The End of My Lazy Summer

  • Note: There’s news coming! For the wonderful readers who have regularly, over the years since certain books came out, written me about them, I’ll have an announcement soon! But now, I have to turn in my “summer excuse.”

So as my last post–over a month ago–indicated, we had a rare summer for the Pacific Northwest. Lots of warm and sunny. Sometimes a bit too much warm for me. All I can say is heat pumps are the best invention ever. Well, after air conditioning in general, I suppose. Anyway, I never played hooky from school (what can I say, I was an angel–a terrified angel, but that’s another story) but I did from the blog. But it was 48 degrees this morning, the flag is whipping in 30mph winds, and I have steady rain. Yep, fall’s definitely here.

Spring is long over, according to my apple tree, which used to look like this:

apple blossoms 2012

And this little guy is bigger now…

fawn

…although mom is still close by, if a bit itchy.

itchy deer

And now summer is gone as well, along with some of the odder cloud formations, blue skies giving way to perpetual gray.

wedge cloud crop

The big question every year around here (well, at my house anyway) is will we be looking at this sometime soon?

Snow11 1-12

Most winters, when we get snow, it’s the perfect amount for me. Enough to say “Oh, snow, I can’t get up my driveway, guess I’ll build up the fire, fix a chai latte, curl up and read a book.” Or “Oh, gee, I guess I’d better finish knitting that sweater, I’m going to need it!” I love those days. But then, I’ve never lived anywhere that regularly gets snow several feet deep, which I’m sure colors my perception. They say it’s a “neutral” year so far, meaning no “El Nino” or “La Nina.” (apologies to the non-weather geeks/non-Pacific Ocean folks–they are Pacific Ocean conditions that greatly affect weather) Which would normally mean probably not this kind of snow. But then again, we had almost no snow last winter, and we very rarely have two back-to-back no or low snow years.

In other words, no clue. Yet, anyway. But my playing hooky is over, the blog is back, that news will be forthcoming, and lots of other things!

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Lazy

You may have noticed my absence. Or not. 😉 But once I finally had to admit summer was really here, even in the Pacific Northwest, life changed. You see, unlike where I grew up, here one must grab summer and run with it. It’s short, sweet, and doesn’t come back for a re-visit very often. And so I’ve been spending time out in it, and less in front of a computer screen except when actually working. (more on that next post) My eyes approve. And to keep them happy, this will be short.

But summer has been a beaut so far, long, warm (actually hot, but with parts of the world enduring three digit temperatures, I don’t feel I have the right to whine. At least, not in public!) and dry, So warm I was actually harvesting tomatoes in July, which is almost unheard of in my little corner. Which brings me to the subject of today’s brief post. You may recall my last post, a picture I titled “The mother of all strawberries.” That would be this one:

momma strawberry

Mom!!

And I mentioned how all of the little strawberries in my planter had come from this one, inexpensive plant purchased ten years ago. Strawberries, which like heat, and summer. At least these do. Because since my post at the end of June, we’ve gone from this:

 

IMG_0132

Nice, well behaved children.

To this:

Invasion

It’s an invasion, run for your life!

We have another month of sunny, dry weather predicted. I think I should be afraid.

Happy rest of summer to all!

Summer?? How’d THAT happen?

Sun halo

What is that glowing orb up there???

Well, it’s official. Summer has arrived. For most, anyway. Summer doesn’t really arrive in the Pacific Northwest until July 5th, but that’s another story. But since the sun arrived the other day, complete with rainbow necklace, I guess I have to admit it.

Problem is, I’m not ready!! Our spring here is so darned non-committal that just about the time I think it might really be here, it’s summer, and I’m blinking, thinking, Wait, what? So here I am, having to say goodbye to spring when I barely had time to enjoy it. It’s a good thing I took pictures, so I can prove at least the plant life thought it was spring. So let me introduce you to some of my friends and family:

Callas

The Carnivorous Calla Lilies

These suckers are so big that after a rain bugs drown in them. If it’s a good bug, I’ve been known to try to rescue them. If it’s an earwig, it’s on its own. Ugh.

momma strawberry

The mother of all strawberries

This, my friends, is a plant to be revered. She is indeed, the mother of all strawberries. Purchased on a whim nearly ten years ago, this little plant has provided children that have filled every planter I have. So for $7.99 I got eleventy-two hundred plants. Think I’m kidding? Here:

IMG_0132

All in the family….

Every bit of green you see in this planter here, and the little pink flowers, are all kids from that momma strawberry. I could fill every square inch of my yard with this within a year. And yes, they really bear tiny strawberries. I have it on good authority, meaning the birds that always get to them before I do, that they’re very tasty.

Now this little oddity looks like it would be happier out in the Mojave Desert somewhere, yet it seems surprisingly happy here. I bought it simply for the anachronistic look of it. Because that’s the way I am.

poker plant

Took a wrong turn at Vegas…

And now we come to one of my favorites, the creature I fondly call “Cousin Itt.” (if you’re too young to remember the Addams Family, look him up) As usual, he needs a haircut, but for now he’s so…fluffy I’m happy to just walk around him.

cousin itt

Get away from me with those clippers!!

And finally, the most productive members of the family, or at least so I hope. There is only one place I can grow tomatoes well here, and that’s my front porch. It’s sheltered from the wind, and a good 5-10 degrees warmer than anyplace else around the house. So here they are, and here they shall stay, and if anyone is bothered by produce growing in their path to the front door, then they probably aren’t people I’d want to open the door to anyway.

IMG_0129

Whaddayoulookinat??

So there you have it, my sad tribute to a spring we barely experienced. You’ll noticed I ignored the grass. That’s because I’m the one who has to mow it, and I feel little affection for it at the moment. I’m probably the only person around anxiously awaiting its death by summer heat. (no, not DEAD dead, just done for the year.) Parking that lawnmower for a few months is one of the happiest moments of my year. But alas, not yet.

So how about you? Gardener, or brown thumb? Ornamentals or edibles? Try new things every year, or stick with the old reliables? Experiment to see what you can possibly grow in a container?

The Light of Day

My friend and social media connector extraordinaire, Piper Bayard, held a cover reveal of her first book on her blog a couple of days ago. (http://piperbayard.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/the-nine-year-baby-firelands-cover-reveal/) If you’ll notice, the title of her post is “The Nine Year Baby.” Funny, catchy, and painfully true. This is Piper’s first book, and I’m sure it won’t be her last. Just reading her blog is enough to tell you that. But besides my delight for her, her post got me to thinking.

I’ve written a lot of books. From this one, back in 1991:

Hunter

on through a couple of favorites like this duo, that still bring in mail after more than fifteen years (and more news about them upcoming soon!):

LOTSskypirate

to this one, coming up in July (yes, I slipped my own little cover reveal into this one!):

Cutter 3 cover

But it’s not these published or soon to be published works that I got to thinking about. It’s the unpublished ones. Books that have never, and may never, as the title of this post says, see the light of day. I’m sure all writers have them. Ideas that seemed good at the time, but in the end didn’t have enough muscle to carry an entire book. The things you put away, and frequently dig out again when you realize that partial idea is the perfect partner for this other partial idea you just came up with.

Or that book of the heart, that one that calls to you so strongly you can’t stop working on it, even though it’s other stories that will be paying the bills. I have one of those I’ve been working on even longer than Piper’s nine-year baby. I’m so in love with the hero of this book I’m not sure I can bear to send him out into the world. He may never see the light of day, although a few lines made it onto Facebook in that “seven lines” meme that was going around a while back.

I have a few  several  okay, I’ll face it, a ton of bits and pieces squirreled away in a folder titled “Beginnings.” Because that’s what they are. Beginnings. Some are mere paragraphs, a scene, a setup, a fragment where I have no idea where it came from or where it’s going. Others are maybe two or three pages. Some are longer, and a couple are twenty-plus pages that came out in the white heat of “I have to write this NOW.”

I’ve often wondered what other writers do with this stuff. Is it deleted? Filed away never to be looked at again? Personally, I have a hard time deleting anything that I was moved enough to write in the first place. Not because I think my every word is golden–I wish!–but because I can’t shake the feeling that some day, somewhere down the line, that little bit of writing might save my sorry backside when I’m mired deep in deadline hell. So my process has become I save it and walk away. And my criteria after that is if I remember it after it’s in that beginnings folder, if after a while it’s still in my head, then it has a potential worth looking at. Maybe.

Is anybody else curious about things like this, would you love to peek at these bits and pieces, or is it just a writer’s weirdness that makes me wonder?

Refilling The Well

Canada Geese northbound

 

It’s spring, and a young bird’s fancy turns….

Okay, I finally believe it. Spring is really here. I mean, once I’ve seen the Canada Geese flying north in formation, I know it’s just me who hasn’t felt it. I trust their internal clocks more than mine, because their time doesn’t get messed with, they don’t deal with things like daylight savings time and other man-made idiocies that keep us thinking we’re somehow in control of nature. (can you tell I’m not a fan? Grump, snarl…)

But I digress.

I’ve introduced my neighbors before. But in case you missed it, here they are, sharing a quiet moment in a nearby tree.

eagle pair

One of the great joys of living in the Northwest is seeing these magnificent creatures on a regular basis. This time of year, almost daily. One of the first bird calls  I learned when we moved here years ago was theirs; it’s unmistakable once you’ve heard it. (I was given a small, stuffed bald eagle as a gift once, the type you squeeze and get the bird’s call. They got it exactly right.)

Everyone, writer or not, I think finds themselves now and then in a place where they just can’t keep going. Where they’re beaten down, too weary to go on. Where they’ve gone to the well once too often, and this time come up dry. Times like this, you need to know what refills your well, and then make a conscious effort to do it. For some it’s reading for hours. For others it’s getting outdoors, walking or hiking. For some it’s traveling.

For some, like me,  it’s doing something with your hands, creating something entirely different. Knitting, for me, takes up an entirely different set of brain cells, and lets the writing part of the brain rest and refill. And when I can combine it with sitting outdoors and waiting for my neighbors to come by, it’s even better.

Since I’m between books at the moment, I’ve had time to enjoy the show that truly means spring around here. My neighbors are celebrating the arrival in the way only they can. By flying, soaring, together.

eagle pair flight

And this year, for only the second time since I’ve lived here, I had the soul-stirring joy of watching an eagle courtship flight. Something impossible to describe, impossible even to really show in pictures, but once you’ve seen it in person, you will never, ever forget it. These two glorious, powerful birds soar skyward. They turn. Lock talons. And fall. Fall in a turning, twisting tumble that is breathtaking. Locked together they plummet, cartwheeling, trusting their instincts and their own strength to save them when at last they break apart, only to soar upward and do it all again.

Courtship. Of the most heart-racing kind. A little bit dangerous. Requiring complete trust. But worth it, in the end. And if you didn’t already know, bald eagles mate for life.

That’s why they refill my well, in a way few things can.

 

eagle dance crop

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wait, do I have my holidays confused??

Wait, do I have my holidays confused??

No, I’m not really confused. It is, of course, St. Patrick’s day. Since I’m half Irish, I know this. (the other half is split between Welsh and a contribution from a mercenary Hessian from the American Revolution who fell in love with America and let himself get captured so he could stay, but that’s another story….)

Green cupcake

There, that’s better. More appropriate. I was going to use a shot of a pint of Guinness, but for some reason I can’t find it…..

I’ve sometimes wonder if I would have guessed at my Irish blood if I didn’t already know it. When I first came to the Northwest, after years of trying to survive in a dry, desert region paved over with concrete and asphalt, I was off the ferry out of Seattle less than five minutes before I realized I felt I’d come home. Is it some genetic memory that hearkens back to other green covered land and blue waters? As a child, the first time I heard a Celtic flute, without even know what it was, my heart was filled with longing, an ache I couldn’t define. And heaven help me, the pipes. Yes, yes, I love the pipes. Apparently you either love or hate bagpipes. No denial here. I’ll stop for the pipes anywhere, unless they’re playing Amazing Grace, because then I’ll end up weeping my eyes out.

“Maybe it’s bred in the bone, but the sound of pipes is a little bit of heaven to some of us.” –Nancy O’Keeefe

The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven’t seen the joke yet. –Old Irish Joke

Someone once said to me “Of course you’re a writer. It’s the Irish, you know.” I didn’t know, but there certainly is a stable to choose from. And they do have a way….

“The English language brings out the best in the Irish. They court it like a beautiful woman. They make it bray with donkey laughter. They hurl it at the sky like a paint pot full of rainbows, and then make it chant a dirge for man’s fate and man’s follies that is as mournful as misty spring rain crying over the fallow earth. Rarely has a people paid the lavish compliment and taken the subtle revenge of turning its oppressor’s speech into sorcery. ”  T E Kalem

And I have Irishman Brendan Behan to thank for one of my favorite quotes ever, since becoming a writer:

“Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.”

No, I’ve never set foot on that green, green isle, but I hope to rectify that some day. How can you not want to visit a land that has a place like this?

"Heavens Trail" A place in Ireland where every two years on June 10-18 the stars line up with this path. (H/T @Earth_Pics )

“Heavens Trail” A place in Ireland where every two years on June 10-18 the stars line up with this path. (H/T @Earth_Pics )

In the mean time, to you all, Irish, part Irish, or not, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

photo credit: Chris Devers via photopin cc

photo credit: clevercupcakes via photopin cc

Trapped In The Fog

I'm in here somewhere....

There’s a ship in here somewhere….

Odd how sometimes the weather matches my mood. I know, it’s more typical that the weather influences how you’re feeling, but every once in a while it goes the other way. Like today; a very, very foggy morning. Perfectly suited to my apparently foggy brain today.

Nothing convinces me more of the wisdom of writing every day than being between books. Which I am. The hard work on the last book (the 3rd Cutter’s Code, for those keeping track) is done. I’m in the deciding part of “What’s next?” Which for me, if it’s not already a given, often consists of starting three (sometimes more if I’m really undecided) stories to see which one takes off. The others may still be used, but it’s not their time yet.

But right now, as I said, I’m in a bit of a fog. I sat down this morning, amid the sound of foghorns, and tried to pick where to go next. It’s not that there’s any shortage of ideas for my furry friend’s next adventure. No, I started with a list of a dozen possible stories, and I’ve added more since. And bits and pieces are flying at me, a scene here, bits of dialogue there, character images over there. Problem is, they’re all for different stories. (When people ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I always laugh. I don’t need ideas, I need a way to fight them off. Or at least discipline them so they only come at me one at a time!) It’s as if all the ideas I’ve scribbled down held a meeting and came out of it with an agenda to tag team me.

Usually when I’m at this point, I always have a side project to work on. Something just for me, or something in a new genre, or just something whimsical that makes me smile. But it seems those went to the same meeting, and are flying around my head until I can’t see any one of them clearly. Hence the fog analogy today.

There was a time when I could indulge all this. When I could just let things fly around until one of them got tired enough to land. Or go away and do something else and come back later. But part of being a professional writer is…well, being professional. Which means showing up. Every day. Writing. Every day. Even if it’s garbage and your first move the next day is to hit the delete key. Because writing is like muscle; use it or lose it. Sad that that’s a lesson I have to relearn every now and then. Take too much time off, and it’s hell getting started again. Of course, a real writer is never not working. To the annoyance of family and friends, everything truly is material. But that’s the fun part. Those “Wow, that would make a great story!” moments.  The hard part is deciding which of those wows actually would make a great story. Will it hold up? What will it take to make it work? Can that little scrap of an idea really carry a 400 page manuscript?

And that’s where I am now. Amid a fog of ideas, trying to see which ones will work, and of those, which one wants to be told the most. E. L. Doctorow said “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I think the same applies to fog. Except sailing along in the fog might be a tad more dangerous! But I know by now the only way to deal with this situation is to simply launch my ship and sail into that fog, never mind that I can’t see either shore right now. They’re there. I need to relax and remember the fun is in the journey.

foggy sailboat

Into the mist!