jacarandas and emily dickinson














Jacarandas make me think of Emily Dickinson. Even in my own mind I find it an odd association since Dickinson’s poetry reflects her fascination with illness, dying and death–a striking contrast to the joyful beauty of the jacaranda tree. But also she wrote much about flowers and gardens too.

There are various lines in her poetry that echo my feeling about jacaranda trees. From Poem IX, “Purple finger on the slope…,” and from Poem XII, the “tune is in the tree.” Out of context, but somehow fitting these purple heralds of spring in southern California.

Jacarandas are like the “unaccustomed wine” Dickinson writes of in Poem XXVIII. The flare of lavender against a blue spring sky soothes the soul parched by winter.

Dickinson’s poetry sings with the same beauty a jacaranda flings against the sky. (Although her original poems were frequently altered by publishers to suit traditional poetry conventions of the time–wtf.) But, if you are a fan, you can find 1082 of her poems at the PoemHunter site. Dickinson wrote nearly 1800 poems during her lifetime. It is a good thing that her younger sister Lavinia did not follow Emily Dickinson’s request to burn her papers upon her death.

One of the things I shall miss when I move to Alabama in a couple more months is the  jacaranda catching the eyes in its lacy lavender branches.


that’s a first


Don’t know how I did it, but I think I’ve written the middle of A Fall of Diamonds, or at least a good portion of the middle, without writing the beginning.

This week I participated in a five-day online writing event, writing hour to hour on my novel and posting the hourly word count, and was surprised to discover:

  • During the course of a day, I can write 4000 – 5000 words, at a rate of about 600 words an hour.
  • I know a lot about the story, but not enough to really drive the plot. Why?
  • I think because I start with the love triangle, bringing my main characters onstage and setting them in motion before the reader gets to know them. Who are these people really? Why should the reader care? I make it a given that Caroanya, Coron, and Prince Laimond are the closest of friends and confidantes, and I try to illustrate this in the early scenes, but it is not enough. The reader needs more character front-story. (Just made that up, but you know what I mean.) Character setup–yes.

Prince Laimond is the closest to being a villain yet he isn’t; he is anti-heroic (and I like anti-heroes). Coron is the hero and Caro the heroine. I also have a number of important secondary characters: Lord Iancarron, friend to Coron and Caro; the Dowager Princess, Prince Laimond’s mother, a woman of wisdom and judgment; Lady Valdina, who starts off as a minor character but is becoming important; and the Princess Royal of Lenore and her father, the king.
I’ve written 30,557 words (17,710 words during the event) but don’t yet have the story–seems like. I thought I did. I’ve got a completed beat sheet and a detailed outline, character sketches and story notes, not to mention having thought about this book for a long time. (I realized I could not pants a 100,000-word novel and so took a more structured approach.) And it looks like I’ve written the middle before the beginning. I know the end. And this is only Book 1.
A Fall of Diamonds is character-driven. I need to build my main characters before I set the plot in motion.

the rising water of dream



A taciturn sky these past few days, a little sunlight breaking the sallow wash of gray now and then. Rain is predicted. April is like a melancholy woman from a Belgian Symbolist poem. Despite that, I’m basking in the light of having finished Runaway Heart. Now comes the hours of rewrite and revision, but I’m not fearful this time.

Meanwhile, while Runaway Heart cools,  I’ve returned to another story, completed in 2014, and in need of a rewrite, A Useful Blind. I describe it as a steampunk murder mystery set in the late 19th century American West. I guess that’s an  accurate description, but the steampunk element so far has been no more than set dressing. I hope to improve that in the rewrite.

The story has a number of plot holes that need to be mended and smoothed into the fabric of the narrative. Intended to be a short story, I think now it’ll end up a novella, although I don’t know where in the word count spectrum it’ll fall. It’s currently at 16,976 words. Novella starts at 17,500 and ends at 40,000. Don’t think it wants to be 40,000 words (according to one chart I found), but who knows how many words finding the end will take.

Meanwhile, again, simultaneity being the spice of everyday living, that great big non-writing thing known as life is happening. I’m in the midst of buying a house in Alabama and in a few more months will be leaving Southern California for a town in Alabama where my life will certainly move at a different pace. I’m originally from Louisiana so the South will hold no surprises for me, but I expect there will be some culture shock, having lived a long time in sunny SoCal. There will be things I’ll miss. There will also be things I will not miss–like traffic stress, the ever-rising cost of living, the impossibility of purchasing a home in a decent neighborhood, the irritating California legislature (you don’t want to know my opinion) and the crush of people that has kept me from visiting many of the charms and entertainments of the Golden State, especially living close to Los Angeles, but not close enough to deal with the insanity of the northbound 405 in search of fun or likewise, the southbound, and horrors to Betsy, practically never the 5, and never mind the 91. I’ve sprouted gray hairs on the 91.

Life is about change, and as a girl who spent her growing up years moving from state to state and country to country as an Air Force kid, I adapt easily.

I shall greatly miss my friends who are dear to me, but fortunately today’s technology conquers distance. I shall miss my writing groups and my yearly attendance at the wonderful Literary Orange Conference, but I spent many years writing alone, and again, technology makes it possible to participate from my solitary chair.

Well I’ve got to stop now. I’m tearing up.


stick a fork in it



Runaway Heart is done! Finished! Happy dance moment! It’s a first draft, but now I can breathe freely and revise at leisure. My self-imposed deadline was March 31, but buying a house knocked me sideways for a few days. Yesterday, while attending the Literary Orange Conference and waiting for a panel to start, I wrote the final lines to the final scene and typed them in this morning. Today is the official finish day. I just printed it out. One hundred forty-five pages–so it’s a novella (romance) at 34,530 words approximately. Yay!

It’s too early for a glass of wine so a cup of coffee and breakfast will do.

brass ring

Pieter Bruegel the Elder


Runaway Heart. 31,306 words. Almost there. Almost finished with the first draft. Looks like novella, and I’m fine with that. Think I’ll finish at 35,000, maybe more, but I’m in Act 3 and the ball is rolling to resolution.

I placed the non-fiction book, Writing Emotion: The Key to Writing Fiction That Sells on hold. I finished the first draft January 31. Then moved on to Runaway Heart because I really wanted to get the first draft done by March 31 but life stomped all over this week. Now I’m aiming for April 10. The extra days takes lightens the pressure.

Big changes are coming for me–bought a house and moving out of state. The word wrestle goes on but sometimes the ring is going to be empty, the brass bell silent.

No worries!

crumbling cookies


Goodness! Seems like ages since I posted anything. It’s not like I don’t have content to write but the current WIP(s) take all my time–guess that’s the way it should be. Once I get started on one of them, the hours of the day stack themselves. Before I know it, another day has come and gone without my writing the post I have on my mind.


  • I have not even finished all my travel posts or kept up with recording my progress here.
  • I’ve finished the first draft of Writing Emotion.
  • I submitted The Obelisk to market.
  • I’ve written over 20,000 words on Runaway Heart and then sliced away a good many. Must have this novella finished by March 31st so it’s got priority for the month.
  • I’ve finished the outline of A Fall of Diamonds. (This one’s careening through my mind like a runaway elephant, but can’t delve into the writing yet.)

Sean Coyne’s http://www.storygrid.com podcasts are keeping me going.


do you know when you’re happy



Do you know when you’re happy? Do you recognize when you’re happy? I ask because it occurred to me I don’t know when I’m happy. Isn’t that strange?

Daily life can be overwhelming and stressful. I become buried in mundanities, in keeping up with my responsibilities, social obligations, solving quality of life issues–like dealing with traffic, trying to straighten out a misconstrued bill caught in the Kafka-esque world of administrative bureaucracy, realizing you’ve lost your wallet, your cellphone, finding your car stolen, your home broken into, your identity stolen, oh man, the list goes on, doesn’t it?

So I don’t know when I’m happy. Yet I know when I’m unhappy–that’s never a question of doubt. But when I look back, I see and I say to myself, oh, I was happy then! Why didn’t I see that? Why wasn’t I grateful?

One of the keys to happiness, I believe, is gratitude. Be grateful for your life because life, in all its unpredictability, is opportunity.

By opportunity I mean the chance to forgive yourself, forgive others, keep your promises, mend your trespasses, attain your dreams, love yourself and love others.

Because once the thread of your life has spun and the thread is cut, all your chances are gone. Once the thread of those in your life is cut, all your chances to do what you’d wished you’d done–like forgive, mend, love–are gone.

What it basically comes down to is following the golden rule (Do unto others as you would have done to you.), respecting yourself and the people in your life, recognizing your blessings, letting go of what you cannot change, adapt, be yourself, be grateful. And live one day at a time.

Tomorrow is always the first day of the rest of your life.