Dear Diary…

13218901ddbef

I can’t seem to write anything anymore, and the words trapped in my head and soul are buzzing around, bumping into each other and exhausting me. So, with apologies, I’m starting this diary to trick myself into letting the words out. Shhh.. don’t tell my subconscious I’m trying to trick her. She’ll lock me down tighter than Fort Knox.

This has been a weird year. Well… a bad year, with lots of bad current events, lots of losses to the world, lots of unsettling insight into humanity.

If I was completely disconnected from world events, though, if my eyes were shut and my fingers were in my ears and I was shouting “LA LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” I could say that not too much has changed for me or my daily life. Except it has. Even if I do that, it has.

This time last year, I was immersed in a wonderful, interactive, diverse world of women’s voices. I had fun, intense conversations with writers, and I had a dear (likely beleaguered) friend with whom I had almost daily contact.

Then 2016 happened. The interactive group pretty much stopped interacting. I did, too. It was as though, as a group, we decided we’d said everything there was to say. My dear friend is dealing with real life problems. Though I am always here and willing to help, there is so little I can do from far away, except say how much this person matters to me, and how I’m always, always, around and ready to listen if I’m needed.

At the end of last year, I was given a gift, something I’ve wanted most of my adult life: The opportunity to work from home full time. This allows me to be here for my son. It keeps me out of exhausting and frankly dangerous traffic, and it gives me several hours of my week back. I love it. But I suspect it’s not good for me.

These days, apart from my boys, I hardly interact with anyone IRL. I’ve lost confidence in my voice. I am so fortunate to have a small tribe of women friends online. I love these women and cherish their friendship. But even in this group we’ve fallen a little silent, with many of us struggling with life difficulties, or maybe even feeling a little muted by the travesties around us.

This leaves me with a lot of time in my head, and it is not always so friendly in here. When I write, I’m frequently blocked. I’ll write three or four sentences then decide I need a nap, or I need to check Facebook. Naps help me fret more, and Facebook contributes to the crumbling of my faith in humanity.

I’ve given myself September to not have any writing goals. As a result, I’ve written more this month than I have all summer. Unfortunately, that’s only about four pages. My 7th draft of my 2nd book languishes. There are crickets on my blog, and I’ve forgotten how to have joy in creation.

Sooo… here I am, trying to peck my way out of my shell. Or maybe just furnish it with nicer, softer things, and insulate it from the terrible out there. I’ve added extensions to both of my browsers (News Feed Eradicator for Chrome and Kill FB Feed for Mozilla) to keep myself from playing Facebook roulette.* Both of them allow me to access FB notifications and make status updates but block the news feed to avoid accidental bumming out. They help, but FB is a really hard addiction to break.

As a “how to beat writer’s block” article suggested, I created an imaginary friend to write to. She is smart, sassy and hilarious. She is as coffee-dependent as I am, and she has a sweet obsession with hedgehogs. I will try to write with just her in mind. I think this will help.

I am going to read and write stories about magic that make me happy or at least excited, with no other goal than enjoyment. For my own sense of well being, I’m going to stop staying up to date on the latest outrage. I will vote my conscience on November 8th, and then duck back into my shell afterward knowing that I have done everything the system has given me power to do. At this point, I no longer believe in my voice’s ability to convince anyone else of anything. We aren’t really listening to one another anyway. We are shouting at walls.

I’m going to ask for full medical work-ups and safety patrols around our remaining cherished icons. For the love of all that’s holy, Bill Murray, take care of yourself!!

I will go for walks and to the beach and try to be easier on myself. I’ll be grateful for this quiet time with my family. If I write anything at all, I will call it a success, and hey, some of my shopping lists border on poetry. Maybe after all this, I’ll discover I’m not a creative writer at all, and the last couple of years have been some sort of virus-fueled unbottling of clever word strings. Bottle’s empty, writing’s done. Maybe I’m a painter now.

Thanks for listening, Diary. Sorry if I bummed you out.
* Facebook roulette: Clicking refresh on FB to see if you can find something that makes you feel good before you find something that makes you feel furious or depressed. Hint: These days, the odds are never in your favor.

Advertisements

Predictabilitrix

photo

I am a redoer. A rereader, rewatcher, relistener. You pretty much have to trick me to get me to experience something new. Honestly, I don’t know how I ever did anything the first time. Maybe it was in my wild youth. Maybe I tried stuff willy-nilly. At some point, though, I found what I liked and said, “This is good. Really good!”

Once I love something, I love it to death. I wear it out with my love. I roll in it and make it threadbare. I love how things become softer the more they are enjoyed. Pages of books, images in film, my blanky.

When Jeff and I were first together, he used to ask me when I was going to get sick of him. I said, “I’ve slept under the same quilt for over a decade. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.” Sadly, that quilt finally fell apart from rewashing a few years back, and I have yet to find one I love enough to replace it. (Thankfully, Jeff still has plenty of washings left in him).

Many people would be horrified by this way of living. I believe it would make them feel trapped and bored to the point of madness. These folks feast on adventure and need the new and different to keep them feeling alive.

I imagine them shuddering and saying, “I could never do that! I would be too afraid of missing something.”

Aha!

Me too!
That is exactly why I do what I do.

What if I miss a cool transition or a secret little lyric slipped into my favorite songs? What if I miss the chance to belt out the words (with authority) and feel like I’m right there with the band? What if I miss a clever joke or camera trick in a movie or show?

And books. Oh man.

As an author, I’m my own worst customer. We need people who read lots and lots of books to keep us in ink and paper. If everyone was like me, the business would go belly up.

But I like to think my beloved authors would appreciate the way I read all the same. First, I read the story. If it captures me the right way, I go back. What did I miss about these characters? Ahhh… Don’t I just love her. Okay, brace myself, here comes the scene where my heart gets ripped out. But now, weeee! here comes that part where we all fall in love. Wait – go back again. Hey! There’s a tiny tie-in from chapter 4 to chapter 34. That sentence. Can I just look at that sentence again? She could have picked any word to go there, but that one was just magic. Well, of course, I have to read it again.

Every few seasons, I’ll take inventory of my hoarded beloveds and make adjustments. “Ok,” I’ll assure something, “I will always love you, but you need a rest.” And I’ll set it aside to (tentatively) try some new stuff. I always feel a little panicky when I find something new to love.

“Dammit!” I said, with my eyes glued to Sherlock. “Where am I going to find a month to rewatch this forty times??”

I used to be sheepish about this aspect of me. I suppose I am a little still. I know there’s so much out there to discover. Shouldn’t I feel a little ashamed for not wanting to get out there? But mostly I’m fine with it. There is also so much right here to discover. I think it just makes me feel like part of a world team. Some of us see the most stuff. Some of us see stuff the most. Let’s work together so we don’t miss anything.

 

 

Icy Tendrils of Fear

My autonomic nervous system works as though I live in an episode of the Walking Dead. I am in a near-constant state of fight or flight.

OK, I lied, just flight. It’s all flight. If the phone rings or someone knocks on the door, I jump, then hide under the bed. I actually keep my phone ringer because hearing it ring can cause a mini-panic attack.

I have a debilitatingly bad sense of direction. (I’m convinced I have disorder that causes me to get lost called Topical Disorientation.) So, if I need to drive someplace out of my familiar haunts, I worry about it for at least a week in advance.

I just served jury duty. In the weeks between the summons and the date of my duty, I panicked every time I saw the notice on the fridge. My terror had nothing to do with whether or not I would be picked (I was) and everything to do with getting to the courthouse and parking and being there on time.

Whenever I travel, I dream about missing my flights or not being able to park or missing an exit to the airport, even though I’ve been there a hundred times. I’m not at all afraid to fly.

See  that? I’m not afraid of dying, just of having my spirit hurt or killed.

When I first published my book, I was terrified.  Then, a remarkable thing happened: Nothing.

I didn’t do any kind of marketing, and my book stayed hidden in the shadows where it would be safe.

I realized shortly after that I published too soon. It needed cutting, editing, a better title, a better cover. I decided I would do all that, then market. Except…I didn’t. I wrote more. I blogged more. I dragged my feet.

Writing isn’t (necessarily) hard. People write to get out what they need to say. For me, the process of writing my first book was almost 100% pleasure. It was a joyride. And the result is so precious to me. Like everyone else who writes, I feel like these words and characters are part of my soul. And now it exists in the same world with people who are unabashedly, proudly and terribly mean.

What will happen to my spirit when it gets battered by these meanies? What will happen if it’s not battered but simply greeted with apathy?

Maybe that’s what I need, to let the worst happen and see how I am afterward. Maybe I’ll get spirit calluses. Maybe my spirit will do surprising and lovely things if I let it experience this, like a tree on a windswept landscape. What if my spirit has a blue sapphire heart that can only shine when the silvery outside is worn off? It’s possible, I suppose. But oh how scary.

Well, I finally made myself pick up my feet and stop making excuses and inviting distractions. My book is done. It is cut, re-edited, retitled, recovered (thank you Lori Follett), and republished.

cover

Here it is, available on Amazon and here on Amazon UK, soon to be available in paperback. (No really! Soon – it’s formatted and saved to PDF, I’m just waiting my full wrap cover from my amazing cover artist.)

Now, off to market it. Time to drag it out of the shadows and see what it and my spirit can survive.

Wish me luck!

P.S. Other things I fear:

Torture

Imprisonment

Spiders

Clowns

Mimes

Zombies (as aforesaid)

Ventriloquist dummies

Mushrooms

Removing All Doubt

A few weeks ago, I took part in a rousing e-discussion about independent publishing. In case you are considering joining in one of these, be advised, they are all “rousing.”*

*rousing = violent, bloody.

2687636-5082107713-300-d

I’m not going to rehash it. I’ve seen enough of these that I find them boring now. A lot of people say “drek.” A lot of people say “archaic.” If you are interested in where I stand, it’s with the pragmatic and brilliant Chuck Wendig. There is no debate.

But one of the points made that day by someone on the pro-trad-publishing side rankled me. It rankles me still, all these weeks later, because it touched a nerve. It was posed to indie-authors (taking this step without the approval and say-so of the fatherly publishing world). It was: Aren’t you afraid of looking like a fool?

I mean, well, yes. Yes. My whole life, yes. A resounding Yes.

My whole life, I’ve held my tongue, kept my thoughts to myself, made my laugh quiet and my voice small. I’ve done all that so I wouldn’t look like a fool.

Now I’m edging toward my forty-second birthday, and I think of all the experiences I didn’t have, the love I didn’t confess, the adventures I didn’t take, the life I didn’t live because I was afraid of looking like a fool. You know what my reward was? I feel like a goddamned fool. What a waste of time.

Last year, I started writing in earnest, after dreaming of it for years. Aside from having a family, nothing I have ever done has felt so incredible. When the writing is good, it feels like being high and being in love. If feels zingy and buzzy and breathless. It feels like I’m making up for a lot of missed opportunities. When the writing is bad? Same thing.

Knowing I could publish it myself gave me that. I didn’t want to pour 100,000 words of my soul into something that was going to sit in a drawer until I died. I figured I could write it, and see if people liked it. I’d show it to or sell it to people I like, whose opinions I respect. If they liked it, I would be thrilled. If not, at least I’d know. But knowing I didn’t have to navigate an incomprehensible quagmire of publishing industry gate-keeping gave me the courage to finally use my voice.

Maybe it sucks. Maybe people will laugh at it. Who cares. I’d rather look like a fool than be silenced.

Now, go buy my book: Penguin Spies in Space: A Love Story

Steve and Stella share one last embrace, before they being their mission. IN SPACE

Steve and Stella share one last embrace, before they begin their mission. IN SPACE

(J/K My first book: Bright Aster will be published next month on Amazon. Some people I love and respect have read it and loved it. Hearing that was totally worth the risk.)