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Archive for December, 2009

Puppy update

Several people have asked me how the puppy’s doing, so here’s an update:

In the four weeks we’ve had her, she’s just about doubled in size, from 5 ½ pounds to 9, and that was last week at the vet, so she’s probably closer to double now. Life is really difficult for Sadie, as she is now called. Here’s what a typical afternoon looks like (taken with my phone, so excuse the quality):

She’s proving to be both a cuddly companion and a crazy, manic puppy, as suits her age. She’s figuring out some basic commands, but still doesn’t get the notion that using the great outdoors for a bathroom is the thing for dogs to do. She’ll happily run around outside for ages, long after we know she badly has to go, but she’ll hold it until she comes in and her feet hit the newspaper on the kitchen tiles. And yes, we’ve tried newspapers, even stinky, used ones, outside on the patio and on the lawn, but apparently that doesn’t feel the same as the paper does on the tiles, so she’s having none of that idea. We’ll get there eventually. Or so we keep telling ourselves.

She has also carried on the great puppy tradition in our family of biting my husband’s ears. Every single puppy in our extended family has made a habit of trying to do that. They don’t bite anyone else’s ears, just his. He can think of ways he’d rather be singled out, but tradition must be upheld.

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I love Christmas cards. Okay, the truth is I love most of the cheesy, sentimental things about the holiday. But real mail, mail that doesn’t come from the cable company, the power company or the bank is a rare commodity these days, and it’s one I especially appreciate. Christmas cards don’t arrive with the frequency they once did. So many of us are in touch by email that we’ve let the tradition slide in the midst of a busy life. I’m guilty of that this year. I’ve sent a total of seven cards, all to relatives in the UK with whom I’m not in touch by email. The rest of my friends and family won’t be seeing my handwriting in their snail mail, I’m afraid.

But some people still manage to send them, and to those organized souls, I say thank you. When a card does come in the mail, even if all it contains is just a simple “Merry Christmas” and a name, it makes me smile. I read a comment somewhere or other from someone who can’t stand getting cards like that, with just a line and a signature. I couldn’t disagree more. How many cards did you send this year? They take effort and precious time, and the fact that someone put the effort into sending me that card adds a bright spot to my day.

Today, I got a card I really wasn’t expecting, and it makes me happy whenever I think about it. It came from Scotland. That much was clear from the handwriting on the envelope and, on closer inspection, from the postmark. But there was no return address.

Inside, apart from the “Merry Christmas & Happy New Year” printed by the card company, it simply says “To” us, “Love and Best wishes from Rosie.” No last name, nothing further at all, even though Rosie is nearly a stranger to us. But that simple sentiment made my day.

Two summers ago, my husband, daughter and I spent three weeks driving around Scotland. (The photo in my header is from that trip.) In part, the vacation was about chasing my family history, seeing the places where my mum had lived as a child, where my grandparents grew up, where my greats and great greats and beyond worked and lived and died. I loved every minute of the trip, and wasn’t at all ready to come home when it was over.

One of the places we visited was the community where my two of my great grandfathers worked, one as a gardener at the local estate, the other as a shoemaker. Their houses were just down the road from one another. My great grandmother lived in one of those houses until she died in the early sixties. A local we encountered at the cemetery the day we were there told us that the woman living in that house now is lovely, and would be happy to meet us. So we took the chance and knocked on her door. She came out, and we explained who we were and what our connection was to the house. She was very nice to us. We were only in her yard for perhaps fifteen minutes, long enough to chat a little and take some photos, both of the house and of her in front of it. Her name is Rosie.

Last Christmas, with the memories of our trip fresh in my mind, I made a big effort to send Christmas cards to the people we’d met along the way. I didn’t know Rosie’s last name, but for her I had not only a card, but copies of photos: two of the house as it was in my great grandparents’ day, and one of her with my daughter. I did some poking around online, finally emailing the principal of the local primary school just across the road from the house and explaining the situation in hopes she’d tell me Rosie’s last name. She did, and I sent off the card. I never heard back, and didn’t expect to, but I hoped the photos and card had given her that same bright spot in her day I always get from real mail.

Today, I got the answer to that. A year after I sent that card, a year and a half after meeting her so briefly outside the home to which we both have a connection, that simple message arrived: “Love and best wishes from Rosie”.

It’ll almost certainly arrive late, but I’m going to send out one more Christmas card for 2009 today. Happy Christmas, Rosie.

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How’s the weather?

Compuserve forum member and Surrey conference attendee Ev Bishop tackles the question of weather in fiction today at her blog, here.

“Can you believe the rain” and conversations of that ilk may not have a place in fiction dialogue without a really compelling underlying reason for including them, but even without talking about it, weather affects our characters. Check out Ev’s post for some lovely weather images and thoughts on its application in your writing.

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Today is one of just two days I have remaining before I’ll be out of quiet writing time until the 4th of January when the school holidays are over. I have errands to run: I’m nowhere near finished Christmas shopping, the cupboards are nearly bare, and I think we’re running low on TP. But when I realized this was it for dedicated writing time, I made the decision to lock myself in the house for the duration of the school day – my available writing hours – and use that time wisely. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

I got to it early. No messing around online, no procrastination. Pretty good stuff. I read over the last bit I wrote and that’s when the trouble started. I have NO idea where I’m going next. None. I have a sense of where this book needs to end up, sort of, and a few scenes already written that need to be worked in, but they don’t influence what’s happening right this minute in the MS, and right now… nada. And in 90 minutes, my writing day will be over.

How do you deal with it when that happens to you? I procrastinate, mostly, until something clicks. I’m not an outliner or someone who can interview her characters or any of that sort of thing. Those techniques just don’t work for me. So I walk away and do something else for awhile while my subconscious chews on the problem. Usually, I email a friend. If I’m lucky, the friend will email back and the social interaction is enough to shift gears in my head and let me find a way to the next bit.

This one’s being stubborn. I’ve been stuck here awhile. I know just what the problem is, but not how to fix it. It’ll come, if I’m patient. Watching the minutes tick away on my writing time makes patience a difficult proposition, but I’m trying.

In the meantime, at least I got a blog post up. That counts as being productive, right?

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