Tag Archives: writing

First Thoughts: Monday as Usual

withered blossom

Dream scraps: at one point there were four men who I was (apparently) in charge of who all squeezed themselves into large metal lunch boxes and drove a car that way – it seems they programed the car to run itself automatically. When they arrived where I was and all came out of their boxes I scolded them for doing such a dangerous thing and said that if they liked being inside small metal boxes, that was fine, but the driver must never drive like that again.

Later there were a lot of people and a weird organization and we were divided up in some mysterious way and given some weird tasks that I didn’t understand (Top Chef influence from two days ago?) but we ended up designing paper people. Later on everything was in chaos and I became convinced the whole thing was a bogus set up and started rebelling. Then at some point near the end of the dream I was trying to tape a paper map back together.

I wish I could remember the big important stuff. There was such a lot of other stuff.

So I cut my hand the night before last and couldn’t keep a band aid on it (right near my thumb – I fought an avocado and lost) so I let it go bare and then started putting my wound salve on it. I reapplied throughout the evening and by bed time the cut was closed and not stinging any more. I was also applying it to my very uncomfortable raw skin on my foot where my eczema is very bad and won’t heal. NO, my wound salve is not a cure for eczema. BUT it did get that raw area to harden up and stop hurting so damn much – seems to be half healed this morning. I know that same spot will start itching again soon and the skin will flake and I’ll end up scratching it raw again – but this salve made that area start healing over night.

I also finally came up with some simple labels for the salve tins that I’m happy with. I need Philip to make them for me in Photoshop so I can print them out. Then I can list them on Etsy.

Booked my hotel in Colorado for my writer’s retreat with a few new writing friends I’ve made on Twitter in the last few months. I’M SO EXCITED TO HAVE A LITTLE VACATION AFTER YEARS OF NO VACATION!

I still can’t find my pocket knife and I’m bummed. I really love it. It’s actually useful. I don’t want just any replacement knife, I want that one! At least I found my Opinel. I love that too. But the blade is super stained. I wipe it down after use but it seems to take stains like mad. But it’s great for harvesting squash and greens from the garden.

Finishing the wound salve (and starting a new batch!) and testing it and finding it exceeds my expectations makes me want to get back to writing Book 2 of Cricket and Grey. I have made these to tie in with Cricket. The labels say “Winters Apothecary” on them. They are, essentially, Cricket’s products.

So I guess I continue to be lost with my writing. I got 1200 words into chapter three on Jane Doe on Thursday which was great – felt really good. But I still am not quite – I don’t know. Writer’s block is a complicated bitch. I think the main thing is to simply go where the energy is. Maybe I will become one of those authors able to work on more than one project at a time. The important thing is to sit down every single day and write a few hours. That is the discipline that ends up trumping inspiration. I’m a writer and I need to be writing every single day. It is less important which project I work on. Blog writing is writing. Novel writing is writing. Field notes is writing. The important thing is to keep the language muscles flexible and stretched.

The heat has been killing my energy this past week. It’s going to continue to be in the low nineties and high eighties pretty much forever now.

I have also been staying up late and sleeping in late. I don’t like this habit.

Canning season will be starting soon. I wish I had already gotten my O’Keeffe and Merritt stove completely cleaned and set up. That would be such a boon.

What I want is to get into a new habit of going to bed earlier and getting up early. I’d like to get up early enough to put in some time gardening which I can’t do most of the time because of the heat. Then write. Then hang out with Max or do house stuff, cook.

Oh yeah, and exercise has to happen either really early or really late.

My foot isn’t as bad but I still haven’t made an appointment with the Podiatrist which I need to do.

Time to write a post on Stitch and then get on with the already well advanced day.


Always The Heavy


I’m a little bit of a mess at the moment. Tired of the barefoot nightmares. Tired of hip/neck/foot/back pain. Tired of writer’s block. Tired of summer.

(Though the tomatoes are just coming in and that’s definitely a bright happy thing. Pickling and canning start soon. That also makes me happy.)

Maybe my writer’s block is because I’m not in direct communication with Jesus or the cosmic universe or MY FEELINGS.

I was telling my friend Sharon about my difficulty settling on a project because nothing I write is working or is worth a shit right now. Or for the last 6 months. She asked some good questions. I didn’t have good answers.

One thing that I did realize for the thousandth time is that I don’t like being everyone’s heavy*. I don’t like being your emotionally heavy and dark friend. I don’t like being a heavy and emotionally dark writer. I don’t like to read really dark stories myself. I want to live my life in a Mary Stewart novel. My fantasy life is always a suspense novel with a little romance thrown in. I don’t want to be the the heavy in every room, the heavy in every crowd, the heavy in every family. I’m always the heavy. Always.

The only man I ever loved besides Philip called me “heavy”. It was such a stinging blow because it was the truth I hated most about myself. The next person he went out with was a world adventurer and full of light.

At work meetings I’m always the one being practical and boring and can be counted on to bring everyone in the room thumping back into the center of reality and deadlines and what isn’t working. No one likes that person.

So perhaps I’m having a core crisis here. What I AM is not what I want to be.

I wrote a dystopian novel because it was such a lighter topic than the one about the raped girl who grows up and heals and then is attacked again and broken into more pieces. I wrote about a grim future for my country because it was light compared to what I really (apparently) need to be writing. But every time I tell people about the rape story I feel like I’m drawing curtains across their sunshine and plunging them into a hateful awful place.

The first time I tried to write that rape story I ruined it trying to protect my main character from the darkness and cloaked her in a cheesy romantic comedy that wasn’t even really funny, just cheesy. Because I felt so bad and also because I didn’t want to be writing this dark shit.



I want to be a light bearer.

Sharon assures me that I also bring humor into the dark with my victims friends. That I always offer a little salve of hope and my individuality and weird way I see the world is interesting and cool. That while I’m busy crushing your heart I am also making you laugh.

I don’t want to give my family anything new to put under a microscope.

I also struggle because I don’t know HOW to tell this story right.

All these writers I know are writing science fiction, Young Adult fiction, romance, and steampunk – stories with adventure and fun and cool landscapes – real entertainment.

Nothing about the rape story I’m writing is entertaining – in the same way that watching the movie “Ordinary People” wasn’t entertaining.

So Sharon says maybe I’m not writing well because I’m not writing what I know I need to be writing. That I’m just afraid to be the writer I AM and am busy trying to be the writer I WISH I WAS.

She might be right.

When I wrote the first draft I was cracking open like a dry nut inside and all this awful suppressed fear and pain came out like slow hot lava. I wasn’t just trying to protect Jane from her story, I was trying to protect myself from her story too.

I ‘m always going to be the heavy in the room.

I should get over it and get on with the writing.

*Not physically heavy, I don’t mean FAT.

Fighting my own Misperceptions

car window

18 lbs down.  95 more lbs to lose.  51 days of  boring-ass sobriety down, 39 days more to go.

I’ve been watching a lot of spy shows.  All of them featuring hot women and smokin’ men.  Familiar features of such shows being royal people in hiding (plotting to regain throne/empire/prestige) and revenge for deaths of loved ones (usually fiancés or spouses) and going rogue from their agency (usually an agency turned evil agenda, obviously) and I love these shows.  I rewatched almost all of Alias for the third time.  I have rewatched most of Fringe.  Now I’m watching Nikita for the first time.

And I need to air some dirty linen: I am ashamed to say that I feel very uncomfortable looking at Maggie Q’s body because it’s so thin that I keep wondering why she’s doing that to herself when she’s such a beautiful woman.  The thing is – I know that some women truly are thin as rails and that being such doesn’t make them unhealthy and judging them for having a body that isn’t to my personal tastes is really horrible.  So I keep fighting my discomfort looking at her ribs sticking out and her chest bones being visible.  People judge me for being so fat and I know that many people make assumptions about how I got this way that are untrue and unfair.  And I’m doing this to another woman.

So I’m trying to reprogram myself as I watch her.  I avoided watching this show because I found it so hard to look at her body.  That’s a true fact.  And it’s a shameful fact.  I’m on season two now and I’m not noticing it so much now.  I love her character and the show is engaging with all the usual expected elements.  I love to see an Asian woman be the lead in a spy show and she’s really good in her role.

Meanwhile it’s been raining!  Which has been wonderful and more is finally coming so I’m getting out there on my scooter between storms today to get some produce.

My back has been hurting.  I’ve had a lot of headaches and some stomach aches lately.  So even though I’m getting lighter all the time I’m not feeling all that great in general.  I think my body is pretty shaken up and not sure what it’s doing.  Some days I lose my appetite and forget to eat*.  I’m not sure what sounds good anymore.

Nightmares have been super vivid and disconcerting as usual.  The night before last I had a barefoot meat-related nightmare.  What the fuck is that all about?  The shoe losing in my dreams is really stressful to me.  It happens all the time now and I don’t know what that’s about.

I have finally started on chapter six of book two of my Cricket and Grey.  What’s really getting in my way of writing is staying up super late and waking up super late.  It seems that even when I go to bed at a reasonable time I’m still sleeping in super late.  That’s not what I want.  I think that now that I’m over half way through my 90 days of sobriety I need to set my alarm for 5:30am and force myself to get up and write.  Writing needs to be the priority above all else that I do or it won’t happen.  That’s just a fact and if I don’t make it a priority I’ll never reach my goals.  I also need to get  busy promoting my book.  I have done no promotional work since before Christmas.  I need to get over my qualms and fears and DO IT.  Because no one is going to do it for me.

That’s my update for today.  I leave you with this question for the ages:

Why are so many fictional male spies name Michael?

*I don’t forget to eat for a whole day or anything drastic, just forget to eat at times when I normally eat and later wonder how I managed to forget to eat and then wait a little longer trying to figure out what I feel like eating.  So – not trying to eat less for weight loss – I wasn’t planning on paring down on food for at least another month.  This is more just – not hungry and I don’t believe in eating when you’re not hungry.  So whatever is going on with my tastes and appetite right now it is most likely more about having shaken up my habits so much it’s kind of at a loss.  I’m just explaining in case anyone was feeling worried.

Someday This Will Be Funny, Right?


Max and Philip have been sick for over 9 days.  I don’t know about Philip, but Max has influenza.  Fluctuating fever, chills, ache, congestion quickly followed by a back-bruising cough that has resulted in small vomit.  My boys have been so sick.  I have been swallowing obscenely huge barnyard flavored multi-vitamins and drunk elderberry syrup for a week in hopes of staving off infection.  I have been teetering on the brink but am still standing.  But today I gave in and took Max to the doctor.  Even though I’m trying so hard not to spend money because we’re on the verge of dire financial strain.  A $30 co-pay isn’t awful, but it’s hardly cheap.

The doctor heard the customary wheeze of pneumonia but NOT the crackling sound of breathing.  She is on the fence about whether he has bronchitis or pneumonia.  She’s erring on the cautious side and has prescribed antibiotics and codeine cough syrup.  Another $20.  I hate having to count dollars in my head all week.

While we were seeing the doctor we discussed some other issues such as his terrible seasonal allergies that she says we have got to get under control because the inside of his nose is amazingly angry looking.  I started to tell her about the progress Max has been making with his food issues – the fact that he’s trying so many new things.  I wanted her to know how far he has come in opening up to new flavors and textures because I am still stinging from the lecture we received during the last visit about his terrible diet and the insinuation that Max is just a spoiled kid being allowed to eat whatever junk he wants.

Which gave her the irresistible opportunity to lecture us about his diet yet again.  She accused me of “enabling” Max’s picky eating.  I almost felt sick to my stomach hearing her say it.  I felt like screaming – something inside me is going to crack open in frustration – my heart can’t take too much more of this assumption that if most humans are a certain way that ALL humans are the same way.  I am proof against this.

A Few Days Later

Two days on antibiotics and Max was doing substantially better with his convulsive violent coughing reduced substantially.  This confirms that he had pneumonia, not bronchitis.  It is very unusual for bronchitis to be bacterial which means that taking antibiotics wouldn’t improve his condition and improvement would be slower.

Meanwhile – my dog is acting weird.  I think something is going on with her but I can’t take her to the vet again until next payday.  So we’ll see.

Lots going on around here.  I pickled 30 pints of jalapeno peppers.  I cleaned my office.  Faced my unface-able mail pile of bills and statements.  I finished loading up all my non-anonymous greeting cards into my Etsy shop and put my shop in the sidebar of both my blogs.  No writing this week.  I would really like to get back to some writing.  But it has become clear that while Philip got a big raise that theoretically should allow me to stay home with smart budgeting – it may not actually be true.  They take a lot more out of his checks than I thought they would and our rent is about to skyrocket.  So it seems I need to actually make strong efforts to sell my stuff on Etsy or get a part time job.  Obviously I’m hoping my shop will get more active.  Clearly I need to make more things to put in it.

On the book front – Philip is editing it right now and my friend Sharon is finishing up the painting for the cover.  Philip is going to do the formatting to make it available on the most popular e-readers and then in a print on demand format so that people can buy a hard copy if they want.  We’re aiming to have the book available for sale by the end of this month.

I am worldly enough to realize that I’ll be lucky if I make $5 in sales on my novel.  But I still believe in myself.  I believe my book is good enough to develop a fan-base and do reasonably well if enough people give it a chance and spread the word.  I’m saying that I don’t care how hard it is to make more than a few pennies as a self published author, some authors do well and I intend to be one of them.

And if I don’t end up being one of them?  I’m not going to entertain that thought at all.

Yesterday I read a great interview with Anne Rice and her son Christopher in Writer’s Digest.  My favorite thing that she says is that there’s no right or wrong way to write books or be a writer.  I also love that she said her greatest struggle is finding the voice in each novel – the point of view.  That’s one of my biggest struggles too.  Figuring out whether your story should be in first or third or a combination or third limited or third omniscient – so hard for me.

She also says that her biggest advice to writers is to write the books they want to read.  I’ve heard some people say this isn’t totally the best approach.  But I believe it is.  If you don’t want to read classic literature – why would you try to write it?  I think some people try writing books they don’t necessarily want to read because they think it’s the only way they’ll be taken seriously as a writer.  I say screw that.  I know what books I’m always looking for and can’t find – that’s what I endeavor to write.  And it isn’t classic literature.  I want to write quality suspense novels.  Not mysteries and not thrillers.  Mysteries need carefully crafted clues and structure and detectives.  I love reading mysteries but I don’t want to write them.  And thrillers are generally political, legal, or full of spies with lots of action.  I want to write suspense novels.  Suspense burns more slowly and quietly than thrillers, generally.  I like an insidious growing tension and fear.

It’s time I took a shower and got something useful done.  I think, in fact, it’s time for me to reread the first chapter of the second CandG book and start working on the second.

Market Street

ghilly brogues

Take up your drums with your suit.

Don’t let Market Street go to sleep on you.

Quick-step your Ghillie-brogues past the gum, the spit, the piss, and the pimps.

Take it up a ride, take it up a step, take it down the city –

The young reek of opium and smoke where they posture

Stiff white collars smudged with lipstick and musk

jasmine trailing off skin in accidental innocence

Walk it off like shameless poets in the split night

Walk it off Market street, bricks and cracks, a static goal

electric energy polarizing steps

like percussion waking a dead heart forward

move – move – move, past Powell into the bowels of hell

leave your eyes open and your weapons drawn

This is your siren streaking across the asphalt

into the deafness of your heart

Open, that you might hear your own musk settle on a green branch

that you might hear closure with every night bird’s song



A Brand New Chapter Begins

entering sf

Two days ago I was desperately sewing dinner napkins for my Etsy shop and starting to panic about paying bills.  Today I am a Lady of Leisure.  Philip’s current workplace made him a counter offer to get him to stay with them and they actually offered him what he asked for.  Which means that I can become a full time writer.


The relief I feel is incredible.  The stress I have been feeling for ages, that has felt bottomless and crushing, is lifted.

Life is so weird.  I’m not closing up my sweatshop operations because we still owe thousands to the IRS and it’s not like Philip is making so much that we’re on easy street.  In fact, he’s basically just made up for what I earned at my last job.  Which allowed us to be paying bills and go out to dinner once a week and buy shoes when needed.  Which is really all I ask for.  Also – our rent is going to go up significantly if what we’re trying to work out with the house situation really works out.  So in order to ever get ahead we need to pay off the IRS.

My plan is to do a bunch of sewing in the next couple of months, use up some of my stores of fabric, make cool stuff and hopefully sell it.  Once I reach my goal of paying off the IRS I will stop sewing.  But I will still do cards with my anonymous card service and I will make booklets and a few other things like that.  While doing this I will set aside time to work on the next Cricket and Grey but it will be part time until I stop sewing for the store.  Then I will set myself full time writing hours.

This is my dream.


Jesus!  I’m actually going to be able to devote myself to writing novels.

Seeing as how the universe has just handed me my dream – I guess I better take it off of probation.

As a side note – I think it’s funny how I always talk about “the universe” as though it is a being with feelings and opinions just like people talk about God.  But I don’t actually believe the universe is a being of any kind.  Honest, I don’t.  I truly don’t believe in higher powers.  But it does make it easier to deal with life’s vicissitudes if you can blame your whiplash on someone or something.  It makes it easier to talk about and definitely more fun.

Wouldn’t it be funny to write a novel about modern woman suddenly stuck in a historical romance novel?  It would be similar to Lost in Austen in concept but instead of getting trapped in a well written classic novel it would be a cheesy bodice ripper novel where men are menacing and mysterious and say stupid stuff and make sexy poses all the time.

Well, it’s time to get this day going and do some sewing and stay out of the heat and start my life as a full time writer.


Job Hunting and Moonshine Go Together Like Bubbles and Blood

gardenia from our garden

Last week I applied for four jobs.  I have heard nothing from any of them yet.  I’m told I have to be patient but the last time I heard that was two weeks ago when I applied to three jobs and I still haven’t heard back from those companies either.  It means they aren’t interested.  It means I’m bombing out.

So what do you do when faced with a looming deadline for getting work?

You buy some 153 proof moonshine, that’s what you do.

Then you guzzle it until it peels off the inside of your stomach and intestines and apply for 40 more jobs wearing the stench of despira-

OR you make liqueur out of the grain alcohol and the amazing home grown plums your friend brings you.  You wait a respectable two months before straining and sipping.  I usually work with 100 proof so I’m going to have to dilute this liqueur with something.  My first thought was to just water it the hell down.  But – water – ?  Doesn’t sound right.  So then I figured maybe I could water it down with some added juice?  maybe something flavorless like white grape juice?  I will commence experiments and write about it on Stitch for the scientifically minded booze-hounds.

So.  There doesn’t seem to be anything to apply to today so I think it’s time to clean up my office and get some sewing done because I have the pyjama pant project to work on and I have pants to make myself so I don’t look homeless when going for job interviews.  Surely someone at some point is going to see what an awesome prospect I am as an employee and want to talk to me in person, right?


I have got three paragraphs of Cricket and Grey Spring written.  Then I got sidetracked by researching third degree burns.  I’m going to have to make plot changes since I injured my MC more than I intended to.  I mean – they say to make bad stuff happen to your characters but I might have gone a little too far.  Philip reminds me that I can change the severity of the wounds in the first book.  I suppose he’s technically correct but I feel it would be cheating at this point – I’ve already published it on my blog.  Even though that isn’t a traditional method of publishing – my book is still out there and I think it lives on its own now.  I set it free and can’t take it back.

It’s a fine day out there.  Not too hot.  A breeze is blowing.  It’s already 1pm and I’ve gotten very little done.  I guess it’s time to do something productive.

3rd street aleworks

Those Old Stacks of Notes

3rd street aleworks

Three great things happened this week:

1.  Max ate a tomato sandwich.  Whole wheat bread with the crust cut off, 1 slice of tomato, yellow mustard on one slice of bread and ketchup on the other.  He ate every last crumb of it.

2.  I finished sewing 5 shirts which you can read about on Stitch if you’re interested.  So I’m feeling productive.

3.  I cleaned the downstairs of my house.  Epic.  My kitchen floor was growing scared of itself, it was so dirty.

I don’t really want to be up right now.  I’ve been awake since just before 5am.  I finally gave up at 5:45.  Here it is, 7am, and I have to commit to staying awake because I am drinking coffee and until Philip wakes up it will not be comfortable to get back into bed with all the breathing going on in there.  I thought I’d write but I don’t have a starting point yet for the new book as I’m still working on the outline.

I just now thought about the stacks of notes and bits I wrote for two different ideas for novels I had almost 15 years ago.  Some people have great ideas that just need time to mature before they can become fully formed.  This is not the case with those earlier efforts of mine.  I worked so hard at them but I couldn’t bring any of my ideas to life because I was stuck in a strange warped place of literal truth.  I knew that fiction is all about making shit up – telling stories and using your imagination to build different versions of the world we live in as seen through the eyes of people who don’t really exist.  At the time I was coming to terms with some of my own truths – with my family and my past and the fact that I really CAN excel at doing math.  I had my saber held against the chin of my worst demon and with my chest full of fire and my head full of TRUTH I knew the living words would follow.

Naturally I was wrong.

I kept trying to tell MY truth because I thought that’s what writers do.  Well, they do, but not in a literal way.  If I was going to tell my truth then I was beholden to the facts surrounding my truth as well.  Basically I was trying to write fiction but kept veering off into autobiographical territory and it didn’t work because I couldn’t tell my story and then make stuff up that wasn’t true.

I made up a girl named Vera who worked in an underwear factory.  I loved the idea of her.  She most definitely didn’t resemble me at all so it was weird how I kept trying to make her life have the same issues as mine.  It turns out I can’t write good fiction by starting with a conclusion and trying to stuff it into the shape of a story.  It turns out that the story has to live for its own sake.  It has to matter outside of myself.  It turns out I have to start with a question and endeavor to answer it.

I could see where I kept getting hung up but I didn’t know how to work past it.  I remember the reams of paper I wasted trying to work through it, trying to force life onto the page and it was just like trying to light a cigarette with a packet of soggy matches.

I remember giving up.  I remember telling myself that I can’t write fiction, that I’m a poet not a novelist.*

In a nod to the character Vera, who never came to life, I made Jane Bauer (from that first novel I started writing “Jane Doe”) work in an underwear factory.  I’m realizing now, as I write this post, that this is not right for Jane, it doesn’t work.  To change this I’ll have to adjust some of what I’ve already got written but that’s what novel writing is like.  It’s not rigid work, it’s fluid.  You can write out the most detailed outline and you’ll still discover that something you planned for your story doesn’t work and if you try to flog a story with details that don’t work – it will stagnate.  If not for you, then for the reader.  I am becoming better at recognizing when something I’m trying in a story isn’t working.

In those earlier efforts at novel writing I was full of ideas, ideals, and huge life lessons and THINGS I NEEDED TO SAY but I didn’t really have a story to tell yet.

I wonder what I’m going to think about my first novels once I’ve written many?

*One can be both, obviously, but when you’re super busy tying yourself to the whipping post you don’t consider such things, all you want is to get on with lashing yourself and crushing your own dreams before someone else has the chance to.

case of the bag of meat

The Vocabulary Pit of Despair – “yearn”

case of the bag of meat

Last night I said to my fellas “Y’all are quibbling” and Max informed me that I am not allowed to say “y’all” because I (apparently) constantly make fun of people saying it.  Making fun of something precludes you from being “allowed” to use it (he says this is a well known RULE).  To be fair (and he wasn’t being fair) the only time I make fun of anyone saying “y’all” are people who use it as punctuation.  It’s exhausting to my ear.  The truth is I only make fun of Paula Deen using it because she does it with a southern drawl so drawn out and shrill she sounds like a cat yowling in a fight.  And she uses it excessively.  I have a lot of friends who say “y’all” (some who are southern, some who are not) and it doesn’t bother me one whit that they use it.

I happened to have said it by accident though.


For general writers this is tough enough to carry off.  It brings to mind a flaccid princess committed to a life of inaction which has given her plenty of reason to YEARN for things.  “Yearn” is a word people use when they want to pluck at your heart – but it comes off as corny or manipulative.  For food writers, this word is even worse.  How ridiculous is it to “yearn” for steak and eggs?  But worse than that is suggesting that your food “yearns” for – well – ANYTHING.  Food does not have human emotions.  Some writers have found this confusing.

The one exception to the challenging use of this word is in humor.  “Yearning” is quite useful in sarcastic and satirical writing.



I’m not a vocabulary snob.  In fact, I’m not a language snob.  I’m not even a grammar snob.  All of these things are tools for communication in a very colorful, constantly shifting world.  Language is just another way to express all the stimuli we experience in our lives.  As such it must be somewhat fluid, flexible, and accommodating as well constantly evolving to meet the needs of new generations and technology.

Even so, it is exquisitely fun to share my opinions of words on a regular basis.  If I trash any words you happen to love – just know that I inevitably love to use some words that make you feel like your head is being dragged through a swamp.  It’s okay. It’s not only okay – you and me liking and hating different words means there is more variety of words being used on the whole.  And that’s what keeps our language vibrant – that we all have different tastes in words.

De gustibus non est disputandum is a patently untrue maxim.  Disputing taste makes for lively discussion as long as we respect each other at the end of the day for having different tastes.

sonoma rental property

Drives to Sonoma and Thoughts on Creative Pursuits

(I wish I had taken a picture of the fall landscape I described below – instead this was taken at my dad’s Sonoma place – still pretty I think!)

Favorite word of the day: trousseau.

I have always loved this word and not because it’s French.  I love it because it’s so hopeful (which is distinctly un-French).  A girl collects (often makes) bridal clothes and household linens and other treasures she will need as a new bride.  Trousseaus  were often kept in trunks or chests made of cedar – which makes it like treasure.  Who doesn’t like treasure?

Worst word of the day: glean.

I hate this word.  It’s useful and I’m not saying I wouldn’t use it in my writing but it sounds mean and glinty.  It sounds sneaky and greasy.  It also always brings to mind this quote “Shall we glean some nuts from the hedgerow?”  If you know where that comes from then you’re a genius because I am 99% sure I haven’t quoted it properly.

Gleaning nuts is something I actually do but I prefer to call it “collecting nuts” and I don’t have access to hedgerows so I just collect them from the pavement.

Yesterday I had an actual conversation in which I asked my almost twelve year old kid to imagine what it might feel like if he had balls the size of grapefruits.

Yesterday my friend Sharon and I drove up to Sonoma to go olive picking at my dad’s rental property.  My dad planted a small orchard of olives for pressing into oil.  I had hoped he planted some olives that are both good for eating and pressing but it turned out they’re all very small.  It’s a sweet little orchard anyway and I’m going to help harvest the olives for oil with my dad in a couple of weeks because I enjoy that kind of thing.  Anyway – so we ended up finding a couple of trees in town with some good fat ripe olives on them and got permission to pick them.  Just as we were heading home it started raining which was so pretty.  If you haven’t seen Sonoma county in the fall – with the vineyards turning red and purple and the hills painted in gentle yellows and oranges and sage greens – put it on your agenda.  When the rains come down it’s soft and gorgeous.

We stopped off at Whole Foods to get some salt for the olives and I brought up my usual writing dilemma: do I start writing the next Cricket and Grey book or do I work on Jane Doe?  Do I keep writing fiction or do I give it up for another 10 years while I work on non-fiction which has higher career potential?  If only a handful of people are interested in my fiction is it a good place to – same old same old.  All the questions I always struggle with.  I am such a decisive person with regards to almost everything in my life it’s extremely irritating to be incapable of KNOWING the answers to these questions about my writing “career”.  The one I wish I had.  The one I keep trying to build.  It just so happens that Sharon has read Cricket and Grey and her response is “I want to read the next Cricket and Grey book!” so I launched into the difficulty I’ve been having settling on the next book’s main story arc which I need to decide on before I can flesh out the rest of the plot.  I shared with her the ideas I’ve been having while we bought sea salt by the pound.

She shared her own similar questions regarding her art career.  She’s an extraordinary artist – I happen to be a huge fan of her work and have 2 pieces of it and am negotiating a trade for a third exquisite piece.  She has received some unwanted career advice from someone who means well but who has caused her to question (again) the nature of her work and whether she should be painting to please the tastes of the public or continue to paint just what she’s moved to paint.  This particular person said something about her work being too dark – saying that people just want to be happy.

I think many artists and writers have similar doubts and conversations as we had.  I may not have a lot of answers but talking this out with Sharon did bring clarity back about the nature of both mine and her creative pursuits: and artist should paint what they want to see in the world or paint what they are moved to paint by that inner drive that urged them to take up the brush or pencil or charcoal in the first place.  A novelist should write the books they really want to be reading – not the books they think others want to be reading.  I don’t like reading heavy literature that appeals to intellectuals and academics.  I did read a lot of heavy literature when I was young and I’m glad I did.  It enriched my vocabulary and gave me such a broad understanding of what different people can do with language and how many different ways the basic human experience can be expressed in stories.

But I don’t read heavy literature now.  I don’t want to read depressing stories where every character is so flawed you can’t like them.  I want to read compelling stories with enough suspense to keep me glued to the page and interesting characters who I want to know more about – characters to love and characters to hate and just enough ambiguity of ethics to keep from being predictable.  I need someone to root for and I need endings that are hopeful.

Talking to Sharon reminded me that I wrote Cricket and Grey because it’s the kind of book I wish I could find more of.  I am going to have to write Jane Doe because it’s personally important to me and that one is darker than I like to read usually.  But I want to write more Cricket and Grey books (there are meant to be 4 CandG books) and I want to write more books in that style.

Fiction versus Nonfiction?  No author has to really choose between them.  I’m embarking on the nonfiction project with my friend Emma so I’ll be doing that.  But I know that I never felt more like I was doing what I was always meant to be doing than when I was writing my novels.  That should be all the answer I need to move forward.  Will I ever be a commercial success – maybe not.  I need to commit to the knowledge that I may just write novels on the side for the rest of my life but I can’t ever let that get in the way of doing what I know I need to be doing.

This all reminds me how important it is for creative people to talk to each other – to share these doubts and these questions with each other because we need frequent encouragement from others on similar paths.  It’s sometimes easier for me to see what Sharon should be doing or who she shouldn’t be listening to than it is for me to see what I should be doing and who I shouldn’t be listening to.

I have a small handful of people reading my novel here on my blog and I have heard from a couple of them that they look forward to the new chapter every week – this is deeply gratifying and between them and Sharon I have a renewed determination to shake the writer’s block and plot uncertainty and get moving on book 2 of Cricket and Grey (Spring).

But today I have to work for a living all day.  Tonight I will write some notes.  Maybe I’ll share some ideas here tomorrow.