Taking a deep breath.

This last week has been a doozy. Just when I was getting into a good groove writing, my son was hospitalized with a staph infection in his leg that was very resistant to antibiotics. After switching up different medicines they found something that worked and he started rapidly improving the third day. Many folks on facebook offered prayers and positive thoughts and I really believe that made a difference. Thank you to all of them.
I did get some writing done but not nearly what I’m used to lately. I did other things that didn’t demand the hyper focus that writing does. I found a great open source editing software program, downloaded it and created a few new covers. (links below for all my writer friends) I completed the timeline for the remaining portion of 1930 and the beginning of 1931, I spent three hours scouring my email for a scene in 1930 I wrote a year ago and was now ready to insert. I set a date for the Muse to visit and made a list of things we need to do while she is here. Coming up with a complete skeleton for Drifter and 1931 is at the top of the list, as well as a weird scary one we thought of together while drinking coffee, driving the back roads of Montana. I’d really like to see if that could go somewhere. Totally outside my genre experience. No clue what I’m doing. Lost in the dark with this one. I can’t wait!
I am looking forward to getting back to a “schedule” of sorts this coming week. I hope to get a lot done and am really looking forward to the blog post telling everyone that 1930 is off to the editor!

Open Source Photo Software: http://www.gimpshop.com/

Freedom with fiction.

bathroom

This morning a friend called and asked me if I’d read my reviews lately. She knows I don’t read reviews and haven’t for a long time. It’s her standard lead in when she feels like she needs to tell me something important.
“Well, it’s the shower thing. Another person mentioned it.”
“Ok.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Absolutely nothing.”
This never goes over well. She thinks I should try to please everyone to gain a wider audience. I just can’t do that. When I wrote 1929 I knew there were no showers in the tenements. They were lucky to have a bathroom at all. Most of the time there was one filthy toilet room on each floor for everyone to share. I knew that there were mostly coal-burning stoves instead of fireplaces. And I tried writing it like that. But in my mind’s eye I saw it differently. Showers and fireplaces were in the more modern, well to do houses at the time. Was it a stretch to add an old rusty pipe leading from the faucet to a crude shower head into the tenement? Sure. For the most part, it isn’t historically accurate. And apparently, some people are getting hung up on that. At first I tried to justify it by thinking that perhaps the previous tenant was a shipbuilder and created it himself. I went through a dozen scenarios to justify its presence to myself. And then I realized I didn’t have to justify it. It was just there and it wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t. It was a stretch, but it’s fiction. I have creating freedom with fiction. And it isn’t as if Jonathan pulled out his iPhone while dodging a horse and buggy in the middle of the 1929 Stock Market crash. Even if I were tempted, the Muse would kill me if I tried to delete shower scene. It’s her favorite. And in case the nit-pickers forgot, on one of the first pages there are two words. For Lisa. This whole thing started out as entertainment for just her and I. My working title was a joke between us. It was called, “Killing time til Diana Gabaldon puts out another book.” That’s a mouthful so we shortened it to 1929.
So, if the shower or fireplace caused someone to put down the book, I’m sorry. Will I change it? No way. I have to be true to what I see. And I have to write not to please the masses, but as I have from the start. For Lisa.

Keeping it alive

cfiles25960

 

I came across Misty on YouTube  about a year ago. I have watched nearly all of her videos and her way of life has been an inspiration to me and thousands of others across America. I am fascinated and somewhat envious of the simplicity, frugality and humility of this energetic woman! I find myself stuck between wanting to drink from a mason jar and a Waterford goblet. Between making handmade dresses and wearing a red-carpet gown. Stuck between this time and that. She lives in that time and no matter how beautiful the goblet or how shiny the dress, I’m drawn to that time just a little more. And I have to admit, I’ve used her videos a lot to describe scenes and actions on Caleb’s farm. I’ve never milked a cow or butchered a chicken and her videos give me a visual to work with. (There were no chickens killed in the writing of 1929) ūüėČ

The Muse and I actually made her homemade cough syrup. I renamed it “Kentucky CureAll, since my grandma was born in Haymond, Kentucky and I imagine this is similar to what her family might have used when they were sick. It certainly reminds me of how her family must have lived tucked up in the woods. These are skills that are dying with the last of the generation that survived the Great Depression. I am so happy to see someone teaching them to others and keeping them alive.

You can find Misty on Youtube and Facebook.

My new ghost? I shall name her Mabel.

It’s quite possible we have a ghost in the new place. We have settled down, (details in a future post) and today I am alone here for the first time. Love the peace and quiet. I was just sitting down to resurrect the blog I have neglected over the past few hectic months¬†having¬†put on one of my favorite records, “The Great Band Era”. Glenn Miller, Earl Hines, Hal McIntyre, Sammy Kaye, you know, all the good ones circa 1944. I love the sound of old records. Scratchy, tinny and original. Like the times and people of the past, it can’t be¬†reproduced today. (With the exception of¬†one band that hits it darn close, but I’ll get to that later.) So anyway, I was sitting here listening and the hair on the back of my neck raises. I get a shiver that runs through my whole body leaving electric tingles.¬†Almost simultaneously, I feel as if¬†someone has entered the room.¬†I could feel it the same as¬†I feel my husband or son enter the room and I have heightened paranoia about that because I’m weird¬†in the way that I can’t have anyone looking over my shoulder when I write. So my radar goes¬†off whenever anyone is around. Trouble is, as I said, I was home alone. I got the deep-rooted¬†feeling that someone was looking right at me. And my mind flashes back to when we first bought this place and the elderly woman across the¬†street came over to welcome us. She went on¬†politely in a slurred, dementia filled ramble¬†and I could tell she was quite lonely. She talked about the people who lived here before and had good words for them. And the old couple that lived here before that. Then she became quite lucid, looked me in the eye and said, “She died here, you know. Right in that back room.” Oh. Crap.¬†My sister, who was here helping me with some of the demo work, went into crisis management mode, knowing how I am about such things. Thank heavens she works with mentally unstable people and knew exactly what to do!¬†I’m a big friggin’ chicken and the hyperventilation started promptly. The older lady finally went home without dispensing any further wonderful news and I started trying to figure out how I was going to live here knowing that.¬†Having no other home, I had to¬†suck it up and¬†much to my relief,¬†all has been quiet. No paranormal activity, no things misplaced or strange noises in the night. I thought, “Good. She’s moved on.” After all, not all who die hang around. But then today I put on the old music and suddenly I feel something, as strongly as I’d feel a living, breathing human and¬†I wasn’t afraid. That is very unlike me, who beats feet out of a room before I bother to find out what a noise or shadow was. I wasn’t scared. I had the detached thought that the music must have attracted her. I turned very slowly and looked at the living room entry where the feeling was coming from. Nothing. No shadow or apparition. The feeling left instantly as well. Electricity¬†disappeared and raised hairs fell.¬†So, if we don’t have a full time ghost, I think I have someone returning to enjoy the music. At least she has good taste. I think I’ll name her Mabel.

Oh, and the band I mentioned earlier is “Boy and Bean” I lived in the Pacific Northwest all those years and never got down to Oregon to see them, but I’d still love to manage a show sometime. I donated to them on Kickstarter¬†to help get their first album off and running. Great sound. Check them out and tell them MLGardner sent you.

http://boyandbean.com/boy_and_bean_video.html

Boy and Bean

What doing?

When my children were little they used to come up to me and ask, “What doing, Mama?” I get asked that a lot these days as well. Several emails a day ask me when 1930 will be finished and I always cringe and feel guilty. Believe me, I want it done just as bad as some readers! I thought I would do a post, (since it’s been so long and all) about what I HAVE been doing, since obviously not a ton of work on 1930 has been accomplished. And some readers are actually angry at me for that. I try not to take this personally, but as a good thing. They are really into the book and that is wonderful. Still, I feel the need to produce and since I cannot immediately produce, I thought I should at least explain. I do want to keep my readers.

What am I doing. Wow. Where to begin. First, I suppose, is the largest endeavor we are undertaking as a family. We are transitioning into Tiny Living. Google it, it’s an amazing concept, (albeit not entirely new) and we fell in love with the idea. Our family will consume a fraction of the electricity, water and produce a fraction of the waste¬†that we do now. Not that we are raging hippies or anything, just consciously aware that things are changing, more changes are on the horizon and while preparing for these changes¬†we can do our part to reduce, reuse and recycle. Living well, living simple. When we got the idea to jump into Tiny Living, we didn’t like the idea of buying land near the city and in these parts in order to get way ‘out there’ it would be impossible to commute. So, we¬†bought an RV, gutted most of it and have been rebuilding the inside, custom to our needs. And when I say rebuilding, I¬†mean we are doing it ourselves. I have learned to work with all kinds of power tools,¬†built cabinets and sofa frames, laid hardwood floors and found trim to be my best friend. I’m not the “hire it out” kind of person unless I truly don’t know what I’m doing.That said,¬†we are bringing someone in to¬†do some custom electrical.¬†Sounds nuts, I know. The idea of giving up everything and going mobile to look for our little piece of America is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. One of my friends shook her head at me, baffled. “Most people UPGRADE after writing a few books, M!” Yeah, I know. But I’m not most people. I do sort of walk to the beat of my own drum. And I do feel like I am upgrading, in my¬†own way. ¬†I’m totally fine with giving up most material things¬†and going on an adventure to¬†search for that perfect piece of land to build a tiny home. We will winter here in Washington¬† since the¬†season is¬†so mild and then head out into the wild blue yonder! The house plans I am drawing, (oh yeah, I’m learning how to do that, too) have the Tiny home at around 600 sq. feet. (plus a writing cabin) Which will seem enormous after the 300 sq. feet of the RV!

This has had the bulk of my time this summer. But, on the upside, when we do get moved in (roughly a month from now) I can sit in the woods with my solar laptop charger and tap away at 1930! “Housecleaning” will take all of an hour and even though I homeschool two boys, we have been turned on to the idea of “Unschooling“. I have been reading some of John Holt‘s books (literally a few minutes at a time whenever I can grab my kindle) and we are going to dive into that this year. Which will actually give me a little more free time. And by free time, I mean writing time. I am really looking forward to it and so are the boys.

Let’s see, what else have I been doing…our cat very unexpectedly had kittens, then Mama cat got a scratch on her face that required medical attention. We’ve had to wean the kittens early and¬†feed them individually. My daughter is tranistioning to the University and my husband has been working overtime being summer and all. In his line of work this is the busy season. What does he do, you might ask? Well, you know that little heart on your drivers license that indicates you are an organ donor? Enough said.

So, with all that, I will apologize to readers who have waited so patiently and ask them to wait just a bit more. Believe me, I miss the characters just as much and can’t wait to get back! I don’t like waiting either. I was, after all, one of those women in line at Barnes and Noble at midnight when “An Echo in the Bone” came out. I will try to make an effort to update this blog more often as well. Someone emailed me asking me to drop non spoiler tidbits about the next book in my blog posts to give her something to think about while waiting. That just made me smile! I am rolling that idea around. Thanks for reading and for your emails. They mean alot to me.

MLG

The first time I said, “I’m a writer.”

I found this hidden deep in my computer and thought it would be a nice way to start this blog. Written back in the days when I juggled family, work and writing, it shows what a typical day for me was like. I have since quit my job and come home full time to write, however alot of my days are just as crazed.

The alarm clock sounds at six am. My eyes pop open and my mind does a kickstart, whirring and clicking, albeit slowly, in the dark morning hours. The first thing I think of is my novel. My series. My side projects. Where I’m at and where I need to be. The second thing is the feedback I received from others; email that was checked late into the night that I was too tired to reply to. I have to get to those first. I wake up the first son and stumble to the kitchen for coffee. Already, in the ten steps down the hallway, I have thought of two revisions and an additional thread in Jonathan’s Cross that could lead to a short story if I have time to develop it.

I sit¬†down¬†sipping liquid life and power on the computer. It’s even slower to wake up than I am. I get frustrated and swear that one day, one sweet day, I will have the fastest most powerful computer ever made.

I check my email to get my heroin. I’m a full blown addict and I admit it shamelessly. I depend on my fix to get me through my long day.

First email, I get a real nice fix. A beta reader who received an ARC. I made them cry. That’s a rush.

Second email. Editing approvals. I’ll have to do that later when my brain is firing on all pistons.

Third email. More heroin. It’s lower grade and a smaller hit, but that’s fine. I sort through a dozen email and prioritize them.

Then I check my reviews on Amazon. For the most part, hit after hit. I’m loving it.

Miss Self-Doubt makes an unusually early arrival. She whispers in my ear all the possible reasons the feedback could be insincere. All the reasons I’ll never escape the ranks of the wannabe’s. I reopen the emotional email from a reader who cried reading my novel.

I tell Miss Doubt to go to hell. But she’ll be back.

A second cup of coffee and I wake up the second son. I don’t dare open a project now, so I work on smaller tasks. I answer emails and set my schedule for the day, which always deviates from the schedule I set for myself the night before while falling asleep.

I’ll write for three hours, read others work for one, make an early dinner, do some laundry and actually dry my hair after I shower.

My son yells at me. Crap. It’s Saturday. No school.

“Go back to bed then,” I say, hoping they will so I can work some on the next book.

Nope. Cartoons. Loud annoying cartoons.

“I really need to get an office,” I grumble.

I open a book and try to organize a piece to work on for a short story. I don’t have time right now to spit out something new, so I’ll work with what I have.

Copy, Paste, Cringe. This is going to need work to make sense.

“Mom, were hungry.”

“Cereal,” I say, pointing to the kitchen, not tearing my eyes from the computer.

I’m not winning mother of the year, that’s for sure.

Last night I told myself I would make them waffles. Told my husband that, too. Now I’m back here standing with one foot in the real world and one foot in the imaginary, pointing my kids to cold sugar puff cereal.

I grew up on that. They’ll be fine, right? There’s always therapy later, if they need it.

I glance at the clock. Nine-thirty.

“Crap!” Where’s my morning going!! I kick it into high gear. I have two more reviews to do to meet the daily quota I set for myself.

I begin reading a story about a young man in the civil war. It’s well written and highly disturbing. I can’t tear my eyes away from it.

“Mom, we’re still hungry.”

“Toast,” I say, pointing again to the kitchen.

I am half way through reading and have to pee so bad I think my bladder is going to explode. When my eyes start watering, I can’t read so well and I run to the bathroom. I speed-pee faster than when my kids were toddlers and could, somehow, manage to find the hidden bleach, open the childproof container and drink it in the twenty seconds it took me to pee. I have since managed to get bathroom trips down to 11.5 seconds.

Back to the computer.

“Mom, I need underwear.”

“Wear your brothers.”

Finish reading. Loved it. Can’t leave feedback right now, I can’t think. I jump up and start a load of laundry.

“Mom, I need a clean glass.”

“Dishwasher.” I point.

“They’re dirty.”

“Crap. I forgot to run them last night.”

I get up and wash a few glasses to get them through until lunch.

Back to reading, finish the reviews and work on the next book.

I get about 700 words down trying to tune out Spongebob.

“Mom, we’re hungry again.”

“Make a sandwich.” God, I used to be such a good mom. I used to bake bread from scratch and cookies from scratch and I even ironed. Yes, I ironed. When I had to. But I did dote on my family and feed them well, before I started writing. That seems like lifetimes ago.

“We’re out of bread.”

“Crap. I forgot to buy some.”

“And milk.”

“Double crap. Okay we’ll go to the store in a few minutes.”

I dive into working on a piece for a contest. It’s my first contest and Miss Doubt tells me not to bother, I won’t win anyway. I knock the annoying wench off my shoulder and edit, snip, shave, add, revise. I pretty it up as best I can, hoping that the snippet from the novel will make some kind of sense.

“Mom, what about the store?”

“In a minute.”

“You said that twenty minutes ago.”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry, this is important. Just another minute.”

I glance at the clock. Eleven am.

“Crap. Okay guys, let’s go to the store.” I submit the entry and forget about it. I entered it to get the first one out of the way.

I run to the car in sweats and a tee shirt. At least I have a bra on. My hair is sporting the bedwraggled look, thrown up in a ponytail with a dozen renegades, Medusa style. I look in the mirror as I back up and make myself cringe. No make-up, dark circles under my eyes and wild hair, a wrinkled tee shirt that says “Irish” across the front accented with a little Cheeto dust. ¬†Where‚Äôd that come from?

“Boy, won’t the cashier be surprised when I DON’T pull out a welfare card,” I mumble.

“What! We’re on welfare?!” My older son panics.

“No, son, we’re not on welfare. I just look like it.”

Then my youngest son tells me I’m the most beautiful mommy in the world and that makes it all better.

Strategic planning begins on the threshold of Safeway.

“You-” pointing to one son, “Go get a cart.”

“You-” the other son, “Go grab two gallons of milk.” I head for the ready-made chicken and thank God for the convenience foods I once detested and swore I’d never feed my family.

Thank God for Oriental Express, Thank God for prepackaged cookies and sliced bread, I think, as I order my husband a nice dinner.

An old lady jumps in front of me and I debate whether to cause a scene.

She takes forever, rejecting every piece of ready-made fried chicken held up for her approval.

I’m losing my patience. Not that I have a vast reserve to begin with. I send the boys for various items while I’m waiting. I look into the cart and see all kinds of things I didn’t send them for. They love it when I’m distracted like this. They whistle, looking at the ceiling with their hands behind their back, playing innocent.

I throw a few things back in the deli case when they aren’t looking.

With the chicken FINALLY handed to me, (I don’t care what it looks like lady, just throw 8 pieces in a bag and hand it to me) I head to the check-out, grabbing random things as I go. A diet dinner for me to counteract the Cheetos I had for breakfast, bananas-(oh, there’s one good thing in the cart) and soda. Need something to make a mixed drink with when the kids go to bed.

The cashier is indeed surprised when I pull out cash.

She offers to help me get the bags to the car…or the bus stop. I must really look like crap.

I tell her no thanks, stifle a smart-mouthed comment, and am on my way. Glancing at the clock it’s almost noon.

“Crap.”

Race home with a new idea swirling around my head, starting to take the shape of a tornado. I struggle to pay attention to my sons chatter about the “newest, most super awesomest” video game level they just beat.

“Awesomest isn’t a word,” I say.

At home the groceries get piled up on the counter and the boys dig through for their treats.

“Hey! I don’t remember buying that!” I yell as they run away laughing.

I put the groceries away, and at least fifty dollars of it is junk. My kids love this writing thing. I don’t think they’ve seen a vegetable in a week.

“Tomorrow,” I promise myself. I’ll cook a real dinner. I’ll make two vegetable a night for the next week to make up for it.”

I sit down and get back to work. I knock out a rough outline for the idea that hit me on the way out of Safeway. Checked the email again. Another good review and I’m floating.

“I love this,”¬† I say for the tenth time.

“We do, too!” my son says, toasting my writing career with a large box of Mike n Ike’s I don‚Äôt remember buying.

Read another story, write another review. Check email. There’s a problem with the cover art for the book.

“Crap.”

I fix it and go on to answer more editing questions.

Glance at the clock. It’s one thirty. Grab more coffee, speed-pee again and start a short story that won’t leave me alone. I type so fast my wrists hurt. I think I’m getting carpel tunnel syndrome.

“Crap.”

I get a thousand words into the short story. Glance at the clock. Two pm.

I reluctantly close the word program and websites.

I pull on scrubs, neatened my medusa hair and throw on a little foundation to look presentable. The badge feels like an iron weight around my neck.

Ten minutes after two. My husband gets home. We speed talk like auctioneers to fill each other in on the day’s events before I have to leave ten minutes later.

I’m still pretty happy on my commute to work. I listen to music that reminds me of my books and stay in that happy place awhile longer.

When the hospital comes into view, my heart sinks a little. Keeping patient’s care first and foremost, I have to leave my books, my characters and my plots at the door and my eyes lose a little of their light.

I punch in and all is well for a while. I do my job; the job I’m grateful for but still don’t love.

The phone rings, a doctor screams, a machine breaks down, and all hell breaks loose for the next half hour. I stop amidst it all and wonder if I have enough sick time to fake a nervous breakdown. It really wouldn’t be a stretch…

I don’t have enough sick time so I jump back into the madness. I glance at the clock. Only seven more hours to go.

I really like a few people I work with and I hope we’ll stay friends when I leave here. Some, however, I plan on writing into a future novel as a loathsome character with a raging case of syphilis and a fetish for goats.

Miss Doubt likes to show up at work. I tell her it’s past visiting hours and to go away. She doesn’t. When I’m tired and it’s dark outside ,she tells me I’ll always be here, punching the clock, working a job I don’t love. It bothers me only until the sun comes up.

A couple of coworkers asks me why I‚Äôm so tired just a few hours into my shift. I tell her, ‚ÄúBecause I‚Äôm a writer.‚ÄĚ One looks dreamy and sighs, ‚ÄúOh, that is such a romantic, glamorous lifestyle, lucky you.‚ÄĚ I look at her like she has three heads.

When quitting time comes I always expect that little beep of the time clock signaling freedom to make me instantly happy. It takes a while to get back to the happy. I gather up my books, plots and characters again outside the door and think about them on the way home. By then I am bone tired, but happy.

Everyone is long asleep inside. The cat is happy to see me and even happier when I refill his food bowl.

I kick off the shoes, pull off the badge and tuck it away out of sight. Someone drank all the soda. No mixed drink tonight.

I sit down and write another thousand or so words until I can’t see straight.

After changing into something-anything, suitable to sleep in, I can’t resist checking my email. There’s a wonderful letter from someone who really enjoyed my stuff. I need that bit of happy to sleep on.

I fall into bed and glance at the clock. Two am. Glamorous my foot.

Tomorrow, I tell myself, I’m going to make the kids waffles.