Daleks, Blue Boxes, Quilts, and Blue Barns

Still trying to decide what I think about the new Doctor Who, as in the show, The Doctor as in the character, the…  Well, maybe that’s all.  I still have yet to see the premiere episode, but today’s was okay.  I’m still vacillating overall however…

In the meantime, there’s baseball, Giants and Brewers.  There’s quilts on the line, for photographs.  There was ice cream with just enough milk to make ice crystals, until I ate it all.  And there’s The Hawk and the blue barn.

Now that I think about it, Eric’s painting of that blue barn is sort of a two-dimensional Tardis, which I did not at all, under any circumstance, plot out at the time.  It was just a canvas Eric painted after he…  Well, after he came home.  And he gave that painting to Sam and Renee, and anyone who looks at it, of course, has their own idea about what’s inside it.

And no two ideas are exactly the same.

Much like how no two quilts are identical.  These on the clothesline are four of five, well, three of five and a quilt top.  And a placemat.  The placemat is mine.  The quilts are for others.  Just about all the quilts I make are for someone else.

Although, last night as San Francisco creamed Milwaukee, I sorted out squares that will become a quilt for me.  Now, just to find the time to sew it.

Time is a funny notion, and it has nothing to do with a man from Gallifrey.  It has to do with writing and sewing and eating ice cream and snapping pictures of quilts and doing the dishes and writing a blog entry.  It’s like is there enough time to do all that?

Well, today there was.  And I even realized why suddenly Renee is so depressed that she has to talk to Eric and Lynne’s Polish pastor, Marek Jagucki.  Because Marek knows why Eric painted the blue barn, and what he’ll tell Renee about his own past will begin to help her heal.

And, for a time, Renee will be the only one with whom Marek has spoken about what he sees inside the barn.  Even though Eric has a very good idea what that man keeps inside that structure, which can be bigger on the inside than what it looks like from the outside.

Just depends on what one puts inside it.

A Paperback Writer

I’m currently listening to that Beatles’ tune, which, ahem, inspired today’s title.  As I typed it out in the title slot, I wondered if in ten, twenty, fifty years if the term paperback will be forgotten.  Not sure why that popped into my head; right now my head’s pretty filled with ideas about The Hawk.  Well, that and the slim possibility my baseball team might squeak into a playoff spot.  Oh and the last week of preseason football, a few quilts swirling, laundry on the line, plus assorted odds and ends.  But I must admit that since I started writing again, that task has taken its usual first off the bat position, once I’ve downed some breakfast and had a shower.  Although today, I did get the clothes sorted and started before I sat to write.

If I hadn’t, laundry would just now be getting on the line.

But that wouldn’t have been so terrible; it’s another hot sunny day in Silicon Valley.  The sort of day that you’d like to be “Dancing Barefoot”, Patti Smith pouring from the speakers at the moment.  But the heat’s not why I start writing in the early morning.  That’s because I still have all my wits about me, and in writing this very long story, I need all the brain power I can harness.

Quilting doesn’t require the moxie that writing does; writing asks a person to slip from their own skin, taking on various personas, but still somehow keeping one’s own soul tethered to the mess.  Novels in this stage are a mess, but a lovely untidiness, full of creative power, even if the whole thing is a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

But a novel wouldn’t get to the theoretical paperback stage if not for this one, where plot is loose and wild, characters here and over there and five miles apart.  Where’s the setting today, whose gonna say what, and when in the heck is Eric going to start a painting with Sam Ahern as the subject?  I just remembered that last night, and scribbled it on the manuscript, which is how I’ve been keeping track of things that still need to happen.  Because now this novel is so huge that while I KNOW the important bits, the way there is murky, but only because I don’t know it yet.

A novel, regardless of the length, is a journey.  A long novel is, well, a long trek upon a landscape where the writer can’t see much other than the great big skyscrapers in the distance.  So as I go be-bopping along, I remember bits here and there, and I type them at the beginning of the next chapter.  Today’s work started off looking like this:

Chapter 86  Seth and Laurie…  And when does Eric start to paint Sam?

Well, as these things go, the whole chapter was from Laurie’s POV, as he sat across from his cousin Seth.  The reader learned much about the Abrams and Gordon clans in today’s installment, so tomorrow I’ll write about Eric and Sam.  The other thing about writing a big fat novel is balancing all the varied story lines.  Eric and Sam are more important characters than Laurie and Seth, but everyone needs their moment in the sun.

Meanwhile the tunes keep rolling; Yo La Tengo’s “From A Motel 6 #2″ crunches its guitar-like way out of my computer’s speakers, as I let the morning’s happenings wind out of my soul.  That was the gist today, as Laurie had to let go of a man he loves, while recovering the soul of the love of his life.  Faith is at the core of this book, but it’s not only Christian.  Laurie’s Jewish, while his lover Stanford has no inkling toward religion of any kind.  Stanford doesn’t even wish to consider something so ethereal, but that’s Stan’s problem at the moment, the status of his soul.  And let me tell you, it’s a lot for this author to mull over, even early in the morning when I still have all the words.

I don’t write at night; by then I’ve used up all the good words.

Nighttime is for baseball, unless it’s a day game, like today (2-1 Giants over the Rockies in the bottom of the third).  Nighttime is also for hand-sewing quilt bindings, which I did last night as the Giants played well against a divisional foe.  I feel like the Giants are flirting with me right now, well, they’re batting their eyelashes at all of us fans, enticing us to watch, because they *might* earn a playoff spot.  I’m a sucker for a good story, so I watch, and while I couldn’t stay up for the end, because I was up so early that morning writing this darn novel, I was rewarded for my faithfulness by a 4-2 walk-off victory courtesy of Buster Posey’s two-run homer.  Maybe that win spurred on my 4K-plus chapter today, maybe.  Maybe “For The Moments I Feel Faint”, I dig not through Relient K, but my own belief, that no matter what, if the words are supposed to be written, they’ll be written.

By hook and by crook and a song or three, the words will come.

Quilts are made in the same manner, laundry is hung by a similar mantra.  It’s a Git ‘er done sort of thing, bless my dad’s heart.  If he can undergo nine grueling rounds of Taxotere and goodness knows what’s next, I can sit at this machine and figure out something to say.

And tomorrow morning, God willing, I’ll sit down and do it again.

Meanwhile back to a pre-autumnal, post-Taxotere world…

For many days I’ve been feeling autumn’s pull, even if the temps are warm.  It was like this in England, around the beginning of August, when the long summer days began that fall-like shift.  But fall there is autumn, a term which has followed me back to America, still clinging tightly.  Summer is the same, trying to reaffirm its grip, but autumn hovers in the manner of how shadows fall, in the cooling of the evenings, in kids going back to school.

For all intents and purposes, summer is over.

However, being this is California, warm days will linger until November.  Still, I started out this day in jeans; I haven’t worn jeans first thing since, oh my goodness, May?  It’s been so dang hot in Silicon Valley this summer that even typing the word autumn feels ominous, like it won’t appear, rain won’t fall…  Well, rain might not fall, but that’s a defeatist attitude, and since Dad’s chemo has ended, I’m trying to keep an optimistic mindset.  Dad’s pretty darn upbeat, I should be too.

When I tell someone my dad just went through nine rounds of chemo, automatically they give me a worried gaze, which is probably normal.  But having weathered that storm all spring and much of summer, now it feels strange, for chemo is done, Dad’s already thinking about the next weapon in the battle.  Radium treatments are the most likely armament, and he was mulling those over well before chemo ended.  The strange part is that none of this is going to cure him; prostate cancer has moved into his bones, and in a month, we’ll know just how much further that illness has invaded.  Dad’s getting another bone scan, for his PSA went up to 16 after a low of 6.2.  I realize these are small numbers, PSA-wise, but it was disappointing that as soon as chemo ended, the PSA shot right back up.  We’d all been hoping for a reprieve, maybe a few months’ worth even.

Uh, no.

Of course, this is much harder on my dad and mum than on any of us kids and grand-kids.  But as a family we share in their trials, also in Dad’s triumphs.  His willingness to dive back into the world of cancer treatments amazes me, for how all-out lousy he felt with chemo’s eight and nine.  He’s not even back to feeling 100% yet, although his appetite has returned.  Sometimes after a meal he feels sick, his legs are still weak.  It hasn’t even been two months since his last dose of Taxotere, but here he is, investigating the next option.  Life is short, I can hear him saying; you gotta git ‘er done.

Life is a season of many taskings, from novels and quilts to treatments and road trips.  Sports come and go; football is right at the door, waiting for summer to wind its way into the past, autumn entrenched by falling leaves and dropping temperatures, and in some parts of this nation, an odd wetness that falls from these rather strange-looking gray blobs in the sky.  Oh rain, yes, I remember it well, eleven years of English weather that couldn’t find its way out of a Californian paper bag.  As this autumn knocks on the door, I’m thankful the words continue to tumble like sodden British days that made me pine for sunny American days that now make me ache for soggy English days and….  And on it goes, cycles of this and that and the next available cancer treatment.  But I’m thankful for those treatments, for they mean my dad has something to anticipate, they mean he’s still around.

One of these pre-autumnal days, he won’t be.

But then, neither will I, isn’t that a mouthful?  No one lives forever, which is even more reason to get the words down, sew the quilts, write a blog post.  Okay well, perhaps not that last one, or maybe.  Maybe you get what I’m saying here, which is more than weather and PSA numbers, but the fragility of the whole kit’n’kaboodle.  It’s a precarious thing, life, for what we accomplish, for what remains undone.  I have a quilt staring at me right now, with an unattached binding wondering when in the heck I’m gonna get off this darn computer and get my fanny perpendicular back to the sewing table.

It’s a colourful thing, so maybe the binding blends into it, but I can see it, out of the corner of my right eye.  And more fabric beckons, as does tomorrow’s chapter of The Hawk, in which this writer finally moves the cast into 1963.  But now 1963 is fifty-one years ago, fifty-one years!  How does time move that quickly, how are we supposed to get sorted all that needs to be accomplished?

Git ‘er done indeed, as my dad would say.  Because one of these days, believe it or not, 2014 will be fifty-one years in the past.  I’ll be…  Oh good grief, let’s not go there.  Instead, let’s return to the mountain from the top of the post, a peak my husband sometimes climbs, a peak recently made even more accessible by a car park just opened for all from eight in the morning until an hour past sunset.  A few nights ago my hubby drove us up there, and I purposely didn’t look past the front windscreen as he did so.

Yet, the view is stunning, all of Silicon Valley spread out like a vast English rain cloud.  It’s 2014, my dad is seventy years old.  I’m forty-eight, with words to write, comforters to sew, love to give.  Cancer to address, a family to support, and rain to hope for, amid other things…

Sometimes quilts, like novels, just end…

I spent much of today doing myriad things, but a few items were top of the list: make potato salad, start basting the mum quilt, and watch vintage Doctor Who.

The last was sort of by accident; the episodes listed on TV were of more recent Who, however, the husband and I caught “The Girl In The Fireplace” and “Blink”, and I have yet to see yesterday’s new show.  But when you have fantastic Who such as those two, who needs anything more?

As for the salad and quilt, well, the salad is now chilling in the fridge.  And the quilt…

The quilt is basted.  I had planned to go back the other way, but like the little sister quilt, the mum quilt will be quilted in one direction.  Sometimes books end before I expect them too (although The Hawk does not fall into that category); on occasion a quilt does the same.  Of course, there remains plenty of work for that quilt; edges trimmed, perimeter sewn, binding attached…  And speaking of attached bindings, I finished the toddler quilt yesterday at my daughter’s house, while she cut wedges for a Christmas tree skirt.

And Buttercup kept an eye on us both, Scrappy’s Big Sister hanging over the couch in the background.  Quilts a’plenty around here and my eldest’s house, as it should be.

Back to writing tomorrow; The Hawk isn’t going to finish itself.  But I needed a couple of days away.  Gave me perspective on the quilt, and time with my daughter and the hound.  And a good dose of Doctor Who doesn’t hurt the creative spark at all.  The Tennant episodes went a little over the top at the end, but Tennant and Piper are a hard combo to beat.  Gives me inspiration to get back to writing; one of these days Eric, Lynne, Sam, and Renee are going to reach The End.  In that, I must believe!

An Excerpt from The Hawk

Two couples walked hand in hand toward the front gate.  The Aherns led the way, but they stopped, turning back to the Snyders as all reached the property wall.  “Well, we’ll have to get together again soon,” Sam said to Eric.  “Maybe next time someone can make a boysenberry pie.”

Sam didn’t look at Lynne as he finished speaking, but he did smile in her direction.  Lynne nodded, as Eric squeezed her hand.  “Yeah, I’m about ready for pie.”  Eric’s tone was light.  “But only if you make that custard Sam.”

“It’s a deal.”  Sam looked toward the house.  “Maybe next weekend, at our place.  I found a new recipe for pork chops, we’ll give it a try.”

“And maybe by then Stanford will have gotten your pictures back to you.”  Eric again gripped his wife’s hand.  “He swears he didn’t sell them, and I’m holding him to it.”

“You and me both.”  Renee smiled, then tugged on her husband’s arm.  “All right, let’s go.  You gotta cook for me tonight.”

“Oh, the dishes!”  Lynne glanced back at the house.  “I nearly forgot them.  I’ll be right back.”

She was glad for an excuse, and maybe if she was lucky, Renee would be on her heels, not making Lynne have to endure any more idle banter.  She might ask Renee if they could make the dinner for the subsequent weekend, or maybe at the end of March.  Not for Eric, but for Sam and Lynne and the vast space that still separated them.  Lynne wanted to know what Eric had told Samuel Ahern, then later she would ask Renee how Sam had taken it.  But at least things with Renee were nearly normal.  After both women had a good cry, they had gone upstairs, where Lynne showed Renee the next series Eric wanted to exhibit.  Renee had been silenced by the array of canvases, all landscapes, with only hints of birds.  None were as impressive as that blue barn, but other aspects captivated, mostly due to how fine were the details, be they of trees and shrubs, fields awaiting harvest, sunrises and sunsets.  Or Lynne’s favorite, a collection of horses, standing under a large oak tree, either swatting flies with their tails or nuzzling their noses together, mares and their colts alongside stallions and their mates.  Lynne had been reminded of the horses Sam had seen inside that blue barn; was he excited for that painting’s return, or was he anxious, for the hawks would come back as well.  Maybe they wouldn’t be as hard to view, for they faced the sunset, not staring out from the canvas.

Lynne sighed, collecting the paper bag with one hand on the bottom.  Glass casserole dishes were heavy, and as she turned for the door, she stopped in her tracks.  “Oh, I didn’t expect you to….”

Sam cleared his throat.  “Here, give that to me, it’s not light, I suppose.”

His tone was straightforward and quickly Lynne handed the bag to him.  “Thank you, I mean, for being so kind.  I mean, for all the cooking.  Both of us really appreciated it.”

He nodded, then inhaled.  Lynne did too, thinking back to the last time they had stood alone in this kitchen.  He had been so angry, slamming the door on his way out.  She couldn’t read his mood now, but at least he had come for the dishes.  It was a start, if nothing else.

But Sam didn’t step away.  He stared at her, the first time he had looked directly at her since that rainy, miserable day.  He had his scarf and gloves back; Renee had returned those items on one of her trips, delivering dinner.  Now the weather was nearly spring-like, and he wouldn’t need them for months.  Then Lynne sighed.  Maybe Sam would pack them away for good, or give them to charity, the handkerchief too.  She smiled weakly, then cleared her throat.  “Again, thanks Sam.  You’re a much better cook than me, Eric, and Renee combined.”

He nodded, then allowed a small grin.  “Well, nobody makes a pie like you do.”  Then he coughed.  “I hope we see you guys next weekend, if Eric’s feeling up to it.”

“Oh, well, sure.  Of course.”  She nodded, but wasn’t certain if he meant it.  “We don’t have anything going on, well, Stanford might come see us, otherwise….”

“Well, if he’s around, bring him along.  If we don’t have our paintings back by then, I can harass him in person.  But do let me know, so I can get enough chops.”

“I will, uh-huh, you bet.”

“Mmmhmm.”  Sam nodded, then tapped his foot.  “Well, Renee’s probably wondering if I got lost, or if I’m trying to wheedle that pie recipe from you.”  He chuckled, making Lynne blink away tears.

“Probably,” she said, wiping the corners of her eyes.

“Yup.  So, okay.  Next weekend, unless, like I said, Eric’s not up to it.”

“Sure.  Next weekend.”

Sam turned around as Lynne answered him.  As he reached the doorway, he faced her.  “He told me what happened, just so you know.  Can’t say I believe him anymore than I do you and Renee, suppose I’ll just have to see it for myself, if it ever happens again.”  Sam glanced at Lynne, then to the bag in his hands.  “I’ll let you and Renee sort out the details for dinner.  Just remember if Stanford’s gonna be there….”

“I’ll be sure to let you know.”

Sam paused, then met her gaze.  “Thanks.  Thanks Lynne.”  He nodded, then headed through the doorway as Renee called his name.

For Laura….

Feast Or Famine (Or Fabric)

Sometimes writing has very little to do with quilting.  Like right now, in the middle (or hopefully perhaps the end of the middle third) of The Hawk, there’s so much to note to the reader, and some of it I know.  Some I don’t, which doesn’t bother me, it comes with the authorial territory.  But where a quilter or sewing enthusiast enjoys bringing more fabrics into the fold, a writer’s preference is to keep it simple.  Don’t beat a dead horse.  Redundancy is a drag; um, did I already say that?  Well, if not, then yes, repetition breeds boredom. Right now I’m trying to maintain a steady course with the noveling, but it’s hard, having been away from this story for months, also in that this is a LONG story.  Does the reader need an occasional gentle nudge, maybe.  I’ll know later on, but for now, the squiggles are piling, and that’s what’s important.

Because when the words aren’t there, well, that’s no fun at all.

That’s sort of like trying to sew without fabric.  Now, I live in a small house, so there’s no way I can establish some monstrous stash.  However, when a quilt comes a’calling, I go a’buying some cottons.  I did that today, after the writing was finished, for a quilt back, and a baby quilt.  Buying fabrics for baby quilts is still new, but boy, I’ll tell you, I sure like it.

Nostalgic whimsy; I love this print, which will be a quilt back for a special little girl...

Nostalgic whimsy; I love this print, which will be a quilt back for a special little girl.

Never before have I had two such fascinating hobbies, which at times are so similar, and at others diametrically opposed.  Writing taught me much in the ways of patience, which is so necessary for quilting, like when standing at the ironing board, pressing seams.  And quilting has given me a new appreciation for fashioning vibrant landscapes with only prose.  Writing demands my morning brain, when the words are still within my grasp.  Sewing requires a different sort of butt nailed to a chair (unless I’m pressing seams), the kind that travels well into the evening after all the good words have been used.  Last night I sewed past eight p.m., watching the Giants take a series from the Cubs, finally getting the mum-quilt-top put together.  It’s now hanging on my quilt wall, and will be placed into the actual quilting queue perhaps as early as Sunday.  Yesterday I did no writing, for the husband is back, the retreat over.  While he acclimated himself to home, I quilted the little sister comforter, stitching in the ditch, then attaching the front of the binding.  Tomorrow I’m spending the day with my eldest, a sewing gig for us ladies.  I’ll chat with my daughter while hand-sewing the binding for that quilt, as well as the toddler blanket, as Buttercup whines for our attention.  I know that part of the routine well.

Waiting patiently for the binding to be attached to the back.

Waiting patiently for the binding to be attached to the back.

I’m a lucky woman, able to balance these rewarding pastimes amid the usual trappings of life.  But then, it’s been one helluva summer, and autumn is looking to continue in that vein.  Thank goodness American football is around the corner, and as for the Giants…

Okay, they’re still in contention for a playoff spot, if the Dodgers’ three top pitchers happen to get abducted by aliens.  Barring that, watching San Francisco play has become more of admiring rookies filling in spots all over the infield.  Meanwhile, I consider plots for The Hawk, mulling over fabrics for future quilts.  And as I wrote today, from Eric’s POV, how important is the essence of hope.  Not for my baseball team, ahem, but for all that sits on the horizon.  Babies to be born, books to be finished, quilts to be compiled; I don’t know the outcome of any of those realities, but that’s all right.  It’s like writing The Hawk; I don’t know all that’s coming, but I know the end.

And in the end, that’s the main thing.

The Marks of Success

The last two days have proved fruitful, yesterday a little more than today, but writing ebbs and flows, following the nature of life.  The marks I’m talking about illustrate fully just how when the words are there, there is no better place for a writer to be.

I’m a horrible typist; well, let me qualify that.  I’m a fast typist, but extremely sloppy.  I earned a C+ in eighth grade for my mediocre skills, but they’ve sustained me thus far, and I can’t complain, or not very much.  At times red squiggles inundate my document, or at least dot the landscape.  Since I started working on The Hawk last Thursday, the red squiggles haven’t been an issue; regardless of how the words emerge, the red squiggles are always present.  It’s how I eliminate those squiggles that tells the story.

Until yesterday, my paragraphs were cleaned up as soon as I’d finished them.  I kept checking my word count, eager for a chapter-length to have been amassed.  As I plodded along, I tidied what had been accumulated, the whole thing looking neat as a pin.  However, that’s not my style.  My style is to bash out a chapter without too much consideration, aware the words will be what they will be at this point.  Then I take an additional twenty minutes at the end to clean up all the red (and green) squiggles.  I’ve been doing it this way for many years now, part of my process.  But the past several days have been odd; I poke about, right-clicking on this incorrect word, then on that one, feeling like I’m pulling these words, mistyped or not, from my entrails out through my nostrils.  Not exactly a pleasant image, I’ll admit, but exactly how these chapters were being crafted.

On Monday, the red squiggles were starting to add up, which pleased me, and which I expounded upon in the previous post.  I knew I was close, so close I could taste a whole morning’s worth of mistakes piling on each other.  Yesterday, I hit the jackpot, an entire chapter pounded out with little conscious thought, and the prose wasn’t half bad either.  By the end, I knew I was cooking with gas, feeling so good that I couldn’t wait to write again today.  In fact, I was so excited that when I woke at two a.m., ideas crowded out sleep.  How could I manage all of that in one little (or not so little) chapter?

Today’s work was a little more laborious, and much of what I wanted to write will be covered another day.  But I can’t discount the sensation of being back in the role of an active writer.  I’ve been aching for that all summer, pondering other ideas, but ultimately I returned to this story, man, what a tale!  It’s the longest novel I’ve written to date, with more plot than Carter’s got pills.  And that’s been my stumbling block, how to sort this story line with that one, and that one over there.  Oh, and don’t forget this one and…  And while I love how everything coalesces together, getting it to coalesce isn’t always easy.  In fact, it can be downright maddening, and more than a little frightening, maybe even a little writer’s block inspiring.  But I managed to fight my way out of the Cuban Missile Crisis, so hey, things are looking up.

And in the meantime, I’ve done some sewing; still procrastinating on putting together the rows for the mum quilt, so instead I spent yesterday quilting the toddler quilt.  Basting that project was a breeze; such a difference when it’s 10 X 12 rows opposed to 15 X 19 rows, hehehe.  This afternoon I’ll sew around the perimeter, then attach the front of the binding.  The back will be hand-sewn; I need a little sofa-time (preferably with the hubby snuggled relatively close).

I also need cake; the husband returns soon, and I’m in the mood for something sweet in addition to his lovely presence.  My life used to be usurped by writing, I’ll be the first to admit it.  But while it hasn’t taken a back seat, it certainly has been knocked down a few pegs in the queue.  I don’t fret this alteration; life is constantly evolving.  but I am grateful, perhaps more than I can convey, to have found my rhythm again, even if today was a little bumpy.  If nothing else, the squiggles are once again asserting themselves, and I’m happy to let them.  Pile up boys, because as you do, so shall the words.  And it’s much easier to sort out a plethora of squiggles, when compared to bulky plots piling in my gray matter.


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