"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Hell Freezes Over

Cover image for When Hell Freezes Over

I had an epiphany a week or so ago about my third novel in the Kirkland Family Saga, When Hell Freezes Over.  I had written the ending and glued some scenes together. "I'm done with this -- finally," was my attitude, but I knew it wasn't really ready to be published. I'd asked a friend /writer to read it "as is" and give her honest opinion.  She said she would be glad to do it, but she was out of town. She said I could send it first week in December.

With that kind of percolating on a back burner, I had this sudden knowing.  It felt similar to the experience I had at the water faucet when Ronnie was paralyzed and dying, when I realized that "I can walk.  Therefore I can do anything I need to do or have to do or want to do."

This time, the voice in my head said, "You already know what's wrong with it and what will fix it but you're in too big a hurry to stop and go back and do what you need to do." 

And that voice is right.  

I do know -- and I am going to slow down, relax and "fix it" so that the chances of it being as good a story -- or better -- than the first two are high instead of low.

I have written tons of stuff for this story and taken it out.  I put it in a separate folder, which I usually call "out takes". I have one for every book.  I also have the original manuscript and all successive versions. Lots and lots of stuff that points a finger at how rattled and uncertain I became regarding this story and how to best tell it.

Originally, it was a love triangle, between Travis Kirkland, now 24 years old, just graduated from college, and two sisters, Delaina and Kimberly, who is only fifteen years old.  

Revis' point of view was just sprinkled in here and there and it felt obligatory. I didn't like that. So I decided to tell it all from Revis' point of view -- which meant that everything would be told through his eyes. Although I love looking at the world through his perspective, I couldn't adequately portray some of the emotions involved in this story without using other points of view.  So most recently, I re-introduced Kim's and Travis' POV.

When I first wrote this story, I hadn't created the Kirkland/Logan feud.  Compared to the first and second books, this story was too simple. It didn't have anything going on other than the love triangle. 

So I focused on getting the feud worked in.  Figuring out how to present the villain, Earl Logan, was a test for sure.  I spent many hours on several possible options.

Even with all the rewrites that eventually brought about Come Hell or High Water and The Hell About Stallions, I never lost my ability to focus on either of them. 

But I lost my ability to focus on the story while Ronnie was sick.  I rarely opened the manuscript while he was dying.  And to top it off,  for the first time in my life, I couldn't feel Revis. I'm not sure who or what Revis is, but he has been a guiding force in my life -- all my life.  He returned quickly but my ability to focus on one thing at a time is just now beginning to come back. 

When I'm building a story, I have an internal clock/calendar that goes to work while I'm writing. This mental device stores all the information regarding what happened when.  It's called a "time line". The information held by the timeline keeps the story moving forward. It helps construct the believability of what's happening.  For example, The Hell About Stallions dealt with a pregnancy, the story had to fit within the time constraints of that situation. 

Having a subconscious connection to the timeline allows me to open the book at any point and intuitively know where I am in the story.  If something was going on in my life that prevented me from working on the story for a period of time, when I was able to return to it, I could read a few pages and immediately pick up where I'd left off. 

Life derailed me in a way I'd never experienced before and now with this third story, When Hell Freezes Over, I've found I've lost touch with the time line. That has caused big problems.

When I open the manuscript every morning, I have little remembrance of what happened when in regard to what is happening in the story now.   This has been my battle for four long years now, and it is hard to explain to folks who aren't fiction writers. 

I have a theory about my own experience of being a writer.  The whole story is in my subconscious mind from beginning to end. Every scene, every conversation, every single detail that will make the story the best it can be is in there, but I have to accept that and trust that everything will come to mind at the appropriate time.

Hitting the panic button is counterproductive. Pissing and moaning about having lost touch with the timeline is also counter productive.

So I made a "story board" that will hang on the wall next to my computer. It shows me the high points of each chapter without having to scroll through the manuscript. It'll serve as a guide, a reminder of  where this or that happened so that I don't put something in where it doesn't belong, and so that within a few minutes I can reorient myself and continue writing.

In the old day of typewriters and carbon paper, I wrote from beginning to end. But now with the blessed invention of word processors, I often write scenes out of sequence.  I also go back into the manuscript and "flesh out scenes", build the background so it's more of a tangible part of the story, add bits and pieces of personal background that makes a character come alive for the reader.

Writing scenes out of sequence, however, seems to make my problem with the timeline worse but since that's the way it's been since Ronnie got sick, I'm going to do my absolute best to get it all figured out and hopefully I won't have this problem when I start the fourth book.

For those of you who are waiting to read When Hell Freezes Over, I apologize for it taking so long to come to fruition. The story is moving forward very well now and I feel much more confident that when it's ready, it'll be a fun ride for everyone!

This is the experience I want my readers to have when they sit down and open any of my stories.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Looking For That Which Pleases Me

Snow laden Ohio -- photography by Kelly Millard

The sky is beginning to lighten.  Since I can't see any stars, I assume we have cloud cover.  But as I begin this brand new day, my dominant intent is to feel good.  Nothing is more important, more essential or more beneficial to my wellbeing than that I feel good, that I look for that which pleases me.

Some friends went to Ohio for the Thanksgiving holiday and sent the picture above of the snowy road and snow laden trees.  It's so beautiful! It reminded me of a description my sister-in-law, Linda, offered after she and her husband Stan drove to New Mexico for Christmas with family and friends. She talked of driving through the snow in the wee hours of the morning, all alone on the road and how peaceful it felt.That may be an experience saved for those of us who don't live with snow on a daily basis in the winter.  

Ohio Moon

My friend, Linda Marcum, and I are planning a trip to see her family in Ohio next year.  I sent her  this picture and asked her if we might want to go to Ohio in winter.  She grew up there and she said, "No." most emphatically.

When the Northeast got a million inches of snow last month, I saw a picture someone had posted that showed an open door way packed with snow all the way to the top.  It looked like a white wall. And I wondered, how do folks deal with that?

So today, I'm glad I live where snow is rare.

It's one of those natural beauties that I'd just as soon experience in pictures and videos.

My waterfall bit the dust yesterday.  Deidre and Andy had just recently fixed the crack in one of the levels.  It has worked perfectly since then, but yesterday, all the water in the holding receptacle vanished over night. I guess the cold cracked the plastic again. So I went on line to see if I might find another one. I've come to the conclusion that it was one of a kind.

Zen Fountain made of concrete
I went to Youtube and watched a couple of DIY videos on how to make fountains out of concrete.  This one for a Zen garden was interesting. You can watch it here

I love the ones where they feature women building things because it makes me feel like "I can totally do that!"

I've been stuck in the world of "men's work" and "women's work" for at least 60 years, and I love the new women carpenters, plumbers and auto mechanics.

I watched how to make a waterfall out of terracotta pots and saucers.  That also looked very attractive and I think the sound of falling water would be louder than that of the concrete ball. I want to hear it.  I want the birds, bees, butterflies and dragon flies to hear it, too.

You can watch how to make this Terracotta fountain here .  I'm thinking if I used bigger pots than they do in the video, it might make more noise.

So I have a new project for next spring -- making some kind of something to replace the beautiful sound of falling water.  I already miss it.  

hypertufa planter 

I also watched a new video on how to make planters out of hypertufa, which is a mixture of equal parts of Portland cement, peat moss, Pearlite or Vermiculite and water.  I've tried this stuff before and it didn't work for me. But this new video shows a different way to form the mixture.  It looks like it will work  -- so I'm looking forward to doing some of that, too. Hypertufa pots look like concrete but are much lighter, easier to handle and plants grow very well in them. Plus they'll last for decades!

In looking for things that please me, I also got news that a good friend who moved away is happy with the changes she has made, and that pleases me more than she can imagine. 

A young writer friend, Van Fleming, won a contest and his sci-fi/fantasy story will be published in an anthology to come soon!  Since the book isn't out yet, I can't offer a link to it, but here's one for a great interview with Van.

Lady in the Purple Dress by Shefali O'Hara

Shefali O'Hara is making a name for herself down near Austin with her remarkable art work.  She's amazing because she only recently started painting. You can see Shefali's other paintings here

My friend, Nicole, has had two successful "virtual book parties" to launch her new dream which she calls "The Whole Plot Thing" -- to help self published and independently published authors get news of their books out to the public! She is also compiling a list of beta readers and plans to offer editing services soon. If you're interested in see what Nicole can do for you you can check it out here

And the end of most days looks like this.

I'm happy and I feel fine. Life is good.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Too Much Information, the Path of Least Resistance and Making Mountains Out of Molehills

A beautiful evening sky 
I have a lot of things I'd like to do, some changes I'd like to make in Bruno's Shop, but it seems I stand and stare at stuff for a long time before I actually talk myself into getting started. It feels like "too much information" when I'm looking at everything that has to be moved and cleaned and vacuumed for spiders and sprayed to keep the little culprits from coming back.

I noticed many years ago at work, when I picked up an order with a lot of detail written on it, my mind just kind of shut down.  All of a sudden I couldn't make heads nor tails out of all that information. I feel the same way when I'm trying to read and follow instructions in a manual.

It has evolved to the point that if it looks complicated, I'm not going to even try it.  In one way, that feels like I'm an easy quitter. In another, it feels like my natural instinct is to take the path of least resistance.

So I stand and stare at the accumulation of stuff (aka junk maybe, but for some reason, I'm unable to part with it yet) and my mind is overwhelmed with the information coming at me. 

The thought process goes something like this "I could put this there and that over there. No that won't work because that is there, but if I put this in the garage -- but look how dirty that is and the garage is already a mess because I haven't finished in there yet."

So I go back to the garage which right now is an accumulation of tools and ladders and boxes and crap I don't know what to do with and lawn maintenance tools. One look and I say, "F*** it.  I'll do it later."

I keep forgetting to remind myself that I don't have to do it all today. Just make some progress occasionally and some day soon, it'll all be done.

Deidre says she has the same problem in Seth's room.  She bought a bed for him at Ikea not long after Ronnie passed on.  It can be set up with the bed at the top like a bunk bed or flipped over and have the bed on the floor.  Right now the bed is at the top and it has become a container for stuffed animals  (and anything I don't want him to play with for a while. There's so much stuff up there, if I throw it to the back, it probably won't be found until the next time she flips the bed over, which she does ever so often because neither position is ideal).

Now, she wants to flip the bed and put it on the bottom but she can't decide what to do with all those stuffed animals while she cleans and organizes the bottom part.

sunset at Lake Arrowhead 11/2014
We talk often how some of the simplest things feel like insurmountable obstacles.  In other words, we make mountains out of mole hills.

Eventually we do get things done but maybe we both have AAADD  (acquired adult attention deficit disorder).

I've always been this way to a certain extent.  It drove Ronnie nuts to be home when I was cleaning house.  He could focus on one chore for hours. When he decided to clean house, he'd focus on one room -- usually the kitchen and by the time he finished, you'd be hard pressed to find a speck of dirt or grease anywhere.

But he spent the entire day in one room. No laundry, no vacuuming, except in the kitchen. To top it off, the kitchen was so clean, I could feel him daring me to splatter one drop of grease on his clean stove -- for days afterward.

When I clean house, I usually begin in the  bedroom.  I might start to make the bed, then decide I probably need to change the sheets, so I pull them off  and take them out to the garage where the washing machine is.  

There I discover the dryer full of dry clothes which need to be folded and hung up so I can put the wet clothes I'd washed the night before in the dryer - all before I can wash the sheets. At some point, I remember I have to make my bed, so I get clean sheets out of the closet and take them to the bedroom.  

When I start putting the clean sheets on the bed, I see dust bunnies on the floor on Ronnie's side so I pull out the vacuum cleaner. I also find a glass on his side of the bed that needs to go to the kitchen, so I head in the direction of the kitchen. On my way through, I notice hand and nose prints on the patio door so I get glass cleaner and clean the door. Then I notice the kitchen window needs it, too, so I move everything out of the window and clean it. All this time and I still haven't made the bed.

As I said, I eventually get it all done.

Some days, feeding the dogs feels like an insurmountable chore.  So does making birdie bread which I do about every 6 days. That's making a mountain out of a molehill for sure.

Winter sky on Thacker's Trail

I'm figuring it all out through.  I'm going with the flow of things around here and as I identify them, I'm letting go of old beliefs, old habits of thought -- such as "it's important to get things done!"

Uh, no it's not.  In the grand scheme of things, this stuff doesn't even register a blip.