Tag Archives: taking a break

Proof of Life

“I’m not dead yet!” -from Monty Python, of course

But I do seem to have taken a bit of an unplanned blog hiatus. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy, even though there isn’t all that much of interest to report. Let’s see, since February [:wince:] [has it really been that long?], what have I been up to . . .

Well, there was the whole terrorist-raccoon-in-the-attic problem, which I thought had been solved well over a year ago. Until I discovered water dripping from the downstairs bathroom ceiling during a rainstorm and called a roofer, who gave me the unhappy news that if a raccoon is given even a tiny opening in an old worn shingle, they will wreak havoc:

 

So, that ended up being an emergency roof repair that led to the over-due decision to replace the entire freaking roof. What fun. Not at all noisy or disruptive. Or expensive. At least I didn’t have to do cleanup of this mess.

What else . . . oh, my daughter’s baby shower luncheon was fun. I even went and got a haircut beforehand, speaking of over-due decisions.

My life is so exciting.

And then there was the usual last minute scramble to get tax info to my CPA, made even more frantic by the discovery that my accounting program decided to stop working unless I paid several hundred dollars for the upgrade. Which led to much profanity and re-creating the entire year by hand, because fuck you Intuit.

Good times.

My daughter had been helping me clean out various cupboards and closets, until she got too far along in her pregnancy. Here she is holding The White Ninja during one visit. Just before I took the second pic, TWN was resting her head on my daughter’s stomach as if she was listening to the baby and giving it a hug.

 

What else . . . oh, this was pretty funny. In all my years of buying toilet paper, I’ve never encountered a roll quite like this one:

Are you bored yet? Starting to see why I haven’t been writing blog posts? None of this stuff is exactly fascinating.

I have been writing fiction, though. Slowly, as usual, but I’m making progress. I’ve been reading quite a bit as well, in an attempt to avoid world news. Probably I should do a post about books I’d recommend, except I’ve gotten ridiculously picky and easily irritated when authors [no, not you; other authors] do stupid stuff that ruins an otherwise great story. Yeah, there’s no way I’m going to discuss that in public.

And, of course, there are all the other Usual Life Stressors that aren’t even slightly entertaining. Nothing that I’d put in a blog post, anyway.

But exciting news is imminent! Well, exciting to me and mine.

At the moment, I’m sitting here listening to the rain and biding time, waiting for my first grandchild to be born. Which should be any day now. All this week, I’ve been fielding text messages from my daughter of the “I’m so bored” and “I wish this baby would hurry up” variety. Because she is now officially on maternity leave, her husband is on paternity leave, and we’re all just waiting. Some of us more patiently than others.

I’ll keep you posted. Really, I will. Any. Day. Now.

 

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Filed under blogging, health and well-being

Time for yet another summer hiatus

How did it get to be the end of June already? Or maybe a better question is how did so many days pass in succession, as they do, without me noticing? Good grief, the year is half over!

Yes, I have been writing. And thinking, and taking notes, which is an important part of my writing process.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading. Plowing through novels in my TBR pileup, of course, as well as reading a bit of non-fiction and catching up on bookmarked articles and blog posts in my RSS feed. There are days I feel as if I’ve read the entire internet. Which I guess helps explain how time has passed without me taking note of it.

Either that or someone has indeed invented time travel and it has all gone horribly wrong, speeding us involuntarily along past potential moments of productivity so not only does no one get anything done, none of us have clear memories of the time lost.

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What’s that? It’s just me?

Yes, well, I suspected as much. Clearly, I need to hit the reset button on my work habits and be more mindful of how I waste spend time.

I’ve been told there’s a writing thing in July — and April, apparently — called Camp NaNo. An extension of the more popular and well-known NaNoWriMo in November. Their website proclaims:

“Camp NaNoWriMo is a virtual writer’s retreat, designed for maximum flexibility and creativity.”

I’m not planning to participate officially. Mostly because I’m contrary and really bad at following along and obeying rules. But I’m a member of a small group of writers over on The Book of Faces and someone there proposed we have our own informal “retreat” in July, stating our goals in a similar fashion and cheering each other on. So I’ll be doing that.

My goal is to finish the revision of the story I drafted in April. I really hope it won’t take the entire month, since most of the heavy thinking is done and now I just need to write the rest of the words. Then again, the way time is passing, in three days it will be Thanksgiving and 15 minutes after that, Christmas. Unless my A/C breaks down, then roughly a dozen years will pass before summer is over.

Anyone else have big plans or goals for July? Deadlines? Vacation? Long stretches of indolent wave-gazing at the beach?

I’ll be over here trying not to read the entire internet every day, doing my best not to read anyone else’s words at all. Not even the one-word-at-a-time lure of WWF with my youngest sister. *sigh* In fact, other than email and semi-regular goal check-in and whip cracking with fellow writers, my plan is to be internet-free for July.

Ignoring the internet like . . . well, like a cat with a mouse on its head. Probably you can imagine how long that lasted.

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Wish me luck. And determination. I’m going to need all the help I can get.

 

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Filed under goals, writing

Reassessment. Recalibration.

Ahhhh, yes, we’ve finally turned the corner into fall. Autumn, for you purists out there. I love this time of year, when the temperatures drop along with the humidity and the leaves. The heat of summer in the south never fails to sap my patience and energy. It seems like a feat of endurance just to let the days go by. But we’ve made it to October and, now that our epic bout of rain and gloom has moved out, life in general will be more pleasant. Cooler, anyway. We’ve had clear skies for two whole entire days and I’m giddy with it.

Our leaves haven’t started to change yet, so I’m sharing a picture my daughter took in Boston last week. I suspect she’s trying to stave off winter by documenting the landscape sans snow. Can’t say I blame her, after last winter.

I feel somewhat guilty that I haven’t posted for a while, but I’ve been busy. Sometimes I’m quiet over here because I don’t really have anything to say, other times because there’s too much. It’s been the latter, these past couple months. Frankly, I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with things that are not particularly blog-appropriate. Nothing earth shattering, just the normal stuff we all have to deal with and tend not to discuss in public. Proliferation of cat hairballs, neighbours vs. trees, family drama, ongoing physical therapy. The return of the goddamn raccoons to the attic. You know, the usual.

I also seem to have been in a state of re-evaluation. Thinking deep thoughts about how I spend my time and looking seriously at the things that suck up not just time, but also my attention and energy. Deciding whether they’re worth it. Some are, some are not. Debating changes in my life and how to be more productive.

And of course, there’s the writing. That’s been a big part of my deliberation and I’ve been struggling with it. Writing, deleting, writing some more and not liking that either. There have been days, weeks lately when I wonder why I’m doing this and whether I should just stop. But the prospect of not writing is more terrifying than the struggle to write is frustrating. So quitting isn’t really an option, even though I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and am doing it poorly. Feeling like a giant fraud.

Yeah, I know, supposedly this is normal and all writers feel this way, from time to time. Or always. So I guess that’s comforting. But it’s not really much help when you’re the one feeling it.

My brain keeps replaying a conversation with my older sister after she read the novella I published. There was a note of surprise in her voice when she said, “It was really pretty good. There were parts when I forgot you were the one who wrote it.”

“You mean like it was written by someone who knew what they were doing?”

“YES. EXACTLY.”

So, clearly, not me.

*sigh*

That has got to be the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever received. Well, about writing anyway. She didn’t mean it that way. My older sister has been nothing but supportive of my writing efforts. One might even say she’s been bossy about it. But I can’t help remembering her saying that — even though it’s not the only thing or even the biggest thing chipping away at my confidence lately, not by a long shot — and it reinforces this feeling that I really don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. And after all these years of effort, of learning and practicing, that’s disheartening.

So I was hesitant, to say the least, when an unpublished writer friend asked me to give her feedback on a manuscript. Although . . . now that I stop and think about it, she didn’t ask. I pretty much insisted she let me read it once she was done editing.

Geez. Talk about bossy. This was back at the start of summer and probably I was high on prescription pain meds at the time. That’s my excuse anyway.

But by the time she sent it to me a couple weeks ago, all that hubris had disappeared and I was in the midst of feeling worthless and fraudulent and talentless. And pitiful, let’s not forget pitiful. [cue tiny violin] I doubted whether I’d have anything remotely useful or insightful to say. It took me almost an entire week to even open the document.

Then I started reading. And let me tell you, while she might be at the early stage of writing where you inevitably make a few minor rookie mistakes, this friend of mine can write. Honestly, that was a small part of my reluctance, the concern that maybe she wasn’t very good after all and I wouldn’t know what to say. A very small part, because I’ve known this woman for years and, even though she only recently admitted she was writing fiction, I could tell she was a writer. A terrific writer with a voice that’s perfect for historical romance, which is what she’s writing.

But I also realized something else, while reading her manuscript. I DO know something about writing fiction. I know quite a lot about writing fiction. I was able to tell her what was working and what wasn’t, and specifically why. I think I gave her some coherent feedback that will help make a good story stronger. She might not agree with me, and that’s fine. It’s her story.

So I’m relieved by that realization, but also frustrated. Why does it have to be so fucking impossible to have this kind of clarity about my own writing? Why does it take reading someone else’s manuscript to see my own mistakes and strengths, to be reminded of what I know and realize that I might not be totally screwing things up in my own writing? Does this ever get easier?

Probably not.

There’s a huge difference between reading for pleasure and reading with the intent of giving feedback. If you’re a writer, I suggest you give it a try, if you haven’t. Provided you can find a willing victim. You’ll pretty quickly figure out what you know and don’t know, based on the type of feedback you’re able to offer. You might even realize you know more than you thought you did.

But there’s also a difference between being able to see what is or isn’t working in a story and being able to put that into practice. A difference between being a good reader and a good writer. It’s all about the execution.

So, I’m struggling, with all sorts of things, and I imagine I’ll continue to do so. But I will try to get back to blogging more regularly. Now that fall is here and I’m feeling more human. Perhaps The White Ninja will cooperate and do something blog-worthy.

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Or perhaps not. Don’t anyone hold your breath.

 

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Filed under deep thoughts, health and well-being, writing

Random thoughts in December

This is a rambling post full of random thoughts. I know you’re used to that over here and probably I don’t even need to mention it, but whatever.

I have somehow ended up with an iPhone. I’d say I’m not sure how that happened, but I know exactly how it happened.

Several months ago, my daughter decided we were paying too much for cell phone service (she and her husband are on my plan). So I told her, fine, you find a good plan that’s less expensive and we’ll switch. Because I hate dealing with that kind of stuff.

Of course, being an intrepid adventurer who did not inherit my gene for procrastination, she did just that. Only problem was, my very old cell phone was so old that it sent the new plan into paroxysms of laughter before it said, “No. You need a new phone. One from this century.”

Here’s a picture of my old phone (on the left, if you couldn’t tell), next to the new one. With bonus coasters, because I’m too lazy to crop them out.

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Oh, stop laughing. The old one was functional. I was able to check the time and date and send text messages and even set an alarm. I’m pretty sure I could make phone calls with it. Probably. It’s not like I have first-hand knowledge of that.

Sigh. I guess all good things come to an end.

I looked at the options for new non-smart phones (I wasn’t impressed) and decided I might as well accept the inevitable sooner rather than . . . even later. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to get a phone that could launch missiles and connect with the ISS and negotiate world peace through predictive text.

Now, I’m not a complete Luddite, but the adaptation has been predictably hilarious. And pitiful. Here’s an example of a typical text conversation with my daughter (we had been talking about the pic she sent of her Christmas tree):

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And then there is this inexplicably recurring nonsense from Siri, which I have transcribed from memory:

Siri: Hey, I learned a new trick! Just say “Hey Siri” to learn more.

Me: . . . [silent, wondering whether there’s a way to opt out of being spoken to like a three-year-old]

Siri: I’m not sure what you said.

Me: That’s because I’m speechless.

Siri: I’m not sure I understand. Did you say, “How do I write a speech?”

Me: Not even close.

Or I’d hit some weird combination of buttons and get this:

Siri: How can I help you?

Me: Sorry, didn’t mean to summon you.

Siri: You do not need to apologize to me.

Me: I’m going to disconnect you now.

Siri: Okay. Bye!

I decided Siri might be less irritating as a male, so I changed the voice preference the other day and haven’t heard from her, er, him since.

But I did discover — completely by accident, due to my tendency to click on stuff despite not knowing what it does — that I can text from my laptop. This is so cool, I can hardly believe it. Totally awesome to type a text message on a full keyboard rather than a tiny phone screen. This thing is really more computer than phone.

Another plus, the camera is light years better than the one on my old phone. Here’s a pic of The White Ninja, which is what my son calls her [it has been pointed out that I can’t really call her The Intruder Cat anymore, since the cat-intruded-upon is no longer with us]. See how she’s being all cooperative and shedding on a white blanket? That’s only because I moved my black sweater.

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As you might suspect, I’ve been feeling sad the last several weeks, missing my ancient kitty. She might have been ornery, but she was mine. There was a significant amount of time both before and after she died during which I didn’t write. At all. But I’ve been trying to get back to it in the past few days. Not easy, with the distractions of the holidays.

Speaking of distractions, my son just sent me this text message:

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I laughed SO HARD. That child definitely inherited his mother’s irreverent sense of humour. [I’m sorry if you don’t get the reference, and really sorry if no one forces you to watch that South Park episode every year at Christmas time, but I am not going to be the one to explain it.]

Where was I? Oh, yeah.

I’ve heard quite a few writers say they don’t like to talk about what they’re writing while writing it. As if doing so saps the words of their energy, deflating the story and rendering it lifeless. I’ve discovered over the years that I fall squarely into this camp.

However.

I will say that an interesting thing has happened with my writing in the past several months. “Interesting” being open to interpretation, I guess. I’ve been actively writing two stories at the same time. While making notes on a third. And there’s a fourth one, a short story, that is completely developed in my mind.

I’ve never attempted this before. I’m sure it’s a Very Bad Idea. There is no “right” way to write, but if there’s an inadvisable way or a convoluted way or a way that is more difficult, you can bet that’s what I’ll manage to do.

Is this procrastination? I don’t know. Maybe. I’d be worried if I completely stopped writing one story in favour of another. That’s a big red flag. But this is different, this switching back and forth and writing two at once. Yes, it means the entire process is taking a bit longer, but I’m not sure I could write these two stories any other way. They’re both proving to be . . . difficult. In different ways. It helps to alternate, for one to lay fallow while the other percolates words, and then back again.

The interesting thing, to me, is the discovery that writing straight romance has helped me see that thriller manuscript I set aside more clearly. I don’t mean “straight” as a sexual definition. Is “pure” romance a better term? No, that has other connotations as well. I mean straight-up romance without a thriller plot or a conspiracy woven though it.

One thing that bothered me about that story was that the tone was uneven. Most of it sounded like a thriller, but large sections of it sounded more like a romance. This is not a good thing. But, somehow, writing romance has made it easier for me to really “feel” the genre differences between romance and thrillers. Mind you, I’m an avid reader of both genres. I understand the differences. I just couldn’t always manage to separate them in my writing. And even though I want to write both, I had come to believe I’d never have what it takes to do justice to a thriller. So it’s encouraging that I’ve been thinking about that thriller again in stray moments. Getting excited about it again. That story will require intense and exclusive focus, when it’s time, but that time might come sooner than I anticipated. We’ll see what transpires.

Anyway, due to this weird new process, it might happen that I finish several stories at the roughly same time. But who knows. I’ve learned to stop making predictions. Life has a way of thwarting even the simplest plans and there was plenty of that this year.

I’ve decided to announce new releases first via my newsletter, well ahead of mentioning them here on my blog or elsewhere. So if you want to be among the first to hear about the publication of new stories, at a discounted price, go sign up for my newsletter (here’s a link, or see the sidebar). I won’t share your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time. No pressure. You do whatever you feel comfortable doing.

Good grief, I’ve rambled on longer than even I thought I would. I do want to mention that I’m going to take an extended break from the internet after Christmas, in spite of this new iThing that insists on connecting me every time I move. I have at least two stories at the point where they need my complete focus. And another one, perhaps two, that are impatient to burst forth onto the page. Seems like a good idea to mute the distractions for a while.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, if that’s something you celebrate. Regardless of holiday preferences, I wish everyone peace and calm and clarity as one calendar year draws to a close and a new one begins.

I hope you are able to take a few days off from the ordinary and make them extraordinary. I hope you manage to share space with people you love, or at least find tolerable the ones you’re stuck with. And I hope you make time to read.

As for me, I’ll be wishing for an encore of this:

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Filed under blogging, holidays, miscellaneous bits

So, about this hiatus

I guess I should just go ahead and make it official, since my blog appears to be on hiatus. Not sure how that happened. It wasn’t intentional.

Which one of you hit the pause button?

Who hit the pause button?

Partly, this random break is a result of me being busy with other things. I know, weak excuse. It’s also due to me being lazy. And getting out of the habit. And now it just feels awkward, trying to find a way to start blogging again after [gulp] four months — has it been that long? really? — because it seems like I should kick it back into gear by saying something important. Or, I don’t know, something that matters. But the thing is, posts over here have never been all that significant. No set topic, no driving purpose. Just me rambling along about . . . whatever. That’s not likely to change.

Honestly, I’ve been wondering whether I should just call it quits on this whole blogging thing. As a practical matter, I wonder whether anyone would care. Or even notice. I pretend the answer is yes. I pretend I don’t care if it’s not.

Interestingly, I followed a link a while back to an old post from Neil Gaiman where, as a footnote to other things, he relayed the news that blogging had been declared dead by The Scotsman. That was in May 2004, way back before I even knew what a blog was, and at which time Gaiman said, “That’s an enormous relief, of course.”

Right.

So I could perhaps be excused for finally realizing that blogging is indeed dead, in Scotland at the very least, and congratulated for ceasing all efforts to maintain the practice. Seems reasonable. But then I remember what McB told me when I considered quitting a few years ago: the minute I make that decision, I’ll suddenly have a dozen things I want to say.

Sigh. Right now, I’d settle for even ONE thing.

After seven years, it feels as if I’ve said everything there is to say on every conceivable topic. I suppose there’s always the cat as blog fodder . . . actually there were two cats for a while this summer, since my daughter’s cat stayed with me for a couple months. But I suspect there’s a limit to how many cat stories you can tell before people question your sanity. Probably I’m already well over that limit.

I could write about my daughter’s bridal shower. It was lovely. She got some very special and thoughtful gifts. Defying all expectations, everyone survived what seemed (to me) to be an excessive amount of conversation. But I’ve been asked not to post pictures of it, so . . .

I’ve been writing, but I don’t like to talk about it while I’m in the process, so that’s out. I did get a FitBit and have been walking A LOT — well, these things being relative, a lot more than I had been — and have lost a good deal of weight as a result. Not sure what else can be said about that topic. I’ve been on a bit of a reading binge lately, but haven’t run across anything in particular that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

See? None of this is remotely entertaining.

The problem is, I know you guys. I know what you really want to hear. You want to know when I’ll have some fiction ready for you to read. And I don’t have a firm answer on that. Yet. But I’m working on it.

What have you all been up to? Anything interesting to report? Any topics you want me to expound upon in the near future? Given a prompt, I’m reasonably adept at rambling about pretty much anything. Or I could just continue on with nothing. It’s worked so far.

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