What Did You Do?

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I read an article which stated, there’s no need to feel you have to be productive at this time.

WHAT? Then wtf are we going to do?

I heartily disagree. I think during this time we need to set goals. We need to focus on something to keep us sane!

When this is over, I want to have something to show for it.

When this is over, in another month? another two months? giving us a total of 3 months or more alone in our homes, do we walk out with nothing to show but our muffin tops the size of three tiered wedding cakes?

I’m not telling you not to feel stress. I’m not telling you not to stress eat. I am saying – set a goal and focus on something positive while we’re doing the best we can to survive the pandemic.

This is hard. I get it. We’re scared. If you want to stuff your face full of maple bacon donuts, I’m totally with you. If you have a bad day and want to curl yourself into a ball under your flannel sheets and cuddle your cat – that was my Saturday. I’m not superwoman. I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not doing myself.

When someone asks me, what did you do during the pandemic? I want to say I accomplished something.

I’m setting goals.insi

I’m in the process of another draft – hopefully the final – of my novel. I want to finish that.

I have two fully drafted novellas that need work – those are next.

I signed up to take two classes. I may take more.

I painted my patio. No shit. It’s nearly finished.

I’m going to have a hell of a lot of rooted clippings – plant speak.

My yard will look amazing – well, for a week or so after the pandemic ends, then the weeds will be back.

I’ve written two new poems. I think I’ll start reading poetry live.

I have a live online reading scheduled for April 24th, if you’re interested.

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m planning on offering a free writing class to whoever wants to share some writing. I may recruit other writers to offer their opinions. I think we should workshop too.

So – speaking from the future – what did you do during the pandemic?

 

 

KUDOS and LOVE

to those who are serving,

police, fire, grocery clerks, doctors, nurses, volunteers.

You are my HEROES!

 

Writing in the Time of Cholera

journalA number of people have mentioned the book Love in the time of Cholera to me lately. Ron Terranova, fellow writer and Poe lover, reminded me Shakespeare had a very fertile writing period during The Black Plague.

My writer and critique friend, Jo Rousseau, said she’s keeping a journal and thought many people should. It would be interesting, she said, to see the pandemic from different points of view.

There are people who are having trouble focusing on writing. I have to admit, I was one of them.

While others are saying they’ve never gotten more done. Perhaps they are in the minority? Or maybe they write well under pressure?

Just the day before Jo mentioned the journal, I started keeping my own. I’ve been plagued by disturbing dreams.

Our lives are changing, but not forever. We will come out of this, we will get through this, and I, personally, want to have something to show for it.

I started listing the things I’m accomplishing every day. I’ve added some other things, pandemic jokes and memes. Someone else is writing down the use of language, such as “social distancing”, and how those words are changing and shaping our understanding of society. It’ll be interesting how this comes to use after the pandemic.

Beyond all the free things being offered to keep us safe and sane, free yoga classes, free workouts, free virtual tours of national parks and art museums, there are a number of other things to keep us busy.

It’ll help us all to accept that, for a little while, we need to stay home and find alternative ways to sail through our days. 90186249_1912526478878981_330678285262389248_o

I urge all writers to keep a journal. Not to focus on writing to publish, but a personal historical account for your children, your grandchildren, or for the future. How will this time be remembered? Consider how we think of the Plague and The Flu Epidemic of 1918. What do you know about it? Do you know any people, any stories, any personal or family accounts of the day to day life? Encourage your children to keep journals too – in the future, compare them.

Journaling has helped me get back to writing.

Stay well. Stay healthy. Be safe.

Much love and appreciation.

Crying

People feel all sorts of ways about crying. I feel it’s cathartic, sometimes needed. Sometimes I worry our world is headed in a different direction. My new story explores a world that feels differently.

Let me know what you think. The Crier on Kindle.

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The Likability of Unlikable Characters

I wonder if the new fad to make unlikable characters because people like them a myth.

I like detective stories, mysteries, among the other things I read. But in the last six months, I think I’ve read far too many stories with these types of characters:

The bad guy who kills other bad guys. Hasn’t this become a cliche? Or have I stumbled upon a pile of similar motifs?

The good guy spends his nights in cheap motels with young prostitutes doing blow. But, you know, he has a heart of gold because he doesn’t actually sleep with the ho; he just talks to them. At one point, it seems, he’s up for three days strung out on coke and coffee and is still able to critically analyze a scene and glean more than the other officers.

My suspension of disbelief has been suspended.

Why am I reading this book?

It’s richly detailed – in parts. It had a good enough beginning to get me interested. Also, I like to finish a book.

But I’m at the point, now, that I’m considering abandoning it. Too many issues for me to keep reading.

The characters names are similar or the same to well known famous book-to-movie characters. It makes it hard for me to picture anyone else but Tom Hanks.

Writing is hard. Originality is challenging.

Some people believe there are only so many stories. They are just told in different ways. But they have to be told in fresh, believable, even likeable ways.

I will read some books with unlikeable characters. But I have to like someone!

Opinions welcomed, please.

 

 

 

 

 

The Idea Farm

The idea farm is a creation – where we keep all of our ideas planted, waiting for the spring.

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PLANT:

There’s a time for the planting – every day, every minute, every conversation, every silence. But pick and choose. My favorite place to get ideas is from overheard snippets of conversations, words and lines heard in passing or overheard in a coffee shop. Sometimes, it’s just a word someone throws out that sticks. It might be an image. Someone posted a photo and it was eerie, strangely haunting to my strange little perception. I have notebooks, torn papers, lists of ideas. And the ideas do come to live when they’re ready.

FERTILIZE:

To keep the idea farm going, we need to keep it fresh. New ideas coming, water flowing, fertilizer tossed around. Water is connected, according to Freud, to our unconscious. Taking a bath before bed is a great way to feed your muse. Fertilize – remember to go back, reread, add a word or two, subtract a word or two, think about it before you go to bed, when you first wake up. Something will bloom. Sometimes it blooms prematurely and I’m up at 3am writing like a madwoman. But it works. I wrote a number of poems and short stories struck by a fever of words and rhythm.  Of Strays and Exes and The Gold Tooth were written under one of those spells.

HARVEST:

When the time is right, you write. You’ll pluck that idea out of the ground and start massaging it into what it was meant to be. Eddy was on a list. It sat there for quite some time waiting for me to be brave enough to pull it out, confident enough to put the words to paper, and strong enough to show it to others. So many more stories came like that – waiting for just the right time, ripe from the time and the fertilizer and ready to burst forth.

 

Much love and luck.

At Home with Your Idea Farm

Here in Southern California, schools closed, businesses limited, no hugging, and it’s raining. The mood has been set:

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One newscaster is talking about cycling to work. Did he not get the memo?

STAY HOME. TOUCH NO ONE.

Schools have closed – or gone online. Starbucks is limiting in person ordering/seating, not allowing refillable cups, considering going with online ordering and pick up only. Restaurants are closing.

I saw my friends this week, and we didn’t hug. This makes me sad – but it’s completely understandable.

It fedemo manels like we’ve reached the point of all those 80’s sci-fi movies in which people stay inside, afraid to go out, and resist human contact.

In the Stallone/Snipes Sci-Fi flick, Demolition Man, (a genius move btw), people have sex through the use of computer attached to their temporal lobe. They don’t engage in physical contact.

 

I really want to say: keep calm

This, too, shall pass.

You don’t need 148 rolls of toilet paper or 37 boxes of cat litter.  At least, the average person doesn’t need this.  You’re going to wake up surrounded by bleach wipes for the next two years!

I guess this whole thing keeps me home, keeps me writing. Writers, at the very least, should be using this whole scenario to feed your idea farm. (More info on my idea farm on Monday).

 

Authenticity

I think this is my word for 2020.

I feel I’m always authentic, being me, to the best of my abilities.

I reach for the positive in the majority of my interactions. (I admit sometimes I fall short – no one’s perfect.)

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That being said, some research seems to suggests positive people ignore the negative. So, when I said to someone today, I’m into the whole positive psychology movement, she stated, “I believe in being authentic.”

I thought about the statement, and her misconception that by being positive I’m ignoring some negative or darker emotions (uhm, have you read my work?) . However, I think of it differently. It’s a way to handle the negative, it’s not about ignoring it, (which is what I explained to her).

Last year, this blog was about writing. In looking at statistics, there were a great number of readers. Good. I hope you guys got some good advice. This year, however, I want it to be more about joy and authenticity.

I think my writing is authentic, sometimes raw, sometimes dark, but always with hope.

Happy New Year – Happy Birthday

happy new years eve images 2020

Yay – it’s a New Year. There’s always so much hope and beauty at the thought of something starting new and fresh. Many of those who join the gym, lose motivation around March. Writers who resolve to write every day lose motivation about Jan 2nd. Just Kidding!

I resolved last year to write 365 days. Well, it didn’t quite happen. In reflection, I figured out what stunted my writing. In all honesty, it’s the stupidest reason in the world. Computer problems. I hate to run out and buy another computer. I get used to things and want them to continue to work. I kept trying to deal with the problem and would distract myself from the computer completely!

I took up journal writing in an effort to help. It helped! For awhile.

But enough about last year! This is a new year! New challenges to overcome! And, yes, it’s my birthday! When I was a kid, I hated it. HATE. Loathe. Detest. Everyone was burned out from Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The kids were all out of school – no cupcakes for me!

You might think, getting older, would be another reason to hate it. But I don’t. I love it. I love that my birthday is on the first of January. The start of the new year.

I’m told I was born under a mutable grand cross. Similar to Mike Tyson and Charlie Sheen – uhm….  Okay.  I’m also told I’m a Firehorse. In ancient China, they used to kill firehorse children, especially if they were girls. Uhm…  okay.

Some years ago, on January 1st, I undertook a hike to the top of the Hollywood Sign. Notnew year 2 that easy dirt path some of you may be familiar with; our leader took up ankle breaker trail and cardiac hill. I didn’t know there was an easier path!!!  Standing at the top of the Hollywood Sign (the hill behind, really), I met an astrologer (who took the easy path) who became animated when I told him it was my birthday; he said I was a King of Spades and I should be writing books and teaching people. 🙂

At least he didn’t reference Hamlet’s father.

I don’t really make resolutions for the new year. I make goals throughout the year to keep myself motivated. Sometimes, throughout the year, those goals are met, and sometimes they are changed.

Resolutions are bronze: Bronze is a hard metal made of copper and others that form an unbendable form. We are humans; we need something a little less stiff.

Intentions are silver: Silver is harder than gold, but doesn’t seem as immediate. It’s shiny and pretty and we want to continue to come back to it.

Goals are gold: Gold, can be melted down and made into other things.

I’d like to write in different genres. More essays. More serious writing. I’d like to take more time with my fiction writing. I’d like to reach a larger audience – teach – and help.

Happy New Year!
Wishing you much success and love for the coming year.

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What people think they know…

main_main_paper-wasp-bug-bookWhen people read what you’ve written, sometimes they feel they have some sort of insight into you the rest of the world is not privy too.

It’s ironic. I spend half my time in class convincing my students that maybe a yellow bird or a green light means something more in literature. That the author might have planned it or perhaps it was unconscious, but that it might just be a way into the text, to understand the story or characters a little better than a simple reading might.

And… we can sometimes assume things about the author.

We know Fitzgerald disliked the hypocrisy he saw all around him and Trumbo was disgusted by the war, but can we say with any certainty that F.Scott had unrealized feelings based on the characters’ portrayals.mirror-mirror

Some people like to make guesses about me. They like to make what they feel are educated guesses about the person I am. Someone made a comment to me, recently, about one of the characters in my book, trying to guess which character was actually me.

Of course, we put ourselves into the characters, but rarely do we actually write ourselves. Sometimes, I let it go – let them wonder. Other times, I’m a little annoyed that someone makes an assumption because they read one story and based it on one of the hundred characters I’ve created.

We can’t let it get to us too much – once we send a story out into the world, we can’t control where it will end up or what people will think.

So… How do you….?

Since my book, How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party, came out, people have consistently asked me – so, how do you?

psycI’m not sure how to answer without giving away the themes appearing throughout the book of short stories, or to get long involved conversation about what we want to to see verses what we hope to see.

One of the basic constants in life is we are consistently surprised by things that have been right in front of our eyes. When whatever it is finally reveals itself, we are shocked and embarrassed that we didn’t know.

Some of our more dense friends will say – how could you not know? and other rude a-holes will actually claim to have known the whole time. mag

Life is like a magicians trick – he has all the cards in his hands, but one quick shuffle and presto – chango – the card is suddenly behind our ear, in his jacket – pocket, up his sleeve. How did it happen? How did he do that while we were looking right at him.

It’s a matter of keeping our attention elsewhere. We’re too close. Too busy. Distracted. There are signs, but they’re so easily explained away – and then, then… kind readers… it’s Pandora’s box of tragedy released on the human race. It’s what grows like weeds deep inside all of us.

Hope.

That is what the book is about.

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