Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Joys of Cyber Space

Oh, what a week it's been! Two weeks, really. I started having computer problems while we were on vacation, and they worsened by day, so that last week I had to take my computer to the shop.

Oh, the withdrawal pains! You never know your dependencies until you can't indulge them: All the blogposts I planned to write. All the blogs I wanted to visit and read. All the "bookmarks" I needed to consult for my chapter book rewrite. Interviews I'd planned for new posts. Book reviews. Facebook updates, both reading and writing. E-mail. (I could only use my husband's computer, and he uses that all day long for his business; so it was lunch, early a.m. or after dinner. Always rushed.) Worst of all, I wasn't able to write on my new draft, except for taking notes to keep in mind for later.

So it's with great joy that I sit here once again visiting blogs, Facebook, my chapter book, my research sites, my e-mail -- returning to the world I had become immersed in.

But I learned some things while I was so bereft.

1. It really is possible to write longhand, applying pen or pencil to lined paper in a notebook. And sometimes the writing seems to flow more from the heart.

2. I'd almost forgotten the calm quality of life away from the computer. I experience that normally when gardening or painting. But just having to slow down and do things the old fashioned way was a reminder that thoughts flow more smoothly without the buzzing distractions of cyber life. Walking my dog around down, in no particular hurry, I felt drenched in the beauty of autumn in Sacramento.

3. And I read more -- real books, the kind I prefer: the kind you hold in your hand, with pages you can turn and even underline and then reread with a simple flip of the page.

I suppose the whole week was a return to the art of "savoring". I have a busy life, and I love everything that keeps me so busy, but it was nice just to slow down to savor each experience for itself. Even though I'm so happy to have my computer back with all its offerings, I hope to keep some of that "savoring" mindset from now on. And write in longhand a little more in the future.

How about you? Do you get so caught up in a busy, whirling life so that you don't have time to savor things? Do you write best by wordprocessing or by longhand?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Soon We'll Be Homeward Bound

The days go by and the days go by. I had expected to blog more, but my computer has been acting up (including today), especially when I tried to keep up with my e-mail. Who know? Maybe it's a Hotmail problem. But right now we are sitting in a wifi cafe with a good signal and for the moment, my computer is once again user friendly.

We were blest with wonderful weather most of the month, except for a very few days soon after arrival. Slowly we've watch autumn creep closer with cooler mornings and evenings, but the afternoons have been warm and sunny -- enough so that we could eat outside on the patio and listen to the birds and see nothing but greenery everywhere. Only in the past week have a few trees started turning yellow, and certain decorative vines in gardens and in public places have turned a bright scarlet, while above white clouds float in a deep blue sky.

The wine harvest is finally over, and now the quince is in full fruit and chestnuts are ripening. Chestnut trees are everywhere, the nuts encased in golden spiky pods in clusters of three, looking like so many twinkling yellow stars. In olden days, they were more plentiful than potatoes and people ate them (and still do) baked, or mashed with butter. The ripened quince look to me like big, lumpy pears, and they are cooked into a candied sweet that is a little like a hardened halva or a Turkish delight.

This has been partially a working holiday, with both of us at our computers in wifi cafes, sipping cafe con leche or wine, depending on the time of day. The rest of the time has been spent socializing one way or another: Cooking Indian food for friends, accepting dinner invitations, going out for raciones or tapas, or sitting on the local bench with our neighbors, attempting to converse in our growing, though still-limited, Spanish. At least 4 or 5 times a week we walk down the to the carretera, or highway -- a walk of about half a mile each way, except the way back is mostly uphill!

Most mornings in our village the day begins with a blanket of fog in the valley, banks of clouds that obscure the opposite hills. Then the fog rises and disperses into a veil of mist, and the villages that sprinkle the far slopes slowly come into view with their red tile roofs. The morning sun lights the nearest trees and bushes, giving them a soft golden halo. And finally the day arrives in full with its warmth. I could watch the ever-changing scene outside the window forever and never get bored. I store it up inside, along with the musical rise and fall of voices in Spanish or Gallego that flow around us when we go into Monforte or the outlying villages and small towns. It's a magical place to both of us.

And so it goes. One day fades into another, and before we know it, the month is gone and it's time to go home. Each time I carry away new memories of the landscape with its changing cycles and the warm goodheartedness of the people. Returning deepens the experience each time. Part of my heart will always be anchored here as well as in Sacramento: two beautiful places in different ways, for different reasons.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Award Time

Recently I got to a wifi cafe and found that my friend, Rachna Chhabria, had given me the Sweet Friends Award (Happy 101) on her blog. As for any such award, the practice is to thank and link back to the person who gave you the award, pass the award on to others, then share a few things about yourself.

So, first of all, a big thank you to Rachna, who has one of the most interesting blogs to read. She blogs about writing from many angles, whether the craft of writing or the publishing industry. I always find her blogs quite informative and would like to pass along her blog site, Rachna's Scriptorium, at .

Second, my nominees for passing on the award are:
Rachel Dillon at:
Rachel is the illustrator as well as the author of the wonderful book, Through Endangered Eyes. She came out to my art class one week and led the students in a fabulous lesson.

Naomi Williams at:
Naomi was a valued friend as well as full of helpful insights in two writers' groups we both belonged to. Now she writes Pushcart Prize stories. Yes. Wow!

Lia Keyes at:
Lia started the wonderful site: Scribblerati, (notice the badge in the margin), a great site for writers at every stage of the craft and publishing stage. Go there right now and join! You won't regret it! She also has helped me with many aspects of the blog world, novice that I am!

Two other writing friends I would like to nominate, alas do not have blogs, although they are on Facebook. They are:
Nancy Herman and Skeeter Britton. Both have been in writing groups with me, and we continue to meet and critique published, award-winning books as well as providing feedback from time to time on new WIPs. Nancy and Skeeter, please start blogging!

Okay, the third part of the award is to share a few things about myself. I'll focus on what I like to read.

1. I am a mystery addict. Some of my favorite mystery authors are: Cara Black, Rhys Bowen, Robert Goddard, Peter Robinson, Wilkie Collins, Philip Pullman and, of course, Arthur Connan Doyle. The latter three because:

2. I am hooked on the Victorian Era, with its fog and cobblestones and hansom cabs and urchins and charwomen and the aura of foreboding that permeates every novel of the times. Particularly if Sherlock Holmes is involved.

3. I'm also captivated by Arthurian legends, especially when Merlin gets into the picture.

4. I love anything to do with the French Impressionists and the France that they lived in. (Hmmm. I must be a nineteenth-century kind of person. When I'm not an ancient Britain sort of person.)

5. Actually, "I Love Paris" (as the song goes), at any time, which is another reason I like Cara Black mysteries. You get a free tour and history of Paris while chasing down dark alleys, escaping people of ill intent. And a bit of art history to boot -- and I do love art!

Of course, I like to read lots of other things, but currently it seems to be mysteries from any era. Recently I've written a chapter book mystery for kids, but I find it interesting that I have never attempted a grown up mystery.
Can that be in my future? Only time will reveal that mystery.
What about you? Do you find a common thread in what you read and write? Or are they on different planes?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

And Then the Rains Came

After a lovely week of blue skies and white floating clouds, of mist in the valleys and lush green hills -- the rains came. Oh, there was that one evening where a sprinkle of rain cut short a gathering at the village bench and made us all go home early. But that was nothing.

Yesterday's storm first started with warm winds and no rain. We had friends to the house and were enjoying lunch and catching up with news, when there was a strange whistling sound outside the window. A piercing whistling with intermittent high, childish moanings. The kind I've read about in gothic novels. The kind that happens in old, creaky houses with nooks and crannies. And, as I was thinking this, I realized that our house IS an old creaky house, although of stone, not wood; and it has enless nooks and crannies.

In the evening the bench crowd was again dispersed by rain, and this time the winds were cold, and they howled through the night. I have to confess, it was wonderful! For one thing, we were warm and cozy inside, reading mysteries and occasionally peering out the window into the dark night, sipping homemade wine and comparing books.

But I was also mindful of the old Irish tales of banshees and the like. Perhaps a howling wind is behind these tales of fairies and elves and troubled spirits. Galicia has a celtic history, and a strong emotional connection to Ireland, and Galicia is also full of similar tales.

Today the whistling winds continued off and on until the sun came out. In the morning light, the fields and hills were beautiful even in the rain: close-up so many shades of green; in the distance veiled by a misty curtain that muted the brilliance. And then the sun brushing the tips of trees and bushes with a golden glow.