Getting Back on the Horse
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
I continue to recover from the last year of cancer treatments. Fatigue and brain fog are lifting. I’m getting out for walks again, now the two plus months of downpour seems to have lifted, too. And I’m writing again, in a way I haven’t for a long time.
I joined a weekly zoom writing group with an old friend and his wife and others. It’s run really well and intentionally kindly. Everyone is enthused about each other’s work, which helps a lot. I hadn’t engaged directly with other writers in this way for a very long time, and I’m re-learning that, as solitary a creative endeavor writing is, it’s essential for me to engage with other writers to keep my mojo working.
I wrote two solid short stories in the past few weeks or so, and I’m getting back on the horse of submissions.
I’m not sure it’s completely an imposter syndrome thing anymore, but more of an executive function thing, my reticence to submit my work to magazines and websites for the possibility of pay. I am a writer, and have been commended for it since I was a young child. It’s so much work, and a different kind, finding who the correct editors are to submit work to in various publications, that I stop myself while I’m still in the racing gate. Still aiming for that horse metaphor, it’s a stretch.
After years of dealing with physical and family issues, so that my brain function shrunk to survival mode for a very long time, it’s nice to see I still got it. “That thing, that thing, that thing” - I’m singing Lauryn Hill now, even if the lyrics don’t match the situation - that brings meaning to my life, outside of caring for my kids. The thing is so much a core aspect of myself, that when I’m not doing it, the world dims a bit. The sun is coming out outside my window, and inside my mind.
I like it.
Hope you're making the best you can of this pandemic era. I'm trying to through many challenges.
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Since my last post, the holidays passed quietly, my radiation treatments are over, I had four teeth extracted, over 350,000 have died from COVID, and many more are living with severe long term effects. There was a riotous failed coup on my birthday. And yet, I’m okay?
The rollercoaster is intense, at home, and in the world. 4am scrolling is not an unknown. I wish it was.
Re: writing, I get what I can when I can. I feel more like I can write now, mentally, than for the past year - ooo, 8, 12? My kid is still attempting online schooling, and I don’t know that any kids who have a little extra needs in so many areas right now can academically succeed. But, given everything in their young lives, I do believe the kids will be alright.
Poems come in pieces. Scenes in fragments. Fiction almost non-existent, and memoir or journaling, I’m just sick of myself, my cancer journey, and the recklessness of everything right now.
By how mixed each above paragraph is, you see how writing is going. But I’m still here, it’s still my life’s blood and work, whether words form well, or on paper, or toss to the wind. Meanwhile, long walks at the beach are a balm. I'm okay, really I am. I hope you are, too.
Columbo Saves Us
Thursday, November 12, 2020
I’ve been MIA here for a few months.
I’ve been watching a lot of series, Queen’s Gambit is amazing, and I think I’ve watched all the Cozy Village British Murder Shows there are to watch. I’ve returned to the Murder Shows of my childhood, with the help of a friend who sent me the full DVD set of Columbo.
My spawn in the house have started watching Columbo with me. It’s nice when the world is in chaos, both big and small, ie: my cancer, and being locked up in the house during the pandemic with me, to know the outcome, and to watch how Columbo figures it out quickly, and steers the rich entitled murderers into their own trap.
I got through two back to back surgeries, and then chemotherapy. I’m recovering my appetite and general brain capacity after being so sick and fatigued I could barely eat, move, or think. I am still really physically fatigued, it’s hard for me to get around even in the house. This isn’t a sympathy plea, just my is. I want to recover. I want to dance and cook without having to pull up a stool rather than my legs give out from under me. I don’t know if this is extreme or normal, or a matter of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in conjunction with the chemo. It feels extreme to me, and I’m pretty well accustomed to fatigue. I am slowly improving.
Last week, I was CAT scanned, and molded into a form, and tattooed with marker points to be sure I’m lined up perfectly in the radiation machine. Yesterday, I was laid in that form and X-rayed from every angle and got one more marker point tattoo, just to make sure. Today, I start radiation, and will be driving a long commute daily for six weeks, right up to Christmas.
There’s a weird comfort in the solidity and almost antiquity of these machines that move around me taking pictures of my insides, mostly of my left breast and surrounding lymph nodes area. Outside of the rooms I’m in, the nurses and techs sit at a wall of slim computer monitors that bring it up to date, otherwise, the machines themselves look and operate like the computers and machines in that 1970s series, where Columbo is mystified by their modernity, rooms full of a single computer that whirs and bangs and clangs. That’s what I’m laid out in now.
I am also currently watching another long series, of an earlier time, Call the Midwife. I cry almost every episode. I have to switch back and forth between these two longer series. Columbo, while Murder, is ultimately a great comfort of knowing what to expect. We know who the murderer is from the beginning. We know Columbo is going to bring them to justice. There’s some humor in the regular lines, “can I borrow a pencil?” and “oh, ah, one more thing…” that he says every episode. We can count on it. We can count on him.
In Call the Midwife, we are privy to the very intimate moments of birth and death, and all kinds of heart breaks and joys. It’s hands on, usually home births, before and at the advent of using drugs to help the mothers’ pain during delivery, very much women caring for mostly women in desperate poverty, at the apex of life and death.
So I go back and forth, I watch a few episodes of one, until I need to go back to the other. Because, especially now, during cancer treatments, during this pandemic, during this crazy election, where we know the outcome, but one and his followers won’t accept it, we are in the midst of chaos, more than usual, and I need to know that at least sometimes, in life and death, things work out for the better.
Off-Roading, From the Ground
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Since May’s post, I was biopsied, lumpectomied, had clear margins widened (a second, lesser surgery on Baby Cthulhu Boob) all in the span of 6 weeks. There’s a lot more to this story, quite a rollercoaster. First it was determined I would probably only need spot radiation, but we are now headed toward chemo once the incision heals.
I’m blessed (I don’t use that word frequently or lightly) to have good friends from many quarters seeing me through in big and small ways. The pic included shows a gift from one. I’ve had more, and loads of good thoughts, etc.
Kid managed to finish out the school year at home, digitally, and will go to 7th grade. I’m waiting on a district decision, but she will be home for next year even if school is physically opened. Between the Pandemic and Chemo, I can’t have her in the germ fray.
Writing is more like big thoughts I’m catching sometimes in small ways. Kinda poems, kinda journal, kinda nothing. A lot of feelings I’m not ready to expose to light. I skipped June here, but June rode over me repeatedly with big off-roading tires. I hope yours was better, and your loved ones are still here. Throw a little love into the world while you’re out there, in whatever capacity.
Love and Namasté,
Schooolz out for Covid
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
How's everybody doing? Are you okay?
I'm used to social isolation, so I'm doing fine in that regard.
The sixth grader took some adjustment, but finally got to work in Google classroom today, day two of canceled school, statewide. Usually, her birthday comes up during spring break in a couple of weeks, and finally isn't, but now she's celebrating with just us again, due to quarantine. Maybe we'll set up a mini-golf party with a few of her friends when this blows over.
I'm getting back on track with writing consistently, in a way I didn't for years, see prior blog. Otherwise, it's pretty much business as usual for me. I did frame and hang a couple of pieces of art yesterday, only moved into house about two and a half years ago, these may be the last of that.
Take care of yourselves. Don't forget that you don't have to be super productive while worrying about the state of the pandemic. Try to remember to breathe and be with the ones you love, whether it's just your cat, lizard, dog who you live alone with, or to stay in contact over the internet and through calls. We can do that now, unlike during the Black Death, or the 1918 flu epidemic. Read good books, and order more by smaller, lesser known authors to be delivered, or in ereader formats. Thanks!
Enjoy the unusual stillness of the world right now, because the panic online, when you turn it off, can be ignored for a while. I highly recommend having kitchen dance parties when you feel restless.
I want to thank medical workers and their families for the oncoming and current sacrifices they're making for the good of all. A retired military doctor friend and fellow author just volunteered to help out with his local EMS department. There's a lot of that going on, and I am grateful to those who can and do. Check out his book, A Knife in the Fog.
Be well, and thanks for stopping by.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, and Happy St. Gertrude of Nivelles Day, patron Spsaint of cats and gardeners.
Projects, Nuts and Bolts
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
I often speak of being in a long fallow period with my writing, that I'm not really writing, or that I'm frustrated by it when I do write, and can only maintain for brief stints. But that's a lie. Kind of.
In the years since I wrote Felix, the reality is I have been writing in fits and starts, bits and pieces throughout. I have also been dealing with traumas, their fallouts and recovery, losing a parent, a major move, a surgery, and getting off really mentally interfering pain meds since a car accident in 2013. That was no small feat, and isn't to say I am off of medication, but I found one that is making me much more functional in life in general. That is a huge relief. I feel much more my old, enthusiastic and quickwitted self. I also still have two neurodivergent spawn who take extra care and handling and family and school management. Add two dogs and two cats. I am fortunate to be married to the primary income for our family, but his long hours leave the bulk of home management affairs to me, and, frankly, I am operating at a much diminished capacity since the car accident. Like many families these days, we are stretching paycheck to paycheck, which adds additonal layers of mental fill. So that leaves little mental and actual time and space for writing. But I have been doing it regardless, moreso daily in recent months.
At this point, I have amassed a number of projects and am organizing them and flushing out the many starts.
I have a ton of poems and a good number of short stories. I am in the process of revisiting them to edit and compile into collections.
I have at least two more viable children's books. One is a side project of Felix about his best friend Kelsey, the summer following the events in Felix. I'm not sure how I am going to manage to finish that one without visiting Ireland, since she is spending her summer there, and is where the bulk of her coming of age story takes place. It would be nice to have a more visceral sense of place to inform the narrative. The other is a little more magical realism/fantasy that I really do want to finish, though I got sidelined after reading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which has the same premise. Eventually, it occurred to me that it is a pretty common one throughout imaginative literature, I can work with that.
And then there is the Memoir/Social Commentary of growing up a woman in the later half of 20th century to now, and all that means, personally, and in society at large in these times, how can we all do better in the times to come, and how are we changing that now. This one has about 12 openings that I really need to find the through line to piece them all together. This is the most consuming, and most difficult writing of my life. It's wrenching, and also amusing stuff; striking the balance is key.
Screenplays I started are taking the back row of this production bus for the time being. Of them there are three, and to mix metaphors, which is apt, they need to stew a bit longer with the lid on anyway.
Now to the business end, nuts and bolts:
Our printer is defunct. I am a very hands-on writer and editor, lines and margin notes work for me, having drafts to scribble on works for me. My laptop is slower than molasses, about five years old, and is beast to get anything done on. That's two major pieces of equipment that need replacing. Especially now that I am knuckling down to finish multiple projects, it would be infinitely easier to do so. My goal by the end of this year is to put out into the world, a poetry collection and a short story collection; possibly one of the children's books, and to make good headway into the memoir. I really need to replace the printer and laptop to make that part happen.
I have a patreon site I haven't set up yet, because it felt disengenuous when I had all these loose threads dangling. I'm almost feeling like I can get things going there, but not quite yet.
I recently set up a Ko-fi site. It's a start toward replacing equipment. Every little bit helps, and if you'd like to help out, you can donate a $3 "coffee" there, and share my link with friends and other artists through social media. I am eternally grateful to those few who have already donated, and will be eternally grateful if you'd help spread the word.
Thank you. Or send people to my Welcome page where there's a Kofi button, or my links page, where you can also buy a copy of Felix the Comet! if you'd like a signed one, I still have a few copies on hand, please email me from the Contact page in the header.
I'm in a much better place now as I work on these projects than I was even a year ago. I am puttering away daily on some writing, editing, and organization of the projects. You can really help me work more effectively, and faster to get my work out into the world.
Thanks for stopping by,
To puppy or not to puppy and writing
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
After much hilarity and drama, it appears that Sunni-D has done the 11% percent thing and pulled a “canine fetal re-absorption” move. Google it, it’s wild. We were actually looking forward to and preparing for puppies, and I had four takers to adopt among friends. Alas, puppies were not to be, but spaying is imminent.
Meanwhile, school started for kid, and we attended two weddings far afield in the beginning of October, from which I am still recovering. I’m not sure how much I have spoken here about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but it affects a lot, and writing is affected when I over do it. The travels were worth it, but I’m just now slowly getting my brain back.
I have finally figured out in my recovery from above, that over the last handful of years, as I abandoned a handful of larger projects, I side wrote several short monster stories of feminism, social norms turned inside out. You know, when men and women interact, then things go sideways into other realms.
My current project is editing and finishing those into a collection. I’m assuming at the moment that I will self-publish, unless something comes up, submissions these would fit.
I hope you’re enjoying your fall, and that you are safe and well with all that is going on in the world.
Thanks for stopping by.
Monday, November 19, 2018
Last week, one of the block factors began to crack, and this poem happened. I've given a bit of spit and polish to it, and I'm a little more pleased than with the stream of conscious version that poured out of the crack. People who have seen the SOC version seem to like it. Even after revision, I think it still needs a little more musicality. In my experience, if my gut is telling me to put it out there no matter what doubts I may have, it's time to throw it out on stage with jazz hands. So here it is, enjoy:
Ghosts in the Piano
In the end,
We were given a piano
from the widower
of a piano teacher.
We showed up ready to buy it
but he refused when he heard my mother played,
And my sons play, and my daughter wants to play.
His wife had passed away around the same time.
He couldn’t bear to keep it in the house.
He stored it at neighbors who agreed to sell it for him.
The woman told me stories of her gentle friend
teaching students with autism,
and declared that she and my mother must have
put their heads together in heaven to put us together.
The widower refused to take our money.
The old Wurlitzer has been in our house for months now,
I’m just getting around to cleaning it.
The smell of piano wire and old wood,
dust, ivory, and leather have been
filling our house.
Stickers label the keys worn most from middle C to the least -
out the keyboard, the end keys still mostly legible and white.
I’ve been wanting to peel them off.
I’m peeling them off,
the clean ones are easiest to lift.
The left hand middle G is worn straight through.
Its ink-stained ivory tells me the stories of thousands of fingers who have played.
Some dancing, some plodding until hopefully,
My mother’s ghost is happy to hear me bang on it.
I was never good at lessons, but would slowly
teach myself songs I liked, or I’d sit,
a melancholic kid who picked and poked at minor progressions
when bored, then banged on the keys, not unlike Mom’s tarantellas and boogies,
but maybe tunelessly moody.
Now I listen to my children the way she may have listened to us
from other rooms.
One plays the same song over and over,
little another makes stuff up.
The first who visits now and then
just plays what he writes on the fly.
Is that a song by someone else, yours, or are you just noodling?
Just noodling, but there’s a little something to work with.
If I talk, he stops and walks away,
like I did when she talked to me.
As I clean it now, swiping a paper towel with a gentle cleaner along the keys,
I hear myself cleaning Mom’s baby grand,
I hear the echoes of her boogies and tarantellas.
I hear the old teacher in the smell of the piano wires, old wood,
leather, and ivory, and
ghosts of my grandmothers, and all of her students,
my cousins banging on my grandmother’s,
as the ghosts of the thousand sticky fingers are washed off each key.
Finally, I play, awkwardly, never very good,
and the ghosts around me dance.
I'd love to hear from readers, please feel free to contact me through my Contact page.
Be good to yourself and have an extra helping of pie on Thursday.
Thanks for stopping by,
It's right there, just write it
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
I've been working on a short story to an anthology deadline for a couple of weeks. I have essentially two scenes left, tops three, depending how you quantify them. I can see them. They are how the story started in my head, and what made me think this anthology submission would be perfect for this. I have now tinkered with all the writing and edits prior to those crux scenes as much as I can possibly tinker... and still they are difficult to write. What's that old quote? Oh yeah, Hemingway. Well, we all know how he turned out.
"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."
The kid is finally back to school now the district has reopened since Hurricane Florence, and the one who has moved back home after a year away has some things in the works to go back to school in January... as long as he finishes that process, but seeing how well that is going for me, and knowing how he struggles under pressure, I'm crossing my fingers and trusting he's doing it.
I need to do the same for myself, trust that I have this. I mean, IT'S RIGHT THERE in my noggin, I have notes. What is stopping me? Well, the material is hard stuff, stuff I have spent my life in the practice of avoiding or circumventing if it can be at all. This is how I know telling this story right now is worth it.
I seem to have this block issue a lot in writing, putting my characters through difficult stuff. Well, I know she comes out the other side well, because I ALREADY WROTE THAT!
Okay, now that is out of my system.... time to face those paragraphs, and my own demons.
Thanks for stopping by, and until I am done,
Away we go
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Firstly, thank you to those of you who bought copies of Felix the Comet through me so far! I still have some copies on hand that I would love to sign for a student, teacher, or you! Please email through my Contact page if you'd like to park one in a 4th-7th grade classroom for the new school year, signed! It's a fun story of friendship and negotiating social miasma at 12 with a little science thrown in. If you run into an error message in Contact, you can DM me in Twitter or Facebook. So far, things seem to be working well since the webpage redesign.
Secondly, in my writing career reboot since (see my last couple of blogs) my big life transitions, I am digging back into projects for editing and rewriting. I left off another children's book a few years back, a fantasy that was becoming a can of worms I couldn't contain. I didn't have plot bunnies, as they say, I had plot elves, centaurs and Chthulus. I am opening that back up again. I am also taking another dive into the recent fantasy-horror short I wrote in a rush to a deadline where it didn't get accepted. Working toward a deadline was a good jumping point to exercise my atrophied writing muscles. It's a good little story, just needs to be cleaned up.
One tool that works for me as I edit is to print the project out and break out colored pens. I can slash lines more easily that need to be cut, and rewrite in margins and page backs. Yes, I know great software programs exist for that now, but I'm an old dog who likes her old tricks. My brain works tactilely as well as visually. My handwriting is a mess but it helps me process mentally much better to write things out. Then when I go back into the digital version, I rewrite what I can't read in my handwriting, and usually third time is the charm.
Do you write or are you another type of creative, visual, music, performance? I'd love to hear from you how your process works. We can talk through my Contact Page.
Welcome to my new look!
Thursday, August 2, 2018
I think this better reflects where I am now in life and writing. Please take a look around the home and about pages.
Initially, this website reflected the look of my first book, with Melissa Gay’s (http://www.melissagay.com/) beautiful artwork. And it was exactly what I wanted, for a time.
Among the many changes mentioned in the previous blog post, I have reached a point where I am ready to say goodbye to all the great things that Felix the Comet gave me. I took a great ride with those characters for many years through the writing and publishing, and I may still have some love for a second book in that world, centered around his friend Kelsey. I have an incomplete manuscript that I believe clocks in around 40k words so far, but I haven’t opened that in a few years. It may not be time yet. It may never be time to finish that. Sadly, that is the nature of writing sometimes. Even the best of ideas can fall off a cliff and live better in oblivion.
Part of that big goodbye to Felix and his friends is to say goodbye to a small stash of copies I have in my house. So here is a ONE TIME ONLY offer of a limited number of books. I will happily sign them to you, or a child you want to give a copy to, or to a classroom. First come, first serve, when I run out, that’s the end of this offer. Please email me through this website on the contact page. We will set up payment and I’ll get your address. I will amend this post to announce when I am sold out. I am offering them at $10 a copy, simply to defray printing and shipping costs.
Meanwhile, Felix the Comet is still available for digital orders and in paperback through my Links page.
I’m happy to be writing again, in different areas. I have one project I’m going to peek back into that is more of a fantasy story for the same middle reader age group, and a few more things I’m keeping quiet for now. I do have a recently completed cross-genre fantasy-horror story that is ready to shop around to magazines or collections.
Thanks for clicking!
Peace and Beaches,