A Lifetime of Birthdays: November 7, 2016

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Dogs and Birthdays go together...
Dogs and Birthdays go together…

Today was fraught with little aggravations and some scary moments, but mostly, it still was about joy.

First off, I’m grateful that none of my neighbors called the cops on me when I was chasing #Lookitssprite this morning when she had a “Squirrel” moment and ran all the way past center field in the park and into the soccer field. I was in my pajamas and muck boots. Micro-Farmer, remember. I was doing my morning chores and the dogs normally keep me company, but Sprite found a squirrel and then a murder of corvins to chase. This leads me to list item No. 3, my dogs. Sprite for her naughtiness this morning got to go to the “nail salon” today. Her nails grow wicked fast and I basically have to take her once a week. Our groomer in town here is the sweetest lady and she loves Sprite and Sprite loves her. We’re so fortunate to have such a great dog groomer here in town; for that I am grateful. (No. 24)

My reading buddy. A book and sweater and the reading chair? Sprite is on it. #lookitssprite #mustlovedogs #writersbestfriend
Even though she was a brat today, she’s still my reading buddy. A book and sweater and the reading chair? Sprite is on it. #lookitssprite #mustlovedogs #writersbestfriend

Chores seemed to go swiftly for me today, because even in a month of celebrating 50 years, I need to keep up with dishes and laundry and the like (No. 15).  I remember when I was younger and having to do such things on my birthday seemed so wrong. Now, I just accept that it’s a part of life as much as sleep and eating.

Then I roared through two chapters of WILDERNESS RIM on the final, final polish (No. 6). I got a peak at the cover’s potential art work this weekend. Dude. It’s so perfect. Just the right amount of creepy and edge for the Echo Falls series. I can’t wait to show everyone. Stay tuned her for more on that soon. Meanwhile, I love stepping back in C.J.s world and his adventures with the young adult Sasquatch, Stinky. It’s sounds hokey, but there are moments when I envy my young protagonist. Hopefully other readers will, too.

Then it was time for my Monday lunch with the Winchester brothers. No, they aren’t some NorthBendNeck fellas I hang with — but, rather, the television series SUPERNATURAL, while I ate leftover beef stew. I’m putting this in self-care, No. 27, and No. 14 , film, for My Favorite Things to focus on for my half-century birthday month celebration.

With just those things it would have been a good day; but it was made even more epic by the fact that I got to meet my friend, Pam, for some much needed bourbon-drinking. Knob Creek was the whiskey of choice today, along with some bar food and laughing my ass off because Pam is fucking funny (So let’s just pull out #20 & #23!). Plain and simple, she’s hilarious. Her no-nonsense way of seeing the world is peppered with a whole lot of humor. american-whiskey-historyIt was fun catching up with her, having a drink, and just being able to be “Casz” for an hour or so. It was made even more special in that she shared some of her writing with me, and I need to get her to send that work out. It’s incredible. When everyone is reading her, you can tell everyone you heard about her first here. Seriously. Huzzah, for No. 5, my friends, and No. 7 Other People’s Writing and No. 11, Whiskey.

Insert aggravating and slightly scary moments of day. I’m not dwelling on them. They are not on my Favorite Things list for this month, so…both can take a hike out of my psyche. I dealt with them and I’m not dredging them up now. For those that know me, know that this is not always how I operate historically. But lately I see its benefit and employing it to the success of a larger amount of peace in my life.

Who had an awesome game? This dude right here. Thanks, Jimmy! Oh, and give our love to Cliff, too.
Who had an awesome game? This dude right here. Thanks, Jimmy! Oh, and give our love to Cliff, too.

Then it was time to make a Monday Night Football nosh dinner  (N0. 10) and watch the Seahawks defeat the Buffalo Bills — it was an ugly win, but a “W” all the same. We ate good food that was healthy, including some incredible fruit salad my father-in-law brought over. Raise that cider glass to #10 on the Favorite Things list:  food.

Father-in-law (No. 4) also brought me presents. One, which was just this huge box of sticks — or that’s what it looks like to those not in the know. We mostly heat our home in the winter with a wood stove. I have a gas furnace for back up, but it’s on year 26 of a 20-year warranty for the furnace. So, I baby it. But our house was built when they took pride in the craftsmanship and durability of a home. So, one single source of heat is doable, especially here in the Cascade Foothills. It’s also handy when the power goes out, which kind of happens a lot here — wind, rain, snow, ice, and flooding have all played a part in lengthy power outages since we moved to Twin Peaks. Yet, this year, it has only gotten below 50 degrees a couple of times. Hence, we’ve had two fires so far. But big fire season is forthcoming. Now I have a fire starter. The box of sticks is actually pitch-laden tinders of wood from an old tree, endearingly named “Old George” by the family, which fell onto my FIL’s property years ago. When you need to start a fire to heat your home quickly, pieces of old George do the trick and fast.

Lookie! I got a box of sticks for my birthday! For many of you this might be a lame present. But when you heat your home with a wood stove, these pitch-laden fire starters (known in our family as 'Old George's for the name of the fallen tree that supplies these beauties) are something that makes homesteading life soooooo much easier. Thanks to my FIL, Grandpa Legend, for knowing how to make me happy.
Lookie! I got a box of sticks for my birthday! For many of you this might be a lame present. But when you heat your home with a wood stove, these pitch-laden fire starters (known in our family as ‘Old George’ for the name of the fallen tree that supplies these beauties) are something that makes homesteading life soooooo much easier. Thanks to my FIL, Grandpa Legend, for knowing how to make me happy.

So there you have it. Now I need to do some relaxation yoga and do some reading (I’m so far behind). Raise a glass and say, huzzah. We’ve reveled in friends and dogs and writing and whiskey and ….

It’s been a good day.

A Lifetime of Birthdays: November 3 – 6, 2016

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images-6So much for blogging every day. But, I have a really good excuse. I got sick. Then, I had to do a job that only a mother can do.

As I blogged about Wednesday night, I had taken my youngest son and his girlfriend to dinner at a sports pub so they could hang out and watch the Cubs make history. The evening covered No. 2, No. 10, & No. 24 on My Favorite Things list.

Within an hour of getting home, I realized I had food poisoning. Within an hour of suffering with all the wonderfulness that is upper and lower GI distress — I got word that my middle son’s journey to California and his goal of working for a BMX team was thwarted by the follies of youth. Due to some legal issues of other parties involved — not my son — we’ll have to leave the reasons at that.

53dd96a04333787253365569d1cfa79c Regardless, middle son, MWB, was stranded just south of Redding, California. However, his amount of baggage was too much for a train, plane, or bus to get him to San Francisco as originally planned. Also, without a travel companion, his #LifewithAutism kicked in and he wanted to come home. Between worry and my body working hard to expel whatever nastiness caused the food poisoning, I didn’t sleep much Wednesday night, maybe about two hours.

By Thursday morning, my actual birthday, getting my son here was clear becoming a one-way street:  Mom drives 10.5 hours one way and picks him up and drives 10.5 hours back home in time for youngest son’s last football game of the season. All the while fighting bad calamari food poisoning. Just call me Wonder Woman. Oi.

I called my friend, Alexa Lioncourt, (No. 5) who, along with my pal and fellow author, Tonya Fraser, that tattoos would have to wait. Alexa went straight into her own superhero mode and called our artist (No. 9) and smoothed things over (He was expecting six hours of work with a cancellation just two hours prior. Boo!). He was very understanding and I’m grateful that a bridge wasn’t burned, because as some of you have heard me say in recent months, 2017 is the Year of the Tattoo (more on that later).

The weird shit you see on I-5 heading south...
The weird shit you see on I-5 heading south…

It was a full-throttle get gas, check the oil, walk the dogs, double feed the poultry, pack water and saltines (remember, food poisoning?), call father in law (No. 4) to catch youngest son after football and deal with being an adult presence at the homestead, and throw some sweats in a bag, and go, go go! Fortunately, there was no other barriers to my doing this.

Alexa called me just as I was heading out of town and asked if I wanted some company. This was my face: Safe To Click . So, I pulled a u-turn on I-90 West and headed back to get my friend, who I felt maybe wasn’t sure what she was signing up for, but I was grateful for the help.

And help she was. She was the perfect co-pilot handling the unending messages from my panicking son on the spectrum in California, the scholar athlete left behind, the husband traveling (No. 30) in Boston, and a million birthday messages that we mostly missed because of horrible, horrible cell reception through Oregon and California. When she saw me getting aggravated, tired, bored, she made conversation, pointed out cool things, and generally was the best person I could have had on an emergency road trip. Thank you, friend. <3 And look at that, No. 5 on my Favorites list. (We had planned on getting a road-trip selfie, but driving and taking photos just didn’t happen…oops.)

1326069810706084There was some serious skunk funk all through Oregon. I mean what is all that about? Oregon, you stink. Also, Grant’s Pass with Fog is like something out of a Stephen King novel, requiring a 45-minute nap at some random rest stop at 0400 hrs. California has some exit ramps that look like marsupial tails, and some weird fruit police. But thanks to Kevin (the name of our truck), my great co-pilot, and some Army Driver training and experience, we kicked the road’s ass, saved the kid, and got home safe, almost exactly 24 hours later. Look at that, we hit #30 on the list. Not ideal travel conditions, but travel all the same.

And I made the football game and ended up calling it on Twitter for parents and fans who couldn’t be there. When we got home it was all I could do to undress and get in bed. Having been up basically 48 hours, I slept like a log Friday night. 14939438_10211166424738793_7628908574546634805_o

Saturday was spent catching up with my best friend and husband (No. 1 on the Favorites List), doing a bit of treasure hunting (No. 28 on the list), and eating Tacos (No. 10), and watching THE CONJURING (No. 14) — Oh Man that Movie! Yikes! While watching that very scary film (it might actually get into my top ten best horror films list), we enjoyed some of the tea my husband brought me home from Boston from the Tea Party museum. Hey there No. 12!

But then MWB had a #LifewithAutism meltdown when the processing of everything that had happened two days before came to realization. So no blogging was done that night because it was all about #2, My Kids, or more specifically the child that gives me the greatest challenges; however, that encompasses No. 23 &  No. 29 on my list. Therefore, gratitude that the universe gives me an opportunity to exercise things that are important to me during this month.


Today, once again was time spent with my Hubby (No. 1), but not until things around the homestead were attended to, to include mucking the duck houses, cleaning the coop, and getting laundry back into the daily cycle of life around here. These, of course, if you’re paying attention, fall under No. 15 & No. 16. Then we took a mini road trip to investigate the possibility of moving MWB to a community about 90 minutes north of us. It’s a great community, but we realize that the drive is just too long for his support network (us) to be much help to him. Since help is necessary in #LifewithAutism, we realized this idea would not pan out. Trading one stress for another wasn’t the solution we’re looking for currently. But, we got to spend some alone time together just us (even if it was in the truck), and talk through some things (Thanksgiving plans, house plans, life plans, you know best friend stuff). I had the forethought to put a beef stew in the crock before we left and we ate that yumminess (No. 10 again) while hitting some couch time (No. 27) and a National Geographic show. Then hubby had to take youngest son to baseball practice and well, I’m blogging.

Hopefully the rest of the month won’t be as challenging. I’m still trying to focus on being grateful, for enjoying the favorites in my life and focusing on those, which should, in turn, manifest a whole lot of happiness.

What will tomorrow bring? Given these last few days, I won’t hazard a guess. But, you’ll be sure to come back here and read about it, yes?





Rejection Turned Writing Break

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d6dabc193499b1e8baaaf0884a759743I am currently shopping When A Raven Pecks Out Your Normal to literary agents. I have been rejected 63 times already. The last rejection was the first one that provided me any feedback. Its feedback included some of  what my beta readers tried to hit on but, didn’t quite. But, I’m not sure I can rework anything now with this project that started its infancy — rough outline and lots of thinking about it — back in 2009 and I did the final rewrite and typed The End in November of 2015. In January, I started looking for literary representation.

Sixty-three rejections may seem like a lot. It is. However, I had determined that I wouldn’t quit until at least 122 no-thank-yous filled my email, giving me one more rejection than what it took Robert M. Pirsig to get Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance accepted for publication. In my efforts, last week’s feedback from one agent willing to take just an extra minute and explain their thoughts on my work, although good  – drilling down to the core of why this manuscript is unique and a hard sell, created a feeling of futility in me. I felt like I should just quit. It didn’t matter that this one agent said I was a good writer. I’ll be 50 years old in November and the traditionally published novel evades me. I wrote my first “book” at 8 years old. By 18, and hundreds of short stories and essays later,  I had written my first full-length novel. Today I have probably 30 novels in various states of completion.

However, When A Raven Pecks Out Your Normal was the one that felt like professional-caliber stuff, my magnum opus, if you will. This was the story I needed the world to see. But rejection #63 about killed any energy and motivation I had, even given that it was the nicest of the entire haul of rejections.

In a way, I have quit. Allow me to elaborate. Last week, I lamented in my Sno Valley Writes! blog that I was at that cusp of quitting, and needed some encouragement, advice, what have you, from my fellow writers to keep my writer’s sanity. Truly, I was as close to quitting writing as I have ever come. Many an artist friend responded and told me to not give up. My ever-supportive spouse said to keep fighting. But, none of that was helping.

Then, a good friend of mine, fellow writer, and Sno Valley Writes! member, Sheri J. Kennedy, suggested I take a break. No writing, no editing, no forced morning pages. Just say goodbye to my butt-in-chair attitude on my writing life. She firmly, but lovingly told me to do this until I was rested, rejuvenated, and willing to get back into it. She even gave a nod to that fact that #LifewithAutism has been extremely trying on my patience bandwidth. She keyed in that I needed to give myself permission to take a break. Much like I urged all my fellow writers back in 2008 with the creation of Sno Valley Writes! to give themselves permission to be writers, I needed to give myself permission to not write.Creative-Cycle

But not doing anything as a writer has never been a part of my life. The creative cycle always includes a marker of self-doubt, and angst. I normally acknowledge it, feel pissy about it for a few hours (yes, just hours) and fly right through to loving my writing again. This time has been different. I am at the six-day mark. No writing. No pitching. No editing. No journaling. And until this particular post, no blogging. When that voice said I should be working on The Perthshire Gargoyles, or pitching, or editing Wilderness Rim, I just pulled a Nancy Reagan and said, “No.”

Given that I’ve written this blog post, a seeming necessary step to acknowledging my writing sabbatical, I may be slowly coming out of the writing funk I’ve been in. The key word is slowly. Being a writer in a society that puts little value on art and stories seems a fool’s journey. However, as another fellow writer, Bill Reynolds, said to me, “Writing is not a habit. It’s an identity.” I have identified as a writer for as long as I can remember.

Bill also said, “I once read, ‘we are all writers.’ In the sense that those of us literate enough to write, do write, we are indeed all writers. But we all do not say I am a playwright, an essayist, a novelist, or even a ghostwriter. We may all read, and many of us will say that we are readers, or avid readers. But only a select few of us will identify as editors. Writers will often critique or review the writing of others. In that role, we may say we are critics. One who does art may, or may not, identify as an artist. If they do, they may further qualify as a painter, sketch artist, sculptor, potter, actor, glass artist, illustrator, dramatist, director, or writer. I am a writer, a novice in the fictional and creative art of writing, still-in-all, I identify as a writer regardless of the acceptance or opinion of others simply because that is what I do. It has nothing to do with being published, what I write, how good or skilled I am, what anyone thinks of my writing, my grammar or spelling. The only thing that currently matters is that I write. It is what I am. If you write….”

Bill is correct. I am a writer. I’ll come back to it, eventually. However, the break right now is needed. You can’t write for an entire lifetime nonstop without taking a break. We’re Human. Breaks are part of the deal, whether it’s a night’s sleep, a vacation, even an afternoon nap. You have to rest. That’s where I am right now: Writing Rest.

See you again when I’m done taking a writing rest.







To NaNoWriMo or Not

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enhanced-buzz-30688-1383087383-0I’m staring at my editing desk, my draft in process of the final revision (dear universe, I hope!), and fighting to free write on a new story, one that I have been wrestling for space in my creative mind for more than a month now, the first ideas of which trickled into my brain about a year ago. However, I am still in the throes of editing a work in progress. A work in progress that has taken me too long to write, edit, and revise. I had hoped to be done before November 1 so that I might join the lovely writers of SnoValley Writes!, the writing community I founded back in 2008, and the Snoqualmie Valley Region for National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). I didn’t NaNo last year because I was working on this book and trying to get short stories published. Here it is a year later and I am doing the same.

In today’s author market, this means I’m moving too slow and may need NaNo to re-teach me how to get faster, work better with deadlines, and generally write harder.

I always loved the community of NaNo time. However, I have a writing originalcommunity here. We gather weekly. We workshop monthly. This isn’t anything new for me, I haven’t been in the solitary writing wastelands without the nod of another pen monkey. We hang in the local cafes whispering or shouting about sentence structure, tropes, and why science fiction fans are so (insert your own adjective). If I need fresh blood, I can scoot on over to The Richard Hugo House and get classes, more authorly camaraderie. My word-whore community is large and strong. NaNo won’t give me more. If anything, it might overwhelm me.

I have, I estimate, about another 40 hours work on this book before it will be done, done, done. I don’t have 40 hours of time between working on clients’ work, taking care of my special-needs son, and my other household and urban homestead responsibilities. Hell, last night I had great full moon energy and instead opted to read in bed instead of continue to edit (reading is just a much a part of being a writer as writing is).

crazy-nanoThe first time I did NaNoWriMo it was 2005. I didn’t “win” that year because I ended up having emergency spinal surgery (old Army injuries coming to roost). But, it taught me much about the kind of writer I am, that a community is important, and that all those other novels in my writing trunk were like my son hitting the batting cages during baseball season – it’s practice and helps to only further your skills, game, and passion. I was a Municipal Liaison for my region from 2008 until 2011. That taught me about time management, encouragement, and the joy of sharing a nerdom with other people.

My decision this year is do I need any of that, or do I need to finish WHEN A RAVEN PECKS OUT YOUR NORMAL for good? The new story brewing in me may not be ready for even a zero draft. It may deter me away from the prize of shopping the current WIP. Or maybe I can pull a NaNo-like marathon and finish the draft and hit NaNo with all the joyful bliss of a newbie to it come November 1st. I can see the pros and cons of both.

nanoIt will likely be a game-day decision for me.

Are you doing NaNo? Why? What advice would you give to this veteran and struggling writer?





Dealing with the Writus Interruptus

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TheWritingDeskI’m giving myself a self-imposed writer’s retreat this weekend. Nothing fancy. No escape to a deserted isle. No fancy conference or sponsored writing weekend. Just me moping about my house without real pants, cussing about how that word doesn’t work, and how these scenes need connected, and well, writing. This weekend works well because my family, who I dearly love but who interrupt my writing time most days, is busy with all manner of other things:  baseball tournament, festivals, friends, and extended family. So here I am, holing up in the Thrasher Studios Writing Study and pounding out the words and revisions. My hope is that I will polish up WHEN A RAVEN PECKS OUT YOUR NORMAL – basically connect the disjointed manuscript with the connection chapters it needs — finish editing a client’s manuscript, and send off a couple of short stories.

10913633_10205734966435730_109658982_nThese are lofty goals. Whatever I get done is better than if I’d be doing the Memorial Day mini vacation many Americans attempt. The retreat started this morning with a writing café with my fellow writers here in Twin Peaks Valley. And I’ve been going gangbusters thus far, save for a bit of time where I had to deal with #LifewithAutism. Then after a complete two hours of uninterrupted time my brain seemed to implode. I haven’t had that kind of uninterrupted time in…well, I can’t even recall. So, my brain started interrupting itself so I could continue. I’d get up and look at the girls in Poultryville (the ducklings are so stinking cute!). Check and see if I trapped a rabbit (my micro farm has been inundated with a rabbit raiding party that I’ve slowly and surely been relocating via a live trap). Oh, right, now I need a drink. Maybe I should pet the dog a bit before I write this next scene…the self-interruptions went on for more than an hour straight before I sat back down and got about 1,000 words written.

being-a-good-writerThen I decided to do some editing. Less than fifteen minutes into it, I needed to get up and move around again, this time checking to see if I had a certain ingredient for a meal tonight. Nope. Maybe I should go to the store. Nah. I need to write.

I sit down to write and I’m like, this is crazy I can’t think straight because the house is too quiet and still. Why are you complaining? I ask myself. This is what you wanted. Peace. Quiet. Writing Time.

keepcalmNow I have it, glorious unfettered access to writing time,  and I am intimidated. What if I don’t get it all done? What if no one likes the words? What if I’m wasting my time? What if. What if. What if.

So, I wrote all this out to perhaps make the self-interruptions stop and real work to get done. A writing spell, if you will. It’s time to stop being afraid of what I’ll accomplish and get it done.

How do you distract yourself? Why do you stop writing when you could be writing? Apparently my creative brain is so used to distraction and interruption, I’m unable to clearly focus when I actually get some quiet writing time.