I’ve been thinking about flexibility lately, for several reasons. One is I need to stretch my back and keep my joints mobile. I’m beginning to stiffen up. Another is that this past week I got one of the very best kinds of rejection. It was from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. The rejection itself was form; it turned down my story quite politely and wished me luck in placing it elsewhere. In the margin, a handwritten note said “Thank you! Try us again soon.”
My initial response was the Happy Dance, followed immediately by panic. I have written exactly two mysteries in my life; one is up at Gumshoe Review, and the other is the one AHMM rejected.
How can I try them again soon? I don’t have another mystery! Maybe I don’t have another mystery in me!! Maybe I’m a double-barrelled shotgun and nobody’s going to reload!!!
You can see where this is going. Fortunately for me, I have my Amuse, David, who calmed me down and then said something that sparked an idea. (This is the function of an Amuse. The way an Amuse differs from a Muse is that an Amuse also makes you laugh.) By the time we went to breakfast at the Pepper Mill, I had three ideas. The next day I got a fourth. I’m writing on one of them now.
I planned to learn how to write steampunk this year, because it’s a genre that interests me. I’ve changed that to learning how to write mysteries. Flexibility, right? I already have a couple of books on how to write mysteries, and I’m reading a mystery now with a critical eye, looking for what the author tells me and when, how she builds character, setting and suspense, what trails she lays that could be red herrings – or not.
I’m quite excited about the personal note, and I’ve set myself a deadline of one month to get another mystery out to the magazine. I’ve also set myself a goal of writing twenty mysteries and selling at least two.
Today I turned fifty-seven. A friend of mine who is in his seventies told me that the fifties were wonderful, and last night I made a little list of some good things that had happened to me since I turned fifty. There are a lot of them; here are a few.
Marrying David. Getting Sky, my beautiful blue merle Aussie. Joining To the Point, the Thessalon writers’ group. Joining Bawdytalkers, my online word-nerd group. Joining Zoetrope, my online writers’ group. Finishing the first draft of Under the Skin. Finishing the first and second drafts of The Swan Harp and submitting it. Finishing the first of three non-fiction animal books and getting into the hands of an agent. Winning grants to support my work. Selling stories and being asked for more. Starting to get a profile as a poet. Winning prizes for my work. Gaining confidence in my abilities as a writer. Learning to negotiate the internet (and set up a blog).
I also made it through menopause. (Without killing my husband – bonus!)
I may blow off work for today and spend my time reading and drinking coffee. Or maybe reading and drinking wine. That’s the plan, anyway.
But I may have to give in and write something. I’m flexible.