Page from Hobonichi

I have been moderately silent online, but not without writing, or editing, or plotting and planning future writing in my Real Life world. I bought a Hobonichi cousin and have been writing in it faithfully every day. (Whee!) (Sometimes I draw, but that’s still creative.)

Unfortunately, I have had some other issues to attend to, ones that required way too much of my personal attention. Let’s put it this way, if you buy a brand new washer/dryer combo, you expect it to last far beyond three loads of laundry, dozens of phone calls, five service calls over an eight week period of which only ONE counts as a “real” call since only one had a beginning to end resolution, and a two month shelf life.

I happen to be a master at business letters. I used to write answers to union grievance letters and rebuttals to workers’ comp claims. If you get me riled up and going, my complaint letter will burn the hands of everyone who must touch it at the Post Office. (I hear that it ignites the fiber optic cables via email.)

I have been an unhappy camper regarding this washer/dryer since Christmas. I wanted to jot off a quick and scaldingly hot letter weeks ago, but my husband (who has a much cooler head than I) suggested I give them a chance.

So I gave them a chance. Then another. Then another. And another.

Finally, I hunted down the addresses for the CEO, CMO, the national customer service office, and wrote them a letter, sent on January 28.


Return Receipt Requested.

This got me entree to a customer service agent in our country and not in an offshore call center. She assured me this past Friday that everything would be taken care of.

Except it wasn’t.

They were late. The current occupant of my hopefully-one-day retirement home had to get her kids from school, so the repairman left a nice little note on the door. “Sorry we missed you.” (!!!) You were 45 minutes late!

So here is the product of my ire, the best thing I wrote in the month of January (names blocked – for now – I might go full metal jacket next week and post this everywhere online):

Dear Sir

This letter is serves as a formal complaint regarding the washer/dryer combo unit I purchased from the XXX Livonia, Michigan store on October 8, 2016.

I had purchased the unit in Michigan, but it was to be delivered to my second home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The unit was delivered on October 17, 2016 (I was present) and set up. It appeared to work at the time of installation. In the meantime, I have short term tenant who moved in November 1, 2016.

After three successful loads of laundry, the unit began to leak profusely. I have a water alarm on the washer/dryer which is tied to our alarm service. The leak was so bad that it shut off the water completely.

My tenants went out of town at the end of November to mid-December. When they returned, the washer portion of the unit was in terrible shape. She attempted to call XXX service, but as she did not purchase the machine, they would not schedule a service call. I had to call them. When I called, I asked the customer service rep to take down her cell phone number, as I cannot help her or the XXX technician from 1,400 miles away. I also do not know her schedule. Customer service took this information and informed me that she could make the appointments if she had the sales check number, the phone number of the primary account, my name, and the address of the primary account. I gave her all this information.

Unfortunately, when the tenant called, the person she spoke with would not make an appointment. So I ended up making all of the phone calls.

Here is the history and a partial list of the calls I have made:

12-22-16        Set up customer service (3x*) / repairman came 12-23-16

12-28-16       Washer stopped working / repairman broke the door (!) door ordered

12-29-16        Called for service, informed the door was sent / repairman came 01-06-17

01-07-17        Called for appointment / repairman did not show up

01-09-17       Called for service (4x*)

01-11-17        Repairman showed up to fix door / told tenant the entire back of the machine needed to be replace so they ordered that (2 week). Repairman suggested a replacement.

01-13-17       Went to local store. No store manager. Salesman called customer service 3 times in one hour. (Kept getting hung up on. Tried to see about getting replacement.) Nothing resolved.

01-14-17      Called for service / part had arrived

01-18-17      Repairman came / said it was just a loose wire / fixed it and took away the new part

01-19-17      Washer leaks again / called for service (2x*) Second call I tried to get a replacement. Agent (I was transferred to) said I had only called once and the service man had only been out once, basically saying that I made up the entire thing. He said he would transfer me to service, but instead I was hung up on.

01-20-17       Called for service / was told someone could come out that day

01-20-17       Repairman calls me / says he can’t make it before the tech support closed at 7 p.m. Also said he didn’t think he should fix a problem when he was there the day before but the other guy “fixed” the problem. Said the other repairman should fix it.

01-25-17      Repairman came (I guess the first one who broke the door?) / ordered the part the other repairman took away. (He could have fixed it had the part been there.)

*Denotes the times I was cut off, disconnected, or hung up on so I had to call back.

(By the way, when I get email from XXXX saying when the service is scheduled, it has my name, the address where the unit is located, and my TENANT’S phone number. Why customer service will not allow her to make appointments when they obviously have her number is a mystery.)

In the meantime, I looked online and posted to, where my post was just one of thousands of other unhappy customers’ posts. I received an email saying they were working on my problem. Six days later, I made another post on the web site, just a nudge thinking that maybe I was forgotten, where I found this comment made by Wendy:

I do apologize that contact had not been made and greatly appreciate the update. Your concerns have been forwarded to our weekend team, Sears Service team, for assistance.
Thank you

There was some back and forth, as Wendy indicated that someone had worked on my problem before. I told “Wendy” I was sure she was a very nice woman, but no one had contacted me. I am still waiting for the weekend team (last weekend) to contact me. I’ve been waiting for anyone to contact me.

It is now January 26, a full seven weeks since the washer broke down. I am beside myself over this. My tenant has three small children and NEEDS a washer. She is finished with dealing with this and will buy her own (not from XXXX), which unfortunately cannot be delivered for a week to ten days. I will have another appointment, hopefully before then, to fix it. In the meantime, I am paying for her laundry of the last two months which far exceeds the cost of the unit. Instead of “fixing” it, I would rather you take it back and credit my account.

I have been a staunch customer with XXXX for the last 35 years. You used to offer well-made and reliable items, and your customer service was second to none. We have bought everything from TVs and appliances and furnaces to having all of our cars (company cars, more than a dozen) serviced at your auto center. This last purchase, a washer/dryer combo, is the straw that broke my back. I might NEVER buy another appliance from you.

I just want to also note that I have called the 800 number any number of times in the last month trying to get this issue resolved. The store employees are great; your customer service number is not. Here are the issues:

  1. They can’t find you by telephone # half the time, but do the rest.
  2. They can’t find you by name half the time, but do the rest.
    (By the way, I know we have a massive account and I’ve seen all the names and addresses and phone numbers associated with it and I understand, but STILL.)
  3. If you give the address of the primary account, they can’t find you.
  4. If you give the delivery address, they find the person who owned the house before me.
  5. If they do find you by any of the above, they will reference a washer you bought in 2014 that is in Michigan, which is not the same make/model.

By the time they’ve located your purchase (by using your sales check number, which works most of the time) the original person who gets the call can’t help you so this happens:

  1. If you get transferred to another person, you will either be on hold for the rest of your life, or your call will be dropped. Or in many cases, you can hear the agent but they can’t hear you so they hang up.
  2. If you call back you have to go through the entire process again. Which means I have to endure  #1-5 and someone else has to listen to my story again.
  3. If you call back the Philippine call center and ask to speak to a customer service supervisor, you still have to go through all these steps. And THEN be put on hold by THAT person just to have the call dropped after 20 minutes.

I know the 30 day refund/exchange period is over, but I’ve been calling on this issue for 7 weeks. This is a BRAND NEW washer which has only seen 3 loads! If you can fix it NOW, I will accept that. An exchange would be most helpful. If you come and take it back and refund my purchase price, I will not be displeased. Otherwise, I might have to resort to legal action in small claims court.


I’m sorry that I cannot report that I finished five chapters of my current work-in-progress during January, but February looks promising and March looks even better.

By the way, I am available to write complaint letters for the general public. I charge by the level of irritation.


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This year, I decided to start writing daily. The most in-your-face way I can think of is doing it manually. A person can always shut down a laptop. With the screen closed, you might not even realize it’s there. And if you pile a bunch of stuff on it like books, magazines, catalogs, and tax information, your laptop could be lost for a long time. (The longest for me was two weeks. I got an email notice from Carbonite that I was long overdue for a backup. I know. I’m bad.)

So I decided to write daily in a notebook. Yes! Using pen and paper and pencil. You know me and notebooks. I fall in love with a pretty cover or a size I think is handy; I buy one. And another. And. Another. (Very much like my nearly hoarding affair with books.) But I do use them…

For 2017, I invested in a Hobonichi Techo. It’s a datebook, a calendar of events. It’s got all the handy-dandy doo-dads a good calendar has, plus room to write. One of my high school friends who is very artistic uses one. I am constantly impressed by her Hobonichi creations. You can follow her on Instagram HERE.

Hobonichis are manufactured in Japan, and they are ALL THE RAGE there. When I first ordered my 2017 in the US, I was excited. Not so much when it arrived and I found it was the baby Hobonichi. I learned you can only obtain the larger Cousin by buying it straight from Japan. Thank goodness for the Internet! (I am using the smaller one at work.)

Why do I love the Hobonichi? The paper is fabulous! Although the paper is very lightweight, it takes all sorts of pens without bleeding through. I’ve even used my current favorite, the Pilot G-2. Sharpies, highlighters, it’s a very durable paper. The only downside is that any writing in it is Japanese. (The smaller version is printed in English, so I can at least read the witty sayings and quotes at the bottom of each page.)

What do I put in it? Sometimes tirades of daily frustrations. Sometimes weather reports. Every day, what we had for dinner. Lists of things to do. Simple sketches of weaves (my third or fourth love after food and writing and a few other things.)

Sometimes when I don’t have time to open the laptop, I might work on the book in my Hobonichi. This is how I spent my weekend:

I finally had to map out my setting. As I was writing, I noted that I didn’t have a clear vision of what the place looked like. Of course, this is not a perfect rendition, but at least now I have a clearer idea of how the motel is laid out.

The Hobonichi Cousin is a little smaller than the Moleskine notebook I usually use. In that way, it’s perfect for the procrastinating writer. I can fill the page in about ten minutes. The Moleskine maybe 30 minutes. Both notebooks are laid out in grids, which I like because it keeps my writing nice and even. The Moleskine doesn’t have as many pages, which may be less daunting to those writers who view a blank page as Mount Everest.

Daily writing doesn’t have to be a thing of beauty, as my journal indicates. The point is to note something every day, and that’s the hard part; sitting down, thinking, putting thoughts to paper. It’s all hard. But what I’ve learned is that you can glean something creative and worthwhile in everything. Sometimes you have to let what you spew out sit for a while. When you come back to it you’ll find the glimmer you missed before.


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This year has been a scary one, for sure.

I turned the Big 6-0, meaning I’m facing my eventual lack of longevity right smack in the kisser. It’s all downhill from here, right? I’ve lost good friends and relatives from the outset of this year, and continued to lose them throughout. It’s been sad and crushing.

Then, of course, there are what I call the celebrity dead people, Prince, Bowie, most recently Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. With every passing, I see the world dissolving right before my eyes. Maybe not so much with the celebrities, since I didn’t know any of them, but there’s that intangible connection, usually borne out of art or music. You mark your own time by their demise. My mother (also long deceased) loved Debbie Reynolds, probably because she was like her in many respects – dancing, singing, short, cute. And Carrie, I remember seeing the first Star Wars. It was opening day, the HarMar theater in St. Paul was packed, and my boyfriend at the time and I were as high as kites, sardined into their tiny lobby.

But I digress. I’m lucky in that I’m in fairly good health for my age. Yeah, being a food snob, I eat far too extravagantly. I’m pretty sure I should be on a strict diet of wheat grass and kale, but that’s not happening. At least I try to eat half (successful sometimes, sometimes not so much). Moderation is the key, you know. I try to run at least three times a week (sometimes a lot more) and I stay away from the real junk like fast food and white bread and soda.

So imagine my surprise when one Friday this month just as I was jumping off my treadmill I felt the right side of my face and my right hand go numb. I tried not to think about it as the tingling got progressively worse. Twenty minutes in, I texted my nurse friend in Colorado to ask her opinion, trying of course to remain calm and light.

I could still breathe, I could move my face, I could still function, so I brushed aside the notion that something was seriously wrong with me.

Until… the next day, when I arrived at work at 8 a.m. and found I couldn’t type with my right hand. The letters I thought I was hitting were not being hit. And I tried to text, but I couldn’t feel the screen enough to do so. (Like trying to text with your gloves on.) And the phone rang, and I found myself sounding like I’d just consumed a bottle of vodka or had just returned from the dentist with a mouth full of Novocaine. So I tried to write a note to my girl coming in at 9, except my normally legible and sometimes beautiful handwriting was not. It was more like chicken scratch. I couldn’t read it. At all…

So I closed up the building and drove myself straight to the ER. (My fine motor skills were gone, but I could still drive.) You can find all the gruesome details on Medium.

This post is not about the hospital stay. It’s not about not being able to talk; I’m fairly certain a life of silence can be handled. No, this post is about being an artist and finding out you can’t express yourself.

I’m right-handed. I write. I draw. I create jewelry. I garden. I like my coffee with cream and sugar. I LOVE to cook. I’ve painted, canvases and houses. I sew. I’ve done tons of needlework. I’ve played instruments (badly).

For me, life is an opportunity to create…in many different ways. WITH. MY. HANDS.

When you are left with a floppy right arm unable to pick up a coffee cup, much less wire wrap or sign your name, panic sets in.

My father fell on his head a couple of years ago while chasing a mouse out of his bird seed container. He had blood on his brain. For a while, he couldn’t speak or walk or feed himself or go to the bathroom (thank goodness he is much better now!). He has said this episode was the most scared he has ever been. You can live with old age if you can function. If you can’t, then what’s the use?

As for me, I continued to have these symptoms ten days after the hospital stay, although with each passing day, they lessened in severity. I have a January appointment with a neurologist. Things have improved immensely. Now I can write! And make jewelry! I even made a prime rib for Christmas!

What I have learned from this unfortunate hospital stay is that I should go back to my original mission statement: I’m writing as fast as I can!

Because life is short, and my story is still in there trying to get out.

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Have a writer in your life? Want to encourage them in their endeavors? Christmas is coming up quickly, but there is still time to get that perfect gift for your writer friend/relative.

Have no funds? You really don’t need to purchase a thing. The best gift (in my opinion) is the gift of time. If you are a relative, offer to do the laundry, make dinner, shovel the sidewalk clear, or mow the lawn. This will free up valuable time for your writer to put butt in chair and write without worrying about those common, everyday distractions that we all must tend to. If your writer friend has children or elderly parents to babysit, offer to watch them for a few hours. It would be especially nice if you could make a habit of it, say every Friday from 3 – 6? (Hint, hint…)

Books (of course!) are always a welcome gift, and writers need their libraries full of reference books. Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley is excellent. On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, also good. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way Every Day is a daily reminder. Having had attended some of her workshops at the San Francisco Writers Conference, I can attest that Martha Alderson’s Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple is a good reference, especially if you find yourself stuck. (Currently using this one.)

Another good gift option is online backup. When you have hundreds of thousands of words saved in digital files and can barely remember what you had for dinner last night, much less remember to manually back up, you need a little automatic help. I have been using Carbonite for years, and it’s saved me when three of my laptops have died. Every time I power my laptop, it backs up – a no brainer. For me, it’s been more than worth the $59 a year.

Gifting an online class is also a good idea. SavvyAuthors and Litreactor are but a few of the web sites offering classes on craft, queries, and even design, most of which are given by authors, agents, and others in the publishing business.

Having taken a class with Michelle Richmond, I would highly recommend gifting classes, reference books, or even a personal session with this best selling author. You can find her store here, or you can purchase her novels on Amazon or any retailer.

Depending on your writer, blank notebooks are also a great gift and will be well appreciated. I’m a strong advocate of keeping a small notebook on your person at all times. Doing so prevents the use of napkins or Taco Bell wrappers when inspiration strikes – items that can be easily tossed into the trash, because…well, it looks like trash. I personally like the pretty, small notebooks for such tasks. I also use a full-size Moleskine with graphing lines for each novel I’m working on (or if I’m in a class). The squares make it easy to plot out your story line into a graph, or if you need to make a calendar in order to keep your events straight. I’ve also given each character a page and a color and can cross-reference the number of times they appear in my novels. Moleskine also offers an “Evernote” which I have but haven’t figured out how to use yet. It takes your notes from your Moleskine and somehow through the magic of technology, transfers from paper into your computer. (Yeah, right.)

In 2017, I’m going to use a Hobonichi, only because I will be prompted to write something every day. Like the Moleskine I like, the pages are graphed. I’m using a big one for creative thoughts and the smaller one for work.

Speaking of notebooks, if your writer has a favorite pen or pencil, consider buying those for gifts. (I like the Pilot G2 07 pen in black but mostly use the Papermate Sharpwriter #2 pencil. Erasures, you know…)

No matter who your writer is, there’s a perfect gift for them just around the corner. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. There is no such thing as too many good suggestions.

Merry Christmas!


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Hope everyone had a gorge-ous Thanksgiving!

(Okay, that was lame.)

I’m happy to announce that this year’s NaNoWriMo was completed last Friday.


Can I get some applause here? Champagne, maybe?

Yes, despite my life, my work, the election, Thanksgiving, an art show, my yard full of leaves and sweet potatoes, I managed to pump out 50K words by close of business November 25. It was by far the most successful spillage of words since I started doing the NaNo about ten years ago, and made me feel fresh and renewed since I’ve spent the last eighteen months or so not writing much at all.

This is not to say that the novel is complete. If anything, this novel is like an old house I just took down to the studs and loaded the front yard up with all the building materials I’m going to need to finish. (I have had experience in extreme rehabbing this year. I wouldn’t recommend it, even WITH a plan.) I’m going to need to think this one through very carefully.

I needed the last few days off to decompress. (I’ll probably need until January.)

What I’ve learned with this year’s NaNoWriMo:

  1. You can’t worry about it. Write. Write some more. Don’t worry about prettiness, literary probability, appropriate tags for dialogue, grammar, or the Chicago Book of Style. Don’t worry about plots or subplots or themes. Write like your house is on fire and you’re running like hell and don’t look back.
  2. Give yourself an hour. (I used to give myself three, but I’m way too busy for that luxury.) Concentrate on something, anything. Write dialogue if you want or spew backstory, but don’t be afraid to shift to another part of the book and do something else. Whimsy is as whimsy does.
  3. The notebook that fits in your purse! Yes, get one, and use it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of a phrase, a word, a name, or something else and have jotted it down to use later. (This is because I’m notoriously forgetful.) I also use my iPhone notes section, but it’s far easier for me to use a notebook and pencil.

For those of you still in the midst of NaNo, don’t give up! You have until midnight Wednesday. If I can do it you CAN do it. And if not, don’t beat yourself up.

Remember, there is always next year.

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Week Three of NaNoWriMo and I am pleased to announce that my word count is 40,008. That leaves just 9,992 words to goal. With Thanksgiving coming up (besides cooking the turkey, I’ll also be peddling my jewelry at Leon & Lulu this weekend for the Holiday Artist Market), I need to be ahead of schedule.

The word count is the good news. The bad news is the way that I’m writing.

I sit down and begin to write. That’s good. (Very good.) I’m actually getting a lot done in the small amount of free time that I have. However, I’m pantsing it the whole way this year. Which means I’m not writing in a linear progression, meaning not by date, not by story line, not by character or point of view, not by anything.

Example: Last week I simultaneously worked on the beginning, the end, and the in between. Not in logical order, mind you. I kinda-sorta know the scenes I have in mind, but I don’t write them beginning to end. And what’s worse, I might get 3/4th of a scene finished, time’s up, I move on to something new the next day, and three days later come back and finish the first scene.

I know, I know, I could maybe go back and serialize it as I go along. But this is NaNo! I don’t have time to dink around with logistics! Dinking around is why they made a month called December!

I wouldn’t recommend writing in this haphazard way, and I don’t think I’ll do it again. It’s very messy. Already I see I’m going to have to print this work out and use my trusty scissors in order to get it back to a normal and sensible progression. Too late to change direction now.

In other news, winter has arrived with a vengeance, after a warm and balmy fall. It was 70 degrees Friday! I woke up to 27 degrees today. Which is why the backyard isn’t raked yet. (See photo above.) I’ll be too busy writing and making turkey and homemade cranberry relish and pumpkin pie and sage stuffing in the next couple of days to get to it.

Got to run. Time to write.


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I started the NaNoWriMo challenge last week like I ended Week 1 – on fricking fire! As soon as I hit the halfway point (25K+ on Wednesday), I had to slow up and do a few minor things around the house. Like finish harvesting all of the sweet potatoes and bring all of the house plants back inside after their long hot summer out of doors. This is Michigan, you know, and the threat of a freeze last Thursday night was upon us.

It only took my husband and I from 2 – 6:30 p.m. to complete the task of lugging the plants back in. That’s because we are getting too old for this bullshit (as I reminded him every five minutes, at first gently, after the first hour with more vigor). And he prefers ceramic pots, so an 8′ fig tree is going to weigh about 300 pounds. I love growing things, and most of my plants (angel trumpet, bird of paradise, citrus, bay, rosemary, agave, etc.) are not cold hardy here. I’ve been lobbying for a greenhouse (preferably attached, preferably heated, and preferably with a water supply) for three years now. I think I’m going to have to put my foot down in 2017.

The rest of the week was spent in research for the current work in progress. I don’t usually perform an in-depth research, but this time I’m studying the weather conditions in the areas where I am placing my characters. I’ve also set up a calendar (my story takes place in the month of May) and have begun to sketch out where the ups and downs will be, the climax, etc. I’m a pant-ser, so this is pretty remarkable for me. I normally don’t do this kind of “planning” – such as it is, until after the first draft is complete.

After a weekend of very little writing, I’m looking forward to starting again in earnest.

In the meantime, enjoy this:


This is Purrby when we adopted him three years ago. There’s nothing like a kitten picture to brighten up your day.

Until next time…


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