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I'm a wife, mom, mom-in-law, grandma, and writer. To read more, visit :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nonna and Grandcat Tobi

Day 47

Friday, October 29, 2010. . .
            THE DETAILS. . .The drive back to Des Moines. Sweet down time with Daughter and Son-in-Law.  =)   Autumn beauty in the Midwest:

Friday, October 29, 2010

                                              "Burning bushes" everywhere, October in Illinois
                                          Lucy [my mom's goose] ready for day's cold temps

Day 46

Thursday, October 28, 2010. . .
            THE DETAILS. . .Mom, errands, saying goodbye, business gathering with My Guy and visits with many acquaintances through his work.  Lots of hugs and catch-up chats. Packing.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 45

Wednesday, October 27, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Copyeditors are now at work on our story.  I think I am on a team.  =)  It’s a good feeling.
            THE DETAILS. . .No cemeteries today.  Doctor and dentist appointments. Lunch with my mom and sister at Bishops, a long-established restaurant. Dinner with My Guy’s side of the family.
At lunch my sister and I stood at the buffet, in front of the desserts. We looked long and hard at the chocolate pie. It is a thing of luscious beauty, several inches high, the whipping cream topped with wide chocolate curlicues. We were instantly transported back to our childhood. Our grandparents often took us to this restaurant (in a different location back then) and we always got to eat a slice of this pie.
My sister and I smiled. We could taste the sweetness. But she had to get back to her office and my day was not yet over so we did not pick up a piece. No time for a sugar crash nap for either of us. (Isn’t the imagination a wonderful thing?)
I qualified for the senior discount. =)
While there, I had another treat. I ran into former neighbors who were also my reflexologists, a grandmother-granddaughter duo. I miss their work on my feet and their friendship. An extra treat was meeting the younger’s adorable little girls, three years old and two months old.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mississippi Whitecaps

Day 44

Tuesday, October 26, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .An exchange of emails with my editor – she is still hard at work on my manuscript while I visit cemeteries – reminds me of the importance of timing in a work of fiction.
            I use a blank calendar, one I designed (okay, I drew lines with the handy-dandy Word tool). It has large day spaces; one month fills one page. I print it off on colored paper. Then, in pencil, I make notations about the story.
            I begin with the month. (Weather and climate most often impacts the characters, though less often in certain areas of the world. This probably comes from my Midwest roots where everyday plans revolve around the weather. Clothing? Allow time for driving in snow? Umbrella? Boots? Avoid flooding river and creeks? Get to the grocery store in order to stock up before the ice storm hits? Make alternate plans for the picnic in case those clouds unload?)
            Then I fill in the blanks. In this month on this date, the story begins. Pivotal scenes are noted as I write them to remind me that such-and-such happened two weeks ago so I best not refer to “three weeks ago” later. (This is what Smart Editor is taking care of.)  I also include “off-scene” info to remind me what is going on that affects my characters but that we readers don’t need to “see.”
            Nothing happens in a vacuum.
            THE DETAILS. . .Two more cemeteries and mausoleum visits with my mom. I have concern that this is too much foisting of details upon her. At 83 she wants to make these decisions so that we children do not have to later, but it is overwhelming for her.
            We did enjoy driving through the oldest cemetery here, which she knew as a child and which my sister and I would explore with her and my grandmother (who lived across the street). Interesting bit of trivia: Charles Dickens’ son is buried here. Tim and I found the site when we were teenagers and dating. The man passed away in Davenport, Iowa (as did Cary Grant who is not buried here).
            We entered one mausoleum – which we liked much better than yesterday’s because it smelled nicer and there was a sense of peace – and recognized several names etched in the granite. It was like a pleasant bumping into old friends. One couple had lived next door to us when our son was born. They adored him.
            The cemetery man was not delightful like the woman at the other one. Oddly, though, this made the whole scene feel less like a business that needs to make money and more like well, yes, death is a part of life and this is what it costs. There were no handwritten prices with discount percentages and warnings of imminent increases. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 43

Monday, October 25, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .The week’s writing will most likely be similar to today’s: a subconscious recording of emotions/personalities/characters/situations. Idea seeds were planted. They will sprout when their time is right to influence stories.
            THE DETAILS. . .Errands with my mom, hours of everydayness with her. Well, everday-ish except for the visit with the cemetery lady (who was a delightful woman). We got the lowdown on mausoleum and in-ground burials.
This woman’s job is quite interesting. I could do a lot in a story with the position. The business of dying is interesting. We looked in a detached manner at facts and figures.
I think I would rather my family and friends had a party nowhere near a cemetery. I love cemeteries. History is so evident there. Dates of births and deaths have always intrigued me. I like that I can visit the gravesites of my great-great grandparents in Orion, Illinois. I like that I stopped by my grandmother’s in Silvis, Illinois.
I suppose that the tombstone is for those who follow. But still. I guess it is not my desire to have one. I don’t own any ground right now. I don’t know that I need to after the fact. I hope my “footprint” is one of a spiritual impact that lives on in the lives of my children, grands, great-grands, and so on.
My “green” side is showing here. =) Hopefully so is my faith in God Who leaves hints all over the place that this life we know is not the end of our story.
In Cutting for Stone the doctor makes an interesting observation: the patients he treated in Africa expected death; the Americans he treated always seemed surprised at that prognosis.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Midwest

                                                            Mighty Mississippi

                                                          Iowa is not flat

Days 41 and 42

Saturday/Sunday, October 23/24, 2010. . .
THE DETAILS. . .In Iowa and Illinois, Des Moines to Orion to Moline to Eldridge to Moline. Days full of family, hugs, catch-up conversations, scent/sound/sight-triggered memories and making new ones.
Daughter is well on her way to becoming the Keeper of Memories (she had a jump start into the role since I managed to lose the all the literal ones three years ago [Yes, I can laugh at that at times.]). Appropriately, she now has the piano. She and Son learned to play on it beginning 25 or so years ago. Five years ago when My Guy and I moved, we did not want to carry it with us to San Diego. He and she arranged for friends to store it. Now married and planning a move from the apartment, she was ready to claim this piece of her past. So a UHaul and a loading were part of our Saturday.
The honk of the Canada geese flying over the Mississippi tickle me. They’re passing through, announcing the approach of winter. My childhood backyard looks smaller again, but that may be because forty years’ growth makes the sycamore a giant on the kickball “field.” 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 40

Friday, October 22, 2010. . .
THE WRITING. . .I began this and almost noted that there was no writing today, but then I thought of The Reading and realized that there is always Writing. =)
I finished reading Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Humming beneath the sheer delight of an engaging story was je ne sais quoi. I don’t know how to phrase it, this underlying flow of how, of technique, of oh my gosh how did he do that!?
There was history and culture and there was back-story woundedness – but over all there was “because of this character’s choice, there was this consequence and then there was that consequence and then” wow.
            I want to do that.
            THE DETAILS. . .As My Guy and I headed down the I-5 in the early morning dark to the airport, we remembered heading north up the I-5 in the early morning dark, on this day in 2007, to safety. We found our way to a theretofore unknown to us motel, as far west into the Pacific that the land allowed in Oceanside.
            Several miles behind us to the east was a raging wildfire, pressed by 40-mile per hour winds with gusts up to 90 mph. The last we had seen, it was a block from our house, headed our way. We drove away, through the neighborhood on streets clogged with hundreds of others. We passed a burning house up the hill a few blocks from ours. Embers bounced off the pavement all around us. Days later we would find damage to a tire which had to be replaced.
            We secured one of the last rooms available at that motel. Dear friends, also fleeing our burning community, joined us . As we sat around a breakfast table in a restaurant (they with two of their children, the third being away at college), Mr. Friend spoke on his cell with someone who lived up the street from us and said that (had he seen for himself? details do not matter at this point) our next-door neighbors’ house was gone.
            And I knew. If theirs was gone, ours was gone.
            A Matt Redman song sprang to mind. We had sung it recently in church. It was a favorite. He quotes from Job. “He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say: blessed be the name of the Lord.”   
            My heart will choose to say. Will choose.
            I remember not sleeping well that night. Our kids were afraid for us, in Chicago and Flagstaff. From our room we could see fires burning on Camp Pendleton. I was glued to the news. Yes unhealthy, but also a necessity. It seemed the entire county was on fire, the entire city at risk. We needed to be better informed than we had been the night before.
We were awakened in the middle of the night by a banging on the door. I thought we were being evacuated, but it was a homeless woman begging for a blanket. We gave her the room’s extra one and a pillow.
The fires continued for days. We were cared for by family, friends, and insurance agent. Our son and daughter flew in to spend the weekend with us. I bought new underwear and a sweater at Macy’s. I sifted through ashes and found crosses and angels, blackened and somehow preserved.
And today I sense God telling me it’s okay to fly to my daughter’s and be lost for hours in someone else’s story. He’s got me covered.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 39

Thursday, October 21, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Today is the official IT’S DONE DAY.  =) I emailed the manuscript to my editor.
Writers know it is best to let a project sit for a bit, at least for overnight before turning it in. I do not always follow this advice.  Similar to how I described in an earlier blog about walking out the office door and having characters “do” something in my imagination, any type of writing may continue once we leave our desks. It’s good to wait for that to happen and not hand our work off to someone else to read. Then they have to tell you, “uh maybe you could work on this?”
Yes, I speak from experience. 
            So, the formalities over, I am still all smiles this day.
            THE DETAILS. . .Too many! Packed for trip to the Midwest. (Is it colder there than here now? I remember snow in October.) Put some order to the house for friends who will stay while we are gone. 
           We leave on an early a.m. flight. First stop: Daughter and Son-in-law’s (Iowa).  My Guy is going for business (Illinois). We will visit parents and siblings there. Our last big Midwest extended-family event was waaay back in April when the Son-in-law became the Son-in-law.  I’m overdue for in-person hugs.
            Also on my mind – and I’m certain bugging my unconscious – is the memory of three years ago tonight and tomorrow, when the Witch Creek/Guejito wildfire struck San Diego County including our street. (I mentioned this in Day 36.) Not necessary to rehash details on a blog. Suffice it to say there was great loss for us and great gain as well.
            Such is life. And as my grandma used to say, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” 

Day 38

Wednesday, October 20, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Oh happy day. I completed the fine-tuning tweaks on Desert Gift. \o/   Woo-hoo!  What I feel is indescribable but of course I’ll make an attempt. Peace, joy, satisfaction, contentment, profound gratitude, oh wow, speechlessness.
            I can’t thank my editor enough for her hard work, keen insight, and sweet spirit about it all – even my poorest of poor writing.
            Hallelujah. And blessings on those who will see the project through to completion.
            I guess this means my new folks will be traveling with me after all.  =)  Laptops are amazing tools.
            DETAILS. . .Wandering from room to room in amazement at the aforementioned event. 
Worship service tonight, nearly 90 minutes of singing. My favorite: Darrell Evans’ Your Love Is Extravagant. “I find I’m moving to the rhythms of Your grace…”
It’s an apt description of writing fiction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 37

Tuesday, October 19, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Again with the 1 a.m. tugs on the imagination. “You forgot about this.” Okay, okay. I guess I wasn’t quite ready to let the new folks go and spend time with the old ones.  =) I took notes and incorporated them later in the morning.
            Whenever we begin to write a story, we keep in mind that the protagonist has a former life. She did not spring into being on page one. What was she doing the night before the morning earthquake struck? This was the specific I had not imagined yet. I knew what her daughter was doing but forgot her.
            It was an easy fix and of course fleshed her out some more. But it was personally for me a duh moment.
            Have I mentioned I really, really like these new people?
            THE DETAILS. . .The ongoing drizzly mist turned into a steady rain as I was walking on the pier. I got wet. The rain kept up throughout the day. Did errands related to our upcoming trip to see Fam in the Midwest. I got wet again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 36

Monday, October 18, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .My agent once told me that “somebody has to die.” He had read opening pages of a new project of mine and wondered at every character being so nice.  =)
I’ve often repeated his advice to myself. It’s probably why I am able to allow a character to make a stupid choice and pay the consequences. I dig deep, though; I want them to be compelled to make such a decision out of a woundedness. The fallout needs to be, on the surface, unfixable. It just is.
It has been on my mind again as my fifteen-year old character and her parents go at it. I’d rather they were all nice and peaceable and reasonable. =)
A day of important story progress. Everyone and every situation is in place. I feel freed up to do some editing on the last story. I have not yet, after all these years, found the ability to work on two different stories simultaneously. I will set aside Heart Echoes and focus on Desert Gift.
One of my wise and wonderful editors has made tweaking suggestions. Sometimes suggestions are major, some are out-and-out strong “how about overhaul” ideas. But she promises that we are down to minor tweaks on this project. I hope so. By this point in the process I am always a bit tired of these characters. Ha, ha.
I will read through the manuscript and make appropriate changes and the story will be so much better due to this fine-tuning. So, another deadline is on the calendar, November 3rd. This is my last turn to take a whack at it. Then she will finish up, then others will do their specialty to get it into print, bound in a cover, with all the extra goodies. Then others will get it from a warehouse to a shelf.
A book is so obviously a team effort I do not know why only my name is on the cover.
DETAILS. . .Walk in early morning mist. As often happens, this is where the writing began for this day, my folks reminding me of this and that about themselves. =)
I read Psalm 84, next Sunday’s reading. Three years ago I marked it in my Bible as Sunday’s reading for October 28, 2007. That was six days after the wildfire destroyed our house and – except for a few things – every material item.
I had underlined three verses: “How I love your palace;” “The sparrow has found its home at last;” “Yahweh withholds nothing good.”
Hard words to comprehend in the wake of such loss for us and hundreds of others. But, because I underlined them, I know they spoke to that place inside of me where comprehension is a heart thing. They told me that my home always is, that it is in the presence of God which is a palace; it exists everywhere, at all times; it is indestructible, good, and perfect. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 35

Sunday, October 17, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Snippets now and then checking in with the imagination. =) I don’t linger over them.
            DETAILS. . .Church, lunch with friends, laundry, beginnings of packing, bike ride, leftovers. A day of rest and restoration. “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” Amen.

Sunny day last week:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 34

Saturday, October 16, 2010. . .
THE WRITING. . .Began around 2 a.m. Awake, alert, mind replaying a scene written, seeing the next, grasping interior landscapes. It was a serious note-taking time that ran its course by 3:30.
DETAILS. . .Morning coffee and newspapers at the beach, a drizzly day. Movie afternoon, theater located down the street, a four-block walk. Red, for age 50+ viewers who know deep inside that they are still young and have something yet to offer. A fun escape time.
Picnic time, in the drizzle which tapered off for a bit. We tried a new spot, a grassy area at the harbor. Had time for sushi and reading before the drizzle started up again. (Drizzle for days on end is a major event for us.) We took the food home and put the picnic basket at the table; ate fried chicken [store bought], salami, roast beef, cheese, cut-up veggies, sourdough bread.
Reading tidbits:  My Guy reads novels on his Kindle which for me is quite an unsatisfactory reading experience. I crave pages to feel and smell. I’m still reading Cutting for Stone. Yes, I am slow. I like to savor each word. I like how this story transports me to another time, another place.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 33

Friday, October 15, 2010. . .Characters ushered me along today. The best of writing times.
            I did some reading aloud. It’s a helpful practice, especially with dialogue, to hear the written word spoken. The ear picks up rhythms or lack of which the eye cannot.
In years past I would read an entire manuscript out loud before turning it in. The stories were not as long back then. Maybe this is a good discovery today, to vocally read bits at a time.
Also a story reads differently on paper than on monitor. =)
            Yes, we have a cover for the book coming out next June. \O/ And a very nice one it is indeed.
            DETAILS. . .Early walk this morning, all the fishers were fishing, less walkers/joggers out = my “good-morning response” record was not even neared.
However, joy of joys, one older man returned my good morning with “Good morning, love.” Very sweet but the best part is, as I continued on my way, was the resounding of that word “love” in my imagination. Guess who ran into it and took it for his own? The protagonist’s husband. It fits him wonderfully. I had kept trying to put “honey” and “sweetheart” and “dear” in his mouth and he would not say any of them.
This paragraph belongs up above, not in the DETAILS section.
Ha, ha. One of those days where the line of demarcation is very blurry indeed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 32

Thursday, October 14, 2010. . .Whew. Full day. Words all used up. Brain does not want to even read an email. =)
            A favorite quote follows. . .It is an “Artistic Statement” for those in the theatre arts, but I think it applies to us writers as well.
            “…we are called to tell stories both descriptive and prescriptive in nature…Our artistic aim is to creatively produce dramatic works that entertain while simultaneously presenting many of the universal truths God has revealed to us through the human condition…”    -Walter Williams, Point Loma Nazarene University
            Isn’t that a beautiful summation of the point of story telling? We are called and we are called to be creative because the Creator has made us creative. His universal truths are all around us.
What blows my mind is when a new story presents itself or when I begin a scene hoping to move a character to a certain interior space with no idea how to get her there and it just happens. I see in those instances a God Who is endlessly, ceaselessly creative. We’ve only seen snippets of His work.
DETAILS. . .Gloom, gloom, gloom. Typical June weather. I have to look at a calendar to remember what month it is. Usually that happens when it’s 70 degrees in December because I am a Midwest native. Home Group; the selected Scriptures reiterate how God is always taking care of us.
Speaking of beautiful...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 31

Wednesday, October 13, 2010. . .A good plugging along, digging into hearts, pressing in, unveiling new thoughts to characters or they to me, watching them respond…and begin to make choices that – technically speaking – impact the plot.
For fun I diagramed the house where protagonist, husband, and daughter live. Correct, I had not done that yet. Tsk, tsk, out of my normal order. It was fun but also necessary for my mind’s eye because they all finally went home.
I learned something new today: It is too early in the story to write about a minor character’s life. It caused me to miss a significant juncture.
Sloppy, sloppy.
In this series I write from two sisters’ points of view; one is the main character, the other a minor one. Only one per chapter.
I like to write them in chronological order and in the order which the reader will read them. When one sister is doing such-and-such at such-and-such a location, what is the other sister up to?
However I realized today that I missed something by hanging out yesterday with Minor Sis while Major Sis was still taking intricate steps in the middle of a scenario.
Boo. I don’t like to do it, but I have done it and know it works better. I must leave an empty page and later insert the other character’s chapter.
Emails regarding the business side of writing were part of my day. Encouraging stuff. =)
Worked on blog and thanks to help a young mama friend, was able to figure out some of the techie side.
I have yet to mention the prayer that goes into my writing day. It’s such an integral part, kind of like breathing. Perhaps that’s why I do not say on every post that I first off I prayed for help, for words and sentences that will touch readers, whether in delight or questions or comfort or a different way of seeing.
DETAILS. . .Morning walk. Kept track of how many people responded to my “good morning.”  Thirteen.  =)  Voted; ballot by mail is great. Crossword puzzles; gave up on Sunday’s.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 30

Tuesday, October 12, 2010. . .All three women – protagonist, her sister, her daughter – are now on the page. Today I listened to the rhythm of their relationships. The daughter is more savvy than I thought, even though that’s what the mother’s friend hinted at last week. Characters tell me what's coming and I don't catch it until later. The sister is in a totally different space than I imagined, a vulnerable space.
            Surprises are so fun.
            I had pre-programmed the sister one way. Then I found a photo (Northwest Territory catalogue) that fit her perfectly but really did not go along with my notes. I write the character sketches in pencil. Much erasing on hers today as she developed from the photo more than the notes.
            The trick is keeping the two women’s voices separate. They are clear in my head, two distinct women.
            By the way, if I remember correctly – not to mention the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – this story will be published in Spring 2012. By then I will be living with other make-believe people. These folks will have largely faded from my imagination.
            DETAILS. . .Massage. Cleaners. Chicken quiche (a yummy old receipe). NCIS rerun. Cutting for Stone. The Chilean miners are being freed. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 29

Monday, October 11, 2010. . .I leave Los Angeles. New people come on board. Such a delight getting to know them. I diagram their business, a coffee/gift shop in Oregon. Mm, I want to visit. The desk and bed are covered with notes.
            DETAILS. . .Bike. Stop to chat with one of My Guy’s surfer friends. We talk about our story, the one that started after the fire. It’s good to revisit, to see again how we ended up living within walking distance to the beach and how God’s hand is in all the journey’s turns. Chili, my mom’s recipe with jalapenos added in my red Le Creuset pot.
            Have I mentioned my bike is pink?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 28

Sunday, October 10, 2010. . .
DETAILS. . .Words press me beyond words. From today’s hymn: Let every creature rise and bring Peculiar honors to our King; Angels descend with songs again, And earth repeat the loud Amen.
Amen. It’s what happens at the Wild Animal Park.  =)
Dinner with extended family, welcoming a new niece-in-law into the John fold. I remember being in her shoes soooo many years ago. A stop-and-take-notice moment: one generation melds into another and I am entering the ranks of the one headed toward the exit door.
This is not morbid. It is freeing and a call to not miss this day.

Day 27

                                                         Okapi [Okapia johnstoni]

Saturday, October 9, 2010. . .Stephen King writes in his autobiographical On Writing  that he writes 365 days a year. I don’t. Okay so maybe writing fiction is not life for me.  =)  I wonder if he is able to turn it off? I become unbalanced if I don’t set aside time. Today was a set-aside day, a turn-it-off day, a precautionary measure.
            FYI, Writer Friends, his book is full of practical information in the descriptions of how he writes a novel. One example that I like to incorporate is his practice of writing between certain hours of the day and doing absolutely nothing else.
Absolutely nothing else. No laundry, cooking, emails, etcetera.
            DETAILS. . .My Guy and I went to the Wild Animal Park, one of my favorite places. It’s that God speaking through nature thing again. The animals crack me up and the lush foliage send me to the moon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 26

                                                                    My walking pier

Friday, October 8, 2010. . .The writing day began around 2:30 a.m. Wide awake, full of story. A few tweaks to the previous day’s words. An emerging diagram of the couple’s house and neighborhood because at some level I’ve realized the original does not work. Both are dealt with thoroughly in my imagination, no paper involved. Back to sleep.
Often I write these middle-of-the-night ramblings down. If I don’t record the first-awake ideas, they’re usually history. But these were not the type that needed to be put on paper. These were the heavy-duty imprints. A nickname so obviously better than the one I had used. A rearrangement of the house because the original does not fit historically, Southern California style.
            Later, time at the desk includes the intro of another main character, that 15-year old girl I mentioned. Where has she been? What has she been experiencing? What is she feeling? What does her voice sound like? Again I am slowed some. So much hangs on the beginning. It seems Story Beginning can go on for pages and pages and pages.
            There is the tendency to explain everything up front. This reveals too much. It cheats the reader out of a lot of fun. Enjoyment in reading fiction comes from engaging one’s imagination, entering a different world, seeing life from a character’s point of view, then agreeing or not, rooting for her or not.
Early afternoon I reach a point when it was time to literally step away from my desk. My imagination seems emptied. In reality this is a deliberate act of letting go. . .because it sets off fireworks. They begin the moment I walk out the office door. Each burst of color detonating above my  head is an idea about the story. Pow, pow. I need pen and paper.
Later I drive down the freeway, radio off, committing to memory the explosions of thoughts. I reach a parking lot and sit for a long time jotting them down.
Some days I think the whole entire book will be written in snippets like this.
DETAILS. . .Emerge from above haze and do an incomplete grocery shop. But My Guy hit the Farmers Market and so we have yummy fresh salmon that he cooks on the grill.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 25

Thursday, October 7, 2010. . .An up-close-and-personal time with the folks today. Conflict slowed and I lingered in the watching the leading lady and her man reunite after world events have kept them separated. Seeing how they interacted in person with each other was a treat. They are good together. They are home together. Conflict between them does not exist today. It is a glimpse of heaven-like union.
            I’m going to hate pressing a wedge between them. =)
            I write at my inexpensive lightweight fake wood, metal legged, L-shaped, drawer-less Staples desk. One time I touched J.R.R. Tolkien’s desk in a museum at Wheaton College. It’s the one upon which he wrote The Hobbit. I held my breath in awe.
            My writing room is a bedroom, the one my granddaughters use when they visit. If this were not a furnished rental, I would change things. It is an awfully nice room, though. Bright and airy, on the second floor. I’ve put up a few photographs I’ve taken of favorite nature scenes: an ocean sunset, a creek in Illinois, Anza-Borrego Desert.
I have pushed aside furniture in order to put the desk at a west-facing window. The alley is below it. I look out at a few windows of a two-story apartment building. I can see the tops of two palm trees and sky. Blinds cover the windows, but sometimes I see a cat in one, sometimes a flickering television at all hours of the day and night, sometimes a woman shampooing her hair in a kitchen sink.
Most of my writing years I used a wonderful, monstrous-sized desk that I bought at a Salvation Army. When we moved I used a folding table loaned to me by friends for a couple months.
And then I bought my dream desk. There was a tall matching bookcase, a chair, and no bedroom furniture in the room. I enjoyed all of that for one and a half years before the fire changed things. Then I was back to a folding table for a time.
Environment is important. Obviously I like a desk to be part of mine. It’s like a portal to the world of make believe. Once I’m ushered through it, it fades from view.
DETAILS. . .Early morning walk on the pier. The ocean was glassy still. No dolphins but Gulls and pelicans and even Canada geese were all over the water. I kept singing Matt Redman’s song, Seeing and Singing. “No one can sing of things we have not seen. Open our eyes towards a greater glimpse. The glory of You…” Nature gives me a greater glimpse of glory.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Guy

Husband Tim body surfing-photo by SIL

Day 24

Wednesday, October 6, 2010. . .A slow day with the folks. I couldn’t quite hit the right note. This happens. Sigh.
I plugged along anyway. It wasn’t pretty. As my writer friend Ree says, though, “nothing is dross.” I may have to delete every single word from today, but something was worked out somewhere inside my imagination.
The characters got in position for a significant moment between them. Thus, necessary plot movement occurred.
For me, this situation in the writing process occurs when I have to introduce myself to a new personality or a physical place. Today it was both.
I knew the names and ages of two necessary minor characters; I had a vague notion of what their relationship with the protagonist and her husband was like. However, when it came time for them to stride onto the page, I needed more than vague.
Also it’s time for the couple to go home. What does their house look like? Their neighborhood? I usually have made a diagram of the characters’ homes or place of work before this point. Nuts. I forgot to do that.
These things trip me up mostly in the beginning because much will stem from even these minor things.
So today was where the discipline of writing comes in. You just do it. You don’t wait for the right mood. It has been said that the most significant part of writing is simply showing up.
DETAILS. . .Son phoned, DIL texted: tornado warnings in their city. They are fine, but not all is well with others. Lord, have mercy.
I ran errands. This is a good way to give my mind a break. Beneath the surface, story is churning away. Tomorrow results will show up.
And there we have it.  Walmart and Kohls and writing fiction pretty much in the same sentence. I swear, all of life is fiction.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 23

Tuesday, October 5, 2010. . .One of those “lost in story” days. With the notes in place – the Hero’s Journey, the Index Cards, the Overview, the Characters’ Laundry Lists – plus the prologue and opening chapters written, it was a “kicking into gear” day. Not high gear for me. That usually comes later, during the last third of the book when every dangling thread gets tied up or cut.
The protagonist’s life began to unravel on page one. Now I take it apart, one support system at a time, forcing her to dig deep.
Conflict, conflict, conflict. How else can we learn?
Some follow-up talk about the cover. I can hardly wait to post it here. It’s a beautiful picture of a desert in full spring bloom.
I launched the blog this morning. I had scheduled myself to do it tonight, after fiction, but this thing is more fun than I imagined. I couldn’t wait. It’s a blend of both sides of that coin: it’s writing and it’s connecting with readers.
Even all the rigmarole on the site of creating an address, a title, a password, choosing colors and layout – details that make me cringe – were not that agonizing. Even copying my daily files one by one to create the posts went smoothly. And once it was put together, at least a first version, I was excited.
I have been itching to write nonfiction, not as in a book. More as in a blurb. Or is that blog? =) First responses tickle me. One friend thinks I’m tech savvy.
I think that whole business about feeling disconnected because fiction is life may lose its impact. God bless technology.
DETAILS. . .My Guy invited me to dinner, to a French restaurant, on a Tuesday night, where we’ve gone only for DIL’s birthday lunches in July. If we were dating I would guess he was going to propose. =) He’s always providing material for me.
The perks of being our age and empty-nested are all right.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 22

Monday, October 4, 2010. . .I finished the index cards of scenes and segues, organized them, put the first batch on my lovely Levenger story board (thank you again, Hadaceks, for the replacement), and finished Vogler’s “hero’s journey.” Ah, let the games begin. Tomorrow.
Have I addressed the two sides of the same coin yet? Writing is the coin. Creating story is tails. Relationships is heads. Work on the “relationships”  side includes keeping communications open via emails, phone calls, website, Facebook, workshops, teaching, conferences, conventions, and now blogging. It is as all-consuming as the creating side.
Without agent and agency, editors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and readers, the coin is worthless. Without my relating to them on a regular basis, the work might just sit on my desk, a wonderful gift to my grandchildren which would not be a bad thing, but because I am already on this particular path, I best keep at it.
Long ago, in 1986 or ’87, my writing-for-publication teacher Irene stated over and over again until it was certain to root in her students’ memories: “Writing is a business.” I remember balking. Why can’t I just live in an ivory tower and spin tales?
I am not a good multi-tasker. Nor am I good at setting aside certain weekly or daily hours or days for this business side. What is the happy medium? Some fiction writers post the message, “I will not be online until such-and-such date,” days or weeks from now, and off they go, such happy campers. To a certain extent I suppose I do it this way. But then the catch-up time overwhelms me and I’d rather browse Lands End catalogs for sweaters and character faces than write an email or make a phone call.
All that to say that I made time for the flipside today and spoke with my agent and his assistant, both most wonderful encouragers who keep my commercial backside covered like angels in business attire.
And the publisher has emailed a cover for the book recently turned in. A cover. A cover. Designers have been busy creating for me, for just the right image that will woo readers to pick up the book, which of course they have to do before they can read it.  =)
DETAILS. . .Happy Feast of St. Francis and blessings on all God’s creatures.

Day 21

Sunday, October 3, 2010. . .No story stuff.
            DETAILS. . .Church. The created soaked in the Uncreated.
            North County Times and L.A. Times reading on the beach, bundled in sweats and a blanket, until the cloud cover and breeze lose their appeal.           
The urge to nest has overtaken me, like I’m nine months pregnant. I want to fluff up this rented, furnished nest. It’s an odd feeling because it has been totally absent for three years as of October 22, the day we lost our house and all-but all of our belongings in the wildfire. It is comforting and disturbing at the same time. Not sure where it’s taking me yet.

Day 20

Saturday, October 2, 2010. . . I worked on The Index Cards, an unloading of the imagination, writing one potential scene per card. Typically I do this before this point in the process. Everything gets tweaked. The process itself is a WIP. A good writing day.
            DETAILS. . .Coffee on the beach with My Guy. Later, another movie. Must be the overcast sky. The Social Network was another teaching for me, way beyond my comprehension but enjoyable all the same. It was like watching Edison invent the light bulb at warp speed. 

Day 19

Friday, October 1, 2010. . .Big picture stuff. Filling in The Hero’s Journey. Months from now it will remind me of the story’s focus.
            DETAILS. . .Haircut. Groceries. Movie with My Guy. Wall Street was quite a teaching tool for me; a little light on personal relationships though. ;-)  

Day 18

Thursday, September 30, 2010. . .Life’s DETAILS took precedence. But they were full of “copy.” =)
            DETAILS. . .I visited with childhood friends, three sisters, in town on vacation. What a hoot! Two I had not seen in perhaps 45 years. (We’re old enough to let 45 years slip by?) We all missed my sister. Shared memories of laughter and imaginative games will always bind us five together, a tribute to the power of friendship. Our history runs deeper than us girls: our fathers were close friends growing up in a small Illinois town.
            Errands and Home Group. The Scriptures were full of those “keepers,” like God has not given us the spirit of timidity. . . Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. . .  Amen and amen.

Day 17

Wednesday, September 29, 2010. . .Scrumptious day. Hours and hours. I left everyone hanging. I emailed into editors the overview and opening chapters. \O/
And then I sat as if in a stupor. What next? I stopped the writing day at the end of a chapter. Major no-no for me. Ack!
And I’ve skipped Vogler’s “Hero’s Journey.” I never skip Vogler’s “Hero’s Journey.” The overview/outline covers it somewhat but still. . .I guess I was eager. No, my “people” were eager.
            DETAILS. . .Walking on the pier is too much some days, like today. Too much as in a Thin Place too much, too close for a human who still lives on this earth.
            Biking with My Guy. First we swing by the library to return books due. Pat on the back. Three weeks ago I checked out three books:
A Susan Wiggs – the storyline and writing seemed similar to what I want to do, what I probably strive to do with not quite the edginess. I didn’t finish it. The 15-year old character bored me. She wasn’t boring, the writing wasn’t boring. It’s me. I enjoy writing about kids. I do not enjoy their reading from their point of view.
An Andrew Greeley – Chicago, of course. Fun mystery. Ecclesiastical stuff that I adore. But I did not finish it. As noted earlier, I craved chewy writing.
A bestseller, The Help – love the concept. But not in the mood for reading dialect.
And, as noted earlier, I bought a book recently. Cutting for Stone is chewy and wonderful.
Then we biked along the Strand, next to the beach, then over to the harbor, then to a restaurant where we ate often right after the fire (October 2007 wildfire). It’s near the hotel where we stayed at that time. Since moving to the area, we’ve come to know one of the waitresses. Familiarity in such a large city is comforting.

Day 16

Tuesday, September 28, 2010. . .The ocean welcomes me back. From the pier above it, I sense each wave washing over me, drenching my imagination with story details.
            Crafting, crafting, crafting.
            Affirming news from the editor: the recently submitted book is a go, ready for the next step in the long process from imagination to publication. \O/ At the same time I groan a little. Sewing a new skirt is so much more fun than mending an old one.
DETAILS. . .Not many. Happy Birthday, FIL.
And Happy “Half Day” to myself. Ha, ha. I am halfway through my 60th year. This is a big deal.

Day 15

Monday, September 27, 2010. . .The drive home. Eight hours of gratitude for the family time, for the ability to travel the distance by car in a day. Eight hours of shedding comfort and sweetness. Little girl voices fade into echoes in my heart. Their hugs move from my sense of touch to an imprint in cellular memory. The adult children’s good conversations and encouragement settle in somewhere, still blessing yet carving an emptiness. Sigh. This is life.
            And in this space of lack, roots are nourished. Story is their fruit.
            DETAILS. . .Happy Birthday, Niece.

Days 12, 13, 14

Friday, September 24, 2010. . .Imagination time while driving east through California, east and north into Arizona, desert and mountaints, most wondrous beauty food for the soul.
            DETAILS. . .And then once again children in my arms – son, daughter-in-law, two granddaughters. Over the next sixty-six hours, all else moves to the far edges of my mind.

Saturday, September 25, 2010. . .I break the “no-talking” rule with two people: my daughter and my daughter-in-law. Today it’s with DIL. It’s like a game of racquetball. Back and forth, side to side, whack, whomp, yes, maybe not. She is a good sounding board for story.
A bumper sticker catches my eye: What would Xena do? I laugh and laugh and tuck it away. My protagonist will like it.
            DETAILS. . .DIL takes me to an exercise class. I last twenty of the sixty minutes and spend the remainder of the day getting acquainted with altitude sickness. Seven thousand feet has not been a problem before. But then I never tried NIA before (a fun mix of dance, martial arts, yoga moves, upbeat music). Of course I doubt I could get through an entire workout at sea level either. Did I need this in-your-face out-of-shape message? Probably.

Sunday, September 26, 2010. . .Thanks be to God for a day of rest.
            DETAILS. . .Stiff does not begin to describe the muscles that thought they could dance yesterday. Ow, ow, ow.
Ancient ruins lie around just the corner. We follow the base of the mountain, from the house to the pueblo site where the Sinagua lived from 1100 – 1275. We arrive in time for a tour with an archeologist who worked the site thirty years ago. Fascinating history. We join in a dig and shoot arrows with a bow.

Day 11

Thursday, September 23, 2010. . .Polishing and wrapping up. Eager to give the editors a first glimpse for their feedback.
            DETAILS. . .A loved one in the hospital with chest pains. He’s fine, meaning I don’t have the details yet but he’s home. Real life trumps the imaginary one. Emotional energy gone elsewhere for the most part. Potato chip attack too. Kettle Brand, ground pepper flavor.

Day 10

Wednesday, September 22, 2010. . .Pure bliss today. Things happened. I didn’t create them. They. Just. Happened. Details, character quirks, threads that will tangle, nuances that will affect. Oh happy day. I fell in love again with the process. Hallelujah, thank You, God.
            Slowed by the 15-year old girl’s vocabulary. I have put out the word. “Help!” Feedback from my sources: “choice,” “tricked out.” Hm.
There’s the technology side of life as well that trips me up . I don’t have a smart phone. Yet. Remember slightly older stories in which there are no cell phones? Now there is the texting – continually with the teen, a friend reminds me – and the IM-ing and the Twittering and the whatnot.
            DETAILS. . .A morning walk on the pier, an evening bike ride with My Guy. My cup runneth over. 

Day 9

Tuesday, September 21, 2010. . .I am wordless after a full day of words. Uh, maybe not entirely. I threw my protagonist into a most difficult situation. I didn’t know how she would react. She is more vulnerable than I figured, not afraid to show her soft side.
            And the chaos around her at this moment? I had noooo idea.
            Writing fiction is one of the most fun things in the whole entire world.
            DETAILS. . .Bike ride on new tires. My bike is pink. It makes people stop and stare and smile and comment. Yes, I get a kick out of that too.

Day 8

Monday, September 20, 2010. . .The weekend’s musings go from head to laptop. I edited, too soon but it’s necessary before turning in this section soon for editors’ feedback. The new writing is always a little slow, typical after a day off. The protagonist spoke too softly at first.
            The recurring conundrum presents itself: do I have a life outside of the story or not? Do I “check out” more than I already do for an extended period? Why do I have to live and breathe these people?
            DETAILS. . .Walk. Visit with cousin-in-law, the Artist/Artist’s Mother. Lingered over her latest oils and let their beauty fill me. Inspired by her plants as well, I repotted my ailing basil.
NCIS reruns with My Guy.
            Saddened by the death of a stranger, hit by a train two blocks away late Saturday night. Bits of yellow police tape lay on the ground reminding me exactly where it happened almost every day as I walk past. Prayers for all concerned.  

Days 6 & 7

Saturday and Sunday, September 18-19, 2010. . .The weekend.
Characters and  scenes played in my imagination now and then. They have taken up residence and won’t go away for months.
DETAILS. . .I soaked in the ambience of an old-fashioned bookstore (creaky wooden floors; for d├ęcor: a set of worn Harvard Classics, a collection of old Nancy Drew). Was hungry for chewy writing, not my usual milk chocolate of suspense. Cutting for Stone by Verghese, a recommendation some time ago by a friend, caught my attention and money. Much satisfaction after reading three pages. Ahh.
Saw The Concert, a movie in French and Russian with subtitles, delighted me and My Guy; intriguing storyline, people, and beautiful Tchaikovsky. New tires on my pink bike! Long-distance giggle fests with the two granddaughters.
Church time as usual beyond the scope of adjectives.

Day 5

Friday, September 17, 2010. . . The protagonist lives! She has a face and a body and a voice and a personality. I am smitten.
            To quote Bunn again, we should not begin the writing until we hear the character’s voice. Weird as this may sound, I think this can be as literal as you like. And that’s all I’m going to say on that subject.
            The writing itself has begun. The opening paragraphs in place. Ecstasy beyond description – despite the inevitable tweaking that will come.
            DETAILS. . . Groceries.

Day 4

Thursday, September 16, 2010. . . Ahh. Secondary characters spoke up today. Details poked their heads inside mine. The big picture coalesced, a beginning, a middle, and an end.
ITunes "got" my drift and suggested music for the new playlist. Always start with new music for new characters.
All my toys are ready now. Let the wild rumpus begin.
            DETAILS. . . Early morning walk. The weekly farmer’s market four blocks away, such amazing fruits and veggies and seafood and smells and colors. Home group with friends and laughter about this week’s reading, a parable in Luke that ties our minds into knots.

Day 3

Wednesday, September 15, 2010. . . Research. Online stuff. Not exactly fun stuff. I need a disease.
            DETAILS. . . Lunch with sisters-in-law, a heart catch-up time with women I don’t see often, with whom I share a long history. We cried remembering one’s son, deceased now for twenty-one months. I remember when he was twenty-one months old. Lord have mercy.
Evening praise and worship at church, a new monthly service of just singing.

Day 2

Tuesday, September 14, 2010. . . Tis the season of getting to know the characters.
It’s a plowing sort of work. A hundred acres, planted row by row by row. Imagined together, the overview, outline, theme, title, and character sketches are huge. I try to get my arms around it all. It’s too much. I have to slow it down, plant one seed at a time, one name, one plot line, one setting, one crisis, one thread. And yet I have to see the field alive and full of corn stalks.
Surprises surprised me:  I adore the teenage girl. She’s very “out there” but her heart shows. I am in love with the husband/stepdad. Tender, thoughtful, committed, real, insightful, giving. A Jesus figure? The wife/mother is a bundle of hurts and I ache for her and admire her and can’t wait to put her in print.
I listen for their voices. I look for paradox and motives and wounds and mystery. I worry about jumping all over the board but it’s always like this. I need a general structure in the beginning – even though most of it will change before I type “The End.” I need details as well – what is the girl’s best friend’s name? – so later they will not bog me down.
DETAILS . . . Walk on the pier. Email from a high school reader in Australia, talk with my mom, massage, bike ride with My Guy after he pumps air into my flat tires, Sue Thomas FBEye rerun, and a quote from Richard Rohr:
“Somewhere each day we have to fall in love, with someone, something, some moment, event, phrase, word, or sight.  Somehow each day we must allow the softening of the heart.”

Day 1 - The story begins

Monday, September 13, 2010. . . Technically speaking, it is not Day 1 for beginning to write my new novel, my new Work In Progress. Day 1 was back in Spring 2008 when the series storyline introduced itself to my imagination. But let’s not start there.  
            Let’s not start either with several weeks ago when titles, names, themes, scenes, character analyses, and whatnot skittered through my mind, when I browsed catalogues and magazines looking for faces that fit my people. Such horrid and glorious hours of following a thousand and one rabbit trails!
            No, I’ll call this Monday, the 13th day of September 2010, the Official Day 1 of the current WIP because today I sat down to begin the day-to-day process of writing a novel. It was an easy plunge into new lives and situations. It was a sweet homecoming.
However, unlike with the 17 stories before this one, I am wondering if I am losing or have already lost my marbles. How on earth do I keep shutting out the “real” world to create another? Why do I keep doing it?
Will blogging serve as a release valve? Perhaps if I share this journey with others, I will maintain some sense of sanity, a touch with reality.
            Many years ago I attended a workshop conducted by the prolific writer Davis Bunn. It was a distinct pleasure on two counts: I took notes which I still use as writing guides and the guy is a gracious Southern gentleman, very easy on the eyes and the ears. One significant thing he said was that it is best not to talk about what we’re working on because it takes energy away from the story.
            This is true. I regret when I do it. And so I will not talk about the story itself but about the process, about how real life and the imaginary life make for strange bedfellows.
            Of course the hope behind this blog is that others will identify and feel free to express their thoughts on the subject.
Is anybody out there?
            At the end of the writing day, switching gears from imaginary to real discombobulates me. It’s like going from third into reverse without hitting the brakes. Whomp. Not good.
DETAILS. . . Writing fiction is life, the rest is just details. Hackneyed yes, but such tight prose. Today’s details: Laundry. Trimmed the dead stems off of an African daisy and promised her more water more often. No emotional space left for emails or phone calls to friends and family. Sigh.