My Writing Process Blog Tour

Happy Monday everyone!

I normally take Monday off from Blogging, but when Lizzy from mylittlebookblog invited me to join in on the My Writing Process Blog Tour, I was willing to make an exception.  For anyone who hasn’t been over to see Lizzy, I highly recommend a visit to her page.  Not only will you find insightful and honest book reviews, but also inspiring words.  Her page is the kind I hope will one day be reviewing me as I get ready to publish later.  On top of having a great blog, Lizzy is a sweet person who has been wonderful and supportive as I began my blogging journey.  Bloggers like Lizzy are the reason people like me are able to not only get started, but keep going.

As a part of the blog tour, I have four questions to answer, so I hope you will bare with me as I muddle through my random writing thoughts.

What are you currently working on?

I am actually working on quite a lot right now.  I tend to have more than one manuscript open, as it allows me to shift back and forth when I need to.  Sometimes I hit a block on one, and it is nice to have something else to work on for a while.  Mainly I have been working on three.

The first I started almost a year ago, a young adult paranormal tentatively titled The Death Of Jane.  Well sort of paranormal.  It revolves around a girl named Jane who is trying to live her life, in spite of her death.  While there is a lot about the story that involves the paranormal side, the paranormal aspect is more of a metaphor for the other struggles in her life that she needs to overcome.

The second is barely started, and still very much in the planning stages, a young adult story about how a pair of best friends relationship changes as they attempt to have relationships with other people.  While I like writing fantasy or paranormal stories, this is meant to be real.   Adolescent relationships are complicated, and sometimes they need to be realistic to get their message through.

The last one I am actively writing is an upper midgrade novel about a seventh grade student and her friends as they prepare for the science fair.  This novel was very much inspired by my daughter, and her focus on school over drama.  It seems like there aren’t enough stories out there that talk about how great it is to be a smart young girl.

I’m also working on adding details to a few others in the outline stage, mostly so I don’t forget the plans I have.  A few will be fantasy or paranormal, a few will be realism, and at least one will be a slight combination of the two.  I like to leave myself open to variety in writing instead of committing myself to just one age or genre at this point.  I am still working on developing as an author, and I don’t want to discount something that might work for me.  The only thing I have limited myself to is staying within the chapter, midgrade, and young adult area.  Getting people to start reading young has so much benefit for life, and I like being even a small part of that.

How does your work differ from others of your genre?

What I hope to be known as, is an author who writes for young people but does not talk down to them.

When I was working with children, I spent a year running a classroom for infants.  I know, classroom for infants sounds weird, but that was what we were.  We took care of them physically, emotionally, and cognitively.  At the time there was another teacher who would always come into my room and start in with the high pitched baby talk.  Not only would I ask her to stop, but I would remind her that baby talk is bad for language development.  A child learns to speak because they listen to the sounds we make as we speak; if we want them to learn to speak properly, we need to speak properly to them.  This is the basic idea of how I worked with children of all ages, and of how I raised my children.  If you expect a child to be a reasonable and intelligent being, you need to treat them like one.

Here is the example I used to give parents.  From the moment your child is born, you never make them do any of their own cleaning.  You follow them around, picking everything up and putting things away.  You never ask them to do anything, and they never volunteer.  When they move out, would you expect them to know how to clean their own house?  No, of course not.  So, if you shelter your child from information they might not understand, only use little words, and never challenge them, do you expect that one day they will open their eyes and be an intelligent and thoughtful person?  No.  Their intelligence needs to be nurtured.  I assume a child will know what I am talking about, and encourage them to ask questions if they don’t.  This not only teaches them new information, it also teaches them to actively pursue their learning.

When I write, I have a tendency to treat my characters how I would want my readers to be.  I write intelligent characters because I think intelligence has value.  I think more young people should be proud of their brains, and not afraid to admit both what they know and what they don’t know.  I like to use words that might be a challenge for the readers.  There is no reason to make things too easy all of the time.

Why do I write what I write?

I would have to say about 90% of the stories I write are inspired by my daughters.  It comes from the people they are, the things they say, and the interests they have.  I write about smart young girls because I have smart young girls and I think that there should be more people their age who are proud to use their brains and not care about drama.  I write the stories they tell, and I try to write the stories they would want to read.  I write what I write for them, and for kids like them.  They inspire me to be a better person, and they help to make my characters feel real.

One of the stories I have going right now sprung from a conversation I had with my 12 year old.  She came home and told me about an argument she had with a friend about homosexuality.  Not only was I proud that she had formed her own opinion, and happy it was one I happened to agree with, she also had a reasoned argument supporting her claim.  She gave me an entire philosophy on relationships and love that would never have occurred to me when I was 12.  It pointed out to me how different our lives are; the relationships of my children will be different than I experienced.

Another story I am starting is based on a Halloween costume my younger daughter asked me to create.  She wanted to be a superhero, but she wanted to make her own.  As we spoke, the hero she created told me so much about her own fears, it inspired a character based on this hero.

Of course the other 10% of my writing is not about my daughters.  I also have nieces, nephews, a great niece and a couple of great nephews.  I’ve worked with so many children over the years with so much personality, and creativity, and I write for them.  I want one day for one of my old preschool students to be picking up ‘Mrs. Shannon’s book’ and maybe see a little of themselves inside the pages.

How does my writing process work?

This one is probably the hardest one, because sometimes I’m not sure it does.  I guess I would have to divide my writing process into two parts, the preparation and the actual writing.

During the preparation, there are a lot of things I work on.  I don’t always have an actual outline, but I do try to always know how the story ends.  It’s like planning a vacation; the journey is important, but if you don’t know your destination, you’ll never know when you get there.  If I have been recently stuck, I might be working from a notebook with the next few immediate scenes outlined, sort of like a roadmap to get me back on track.

The other important part of my preparation requires me to set my desk up to remove distraction.  I get some chores done, removing the distraction of a long to do list.  I make sure I am wearing comfortable clothing; it can be pajamas, yoga pants, jeans, or even a dress, as long as it is comfortable for the day.  If I have digging waistbands, or a too tight shirt, it is a distraction.  I also make sure I have a drink, and maybe a snack.  I want everything I can possibly want at hand, right next to me.  I don’t want to need to get up from writing unless it is vital.  I also place my phone a little away from me.   I can’t turn it off usually; if there is an emergency with my kids, I need to be able to answer the phone.  I want it close enough I can hear if it rings, but far enough away I’m not looking at every little bing.  I might put on music, I might not.  Whatever I play, it has to be the right music, not something I will need to change every song or so.

The second part of my writing process is the actual writing.  Here, there is only one thing.  I write.  I don’t always know exactly what I am going to say, and sometimes it isn’t much but I put out as much as I can.  I have found I work better with a deadline, so I make goals for myself.  I give myself a required word count for the day, and write until I hit it.  Sometimes it is crap, and is likely to be deleted, but it is still better than sitting and not writing at all.  On top of the word counts, I also try to plan a goal when I want everything finished.  I always know I might not make it, but if I give myself permission to slack off, even a little, I won’t hit my goals.

When it is time to write, I try to just focus on the writing.  I don’t want to get up for anything, I just want to write.  I follow the muse, and write whatever comes naturally.  It’s not always something I can control, and it doesn’t always take me where I want to go, but it is the only way I know how to work.  It is what feels right to me, and therefore it is what works.

 

The final part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour is to pass the baton onto other writers.  I am still new enough that I don’t know many other writers who are currently blogging out here.  Instead of inviting specific writers, I am putting out an open call.  I encourage any of you to take a little while, and post your own writing process.  Answer the four questions on here, share your inspiration and thoughts, and invite other bloggers to join in on the fun.  Post your work next Monday, July 7th, and post a link in the comments here so we can all see how you work.

Thanks for listening everyone!

 

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FIve Things About Summer

One week into summer, and it is already easy to feel overwhelmed.  To think that once upon a time I thought of this time as relaxing.  I’m not sure what I was ever thinking!

Well, alright, I know what I was thinking.  I was thinking I had no responsibilities, and having the summer off meant hanging out with my friends, lounging in my pajamas all day, and only doing what I wanted to do.  If my summers were still like that, I might be much more relaxed.

1) Summer is in, my school is not out.

The children are out of school, but I am not.  I received one week when there was a lapse between the class I had finished and the next one I needed to start, but I am back in with no breaks until Christmas.  That is both the joy and the torture of the continuous program; I don’t need to take multiple classes at once, but I am always in school.  Luckily my children are used to this, having watched Mama go to school for a few years now, and they are understanding of my need to complete homework.

2) A child’s lazy day and an adult lazy day are not the same.

If I were to have a lazy day, I would wake up early.  It wouldn’t be on purpose, but mostly out of habit.  I would drink my coffee slowly as I read a book or as I wrote on my own book.  Eventually I would get dressed, and maybe take the dog for a walk or go for a jog of my own.  I might spend a little time in front of my sewing machine, with a movie playing in the background.  I wouldn’t have a schedule, or anything I needed to worry about, I would just do whatever sounded like a good idea at the time.

When my kids have a lazy day, they want to stay in their pajamas.  Meals should consist of popcorn or ice cream, with maybe a pizza thrown in for their version of a healthy meal.  They would pull out art supplies or toys, and not clean anything up.  They would later go to bed, without showers and without cleaning anything in the house.

My lazy day is about having no schedule; their lazy day is about having no cleaning or healthy food.

3) Vacations are not relaxing for the one who is planning them.

In one week my family and I leave on a three day vacation to Edinburgh.  Everyone else gets to be excited as they ask me, “So what are we doing when we get there?”  I was looking forward to this much more before it became reality.   Now I am just tired from a vacation that hasn’t even started.

4) Houses stay less clean when there are more people in them.

When my children were in school everyday, there was forty hours a week where it was just me and the dog.  Most of the house wasn’t even used during that time, just my work area, the kitchen and occasionally the living room.  Now, everyone is running through every room in the house.

I may not have a clean floor again until August.

5) I miss warm weather.

I lived in Okinawa Japan for eight years, a wonderfully hot and humid tropical island where you were never truly that far from a beach.  While it is nice to have more relaxed weather, and I am thrilled to have the rain in my garden, I am ready for some summer heat.  I want to be warm enough that I want to stand in front of a fan and never leave.  I have always preferred to be hot rather than cold.  It’s just my way.

 

Well, that is all for today, but please come back tomorrow when I join the blog tour, My Writing Process.  I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to interact with other bloggers yet, but I am hoping to move forward to a new period.  I’d like to get to know others better and branch out more.  What better way to get to know people than by being willing to share who I am with you?

By My Own Hand

Every writer has a preferred way of writing.

For some it is handwritten, others it is typed.  It might require a specific pen, or a special way of stacking the pages to give just the right feel to the paper.  Some like a laptop, others a desktop, and some insist on typewriters.  There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to this as long as it fuels your own creativity.

I like working on my computer.

When I am typing, I am able to get my thoughts out quickly.  I don’t type as fast as I think or speak, but I can type close enough to not lose my thoughts completely.

As I begin outlining, when I am putting my initial ideas down, I like paper.  I like writing thoughts out in a cheap spiral notebook, occasionally in a funny colored ink, much like I did as a child.  There is a purity of process that comes from writing my ideas out in the same way as writers have been doing since the beginning.  There is no frills getting in the way, no snipping over to facebook for a quick check, its just me and my thoughts.

Handwriting my ideas out takes a while.  It’s slow, my hand can begin to cramp if I try to write for too long, and it can be messy.  If I make a mistake I end up with a scribble in the middle of my paper.  My handwriting slowly deteriorates as I write, going from neat and orderly to barely readable within a few sentences.  It is honestly a pain, yet I keep doing it.

After my ideas are written down, it is nice to have the notebook there to flip through as I type.  It doesn’t take much to switch from tab to tab on a computer, scrolling through the information.  It can be done, but I don’t like to do it that way.  I like the tangible feel of my ideas in a notebook.  Instead of being a vague idea, I have proof in my hands that I am working on something.  I can see the potential for my thoughts to be a book, because they are beginning to look like a book already.

I know I could type my outline, and print it out when I am ready to start writing.  This would allow me to have my preferred method of writing, and also have a paper copy to flip through.  But I don’t.  I pick up my notebook and I write my outlines by hand.  I enjoy the ownership that I get; it is not just an outline, it is my thoughts in my own handwriting.

The way I write, even the parts of it that drive me nuts, they are all important.  There are what makes my thoughts run, what help me to keep the creative well from running dry.

I Donut Know What to Eat

With summer officially underway, I am attempting the delicate balance of fun and work.  My two girls are now home everyday, and wanting to enjoy it.

For Big One, at twelve years old, she would be perfectly content to sit in her room, writing on her computer, reading, or watching anime all day.   Engaging her in human interaction is more related to pulling teeth than a day at the carnival.

My Little One however, wants to be entertained.  All day.  It seems to be a combination of never wanting to be alone, and the frustration that comes from not wanting to do the exact same thing all the time.  She might love her tea set, but there is a limited number of tea parties she is willing to have with her stuffed toys.

Our current attempt at compromise involves eactivity that is special for the day, and 2-3 hours of quiet play while Mommy writes.  It is a new system, so we’ll see how it goes.

Yesterday was day one of our trial.  It started off well enough, with my waking just a little before the girls, and having enough time to drink some coffee and take care of my dog before I was on Mom duty.

As soon as Little One was up,  I walked away from my work for her time.  We had already agreed, Monday was library day, Tuesday we would make breakfast together.  On a whim, I had bought a donut maker the week before when we were in a toy store and Little One was ready to try it out.

Five years after learning I am unable to eat gluten, I miss donuts.  I never cared about them too much when I could have them, they were just something I would eat occasionally.  For a while, when it was just Big One and I during the day, we would have a weekly breakfast date to walk to the Dunkin Donuts down the road.  I would order an egg, sausage and English muffin sandwich, choke down horrible coffee, (never been a fan of Dunkin coffee) and Big One would order one donut.  She always really wanted two, but she would insist she only wanted one at first.  We both knew the end game was to be able to walk up to the counter later and buy herself a second donut while I waited at the table, but it was a part of the day, so I never let on I knew.  It was very rare that I would choose to eat a donut myself.  It’s hard to decide what made me miss them, but I do miss them terribly now.  After seeing post after post after post of homemade donuts recently, I had begun to dream about donuts.  I had determined I was going to order a donut pan online, but when I saw the waffle maker type contraption, I decided to go for the easy option that let me have my sugary goodness right away.

photo 1

My Little One helped as much as she could, but as she is currently a one handed little thing again (her bright red cast is shockingly not visible in this picture) she couldn’t do everything she wanted to do. After a quick mix of batter, we put it into the heated donut maker.

photo 2

We overfilled the little donut holes, opting for full donuts instead of perfectly formed with actual openings in the holes.  When it came time to top them, we had to face a harsh reality. I had not planned to make donuts when I was shopping recently.  We had no powdered sugar to make frosting or glaze, and as we were both in our pajamas, we were not up for going down to the store in order to try to figure out which box covered in Dutch writing would get us what we wanted.  Instead, we decided to make do.

photo 3

We sprinkled some with regular sugar, though that did not stick well.

photo 4

Others we drizzled with chocolate and caramel syrup.  These ones were much messier, and tended to drip all over the place, but were still quite delicious.  It made a yummy, sugar filled breakfast that even managed to bring Big One downstairs without complaint.

Now, for anyone desperate for the recipe, it was actually pretty simple and boring.  I hit pintrest the night before, and started looking at recipes.  There are a lot out there, many of them trying to make donuts something fancy and gourmet, which might be fine if you are not cooking with and feeding excitable children.  Since I was looking gluten free, I had to wade through even more weird recipes posted by people who eat gluten free for trendy health reasons instead of necessary health reasons.  At least that was my guess, who really knows?  Those were the recipes that called for a bunch of organic, process free, low sugar, health ingredients.  I wanted my sugary crap pure, so I skipped those today.  Some I might come back to later, but we’ll see.

I finally picked a regular recipe (not gluten free) and adapted it.  I have always preferred the light and fluffy donuts over cake donuts (unless we are talking apple fritters, which is a whole different issue of yumminess).  I knew using a donut maker to bake batter instead of a yeast risen recipe would likely give a denser donut.  These seemed to walk the line between fluffy and cakey quite well.  I may have to try a yeast recipe one day, just to get closer to the complete unhealthy donut eating experience of my pre-gluten free days.  However, for the ease of making them, these were perfect.

If you are in a desperate mood to bake your own donuts with you Little or Big Ones, (or even for yourself) here is the basic recipe I used.  I think I will keep it around, because it seems like it might be easy to adapt.

 

Gluten Free Donuts

2 Cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour

1 tsp Xanthan Gum

2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp salt

ground cinnamon

3/4 C milk

2 eggs

Vanilla extract

2 Tbsp coconut oil

 

Measure wet ingredients into a bowl.  Add dry ingredients on top.  To measure cinnamon, hand the shaker to your child, and let them shake it until it looks like it might be enough.  I like a lot, but it can also be easily left out or replaced with another yummy seasoning.

Blend all ingredients until you have something about the consistency of muffin mix or pancake batter.  Fill the cups in your donut maker according to the machine instructions.  Cook until they are golden brown and smell amazing.  Remove the donuts carefully, avoiding burning your fingers.  Top with whatever yumminess you prefer.  Eat.  Enjoy. 

 

I know my instructions are not fancy, but I am not a fancy chef.  I throw things in a bowl and hope for the best.  If you are not a gluten free person, you can use regular flour instead of gluten free, just leave out the xanthan gum as well.  You can also switch out butter for the coconut oil; I just happen to think coconut oil gives a better taste with gluten free food than butter does.  As a final adaptation offer, if you do not have a donut maker, you can scoop these into donut pans or mini muffin tins and bake them in the oven at 325 degrees (obviously Fahrenheit, f you attempt them at 325 Celsius, I am not responsible for your burned donuts).

Well, it is a new day, and it is time to work on both having and writing a new adventure.  We’re thinking of maybe throwing water balloons out of the second story windows and calling it science.

Choices, Choices

I’d been thinking over this topic for a while, planning to tackle it eventually, when a serendipitous moment occurred at the library yesterday.

Our local library is small, just one room smaller than my bedroom, and mostly filled with children’s and cookbooks.  We are very lucky, that in spite the limitations on books available (including having one of my pet peeves, stocking the sequel in a series, but not the original book) they do a small summer reading program.  The local military kids get together once a week, read a book, picnic outside, do a craft project, and of course, check out books at the end of the day.

While looking at books with my daughters, I was surprised to see a John Grisham novel nestled between the other young adult and midgrade books.  I initially thought it must be a shelving error.  I don’t know his novels well, but I was pretty sure they were not for children.  After I looked a little closer, I realized it was no mistake.  While he is best known for his adult mystery and crime novels, he also began writing for the midgrade reader.

This was one of those moments that gave me hope.  I have thought hard about the relationship between author and genre.  Establishing a name as a writer is as much about creating a brand as anything else.  Stephen King is known for horror, Sophie Kinsella for light hearted romance, J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter.  It’s not that readers won’t touch their other books, but they are likely to be disappointed if it is not what they were anticipating.  I have to say, if I picked up a Stephen King novel and found it to be a fluffy love story, I would be a bit surprised; it wouldn’t be what I was expecting or wanting at the moment.

Knowing the importance of this genre branding, I get a little worried.  I have ideas that are all over the place.  I have a young adult fantasy romance, a midgrade inspired by my daughter’s personality and goals, a new adult paranormal, a young adult horror, a young adult fairy tale, a young adult romance, a young adult mythology, a midgrade military, a midgrade fantasy, and a chapter book series all in various stages of planning and writing.  Not all of them will turn out to be winners.   I know there are likely to be a few I get slightly into and realize they are big stinkers.

My writing ideas are a bit scattered.  I like many of these ideas now, and want to be able to give them a shot to see if they can be as amazing as I think they might.  However, if I write them all, and try to publish them all, what kind of writer am I?  I couldn’t be exactly one category unless I walk away from everything that doesn’t fit that brand of writing.

I know there is a large difference between a new author writing a little of everything and an established writer branching out.  When you have proven your writing ability and sales clout, it is easy to convince people to take a chance on your new idea.  For the rest of us, it’s a little more difficult.  I already need to convince others that I can be a writer; convincing them I have the ability to bounce around and excel in many places is an entirely different challenge.

It is hard to imagine limiting myself to one genre or one age group right now.  There is the creative aspect to consider; I would never tell my children to not try something creative, and I try to practice what I preach.  Putting a lid on my potential by refusing to explore all of my options does not seem like a practical way of achieving my goals.  Not only do I not know what might be a great novel, but I don’t know what would sell.  What if I choose to drop all YA and pursue only midgrade, only to fight for years without any success.  Maybe my talent would run wild in fantasy, but I never get to show that because I decided to only write realism.

Finding a genre brand seems to be a balance of creativity and practicality.  You have to write where your ideas flow, but you also need to consider what is actually publishable.  There are many successful authors who can manage more than one genre or age group, but for the rest of us, there needs to be a beginning.  There needs to be the first successful book before there can be another attempt.  We can write them all, but in the end, only one will get published first, one which will begin your career and possibly establish you as a genre writer without your ever realizing it was happening.

What is the responsibility of the writer to their genre, once it is established?  What if I break into chapter books first?  Does that give me a responsibility to censor my other writing, just in case my readers stumble across a young adult novel I write?  How much freedom does the writer have to explore other genres, without alienating the potential fan base?

A Very Special Five Things

Today is a day to celebrate.   We have just entered summer, and I am posting my 100th post since I began blogging.  I have to be honest, I haven’t grown numbers as fast as I wanted to but I hope I am growing quality.  I’d like to think I am beginning to find a bit of a rhythm to my postings, and writing better pieces than when I first started.

It seemed like today’s posting should be something special.  Falling on a Sunday, meant it would be a five things posting, and of course it would have to be unique or personal.  The thought ran through my head of doing 100 things, one for each posting.  When I was done laughing, I decided I needed something I could actually do without feeling like I was going insane.  Finally I honed in on one theme I could use.  Fear.

Fear is something that seems to be at the heart of us all.  Everyone is afraid of something.  When I am reading or writing, I tend to look at that fear and see it in the actions the characters make.  The characters who feel real factor their fears into their actions, even if it is not always obvious.  They jump on horrible relationships because they don’t want to be alone, or avoid relationships because they have been hurt.   They run because they are afraid of what is chasing them, or hide because they are afraid of being found.  They smile because they are afraid to cry.

Our fears move us through life.  Sometimes they stop us, and other times we keep moving and pushing through.  They are personal because they have power over us.  What better way to make a post having meaning, than to open up and share my fears?

 

1) Birds

When I was twelve years old, I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds.  Within a few weeks, an angry bird flew at me, swiping through my hair and just missing my head.  I knew then that birds are evil.  You might think I am a little crazy with this one, but it is a fact that birds are mean.  Ducks bite, geese chase people down, and we do not even want to get into the cruelty brought on by feelings of inadequacy in large flightless birds such as ostriches. They stare at you with their beady little eyes, plotting to kill you with their shockingly sharp beaks and claws.

This is a fear I think I deal with well.  In spite of my knowledge that birds do in fact get angry and attack, I try not to let this fear be passed down to my children.  We do the bird feedings, and we even enjoyed a park in Okinawa where you stand next to 4 1/2 foot tall birds who chase you down hoping you have bird food.  I survived, but I know the truth.  Birds are evil.

2)Public Speaking

I know this is weak.  Almost everyone is afraid to speak in public.  It doesn’t change the fact that it is hard for me.  I stand in front of people, my heart pounding so loud I can hear it as it vibrates my ears.  My mind goes blank, and I completely forget everything I was going to say.  I always carefully go over my speech, rehearsing it over and over again, but it never matters.  The entire thing goes right out the window as soon as I have to stand in front of a crowd.

3) Standing Still

I don’t have an actual fear of standing still.  In truth, I can be quite lazy on occasion, almost completely motionless until I am forced into movement.  I’m not afraid of physically standing still, I am afraid of metaphorically standing still.  I am afraid of never changing, never growing, never becoming more than I am right now.  It’s not that who I am isn’t fine, it’s that I want to do more.  I want to be more.  I want to keep moving, and not solidify.  I fear missing my opportunities, and staying exactly as I am, with no new chances, for the rest of my life.  I like where I am, but another 50 or 60 years of this would get old.  I have so much time to fill, and I don’t want it to all be the same.

4) Failure

Again this is something everyone almost everyone shares.  It is easier to not take a chance than to risk the humiliation of failure.  As it is, I work on my writing, and I dream of publication, sharing this dream with a group of strangers, but I barely speak about it to people I see in real life.  I  know that there is a chance of failure, even if there is a part of me that believes I can do this.  The odds are against me, and I know it.  It is bad enough to fail, but I can’t tell everyone I am trying and have them know I failed.

There is a strange intimacy in the anonymity of the internet however.  I can tell you all about my hopes and dreams because I might never have to look you in the face.  I may never have to see the look in your eyes as you pity me for my hopeless, failed dreams.  It lets me share in a way that is essential, and for that, I must thank you.

5) Smallness

Again, not literal smallness.  I like puppies, babies, and those tiny espresso cups.  I fear never growing into anything more than I am now.  I always wanted to be someone important, and I know there are people who see me that way.  I have children, a husband, and a dog, who all look to me as a part of their lives.  I live a normal life, and there is not necessarily anything small about that.  The world needs normal people as much as anyone else.  But I am building my own life, and I want to be able to look out at the life I have built and know that I have made it large, engaging, and interesting.  I want to know that I have done everything I possibly could with my life.

 

Alright, there is my personal moment.  I’m hoping a few of you will take the plunge and share something personal with me as well.  Tell me, what are you afraid of?

Glow

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Just a simple post today as I am heading out to the zoo with my kiddos again.  What can I say, we love animals.

I found this little gem on pinterest, and I kind of fell in love.  It is easy for me to feel broken.  I have struggled with anxiety and depression in the past and sometimes it comes back out of no where to bite me again.  When the darkness comes, you can absolutely feel broken, useless, or worthless.  It’s nice to remind yourself that sometimes things get better after they are broken.

I hope every one of you spends your day shining, whether you are the brightest star in the sky, or a glowstick.  Show the world your light today!

How to Plan a Summer at Home For Children

Normally when I decide to write a how to post, I have a good idea of what I am talking about.

Not today.

Today my title should probably have a question mark at the end, or a ‘PLEASE tell me,” at the beginning.  Because I really want to know, how do I plan my summer with my children to balance their needs and wants with my needs and wants?  In three and a half hours, my no longer a kindergartener will be home, excited to have her first official summer vacation away from school.  I’m almost out of time to figure this out, and I still don’t know what we are going to do.

Lets be honest.  I spend a lot of my time alone right now.  We are a one car family and that car always goes to the person who has the most need for it on that day.  Today that happens to be me, but most days, the farthest I will go from the house will be a mile and a half down the road on my morning run, something I absolutely do not need a car to do.  I go to school online, and I write, two activities that keep me in front of the computer for more time than is probably healthy.  Beyond all of this, I am introverted enough that I have honestly considered a life as a hermit after my children grow up.  As long as I can have Netflix and download new books to my ipad, I’m not sure I would miss other humans that much.

I like the large blocks of time when my children are in school, because I can get my stuff done, mostly without interruption.  Best of all, I can get things done without guilt.  I don’t have to feel bad about the time I spent completing a chapter, or the episodes of The Daily Show I watched while putting away laundry.  I can do things on my schedule, as long as I am done with certain things by 3:30 when the bus pulls up outside of my house.

I love my children, just as I am sure the rest of the stay at home or work at home parents do.  I don’t judge the dread they feel as summer vacation starts because I feel it to.  There is a loss of self coming here; my time is not going to be my own anymore and I’m not ready to give up everything I enjoyed while they were in school this last year.

But of course I have to, at least a little.  Kids are demanding, wanting entertainment and nourishment on a regular basis.  I mean, seriously.  These kids expect me to feed them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  More than once  And they don’t stand for that whole, I feed the dog twice a day, that should be good enough for you also.

More than just food and beverages, they demand attention and love.  They want the one thing that is hardest to dole out, time.  Because I want to give them all my time, but I also want to keep it all for myself.

So, please.  Tell me.  How do I balance this?  Am I allowed to tell them to leave me alone for a few hours everyday so I can still write?  Can that time be separate from my homework time?  Is there a quality activity I have to commit to in order to pay the guilt price?  Please, tell me someone has figured it out, that they know the secret to being a good mother and a full and complete person as well.  More than that, please say they will share their knowledge with me.  How can I do it all?  Will my attempts to do it all only push my kids away?  Am I setting them up for hours of therapy where they discuss how their problems are all their mothers fault?  Is good enough REALLY good enough? 

The clock is ticking, counting down until my babies are home for the summer, and I can’t slow time down.  I can’t make things easier, or find the magical answers.  Now, all I can do is hope that I can be the mother they need for two months.  Wish me luck people.  I’m diving in, and hoping I learn to swim.

The More Things Stay the Same

 

I need to go for a run today, but I can’t seem to get out the door.

Ten minutes ago I managed to change from my pajamas into running clothes, but I haven’t managed my shoes yet.

I know every moment I spend sitting here writing this post is one more chance I have of not getting out the door to run at all today.  There is a limited window of time, after my daughters have left for school, after the local kids have biked through, and before the day becomes too hot for running.  That window is now, and it is going to close if I do not get my shoes on, and get out the door.

But I might stop and finish my coffee first.  I don’t want it to get cold.

And I should make a to do list for the day, so I don’t lose track of what I have to accomplish before the bus arrives again, bringing my little girl and her friend home for the afternoon.  As soon as I make that list, I suspect I am going to learn I don’t have time to run at all today.

I can’t say exactly why I am so reluctant to run today.  I know I am out of shape, but I am learning to love the wheezing sound I make as I trod along the road looking like the straggler from a heard of stampeding rhinos, the one who is most likely about to be picked off by the predator.  I know I haven’t gotten around to switching up my running playlist, but its not like I can’t run to the old list.

I know the reason I don’t want to run comes from a general feeling of restlessness that has been haunting me this week.

I had the week off from school, something I have not had since winter break, and something I will not have again until next winter break. I was absolutely certain I would be getting so much done this week, and all of my writing time could be spent on writing something I want to write instead of splitting the time with my homework.  Instead, I keep looking around as though I am forgetting something important.  It’s almost as if I don’t know what to do when I don’t have a homework assignment to put off until later.

This week is also my daughters last week of school.  As of tomorrow at about 1230, I have two girls home for the summer, both wanting something to do everyday.  We have a few things lined up, but in spite of the ample notice, I haven’t adjusted to the idea that my quiet writing time will be gone soon.  I think I am mostly in denial, hoping if I just ignore the issue it will go away.  It’s not working.

I have a pile of things to do in a corner of my mind right now that I can’t seem to break into.  I need to finish a going away present for one of my daughter’s girl scout troop leaders.  I have just begun making a new quilt for my bed, something that is a little more appropriate for the summer weather.  I recently found my old cross stitch supplies and am itching to try it out again.  I feel like I haven’t knit anything in forever, even though it has only been a couple of months.  I ran across some fabric I bought to make myself a dress almost two years ago, and really would love to get around to designing the stupid thing.  And these are just the projects popping up in my mind today.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of the projects that I know are down in my basement but I am not looking at every day.

All of this is punctuated with a little cabin fever.  I have so many things to do in my house, but I would rather be anywhere but home right now.  We haven’t traveled anywhere in a few months, not even a day trip and I am itching to see something new.  We’re taking a day trip this weekend, and an excursion to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks, but I just want to get out there now.  I want to take a train to Amsterdam, or maybe to London.  I want to take a long slow drive through the Netherlands to see the windmills and find this cheese shop I have heard about from other people around here.  I want to find a castle in Germany and buy a bottle of wine I might never drink just because the castle is on the bottle.  I want to get back out in the world instead of staying in my head.

It’s a crazy place in my mind lately.  There are so many changes happening for me right now, I can’t seem to focus on any of them.  I used to think I hated change.  It was a funny joke; the girl who hates change married to a military man making her pick up her life and move to new countries.  The truth is, I love those changes.  I love knowing we are going somewhere new, and looking up everything about that place.  I love making the plans for our new life.  I realized, I have no problem with big changes, as long as I have a little notice and I can plan for my new adventure.  I don’t even mind small changes sometimes, but I dislike surprises.  Tell me something is changing soon, don’t show up at my door and spring it on me.

What I struggle with are personal changes.  If I hate my new base, it’s not necessarily my fault.  I don’t get much of a say in where we go, or in many of the changes that occur when we get there.  I deal the best I can, but sometimes it just sucks.  When it does, I can blame someone else easily because it was not my choice to be there to begin with.  However, if I go out to train for a new race, and never get past the struggling and wheezing phase, it is all on me.  I didn’t push myself hard enough, or I didn’t fuel properly, or I drank three cups of coffee instead of water.  It’s all me and my choices.

When its all on me, I struggle to get out the door.  I put off running, because I can control my failure that way.   I might not be able to stop other changes from going bad, but I can stop this one by never starting.

They say you only find the power to change when it hurts more to stay the same, and maybe that is true.  I know there are things that hurt now, deep in the secret corners I try not to let anyone else see.  But I also know it will hurt so much more to be unable to change that pain.  I can live with the ache I currently have, but I’m not sure if I can live with the fact that I already am all I ever could be.  It’s as if I don’t fly because I am afraid I might actually leave the ground.  Instead, I stay the same.

Finding the Little Guy

As someone who one day would like to be published, preferably through traditional means, I have been fascinated by the current Amazon vs. Hachette drama.

I’ll be honest, I am not great at the business aspect of publishing.  Ever since my first moment as a child, when I picked up a notepad and pencil and decided I could be a writer, I have been focused on the art or writing.  I was going to be an author, and in my mind that meant my concern should be the writing; the business was going to be someone else’s problem.  After finishing my first manuscript, I began rethinking that strategy.  I’m still learning, and there is a lot I don’t know.  In truth, I think no matter how much I try to learn now, it will be a bit of a baptism by fire when I get to the final moments of publishing, no matter how I choose to do it.

I didn’t come to this argument due to a desire to know everything going on between the two companies.  I ran across an article on twitter a couple of weeks ago.  Someone had linked to an interesting read on the influence Amazon has had in the publishing world, discussing the benefits that are available to authors and small publishing houses.  It spoke of how this company that no one believed had anything power to affect publishing was making headway, and was finally a power large enough to challenge the Big Five.  They spoke as though someone had finally given David a slingshot and rock, and finally Goliath might fall.  (I looked for the article to link here, but for the life of me I can’t find it anymore.)

A few days later, I ran across a comment where John Green was speaking out against Amazon’s treatment of the authors of Hachette.  I was slightly confused, considering the article I had just read sang their praises, and John Green is an intelligent man in the literary field.  Hmm.

Shortly after that, I found another blurb where J.K. Rowling was also against Amazon for their practices regarding her new book (written under her pen name, Robert Galbraith and published through Hachette).  I still thought it was weird.  J.K. Rowling is a very wealthy writer, but is reported to give a large amount to charity so it didn’t seem like it would be the greed talking.  She doesn’t need the money that comes from writing new books, so she wouldn’t be complaining because her paycheck was a little smaller.

The final straw came while I was watching The Colbert Report.  As a Hachette author, Stephen Colbert was very unhappy to find his books unavailable on Amazon, or given large delivery delays.  He was joining the fight not only through a few small snide comments, but by declaring everyone should completely boycott Amazon, not buying any products from them.  His campaign involved not only the hashtag, cutdowntheamazon, but also the promotion of a smaller debut Hachette author who was losing out on pre order sales.

I was still a little confused as to how an issue I had read a little about seemed to have such a strangely large following on the side that seemed to be wrong.  I knew that the obvious answer to that was that I didn’t know nearly enough about what was going on.  So, I read up on the fight a little.  I read a lot of articles, on both sides, far too many to link here, and honestly I read them over a couple of weeks, so I didn’t save them all.  If you would like to know more than my summary, and I encourage you to do the research yourself, search this argument online yourself.  Amazon vs. Hachette will get you a lot of anti-Amazon articles, whereas Amazon vs. Big Five will be more on the pro-Amazon side.  If you really want to know what is going on, look at both sides.

From the pro Hachette side, I learned that they are currently in negotiations with Amazon involving their distribution.  These negotiations are on the tail end of a price fixing conspiracy accusation aimed at the Big Five, and Hachette is only the first to hit the table; the other four publishing houses are coming up soon and results here will affect what happens later.  The exact sticking points are officially unknown, but it is reported to be pricing of digital books, and how much profit everyone makes from these.  Since the profits are based on percentages of the sale, and not a fixed price, no one likes Amazon cutting prices on the ebooks, since it also cuts into their profits.  During these negotiations, Hachette books are no longer available for pre-order, have had delayed deliveries, and are no longer coming up on recommendation lists.  These tactics are being attacked as bad form and bullying.

Let me tell you, the writers of these articles are amazing.  I had recently been looking at Amazon as the little guy, taking on the giant publishing houses; now Amazon looked like Godzilla terrorizing Tokyo.

This was slightly confusing for me.  How could one company be both David and Goliath?  Yes, Amazon is a huge company, and they are not going to suffer too much in profit loss from the lack of sales they experience during these negotiations.  And Yes, Hachette is the smallest of the Big Five, but they are certainly not a small or independent publishing company; pen name or not, they have J.K. Rowling on their author list.  They might have a few sales problems, but they have the power to recover.

I can understand Amazon not giving a preorder option when they are in negotiations, or having delays for product shipping.  We are not at the table with them, or in the Amazon warehouses.  I don’t know how much product they have, and I do not know how likely they are to get new product soon.  What I do know, is withholding books is likely the only card Hachette has to play.  Maybe they are already holding back on deliveries, maybe not.  I can’t blame Amazon for being cautious with the possibility that they might.  Making promises when you are not certain you can deliver is not good business.  Is it possible they are only trying to show the power they have over sales?  Absolutely a possibility, but not necessarily any more certain than the idea that they are being cautious and making certain they can continue to keep their promises to their customers.

What I am beginning to see, is that neither of them are in fact the little guy.  This isn’t the story both sides are trying to sell.  There is no David here, just two Goliaths duking it out.  Amazon is great at helping the little guy get out there and get the virtual shelf space they desire, side by side with the big books.  Hachette is a large publishing house, with the staff and knowledge to help turn ok books into bestsellers.  They both have their niche, and they both serve the literary world in their own way, but when they fight the losers are the authors.

I’m not sure I can determine who is in the right here.  These two giants are fighting about the literary business, while I am still lost in the art.  I like knowing that Amazon is there if I ever choose to self publish, but I honestly think I need the backing of an agent and a publishing house to help me make my work it’s best and navigate the long road to publishing.  On the one hand is the options for authors, and the other is the experience and teamwork.  I see too much benefit for both sides of the argument.  All I can hope is that when the dust settles, the writers come out on top.  Publishing is a two way street.  We might need the publishers, but they need us too.   We’re all a part of the process, and losing any of that makes the entire system collapse.

I’m not sure who will win this, and I’m not sure I know who I want to win.  I am definitely curious to see how this plays out.  Whoever wins, there will be a fallout of some sort, and I am curious as to what that will be.