Survival Medicine

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We finally moved on Christmas Eve, pulling into our new abode about dusk. It is beautiful and spacious and has lots of window sliders to the gardens. Inside there are many boxes but very little furniture. We do have a bed, television, and two chairs. I have my desk too, in fact I have everything for my office, but we are using my office for our little living space while Al paints the actual living room. He’s almost done. I’m not sure if I’ll get my office back today, but I am setting it up in the almost empty box room (someday to be our dining room). We’ve been so busy unloading boxes. I finally got my scented drawer liners for my dresser from Amazon and unpacked my suitcase on NYE. We have his and her closets, so cute!

Once I get myself together with this HEIC jpeg conflict I will be happy to splash photos because I exaggerated before. We have bookshelves too and I’ve got one filled in my office. It looks so good in a little alcove with a print of Frida in an antique frame above it. That was the photo I wanted to post. Just got frustrated trying to convert. Why can I post on Instagram and not Word Press? Anyway…yesterday (and the day before that) we were furniture shopping. We found a great sofa and chair for the living room and it’s coming next week! Well those pieces are, plus a ottoman and rug. The wood stuff, coffee table and end table, won’t be delivered until May. That’s the world these days. We looked at 500 sofas and this was the first one available. And, good luck, it’s my favorite! Very traditional Florida.

There are so many garden patches and palm trees here it’s hard to keep up. I don’t even have a pair of gardening gloves. But we’re managing to water everything. Including the weeds, which look just like Michigan weeds. We had this idea that we’d be in the hot tub drinking wine an hour or so after we moved in. Hahaha. We still have not OPENED the hot tub. But we’re getting there. Floors steamed and walls painted. Desk and chair ready to go. I wrote a scene a few weeks ago when I grabbed a spare couple of hours. I’ve been thinking of the next part of the sequence and oh I’m not sure if it’s the next book or if it’s going to work now…I need to write it to find out.

The holidays usually mess with my writing anyway but this one, well, it’s a whole other bag of toys. But we’re happy and settling in. We woke up Christmas morning, the first morning in our new house, and I thanked Al for my lovely Christmas present. He also insisted on gifting me with The Lyrics by Sir Paul and it’s wonderful reading in my favorite chair, which is the only chair we brought from Michigan. I have always wanted a ranch home and at age 66 I finally got one! It’s the nicest house I’ve ever owned. Maybe it’s the palm trees and the flowers in January or the Spanish Moss waving in the breeze. Maybe it’s because this was home to my ancestors. Now it’s my home, too.

Hope everyone had a good holiday. Back to work! For me that’s writing and I love it too much to think of it as work. More like survival medicine.

Thanksgiving with the Beatles

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Thanksgiving weekend is over! I got my Christmas shopping done and shipped, including boxes for packing, decorated a little bit…put up the tree with my angel on top, set up my little Victorian Christmas ladies, swapped out my Desert Rose dishes for the Spode Christmas Tree set, went to dinner with my mom and dad and took a jaunt to the casino before mom returns to Michigan. Al watched football and helped the crew decorate the outside of Building 9 here at Long Bayou.

We also subscribed to Disney+ and watched all eight hours of “Get Back”– the Beatles doc out now. What I found most interesting about this lovely bit of nostalgia was watching their creative process. Paul was for sure the leader, even though he said John was. Paul seemed more into it than John, who was so in love he mostly cuddled with Yoko and cut up with fake voices and accents. Paul and John did seem to get along really well, though. When they hit a groove with their guitars, they were so in sync.

The lyrics part was less polished than the music, which was improved when Billy Preston came on to play keyboards in episode 2. Billy’s work and his upbeat attitude, his obvious thrill at being a part of the Beatles, all made the documentary, not to mention the eventual album, so much better. Before Billy, it seemed clear the Beatles were running out of juice. They knew it, too, and Billy was the only person ever credited on a Lennon/McCartney record. Ever. He filled more than the musical holes. George’s eyes gave him away; he felt left out of the Lennon/McCartney collaboration. But he was the one who first mentioned getting Billy Preston in to do keyboards. Twice. Everyone ignored him. He briefly quit the band.

Then Billy dropped by the studio just to say hi and John said “We’ve been talking about how we need a piano man, if you’ve got the time…” and Billy, who was as upbeat as George was down, smiled wider than usual and said “Hell yes.” I’m paraphrasing from the body language. Billy and then George coming back after a week made things better.

The original idea, conceived by Paul, was to write an album (14 songs) in a month, hold a concert, write a book, and make a movie of the entire thing. They started rehearsing in a television studio but migrated to Apple records basement where a rough recording studio was set up. The way their creativity worked together was everyone wrote on their own, brought in their ideas, played and sang (there were more lalala bits or nonsense words than actual lyrics) and everyone kind of kicked in with their parts. Ringo did his drums just naturally coming in when needed with the right sound. Well, Paul corrected him at times. Paul corrected everyone. Paul was bringing in most of the material they worked on.

George had a new song every day and he’d say “I’ve got one” and play it and everyone would listen politely and then move on. The eventual album was called “Let It Be” — their last original album — making their output an even dozen LPs. “Something” (George’s lovely song) was on that album. At one point near the end of the eight hours, and as it turned out the end of the Beatles, George talks to John about how he might just go off after the record is done and make his own album. I recognized several of the tunes George auditioned for his bandmates later appeared on his first solo album (a double album) “All Things Must Pass.” He chose the right path and I wonder if Paul and John ever thought about how much more George could have contributed to the Beatles.

Ringo, like George, always had a token song, too, but he didn’t seem bothered. Ringo was fine being the drummer. He relished that role. He did it well. Oh and John called Billy Preston “the fifth Beatle” while nobody seemed to remember bringing in Billy had been George’s idea in the first place. George brought it up twice in the documentary. Of course I only saw a cut of many more hours of film, so that’s the story presented. A few word scribbles here and there, but I just assumed they each did their lyric polishing on their own.

It may seem as if I am championing George here, and in a strict sense, that’s true. He got shafted by Paul and John. But his life outside the band didn’t make me like him any better. He was the only Beatle who screwed another Beatles’ wife. George’s wife, Olivia, seems to have accepted that “George loved women” but John said “It’s like incest!” Patti, George’s first wife, never had a chance, what with all the Krishna’s living in the house and finding her husband in bed with Maureen, Ringo’s wife. In Patti’s book, she talks about George and Maureen running through the house naked. Running and laughing right past her. No wonder she left him for Eric Clapton! George’s take on it all was “free love.” I always thought that hippie idea was a convenient way for men to get laid in the 60s and 70s.

So Paul near the end is frustrated as his master multi-media idea slowly falls apart. They couldn’t even find a venue to do a final concert. Then two of the engineers came up with the idea of the roof of Abbey Road studios. John liked the idea. So did Ringo. George hated it. Paul seemed wistful as his original vision had altered beyond recognition. But as we all know, they did it and it was fab. They probably didn’t write the album in a month as planned, but they had six or so songs finished and six more ideas. They must have finished up in the studio after the one off concert on the roof. The police have a cameo in that part of the documentary.

All of which served to remind me why I’m a novelist and why I write alone.

State of Mind

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My favorite way to avoid reality is reading. I’ve been doing more of it than ever since Covid came into our lives. Some days, most days, it’s the only thing I do. I should be writing my novel, but I’m…not. Ten pages a month is not a cheery output for me. My head is too cluttered right now and I wonder if it’s my age (66) or the move from the northern part of the country to the southern. During Covid. Which makes a difference.

I miss my friends. It’s hard to make new ones during a pandemic with your head stuck in a book. We had a lot to do when we first got here. Despite the crazy rising costs of houses, our plan was always to move to a house and we are stubbornly sticking to it. Also we are keeping our little St. Pete condo as an investment property because housing costs are not going down any time soon but the stock market just might crash. Another reason to buy a house. We finally got the okay for a pre-approved mortgage, our final piece of business, and called a realtor here in St. Pete. He says he has lots to show us in our $ range with our specific wants/needs.

Then this morning Al showed me a place on the Florida map north of us with newer, nicer houses for half the cost of those we’ve seen in St Pete. (Just to give you an idea, in St. Pete, a condo in a new development with the type of floor plan we want is a million dollars.) We had planned to move about an hour south if we didn’t find something affordable in St. Pete. This is an hour north. On a golf course. Not as close to the beaches, but still on the Gulf side of the state. I said okay, we can go an hour north or an hour south.

There are several reasons to go south instead of north. We have many Michigan friends who winter an hour south of us. We even have a few friends who live year round thereabouts. Then there are our boys. They have more family dotted south of us all the way to Naples, so when they come visit it is convenient. One positive thing about moving north is that it’s cooler in summer. The heat in St Pete did not please Al, and he has yet to golf. He only started walking a few weeks ago. Also, the golf courses seem plentiful in those northern ‘burbs.

My head knows I’ll get the house I want north of here and a happy husband. My heart says “stay put or go south.” Logic says Al is usually right about big moves and we’ll be content to live out our days a bit north, where there are nights when it actually freezes in winter. Freezing temps, or even a slight chance of them, make the news as it doesn’t happen every year. Most days I keep my mind occupied with Regency, England in 1815. I wouldn’t want to live then, but if it’s just in my head, I can pretend they have toilets and running water.

The Storyteller

I am reading Dave Grohl’s autobiography and it is good. I asked myself in my journal this morning why I would read it. I’m not a Foo Fighters fan. But he was in another band before that…My very first connection to writing came through song lyrics, that’s why I read songwriter’s stories. And while I was getting on in rock years by the time Nirvana came along, I still found new bands, mostly by watching endless MTV. I’d moved on from writing poetry (and song lyrics) by this time but I never forget those early dreams, the first word stories that captivated me. Also, STORYTELLER. What a great title for a rock star to claim.

I finished up my Jane pages for the week and sent them to the critique group. I have no idea how this chapter fits into the scheme of things but I’ll figure it out. I got a new phone and it doesn’t save my photos to JPG anymore but HEIC. Word Press does not upload HEIC yet. I messed around with that for awhile but of course could not convert it so then just used an old picture. Julia is a lot bigger now! The pic I took today was of our living room in the little condo. I wanted to show the two rocking chairs side by side facing the television. I only just realized we are literally in our rocking chairs much of the time. Not necessarily watching TV.

We finally checked off the last of our to-do list before we hire a real estate agent. This is not a good time to buy a house. You might know this. Houses are in short supply and they are super expensive. But the thing is they are not getting cheaper anytime soon. And interest rates are low, so that’s good. We have been here a few months and I really believed I could stay a year if I needed to…but it’s hard. No washer, dryer, dishwasher. Second floor. Small space. I’m a spoiled brat but I’m old and I have been saving my entire adult life for this perfect Florida retirement in my dream ranch house and damn it, we’re going to do it. Also I always believe I can do things that in reality are much more difficult. Like living with my husband in a 1200 sq ft condo with no garage for a year. No! It’s too hard!

Every day something goes wrong. My dad lost his wallet so I ferried him around replacing all his paperwork instead of doing my own. I was glad to be here to help him, even though a car dealer told us it’s legal to drive without a license in Florida. The DMV said it ain’t so. Dad’s squared away now and I’m living on faith. I cannot imagine why WP does not accept HEIC. Soon, maybe. Like everything else in my life right now.

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.