Thursday, December 31, 2020

Dec31, 2020: A Look Way Back!

We're pretty much snowed in this last day of 2020, a kind of double quarantine because we're not going anywhere anyway. We tried a neighborhood walk yesterday, the cold snow biting into our faces, reminding us of the rest of winter ahead, no escape to a warmer climate with friends this spring.

As I look around my cozy and warm office, favorite books nearby, quilting project midway with blocks partly assembled, hubby nearby, immersed in college football, I have much to be grateful for this year. We are still here. Hubby's not using a cane. Family is nearby. We are geezers, that is true, but we are happy geezers. Our true needs are simple.

Yet that sense of isolation lingers. Reminding me of my grandmother, her sweetness and her strength. For when she was young, she fell in love with a young Frenchman who was killed in the trenches of World War I. Her father, an affluent doctor in Chicago, sent her to visit cousins in the West to recover. There, she met my grandfather, a handsome cowboy, and, as they say, the rest was destiny.

My grandfather tried to enlist in the army but was rejected because his eyesight was not good enough. Instead, he became one of the first forest rangers, still a government employee. He and my grandmother lived in a remote cabin near Elk Mountain in Wyoming. I don't know how she adapted. 

He taught her to ride horses and how to shoot a gun. That came in handy the day he was out on patrol in the forest, and a bear tried to come into their little cabin. Their two little girls (one my mother) played with the teddy bear that somehow appeared on their front porch.

My grandmother cooked on a wood burning stove, endured long rides to town despite frail health, and loved her family. Later after my grandfather retired, they took to the road, hauling their RV everywhere, camping across country. Maybe that's where I got my wanderlust. One time, deep in the woods, grandad spotted a deer. He stopped their rig in the middle of the road and got his gun out. Just as he was ready to shoot, my grandmother popped up out of her side, right in front of the gun and shouted, "Don't shoot Bambi!" 

2021 doesn't promise to start easy for anyone. We still have dark days ahead, but we also have family and friends, close by or via Zoom. 

We all have family stories that remind us: We will survive this. Choose good memories, love and laughter, and cherish each day. May the coming year bring you joy, good health, and happiness. 

Here's a video of my two granddaughters, Leda and Ruth, 'sharing' their favorite home-made milkshakes!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Weds Update: Inspired by the Internet

2021 is getting closer and closer. I don't have everything done that I wanted to complete this year. Is this you?

Pandemic means no going out for dinner. I know. Sometimes I get a little tired making those three meals a day (plus snack, sometimes healthy). We have a cozy little apartment, a tiny kitchen that I love because I can practically touch both sides when I cook, so I shouldn't complain, but the internet comes to the rescue! Today's rescue recipe -- Baked Salmon stuffed with spinach, garlic, and cheese. Served with a nice big side of broccoli seasoned with garlic salt and lemon juice. Easy, fast, and melt in your mouth delicious. Plus, I don't have to cook tomorrow with that traditional Christmas Eve dinner (lasagna and cheesecake) prepared by loving daughter and number one son-in-law!

Do I have a freebie book for you? Nope, but be not afraid. I met this writer online recently, and Jasper West's offering his Teacher: The Beginning FREE just this Thursday, December 24. 

The 'Look Inside' posted on Amazon has me flipping those virtual pages and wanting to find out what happens next. If you take advantage of Jasper's offer, why not leave a review? Help other readers discover this tale.

I do have a question for you. I'm trying to figure out what YOU would like to see in my blog. My 2021 commitment is to write once a week on the blog -- here and on WordPress, and to send my newsletter once a month. And to keep working on my stories.

But other than ranting away at whatever catches my interest, I'm left wondering what YOU like. Could you answer in the comments? Here are some possible topics to consider (and add your own): 

  • Another day in the writing life . . . 
  • What my poor characters go through and why . . . 
  • Reviews and highlights for freebies and other books I'm reading . . . 
  • Poetry from that writing challenge to write a poem a day in Nov & April . . . 
  • Finding out what other writers are doing . . . 
  • More about historical fiction and the writing process . . .
  • What do YOU care about?
As always, thank you for stopping by. I hope you will have a joyous and safe end-of-year holiday, even if some family just 'zooms' in for the party!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

2020: End of Year Musing

What a year! So many challenges for us all. Thank you, readers, for being part of my blogging community, friends virtual and real, I'm grateful for each one of you.

My gift to you: If you sign up for my newsletter by DECEMBER 21, I will send you a link for a free Kindle copy of Years of Stone!  ß Click!

Yesterday, our walk took us slogging through snow and slush up to the pond. What a delight to see that pond truly iced over once again, with several hundred Canada geese parked out in the nearby open fields, the sky clear enough for us to see Mount Spokane dusted with snow as well.

We came home from our daily walk, happy for the warmth of our little home, cozy corners for reading, writing, and sewing, and equally grateful for family nearby.

These last few months, two resources have led me to re-evaluate some marketing strategies. Nick Stephenson's Dream Team connected me with other writers and BookBrush led me to rethink and redo my book covers. Did you notice the new look of my blog??? 

THIS WEEK'S BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Emma Kathryn's The Sleeping Heart is a charming novelette about a shy young woman who strolls in a garden, at peace, until that stranger she's traded glances with over time suddenly falls and needs help. What Caireen does next will transform her life and remind us all of the beauty in a generous act of kindness.

Emma Kathryn, a writer and actress from Melbourne, Australia, writes with sensitivity and grace about the risks we take when we're drawn to someone, not knowing why or even if our caring is reciprocated. She's running a special price promotion for The Sleeping Heart through December 22. ß Click!

What else will 2021 bring? My hopes are simple -- time for writing (and connecting with that community of readers and writers), and maybe a little quilting, time for family and love, belief in a more peaceful world with healing from the pandemic and all else that makes some days dark. 

May 2021 be a very good year for you.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Normal? Not normal?

For far too many of us, 2020 will remain that year we wished were different.

Each time I think that life has somewhat returned to normal, as normal as life during a pandemic can be, something happens that shakes me. Friends sick with Covid or other serious illnesses, the situation made more difficult with restrictions on how we may visit. Political shenanigans that make it nearly impossible for friends and family to talk honestly. 

Yesterday rattled me once again. For, here in Spokane, a young man took a backpack with a suspected pipe bomb and a political manifesto to the building where my daughter works. Somehow, a courageous office worker called 911. Police barricaded the busy streets for hours. Today, calm has returned. And a young man has been charged with arson.

But, I'm left with questions. Is this our new reality? If we can't get our way via voting or the courts, if we feel no one is truly listening, then violence is ok? 

No. Violence is not a solution. Nor is bullying or making fun of other people.

I'm grateful for the quick actions of the Spokane Police Department and the equally prompt statements of support from the city and both Democrats and Republicans. Today, Rachel may be able to go back to work. Today, life may return to whatever 'normal' is during this pandemic. 

And we're back to the mantra: Stay safe, social distance, wash hands, and wear a mask. New? Sign up for that vaccine when it's available. 

Let us hope and work for a better 2021.

A view of Spokane Falls by Mark Wagner

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

IWSG: Winter Dreaming . . .

First Wednesday of the Month means time to check in with the Insecure Writers Support Group, a time to share our thoughts and support this wonderful community of writers. 

This month's question: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Normally, I would say my writing follows a routine, no matter the season, with an occasional day off. But this year, at least since last March, has been different. Covid-19 and the resulting necessity to self-quarantine has led to lots (sorry, lots) of ups and downs. And, yes, these did affect my writing.

Now, winter comes with its cold nights and snow -- and no promise of travel to warmer places to ease the darkness. And yet, I'm writing, busy with new projects, and grateful each day for the family in our 'bubble.' I'm feeling intensely grateful for what we do have -- small moments seem more important. 

My six-year-old granddaughter sleeps under the piano so she can catch Santa Claus in the act of bringing presents, not realizing she's still 24 nights away. Sweet dreams. My other granddaughter, now eight, at that age when she realizes not everything ends happily. Yet she brings giggles from everyone when she rolls her eyes. Each moment a blessing.

A friend just launched her memoir. Plunge! She left home to travel the world at seventeen and wound up living on a sailboat, living her dreams with the man she loves. 

Tenacity took her through each tough challenge and led her to snorkel in the brilliant blue waters of the tropics, living the life she chose. Free. Independent. Loved and loving. A remarkable read by Liesbet Collaert, one of the co-hosts for this month's IWSG's post!

And yes, I fell into her story as well. When I met my husband some 40 years ago, he said, "I can't really get too serious, for I travel. Around the world." I gazed into his sparkling blue eyes and replied, "I love to travel too." 

Not everyone understands our downsized life that so far has led us to explore four continents, to take our daughter to kindergarten high in the Andes, and now to settle in eastern Washington, close to family, with dreams perhaps of one more trip. For this December 6, this coming Sunday, is my 77th birthday. We walk a little slower, and I do wonder how many more trips and how many more days of writing I do have, each day blessed, living the life I chose.  Maybe one day, like Liesbet, I'll write my memoir, another writing project!

May the rest of your winter be blessed with what you love.

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre! Visit a few folks who've poured out their heart this winter month to encourage them with a comment or two HERE. And be well.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Sweeten the Weekend before Thanksgiving -- with a Free Book!

These days, I'd rather wander by the pond than watch news on tv. Yesterday, the pond had iced over a bit, and the ducks were standing atop ice, refusing to float in those few inches of half-melted puddles of icy water. Canada geese are still circling south, though every once in a while, one flies alone, honking as if the sound will bring him back to the flock.

I'm grateful for much this Thanksgiving -- and sorrowing as well -- as we all are in our own way, facing challenges again and again. Each small choice brings its own cost and creates a new path. What helps me most is being close to family, not watching the news, and writing.

So, Happy Thanksgiving where you are. Maybe this will brighten your day: Just this weekend, you can download The Seventh Tapestry (Kindle version) for free. That's November 21 through November 23. 

When I think back to how The Seventh Tapestry began, I remember sitting in that small museum in Paris, the National Museum of the Middle Ages, awestruck by the six very famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries from the late 15th Century. And then we traveled to Scotland, to Stirling Castle, where we learned of James V's love for fair Madeleine -- and for tapestries and unicorns. That's where the story began.

If you want to say thank you for this weekend's giveaway, you could sign up for my newsletter. How else will you find out about December's treats?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Sign up for my newsletter????

 Yes, sign up for my newsletter!!!! 

It's not enough we're facing problems with the pandemic with even more social distancing, lights out during snowstorm, and that old blank page that afflicts writers sometimes, but Blogger won't put my new SIGNUP PAGE on the above navigation bar . . . and I have a big promotion next week.  Aargh! 

So, please do sign up for my newsletter if you want to know about the special deals coming just before Thanksgiving (to say thank you!) and in December.

Thank you! And Happy Reading!

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Monday, November 09, 2020

Liftoff! for Sci Fic Lovers

I still remember falling in love with science fiction when I was a teenager. I was staying with a family and discovered boxes -- yes, boxes of science fiction paperbacks. Aliens! Space ships! Intergalactic battles! I used to stare at the stars and moon and wonder if someday we would travel far beyond our universe.

Today's treat introduces Tyrean Martinson's new book, Liftoff! which launches today. What a treat for Young Adult readers (and the rest of us, too).

Liftoff begins with a literal lift-off of a movie theater! Seventeen-year-old Amaya, snuggled in the darkness with two good friends, complete with popcorn, is shaken into a new world when the movie theater transforms into a spaceship. 

Torn from home, Amaya faces one challenge after another as she comes to terms with who she is and what her place will be in an almost believable series of alien worlds who co-exist in a state of undeclared war. Surrounded by people who don’t quite reveal all, feisty Amaya finds her own independence in this completely satisfying read. 

And now for a few words from the author, Tyrean Martinson, about her writing process. 

For me, this is how the writing process generally works, from beginning through stuck points, and onto the end. 

I’ll have an idea. A story spark, or a character idea, or I’ll hear a snippet of conversation, or a song, or something will jump out at me in a newspaper article, or I’ll see a photograph or a piece of artwork or read a poem that just stirs something creative in me.

I’ll feel an urge to write. I’ll ask myself “what if?” and I’m off and writing. Sometimes, it’s a sentence, sometimes it’s pages.

Then, I stop. I read over a few paragraphs. I decide to follow up with the story idea or shelve it, or just wait on it. I keep journals of story ideas and if I’m feeling dry, even if I’m mid-project, I’ll open up a story journal and either read over old ideas or work on something new and completely different to loosen up my imagination. I use writing prompts sometimes, and sometimes I have something swirling around in my head.

So, in the beginning, I am always a pantser.

With any project I decide to work with, I sketch out five to nine plot points in notation style writing. Lately, I’ve been coming up with a more specific plot outline, up to twenty-six points, all falling within nine overarching plot areas: introduction, inciting incident, the plot thickens, muddy middles and mirror moments, dark night, climax, falling action, reward/justice, and horizons. In many ways, this follows a plot pyramid or a story circle, with a little Save the Cat! Writes a Novel thrown in for extra, if I need to work out details.

I don’t like to spend too much time on outlines, plot points, and scene lists, so after a few days of that, I start writing. I adjust the outline or the draft, as needed to get to the main nine points, always asking myself:  Is my heroine/hero being active enough?

The first draft has always been my favorite part, but I’ve been enjoying the second and third drafts more this last year, especially with the help of trustworthy beta readers and a great editor, Chrys Fey.

I felt like the story was done before I sent a draft to my editor, but she asked so many good questions, I realized it needed a few more chapters and about 8K more words. The novella continued to feel new to me, until one day it didn’t. Then, I knew it was “done” after another edit for proofreading. 

I celebrate every time I write a few sentences. I celebrate bigger when I finish a project. I haven’t been sure how I’ll celebrate my book launch this time because of COVID, and I’m still mulling it over just a few days before it happens! I’m thinking both take-out coffee in the afternoon, with take-out dinner in the evening, and maybe a short “Happy Book Birthday” in the middle somewhere – maybe even posted on social media. Hmm. Yes, that sounds good. 😊

Why not visit Tyrean's page for Liftoff! over at Amazon? I think you'll be glad you did. Or, stop by Tyrean Martinson's blog for more information!

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

IWSG Nov 4: Albert Camus and A Writer's Commitment

Back in the day when I studied great literature, I fell in love with Albert Camus. I admired his writing style and his enigmatic, compelling works, taking to heart his challenge that even if all around us is absurd, we have a responsibility to take the 'right' action -- and to define for ourselves exactly what that 'right' action is.

This morning, the day after the election, and given our current reality of living with the pandemic and its assorted disasters, that challenge of so many years ago is hard to consider, even under the umbrella of being a writer.

This month's question from the Insecure Writer's Study Group: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

So, even if I'd rather write about magical unicorns and flying hearts, I write gritty historical fiction.

A class back in college called "The Economic History of Great Britain," introduced me to the devastating impact of the Industrial Revolution on the average person. How was I, the oldest daughter of a former Hollywood starlet, with a series of stepfathers, even going to college? I struggled and scrapped my way through with part- and full-time jobs. No scholarships. Perseverance.

My fiction deals with issues of abandonment, class warfare, and the struggle of individuals to face down the challenges surrounding them to build a new and 'better' life. For example, imagine a love story set against the backdrop of prison life in 1840's Australia (that's Years of Stone). I know that 'real' life doesn't always result in that HEA (happy ever after) ending.

Even today, when I begin a story about a mystery (most recently, an art crime mystery), and intend to write a romantic suspense, somehow, my working class background reshapes the story to bring in that historical underpinning and a desire to right what is wrong or to try to make that life better.

I can't change what I write, almost as if the words appear on the blank page, echoing my experience and love of writing -- to offer hope for others, perhaps a moral lesson that happiness of a sort can be achieved, or perhaps an understanding of what others have actually experienced. But I don't trust fate or the good will of others, especially those in power, and I don't aspire to save civilization.

Just maybe, some of my stories show readers that despite sometimes horrific realities and this complex world, we can create our own, yes, fragile, happy ever after. 

Image from Lars Nissen on Pixabay

A note about the Insecure Writer's Support Group: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Why not stop by to say thank you for this month's co-hosts! Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

OctPoWriMo 31: Dance the ghouls in . . .

Dance the ghouls in
for tonight is Halloween,
though there's one ghoul in particular,
that one with the lined face,
floppy red hair and red eyes,
grasping hands and greedy mouth,
I would love to dance right out.

This night is not like all other nights:
We won't see a long line of witches, clowns, or vampires
streaming to our door, cauldrons in hand,
begging for treats; the Day of the Dead
comes tomorrow.

Once I answered the door with my
snarkiest witch's laugh
and terrified a little four-year-old
in a cuddly Pooh Bear costume.
No tricks. I hide that laugh
to rage against the darkest night, 
hoping for an end to pandemic,
hoping for light,
eager for election returns to go smoothly,
not a revamp of Halloween night.

"Day of the Dead" by OpenClipArt-Vectors on Pixabay

Today is the very last day of OctPoWriMo, led by the inspiring prompts of Morgan Dragonwillow, to challenge us to write a poem each day throughout October. I just barely made it. Along the way, what wonderful poems others have posted, a respite from the combined effects of election and pandemic.

Why not go read a few poems? And enjoy just a little candy on this quiet Halloween night!

Friday, October 30, 2020

OctPoWriMo 30: I am . . .

What are mirrors for?
Reflecting and reflected, I seek
understanding in a drawing,
the lines tentative
when I want them to be bold.
Ah, behind glasses, I wait
for enlightenment,
for tomorrow,
maybe for the ending that will come
after so many days of living.
How did I manage this gift
of life and love
when all began in darkness?
I don't know.
I am grateful behind my glasses,
more grateful than you know.

Sometime in the 6th grade, I drew my first self portrait. The teacher wandered the classroom and stood behind me. She took my drawing and placed it against the blackboard. "Tell me what you see."  Her point? I had drawn my features all in pastels. Even from a short distance of a few feet, I was invisible. How could I tell her that this is how I saw myself? Invisible.

Today, Morgan inspired me with today's prompt to write an "I am . . . " poem. For the first time in many decades, her self portrait inspired me to draw again my own face. Just in pencil. Not looking in a mirror, but placing features just as I imagine them to be. Me. Older than average. Looking a little nerdy, but at peace.

Why not go to OctPoWriMo to see what others have written?

OctPoWriMo 29: Don't poke the bear . . .

Don't poke the bear in the cave,
sound advice my grandfather gave me.
Little did I think this would save
anything at all, let alone set me free
to wander far, to learn how to be brave;
somehow I lifted myself up from knee,
to run with full heart, no longer a slave,
reckoning my inner self's plea,
honoring the gift he once gave,
to simply be.

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo and Morgan Dragonfellow winds inward to begin by writing "I am . . . " and take it in any direction at all. Morgan adds her own exploratory art work and invites us to celebrate this month-long journey. I'm still one day behind . . . and challenged to catch up. 

Image by Joaquin Aranoa (Pixabay)

About bears. There's something about the lumbering, ferocious, and, yes, dangerous bear that intrigues me. Once while hiking in the wilderness, we came upon a fresh bear track glistening on water-covered rocks, just minutes old. Reality check:  Do we turn back for the safety of the car or do we continue? We walked the rest of the trail to the very top and admired the vista of rolling mountains, our senses alert.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

OctPoWriMo 28: No More

We moved a lot when I was a kid. 
Lived out of boxes
and hotel rooms. 
Stayed with relatives and 'friends' 
I never met, switched
so many schools I can't remember.
I grew up changing neighborhoods
like the outfit of the day.
All I wanted 
was that house on the hill,
the one with a white picket fence
and roses.

Then I fell in love with a man
who lived in the same house 
since he was three.

Neither one of us could talk about travel
without hauling out the suitcase.
It didn't matter to me where we slept;
I'd found my home.

Hope you enjoy Ray Charles, "Hit the Road, Jack!"

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo and Morgan Dragonfellow was first inspired by railroads and railroad tracks. I remember falling asleep to the sounds of a railroad car clacking away on back country tracks across eastern Washington, Canada and later, Egypt. Then Morgan added these possible words to consider: traveling, vagabond, wanderer, and nomadic. Oofta! Where's the suitcase!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

OctPoWriMo 27: One more week left and right .. .

One week left.
We are poised right
before the election.
Millions have cast their ballots.
Millions more ready to stand in line. 
Wearing masks. Or not.
One week from tonight,
we millions will watch returns,
hoping to avoid chaos,
complaints of voter fraud,
gun toting poll watchers.

I am truly grateful to live 
in a state with 100% mail-in ballots.
Election night one week away.
Meanwhile a friend's mother dies of covid;
cases on the rise.
We wait and watch in quarantine
and hope and pray
this democracy will survive.

Some of us are uncertain.
Others are absolutely certain.
And after the election,
what will transpire on those days
between election and inauguration?
How many Executive Orders will transform
what once was built slowly?

I'd rather sit by a pond
to watch a white egret  
find a quiet place to stretch his wings.
But we are not allowed to look away
from this election, 
this democracy. 
Even I, older than average,
am ready to hit the streets,
if needed.

Image by sscheema on Pixabay

This last week of OctPoWriMo, anticipating election returns (or dreading them), adds another layer of distraction. So, I'm remembering all the times I have voted and hoped for a good outcome. The same is true this year. Morgan Dragonwillow invited us today to reflect on choices. I'm not so sure I can write poetry the rest of this week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

OctPoWriMo 26: In the dark . . .

When the witch
sits above the window,
is it time to hide
under the bed?

If the pumpkin's ready
for carving,
are the knives

As the final hours
of the beast draw near,
when the moon
spins to darkness,
is it safer outside
or in?

Image by Alexas Photos on Pixabay


Monday, October 26, 2020

OctPoWriMo 25: In the mud . . .

A poet friend of mine, Annis, also writing a poem a day for OctPoWriMo, created a new poetic form called Saba x Tatu (saba in Swahili stands for 7 and tatu for 3). The poetic form has seven lines, and each line decreases one syllable until the last line, which returns to 7 syllables. Her delightful poem is called "Stretch" and can be read HERE

Mayhap I'll never see a
creature earthy as thee,
sitting in the mud
imbued with crud,
yet tranquil,
at peace.
Oh warthog, I could be thee.

Warthog near the Norongoro Crater, Tanzania (Camp 2012)

We traveled to Tanzania on a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to see such animals we'd only read about. This warthog didn't even wiggle as our jeep passed by, quite content to relax in the mud. I learned the poor things suffer from certain ailments that the mud eases. Now, with quarantine, such travels seem even closer to a dream. At least, we have memories. And photos.

OctPoWriMo 24: Perfect Quiet

Perhaps a chime
rings out over the walled garden
as the poet sits
by the reflecting pool,
a blank page before him.
The hour passes.
He raises his brush,
as unexpected as a melody,
the letters splash out,
black on white,
a controlled meaning:
All in the moment,
the now.

"32 Persons of Different Occupations Poetry Competition", 1494 (Wikipedia)

After the end of World War II, my aunt went to Tokyo as part of the American occupation there. She came back with a love of Japanese poetry and culture, which inspired today's effort. Read more about Japanese poetry at Wikipedia.

Today's poem is part of OctPoWriMo, that challenge to write a poem a day throughout October. Check out that link to see what others have written! Sadly, I'm falling a little behind. Blame the early October snow or a cold that made me sleepy for a day.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

OctPoWriMo 23: Unexpected snow . . .

No one expected snow to turn
our days upside down.
Pandemic doesn't stop us
from delighting in each flake,
the transformation of our small landscape
to pure white, and now,
dazzling sun, each towering pine
snow-kissed, wind-swept,
a morning of hope.

Image by Peggy Chocair on Pixabay

Snow at the end of October? Truly unexpected. About five inches fell last night. The sun is out, but I don't expect that snow to go anywhere with a high of 33 F today (and a low of 11 F tonight). Brrrr! But the Pandemic has trained us well. We don't go anywhere. The fridge is full, electricity's still working, and that sun is shining. 

With only 10 days to the election, have you voted?

Today's little poem is part of OctPoWriMo, that challenge to write a poem a day throughout October. Check out that link to see what others have written! And celebrate with me: I'm almost finally caught up!

Friday, October 23, 2020

OctPoWriMo 22: I'll have me a . . .

I'll have me a biscuit.
Pass 'em right over.
Don't remember the last time
I sunk my teeth into somethin' so fine.
Don't dally, lover,
I'll give you a dime
afore I go back out on the line.
Too many years I been a drover,
my hands an' my heart filled with grime,
but fer these biscuits, I'll pine,
an' I'll have just one more.

Friday morning biscuits (2020)

My grandfather was a cowboy. I grew up eating these biscuits, the best my gramie made. Just simple flour, salt, butter, milk, and a little baking powder. Grandad used to tell tales of how out on the range, the cattle lulled to sleep, the cook used to bake these biscuits in an iron pot over the fire, right next to another pot filled with beans. So, once in a while, I think of those old days and make a batch. Today, snow's coming, so I filled the morning with the smell of bacon and biscuits.

Today's poem is part of OctPoWriMo, that challenge to write a poem a day throughout October. Check out that link to see what others have written!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

OctPoWriMo 21: If we were elephants . . .

If we were traveling
into the future, wouldn't it be
easier to walk in a line,
even with eyes closed, to know
someone is ahead of us,
someone is behind us?
Perhaps if we were elephants,
we'd travel in the middle of a line,
their tails swishing,
an occasional huff of warm breath,
reassuring, even after the sun went down.
Like children, we could hold hands,
not knowing what was ahead,
but somehow, not worrying,
not weeping, not waking in anguish
in the middle of the night,
instead leaning into those great beasts,
warm and safe, secure, unafraid.

Image by blende12 on Pixabay

OctPoWriMo 20: A Sun's Promise

For each day that begins
with sun and blue sky,
I remember days of rain.
Only bright colors could vanquish
that unrelenting gray.
Here, close to mountains,
once a volcanic belly, 
a city spreads out under the sun.
Even when it rains, 
the sun appears at least once a day,
keeping a promise,
even when the snow falls too early,
even when it rains,
even if I feel gray.

Lincoln Park, August 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

OctPoWriMo 19: Florida Vacation

From north to south, we drove
leaving hills of snow to warm cove,
seeking respite from city strife
to discover birds unexpected,
wood stork, so ugly, yet resurrected,
out of the swamp, ungainly and alive,
a sharp contrast to sleek blue heron,
hunters both, their relentless quiet blaring
through what peace we could contrive.

Wood Stork (Florida, 2003)

Great Blue Heron (Florida, 2003)

With special thanks to those poets at OctPoWriMo 2020 and Morgan Dragonwillow for inspiring us all.  Today's poetic form is Nove Otto, with rhyme scheme of aacbbcddc. Enjoy this glance back to an unforgettable trip from Philadelphia in the winter to a month in Florida, where I nearly stepped on a crocodile!

Monday, October 19, 2020

OctPoWriMo 18: Begin the morning . . .

Begin the morning with hot peppermint tea,
hoping for a jolt. No caffeine;
Dried peppermint leaves 
were once found in pyramids.
Was its use medicinal or spiritual,
a love potion of the time? My sip
tingles on the tongue with sharpness;
the warmth soothes me
to meditation, yet the tingles remain.
Another taste, not the simple sip
taken in a polite tearoom
out of a delicate cup, but one of
those big, life-affirming, gasping gulps:
the tea’s warmth
slithers straight to my womb.

Image by Conger at Pixabay

Today's poetry prompt comes from Morgan Dragonwillow at OctPoWriMo. She asks us to begin by noticing what is around us. What could I start with but that morning cup of peppermint tea? Join in and see what others have written. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

OctPoWriMo 17: Did You Smile Today?

Take a turn down whimsy lane,
where the black and marigold cat stalks
with head and tail held high, past the shrubbery,
teasing the little white lap dog behind that picket fence,
who romps back and forth,
its shrill bark piercing the morning quiet.
Take a right on Mulberry Lane to the coffee shop
where for a moment, that strong scent of lemon,
tea, and hot lattes offer distraction.
Maybe we could walk far enough to the beach
where waves roll in, splash on the sand,
and the next line of waves returns,
at least until the tide turns.
We'll talk softly, stare at the horizon,
and maybe we'll smile.

Image from Pexels on Pixabay

NOTE: With special thanks to Morgan Dragonwillow and OctPoWriMo for her encouraging prompts that lead a few of us to try to write a poem a day! Check out what others have written!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

OctPoWriMo 16: Morning Musing

Went to the cupboard,
the shelves were bare.
What was I hoping
to find there?

Drank my morning coffee,
down to the last sip,
Covid stats up,
Time for a trip.

What's over that next hill,
why are we waiting?
I want that unexpected thrill,
No hesitating.

Pulled out the suitcase,
filled it to the brim,
How could I travel
without him?

                       Image by comfreak on Pixabay

Thursday, October 15, 2020

OctPoWriMo 15: Looking Back

If only we could travel once again to Tanzania,
south of the Serengheti, that quasi-safari in jeeps,
a melange of people, national parks, and animals:
history, culture, geography, so many words
to prepare for the surprise of:
a lion at dawn, leading her cubs to water,
a wart hug sitting in a mud bath,
two giraffes munching tree tops,
a baby elephant destroying a tree for lunch,
an ostrich in full plumage almost dancing in the dust,
a cluster of zebras leading
hundreds of wildebeests across the savannah,
mountains floating behind clouds,
the sharp, unexpected flight of an antelope
in front of our jeep, chased by a hungry lion.
And the proud Masai women, robed in bright colors,
their beaded necklaces bouncing in dance, just for us,
the men competing to catch their eye:
Who can jump highest?
We tourists listen to stories around the campfire,
go to sleep in tents, the sounds of night around us,
then home with memories to share.
A once in a lifetime trip, we said, 
but I would go again with you.

Allen and I took this unforgettable trip in the late fall of 2012 with friends.  With just about two weeks to the election, enjoy this distraction!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

OctPoWriMo 14: Promises

Some days the smallest of moments comfort us:

acorns fallen by a leaf,

an infant's bare toes curling tight with no socks,

a kitten stretching her neck to be scratched,

that brisk, fresh, first breeze of fall,

the dogs romping in the back yard,

an old man, napping, his white beard soft,

a promise for tomorrow.

For now, all is right in the world,

perhaps not all right,

but we have these moments yet

to comfort us. 

"Acorns" by Nietjuh on Pixabay

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

OctPoWriMo 13: My Mother . . .

My mother was a Hollywood starlet
until she had three daughters.
I was the oldest,
tall, nerdy, and wore glasses.
My sister, one year younger, was like our mother.
When she walked into a room,
everyone else was invisible.
That didn't bother me.
I was already invisible.
My baby sister, an afterthought,
came along ten years later.
I mothered her even after
our mother died.

Monday, October 12, 2020

OctPoWriMo 12: Maybe a Mask

Maybe I should start merrily maskless 
to motivate others to move away, 
sort of motivate them, test their mettle,
meaning, through some marvel that
they (and I) could be more mindful
as we move through each day, a miracle
we don't share more. Mercy me,
my muttering mission messes
up this meditation. Do we merit more?
More magic, more moms muttering:  
to mask or masque, that is the question!
A mask on Mona Lisa?
Together merrily mature, we might miss
(mercifully?) this mind-blowing mobilization.
Even my mentor says: MASK!
A true majestic marriage of mind
over matter.  

Mona Lisa by Sumanley on Pixabay

Today, Morgan Dragonwillow admits she's having a hard time with the poetry prompt for OctPoWriMo -- to write a poem inspired by keywords: playful, childlike, silly. But I appreciate her work in setting up these prompts as tonight, I'm pretty tired from a full day, maybe too tired to try one of the recommended poetry forms: Zanila Rhyme or Tongue Twister. UPDATE: I went with the tongue twister!

In fact, I'm still smiling about what another OctPoWriMo poet, Australian Rallentanda, wrote a few days back with her poem, "You Have To Be A Genius or Greek."  Make it a good week!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

OctPoWriMo 11: Musings at Manito Park

Where do we find poetry?
That singular mix of rhyme 
or free verse that has little structure, 
the laying of words in a line
to be read silently or aloud?
Some writers call on a muse
to inspire that string of words;
others wait until a poem takes form 
somewhere between the conscious and memory.
I'm drawn to image and experience,
dreaming my way to meaning.

We've walked so often in Manito Park, 
explored the Japanese garden there.
It doesn't seem to matter which way
I point the camera or sketch: peace reposes here
in the leaves colored with orange and sun,
in the flicker of koi just below the water.
I sit on a bench a little out of the way
to watch the ducks perched on a tiny island 
in the middle of the reflective pool. 
Here truly, the muse must live,
ever appreciative of each day's light
that fades to star-filled night.
Yes, peace reposes here.

Note: Today's poem came a little late, partly inspired by Morgan Dragonwillow's prompt for OctPoWriMo, to write about the muse, and partly by those many visits to Manito Park here in Spokane. I finally looked up what 'Manito' means to discover it stands for a spirit in Native American tradition, somehow appropriate for thinking about a muse and poetry.

It's dark outside now and rainy, cold with the first brush of coming winter. But this picture of changing leaves of a little tree in the small Japanese Garden at Manito Park reminds me of beauty everywhere and in every season.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

OctPoWriMo 10: Leaning into Fall

When are we ever ready for the change of seasons?
That single day when summer turns irrevocably to fall,
I dither and wish, for any cluster of reasons,
hoping this once, I could stop time and stall
this moment, the passing of years
frozen, the lines on your face smoothed out.
I do not watch your every step, my fears
covered over with smiles, hiding each doubt;
even as the leaves drift brown to the ground,
at all we’ve shared, I remain spellbound.

Hiking along Dishman Hills 

Today's walk brought gray skies, a brisk wind, more leaves on the ground, and an awareness that, in another month or two, we'd be walking in the snow and facing into another year. 

Good news for those in Washington State: Our ballots arrived in the mail. Just a little over three weeks to the election!

Friday, October 09, 2020

OctPoWriMo 9: Deidre -- and a New Cover

 I do like writing gritty historical fiction, jumping back in time to learn that times were tough back then, mostly for the working class. One of my step-fathers was a steel worker, so I know that world.

Deidre is the heroine of my book, Years of Stone, set in 1840's Australia during the convict era. She gave up her home to travel by ship to Tasmania, hoping to be reunited with the man she loved. Mac, a man with a temper, was transported because he fought against evictions on their island home. Deidre never backed down from the challenges facing her. She took risks to help Mac and to establish a new life in Van Diemen's Land.

I had a great cover when Years of Stone was first published, modeled after covers by well-established writers of historical fiction . . . but the cover looks so cold and doesn't speak at all to Deidre's character, her tenacity and her love for Mac.

Deidre, where did you find the courage
to follow the man you loved
all the way across the ocean in a sailing ship,
crowded in cabins too small? 
Shipwrecked and lost,
you landed in Van Diemen's Land
with no job and no prospects,
Mac in prison. 

Yet you leaned into each new day
scheming, working, hoping to find some way
to fit into this scrabble-hard colony with little hope,
knowing somehow 
that you and Mac one day,
mayhap seven years hence, seven years of stone,
would be reunited. Not every woman 
who wears a long dress
can be discounted.

Here's the new cover. What do you think?

Cover design by Angie Zambrano

OctPoWriMo 8: Daily Walk

Before the weather turns too cold, we walk
out to the pond and back, along a well-traveled path,
cutting through a tidy row of houses to see
what waterbirds have stopped on their flight south,
Canada geese most likely or a few ducks,
anonymous and a little lost and lonely.
The weeds have shifted into a riot of color,
a last gasp before true winter, their seeds floating
as free as any bird, clumps of white from reeds,
the sharp yellow-orange of poppies and
purple blooms of lupin beg to be remembered
when the snow comes.

On the way home, a Little Free Library makes us stop
at this bounty: Take a book or leave one
for others to enjoy. A simple gift well matched
by a new sign taped on the side of the library:
“Love Thy Neighbor: No Exceptions.”
I sigh. Every neighbor? No exceptions?
I know the couple who live here: A retired minister.
His gracious wife. I could live next door to them.
I would not choose to live near the White House.
Perhaps some things we cannot choose.
When all else fails, I will try to remember
their wisdom: “Love Thy Neighbor. No Exceptions.”

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

OctPoWriMo 7: Respite

A flower does not ring the doorbell,
engage in robocalls, talk over your fears,
tweet in the middle of the night.
This flower, a lily floating on a pond
in a corner of a Japanese garden, simply exists.
Does a flower have any awareness
of hot or cold? Does it lay out its petals
to seduce that bee to drift near?
Does a flower fear the coming snow?
Celebrate spring?
Life could be simpler.
Let us sit on this sheltered bench here in this garden
to watch the light play on the turning leaves.

Waterlily by GK von Skoddenheimen on Pixabay

Today's October Challenge (OctPoWriMo) to write a poem a day is a little late for today is IWSG's challenge to respond to their question of the month: Are you a working writer -- or what? 

Somehow, the poem came along early this morning. Sending you moments of respite for the coming week, I hope you enjoy this little meditation on a garden that we love to visit throughout the year.

IWSG Oct 7: Another Working Writer

 Glad to be here for another month in this tumultuous year, 2020. 

The first Wednesday for those of us in the community of Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is set aside to write about how we're doing and how we're feeling. Each month, we connect to each other's writerly goals and dreams by responding to an (optional) question -- which this month happens to be: 

When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like? 

OK, I'm just going to lay it out there. I'm an older than average, working indie writer. What that means is I'm retired and don't go into an office or a classroom (or meetings, much). My writing is the anchor that gets me through these Pandemic-shaped days because I love to fall into my story, my characters, their dilemmas, their dreams. Each morning, I write. My word count is not measured in thousands of new words each week. My goals are modest. Here's what's on my 'writing plate' this week:

--Knee deep in new story, Island Wife, another sequel set in northern Scotland in the 1840s. Writing scenes and researching. Progress: About 40% completed (25K words with goal of 50-60K by December).

--Hoping to approve a new cover for Years of Stone this week for PB, Kindle, and . . . (ta da) audiobook. After two years of waiting, reviewing, and hoping, my voice actor finally got the recording approved by ACX. I'm roughly 50% through reviewing 55 chapters before launch.

--Absolutely committed to writing challenges as a way to encourage writing every day. So, I'm trying to write a poem a day for OctPoWriMo 2020, hosted by Morgan Dragonwillow and roughly modeled after NaNoWrMo (which is coming up faster than we think). I love the way poetry slows me down and takes me to unexpected places. And, by the way, #BattleBlog just posted its challenge for 1K this month with its prompt: Exotic.

Back to the pandemic. We are in one of those vulnerable groups, so we stay at home as much as possible with side trips to the pharmacy and doctor visits. Groceries are ordered online and delivered. We take a daily 30-minute walk, and hubby is thrilled with sports (thank goodness!). 

Right now, my daughter is waiting out the three days to find out if she has Covid, and I'm scared because she's unemployed, her family's at risk, and I don't know how to help. Friday UPDATE: It did take four (that's 4) days before the test results came back. No Covid. Not this time. But if it had been Covid, how many days to scatter and spread . . . 

So, the mantra that keeps me focused is: I am a working writer. I do my best every day. If you can, consider contributing (or upping your contribution) to your local food banks. Too  many people are hungry and vulnerable. Meanwhile, may we all stay safe, support each other, and write those stories that are closest to our hearts.

Vista at Lincoln Park (2020)
One of our favorite walks.

Oops. Forgot to to say thank you to Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting this community -- and thank you to this month's hosts -- Jemima Pett, Beth Camp (that's me), Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!  And here's our badge!

As Alex says, "Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!"

Join in or read what others have written by going to IWSG's home site.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

OctPoWriMo6: Exotic

We landed in Egypt, too excited to sleep, 
with backpacks, travel guides, ready for the overnight train trip
clacking south to Luxor. We slept hunkered over
on fixed wooden seats throughout the night to awake to
morning in a land of palm trees and desert,
passing small walled villages,
men in long robes and colorful shawls,
who walked beside donkey-powered carts and
fields of alfalfa, White Nile Herons dotting irrigation ditches.

We were here to explore the pyramids,
decode prayers of falling stars, read the Text of the Dead,
and stand awed in the shadow of temple columns,
not quite realizing the memories we would carry home. 

Snake Charmer, Aswan (2004)

View of Abu Simbal from our excursion boat (2004)

Bedouin and camels at Saqqara (2004)

Temple at Luxor (2004)

I’m not sure how I had the courage to travel this way, without encumbrances, Allen and I, for nearly eight months, from Israel, to Egypt, then in order, truly a month in each country, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, and England. We made our way as independent travelers, finding the least expensive options all along the way, staying in hostels and hotels, eating food in restaurants and from vendors (yes, we ate fried locusts, tasty and crunchy), visiting every museum and cultural icon we could discover, each country hospitable and unique. 

Today, during a time of pandemic, such travel seems unlikely. We have memories, photographs, and notebooks to dream over and to remember. Today’s attempt at a poem captures only a snippet of our great adventure -- and began as I tried to think of the most exotic thing I've done, this month's writing prompt from #BlogBattle -- and today's prompt from OctPoWriMo, travel.

Thank you again to Morgan Dragonwillow for inspiring writers all through October.