Fish or Cut Bait?

I’m in Denver for the #RWA18 National Conference. I think this sculpture of the dancing ladies is particularly appropriate.

This week’s topic at the SFF Seven is Why do you abandon a project? What would make you (or let you) finish it? Come on over to read more! Also, a new podcast episode below: First Cup of Coffee – July 15, 2018.

What Genres Do You Read While Drafting?

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Edward Zelster Photography

This is the Kensington cocktail party at the RWA conference. I’m apparently describing something very large to Alexandra Nicolajsen, who manages the digital marketing for the house. Maybe a bus ad.

(That’s the lovely Carolyn Crane sitting next to me.)

As I mentioned previously, I brought back a lot of paper books from RWA, along with a wish list of ebooks I want to download to the Kindle. However, I also have a big road trip coming up. Today I’m flying up to Denver where I’ll help my mom and Stepdad Dave rent a U-Haul truck. My mom has sold my childhood home – after 41 years! – and they’re moving permanently into their Tucson house.

I’d already taken some things a few weeks ago and my aunt went and took some things. Then they had their friends over for a “take some things” party, followed by an estate sale. So there’s not THAT much to convey to Tucson. But there will be two vehicles and neither of them are all that comfortable driving alone for long periods of time. We’ll drive down to Santa Fe on Saturday (about 5.5 hours), spend the night, then go on to Tucson (~8 hours). I’ll hang out on Monday, then drive their “extra” vehicle back to Santa Fe, where it will now be ours. All of this boils down to one thing: audio books.

I sorely need to listen to some books, to help pass the solo driving time.

So, I went to Audible to find the right ones. After all, this is a perfect opportunity to catch up on books I really want to read – for research or because friends wrote them or because they’ve been on my list for a while. But then the two books I wanted most weren’t on Audible! I considered doing them on the Kindle text-to-voice, but I don’t LOVE that. The robo-voice takes away from the story for me. My friend, Sassy Outwater, who is blind, essentially told me I couldn’t bitch about that because, hello, welcome to HER world. I see her point, because Audible books are *expensive* – but I still like them better.

At any rate, I was in the odd position of finding books, any books, on Audible that would be good for the trip. And I didn’t want to burn a lot of time searching. Also, since I’ll be losing writing time doing this trip, I wanted books that would at least feed the story I’m working on, which is an Adult Fantasy. (Book 2 of Twelve Kingdoms, for those who don’t have my life memorized.)

Here’s where I get to my point, because I do have one (shocking!). I wonder what better feeds an in progress story – the same genre or a different one? Someone at the conference says she never reads books in her own genre, because she’s afraid of accidentally stealing ideas. That doesn’t really resonate for me. But I do think it’s better for me to read other genres than the one I’m cooking in.

I ended up choosing the first in Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English m/m detective series, as it’s been recommended to me many times. I’ll listen to Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ contemporary romance Ain’t She Sweet, though I’ve read it before, because it’s practically the text book on how to redeem an unlikable heroine – which I’m dealing with in the story I’m writing. Finally, I got Christina Lauren’s erotic romance Beautiful Bastard, so I can find out what got people so excited about it.

So, I’m curious. For writers, what do you read while you’re drafting? And for the non-writers, do you choose genre by what else is going on in your life?

One commenter will win a book from the ones pictured in Tuesday’s post. Except Sarah MacLean’s A Rogue by Any Other Name – that one has been snapped up by a previous winner.

Remnants and Goodbyes


All in all, it wasn’t so bad.

My mom and I went through everything and decided on keep, save or store. She’d already culled quite a bit, which made it all easier. We purged all of Leo’s things years ago, after he died. Then more when my mom married her David and she made space for him to move in.

The hardest part was the jewelry. For both of us.

For every pair of earrings, for every ring and necklace, there was a story and a memory. Who gave it whom on what occasion. Some pieces were from the 60s, gifts from my dad. Some had belonged to my grandmother. We ruthlessly categorized – some I took, some she’s keeping, some goes to be appraised and sold, some for my aunt to look through.

The jewelry is when we cried.

But at least we got to do this together.

My mom and I have had a long-standing joke, whenever she brought home a great new piece of art and I said I liked it, she’d answer “good, because it will be yours someday.” Sometimes it gave me a thrill, thinking of the day I’d get to have that painting or sculpture. Until I remembered that would mean my mom would be gone.

I walked myself through it from time to time. How she’d have passed away and weeks later I’d go through the house and decide what to keep or sell.

I never could get myself through it.

Now I don’t have to. I brought home some of my favorite things now, the ones that won’t work in the Tucson house. Others I’ll take after the house sells. It feels good to have everything accounted for.

I’m giving my old dollhouse to Lauren, for our granddaughter to be born in October. The carpet above were pieces I’d cut for the dollhouse and carefully stored. Yes, they were remnants from our own house. The yellow was in my bedroom, the tile in the kitchen and the green throughout the rest.
My mom wants you all to know that she had that carpet out of there by the 80s. We were just stunned at how bright it is. Didn’t seem like it at the time.

I’m also lucky that way. I have friends whose parents never did redecorate since the 70s. One mother had a house with a different color for every room: purple living room, red rec room, green kitchen, yellow bedroom – and didn’t want to change a thing to sell it.
It turned out to be a pleasant weekend. We got a great deal accomplished and spent some time together on the patio, where we spent so many family occasions.

The twinsie shirts, by the way, were a coincidence, but I think we shouldn’t let them live it down.

Over the River and Through the Woods


Turns out cholla do more than produce burrs.

This photo might seem silly soon, because when I foraged out to get a photo of this rare blossom, I saw that the entire cholla is covered in buds. So there might be photos of cholla in full bloom soon.

But for now, this is the first, and therefore special.

I’m off to Denver today, to my mom’s house, to help clean it out for the Big Sell. She and her David have been crazy busy fixing the place up to put it on the market at the beginning of July. Stepfather David instructed me to bring the biggest car we own. Or to borrow a bigger one. He’s big on getting rid of stuff.

Most will go into storage right now, until my mom buys a “little jewel box of a condo” to house her art. That’s the most important part.

People are predicting that this will be emotional, but I think we’re ready. It helps that my David and I purged last year when we moved. The house was the first my mom bought, and therefore special, but it’s not the last.

And it’s time to let it go.

Service’Ain’t’Us

I’ve mentioned that I live in a small town. More, it’s a remote town — which means at least an hour’s drive through antelope country to the next outpost of civilization, i.e., shopping. It’s two hours to Denver, which is really where you go for major shopping. But we have a lovely old-fashioned downtown area with lots of local merchants. It’s a big deal for us, to support the local merchants.

Such a big deal, in fact, that everyone gets sick of the exhortations to buy local. Don’t make the drive! Save gas! Inevitably these urgings will include the assertion that the local merchants can fulfill our needs just as well as any shop we might drive to or find online.

Which simply isn’t true.

Yesterday, I went down to our local, independent purveyor of childrens’ things. It’s a nice shop, with lots of fun toys and clothes and baby accessories. So much so, that when several of us met to plan a friend’s baby shower, we decided that she should register at the local shop along with Walmart. Yes, of course we have one. I try to buy local first, so I left work early to catch this shop in our quaint downtown, because of course they don’t keep evening hours.

Then the salesgirl tells me they don’t “do” baby registries. What? Why on earth wouldn’t they?? “We do our tickets by hand,” she says, “so we don’t have a hand scanner to do a registry.” It’s not her fault; she just works there. So, I don’t tell her that I remember shopping for a wedding gift at the NYC Bloomingdales with a PAPER LIST that I had to check off with my selection and return to the counter. It’s insane that a little store like this chooses not to serve their customers this way.

But I picked something out, since I hate going to Walmart and I didn’t want to waste any more time. At the same time, I’m certain this merchant proclaims her grief and indignation at all the people who shop at Walmart instead of her place. Or register online with Babies’R’Us, where shoppers can pull up a list and have a gift automatically shipped to the parents.

We can decry the demise of the small business owner, crushed under the big boxes. And then we’ll go to whoever gives us the best service. How hard is this to figure out?

Everyone Is Named Nancy

My mom lives in Tucson half the year now. Snowbirds. As cliche as retirees from New York and New Jersey heading to Florida, she’s one of those Colorado dwellers who heads to Arizona for the winter. And part of the fall. And pretty much all of the spring. In fact, it’s really a 65/35 proposition at this point. They’re reliably informed by their Tucson neighbors that they’ll gradually be spending so much more time in the desert home that they’ll go full-time and sell the mountain one.

This is the third winter she and her new husband have spent down there. “New” being a relative term, since they married two years ago this May. They’ve had to consciously build friendships in Tucson, since their lifelong social circles were in Denver. So they invite neighbors for dinner, sign up for charities and various events — sifting through the people they meet looking for compatible couples and potential friends.

Through a strange coincidence, several of the gals in the couples they like most are named Nancy. There’s Jack & Nancy, Bill & Nancy, Jim & Nancy, John & Nancy. It’s so pervasive that, if they can’t remember the name of the distaff side of one of couples — which can happen, lots of new people, on top of the lifetime of names already filed away in their “friends” memory banks — they simply refer to her as “Nancy.” And they’re usually right.

They’ve never mentioned if there’s a standard man’s name they use. But it makes me wonder if, someday, when David and I are living in some senescent community, will we call all the women Jennifer?