Thursday, December 23, 2010

On the twelve days of Christmas, my Danelings gave to me:
Twelve months of chaos
Eleven treats for begging
Ten Dukes a-leaping
Nine Sunnis prancing
Eight paws a-thundering
Seven messy messes
Six toys a-laying
Five high vet bills!
Four beady eyes
Three bruised shins
Two wagging tails
And a "Roo!" 'cause she's ready to leave!

Merry Christmas from the Four Tails/OtW crew! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas presents

This holiday season has been tough. My grandma passed away a week before Thanksgiving, and that in itself was hard. I can't help but feel guilty, though, because I live nine hours from the rest of my family, and I couldn't get there in time to be with her during her last moments. The guilt is the worst part.

Despite all that, though, we're gonna put on our best trooper faces and force our way through Christmas. I'll admit the shopping part has been kind of fun, and kind of weird. But then weirdness tends to follow me.

There's a place down here called The Junk Barn. It's exactly what it sounds like, except it's not just a barn - it's about 20 acres on either side of the barn, too, and you'll find everything from old traffic signs to junked cars to a creepy zombie doll that terrified me.


Cade suggested we visit The Junk Barn to pick out a present for his mom, who tends to like unique, interesting gifts. I suspect he just wanted an excuse to browse; the last few times he's convinced me to go, we've spent hours at a time. I usually throw a mini-fit and force him to leave after three hours there.

Anyway, presents. We found a pretty nifty shelf-type thing that used to be part of a press for $30. The problem: Cade only had $25 on him, and they don't accept cards.

We approached the owner, who has to be at least 85. He looked distracted with what I assumed was a live animal trap that he couldn't get to work, and he was muttering strings of curses that would embarrass my most foul-mouthed friend. I mean, I assume they were curses, since he was ranting around a thumb-sized lump of tobacco in his lip.

I asked the guy if he'd take $25 for the shelf, and he gave us this long, calculating look, like he was deciding whether or not we were legit. Then, without saying anything, he went back to fiddling with the trap.

Cade, being a helpful handyman, asked him if he needed help fixing the trap. The guy said he couldn't get it to work, and he had a stray cat trapped in his attic and there was no way they could go see family on Christmas if there was a cat in the house. He had to trap it and let it go outside.

Cade agreed to help him fix it, and they went to town on the trap. He stuck a pair of needle-nose in the trap and fiddled with it for about five minutes as I doubtfully watched. Sure enough, Cade fixed the stupid thing.

The guy looked at Cade, then me, then he shrugged and said "Aw shur, go erhead 'n take it fer twenny-five." We were ecstatic and happily loaded our find in his car.

It wasn't until we got home that we noticed the spider nest in the bottom shelf.

Hooray for Christmas miracles.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sick day

This post was cross-posted from a Facebook note I wrote yesterday. I think it accurately sums up the way life has been going here lately.

Cold/flu/sinus medications mess with my head. In a bad way. When I'm stuck at home all day in a haze of medication and Judge Judy reruns, weird things happen.

It started this morning, when I heard Cade's alarm go off at 6:30. Of course, I'd been up all night because my throat felt like I swallowed a hedgehog, so I barely registered the alarm and went back to sleep. Unfortunately, Cade did the same thing, because the next thing I knew he was vaulting out of bed and I heard a strangled "IT'SSEVENTHIRTYANDI'MGOINGTOBELATEAAAAAAGH."

I was conscious enough to text my boss and tell him I felt like I was dying, and fell back asleep. But then, not even ten minutes later, I heard those fateful words:

"I can't walk the dogs. I'll be late to work if I do. I know you're sick, but can you walk them for me?"

Apparently Cade took my anguished gurgle for an affirmative, because he left me with a vaguely reassuring "I'll be back to check on you at noon. Take more Nyquil if you start feeling bad again." Then, silence.

I made it maybe fifteen seconds before I heard it, that high-pitched keening that means Sunni, our oldest Dane, has to pee. It's fine tuned to be a perfect combination of pathetic and annoying, and it's just loud enough to keep me from being able to fall back asleep. Fine. I rolled out of bed, threw on a coat and walked them both. To their credit, they didn't take long, possibly because the awful, rattling noise I made every time I breathed scared them as much as it did me.

By the time I got them both inside, my lungs were on fire and I didn't think I could physically make it to the bed. I collapsed on the couch and passed out again.

The following things proceeded to wake me up at least every fifteen minutes for the next four hours:
Singe, my sociopath cat, playing with the blinds
My phone ringing
Duke flopping onto my stomach and sending me into a coughing spasm
Lou, the retarded cat, biting my face
A particularly loud commercial

I was grudgingly awake, but alive, when Cade made it back for lunch. He seemed surprised; I guess when you spend the entire night curled into a ball and softly weeping, your significant other assumes that he'll meet something other than a furious, frustrated, exhausted she-beast when he comes home for a sandwich.

He only made the mistake of asking if he could turn it off the Angry Beavers marathon once. The glare I gave him in response was enough for him to hastily apologize and go back to eating. I think he was secretly glad to leave, for fear I'd lunge at his throat if he said the wrong thing. I love Cade, I really do, but after 24 hours of feeling like death, I was not in the best of moods.

As soon as he left, I fell back onto the couch. This time, though, there was not even the pretense of sleep. I just laid there, staring at the carpet, the ceiling, the moth on the wall, whatever happened to catch my eye.

Then I saw the love seat and I cringed.

For whatever reason, in my Nyquil-drugged state, I suddenly realized that the slipcover had not been washed in forever, and it was most likely a festering, disease-ridden monstrosity just waiting to infect whoever touched it next.

I closed my eyes and tried to ignore it, but I couldn't get the thought of that filthy slipcover out of my mind. I was almost sure that I'd open my eyes and it would be advancing, ever so slowly, to smother me in a microfiber-lined layer of swine flu. With a groan, I sat up and yanked the slipcover off the love seat as fast as I could, then I shambled to the washer and threw it in, resisting the urge to smile with satisfaction at what I was sure were millions of tiny germs suffering in their death-throes.

On my way back to the couch, I had a thought. The dogs might try to crash on the love seat, like they usually do, and then it would be just as nasty as the slipcover I took off of it. I had to grab a sheet to throw over it, at least temporarily. I staggered to the closet and hunted for a sheet.

Then I saw it.

My fuzzy Viking helmet, the one I bought weeks ago and 'lost' about three days later. Despite my swollen, scratchy throat, I gurgled with glee! Finally, a bright spot to this otherwise horrific day! I immediately put it on and instantly felt so much cooler than I did before.

I'd completely forgotten about the sheet, and of course by the time I got back to the living room Sunni was passed out on the love seat. I gave up on that idea pretty fast; a sleeping Dane weighs at least three times as much as an alert one, and in my current state moving what equated out to a furry Triceratops was just out of the question. Cue couch-collapse again.

Eventually the slip cover was clean, and I coaxed Sunni off the love seat with dog treats and thinly-veiled threats. Of course, I had to move the love seat away from the wall and scoot the coffee table next to it in front of the door so that I could maneuver the dang thing on, but at the time I thought was the biggest accomplishment ever.

Until a coughing fit that stemmed from sick-exertion lasted so long that I got nauseous and barely made it to the bathroom in time to keep the day from getting any worse.

...and that's why when Cade came home, the coffee table was in front of the door and I was curled up in the bathroom floor wearing a furry Viking helmet.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


As often as I struggle to put words on the page, it's always so wonderful to have an evening where I sit down to write and the words seem to fly from my fingertips.

Tonight, I hit 20,000.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Appreciating creativity

In my (humble) opinion, I think one of the most important things a writer can do is appreciate creativity in others, possibly even be inspired by it.

Last night, I covered the annual Christmas parade. It was your usual small-town fare, with tons of laughing kids, bemused parents and loud music. I was mostly interested in "man on the street" interviews, so I was up and down the parade route most of the night, barely paying attention to the floats.

Until the very last one.

Home Depot's float was a full-sized replica of the Polar Express engine and one car. They even had the hobo (can't remember his name) on top and the kid (whose name I also can't remember) sitting with him. There was a conductor, and music from the movie, and wowza. I was impressed. I stopped and gaped at the float like a catfish.

I finished my business and got home around 9 p.m. I was stoked about writing - something about seeing something right out of one of my favorite holiday movies (tied with A Christmas Story) right in front of me made me want to sit down and WRITE.

...and so I fell asleep at my laptop. Cade caught me before I could drool on it or drop it off my lap and sent me to bed.

So much for that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have a lot of days where I'm contentedly inspired. I'm not sure how to explain it, but as far as I can tell, it's a mild relaxation that seems to occur when I know exactly what I want to write. The thoughts, the sentences and the metaphors and the dialogue, just sit there in the back of my mind, marinating in one big happy bubble. I smile, I go through the day with this "atta girl" mentality, and I get home ready to attack the next few thousand words.

Then life happens, and I'm chasing a late assignment or my husband needs help with something, or my car needs to be picked up from the shop. Suddenly it's almost midnight and I have to dive into bed just so I can be coherent the next morning.

That was yesterday. And the bubble is starting to wear thin.

I've taken to carrying a notebook around with me, one that obviously isn't for work - those are scuffed, dirty and covered in doodles from waiting for that last guild member or commissioner so the meeting can start. My 'me' notebooks are pretty; I like them that way. I can toss them in my purse and take off out the door, then when inspiration strikes halfway through my lunch hour, it's there. Even though I don't think I'll ever prefer using a notebook to typing (it's so much faster!), it's nice to have it there, just waiting for an executive session when there are no city officials left in the room.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sometimes I have to admit that my 'babies' are ugly

I haven't written much in the last few weeks, for several reasons.

In the few months since starting this little venture, I've learned something I've suspected all along: when I craft something, even if it's just a string of words thrown together, it's mine and no one else's. It's like my baby, born from my brain-womb, taking its first toddling steps on a screen.

Yet, at the same time, sometimes I have to look at these screen-babies and say "this is awful, this is terrible and just needs to be completely re-written." I'm destroying my babies because they're ugly, and replacing them with prettier little angels that don't make me recoil in horror every time I hear them aloud (fun fact - I do run my stories through my computer's voice program every few weeks because it helps me edit).

What an awful metaphor.

So here I am, stuck because I just realized that the last, like, 30 pages of N2N need to be rewritten. Completely. Start from scratch, because that baby was ugly as sin. And now, I'm slogging through it, trying to find something, anything redeeming enough to keep.

Maybe sometime I'll post a rough 'preview' of what I'm writing. No one knows about this blog yet, which is liberating in a way. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of a 'readership,' but writing this here helps remind me to stay on track, because that might be important someday.

Until then, I'll gripe here about all the roadblocks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's been a rough week

As a reporter, I tend to keep weird hours, though I usually get home around 5:30 or 6 three or four nights a week.

This, though, has been a rough one. For a couple of reasons.

First, my husband, my rock, my encouragement and my sleep aid, was out of town for the better part of the last week for a training workshop in Mississippi. This wasn't a big deal; after all, I lived on my own during college, and I have two enormous vicious dogs to keep me company. What I didn't expect, though, was for me to have so much trouble falling asleep at night.

I figured it's like this: when he's home, I subconsciously realize that if an axe murderer breaks down the door, he's going to be the one to handle it. But if it's just me there by myself, I'm going to have to be the one to heroically defend myself and my dogs with a baseball bat.

Anyway, so I didn't sleep much, and the elections were this week, so of course Tuesday night I didn't drag myself home until the wee hours of Wednesday morning. And Thursday night was much of the same with a healthcare banquet, with me finally leaving the newsroom after ten. Factor in church on Wednesday night and you see that I didn't have a lot of 'me' time this week, and that's when I do all of my writing.

It sucks, yes, but at the same time, I can see that I did need a break from constantly thinking about this story, and trying to work out chapters and plot lines and character relationships during every waking moment that isn't devoted to work or other daily necessities. In a way, it was a nice change of pace.

But then my husband surprised me by showing up at the newsroom last night (he wasn't supposed to be home until this afternoon). That more than made up for this crazy, exhausting week that I've had.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Well, that didn't take long. Here I sit, staring at the screen and completely unable to write a single, coherent sentence. I've been sitting here since, oh, 4:30 this afternoon or so, and while I did take breaks to make dinner and watch an episode of COPS (don't judge me), I think I've managed a whopping hundred or so words since then.

I know exactly what it is. It's self-doubt, and it's got me halfway to crazy. It's that stupid, wheedling voice in the back of my head that has "You'll never succeed in this!" on loop, and at top volume.

That's the exact reason why I haven't told very many people about this little venture of mine, and why I'm keeping this blog on the down-low: I don't want to jinx myself. It doesn't matter how much time or effort I put in, or how well I can write. If I tell more than a handful (I think it's maybe four or five people at this point) of my family or friends, it will crash and burn.

Or maybe I'm just tired. I churned out seven stories at work today, which I think would exhaust anyone's creativity. At this point, I think I'm going to close the laptop and go take a shower.

By the way, that's an AWESOME way to work through writer's block. I can't remember where I read it, but I read somewhere that a shower helps the creative process, because the heat's making the blood vessels in your head expand and improving brain function. I've experienced it firsthand: more than once I've gotten in the shower, only to have an awesome idea that stuck with me. A scene I wrote this week came from inspiration I got during one of my block-induced showers.

When I saw Peter Beagle speak at A-kon (I consider that the turning point for me, when I went from "maybe I could one day do this" to "I will do this, and I will start now") he said that over coming writer's block was a matter of pushing yourself until the words come naturally again. He said not to freak yourself out over one piece, to jump around if need be.

I'm trying to remind myself that breaking the rules, even the rules I heard from him, can result in brilliance.

Don't give up on me yet. I'll get through this. I'm more than 50 pages in; it's too late to stop now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And away we go

I'll start off right now by saying that I don't know how effective this venture will be. I'm not terribly good at keeping track of a blog, as evidenced by my Livejournal account that has sat inactive for months. :/

But here's the thing: sometimes talking to myself just doesn't cut it. And I don't want to keep bothering Hub by constantly making him talk me down when I have "I JUST CAN'T DO THIS" moments.

So here we are. And I guess some kind of introduction is in order.

My name is L.M. Graham, and I'm a writer (hi, L.M.).

Even though I've never considered myself a 'serious' writer, it's something I've always done. It's not a hobby, but it's not something I expect to profit from, either. It's just a part of me; a big part that, I think, has turned me into an impossible dreamer at best, and an annoying twit at worst.

Ironically, I turned out as a journalist. And while AP style has really affected my work (short paragraphs, yes?), I like to think I can switch between reporting and telling a story that comes strictly from inside my head. Do I enjoy it? Yes, I do. I like to think it keeps that side of my brain from short-circuiting. Goodness knows that "math and science" part doesn't get nearly enough attention.

I started my current... venture, I guess you'd call it, shortly after moving to Texas to take a reporting gig. This is where I'll wax poetic about the process, or maybe just talk to myself. I think either one will work.