I Would Like Bob to Stop Sleeping Like He’s Dead.

This is not a normal way for cats to sleep Bob. Photo by Kara Hartz

I have also found him with his head dangled off the side of the bed, all limp. It freaks me out. Once, he was like that and I poked him to get him to move and he didn’t respond. So I picked up a leg and let it fall. Still nothing. Then, in full panic I grabbed his chest to feel for a heartbeat and he lifted his head to regard me with a bleary, confused expression. I can’t take it.


In a Funk

It happens sometimes, right?
I’m feeling overwhelmed – with things that need doing, with problems that need solving, and that sort of thing. I’m also breaking my rule about avoiding news. It feels irresponsible to do so at the moment. Not only do I feel the need to pay attention, but to contact my representatives and tell my thoughts about it all. That’s what good citizens do, right? It’s stressful. There are people who enjoy this sort of thing. Nutty.

Looking at my calendar is depressing too. Well, everything we’re doing is great, but there’s just so much of it. Over scheduled. Overwhelmed.

So I’m not really writing much. Or sewing. Or feeling creative in any way.

I’m also having a lot of dreams. Science tells us that we’re always having lots of dreams, so it would be more accurate to say I’m remembering my dreams more. Upsetting dreams. At least, upsetting in the moment. My dreams have always been weird. I’ve had friends tell me their dreams and they sound like normal days. I dream things like – Elvis and Kermit the Frog show up in my living room to give me advice on how to get the carolers off my lawn in the middle of the summer. (They thought I should turn the sprinklers on them). So if I try to explain my dreams to other people they sound silly. Yet in the dream, there is often intense emotion or an air of menace that is unsettling, and un-restful. Some of you will know what I’m talking about. Then that unsettled, un-rested feeling clings to me the rest of the day.

It all leaves me tired, and in no mood to create.

Then there’s guilt because I’m not making progress on the quilt, or the novel, or the Friday Flash Fiction stories. That doesn’t help settle me down. Plus, the creating is such a part of me – a satisfying essential part of me, I don’t like the way I feel without it. Time to go into hermit mode for awhile and get my groove back.


Novel Revisions

After finishing the first drafts of my previous novels I debated about attempting to revise them. They were such a mess that I believed at the time that no amount of revision would turn them into good stories. So I didn’t put any effort in there. Instead I started new projects to learn how to create a solid storyline, interesting characters, and so forth.

Now I have a first draft that I am happy with. It needs revision, yes, but the changes are doable. However, since I chose to focus on learning how to write better, I’ve spent very little time on learning how to revise and self edit. It’s slow going as I read up on revision processes, and work through the draft. I’ve really only ever done revisions on short stories before this. That’s a very different experience.

I also followed common writing advice to keep going forward through the first draft, not stopping to make changes or do extensive research when hitting spots where those things are needed. Instead, making a note about what is needed for revisions, and moving on. Now I’m doing that research, so I keep feeling that I’m not working on my novel because I’m not sitting at the laptop and typing. I keep having to remind myself that reading Michio Kaku totally counts at this stage of the process.

It really is fun to see the story get so much better with sometimes simple changes. While it feels slow, and I’m second guessing myself a lot, I’m enjoying this stage anyway. Hopefully it won’t be too far in the future when I’ll be ready to share the completed novel with you all.


Misunderstanding – Flash Fiction Friday

“These symbols here mean sleep. That way must lead to the sleeping quarters. This one means food. So the kitchen or cafeteria would be that way.” Ann pointed down the corridor to their right. Mr. Manke grunted, not looking at the symbols as she pointed them out.
                “So where is the bridge? Can you tell that from these hieroglyphics?” He said.
                Ann’s smile faded, and she let her hand drop from where she had been touching the alien markings. She looked at him, and straightened. “Yes, sir. I can, but none of the markings that would indicate a bridge are present here. Shall we continue on to another area of the ship?”
                Mr. Manke gave a curt nod, gesturing with one hand for her to lead the way.
                “Yes, sir.” She said again and began walking briskly down the corridor that lay straight in front of them. She was able to interpret some of the markings as they walked. She tried to keep moving as much as possible since Mr. Manke bumped into her whenever she slowed. There were more corridors marked ‘sleep’, but other markings she was less familiar with. She stopped to examine them one of these more closely. One looked like part of the symbol for ‘clean’ combined with part of one that looked like ‘repair’ except with an extra line slanting through the right hand loop. What could that combination stand for? Janitorial? Medical? She tried to remember if she’d seen an extra line like that added anywhere else and what it indicated. She thought she had. . .
                Mr. Manke coughed pointedly. Ann blinked, her thoughts broken.
                “Find something at last?” He asked in a tone that strongly doubted she had.
                “I don’t think this is a command center, but I can’t be sure. It looks like two symbols combined and –“
                “Move along then. The Authorities will be here soon and will take over. There is no time.” He marched off down the endless corridor, not waiting for her to lead the way this time. Ann caught up quickly, and scanned the walls as they went, looking for the symbol for order or control or flight. Hopefully they would use a symbol that she could identify. She wished they could go slower. She wasn’t getting a good look at each sign, and she really wasn’t all that familiar with the language.
                “There!” she said pointing to a sign by a door to the left. She ran up to it. “This means control.” Mr. Manke approached looking at the symbols she pointed at for the first time. “Except. . .” she studied the sign again. “This is the symbol for sleep again. I don’t know what the combination would mean.” She stared off into the distance, thinking.
                “No matter.” Mr. Manke unlatched the heavy steel door and entered a large room lined with what looked like large plastic lockers. The lights blinked on as he entered, Ann behind him. A loud click seemed to come from the lockers, then a hiss, as though air were escaping somewhere.
                A robotic voice announced something over an intercom system. Mr. Manke looked at Ann, but she had never heard the alien language spoken, and had no idea what was said. She only shrugged at his questioning gaze.
                The hissing sound began to fade and the lockers began to pop open, as the Tempin Army awoke.

If the Kids I know Are Anything to Go By, the Future is Looking Good

No matter what year it is folks seem to love to complain about ‘teenagers today’. They did it when I was little, they did it when I was a teen, they have always done it and always will. I never really saw it – whatever it was that makes people think the future is in dire straights because of how teens act.

As I get older, I guess I was supposed to see it more- the big problems with teenagers, but frankly, I still don’t. In fact, as my own kiddo has entered her early teen years, and she is hanging out with so many other teen people, I’m feeling more and more reassured.

A couple days ago my teen came on a walk with me and we saw a bag of garbage on the side of the road that had broken and spilled. We chatted about what a mess and a shame it all was, and I would have thought we’d leave it at that. That’s what people do, right? Keep walking. Nope. She thought we needed to clean it up. So we did. We went home, got a garbage bag, gloves and her sister and we picked the garbage up – and all the garbage along the road to and from our house to boot. They even did it with smiles and saying how much nicer the neighborhood looks now. They ain’t wrong.

The tween social group they belong to made Valentines, 90 I think they said, for a local nursing home. All they talked about was how great it was to do something nice for strangers. Their Girl Scout troop voted to grow food in a community garden to donate to the food bank. They have done many other community service projects over the years as well; this isn’t a new thing for them. I was in clubs and scouts as a kid, we didn’t do that sort of thing.

It is possible, likely even, that this amazing generation of teens and tweens of my acquaintance is not typical of all teens everywhere right now, but they’re here. They are full of hope and energy and a desire to help, and they are rubbing off on me. Isn’t that cool?


Late Night Yoga

My husband mentioned that he thought trying out some yoga with me might be good for him. I grabbed that comment and ran with it, getting him to agree to do yoga with me every night for a month (at least). I’m surprised he doesn’t seem to yet regret that promise, but last night, I kinda did.

It was late, I was tired, and SO not in the mood to pull the yoga mat out. But we did our video, and I’m glad. My painful abdominal muscle problem is still a problem in that when I try to do poses or moves that focus just on the abdominals, it hurts like a knife to the gut. On the bright side, we are on day five or six now and I haven’t had any of the cramping or pain at other times of day. So, is that improvement?

I’m supposed to make an appointment with my doctor for my yearly check up (they have left me messages, I really need to call back to get that scheduled – note to self) and I plan to ask about this.

The other night at the end of the video, laying in shavasana I rubbed my tired belly muscles. Then pushed at them to massage a little. That’s when I noticed that when I push in most places on my abdomen I can feel the muscles under the fat as a firm barrier. At my ostomy scar site, I just keep pushing in. There is nothing firm that I hit. I felt like I was poking my liver. Now, when I do this standing up, there is some firmness at the ostomy site too, so there must be some muscle there, but wow was it creepy at first.

I assumed the problems I was having was just dealing with scar tissue, now I’m wondering if there is more atrophy there or some such. Maybe I’m making ideas up, I don’t know. Could that be a thing? Well, I guess that’s on the list of questions for the doc as well.


Time in a Bottle – Flash Fiction Friday

Dad had always looked young for his age.  When he died, he looked nowhere near his 87 years.  Occasionally Caroline commented on that, or joked about his wandering away during commercials, or other things he hated, like large family get-togethers, and always reappearing at exactly the right moment. 
“It’s just your imagination.”  He would say to her.
When she was small, Caroline thought he had no imagination at all.  Always serious, he rarely smiled, except at Mom.  After she died, he became even more grim.  Caroline looked in on him, even tried to take him from time to time.  He would have none of it.
He’d say he was tinkering in his workshop, but it was increasingly difficult getting him to answer the door.  Once, against his orders, she used her emergency key to enter.  Couldn’t find him anywhere.
“I was in the basement,” he claimed.  “You search in the half-ass way you do everything.”
She wasn’t up for arguing, so she’d let it go.  But he was wrong.  She’d searched well, going into his workshop for the first time since she was eight, and he’s spanked her for touching some piece of equipment.  She saw things she didn’t understand.  Things that made her wonder what the old man was really up to.  Things that showed he did have an imagination after all.
As Caroline sorted his things, she found where those missing minutes had gone.  Wrapped in a soft, thick cloth, inside a box in his workbench, she found the small blue glass bottle.  The simple handwritten label read, “Time”. 
She boxed up shelves full of his journals to bring home.  She wanted to know how he’d done it, but mostly, she needed to know what in the world to do with it. 

Looking for a Silver Lining

I used to actively avoid politics, and news in general. It felt better for my mental health, and by extension, my physical health for me to do so. Now the situation is such that it not only is much harder to avoid political news, I’m less sure I want to.

And that’s the one positive thing I’m seeing out there right now in the midst of all the division, all the ugliness and propaganda – more people are getting involved. I’m not the only person trying to pay better attention to the government’s shenanigans. I’m 42 years old and before this year you could have put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the name of the White House press Secretary or the Secretary of Education, or any of those sorts of offices. This isn’t something I admit proudly, but I also think it’s something I’m not alone in.

I see people paying attention now. Trying to make themselves better informed. When there is a problem with propaganda and fake news online, that folks are making a real effort to educate themselves has to be good for all of us in the long term. I also see people working to make their voices heard.

One bit of advice I heard on this point I’d like to pass along: look up your Representative’s phone numbers and save them in your phone. Then you are ready to make a call and voice your opinion about issues that matter to you when they come along. And they will. That old saying that ‘the only constant is change’, is certainly true today.


Where I’m at with the Novel

I have a fairly complete first draft of my novel at this point. In all my earlier attempts at novel writing, this is where it ended. Maybe I could have worked further on them, tried to fix all the problems and revise them, but I decided that in each of those cases, even putting in all that work would still result in a crappy book that I would not let anyone suffer through reading. Those attempts were fundamentally flawed in ways I didn’t know how to fix – or didn’t believe it was possible to fix.

Now I have a book that – yes, it needs substantial revision, but I already know specifically what needs work. I know what I’m trying to accomplish and have an idea how to get this story to that point. I think learning to outline helped me get this far this time.

Right now I’m doing a little research to make the science part make sense. This is not a ‘hard’ Sci-Fi story, but what I’m going for is for the ideas to be internally consistent. If things could work the way they do in my story, I want those things to be logical and consistent with one another.

I felt that I was procrastinating on the novel, but what I now think is happening is that I’m doing so much other writing I don’t have that itch of the novel as my only project poking at me. I’m writing this blog nice and regularly now, along with my weekly (and more) flash fiction stories, and some writing I now get to do for the day job. I haven’t written in my journal either since the new year started. I think the blog is filling that itch as well, but I know there are internal and personal things that my journal would help me work through.

It would be easy to chalk it up to not having enough time to do it all, but I know if I look at things frankly, there is time. I just need to be better about using it. Prioritize. Improve my work flow and time management. Not a lot even. Just little tweaks. So that’s what I’ll be working on.

I’d love to go from ‘fairly complete first draft’ to totally complete, ready for serious revisions first draft within a month. I’m posting this here to keep myself accountable. So a month from now I will post my progress on the novel again, and set a new goal depending on my success or failure to get this first milestone accomplished.

Let’s go!


Farewell to Hand – Flash Fiction Friday

That was it. The huge chunk of cement wouldn’t budge. Could be worse though, Gerald thought looking again at his forearm disappearing under the rubble. At least he was able to turn off the pain sensors to the robotic hand. It had been such a thing of beauty. The joints articulated smoother than his real had. It was such a shame to lose it. 
He probably should have fled the city when it fell. Perhaps the blame for his arrogance, the thinking he could start the clean up – the rebuilding, could also be blamed on the robotic hand, and leg, and kidney for that matter. He’s felt a little super-human since he got them, even though they only gave him marginally more strength than before. Made him think he could do things he probably shouldn’t, like searching bombed buildings for survivors on his own regardless of the danger. 
Now here he was, trapped himself. He’d have to let the robot hand go, he’d come to terms with that as he sat, thinking over his situation. It was well attached though. It wasn’t a matter of unplugging it or twisting off an attachment. Some of the sensors were surgically connected to his flesh. Well, he’d disconnected the parts he could; now just a yank and some pain and he could get out of here. Get some care then join a rescue team like a sensible person if he still wanted to do this work. 
A deep breath, and he pulled.
A white flash of pain, worse than he’d thought it would be, and it was done. There was very little blood, and even the pain was fading rapidly. Things could always be worse. A few inches different and it would have been his head – much tougher to replace.