writing

Plotting to Plot…or not

Exhausted by our weekend chore list before it has even been written, I walked out to the overflow woodpile for the picture before sitting down to write this. Inspired, I know. There are pictures on the camera of a tree that was obliterated by lightening. Last Monday I’d heard the tremendous crack and waited, but nothing fell and the electric stayed on. After our neighbor returned from a trip, he found parts of an 80-foot pine on his hill. Some chunks were longer and thicker than humans, strewn all over up there. Something ripped through a piece of ¾ inch plywood. I did consider downloading the pictures I took up there when he showed us, but the dishes needed to be done.

Not much later, I noticed the fluorescent orange sky, finished up, and stepped outside. I leaned back against the church door and took in the pleasant crisp air, the beauty, and I wept with gratitude instead of running for my phone or the camera. It’s weird to be swept up by natural beauty in that it isn’t weird at all.

The furniture is arranged in an unusual pattern and a generalized straightening up is in progress. Somewhere I started an essay about how reading “How to Keep House While Drowning” by K C Davis awakened other self-help books I’ve read about tidying and organized and unleashed a monster of neat in me, but I’ve been too busy rearranging Husband’s workshop to finish it. I did finish Sheila Heiti’s, “How Should a Person Be?” but it took forever because I loved it and did not want it to end. I’m currently enjoying Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi’s, “Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions.”

The month has been filled with the normal abundance of things to do before winter as well as some much needed in person visits. Thank you all who I’ve seen and congrats to Kim Chinquee on her forthcoming book, Pipette. Online, I attended a reading and this Christmas gift from Nephew in Oregon (Thank you Michael!) has been deemed the bearer of workshop notes and exercises. The first entry is from Kathy Fish’s 3 in 90.

I was pleased to have a story of mine make the long list in Pigeon Review’s contest, but that’s as far as it went. Once the house is a bit more under control, I plan to tweak it with lines I’ve thought of since the last rewrite. And rewriting might be what I do forever because I can’t figure out a frame for another novel nor a reason to write one what with the way the world is falling apart at the seams. How else do you explain my face on local TV for no other reason than showing up at a meeting? And yes, I do have that segment DVRed and plan to transfer it to a jpeg to post online but, you know, time…

I was asked to look over a story for someone and they also sought writing advice to follow. I gave him the usual places to look:  

‘Immediate Fiction” by Jerry Cleaver

“The Art of Fiction” by John Gardner

“Writing Down to the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg

“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

I have many others, but it’s these four that I gravitate to time and again. I also suggested picking up any of the “Best ______ of the Year.” Myself, I’ve delved into the angry-yelly, no nonsense, shut up and write book “Robert’s Rules of Writing,” by Robert Masello. Maybe it will spark something other than the urge to pick up a different book.

Well, it’s September’s end tonight. I have a fire to tend to, beasts to pick up after, and a chore list to construct. I hope you are well. I hope you are safe. Thank you for stopping by and for the read.

Slow gliding into the fall

Are you a bit edgy, excited but apprehensive, feeling yourself wanting to stand tall and say, “Let’s do this.” If so, it may be your season change alert signal going off. Loud little sucker, isn’t it?

Every year I replenish my notebooks and consider adding new desk supplies to my already adequate supply. It takes a long time to realize it isn’t the cost of the equipment, but the dedication to use that should weigh on investments. I have enough beautiful, lush, gorgeous to touch notebooks I never write in – the 70 page college rule notebooks are my go to.

As I sit here in my extremely stripped down office space, I consider the tweaks I want to make for my comfort – and pet interference reduction capabilities. I don’t recall the impetus for the tear down of all the notes, pictures, postcards that had surrounded me, but the lack of clutter now is noticeable and appreciated. Is it affecting my writing? Perhaps. I recently took an old 1600 word story down to 890 words and sent it out. Before that, I expanded a less than 500 flash into a ten-minute play.

I’m looking around and finding it a bit hard to believe I’m as organized as I am now. I really wanted it to be this way, and I made it come true. It’s teeny tiny moments of forcing myself to stop and appreciate how my hard work has paid off that make me say “Yes, but.” It’s the same feeling when I’ve written, published, or won something. “Yes, but.” It’s hard to be alive when nothing is good enough.

No matter. We’re all on our own journeys and apparently this is mine. I meant to take more pictures, but I did the whole scrape, scrub, scour, and paint with the beautiful parlor stove…

… and Husband assembled it in time for our shindig.

Thank you amazing people for stopping by. It made my whole soul happy to share the evening with you…

and Coiletta.

It seems the end of summer rumbles have propelled me back to writing life. I’ve signed up for classes with Kathy Fish, am fairly certain I’ll be attending the Barrelhouse conference masked and in person in October and am mulling taking a Beth Gilstrap class. Plus Community Craft’s series is amaze balls and I want to attend more of those. As well as Hannah Grieco’s Readings on the Pike and Timothy Gager’s Virtual Fridays Dire Literary Series. And there are more I’m forgetting

Adding to the abundance of those good things – my critique group exchanged emails this morning. So, as I’m saying goodbye to August, I want you to know that you are pretty great as is. Thank you for stopping by and for the read! You are awesome and you know it. Ciao!

Squirrels are chillin’ while we toil and other fun near the creek

I’ve decided to find it hilarious that I must have thought out 5 different blog posts this month – with interesting titles – but don’t remember one as I start this post, mid-summer afternoon on the last day of July.

Wood has been an interesting adventure this year. Normally, the last of the wood is being put up in September, just when we need to rearrange the house and stack a partial wall of wood near the stove. Instead, the woodshed is as full of wood as we usually have for a season and no end in sight to the pile. I am grateful for the dilemma.

I’m also incredibly grateful for the amazing generosity of fantastic friends. C and Nina Fosati dropped of a stove and this is the part that goes on top.

Isn’t it fancy? I’m a sanding fool, dancing between restoration and good enough. We’ll be painting it in a manner pleasing to the eye and the environment of the patio upon which it will stand.  I’m excited and it’s a boring chore with a vast reward, so I really do find it a cheery endeavor.

Part of my quest to live in a better world involves more color. I painted the awful blue chair – loot a thief left behind – to something less ugly.

This is my first Thistle design and in person, it does not look this boring.  (I was working with flaws in the wood to tell a tale of how I see plants not coping in the conditions they once thrived in.)

Work on the back of the house stalled as paint had to be hunted down and then someone sold one of the four we ordered so hopefully it will be enough.

Omg! The lack of intelligence like that in customer service has recently been wild. I’m especially singling out the “new” girl at Citizens Bank in the Springville Tops. Ffs, I was paying a little extra on two credit cards. She asked how I wanted my change. I was like what? She only applied the amount due to the account, not the amount I wrote on the slip I was playing with. I asked why she’d changed the amount and she snapped back that she had not changed it. She started over, finally got it right. As I was leaving, I said, “You did change the amount. At least own what you did.” I mean seriously, it was a mistake, but to be so snitty about it? Maybe she needs to explore a less public vocation. Tax preparer, maybe? Perhaps a mortician?  

The computer problems I’m having are deflating my gusto toward the written word – reading, writing, editing. As with the wood, I will remind myself that I don’t need to fix everything all at once, just take one breathe at a time. I snagged this guy to help remind me. 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. I hope your home and world are stable. The weather I’ve heard about/seen clips of from where friends and family live overwhelms me. I am thinking about you and hoping to hear you’re safe. Sending love and comfort to those reading who need it. Take care of you!

Cheers!

Life Goes On Until It Doesn’t

The house is tidy, organized. It’s been a massive undertaking, this year’s “spring-cleaning.”

I no longer remember the specific impetus that led to the first bit of sorting. I know I was quite sick of the mess my office had become. We’d move things in here to get them out of the way when we had visitors, and not everything made its way back to where it had come from and so I was living in close proximity to a lot of clutter. I didn’t like it, but we were storing somethings and even when those things left, I didn’t immediately do a tear down/clean out.

I know an Apex discussion a few months ago made me consider the fact that I’ll probably never publish a book traditionally, and even if I did, well, what then? The “what then” was that I wanted to live in a cleaner and more organized house. I mean, if this is it – the best it will ever be and I never write or publish again – then I’m kind of okay with my life ending up here (except for the wasting of my whole life on literature.)

One of the silly little motivational quips I have taped to my office computer says, “What you are not changing, you are choosing,” so I’ve been choosing to improve my conditions.

Life doesn’t offer a lot of choice in some matters though. We had to say goodbye to Kobi and it sucked to lose my sidekick, but he had cancer in his lungs and even if I were able to afford chemo for him, I don’t think I could put him through that. I know – supposedly – there are new options for cancer treatments but…

I haven’t picked him up yet – his ashes. That seems too final yet.

Our remaining cat made it known that a pet sibling was important, so today – weirdly enough Cat Adoption Day – I went to the Ten Lives Club. (They are a no-kill shelter, so if you’re feeling generous, they have a wish list here.) “Freddy” is acclimating now – though we’re definitely changing that name. This is what he looks like:

It’s not the same as a dog, but I need time to mourn, too.

Creative writing hasn’t happened in a long while, though I have written letters. I’m sorry if I owe you one and you haven’t received it yet. You are very likely on the list.

Until next time (or your letter arrives) I want to thank you for stopping by and for reading.

Cheers!

A chickadee home outside the bedroom window

Feeling like Janus on a Monday

The sun is shining brightly on a 19 degree Fahrenheit afternoon. Thick snow covers the ground. This “warmer” weather compresses it while it grows dirty with debris. Woodpeckers make a terrible mess. They’ve been around, same with the cardinals. I’ve already seen buds on some trees.

It’s much warmer inside, of course, where I am writing. I recovered from the trip in most respects, but I did enjoy a lot of lovely food in Massachusetts. I only have myself to blame for those extra exercise workouts I’m doing, but I’m nearly back to where I’d been in December so yeah! A little less self-loathing going on always helps, doesn’t it?

As a matter of preference or perceived talent lying elsewhere, I don’t write many short stories. There was a call for contest. I had a few sentences about a bird that I had abandoned, possibly because it was refusing to be a flash and I didn’t think it had novel potential. I pulled up the story start after getting home and it felt weirdly like a trance. I was “in” the story but I kept getting in my own way. I wrote so much more than what was required. I refuse to look back at those extra thousands of words because I don’t want to find a novel. I’m not that in to the bird. But it’s done, Nina Fosati graciously reviewed it and gave me her top line comments – and this is unheard of – I let the story sit for 5 days before returning to correct the flagrant mistakes. Last night I made Kindle read it to me twice. It might be ready to fly soon.

This month has been incredible with art, artists, and friends among them. The talented Gina Detwiler was back in town and we were able to return to one of our writing haunts to catch up. It was good to sit upstairs in Spot Coffee again. There was an unexpected letter. I watched Apex’s Snap Judgement #3 and gained some insight on what those editors were looking for in their slush. The lovely Nina Fosati let me visit for friendship, love, and hope. I and SO many other people in the writing community took a Kathy Fish “Lessons from the Sandbox”class.

On Friday, I was able to take a “Finding Your Writing Groove” class with Jerry Gordon. I’m pondering a lot of things in my life right now, not necessarily from the class, but it pinpointed several things I needed to hear at the right time and in the right order to “hear” them…if that makes sense. The day after that, we went to see live theater. It was a series of 8 one-act plays. In back of us was a person I took a play writing class with and across the aisle were two Buffalo artists I know from Facebook but met at Donna Hoke’s Christmas Potluck. Funny how everyone is connected…

So, like I inferred, I’m looking forward, looking back, and looking at the carnage around me. (I didn’t mean the “two-faced, deceitful” definition of Janus.) It’s a contemplative mood so, I’m off to enjoy that. Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Grateful this paticular November is over

Is there is a line between what is a rule at your house and what is tradition? One tradition/rule we have is sitting down at Thanksgiving. Tablecloth, stemware, turkey, hassellbacked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar cooked in tinfoil, green bean casserole from a box, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, white wine. I hadn’t planned to stop at the liquor store the day before Thanksgiving. I hadn’t planned on going to any store at all that day, but ended up needing to get cash for the groomers. The bank – in the grocery store – IS the closest ATM.

I wanted a red for that night’s dinner; we’ve had a bottle of cheap champagne forever and thought we’d open that for Thanksgiving dinner, but walking down the local wine section, I saw this label:

Table white. On sale. Sold. Only later did I see this and thought, “Okay. Let’s giddy up and go.”

My November led into the brambles of fancy terribleness which made me hate having feelings for swaths of time because they were hurt so much. The ghastly lack of ethics in the local school district flabbergasts me. It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone either, that these politicians are so slimy. And their lies. You cannot convince me they are human. (I do have more on this subject, but the hour is closing in on so many opportunities for yeses, so I‘m curtailing a rant for now in order to shine up some stories to submit before the 30 November deadline.)

Speaking of stories…I am honored to have Like A Mango-Basil Smoothie up at Sledgehammer Lit thanks to J. Archer Avary and his incredible team. It’s sans audio, but as I alluded to, this month has been hell. I chatted briefly with Hilary this morning while she was doing a thorough house inspection. She had a similar dark spot in her month. I didn’t mention this to her, but I say the lunar eclipse during the Beaver Moon – a concurrent event not witnessed in some 512 years or so had to have had something to do with the state of the way things are. So say I, writer of this blog…the one who would like to think the chaos of this month with all the ups, downs, and slap-me-sillies happened for a reason. I mean seriously, one might just as well shame midnight and blame the moon.

This is the first “real” snow of the season. I guess we could blame climate change, too.

I’m so grateful that this little one shared some time with me.

Oh, that face! No, sorry, I still don’t know what happened. No, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Trashzina  took a hit out on a kitten, that lizard woman has shown no evidence of owning a heart. The veterinarian hasn’t called with results from the lung biopsy. Yes, it’s been a while but if a lab is shorthanded, as a pet owner, I’d prefer they deal with tests that could extend the life of a still-alive pet such as this one.

(No, we did not get a new cat. This is a picture of our cat from two years ago)

Or this one posing for a before and after a visit with Dana at Paw Spa.


 I’d started the month fully expecting to work out some scenes and get to know new characters and places during NaNoWriMo. I was also going to write a flash a day. Instead, I have a few thousand words and about 20 flashes – most in need of a severe edit. But, I wrote. I took a Tommy Dean workshop from Pioneer Valley two days after the kitten died which helped so much to pull me away from grief. There was more to come. A friend who moved south in her retirement passed away, as did my aunt. One son got deployed, one fell severely ill. And I was doing as well as I could with that, but there was one more bit of news that broke me. I don’t want to acknowledge any more than this, but after that, the Beaver Moon underwent a lunar eclipse and though I’m struggling, I’m still here. I’m glad you are, too.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. Salut!

Dear October, What A Lovely Month You Turned Out To Be

There’s a coffeehouse in Hamburg called Comfort Zone and for every dollar you spend there, you get a point. You can use your points for discounts or save them up. After eating there for several years, I reached 1000 points – enough for a special outing and what an incredible experience it was! Whisked off to the Roycroft for a tour and then absolutely delightful conversation over dinner in the library at the Roycroft Inn. I snagged a ride in the convertible back to Comfort Zone for even more magic.  I had pink chips, I played roulette, and I was up at the end of the night. It was a perfect, perfect night. Many thanks to Cindy, Zenia, Zach, Liz – just everyone who made it special.

I looked at my calendar and wowed myself with how many other great people I interacted with this month.  I had a long phone conversation with an old friend to catch up recently. I was able to spend time with the awesome writers Nina Fosati, Gina Detwiler, and  Jeff Schoeber. I met Nicole Hebdon and her husband at an author’s night she orchestrated at the Joylan Theater. The drone of the Board of Education and the Superintendent Search jargon was nearly cancelled out by the first mani/pedi I’ve had since…quite a while ago. I had my hair cut by eight inches and Husband did not notice.  

I drag him out to see the colors at dusk sometimes –

much easier to do now that the upper greenhouse chaos has “settled.”

We went to a wedding. Congrats to my beautiful cousin and Ted.

Online, I’m happy to have “A Lonely Bath” up at Sledgehammer. Thank you J. Archer Avary! Also, I’m thrilled to announce I was longlisted for The Forge Flash Competition…in the nonfiction category. I’m on the same list as Hannah Grieco -and if you know how “holy shit” that is to me, well, it just is.

Another “just is” is November, which will soon arrive, and I’ll be drizzled down a hole called Day One of National Novel Writing Month. I’m also eyeing Nancy Stohlman’s Flash Nano and wondering, “Can I do both?”

Obviously, I’m insane, but at the moment, a touch of happy, too.

Thank you for you. Thank you for reading. I hope you find magic in this scary time, too.

Cheers and Happy Halloween!

Cleaning. Sorting. Living the Dream.

It’s been the usual mad dash between seasons here. The weather has been lovely. I’ve done chores that need to be done before summer ends leaving Husband with time to work on the upper greenhouse.

I began pulling up the rocks around the frog pond. It needs redoing like crazy and now we’re expanding the area around it. Who knows if it will stay above ground level when we have a hard rain, but if it does, what a lovely place to sit and watch dragonflies. So knock on wood…and stone, I guess…pictures may follow though, as I often do, I forgot to take before doing anything photos. This morning, I wasn’t aware I’d be moving rocks at all.

We had the first fire of the season last night. I choose to blame the occasion for my tardiness with this amazing post. “Amaze” in the sense of trying to fill you—the reader—with wonder or astonishment. I don’t know if it will work though. Let’s try an inkblot speed test. What do you see in the next two pictures as you scroll down to the next bit of text? Don’t linger; let your mind go…

What did you see? (You’re only getting an approximation of what I saw. The woodchip was far away; the dead bug, I espied through thick, unwashed window glass.) My mind leapt to flying creatures. An angel and the albino hay field fairy queen to be exact.

Along with those “What is that?” seconds of wonder, I also have personable vegetables this month. I cut into this pepper and not only did a round white thing roll out of it, but I saw this angry face. My only thought when the round white growth rolled out was “What now?”

A day later, this carrot that was far too sexy not to have a photo shoot showed up.

Writing has been ongoing and interesting. I was astounded to receive an email stating I made the longlist in Forge’s contest for a nonfiction piece. I have two stories coming out in Sledgehammer soon and BeZine took a story that received kind words at several places before being picked up. Thank you universe!

So that’s the news from here. I hope you’re doing great and that your town’s version of Ivanka and Jared never get you down. Cheers!

August Abundant

Earlier today, I was complaining in my head about having to write this post. It’s not something to complain about, though. Only I keep up this monthly look at myself, my life, my career…recent pictures. I could quit at any time.

I don’t know if I could quit writing forever. Well yes, I could quit writing. Making up stories in my head? Probably not. Sometimes it’s like watching a movie of vague shapes and names. Inserting new relationships among characters. How do they all go together before writing a word. I was doing a bit of that today – seeing if any recent characters have meat.

I’ve hit upon the premise of a longer story – or book. Luckily, I’ve had ideas before and now know to kick them around before beginning on a premise alone and while I do, I’m looking at these new characters who’ve popped up in recent flash.

Contests spurred the output. I wonder if it’s a hold out from younger years. When summer is waning, get in as much fun stuff as you can, and dazzle on the first paper due when you go back to school – a combination of the two.

So, in August, this creature has taken up time:

Which made this one jealous:

And this one sad because there was NOT enough petting going on with two animals in this house so adding a third is – in his opinion – a bad move. He is waiting for us to rue.

Husband had a proper cake for his annual aging celebration – from the store – but look at the candle placement! I did that part! (There would be a picture of him, but they blurred and cropped in weird ways.)

There is a “change one thing – let’s do it all over” list of projects going on in this one picture. Oi!

Well, as always, there is editing to do, things to clean, flowers to smell, so I’m off to do all that.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. Yes, I probably thought of you. Cheers!

Those Sweet Baby Boys

This month, there were two additions to my orbit. I plead ignorance on how to show you Zachary. (I could do it but I’m not going to because if you don’t know the parents, well…the amount of exposure his precious little face is presented to the online world is something I’m leaving in his parent’s hands. Did I mention he’s adorable? He is. He has hair!) The other baby is this tyke.

He’s a cuddler. There were other kittens hanging out around the woodshed but I haven’t seen them lately. There are eagles and hawks in the area. Foxes, fishers, and cars, too. Plus the creek, which flooded the south lawn because the bridge is too small and an arch.

That issue has taken up a lot of my time. An onslaught of promotion envelopes from insurance companies has not helped in my trying to take care of things. I’m closing in on finishing the Camp NaNo challenge of 50,000 words in a month written on top of the regular cooking/cleaning/weeding/splitting/stacking/etc. The convergence of extra demands requiring devoted attention has driven me to take up tea as self-care. (I do have lovely problems, don’t I?)

One thing that isn’t a problem is a squeaky new publication of a flash. It’s my current personal favorite. LEON Literary Review, a venue I swooned over the first time I visited, made my dreams come true by accepting The Eye of Florence and it is live now HERE!  

I want to thank all the people in my life that I’ve been connecting with recently. I’m grateful for the conversations and new knowledge. It helps to know other people are finding it hard to “human,” too. I think we all are to some extent. It’s hard for some people to admit they’re in pain when others are so much worse off, but then it grows and there’s only so much some people can take of it so they blow and then it’s a mess. There are a lot of messes around and I’m trying to take of them all, I swear, but boy, is it tough with two hands and one mop.

Speaking of messes, I have so much filing to do. And I have to hunt down a user guide to the new printer that I can’t get to work even though I had installed it and had printed from it and now it won’t do any printing and I need to figure out why in my spare time which I won’t have until I finish Camp NaNo and I’m close so adios and thank you so much for stopping by and for the read!