The Todd Lambert Special

Four years ago I wrote a short story for Top Writers Block, that month’s theme being meringue.  The tale was an epilogue to my Alvin’s Farm series, although it could be read as a standalone yarn.  Having recently revisited that set of books, I decided to separately publish “The Todd Lambert Special”, adding it to the Alvin’s Farm series on Smashwords, although I have already released it as a part of my Chips Off the Block anthology.  Why now, you might ask?  Well, I’ve been taking a brief break from The Hawk, and having penned this little tale, it seemed silly to exclude it from the rest concerning the Cassel and Smith families.  I’m up to my eyeteeth with various life projects, but sometimes it’s good to sneak in a little literary fun.

Enjoy this story for either its brevity or if you’ve read the Alvin’s Farm books, a lovely way to wrap up Jenny, Sam, Tommie, and Rae’s exploits.  And the next time you eat a piece of pie, don’t discount how blessed it just might be, hehehe.

More about the Carpathians (or One Method of Writing….)

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters & Papers From Prison; it’s an intense collection of correspondence exchanged between Bonhoeffer, his family, and his best friend Eberhard Bethge while Bonhoeffer was imprisoned during the last two years of his life.  It was perfect for Lent, and I’ll finish it as the Easter season winds down, leaving me not only with much food for thought, but ideas to explore when I’m finally able to work on The Earthen Chronicles.

Of course, that’s once I complete The Hawk, ahem.  But I can’t help ponder a very different tale, and the more I consider that draft, the more the Carpathians figure into the story.  When alone, I find myself speaking dialogue between Reid and Brook; he’s a hybrid, but she’s Dorlinian, although she was raised on Carpathia during the war, repatriated to that planet by her parents, who felt it was safer than keeping her at home.  Smart on their part; Dorlinia was blown apart, and Brook watched it happen, thousands of miles away while being cared for by Carpathian nuns.  But what I’m finding as I talk out the plot is that Carpathian society is wholly religious, if faith in God is considered religion.  There are no churches; no need, for every single Carpathian believes.  The nuns are actually rebels, eschewing the traditional call of marriage and family to devote themselves solely to prayer and meditation.

Cousins helping one another; The Burrito gives Little Miss a hand as she navigates unfamiliar landscape over the Easter weekend….

As I come to the end of Letters & Papers From Prison, I’m struck by a similar notion, which Bonhoeffer seems only to note to Bethge.  Now, perhaps he mentioned it to his parents, but few letters to them are included once Bonhoeffer and Bethge are able to write to one another, letters smuggled out of, then into, Tegal Prison.  The book reads in part like a novel, for once the illicit correspondence begins, the thoughts between these two friends become the meat of the story, Bonhoeffer stuck in jail while Bethge serves in the German military.  Yet their minds aren’t merely focused upon the war; God is always present, and how to live in a secular world, especially one so torn apart by violence and hatred, weighs heavily on Bonhoeffer’s mind.  Right after the failure of the plot to assassinate Hitler, Bonhoeffer writes a poem about the four stations of freedom: discipline, action, suffering, and death.  This coupled with his belief that by fully living in this world and participating in all its joys and sorrows is how one learns to have faith has altered not only how I consider my own spiritual life, but those Carpathians as well.  In the first draft, they are bit players, the Dorlinians and Taapsychs the main stars.  However, another purpose to this novel is brewing, and eventually (hopefully!) I’ll see how it comes together.

In the meantime, when I have a moment alone, I’ll continue to hash out the Carpathians’ backstory, conversations between Reid and Brook bubbling in my head, then murmured when no one is looking.  Sometimes I wish I was dictating those lines, a few of them quite clever.  But that’s not the only reason I talk to myself, ha ha.  In those snatches of dialogue, I’m laying the foundation of a story more than sci-fi, also not merely a take on organized religion.  I don’t quite know what The Earthen Chronicles is going to be, heck, at the rate I’m going with The Hawk, it might not be more than a rough draft.  It could simply be one way for me to explore my faith; how many finished drafts do I have on flash drives, their sole purpose mere practice for later novels.  Yet, I can’t seem to escape this storyline, not even in my Lenten readings.

If I can find fictional inspiration in Letters & Papers From Prison, there must be a good reason for it.  Now to work my way back to The Hawk, so another story can take flight, hehehe.

Writing For Me

Those two squares inspired by my grandkids have led to many more waiting to be sewn together, sort of how I seem to write books these days….

Lately I’ve been revisiting old friends, prose-style.  While The Hawk waits patiently, I’ve been reading some of my Alvin’s Farm books, novels I haven’t looked at in ages.  They were written over six years ago, some of the first I published independently.  What has surprised me most is how enjoyable they have been, not that they are perfect, but certainly some of my favourites.  And to my (great) relief, I’m rekindling a desire to write, which has been absent for….  A while now, why The Hawk languishes.  Perhaps I’ve needed this time away to remind myself why I started writing in the first place.

Not merely because I had a lot to say, but I have my own special way of saying it.

One blessing of indie publishing has been the freedom to tell my stories exactly as I wish to present them.  They aren’t shoehorned into this or that genre, no branding within this author’s realm.  Releasing The Hawk in serial form has been quite a thrill, although the conclusion has been breathing down my neck for a few months, and yet here I am, nearly at the end of book four in Alvin’s Farm, when I could be revising The Hawk part 7 or 8, I can’t even recall now.  Where am I in The Hawk?

Fortunately, I think I’m right where I’m supposed to be, in the latter third of The Farm at Sam and Jenny’s, just as Tommie gives it to Jenny with both barrels that she should try pot to ease her aches.  For, in reading that dialogue, I’m reminded of an inner delight to just tell the story, regardless of how long it might take.  The conclusion of The Hawk is probably going to be much lengthier than the previous sections, and that fact has sat in my mind, also weighed on my heart.  But so what?  There’s no editor hanging over my shoulder, pointing out that incongruity within the series, no publisher staring at a timepiece, tapping their foot, arms crossed stiffly over their chest.  This is my party, these are my novels, this is my path as a writer.  And what a blessing that is!

I don’t know when I’ll revisit The Hawk Part 12, but when I do, I hope I remember Tommie’s passion, trying to convince Jenny to use an alternative remedy.  There’s more than one way to write a book, and here I go, in a somewhat circuitous manner.  The Hawk might be taking its sweet time, but that’s not necessarily a bad way to progress….

What do Carpathians look like?

I’ve been pondering this post for a few days, and while walking Buttercup today, I think I figured out an answer.  I’m not talking about the mountains in Eastern Europe.  I mean a species of people in a sci-fi story I wrote four years ago.

Buttercup in our backyard yesterday, near the blood orange tree….

Funny how time can slip past; four years ago Buttercup had just been added to our extended family.  Now she’s the old lady dog, hanging out with my hubby and me while her folks and Little Miss holiday down south.  She’s happy to spend most of her time sleeping on our sofa, although she loves an early morning stroll, during which I think I nailed the physical characteristics for a group of humanoids that while not central to that draft, certainly required more fleshing out than I had originally provided.  A couple of months ago (Jeez, has it been that long already, talk about time speeding right along!) I read through that tale, written in early 2013, before I’d started The Hawk.  I do want to get back to it, tentatively titled The Earthen Chronicles, but first a couple of points required my attention.  The Carpathians’ appearance is one, others still niggles in the back of my head.  For now, I’ll take a small victory, because who knows when I’ll get back to that draft….

Right now I’m looking after a dawg, managing a little sewing, occasionally glancing at my grandson’s handiwork, still on the little quilt wall.  The Burrito is home now, but his decorations remain, and I found myself playing around with those tantalizing triangles, coming up with some designs that I might sew into squares later this evening.  The triangles are mostly the same size, but a few are smaller, lending themselves into the corner positions.  I have no idea what I’ll do with these squares once they are made.  But I don’t know about the fate of the Carpathians either, although at least I can picture them in my head.

(Truthfully, it’s the Dorlinians who matter most in the story, and other than their horizontally striped eyes, they look just like you and me.)

That’s one difference between writing and quilting; once I choose fabrics, I have a fairly good idea of how the quilt will appear.  Of course, it still has to be sewn together, but the hues and patterns are always in front of me.  It’s vividly shaded, subtle, or a mix.  When writing, especially science fiction, world-building demands one hell of an imagination.  Easy to consider the Dorlinians, although their eyes are a bit off-putting.  But beyond the Carpathians having 1-2 extra upper limbs, what distinguishes them?  Their life spans are longer than humans, but nowhere near the one thousand years a Dorlinian exists, or the Taapsychs, who also live for upwards of several hundred years.  (Taapsychs are like Ewoks, but taller.)

Buttercup isn’t too tall herself, investigating weeds around a rosebush….

I’m lucky that in my initial draft, the writing is fairly cohesive, plot twists already in place, not that I remember writing them now, but four years ago I had a good grasp on where the story was going (And some great notes for subsequent novels tucked away in a notebook, thank the Lord!).  What I did not possess was much of a notion about the Carpathians, bless their hearts (Wait, do they have hearts? Uh sure, of course they do….).  In the draft they come off as rather aloof, although maybe if your lifespan was one-tenth of your neighbors you might exhibit similar traits.  Not that the Taapsychs and Dorlinians have much to crow about; both species are homeless, why the project being developed in our solar system is so darn important….

But before I can get back to that saga-in-the-making, I need to finish my current behemoth, and I’m *hoping* to return to revising The Hawk on Monday.  Between watching my grandson, then the grand-basset, I’ve had a couple of weeks away from the work.  And while I’m grateful for the blessing that are those members of my family, I’m itching to edit, which one of these days will lead to writing, God willing.  I can’t believe it’s already April, where has 2017 gone?  My big quilt wall still sports the same collection of florals and solids, no writing has occurred.  This year has been one devoted to the care of family, but not like how 2015 was.  That was a mix of starts and finishes, while now it’s about little lives’ (and some not so youthful) continued journeys.  But then my writing isn’t anything new, nor is the sewing.  I’m middle aged, ahem, and so are many of the elements which keep me busy.  And that’s FINE, let me just say.  Not every day needs to be filled with beginnings and endings.

Coasters I made yesterday….

Some parts of life are formed by shallow dips and small rises.  By little mug rugs and endless, I mean, necessary revisions.  By toddlers’ growth and aging hounds investigating the garden.  And by dreaming up a species of folks who I might (or might not) get to one of these days.  I hope The Earthen Chronicles does become my next WIP, not merely because I know what the Carpathians look like, but that the story forced me to come up with that species’ appearance.  It’s a tale that matters, at least to me, and that’s why I bother writing in the first place.  Life is full of little and large purposes, but I don’t spend too much time fretting about this or that.  Sometimes the reason is immediate, like looking after loved ones.  Sometimes it sits in a flash drive for four years or on the quilt wall for several weeks until the perfect moment.  Patience is the key, as well as faith.  And a loyal dog never hurts either.

Sepiacup, as my husband quipped after taking this photo last night….

His and Hers Quilt Walls

A toddler’s handiwork. These are scraps from bindings, which initially were kept with a quilt in mind.

My two-year-old grandson is visiting, and a new activity seems to be slapping triangles on Grandma’s small quilt wall.  My sewing/writing grotto turns into The Burrito’s room when he’s here, and this time he experimented with fabrics and how they stick to batting.

One little boy, however, found a different purpose for them….

Toddlers learn at a stunning rate; I can never anticipate what might be the theme from one visit to the next.  He loves reading books, making roads with blocks for Hot Wheels, and improvising.

Also good in learning one’s colours; he knows purple, orange, and blue.

Letters on the fridge also adhere to the fireplace border.  And an X can easily turn into a wrench when necessary.

The Burrito loves using tools, his imagination far outstripping mine.

I won’t get any editing, or sewing for that matter, accomplished while he’s here.  But that’s not meant to occur during this moment in time.  The agenda is love, learning, and expanding many horizons.  Spring is in the air, time for growth even for a grandmother.

Maybe it will work better from this angle….

Still here….

To say I’ve been busy lately would be an understatement.  Writing has fallen by the wayside, although I am still poking at The Hawk, chapters being revised when I get a moment.  Sewing too has dropped off, but I do have a new quilt wall upon which to design.

A project for my husband, who likes to sleep with a little extra something over his shoulders. One of my fave pieces, and I get to see it every day.

I don’t think I’ve been so set apart from writing since I began this adventure over ten years ago.  Well, maybe this is the perfect time to denote the alterations.  Ten years ago this month my family moved back to America after nearly eleven years spent in North Yorkshire, England.

I didn’t make this tree skirt, but finished it up for my eldest daughter; I should have used flannel for the batting, but it will be comfy for Buttercup come December, until presents obscure it, ha ha.

Right now my eldest and her family are moving house, while my youngest pines for her beloved, who is on an internship back east until June.  My middle child, who moved out last summer, is swimming right along, for which my husband and I are grateful.  Enough upheaval with that chap’s two sisters for the time being.

New quilt wall! In what used to be our son’s room is now where I can plot out big projects.

But if I take a minute to reflect on all that was happening a decade ago, perhaps that is the last time I felt swept up in massive change.  Not even when The Burrito was born two years ago compares, or that my father died right afterwards.  And if that sounds strange, all I can say is the activities which overtook me then weren’t as physically taxing as what my life has been like lately.  More emotionally draining, yes, however in getting older, maybe I weather the heart storms better than before.  Bustling action feels more wearying.

This particular quilt is a remake of one I did in 2014; I had many of the florals, cutting new solids.

If nothing else, the last few weeks are more comparable to what occurred as we left Great Britain, or maybe the notion of moving makes it seem so.  Living vicariously just a little through my kids, I recall how that relocation acted like a demarcation, although I had no clue how clearly the lines would fall.

Nearly completed….

A homeschooling ex-pat mum was about to become a writer, just like how two years ago I went from a writer to grandma.  Whoa, dude….

It mostly looks like this; after visits by Little Miss, The Burrito, and Buttercup, some squares ended up on the floor, then were put back relatively as in this photo.

And now a quilter, when time permits, although family always comes first.  Before I was an author or quilter, I was a mother.  And for me, motherhood trumps most everything else.

A visit in February to Trinidad Head in Humboldt County; after days of rain, glorious sun shone!

But unlike how my daughters are hip-deep in toddlers, now motherhood beckons more in waves.  Often the tide is low, but when it rises, whoo boy!  Hold onto your hats and let the thrills carry you along.

More from Trinidad Head….

If I look back at the last ten years, pastimes have come and gone; no longer do I get to Capitola once a month to admire the beach, nor do I pound out first drafts like nobody’s business.  I drive more now maybe, although as soon as my eldest is settled, I’ll be visiting her via public transport.  And that too is good; I am getting older, and why use my car if it’s not necessary?

Maybe I don’t get to Capitola much now, but the ocean still calls to me; the Pacific from Trinidad Head.

How blessed is that scenario, alongside the fact that even if The Hawk isn’t done, I’m still plodding away at that manuscript.  Ten years ago I hadn’t finished my first book, wasn’t sure if I would.  Then we landed in Silicon Valley, and while in temporary housing, the words returned, words that I know will tumble when the time is right.

And lastly, the quilt from this morning; rows on the left have been sewn together, those on the top right are sewn, but not attached to each other, while the remaining squares need all of my attention. One of these days, I promise!

Quilts will be completed in a similar manner.  Thankfully the fabric WIP has a safe place to rest while I’m otherwise engaged.  In the meantime, time continues to tick, another ten years in America waiting to unfold….

The Hawk, Part Ten

A quick break in the sabbatical to announce the latest segment within this series.  This installment is apt for the season, as it starts off right after Christmas.  But more appropriate is its theme, that of love, reconciliation, and forgiveness.  Part Ten is available in all formats exclusively on Smashwords.  Happy Christmas and Hanukkah to all!