New Year’s Eve time travel

Husband: “So, what are we doing for New Year’s Eve?”

Me: “Well, I hear the living room is nice this time of year.”

To be fair, I’m trying to remember the last time I was up at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and… well… hmm… OK, I got nuthin’. But sometimes we do travel this time of year or do, you know, *something* that involves leaving the house, even if we are home and asleep by 10 PM. This year? Well, I hear the living room is nice this time of year.

So what’s a bored blogger to do? Dig through the archives of years past, of course. Let’s climb in the Wayback Machine and set our course for 2005. I don’t have any pictures from New Year’s Eve, but the day before that, we were in Leavenworth (Washington, not the prison. Haven’t I mentioned at least a few times on here that I am incredibly boring?) Anyway, here we are in Leavenworth, a village in Central Washington known for being Christmasy:

The husband takes aim at either the child or me. Probably the child.
Looks like the child is seeking revenge.
Look at all those germ-producing humans, and not a mask in sight.
Heartwarming scene of commercialized Christmas.

You know how I was trying a few paragraphs ago to remember the last time I was up at midnight on New Year’s Eve? Well, this might have been it. 2006, Y&T in Santa Clara, and Kristy and I were in the front row.

Nothing says rock ‘n roll like balloons.

2007, and we were back to acting like old farts by ringing in the new year with: Monopoly. Any of you who know me IRL can tell which token is mine.

Let’s twiddle the dials on the Wayback Machine and skip ahead to: 2010. New Year’s Eve was memorable that year, because we were in the coldest place in the lower 48. Northern Montana? Nope. Hole in the Road, North Dakota? Bzzzt. We were in…

Wait for it…




The coldest temperature on New Year’s Eve 2010 in the lower 48 states was -30F, recorded at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon–and we were there.

This is the face a Californian makes when confronted with temperatures more appropriate to the Arctic Circle. Imagine a thought bubble above my head containing just 3 letters. W T F.
My son is somewhere under all those wrappings.

Scenes like these made it almost worth braving the cold… Almost.

Snowy afternoon at the Canyon
Snowy Grand Canyon near sunset

Apparently the cold wasn’t enough to scare me off, because three years later, we moved to Northern Arizona. Our first New Years Eve in our Flagstaff home looked like this:

And… that’s it. If a year isn’t featured here, it was even less interesting than the years that are featured here. Because I am boring.

I hope that wherever you are, you are safe, healthy, warm, and comfortable on this last day of 2020. May 2021 treat us all better.

Happy New Year!

Most popular posts of 2020

I’m still trying to find my niche on this blog, so I thought it would be fun to look at my top 91 most-liked posts of 2020 to see if any themes emerge. Here they are:

#SoCS: Clearing the clutter and creating a fresh start17
#NaNoInspo: Write Badly12
#FOTD: Nymphaea ‘Perry’s Almost Black’12
#IWSG: Genre-morphing–and a question for my readers11
#FOTD: Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata)11
#SoCS: A skeezy wrestler, a skeezy pickup line… and me11
#SoCS: chirurgie11
#SoCS: What am I attracting?10
#SoCS: The pros and cons of time travel10

I’m the first to admit that those numbers are not particularly impressive, but this blog is a work in progress, and I’m also the first to admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to grow an audience. I have limited time outside of my day job, and ever hour I spend on my blog is an hour I’m not spending on my fiction. But I’ve met some wonderful people in blog-land and had fun creating content for an audience, however small. It’ll be fun (or not) to see what my list looks like for 2021.

  1. Why not top 10? Because there were several with 9 likes, so I would have ended up with a top 12 or something. Life is messy like that.

#FOTD: Frozen mums

closeup of dried up mums in snow
Frozen mums in my Flagstaff garden, January 20, 2017.

For Cee’s Flower of the Day photo challenge.

When I lived in Flagstaff, I left plants and flowers standing after frost kill, because they provided wildlife habitat and protection for the crown of the plant (and because I was lazy). I’m not a winter person, but I learned to look closely to appreciate the textures of flower heads and stalks in the snow.

Looking Back on 2020, Episode 1: The Phantom Plans

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we all made plans for the bright, shiny new decade. New year, new you! Set some goals! Live your best life!

Uh, huh.

Man plans, and God laughs.

In the immortal words of Aerosmith: Dream On.

Or, in psychological terms, a lot of us spent most of 2020 orbiting the bottom sections of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In my case, I spent most of the year orbiting my laptop, held in place by the tractor beam of Zoom meetings.

Could I strain a little harder for those metaphors? I bet I could.

But I won’t.

I promise.

Seriously, despite what the too-positive-to-exist types had to say about taking advantage of quarantine to learn how to spin your own wool or invent cold fusion or learn Esperanto, most of us spent 2020 putting one foot in front of the other, trying to get by, maintain ties with people we couldn’t see in person, and avoid catching a deadly virus. And folks, if you managed to do those things, congratulations: you won 2020. Hell, if you’re still on this side of the dirt with even a little of your sanity intact: congratulations, you won 2020.

The funny thing about 2020 is that even when I accomplished stuff, it didn’t feel like it. Each day blurred into the next one, until it seemed like all I did all year was sit in front of my computer on Zoom meetings. If I’d written an annual Christmas letter–which I didn’t and haven’t for several years–it would have contained a full-page picture of the Zoom logo. That’s it. Just a giant Zoom logo.

Or this:

But then I started thinking about the year in a little more detail, forcing myself to remember what I actually did, and it turns out that I did not, in fact, spend the entire year as a Zoom Zombie. I accomplished some things, including a few of the things I set out to do back in those innocent, halcyon days of yore (January and February).

Back in January, I wrote a post on goal-setting and included my writing goals for the year. With great fear and trepidation, I decided to revisit that post earlier this week. No, I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do. But I did make progress–and I made that progress during a global pandemic while also applying and interviewing for a new job, getting that job, starting that job, relocating to a new city for that job, trying to learn that job, trying to get to know my new co-workers (on Zoom), and learning my way around a new city. Oh yeah, and selling a house, buying a house, packing, moving, unpacking, and organizing a new home. That’s not nuthin’.

I encourage you to make a list of what you accomplished this year. It may not be as long a list as you hoped, but I bet it isn’t as short as you think. We need to celebrate our successes rather than lament what we didn’t do, especially in these hard times.

And in case anyone cares (c’mon… pretend you do), here’s how I did on my 2020 writing goals:

Goal 1: Finish the first draft of Delta Dawn by February 1. Finish the first round of revisions (fixing plot holes, reordering scenes, cutting out unnecessary scenes, filling in transitions between scenes) by June 1. Finish the second round of revisions (scene edits) by August 1. Finish line edits by November 1. Send to at least 2 beta readers by December 31. Status: I was delusional. I’m almost halfway through the first round of edits, which I’ll finish by the end of February if I’m lucky.

Goal 2: Submit 4 short stories to contests or for publication: revise Collateral Damage and submit it to the Arizona Authors Association annual literary contest; submit Proof Text for publication; write 2 new stories and submit those. Status: I did a little better here. I submitted Collateral Damage to the Arizona Authors Association annual literary contest, and it won first place! I submitted Proof Text to a flash fiction site, and it was rejected. Bummer. I wrote a new story called Open House, and it’s on submission now.

Goal 3: Polish Vanishing, Inc.: Continue submitting chapters to my critique group and revising based on their feedback (throughout the year as the group meets); send the entire manuscript to at least 3 beta readers by May 1 and revise based on their feedback by November 1. Status: I have continued to submit chapters to my critique group, and they will have seen the whole story by the end of January. Instead of beta readers, I decided to pony up some cash for a professional editor. The manuscript is in the editor’s hands now, and I should have her feedback by late January. I also submitted Vanishing to Pitch Wars, and while it wasn’t chosen, two mentor teams asked me for my full manuscript, and one team sent me some positive feedback.

Goal 4: Write a flash or short creative nonfiction piece about my mother’s dementia and submit to a contest or for publication by December 31. Status: I wrote a piece about my mother’s last Christmas and submitted it to Chicken Soup for the Soul’s annual Christmas book, but it wasn’t chosen. I’ll try to find another home for it. (There’s an early draft here on the blog if you want to read it).

So, how about you? What are you most proud of doing in 2020? Big or small, doesn’t matter. Let’s celebrate that we made it through. We’re still here! We survived! And new possibilities await.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood #1: desert Christmas

This is a thing here in Tucson–Santa hats for cacti.

One of my goals for the new year is to post more consistently on here. Another one of my goals is to notice the beautiful and/or quirky in my everyday surroundings. Last April, I wrote a post, N is for Now, about how our worlds had shrunk to the size of our houses and neighborhoods and about looking at our surroundings through a macro lens, noticing the beauty in the often-overlooked details of our everyday lives. I’ve been thinking about that idea a lot as I’ve moved to a new city, and many of us, at least here in the USA, are back on lockdown (or should be–stay home, ya plague rats!).

So, I’m starting a new series on the blog: A beautiful day in the neighborhood. I hope to post a picture a week of something interesting or cool in my home or neighborhood. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to join me in this venture. It might be a fun topic for a blog hop–I’d love to see y’all’s neighborhoods!

#SoCS: What am I attracting?

My husband’s big rolling magnet

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; this week’s prompt is, “magnet.

I pondered over this week’s prompt for a bit, thinking about magnets, like the big rolling one in our carport that my husband uses to pick up nails in the gravel around our new-to-us house. The house isn’t actually new. It was built in 1946, and my husband has made a hobby out of rolling the magnet around, gathering nails and screws and other objects that might puncture our tires. He keeps all of them in an old wastebasket in the carport next to the magnet. They are an oddly fascinating time capsule–74 years of building hardware, excavated from our driveway.

Here’s his collection:

But I didn’t start this post with the intention of writing about historic hardware (isn’t stream of consciousness great?) I started this post with the intention of writing about what we attract. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all law-of-attraction on you, though if that’s your thing, that’s fine. I don’t think there’s some cosmic force in the universe that gives us whatever we decide we want (I don’t believe in Santa Claus). I do believe, though, that when we decide to strive for something, the tools to achieve that something are a lot more likely to come our way. Why? Because we have primed ourselves to a) work for it, and b) notice opportunities. I also believe that we usually attract what we put out in the world, because attitudes and emotions are contagious, because we are social primates who mimic and respond to the actions of our fellows. None of this is magic, but it sure can feel like it.

Want to attract something wonderful in your life? The first steps, in my experience, are awareness, closely followed by intention. What do I actually want? What are my most important goals? And what am I actually doing? What’s my attitude? How am I behaving? How am I treating others? That’s the awareness part. And then: What am I going to do to make success more likely? What steps am I going to take? What attitude am I going to have (because attitude is a choice)? That’s the intention part.

If you want to attract old screws, buy a big magnet and roll it around your driveway (and buy an old house). If you want to attract success or happiness, be just as intentional. Be your own magnet.

Happy holidays, y’all! May they be restful and joyous even in these tough times.

#IWSG: Gimme that sweet, sweet deadline

Happy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. This month’s optional question is: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

I’ve been mulling over this question for a few days, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m more productive with my writing when a) I’m not dealing with a major life event (like moving… sigh… we’ve been here a month, and the house is still full of boxes) and b) I have a deadline. Time of year, by itself, doesn’t seem to make much difference.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m at least somewhat self-motivated. I plant myself in front of the computer and write just about every morning, no matter what’s going on. I think I missed four or five days when we moved, mostly because my computer was packed up. I could have made myself write then, too, but I gave myself a break, because moving is exhausting. I am, however, much more productive when I have a deadline.

My two most productive writing periods ever were:

  • Summer 2019. I entered my first novel in a contest, and one of the rules was that you had to be able to send the complete manuscript upon request. I, however, had not finished revising said manuscript, so I worked like a fiend all summer to make sure I had something ready to submit if they asked for it. Spoiler alert: they didn’t ask.
  • November 2019. Y’all know what happens in November, right? NaNoWriMo! I decided at the last minute (early October) to draft a second novel for NaNo, so I outlined like crazy in October and wrote like crazy in November (then collapsed in December).

Having a deadline forces me to treat my writing more like a job and practice better writing habits. When I have a deadline, I:

  • Schedule time in the day to write, usually 1-2 hours per day, and rearrange the rest of my life around that commitment. I might take a little time off work or get up earlier or make myself write during my lunch break. Whatever it takes.
  • Avoid distractions that eat away at writing time. Sit down. Open Scrivener. Write. Do not pass go, do not open my email, do not search for pretty pictures related to the novel’s setting and post them on Pinterest. Just freakin’ write.
  • Keep my butt in my chair. Yes, I’ve been writing for an hour, and my brain is ready for some distraction. Sorry, brain. We aren’t going to research cool new citrus trees for the yard. We are going to write.
  • Set up the next day’s writing before quitting for the day. Plan the next scene. Read the next scene I’ll be revising. Decide on a goal for the next day. Take a few notes about what I want to write next. Then when I plant my butt in the chair the next morning, I can get right into being productive.

See? I know what I need to do to level up my productivity. I do it every time I’m on deadline. But as soon as there’s no deadline, I start slacking, and pretty soon I’m only writing 30 minutes a day and making all kinds of excuses for not getting the damn story done.

How about y’all? Do deadlines help you? Do self-imposed deadlines work as well for you as externally-imposed ones? How do you stay motivated when you don’t have a deadline?