The tomato vine…the Maltese Falcon…the process…

Desk

A check-in is long overdue! Summer, recently filled with eerie orange skies and hot nights, devastating California fires and Texas floods, a personal call to action and unanticipated foray into gardening, lots of exercising and even more revising, is (thank goodness!) almost over. But before the bluebird flies and my favorite season arrives, what news do I have for you…?

IMG_9161First, in very old news, I’m trying a new creative experiment: associating specific creative ideas & projects with specific scents. The goal…? Twofold. First, I often can’t sit down and write when I’d like to…namely, mornings, when instead I’m heading off to work. And when I do have time to write, I don’t feel like it. So just maybe, in those moments, if the story had a certain scent…like yummy vanilla sugar…and I took a deep inhale, the urge to write might be rekindled. Second, I’d like to successfully work on more than one project. It’s not always easy to shift between worlds and characters, so I thought perhaps if I had a trigger…tomato vine for this mystery, coffee for that short story, etc…I might be able to jump in and out of multiple worlds more easily. As I say, it’s an experiment…so I’ll keep you posted.

Second, in not-quite-as-old news, as you can see from my new favorite glass above, I recently went on a walking tour of Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, organized by the Northern California Sisters in Crime and conducted by Don Herron, who’s been leading these tours for 40 years…since the year I was born! Don describes the nature of the tour best on his website:

Shadow Sam Spade in his quest for the fabulous figurine of a mysterious black bird. Prowl the back alleys where the Continental Op, Hammett’s longest-running detective, faced down the opposition over the barrel of his blazing .38. Follow Hammett himself as he works for the Pinkerton Detective Agency on the infamous Fatty Arbuckle case. See the spot where Spade’s partner, Miles Archer, with a smile on his mug and his pistol buttoned away under his overcoat, met swift death in the night-fog.

It’s always a joy to see a familiar place in a new way…and I certainly saw San Francisco cast in thrilling, noir shadows that revealed places and things I’d never noticed but passed by many times. Just a few photos of some of my favorite parts…

 

(And if you don’t know who Dashiell Hammett or Sam Spade are, or what the Maltese Falcon is…get thee to a bookstore now!)

Lastly, the latest news. I’ve remembered to enjoy the process! I owe this reminder to my husband…photographer, musician, and all around creative-being-extradonaire! I watch him spend hours at his arts…chasing tone, crafting songs, creating images…for the mere pleasure of it. The joy and energy he radiates after spending an evening on one guitar lick or one portrait should be bottled up and prescribed to overwrought, cynical artists of all types. Being around him has reminded me that if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing, then you’re either missing the point or aren’t doing what you really love. (That said, I’ve also observed that by following his bliss he has courted success and opportunity…new band mates, music gigs, photography assignments…proving Julia Cameron’s point that the Universe loves happy artists and wants to help them!)

And that’s it for this summer. I’ll leave you in the pub with a cold beer listening to my inspiring husband…

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And what a leap it was!…

…all the way from the New Year to mid-summer! How did that happen…?

Well, I can only describe the first few months in my new position at the college as truly grabbing hold of a moving train and hanging on for dear life. But hang on I did, and manage to scramble aboard and squeeze myself into a rattling car. And it’s still full steam ahead. Then, in February, I turned 40 which called for an impromptu, creative jaunt to my beloved City of Dreaming Spires.

I returned to spend hours in the backyard stripping paint off doors and window trim in anticipation of remodeling my office…at the same time spending precious last days with my feline magician assistants, Copperfield and Houdini, who left me in April and May, and took with them all joy for a time.

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After seventeen years of company on every life step, dream, and scheme, the world within and without was sad and uninspired without them. For a time I didn’t care if the office got finished or the book published or what filled my free time. Thankfully, that part of grief does pass. And though those two are forever in our hearts and missed daily, there is a new addition to the family who has infused it anew with youth and joy. Realizing that we still had love and a home to share…and that a real writer needs a cat companion to write anything worthwhile!…my husband brought this fellow home from the local animal shelter…

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He was introduced to us as a twelve-year-old Licorish, but we now know him as the more-like-four-year-old Oscar.

But in this long leap of time and all that transpired, did I take the “true leap” I wrote about in January…the daily leap into the life and identity of a writer, filled with wonder and writing and inspiration, despite everything else that can get in the way? The short answer is yes…and no. I did…just not as much as I should or could have.

When I was in Oxford I spent five blissful days researching an exciting new treasure hunt of a story…I just haven’t made much progress on the actual writing of it. And I have been wrestling with and pondering important revisions to Shadow of a Woman, with good results, making it a stronger manuscript…but I haven’t yet resubmitted to agents. And I made it to a Sisters-in-Crime meeting…but only one. Still, here I am, having leaped, stumbled, had a bit of a rough landing, but brushed myself off and am ready to go.

And that’s the reality of leaps, I suppose…