road trip

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A fierce rainstorm occurred Saturday, the first night in Arizona, closing a long run through the desert. A slanting rain battered the front side of the motel, leaving the other two sides dry as the desert we’d just driven through.

IMG_1412The route through New Mexico went quick as a blink, but we paused long enough for me to buy a pair of silver and turquoise earrings at a roadside shop, then Texas, the state with two time zones. Are we out of Texas yet?

To my surprise, Texas turned green as we rolled farther east, leaving behind miles of desert landscape peppered with sagebrush. The countryside became lush and pastoral, woods and fields and ranches tucked back from the long gray tongue of highway, giving me a view of Texas I didn’t know existed.

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We reached Houston well before noon on Monday, and rolled onto Beaumont, finally leaving the Lone Star state, after a somewhat anxious run through El Paso.  I stopped just before the end of El Paso and filled up–thank goodness because ahead was a long passage where there was nothing but miles and miles of empty land, beautiful beneath a wide blue sky. (By the way, gas prices drop dramatically once you leave California.)

Louisiana at last! (My home state which I have not been to in decades.) Unfortunately we hit Baton Rouge during rush hour and was caught in the confluence of traffic clogging the 110, 10 and 12 eastbound freeways. Realizing our choice was to crawl for possibly 85 miles maybe or get off in Baton Rouge, have dinner and try again on Wednesday morning, we opted to escape the coil.

The next day Wednesday we blew right through Mississippi, barely noting its casinos and fishing trawlers, crossing two state lines and entering Alabama on the wings of a rainstorm, thunder and sheet lightning flashing on the horizon.

We arrived in Andalusia before 9:30 a.m. and was at my new home via back roads (’cause I missed the exit I was supposed to take and picked up the next one which sent us through winding country roads on a pleasant scenic route.)IMG_1421

drip, drip

Jacaranda

Southern California this week is under the sun gun; the weather has been scorching. Loki, my normally ADD cat, has taken to napping against the porcelain throne. Only a few days ago June gloom grayed the skies and kidnapped the sun. Today is “cooler” than the previous four. It’s 93 degrees F right now in Long Beach, but will go up a couple more to 95 until evening, according to the weather report. But hey, what am I going on about? I love hot, sunny days!

Heat however can be distracting to my writerly focus. Another form of resistance.

In between all the moving to do’s, I’ve managed to fit in some time for A Fall of Diamonds, my historical fantasy romance trilogy, currently at 31,555 words. I’m looking at 100,000 words – 120,000 for the first book. I’m making progress little by little, but not much will get written until after I’m settled in Alabama.

Also edited a scene in The Foreigner.

Some writing is always better than no writing.

 

South

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The days are spinning down to my last day in the Golden State. In six weeks, I’ll be moving South to Alabama, a hop, skip and a jump of 389.2 miles from Louisiana, where I’m originally from. So I’ll be close to aunties and cousins once more and the passed on spirits of grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, and my father, who is buried in the hometown cemetery. I’ll be leaving Mom in her final resting place in Riverside, California, but I’ll have her with me still in heart and memory in my new home in Alabama.

Meanwhile, my last month and a half here is a long list of things I must do in preparation for the Great Move. Dad was in the Air Force, so I spent my childhood and adolescence moving state to state, country to country. I’m used to adjusting and adapting to new places, people, flavors of life, but Southern California has been my home for four decades and I’ve put down roots which I’m about to tear up.

I’ll be leaving a host of good and treasured friends whom I’ve come to know and love over the years. This is heartbreaking for me because I spent a good bit of my life without enduring friendships. I passed through other people’s lives like the proverbial ship until coming to Southern California where Dad retired out of March Air Force Base, and we were all finally rooted in place.

I enjoyed growing up on the move, but it meant never getting to know anyone or any place for an extended period of time, never forming relationships, friendships. I remember that it felt strange to still be in the same place for more than a year or two.

I will miss certain things about California–the golden weather of course (I’m a sunbunny.), the variety of things to do, places to go, things to see (but must confess traffic and the familiarity of knowing I could always go to this venue or that often kept me home.) You can guess the thing I won’t miss–traffic, traffic, and traffic, the irritation of how long it takes to get to a place that is, in real time, only thirty minutes away. There are other things I won’t miss, but I’m not going to rant. California is a lovely state in many ways.

I will miss my friends the most, but the Internet closes the distance. They may no longer be physically within reach, but e-mail, text, phone, and social media keeps connection going.

So that’s all I’ve got to say for now. Oh wait…the writing. Not so much because I’m busy with packing and working my way through my personal due diligence list, but I’m managing to keep my hand in. I have two writer’s group meetings this week, and I’ve been reading. And this week I received a rejection for a flash fiction submission too.This morning I finished Steven Pressfield’s enlightening and informative Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t. I highly recommend it.

jacarandas and emily dickinson

Jacaranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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

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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

Roses

 

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.