carmina


I was awakened early this morning by my Nest smoke detector (a Google product) malfunctioning. No smoke, no fire, but after I’d turned the damned thing off three times it would no longer allow me to do that. The firemen came to confirm no fire, no smoke, and physically disabled the alarm to shut it the f*** up. They suggested that maybe the batteries were no good, although they’d been changed about 4 months ago when the technician came out to inspect things. I had turned the heat on about an hour before this happened, but it wasn’t the first time I’d used it this fall.

This is also not the first time this has happened, although last time was not nearly as traumatic. That time (about a year ago?) it woke me up at 1:30 a.m. shouting, “ATTENTION!!! THERE’S SMOKE IN THE LIVING ROOM!!! THE ALARM MAY GO OFF!!!”

I jumped out of bed and searched frantically for smoke but found none. The alarm never did go off and reset itself. About 20 minutes later I checked the app and it said something like, “Smoke has dissipated.” I went back to bed but didn’t get back to sleep very soon. The next day I had the company come out and inspect the furnace and alarm system but they could find nothing wrong.

I occasionally will smell smoke from the neighbors’ firepit in my house, but they would hardly have been using it at 1:30 on a weeknight, nor (I suspect) early this morning. There were no fires burning in the area on that occasion, either, although I have smelled them in my house at times (and there’s a fire about 20 miles from here which started yesterday). Ironically, the system has never gone off when I have smelled this smoke. But after that first time when the furnace people found nothing, I called the local fire department’s non-emergency number and explained what happened and asked if they could suggest a next step. They said they could come out when they had a lull period and inspect the house, which they did. They used these detectors that see through walls to check for hot wiring that might cause problems, as well as scanning all the appliances, and found nothing.

I’ve been reading online about problems with Nest. Apparently, what happened to me is not unknown. Sometimes the latest high tech is <i>not</i> a good thing. I’m considering having the whole damned thing yanked out. Of course this would happen when my cash flow ain’t great. That seems to be one of the rules for appliances of all kinds.

Typically, when I complained about this on Twitter, I was contacted shortly thereafter by Made By Google (@madebygoogle) offering help and asking me if I had a 1st generation product (which they’ve admitted elsewhere has problems). I do not have a 1st generation product. So. Make of that what you will.

First World problems, but frustrating nonetheless.

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I may not pause to look at your pics/video of your kids, but I will always pause to look at your pics/videos of your cats and dogs. I do not dislike kids, it’s just that I really like cats and dogs.

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Sometimes when I go through the house and realize I’ve left a whole bunch of lights on I say to myself, “What, are we made of money?” Early programming never dies.

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I have never been, and never will be, the kind of writer who writes 10k in a day. That’s probably partly due to me being a pantser, figuring things out as I go, stopping here and there to do spot research. What did workmen wear in the 1940s? What sodas were popular? I don’t think I’ve ever written 10k in one day.

But I’ve consistently ground out the words every day. An average for me would be between 500-750 words, two to three pages, laying that yellow brick road down every day, and thereby I have completed 7 novels, and working on an 8th. Now and then I may have an effervescent day of 1200 words, or 3k. I think I once did 7500 in one day, but those are rare and precious moments of flow. And I’m okay with that. Slow and steady also gets the job done. This week I passed the 10k mark on my new novel. Feels good.

I write until I don’t know what happens anymore, then I stop. Overnight, maybe in my dreams, the story continues and the next day when I come back to my manuscript, I do know what happens next and I go until it stops. That’s my magic, and I’m glad to have it back again.

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Sometimes I think it’s better to not understand things.

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I love how Jake Tapper characterizes Jordan: “the jacketless Jim Jordan who normally isn’t on this committee but was put onto it to be a bulldog.” That dog may hunt but he don’t never bring back the game.

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Jim Jordan reminds me of a guy who keeps a jar under his desk to urinate in.

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I like big rings and I cannot lie.

Nail polish: Blueprint by ILNP.com. I’d been wearing it for a couple of weeks when this picture was taken, so it was a little the worse for wear.

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It’s so odd writing again for characters I first created 5 novels ago (Jeremy, Susan, Carmina, Maff from Blood Geek). Kind of like meeting up with old friends you haven’t talked to in 20 years. You kind of know them, but you kind of don’t, and it’s partially getting to know them all over again but with this strange deja vu.
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Oh, criminy! The December 19 Democratic debate is going to be held about two blocks from here, at Loyola Marymount instead of UCLA. Looks like I don’t leave the house that day.
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The Lao Tzu quote I used for the November 8 random quote of the day is so ubiquitous that it appears on t-shirts and coffee mugs, but I couldn’t verify that he actually said it. I don’t normally like to use quotes I can’t verify because there’s already too much of that on the internet. And I try to avoid ubiquitous quotes altogether, because generally the more ubiquitous they are, the less likely they are to be an accurate attribution. But when I pulled this one out of my random quote file yesterday shortly after posting about learning to live with limitations on Twitter, I thought, “Okay, Universe, I get the message.” I felt I had to use it. So, “attributed to Lao Tzu” and adding to its ubiquitousness. (Any time I use “attributed to” it means I couldn’t verify the authenticity of the attribution but decided to use the quote anyway.)
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An interesting article on art and arthritis: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-07-26/art-arthritis-aging

We overcome what we must. I’m kind of in a place now where I’ve said to myself, “You can either limit yourself because of your legs [arthritis] or do what you are able to and not make excuses.” This is almost a daily argument I have with myself.

I think I finally turned the corner there (and I really am so much better off than so many others). I’m still limited but trying not to limit myself. It’s tough not to give in to despair and self-pity sometimes, though, when you can’t do things like you used to do. But that accomplishes nothing. The lady in the arthritis article come through it, too, after a requisite period of mourning.

Losing my eyesight would be utter devastation. I think of what it did to my mom. Her stroke left her with severe vision impairment and she’d been a visual artist all her life. But she never gave up, not until maybe the last six months of her life when other things started to take their toll.

I fear sight loss, too. But that’s a fear for another day, and not part of my current objective reality. We have to deal with what’s on our plate right now, and keep digging deep to find the resources to continue in some way to be who we truly are.
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If I had an RV, I’d call my RV Maria.
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Yoiks. So many talking heads in the chapter I’ve been working on, and characters standing around frozen until it’s their turn to talk. I look forward to the rewrites. A very long scene, and possibly told from the wrong POV, but talking heads are easy to write when you’re trying to get through a lot of information. Not so much interesting to read, though. I still look forward to the rewrites.
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People love to hate, and they love dancing around in their underwear feeling superior to everyone else.
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Here’s another interesting article: “Ancestor Worship with Mother Nature: How Indigenous Death Rituals Illuminate the Web of Life” by Maria Popova: https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/08/27/david-abram-the-spell-of-the-sensuous-death/
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The worst earworms are ones that play in your sleep and every time you wake up the tune starts up. Or is that just me? For a week, every time I woke up “My Darling Clementine” started playing in my head. I finally had to unleash extreme countermeasures by singing “Brandy” to myself until that replaced it. Lately, they have improved considerably. “Brandy” was replaced by “Look At Me,” which is heavy rotation on a VW commercial right now, then “Ave Maria,” also in heavy commercial rotation (Amazon). But that has now been replaced by Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” which is not in a commercial but a gift from the gods. A much classier run of earworms.

In 1901, two English ladies—Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain—experienced a timeslip while visiting Versailles, going back for an interlude to the time of Marie Antoinette. They detailed this story in a book called An Adventure. You can read about it here: http://xenophon.org.uk/adventure.html

If you click on the link, then click on “The Music of An Adventure” you can hear a transcription one of the ladies, Ms. Jourdain, a talented musician, made of a strain of music she heard while “there.” Not surprisingly, they received much ridicule from the male establishment of the time, but they clung to their accounts for the rest of their lives. There are inconsistencies in their stories, but other things they reported would have taken a great deal of research on their part to get right. So the account remains controversial even today.

Still, it’s a cranking great yarn. And I say, all cranking great yarns should be true, even if they aren’t.
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The Getty Fire was still quite a ways from me but it got perilously close to the LA Basin. The LA Basin isn’t more important than the other areas that have burned but it’s densely packed. If the fires get into the Basin I don’t know how they’ll stop them. It’s something to worry about every time fire gets close to the really crowded areas. Fire departments are stretched so thin right now. They heroically got on top of the Getty fire this time, but we’re still burning, homes are still being lost.

California is a trend leader in many ways. But I would rather not be on the front lines of the devastation caused by global warming. Californians are sharing that with our brethren in hurricane, tornado, and typhoon country. But make no mistake: global warming is coming for us all.
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I changed my alarm sound from the annoying ding ding ding ding ding ding a-ding to the sound of a hooting owl echoing in a forest. It’s eerie and wondrous when it drops into the silence of my room.
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Someone was talking about animism the other day and it made me think of Ayahuasca, the visionary drug processed by the Quechua people of the Amazon. It’s an arduous process to bring forth the drug, involving many steps, and not at all intuitive. When a Westerner asked the shaman how his people learned to process it he said, “The spirit of the plant told us.”
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Trust the road
no matter where it
takes you, how many
forks and crossroads.
Wherever it leads,
in any direction,
is the path you must follow.
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Looks like the giant Tick fire was started by a guy who was living in junkyard like conditions and decided to cook his lunch outside on the barbecue. In Santana wind conditions. Florida had nothing to do with it.
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I finished the old compilation novel (Beneath a Hollow Moon) and put it in a trunk where it will get moldy or will come back out again and I can make it new. I’ve started another novel, one I’d written a couple of chapters on a long time ago. In fact, chapter one was the last Editor’s Choice I received from the Online Writing Workshop for SFF (OWW) before I left it. Carmina. It’s been doing a siren call to me for the last couple of months, and so far the writing’s been going well. Except for those two previously written chapters it’s completely new writing and that feels really good. Also, a completely different universe from the previous novel, and that also feels good. And the best part? I know the end but have no idea how I’ll get there! I’m stumbling around, but I feel like I’ve finally come home again.

I’ll forever be grateful for the things I learned from OWW, the community I was a part of, and the encouragement I received there. Invaluable.
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It’s a process of letting go:
of youth,
resentments,
of those we love,
of seasons of
grief and joy.
Let them go, let them fly.
Let them find new homes,
or sink away into the earth,
away from my fading heart,
my lightening soul.
Away, now!
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19 Apr
All I can legitimately talk about is my own process—in whatever. It’s presumptuous to assume everyone’s process will be the same. However, talking too much about one’s own process is talking too much about one’s self, so it’s something of a No-Win.

19 Apr
Conspiracy theory is just another form of denial.

19 Apr
I just realized I forgot to take the poem out of my pocket from Poem In My Pocket Day. But at least it’s in “my other pants.” 🙂

23 Apr
In May it’ll be two years since I last worked on my last novel. I’d say where did the time go but I know: down the whirlpool of caregiving. I was born to take care of people, apparently. My life has no other meaning. There’s just no time for anything else. I can’t help feeling much of the time as if my life, everything I valued about my life, is over. I’m so tired most weeks I wonder if I’ll make it through to the other side. There are good days, but most days I just grind it out as best I can. Some days, it just piles up. But I’m still moving.

And being free of caregiving means someone I love is gone. There’s no happy ending, as my friend Lisa says.

There are millions of people out there just like me. Caregiving is the unrecognized and unacknowledged crisis in this country

My friends tell me my creativity will come back, that everything is cyclical, and I believe them, but it’s sometimes hard to see that from here. I keep trying. “I’ll just read a chapter a day, or part of a chapter.” But something always happens. And writing from scratch? Unthinkable at this point.

Okay, enough of the self-pity party. I took the time to reread the first chapter of that last novel and tweak it. Holds up well.

23 Apr
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

tp://bit.ly/ZnFRWA 

25 Apr
Jacob’s Dream was playing in the cafeteria so I just had to tell everyone about the Lost Children of the Alleghenies: http://bit.ly/ZPZC4t 
Everyone was properly riveted and scads went to You Tube and the links I provided.

26 Apr
Back at the ER this morning. Mom got an IV of antibiotics. Now we’re waiting to see if we can go home.

27 Apr
Even in stressful times there are compensations in this world: hearing David Sedaris sing the Oscar Meyer bologna song as Billie Holliday. Laughed so hard I cried. The guy in the car next to me looked concerned, like I might be having a fit. I was. The good kind. 

27 Apr
So my printer and my dishwasher went belly up the same night.  I’m sure there’s a pattern there but I’m too tired to figure it out.

29 Apr
Leaving Mom on mornings when she’s not doing well are heartbreaking but if I didn’t leave on those mornings I would have long since lost my job.

29 Apr
I find it absolutely hilarious that Hitler was a vegetarian. Even funnier? The ardent vegetarians that try to backpedal that fact. I know many fine human beings who are vegetarians but there’s a vocal minority that do seem to have something in common with Nazis.

30 Apr
“Dammit I’m mad” spelled backwards is “Dammit I’m mad.”

3 May
I guess the house is officially mine. I’ve just had my first plumbing disaster. This time it was the 50 gallon water heater that went belly up.

3 May
John Hancock Life Insurance is dicking around about paying me the money they owe me. I guess that’s why they have cock in their name.

4 May
It’s a morning for people saying stupid ass stuff and I am not in the mood to be nice about it.

 That tenderness of a few days ago is still there but having a harder time swimming up from the cesspool.

 That’s in the nature of this process, though. If you don’t like the mood you’re in wait an hour and it may change.

8 May
Now I know what was wrong with the opening of that novel: I put a gun on the mantelpiece and never used it again (figuratively).

 How many years did it take me to figure that out?

 I really love that opening (and it works in so many other ways) so I’ll have to find a way of using that “gun.”
 Although I do seem to recall another writing truism about using that gun to murder your something-or-others…What was that again?

8 May
My old, beloved neighborhood that I grew up in, has become the Shrine of the Unknown Hipster. You may have heard of it: Silicon Beach? I literally grew up on 4th Avenue near Rose, the very heart of Hipsterville now. I way preferred it when it was the ghetto: funky, beloved ol’ Venice.

9 May
You don’t get to be a crone just by getting older. There’s a experiential component to it. And man, is that a bitch. Which is also a separate thing from being a crone.

13 May
I’ve just come up with the last line for my novel, Carmina. I guess it’s a real story now.

13 May
Well, at least I made it down to the final 800 submissions. :-/ Probably just as well. I don’t have time for a writing career right now.

14 May
John Hancock Life Insurance, the company that isn’t giving me ma money, mistakenly informed the state of California that Mom is deceased—but only on one of numerous policies they have in her name. The others are still in force. Also, they told us a few months back that no other policies existed. Now all of a sudden they’re breeding like rabbits. Do not use John Hancock EVER.

15 May
Social Medea is the name of my next band.

15 May
I’m halfway through chapter six on the read-and-clean final of that novel I didn’t touch for two years.

The books I’m reading (I pick these up and put them down, but all of these are currently inching forward):

  1. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
  2. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (the book du jour)
  3. Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C. G. Jung
  4. Trickster: An Anthropological Memoir by Eileen Kane
  5. Legends of the Fire Spirits by Robert W. Lebling
  6. Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch by Henry Miller
  7. The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture by Walter L. Williams
  8. When Ghosts Speak: Understanding the World of Earthbound Spirits by Mary Ann Winkowski
  9. and my own book Shivery Bones, doing one last bloody read-through.

Books I’m writing: If you count worldbuilding and creative noodling, then I’m writing Carmina and The Numberless Stars.  If you’re talking about actual words getting written, then I ain’t currently writting nothin’.

The book I love the most: Couldn’t possibly choose.  I usually love the one I’m with.

The last book I received as a gift: I made a killing on book gift certificates.  I’ve included all the books I bought this way—not really to brag, but because I wouldn’t want any of these books to have their feelings hurt because I left them off the list.  (I anthropomorphize everything.) (Hi, Lisa!):

  1. Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie
  2. Holy Ghosts: Or, How a (Not So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night by Gary Jansen
  3. Spooky California: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore by S. E. Schlosser, Paul G. Hoffman (Illustrator)
  4. Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward
  5. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
  6. Red-Robed Priestess: A Novel (The Maeve Chronicles) by Elizabeth Cunningham
  7. Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  8. Meditations with Meister Eckhart by Matthew Fox
  9. Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner
  10. Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
  11. Everyday Tarot by Gail Fairfield

The last book I gave as a gift: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

I’m dying to write something new, itching for it, and I know just what novel I want to work on next. It’s been plumping in my mind for weeks now while I work on other things.

All of which is a good thing, except I can’t work on anything new because I’ve got to finish revisions on Blood Geek first. Then there’s the question of when to finish the next round of revisions on Venus in Transit. I wasn’t entirely happy with it when I got through with that last hard slog. I’m not talking about perfectionism here. I’ve long since given that up. I’m talking about having a workable draft, something I can polish and start sending out.

Yet if I diddle around too long with old ideas, I’m afraid the new idea will die on the vine. It might anyway, because as I’ve said before, my writing time is extremely limited these days. I’m determined to chip out time every day, but weekends have become very difficult, and mostly the default has become my lunch hour at work. That’s always been somewhat sacrosanct, but last week, even that got eroded away. I had to run errands at lunch every day last week. It made me despair a little. Or more.

But this week I’m back on track with my revisions and feeling generally better about a lot of things. I think Venus will have to wait, though she’s notoriously impatient. I really do believe I need to balance the old with the new, the revisions with the creation. Carmina has been talking to me consistently lately: low whispers while I sleep, a sudden bright snatch of song as the sun dapples the leaves while I’m driving to work, shared shadowy confidences while I move down a hallway and turn a corner.

She’s there. She’s waiting for me to be ready for her. I really think I have to follow her lead.

Some of you who have known me for a long time, and read my stuff for a long time, may remember Hortensia Bustamante. She’s the strong-willed sister of the Bustamante Brothers of Dos Lunas County, the first white settlers to invade the Kintache Indian homeland.

Ever since I finished Venus in Transit, my Dos Lunas County novel, strong-willed Hortensia has been bugging me. “Where my novel?” she’s been asking.

I’ve explained patiently that I’m working on other things now, to make a change from Dos Lunas, but Hortensia has never been one to listen to the reasoning of her writer when she’s made up her mind about something. “Where’s my novel?” she repeats at every chance.

I staved off her insistence some time back by writing a 30k plus novella, but—although she liked it quite well—she’s informed me that it isn’t sufficient. Her story deserves expanding and exploring. I have been thinking along those same lines myself for some time and even had several ideas on how to do that, but I hadn’t thought of taking on that challenge at this juncture.

“It’s time,” Hortensia insists.

I find myself sighing fatalistically a lot these days. My imagination ping ponged all last week between chapter two of the Carmina novel and a short story, and I’ve been considering that maybe it’s time to start the rewrite on Venus in Transit. All the while Hortensia kept crooning in my ear: “It’s time. Where’s my novel? It’s time.”

I pulled the novella out today just to, yanno, look at it. Hortensia squee’d with glee. I told her not to get her hopes up. She scoffed.

So I don’t know what I’m working on now. Perhaps Hortensia would be the antidote to my restless. I’m sure Venus would be. Maybe I’ll let Venus and Hortensia and Carmina and Sea Eyes from the short story fight it out amongst themselves. Just let me know when you’ve figured it out, gang. Only, don’t start sending me tweets advocating for yourselves. That would be one step too far over the line.