What’s In A Name?

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Earlier this morning while drinking my coffee, I decided I needed a pen name.  After all, I don’t want to be forever known as “that lady who co-wrote that book about that weird haunted house.  That Jenny B. Scott lady.”

If you don’t already know, I AM that lady who co-wrote that book about that weird haunted house (and proud of it).  The book hasn’t come out yet.  It’s in the hands of our brave editor this VERY moment, and we hope to have it published this fall.

Anyway, I’m not good at telling ghost stories.  I’m only good at telling my own ghost story, which I happened to live through for five awful months in 2012.  I don’t know anything about ghosts, ghost hunting or demonology….so I just leave it to the experts in that field.  After what I went through personally, I don’t even watch many horror movies anymore.  I still watch the really old ones like “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi from the 1930’s and the silent films like “Nosferatu”….but you won’t see me watching Paranormal Activity 19 or Amityville Horror 372, the re-make of the re-make, of the re-make.

I do plan on writing more books, but paranormal non-fiction just isn’t my thing.  I like to tell funny slice-of-life stories about the American South.  I like to listen to a story told with a long Southern drawl….a drawl so Southern, you can almost taste the sweet tea (maybe with a little Bourbon mixed in….or a lot. Whatever floats my goat.)

So, I had myself a little conundrum this morning: What does one do, when one will already be known for writing a book in a certain genre?  Well, Hell’s Bells, honey child…..you come up with a nom de plume!

So, I went online….as one does, and I found a neat little pen name generator. I thought I had found the perfect place to find my new name. I had struck internet gold, Honey!

All I did was select a gender, and I got:

Maude Tagloff

No offense to anyone named Maude, but that name just doesn’t suit me. I’m only 38 years old.

I tried again, and got these:

Una May Doop

Maurits Manfredi

Shaun Socrates

Erin Huggins

Starlin Zahn.

Some of those names sound like a serious infection. The kind you’d get if you sat all the way down on the toilet seat in the public restroom.  I can imagine the conversations around town:

“What’s wrong with Jenny?  Why isn’t she on Facebook much lately?”

“Girl….didn’t you hear?  She’s got a BAD case of Maurits Manfredi!  The doctor said if she hadn’t come to the emergency room when she did, she could have ended up with a Starlin Zahn infection, and they woulda had to take her uterus out!”

“Oh, my Lord! Bless her heart!”

So, I decided I’d better think up my own pen name.  I got out my notepad and favorite pen, and came up with these:

Mary-Margaret Fenton

Lillian B. Harris

Lillian Harper-Harley

Lilly Leigh McGee

Mary Grace Mercer

Mary-Margaret Montgomery

Lillian H. Sheridan

Marie Tucker Sheridan

Virginia Grace Montgomery

Lillian Thomas Pratt

Martha Patty Patterson

Sallie Maude McGee (see how I threw that ‘Maude’ in there like a rock star?  It’s actually my great-grandmother’s name)

Not bad, I thought.  But, none of them sound like me.  A few of them are actually family names, just jumbled up a bit.  But, family names or not….I began to change my idea about a nom de plume.  I can’t help who I am.  I’m just me.  My mama named me, so why not just use the name I already have, and just change it up a little?  I can’t use my maiden name, because it’s too hard for people to spell, much less pronounce properly, so I decided on a variation of my married name.

Turns out, there IS a lot in a name.  Your own name is your identity, your heritage and your legacy.  I can’t exactly leave a decent legacy with the name Maude Tagloff.  And Lillian H. Sheridan sounds too uppity for my taste.

So, I’m just Jenny.

Jenny Marie Scott.  No muss, no fuss, and easy for me to remember.  I’m still Jenny B. Scott, and I’m still that “haunted house book” lady….but for my fiction writing, I’m still the same, just a little bit different.

And I’m GLAD I don’t have a raging case of Starlin Zahn.

Makes me itch just thinking about it.

 

 

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Inspiration

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Some days, I’m just a shell of a person.  I walk around the house like a robot, doing those things all stay-at-home moms do, as if I were on autopilot.  In the middle of my daily chores, I do stop what I’m doing and watch my children. I take snapshots of them in my mind, like one of those old Polaroid cameras.

A touch….a smile….a memory.

One day, my five-year old won’t be running around the house with her fairy wings and ruby slippers, slaying dragons and wiping her nose with her sleeve (like I’ve told her not to do).

One day, my three-year old won’t be climbing on chairs to reach the things I’ve put up high, to keep him from getting to them (what’s the definition of insanity again?).  He won’t have those cute little blonde curls, or those little chocolate smeared hands, and he won’t reach those chubby little arms up, smile at me and say “mommy.”

One day, my 12-year-old won’t be staying on the computer all day playing Minecraft, always getting annoyed by his younger brother and sister, and asking me to “close the stinkin’ door!”

One day, my 12 year-old stepdaughter won’t be asleep on the couch.  How in the world can she sleep through all this noise?

One day, they will be all grown up.  There won’t be messes to clean, huge piles of dishes to wash, or laundry piles the size of Mt. Everest.  There won’t be marker stains and tiny handprints on the walls, or toys lying around.  There won’t be “blankies” or “teddies” or “night-night times” – and there won’t be noise.

One day, it will be quiet.

One day, writing will be all I have to keep me occupied.

I am trying so hard to remember this on a day like today, when they are all fussy and whiny because they all stayed up too late last night, and ate too much candy.  I am trying to keep myself from losing my temper because my house is a wreck, the kids are loud and we are out of every single snack they have asked for, for the last eight hours.  I don’t have the energy, or the money to take ALL the kids to the grocery store….the DAY before Memorial Day, when everyone in town is grocery shopping for their pool parties and barbecues.

So, I have declared “quiet time” – and I’m sitting here at my computer, enjoying a quiet moment….a calm before the afternoon storm, and I am reflecting on some things.

Who am I?

I am Mom.

I will always be Mom.

I am a writer.

I will always be a writer.

What do I want?

I want quiet.  And yet, I don’t want quiet.

Quiet means:  No noses to wipe, messes to clean, children to cuddle, toys to pick up.

Quiet also means: Writing time, tea time, coffee time, nap time, reading time, reflection time.

I want to write.

I am writing.  I write whenever I get a spare minute, which usually means I stay up too late, and get up too early.  I live in a perpetual cycle of sleep deprivation.  But there is always coffee.

So, essentially, I am what I want to be and I have what I want.  There may be days where I think  I know who I am, or what I want…but all I need to do is look around me:  As long as there are messes to clean, dirty dishes, piles of laundry and legos to step on, and things to write about,  I have a purpose.

I need to write that down again….

I have a purpose.

I know other stay-at-home moms feel the same way I do….they get bogged down with the stress, the mess, the same thing day after day, over and over….and they forget who they are and forget what they want.

Look around.

Take a mental Polaroid picture.

See the little toddler boy, sitting on the floor laughing with his hand in the peanut butter jar….

Don’t see the mess you’ll have to clean, see the little boy.  Remember how little he is right now.  In five years, in ten years, in twenty years….he won’t be the same….but you will remember the picture you took in your brain, that mental Polaroid picture….of him as a toddler, laughing with his hand in the peanut butter jar.

See the little preschool girl……she’s five years old, and she still thinks the moon is made out of cheese.  She thinks the tooth fairy leaves glitter, and that Santa Claus will bring her a real Giraffe and an in-ground swimming pool.  See the way her curly hair falls down across her face, and how she uses her chubby hand to swipe it back.  In five years, in ten years, in twenty years…..she won’t be the same….but you will remember the picture you took in your brain, that mental Polaroid picture….of her as a five-year old preschooler, standing in her daddy’s giant shoes, wearing her purple fairy wings, and singing a song she made up in her head.

I have to remember these things in my moments of “I can’t take it anymore” stress.

I have to walk around, ignoring the mess, ignoring the noise and take pictures with my mind.  I have to do my best to remember to treasure the moments that will be gone in the morning.  I have to stop wishing they would just “get a little older” so I won’t have to clean so much, or listen to the noise, or get up every five minutes to make a peanut butter sandwich or chicken nuggets.

I need to remember to be present.  I am here.  This is now.  This is me.

I am Mom.

I will always be Mom.

I always want to be Mom.

I am also a writer….

And so I write about being a Mom, so that I can remember who I am, and what I want….and so that I can write about who they are right now.  One day, they will read this and know that Mom was always watching.  She watched them grow and enjoyed it EVERY step of the way. She remembered to stop worrying about cleaning up the house, and she took mental Polaroids and wrote about how wonderful they were, and how special they are to her.

One day, I will read this with tears in my eyes, and I hope that they will be tears of joy, and not tears of regret.

I have to go now…..I have Polaroids to take, chicken nuggets to make, and I need some cuddles and kisses.

Writing can wait.

 

 

 

 

All in a Day’s Work

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I sometimes dream about what a “real” writer’s life might look like:

He wakes up refreshed and energized after a restful sleep, yawns and stretches with a gleeful smile. What a beautiful day to write! he thinks to himself.  A small cartoonish butterfly somehow manages to flutter through the open window and lands on the Perfect Writer’s finger.  He smiles as he examines the small creature. “You shall be in my next novel.” he says to the butterfly.  The butterfly flutters away, while the Perfect Writer dons his favorite robe and slippers, and glides to the kitchen to grab his morning cup of joe. The birds are busily chirping outside, and the first streams of morning sunlight trickle through the windows of his perfect little writing cottage.    Perfect Writer sits down at his expensive mahogany desk, and begins typing away at his 37th novel with just as much gusto as he did with his first novel. He pauses, cocks his head to one side and thinks of the next line, and smiles at his wit and genius, laughs a little to himself and continues typing away at the next flow of thoughts that come easily as they spew out of his genius mind and out of his genius fingers.

This is not my life.

I am a “real” writer.   I’m not successful by the world’s standards, of course…I don’t have 37 novels in print, nor do I make very much money, if any,  from the prose that I do manage to eek out of my stressed-out, non-genius brain. I don’t have an expensive mahogany desk, I hate mornings, and if I physically saw cartoon butterflies, I’d probably make a doctor’s appointment….STAT.

Here’s how this writer’s life looks:

I wake up in the morning groggy and miserable.  I hate mornings.  If I could sleep until noon, or later, I would.  My sweet husband makes me a cup of coffee, places it on my bedside table and backs away slowly….as if he were making an offering to an angry pagan god.   I mumble a not-so-coherent “thank you” – which translates to “Mgghryuh” in true English.  I lie in bed for another moment, wondering why the bed is so much more comfortable in the morning, than it is during the night when I’m tossing and turning.

With one eye barely open, I reach over and try to reach the handle of my coffee cup.  I end up punching the cup and it blasts against the wall, along with all of the steaming contents that are required in order for my brain to properly function.

“Shit.” I mumble. It’s my first recognizable word of the day.

 

I sit up in bed, grab my robe and use it as a towel to mop up as much of the coffee as I can. I stumble into the kitchen to make myself another cup, and I am greeted by three children who are so incredibly happy that I am awake, they cannot contain themselves.

“Mom! you’re awake! I need water!” the oldest says.

“Mommy, he hit me! I think he needs a spanking.” the middle child says, pointing at the youngest.

“Mommeee. Eee Aaaye  Ask!!!  Eee Aaaye Ask!!”

The youngest is only three, and is trying to tell me he wants to watch “P.J. Masks” – a cartoon found on the Disney Jr. Channel.

Without a word, my husband gives me a quick kiss on the forehead, and slips out the door, to the safety of his work van.  He gets to go to work, I get to stay home with the children.

I am still not able to speak in a clear form of language at this point, so I hold up one finger (No, not that one…geez…..these are the precious fruits of my womb.) I hold up my “wait a minute” finger, and they take the hint and scatter.  I make a fresh cup of coffee and sit down at the dining room table for about 30 seconds.  I do not get to enjoy my coffee.  First, I must make sure all of the little ones have everything they need.  When I finish doing that, my coffee is lukewarm.  I guzzle it, and make another.

I attempt to make my way to the computer at least once or twice, but my oldest son has commandeered it so he can play Minecraft.  It is the only working computer in the house. My laptop died a few weeks ago, and I am still waiting on a replacement.  So, I grab my Kindle Fire and jot down a few notes here and there during the day.

I do dishes, clean floors, kiss boo-boos, read stories, sort laundry and when my husband gets home, we take turns cooking dinner.

At 5:30, it is usually bathtime for the two littles and the oldest boy finally gives up the computer and plays on another electronic device.  We eat dinner together, and at 6:30 the two little ones get in bed.  We are very strict with the early bedtime thing.  It keeps us sane, and gives me time to write so that I’m not up all night writing, when I am dog-tired from tending to little ones all day.

After everyone is bathed, fed and tucked away, I make myself another cup of coffee and sit down to write.  It goes like this:

I open up a Word document and type, “The….”

I sit and wait for inspiration.

I take a sip of coffee.

Nothing.

I take another sip of coffee.

Nothing.

I get on Facebook.

Eventually, I will think of something to write and I get started.  Sometimes, it takes a while and sometimes nothing happens at all.  Where are one of those damned cartoon butterflies? I wonder.

If I can’t think of anything to write, I usually dig out an old manuscript and edit.  Or write a blog post.  If absolutely NO inspiration comes, I will either get back online and read, or I will climb in bed and watch something completely worthless on my Roku.  Sometimes, I’ll grab a book from the bookshelf and read….either a Jane Austen fan fiction novel, or something by Stephen King.  There is usually no in-between.  Unless I’m in a “Southern Writers only” mood….and I’ll grab something by Zelda Fitzgerald, Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell.  It’s a crapshoot.

So, you see, the writer’s life is not that interesting.  We are writers.  We write about interesting things that other people do.  We are not all alcoholics or ex-pats like Hemingway, or F. Scott Fitzgerald.  We are actually quite boring. At least, I am.  But I’m not exactly in the same category as those mentioned above.  I’m a struggling writer.  I’m a newbie.  I’m just a wife, mom and southern writer with the intense, burning need to sit at a computer and type everything that flutters through my brain….  IF something flutters around in there at all.

Maybe that’s where that cartoon butterfly lives.  Maybe we all have our own cartoon butterflies.  Mine just happens to be stuck in a mommy brain full of caffeine, sleep deprivation, and Yo Gabba Gabba songs. He’s probably in there sitting in a tiny recliner, gorging himself on chocolates and reality tv shows…. waiting for the moment when I decide to let him out.

Or it could just be writer’s block.

Whatever.

I’ll let you guys know if he ever comes out.

That is my exciting writer’s life.

If you are a writer, I hope your own cartoon butterfly comes your way soon.

I am patiently waiting for mine.

 

 

 

 

 

Labor of Love

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A labor of love.

I guess that’s what writing is for me.  It’s also my favorite form of self-expression, and a way to de-stress after a long day of cleaning, doing laundry and raising my little ones.

I have never written a book before.  Well, I have…but I’ve never actually published one.  My writing and publishing experience has mostly consisted of magazine feature stories, newspaper articles, columns and the occasional blog post.  So, in my experience, writing has been easy.  And writing IS easy, once you sit down and force yourself to do it.  I’m the world’s worst procrastinator, and the worst part of writing for me is that period where I have to make myself actually sit down and do it!

Since I’m such a newbie in publishing, I have broken a Cardinal Rule in book writing – I didn’t allow enough time between the actual writing-of-the-book part, and the part where I do my editing and polishing.  I have been editing and polishing constantly for two months.  I’m starting to think the book has completely changed since I first sat down to write the darned thing.

Anyway, I have printed my FINAL version of my half of the book (my co-author is working on her half right now as well) and I have put it away in a drawer.  I refuse to even open the drawer until I have to put it in a package to send to our editor.

I also have two weeks to get myself emotionally ready to “say goodbye” to my manuscript, and open that locked door, so I can send it out into the world.

It’s a little bit like having a baby, in my opinion.  You grow your little manuscript, and little pieces of you are contained within….it’s YOUR story.  You take care of it, and watch it grow stronger by the day, the week and the month….and then, it’s time to let it out into the world so that others can READ it.  I mean, that’s what books are for, right? For reading…for sharing ideas and stories with others?  But the world is a mean place.   What if people hate your book?  What if people say mean things about it – this little piece of you that you have created?  It’s a chance you have to take.  It’s a chance I have to take.

I have two weeks before I have to let my manuscript go to the editor.  After the final changes are made, it will go to print….and the whole world will be able to peer into my soul. They will either love my book or they will hate it.  They will ask questions.

There will be book promotions we have to do, conferences to attend, interviews to do, book signings and public events…..the list goes on.

Am I ready for all that?  Not yet.

Kim and I have done one interview, and we are scheduled to do another one this week, so I’m getting a little more used to talking about the book, even though it isn’t “out there” just yet.

If all goes well with editing, and we can get everything just the way it needs to be, then we are looking at an August or September publish date.  I am excited and nervous.  I can’t wait to see the published book with my own name on it for the very first time…..to hold it in my hands and smell the pages.  I can’t wait to see it (hopefully) on the shelves of the local bookstores, and see it online at Amazon….there will also be a Kindle version as well.

Until then, I wait.  I am trying to find SOMETHING to do to keep myself occupied, so I don’t open the drawer and look at the manuscript.

Knitting? Laundry? Underwater basket weaving? Or start working on a new book?

The possibilities are endless!

But, I must…not…open…that…drawer….