What I Love 3/365: The Smell of Cat Fur

Looking for a cuddle
Looking for a cuddle

One of the great things about living with cats is that moment when one of them comes in from outside and wants some attention and leaps up on a lap or the bed or a sink while you’re washing your hands and head butts you and you bend over and bury your nose in their fur, that thick soft place right over her shoulder blades. It is one of the freshest, sweetest scents in the universe, made of sunshine and breezes and the brush of cosmo leaves and the thorough attentions of both this cat and her compatriots who must spend approximately twenty-two of of every twenty-four hours on grooming themselves and each other.


Things I love 2/365: stationary

https://www.flickr.com/photos/33037982@N04/3439173198/in/photolist-6eUEnC-71UDSe-9AqRd8-6L5uah-5nh7oi-5ioJUj-9AqR52-5ZcsaN-81Et1V-dmFhfw-EFFvP-dvKqa3-99ZHce-dvDQ3B-dmFbsK-dvDzHi-dvK9x5-dvDyEV-dJc6Ne-f8FT8v-5xgx1A-7qb257-niUaPG-bhxm18-5KhiH9-4wcMiq-dPcqJ1-4pmRux-fuayjr-6XcgY-k6TeEL-mHfy6U-6AK97H-4bEQzy-cCqxrL-PbqZy-9a2ccw-cCacbA-bxRwye-5wr2JY-6vJtE4-ec8Pp9-99Y2QP-xgv7-5SfZrZ-8QRfLH-578g6c-7bKo9j-7de1cU-79YWNSJust for the record, I make no promises whatsoever to make this a  consecutive 365 days of things I love. I just mean to get 365 days down in some way. This time, it happens to be two days in a row.

Today’s love is stationary. I was a world champion pen pal as a teen, and wrote hundred and hundreds of letters on beautiful paper. All kinds of paper, usually with matching envelopes, sometimes scented. I carried on a long correspondence with a woman named Paula, who lived on Long Island, and with a cousin who had to go to prison, and later, when I was in college, long letters between the man who would be the father of my children. He had/has great penmanship–quirky and elegant and calligraphic–and it won me over. I loved coming home from a long day of classes and opening the door of my Victorian apartment building to find a card that had been slipped through the gold mail slot on the floor. My name in that beautiful hand.  Often a card with a romantic theme.

I wrote back on paper I chose with great consideration at the local Hallmark store–paper with pianos at the top, or in many soft colors, on which I wrote with various colors of ink.  I once found a card with a drawing of an exuberant lion swinging from a tree swing, his mane flowing back from his smiling face, and it was so exactly how I thought of him that I bought it immediately.

We don’t correspond by letter any more, and I miss it.  I have boxes of letters from and to my grandmother, letters filled with the news of the time, women’s news, news of polio closing movie theaters and children fighting and subtle references to marriages that are challenged.  I once had a huge bag full of letters my best friend and I wrote back and forth every night for three years during junior high.  We folded them in a particular way and exchanged them upon meeting in the morning. They’re lost now, I am sorry to report.

I still love stationary and often want to buy it, but I don’t know who I would write to.

Did you ever have a pen pal?


What I Love 1/365: Cosmos

php4bzcaZAMBlogging has been coming up again for me.  I tried to get going again at the start of this year, but this theme and I are having fights all the time and I don’t like it very much.  I’ve asked my wizardress to find a new one, but in the meantime, let’s get this moving.  I miss blogging.  I like blogging. It’s the one place I feel I can just be myself with all of you, talk about writing or gardening or movies or hiking or whatever and it’s fine for that day.

Someone suggested a theme of what I know for sure as a possibility, but I think I’m going for the Full Love version.  On this lazy, cool Sunday morning, when I have no desire to do much of anything, what I love is cosmos. They’re a humble flower, simple and exuberant, and they grow very well in the high, harsh, short season conditions of Colorado.  In the evenings, this stand dances in the breezes, and every morning, they reach for the sunshine like happy children.  I devote a full square of my garden to them, for pure love.

What is a flower you love? 

Notes from the Airport Food Court

It’s a gloomy morning in Texas, the air thick and cool, heavy with the thunderstorms that will line my trip home today. A handful of Italian men with good shoes and sport coats, one even with a ponytail and a ragged bit of black whiskers on his cheeks, hang by the coffee stand, chattering among themselves which is how I know they are Italian. It makes me think of Amara, who is three and speaks robot mostly, but also languages of her own creation, and we spoke them back and forth all weekend, making up rivers of sound that sometimes sounded French or Korean or Vulcan-ish according to the moment. She adorned her body with stickers from head to toe, then laughingly screamed as I pulled each one off. She rolled all over me, kissed me a hundred times. We planted two flower boxes with coreopsis and petunias, flowers that won’t mind if she picks from them every day.

I’ve been on the road a lot this month, and wrote a bazillion words, and before that, I was sort of in that lost land of recovery, so I’m really looking forward to the upcoming days when I can plant my own garden, and putter, and read a lot to refill the well.

Amara and her wonderful parents will come to visit in July–there’s a wedding, and a notable birthday–and in the meantime, I have a book to work on at a different sort of pace. Peaches and the mountains and a certain golden light. I’ll be sending Jess and Mercedes, Tyler and Kaleb, off to you soon.

Now I’ll amble down to the gate, resisting the siren smell of Sbarro pizza. What are you up to this ordinary Monday?

Saying Farewell to Characters

I am in the very last week of writing the very last book of the Going the Distance series.  I’ve been immersed in

intense_240 the lives and dramas of these characters for nearly two years, since that fateful morning in Breckenridge when Jess woke me up at 4:30 am to tell me she had a story for me.

Wow, did she ever.

Writers always get attached to their characters, but this is especially bittersweet. I don’t usually spend two years and more than 300,000 words on one group of stories.  Yesterday morning, I was feeling so emotional and weepy that I realized I needed to write Jess a thank you letter. I thanked her for showing up, for connecting me with a new world, for showing me how much I would love writing this particular kind of story, which has been more fun than anything I’ve done in a long time.

It is like sending the whole gang off to college, leaving me with an entirely empty house. So, yeah, I’m feeling a little mournful.

I have about two scenes left to write, then a whole lot of polishing.  There will be a big Facebook party either on May 28, or the Saturday after that so more people can come. If you want a reminder that Intense is out, sign up for the newsletter here.  (You can also read a sneak peek and pre-order at iBooks. It will be out everywhere else May 28, no worries.)

Of course there are other projects in the works. A Feast of Peaches is the new Barbara O’Neal, and it’s in motion, but I don’t yet have a release date. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m also going to start a second New Adult series in the fall, with appearances and eventually books for a couple of the characters from Going the Distance. Stay tuned for that, as well.

The blogging once a week thing hasn’t been going as well as expected, but I’m trying. I suspect, too, you’d rather have more books, right?

Have you ever missed a character from a book–either one you read or one you wrote? 

Curing the Crankies

I am a grouch this morning. There’s no other word for it. I didn’t sleep well because my knee was hurting and I have this restless leg thing happening after the surgery that’s quite annoying, and I don’t FEEL like doing my work, but there’s a lot piling up and it needs to be tackled.

Also, there are about 27 jillion errands that must be run. My mail has gone missing in this weird little Twilight IMG_7361Zone transfer of addresses and I can’t seem to get it straightened out, so my poor daughter in law has to keep forwarding it to me. Then it gets sent back to her. Rinse and repeat. There’s a box with books for my eldest son that’s been sitting here since Christmas. I spent the weekend running around doing fun things, but then I got super tired and haven’t recovered. Yesterday I forced myself to go swim because I need to get my aerobic capacity back after six months of doing almost nothing to take care of that. (Also, my core strength is not what I’d like and that needs work, too.)

I’m still healing from getting my legs chopped in half then put back together again, and it’s a long road. It’s a good road, but like any long journey, there are times you stop, weary of the same landscape, wish for rescue by helicopter. There’s no helicopter here. Just me and my precious body, on the road toward feeling better.

This morning, I should be writing, but I can tell you right now that’s probably not going to happen. I’m tired and resentful of life roaring back at me so hard, and I’m not quite ready to leap in with such intensity. Because I am a writer and I set my own hours, I do have a certain amount of freedom to step back.

Instead of coming into my office to write, as I planned, I moved things around. The new bottle of gesso I bought last Friday found its way into my hand and I found a brush in the other and I glossed some paper with it, just to play. Some little something started to breathe in the midst of all that irritability. As the paper dries, I pull out a photo of a tomato that I want to paint, and look for the right paper, the right size and weight, and I’m starting to draw. Later, I’ll add a little bit to the small journal of watercolor pages that seems to be a long, long love letter to my darling girl. I miss her terribly, and this is helping. Last week, we had a long, rambling, cheerful chat via Facetime, the first time she’s been really engaged, and she didn’t want me to “leave her house,” and showed me thing and blew raspberries and laughed when I kissed her. At one point, she said, “Nana’s stuck inside the iPad,” which has been haunting me slightly ever since.

All of this inner drama is why I haven’t been writing blogs as I promised. This morning I realized that is dishonest. I’m not always cheerful—far from it, actually. My life doesn’t always flow smoothly, and things show up in clusters—the urgent need to replace my knees, my parents’ ill health the past year, my beloved granddaughter and her wonderful parents moving 800 miles away—and I struggle to keep an upbeat attitude.

I have no wisdom today except that I’m going to take some pleasure in this little cabinet I bought to keep art supplies more orderly:

I’m 1454626_819401144817143_7649465128040458001_ngoing to paint and write something on those gessoed pages. I’m going to listen to music and see if it will speak to me about this book, and I will take a long nap. I am tired. I am healing. I am human. That is what I need today.

What do you do to cure the grouchies? 


Go Ahead, Be Terrible

One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it. I’m there now, at the beginning, no longer thinking about the book or making notes or even writing long backstory and character pieces—which is actually one of the most fun parts of writing. If it was only that part, I would be the happiest writer in the world.

Instead, I’m actually starting to write the thing, in scenes, with characters talking and moving and all that.

This is the point of ruination. I’ve talked about this before—every book is perfect before I must try to bring it into the world. They live in some other place, in the Land of Books Waiting to Be Written, and some are mine to write and some are yours and some are still waiting for their person to get busy and bring it over into the Land of Books That Can Be Read.

As I try to bring my book over the wall into this world, I ruin it, almost from the first word.

Writers Don’t Get Lonely

As part of rehab for my brand-new bionic knee, a physical therapist comes to my house five days a week and puts me through my paces. As I’m standing on my toes and cycling on a portable little bike, we chat. He’s a guy of a certain age, with an intriguing history as a Shakespearean actor and a director in New York, and we’ve found lots of things to talk about. We were talking about various kinds of work, and introverts and extroverts and I mentioned that I was spending a lot of time alone with the rehab, but that’s pretty much the shape of my life.

He said, “But writers don’t get lonely, do they?”

It gave me pause, because I had actually been feeling…oh, not lonely exactly. More at loose ends, like a bead banging around inside an empty can. I don’t get lonely, for the most part. I love being alone, puttering in the garden or taking photos or writing. My head is filled with people, lots and lots of them, and they amuse and entertain me quite nicely. I also just like to think—about the vast reaches of space, about how tea is harvested, about the young woman on the radio who said both men and women should be hairless, all over. (Really?) I also love the company of other people, and find people interesting, which might be why they tell me their stories.

Just now, however, I’m not engaged in much of anything, and I guess the word lonely might have been floating around. CR works all day. My concentration is a bit splintered. I’ve been doing a lot of watercolor exercises, which is distracting and enjoyable, but there are only so many a person can do in a day.

It turns out that a writer who isn’t writing actually does get lonely. When I realized that, I sat down and opened the Scrivener file for my MIP. The two main characters have been poking me, and followed me all over England (I wrote pages and pages of plotlines on trains) but I thought I should be more focused before I started actually writing scenes. I’m floating in a world of narcotics and know from experience that there’s a reason they keep you high for awhile. (Another PT said, “Do you know what they do? Basically amputate both bones in your legs and then get you on your feet the same day.”)

But it’s not like I won’t go over them twenty seven thousand times between now and the time anyone sees it. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing here.

I opened a file and started writing. Funny—I wasn’t lonely anymore. More, there’s something freeing in doing it through all of this wild year. I’m a writer, and what I do is write. I write to understand things, to celebrate things, to decipher things. I write stories and essays and blogs and articles and letters and posts of all kinds. I write because that’s what writers DO—sick or well, sober or high as a kite, furious or peaceful or silly. Writers write.

Have you ever discovered a loneliness that can be eased by working on something?

A Writer Not Afoot

I’m in recovery from a knee surgery last week, so not really coherent enough to write a long post. I’m in that strange convalescent phase that means I drift along like a bottle on the sea, admiring that swath of sunset or the way the light catches on my cat’s whiskers but nothing much more. In the back of my mind, I’m working on my next Barbara O’Neal book, which is taking on a life of its own and going places I didn’t expect, but that’s fairly normal for my process.

I have discovered Scandal, which everyone told me to watch and told me to watch and told me to watch, and once I got past the first episode, it was great. What else would you recommend?

Oh, my monthly column will be up at Writer Unboxed tomorrow, called originally enough Not Writing, about my favorite subject, filling the well. Come on by.

Have you ever had a few weeks of forced inactivity? How did you fill the time?