Three… two… one…

As my husband sings, off-key but with honest enthusiasm, “It’s the final countdown…”

Final countdown to classes being done for me. For now, at least. A Bachelor’s degree is something to be proud of, and I’ve worked hard these past three years to attain one. I’m two tests away from passing my classes, and I’ve spent all week studying for both. It’s completely possible that I’ll panic and flub the tests, but I’ve done all I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

And thus will end my college adventure.

I will miss college. I love learning and the school environment, I get a lot out of it. I was spoiled – my professors were all good, with a few that were great. (Okay, there was one that started rocky, but we managed to work it out.) I also met a lot of students who were interesting. Intelligent, sarcastic, open minded, opinionated.. if it weren’t for college I wouldn’t have any stories of the woman who worked as a clown and wrote stories about serial killers. She’d bring cotton candy to class.

The job hunt, on the other hand, I did not miss, but it has already begun. I likened it to the dating scene – there are so many misses and so few hits. I have only just started this journey, though, and my hopes are that I’ll land a job soon. I owe my husband a nicer house, you see, and the only way we’ll get it is through my gainful employment.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dream of being a novelist. However, I have discovered that you can produce books while having a full-time job, it just takes time. If I hit it big on one of my titles, then things might change, but it may be a few years before I make it J.K. Rowling big. It’s good to have interests outside of work, after all. I mean, I also plan on getting a gym membership when I can pay for one.

The big change starts tomorrow, after the tests are done. I shall raise a glass to my college career, and then chase it with another for my future endeavors. Then I’ll be sure to be thankful that the summer’s not over yet!

Jiyeon Park

Advertisements

This Year for Christmas, Just a Handbasket

I would like to say that I have been too busy to keep up with my blog, and that would be true, but the real reason I haven’t written anything is because life got tough for a while. I couldn’t write anything but how much it sucked, and nobody has the spoons for that.

The short version is that my husband passed out and fell, giving himself a concussion. There’s no clear reason as to why he passed out – our current theory is that he had a fever and he stood up too fast. When we took him to the doctor they weren’t able to diagnose any better than us, unfortunately, although they did order some tests to rule out a few things. We were in the shadow of the valley of no insurance, so this made things much more interesting at the time. We have insurance now, but we still don’t have a ton of answers, the fact that he can’t take his ADHD meds, he can’t get his heart rate up, and he’s pretty much had to retool how he works. Luckily, his job is being very accommodating.

Concussions are a serious deal. I already knew that, having had two friends who have had one, but it’s different when you’re living with a person every day who has one. It’s a very intense situation. I’m also used to having a partner who helps out with everything, so to have him on light duty has increased my responsibilities… right before finals. This is a difficult situation but we’ve been handling it. He fell a month ago today.

School has been going well. I have ended up with two classes that I loved and one class that I did not. I am already done with the two classes I love, papers and projects are turned in, everything is now waiting on grading. My last class, the one I don’t love, has a final scheduled for today. I’m not happy about the final but I’ve done my preparation and research so I think I’m as ready to go as I can be. We had 8 study questions and 3 of those will be the final exam, so I need to keep everything in my head a little while longer.

I won’t lie – once this class is done, I will forget I ever took it. It was touted to be a high-value class for my major, but after taking it I am still failing to find it relevant. It’s disappointing, but it seemed like other people got more from the class than me, so it’s obvious I missed something.

Winter break is almost upon us! I am looking forward to three weeks of no homework, family time, and maybe even a little holiday baking. I could even write, although I have been warned against this by friends of mine. It’s hard to give up the habit, even if it is supposed to be break.

This has been a particularly stressful holiday season, not just for me, but for my friends, and I hope that the new year will bring in some much-needed relief. If you are not one of those people and are doing fine, I’m happy for you. If your season has been rough this year, keep going. Christmas rarely killed anybody, unless you’re Phoebe’s dad from Gremlins.

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

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

High Note

We’ve almost made it through another year, and everyone is resetting. Everyone is looking at the new year as a new hope, and they’re trying to be positive. This is why I love the new year. I love it more than Christmas, more than any other holiday. Because at the end of the day, people are looking forward to something, whatever that might be for them.

Yes, bad things happened this year. A lot to celebrities that I respected died. Musicians like Leonard Cohen, Prince, and David Bowie. Advocates like Carrie Fischer. And honestly, celebrities I just felt attached too, like Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder. We live in a world where everyone is so visible to us. I am glad that I will have albums to listen to with Leonard’s rich, velvety voice when I feel sad. I am glad that I have Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’m glad that I have Star Wars on Blu-ray. They are permanent reminders.

The new year is a time to take stock, to see where we are as we begin a new year. It feels like so little has gone right this year. However, when I looked back on it, I realized there are things to be proud of or happy for.

  • I graduated from college with my AA degree, after making straight A’s for the school year
  • I am staying on my path and headed for a Bachelor’s degree next
  • My relationship with Toby has improved
  • My husband’s construction company is growing
  • I wrote a book this year! It’s the next installment of The Gray Hat series and I’m excited to see it moving to the editing stage.
  • I had a wonderful talk with my editor regarding my next steps for my career

I’m sure there are more positive things, but it’s more usual to get lost in the day-to-day of managing life; appointments, maintenance, responsibilities. Not everything stands out but I know I’ve had more than a few good days this year.

Which is why it’s good to take a moment and look back and appreciate the good.

Recovery

After the stumbling block that was 11/8, I spent a lot of time thinking. The future was shaping up a bit differently than I’d first imagined it, and it took a while to figure out how to proceed. What made things more difficult is that I’m at the crux of graduating with my Associates and moving up to University for my Bachelors.

I had to ask myself, do I still want to go for the English degree? Do I still want to go to school? Would it be better to take my Associates and run with it?

It’s good to examine your goals and make sure they are still what you want, but having to think that the kind of degree you’ll get might not matter, that was hard going. I had to have serious conversations with myself, determining what course of action would be best not just for me, but for my family.

At the end of the day I’m going to have a four-year degree, and that’s going to help me get a better job. The kind of degree I’m going to get, however, is how I’m chasing my dream. I want my son to see that going after your dream is not always easy going, but that you can’t give up.

“You can’t give up” is such an important message right now. There is a lot of negativity, and a lot of hate crimes occurring. People following the President-Elect who believe they’ve been given permission to instigate these crimes, and are taking full advantage of the situation. Being silent feeds their drive. Acquiescing to their actions gives them permission to take it another step further, and another. Giving up is high on many people’s minds, but giving up is the worst thing to do.

Despite wanting to give up, despite thinking that it would make things easier, I encourage everyone to reach into themselves and not give up. There are people who will, and they may rejoin the fight later, but we need everyone right now to keep fighting. It sounds small, but even making it out of bed in the morning is a victory. Not everyone can do that right now, so if you’re vertical with coffee in hand, you’re 100% more successful than some. If you’re out making connections and building community, you’re aces. These are small things, like hanging out at a coffee shop and saying hi, but these are the things that matter, maybe not in the moment but later.

I know it’s a small thing to decide to stay in school, to get an English degree. At the end of the day I’m just one person. I know it’s a small thing to show my son what it’s like to chase a dream. My son, and his classmates and friends, are the future. They’re part of a much bigger future which they are unaware of yet. They need to know what it’s like to dream. It’s a small lesson, but it’s the biggest lesson I can think of.

Spring Scramble Plate

They say the second quarter is easier than the first when you go back to school. And, in some ways, I think they’re right. My first quarter I took classes that were apropos of nothing. My transfer credits weren’t processed by the college yet. English 101 was a requirement I’d already taken, but until the credits were processed I was blocked from taking the classes I wanted. I felt out of place and out of my depth. The first quarter felt like a lot of catch-up in one sitting.

Despite this quarter’s assignments of a research paper, learning how to read and critique a genre I felt out of touch with, and Algebra 99, this quarter still seemed easier. However, don’t let this fool you about the amount of work I put in to get the grades I earned.

To put it in perspective, I think I spent 4 or 5 eight hour days working on Algebra 99 to make sure I had all of the concepts down. Days where I literally did nothing else but math. Sure, you’re supposed to spend time outside of class, an estimated 2 hours per class hour. This would put me at 10 hours of math homework per week. In honesty, I estimate closer to 15 or 20. It’s a good thing my other classes were more tailored to my skills, or I’m not sure how I could have balanced all three of them.

I am at this point holding an A- in Algebra. Of course, it’s tempting to not work that hard. It’s tempting to slack off, take a C, manage through class. In this class, however, at times I was at a C average, because I did poorly on a quiz. Each time I got a quiz back with a failing grade I could feel cold sweat trickle down my back. The only thing worse than taking a class you hate once is having to take it twice.

My son tried to talk me into not going to school today. He was cuddly and cute and persuasive. It’s hard to say no to a sweet face begging you to stay in a warm bed and cuddle all day. Eventually I had to tell him that Mom’s goals required her to go to school, and they were goals he wanted me to achieve. He understood that, which makes me realize that humans aren’t all that different from childhood to adulthood. We need motivation in order to do a thing. If there’s no motivation, there’s no action.

It’s frustrating that currently my life is revolving around school. I realize now that I could have just started writing. The trouble was, my writing wouldn’t have improved the exponential amount it has since I’ve been going to school. The fact that my schooling slowed my writing career is mitigated by the fact that my writing career will be improved by my schooling in the long run.

So, while I may rail against the situation I find myself in and how counter-productive it seems to be to what I actually want to be doing, I still find myself sitting down at my laptop, glazed from homework and not enough sleep, and sketching out a short story for fun and profit. I have a reason for doing what I’m doing, despite the fact that from the outside it looks like madness.

 

Where’ve you been?

I haven’t been very active on my blog lately, and I have good reasons. Which doesn’t correlate into good reading for you, so I apologize profusely. You see, I’m a student now, and apparently that means that I must spend every waking moment at school or doing schoolwork.

It’s probably not supposed to be this drastic, but I’m having a little hang-up in Math. See, I’m an English major. I am not a natural number monkey. I have to sit and think about each problem, and usually I have to restart it a few times before I crunch the right answer. I failed my last quiz, although fortunately the first test I got a solid B. I can’t take this class over again… it would just hold me back from graduating, and I’ve got places to go and majors to ace.

I have to say that my biggest problem here is that I know that I will not be using Algebra II in my quest for author domination. I recognize that I will have to do math to get the accounting right, but that is not Algebra II. I could whine about my academic woe-is-mes all day, but I think you get the idea. Math homework time has become all-consuming, and has left me precious little time to blog.

Last month we managed to go on a family vacation to Whistler, BC. While I was there, I got to write up an essay that was a creation myth. I read it to both my husband and son, who both really enjoyed it. I’m getting pretty good at prompt writing.

January had its upsides and its downsides for my writing career. On the upside, I was invited back to the Oriental Excess team. Last year they published “The Gaijin & The Butterfly” and this year they want me to write the follow up to the story. I’m so excited to be a part of this process!

Also, there was an anthology that put out a submission all-call. I wrote what I felt was a fantastic piece for them, and just got the rejection letter a couple days ago. The good news about having a fantastic story and an imprint is that publishing is just a few keystrokes away. I do like having my stories published by other presses as well. There are perks either way. Right now Barely Salvageable is putting together a “pulp mag” that will feature work from my writing group. I happen to be fortunate enough to have fallen in with excellent writers, and I think the Hot Mess Mag will prove it.

So, that’s about all there is for me right now. School-homework-family time-sleep. I haven’t worked this hard in ages. The only thing I can say is that I refuse to stop writing, despite how much else there is to do. I decided to go to school so that I could get a career in writing, and so it’s silly to be stopped by school.