I’ve taken a chance on publishing a dozen stories that have been previously published into a collection of its own. It brings about an odd feeling because all these stories have appeared in other places over the years, but I’ve finally put it in one collection for sale. Do I think it’s headed towards the best sellers list? Of course not. I have no illusions on that account. But It’s giving me a platform to showcase the stories while I finish up the novel I started back in April, (uh, not really “started” in April. It was way before that, but we’ll leave that as it is).
Either way, I’ve published it and will start promoting it as a trial by fire way of learning some ins and outs of self-promoting and marketing. I was advised by someone to put out a press release. Immediately I had visions of Edina Monsoon in her manic display of PR’s PR call to PR things. I guess we’ll see how it goes. By the end of it, I, too, might need copious amounts of alcohol to get through the process.
I present it here, for all to enjoy. In the meantime, back to writing.
John Lennon once described an 18-month long period of his life in which he was absent from his wife and taken up with a mistress as his “lost weekend”. When I first heard this years ago I thought it was a bit of a copout to describe a time of listlessness and the inability to take accountability for his actions. Now that I’m older, have learned more about what made up his lost weekend, and have come face to face with certain aspects of my life and the toll which everyday adulting has taken upon me, I get it. Only, I’m sad to say, my lost weekend has lasted the last 4 years and I wasn’t as creative as Lennon during that time.
And even sadder to say, during that time, I neglected the aspect of my life which truly gives me that life to begin with. And that’s my writing.
Long story short, I went into teaching. And yes, everything you hear about the horrendous pressures which are placed upon teachers is true. I became an English teacher. I became an English teacher at a socio-economically disadvantaged school. I became a 10th grade English teacher to children who, on average, had a 7th grade reading level, at best. And, to add salt to the wound, I have been an English teacher during the worst pandemic in the last 100 years. Obviously, I go big or I go home. Except, I’ve been stuck at home for the better part of 5 months.
Five long months. And it’s about to get longer as schools across the country are deciding to delay the start of in class instruction.
Me, in my element
The truth of the matter, I really do love teaching. Outside of being a writer, I knew I wanted to be a teacher as far back as 1st grade, in which I would make lists of students in my classes, pretend to take roll and pretend to teach my collection of Cabbage Patch kids and stuffed animals. I just knew I had something in me that others needed to learn, and I needed to be the one to teach it to them. Maybe I still hold that philosophy. However, unlike Cabbage Patch kids and stuffed animals, real students talk back, on most days are disinterested in anything that isn’t on their cell phones, find education pointless in an ever evolving world of Instagram and TikTok fame, and deal with emotional issues that are not at all different than when I was a teenager, it’s just that there’s more of it and far more awareness. So over the last 4 years my teaching philosophy has morphed from something that I have to teach them to being there to support them if shit in their personal lives hits the fan, while teaching reading comprehension and writing. And even as I say that I wish it was as simplistic. Throw in a state mandated test that even I, along with my fellow English teachers, have trouble passing because we see how the test is rigged. My fellow English teachers all have brilliant minds. And most of the time I feel inferior knowing I have only a history degree, yet because I passed the English certification test, I was hired as an English teacher instead. But even with all that, we, highly educated individuals whose cognitive skills are off the charts, sit in meetings and argue over how in the world the test creators came up with the answers they have.
It’s disconcerting to say the least.
But this year was different. We had a pandemic. Or rather, we are having a pandemic. This is by no means over. And state mandated tests were waived. Children and teens are at home for the first time in their lives being held responsible and accountable for their own education. It’s an odd feeling as a teacher watching this play out. Some students are thriving in an online environment because the pressures of being in an American high school were way too challenging (fights, drugs, peer pressures, etc.). I see this and think finally a great solution. For those who are self-reliant to stay at home can now follow an online education. However, on the other side of the coin we have students who are suffering because home life is one disaster after another waiting to happen even before a global pandemic took over their lives. So, from a teaching standpoint, it’s hard to know exactly one’s place in all this when all you’ve known is a scheduled that keeps you busy from 4:30am until midnight worrying about lesson plans, school administrators who don’t know what’s going on in the classroom, whether certain students have eaten lately, or if they have anyone to tell them they love them before they fall asleep.
Teaching is hard. Not teaching, I’ve discovered, is even harder.
Yet, despite being in lockdown in the state of Texas, following social distancing mandates, wearing a mask everywhere I go when I leave my house, and yearning for interaction with my friends and family, I got back into my writing. It’s taken a while, to be honest. I went hard in the paint back in April and made some tremendous headway on a novel I began planning 5 years ago after the death of my father. I managed to knock out about 40,000 words of a planned 120,000 words. Although my concentration has once again been lacking, I am still proud of those 40k words. In the meantime, I’ve made an unbreakable promise to a friend that I have to have this finished within a year. In my head that’s no problem. The talent is never the problem, but I recognize that motivation has been my Achilles Heel. It always has been. I get stuck in patterns of doing something that brings about instant gratification such as binging a new Netflix or Hulu series, (or an old series. During the month of May I suddenly HAD to rewatch all 8 seasons of GOT all over again.) Or, I had to make jam for every single fruit I found on sale at the supermarket (which was detrimental on my part since I went KETO two years ago, but that’s for another blog). Or, of all things, learning French has been my new obsession (currently on a 100+ day streak on Duolingo). Either way, I recognize that I have distractions, and oftentimes I’m my biggest distractor.
However, I am here now. Writing my first blog in over 4 years, forcing myself to commit to writing on the public stage. I’m not sure if I have very many readers still left. This is primarily for my own benefit. A habit begins one step at a time. And it becomes a habit when you repeat it.
So I am writing, I am blogging, and I am publishing (yes, definitely more about that later.)
In the meantime, I hope someone is enjoying my words, and even more so, I hope someone out there is enjoying my new dedication. This is, after all, my personal affirmation.
(I would like to preface this in saying that I attempted to make this blog post about three and a half years ago and it never fully posted. My next blog post tomorrow will explain why, but nonetheless, I felt it was a decent piece of writing at the time. So, I’m completing the posting of it now.)
A New Hope (originally written December 28th, 2016)
The human body is a strange vehicle which encases our souls. That sounded so much better in my head earlier today as I inspected a weird little sore on my thigh near my knee. It was just an infected pore, really. It happens often with no rhyme or reason. It gets red, I scratch it, put some cortisone on it and call it a day. But then I think, out of all the millions of pores on my body (I’m sure I have quite a bit more than the average woman), why did that pore right there chose to volunteer as tribute? It’s a mystery and one I’m sure I’ll never quite figure out.
Well, I will someday, but I’m not sure I’ll be around to share the knowledge of it. Afterall, I would by then have shucked off this strange vehicle of a human body and will most likely be wandering the ethereal plane seeking out the next vehicle to inhabit. I’m a reincarnationist, after all. And what every higher power guides me with wisdom to pick out the next one, I’m sure I’ll be on the lookout for better, thinner, and less acne-prone genes.
One can hope. Perhaps one will never know.
The last time I blogged, aside from that little Super Bowl post, I was coming off of the shock of the passing of Alan Rickman and David Bowie within the same week. What can I say, not much has improved on that front. The year 2016 sucked. ASS. As if the passing of Bowie and Rickman wasn’t a big enough shock, the death of Prince a couple months later really threw me for a loop. You see, me and 2015 didn’t depart the best of friends. I really stared out 2016 with higher hopes. But nope. It had to take Prince. Nothing could beat that, right?
So here’s the deal. And I’m going to try to write this with as much reverence as I possibly can. I’m not a Star Wars fan. I’ve seen the movies, can quote a few good lines and can tell anybody with surprising accuracy the plot of pretty much all the movies. But it doesn’t consume me like other works of sci-fi/fantasy. However, comma, don’t let anyone mistake that for my disrespect for the franchise and what it means to others. I’m a nerd. My nerdiness honors and recognizes the nerdiness in you.
So, when I heard about Carrie Fisher’s hospitalization after the massive heart attack she suffered while flying back to the states a few days before Christmas, I understood the collective gasp heard around the world as the world prayed for her recovery. But, 2015 and the beginning of 2016 left me gun-shy. I felt little hope. I remember looking at my brother and husband and saying, “I bet she’ll be the last one of the year.” Yes, it was a morbid thing to say, but it was realistic. I didn’t want to see it happen. All of my friends, ALL OF MY FRIENDS, are Princess Leia fans. And to be fair, Carrie Fisher fans as well. Yet, as the world gathered for collective prayers for Carrie, as well as prayers for her mother who was worrying for her sick daughter, the world was left venerable to a very unlikely candidate.
On Christmas evening I scrolled through Facebook and settled on a post from The Irish Independent that announced the passing of George Michael. My first thought: what the holy fuck? I searched other news sources and none had picked up on it yet. Obviously it was a mistake. Maybe a bad joke. Perhaps a weird hack on the Irish Independent website. But slowly, and sadly, surely, I Heart Scotland posted about it next. Shortly CNN and Fox picked up on it and I sat on my mom’s couch totally dumbfounded.
Seriously, George Michael? Suddenly dead? From heart failure? None of the words were matching up. In fact, even a week later, the words still don’t seem to match up.
Georg Michael (courtesy of popexpresso.com)
Let’s talk about the 80s for a moment. I am a proud child of the 80s. I entered kindergarten in 1980 and for the next 10 years I relished in everything the 80s had to offer: the weird styles (day glow, anyone?), the toys (the Cabbage Patch craze just to name one), the music (Team Cyndi vs. Team Madonna, then later, hair band glory), the TV shows (where do I start?), the movies (again, where do I start?), the odd politics (the Reagan years), the American obsession with the British royal family – the whole thing. Well, I experienced as much as someone between the ages of 5-14 could experience. I might have watched John Hughes movies, but I was nowhere near experiencing a John Hughes movie life. I was the 80s and the 80s was me.
I even took a class in college dedicated to the 80s. I don’t want to brag, but I made an A.
And boy, Wham! I sometimes joke to others with “Remember, Wham! started out as a rap band.” (seriously, look it up). But say what you will, what wasn’t there to like about Wham? Cute, clean-cut accessible boys with adorable accents and a catchy pop rhythm you could dance to. But like all good things of the 80s, after a dozen or so hit songs, Wham! ended, but George Michael emerged as a powerhouse solo talent and the world never really looked back. And boy, did George throw off those cute, clean-cut shackles. A funny memory I have was getting the Faith album (on vinyl, no kidding) and telling my aunt about the song, “I Want Your Sex.” Horrified isn’t even close of an accurate description of her reaction. I can look back and laugh. And just think, this was only a year before Madonna put out a song with an accompanying video about giving fellatio to a saint. Damn, what wasn’t there to love about the 80s?
(By the way, did anyone realize that Pete Burns of Dead or Alive also passed away this year? That one kind of slipped under the radar.)
The year 2016 was without a doubt the year of the Loss of the 80s icon. That’s all I really know how to describe it. When I started writing this blog, I thought something more poignant would come to me whilst writing, but that’s what I have. Perhaps I still can’t put it all into words. This will have to do for now.
Yet, I want to leave this with a little hope. I ended 2015 with a calendar burning. I won’t be doing that this year. There was definitely a higher power at play other than a calendar. But I will go into 2017 with something resembling hope. To say it can’t get worse is clearly asking for a jinx and I simply won’t do that. (update from July 2020, how little did I know I love some good irony)
Super Bowl Sunday, you say? P-shaw, I say. I’m not a football fan. Hell, I’m barely a sports fan. I can tolerate hockey. Where else are you guaranteed a fight to break out and the crowd stomps together to Queen? But alas, Houston lost its hockey team a few years ago and there’s no other town within decent driving distance in the south to watch a hockey match, thus getting the only tolerable sports fix I’ve managed to accomplish.
But I’m not here to talk about sports. While everyone else is going crazy for the Super Bowl, I decided long ago that this sacred Sundays of Sundays would be dedicated to my favorite Jane Austen adaptation. That’s right, the no less than 5 hours long BBC 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Ah, it’s Darcy at his best. And the ONLY Darcy I recognize.
So I’ll leave this here.
P.s., enjoy the pond scene as well 🙂
P.p.s., is this movie really already 21 years old?
After my blog yesterday, I really thought 2016 and I had an understanding. Then I wake up this morning and read the news of Alan Rickman’s passing. Again, fucking cancer. Doctors are successfully transplanting penises, but still no cure for cancer. I am just floored right now.
So, I’m just going to share two of my favorite roles that Mr. Rickman graced us with during his prosperous, yet cut too quickly, time on earth.
As far as the rest of the year is concerned, “Well, I say we get drunk because I’m all out of ideas.” – The Metatron, Dogma
I’m sure I’m not the only one who woke up Monday morning to the news of David Bowie’s passing. Like many in the world, I didn’t know he was sick, as he had not made many public appearances over the last several years. Or if he did, it barely made a blip on the entertainment radar which is overrun with Kardashian/Miley Cyrus/no talent nonsense. So when the illness and passing of a true gentleman and artist was announced, it collectively blindsided the world, leaving many confused with a sudden hole in their existence many didn’t anticipate being possible. Many headlines read “Planet Earth is Blue,” a line from Bowie’s first hit, Space Oddity. It perfectly summed up how we felt. There’s nothing we can do but mourn his passing and celebrate his life. And we truly have to celebrate it. Bowie knew he was dying, and he chose to go on his own terms, even releasing a new album and music video for his fans. Looking back now, the signs were there and perhaps we knew. The difference is we, as a society, rarely see the signs anymore unless they’re wrapped up in scandal. It truly is a sad reflection of humans these days.
I come to write this blog this morning after taking a self-imposed hiatus, in a manner of speaking. It’s been nearly 7 months since my last blog. To put it mildly, the last 7 months have not been kind. To quote another Brit, Queen Elizabeth II, in her 1992 speech to mark the 40th anniversary of her Accession, 2015 “has turned out to be ‘Annus Horribilis’”. And it truly has indeed. I had high hopes for 2015. I started last year with a lot of motivation and inspiration. I started the first few months strong with completing about 30,000 words on the Scottish novel, and then working hard in April with another 22k word short story as I tried my hand at erotica. I had a couple of setbacks on a personal front, with my shitty job and our vehicle not only being broken into and all electronics stolen in April, but then the tailgate was stolen a few months later. It’s those little setbacks that steals the concentration from your art and makes you paranoid about everything. But we recovered and our insurance company came through. Items were replaced. After all, in the end that’s all they are. Just items.
Then June came along and the horribilis continued. I started June with a new story idea. Yes, it’s set in Scotland again. And yes, I have ideas all the time. But what made this one special is that it was finally a contemporary romance idea. Truly a first. I don’t like contemporary. My life has always been about history. I rarely read contemporary. Find me a good, well written history or fantasy and I’m entrenched for days. Outside of the erotica short, every time I come up with a contemporary idea (and there aren’t many), my mind goes into screenplay mode. Which is why I’ve only written one screenplay. To me, I can imagine contemporary on a screen, whereas historicals have such an epic depth that they can only be written in novel format and in no less than 150k words (if I manage to contain it in less than 150k – not so much the case.) So needless to say, I was excited on June 1st when this idea hit me and I sat down to write the outline and set myself a goal of 90k and a 3-4 month timeline. It was going to be a nice break from the slump I had found myself in with the historical writing. I was jazzed and ready to go and my muse was having a field day in her new playground. All was set to be a great summer.
I may have said this before, if you ever want to make God laugh, tell him what your plans are.
My father was first diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. First it was throat cancer, then a few misdiagnoses with lung and bone cancer. Finally it was about a year/year and a half ago that he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Just like all the other cancers he had, he fought and won. I kinda thought it would be the case with this one. So at the early part of June when he called all his kids and told us he wanted to see all of us we kind of had the feeling this wasn’t good. He declared he was going to stop treatment and if he was lucky he had 6 months to live. To our surprise, he called us 3 days later and said the doctor was giving him 2 weeks, if he was lucky.
I’ve never been close with my father. Those close to me know I’ve never hidden that fact. The man who raised me was my step dad and he died of bile duct cancer nearly 15 years ago. I considered losing him the loss of a parent, so when my father tells us he has a matter of days left, it left a numbness I wasn’t quite familiar with. A lot of thoughts went through my mind, not all good. But, I did what any dutiful daughter could do and I was there. I stayed in his hospital room the last 3 days of his life and prayed for him and watch him pass from this world, hoping he will find a good existence in his next one. I’m a reincarnationist, I believe that we are born again in new bodies and this is the life eternal that God promised us. So the only gift I could give him in the end was the hope that he finds a good life wherever he goes next.
I wish I could say this is the only death my family and loved ones experienced this year. Every month after my father, it was someone different. A friend in England passed away unexpectantly, again from cancer, the following month. My father’s cousin, who was a pall bearer at his funeral, died of a heart attack in October. My best friend’s grandfather, the next month, and then, the day after Christmas, my sister-in-law’s mother died in a car accident. There are more deaths, but those are the ones that had the most impact. I’ve begun every month since July praying please, don’t let anyone else die. I know we all have to go sometime, that’s a lesson I learned well when my oldest brother died when I was 15, but I feel there needs to be a break in between. And granted, I know life isn’t fair and wanting something on this level is not within my control. But the muse is feeling this all too keenly and so she’s been in hiding for a while.
2015 Calendars Burning
I ended the year on a very quiet note. I stayed home, dared not venture out and held a calendar burning ceremony in my back yard. My husband and I sat around our fire pit, toasted the New Year with White Russians, watched the neighbors set off fireworks, and at midnight burned every calendar we owned for 2015. We wanted to lift the curse, if that’s what it was, and start 2016 a little better. Maybe it’s superstition, maybe fanciful thinking, but all I knew is that it couldn’t hurt. Bad mojo be gone and bring on brighter, better days for the new year. Amen.
However, Monday came and I had to think on all that had happened in 2015. As I said before, Bowie’s death was a shock. He was someone I had grown up with and I didn’t know how to process a world which no longer had Bowie. But as soon as I read cancer, I wanted to cry. More news came out, and then the video which he made as a final gift to fans surfaced and I realized I’m not as nearly ready to deal with death by cancer as I thought I had. I turned the video on for 30 seconds, saw Bowie in a hospital bed, obviously sick with the blindfold over his eyes and I started having flashbacks to those 3 days I stayed by my father’s hospital bed watching him die. Bowie has never been subtle and every action he ever made had a reason. I don’t think the video was meant to be a nice, cheery sendoff. And perhaps one day I’ll bring myself to watch it completely to discover more meaning and symbolism, but I can’t for now.
Much like the unexpected death of Robin Williams a year and a half ago, Bowie’s death actually brought the world together to remember everything he was as a human and his truly remarkable and generous spirit. No one can say anything bad about him. Everyone agrees he was the nicest man you could have met, gentleman to the core, always up for a laugh, an artist who was always willing to take a chance. That’s a good legacy. One that many of us would be lucky to leave behind.
I’m not quite sure how to end it today, other than I hope everyone has a good 2016. Work on your creativity every day. It’s the only connection to sanity we have.
Around the beginning of the year I joined a self-publishing group with quite a collection of writers who are at various stages of their writing careers. Some have been published for 30+ years, some are on their first title. I’m really enjoying the good advice and information I’m getting through this group and it has been giving me a lot to think about as I make my journey through writing and that final question I’ll ask after I type that concluding “THE END” on my stories: “What do I do now?”
The answer comes with more questions than one might have had 20 years ago. Hell, more questions than one might have had 4 years ago. Self-publishing is finally coming out of the closet in a way. It’s no longer a dark and dirty word it used to be. In fact, many of the writers I lurk around (I don’t really have a lot of experience to share on that loop right now) seem to have the opinion that if they could do it all over again, they would have gotten into self-publishing a lot sooner in their careers. But unfortunately, the world simply didn’t have the resources and technology for writers back then that it does today. eBook and Print on Demand (POD) has opened the world to the written word that can barely even be measured anymore. Anyone can be a writer these days. Anyone can have a book for sale at Amazon. But in the end, what really resonated with me this week was a fellow writer who stated that she was ashamed to admit, but she still needed the validation of a publishing company to publish her book. It got me to thinking about what exactly validation is and why we still seek out this so called validation from others.
The letter Julie Garwood sent me when I was 16.
As many who follow my blog know, I started writing stories as a child, and finished my first 49K word novel by the time I was 17. I was destined to be a published writer and I knew that one day I would get there. In fact, when I was 16 I wrote a letter to my favorite author at the time, Julie Garwood, in which I told her that I hope to see my own books by hers at our local Waldenbooks someday (Waldenbooks has since gone out of business. Told you, this was the early nineties.) Surprisingly enough, Ms. Garwood wrote me back, stating, “Good luck! I hope to see your name on the bookshelves at Waldenbooks too.” I was ecstatic, and from that good luck wish, I saw clearly my life goal. That was the benchmark I set for myself as “validation”. To have my book on a bookstore bookshelf so not only Julie Garwood would see it, but my family, friends, people I went to school with, co-workers, etc, and so they would know without a doubt I was a “real writer”. And real writers have a big name publishing company publish their books.
After high school, nothing much happened with the manuscript I wrote, and it eventually made its way to dust collector as I started college (and eventually dropped out of college). I still wrote, but at this time I was writing fan fiction. Say what you will about fanfic, and I’ll most likely agree. But fanfiction provided something I never had before. Instant gratification and FEEDBACK. Not to mention, I produced some significant volume of words. One fanfic I wrote was 104k words. That’s nothing to turn one’s nose up at, but it still didn’t mean I was a “real writer”. I wasn’t yet validated. I still needed to share with the world my own characters and plots, and show the world my own shelf at the bookstore, which was now at Barnes & Noble, where I worked during that time.
By the age of 28 I went back to college, because that’s the only real “validation” most of society wants to see (but also because I wanted to). I had a great experience as a Creative Writing student and produced story after story. Validation abounded. I had professors praising my work and not laugh too hard when I mentioned I wanted to write genre specific novels. (Sometimes not the best news you want to give your hard and heavy Literary Fiction profs.) I had reached a certain level of validation, but it wasn’t the big one. I still wasn’t on a bookshelf, still not signed to a NY publisher. Still had nothing to show friends, family and…Julie Garwood.
Since graduation, I’ve gone on to publish all my short stories between various print mags, online mags, literary journals, university journals, anthologies and collections. I was perfectly well validated on a lot of personal levels, but leave it to family to deflate my ego like at super bowl football.
When I told my mom I was finally being published in a magazine, she asked with all seriousness, “Like Ladies Home Journal?” No, mom, not that. “Can I go to a store and by this magazine?” No, mom, but you can buy it online. The info didn’t compute. So, no surprise after my 16th publication and a couple of weeks from returning from last year’s RT conference where I was promoting an anthology, that I was introduced by my mom to distant relatives as “trying to be a writer”. Any validation I had, real or otherwise, felt more like a sudden sting. I was in a book, and it wasn’t the first one, but when a couple of relatives asked about what bookstores were carrying it, I had to say it’s available online. There’s an unmistakable look that comes across people’s faces when they realize that your version of successful doesn’t match their version of successful. They really want to be happy for you, but they can’t because THEY have to make an extra effort to understand what YOUR dreams and goals are.
Yes, kids, this is what books USED to look like.
So, here I am, apparently not meeting my family’s standards and still no closer to fulfilling my promise I made to Julie Garwood when I was a 16 year old. I needed to have a book on a bookshelf and the only way to do that is to get a publishing contract. After all, that’s what the last 4 years of my writing life has been about. I’m writing a monster onus in the hopes that a big publisher from New York recognizes me as the love child of Julie Garwood and George RR Martin and sign me to the biggest publishing contract on the planet with an HBO miniseries option.
And then I had an epiphany.
I spent many years turning my nose up at self-published books. Mainly because I had seen a few when they first came out and they were atrocious. I always held more pride in my craft and art than that. I was never going to go that route, because I thought I was better than that. But over the last year my mindset has dramatically changed. It’s hard to say exactly what the turning point was. I think a little bit of it came when I watched a fanfiction writer steal another writer’s work and make millions off it. All that validation I thought I needed, all those whispers in my head that I wasn’t a “real writer” unless a big time publisher published me vanished when I realized that I am in a whole different ballgame than I was 25 years ago. I want to be a writer, I want to be an author. I hope that doing so means I can pay some bills in order to have more time to write. But I don’t want to write based on what a publishing company or editor’s Magic 8 Ball is predicting to be the current trend. I know I’m a good writer. I’m not being cocky. It’s taken me 25 years, a writing degree, dozens of published stories and honest feedback from honest friends to build up the confidence to say that. I’m tired of seeking out validation, because something will ALWAYS come along that won’t be good enough for one person on the planet. I have to change my frame of mind. We ALL have to change our frame of mind and recognize good writing regardless if a NY publisher (who’s probably roped a writer into a contract that has stripped him/her of their creative rights) has published them or not. Musicians self-produce all the time. Kevin Smith got into Cannes with a black and white film financed with a credit card. Why are writers made to feel worse if they don’t have a publishing contract? And is there really a difference anyway?
Oh yeah, writers who self-publish or even go with an independent publisher can’t get their books in Barnes & Noble and/or the you-name-it brick and mortar bookstores in the world. Many writers who have proven track records and monstrous sales who have gone the route of self-publishing for the creative freedom and extra income it provides can’t get their book on the shelves. And knowing such, I see I’m going to keep Ms. Garwood waiting for a while.
In the end, I want creative control over my work. I want my vision to be mine alone. If I fail, at least I know I failed with a story I wrote, not what an editor thinks my story should be based on their bottom line. I never, EVER want to give up the rights to my stories. Some 15 years ago I read Prince’s autobiography. His advice to the world is never give up your publishing rights. (Remember his SLAVE and TAFKAP period?) It always stuck with me. Never say we didn’t learn a thing or two from the little purple wonder.
Self-publishing is a scary thought. And I admit I’m still weighing my options. I’m more confident than I’ve ever been before and have no regrets going forward with it. I’m no longer seeking validation. I’m just going to write and go where the journey leads me and remember to have fun while I’m doing it.
p.s. Don’t mistake my thoughts about publishing house editors as to say books don’t need editing. THEY ALL NEED EDITING. But just be sure you find an editor who works with you and your vision, not against your vision. Make sure that after your editor has given notes, your writing hasn’t morphed into their ideal book verses your ideal book. Remember, write the book YOU want to read. Don’t compromise your vision and art for anything less.
About once or twice a year, I get a real hankering for something called a Scotch Egg. Essentially, it’s a hard-boiled egg encased in sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried until done. The Scotch Egg first appeared on the cuisine scene in the early 1700s and over the centuries has evolved into a picnic food. I first discovered this delicacy at the Texas Renaissance Festival several years ago and it’s always on my Sunday morning, post drunken night of revelry, need something in my tummy before I start drinking again faire agenda. For all intents and purposes, it’s a heart attack waiting to happen in a tasty little time bomb, and ties you over until you’re ready for your mid-afternoon turkey leg or bread bowl. They are THE BOMB. And I encourage everyone to try it at least once in their lifetime.
So, what got me to thinking about Scotch Eggs this morning? A couple of things, actually. Earlier this week, some meme was circulating around Facebook about a bacon stuffed scotch egg that looked to have potential. But at the end of the day, what really drew me to make them for my husband and myself this morning was last night’s episode of Outlander.
If you haven’t watched it yet, I won’t give too many spoilers, but I think it’s safe to say that Jamie Fraser has officially changed the meaning of Full Scottish Breakfast. And definitely don’t interrupt him while he’s having his breakfast. Does anyone need any more innuendo than this? I have this feeling that many a woman around the globe needed a cigarette after the first 5 minutes of the episode, and with good reason. It was HOT! I suddenly want to fill up the page with innuendo, but I’ll refrain because it’s possible I’ll break the internet if I try. But watch it. Or watch it 15 times like I have so far.
Speaking of all things naughty, the erotica is coming along quite well. I’m about 2.5 chapters from completing my first official draft and then off to my beta readers. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I’ve never written pure erotica before, and especially one this dark. The goal of this has developed into a group project with a couple of friends for creating a new erotica series for ePublication. I know what you’re thinking: the world is full of countless erotica ePubs. And truly, you’re right to wonder why mine will be any different. It’s still too early to say if it is. But I like to think I’m doing something a little bit better and I have the writing skills to pull it off. Fingers crossed and pricked thumbs, we shall see in a few months when I release the first one.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to Brazil. I’ve noticed over the last couple of months that outside of the United States, I have the highest number of page views coming from Brazil. So thanks Brazil for reading me/following me and I would love to see some comments. I’m always curious who I’m reaching, why I’m reaching them and why they’re coming back. I like to think this blog is more than a random thought diary. I’m really interested in those who are humbling me with their attention! So please leave me a little note. I’ve met some of my best friends over the internet and we are never too old to make new friends.
In the meantime, enjoy this recipe for Scotch Eggs. I always get asked to share it when I cook them and post the pics on Facebook anyway. Have a great week, enjoy the Scotch Eggs and enjoy a Full Scottish Breakfast every chance you get!
I use a wok to cook my scotch eggs in because I believe in multiculturalism
1 pound bulk country-style or herbed sausage
1 teaspoon crumbled dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 hard-boiled small/medium eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 raw large egg, beaten lightly
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
vegetable oil for deep-frying the eggs
In a large bowl combine well the sausage, the sage, the thyme, and the cayenne, divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, and flatten each portion into a thin round. Enclose each hard-boiled egg completely in 1 of the sausage rounds, patting the sausage into place. Mix the breadcrumbs and flour in separate bowl. Dip the sausage-coated eggs the raw egg, letting the excess drip off, and roll them gently in the bread crumbs, coating them well. In a deep fryer heat 2 1/2 inches of the oil to 350°F. and in it fry the Scotch eggs. This can usually takes about 15 minutes, but cut open one scotch egg to ensure the sausage has cooked all the way. Transfer them to paper towels to drain with a slotted spoon when they are done.
A few months ago I came to realize that I was in a certain type of funk with my writing. Despite planning the wedding and using lame excuses as to why I wasn’t writing everyday like I should, I recognized that on some evenings just sitting down with a notebook to put a few words on paper was becoming the more challenging task. I wasn’t sure why this was. As usual, I was obsessively thinking about my plot, my characters and little points my storyline needed to follow. I could open my eyes and see my characters and their predicaments in everything around me. I could have full length conversations with myself and my characters (and in their respective accents), yet still when I sat down at night with that notebook, I was lucky if I managed two worthwhile sentences. It was becoming a little depressing. I have already officially put 4 years into this novel. At 150,000 words, I would say I’m a good 70% finished, not to mention the long edit I will face after I write that final “The End”. Sometimes it is hard to stay focused, much less motivated on a story you know is a monster from the moment you write the outline, and to stay inspired after it becomes clear early on that the story will not be written within the one-year time frame you originally gave yourself.
Perhaps the real question is what does one do when one finds oneself in such a rut? Write some dirty smut!
(Am I channeling Dr. Seuss today?)
That’s right! Erotica. Seriously. I kicked around this idea last summer to write something to get myself out of the rut I was in. (The rut has seriously kicked my butt) I’ve always had a healthy respect for erotica. One of my besties is a successful erotica writer, I devoured Anne Rice’s Beauty Chronicles when I was in my 20s and will read any kind of erotica that is well written and doesn’t sound like it’s narrated by a 13 year old. So, why not try my hand at it?
When I first started it last summer, I barely completed the first chapter – a chapter that was about as vanilla as could be. And then, I lost my motivation for that too. I felt like I couldn’t complete it and I had failed at another goal. I recognize that my problem was I tried to write it on the computer. And that was my first mistake. My M.O. with writing over the last several years has been by hand. If you put me in front of a keyboard, I practically become deaf, dumb and blind. I mindlessly stare at the screen and obsess over every word I type. But put a thick journal and a black, medium tip ball point pen in front of me and I’ll write until my hand cramps. I knew that about myself last summer, but instead of focusing on the solution, I thought I’d soldier on and keep at computer writing. Boy, was I wrong.
Flash forward to about three weeks ago. I realized I needed to stop making excuses and get the rut out of my butt. But I was still making excuses not to get started back on the Scottish novel. I still had erotica in the back of my mind. I was reeling with some new story ideas based on the American Revolution and had been brainstorming an idea for an anthology publication this year. I had a lot on my plate and felt I didn’t know where to get started. And finally the answer hit me. Why not do all of them?
I’ve been suffering a lament for several years that I can’t start a new story until I get the current one finished – especially a full length story that could take a year of my time. I think that was my first mistake. After all, everyone will tell you to get yourself out of a rut you must try something new. So I did. I got myself a calendar and decided I’ll work on 3 stories simultaneously and pre-designate days on my calendar to work on a specific story. And stick with it! Amazingly enough, this did the trick. I’m working on 3 stories right now: the Scottish novel, the erotica and a short story about a mermaid. I was so pleasantly surprised to see this is working for me. After all, this is kinda how I had to do it in college. Focusing on one story gives me a certain motivation to get a lot of sentences on paper, knowing that it might be a good three days before I return to that story again. It allows me to put all of my thoughts and day dreaming into that story during the day and understand what I need to write that night. For some, that might be maddening, but for me it was the breakthrough. My first week of doing it that way, I wrote a total of 10,000 words. The second week, I hit the ballpark around 8k (it was St. Paddy’s day last week. I had to catch up on my drinking after all J ).
In a way, I feel I’m back. Granted, I’m only about 3 weeks into this experiment, but I definitely feel positive about it. I’m desperate for a little new material in my repertoire. I’ve just about published every short story I’ve written over the last 8 years and I need to keep the momentum going. Speaking of which, I actually have one new publication that I somehow forgot about in the wedding bustle. I was featured in the January 2015 edition of the Linden Avenue Literary Journal for The Sanctimonious Lament of the Cake and Punch Girl. I have to give them props for actually getting the title correct. Not to put down Caffeine Presse, but they really wreaked havoc on my OCD. So, enjoy, perhaps again.
In the meantime, keep writing, keep reading and as always, Sláinte!
It’s not the most original title, but I’m going for it. The important issue here is that I’m back! After what is a good six month hiatus, the muse has reclaimed me and I can officially say it’s time to get my ass in gear and get some writing done.
This past week the History Channel brought us a nice little gem of a mini-series masterpiece called Sons of Liberty. I call it a masterpiece because although it doesn’t really have a whole lot of what one might call historical accuracy (it’s about as historically accurate* as Braveheart and the show was sponsored by Samuel Adams beers, which has really nothing in common with the patriot other than his name and an old tradition that he brewed some beer when he wasn’t pissing off King George), but it did, nonetheless, provide plenty of eye candy in colonial garb for 3 nights of my existence this week. As my friend Lisa pointed out, she would have paid more attention to American History if they had told her the founding fathers were hot. And boy, she wasn’t lying. After the final fade to black, I texted her and effectively coined the phrase “FFILF”. And joyously enough, The History Channel has been playing the show in several back-to-back repeats this week, to which I say God Bless America. As a student of history, I’ve never been much for the Revolutionary War. Hell, I’m an anglophile through and through. And most of the time if a kilt isn’t involved it doesn’t hold my attention very well. (We’ll get to my wedding later.) But I have to admit that Sons of Liberty piqued my interest in a way that I hadn’t felt since I first sat down in front of the TV on Saturday mornings in the late 70s and sang along with my favorite Schoolhouse Rock! tunes. Now I’ve spent the last two days entertaining a new novel idea about the revolutionary war and daughters of liberty. Granted, the idea will stay locked in the vault for a while, sadly. The current novel is still my primary focus, but my muse has been having fun in the days of yore lately, (point of note, did you know that Ben Franklin coined the phrase, “Bat shit crazy”. That’s just one of many history lessons Sons of Liberty taught me. But enough about that, back to the hot guys in colonial waistcoats and trousers.). Suffice it to say, I’m glad the muse is back. I miss her terribly when she’s gone and I hope it’s a good long while before I scare her off again.
*I take it back, they actually got the phrase “The Redcoats are coming” right instead of the wrongly attributed, “The British are coming”. However, some historians will argue the first phrase is incorrect as well.
But in regards to Schoolhouse Rock!, you have to give proper credit where credit is due. As much as I sometimes wish I was alive in the 50s and 60s during the glorious revolution that was the creation of British rock-n-roll (you know, when people knew how to put together good music – another thing I’m grateful to the Brits for), I’m still quite happy that I am in fact a child of the 70s and 80s. I was only about 2 when Schoolhouse Rock! debuted, but thanks to the heavy rotation of the series on ABC, I truly never missed an episode. Two in particular I learned so well which I could even sing as an adult was “Elbow Room” and “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World”. The lyrics were easy to memorize and the accompanying cartoons, while simple, were indeed fun to watch. Perhaps this is where my love of history and grammar started. After all, the songs were catchy and it provided lessons which I took with me when I eventually started school. It’s no wonder the first full novel I ever read was Little House on The Prairie.Schoolhouse Rock! planted a seed that I am blessed to say germinated and rooted. And what a mighty tree has grown since.
So, inaccurate history retelling and Hottie McHotties aside, the last six months have been a bit of a hectic whirlwind, to say the least. A majority of my time was spent planning my wedding. Although my husband and I got married last year, I didn’t have a chance at the time to actually plan a wedding. Now, I will offer two pieces of advice at this moment to those who ever want to plan a wedding. The first is DON’T. But if you still feel compelled to have a social gathering to commemorate the vows you and your partner wish to exchange, my advice is do it after you are legally married. That way neither of you can run away at the last minute. Because take it from me, there is no such thing as a simple wedding, and regardless of how simple your intentions are at the beginning, someone is going to try to fuck up your harmony. The batshit crazy will come out (thanks Ben Franklin!). At least by being married first you know you are legally stuck with each other when the shit really hits the fan. I’m just saying. Suffice it to say, it was a beautiful ceremony and we convinced 6 of our closest male friends to wear kilts, along with a very pouty ring bearer.
Although much of my writing was put aside for the planning of the wedding, all was not a total loss. I am sad to say, however, this year I didn’t really fulfill my goal during my traditional October Wine & Write. I started strong, I will say that. I started drunk, at least. But as the month went on, I not only found little time to write, but also little time to drink. That may be the biggest tragedy of all. However, on a good note, I have had a couple of new publications which I’m quite pleased with. The first was the publication of “The Sanctimonious Lament of The Cake and Punch Girl” by Caffeine Press. The second is a reprint of “Atonement” in Scars Publications’ collection book, The Beaten Path. The last six months of 2014 was lean in terms of publications, but at least I had publications and I will always be proud of that. I still have some great opportunities for 2015 with the monster opus which is “The Scottish Novel” (my newly adopted nickname for it and it WILL have a reference to Macbeth, so break a leg if you must.) Also on the horizon, I will take a little time to write some new short stories – some serious, some for fun, some proper and some naughty. It’s time to branch out and shake things up the bit. The muse is restless and I know better than to leave her in a box for too long.
So, I will leave you with this, “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World” while I drift off a bit with my muse to Colonial Boston, Hottie McHotties, and powdered wigs and waistcoats. Hip hip, huzzah!