The week before Memorial Day I housesat for my friends Kudra & Porter on the Atlantic Coast. I looked forward to it as a chance for a “writing retreat”. For the short task of feeding their cats and occasionally scooping out the cat box, I had a house all to myself where I could write whenever I wanted and work on my own schedule.
Although some progress in my latest book was made, I had to learn to go with the flow little bit more than I anticipated.
First of the weather going out there was horrible, like I can’t see two car lengths in front of me for 3 of the 4 hours trip. But I made it, only to find a three car accident two stop lights away from their house. Add on another 30 minute delay and I got to my friends’ house about an hour later than I planned, ok dinner was late for the kitties but I was there.. I went to get in and my method of entry to the house was locked. Panic set in.I texted my friends who were in a very different time zone than me for alternatives and thankfully they responded quickly and with an easy solution. I was in!
I fed the cats, played with them, and settled in while the storm that had been on my heels for most of the trip raged on outside.*
*Please note that I neglected to connect my phone to their WiFi.
And now back to the first night. After a few hours there the power went off for a minute, everything came back on immediately except for the master bedroom suite. A few moments later the fire alarm in there began to chirp the song of a low battery. I think it’s important that I explain that in my house the fire alarms are all connected, so if one goes off-they all go off. I wondered if this alarm’s song had something to do with the power outage because the alarm was going off in their bedroom every twenty minutes or so. I was scared to mess with the alarm over an incident that happened at my house where I tried to replace the batteries of my alarm only to discover the connecting wires had corroded, leaving live exposed wires on my office ceiling for my husband to fix after he got home from work. With the power being temperamental and fearing the fuse box was outside in the storm I let it chirp.
A few moments later I began my bi-monthly Kawfee Talk with Octana and Red via Skype, my beeping soundtrack and voice was all the could get from my end. After the call the storm had stopped and I located the fuse box, that thankfully was inside. The master bedroom switch was clearly labeled and clearly switched off so I tried to reset only to have it flip back to off immediately. I called my husband and together we attempted to fix the power, via FaceTime. After the reset did not work again Honey told me to leave it alone something was wrong with the ground.
We chatted a little and said good night. With the alarm still chirping I decided to write into the early hours of the morning to make myself pass out so I would not hear the chirping. My plan worked, until 6 am when my body was used to responding to an alarm clock. The chirping had increased to every two minutes so I found a step stool and thought electricity be damned I am unplugging that thing. In my 3 and half hours of sleep brain I couldn’t figure out why it was not coming off the wall, but I did find a hidden reset button and the chirping stopped. I crawled back into bed and tried to go back to sleep, I failed.
Eventually I noticed a break in the weather and I was able to sneak down to the beach and put my toes into the water, something that being four hours inland I miss. the weather predicated said it was going to be yucky the whole time I was there, so I jumped at the chance to be near the ocean, even if it was only for a few minutes.
I felt rejuvenated, the last day’s complications faded away. I even Instagramed a live shot of the ocean. I stayed there for while, enjoying my self-dictated timeframe and went home when the clouds got darker.
Later that day I wrote, watched Netflix on my laptop, listened to Podcasts, and drank copious amounts of tea. Later that night I Face-Timed my husband and crawled into bed, only to be woken up by the song of the fire alarm. I pressed the button I had found the day before and went back to my bedroom where the alarm in there had sympathetically joined in the chorus. I found the button on that one and then made more tea and tried to write.
On a trip back from the kettle I walked back to a scene that caught me as something special.
I was walking back to a table that Porter had been making on the first night I met him, over five years ago. He was a close friend of our neighbor who I wasn’t expecting to meet that night. Porter was taking a break from the construction of the table he was trying to complete before Christmas Dinner so he could accommodate his in-laws who were in town. He left after a beer but a few months later I met his wife Kudra and we became friends. It had been a hard year for all of us, the life paths we had set out to have did not come to fruition as planned. A little while later they would move across the country and a few months later we would end up in the same state only a few hours away from them.
I could have never anticipated five years ago would be working on my third book, on the table he was building, thousands of miles from where our meeting began, while they were in another country with their family over their daughter’s first birthday.
That is not how you think your five year plan will go, and yay for that.
So speaking of plans when I returned home I got an alert from my wireless plan explaining that I had used 70% of my data and they would change my plan (probably forever) if I went over and charge extra. The billing cycle ended three weeks later, today. So the last few weeks I have been present, not messing on my phone in dull moments out, walking without headphones, listening to birds and cicadas, and engaging with a new group of friends we just met. And yesterday while writing in a coffee shop I wrote 3300 words, about my daily output from my “writing retreat”.
I hope that I will keep some of the habits I have had to adopt the last few weeks at least in a social setting and who knows it might help me make my book deadline!
I am only half striking today..the housewife part. The “novel” part as I like to call it, can’t strike unless I am sedated, which in that case is that really striking?
What I am trying to do today is listen to women artists.
through their music, in the words they write, and in what they say aloud
I will write today. Hopefully I can finish the new beginning to the novel and work some more on its sequel. After that I plan to jump back into reading A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab and be inspired by some of the stories in In The Company of Women.
Today’s protest is a hard one to go full force into. Most women can’t protest all of the labors they do in a day. Where do you draw the line? Even if one is lucky enough to have a job where they can request a day off, if you have a family you are part of or care for there is not time off. One can go into with good intentions, but life happens. Women hold many titles in their life and give a lot of ourselves into the people and world around us, often without appreciation. Hopefully with this day that might become just a little more obvious to some people who think women want an excuse to take a day off from work. I can tell you from experience there is no such thing, the work not done today will still be waiting tomorrow on the desk, in the house, in the office, in the schools- it doesn’t go anywhere it just grows.
So with the inconveniences that might come up throughout the day with the women in your life taking their work or domestic duties off, please remember that women contribute all we can to this world that still denies us equal rights, pay, autonomy over our bodies, and representation.
Last summer I finished my second book (1st trying to get published) and since then I have had some Saintly friends read it and give me some feedback. Since then I have poked and prodded at it; adding four chapters and then eliminating
many useless words. That, had, very, just, etc. (By the way if I see the word suddenly in a book within the first ten pages, I get “judgy”).
After poking at it I started to query agents, so far no takers which has me wondering about the beginning of my book. When you query you only send in the first five to ten pages, so you have to make an impact quick. I have chopped the first two chapters down from pointless babbling to a little get to know our main character as she walks into a house she pretty much bought off the internet without visiting.
I am starting to wonder if this is a mistake.
A few of my beta readers have had problems getting into the book. They of course have lives and in many cases small children that don’t allow for much SSR. And believe me I really appreciate that they would even offer to spend any of their personal time reading, but I do think perhaps it’s not just the bambinos that are making them put down the book.
I think I need to start at a different point in the story.
There are all kinds of “rules” of where you should start your story.
Don’t start it when your character wakes up
Don’t open with dialogue
Don’t start with a dream
Don’t start with too much information
Don’t start with too little information
and no “it was a dark and stormy night”
So where in the hell are you supposed to start? I’m still trying to figure that out.
Ironically I think I stuck the landing. At the end of the book the story is complete but it still gives a feeling of the world in the book continuing (and hopefully it will). I think it helped that my husband is such a stickler for the endings of books and movies. I’ve listen to his reviews over the years and I know what frustrates him as a reader/viewer and I try not to walk into the same traps. Maybe I should get him to start reviewing the beginnings of books and movies too.
One of the beta readers (Mortdecai) suggested a prologue that features a character that is not alive in book, but makes the story possible. She was intrigued by the character and wanted to know more about her. I have messed around with this idea in my head, but then again another rule is “don’t start with a prologue”. Bloody Hell! Heck, screw the rules.
So fast forward to this last weekend where I went to a local Writer’s Group. You were allowed to bring 3 pages of something you had written and read it allowed and get feedback.
I chose to bring pages from the second chapter, about 1700 words in. I wanted to see if my dialogue was engaging.
It was, they wanted to know what happened next and they loved Nina who only had 200 words of page time. Whistle (Mortdecai’s husband) protested the week before not to cut Nina’s intro when I mentioned eliminating the first few chapters of the book… Everyone loves Nina, I love Nina. So now after hearing nine people’s feedback on the subject I think I need to start as close to Nina as possible.
It was a dark and stormy night, Nina was out walking alone in her purple cowboy boots.
Where you do you like to start your stories? How did you decide that was the best place to begin?
Right now my cats are sun bathing in the corners of the house that they hid away from this weekend. Kudra, Porter, and their ridiculously cute daughter visited over the weekend. With the exception of a late night visit by Bailey when the grown ups talked downstairs, the cats kept themselves tucked away in our bedroom for the two night stay. I should mention that the ridiculously cute daughter is just 8 months old and crawling. When our guests arrived Bailey ran to his favorite hiding place, which unfortunately was under the guest bed. He came out eventually though, one little cry out of the baby and Bailey’s loud paw steps ran from one side of the house to the other over our heads. The cats have been shy to begin with, but I think we finally found Bailey’s kryptonite. Poor Hitch hid in our closet all weekend only coming out at night. If we had ever had kids it seems possible that we would have creatures in the closets that only came out while you slept. That wouldn’t be psychologically damaging for anyone, no..no.
Other than the cats long game of hide-and-go-seek (which I’m sure they took a break from when we went out all of Saturday) it was a nice weekend with friends. We exchanged our little crafty things with one another. The guys exchanged their homebrews and Porter gave us a bottle of his homemade hot sauce made with Carolina Reaper peppers. Kudra gifted me with a Happy Heart scented oil roller and an Olbas oil inhaler, not to mention a bottle of Elderberry syrup (which I just started making myself). I gave her an infused oil and two bags of kale, because that’s the only thing in our garden thriving in this wonky weather. We ate BBQ, drank a little bourbon, and then the guys and I talked about politics late into the night. On Saturday we visited a few local breweries, heard a great band, and then went home and had a homemade lasagna before all being in bed at a more decent hour.
On Sunday Porter made one of his famous fritatas and I danced with their daughter to post-punk revival music while they packed up. Trust me, the kid loved it.
I enjoyed their visit and hope next time I can convince them to come out when it is green and warm. They only seem to come out in the winter when the trees are bare and the outdoor seating chills you through your jeans. Not that I blame them-why you would drive away from the coast in summer? But I’ll keep trying. It’s wonderful to have them over, lots of laughter and kind words to one another. They also get my brain working in ways that usually doesn’t happen around most people. I even had a dream while they were here that would make a good Sci-Fi story, a genre I have never considered writing before.
How about you guys? Are there people in your life that inspire you in fun ways just by being themselves?
It’s been a long hot summer, no really- like watering the garden at 6:30 in the morning and still coming inside covered in sweat kind of hot. Also the absence of rain has been reminding me of my former SoCal environment. So with those factors my early morning watering was pretty much daily.
But a storm rolled through last week and even though the highs are still in the 90s, there has been a shift. I have been able to sneak out a few mornings and take walks, I mowed the yard with ease, and patio time has become enjoyable again.
So with this breath of new weather, my mind has started to refocus and I realize how much I miss blogging and connecting with people. So…hi, again.
I found that one of the side effects of extremely hot summer weather is the desire to do nothing outside (at least for me). This leads to more indoor activities, which leads to making the indoors more comfortable. To achieve this I had three ceiling fans installed…
I think this was a wise choice because it became so comfortable to sit at my desk that I accidentally finished a novel.
Seriously if the book ever gets published I am thanking my ceiling fan on the appreciation page, next to all the humans that I love and kept me going psychologically and even physically. But the fan deserves some credit.
I finished in mid-July, at 95,378 word count. My husband volunteered to take a look at it, overall he like it. He thought it should be longer, but this a guy who reads three-inch thick books as his light reading. It’s so bad that I had to get him this button:
I did some clean up, rephrased lines, cut scenes, and then added a few things.
I think I surprised him when I easily added 11,000 additional words in my “editing”.
Being the amusing fellow that he is, he said that was nice start but I should go for 125k. I assured him that it will be a series, so there will be more to read.
Now my 2nd Draft is the hands of my Beta-Readers. *furiously chomping on fingernails*
This is the first time someone besides my husband has read a book I have written. It’s a huge step for me as a writer. I’m a little bit more confident in sharing this one because it is purely fiction, while my first had echoes of things that happened. It also helped I had wonderful people around me telling me how they couldn’t wait to read it.
Of course Honey, my husband was always the loudest with his “cheerleading” and I couldn’t have done it without him. Thank you Sweetie.
You are my favorite Fan. xoxo
Much like our little Groundhog friend I am poking up to see what’s going on. January was a busy and very fun month. My sister Firefly came to town on New Year’s Day and we crammed as much fun as we could into the two weeks that she was here. The following two weeks were spent (happily) recovering from the weeks before.
This was the first time she had been out here during Winter. In previous trips she always came at the beginning of summer, but she wanted to see our version of Winter. So instead of watching out for thunderstorms while in the pool or hiking through the green in Pisgah, we found the perfect combination of layers to keep her warm outside and not overheated indoors and visited as many places as we could that did not require wonderful weather. Thankfully almost every trip we went on had gorgeous weather.
Honey, being the wonderful man that he is, pretty much drove us across the entire state of North Carolina. The first weekend we went to Asheville for a day trip. The sky was blue and the air was freaking cold, but we had fun. The stores and restaurants were very crowded while the streets looked almost bare (everyone was inside) with of course the exception of French Broad Chocolate that had a line thirty deep outside.
We promised Firefly as much chocolate as she wanted at another location if we didn’t have to stand in that line. Perhaps next time French Broad.
During the week we went to coffee shops and book stores and of course a trip here is not complete without a trip to the Goat Farm, where Firefly got to hold a baby goat.
The next weekend we headed to the coast. Kudra and Porter were sweet enough to let the three of us stay with them for the weekend. We just lucked out an Honey got to attend the local Beer Club meeting with Porter, while Kudra, Firefly, and I had a Girl’s Night with the female members of Kudra’s family down at the beach.
Kudra, Firefly, and I somehow pulled out a win on Heads Up, after trailing behind for most of the game against Kudra’s Mom, Aunt, and Cousin. There were a lot laughs and a lot of dancing, and even a few worm dances. Some truths came out when Kudra’s cousin insisted that her Mom would not be familiar with the movie 9 1/2 Weeks and made her Mom skip the question, when it turned out the adults had all seen it together when it came out. Haha.
And while they all seem to want to rock into the early hours of the morning, I was all ready to crawl into a ball by two am. Firefly and I made the plan to watch the sunrise over the ocean, since we were a few blocks away from the Atlantic. Thankfully this time of year the sunrise was past 7, but it took us a lot of willpower to get our butts out of bed. As luck would have it, it was a very cloudy morning and we didn’t really see the sunrise, but it was really cool just to be there with my sis and share that moment. There is a picture of us there, but it will not be seen by anyone besides us because it is completely obvious on both of our faces how much sleep we got. She as able to get a few extra winks when we got back to the house, while I stood outside on the balcony and breathed in some sea air. Firefly really liked it there, it had two things she loves in location it’s in North Carolina and it’s coastal.
We spent another two days there and were fabulously hosted around the city. As it usually goes on the visits out there, the time went by too fast and we justified pushing our departure time as far back as we could.
And of course when we got back I realized how quickly her trip time was disappearing. As she gets older the conversations get more simple, but more complex. The days of her thinking I am on the “gown-ups” team, is less of the hindrance when we talk to each other now.
Firefly’s only disappoint in the trip was that she didn’t get to see it snow. Which is a rarity here anyway, but of course the weekend after she left we got a few flurries in the morning and then full on snow a week later. Maybe she’ll see it next year if she choses to spend her Winter Vacation with us. If she does I am promising now that I will wait in line at French Broad Chocolate, even if it means I have to wear a parka to do it.