Category Archives: accomplishment

And so comes The End….

In the front yard is my lilac bush, surrounded by roses. A fragrant spot, especially in spring.

At 3.38 p.m. PDT, I closed up my WIP, then saved it on the flash drive that sits on a desk next to the table upon which my computer lives.  The Hawk was finished in a manner much like it began, sort of innocuous, as if from a dream.

I just had to photograph this rose again; it has bloomed so beautifully. Sending love to Miss Cindy; these shots are for you my friend.

Actually, the idea for this book came to me during slumber, and within the novel it ends that way too, Lynne and Eric and….  I won’t spoil the conclusion; let me just say it’s a happy one, emerging over the last few days as though it was always meant to wrap up at the end of a month.  Six months and four years in the making, ahem, but who’s counting?

The back side of that plant, totally awesome….

Not me, not anymore.  Word counts and numbering chapters are over.  The Hawk is finito, oh my goodness!  Amid several baskets of laundry, grocery shopping, and my usual faffing about, I wrote a chapter, number 266 to be precise, a little over 3K in length.  This book started with Eric and Lynne, ends that way too.  Maybe that’s a spoiler, but I don’t care.

I’ve finished this novel, and yup, I’m over the moon.

Quickly I need to thank a few folks; Julie K. Rose has been in my proverbial writing corner for a helluva long time.  Honey, you are amazing, and I love you so!  Laura Bruno Lilly is a writing buddy, also a fellow quilter and (he)artist who connected with me through NANOWRIMO; giterdoneatlastpeace my friend.  There’s my awesome and growing family, to whom I am indebted and blessed by their love and support.  Friends from the ages have proffered their cheerleading ways, thanks more than I can say.  My husband is a saint, literally, ha ha.  He’s also my soulmate who makes this writing gig feasible, not to mention keeping me grounded.  And then there’s….

We call this rose Gracie; flanked by the peach tree to the left, a blueberry bush on the right, with a tall peach-coloured rose behind it, Gracie has to work hard to be noticed. She’s a beauty….

In this story, Christian faith starts out in the shadows, but as it has been within my life, so it builds within the fiction.  I am blessed beyond any amount of words by a Love that exceeds all levels I could dream, grace that soothes, peace that heals.  And divine inspiration that has allowed for this novel’s completion; believe me, there’s no way I could have done this on my own.  I was forty-seven when this story began, have gained, and lost, loved ones.  I’ve turned fifty, then fifty-one, and actually just celebrated another birthday, jeez Louise!  But now it’s all water under one heck of a Hawk-like bridge.

Last but not least are geraniums along the western side of the house. We have more in front, but these are worthy of a shout-out.

Before posting this entry, I want to say that regardless of how insurmountable a challenge may seem, if you feel called to it don’t despair.  As I’ve mentioned, there have been plenty of moments when I wanted to abandon this book, yet I KNEW eventually the impetus to continue would emerge.  Maybe that’s what I’ve learned from this experience, both in how long it has taken to write it, and how lengthy of a yarn I’ve spun.  There is no turning back from that to which we are called to do, merely the simple action of daily performing our duty, be it as a writer, a wife, a quilter, a mother, even an abuela.  Tomorrow I will celebrate my fifty-second year with the hubby, our daughters, the grandkids, and others so beloved.  And no small attention will be given to a novel that is now in the can.  A birthday and book party methinks, hehehe.  Oh yes, definitely time to celebrate.

Big Bright Quilt Top

Sewing this project has been a lot like writing The Hawk; both have required faith and perseverance, while the sense of fulfillment waits for when each is finished.  Today I completed this quilt top, and while much remains for it to turn into a quilt, I had to write a bit about why it means so much.  And that as behind the scenes a novel is produced, how similar these processes are.

When sewing, it’s a matter of making sure pieces fit together.  Yesterday I fashioned the bottom row, big squares of fabrics used in this quilt, then edged with a sash of Kona Sprout.  I attached that section this afternoon, then photographed most of it after getting laundry off the clothesline.  About a foot of the quilt hangs out of sight; it’s a large piece, measuring about 80″ long, 76″ across at this stage.

I’d been toying with the notion of adding sashes along the perimeter, sort of tying up the whole kit’n’kaboodle.  A little math led me to believe I had enough fabric left to do just that, so I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting strips, sewing them together, ironing flat the seams, then pinning those long pieces to the sides, top, and bottom.  Lots of minutes were spent at my ironing board, during which time I listened to a most apropos band, called Quilt.

My fave tune currently is “Cowboys in the Void”.  This is from their 2011 album, also called Quilt.  My husband introduced me to this Boston band, and along with some Mozart, I had plenty of good music to keep me in the mood.

By a quarter after five, I pressed the last seams, then started some dinner for my hubby.  After we ate, he and our son held up the quilt top in the backyard so I could snap some pictures.  I hung it back on the line, then draped it over the sofa, while my husband watched the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder.  Now I’ll take a few days to ponder this quilt, The Hawk, and various other matters.  Next week I’ll make the back, then we’ll see how and where I baste this sucker.

It’s now a vast 85″ X 81″, and I’ll spend the summer hand-quilting it.  I wanted a blanket that I could wrap around myself, maybe one that the nietos will make forts with, or snuggle with me under its vibrant quilty goodness.

And best of all, its story is only beginning.  Once it’s perched over the back of the sofa, then the tales truly begin.

For now it’s folded on my sewing table, much like The Hawk is percolating in my gray matter.  About two parts remain for me to write, just a matter of knowing when the time is correct that the words will return.

For now, have a listen to “Cowboys in the Void” while I head into the living room, basketball and baseball on tap….

An easy-peasy little quilt top….

While I’m nearly done with the very big quilt top, I spent today fashioning a small one, in part that the big one was too large for the quilt wall, and I had to fold it, then put it elsewhere.  This morning the blank quilt wall looked bereft, so I pulled out some four-inch squares, cut a few more, and assembled what will be for a little boy, due soon.

Not within my family, let me say; it’s for a mum connected to my youngest, who has two daughters and is expecting a son.  I’ve already made quilts for those girls, and just needed a blank wall to design one for their impending little brother.  And what I found was just how rapidly patchwork lends itself to coming together.

This quilt top is nothing like the behemoth I’m still trying to complete, which of course parallels The Hawk, which hangs around my writing as if I’m never going to write The End.  Both of those e-nor-mo projects will one of these days go in the can, but in the meantime….

I needed something a little different.  Something easy, if you know what I mean.  And not having worked with squares for a year, boy, they are pretty mindless, once you get them on the wall.

But halfway through, I was struck by that element, how I didn’t have to think very hard to simply sew squares together, then attach those rows into a cohesive whole.   Not that I was bored, but….  I felt eased by the repetitive nature of it, also thankful it was just ten squares per row, ten rows in total.  After working improvisationally for a year, I couldn’t go back to merely doing patchwork.  But it was nice for a change.

Perhaps amid basketball playoffs and the Giants in Arizona tonight I’ll whip through what remains to be done; iron the flannel backing fabric, cut out some batting, baste it into a little quilt sandwich.  Or I’ll veg in front of the TV, hmmmm….  I’d like to hand-quilt this, but we’ll see how time permits.  I just feel very accomplished, maybe due to the more complicated projects that are too big for their britches.  Or quilt walls, whatever.

Few Things Are More Invisible Than Writing

I was going to title this post: Nothing Is More Invisible Than Writing.  But that’s a fairly finite statement, and I like having wiggle room.  Instead, let’s note that few things (VERY FEW THINGS) are more invisible than writing.  Ha!  Try arguing with that.

The reason I’m compelled to write this post is that I spent much of the morning writing.  And now, early afternoon, I wonder what I did all day.  My husband has taken his mountain trek, and has over twelve thousand steps to show for it.  My pedometer reads…. Oh jeez, 799.  Seven hundred ninety-nine lousy little steps; what was I doing all morning?  Not very much it seems.  Hmmm….

This time last week I’d been a busy sewing bee; two small quilts were put together in a matter of days, and now both are happy to wait for the arrival of my grandson.  Making a quilt is so visible, man, no way to miss the hum of the machine, the fabric spread out, spilled safety pins on the floor.  Quilting is like putting oneself so visibly on the map, while writing is about as squirreled away as one can get.  I write, but I’m the only one who knows it.  Words are safely tucked out of sight, as if all that sturm und drang never occurred.  But it did; I might not have oodles of steps to prove it, but today I furthered the plot a little more forward.

Maybe not much more forward, but some ground was gained.  And in a long story, any ground is good ground.

But now, an hour after saving today’s chapter, shutting off that side of myself, I’m feeling lost.  Well, okay, not lost.  I’m feeling somewhat deflated.  When I spend time sewing, all I’ve managed is calculable, either in that the quilt wall looks depleted, or sewn rows have accumulated, or there’s a basted quilt lying all over my work table.  It’s tangible; I can put my hands on it, show it off, admire what I’ve made.  There is so little of that in writing, but never before have I understood how singular a task is writing, how solitary.  How silent; other than my fingers hitting the keys, writing is about the quietest job imaginable.

Now, I’m not talking about what happens after a book is done.  Let’s be clear about just what I do mean; the crafting of a story is so off the map, it’s like it’s happening on another planet.  And that planet is uninhabited, so there’s still no chance of anyone noting all that a writer has done.  It’s like the words are sucked into a black hole, soundless and void of existence.  Like is there a story about Eric and Lynne, Sam and Renee, Stanford and Laurie and Seth and Marek?  How do you, dear blog reader, even know if I’m just blowing smoke?  Maybe there is no hawk after all….

It’s possible, well, except for the excerpt I posted months ago.  But beyond that, all this blathering about a hawk, some hawk, THE HAWK; what is all this truly?  Why does it matter, who even cares?

Well, um, I do.  I’ve been working on this story since October 2013.  Now it’s mid-January 2015, and with ninety-three chapters done and dusted, I just needed to point out that there is more to my life than quilting.  Quilting is still wet behind the ears when compared to the writing.

You see, I am a writer.  You may have no manner in which to perceive it, yet, I write.  And in those words, another world exists, people laugh, cry, and love.  It’s very similar to real life, at least at this point, because the story hasn’t ended.  And I have to remember that, when I get in a tizzy (like right now); one of these days I will finish this novel (I will, oh I will….).  And when I do, then this time that is writing The Hawk will turn into something else.

But for now, yeah, I’m a writer.  It might not appear that way, it might not appear at all.  But it’s true, even if it’s all fiction.

Here we are again….

It’s funny how long a baseball season is, days that feel like weeks, weeks that seem like months, months that linger like…. Like taking the World Series all the way to Game 7.  Game 7, really?  Um, yes, really.  I will admit that I only watched the first three innings of Game 6; I love my team, but am not a masochist.  And as for yesterday’s contest….

During most of yesterday’s contest I was cleaning.  Also decorating; we’re having a party on Saturday, plenty for me to do while attempting to avoid Game 7.  Once I absorbed Game 7 was necessary, okay, sure, fine, WHATEVER.  Maybe it was for Tim Hudson, one more chance for that man to make a difference.  Maybe it was for me to thoroughly clean out my microwave, which right now is spotless.  Maybe it was for TV ratings or radio personalities or….

But no.  It was for one young man, nearly the same age as my eldest, to make history.  And for one team to denote that no matter how many challenges are presented in that LONG LONG season, sometimes miracles occur.

Just ask any Giants fan who endured the 2014 season; we were hot, we were not.  We barely scraped our way into the playoffs, and then….

Then it was time for a team effort, led by a pitcher who was bolstered by twenty-four other men who played gritty, gusty, and sometimes as sketchily as in June and July.  But ultimately they would not be denied.  Kansas City was a formidable foe, buy hey, together we are Giant.

To celebrate, I bought newspapers this morning, right after seeing my husband, clad in his SF Giants t-shirt, out the door.  I had papers from 2010 and 2012, and this win demanded similar treatment.  My local grocery store had the San Jose Mercury-News, which was all I could get my hands on two years ago, but I wanted the San Francisco Chronicle, what I purchased back in 2010.  I bought the SJ Mercury News, and some apples for later, then proceeded to drive around my neck of the Silicon Valley woods, finally stopping at a Safeway, where Chronicles remained.  I picked up a few, I couldn’t resist, then giddily returned home, pleased with my booty.  This is a moment to be treasured, even if yesterday’s game is one for the books.  And tomorrow, I’ll watch the parade from home, probably with a vacuum in my hand, thrilled for the Giants organization and the thousands of fans who will brave the forecasted rain to fete those men who once again brought a championship back to the Greater San Francisco Bay Area.

They play at AT&T Park, but they belong to all who call the Bay Area their home.

I’ve known this feeling before, in the 1980s when the 49ers won their trophies; it’s a fantastic rush, but the Super Bowl is one game.  The World Series is seven, bless those Giants’ hearts, and was nearly too much for me to take.  As Bumgarner threw those final pitches, my chest muscle was pounding, then nearly popping from my rib cage as Blanco and Perez bobbled Gordon’s hit.  But San Francisco wouldn’t be denied, as another Perez popped up to Sandoval; the ball was caught, the game was over.  Finally, FINALLY this series had ended, and oh my goodness I was so glad it was done.

I don’t know why I am so affected by sport; it’s only a pastime, but for some reason, this pastime clutches at my soul, wringing it until all I can do is holler UNCLE.  It’s the drama obviously, also the thrill of victory.  With baseball, it’s this long slog of days from town to town, team to team, as injuries and life battle to take the wind from players’ sails.  And that is exactly what happened to the Giants this year.  But San Francisco has a knack for bringing in relief mid-season; Cody Ross in 2010, Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro in 2012, and rookies Joe Panik, Andrew Susac, Matt Duffy, and Hunter Strickland in 2014.  Suddenly a team has new life upon which to draw well into the post-season.  Panik made an outstanding grab last night, probably what shifted the momentum for the Giants.  Then in came Bumgarner, and….

No more truly needs to be said, other than I’m very pleased for the team, and for the fans.  I’m grateful to be at the end of this season, not sure how much more I could have taken.  The thrill will be savored for a good number of days, then considered again when some other improbable event occurs.  This win was improbable, if looked at from a usual view.  But if you asked any of the Giants, I’m sure their answers would be different.

This was why they play the game, this was their goal.  Now achieved, I wish for them, their families, and all those within the organization, one heck of a good time.  And many thanks for all the heart-stopping but immensely satisfying treats during the 2014 season.

More Quilt and Novel Nonsense

Not quite a third done.

Not quite a third done.

For the last few days I’ve been sewing together the rows for the dad quilt, which yes, looks suspiciously like the Brother-In-Law quilt, sans the camo and the heavier flannel fabrics that were a royal pain to sew.  This quilt has solids that are shared with the toddler quilt, tying together those father-son blankets.  I’ll ‘quilt’ the dad comforter in the same manner as I did the toddler blanket, sometime next week.

Sometime next week I’ll finish this family project!  And yes, I’m ready to move to the next quilting extravaganza, which waits patiently.  Thank goodness fabric can’t talk back; I’d be up to my ears in blah blah blah…

But as I cropped today’s photos, I was struck by how much sewing a quilt top mirrors the writing process.  An author starts out with a stack of ideas (quilt squares), then has to plot them out (arranging on the quilt wall).  Then comes more plotting or considering the plot (time behind the machine, sewing those squares into rows), which morphs into that first rough draft (rows sewn together).

About halfway completed.

About halfway completed.

Here is where the comparison ends, for once a quilt top is finished, all that remains is making the quilt sandwich, quilting said sandwich, then binding the quilt.  I suppose I could equate that with revisions, but truthfully, they’re not the same animal.  Revising means sometimes taking the entire novel apart.  That’s the last thing a quilter wants to do, once the basting begins.

Yet, a seam ripper comes into play; you cannot sew without one.  But after all that sewing blocks into rows into a quilt top, the emphasis falls toward putting those fabrics into a cohesive whole.  And while the same result is hoped for during the writing process, it takes far more work, in my opinion.

Maybe other noveling quilters would argue, however, this is how I see it.  The processes are very similar, metaphorically, up to the finished quilt top.  Then, paths diverge.

Nearly three-quarters of the way there.

Nearly three-quarters of the way there.

Now you might ask, with fair reason, why is this woman so obsessed with novels and quilts, or more precisely, the process of turning words into stories and scraps into blankets (but not novels into quilts, or vice versa)?  Well, it’s better than indulging in other, perhaps more harmful, vices.  But I think the reason I beat this dead horse with as many sticks as I can grasp is that occasionally I encounter would-be writers/quilters.  And having managed to write a few books and sew a few quilts, I itch for like-minded others to do the same.  In this rather techie world, aged pastimes are slipping from our consciousnesses.  It’s easier to virtually do so much else, but what else is actually being accomplished?

I don’t want to bash technology, goodness knows it’s how I publish novels.  But while my PC makes writing so much easier, I still have to park my keister in the chair and write.  Or sit in front of the sewing machine and guide fabric under the presser foot.  And the results from those actions are…sometimes beautiful, sometimes meh.  But they aren’t virtual; they are books for others to read, and quilts to warm their feet.

As autumn slowly approaches, even here in Silicon Valley, tootsies need a toasty quilt under which to wiggle.

Completed quilt top!

Completed quilt top!

While I never envisioned becoming a quilter, for ages I harbored authorial dreams.  It took years for the latter to be achieved, but the blissful sense of accomplishment was well worth the wait.  I simply want others who ache to write to know it’s possible, if not without a lot of butt-in-chair time invested.  Making a quilt is the same.  And in one manner, books and quilts are much alike; better if they are given away.

Which is truly what the whole kettle of fish is all about; giving up something for another project waiting in the wings…

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.