Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Additonal Tales from the Front Hall

I know it has been a while since I wrote about some of the weird things that go on in my house. Don’t think that things have gone quiet here. They haven’t. I just think it makes for a better piece if I have more than one incident to talk about (unless, as sometimes happens, that one incident turns out to be a biggie. Like having a dead Union soldier follow one home from Gettysburg. But that story’s already been told.) What I have today is a short list of strange things.

First of all, I think I’ve mentioned that both my grandson and my daughter have been seeing cats in the house. We haven’t had a living cat in the house for about seven years or so; seeing cats in the kitchen, or in the living room is thus always of interest to me. I’ve never seen one myself, but my grandson actually jumped when he felt one brush up against his leg. He described it as orange and said it startled him while he was picking up his backpack from the floor. My daughter has seen two different cats, both black, neither of which were ever ours. She says one of them follows her into the kitchen and watches while she finishes off her coffee and takes her vitamins.

Now, I had forgotten about the cats until the other night when I got up in the dark hours to use the bathroom. I was washing my hands when I heard a gentle ka-thump out in the hall. I was tired and thought I would just ignore it, which I did. I didn’t remember about the cats until the following morning, when I realized that the sound I heard was identical to what it sounds like when a cat would jump off the counter onto our hardwood floor. Hmmm.

I have also seen a couple of strange beings. There is a white figure that parks itself in the hall at night between my grandson’s and my daughter’s closed bedroom doors. I see that one when I use the bathroom, also. I never focus on it; I want to be able to get back to sleep, you know. But it’s there and it’s all white and it looks like a female. It has very long hair, and fairly bony fingers. Beyond that, I really couldn’t tell you much.

I have also seen a child going into the bathroom. That happened one night while I was in front of the TV and got up to get something from the kitchen. I don’t know if the child was a boy or a girl: I only caught a glimpse of a small body turning in at the bathroom door and disappearing. And yes, it was actually shorter than my grandson. Besides, I know it wasn’t him because he was busy with a video game in his bedroom at the time. That was an unusual sighting for me, not because I saw it at all, but because it was a child. I’ve never seen anyone like that before.

My daughter has given me the unsettling news that frequently when she passes my bedroom, she sees a figure sitting on the bed. I don’t know if this person is male or female, either. I’m not sure my daughter knows. She just says that whoever it is sits in such a way that it actually blocks out the illuminated numbers on my bedroom clock. And she does see this figure during the day. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since our bedroom is at the end of THE hall. Anything traveling in a straight line from our laundry room will wind up in our bedroom. What a comforting thought!

Still, I do not sense anything malevolent in our house. If there really are beings coming and going, none of them hit me with a negative or fearful feeling, beyond being a bit startled when someone turns up. At the risk of sounding like a complete maniac, I will admit that sometimes when I leave the house I ask whoever is around to keep an eye on it and protect it from break-ins and fires. I guess that makes me sound like a crazy person, but I figure there’s no harm in asking.

Here’s the last of the strange things. On our grandson’s last day of school before Christmas break, he was scheduled to arrive home at noon. I work a partial day on Friday and wouldn’t get home ahead of him so I asked my daughter if she could arrange her schedule in order to be home when he arrived. Unbeknownst to me, after I left for work, something came up for her, job-wise. But after she left the house, she started obsessing about the fact that she had locked the front door. What if her son got home earlier than she did? Maybe she should go back and unlock the door so he could get in, on the chance she might run late? But no, in the end she just assured herself that she could get home before his bus dropped him off. She was wrong. She ran late, and even though she was racing to get back in time, she knew he would already be there. Worrying about him standing out on the front step, cold, possibly frightened, wondering where everyone was, she finally arrived home and pulled into the driveway.

When she got to the front door, it was slightly ajar, and when she stepped in, she saw his backpack in its usual spot and his jacket thrown over it. “Are you home?” she called out to him.

“Yeah,” he said. “But Grandma isn’t.”

She knew she had locked the door (we have a deadbolt); she had been thinking about it all day. So how did he get in? When she asked him, he told her it wasn’t a problem. The door was unlocked…

I have repeatedly thanked whoever is in the house for looking after my little guy that day.

(Picture borrowed from the Internet. )

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

On Resolutions

I used to work at a healthcare practice that had an attached health club facility. Not only was this handy for the patients who needed physical therapy, it was also available to employees for use during free hours and even lunch break. And one of the things that made the biggest impression on me was how insanely crowded the health club would become after the first of every year. There would sometimes be lines of people waiting to use the various Stair Masters or elliptical machines, and the exercise classes would all be filled to capacity. The crowds would last for, oh, four to six weeks after January first, maybe a little longer, and then they would melt away. I’m guessing that was about as long as some New Year’s fitness resolutions lasted.

Some years ago, I joined Weight Watchers (now called “WW”) and watched the same phenomenon. Meetings (now called “workshops”) would be almost standing-room-only starting the first week of January, and this also would last maybe through March? April? So possibly a little bit longer than the health club thing, but not as long as six months. Again, was this a resolution fade-out?

People who know me have long given up on asking me what my New Year’s resolutions are, probably because I never have any. Not that I don’t think I need work (sometimes heavy-duty work) in various areas of my life. Of course I do. But I never bothered with resolutions simply because trying to pick up a new self-improvement habit, or change a behavior, never coincided with January 1, for me. If I was going to try to make a change, I figured I ought to do it when the thought of that change occurred to me. I mean, if I thought about it in March, why would I wait another nine or ten months to put it into practice, right?

But this New Year is a little more special. It’s not only a new year, it’s the beginning of a new decade, isn’t it? (Or is that 2021? I can never keep this stuff straight.) At any event, to me it’s the beginning of a new decade, and accordingly, it does seem as if there are a few things I ought to try to straighten out for the next ten-year period.

For one thing, I’m still trying to figure out how to make my muse work with me a little more productively, i.e., with more speed. I not only have BPC book seven to finish, I have at least one other novel running through my head. Possibly two others. That’s pretty crowded in there, even for me. The least I can do is try to get these things down on paper.

For another, since I’m currently the youngest right now that I will ever be for the rest of my life, I probably should be doing more to cultivate healthier habits. And I’d like to do it on my own terms, not because I have all these voices in my head (from the news, from Internet articles, from whatever sources) trying to guilt me into doing this or not doing that. I think I’m tired of all these strangers telling me what to do. I think I know enough by now to figure out what I am actually capable of doing, and what changes I know I can make and stick with. Surely by now, I ought to be capable of that, right?

And lastly, because of what’s happening in our world these days, I do resolve (as I think I did some time ago) to be as kind as possible, because kindness seems to be struggling to survive at this particular time. And I think kindness can become contagious, if enough people take the time to do kind and decent things.

I don’t know if you make resolutions every year, and if you do, I congratulate you. It means you’ve given thought to what’s going on in your life and decided to take control over some aspect or aspects of it as you see fit. And that’s always worth a pat on the back, not to mention admiration on my part. Maybe the one thing I’ve finally realized after all these years on this planet is that any resolution worth keeping has to be renewed on a daily basis. I need to get up every morning and make a conscious decision to keep my resolve for at least that day. For me, those resolutions don’t need a fixed calendar date to be set into motion. On the other hand, making that decision every day can kind of make each day the start of a new year. Or decade. Good luck to all of us!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Searching for a Speedier Process

I have attended all sorts of classes related to writing. I’ve gone to workshops on how to get published. I’ve sat through panels about marketing. Heck, I’ve taught a few sessions in my time—classes about writing a novel, classes about writing a paranormal novel, even a recent one about self-publishing. But in all my years of listening to writers, reading about the publishing industry, seeking out tips on how to improve my craft, I have never found the secret to the one thing I wish I could master: how to speed up my own process.

Yesterday, I made a belated announcement that 2019 would not see the release of a new Bridgeton Park Cemetery book. I held off on putting that statement out into the world because I was still hoping, very unrealistically as it turns out, that I could still pull a completed novel out of my hat before we reached 2020. Not happening.

Part of the problem has been a change in my schedule. I’ve lost twenty hours of free time a week, which may not sound like much but is actually a complete game changer. It’s not just the writing time that’s missing for me; I’m also missing time to do everything around the house that needs doing. So if my housework/chore/daily upkeep time is crunched, my writing time is even more so. And not only that, changing hats from my daily job to my particular world of fiction isn’t always that easy a transition. If only I were just changing hats. But it’s actually a matter of changing my mindset, and it’s not always so easy to switch gears from what’s going on at the office to what’s going on with Cassie and Michael.

I’m also dealing with a chronic health issue that’s been going on for a year, now, and maybe I’m getting close to resolving it, but I won’t know that for sure for another couple of months, or so. Sigh.

Writing this to depress any of you is not my goal. It’s basically me just mulling over what happened during the last part of 2019 and realizing why the book didn’t get finished, even though I’m nearly halfway through it. At least, I hope I am.

So I really wish that I could find a way to speed up my writing process. I’ve never been very fast at putting a novel down on paper. I think it’s because for most of my life, I was always writing around an imposed schedule: the amount of time when I could sit down and write out a novel-length story was limited and only available to me in fits and starts. The past few years, I got lucky and had a great deal of free time to work on my stories. But things have changed back to the way they used to be and now I’m scrambling to re-learn how to write in fits and starts, if that’s all the time I’ve got.

Some people just work more quickly than I do. I sooo envy Stephen King his speed. I know he has the discipline to sit down at his keyboard every single day and write, so maybe I’m actually envying his discipline. But even if I had that discipline, and believe me, there was a time there that I did, I can’t produce an encyclopedia-length tome in less than a year, or maybe more like a matter of months, the way he does it. Maybe not many writers can. Still, the writers I read seem to be able to put out at least one or two books per year, every year. I did that just once, in 2017, when I released both These Living Eyes and Touching Shadow, Stealing Light in the same year. Truth be told, my brain went fallow after that second book came out, and it took some doing to get myself back together enough to produce She Weeps. So maybe I’m really not wired to work that quickly.

Reading a novel should take the reader on a journey. I find it interesting, and possibly just a smidge ironic, that writing a novel, any novel, also takes me on a journey. I don’t mind. I just wish sometimes on my journey that I had 1) an actual map and 2) a much, much speedier process.