Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Taking a Brief Break

I am most of the way through writing a new novel, a dark romance with paranormal overtones, but am taking a break for a few weeks. I'm currently having an RA flare that has sapped me of my usual energy level. I'm bogged down by mental and physical fatigue. So, I am quietly playing around with art, another longtime passion of mine. I fell in love with pen and ink drawing in high school when I drew a royal flush of playing cards for art class that knocked the socks off my teacher. I was  chronic notebook doodler throughout my school and college years, drawing more images than I took notes, but drawing and writing always kept my mind focused and busy.

I am currently working on a series of thirteen cemetery draped urn images. Why cemetery urns? I'm a taphophile. So is Kelly. We enjoy visiting and walking through cemeteries to admire the gravestone images and statuary. She discovered Rural Cemetery in Worcester when she was at WPI, an 1800's arboretum cemetery with an interesting assortment of  trees including a huge beech tree that has literally consumed some nearby markers so that they jut out of the base of its trunk and roots- totally creepy! We hiked around that cemetery and shot a lot of pictures. We've been to the Old Burying Ground here in town where Kelly photographed nearly all of the gravestones and table monuments. In Center Cemetery n Southampton a ghost played a trick on me, messing with my Nikon Cool Pix camera and then taking a picture of me as I walked along the lane at the rear of the cemetery after viewing Revolutionary War era markers. The cover image of The Girl With the Ivy Tattoo is of a statue monument in Pine Hill Cemetery here in Westfield. She stands at the rear of the upper level of the cemetery where she can be viewed by anyone who visits. My family has always been the cemetery caretakers of family gravestones in Colrain and Hatfield. I spent my childhood and adolescence wandering around cemeteries while my parents trimmed and watered shrubs, filled urns with colorful flowers or arranged cemetery boxes full of flowers on graves. We've cleaned lichen off stones with brass wire brushes so they're legible again. Ironically, I cannot visit my parents' grave at Pine Hill Cemetery, even though I drive by it four days a week and it's visible from Western Avenue, and I know the evergreens on either side of the stone need trimming. I just have a problem with that, I guess, that I should resolve, but I'm not ready yet even though Mom has been gone eighteen years and Dad seven years.

I also collect cemetery books- Graven Images, Stories in Stone, Stories from the St Louis Cemeteries of New Orleans, etc. One of my favorite fiction book series is the Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens about a cemetery restorer who can see spirits. The series is set in Charleston- very eerie, dark, atmospheric and riveting. Any novel that has a haunted, dark, handsome man in it (John Devlin in this series) captures my attention. Another favorite series of mine is Darynda Jones's Charlie Davidson novels, First Grave, Second Grave....all the way to Twelfth Grave with Thirteenth Grave anticipated and expected to be added to the bookshelf. They have absolutely nothing to do with cemeteries, but Charlie (who has unique traits and the coolest BFF ever, Cookie) fell in love with the son of Satan who is smokin' hot and can cook, so that's right up my alley also.

Which is probably why I wrote the Talon series about a handsome, hot, yet socially remote &difficult MD (pathologist, internal medicine, ER & Trauma) who is also a Medical Examiner, and just happens to be a grim reaper and his chosen portal who has no clue who or what she is, she just knows she's not like other people (her family labeled her Freak when she was young and it's stuck). The series of three novels (plus a related fourth novel about their daughter who is a senior in college who has a love-hate relationship with her own difficult, darkly handsome man, who happens to be the sixth son of Satan) traces Bryce's journey from awkward outsider who desperately wants to be have a close relationship, but the only man she is truly attracted to has a knack for hurting her feelings or making her angry, which causes confusing and frightening things to happen. The first book introduces the characters and initiates Bryce's relationship with Dr. Talon. The second book tells of their struggles to become the partners they desire to be in this world while dealing with issues about their partnership in the other realms where they battle demons because Bryce is not what Talon expected her to be. Their son is born at the end of book two and Talon has gotten her to resolve the fractures in most of her relationships with her family members. In book three their wedding is approaching and high emotions cause problems for them in the other realms. Bryce is taken from Talon and the Heavens are rocked and then threatened. Bryce has to find a way to save the reaper she loves as well as friends and family members. Throughout the series the ties that bind us are examined as Bryce struggles to come to grips with her place in this world and her role alongside Talon in the Heavenly realm and all the realms beyond the veil where they battle to protect the gateways to Heaven, Bryce being one of those gateways.

The novel I'm currently working on is set at a family owned and operated funeral home (the business dating back to the early 1800's). The present day Garnet Grimshaw has been exploring the family attics and has discovered a relative named Garnett Grimshaw in the 1870's who fell in love with the daughter of a wealthy importer and emporium owner, Quella Prys. The Prys mausoleum in Story Street Cemetery is a favorite place for the present day Quella Pryce to sit when she's wandering about the Story Street Cemetery taking photographs (she's a taphophile whose grandmother owns an antiques shop called Memento Mori that sells antique and vintage mourning related items, clothing, and accessories.) Both Garnet and the present day Quella have had difficult family issues to deal with. They begin a relationship during the town anniversary celebration, held at Story Street Cemetery after a parade in which the Grimshaws march behind their restored late 1800's funeral hearse coach. Quella, dressed in Victorian era mourning like her grandmother in front of the shop, is invited to walk with Mrs. Grimshaw. The Grimshaws conducted the funeral for Quella's father a decade prior. Garnet is haunted by his namesake ancestor and draws Quella into his efforts to unravel the mystery of where the body of Quella Prys is buried. That Quella and Garnett Grimshaw had becme lovers in eighteen seventy-three. Garnett died of a sudden illness in late October of that year, Quella died in childbirth in early May of the following year, after being disowned and thrown out of the house by her irate and scandalized father and going to lie with Garnett's family at their undertaking business. The gravestone for Garnett and his infant son is in the family plot, but Quella is not in the family mausoleum, nor can a burial record be found for her. Garnet and the present day Quella are intrigued by the past and determined to reunite Quella with the ghostly, enigmatic Garnett who haunts the present day Garnet. I'm abouttwo thirds of the way finished writing this novel.

But, I'm tired and dealing with chronic pain and fatigue at the moment. Hopefully this will pass in another week or so and my energy will return. In the meantime, I'm quietly sitting at the kitchen table inking sketches of draped cemetery urns for the series of Thirteen Urns and reading Edward Gorey books when my hand cramps up.

Last night, I drew two crows...Hopper and Archer, frequent visitors to our backyard. That was a diversion and fun, but it's back to urns today. #7 is half done.

Friday, July 13, 2018

So Kelly Bought a House...

Kelly bought a house on Tuesday, the tenth of July. After the closing, she and I ran home to grab some lunch and cool off for an hour- it was 95 degrees! Then we ran to Walmart and Home Depot to get cleaning items, a case of bottled water, several box fans, random tools and things like paper towels, toilet paper, shelf liner, etc. At Walmart Kelly spied a notebook in the back to school section with a camel on the front, so I grabbed that because I have always liked camels. The notebook went into the bag with other items for her house. We spent about an hour and a half at the house, sweated buckets even with two box fans and a high velocity floor fan going at high speed. Hot and tired, we headed home. About an hour later it occurred to me that my camel notebook was missing. Where was it? At Kelly's house! That was a novel thing for me, to have forgotten something of mine at her house!

On Wednesday even she and I went to her house to mop floors. We opened all the windows, cranked up the fans and she mopped the downstairs kitchen and lavatory floors, then the brick hearth in the living room, the red=painted cement floor in the "den" (former 3-season room now a 4-season room). It was still hot, s we called it a night. Her job was to close all the second floor windows. I closed the first flor windows. We put things away, jumped in the car and headed home. About three and a half miles toward home she asked, "Did you close the kitchen windows?" Uh, no. So, we turned around and went back to close the kitchen windows (hidden behind curtains, so out of sight to Mom's eyes, I totally missed them because I forgot they even opened.) So, that was failure to adapt number tw, forgetting to fully secure the house before leaving.

Last night she went over with the Connecticut Trolley Museum president and friend. He gifted her a cordless drill (can we say happy girl!!!). Mm stayed home recovering from two days of heat and cleaning.

Tonight, we loaded Revere into the carrier and took him along with us to the house to begin acclimatizing him to the house. We took tissue paper (he has a fetish for that), and some of his "babies" from the toy box. He wasn't impressed with the house- it was strange, there was no furniture, and the replacement windows are not comfortable for lying in. Kelly and I removed shelf liner (which looked new, but she wanted her own choice in her kitchen cabinets.) She put new shelf liner in the downstairs lav medicine cabinet so it's ready for a bottle of Aleve and Tylenol, etc. This evening, she found three pieces of mail addressed to her in her mailbox on the front porch. Tonight, I forgot nothing, all the windows were closed when we left, and we brought Revere home where Riley Beans met him at the door. Day 3 and we're adapting better.

She can't move in until the asbestos insulation in the attic is removed when the weather is cooler, so we're tackling all the other projects on the list, like cleaning, painting, looking into central air installation, hardwood floor refinishing, and all the other things that will make this house uniquely her own home. I'm so happy she found what she was looking for and that she's happy. It's a nice house. No icy steep road down a mountain to have to deal with trying to get to work and back home at the end of the day. She knows people who live in the area when she'll be living- some are people she knows, some are people who know her because they're my co-workers and friends. she has a network of people, including her aunt and two uncles nearby. She made a good choice...and now Mom just needs to wrap her head around Kelly being old enough and grown up enough to leave the nest! Big transition for me, so I'm glad it will take place over a couple of months and not she'll be gone tomorrow!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Making Progress and Other Things

I have been struggling with this new novel. This is like the fifteenth time I have attempted to write it. I'm making progress, up to 63,000+ words tonight, but the struggle is not veering off the plotline, which has always been a problem for me. I am catching myself drifting into unchartered waters and pulling myself back. I've never had s much trouble writing a book before.

I think part of the problem is that there are many more distractions in my life these days. Meetings, clubs, changes going on at home, with the biggest change being Kelly buying her own home. She closes on her house tomorrow after a frustrating year and a half of house hunting trying to find her ideal home in a market where houses are snapped up nearly as soon as they're listed. My passive daughter had to be coached to act aggressively, to book a showing, to make an offer even if she wasn't 100% sure that the house was right for her, because she could always back out. She had offers turned down, houses were pulled off the market, others were under contract before she could even call her realtor to ask for a showing. Finally, all the pieces fell into place and she will be a home owner tomorrow. There are some projects to tackle before she can move in, but she's shooting for a fall move and tackling the smaller projects one by one as time allows. I'm thrilled for her, remembering when I moved out of the nest. My first move was into an apartment in a two-family house where I lived alone for almost two years. It's where John and I lived for nearly five years after we were married. We bought our house in 1989 and have lived here ever since. Kelly came along in '91. Her life history is here, but now, at twenty-seven, she's ready to start her next chapter in her own home where she'll have room for all her stuff and no one under her elbow. We're still debating whether or not Revere will make the move with her or not. He and Riley Beans are best buds since they were kittens. I'm to the point where I can allow her to take him, but if he seems depressed and lonely with her working and volunteering then he'll have to come back here, and she'll have to adopt two kittens who can entertain themselves when she's not home, and I'll have to kittysit when she takes trips. Lots of stuff to work out still.

Kelly and I have also broken out the dip pens and ink to do some art work. I used to do pen and ink drawings all the time when I was in high school and college. I occasionally drew some pictures into my twenties, and then packed up the pen holders, nibs, and ink bottles after Kelly came along. She and I drew a little when she was around ten years old and I was drawing black squirrels for Conner's Inc. for their Black squirrel line of products. I drew a bunch of different black squirrel pictures for the store. Then I put the pen and ink away again, plagued by rheumatoid arthritis. I am not doing large drawings anymore, but I am having fun doing 2.5x3.5" tiny works of art. It takes about two hours or so to do a small drawing. Kelly has been drawing and hand inking in railroad logos for her house.

I did write 30,000 words this past weekend, which was major progress for me with this novel. Trying to keep it rolling and not having it bog down...but, still, a lot going on that keeps interrupting my train of thought. I'm happy for Kelly and this huge leap forward into adulthood with the purchase of a house and property in the location where she wanted to live and still be close to family.

If I'm even less visible on my blog in the months to come, it's because I'm helping her clean, paint, decorate, buy furniture, and all those things Moms do when their only children leave the nest to live on their own. You lend a hand, you visit until they feel comfortable in their new home, you help them move furniture until it's in the right place (yeah, right!), and all that fun stuff.

I'll be writing here and there as time allows. The third novel in the Romney and Ivy series has already been planned as my November NaNo novel since that has been the most requested book at book events I've been at in the past year. I do listen to my fans!

Feeling excited for my daughter tonight and will be taking her to her house closing tomorrow as her family support. And then we're going shopping for cleaning supplies and, if it's not too hot or humid, tackling a room or two to make her house start to feel like her home.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Heat Wave

It's 99 degrees on the thermometer that's in the shade. The central air is struggling to cool the air inside as the sun beats head on against the front of the house which faces west. We're in a heat wave. There are weird insects invading Kelly's room, large ones we can't identify. This is starting to have the feel of a horror novel.

I do not do well in heat. I do not like insects.

I was writing but now I'm having an anxiety attack. Now, I am freaking out.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


When you've written the same story with various plotlines a dozen or more times, pick one to continue writing, and tangle yourself up in a fishing line of plots from the other eleven or so versions, and have to stop and untie the knots to continue- that is what I call being entangled.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Bad Blogger

   Yea, that's me. I'm the bad blogger.
   So...I managed to write nearly 130,000 words of the new novel since Memorial Day weekend before writing over 4,000 words of an outline for the revamped version of which I am around 12,000 into...and you know what? I am still dissatisfied with how things are going.
    I am going to go out on a limb here and admit to the world in general that I prefer writing stories with fantastical, magical, supernatural, and paranormal elements because I generally just stink at writing real life, except for Life Skills, but that novel took a years worth of attempts before it finally pleased me enough that I could release it.
    So, when I am not writing on my blog like I should be, it's because I am in manic author mode writing at blistering speed and going nowhere with this new novel but to the Failed Attempts Compost Pile. You'd think with a compost pile as ginormous as the one I've created over decades of writing that it would provide rich, fertile ground for new ideas to spring forth from. Ha!
    "Some days I want to throttle my muse," she muttered darkly, cracking the knuckles of her right hand then reversing her hand position to crack the knuckles of her left hand, her sinister hand. Beware, O Muse! Beware the sinister hand!
     Well, that abut sums up today in a nutshell.

Monday, June 11, 2018


One of those uh-oh moments occurred last night when I was writing along thinking I was writing one novel with a certain plot line and a second, darker plotline reared its terrifying head, catching me by surprise. What if...well, I can't say because I have already been yelled at by Kelly after telling her what this new plot line is..."Well, you just spoiled it for me, Mom! Thanks!" So, who am I suppose to bounce ideas off of? The cats?

I can work with what I've already written, tweaking it here and there, adding sinister elements, red herrings, subtle clues....and then we'll see what we've got and go from there.