What I’m Working On: Settling into my downstairs office (see photo) after a marathon work session on Sunday in which I unpacked a ton of boxes. Alas, its been pointed out to me that there are still some unpacked boxes upstairs that never got moved. But, honestly, I haven’t missed any of that stuff for a few months now, so I’m thinking most of it is going out the door. I’m also writing my next novel, working with several clients and I have a new sort-of ghostwriting project.
What I’m Struggling With: Sugar. There were sugar cookies in Halloween shapes for the adorable granddaughter to frost last week and that meant I had to eat a couple also. And I’m baking pie tomorrow. My chiropractor just reminded me that sugar aggravates inflammation and that it and this weather system that came in overnight were probably why my hips hurt so bad when I walked yesterday. I’m going to be good starting Monday, I swear it!
What I’m Excited About: My blog redesign, a new feature here starting tomorrow and best of all A GIVEAWAY OF J.D. FROST’S NEW BOOK on Tuesday. So come on back here to join in.
What I Want to Remind You About: If you live anywhere near Nashville, I’ll be there in January for the Room to Write retreat. Its a chance to have lots of time to write, meet other writers, plus get some good writerly info from moi and two others. Read all about it here.
And of course, Happy Halloween to all! What are you doing to celebrate?
Where I've Been: Europe. Spain and France, to be specific. I was there for our annual Let's Go Write workshop, which this year focused on structure and was a grand success. This year it was held in Collioure, a lovely seaside town in the south of France. And guess what? Despite a busy teaching, sight-seeing, and cavorting schedule, I wrote a whole chapter–5,000 words–while in Collioure. So to those of you who have asked if we really get any writing done, the answer is yes.
What I Saw: An Asian couple falling prey to scammers near Notre Dame, houseboats I want to live in on the Seine, a huge un-neutered pit bull at a sidewalk Tapas bar in Barcelona (apparently neutering male dogs is not a thing over there), stone steps up the side of the hill in Collioure and another beastly set leading to an ancient castle ruin, a fascinating medieval cloister with old stone carvings, one of the most beautiful villages in France, the amazing Sagrada Familia, heated towel racks, a precious little needlework stor in Paris, and more, much, much more. (I took tons of photos throughout the trip, and you can see them all on my Instagram feed.)
What I Ate and Drank: Orangina by the quart (funny–I don't drink pop here at all, ever); red wine by the gallon (the wines of the Languedoc region are superb and cheap); a divine confit du canard (duck) our last night in Paris, tomato toast at every Tapas bar (they don't call it that but I do),so much entrecote and frites (steak and fries) I finally got sick of it, tons of pate, cheese, and excellent French bread. Also amazing butter, tomatoes, radishes, and melon. Oh! And the jamon (ham) and sausage in Spain. J'adore.
What I Read/Watched: I only read one book while gone–Splinters of Light by Rachael Herron. I love her books but this one was my least favorite. One reason I didn't get a lot of reading done was because I've learned that watching movies on the loooooong (11 hour) plane trip makes the time go faster. Sort of. On the trip from Atlanta to Barcelona, I watched Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert, which I highly recommend, and True Story, which was a meh for me. On the flight from Paris to Salt Lake City, I watched: Finding Vivian Maier, Before Sunrise, The Rewrite, and Still Alice. I liked all of them. And I think every writer should watch The Rewrite–its about a failing screenwriter, who, in desperation, takes a teaching gig at a small New York college. And plus, its Hugh Grant!
I am currently reading Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse, a book I bought at the gift shop at Perpeyteuse, and Big Magic, Elizabethe Gilbert's book on creativity.
What I'm Excited About: The CNN app on my phone. I can stream news live while I cook! I watched coverage of the Pope in America as I made an Ina Garten Tri-Berry Crumble for my husband's birthday. Its as good as having a TV in the kitchen. And, most especially, meeting the new member of our family, who is not here yet. My daughter is due to deliver her second boy any day now.
I'm also excited about fun, creative events coming up this fall, like a day-and-a-half publishing workshop Debbie and I will be putting on in November (dates TBA soon, we've had to change them rather abruptly), my novel-writing class, and more juiciness to come!
Image of Peyrepeteuse, home of the beastly stone steps, from this site.
Why I'm Frazzled: BECAUSE I'M LEAVING FOR EUROPE ON TUESDAY. That's why.
What I'm Reading: Same thing I was reading last week, The Surrender Experiment, by Michael Singer. I'm about 10 pages from the end, and was going to finish it at lunchtime but then the phone rang and I got distracted. But, for your curiousity pleasure, here is a list of books I've downloaded to take with me:
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (love me a good science fiction read every so often and this one is loooong–great to take on a long flight)
There's no way I'll get all of those read, especially because last year on the way home from Paris I discovered that watching movies back to back makes the time pass really quickly, and when I'm traveling I don't read as much. But I like to be prepared. Because, what if the Iceland volcano blows and we're stuck in Europe? (We should be so lucky.) I will need books to read.
What I Have Left to Do Before I Leave: Host one family dinner, engage in a board of directors bonding outing, attend one birthday party, finish reading one manuscript, exchange one cardigan, write two newsletters, get my hair cut, and pack. That's not so bad, is it? Is it?
What I Love This Week: My new phone. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Note. It has a stylus! A freaking stylus! I went to the AT&T store on Saturday and ordered it. (Wasn't in stock, small store.) Had great service there. Went to a different AT&T store on Wednesday where they could do a data transfer and had, um, shall we way, interesting service. As in, all the worker people telling me, "You're switching from an Iphone to a Galaxy? Girl! You're going to be back in here telling us you want your Iphone back." Also telling me I have way too many contacts (Is 323 really that many? I didn't think so, either.) And so on. Hear me now: I WILL NOT BE IN THERE TO SWITCH BACK. Because I'm stubborn that way. And because I love my new phone.
What Will Happen to This Blog While I'm Gone: Read my post Monday to find out.
Happy weekend! What are you doing this weekend? Something fun?
Here it is Friday afternoon on a beautiful day in Portland. And here, at last, are my five things for the week:
What I'm Reading: The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. I'm leading a discussion group on Singer's most popular book, The Untethered Soul, in October, which is why I got onto this title. It is fascinating, all about how he essentially just said yes to whatever life put in front of him. With fabulous results: he's build several multi-million dollar businesses, wrote a best-selling book, and still manages to maintain a rigorous twice daily meditation practice.
What I'm Writing: I'm kind of going back and forth between what I call prep work for my next novel and the actual writing of it. I was going great guns with the writing until I wasn't. As sometimes happens. That is a sure sign one needs to go do some planning. And it has paid off, as always happens. I know a ton more about my character now. (Don't forget I'm teaching my Get Your Novel Written Now Class in October. Go here to learn more.)
What I'm Loving: My new computer. I'm switching from a Mac to a PC, so there's a bit of a learning curve. I was also using a version of Word from 2007 on my old computer, so, yeah. And don't throw things at me if you're a Mac lover but I'm thrilled to be back in PC land. Sorry, but I kinda don't get what the mystique of the Mac is all about. Anyway, my new baby is a Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 laptop with a touchscreen (and a stylus). At 13", it is smaller than my old 15" version but I like that.
What I'm Grateful For: The neuro-prolo therapy that I got at my naturopath's office this week. I've mentioned my problems with different length legs and the issues it was causing a few times in passing. It was seriously cramping my style, most especially my love of walking. But this new therapy is amazing! Its not for the faint of heart, as it involves much injecting of solution into the body with tons of tiny needles, but I walked pain free for the first time in a couple of years yesterday.
What I'm Doing This Weekend: Moving furniture and boxes. As you know, I've moved my office downstairs. We accomplished that a couple weekends ago. Much busy-ness ensued. But now we have to deal with what we left behind–specifically my old office suite and, oh yeah, all those boxes of books and office supplies.
What is new with you? What are you doing this weekend?
*** My photo captioning is not working but in the above photo you can see that Lieutenant likes my new computer, too.
Where I've Been: I kinda fell down on posting at the end of last week (no 5 on Friday post) and the beginning of this week. That's because I was at the beach. I stayed with my family at my daughter's in-law's house in Garibaldi (thank you, Dennis and Carlene). We also visited old, old, old (and by old, I mean since birth) family friends in Arch Cape. I shouldn't be posting about Arch Cape here because it is pretty unknown, as in on a weekday in summer the beach is deserted, and I would like it to remain that way. So don't go there, (as one of our favorite governors famously told people about coming to Oregon to live), please.
What I've Been Reading: Have I obsessed about Dietland here yet? It is the best book I've read in ages, so full of unflinching, radical and incredibly brave commentary about body image and the way women are treated in North America. Every woman should read it immediately. Men, you should too, but prepare to become very defensive. I'm now reading The Ambassador's Wife, by Jennifer Steil. I kinda put it down to read a couple books about writing, but I like it well enough.
What I'm Excited About: A really, really, really, really good publisher is considering my novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery. Think good thoughts, please!
Where I'm Teaching Next Fall and Winter: I'll be teaching my Get Your Novel Written Now class right here online this fall, starting in October and early-bird pricing is good until I leave for Europe on September 1st. And then, for those of you farther east and south, I'm part of the staff of the reborn Room to Write in Nashville in January. Join me at one or both.
What I'm Obsessing About: Clothes. As in, what to take to Barcelona, Collioure, and Paris. I gave away half my wardrobe (not exaggerating but I will admit to having a lot of clothes) earlier this summer and felt like I had nothing to wear. So I've been ordering things like crazy. I love shopping online. I think I have it all figured out now. And I realize how very lucky I am to have this problem.
Oh, and by the way, I'm going to try my best to post regularly from Europe. Yeah, that worked out well last year. But on the off chance you've had an idea for a guest post, this would be the time to hit me up with a query about it.
And also–follow me on Instagram because I'm going to be posting photos from my travels there, and at the moment you can see pictures of Poo and Mr. Rock.
I'm late with this (and nearly everything else in my life at the moment) so I'll keep this edition brief.
What I'm Reading: I finished Life As We Knew It, and have the other two in the series on hold at the library (along with half the catalog). Still reading After Perfect by Christina McDowell, and also started Safekeeping by Karen Hesse, which is yet another in my current string of apocalyptic YA novels. Main character Radley returns home from volunteering in Haiti to find an America transformed by the recent election of the American Political Party and the assassination of the president. It is written in a very spare manner and is quite absorbing. Also, two books on Tiny Houses that my son gave me as a belated birthday present. I'm determined to build one!
What I'm in Awe Of: The #ShellNo protestors who dangled from a Portland bridge for 40 hours earlier this week, in order to stop the passage of the Fennica out of dock to Alaska. I'm also amazed at the courage of a hardy band of kayakers who paddled right in front of the ship to try to stop it. And I'm proud to live in a city where such protests are considered important, no matter how much traffic they disrupt.
What I'm Complaining About: The heat. Again. It was 103 yesterday, and is forecast to be 102 today. This is our second intense heat wave this summer and I'm tired of it.
What I'm Shopping For: A new computer. Maybe this one. Mine is six years old and freezes all the time. Plus it gets slow and balky as I'm working. I'm going smaller and less complicated. And, I'm also switching back from a Mac to a PC. I know, gasp. But I just can't see that spending good money on a Mac was worth it.
What I'm Doing This Weekend: Moving my office downstairs. I have a lovely new desk and rug and curtains and I'm excited. If I remember, I'll post photos when its done. And no, I'm not adding a sandbox, as in the photo above, but I am going to the beach next week so I thought it appropriate. And kinda cute.
That's whats up with me this week. What's going on with you?
Images from commondreams.org, ronnieb, bitrebels.com, and some random computer shopping site.
Here we go again. It's still summer, still hot, but rain is forecast tomorrow. Yay!
What I'm grateful for: Friends and family who turned out en masse last night to hear me read from The Bonne Chance Bakery manuscript, and to also hear Kayla Dawn Thomas read from her latest novel, Tackling Summer. She and I are Twitter friends and since she lives in Washington and I live in Oregon we'd never met until last night. So fun. She's awesome! The bookstore where we read, Another Read Through, is awesome, too, and owner Elisa offers readings every Thursday night. She's a huge supporter of local writers and a really cool person, too.
What I'm reading: The last two weeks I've been struggling through Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. She's a NYT bestselling author, but frankly, I was not overly impressed with her writing. It was certainly serviceable enough, but the characters never grabbed or charmed me. I looked up the reviews on Amazon, and while many were over-the-top glowing, several agreed with me. I also learned that she is known for her twists at the end, so I skimmed and skipped to find out what this one was. And can I just say that if I'd bothered to read the whole thing I would have been furious? Like, throw-the-book-across-the-room, rip-it-into-shreds-even-though-it-was-a-library-book furious. The twist was as hackneyed and stupid as the old it was all a dream schtick.
Now I'm reading, sort of, Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I say sort of, because it's sort of depressing. Not giving anything away here to tell you the premise, which is that the moon gets whacked out of orbit by an asteroid and terrible things happen on earth. It's all written from a teenager's perspective. It is compelling, but sometimes I just can't take apocalyptic fiction. Although, in looking for a link I've just discovered this book launched a whole series, so that's hopeful. I also discovered that Pfeffer retired from writing books last year, which I just don't get. I want to write books until they shovel me into the ground, many years into the future.
I'm also reading After Perfect, a memoir by Christina McDowell, the story of a wealthy family losing everything. Another cheery one. But its good.
Where I've Been: Seattle, last weekend. More to the point, the suburbs south of Seattle, near the Sea-Tac airport. My cousin (and fifty million other cousins) lives up there in a house a few feet from Puget Sound. Nice spot, to put it mildly. We were celebrating the wedding of her youngest daughter, and even though I nearly got arrested (I'm exaggerating the tiniest bit) by an overly zealous traffic-type person who didn't want to let us cross a street where a parade was congregating, it was a lot of fun. After all, few things are better in life than watching your three-year-old grandson entertain a roomful of people by dancing to Shut Up and Dance.
What I Need: A housecleaner. Every time I gaze (in a writerly manner) in any direction in this house I see cobwebs. Sigh. At least I'm making progress on sorting through files and books in my office, in advance of moving it back downstairs. I WILL get this project done before I leave for Europe in September.
What I'm Reading Online: I read a lot of blogs and newsletters, but surprisingly, not a lot on writing. Oh well, my tastes have always been eclectic. For writing blogs, I recommend Writer Unboxed (I love Barbara O'Neal's posts there), Janice Hardy's Fiction University, and Shawn Coyne's work on Story Grid. Oh, also Steven Pressfield.
And now, here's my compendium of non-writing blogs and newsletters I follow: thekitchensgarden, where New Zealand transplant Cecilia writes every day about her "farmy" and also dispenses all manner of practical wisdom; Dispatch From La and Kelly Rae Roberts for visual inspiration, emails from Steve Chandler and Brian Johnson for kick-ass motivation, and Leonie Dawson for a combination of visual, crazy, and down-to-earth inspiration. I know there are more, but these are enough for now.
And that's enough from me for now! What's going on with you as we cruise toward the end of July? I think we should all take a cue from Henry and get some dancing in this weekend!
It's another Five Things on Friday post. Admit it, you woke up this morning just dying to hop on over here and read the latest one. Well, here it is.
What I'm Reading: Still working on a couple of books from last week, including Leaving Time. Don't tell them, but its due today at the library and its going to be late. I would say it is pretty good, but I'm skimming a bit here and there in order to get through it. I've been doing that with books more and more lately. The impatience of old age (see below). I'm also still working on Alexandra Fuller's Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and I still haven't forgiven her for not having a website. The lack of forward motion in that one has slowed me down. I am, however, reading her most recent one, Leaving Before the Rains Come, which came in at the library and liking it better. Because there's conflict aplenty, as in money trouble and divorce, and we all know that lots of conflict makes for great reading.
I'm also reading Stones of Consciousness, for research purposes, and Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach. Yeah, I've got a million books going at once. I see a book I want to read and put a hold on it at the library and then all the holds come in at once. Haven't quite figured out how to get the flow working better.
What I'm Thinking About: My novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery, which is currently being considered by a list of 20 excellent publishers. Think good thoughts! And I'm pondering my next novel. I finally, as of yesterday, figured out a loose outline of the first segment. I've been writing and writing, wondering how it would all come together. More like praying it would all come together. This is a testament to the idea that you should just keep writing, because it does work eventually.
What I'm Watching: I bet you're expecting me to wax poetic about some golden age of television show. Ha! Not a chance. I'm currently totally into American Ninja Warrior and America's Got Talent. Summer nights, I need something light and frothy. I also have the Woody Allen movie Vicky Christina Barcelona in the queue because we will be in Barcelona in September for a few days.
What I'm Complaining About: Well, nothing at the moment. It's summer. Life is good. Okay, maybe I'll bitch about the fact that my son's dog, who is here for the day, barks at EVERYTHING OUTSIDE THAT MOVES. And maybe some things that don't. This is a dog who barks at jet contrails, after all.
What I'm Celebrating: My birthday. It's today. I'm old. And I love it. As I always say, the alternative, being 6 feet under, is worse. I take issue with all those people who say aging is awful. Yeah, the body has its issues, but the mind and emotions are better than ever. I intend to live to be 100 and love almost every minute of it.
That's it. That's all I've got. What's going on with you this Friday?
The tub wads, back when they were young, thin, and innocent
This series (we'll see how long it lasts) is my summertime whimsy. I started it last week, with the inaugural Five Things on Friday post. Here's this week's obsessions passions:
What I'm Reading. Just yesterday, I started Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, who is a New York Times best-selling writer. I'll be honest, I've tried to read her books before and not been impressed. But I was intrigued by the subject matter of this one, elephants, and put it on hold at the library. After a long wait, it finally came. It's been sitting in a stack for a week or so, and finally I started it. Have to say, I'm hooked.
I'm also reading Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness,Alexandra Fuller's second terrific Africa memoir. I liked the first one (Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight) better, I must say. This one is quite episodic and is mostly based on conversations with her mother, who is quoted heavily throughout, which makes for an odd flow. But I'm still enjoying it.
Brief aside: can I just vent for a minute? Because I consulted the Google for her website to link to, and all she has is a listing of her agent for speaking requests. I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but honestly, could she not deign to have a website? (The link I provided above is Wikipedia.)
What I'm Thinking About. Structure. As in, novel structure. It looms large at the moment for a couple of reasons. One, because I'm embarking on writing my next novel and so far totally at sea about how the plot is going to come together. And two, because structure is the topic of my upcoming France retreat. I swear I've at least glanced at every book and website ever written on the topic. But if you have a favorite one, please share it.
What I'm Listening To. This goofy track from Tom Bird. It is free to download and it supposedly has subliminal messages embedded in it, urging one to write. In some weird way I don't understand, I swear it works. Of course, those messages could be convincing me to do something unrelated to writing…excuse me, I must now go dance naked in the park.
What I'm Complaining About. Besides authors who don't have websites, cats. Two fat tabbies, to be exact. My tub wads have taken to doing their business in inappropriate places, like the bathroom and kitchen. We have no idea why. Their kitty litter is pristine. Maybe they are mad about the heat? If anybody has any suggestions as to what their little feline brains might be thinking, please share.
What I'm Loving. Qi Gong. I've started practicing this ancient Chinese form off and on through the years. Lately I've been doing the Spring Forest Qi Gong from Chunyi Lin and it is amazing. Soothing, energizing, focusing and I swear it is also helping all my stupid aches and pains heal.