Crossing the Finish Line....

I have never been so bad at writing! The sentences that flowed from my fingers on the last day of NaNoWriMo (a long day on a train with the goal of almost 10,000 words) were full of [put something in here later] and mespellngs and Forgetting Where The Story WAs set. But that's kind of the goal of NaNo. To put the editor's mind away for a while (98% impossible when you are, say, ME) and just get the story OUT.

I had planned ahead, literally taking Plan Your Novel at the Barany School of Fiction. So I knew when I got stuck what questions to ask my characters, what details to look for, and I had mapped out the plot so I knew what had to happen in each chapter. But I felt like I was abusing the muse... who always knows just what to day, but takes her time. That's okay, me and my muses get into it a lot.

I got all the way through the last chapter with about 6,000 words to go and sat, stumped, staring out the window, until I thought to go through and look at the musical again. That juiced up another few scenes, and I got to 46,000 words. Then I remembered that the goal is to write 50,000 words in November and I realized how much writing I'd done AROUND the novel. I put my blog posts in, my wild hairs, my Christmas letter... so okay I cheated a little. So when I finished I felt a bit dirty and tired.

But then something magical happened. I was sitting in the Observation Car next to a John Grisham book without a cover, watching the late afternoon scenery go by, when someone came and picked the book up and sat next to me. A reader! A real reader, who takes 20 hour train trips and reads books that are on their last legs and literally lets the signatures fall away, putting this paperback to rest. We started chatting, and when I told him what I'd done, and pulled The Souls of Her Feet out of my backpack, his face lit up and he said he'd HEARD of me, and he'd SEEN this book before! He told me exactly what shelf he'd seen it on (in his mother's retirement home), and complimented the cover. He burst out, "I just met a REAL WRITER!"


Did you hear that? He called me a REAL WRITER! To further enhance my Velveteen Rabbit moment, the two women on my other side both snapped up copies of my book, funding my NaNoWriMo Victory T-Shirt! I read them all some fresh new writing inspired by the golden light on the leaves. We all hardly minded that train was stuck waiting while the tracks cleared for about four hours...!

And when the technical writer who had "discovered" me confessed his longing to write more poetically. I whipped out my pen and drew a "Poetic License" on the back of a handout for my book.

A few days later, I took my teachers, Ezra and Beth, to a NaNoWriMo wrap party in Berkeley. The host wore the celebratory horns, symbol of what I don't know, but pretty triumphant.

It was rather awe-inspiring to be in a room full of people who had also been through what I had. I couldn't believe some had done this sprint for eight years in a row. I don't know if I ever will, again. We all brainstormed titles for each others' novels and ate pizza.

When I got home I told Dave, "thats it, I'm done, I'm all out of words."

Until it was time to post another blog, at least!


Brains and Bones

Three years ago last February I planned a trip to Italy with my friend Jenny. Our trip theme was Ten Days, Ten Pounds, and I started a blog about it. But she couldn't go because she had to have brain surgery instead.

NOT a hip fracture... technically.
I am turning that blog into a book, reliving the drama and the trauma... and just as I was just putting the finishing touches on it, I got a call from my mom, crying out in pain with what turned out to be a broken leg. Less than a month before we leave for Italy to celebrate her 80th birthday!

Clearly, I'm cursed. Do NOT plan a trip to Italy with me! I felt the double whammy of superstition on top of bad luck, and as I sat with her in the hospital, talked to her doctors, and set about the task of "travel repair," I tried and tried in the back of my mind to convince myself mom’s accident had nothing to do with me, and Italy is not actually out to get me and my loved ones.

But here’s the thing: In The Vesuvian Affair, the supernatural romance I wrote that was inspired by my trip, something happens to the traveling companion of the main character: she breaks her leg!

So I’m creeped out and wondering: am I a good writer, or what?

The metaphysician in me, the one who knows The Secret and the dark side of The Secret, (and The Twilight Zone of course) wonders: am I inventing reality somehow, or are these just eerie coincidences? Life is so full of eerie coincidences, isn’t it? I got in touch with a certain flow of big magic on that trip I took alone, aware of how we weave the universe with our thoughts and feelings, a synchronicity that comes more clearly into focus during travel and times of distress.

Art imitates life imitates art
And here, while planning this trip to Italy in the past months, I've also been editing editing editing a book that involves many trips to a hospital, and the anxiety of seeing a loved one in danger. I have poured this story into so many publishing formats, and wrestled to place these photographs so many times that I can’t help but wonder: is my obsession on this story manifesting itself somehow?

I mean, I just wrote a book on bullying, and now we're all victims.

It’s magical thinking, I know! That we can make things happen with our thoughts. But there is something to the way thoughts manifest. I have watched the world change, in the past few decades, from a world in which children see gun violence in clearer and clearer detail through movies and video games, into a world where children use guns in real life. All the time. Even I, who used to flinch at the sound of gunshots on TV, now feel like blood and guts are normal to see splattered all over prime time drama.

But how can we make art exploring evil without calling forth evil?

Clearly, I'm over thinking this. I'm a bit stressed out at the moment.

But just in case it is true that the universe is that responsive to our thoughts, my next book after this is definitely going to be about something awesome happening in the world.

Okay enough. I can't go thinking it's all about me when there's someone I love who needs help learning to walk again. Italy's magic is powerful, and so many people have consoled me, reminded me, over the past few weeks, that "life is just like that," and "things like this happen more often than you think."

Sophia Loren said, “Se non hai mai pianto, i tuoi occhi non possono essere belli.” If you haven’t cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful. So I must be getting more and more beautiful every day!

Upcoming Readings:

  • Saturday, June 16, Laurel Bookstore - CWC Author Book Launch featuring The Vesuvian Affair
  • Saturday, July 7, Villa Il Palmerino, Florence - Saturation featuring Ten Days, Ten Pounds


Why did John Malkovich Cross the Road?

I am actually asking.

I saw him enter the crosswalk in front of me on Sunday. I said, "Hello John Malkovich" and waved and smiled. He looked up, waved and smiled. Went on his way.

And I thought, wow—

I wonder what's going through his head right now?

He looked like this. But with a smile.


Our New Electron Farm

• share.solarcity.com/ranchodeluxe • 

I have been aching to go solar since we bought our charming old Victorian two decades ago. We closed on our purchase on Earth Day—(what better way to celebrate the earth than owning a piece of it?)—and started right in on the process of bringing it into the 21st century.

I searched for and found a solar energy company to work with. They were excited: we have THE PERFECT roof for solar... south-facing, tons of sun, big enough etc. We were excited: we could finance the loan for the exact price of our monthly electricity bill. But it was not to happen; the roof was TOO OLD! 

This house, built in 1895, has had 5 roofs. And they are all on top of each other. The bolts that hold the panels on could not hold it securely through the thickness of the asphalt layers. 

So we sat around and waited until the roof got too old. It was a daunting process. We had some roof inspectors tell us it could cost $40,000 because of all the angles and gables, not to mention lack of access for demolition. We had others tell us the roof would be good for another 15-30 years. Meanwhile electric cars hit the market...and we could not access the dream. 

On a lark I started talking to a SolarCity  guy at a Home Depot a few years back. When I explained our sad situation, he said "let us take a look." Their program looked great...they guarantee the roof and will do maintenance on it 4-ever. We went through all the steps again, only for them to tell us the pitch of the roof was 1° steeper than they could handle. Bahhh. 

But one night Sungevity cold-called my husband and said "41°? No problem!" They also had the brilliant idea of a partial re-roof. Brilliant! We could just replace the section of the roof under the solar panels! (Why hadn't we thought of that before?) But Sungevity works as a broker for local contractors, and we lost momentum on the part where we needed to hire an engineer ourselves. (Or shall I say, our$elve$.)

Then one day this wonderful person showed up on our doorstep, talking a mile a minute and putting us at ease, and we came to realize he was the Solar City FIXER. Rob said, "Well, if they can do pitched roofs back East, we can figure out how to do them here!" Solar City used their own contractors for the partial re-roof, AND they paid for half of it! Rob saw us through every twist and turn, from the financing through the dozens of inspections to the roof removal and rebuild to the installation. The demolition was no problem at all. Their staff was strong, professional, and careful. 

We couldn't turn on the system for three months... there were issues with some old wiring and permits not being closed. But Rob and the team kept at it, working with PG&E and city inspectors until all obstacles were removed.

After 19 years, three companies, and months and months of red tape... WE FLIPPED THE SWITCH! Thank you Rob! Thank you Solar City!

Scenes from Solar-izing:

Having your roof scraped off feels kind of apocalyptic. But in a cathartic way.
They carried the old roof away a cubic yard at a time, leaving no mess.

Setting up the new NEST smart thermostat

Santa's elves bringing us some shiny new SOLAR PANELS for Christmas!

What a beautiful scene! Thank you Solar City!

We are now eager "Solar City Ambassadors!!" With this referral you'll get your first month of electricity for FREE: share.solarcity.com/ranchodeluxe.