November, November

So you’ll probably see two posts from me today because apparently I got busy and never hit “publish” on the last one. Thanks for being patient with me!

Let’s just start out with me saying that I did not win at NaNoWriMo this year. November was just a bit too full. What did I do in November instead?

Well, the first week was all about World Fantasy Con. I was supposed to actually go out to Louisiana in person, but a) I didn’t have anyone to share my room, which was part of how I was being able to afford to go, b) I didn’t know anyone else going, which makes for a lonely conference experience and c) I just can’t drive that far on my own these days, not with all the ongoing weird health issues. Since most of the conference was going to be online, I drove down and spent the weekend with my accountability partner and college BFF, Stephanie Leary. She had to work during parts of it, so she was up in her office, but the rest of the time, we got to lounge around, eat good food, take a really long walk, be silly, talk about writing, and listen to some spectacular writers talk about writing. It was a fantastic four days. 🙂 I regret nothing.

I did get a few things done, writing-wise, that week, though. I wrote my President’s Corner column and several thousand words on Lady Air Pirates, plus some background bits for that story.

The second week of November was half ETWG work, half beta reading/critiquing for a friend. This was actually my second go at the beta reading, as computer issues the month before had caused a large chunk of my work not to save, which was horrifying. But a promise is a promise and I fulfilled it. I got pretty much zero of my own writing done, not even outlining work.

In the third week, I did organizing work for ODWG, mainly working on the calendar for speaking next year. I’m pretty much always the speaker the fourth week of the month next year and I have my entire speaking schedule filled out and outlines started for most of those planned lessons. I did some writing for memoir stuff, and prepared material for an extra Spiritual Discussion group that had been delayed during the summer and was finally finishing up. I wrote about 2000 words on Lady Air Pirates, and also met with the incoming ETWG president and told her about all the ups and downs and behind-the-scenes things from this year and let her ask questions about any of it. I also helped revise the ETWG survey that had confused some people the first time it went out. As a bonus, one of my kids found my 2006 Pregnancy Journal in a box somewhere, and after doing a dramatic reading from it in front of the other kids, handed it over to me so I could run away and die. (Instead I scanned it in, used Google Photos to transcribe it, and dumped it into my 2006 All Writing Scrivener File.)

The next week was Thanksgiving break, so I took my younger two kids down to visit my dad and sister and other assorted family. We got to tour my sister’s new house, wherein my midkid found a French horn and wandered around playing it for days afterwards. We watched movies and rearranged my dad’s entire book collection and put away all the vases that were still sitting around the edges of the dining room from two years ago. Then we drove back home and rearranged my writing studio so our Thanksgiving guests could stay here. The next day we got up and cleaned up our house, then checked on the big kids house (which is my dad’s, and where he stays when he visits) for cleanliness (they did great!), and then I collapsed into a heap of exhausted Lisa. I went to bed at like 6pm and didn’t wake up until 6am Thanksgiving morning. Thanksgiving was a whirlwind of people coming and going, or not (one set of potential guests got in a car accident on the way here – everyone that wasn’t the car was fine). I took a new friend on a tour of all the other Lisa H’s art because she liked it so much (this happens a lot when new friends visit) and showed her all my other BFF’s art as well (she doesn’t have a website for it, but does sell it from time to time, and now I feel like I need to prod her about it again, despite her not having time to set one up).

The last little bit of the month was equally chaotic – my youngest had training at his very first job on Sunday and we had to shop for slip-free shoes and fancy black shirts for that, my dad stayed through Monday, so we played a lot of games over at his house, got the holiday decor organized, etc, and then wanted to spend all Monday working on what he called a “scrapbook” for my mom (it was a binder with accordion-style sheet protectors that he put photos and cards and bits of her writing in). I spent Tuesday morning catching up on stuff for ETWG & doing research for my ODWG lesson, then spent the afternoon having tea and chatting with my writer friend Ilenya. That was lovely. Wednesday I spent writing lesson notes, a script, and some prompts for ODWG, then went and set up tables for that, since the library moved us downstairs for a couple weeks while they have a program up in our usual space. Then I ran around like a crazy person, getting my eldest a car battery, taking my youngest to find somewhere to change clothes and then over to his first official work day, then scooping up the midkid, talking to the eldest again about important things, etc. By evening I was feeling like I’d been hit with a truck and my spouse said I felt hot, so we checked and I was, indeed, feverish. Yesterday he woke up feeling unwell, so he stayed home and we both worked in separate rooms, him on engineering, and me in here writing my ETWG President’s Corner column, re-working my ODWG lesson as an article, and cleaning up an older poem for the ETWG newsletter. After lunch, I rested and snuggled cats, and talked again with my eldest, who came over looking for a package he’d inadvertently had sent here and got lured into cat snuggling. Woke up today less feverish, but feeling more run down. I’d intended to go lie down after my accountability time, but the coffee kicked in right then and I went over to look at my word counts from last month instead, realized I’d never posted about that, and I’ve been writing here ever since.

So, overall, not just Lady Air Pirates, but everything put together, I wrote about 30,000 words last month. If you count just the Lady Air Pirates draft and outlines, I’ve got about 15,000 words there. If you count just the draft, it’s down to about 7,500 words. Ah well, I tried. I’ve always said NaNoWriMo in November was a lousy idea. Why isn’t it in a quiet month like January, where nothing ever happens? I have always wondered that. If you know the answer, drop it in the comments below.

October Catch-up

I really don’t know how other people keep up with all the social media, blogging, etc, AND do actual writing. I can’t juggle that many things and still arrive sanely to the end of the month.

Here’s what October looked like:

Week 1: I took my midkid to the East Texas Fair and heard the TJC Jazz Bands play, spent many hours watching marketing videos with Marsha, screwed up my courage and went to the post office to mail things to my sister and my best friend, go set up to do business as Wee Little Dog Publishing with Marsha (more about that later) and got a post office box together so we can both have a non-home address for our newsletters, wrote a couple thousand words on Caro’s Quest, and did all the usual things I do (ETWG, ODWG, UUFT Spiritual Practices, driving kids everywhere.) Started working on NaNoWriMo Prep with my Lady Air Pirates story idea from a couple years ago (the one that I started outlining, but only got two scenes written for), and went to my youngest’s football game marching show on his birthday and took him out for ice cream afterward.

Week 2: Attended Writers in the Field, which deserves a post of its own. It was fantastic! 🙂 Also went to the pulmonologist for lung testing, which after all the craziness turned out that my lungs are just fine. Started tearing all the romance out of Caro’s Quest because it just felt shoehorned in, no matter what I did, and I really hated it. Taught a class for Spiritual Practices, read “The Invisible Wall” for book club, added dangly sparkle lights to my writing studio, and added another couple thousand words to Caro’s Quest to make up for the scenes I’d taken out.

Week 3: I didn’t do too much writing. I made a Scrivener file for the marketing class notes, organized my ETWG files some more, and spent hours trying to re-outline Caro’s Quest now that the romance was gone and I could re-focus those portions of the story on more magical stuff. I wrote a bunch of magic related fluff for my files so I understand the magic rules better now, but none of that will go in the novel, so it doesn’t really count, right?

Week 4: I realize this was just last week, but my brain is gone and I can’t remember what I did yesterday, much less last week. I do have a spectacular bruise on my right forearm, though, from where the phlebotomy tech thought he knew my veins better than I did and he didn’t just blow my vein, but absolutely collapsed it. It’s about the size of a business card right now, but it keeps spreading, so we’ll see. (I was there for more lung testing, to see if I had hidden blood clots. I did not.) Honestly, I probably just worked on Lady Air Pirates, locating all my old files, which were everywhere because I’d done a little bit in Word, a little bit in Plottr, a little bit in yWriter, and a little bit in Scrivener. Oh, and the link dropped for the podcast that I was on over at Authorpreneur’s Unleashed. Click here to go have a listen.

Last little bit of October: Wrote about 1,000 words on Caro’s Quest, exported my church membership database into my personal address book, and talked about joining my church’s worship team because they need more people and I’m good at standing up and talking in front of people now. 🙂

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and usually eats my brain, so at this point, I’ll probably just see you at the end of next month. Hope you have a happy November! 🙂

Keyboard Tracing

While waiting at the hairdresser, I read an alarming article this morning that claimed that my mechanical keyboard was putting me in danger of having my writing stolen. So naturally I had to go try out the software they said was so advanced that every sound of a touch on my keyboard could be tied to an exact letter.

The “sentence” I typed, which could only be lowercase and spaces, no other characters, was this: “the dark sky really looks bad she said altering the way she looked at the code on her phone”

There were seven pages of one sentence results and these were the closest ones:
1. “he see and i was the of little and the soon of the their press alreally in there water inter been a ”
2. “h walls none and streemed iioie hthe latter anhere in the that and the see this worth they really o”
3. ” c s of there and and looked to ea and therent of it and i had feeling seen this the s and rho”

Whee! Needless to say, my fears have been allayed.

My mailing list: Lisa’s Literary Landings

I’ve been working hard to get my writing business set up this week, since I have several pieces coming out later this year: a time travel story in a multi-genre beach themed anthology, a memoir-style essay in an anthology about parenting, and a couple poems in a literary journal. Today’s set-up involves getting my mailing list started. So, if you are interested in keeping up to date on where to find all my publications and to get a free short story, please visit this page: Lisa’s Literary Landings

A View From Here

Peaches lie all over the ground, tossed down yellow,
too early, by this morning’s storm. Bahia grass shushes the singing birds,
heads held high despite the damp. Melancholy swims up
and over me and clings as snug as the humidity.

The old neighbor appears, their new fence recently painted,
which clashes with their pile of old slate landscaping stones,
ivy springing eternally around everything in sight.

More peaches fall
and hit the rotting stump of the once towering
loblolly pine. Only one of the original five still guards the threshold separating
their wet grass from mine, but he’s not lonely. The gray squirrels
still swing from his branches and little finches nest in his crevices.

The Tuesday sound of lawn care services
blowing leaves from yard to yard interrupts
the hum of traffic as it crushes past too fast
on its way to the college down the road.
The harsh machine noise echoes through the trees
And sends our animal friends scurrying.

I yearn for neighbor’s past who cared
for the yards themselves, sweating
in the sunlight while joking about my use
of yellow fabric shears while I knelt weeding at the curb.

Their azaleas that smelled so heavenly
the day we moved in, now lost to occupants
who replaced them with easily maintained gravel,
which smells of guano from the bats.
Next I imagine they’ll try to replace the bats, to the delight
of the ever present mosquitos.

I smell damp earth and the light, sweet smell of the peaches.
A sociable squirrel we’ve named Randy
chitters at me through the screen,
daring me to keep him from his fruity treasure. A cardinal
stops to argue with him and he runs elsewhere
like always.

A copy of this poem also appears here, as part of a padlet of coursework from a writing class I’m taking.

UU Discussion Group, first session

Our spiritual practices group has segued into a discussion group now. We’ll each be leading a session of our own topic choosing. We had our first session tonight and it went really well. Here’s the quote we discussed:

“It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the test results and they’re not so good. Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.” Anna Quindlen, b. 1953

The two questions our leader this week proposed were: (1) How are we doing at “crafting our spirits” – what does that even mean? (2) How can we be better friends to one another so that we are not “cardboard cutouts?”

Honestly, I didn’t have a really good answer for that first one when we got started. By the end of the discussion, I realized that all this was part of crafting my spirit – the spiritual practices class, the Vein of Gold class, learning the tarot card stuff for my Preptober with Tarot class, just learning about writing well-rounded characters in general can be enriching to the spirit because it makes you think so much more about your own character and what makes you you.

As for the second part, it was something I was already thinking about. Two of my friends that used to be really close are having a tough time communicating lately, and I have become something of a go between while they each work through it on their own. It is an interesting enterprise. One friend I have known for years, so we communicate on a deeper level than I do with the other friend, who I’ve only known a year. They are both people that are hard-working and dependable. They each strive to help their community so much. I’ve tried to be a listening board for both of them, but that looks and feels different depending on which person I am communicating with. There isn’t a “cookie cutter” quality to these friendships, despite that we are all in the same organization doing volunteer work. Each person I have a different relationship with. It is good.

In any case, those are my thoughts for the subject. What about you? Do you have different answers to those questions?

Spiritual Practices: Worship

In our UU Spiritual Practices class this week, we covered worship. Worship is about returning to what’s worthy. Why do UU’s do Sunday worship? To be reminded that we are part of a larger community, something more for us to pay attention to.

Ritual: not just as part of worship

tea or coffee in the morning

studying the bible at a certain time of day.

Sacred Space

Here’s something I wrote for my Spiritual Practices class this week:

When my kids were small, we used to have a little altar set up in the front hallway. We put pretty leaves, feathers, flowers, and rocks there that had caught our fancy during walks. As the seasons progressed, so did our altar. Green leaves gave way to yellow, flowers gave way to acorns and whirligig seed pods, but rocks were always a part of the mix. 

Once the last child started in all day school, those daily walks came to an end. The altar lay stagnant. Eventually it became a dumping ground for all manner of school related detritus.

This new altar sits in an awkward space between the living room and the back hall.  When I was first putting this together, I despaired of finding anything spiritual to put onto this shelf. Everything in my house spoke to fairy tales: dragons, unicorns, fairies, and trolls. But then I started thinking of that other, older tradition we once had. So this altar is a bit of a combination space.
First I covered the four elements: rocks for earth, candles for fire, hummingbird and clarinet for air, and fountain for water. Four of the five senses are also there: perfume bottle and candles for scent, all the pretties for sight, rocks and beaded textures for touch, and clarinet and bird for sound.  Plus a little mandarin orange for taste.

Home is the center. Also shown: Some favorite quotes, a cross stitch with our family motto, a painting that makes my mind wander to spiritual thoughts by a friend whose art fills my home, a wooden box from my favorite store in my hometown that is filled with at least a petal from every flower arrangement I received from 1998 til about 2015, a spooky old tree that is reading (and also is an incense burner) the footsteps poem from where my spiritual journey first started, a rock from the lake by my parents’ hometown, other rocks and shells from so many places our travels have taken us, a geode that reminds me that even the hardest rock can be changed by a tiny stream of water, the hummingbird from my best friends “second chance” adventure, a fantasy map where the treasure is in a book (naturally), the clarinet because music has been a part of my life for so long, a green polished stone engraved with the word “Balance” and candles, always candles. 

So there I am, me and some of my beliefs all in one little shelf.

Spiritual Practices: Pilgrimage

Photo by Bishal Sapkota on Pexels.com

For our last UU Spiritual Practices class, we talked about Pilgrimages. Pilgrimages are associated with many religions. Christians visit places associated with Christ’s earthly life. Their motives for pilgrimages usually include penance, thanksgiving, and a desire to obtain supernatural help.

Things that are involved in a UU pilgrimage: transformation, devotion, reflection, a deeper understanding of the sacred and of yourself.

Several people talked about the kind of pilgrimages they’ve already taken or would want to take. Places like a UU trip to Boston or to the first UU Church in Transylvania or to the bridge in Selma. They talked about social justice trips, as well.

I personally, don’t have any thoughts on where I’d go on a spiritual pilgrimage. The idea is fairly new to me, as I grew up with a religion that rejected them as a concept. In my head, it’s something you’d read about in medieval literature, not something that is done in modern times. I guess it’s something I need to think more about.

Growing up, we went on several non-spiritual pilgrimages. The first one I remember, and possibly the most meaningful to me in the long run, was when we visited the Bronte Parsonage. I was, at seven, too young to have read the Bronte’s well, but my mother loved their books, so we went to see the Parsonage. She got me some edited versions (for first time English readers) and had me read them and we watched the movies before we went. It started a lifelong love affair for me with classic English literature, which eventually lead me to a degree in English and life as a writer.

Where would you go on a spiritual pilgrimage?