New Character?

It’s interesting, how different characters show up. At some point, I have an affinity for a rhinoceros. No, it doesn’t make sense. Why do I need a rhinoceros? I have no idea, but at some point there will be one in a story. It’s inevitable when I start thinking about something this much.

I can’t explain how we find the different characters we find. Some of them appear fully-formed and others like the draw out the mystery as long as possible. I have written pages from someone’s point of view trying to figure out their name and they just would not tell me. Anything else seemed possible, but not that.

Sometimes it’s the opposite problem – I find a name but a character won’t emerge for it. Not often, but I do have a few names written that I thought would be perfect somewhere, but never came to fruition. At least, not yet. It’s how I got my pen name, and luckily I love it, but it was hanging around for years without actually being used for a fictional character.

So, this year I’d like a rhinoceros to start talking to me – in my head, not necessarily in real life. If you’d like to send a hippopotamus for christmas, that might also be fun… I’ve definitely got pachyderms on the brain. Would you rather it be an elephant?

There’s probably a bunch of research in my future, too. Good thing I love learning new things.

The Answer Has Always Been Dragon.

If you could choose to be anything… There are a lot of t-shirts that start like this. I have one that says to choose to be yourself, unless you can be a mermaid. My daughter has one to be a unicorn. How I don’t have one that proclaims to be a dragon yet is beyond me, but I’m sure it’ll happen one day.

In our myths, we find things we love and fear and everything in between. Many proclaim affinity to one type or another, and we bring in all kinds of fictional worlds to also represent those facets of us.

Some of us are looking for magic and what’s unexpected from the average, normal day. We cannot all be contained within the mundane world. Magic exists as we see it, as we expect something or not. It isn’t always in a magician’s tricks, though it can be. How much do you want to see magic, versus understanding the process behind it?

I found a poem called Expecting Dragons in a copy of Lyrical Iowa. The poet saw wings, and she expected a dragon. It turned out to be an eagle, but despite the beauty of the sight, she was still waiting for the dragons.

But I would choose a dragon. It might be a light at the end of the tunnel. And then someone asked if it was a train. No, it’s a dragon. It’s always a dragon. I’ve been expecting dragons since I read that poem, and I look for the signs in the air. It might just be an eagle, but no one knows until we get there.

I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up off a shelf because of the word dragon in the title. Many of them I’ve brought home to enjoy.

Dragons exist. But only if you allow them to take up the space. One problem is they’re huge. They take up a lot more room than mermaids and unicorns and faeries. Yet no one else knows what to do with these things that are not true but exist in our minds.

Rarely do you see dragons as beasts. Most often they’re very intelligent, extremely capable

Witches and goblins might be a thing, but though some aspire to be witches, none seem to aspire to be goblins or gremlins. I often wonder why. One of the oldest forms of tag I remember playing was Witches and Goblins. I think I was six and the ringleader of the group’s activities. But we had fun.

Dragons are in my head. Dragons fill my dreams. Dragons carry me to different heights. Dragons might be tiny and intelligent. They might be huge and stupid. They might fill the skies or the seas or the mountains or the underground spaces.

As humans, we lose so much time doing what we’re supposed to do, saying what we’re supposed to say, and fulfilling expectations. Can you imagine a dragon taking that as an answer? My lovely imagination says no. The dragon would choose to be its own being, and it would be free to do as it chose.

A world without magic becomes boring. It may not be a dragon, but allowing that magic in the world makes me smile, and it keeps me writing. That might be one reason why my heart is set on speculative fiction. And yes, I’ve been writing something with a dragon lately. No answer on when I’ll finish it, but coming back to writing – after such a long time not pursuing much fiction during 2020, is nice. I’m reminded of the morning pages when she said she wrote and just waited to see what would show up. I’ve been writing, and a dragon showed up one day.

Not Another Resolution…

The new year is all about resolutions and starting over. I’m not a big fan of resolutions – I don’t know that they work. It’s not the resolutions’ fault, but perhaps the way we learned to do them.

A little background: I am also a yoga teacher. I teach other fitness classes, and every single January I count down until there are space to park again – usually by the beginning to middle of February. With the pandemic, it’ll be different. I’m rarely at the one with such huge parking issues, and my single class I still teach there is not at a peak time. But everyone who works there gets accustomed to the rhythm of never being able to park in January. Most people have fulfilled their mind’s resolution of working out by then, whether a few times or a few weeks, then they’ve moved on to other concerns.

One of my yoga teacher friends always advocated for intentions rather than resolutions. Her reasoning said an intention was something you could keep working toward, and a resolution was something that you could simply finish by doing it once.

My writer friends always promote SMART goals instead of resolutions: Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-bound.

I’ve been considering my goals. Sometimes I’m not certain what next year will bring. Maybe life will become more like The Times Before- but not right away. I know I had not posted in this blog for some time. It’s been hard to come back to it, to make time for a public face.

While I’m struggling with what I want to accomplish and the number of hours in a given day, I’m also prioritizing. I haven’t been taking on much that’s new, because I’ve been overwhelmed just keeping up with what I’ve managed.

When it’s quiet, I’ve been finding what I want to keep and what I’m ready to stop dragging along with me. Sometimes it’s surprising what I find in that stillness.

One thing I often forget to do with my goals is measure them, and continue to measure them throughout the year. So that’s one of the ways this year’s goals will change, to measure the things that I’d like to accomplish and maybe measure some of the things I do that don’t accomplish anything. Always a trade-off between those two, and we can’t be productive 100% of the time, and we can’t always be resting. The balance between those two changes depending on the environment and how we interact with it.

2020 has been a year we can’t wait to see out. 2021 may not start out much different, but the optimist side says it’ll going to improve. I guess we shall see.

In the meantime, I’ve also been figuring out the differences of being busy and being productive.

Winter Solstice

2020 has been a year. It’s almost over. It might be a year we never speak of again, except as teaching moments for the those who weren’t with us through it or were too young to remember.

But the thing about living is we’re changing, we learn things, and we grow. Even through all the struggles.

I’m thinking about next year already. We know it’s going to start a bit difficult. We hope it’s going to get better. Some of these days have been tough enough that I tell people, “There will be better days.” And while that is true, I know they won’t all feel better. Change happens, and change is hard.

So as I’m going into the new year, new intentions, and new ideas, I’m trying to think of more than one outcome. I’m trying to believe that there might be the bright future I’m hoping for while also understanding that it isn’t like that for everyone. I know I lost a lot of things that I think helped me, like the ever-present notebook and endless lists.

As we move forward with peace and love in heart and mind, I also want to remember that there are little joys that are worth moving toward. My friend gave me a late birthday present today, and it is a deck of cards with the entire rainbow on the faces. I’ve never seen a deck quite like it and I’m enthralled. I also hugged her tiny 3 year old daughter because I got the chance. We don’t always get that chance to be with those we love. There are many friends and family I haven’t seen since The Times Before.

My hope is to see my lovely friends and family again. To share happiness and sorrow in community and be together. And also to come back to some of my practices that help me. One is the lists. Another is yoga and tai chi and meditation. [No, those are not the same thing, it is not my religion, and if you’re curious about that you should ask and not assume.] If you’re reading this, I wish you safety and sanity and contentment – and that we all get there eventually.

Is it the ninth day of NaNo?

I write every day, though some days it looks different than others. Lately I feel like I don’t know how to arrange the sentences anymore. I’m not sure if it’s the project or just 2020 or everything under the sun.

It is weird to be so far “behind” in NaNo, with a project dragging along like it really would rather be ignored a while longer.

I think later on I’ll try tackling it from a different spot, where I haven’t been as likely to keep working. Maybe if I allow it to go out of order for a while I’ll find that spark to keep it going.

I’d love to blame the continuing sinus issues for my lack of progress. I keep thinking it’ll go away and then it hangs on a little longer. Maybe tomorrow will be better. There’s no harm in trying a different tactic.

NaNoWriMo Is Coming

Yes, I know it’s a couple weeks until November officially starts, but I love the writing season. I’m a plotter, so I’m working on that lovely outline and seeing what it is that’s happening there. I finally feel like I’ve untangled most of the pieces of that novel that was actually two novels in one big draft.

Silly me, but I didn’t see it until later. I had a different idea in my head than how it actually went.

My husband asked why I didn’t just leave it as two novels and “pull a Tolkien”. I’m not sure he understood that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga is really just one novel and he cut it into three parts because no one wanted to publish a book that large at that time. That it became three pieces because of the limits of physical books. It’s a massive story that spans a lot of words, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually 3 books even if people cut it that way in paper books or movies or anything else.

The great part is the characters have taken on lives of their own, and they’ve found reasons to go do the things that happen. Mostly – I know a few of those events will change because they’ve been split into their proper books. I’m excited to see what that looks like, so I’ll be starting that this week.

I know I still have a couple places where I’m struggling to put the pieces in the outline. But I know where they are and what’s happening to them around it- it’s just a few wrinkles to smooth out. Usually a mind-map works, finding the way to get through in several different ways. I’ve been questioning all of the things that happen and seeing if there’s a better way to make it work.

Writing novels. It’s definitely a job. Luckily I love it.

After [Virtual] ICON

The writing energy is high right around ICON. I’ve been working on a book, but it’s been slow. It’s more of a series, because that’s what happens to some projects – they refuse to remain in just one novel. I suppose that’s for the best because the world-building this novel has taken is just so much.

I gave them a piece of a different project. Because the novel I’m working on is just a little too daunting at the moment. I thought I had a draft, and it turned out it was two books masquerading as one. Sorting that into the proper outlines has been quite the job, and I can’t say I’ve been doing a lot of sorting it out this year. 2020 has definitely taken a toll on me that way.

Though the pandemic wears on all of us unevenly, it’s a burden. My jobs have changed. Writing occurs in the quite moments when I’m not working or schooling the kids. The hybrid schedule is working decently for them, but we’re struggling with how much time we spend studying at home. I’m not able to keep a novel in my head while working out whether they’ve done the math or turned in the assignment or anything else.

But slowly, carefully, I’m pulling this novel back out, back together. And I let the Paradise ICON writers read something that hasn’t seen the light in a long time but I keep thinking about, keep trying to get back to. I’m sure it’ll take another outline to figure out exactly what order all of those items should be in, too. Maybe that’s something that can happen in the moments between helping kids with homework and running off to the gym.

I feel the writing season. It’s a beautiful thing.

I am Ichek.

I have a shirt with a line from my book. It makes a lot more sense if you’ve read the draft I’m working on- which most of you haven’t. Ichek is one of my favorite characters, and it’s difficult not to make her the star of everything going on in the book. Sometimes. And yet, she’s not the viewpoint character. It’s a fun balance in any writer’s life.

See, Ichek is not human. She has a few secrets that she isn’t sharing with her space-going crew, and navigating that territory makes her difficult and foreign.

The shirt was made through a t-shirt party, and she allowed me to create my own design. I’ve never been to a t-shirt party before, and it was interesting. Some of the designs didn’t appeal to me, but that’s how it goes. No one loves everything. I’ve been so, so excited for this one to arrive. The color is even pretty close to Ichek’s scales (I did mention she wasn’t human, right?). The process, since the waiting, has made me very interested in a Cricut or Cameo or something that easily does the creation process.

And then I thought- no. I really ought to be working on that book. And I know it. So even though I’m struggling to find my workspace when everyone is here all the time – I’m realizing how lovely it was to have the house to myself and be quiet if I wanted it – I’ve been bringing it out and trying to update myself on where my progress was so many months ago.

Wish me luck to figure out where I was and what I was doing. It has felt so far away for a long time. So today, or maybe tomorrow because I’m one of those people who washes everything before wearing it, I’ll be wearing my new shirt, thinking of Ichek and her pals, and editing.

Maybe one day soon I’ll share a sketch of Ichek.

P.S. Hello to two of my favorite nieces who have recently started reading.

Drowning in Domesticity

I’ve been sewing, crocheting, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. No, I don’t do all of it myself, but it takes all of my time to do these things. Not to mention teaching kids – it’s not all school work (which seems to all be optional anyway) – I’m working with my daughter on frustration, I hope, and I’m not sure how that’s going. I’m helping my son learn to do the stuff he needs to do first and play later. Or at least at regular intervals.

Despite that, there are snippets of things running through my head. It’s hard to imagine the world we left behind, that we will simply return to it. I see people pushing back and forth on staying home – so what is it that we’re all fighting against? And in what way do we think that we’re helping – since nobody’s actually listening on social media.

I find that the best way to deal with social media. I often pretend nobody’s listening. Maybe that’s just my way to be more authentic, because if I think I’m pushing a point I worry I’m saying it to those who agree with me and I’ve already been muted by everyone else.

It’s hard not working on my book. I gave myself permission, and usually I even believe that’s for the best. There are just too many things that are distracting me and keeping me from getting into the bookspace that I want to inhabit.

I’ve made a lot of progress in those other ways. Mom reminded me that it’s good that I can create anything at the moment. I’ve seen so many comments about “because of … everything…” That’s about how it all goes.

I’ve also lost track of so many other things I think I had been successfully juggling before. Part of that is what day it is, when I’ve blogged last, and whether I’ve had a meal in the last two hours. (The answer to that last one is often no.)

Sometimes I end up looking for things I know I have, but then they end up in my office (temporarily taken over by my husband) and I can’t access them for that minute, and by the time he emerges I forget what I was looking for. It’s ended up with a bunch of things from my office strewn around the living space when they’re normally contained.

Luckily the library was looking out for me and let me have those books a lot longer than usual, and I haven’t had to worry about due dates on top of everything else. I LOVE THE LIBRARY!

If you’re curious, we’ve been home 40 days today.

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Change

A lot of things have changed in the last few weeks. It’s hard to put my finger on all of them. A month ago I taught my last class in the nursing home (the times before), and I miss them though I’m still in touch. I found a few of my other class people (last class taught 3/12). I’m still teaching online, and it’s a good outlet for me. My writer’s group, a martial arts class, my congregation, and my DnD campaign have all moved to virtual spaces. School hasn’t congealed into a full space yet, though I hear that’s coming, too.

Just because we’re still meeting, it isn’t always at the same time or the same way. It’s taken a lot of adjustment to get where we are, with sort of a routine, and I’m still struggling with it. I know I’m not alone.

In the last few days, I’ve discovered my fiction outlet again. At least, the part that lets me put type it out on the keys. I haven’t figured out where I want to share it yet. Still thinking, but I’ve really missed that portion of writing the words and twisting them to meet the visions in my head. It’s all microfiction, too, far less than 100 words and some just a couple sentences. It doesn’t matter- it’s getting easier every day to write a few of them out.

I feel like I’ve found something I didn’t know I’d lost. I know I was focusing on a book and I was struggling with it, but finding this little beacon within the changed world gives me another thing to hang on to. [there i ended a sentence with not one but two prepositions. it’s not wrong.]

What’s your favorite little turn of phrase? I try to cycle them through and my daughter looks at me for my idioms and asks what they mean. It’s an interesting journey with a very literal 11 year old.

During the massive amount of time I need to tell the kids what to do and make sure they do it, I’m crocheting instead because I can focus on it. The yarn tangled last night, and i stayed up too late conquering it into its different strands. It’s the little things! IMG_20200407_201926255

 

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