Pie and dolls and simpler pleasures….

The sun has set, but one lone black cow wonders what in the world we’re doing there….

After one more brief sojourn, to visit our son in Nevada, my husband and I are home for….  Well, for a while, whew!  I enjoy getting out and about, but after a few weeks of traveling all over the West, pleasure at being in my own home is palpable.  Summer has arrived in Silicon Valley, not only in warm temps, but in lush gardens, dying front lawns, and our fruit trees laden with apricots and peaches.  I need to deadhead roses and trim back honeysuckle, but I’m reveling in the comfort that is my domain.  And that includes my writing/sewing grotto too.

Yes, I’m back to reading The Hawk, but I’ve jumped up several chapters.  I’m determined to return to writing at some point this summer, so Part 11 is my starting place, of sorts.  At the end of today’s chapter, Renee notes that for all surrounding them, at least she can fall back on pie, dolls, and simpler pleasures.  I’m taking that as a sign not only for a post, but how to best reacquaint myself with a manuscript.  Just one bit at a time.

Today’s pics are from the rest of my night photo shoot in the desert near Las Cruces.  With only a phone, my shots of the moon weren’t overly impressive, but the next time I find myself there, hopefully I’ll have a good app installed in order to snap the Milky Way.  Simpler pleasures were truly found that evening, from gazing at the twinkling night sky to warming up in the car when the wind grew too chilly.  The stillness was amazing, other than when a photographer shouted to another if they could shine a bit of light, as no one wanted to interrupt what might be a great photo in the making.  While the cameras being used were sophisticated, basic elements of courtesy were just as necessary.  We can’t erase the technology employed in so many parts of our lives, but thoughtfulness never goes out of style.

And now I’m home, giving consideration to my book, hmmm.  I read a couple of chapters yesterday from Part 8, but Parts 9 and 10 have been set aside.  Realistically, I just don’t have the time to pour over them if I want to manage any writing before 2018.  And that statement is a lot for me to ponder; where has time gone, the time I used to give to creating fiction, time now spent in other avenues.  When I began this book in October 2013, grandkids weren’t a glimmer in anyone’s eye.  My father was recovering from chemo, thinking he might have another twenty-five years.  Much of my time was spent at this computer spinning yarns, but now this space is shared with fabrics, dude!  There are many stories I want to tell, but I’ll tell ya, finishing The Hawk comes first.  Except, it doesn’t; my life isn’t merely about writing, although it used to feel that way.

Yours truly, with the moon to my left….

I can’t say it feels like any previous time; it’s new every day.  And that’s good, don’t get me wrong.  I love all the elements which make up my existence, but it’s a little hard acclimating to this altered journey when a few parts seem to be missing.  The Burrito and Little Miss are fantastic additions to my sphere, but what about Eric and Lynne, Renee and Sam, Marek, Laurie, Stanford, Klaudia….  Those fictional members of my family have been patiently waiting for me to get my butt back in the chair, and now that scheduled getaways have thinned out on the calendar, I am so ready to do little else but read, then write.  However, this life of mine isn’t only about me….

Evening descending, and what a gorgeous night it was.

However, it is about following a call to which I am inextricably linked, and through that relationship I trust all t’s will be crossed, all i’s dotted.  I am grateful for some wisdom age has afforded me, knowing what needs to be accomplished will indeed occur, and certainly not in my own strength.  That faith has sustained me in crucial moments, also in slight niggles; when am I going to get back to writing my book???  Maybe (hopefully) this summer.  If not….  Well, one of these days.  And in the meantime, there’s pie, dolls, and simpler pleasures.  Little Miss turns two soon, a new doll on my sewing table ready to gift wrapped.  The words will come amid family, love, and further life lessons, the kind of which never truly end.

Desert photos….

Been back nearly a week, but there’s been little time to process photos, much less blog about them.  Spent the last few days helping my youngest while she took finals, and while I adore my grandson, The Burrito will have to wait, as these shots of southern New Mexico demand my attention.

This was from the tenth, a night with a full moon, which wasn’t exactly conducive to viewing the Milky Way.  But my trip to Las Cruces wasn’t merely about capturing the stars.

I found a great peace in vast blue skies and endless (nearly) empty land, such a tonic from my usual city existence.  My ears are so attuned to traffic, but out here soothing silence reigned.

Snapping one of my hosts, who excels in these evening settings, all her gear ready for a night of magic.

The wind was blowy, but I was enamored of how clear was the view, how massive was the sky, how far from civilization we were.  In the desert, everyday life disappears; all that matters is simplicity.

That and keeping an eye out for critters and cow pies.  I was successful on both counts!

An amazing sunset, but that was merely the beginning of our evening….

Worldbuilding, or onto Dorlinia….

The Organ Mountains, Las Cruces, New Mexico…

I’m in Las Cruces this week, visiting a friend whom I’ve known since my time in Yorkshire.  This week holds various pleasures, from seeing one much loved and being introduced to a new part of America, exploring a slice of the Southwest desert and finding pecan orchards along the Rio Grande, and conjuring plot points for what I’m hoping will be my next book.  Plenty of downtime on this brief holiday, and I’m making the most of it in all aspects.

Gorgeous skies enhanced the view.

Today I was chauffeured around the Organ Mountains, their craggy beauty a stunning sight to behold.  After lunch, I pulled out notes for The Earthen Chronicles, scribbled some ideas, then felt like writing a post; I haven’t created a new world since I wrote For God and Country, and my goodness there’s a lot of imagination necessary.  But with a first draft already written, I have the framework in place.  Now it’s a matter of fine-tuning, and considering I have no notion of when I’ll get back to this story, there’s no rush.  I can mull over these concepts, then close the notebook, knowing right where to find them again.

Currently my quandary lies in just how long does a Dorlinian live; originally that species had a lifespan of about one thousand years.  However, that’s a LONG time to consider when plotting important twists, so what if they lived for half a millennium, then later their lifespans stretched to double that?  Okay, cool, I’ll go with that.  Then….  And from there it’s all about rearranging a few details, and voila!  A fictional species undergoes some minor tweaking, well, relatively minor.  What’s five centuries between friends?

What would a Dorlinian made of such mountains? Something else for me to consider, hehehe….

Between friends many sins are overlooked; right now my hosts are pottering around their domain while I type away.  Our friendships have evolved since our days in the UK where it’s simply lovely to spend time doing one’s tasks, aware in a little while we shall come back together.  Tonight’s outing is a trip into the desert to snap the night sky, if the wind calms, permitting such activities.  No idea how my phone will measure up against some fantastic cameras and their well-trained operators, but I will be considering those long-living Dorlinians who traveled from a far away galaxy, arriving on Earth with some rather nefarious notions up their sleeves.   Who knows how a peek at the Milky Way will inspire further musings?  What makes me happy is how a story written over four years ago continues to percolate within my gray matter, making me look outside myself for answers.

Worldbuilding isn’t merely for my novel; it’s self-discovery too, even if it occurs in fits and starts.  For now it’s spotty, but not forgotten.  And when the time is right, those Dorlinians, Carpathians, and Taapsychs will move front and center, slugging it out figuratively and literally.  The results of those interactions are years away, let me not kid myself.  But while I won’t live as long as Dorlinians, I trust their tales, my own too, will spin out correctly.  I don’t need to know every plot point, just enough to get through this day.

Getting closer all the time….

The top half, keeping the spare bed warm….

I’m going away for a few days, and while I wanted to get the fabric WIP put together, it didn’t happen.  I did get my shower cleaned, so I’m not entirely displeased about the unfinished quilt top.  More I’m aware that all things occur at their proper time.  That quilt isn’t going anywhere, and by the end of May, I’ll have that project basted, maybe even under my hand-quilting needle.

The Hawk languishes in a similar sort of space; I won’t say that by the month’s end I’ll be writing, but maybe I’ll have returned to revising; my goodness I miss working on that book.  I miss expressing myself via prose, I miss being deeply involved in a completely different sort of existence.  I miss who I used to be a couple of years ago, but that woman has moved on.

Becoming an abuela has been a process somewhat like turning into a quilter or taking on novels.  Baby steps, ha ha, come first, then suddenly Little Miss is nearly two and not having toddlers in my life seems strange.  But then, not writing is weird; separate spheres are trying to slot themselves into proper positions and as the toddlers show their turbulent sides, I’m having to wrestle the desire to create alongside nurturing my beautiful family.

The bottom sections, which will hang out on the quilt wall a little longer…..

My life can be noted by decades; in my twenties I became a mother.  My thirties were spent raising kids, teaching them too.  By my forties they were teens, and I was learning how to write fiction.  Now they are all in their twenties, dude!  My fifties seems to be the Grandma decade, and I’m grateful to be close to my daughters emotionally and geographically.  Yet this alteration isn’t without some growing pains, more for the wee ones than myself, and even when I’m feeling a little wonky, I can view more than what tomorrow might bring.  And that too is a fantastic blessing; perhaps my sixties will be another wordy jumble of years, stories that percolate in my brain finally landing on virtual documents.  In ten years, The Burrito and Little Miss will be preteens, jeez!  A grandmother’s presence won’t be as necessary for them or their folks; I’ll probably be the one needing a daily nap, hehehe.

As I absorb this latest life lesson, I’m mindful of how brief these days are, this interruption in writing and sewing really no more than a hiccup.  I’m also trying to impart these notions to my daughters; as they want to make their children’s lives smooth, I do too.  Becoming a grandmother isn’t as earth-shattering as turning into someone’s mom, but it has required moments for reflection.  And it’s nice to know new discoveries wait on the horizon.  Toddlers aren’t the only ones learning, but thankfully my curve isn’t as steep as theirs.  I’d fall right off the edge, let me tell you.  Plenty of quilts will soften all our landings, or maybe we’ll just snuggle under them, letting love be the best teacher.

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….