Miscellanea: the pup, the book, the con, and the weird (to me) weather

I’ve gone broody. Like a hen. I am obsessing about only two things: rearing this pup and working on this novel. Both tasks are going reasonably well, even if both are more … consuming than I imagined they would be.

Re: The Pup

She’s 14 weeks old now. A full 3 weeks younger than our Dozer was when we first got him. (That explains why I have been surprised by how much more supervision she requires — and how many more trips outside she needs — than I remembered from my last pup-raising phase.) She’s nearly house-trained, I think. She’s mastered her tinkle bells. At first she was shy about the noise, but when she figured out she could punch them with a paw instead of nosing them, she got over her hesitation. She had her spay surgery day before yesterday. Did you know that a spay is really a full hysterectomy? I did not. I guess I thought it was more like a tubal ligation. I’ve been having sympathy pains ever since I found out. She’s a good puppy, but I can’t wait until she’s a dog. (Ogre and I agree that puppies and children are way more fun once they can communicate reasonably well.) We are still taking opinions about her ancestry. (Remember, she was found alone so we have no idea who the parents were.) She’s currently 15 pounds and still slender. (Keeps growing up instead of out.) What do you think she is? I keep hoping someone will recognize those ears.

Those ears. My God, those ears.

Those ears. My God, those ears.

Re: The Writing

I can’t really share a photo of my novel progress, but I am on track. (I am nearing the place where I’ll want to print it out, just so I can see the manuscript grow.) I have to work around the pup, so my daily word counts aren’t usually high, but the daily momentum is in place.

I did have to take a few days off entirely last weekend because I was helping my daughter sell her 1″ buttons at a 3-day sci fi / fantasy convention in Raleigh. (The Classic Monster Movies set was a big seller.) It was my first con, and it was great fun. I snapped a few shots of my favorite cosplay outfits, and I can share those:

Re: The Rest

The weather here in NC is still an astonishment to me. We had a winter storm a few weeks back. I feel bad that I didn’t write about the experience at the time. To a Minnesotan’s eye, it was minor. (Some icy rain. An inch or two of snow. Temps in the low 30s.) Things are really different down here though, and we were pretty much confined to the house for four days. (I’m not making fun. The roads are treacherous with ice. They brine the main roads, but they don’t have enough equipment to even attempt the neighborhoods.) On the fifth day after the storm, the temperature reached the 60s and everything just melted away in a morning. Since then it’s been lovely. Some gray days, but mostly sunny. Temps in the 50s & 60s for the most part. I usually have the windows open at least a little during the day. Honestly, it feels and looks like late April or early May.

Today, however, it’s rainy and chilly. (For some values of chilly. Okay. I just checked. It’s 51 degrees. I’ve completely lost my cold resistance already.) The pup is asleep at my feet, I have a cup of coffee at hand, and it’s time to sink back into my other world.


Training a Writer’s Dog

Happy New Year everyone!

When I last checked in, I’m sure I talked about my preparations for getting a second dog for Christmas. We felt, after our older dog’s cancer scare, that it was time to find him a companion. (Dozer is six.) After a hitch in the plans, this happy event has come to pass. We do indeed have a pup.

the new pup's baby picture

Meet Miss Harper Lee

She’s not the dog we initially chose. Sadly that one showed an aggressive streak to her foster mom before we could bring her home. (She was nearly five months old and quite capable of inflicting real harm.) The shelter group refused to place her with a “regular family” like us, and instead sent her on to a sort of rehab program they have. Then they offered us any other dog they had.

Enter Miss Harper.

She was only 10 weeks old when we got her, three weeks ago. We didn’t expect to start with such a youngling, but the little girl captured our hearts at first sight.

Her supervision and training have been INCREDIBLY time-consuming. (Do you have any idea how tiny a ten week old puppy bladder is?) For housebreaking purposes, we are primarily using the umbilical leash method. In essence this means that she’s attached to one of us (usually me) whenever she’s having a wakeful time. We do crate her for meals and overnight. Occasionally, she naps in there too …

… but only occasionally.

Harper and Dozer

Harper and Dozer

Between Harper and a two-week Christmas visit from my son’s girlfriend, ALL of my writing time in December disappeared. (Along with my time for housekeeping, sleeping, eating while sitting down, etc.)

But it’s getting better. She’s coming along nicely. We’ve worked out a schedule, finally, that allows me a bit of time at the keyboard in exchange for long “writerly” walks that wear her out. Granted, these are short writing sessions, but I’m okay with that.

It takes time to learn how to be a writer’s dog.

Luckily, she has a good teacher. Dozer just showed her how it’s done, by laying down on one of my feet, under the desk. After studying him for a moment, she’s claimed the other one.
2017-01-04-writers-dogs

Time to crack open that novel project I haven’t even looked at for almost a month and get back to it.


BFQ Diary #3: A Fall Failure … Kinda.

So the month of NaNoWriMo has passed. I did not write 50,000 words in November. Worse yet, I did not finish a complete rough draft of a novel in autumn, which was my actual goal. (Otherwise known as my Boss-Fight Quest, as you may recall.) Assuredly, by these metrics, I have failed.

But.

I am writing again. I have figured out how to find the time and energy I need to make words happen, even as I continue to settle into my life in North Carolina.

During the month of November, I pretty much set aside everything I deemed negotiable — things like housekeeping and social media maintenance, for example — in favor of a new approach. I split my waking time into thirds, as follows: 1/3 taking care of my self and my loved ones, 1/3 having fun and relaxing, and 1/3 working on the novel. (Plus, I’ve been sleeping regularly … up to eight hours at a time!) This approach worked. (Even if it didn’t lead to prodigious, NaNoWriMo-style output.)

This autumn, I helped my daughter sell her buttons at a couple of events, including the Raleigh Pagan Pride Festival. Our family picked out, and are preparing for, a puppy who will come home to us in a three weeks. I went to the NC State Fair. (That was a two-for. Both fun and work, because I wanted to do some research for the novel setting.) And now plans are underway to have a real Christmas, for the first time in years.

I also wrote about a third of a novel. (One that is shaping up pretty damn well, I think.)

In these last few days of fall, 2016, I feel balanced and healthy. My relationships are happy. My home environment is … fine. (Better than fine, really. Even good. Just not immaculate.)

So. As the “winter” season begins, I’m going to stay with this plan. I’ll have to make few tweaks of course. I am going to have to dust, sooner or later. And, as usual, I’m resolving to being more faithful to the blog and my other social media connections. I hope to do some on-topic posts in coming weeks, but for now I’ll settle for checking in with you and sharing a bit of what I wrote in autumn.

I hope you are all well, and living the lives you want to live.

P.S. Please remember, this is from a first draft.

Excerpt from ‘the carnival novel’. (As it is currently known.)

The wind lifted the hair off his hot nape, bringing with it a fresh burst of his prey’s scent. Under layers of sweet and powdery perfumes, the animal smell — the betaille smell — of her was dank. She reeked of long-dried excretions, of gently rotting teeth, of pinprick wounds now scabbed over.

For more than an hour, she’d been posing off to the side of midway traffic, smoking cigarettes, making herself available. Despite the sultry evening, she was wearing a jacket with long sleeves and many pockets. All the better to hide a pharmacy, he thought, scowling. Below the hem of the coat, a few inches of denim-clad thigh showed above tall boots. Best to cover up as much scarred and pasty skin as possible, eh Chère? He noted the boots were flats. She’d be able to run.

The night was loud with the sounds of the carnival, but it was no trouble for him to sift through the noise and hear the patter she directed at teenagers as they passed. “I love your skirt,” she’d call out. Or “Hey, where’d you get that foot long?” If the marks engaged with her, she’d chat some, maybe offer a cigarette, before asking, “Looking to get hooked up?” Or, “Need some party supplies?”

The kids couldn’t see the sloven woman — the salope — beneath her fresh-from-the-mall clothing. A shoplifter too, yeah. They couldn’t see the underside of her shiny, long, false nails were crusted with dirt and food and flakes of skin. To them she was a girl, like them, except a bit more edgy. Just a pretty pichouette, in a fashionably distressed jacket, offering to sell them a little fun.

Maybe if she only peddled the mari, he would leave her be. True, she was stealing money better spent on the carnival’s attractions, but about that he could look the other way. After all, some of her marks had come to the carnival only to score their pot. Whatever dollars were spent on the midway by such as them was a windfall, a side effect of the “munchies” her herb inspired. If mari were all she sold, he could forgive the trespass. Mais non, this one sold all the poisons, all the pills and powders and rocks. And some of the children she pitched were so young they had yet to grow hair under their clothes.

Now she was selling capsules, each a one, to a trio of muscular young men wearing matching jerseys. The were laughing and posturing for her, daring her to come ride the Freefall with them. He tensed as she looked up at the blazing neon tower they pointed at, worried she might slip away from him, escorted by the fortuitous herd of near-innocents.

His shoulders relaxed when she put them off, telling them to come back around for her later, making sure to touch each boy as she made her excuses. Was she a putain too? If so she was spoiled meat. He could smell her sickness from where he crouched.

Finally the pack of boys left her. As soon as they turned away, her flirtatious pout fled her face and she licked her thin lips. With narrow, feral eyes she looked up and down the strip. Assured that no one was paying attention to her, she turned her back to the flow of people and swiftly organized the cash the boys had pressed into her hands. She tucked a single bill deep into her front pocket then slipped the rest down the front of her pants, careful to snug the wad up against her crotch.

She looked up suddenly, a stray chienne who’d caught an alarming odor. She peered into the darkness, trying to decide if there was something or someone to fear between the generators he was using as cover. He held his ground, motionless. If her human vision was better, she would have made direct eye contact with him, but to her there could be nothing more than a glint of reddish light reflecting from his eyes. Spooked even so, she backed out into the traffic behind her, then allowed the stream to carry her eastward. She glanced back to her squatter’s territory twice before the crowd swallowed her. Trust one predator to know when another was around.

Staying to the alleys, he kept pace with her as she strolled along the midway, not always bothering to keep her in his sight; he would not lose her trace now. He contented himself with occasional glimpses of her long blond ponytail and that jacket. Within five minutes, with the invisible pressure of him muted by distance, she had stopped checking over her shoulder.

He drew close again when she paused to buy a lemonade and a pretzel. A local boy, temporarily hired to work behind the counter, was just as vulnerable to her surface beauty as any mark. But — he was pleased to see — his cousin Salvatore’s son, who was running the booth tonight, was not fooled. His face twitched in disgust when he caught a whiff of her. When the local went to pump extra cheese into a second cup for her, T-Salvatore stopped his hand with a disapproving glare that forbid the lagniappe.

She moved on. By the time she dropped her plastic lemonade cup into a garbage can, her loose-hipped, easy saunter told him that she was feeling confident again. He wondered if she’d circle back to the corner where he’d discovered her or choose a new location to hawk her wares.

Instead of doing either, she made her way to a bank of portable toilets that lined the eastern edge of the fairgrounds. There was no crowd here, where there was nothing bright and flashy to make one linger, but plenty of stink to hurry one away. She moved toward the end of the line, where strung up lights did little more than blunt the darkness pressing in from the rough fields around the fairgrounds. To the north, beyond the fields, on the far horizon, was a black line of timber. A welcome breeze wafted the clean, wild scent of pines to him as he watched the girl check three boxes, before she chose to go into the second from last. He smiled.

 


A long time coming, but now there’s happiness to spare.

I’ve been away from the Post-A-Week photo challenge, and from my blog, for a long time. (I’ve been almost totally silent since February, and — if I’m being honest — I went mostly-missing not long after last Halloween.)  I was busy being overwhelmed and obsessive about the things that needed to be done so that we could move from Minnesota to North Carolina.

It was a long, scary, and stressful process — one that began as a dream, more than seven years ago; then became a goal, about four years ago; then became a plan, at the end of last year.

It shouldn’t have been so all-consuming. I know folks do this kind of thing all the time, but when I was a younger woman it would never have occurred to me that I would. I was a Minnesota girl, through and through. I was rooted. I expected my life to unspool like that of all my friends and family members, who did not just pick up and start all over again in an unfamiliar biome and an unfamiliar society.

But then life happened.

(I don’t want to write about the circumstances that are included in that “life happened” phrase tonight, but if you want an overview, you’ll find it a pretty good one in the middle of this post which I wrote a couple of years ago, when we were still in the goal stage.)

The point is we are now here, together, in warm, lush North Carolina, and it’s time to get back to taking photographs, and blogging, and writing …  in short, it’s time to get back to living a life instead of planning for one.

I have two photos for the “spare” prompt:

First a very literal one. I had mentioned to my Ogre, on Friday night, the topic of this week’s photo challenge. A couple of mornings later, as we sat at the breakfast table doing our usual morning stuff, he suddenly looked up at me and said, “Wait, you need a photo for spare, right?” then he pushed his puzzle toward me. Slam!

Spare crossword

This next one, though, is the photo that really captured something special about spare for me this week.

2016.05.30 the rainbow from poolside

This is the pool at our new apartment community. We were relaxing in two of the loungers in the late afternoon. The sky was restless, with layers of clouds chasing each other about, and it was occasionally sprinkling us with soft, heavy, warm raindrops. We were talking about our new budget, and our new life, and about how much he’s enjoying his work, and how much I want to settle in to mine.

Then the rainbow came to delight us. A good omen.

The second bow? The one that came a few minutes later? That’s the spare one.

I'm part of Post A Week 2015

Click here to visit the Post a Week home.

Here are some of my favorite entries for the “spare” prompt  from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

The Simpler the Better | Once a Home | Iceland | spare tires | this reminds me of the paranormal hotel | a spare chair | love the way this is written | refreshing | bone | ooh, a creepy one | spare (ribs) | spare words |


Caution: You are entering a temporarily abandoned blog.

Hi Folks. I suspect many of you have picked up on the fact that my life is changing dramatically, but I should have written a post about it more than a month ago. Apologies. (My mind is just completely overwhelmed these days.) Here’s the official announcement:

We are moving from Minnesota to North Carolina

at the beginning of April, 2016.

That’s 1,200 miles, give or take, and the logistics of the move are nightmarish. Consequently, I have to admit that I won’t be blogging until I can think about anything other than organization, transportation, and packing.

Long term readers will know that this has been our goal for the last four years. I can’t wait to get there, and I can’t wait until this part of the process is over!

Answers to questions you may have:

HOW?

1  The Ogre (my husband) asked for a transfer to a North Carolina branch of the company, but local management said no, they couldn’t do without him.

Instead, they made him the happiest techie-introvert on the planet… he’ll be keeping the job he has, but he’ll be doing it out of an office we’ll set up in our apartment. (He’s a software engineer, and his company employs a number of 100% telecommuters. In fact, he already works daily, via teleconferencing, with some folks who live in other states and work from home. He just didn’t realize he could be one of them.) Isn’t the modern world a magical place?

2  We are taking the dog and the cat with us. (And hasn’t that complicated our travel plans exponentially?) We are not, however, taking most of our furniture. We’ll be living like newlyweds / college kids for a while. (Won’t that be fun?) We want to take our time finding pieces to replace the stuff we don’t want to drag across country. (Plus, to be honest, this whole process is expensive! We’d rather live on folding chairs than go into debt to furnish a new place.)

3  We’re moving into a large three-bedroom apartment in a lovely complex. (We need that extra room for Ogre’s office.) On the property, there’s even a pool, a real fitness gym, and a dog run with agility obstacles. (Bonus: I’ll have my own washer and dryer again.)

WHY?

4  We are done with snow, and ice, and cold … and feeling like we age a few decades, and become shut-ins, for four or five months out of each year.

5  We’ll be joining our daughter (aka Pooka) and her beau, who have been living in NC for almost seven years. In fact, our new place is very close to theirs. Our 20 year old son is relocating with us. Our little family will be reunited.

WHAT NEXT?

6  The plan is to for Ogre and me to take at least a year to explore NC in a quest to find a town or neighborhood to settle in — one that we will love as much as we have loved White Bear Lake, MN. (Which would be perfect, if only it weren’t in MN and subject to so freakin’ much winter.)

7  Our son is leveling up to roommate status. He’ll continue to work and save money, and look into his college options, while he is establishing his residency for in-state tuition. He already has his AA Degree, so he’ll basically be a junior when he can go back to school in 2017. (Not too far off the planned trajectory, age-wise.)

8  Finally, I expect I’ll be clear-headed enough to start blogging and writing again by mid-May. Maybe sooner, if things go well. I miss it.

So. Did I forget anything? Ask anything you like in the comments … and wish me sanity and fine weather for the cross-country caravan trip that is coming.

We’re going home!

 


A flash of color.

A young friend of mine, who may or may not be bipolar, recently described one feature of depression as a dimming of the colors. Though I’d never thought about it that way before, I was immediately struck with the truth of the statement … in both a literal and figurative sense.

Today I snapped a photo simply because I actually noticed the depth and vibrancy of the colors:

20151118 hp november colors

To find and notice color in mid-November, in Minnesota, is a good thing, especially on a rainy day.

(And, by the way, it’s a miracle that we’ve only had rain and not snow … a miracle that I appreciate very much.)

When I uploaded the above image from my phone to my PC, I noticed a backlog of unnamed, unsorted, un-posted files, including the following shots, which I took almost exactly a month ago, at the height of leaf season:

I took the photographs because I could objectively see how lovely the colors were, and I had good intentions of posting them somewhere, but I don’t think I ever did.

Isn’t it funny how that drab view of a clump of wet sticks caught me by the heart today and inspired this quick post, when that golden tree failed to move me to action just a month ago?

Maybe I’m coming out of the worst of this thing … though I am tired of resolving to feel better, so today I’m just letting whatever happens happen. Instead of fighting, I’m trying to make peace with my black dog.

This blog hiatus I’m on was actually planned. By mid-October, I knew I was going to need a break as soon as Halloween was out of the way. (November is a terrible month for a paranormal-themed blog anyway.) I did intend to come in and made some kind of announcement about taking November off, but I didn’t quite make it before I crashed. So this is that belated announcement. I may be back before December, but right now I’m not really planning on resuming regular posting (or being much engaged with social media) until then.

And on that awkward note, I’m out for now. My Ogre has come home and we’ve got plans to go stock up on soda while the prices are low.

(Hey, I’m a little surprised I decided to write anything, to be honest. The words aren’t coming easily at all lately.)

 


Fun, 1 inch, collectible, buttons for Halloween!

Regular readers know that my creative and talented daughter has an Etsy shop where she sells original designs on 1″ collectible buttons.

size

BTW, a one inch button is about the size of a quarter. Thanks to the movie Office Space, many of us think of these little gems as “flair.”

Pooka’s buttons can be purchased in a pin-back style ($1.25) or as a magnet ($1.75). (Oh, I almost forgot that she now offers key chains too, for $3.)

The magnets can be used to decorate any metal surface, of course, but they can ALSO can be worn in a pendant (which Pooka Creations sells.) Here’s a video I made about it a couple of years ago, that shows how it works. (I think all the designs shown in the video are still available.)

HALLOWEEN HERO BUTTONS

Just last night, Pooka listed this year’s limited edition Halloween Hero button for the 2015 season.

HH2015-CollageFinished

Does that look familiar? She chose this year’s design in honor of my cross stitch project.

I have written about Halloween Heroes in the post, Twisted Ding Dong Ditch (Reverse trick-or-treating the Halloween Heroes).

At the Pooka Creations shop, My girl describes the intent behind these buttons, and why she began to make them. Here’s an excerpt:

On Halloween 2013, I went through neighborhoods looking for thirteen houses that had decorated fabulously and were handing out candy to kids. I gifted each of those houses with a special “Halloween Hero” button I had made just for the occasion, and I thanked each of them for keeping my favorite holiday alive and well. I thought others may enjoy collecting these designs for themselves, or may want to hand them out to awesome Halloween Heroes in their own neighborhoods.

HH2015-4WM

OTHER SPOOKY BUTTONS

Now seems a fine time for me to share a selection of my daughter’s Halloween-appropriate wares. There’s plenty of time for you to order some as tokens for the Halloween Heros you know, or to choose some favorites, from all of her designs, to be special hand-outs on Halloween night.

Pooka Creations is known for careful craftsmanship, quick shipping, and helpful (and charming) customer service. (Check out her nearly-200 five-star reviews.)

Aside from the designs shown in the video, here are a few that I think are especially appropriate for the folks who find their way to this blog:

Then there’s the special things:

pooka creations steampunk set

… and this REALLY special thing:

necklace

This post-apocalyptic styled necklace is the first piece she’s offered that branches away from her beloved buttons.

(… Well, the SECOND piece, really, because the first one already sold.)

Clicking on any of the stand-alone images in this post will whisk you to Pooka Creations,

where you can browse through even more designs and place your order.

Otherwise, click the following link to go to the shop’s main page.

www.pookacreations.etsy.com