Blogging Blues

Ain’t Got No Home

We do have a little condo in Florida, but this stuff won’t fit into it. So it’s in storage until we find our forever dream home. As usual, Al loaded more boxes than me. I have 7 boxes of books, all the rest are things like wires and plugs and stereo/electroic stuff. It’s fine, I am looking forward to having a turntable and records again. In the first Jane in St Pete book, she decides to buy herself a turntable and vinyl records. So far in Jane 2.0 (100+ pages) she has not mentioned music once. Back to Al, he has decided, with my encouragement, not to sell his motorcycle, but it’s stored elsewhere. He needs to work on it. A lot. And I’ll work on my book.

This should be a happy exciting time for us but I am too keyed up and Al is not at his best when he is planning two vacations at once. We finished booking the short trip to Traverse City, but the long one to Seattle is half done. The internet, at least the part of it that run hotels and Airbnb, is having issues this morning. So we have our plane tickets and our main place booked (Jimi Hendrix House–or something Jimi Hendrix). Did you know Jimi was born and raised in Seattle? So we will pay tribute while there. We plan to stay on Bainbridge Island for a few days but that’s when the internet went boom. Or the travel parts of it. I called the island on the phone, someone took my number, told me their internet is down, and they’d call me back. Al was having the same problem.

Eventually, Al and I had words and I took a pill. I had the Bainbridge Island place all set and he wouldn’t like me press “book” because he is a control freak and also says I get things wrong sometimes. Both those things are true but I have booked lots of vacations. Saw my final doctor yesterday and I asked if I might need to see a therapist of some sort because I have a new phobia (walking down stairs) and it is accompanied by a vision of me lying crumpled at the bottom step, she immediately said YES. And she changed around my meds meanwhile, as I have no time to find a shrink in Michigan. I will find someone in Florida or maybe this new pill she gave me will be the magic one. I will be fine. I have my trusty Xanax, it’s just got side effects I’m not fond of, but it works really well for panic attacks and even everyday anxiety.

We are mostly done here. The storage area is set except Al’s giant toolbox. The things we are taking in car to Florida are mostly packed. And we almost have our second leg of the Grandchildren Tour booked. We are not staying for any length of time in Florida in August. 1. Go see Ben 2. Close on house 3. Drive to Florida 4. Fly to Seattle 5. Have a fun relaxing time. That’s the entire plan. Except I will bring a pen and notebook and write when I can. I’ll have my laptop too for blogging which I feel I’m neglecting horribly. I used to do a faithful #MondayBlogs and if not Monday I’d hit up #TuesdayBookBlog. I have no hashtag for this thwarted Thursday.

What’s a Scene Sequence?

RIP Bosco

I finally found time to write my scene today…it’s been growing in my mind and I’ve been scribbling notes, but the move has really interrupted normal time here. I’d say it was fine, but I miss my words and my blogging friends, so really, it’s not exactly fine. But eventually it will be. I had to plan this morning’s writing sprint around so many other moving type things, but mostly packing. We still didn’t get our A/C fixed (next week!) so I need to consider the weather. Lucky for me, it’s been more like fall than summer. But we are due for another meltingly hot week coming later. I’m 66, I can’t pack and sweat at the same time.

Ironic I know. We are moving to Florida in August and I’m complaining about Michigan heat. Al and I have talked about if this is some kind of sign. But we do have a little home in Florida, so it’s somewhere to go, even if we decide not to stay there. I think we’ll stay. That’s the plan. Our way of working is to have a plan but be flexible. So while our little condo is in St. Pete, our stuff (for me, books; for Al, tools, for both of us, a few pieces of treasured furniture) is mostly in storage here in Michigan. Because the little St Pete condo has all we need, but not all we want. We will be looking for a new place once we get down there…well, maybe we’ll take a long road trip first, from Florida to Seattle. I have not seen my grandkids in almost two years!

Next weekend, we are going to see Ben, who lives with his parents and dog Sunny in northern Michigan, right at the tip of the lower peninsula. It’s about four and a half hours from here, so we see Ben more than our Seattle grandchildren. We are planning to see them all every summer once we relocate to our new (yet to be found) perfect home. Next weekend, we will miss Bosco, who was my first granddog and came before any grandchildren or other granddogs, passed on to dog heaven a few days ago. I’m glad Ben has Sunny. This is a first dog death in the family. It’s hard. Dogs are so loyal and cuddly. We will miss you, Bosco.

I really did mean this post to be about scene sequences, but you see how life is happening at warp speed just now. At first, I had the idea for a scene: Jane spying on four guys playing poker. One of them, she is sure, is the murderer. But then I thought, oh I need to set that scene up a couple different ways first. Sort of lay the foundation. Build the tension slow. Which is why I have three scenes, not one. And they are called a “scene sequence” because they all relate to Jane trying to catch a killer. The first thing I had to do was watch a YouTube video on poker as I knew nothing about it. Then, long overdue, I had to research Florida shrubbery. And after about five hours, I had my new scenes.

I read them over. They’re rough. They need work. But that’s what revision is for.

Contained Chaos Ensues

We sold our home in three days; lucky for me I didn’t have to keep the place pristine for very long. The buyers are a lovely couple who have agreed to let us stay until mid-August, so I think maybe amid the chaos I may continue to try to write my novel. Or at least fit in one more scene before we split town. It works to my benefit to keep my writing tools close to hand until the very end. People who are 66 years old, or at least some of them, accumulate a lot of stuff, which they, or okay I, nonchalantly decide I don’t want most of anyway. Ha!

The two or three boxes of books has turned into six and those are just the ones going into storage until we find our next good home, which will be big enough to hold these things that just won’t fit into our little St. Pete getaway. So into a storage unit most of it goes. Into the car we shall pack our usual assortment of clothing, minus winter coats and boots and sweaters. Those we will leave for the Estate Sale ladies to deal with, as they have ensured me they are very happy to do. They even sell unopened food. These Estate Sale gals have made the moving process much easier. Whatever we don’t want, they’ll sell. Whatever they can’t sell, they’ll donate. And then they’ll clean the house for the new owners. We’ll already be gone.

That I have the luck to be able to write a few more times in between the sorting and boxing owes much to these ladies. Meanwhile this big scene in Jane.2 has been growing, shooting out pretty flowers inside. I know I need to write it now. Or soon. For sure before we leave this place for good. Yes I’ll miss my writing room, but I’ll miss my family and friends more! As for missing a room, I do mostly write on a chair with my laptop, which I can do almost anywhere. This “ardent coral” room is for all the else, some of it practical like a printer and paper clips, most of it inspirational, like my books. I knew I was going to keep the complete collections of my favorite authors of fiction: Anne Tyler, Alice Hoffman, Erica Jong, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Sara Lewis and Margaret Atwood.

Turns out, I forgot my favorite non-fiction writer: Anne LaBastille. And my lone male short story writer: Raymond Carver. He comes along with Alice Munro and Carol Shields. Then there are the poets and the Zen philosophers. But I ruthlessly cut myself off with one box there. Oh and I had to add Laurie Colwin, who died way too young. She wrote fiction and two cookbooks. Her stories were a big deal to me back in the day. I want to revisit her.

Except for the writing books, those I’m using as research for this book (here’s a hint: Frida Kahlo) will wedge into the loaded southbound vehicle with Al and I and our electronics. The few other favorite “How to Write” books, several of them by script doctor/screenwriter Linda Seger, I will store for use on the next book.

We are taking this a step at a time and I may be nuts to think I can actually write a book while relocating twice. Well, maybe only once. We are thinking we will stay in our little jewel in St Pete six months or maybe a year. Al is my guiding star with this as he knows all about the economics of the housing market these days. I couldn’t do this without him, but then I don’t think I would have ever been able to write a book without him. All you need is love. And books.

Barbara Pym

This Covid time would have been so much worse for me without books. I’m writing my own book too but right now we are in the middle of a move and I feel too scattered to settle into a daily routine. You never know when someone will want to view your house and thus it must always be in showroom condition and we must be out of the house. I did manage a chapter a few days ago. And I have an idea entirely real in my mind I want to put on paper. I scratched out a few notes until I can give it my full attention.

I’ve not been happy with most of the books from my re-read collection. Too contemporary. I go back to the tattered Regency romance print editions or buy new Kindle copies. I’m on my fourth Pym and enjoying it very much. Hers were contemporary for her time. She was born in 1930s and so wrote beginning in the 50s. Her career was ruthlessly interrupted in the late 60s-70s when her publisher dropped her and she couldn’t get a new one. Her books were just too old-fashioned and sweet. They didn’t fit. They seemed throwbacks to gentler times. But when she re-emerged in the 80s, even all her backlist reprinted by a fancy literary press, I discovered her and fell in love.

She only had ten years or so left to write her sly erudite stories of women’s lives in mid-twentieth century. There’s romance, but usually of the thwarted sort. Right now I’m reading The Sweet Dove Died. A young man with fluid sexuality, his uncle who runs an antique shop, and the three women the nephew falls to some degree in love with: a young woman..maybe a beatnik? An older woman…but still beautiful in her way, and a heartbreaker of a romeo who tosses the young man aside for a new version.

These books don’t seem like much as far as plots go: they are character-driven and the main pov is the older woman. The wealthy antiques dealer uncle loves her and would marry her but she holds him off, allowing him to feed her fancy meals at the best restaurants or see an opera together. I do so love the characters even though they are not typical “good” heroines. Pym wrote before the time of strict rules for writing women characters. They don’t have to be all good; and they are not. They feel more like real people for all that. The other thing that captivates me, besides the lovely London setting, is Pym’s prose. She’s an easy wordsmith and handles her sentences with a lovely dexterity and cadence. She’s a great comfort to me in these days when I just can’t seem to read murder mysteries.

The ReRead Project

I bought this book 30 years ago. As a young writer, I remember being mesmerized by Jane’s adventures with her husband Paul, also a writer. They travelled to Mexico and Morocco, they had exotic adventures and a totally open marriage. I liked the whole idea of a traveling writer. Being so fun, parties all the time, drinking and being carefree. I knew I’d want to read it again someday, after I retired from my job, could travel and my kids were grown and had lives of their own. Well that day is now. I’ve done a few of these rereads, but really I’m addicted to my Kindle. And I like different kind of books now.

Thirty years ago, I wrote poetry and literary short stories. Short things I could do between everything else. Jane never did anything, she had maids and cooks and her husband pampered her. She could be drunk all day every day and sometimes she did that. I loved her strangeness. She was a really odd person. I thought she was cool. She was famous, as her husband was a composer and a writer and they were just high society darlings. My main memory is of being so taken by her lifestyle. To live in Morocco! To cook over an open fire! To have exotic pets! To write, write, write.

Thirty years later, I finished reading Who is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews on my beloved Kindle and part of the book was set in Morocco. I thought of the Jane Bowles bio immediately and decided it was my next read. I do still like reading real books sometimes. It’s just the Kindle is easier, faster, immediate gratification. It helps my old eyes. I’m about 125 pages in and maybe I won’t finish it. I’m disappointed in my younger self, that I could be so shallow and not see that Jane was possibly (probably) mentally ill. She was always losing her shoes, but she didn’t care, she went barefoot. And if she stepped in glass, well she was usually so drunk she didn’t know. Or care. She published little but drank a great deal. Her husband was a saint. Jane was a lesbian, it seems to me now, or bisexual, as was Paul, and I think that all went over my head at the time. Nothing wrong with their sexuality but it seems a little sad to old conventionally married me. They did not have that closeness, although Paul wanted it. After a few years Jane just said, nope that shop’s closed. And then she flaunted her affairs. She was irresponsible with money and would leave Paul to clean up the finances.

On a whim she’d sell a house and tell Paul later! “We’re moving to Mexico.” Or whatever. I am shaking my head at how I could ever think I wanted a life like that. I’m not sure I did…I threw away all my journals, a habit I keep to this day. My children don’t need to know Mom’s inner thoughts. They have my novels if they want to know me. They have my blog. I think kids just want a regular mom and that’s what I am. And a doting granny. Jane never had children, at least I don’t think so. I’m not that far into the book yet. There is something endearing about Jane. I’m glad she got through her crazy life okay and managed to write a few slim books that were strange reading even then. She was an original. I’m just me, and I like it that way. Reading thrillers with female protagonists and all by new writers like Andrews. I can’t believe it’s her first novel. It’s really good.