Archive for March, 2014

Writing on Wood from the 1800s in the middle of a Raspberry Haze.

My writing friend B.K. responded to my last post with a post of his own about his writing space. He called his the geekosphere and posted a picture of his desk with all its Disney paraphernalia. A commenter on his post, Marianne Knowles, referred to her own column on writing areas and included a before an after picture of her desk. In her post she referenced a third blogger, Wendy Van Camp, who has a running section in No Wasted Ink on writing spaces.


Before I cleaned up the desk.

The many clean and orderly rooms and desks featured in the No Wasted Ink blog were interesting, but few made me jealous. In some of them no desktop computer or a laptop was in evidence. Other of the spaces made my neck hurt just looking at them, because they looked so un-ergonomic. Although I have my keyboard in a less than ideal spot, I do have a shelf I can pull out that is at the correct height, or used to be when I had a larger keyboard and a different, less adjustable and comfortable chair.  This column is a good reminder for me to reevaluate my workstation and keyboard placement. (Please see the wiki article on proper workstation design.)

My husband made my desk out of  reclaimed Ponderosa pine beams from the 1800s Manitou Springs Hotel. I wanted a large desk so I could spread out research materials. There is a pullout shelf on one side that holds my laser printer with space under it. Currently that space holds  old copies of manuscripts I probably should go through and recycle. The right hand side of the desk is completely open and held the CPU back when I had a Gateway computer.  Now I have the boxes my computer components came in stored there.


After the clean up/

Since I also have an ink jet, I have a printer stand next to the main desk. There are cubby holes under it for various grades of paper and an old phone book.  (I have to admit that at this very moment, I can’t get either printer to print. Router problem?) The original purpose of the two-tiered catch-all was a place to keep scrap paper for printing, but I don’t generate much of that anymore. It has become the place to stash  papers I don’t know what to do with. My bookshelf holds reference books I might use in writing.

The small calendar on top of the bookshelf is from 2011, but it is so lovely I can’t bare to part with it. Also on the shelf is Blue Lloyd, a replacement Steiff bear a friend sent me a year or two ago and some other small figures. I don’t remember where the pigs came from, but I’ve always been partial to pigs. My best friend in high school gave me the pink rock. I also have a collection of post-it notes which I’d love to add to even though I don’t often use them. I plan to buy Scrivener and forget printing manuscripts and marking them up, especially in light of the fact that I CAN’T PRINT. I guess I’ll have to break down and call technical support one of these days, but really, who has the time?


Trinkets on shelf.

I painted my room a yellowy gold but the writing corner is raspberry. I like how the paint job sets the writing area off as a separate part of the room.  Some may object to the desk being situated so that I look at a wall instead of out a window. Other than the glare from the window behind me, I don’t mind this at all, especially since I have another desk that looks out said window. Unfortunately, its surface is so covered with junk I moved off this desk or piled on it from other tidying tasks, that it is unusable. Also in this room I have two small bookcases and two matching cupboards with drawers and shelves in which I store  scrap paper I no longer use, books that are too large for the shelves I have as well as books I plan to donate, and assorted other stuff, like letters decades and my spring clothes.

Really, this is a lovely writing space, or would be if it didn’t also become the room to store all the stuff no one knows where to put.

How does your writing space impact your ability to get work done?


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OMG, There’s a Person in my Writing Space!

What is the plight of the writer who may or may not have another job, whose partner retires/quits a job/is laid off/works at home/takes extended vacations?

I like working part time as it gives me both time alone and a minimally structured day. I write best when there isn’t anyone else in the house. I’m able to concentrate when I don’t expect interruptions. Another advantage of being home by myself is that I can do chores and other daily activities when I feel like it. If I want to get dressed ten minutes before I leave for work, who is to know? I can read while eating lunch and finish my morning coffee while responding to email. Not only is it easier to write without interruptions, but I accomplish more when left to my own schedule.


Puppies, too, can be a distraction.

It isn’t that I’m forced to adhere to someone else’s schedule, but harmony seems to dictate that I conform. If you’re eating lunch at the same table, it seems polite to converse, to answer questions, or respond to comments made. This does not, of course, pertain on Sunday mornings when reading The New York Times is my ritual.

Barnes and Nobles Book Blog recently posted Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers, which included this: 8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second to least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

Once, my husband and I attended the Mountain West Volleyball Tournament in San Diego. A couple, Lobo fans, sat in the bleachers and read during every game when the Lobos weren’t playing and during breaks when they were. We happened to be staying at the same hotel and spied the two of them with piles of books during meals, neither appearing to speak to the other. Although doing all the reading seemed admirable, I did begin to wonder what sort of relationship they had and why they bothered to travel all that way.

Probably people who share an office or are stay at home moms have similar problems. Is having someone around most/all of the time a distraction from your writing? What strategies have you developed to structure your time and writing when someone else is sharing your home or workspace?

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World War I, Writing Advice, and a Storybook Ending.

Luck. A lot of luck is timing and that seems to be true with the story behind this novel, Somewhere in France. I haven’t read it, nor had I heard of it, until I found a link on Twitter. Although I’m not a big historical fiction buff, I am fascinated by World War I and may look for this after I finish the five or six books I’m currently reading.

From the interview above, Jennifer Robson mentions she wrote this novel, queried agents,  and  was told no one was interested in WWI. She apparently stopped trying to find an agent. When Downton Abbey became a hit, a friend suggested she try querying again. This year is  also the centenary of the beginning of WWI. I had wondered at the proliferation of movies and books set in that time period but hadn’t made the connection with 1914. (The Well-Digger’s Daughter, A Young Doctor’s Notebook, The Given Day, others. It seems like I’m encountering these works every other day, although maybe it’s just me since the Dennis Lehane book is years old.)

Somewhere in France is definitely a case where the author wrote what she loved, and a good example of how timing played into interest in her book.


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March 9, 2014

Celia near Pompelli’s at 18.

We’d been friends since 7th or 8th grade. She sat across the aisle from me in homeroom and we’d converse in sign language, the going communication method in those days. When we couldn’t sign fast enough, or the teacher wasn’t around, she’d talk in an almost monotone, swinging her foot, staring straight ahead, almost unaware of her words. She was the first of my circle of friends to have a steady boyfriend.  That boyfriend put a year or two rift in our friendship, since she wasn’t as available t o talk, but when she dumped him at the end of junior year, we called each other nightly.

For years we wrote letters, but she died prior to the dominance of the Internet and email. I often wonder what would have happened if she’d lived into the days of quick and easy email. Even during the last year of our snail mail correspondence the frequency dropped. Would we—I—have been able to pace an email exchange so that neither of us was exhausted or bored?

Celia in the Hickories at 28.

Although my brother had died prior to Celia, his death had been more or less expected whereas hers was unexpected, sudden, and mostly unexplained. The March day I found out was similar to this March day in Colorado. It was warm enough to have the front door open, and the park across the street was full of kids playing.  My husband had gone fishing. I’d hung up from talking to a friend who wanted me to go to the movies with her—I said no—when the phone rang again and Celia’s husband told me she had died. I said, “Okay,” and sat on the stairs and cried.

Later he sent me the letters I’d written to her over the years. She had unfolded them and kept them in a file. I had all hers but I’ve never attempted the task of matching mine to hers because she was notorious for leaving off the date.  One of my earliest blog posts (Sept 28, 2013) used a quote from her letter, which is still hanging on my bulletin board.

She’s hard to forget and someone I will always miss.

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And Then There are the Ones You’ve Lost–Times When We Were Happy

Possibly a danger of publishing on the Internet is that things get lost, disappear. Sometimes that is just fine, for instance when something you’re slightly embarrassed by gets published or is published on a site you decide isn’t up to your standards. The advantage of print publications is that normally the editors send you a copy, which you can keep. Some of those old journals might be read someday but there is no easy link to you, the author. But what do you do when you can’t find a published story?  I have at least two of those out there in the nether world. One of them was published in The Smoking Poet, which I believe is still publishing, but I can’t find it in the archives. The other, Times When We Were Happy, was in Perigee, Issue 17. This Internet journal ceased publication with Issue 28. With a fair amount of digging, I found it in the deep web. Although I linked it to the title, I also copied and pasted it below,  just in case it gets lost again.

Issue 17 : August, September, October 2007

Truth was, he’d been the one to dump her. Still, she followed him around whenever their paths crossed, which wasn’t often because she couldn’t drive. Sometimes they were at the same parties. He couldn’t stand others touching her, their lips in the same vicinity. Even when she was with one of his traitor friends, her eyes drilled into him, watching, waiting, waiting.

He lost track of her, then she reappeared at her tenth reunion. He didn’t pay attention to such things, was glad high school was over, not that the rest of life had turned out much better, much more exciting. That distant summer she looked better than he remembered, and she’d looked plenty okay to him before. He wanted to run his hands through her dark, wavy hair. But he didn’t. He’d kissed her, quickly, so he wouldn’t get carried away and make her think something was there that wasn’t, even though it was there, and he was mostly denying it because it was easier.

But then she’d written him a letter. With a poem. A published poem all his own, but the funny thing was, he didn’t clearly remember the place she wrote about because at the time he’d been tripping. She must not have known that he was always stoned or tripping when he was with her. He liked her, maybe too much, and it was easier in an altered state, it was.

She’d sent another letter that he hadn’t bothered to read. He threw it in his junk drawer, boxed it up with other items, and moved it from hovel to apartment, house to house. It was probably more of the same, how she loved him, always had, always would. It felt good and bad at the same time, nice that someone cared, at the same time it burdened him, because he didn’t love her back, not really. Not the way she wanted him to. If things were right, which they’d never been, he’d love to take her to bed, but so what? He’d love to take the waitress down at the diner to bed, too.

Decades after that letter, she reappeared, first as a slim envelope in his PO Box. She was coming for her thirtieth reunion. The only person they knew in common denied having spoken to her although he waved his own letter in Wyatt’s face. “She says she has hairs on her chin.”

“Did you write back?”

“The wife would have a fit. Even if she does look like an ape. No way.”

He didn’t want to see a hairy old girlfriend, even though he didn’t quite believe her. She’d been prone to exaggeration, and he’d caught his last girlfriend, a size 2 bleached blonde, tweezing a long hair out of her own chin; he hadn’t dumped her immediately. Besides, as middle-aged and bald as he was, what chance did he have to sleep with anyone new?

So he printed on a piece of paper, “I’ll be waiting,” didn’t sign it, sent it off, and hoped she’d realize he’d appear.

Which he did. From across the street he saw the rental car pull into the B&B’s circular drive. He recognized her hair, shorter, but thick, not gray. She got out of the car and opened the trunk and lifted out a suitcase and she looked good. She pushed her hair out of her face. From the opposite sidewalk he couldn’t see much, just that her body was willowy, not as thin as she’d been, but then almost no one was, except the size 2 bitch. He didn’t want her to see him if she scrutinized the street, which she was. He should have left the top up on the car since it was kind of hard to pretend to be looking for a map. She lugged the suitcase into the house.

After awhile she came out wearing a black sweater and pants that made her look even better. Then she was at the side of his car, and said, “Wyatt?” and he said, “Yeah?”

He was almost completely bald and his clothes didn’t look as nice as hers, didn’t look nice at all, just washed out jeans with worn knees and a t-shirt. As if he couldn’t afford something better, which he couldn’t.

“I didn’t expect to see you right off,” she said. She didn’t sound like the shadow that used to waft after him. Here she was old enough to be a grandparent because he was himself one, three times over, not that he spent much time with the kids. They hardly seemed connected to him, three little blonde girls who pouted if he didn’t buy them ice cream. He never went in the ice cream store if he could help it because he didn’t much like to eat, which came in handy when you didn’t have a lot of cash, the way he hardly ever did, the way he’d hardly changed since he was sixteen.

“Said I’d be waiting.” He patted the passenger’s seat. He kept his car nice; that’s where his money went, to waxes and polishes and new upholstery. The Datsun was almost fifty years old and tinkering with it ate up his spare time.

She walked in front of him, but he wasn’t sure if it was so he could see the curve of her ass, that her stomach was still flat, that even with short hair she looked younger than he. He wasn’t sure if she was teasing him, enticing him, or if that was the easiest way to get to the vacant seat. She pulled open the door, but didn’t get in, and glanced away from the sun glinting off the edges of his sunglasses. “Are we going somewhere or should we just talk?”

That was the problem with women, they talked. They asked questions he didn’t like answering. He didn’t like thinking, he liked doing. He wanted to touch her—run his fingers over her lips—but she might think his hands were dirty. He’d had to check the oil and they probably reeked like a greasy rag that had been stuck in the corner of the garage for a decade. Which it had.

He grunted. Shrugged. Said nothing. She climbed in, pulled the door shut. Sat looking straight ahead. Then said, “So what are we going to do?”

In her tone he heard all the words from her letters, even the one he hadn’t read, and what he wanted to do was kiss her, so instead he stared out the windshield. “What do you want to do?”

He thought she wanted him to look at her, so he turned the key and screeched away from the curb. They were too old for these games, too old to keep pretending and getting nowhere.

The engine rumbled, and the wind lashed their ears, and she had to raise her voice for him to hear. “So we’re driving?”

He didn’t answer until after they’d sailed across the bridge and were on the highway. “Looks like it,” he said. He supposed he should be watching the road, not her, watching the speedometer, but it was okay with him if it clicked higher and higher. She was eyeing it with a stricken look as if she didn’t get that the faster they went, the more he wanted her. That’s what it meant. Speed and danger usurping desire.

“Wyatt.” She put her hand, her fingers individually warm and frosty, against his wrist. “Wyatt, what are you doing?”

“Didn’t you want me all those years?” he yelled into the wind, and she nodded, at least he thought she did. “And I wanted you. So what are we going to do about it?” He watched her again instead of the road.

 “What can we do?”

And he knew she meant she was married and she wasn’t the type to deny her vows, which he kind of liked, or would have if she’d been his, but which also infuriated him. He knew she wanted him, maybe more than life itself, and she was denying them both.

“What we can do,” he said and at the same time regretted it, because he hadn’t even kissed her yet, “is this,” and he drove off the road, and they were flying over the embankment, over the bushes and weeds, into the river, going over a hundred because that was the way he proved he wanted her. He only hoped she knew.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:C.A. Cole lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. She has recently had work accepted by QWF and Cantaraville. She recently finished a novel and will soon start on another.

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