13 November, 2023

Writing Writing Everywhere

...Just not always here.

Yes, I signed up for Nanowrimo. And I'm doing well, right on track. I had my writing all "done" for the day (meaning I wrote enough words, and came to a reasonable stopping place, so I stopped writing and started doing other things) but I'm about to start up again this evening because of a sudden revelation...

I want to know what happens next!

At any given time I have at least two books that I'm reading - a book on ink and an e-book that I can read in bed in the dark. And this evening, when I have the time to pick up a book and read, I found myself wondering what was going to happen next to my character! That I'm writing! For Nanowrimo! And I was sitting here hoping that she'd do this one thing that I just realized she needs to do.

So I guess I'd better write that scene.

Anyway, that's where my time is going. But I was talking to another writer the other day and realized how much I miss writing flash fiction, so Flash Fiction Fridays will be coming back. Later.

04 November, 2023

One Year Death Free

...And that year was 2022.

I didn't want to jinx it, so I didn't say anything as 2022 ended, and then it was 2023, and out of my mind. Actually, that's not entirely true, but whatever.

As of now, I am uncle-less. 

As a kid, I had four biological uncles (brothers of my parents) plus three in-law uncles (married to sisters of my parents). Yesterday - Friday, Nov. 3, US time - my mother's younger brother died. I don't know any details at this point, but he'd suffered from Parkinson's Disease and probably other heart/cholesterol issues due to weight. 

Grief is different each time. Of course, an uncle is not as close as a sibling or parent, so I haven't been teary yet. (It almost happened just before writing this.) I just ran away to the beach for a break in the morning.

It's about a 10 minute bike ride, and I usually swim for 7-10 minutes. Today I lay in the sand for a bit after that. It was later than I usually go, so the sun was super-warm and the waves were a soothing background. While I was there, I realized that's become my post-death go-to. After I got back from my nephew's traumatic funeral in 2019, I went to the beach for a bit. After my sister's funeral, took almost a whole morning just sitting and reading. Dad, too. It really helps to clear my head.

ANYWAY! Uncle ... let's call him Devin. I was thinking that we weren't that close, and we weren't. We didn't stay in touch or anything, and that whole family is scarce on social media. But suddenly I realized that, growing up, he was probably the uncle I saw the most. Uncle Devin lived in the neighboring town to my mom's mom. So every Christmas, every summer vacation, we would spend time at Uncle Devin's house. Especially as Grandma got older, he and his wife did more of the hosting. They had a cool, split-level house, and the town's water tower was right outside. It was very tempting to climb, although we couldn't get very high up before the ladder was locked down. 

Uncle Devin has two sons, so the whole family was very into scouting. It was a boy-haven house, even with a zip-line from one upstairs window to the tree-house... DECADES before zip-lining was mainstream. They had an extra garage where he taught his sons how to fix cars. With a sunken pit so they could just walk down some steps under the car to be worked on.

He was fun, and funny. When Brett and I were road-tripping across Iowa, we stayed with them for a night, and boy, they got along well. Brett and Uncle Devin had first met at my cousin's wedding a year before, and after talking together, Uncle D gave me the thumbs up. It felt like getting approval from the cool uncle. Because that's what it was. 

Uncle Devin's approval meant something. I remember, at Grandma's funeral - she died at 101, so had everything planned out - my sisters and I sang Beautiful Savior. Afterwards, Uncle Devin, an impressive tenor himself, told me "You've got some pipes!" It meant the world. I don't sing much outside of church choirs, and only to myself these days. Not that he was stingy with praise, just that he gave it when you weren't expecting it.

This is life. Death happens. He was a good man, who left a good legacy. He will be missed.

And life will go on.

One calendar year without a death.

p.s. Blogger is doing its thing where I can't reply to comments right now, and I can't remember how I fixed it. I'm reading them! I want to comment! I'll get around to it eventually!

01 October, 2023

Story Ideas

I'm considering whether to do Nanowrimo again this year. It's like an addiction, though. I feel like I *have to* do it. 

BUT... I have no ideas of what to write. There's no burning story that is bursting to come out of me. 

So I've been generating ideas for what to write, if I decide to do Nano. Here are a few ideas:

1. Sci-fi. Manager of a coffee shop on the Moon, in a time when the trendy thing is to move on to Mars. But this person doesn't make the cut for Mars, and feels stuck. A couple story options. A)S/he learns of something that could be a danger to all Moon-lings and has to escape or save the Moon. B)S/he meets someone, relationship starts, the SO makes the cut for Mars and either they go together or it ends in heartbreak.

2. Dystopian. BFFs were broken apart by a cataclysmic event in their youth. They reunite as adults, but their ideals and paths have diverged so much they have to overcome their new differences (because they share this deep connection to a brutal past). In the end, by coming together they find their new talents/skills/education are complementary to a degree that they can help their community/society/nation avert a coming catastrophe.

3. Parallel/Future world. A young woman's life is spared for a rare, prized physical trait. She wants a normal life, but is used for DNA harvesting. She begins/joins a rebellion of others trying to overthrow the DNA harvesters.

4. Modern world, possible Women's Lit. Woman breaks free from financial hardship through an online business. As things are looking good, she suffers death and loss from multiple angles and sinks into depression leading to loss of business and isolation. Back on her heels, she learns new skills to help herself, and in the process helps others. Story ends with her finally leaving her house for the first time in years.

5. Environmental Collapse. Climate change is wreaking havoc on the world's populations, agriculture, business. Storms, droughts, wildfires all take their toll. In the middle of the growing crisis, scientists find a way to weaponize weather and target opposing governments.

Now that I lay these all out here, they're each pretty heavy. Maybe I need to simplify and write REAL things about realistic people. Hmm... Thoughts?

26 August, 2023

American Road-trip, Part 4: Abundance

Recently I found myself musing on moments I had in the States last June, feeling lost among options. It happened often.

For example, I like keeping some snacks with me in the car when I'm on a road-trip. So I wanted to get something suitable. We were in a big box store, and I went to the grocery section. Snacks. Or wait. Nuts and Popcorn. Or wait. Cookies and Crackers. Or wait. Chips. 

These are all AISLE headings. Whole aisles full of so many choices my mind boggled. 

Convenience stores. Drug stores. Gas stations! Even on the highway, When there's an exit coming, you will see a bunch of signs telling you exactly what your choices are for food or fuel.

And the abundance went on. It's expected. I've lived with it. I understand it. I've just been away for so long it struck me differently. Not just "stuff" but convenience and availability. And assumed availability.

While we were on the east coast, a section of a major highway (I-95) collapsed in Philadelphia. We were in Delaware at the time, planning to drive up to New York in the coming days. Now this main path would be closed. I considered taking the ferry over to New Jersey instead and driving from there, but when we looked at ferry times, realized we needed a reservation. They were booked. Apparently everyone else visiting the Delaware shore had the same idea.

So, to avoid I-95 we hit the Jersey Turnpike instead. If you don't know, a turnpike is a toll road. On long toll roads in the States, service areas are spaced out every 50-90 miles, where you can pull off for gas or food without paying an exit toll. It's expected. 

The first service area had a sign up saying it was closed for maintenance. 60 miles to next service area. Which was closed, too. There was a ton of traffic. My guess is that a lot of people were diverted to the turnpike because of work on I-95. Finally, at the third service area we gassed up, then waited in long lines for fast food options. There were no tables so we ate outside by the car before continuing. 

We had assumed an American level of availability, and found ourselves with no options. One service center. It seemed almost un-American! This is why New Jersey has a bad reputation. 

Note: I've been to NJ before several times, and enjoyed my visits. I may have even taken the turnpike before; I don't recall. But it does have a murky reputation in the rest of the US.

26 July, 2023

American Road-Trip, Part 3: Hobbies

So, my brother-in-law has a new hobby: Making perfect ice.

I have not seen the results of this hobby, because we didn't visit their house, just met up at my mom's. I guess it is ice that is perfectly clear, with no streaks inside from bubbles rising to the surface? There's a specific way to do this. Apparently.

He's an engineer. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but I do think it speaks to a mindset that appreciates technical challenges. So... perfect ice.

When he takes on A Hobby, it is one hobby for a duration. For a while, he brewed beer. Then he was making mead. I know he also enjoys researching the best ways to cook certain things. Like I say, technical, detail-based, precision tasks.

Someone else we visited works in the gun industry. I believe he tests new models of guns coming to market. He loves his work, and enjoys talking about it. I didn't understand a lot of what he said. He showed Brett some of his personal guns. So it's a job and a hobby!

One fun aspect of this trip was finding out about hobbies that developed during the pandemic. Good friends have developed their gardening in ways specific to their abilities. A self-proclaimed NON green thumb, she created a cactus garden. He grows strawberries. They planted a grape vine to grow over the arbor they built (it's not grown that high yet) and they added a decorative sculpture garden in one corner of their property.

Another friend has also been working on his garden, but in his case the big draw is a fire ring that will have raked, flag stone seating around it when complete. 

A good friend of mine who found herself gaining weight during lockdown has jumped on the fitness bandwagon, walking with friends, and throwing down an exercise mat at home to get exercise in inclement weather.

These are not the things we talk about during the occasional long-distance phone calls. Or if so, the topics don't bear the weight of the hobby. "What did you do today?" "Oh, I took a walk / worked in the garden / made ice." Then the conversation rolls on. That's why it was so great to actually visit with all these people. We can talk all the time, but seeing a person's life is a different level of communication.

It's the little things that make a person whole.

07 July, 2023

American Road-Trip, Part 2: Edibles

I'm not a drug person. Never was. Once, at a college party, the guy I was talking to invited me to join him in lighting up with some friends. I excused myself from the room until they were done. Now of course, marijuana is legal in some form in most US states, and easy to get everywhere. But I live in Vietnam. It's around, but illegal.

A few years ago, we were in Canada and shared a joint in a legal lounge. I didn't get much out of it. Not being a smoker, I probably did it wrong.

Now, in the latest book I'm working on, a character is given edibles from a friend. I don't explore this character's history with pot - she allows that she's not a "regular" user, but seems familiar with it.

During our trip to the States, I decided to do a little research.

First, I asked a grower about it and got some solid information about the different effects coming from the different strains. Cool. Helpful.

Near the end of our trip, I decided to try gummies for myself. A friend was buying some brownie bites from the dispensary at the same time. Not too long after I ate a gummy, back at their house, they offered me a brownie bite. Of course I wanted to try it! See, I had already forgotten this was A Drug. And that it was For Research. In my head, gummy candies and brownies are snacks. That's a hard idea to alter!

Two edibles in quick(ish) succession was a mistake. I'm just not used to trying to get high!

Sure, at first came a pleasant, light, buzzy sensation, but then it became unpleasantly like being way too drunk. Plus. I felt like lead. If I got up to move, I knew (did I?) that there was every possibility that I'd fall down, or vomit, or both. Brett - who had elected to stay sober while I experimented, brought me a slice of the leftover pizza, and after I finished my one beer I switched to drinking water. We were having a movie night, and I safely fell asleep there on the sofa during the movie.

Midway through the movie, Brett woke me and convinced me I might as well go to bed. I managed to get myself ready for bed and slept very soundly, never wishing to do that again!

The next morning, I was kicking myself for wasted research. I needed to know how to write about this! What if the brownie was the more potent edible? What if the late hour had conspired against me? And what about that beer I had early in the evening - the combination of alcohol and drugs is not in my book! We had some open time that morning, so after breakfast, as I was repacking our bags, I tried Just One Gummy. This time I could focus. It was morning, my head was clear, and I was without the audience of those sharing in our previous movie night. Plus, I was doing a task that I've done numerous times and knew how it should go.

While packing, I took notes:

  • 45 minutes in, it was getting hard to focus. Visually and mentally.
  • 1.5 hours in, that floating sensation kicked in. It was accompanied by a tingling in my lips.
  • At 1 hour 50 minutes, my mouth was dry. SO dry! I drained my water bottle.

That's where the notes stop. I recall that, mid-packing, I stretched out on the bed and relaxed for a while. Did I sleep? If so, not for long. My nature is task-driven and I had a task. After finishing packing, I picked up the book I was reading and sat in a corner, in a haze, reading, until it was time to go. I was fine, but operating at low energy.

Overall, even a tiny little pot-gummy is too potent for me. Although I was able to move (no leaden sensation as of the prior night) and I didn't feel ill, it was no fun. I am in NO danger of becoming an addict!

And the research was worth it. They say "write what you know." I will be removing the drug parts from the book. It was all unnecessary to the plot, anyway. 

Have you ever done anything "for research"? Gone somewhere you wouldn't normally or tasted a food just to see? How did it turn out for you?

29 June, 2023

American Road-Trip, Part 1: No Home is Safe!

Last week we returned from our month long trip to the US. Rather than write a play-by-play, I thought it would be more interesting to write individual stories or perspectives. This is about being a house-guest.

If I've ever visited your house, just know that I've redecorated it in my mind. The habit started during my baby-sitting days in college and pops up from time to time. Our recent trip was prime for it!

Take the residence of certain friends, for instance. Old friends we've stayed with twice during our extended trips abroad. The guest room is clean and simple, while the house is chock full of collectibles - Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, movie memorabilia, games... It's a big enough house that all I've really re-done in my head is the room where we've slept. Each time, it turns into a yoga room. I'd strip away the carpet, remove the closet door (to store yoga clothes and gear) and probably set up a meditation corner by the tall window.

Given the space I'd always want a yoga room. Another house we stayed in had a screened-in back porch... which would be (and was, for those few days) a good yoga space. It was big enough that in my mental refurbishment I could even keep some of the communal seating and just add storage and re-organize part of it for yoga. 

At that house, I also had ideas to "fix" the front porch.

They have a porch that runs the full length of the house, but do nothing with it! There's one lonely bench near the door, presumably for deliveries, and that's it. To be fair, I noticed the majority of houses in that region kept sparse front porches, with more activities focused out back. Now me, I like a front porch. I like to watch the world. A couple chairs, a table, maybe a potted plant or some flowering shrubs to accent the front edge. A wreath? Something to show personality. 

When I lived in that area, I didn't have a front porch, but hung wind chimes on my small side porch, and lined it with conchs and driftwood. It wasn't much but gave it a little personality.

Not that my house is perfect. I've been in this house four years and still can't settle on my favorite garden furnishings! 

Am I crazy? Do you ever do anything like that - think about how you would design a place differently?