Monday, March 27, 2017

I See Plots, Plots Everywhere

Recently I rode up in the elevator in my office building with a middle-aged man who paced the small confined space like a restless lion. It was rather disconcerting, but I couldn't help but wonder: a) was he late for a meeting; b) did he need to pee; c) was he a serial killer trying to suppress his natural urges?

These are the ideas that raced through my head as we traveled up to the 17th floor, where I got off. Who knows what he did when he got to his floor, but since there were no signs of police or a building lock down, I think it's safe to assume that his problem was either a or b.

A day or two later, the Fed Ex delivery man asked if I would use my pass to let him onto our main floor from the 17th. Our main floor is locked off to the public due to an unbalanced ex-employee a few years back. And so is the portion we occupy on the 17th floor, where my office is located. I happily obliged. As the Fed Ex man headed down to the 16th floor, I noted he was holding a very long narrow Amazon box. Immediately, I wondered if it contained a rifle, and if was he going to assassinate someone in our office. It did not and he did not.

Such is the mind of a murder mystery author.

I hear a lot of writers, usually newbies, say they don't have any ideas for new stories or books circling in their brain. They have no idea what they're going to write next. To that I say: Then you're not paying attention.

Plot ideas undulate around us every minute, surging and withdrawing like ocean waves or currents of the very air we breathe. Sometimes they are gentle. Sometimes not so much. But they are always there, waiting to be discovered and fleshed out into short stories, novellas, novels, screen plays and poems.  And maybe they aren't the entire idea, but one for a single chapter or scene. Twice I've gotten ideas from billboards. Once from a sandwich. Another time from a tiny article I read in a magazine. Often these ideas come when you least expect them. Some even come while we sleep.

It's all grist for the mill.

Not too long ago a member of a FB group I belong to about RVing posted this photo. Immediately, an idea hit me for a series - yes, an entire series of stories.  And they have nothing to do with that sharp looking RV in the pic.

That's how inspiration works when you're paying attention. Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to work on this new idea, but I did not dismiss it. Instead, I shelved both the photo and idea for later. In time, they will find their way into my writing schedule. Of that I'm sure.

If you are having trouble coming up with plots, scenes, or ideas, I recommend: 1) relax your brain so that it's supple, not clogged or locked tight; 2) don't look too hard, let the ideas come to you; 3) be observant to everything around you, even the small stuff. Then get ready to pluck the ideas out of the air, like ripe fruit from a tree.

A writer without ideas is a vase without flowers. A gun without bullets;  A dog without a bone.

A writer without ideas ... is just a typist.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Dream Made Me Do It

I believe in dreams. And I dream often. More importantly, I remember a lot of my dreams in detail. Sometimes, depending on the dream, that can be a mixed blessing.

Shortly after starting to think about full-time RVing when I retired, but before I'd actually made the decision to go for it, I had a dream that changed everything.

In the dream I was in front of my laptop, fingers flying over the keyboard as I penned another book. The odd thing was, I was not at my desk in my apartment, where I usually write. No. I was in an RV, seated at a small table, my entire tiny living space within view. I still remember this dream as clearly as I remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Maybe even more clearly.

In the dream, I turned away from my laptop and looked out the door of the RV. It was open, only a thin screen door separating me from the outdoors. A soft but steady rain was beating on the roof. Through the screen I had a lovely view of trees. I was in a campground in the middle of the woods. There were no other vehicles or people around. Just me and nature. Peaceful and gentle. I took a deep, contented breath, filling my lungs with the smell of clean damp foliage. After a few seconds of contemplation, I went back to my writing.

What stirred and stuck with me most about that dream was my mental and emotional state. As I wrote, surrounded by natural beauty and the quiet comfort of the rain, I had this incredible sense of peace and happiness. Like I'd been journeying toward this all my life and had finally arrived at my destination.

I'm not an unhappy person by nature. I've had my ups and downs, bouts of depression and frustration, but overall I'm generally comfortable in my skin and my surroundings, even when others have found me odd or obnoxious. But this dream was different. This was a peace that flooded through me like gentle water in a stream. A sense of home and belonging I'd not felt before.



Simple things, but not that simple to achieve. Most people spend their lives in frantic pursuit of both, and here I was with a front row view of what would do it for me.

How could I ignore this sign, this vision?

I knew from that point on that I belonged in an RV out in nature. Not lined up in a parking lot of crowded RV parks with neighbors a few feet away. I'd lived most of my life that way in apartment buildings and knew for sure I didn't want to finish my life that way. Before the end of my life, I would take leave of my hamster wheel and never return to it.

This dream also helped shape my choice of an RV.  I've done a great deal of research on RVs and was sure in the beginning that I wanted a small class C RV. But the minute I checked out camper vans, crawling all around several different brands, I knew that a larger RV was not for me. The camper van was what I was enjoying in my dream. Once I saw the Winnebago Travato 59K online, I knew I'd found my home, and that feeling only intensified after I saw one in person and test drove it.

Now fast forward nearly a year. 

This morning just before waking, I had a series of dreams in which I was still working at my day job as a paralegal, but on Friday nights I would rush home, not to my apartment, but to Novella, my dream camper van. I would unplug her from the electricity in the RV park where we lived, and hit the road for the weekend. Sometimes we'd end up at the beach; sometimes in the woods; sometimes we'd meet up with RVing friends; sometimes we were alone. But every weekend was a joy. And every morning, wherever we found ourselves, I'd be happily writing. Sometimes I'd be writing outside. Sometimes I'd be writing while inside, looking out the screen door at the beauty of my surroundings.

I'm counting down until these dreams become a reality. Hopefully by the end of this year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Love On The Road?

A man I don't know PM'd me on Facebook saying he wanted to make me happy and all my dreams come true. I get messages like this often. So do a lot of women on Facebook. They are usually from middle-aged men, nicely dressed in their photos, or wearing military garb. A boat, fast car, mansion, or macho feats are usually posted on their FB page. Good catches? No. They are almost always phishing profiles: profiles set up to try and hack you once you accept their messages and friendship requests. I delete them all. I don't even ask questions first. Boom! They're history!

Some who follow my posts, and even some who know me well, might say I'm cynical about love.

In some respects that's true. I do not believe in the Happily Ever After Fairy Tale. Especially at my age. But I do believe in love and I do believe that if it's meant to be, even in my senior years, it will happen.

I've been proposed to a few times and even accepted one. It was a man I'd known a long time. We had dated when I was in my twenties and reconnected when I was forty. It seemed like one of those fairy tales when lost loves reunite. What it was, was a nightmare.  I accepted his proposal and, with love's blinding stars in my eyes, moved in with him. He turned out to be emotionally unstable and verbally abusive and, the longer I was with him, I discovered also a major liar and cheat.  He was also bi-polar, but had no intention to get help for it. And sadly, he was brilliant.

The thing is, none of this came out when we dated years before. Oh, I'd noticed that he was impatient at times with people and often hit extreme highs and lows, but nothing like years later. And he'd never turned any of that on me. I think age exacerbated it. Plus, when we dated before, I didn't live with him.  I hung around a much more conservative crowd then, and a lot of them thought I shouldn't move in with him before being married. I'm glad I didn't listen to them. If I had, I would have married him, then been stuck or shortly after divorced. We lived together about 8 months. By the time I left, I was worried that the verbal abuse would eventually lead to physical, as it so often does.

I've dated since then, and some of my boyfriends have been lovely people, and some have remained friends. But I haven't fallen in love. I've loved some of the men I've dated since him, but I've never been in love with them. Maybe my bad experience is still in the way. Maybe not. I do know that I never felt so lonely as when I was with my ex-fiance. I had someone, yet felt empty and in pain almost all the time. In my life now, I never feel lonely, yet I'm alone.

Alone does not equal lonely.

Recently a friend of mine was widowed and shortly after his wife's death met a nice woman and fell in love. The quickness of it took him by surprise. He called me to tell me about it and wanted me to meet her.  His wife had been sick for a long time. They'd had a very happy marriage and he wanted more of the same.  I met his new lady friend this weekend. I think he just might be a two time winner. I'm so happy for both of them.

During our telephone conversation my friend suggested that maybe I'd find my soul mate out on the open road when I'm RV'ing.  I know some women who have, but that's not what I'm looking for when I retire.

Although... I might be happy with a solid and fun companion ... with his own rig. Maybe once in a while we could park next to each other for a few days.  I think that could have real possibilities. And if I need more space, I can simply drive away. Him, too. No muss, no fuss... no strings.

I could live with that, but even then he'd have to be someone mighty special, interesting, and active.

No, I'm not cynical about love. I'm just realistic.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Reincarnating My Belongings

I'm starting to clean out my closets and cupboards as I start to downsize my belongings for retirement. Some closets are patiently waiting their turn. Others are demanding attention now.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who keeps all of the plastic containers that come with various food products. The problem is, they are starting to take over my life. Last week I opened the cupboard where I keep my plastic ware simply to grab a small container for some leftovers. I was immediately engulfed in an avalanche of  the stuff.

Okay, you got my attention. You go to the top of the cupboard clean out list.

So now, spread across my very long kitchen counter, are various sizes and shapes of plastic containers and lids. There's some Tupperware there. And some Glad and Rubbermaid containers. Most though are from my Earth Balance vegan butter and take out places. I'm sorting them by type and matching them with their lids. No lid? Outta here! Those turned away get tossed in the recycle bin. And there are many with missing lids and lids without containers.  It's kind of like socks missing in the washer. Where did they go?

Something tells me the recycling bin is going to be eating a lot of plastic this next week.

After this, I'm tackling my dresser drawers. I have two good size chests. The beauty is, I can take a drawer at a time into the living room and sort in front of the TV. I also know how much room I have in the van, so I know I'll have to cut deeply into the piles of socks, scarves, jammies, and tee shirts. My goal is to cull the dresser items from 10 drawers down to 2-3. I'm shooting for two.

When all is said and done, my clothing should fit into one suitcase with a few hanging items. That's it. And, honestly, isn't that all we really need?

In the next few weeks I'm also going to start selling off a lot of stuff. You'll see it on Amazon Marketplace and possibly Craig's List. Every item sold goes toward an item for the van. My crystal stemware will be reborn as new bed linens. My collectibles be will reincarnated as hoses and electrical adapters. My records (yes, I still have vinyl) might garner enough to purchase new cookware, and if not, one of the other sold items will help. I shouldn't have to spend any new money to outfit the van. My current things will be transformed into new things with new purposes.

I already have stacks of bags and boxes in my dining area filled with clothing and miscellaneous items for Good Will. And those will grow in the next few months before being hauled away.

Even B will have to downsize her toys and duplicate scratch boxes. She gets to bring her water and food bowls, bed, carrier, one scratch box, and a couple of toys. She'll live.

An RV is the perfect plan for your getting stuff organized. There's no room for spillage. To be livable, you can't over stuff it and force the zipper closed as with luggage.

I wish I'd done this years ago!

It really is liberating!

Monday, March 06, 2017

Call Me Retirement Ninja!

Last week I was thinking about when I did the Camp Pendleton Mud Run.   That was June 2009, eight years ago.  For as long as I live, setting that goal and making it happen will remain one of my proudest moments. (You can read about it here.)

But now I'm wondering, where did that woman go? The woman who tackled such a large physical undertaking while ignoring naysayers and critics, and some who openly laughed out loud at her quest. That woman trained by walking three miles almost every day, and six miles on Saturday and Sunday. That woman went to Will Rogers National Park and other trails around Los Angeles to get in needed hill training. And she still managed to crank out books and work a full-time job!

Where the hell did she go?

At the time I did the mud run, I was 55 years old and weighed 40 lbs less than I do now. I had dark hair. My personal life, however, was in the toilet, and I was battling depression. I still worked at the same place and lived in the same apartment. B and Raffi were my loving companions.

My life is more hectic now, but also much more stable in many respects. I still enjoy my job as a paralegal. I still write books, and in fact have written much more since then. Back when I did the mud run, I had only four books under my belt and one published short story. Now I have twenty-two books with several short stories thrown into the mix. Instead of my legs getting a workout, my fingers have been clicking off the miles. And I'm down to just one cat and don't have much of an issue with depression. I had turned in my sneakers for a keyboard. And it's all good.

Can these two sides merge?

Don't get me wrong, I'm still exercising almost every day, just not with the same gusto and determination. Truthfully, more like with no gusto and determination. And my knees are eight years older and not as strong. But who says it has to stay that way? Per my doctor's request, instead of walking miles and miles, I ride an exercise bike to keep my knees lubricated and strong. It works, but I do it grudgingly, not with the same focus I had years ago. My attitude toward exercise is more like a kid forced to eat broccoli or he'll get no TV.

I'd like to fuse Sue Ann, the mud run ninja, with Sue Ann, the writing ninja. Can you imagine what the two of them could accomplish? It boggles the mind. They could become one, super human, almost-to-retirement, ninja!  Because there is a lot I want to accomplish before I hit the road as The Novel RV, both physically and in my writing.

So, starting today, I'm becoming Retirement Ninja! A woman possessed with cleaning out her apartment, buying an RV, re-focuing her writing career, and getting in shape.

It's a tall order, but I'm confident Retirement Ninja can do it!

Right after a nap.