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.

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.

The Last Time

We’ve been home in Michigan from Florida for a week now and have cleaned and decluttered and put things away. Still deciding on what art to keep…the Frida Kahlo canvas print in the photo above is for sure a keeper and so is the hope chest it’s resting on. Of my books, about 2/3 of my library will be culled. We have already donated a huge load of clothing, jewelry, one framed print and other random things from my massive closet cleaning yesterday. I have been ignoring (and missing!) social media mostly but yesterday I did try to make a Canva twitter post about Jane in St Pete to pin to the top of my page. It turned out okay, but somehow I was not able to add an Amazon link or a link to the full review I quoted. And I see, looking at my email, that I signed up for a year of “premium” Canva, perhaps hoping it would help with that. Think I did it for the free month. I’m not sure it makes a difference, but I’ll try one more Canva post before I cancel the paid premium. I might keep it, if it helps me add those links.

The other thing I’m missing is writing, specifically writing the next Jane book. I stopped at a good place, but I want to devote myself to it, and I just can’t right now. The best I can do is write three pages in my journal every morning and I do love that; it keeps the writer in me just short of starving. And I decided to treat myself to a day of reading posts from my favorite bloggers and writing this post to catch you up on what I’m doing. This helps feed my writing self as well.

Feel I deserve a treat after a solid week of working hard to clean and organize the house after more than four months away. And there’s another reason I’m doing an especially deep clean. We’re seeing a realtor this coming week, and I hope we settle on a date to make this house sale official. We’ve lived here eight years. When we bought it I felt as though I was dreaming. I never thought we’d leave our home of 25+ years. I never thought to have such a lovely home. And brand new, too. But my husband had a plan and he followed through in ways I wasn’t even counting on. Al is very smart about the housing market. All the financial markets, really. Economics in general, he’s a savvy guy.

We’ve been visiting Florida every spring break for twenty years. Somewhere along the line, we agreed we’d like to retire there. Along with the other one thousand baby boomers per day who had the same idea. We didn’t think a whole lot about it until my dad moved and we scooped up his place. We’d stayed there often enough. Also with friends who either had made the move or rented for the winter months. Aside from hotel rooms, we never did the rental in Florida, jumping instead straight into buying. Also, yes, my dad now has a lanai, a laundry room and a garage of his own 🙂 Nice upgrade and only ten minutes from us.

So after the sale, we’ll land in our little Florida place for now, but we’ll be shopping for something with a few more of the amenities I miss when we’re there. Like, a laundry room. I solved that problem by taking my clothes to the cleaner, who do a wash/dry/fold service. Al used our shared laundry room for towels, rugs, sheets, and his stuff. So it was affordable, to hire out just my things, although I do a better job. And I’d rather do it myself. I finally got all the laundry we brought home finished, some to be donated and some just because there was a pile of it!

I skipped the cleaners the last week in Florida because I missed my washer/dryer and wanted to use it! Also love having a dishwasher again. And the outdoor deck. And the fact that this ride home from Florida is the last time we’ll have to do that. It’s as warm as Florida today here in Michigan, but the weather people are calling for rain the rest of the week. That’s okay, because I have the one room I missed the most: my writing room, where I’m sitting typing to you right now. I hope it’s sunny and warm where you are, too.

Ricki and Me

All the early influences on my writing were musicians. Singer/songwriters. I wanted to be one but I didn’t have the voice. I wrote bad poetry, I played guitar, I could sing a tiny bit, but I knew I didn’t have that magic. So I wrote other things and listened to the great music of the 50s, 60s and beyond. We all felt lucky that these bands came up with us. Their lyrics inspired me. Being from Detroit, I loved Motown as well as Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin. I loved the folkies and the country rockers. I listened to Dylan like he was a prophet, which of course, in his own way, he is.

“Last Chance Texaco” is my favorite Ricki Lee Jones song, although you might only know “Chuck E’s in Love” which was a monster hit for her in the early 80s. I never pre-order books but I did hers (titled “Last Chance Texaco”) because I adore her music and also years after her boyfriend was Tom Waits, who wrote his own memoir a few years ago and all he said about Ricki and their breakup was “She scared me.” I think he didn’t like she was a bigger star than he was, but whatever. She doesn’t say that, but she has a lot to say about her love affair with Tom. She was so in love and it took her so long to get over him. Now I get the bigger picture of that story, from both sides. I admire Waits as a musician but writing her off in one line of his book was such a guy thing to do.

I love rock memoirs, but I had started to notice that male rockers were much more numerous when it came to writing their stories. Must be because for every female singer/songwriter there are many many male rock gods. I decided I wouldn’t read any more male musician memoirs (unless Dylan ever writes “Chronicles Part Two”). Why? I can’t relate. I hate how they almost all brag about groupies and we all know many of these girls are underage. I used to love Graham Nash, his singing and songwriting, but at the end of his book, he says he tells his new wife, the love of his life, she’s just going to have to put up with him and his groupies and what they do together. They are part of the road, he says. No wonder Paul put Linda in his band.

Women songwriters tend to write better memoirs than the men with their predictable trajectories. I have read a few great male rock stories, like when I was desperate for a new book and I read David Grohl’s. I was so glad I did. I hated him for getting a band together, being lead singer, and playing guitar. Seems like he just wanted to take Kurt’s place. But I found out he didn’t. He had the same feeling about it all at first as I did. He knew the fans would. Many told him he’d never be Kurt. But his story was really good and he was a musician before he ever knew Kurt and had been in all the teenage boy bands that the artists cut their teeth on. He already played guitar. He’d already been a lead singer. And music was in his blood. I ended up not hating him anymore and really appreciating him, if not his music.

But Ricki Lee did more than tell a great story. She set something loose in me, something I’ve carried around way too long. We’re the same age and went through very similar childhoods and teenage years. Her parents were always breaking up and getting back together. Her mother kicked her out of the house at age 14. (I was 15 when my mom did the same). She lived rough and was often hungry, just like me. Both of us hitchhiked as a way to be somewhere different and maybe find a good meal at the end of the ride. Neither of us could legally drive or get a job. We both continually, when things got really bad, called our moms. Who inevitably sent the plane ticket. She wasn’t writing songs yet but she was singing and gathering material. I wasn’t writing stories yet, but I did have a notebook of (bad) poetry that I left in Key West.

To this day (and I’m 66) I feel it’s a miracle I survived those years unhurt. And I’ve never known anyone who existed like I did, sleeping on couches and in cars with my little bundle of clothes. Scared, cold, hungry. I had some lucky times, when a friend’s mom would let me stay for a few weeks or months. That’s really where Ricki’s story and mine diverge. But it freed me in a way. I was NOT such a freak after all. My parents were NOT the only couple who kept doing the break up/get back together dance. And while Ricki Lee went on to singer/songwriter fame and fortune, I became a not-famous fiction writer.

Also, Bob Dylan told Ricki Lee her album “Pirates” (with the Tom Waits break up song “Lucky Guy”) is real poetry. Bob Dylan! Her lyrics are that good and her voice is sublime. If you want to hear Ricki Lee, she’s on You Tube playing the guitar in her living room in New Orleans, kind of a cool marketing thing for the book. I’m not doing much marketing for my most recent book, Jane in St Pete. I had a whole thing planned but Covid kinda ruined it. But I just thought of something! I can leave you a link; there it is.

Connecting During Covid

I thought I would be so much further along on my Covid marketing plan. But then I got sick. Not sure yet if I had the actual Covid or just a potent blend of sinus, cold, and flu. Getting blood test tomorrow. Getting results who knows when??? Still, even sick for a few weeks, I did manage to make this little promo image on Canva, and Linda, who you met last week when we swapped blogs, has promised to show me how to do more. Like a story.

Also I did my Facebook Author Chat. I was so happy my voice wasn’t nasal and I did not cough! It was fun and easy but not so fun or easy to upload the video to my site. I checked the link at the start of this paragraph and it will take you to the chat. (Maybe only if you are on Facebook?) I watched it after we stopped talking and noted that I did not mention my new book one time. Not once! I didn’t show the book cover or even mention the title. It was just talking with other writers. Pure fun, which is the best sort of promotion.

In case I have not said it enough due to Covid or whatever I had (my husband gave it to me, whatever it was) the title of my new book is Jane in St Pete. That link will take you to Amazon to buy the book, but you can also buy it on Nook and iPhone. I bought my first Kindle book (by Karen McQuestion) on my husband’s iPhone in 2007 because I didn’t have a Kindle or an iPhone and I was excited about this new KDP program Karen was talking about.

I kind of knew that promotion for this book at this time would not be a whirlwind of success. Besides getting sick and writing the next book in the Jane series, I am also taking care of doctor appointments that had to be postponed when I got sick. Doctors do not want you in their office if you even suspect you have Covid.

What happened after that was I had to wait a few additional weeks for another appointment. It’s an important appointment, additional tests necessary because the first test had a bit of a shadow. I knew I’d be worried (worried is my middle name) the whole time I was in Florida this winter if I waited for Spring to take that test. I’m sure it will turn out to be nothing. Anyway.

We were supposed to leave for Florida December 2. Yes, in two days, now postponed two weeks. My biggest book promotion was going to be in Florida, in St. Pete, where the book is set. That may not happen now. The venue where I was to have a book signing is closed. Due to Covid. I’m glad I gave myself a talking to before the book came out. It’s okay if this is not the book launch of my dreams, despite what my horoscope may have predicted.

There will be other books and other signings and probably even other video chats. Which I really wanted to embed right here. Maybe next time.