Tag Archives: thoughtspinning

A Work In Progress, I Am

Today’s long day at the distillery gave me a lesson.

Yes, I still love and adore my job.  Nearly every person who comes in is in a good mood and ready to be in an even better one.  And nearly everyone is happy with the person giving the tour because, well, I give them whiskey not once, but twice.

Nearly everyone.  Nearly.

It’s still a customer service position, and as such, there will always be someone not happy.  Or someone who is happy, but high maintenance.  Or someone who will never, ever be happy, and that level of unhappiness has nothing to do with their surroundings and activities.  This is the person who will actively seek a reason for their unhappiness, right down to whether they have to take twenty-seven steps to reach a destination when everyone else seems to take a mere twenty-six and three-quarters.

(Certainly there are those for whom the quarter-step is an actual imposition, a painful addition, or an unreasonable expectation.  Those aren’t the folks I’m speaking of.)

And those folks often trick us into believing that last quarter-step is important.  Or their misery over that quarter-step is important.  Or the threat of their overblown dissatisfaction with that quarter-step is important.  And once that trick is played, the obligation for solving it is transferred to us as well.

And most times, we know both the trick and the obligation are bullshit, but we fall for the trick anyway, and then are angry we were made to feel an obligation.  And we try to find a way to either duck the obligation, or meet the obligation in a way that doesn’t actually make the person happy because that feels like a “win.”

This is the root of pettiness.  On both sides.

I fell into the trap today, took a quick walk, and decided I didn’t want to be petty any longer.

Look: No matter our social and political leanings, there are great and wonderful and terrifying and inspiring things happening in our world today.  Those things deserve my energy.  Matching petty-for-petty does not.  Answering someone’s act of petty nastiness with equally petty nastiness accomplishes nothing.  Answering petty nastiness with civility often accomplishes nothing for the other person as well…  But it accomplishes a great deal for me.

I don’t waste my energy.  I don’t waste me time.  I don’t waste my emotional reserves.

I solve the problem, or I don’t because I can’t, and that’s the end of it.

So today my goal became to leave as much pettiness behind as I can.  To leave behind the deep-rooted need to respond in kind over little and meaningless nastiness.  To let go of the false notion of “winning” in the game of pettiness, and strive instead to understand in the moment how little pettiness matters.

Pettiness is exhausting.  I have more important things to do.

Now we’ll see how long I can hold on to this decision…

#SFWApro

The Novel Marches On

I know I’ve been rather blog-quiet lately.  There are two reasons for that.

First, y’all know I love my job giving whiskey tours.  And I’m not working that many hours, all told.  But making the transition has been a bit rocky in terms of time management.  Some things had to give, and longer online pieces were the pieces that fell to the wayside for awhile.

Second, I’ve been struggling a little with my “online presence.”  Frankly, I don’t even like to couch it in that term, but I haven’t another that’s any better.  Weighing where I speak about what, and in what terms, and how often or seldom…ClearCamaraFeb2013 112

Y’see, my online presence has always been just… me.  Not Me Writer or Me Not-Writer.  Just me.  At the same time, Online Me has almost always been separate from Real Life Me, mostly because the majority of people I interacted with in daily life had little if any interest in Online Me and related pursuits.  And Online Me always felt free to be me, but now that people I know in real life are hooking into Online Me, I feel all weird and exposed.

It’s all mixed up and jumbled and judged, and all the boundaries are smudged, and I’m second-guessing every time I consider posting here (and LiveJournal) because I’m certain you’re not interested in that, and my goodness this used to be so natural and easy, and maybe I’m posting on the wrong day for people to actually have time to read it, and am I really going to use that photo again, and I think I’d be infinitely happier if Facebook went away forever.

*insert flailing arms*

I’m figuring it out, slowly but surely.  The closer I get to feeling certain, the more I realize what I’ve posted in the past is exactly what I want to keep posting going forward.  It’s my attitude, not my content, that needs to settle down and move forward.

So you can look forward to more writing posts, more fighting posts, more disconnected musings on grief and puppers and wellness and whatever, and when the weather shifts, there will be the return of posts about camping and gardening.  (Yes, gardening. My current yard is a sliver given mostly to puppers, so we’ll be experimenting with hay bales and the like.)

In the meantime!

Flesh of Strife has been steadily growing, and as it grows, the plot for the last novel in the series, Ash of Life, becomes clearer.  There is fun stuff in there, and hard stuff, and true stuff, and kind stuff, and hopeful stuff.

Another novel, completely unrelated to the Desert Rising series, has taken form.  I have been ruthless against its demand to be written right now, though.  Flesh and Ash must come first, because that’s what my darlings are reading.

And the cookbook!  We’re almost there!  Right after Superstars next week, I’ll be sending out a final round of recipes for testing.  Other recipes have been adjusted according to the fabulous feedback people so graciously offered.  Some of those adjustments were in ingredients, but most were in the instructions, and I’m so grateful folks put a meal on the line to discover my errors.

The Patreon novella is still moving forward, and is in desperate need of a new section or two in February.

And my Patreon is still there, and I am amazed and grateful every month for y’all’s support there.  It keeps me going, truly.

So…  Here we are.  A confession, a meandering, and an update all in one.

And if there’s anything else you want to know about, please tell me because I’m obviously having a hard time figuring things out in isolation these days.

#SFWApro

 

 

 

“I Don’t Have Time to Write” Is Perfectly Valid

You’ll not be surprised, my darlings, to hear me admit a few things trigger me to rant on and on. You’ve seen this before, yes? Well, this time it’s the notion that a writer who says they haven’t time to write in truth doesn’t really want to write.

I don’t want to call out specific folks because the call-out doesn’t matter. Besides, some folks won’t understand the circumstances unless and until they find themselves hip-deep in them. But I do want to offer perspective to those who—right this moment, or in the past, or in the future—read those sorts of comments and opt to take them as truth. It’s for those who, already under stress, take the tossed-off judgment of those they admire as an accurate assessment of their own skill and determination.

ClearCamaraFeb2013 112

It’s for the person I was just a few years ago.

So.

Last summer, I sat on a panel at 4th Street focused on wellness for writers. I mentioned the idea that “real” writers write through pain, through dire life events, through depression and more, and answered it with, “That’s kinda bullshit.”

It’s actually real bullshit.

But I didn’t always think that way.

***

In my early twenties, I worked a fulltime office job by day and worked theater rehearsals and performances every night. I dragged a three-ring binder around wherever I went—scribbling out a few hundred words every day by investing my lunch hour and dinner hour in my stories. Two decades later, my acting buddies still recall how I huddled backstage, stealing a sliver of stage lights that spilled through the sets, to write a paragraph or two between my scenes.

Man, I was so busy! All I had was a lunch hour no one interrupted, time backstage when no one interrupted, and most of my weekends with nothing to do but domestic chores. So busy!

Then I had a child. My husband started a business while also working nights in a different city, so the care and feeding of another lifeform was pretty much my sole responsibility. Even when the business succeeded well enough for my husband to leave the night work behind, he was gone most of our son’s waking hours for the years of his young childhood.

Man, I was so busy! All I had (once we got past infanthood) were early evenings when my son was asleep, and the six hours a week I could afford to pay for a sitter who’d watch my son while I wrote. Unlike my pre-child years, I had not only inside-the-house domestic chores, but home maintenance chores, and evening karate teaching as well. Even though my husband did, frankly, more than his share, I still had more to do than before I had family commitments.

Then the business tanked, my husband broke his sobriety, and we lost our home. My son and I ended up living first with my parents, then on our own in a tiny refurbished Amish home on a farm owned by friends. Then the economy crashed, and I couldn’t even get a job at a fast food restaurant. Really, truly. When you’re fifty miles from a city, job prospects are few. So I learned to drive a tractor, to harvest and sell vegetables, to barter with my neighbors, and survive winters with the thermostat set at 52 degrees and months when the food budget for my son and I was under $150.

Man, was I busy! I took care of a 130+ acres’ worth of farm chores by day, and taught karate by night. But I still had household responsibilities as well, not to mention my son’s schooling and extracurricular activities, and the extra time involved in working with my husband (we never divorced) for visitation. All I had was the time after about nine at night, after a day of physical labor and intellectual work (I was homeschooling my son, remember), knowing for more than half the year I’d have to be up by dawn.

I didn’t write much.

Then my husband suffered two heart attacks back to back, and was soon diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and given four to six months to live.

Man.

Was I busy.

I didn’t write.

***

The next time someone tells you “everyone” can find time to write if they really, really want to, understand they’re using the wrong pronoun to express their personal truth. Understand, too, more than one person will read this and form a rebuttal with, “I didn’t mean that!

But you and I, my darlings, we both know how we might hear judgments when already under stress and feeling isolated. When already knowing our creative selves must wait weeks or months or years for attention, and when we can’t control how long that wait must be. Yes, yes, there is a portion of the seeking-writerly-advice audience who will suddenly become motivated by the realization they have hours a day they could spend writing. They tend to be more visible and vocal because, well, they have the time to be.

Those who don’t have time? That’s who I’m talking to right now—the folks I wish I’d had the time to talk with and hear from when I was fairly certain I’d never be a “real” writer because I couldn’t manage to write much in the sixteenth hour of my eighteen-plus hour day.

So take a breath, give yourself a break, and know most people who have not-writing commitments and challenges have all taken breaks–voluntarily or not–from story creation.  That’s not only normal, it’s healthy.

“I don’t have time” is not an excuse, my darlings. Quite often, it’s real life.

#SFWApro

O, Dreaded Prologue!

Common talk (and just about every critique group and workshop) says a writer should never use a prologue because prologues are so often written poorly. But… first chapters are often written poorly, too, as are fight scenes, descriptions, character backstory, depictions of horses, near-future science, and final chapters. But we do not advise writers to avoid writing them. We instead advise them to learn how to write them well.100_2471

So it should be with prologues. After all, not knowing how to write compelling prologues results in lots of bad prologues, which reinforces the mistaken notion that prologues are inherently terrible.

I’m no widely acclaimed or best selling author. I’m just a workaday gal who has to spend more time than others figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and why. So take my assessments with all the salt you wish.

Personally, I suggest smoked paprika instead. Or tarragon. Or fresh basil and black tea with a nice smoky whiskey…

Ahem.

Go ahead and add salt if you’d like.

***

So… Why write a prologue? Continue reading O, Dreaded Prologue!

Playing With Titles

I’m weary of referring to Book Three and Book Four, so I’m kicking around ideas.

I’ve mentioned before I want to keep the same rhythm for Three and Four — NOUN of NOUN.

The frontrunners right now are a word-match of ash, flesh, flame matched with life and strife.

Flame of Strife
Ash of Life

Flesh of Strife
Flame of Life

Ash of Strife
Blood of Life

Flesh of Life
Ash of Strife

… I don’t know. *stares at options*

And I don’t yet have a clue what I’ll do for covers. It’s not as if I can have the heads pop in from the top and bottom of picture this time. 🙂

 

#SFWApro

To Catch A Pup

My sis and her family live on a military base, and I’m on and off the base a few times a week to help care for my nephews.  The road through the base swings around a field of about five or six acres near the family housing.

As I was pulling onto that road last week, I saw a boy walking, leash in hand, toward a beautiful and tall Husky sniffing around the side of the road.  Behind him, his parents were splitting up to close off escape routes.  I drove a little farther down the road, stopped my car beside a couple other cars, and joined a half dozen folks who had the same idea I did.

The Husky walked back to the boy, ducked his head… then tore off for the field with his tail up high.

For the next half hour, I was part of an impromptu mission to capture the pup.  Men and women — some in uniforms, some not — running back and forth in lines and arcs to keep the pup from bolting for the gates, and to gradually shrink his romping area.

And romping he was!  Head up, he pranced and sprinted and leapt all over that field.  Time and again, he bowed down in front of one of us, tail swinging, waiting for a single twitch to tell him where we were going to play next.

Everyone was laughing.  Sure, it was important we catch that pup, but it was so clear the pup was having the absolute time of his life!  And as orders and warnings were called (“HOLE!” was the most common, since the field was riddled with prairie dog dens), we humans played his game in the bright sun and cool breeze until the pup stopped, shook himself from nose to tail, and trotted over to the woman holding his leash.

More laughing, an exchange of waves, and we all piled into our respective cars and went on our way.  I passed that kid I’d first seen, now holding a leash with a tongue-lolling dog on the other end, and grinned all the way home.

As I was driving home, I thought, “This is one of those things that would happen to Francesca!”   Then, in the next moment, I thought, “No, Francesca’s stories have changed the way I see things, and that’s an incredible thing.”

And then I thought I should tell her, and tell all of you, about the Husky and the military folks and the laughter and the sun, and the power of perspective to change a story and a life.

I might have gotten teary-eyed in there somewhere, too.

#SFWApro

 

 

What Kurtz Taught A Teen

The fabulous writer and person Judith Tarr has been facilitating a read of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels, first published in 1970s. Tarr also wrote this great post on her discovery of Kurtz’s work, and its impact on opening up her own writing directions.

Tarr just happened to choose the writer who had more influence on me, as a reader, than any other.

Kurtz boosted my writing as well in a couple remarkable ways—I’ll get to that in a little bit—but her stories did more for me as a young person growing up odd in a decidedly conformist environment, as an innately curious person being educated mostly by people who judged first the appropriateness of my questions.

Continue reading What Kurtz Taught A Teen

Pro Does Not Require Con

So it seems to be the time of year for discussing the relevance and/or purpose and/or importance of authors attending conventions.

There is this article from Sunny Moraine on the melancholy of non-con attendance. There’s this from Kameron Hurley, which opens with its own kind of sadness but ends with an urging, from the perspective of earned regard, to include those who aren’t already A Part Of in the convention experience. There’s the one from Chuck Wendig, which acknowledges a writer’s career isn’t dependent on cons but also goes on to name big professional reasons you better go anyway. There’s the cost breakdown from Marko Kloos, which makes the entirely relevant and under-discussed point that cons cost actual money that many folks simply don’t have.* And then there’s Harry Connolly’s take on convention attendance, which weighs the potential/implied/presumed social connections against the personal costs of convention attendance.

Also out there are numerous exchanges between newer pros and neo-pros who are, to varying degrees, afraid their inability to attend the same conventions as Big Name Authors and Editors will permanently and irrevocably damage their ability to thrive in traditional publishing because they’re not connecting properly. Alongside those conversations—parallel, rather than intersecting—is discussion of highly successful self-publishing writers who are, after achieving wide reader acceptance and earning solid money, considering attending conventions in order to see if there’s an advantage to it.

So let me tell you my little convention conclusions, from the perspective of someone who once wanted a trad-publishing contract and opted to quit, who came back to novel writing only because self-publishing was an option, and who has watched aspiring writers hunt down and dig up any scrap of helpful information for about twenty years.

Continue reading Pro Does Not Require Con

Once More, Years Later

Originally posted at These Certain Musings, where I tend to put the more personal stuff.  But I think grief and grieving is too little discussed, so I’m doing some extra sharing.

It’s that time of year again, though it seems to have arrived earlier than past years. Usually, by my recollection, I don’t end up feeling quite so sensitive until March, or especially May. Then again, that might be simply my impression.

I’ve been… overly sensitive for the past week or so, even as my writerly self–the one so thrilled and willing with story and character and creation–resurfaced in this new environment of family and encouragement. It’s been like having sunburned feelings: you know the person touching you doesn’t mean to cause pain, but even back-pats of encouragement hurt.

Then yesterday, when my mother was doing nothing more than trying to schedule a birthday dinner for either Sunday or Monday, I just about bit her head off for no reason. Then I tried to do laundry, and ended up stuffing clothes in the washer while tears ran down my face. Then I tried to cook supper, and ended up with the same result. Then I went to apologize to my mother, but what came out of my mouth instead was, “My 40th birthday was when I knew Ron was going to die.”

Until those words spilled out, I really hadn’t aligned past grief with present hurt. But there it is, doncha know, because grief is an unpredictable thing. It isn’t malicious (at least mine isn’t). It is instead almost too polite, apologizing for popping up year after year, and trying to be so subtle it leaves me confused and seemingly unable to identify it for days or weeks.

And the words, while true in an emotional sense, weren’t true in a factual sense. I mean, yes, I spent my fortieth birthday in a VA hospital, helping Ron eat the first meal he’d been permitted in a couple days and arguing with doctors who wanted to put him on blood-thinning medications when he’d almost bled to death internally a few days before. But I didn’t know he was going to die so soon for a few more days. (And I am still bitter and angry that I was the one who, after reading his test results, diagnosed him and told him the diagnosis weeks before a doctor got around to it.)

But the emotions rule, this far removed from the date. And my heart will always link my birthday with losing Ron–even though another four months passed before we lost him.

And I thought I had all that under control after figuring this out last night. Then I read this from Kathryn Cramer, and lost my shit all over again.

At the time Ron was diagnosed, we’d been living separately for almost three years, but we never divorced and we did remain close. There are times I still feel as if he’s simply lost, and I’ll find him if I walk into the next room even though he’s been lost for five years now.

So… I think we’re having a family dinner on Sunday. It’ll probably be okay. I’m giving myself permission to leak emotions all over the place if I feel like it. The feels aren’t going away, and though the feels aren’t pleasant, having them is not a bad thing.

They exist. I exist. One cannot miss what one did not love, and love is not a thing to be left behind.

Wedding 1996

Resolutions for a Balanced New Year

playI will choose and understand my life priorities before I entertain, let alone commit to, “measureable” goals. For example, “My son and I will have conversation today” is a much higher priority than “I will write 1000 words every day.”  What I produce will not be deemed of greater value and importance than who I am and the connections I want to preserve with family and friends.

I will give more weight to my mental and physical health, and the needs of the actual human beings in my life, than I do to word counts, bookings, and schedules. Certainly there are those who will assume I’m speaking from a place of privilege, as someone who must be able to set aside Real Life Responsibilities for some squishy emotional goal. Nope. The past almost-ten years haven’t been a stroll down the primrose path, darlings, and frankly, the journey was made more emotionally difficult by production-focused people at the edges of my life who looked down on my decision to invest time in my son and family rather than a monetary venture.  I wasted time feeling bad about their snubs. I won’t do that again.

If a fill-in-the-blank guru tells me I must perform X tasks in order to reach Y goal, or I’m not really ever going to get Y goal, I will merely assume the guru is telling the truth and move on. It’s very, very easy to get caught up in the Secret of Success Rhetoric. The industry is just as savvy as the diet industry when it comes to guilting people into handing over the lives (and money) in order to prove themselves Not A Loser. Many gurus thrive on enforcing methods that in reality force a person to neglect health, friendships, family, and life experiences for the sake of meeting goals, and will insinuate you’re a lazy, unworthy person if you’re not willing to make those sacrifices. There is no success I could achieve that would be worth such neglect.  I will not be shamed into acting otherwise.

I will more loudly rejoice when I do well. I will share my successes rather than humbly swallow them. Screw that Tall Poppy madness. I invite everyone else to do the same.

And above all, I wish everyone a 2016 that has more laughter than fear, more moments worth remembering than days worth forgetting, more tears shared in the company of others than wept alone, more encouragement in times of doubt than doubt in times of difficulty, and more time with people you love than longings for those beyond reach.

#SFWApro