Fire Alarms and writing

This weekend I was in the process of rewriting She Called It, Wolf, and whenever I got into the story, the entire building would screech like a wild thing. It is not only inside the building apartments, but the loudest alarms were outside the building.

My Foxy trembled and she didn’t know whether to hide or run to me. I snapped my fingers and had her jump on my recliner. Then I was able to get partially dressed, put a harness on her, and grab my purse. Even though I knew this was another “false alarm,” I decided long ago that I would treat each alarm as if it were real.

Besides I have more than myself to keep safe nowadays. I have heard so many stories of people leaving the house and then realizing that they left their children or their pets in harms way. I want Foxy to know that she must find me and we would leave together.

She trembled the entire time. I still have a headache from that last alarm.

Anyway, once we were out of the building, about ten minutes, I walked her to a small grassy area past the other buildings. We could still hear the alarm. Thankfully it was more muted.

It also means that my writing concentration was broken twice this weekend. I did notice one thing. Very few of the seniors left their apartments. Herein lies the problem– when there are so many false alarms, it becomes easier and easier to ignore the alarm. It nullifies its usefulness.

So just like when the “Boy Called Wolf,” the next time there is a real fire, the seniors will ignore that alarm too.

I decided to treat the alarm as real. Next time it happens I will walk to my car and leave with the dog.

Dark Moon Rising– an excerpt

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From Pixabay

I finished the first draft of Dark Moon Rising last year, but due to life and and Hilda’s Inn, I haven’t finished editing. Silly me, I am re-editing She Called It, Wolf because I noticed that my writing has gotten better by writing. Who knew?

Plus I made a mistake as a new writer. I started a series and only wrote one book. I am hoping to correct that error. In my mind there are three books about the Felony Flats werewolf pack.

Tucked around the novels, I have written some short books in that world–Billy the Kid, Urban Werewolf, and Diamond Butterfly. Hidden in the Sierras is short fiction in the same world, but of a werebear sleuth.

So without further ado, here is an excerpt of Dark Moon Rising:

What the wind blew in

British Columbia, Canada
Mari Cantor

The pine trees swayed around the cabin as the rushing wind heralded the end of summer. Even in the forests, the heat had beat down on the trees. It had been so dry, that the pine needles crackled underfoot. The usual smell of mold was undercut by the dust that covered everything. They had been lucky this year that there had been no huge fires.

I leaned against the frame of the open door, sipping the bitter coffee in my cup. Sweetness was for others. I liked mine strong and black. When I left Felony Flats a few years ago, I came to this small town surrounded by trees that hadn’t been cut for over a hundred years. I had a small car, a small amount of cash, and an aching heart.

I sipped my coffee, rolling the black taste across her tongue, as the light brightened around the cabin for a moment and then vanished in the clouds. It may rain today.
In my head I listed the things I needed to do today. First I would have to finish picking the last tomatoes. The small amount of corn I had grown had been pilfered by raccoons.

But, I could trade the tomatoes for corn. Someone in the small town would have grown enough corn to feed the entire town for the winter. I’d wait to harvest the last of the potatoes after the first good chill. My small garden would keep me well-fed over the winter.

There were very few jobs in this area that didn’t center on hunting and fishing trips for rich tourists. Some of the locals had gotten inventive and started camera tours. Even though a lot of their customers were the tree-huggers, the guides always took guns with them. You never knew when you would run into a grizzly or some other wild creature that was hungry. During mating season the moose would hump anything. I smiled at the image. Some tree-huggers had learned that the hard way.

I drained my coffee, tasting the last of the bitter dregs. As I tasted the bitterness slid across my tongue, my precog kicked in and I froze. It had been a long time since I had been bothered by the buzzing across my nerves. When I ran to the woods, I did it deliberately. I wanted limited contact with people. The more contact I had, the more murmurings I heard in my head. Sometimes they would develop to full-blown epileptic fits caused by visions. Of course, I had run. Ran from the sounds and visions and the people would would use me to see into the future.

I stumbled to the small couch before I fell as the room swayed around me. I dropped my coffee mug. The sound of breaking ceramic almost jerked me out of the vision as I collapsed on the couch and not the floor.

It started like a migraine. Colors burst and bubbled around my vision and pain of constricting and then contracting veins blasted the top of my head. I heard whimpering coming from my own mouth because the pain was so great.

Then my vision narrowed until I saw a long tunnel. At the very end of the tunnel, she saw a man walking towards her. His body was blurred, but she could see the face clearly. There was no sound with this vision. The man, she didn’t want to put name to that face, said something. He was saying her name over and over.

The vision released me as suddenly as it had started. I was too weak to drag myself to the bathroom, even though I wanted to vomit the coffee that had soured in my stomach. I could hear his voice in the wind as it rustled the trees. The leaves called out to me.

My voice cracked, “He’s coming. Heaven help me. He’s coming.”

I wanted to run to the closet, fill my suitcase with clothes, and leave. I had to be gone before he found me. But my body wouldn’t move.

Little by little, I lifted my head, and slowly moved one arm after another. When I could feel my body again, I stood on my feet. My stomach rumbled. In a daze, I swept the coffee mug into a dustpan, and dropped the broken pieces in the trash. I could try to escape, but she I knew in my gut that he had already found me.

“Too late,” the wind whispered.

“Too late,” my heart echoed.

There was a loud knock on the door. For a moment, I stood frozen. This time, a loud yoo-hoo unlocked my brain. It was the neighbor two miles down the road. He wasn’t here, yet.

I threw open the door and saw Susan was standing on the stoop with a child in her arms. She handed the little one to me. “Mari, could you watch the baby while I go for groceries in Vancouver?” Susan chattered about having a baby and the price of diapers and formula.

“Greg said that if you would take care of her today, we can go to the big store and get the stuff much cheaper. Please?”

I couldn’t say no to Susan. Susan was the neighbor who had helped me find this cabin, taught me how to grow a garden to supplement my food, and even how to survive in the backwoods. This woman, short and bouncy, taught me how to survive bears and elk and other creatures. Plus she had showed me what berries to eat and what not to eat.Susan was the closest thing I had to a friend.

Susan’s hazel eyes pleaded. She didn’t get to have much time alone with Greg since the baby was born. I sighed and bounced the child in my arms. The wind rustled and laughed. “No escape.”

I was too late to leave. If I wanted to leave I should have left in the beginning of summer when I had had that small warning. I had seen a fire in my dreams. But, when nothing happened I decided to stay. I had found my nest—my place. I didn’t want to leave.

“Okay,” I said to Susan. She was all business-like as she showed me the milk and the diapers. Like a new mother she gave me instructions on how to care for the baby even though I had done this before.

Then she was in the truck with Greg and they were gone. The wind had quit whistling and blew lightly. I closed the door. The little girl whimpered once and then fell asleep.

I settled into the small rocking chair on the front stoop. I could smell curdled milk and lotion. My heart slowed down. I rocked the baby until my thoughts were quiet.

Once Greg and Susan were back, there would be time to say goodbye to the woods and the cabin. He was coming and I knew deep in my bones that I was not coming back.

I looked out across the dirt road leading through the woods; the baby snuggled in my arms. As the day progressed the light held more shadows. It was fall. I would miss the change from late fall to early winter and snow. This year I had made enough money to buy a snowmobile so that I could get out after the worst snowstorms. Sometimes the lights of the bar and the small town were a welcome sight after being snowed in for days. I wouldn’t buy a snowmobile now.

I was already missing my cabin and my forest. It was so unlike the desert I had played in as a child. At first when I moved here, I would see people in the periphery of my eyes. When I looked straight at them, I only saw trees. I was used to having the landscape stretch before me, unbroken by trees. Now I felt comforted by the trees as they towered over me.

Some of the trees around my cabin were over four feet in diameter and some were even larger. This summer I had been entranced by the squirrels that floated from tree to tree.
Feeding the squirrels could be hazardous. Some of the smaller mammals got rabies. It was better that I didn’t get the animals familiar with this cabin as a feeding ground. So I watched the squirrels and birds, and I stopped the impulse to feed them.

When the baby started to grumble a little, I stood up and took her into the house. I pulled out a bottle of milk from the fridge, warmed it, and feed the little one. The baby grabbed onto the bottle’s nipple with her mouth and sucked hard until the milk was gone. Then I put the baby over my shoulder. I patted her until she burped. It burst out of her.

“I see you have new skills, Mari,” a male voice said from the screen door on my porch. I knew that voice. He had found me.

So it is April 1st

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I’m not a jokester.

My genes come from mostly Norway, Denmark and England where the skies are gloomy most of the year and where it is cold and the women are blue-eyed.

I’ve learned to laugh– but underneath the Northern temperament and the earnest attitude that was given to me by my ancestors, I find most jokes silly. I do have a weakness for puns.

The most I’ll do to you is say “your zipper is undone” and then say “made you look.”

I might even tell the punch line of a joke before the setup. I just don’t have the knack for telling jokes. So if you want a joke from me or a prank, look elsewhere. I am too busy writing.

 

I wear my sunglasses at night

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I was going through some writing that I had half-way finished last year before the trouble hit me hard and I dealt with a car accident, a move, and illness. As I read my the words, I had a shock. What I wrote last year was on a different level than what I am writing now. I could see where I had gone off track and could delete entire paragraphs. It was a break-through.

I may be a talented writer, but it has taken ten years for me to get there. This included two years of not being able to write during my cytoxan/prednisone phase. I could drift back into the hallucinations and memory problems, but if you want to talk about what I went through, I have a book for that–In The Shadow of Death. I wrote this while on some heavy duty medications for Wegener’s Granulomatosis.

What I am talking around is that a good writer–writes. If she doesn’t write than she doesn’t get competent, even though she is the most talented writer in the world. As Shakespeare wrote, “Therein lies the rub.”

But writing every day is not enough. I learned this when I was writing for a now dead online magazine called Helium.com. I had to write with them for a couple of years before I became smart enough to know that I needed some pointers. I had read every book I could find on writing story. Some of it just didn’t make sense. You see, I didn’t know the lingo then. Before I  studied story elements, I had this big myth in my head about the instinctive writer. I thought that I could have the entire story inside my head. I should be able to see and write all. This was before I realized the techniques involved with dialog, description, character, and plot.

I was naive.

Why I had this idea that I could just write stories when it took me years to master poetry is beyond my comprehension now. Yes, I am also an instinctive poet, but I have studied the craft extensively. It has made my abilities better. I am still not a Master Poet. But I console myself with a thought that if you reach master status then you stagnate because there is nothing else to learn.

So the point here is that good instruction on writing story is very hard to find. What first put me on the path to writing good competent stories was when I went to Dean Wesley Smith. You might remember seeing his name on several Star Trek novels and others. He has been writing a long time and also makes a living at it.

I went to him because of some recommendations of other writers like Sarah A Hoyt, who had taken his workshops. As someone who knows, fiction writing classes are hard to find. The good ones are expensive. I went to Dean because I couldn’t find the information on my own. He didn’t disappoint. I learned that when you are writing that million words, you need to write smarter. You need to know important things like how to put the five senses in your writing. Just that one instruction changed my writing from one-dimensional to a rich tapestry.

Yes, writing is a craft. Yes, we need to write a lot to gain proficiency. What I have found as I dive into the world of writing is that every day is a challenge. Every day I learn something new. Every day. I don’t get bored.

I’m in my pajamas

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CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay

I did get up early with the express intention of writing on my current “work in progress.” My WIP is still in bit-land waiting for me to write. I did my daily Facebook socializing and then realized that I hadn’t written a post for a long time.

If anyone is interested I am still in a holding pattern with my thyroid. I finally have an endocrinologist who will see me next week. Coincidentally the surgeon will see me two days later. Since I have been getting exhausted in the middle of the day, I have been staying closer to home, hence the pajamas. Foxy is tired as well. She is lying next to my feet and watching me type. I wonder if this is meditation time for her. We do have play time and walk time and eat time. Coincidentally she is the one who makes the schedule. If I deviate, she gives me the licking I deserve. It really tickles when she licks under the chin.

I am turning into my grandparents. Many years ago, I would take my grandmother shopping. She was in her sixties and we would go from bench to bench, while I shopped for T-shirts and other summer clothes. I was into wild colors then –yep the 80s. My grandmother had that dry wit that most people didn’t appreciate. She could make me laugh. My grandmother had what they called then “hardening of the arteries.” Maybe now she would have been diagnosed with mini-strokes in the brain. Her personality slowly through many years disintegrated. She lost her short-term memory and then later near the time she died she began to lose her long-term memory. Even so she never forgot her husband. He died two years before she did. She did forget that he had died.

Even so it was a slow thing so I didn’t realize how much she had lost until I went to see her after my grandfather’s death. She was sitting on the porch wrapped in a light cotton house coat. Her legs were crossed and she was enjoying the sunshine. I talked to her for a few hours and she was coherent. Later I saw my aunt who told me that grandmother had seen a niece of a friend of the family that morning. She forget me, but she remembered that they had a good time. I told my aunt it was me. My aunt wasn’t surprised. My grandmother was forgetting to groom herself, she was forgetting to eat, and she was forgetting people. But she was still kind. I hope to be kind when I eventually lose my mind.

Plus she would wander looking for grandfather. She would yell, “Earl. Earl.” She would walk through the pathways and through the streets looking for her lost husband and never find him. They had been married for over fifty years.

She is gone now. I hope she is with her husband, Earl walking in the sunshine. She was a little thing, not quite five feet tall, but packed full of dynamite. She kept her husband, over six feet, and her sons also over six feet in line. She loved her grandchildren. She gave us all afghans when we graduated. This woman would sit in front of the TV and crochet. She knitted me a poncho when I was a eight years old. I wore it until I grew out of it.

Families and roots are important. I learned this from Otto. I was the one who walked away into the Navy, looking for some freedom. He was a foster boy with no family. He loved his daughters so much and looked for so many years for the people who had birthed him.

The stories we tell each other and the stories we tell ourselves make us into the people we are and who we become. I know better than most that there is darkness in every story, but there is also hope and love. I wish for a better life. I wish to tell the stories that bring hope whether they are stories of life or stories of fiction.

Even in the midst of suffering, there is goodness.

Here is my last book, Dragon Boy. It is the second in the series of Hilda’s Inn.

Silver linings and Full Moons

Lone Tree Full Moon Until I turned 38, writing was an untapped secondary talent. I had been a typesetter and formatted a few novels, I had been a sales clerk in a men’s store, and I had been an electronics tech in the US Navy.

I was a poet and had been writing poetry since I was nine years old. It was more in the style of Robert Frost. So I was still an apprentice of poetry when I decided to finish my degree. After the first two classes at University of Maryland University College–European division (yes, they called it UMUC for short or running amok was the students’ favorite saying), I realized that I had a talent for organizing words on the page. I was writing two papers a semester for English literature and one paper for German History which helped me to finally became confident with my writing. While I was there, I published a lot of poetry and had my first short story published in Bibliophilos.

In these years I began studying different forms of poetry. I tried my hand at sonnets, haiku, villanelles, and other styles. I would read poetry from poets like Auden, Basho, and others. I would study what they did and how they phrased their ideas.

Then my style began to emerge. I learned to take the word “me” out of the poetry. I learned that when I was observing something and describing it, that I didn’t have to moralize. The reader would see what I had to say. or not. Sometimes they saw more than I did and sometimes less. It didn’t matter because when I wrote, my main goal was to evoke a feeling.

Then I became ill and my entire world changed.

When I wrote this poem, I was in a hospital bed and couldn’t move. My husband wrote it down for me as I dictated it to him. Even when I thought I was near the end, I was writing poetry. This is the poem.

Jesus Wept

Your tears well
down granite cheeks—

splash the curve
of your neck.

My tongue licks
the holy elixir.

Corn silk sprouts
at my feet.
I came back to a second life. It was a life where I had to fight for every memory and the ability to think. From 2003 to 2009, I wrote little sentences and paragraphs. I wrote for  Helium, a now dead online magazine. I started small and once again I had to learn how to think and to write. I learned plot and characters. It wasn’t as easy this time.

So here I am with a second life and with thyroid cancer, maybe I am embarking on a third life. I hope it is full of color.

Sidewalk art

Blue green, blue violet, carnation pink
lemon yellow, orange red, raw sienna
drawn and melted on the front sidewalk–

a masterpiece of childhood–
stick figures, block houses, round tree tops
four-leaf clovers, flowers, and yellow bees

I was caught crayon handed.

soap, tears, and scrub brushes
hands scraped and bleeding
the offending colors erased
She said: Next time use chalk

It was the last time I made
a mark on the world–

If you’d like to read more of my poetry, here is Outside my Window and Sonnet Playground.

I almost forgot A Flicker of Hope.

Gratuitous Foxy picture

img_0584 Since this has been an interesting week as in the “Chinese” curse “May you live in interesting times.” I thought a doggy picture of my companion would be appropriate.

I finally lost my monitor. I knew I would lose it because there was a high squeal coming from the back. To my opinion as a former electronics tech, I was losing a cap in the power supply. Since it was a small monitor and buying parts would be more expensive than a new monitor, I used it until one day it wouldn’t turn on.

I think I might give it to an used electronics store– it is probably fixable. I just don’t have the time, energy, or money. Also I have room to write, but no room for electronics repair as a hobby.

The second thing that happened this week was the attitude of many of my doctors. I have been trying to get an appointment that leads to surgery because it is obvious to me that my thyroid is going to malfunction more and more until it dies and/or I have other problems. Because it is supposed to be a slow-moving cancer, many of the doctors do not have the urgency that I have about getting this problem fixed. One told me that getting the surgery now or in three months wouldn’t make any difference considering the kind of cancer I had.

I am learning once again that beating my head against the wall of medical “knowledge” will only give me a sore head– in more ways than one. So I am now cranky as well as exhausted with my body going through so many ups and downs this month– (cold then hot, happy then angry, and always in extremes).

I would like to go back to “balance.” I miss those days.

Today I went back to one of my novellas that I started last year. I want to get it written and then published. I also have started the third book in the Hilda’s Inn series called “Unlicensed Sorceress.”

The good news is that I have had enough energy to rearrange my writing room and clear out all the paper that was clogging my energy levels. More good news is that I am enjoying my new monitor. I find it easier to use for my writing.

Don’t forget that I do have a new book out– “Dragon Boy.” You can find it here at Amazon.com.