Author Archive

Contemplating the future

I started my morning pages today. I actually woke up, went downstairs, and did my pages with a steaming cup of tea and the sounds of my Deep Focus playlist. The only thing missing was a candle, but that’s fine. As I clean, I’m going to be putting all the candles together so that I know where they all are.

It’s weird, but I’m actually feeling like spring really is coming. I’ve been in the fog of grief and fear and indecision for the last 4+ years, but this year, for some reason, I’m ready to move forward. Perhaps Covid has been good for something: giving me the space I needed to move to a better mental place.

So I’m starting my own writing spreadsheet, and I’m going to be tracking my word counts. I’m going to be writing blog posts again, and working on the plot vomit portion of Dreams.

I’ve also realized that I’m not sure if I’m ever going to submit a book for traditional publishing again. Not because I don’t think my writing is good enough, or anything like that. But I have a day job that I enjoy, especially now, and that pays my bills. I write the stories I want to read, and while I do want to continue to share those stories with you all, it might not be as a paperback novel. I’m still mulling things over, so keep checking this space for updates.

Also, exciting news! Spence and I are in the process of opening an Etsy store for Fibermancers4Hire! More to follow on that too! Right now, you can check out our page on Facebook.

Coming out of Covid sleep

I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve been here – a long time. But Covid has left me isolated and feeling too…off to write. And let’s be honest – it wasn’t just Covid. It was the entire world sort of falling apart on me for a while. I retreated into myself. I worked on fiber crafts, I colored, I did a lot of thinking. A lot of thinking.

It’s nearly March, and Spring is coming back into the northern hemisphere, and I’m finally, finally ready to pick up my writing again. I’ve pulled up the file with Belladonna Dreams in it and read it through, and I can feel the words starting to prickle through my fingertips.

So I think today, I’ll grab my notebook and a pen, and drive somewhere to park and write. My new goal is 250 words a day. They don’t have to be good words. They just have to be words. It’s hard to edit a blank page.

A long slow wakening to another year

February and March are hard months for me. There’s reminders all around of the people I’ve lost, and the fact that those months in New Hampshire are usually cold, dark, and either dripping grey or spitting snow doesn’t help. We sprang ahead today, and the sun is shining, and I’m feeling a little more optimistic.

I’ve been absent from a lot of things lately – my father was diagnosed with early onset dementia in the fall, and there’s so much that needs to be done to take care of him. He’s passed from the denial stage to the “I feel the need to tell EVERYONE that I have this,” so that’s good, but it still means that I’m feeling stretched. We have a great support network, and I’m thankful to my siblings (both blood and heart) who are helping us move into a new normal.

I’m doing two cons so far this year: Ravencon in Williamsburg, VA, in April and Balticon in Baltimore, MD, in May. I won’t have anything super new (except for Paradise Found, which I will have copies with me), but I’m not letting another year slide by on me. I’m working on the outline/rough draft of Belladonna Dreams as we speak, and I’m planning to have both that rough draft and the edited draft of Carter’s Cove 3 done by the end of the year.

I’m also contemplating other things, but I don’t want to make more promises that I can’t keep, either to myself or my readers.

A new year

I’ve been very quiet here lately. The holidays are rough now – between the deaths of my mother (who adored Christmas) and my husband (who didn’t like commercial aspects of Christmas but loved the family aspects), I’m not really in the mood to celebrate anymore. It was a quiet Christmas and Thanksgiving, and that’s what I needed.

Now, though, it’s a new year. 2020. A new decade, even. A time to look forward, not back, and to figure out what the next 10 years of my life will look like.

Which is why there’s a new theme on the website. I’m not the person I was when I first set up this page, and while sometimes I miss her (especially the carefree nature of her life, back when the only thing that she had to worry about was getting to work on time), I’m enjoying this new Val as well. I’ll be 50 this decade. A milestone my husband didn’t get to. I’m moving from Mother to Crone in terms of my mindset, and that’s not something I’m dreading.

Odd to think that 10 years ago, I was still thinking of having children, of buying a house near my folks, of enjoying their retirement and the adventures they wanted to go on. Now, I’m thinking about the cleaning out of the detritus of my old life, redoing the interior of the duplex I rent, helping my dad through the rest of his life. And my writing is changing too.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to Carter’s Cove. Every time I’ve tried, it seems to veer off the wrong way. I will be rewriting and releasing the stories that are already written, but I don’t know if there will be any new ones. We’ll see. I am also finally working on the first Pendragon novel, and I’ve got some really good ideas for Resonant Frequencies.

This year, I’m doing 2 cons (RavenCon in April, and Balticon in May), and contemplating 2 weeks at Pennsic. I’m going to have books with me at both, but probably not a table. The goal this year is to write out Belladonna Dreams and Resonant Frequencies in rough draft. I’m not sure about NaNo, but we’ll see.

(writing) Pondering

I’ve taken the year off from writing cons. Not because I don’t like them (let’s be honest, I adore cons), but because I have other things that my vacation time is going towards, and because really, lately, I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough to justify the expense of going to cons.

And yes, I know, impostor syndrome is totally a thing. It’s not that. It’s that I look at what I’ve accomplished in the past, and how I’m feeling like I’m just treading water now.

I’ve been collecting Writer’s Digest every other month from the bookstore, but I haven’t been really reading it, until the May/June 2019 caught my eye. The 5-minute memoir, entitled “Time to Finish,” made me stop and think, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It’s actually hanging up in my cube at work, right next to my computer monitor, so I can keep it within my line of sight.

The jist of the story is that life is uncertain, and how many of us can truly know that we will be given time to finish what we want to do? And that got me thinking about Mom, and Brian, and Daithi, and PG, and Jesse, and everyone else I know who didn’t get that long, and certainly wasn’t given time to finish. The narrator at one point talks about time wasted “dilly-dallying” and how there’s no way to get that time back, and how you need to use the time you have now. And I thought about what I’ve not been doing, and started to think about WHY I haven’t been doing it.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I look at my writing and I love a lot of it, but I’m also well aware that I’m writing in worlds that are comfort worlds. I’ve been writing Molly for over 7 years now, and Shanna since college. Sapph has been through several iterations over the years. Perhaps that’s why I’m having such issues with the last Carter’s Cove story (I really don’t want to finish it, because it’s NOT what I wanted it to be). So perhaps it’s time for me to move on to projects that I haven’t been so steeped in. Maybe I’m feeling stale?

That could be it. I’ve been retreating to comfort for the past 3 years. I think it might be time to stretch my legs a little. I want to write Belladonna Dreams, but even Sapph is feeling stale. So I think I’ll put her aside, work on my poetry, and perhaps Blue, since there’s been a lot of Irish music poking at my brain. I’m removing her from the Appalachians and putting her gran in the White Mountains, because that feels right. And since I’m no longer playing in anyone else’s sandbox, I can create my own rules. I also do want to work on Abby, since her story is kind of intertwined with my own grieving process.

So yeah, deep thoughts over the past few days.

(writing/personal) Finding Time to Finish

PG Holyfield

Today is PG Holyfield’s birthday. It’s also a day that I’m at my day job, the day after taxes were due, and I’m reading my newest Writer’s Digest on my breaks. I adore Writer’s Digest. I read through them eagerly and there’s usually a lot of good information in them.

Today, though, one article hits me in the gut. There’s a section called 5-Minute Memoir, and this one is titled simply “Time to Finish.” And it talks about not having the time to finish writing, and how none of us know how much longer we have. How if you are going to do something, you need to do it. And I thought of PG. And my mother. And Brian. And everyone else that thought they had the time, and didn’t.

It’s a scary thought. I don’t like to think of the stuff I’ve left unfinished because “I’ll get to it someday.” What happens if today is my last someday? Or tomorrow? Can we live as if we weren’t sure we were going to see the next dawn? No, not really, because unfortunately, most of us have things like bills and other obligations. But maybe we can write like we don’t have any promise of tomorrow, because at least then, we know (who am I kidding? It’s all about me) that I’ve done my best.

I pull out a tarot card every morning, just to see how the morning will go. Today’s card was the Queen of Wands, reversed. That message is rather clear: take care of yourself, and stop frittering things away. Once I’d read the memoir, I remembered that card.

So yeah, the universe is definitely telling me something. I just hope I do have enough time to work on it.

Happy birthday, PG. I still miss you.

(advent) Tuesday, December 18

The cold persisted through the night and the next day, making it very difficult for Molly to find the enthusiasm to get out of bed. It was her day off, after all, and the bed was warm. Schrodinger had snuggled in next to her when Drew had gotten up, putting his head on the pillow and purring in his sleep. Molly lay in the semi-darkness of the bedroom, content to simply be.


In the end, though, her bladder demanded that she get up. Her slippers were icy when she slid her feet into them, despite the warmth of the room, and she was shivering by the time she got downstairs. Even the warm kitchen seemed cold.


Oh man, I can’t be sick, she thought, leaning against the counter as she waited for the tea water to boil. Molly could have heated the water with a thought, but that seemed like way too much work. I have too much to do to be sick now.


She took her tea into the living room, sitting on the couch with a blanket around her, her mug cupped in her hands. Outside the window, it was snowing fitfully, little spurts of flakes that came and went, but inside, the tea and the blanket began to seep through the chill. Molly snuggled back on to the couch and contemplated what they would do today.


Before he’d left for work, Drew had brought out the red and green Christmas tree stand from the basement, along with the three boxes of ornaments that they had collected. This afternoon, on his way home, he’d stop at the tree farm and get the tree they’d picked out a few weeks ago. He’d left early so that he could be here to decorate it with them.


Are you okay?


Schrodinger had come in and was looking at her oddly, his head cocked to one side, and for a moment, she couldn’t figure out why he looked weird, almost sideways. Then Molly realized that at some point, she’d slid down to lie on the couch, her mug on its side on the floor, dangling limply from her fingers.


“I must have fallen asleep again,” she murmured, trying to sit up. “What time is it?”


Schrodinger looked over at the clock on the mantle. Almost noon, he said, jumping up onto the couch next to her as she pulled herself into a sitting position. I woke up and realized I didn’t hear anything, so I came looking. Are you okay?


Molly put her hand to her forehead, and sighed in relief when it came back normal. “I’m okay, just sleepy, apparently,” she said. “Would you like some lunch, since we both slept through breakfast?”


After a hearty omelet and another cup of tea, Molly actually felt better, although she decided a quiet afternoon was what she needed. She and Schrodinger hung out on the couch and watched several Christmas movies until she heard Drew’s truck come into the yard.


And right behind him was Kiaya’s big SUV with the kids. Molly was glad she’d gotten the sleep she had.


“Who’s hungry?” she asked, as they all trooped into the kitchen.


“We can’t eat now, we need to help Drew set up the tree!” Gideon said excitedly. “And then we get to do the Advent calendar! We stopped at the bookstore to get it!”


Molly laughed. “Okay, you guys do that, and I’ll make tea!”


When she brought in the tray of tea and hot cocoa mugs and plates of shortbread cookies, they had set up the magnificent Douglas Fir in front of the window. Drew was holding up two separate strands of lights, one clear and one colored. “What should we do this year?” he asked.


“Colors!” the kids said, and Lily added, “You did white last year. And the year before.”


“Well, then we can’t repeat it again,” Drew said, winking at Molly and Kiaya. “The last thing we need to be is predictable.” He wound the strands of lights carefully around the tree.


“Before we decorate, let’s do the calendar!” Kaylee said, bouncing until Molly handed her a cup full of hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows. Then she sat carefully, and added, “The kitten needs to see the tree decorating too!”


Once everyone had a mug, Drew opened the tube that they’d brought the calendar in and hung it on the mantel. The little cat was still in the back parlor, looking at the birds, but when he realized that they were looking at him, he hopped off the chair he’d been on and sauntered into the next room. This was also a parlor, but they could see neat box flowerbeds covered in snow, and a driveway leading off into the distance. In this room, there was a small tree set up on a table, and a large fireplace that held a battalion of nutcrackers dominated one wall. Instead of flames in the fireplace, there was a pile of presents.


The kitten went into the fireplace and pulled out a box, and then opened it. The smoke puffed out and formed the words, “New traditions are as good as old ones if they are done with love.” Then it swirled out of the calendar and went, not to the children waiting, but to the top of the Christmas tree.


It coalesced into a tight ball, growing brighter and brighter, until Molly had to avert her eyes. Then it flashed, and when the after-glow cleared, they saw a beautiful star atop the tree.


“Well, I guess we’re not doing the angel,” she said, a little awed.


Drew smiled at her. “Time for a new tradition?”

(personal/writing) Heading back into my life

It’s been a weird couple of months. On the one hand, it’s full of awful anniversaries, and I think I would be happier if I could just skip February and March every year, and go directly into April. However, that’s not a superpower I have, so I guess I’m going to have to learn to live with it.

On the other hand, other than a few crises that were managed, February didn’t TOTALLY suck. I’ve continued my poetry every day on my Facebook page, and I’m still picking away at Molly. I’m also working on a secret project that I’ll be able to post more about soon, and looking forward to writing something other than Carter’s Cove for a bit.

Tomorrow I start my second successful round of Whole30, in preparation for the very busy spring, summer, and fall that I have planned. No cons, which is weird (I don’t remember the last time I didn’t go to ANY cons in a year), but I’ve got a bunch of SCA events coming up, including Pennsic!! And then in the fall, I’m headed over to England and Ireland and Scotland for 2 weeks.

I need to lose more weight and get back into shape. Otherwise I’ll never be able to do what I want to this year. I want to fence at Pennsic. I want to be able to walk all around London and Edinburgh and Cork. And I really, really, really want my knees to stop hurting.

So yeah, that’s the state of the Val right now.

(personal) Well, it’s been a while

I haven’t been doing much in the blogging way for a while, simply because I didn’t feel I had that much to say. I’m surviving. I’m writing in bits and pieces lately, mostly snippets of poetry that I’ve been posting to my Facebook page. I’ve never really considered myself a poet, but that’s where my writing is going lately.

I’m still working on the Advent story for 2018, and I’m going to finish it. Then there will be a break from Advent for a while. There are other stories that I think I might finally be ready to write.

I’m sewing a lot, though. I’m crocheting and hand-sewing and cross-stitching, and making garb (finally). My mother used to threaten to take scissors to my garb at the next event she saw me at in my old garb, so I’d have to make new garb. I think she’d be proud that I’m finally getting off my old crutch of pirate shirts and skirts, and venturing into new garb territory. There will be pictures later.

I’m also getting ready to start my second Whole30 round on Monday, so today is getting my meal plan together so I can cook tomorrow afternoon. The sad thing is that I’m really tired today, and I’ve got a Mardi Gras party tonight, and so I’m really just not wanting to do anything.

So yeah, that’s the state of the Val right now. I’m going to be working on some more things coming up in the spring, but I wanted to let people know I wasn’t quite dead.

(advent) Monday, December 17

Monday had dawned gloriously clear and very, very cold. So cold that it felt like she was inhaling shards of ice instead of air when Molly stepped out of the warm kitchen, and even Schrodinger bounded directly to the Jeep rather than exploring around. He still refused to wear the woolen boots that her mother had knit him, but Molly realized how very few steps it took him to get to the Jeep.

The cold persisted all day, and Molly refilled tea pots, not just cups, in between building the last few gingerbread houses she had. Thursday, the first day of winter break, was the day she planned to deliver them. Hopefully the deep freeze would break by then.

“I don’t mind cold,” she said to Lai, who had stopped in for lunch. “But this is ridiculous. I don’t want to keep the kids out in the cold in this weather.”

“Isn’t Old Man Winter going to help you?” Lai said, sipping from the mug in her hands.

“I think so. He’s been out doing something else for the past week, but he adores it,” Molly said.

“Maybe that’s why it’s cold? Because he’s been in the Cove?”

Molly pondered that. “No one’s seen him, though,” she said finally. “And it’s not like he’s not recognizable.”

“Not necessarily,” Lai said. “He’s the personification of Winter, isn’t he? He can probably pass completely unnoticed if he wanted to.”

Molly had to concede the point. “But why?” she said. “Why would he be sneaking around the Cove?”

Lai turned and looked at the Advent calendar. “Maybe he’s still looking to see who took that?”

<><>

Old Man Winter was, in fact, in the Cove, but not to find out about who had taken the Advent calendar. Jade and Jack had decided that trying to find the culprit was a waste of time, especially as the Snow Queen’s Ball was approaching. Left to his own devices, Old Man Winter had decided to see what else was going on.

He’d toyed with the idea of looking Pavel up, and taking the pirate out for a night of drinking, but when he’d stopped by his house, Brynna told him that Pavel had headed out on a short sail, and wouldn’t be back for a few days. She’d offered him a hot toddy, but he’d declined politely.

The children were still in school, and he decided against going and taking them on an adventure. While they would be thrilled, their parents would not be. And he didn’t feel like tea, or coffee. So he found himself wandering through the streets, invisible, just soaking up the feelings in the town. Ever since Molly had freed him from the Eidolon who had taken him over, he’d realized how much he liked Carter’s Cove. It was a town that you could be yourself in, no matter who yourself really was. They were accepting like that.

Which is why the older man standing in the middle of the street and glowering at a new building was enough to halt his progress. And as Old Man Winter looked closer at him, he realized something else.

The man stared angrily – no, not angrily, Old Man Winter corrected himself. Hungrily. As if the shop held something he wanted so much that he would take the building apart at the seams to get it.

He turned his attention from the man to the building. It was a large stone building, looking slightly like a barn and a business had had a child, and there was no sign on it yet. There was a spot for one, though. The building itself was shuttered up, but there was smoke coming from one of the chimneys. Forgetting the man, Old Man Winter walked forward, fully intending to go through the wall and snoop a bit. For him, it was normal.

Which is why when he hit the stone wall and bounced backwards onto his behind, he was more startled than hurt.

The front door opened while he was still sitting in the snowbank, and someone he hadn’t seen in a very long time came out. Kris put her hands on her ample hips and glared down at him.

“Sure, and what are you doing here?” she demanded, obviously able to see him, even though he hadn’t take off his invisibility. “I’ve no time for your foolishness, Old Man.”

He let the glamour drop. “Just passing through,” he said, getting up slowly. “I’d no idea you’d come to the Cove.” Old Man Winter held out his hand. “You staying?”

Kris looked at him suspiciously. “What is it to you?”

“I’m not the same as the last time you saw me, Kris,” Old Man Winter said, knowing full well where her hostility came from. “I promise you.”

“Promises from you are worth less than the ice on your beard,” she retorted. “Especially as you just tried to invade my new home.”

“That was a mistake,” he admitted. “I didn’t realize it was yours. I just wanted to see who had moved in.”

“You haven’t claimed this town,” she said, but he could hear curiosity as well as anger in her voice. “This is neutral territory.”

“Yes,” he said. “I just got used to be one of the few beings who could wander where I wanted here. It’s a bad habit.” He smiled. “Can I come in?”

She glowered a bit more, but then she relented. “Might as well,” she said, gesturing him through the door. “I don’t want to have this conversation in the street.”

<><>

“Molly, it’s so cold out!” Kaylee said, as the children piled into the kitchen. “We need to warm up!”

“I’ve got plenty of cocoa and tea for you!” Molly promised. “And hot sandwiches!” She’d made more cranberry walnut bread earlier in the day, and when she’d heard Jack and Aurora barking, she’d put ham and cheese between the slices of bread and toasted them in the oven. Now, she set out the sandwiches on a big plate and put it on the island, then she put out the tea and cocoa.

Once they were fed and warm, they clustered around the Advent calendar. The little cat was waiting for them in the music room, where he’d been the day before, listening to records on the old gramaphone. Now, he jumped down from the sofa and padded out into a small room with easy chairs around a large, low table. There was a tea service gleaming silver on the wood, with holly berries and ivy leaves on the tray. There were little cakes that had sugared berries and leaves sculpted out of marzipan or fondant, Molly wasn’t sure which. There was a window behind everything that looked out to a tree dripping with bird feeders.

“Wow, that looks like a fun place!” Zoey said wistfully. “I wish we could go in.”

The little cat jumped into a chair and then leaned out and nosed the top of the teapot off. The white smoke puffed up and formed the words “It’s not just Christmas for you.”

“What does that mean?” Kaylee asked, looking at her companions.

They all shrugged, confused. Then the smoke drifted out to them and wound around them, a silvery snake that became a thin thread, laying across their hands.

“What are we supposed to do with thread?” Lily said, puzzled, as she started to wind it back up from the spool she’d discovered in her hand. “Did the Advent calendar break?”

The little cat shook his head, as if he was astounded that they didn’t understand. He turned and hooked his tail through the teapot’s handle, lifted it up, and went to the window. He nosed up one of the window panes, and poured the contents of the pot into the snow. Birds flocked down to peck at popcorn kernels that had come from the teapot.

“Oh, I get it! We’re going to make popcorn strings for the birds!” Lily and Kaylee said at the same time. “Molly, do you have cranberries too?”

“Of course I do,” she said, pulling a large bowl of cranberries from the pantry. She handed it to Zoey, and then pulled a big bag of fluffy popcorn. “And if you guys want to go near the wood stove to string these, Peter is coming from the Humane Society to put them on the trees near some of the farms. So make as many as you want!”