in the valley of words


Writing-wise 2015 turned out better than I thought. There were plenty of misses where the goal exceeded my reach, but there was strong progress too. So here’s my 2015 Accomplishments and my 2016 Writing Agenda.

2015 Accomplishments

  • Two short stories accepted for publication
  • Completed Dust, short story
  • Completed  Werewolf, Zombies, Sunrise, short story
  • Revised A Useful Blind, mystery short story
  • 10 short fiction submissions (far more than I’ve ever done in a year)
  • Wrote 20,000 words in 1st quarter (50,000 for the year)
  • Revised The Obelisk, short story
  • 52 penpanther posts
  • Began writing The Bone Box

Altogether I wrote more than in previous years and submitted more, and there was less wailing and flailing about–a good year.

2016 Writing Agenda

1st Quarter – January – March

  • Write Discovery Draft of Writing Emotion, creative writing e-book. Deadline: Jan. 31
  • Revise Runaway Heart. Deadline: Jan. 31
  • Finish writing Runaway Heart: Deadline: March 31
  • A Fall of Diamonds – write 2000 words a month minimum. (Draft at 9,817 words)

2nd Quarter – April – June

  • Order cover – Runaway Heart
  • Runaway Heart – Publication date: May 31
  • A Fall of Diamonds – 2000 words a month minimum

3rd Quarter – July – September

  • Finish Discovery Draft of The Bone Box . Deadline: July 31
  • Outline The Serene Widow
  • Writing start date – The Serene Widow: August 1, 2016. Deadline: September 30
  • A Fall of Diamonds – 2000 words a month minimum

4th Quarter – October – December

  • Plan NANO book – October 1 – 31
  • Write Discovery Draft of NANO book – November 1 – 31
  • A Fall of Diamonds – 2000 words a month minimum to finish December 31


I’ve allowed for thinking, research, shiny objects, and  downtime. I’m going to work hard to hit my quarterly goals.





The Bone Box, 22,242. No new narrative this week, but lots of story notes on The Bone Box, trying to get it moving again, and The Serene Widow–just planning notes and research. Travel prep is the external reason why I’ve not been writing; doubt the internal. What I fail to realize, and I’m seeing that now, is I have my stories in hand and I should run with my thoughts; I don’t have to reinvent the wheel or twist my brain into a pretzel trying to come up with some mind-blowing idea when all I need to write a great story is already there in the words I’ve written, in my thoughts, and in my story notes. I only need to keep writing and move forward, but instead I stop.


The problem is DOUBT. I doubt every word I write. That has got to stop. Doubt is why The Bone Box has stalled again. Doubt is why I have several unfinished short stories concretizing in my files. Doubt isn’t a demon or a weasel; it’s that person I see in the mirror.

Tuesday I’ll be in Paris, the start of the cruise! I’m taking work with me. Besides The Bone Box, which I’ve uploaded to my Kindle Fire documents folder, I’m taking 3 short stories–one a possible flash fiction–that I plan to work on during the trip. I’ll have time at Marksburg, ’cause I’m not climbing that castle again as marvelous as it was the first time on the Rhine tour, I can’t take those steep rocky walkways and narrow winding stairs again. Loved Heidelberg, but I’m skipping the city walk and castle this time in favor of getting some writing done, although I hope I have a chance to find that one little chocolate shop in Heidelberg Old Town and buy some chocolate! My cousin complained when I didn’t bring him back a larger box.

We will be in France, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Prague! I’ve wanted to see Prague for a long time. So looking forward to getting a look at this beautiful old city. I was very pleased with the photos (and video) I took using my mini iPad and my iPhone on the Danube tour so I’m not taking my camera this time, but my new iPhone 6S Plus, my Kindle Fire, which has a camera, and my iPad. I plan to use the iPhone most of the time.

I’m also not taking my laptop. Rheumatoid arthritis has crippled the little fingers on each hand and I can no longer touch type as my hands won’t fit over a keyboard anymore–I have to two-finger it, and I always fret about losing my laptop while going through security. I’ll be going the low tech/no tech route with the writing–good old pen and paper. I’m taking my Moleskine journal plus an additional journal to write in, and my travel journal for scribbling about places and things.

Who knows–maybe I’ll finish The Bone Box aboard ship.

Meanwhile this morning I’m going to open up The Bone Box in Scrivener and see if I can at least get a nifty 350!

spinning wheel, twists of floss

Pierre Etienne Theodore Rousseau

Not a productive week, my time fractured by minutiae and mundanities, dealing with storage, nursing newly-spayed and very unhappy Loki, (who has to wear a cone for ten days) and planning for the Cities of Light cruise, departing in ten days. I did write a little, no new narrative, but many story notes in the Moleskine, covering not only The Bone Box, but my thoughts on The Friendship Killers and The Serene Widow. Attended my writer’s group and read the first 8 pages of The Serene Widow, also read two delightful Regency novels, Liliana’s Letter by Alina K. Smith and The Curate’s Brother by Wendy Van Camp. I also read my way through Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid. So while I didn’t get much actual writing done on The Bone Box, it was never far from my mind, but I’m nowhere near making my November 10 extended deadline so let it go, bear.


One thing I’m very much looking forward to on the cruise is the stop at Cochem an der Mosel. Snagged from Wikipedia, this panoramic photo shows Cochem nestled in the heart of the Moselle Valley below the Eifel range and that knobby stone structure on its hill to the right is Cochem Imperial Castle. We lived in the heights of the Eifel range above Cochem when Dad did his tour of duty in Germany. He was stationed at Hahn Air Force Base, a three hour drive away from where we lived, on economy, as it’s called when you live off base.

On the Eifel is a small German military base, and back in the day, they gave us American families four townhome-style buildings in the housing supplied to German military families. My family lived on Lilienstrasse. I and my friends would catch the bus down to the village  to hang out. We’d wander the cobblestone streets, buy rich, soft vanilla ice cream from the street vendor, poke about the shops with our hands in our pfenning-less pockets, sit on the river wall and watch the tour buses unload. We of course were not tourists; we lived there.


We attended school at Hahn. Every weekday morning our van, supplied by the German base, would arrive at 5 a.m. to pick up the six of us (I think there were six) and drive us to Hahn and would bring us back in the afternoon when school was over. I liked that long commute. Our driver was a young, friendly German serviceman. Along the way we’d pass through wine villages on the riverbank, shaded by steep forested hillsides, vineyards and orchards carved out here and there.

I had my favorite landmarks that I’d look for every morning. One was a lone red brick wall, stained with black, all that was left of a building bombed during the war. The other was what appeared to be the ruins of a Roman temple tucked up on a hillside. I could barely glimpse its columns standing like sentinels in a grassy field. And then there was the pear tree growing high on a hillside. Every spring it bloomed in white blossoms and was a lovely sight.

Once one afternoon, when it was the end of grape harvest season, our driver stopped on a pastoral road and let us scramble up a hill to a vineyard hung with harvest leftovers. We happily snatched handfuls of green wine grapes and scrambled back down to the van. Memory still holds the sharp, sweet tang of those pilfered grapes.

I hope I’m able to treat myself to my favorite snack–pomme frites and mayonaise–french fries and mayonnaise. Street vendors would sell a cone of freshly done french fries with a generous dollop of thick mayonnaise–num, num! German mayo, creamy and flavorful, tastes nothing like American and I can’t wait to relive this old memory.

Another fun food memory… my little sister was crazy about brochen, German bread buns, crunchy-crisp on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside. In the afternoons a bread and pastry truck would cruise through the neighborhood, its music playing merrily. My sister would beg five pfennigs from Mom and fly down the stairs, along with the rest of us to meet the brochen truck. Yep going to have to have a brochen or two.

Tomorrow is my writing progress report meeting so must get to pulling it together,going to have another cup of coffee and some kind of breakfast too.


Images courtesy of Wikipedia

climb goes an inch at a time


The Bone Box. 20548. Worked out a few more scenes, wrote one of them today. Did notes for the others. Will need to do a little research into Chinese shamanism and also funeral customs. And slow it goes.

Watched an Asian horror film last night that had one of the most unsatisfying endings ever. Usually they’re pretty good–better, I think, than American horror. Don’t know what happened to the one I watched last night–maybe they ran out of film.

glum and gloom


The Bone Box, 19272. A tiny 1% progression, no real progress these past days. Lost two days to moving storage, worked a little on Saturday, and nothing on Sunday. I’ve hit another wall that I’m trying to work around, but no words are coming. Annoyed and frustrated. But I’ve written more story notes so the ideas are there, but the scenes are not taking shape so I’m at a loss for words.

The 31st looms, but I don’t expect to hit the deadline. So I’ll give myself a new one. Will try to finish the discovery draft by November 10. I leave for Europe on the 16th.

clouds as white as bone


For the first time in many weeks, I’ve not had the ceiling fan on constant rotation. Sunny today, but only 79 degrees F, and tonight will be blessedly cool. Spent the morning clearing out storage, preparing to move to a smaller unit and get rid of more stuff! I’m promising myself to stop keeping stuff! Problem is most of the stuff is boxes and boxes of books. It’s hard to let them go and I’m going to keep a good many, I’m sure.

Took some boxes to the Salvation Army and, idiot me, left my reading glasses in one of the boxes. Discovered they were missing after I’d been home for an hour! Dismay. Panic. Hustled Junior (yes I name my cars) back to the Donation Center and an obliging employee found them for me! Luckily the box was still on the cart and the carts hadn’t yet been moved to Salvation Army’s second-level storage where my reading glasses would’ve been lost amid rows and rows of anonymous cart, much like that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark was “filed” amid the government archives. I’m grateful to that helpful Salvation Army employee who took the time to help idiot me. Thank you so much! Saved me from having to order a new pair of prescription reading glasses.

So now I’m trying to settle my mind and get to the writing.

Anyway, late to the story today, but yesterday was very productive, 1200 words written, and the counter has advanced to 18,936. Who knows–I may just make the 30,0000 by October 31st. But, as I work on the story, as I see it playing out, it might come in at 25,000 instead. We’ll see.


Pierre Etienne Theodore Rousseau

Good work this week so far. 55% to goal as of today. May get more words done later, but I printed out the pages ’cause I want to do a read-thru and see what’s really going on. Probably will spend the rest of the day doing story notes.

in her dress of lifeless jewels








October has So Cal in a hot daze, swaddled in uncharacteristic humidity, temps in the eighties and nineties. October is Nano prep month so I set aside The Bone Box and started preliminary work on The Serene Widow, the Regency romance I’ve been wanting to write for a long while now that I decided would be the Nano book this year, changing my mind once again from my original 5X5 writing plan.

The Bone Box, silent for the past weeks, started whispering to me again, resulting in 1,254 new words and a small advance in the word count. I’m relieved to know that the story is still alive and kicking. Sometimes it’s hard to reconnect when I’ve let a project lie for a while. I’m almost to the halfway point.Isabella.Pot of Basil

I’ve decided not to sign up for Nano because in November I’m off to Europe with friends and writing 7 pages a day while touring might happen when I have down time, but highly unlikely to be consistent and I don’t need the stress. Being stressed when one is on a fabulous trip defeats the purpose. Life is a journey and I plan to smell as many roses as possible.

This will be the first year in 7 that I’ve skipped Nano. I’m taking Viking’s Cities of Light river cruise (I love river cruises!) and I leave for Paris mid-November.  I could see how much of The Serene Widow I get done by then, but I don’t expect to reach 50,000 words since I’m not back until November 30. No worries. One of the advantages of the writing life is being your own boss.

However I’m going to work like a dog desperate to find the buried bone to complete The Bone Box by October 31st! Yeah that’s in two weeks. Life’s an ongoing challenge. It would be an absolute kick to finish by the end of this month!

Meanwhile, I revised a short story, The Obelisk, and got back a submitted story, Parting Gift, which I’m going to revise before sending it out again. And oh my goodness, I still have not sent out Dust! That will not do, Bear.