Tag Archives: perseverance

An unexpected finish….

So last year I started a quilt top that was a remake of one done for my youngest daughter’s good friend (more about remakes coming soon….).  It wasn’t meant to be more than a picnic blanket, in that I was going to use an old flannel sheet as batting, a floral cotton sheet purchased from a thrift store for the back.  Sort of an experimental quilt, or maybe just an excuse to employ a stack of squares that I loved too much to give away.

Our laundry line is out of service, so the side fence was put into use. This quilt is 60 X 76″, which might seem a little long, but at over 5’7″ tall, I’m happy with those dimensions.

How often does that happen, not only in quilting, but in writing; I’m hording how many rough drafts, plus a few that desperately require a sequel, in the hopes that one day I’ll complete those tales or rework them into a releasable form.  And I won’t even mention storylines that continue to percolate in my gray matter with no discernible foothold in the writing schedule.  A writing schedule, what’s that?  My goodness, far gone are the days when I had more time than sense, books scribbled within a month or so as though my life would always be so unfettered.

Very slowly I machine sewed the binding, but compared to how long it would have taken to hand sew it, it was still a faster way to go.

Ahem, let’s back to this quilt, (although I can never truly escape the prose); after finishing my grandson’s birthday present, I pulled out this project in need of some hand-quilting.  I had no idea how many stitches remained, it was just something to do in the evenings while the Golden State Warriors entertained.  But one night last week I sewed the last of those hand-quilted rows, and suddenly all that remained was to bind it up!  I’d planned to use the backing for that job, but changed my mind, sewing up a colorful binding, then machine attaching it on both sides.  Usually I hand-sew the back of the binding, but felt compelled to complete this, what with its end coming without any warning.  I didn’t need to belabor this quilt any longer than necessary….

Paint splatters decorate the back, which means I won’t hesitate to lay this over the ground for a picnic!

And now it’s washed, draped over the back of our sofa, arousing parallels to other aspects of my creative life; I’ve read through part thirteen of The Hawk, and to my shock, it’s much more cohesive than how I remember it from last…  Summer, autumn, jeez, I can’t even accurately recall the last time I wrote!  Okay, well anyways, it’s in fairly good shape for how disjointed I felt when writing it which means….  Writing some more is basically just around the corner.

In making a binding instead of using the back, I chose to dress up this quilt more than originally planned. Yet I like it this way, it feels more finished.

Um, whoops, there it is???  Sure, who needs a schedule anyways, lol.  Grandkids are constantly mastering new tricks, maybe abuelas can too.  If nothing else, I have a quilt in the can, plot twists aching for resolution, and as free of an agenda as anytime in the last three and a half years, meaning no babies are imminently due, ha ha ha.  Writing won’t be as it used to (if it ever returns to my previous output), but over the last few years I’ve certainly managed to produce a fair amount of prose, alongside quilts.  Learning grandmotherly skills has also meant shuffling my previous hobbies from their former glories, but maybe now some happy co-existence will result.  This quilt is proof of that, a new top amid recycled batting and backing, with a fresh binding holding everything in place.  What’s old is new again, and what lingers isn’t always forgotten.  More about another remodeling job next week….

Ten Years of Writing

I suppose I could have penned this last year, but I rarely consider my final months in Yorkshire in connection with noveling.  That decade-plus figures heavily into my becoming a writer, but the actual work truly blossomed after we returned to California.

It’s funny, pondering the last ten years of my life; authorial dreams had hovered forever, but motherhood left little time to do more than write grocery lists and scattered poems, although….  After my brother died in 1997, I used the written word to make some sense of what at the time seemed utterly baseless.  I suppose that effort is what caught my eldest daughter’s attention, then nearly a decade later she pestered me into participating in National Novel Writing Month.  But again, that initial foray into fiction was just dipping my toes in the water.  2007 is when this whole gig began….

Yesterday at Lil’ Miss’s house; Buttercup observed while I enjoyed another craft associated with this time of year.

When a long-held dream becomes reality, often the thrill isn’t contemplated until the dust settles, which in my case probably didn’t occur until I started publishing independently.  What else was I suppose to do with all these stories which had suddenly spilled as though my hands had been released from behind my back.  In retrospect, a few novels should have remained in my hard drive, ahem, but every book has a reason for being, and I don’t regret releasing them.  While I don’t want this post to focus on the publishing aspect, if not for the rise of indie ebooks, I don’t know where I’d be now.  Suffice to say, I’m extremely grateful to Smashwords in that aspect; thanks Mark Coker and your entire team.

But getting to that point takes an inordinate amount of time spent at one’s computer, also in mulling over plot lines, character qualities, various themes, then somehow coalescing all those elements into cohesive stories.  Which means practice, practice, practice….  Writing requires discipline, as well as an artistic flair, and I am fortunate that meshing those two was fairly uncomplicated.  As kids left for college, I had time to experiment; writing fiction was nothing like poetry or to do lists, but all my pent-up desires exploded and I could easily whip out a rough draft in thirty days.  Now I smile at all those efforts, knowing the harder side of noveling, but I can still remember how a few books ended, some like the Alvin’s Farm series turning from what I’d assumed to be a short story into a six-book saga (shades of The Hawk already in place), to how I wept in my husband’s arms after completing a draft I’ll never publish, reliving my own life in the guise of fictional characters.  That’s occurred more than once, and often I don’t see it until much later.  For me, writing has been a voyage of self-discovery, with love and melodrama on the side.

In 2013, my dad’s battle with cancer went into overdrive, but it coincided with short stories taking my attention.  Then came The Hawk; like I said, Alvin’s Farm prepped me for lengthy tales, but not even my brother’s suicide prepared me for the swing between life and death that followed in 2014 and 2015.  As Dad endured chemotherapy, both of my daughters became pregnant, and this author was either taking road trips to offer assistance or learning how to quilt.  I didn’t abandon the writing, but I certainly couldn’t start anything new, and The Hawk kept expanding, sort of like my family.  The Burrito arrived, Dad passed on, then Lil’ Miss eased that sorrow.  All the while I still found time at my computer, wondering if I was ever going to finish the WIP.  I’m still curious about that, ha ha, but in stepping away from that saga, I feel a new chapter of my writing life is also being inaugurated.  I won’t begin to ponder that, because if you’d told me ten years ago that I’d write over one hundred fifty thousand words for three different stories in thirty days, I’d have called you crazy.

In my first American National Novel Writing Month I went overboard, but within those four weeks, I reveled in what every would-be writer dreams, to finally be spinning yarns.  There was no sense of how those tales might evolve, only the blissful thrill that finally they were being told.  And now, even with books published, that joy still resonates; all day yesterday I was mentally plotting what I’ll start writing this week, from monikers to when Kendall learns the truth about Coach Schlatter….  This novel, Heaven Lies Where the Heart Is, isn’t merely a sequel, but an opportunity to again explore the giddy exuberance that drives this author, liberating my active imagination.  Why I have more plots than sense is a mystery, but no longer are all those lives trapped inside my head.

And that’s a big relief, let me just say.  I’m not one of those who writes every day, or I’m not like that anymore.  But when the mood strikes, I’m ready to get my butt into the chair and see where the prose takes me.  That is where it has to start; setting aside the fear and diving into the unknown.  And I need to remember this too, on the cusp of yet another novel.  It won’t be like what I’ve been struggling with, although it might not be simple.  Yet it is my calling, and I can’t ignore it, even if it feels slightly terrifying.  Ten years ago ignorance was on my side, but now wisdom, and some talent, ease me in front of the monitor, fingers placed upon the keyboard, lives itching to be freed.  I have many tasks up my sleeve, but writing remains, and I hope it always does.  As a new tale unfolds, I will appreciate this gift; while it requires hard work, it is also not of my own doing.  Call it the muse, or for me, more rightly the Spirit, but at the end of the day, these tales are blessings from above.  I’m just the lucky gal who gets to tell them.

Different Rhythms

Photos from The Hook in Capitola, California, October 2013…

So I guess a post with this title shall appear.  My cold has abated, and the laundry is done, five loads yesterday that usurped the writing which I had planned.  Initially I felt a little guilty, but assuaged myself that unless I felt so called to create, best to get the washing done instead.  And today I was rewarded for my patience by managing an entire chapter, albeit on the concise side.  However, a chapter is a chapter, and at this point, I’ll take whatever words emerge.

Big splash!

Ten years ago I couldn’t have halted the words with a steamroller, but that isn’t what I want to address today.  Today I’m fifty-one and grateful for whatever prose I can muster.  And lately I’ve been wondering if once I complete The Hawk, will I even embark upon another fictional project?  Right now I’m feeling rather drained, not sure if it’s the dregs of my head cold, or just age.  It’s also due to other concerns, not of a bothersome nature, but of sheer joy; grandkids are a hoot, and I’m so pleased to be as involved in their little lives as I am blessed to be.  And there’s the sewing, coming out of left field like a shot off of Babe Ruth’s bat.  Years ago between novels I checked out the ocean, but I haven’t been to Capitola in….  A very long time.  These photos are from four years ago, my goodness, as if the Pacific disappeared or I forgot my way there.  Instead of traipsing off to photograph the waves, I stay home and fashion quilts, or spend my time with wee ones.

Yes indeed, different rhythms have overtaken me.

So, how to write a book when my time is so splintered?  Others do it, lots of others, but my technique has previously been that of a horse with blinders, only the story in my view.  That was fine when my kids weren’t parents, lol.  I could accommodate their solo needs, but now all bets are off.  Not even my father’s battle with cancer impeded upon my word count; I wrote to maintain a modicum of sanity.  But this new generation is another kettle of fish entirely, and I suppose I’m glad to have released The Hawk in installments, providing impetus to finish it.  For the first time in a long time, the urge to write is diminished, although thankfully not absent.  But has that waning desire set a precedent for future stories?  Only time will tell.

Surfers….

What I need to remember is exactly what saved my bacon yesterday; when it’s time, the words will come.  Trusting in that is essential, because it’s not merely about writing fiction.  It’s about any such project that needs my focus.  Age has affected my authorial drive, but I can’t just throw up my hands and whine that I can’t do it.  I can write, it’s a matter of accepting where writing now falls within my life.  And that for now, it’s okay to move other items up on the list.  Nietos won’t be toddlers forever, and perhaps as my forties was the decade to learn to write, my fifties will be more about reflection.  I have to evolve, even if it means a reduction in the output.  What I write now is certainly better than what I was spewing in 2007, ha ha.  Better to honor quality over quantity.

One day I’ll bring the nietos here and we’ll chat about nature’s awesome beauty….

And the best of all is to take this journey one step, or word, at a time.  Again it’s about trusting in a greater good, as well as not taking myself so seriously.  And to remember I will never write this story again (thank you Jesus!).  Each day with these characters is a gift all its own.  I’ll revel in that when feeling uninspired, then wait for my brains, heart, and soul to be equally engaged.  When that occurs, no steamroller around can stop me.

The Peach Tree Conundrum

While on holiday I managed a few revisions on Part 12 of The Hawk.  Going through that section, I found a slight discrepancy surrounding peach trees that Eric and Lynne want to put in behind his studio.  Part of the inconsistency stems from when I took a lengthy break from the work in the middle of a chapter, which I hope never happens again.  Coming back to this project, I scrapped that uncompleted chapter, but the notion of peach trees lingered.  Within the manuscript, it was a minor discussion between Eric and Laurie, but in my mind it became a plot point to such a degree that I included it in later dialogues, even if the original conversation no longer remained in the novel.

Fabrics for a baby quilt waiting to be fashioned into four-inch squares….

This morning I decided to uncover just where the peach trees emerged, and while I was partly successful, something still nagged at me, which brought me back to reading over Part 11.  One can only skim through paragraphs so many times before the eyes glaze over and every other sentence has peach trees staring back at me.  I even made notes of who said it and on what page, and am hopeful to discover just where this idea began.  This is a part of writing that isn’t glamorous or perhaps not widely discussed; the ramifications of long breaks within the creation of a WIP.

While my husband inspected part of his music collection, I put this quilt on the wall….

Continuity is vital within any novel, and I’m feeling pretty positive about The Hawk, peach trees notwithstanding.  If nothing else, I’m sticking close to this project when no real writing is happening.  Keeping it relatively fresh in my head helps enormously, not just in straightening out when the peach trees first made their appearance, but in the more important element of not getting too far from this story.  This time last year I had the grandiose plan of wrapping it up before 2017; now I’m hoping to do the same before 2018 hits.  In this respect, writing and quilting aren’t much alike; a project can sit on the wall for ages, then easily fall back underneath the presser foot as if no time has elapsed.  Right now I have two quilts vying for my attention, just a matter of collecting fabric, then sewing pieces together.  But those dang peach trees are a much tougher beast to tame.

Adorable bumblebees on navy are scattered amidst low volume fabrics. Now to sew those rows into a cohesive, peach tree sort of quilt, lol….

I suppose what I need to remind myself is all things happen in their own good time, be they novels, quilts, or fictional peach trees.  Or maybe they are figurative trees at this juncture, since Eric hasn’t even planted them yet.  At least I know he’s considering them, and I’ve included them in the lengthy notes at the end of Part 12.   Plus two post-it notes sit right under my keyboard, just in case those trees again slip my mind.  My brain isn’t as quick as when I started this tale, and I need all the help I can find to keep churning it out.  That too has been a lesson which is humbling in nature, and essential in practice.  Writing is a gift, it’s also perseverance.  At times I dream of what novel will follow The Hawk, then I laugh at myself, praying to merely complete this behemoth.  I always wanted to write books, but there is that notion of being careful for what you wish.  I’m walking that fine line, hedged in by peach trees, along with low volume fabrics.  As Eric is currently in search of guidance, so am I.  May we both trust in the one who never fails, enjoying a little pie and coffee on the way….

Never Say No to Part 13

Okay, so after all that ballyhooing about working on the last section of The Hawk, today I finished Part Twelve, without writing The End.  I’m not disappointed, nor overly shocked; if I’ve learned anything while writing novels, it’s that I’m never in charge as much I want to be.

This quilt will be five blocks wide, six blocks long, all trimmed to 11 1/2 inches.

That said, major changes to the story line aren’t on the horizon, although that too could be in error.  It’s just that the last few chapters have been leading up to some sort of shift, and suddenly this morning, whoop there it was.  Part Twelve is done, Part Thirteen looming in the future.

The current state of my sewing table….

The timing couldn’t be better; we’re going away on holiday soon.  And I’m still planning to complete this novel before the end of the year, with the added impetus that Little Miss will be getting a baby sister in December and if I don’t wrap up this story by then, no telling when I’ll get time to do so before la nieta numero dos is two herself.  Exciting times for our family in the months ahead, and I am so hoping one of those joys will be that this grandma can say The Hawk is finito!

Blocks waiting to be sewn, as well as The Burrito’s handiwork at the bottom of the wall….

In other ongoing sagas….  I’m making a wedding quilt for friends of youngest daughter, and wanted to use this pattern I found on Wombat Quilts.  It was fun cutting the fabrics, but I’m hoping to find more low volume prints in colours other than white on vacation.  I have twelve (hmm, there’s that number again….) blocks completed, three more on the wall, but I’d love to mix it up for the remaining fifteen.  This is definitely a project I’ll do again, so unused squares can be set aside for future needs.  I’m still handsewing the gingham blue quilt, more irons in the fire than I can sort.  A baby quilt for nieta #2 however isn’t one of them.  I have a blanket already waiting for that girl, as well as burp cloths made just for her.  She’ll have plenty of hand-me-downs from her big sister, but special keepsakes are necessary, even if only for wiping baby spit.  Looking forward to that joy once again, all the more reason to get The Hawk in the can.  Part Thirteen will commence upon my return, as will quilting and blogging.  In the meantime, enjoy August, and stay cool….

The Glass Is Half Full

So I have come to the realization that perhaps for the remainder of The Hawk, and maybe the rest of my writing life, a full chapter a day just isn’t gonna happen.  Today’s distraction was tennis, and okay, the fifth set between Rafael Nadal and Gilles Muller was one to relish, regardless of which man you wanted to progress at Wimbledon.  But I was bothered well before those chaps reached that fifth set, continuing to look away from the manuscript to check how Johanna Konta was doing against Caroline Garcia, Andy Murray vs. Benoit Paire, and other great Manic Monday contests.  Finally around ten thirty this morning, Pacific Daylight Time, I gave up on the written work, settling on the sofa with an early lunch, wondering if Nadal was going to fight his way out of an initial two-sets down to love hole.  The next couple of hours were well worth my time, although I’m sure Nadal wishes the result was different.  Muller goes on to face Marin Cilic while I admit a small defeat of sorts, with a greater victory looming.  Half a chapter produced today is better than no words at all.

Over halfway done is this quilt top, a buffalo check pattern that seems more like gingham.

Returning to writing has been a challenge, but instead of throwing up my hands and stalking off the court, I’m going to dig deep into what might be a longer five-setter than the Isner/Mahut match back in 2010 at the All England Club.  It’s a matter of mind over matter, in that four years ago when I started this book I was still in my forties, wasn’t yet an abuela, ’nuff said.  I can’t qualify how aging has affected my skills other than to say the inner stamina seems to be lacking, and it’s not merely tennis upon which to place blame.  It simply is, and whining about it won’t make me write more.  Acceptance is better than moping.

For today’s work, I had to scroll through the MS to clarify some facts; in skimming through paragraphs I couldn’t help but recall how easily those previous chapters had fallen from my brain onto the document, and briefly I felt the tiniest bit…displeased.  Yet, after tennis was over for the day, I returned to my PC, read over what I had managed, added a bit more, and called it done, for now.  Tomorrow (hopefully) I’ll tack on another scene, then see what happens on Thursday, as I’ll be visiting with Little Miss and her mama on Wednesday.  Other delights have crowded out noveling, but life never stays still.  Roger Federer has reached his 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal by beating Grigor Dimitrov, while Venus Williams will play Jelena Ostapenko, who was three years old when Venus won her first Ladies’ Singles Championship.  And here I am, still scribbling away on The Hawk, although I think I’ll finish it before Little Miss is Venus’ age.

Notice how much width is lost once the sewing commences; it’s still going to be a good-sized comforter, but not too big.

I’ve learned many things while writing this novel, some personal, some professional.  Perhaps now I’m grasping the most necessary lesson, that of patience.  I can’t rush this story, but I can and should be grateful for the words that do emerge.  Every day I write is like another tennis match completed, some for wins, some of losses, but all with purpose.  Of course, the defeats are difficult to face, but each experience is meaningful, sort of like the current WIP on my quilt wall.  I had high expectations for it, and while I do like it, I’m not certain I’d try this style again.  More on that soon enough, as for now sewing awaits as well as mulling over how today’s chapter will end tomorrow.

The glass is half full, up to me to choose the rest of the contents.

Squeezing in words (and peace) amid the sunshine….

June 2016 on Father’s Day; my daughters, The Burrito and I accompanied my husband to an East Bay park, where it was very hot (although not quite as warm as the last few days….). All pics from that outing.

A heat wave has hit California, and won’t truly abate until the weekend.  Right now Silicon Valley is enjoying a little lull, if you count the upper 90s as relief, but compared to the 106 F at our house on Sunday, I’ll take it.  Yesterday I meant to write, but a walk required my focus, and by the time I sat at my computer, the heat had sapped all my mental energy.  Today I compromised, pounding out two-thirds of a chapter, then walking for a mile and a half.  Turns out those 1700 words will be a chapter all their own, and I’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Despite the hot temps, I’m firmly engaged with my return to writing, breaks be darned as well as the blistering heat.  The next few months are relatively open for the flow of prose, and my desire to complete this novel will push me through whatever hurdles loiter on the horizon.  Other stories I ache to tell are further fuel, but alongside this journey is another that while running parallel tells a different tale; I am not the writer I used to be.

Sometimes my writing path feels that desolate, and of course indistinguishable….

Of course, some of that is good news; thinking back to ten years ago, when I made the decision to pursue writing, I was such a novice, oh my goodness.  Not only was I mediocre, my grasp of the business side of writing was nil.  That business side has altered radically in the past decade, as have my goals, as well as the quality of my output.  The quantity has changed too; I used to knock off a first draft in thirty days, thanks to National Novel Writing Month.  But when I consider those drafts, their purpose was to start the aching process of learning to produce fiction, or most of them.  I published a few, but the bulk are filed away on my PC and in flash drives.  Just thinking about them reminds me how I have grown as an author.

But as I’ve previously noted here, time has become a precious commodity in regards to the words.  However, what I do write now needs less work than in years past, so that’s a win.  Except that this book seems endless, sigh.  But I will finish it, because I’m nearly there and nothing pressing is scheduled for the immediate future, go me!  Although one can never predict the future, meh.  But in not being able to predict the future, I can boldly go forward assuming The Hawk will find its end, yay!  But you know what happens when you assume something.

(Ass out of you and me….)

Okay, okay, enough internal bickering.  I’m starting to sound like my grandson, who had a philosophical argument with his mum this morning, or what a two and a half year old can muster: Trash?  Yes, trash.  Trash??  Yes sweetheart, trash.  Trash???  OMG yes, put that in the trash!  Trash????  Mum then points to the garbage while The Burrito hollers about trash and hammers and so it goes.  I’ve put a lot of writing into the metaphorical rubbish bin, but what remains tells me that yes, I am a writer, I will always be a writer, but right now writing has to step down, or I need to step away, maybe find a hammer, then pound at imaginary nails alongside wee ones who need me more than I need fiction.  Dude, seriously?  Um, yeah.  Trash, Grandma (or Bama, as my nieto calls me as he has a hard time with the letter G).  Finish this book Bama, then find something else to do.

Then to my joyful relief, a trail appears!

But it’s not easy prying my mind from this tasking; my hands are much easier to fill, either with grandkids or fabrics or laundry baskets.  Yet my heart beats in spinning yarns; I listen to old playlists connected to plots and I want to write that novel.  I’ll read something and mentally fashion my own take on it.  A picture appears on my screensaver and I want to tell that tale.  What keeps me from losing my cool, especially in this sweltering heat?  It’s an inner voice, asking me to trust.  Trust that time will provide for The End’s.  Trust that chapters will be the perfect length.  Trust that if and when other books are to be written they most certainly shall be started, and finished!  Trust that in letting go of my assumptions, no one will feel awkward or let down, least of all myself.  Perhaps I should be more worked-up about all this, but in becoming a little anxious, I’m enabled to once again search for peace within my soul; for me that means taking deep breaths, giving thanks for being able to write even this post, realizing how far I’ve been graced to go in the last ten years on this authorial roadway.  I’ve been writing for over ten years, been indie publishing for nearly six, and truthfully there is no end in sight, other than The End for the WIP.  Yeah, one of these days (please God let it be sometime this year) The Hawk will find its way into the Done pile.

Welcome trees and shade make the heat seem not so brutal, how I feel after much needed prayer.

In the meantime, I’ll keep cool both inside my house as well as within my heart.  Not in my own strength certainly, but due to Love.  May that calm be with you today.