Shattered

There is a classic moment that can be found in books and movies that I love.  A person (for some reason usually a man) is in front of a fire.  Sometimes they are sitting, sometimes standing, it doesn’t really matter that much.  They stare into the fire, a dark and brooding look clouding their eyes as the thoughts they can no longer avoid swim through their mind.  A tumbler sits in their hand, almost ignored with just a small amount of amber liquid in the bottom.  You know they are angry, and you are supposed to think they are also drunk, but as the liquor is likely whiskey or brandy, they might simply have the customary small amount in their glass and have not had more than a sip.  Something comes along to interrupt their thoughts, usually someone entering their private chamber to tell them something they don’t want to hear.  As the person leaves, the anger they had barely contained before comes to the surface, exploding out of them as they throw the glass into the fire, sending shards of shattered glass everywhere.

I love that moment, when the glass is thrown, releasing the emotions they have been holding in with a moment of pure, necessary destruction.  Maybe I shouldn’t love that moment so much.  It has been done so many times, it is trying to move from classic to cliché, and I’m sure many people believe it is already there.  But it is not the use of the scene that I love, it is the shattering of the glass.  The moment, when anger and frustration build up, begging to be released somehow, and finding that expression in one pure burst of destruction.  I have always wanted to do that.  To take a moment, when everything is building up, and let it out, throwing the glass as hard as you can and breaking something.  It looks so completely satisfying, like an anger orgasm. 

In the real world of course, the scene wouldn’t end there.  The anger might dissipate somewhat, but that one satisfying moment of release would require the clean up of shattered glass, potentially from a large area.  There is a decent chance of injury, either from sharp flying objects or from being sliced during cleanup. 

But I still want to do it.

Sometimes the urge comes when I am angry, sometimes when I am depressed, sometimes when I am excited.  I can’t explain the need to break something.  I don’t know the why, only that is it a fact of my existence.  I make things, but I also really want to break them sometimes.

Recently I have hit a rough patch.  Winter hasn’t hit quite as hard here as it has in so many places, but the depression that comes with the cooler weather is still trying to peek through.  The short, cold, dark days leave me bitter, sad, lonely, and yes, angry.  Simply put, it makes me want to break something.  Practicality prevents me from doing so, but does nothing to the lingering desire. 

The other day, I was upset.  I can’t for the life of me remember why now, it just wasn’t that important.  But of course, at the time, it made me very angry, and I was sure there was a good reason.  I needed to do something, so instead of shattering a glass, I was angrily cleaning my house.  I know, a little weird.  I reached a point where I was running out of things to clean, so I began scooping up glass jars and wine bottles to take down the street to the glass recycling.  I very rarely take the glass down where it needs to go; it’s not a lack of desire, but more of an avoidance of the inconvenience. 

I dropped the first wine bottle in the large metallic dome and heard the shatter.  Instantly I felt a little better.  I quickly dispensed with my bag of glass objects, getting a strange satisfaction from the consistent shattering noise I heard each time a jar hit the bottom. 

It was strange.  I always thought the need to release anger was similar to the big bang; my anger made me heated and compacted, needing to explode and expand.  Instead I felt as though I was the one who was shattered before I went, and with each new broken bottle, I was fixed a little.  Maybe the need to destroy isn’t so different from the need to create.  Maybe it is all meant to heal, breaking the parts of you that are in the way, and mending the parts that should not have been broken.  Because sometimes it is okay that something inside you breaks; piecing things back together gives them a new character and beauty they could not have had before.

Of course, maybe I just need to take out my recycling a little more often.

Equal and Opposite

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton’s third law, a part of the physics classroom.  This is used to explain concepts that, while I find beautiful, are a bit beyond my understanding of the universe.  I understand the idea of forces matching each other; I sit on a chair, pushing down, but the solidity of the chair pushes back giving me an specific place where I find myself balanced.  As a person who desperately seeks balance, I find this comforting.  Unfortunately, equal and opposite occasionally feels more like one step forward, two steps back. 

A wonderful thing happened to me last week.  I set out for a normal run, knowing it would likely be more walking than running.  Something was different this time; maybe something was in the air.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something had changed.  It wasn’t enough to walk through my miles.  No matter the pain, I was determined to run.  I needed to feel the rush of movement, the bite of the cold air as I sped through.  So I ran. 

I ran at intervals at first, easing myself back in.  The first interval I had a twinge of pain, but I felt so exhilarated I didn’t care.  The second interval hurt a little more.  By the third interval I was limping as I walked, slightly brokenhearted at my inability to complete even a small run.  It was hard not to be angry at my foot; it had carried me so far before, it’s current refusal hurt deeper than the physical pain I was feeling.  I decided to push through until I had 15 minutes of intervals (my run/walk ratio was based on distance not time, so it was not a strict number of intervals), then turn around and walk home.  After I turned around, I changed my mind.  I was not going home defeated.  I might limp around the rest of the day, regretting my rash decision, but for now I was going to run.  And I did.  I took off at a run, bracing myself for the pain.

But the pain didn’t come.  In my determination to run, I had adjusted my form in a small way, and fixed the problem I had been fighting for five months.  Unfortunately, a short ways down the road, I found a new pain in my shins and my hip.  I may have lost one pain, but in things remaining equal, I gained a new one. The pain I had been experiencing was a reaction to something else.  Now, correcting it, I have fatigue and pain in the muscles that had not been used in months.  With a little, work on that, I am running almost pain free.  Of course today, I am instead home with a stomach virus. 

One step forward, two steps back.

I suppose equal and opposite applies to Karma as well.  You behave badly, someday you will realize consequences of your actions.  Even if it takes a while, there will be an equal and opposite reaction.  At least that is what I am telling myself today, after a night spent biting my tongue at the poor behavior of others.  No one is perfect, including myself, but at times I cannot help but wish for a more complicated time.  Maybe I have been reading too many historical novels lately, but there is something to be said for the manners and customs of a time not so long past.  Sure, the freedoms we have now are wonderful, but unfortunately there are people who do not seem to understand that just because you CAN behave anyway you wish, doesn’t mean you must. 

Saying hurtful things, simply because you can, does not mean there will not be any reaction.  Maybe the person you are insulting is too shy, or even just too well behaved to react to your comments.  It doesn’t mean they don’t have an effect.  Sometimes they create a pain in a person, something that seems small, something they can adjust themselves around.  But someday that pain will come back as words, long forgotten by the speaker, echoing in the mind of the person who has been hurt, and causing pain all over again. 

This is something I have experienced myself as words from my childhood come back to haunt me, and something I have seen happen with my daughters, as they fight within themselves to remember they are not made from the words of others.  The saddest moments come when you see adults, people who should know better, behaving cruelly to others.  Part of you wants someone to do the same to them one day, to show them how it feels.  The larger part of me though wishes instead they will see what they have done to people, to see how their careless words have hurt others. 

I can only hope when the pain comes, people can handle the truth of what has happened, and maybe make amends.

Breaking the Rules

Rules govern our lives.  We follow the laws of our country, and our city.  We follow the rules of the road.  We follow rules of social behavior.  We follow the rules because they work.  Until they don’t.  Naturally there is even a rule for that; rules are made to be broken. 

While writing I try to follow the rules.  Mostly these are rules of grammar, spelling, and structure.  Occasionally these are the laws that govern a made up world I must follow in order to maintain the integrity of the tale.  I do however gather as many of the rules of writing as possible. These laws are written by the experts, or those published authors who have achieved everything to which we struggling beginners aspire to one day have.  In spite of my desire to follow the rules, there are two which I cannot help but break, and two which I always follow.

FEEL FREE TO BREAK THESE RULES!

1) Write first, edit later. 

The only time when I follow this rule is when it is combined with Hemingway’s rule; write drunk, edit sober.  I cannot continue when I know there is something intrinsically wrong with the work I am doing.  Sometimes it is as simple as the little wiggly line telling me there is a spelling, grammar, or syntax error.  That little wiggling line taunts me, demanding my attention, insisting I fix the error before I move on.  I can’t help it, I am bound to obey the wiggly line.  I’ve tried turning it off, but it doesn’t work.  I still know the mistake is there, waiting for me.

 
Other times the problem is bigger, such as a difficulty within the story itself.  These problems manifest as a small unhappiness, a tiny doubt that things are correct.  You try to move on, but you know something is not right.  This should not be ignored.  If there is a problem with the story, it will only get bigger by ignoring it.  Each word you write is another shovelful in the hole you are digging yourself into.  At some point you will need to get out.  That task us much easier in a shallow hole.  Editing early can keep the problem within a manageable level, allowing you to fix it before you have to completely rewrite a 300+ page novel.

2) Write what you know 

I write for the same reason I read.  I write for the same reason I watch movies.  I write for the same reason that I close my eyes and daydream on a bad day.  I write to visit a world that is different than the one where I live.  I write to change things that I hate in the world.  I write to answer the question, what if.  I write about things I do not know because I want to know.  Were I to write strictly about what I know, no one, including me, would want to read that.  I live an ordinary life, with very little excitement.  The things that make my life exciting are hardly worth mentioning to others.  But when I write, I am able to create a world that IS exciting.  I can change one tiny thing about reality and watch as everything becomes more amazing for it.  I would not wish to write about what I know, because I would rather know more.

NEVER BREAK THESE TWO RULES!

1) Read

Most of what I have learned about writing, I learned from reading.  I know there are different schools of thought on this one; read only the genre or age you want to write, read nothing that is even similar to your creation.  Both of these are valid points.  Reading your genre will allow you to keep in touch with your target audience, both the readers and the agents, editors and publishers.  Of course avoiding these areas will make sure you do not accidentally borrow thoughts from another writer.  I would hate to realize that I had taken large elements of my story from someone else.  Inspiration is one thing, outright theft of a story is another. 

The advice to read for writing goes on and on.  Read classics to learn what makes a novel timeless.  Read new books to learn what is currently relevant.  Read only from established authors to learn what makes a career last.  Read new authors to see what made them break through. 

As for me?  I do it all.  I read the books I love, over and over, studying what makes me come back.  I read the books I hate, often more than once, trying to figure out what made me hate them.  When writing my novel, I often thought, what popular book would I like to be compared to?  Which would I hate to be compared to?  From there I worked to shape my storytelling, eliminating the things that would bring me closer to the novel I hated.  It may not stop the comparison, but at least it can help to eliminate the worst parts.

2)Write

This should be a no brainer, but for many this is the biggest mistake they make in completing their novel.  It is wonderful to have an idea, but if you never write it will never be anything more than an idea.  I have a small plastic tray I keep on my desk.  It is a cheap thing I found in a strange store in Okinawa, but I fell in love with it for the saying printed on it; you cannot plow a field by turning it over in your mind.  No matter how much you think about writing, nothing is more productive than actually writing. 

Every now and again, writing doesn’t seem to be working for me.  I stare at the page and I cannot seem to make anything work.  On those days, it is a great time to work on revisions.  If my story isn’t flowing on it’s own, I go back to the beginning.  Read everything I have written already, make little changes, and bring myself back to the end.  Usually by the time I get back to the end I know what I need to do to keep the words moving.

 

In the end, what works for me may not work for everyone else.  Of course, it doesn’t matter much to me what works for everyone else.  No one but me will be writing my novel.  Everyone else can keep their writing rules; I’ll be happy to keep mine.

Block Quilt

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My husband is beginning to fear I have an addiction to quilts.  It has become a frightening regularity for him to come into the sunroom, see me working on my crafting table and stare at me, dumbfounded as he realizes I am beginning ANOTHER quilt.  He seems to think it is some sort of new thing, a reaction to being out of work and bored.  I don’t have the heart to tell him this is what it would have always have been like if I had spent more time at home without children before this.

The biggest reason I fear I have been churning out quilts rather quickly as of late is an unfortunate case of writer’s block.  I know there are many people who do not believe in the concept, and there are moments, even as I stare blankly at the screen, wherein I doubt my current condition myself.  It is not an inability to write words (as you may have noticed, I am quite wordy when I get going).  I have the stories; I am currently working on three, with a fourth nagging at me to pay attention and give it a turn.  Unfortunately I also have an inability to believe in them.  I stare at my screen lately, knowing the story, knowing the characters, knowing what needs to happen, and then doubting every aspect of my writing. I am suddenly gripped with an absolute knowledge that everything I am trying to do is wrong.  My story is ridiculous, my characters are unlikable, and nothing seems to be going the way I intended for it to go.  Above all, each and every word I choose is wrong. 

As I stare at my screen, I am drawn instead to my pile of future quilt patterns.  Here, I can see the pieces before me, fitting together like a puzzle.  When I piece them incorrectly, I can easily pick them apart and try again.  On occasion, I make a mistake, which then turns into something new, something that is in it’s own unexpected way, beautiful.  It is the same thing I am trying to do with my writing; I piece it together, fix my mistakes and glory in the unexpected turns I discover along the way.  The advantage of doing this with a quilt is the easy way in which I am able to see the final piece as it comes together.  I may know in my heart that my story will come together, but when I cannot see all of the pieces as they come together, I am unable to appreciate the beauty that will emerge when the last piece is placed.  Instead, I mimic what I want my story to be using another medium.  I sew the seams, some long and simple, others complicated and infuriating, willing my mind to do the same as I place my hands on the keyboard.  When the quilt is finished, I take it from the machine, and wrap myself up, savoring the feeling of a  finished piece, longing for the day I can wrap myself in the feeling of another finished story.  Until that day, I will continue to place my pieces, searching for the right placement to create a work of beauty.

Five Books (or Series) From my Childhood That I Want Back

I was picking my daughter up from Girl Scouts the other day, as I do every week, and I found a treasure.  They hold their meetings in the Family Support Center on the base, which is just a weird building that seems to exist to fill whatever weird need they have at the time.  Ours holds the library, college courses, play groups, and whatever group is in need of a space for meetings, and can schedule the space.  Anything can happen there, from cookie sales to job interviews to birthday parties.  But none of that is remarkable or exciting at all compared to the two shelves by the door holding free books. 

Let me say that again, FREE BOOKS!!! 

Their free book section works from donations, so you never know what you will find.  Right now they have a large section of fantasy and science fiction, as well as several religious books and romance novels, and a small kids section.  (After every Girl Scout meeting my daughter always asks if she can have a “donation.”  It’s not the same to her if she doesn’t go home with a book.)  Naturally, looking through those shelves is the highlight of my week.  Sometimes it is just simply the same old stuff, nothing new.  Other days, there is a large amount of books to share.  And they are all FREE!  Maybe I am a little too excited about that, but I don’t think so.  I have found many books that are currently on my shelf waiting for me to have time to read them.  I keep thinking I need to donate back, but it is easier for me to accept books than it is for me to release them into the world.

But I digress.  This week I found, Don’t Look Behind You by Lois Duncan.  I loved Lois Duncan when I was in middle school.  I suppose technically they would now be considered young adult books, as her characters were all in high school, but at the time it was juvenile fiction, a much broader term that was useful when you only needed to worry about reading ability, not the likelihood of explicit sex scenes in a book intended for teenagers.  Her books were originally written and released in the 70’s and 80’s, but I loved them in the 90’s too.  She wrote suspense in such a beautiful way, keeping you on the edge of your seat, but not going too far for the middle grade/young adult set.  I devoured every book the library carried, and was even lucky enough to find several of them at my local used book store.  To me, these novels were magic, and were responsible for much of my love of reading, and possibly my love of writing as well. 

Now that I have a twelve year old, it’s fun to share some of the things I used to love with her, particularly reading.  I was excited to get a book I thought she would like, that I had also loved.  Before giving it to her however, I wanted to read it, one more time, just to relive the story before I sent it off with a new owner.  I opened the book, and I was taken back, remembering everything about the time in my life when this book was new to me.  April looked around her room, describing her perfect life that was about to change: her boyfriend, her tennis trophies, her ipod dock, her crystal prism. 

Wait, her ipod dock?  That was not in the original.  Hmm. 

Two pages later her brother is renting the Harry Potter movies.

Something is wrong with my book.  It’s broken.  Someone has gone through the story, made little changes to update the technology, and rereleased it for modern reading.  Someone has gone into this book and changed my childhood.  I’m not sure there is a level of hell deep enough for the perpetrators of this vile betrayal.  Sure it may not seem like much has changed, but at the same time, everything has changed.  This is not my book anymore, it is something different.  My stomach turns every time I think of what has been done.  I’m not even sure if I want to share this one with my daughter.  It’s not the book I remember anymore.  That book is gone, and I will never get it back.

I can’t help but wonder, how many of my childhood favorites have they done this to?  How many memories have been ripped apart and sewn back together to create some Frankenstein’s monster of a book, blending old stories, and modern life? 

I guess it is true, you cannot recapture the past.  I don’t think I will seek out copies of my old favorites again, for fear I will experience the same heart break.  Instead, I will share five books, or series, that I wish I could have back, just as they were.

1)Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal and her hoard of ghost writers

I loved these books, staring Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield.  I wanted to be Jessica and Elizabeth.  They had everything I wanted at the time.  They were beautiful, popular, rich, and always had boyfriends (very appealing to a chubby seventh grader who is not old enough to date yet).  Elizabeth was very smart, and Jessica was wild and fun, plus they were twins, something I think almost every child has wanted at some point.  I could never decide which twin I wanted to be.  Elizabeth was closer to who I was, but Jessica was the person I was always too afraid to be while secretly wanting to.  I read every version of these books available, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley University, The Unicorn Club, everything.  I had a particular love of the historical books which followed blonde, twin ancestors of the Wakefield twins through history.  Of course, the thriller versions were fun too.  A girl in the world who looks just like the Wakefield twins, determined to kill one of them and take their place?  And she has a twin of her own?  Amazing.  I have looked for these again, but from what I have found, they have a limited release.  Anyway, I want the originals, not an update.  I think we have established my feelings on that today.

2)The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

I can’t remember much about these individual stories, just a feeling of enjoyment.  Is that a strange way to hold onto books?  I can’t remember what exactly I loved about the idea of four orphan children, running away from the Grandfather they are afraid of, and living in an old abandoned Boxcar.  At first thought it doesn’t sound like an ideal life.  I think it was always the independence.  These kids did what they could to protect each other, no matter how hard it was.  They stuck together, and used the small means they had to fight back against something fate had determined was going to happen to them.  I never really fought for what was important, but these guys did, even if that fight was simply running away and refusing to accept what was handed to them.  It was a strange kind of brave.

3)Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary

I couldn’t choose just one Ramona book.  I loved them all, from the Beezus and Ramona beginning, to Ramona taking the series over from her sister.  I loved the weirdness of Ramona, taking one bite out of thirty apples, because they first bite was best, using marshmallows to powder her face, taking on a campaign to get her father to quit smoking.  She was always uniquely herself, something I always feared I was not. 

4) The Bobsey Twins by Lee Laura Hope

Okay, considering my feelings on updated stories, this one feels like a betrayal to that.  At the time, I didn’t know I was reading a new version.  My mother had loved these books as a child, and it’s possible her mother did as well.  I think a lot of the appeal of these books was simply that the kids were twins.  I grew up surrounded by older brothers.  I would have done anything to have a twin sister.  My sister is amazing, but she is enough older than me she wasn’t there through those days when I just wanted someone to play a girly game with me, not GI Joes.  A book series about two sets of twins was perfect.

5) American Girls Stories

These stories were the beginning of my love of historical fiction.  I was never lucky enough to own an American Girl Doll, but I was able to check all of the books out from my school library at one point or another, many of them several times.  I know the series still exists, and there are many new girls out there since I read them, but I remember MY American girls: Felicity, Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly.  I’m pretty sure all four of them are currently discontinued, and you are now no longer able to purchase the dolls or the books, but I still remember them.  And I miss them.

 All opinions are my own here, though some may be clouded by the rose colored glasses one uses to look at the past.  Any insult, no matter how deserved, towards those who revise and rerelease books is not intended to hurt the feelings of those involved.  I understand publishing is a business, and maybe someday I will be fortunate enough to have books people care enough about to want to bring them to a new generation.  Respecting the jobs of these people, and their desire to share worthy novels with a new generation of readers does nothing to hamper the feelings of betrayal.  I’m sorry, but that is how it is here. 

I would however love to hear anyone else’s opinions on revising and rereleasing books, as well as anyone else’s lists of books they would like back.  Please feel free to share, and start a conversation!

Showing Some Love

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Today’s self-published novel review comes from author Cathy Bramley.  Conditional Love is her first novel, which makes her the perfect author with whom to share some love.

Conditional Love tells the story of Sophie Stone, a girl in her early thirties, living with two flatmates, and working in a job she could have loved, but doesn’t.  She was raised by her mother, who by all accounts is self-absorbed, and has never met her father.  Shortly after being dumped on Valentine’s Day, Sophie receives a letter telling her she will receive an inheritance from a great-aunt she never knew she had, as long as she is willing to meet her estranged father.  Believing he ran out on them before she was born, she is naturally a bit hesitant.  Falling in love with the house she will inherit and the potential she and her architect see for improving it, is definitely an incentive to at least meet the man.  After all, she only needs to meet him once.

I was slightly disappointed when I first started reading.  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the book, but the description online did not prepare me properly for the actual product.  It sounded like a classic situational romance, with a couple of potential suitors and some sexy mix ups.  What I hadn’t counted on from the description was learning this was a British romance novel.  The difference may not seem like a big deal, but there is a structural difference that can be found more often in British romance novels that is rarely seen in their American counterparts.  British romance novels tend not to focus on the relationship between the main female and their eventual love, but more on the main female and her personal growth which prepares her to meet her true love.  Of course she will meet him early enough on that you can tell who she will end up with, but there is usually someone else and a life lesson in between their first meeting  and their happily ever after.  Think Bridget Jones’ Diary; Bridget first has her relationship with Daniel Cleaver, changes several things about herself, and then meets Marc Darcy again.  (Sorry if that was a spoiler, but the book is eighteen years old now, has two sequels and two movies.  If you didn’t know by now, I would imagine you would never care anyway.)  Once my brain switched over its expectations, I was able to enjoy the book more.  I personally love reading stories where the romance is not simply, ‘I fell in love because he was so sexy.’  I like to see my characters fall in love, not lust.  For me that is how I know they are still together when the story is over, instead of fizzling out to nothing.

There were a few areas where this could have been improved from a traditional publishing method, but I found them to be minor.  There was a bit too much hemming and hawing over meeting her father for my taste, however that time was used to further other plot points and encourage character development.  There were also a couple of areas where a little more transition would have been good; at one point the page ended with her considering speaking with someone, and the next page had them towards the end of a conversation.  I had to turn the page back and forth a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.  It was slightly distracting at the time, but as far as mistakes made without the professional publishing team, it was livable.

Overall, I would call it a good read.  The characters were relatable.  While they made mistakes, and at times you wanted to scream at them, wondering how they could possibly miss the obvious blunder they were making, it served to create more realistic characters.  They were not paper dolls, acting as their creator demanded for convenience, they were people who lived, loved, and occasionally screwed up.  There is little that I love more in my reading than feeling as though the characters could step off the page and live their life in the real world.

As I still do not have a decent standard rating system, I will give this novel four late nights, reading in bed, as it is the perfect novel to read as you drift off to sleep, dreaming of happily ever after with the person you never expected to fall in love with. 

 

I love bringing attention to new authors, whether self-published or simply publishing their first novel.  If you have a self-published or first novel out, please feel free to share that with me!  I am always on the lookout for new books to read, and I would love to continue to show some love to those who are following their dreams.

My opinions of Conditional Love, as always, are my own.  I have no official expertise in book reviewing, outside my extensive love of reading, my ability to form an opinion of my own, and my desire to make criticism as constructive as possible.  You are of course entitles to your own opinions, and I encourage you to share them with me as well. 

As a final note, my observations of British romance novels as compared to American romance novels are based on my personal experiences with reading both.  If you disagree with my assessment, I would enjoy hearing which books you have found that are very different from my assessment.  However, I am not stating the difference as a hard and fast rule, simply as a generalization that can be found over several novels.

 

 

Movement

Most often when I discuss anything related to my attempts to improve my health, the focus tends to be on running.  I have never been a fast runner, and at times it is hard to even consider myself a runner.  I never run exclusively; most of my miles are interspersed with periods of walking.  And yet, running is what I always come back to, no matter how long I have been gone.

I am now going on almost five months of living with foot pain, preventing me from running.  All attempts to diagnose my pain have led me to believe it is psychosomatic, and so far I have found nothing to give me relief.  As lucky as I am that the pain only manifests itself as I am running or walking, it has cut into my daily activity severely.  Between writing for fun and writing for schoolwork, I spend too many hours of my day seated at my desk typing.  My daily runs helped to clear my mind, and give me a minimum about of movement needed for my health.  In order to get anywhere near the same benefits, I need to walk for three to four times as long, cutting into the time available for other activities in my day. 

In trying to battle my pain, both physical and psychological, I have been attempting to find a non-running activity to add to my days.  It needs to be something I can do on a regular basis, at least 4 or 5 times a week, something I find enjoyable, and something sustainable.  The hope is naturally to help maintain and improve my heath, but also to strengthen any muscles that could contribute to my pain and to give me back the confidence in my physical abilities to break through the mental block creating the pain. 

I am fortunate enough to have free access to a gym with both cardio and weight equipment as a part of my husbands job.  I used to enjoy going to the gym and committing to weight lifting, and every base has a free gym, making it enjoyable and sustainable.  Unfortunately, while the gym is open 24 hours a day, transportation and childcare make it difficult to commit to this on a regular basis. 

Another option I have considered, is home videos.  There is such a large variety of exercise at home shows, from DVD’s to television shows in all categories, it would seem as though something would appeal to my tastes.  I have enjoyed TurboFire occasionally, returning to the program and committing to it for a few weeks at a time.  However, not all of the workouts fit within my current fitness and health abilities.  It can be very frustrating attempting to stick to a program when you cannot complete many of the workouts.  Once you skip or substitute once, it is easy to continue until you are no longer doing the program at all.  Unfortunately I have found this to be a problem with many home workouts; no accountability makes sustainability difficult.

I am beginning to wonder what kind of workout would work for me?  In all honesty, I know running has only held me for as long as it has because I enjoy racing.  Even if I feel like I want to be done running, I want to run another race, and I get back out there.  I have yet to find an equivalent workout with other forms of exercise, outside of figure competitions, something I have zero interest in.  It’s hard to be forced out of your favorite workout; it’s like having the love of your life sitting next door while you are married to someone who is just alright.  You might have been perfectly happy, if you didn’t know something amazing was right there, just out of reach.

Waiting

I skipped a blog post last week.  I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but I noticed.  My schedule said I was to write a post, and I didn’t.  I felt guilty all day.  Maybe that is slightly ridiculous, but I felt as though I had stood someone up.  I promised to be there, and then I didn’t show up.  No note, no phone call, no word at all, just deafening silence. 

The truth is I had moved my writing focus elsewhere for the day.  Pursuing writing is something that is somewhat recent for me.  Last year, I focused on writing a novel I felt good about (at least on most days I feel good about it).  This year, I am working on writing still, with blogging and now four open novels.  I am however also shifting my focus to include publishing.  For some the idea of publishing a novel you have been working on for only a year may seem premature, and maybe it is.  However, publishing a novel takes time, and it is hard to say I am done even though I am sending out queries and samples.  I’m not sure if I will completely feel I am done until the book has been released.  Even then I’m quite sure I will look back and know I should have done something different. 

It has only been a month since I started sending out query letters.  The first batch received a few rejections, as well as a few agents who have not yet responded.  I would love to say I sent out my queries and did not receive a single rejection, but I might as well be honest.  I am blogging through this journey, and if I leave out the bad, the good will not be anywhere near as exciting.  After one month, I decided it was time to send out a new batch of queries.  Yes, my writing focus last week was on revisions.  It was time to check my query letter and again and revise my manuscript, particularly the beginning which will go out much more often than the end.

After my revisions were finished, I spent a little time researching agents.  There are lists upon lists of agents available online, and many agents represent so many different types of books, it is hard to tell what they say they represent versus the books they sell.  It may sound like the same thing, but there is a slight difference.  An agency may say it works with all YA, but that doesn’t mean my novel will fit in with their current projects.  It’s as though the agency is dishonest about what they represent, but it is a matter of taste. 

I personally like to spend a little time going over the agency website, looking at their current books and their upcoming sales as well as any other form of social media they advertise.  I don’t necessarily spend a lot of time looking up articles from the past for every agent I query, but I feel a lot can be learned from the website and their twitter page.  I want an agent who is more than just someone who will represent one thing from me; I want to find an agent who I can talk with about other potential projects and will be willing and able to work with me wherever the creative spirit takes me.  It’s hard to find a good match, and sometimes it means I skip an agency who I think may not be a good fit.  Yes, there are some who I have noted as long shots, but hey, sometimes you have to throw a letter out even if you know you are not likely to ever hear from them.  That’s part of taking a chance.   

My new batch of letters is not quite done.  I sent out eight new ones last week, but as a few are long shots, I’d like to send out a few more.  I am however, returning to the waiting game now.  Agents are busy people, I understand and accept that.  However, the moment I send off a letter, a song pops into my head and I am watching my email box and waiting for an answer.

See for me, it’s not the rejections that are hard.  Don’t get me wrong, rejections don’t feel good, but they are expected.  The most successful writers of all time still had to deal with rejection.  It is something that I’m sure will happen again.  No, for me, it is the waiting, the not knowing that gets me.  I have heard from agents after one day before, and others I have not heard from at all.  After sending off new letters it is impossible to know what time frame the agent will actually have on their slush pile.  Every time my phone sings out a little ping telling me I have an email I get excited for a moment; will this be more spam or am I hearing something already?  Could they want to read more?  Am I being rejected?  Or are bras on sale at Victoria’s Secret again?

I never thought about how much of publishing is novel is a waiting game.  I spent months, typing, thinking, plotting, revising, and typing some more.  It wasn’t as active as running a marathon, but I could feel like I was making progress.  Now, as I revise and query, my fate is in someone else’s hands; with each letter an agent looks at the words I have put to a page and determines my worth.  Yes, MY worth, not just the worth of my story.  They are deciding not only if the one story is worth their time, but also if I am.  A bad story can be revised, but a poor writer will take too much of their time to fix.  For this reason, trying to publish my novel is by far the most terrifying thing I have ever done.  I have placed myself and my creativity at the hands of another person, and now I am sitting in the chair, awaiting their judgment.

Just waiting.

Five Things that Should Have Lived Longer on Television

I love to read.  Reading is something I do everyday with an obsessiveness that some may consider unhealthy.  It is not uncommon for me to finish a novel in a day, and I very rarely go anywhere without something to read, just in case I need it.  I will read just about anything, and if I hear that a movie or television show was a book first, I will wait to watch it until I read the book (Game of Thrones, I am talking to you.  I will get to your books eventually).  For me reading isn’t about books vs. ereaders, well know authors vs. newbies, or genre vs. genre.  For me it is all about good writing, and good stories.  If the words pull me in, and the story is engaging, I am there. 

Well done stories are not limited to books, and sometimes, I don’t want to read.  When I am sitting at my sewing machine, I almost always have a television show going in the background.  I know some people use this time to listen to audiobooks, but in truth I am just not much of an audiobook person.  If I am working on something else, I don’t want to be distracted by fluttery descriptions of the scenery or of people’s feelings.  I want to glance at the screen for a moment and see that is it dark and spooky, or hear the voice telling me the person is afraid.  I want the story, but I don’t want all of my focus taken away as it would if I were reading. 

I know I could use this time to watch some movies, but in truth that takes too much thought.  I want to focus on a project, not worry about what movie to pick, or if I have time to watch another movie.  I don’t want to spend my time getting invested in new characters when I am already invested in a project.  Picking a television show to watch can give me hours of entertainment without having to think about what to watch next, all broken down into short workable increments.  It’s like picking a new book to read right before bed; I have sleeping to do, I don’t want to be distracted by getting to know new people or a new plot.  Watching a new, or repeated, episode of a television show I don’t have to worry about figuring out who everyone is or what they are doing, I can just dive right into what I already know.

With that all being said, here are five of the shows I wish had made more episodes.  I don’t think I am giving away major spoilers with this, but as all of these shows are over, I don’t feel as though I need to be too cautious either.  If you haven’t seen any of them, there may be something revealed you don’t want to know in advance.  What has been read cannot be unread, so proceed with caution.

 

1) Firefly
This show is a given when discussing shows that should have lived longer.  It is first on the list partly to get it out of the way.  It cannot be left out, but there is little to say on the subject.  The pain of losing this show broke the fans heart severely enough they can’t leave it alone.  We have now gone beyond flogging a dead horse.  The poor horse has been buried, and it’s great great grandchildren are frolicking in the field where it used to graze, yet the browncoats keep beating it.  It’s not that we think it’s coming back.  We got our movie, the actors have moved on to further successes, many of them having several fantastic projects.  We know it is over.  Okay, most of us know it is over.  But there are two reasons we can’t let it go.  First off, Firefly is the one who got away.  This is the beautiful relationship that could have been.  We know what could have happened, and how perfect we could have been together.  Instead, it slipped through our fingers, and we are left, drinking our wine with Ben and Jerry, crying over everything we could have had.  Secondly, and more than any other reason, we can’t let it go because as soon as we do, Fox wins.  Keeping the outrage going for over a decade shows them they can’t judge a show too harshly or too quickly.  The fans never forget, and they will never let them forget either.  The obsession this show still demands shows the power of the fans, and hopefully if makes producers think twice before cutting projects and running.

2) Veronica Mars
I loved so much about this show.  The fun characters, the damaged people, the pain and the mystery.  Admittedly, there were parts that faltered a bit, but they worked through some large obstacles.  Having the initial mystery go over the first season, bringing in new cases in the second season, sending the characters to college.  There were many issues to work through, and with what they had, they did well.  Obviously I am not the only one who missed it as the fans demanded a movie and made it happen.  There is only one reason I need this show back.  Logan Echolls, the poor little orphaned rich boy, abused, damaged, and vulnerable and desperately seeking love.  I loved him with Veronica.  She gave him love and hope like no one else did, and it was kind of beautiful in a slightly messed up way.  I wanted to see them have another chance, a real chance.  I plan to see the movie at some point, and there is only one thing I need from the experience.  I want them to have a moment, some element of real closure on their relationship.  Get together or say goodbye properly. 

3) Stargate SG1
I know I might lose people on this one a little.  This was a great science fiction show, and it lasted for ten seasons.  Ten seasons is hardly ending too soon.  However the first eight seasons were focused on aliens known as Goa’uld posing as Gods in our galaxy.  The good guys worked hard to fight against them, and come to some understanding that would leave the humans alive.  Then, two seasons from the end, they found a new race of people, the Ori, more powerful and naturally more deadly.  After all these seasons devoted to the first enemy, I felt this new turn didn’t get the chance it could have had.  I almost wish they had switched over earlier, brought this new foe out several seasons earlier so we could have had more time together.  There was such potential for the Ori, but at that point the show had run it’s course.  It was sad to see them breathe new life into a show, only to decide it was better to let go.

4) Pushing  Daisies
This show was slightly murdered by a writers strike after the first season.  With a man who could bring people back from the dead with a touch, but only if he never touched them again, his dead girlfriend, the detective who helps to solve murders, and a large range of quirky cases, it was a unusual combination of crime, drama and fantasy.  In spite of the grisly basis of the story, it told like a fairy tale.  There was a large element of innocence in the bright colors and lovers who could not touch. With only two seasons it could have been so much more, but it was beautiful while it lasted.

5) Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23
This is the most recent cancelation on this list, but it is no less sad than the others.  Two short seasons of the unlikely pairing of sweet, conservative June, and wild, ridiculous Chloe, living together in New York worked in such an odd way for me.  I don’t think I was ever as positive or sweet as June, but I am even farther from being as promiscuous or perpetually drunk as Chloe.  Chloe is a character who should be hated.  She does horrible things, and is constantly behaving in a way that is beyond selfish.  Somehow she was still likeable.  There was a charm to the character however, something that made you like her anyways.  Chloe and June needed each other; June made Chloe behave slightly better, and Chloe helped June to develop a backbone instead of being too sweet all the time.  They could have been something amazing, but they are now gone.  I am hoping they will decide to release the 8 additional episodes I heard that they shot but did not air. It’s not the same as having the show return, but it is so something to hold onto.

 

Of course there are many shows that could have lasted longer, and many that should have stopped much earlier than they did.  These are just a few of the shows I wish could give me just a little more.  I need these old friends to come and visit again, just to tell me what they are up to now.  Sigh.  At least there is always reruns.