Saturday, September 12, 2020

Non-Fiction Endeavors

I have been thinking about this over the past few months, and I think that perhaps working full time up to ten hour in the day, virtual/homeschooling a kid with special needs at night, and writing a fiction novel are not enough to keep me busy.

In fact, I have a number of side projects just gathering dust and I have come to the conclusion, that like forgotten cups of tea, these lost works can release bad energy into the world if left too long. Or maybe it is just that I can regain the good energy if I complete them...either way, I have a plan.

*Side note:  If you do not know me personally, please read the above information with humor in mind. I am not insane. The same goes for my About the Author page. My imagination is crazy, not my mind. For what comes below, I am serious.

I have been studying about the use of herbal remedies and wildcrafting for nearly as long as I have been studying yoga. While I do not have any formal education in this area, I have done a bit of self-study. Technically I do not have formal education in writing either, but here I am.

I think that when you choose to be your best self and help your body reach its full potential, that you look for natural ways to promote your own health. I am not saying allopathic medicine should be replaced by elderberry tincture, but I am saying that plants have properties that are useful to our bodies and can help us live healthier lives. I have often said that food is my medicine. What we put in our bodies is known to have an impact on us, whether it is as simple as getting energy from carbs, minerals from plants, or inflammation from sugar.

Some of the books too important to go into storage
during our transition to a new house.

For a number of years, I attended workshops, including the annual Herbal Workshop at the Ozark Folk Center in Arkansas. I greatly miss this hands-on experience and the face-to-face time with authors like Susan Belsinger and herbalist Tina Marie Wilcox. These two women are some of my heroes. They have been working together for decades to share their knowledge with others. 

One of the best experiences I had was being a member of a local community supported herbalism group. We met together each week and harvested, processed, and created. I learned so much about creating teas, tinctures, and body products in a welcoming atmosphere full of incredible people. I miss this community immensely and hope to one day create one where I live now.

For now, I would like to share what I have learned on my blog. I think this will be a good exercise for me to practice my nonfiction writing, and it will give me a place to keep my research. Eventually one day I might put it all together in a book. You get to benefit from my research too!

My goal is to share something I have learned about a specific herb that I have chosen to study each month. I would also like to dive into herbal lore and if I cannot find any, then I want to write it! This sounds like a good adventure to me. I hope you join me!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

September - IWSG

 If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?


Happy September Everyone!
As always, the first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group Blog Hop. We all get together, answer questions about writing, talk about our struggles and triumphs, then visit each other and show our support. If you are a reader visiting for the first time, feel free to click on the IWSG badge above and follow the link to a group of blogs you can explore.

I have put a lot of thought into this. I went through the list of big names that I love. Ursula K Le Guin and Frank Herbert are obviously some of my top inspirations, but when it comes to beta partners, I feel like my world-building is already somewhat strong and I would need someone to complement me, and fill in the parts I'm not so good at. I also love to read the action from S M Stirling and Terry Brooks. I could definitely use help to create the action that would hook my readers. But if I had to pick just one, I think that I would like to work with Neil Gaiman. 

I can't say that I know much about him, but I can say that I have enjoyed everything I have read with his name on it. Stardust is one of my all time favorite stories, and definitely my #1 favorite movie. I own an illustrated copy of his book that inspired the film. I also have a copy of his Norse Mythology book, and have thoroughly enjoyed the Good Omens (film) series, although I never got the chance to read them!

Amazon.com: Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust eBook: GAIMAN, NEIL,  VESS,CHARLES: Kindle Store

I think that over action, the thing that I would love to develop more is the humor and Gaiman would help with this for sure. The stories he creates and retells are perfectly planned out to have fantastic worlds and characters, and then there is the pure laughter that ensues at just the right moments to break tension and keep the story moving. His action would probably work better with my style as well. It flows smoothly and doesn't rely on battle scenes.

I really should pick up more books by him. Maybe I will get some more good inspiration!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What does a writer read?








“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The quote above is from one of the many books I am currently in the process of reading. Yes, I have multiple unfinished books―more than I can even calculate at this moment. I will be doing a completely different post about types of readers, but for right now, know that I am one of those types.

Another book I am reading is the second in the Expanse series. I love to read books that inspired film. I do not wish to get into the debate about which is better, or which should be done first, but I can tell you it is much simpler to watch something first and determine if the story is worth my time, than to find a new book by random chance and commit to the weeks it would take for me to read it. I have watched this entire series, and the characters are absolutely fantastic. I had to read the book(s).

I have often thought, given the large amount of science fiction I enjoy, that if we could just make it to the next step in our existence, then maybe humanity would be united. If we made first contact, or we all needed the same thing and worked toward it, or we just got smart enough, then we could be at peace with each other. I also often believe this to be completely fantasy. This series is perhaps a more realistic prediction. Although the humans in this version of the future are no longer judged by skin color or even gender, they have come up with a new way to divide themselves. You are from Earth, from Mars, or from the Belt.

This story was originally developed to be a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game―think World of Warcraft). James S A Corey is a pen name for two authors who work together on the series. One designed the game concept, the other realized the potential as a novel series, and they went with it. They take turns writing chapters that focus on specific characters using third person limited.

Beyond all of that, it is a really good read. There is a lot of action, which keeps the book moving quickly despite the fact that it is big enough to assist your toddler in reaching something she should not have. Each one is over 500 pages (most close to 600) and there are nine. Those are just the novels. There are short stories and novellas and of course the games and TV series. Let's just say this can keep you quite busy and you definitely won't get bored.

Back to the characters. If I had a circle of friends, I would want them to be like these folks. It kind of reminds me of Parks and Recreation a little. Everyone has their character flaws, but they fit together so nicely and they each know what to expect from the others. The hero―he will always do the right thing at the wrong time with the best intentions. The engineer will ground everyone and keep anyone from screwing up too much (unless she is the one screwing up). The mechanic sees the simplest―most blunt―answer, and he will almost always be right. The pilot is kind of the outsider, but he fits in just perfect, and is often a tie-breaker.

Then there are the politics. It is always interesting to me to read about the motivations behind the actions. Centralized power is fascinating and creates an internal struggle within individuals to follow their leader, or think for themselves. It is, after all, how leaders are created. This book has a very powerful leader, even if she is pulling the strings out of view. She is proper, wears brightly colored saris, is extremely intelligent, and drops the f bomb at a pleasing rate. If she ran from president, I would quit everything and go serve her. Hell, if she wanted to be queen, I'd fight in that army. Woman has style. (And she is written by two men...go figure.) The actress plays her beautifully in the series, I can't wait to find out how the character develops in this book.

I think I love these kinds of stories because they are like reading about history. The conflicts and the people seem so real, and so relatable, but they are supported by fantastic glimpses of an alternate timeline. As a writer, creating a new universe is the most enjoyable part. I hope my creations can bring this much joy to someone else.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group - August

Happy First Wednesday! It's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group Blog Hop. You can check out the blogs of many good writers by following the link behind this badge:

This month I am sharing the work of a fellow writer, Chrys Fey. You can read my story of depression and burnout, as well as how I am overcoming it below. You can also access a second blog hop by clicking on the cover image below:

 

 Catch the sparks you need to conquer writer’s block, depression, and burnout!

 

When Chrys Fey shared her story about depression and burnout, it struck a chord with other writers. That put into perspective for her how desperate writers are to hear they aren’t alone. Many creative types experience these challenges, battling to recover. Let Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout guide you through:

 

·        Writer's block

·        Depression

·        Writer's burnout

·        What a writer doesn’t need to succeed

·        Finding creativity boosts

 

With these sparks, you can begin your journey of rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love - writing.

 

 

BOOK LINKS:

 

Amazon / Nook / iTunes / Kobo

 

Goodreads

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips on how to reverse writer’s burnout. https://www.chrysfey.com/

 

My Depression Story:

I have shared a little about this topic in earlier posts, but I think that it is an important discussion to have. The worst part about suffering from depression and burnout is the mental isolation. You can be in a room full of people, or surrounded by family and friends, and still think that you are completely alone, facing your demons with no help at all. 

I have struggled with this most of my life. I never quite fit in, and I never understood the people around me. I have very vivid memories of mistakes I made and moments of complete humiliation when I realized too late what I had said or done. Even at a young age I remember not getting invited to all of the sleepovers. When I was invited there were pranks, arguments, and mornings of discussing recipes and cooking techniques with moms. How many seven-year-olds teach their friends' moms how to make a sunny-side-up or how to cut the milk with water before making gravy? It was the least I could do after she politely showed me how to thaw my underwear in warm water before putting it in the dryer. Now that I think of it, that mom was a child psychologist and probably the reason why I was continually invited over. (I realize almost everyone has a prank story from a sleepover, but I had the same problems at Girl Scout camp, overnight school trips, Girls' State, college, and my foreign exchange time in France. Put me with a group of people and I would mess it up every time.)

If I'm honest, now that I have spent two years contemplating my sons diagnosis, I have become very suspicious of myself. The more I read, the more I realize it isn't a diagnosis, it is a state of being. Autistic people are not diseased, they are just people. Most adults who have been diagnosed with Asperger's, or High Functioning Autism, or whatever they have decided to call it this week, are accepting of themselves and want that acceptance from others. It turns out, women in particular 'suffer' from this identity because most of them don't know that they have spent their whole lives trying to fit in when the fact is they were born to stand out. Whether or not I am one of those women is an unknown, all I can do is tell you how I have made it thus far.

Maybe my identity crisis has been the main culprit, or maybe it was something else. My first suspicions and insecurities hit home when I was about to graduate college and I saw my flaws through the eyes of an ex-boyfriend and a college dean who upon reading some of my journal entries, approached me about suicidal thoughts. This wasn't the first time someone approached me with that concern, and it wasn't the last. It seemed that everyone else was telling me I was depressed, but I wasn't. I decided to make some changes. Maybe everyone else knew more about me than I did. But the worst part of my life came a few years after that with postpartum depression. That is what made it real to me. This is the only time in my life that I was suicidal, and ironically no one talked to me about it then. But I remembered all those people who had talked with me in the past, and I called for help. (*Side note:  If you know a person who you think is depressed/suicidal and they insist they are not, be aware, that if they ever actually reach the point of depression, you won't know it, because they will hide it very effectively, especially from people they do not want to disappoint. I called a hotline, not my loved ones.)

What has helped me in general:  meditation, yoga, reading, and Buddhism. I do not consider myself a Buddhist, but I would say that I have learned the most about reality and myself through the teachings.

What did I read:  Radical Acceptance (Brach), When Things Fall Apart (Chodron), The Zen Path Through Depression (Martin) and some others I can't remember because I actually read them at least a decade ago. Reading these helped me recognize the moment when I needed to get help. 

What else helped (when it got real):  A therapist who told me I was a good mom. A mom who was an even better mom. A husband who went through marriage counseling with me. An awesome doctor who helped me find an anti-anxiety medication that didn't have side effects worse than the depression. Never giving up.

Where I am now:  Four years without medication. Two years without therapy. Ten years married. Thirty-four-ish years of living in my skin. I found a diet that makes me feel better. I am in shape and healthy enough to enjoy my youth. I still have anxiety attacks. I still make mistakes and dwell on them for days. I still feel low and dark and I know that is okay. I have successfully made relationships and zero enemies (that I know of) in my last two places of employment. I absolutely enjoy social distancing (just not the reason). Writing about my characters' lives in my stories helps me think about people, reality, and the world. 

The most important thing to me right now is the knowledge that I will likely have to watch one or both of my children go through this difficult path and I fully intend to shine for them when they get lost.

Good luck to each of you on your journey!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Déjà vu and Karma

In the wise words of Britney Spears, "I did it again."

I started the novel over...again. But I'm still not sure if I will be abandoning the 230 pages I have already written this year, or if I will be incorporating most of that in my new revision.

I swear it wasn't my fault. I decided to take a break from the novel since I was not 100% sure where I wanted to go next in the plot. While on that break I wrote a few short stories --one of which was a prequel to the novel. Now that I have read (written) what happens in the galaxy before my novel occurs, it changes everything! (Not everything, that was a little melodramatic.) But one of my major subplots no longer makes sense. 

The truth is, it needed to be done anyway. This is the difference between writing for my own pleasure and fully plotting a story for the pleasure of others. Face it, we all cut corners when no one is looking, and that is what I was doing. I was only writing the subplots that I enjoyed, the ones that made me feel happy and excited. But that is not life.

When I used to teach problem and solution in story telling, I always used Cinderella as an example. No one would care about Cinderella if her stepmother hadn't been such a cranky old bat with a royalty complex. When I look at my own original plot from four years ago, and the revised plot from this year, they both have plenty of conflict. But perhaps it is not the right kind of conflict, or the depth. Cinderella wasn't just a poor girl who had no shot at going to the ball, she was basically a house slave, who was tortured from childhood. The woman who was supposed to be her mother, was more like a prison warden. Her father died suddenly, and she was completely abandoned. When she finally thought she had a chance, it was crushed and shredded by her own family. It didn't stop there, she was pushed down, time and again. Every hope was extinguished. She worked hard and deserved to be rewarded. Why did all of this happen to her? We don't know. Did she deserve any of it? I think that good stories don't answer that question. That is what makes the characters relatable --they have to deal with reality just like us.

One of my very young coworkers asked me today if I believed in Karma. I quickly said, "Yes," without even thinking about it. But honestly, I haven't believed in Karma for a long time. I used to think that if I was a good person, good things would happen to me. But that is a very naive thing to believe, and I didn't have the heart to say it out loud. "I'm too old to believe in Karma," is what I should have said. 

If you have not read the book "The Lost Horse," by Ed Young, you should go look at it. It is a children's book that has been translated from an Ancient Chinese tale. To summarize, a man has a really awesome horse, that one day runs away. Everyone thinks it is so awful, except the man, who says, "It might not be a bad thing." Then the next week the horse returns with another horse, so now he has two. Everyone is excited, except the man who says, "It might not be a good thing." A few days later, the man's son falls off the new horse and breaks his arm. The story continues like this with everyone assuming an event is bad or good, and the man refusing to pick an adjective. I like the man in the story, and he is the reason Karma is not real to me. All events are just that --events. Nothing defines them as good or bad except our own perception. Although all events in our lives are connected, they are not necessarily directly linked by cause and effect, and certainly not by a tally of what is deserved.

It is time to give my characters some flaws and send them into a realistic world where they can't rely on Karma. 

Remind me some day to tell you the story about the time Buddha was our chef at a hibachi restaurant in Arkansas and convinced my husband and me to have a second child.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Determination is Everything

It finally hit me this morning as I was doing my hundred and twenty-seventh downward dog in the past two weeks. All those years of trying to meditate taught me that I was a writer.



Let me back up a little. My headaches had returned. The kind that you feel from your fingertips all the way to the temple. You can't turn your head, smells feel like they are tiny fighter jets that come in and use rapid fire to attack your brain stem, and even the most well meaning child becomes a creature to be feared. The room spins, the lights are hot, and no one else understands why you are angry all the time.

I've blamed gluten, sugar, stress, sitting, typing, you name it. There is generally some truth to all of this, but if I really wanted to cure the ailment at the source, I had to fix the muscles in my shoulders. That means the gluten and sugar need to stay at a minimum and the sitting and typing needs to be countered by a stretching routine. The stress...well there is not much I can do about that. I can't get rid of my job or my children. For whatever reason, our society frowns on that.

So the muscles. I'm not in a position to pay someone to fix them, and the world's best message therapist is a thousand miles away (miss you Jessica)! The only thing I could do was try to massage it myself. After more than a month of failed attempts, I decided I needed a yoga routine.

Fast forward. I have been doing yoga every morning as soon as I wake up. I started with just laying on my back and lifting my arms over my head and back down to my side. Do that a few dozen times and things start to pop and loosen. Each day I've slowly added more and more. It isn't perfect. There are cats and children constantly interrupting. Have you ever tried to yell while in child's pose? It definitely helps you understand how your neck muscles turn into lumps of concrete. And this morning I got stuck in "thread the needle" because a toddler was standing on my hair and giggling. But the shoulders feel more like joints now, instead of giant knots.

Back to that downward dog. My feet were pressed back, my hips pushing up, and my head was hanging between my shoulders. I felt my chest and shoulders opening. I reached back through the past decade of meditation and yoga practice and realized that the same determination I have put into ridding my body of the constant pain, is the same determination I have been putting into my writing. It is what drove me to join the writing support group, what drove me to seek social media groups for writers, and what allowed me to discover my new beta reading group (a small group of a dozen teachers who have been invaluable in helping me polish my recent short stories). I know that if I stop my practice, everything will eventually fall back. The muscles will tighten and harden, my posture will suffer, and my headaches will return. If I stop following these groups, and writing my blog then the writing will stop too. This sounds depressing, but it is life. If we stop doing, we stop being. For real, stop breathing, eating, drinking, and see what happens. But there is something even deeper than this.

When I first started meditating (almost twelve years ago now) I remember learning about the "monkey mind." The goal is to focus on the breath and let all thoughts drift out of the mind. The "monkey mind" is the string of thoughts that tries to push our minds into a game of hopscotch from one thought to the next. It creates stories that distract us from the present moment. But what an incredible thing! That constant battle with my inner stories is a gift! While it makes meditation an utter challenge, it shows me who I truly am. I am a storyteller. I will never turn it off, not in my deepest moments of mindfulness. I can let them drift through me, but they will never be gone. And that is okay. 

I have finally found that peace I was looking for. The stories are allowed to flow and drift, I just need my fingers to catch them and give them form on the screen. What better way to empty a vessel than to find another one to catch the contents? 

Thank you for being my vessel! Namaste 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group - July



The first Wednesday comes fast this month, so for the first time, I'm not prepared the week before! Life has been kind of crazy in my world. May and June are full for my little family with two birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and our wedding anniversary. In addition there is Summer Solstice and plenty of other things to celebrate and it is all quickly followed by Independence Day. Lots of grilling, package deliveries, and baking. 

This month, the theme for our blog hop is regarding the industry. I am to discuss the changes I would like to see in the next decade. As I know minimal about the industry, I am not even sure what I would want to change. As always if you want to visit the blogs of other writers, please click on the badge at the top of this post for a list of links.

Since I am not very knowledgeable, I want to use this post to mention a few ignorant questions and/or desires in hopes that some of my more knowledgeable IWSG friends can guide me. 

My first question is about writing coaches. If you have used one, tell me the best and worst part of your experience. Did the coach help you navigate the industry, or just help you stay on routine and answer personalized questions about writing?

Question two, if you write short stories, how did you market them? Did you use an agent, send them to online venues, or self-publish?

Third, it would be awesome if there was a professional reader site. A person would request an account and review a set of standard works. Their reviews would be critiqued before allowing them to have an account. Once the person is accepted as a reader, they can choose from a database of "pre-published" works and leave feedback for the author. The author can then leave a rating for the reader to ensure that the feedback is valuable. Does this exist, or did I just come up with my own business idea? 

Lastly, the industry would issue small time control devices to working writers so they could split their days and spend one timeline sleeping at night, then directly after that, travel back to bedtime and spend the night writing without interruption. This really would be the best improvement upon the industry in my humble opinion.

It's 6:40. The husband left for work, the kids are still asleep, by some small miracle, and I have an hour and a half before I leave for work. It is time for my cup of tea! Have a great day!