Wednesday, November 4, 2020

November - Insecure Writers Support Group

 November 4 question - Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

So what insecurities do I have for you this month? Well, I once said, "I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up." I think it was last week sometime. Seriously, I hate the way this world works. For some reason, I grew up with the notion that I needed to picture the life I wanted, and then work whatever job I had to in order to keep it. And that is what I have done. I have always worked, sometimes two or three jobs, to make sure I could keep my house and my car and my artistic supplies addiction, all while trying to decide what to do with my bachelor of arts degree during a recession.

So when I lost my third job in a row due to merger/closure/recession in 2009 I looked for a job I would never lose. I became a teacher. Like most things I set my mind to, I was good at it. I picked up a masters degree, and went on my merry way (with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt).

I say all this to explain the fact that I have never really stopped to figure out what I wanted to actually spend my life doing. I knew I wanted a family, I knew I wanted to live comfortably, but for some reason I never considered that I would spend ten hours every day doing something I did not necessarily love in order to get those things.

Luckily my husband is a genius and he discovered this massive secret that rich people have been keeping about financial independence and early retirement. So I might get to enjoy sailing the world with my children in the next decade or two, instead of waiting for my sixties to be free to use my time for myself.

So how does this relate to my reason for writing?

I write because it feels like something I can do successfully* and enjoy doing.

*Keep in mind, successfully relates to last month's post. I consider myself successful if I have produced something I am proud of. I do intend to share what I produce, but I will not measure my success by whether or not it creates an income for me.

Every job or career I have ever pursued has brought success. I work my hardest no matter what I do. But writing is not a job for me. It also is not a hobby. I do not consider my writing to be like my other artistic talents. Somehow it is more serious, and it is definitely more structured. I never carved out time every day to paint or sew. I did share my gardening and beekeeping on a blog once upon a time, and kept a journal or two on my progress and research, but even that is different, because the garden does not come with me when I travel, and I was not able to bring it with me when I moved across the country. It no longer exists outside of my memories.

I write because it is a part of me that materializes into the real world. Even though it manifests outside of me, I can take it with me. I write because it feels like the closest I can get to my lifework.

So what do I write? I write about nature. The nature of our world, the nature of imaginary worlds, the nature of people and races known and unknown. 

As my current novel unfolds, I discover my own nature as well. I find it difficult to create conflict because I strive to avoid it at all costs in the real world. Learning about using moral messages and value clashes to create conflict between characters has been an interesting journey. I have also discovered just how great this novel can be. I see its scale becoming grand. I do not mean in word count, but in content. I want to create something amazing. I want to create a world that seems real, that makes readers want to go there, to fight alongside the characters, to protect the ones who cannot fight, and to experience their victories. 

I no longer want to just tell a story, I want to create a new reality.

Why do you do what you do?

The awesome co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria!


If you are interested in reading what others have to say about this question, please follow the link behind the badge below. You will find many, many blogs here, and can hop to any you please for interesting perspectives. 



Wednesday, October 7, 2020

IWSG - October - Another Year Older

Age is an interesting thing. It was not too long ago, maybe 10 or 15 years, that I asked my mom how old I would have to be before people just accepted who I was. Every family has that aunt who does things a little different, or that uncle who reacts a certain way to similar situations. Everyone has that friend at whom the others just shake their heads and say, "That's just so-and-so." I recognized a level of acceptance, and it seemed to only surround older people, not teenagers or twenty-somethings. So I had concluded that it must be something that comes with age, and I wanted to know when that was coming. At what age could I just be myself and others would say, "Well that is who she is," and not try to judge or shape me?

When I look back on the question, I wonder, does that mean that people have given up or stopped caring? It is an interesting thought and it roughly connects to this month's question.

Every year around my birthday I give myself a quick comparison. This year, I have two more years during which I could become a special agent in the FBI, a goal I only recently dropped, but I still use for perspective. A more recent comparison I use, is the first published date of famous authors. A study done a few years ago concluded that the average age of first publication among professional authors is 36. That's just 363 days away from today. Rowling was 32, Ursula K Le Guin was 37 if you look up first novel published, Octavia Butler was 29, Terry Brooks was 33, Stephen King was 27, etc. 

Don't worry, I am acutely aware that this is a form of judgement, and I am not placing it on myself or others. But it is a perspective with some use. It does not make me feel like I am inferior or behind. After all, I did not set out to become an author, it has simply been a dream in the back of my head that seemed about as likely as me becoming president. I also have a family and a full time job. Reading Stephen King's On Writing makes me certain that his wife should have received all of his early awards. This is also why I mainly like to read about the lives of the female authors mentioned above. No one needs to compare apples to oranges.

So does the fact that I have less than one year to meet the average first published date bother me? Not really. No more so than it did when I lost my first tooth at age seven while others did at age 5. But this does bring me to this month's question:

October 7 question - When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

Will I be published by my 36th birthday? Likely not. But can I consider myself a working writer? I think so. 

I am not sure what other working writers look like, but for me it is having "office hours" and measurable goals. I have a set time that I write on specific days of the week, just like any other job one might hold. I also have deadlines and projects that keep me moving in a positive direction. I would call this working. So long as I keep these routines and these intentions, I would consider myself a working writer, whether no other soul ever reads a word I write.

If you are interested in reading what others have to say about this question, please follow the link behind the badge below. You will find many, many blogs here, and can hop to any you please for interesting perspectives. 

Special thanks to the  awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG: Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!


Feedback:  I would love your feedback about the new colors and font on the blog. I was trying to match my style a little better, but still want it to be accessible to readers.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sharing is Caring

 I feel like I do not get to share much of my work with anyone these days because I am so busy creating it! So I am taking some pieces from old drafts that will likely never make it to print and putting them here so they can at least create pictures in someone else's mind besides my own.

Today I am sharing a piece from attempt number two of my current work in progress (which is now in the third and final attempt to tell this damn story so I can move on with my life). ((Just kidding, I am enjoying the project and am working really hard to make it enjoyable for others too.)) (((But seriously, I would like to finish before the collapse of the USA.)))

Anyways...this piece is about one of my favorite characters. She has mysterious origins and only appears within the timeline of the story as a very old woman. Here is a glimpse of her childhood...

Helgi watched carefully as the moths flew in and out of the hive. They flapped and danced and zipped around, going out to collect nectar and pollen and coming back with pockets full of treasure for their queen. She waited for the right moment to push the suction comb into the bottom of the hive to extract the processed nectar called apina. The elders taught her how to extract it without getting a single sting. She hummed softly, raising and lowering her tone to match the coming and going of the moths. The comb had seventeen spikes on it that were hollow like straws and a carefully trained person could get a full jug from just one hive. She mindfully aimed the tips and pushed through the soft wax until she felt the cavity she was looking for. With her lips around the pointed end of the comb she pulled a gentle suction, stopping when the sweet liquid met her tongue. Quickly she placed the jug underneath and watched as the dark liquid poured in tiny swirls.

     Helgi wondered what ritual the elders would use this jug for. They only visited this hive for special times. It hung in a great tangle of thick, thorned bush that was taller than a man and wider than a house. They called this one the house of the spirits and told her the plant had great power. Helgi wasn’t sure she believed them. They were probably playing tricks on her and just never came here because it was uncomfortable to crawl through the tunnel of low branches to get to the center. They must have picked her because she was still small enough to get through. While she waited for the apina to stop dripping she licked a small scratch on her arm where a thorn had ripped her sleeve. She would have to mend that now.

     The elders found Helgi when she was just days old. Someone had abandoned her at the home of the Vessel halfway through the season of birth. She was an orphan, a truly rare occurrence. Most children had three parents, the likelihood of becoming orphaned was practically zero. But for some reason, that’s what she was. The Vessel said she was special and would one day be like him, she would be a Vessel, too. But she didn’t feel special and she was too full of anger to be full of light. She didn’t believe him.

     The dripping stopped and Helgi gently coaxed the comb out of the hive. She placed her shawl over the jug with the comb inside and started to crawl one handed out of the house of the spirits. Helgi felt a sudden pain in her palm and looked down to see a sharp, glassy stone. It was a deep red brown color like the apina and no bigger than her fingernail. When she turned it from side to side, it let out a faint glow. She put the stone in her belt sack and continued on her way home.


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!