Friday, May 11, 2012

They Always Ask: What Comes After THE END?

       By Laura Spinella     

It’s itchy palms and a cold sweat, a compulsive urge that a team of interventionists couldn’t thwart. That’s what I’m down to.  No, don’t be ridiculous, I haven’t quit drinking. I said compulsive not insane. But what I have done is turn in a manuscript. It leaves me with time, a gaping hole from 7 a.m. until noon. Initially, I’m dazzled by the prospect—think cats and a tinfoil ball. By living in the mainstream I can get things done, big and small.  I'll chase time until it lodges itself under my sunroom sofa, moving something like this: Instead of brushing by old newspapers and dirty toilets, I take the papers to the recycle bin, scrub the toilets until I’ve drowned the Ty-D-Bol man. I make every bed and vacuum the floor of my closet. Afterward, I’m surprised but only marginally alarmed to find that morning has two hours left.  Not a problem. I have a 30%-off Kohl’s coupon. By noon everyone has new underwear and I have half-a-dozen potential outfits for a trip that’s three months away.   On day two, dinner is a planned event.  My usual incidental dash to the microwave morphs into a Julia Child effort, one that involves b├ęchamel sauce and a 1,000 calorie French dessert.  By day three, my real jobs are organized as if they are my goal. Newspaper stories are booked weeks in advance; my editor is dazed but delighted.  Normally, I’d segue from my WIP to my cyber-gig needing a shower and wearing pajama pants with a hole in the crotch. Not now. Now I show up in makeup and clothing that does not involve an elastic waist. Day four I surprise my son and pop in at track practice. I bring brownies for the hardworking boys. From across the field, his head pivots sharply. It’s as if he smells something repugnant in the air. I wave. He trots steadily in my direction, glancing right at a gaggle of girls who, apparently, also stopped by to watch.
            “What are you doing here? Is someone dead?”
            “I had free time. Can’t a mother watch her son practice?”
            “Seriously, why are you here? It’s track practice. I’m perfectly safe.”
I assume he’s alluding to his younger years when I tended to hyper-fret about things like child abduction. I decide it’s still plausible. “You never know who’s lurking.”
What happens if you're not careful with your javelin
              “I have a black-belt in Taekwondo and a javelin in my hand.  Go home; go write something.”  He darts across the field, taking his position. Only for a moment do I think he’s considering hurling the javelin at me.
            And this is where dazzle turns to disaster. I’m not the mom who goes to practice. The thrill of a three-course meal can only satisfy for so long. I hate shopping and my day jobs function fine on the fly.  Twenty-four hours later, I stare at my sunroom writing chair. It’s wrapped in metaphoric yellow caution tape.  I may not enter; I have no business there.  There’s a hard rule about revisiting a manuscript that’s no longer in my possession. I’d only see a thousand missteps, unable to change anything. Rationally, I should look forward to this break. Downtime is supposed to be beneficial, an opportunity to recharge the muse. Well, clearly, my muse is an addict. I sit and write a blog, thinking it’s a quick fix.  Two paragraphs in and I find my knee bouncing like a drunk with a Dixie cup. It’s not enough. This is not to say the muse has anything remotely brilliant to relay. In fact, it’s the very reason I equate it to an addiction. A wiser person would seek help. Besides, what would I write?  The muse has a suggestion.
            “Remember that idea I spun a year ago? We were driving. Instead of the license plate game we played the what if game.  What if that girl, the one with the crummy newspaper job and the psychic gift, landed in your lap top?  Come. Sit. You know you want to.”
            “No I don’t. What I want is for you to quit delivering half-baked ideas, expecting me to fill in the blanks.”
            “Sorry, if you wanted a thorough muse your last name should have been Rowling or Roberts. I work with what they give me.”
            “Do you have any idea how much time and commitment your ideas take? Someday I’ll regret it, the endless hours I’ve wasted on you.”
            “And still, you would have spent more time sleeping. You're not getting that time back either. So come, sit. Just try it. One sentence, a character name, the way he looks at her—focus, you’ll see it.  And I haven’t even told you the best part of my idea.”
            “Ha! I’ve lived your ideas, holistic designer, rock star, a rogue man on a motorcycle.  They’re absurd.”  Yet, ruefully, I inch into the room.
“Maybe. But the motorcycle man worked out fine. I heard he’s up for a few nifty awards.  Besides, what are your options?  Plant a garden, take up golf, stalk the high school cafeteria?”
“Shut up.” But as I speak, I’m fighting temptation and gravity.  I move closer.
“That’s it. Ease your way in. We’ll go slow. We’ll talk. Hell, maybe I’ll even float you some backstory.”
My fingers move past the cautionary yellow tape. The leather chair does feel good.  It’s only been a week, but there’s dust is on the keyboard. We can’t have that.  Okay, I’ll sit—but only for a minute…  

Laura Spinella is the author of Beautiful Disaster, a 2012 RITA Finalist, Best First Book; NJRWA Winner, Best First Book; Wisconsin RWA Write Touch Finalist, Best Mainstream Novel; Desert Rose RWA Finalist, Best First Book and a Favorite Book of 2011 at Visit her at


  1. Awesome, Laura! Wow. You nailed that perfectly! We just can't stay away, can we? Well done.

  2. Thanks, Laura! No, I don't think we can!

  3. Yes, the motorcycle man did work out, beautifully if I recall (Pun intended!). So listen to that muse, especially if there are more men like Mr. Harley Davidson up her sleeve.

    1. Charli Mac, you slay me! Thanks for stopping in!!