me occupied.  What better way to keep busy (and to keep from continually messing with the current novel!) than start writing a new book? 

Like most writers, I accumulate ideas like dust bunnies accumulate under my sofa, bed, table...well, you get the picture.  I keep a Word file where I jot down new book ideas as they pop into my head.  So when it was time to start working on a new book, I opened up my file and looked over my notes, finally choosing the one that inspires me the most. 

I wish I could say my file is efficiently organized with headings and outlines under each thought, but it's not.  It's more a rambling mess of sentence fragments and half-developed ideas or images.   This time, I've combined two images (and one character) that seem to fit together.  Not in any obvious way, but in the way they feel.  Not very precise is it?  Well, welcome to my inner self.  I'm not organized or precise either. 

As I'm starting this new book, I'm thinking about the feel or tone I want it to have.  Think Edward Scissorhands meets The Yellow Wallpaper.  In my mind it's something strangely beautiful.  And a little bit...off.  I have a few mental images and a main character.  Possibly a ghost.  And a strange house.  I also know I want to write this one in first person, probably with a single narrator. 

That's it.  No plot.  No Inciting Incident.  Just fragmented images and a feeling.  But this is how I write.  I gravitate toward images that inspire me (I often try to link seemingly disparate images) and build a world around them.  The image can be a setting, a person, sometimes a color, it doesn't really matter what the image is, only that for some strange reason, it moves me. 

This isn't how everyone works.  This is only what works for me.  I'm not suggesting you write this way, but I would challenge you to think about what inspires you.  Is there an image or song or feeling that you're fascinated by?  If so, why not try meditating on it for a bit.  Who knows, something wonderful could come from it. 

My question for you is, what inspires you?