Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Why Putting My House in Order is not Procrastinating

For years, nay decades, I’ve said that I can’t wait to retire because then I write full time. I’ll stop working two jobs (writing and teaching) and go to just one. I’ve planned my future daily schedule in my head so many times, I know it by heart. Get up between 6:30 and 7:00 A.M., check my emails, play my online games (4 each day – takes between 5 and 20 minutes), go brush my teeth, get dressed and write for the next hour. Have breakfast, write more. Take a mid-morning break to do something mindless (dust, laundry, etc.), write more. Lunch. Edit in the afternoons. Or do promo, write a blog post, read the loops...something business related but not actual writing, since I’m not usually at my creative best in the afternoons.

I officially retired as of seventeen days ago. So why, after spending years planning for this, have I spent only four of them actually writing?

Because I’m putting my house in order.

Tony Morrison once said, “I don’t wait to be struck by lightning and don’t need certain slants of light to write.” And I don’t either.

But I do need a clean house.

I started with the upstairs, since that’s where my study is. I’ve dusted shelves, culled through our book collection to make way for new books I’ve gotten from the closing out of three households, vacuumed, straightened and rearranged. I have also created a guest room out of my son’s old room (he now has his own apartment), washed the woodwork in all the upstairs rooms and found the floor in our bedroom. The upstairs bathroom is sparkling and the clutter is gone.

And it feels good.

So good that I’ve started on the attic. It’s been a niggling thought in my head for the past few years. When we started bringing things home from my Mom and Dad’s place in December, I declared a zero-sum policy. If something went into the attic, something had to come out.

That worked for a while. My son had only a few bins stored up there, so when he left, a little more space became available. Then the weather turned hot and the three window air conditioners stored in the attic came down as well. Of course, it was too hot to work up there, but we’ve had a run of lower temperatures yesterday and today, so....

How much junk is up there? Well, there is so much junk up there – that, between yesterday and today, I’ve brought down six boxes, four of which are going to the recycling center on Saturday. What was in them? Receipts, NYSEG bills, telephone bills, bank statements, old paystubs...from the 1980’s.

Yep. Thirty-year-old statements when they only need to be kept for seven.

Going through them, however, has been a kick. Remember long-distance charges? My husband found a paystub from a night watchman job he held for several months...for which he was paid $3.60 an hour. Good money, since minimum wage was $3.35/hr. I also found notes and business plans for theatre companies we started (or tried to start – one was successful, the other two attempts, not so much).

But some not-so-pleasant memories as well. Reminder notices of bills not paid, bank balances alarmingly low, and paystubs from a job I hated. Shredding all those, however, has made my load lighter. In a way, its destroying the evidence and now, if I don’t want to remember that job (selling furniture on commission. I was – am – a lousy salesman. Closing the deal just isn’t in my nature), I don’t have to remember it.

That’s why cleaning house isn’t procrastinating. It’s a mental state. I am literally putting my house in order in order to allow my mind the room it needs for creativity. I will no longer have that annoying thought in the back of my head, “You know, that room needs cleaning...those boxes need to be sorted...that junk needs to be thrown away.” And because that voice will be silent, I can settle into a good story and write my heart out.

Now if I could just ignore the basement...

Play safe!


Sunday, July 06, 2014

On Retirement

July 1st, I became my own woman. I no longer “owe my soul to the company store” and I couldn’t be happier. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my time as a high school English teacher. Not every day and not every class, but that’s true with any job. There are always good days and bad and as long as there are more of the former than the latter, everything’s fine.

The list of positives for leaving that life, however, is long. No more getting up at 5:45, leaving the house at 6:25 A.M. for a forty-minute commute on sunny mornings, a hour and a half on snowy ones. In fact, no more driving through snowstorms to reach the only open district in two counties! I won’t have to step between two teenagers, each bent on knocking the socks of the other. No more papers to grade, egos to soothe (mostly those of the parents), or state hoops to jump through.

There are some pieces of the job, however, that I will miss. The metaphorical talk around the watercooler – the interaction with my colleagues that might, or might not, have anything to do with school. The serendipitous meeting in the hallway, the social conversations...catching up on everyone's outside life as well as venting about the latest State Ed. regulation. Being home now, I won’t have anyone other than family and the occasional bumping into someone in the grocery store. I begin to understand why my mother would end up talking with her former co-workers for an hour when those random meetings occurred. Not only lots to catch up on, but a hunger for conversation with someone other than family.

Believe it or not, I’ll actually miss the ride to and from school. Yes, it was long, but I did a lot of thinking during that time. On my way up, I often planned out lessons, rehearsed questions and tried to think of all the answers students might come up with during discussion so I would be ready with follow-ups. On the way home, my thoughts often shifted to my current work-in-progress and I’d spend the time drafting a scene, playing around with a plot point or even coming up with brand new stories. So I will miss the thinking time the drive gave me.

And I will miss the kids. Don’t tell them that, but I will. They kept me young. I know the latest crazes, the current heartthrobs, the best video games on the market, because of the conversations we had before class started and in those one or two minutes at the end before the bell rang (which didn’t happen often, but I took full advantage when it did). They kept me on my feet (often literally) and my brain active. Who will keep me young now? I’m not ready to grow old and out of touch.

People keep asking me if I miss school yet. I don’t. For one, I’ve only been retired for a week. For another, this is still just summer vacation to me. Of course, it’s a summer vacation without lesson plans to write, books to read for class, or workshops to attend (all the normal activities I do every summer). In that sense, things feel a little weird. I’ll see an article online or in the newspaper and think, “That’ll be a good one to use in my English 11 class when we read The Crucible” and then remember, I’ll never teach The Crucible and all the issues that surround it, again. And it doesn’t feel sad and I don’t rejoice. It just feels...odd.

Other teachers, those who have retired from the stress of the classroom, tell me I won’t really feel the oddity until September. When everyone else goes back to school – and I don’t. My husband’s already warned me not to get in the way of his September routine. He’s an instructor at Finger Lakes Community College. He also directs several high school shows throughout the school year (three of them – two straight shows and a musical). AND he paints – his art is currently in several galleries around western New York. This is the reverse of the stereotypical male now being home and getting in the wife’s way. :)

Of course, for me, the word “retirement”  is a misnomer. I won’t be teaching in the New York State public education system, true. But I’ll be writing full-time and that’s very exciting to me. Figuring out my new schedule – one I’ve been dreaming about for years now – is an entirely new adventure. Where other people see this rite of passage as an ending of a career, I see it more as the beginning of a new one. Or rather, the logical extension of a part-time career into the full-time arena.

The past six months have been full. Closing up three established homes and dealing with the remains, closing up a classroom and saying goodbye to a life that I’ve lead for thirty-three suddenly be unfettered and free? I cannot describe the exhilaration, the joy, the sense of relief.

So look for more writing from me, both non-fic and fiction. I hope to become prolific as my schedule settles out and routine kicks in. I might even write a few more books under my own name (C.F. Duprey) as well as more by Diana Hunter, Mystic Shade and Diana Allandale. I want to redesign my website, develop more writing workshops, and be more active in writing communities. And I’ll have the time!

Play safe, everyone!

The newly-retired, much more relaxed,

Friday, May 30, 2014

BEA and NYC, here I come!

That alphabet soup means I'm signing books at the Book Expo America in New York City. I'll be at the EC booth (Ellora's Cave) at the early hour of 9 AM on Saturday, so if you're in the Big Apple area, stop by and say hello! There are lots of free books being given out...(how's that for a carrot to bring you in?!).

Play safe :)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

email issues...again

If you are trying to email me, it's quite possible your note came back to you with a note stating "that mailbox is unavailable." I don't know what's going on, but I'm not getting any email today at

So if you sent me something and it didn't work, try as a temporary fix.

Sorry for the inconvenience!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Go Spring!

Going on record as saying Spring is my favorite season. Between the fresh new colors that seem to pop out of the ground between one day and the next, the warmth of the sun that's shifted and heading north, the brilliant vibrancy of the shoots of winter wheat pushing through the dirt to start their short lives, so much of nature assaults the senses and reminds us that life renews.

Really, its no wonder that our grandmothers partook in spring cleaning. Dusting out the musty detritus of winter and polishing the woodwork until it gleamed in the new sun, shaking out the rugs and sweeping out the rooms all went hand-in-hand with spring and fresh starts. Every year I say I'll do the same, but because of my daytime employment, can only tackle the job piecemeal. One day this room,
Flowers in my backyard 
a week later, that one. Or the garden today and the garage next weekend. I look forward to retirement, if for no other reason, but that I'll have time to properly spring clean for perhaps the first time in my life.

As for writing...I can feel it coming on. For all of March and most of April, writing was so far down my list of priorities, I barely saw it down there near the bottom of the list.

But now it's May and Spring is here. I can look up from my tasks and pack some of them away with the winter clothes. I wore sandals for the first time yesterday and got out T-shirts today. My house is a mess with the breaking up of two households (at the same time after just having broken up my parents' in December) but the breeze coming in through the window is freshening and I can sit in the sun and warm my heart.

Play safe!

PS. Don't forget Diamond Submission came out this week!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

New Release!

Yes, yes, and YES! Diamond Submission is now for sale at Ellora's Cave!

I got the idea for this longish short story back in August when I realized Sarah and Phillip Townshend's tenth-year anniversary was coming up. They're the stars of Secret Submission, my very first published book. Their story continues in Submission Revealed, although that book takes place only a few weeks after the first. The couple make a cameo appearance in Services Rendered, but I wanted to know how they were doing ten years into a Master/slave relationship. I asked them...and they answered!

Turns out, like many marriages after such a length of time, the two of them were finding that their lives had become...comfortable...predictable...You know...boring. They'd explored all their limits, played nearly every sex game there was and, while still very much in love, sex didn't hold the special sparkle it once did.

The two of them looked to me to solve their problem...and I happily helped them out. Here's the blurb:

Sarah knows her marriage is in trouble. She hasn’t called her husband “Master” in ages and he hasn’t corrected her at all. As their ten-year anniversary approaches, she has to decide if her life would be better off with him – or without him.

Phillip wants to mark their ten-year anniversary with something special and figures he can spice up their marriage at the same time. Sex with his wife has gotten formulaic and stale.

And when he finds his answer, these two will never look at a diamond ring quite the same way again!

And here's an excerpt:

She looked beautiful hanging there. Her straight brown hair still curled at her shoulders, although gray had started to show at her temples. He’d forbidden her to color it, liking the way it looked.
Truth be told, however, there was some vanity in his preference for her hair’s natural colors. With his own going gray much faster than hers, he didn’t want her looking too much younger than he.
She still held the same trim figure she’d had when they met. Eating right and having good genes helped them both. So did their membership to the Y. She was a strong swimmer, his Sarah.
His slave, he corrected as he leaned against the doorframe and watched her. Her eyes were closed, although he doubted she slept. When she shifted position, balancing her weight on one foot, he knew she was awake.
Still, his intent wasn’t to startle her, so he backed up and made some noise coming down the hall. As expected, her eyes were open this time. She didn’t speak, but her gaze seemed troubled.
He reached through the bars and snagged her nipple, keeping his eyes on her to gauge her reactions as he fingered it. She remained silent, only giving a little sigh. When he pinched, hard, the look was annoyance quickly masked.
Double damn. He was out of touch with what she wanted and needed. How had they let this happen?
And, more importantly, could they salvage it?

Diamond Submission is Book #4 in the Journey to Submission series and is on sale now at Ellora's Cave. Happy reading!

And play safe :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

moving on...

It's been two and a half weeks since my mother-in-laws' passing and life is slowly moving towards a new normal. Sometimes it feels as if her funeral was months ago, sometimes as if it were yesterday. Such is the nature of time and healing, I suppose.

I've had this past week off from school and planned to get so much writing done! But we're tasked now with dealing with her house and I have an uncle for whom I've become caregiver and of course, the garden needed cleaning off and we have sixteen people coming for Easter dinner on Sunday and...

You get the picture.

It's been a while since I have taken time to myself to write something new. And the writing workshops? Sorry, they haven't even been on my radar. Looking at the calendar today, however, gave me a bit of a shock. The last time I sat down to write on my current work in progress was February 20th. Nearly two months ago.

That brought me up short. No matter what else is going on in my life, I always have time to write. I have to. It's what keeps me sane. In the past ten years, the longest I've gone before this was two weeks and I was nearly a basket case by the end, wanting to get back to my characters. What was different this time?

This time it was the number of directions in which I was pulled. I wanted to spend time with my mother-in-law, knowing there wasn't much more time to spend with her. Instead of writing, I'd go visit her. I needed to spend time with my elderly uncle, playing financial forensics with his accounts and helping to move him into an assisted living facility (we're almost there!). My son and daughter have both gotten engaged and I wanted to spend time with them and their significant others. I had to spend time at my day job if I wanted to continue to eat and pay the mortgage. Something had to give and that something was writing.

It was a choice, make no mistake about that. I'm not regretting my choice at all. Just offering explanations as to why I made it. Family comes first. Always. Your families should come before all else in your lives, too. My hope for all of you is that they do.

So no regrets.

Today I had an afternoon to myself and thought about writing but realized I'd need to start at the beginning and re-read the book to remind myself of what it was all about, and I just didn't have the energy. The characters, understanding their place in my life, have graciously moved to the wings and are patiently waiting for me to call them back to the stage, but I just couldn't do it. Not yet. I want to give them the full attention they deserve.

So what did I do instead? The next best thing. I lost myself in a book. At the Big Book Getaway, I bought a copy of Debbie Macomber's new book, Rose Harbor in Bloom and waited in line to have her sign it for my mom (Mrs. Macomber is my mother's favorite author, bar none). Mom read it and let me borrow it earlier this week. Debbie's books are easy reads. There isn't a lot of heavy philosophy. No long passages of description. The characters are likable and you feel like they could be your neighbors. In other words, a perfect book for an afternoon's escape.

I will get back to writing. Soon. You can count on it. The itch is already starting between my shoulder blades. Another week or two and I think I'll be ready to be creative again. In the meantime,

Play safe and hug someone you love!