Tag Archives: holiday

A few thoughts upon returning home….

My eldest and her hubby kayaking on the lake….

Our annual Midwestern holiday has come and gone, and while I have a couple of posts in mind, first I need to work up to that sort of mental exercise.  Thankfully there’s no writing to consider, only some revisions and sewing to poke at.  That gives my brain the necessary space to come to terms with being back in my usual environment.  Believe me, I require plenty of time to get back into gear.

I sure love a sunset.

But I do wish to share how precious is the blessing of visiting with family far away, how good is it to be out of the typical routine, and how happy I am to be home, lol.  A successful vacation incorporates all those notions, the last still wafting through my mind.  My husband will get back to work tomorrow, while I tackle laundry, ahem, the final benchmarks that our sojourn is merely a memory.  Many memories, all of them amazing.  My kids grew up with the Midwest as a frequent destination, and now the grandkids are learning the same.

From our last evening; such a treasure.

For twenty-five years I’ve been traveling to see my husband’s sister and her family, enjoying their grand company and all the lake has to offer.  As I often note, time is a funny part of life, in how quickly it passes.  Those two and a half decades feel like minutes, am I truly that much older?  Nietos testify that yes I am, but the lake seems ageless, sunsets glorious in their hues and reliability.  What memories will Little Miss and The Burrito make on these shores, not to mention Lil’ Sis, due in December.  Time will tell, although I might not be around to ascertain those recollections.  Maybe one day they’ll write about their adventures, keeping alive those stories for their grandkids.  For now, I’m reveling in the restorative power of a holiday, and how it winds all through my life.  The sweetness grows, and there’s always room for more.

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.

The struggle against silence

In the last week I’ve written a couple of poems, eaten a lot of frozen custard.  I’ve explored a tiny corner of the desert, watched baseball, soaked up some sun.  I’ve pondered stories, both the WIP and what I want to write for Camp NaNoWriMo.  I’ve considered my time as an author, and what I’d like to do in the future.

Arizona near Picacho Peak State Park

And I’ve thought about this post.  I’ve been thinking about this post since before we left on holiday.  That might sound a little odd; what’s a blog post in the big scheme?  But then, what are all these novels in the long view, not much more than another cactus in the desert.  There are THOUSANDS of cacti in Arizona, along with mesquite trees, various shrubs, and tiny animals be they insects, lizards, or mammals that manage to survive in some pretty desolate territory.  Nothing overtly sexy about the desert, except maybe for the baseball players who grace it for a few weeks right before the season starts.  Which is sort of like writing; very little about noveling is glamorous, save what the writer concocts within the narrative.  The task of writing is butt in chair over and over and over again, ’nuff said.

Yet, as Camp NaNo approaches, the idea of sexy rolls through my mind; a set word count for thirty days or bust!  (For April, word counts are flexible, not the usual November 50K.)  Dude, let’s get those pens to paper, fingers on keyboards, and write some books!  It’s an event, not once in a lifetime, but still pretty heady stuff.  It’s how I got started, because I sure needed a kick in the keister.  I required a few, then suddenly novels were falling from my gray matter like manna from heaven.  Yet, in the quieter, non-NaNo months, writing gets sucked into the vortex of silence, or plopped along Interstate 10 like a Saguaro, sometimes poked by a bird looking for shelter.

Those cacti stand for decades, eons maybe.  They stand until they don’t, but no one’s around to see when they hit the ground, much like a writer who toils through so many travails, finishing that novel, but to what effect?  Writing is a solitary affair, not like playing baseball for a crowd.

San Francisco Giants vs the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Stadium

Now that’s pretty darn sexy.

Before we left for Arizona, I wrote a blog post for the WIP.  As soon as I hit Publish, the left side of the window offered this quote by Carlos Fuentes: Writing is a struggle against silence.  That quote piled onto a post idea that originated from an email I wrote to my NaNo buddy Laura, about the courage writing requires.  As I said to Laura, ‘Writing a novel in a month sounds artistically sexy, but truthfully I think there is more to it.’

It’s courage in writing about a controversial topic.  It’s also the courage to set down half-formed ideas in very precarious prose.  And while I’ve never spoken to Chris Baty on this particular subject, I have to wonder if when he and friends started National Novel Writing Month in 1999 that was part of the reason.  When placed under the 50K or bust banner, hey, now we’re talking flashy, shiny, cool.

Very very cool, even in the middle of the desert.

But cool only goes so far, like an ice cube in Arizona.  It takes courage to keep muddling through a manuscript, especially when November, April, and other designated NaNo months are over.  That’s when the struggle gets truly difficult, maybe how some baseball players feel in late August, fifteen games out of first place.  The early crowds have dwindled and making the playoffs is a faint dream.  It’s baking hot in the outfield, and what’s the point?   For all intents and purposes the season is over, but those final games have to be played.  Sort of like the days past NaNo or Camp NaNo; an unfinished novel lingers in the hard drive or on paper, but to a weary author, those incomplete thoughts look as appealing as walking through miles of desert with no water bottle or sunscreen.

Torturous, to be honest.  And certainly not sexy at all.

So what’s the friggin’ point?  Not even considering publication, but just the act of writing; what’s it all about?  Well, and this is just my humble opinion, I *think* it’s about communication.  It’s about fighting silence, be it personal or on behalf of someone or something else.  A great Chris Baty quote goes like this: There’s a book in you that only you can write.  It’s embossed on a NaNo journal, and to me embodies the real spirit of NaNoWriMo and writing in general; telling a story that only I can express due to my particular experiences and point of view.  It has nothing to do with shiny or sexy, but everything to do with courage.  2013 is a year for struggling against the silence that creeps up my ankles, slides along the back of my calves, making me shiver with that rhetorical query: why do this?  There are many notable ways to pass the time that aren’t so, well jeez, BORING!  Eat frozen custard, watch baseball, soak up the sun…  Those are high on my list, enjoyed just last week.

But holiday is over.  I’m back to real life, which means laundry in the washer and hanging on the line.  I need to get to the store, put away dishes in the drainer, outline Camp NaNo’s project, return to the WIP.  Those poems I wrote weren’t like what I’ll write tomorrow, more like detailing parts of the vacation before it was even over.  But eventually the sexy dies away, leaving the silence and the struggle, which isn’t overly bright and shiny.  It’s methodically putting one word after another until the manuscript is done, which at times feels like trudging through the desert sans water and sunblock.

Now, sometimes it feels like hitting a grand slam or an in the park triple.  I wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t some payoff, and completing a novel certainly falls under that heading, as does publishing books.  But to reach those points a plethora of faffing about occurs, and a lot silence.  Once I’ve listened to the song of the day, there is no noise, other than the tapping of the keyboard.  It’s me, the computer, and the story trying to manage a twirl that occasionally feels like a choreographed tango, but often clunks along like preteens learning to square dance.  Yet, even at writing’s most cumbersome moments, I persevere, because in just those tapping fingers the silence is being broken.  The struggle is being won.

With a little less than two weeks until Camp NaNo starts, I have a lot of outlining to do.  I wanted to accomplish some on holiday, but other than conjuring a few character names and writing them on colour-coordinated pieces of paper for the necessary sketches, I ate custard, watched baseball, took photos of the desert.  I soaked up time with my husband  which was the best part of the whole trip.  But while he was napping, or surfing the web, I considered this post, because it’s important to remind myself, and anyone willing to brave a long song and dance, what the point of writing is; it’s not about penning the great American novel or making money.  It’s about spinning yarns that only I can tell.  Some of them won’t go much further than onto a flash drive, some will be released.  But breaking the silence is paramount.  Not every Little Leaguer will play for a pro team, but kids need an outlet, and baseball provides one way for a person to express themselves.  Writing is another, and thank God I can do it, as I have more plots than sense.  I also want to make my voice heard.

What Chris said...

Life is short, and goodness knows there is plenty to say.  Off I go, one novel to outline, another over which to refresh for tomorrow, another day to kick silence right in the keister.

Rough poem from Arizona

Years ago I wrote poetry, and I’ve been fiddling with it again over the last month or so.  Two poems have emerged whilst on holiday, and here’s one I just scribbled this morning, based on our drive last night from Tucson back to Phoenix.

 

“Night between Tucson and Phoenix”

 

Miles and cities and stars

all compete with truckers and truck stops

and night skies longing for a respite from heat, from scrub, from Pima cotton

grown in one of the driest places I have ever visited.

I thought the Princeton, California rice fields were odd.

Nothing prepared me for Pima cotton in the middle of the desert.

 

But in darkness cotton lies invisible,

as silent as mesquite trees and jutting rocks,

as yellow and purple flowers quietly decorating the highway.

All that remains is one of the darkest skies in my memories.

Stars shined halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, as if yet another

part of the country.

Phoenix is never hushed, but along I-10 a pitch-black

night overwhelms, subdues.

Big cities are too far away, miles of tarmac

broker two worlds.  I was in two worlds last night,

announced by hulking semi’s, their long cabs calling

the drivers to shut down and become

one with the night.  Fall into its blackness

and glory for a few hours.

The night only lasts a few hours.

The day lasts forever.

 

As we approached Phoenix, an eastern glow

beckoned, while the west remained cloaked in

black, beautiful night.  Black beautiful peace

was edgeless horizon to crescent moon with

an eyeless smile, noting the rightness of

stars’ correct placement in the universe.

In Phoenix stars are drawn by children

hoping for something glimpsed on holiday,

in books, as myths.

But halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, stars rule.

 

I’ve been listening to Endless Boogie’s “The Artemus Ward” and “The Montgomery Manuscript” as inspiration for this poem, and one other that has been written whilst on holiday.  Not sure what I’m going to do with them; if enough emerge, I might publish a collection.

Once I finish them, of course.  I feel like this one needs to be longer.  But for now, our last full day in Arizona, here’s a little of what’s on my mind…

Frozen custard, hoodies, and baseball

My husband is napping, that’s his holiday treasure.  I’m in a writing mood, but outlining next month’s Camp NaNo idea just isn’t happening.  Instead, here’s some pics of what the last few days have entailed.

Chocolate frozen custard, with pecans and caramel sauce

Custard at Culver’s has been a daily habit.  Monday was a small sundae for me, chocolate with pecans and caramel sauce, while my better half chose Boston cream pie.  Frozen custard is a staple in the Midwest, and with so many snowbirds here in Arizona, well, Culver’s followed the crowds.

Frozen custard is like soft serve, but very rich, and an absolute treat for us Californians.

Frozen custard is like soft serve, but very rich, and an absolute treat for us Californians.

Tuesday was Nestle Crunch swirl.  I prefer it in cups, my husband likes cones.

Tuesday night's lineups

Tuesday was also baseball, Giants and Padres.  Temps were perfect for an evening game, not cold, but just breezy enough for a hoodie.

I don't often buy sport merchandise, but when I do, I prefer World Series winners.

I don’t often buy sport merchandise, but when I do, I prefer World Series winners.

The gift shop was loaded for bear, but I wanted something functional for that evening, and Silicon Valley summer nights that can be surprising cool.  My husband picked up a media guide, and a shirt for himself, which he’ll wear to the Cincinnati Reds-San Francisco Giants game this afternoon.

The view was fantastic, even from the bleachers.

The view was fantastic, even from the bleachers.

After he wakes from his nap, of course.  Custard will be an after-game treat, and hopefully we’ll be celebrating a Giants’ win.  Last night they were clobbered by San Diego, 6-2…

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…)