Stupid Human Trick of the Week

Oh how cute

Oh this is sweet, you think. Ms. Squirrel arriving for her almond bright and early on a Monday morning. You’ve got your coffee, and you’re ready to begin your work week with WIP development work. For once, the sun’s out, casting a burnished glow through turning leaves.

Ms. Squirrel takes her nut as usual, departs to store the nut for winter, reappears for another, departs, reappears, eats the third nut, and then sidles to the open screen door. What’s this, you think. You’re becoming quite friendly and tame indeed, Ms. Squirrel.

She’s just inside the house, standing up on her back legs, sniffing you. For a moment, sweet images of pet squirrels flit through your head.

The squirrel is insistent, and you’re thinking, how cute. And then you hear a crinkle of leaves, a scrabble, and a soft chitter. A head pops into view from the roof, checking you out. Then a second squirrel drops onto the balcony rail, and you realize that you have been feeding not one squirrel, but two.

Squirrelapalooza on my balcony

Double the fun, you think. What’s a few extra almonds?

But then, a strange thing happens: mother nature in action. How bizarre, you think. On MY balcony? You’re in denial as you watch the insistent squirrel chase away the newcomer. You realize that the newcomer is Ms. Squirrel, for real, and that the other one sports a big ol’ nut sack. You’re still holding out your hand, almond in place, when the nasty little effer bypasses the nut in favor of your finger.

He’s grabbed on good and tight, and at first you don’t know what’s happening. Then, the telltale jab of pain. Mother-effing-little-effer! You shake him loose, thinking, What is it about testosterone anyhow? Thinking, Dude, there’s plenty of almonds; you don’t need to go all Hannibal on my ass, and with a little bit of Cujo thrown in for good measure.

Bad squirrel

Finger throbbing, blood welling from the wound, you run to the sink. You’ve got the tap turned on high, and the water hits the blood, splattering it all over the sink and even onto your bathrobe. In your shock, you squeeze your index finger over and over in what you think is a snake-bite strategy — to squeeze out the squirrely toxins before they shoot through your bloodstream, latch onto your healthy blood cells, multiply, and turn into a nasty, infectious, frothy outbreak of something.

You can’t help but think of a few Stephen-King-esque story ideas. For example: What if Mr. Nut Sack liked the taste of human blood?

Mr. Nut Sack — that would be squirrel non grata to you, buddy.

Hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin, and a Band-Aid later, I’m fine. I’m wondering what the week has in store for me though. As I write this the female — doublecheck, yes, no nut sack — just ventured back and picked up the almond the male so rudely shunned.

Isn’t that typical — the female tidying up after the male!

This Is my Big Toe

Well, hi there after so long. I feel like I’m venturing into a cozy room after wandering an outer darkness for awhile. My room is a parlor with striped wallpaper and fringed lamps, and it contains a roaring fire and dozens shabby, genteel wingback chairs. In those wingback chairs lounge virtual blog friends of times past. You, my blog friends, are ghostly as yet — but welcoming — and my chair sits in the middle of everyone, already warmed by the fire.

This is my big toe venturing back into blog-world. It needs a little warming up, so I shall stretch it toward the hearth by way of 2010 photos.

Hey, how are you? Drop a line, let me know.

January: Hanalei Bay, Hawaii! Vitamin D! Lots of mai tais!
February: Early spring
March: Oregon coast for one of my impromptu writers retreats
One-eyed doggy a-okay
Happy Easter

What I Did on My Lunch Hour

Can out Luna begging for a little sandwich
Check out Luna begging for a little sandwich

Today — at noon, no less — I made the break. I wrenched myself away from my deadlines, put on semi-decent clothes plus a groovy necklace (which is really dressing up) and sped away from my home-office. With windows rolled down, I let the spring breeze mess up my already disheveled curls, which reminded me that I’m about two months overdue for a haircut.

But, no matter, because at least my hair was clean for a change, and the sun was out. Luna the Dog stared up at me, expecting and about to receive a desultory walk in the park, in which I chatted with other dogwalkers while she tried to avoid all dog-contact. She’s like that.

Then, off to a cafe with its outdoor seating back in place after a long winter. Happy day! Brie panini (a splurge, admittedly), latte, and laptop. I munched the sandwich as I munged words, achieving my hour’s worth of fiction for the day. Still not the best, still itchy that I can’t spend all day…But a step in the right direction, right?

Truth is, I could have worked another little while on the novel, but I decided to finish up my lunch hour with a little spring-cleaning. My home is a wreck, but now my balcony is habitable.

Alas, I must return to the training manual I’m editing, which means that the dog and the cat get to enjoy the balcony. Ah well, that was a mighty fine three-hour lunch hour!

Luna amidst the new geraniums and daisies
Luna amidst the new geraniums and daisies
Trio on the new "anti-gravity" deck chair
Trio on the new "anti-gravity" deck chair

Foul-Weather Mood

slushyWhat a change from yesterday’s green-day bouyancy. The weather mimics my current mood: slushy and gray.

I only had one day-job task today, and it should have taken 30 minutes. Instead, one hiccup led to another, and then it was noon. By then, the weather had turned most foul, and I found myself pacing my apartment in restlessly annoyed agitation. I’ll admit it: Today the day-job interfered with my fiction.

Now I want to throw in the damp, smelly towel (the one I used to dry off the dog after our walk) on the day. This is the struggle with fiction: getting it done despite our foul-weather moods. Am I right, or am I right?

I had a goal: work through a significant portion of my revision notes. I was going to go to th—okay, wait, the electricity just flickered off, the monitor went black but came back, thankfully. I’d best hurry because there might be more of that. But this is my mood! I’m flickering off for the day. I want to head back to bed.

As I was saying, I had a revision plan that included a coffee house, but now I’m not into people. I need a compromise that gives in a little to my slushy mood but not all the way in. Sometimes, the only way I progress is by negotiating with myself. Do you do this?

petsI’ve experienced many a fiction-curtailed funk. Who hasn’t? I’m trying to remember what I’ve done in the past to settle myself down into that special state of mind that my stories like from me, that brain-space that’s fluid and steady and calm, exactly where I’m not at the moment.

In the past, I’ve told myself to write one page. Just one, then I can quit. Often, of course, this leads to more. Today, I hereby coax myself to remedy five bullets-worth of revision notes, the easiest ones. Five easy fixes, that’s all.

And, to further lull me into getting the work done, I shall do this in my unmade bed. What’s the point of a laptop if not getting cozy with it in an emergency situation? The cat and dog are snuggled in and snoozing away at this very moment. So, I’ll join them with laptop and revision notes in hand.

Lottery Distraction (and Dogs Too)

When it comes to your fiction, have you ever wondered what you’d do if you won a $150 million lottery?

Here's a Japanese Chin...
Here's a Japanese Chin...

Today I stopped at the grocery store to buy yogurt. A teenager (pink rubberbands on her braces and, like, green eyes) with a dog carrier caught my eye. We got to talking about her pup, a Japanese Chin.

I was about to ask the pink-banded one if her dog also dances up on its hind legs, when a growing line of people visible over the girl’s shoulder distracted me further. Apparently, Powerball is up to $150+ million and people are buying tickets big-time. 

And here's Luna. What do you think?
And here's Luna. What do you think?

It took me an inordinately long time to decide on the yogurt. In the midst of all-important considerations — strawberry-flavored or vanilla? lowfat okay since there are no nonfats? what, now there’s yogurt with added fiber? — I couldn’t help wondering what I’d do if I won the lottery.

Just how much of a novelist do I think I am anyhow?

Would I live a well-invested life of bling and leisure, happily dabbling at writing, no pressure to publish, no need to see my words in print?

Or, would I self-publish because I’d have the money to hire excellent editors, copyeditors, designers, marketers and publicists?

Or, would I take 20 years to write one masterpiece, get it out there, and call it a day?

I like to think that I wouldn’t change when it comes to my fiction, but I don’t know that for sure.  Writing might be a totally different experience when you don’t have to worry about growing a career.

It’s that nasty word “career” that adds a level of urgency to the equation and has me wondering what my writing would turn into if I didn’t have to earn a living.

(P.S. Didn’t buy a Powerball ticket.)

A Merry Snowed-In Christmas

hollyberriesToday, I woke up in a better mood than I have in weeks. It’s a bouyancy out of nowhere, and I’m once again amazed by human resilience. There’s no reason for my mood, none whatsoever. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m snowed-in. We in my family won’t celebrate the holiday until this weekend — hopefully. I’ve been cooped up for 10 days, hiking to the grocery store, stewing in my juices.

You’d think given all this time, I’d have accomplished much writing. Hah!

Old-time Portlanders are talking about this snowfall as the worst winter in 40 years. All I know is that struggling through the snow, I meet up with fellow hikers who smile wide and offer benedictions like, Beautiful, isn’t it? even as they nearly fall on their bums. Smiles all around, shrugs, slips and slides — it’s a strange but welcome comraderie.

Today it must be 34 or 35 degrees — a step in the right direction — and when I opened the balcony window the lovely hush I’d gotten used to had disappeared, replaced by snap-crackle-popping, a most enlivening sound. Truth is, I’d never before heard the sound of a slow thaw. Ice and snow falling off the evergreens and telephone lines, snow pockmarked and slushy: unique to me.

It’s thawing out there; my heart is thawing out a little too. Time to ready myself for a bright, shiny New Year!

Though, more snow is supposed to be coming for us — one more bout before it lets us go. But I don’t care. Even if I’m snowed-in, it’s still Christmas, and Christmas was always one of the happiest times in my family. We did it BIG. Or rather, my father did it big and brought us along with him. The eight-foot tree with thousands of lights; the beautifully made nativity scene, hand-sculpted and -painted, the kind you don’t see anymore. Chipped as it was, I used to love playing with it as if it were a doll set. The multitudes of presents under the tree — too many really — maybe it was almost disgusting, but as I kid, what did I care?

I may be holed up, but it’s still Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. A few pet pictures, typical of the last 10 days.

Luna, the dog reminiscent of a cat, snuggling into the warmest spot next to my drying boots (in front of the space heater).


Trio, the cat reminiscent of a dog, playing in the snow.


Monday Thoughts

Today, a hodge-podge because I’m distracted by various thoughts, some pertaining to writing and some not. I share my distractions with you, lucky readers.

lunashiner11. Latest with the dog.

Check it out. She gave herself a shiner last Thursday. Running about the apartment in her most fetching and playful manner and — BAM — with a yelp, she clocked her empty eye socket against a chair leg. The swelling hasn’t gone down yet, so I’m worried. I’ve never had a shiner. How long does it take for swelling to retreat?

2. Dennis Lehane, novelist. Good news for us non-outliners.

Caught an online interview with Lehane, and I like what he had to say about his process. To start writing, he has to have a strong macro-sense of the story, which consists, he said, of only a couple of must-include plot points. Other than that, he feels his way through his stories. And his stories are complex, wouldn’t you say? This is kind of amazing. He said he may write a little list, jot a few notes, about what he’d like to happen, and even then, apparently, his end product probably won’t match the list. I like this. I like this alot. And you?

3. Goal-setting (maybe this should have been number one).

I need deadlines, yep. I got to thinking about this because over the weekend a guy I’m crushing on mentioned the term “self-starters” in conjunction with us writers. It’s so true! I’d never thought about it this way, and I stood up a little taller when he said this. I’m a self-starter(!). And, let’s be honest, those of us currently without publishing contracts need to be, don’t we?

The truth is, I used to be a better self-starter. I didn’t need to light a flame under my tookis with self-imposed deadlines. These days, I work better when I make contracts with myself. Sometimes the constant self-vigilance is exhausting, but what else to do? I’m still a self-starter!

4. PUBWEST Conference: On pretending I’m someone I’m not and fantasizing about the future.

presenterOver the weekend I attended the Publishers Association of the West’s annual conference. My goal was to get the inside scoop on Internet marketing and publicity. I managed to absorb some knowledge and meet a couple of interesting potential contacts.

Mainly, though, I found myself relishing my “Presenter” status. This was a great joke. Someone in the back office had attached a “Presenter” ribbon to my name tag. I caught people flicking glances at my chest (not lasciviously) and then smiling at me. Not that this doesn’t occur in general, but I’m telling you, it was a different kind of vibe coming my way. Like I was Someone. Most strange, really, but fun. I like to think it was a dress rehearsal for the real thing!

The name tag makes a great cat toy.

The Manuscript Says “Hi”

cannonbeach5The manuscript, nicknamed “Red,” is loving the coast and this lodge. The view is wonderful. That’s Haystack Rock.

But, frankly, Red doesn’t want to be worked on yet. It’s tired and sore after the marathon revision its mistress of verbal torture put it through. It would rather cozy into a robe…


cannonbeach3and uncork the Australian Cabernet, or maybe read awhile before napping.






cannonbeach4Red thinks the welcome doggy basket is too cute and wishes it had gotten one. However, there are 24/7 cookies down in the lobby, hopefully chocolate chip, so it can’t complain.





Oh yeah, Luna says “hi” too. This place is so cool the dog-poop bags are scented!

How’s This For Funny?

Here is an up-to-the-minute moment in my writer’s life:

This time of year the sun beams into my office around midafternoon. I love it. Unfortunately, today Luna the Loony Dog discovered the warmth also.

On my lap, of course.

Lovely for her. And cutesy for me for about two minutes. On the ground again (in the shade), she wouldn’t leave me alone. In the name of the writing god called revision, I decided to let her have her sun.

On my desk, of course.

I’m whipped. I am SO whipped.

(Thanks goodness she’s smaller than my cat. And thank goodness the cat’s outdoors. He also likes to sunbathe on my desk…)

Silly Spaniel or Sporty Spaniel?

Before dog ownership, I knew, just knew, I was a person who:

1. would never own a lap dog, and

2. would never, EVER own a shivery lap dog.

Goes to show. Pulled out Luna’s spiffy new coat this morning because the chill is officially on around here. Silly Spaniel or Sporty Spaniel? I can’t decide.

(Later – it’s official: She’s not Sporty Spaniel. The sight of the coat excited her when I pulled it out for her evening walk. However, once dressed, she jumped onto the couch for more sleep. I hereby change my choices to Silly Spaniel or Stylista Spaniel — or Slacker Spaniel.)


The chilly weather compelled a new pet behavior. First time the cat and dog have snoozed in proximity to each other. Cat’s still the alpha, of course, but at least they’re not engaging in space-heater turf wars. (Gotta buy something other than a bath mat for them to lie on though.)

Okay, back to work now…or would that be a cozy bubble bath instead? And, if bubble bath, can I say I worked if I read one of my research books while soaking?