Jun 23 2013

Bucky’s Transformation

Melissa Crytzer Fry

We’ve had our share of critter sightings since we purchased our desert retreat – bobcats, javelina, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, gila monsters and more – but one animal has continually evaded us and our trail cameras. Until recently.

During a quad ride around the property on May 25, I spotted this little buck and his mama. Notice his tiny antler stubs, which I happened to miss completely at first glance. Click to enlarge.

Over the past nine years, I’d gotten only a single glimpse of mule deer on our property – a half dozen making their way through the wash one morning. But my how things have changed … On June 6, I was surprised to see the duo again – closer to our house – feeding on paloverde seedpods.  “Bucky” and his mama, it appears, are frequent visitors these days.

June 6. When the deer moved closer to the house, I was amazed to see how much Bucky’s antlers had grown since that initial encounter. Click to enlarge.

June 6. The pair meandered over to the rock wall next. Isn’t it amazing how camouflaged they are? Click to enlarge.

The irony was not lost on me that a beautiful creature was transforming right before my eyes – as I was searching to pair the appropriate desert-life metaphor with a writing/reading topic I’ve been wanting to discuss: a reader’s personal growth.

Bucky’s dusky visit on June 18 reveals additional antler growth. Look at the transformation from the first photo to this one (and that streamlined, elongated face)!

At about the time Bucky began making regular appearances, I read a guest post by author Maryanne O’Hara at Great New Books. In it she said:

“The older I get, the more I ask of books. There are simply too many of them and often, what some people are raving about doesn’t quite work for me. I look for first pages that introduce complicated characters or a situation that make me curious and reflective. I look for prose that sings.”

(She went on to name a book that had done all those things for her). At the time of reading her words, I’d already been contemplating my own growth as a reader and very much related to Maryanne’s comments*. Where once I was cognizant only of story, I am now enthralled by language and symbolism and characterization and dialogue… I seem to ask so much more of what I read these days. I wonder: is it a product of age? Or is it something else?

My writing partner, Shelby, had her own thoughts: “I think you have arrived at ‘reading like a writer,'” she said. “Unfortunately, there’s no way to go back to reading with blithe naivety, knowing that there’s something off or wrong with a book but not being able to pinpoint what it is, and most importantly, being able to overlook or forgive a multitude of sins because you kind of like the story or characters. Prepare yourself for a lifetime of being Judgey McJudgerston.”

For Readers: What do you think? Do our reading tastes naturally transform over time – the same way Bucky’s antlers are morphing into something bigger, more formidable? Does age have anything to do with it (i.e. would you pick up a book you loved in your 20s and still love it today)? OR do we simply like what we like to read? Do we also seek certain kinds of books for comfort? Is it important to try on new genres, mix things up?

For Writers: Have you transformed from for-the-fun-of-reading reader to writer-reader? Have your reading tastes changed as a result? Do you expect more? Notice more? What are the advantages of reading like a writer to your craft? If you’re interested, these fabulous articles about reading like a writer by Jen Bailey – part 1, part 2, part 3 – can help you hone your skills even more (thanks, Shelby, for pointing them out).

June 20. I swear, in a few short days, those antlers have grown! Click to enlarge.

*I can’t wait to read Maryanne’s novel, CASCADE, which is patiently waiting on my shelf. Thanks Maryanne and Great New Books.

Jun 15 2013

A Real-Life Mystery

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’m not sure if it’s the drug-induced stupor from my recent surgery*, but I could swear that I met Maggie True’s real-life counterpart this past week.

Who’s Maggie True? The main character in J.M. Maison’s cozy mystery, Desired to Death. Many of you might know J.M. Maison under a different name – Julia Munroe Martin (a.k.a. @wordsxo on Twitter).

But wait, yes … there is proof of her visit – I mean, Julia’s, not Maggie’s – even if she would NOT allow any together-photo portraits (okay – I’m not too fond of cameras, either, and didn’t object much):

What’s this? A copy of Desired to Death on the bumper of a car with Maine plates. In front of my house! I wasn’t dreaming at all. Click to enlarge.

After three years of correspondence on Twitter – and beyond – I found Julia to be every bit the sleuth that her protagonist Maggie True is. Case in point: our initial face-to-face meeting was at a BBQ joint, where, of course, our waitress was quite the character.

When our server walked away from the table after regaling us with stories of her life in San Francisco – living with a billionaire – the various places she’s called home (NYC, Chicago, LA, Deroit, etc.), her uncanny Demi Moore resemblance (huh? Methinks that’s wishful thinking), her desire to leave San Francisco to attend a tiny Arizona community college to enroll in “a program,” Julia’s mind went wild (Just like her character Maggie True, a woman who, when faced with the empty nest, turns to amateur sleuthing).

“She has a story,” Julia said of the waitress. “She’s running from something. I know it.” The most laughable part of lunch was when “Demi” said to me, “See you later, doll face.” Doll face? As Demi exited our table, Julia mouthed “doll face” to me, her eyes arched in question, and we could not stop laughing. What a great first meeting! But the rest of the visit, I’ll leave to Julia for explanation on her own blog – when she returns home from her cross-country road trip this weekend. I highly recommend reading her road trip posts. And while you’re at it, comment below by midnight EST, June 23 to win a copy of Desired to Death (or buy your own), signed by the author! A quick, fun read.

So long, Maggie True, J.M. Maison, Julia Munroe Martin. So surreal to see this talented, wonderfully warm woman leaving my Arizona home. Click to enlarge.

For Readers, Writers, Twitterers: My first in-real-life Twitter pal meeting was with @SuzieIvy, a detective, police officer and author who also lives in Arizona. This was back in 2010 when I was brand NEW to Twitter. You can imagine the hilarity that ensued when I texted my husband to say we were at lunch, “having gun.” Those damn iPhone keyboards! Yes, I meant to type “fun.” Read about Suzie’s take on the initial meeting near my hometown, and then see my post about a follow-up visit and officer-civilian ride-along in her neck of the woods the next spring. Her commentary on my visit to her turf is SO worth reading as well.

I also had the opportunity to meet @lroseriver for a hike in Tucson, and then @literarydaze at the Tucson Festival of Books this past spring (and again at the Historical Novel Society Meeting in Phoenix recently, which author @JMcCannWriter invited me to attend — we’ve been IRL friends for years – lucky me!). The Tucson Festival of Books also allowed me to stalk meet fabulous authors and Twitter friends @SarahMMcCoy, @JillianCantor, @jenna_blum, @randysusanmeyer, @IlieRuby, @KrisMcMorris. I love those intersections – when social media connections become real parts of my ‘real’ life.

Have you met any of your Twitter friends IRL – in real life? How’d it go? Did your family and friends think you were NUTS for doing it?

*If you’re wondering about my surgery, the gallbladder is gone – hallelujah – after seven years of discomfort. Thank you, genetics, once again.  And, at the BBQ joint with Julia: I had soup and salad, knowing surgery was days away. Can we say it together? 1-2-3: Awwww… Poor Melissa.