I don’t think I’m the only person doing some serious contemplating during this strange time of illness, panic, isolation. Everything appears so uncertain, unknown. And, of course, with so many now stuck quarantining at home–days once jammed-packed now jerked to a halt–there’s a sudden excess of time to think.
I’m not sure about anybody else, but my brain is not always a safe place for me to wander alone.
Yet, I find myself facing a sudden shock of revelation–in this time of upset, I am not as “upset” as I’d expect. Despite everything, I’ve mostly felt at peace. And it’s because of the strangest thing: old heartaches.
To explain: Those who follow my blog will know that I married into the Foreign Service. The lifestyle offered by my husband’s job has afforded us many wonderful adventures–amazing things I never imagined I’d do: Cuddle baby tigers. Climb castles made of ice. Sleep in the heart of the rainforest. I wouldn’t trade it…. I don’t think.
And the uncertainty on that point comes from this: the Foreign Service life has also caused me a lot of pain.
No doubt about it: I’ve been neglecting my blog. I’m a tad appalled that it’s been onetwothreefour months since I posted anything new.
But life off-screen has been a bit busier. There was Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the associated weeks of travel. My wonderful brother’s graduation. A trip down to the family ranch in Texas to celebrate my other wonderful brother’s engagement to a wonderful girl. A move into a new apartment (complete with sunroom/painting studio for me–squeal!) A slew of freelance editing and writing projects.
But perhaps the busiest bee in my hive is this: come June, I will have a gallery show in Rockville, Maryland–my very first. And I’m in a race to the finish line as I try to whip up 12 paintings in the space between December and the end of May. No small feat, given the fact that it usually takes me 6 weeks or so to polish off just one.
No one is more surprised than I am, but despite the constant, quietly humming anxiety of oh-my-gosh-what-if-I-don’t-get-this-done at the back of my brain… I’ve actually been enjoying this intensely packed painting time. It’s meant halving my writing hours, which makes me a bit sad. But it’s also provided a much-needed palate cleanse for my writing mind, allowing me to come back to my keyboard more clear-minded and focused because I took time to step away.
And I’ve even managed to knock out a few paintings along the way, three of which make up a surf/space series for which I have to thank my brother Hunter for inspiration.
(Almost) four down… eight to go!
*Cue nail-biting here*
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So here’s some exciting news: I’ve just had a short story accepted for publication in an upcoming literary anthology.
This isn’t my first short story rodeo. But this one is particularly fun, since my tale, “Moonshine,” will be appearing in the inaugural edition of Keep Texas Salty. The debut publication for new Texas press Quartermarch, Salty is to be a collection of poetry and short fiction paying tribute to the Texas Gulf Coast.
And as anybody who reads my blog will tell you, that sort of theme is right up my Texas-surfer-girl alley. As they say, you can take the girl outta Texas, but you can’t take Texas outta the girl. You can, however, distill it into a work of fiction or two.
A magical realism, gothic noir (many thanks to the husband for helping me quantify this strange little story set in Prohibition-era Texas), “Moonshine” isn’t what you’d call a polite tale. But it should fit in just fine given Quartermarch’s aim for the anthology:
After a multi-year hiatus–peppered with rare, stolen moments of work–and half a year of concentrated effort, I’ve finished the rough draft of my speculative novel, NIGHT GARDEN.
Emphasis on the word “rough.”
A quick glance at my Track Changes application shows 119 comments sprinkled throughout the manuscript, indicating spots where I need to weave in world-building elements, affirm timelines, research further, fill in creative pits, and shore up plot points and character motivations. In addition, I have notes scrawled on napkins, sermon notes, and Post-Its–whatever I could grab before the thought fled.
Then there are the two notebooks (including one of those ultra-sexy yellow-pads) full of the most poorly organized notes imaginable.
I’ve got just a wee bit of work to do before this baby’s ready for prime time.
Still, it’s a major accomplishment, just completing the beast. I typed 112,632 words. I wrote 35 chapters. I hit the point where I could legitimately pen that final flourish: “The End.”
I should be skipping. Dancing. Celebrating with a glass of wine.
Society6 is, in my (slightly-biased) opinion, one of the coolest online shopping venues around. Artists can upload their original work, then see it transformed into all manner of lifestyle goods ranging from blankets to bar stools, cellphone cases to coffee mugs, shower curtains to stationary.
I was super excited to see what I could do with my paintings. But I was nervous, too. What if my work didn’t showcase well?
But thanks to my most faithful patroness (merci, Mom!), I recently got to road-test some products. The trio of beach towels she’d ordered accompanied me on a father/son/daughter surf session at one of my favorite beaches in the world–North Packery, in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.
I can now report that the towels held up valiantly to the abuse of sand, sun, and saltwater. And Society6 did an excellent job ensuring every color was vibrant, every detail crisp. A pretty impressive feat, considering that it involved converting 11″ x 14″ paintings into 74” x 37” towels.
I won’t lie: The past few days of writing have required a healthy, heaping dose of courage. Why, you ask?
Because I’m finally returning to NIGHT GARDEN, the novel I started way back in 2015.
I know–that doesn’t sound particularly terrifying. But between now and then, my novel-writing life has been a roller-coaster-y one. When I started NIGHT GARDEN four years ago, I’d just finished writing and editing PROHIBITED, my 1920s novel. NIGHT GARDEN was meant to be my work-in-progress while I shopped PROHIBITED for literary agent representation.
There was just one kink in my glossy little plan. At 700 pages, PROHIBITED was literally twice the size it should’ve been. If novels can be likened to sharks, PROHIBITED was a whale shark instead of a sleek, speedy mako. 🦈
(Somewhere out there, at least my brother Hunter gets this metaphor.) But if you’re not so into sharks, here’s a visual: PROHIBITED’s first draft.