“Pen” Is a Verb Too–But “Addiction” Is Only a Noun

Back when my sons were young enough to go shopping with me, they used to work together to protect me from myself. Especially at places like Office Depot.

“Stay out of the pens section, Mom,” they would warn. “You know you don’t need more.”

Ahhhh…pens! Ink pens, in rainbow colors! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways brands.

When I was little, maybe 7-9, I loved those felt-tipped Flairs the best. I used them to draw. My drawings tended to feature the four Queens and Kings from the Narnia series–Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter Pevensie–with myself drawn in for good measure. Queen Gretchen. Every one of us outfitted in rich, royal colors. Sorry, I didn’t keep any of those drawings, but here are the Flairs…

Back then I bought these pens one at a time. A pack like this would have sent me into paroxysms.

Then I started journaling. As I’ve blogged about in the past, “journal” may not be an official verb yet, but it is to me! I started in 1975, and now, 44 years later, I’m still going.

A couple years of my life in here…

Flairs, I decided, weren’t as great for writing as they were for drawing. That’s when Sheaffer cartridge pens entered my life.

Remember these beauties? (Photo courtesy of Harvey Levine, MyAntiquePens.com)

Oh, those colors! Peacock Blue, Emerald Green…that delicious, chocolately Brown. My favorite journaling moments in those days involved switching colors when one cartridge ran empty, then watching the gradation of hues cross the page with my thoughts.

But boy, did I have some inky fingers in those days. And I doubt my teachers were too thrilled with my peacock-blue blots.

Somewhere along the line, though, the Sheaffers’ negative outweighed their glorious positives. Too many leaks, ink explosions, stained fingers. I got practical.

In my post on Journaling from 2013, I sang the praises of the Uniball. I still love those, but for more uniform, blot-free, downright sexy flow across the page, I now pledge my allegiance to the Pilot P-700.

Purple, and green? Be still, my heart!

After buying myself this multicolor pack, I had to go get my latest notebook and write. Did I have anything profound to say? Nope. I just lusted after the feel of that inky page-skating. And guess what? I got to capture that moment, if for no other reason than to laugh at myself a few years hence.

Don’t we all need a little more self-mockery in our lives?

Yeah…but now I’m gonna need a bigger steamer trunk.

Do you have a favorite pen, or paper for that matter? What writing implements speed up your heart?

Return To Kiwiland, Part V: In the High Country, Better Sheepish Than Cowed

My first research stop on our just-completed journey back to New Zealand was a sheep station. Previous stays in New Zealand had involved mostly towns or national parks. I needed to learn more about the rural life. And although NZ has huge (and growing) beef and dairy sectors, I needed the good ol’ pastoral life of sheep.

And I did learn a LOT–not without a bit of sheepishness myself.

An internet search turned up the perfect solution for my research needs: a farmstay at Dunstan Downs High Country Sheep Station: nearest town, Omarama, itself not too far from Aoraki/Mt. Cook, in the middle of the South Island.

Home, home on the range

Sheepish Realization #1: “Upcountry” sheep farming among 6,000-ft. mountains is very different from “downcountry,” on the east coast. Where my novel is set. So I’d more or less taken myself to Montana to learn about farming in, say, Arkansas. Oh. But the east coast is…right over there!! Who knew such a small country could contain such contrast?

I also learned that the live-action version of “Mulan” had just been filmed right here.

Sheepish Realization #2: Having scheduled this trip based on my own free time, I hadn’t bothered to learn what would be going on at the sheep station in mid-January. Turns out: nothing. Lambing was long past, as was mustering; shearing hadn’t started yet. Oh.

Well, never mind. The Innes family, who runs Dunstan Downs, was absolutely delightful, taking the time (which they actually had in this lull) to drive me around their enormous holdings, answering every one of my naive questions, plus those I hadn’t even thought to ask, like, how do you muster by helicopter?

Two generations of the Innes family, plus other guests on their deck

So I learned a ton. Like this terminology:

mustering = round-up (and yes, they have sometimes used helicopters to drop shepherds off onto mountaintops, and even to help herd)

mob = flock

crutching = shearing the dags off a sheep

dags = the nasty, crusty wool around the sheep’s bum

strong-eye = what a good sheepdog has, the ability to mesmerize the sheep into doing its will

The stay itself was a real home stay. Meals were with the family, full-on Kiwi roast, pavalova, the works. (Sorry, no food pictures–didn’t want to be obnoxious.) And my bed had belonged to one of the Innes children.

Just as cozy as it looks

Also not pictured: sheep. I mean, come ON. You know what sheep look like! But I did learn why merino is marketed as a separate brand from other wool…and that sheep farmers consider merinos pitiful when it comes to hardiness: “They’re dreadful mums. They’ll just walk away from the lambs.”

But my biggest set of Sheepish Realizations came on the second evening of my stay. After being toured around a bit, I left Tim & Geva alone to get their hospitality chores done–one of their lodging options includes this adorable wagon:

Available for booking now!

and got some writing done at the edge of their river.

I know, right? If you book a stay in that wagon, this spot could be yours.

In order for me to experience a fuller extent of their lands, and get my exercise,Tim arranged to drop me a few miles down the road so I could hike home. So around 5, with the summer sun still high, off I set into the hills, with Tim’s instructions rattling vaguely in my head, something about following the creek till I hit the track (track = trail). Last thing I remember him saying: “From the top, just follow your nose downhill and she’ll be right.” And maybe something about a fence.

I followed the creek, hopping over it a couple of times, stopping to drink out of as Tim assured me I safely could. (Tim, if you’re reading this…so far, so good. No giardia yet.) All was well, if a bit scratchy…till the creek disappeared into a mess of matagouri. I was swearing too much to take a picture, but…

THIS bloody stuff. (Photo credit: Taranaki Educational Resource)

No way was I pushing through that. The trail must be elsewhere. Feeling fit and confident, I decided to go straight up the hill and spot the trail from there. And I do mean STRAIGHT UP.

What followed was 40 minutes of all-fours scramble, using tough tussock grass for handholds, trying to avoid taking an unintentional ride on the flinty scree Tim calls “mountain taxis.”

Impossible to capture the steepness of this slope in a picture. Let’s just say I ALMOST said farewell to my water bottle.

Stopping to ease my shaky legs, I looked down to see–oh yeah, there’s the trail all right: on the other side of a cliff and a ravine from here.

Oh great–alpine plants. Did I mention I was up near 5,000 feet?

There was nothing to do but continue up, praying that I would eventually meet up with the trail at the top.

Spoiler alert: I did.

Ah, the top at last. Now, what was that about a fence? Follow it? OK, but first I’m crossing over to where the track looks flatter. I’ve HAD IT with climbing. In the local parlance, my legs are “knackered.”

Ah, the fleeting bliss of being up top. Okay…down we go.

You can probably guess what happened next. The fence led me, in fact, away from Dunstan Downs, and by the time I realized it and cut across the tussock, lo and behold: another thorn-filled ravine separated me from the ridge I should have walked.

By now I’d been gone a good two hours, maybe more. Determined not to embarrass myself by being late to dinner (planned for 8:30), I decided just to head STRAIGHT DOWN, damnit, and walk home on the road.

At least the view was nice. Too bad I had to keep eyes down to watch my footing.

Did I mention the matagouri? It grows in great big bushes, yes–but the smaller version also awaited my every footfall, disguising itself in the lengthening shadows. Trying not to trip on rocks–every good hiker knows going down’s when you have to pay attention–I bulled my way instead through the thorns. And tripped anyway.

When I finally reached the road, legs bleeding, there was Tim in his Land Rover, out scanning for me with binoculars. It was 8:40. Had I not turned on the radio he’d given me? he wondered. Oh. Forgot about that. (Truthfully: didn’t want to worry my lovely hosts.) And what about the fence–hadn’t I kept it on my right?

Oh, so that was the thing about the fence. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d lost the trail at the very beginning.

For dinner Geva served venison Tim had shot, and warm raspberry-chocolate brownies with ice cream. I would say it all tasted like humble pie to me, but it was too delicious…and my Kiwi hosts were much too nice to tease me. 

So if you happen to travel to central Otago, remember: Dunstan Downs High Country Sheep Station. And keep the fence on your right.

Placeholder Post: Still Here–Not Sure Why

You may have noticed Wing’s World has gone pretty silent lately. Usually when I’m planning to head off on a trip and ditch the cyber-world I’ll prewrite a few posts, or I’ll make a statement about taking time off.

This time, I just…stopped.

I don’t enjoy reading politically-themed rants, so I sure as hell don’t want to be writing them. But since my tax dollars have started separating little kids from their parents, I’ve haven’t really felt like writing about, oh, I don’t know, Canada geese or raspberries or bluegrass, in my usual random style.

I did consider a post about the joy of picnics. But when I didn’t even bother taking a picture of the rockfish/roasted kale/avocado & brie wraps I made, I knew my heart wasn’t in it.

(The wraps were still delicious.)

So I went on a walk/talk with myself today to consider my lack of posting-verve. Here’s what that sounded like:

I’m a writer. This blog is how I connect with my audience, between books. (Yes, I am working on the next one. No, I don’t want to write about that now.) Could I stop blogging? Of course. Should I? Who gives a shit? Is this the kind of blather anyone wants to read?

But when I got home a package was waiting: the new modem Centurylink had promised, to bump up our wifi speed and make uploading pictures to my blog take less than, well…a century to link. I’ve now hooked it all up, but I need to test it out.

So without further ado, here’s a picture of me at work in Holly B’s Bakery, taken by my photographer friend Robert Harrison.

Photo: Robert Harrison. Pie dough: Holly B’s Bakery.

Oh, MY! That was fast. (You’ll just have to take my word for it.)

Will the thrill of quick uploads be enough to re-ignite my blogging spark? Stay tuned. And stay useful. And kind, people. Please be kind.

My Guru The Tree

If you look at my books you’ll see my publisher is Madrona Branch Press.

That’s me. All us Indie authors are our own presses. But Madrona Branch, the name? There’s a story there, which I’ve told before.

Don’t have time for the previous blog post? Just look closely at that loopy branch.

Here’s an update.

The other day I was out for a walk and stopped to hug “my” tree as I usually do.

Hello, Beautiful.

Then I stepped back and looked into its upper branches. My eyes found that astounding curl of branch which has become my personal emblem. Then, for the first time, they noticed something new that had always been there:

“I’ve been here all along, y’know.”

See it? Look closer.

“Lean on me…when you’re not strong…”

Not only is that never-say-die branch supporting itself with its own loop, it’s also leaning against an older part of the original tree trunk. A dead part. But not so dead that it can’t lend its bulk to keep “my” branch climbing toward the sunlight.

Excelsior!

So I’ve extended my metaphor. Yes, I accepted the “failure” of not being traditionally published, and supported myself to keep growing upward, into independent publication. But I was never alone in that endeavor. I leaned heavily on my writing group, on my editor, on my book designer, and on countless friends I knew only via internet, who helped me with technology or marketing questions.

Not to say any of those folks are “dead wood.” They are all solidly growing themselves. The “dead” part of that solid trunk is all the authors over time whose work inspired me and taught me. Shakespeare. Zora Neale Hurston. William Carlos Williams. Wallace Stegner. Barbara Kingsolver. Michael Chabon. And on and on and on, a trunk of growth so powerful it will never stop nourishing growth, even when it’s finally broken down into soil.

There’s also something to be learned from a tree which uses its own dead parts as scaffolding, rather than shedding them. That’s US, guys–the community of writers! We are the whole damn tree.

A little further on my walk, I ran into another new favorite tree of mine. But that’s a whole other story, so I’ll save it for my next post.

Any other metaphors strike you from these pictures? Or do you have a Nature metaphor for your own experience? I would love to hear.

Secrets To A Successful Book Launch: Have Fun

Isn’t “have fun” the best advice for nearly everything? Marathons? Weddings?  Even certain kinds of funerals? Okay…childbirth, maybe not so much. But book launches? You betcha.

Here are the ingredients I added to my launch of Altitude this past weekend:

1. Comfy environment—our sweet library’s main room, complete with fireplace

2. Refreshments—cookies and cake and savory nibbles provided by me and some wonderful friends

3. One brief, action-filled chapter read out loud in my most animated set of voices

4. A 15-minute armchair interview by my trusted writing friend Lorna, who asked challenging questions I had not seen in advance

Just readin’ a story to a few dozen friends…

That’s it! The rest was just selling and signing and hugging and thanking.

If you’re an author who happens to be shy, this format gives you some structure to hide behind. If you’re a show-off like me, it gives you a platform to share yourself beyond what your words on the page have done.

And refreshments? They ensure everyone’s goodwill. If your book is not their cup of tea, they can just go have a cup of tea. 🙂

 

10…9…8…7…6…5: Countdown to Book Launch

The Flying Burgowski asked, “Who hasn’t yearned to fly?”

Book Two, Headlands, asked, “What if someone hated you just for who you were?”

And now, Book Three, Altitude, has this to say: “To thine own self be true? Yeah, right.”

“You can’t pray us down, or keep us in a box. We are queens of infinite space.”

Jocelyn  Burgowski was turning 14 when she first invited me into her (fictional) life. Now she’s 16 (can you tell?). And sure, she can still fly–but nothing else is working. Broken heart, broken trust, tanking attitude, friends MIA, Jocelyn feels herself turning into a female Hamlet.

But now, leaving her tiny island community to attend school on the mainland, Joss is discovering the perspective of altitude. Facing society’s dark underbelly of abuse and human trafficking, Jocelyn must face her powers and ask herself, “What is flying for?

Here’s a scene from Chapter Two, “Bounded in a Nutshell”:

I needed to fly in the worst way.

Literally. The best way is when the energy fizzes through you like your blood has sparkles, and boy you better elevate fast if you don’t want to explode. The worst way—that’s what I was doing. Escape, with eggs and toast turned to cement in my stomach. I launched vertically from the front porch like Ironman—harder than one-two-three takeoff steps, but better than smashing into the trunk of our giant cedar—and rocketed over the woods. I flew at treetop level in fast circles, happy not to live smack in the middle of Dalby Village anymore. But not happy about anything else.

    You thought they wouldn’t find out? C’s are one thing. Skipping an entire Julius Caesar Unit Exam means a big fat F.

Dad thought those disastrous days were over, the year before when Michael and I stumbled through two months of high school on the mainland, trying to live with Mom. Back on Dalby, I’d been a total angel through the rest of ninth grade. Then That Horrible Summer happened. Fourth of July. I got through August by re-reading Harry Potter Book Seven every time I couldn’t unsnag the memories of Whatshisname’s face, or voice, or breath. I know The Deathly Hallows by heart now. Then sophomore year started. And I…

    What do you want to call it, Flygirl? Fell apart? Decided to take over Michael’s role? Started Acting Out?

Anyway, the downhill slide that had started in September was hitting bottom last May, and I needed to get the hell out. So I flew to the edge of the village, landed behind our old store and walked to Louis’s.

Dalby Village was livening up like it always does on Saturdays when spring brings the tourists back. I skirted the Farmers’ Market, turning my head quickly to avoid Mrs. Mac, who would say a lot more than “hi” to her former favorite student. “Mr. Evans tells me you insist on reading Hamlet to yourself instead of Julius Caesar with the rest of the class. Why in the world? You do know you have to pass Sophomore English before you can take my AP class, right?”

I know I know I KNOW. What a moron—can’t even skip like a normal tenth grader, gotta sit there defiantly reading the play Michael’s struggling with in Senior English. “Why in the world?”

I don’t freakin know, alright? Except…Julius Caesar was a pompous ass. Hamlet was depressed, hemmed in, pissed off. “Denmark’s a prison.”

Hamlet I could relate to. And Louis, I remember thinking grimly, could be like Hamlet’s bud Horatio. Louis would fly with me and help me sort out what to do about Mr. Evans. Or not. Louis isn’t really about advice. But he’d listen like Horatio until I figured it out.

So, what I said in that Louis-email I never sent? It’s true, I don’t remember the last time we flew together. Sure wasn’t that breezy day in May.

“Hey, sweetie!” Shasta, Louis’s mom, sang like she’s done since I started barging into their kitchen at, like, age seven. She was washing dishes while her partner Janice dried. “Is it a party, then, Joss? You guys want to make cookies?

I hugged Shasta. “Party?”Ohhh…Louis has company. My stomach, relaxing from my Shasta-hug, tensed again. “No, that’s okay…”

Louis had been hanging around with Erin a lot—duh, they had practically all their classes together, like freshmen do. But since when did they hang out on weekends?

Can I get something straight? I like Erin. She’s a soccer stud, and she’s pretty much caught up to Savannah in geometry since she bumped up to our math class. She laughs at my jokes. She helps Louis with algebra. And writing. And everything else I used to help him with.

It’s just, I was REALLY hoping to fly with Louis right then.

“Hey!” they said together as I stepped into Louis’s teeny room. They were sitting hip to hip on his bed. “What rhymes with ‘metaphor’? We’re writing Mrs. Mac a birthday card,” Erin added, patting the bed for me to join them—like it was hers. I sat, squinching her and Louis closer together.

“That’s what I ‘said it for,’” I responded automatically. Great, forgot Mrs. Mac’s birthday too. Self-centered moron.

“That works,” Louis grunted. His new, manly voice gave me a little jolt back then. Well, it still kinda does—not that I’ve heard it since I bumped into him at the store a week before leaving. Not that I ever heard it saying, “Have fun at boarding school, Joss, I’ll miss ya.”

     Knock it off, Joss. Tell the story.

“’Sup?” Erin chirped. She was in pigtails, wearing her green softball uniform—yeah, she’s a pitching stud too.

    Me and my Horatio-buddy are NOT up, with you here. “When’s your game?” I countered, looking at their feet parked side-by-side like cars in cozy garage.

“Oh, like, an hour.” Erin stood and stretched her arms, and Louis, on the bed, did the same, as if they were connected by an axel. I knew he’d grown taller and muscley-er because, duh, when a person flies doubles with you for over a year, you get to know their body—damn, that doesn’t sound right. You KNOW what I mean, okay? It’s just, he stopped feeling like the same ol’ shrimpy Louis a few months ago, but that was totally okay because he still WAS his same ol’ self. But last May, I was surprised to see how, like, toned his arms had gotten. He was still getting over the shock of being good at baseball.

“Oh.” I felt like I should offer some reason for being there. But why??? Louis is my oldest friend. So I said, “You sure? On my way over, I thought I saw the team heading for the field.”

“Oh, shoot! Are we playing at nine? Louie, sorry, we’ll finish later. Come watch me, ’kay?” And Erin jetted out of there.

“See ya, Erin,” I called. It’s just—I wasn’t used to it then, okay? Louis and Erin. Erin and Louis. It’s not like I needed to keep on being his only friend, like I was for years and years and years. But jeez, couldn’t he have warned me? And “Louie?” Gimme a break.

“Hey, wanna go fly over their game?” Lying hypocrite. I knew perfectly well there wouldn’t be a game to fly over for another hour, and flying over a crowd is verboten. But Old Louis would have suggested something better, like swoop-overs of Whittier’s Bluff, or experimenting with flying just under the fiercest layer of wind, daring it to flip us, like we’d done in…wow. February?

New Louis gave me an un-Louisy smirk. “Seriously, Joss?” he said and stood up. “Yo, my game’s right after Erin’s, I gotta get dressed.”

A chill reached down my chest, even as I felt my face turn red. “Right,” I said, like sure, I came all the way over here to tell you the game schedule. “Hey, come by my house later if you—you know. Want to go up tonight.” Awkward lying hypocrite. I’d never had trouble inviting Louis to fly before.

He tossed his uniform onto the bed. “Whyn’t you fly with your mom?”

“She’s not really into it these days,” I said, flattening the curling edge of Louis’s Seattle Mariners poster. He never used to have such boy-stuff in his room.

“Beth? Not into flying?” Louis’s frown disappeared as he struggled out of that “Visualize Whirled Peas” T-shirt I’d given him for his thirteenth birthday. “I Saw her yesterday over the Spit. Maybe she just doesn’t want to fly with you.” He turned his back, letting the shirt drop to the floor.

“Well,” I said, because “Why yes, you’re absolutely right, that is the problem” would make me start crying, and “Damn, when did you start hiding your bod from me?”—who says that to their buddy? “Mom’s, like, totally independent these days,” I added. “And I guess flying with me—”

“—reminds her of when she wasn’t? Or Fourth of July, almost gettin’ grounded? Yeah, I get that,” said Louis. His bright hair reappeared through his green jersey like a woodpecker in a bush, and my heart cracked a little: You always get it. But turning around, he was still frowning. “Hey,” he nodded toward his baseball pants.

“Right, see ya.” All I got was a grunt. So much for Horatio.

Shasta and Janice offered me tea on my way out. I declined with a smile and head-shake, not trusting my voice. I walked back into the village. My stupid eyes were burning. My flight-urge felt as dead as my oldest friendship.

But no way was I going home after that ominous phone call. I decided to go browse the half-price shelf at the bookstore.

Where I bumped into the last person I wanted to see, after Dad and Lorraine.

Bushy eyebrows appeared around the side of the mystery section. “Well, look who’s here,” said Mr. Evans.

 

To: Nevans@dalby.k12.wa.us

Dear Mr. Evans,

I was just writing about you in my journal, but I got too bummed so I decided to address you directly. I wish to extend my thanks.

Thank you for calling my house so much last year and turning my parents into Homework Vultures. Thank you for setting up all those conferences, especially that last one in May. Thank you for your witty use of Hamlet quotes to sum up my attitude about school: “Jocelyn seems to feel herself ‘bounded in a nutshell,’ and finding her classes, ‘stale, flat and unprofitable.’”

(You were wrong about that, you know. It wasn’t just my classes I was “finding” that way—it was the whole freakin year.)

Thank you for saying, “Jocelyn needs to have her mind blown, or she’s going to drop out next year.” Thank you for saying, “What if she moved to where no one knows she’s a Flyer, where she can be a normal teenager for once?” And suggesting The Horizon Academy and Early Start at Coastal U. And helping to get me in. Hey, my guy Hamlet went away to school too, right? The thought of that escape literally saved my sophomore year—and yes, I know I mean “figuratively,” not “literally.” Put your red pen down. I’m actually being sincere now. Yes, I know I don’t need to say “actually.” I’m here at Horizon now, making new friends—it’s going to be great. As long as I can find a place to fly.

Oh yeah—thanks for not freaking out when I showed you about flying, last fall. And for understanding about the enemies of flying, and how stupid and betrayed they can make you feel. Thanks for telling me I could talk to you about That Awful Summer and Standers and Whatshisname, if I needed to. It’s just kinda awkward when you stand there handing me tissues while I babble about how flying isn’t the problem. And talking to teachers isn’t the solution. I’m sixteen. I’m supposed to have someone of my OWN to listen to me.

Right. I’m not freakin sending this. What kind of a loser ditches her own diary to email a teacher?  I’m going flying. I just

—–Are you sure you want to delete this message?—–

 

Thanks for visiting Wing’s World! See my next post for another peek inside Altitude.

This Is Your Brain On Proofs: Why Proofreading Is–Or Isn’t–Like Making Bread

Ever wonder what someone’s brain sounds like after ten straight hours of proofreading proofs?

 

Exactly what it says.

“Proof. Poof. Why do they sound so similar?”

“‘The proof is in the pudding!’ Shouldn’t that be, ‘The proof is in taking a BITE of the pudding?’ I mean, plenty of pudding LOOKS great, but don’t judge a pudding by its looks, right? That would be like judging a book by its cover. Which people shouldn’t do. Which is why I’m currently proofreading these proofs.”

No cover-judging!

“And you know when they say ‘pudding,’ they mean dessert, right? Those ol’ British Commonwealth types, they actually ask their mums, ‘What’s for pudding, then?'”

“Hope they get their just desserts. I mean puddings.”

“You know what else proofs? Bread. Or anything with yeast in it. That’s what we bakers call the rising part: proofing. Isn’t that the OPPOSITE of what I’m doing now? I’m poking holes in my own prose, deflating its presumptions of quality.”

Proof of bread proofing.

“Or am I? I mean, proofing my proofs IS helping their overall quality rise in the long run, right? Well, yeah…but only after I make all those corrections. So the proofs have to flatten themselves in humiliation before they can rise. What’s the bread equivalent of proofreading?”

All THESE corrections.

“Did you know that the German word for ‘test’ is ‘PRÜFUNG’? So guess where ‘proofing’ comes from? And, yup…’proving.’ All these words have to pass their test. Just like the bread does.”

Proof of croissants proofing.

“If I quit proofing these proofs too soon, will they go ‘poof’ and prove me a fool?”

“And don’t even start me on loafing puns.”

Making Lemonade Out Of Mighty Sweet Lemons, Or, Book Launch Reschedule = First World Problem

I admit to more than a little stress when I realized how few days remained between what I thought was my manuscript’s final upload and my November 18 book launch. But I told myself, with my usual fierce optimism, that the MS would be approved in time for me to press that magic “publish” button in time to order multiple copies of Altitude (Flying Burgowski Book Three) in time for said book launch.

I admit to more than a little swearing when my optimism was not, for once, rewarded.

The expected approval email did not appear. When notification arrived, it wasn’t good news: a glitch in the MS required a second upload. The nice CreateSpace rep I spoke with assured me that, assuming the second upload went through, the absolute earliest I could receive my books was…November 20.

I admit to more than a little self-pity at realizing my book’s long-awaited debut was going to have to be a little more-awaited.

But all it took for me to extricate myself from the Swamp of Stressed-out Self-Recrimination was a half-hour drive, during which I thought about…

…a friend of mine who’s going blind

…another friend whose son, a dad in his 40s, is dying of leukemia

…a colleague who pretty much lives paycheck to paycheck

…the family of Philando Castile

…the families of those killed at the Texas church, the South Carolina church, the Las Vegas concert, Sandy Hook elementary…and on, and, sadly, on…

You get the idea. My launch date postponement is the poster child of a First World Problem. I got home, got to work on setting a new date and notifying the people who helped me get this far with my book. 

Want to know how blessed I am? The friend who designed my original poster was emailing me the revised version within five minutes of receiving my news.

It was done before I’d even asked for it!

Sweet, sweet lemons indeed. 

Writing Prompts: A Hate-Love Relationship

“I don’t have TIME for writing prompts. I have serious revisions to work on!” 

Those were my thoughts a couple of weeks ago when my writing group met without anyone’s writing to workshop. We’d made a commitment, as a group, that when this happened, we would do writing exercises. Whoever hosted that week got to assign one.

My writing colleague/friend chose, “Create a list of scents from your childhood, good and bad. Then pick one and write about it.”

Luckily I LOVE my writing group. So I submerged my bad attitude in a pool of pleasant acquiescence. Inside I was thinking, “Argh. I’ve just ripped the guts out of chapters 5-8 of my new novel–the last thing I need is to be freewriting about my childhood!” But I followed instructions.

Here’s what my pen wrote:

Most people would call it a stink, not a smell: goats and their manure, goats and their milk. Goaty. Yes, hay is involved, and other sweet notes: warmth; cream; the nuzzle of a muzzle; baby-goat lips; that conversational “meh-eh-eh.” But mostly: ew. Little pellets everywhere, like those imported chocolate cordials, only made of shit. But they didn’t smell like shit. They smelled goaty. Hearty. Healthy. Researchy. Unique. Cute. Intelligent. Second-class but proud of it—“alternative,” like my school, my entire childhood. Goat Barn. Who has goat barns? No one I knew. Who could tell proud stories of being butted, of making “milkshakes” by bouncing a goat on one of the gangplanks across the muck? Who could use a goat as a safe spot in a game of tag and turn her teats into milk-guns?

Don’t worry. This stroll through the goat barns of yore is not going to cause a sudden veer toward memoir. I’m still working on chapters 5-8, and I’m still blogging about–as you see–whatever I feel like.

But this writing prompt, unwelcome as it was, did me an unexpected service: it reminded me of how important my weird childhood is to me, how I treasure that uniqueness…

My folks still have a goat or two, just for funsies.

…like everyone treasures his/hers/theirs. How we define ourselves gives us the courage to move forward. Sometimes that self-definition inhibits, and boy, when that happens, we have work to do. But when it empowers? We need to run with that.

So now, when my revisions start getting the better of me, when I start to wonder, Is this work even worth it? Is anyone even going to read this? Who cares?…all I have to do is think about that goat barn. And I’m armed “to the teat” with a powerful sense of worth.

Darn right, I have a story to tell. I was practically born in a barn. Thanks, Writing Prompt!

That same writing friend also shared this post, “On Hating Writing From Prompts,” by Alice Lowe, on Brevity’s Blog. Writing? You’ll love this. You know why.

 

 

My New Year’s Resolution: Keep Writing New Year’s Resolutions, Damnit

Who cares if I still have an unworking Stairmaster in my barn?

[Last year’s resolution: By the end of 2015, I will have either fixed my Stairmaster machine or gotten rid of i])

Who cares if I’m still in the middle of Chapter 16 in a 21-chapter book? 

[Last year’s resolution: By the end of 2015, I will have finished the first draft of Altitude (Book Three of the Flying Burgowski trilogy) and be actively re-revising the first half]

Who cares if I never got beyond the “we should get together for a walk or a cup of tea sometime, huh?” stage of inviting someone I don’t know well for a walk or a cup of tea?

[Last year’s resolution: By the end of 2015, I will have invited someone I would like to know better for a walk or a cup of tea]

As I wrote last year, “The secret to success is having really low standards.” It’s also, I believe, the maintenance of the feeling of forward progress–the alternative to which is stepping into that swamp of grumpiness and self-pity where the only escape is too much chocolate…you see where this leads, right?

So let me take a minute to celebrate the two resolutions that I DID keep last year:

  1. riding my bike in to work at least as often, if not more often, than driving: check!
  2. developing a fitness regimen that includes daily strength and stretching exercises: check!**

** ahem ** Honesty compels me to admit that I officially adopted said fitness regimen all of **cough** four days ago…but HEY. I’ve kept it up for four days, in 2015, so that still COUNTS.

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And all of those so-far-unkept resolutions are just that, I’ve decided: not failed, just late bloomers. Who’s in charge here? That’s right. So here are my new low-resolution resolutions:

By the end of 2016 I will have…

  • Finished, revised, and published Altitude
  • Kept up my biking vs. riding to work ratio
  • Kept up my daily fitness regimen (the secret to success here was  Son Two’s idea: “Why don’t you do it while you watch The Daily Show, Mom?”)
  • Made reservations for a 2017 trip to New Zealand to research my next novel (New Zealand?! Good on ya!)

…oh, and that Stairmaster? Maybe the unknown person I invite for a walk or a cup of tea will help me figure out what to do with it.

Got a resolution to share? Don’t believe in ’em? Tell me about it either way. And…Happy New Year!