Category Archives: bliss

Squares of Love

Last night I finished sewing rows for the Pre-Washed quilt.  As I set squares atop each other, then ran them through my machine, I was thinking about how much I love doing this; piecing, sewing, quilting, the whole ball of wax.  One of the best parts is admiring the fabrics.  I adore the hues, designs, everything about the textiles I employ.

But specifically yesterday, I was sewing together two prints, one from the curtains, the other a little remnant I picked up from Beverly’s Fabric and Craft store, and I felt compelled to snap a picture of them, post-bonding.  The fabric on the left is Oops-A-Daisy by Keiki for Moda, the print on the right is a Joanns’ Keepsake Calico.  I revel in the bright colours, different in each fabric; I’m a big fan of blues and pinks, purple and orange.  I have a good chunk left of the Calico, but the Moda has been cut, some for this quilt, the rest into 4.5″ squares for yet another future project that I figured out with the help of a great blog, Blue is Bleu.  Audrie Bidwell is a fantastic quilter, and I’m a fan of her cross baby quilt, which will work out splendidly for…  Well, I’ll speak more to that as I collect additional floral prints to those in the photo above.  I need around eighty more squares, which I’d like to gather along my little quilting way.

Or perhaps I’ll see some other stunning cottons, scoop them up, then bring them back to the grotto and cut them appropriately.  In the meantime, sewn rows await my attention.  Time to nest those seams, and start putting that Pre-Washed quilt-top together!

Hoo Mama!!

I’m still shaking, but my 49ers are going to the Super Bowl.  It was close, our defense got taken to the wall on a number of plays, but they came up big when it mattered.  I am so pleased, and am now going to watch the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, hoping for the Ravens; a Harbaugh brothers rematch after last year’s game back east.

Whoa baby, I am over the moon!!  Been ages since my team’s gone to the big dance.  Two weeks from today, man oh man!  Bring on the pigskin.

Beautiful blogging bonuses

As the nearly eleven-minute Peter Saves New York remix of Madonna’s “4 Minutes” (to be explained within this post) pounds into my eardrums, I start this work week off with some feeling the love blogging thrills.  Two blessings were bestowed recently, The Reality/Shine On and Beautiful Blogger Awards, and I need to thank Jill Weatherholt and Charlotte Carrendar respectively for these gifts.  Blogging is one of my pleasures, wrapped up in the writing, and often the tunes.  As with other awards, I’ll list seven things, which today will all correspond with music, the biggest guiding force within my writing after my faith.  I simply could not write without music, all kinds of music.  Oddly enough, other than instrumental jazz, I cannot write to music.  But strip away the songs, and I’m utterly bereft, just about where I’d be without blogging.  Blogging brings an immediacy to the jumble within my head, which is equally smoothed by the tunes.  Blogging and listening to music, well now, hoo-boy, what more can I say, other than I pass these awards to all who have enjoyed my tuneful musings; blogging into silence is like writing without music.  And without further blah blah blah, here are seven musical facts about me.

1. I am a remix junkie, especially when it comes to Ms. Ciccone.  “4 Minutes”  is probably one of my favourite Madonna songs; the remixes spawned a sci-fi plot that still creeps up on me every time one of the many version of “4 Minutes” hits my ears.  Not sure when I’ll write 5:36, but I have a killer tagline; They are us. (Heh heh heh…)

2. I also love to bang my head.  My brother Joe brought Guns N’ Roses to my attention, and I just can’t seem to shake those malcontents from my brain.  I saw them at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater years ago, right before the Use Your Illusion double albums were released.  All I recall is waiting FOREVER for Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, and Duff McKagan (not sure who was the drummer at that time) to get their butts on stage.  “November Rain” is an amazing tune, and I also love “Paradise City”, “Civil War”, and oh my goodness, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

3. And speaking of “SCO’M”, I adore remakes.  Two other versions of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” rock my world, a very twee cover by Taken By Trees (thanks Jenn!), and the languid version by Luna.  Ryan Adams remade Oasis’ “Wonderwall” so astutely, it’s like a still but rushing river running alongside the original.  Elton John’s take on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was how I learned that Beatles’ song, and I love Cheap Trick’s version of “Magical Mystery Tour”.   And I’d be remiss not to mention The White Stripes’ cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”.  Nothing is more heartbreaking than Jack White begging Jolene to leave his man alone.

4. And this post would be lacking if I omitted The White Stripes; my husband bought one of their early singles while we lived in Britain, and soon the whole family was hooked.  Hubby and I saw Jack and Meg White twice; once in Bridlington, then in Wolverhamption, where we caught sight of them heading into the venue.  Fans were getting a few snaps, then as Meg stepped into the building,  Jack smiled our way, then slipped inside.  My husband and I darted into a nearby department store (BHS) for cuppas at the cafe, calling our kids, thrilling all of us to pieces.  The White Stripes gave my husband and I hope that rock wasn’t dead, and while my hubby’s affection for them faded after White Blood Cells, I remain a dedicated fan, using several of their tunes to enliven my writing.

5. Other bands I have seen are Roxy Music (Liverpool), Stevie Nicks (Sacramento, California), Jose Gonzalez (Harrogate, North Yorkshire), Richard Thompson (Leeds and York, England and Colorado Springs, Colorado), The Cramps (Boulder, Colorado), Yo La Tengo (San Francisco and Santa Cruz, California), Camera Obscura (San Francisco), Dash Rip Rock (Boulder), R.E.M. (Denver, Colorado and Manchester, England).   I prefer standing at concerts, as I love to dance.  No matter how loud the tunes, if I’m sitting, I get sleepy, probably because it’s late, and I should be at home snoozing.

6.  At home I listen to music mostly via my computer, but a turntable sits near the TV.  Record albums are dear to this family, we buy vinyl both new and used.  I can’t imagine not having a turntable, something about setting a disc on a flat surface, laying that needle onto the album, so sweet!  (Plus I met my husband at a college radio station, hee hee.)

7. Playlists; I cannot discount the importance of a collection of songs, always with a title attached.  Long before iPods, we made cassettes, then burned CD’s; one of my faves, There Is Something Here, was the inspiration behind Hannah Adams’ book within my novel September Story.  Every manuscript I write starts from a list of tunes, the seeds of plot and character germinating as melodies waft through my gray matter.  If I’m a deaf old lady at the end of my life, it will have been worth it.  More music has been piped into my head via headphones connected to Walkmans and now iPods, like another manner of breathing.  I just can’t live without the tunes.

8. A bonus; here are the songs that made up There Is Something Here, Hannah’s attempt to reach actor Jeremy Stewart.  If I could now, I’d replace Oasis’ version of “Wonderwall” with Ryan Adams’, otherwise this playlist stands as it has when I originally made it, long before I started blogging and well before this fictional gig was a glimmer in my eye.  Or it’s always been there, in the music, just waiting for my daughter and NaNo to shake it loose.

There Is Something Here

“Superstition” – Stevie Wonder (This is my fave Stevie Wonder song.)

“London Madrid” – The Aislers Set (In 1999, driving back from Disneyland Paris in a car loaded with sick family, I listened to The Aislers’ album Terrible Things Happen over and over as no one else was well enough to change the CD.)

“Death Letter” – The White Stripes (From De Stijl, a cover of the Son House original.)

“When You Were Mine” – Cyndi Lauper (Another great cover, originally by Prince.)

“From End To End” – Relient K (This band stirs my head-banging tendencies.)

“Country Feedback” – R.E.M. (One of the most gorgeous songs in the world.)

“Here You Are” – The Go-Go’s (I wore out their first cassette when I was in high school, had to get another copy.)

“Over and Over” – Camper Van Beethoven (Yet one more fantastic cover, the original a Christine McVie composition from Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk album)

“Every Breath You Take” – The Police (I was a huge Police fan in high school.)

“Wonderwall” – Oasis (Please give Ryan Adams’ cover a try!)

“Michelle” – The Beatles (This song is the backbone of September Story.)

“Sky Is Falling” (acoustic version) – Lifehouse (Such a beautiful song.)

“Mother of Pearl” – Roxy Music (I prefer their Live 2001 version.)

Follow your bliss

What seems like several months ago, I made the decision to not work so hard.  With the writing, of course, not that I bust my butt with housework.  (Note I never share any snaps of my shower.)  The house is clean; I’m the type that pulls out the big tidying guns when guests are coming.  But with writing, editing, formatting…  I’m a bit of an overachiever, or I just don’t like being bored.  (I wonder why I’m not that motivated when it comes to dusting, hmmm…)  Either way, I work, a lot.  When my husband leaves for the day, I sit down, cuppa in hand, and get right to whichever novel is waiting.

When my daughter got married last summer, I took off three weeks for the pre and post wedding festivities.  And other than dreaming about her wedding for what felt like weeks on end after it was done, I also noted how nice it was not to, ahem, write, edit, format.  That scared me at first; what the heck?  Then once I slipped back into the routine, which took no time at all, I started pondering why I was doing this, what it meant to me.  At the time I was switching to WordPress after years on Blogger, grappling with addressing mail to my daughter’s new last name, all sorts of changes.  But with the Alvin’s Farm series winding down, the end of summer and autumn went ahead at full speed.  Slowing down seemed ages away.

I took some time off for Christmas, but not until Christmas Eve, releasing The Timeless Nature of Patience that morning.  And by Boxing Day (26 December), well, I squeezed in a chapter on the novel I did finish on New Year’s Eve.  Then I hurt my back, maybe that was a warning; slow down woman!  I felt better the next morning, was completely back to normal on the second of January, prepping the latest project.  Penny Angel started with sixteen lengthy chapters, now has twenty-eight ranging from 2-4 K.  I began the actual edits yesterday, after listening to a plethora of tunes by The B-52s.  Today’s title is one of those songs, a whimsical instrumental with some lovely vocal effects by Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson.  I used that song, and others, to get into the editing mood.  And by around two that afternoon, with a long break for lunch (had to feed the hummingbirds), I was done for the day.

Often I talk about songs; music is the other half of my creative lifeblood.  I spent the afternoon folding towels (laundry doesn’t fall under the dreaded housework title, probably because I don’t own an iron) and listening to more from Kate and Cindy, Fred Schneider and Keith Strickland, and the late Ricky Wilson.  Ricky died in 1985 from AIDS-related illnesses, and the band didn’t learn he was sick until nearly the end of his life.  Not even his sister Cindy was aware; Kate Pierson said it was that he didn’t want them fussing over him.  I considered that as I stacked hand towels and washcloths; “Follow Your Bliss” is from Cosmic Thing, the first album made after Ricky died.

Cosmic Thing was released in 1989, four years after Bouncing off the Satellites, the last B-52s record Ricky Wilson contributed to.  He was thirty-two at his death, which now seems very young to me.   At the time, I was not even twenty, and by the time Cosmic Thing came out in 1989, I was a mother.   My eldest probably doesn’t know that album very well, not only because she was a baby, but that by the time she was cognizant of the music we listened to, I wasn’t playing much from The B-52s.  It was just a whim yesterday, picking that band, that one song.  But it stuck with me all day long.

Writing, blogging too, is my joy.  But it needs balance, maybe because I’m not as young as I used to be, or maybe I’m adopting my housework sucks mantra to other parts of my life.  Not that writing and editing are a drag, not at all, but time is precious, and precarious; the hummingbird outside my window flits, parks his tiny behind, slurps a little, then swoops off, all in seconds.  Just seconds but I watch as often as he dives in, for his minute presence is one of those little gifts.  Writing is a bigger treasure, but it’s not here and gone.  It’s not a hummingbird.

I knew 2013 was going to be a transforming year; no more Alvin, for which I am still a bit sad.  (Been reading Timeless Nature the last few days, finding a typo, man, they are impossible to fully remove!)  Penny Angel is also a great tale; once I finish this post, I’ll swoop in for a few chapters.  But my husband is off  work today, and once he sorts the budget, well, the day is ours.  Before, I would have kept my nose to the grindstone, or pressed against the monitor, but life is made up of so many pieces.  When he’s at work, or on one of his marathon walks, I have all the hours available to read over documents.  But my feet are plenty wet with indie publishing, goodness knows I have enough manuscripts in the hard drive to keep me busy for a decade or more.  Those are blessings too, they are.  Still, who can argue with the presence of a loved one, or the momentary gift of a rather aggressive, thinks he’s actually a Klingon hummingbird.

Today I’m going to follow my bliss, wherever it might lead.  And if by God’s grace, and sense of humour, I find myself cleaning the shower, so be it.  Stranger things have happened; I am an indie novelist, you know.

(And now that I’ve mastered adding music to a post, expect further tunes down the road, heh heh heh…)

Plugging back in

Breaks are necessary and reviving, but routine is my best friend, next to my husband.  As my daughter, son-in-law, and Buttercup left this morning, I gave hugs and kisses, belly rubs too.  Buttercup was edgy as her folks were in and out, loading the car.  She seems to crave routine too, along with walks, food, and copious palms laid along her back.  I don’t need excess stroking, but as I sat to write, once the last goodbyes were said, a strange, lovely energy ran through me.  I read over what I’d written yesterday; yes, I snuck in some work on Boxing Day afternoon, after mulling over the WIP.  It’s going to be a few chapters shorter than I planned, with a sequel to follow.  All that time not writing or prepping The Timeless Nature of Patience was usurped by family, the dog, Christmas, or pondering the novel-in-progress.  Enough thought went into it that I was left with no other choice; end the novel well before I originally decided, then write another to finish (or elongate) the tale.  No, I’m not looking at another six-book saga like Alvin’s Farm, maybe just one more to follow Where The Ball Is.  I’ll know when I get to the end of the next one, Where The Heart Is, although I assumed The Thorn and The Rose, the second Alvin novel, was going to be it.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Anyways, back to what I was saying.  This morning, around nine thirty or so, I had read over yesterday’s installment of the WIP.  All I had to before starting to write was plug in my ear buds, listen to today’s song, then let my fingers do the work.  Living Colour’s “That’s What You Taught Me” was supposed to document Kendall’s meeting with his former soccer coach, laying the seeds for Kendall’s possible return to sport.  Instead it was Kendall telling his parents what he had asked his girlfriend Sarah.  Listening to the song, I could feel renewal flowing through my arms, right down to my fingertips, my brain engaging, as if I had actually been hooked back into some writing pipeline.  I have never felt that sense so strongly, and it was shocking.  I know this is my gig, no doubts there, but I had reveled in those days off, both from writing, also publishing Timeless Nature.  Yet, when the moment presented itself yesterday, I scribbled over 3,500 words.  And today I hit nearly 5K.

You can take an author from the keyboard, but you can’t take the words from a writer.

I had a fabulous Christmas and Boxing Day, spent with those I love most, rain falling more often than not, quite British actually.  We watched Doctor Who on Christmas night, a hot mess my friend Julie rightly described.  It was sort of a Doctor Who Christmas in this house; I received a book of spoilers journal and a Vincent van Gogh exploding Tardis mug.  My husband got Dalek socks, the newly married couple Tardis and Dalek salt and pepper shakers.  We played the Alan Turing Edition of Monopoly last night, another gift for that new couple.  My youngest kicked butt with the green properties, I was the second to go out.  Which gave me time to finish reading over yesterday’s work, then plopping a quick post about the merits of time off and how my brain managed to sort a new direction for that novel.

But today is December twenty-seventh, Christmas is over.  Even in the UK, it’s just another day.  And for this writer, some truth, that while a holiday is required, so is that which fuels quite a bit of my heart.  Family is foremost, but another rush beats right under them.

Sometimes it takes a special moment for the fire to return.  One of the best parts of “The Snowmen” was the one-word test Clara was put through.  As a writer, I hooted as she chose the exact piece of language to best prod The Doctor off his cloud, a brilliant touch in an otherwise chock-a-block episode that did pique my interest in the second half of season seven.  No use shooting more shows if everything is wrapped up in one Christmas treat.

(But there is something to be said about letting an audience digest what has been proffered; Strax is alive!  Vestra and Jenny are married!  Clara is…  Heh heh heh, no spoilers…)

In my book of spoilers, lines break up blank pages, but I’m not looking to record what River Song needed to document, at least not on paper.  I capture plots and people on Word documents, it’s what I do.  It really is, my goodness, how humbling and wonderful it was to realize that this morning, like a delightfully gentle brick upside my head.  Music does it, just like now, Hans Zimmer’s “Up Is Down” from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.  I’m listening to that tune, but not imagining Johnny Depp and friends.  I see a legion of women young and old saving San Francisco from imminent doom.

Yes, my creative brain is always ticking.  Descendants of Maidens is the title of that tale, waiting for its moment in the sun.  And in the meantime, as I finish a slice of double layer pumpkin pie and a refreshing cup of decaf Yorkshire tea, I’m back on the horse, ready to see out 2012 with a heart-pounding, dramatic flourish.  Where The Ball Is is nearly done; what will 2013 bring?

(A post detailing those plans coming soon…)