Happy 22

As I get settled into this second week of the new year, I’m aware that this is becoming more of life blog than an author’s blog. One of my favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus where Richard Dreyfus says “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

My holidays were very different this year due to circumstances beyond my control. My Christmas present was a new furnace. Not what I wanted, mind you, but very much what I needed. This Christmas also marked three years since my father died. While I wasn’t close to him, he was still my father and I spent many, many years caregiving for my parents so they were, despite our difficulties relating, a presence in my world. This was the first Christmas I didn’t honor all the traditions our family when my parents were alive looked forward to. Even my food choices changed and I have to say it brought new life to me while I was in something of a crisis mode.

I’ve also had some health issues over the holidays which are not conducive to working much less celebrating. The New Year came just the same. Time marches on. I had plans for so much I would accomplish over the holiday break and I did none of them. Joey is still here with me and I treasure every day with my 16 year old cat. His middle name should be Demanding.

I have been working a bit on Dorian 2 but it’s been mostly on the sideline and I’m not sure why that is. I do want to get it off my To Do list, certainly. I’m enthusiastic about moving on to Rossyn’s first book but there’s obviously something I haven’t done to get Dorian’s second half ready for publication. It’s an odd thing, how an author feels that the characters communicate. I definitely feel some communication as I found a huge plot hole in one scene and realized I needed to repair a scene where a contributing character was essentially forgotten. So, work continues and I hope to have results soon and a book out by Spring. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say it’ll be out in a couple of weeks. It won’t. I’m just not moving that fast. But I am moving and I’m warm again! Thankful to be able to scrape up enough to get the new furnace. Fifteen years is just long enough to forget how much you paid for the last one!

I am taking only one class this semester for the sole purpose of wanting and needing to accomplish other things. I want to focus on my math and get that out of the way so I can really consider transferring to a four year college and get a Bachelor’s degree. I love to study and all my studies have been at the Associate’s level so it’ll be an adventure to study at the Bachelor’s level. Additionally, I need to make more progress on the house renovations. I need my craft room done so my crafts won’t intrude on my bedroom! And with all the drama of last semester and this holiday season, I think it’s wise to slow down and allow myself some time, especially with all that’s going on this winter already. I don’t want to miss a thing and if that means I spend some extra time with Dorian 2, then I think that’s worth it. I hope readers will feel the same.

Blessings to you for this New Year. May we all prosper and grow!

Switch

So things are progressing nicely in the world in which I live. First and for myself most important is that my furbaby Joey got a good report at the vet. He got very sick in July, just like his sister did last year. He didn’t have cancer like his sister. Instead, he had a cardiac condition common to cats of his breed. That’s now managed and his bloodwork came out good this last week, indicating he’s as healthy as a 15 about to be 16 year old feline can be. He still has a time limit because I know his kidneys seem to be aging faster than he is, due in part to his surviving the cat food recall of 2007. He and his sister were both 1 year old then and the poison in the cat food took the life of my 9 year old Spaz. Talk about trauma, knowing someone you love died because of what you were feeding him! The vet mentioned that the cancer Sadie had could likely have been caused by the poison or exposure to it, even though Lymphoma is pretty common in pets. I’ve got a friend who has recently had her furbaby diagnosed with lymphoma.

Secondly, and possibly also more interesting to others, I wrote this morning on the story that wouldn’t let go (reference a previous post). I knew it would come back when it wanted to and how it wanted. Sudden understanding of a character and a magazine article about psychopaths all helped me to get a good handle on direction and character development. I believe I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve already got the basics for the second in the series.

Writer’s block is really like a switch in some ways. It can also be like an obstacle course forcing a person to climb out of that into a different perspective and practice of writing. Life has been complex for me this last few months. Bad memories and nightmares, all of which accompany depression and anxiety, basically killed any creativity I had. Now, it won’t kill my ability to quilt or do hand crafts but it certainly does a number on my ability to focus and write.

I wrote a lot and drew a lot while I was a kid. I never once had any problem with what to write or draw. It just flowed out of my childhood brain in a way adults envy. Later in life, as I started doing both as a way to verbalize and heal trauma, it seemed to me as if it was difficult to shift back into writing for pleasure. It was as if the trauma had painted everything with a stain which kept me from enjoying it the way I had when I was much younger. Drawing was one of my classes this semester and, while it hasn’t been difficult, the fact I used drawing to cope and do therapy for trauma tainted it as well and it’s been a long and challenging semester due to that. But I really enjoy it and it will definitely help with cover creation.

It’s keenly interesting to me how all of it works together: the creativity, the way the drawing and writing were used to heal trauma and also how that changed me and my perception of the creative natures of both of those. I love mysteries like that and it’s why I got drawn into the magazine article about psychopaths. Someone once told me my father was one. My childhood certainly testifies that he could have been. But there were some divergent areas which prove he might be kind of low on the spectrum. I do often think back to what life was like with him and what he did, trying to better comprehend his motivation for such behaviors. Sadly, there are some things which defy understanding. But, I digress. My subject matter was the fact that I’m writing again. There is the additional stimulation that the semester has only three more weeks until close, thus giving me time to get back to my previous household renovations. For some reason, physical activity is a must in my creative process. I find that doing chores requiring physical exertion can stimulate my imagination much more than regular exercise will. That and I really want a craft room.

The End Is Nigh

My whole life has been consumed with college classes this semester. IT’s not usually like that. Typically, I spend the recommended number of hours studying. Most classes take around 5 to 10 hours a week to complete in an average 16 week class. This semester has been very different and I wonder if that is because I’m breaking away from the detachment I always had. Dad paid for my classes when I first attended college after High School and since he paid he got to choose what I took. Which meant none of it was necessarily what I wanted. I could never do any art because he thought art was a waste of time. I couldn’t take classes associated with writing or composition because that was another waste of time. However, this semester I’ve been able to take classes I want. Perhaps that’s the reason this semester has taken so much out of me. I’ve applied myself more to this semester than to any previous one.

This application of my time and attention to classes means there was no time to write or design covers. I didn’t completely go without any attention to my writing. I’ve come up with several storylines for future works. Most of these, oddly enough, came to me through dreams! A shortage of time in which to write can be a useful break. It’s time away from the computer screen, time away from the character, time which can be used to get another point of view, mentally review the storyline and characters and also time which can allow me to play with the character in other scenarios which might help to continue the story in the original storyline. Just look at all J. R. R. Tolkien did with his time in between books! I can’t honestly say I’ve accomplished so much backstory but I have used the time getting to know the characters a bit better.

In three weeks, I’ll have plenty of time. Semester will be over and it’ll be a month before the next semester begins. I have big plans for transferring to a four year college but I’ve got a lot of work to do on my appalling math skills so I may keep my schedule light for the Spring. I’m also spending a lot of time with my cat, Joey, who is progressively aging and has some serious medical issues. Aging pets are like comfortable jeans which fit so well you can’t even feel them! They become a part of you! I’m already dreading when Joey passes but I don’t want him to linger just because I’m insecure. I know his sister is on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge waiting for him. This time spent while he’s so ill could mean I’ll spend Christmas on my own this year. But that’s okay. He’ll eat whatever Turkey I offer him!

DFWCon 2021

DFWCon is the shortened form for the Dallas Fort Worth Writers Conference, held every year in Hurst, Texas! I was privileged to go last year and grateful I was able to go again this year. Because of the resurgence of Covid, they decided to hold it online which worked out for me. I didn’t need to get dressed and didn’t need to shower!

The power of a writer’s conference is so multifaceted. There are, of course, the classes which can teach you anything and everything you ever wanted to know about writing. There are also the other classes, taught by writers who’ve been in this profession for years if not decades. They know about writing and many times are willing to share the tips and tricks of the trade with those who are just discovering how much they enjoy writing.

The classes covered everything from how to tell a story, Point of View, plotting, how to avoid common errors in writing and how to write query letters that get read. Since I’m what is usually called an Indie, an author independent of a publishing house or agent, I was most interested in the classes about Amazon’s Kindle platform and KDP. There were two such classes there by three very amazing instructors who had a glorious grasp on how to make Amazon work for anyone who is publishing there. There were also classes in basic story structure and how to edit your own work to make it stand out. If you are a writer, I cannot stress how wonderful an experience a writer’s conference can be. Not only do you meet people who love to write as much as you, there are leaders in the industry, many of them local to Texas for this conference, and you can connect to support for writers, editors, critique groups and other resources to help a writer succeed in a field where there is an overabundance of competition.

My focus is still on understanding Amazon’s platform. I started with the “A+ Indie Author” class and moved into “How to avoid the Mushy Middle”. A class on publishing reality was taught by an agent with numbers on what genres were currently popular and what the effect of millions of people who are staying home due to Covid did to book consumption. The day was ended with a class on how to generate urgency or suspense in writing.

Sunday only had two classes I really wanted. There was another I could have gone to but it overlapped with another I felt I wanted more. The morning I took multiple POVs and in the afternoon, I finished off the conference with “Kindle vs. Wide”, which was a very useful class educating all of the attendees on what genres you can find exclusively on Kindle and which do better on the other platforms.

I enjoyed all the classes and took extensive notes to review later. It made for a really busy weekend and a rough Monday full of homework I should have done over the weekend but it was worth it. The real value in going to a conference, while it is extremely educational, is meeting the people there. I didn’t network a lot – reference the clothing choice and no shower from paragraph one – but I did connect with the instructors, many of whom publish their own works. The part I love most about going to a conference on writing is the books I find during the conference!

I’m hoping to register for DFWCon 2022 as soon as it’s open! Hopefully, this time it will be in person again. I truly enjoyed meeting all the wonderful people and getting questions answered and finding solutions to problems I currently have and to those I may have in the future. Bar nothing, the Hurst Writer’s Conference is the highlight of my year!

Rejecting the Fiction

I spent a very pleasant hour watching Heather Cox Richardson (https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson) as she talked about Laura Ingalls Wilder and politics. I spent my pandemic learning. It was a way to pass the time but it was also a revolutionary act. I was born the last month of the 1960s. I grew up property of my parents. I grew up when there were no phone numbers on billboards for help if your situation had become intolerable. Many in my family were profoundly mentally ill. My father was a former foster child from the 1940s and I’d guess his foster experience wasn’t a good one based on the family life he provided for me. He was angry beyond all reason and bitter, often telling me he was jealous of me and that he hated me. My mother, bless her heart (see southern translation for “Bless your heart”) was also profoundly mentally ill and the product of a home with massive family violence. She was also a compulsive liar. This was my family. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, learning what I wanted to wasn’t an opportunity I could have. My family chose the education I received and most of it was propaganda stating how lucky I was to have them for a family.

I don’t reminisce much in the public space. I haven’t released my testimony nor really spoken to a lot of people about my life spent with my parents, first as a child then, later, caring for them. I couldn’t work outside the home much because I had PTSD and agoraphobia for many years. I went out only to attend to duties I had to do and then came home. Sounds odd now, to be so eager to come back to a place where I was unhappy.

Ms. Richardson’s video blog touched a place in me because it was based on myths. In the 70s and 80s, every sitcom and program ended on a high note. Problem solved. Happy ending. Aren’t you glad you watched? At the same time, I was exposed to Christian fiction in the private school I attended. I was discouraged from reading anything else since it was secular and therefore considered bad. In fact, I was often told that reading anything other than nonfiction, educational materials was a waste of my time. My childhood education and even to some degree my adult education was controlled by my father who paid for it. While there was always the potential I could go to the authorities and ask for help and report what he did to me, since I had no proof and I legally belonged to him, that might have made my situation much worse.

Fast forward to the present day. I’m fifty years old. My parents are gone. My father’s influence on me is far from ended. I still have PTSD and still experience flashbacks of the things he thought would “teach me” to be a decent human being, or at least be useful to him. The legacy of family violence, I believe, still colors a lot of my decisions. As always, everything in my world relates to my writing. My father didn’t approve of me being an author. He insisted I go to college and just about told me what classes I should take, expecting me to come home each day and tell him what I’d learned. To say this diminished my desire to go would be an understatement. Since I had issues with PTSD even then, staying home and out of sight was usually preferrable to me. But over the subsequent years, I learned that education really was a powerful thing.

The power I have today to choose for myself what I learn and study just really hit me as I was listening to Ms. Richardson’s talk. As my parents, grandparents, and extended family were trying to convince me I really did have the best family life I could ever ask for, I was being strangled with the attempts of all the adults and authority figures in my life to convince me of my place in the world. My father expected me to be someone useful to him because that is the role of a female in society at that time. It was the only role. When my parents started asking for grandchildren, I absolutely refused to marry or have kids.

Now, back to my writing. I wrote books to visually and psychologically process the changes I was going through as I pursued not only education but also self-editing. I was gradually over a long period of time separating myself from my father and what he’d tried to brainwash me with. Now, when I go back to read the books I wrote I see so clearly those same gender assumptions in my work that existed in my life. Myths. Lies, really, but ‘myth’ is a fun word I don’t get to use a lot in real life.

That’s why it’s taking so long to edit and publish successive books. I go through to read the books and now I can see so many more plot possibilities and so much more potential in the characters than I could when I first wrote these books back in the late 1990s. In some respects, Joanna has a lot to do with what I was going through at the time, growing up in a family where her role was always not specified. She was brought up so different than her siblings and felt it even though her family refused to acknowledge it out loud. As time goes by and she’s exposed to other influences, namely the two guards who help her escape and assist her in learning what her potential is, she eclipses them.

Writing Joanna was very liberating for me because I was making a journey on paper I was also making in real life but things are just so much simpler in a storyline than they are in the present moment. I controlled Joanna’s decisions and outcomes while in real life I had no such safety net. It took years for me to see plot lines and possible outcomes which I had never thought could be but now embrace because I can. Studying the differences between the world my father tried to present to me versus the world available to me now really interests me and I look forward to exploring it in other works. In many ways, Joanna’s story is a presentation of how you can be told lies and embrace them only to then learn the truth and start to assimilate that and all the opportunities and realities it represents.

I’m sure I’m not doing this justice when I write it out because it is late and I’m tired (edited before publication. There are still books I read among the Christian Fiction genre all those decades back that I still love to read now but I can see in them the same myths so many young people are proving to be outright lies! I’ll be honest that I never examined a story quite the same way Ms. Richardson examined Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work and related it to the times and the politics of the moment in which it was created. It’s got me excited to pursue my education and to learn more. I’m obsessed with this idea of creating a fiction to sell something which doesn’t exist. Happily ever after doesn’t exist. My father’s family told me that reading fantasy was akin to devil worship. All the while they were telling me how fortunate I was to be be part of their family.

Updates

Writer’s block gets a bad rap. It isn’t wholly unproductive though. While I haven’t written every day while blocked, I have worked here and there and moved the story line on toward where I envisioned it going. I’ve also enjoyed several story ideas which mostly came to me in dreams. Odd that, dreaming of a story line. I never understand how that works but that’s how I get some ideas.

I’ve been slaving away with homework to the point where there’s hardly any time to think. My community college recently reorganized, probably to survive the pandemic. Instead of a group of colleges all administered together, they are now one college operating under a single administrator. So Dallas County Community College District (collectively known as DCCCD) became Dallas College.

They like to lump classes together if they’re taught by the same instructor and similar. So Drawing 1 and 2 are together. They’re very different classes but share the same instructor, the same studio space but are focusing on two different types of drawing, beginning and the more advanced studying together. This is actually a good thing because classes which fall below the standard limit of student number to keep it going, can now continue because the two classes are one. That gives us small classes which increases learning potential and it’s fun to see the advanced students’ work.

Another class did that too. Basic Design was lumped together with Visual Design for New Media and the instructor is one of those old school military school directresses with the bullhorn and pages of instructions on how she wants every detail of your life to be lived while you’re in her class. I did jump through her hoops and exhaust myself to earn two zeros in her class. In her defense, there were students who were doing really well. But both classes were doing the exact same homework! I was encouraged to complain when I dropped the course but I chose not to. Just because it isn’t for me, doesn’t mean it isn’t helping someone else. And she had mad photoshop skills. So that’s next on my list of want to take is a photoshop class.

I am still strongly considering going to a four year college, one that seems too grand for me really. Dream big, right? SMU has a Bachelor’s in English with an emphasis on writing that sounds like it’d be divine to take! I’m not certain I can get in. It requires a 3.5 GPA to be accepted and my transfer grades are only 3.22. They’d be significantly lower if I’d stayed in that Visual Design class where the teacher appeared to not like me very much. So, keeping my focus forward, I’m strongly considering what my next move is and when I need to make it.

I’ve registered for the 2021 Dallas/Ft Worth Writer’s Conference in Hurst. At first, they said they were definitely going to have it in person but it has now been officially switched to virtual. I’m not sure how that will work but I’m still interested and glad they’re going on with it! I really missed it last year! I hope to learn more and just basically enjoy myself and the whole writing/author thing.

Joey. I adopted him and his sister in 2006 after I lost one of my cats to Kidney disease. They were to be my mother’s cats but after the vascular dementia set in quickly became my cats. His sister passed last year at this time. Joey has been diagnosed with significant heart disease, a genetic disorder which suddenly appeared and has taken a toll on his health. I’m enjoying the time I have left with him and cuddling him extra close and he is surprising me by allowing that even though he usually hates it.

I’m working on the cover for Machine Planet after having a revolutionary idea during a drawing class. And that’s about it right now except for the story that won’t let me go which is progressing slowly. Last night, I stayed up late with a story I’d written 20 years ago. I read through that, editing out spelling or grammar errors, changing a word there or editing a sentence here. I really enjoyed that story and hope to write a sequel to it soon. But for now, I’ve got writer’s block so I’ll go back to homework.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block can take several different manifestations. It can be first and foremost fatigue. When anyone has been doing the same thing day in and out for weeks or months without many breaks, fatigue will set in no matter what. Secondly, it can be a relative of fatigue called “I’m sick of this” where the person will do anything, even the dreaded items on the TO DO list, to avoid the activity they quite possibly enjoy but, because they’re burned out, they don’t want to do anymore. Thirdly, it can be because life has invaded their workspace.

My writer’s block can be attributed to all three. The next semester starts again on Monday. This semester, I have classes I must actually attend. That will be an adventure since I’ve spent so much time at home. I’m basically going to have to learn how not to be a hermit! But I am looking forward to getting some time out of the house.

I’m still studying the Graphic Design and hope to be able to open up new avenues of creativity with these next classes. I spent a good part of yesterday gathering up the supplies needed for a new semester and today I’ll go through and find the school room locations and get the train schedule so I can save myself the $40 in parking fees every week.

Knowing myself as I do, once the newness of the beginning of a new semester has moved on into “They want me to do what on the first week?” I’ll be writing again very soon. Hoping to get Dorian 2 out by Christmas and also possibly get two more out before then but that will largely depend on the workload of my classes and also on my motivation!

Good Luck to all of us starting something new at this late part of the year with a hint of Autumn in the air. That hint is only a threat here in Texas where the temperatures are going to warm up again as we head toward the end of August into September. But Fall decorations are going up on doorways and the late season flowers are all blooming, a sure sign that, even if it’s hot outside, the season is still progressing onward toward the Autumn.

Dorian Book One

I’m sitting in my favorite chair by the open window with my old friend, Joey, in the window, soaking up the sunshine like cats like to do. There’s a breeze occasionally and I’m working on emails and catching some of the day’s news.

Dorian 1: Witch’s Brew went live on Kindle last night and as of this morning is live as a paperback! I can order my author’s copy!

Since I got a lot done yesterday, I’m not planning a lot for today but I will likely order a pizza later and probably paint a chest of drawers I decided to salvage. I might also pull out the quilt I’ve been working on and put the edging on which will finish out that quilt! Since it’s my first, I’m sure it’s not as pretty as others but I love it. It’s just for me so there’s no pressure. I can also start looking for my next quilting adventure even as I get down to work on putting more books through the copyright pipeline and into print. Today I can spend time on deciding which book that needs to be. On the whole, that is the best day I can imagine having.

Publication!

It’s too hot and humid to do much in the way of renovations so I settled down and decided to tackle the publication now. It’s a lot of uploading and waiting along with error corrections for anything KDP doesn’t like. It takes about half an hour to an hour for the ebook, which should be available for order in a few hours, and up to two hours for the paperback, which may take as long as 24 to 48 hours to be available for order.

As soon as it’s live, I can order my author copy and be able to hold it in my hands! So exciting!

Dorian 1: Witch’s Brew can be read on it’s own or in the series. If any formatting issues are spotted, please let me know. Comments are always appreciated. Thank you for checking out my blog!