Introspection in Images: Fascinated by Decay 004


I have always been fascinated by the decaying remains of human structures.

That sounds weirder when I say it out loud, but I always knew I was weird.

I love to take pictures of stone buildings being overgrown with ivy, old gravestones, wooden houses being reclaimed by nature.  Old monuments.  Mossy stones set up by ancient people.  It all fascinates me.

My first digital camera probably took more pictures of things like that, than it did people.  I have hundreds of photos from trips around town and around the world of the things humans have built that are now wasting away.

Today, I’ll share a few of them with you.  And I expect in later posts I’ll share some more.

I hope you can see the beauty in them that I do.



New Year, Same Goals


In January, there’s always a lot of talk about New Year’s Resolutions.  The perennial weight loss goal being one that gets a lot of play in commercials and the media.  I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions, and don’t think I’ve made more than one or two in the past thirty years.

At the beginning of the year, I focus more on what I’m going to continue doing.  What goal that I’m already working on, am I going to focus on this month?  And it’s much more of a monthly check in than it is a New Year’s habit.

Partially, I try to do this so that I can break up a long-term goal into smaller pieces.  For example, revisions for book two in my Swords and Shields series.  I’ve been working on this book for a while now, and there’s a lot of work left to do, but thinking about the entire process and everything at once can be both intimidating and paralyzing.  So I break it down.  Last September’s goal was to get it ready for a round of beta reading.  October, I got it sent out to readers.  I gave them two months to get it back to me, since we all participate in NaNoWriMo, and I didn’t want to derail that for anyone.  January’s goal is to go through all the feedback, synthesize, and decide what to work on next.  February’s goal will be based on that analysis and will be some chunk of revision I need to do, either some re-plotting, re-writing, or heavy revision of a particular section of the book.  Once all those pieces I identified in January are completed, I’ll do another round of whole story reading and analysis on my own, making sure I’ve fixed everything I know is wrong before I send it off to readers again.

I do the same kind of breakdown with most of my large goals.  I want to read more this year, so I’m picking out at least two books each month to try to keep my reading habit going strong.  I’m trying to lose weight and increase my exercise routine, but I’m doing it incrementally.  One pound a week is a nice, slow, healthy way to lose weight, and if I can up my exercise by 2,000 steps or 5-10 minutes a day at least every week, I’ll be making good progress.

This kind of incremental progress works for me.  It doesn’t work for everyone.  What strategies do you use to help reach your goals, both large and small?

Image Prompt 036 Response: Melon Pope and College Friends


I chose the image of the impromptu sculpture at a wedding for my twenty-minute sprint.


Melon Pope and College Friends:

Jacob leaned back in his chair and smiled as he watched his friends having a blast on the dance floor.  It had been months since they’d all seen each other, and he’d enjoyed the chance to talk over dinner and before the wedding.  He’d managed to twist his ankle hiking two weeks before, so dancing wasn’t in the cards tonight, but the music was good, and everyone was having a good time.

“You aren’t getting all maudlin over here by yourself are you?” Kyle asked as he settled in the seat beside Jacob.

“Nah,” Jacob said.  “Just enjoying the music and everyone’s goofy dance moves.”

“Yeah, none of us is winning any awards there, that’s for sure,” Kyle said with a laugh.  “How’s the ankle holding up?”

“Doing alright,” Jacob said.  “I managed to keep my weight off it during the ceremony, so no big deal.”  He’d been Michael’s roommate through most of college, and they’d remained close since graduation, so he’d been one of the groomsman.  Michael’s brother had been best man, and Christy’s sister had been maid of honor.  Jacob always thought it was nice when people asked their siblings.  It meant they were close with family.  He envied that a little some days.

“You going to the after party tomorrow?” Kyle asked as he shifted the plate in front of him.

“There’s an after party?” Jacob asked.

“Well, I say party, I mean brunch,” Kyle said with a snort.  “Everybody’s meeting at that knock off IHOP place on the main drag at about eleven.  Michael and Christy will be there and we’ll all have a chance to say hi and send them off on their honeymoon.”  Kyle started collecting things as he talked.  Jacob didn’t think much of it, Kyle was always doing something with his hands.

“Yeah, that sounds doable,” Jacob said.  “As long as I leave by one I’ll get home before dark.”

“You afraid of the dark?” Kyle asked as he store the carved honeydew melon from the centerpiece.  It was made to look like some kind of plant like not-quite sphere.

“Of course not,” Jacob scoffed, smacking Kyle on the shoulder for suggesting it.  “I just prefer not to do all the windy mountain roads in the dark if I don’t have to.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re living up near the university still, aren’t you?” Kyle replied.

“Yeah, at the top of a mountain,” Jacob agreed.  He loved it there.  He worked on campus as the tutoring coordinator, and he had one of the best views in the county from his apartment.  He’d really lucked out when he found the place.

“It still cost a fortune to live anywhere nice?” Kyle asked as he started folding a napkin.

“It’s not as bad unless you want to be walking distance to campus,” Jacobs replied.  “I’m on the other side of the mountain, so it’s not as exorbitant.”

When Kyle was done with the napkin it looked a bit like a really tall pope hat.

“That’s good,” Kyle said.  “I know you’re not making bank working for a stat school.”  He carefully placed the napkin hat on the melon then stuck two of the decorative toothpicks in the side like little arms.

“It’s not about the money for me,” Jacob replied.  He loved what he did.  He got to work with the tutors, the students, and faculty and staff.  He also had access to the campus library.

“I know,” Kyle replied, snagging two fake rose petals off the table and tucking them in the napkin hat.  They looked a bit like eyes.

“So why are you making a melon sculpture?” Jacob asked.  Kyle not being still and fidgeting with things was normal enough.  Jacob hadn’t seen him make found art while doing it before.

“I get bored,” Kyle said with a shrug.  “Besides, he’s kind of a cute melon pope.”

“Melon pope, huh?” Jacob asked.  “So is that a pope of melons?  Or a pope of the religion that worships melons?”

“Yes,” Kyle replied, grinning full out.

“Dork,” Jacob replied fondly.  Kyle was one of the goofier members of the college group.  He was always going off on bizarre tangents and coming up with hair brained pranks for them to pull on each other.

“Always,” Kyle replied.  “You going to be at home in June?”

“Yeah, the tutoring center still runs in the summer.  I don’t get the same breaks the students do.”  Jacob didn’t mind.  He liked having a full time job year-round.  It sure beat having to wait tables or do the retail thing over the summer like he used to.

“I’m coming back for a conference.  Thought we could get together while I was there.”

“Of course,” Jacob replied.  “I work eight to five, but I’m free in the evenings.  Send me dates.  Hell, if you’re having to foot the bill you can sleep on my couch.”

Kyle laughed.  “Thanks, man,” he said, patting Jacob on the shoulder.  “Work’s paying, so I’ve got a pretty nice hotel.”

“Good on you.”  Jacob was glad Kyle was doing well.  It wasn’t always easy to make it as a researcher, but he seemed to like the company he’d landed at, and he was actually getting to do research and development stuff like he wanted.

“I’m looking forward to another chance to hang out,” Kyle said.  “I miss you lot.”

“Amen,” Jacob replied.

Image Prompt #036 – King David’s Tower & Wedding Impromptu Sculpture


It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 036-002 2018-01-12 King David's Tower 007

Image Prompt 036-001 2018-01-12 C and M Wedding 09-09-05 009

Where I’m From 2018 Edition


Every year since I started the blog, I’ve done a new version of the below poem.  It comes from a template I found, and you can read my original post explaining it here.  You can also fine the past versions of the poem for 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Happy New Year to all of you, I hope you enjoy my poem.

Where I’m From: 2018 Edition

I am from college rule spiral notebooks, from Post-It Notes and Gelly Roll pens.

I am from the cluttered, nerdy, purr-filled apartment.

I am from the philodendron, the Christmas cactus.

I am from too much food at holidays and fluffy fly-away hair, from Catherine and Cameron and Carol.

I am from talking with your hands and getting loud when excited.

From watch where you’re going and don’t talk with your mouth full.

I am from wooden crosses and candles.  Nature, labyrinths, thuribles, and simple wooden buildings.

I’m from Monroeville and Scotland, pumpkin rolls and scotcheroos.

From the crib mattress on the floor and laying there crying because it never occurred to me to get up and find my parents, the bemusement of my mother, and the crib escape tendencies of my sister.

I am from magazine holders, hard drives, and university archives.  Historical records of town foundings, fondly remembered outings, goofy Halloween costumes, and cherished memories of first dates and weddings.

2017 Writing Year in Review


2017 has been a rollercoaster year.  In my wider world, the political landscape has been oversaturated with scandal, controversy, and fear.  In my financial world there have been a lot of ups and down, but we’ve managed to keep our heads above water.  In the world of my little two-person family, there have been a few very major lows as well as a few major highs, the top of which has been my husband’s graduation.  I’m not going to get into details on any of that.  I’m just going to look at the rollercoaster my writing has been on this year.

Writing has always been something that was as much about me, and what I needed to work through emotionally or grapple with intellectually as it is about telling a good story or sharing my work.  A lot of what I write never sees the light of day for that reason.  This year, I haven’t had as much time and energy for writing, so I’ve done less writing than I would have liked.  There’s been a lot of stress in my life and a lot of demands that have to come before my writing.  This is where most of the rollercoaster has come into play.  One month I may have too little time but another month I may do better.  Overall, it has been a reasonably productive year.

One of the things I’ve tried to focus on this year is the revisions for the second book in my Swords and Shields series.  This book has already been three years in the making.  I had a rough draft before releasing the first book, Strong Fort Spathí, but the revisions have taken a long time.  Part of this is because I enjoy drafting more than I enjoy revision.  Part of this is because this book has needed a lot of work.  It was originally far too long, so I played around with breaking it into two books, but that didn’t work with the plot and character arcs, so I combined it all again.

One of the things I’m worst at with revision is cutting, but I tried to be very intentional about what I kept and what I cut.  I managed to shorten the book by about half as well as tighten up the plot and completely rework the second half.  I still need a better beginning, but I almost always do.  The beginning is usually the last thing I finalize.

I sent the book out to beta readers in October, and I began to get responses back in mid-December.  So my goal for January is to get through all the feedback they’ve given me and really work hard on the next draft.  From some preliminary discussions with my beta readers, it’s going to be a lot of work again.  This includes potentially reworking the cast of characters in some major ways.  I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Outside of that, I’ve done a little drafting here and there on some fanfic as well as a few original pieces.  I’ve been trying to decide how the vampires in my world function and introduce them in a book related to the Wiccan University in the series.  I’ve made two attempts, neither of which I’ve finished and neither of which I’m particularly happy with.  I think I will be able to take the good elements from the two drafts and come up with something that will actually work.

One thing that’s been different this year compared to past years, is how long I often go without writing.  Usually, the longest I’d go between writing sessions would be a few days, possibly a week.  This past year there were a few month-long stretches of no writing.  I think this is partially because I hadn’t been reading enough.  As odd as that may sound, reading a lot and reading often, helps me replenish my creative energy.  To write well, you have to read extensively, especially in the genres you write.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately, which should help with my writing productivity.  I also wrote every day in November, which is always a good kick start to my writing habit.  NaNoWriMo is an important part of my year.  I’m looking forward to getting back together with my fellow WriMos for write-ins come January.

All that is to say that it’s been a heck of a year.  I’ve accomplished a few things I’m proud of, I’ve made a lot of progress on my next book, and I’m going into the new year with a plan to get more writing done.  I hope that things in my wider world will settle down a bit, and I’ll be able to focus more on my writing.  That’s my major goal for next year.

How was your past year?  And do you have any major goals for the new one?  Any writing specific goals?  I’d love to hear what everyone else is striving for.

Happy Holidays: May Your Season Be Bright


Regardless what holidays you celebrate (or don’t) in December, I wanted to wish everyone a bright and happy holiday season.  It can be a stressful time of year with travel, family, and financial obligations.  In the currently tense US political climate it can be even more difficult than usual to get through the holidays without a family argument.  I hope you all manage to avoid such issues and enjoy your time together.

I believe that the best part of the holidays is spending time with family and friends and enjoying each other’s company.  I have opportunities to do this at work, which is where the photo for this post comes from.  I am incredibly lucky and have a wonderful office community.  We’re universally friendly and get along really well.  We all care about students and our work and have a lot of fun together during social events.  Every year at the end of the fall semester, the campus recreation folks put on a fun run/walk for the faculty and staff of the university.  It’s called the Jingle Bel Jog, and it includes raffle prizes and a team costume contest.

We all work in the Steele Building, so our costume theme this year was “Steeling the Holidays” and we each had an individual crime.  I went with “I stole my neighbor’s holiday lights,” so I’d have an excuse to wear a strand of colored lights.  Other crimes included props as well.  My office neighbor did “I defrosted Frosty” and was carrying a plush snowman and a hair dryer.  Another coworker used “I switched the naughty and nice lists” and was carrying a clipboard with the lists that had the headings marked out and replaced.  It was a lot of fun coming up with the crimes and props.  We all wore black pants and either black or black and white striped tops and colored our own signs.

The walk itself was fun as well.  I walked with two of my coworkers, one of whom usually does the run and comes in fourth, but due to an injury was walking this year.  The other two of us felt really accomplished for keeping up with him the whole mile and a half.  It was drizzling when the walk started, sleeting by the time we were done, and snowing before we left the food, raffle, and costume contest after.  I had an umbrella, so I wasn’t that worried about the weather, even without my good coat (I had a fleece vest and a second long-sleeve shirt on under my costume).

I’ve been really lucky this year to have a lot of chances to get together with friends and celebrate this year.  My NaNoWriMo group got together at one of our Friendly Local Game Shops for an afternoon of board games and treats and hanging out.  My college friends who are still in the area got together as well.  One couple throws a party every year.  It started out as an Ugly Sweater Party and morphed to Pancakes and Pajamas after their daughter was old enough to participate.  We only went for an hour this year because my husband’s family was in town for his graduation the day before, and we wanted to spend a little more time with them before they left.

That’s another thing I have to celebrate this holiday season.  My husband graduated last week.  It’s been a long road for him with a lot of bumps and trials, but he’s made it through and I’m incredibly proud of him.  He’s amazingly smart and capable, but traditional college just isn’t an easy fit for everyone.  When you struggle with ADD, depression, and anxiety, college can feel impossible.  But he pushed through with the support he needed from me and his family.  I look forward to seeing what he ends up doing next, because I know he’s going to be amazing at it.

This coming week, we’ll be spending a dozen days visiting my parents and sister and his parents and sister.  I’m looking forward to the time with family, even though I worry some of the more conservative members will want to talk politics at some point.  I’m just going to be cheerful and keep my own mind focused on family and catching up and hopefully I’ll be able to avoid any contentious topics.

I hope you have as many opportunities to celebrate as I have and your holiday season is merry and bright.