Gallifrey House or Pot House

17 Aug

I’ve been house hunting twice this week: first Sunday afternoon, and then today. I’ve gotten excited about two quirky houses; if someone beats me to #1, then I’ll bid on #2…but I’m really hoping for #1, which I saw today.

#2 is a blue house built in 1947. I think I sent you a picture showing the living room and dining room and, in the distance, the black and white checkered kitchen floor. It has four rooms that can be used as bedrooms, although one of them is connected to the living room through a pair of French doors. I found myself thinking that would be the library until you move to Oregon; then it can be a combination the library and my bedroom. Like most of the main floor, it has a hardwood floor, but it’s painted black. There are two carpeted upstairs bedrooms and a second bathroom; I figured I’d rent those rooms to college students for a while.

And then there’s the attached building out back. Maybe it was originally a garage or barn or stable. The sellers used it for growing their legal cannabis. I’m guessing they started the business while only medical marijuana was legal. The main floor has four rooms that were all used for growing pot; the wooden walls are mostly lined with white plastic, and there are pipes attached to faucets for watering the plants. In the central hallway is a staircase that doesn’t have a railing; it was dusty, and I figured the rooms upstairs would also have plain wooden walls.

Until today’s house tour, I was fantasizing about the blue house. I could see myself living there… and I knew I would be compelled to put the pot barn to use somehow. Some of it could be storage, but it has enough rooms that I’d want to redecorate and turn it into a living space, which would take a lot of work—even such things as insulation.

#1 is a green house built in 1951. It uses Time Lord technology. It’s bigger on the inside.

If you’re standing on the sidewalk and looking straight at the front of the house, it looks small. When you step through the front door, you enter a living room with a staircase on the right. Wandering around the house, you might think of M. C. Escher, and you could get lost wandering into various rooms (wonderful hardwood floors and a variety of colors painted on walls). There are two staircases, one in front and one in back; the online description says there’s an apartment in back, and I did remember that and notice a lock on a door leading to the section in back. I eventually realized there are also two kitchens, because the apartment includes a kitchenette. The back staircase has an odd cupboard under it and leads to one bedroom; the front staircase leads to three bedrooms, including one I immediately identified as mine, because the wainscoting is painted maroon. Here and there are alcoves and nooks and closets and cupboards. I stood in a space that reminded me of a phone booth.

In the fenced backyard, there’s plenty of space for a garden and chickens. There are also a couple of storage/porch/whatever outside parts of the house that struck me as potential catios (cat patios). There’s a laundry room that you enter through the back yard. There’s a strange wooden structure, currently full of tree stumps and branches, that looks like it’s meant to be a stage for amateur theatrics.

The original part of the house is likely one of those little post-WWII houses, but over the years it had various add-ons.

Staying in a Haunted House

14 Dec

I flew off to Chicago a few days ago in order to keep my sickly mother company at a rehab center. I am the only person staying at the house where my immediate family moved in 1976. It has a great many memories.

This house is haunted. It’s faint, but I feel my dad’s presence here. I remember my mother saying that his ghost touched her shoulder, and since coming here on this trip I’ve been hoping I’d have that powerful a ghostly encounter.

Once I heard a cat meow, though it has been over a year since the last cat lived here. A couple times I heard the slight clinking of a dog’s tags. For a few seconds, I thought a dog was greeting me at the door; it was a shadow and a dog-like energy. Cats and dogs lived in this house for decades, but not anymore.

Serendipitous Background Music

9 Dec

In a coffee shop today, I was revising a chapter of my gothic novel The Hauntings of Claverton Castle, because my novel critique group had recently given me feedback.

I was working on a scene involving Mr. Prendregast, a grumpy man in his late fifties who puts down his daughter all too frequently. Meanwhile in the coffee shop, the Beatles song about “such a mean old man” started playing.

Comparable Titles

22 Jun

The gothic novel I keep picking at—I mean revising—has now reached 399 pages.

This same novel is the one for which I have just begun contacting agents and publishers, even though I’m still sharing it with a novel critique group. The other members have busy lives with day jobs, while I am focused on writing and have multiple novels to revise and/or finish writing; in short, one chapter at a time every two weeks is the right pace for them, so I decided to go ahead and start querying my novel before I’m finished sharing it with the group. I’m still receiving valuable feedback that results in significant revision. I suppose this novel is rather complicated.

In the process of creating the book proposal for this gothic novel, I became arguably too wrapped up with researching comparable titles. Actually, it is a good idea for an author to regularly keep up with the genre or subgenre in which she or he writes; this is part of keeping up with the publishing industry.

In my query letter, I have written a small paragraph listing off three comparable titles and their authors. As I’ve discovered more comparable titles, I’ve changed the list of three.

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels inspired my novel, but I have discovered that quite a few spooky gothic novels have come out in the past five years. (That is an appropriate time frame; if you pick comparable titles published ten or more years ago, they don’t necessarily reflect the current publishing industry.) I did much of the research on Goodreads and, after finding titles there, searched for them on the public library’s database, where I found most of them. I have therefore been engrossed in eerie, spooky novels and allowing the dishes to pile up in the sink.

Some Rewards of Fiction Writing

8 Jun

I know it’s appalling how much I’ve neglected this blog. I’ve been so busy…writing novels and short stories. That’s so much more rewarding than blogging. Bereavement has also been a rather significant distraction.

Rewarding? Do I deserve rewarding? I suppose not. I have an intense aversion to humans, and I want to be a recluse and live with six cats, like Edward Gorey. But I digress. That’s not what I was going to write about here.

I started writing fiction long before blogs existed. I was eleven and started writing adventure stories that tended to be fantasy fiction. I began writing fiction because I found this reality intolerable. My protagonists were like imaginary friends, much like those of the British playwright Alan Aykeburn. They were nothing like the bullies at school. When I was fourteen, I thought everything I previously wrote was terrible and threw it all out. I continued writing fiction primarily for escapist/survival reasons. The downside to this particular writing motivation was that fiction is supposed to be about conflict—about trouble—and I wanted to avoid conflict. I was too kind to my protagonists and created too many nice characters.

Since my undergraduate days, my fiction has often contained—in addition to a great deal more conflict—autobiographical elements that were most emphatically not escapist. Yet in the mid-1990s I decided I wanted to write related short stories set in an alternate reality that would simply be fun and escapist, at least for me. Therefore I created the paranormal world in which my character Margot lives, and I began writing quite a few stories.

Since my father suddenly died of cancer in May of 2014, I have in some ways regressed. At first I thought I would be more dedicated to Buddhism…but instead I immersed myself in gothic novels and resumed writing fiction set in Margot’s paranormal world. I’ve regressed to escapism instead of mindfulness. This is hardly the best coping mechanism, I know, but it has been creatively productive. I completed a gothic novel, and a novel critique group has been giving me great feedback; I’ve been revising in response to that feedback, and now I’m contacting agents and publishers. I’ve resumed working on another gothic novel set in the same world. More story ideas have been bouncing off these novels, and I’ve begun submitting a couple such completed stories.

I hope someday that all this work will be rewarded with publication. In the meantime, I shall keep writing and keep submitting my writing. Certainly, a lot of fiction writing is rewarding in itself.

Another Loss this Year

23 Dec

I’ve been visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew in Phoenix for the past week. I knew shortly before arriving that Angel Kitty was in very poor health; Francis had mentioned her kidneys. She was a very small and mostly white kitty with some grey and orange. She was the runt of the litter and was born with only three and a half legs.

When we were driving to his place from the airport, he said, “I need to check if Angel Kitty is still alive when we get home.” She was, but she was moving very slowly, practically dragging her back legs. Actually, after I took my luggage into Malcolm’s room, I noticed a cat bed in the corner by the closet, and Angel’s head was sticking out of it. I seem to recall that she was as shy as Tony on my previous visits, so I was surprised to discover that I could reach down and pet her, and she remained calm and stayed where she was. She even blinked slowly. I knew she was sick and figured this was a sign of that—if she were well, she would have run away from me and hid under the bed.

I took a couple pictures of her in the cat bed (or cat shack, perhaps, since this has a lid). Later I saw how slowly she moved around. Early on my visit, perhaps the first day, I followed her into Francis’s room, where she met up with Tony—a much larger white and grey cat with a grey triangle on his nose—and the two of them slipped under the futon bed. I took a couple of pictures of them together down there. It was clear that they got along well together.

Throughout my visit, Angel Kitty continued to use the cat bed in the room in which I slept. She also would park herself just outside the entrance to the master suite (bedroom, hallway-like space with closets and a sink, and the bathroom), sometimes waiting there for Francis. Or she would park herself in much the same manner outside other doors or near the kitchen. It was clear she was having trouble moving around. Francis would scoop her up and hold her periodically. He shared his bed with both cats, such as when he was napping.

She was very quiet. I don’t think I ever heard her meow during this visit. She has always come across as a sweet and gentle little cat.

Yesterday evening, while we were all in the car and hadn’t made it to the restaurant (an eclectic Asian place called Pei Wei), Francis’s smartphone rang at an intersection. It was the vet. Angel Kitty was believed to have cancer in her kidneys. The vet said that if she were his cat, it would be time to say goodbye.

Last night, or in the very early morning, I woke up and noticed that she was lying asleep about half a foot away from the cat bed rather than in it. That indicated to me that she was having even more trouble moving around. She hadn’t made it to the cat bed. I petted her and checked to see that she was still breathing, and she was. She moved her head to look and me and slowly blinked, which convinced me that she was conforted by my touch.

When I got up in the morning a few hours later, she had moved a little bit. She lay on the floor just between the foot of the bed and the wall. I made sure she was still breathing, and I stroked her flanks. Between the phone call from the vet and Angel’s behavior, I really didn’t think she had long to live. I hoped she would stay alive until after Xmas, but I was worried because of her inability or lack of energy to climb into the cat bed. After Francis woke, I told him about where she had been sleeping, and he said it was because she wasn’t feeling well.

He scooped her up and carried her to the living room and held her in his arms, wrapped in a towel. After I took a brief nap and woke at about noon, I went out to the living room. He was watching a DVD of Warner Brothers cartoons while holding Angel Kitty to his chest.

He checked for a pulse and said, “I can’t feel her heartbeat.” He shifted her around, and she didn’t seem to be moving on her own. Her eyes were half open. I reached over and attempted to feel for the rising and falling of her breath, as I had previously. The tip of her tail seemed to move under her own power. We both were looking at her and touching her. He thought she was already gone, but I was stubborn. I suggested setting her on the floor to see if she would move.

He gently lay her down with the towel between her and the floor. She didn’t move. He knew it was the end and began crying, and so did I even though I wasn’t that close to her. I checked her flank and could have sworn she was still breathing, but barely. I said as much and added, “I think this is her last few minutes.” He picked her up again and held her.

After Francis took a shower (he said she emptied her bladder on him when she died), he came back to the living room and held her body again, wrapped in the towel. He called Lynn, because, as he put it, “She was just as much Lynn’s cat as mine.” She quickly came over and also held Angel Kitty.

It wasn’t long before we were at the vet, where they held her for the last time and made arrangements to have her cremated. Her ashes will be in a special box with a metal plaque that has her name and an imprint of her paw.

Lynn and I both did some OCD origami, and she taught me how to make origami boxes. As we left the vet, I placed a paper crane on a side table.

Straight from there we went to a colorful and sparkly Thai restaurant, where I paid for everyone’s lunch. I also indulged not only in pumpkin curry but also in Thai iced tea and salad rolls. I also took some décor-related photos, and Lynn and I made some more origami. We managed to talk about things other than Angel Kitty.

On (finally) finding a feminist community

8 Dec

The link below leads to a wonderful essay/blog post by one of my In Other Words colleagues:

On (finally) finding a feminist community.


It reminds me of my experience escaping the Midwest, moving to Portland, and finding my sanctuary.