Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Another Snow Day & An Amazing Friend

It's Tuesday and it's snowing, and will continue to snow into tomorrow. Can I just say, "I've had enough of this?"

This winter has really wreaked havoc with my RA with frigid cold spells and then a week or two of unseasonably warm days and chilly nights. My joints are screaming that they've had enough, too.

The only good thing happening today is that I'm working on the final revisions to my NaNo novel from last November, The Clockmaker's Son. I've the interior book file all formatted and ready to upload since late Sunday night. Now it's the last careful read through and final revisions, corrections, grammar, continuity check time.

And here's the really awesome part. I put it out there this past Sunday evening that I needed a cover for this book. Author and graphics artist/designer (and good friend)Melissa Volker jumped right in with both feet within moments. She had a mock up of the potential cover done within an hour! I loved it, we exchanged messages and she tweaked it according to my responses. Last evening I sent her my final version of the back cover copy that she needed to add and a short time later she sent me the completed front and back covers and spine file ready to upload to CreateSpace! She is, to say the very least, AWESOME! I am so lucky to count her as a friend and not just a fellow author. She's also a WhipCity Wordsmith so this right here is a prime example of the type of support I want to see among members. If one of us can help another, then we should put ourselves out there and do it. Melissa will receive full credit for her cover design and assistance in an acknowledgement inside my book on the dedication page which will let people know that she does this sort of thing, and maybe they'll contact her and she'll get some additional work out of this. It's exposure for her, and it gives my new novel a more professionally designed cover than I would have had otherwise. It benefits both of us.

So, let it snow outside. While I'm stuck taking it easy on achy joints inside I'm rereading The Clockmaker's Son, and feeling nothing but warmth in my heart because I have such an amazing friend.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Fun with Riley

My cat is small, lightweight, and very fluffy. He's mostly gray but has a white belly, white paws, and a white bloop on the left side of his face. He has pea-green eyes. He looks like a little gray fox, and just recently, Kelly pointed out to me that he plays like the fox we saw in the backyard the afternoon on the day before my father passed away. Riley Beans likes to toss his toy plastic springs up in the air, then leap up and pounce on them. He'll swat them, chase them down the hallway, grab it in both paws, toss it up in the air again...and the whole production begins again. It's fun to watch him because he gets so involved in his play that he's oblivious of everything else.

Tonight, when I lay down across the foot of the bed to write in my journal, he jumped on the bed like he usually does to have "quiet play" with me. Quiet play is that he lies near my pillow and watches what I'm doing and I'll wiggle the pen around for him to catch, or slid my hand under the covers and he'll attack my fingers. Sometimes he burrows under the flannel blanket and attacks my fingers that are on the outside of the blanket, which can be more dangerous for me since I can't really see when he'll attack. He's got sharp little claws!

When we first adopted him he wasn't a very sociable kitten. He'd been fostered in someone's home but I think they mostly kept him in a cage and didn't interact with him much. When I adopted him he was by himself in a cage in a room by himself. He had no problem taking over Kelly's room when we brought him home. She was away a college at the time. So in the week between my adopting him and her coming home for Thanksgiving that November, he more or less ruled the roost, not taking any attitude from his older brother, Revere. Kelly had adopted Revere in June after we'd lost Isador.

Riley had juvenile gingival hyperplasia which means his gums were growing over his teeth, and eating away at them. The vet originally wanted t pull all his teeth out, but we asked him to look into something else because Riley was only 5 months old if that and I thought it would be cruel to pull all his teeth. So, the vet did some research and then decided to try lasering the gum tissue back from Riley's teeth by himself, a procedure he'd never attempted before. He did an excellent job. Riley lost three teeth because they couldn't be saved and cleaned, but he came home with fresh breath for the first time in his life. He's been fine with annual cleanings since...some cats don't outgrown this. He was lucky because he did.

But it took him a long time to learn how to play. He liked to sleep, he was skittish and hid when people came to the house. He didn't seem to know how to play. Both cats had a large box of toys but only Revere would play with the catnip and squeaky mice, the crackle balls, etc. The first thing Riley played with was a hair elastic, one of those thick stretchy bands you get in the hair accessories aisle. I had longer hair that I'd pull back into a ponytail at the time. He was sitting on the bathroom counter one day while I was putting my hair in a ponytail. He was watching me, and then he looked down into the still open drawer and saw one of those elastics in there- and quick as a wink he snagged one and tossed it out into the hallway, then leapt off the counter and pounced on it. That was his favorite toy until he got a little bag of plastic springs I found at Dave's Soda and Pet Food City- cat toys. He loved picking up the springs, carrying them around in m\his mouth, dropping them and swatting them up and down the hallway.

The springs are still his favorite toys. He has never played with a mouse or a ball.

Over the past year and a half he's really bonded with me and become my best bud. He sits in the chair beside me at the kitchen table when I write. He lays near y chair when  sit in the living room. And he sleeps snuggled up beside me every night. Wherever I go, he goes. He's always looking at me as f reading me like a book, or he's studying me...like a lab experiment? I don't know, but he's cute and he's won my heart.

He's fun to come home to after a bad or long day at work. He's so devoted now...and he does such cute things. And he talks. Well, at least he thinks he's talking to me. I usually can understand what he wants- treats, to play, for me to follow him and pet hm.

He's also a master manipulator..he knows how to play his mother and get his way!

John calls him the little devil in gray fur. Well, he lords it over the man of the house too, sitting at the end of the couch and glowering at John until he gets up...and then he portly takes the warm sot against the pillow John rests his head on while watching TV. What a smug bug he is when he has his way!

I call him the fluffy tyrant. Kelly calls him the brat.

But, I think all three of us love the little guy.

And yes, we love Revere, too, but it's Riley Beans who s loaded with purrsonality!.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Crack Myself Up

I finished the proofreading and first edits of The Clockmaker's Son (2017 NaNo novel) tonight. Sometimes you can find some funny stuff that you've unintentionally written when you're reading through your work for the first time.

Tonight's killer typo was "The aloha wolf wanted him dead." Of course I meant ALPHA wolf!

Well, that will get corrected n the final version.

Overall...when I finished writing this novel on either the fifteenth or eighteenth day of NaNo last November I totally lost interest in it because I wasn't sure, after several false starts, that this was the story I wanted to tell. I threw it (in a binder) on the dining room table and ignored it for three, nearly four months (if you count the remaining days of November and the first week of March of this year).

I had no motivation to even look at it.

But three days ago, after seeing several pictures of the clock tower that had inspired the novel, I dug out the binder, now buried under several others, and began reading. It starts slow and I might tinker with the beginning, but then things begin to happen. Relationships develop while others disintegrate and fall apart. People are killed. A young woman struggles to find her place in the world. The prodigal son, not a well-loved figure in town, returns and more people die. The young woman is nearly destroyed, but finds an inner strength and resolve that she never realized she had. The clockmaker's son comprehends that there is only one thing he can do and sets his course to accomplish that deed.

I won't say more...the novel isn't exactly what I had thought it would be, but it stands on it's own four feet. I can work with it, tinker with it a little, and it'll be fine.

Will begin the edits and revisions to the computer file tomorrow. Should have a new novel out of this in April- fingers crossed!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What's with this Winter?

This morning Kelly and I got up and ran to Dunkin Donuts at the Ponds for breakfast. It was sunny and 44 degrees. We wore hoodie sweatshirts and sunglasses.

At one o'clock we left home to do some shopping, antiquing, and furniture browsing. The wind had kicked up again and the skies were becoming cloudier. We still had hoodies on.

At quarter of four we headed home and the skies were charcoal with massing clouds. It looked as if it was going to rain. When we got home at quarter past four there were signs of raindrops on the deck stairs and deck. The skies east of us in West Springfield were black but out skies were cloudy, overcast, gray.

We got inside and no more than a few minutes later Kelly said, I think it's hailing out. We looked outside and sure enough small, round beads were literally raining down from the sky. Being who we are, I grabbed a camera and she grabbed the cat and we went out on the deck to document the "beads" falling from the sky. Revere, who is black and white, had round dots of ail in his black fur. Kelly had them on her blue t-shirt and in her hair. We went out twice. The sun was shining and we thought we might see a rainbow, but now...guess that only happens with light refracting through rain.

And then we had a snow squall and it got very dark...within a few minutes of coming inside. It snowed and the temperature dropped into the 30's. It was beginning to look like winter again as the sun set. There is a coating of snow on the deck and cars.

So we began the day with a hint of approaching spring in the air and ended the daylight hours with a firm reminder that winter was still the present season and she's not ready to acquiesce to spring just yet!

You just have to love New England where it seems you're never appropriately dressed for the weather because the weather is constantly changing throughout the day.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Reading Old Stories

While my laptop was off to Texas for a new hard drive I spent a few days reading Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson, a Penguin Classic paperback. She was the queen of delving into the cracks in our psyches and prying loose the nightmares lying deep within them. It reminded me that some of my early writing was heavily influenced by Shirley.

Two nights ago I had to go dig out binder #9 (from a sixteen binder collection of my early work in a cabinet in the den) so I could read the typewriter written copy since the story does not exist on any computer at this time. It's a dark little psychological story about a young wife's disillusionment with her marriage. Her husband already takes her for granted and never notices any changes she makes to her appearance. Then one fateful day they wind up eating at the same diner, she alone at the counter, and he with another woman in a booth. It's quite possible from the look of things that he's having an affair and that opens the cracks in the young wife's psyche and she does something truly awful.

Another story from the 90's is about the fracture in an Irish couple's marriage. The wife runs off with another man, leaving behind two young son's and a husband who is struggling with anger, disbelief that she would do such a thing, and depression. His older sister comes to help take care of the little boys who show their anxiety over the departure of their mother by becoming fearful of fairies and pookahs and such. The wayward wife and mother, meanwhile, has become disillusioned by the man who had promised her a more exciting life- he's not exactly all she thought he was, and she's thinking about going back, but afraid of how she'll be received, therefore she delays leaving her lover. Tragedy, of course, strikes.

In another story a police detective is involved with his chief's under-aged daughter. He knows it's wrong but he can't stay away from her and she's maddeningly nonchalant about his feelings for her, and then makes the mistake of telling him she has the power to destroy his career when she becomes angry with him- and he kills her. And even though he is meticulous about removing evidence from the motel room, he inadvertently leaves one damning piece of evidence behind on the bathroom sink.

I wrote a lot of darker stories back in the 90's, and I suppose, even back in high school I was entertaining myself with these kind of stories. But, like Shirley Jackson, I have a humorous side. I also have a romantic side.

And then there are the children's stories I wrote for Kelly when she was growing up. I haven't even looked at them recently!

When I go back and read older material I sometimes can't even remember writing it. I have grown and changed over the years. Sometimes the older stories and prose pieces are more lyrical then what I write these days. Hard to believe I wrote poetry, a lot of it, from ages 12 through my early 30's...but  really don't even know where all of it is anymore.

For someone who less than ten years ago didn't think she could write a novel...I've proven myself wrong a number of times! Which reminds me, I have several novels on the dining room table again...patiently waiting for me to pay some attention to them again. Soon...

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Getting Back On Track

I have been incredibly out of sorts since my laptop touchpad stopped working and it had to be shipped out for repair. I'm not a depression prone individual. I've always been easygoing, upbeat, optimistic...so it was difficult for me to comprehend that I had crashed into an abyss like that.

The computer has been repaired and is making its way back home to me...but it's only been the past two days that I've felt any inclination to write. I've read a couple books. I haven't done much else. I'm tired, bogged down by fatigue, but I don't know if that's from being down or from being ground down by rheumatoid arthritis and the constant fluctuations in temperature- warm one day, chilly cold the next, warm again...the roller coaster ride this winter has been grueling on arthritic joints. It gets old fast.

I've been reading a collection of Shirley Jackson stories called Dark Tales, a penguin Classics book with a forward written by PEN/Hemingway Award winner Ottessa Moshfegh. I'd forgotten how uneasy Jackson's creepy tales can be. They are not graphic horror, but rather more psychological horror touching on such subjects as paranoia, people not being who they seem to be, things not being as they seem, people being caught or trapped in situations...she was the queen!

It reminded me that one of the first short stories I wrote was called Such Pretty Eyes. The story was definitely influenced by Jackson's tales. I remember my mother read it and she didn't like it. It was written on an electric typewriter...it's not even on my computer anywhere. I should dig that one out of the file cabinet and type it into a Word file. I'm still proud of it.

I bought and read all three of 8-year old (well, he may be 9-years old now) Ayden Rogalski's books- Ayden's Washington, Ayden's Lincoln, and Ayden's Titanic. I met Ayden last fall at an author event at the Southwick Library but really didn't get to talk to him as it was crowded and busy and I had to get back to my own table. I didn't get back to his table to buy his books either, so ended up ordering them on Amazon this week. Now I'm going to try to connect with him because I believe in encouraging young people to research, think, and write. You don't see very much of that anymore.

I also need to start reading Glen Ebisch's new book Dearest David. It's on my to-do list.

The revised copies of The Hanging Man and Other Stories arrived today. When my laptop gets home I'll be ordering stock for Aticulture2018. I'm also waiting on the silver shortlisted stickers for Black King Takes White Queen and Out. I'll have those three books with me at Articulture on April 21st. Kelly will have Teleport and Parapsychology with her, and we'll have some copies of our joint anthology Disturbing also with the new cover. Looking forward to this event because eight WhipCity Wordsmiths will be featured this year showcasing local authors- Kelly Buffum, Kate Anderson, Judith 'Sandy' Sessler, Melissa Volker, Judith Foard-Giucastro, Rhonda Boulette, VC Russell, and me. Elaine Frankonis will be reading poetry as will VC's daughter Debbie. Rhonda will be reading from T-s Adventures on Bear Paw Ridge, and maybe other stories. I'm hoping Sandy will read also. I'm undecided if I'll read. Maybe Melissa will read, too. We'll have to see!

It felt like spring today. This is a teaser week with mild temps in the 50's. More of winter in the wings though. Pretty soon the crocuses will be poking pale green noses through the soil. I haven't seen any robins yet, but someone saw some in Connecticut recently.

Beginning to feel more like my old self...but still have tendrils of melancholy drifting through my psyche. Just wish my life would get back to "normal."

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Difference a Week Makes

Last weekend I was riding the crest of an exhilarating wave of high emotion and joy. The WhipCity Wordsmiths meeting was exactly what I'd hoped for when establishing the group with Kelly. All members in attendance were involved and contributed. There was a lot of positive energy flowing. It was like being plugged into an outlet and re-energized.

And then I got the word at 9:46PM on the 17th of Feb. (the same day as the Wordsmith's meeting) that my vampire novel Out had been shortlisted for the PARANORMAL BOOK AWARD (#CAC18, #SeriousAuthors, #PARANORMAL, #CRShortlister). This marks the second year in a row one of my novels has been shortlisted for an award (last year it was Black King Takes White Queen for the OZMA Award2016) I had happy tears spilling down my face.

On the 18th when I called my sister Lynnmarie to tell her about being shortlisted again I couldn't get a word in edgewise because she had done some unexpected ghost hunting the night before (which explained why she hadn't answered her phone at 10PM) and that thrilled me that she'd had that terrific experience to jazz up her life! I did manage to tell her about Out and she was happy for me.

I wrote most of Sunday evening and called it a night at 11:36PM, shutting down my laptop like I usually do.

On Monday morning I was going to continue writing at breakfast, which is what I like to do to relax before going off to work, which has been very stressful lately with all the insurance formulary changes and medication changes and increased demand for durable medical equipment by our aging population. No touchpad! No external mouse communication! I was annoyed but thought it was nothing John couldn't fix...until I got home and found out he couldn't, and my laptop, which I'd only gotten at Christmas, so less than 2 months ago, had to be shipped out for repair.

I was upset, but the full impact didn't hit me until Tuesday morning when I had a bad stress reaction. I write so much because there are always stories running through my head and they are lost if I don't write them. I cannot hold a pen and write like I used to. I can still type. I write every day. Writing is also the way I relieve stress in my life. For my husband it's lying on the couch and vegging out in front of the TV. TV does not interest me. I cannot lie down and do nothing. I have to write. I also write three blogs, have two emails I need to keep up with, and do a lot of research online. I am on my laptop from right after dinner until bedtime every day. Losing it after the joy of finally having a laptop that met my needs was a devastating blow. Comments that I could use my pokey netbook, that my inadequate and frustrating HPStream could be set up for writing again (this was the computer that the new laptop replaced because it was a piece of frustrating junk), or I could use the PC (that my husband is always on), or Kelly's PC (which she is on) for writing did not begin to calm me down. Then being told to "Stop pouting," only served to tell me that my family has no idea who I am as a person, as a writer. My husband does not have a creative bone in his body and is a very black and white thinker. There is no gray in his life. My daughter is a lot like him, but she also writes, although not nearly as much as I do.

And now to vent- (reading beyond this point is optional)

I have been a writer my entire life. I write every day. It's a release valve for all the stories that constantly flow through my mind, even when I'm working my regular full time job. There are multiple tracks in my brain doing different things, all at the same time. I also have obligations outside of work that I need to keep track of. My husband has no hobbies, belongs to no groups, has nothing to do but lie on the couch and watch TV after coming home from work. He does not do anything else, therefore cannot even begin to comprehend anyone else having stuff to do. It's not in his wheelhouse. My daughter comes home from work and has things she does. She goes to play cards with a friend, goes out to eat, takes trips, and writes a blog for the museum. She is a combination of her father and me, but not exactly like me. She, too, fails to understand how connected I am to writing- it is a huge part of me that needs a daily outlet or else I am irritable, frustrated and angry because I do not feel as if I am accomplishing anything. I am not the kind of person who can sit around and do nothing. I never have been.

Plus, there has been a mountain of stress and worry in my life with John having been out of work for two years with no income coming in from him. Kelly has been looking for a house of her own for over a year and unable to find anything affordable that is suitable. My health issues have increased to the point where I don't know how much longer I'll be able to work. So, I also worry about the future and where we'll be when everything else crashes around us. Obviously, no one else worries about these things if they can be so blithe and lack a true understanding of why I had such a bad reaction to even temporarily losing my laptop. All of this has altered my life in a huge way, and increased, again, my frustration, irritability, and anger.

I have spent a week trying to "get over" my family's complete lack of understanding as to how one more blow to an already wobbling and ready to crash life staggered me like that. I'm grateful for my supportive friends who listened to me vent and understood what I was saying. It's because of them that I'm functioning and able to cope with my (beloved) pokey netbook to write my blogs and check my email, and do some research...but I have not been able to write. My psych is still reeling- not only because of the laptop issue but because of how my family failed to understand why I reacted the way I did.

Now that I've vented here...maybe this afternoon or this evening I will be able to write again. It's been a week since anything creative has flowed out of me because I have been working through all the disappointment, discouragement, and dissatisfaction that overwhelmed me and dragged me under. I still feel poisoned by it...we'll see what happens.