My Novels

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In the Box

I've just finished reading the two writing books I'd mentioned in a previous post. And I'm about to start writing again. It has finally dawned on me that ALL the transition I've been making since DH died was to put myself in a box, create space/time to write again. Sometimes the subconscious moves us without our being entirely conscious of what we are doing -- similar to a hot, productive creative writing session!

I have two projects that I will work on daily: finishing my memoir and a new novel about the last two years. The memoir MUST be written now, while I'm biking daily into the old neighborhood where I grew up -- so many, many memories come flooding back in vivid detail. My family lived in a rental house there from the time I was six until I had graduated high school. Really, the majority of my childhood and teen years were spent in that neighborhod -- which is about six blocks from where I live now. I had stopped my memoir at just the point we'd moved to that house, and now is the time to continue.

The other new novel is going to be fiction, but closely following all that happened in the past two years -- including DH's death, though all characters will be fictionalized, not real.

If this journal isn't updated regularly, consider it GOOD NEWS, for it simply means I'm writing daily.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Writing Exercise

Writing Prompt: Imagine you are looking at a notice on a bulletin board. It tells about the end of the world. Write anything. 25 minutes.

Fear. Relief. Joy. Sadness. Sorrow. Panic. Happiness. Acceptance.

Fear: Because it is human nature to fear the unknown, to fear the abyss in which the ego self has been demolished. Because it is human to think there is no end. Human to be overly optimistic, to think the world will go on, that the earth and humanity are special, without end. Fear that there will be personal pain, suffering for oneself and all others. Fear that no one will rescue us now, the aliens haven't landed (and if they did, they were hostile), God doesn't exist (why would He let this happen), there is no Heaven, no Hell....unless it is in this moment of clarity, of realization there is NO TOMORROW for humanity.

Relief: Because now each of us has no more burdens, no more suffering, no more hopes, dreams, desires, vanity, evil, grand schemes, romance, love, salvation, worry, pain, mortal hungers and lostness. At last, we as a species have found our resting place, along with the dinosaurs and all extinct species.

Joy: Because humanity has finally ended in oblivion, ended the long adventure in flesh that always results in death of physical beings. No more pain, no more mortal suffering of the flesh, no more false hopes in religion, spiritual dreams, imaginary realms.

Sadness: Because the human animal has now proven that no intelligent species can survive beyond the vanishing point of its own creation. No sentient witnesses to the glory that was Earth, Universe, Cosmos. Ended as it began with coincidence.

Sorrow: Because we humans didn't understand the beauty, the melancholy of our own sweet, sad existence. Some do, but the majority don't. Most are too busy with survival (translated today to mean MONEY), having luxuries beyond ridiculous, striving for something that doesn't exist: security. Only in the exact moment of perishing do we humans realize our doom, and our ignorance and futile striving leads to nothing except death. (True even without the end of the world.)

Panic: Because for one split second we have glimpsed our narrow, useless lives as they truly are on the grand scheme of an indifferent cosmos and know we are meaningless. Nothing more than ants, eliminated in a nanosecond.

Happiness: Because for millions and millions of starving humans and animals, reprieve has come at long last. Deliverance is at hand, they will suffer no more.

Acceptance: A sweet surrender, serenity, detachment and knowing that in the grand scheme of the cosmos,humanity is about to be declared a failure. No need to fight, to argue, debate, nor cry...for it ends soon in the dark night of nothingness.

Unfortunately it didn't work out with Otter. I felt he was regressing instead of progressing. Plus, I just couldn't lift him, even fell once trying, and he simply would not budge sometimes on the leash. At least I know he is where he grew up, in familiar territory: the vet's. Maybe, he is like me, and sometimes there is no way to change such nervous, anxious behavior?

My knees have been killing me lately, due to all the crouching to get underneath the house to put out water for Ottie. At least that is what started it, but now the pain persists. If it continues, I'll have to see a doctor.

We had rain for two days, which has helped with the dry conditions, but not enough.

So it goes...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dog Days of August

What an apt title for today's entry! I'm still struggling along with Otter, even with his hang-ups and neurotic behavior. I thought cats had the corner on neurosis, but Ottie puts them to shame. I haven't given up, but have moments when I think I must have lost my mind to have gotten a dog -- especially one with serious "issues."

Here's how it goes with him and me: He sleeps underneath the cool house all day, then comes out when it's dark. No matter how I try to entice him out in daylight, he just won't come out. Probably that is due to the sweltering heat during the day, and him staying up all night romping in the cool night air, rolling in the damp grass, being brave when it's quiet. I go out there about an hour after dark, call him and he comes running eagerly; he loves being petted, is very affectionate, lets me rub his belly while he's rollling around on the ground. He has now found his full-voice bark, and will occasionally race over to the fence, and bark deep and low, which sounds ominous! I wouldn't want to meet up with him if I were an intruder, though he'd probably just run and hide under the house. However, he seems much braver at night.

I stay out there a couple hours, dressed in long pants and long-sleeve shirt, in order to prevent being bitten by the hoard of buzzing mosquitoes. He plays like a puppy, fetching a ball when I toss it; dragging his toy bones to a hiding place, burying them one night, digging them up the next. And he runs, runs, runs. Maybe I should have him at a race track; I've never seen a dog run so fast. Sometimes he'll just run big circles around a tree in the back yard, as if he can't enough of his own physical power! Perhaps this is due to him being raised in a crate, not having access to outdoors where he could run freely?

Tonight I plan to put his halter on, tighten it better, use the leash to walk beside him around the fence. I'm hoping gradually he can adjust to my pace, and I can control him better. Eventually I will try to change his routine (eating/sleeping) to day instead of night. According to the books I've read about shy dogs, this may take months...and I don't know if I have that kind of patience. The jury is still out, and I don't know if he'll be here indefinitely.

Otherwise, I went to Books-a-Million yesterday, spent a long time browsing. I bought two great books by writers about writing:

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamont
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

I'm reading "Bird by Bird" first, and here's a quote I just couldn't resist:

"One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing eveything as material. Sometimes you'll sit down or go walking and your thoughts will be on one aspect of your work, or one idea you have for a small scene, or a general portrait of one of the characters you are working with, or you'll just be completely blocked and hopeless and wondering why you shouldn't just go into the kitchen and have a nice glass of warm gin straight out of the cat dish. And then, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives. Some will float into your head like goldfish, lovely, bright orange, and weightless, and you follow them like a child looking at an aquarium that was thought to be without fish. Others will step out of the shadows like Boo Radley and make you catch your breath or take a step backward. They're often so rich, these unbidden thoughts, and so clear that they feel indelible. But I say write them all down anyway."

Now then, I find this happens less often in the past few years. I've only written short stories and poetry during this time, but I KNOW that the real-life experiences I have had in the past three years ARE novel material. And while I'm not totally obsessed with it, the basic idea is floating around somewhere in my subconscious. I NEED to get started on it, even if just outlining a general plot and where it might lead. Of course, there will be supernatural aspects, since something inexplicable DID happen to my husband and I during our time in the old farmhouse. I have PROOF. From past owners, right up to my husband's death. Signs, for lack of a better term. I don't even know how to begin, but the storyline will follow closely all our experiences -- and most of those are captured here in this blog. All I have to do is go back and re-read them, if my memory fails me.

The other night I was dozing, almost asleep when this poem demanded I get up and write -- then and there. {All this writerly behavior is seen by some as totally selfish, self-centered; but it is necessary if you become a writer. Friends get upset with your absence; family wonders if you're daffy; and people in general wonder if you are a potential ax-murderer, since you are anti-social and a loner! Such is our cross to bear.}

Speed of Light

Moving in a blur
Faster and faster,
Don't look back
Get caught unaware
Soon, I'll be in a snare
Of loss, heartache & tears.

Dance, laugh, live
In dizzy wildness,
Don't look too close
Or I'll drown down
Into those sad memories.

Move, stay busy, crazy,
Never let yesterday
Catch up and overtake
Me. Spin, tilt, twirl
Like those glittering stars,
Distant, cold, untouched
By human sadness, suffering.
Stars, Time, Life,
Moving at the speed of light
Destined to burn brightly
Then die, done forever, silenced
Like you were one February night.

As painful as the past three years have been, it will be a sad journey to revisit and create/shape a novel out of the wrenching experiences. But maybe that is my way of getting through it, past it?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Brief Update

Hmm, been a few days of "dog adjustments" going on here, too busy to write an update. Otter is still here, though it appears he prefers to be an outside dog. I had a big dog-house sitting near the back of my house (which is always shaded) as well as a securely fenced yard. A couple nights ago I took him out around 10:00 at night, and he had a great time -- ran, ran and ran. I couldn't believe how FAST he could run; he'd circle the yard, come back to me and let me pet him, then off he'd go again. He has figured out he has space to RUN, and I've always thought dogs and horses should have plenty of safe space to RUN!

Anyway, he came back inside willingly that night, but seemed depressed the next day indoors. When we went out the next night, he simply would NOT come back indoors. So I allowed him to stay out there, and due to the heat, gave him access to get underneath the house...which is rather high off the ground and cool during the day. He is adjusting, though still doesn't like loud noises during the day and will hide. It is definitely going to take some TIME to help him, and I don't think he'll ever be a "normal" dog...but he does have so much fun at night. He will lie on his back, let me rub his belly, then lick my hands, almost like a "normal" dog. I love seeing him happy like that, and last night he even barked a couple times: low, deep "woof, woof," when he was patroling the edge of the chainlink fence.

It's LOTS of trouble and effort, like just about ANY living creature is. I'm not giving up on him, but if I ever think he'd be happier at the vet's I'll take him back there. Imagine living his whole life in a crate, with just intermittent periods of exercise/voiding. He is just discovering he can "run with wolves" at night, and I don't want to do anything to discourage him getting his exercise.

During the days though he wants to hide, and lawnmowers, etc. scare him. As long as he has his "safe place" (under the house in a crate) I think he feels okay. Time will tell, I suppose. I DID put a leather collar with his rabies tag/name tag on it just in case he should escape.

Otherwise, it's hot as Hades here. We have been getting thundershowers late in the afternoon, which helps somewhat. Horrible during the day. I guess it has nothing to do with global warming though. (sarcasm) Try to imagine EVERY summer being this HOT and DRY, and you may understand what the next generation will have for an environment.

Thank goodness I got moved back to town before the gas prices started soaring and soaring. No relief in sight on that front either.

And that's it for today, since my sister and nephew are arriving shortly. Jonathan goes back to college next weekend, so this will be his last visit for awhile.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Otter is home

Wow, what a hectic Saturday! I went to pick up Otter at Pet Depot, and he wasn't there yet so I visited Big Lots next door. While shopping, I ran into my uncle; then while we were talking, I saw my mother-in-law enter the store. Now, I've never had a good relationship with her, and see no reason to start now that DH is dead.

But, as ever, I was polite and talked a few moments with her. I asked if she'd visited the VA and ordered the footstone she'd wanted to put near DH's dad's grave. She said she had...and then dropped this bombshell: their family was thinking of getting a headstone for DH -- a double one, so my name could be put on it when I died. Um, what do you say to that? I was aghast, probably just mumbled, "Whatever."

The thing is, DH and I had talked about this lots and lots of times and he said over and over HE DID NOT WANT TO BE BURIED IN THAT CEMETERY. No more than I want to be buried in the cemetery ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTY where MY father is buried. So I'm in a quandry: Should I just ignore what they intend to do, or let my mother-in-law know that DH WOULD NOT HAVE WANTED a headstone. The footstone from the VA I think is okay; DH did serve during the Vietnam Era War. But to go so far as to put a headstone where NO BODY OR ASHES will ever be? That seems a bit extreme...and a waste of money, space and worse, just plain ridiculous. I'm debating what to do.

Back to Otter, he's a perfect pet. No barking. I've never heard him utter ONE bark, though he will occasionally whine when I am out of his sight. The Pet Depot was a mad-house Saturday; the local animal welfare organization had about ten dogs, numerous cats/kittens and all were excited. Dogs barking, except Otter. I got him a bit later, and brought him home. Of course, he's going through a period of adjustment, but so far, so good. He is the sweetest, quietest dog imaginable, and I love him to pieces.

I haven't introduced him to the cats, though I have had his "smell" on me when with the cats, and the cat's smell on me when with him, and none of them seem upset. Today I bought a huge crate at Tractor Supply, and when I eventually introduce them, I'll have Otter securely in the crate until I feel sure they can all get along. Or not. For now, Otter (or "Ottie" as the rescue people called him) is living part-time in my empty bedroom.

Also, it turns out that my vet raised him from a tiny pup. Someone dumped him there, and they took him in, raised him; he's spent his entire life of one-and-a-half years in the vet's boarding quarters. His health is superb, but of course, staying in such an environment, he has "emotional" issues. He's lovable (due to some attention by the vet and family and assistants) but also feels more "secure" in a small, confined space. Outdoors he is very nervous. I don't know that some of this behavior can be changed, but heck, he reminds me more of a cat than a dog! Scared of everything!

We'll see, and time will tell. For now, it's great to have him here and enjoy learning about him, trying to help him feel secure and loved.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Otter: my soon-to-be dog

Meet Otter!
Yes, I'm getting a dog! I will, hopefully, adopt him Saturday at Pet Depot. I saw him there a couple weeks ago, and simply fell in love with him. He is a Corgi/Rottweiler mix, and though I've had lots of advice against any dog with Rottweiler in it, I'm fairly certain there's more "Corgi" than "Rottweiler" in Otter.

Additionally, I'm probably going to start doing volunteer work for a local animal welfare organization that is just getting started. They get pets from the animal shelter, and foster them out, try to find good homes. That's how Otter ended up at Pet Depot, since they have cats/kittens/dogs there for adoption. And most of the ones there DO find good homes.

I saw that Otter was still up for adoption on their website, and contacted them via email. The lady wrote back and said that Otter HAD been adopted out the day I saw him, BUT they only kept him one day because he was so shy, he hid under the bed. The people had children, and apparently the noise scared him. Now that is MY kind of dog!!! Poor Otter, when we took him out of the crate at Pet Depot, he was trembling all over, as if scared to death. That is why I almost adopted him then and there.

At any rate, the lady said Otter would be at Pet Depot Saturday and she would also. And I could adopt Otter, and sign up for volunteer work with their organization. IF I still had the farm, and that large barn, I'd no doubt let them use it to house homeless animals. But I think I'm about to embark on a new direction in my life -- still writing, of course, but having another meaningful part-time volunteer project to help animals.

I hope all this turns out well, but at least I feel like I am about to embark on a fun adventure!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sex & the City

I've recently gotten hooked on watching episodes of "Sex & the City." I didn't watch it on HBO, when it was on, because I only have basic cable. I was looking forward to it when I realized it would be re-run on TBS and FOX--late at night, of course. But then when I watched it earlier, I really wasn't all that interested.

However, once I actually started watching it NOW, it has become a minor obsession. First off, it's not necessarily about SEX or the CITY of NYC. Rather, it's about women and friendship and how "relationships" with men threaten female friends. Every episode just gets better and better, and sometimes I'm reminded of how my high school female friends (with whom I was VERY close) were so upset when I decided to get married. I'd always told them I would NEVER marry, nor would I have children. The "remain child-free" vow turned out to be correct -- but, of course, I DID wed.

I'll never forget how shocked and angry a few of my girl-friends were; they just couldn't believe I'd marry a man I'd only known for three months. As emotionally clse as we were though, I'd never really confided in them about my horrible abusive homelife/parents. I felt ashamed, since that was an era (1960s) when NO ONE understood or cared about "child abuse" or alcoholism. They had no idea how desperate I was to "escape" even though I HAD moved out of my parents' home, but then returned when my siblings needed me. My parents were separated and I thought my mother would continue divorce proceedings. She didn't. And then suddenly my father was back, and I was stuck there again...even helping financially support the household. It was the final straw, and sometimes I think I married because a guy came along who "promised" to "take care of me." (He did, always!) But my girl-friends were angry with me, and I don't think they ever understood.

At any rate, why is it that "men" and/or "male relationships" so often come BEFORE our female friendships? That is what "Sex & the City" really explores. No wonder it won awards over the years. I guess I'm just late in discovering how interesting the show is.

I have had a few good days lately (in regards to writing), though I'm not writing as much as I'd like. But I DO have a new word processing program on my laptop and "promised" myself I'd write more. I have several good ideas for flash fiction stories, and I'm working on the plot/characters for a novel (based on the last two years of my real life) at least I AM getting back into the writing world.

Ugh, the HEAT is awful here. I put off riding my bike until around 7:30, and even then, it's nearly too hot/humid to ride very long. What a loooong heat wave we're having. The last time I remember a heat wave like this was waaaaaaaaaaay back in the early 80s. I recall my grandmother's sister visited and my sister and I drove them around town, looking for "fabric." My great aunt loved to sew, and remained agile and alert into her 90s. My grandmother was mentally alert also, but physically challenged. At any rate, I recall how suffocating the heat spell was back then...

I'm still having awful sinus problems, but will see a specialist a couple days from now. My head is stuffy all the time, and nothing seems to help. Not sure what the problem is, but I'm beginning to suffer sinus headaches, and I hate those.

That's it for tonight.