Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Retrospective and the BTK 1000th entry

December 31, 2019


Today marks my 1000th blog entry. It's strangely fitting it should be a year-end retrospective. It does feel to me that this year now ending is closing quite a few doors in my life. But as they say, I see new doors opening and the only decision is which one to step through first.

I'm not sure what to say about 2019. I started the year with some hope of achievements to come. I did achieve, just not what I'd anticipated. Looking back at the 2018 retrospective, it's difficult to acknowledge just how skewed this year now ending really was and how the events impacted my life.

The year started off with my partner recovering from serious neck surgery, my stepfather in an assisted living facility for respite care, and my mother under flu quarantine in a different total care facility. I'm not a caregiver by nature, but there we were.


With everyone in either rehab or a care facility, I had one week of quiet. I managed to re-release A Friendly Neighbor in January before the siege on my time began in earnest.

I began to worry about my writing partner, Chris Grover. We emailed back and forth every day for years - since 2008. We shared a special language, that of the published writer. Her health was slipping and she began to miss days. She was diagnosed with bronchitis around February, which I now know was not the problem. Eventually, in June, she was told she had lung cancer and died two weeks later. I still miss her emails. They were full of writing abbreviations such as HEA. The writer's language is like no other. I'm disturbed her books are still available when I know she left instructions they be taken down but I have no way to accomplish that for her.

I made some headway on Memphis, but not enough.

While my life partner improved after his neck surgery, my stepfather went into a serious decline. Home health care nurses and therapists visited my home three days a week for RC, but my stepfather refused such care. Jack died on May 13, 2019. RC had a third surgery on May 24. We screened in the patio and he spent afternoons relaxing outside in a bug-free space.

After my stepfather's death, it fell to me to handle his affairs. The house is up for sale and when it's sold, everything is done. My mother's final expenses are pre-paid and there will be few legal matters to settle when she passes. Strange how months and months of hard work and personal heartache can be summed up in one short paragraph.

I hit a major personal milestone this year. Retirement calls to me every day now. It's this little voice that whispers, "give it up...stay home...be the lady of the manor the way you've always wanted..."  I gave in. I issued an ultimatum to my employer: I work a four-day week or I don't work. (Yes, I did it nicely.) I now work Tuesday - Friday and I love it! My yard hasn't looked this good in years, and my home office sparkles! This is proving to be the perfect way for me to ease into the "retirement" years. 

Over the summer, I revamped the cover for Kentucky 98 Proof, one of my favorite stories. Yes, the author is allowed to have favorites. I think it works better than previous versions. A Hard Habit to Break, The Right Brew, and Highway Nights all benefitted from my improving Photoshop skills.   Several other covers got a rework, as well. I tried to give one or two the mottled, abstract backgrounds that are so popular today, but swirlies just don't work for me. 

Having an extra day a week led to actual writing time. I finally finished Memphis and it went live in November. One new release in a calendar year is a far cry from the seven to nine books I'm capable of, as I've proved many times over. It was easier with a publisher. I wrote. They published. Now I do it all and that's just the way it is.

What's next? What will 2020 bring? After this year, I fear it's tempting fate to even ask. Looking back and being honest, every year has brought the unexpected. My writing career is, at this moment, not what I had anticipated. But I have this folder of ideas... of half-formed thoughts...of titles and names...of possibilities.  

I opened this golden folder after Memphis went live and lo and behold, there was Chapter One of an idea, something started so long ago I'd all but forgotten it. A quick read, a couple of tweaks, and that story has been launched to my desktop for the addition of serious prose. I'm excited about writing it - more excited than I've been in a year! Or maybe more excited than I've allowed myself to be in that time frame. 

To all my readers, to those of you who follow along here at Between the Keys - THANK YOU! 
I appreciate the continued support. 

May 2020 bring good health to all, enough wealth to reach our dreams, and family and friends to walk beside us along the way.

KC Kendricks


The 2018 Retrospective

The 2017 Retrospective

The 2016 Retrospective

The 2015 Retrospective

The 2014 Retrospective

The 2013 Retrospective

The 2012 Retrospective









Saturday, December 28, 2019

Renewals

December 28, 2019

And so we come to the last few days of The Year of Our Lord Two-thousand Nineteen. I'm grateful for another five-day stretch at home. It's getting more and more difficult to remain in the workforce. I am so very blessed to be able to contemplate retiring well before sixty-five. 

To me, retirement represents a time of renewal. Being forced into the role of caregiver, my writing stalled. I'm not afraid to admit I resent that happened. Don't judge lest it happen to you. Anyway, time and space are realigning and I'm able to write. Writing is a major part of my retirement plan. 

I've also had the opportunity to reconnect with the spousal unit. His health is not robust, but he's pretty self-sufficient at the moment. It was just bad luck that both he and my stepfather needed care at the same time. After my stepfather's death, RC was able to provide a lot of support while I settled affairs. He can sort stacks of invoices, product manuals, old receipts, and old photos with the best of them. And he'll work on that crap for hours at a time, having excellent focus for that sort of work. I feel like we weathered a huge storm and have arrived at the other side intact. Spending quality time with the man, the dog, and the cat is a major part of my retirement plan. 

Losing contact and closeness with old friends seems to be pandemic these days. Everyone bemoans this shared experience. Many simply accept it as part of aging. I don't think I want to do that. Reconnecting with those I hold dear is a major part of my retirement plan. 

So there's a few of my thoughts as this old year comes to a close. It was certainly not my best year ever, but maybe not the absolute worst. I think 1983, when Dad died, holds that distinction. It grieves me a bit he never lived to be able to contemplate "retirement." He was only fifty-four and I know his early death is the main reason I so badly wish to leave the workforce now. People should have a long "retirement" the way my grandfather did. He had thirty years to live as he pleased, enjoying his garden and flower beds, his dogs, and all of nature surrounding him. 

Now it's time to work on the 2019 retrospective. It won't be full of the writing life, that's for sure. But as always, those ancient words from Ecclesiastes 3 ring true. This year now ending was the season, and the time, it was supposed to be for me. I accept. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


KC Kendricks
www.kckendricks.com


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas 2019

December 25, 2019

Of Christmas snow, I would wish
for it to kiss the ground
Pristine and white falling down, 
to the earth forever bound

Silent night gives way to day, 
quiet stirrings under brightest rays
The fire warms, the cat sleeps on, 
wrapped in quiet, steeped in peace

The elder and the crone, as we have now become
Sip coffee and smile, hidden behind our walls
Tasks fulfilled, our legacy fading (as it should)
Indulgent to our past, memories notwithstanding

KC Kendricks

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Writing, cooking, creating - be intentional

December 21, 2019

Over the years I've tried my hand at a lot of crafty things. I don't think I'm alone in that. Lots of people feel the need to express some creativity. I sew, quilt, make candles, make simple jewelry, paint ceramics, and tried to recreate any number of things I've spotted at craft fairs. Pinterest is great for crafty ideas and I love to see what others have thought up. But there's one truth I've concluded: crafts are easy and writing is difficult. 

I love writing, but it's a different beast than spray painting patterns on pickle jars to use as summertime luminaries. One is of the hand and eye, and the other is of the mind and will. Writing is the hardest thing I've ever done. Pulling thoughts from the air and turning them into a cohesive work is as lonely and bitter as it is fulfilling. 

And then there is cooking and baking. Writing feeds the mind's need for creativity. Cooking fuels the mind's need for a body in which to operate, but cooking and baking is also a creative endeavor. The spousal unit discovered bread baking a while ago and has embraced it to the point of being annoying. Then again, the man comes up with some tasty surprises
Orange Rolls

This time of year, as we approach Christmas, I think a lot of people think about cooking. We do, and this year we're approaching it differently. We're not going to simply throw the leftovers in the freezer. We are going to be intentional about preparing main dishes and throwing them in the freezer.  It sounds like a good plan because it frees up more writing time each evening.

One of the continuing battles with myself is getting in the mood to write after I've cooked dinner and cleaned up the mess. I need time to unwind after working all day and then coming home to more work. (Poor, poor, pitiful me, right?)

So multi-tasking is out and being intentional is in. Being intentional is being more focused than depending on spontaneity to win the day. That may sound strange coming from a child of the seventies, but there it is. I'm intentionally baking orange rolls for breakfast and freezing two more portions for future breakfasts. Then I'm making lasagna and freezing three portions for three future dinners. There are chili and a host of other main dishes to follow this weekend.

I re-aligning my world yet again. Maybe this time it will work and the current work-in-progress will be my masterpiece. Or maybe I should just be happy that a wee bit of work today and tomorrow will net me thirty-one extra hours of writing time come January. Sounds good to me. 

KC Kendricks
www.kckendricks.com
www.twitter.com/kckendricks
www.facebook.com/kckendricks


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Finding the unexpected

December 17, 2019


Settling my stepfather's estate and subsequently cleaning out my mother's house has been a bittersweet experience. The parts of it that were trips down memory lane were good. The fact my stepfather was a hoarder, not so special. 

Finding some of my father's personal belongings hidden away in odd places set me back a bit. Why did my mother feel the need to hide them? They were in old boxes, beneath even older boxes, and I almost tossed them out without looking inside. After my mother remarried, she refused to talk about my father, stating she didn't want to "hurt Jack's feelings." 

What? Jack knew she was a widow. He knew she got me somehow and it wasn't through immaculate conception. Nope. Never understood that. 

I brought a lot of plastic bins to my house so I could sort the contents at my leisure. One of those bins contained a bag of old stamps. It was one of those "what the hell" moments when I examined the contents. My mother must have been saving these old stamps all her life. There are Horatio Alger, Jack London, International Peace Garden, Thomas Payne, Rachel Carson, Root of Democracy, Love of Liberty (a 1932 postmark), and many, many more.  I've no idea what to do with them, but I have no plans to discard the stamps. 

So now I have three non-writing projects to organize: old pictures, old coins, and old stamps. I'm not sure I'm actually going to have the time to retire. 


**UPDATE February 23, 2020**

Just a brief update on the stamps. I connected with someone who is a true stamp collector and discussed the bag full of stamps. All of them are postmarked and aside from the story they tell of the times we live in are of no monetary value. The gentleman I spoke with didn't even make an offer on them - a big clue to their true value. If a long-time collector doesn't want them... I think I'll keep the baggie for a while, though. Maybe try and figure out why my mother kept them. Maybe it was just for the connection to her friends who sent the cards and letters. Maybe for me it's just for the connection to the younger version of my mom. 

**UPDATE March 10, 2020**

The old coins turned out to be just loose coins that they apparently hadn't rolled yet. Sorting through them and rolling them kept my hands busy during yesterday's NASCAR race. I'll cash them in to pay the guy who mows the grass at my mother's house. It's almost time for that expensive to begin again. 


KC Kendricks
www.kckendricks.com
www.twitter.com/kckendricks
www.facebook.com/kckendricks
www.pinterest.com/kckendricks/boards

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The real July Heat surfaces

December 15, 2019

A few blog posts ago I mentioned I'd changed the title of the then current WIP from July Heat to Memphis. (Memphis is out now.) It's not that July Heat isn't a good title - it is. I just couldn't reconcile it with the story of Memphis. Now I know why.

The "ideas" folder has yielded yet another tidbit, this time about the real July Heat. It all makes sense now. I do have a July Heat, a rich man/poor man idea seed. 

Isn't the subconscious mind amazing? 

I suppose with the year I've had, I can understand overlooking and/or not remembering a few things. It's a scary thing to me, forgetting anything. My mother has Alzheimer's Disease, and forgetting something - anything - sends me into a heart jarring panic. I remind myself we all forget *stuff* but it's not alway reassuring. 

It's obvious I have a lot of work to do. The current WIP has been titled The Quest. Now with the real July Heat also on the board, I need to get busy. I've got two books to write and two covers to create. I invite you to hang around and see how well I fare with four things on the board. 

On another note, Yahoo Groups are, for all intents and purposes, gone. If you haven't done so already, why not sign up to follow Between the Keys via email? On a desktop computer, look to the left for the box. On a phone... beats me how to do it. I can't find the box on my phone. Maybe you'll have better luck. The point being, here at the blog is where news of upcoming and new releases have always been posted first. It will continue to be my practice. 

And now I'd better get to work. Books don't write themselves.


KC Kendricks
www.kckendricks.com 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

How'd I miss the Robert Plant podcasts?

December 11, 2019


So much for paying attention. Seriously. How in the world did I miss the many, many, many Robert Plant podcasts on YouTube? HOW??? I've been a Plant fan since our very first local FM radio station went live with him screaming, "We come from the land of the ice and snow..." From there it didn't take long for me to snatch up the first three Led Zeppelin albums (much to my parent's horror). When his first solo album came out, it went straight into the collection. There is a lot of Zep and Plant on my personal playlist on the jump drive in my car. (Kudos to the engineer who thought of a USB port in a car.)

I'll probably get into a boatload of trouble placing the podcast logo here, but there it is. As much as I, ahem, admired Plant's youthful swagger, there is a lot to be said for the lines of age and experience on his face today. They speak to me. I've lived in these same times, you know. Young men may be pretty things, but Robert the Elder is a force. It's those experiences he talks about in the podcasts, telling a well-crafted story.

The podcast I landed on first was about the song, "Like I've Never Been Gone," one of my personal favorites from the Pictures at Eleven album from way, way, way back in 1982. I thought I'd like to listen to some music while I work this morning, and I hit YouTube and typed in the song title. Perhaps it's a bit of irony at work. I'm at the day job and even after some time off, I feel like I've never been gone. 

I listened to that podcast and from there went straight to the one about The Battle of Evermore. Big Log followed as did Achilles Last Stand, and Carry Fire. (No, I didn't watch them in order and does that matter?) It's been interesting to hear about different musicians whose names I'd heard but didn't necessarily know much about their body of work. 

There are still at least six more I want to listen to, but perhaps I should slow down, pace myself. Once I've heard them, there's nothing new until a new one comes out. 

If you're a Plant and/or Zep fan, go give them a listen. Plant's voice will take you back to another time while keeping you firmly in the moment. They are well worth a few minutes of your time, time that will seem to pause even as the fifteen or so minutes of each podcast flies past before you know it.

KC Kendricks
www.kckendricks.com  







Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Surprise snow

December 4, 2019

Being that it's the fourth of December, waking up to find snow on the ground should not be a surprise, but this morning it was. Deuce didn't seem to mind, though. He bounded outside when I opened the door and took off at a run up the hill. He'd spotted a buck, almost invisible against the hillside. 

Last evening, while The Curse of Oak Island was on television, I looked at my weather apps. I didn't see a thing about snow, hence my surprise. I joined the dog for our morning stroll and the wonderment of every snowfall seeped into my awareness. 

It also struck me it was a coincidence of epic proportions the current work-in-progress starts out with our ex-lovers getting snowed-in together - another epic coincidence, but hey. I'm writing fiction. Let's just run with it for now. 

I've always wanted to name my little slice of the planet. My mother always called her home Tranquility Hill. Not exactly fitting for my small estate. As Deuce and I meandered in and out the lane, at a snail's pace so he could sniff and do all his dog things, it struck me. Five Holly Manor. 

Five Holly Manor. There were no holly trees planted on the property. They sprouted and grew on their own, the seeds likely carried in by birds. Maybe just Holly Manor. I'll have to think about that. 

This was the best kind of snowfall. No lasting accumulations and no driving hazards. Just a nice dusting of white that highlighted the trees and made my dog happy. 

Some days, you can't ask for more. 

KC Kendricks
www.kckendricks.com
www.tritter.com/kckendricks
www.facebook.com/kckendricks
www.pinterest.com/kckendricks



Monday, December 2, 2019

The ideas folder holds hidden gold

December 2, 2019

One of the first bits of advice that came my way when I was first published was to never delete anything I'd composed. It made sense even when a 256MB hard drive was considered the Great Thing to have. Maybe some authors don't have a problem deleting an idea that didn't work out, but I'm not among them. 

I jot down everything and save it in a folder. It's a little messy, but it's there. Having just published Memphis, I opened the folder and went browsing with an eye towards finding my next project. I think I scared myself. I found the beginnings of a story from 2008 that called to me. It took about half an hour to examine everything and update the first chapter. 

Why I stopped working on it is a bit of a mystery. The story immediately spoke to me and gave me a new title. Now having more experience, I see a slightly different course for the story, but the core of it is the same. 

It's too soon to share a lot of the details but not my excitement over beginning a new project. This year now ending has been a difficult one for me. My time and energy were needed elsewhere. Now is the time for me to get back in touch with the voices every writer hears. It's time to tell their stories. 

KC Kendricks
www.kckendricks.com
www.twitter.com/kckendricks
www.facebook.com/kckendricks
kckendricks.blogspot.com
deucesday.blogspot.com