The Pain of Pancakes

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.

fairy-1181702_1280My 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 catnapwell 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.

UndertowIn 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. pancake-640869_1920I 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.)

cold-2722002_1920This 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.

craft-1423803_1920.jpgThe 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 everyonevintage-1722329_1920 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.

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Ramblings from a writer

william_cullen_bryantToday I sat down to look over a poem I wrote earlier in the week. I have sent it to a few good first readers to get different viewpoints. I have spent way more time on this one poem than I ever planned on, but then I never really planned to write it either. A line just sort of popped into my head one day, so I wrote it down and the rest followed. That’s usually how poetry works for me. Often that is the way stories work too.

I am pretty much one of those people who write by the seat of their pants. I rarely plan anything out. I think it is more fun that way, even if it is a bit chaotic. However, if I am writing non-fiction, then I do plan things more carefully. I have the ability to plot things out, I just don’t usually do it because it seems to make getting the words down harder for me. I tend to daydream quite a bit as well.

The idea that I don’t plot things out drives a few of my writer friends crazy. They always plot. I know others that never do. I mean, there is always a vague idea where the story is going. Usually.

I do have eight pages of a work in progress that just kind of popped in my head like poetry normally does. That one I have no idea where it is going. It probably won’t turn out to be anything good enough to share with the rest of the world, but it is fun to write so I am keeping up with it as sort of a writing exercise.

Anyway, my rambling point is that I have spent a lot of time working on a poem. I like this one and I want to get it right but it isn’t quite there yet. I am not sure where “there” is but I am working hard on finding it.

 

Poetry in Whining

A Monday Lament from a Night Walker mugging fork

My back aches 
My shoulder hurts
I want to go back to bed

My bones creak
My brain’s still asleep
I hurt to much to be dead

My coffee is faulty
My movements are halting
Monday has come around

I worked the weekend
And work tomorrow too
Yet I am still Monday down

Monday’s have their pull
On the working world
It doesn’t matter when they come

At the beginning of the week,
In the middle, At the end,
Even after the setting sun.

Late Night

Weep not for me and my lost sleep

Pity not my missed nightly dreams

For I have been traveling the word roads

I slipped between sentence spaces to journey

I danced among worlds hidden in print

I’ve drunk the tears of dragons and feasted on fears

Now I return to this world sated

I may yawn till my jaw cracks and my eyes may blur

But every traveler pays a cost to take a worthwhile journey

And I have willingly given away sleep and what nightly dreams may have come to mine.

Aphelion

aphelion june 2014Looking for something to read? Or maybe a place to submit a science fiction short story or get some great feed back in order to improve your writing?  Let me introduce you to an awesome webzine  called Aphelion.

Aphelion publishes original work in poetry, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror fiction.  It is a non-paying publication, or rather Aphelion doesn’t pay money.  It does help new writers polish their craft.

Aphelion Editor Dan Hollifield is a self proclaimed “Godfather” of new writers. He has a passion to help new writers ” learn their chops“.

Imagine a white haired southern gentleman sitting behind a dark wood stained desk, dressed to the nines, and with  big dragon fly wings that flit into existence every so often.  Sort of like the Godfather/Fairy Godfather of Amateur Writers. Mixing horse heads with pumpkin carriages

(This imagery was sparked by a conversation with Dan on Facebook, by the way.  “Listen to me, Kid. If you don’t start usin’ your spell-check, I’m gonna turn you into a pumpkin! Capiche? Gratzie…” )

If you are looking for a place to get some decent feed back or even just to connect with other writers, I suggested you check out their forum. If you are looking for some good fiction read the webzine. If you have something you would like published, submit it. And to make it even better?  It doesn’t cost you a penny. Aphelion is free and without advertisements to interrupt your reading.

 

 

 

Now I’ve done it…

overflow cover via amazonTwo days ago I published a book.  It is just a small chapbook of poems but it is out there, floating in cyberspace and available on Amazon.  I went through createspace and Amazon KDP, so I guess that means I am self-published. Or I went indie. Or I am a micro-press with a client of one.   You can take your pick on which one you want to use. I am still in that stage of semi shock, where I ask myself  “Okay I’ve got it, now what do I do with it?”

vampire-hunting-kitI know there are people out there turning up their noses and sharpening stakes because I didn’t go through the usual long trek up the mountain of publishing.  Hey, calm down it’s a chapbook, 24 pages at the most. And I have said all along that if I got my wish I would be a hybrid author. (I think I’ve said that here…I’ve certainly thought it enough.)

Will that wish ever be granted? Who knows.  What I do know is that I gathered a bunch of words I wrote and turned them into a book.

Was it easy?  Well, no.  I didn’t know what I was doing at first. I kept making stupid User-errormistakes and formatting was confusing.  But I kept at it until I was satisfied. (The formatting probably wouldn’t be that difficult for anyone else, it was user error on my part.)

I didn’t just slap the first draft of the chapbook up there and call it done.  I must have re-uploaded that thing at least two dozen times.   The important part is that I did it, and that I did it to the best of my ability.

I had someone I trusted look over my work for mistakes.  I didn’t settle with widows and orphans left on pages because of a single space. I went back through a took out the extra space.  Then re-uploaded again.   At one point all of the contractions were translated into kanji for some reason.  I went back and fixed that too.  Then I ordered a proof copy and priority-mail-boxwaited days for it to arrive so that I could quadruple check everything.

I decided on the cover. (It was a picture I took on a walk.) I decided the font, the color of the cover, the title, what went on the back, and even the color of the paper.  I do wish there were more font choices, but all in all I don’t think I did that bad.

Velocipede_for_LadiesThe thing is, now I know I can do it and that is kind of scary. Kind of like learning to ride a bike.  When you first ride by yourself it’s exciting. You made it to the end of the driveway! Go You!  But then you realize there are more places to ride than just to the end of the driveway.  There are hills out there. And hills are whole different terrain than the familiar flat drive way.

 

The poetry of sleepless nights

I couldn’t sleep Saturday night.  I had gone to a Doctor Who themed picnic earlier in the afternoon with my daughter.  We had a good time and met some new people.

I was hot, tired, and just a tiny bit sunburned when we got home.  I thought about taking a nap but it never really happened.  My brain would not stop.  This unfortunately continued until around 5am Sunday morning.  I tried just laying there. I tried reading a book. Nothing worked.

I spent most of the night cobbling together poems I have written over the years to see if I had enough decent ones for a chapbook.  It passed the time and by 5am my brain was finally calm enough to let me sleep.

I still need to locate or write another five or six poems. (I have them scattered everywhere.) Then I need to get them copy edited.  After that…well it looks like I will have a book of poetry coming out at some point this year.