It Was A Very Good Year

Edie noticed that my year has been inspired by Frank. Why yes, it has, what with “Not in a Shy Way” and “Regrets: I’ve Had a Few” and now “It Was A Very Good Year.”

I need a song for next year. Any suggestions?

About Last Year

I love Arizona. Oh. My. God. I love it here. I can’t get enough of the lizards. I stop and exclaim at every one, even though I’m pretty sure this drives the people who I hike with crazy. Also I love desert flowers, cacti, cracked mud in dried riverbeds, insects (even when they scare the bejeezuz out of me), animals, birds, toads, spiders (see above parenthetical statement) and… well, everything. Water now fascinates me, because it is such a rare sight. I can’t get enough of the desert and the mountains and the washes and the canyons.

Living Outside

The weather is BIG in my world. With paper-thin walls and a camper that has plenty of gaps where the various fold-up walls meet, weather is big. So when the 60 mph wind gusts come and I’m getting seasick from the rocking and I’m afraid my camper is going to blow over and then I won’t have a house… um, my world revolves around the weather.

Totally not like living in a house or an apartment. There’s very little barrier between me and nature.

I have no bathroom in the camper, so I walk to the clubhouse in the middle of the night and I treasure my time looking at the moon and the stars. I always have fresh air. I like being subject to the weather. I feel like I’m part of the earth, part of the natural world.

In fact, upgrading? I don’t know. Being enclosed in a sturdier camper with luxuries and a bathroom and thick walls and no fresh air? Um, well… I don’t know. When my bed is sopping wet from a leak, okay, I can’t wait. I would like to have my piano with me. But 90% of the time, I dread leaving my little camper. It’s a step away from nature. The thought makes me restless and nervous.


Travel isn’t high on my list. I’m shocked. In fact, I appear to just want to write. I, um, have a tendency to get annoyed when anything interrupts my writing. I will procrastinate the whole world in order to write. I force myself on an adventure every couple weeks, and I push myself out of the house to volunteer one day a week hiking the desert.

Part of it is also that I haven’t yet sucked up everything this area has to offer. There’s just so much to explore!

I was also surprised to find myself teaching a water aerobics class twice a week. I love it and miss it (I only do it during the snowbird season), but I never had the thought, “I’d like to teach a water aerobics class someday!” It just happened and it was fun.

Not Surprised

I still hate things. I am perfectly happy to have a bed to sleep in. Even when it leaks. When humidity gives me an asthma attack, yes, I’m ready to do anything to make it stop. But in normal, every day life, I am happy. The less things, the better. When it comes to working, I am not motivated by money or the accumulation of things.

Unless it’s a computer to write on. Or a Kindle. Or books and movies (as long as they’re in digital form). :-)

I remember when I walked in a friend’s pantry and realized she had more things in her pantry than I owned altogether. Okay, maybe as much. Still, there are two seats that have storage that I haven’t opened in ages. I’m definitely feeling the itch to get rid of more of my stuff. Don’t need it. Why keep it? It feels like a burden.

So that’s my life, this past year. I wonder what the next year will bring. I think it might be another big change, but such is life, I guess. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure!

So how was your year?

25 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,

I Feel Broad Already

imageMark Terry is guest-blogging today on my favorite subject: travel. The Fallen, in his Derek Stillwater series, just came out, and he also has his bestselling Joanna Dancing thriller, Dancing in the Dark, available exclusively on Kindle. Check them out! You can read more about his writing life at his blog.

Natasha and her SO packed up their belongings and hit the road. I envy them.

Oh, who am I kidding? You couldn’t pay me enough money to live out of a frickin’ camper! I prefer not to cross the great outdoors for my nighttime wee-wee breaks, thank you very much. As a woman I worked with once said, “If there’s not a mint on the pillow, it’s camping.” (Okay, I’m not quite that bad.)

But they say travel is broadening and although my doctor says imageI’m broad enough already, I do like travel. Most of my travel these days is work related. I edit a technical journal, and the organization involved hosts a technical meeting every year in a different city— this year it’s Phoenix, Arizona; last year it was Jacksonville, Florida. For this meeting alone I’ve spent a week in Cincinnati, Denver, Anaheim, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Houston. Other business trips have taken me to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Tampa.

Series fiction is often built in a specific city—Robert B. Parker’s Spenser in Boston; Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, and Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware all in Los Angeles; Rick Riordan’s Tres Navarre, who may have retired, in San Antonio.

image My Derek Stillwater changes cities every book. In The Devil’s Pitchfork it was Baltimore and Washington, DC. In The Serpent’s Kiss it was Detroit (more or less my home town). In The Fallen, my latest novel, it’s a resort outside Colorado Springs. The next book, scheduled for September 2011, takes place predominantly in Los Angeles. And the Derek Stillwater novel I’m working on now takes place in Moscow, Russia.

Lee Child’s novels featuring Jack Reacher also have a different setting for each book. So, for that matter, do most espionage novels, which my novels more closely resemble than Lee Child’s Reacher novels.

But setting is important. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be going to Moscow to research this book. In fact, I almost didn’t start it because of that. I have a story idea that could take Derek to Jacksonville and I spent a very hot week there last year. After Russia, if Derek and I are still dating, I expect Jacksonville to figure in a book, unless something in particular strikes me about Phoenix.

So I’ll be curious to see if Natasha’s travels influence her work.

How about you? Do your travels affect your writing?

24 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing | Tags: , ,

2009 in Retrospect


I spent the morning reading through old blogposts for the year. Evidently, I really wanted a more peaceful life. (I got it.) And somehow, I knew change was in the air.

Biggest Disappointment: I really want a baby. Very badly. I’m not feeling much hope on that front, for health reasons, age reasons, private reasons, and health insurance reasons. I cry inside a little (or a lot), every time I see a child. I’m trying not to think about it for a year or so. I’m not succeeding.

I ended my piano studio on a kick-ass note. I decluttered, decluttered, and purged this year.

Number 1 Thing I’m Proud Of: After three (or more) years of contemplation, yearning, and restlessness, I am finally living outside the window. These are my new adventures. I bought, (broke), and fixed a camper.

Campground life in Ohio rocked. Except for Dish Day, which was a lot of work there. But I didn’t want to leave: I was close to my best friend and niece. I miss them daily. Especially my niece, who is turning three today!

Restlessness followed me to my first stop, but not to Arizona. Part of that restlessness was my foot; I’m dying to get back to Tae Kwon Do. The foot’s actually doing better, and I practice my kicks in the pool every day. As soon as I can run, I’m signing up.

I am disappointed I won’t get to Slab City for another year.

The trip across the US was exhilarating. Living in Arizona is like living in the Wild West. Border Patrol is BIG, here.

Number 1 Thing I’m Least Proud Of: On a related note, I’ve been wrangling with writing all year. I felt I was getting worse. I wish my word count had been better. I want writing to be easier and faster in 2010.

ADD has been a big challenge for me, probably because my lungs have been drowning, and lack of oxygen makes thinking even more difficult.

I decided to read 365 books from September 2009-2010. I am about thirty books behind, but I’m thrilled that reading has become a bigger part of my life than Facebook and blogging, LOL. (Although I miss the socializing!)

At the beginning of the year, I was moved to tears at Obama’s inauguration. Near the end of the year, I was heartbroken over the prejudice against same-sex marriage.

And finally, my favorite and most self-inspiring post of the year is There’s No Traffic On the Extra Mile. For the thing that was most hard for me to write this year, I went twenty extra miles to get it done. (Seriously, swear to God, it was so challenging for me that I just went crazy, doing about eighty times the work it called for, and that’s probably an under-estimation.) And I’m tickled pink that it ended really well, being one of the things I’m most proud of.

Overall, it was a year of big changes, probably the biggest of my life thus far. I miss my niece and best friend. I can breathe better here, and I’m learning how to control my asthma. I think it’s a year I can be proud of.

How was your 2009? What are you most proud of? Least? What’s your verdict?

21 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures | Tags: , , , ,

Idealism, Hypocrisy & Heroes

imageI’m an idealist in moderation. I say that because I’m reading Into the Wild, about Christopher Johnson McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp, as he renamed himself), a young man who decided to live and die by his ideals.

He was inspired by Thoreau, Tolstoy, and London, was widely read, and was an upper middle-class man educated at Emory. He loved Mark Twain. He hated things. (Me, too, but I need my computer, my phone, and my Kindle. :-) And my cats, which adds a whole host of “things” needed.

He trekked around the country with barely nothing but a backpack for years, finally going on an “Alaskan Odyssey” into the Alaskan wilderness. He was under-prepared and, in the end, died. What scared me was how much I had in common with him and how much I agreed with him, oftentimes.

So I spent a fair amount of the book going, “But I’m not that crazy!”

I think that’s what great heroes are, in both life and books: idealists to an extreme. Ideals are funny things. Any ideal lived perfectly usually fails; in fact, they are usually both the strength and Achilles’ heel of a hero.

This is handy in fiction, because it gives you conflict, inspiration, tragedy, and—because you’re writing fiction and can write the end—triumph.

In real life, Christopher McCandless continues to inspire. People often call young men of that age and temperament, “young and stupid and idealistic,” but I think that’s an amazing age to be. In times past, a lot of good has come to the world from men that age who changed the world, or at least had a huge impact on their culture. That period of life is to be treasured and respected, in my mind.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt of a letter he wrote to a friend, which reads almost like a Manifesto of Living:

“I think you should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to bring one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and incredible beauty.

“…Ron, I really hope that as soon as you can you will get out of Salton City, put a little camper on the back of your pickup, and start seeing some of the great work that God has done here in the American West. You will see things and meet people and there is much to learn from them. And you must do it economy style, no motels, do your own cooking, as a general rule spend as little as possible and  you will enjoy it much more immensely…. Just get out and do it. Just get out and do it. You will be very, very glad that you did.”

Ron, an eighty-one-year-old man, did. Which is cool.

imageOn the other hand, can you see what I mean? I agree with everything he says… with moderation. But we need our heroes.

In real life, if you spout an ideal but do not live it completely, you are called a hypocrite, and the ideal is—in the mind of the name-caller, at least—proven to have failed. If he’d been less reckless, he would have been labeled a “hypocrite,” and he wouldn’t have inspired others. He would have lived, and he probably would have sunk into obscurity. It’s sort of a Catch-22, in a way.

I highly recommend reading Into the Wild. It’s both inspired my life and my writing. I will probably read it several more times this year, to be honest, and I don’t think I’m done thinking about the book or considering his ideals.

What think you?

24 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures,Writing Craft | Tags: , , ,

Copyright © 2009 by Natasha Fondren. Powered by WordPress. Theme: TheBuckmaker. SSL Zertifikate, Eigenbau