Character Building

Still in Florida. Had a lovely visit with family and will be heading back to Michigan in a day or two. Don’t want to go. But don’t want to be without Al at Christmas more. All the while down here I have been thinking about my story and especially my main character. It’s like an old-fashioned flash bulb going off: click, click, click.

Each click, another part of her personality fits into place. Or a plot point. Or an important setting, like where the murderer came from and how he got into a secure gated community with a 24 hour guard. All this is happening like it always does at the start of a new project, without effort. Effort will come later. There’s so much to writing novels that requires work. I love this part, when things are first taking shape.

It feels like anything can happen. The story is wide open.

Those story clicks happen in all sorts of places. Having coffee at the clubhouse, sitting watching a sunset, strolling through the Dali. While the guys were off on a pirate ship, my daughter-in-law, Jessica, liked the museum option. My main character is involved in the art world, so going to the museum with Jessica and Julia produced a whole slew of clicks. Jessica was an art major in college, so I explained a little about the character and said “I may be calling you with questions.” She’s fine with that.

Meanwhile, I listened to the docent for the entire Dali experience for the first time. When I couldn’t quite see what she meant, Jessica helped me see those double exposures and things. Third trip to the museum, first time really getting into Dali’s art. (Those other times I was just consumed with Frida. I still am.)

Dali’s paintings remind me of tarot cards in the way that they are dense with symbolic images that a casual observer might miss. The docent and Jessica were there to answer questions and point out all the stuff I hadn’t really seen before. Dali’s an interesting artist and the museum is lovely but I’m not particularly drawn to his work. That’s okay. He’s inspiring to me for so many other reasons. Click.

Telling My Own Fortune

When I finished my crime novel, I wrote a few short stories. No new book idea had popped into my head, which is the way it usually works. As I wrote those stories, I was finding my way into my next novel. The stories were okay just on their own, but even better, after I finished the second one, I saw them as backstory for two or three characters in a new novel. I loved my main character.

I already had the setting, St. Pete in Florida. My husband and I bought a condo there as an escape from Michigan winters, and since my job is portable and his is not, I was down there on my  own for a couple of months. It was an amazing experience. Not knocking my husband, I love him dearly and am looking forward to his retirement in a few years.

But being on my own making a new home, I had an independence I had not ever in my 62 years experienced before. I’d been independent before, but never in a financially stable way. It felt really good. Marriage is about interdependence (at least mine is) which means endless compromises, again and again. While in Florida, after Al flew home to his job in Michigan, every day and every decision was my  own.

Today I read my cards (I am a long time student of the tarot) and what was reflected back to me consolidated and cheered on my direction with the new novel. Also, I think there’s going to be a fortune teller in this book.

Going It Alone

img_3598While becoming a little annoyed by Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, I have to admit the course has brought big changes and been a good companion on what has been an amazing and mostly solo journey. Julia’s been nagging me to take a walk, but I’ve been too busy dancing.  And very week there’s a new artist date to plan; these dates are to be taken alone so nothing I do with friends counts.

This week I got the bright idea to combine a date and a walk and take myself on a beach walk. I’ve been five minutes from multiple beaches for a couple of months, but not once have I ventured to a beach alone. Not sure why. I love walking on the beach. The mellow sound of the waves rushing to shore. The gritty sand under my feet. The way each new wave washes my toes clean. The glitter of sunshine reflecting off water.

I guess it’s just always been something Al and I do together. If there’s any prevailing theme of this winter in Florida, it is Going It Alone. It’s been fine, but, honestly, I didn’t get married so I could be alone. I was terrified much of last year leading up to this time, worried about how I would handle things on my own. Al calmed my concerns by pointing out that it would only be for this one year–he planned to retire in December of 2017. That plan has changed, and it looks like I may be here on my own again next year, and possibly the year after that.

img_3502I don’t have to be here. I can stay with him in Michigan and we could rent this place out for the season. But I have a choice and I know I don’t want to live through another Michigan winter ever again. This has stirred up a bunch of uncomfortable feelings. I feel selfish. I feel tricked. I never planned to have a long distance marriage, even for a season, so I’m attempting to overturn an image, burnished over a lifetime, of what I thought a good marriage should look like.

Honestly, I’m a little upset with my husband for deciding not to retire quite yet even as I understand that he’s his own person and he should pursue his career the way he sees fit. He has always allowed me that same freedom. So yeah I’m a little pissed off at Julia and Al but I also know that each of them, in their own way, is helping me go mine.

 

On the Bayou

img_3380

We’ve been here in our new home for a week now and are loving it. We come from a much colder climate in Michigan like many of the “snowbirds” here in Florida. Al will be with me for a few more weeks and he has been great with helping me stock the house. He arranged for WiFi and is going to paint the bedroom tomorrow. We have furniture coming and we’d like to paint the whole place first, but not sure Al will want to tackle the other rooms. Meanwhile I have three sample colors I’m considering for most of the rooms.

I started Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late program. I’ll be here 12 weeks and the course is 12 weeks so I think it will be an excellent anchor, especially after Al returns to Michigan and work. I was able to get a “good enough” draft of the crime novel completed before I left Michigan, so mostly the writing I’m doing now is for the Cameron course. It’s not as difficult as the crime novel was for me … probably because my inner critic doesn’t care about my personal writing. My inner critic only pipes up when she thinks I’m trying to be clever, then she slaps me down.

img_3390

And it’s true I was trying to take a leap with the crime novel. Whether I succeed or not is TBD by my publisher. If they print it, I’ll feel I succeeded. Meanwhile, I am letting it sit for awhile in Michigan as I adjust to this new way of life on the Bayou. The library is my favorite room, this is only one shelf of about twenty. I don’t have a bookshelf in the condo yet. After painting is compete, I plan to get one. Or several. And go buy some real books at the bookstore. Meanwhile I have my Kindle and all these books in the library.

Last Post

I just bought a home in a Florida beach town. I’ve lived in Michigan all my life except for a brief season in Key West when I was on the brink of twenty and recovering from a teenage marriage. I still live in Michigan, as my husband is not yet retired and I very much like living with him. But as Michiganders of a certain age sometimes do, we’re taking a second home to avoid the brutal winters.

Until I can convince Al to retire, he won’t be down south with me as much as I’d like. He does have several weeks’ vacation, so he’ll be there a good chunk of the time. Probably not in February where I will try to console myself with lots of writing time and feathering the new nest. Also a consolation: not having to cook all those suppers and shop for the vast quantities of groceries he makes disappear with alarming regularity.

IMG_2744

Still, I’ll miss him when we’re not together.

It feels really strange to have two houses in two states, but strange in a good way, like an exciting adventure. And as one adventure begins, another ends. After fourteen years and 2482 posts (!!!) this is my last one. I started blogging as a way to motivate, understand and identify myself as a writer. I was unpublished and wanted a place to hold the dream of one day being the author of books. So I did what I set out to do and made some good friends along the way. Thank you all for reading. Now on to the next adventure.