Tuesday, December 30, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I have had this blog for about two years now,and I honestly thought few people read it- maybe my writer friends, Don, some family members. After all, I am not a well known novelist or someone who has accomplished great things that make people stop and say, "Ooooh, Aaaahhh." But, today I believe someone from work dropped a subtle hint that she has seen my blog. Now, the questions come barging through! Does she read it? Has she shared it with other coworkers? What does she think? What do they think? I can hear you asking, "Why do you care?" My answer is, "I care about what they think because I care about them." I work with some really neat people. What more could a girl ask for?

Which brings me to the New Year. I have decided not to make any resolutions, because I end up getting sidetracked, or I simply choose not to follow through. But, if I decide on the spur of the moment to do something, such as taking knitting up after a 20 year dead spell, or I decide to write a story today, then I will follow through. I am just not good at keeping lists, or trying to decide what I want to do in the next year. All I want is to be a better person, to show compassion, and to have a great time at life.

Our Christmas was wonderful this year- we spent it with Don's family. I had not made yeast bread since I was a teenager, maybe even a young adult. But, I made a loaf of bread, cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls. Everybody at the dinner said the rolls were wonderful. If Mother were alive today, she would be proud of me!

It seems strange that it will be 2009 in a little over 24 hours. When I was a kid, 2000 seemed so far away that it gave me chills just thinking about it. I recall being ten years old and figuring out that in the year 2000 I would be 39 years old. Now, it's almost 2009, and I will turn 48 in November. In the year 2020 I will turn 59...I think. Kind of eerie, if you ask me.

I have been writing, but not as much as I would like. I submitted a memoir to the California Writer's Club annual anthology, but I have not heard back yet. I just completed a short story and need to find a market for it. As for my novel, I have put editing on the back burner. Sometimes I wonder if I am a better short story writer than a novelist. I don't know. All I know is that I love to write.

I wish a happy and safe new year to all. See you next year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Distractions

I have been a lazy when it comes to writing. During the summer, I turned cable off and signed up for Netflix in hopes that an episode or two of my favorite TV shows on DVD would be a nice reward for writing. Well, as it turns out, Netflix is a distraction.

I came up with another plan this last week; I decided to take up knitting again after a 25 year hiatus. My plan is to write an hour per day, and then watch Netflix while I knit. Right now, I am working on a scarf for Don. My next project will be a sweater for me. Maybe I’ll knit a beanie and slippers. So far, the knitting plan has been more successful than the Netflix plan. I like rewards for writing. I just need to stick to the reward system.

Some would say I am blocked. I don’t believe this because when I sit down to write I actually put sentences on the paper that make sense and move the piece forward (like now). My problem is that I would rather be doing something else, because that other activity is never as difficult as writing.

Writing is hard work. Not writing is easy. But, if I don’t write then I won’t be able to submit for publication. I have been published at least six times- four poems in magazines years ago, and two short stories in the last year. But, these publications only happened because I wrote, edited, and submitted. In addition, I maintain my blog and my website, and writing is about 90% of my day job.

I need to treat my writing like a second job. When I work at my paralegal job, I am in my office working away except for breaks and lunch. I try to stay focused and shut out distractions. There is no reason that I should not be doing the same things for my writing.

Happy writing to all…and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Family and Friends

Don and I have been busy with family events this last month. A few weeks ago, we drove to Paradise, California for his cousin’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. Once we reached Paradise, we were shocked at the devastation of the fires from earlier in the year. Many people lost their homes.

Don’s family is quite a large crowd spread throughout California, and they all try to keep in touch with one another. Thus, while many of the Sonoma County family had traveled to attend the party, so had family and friends from other areas. The evening was filled with music, laughter and a lot of dancing. Don’s cousin, Betty, is married to Louie, who has made his living playing Saxophone. Louie was on stage quite a bit with the band, even at one time playing two Saxes, one out of each side of his mouth. Don even joined and played his mandolin, and piped in with a few songs of his own.

This last weekend, Don’s nephew, Brandon, got married. Brandon’s mother, Shari, officiated the ceremony. Brandon was a handsome groom, and Carolina’s could not have been more radiant. The ceremony was beautiful, and the dinner and dancing afterward a blast! Since both Brandon and Carolina are young, I expected some current rock and roll at the dance. Instead, we danced the night away to 70’s and 80’s music where one song blended right into another!! I was pleasantly surprised when Staying Alive blared from the speakers, as the Bee Gees was one of my favorite bands when I was younger.

On the writing front, these last few weeks I have been making excuses not to sit down and write. No, I don’t have what is commonly known as writer's block. Not a bit. I am just finding other things to do instead of writing. Okay, the last six days I have had that awful cold/cough thing that has been going around. Today was the worst. When I called into work today, the first thing the receptionist said was, “Uh, oh, it got you didn’t you?” Yep, the bug got me full force today. But, after sleeping it off and taking the cough medicine the doctor prescribed, this evening I can truly report the worst is over.

This weekend, I am off to see Grandpa. I told Grandpa lunch is on me- he picks, I pay. I have no doubt he will chose Taco Bell, his favorite place. Don is gone to LA during this week for some gigs and then to Phoenix for the Folk Alliance Annual Conference. His band, The Hot Frittatas, will be the main showcase this year.

I really do plan to get some writing done now that I am feeling better. Actually, the around five hundred words that I am writing now count as writing. Thus, I have found writing more important than the something else I have been replacing writing with- if that makes sense.

Happy writing all!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Adventures

This last month, I have been working on a different kind of writing. As if I don’t already have enough to do, I have created a website titled Write Like It Is. If you ask me why, I will say, “I don’t know. I just wanted to see if I could create my own site.”

The whole thing started out as a site for construction defect paralegals. My profession is specialized, often interesting, sometimes broad and most of the time pretty much the same thing day after day. I love being a construction defect paralegal. But, about halfway through my free membership at Homestead, I decided I didn’t love it enough to give all of my hard work away.

Alas, it took me less than a week to concoct my writing website. It contains a pen loft where writers of all levels get serious, a library stacked to the brim with resources, and a playroom filled with fun toys. I even share a bit of my own writing there.

I posted awhile back that one of my stories was posted in a local anthology. Yesterday was the launch party for Vintage Voices where many of us read our publications. I have not read anything I have written in front of an audience for about two years. Yesterday, I read my story in front of about 20-25 people. I received many great comments from the audience, which made my day. In my community, we have some awesome writers. I am proud to be part of such a literary community.

Now, it’s late and time for me to turn in. Please visit my website! http://www.writelikeitis.com

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Writing and Music

These last few weeks have been busy and productive. One of my favorite magazines is Glimmer Train because its stories are well written and entertaining. Many of the stories are written by authors who have not been published before, and the magazine thrives on submissions to their monthly contests. I met my goal of writing a story titled specifically for Glimmer Train and submitted it in their open contest for September. It is about a woman who comes to terms with a childhood event that has shaped her for life. Of course, as any writer does, I am hoping for the grand prize. I will hear back in late December if my story becomes one of their winners.

A well known editor and author over at the Writer's Digest website writes often to "submit it and forget it." This is a hard lesson for me to learn. I submitted a short story to Ellery Queen in late June but have not heard back. Their response time is four months. It could be good news that I have not heard back, though. Perhaps they are considering my story.

Next weekend is the Old Time Bluegrass Festival at Anderson Marsh State Park in Clearlake, California. Don is one of the people who helped to create this festival with the goal of raising money for local schools. Besides the many smaller things he does for the festival, he is the musical director who brings in all the talent. I am glad he includes himself on the list of performers at the Bluegrass Festival because he is a very talented musician. This will be my third year of volunteering at the Festival, and I am pretty excited.

I am currently creating a website for construction defect paralegals. My first order of business is to provide links to Internet resources that construction paralegals use every day. However, I hope my website will also be useful to new paralegal graduates who are considering working in this field. I work with some amazing people who have taught me much, and I want to be able to give back to others what has been gifted to me. I am a true believer that we must share what we learn.

I hope you all have a great writing life...see you next time!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Changes and Moving Ahead

Some exciting things have been happening in my writing life. The Sonoma County Book Fair is next month. It is an all day free event for writers. The Redwood Writer’s club has a booth and there is a variety of speakers every hour. I have been thinking about whether to volunteer an hour of my time or just to attend the event. Since this is my first year, I am leaning toward going for all the writing food I can swallow. There will always be future years to volunteer.

A few months ago, one of my short stories was accepted for publication in Vintage Voices, a local anthology. On September 27, there will be a launch party for the book with a chance to read our story and sign copies of the books. I am not big on the limelight, but I will probably go to the event and put myself out there as much as I can. It is good practice and motivation for someday when I publish my novel.

Recently, I have decided to turn off cable. I am tired of the Reality TV now and not being able to catch shows I like because they are on too late at night. I hate that a portion of a serial or movie goes ten minutes followed by eight minutes of commercial. I have decided to replace cable with Netflix. All show, no commercials and much cheaper. I feel like I am getting what I paid for. I can watch what I want when I want with no commercials, as well as view old favorites such as Mission Impossible (the series).

Now that I do not have cable, I find that I have more time to do other things, such as writing. Today I completed edit number one of a short story I will be submitting to Glimmer Train, one of my favorite magazines. Once I have that story out there, I will continue working on my novel and start another short story. My goal is to increase my writing time from an hour to an hour and a half each day. When I have reached my goal, the rest of the time is mine.

Well, until next time- happy reading and writing to all!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Goals and Other Stuff

I have been working at setting writing goals; write at least an hour every day on a short story, novel or blog entry. My priority is editing the first draft of my novel, then working on short stories and then adding to my blog. Point: sit butt in chair and write. Find that passion within myself.

Today at the writer’s digest forum, someone wrote about losing her passion for writing after the death of her partner. A very wise man responded with something to the effect of the flame burns within, but sometimes it takes someone outside of us to light the match.

Reading this wise man’s response reminded me that human beings need people. It’s no good isolating and shutting the door on the world. No matter what time I spend writing, I need to interact with those I love- a phone call, a walk, or meeting someone for a movie. Other times, I just need to interact with a stranger- a smile, nod or even exchange a few words. I am a true believer that what we offer to the world is what comes back to us.

This week I was saddened to read about the death of a man I knew from my childhood. This was back in the seventies before home computers and email, when people actually took pen to paper, or fingers to typewriter, and sent personal letters through the United States Postal Service. Cell phones were unheard of, and most home phones were still rotary.

Well, at that time, I was 13 years old and had the maddest crush on a DJ at a country station. I would come home from school just in time to catch the last half hour or so of his radio show. In fact, I became so lovesick that I started calling him to request songs and just say hi…

When I was ten, I began writing poems and lyrics, which continued through early adulthood. Well, I started sending my poems and lyrics to my new friend. He thought they were very pretty, perhaps someday he would write music to them. I was ecstatic because he was the only person in the world who took the time to read my poems and lyrics, and he even understaood where I was coming from!

Always very nice and cordial, one day he asked me out of the blue, as if he had been holding this question in for the longest time, “Susan, just how old are you?”

“Fourteen,” I said in my sexiest voice.

A long pause, and then “Fourteen? My goodness!”

He may have even asked if my mother knew I was calling him, I don’t really recall. But, what I do remember is that my heart dropped to the floor and I held my tears back. After that day, every time I called the radio station, he spoke to me as if I were a little sister or just some nice kid. When my mother found out I was calling him, she was furious. “He’s in his early twenties and way too old for you!”

Well, as it turned out, my mother monitored my interactions with him, my crush passed, he moved to Arizona, and we continued to talk on the telephone and exchange letters for about a year or so. He was always kind and wrote good advice in his letters that I have carried with me throughout my life. I am sure he was not even aware of the impression he left on me.

On the home front, Don is doing well with his music- he and his band will be going to a music festival in Phoenix in the fall, and the bluegrass festival will be going into its third year in September. Don is such a talented musician and a beautiful boyfriend. I feel blessed that we can share our lives.

I plan on taking a trip back up to Northern California sometime in the fall to visit friends and my younger brother Vaughn. I am hoping Don can come with me, as his brother and sister-in-law live in Crescent City. I would also love to get up to Oregon to visit my special cousin Tammy, and to Washington to visit my older brother Tom. I also have nieces and other family members along the way. It’s been too long since I’ve been up in the Pacific Coast, which I love.

My grandfather is doing well, too. Don and I went to Dixon to have lunch with him two weeks ago. He was a little down because his brother, Paul, could not make his yearly visit this last month. The family always enjoys Uncle Paul and Don playing guitar and singing.

That all for now. I must say that I have reached my writing goal for today of one hour, which equals almost 800 words! Yahoo!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writer's Block

At a writer’s forum I visit, one of the most asked questions is How do I get rid of writer’s block? Answers from other writers range from there is no such thing to try to figure out why you are blocked. It seems to me that writer’s block has become a blanket excuse for not writing.

If there is such a thing as writer’s block, I feel it is more behavioral than anything else. In other words, we find other things to do rather than writing- go to the market, socialize, clean the cat box, watch the comedy channel, play Spider Solitaire on the computer, or even call Great Aunt Ethel who hasn’t seen us since we were six and doesn’t even remember us.

Excuses, excuses.

I don’t want to try to figure out why I don’t want to write. It’s easier just to admit the truth- I don’t want to write, I would rather (fill in the blank). That’s when I take responsibility and writer’s block becomes a choice rather than some psychological condition destined catapult me into a therapist’s chair (and take all the money I could be making if I were writing).

My cure to writer’s block is to write. I have a set time each day, five to six days a week, when I commit to sitting down and writing. On weekdays, I write in the evening for 45 minutes to one hour. On weekends, I am more flexible and will often write in different places, sometimes as little as a half hour, other times as much as two hours.

What helps me stay focused is to have several projects going at the same time. If I make the choice not to work on one, I will work on the other. I try to keep some type of a deadline in mind. Perhaps, I want to finish editing chapter six of my novel by the end of the week, but I also want to continue writing my short story in two weeks. If I have my priority on track, I will finish editing chapter six and then move to the story. If I have my priorities in the wrong order, then Spider Solitaire will pop up on my screen (all right, I open it, it doesn’t just pop up) and I will play a game. But, I always have the choice whether to continue my game or write.

If I’m smart, I make Spider Solitaire a reward for completing a day’s writing. Writing is hard work. I must pay attention to detail including spelling, grammar, and style while I use that creative and physical energy that can drain me to the bones. Rewards for hard work are a must.
Remember, those of you who do believe in writer’s block, this is my opinion only because, if I allowed myself to believe in writer’s block, I would probably use it as an excuse not to write.

I am still trying to find a home for one story. I am working on another short story that I want to submit to Glimmer Train, as well as editing my novel. My short story has priority because it takes less time to write than my novel. Finally, I have been considering a volunteer position in our local writer’s club, but I am not sure I will have time for it.
Time to get to work on my short story just for my reward of Spider Solitaire.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fires in California

This moment, as I sit at my desk facing the window, a canopy of redwoods lining the fence, blue sky peeks through the tall branches. This morning, the sun came up brighter than I have seen in days. In fact, today is the first day smoke and haze have not permeated the air, polluting, causing burning eyes, headaches and breathing difficulties. Like many others, I have been taking my exercise to the gym instead of outside.

The fires have been in areas other than Santa Rosa, all the way from Humboldt County (my old stomping grounds) down to Big Sur, and many places in between. In fact, other than two house fires started by electrical mishaps, Sonoma County has been very lucky. All we have gotten is the smoke, but it has been everywhere for days. In places where fires run rampant, wildlife has either died or been displaced, and many people have lost their homes. All from the natural phenomenon of lightning striking like an angry match.

I have only been in one fire, when I was five. We lived in a mobile home in a small town in the hills. I think it was California, or maybe it was Oregon. I don’t recall. My dad was a logger, my mother stayed at home. Sometimes she would put us down for a nap and go outside and split wood for my dad.

One particular day, she was outside working. She had told us to stay down for our nap. I was cold and asked my brother, who was six, to keep me warm. At some point, we found some matches and built a fire, just a small one in the closet to keep us warm until mother came back into the house. Within moments, that little fire took on a life of its own and raged out of control. The last thing I remember is my mother, five feet two and one hundred ten pounds, running out of the house with each of us under an arm.

I remember the terror I felt from the heat, the fear on my mother’s face as she rescued us from the preying arms of the flames, the anger in my father’s voice as he scolded us for playing with matches. However, I didn’t remember the incident until I was an adolescent, and then it came back full-force in flashbacks explaining why I hated fire, even that small flame when my parents struck a match to light their cigarettes.

In present times, I feel for those who have either had to evacuate or have lost their homes, including wildlife. Fire started by a natural phenomenon affords a lot less guilt than one started by matches. However, the emotions are the same- loss, anger, grief and the actions of picking up pieces and starting over. I remember when my parents had to pick up those pieces.

Each day, I say my prayers for those directly affected by the fires and for the fire fighters who have been working for almost two weeks to bring the flames under control. Other than prayer, and the angels who help out in numerous ways, all California needs is a good strong dose of rain.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Windows Vista

This week, my Compaq Presario R3000 with Windows XP literally died. The power source inside of the computer shorted out and the computer would not start at all. It would have cost me more to fix it than to buy a new computer. Over the last year, I have had numerous problems with my computer- what appeared to be the backlight going out, which somehow “fixed” itself, problems starting up and crashing in the middle of work, and then the latest fiasco with the power source. My guess is that all those prior problems had to do with my system shorting out. However, despite the problems, I used my computer every single day for my writing and internet activity. It really was a great computer.

During my computer experience, I learned that there are still good people out there who are not after a buck. The technician at Mawson Computer Center did not charge me for the labor he had put into repairing the power jack ($270), but charged me a $69 diagnostic fee and told me to go buy myself a new computer. If I were to have the power source replaced, it would cost me well over $1,000 with part and labor. Without being asked to do so, and without charging extra, he also saved all of my “stuff” onto disc. I am really grateful. Here is a blurb on their excellent service record: http://www.diamondcertified.com/sonomamawsoncomputercenter.html

Now, this brings me to the real meat of this entry, which is a subject that makes many computer users out there pretty sore- Vista. Yes, my new Compaq Presario F700 came equipped with Windows Vista. I could have had XP installed for one low price of $59.99, but I wanted to try out Vista first before making that decision.

Let me tell you…..

I am glad that I did not install XP. I like Vista a lot. I have found it to be user friendly, fast and it looks great. Yes, it does look different and is probably a near-clone of the Mac operating system. However, it does things a lot easier and differently than Windows XP. For example:

1. When I hooked my DSL modem up to the internet, no action was necessary on my part other then plugging the correct cable into the correct port- Vista did the rest (whatever the rest was). XP required that I go through a few steps.

2. I installed my HP printer with no problems and no software- just plugged the printer cord into the computer and Vista did the rest. XP required that I used the software, which was cumbersome and too overloaded for my taste.

3. I removed the trial version of Word 2007 from my new computer because I didn’t like how difficult to navigate it was, didn’t want to purchase it, and love Word 2003. Since I already had my Word 2003 software, I tried to install it despite warnings from others that it might not work. Well, it installed just fine and is now in full working order.

For someone like me, who uses the computer for creative writing and simple things, Vista Home Edition is perfect. I don’t do gaming, but I do love to browse the internet to the writer's digest forums (link in sidebar on the right), research, listen to music, view videos and review blogs, and I spend a lot of time writing. Speaking of writing, it is time to get back to my editing chapter 8 of my novel, which now lives on my new Compaq.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What a Vacation!

This last week, I have been on what I call a working vacation- time off from my day job to do work at home. My goals were to get lots of writing done, clean my filing cabinet, redecorate on a budget, have new windows put in and do the mundane things I don’t have time to do. On Friday, I planned on going up to Don’s and coming home on Monday. I promised myself that I would run early in the mornings as I usually do before work, followed by a half hour or so of browsing the internet while I ate breakfast and, finally, getting in at least two hours of writing each day.

I am more than tickled to report that my vacation went pretty much as planned, with a few setbacks. Sometime on Sunday night, my computer decided to become upset; every time I pressed the keys, the blue screen of death appeared followed by a quick restart where I didn’t have time to read the error message. I attempted system restore, updating Windows, and all kinds of other little things. I finally ended up buying a $15.00 external keyboard, which was the perfect solution. That is, until I forgot I had the external keyboard and started using my laptop keys again- and the computer hasn’t crashed since! My logic- computers have their personalities too!

This week, I met my writing goals. On most days, I wrote at least two hours. On Wednesday, while my windows were being installed, I got in four hours of writing. Since I live in a spacious 925 square foot condominium, I was able to work at my laptop in my office while the old windows were removed and installed at the front of the house. When they made it back to the office, I moved to the kitchen table. This system of staying out of their way while doing my own thing resulted in two things- chapter six and seven are revised/rewritten and I now have new double-paned windows that eliminate most of the outside noise and all of the old draft and keeps the inside evenly heated to my specifications.

The greatest gift I received this week came while I was cleaning out my file cabinets. First, I decided to rid myself of multiple copies of the same story, all of which came from when I took writing workshops about 15 years ago. Some of the copies had intelligent critiques, others contained nothing more than random doodles or words/phrases that made no sense. I shredded until I had the most current copy of each story, including those that went through major revisions. I am not a clutter-bug, except when it comes to my writing, where my ego is more at play. It helped put my own creative side into balance by throwing away that which was not doing me any good.

My other gift was finding a large folder containing rejection slips dating from 1991 through 1998. As any writer knows, rejection is a normal part of submitting your work whether you are published or not. As I read the rejections, I noticed that many were personalized letters and contained handwritten encouragement on form letters. Some were as simple as these:

*So sorry, not right for us.
*Thank you, I regret this is not for me. Good luck!
*Thanks for your submission, but we are not accepting fiction at this time. Best of luck!

Then, there were the personalized letters written directly to me, not form letters with my name inserted at the top. I love Cats wrote me this on April 29, 1992: “Thank you for sending me your story and I really enjoyed the piece and writing. However, I recently accepted a story on the same topic so I will have to pass on yours…”

There were other personalized letters telling me to check back in a few months, and another giving me advice on seeking a literary agent as opposed to submitting on my own, another rejecting my proposal but advising to consult with Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace for a more comprehensive list of places to submit, and yet another rejection where the editor enjoyed reading my proposal but ran out of funding and would not be able to accept any work at this time.

Even the dark cloud of rejection can contain a silver lining (cliché, I know, but who cares?).

I quit submitting my writing for a good eight years after receiving the rejections slips. I don’t think it was the rejections themselves, but more life taking over- going back to school and getting my paralegal certification and then completing my B.A. degree in liberal studies. Both of those contained a lot of writing and submitting to no one else but the professors.

Early last year, I decided to start writing more, as well as submitting. I completed the first draft of my novel, and I am now editing and rewriting. Within the last 14 months or so, I have submitted three short stories, two of which have been accepted for publication. One of the stories keeps getting rejected. My first rejection was because the magazine decided to fold, which is not a rejection of my work per se. The second magazine I sent it thought it was a good story but that it was not right for their publications, perhaps I should submit to crime magazines. The last rejection was from a well-known crime magazine. Time to get that story back into circulation again.

My weekend with Don was great. We went to a musical gathering on Friday night, visited Grandpa on Saturday, attended a parade on Sunday morning (he actually rode in the parade while playing his fiddle and guitar), went for a boat ride and lunch outing on Sunday afternoon, and then I came home this morning. It was wonderful spending the weekend with the one I love and many wonderful friends.

Tomorrow I go back to my day job. Since I like the people I work with, as well as the type of work I do, I am ready to step back into the working world again. Right now, I enjoy being in my warm home (outside it is windy and overcast) and hanging out with my cat, Buddy and Oliver.

I hope you have all had a safe Memorial Day Weekend.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Angels in My Path

Three mornings a week on my run, I stop to visit a sweet elderly Stallion named Festin. The last time I visited, my friend did not look well. Whereas he often met me at the chain link fence, this day he could not so. It appeared that his entire body was glued in place, and every tiny movement of his legs seemed too difficult. I picked up some hay and tried to feed him. I could tell he wanted to acknowledge my gesture in his usual way, but that he could not. I worried about him and hoped he would be okay.

When I went running later in the week, an acquaintance told me she had not seen Festin in the field for the last few days. “I think he’s gone,” she said. “I saw him limping last week as if he were in pain. He didn’t look good.” A few minutes later, when I reached Festin’s home, the field was empty. He was nowhere to be found. As I looked toward the wooden fence where he liked to hang out, or up by his water trough, I realized that I probably would never see him again.

Today, I read an article in our local newspaper that Festin had been put down due to a chronic leg condition that was beyond treatment. For the last two years, I have been blessed with the gift of a great friendship with this wonderful soul. Festin attracted a local audience with his spirit and friendly personality. I know several will be saddened by his loss, including his owners. I am really going to miss him.

To end my week, several angels stepped into my path. First, I received a check that was not due for ten days. I was surprised, but at the same time elated. Payday is not until May 15, and I wondered how I would make it through with the high price of gas and all. The money came just in time.

That Friday evening, I was on my way to Don’s for the weekend. On Range avenue, my car started shaking like crazy. I knew I had a flat tire. The only place I could pull into was the cul-de-sac next to where Festin used to live. I called the towing company to change my tire and called my boyfriend to let him know I would be late. As I waited for help, I imagined Festin running happy and free through the field. I truly believe that his great spirit was watching over me.

The towing company never did come, but a young lady stopped and said her boyfriend could change my tire. Once completed (and after I profusely thanked them for their kindness), they suggested I take the back roads to a local tire center. I made it there just as they were getting ready to close down. Instead of turning me away, the staff stayed overtime to put a new tire on my car and to make sure the rest of my tires were okay. While I waited the forty-five minutes, I worked on the editing process of my novel.

Until next time- be sure to keep your eyes open so you don’t miss any angels that come into your path.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What Makes a Writer?

A recent question at an online writer’s forum was when to call one's self a writer. The responses varied, with opinions ranging from someone who is published and makes a living as a writer to those who simply love to write. My opinion was somewhere in the middle.

If someone asks what I do, I say I am a paralegal because this is how I make my living. However, in discussions on what we do outside of our careers, I tell people I love to write short stories, and that I’m working on a novel. But, I don’t call myself a writer because that is not what I do for a living. However, I might say that my hobby is writing.

When I was younger, I had dreams of becoming a lyricist. Then, I wanted to become famous writing short stories and novels. I saw the world through rose colored glasses. My mother thought it was wonderful that I wrote, but she also told me that one does not usually make a lot of money writing.

“You need to go to college, get your education and find a career. You need to learn how to support yourself.”

As any teenager would, I argued with my mother and stood my ground. As any good mother would, she encouraged me to continue writing and pushed me toward college.

Of course, mom was right.

I’m glad I chose my education and a career. On a daily basis, I create legal documents- compile facts and write about them so others can understand the case. Some time of each workday is dedicated to writing, some days it’s all I do. I love the law, and I love writing. What better way to earn a living!

When I come home from work, I write short stories and/or work on my novel, or do some other type of writing. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes, other times it’s an hour or two. It just depends. Once in awhile, I submit. Two stories I have submitted in the last year have been accepted. Two magazines have rejected another story. I think it’s a good story- perhaps I should continue submitting and see what happens.

As for the rest of life: it’s around 80 degrees outside and a wonderful spring day. I am taking a week off from work in a few weeks for window remodeling on my home. I will also be jumping into spring cleaning, as well as looking through some of Grandma’s writings and working toward compiling them into a family history.

Tomorrow, I will be going to the Redwood Writers Club joint meeting with Marin County. This should be loads of fun!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Grandma's Treasures

March 22, 2008, my grandfather was the guest of honor at an open house for his 92nd birthday. A few weeks earlier, my Aunt had sent me an email that two boxes of Grandma’s things waited for me in Grandpa’s closet. Aunt Marta knew the boxes contained more of her writings, but that nobody in the family wanted to hold on to them.

The boxes were too huge and heavy to carry. After the party, I loaded two paper bags with the notebooks, loose papers, folders and binders. Over a week’s time, I weeded out Grandma’s writings and discarded other things, such as workshop flyers, newspaper articles, etc. that were personal to Grandma but meant nothing to me.

Over the weekend, my brother visited me from out of town and we went to spend the day with Grandpa. After lunch, I retrieved the last box. Contained therein were chapters of Grandma’s memoirs and random stories about their life in the sawmill camp in Arizona and New Mexico during the mid forties. Last night, much to our pleasure, my brother, boyfriend, and I were transported back through time with Grandma’s stories.

I am taking my time putting together the story of my Grandmother’s life, of what it was like for her in the 40’s raising kids in the sawmill camp while my grandfather worked in the mill. My aunt has already written about my grandparent’s childhoods and lives up until the time they married. I would like to pick up there and build upon our family history.

I keep a clean and neat house, but right now, my coffee table contains numerous stacks: one of binders, notebooks and journals, another of handwritten material, another of poetry, and a final stack of typewritten/computer generated stories. These are all treasures to me.

While friends and other family have wonderful memories, I feel like I have so much more- a compilation of historical events that helped shape my Grandmother into the wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, as well as the common bond of being writers.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Snow (Snow Ice Cream)

Last weekend was cold and rainy and a nice day to stay in, but Don and I decided to trudge forward with our activities. On Saturday, we visited Grandpa in Vacaville. We had a wonderful lunch and played a game of Yahtzee afterward. Don has never won at Yahtzee while playing with Grandpa, but this time he came out the Yahtzee victor! Grandpa is nearing his 92nd birthday and so much fun to be around.

Later that evening, we had dinner with our friends Richard and Denise at a lovely Italian restaurant named Sicily. The evening was filled with great food and exciting conversation. However, just before we left for dinner, we learned that snow threatened to fall upon Lake County. Since I was at Don’s house that weekend, and I have not been in snow in several years, I wished upon a star that the Sunday morning ground would be white. Instead, the rain continued and no snow came.

I grew up in coastal northern California where snow is rare. Anytime it snowed, my mother made snow ice cream. She placed a clean bowl outside to catch the fresh snow. In our anticipation, my brothers and I checked that bowl every fifteen or twenty minutes to see if the sky had dropped enough white flakes. When Mother decided- and only when she decided- we had enough snow, she added vanilla, sugar or other type of flavoring. Sometimes we had chocolate or plain vanilla, other times strawberry. To this day, I can taste the sweetness of Mother’s snow ice cream on my tongue.

My favorite time for writing is in the evening with the rain hitting the roof when all else is quiet. If it snowed, I would get no writing done because I would be throwing snow balls or watching a bowl fill with snowflakes. Right now, I have just completed revising chapter three. Revising is one of the most difficult tasks this time around because I want to make it as close to the finished version that I can. When I do rewrite/edit number three, I may add or take-away, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing another big rewrite like this time around.

This is all for now.

See you soon!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Missing Mom

January 24, 1985, my mother died of lung and liver cancer at the age of 42. Two months before her death, I turned 23 years old. She died two weeks before her birthday. When I was growing up, my mother and I went through the usual trials that seemed to push us worlds apart. However, by the time I reached adulthood, our relationship had blossomed into one of mutual respect and close friendship. I really miss her.

This year, the twenty-third anniversary of her death, I realized that I have been without my mother for half of my life. Over the years, it has been difficult watching mothers and daughters shopping at the mall, laughing at some private joke during lunch or walking through the park hand in hand. I am often amazed when my girlfriends talk about the wonderful times they have with their mothers, and even the difficult moments filled with mother/daughter issues.

How I wish my mother were here today.

Lately, I have been wondering what life would be like if my mother had not been taken by such a terrible disease. Where would she be, what would she be doing? What life transformations would she have gone through to become a human being of today?

Would she be shocked that a woman and African American are running for president?

Would she be involved in combating global warming?

Would she still make her beautiful quilts, crochet afghans for every family member, or bake those wonderful lemon meringue pies I remember so well from my childhood?

If she were alive today, I know that she would be proud of me. She taught me to stand up for myself, make my own way, and learn how to take care of myself. I have a wonderful life filled with family, boyfriend (who she would really like, by the way), a great career, and I own my home. I don’t have many possessions, but I have all I need and some of what I want. I think she would like my cats Buddy and Oliver as well.

I am grateful to my mother for her love, and for encouraging me to write. I still treasure two books she gave me in 1980 when I was 18 years old and sure I wanted to make a living writing: How to Write Short Stories that Sell by Louise Boggess and Make Every Word Count by Gary Provost. I am still writing my short stories and working on a novel, have had a few publications, and my career includes a vast amount of writing. I feel like I have succeeded.

Thank you, Mom, for all you have given me and for your spirit being present each day of my life.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Moving on up...

Last week I took the plunge; I switched from 10 years of dial-up to DSL. I know, many of you are chuckling and asking the ultimate, “Was she really still on dial-up?” The answer is yes. But, now I am glad I switched.

Today, when I received the modem, it took me around 20 minutes to get it up and running. I didn’t change service providers, just my roadway of getting into the internet world. All it took was hooking everthing into the right slots and a quick call to customer support to configure my new internet path.

This evening, when I should have been revising chapter four of my novel, I was on the internet. I downloaded window updates. I found what used to take hours to download on dial-up now takes minutes. In fact, I downloaded two updates for two different programs at the same time with no lost connection or lagging of my computer! Technology in the last evening has come a long way for me!

After downloading updates, I gave more thought to my writing, and then promptly went to You Tube. Hey, I have never been to You Tube because my dial up became exhausted after trying to exercise its right to play video like DSL and Cable internet connections. I know this from trying to play other streaming video- it lost its stream (or is that steam?) pretty quickly before dying.

Now, here it is after 11:00 and I have not written much today. But, I am sure the excitement of DSL will wear off and I will get back to work on my novel. But, just for today, writing my blog is enough.

Now I lay me down to sleep only to welcome dreams from a high speed connection.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Welcome 2008

I have been blogging since September 2006 and find myself writing less than I wanted to. At first, I thought it was because I was running out of things to write. Not true. It is because I am not searching inside deep enough for subjects to write. Of course, my main subject is the writing life. But, life does not revolve around writing, writing is simply an essential part of my life like breathing, eating and sleeping.

I am working on the second draft of my novel. Many things have changed, including the title. The interesting experience for me was that change in my focus began to take place somewhere half way through. I believe this is when the characters began to write their story and I became nothing more than a messenger.

I also submitted my short story, Goodbye, Jack, to Ellery Queen. A few weeks ago, it was rejected by one magazine with a note to submit to a crime magazine. That was one of the best rejections I received! However, my lesson is to study the magazines before submitting. The local library is invaluable for magazine research. If the library does not carry a certain magazine, sometimes specialty magazine shops do. A back copy can also be ordered from the magazine publisher.

Life here has been slow for the last three or so weeks. The cold/flu/whatever-it-is had been simmering in my system until it hit full force about a week ago. I have not been able to exercise for five days. Boy, do I miss my running! But, I know it’s important to take care of myself and get better. In fact, tomorrow is a holiday and I plan on staying inside and getting myself well so that I can exercise on Tuesday or Wednesday.

My advice for this “bug” going around- take good care of yourself. Do not get the silly idea you are going to beat it and continue to overdo life. Take a rest, drink plenty of water and eat right. Sleep as much as you can. This bug is aggressive and nasty!

Finally, my goal this year is to write more on my blog, to write more short stories and submit and to bring my novel to completion and to find an agent. Lots of hard work, but well worth it.

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...