I’m pondering beginnings.

1. A young friend is a writer. I’m hoping to interview her, here, mainly for selfish reasons. I want to remember what it was like when I started out. Which means I’m trying to find the right questions to ask. I remember the feeling of secrecy as I sat alone in my room with lined paper and pencil, afraid someone would walk in and ask what I was doing. I’m not sure I was consciously aware of the world opening up, but I remember realizing that dreams were, in a way, coming to life on the page.  When I read things I wrote a long time ago, I cringe. But at the same time I laugh and don’t make changes because there is so much enthusiasm in those stories, even if the craft of writing still had to be learned. Heck, I’m still learning. But you know what I mean. Those early pieces are just dang fun to read.

Have I lost that enthusiasm? No, but the stories don’t overflow, meaning I don’t write non-stop all day. Now I’m more inclined to write while the muse is flowing and then go back and revise. Back then, I just knew that everything was perfect. So maybe the naiveté has been tempered by craft.

2. A story is finished and waits on cover art. I have another story I’m fiddling with and a bit overwhelmed by. I also want to start on a third in the series. I know I want it to be a prequel as several people liked a character that is killed off in the first book. I can feel the tiny, faint, niggling feeling that tells me an idea is there, but still buried. I have some thoughts, I’ve jotted a few notes, but I can also tell it’s too soon. If I try to jump in and force the beginning, to start before the idea is firmed more, then the whole story will die.

That itch is there but it’s too soon to scratch.

3. And then there’s the beginning a poet starts. She has finished her radiation, her chemotherapy, and the changes to her body. Now she starts the healing. Those who haven’t been through it assume it’s the start of a joyful time, of relief, and there is that, in a small part. But it’s also the start of anger and deep sadness, and feeling like you’re going insane. Few people realize that some who have had to deal with cancer, end up with PTSD afterwards. Few people want to talk about that. And so she begins the uphill battle to regain who she was, and learn who she is. As part of that she wrote an amazing poem that I hope she will allow me, some day, to share here.

The thing about all these beginnings, that I hope she realizes, is that they pass.

pincushion flower (scabiosa)

pincushion flower (scabiosa)


Over the years I have struggled (and lost) to overwhelming guilt whenever I wrote.

You know what I mean. How dare you take time to sit and write, when there are dirty dishes in the sink? When dinner has to be made, eggs collected, dogs fed, etc., etc.

If it wasn’t the specter of chores slapping me with guilt, it was a little voice whispering that my writing would never benefit the family, that I needed to do something to help out more.

Then of course there’s the guilt for taking time to write ‘when you know you’re really not any good’. That’s the nasty inner guilt-slinger again.

Today is a very wet day in the woods. Raining, after days of rain. A perfect time to build up the fire, put on the kettle, and write. Right? Until guilt reared up. So first I went out into the rain and planted several things that were gasping in too-tiny pots. Into bigger pots, and some into the ground, went bell peppers, thyme, marjoram, parsley, costmary, lovage, sage, golden bush, forget-me-nots, beans, peas, and…well you get the idea. I came inside in late afternoon soaked.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that feeling of coming inside cold and wet, knowing you’ve accomplished something. There have been many, many times I’ve worked out in the rain. In the Pacific Northwest, if you wait for good weather, you’ll never get anything done. I remember days of climbing up into the woods with my father to repair the pipeline that brought water to a water wheel and generated electricity for us. Coming back down covered in mud, soaking wet, hauling a soggy backpack full of tools, smelling like pipe glue. I loved coming inside, where my mother would have tea waiting. Or hot chocolate and cinnamon toast. A reward for the work.

And that’s what I realized today. Writing is my reward for work. I have to ‘earn’ the words. If I do something first, I am then justified in taking time for myself. It’s stupid when I spell it out like this because no one puts that expectation on me. My husband is the first one to tell me, leave everything and go write. Matter of fact, he’s doing the dishes right now.

If the only way I can silence guilt is to buy it off by doing some chores first, then I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do.

Now what I need to learn is how many chores is enough. Because I also have a tendency to do so much that I end up too tired to write, or with no time left in the day. But oh well. One lesson at a time.

Meadow Rue


What makes you pick up a new book? Usually it’s the title that catches my eye first.

Here are some titles that have resulted in the discovery of a great story: The Crossing Places (Elly Griffiths), Though Not Dead (Dana
Stabenow), Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters), She Walks These Hills (Sharon McCrumb), and many, many more. I’m sure when  I blow out the kerosene lantern I’m going to remember several I should have listed. And it would be interesting to see what titles you like.

But this is more about the difficulty in catching just the right title for your own work. What an impossible thing. I’ve recently sent a story off for editing, with no title. Here are a couple failed ideas.

There’s a line in the story about a small house up against a canyon wall, with rocks scattered on its roof ‘like some weird mountain rain’. I love that line and thought ‘Mountain Rain’, great title! Until I realized that this is part of the ‘Mountain Mystery series’, which is just way too many mountains. The title and subtitle could almost form a mountain range on their own.

Then I thought about the name of some liquid libation that shows up in the story: Silver Mist. Because the liquid is distilled in a silver mining area. But honestly that title did nothing for me.

So I’m still wandering around waiting for inspiration. The right title will show up eventually. In the meantime, I’m pondering what makes a good title. Why one works and another doesn’t.

In some ways it’s obvious. A book called Encrypted won’t be picked up by me. Neither will Lady Sophia’s Rescue (but my sister will snap that one up). So the title clues me in that the book is a genre I like to read. Like I said, obvious.

Yet there are a lot of mystery titles I don’t pick up. So just as obviously, the title is simply luck of the draw. There’s something in the words that I as a reader respond to. The mystery reader standing next to me might pass up the same book I just felt an urge to read.

If it’s all so arbitrary  then why is it so hard to come up with a title? Seems like it should be the easiest part. Or at least a little easier than writing the whole story to begin with.

I wonder if anyone has ever titled their book, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’

Some more titles

Some more titles