*Gasp!* Me, making a public appearance, doing some of that non-writing writer stuff.
Yes, I do still exist. I know this blog has become somewhat of a cobweb page, but when you’ve got too many plates spinning, sometimes you have to chose your battles. For me, the first battle to go is always social interaction. My default setting is introvert, and like that pointy-toothed creature featured above, solitude and happily retreating to some cozy little corner is the way I do best. That’s not saying I won’t venture out from time to time, but only in limited doses, then it’s time to recharge.
So I’m not a social creature. BFD, right? So what? Well, part of this issue is this whole ‘Author platform’ thing. We need to network. Use the internet and make those connections. And I’m not knocking that one bit. Kristen Lamb is the perfect example of social networking done dead-on perfect. She’s also one of the funniest, most insightful bloggers out there, and whether you’re an author or not, I HIGHLY recommend you check out her blog, if only for entertainment purposes. But be warned, it’s not advisable to drink anything while reading her posts, lest you end up with a computer full of coffee or tea you just spit out.
As for me, the more I was faced with the prospect of social networking and all that good stuff, the more I began to avoid the web. Twitter? Not a peep from me in years. Facebook? Yeah, they keep emailing me that friends have posted, have upcoming birthdays, and so on. Delete. I know, a bit antisocial, but hey, that’s me. For extroverts being social comes naturally, but as for me, it takes lots of energy, more than I have on hand at the moment due to a little medical issue. (That’s another post, another day.) Let’s just say life threw me a fun little PLOT TWIST, and I’m doing firsthand research on modern medical diagnostics — yippee! I’ve had a lot of plot twists lately. Life keeps throwing me new material. So what have I been up to in all this time I’ve been avoiding human contact? Let’s see, in reverse order, because I like to do things backwards. Keeps people wondering.
Getting the fuck out of here.
(Okay. New policy on this blog. No censorship. This is the way I talk, and I don’t have the time or desire to clean it up for those more refined and sensitive souls out there. I’m a truck-driving sailor from Jersey? You got a problem with that? Stick around; you might learn some new words in their correct context. Or not. It’s a big web. I’m sure there are plenty of bloggers out there with way more refined posts, who would enjoy some new eyeballs. And if you don’t have a problem with my particular take on the English language, you’re in good company.)
So where was I? Getting the fuck out of here, with the HERE in question being this lovely house.
Yes, I love this place, but it’s time. We’re down to two humans, two dogs, and assorted cats, some of which will be moving in with my daughter once she’s settled. We’re down to using four rooms: Kitchen, mini living room, bedroom, and one bath. I measured; that’s approximately 500 square feet. The house is 1500 square feet, and that’s not including the full basement, deck, or yard. I could crunch the numbers on maintenance, utilities, taxes and more, but the bottom line is it’s time. Time to stop supporting a house we barely occupy, a house ready for a new family to love it. Or getting close to time, because part of this escape plan hinges on the next thing on the list…
Working on the boat. I could elaborate further, but I think it’d be easier to post (soon) some ‘Before & After’ shots side by side. Let’s just say that the pile of parts awaiting installation is shrinking by the day. I’d get more done but I’m back on semi-restricted activity when unaccompanied, which rules out swinging from 20 foot high ladders and jumping on the scaffolding (It does bounce wonderfully — hmmm… I’m starting to realize why they want me supervised.)
But there’s one good thing about that whole semi-restricted activity. It’s left me oodles of time to WRITE!
In time I’ll write all about how I had to step back and completely regroup, writing-wise, but that’s a post for another day. All I can say is during way too much downtime I researched the many facets of writing — really writing. Writing the way the greats like Donald Westlake and John D. MacDonald wrote. Not to say what I’d been doing wasn’t writing, but it involved a whole lot of spinning tires and covering ground in less efficient ways. I’ve changed the way I approach putting words on a page, vastly improving the output both in quality and quantity. I was happy with my first two books, but let’s all be honest — averaging two+ years per book isn’t acceptable, to me at least, and I don’t feel it ‘s fair to my readers.
But anyone who has ever tried to unload a house and most everything they can’t fit on a boat, while restoring said boat, while writing a novel (or two — another post) knows just how trying any single task on that list, no less all three, especially while on semi-restricted activity. Time management experts advise we focus our energy on the task that matters most, and for me that remains writing. It’s all about priorities.
So remember. I’m blogging from my cozy little introvert-bat-cave (aka: the forward cabin.) Blogging, which is writing. And socially interacting, I suppose. Damn. There goes my perfect score.
And for a little *ahem* fun, I give you my research word of the day:
Google it if you dare. (I’m not including links to prevent accidental clicks.) It’s a real thing, it happens more often and easily than you’d imagine, and it’s pretty damn horrifying. (Double Dog Dare: Click on the ‘Images’ search. Bonus points if you manage NOT to wince, cringe, or lose your lunch.) As for me, I researched it over an unbalanced breakfast and I never missed a bite. Froot Loops and graphic gore…the breakfast of mystery writers and cereal killers. Let’s just say that while I continued to eat I studied images I don’t think I’ll ever unsee, images that instantaneously persuaded me to remove every ring I wear — including my wedding band and antique diamond ring, which I’ve worn continuously for over 28 years. The way I see it, if something that disturbs ME to that extent, it should really rattle readers. The rings are on a necklace now — I’m not going to stop wearing them, just not on my fingers. My hand looks distressingly empty, but that’s easily remedied by some ink and a little pain. And being that PAIN is something pivotal to what I’m writing at the moment, does a pretty new tattoo qualify as research?
LOL. In my world, EVERYTHING qualifies as research!
So, what have I been up to lately?
Writing. Lots and lots of writing, though obviously, very little of it here. Yes, Evacation Route WILL be completed — soon. That’s the most I’ll say at this point. Soon. I’ve learned not to project completions, as inevitably that sets some guy named Murphy into giggling fits, at which point a part can’t be found/someone gets sick/computers crash/I find a large tree in the middle of my little kitchen. But this Murphy dude, he’s a got one thing going for him — he’s one hell of a teacher, whether you want to learn or not. And the lesson of the last year (+)? Don’t waste a second.
Time is a sneaky thing. Ignore the seconds slipping by, and they start to group together, form minutes, then hours, days, years…you get the idea. It’s like an avalanche — it all starts with one pretty, delicate, innocent little flake. So fragile and fleeting, barely worth the notice. But let them start building up, and gradually they begin to blanket every surface, silently growing in weight and force. Eventually you have something massive enough to scour a mountainside of every tree or structure in its way.
In my life, there’s plenty of dust, but it rarely settles for long, and the minute it does, the minute I sweep it up, I’m right back to making more. The boat is a perfect example. But at some point in the dust-loop (at least that’s what I’m calling it,) it occurred to me that I don’t get this time back. I suppose that comes along with my odometer creeping up on the half-century mark. And I started to realize many of my seconds were evaporating, with little to show for them.
Not anymore. Now, I have plenty to show for my time. I just haven’t shown anyone yet. (That day is approaching, and I’ll be putting a call out for a few beta readers to give me their feedback.) Yes, there’s all the good, bad stuff. Plenty of murder and mayhem, plenty of twisted humor and twisted plot twists. My top priority for every free minute is WRITING. These days, I have more on a page by ten in the morning than a full day’s worth in the past. A story far stronger than anything I’d ever written is taking shape by the day. And even when I’m not writing I’m still writing, jotting down notes even as I make dinner or walk the dogs.
In the past I posted here more. I’d like to hope in the future I will again, but for the time being, I’m staying right where I am, in my self-imposed interweb exile. There are only so many hours in the day, and the majority of those hours are going into chapters of writing, with occasional breaks for working on the boat, walking the dogs, eating, and sleeping. Don’t get me wrong, we all need some downtime, and I’m giving myself that as well, catching up on some long overdue reading. And occasionally I even sleep…in moderation. Everything is good in moderation.
Except writing. And caffeine.
Caffeine is my friend.
I’ve been promising these pictures, so at long last I bring you (drum roll please) COMPLETELY re-cored (and very solid, but pre-glassed) decks!
This photo was taken before the final lapped ‘plank’ of 1/2 marine ply was lagged into place. Every thru-deck (cleats, fuel, water, waste lines) have been set with reinforcements that will keep water from reaching the new core. Next, two layers of biaxial from bow to stern, and all deck leaks will have been banished!
It’s early March. The boatyard is gray and empty, with few signs of life… that is, aside from the raccoon tracks all over my decks. It seems some enterprising creature discovered by climbing the beams in the shed they could step across to my anchor and slip aboard. From there it was a simple matter of pushing in the screen in the forward cabin port, down the bookshelves, across the bunk and up to the galley, where ultimately they discovered that single bag of stale pretzels I’d left aboard as emergency rations. I can’t begrudge my uninvited guest their meal, especially since aside from the pillaged bag of pretzels there was no other damage, though I’ve lowered my anchor a few feet so it no longer provides a convenient gangplank for the four-footed bandit.
There are a few other signs that life is returning to the yard. The ice has receded from the river and crews are prepping the yard boat and the lifts. Docks are going back in. A cover or two has been pulled back and a lone extension cord snakes across the gravel. Next to the office, between melting piles of grungy snow a few crocuses have broken through the soil. Within weeks this place will be bustling with energy as boats shed their cocoons and the warming air is filled with the smell of solvents and fresh paint. The hum of sanders and the whine of the travel lift will drone from morning till night as boats move from the yard to the docks.
It’s a busy time, but a good busy. It’s a time to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen all winter, to catch up on life as you get things in order for those summer days ahead. There are those familiar faces, the ones that return year after year, though often I know them only by the name across their boat’s hull. There’s the older couple on ‘Fairwinds’, working away on that same boat they bought back when the kids, all grown and on their own now, were little. The fishermen with ‘Reel Good’, eager to launch early for the annual striped bass derby. And there will be new faces; there always are. The group of young friends with a scuffed up runabout preparing for a summer of waterskiing and wakeboarding. The retiree, proudly acquainting himself with that dream boat he’d worked years to achieve. A young couple ambitiously tackling a tired old sloop. We watch, realizing they have no clue where to begin, but what they lack in experience and knowledge they more than make up with enthusiasm and energy. And there will be missing faces and boats that sit untended, and talk of who became ill or passed away, and then you realize how little you truly knew about those people you’d known for years. But at least, looking back, there is a sense that the time spent with them was time well spent – laughing, swapping tools and stories, sharing drinks and dreams.
In this age of shopping centers and central air-conditioning, people have grown isolated. Modern life has fallen victim to its own success. A house in the suburbs with a big backyard and a driveway full of cars has created neighborhoods of commuters who rarely see and barely know one another. There was a time when societies flourished on communities working and building together, helping one another out. I suppose this is a big part of what I enjoy around the boatyard: that sense of community has not been lost. While there may be a diverse range of boats and owners, there is a certain unity. Backed to one another, transoms become porches and docks are communal sidewalks as we all pass one another while we come and go. People pause to stop and chat. A lifted engine hatch will immediately draw queries of “Everything all right?” and “Need a hand?” Friendships are forged as we sympathize, commiserate and assist, even if only to offer a cold beer. And I suppose that’s what I enjoy most about spring within this little village of eclectic boats – that promise of another season among friends, both old and new.Indeed it is. At least, in a manner of speaking.
UPDATE: Over the coming days I’ll be doing some updates/housekeeping here on this blog. I know some of my older posts have missing photos, and there are a few things I’ve written in the past for Write on the Water that I’d like to share here. I can only assure you that this is the start of much more. But in my usual cryptic way, I’m not going to elaborate on that just yet.
Stay tuned! (And thanks for hanging around this long — your patience will be rewarded!)
2/13/14 – It snowed. A lot. Again. The above photo was taken sometime after breakfast yesterday morning. Rex seems to be enjoying this winter, and if I had a coat like his I’m sure I wouldn’t mind half as much. My other dog, Loki, on the other hand, is not built for this weather and had little interest in being outdoors. Can’t say that I blame him. And this photo was taken a few hours later, during a lull in the storm. Note the patio table and the railing from one photo to the next. One day’s snow, and the day, and the snow, are far from over. We’re expecting another 6 inches before dawn, then another round of 4-6″ from Friday night to Saturday morning.
And me? I just spent the last two hours clearing the latest layer from the driveway and walk. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m curling up in my favorite arm chair with a nice glass of brandy while I watch the Olympics. Which, ironically, was held in Russia rather than New York City, in part because, well, you know. It’s the Winter Olympics, and for that you need a whole lot of top quality snow and ice. Maybe we could ship some of this white stuff to balmy Sochi — I’m sure they could put it to good use, and I for one, would be happy to see it go.
2/14/14 – It snowed/sleeted/rained/thundered/sleeted/snowed most of the night. The snow is saturated through and through, and heavy enough that it’s caved in rooftops on some buildings. It’s clearing out now, for a few hours at least, but should return tonight for another round. Meanwhile, my table continues to disappear.
I haven’t watched the news all that much lately, though it plays, closed-caption, on a screen in a diner I frequent. And whenever it’s on, much of the coverage is focused on the obvious. I don’t need the news to tell me, it’s COLD outside. Now I realize there are some of you reading this in more temperate zones, and while I do understand that your weather may be colder than normal, unless your temperature has been regularly dipping into the negatives, you’re not getting my sympathy. Unless dressing each morning to step outside involves layering your clothes until you feel like the kid brother in A Christmas Story, and your travel time has tripled or quadrupled due to an infrastructure stressed to the breaking point by these frigid temperatures, it’s hard to feel bad… though truth be told after anything more than a short time outdoors, it’s hard to feel much of anything. Fingers and toes quickly go numb, your face loses feeling, and if your nose runs, it won’t for long — it’ll freeze, plain and simple. This morning, some tea from my travel mug splashed onto my glove — and instantly froze solid. And according to all reports, this weather pattern won’t be shifting any time soon. The only consolation to this bitter weather is the beauty. We’ve been hit by relentless snow, and every time it starts to look a bit drab, a new storm arrives to freshen things up. The ice flows on the Hudson have yet again brought construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge to a halt, and if you stand by the river’s edge, the soft, murmuring creaks and pops as the flows shift on the tide can be downright eerie. Yesterday I watched a tug and barge on a small strip of open water, waiting for an icebreaker to clear the channel. Today, even that open water looks as though it’s been swallowed by the ice. Yet, even with this bitter cold, life goes on. Particularly if you’re one of our local eagles, perched in one of her favorite trees. In fact, she seem right at home with this weather.