writing

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!

The Door’s the Thing

Last month I was keeping something a secret. It was that we were doing some bathroom alterations. Now that we’ve had company, here are some pictures.

He regrouted the tile floor. We got a replacement window – I mean mirror. The awful globe lights are gone, replaced with a cool looking arched LED. And things were rewired so the switches are different and we have another outlet. All the walls are orange, brown trim. Updated photos in the frames. Pretty fish dot the shower curtain and now, if I wanted to, I could take a bathroom selfie because the door no longer looks so unfinished.

The company consisted of Niece from Boston, Nephew from Portland, and for breakfast, their mom.

 We met Nephew and Niece at a restaurant for dinner. Afterwards, home and a fire on the beach.

 Old chair cushions topping 5 gallon buckets turned upside down for seats.

 A nearly full moon. Talk. We didn’t get to the part about me feeling like I’m drowning, but the time was brief.

I know writing is hard, and rejections are like a badge, but strings of no’s hurt. I’m grateful for friends I can reach out to – I know you’re there. Probably. I’m in a cocoon. I can go out, but suffer from anxiety sometimes. A wave of, ”I need to wear my mask, rush in, rush out” or guilt from sitting at a table and wanting this to be okay again, but it’s changed and that’s weird. I’ve had coffee with Nina Fosati at two places now. Lovely times, both. I’m grateful for her help in everything. Without her, I don’t know if I would have made it through all this.  ❤

Things were scattered during the bathroom update and now that the furniture is back to normal, there are things to file. And I’m miserable about the idea of writing – especially a new book. I’m glaring at you Camp NaNo, all starting tomorrow and since I still haven’t heard about “real” camp in August, I might spend time with you. Enter a deeper part of the cocoon.  But there is so much I want to do outside, like take wood out of the wood shed so I have a way out when I take the wood in the back and transport it to the first row. Plus there is always mowing and trimming and weeding. Don’t mind me, I’m usually not quite so glum but there is a lot of tasks to complete and since I have written some good shit which hasn’t found a home and I’m still without an agent, why do I even bother?

Does every crisis of faith reduce down to “Why are we/Why am I here?”

Perhaps…

I do want to thank Janice Leandra and everyone at Janus Literary. I’m grateful they chose my micro, Panache for this issue and there is some other cool writing in here.  And what a fitting place to end, with the idea of looking both ways.

Thanks for stopping by and for the read!  

A Merry Good Time to Exhale

Christmas was the day I felt some of the pressure leave my shoulders. There was nothing I could do about packages not making it on time, I’d locally delivered all the holiday treats, I even let Husband make the bed with the sheets wrong and let it go instead of redoing it. Cards were sent, food prepped, and vaccine shots were starting for emergency personnel. Letting go of this year is a physical relief.

Not having anyone over this year meant I could put off any deep cleaning that otherwise would have gotten done. Before Christmas, I pulled all of the books from the L in the library with the bigger fiction and the physical/societal/spiritual/financial books. Those shelves were cleaned and readjusted. Nothing is where I can find it and I found a different TBR pile to mirror the one I have in other stacks upstairs.

Christmas morning was scrumptious with sausages, pancakes, and mimosas. Thank you again to Gina’s husband for his syrup. We finally finished the syrup our neighbor gave us and opened yours!

I want to give a shout out to everyone who sent us cards; they do mean a lot to receive. This is the door we place them on to admire. Once we take them down, I’ll be putting a poster I got for Christmas on there. Thank you Michael!

Husband made me this:

See, when I do Zoom, I had a stack of books to set the tablet on for the correct height. Now, I have this platform with a place for the keyboard, making it such an upgrade in ease – and let, face it, beauty.

I’m not a “New Year’s resolution” type of person, never have been, but this year is hitting differently.  Had she lived, my mom would have turned 71 today. It’s weird to consider this since she passed away in 1997 at 47. I’ve outlived her by a few years. So has my sister. I didn’t get as much written, edited, or published this year and I’m kind of pissed at myself about that. I don’t need assurances, this isn’t a plea for pity, it’s a public acknowledgement of my personal feelings. Next year, I may publish less. Or more. I don’t know, but I’m cobbling together a list of goals I would like accomplish but I can’t make myself call them resolutions…not yet.

I do want to express gratitude to everyone at SMOLDR, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Blink Ink, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, HAD, and Milk Candy Review for believing in my work and publishing me this year. Thank you. You all helped me survive this insane year. So did the amazing friendships I have with Nina Fosati, Chyo, my Husband, well, I could spend all day making this list and then nothing else would get done but yes, you are on the list…you know you are.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. And on a deeply personal note, I doubt there are birthdays in the afterwards, but I hope my mom is having a happy day wherever she is. I miss her.

A little chat about characters in August

I can’t imagine a worse job than being a neurologist stuck trying to study the brain of a writer. Even the prefrontal cortex of a reptile is complex. Writers create characters and those characters have needs, wants, and desires. Some become so real, they “come to life.”

August tends to be the month where I get a lot of writing done because I can sit alone in cabana without radio or internet and focus on a story. After one of those sessions, one of Mary Aker’s characters stopped by. Atlas was…unbalanced in the book. (No doubt you’re thinking I am as I tell you this.) He asked if I remembered a fight scene in her book. I did. He told me he had a problem with it. I nodded at him with the wary respect I lend to forest animals. He went away.

The next time I was out there and getting ready to leave, he showed up again and asked if I’d spoken to Mary. I told him I hadn’t had time and rushed away. Mary happened to text a breezy, hi-how-are-ya-I-miss-you. I told her I’d been thinking about her book.

Atlas reappeared and told me he thought a certain baby was his. I told him he was mistaken. The sperm was from – he cut me off. He claimed it was switched. Or mixed. There was a chance that it was his. I told Mary this. We had a zoom with Gina, and the subject was brought up. We all hashed out possible plot twists. What if a Gloria switched the sperm and told Atlas about it in a certain scene – trying to keep from rewriting down. It was a weird but good exchange. I was done with the matter. I went out, worked on my own story, and Atlas stayed away – satisfied, I suppose.

Gloria waited until I was cutting up fruit for dinner to make her appearance. She likes Atlas. She can’t have children, but sees nothing wrong with taking Sylvia’s baby away when it’s born. If there’s one successful pregnancy, there would be another. Sylvia could use the sperm of the specimen she really wanted. What was 9 months of delay?

I find it all rather Meta that these shifty characters Mary created had a way to pop into my head for a chat. Are all the abandoned characters out there waiting for us to notice them again? Would a neurologist be able to explain away the phenomena instead? These are the things that have been on my mind.

Otherwise, I’m rewriting a book which is frustrating because two characters that had little to do with each other in the original are about to fall into bed – or shoot each other. Either outcome challenges the rest of the plot. Sigh.

Husband had another happy 45th birthday.

The garden is producing many tomatoes.

The dog

Went to the groomer.

The rose bloomed.

Wild grapes were picked.

There was a nocturnal visitor at the hummingbird feeder.

Another section of the house is being painted.

And thus concludes this month’s blog post. You are wonderful and full of grace. Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

One breath in, out, repeat

I’d tell you how quarantine is going, but I’m not sure that’s the right word. Lock down isn’t any better since I may leave the house, though I do so sparingly. Husband has returned to work and the anxiety that causes is all sorts of fun. I’m grateful to live in this house – any house – and be relatively safe in this bizzaro time in a world gone mad, but recent events have eaten into my creativity and my soul…

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The seasons progress though hiccups occur, like the snow that fell two weeks ago. I refused to take pictures of it. The crab apple bloomed along with the surviving lilac bush.

During the holiday weekend, we put up the screened in tent. The neighbors came out to listen to the insults and cursing, but there was little of that this year. The saving grace might have been that I told him I would work on it until 11:55 am then I was going in to watch Washington Week. After the break, we finished up and now I’m hoping to get the yard work done so I can enjoy it more than I have.

Anyway, that’s the post this month. I hope next month I’ll have amazing news to share and maybe – just maybe – the worthless curs with too much power will come to the realization that no matter the color of skin or language they speak, we are all just humans trying to get by. I hope to emerge from this funk a stronger writer and better human, but right now, I don’t know.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. I do appreciate it. I appreciate YOU. Cheers.

 

The Chipmunk of Doom is Visiting and He Brought Me a Bout of Ennui

I’m slightly mad at the world. Yes, I know it does me no good. Yes. I know all sorts of “oughts” to remove thoughts but I’m still kind of pissed – not about the lock down – but the indefinite time it will remain. I miss going to my writer’s groups, but we’re doing Zoom and Skype. I’ve touched base with the usual suspects. Some people I don’t frequently deal with have sent messages. I’m not lacking connection or – knock on wood – anything like food, so I’m fine and should shut up, but not knowing the end date is maddening. Maybe it’s just me.

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I’ve been working on the new novel. I’m fairly certain about the end – not exactly – but I think it will be hopeful and life affirming so yes, you should speculate if aliens have abducted and changed me. I’ve shown the start to the amazing Nina Fosati and she thinks the voice is good, so I’ll continue. As most people know, I don’t talk about my books while I’m writing them, so that’s all I’ll say about it – that and thank God for Mary and Gina for pushing me through this writing biz as long as they have. I was truly afraid when Gina left for PA it would be the end of the group, but oddly, the lock down has revived it.

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Working with a wireless keyboard makes me wonder if there will ever be a gadget that would write down one’s thoughts – or better, dreams. I’ve heard people are having vivid dreams. I haven’t been. I can usually remember them fairly well and jot down a few lines about them but recently, I haven’t been doing that. Are there only so many dreams around? I know, what an invalid theory since I can’t begin to imagine how anyone could test for such a thing. This is what happens in quarantine, odd thoughts which end up getting typed out instead of forgotten.

It’s also led to Husband completing another part of the kitchen – the corner cabinet door.

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Every year there is a yearning in spring for change. Sitting on the couch in the mudroom, I’m imaging the furniture in different places. Tomorrow, I need to check in during different times of the day. What will work as the sun goes down might be annoying in full sun. I haven’t worked up the energy to move anything. There’s a chance I’ll change my mind about the arrangement of this room. The new pest – I mean pet – hinders a lot.

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We’re keeping her as an indoor cat, but she’s insistent on getting out. I don’t know how the last cat learned her moves, but this one is brash and adamant about its right to do whatever it wants. Dog thinks that, too but he’s smarter than this cat. He generally stays within bounds.

So, that’s what I’ve managed to write for this post. My birthday cake was delicious. If I’d not been in a locked down state, I would have shared it with you.

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Thanks for stopping by and for the read. I miss all of your faces.

Novel Critique Groups and Writing for an Audience of One

It’s been a NaNoWriMo type of November. I can tell because I have an extra 50,000 words added to my novel and next to no pictures taken during these past 30 days. It wasn’t all writing and no socializing though. When I went to vote, I ran into old friends. I had a chance to talk to Maureen Lee and Kimberly Moritz after the SGI school board meeting – conveniently held in Colden this month. Springville Journal’s esteemed Max Borsuk was there, too. Five out of five Friday nights saw me in the Comfort Zone for the Hamburg Writers’ Group plus Husband and I went to see the movie “Knives Out.” The first snow has fallen and occasionally, it’s a pretty thing to admire as long as shoveling isn’t involved.

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After a gap when Mary Akers, Gina Detwiler and I pursued other writing projects, we each had new work to share so we reconstituted our roving novel critique group meetings. First stop: My home. Why yes, it was fun cleaning the whole house in two days and make quiche and cauliflower nuggets and two types of sweets because I wasn’t sure either would turn out. Dog went to a new groomer before the meeting and was far too sexy for a photo session.

I know, it’s a cheat to take pictures when he’s sleeping, but isn’t that the cutest Thanksgiving bow-tie? Thank you everyone at Paw Spa!

Anyways, I want to say that I’m still surprised that every book I write ends up being written in a different way. Last time, it was a ton of flashes that expanded into a whole. This time it was a lot of wasted writing trying to find a proper beginning. Regardless, once I found it, a lot of the themes and ideas I wanted to explore fell into place.

On and off through October, I worked on the blurb and the first chapter. I searched thumb drives for the abandoned bits and plumped out a catchall file with those meanderings called LineAboutMarriage. I know, it’s not a snappy working title, but it is a little more descriptive than NewBook17.0

I had sent the semi-polished first chapter to the amazing Nina Fosati and Prisoner for their take. Each were happy with it. When I revised it a bit more and sent it to Gina and Mary with no introduction to what it was about, I received my first negative response. It was a kind assessment of how she couldn’t tell if it was a romance or a mystery or what. And that was okay. I had been working at “genre” the last two books after I sent the dark literary “Ellie’s Elephants” to twenty agents and didn’t get more than a few requests for partials. “Blue” and “Near Eden” – the genr-y books had requests for fulls, but again, no agent took them on. For this novel, I’d abandoned the genre slant and wrote it for me.

Lots of people I’ve met have self-published. Some are lovely and I enjoyed them. A few people I’ve shown my early novel attempts liked them. I could have put them on CreateSpace when that was a thing, but my goal has always been to have an agent who will help with the process. Ideally, I’d like to be published by a big house. Making the long (or short) list for first-book awards would be a pleasant surprise, too. If I had self-published, I wouldn’t be eligible to strive for a lot of the goals I set out to reach from a young age. At heart, I’m still the 12-year-old who read “Peyton Place,” saw Grace Meticulous on the back cover in front of a typewriter and wanted to BE her.

But I don’t write like Grace Metalious. Or Nora Roberts. Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle, Toni Morrison, or anyone else. I write like me and while I hope as I work through the rewrite of this crappy first draft, you and others will like it, in the end, the only thing I really want is for it to be a manuscript I want to read repeatedly and be happy to call mine. I’m writing for one person. It’s taken years to understand this oft-mentioned piece of advice

In the meantime, I appreciate you and the time it took to read this post. My new assistant is waiting patiently, so I must be off…

 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Happy Halloween aka National Novel Writing Month Eve!

The competitions I was waiting to hear about last time all resulted in being long listed. Not bad, but not great either. Thank you to everyone involved in the Fiction Factory Flash Contest and the Brilliant Flash Fiction’s “Feed Me” contest for considering my work.

Tomorrow is the official start of NaNoWriMo. I’ve signed up. The book I’m working on needs focus to get it done. If I start with the pages I have, and add daily, perhaps I’ll complete my aim of a needs-little-editing first draft. I know, I know, people dismiss NaNo, but for me, it’s a matter of conditioning. I’ve done it so often, I can sense when I’ve made the midpoint of the 1667 words each day. Also, Husband and friends know I’ll be writing then and leave me to do the work.

Fewer blog posts is but one symptom of my seemingly having dropped off the face of the earth. I haven’t been to my writer’s group or to the Wednesday morning write-ins in weeks. I put off having people over. I’ve not followed up on getting together with others. It isn’t depression as much as stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. A lot of it can be pinned on Ben. And as of Tuesday night at 9:10pm, Ben is no longer in our lives.

Instead of the heartache of a decked out, unreliable Legacy Turbo, we’re now leasing a 2019 Honda HR-V. If car shopping isn’t on the list of most stressful things a couple can go through, it needs to be added. Divorce and suicide were actually considered just to make the process stop. And now it has. Just in time for the snow, but this time in a taller vehicle with all-wheel drive.

It amazes me how a body reacts to stress. A four-month-old travels from Texas to meet a million people in New York and develops a cold. Exhibit A:

When she arrives at our home, I’m exposed to those microbes. I’d been under some stress – not just Ben’s latest costly breakdown. As if in a textbook, two days later I’m not feeling well. The unwellness couples with new pressures and then I’m sick. I was looking up symptoms for walking pneumonia and getting “you must be dying” Google results on Sunday night. By seven o’clock on Monday, I felt a little better. Tuesday, I woke up and could breathe properly. Some colds linger, some are punctual with their symptoms, but all children are germ-spreading carriers of disease. Ah well, what can you do since they are necessary to the continuation of the species.

On the plus side of life is the fact that it is autumn. The leaves are changing color, it’s time to pull out sweaters and mock the pumpkin spice crowd. My red-eyed squeaking bat is suspended from the ceiling. My new novel has a roughly sketched out plot. The battery-operated ghost scares the dog. And our new cat is here. This is Glinda. Middle name Janis as in Joplin.

I hope your October was greater than mine. Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

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In the scheme of things, isn’t less more?

Years ago, at a launch for Queen City Flash, which was edited by Gary Earl Ross, I read my piece and I didn’t do it well. I was stiff, awkward, just awful. I organized and hosted readings at West Falls-Colden Library and when I introduced writers, I did it quickly because I wasn’t comfortable.

I started attending the Hamburg Writers’ Group, and they offered me an opportunity to work on those skills that I lacked. Without the help and encouragement there, I never would have been able to do as well as I did last week. I have so much gratitude to all the writers who cycled in and out of that group. Thank you to all of you!

2019 September Drop Hammer

And I again want to thank Kim Chinquee for the incredible honor of including me in the Drop Hammer reading series at Buff State.

It was an amazing experience made even better by Christina Francis being there and the surprise attendance of Linda Dinger — both HWG members.

The incredible Gina Detwiler also read and then afterwards, we stayed and talked to Kim’s class about writing, publishing, and writers’ groups. We had a delicious late lunch at Cole’s with Kim and Peter Ramos, then Gina and I extended our “author day” by going to Larkin Square’s Author Series to listen to a conversation between Lauren Belfer and Mark Sommer. Mark’s Book “Rocky Colavito: Cleveland’s Iconic Slugger.” I’m not a baseball fan, but the book sounded intriguing.

Speaking about new books… Last month, I attended Gina’s book launch for “Forgiven” at The Hub in Orchard Park. It mixed music with the presentation and I found it quite fun. Well done, Gina and all those talented musicians!

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The recent running around had me taping shows on the cable box upstairs since the one downstairs doesn’t record. When I went to watch them, I had to deal with Husband’s chair. It was a horrible, cobbled together mess. Office Depot’s had a sale. Now, we can both watch television in a comfortable chair. The old one was broken up and is now stacked on top of the wood pile waiting to go in the fire. Not quite “burning in hell,” but that’s as close as we can get.

Another household change was in my library. Now that the family is scattered, it can really be my library. The pullout couch was moved out of there. The light fixtures with glass covers that had been in there hung low and I feared hitting them with a dumbbell. My request for different fixtures resulted in compromise on going with fluorescents but I also had speakers installed in the ceiling. They have an on/off switch and a volume control. My red chair is in there now, too, so I’m set for reading, writing, and Pilates whenever I want, even if we have company.

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It’s been getting chilly at night and I’d love to start a fire, but Husband has nixed the idea. Other than that, life here has been pleasant as of late. The wood is up and with the back of the woodshed being cleaned out, I’m not as nervous about putting away the swing and benches since there is not only room to store them, but a clear easy pathway to do so. The daytime weather has been a perfect range of temperatures with low humidity. I’ve spent most of this week outside. The front lawn is mown, the trails tended, mulch applied. Yesterday though, was a long, uninterrupted writing day. I haven’t had one in a while and it felt good. I’m still feeling this new book out, but the ideas and characters are swirling. I have a project book where I’m storing character notes and themes I want to explore. I’m generally not a planner, but this book is following its own path into a hero’s journey setup. Perhaps that will help when I eventually have to write a synopsis…

I’ve gone back and forth with an editor on a longer piece recently. I’m waiting to hear whether the last round of changes were enough. I do hope it is accepted for the anthology! I’m reading a ton of submissions at Literary Orphans while I refresh my own queue. Besides the work on the book, I’ve gotten a few new flashes drafted. I’m trying to keep busy so I don’t fret and worry. I’ve submitted to several competitions and many will announce their results soon. Knock on wood, my pieces do well; if not, out they’ll go to other venues.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, (Hi Alex! Hi Rach! Hi Nina!) you’ve noticed I’m posting once a month instead of twice. I think that’s the way it’s going to go — at least for a while. Let’s face it, it’s better for all involved. Less for you to read, less for me to write and then there’s the possibility I’ll write deeper about things I post.

Anything is possible…Kudos to the Climate Change strikers! You’re inspiring the world to get it together and change!

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As always, thank you for stopping by and for the read. I do appreciate it! And I appreciate YOU!