Monthly Archives: February 2016

Booze, Catnip & Light Sabers. Oh my.

IMG_4951Right in the middle of tearing through Book 13, I got a fun care package from my brother and sister-in-law. He does the ridiculous, she does the sublime (and some of the ridiculous). It’s always entertaining, though.

He warned me the box was coming and said there was something in it from “All Roads Lead Home” that needed to be re-created. Now, we had talked about him shipping some alcohol to me, so I began to wonder if the ingredients for “Red-Headed Slut” (the drink) might be showing up. I had no idea.

To be honest, I had to ask when I opened the box, because it still didn’t make enough sense to me. Then he reminded me of Doug and Billy’s Star Wars battle with homemade light sabers. When it gets dark enough tonight, I’m turning off the lights and will be varooming around the house with my glow-in-the dark saber.

Now, if you’ve been around a while, you’ll remember THIS POST with another care package my brother sent me. He’d just published Book 1 – Rookie Privateer – in his Privateer Tales series and station foam had erupted to seal the place from being exposed to space. He filled that box with spray sealant foam and I had quite the entertaining time extracting the wonderful gifts he and Janet sent to me.

This time, planning preceded execution and the unpacking wasn’t nearly as difficult. Though, there was still some foam that hadn’t completely hardened and even though I knew it, I still stuck my index finger into it. Apparently, a five year old still resides in my brain.

While the ingredients for the red-headed slut weren’t in the box, a couple of bottles of Fireball Whisky were. Spray foam is a perfect way to make sure those bottles remained in place.

Grey rolling around, reaching out to play with an unwilling TB.

Grey rolling around, reaching out to play with an unwilling TB.

Now, the fun started. The cats had been very interested in the box – because well – it’s a box! And there were new things that smelled like someone else’s house.

Jim & Janet wrapped the bottles in multiple layers of plastic bags so the foam didn’t adhere. But the fun was inside the bags. I pulled the first one open and couldn’t figure out why there was … oh my gosh, it’s CATNIP! I spread it out on the carpet and the cats went nuts. Janet (Jim?) had packed a little toy ball in amongst the catnip and I tossed it to Earl. He was gone.

Earl found his happy place.

Earl found his happy place.

TB landed on the catnip and wanted no one else to have any part of it. Grey wanted nothing more than to roll her little body all over it. He kept hissing, eating and batting at her whenever she got close. But she was persistent. Then she grabbed the toy from Earl and chased it around the room while little boy started rolling on the carpet. Happy, happy cats. I don’t often give them catnip, but wow do they love the stuff.

I opened the second bottle of Fireball and there was MORE catnip. It hit the floor, too and they were in pure bliss. Rolling, nibbling, more rolling, more nibbling, chasing, running. It was too much for them to handle. What fun, what fun.

The cats have finally fallen asleep. TB here on the table beside me, the kittens on the heating pad at my feet. I’m waiting until it’s dark to turn off all of the lights and swoop around the rooms with my glow-in-the-dark light saber. Okay, maybe I’m waiting for darkness and a couple of shots of Fireball to glow in my tummy.

I still have more editing and re-writing to do. There’s a vignette that needs to be written, a cover that needs to be finished – because the email newsletter comes out Thursday morning at six in the morning. If you haven’t signed up, do so right now – (right there on the right side of this page). You don’t want to miss all the fun.

Thank you, Jim and Janet. You made a good day – great!

Deadlines Work For Me

I work better with deadlines. I’m not fond of them, but deadlines force me to focus and complete tasks. When my sister and I owned the printshop, deadlines were imposed on us by our customers. Whether they were ridiculous or not (and often they were unbelievable), we worked to them. Not meeting a deadline was unacceptable.

TB landed in my mouse area and Grey felt she needed to be there as well. The lantern? That was one of those windy, blizzardy nights I worried we might lose power.

TB landed in my mouse area and Grey felt she needed to be there as well. The lantern? That was one of those windy, blizzardy nights I worried we might lose power.

We opened the printshop in 1984 with Mom. For a while, the three of us were the only ones there. In those early years, it seemed as if every Thursday night, I stayed at the shop, printing until four in the morning, then fell asleep on the floor until Mom and Carol opened the front door for business at eight. (We finally hired a press person and that silliness went away.) But for years after that, Carol and I did whatever it took to make sure projects were finished on time. I can’t tell you the number of times you could have walked into our living room and found all of us (including Dad), assembling booklets and newsletters, mailings and whatever other large project required our attention.

Anyway, deadlines. Those years of practice (no, I won’t call it torture) taught me a lot about time management. I still require a target deadline in order to finish the tasks in front of me. Friends insist that these are my own self-imposed deadlines and I can be flexible with them.

Not really. Because I refuse to take a step down that slippery slope. Each time a deadline passes that I don’t meet, I lose traction. This is my job, this is my livelihood, this is my future.

Wow, this is not at all what I was trying to say in this post. The last thing I want to do is get all self-righteous about deadlines. Life is much more fun than that.

See, the crazy thing about me meeting deadlines is that I have reverted to those Thursday nights. Right now I’m in a dead heat to finish this book by the deadline that I have created. That means that I am either thinking about the story or I’m writing words like mad.

When I write, I can’t have interruptions (other than kittens – everyone needs kittens (or pupper-dogs) ). I might as well just not write while there are other things going on. Activity on FB (yeah, yeah. I know, turn it off), phone calls, messaging, any number of things. I love every one of those distractions and know that I can wait to write and we’ll all be happy.

Do you see a theme? Cats where I'm working. They have a million places to sleep, but hanging out right in my space is preferable. I can hardly argue with that. I like having 'em around!

Do you see a theme? Cats where I’m working. They have a million places to sleep, but hanging out right in my space is preferable. I can hardly argue with that. I like having ’em around!

Around nine thirty in the evening, things slow down enough for me to change my focus An Evernote file is opened, I type the Chapter Number, re-read the end of the last chapter just to make sure I’m ready and then I go … and go and go and go. Some nights I can get through only a half of a chapter because I’m exhausted. Other nights … well … I’ve seen plenty of sunrises, but from the back end. When y’all are stretching your arms and slamming your alarms off, I’m begging the cats to tuck themselves in around me so I can relax and fall asleep.

The problem is that two hours later, they’re ready for more play time. But that’s another story.

In Diane’s perfect world, a personal robot would gladly do the tasks that need to happen during the rest of the world’s work day while I sleep (and oh, by the way, keep the kittens quiet for me, please). I’m sluggish and foggy-brained during the day (I never was much of a morning person – oh, I have funny stories around that … eh … funny to me, probably won’t translate well to anyone else). At night, though? The lights turn on. Every fiber of my being comes alive. The caffeine that I’ve ingested up to that point explodes in my cells, buzzing and humming until I pour it out. These are the moments that I live for. This is why I love what I do. It’s why I’m a hermit – the noise of the world falls away and its silence gives way to the cacophony in my mind.

These next two weeks are stressful, rewarding and exciting as I push to finish the initial writing of the book. Once the words are written, re-writes and edits happen until I have a raw first draft. There is so much more that happens from that point forward – beta readers (and I have plenty, not looking for more, though I thank you for your interest), cover and title creation, writing a synopsis, final editing (several times), formatting for paperback and Kindle, a couple of short stories and writing email newsletters, marketing … oh my.

So I cherish these last two weeks of intensive writing and re-writing. For now, this is all I have to focus on and though I am sleeping at strange and odd hours, it’s just the best fun of all.

BY THE WAY!

Don’t forget that this Friday and Saturday the Bellingwood Boxed Set (Books 1-3) will be FREE for Kindle. It’s a perfect opportunity for you to invite your friends to join you in this crazy little town we love. On Friday morning, I’ll create a post on Facebook with links so you can share them. THANK YOU for being part of this journey with me. 

Handling Conflict. Or, My Sister is a B-A

Carol - Kindergarten

Carol – Kindergarten (1967)

Last night as I was chatting with my sister, I accused her of trying to rescue everyone. Of course, that made me smile because it is who I’ve written in Polly.

I’ve had conversations this week with both my sister and brother and one thing that stands out is our frustration with inequality. It should be such a simple concept, but humanity isn’t wired to take care of others – only to protect and promote ourselves. Kindness, encouragement, support – it’s what we sometimes do for friends and family, but rarely for anyone else.

At least it feels that way. Gone are the days when polite behavior and considering other’s needs above your own is the norm. Am I right? Well … I hope not. I’ve exaggerated this for effect.

This morning was rough. The kittens and I do not have a good sleep cycle plan happening yet. But that’s a different topic. As I tried to fall back to sleep, I let my mind wander. This morning I thought about what had been going on in Carol and Jim’s lives and thought to myself: My sister is a bad-ass.

The three of us approach conflict, abusive personalities, wrong-thinking (on and on and on) in similar, but very different ways.

Jim has a lifetime of upper management skills. He’s learned to measure his thoughts and seek to reason with parties involved. Oh, he still loses sleep and his blood pressure rises, but he’s very good at finding the right words to bring everyone to the table. When someone upsets continuity, he backs away until he can speak reasonably.

I’ve always just put it out there. But I’ve lost friends because of that and over the years, I’ve come to realize that most people don’t care what my opinions are – and there is no way I will change theirs, so I don’t bother. Which is too bad, but the argument isn’t worth it any longer. I’ve fought hard for things I believed in throughout my lifetime and I’ve been treated hideously because of it. You know what? I lived. I still speak my mind, but only if I believe it’s worthwhile. Otherwise, I try to work on the other side – to find the positive and be encouraging.

Now Carol. She’s a riot. If you meet her, you will meet this incredibly sweet and wonderful person. She’s happy, positive, upbeat, enthusiastic, loving … all of those great things. That’s just her personality. She lights up a room when she enters. She’s gregarious and can hold a conversation with anyone. When we worked together at the print shop, strangers would come in and before they left, they’d told her their life story and she’d helped them.

Carol is our conciliator – our mediator. She is always trying to smooth the waters between people, working to understand both sides of a discussion so she can explain it and bring others back to the center.

But dang, if you cross that girl, you won’t even believe what you’ll get. It takes a lot to for her to get to the point that she’ll show outsiders her fury and it will surprise the heck out of you to see her go. But as I look back, some of her escapades are pure entertainment – and good for a story or two.

Carol and Jamie with Kadi and Charcoal (1968)

Carol and Jamie with Kadi and Charcoal (1968)

When she was just a kid in elementary school, she and Jamie walked to school (I went by myself, because ugh, they were so little and stupid) together. An older boy had been picking on Jamie regularly and one day, Carol was done. She went after that boy (who was actually older and bigger than her as well), thunked him on the head with her binder, and made him back off.

Years later, Carol and I were going home late one evening after work. We were driving down a one way (two lane) residential street and of course, street lights were out along the way. All of a sudden, we both saw it – a pickup truck parked in a driveway with half of his bed in the street. She swerved, cursed and then cursed some more. I was still trying to catch my breath when she made a quick turn, went around the block and pulled up behind the pickup. Carol parked and stormed out of the car up to the front door. When a young man answered, she let all hell rain down on him. He was in shock (of course) and called for his friend to fix it. He apologized over and over. I still hadn’t processed on all that had happened until long after she was back in the car and we were heading home again. Whoa!

A few years later, she and I were living in a gorgeous apartment on Park Avenue in Omaha. What a beautiful place. Big rooms, hard wood floors, beautifully restored wood trim. We loved it. But the neighborhood was a little dodgy. Two blocks down, a crack house had regular visits from the police – and today? Yeah. Don’t go there. Even angels fear to tread on that street.

Christmas 1988 - Ghenghis Khan in our apartment.

Christmas 1988 – Ghenghis Khan in our apartment.

When we lived there in the eighties, it was still … not horrible. But if we took long walks with our dog in the evenings, both of us went – just to be safe. One evening we were walking Genghis (a shih-tzu – Genghis Khan, King of the Mongrel Hordes) and there was a commotion across the street at a small local bar. Carol looked over and saw a man lift a tire iron to beat a kid. She hollered and started after him. I stopped her. Because a drunken idiot with a tire iron is never a good thing. She screamed again at the man to stop. He turned and said, “But he was stealing from me!” Okay, he was engaged now. (I was shaking and ready to run for help.) She told him that beating someone was wrong. If the kid really stole from him, he should call the police. And oh, by the way, we were calling them if he didn’t stop. The guy stopped, the kid ran, and we scurried home.

Seriously – bad-ass sister. Who knew? She scares me sometimes and I’m not afraid of much when it comes to that stuff.

Nowadays, Carol deals with little freakin’ bullies in her classroom. They break her heart because she wants them to understand how much better life is without that kind of ugliness. She isn’t afraid to wade into messes that she should probably avoid, but the kids know what side she’s on – every day.

Everyone has stories of when they’ve stood strong between right and wrong, but they shouldn’t just be individual stories. These should be a lifetime of knowing what the right thing is to do and doing it. Maybe there should be more of a moral to this post, but honestly … today I’m just chuckling when I think about my sweet, kind, wonderful sister being some kind of hell-on-wheels bad-ass! I love that!

Marketing? Stop Complaining, Diane.

BellingwoodBoxedSet1-3Marketing is a pain in my butt. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I spend money to give my books away for free and then I spend hours filling out forms on various websites that ask me more questions than I’m comfortable answering sometimes. I won’t be surprised to find a question about the color of my underwear one of these days. None of the marketing sites ask exactly the same questions, so it’s always a tossup as to which answer I need to create.

As I sat here complaining to myself (well, and the cats, too), I realized that I want my books to just do the work for me. And then I laughed because you know what? I’m a lousy manager.

What in the world, Diane? Non-sequitur much?

Not really. See, when people work for me, I just want to assign the work and then have them to it without anymore input from me – unless a crisis comes up. But that’s just not reality. People are people. And I’m a horrible, horrible manager. It makes me cry to have to manage people.

Consequently, I no longer do that. And I don’t cry over that anymore. (I cry over everything else, though – sheesh – what waterworks these eyes are).

Notice their tails? I did that. Because I love messing with them while they sleep.

Notice their tails? I did that. Because I love messing with them while they sleep.

This is one of the things about self-publishing. There isn’t some little lackey out there in media / publishing land who creates promotions and spends hours finding new and creative ways to convince the world they should buy your books. Nope. It’s all about dimly lit rooms with computer monitors and cats surrounding you. (Wait – that’s probably just me – not every other author who self-publishes likes kittens and dimly lit rooms.)

Okay – enough complaining. The awesome, amazing, wonderful side of marketing my own books? When it’s all over and the forms filled out, the money gone from my account and the dates are scheduled, I know that I’m about to meet really fabulous people who are introduced to my Bellingwood books and fall in love with the stories.

Little by little, person by person, my books really do begin doing the work for me. You share with your friends and family, they share and the network grows. That network means that I get to meet and find out about some of the coolest people in the world. I am continually blown away by how fun that is.

Moving out of Sigourney - 1980

Moving out of Sigourney – 1980

When I was growing up, we moved a lot. Methodist ministers didn’t stay in one place much longer than 5-6 years. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. As much as I adored the friends I had already made, I knew that this was an opportunity to meet so many more great people. This had a lot to do with my parent’s attitudes about change. They taught us to greet it with anticipation and expectation. Mom, especially, prepared us to have fun with all of the new people we would encounter. (The funny thing – both she and Dad were hermits, too!)

So, just like the hated days of packing up the house (we had a lot of stuff) to move, I got through this day of scheduling marketing – knowing that on the other side, something great is going to come.

You always have to look for the fun – right?

Oh … wanna know the dates? Tell your friends!

I’ve scheduled the Bellingwood Boxed Set to be free on February 19-20 and then again on March 3-5. Don’t worry. You’ll see those dates again as we get closer, but if you’ve been waiting to share the series – the time is here!

Little Moments

It really is about the little moments in life, isn’t it!

The cats and I just had a blast and because words rattled around in my head, I needed to share. However, because I was busy processing on the words – there are no photographs of this actual event.

Tuna casserole has been tantalizing me for a few months. Don’t know why it took so long to make it – it’s a simple recipe and it’s one of my favorites.

Mom didn’t make casseroles. That’s not how she learned to cook, so we didn’t have them unless someone in the congregation made one and gave it to us. Tuna was something she purchased to create tuna salad. Well, heck, when she was on a diet, she just ate tuna and cottage cheese. That happened often.

Anyway. Tonight was the night. Last night I made sure I had all of the ingredients so all I had to do was cook some noodles and mix the ingredients.

Three cans of tuna. Three cats. Perfect equation. What was fun was watching their little personalities at play throughout this extravagance.

For the kittens, this was new. As soon as TB smelled tuna in the air, he was right there in front of me. He knew this would be awesome.

IMG_4827

The kittens will do nearly anything to be close to TB – no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

I squeezed the tuna juice (water) into three little dishes and put his in front of him immediately, then one in front of Grey – because she was in a PANIC! If TB was that excited, it had to be great. Earl sat on the floor in front of me, desperate to be in on it, but he couldn’t think fast enough to get to a chair that would give him access to the table. I put his on the floor so he could participate right away.

TB hunkered in. This was his to enjoy.

Grey dashed back and forth, trying to figure out where the most fun would happen. Was it at the dish of tuna juice? Maybe one of the empty cans of tuna. Would Mom let her near the casserole dish where all of the ingredients were landing? Oh my, oh my, oh my!

And Earl? That little sweetie just kept looking up at me – he’d found nirvana. I could read it in his eyes. “Thank you, Mom. You’re the best ever.”

They are so distinct in their personalities and those few moments – over dishes of tuna juice – were pure pleasure for me. Each cat was able to experience something simple that I could do for them and they experienced it in their own way.

So what if Grey was all over the place. That was her joy. So what if Earl couldn’t figure out how to get to the top of the table (he usually can, he was overwhelmed). I could make it easy on him and he was content. And TB? This was old hat and one of those few moments that I let him (them) be involved in what I’m cooking.

IMG_4850

I love this face.

Apparently I need to make tuna casserole more often. We all love it.

As I watched each of them find their own way through the moment, I thought about how wonderful it is to do things for other people. I love to give gifts. I’m making quilts right now. Who knows where they’ll end up – or even if they’ll work out. I’m kind of a newbie at this. But those moments of someone else’s joy pile up in my mind as I cut out pieces of fabric and plot a pattern.

When I first started writing, I didn’t have very many readers. I could identify most of the people who were reading my books. And you know what? I wrote the story as if I were telling it to them. Their reactions to bits and pieces of the book were in my mind at all times. Those moments were surely only mine, but once the book was published, it became something that I shared with them, even if it wasn’t at the same time.

Some of the most fun I have is in the moments – whether they are shared immediately or put off until later. I don’t want to miss any moments because I’m too caught up in negative crap. I agonize for those people who spend so much time looking for (and finding) ugliness, anger, bitterness, betrayal and frustration. They miss moments of joy.

Silly little moments. Perfect moments that add up to so much more.

Edit:
Hehe – I re-read this and thought: someone is going to think I’m an imbecile because I used the word extravagance instead of extravaganza. When, in truth, I wanted to use the word extravagance. Just thought I’d put that out there.