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

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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