In the Prayers of a Stranger

I recently realized that my life had become rather narrow, and that music, once the central focus of my existence, had been reduced to passive listening. So, most days, now, I spend some time playing the piano badly.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t play as well as I used to when I was serious, just that I play. It is both engaging and mentally clarifying.

To assist in building this new habit, I am using an app that tactfully nudges and rewards for building habits.  The app also includes a portion I don’t generally use, an opportunity to be part of the app’s “community” of people messaging others who are working on the same things.

These kinds of things are not to my taste. Community means real people that you can see and touch. But last night I casually started glancing through this section, and along with the people needing to study for their exams, or lose weight, I came across a message from someone trying to escape an addiction to Meth. It was more than a cry for help, it was a howl of despair.

We all live in our little bubbles. We write. We sleep. We go to work. We make dinner. We try to be kind. We are people, presumably of good will. But then something happens, and the reality of real people in the anguish of suffering and surviving breaks through without warning.

Modern life expands our boundaries beyond our capacity to cope. We are not meant to bear the suffering of the whole world. We are meant to see what is before us and to act. This is why anonymous technology and non-stop news is so hollow and soul-crushing. It both puts the suffering of the world before us, and makes us powerless to attempt any help.

I doubt my message made any difference.  Disembodied words are no substitute for being present. But maybe there can be some small comfort in being in the prayers of a stranger.

 

Puppy Countdown

Auggie Practices Terrorizing

Tomorrow is Meet the Puppy Day. Neither he nor our dogs at home have any idea what’s about to happen.

My husband keeps telling Pete and Moses that The Black Terror is coming. Auggie looks pretty laid back for a Terror, but I will admit that I am in denial.

Let the puppy destruction commence.

St. Augustine the Younger; Foe of Coyote Pagans

So, for those of you who have been kind enough to enquire, Book 3 is coming along nicely. A small distraction will be developing soon, however. My husband and I will be traveling to Georgia next weekend to pick up our new puppy, St. Augustine. He is a cousin to Moses, and will, no doubt, be an annoyance to Pete.

My husband had had misgivings about a third dog until we caught a coyote stalking Pete, who, at 13, is spry and happy, but nearly stone deaf. Moses, a fearless opponent of coyotes, chased it off without missing a beat, with Pete being none the wiser. Coyote confrontation does not exactly make me happy, and I strive to prevent it, but it has worked out well for Pete. German Shepherds are often referred to as GSDs. In our house we use the term BSD, for Big Scary Dog.

Moses, however, needs a wingman.

Please Make Me Scary. But Not Yet.

The original St. Augustine, as you know, was the author of City of God Against the Pagans. At the moment, Auggie is more adorable than formidable, and can’t be allowed out by himself. But we think he may grow into his name. His father weighs 140 pounds.

Learning to Love Again

To the both of you who follow my blog: by now you are probably used to the reality that when I am writing a book, I don’t post many blogs. It’s a husbanding your resources thing.

Nevertheless, I interrupt this novel for a brief announcement:

We are in the queue again for a puppy. He has been born. He will be two weeks old tomorrow. We hope to pick him up and fly him home (on our laps) on May 6th. He is a cousin, of some sort, of Moses.

My husband insists that his name will be St. Augustine the Younger. He gets to pick, since I picked Moses, but I am still lobbying for St. George, the Dragon Slayer.

He will win.

So, watch this space for puppy pictures. Because my life needs a complication, albeit a delightful one.

Here is one of the puppies from the litter. Who knows? We may become friends.

 

Praise from an Islander

Two book series

Some fan letters are particularly meaningful.

I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed your first book, although have not yet read the second. It’s always interesting to read something set in a beloved location….although one runs the risk of feeling betrayed. That isn’t the case, here!

I just wanted to tell you that Fiona’s house was owned for a time by my husband’s family, and his Aunt Helen, who was disabled, stayed there for a summer…. 

I, too, am in exile, south of you in Racine. My family is from the Island, as is my husband’s. The lighthouse on Rock is restored to the time of my great grandfather’s tenure there. My grandmother taught in the Detroit Harbor school and ran Central switchboard for a time. My grandfather was a ferry captain, and my son is the 4th generation in our family to work for the Richters. My mom lives in the home my great grandparents bought after retiring from the lighthouse service, and our cottage is on my husband’s family’s land…over 125 years…. 

Thank you for bringing the Island to life for others to see, in a way that preserves the spirit and respects the people who live there…and tells a fabulous story. It’s not easy to do all three.

Thank you.
Kari Gordon

Thank you, Kari.

The Vagaries of Writing

I have been procrastinating. It is a well-known, but little understood phenomenon of the writing process.

Every writer procrastinates differently. My method is cleaning and de-cluttering my work space, and finishing up little tasks that distract me. Having a clear, open space, and no little worries helps to clear my mind, and then the ideas that are spinning around my head in an inchoate mess suddenly coalesce into plot lines and sometimes into complete scenes. I know this process, but it is very hard to accept that I need to do it when I feel a deadline looming, and time slipping away from me.

The other night I was driving home from some evening event and suddenly an entire sequence for the new book entered my mind, and I couldn’t get my coat off fast enough to write it all down. It is an odd sequence–a departure from my usual style–and after a few days of musing over it I put it down. It was risky, and it didn’t fit the book. Maybe another book.

Then everything stopped. I couldn’t write much. I couldn’t catch the wind that sails me through my writing. I sat at my desk, restlessly, unproductively, staring out the window, looking at YouTube videos, researching mammals and explosives (not together), and periodically going downstairs to see if I could alleviate my boredom by eating.  Spring snowFortunately, knowing myself, I have purged my kitchen of these kinds of foods, and even though I am a novelist, drinking in the middle of the day does not normally appeal to me. I consumed a lot of tea, and far too much coffee.

So, finally, I gave up. I stopped worrying about it and just got on with other tasks. I cleaned out a closet in the kitchen. I rearranged my office, and made plans for new bookcases. I dusted under beds. I threw a small dinner party, and took the dogs for walks.

This morning I began my day pre-dawn standing barefoot on the patio, loudly and frantically calling my dogs in–no doubt to the amusement of my neighbors who were recovering from their New Year’s Eve revelries–while a fairly large contingent of coyotes barked and yipped and howled somewhere very nearby.

Dogs safe, I sat drinking coffee and watching the turkeys begin their new year from their treetop berths, their big bulbous shapes silhouetted against the pink and orange sky.

All at once, the spinning stopped, and the words began again in my head. My refusal to accept the strange sequence as part of the novel had shut me down. I suddenly knew that it did belong, and that it had to be the beginning of the book. And then everything began to fall in place in my mind, like the tumblers in a lock falling into place.

There it is. Not all of it. But the main points of it.

Time to write.