The Great Wall of Folding Chairs

The Great Wall of Folding Chairs

The title for this post gave me fits. It could’ve been one of several, much like the post back in November where I nearly took out the Hub’s colon with Saran Wrap.

Here were the other title contenders:
“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” (most of my ideas fall into this category)

“It Was Supposed To Be Simple” (sigh)

“For Crying Out Loud” (self-explanatory)

“September Is Tomorrow” (keep reading…)

Last summer at the WMG Romance Spies writing class, the instructor, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch, put the writers through the wringer, churning out three short stories that had to hit several themes simultaneously. The one I’d written for corporate espionage, where I just wanted a simple, cozy-feel-goodish tale about dueling dog groomers turned dark (Thank you, Little Miss Muse, who was supposed to be occupying herself down in the casino, but, after an incident with the Golden Nugget security team, joined me at Chick-fil-A to try to turn chicken and Diet Coke into words).

Out of that class, Triage was born. It was too big for a short story, but I wanted as much feedback from Kris as possible, so I tacked on a suitable-for-now ending and turned it in with a note at the top: This is not a short story. I think it’s a novel.

Kris agreed. “Write the book.”

I put it on the way-back-there burner, telling myself this particular story type wasn’t my thing, and I wasn’t really feeling it.

Land back in Indianapolis, and the CIRCUS raged.

Somehow, in the middle of the three rings and four flaming clown wigs, I found the time to attend the Indiana Author Extravaganza, where local authors showcased their books.

Then an idea— It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time —started to fester. I could simply (hahaha) write Triage, change the setting to the cornfields of Indiana, then, at the next local author event, I’d have a cool little book based in my home state. Evidently, there are all kinds of folks who love reading fiction stories based in or near their own hometowns. In my hometown (in my own backyard), I have a CIRCUS that I’d like to escape, so I do not fall into this category. But to each their own.

And in September 2023, I’m attending a rather large local event. As a local author. Thus, the deadline. This week, when I did publication math to time out the project: Finish the manuscript, wait for proofing, apply the edits, format, cover, blurb, upload, order print copies…

For Crying Out Loud. September Is Tomorrow.

From September 2022, when I decided to start the novel, to this April, I cannot count the number of CIRCUS performances that have taken my brain cells away from forwarding the manuscript and shot them from the clown cannon onto other things. And the recovery period between end-of-show and start-of-writing sessions seems to take longer and longer with each event.

For Crying Out Loud. (Toss in an Are You Kidding Me? for good measure)

It Was Supposed To Be Simple. 

So where do the folding chairs come in?

Let me introduce you to the Killdeer. A strange little bird that has decided the best place to build a nest and lay eggs is on the ground. Zoologists believe the birds are trying to hide their eggs in plain sight. Well, that may work some of the time, but not always…

When I was little, a momma Killdeer would lay its eggs every spring in the gravel parking lot of my grandparents’ tiny country church. Every Sunday morning in the spring, the bird would go insane, faking a broken wing or bum foot, trying to draw cars and children (me included) away from her nest. The deacons would yell at us, and someone would have to stand outside guarding the nest so a Michelin, Goodyear, or Firestones wouldn’t crush the eggs.

(Trudi, my newest office assistant, just fainted at the thought. When a concrete goose faints, the whole house feels it. Little Miss is off to find her purple feathery fan to bring Trudi ‘round. “If that doesn’t work, I’ll shoot off a rocket.” It’s gonna be a long day here…)

Anyway, someone would stand guard until another couple of people could bring out several metal folding chairs to mark the nest. Children (myself included) were threatened with all manner of punishment to leave the mamma bird alone.

I’m sure the first spring the momma Killdeer laid her eggs in that gravel she thought It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. How simple, her nest and the eggs blending in with the color and texture of the stones. She probably built that nest on a Monday when all was quiet and calm.

By Sunday, her little bird brain was on fire. For Crying Out Loud! And she did cry out loud. And squawked and complained. It Was Supposed To Be Simple: nest, eggs, sit, wait, hatch, feed, off we go!

But the folding chairs worked. The bird was still nuts with worry and fear, but the chairs did their job to allow her to get about raising her chicks.

(Trudi has come to, relieved the Killdeer family made it through. However, Little Miss’s vigorous fanning has sent purple glitter and tufts of feathers all over the office. I’m sure neither my Muse nor my Goose will offer to clean up the mess.)

After the realization that September Is Tomorrow, I have employed my own Great Wall of Folding Chairs to protect and enhance my writing time:

  • Changes in schedule.
  • Stress management (including long walks and long conversations with Muses, Gooses, Felines, and the Couch Lady).
  • Breathing (It's unreal the number of times during the day I catch myself holding my breath).
  • Boycotting the Doom Scroll (News, Facebook, CIRCUS performance times, etc.)

Triage is almost there, and I can sense the ending just around the bend. Soon, I’ll be shipping off the manuscript to the proofreader, and then…

That little Killdeer momma, the very next spring? And the next? She did it again. Nest after nest in the gravel parking lot of the little country church. With Goodyears and Michelins and Firestones. And curious children (Little Girl Beth included). And yelling deacons. And the Great Wall of Folding Chairs.

Because why not?

I’ll take my cue from the Killdeer, whistle Dik-Dik a few times to keep things interesting, and cue the work-in-progress-in-the-midst-of-a-CIRCUS all over again.

But at least I’ll have the chairs ready for the next round.

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