I have a new book of short stories out. They are mostly urban fantasy with a bit of humor.
I’ve missed a post or two. I meant to write but somehow got sidetracked. Today life keeps kicking me unpleasantly. Not those little kicks under the table but a full out walk-around-the-corner-and-get-kicked-by-a-mule type kicks. The type of kicks that made the physical comedy of The Three Stooges funny.
I’m not laughing though.
I have shed a few tears but mostly I just shoved everything back to deal with later. Now it is bedtime and I feel the restrains I put on my emotions weakening. I want to cry and throw up at the same time. It’s been a rough day.
I have a younger cousin in high school, who is a writer. She isn’t published yet as far as I know but she ended up with that creative gene that affects so many in my family. I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. It is actually comforting when one of us is experiencing one of those pesky writer problems and the other knows exactly what it feels like. This kid has such a bright spark too. Her life hasn’t been the easiest but I know one day she is going to take all of that and use it to do something fantastic.
My eldest child and this cousin are exactly one year and one day apart in age. If this were a fairy tale that would mean joining together on an epic journey to a hopefully happy ending. Honestly, if they ever decide to do comics or something, it could happen. My eldest is an artist. ( And yes, I realize there are more ways for a collaboration between a writer and an artist to happen other than comic books, but I watch Into the Spider-Verse last night and so comics were the first things that popped into my head.)
I am horrible at making pancakes. (Also know as hotcakes or flapjacks.) You are probably wondering what one thing has to do with the other, but stick with me please, I really do have a point.
This past week was filled to the gills with errands and appointments and I didn’t sleep well all week. I’ve been having trouble with writing because when I sit down to write I know I don’t have the time to just get lost in the words like I prefer. Everyday worries and responsibilities keep crowding in and I lose my focus. Also, I have just been so tired.
I take naps in my car on my lunch break at work because my head is too fuzzy to concentrate. I have trouble string words together coherently and the filter between my brain and my mouth isn’t working correctly either. This has been going on for a while. I’ve been depressed and frustrated with life and it only seems to get more difficult as the days go on.
Last week my annoyance levels hit the “to hell with it mark”. Often, that is a bad thing but it can occasionally be a good thing too. When I reach THWI, I can either go do something stupid or I can stop looking at all I can’t accomplish and start looking for things I can.
In this case, I pulled up the poetry chapbook I have been fighting the formatting on for months. I sat down, added another poem, deleted all the pretty pictures I had plucked off pixabay, added some simplistic basic art instead (also from pixabay), and then spent hours adjusting and deleting things. I paid attention to what got me the result I was after and what caused problems when I uploaded my manuscript to Amazon. I came to the conclusion that I was an idiot when I realized I was causing one of the main issues myself. However, I kept plugging away and now I have a new poetry chapbook available.
(Right now I am also working on a book of short stories because I have had some complaints from readers who prefer physical copies. Once I am done, it will include all of the shorts I currently have up on Amazon and even more shiny new ones.)
Once I finished the book and ordered a proof of the physical copy, I got the oil changed in my car and then washed the poor thing. I started feeling better because I could see progress. I still had all of the other obligations that had been dragging me down but now I felt better about my ability to get things done and I managed to get a little more sleep.
This brings us back to pancakes. I truly am awful when it comes to making pancakes. I have heard all the tips and tricks. I have watched carefully as other people make them but my pancakes still turn out barely edible if I am lucky. My kids beg me to buy the frozen kind that you heat up in the microwave so that they won’t be forced to endure my attempts at the homemade variety.
I usually listen to them, but a few weeks ago there was a sale at the grocery store on mixes. I picked up a packet of confetti style and a packet of chocolate chip batter mix. I smiled as I thought about getting up early on a Sunday and surprising the kids with a breakfast of fun pancakes and bacon. If one of the kids had been at the store with me, those packets would have never made it to the cart.
I know I am bad at pancakes but I still keep hoping that one day I’ll get it, that it will just click and suddenly I’ll be the pancake queen. I am awesome at grilled cheese so I don’t understand why pancakes are so difficult. I used to be really bad at scrambled eggs but my sister eventually fixed that, so I live in hope that I one day I will be good at pancakes too.
(If you doubt my inept pancake skills, I have had at least three different friends on separate occasions walk in on me during pancake experiments over the years. Each time they wore the same expression of horrified disbelief before they pushed me away from the cooking surface and took my spatula, then proceeded to churn out perfect pancakes from the rest of the batter. My friend Jessi could even make them look like cute little animals.)
This morning the house was chilly because yesterday was lovely and sunny and I didn’t think to turn the heat on before bed last night. I slept in because warm blankets in a cool house are one of the best things in the world. When I awoke, I laid there in my warm cocoon and remembered the packets of pancake mix I had stored in the drawer. It was a perfect warm breakfast day.
After letting the dogs out and feeding the cats, I pulled together all of the things I would need and carefully read the instructions on the back of the package. My son walked in while the first pancake was in the pan and quickly requested something different for breakfast. I frowned but told him he could have what he was asking for along with the chocolate chip pancakes. (He is on the autism spectrum and it is hard to get him to eat different things.) Defeated, he left me to it.
The first pancake was black. I lost track of how long it was in the pan while talking to my son. The second one was less black but still overdone and with tiny bits of plastic stuck to it where the spatula melted. I cleaned the pan and switch to the metal spatula that I should have been using all along. This time I had better results. Still not good, but better. By the time I got to the end of the batter, I managed two reasonably roundish, lightly browned pancakes. I presented them to my son and ate a couple of the more promising failures myself. We each ate about half of our pancakes because warm chocolate chips first thing in the morning turned out not to be the best idea.
Life is full of challenges like pancakes. It may seem like something simple that everyone you know can accomplish without issue. That doesn’t mean you should be disheartened because it is difficult for you. It just means that it is going to take you extra effort to accomplish what seems easy to them. There are probably things that you do without a second thought that others find hard.
Something I hope both my cousin and my eldest child remember as they grow in talent and in life is that it is okay if the first try doesn’t work. It is okay if your repeated attempts don’t turn out perfect. Success is defined by the person who is attempting to achieve it.
In my case successful pancakes aren’t bunny shaped, they are just edible ones. One day that may change. Right now I know what I need to master first; the challenge that is in front of me.
Right now I am sitting on my front porch with my computer open before me. It is pleasant and sunny with a strong breeze blowing the wind chimes. Two tables are set up at the end of my driveway with various items decorating the tops in the hopes of enticing some random person into handing over cash. This was not my idea.
Yesterday I went to a small convention in Chattanooga. Even though I was running on only a couple of hours of sleep, I had a good time. I picked up a couple of graphic novels and a nine-tailed plushy of a kitsune in glasses. It was fun. It was Metrotham Con’s inaugural year and I think I just may return for year two if they manage it.
My weekends are usually divided up into a day where I actually go out among the masses and accomplish things like socializing or grocery shopping, and a day where I stay home and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Yesterday was my do things day. Today was supposed to be my stay home and do-nothing-unless-it-involves-a-creative-endeavor day.
Then my mom decided she wanted to have a yard sale. At my house. On a Sunday. At one o’clock in the afternoon.
She is having a bad depression day too which isn’t making life any easier. Signs weren’t put up to advertise her impromptu yard sale until 2 o’clock. We haven’t had anyone stop by yet but I am still sitting here waiting. She decided to run home and see if she could convince my dad to come back with her, so now I am temporarily in charge. I put a few of my books on the table with her stuff because, why not?
If she does manage to get my dad to return with her maybe I will cook dinner for all of us or something. I highly suspect that no one will return and in about an hour I will be packing away her yard sale. That is okay too, I guess.
So far this yard sale hasn’t generated any revenue unless you count words. I started a new story and have been fighting formatting for the new poetry book I’ve been trying to get out. I also managed to write this post. If this day had gone the way I planned, I probably would have never changed out of my pajamas and would have stayed inside reading. I consider that a perfectly reasonable way to spend a day off. However, this has maybe turned out better. Sitting out here is rather relaxing and peaceful.
I am not in the best of moods today. I haven’t felt well the past couple of days but I have been trying to ignore it. I know that it is the sudden weather change exasperating a previously existing condition.
Several years ago I broke my nose. Not in a cool way. Not even in a dumb way that makes a good story. I dropped my shampoo bottle in the shower after I already soaped up. I fumbled closing the lid and didn’t want all of the shampoo leaking out, but I also didn’t want soap in my eyes. So I bent over with my eyes closed and bashed my nose against the little indentation where the soap goes.
It hurt but I didn’t even realize I broke my nose until several months later when the seasons changed and I developed an ear infection with a side of vertigo. I was out of work for a week because I couldn’t stand up without falling over or throwing up, all because I dropped the shampoo. To this day I have sinus issues that give me major headaches and earaches. The experts say they can fix it by rebreaking my nose and I am all for it. Temporary pain versus long term pain sounds like a win to me. Yet so far no one has actually followed up. Something always seems to happen right before we can schedule whatever it is they need to do.
Today my face hurts and my head hurts because mother nature seems to be having hot flashes. It went from 27 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees in a matter of days. The change in air pressure hurts. Add that to three hours of sleep filled with nightmares, followed several hours fighting to formating issues and I have been done with this day since before the sun rose.
I would take a nap but my son is home sick from school with a stomach virus. Neither of us are having the best day, but at least the things I eat are staying down. We went to the doc and picked up some meds so hopefully, after a bit of rest, he will be feeling better.
Today is also the start of the Chinese New Year. Welcome to the year of the Pig. I don’t know what that means for me. Every placemat I’ve ever read lists me firmly as a Sheep. A Wood Sheep if you want to get specific.
So about twenty or so years ago, (Yeah, I know. I’m getting old.) My boyfriend at the time and I tried to take a trip up to Chilhowee. We ended up most of the way up the mountain before trouble struck. A screw in the engine vibrated loose and fell in just the right place that the accelerator became stuck. We quickly realized that we had a problem and turned around. It was my car so I was driving. We took curves at 80 miles an hour because there was no other choice. I burned up the breaks getting down the mountain and used up the emergency break getting home, once we were on comparably flat ground again. I always considered that as a once in a lifetime event. I had to back part of the way down the mountain at one point too.
Yesterday, I used a couple of hours of vacation time to leave work early. Chattacon is this
weekend and my kid needed some light gray face paint for cosplay purposes. I had tried to acquire it during my lunch break but couldn’t find it at the three stops I managed. So I was hungry, cold, and grumpy when I came back. I caught myself almost snapping at an insistent customer and thought that excusing myself would be the better part of valor. My vacation time was approved so I left early to search Target for the elusive face paint, only to find that Google lied about it being there as well. I figured I would just have to stop in Chattanooga tomorrow after Toby’s therapy appointment. So I turned on to Paul Huff Parkway to hit the interstate and go home.
Unfortunately, that was when lighting figuratively struck twice. I speed up to go up a hill and heard a click. Then the gas pedal was stuck to the floor and I was clearing the other side of the hill with traffic in front of me and behind me. My emergency flashers wouldn’t come on. (I blew a fuse to the turn signals a couple of days ago and the old fuse was stuck and wouldn’t come loose. I had planned to get my brother to fix it the next time he was over.) However, there was a gas station coming up on my left, so with smoke coming up from my breaks, I timed it until the road was clear enough and shot across three lanes of traffic and into the Speedway parking lot before throwing the car in neutral and stomping the breaks until I slowed and then was able to slam the shifter into park and turn the thing off. (I felt like I was stuck in a Final Destination movie for a moment.)
I called my brother who was just sitting down to dinner with his wife and his friend. He left with an empty stomach and came out into the cold to rescue me. (I really do have the best brother in the world.) We didn’t manage to fix the problem but he did get the turn signal fuse replaced. He took the idle positioning sensor off and we have to cough up $150 tomorrow for a new one. Oddly enough, the thing idles better without the positioning sensor than it ever did with it. I guess that means it has been going bad for a while. I am thankful that James wasn’t too far away and I am also thankful that it happened during daylight and without my kids in the car. The fact that I had experienced something similar before helped me keep a calm head while it was happening. (The “Oh Shit” response didn’t kick in until after the car was turned off and I had already called my brother.)
Currently, I am coming to the end of chapter two in a book I am writing. At least I think it will be a book. (I have been mistaken before.) I would be much further along if it wasn’t for Mercedes Lackey.
For Christmas, I received an eagerly anticipated trilogy of books. I knew I would get them. I had asked for them specifically when people inquired what I wanted for Christmas. Mercedes Lackey has been one of my favorite writers for a long time. I picked up one of her Valdemar books at a thrift store when I was too young to appreciate it and hated the book.
Then I discovered the Bedlam Bard books and fell in love. They were rare treasures I would search shelves for. That was how I discovered the Serrated Edge series. I loved those too but I hated them as well. Those books turned a flashlight on the dark corners of humanity. They absorbed you as you read them, immersing you in the story until you felt all of the horror and pain but also the hope. It was wonderful and awful at the same time. I read some of them over and over.
Years after my first introduction to Valdemar my sister started telling about this book she was reading. It sounded awesome. It had magic, adventure, and was written by one of my favorite authors. Then I found it out it was a Valdemar book. By then I knew Valdemar had quite a large fan base but I don’t like jumping on bandwagons. I honestly thought the Bedlam Bard series was better and that people were fans of the wrong series, even though I had never really given the Valdemar books a chance.
My sister can be quietly demanding when she wants to be. She gives you unspoken orders and you hop to, only later realizing what happened. I don’t think she even realizes that she does it. Which was how I was presented with a stack of Valdemar books from her collection and told to familiarize myself with this world she was always talking about. I devoured them all and came back for more. The storytelling was great. Later as I learned to read as a writer, I picked out a couple of things I thought could have been done differently and made a few of the books better. (In my opinion of course.) I was fool enough to mention these thoughts out loud.
Learn from my mistakes. If you are discussing books with someone who showers a story world with complete adoration, never ever ever suggest that there is something wrote with it. Ever. Not even if it is just saying that the ending felt a little rushed and you wonder if the author had to hurry through it to make a deadline. Don’t do it. You will regret it. (Unless of course, you are trying to start a fight or have odd compulsion to have the skin ripped from your body with words. If that is your goal then insulting a favored author or book series is an easy way to accomplish it. Even if the slight is only perceived, it will do the job.)
So after eight books or so I wandered away from Valdemar and on to something else. Then this Winter I was poking around on Amazon, looking for gifts for others when I stumbled across something called “The Herald Spy Trilogy”. I am a sucker for rogues and I enjoy Lackey’s writing so I asked for them for Christmas. I received them, eagerly sat down to read after the holiday craziness was complete, and discovered I had no idea what was going on. References were made to characters I had never heard of. Confused I contacted my local Valdemar informant, A.K.A my sister. She did some google-fu and produced a list of books that come before the trilogy I wanted to read. And to her surprise, she only owned three of the five and they were in storage. (Another long story.)
So I set out to acquire the five books that came before the trilogy I got for Christmas. Then I had to wait for them to be shipped because I bought them online. In the meantime, I got an idea for a book of my own after speaking to a friend and started writing. I managed to get a chapter and a half in when my books acquisitions arrived. I ignored them for a few days but then the person who got me the trilogy started asking questions about if I had read them yet and if I liked them. So feeling guilty for ignoring my gift, I started on the Collegium Chronicles and am now on the fourth book. However, I have only written a couple of paragraphs over the past few days since reading has taken over my writing time.
My writing is suffering from my lack of focus, concentration, and sleep. If Mercedes Lackey wasn’t such a hell of a storyteller I wouldn’t have this problem. The compulsion I feel to read and purchase these books because I enjoy them so much is fascinating. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could be like that one day?
(By the way, during the writing of this blog post I stumbled upon another book in one of Lackey’s series that I haven’t read and ended up buying it too.)