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04 Jan Willow the Skate

Willow the Skate


In 1990 (yes, 1990) I bought a brand new Honda CRX. It was white with a blue interior, so I named it “Willow,” after the blue-and-white “Blue Willow” chinaware. Because of its shape, which reminded me of the clamp-on roller skates I’d worn as a wee girlie, that name was expanded to “Willow-the-Skate.”


And “Willow-the-Skate” he’s been, ever since.


I do tend to anthropomorphize my cars—they’ve all had names and genders. Willow was a boy. He was my constant companion through twenty-five years of my life—moves, job changes, my adoption of my dear Raffie (who rode in Willow-the-Skate many times, and hated it every time, poor little guy), writing books, getting married, writing more books. The picture above was taken in 2010, and Willow’s not looking too bad for a twenty-year-old, if I do say so myself.


Last week, though, poor little Willow finally gave up the ghost. I hadn’t been driving him enough, and his timing belt, it seems, just kind of quietly disintegrated in our Texas heat and rain. Jim went out and tried to start him, and kablooey—without his timing belt his pistons went every which way. (I don’t really know that much about cars, so bear with me. This is a much-simplified, second-hand explanation.) No way to fix his engine. A new engine would be prohibitively expensive, particularly for poor little twenty-five-year-old Willow.


I was crushed. The second half of 2015 hasn’t been one of my better half-years in general, and I am still surprised by how much losing Willow-the-Skate broke my heart.


Fortunately there are car fanciers who, well, fancy 1990 Honda CRXs. One of those fanciers has bought the undriveable, engine-less Willow and has the means to fix him and polish him as a sort of classic car. I will miss him so much, but I’m glad he will at least have a new owner who cares about him.


Vale, Willow-the-Skate. You were faithful and true through many journeys, and I will always remember you.

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23 Apr Boudin and his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days

Boudin with crossed paws--not posed, I swear!

I’ve been mostly over on my Facebook page for the last week or so, writing about our dear old almost-fourteen-year-old beagle boy Boudin and his terrifyingly sudden bout with idiopathic vestibular syndrome. You can read all about it over there:


My Facebook Page


He’s doing better now, thank goodness. Boo is my go-to guy whenever I offer “crossed beagle paws” for good luck, and so we’re all crossing our fingers, paws, and whatever we’ve got that he continues to improve.

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20 Jan Blogs are In Out In

I started out keeping a pretty personal blog—writing about the beagles, of course, but also cooking and baking and reading and gardening and stargazing and history and general barefoot living here in the house with three pear trees. Well, two pear trees now. Vale, third pear tree. But anyway.

Then I got caught up in Being an Author. Everything I read and everyone I spoke to encouraged me to “have a presence” on Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and LinkedIn and every other social networking site in the known universe. Blogging was out, I was assured. No one cared. No one would read anything longer than 140 characters anyway.

I tried. I really tried. But all that social networking is so not me. I feel awkward doing it, just as I feel awkward walking up to a stranger (or for that matter, an acquaintance) at a big party and saying, “Hi, there, here I am, let’s talk about something.” The down-to-the-bone truth is that I am an introvert’s introvert. I like to sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings (sometimes literally, given my favorite subject matter of the sixteenth century) with one other person. One a really good day, two other people. I liked blogging because it was like talking to one person. You. Yes, you.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I came across this on, Justine Musk’s intense and sometimes terrifying blog. (A blog? Oh, wait, are blogs not dead after all?) She is writing about reading a book and getting online to “prolong the experience of the novel by remaining in contact with the author’s voice.” She says:

What I wanted to find wasn’t standard self-promotion….but the author’s own personal idea-space, where she had offloaded enough of her mind and voice and personality (through blog posts and ongoing conversations) to invite me in relationship with her brand.

Now I do flinch a little at “offloaded” and “brand,” but in general that post hit me right between the eyes. Maybe I didn’t have to force myself to socialize in a way that felt so unnatural to me. Maybe I could simply go back to writing here, talking to one person in a little more depth and detail. I cannot tell you what a relief that was.

So I’ll be blogging more and social-networking less. I am happy! Thank you, Justine Musk, for twisting the lens and bringing that into lovely satisfying sharp focus for me.

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25 Apr Peeking Out

…and blinking in the bright light of real life…

Well, The Flower Reader is done. I’ve been unconscious for the past week. We’ve had storm after storm—thunderhail, lightningwind, windyrain, every combination you can imagine. Power on and off.

And I have the best idea for my next book…

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20 Nov Saturday I-7

I don’t want to miss my Saturday update (I am so like the beagles, in that I get into a routine and then feel anxious if the routine is changed), but I don’t have much to say—I’ve spent the week lost in sixteenth-century Scotland and haven’t come up for much twenty-first-century air.

I bought a new handbag. For the first time in my life it is not a neutral color. It’s teal. My favorite color. (As if you couldn’t guess that from looking at my website.) Why have I never bought a teal-colored handbag before? For me switching to a new bag is a life-changing event, and this is one I really like—nice and roomy, with handles that are just the right length to hook comfortably over my shoulder and tuck the bag safely under my arm.

Reading: I really liked Erin Blakemore’s The Heroine’s Bookshelf. It struck a deep chord with me—the idea that the books we read—the fiction we read—can affect how we feel. I loved her references to re-reading her childhood favorites as an adult. I do that, too. It can be astonishing sometimes, both for the things I missed and the things I internalized to the point that I forgot they came from a book.

Finally, here is a link to a free ebook version of focus : a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction by Leo Babauta of Write to Done. It is excellent. You can buy an enhanced version if you like. However you do it, I sincerely recommend it. Simplicity and focus are good things for writers.

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10 Sep Playacting on Paper

Most writers will tell you they started writing stories as children, always knew they wanted to be writers, and identified with Jo in Little Women. My path to the writing life was a little more circuitous. (As is the story of my life in general. Heh. But anyway.)

I playacted as a child. I sewed endless outfits for my Ginny doll (this was pre-Barbie, thank God, when dolls for little girls still looked like little girls) and played out stories with her. I acted out endless stories with paper dolls, plastic horses, and my poor hapless sister and friends. I loved wonderful adventurous and romantic stories (usually in some historical setting) and imagined them vividly, but didn’t think so much about writing them down. I did draw pictures. Most of my family was musical, and so I proudly proclaimed myself to be “artical.” It didn’t occur to me to imagine myself as “writical.”

For a while I actually thought I wanted to be an actress. (See evidence, right.) Then I got sidetracked into radio and started acting out stories with voices and sound effects in endless “slice-of-life” commercials. It was only much later that it seriously occurred to me to actually write down a story. And when I did, it came out as—well, playacting on paper. And that is what I’m doing, to this day. I act out the parts as I write, much to the amusement of the Broadcasting Legend™ and the puzzlement of the beagles.

And I wanted to be Beth in Little Women. Everybody loved her! I wanted everybody to love me! And anyway, what actress can resist a good death scene?

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11 Jul The Rest of the Story

Poor tree. It’s going to take a while to get used to a front yard with only two trees. On the other hand we ended up with an enormous pile of firewood (of which you can see only a small part in this picture) which we happily shared with our neighbors and friends.

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18 Jun A Writer’s Code

Ran across this great blog post from Karen E. Olson, the author of the lighthearted, Las-Vegas-based Tattoo Shop mysteries. It made me think about how I would articulate a Writer’s Code of my own. Here it is:

1. Write every day. (Momentum is everything.)
2. Work alone. (Editor and agent are exceptions.)
3. Read widely.
4. Never lose your sense of gratitude and wonder.
5. In fact, just get over yourself in general.
6. Be discreet.
7. Be generous.
8. Mind your manners.
9. Have fun.

What is your writer’s code? If you’re not a writer, what is your personal code?

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10 Jun Oh, Yay. Jury Duty.

Later this month. Well, at least they now have an “ejuror” program with which one can check in online and not have to fill in the endless forms by hand. If only they had a “jury-from-home” option, along the lines of working from home. I don’t really mind the jurying part—it’s fighting my way through rush hour traffic to reach the downtown court building (and we’re a long way from downtown) by 8:30 in the freaking morning.

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24 Mar Dogless and Quiet

An unnaturally quiet day today—both dogs are at the vet’s for minor surgeries. No claws clicking on the quarry tile! No liquid dark eyes following every bite of food from plate to mouth! All will not be right with the world (as dear Mr. Browning’s Pippa would say) until the dogs are in the house again.

ETA: Dogs are home safely. Boo looks like a fighter who’s been in one too many fights (two skin tags removed from his face, so shaved patches and scabs), and Cressie looks like a Frankenstein-dog, with two BIG shaved patches and stitched-up incisions, one on the left side of her neck and the other on the right side of her shoulder. Everything was benign, thank goodness. Now to fight the battle of “No, Cressie, no scratching!” I wonder if there’s such a thing as a backwards Elizabethan collar that fits around a dog’s waist, to keep it from scratching with its back legs. Heh.

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27 Jan Intentionality

There aren’t really any unbreakable “rules” for writing—or for that matter, for life. But this is a good one:

Intend every word you write.

Its corollary for life-in-general, of course, would be intend every thing you do.

Harder than it sounds.

The blog post by Eric Cummings on intentionality (yes, there really is such a word) in writing that got me started thinking about this is here, on one of my favorite blogs, Write to Done.

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19 Jan A Time to Every Purpose

To every thing there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
…He has made every thing beautiful in his time.

—from Ecclesiastes 3

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01 Nov Return to the World

Yes, here I am again, after a month not only away from blogging but mostly away from being online at all. A lot’s been happening, some of it good, some of it sad and stressful, and nothing is really resolved. But then life is never really resolved, and I certainly can’t hide away in my hermitage forever.

Today is All Saints’ Day (which is, of course, why Halloween is called Halloween—it’s “All Hallows’ Eve,” or the Eve of All Saints), and one of my very favorite hymns is sung as the processional on All Saints Sunday. For All The Saints is rousing and wonderful and I usually cry while I’m singing it, especially when the sopranos soar into the descant on the final verse. It also has a rich 150-year history. Part of the lyrics:

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong…

All I can do, is all I can do. I need that brave heart and those strong arms. And here and there, a little time for writing.

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11 Aug The Sale of a Wife

This is quite a bit more modern than my beloved sixteenth century, but I ran across it while researching other documents and couldn’t resist sharing it. After all, how often does one come across:

“A full and particular Account of the Sale of a Woman named Mary MacKintosh, which took place on Wednesday Evening, the 16th of July, 1828, in the Grass Market of Edinburgh, accused by her Husband of being a notorious Drunkard; with the particulars of the bloody Battle which took place afterwards.”

You must read the full transcription, if nothing else for its vivid nineteenth-century slang. One of the fighters (and yes, a huge fistfight between women and men broke out, with the women pretty much carrying the day) is described as being “as drunk as 50 cats in a wallet.” I can’t wait to use that one. Heh.

The Scottish broadside, ladies and gentlemen—the TMZ-crossed-with-Craigslist of its day!

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15 Mar The Ides of March

From Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene ii:

What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

Beware the ides of March.

He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass.

Fortunately there were no soothsayers around on the Ides of March some years ago, and my mother made it safely to the hospital to bring me into the world. Is the Ides of March a cool birthday or what?

My mother had a way with birthdays. My sister’s is April Fool’s Day. Really. And my brother’s is more or less on Thanksgiving (depending on the year). At least they’re all easy to remember!

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02 Mar Boo Has a Not-So-Excellent Adventure

Poor Boudin, not feeling very wellA terribly sick doggie over the weekend. This morning at last he seems to be better. Not sure if it was some kind of bacterial or viral thing, or just some contraband delicacy he came across in the back yard—the vet seemed to be leaning toward a dietary indiscretion because sick as he was, Mr. Boo had no fever. In any case, about six-thirty last night he suddenly got up, stretched, ate food, drank water, and looked around as if to say “What’s all the fuss?” He slept normally through the night with no emergencies. Life chez Loupas can now carry on as usual, I hope.