Super Darcy Sunday!

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.

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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.

Sláinte

Wendy

P.s., enjoy the pond scene as well🙂

P.p.s., is this movie really already 21 years old?

 

 

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Always.

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.alanrickman

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

Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s a God-awful Small Affair

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The Man Who Fell To Earth in the 20th Century

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.

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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.

Wendy

 

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To Be or Not To Be (or I Have No Shame in Ripping Off Shakespeare To Prove My Point)

Validation.  That’s the topic of my sermon today.

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.

JulieGarwoodLetter

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.

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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.

Sláinte

Wendy

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.

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Scotch Eggs and Outlander’s version of the Full Scottish Breakfast

Scotch Eggs!  #scotcheggs!

Scotch Eggs! #scotcheggs!

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!

Sláinte,

 

Wendy

 

Scotch Eggs

I use a wok to cook my scotch eggs in because I believe in multiculturalism

I use a wok to cook my scotch eggs in because I believe in multiculturalism

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation

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.

 

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In A Rut, In The Hut, Inna Nut, Full of Smut

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.

writer'sBlockPerhaps 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?

2012-10-23_16-22-43_397I’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!

Wendy

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Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned From Schoolhouse Rock!

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.

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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.

 

School_House_Rock!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.

weddingpic1So, 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.

CaffeinePressAlthough 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!

 

Sláinte,

 

Wendy

 

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Farewell Peter, From Wendy

A comedian has died.

The death of Robin Williams has gripped the American conscience, if not the entire world.  No one can deny that Robin’s death is devastating. I am still in shock, and I’m finding it hard to describe. He was, by far, the funniest man in show business. This sentiment has been expressed countless times by his fans, his peers and contemporaries. With a career spanning 40 years, it seems that there’s nothing that man couldn’t do to entertain the world. Whether it was as a stand-up comic, an actor, a dramatist, or a humanitarian, Robin Williams did it all and gladly did so. But as we look back over the last 4 days, we, the world, have come to realize it came at a heart-breaking price. And his death is giving the world a wakeup call about the true face of depression.

hook-1991-01-gRobin Williams was a man who brought joy to people all over the world through his shows and movies. Being a child of the late 70s and 80s, a treasured childhood memory of mine is the show “Mork & Mindy”. Although I can’t recall every episode, the few scenes that stand out in my mind are, of course, “nanu nanu”, Mork sitting on his head, his suspenders, the egg he came from and his child, played by Jonathan Winters. At 4 years old, it was comedic gold. When I heard of the news of his passing the other day, one of the first things I remembered was a Mork from Ork sticker that graced the back of my bedroom door when I was 5. I can now look back and see how children adored Mork. He was loveable, laughable and carried so many childlike qualities. Freshly hatched on the planet earth, he was a child navigating through the world of the late 70’s, reporting back to his superior about the oddities of earthlings. What child didn’t experience the same wonderment and confusion of the world around them? And what child didn’t secretly wish to simply go back from where they came from? I know I did.

From the moment Mork entered our lives, nothing Robin Williams touched ever turned sour. It’s hard to pinpoint his greatest movies. My personal favorites are Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage and of course, Hook. He played a grown up Peter Pan who had forgotten his life in Neverland. Perhaps I have a particular fondness for that story, because after all, Peter Pan is the first piece of published literature to feature my name. I can’t help but think that without that book, the popularity of Wendy would never exist – and surely the legend of Wendy, whose affection for the boy who never grows up never wanes, although she leaves him and all childhood things behind. I can identify with this in so many different ways.

The key theme in Hook is that Peter, having decided to grow up, as an adult lost his one happy thought. And that’s the kicker right there. One happy thought. Anyone who’s ever suffered depression understands the struggle of finding that one happy thought, in a world where everyone is so apt to tell you what your one happy thought should be. We can’t escape it. Everyone seems to believe they hold the answer: find your happy thought in God, find it in your family, find it with your friends, find it in your career, or find it in your hobby. Just find it. But demanding someone to “just find it” is sometimes as detrimental as not being able to find it. Because at the end of the day, you’re filled with everyone’s opinions about how to find happiness, and none of them are close to the real solution. That is depression as I personally know it. And although Peter Pan found his one happy thought at the end of the film, there are countless numbers of people out in the world still struggling to find that happy thought. And unfortunately, the struggle never ends until the day you have to say “no more.” Sadly enough, no more really means no more.

It is really hard to describe depression to someone who has never suffered it. And I mean truly suffered it. And even worse, it’s hard to describe depression that accompanies suicidal thoughts. Right now, I’m seeing the internet flooded with explanations, theories and toll-free help numbers for those who are depressed. Without a doubt, it needs to be out there. But at the same rate, I’m afraid it will be at the risk of a fad-like celebrity cause, something that’s taking the limelight right now, but after the initial shock wears off, it will quietly go into the night never to be taken seriously again. Or worse, it will turn into a catch-all diagnosis for everything that ails the world. I am frightened of what this will become, I am frightened for those who this condition truly affects and I’m frightened for those who will be objectified, while ignored. Robin Williams’ death might bring about some good, but all I can see is the bad.

If I had to pinpoint the first moment I recognized myself as suffering depression, it was when I was eight years old. It was definitely the first time I contemplated suicide. I can’t remember what prompted the thought. It could have been a number of things, from my brothers not wanting to play with me, to my parents getting a divorce, to whatever third grade drama was happening at school, to a variety of different other things. I just remember sitting in my bedroom, crying and thinking, “I wish I had never been born. Why can’t I just die?” Yes, harrowing and frightful thoughts coming from an 8-year old. It’s no secret I believe in reincarnation. I’ve been a believer since I was about three years old and the topic of all my dreams were about drowning. I never viewed death a final, but more of a do-over. I suppose then I didn’t view death as a greatly scary thing. But whatever it was that made me feel that way that day, I overcame it. However, those thoughts and the depression that accompanied it returned. It came back as a teenager several times and cumulated into something I finally recognized as dangerous when my oldest brother was killed in a car accident. For the next three years after that I tethered from periods of manic depression to thoughts of suicide and back again. I found comfort in friends. And truly, it’s the comfort of friends that get you through some of the darkest hours. And to this day I still find comfort in friends that share a like-mindedness with me. However, it’s not the end-all cure. At the end of the day, I was still just coping from one manic bout to the next.

I was finally diagnosed with depression and put on medication about 6 years ago.  I found myself struggling with the outside world, compounded by struggles with work and a few toxic relationships I had at the time. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t move. After three days a coworker finally convinced me to go the doctor. It was on that day that I finally stopped pretending and told my doctor the truth about how I was really feeling. My doctor officially diagnosed me with depression and put me on medication. However, it came with a price. All the horrible side effects you’ve heard about antidepressants are true. I was a zombie, I slept more than when I was depressed and don’t get me started on the sexual side effects. Yet, I could concentrate a little better and my mind didn’t obsess about things I had no control over. After a year of the medication and with the help of my boyfriend (who is now my husband) I took myself off the medication. It rates up there as the worst 4 days of our relationship. Taking yourself off antidepressants without a doctors help is not recommended, but we made it through it. I wanted to find my happy thought without being medicated. I wanted to be sure the happiness I felt wasn’t just an act of self-medicating.

Depression is hard to describe to others. It’s almost as hard to describe art to someone who has never created. At any given time, I exist in two different worlds. The first I was born into. It’s the reality I share with the other six billion inhabitants of this planet. The second is of my own making. My second world is filled with the past, present and future. It’s filled with people who are my best friends, my children, my creations, my words, my dreams, my actions, music, laughter, hardships and rewards. It’s thoughts I can never verbalize in world #1. Existing in two different worlds is a phenomenal gift and ability. And I credit God for this gift. If you ask any artist about this, I’m sure they can tell you the same. Yet, at the same time, existing in two worlds is sometimes the loneliest existence given to the holders of this gift. It’s solitary at times, it’s maddening at others, and more often than not, it’s depressing. Extremely depressing. Whenever I want to escape (which is sometimes several times a day) I can transport myself to this world of my creation. I can live in it, breathe it, and thrive in it. The depression comes in when I have to come back to reality and witness the hopelessness of the real world, the devastation humans put each other through, and the heartache of loss and regret. It’s hard to find your happy thought in all the madness. But as humans, we struggle to find it. Some do, some do not. And in the end, those who have struggled with it for years and years finally say “enough!” They seek out their do-over. They resign themselves to the one thing that will remove the pain. The unfortunate aftermath is that it brings to light the pain and doubt of those who are left to wonder what made life so bad that they couldn’t endure it anymore. And it’s a question that will never have an answer.

Personally, I’m not sure if there will ever be a cure for depression. I sometimes think it’s hardwired into the brain, or a deficiency your body is not capable of producing. When I was first placed on medication for my depression, I was talking with a cousin about how scared I was about taking pills. She explained it in a way I was able to understand at the time: “it’s about a chemical your brain isn’t producing that levels out your moods. It’s the same as a child who is unable to produce insulin to level out their blood sugar. It’s not something to be ashamed of; it’s just that your body needs a little help with this chemical.” It was the greatest piece of advice I had ever received.

Today, I am on antidepressants again. I went back on them about a year and a half ago when I was struggling with my job again (the one I quit six weeks later to focus on writing). I was given a much milder dose and one without the side effects. I’m happy with the medication for now. I still struggle though. Even three weeks ago after an argument with my husband, I went into a strange downward spiral and those thoughts I hate to name at the moment suffaced again, and I ended up having a very bad three days. Getting my family, and now my husband, to understand depression is still a struggle. One that I am afraid they will never understand. But I still seek out my happy thought. Sometimes it’s in writing, sometimes it’s in the anticipation of our upcoming anniversary trip, sometimes it’s when I close my eyes and spend time with my characters in my latest WIP. I do know where my happy thoughts are. Having the ability to spend time with them is what I need more than anything. And if it means me shutting the door to the outside world until I am finally centered, until I can breathe unaided and until I can look at the faces of other humans in World #1, it’s what I need and require to survive. Just don’t make it hard on me when I have to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

I am truly scared right now, and not for myself. Robin Williams’ death has touched everyone. And I’m not quite sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing. If anything good comes from it, it will be depression and suicide awareness. It’s the bad that scares me: the media claiming to know what depression is, news sources trying to convince sufferers of a one-step cure-all; theorists claiming to know what truly prompted Robin to kill himself, and the blame game that will come of it makes my personal darkness dim even further. Already I’m seeing things on Facebook that are trying to profit off of Robin’s death. His family has had to go into social media hiding (it’s the only way I know how to describe it). I cry and it pisses me off. He was a tortured soul who needed the pain to go away. How can I not identify with that and take it personally?

The only way I know how to end these thoughts are this: don’t get swept up, don’t get swept away. Happy thoughts are real, it just takes a little time to find them. Happy thoughts do exist, but sometimes it means leaving others behind to find them.

Goodnight Peter. Goodnight Robin. You truly brought me happy thoughts. May Neverland embrace you and bring to you the happy thoughts you struggled a lifetime to find.

Wendy

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Get Time Out of Darkness on iTunes today!

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

I’ve been a horrible blogger over the past 6 weeks. Believe me, there’s been good cause, and there is much I want to share with everyone from business ventures, wedding planning, my secret crush on “Weird Al” Yankovic, to a recent lifelong dream fulfilled in the form of a Queen concert.

But alas, that will wait just a few more days. Today I wish to share two bits of news about our anthology, Time Out of Darkness. First, the anthology is now available in printed format. Yes, you can hold it in your hands, and if you’re anything like my mother and can’t figure out the Kindle (I’ve tried sending her a Kindle copy several times with no luck), then you can buy it! Secondly, for the iTunes cult, I mean family, our anthology is available today (July 23rd, 2014) for free! Check out Time Out of Darkness, and as always, we love feedback. Leave a review or a rating. This anthology was, first and foremost, written for charity, so your contributions are already making a difference. But, some writers live on feedback alone. When there is no proof of literary success in the form of a residual check, hearing what our readers think of our work is worth its weight in gold. So please, read it for free today and leave some feedback.

In the meantime, Slan and Sláinte!

Wendy

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Musings From a One-Year Old

Vermillion Literary ProjectI am a year old. At least by WordPress standards. I am now a poet. Or, at least according to my latest publication. I am also insane. But that’s always been a given.

Yesterday I received a WordPress notification that it’s my 1 year anniversary as a blogger. That in itself seems very surreal, since I’ve been at this short story publishing game for about two years already. It was actually in June of 2012 that I sat down and sent out my first short story submission. At that point I decided to keep sending out submissions until I got published. It was a promise to myself that I had failed at before. Numerous times in the past, in fact. After I wrote a manuscript in highschool, I sent out query letters during that summer and pretty much gave up on it after 3 months and a dozen rejections. It’s not that the rejections got to me, but it was the pre-internet age and letters were hand typed, folded and stuck in an envelope with a SASE. It took a lot of effort, and a lot of patience to await those replies. To an 18 year-old during the summer, that’s a lot of work and I didn’t have the patience to keep it up. And these were simple queries explaining that I wrote a book and would so-n-so be interested in reading it. But much has changed in the last 20 years. Now, everything is email or, my personal favorite, Submittable. Not only can you submit an inquiry, but you do so with your completed work. This goes for both short stories and novel manuscripts. I can whip up several query letters in an hour. That made my goal more productive and much easier. Two years ago I decided that every Sunday I would make at least 3 short story submissions to various journals and magazines. Once I got a reject, I would immediately make 3 more submissions. Eventually I had 100 submissions. (today the tally is 221, and that’s where the insanity part comes in.) But my persistence paid off. It took about four months before I got my first acceptance letter, informing me my story would be published in eight months. Yep, eight months. I was freaking excited, of course. But I felt that the wait of eight months was going to drive me crazy. But I waited, and continued submitting. And submitting. And submitting.

One year to the month that I had decided to start publishing my short stories, I had my first publication in the ezine Ascent Aspirations Magazine. As well as two other acceptance letters, about 50 rejections, and about probably about 50 or so still pending. To celebrate my small accomplishment, and at the encouraging advice of one of my best friends, Raydeen, I opened my blog. After all, if there was one thing I learned by sitting through agent and publishing panels is that writers who want to go far have a blog and “web presence”.

So, here I am, one year later, with 15 publications and a book for sale that I co-authored, spreading my author goo all over the internet like Slimer from Ghostbusters. Happy birthday to me!

And as if the year hasn’t been exciting enough as a full-fledged author, I am now able to add poet to my list of creative abilities. Last month I received an acceptance letter from The University of South Dakota’s Vermillion Literary Project accepting a poem I wrote entitled, “Umbrella”. I was literally shocked. You see, I’ve been sending out a few of my poems here and there if I came across a call for submission that looked promising. Sometimes, I sent out the poems just to do something different. Really, I did it for shits-n-giggles. I’m not a poet. And as a writer, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand poetry – not in the sense of how a true poet understands poetry. I started out writing poetry as a depressed pre-Goth era teen after my brother died and I was trying to get the emotions and thoughts of suicide out of my head. It was typical teenage “woe is me, nobody understands me, life is so dark, look at my collection of black clothing, I’m smarter than everyone, look how artsy I am” drivel. And I say that with an extreme amount of affection to my old teenage self. It was poetry that rhymed. And it was poetry sometimes written to the tune of my favorite song at the time. It was as if I was rewriting lyrics to my favorite songs about what I perceived was my shitty life at the time. It wasn’t brilliant, it wasn’t cutting edge; it didn’t make the angels weep. But it did win me the Poet Laureate award of my high school’s graduating class. And it was printed in my high school’s monthly newsletter. So, I supposed that was my first publication.

But despite that, I still didn’t understand poetry. Flash to 10 years later when I was back in college and I had to take a poetry class to fulfill my degree requirement. It was still a mystery, and even more so that, with the exception of sonnets, we read a lot of poems that didn’t rhyme, didn’t have an understandable flow, that, while beautifully written in language I’m still envious of, didn’t make sense in my head as to what made this particular poet a National Poet Laureate over the next. Prose is easy for me. I see patterns in prose, I see methods and craft. It’s a language I understand. Now, while poetry has its own patterns, methods and craft, it’s a language I don’t understand. But I did the assignments, I did the readings, I tried to understand poetry and I made my A’s in class.

Flash to another 10 years later, I submit some poems along with my short stories and here we are – not only has one of my poems been picked up, but picked up by the Vermillion Literary Project, a yearly publication that has a 1% acceptance rating. Maybe I am a poet after all.

Wordcount6-11-2014And after all that, poetry is still not where I want to leave my mark. My calling is prose. It always has been. Exceptionally long prose, if we have to get down to the bottom of it. This is where the insanity comes in again. Yesterday I hit another benchmark with the novel. I’m currently at 150,000 words. And if I’m lucky, I might be 2/3 of the way through. Only if I’m lucky. Chances are I’m barley at the halfway mark. I use the 7-point story structure, so there are more than a few critical pinches and plot turns. As it stands right now, I still haven’t’ reached the novel’s critical climax, but it will happen in the next two chapters. Then after that, most of the mystery surrounding my heroine will be resolved just in time for the final buildup, climax and resolution. I hope I can get that done in the next 100,000 words. Which will put it at what I initially imagined it to be as a 250,000 words. Here’s where the insanity truly comes in. Most publishers only want books between 90,000-120,000 words. So how the hell am I going to sell this when it’s finished? A couple of people have brought up the idea of splitting the book in two, or even three. But I’m not a series type of person. If it can be split, it will be done so at about 175,000 words, leaving the last 75,000 or so to be book two. Not the “Book 1” and “Book 2” dynamic publishers want.  All I can really do at this moment is keep writing, keep building my name and reputation and by the time it’s finished (hopefully in the next 16 months) I can convince a publisher to take a chance on me and my Game of Thrones length “first-time” novel. It’s a gamble, but in the end it’s really about the creation and keeping the story true to itself. I feel it only works as a 1-book story. I pray others do as well.

20140612_135225In the meantime, I go on being me: writer, author, poet, still-to-be novelist. And planter of very slow tomatoes. Yes, this moment of randomness is brought to you by our sponsor, ADD, as I look out my window and wonder why after two months my tomato plants only have a few small buds so far. I was told tomatoes grow in abundance, but one must be patient. I’m patient with writing. Not so much with tomatoes.

Until next time, check out VLP Magazine 2014. Check me out on Goodreads. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who bought our anthology, Time Out of Darkness, you can get it autograhed on Authorgraph. Yes, I’ve had a busy week spreading my slime through the interwebs. Enjoy!

Cheers and Slainte!

Wendy

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