It has taken many weeks and some celestial intervention (a fortune cookie told me organization would set me free), but my own workspace is now ready to ride in the Workspace Wednesday Parade.

My husband and I bought our house 10 years ago.  It’s a sweet little house, over 100 years old, with lots of quirks and character, including crazy tall ceilings and windows (which I love).  To call it a fixer-upper is probably an understatement.  It’s been more of a perpetual-fixer for us.  But Fat Cat rocks woodworking and home repairs, and so the house has really come a long way.  You have no idea.

This is my favorite room in the house:

The window looks out into the backyard.  I can unhook the window screen and shoot spit wads at the cats…not that I do…very often.  Fat Cat built all of the bookshelves, which are awesome and, as you can see, packed.  I think eventually we’ll have to move to a bigger house for all the books.  Maybe one with a big yard, so they have a lot of space to roam around.

Wedged between two bookshelves behind my chair is this old card catalog Fat Cat and I bought years ago at a local thrift store.  It came from a local library and is at least 50 years old.  There used to be a couple of old cards in them with the library’s name and dates, but I’m not sure what happened to them.  I’m thinking the Toddler had something to do with it.  She loves to play with this thing.  I always find surprises in those little drawers.  I just checked and three of them have old Japanese postcards that the Toddler found and jammed in there. 🙂  Being an old library card catalog though, it only seems appropriate that it serve as a book bench.

This is the view from the doorway:

Fat Cat has a bunch of old black-and-white framed photos along the right side of the door, mostly of our local area.  There’s one of a wagon train crossing Death Valley.  The hippy tunic with the wild design came from my friend’s mom who passed away recently.  She was such a neat lady, and I can’t think of any reason why it should be put away.

On the side of the bookcase on the left is where I hang all of my cords.  Here’s a closer look:

Another good friend of mine gave me this in a Christmas stocking.  Yep…he gave me the finger, but I’m not mad.  Look!  All my cords, wires, and headphones.  Now who rocks home improvement?  I installed this bad boy all by myself.

This is where the dinosaurs hang out.  They’re sitting on an old dresser that I use to store office supplies and the like.  The calendar white boards are from Target.  The Christmas lights I put up for the dinosaur party, and I liked them so much I left them.  They’re kind of nice at night.

The upside-down guitar is there because I’m never going to learn how to play it if I keep putting it back in its cover and storing it in the closet.  Fat Cat originally installed the wood display support for an antique wood sled that took up most of that wall, but it holds a guitar even better.

The pictures of the dogs playing poker on top of the shelves are Fat Cat’s.  I just wanted to be clear about that.

Here’s the view standing by the hippy muumuu:

I may have to put this one in the photo album because I don’t know if I’ll ever see it this clean again.  I am elbow-deep in cut-and-paste story notes as I type this.  And I just have to note, if you have wall space for white boards, get them.  I love, love, love my whiteboards.  It’s like having a desktop space on your wall. 🙂

The desk is my favorite piece of the whole office.  It was restored by Frank, this old guy who used to have an antique office furniture place just down the street.  When I bought it, I didn’t have a truck, and it seemed like such a hassle to go borrow one when I literally lived a stone’s throw away.  So my sister-in-law, who’s all kinds of awesome, helped me push this thing up the street on a couple of furniture dollies and wrestle it into the house and into the office.  Not an easy feat, but she is freakishly strong for such a small person.  I can’t remember now where Fat Cat was during all of this, but he was appropriately impressed by our efforts.

Now, the next shot is only for context for the last shot.  This is behind my desk.

I mean, that was behind my desk.  This is what it looks like now.  And believe me, this was not an easy task…so oohs and ahs are encouraged.

Not only is it safer and cleaner, but I now have easy access to my whiteboards.  Yay!  Makes it so much easier to outline my plan to take over the world.

Anyway, this is my spot.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.

And as always, anyone who would like to have their workspace featured, drop me a line in the comments.  I’m trying to do this every Wednesday, and I’m looking for workspaces of all creative types, not just writers.  So…clean up your room and take some pics!


You can't tell from this picture, but Dada Dinosaur is wagging his tail nubby over word count progress.

…from terminal boredom.  Puh-lease!  I beg of you.  They just keep moping over my shoulder, bugging me about the party.  They’re dying for a party, guys…hell, they deserve one.  They’ve been practicing tricks, double-checking their inventory and supplies, and revising their guest list depending on the fair weather of squabbling, office-ridden friends.

You can’t blame them for feeling restless.  The last time I updated Ye Olde Pile ‘O Words, we were at 28,151.  That was in mid-March.  Tonight it took the better part of an hour to track down and add up my words since then, but it was worth it.  Including fiction, blog posts, and work papers, I have a grand total of 48,798.  Whew!

On top of that, the awesome Derek of apparentbook has contributed an additional 1,527 words, and Ré of Sparks In Shadow has thrown down a hefty 3,709 words.

What this means, ladies and jellybeans, is that we are sitting at 82,185 words.  We’ve got five days left to reach 100,000 words.  That’s 17,815 words.  A measly 17,815 words stand between us and a ridiculous, over-the-top, definitely silly dinosaur party.

So tally them up and send them in, Fellow Writer Peeps!  Help save the dinosaurs from boredom…they beg you.  Let’s give them an excuse to party like it’s W.B.C. 1999 (waaaay before Christ)!


My good friend Marian comes over on occasional Friday nights, after the Toddler is tucked away, and we try new and cheap wines she selects based entirely on how pretty they are, and we eat crappy-for-us food.  Always, always good times.

Tonight’s selection, a Chardonnay, produced this quote of the week:  “Two gigs of space?  Please!  I scratch my ass with your two gigs of space!”

(I won’t say who actually said that, but it wudn’t me.)


Not to perpetuate the romantic notion of writerly angst and the joy of squeezing blood from one’s forehead, but for this writer at least, there seems to be two types of stories:  the ones that write themselves, raining down from the heavens onto my keyboard at 60-plus words per minute, and the kind you have to excavate from stone using only your front teeth and fingernails.

Sunday I wrote both.  I kicked pebbles through 200-some words of my Japanese space ninja noir during the wee hours before my writer’s meeting — I’m one of those people — before finally admitting to myself at 6:00 a.m. there was no way in Hogwarts I was going to finish it before our noon meeting.

So I set it aside and wrote a 2,700-word story from scratch, the scratch being this note on my whiteboard:  Right in front of my house there’s a spot that if you stand there, you can see a parallel dimension – discovered it when I was 11 – Peeping Tom – skyline/silhouette of neighborhood shifts into Aztec jumbles.

Writing this story was just the break I needed from the old noir ball and chain.  I felt recharged and accomplished and…well, superheroic.  So I renewed my efforts on the first story later that evening.  Easy-peasy…like force-feeding medicine to a cat.  After shoving, dragging, and bullying the story forward another 200-some words, I hung up my cape and called it a day.

So what’s the deal?  Why are some stories so easy and some so damn hard?  Are these stories inherently different kinds of stories, or am I simply in different kinds of mindsets when I’m writing them?  Or is “easy” simply a wonderful side effect of writing under pressure?

Most importantly, what’s the difference in the final result?  If I bleed over a story longer than another, does that mean that particular story is better?

So I’ve got a lot more questions than I’ve got answers, but this is what I do know:

When it’s easy, usually I haven’t really developed the idea yet, the plot line is more straightforward, and I am writing to find out what the story is.  Mostly these stories are written under tight time constraints, which forces me to make decisions more quickly.

But I also know that the longer I work on something, the richer the back story becomes, the more complicated the plot twists and turns, the more developed the characters become — and not in a bicep-tual way — and the harder it is to write.

Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter to the reader how painful the process was…just whether the story was good or not.

So how did my five-hour quickie fare under the scrutinizing eyes of the Third Ninjas Omniscient?  Seems it did all right.  Ninja S called it classic sci-fi, and NinJeff, a long-time pal who has been reading my stuff for years now, said it was his favorite of all my stories he’s read.  Wow.  And whew!

What about the other story, you ask?  That remains to be seen.

So I’d love to hear what you guys think.  Is a story better if it was birthed in pain or sneezed out?  Let me know.  In the meantime, I think I feel a contraction coming on.  I better get to work. 🙂


This may seem like a bit of a cheat, but it actually isn’t since this really is one of my primary creative workspaces.  I’m still in the midst of a draft, and the office is still in the midst of excavation, so this week I’m showing you my car.

So here’s the deal.  My kid takes forever to fall asleep.  Once she’s asleep, she’s golden.  But before that, she’s a grouch who cares only about hearing “Old McDonald” and his great big farm (“…with a dinosaur here, and a dinosaur there….”) and scooting around in circles on the floor.

Our solution has long been to go for nap drives.  (Let’s not talk about gas prices, shall we?)  We both get to discover new and exciting places (read:  petting zoos and hiking trails), I get to think and listen to my music, and she gets to direct epic dramas in her car seat with her stuffed animals until she drifts off.  (“Oh, no!  Save me, Cow!  Save me, Duck!  I’ll save you!  Zzzzz….”)

Anyway, these days “thinking time” is valuable time, and so I often use driving time to scheme and plot and…well, write.  But don’t worry.  I have a safe approach.

Post-Its of current scenes I’m working on go on the dashboard.  I jot down what needs to be worked out in each scene and slap ’em up there.  Once they’re up there, I don’t really look at them too much.  Mostly they’re there to keep me on mental track as I have a terrible tendency to daydream far, far afield.  Honestly, I think just the act of writing down what I need to focus on for each scene is the real trick to keeping me on track.

Who would have thought the cockpit of a Lamborghini would look so conventional? 😉

Besides my bulletin-board dashboard, I also utilize the passenger seat which contains all the equipment I need:  my hand-held tape-recorder.  I am aware that there are dozens of voice recorder apps available for my phone, but I still use the old microcassette set-up because I can feel the “record” button and still keep my eyes on the road.  And besides…in California, it is a ticketable offense to be caught texting or talking on your cell phone while driving.

Of course, I always keep a notebook and a pen with me, but that’s only for ideas that occur to me when we’re in “park.”

Snippets of dialogue, scene structure, anything and everything related to whatever scene I’m working on — or even scenes in other projects — go on that recorder.  I don’t usually have to go back and listen.  Seems the act of pressing “record” and saying things out loud helps me remember whatever it is I need to remember when I finally get in front of the computer.

Next drive out, however, I’m going to focus on developing my dictation skills, see how that goes.  I remember watching an attorney in a waiting room rattle off a legal argument into his recorder with absolutely no sense of self-consciousness.  Honestly, I was amazed.  I was impressed by his ability to write without having to see the words follow the input immediately, and I was doubly impressed with his ability to get quality work done in such a public place.  He was not wasting any downtime.  Definitely the markings of a professional.

It’s ridiculous how much I enjoy this ritual of ours.  There’s something wonderful about being in the car — a fast-flying room flooded with sunlight and amazing views — thinking about stories.  I hope the Toddler remembers these times fondly too.  You’d be amazed at how quickly this kid can pack her stuffed animals up at the hint of a “bye-bye.” 🙂


I realize I’m getting a bit far afield here from the topic at hand — which is writing our asses off — but I just had to show you guys what I found crawling across my living room floor this morning.  I’m guessing he hitched a ride with one of the dogs.  The Toddler was impressed and even brave enough to give him a little petting.

Anyway…ew!  I scooped him up and put him out on the edge of the porch, under the shade of some roses, but I guess he didn’t like it there too much because he promptly pulled in his tenticulars, dried up, and died. 🙁

I’m filing this one under “Inauspicious and Meaningless Signs.”  Probably means I’m going to overeat today, and I’m probably gonna lose my temper at some point.  It’s good to be able to read the signs so ya know what’s coming.  😉


This whole transferring the blog over to my own domain has been an exercise of complete and utter blundering…and yet, things look relatively normal around here.  This is the perception I like to cultivate. 🙂

I have to say I am pleasantly surprised at how smoothly this transfer has gone.  It’s pretty easy to figure out this stuff if you’re willing to do a little reading and tense up your gray muscle every once in a while.  (Mine’s all balled up into a tight, rubbery knot in the center of my skull.)

But truly, the software is pretty easy.  I still don’t understand half of what I’m doing, but there ya go.  At least I got the dang word count dinosaur image reinstalled…no small feat.  And I’m trying to hold myself back from installing every cool plug-in I meet.  There’s so much fun stuff out there!

I’m going to try to blog in a little more organized and coherent manner in the upcoming days over this whole blog-to-domain transfer using extremely lay language (of which I am a native speaker) for those folks who might be entertaining a future move into self-hosted waters themselves.

But the list of website fixes is a mile long, and so I’m working my way slowly down the list in between the most important work:  writing.  I’m under deadline for my writer’s group, and if I don’t get this story in on time, I don’t get to wear my two-toed ninja shoes and I’ll have to share my ice cream.  Not this time, baby!  😉


My family hung out at my house today.  Lots of fun.  We made turkey sandwiches and hot-popped tomato bruschetta with garlic sourdough bread.  Yum!

And check out what my brother brought us — hee! — signed by all the talented folks behind the magic — including my bro!  I’m almost tempted to sign up for the trial account…but I’m afraid I’ll never make it back!

World of WarCraft schwag - WoWza!


The Toddler and I visited my cousin and her Significant Other at their flat for lunch.  My Cousin just so happens to be the best damn cook of my generation in the family, and she never disappoints.  Soy sauce pork with tofu, parboiled asparagus with mayonnaise (surprise yum!), and stir-fried tofu and chives.  Oh, and little tiny Cokes.  (Smaller can, less calories…so I am told.)  And to top it off, she packed a lunchbox for us with all the leftovers, complete with bags of fruit snacks and a banana.  Thanks, Mom-Chi. 🙂  (And yes, bad Ang for forgetting to take pictures.  Sorry.  Next time, guys.)

The Toddler spent the entire time running laps around their apartment, chasing after their younger dog.  They must have done 40 laps, no kidding.  They were both pink and out of breath.  Their older poodle looked on with what could only be described as disdain.

So happy together...

We left around 4:30 p.m., way too late for Certain People to be taking their nap.  I was hopeful that the Toddler would stay awake until we got home, but the gentle rocking of stop-and-go Friday traffic to the sound of Coldplay was too much, and she passed out into a coma.

So I did what I always do.  I kept on driving.

I love to drive.  It’s my meditation.  It’s my peace and quiet.  It’s my thinking time — I do a lot of plotting in the car.  The Toddler is a great little traveler, and we both enjoy our “nap drives”…plus all the cool places we’re always finding.  (We know every petting zoo in the county, it seems.)

But driving for the sake of driving also gives me chance a chance to discover new things.  It seems when I take new routes, it opens up new pathways in my brain.

So today, instead of heading for the hills and the mountains like I always do, I turned south and explored Yucaipa Valley.  Never been there in my life.  It was like falling down the rabbit hole into Ireland.  It was raining softly, and there was a partial rainbow peeking out of the clouds.  The road is just a two-lane country road meandering through green, soft-folded hills studded with occasional farms.  I took it all the way down to the end and caught San Timoteo Canyon back up to familiar ground.

I love driving with my mouth hanging open in surprise and awe.  I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful area.

I had an EPIC idea later on.  I attribute this directly to making a right turn instead of a left turn at a most auspicious moment.  🙂

The other great thing about nap drives is I get to take lots of pictures.  We don’t get too much weather here in Southern California, so when we do, I get all excited over all the castles in the sky.  Hee.

Yucaipa, California ~ April 8, 2011

Mentone, California ~ April 8, 2011

Greenspot Road ~ Mentone, California ~ April 8, 2011

Coming in for a landing in Highland, California ~ April 8, 2011


Not my image...found this on - Click image to see original context

Okay.  So I did not take this picture.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to take a picture — it happened so fast.  But this is about what it looked like.

I was driving into Yucaipa on a four-lane road, and something like this ran across the road — no, jaunted across the road.  And he had a lot less hair than this one.  But despite his ugliness — and yes, naturally, I’ve decided it was a boy — it was probably the happiest darn coyote I’ve ever seen.  His body was much more naked, and most of his hair seemed concentrated on the top of his head and the tip of his tail.  And he seemed taken with spring fever, leaping about like a puppy once he reached the grassy hills on the other side.

Crazy.  I wish I had gotten a picture.  He really was something to see.