Settling into Matlacha Island Life

The new header is a drone shot of our new island home. We are on the southwestern end of the peninsula that joins the road. Most of the area south of the road is a public park, except for the main drag thru town, which is quite charming. The bridge to the island is a draw bridge used mostly by sailboats.

Now that we are finally settling into island life, I’m thinking about resuming my writing. I’m still passionate about my artwork and have no plans to limit my painting time. Also, I’m still practicing Kundalini yoga and have a 15-minute sadhana with several common kriyas and one or two different meditations I do every morning. Jai Dev Singh is a fantastic teacher and his words resonate with me even more than the exercises.  I attribute my explosion in creativity to the prana, or life force energy, that Kundalini brings forth. When I taper off my practice, for whatever reason, I feel the motivation and energy for all things creative waning. It only takes one class to bring it up again. That’s what I love about Kundalini. It’s fast and powerful as compared to other yogic practices.

Here are the paintings I have created in the month and a half that we have been on Matlacha This totals forty-one paintings in this first year. I will start showing again soon and really need to have a sale to clear some space for more.

11X14 acrylics on canvas board: Psychedelic Wave
16X21 Acrylics on student grade canvas: Shore Fisherman
24X24 Pro-grade canvas (my largest yet) Island Cottage. This one is going over our bed.

I completed a body study, also. I’m not so thrilled with the shading and have considered painting over it, but it was a good lesson in color mixing for flesh tones. FYI: When I am painting, all of my colors start out from red, blue, yellow and white. Sometimes I use a burnt umber brown or black to avoid wasting paint. All of the shades, tones, and hues are derived from color mixing. I don’t buy, for example, a tube of purple or turquoise.

24X18 Acrylics on student grade canvas. Body Study

We sized down to less than half the square footage that we had in our Orlando home. Gave away three-bedroom suites, a living room suite, and a dining room suite. The lanai here is under roof, and not including it, we are down to 1200 sq ft. and paid nearly twice as much for it. Ha! But, yes, we are on the water facing the gorgeous sunsets and life is grand. The house has a great room and our bedroom doubles as Greg’s office, while the guest room (with a Murphey bed) doubles as my studio. When my grandkids came to visit, I heard the four-year-old ask the nine-year-old, “Why is grandmother’s kitchen in the living room?” There is a nice island in the center, but I thought that was hilarious. The perception of kids.

It’s a double lot with 120 feet of seawall and dock and has mature fruit trees. I made my first key lime pie with homegrown (definitely organic) citrus. The angle of the picture makes the crust look really thick, but it wasn’t. It was thin and crispy. Key limes are about the size of a ping-pong ball. I won’t deny that there is likely some knuckle in that zest.

As I mentioned earlier, I have an urge to start writing again. The candy man on the corner, William Tidball, who makes the best Turtles in the world, also sells local author’s books in his shop. I gave him a copy of Naked Alliances. He is reading it now and then we’ll discuss whether he will add it to his shelves. Most of the books that sell well are the ones specifically about Matlacha and Pine Island, but he has had some luck with several Florida writers.

Greg thinks I should live on the island and get to know more people before I start writing stories located here. I disagree. You can drive through and see the Trump 2020 flags, read the local Progressives column in the newspaper, and walk down any street to get the flavor of the place. The only black man I have seen on this island of roughly 700 residents, is the guy who plays the steel drums at Bert’s Bar and Grille every day from noon till 3 pm. Not sure how Brandi will fit in if I continue that series. Snowbirds come in September/October. According to the US Census Bureau, there is a 0.3% black population here. Not nearly the diversity that is seen in Orlando. But I do know that the candy man is gay. So there’s that. I don’t really want any of my characters fashioned after specific people on the island. It’s not anonymous enough.

Skip Elliot Bowman, resident drummer. He plays about two dozen different instruments, has played in NYC and at Carnegie Hall.

For example, some people have made characters fashioned after 62 yo Leoma Lovegrove, a colorful local character in her own right. She has a super sweet, bubbly personality and appears by other names in people’s books here. Leoma’s husband is an author and they host Indie Author Day here yearly. There are many artists, tho not as popular, who live on the island. There are a half dozen galleries in Matlacha alone and Pine Island has more. I could see an art-related story developing, but I would not want my storyline drawn on any specific character. There are also stores here that sell artifacts, both native American and Pioneer.

If you have time to read on, I will share a brief history of the place.

Around 1925, Lee County began dredging shell fill from the oyster beds of Matlacha Pass for use in the construction of a road they were building to connect the mainland to Pine Island. The abundance of the shell fill they dredged created a mass of land heretofore not existing on any maps. A wooden swing bridge was put in place across Matlacha Pass in 1927. (Pine Island was once inhabited by the Calusa Indians and later the Seminoles.)

Shortly thereafter, the Great Depression began and a group of squatters moved onto the excess shell fill. They didn’t have much, but the excellent fishing provided food and made this small parcel of land an attractive option to homelessness. The squatters began in tents and cars, eventually building shacks, shanties, and stilt houses. Over time they developed a full-scale fishing industry on this unclaimed land. At one point there was a showdown with the local government and the squatters emerged victorious. The land was deeded to them by the government through homestead rights. Thus the legendary fishing village of Matlacha was born.

Elvis music and movie, “Follow That Dream”

This entire drama is documented in Richard Powell’s novel, “Pioneer, Go Home!” (1959). The novel then became an Elvis Presley movie called “Follow That Dream” (1962). We watched the comedy-musical a few nights ago. The wooden swing bridge over Matlacha Pass was replaced with the present-day concrete draw-bridge in 1969. Plans to replace the existing bridge with an identical one because of its age are purportedly underway.

Much of Matlacha was constructed during the ’20s and ’30s. One and two-room clapboard houses with tin roofs went up along Pine Island Rd. These informally built, casually constructed structures embody the essence of Florida as it was prior to the building booms following WWII, during the 1960s and thereon. Yes, we live on a spoil island, and it’s one of the few unspoiled places you will find in the state. Stacked on shell that has cemented over time, it’s not likely to wash away like the sandbar islands. I’ll take my chances with the hurricanes for these sunrise and sunset views.

OH, YEAH! I almost forgot. There’s a Kindle Countdown Deal going on and “Naked Alliances” is on sale for 99 cents.

Review: “Richard Noggin and his trusty sidekick expose the bare truth about a ten-year-old murder and get to the bottom of an ugly human trafficking scheme. With tight prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, Naked Alliances doesn’t let up until you’ve seen it all!” ~ Tim Baker, author of Eyewitness Blues.

 

An Untold Story of Early Retirement

I have mentioned retiring early, and many are under the assumption that I was fortunate, and in many ways I am. However, I want to share with you the rest of that story. I retired from nursing a few years ago in 2011. The stress at the time was unbelievable. I am an empathetic and sensitive nurse. I was working in pediatric extended care. The last four of the eight years I was there were terrible. There were nurses, caregivers, behaving like criminals.

Caught in the crossfire, I spent my time at work dodging bullets and watching the kids under my supervision like a hawk. There was an out and out gang war between the Haitians, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Jamaicans who staffed the facility (not a prejudice, but a fact). It was a large facility with over 400 on staff and I was the only white woman on night shift. The women were vicious as they tried to get each other fired and their friends hired. They were cutthroat at each other, and placing young lives in jeopardy.

Seriously, I spent my time outside of work giving depositions to lawyers, writing letters to corporate, filling out police reports, and doing everything I could to protect children from the very people who were supposed to be providing them with a warm, nurturing, loving, compassionate environment. It was horribly sad. I’m not talking about neglectful care, I am talking about deliberate abuse that left children with injuries and put them into hospitals. Some even died. It was THAT bad.

I don’t talk much about my nursing career on my blog. I have shared a few stories, but the taste my final years left in my mouth was so bitter it is not something I can easily look back on. There were a half dozen law suits, and several of the women involved dealt with dire consequences. A few were arrested. I was threatened by one. I went on medical leave and ultimately resigned, which forced the resignation of others.

There was some justice this year when the facility was shut down midst allegations of abuse and neglect and I was more than glad I was no longer a part of it. There was a big write up in the paper. It was splashed all over the six o’clock news. The children were placed into medical foster homes. Now that some of these cases are settled I feel I can freely talk about it. The consolation is that the kids get much better care in the small private medical foster homes than they ever could in a large state funded institution.

Having processed this all through two different administrations, I felt deeply inadequate and powerless when I was in the thick of it and it took a couple of years to mellow out about it. I was angry. I was mad about what was happening to the children and families involved. I was mad about what was happening to my innocent co-workers (the ones not involved dealt with professional and emotional consequences, also). I was disturbed that a thirty year career in health care had boiled down to such a catastrophe. The feeling of failure was enormous.

Yesterday I shared this with another blogger/author friend. You may wonder why I am sharing this with you now. I think it is the reason that you don’t see cute little anecdotes about me and my patients. There were many before all of this went down. Looking back beyond those few final years, I can laugh. I can recall the joys and triumphs of my patients and coworkers, but it has been a long while. There is a new category on my blog called “Nurses Notes”. I am hoping the stories added under this category will be more entertaining than this one.

My apologies that this is such a downer.

Just something I needed to share.

All proceeds from sales of Red Clay and Roses are matched and go to the Russell Home for atypical children.

Sunday Synopsis: Word Counts and Retirement

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I just reread this post and it came across to me as if I am very unhappy, so I want to qualify here before I push the publish button. I am very happy. Most likely the happiest person you know. I have a really good life and know that I am most fortunate to have the support that I do. I am going to post this anyway.

I have a good number of author friends who hold day jobs and have careers. Often, they speak of retirement and writing full-time.

It is a delusion that having more time will lead to more writing.

Before you attack, allow me to explain from my own personal point of view.

writing box 002I was looking for my old Brother word processor, after having found a couple of boxes of floppy disks. The floppy disks hold some writing I did in the 80s that was never printed. I wanted to see if the rocket scientist could, maybe, get the Brother up and running well enough to get a screen, and perhaps print off some of the content. I have at least two packs of ribbon cartridges. Don’t know if they’ll work. They may be too dry. I know there are places that can take your floppy disks and convert the files, but I don’t even know if it is worth the bother/expense. It would be nice if I could remember what all I wrote, but I can’t.

While looking, I ran across an old plastic container and a few shoe boxes filled writing from that era. Now you have to keep in mind that was a time when I wrote during every spare minute I had. Those were far and few between, because at that same time I was going to school 40 miles away in one direction, working a full time job 20 miles away in another direction, (and sometimes a part-time job, too) raising three kids who had school, tae kwon do, softball, soccer, cheerleading, gymnastics, scouts, and so on. Granted, I had some downtime after my youngest son was born in 1985. Two years.

Yet, here’s what I found:

  • 1200 pages (yes pages, not words) of the story of my life. About every memory I possessed at the time; from tossing my New Testament out the window and into the rain at the age of two (when I got my first spanking) to birthing my third child while wearing tennis shoes at age 25.
  • A 300 page story about a young contemporary witch (a pharmaceutical chemist) who inherits a magical ruby ring from her grandmother and her witch family (probably influenced by reading LOTRs, or maybe Anne Rice, can’t recall the exact years I read Anne).
  • Six chapters into an historical fiction about Martha Washington’s relationship with the African American mother of Washington’s mulatto children. (Perhaps based on a true story I read…most likely somebody has already done this).
  • A horror story about a lady with cats I had published at age 17 years.
  • I have this really cool sci-fi fantasy started about this league of aliens from different planets coming back to earth to reclaim the races…in 2020. It’s very interesting reading.
  • Dozens of short stories (or at least what looks like the start of short stories). Lots of them are southern folklore I learned growing up and recorded in my own words. There’s even one where John Lennon lives. (You know, like Elvis.)
  • Tons of dark poetry. (four shoe boxes) We’re talking nuclear destruction, biological and chemical warfare, death and dying, pollution and environmental catastrophe, loss, psychotic mind breaks.

I’m not saying this is good writing, but it is writing. I couldn’t recall having written so much.

Now all of this was written (either on a typewriter or a word processor, NOT a computer) in my twenties, when I had first been diagnosed with bipolar, and before I was stabilized on meds. I don’t doubt that most of this was written in the midst of some manic or depressive episode.

I first started thinking about the story in Red Clay and Roses in 1992. I wrote nothing. The nineties were filled with teenagers, professional career, and divorce. Then I was single, struggling to survive and socialize myself in another state. There was no time for writing. Life just got in the way.

We come to 2012. I’m stable. I’m retired. I have nothing but time and support. Perhaps coming off of a manic episode that followed suddenly stopping a thirty year career; I wrote Red Clay and Roses. Not as a novel, not that formally. It was a story in my head that I had wanted to write since 1992. A visit to Georgia that included reuniting with a cousin whose life intersected with that story in ways I had never known about inspired me to write. In my newfound serenity of retirement I pounded that story out in four months.  I researched and wrote during every waking moment for four months.

98,362 words.  Writing Monday through Friday, that’s roughly 88 days, which comes to 1118 words per day. That’s if I wrote every day like a 9-5 job. That includes research time, which is something I spent a lot of time on.

So I set myself what I considered a reasonable word count goal with my current WIP, 500 words per day.

I thought surely I could at least write 500 words per day. Most certainly I could get my next first draft written in a year.

I was also blogging, so I put myself on blogging restriction for a couple of reasons.

  1. I was getting too intimidated by rules. Writing rules, rules, rules and more rules. Every post I read explained these rules, and advice. I’m capable of learning. I wanted to improve my writing. Seriously. The rules suck. They have thwarted my creativity beyond belief. The perfectionist in me, my internal editor, is too damned concerned about following the rules to get anything much accomplished.
  2. Time. Blogging takes time.

Now I think. I spend the minutes thinking. Hours, days, weeks, I spend thinking. I think all the time. I think about writing. I wake up thinking about writing. I think all day about writing. I think about writing hours after I have laid myself down at night. I think about the rules. I think about the story I am trying to tell. I think about the characters, their motivations, emotions, behaviors, words. I think about the plot, the hook, the pace, the development. I think about the right words, the right phrases, and the right prose. I think about backstory, information dumps, showing, not telling.

Sometimes I’ll have a thought, a really good one, and I can’t hold it. I lose it almost as quickly as the thought occurred. I have no memory. I used to recall phone numbers two weeks after I was given them without ever having written them down, and now, I can’t seem to be able to hold a creative thought from my mind to the screen.

I’m overthinking. Yet I can’t recall my thoughts.

Screw the rules and I can sit down and pump out 3000 words in one day.

Then I spend hours and hours rewriting, revising.

Other days I am lucky to write one sentence.

Many, many days I spend thinking.

Word counts? Pfft!

So what is it that stifles my creativity and cripples my mind? My word count?

Rules, too many years on psychotropic drugs, old age?

I have nothing but time, and yet the clock ticks.

Retirement plans. Word counts. Discipline. Stability. Too many stories in my head.

I just want to effectively tell a story.

I have been working on this since November and don’t have 20,000 words.

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http://forlackofabettercomic.com/                                       Jacob Andrews

Retirement Plans

JumpingTheShark

I retired early for a couple of significant reasons; stress and drama at work becoming too intense, and a desire to pursue my passions before I was too old to enjoy them.

I didn’t want to wait until I had crippling arthritis to tap the keyboard.

The healthcare industry (at least here in Florida) needs a lot of work from the inside out.

So here I am.

I am reading, researching and writing. I love what I do. I am happier than I have ever been in my life.

I was looking through some articles on retirement and I find two persistent themes.

1)      There are a hundreds of articles telling you how to financially retire early.

2)      Most people are working longer due to improved health and financial need.

So what is it; retire early or retire later?

Here’s the deal. The books that I write are for a mature audience. My audience, like me when I was working, has little time to sit and read. They are busy working and earning money so they can retire…maybe early. Many boomers are just now beginning to retire, at least that’s what I am seeing in the articles I am reading.

One thing that people are saying they want when they retire is, “MORE TIME TO PLEASURE READ.” Yes, they want to travel, pursue their hobbies, but they also want more time to read!

That is a great thing for writers in ANY genre. 

The books that I most enjoy writing are about an era that most young people can’t really relate to.

I don’t write Twilight fan fiction, contemporary romance, or YA anything.

I write literary fiction and historical fiction. The real lives of people who have carved the paths others walk, with hope that new travelers will make those paths broader, safer, cleaner…keep them up and use them as roadways to a better future. It isn’t boring the way history sounds. It is real life drama in the best of times and the worst of times.

I hope that any of you who are looking to retire early to pursue your passions are able to do so.

For those of you that have already begun to pursue your passions, I applaud you for being true to your spirit.

When I was in high school, I had teachers encouraging me to major in journalism in college. I had a $17,000.00 scholarship to go to Wesleyan (a lot of money in the seventies). I was anti-establishment back then. I turned it down to get married, start a family, and work at McDonalds. Divorced and remarried at 19, I think I must have moved twenty times in two years. I was precocious, as many were in that era. Yet, I had no clue where I was going.

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A year later, when I realized that the establishment was about the only way anyone could really support themselves and increase their standard of living, I returned to school. I had a desire to become a psych nurse so I could help people like my mother who committed suicide at the age of 26, and others whom I had known with addiction problems. I went to L.P.N. school first, but you needed an RN license to work psych. I lucked out when a hospital, based on merit earned in vocational school, offered me a scholarship for RN school. So off to University I went. I did have a passion for nursing, a calling.

It wasn’t an easy road to raise three children and go to school in-between pregnancies and nursing children. It took me eleven years to obtain a four year degree despite having excellent grades. I have no regrets, as it was what I needed to do and becoming a nurse, the career experiences, have given me a perspective that I will forever treasure.

Divorced again and single in Florida, with my kids off at college, I had opportunity to live young, but with means. I was glad to have had my children early in life while I could still do cartwheels with them and chase them around the trees. We literally grew up together. We went through some really tough times together. We experienced a lot of joy together. While I am not advocating anyone to live their lives that way, I am saying that there is hope if you find yourself in dire circumstances and feel that things will never change for the better.

Although I have worked all of the high energy, fast paced areas; like ER and CCU, and did get in a few years of psychiatry, the area I am most fond of in retrospect is geriatrics. Why?  Some have told me that it is too depressing…but I never saw it that way. The old people with their stories fascinated me. Often, I would work the night shift when the old timers, who could not sleep, would get up and come to the nursing station between our rounds just to chat.

What fodder for writing! What fuel for my fire!

Years ago, I had regrets that I was not following my dreams to write, regrets that I chose a passion for nursing over journalism.

I have no regrets now.

With three beautiful grown children and two adorable grandchildren, I have had a thirty year plus career in health care, fifty three years of life experiences. God willing and the creeks don’t rise, I have time.

I am retired and living well. I am writing.

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
― Henry David Thoreau

 

Retirement, Writing, Hobbies and Expenses

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I just read Anne R. Allen’s blog post here, and I am feeling validated. I don’t envy people trying to write for a living. I applaud you and I am amazed by you every day, but I am content to carry the Olympic Torch with honor. Writing professionally as a career choice is admirable, but I cannot claim to be anything more than a professional amateur. My writing is good. I am proud of it, and would like my work to be read, but starting another professional career after 30 years of nursing would scare the hell out of me.

Well, sort of, but not exactly.

I have hobbies. I read and I write. I make jewelry. I go fishing. I go boating. I cook. I paint in water colors and oils. I garden. I am retired. I have a few philanthropic endeavors, and a couple of places I volunteer my time and resources. I also have children and grandchildren. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, right?

Just because they are hobbies doesn’t mean that I don’t take them seriously, or that I, as a hobbyist, shouldn’t be taken seriously.

I sell a few paintings every year at art shows and galleries. A hotel offered me thousands of dollars for a couple of giant staghorn fern balls I have in the back yard (I couldn’t part with them though). I propagate Plumeria for profit. Many have commissioned me to make jewelry for friends and loved ones. I have paired my love for fishing and my talents in the kitchen to produce some fine meals. I have even sold a few books. And I feel appreciated.

Plumeria Mardi Gras (also known as frangipani)
Plumeria Mardi Gras (also known as frangipani)

For me, my hobbies will never have a financial ROI, because that’s not what it is about.

There is; however, a huge emotional ROI.

It’s true. I sell a book and I think, “Yay! I can tip the pizza delivery guy.”  Sell a few, and I go out and buy a bottle of wine.  Sell a lot, and it becomes an obsession. It has for me.  Not to make money, because most of it goes right back into promotions/ads, or other hobbies. But it is like any of my other hobbies/endeavors, I want to excel at what I enjoy doing.

But it can fuck with your head.

More than anything, I want readers to enjoy my work. When you write nice reviews, tears come into my eyes and I feel a flood of emotion.

So, I sold a bunch of books, but I only have one new review since my successful promo. It was very nice, and yes, it made me cry…happy tears. I don’t know how long most readers keep books on their tablets before they get around to reading them. I have some books I bought last year that have been there for months, and I have yet to commit the time to read them, so I get it. But it can be hard to sit and wait for others to feed your soul. I’ll probably have a mental meltdown and have to increase my meds when I get my first bad review.

Here’s something else that will fuck with your head.  Last night, I checked Amazon and saw my ranking was at #350,000 something. I thought, “Well, well, party is over.” I went to bed.

This morning, I get up and see that I am back in a Best seller’s Top 100 list at #98, my ranking has gone up to #100,000 something and I think I have sold some books. So I check KDP reports. Nada, not one, zero, 0. So how did that happen?  I go back to Amazon and refresh the page…several times…still at #98.  Stayed there all day.  For what reason I do not know, but it will freak you out when stuff like that happens.

I spend a lot of money on all of my hobbies, art supplies are not cheap, the boat…never mind the payments…maintenance alone is literally tossing money into the water, just the metals for jewelry clasps will eat a hole in your pocket faster than acid, add nice stones and gems, it adds up pretty fast, groceries…please, rods and reels and lures…have you been inside a sporting goods store lately? So why not spend money on promoting my book?   People are telling me not to. A) It isn’t necessary, and B) It is a bad thing to spend money on ads and feed the monsters. C) There should be a ROI or it is a bad investment. I want to sell more books.

I am like the marathon runner that has to make the last mile despite all the odds, the dieter who is on the verge of the last fifty pounds, yes, and the crack ho who needs a fix and a good lay!

Okay, maybe I am carrying this a bit far.

Seriously, I am thinking about another advertisement but one that uses the contemporary fiction genre instead of the historical fiction genre.  The book barely made it into the historical fiction category based on the 50-60 years passed since the primary events.  Yet, it deals with many contemporary issues, abortion, adoption, racial tensions…civil rights, women’s rights. I am thinking of trying a genre switch, what do you think about that? When I studied reviews a week ago, I saw many books about the 1950s listed in contemporary fiction. Also, the first third of the book (Part One) takes place in the present and 1992-93. It is Part Two that takes place in the 1950s.

For the thrill of it, would you spend money on yet another ad?

Should I try a genre switch?

Do I need to tweak my meds?