Category Archives: storytelling

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.

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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….

There Is Something Here

Within my novel September Story, there’s a book entitled There Is Something Here.  It becomes a vehicle for a falling from grace movie star to recapture his glory days, also a way for one woman to reconcile her past with the present.  It’s also the title of a playlist I made years ago, a playlist that has little to do with my book, or that written by fictional author Hannah Adams in September Story.

I’m listening to that playlist right now, something I concocted back when I lived in England before I was a writer and quilter, certainly long before I became a grandmother.  It was merely songs thrown together, from R.E.M. and Stevie Wonder to Cyndi Lauper and The Beatles.  Yet, the song “Michelle” became the crux of a book I wrote in September of 2008.  I called that novel September Story because no other title seemed apt, although There Is Something Here could have worked.  Instead, I used that within the story, which leads me to this post today.

Sometimes pieces are tucked away for later, then brought out just in the nick of time.

When I was a girl, I hated sewing, loathed it!  Now it’s a mainstay, although right now it’s taking a back seat to the words.  Last year words were scattered amid babies and my father’s death.  But 2016 has begun with chapters being written in The Hawk, while a duck quilt has taken shape.  I didn’t mean for the fabric WIP to have anything to do with fowl, goodness knows I get enough of that with the writing.  But a few triangles turned themselves into a duck and….

And a duck it will be.  I like photographing quilts in this manner, as they take on a stained-glass appearance.  It’s like how magically a couple of unconsciously yet strategically placed triangles turn into a duck, like how that playlist made in Britain flavored a novel set partially in that country, where at the time my heart still was.

But now it’s eight years later, eight years, dude!  Years and books and ducks, all right, one duck, also hawks.  I have a crazy plan for 2016, to *possibly* complete The Hawk.  Crazy, sure!  But without some inherent insanity, or at least plenty of caution thrown to the winds, why can’t something so outlandish be considered?  I used to hate sewing, now I love it.  I always wanted to be a writer, here I am with books published.  If the Golden State Warriors can be 34-2, well….

Which brings me to a notion I’d like to blog about one of these days.  How things evolve, like basketball, and publishing, and of course, ducks.  Or hawks, um, sure.  Ducks and hawks and the three point shot alongside independent publishing….

There is something here indeed, just keep reading between the lines….

And before 2015 slips away…..

Just one more post, about quilting and triangles.  And The Hawk.

Even though December is a packed month and my entire family was hit by a miserable stomach bug (which morphed into a head cold for a chosen few), and that my husband and I didn’t manage to get our tree up (although we gave it away to a good home), and Golden State lost one game, a plethora of blessings surrounded us.  Like we all got sick the week *before* Christmas.  And I have no pine needles to hoover.  And the Warriors continue their winning ways amid injuries.  And I found time to read through the last parts of The Hawk, with only a relative few chapters left to peruse.  And I received beautiful fabrics from my daughters, some of which are being transformed into a quilt, not that I require another.  I do need some improv practice, as well as triangle experimentation.  This project covers both of those issues, as well as some hand-quilting practice for 2016.  I am truly falling in love with hand-quilting, especially when the back isn’t flannel.  Not sure yet what I’ll use to back this one, but something vibrant certainly, maybe triangle-themed.  Who knows what the new year will provide?

I wouldn’t dare to hazard a guess, other than finishing this comforter, as I know I won’t manage that feat in the next two days.  I will go on record to say I’ll write, yes, I’ll be that bold.  How much….  Um, no, I won’t touch that one either.  I did wistfully regale my beloved with the faint notion of perhaps wrapping up the behemoth that is The Hawk, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  He smiled at me with love in his eyes, not batting those eyes.  I mean, after all that occurred in the last twelve months, who knows what sits on the horizon?

Triangles in the process....

Triangles in the process….

But certainly words, oh and I would be ever so pleased with a lot of them.  Again, we shall see.  Of course quilts, one for Little Miss made with fabrics her other gran gave to me, as well as some Christmas gifts, and whatever else catches my attention.  Plenty of time spent with my grandkids is on tap, with my nieces and nephew too, and, ahem, some significant birthday celebrations for yours truly, as fifty looms in spring.

But having been a grandmother for nearly a year, turning fifty is small potatoes.  More to crowd my thoughts is a cast unraveling since October of 2013, long before The Burrito and Little Miss were even considered.  Eric and Lynne, Sam and Renee, Stanford and Laurie and Marek and Seth are back in my day to day, three chapters each morning read and revised, leading up to this coming Sunday, by which time I’ll be muddling through the last bit I wrote, leaving me with open hands and a teeming mind to set the next part of the novel in motion.

As God as my witness, I am ready to get back to writing this book!

During our time in England, long before writing fiction took precedence, the last week of the year was spent watching end of year specials, not to mention trying to stay warm.  I don’t recall such shows before we left for Britain, and now I only watch sports.  But those eleven years I turned into someone who would return to America as a budding novelist, who no longer homeschooled offspring, who went to the beach, a lot.  The last time I went to The Hook in Capitola was two years ago, two entire years!  Then in 2014, I started sewing, Dad began chemotherapy, both of my daughters got pregnant, and I was writing The Hawk.

31 December 2013, Capitola, California

31 December 2013, Capitola, California

Funny that as that book began, my trips to The Hook dwindled.  Life is always changing, one can never predict the future, although I sure can dream about it.

My authorial dream is to complete The Hawk, oh man, I so want to finish that novel.  I dream about quilts, ha ha, but sewing blankets isn’t as compelling as putting The End to the biggest story my little brain has ever concocted.  Or by the love of sweet Jesus one of these days will finally slip from my fingers and….  And send me back to the beach, maybe.  Or to my ironing board, or God willing to start another novel.

You know of course, I’m dreaming of other novels too….

Maybe that’s an equal impetus to wanting to put The Hawk into the done column.  There’s The Hounds of Love and War, which actually started as an epic poem back in April 2013, but it sputtered out around Part 27 (When I say epic, I ain’t kidding….).  Yet I’ve not forgotten it, just like the sequel to two other novels still percolating in my aging brain.

Buttercup wishes you all a very pleasant 2016.

Buttercup wishes you all a very pleasant 2016.

I might be turning fifty soon, but there’s plenty left I have to say.

And so that brings me back to triangles, fabric in nature, also puzzling.  I only managed a C in geometry, so playing around with those shapes is truly a matter of cut, sew, rip out, repeat.  As I’ve been dabbling, I’m indelibly drawn back to The Hawk, not because it’s a cut, sew, rip out, repeat sort of novel, but what remains to be written is so, so, so….  Compelling, fantastic, dramatic, magical, healing.  (Not to mention bringing up another story in the lengthy novel-to-be queue….)  It’s been an amazing gift to simply tell this tale, as if winning a lottery.  It’s been soul searching, and soul-wrenching.  I’m being stretched as a novelist, refined as a human being, tested like some Biblical icon, or that’s how it feels.  It’s the themes explored, the love stories exchanged, and the personal triumph of just getting one word to coherently follow another.

All I ever wanted to do, amid loving my family, was write novels.

We’ve been back in America for coming on nine years; that’s nearly as long as we lived in Yorkshire, which seems somewhat erroneous, both for how speedily time has passed as well as for how much of our souls still reside in a land far away.  But time, and life, is not static.  As I prepare to again grasp my writing hat, putting it firmly upon my noggin, I embrace the steps necessary in the process, and yes, sometimes it is cut, sew, rip out, repeat.  But mostly it’s steps taken with the lightest heart as I traverse ordinary time to another place in a universe where unlikely events are just as factual as baking pies, where love is found in unusual guises, and where rock-solid trust is built upon the shakiest foundations.  And yet, isn’t that how real life spins out, not as yarns but our realities.  And as reality goes, one of these years will be the year I finish The Hawk, closing that chapter (ha ha) of my life.  Then immediately another door will open, maybe with a quilt top dangling in the door frame, or an ocean beckoning, or grandkids tugging on my hands.  And as I drift into the next realm, I’ll fondly recall this one, if only for fleeting moments.

Quilt in progress, a few triangles popping up.

Quilt as of last night, a few triangles popping up.

And before I know it, triangles will have emerged, less ripping out, more repeating.  Triangles and tales of triangles I’m certain, hehehe….

WP_20151230_005 (1)

Updated 30 December 2015: inadvertently I added some triangles to the piece on the far right, making a statement of sorts.  My husband called it pop art-like.  I am simply thrilled for how without any planning triangles are making this their own, hee hee.

Necessary Steps

Amid revisions (never ending revisions….), I’ve been working on some floating squares projects.  One is done, although a little differently than I originally pictured.

Or photographed; initially I thought it would be positioned as above.  I had wanted to hang it along the same wall where my sewing table sits, but the piece is too wide for the space.  Fortunately I could just place it on the adjacent wall, near my husband’s PC set-up.

Although that would make it difficult for me to see the quilt top from where I eat breakfast in the mornings, but such is life.

Such is life sometimes….  What if that quilt top was turned ninety degrees to the right?  At some point yesterday I did just that, and found myself not only happier with the aesthetic result, but thrilled for how that wall hanging will fit right where I wanted it in the first place.

Not that I plan to put the additional project beside it; hard to enjoy one piece with another so close.  But I am much more content with the piece on the right now that it’s been turned in that direction.  One of the beauty’s of improv quilting; make that left turn at Albuquerque, and voila!  A new facet, and placement, has been discovered.

Similarly, I’ve been feeling so blessed as I mull over The Hawk; post-it notes have been accumulating along the bottom of my computer monitor, reminding me of things I want to incorporate when the writing resumes.  Finally yesterday I stuck all those scraps to a piece of binder paper, which sits on my immediate left here in the grotto.  This room doubles as my writing cave and where fabrics are cut, ironed, then laid on the quilt wall.

I sew in the other room, gaining steps in between.  And that’s good; steps are necessary in all junctures of life.

Steps, however, add up differently depending upon which task they are applied.  Steps on my pedometer get counted at the end of the day, although I check periodically to see where I am on my usual hunt for 7K.  Steps in sewing can be measured in the trek back and forth from the sewing machine to the ironing board, or in blocks gathering on the wall.

Steps in writing….  Hehehe, that’s a completely different kettle of fish, counted in myriad ways.  Word by word in the actual creation of the story, or even before that in every researched fact.  Then there are the edits….  But in that part, I’m finding deeper layers to this tale, not that it requires more layers, crikey!  The post-it notes are breeding, bless their hearts, and as they do, I’m becoming more in touch with the whys and wherefores within this novel.

I suppose I could easily equate the quilt photos within this post to how a novel is written.  If nothing else, the shots are bright, I have nothing to conceal in this aspect of my creative life.  So much of noveling lies trapped in my gray matter so as not to spoil what has already been released, and to allow post-it notes to simmer.  Yet, considering these relevatory ideas makes my fingers itch, my writing-brain aching to be put to work.  Telling stories has been imperative in my life for coming on a decade, and having to sit on my hands when it comes to the words has been….  A lesson in patience, at the very least.  It’s also been fruitful for the story, in all I have gleaned from the current manuscript.  And in what has been eliminated; these edits aren’t only to familiarize myself with plot and characters, but to again whittle away what is unnecessary.

Sort of like turning that quilt top to the right, so it fits exactly where I want it to.  Easier with wall hangings than books, I admit, but steps nonetheless.  Now, if only my pedometer recorded all these alterations….

Three quotes in how many ever days it takes….

My friend Laura tagged me in a blog challenge; three quotes in three days.  I accepted that challenge, noting that it would definitely take me more than three days, to which she didn’t object.  I love a friend who is flexible, hee hee.

A happy grandma with a Little Miss….

Since then, I’ve spent time with my kids and grandkids, pondered the first Father’s Day without my dad, but my son-in-law is now a parent.  Life evolves; from relatives to quilt-making techniques to books.

My son and the Burrito holding court.

My son and the Burrito holding court.

Oh yeah, books, The Hawk, ahem….  I can’t recall what I was last reading in that story, it has been that many days away.  Yet my sister is recovering well, I have hordes of new family photographs, including a shot of Dad stuck away in a box of ancient personal treasures.  I don’t know when this picture was taken, other than sometime in the 1980s.  I probably took it, but why?  That I will never know.

But I am still hoping to get back to writing sometime next month.  Today’s quote is clearly tied into The Hawk, even if I found the quote after the writing began.  GK Chesterton’s words solidified Sam Ahern and Seth Gordon’s experiences in Korea, and I have these words on an index card on my desk, always in view: The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.

He still likes being swaddled, while she appreciates unfettered limbs.

He still likes being swaddled, while she appreciates unfettered limbs.

I can’t tell you where and when I found that quote, a moment as lost as when I snapped the picture of Dad.  But I will say those words cleared up a great deal within my mind for Sam and Seth, who went to Korea for very different reasons.  Now I just need to expand upon those purposes, one chapter at a time.

From yesterday, taken by Little Miss' other grandma.

From yesterday, taken by Little Miss’ other grandma.

But first, some revising, or rather refreshing this author of that story, those reasons, that purpose.  The purpose of The Hawk is….  Ahhh, well, that I won’t give away, in no small part because I am still discovering that purpose myself.  But when I’m pointed in the right direction, smooth sailing exists.  Now to just squirrel away the time to write; it’s coming, of that I am certain!

Love Stories

Been reading over The Hawk: Part One, and while a lot happens in that novel, the beginning is a love story between a husband and wife.  Love stories permeate my work, be it in books or quilts.  Within tall tales, often characters are already in love, so I eschew the romance tag.  And in this saga, all the couples are already firmly attached.  Still, love has its ups and downs, so there is drama to be explored, amid other intriguing plot lines.  But now that I’ve completed Part One, moving back to the entire manuscript to continue the revisions and refresh myself for when actual writing does commence, I wanted to note why love plays such an important part of who I am as an author, quilter, etc, etc, etc….

Foremost I draw upon the nearly thirty-year relationship I’ve shared with my best friend, who happens to be my spouse.  When I write of love at first sight, it’s due to how we met at a college radio station and instantly were smitten.  Decades, many kids and few grandchildren later, he is still my one and only, and we joke about just how married we are, like when we travelled to see our eldest last week, who was hosting our youngest and the burrito; I said that going to a grocery store was fine for picking up lunch-type items, and he laughed, that very same notion what he was texting to our girls at that moment.  The incidents go on and on, for which I am grateful, and amazed, but he’s all I ever wanted, still desire, and eagerly await the future with; I like growing older with him, for he makes me laugh loudly, shiver in excitement, and breathe with ease.  And when that’s how love is realized, how can I help but relate those fantastic emotions into my novels?

I’m blessed to be surrounded with many other happy and stable partnerships on both sides of our families and friends.  Those couples weave in and out of my life, touching my work with their varied and plentiful tales of joy, also some sorrows; a writer can’t survive on sunshine and smiles alone.  But the clouds are tackled with faith within those relationships, and the strength of love prevails.  Love is an awesome and blessed power, although it does end.  Sometimes it fades away, is harmed and cannot recover.  And sometimes, death severs the cord which no other manner of separation could achieve.

I’m thinking about my parents, my mom especially.  Dad’s in a peace none of us here can fathom, but what about his better half?

I took photos of my father, along with us kids, during his last weeks, my sister-in-law took shots too.  When I look at them now, it’s strange, for it’s like a fleeting version of my dad, those last three and a half weeks putting all of us in places and situations we had never been before.  When I juxtapose that onto my parents, I come back to the above shot, and I don’t even know why I took it.  But when I gaze at it now, typing these sentences, I return to Mom’s head resting on Dad’s shoulder, her gaze lost to all else but the man she loves.

Love isn’t always flowers and chocolates, but let me share with you a little tale that is all truth (sometimes the most incredible parts are all reality, for they are so precious and wonderful not even the most imaginative writer could concoct them).  On the sixteenth of March, I was sitting with Dad, and he asked what the date was, that he didn’t even know what day we were in.  I told him, and he nodded, then looked at me.  “Okay,” he said, “so I want you to get Mom a pound of chocolates for St. Patrick’s Day.”

Mom’s family is Irish, but I don’t think that was the sole motivation behind the candies, Sees’ Candies, he noted, then he sighed.  “They’re expensive, but she really likes them.”

I smiled.  “Yeah, they’re not cheap, but they’re the best.  I’ll go in with you, we’ll get her two pounds.”

He nodded.  “That’s a good idea.”  Then he patted his leg under the blanket.  “I’ve got cash in my pants pocket.  You can get it out of there.”

I smiled, fully aware that his jeans were at home.  “I’ll do that.”

He was quiet for a few minutes, then he looked at me again.  “And get her a card too.  Sign it from you and me.”

“Will do,” I said, trying to keep my voice even.

That afternoon, I bought a two-pound box of assorted Sees’ Candies, plus a Happy St. Patrick’s Day card, which I signed from everyone in the family, pets included, which meant Buttercup as well as the folks’ cat Star and other beloved animals within our sprawling clan.  I left the box for Mom, for sometimes we met in passing, or depending on our schedules, we kept in touch via a notepad in Dad’s bedside table drawer.  Normally we noted his meds, his mood, and anything else that we thought the next person might need to know.  The card was taped to the box, so I knew she wouldn’t miss it.  And later I reiterated his desire for her to have a treat for a rather innocuous day on the calendar.  They always had corned beef and cabbage, but Mom’s Irish heritage wasn’t often feted.  Yet Dad had wanted to give her something, and while I’ll never know if he realized the depth of that gift, the rest of us did.

And this is why I write love stories.  Sometimes they are firmly based in reality, sometimes they are hedged in magical realism.  But even the tallest tale is rooted in the most secure and lasting element humans can grace upon one another.  Genres come and go, but romance is still the hottest style around.  Yet, to me, romance is the tip of the iceberg; to nurture and thrive within a loving relationship is what makes this world go round.  I have been so blessed within my realm, that reciprocating all that love is essential.  My hands are full; let me share some with you.