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That moment I decided what I want to be when I grow up…

I recently discovered the most perfect job on the face of the Earth. For many years now, I’ve worked with my best friend, my editor, and my fellow writer, Jen Ownbey. We toss ideas back and forth, help each other out with plot holes, and basically make a mostly solitary career/pastime into a companionable activity.

A new Twitter friend was having trouble with her book. I offered to help and Jen jumped in with praise for my ability to see the next step in a story. I gaffawed, pleased that my bestie thinks so highly of me, but rather sure that the 18 or so years of friendship and our telecommunication was the reason I was good with her stories. But, I’m never one to turn down the opportunity to read something new and I thought maybe I could help a fellow author get over her writer’s block.

It was AWESOME! I loved her story, I could see the way the different plot options could work with the rest of the book, and I could hardly wait to send back my comments so she would write more (selfishly because I really want to read the rest of the book!). Her response made what has been a bit of a shittastic week so much better.

And that’s how I discovered what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a book whisperer. I want to help authors who are stuck, pounding their heads against the brick wall that is writer’s block, overcome the obstacles in front of them so books can be birthed. I loved the feeling! I loved getting to read her story. For the first time in years, I got paid to do something I truly love, that makes me satisfied and made me smile. It was such an amazing feeling.

Check out my link on the navigation bar of my website. I would love to continue helping authors who are stuck. If that’s you, or someone you know, send them my way. I would love to help! And, ya know… read some more amazing new stories!

Writers and their Blogs…

I was on Twitter this evening participating in #WIPchat and one of the questions was, do you blog and why is blogging important in building an author’s platform? One of the other participants said that she did not blog because she didn’t have any writing tips to share and that the advice blogs she’d read for writers cautioned against blogging about random things.

That got me thinking. I hate blogs where all they write about it.. well.. writing. If I wanted to read about writing all the time, I’d go looking for specific advice on writing.  I know that hate is a strong word, but I legitimately find them boring. So I started thinking about the types of blogs I do enjoy. The blogs I enjoy most are the ones where I get to know the author. I have several authors I adore. I follow them on Twitter and read their websites. Why? Because I get to know a little more about them and what they love. Not how they write.

Writing blogs (the ones that focus on actual writing tips) have their uses. I use them when I’m feeling stuck or when I want to try something new. I use them when I feel like learning more about my craft (which is often… but I set aside time to do that). When I go looking at an author’s blog, I’d prefer to catch glimpses of what they like, what they’ve been doing in their non-writing time, or snippets of life. Did they go to the grocery store and have an amusing conversation with the bag boy? Fun! Did they see a movie they really loved and wanted to share with the world? Yay! I love movie reviews. I’d get tired of hearing Stephen King just write about writing. He wrote a book for that. I love that Maggie Steifvater tweets about randomness. These are the things I love to see from blog posts as well.

So what about ya’ll? Do you agree with the ‘experts’ that writers should blog about writing? Or do you prefer to see a varied rambling of topics? If I’m wrong, tell me that! I’d love to hear the opposing viewpoint.

A Broken Society

Last night, my son… My beautiful, amazing, almost 13 year old son, had to learn about life the hard way. One of his best friends tried to kill herself. She’s an online friend and he only knows her first name and the state in which she lives so there was no way to check on her. They speak everyday. They have the kind of relationship where they can tell each other everything they’re going through. He was crushed and heartbroken. He was crying with the guilt of “I should have known” and “I’m always the calm one, why can’t I keep it together”.

Why do we live in a society where children, our babies, have to know the ugly sides of life? Why do we live in a world where our children, our babies, feel as though there is nothing for which to look forward? That at 12 years old, their lives are so bad that suicide feels like a legitimate alternative?

We’ve become a world full of selfish people who do not think about how our lives affect those around us. My son’s friend has an awful relationship with her parents. They do not seem to treat her with respect. They look at her as if she is someone to boss around with no feelings attached…. when they actually bother paying attention to her. I learned all of this last night simply by listening to my son work through the situation. And you know, I’ve heard it before. I heard it from kids when I was teaching. I also heard responses from other adults, dismissing these kids feelings as though they were silly teenagers that didn’t understand. Maybe so, but that’s a pivotal problem with the way we look at kids. They’re feelings are legitimate and, when we take the time to legitimize those feelings, it’s easier for kids to learn to process the feelings.

We look around the United States and wonder why kids are killing themselves and shooting up schools. I truly believe it comes down to allowing kids to have emotions. We need to take the time listen to what they’re feeling and realize that they feel everything we do. They just don’t have as many tools in their toolboxes to help them process and understand what they’re feeling.

My son and I sat for hours last night. I let him cry. I let him ask questions. I let him express his anger toward another friend in their group that was saying it was just for attention and she hadn’t really tried anything. We talked through what defense mechanisms are and how to deal with not knowing what was going on with his friend. We, as a society, need to start listening.

It doesn’t stop with kids. We need to listen to each other. We need to listen to ourselves. Emotions are the sentient way of processing the input around us. They are legitimate. They are important. They are what drives our reactions. Instead of trying to shove them into a corner and not let them affect our lives, we need to start letting ourselves and the people around us process what’s going on. We need to listen to each other. Let me say it again, WE NEED TO LISTEN TO EACH OTHER. We need to stop freaking out if a co-worker needs to cry. We need to stop feeling awkward if someone is having a bad day and, instead, take the time to ask questions… or even just sit with someone who is struggling.

Our society is broken. But, there’s hope. My son is currently on the phone with his friend. She’s apologizing for scaring him. He’s not mad. He’s not upset with her for making a decision that could take her away from him. He’s making sure she knows they all care about her. He’s helping her realize that there is hope. We all need to take a moment to learn from him.

Our society is broken… but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

#MeToo

The #MeToo movement has taken over the internet since its inception. It’s important. It’s important that little girls that suffer something so horrific know they aren’t alone.

Today, the movement made me angry. No, that’s not true. The fact that the movement is necessary makes me angry. The situation makes me angry. My grandmother was abused, my mother was abused, I was abused, and the next generation, one specific little girl who has a huge piece of my heart, may have been, too. Why is this still happening? Why are we still having to walk little girls through the process of a medical exam when they should be learning how to read? Why are we still accepting this as the norm???

I’m angry. I’m angry that we live in a world where I have to worry about my princess who isn’t even my daughter. I’m angry that I worry about my son because his best friend is a girl. I love that girl. She’s awesome. But they are constantly monitored when they’re together so he can never be accused of anything. I’m angry because we should be able to stop this, we should be able to protect our children.

But here’s the worst part… I CAN’T do ANYTHING ABOUT IT!!! All I can do is teach the men in my life what is acceptable and what isn’t. I can only teach the little girls in my life how to protect themselves and watch them carefully when they’re with me.

Please, I beg all of you, please teach your children what is okay. Please watch them. Protect them. Love them with everything you are and notice the warning signs for the times you can’t be with them.

I love my children. The one I bore and the ones I lay claim to in spite of their having loving parents of their own. I only hope that their children live in a world with less fear and less anger. A world where they don’t have to feel like I do tonight, wishing with every particle of my being that I could protect all the little people.

When Writing Comes Second

The end of 2017 was very difficult for my family. There were some legal challenges with living situations and my son and I are temporarily staying in the extra room/office of the house my brother and his wife are living in. My parents are also here. We’ve always been close, sharing, if not living space, then the same town. This time is different.

This time, my parents are older. Mom has some medical issues that make her life incredibly challenging. Dad is 81, and raised in an era when emotion was not a trait that men showed nor learned how to properly handle within themselves. This time, my brother is married and has two beautiful children of his own. This time, we’re in a state without a support system of friends that lend a helping hand when things need to be done that are too much for us.

My brother, mother, son, and I all live with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry. We still have to educate medical professionals on what this connective tissue disorder is and the constant pain and fear of injury with which we live. Whereas you may wake up with a slight ache or pain, generally a 1 or a 2, we wake up at a 5 on good days, struggling to force ourselves out of bed. A fall like the one I had a week ago, may not injure you severely, whereas I cracked two ribs. My mother, a Navy veteran, always taught us to keep going. That the work needed to be done, whether we were up to it or not. Somewhere along the way, I lost that mentality. I bought into the idea that when it hurts, we need to stop. Unfortunately, it always hurts, and I’ve let a lot of things get away from me in the past few years.

Colorado is a hard place for me to live. There’s a lack of vitamin D, high altitude, and a pain level that’s through the roof. However, Colorado is also where I was finally diagnosed with a cholesteotoma that threatened to poison my brain with infection. Colorado is where I found the most amazing surgeon I could imagine who persisted, by my side, through two mastoidectomies, before a final third radical mastoidectomy with canal wall down. I’m convinced he saved my life as I’ve struggled with that ear for years, having doctors tell me it looked perfect. It’s time I stop regretting that I am ‘stuck’ in Colorado, and start appreciating that I am alive to find where I truly belong.

Why are all of these things important? Because I submitted a story tonight. I am proud of it and I wanted to tell my mom. But my mom is tired. She is battling against the same exhaustion, the same pain, the same depression that I battle, but she’s been doing it for 32 years longer than I have. Almost twice my life, she’s lived with all of this. My mom was in bed because tomorrow she has to take care of my son, something she does with love everyday while she homeschools him so he can have the kind of education he deserves instead of that which was provided by a system that hears autism and not Aspergers.

Tonight I came to the realization that writing must come second. It sounds logical, but for me, writing and resting go hand in hand. I can sit and write. I can rest and write. My imagination remains active, even as my body falls apart. My family, the people who I love, must come first. I am tired. I hurt more than I have before. But this is the high time. It will just continue to get worse. If I stop now, if I put off doing the things that will help my family now, when I’m older I will truly have nothing left.

So tonight, I will sleep, knowing that tomorrow I will go to work. When I get home, I will start on the long list of things I’ve promised to get done, but neglected while I rested. Tomorrow, I will focus on the next thing that needs to be done, until each thing is completed and the people I care for most have the support they need; the support they give me.

Declaring Myself

I am an author.
At the end of 2017, I declared myself an author. That statement seems rather anti-climatic after a lifetime of writing, but for me, it was a major step. I’ve written for as long as I can remember. But to declare myself an author, meant allowing the world to know that I write. It meant baring a piece of myself, allowing for critique and possible criticism. No, definite criticism.
When I was younger, much (MUCH) younger, I took a writing critique workshop at the community college in my hometown. It was a terrible mistake. I wasn’t ready. The instructor, a once great writer now spending his time ridiculing those who followed him, did little to prevent, and in many cases encouraged, the class to speak harshly about the work that was being reviewed. I wasn’t in a place either mentally or emotionally where I could handle the feedback. I knew my piece wasn’t perfect, but to have it torn to shreds while other, older writers made fun of the premise and writing style, crushed my desire to put words on the page. After all, if it equaled only ridicule, why would I do that?
After my son was born, I had this blinding concept for a book. I wrote the almost 300 page manuscript in 15 days, using the four hours a day my son was at preschool to furiously type out the movie playing through my head. Is it good? Not particularly. Does it have potential? Definitely! I sent it to my uncle, a published author himself, and accepted his criticism and feedback, but still wasn’t able to handle the feelings of embarrassment at small mistakes I’d made while writing. In retrospect, his words were kinder than I had read them the first time and I’m grateful for the feedback now.
In 2016, I really started exploring genres and styles. I discovered flash and micro fiction. It was magical. Crafting stories from prompts. Challenging myself to include certain aspects of required material in a story generally under 1500 words. I felt bolder. Braver. It was hard and I loved it.
In 2017, I was challenged by a friend to write a story because he was bored and wanted something to read. I asked for a prompt and was pleased he chose something outside my comfort zone. From that prompt, Salvagium was born. My first attempt at horror. I loved it. I let my imagination run free! I used everything I’d learned from an associate in criminal justice and a bachelor’s in psychology to write something that my friend loved. I took it a step further and had it professionally edited. And then a step further and submitted it for publication. Though I’m still waiting on a reply, I’m confident that, even if the first submission doesn’t take, I’ll find a publisher that will love it.
In the meantime, I kept submitting micro fiction and flash fiction. I was published twice in the UK with another in the process of being published. I proudly submit my work. I share my stories. Today, I even posted a micro fiction publicly in a contest that allows for voting and comments. I took my passion for words and made my dream a reality. I can now say proudly…
I am an author.