Good People

“You just don’t find good people every day,” he said. It was funny to hear him say that, because I’d been thinking the same thing about him the day before.

On Sunday night, I set out the patio set on the front lawn because no one bought it. Two guys popped by and got it, and also took a bunch of other stuff I was trying to unload. As if I weren’t grateful enough about that, get this: they helped me change the tire on my boat’s trailer. In fact, they drove the spare and the deflated tire to their friend’s garage—on a Sunday night!—inflated them, brought them back, and put them on.

Isn’t that the nicest?

So he popped by tonight and said the above statement, which cracked me up. Last night, I’d been thinking that about him: that you don’t find good people like that much around here.

Oneimage of my friends also saved my butt and came over on Friday and Saturday and helped me BIG time with the moving sale. I would’ve been completely lost without her help. And my two graduating seniors helped me put up my camper, which I could not have put up on my own, not in any world, LOL.

Another recent graduate that I just met took a bunch of furniture I couldn’t unload, and helped me carry up a TON of stuff from the basement.

All good people.

I’ve been whining a lot about how tired I am, and how much my body is aching, and how much I hate packing. But meeting people—good people—has been the number one thing I’m excited for in my new lifestyle. I want to see the Grand Canyon and the whole of America, but mostly I want to meet people.

I can’t help but think this is a good sign for my new life. Four more days!

Are there a lot of good people around you, locally? When/what was your last encounter with good people?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |

Moving Right Along

I just needed one day to grieve. I’m feeling excited to move on to the next chapter of my life. Excited, and nervous. I felt great getting rid of my stuff. Not a single regret. Glenn said he felt sad our stuff was selling, but I’m not sad about anything. It feels like I’m releasing the old and preparing for the new.


But I’m so exhausted from all the work, I have no thoughts, so here are two great links.

Charles Gramlich has a new release: Write With Fire: Thoughts on the Craft of Writing. I’ve been lurking on his blog, Razored Zen, for a couple years now, although I didn’t start commenting until recently. After twenty years of being a writer, he shares some great, down-to-earth thoughts about writing on his blog, and I’ll definitely be getting his new book. Here’s his summary:

The book is 248 pages, and divided into three parts. The first part is mainly about the practical mechanics of writing. How do you shepherd ideas through the writing and editing process and into the final form needed for publication? It talks more about fiction than nonfiction but a lot of the articles are really about communicating with your writing, which applies to any genre. The second part deals more with theory and philosophy in writing. What kind of characteristics are common to writers? What makes and breaks a “page-turner?” The last and much shorter section consists of articles that are more personal to my life as a writer, such as my experiences after Hurricane Katrina.

And although they usually talk about copywriting, Men with Pens has a guest blogger, Larry Brooks, who posted Six Elements You Must Master to Write a Publishable Novel. I’m impressed. Excellent post. Kind of a nice list to double check when you’re looking at a new idea, or stepping back from your work to analyze from a bird’s eye view.

My life has been so mired in change, I’ve been a bit self-centered lately. So…

What’s up with you? How’s your writing going? Your summer? Your life? Any changes for you? Any changes you wish for?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

Onward and Upward

In conservatory, we used to play games with fate. Late at night, in the dorm, we’d wonder aloud whether or not we’d want to go on living if we lost the ability to play or lost our hearing. (Usually we said no.) We’d consider whether we’d rather lose a leg or a finger. (Easy one: a leg.)

But now my hearing has really deteriorated. I had a bunch of earaches when I was little, and my mother, bless her, is sort of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. She wouldn’t take me to the doctor until I was awake for three days straight. And then, god bless her, she would find me sitting awake at 4am and, in total shock, wonder what I was doing up.


So in middle school, my friends could talk in the hallways or at lunch, but I could never join in. I could hear all the noise, but I couldn’t hear their words: they were blurry. In college, I had to take extra time to teach myself what a line sounded like before I could hear it, but it was no big deal. Now I realized I probably used my “mental ear” to supply that which my real ear could not.

About six years ago, I took an ear training test, where you listen to a bass, tenor, alto, and soprano line all at the same time and then write down the notes. The bass wasn’t there. I only got to listen about four times, and the first two were spent going, “Shit! There’s NO bass! Wtf?”

Then a few weeks ago, at my niece’s house, my best friend kept turning the TV down to where you can’t hear it at all. I kept thinking, “But it’s music! She should hear the music!” I politely kept quiet, but last night I confirmed that everyone could hear it except me.

The piano is pretty loud, and my piano has a loud bass, plus I have a wood floor. I don’t think my students have been affected much, although it’s possible they might have some odd balance issues, easily correctable. I do know I’ve been saying, “I can’t hear that!” more and more, when it comes to bringing out the melody.

Moving On

So I was just sitting here this morning and looking at my piano, which is about to be packed up and moved away, and thinking about how, even though I’ll miss playing so much it hurts, I’m so glad that writing dropped into my life. I’m kinda glad the universe kept pushing me away from the piano, gradually. I mean, there are obstacles, there are signs, and then sometimes the universe has to use sheer force, LOL.

You might’ve alternately heard me say that I’m taking a year off from the piano. Um, you know, not really. It’s hard to let go. I’ve always known this is an issue but I’ve always been in denial and ignored it. I decided to be a pianist from the first time I played one. It’s been the most important thing in my life for almost my whole life. I loved teaching it, too; I wasn’t one of the ones who taught just so they had time to practice.

But this might be a permanent goodbye, as inconceivable as that seems. I suppose, once I get health insurance, there’s always hearing aids, but I don’t see how that could adjust things as finely as a musician needs them to be adjusted. I don’t know.

There is life after music, an identity after piano, and joy beyond learning and performing a piece. I’m in love with story more than I ever was with music, I think. Just walking into a bookstore makes me happy: it’s like a spiritual experience for me. One of my piano teachers used to say that I “ate music” like it was part of my daily sustenance, and I feel the same way about all story: books, movies, plays, anything.

I’m just hoping that somehow, on the other side of this year, I’ll figure out how to be someone other than a pianist. Music is almost how I view the world. So now, I guess, I get to view the world as story. That’s pretty cool.

In the end, I would tell my younger self that if I couldn’t hear, I’d definitely want to live. There’s a lot of cool stuff left. I’m lucky that I’ve had two great loves in my life: music and words.

So today I face it, grieve, and move on. Probably can’t be done in a day, LOL, but who knows?

Ever have to mourn the loss of part of your identity? The loss of something you love that’s deeply a part of you? That, one would’ve said, IS you? Do you… become someone else? How does that work? LOL… I feel pretty clueless, here.

41 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

From Russia With Irving

image Time changes a story. I first read John Irving in college. I’m not sure how I discovered him or why I fell in love, but I did. Lately, I’ve been revisiting his works.

It’s funny how different they are. Part of it is age. Another part of it is that I first read Irving as someone who never imagined she would write; now I read Irving as someone who’s written. Before I enjoyed the story and the characters, and now I’m still enjoying the story and the characters, but I can see the craft, too.

Below is one of the best interviews I’ve seen with John Irving. He talks about his life, how he writes, and his stories.

What stories have changed for you, upon re-reading years later? Are you a re-reader? Do you have a favorite novelist?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing | Tags: , ,

New Adventures of Natasha

“Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” ~Unknown

It’s been a summer, for sure! I’m definitely not a secret-keeper, in spite of the SpyScribbler moniker, so most of you have probably pieced together bits of what’s happening this summer. Here is the official announcement:

We are hitting the road!

In a camper, that is. For years, it’s been our dream to live on the road full-time, and now the universe has conspired to force me out of my safe, little box and into the life that’s been calling to me.

Looking back, it seems like my whole life has been leading to this point. Years ago, looking forward, I never would have imagined this lifestyle. I didn’t even know this lifestyle existed!

But growing up, I poured over maps daily, read National Geographic religiously, planned the routes for our family’s vacations, and planned routes for my pretend vacations. My dad was a pretty restless sort, too: he sailed from California to New York, around the Panama Canal! And then when I was sick in my twenties, I spent a ton of time in bed, imagining trips. It was only five years ago when this idea occurred to me, and after a spot of research, I discovered this idea had occurred to over a million before me, LOL.

We’ll be traveling and living in an Apache pop-up camper, kind of like a pop-up tent, except it has hard sides and windows and screens and everything. I don’t have a picture of mine yet, but here’s what one looks like:


So many of you have told me stories about huge changes in your life, and although I couldn’t talk about it much at the time, I want to thank you: I’ve referred to them often when feeling a lack of courage.

To even think of leaving my students has been an anguished decision. I’m also leaving my identity as a pianist and piano teacher behind, at least for a little while. Terrifying stuff.

The plan now is to live on the road full-time and upgrade to a bigger RV in a year or so. I’ll write and maybe scrounge up some workamping here and there, and Glenn will do a couple more Alaska trips before he retires. I’ll be a full-time writer, LOL! That certainly is scary.

Above the adventure and the writing and lifestyle change, the number one thing I absolutely can’t wait to do is to meet people. I’ve been living in a bit of a Joneses-obsessed town for the past twelve years, and it doesn’t match me at all. Outside of this town, there are millions of varying and interesting people. I just can’t wait to get out and meet new people, talk to people, learn what more of the United States is like.

I’ll be leaving this town in August, and spending about a month in a campground near my sweetheart niece until Glenn gets home. Then we’ll tie up loose ends in Ohio, head to South Dakota for our driver’s licenses, and then it’s Southwest for the winter!

Will you lend me a little more courage? When you think back on the huge, life-altering changes you’ve made, do you have any regrets? Gratitude? Advice? How’d you handle the change? Are you happy with where you landed?

71 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

Extreme Decluttering

I hate stuff. I’m getting rid of everything, due to thing I’m going to announce once everyone has been told in the proper order. I’ve been getting rid of stuff like a madwoman for two years, but we are down to the END. And we still have a TON of stuff.

I’ve noticed lots of people are wanting free of clutter. There’s the 100 Thing Challenge many around the internet have taken, to see if they can get their belongings down to 100 things! That is SO cool!

It is so freeing to get rid of stuff. I’m so excited.

We’re going from five rooms + basement of stuff, down to ten boxes, five chests, three cabinets, and that’s pretty much it. Maybe two big duffel bags or something. Including clothes: clothes take up so much space!

Last week, I wrote down everything I used one day. Everything I touched, I wrote down. Gosh, I think the list was under twenty:

  1. Kindle
  2. Laptop
  3. Palm Pilot
  4. Cell Phone
  5. Headphones
  6. Toiletries
  7. Towel
  8. Bath Brush
  9. Bedding
  10. Pans
  11. Food
  12. Bowls
  13. Spoons
  14. Forks
  15. Cup
  16. Cat Food Bowls
  17. Pencil
  18. Calendar
  19. Clothes

I’m having trouble parting with some stuff. Like the board games no one ever plays with me but that I LOVE. I could make room for a few. Maybe I’ll hook up with someone who will play them. And I still want a bamboo plant, which is silly, because my cats eat it. Then there are these little candles I adore…

And BOOKS! I keep purging books, and yet I still have a too many!

I have room for two shelves of sentimentality. Should I really bring my 7 Harry Potter books that take up a whole shelf? Why, oh why couldn’t she allow them to be released in ebook form?

But really? I need so little stuff. It’s wonderful. It’s exhilarating to get rid of baggage, and I feel like it’s buying my freedom.

So what about you? Have you ever done an extreme decluttering? An extreme purge? Ever fantasized about it? How small do you think you could go? How many things do you touch in a day? Why do we put up so much stuff around us? Why do we collect so much stuff in our society?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

You Really Get to Work in Bed

imageI’m still in bed. Working. It’s 3 p.m. And the funny thing is, I’ve been working on two projects so much, I only actually slept an hour last night. Sometimes I wake up early and work in bed until 5 or 6pm, then realize I haven’t eaten. I’ve also been on the phone all morning, which is best done when it’s  handy to pull the covers over my head.

Janna has a really fun writer’s meme up. I’m playing because I’m STILL sitting on hold. (Phone use today is over 6 hours, and you all know I don’t do the phone.) But two more pieces of the path-less-trodden puzzle just fell into place. Phew. I think. I hope.

What was the last thing you wrote?
Chapter 13, the end of a 42K novella.

Was it any good?
It was an experiment. I wrote it in an old-fashioned voice that matched the character. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure anyone else will.

Write poetry?
Bad haiku, once in awhile. I LOVE poets. I think they are gods and goddesses. I’m certain they’re smarter and deeper thinkers than I.

Angsty poetry?
Haiku. Yes, I write haiku when I’m upset. Is that silly or what?

Favorite genre of writing?
Any genre. I love genre. Um, fantasy seems to be my greatest hit. I’m all over the place when reading, so same with writing. I love any fiction with a capital F. I’m not into realism much. I like my disbelief to be effectively suspended. :-) I like their to be disbelief that must be suspended.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
The last one. There was a ton of Jane Eyre in her. I love Jane Eyre.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
I noticed, awhile back, that all my “mother” characters in my stories were evil. I was a little uncomfortable with my issues hanging out there, so I’ve since been making every female character good, LOL.

Best plot you ever wrote?
Couldn’t tell you. I like intricate plots but you don’t get to write them much when your limit is 52k – 56k. I really love plotting. I used to suck at it, but now weaving all the threads is my favorite bit.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
I have trouble remembering stories when they are done. Um, I can’t really remember any of my plot twists. After you’ve lived with a plot for awhile, none of it feels like a twist, even if it had been a twist originally.

How often do you get writer’s block?
Never. There’s no such thing. I refuse to believe in it. Except for non-fiction, and that happens every day I write it. I have to plug away at about 100 words a day, with non-fiction. I’m clueless as to why I can blog.

How do you fix it?
100 words a day if I have to. 10 words a day. One damn word at a time, if it comes to that. Whatever it takes.

Write fan fiction?
No. I was tempted to after the last Janet Evanovich book, though. I. Need. Sex. With. Ranger. I have had a couple readers respectfully express interest, and I would be thrilled to give them a forum to do it. I hold the rights to my characters, but I just don’t know yet the best way to do it: the rules to put to it and guidelines to set it up with. I’m pretty open to it and would be thrilled, as long as they’re not making money from it or accusing me of stealing ideas or anything.

Do you type or write by hand?
From brain to fingers. I need the keyboard to think, LOL.

Do you save everything you write?
Not really. Even if I cut 20K words, once it’s deleted, it’s deleted forever. I know I’m not supposed to do that, and I’ve regretted it. But it feels good to slash sometimes. :-) Dropbox automatically saves a revision history, so now I can always go back to any day’s work and retrieve it.

Do you ever go back to an idea long after you abandoned it?
I’ve never really abandoned an idea. I wrestle them into submission, and they will often be completely different things when the wrestling match is done. I do have a file of ideas which I’ve never gotten to. I tend to go through idea phases where I spill out a million, and then I have so many ideas I don’t bother trying to think of anymore for a year or two.

Oh WAIT! YES! My spy thriller. :-) Abandoned, went back, abandoned, went back. Now it is permanently shelved. The problem, I think, was with the amount of realism it would entail. That’s not me.

What’s your favorite thing you have ever written?
Um, I’m sort of fond of the last one. Jane Eyre, you know.

What’s everyone else’s favorite thing you’ve written?
It’s a toss-up between two of my series. I think one hits people’s fantasies more, and the other is better written. They both have their faults. I don’t like to look back.

Do you show people your work?
Not until it is done. And I mean ready for readers. Even then I sort of alienate myself from it, once it’s done.

Did you ever write a novel?
Technically not, depending on what word counts you use. My novellas tend to run 40K-56K. I don’t know how many I’ve written. I average about 300K a year, although last year was less.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Lots of fantasy, one awful sci-fi sort of thing, and no horror. Should try that one!

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Romance, yes. My stuff has gotten less romance-y and more, um, you know, lately. *insert blush* Well, Glenn’s been gone.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Four. Yeah, it’s driving me mad.

Do you want to write for a living?
I make a part-time living writing overtime hours. I aspire to make an overtime living writing part-time hours. ;-)

Have you ever won an award for writing?
I started writing because I got an idea for a contest by one of the places I now write for. I got an honorable mention.

Ever written something in script or play format?
No, but that would be so cool!

What character you’ve written most resembles yourself?
Very honestly, I’m sure some of my beginning characters were better versions of myself, but nowadays, I really don’t think they do. You get to a point in life where you get bored with yourself, and it’s time to imagine being someone else for awhile.

Where do you get the ideas for your characters?
By slipping into their skin and seeing the world through their eyes. Finding what they want, what they fear, where they’re vulnerable, and then making life difficult for them so they can grow.

Do you ever write based on dreams?
I’ve never gotten an idea, snippet, or story from a dream. I wish.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings or cliff hangers?
Happy endings. And there can be no ambiguity, and by ambiguity, I mean that even if you think you’ve tied everything up, you really have to do it triple, or you’ll get a reader here or there who ask what happens at the end. Even if it’s totally obvious, LOL. Ambiguity is for parables and poetry. :-)

Have you ever written based on an artwork you’ve seen?

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Obsessed. I have a subscription to CMOS, and I look things up often. When I do, I get sidetracked into reading whole sections for fun. Even when I’ve read them so many times that I have them memorized. I love reading the em-dash section; I have no idea why. Also the semi-colon and colon section. I think they are all beautiful punctuations.

Ever written anything entirely in chatspeak (How r u)?
I refuse to use chatspeak, even to chat or text. I even put capital letters in my text messages. And correct punctuation.

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
I’m not sure I do write well. I just try to do the best I can. I do find that people are put off by strong, vivid writing in emails. I specifically water it down with “gonna” “kinda” “I think” and all the stuff that we were taught makes your writing weaker. I even do it in blogs, and I often end up quoting “dialects,” like actors tend to do, when leaving comments. I am not as confident or as intelligent as my writing sounds, and I’m not even saying my writing is intelligent, LOL! :-)

Just saying there’s a weird gap there. My best friend is amused that my posts sound so organized and coherent. So that tells you something about what it’s like to talk to me.

Also, I tease a lot in real life. That doesn’t come across, either, but I’d say that half my statements are made with me cocking my head and playing fun. I actually wink when writing comments.

If I’m irritated at someone, then I write bluntly, and it can come across scalding.

Quote something you’ve written. The first thing to pop in your mind.
Nothing pops into my mind. I don’t remember stuff when I’m done. Lemme find a darling from my next WIP file:

"Why did you save me?"

It was an uncontrollable instinct, like a spider weaving a web or a bat hanging upside down. “All that black,” I lied. “I thought you were one of us.”

So what about you? Wanna answer a few, or send a link to your blog?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

The Road Less Traveled

Yes, you can still call me Spy. I’m feeling quite lonely about it, actually. I finally figured out how to change my blogger profile to point to the new domain, and I changed my name to match. But Spy has become almost an endearment to me, because my cherished blogging buddies call me it. Now that you all are calling me Natasha, I feel a bit like you all suddenly stopped calling me “sweetie” or some such nickname.

I’ll get used to it, LOL. I’m weird. It’s silly for me to still go by Spy Scribbler since I don’t actually write spy stories.

The Road Not Taken

Was it sarcastic? My genius-poet piano student, now graduated, pointed me to a reading of the poem by Robert Frost himself. He thinks that Frost says that famous line—“And that has made all the difference.”—with sarcasm.

I don’t hear the sarcasm, but with further reading of the poem (and actually, I believe it is the first time I’ve read the whole thing, at least in my memory), I soon realized that it doesn’t really say what some people think it says. Most people think of it as “The Road Less Travelled By,” but it’s actually “The Road Not Taken.” (The link will take you to the full poem.)

The speaker claims both paths are “just as fair.” And at first, he claims one is not as worn, but upon reflection, he says, “Though as for that the passing there/Had worn them really about the same.” He imagines telling this, one day in the future, “with a sigh.”

Those famous lines read a bit differently after taking all that into account:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

It leaves me pondering: was it sarcasm? Does he think the roads were the same, despite it all? Is destiny inevitable? Are we duping ourselves when we choose the path less traveled by? Or are we duping ourselves later when we claim to have taken that non-conforming path, when really it was a path just like any other?

Of course, the more popular interpretation is quite inspiring. Sometimes I prefer the “wrong” interpretation just because it fits with my philosophies more than the poet’s philosophies.

But his poem speaks to me now, because while I feel I’m choosing the path less traveled by, is it really less traveled? Well, not really at all. I wouldn’t even have gotten the idea without those who went before me.

What do you believe?

This is a fascinating lecture by Dr. Peter Stanlis, Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Emeritus, Rockford College, which tells the stories behind both the poem and the appearance of Robert Frost at Jack Kennedy’s Inauguration. A lecture really not to be missed on dualism, poetry, philosophy, religion, and politics.

The more I write, the more I’m obsessed with stories saying something. And she’s said it before, but I often wonder if it is possible to write without a philosophy. Perhaps writing departments would be better served to teach philosophy rather than craft.

In the end, though, the interpretation is up to the reader. And even if they take a different meaning or disagree with you, at least they’re thinking. At some point, it’s important to rise above our emotions and figure out how and why we make our decisions. Because we all live by some philosophy, whether we’re aware of it or not.

So what do you think? Do you prefer The Road Less Traveled By interpretation or The Road Not Taken? And if those roads were actually different, which would you choose? And if they are the same, would you later justify your decision as having taken the worn road or the grassier one? Or is one the same as another?

How do you make the big decisions in your life?

38 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

Room for the Imagination

Finding the time to imagine is every bit as important as finding the time to write. I don’t know about you, but if I sit down to write without some imagination time beforehand, the writing will not happen when I put butt in chair.

I’ll have to sit and think. Sitting still and thinking is not my strong suit. If I sit and think, I get bored and start puttering on the internet.

For me, imagination time happens

  1. In the shower;
  2. In the car;
  3. While cleaning;
  4. While mowing the lawn.

I have plenty of time to write this summer, but the one thing I’m lacking is imagination time. I’m moving, so things I need to remember to do are rattling around in my brain like crazy. If I have time to think, I try to remember all that I’m likely to forget to do in the next few weeks.

Do you need imagination time before sitting down to write? When do you get it? How do you force it when life happens and you can’t think straight for all the stuff rattling in your brain?

Houston, We Have A Go

I’m in the mood for color. Can you tell? I’ve played with the fonts and the colors and stuff, and I’d love to hear what you think. My eyesight is getting worse by the day, so if I’ve made the paragraph font obnoxiously big, you can tell me. Also if I’ve gone too crazy with color.

The one huge, major change between WordPress and Blogspot is the time it takes to reply to comments. In Blogger, one types in the reply, submits, waits for the whole page to load, then scrolls down to the comment, back up to the comment box to type the reply, back down to remember the comment you were replying to, back up to finish typing the reply, then hits submit again. Replying to twenty comments in Blogger would take me about 45 minutes or so; replying to ten comments in WordPress took me less than 3 minutes.

Huge difference.

I can also reply from the admin area, too. I’m so excited about this, because one of the reasons I stopped blogging for awhile was because I felt it was rude to not reply to comments on my blog, but if I took that time, I didn’t have time to read your blogs. I really blog because I enjoy reading your blogs.

So WordPress fixed this major issue. Now I can have my cake, my icing, and eat it, too!

I’m sorta back, but until September, my posts might be sporadic. I’m moving. :-)

What have I missed? How are you? Anything special going on the rest of the summer?

41 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

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