Diving in!

 

IMG_0664I’ve been absent here for a month and a half. Working hard, trying to get my priorities straight and keep my head above water. I spent the first month madly writing short stories and moaning about the rain and cold. Then for the last two weeks I’ve been diving into a novel, still moaning about the rain and cold. I’m done with winter, as are most of you, I’m sure. And I’m thoroughly enjoying the novel I’m working on.

In the middle of that time, the Oso Landslide happened. I didn’t know anyone missing or killed, but I have far too many friends who do. It’s not that far away from here. I spent two solid weeks watching the news online (part of moaning about the rain, hell for the folks trying to work up there) and then decided I just needed to switch it off. I get obsessed with news and there’s very little hopeful on it. I’m not sure I can say much of anything that’s positive about what happened, except that a lot of people are finding strength and connections that they never knew they had. People coming together is mostly a good thing.

It’s been the normal craziness around here with a few additions. With my new plan of upping my weekly word count of fiction, I’ve found myself lacking time to publish things. I’ve got nine stories to pull together and get published. Some are still with my first readers, some are waiting for me to copyedit. A couple are at magazines, hoping an editor will buy them. And some are just waiting for me to figure out the new software and get them published.

New software. Sigh. I’ll try to get another run at it this weekend. Maybe.

I’m also taking a workshop on making book covers and learning lots of new cool tricks. Which means it’s time for me to schedule in redoing all my old covers. And that will lead to redoing my websites. And since I have this new word count plan going on – there’s no downtime between finishing something – in which I can publish things. I just have to cram it in somewhere and keep on writing. I’m still trying to figure out how that will work. Along with my homework for the workshop.

And this is the year that the child graduates from Elementary School. And moves on to Middle School. Which has involved touring schools and long discussions about the future and finally, making choices. And there’s other discussions about whether she’s going to buckle down and actually learn math and science or be limiting her life choices to getting jobs that pay no money and won’t allow her to buy the enormous number of pets she’s planning on. Whew! And her birthday is this month. Which involves getting not only Easter basket gifts, but birthday gifts. And will involve partying two weekends in a row. And organizing all that. Still haven’t figured out the birthday party thing yet.

And it’s spring. Spring. Spring! Yay! Beautiful flowers are coming out everywhere, including the skunk cabbage above, one of my favs. Although the photo was taken a couple of miles down the road. For some reason, none of my skunk cabbage is going to bloom this year. I’ve been moving containers around and lugging big bags of potting soil. I got all my greens, some snow peas and herbs planted yesterday. I still have poppy seeds to toss around the garden. It’s too early to buy most of the pretty little things that will go into all those containers, but the time for that is coming. And there’s way too much other work to do out there. It looks as if the sun might make an appearance next week and I might even mow the foot tall lawn. The koi are moving around. Usually, we’ve begun feeding them by now, but this year it’s just been too cold. Maybe in another week or two if temps keep going upwards.

And that’s where I’m at. Trying to shake off winter and pick up speed for spring. I feel like I’m behind, but then so is spring.

So, maybe I’m just in time.


Death Revisited

LizzyOur oldest cat, Ms. Elizabeth Bennett, otherwise know as Lizzy, died yesterday morning. She was thirteen, apparently an average age, although we’ve had cats live to their twenties. She’s been frail and reclusive lately, and apparently, it was time for her to go. I’ll miss her. She always sat on a blanket near my feet, in front of the portable heater, or on a perch in the kitchen. In summer she’d go outside and sit with me while I wrote in the outdoor office.

This photo is from her younger days, when she wandered outside more.

Her death led me to thinking about all the cats I’ve shared my life with. There have been quite a few. We still have four at the moment.

 

So, I set out this morning, searching for photos of them all. I don’t have a photo of the first cat in my life – Boots. He was a gray tabby cat, unneutered, I remember. My parents gave him away when we moved. I think I was 5. We also had an English Setter at the time.

Smokey

We got another cat some time after that. I’m not sure when, another gray tabby. I remember I liked to chase Smokey, which I’m sure he didn’t appreciate, but no one ever told me I was being cruel and I was too young  to figure it out myself.

Still, he liked me enough to hang out with me sometimes and nourish my lifelong love affair with cats. One day he disappeared and we never knew what happened to him.

Toby & Fred

I grew up (okay, stop laughing) and moved out on my own, went to college, fell in love and began living with this guy, the one I’m still married to. We went to the animal shelter and got a couple of cats. Fred and Toby. Toby was the beautiful fluffy black cat. He only lived a year before succumbing to feline leukemia, way back in the days when it was first surfacing in Seattle. I hardly got to know him and he was gone. Fred, the black and white sweetie, lived to be twelve. He had the sweetest soul. He was the cat who would put himself in between two other cats and break up a fight. Handsome guy, I remember he loved to be held and he drooled a lot.

 

Anise

When Toby died, we went back to the animal shelter and got Fred a friend. She was a feisty princess, who we named Anise. She’s the one who lived longer than any of our cats, a ripe old twenty-two years. And just because she was a princess, didn’t mean she was a sissy either. She loved it when we moved up here to ‘the woods’ and she could explore.

 

 

ZuzuBefore we left Seattle, back in the days when Michael worked at Surrogate Hostess, a now defunct restaurant on Capital Hill, a mother cat with a 1-year-old kitten and brand new kittens showed up at the restaurant. None of them were skittish, just without a home. All but one of the new babies found homes and one of Michael’s coworkers wanted to take the mom and her 1-year-old home. Which would have left a kitten homeless. So, sucker that I was, I adopted Zuzu. And never regretted it. She was a very special cat and I miss her to this day. My first tortoiseshell, after which there have been four more. She was always around to comfort me. We finally had to put her to sleep when she was nineteen.

Lizzy - kitten_2

Lizzy was our next cat. A friend recommended a plant grower/nursery in Oso, now gone, where she’d got her cat. They always had lots of barn cats. We inquired and found Lizzy there. She was another princess cat and an intrepid explorer. We called her Lizzy, after that famous character, because she talked a lot and had many witty things to say.

 

 

Marco Polo

Marco Polo just showed up. He hung out in our neighbor’s yard for a few weeks, but they weren’t going to take care of him and so he hung around our house. A very sweet cat, Himalayan was my guess, with beautiful blue eyes. Problem was, he had seizures. We took him to a couple of vets, including a homeopathic one. He got a little better, but the seizures never quit. Eventually, when they got closer together and started coming twice a week, we had him put to sleep. He didn’t deserve to suffer like that.

 

Kubla Khan

I was working for three Naturopaths and a Chiropractor and met a patient who knew a cat that needed a home. The cat wasn’t hers and she was full up. I met him and decided to bring him home and see if he’d work out. He was affectionate and bossy – part Bengal I’d been told. He got along well with all our cats except Marco, whom he terrorized. Eventually, I found another home for him with a young couple.

 

Viola & OliviaLater on, I worked at a water garden nursery. They got a cat from one of their employees. She had kittens and there I was everyday, seeing those kittens. I took the last two home. Viola, a gray tabby and Olivia, a silver tabby. They were silly girls, but got along with our other three cats well. Olivia died on Christmas day. She’d wandered over to the neighbor’s and drank water that contained antifreeze. We took her to an emergency vet, but there was nothing that could be done. Viola was with us for several more years. She was tortured by another of our cats. She was really quite small and shy. I finally rehomed her, hopefully to a better place.

RosBrighid & Rosmerta were born in our neighbor’s yard. Their mom was a stray. One by one, I watched the kittens disappear (and not to homes, but to coyotes, dogs, eagles, cars?). There were only two left, when we adopted them, a good friend took their mom home.

They were crazy sisters and extremely affectionate.  Here’s a photo of Ros in a bag, she and her sister loved to climb into plastic bags and play. The top wasn’t closed. Really.

Ros was my shadow and I was devastated when she went out across the road one morning and then saw me going to get the paper before taking Zoe to school. She came running back across the road and was hit by a car. The man stopped, he felt terrible. But there was nothing he could have done. I still miss her.

 

Brighid & Zoe

Brighid lived with us for several years. She became a happy lap cat. Then one day she disappeared. There had been a barn owl around and I’m thinking that’s what got her. Miss her as well.

 

 

 

Which brings me up to Lizzy. That’s a lot of cats to have loved and lost. All our cats now are young. Seven years and three years. I hope they live long, long happy lives.

I’m so done with losing my furry friends.

 

 

 


Lowering My Standards!

IMG_0439I had an epiphany last week. “Oh, no, not another bloody epiphany!” Yes, another one. Once again I realized that if I lowered my expectations (and standards) amazing things happen.

My writing goal for the year is to write 5,000 new words a week. That’s a measly 1,000 words a day, five days a week. About twice as many words as this blog post. Maybe an hour or two at the computer.

Last year, I had much larger goal – or so I thought. But they were story goals. Write one every two weeks. I thought I’d easily write twice that many words in a day. NOT. I wasn’t happy with what I ended up with at the end of the year, but thought at least I could do 5,000 words a week this year. Even during school breaks I could manage that measly amount.

So, as it turns out, I sit down to write and after a thousand words I’m into the story and my brain says, ‘well maybe I’ll write just to the end of this scene or another few paragraphs’. And I’m finding that I’ve been adding several hundred or maybe an extra thousand words each day. So that after four weeks I’ve written over 26,000 words and have finished four stories! Woot!

I’m feeling very happy about all this. I still have to wrap my mind around learning some new software to get them published, since my old software, Pages from iworks, has failed me with their last update. They screwed up too many things for me to use it anymore. But I’ll get to that next month after I’m done digging out all the paperwork and numbers needed for taxes.

As for the other resolutions, I’m doing okay with some of them. However, I’m failing miserably at the getting outside and exercising thing. I sifted sand once this month. That’s not going to get the patio done soon. Gotta step up the pace. The cold weather isn’t encouraging and I’ve been a total cold wimp this winter, preferring to sit inside at my computer, huddled in front of the heater. But it’s still on my calendar and the days are getting warmer, so I haven’t given up totally, mostly because I really, really want to sit out on that patio and write this summer!

The garden’s waking up with Hellebores (the photo above is of one of my favorites, just coming in to bloom), witch hazels, Sarcocca, Cyclamen, snowdrops and all sorts of other little goodies. I love this time of year, when the trees are bare and every little bloom is precious. It feels like yes, it’s possible the ornamental plants might win over the weeds this year. By May I’ll feel totally disillusioned by all that. No time for weeding. There are patios to make!

So that’s it for now. I’ve got to go find papers with numbers on them and get everything organized. Want to get the taxes done as soon as possible. There are braces to buy for the child!


At it again!

IMG_0413I took the last half of December off to hang out with family and play. And catch up on my sleep. And I got some reading done. And I slept in nearly every day of my daughter’s winter break.

But enough of that. School’s back in session, buses must be caught. So, I’m back to getting up at 6:30AM and being awake in the morning. And writing.

I was less than pleased with my output for last year. I finished, and published 17 pieces of fiction. Which was fabulous. Although I was aiming for 25. I could have hit my goal, if I hadn’t lost 2-3 months working on a novel which died. Rather my interest in it died. The story went sideways and became absolutely and totally uninteresting to me. Not worth the effort to finish it. That hasn’t happened in years and years. So, there I was with a dead story and I kept working on it, unwilling to give up. The two weeks off in December cleared my mind enough so that I could see the problem and just let the novel go. I may or may not reuse the characters in something else. But I’m done trying to make that story work for me. And it has to work for me.

So, at the moment, I’m finishing up a group of short stories that have been floating around in my mind for months now. And this year I’ve decided on a different goal. I’m going to try to write every day. That’s a real challenge for me. There’s very little that I’ve done every day of my life. I have breathed, although during an asthma attack even that feels iffy. I used to fast occasionally, so I haven’t eaten every day. I used to pull all nighters, so I haven’t slept every day of my life. I’ve probably drank liquids every day.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m betting that my word count will be higher at least. It wasn’t what I thought it should be for last year. It felt lower than the year before, but then I’ve never added it up before, so who knows. But I’m determined to write more this year and not have long stretches between writing. So far so good. I’ve already finished one story and am deep inside another one.

And apparently this is my year for learning new software. Apple updated the word processing program I use. And they removed the ability to make a linkable table of contents. Which is absolutely essential for ebooks. They also added a bit of proprietary stuff which made one of my vendors kick the ebook back to me. So, I’m having to switch everything around. Not the software I was hoping to learn. I wanted to start the year learning a different program for making paper books. Oh well, another mountainous learning curve on the way!

In other news, I’m going to try and get out to work in the garden more this year. It’s been frozen lately, but today it’s raining and thawing out. My orange witch hazel is in full bloom and perfuming the garden. I’d include a photo but it’s so dark out there today to take photos. Hellebores are beginning to open and progress is being made on the patio. Small progress, but there’s hope it may get finished in my lifetime.

That about covers the changes in my new year’s resolutions. And now it’s time to get to my writing. Off to the Mediterranean today, where it’s warm and sunny!


Baby, It’s Cold Out There!

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I’ve been swallowed up by Christmas chaos. Trying to make gifts, shop for gifts and prepare for all the celebrations this month brings with it. And dealing with the harsh cold temperatures we’ve been having. Cold for here at least. To the left is what a very, very cold Rhody looks like. Brrr! I’ve been wearing multiple layers, having the heat on full blast, using a space heater and wearing fingerless gloves. And of course, drinking hot tea. Sitting at the computer, writing, doesn’t really keep me warm.

 

 

IMG_0335Especially when I’m writing about winter. Which I was. Just wrote a story that came from a combination of things. The plant geeks who I hang out with, have an annual wreath making meeting, which I always go to. Made two wreaths this year. The one I kept is on the left, hanging on our house. So that event spurred part of the story. The real impetus came from a dream I had. One of those dreams where I woke up and dropped everything on my schedule and wrote all day until the story was mostly finished and my brain was gone. You just can’t refuse gifts from the universe like that and expect inspiration to keep showing up.

Jokul Frosti:750x1150:PNG

 

Jokul Frosti: Bitter cold fills the air and Molly meets a man unlike any other. White hair, black leather and eyes the color of a snow filled sky. Is he out to harm or help her? And is he human? What if winter were really alive?

 

So, the story’s up for sale now, at most of the usual places. The link to Amazon is in the left sidebar.

And I’m off to write about someplace warmer I hope!


Avoiding Conflict!

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I’m at that point in the novel that people call the muddled middle. And it feels like everything’s moving in sloooowwww motion. Everything. I want to move on, but I keep finding reasons not to write. Last week I sat at my computer two entire days, avoiding writing. It was so ugly. Like a kid at the dinner table refusing to eat their broccoli. When that happens, the rule is – no messing around on the internet, no reading. Just put words on the page or sit there. Usually I get bored enough to write. But usually, it doesn’t take that long. Usually, I just sit down and write! Every novel really does have different problems. Sheesh!

And it isn’t because the novel’s awful. It just feels that way to me at the moment. It’s the process, not the actual writing. And it isn’t because I’m feeling muddled. I realized this morning that I know exactly where the novel has to go and I’m simply avoiding it. Thinking, well, I can add in this or that, which the character’s doing. Stalling.

And I laughed at myself when I realized that I was avoiding the major conflict in the book! It took me a while to realize why. I never really learned how to do conflict in real life and I normally bend over backwards to avoid the real thing. As an adult, I’m pretty much of a pacifist. It takes a lot for me to decide to rock the boat. And when I do, I revert to teenage screaming and yelling. Completely overblown and out of control.

I blame my mom for my early training in this technique. As a teenager, I used to yell and argue with her (or try to). I don’t know what was going on in her head, but she always just walked away. Leaving me yelling. It was absolutely infuriating. So that’s where I learned how to do conflict. I’m not sure I’ve progressed since.

So, now that I realized I’m avoiding throwing my character into this violent, bloody conflict, I guess it’s time to move on and just do it. I’m hoping this week will be a lot easier and I won’t be spending boring hours at the keyboard staring at the page and not allowing myself to ditz around on the internet. I’ve got so much to do that hopefully I’ll be able to get my words in and then move on to all the other stuff!


Thinking Too Much!

IMG_0151So late last spring I started another novel. I got a quarter of the way in and the story stopped for me. A dead halt. It had been dying a slow death for most of that time. I’d sit at the computer and maybe get a small fraction of my normal words. It was painful writing. I felt relieved to take a break over the summer and write short stories.

During my break from the novel, I realized I had been writing it from the viewpoint of the wrong character. Okay then. So in early October, after the back to school rush ended and the dust cleared from reorganizing my entire bloody life, I went back to the novel and began again. From the other character’s viewpoint. Writing went along okay for a few days, not great though. Then it ground to a stop. Again. It was a little farther down the story line, since I started at a different point, but still painfully slow writing.

Then I got a nudge from another trusted writer, who’s also a brilliant teacher. I was thinking about the story too much. I needed to get back deep down in the character’s head and follow her step by step. And trust that the plot would show up as usual.

So I did. And the story came back to life. And is moving forward again. And feels like it has somewhere to go. Which is how I normally write, trusting my unconscious to bring the story forward, and it always works. I needed to be reminded of that.

Which is a reflection of my life. When I sit around thinking too much I get frustrated, depressed, angry, etc. Why isn’t my life going the way I want? Why isn’t this (big event, garden work, child behavior, etc.) happening in a reasonable way? Why, why, why? My brain can think its way to becoming a hamster on a wheel in no time. It’s just that talented.

But when I am able to stop thinking, (rolls eyes and snorts) and let all that crap go and just do the work, I feel much less paranoid, worried, hopeless and helpless. Things get done, the world shifts and moves forward. Life flows again.

Sometimes I just have to learn the same lesson over and over and over. Wondering how many times I’ll have to learn this one before I finally get it? Okay, will stop thinking about it and go do something.

Really, I’ll just stop…