Category: Rambling

The Writer’s Cat

Jul 20, 2016 by

I have always loved cats, and since I bought my house twenty-very-odd years ago, I have always had at least one. Usually more than one, honestly, but at least one.

My last Writer’s Cat, Kimball O’Hara, passed on about two and a half years ago, right before my mom died. Since then, my life has been a bit on the chaotic side, and that chaos culminated in my fostering my brother’s dog. It was only supposed to be for a few weeks, but ended up being more like a year.

But then two months ago a friend sent me this picture of a kitten that needed adoption.

Tell me – could YOU resist that face?baby kitty

That face.

A voice inside my head said “Her name is Pandora. Pandora Eloise.”

In the two months I’ve had here, she’s terrorized the dog (who has since gone back to my brother, with great relief, no doubt), broke a half-dozen fairy statues I had on top of my bookcase, pulled down my bedroom curtains, delivered fleas to the house and to the dog, and has left scars all over my arms. (There was a Facebook meme going around that fits her perfectly: God: Let’s make a kitten, all soft and fluffy. Angel: Oh, what a good idea! God: And then put razor blades on the end of her paws. Angel: Umm…)

I adore her. She’s Pandorable.  

Here is her four-month picture.

She’s over five pounds now, and I think will be a largish cat. Hopefully she will get out of the habit of jumping from the top of the bookcase onto me while I’m sleeping before she gets too awfully big.

I’m not optimistic.bookcase

 

 

 

 

Look at that face. If she’s not plotting something, I’ll eat my hat…

 

 

 

I Aten’t Dead…

Oct 10, 2014 by

Things are finally starting to ease up in Rowanlandia, after months of estate work, foreclosures, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, and dealing with a disabled brother and an elderly aunt. The foreclosure is in train, and that should be the last of the estate issues—if the 100-year-old maple that was struck by lightning and went through the roof of the house two weeks ago is the last of the various and sundry catastrophes that we’ve got to face. Since we don’t actually own the house or are on the deed or the mortgage, we don’t have any legal responsibility for it, thank God, but we do try and keep it in decent shape for when the bank takes over. I mean, I did grow up there, and while I hate the damn place, there’s still a sentimental attachment.

Next week I will be at GRL, which happily for me this year is in Bloomingdale, Illinois, less than an hour’s drive away. I’ll be rooming with Marie Sexton again this year. If you would like to meet her, she’s the one with the cool shoes. Me, I’m the fat one with the frizzy blondish-brown hair. We’ll probably be in the bar.

I did have a few escapes from the drama of estate work this summer. I took Amtrak out to Winter Park, Colorado, and spent a lovely long weekend with Marie, Piper Vaughn, Jayden Brooks, CR Guiliano, and Lissa Kasey, hosted by JP Kenwood. The cottage was 9500 feet up in the mountains, and my GOD the views. Got some writing done, and came home with a new desire to investigate the possibilities of medical marijuana for my fibromyalgia and arthritis. That’s happening in Illinois soon. I’m waiting to see how it all shakes out. All I can say is that it did wonders for my asthma and my altitude headaches…

In September, JP Barnaby and I flew down to Atlanta, and she, Shae Connor and I drove up to a cabin in the mountains where we met Sara York, William Cooper, and two young writers who don’t have pen names yet, so I won’t mention their names here. But both are ones to watch! The “cabin” was fabulous, and had a river running directly beneath the family room. And I have to say, Cards Against Humanity takes on a whole new dimension when played with seven slightly drunk M/M authors…! On the way home, JP and I had lunch with Jake Driver and his significant other, and had a wonderful time. What a great couple, the epitome of Southern gentlemen!

Because of all the busyness the past – yikes, is it a year? Just about – I don’t have anything coming out anytime soon. I do have two stories that I’m working on pretty seriously in the few minutes a week I have to write, but I expect they won’t come out until late next year.

’Til then, if you are coming to GRL next week, stop and say hello! I promise I don’t bite… much…

On Gratitude, and Why I Am Not Writing

Mar 11, 2014 by

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. This year, however, is different.

On New Year’s Day, I was sitting with my mother watching the morning talk shows on TV. Now, anyone who knows me knows I not only don’t watch TV, but I abhor talk shows, especially the artificially cheerful ones they have on in the morning. But I was sitting with my mom, which was the important thing.

Anyway, they had a pop psychologist on there who talked about not making resolutions for the year, but finding one word that would be the word you lived by for the next twelve months. He mentioned things like courage, and self-esteem (which is really two words, but we’ll give him that since it’s hyphenated), and so on. The idea was that you thought about these words and what they meant to you when you were faced with difficulties, or a hard decision, or whatever you needed a little back-up on. I thought “huh,” and then went on knitting while my mom sat quietly in her recliner.

Not quietly. Silently. My mother was in the last stages of ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She had no voice. Hadn’t been able to speak clearly for a year, relying instead on notes she wrote, first with a pen on paper, then electronic slate, first with a stylus, then, when she could no longer hold a pen, with her finger. Towards the end, her communication was to raise one finger for “yes,” two for “no.” But she always communicated.

She was in the recliner because the only way she could swallow was to let gravity help. She could use the controls of the chair to tilt herself back far enough to drink the thickened puree that was the only thing she could swallow. And when she needed for us to lift her to the commode, she could tilt the chair forward. But she couldn’t stand on her own. Her body had twisted into a horrible, painful knot, the strength was gone from her limbs, and she had almost no control over her muscles. Her right hand could hold a baby’s sippy-cup, or point, or raise one or two fingers, but her left hand and arm were dead. She could raise her legs a few inches, and did so, calling it her “exercise.” To the end, she still could laugh, though soundlessly, and even if her facial muscles didn’t work, you could tell she was still smiling at my baby nieces when they came over. She knew everything that was going on.

Because that is the evil of ALS. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, but it’s terrible mostly for the people around the victim. Most of the time the patient doesn’t know what’s happening to them. But with ALS, the body decays while the mind stays sharp. My mother knew exactly what was going on, even when she could no longer stand, no longer move her head, no longer write. The last day I saw her—the day before she died—she was only able to communicate by squeezing my hand. But she answered every question I asked.

For ourselves, we were lucky. Damned lucky. I have five brothers, all of whom were involved in Mom’s care. My oldest brother lived with her. Her sister lived with her. Everyone did what they could to make sure she was comfortable, if not happy. We didn’t have to abandon her in a nursing home. She had hospice who came in when she needed them, and the ALS Association made sure she had whatever machines or equipment or medicines she needed. A nurse was on twenty-four-hour call, a social worker came by every few days, and an old friend of the family, an LPN, came every morning to help Mom get up and bathed and dressed. We had help. We had backup. And we had each other.

And that brings me to my New Year’s word. Because only an hour after watching that TV show, I thought of my word. Gratitude.

So every day since New Year’s, I’ve tried to think of the things I’m grateful for. It’s so easy to slip into the poor pitiful me state when things are going wrong. I’m horrible about that—I tend to feel way too sorry for myself, and envious of other people who have more or better or different. Conveniently forgetting that everyone has troubles, that everyone thinks other people have more or better or different.

I’m grateful for so many things, but most of all I’m grateful for my mother. For raising me to be strong enough to live alone, and for teaching me how to be a good friend, so that I will have good friends when I’m not so strong. For giving me five wonderful, exasperating brothers, whom I adore even when they make me crazy. For loving my dad, so that when I write about love in my books I know whereof I speak. For her endless support, even when sometimes I think she thought I was a cuckoo in her nest. For teaching me to love art, and beauty, and learning. For teaching me how to appreciate things, and more importantly, how to appreciate people. For the marvelous long trips we’d take to places neither of us had ever been, and for the spontaneous side trips to places that weren’t on the itinerary. For taking us out of school to go to the zoo, or the museum, or on picnics, or camping trips. For raising six only children on a three-child income, in such a way that we never knew it.

Mom died on Monday, January 27th. Two nights before, I had a dream about her. She was at my house, helping me clean (a family joke, because she was always helping me clean, and my house is always a disaster) and we were having a conversation.  I don’t remember the subject. I just remember thinking that it was a good conversation, like we often had, about life, and books, and family, and so many other things. We didn’t always have these kinds of conversations—sometimes we argued, but this time, in this dream, there was none of that. And the thing I remember most about that dream was me thinking “God, it’s so good to hear her voice again.”

I want to hear her voice again. I miss it so fucking much.

When I saw her the next day, I told her about the dream. She squeezed my hand really tightly.

Mom had gotten sick the Thursday before—just a slight fever, and by the time the nurse got there a few hours later, she was already better, but it sapped her strength and she went downhill after that. We knew it would only be a matter of time then, because even though ALS is an idiosyncratic disease, it’s terminal. The lifespan after diagnosis runs two to five years, with nine years being the upper limit, in general. People like Stephen Hawking who live with it for years are very much the exception to the rule. And victims of that god-damned fucking disease are so vulnerable to just about everything that even the slightest infection can kill them. And does.

I wasn’t there when she died, but my oldest brother and my two youngest brothers, and my aunt were there. She wasn’t alone, and she was in the house she’d lived in and loved in for fifty-six years. The curtains were open and she could see out into her beloved garden, even though it was covered with a thick blanket of snow. She knew her plants were there, sleeping and waiting for spring.

My brother Mark said it all and said it simply, when they knew she was going. He just said “Thank you, Mom.”

I’m grateful he was able to say what we all feel. Thank you, Mom.

 

I’m baaaack . . .

Sep 12, 2013 by

 

Illumination_200x300Just sent off final edits for Illumination, my book with Riptide that’s coming out September 30th.

What? you cry. TWO books from the glacially slow pen of Rowan Speedwell within just a few months of each other? Is the Apocalypse nigh?

Well, hopefully not. I wouldn’t know, not being in the confidence of the folks who manage that sort of thing. But it’s true. Less than two months after Love, Like Water (with the beauteous Nicko Morales on the cover), I have another book to promote.

I’ve mentioned this one before. Probably several times. Probably accompanied by swear words, because I have to say this has been the most difficult book to write. It took me over two years to write the first draft, then another three or four months for the second. And it went through FOUR rounds of edits. Blood,  I tell you. There was blood.

Really, though, this is a lot less angsty than Finding Zach or Love, Like Water. All of the angst happened outside the book. There is less crying than in Kindred Hearts (thank God!), although there is some. There is romance, misunderstandings, drama, and two very stubborn heroes. There is what I hope is very, very funny stuff.

They always say “write what you know.” Well, I’m a fifty-five year old straight chick raised in a middle class family, so I’m already out of my league writing gay romance about young men, let alone rock stars. And my phobia is claustro, not agora. But.

J.P. Barnaby, who has been along for most of the ride with this book, says that Miles is me. We have a lot of similar issues, similar hangups, similar weird OCD/perfectionist behaviors. I like to think that I put a little of myself in all my characters, but Miles is probably the closest.

He has a temper, like me. He obsesses over details, like me. He’s bright and competent on a lot of levels, but those levels do not include technology. Like me. His taste in music runs to classical and show tunes, and is clueless about modern music. He’s impatient. He’s socially awkward. He’s messy (yes, you can be both messy and OCD). He can go happily for days without talking to anyone but his parrot. (For me, it’s my cat.) He’s a better artist than I am, but we share the art form. I cope a little better with people.

I think if were to meet Miles in person, we would either be soul mates or loathe each other.

Adam has some of my quirks: he’s self-indulgent and kind of lazy. I think he’s a Libra, like I am, but with more of the good qualities. He’s social, extroverted, and charming, which I can be for short periods of time. He tends to take the easy way out, sometimes simply because he doesn’t like to disappoint people; he’ll “go along” just because he wants the people around him to be happy. He’s vain and fussy about how he appears to people, but it’s not that he is obsessed with his image; it’s more that he wants—needs—people to like him. Hm. I guess maybe he’s more like me than I thought.

Which is kind of funny, when you think about it, because Miles and Adam are two really different people. But then again, we all have contradictory bits in our personalities. It’s what makes people human.

And I think that might be why it took so long to finish this book. Because Miles and Adam are the closest things to human that I’ve written. And like most humans, they have their own ideas of how things should go. I fought harder with these two than I have with any of my other characters, and that includes Tristan from Kindred Hearts, who was an absolute bastard.

But Miles and Adam’s story is done now, and I can honestly say that they’re probably my favorite couple. Even if I want to smack them hard enough that their ancestors are bruised.

Deja vu all over again

Jul 25, 2013 by

So, Marie and I are walking down the street in Paris looking for the St. Michel Metro stop, where we want to catch the Metro back to the Gare du Nord train station. And of course it’s 5 p.m. and rush hour is starting up, and we know we’ll never make it back by cab. So we’re looking high and low for the station, and I look up and say: “There it is!” And Marie says “How did you find it so quick?”

Metropolitan  No, it wasn’t just from observing the name on the station. (Duh)

I RECOGNIZED it.

How, you ask, when I have never been to Paris before? Is it a past-life memory? Is it because the red things look like the aliens from the original War of the Worlds??

 

Nope. Because THIS is my train station, where I go every day on my way home from work, at Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street in downtown Chicago:

Metra

Look familiar?

Kinda thought so!!

 

More tales (and pictures!) from our travels to come!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A single step…

Jul 3, 2013 by

There’s an old proverb that says “The longest journey begins with a single step.” Yeah, well, maybe in Proverblandia or someplace. Usually with me a journey begins with lists, hysteria, more lists, crises, catastrophes, more lists, nervous stomach, outbreaks of diseases ranging from scabies to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, more lists, complications, leaky toilets, urgent edits, late trains, and the dreaded Holiday Airport Syndrome. All of which I have experienced over the course of the last month. Okay, not the scabies or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and I still have the Holiday Airport Syndrome to look forward to. But the rest of it.

I’m a bad traveler. I always say “I hate to travel, but I love having traveled.” See, I’m a bit of a control freak. When I drive someplace, I calculate the time I will arrive and usually am correct, plus or minus ten minutes. You notice I mentioned “lists” in the above litany? Yeah. I’m that person. I have a spreadsheet of what I’m bringing. And I have a spreadsheet of where it’s going in the luggage. And a spreadsheet of what luggage.

In my carryon, I have everything I could possibly need if my checked luggage gets lost or delayed. Or that I could possibly need if the plane crash-landed on a deserted island. I’m the person Sawyer from Lost would rob for stuff. I’m obsessive about being sure nothing is outside the TSA limits, but everything that falls in that category is in my backpack. Which I can barely lift. I’m pretty sure I have two of some things.

I have a calendar in my backpack with the dates, times, and locations of all the activities we are going to be engaged in. Along with the confirmations of same, showing the same information. Along with duplicate copies of etickets, boarding passes, and hotel confirmations. Of course, I have copies of my passport. I also have copies of all of the above in a Dropbox file for retrieval in emergencies.

I am leaving the office in 32 minutes, headed down to the Palmer House across the street, where I have reservations on an airport shuttle which will whisk me to O’Hare. Given that tomorrow’s a holiday, the whisking will probably be more like a stop/start/stop/start traffic jam, but my flight’s not ’til 9:45. I may need all that time.

Poor Marie Sexton has probably already arrived at O’Hare and is sitting somewhere reading while she waits for me to slog thru TSA.

Maybe I’ll be wrong. Maybe everything will go smoothly, and having my toilet spring a leak at 11:30 last night and having electric lines go down across the tracks and making me a half hour late for work this morning are my problems for today. My optimist self says “could be!”

The control freak is congratulating herself on booking a flight four-and-a-half hours out.

 

A cowboy, an ex-FBI agent, and a writer walk into a bar

Feb 13, 2013 by

Love, Like Water has been accepted by Dreamspinner Press and will be released in July or August of this year. Yay!  Now it’s just the editing process, which should start in about late April or May.

April is also the DSP writers’ conference in Chicago, for Dreamspinner authors only. It will be nice to not have to travel any great distances; I will be able to work a full day Thursday and just take a cab to the hotel for the opening dinner. I’m staying at the hotel, of course, because that’s just fun and saves me the stress of commuting. Which is stressful, even though I don’t have as bad a commute as some people do. It’s probably the thing I like least about working. The conference last year in New York was a lot of fun, and very interesting; I’m hoping that this year’s will be as productive.

I’ve finished the rewrites on Illumination and sent them to Sarah, my editor at Riptide. Haven’t heard back from her yet, but it was only last week or so, so I’m not fretting… yet. Estimated release date is September, so I’ll have two new books out for GayRomLit this year. That will be nice.

I also got my hotel for this year’s TeslaCon, over Halloween weekend. No roommate yet, but hopefully one of my steampunky friends will step up to the plate. Now it’s just a matter of putting together some nice outfits. Because Steampunk is ALL about the clothes. I’m trying to figure out how I can write off the cost of the con by showcasing my books or something. If I can think up a steampunk book, maybe I could get away with it. Maybe a book set at a steampunk con? Hmmmm….

 

Rules for Writers

Feb 1, 2013 by

Don’t know where this came from originally, but thanks to my friend Merril for sending it on!

Rules for Writers

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat)

6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually)unnecessary.

9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

10. No sentence fragments.

11. Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.

14. One should NEVER generalize.

15. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

16. Don’t use no double negatives.

17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

20. The passive voice is to be ignored.

21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

23. Kill all exclamation points!!!

24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.

26. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.

27. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”

28. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

31. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

32. Who needs rhetorical questions?

33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

And my hair is purple.

Oct 15, 2012 by

Okay, so tomorrow I leave for Albuquerque, one of my favorite places (actually, practically every city I’ve been with the exception of New York is on the list of my favorite places. What can I say? I’m easy) for GayRomLit 2012: Desire in the Desert. Can I just say “eeeeeeeeeeeeeee”?  I’m so nervous. I’m always nervous when I travel, but even though GRL is one of my favorite events (again with the favorites) it still makes me anxious. To wit: hives, zits, a tic in my eye, insomnia, and stomach troubles. Add to that the fact that my boss, who is my backup when I am away, is out on unexpected FMLA, so I’ve been doing two jobs for a week, and they both are going to be uncovered for the nonce. And, of course, I’m dealing with the insurance company to get back our deposit for our cancelled Turkey trip. I hate insurance companies, I really do.

But GRL will be fun. I’m doing a Q&A, the signing, and will be hanging out at the Dreamspinner Press event, so if any of you are going to be in ABQ this week, stop by one of those places and say hello. I’m also doing drawings at each of the Q&A and the signing for a little goodie bag of giveaways, 12 at each event. I’ll also have some pages for the Rainbow Romance Writers scrapbooking event on Thursday afternoon.

On the book end—Love, Like Water, is still in the rewrite process, though I’d hoped to have it submitted before GRL. But I haven’t gotten any feedback yet from my betas, which of course means “OMG THEY HATES IT.” Sigh.

The Novel Formerly Known As Going Like Elsie has a new working title:  Illumination. It’s in my suitcase, waiting for down time at GRL for me to work on it. I’m in negotiations with my favorite Artist, Shannon Valentine, for a cover for it.

So… Albuquerque… here I come…