Personal Life, Writing

Grouting Day: The Holiday You’ve Never Heard Of Before Now

Spousal Unit and I recently replaced our homes’ sad, unmatched, cracked, and crazy-looking patchwork of slippery tile and floating “wood” floor with a lovely, very “grabby” textured tile (rated for outdoor, around a pool use!!! hurray!). While the tear-out was happening, the poor dog went to the dogsitter (he adores being with them and their dog is one of his very good friends), and I got a week-long stay at a nearby AirBnB and wrote myself silly. (Okay, that’s a stretch. I’m already silly. I wrote myself sane(-r), perhaps, might be more the truth.)

Yes, a glorious week by myself, in a town I already knew, with most of a novel before me. At first, I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much. I settled into what I know is a good rhythm for me, writing in 2-4 small sessions throughout the day, punctuated by other things: walking, sightseeing, shopping, cooking, etc. Each small session wasn’t massively productive, and I never bothered adding up any one day’s output, so by the end of my stay, I was feeling a bit down.

Then I checked my writing history for the week. (Scrivener, the program I use for writing, has this function, which I love so very much!) To my amazement, every day I’d written well over 1,000 words, and most days, over 2,000 words! I went from feeling like I’d “wasted” my precious writing retreat to exhilaration, then wondering how I could’ve been so wrong before!

But honestly, underestimating the amount of work I’ve accomplished is, unfortunately, something I do often. Too often. I’m…working on that.

In better news, this retreat pushed my new novel, tentatively titled “The Mastery Books,” to the one third mark! Hurray! I love the characters, the plot, the location–all of it–so very much, and am eager to continue.

However, when the dog and I returned home, the tile was laid, but not grouted. The next day, I donned working clothes, gloves, and knee pads, and began grouting tile, alongside Spousal Unit. I posted a picture of myself thus garbed, before I began, titled “Grouting Day” to one of my writing Slacks, and one person commented that it sounded like an obscure British holiday. Then the members had fun coming up with a whole new holiday, complete with its founding, history, and certain memorable moments in its long history. It was, honestly, a riot, and so much fun, especially after a day of hard work. [Much more fun than the actual grouting (which took more than one day), I can assure you. And so can my knees, and back!]

Now I gaze at the lovely new tile floors, admiring their clean lines, the way a single flooring material ties the home together instead of the disjointed feeling the previous floors gave it, and I smile (I also admire the work that went into grouting and sealing the grout, and hope I never have to do this work again) as I pass through to my office, sit at the computer, and once more sink into the novel.

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, the dog, Writing

How Many “Ends” Does a Candle Have?

“Burning the candle at both ends” is a phrase I’ve heard so often, but just now it seems unequal to my reality. I’m trying to query a novel and write another, to finish a home renovation that includes laying and grouting new tile floors while keeping up with the yard and the writing and the other chores, AND trying to take care of my health, AND my dog’s health, AND my spouse’s health…. How many candles does that mean I need to be burning?

So far, the new floors look amazing, by the way. I love Love LOVE them sooo much. But my knees didn’t really like grouting too much–the last time I grouted was 15 years ago! Time flies when you’re enjoying not grouting, I guess–and the poor dog simply did not understand why he was being kept out of ever-changing parts of the house for so long.

Now we’re on hold, waiting for the cabinet maker to nab a truck to send our finished kitchen cabinets to us before we rip out the old ones, tile the kitchen, and replace with NEW cabinets!!!! So shiny! So much work! And all on hold for some indefinite time. Check this space for updates!

Healthwise, a slew of doctor visits is culminating in some medication changes that will mean I’ll soon be feeling soooooo much better–and I already am, a little bit. Just knowing the change is coming makes a big difference. Hurray!

As for the new novel–I’m progressing nicely. At about 1/3 of the way through the first draft, and I’m really loving this book, and the alternating POVs. It’s the first time I’ve done this in forever, and I’m liking it. My two characters are so different, it’s easy to keep them separate in my mind. I love them both, but for different reasons, and can empathize with each of them in different ways. Now I’m just hoping that the renovation stuff doesn’t interfere with my novel’s forward progress any more, because I’m eager to rip deeper into this story!

But just now, the dog is tappy-toeing beside my desk, demanding dinner, and medications, and pool time–it’s swimming season, so good for his aching joints! And seeing him leap into the pool with such enthusiasm brings so much joy into me, too. Almost as much as when he finally wears out and lays down, and begins snoring beside me.

It’s a good life. I hope you’re enjoying yours.

Nature, Personal Life

A Walk on a Foggy Morning

Just as the title says, the world was blanketed in fog this morning, and I took a walk. One of the wood storks that hangs out at the retention pond decided I looked like I might offer food. I didn’t, but that stork came so close that it gave me a wonderful photo opportunity. (This is doubly fine because Santa brought me a new phone with an immensely better camera than my previous phone had.)

So, without further ado, here are some foggy stork pictures:

foggy retention pond

As this difficult year comes to a close, I hope you, dear reader, find peace and joy, and that the coming year finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Personal Life, the dog, Travel

A Breath of Fresh Air

Last year, friends of ours in Hamburg got married. They’d planned a large fête, and we’d planned on attending. Then COVID arrived, and didn’t leave.

They got married, but postponed the celebration. Earlier this year, in the wake of vaccinations, they rescheduled their celebration, but on a smaller scale. We dreamed of packing our bags. And then the Delta variant arrived.

Nonetheless, they kept their plans intact. They monitored the situation like hawks eyeing rabbits, and it seemed okay on their end–Germany’s numbers declined greatly after vaccinations rolled out, and didn’t spike as hard with Delta as we did in Florida (well, duh!–hardly anyplace did that!). We decided that being double-vaccinated and wearing N95s on the journey would keep our risk low enough, so we packed our bags and went!

Us with the “newly” married couple

Reader, it was glorious! Fall was just dipping the temps to bliss (for me at least, previously being stuck in the sweltering heat and continuing humidity of central Florida’s September), so Spousal-Unit and I got to wear long pants, long sleeves, and yes, even socks! Nighttime temps dipped to the low 40’s F, and days mostly hit around 68 F, with partly sunny skies making it neither too hot nor too cold for all the walking and walking and walking we did. Have I mentioned the walking? I love being outdoors, and Florida summers are really tough on me. Even going outside at night is difficult as most parks close at dusk (due to alligators, snakes, and biting bugs), and even my yard is a no-go zone then (FL bugs think I’m delicious, unfortunately; I just itch.).

Low clouds scudding over the Rhine River
The Kettensteg in Nürnberg, at night

The restaurants and markets were full-on autumn, with chanterelle mushrooms, a variety of pumpkins (mmm that soup), the last of the vivid tomatoes, leeks, and so much more. It’s a good thing we walked as much as we did, honestly.

It was hard to come home, but my dog was waiting for me, so we undertook the 23-hour journey home and crashed into bed, only to rise the next morning and drive 4.5 hours roundtrip to pick up said Dasher. (Yes, he was worth it–especially him cuddling us both all that night, trying to make sure we didn’t leave him again.)

I’m glad we went. I’m super glad we all stayed healthy. But it’s also good to be home, and get back to writing.

Until next time!

food, Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, publication, the dog, Writing

Hello again, hello!

It’s been a year, hasn’t it?

I’ll just leave it at that. We all know what we’ve been through, and I don’t feel like re-hashing every nasty blow and tanking all our fragile moods by doing so. So, let’s move on the next thing, shall we?

It’s a gray and rainy day here, and a bit cool (for us) with off-and-on showers coming throughout the day, and tomorrow, too. Rather a relief, honestly, as we’d been heading into drought-like conditions. But now my veggies and fruits are breathing a sigh of relief (as is my water bill-avoidant self!), and the grass is growing lush and green. The dog is a bit miffed that his sunbeams aren’t available on the lanai for his snoozing enjoyment, but I think he’ll survive, the poor dear, with an extra treat and an extra snuggle on the sofa.

Right now, I’m taking advantage of the cool to make a big batch of chicken stock, which I’ll can later. I can’t believe we were out, but the pantry was bare of chicken stock. Not for long! Afterwards, I’m hoping to make a bunch of Jasmine madeleines, a recipe I’ve been longing to make for a couple years, since I found the recipe in a Thai cookbook, in the “Thai Influences” section. I had to order jasmine extract from online, and it just got here a few days ago, so I’m eager to try them out. (I’ve been making that recipe using coconut extract instead, and it was very, very good.)

I’ve been making baby quilts, and finished one, which has arrived to it’s new tiny owner. The next one is nearly done–only the binding needs to be appliquéd onto the backing, and a label attached. The third, fortunately, isn’t due until July. And it hasn’t been started yet. I’ve gathered images for the pattern, at least!

Oh, writing? Well, yes. Of course. I’ve been struggling, along with so very many others, when it comes to motivation in isolation. But I’m nearing the very end of this draft of the novel–HURRAY! Then I can set the whole thing aside for a few weeks and work on something else while I let the draft sit and think about what it’s done! Or, more seriously, while I consider how much further editing it needs and if I need to continue with it or trunk it. Right now, I’m in no proper headspace to decide that.

I’ve started the process of working out my next project, and I’m pretty happy with the work on it, so far. Working on this is my treat for finishing my daily output on the first novel, so I don’t get carried away and forget the “work” for the “shiny.” (Always a fear, for me).

And to end this catch-up post on a high note, I’ve sold a short story! The next issue of Speculative North will include a story of mine that I love so very much. I can’t tell you how glad I am that it’ll be out in the world at last! I’ll give you more news nearer to the release date, of course. Good news is meant to be shared!

To close, I’ll leave you with a picture of Dasher napping inside, for a change:

Making do with a carpet inside, without a sunbeam. Die arme Hündlein!

Personal Life, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 01/12/21

Out the window: The sky is a haze of white-gray, with a soft breeze rustling through the palms and oaks, causing more oak leaves to fall onto our newly-raked lawn (:sad:), and promising rain (which may or may not come to us, honestly), which would make my orchids (and me) very, very happy.

On the desktop: TableTop Audio running a playlist: currently up is a new, jaunty Pirates! theme, which is working to get me energized. Notes, notes, notes. And a new fountain pen from Spousal Unit, a Christmas gift that of course I love to pieces!

Fountain pen, Conklin Endura Abalone
Conklin Endura Abalone fountain pen–so lovely!

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  It’s January, which means one thing: Weekend Warrior! This is an amazing contest over at the Codex Writers’ Group. 100+ SFF writers join up for 5 weeks to each write a flash story in 72 hours and upload it anonymously. Then we each download our division’s (with this many participants, we need divisions) stories and give feedback. I’m currently halfway through my division’s reading. 

In addition, I’m still working on the Unfinished Novel from the Depths of Hades, Which Will Not Be Finished in My Lifetime. ™  Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. It’s just a very complicated love about now, you know?

I’ve also just finished a new submission on a short story that just came back (i.e., was rejected) from its very first market–a rite of passage for stories. I’m well-acquainted with the drill: pat them on the back consolingly and shove them right back out the door to the next market. Languishing on the hard drive sofa gets them nowhere! Tough love, baby.

And Another Thing: I’m in the midst of making baby quilts for “upcoming” great-nieces/great-newphews. It’s a great distraction from the hellscape the world’s news has become, and it centers me in the here-and-now. These children are all being welcomed into good and loving families, and I hope each will encounter a world filled with bright potential and hope and joy. (Why yes, I do write fantasy and SF, why-do-you-ask!)

I try to imbue each stitch I make with acceptance and love and comfort in the hopes that the child will somehow feel those things when they see their quilt. It’s a small thing, but it’s a thing I can do. And it makes me feel good, too.

I hope you can find a similar thing: something you can do that makes the world better, and makes you feel better, too. We all need some “feeling better about the world” right now.

 

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life

Starting 2021, A New Year

You haven’t heard from me much last year–last month, especially. I really don’t want to recount that time and those troubles. Let’s just say that 2020 went out kicking and screaming and causing as much havoc in my life as it possibly could, as long as it could. But now that is over and done.

New Year’s Eve fire

I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to “start anew” and have another chance at success this year. Coronavirus isn’t gone, and we’re not racing around “like normal” (whatever that even means anymore); it isn’t magically “over” just because the calendar year cycled through to another page. (Unfortunately.) But it is a time to look ahead to coming possibilities.

The COVID-19 vaccine is out in the world, and that will surely change things. The US will have (new) leadership soon, and the world is beginning to emerge from horrible year that was 2020 and shake off the dust and excrement clinging so tenaciously to us. Maybe I can see family in person, and friends. Maybe we’ll be able to travel, not for necessity to the store, but for joy to see new things. What magic that will be!

My writing was put completely on hold for the last 6 weeks of 2020. I’d intended on finishing the novel draft in that time, which clearly didn’t happen. But now that I’ve clawed my way back to equanimity, I’m prepared to finish this draft at long, long last. I’m prepared to write more short fiction, and send it out into the world. I’m looking at editing up a series of short novels I’d back-burnered for lack of clarity on their ending; I think I’ve figured it out, and hope to test my theory by writing it.

I’ve also got a number of baby quilts to make; COVID did one good thing: provide my family with plenty of time to procreate! The family expands, and those babies need quilts. I’m on it already, and with great joy.

In short, it’s going to be a busy year. I’ve got lots of goals made, and am excited to get going. Get creating. Breathing new, fresh life into myself, my world, my creativity.

Welcome to a new year. I hope you’re prepared–I think it’s going to be amazing.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Beach Day

Spousal Unit has remembered that we won’t be traveling for the holidays this year, and therefore he won’t need to save his vacation for that travel we won’t be making. So instead, he’s taking a day off mid-week every other week, allowing us to drive out of town and visit the natural world safely, while most others are at work or school. We’ve twice gone to Canaveral National Seashore, a National Park that is a long beach just north of the rocket launch pads (while driving from the gate to the parking area, you get great views of them).

In addition to being mid-week, both days were flirting with clouds and rain, and the second time Tropical Storm Eta was nearing landfall across the peninsula, (and it’s off-season here in Florida, too), so we were very much “isolated and socially distanced” on the pay-to-enter beach. The sound of the waves (some pretty nice ones the second time) crashing into the shore, seabirds crying, the wind blowing your words away, the scent of brine, and the crush of sand underfoot–it was rejuvenating and glorious. I managed to see an osprey dive into a wave top, and emerge from the other side carrying a wriggling small fish away. And lots of ghost crabs scuttling out of sight just as I saw them.

You had to know they were coming. Here are some pics. You have to imagine the other senses while you look, though; sorry.