Autumn is Coming

I’m not going to lie, I think I forgot how to blog.
I used to be able to whip out a few lines about my life, but that was when I was in school, when things were jam packed and exciting.
This summer has made life Slow. Way. Down. And while I’ve been enjoying the pace, let’s face it, there’s nothing gripping in 88 lines about 4 things that happened. I’ve been writing about my adventures over the summer, of which some were mighty, and of which some were just a mention.
One of the things I like to talk about is my writing. I am learning so much I feel like every blog post is a chance to document my milestones. I also imagine that other writers might find it interesting. I imagine, on the other hand, that some people think it’s like watching paint dry. This leaves me trying to find a balance.
I am working on an exciting achievement and something I’ve never done before. I wrote two rough drafts in two months, in tandem. I’ve written one book in the course of a month, last summer, but two separate books in different genres was a whole new level of achievement. I used to wonder how my other writer friends pounded out manuscripts so fast, but I see now that it simply matters how much time you have. When I have enough time to treat my writing like a full-time job, I produce crazy books. When I’m a student, my output slows way down. It makes sense, but to know a thing and to experience a thing sometimes turns out differently. I always thought I was underproducing. Turns out, I was just overachieving in other areas of my life.
Speaking of overachieving, I was accepted to Sigma Alpha Pi, which is a national honors society for universities. I am stunned and pleased that my grades are getting noticed. Of course, this always raises the bar as well, but I figure anything to make my resume look more shiny is welcome in my world.
I’m a year out from graduation (or so,) and I’m making plans for how to finish out my year even as I begin it. I love being a student, love all that I’m learning, but it’s a race against money, as the student loans rack up. The whole point of going back to school was to raise my income potential. That, and to get a job that I could marginally stand while I wait for people to fall in love with my books.
I am looking forward to school. I love school. I love learning. In another life I might have been a teacher, if I wasn’t so obsessed with spinning yarn.
Speaking of yarn, I am trying to teach myself to knit. Let me tell you, for a clumsy lady, that is some slow going. But it has taught me the secret to learning a thing; never give up. And just keep trying.

So here is my relearning how to blog.

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Shoot for the Moon; Land among the Stars

Have you ever wanted something so badly you could taste it? Something that seemed so out of your reach that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t do it?

Did that stop you from trying?

I know the likelihood of me being a successful author is low, with so many authors being already out there and amazing at what they do. Everyone is so prolific now, and self-publishing has made writing easier to distribute. Book prices range from a dollar to fifteen, but you damn well better have the last name of King before you can command those higher prices.

The market is saturated, it’s beyond saturated, it’s Houston in Hurricane Harvey saturated, and not even rafts of fire ants to be seen.

And yet.

There is a fire inside of me. It began when I was young. I wrote constantly. There was never a time that I didn’t have a notebook and pen with me. (Okay, maybe when I was riding my bike. Maybe dinner. You get it.) I won awards, although they were little kid awards, meant to bolster that tender self-esteem necessary to ford the slings and arrows of later unsolicited feedback.

I thought it had died. I spent so long not writing, or maybe typing up a page or two before giving up and going back to life, which at the time was so much more interesting, and so much better than applying ass to seat.

I was surprised when it roared back to life. Being laid off and having a two-year-old child left me with time on my hands but being mostly housebound. I wrote two books, one that would later be published and one that may never be. I was hooked, I had to keep going.

Now here I am, years later, and my storytelling style has gone through a complete renovation. I outline. I forecast word count. I write two books at the same time because alternating stories means less mental fatigue. I can estimate where a book is going to end, and if it’s not going to hit the submission requirements, I can take steps to fix it. I submitted to an online ‘zine on a whim. I have short stories on standby if my friend wants to publish them. (Edit: Except she took them all, and now I must write more. Yay Hot Mess 3!)

So, if anyone tells you that your dream isn’t worth chasing, my expert advice is to tell them to Fuck Right Off. Even if you don’t make it all the way, the things you learn in your pursuit are worthy, and can change your life.

 Photo Credit:

NASA

Summer Summary

This summer has been a roller coaster, for real. The first month was all grandparent visits, which both were fantastic but energy-intensive as all visits are. There was a short span of time where things were routine. My son went to the Boys and Girls club, we had two vehicles, and I went out on visits with my friends. My anniversary to my husband rolled around, and we spent a glorious weekend doing house chores and going to movies.

It turned out to be a good decision to do one particular chore. We put heat film on the windows to make our room cooler. We’re on the second floor, and so adding this film cut the heat. This was an absolute godsend, because two weeks later came a heatwave in the PacNW that has coincided with wildfire season.

The heat wave also coincided with the death of my valiant steed, the Subaru. I drove that vehicle for twelve years, so losing it was a shock to the system. I mean, you’re not just losing a car at that point, you’re losing a family pet. My son’s reaction reflected my own. My husband was disappointed not to have two cars anymore, but didn’t see the value in fixing our old car. There are a lot of details to manage when a vehicle dies. We sold it for salvage, had to find the title, and yadda yadda yadda. It will be a while before we go to purchase a second vehicle. Possibly until I graduate.

This has nothing to do with writing, which is pretty much one hundred percent accurate. With so much going on, I haven’t had much time to write this summer. I have started on the third novel in my trilogy, but it is the first draft, and I’m not even 20% of the way in yet. So, nothing close to done. I believed I could churn out a draft “with all that spare time” I would get in the summer. Alas, life doesn’t work that way sometimes.

However, I am glad that I didn’t have classes this summer. With everything that happened, it would be difficult to balance classes and visitors and car death. And the summer hasn’t been a long string of bad things. Our visitors and our trip both were awesome. I wouldn’t have a working vehicle right now if my parents hadn’t visited and gifted us Mom’s Impala. Things have been working out beautifully. They’ve been keeping me quite busy.

Summer is winding down. The Boys & Girls’ club will be closing down after this week, we need to buy school clothes, and we’re ramping up to doing homework so my son isn’t clubbed over the head with it when school starts. I will be sorry to see it go, but it will nice to have routine back in the house again.

Summer Progress

This summer has been a whirlwind. My parents came for a visit, and we had a great time. We watched movies, we went out to the wilds of Birch Bay, and we went out to a backyard bbq. My parents were in their element. They are a dynamic duo. My dad’s a great storyteller, and my mom is an empathic listener. They are always welcome at parties.

My dad’s favorite hobby is taking pictures, which he made sure to do while we were out and about. My mom taught me what a Zen Tangle was. It’s a complex pattern that seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon. Luke and I showed them Fool Us and Macklemore and Maru on YouTube.

By the end of the trip I was tired out. I probably didn’t have to try as hard as I did, but I’m an overachiever, even if it’s not explicitly what my parents ask for or expect. I had to make sure everything was great for their visit.

Even after their departure, I can’t seem to find it in myself to relax. I jumped back on my writing projects with gusto, worked on chores on the house, and took my son to the Raspberry Festival.

I need to figure out what to do with the rest of the summer. I am not outdoorsy by nature, but I have a ten-year-old son that if left to himself would sit inside all day. The B&G club has been a godsend, but there’s something to be said to taking him to a park or out on a Pokewalk to get him engaged in the outdoors. I think I’m stressing out about this more than necessary, because I haven’t been able to carve out a routine.

This summer has been a roller coaster, and I can’t believe it’s halfway done. Yesterday during a conversation with Allison, I laughed and said, “Remember how we were going to do ALL THE THINGS this summer?”

She laughed too.

The summer progresses at its own pace.

The Pause that Refreshes

I can’t believe that school has been out for almost a month. Well, that’s a technicality. I’ve been out of school almost a month; my classes didn’t have classic finals so finals week was kind of a freebie. I was so stressed out from my classes. I loved them, but they were hard and pushed me to new edges of limits. Even the debate class was better than I expected – not that the bar was set high.

As soon as Toby was out of school, we swept away to Central Oregon, to visit the Three Sisters, Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor, and several others. Where I grew up, we had the Black Hills and the Bighorns. Neither one of them were fraught with individual names, so the idea of naming mountains struck me as superfluous. Then again, these mountains jut well above the hills that surround them, snowy peaks breaking up the landscape dramatically.

Oregon is like the bastard child of Washington and Wyoming. There were lots of trees, but we left the rainforest behind and entered the high plains. The sage brush and pines rolled out mile after mile, and at one point I even saw an antelope in the high grass.

The vacation itself was fun. We stayed at a condo that had a very fine pool, and after some shenanigans with our key cards, we settled in for some fine dining and swimming. The next day we went out to Tumelo Falls, which were gorgeous. While we were there a confused butterfly landed on my hand and proceeded to unfurl his proboscis, licking me furiously. I was too stunned to move for a minute, but I managed to sneak out my phone and catch a hand selfie with the butterfly contentedly moving his tongue this way and that, trying to discover where I’d cleverly hidden my nectar. It did get the hint eventually, only to veer off to my son’s shirt for another fruitless search.

Then we left the condo and drove off to my first adventure at an AirBnB. I could go on for ages about what happened, but I’ll condense it to saying that after a drive through four-by-four tracks to reach the place, I was stunned by an open floor plan that opened up into a kitchenette, a daybed, and a random mannequin. The upstairs floor plan was wide open, with a futon, a queen bed, and a view of the neighbor’s goats. Lying awake in the dark and listening to the goats bleat softly to each other was a new experience, as was having the bathroom door knob fall off in my hand at two o’clock in the morning.

My son’s birthday was celebrated by a long drive and an expansive spread of dirt. We went hunting for thundereggs, which are like geodes but solid, full of agate. They are easy to spot and were all over this site, so the challenge level was low, but on a hot day under the scorching sun, you don’t want it to be difficult. We dug up at least twenty pounds of rocks and brought them home. They are awaiting The Great Project, where my husband will rent a tile saw and saw them all open. Which leaves me to wonder, what exactly are we going to do with twenty pounds of semi-circular rocks, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Did I write? Yes. I pledged to Junowrimo (yes, it’s a thing) and wrote 20k words on one project, and 7k words on another. Not bad for being away from the keyboard a significant chunk of this month. I’m juggling a lot of projects, mostly short stories.

Oh, and I got my grades back from school. A B+ in my Debate class (I would have accepted less, was quite pleased with this) and an A for both of my writing classes. Not bad for bucking teacher recommendations and heading out into the weeds.

Debatable

 

I just finished my final for Debate class. I got a B, which is what I seem to get in Communications classes. This offends me to my little Hermione core, but it’s also showing me that I am not as good at communicating as I believed I was. Which in turn, is a good revelation to have, because you can’t learn anything if you think you’re awesome at something already. So, I guess the long answer is that I’m philosophical about my B and willing to accept that I’m not always an A student all the time.

I had a good time in Debate class, which was counter to my expectations. When I told my husband, I was going into a debate class, he laughed at me. Straight up, awkward romantic comedy style, laughed until he nearly fell off the couch. At the time, it stung. I felt like I was being railroaded into the class to begin with, and was frustrated having to take it. To do a one-eighty like this and feel comfortable as opposed to freaking out over the whole thing is good; it means I’ve grown.

This whole college experience has been like that – one experience after another of something that I wasn’t sure I was going to grasp, only to push through and persevere. From classes that didn’t seem like I would use them to classes I’d been dying to take, everything has had its surprises. My Creative Writing Fiction class surprised me by introducing me to literature I genuinely didn’t like. I learned a lot from reading fiction I didn’t like, although it took this class to force me to read it.

My Creative Non-Fiction class also taught me a lot. Despite having no interest in writing my memoir, having an opportunity in class to write sections of my life and hone it with craft helped me in ways that the Fiction course didn’t. It helped me to add emotionality into my stories. I am excited to see how much changed over the course of one quarter, and I can’t wait to start writing my own projects again and show people the difference.

This quarter was the hardest quarter I’ve taken in college. I took two writing intensive classes in one quarter, which is recommended against by everyone, and I quite often wrote two stories a day, switching off fiction from non-fiction and trying to keep everything straight.

The summer, by comparison, looks like it will be a nice break from everything scholastic. My son and I will be spending a lot of time together, so I will be wearing the Mom hat a lot, taking him swimming, hosting his friend, going on Pokewalks, finding little local things to take him to and the like. I would love to say the summer is a great opportunity to write, but I think I’m going to have to fight for every scrap of writing time I can muster. I’ve set myself a challenge of 1000 words a day, just to have some numbers to obsess over.

Oh, and if I work it carefully, I may take a break now and then. But don’t quote me.

Reflections

It’s hard to reflect on the situation when you’re in the middle of it. I have been trying to write a blog post for months, but have been coming up short. Some of it is the sheer amount of writing I’ve been doing this quarter. Fiction and creative non-fiction, which are demanding in different ways. I like both of my professors for their strengths. I have also had good luck with the groups I’ve been assigned for writing critiques.

I’ve had no small amount of challenges this quarter. Taking two writing intensive classes was a good way to set myself up for insanity, and then I threw in a debate class, which is a realm to which I do not belong. Despite my obstacle course, I have made headway in all three classes. I even got an A on my first debate, which is the highest grade I’ve made in that class thus far.

I realized something, which is that I’m not letting these classes make very deep impressions upon me. In my fiction class, my teacher has been assigning stories that are well outside the range of what I read on my own. The stories are challenging, upsetting, or worse, pointless and boring. Those are by far the worst, where I can’t figure out why a college professor would assign it as reading. But that’s the thing. I’m just dismissing those writings as useless and stupid. And maybe, maybe they are. However, I do tend to think my professor is good enough to determine a poorly-written story from a challenging story to make me think. I just haven’t figured out how.

What is it about the human mind that writes off situations it doesn’t understand as stupid, trivial, or in some way minimized? Why can’t we admit our weakness and accept that this is something we don’t understand, and needs more thought? The brain budget for new thoughts tends to have deeper reserves than we want to admit to, but it takes time to convince it to pay out.

My stories have been developing. I posted a couple of flash fictions that I turned in as assignments in class. It’s harder to post longer pieces here, but I can post excerpts of other things I’m working on. I used to do post flash fiction all the time, but it’s amazing how much concentration it takes to churn out a work, even a short one.

I published my third novel, Typhon Inc. I have been meaning to post it here, but that’s just how busy it’s been. I hope that people take a peek; it’s an improvement on Bento Box. I figure the difference between book sequels and movie sequels is that authors are continually learning their craft, and movie sequels tend to try to extend a story that wasn’t intended to be.

And now to take on the end of the quarter.