Tag Archives: Writing

The gift at the end of the treasure hunt

Bloganuary: What is the most memorable gift you have received?

My daughter worked so hard on this Christmas gift.

As you can see, it has the following:

  • a map
  • a treasure hunt with clues
  • a large glass crystal
  • a keepsake box with a hand-painted coffee cup

And yes, she sent me all over the house searching for my gift. And it was all in honor of the first season of Coffee and Ghosts (long before there was a second, third, and fourth season).

For my daughter, I’ve always been a writer. She witnessed my first novel being published by Simon and Schuster. She saw the ups and downs, mainly because I shared them with her and explained what I was doing and how publishing worked. My kids know how to check print books to see if the book in question is a first edition. This might be an unusual skill to pass along to your children, but there you go.

So she also witnessed my transition to indie publishing. I explained my reasons for that as well. How no publisher (in their right mind) was going to publish a series based on the slim premise of catching ghosts with coffee*.

When I reached the end of the treasure hunt, she told me why she created this Coffee and Ghosts-themed gift.

Because when everyone said no to you, you said yes to yourself.

And that’s a gift I hope will continue to linger—for both of us.  

*To be fair, “The Ghost in the Coffee Machine” was part of the Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic anthology. It was also produced in audio by The Drabblecast.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Coffee & Ghosts, Kids

Peering into the past

Bloganuary: How far back in your family tree can you go?

On my husband’s side of the family, they can trace their tree back to the Safavids. (Cool, yes?) On my side of the family, not quite so far.

Both my parents did work on pulling together the family tree. Most of these notes are handwritten or on an old laptop. I’m the keeper of all this now. It’s occurred to me that if I don’t keep them, they’ll be lost forever.

So, yes, genealogy is on my list of things I’d like to tackle this year.

A few months back, I fell down an internet rabbit hole. I knew my grandfather (mother’s side) emigrated from Sweden. He died young—when my mom was six—trying to save another firefighter in a furniture factory fire. This story is part of our family lore. In searching for more information on that, I found a news article listing the names of people who gained citizenship due to their service in World War I.

My grandfather’s name was among those listed. And I was all:

Wait. What?

Considering I spent six years on active duty in the Army, you’d think his service would have come up in conversation. After all, I knew the uncle who flew in WWII. Plus, there’s a story about a German ancestor who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Now I wonder if my mom even knew about this. Or if the firefighter part of her father’s persona and our family history (her grandfather was a fire chief) simply eclipsed this part of his life.

I’ll never know the answers to those questions. Still, I hope to uncover more about his time in the service. If I can piece together some fragments, I might have a clearer view into the past.


Filed under bloganuary

Blame it on the rain

Bloganuary: Write a short story or poem about rain

I don’t have a short story or a poem, but I do have this snippet from my work in progress (which may or may not end up in the final draft).

Rain greets us in the morning. We stand in the doorway and inspect the downpour. It’s fierce but not too unusual for early autumn.

“How infected do you think it is?” Agent Darnelle asks.

My impulse is to say not at all. After yesterday’s freak attack? This could be the aftermath. Mixed in with innocuous raindrops could be plenty of residual toxins.

“One way to find out.” Already, I’m tugging on my rain boots, which I keep by the door. They are pink, with polka dots, nearly a match for my umbrella.

“Agent Little, stop. I insist—”

I halt his words with a pointed look at his shoes. They may be hand-tooled and lovely. But if he steps outside in this downpour?

They’ll disintegrate.

I take up my umbrella and bound out the door. I only venture a few feet down the walkway. No matter what mixture is falling from the sky, this is no day for patrolling. The muck in the housing development will be ankle-deep.

I stick out an arm and feel the cold pelt of raindrops against my skin. When I turn to race inside, a gust of wind catches my umbrella and brings a shower of rain beneath it. I am soaked, my T-shirt clinging to my skin, jeans plastered to my thighs. I run for the door.

There, Agent Darnelle stands. In his hands, he holds a huge bath towel. I rush straight into the waiting terry cloth, and he closes it around me.

“You’re drenched,” he says, the towel skimming my arms and fluffing my hair.

It’s warm and chaotic, encased in the towel and his embrace.

“Tea,” he commands before frog-marching me toward the kitchen. There, a steaming pot of tea is waiting for us.

“I know you’ll want to change,” he says, “but we should assess the damage to your arms. Do you mind?”

I shake my head. It’s what I’d do on my own. He seats me and drapes the towel around my shoulders. While I sip the tea, he inspects my right arm. He does this by pulling out what can only be described as a monocle and peers through it.

“It’s infected.” His lips compress in concern. “Actually, if the rain weren’t so heavy, the damage would be worse.”

“It’s a small advantage King’s End has,” I say. “We get good rain.”

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Writing

Making sense of the world

Bloganuary: Why do you write?

I like to make a note of my first thoughts on these prompts. In the case of this one, it was:

I need to.

That seems to sum it up.

Of course, writing also made my list of what brings me joy (see yesterday’s post).

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, it doesn’t feel like I should be doing anything else.” ~ Gloria Steinem

This quote resonates so hard with me. For me, it really does feel like that. And when circumstances conspire to keep me from writing, I’m not fully myself.

Maybe because this other quote about writing also resonates:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” ~ Joan Didion.

I write to make sense of the world. I write stories to explore issues while having fun. (Yes, even in something like Coffee and Ghosts.) If other people pick up on the subtext, great. But if not, that’s fine.

Because the subtext is for me.

The story is for everyone else.  

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Writing

Comfort and Joy

Bloganuary: What brings you joy in life?

The first things that popped into my head were:

  • Talking with my kids
  • Writing
  • Curling up with a good book and some hot peppermint tea at the end of the day

That being said, I wonder if those things simply bring me deep contentment. These aren’t necessarily significant things, after all. They don’t change the world. But maybe that’s okay. When I manage all three of those things on any given day, I consider that to be a stellar day.

So I’m going to take those small things and hold them close.

They are comfort and joy.

They are enough.  

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Kids, Reading, Reading & Writing, Writing

The questions we didn’t think to ask

Bloganuary: What is a treasure that’s been lost?

There are so many things you could say about this prompt (from the very personal to the very controversial), but for me, what hits home is the stories I’ve lost with my mother’s death.

When my sister and I were sorting through some of my mom’s things, we found so many items that astonished us. My mom was the last of her generation in our immediate family. So there’s no one left to ask when questions arise: Who are the people in this photo? Where did these art prints come from? Where did you get this keepsake?

What’s doubly confounding is I want answers to questions I never thought to ask when my mom was alive, like the story behind this advertisement.

This is one of the things my sister and I unearthed while searching for mementos and photos for my mother’s memorial (you can click to enlarge the text).

And seriously? What on earth? How did my parents end up featured in the Seattle Times classified section? Also, the conventions of the era? Their address? Really? Why? In case random strangers wanted to drop by?

Still, this little slice of their life is delightful, even without the context around it. I’ll never have the complete picture, but I can pull some of the puzzle pieces together.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Writing

Of tonsils and candy stripers

Bloganuary: What is the earliest memory you have?

My earliest memory is having my tonsils out when I was three years old. Most of these memories are fragmented. Being in a huge bed is one, although whether that’s true, I can’t really say. I was small for my age, constantly sick from my rogue tonsils. Any bed would have felt enormous.

The other memory, the most vivid one, was glimpsing ethereal, enchanting creatures in red and white. These teenagers. These candy stripers.

They made such an impression that when I turned twelve, I volunteered at our local hospital. At first, I had to wear the blue and white striped uniform (a visual cue for the nursing staff), but within a year, I’d graduated to the coveted red and white striped one.

My shift partner was a girl from the junior high across town. Rhonda was sunshine itself bursting into the rooms, often three patients in a room, chatting and laughing. I was endlessly shy. I busied myself refilling water pitchers, pouring juice, and being asked why I wasn’t as smiley and talkative as Rhonda.

We were a good team. She made everyone happy. I kept us on task and made sure everyone had fresh ice.

Each shift earned us a meal ticket to the hospital cafeteria, which thrilled us to no end. The macaroni and cheese with the breadcrumbs on top? Followed by chocolate pudding?

Chef’s kiss.

Sometimes I think about my rogue tonsils and how they led me down this path. I was never as ethereal or enchanting as the candy stripers of my memory, although I desperately wanted to be. But I like to think something came full circle during those three years of volunteering at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Musings, Writing

Embracing deliberate ease

I started the bloganuary challenge knowing that I probably wouldn’t be able to post responses during the week. It was enough, I decided, to write every day.

And I did! Very deliberately! And I didn’t strive to post. Also deliberately!

There are several reasons for this. When I shut down the computer(s) in the evening, I really shut everything down. I don’t want to switch from my work laptop to my personal one. I also don’t have the brain power for proofing and posting (and trust me, you want me to proof before posting).

Lately, work has been a lot. Work has been so much that on some days, I console myself with: at least I don’t work for Twitter.

Yeah. A lot.

So evenings are for things not related to computer screens. Because if I don’t embrace ease in my life, I won’t be able to do anything else—deliberately or otherwise.

But I do have several posts I can schedule for next week. Plus, I will have some time this weekend to proof those posts. I’ll just be a week or so behind.

Again, deliberately.  

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Writing

Small Acts of Bravery

Bloganuary: How are you brave?

My first reaction to this prompt was: I’m not.

Then I thought of caring for my mom these past few years. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wasn’t sure I could do it. (I’m including my time in the Army and deploying to a combat zone in that calculation. Hands down, 2022 was one of the hardest years of my life.)

And I think that’s maybe what bravery is. Doing—or attempting to do—the thing you think you can’t do. And like small acts of kindness, I believe small acts of bravery are important.

Creating a blog and putting your words and voice into the world for the first (or tenth) time? That’s brave.

Confronting FOMO and deleting all social media apps on your phone so you can focus on what you want to do? That’s brave.

Starting a novel? Picking one back up? Painting a picture when you haven’t held a paintbrush since elementary school? Baking a cake from scratch?

Creating something—anything—and offering it to others with a:

Here, I made this. I hope you like it.

That’s brave.

Because maybe they won’t like it.

But I’m pretty sure someone will. It may take a while to find that someone. The catch is you must be generous first, offering up your talents, your time, your attention—offering that up without the promise of a return.

That’s brave.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Musings, Writing

2023: Deliberate Ease

Bloganuary: What is something you want to achieve this year?

Well, one of the things I’d like to do more of this year is blogging. So, there’s that.

But, I’ve been thinking less about goals and achievements and more about process and intention. So my intention for 2023 is deliberate ease.

Deliberate because there are things I want to do, and I need to take deliberate action in order to do them.

Ease to remind myself I don’t need to do everything, and I certainly don’t need to do it all at once.

The other word I’ve been thinking about is foundation. Literal foundations like my physical environment, inside and outside (one of the reasons I signed up for the Prohort). Foundations for my writing, like writing more and setting up my own store. Foundations for connecting and community.

Between the pandemic and caring for my mom, my world has contracted. I’m afraid that—if I let it— it would continue to shrink.

So for 2023, I hope to ease back into the world.



Filed under bloganuary, Writing