Book Update, April 17

bear-of-few-ideasI have writing friends who have more ideas than they will ever have time to write.

The fact that they remain my friends is proof that they have an abundance of wonderful qualities which offset that overflow of ideas.

Coming up with ideas for books is a painful process for me (and my poor long-suffering agent). It takes an abundance of time, a mountain of emails, and more chocolate than I am willing to admit to in writing. Making sure that the idea is one that will support an entire book is even more involved.

I’ve tried to hack this issue by simply diving in and writing with the merest glimmer of an idea. No go. I do fine for the first few scenes, then boom. I still have no idea where I’m going or what happens next.

Which means that, before I can write anything, I must have a synopsis.

synopsis_-a-faster-way-to-say-_god-take-me-now._-1

A synopsis, for those who don’t know, is a plan for the entire book. Writing one means you have to know what your characters will be doing – and, often more important, WHY they will be doing it – for at least the major points in the plot. When you finish writing one, you weep tears of joy, because now you have a solid direction and know where you’re going. (Until you get a flash of insight halfway through writing the first draft and realize you got everything wrong and even though you THOUGHT your character was screwed up because of parental issues, it’s REALLY because of what happened at her junior prom.)

Best of all, you can now share your synopsis with your Poor Long-Suffering Agent, who can let you know what’s working (YAY!) and what still needs work (CRAP). And then you go back to the drawing board. But at least this time, the board is smaller, because you’re only focused on that one non-working point.

And you find a fix. Which is great.

Until you realize that your amazing fix for Plot Point C will have a ripple effect on Plot Points A, B, D, and E. So now you have to change them. And those changes ripple out. And so on, and so on.

This is the point I’m at now. I have a concept. I have some unique twists on it. But there’s one major issue I still need to fix, so as of this writing, I am back to the (smaller, far more manageable) drawing board.

And, of course, back to the chocolate.

chocolate bars

Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.com

 

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Maybe It’s the Weather …

img_1669So. It’s been a while.

All has been well here at Casa Kitty, though I am rather astonished at how quickly the time slips past. Christmas and Hanukkah, birthdays and snow days, school breaks and college decisions … the weeks have been full.

The writing schedule, unfortunately, has not.

Oh, I have been working, never fear. But (a) for a lot less time each day than in the past, and (b) mostly on ideas which I run by my poor long-suffering agent only to have her say, sorry, that won’t work. Since I am a Bear of Few Ideas, it takes me a fair bit of time to come up with something new …  then develop it into something resembling an outline … then send it off to the agent … then have to do the lather, rinse, repeat thing. The next thing you know, months have passed and all I can point to as evidence of my attempts is a bunch of deleted computer files and half a forest’s worth of used index cards.

But.

I seem to have finally stumbled upon the right idea.

And spring is finally creeping back into central New York, which means that my office (which used to be a garage) is once again becoming warm enough to inhabit for more than a few moments at a time. I spent the winter working at the dining room table, which has its perks, but in the long run, I don’t think it’s ideal for productivity. For one thing, it’s too close to the kitchen. Also, the cats are up there, and when I catch one of them on the counter I feel compelled to try to chase them down. (They, of course, feel compelled to ignore my efforts.)

More than that, though, is the blurring of lines. I’ve been doing everything at that table – writing work, church work, planning work, homework. Meals happened there, too. It seemed my whole life was taking place in a 2×2 square of my home. Not healthy, and not conducive to focus. Was I sitting down to write or to play a game or to have lunch? Everything was rolling together, and not in a happy cinnamon roll way.

So the other day, I returned to the office and dove in. (To clean, not write. Sorry. But you KNOW that it spent the winter as a repository for everything that had no other home.) I cleaned and rearranged and pitched, and now, it’s my office again. It’s also a crafting area and a music studio and a spare bedroom, so some of the lines are still blurred, but the only thing I really do there is create.

Which brings me to a new focus for this blog.

office-3

For the next while, I want to post (regularly!!!) about things I’m creating. Mostly, this will be for accountability. It’s sooooo easy to put off writing and other projects because I need to prep a Sunday School lesson, or send thank you notes for the school committee, or fold laundry. Those things do need to happen but maybe not as often as they’ve been happening, if you get my drift.

So once a week, I’m going to post updates on my projects. There are three of them underway at the moment:

  • the book
  • a knitting project
  • a painting project.

img_1670That’s only three topics, but I figure the book takes more time, so I’ll update that progress twice a month. And if it’s a five-week month, then you’ll get … something else. A recipe review, probably.

So that’s the plan. Thanks for your patience, and I hope you’ll continue to follow along for this slightly-more-decorative portion of the ride. See you next week!

 

Heroes of 2018: Snowplow Operators

wp-image-545725847jpg.jpgWe’re coming up to the end of the year (because I’m sure you haven’t noticed this already), and I want to take these last few weeks to salute some of the unsung heroes of life. First responders and medical personnel and those who serve in the armed forces and all those other amazing dedicated people are deserving of every accolade they receive, and should be entitled to free massages and chocolate fountains for life.

But there are other folks, folks who we don’t think of right away when we talk about those deserving of praise, but who are important nonetheless. And who do I want to celebrate today? Snowplow operators.

I live in central New York state. We get snow. We get LOTS of snow. It slows us down at time, no doubt about it, but it rarely stops us completely, and snowplow operators are a huge reason for that. No matter the hour of the day (or, usually, the night), they are out there, plowing and salting and sanding and carving a path through the snowy wilderness for those who must be on the road. Weekends, holidays, it doesn’t matter. They are out there, doing their dangedest to tame Mother Nature just a tad.

And then there are the independent plowers – the ones who tackle residential driveways.

In October of our first year in our current house, there came a knock at our door early one Saturday morning. It was a guy named Jim, tall and gangling, with a wild shock of dark blonde hair. He told us that he had plowed the driveway for the previous owner, and would be happy to continue for us.

Now, let me tell you a few things about our driveway:

  • it’s a steep hill
  • with a sharp curve as you climb
  • and a rock wall on your left
  • and a garage on your right.

(Oh, and there are low-hanging power lines when you get close to the house, but those only present a challenge to appliance delivery people and anyone who must dump a load of mulch in the spring.)

Get the idea? Basically, we have the driveway from hell. But Jim didn’t care. He just showed up, morning after snowy morning, waving through the window and entertaining the cats do no end as he did his snowplow ballet. Many were the winter mornings when I woke to the sound of the plow dropping onto the snow-covered driveway and the low roar of his truck gunning up the hill.

It was a most wonderful sound.

In November, we realized Jim hadn’t stopped by for his usual early-winter check in. But we had been away for the first weekend of the month, and we thought we had simply missed him.

The next weekend, we got hit. Schools were closed. The plows were out in full force.

But no Jim.

We tried calling, but someone else had his number.

We called a couple of other plow people, looking for someone new. People came, took one look at our driveway, and shook their heads.

Finally, my husband happened to mention to one of the potential plowguys that we used to work with Jim, but we couldn’t track him down.

“No surprise,” came the reply. “He died back in the spring.”

We’re still hunting for a new plow operator. Meanwhile, we’re shoveling. With every person who backs away from our driveway in terror, with every load of snow I pitch over to the side, I think of Jim, and his goofy smile, and his willingness to take on what no one else wants to handle.

Godspeed, Jim. I raise my snow-encrusted shovel in your honor.

 

 

 

Gobble Gobble!

fruit turkeyWith American Thanksgiving racing toward us at breakneck speed (next week? SERIOUSLY???), I wanted to share this fun and easy nibbler turkey. It’s a great little snack for those hours of parade watching, while the smell of the real turkey is scenting the air and driving everyone mad with hunger. Plus there are vegetables! So it means you get them out of the way early, leaving your mealtime free for potatoes and stuffing and gravy!

(Fellow Canucks, save this for next October. I’ll try to remind you in time next year 🙂 )

As you can see, it’s pretty self explanatory. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 honeydew melon (cantaloupe would also work)
  • 1 pear, preferably Bosc
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • green grapes (red would also work, I think)
  • chunks of any firm cheese (I might leave those out this year and use orange segments or pineapple chunks instead)
  • 2 raisins
  • bamboo shish kebob skewers
  • toothpicks

Cut a small slice off the least attractive side of the melon so it will sit flat on a plate.

Cut the peppers in half, seed them, and cut into lengthwise strips. Use toothpicks to attach to the melon in two rows, alternating colors.

Alternate the grapes and cheese (orange/pineapple) onto bamboo skewers. Stick them into the melon behind the rows of peppers.

Use toothpicks and/or broken skewers to attach the pear to the “front” of the melon. Use raisins for eyes (attach with a broken toothpick), a triangular piece of cheese or yellow pepper for the beak, and a strip of res pepper for the wattle.

Snap a photo, serve, and enjoy.

Catching Up with Casa Kitty

Caesar PotterIt’s been a while since I posted about of life here at Casa Kitty – probably because we’ve been too busy doing life to write about it!

October was one of those months when I was away almost as much as I was home. Things kicked off with a visit to Boston for Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving. We saw two out of three sons, one daughter-in-law, two aunts, one uncle, and one mother-in-law. I was assigned to make tiny dessert treats for our turkey feast, so I went for tiny pumpkin cheesecake trifles. I made mine with gingersnap crumbs and dang, they were a huge hit. cups If you’re looking for something festive and easy for the upcoming holidays, you could do far worse. (I ordered these cute little cups from Amazon. Worked perfectly.)

After Boston it was time for a much-needed writing retreat in Erie PA. The highlight of the trip (other than coming up with a new book idea, watching great movies, and, oh yeah, spending time with friends) was that I found a Tim Horton’s just ten minutes from the cabin where we stay! Can you say Timmies Run? I knew you could. And you can bet that I did!

After Erie it was time for one of those highlights of aging life: a colonoscopy. I know. But folks, they really aren’t that bad. Sure, the prep is No Fun At All, but it all happens in the comfort of your own home, and it’s a great excuse to lounge on the sofa and look pathetic. If you’re of an age where you should have one, and you’ve been avoiding it, please don’t delay. It’s a lot easier than, say, a root canal, and it can save your life.

There. PSA accomplished. 🙂

There was yet another trip in October, back to Massachusetts, though this time we stayed in the western part of the state. HRH is a senior this year, which means we have been visiting All The Schools and doing All The Paperwork and making All The Decisions. This trip included two schools,  one shadow day, one overnight visit, and two interviews. Both schools made her final list, and – oh happy day – all of her applications are now in! bravo congratulationsWe closed out the month, as we do all Octobers, with Halloween and a visit to our old neighborhood, where the trick-or-treating is far easier than it is here in the Casa Kitty skeletonarea. We walked the old streets and caught up with old friends and ended the month on a total sugar/joy rush. Which is a good thing indeed, because you know what happens next: a total holiday blitz for the next two months!

October Read: Hamster for the Win

Little Red Rodent HoodThe best book I read this month was about a hamster.

I adore the middle grade Hamster Princess stories about Harriet Hamsterbone, who is most definitely NOT your average princess.

  • She’s a hamster
  • She used to be invincible
  • She rides a quail
  • She has no patience for fancy balls, fancy clothes, or fancy people (although she puts up with her parents’ need for all of them, since they are, after all, the King and Queen)
  • She is logical, mathematical, loyal, exceptionally brave (even though she lost her invincibility), and incredibly resourceful
  • Adventure is her middle name
  • And she is just plain fun

Officially, I pre-order these books the moment they’re available to share them with my youngest daughter. The reality is that they’re for me. I’m the one who parks on the sofa and reads them in one sitting.

Little Red Rodent Hood had everything I look for in a Harriet book: humor, cleverness, exasperated friends, were-hamsters, and a fabulous role model for my kid to emulate. Highly recommended.

It’s Little Red Riding Hood as you’ve never seen her before in this funny, feminist spin on the fairy tale, from award-winning author Ursula Vernon

Most monsters know better than to mess with Princess Harriet Hamsterbone. She’s a fearsome warrior, an accomplished jouster, and is so convincing that she once converted a beastly Ogrecat to vegetarianism. So why would a pack of weasel-wolf monsters come to her for help? Well, there’s something downright spooky going on in the forest where they live, and it all centers around a mysterious girl in a red cape. No one knows better than Harriet that little girls aren’t always sweet. Luckily there’s no problem too big or bad for this princess to solve.

In this sixth installment of her whip-smart Hamster Princess series, Ursula Vernon once again upends fairy tale tropes and subverts gender stereotypes to brilliant effect. This is a “Once Upon a Time” like you’ve never seen before.