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VerseDay 9-20-18

I don’t know about this one.  It’s a little rough. I think it needs something. Severely lacking in hope and warm fuzzies, to be sure, but something else. What do you think?

 

Time

 

Time is moonlight through the branches

of a tree that once sat lower in the window

It’s the gray hair in the washbasin you notice while brushing your teeth.

The teenage screams of “I hate you” and the slamming of doors,

Doors that once could not be shut for fear of being too far from you.

Time is the ache that once whispered,

And now holds you hostage.

 

Time is the moon and gray hair

A change of pace,

The wobble of temperament,

And the cruel device flashing revelations in pops and crackles of bone and joint.

 

Time is the tired vacancy of your parents’ eyes and the sudden realization

That you will be an orphan in less time than you’ve already lived.

It is the knowledge that they will be gone…

And so will you…

And that howling teenager, once so sweet a baby,

 

her too.

 

And we think it so unfair…so sad.

But our thoughts and laments do nothing to change it.

Nothing we do will ever stop it…

Because Time is an uncaring bastard,

who marches by and leaves you along the side of the street,

waving your tired little human flag.

 

And nothing matters really.

 

We humans are so infantile, never growing in our short span of century.

Cry babies for truth and justice,

Never grasping that we lack the ability to really understand there is no truth…

Justice nothing more than a construct of simple neurons needing to find order.

We are not ready for truth, we are not big enough for justice.

 

Nice try, pea brain.

You can barely remember where you parked your car.

VerseDay 9-13-18

Here’s a thing….

 

Atomic Hit and Run

I am in need

to feel your atoms against mine.

Even though it is short lived and often

 

unintentional.

 

Because your matter on mine,

matters.

 

Gives my particles cause to spring up from apathy.

As if I shared your stardust once, so long ago.

As though we had a place in time long before this,

When oceans were gas, and metals made mountains

Comets careening off of placid moon-dusted plains.

 

Somewhere back there,

You careened into me

And my soul still remembers.

 

It drives my poor lizard brain to ache

just once more

Maybe I’m just looking for the particles you stole,

when you astral side-swiped me.

Like exchanging insurance numbers.

A slight streak of sanguine against metal.

Small token of our shared space.

 

It is miserable

and noble.

All at once.

Time is a boundless roundabout

And all exits bring me back.

 

I tell myself it is a finite dance

I can only spin so long,

Until the friction of physics halts my motion

And particles lay in defeat.

 

I have to tell myself it is finite.

I need to know it ends.

I need to know it ends.

On Mucous and Memory

A plague is upon my house.

Must have been all that divine-smack talk from last week.

We’ve been set upon by a viral invasion from the petri dish that is the pubic education system. I’ve been fighting it off with sheer force of will, exclaiming to the ear-less, microscopic, entities that I’m simply too busy for their nonsense and to go pedal their crazy someplace else.

In the meantime, I’m emptying out the trash cans every two hours and trying to explain the gentle art of using more than a nostril width of space for each tissue. (Yes, they are ‘disposable’, but that doesn’t mean we need to dab and toss as though we were participants in some game-show challenge. Unacceptable tissue usage

For god sakes, even the lady at Costco is giving me the eye for how often I’ve been stocking up…

 

This blog is sometimes about life and sometimes about writing, and today I was inspired by the less-than-beautiful aspects of life.

Take my dogs…please.

sick basset

Anyone with lovable, furry companions knows, they’re a plethora of bodily fluids. And, as with any creature in later years, these leakages seem to come more frequently. My bassets are mass oil producers; through their skin, through clogged pores, through bursting, bleeding cysts…gulp back that bile taste in the back of your throat…it’s actually quite fascinating.

 

What’s the point of this? Well…the giant mess that is life I guess.

 

I remember when the idea of a child’s slobbery hand touching my skin would make me want to bathe in hand sanitizer and invest in a personal HazMat shower.

mucous decontamination

Now…oh now… can I tell you gentle readers how I sometimes use the puddle from a melted ice cube my child has left on the kitchen floor to wet my sock before mopping up some random bloody streak from my dog’s tail sore? Disgusting you say? I say…efficient.

 

Can I tell you how I can pluck a booger from my child’s nose with illusionist prowness (move over Criss Angel). How I can be sneezed on, coughed on, pooped on, peed on, vomited on, and still somehow maintain a soft focus on the words. “Its ok. No worries, baby”. How I now can look past the moist factories of human and canine function and see a moment in time. A very fleeting moment.

 

When I am needed.

 

That sounds narcissistic and I suppose it is. I know that a stable, self-sufficient woman doesn’t need to be needed. But I also know that a deep part of fulfillment for me (lets bound into the hippy side of things and say it’s the Earth/Nurturing Energy I’m predisposed to) is in being able to provide for others. To help them, to comfort them, to clean up after them and whatever that trail they’re leaving behind them is made up of.

Someday those trails will be gone. The house will be spotless, and puddle-less, hairless, and smell-less. And what an awful thought that is.

Someday, I am going to miss the loud and crazy sneeze fest. The croaky little throats asking for juice. The whining howl of a dog in the midst of a squirrel induced nightmare that causes wet flatulence.

 

Love life for the mess, not in spite of it.

 

The mess is where the magic is. The imperfect and chaotic is also the joy. Because it pulls us out of auto pilot and makes us pay attention…Because it tests what we are made of, what we can handle, and how we handle it. Because it makes memories and memories are how we count time, relate to others, and look back on a life well, if mucousily, lived.

 

I could live a beautiful, picture perfect life. With clean floors, and quiet halls, and never have to ask “What did I just step in?” or “Is that poop or chocolate?”. But god, what a horrible life that would be. Give me the mess. Give me your booger. Give me the bleeding, oily cysts. Give me the tiny arms and fevered foreheads pressed close in times of need, and the saggy brown eyes of an uncompromisingly loyal companion.

Give me all of these things, and I will not cringe. I will embrace. Because mucous makes memories.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I feel a sneeze coming on…are we out of tissues?

short red hair woman blowing her nose
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

 

VerseDay 9-5-18

Okay. So this is a weird one.

The picture alone is disturbing. Sometimes in life we stumble across things that are perfectly normal aspects of the natural world, but they affect our human emotions on strange levels. Mother Nature’s everyday can make us feel uneasy and strange. Maybe it’s our too-advanced brain reading depth where there is none. Notions of mortality and empathetic wondering.

 

In any case, I acknowledge that it’s strange, and a bit unnerving. But then again, so is life.

 

 

Evisceration

Yellow stripe teardrop burrows deep into her leafy green belly

Once so full of harvest and good planning.

The seeds to feed the hungry nesters

Spilled across the glass table top,

Like a cornucopia

A feast for jagged takers.

Did she feel much after the first piercing sting?

Was it just all black?

Or did she feel the tugging pull of her insides, turned out?

What if Katydid?

Divinity

First…an important disclaimer: this post isn’t about sugary egg whites. (Might I suggest Pinterest? You can find anything on that fucking site. Good Ol’ Fashioned Divinity)

No, this post is about an often-divisive subject, so if you’re easily offended, PLEASE keep reading and stretch that narrow mind. I promise your brain won’t fall out, no matter what the bumper sticker says.

This week’s post was inspired by my daughter’s study of religion in her 6th grade Social Studies class. What I can deduce from her thoughts on the class and the homework itself, there’s a definite sway towards Christianity happening.

And that sticks in my craw.

I have no problem with her learning about religion in school.

But I do have an problem with one religion being given more attention than the rest.

I have no problem with kids of other faiths sharing thoughts and ideas about their beliefs, in fact, I encourage the exchange of ideas.

But I do have a problem when other kids criticize my daughter because we deliberately do not attend church. Persecution, even from the under 12 crowd, should not come as a shock in our current state of affairs, and yet witnessing it happening to your child first hand for something so deeply personal makes me ill.

I choose not to attend church.

It doesn’t not mean that I don’t know about world religions, or hold any misgivings about what they espouse.

On the contrary, I minored in Religious Studies and majored in Anthropology. If anyone has a good handle on different peoples, cultures, and faiths, it’s me. It’s because of this knowledge, that I don’t practice Christianity. I could write an entire book about the whys and why nots, but that’s a discussion for another week.

So when my daughter asks if its wrong that she doesn’t attend church I have to take a deep breath and explain…

No. It is not wrong.

Your dad and I decided when you were born, that we would let you make up your own mind about what you believed. If you ever want to go to church, I will gladly take you. I will also ask that you attend other services in other religions, so that you can understand them across the board.

I would like you to believe in something, whether it be divine intervention, natural energies of the earth, physics, magic, god, goddess, Zeus, Harry Potter, Giant Donut in the sky, or aliens…as long as whatever you believe makes sense to your heart and feeds your soul.

Because religion practiced out of fear of eternal punishment does not do those things.

Because religion that bases its forgiveness and kindness towards others on if they’re judged worthy of these gifts, does not do those things.

Because religion that puts you in your place, makes you feel less than, or takes away your autonomy or ability to chose what’s right for you, does not do those things.

In other words, I want you to understand that Divinity resides in you. The system of belief that you surround yourself with must honor this Divinity.

Because you are the Divine.

Your brain is capable of phenomenal things. It visualizes and conceptualizes. It controls your body, it’s thoughts, your will and it drives your existence. It’s so amazing that it can create gods, and myths, and religious systems, and therefore, god is in all of us and we are god.

So You Are The Divine.

And when you understand this, you will also understand that so is everyone else.

Divinity resides in all of us.

(I call this the “Everybody loves their babies and mommas” theory. No matter what faith, race, ethnicity, country, political party—all of us love our babies. All of us love our moms. Not a one of us wants harm to befall those we love—no matter if we pray five times a day towards Mecca, or say fifty Hail Mary’s for last Saturday night).

We all benefit by recognizing the divinity in one other and understanding the connection we share.

We would not hurt the divine.

We would not alienate them for what they do or don’t do on a Sunday morning. We would not spew hateful rhetoric in their faces for who they love, or for how they show their divine, or the color of the carton they’re contained in.

We would treat them worthy of their divinity just as we would treat ourselves in ways worthy of our Divinity.

So gentle readers, I don’t care if you worship in a synagogue, a church, a temple, a meadow, or in your boxers on the couch watching Star Wars all Sunday morning (Side note, Star Wars; highly Buddhist…look it up, fascinating stuff. Buddhism and Star Wars.)

I don’t care how pious you are or what percentage of your paycheck you’re throwing into a golden plate every week.

I care that you are honoring what should be the cornerstone of every religion; treating others as you would like to be treated. Loving one another. Forgiving one another.

I care that you stand up when you see injustice. When you see someone hurting another, when you see someone defiling the divinity in someone else.

That’s all that really matters.

That’s what the beautiful divine in each one of us is for.

So study the religions, know what they’re about and what they espouse. Then come back to your own heart and, as Whitman once so artfully wrote,

“re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;”

Stay Divine.

VerseDay 8-16-18

Good morning, Darlings. Here’s a little something to start your day.

 

Frailty

How precious, the fear,

Of casting your frailty,

Out into the jaws of a desolate world.

How brutally important

To stretch the lines of comfort

 

Throwing the weakly bonded cells

Into the universe of chaos and rock

The stone that tears,

Branches that bite,

Fire’s searing kiss.

 

How cherished, the heart-pounding uncertainty,

That drives us to the far away,

Against the pleading of timidity

Begging us to come home.

 

Safety is not safe,

Until we step into the treacherous.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Change

 

Gentle readers, today I’m writing to you from a house full of tile breaking, wood tearing, abhorrent hammer striking, and general disarray. The bassets are petrified, the cats have taken to hover beneath beds and cower behind me on an already ‘cozy’ chair.

scardy cat
Penny Dreadful isn’t afraid of a little crowbar banging…she’s only here to protect me. Last furry line of defense.

Times of transition are like hurricanes. Confusing, loud, messy and intense. There is uncertainty and a sense of powerlessness that directly affects our peace and sanctuary. Some of us deal with the changes with decidedly more grace than others. Some are rocked off their foundations, never to be the same again.

 

The point is that no one is safe from change. And why the hell would you want to be?

 

Change is the great motivator. It is the one unequivocal trait of the progression of human life. Without it we are stagnant lumps. Change breeds invention and new ideas, it sparks, hopefully, encompassing understanding and empathy. Compassion even.

 

What happens though, when we have too much change? When we are in a constant state of upheaval. When everything in life is a transition?

 

It is proven that children who suffer chronic instability (experiencing transitions so often that instability becomes their norm) can suffer from toxic stress.

 

Toxic stress increases the risks of several physical and social problems including but not limited to increased risk for cancer and diabetes, heart, lung, and liver disease, increased risk for smoking, drug abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, domestic violence and depression.

 

While a normal amount of stress can be good (it stimulates healthy growth, promotes resilience, and helps us to learn coping mechanisms), constant stress and insecurity in our lives actually causes the body great physical and psychological harm.

 

The effects are more pronounced in children but adults are not immune. Just ask the millions of people living with high blood pressure, depression, cardiac disease etc. We are in over our heads.

 

So how do we balance the change and transition? How do we grow and push our boundaries without breaking apart our safety net?

 

Balance seems a cop-out idea. Of course balance (*eye roll*). That’s like asking “how do I lose weight” and some smart ass saying “Just diet”.

True…but too general. Diets, like balance, are not a one size fits all idea. What is balanced for me is way too much for someone else. One man’s half-dozen donuts with no metabolic detriment is my sure-fire step towards acquiring the diabetes.

 

How do we find our balance? How do we find the right amount of change? I think the answer lies in retaining sanctuary in our lives. Now I’m not talking humpy-backed bell swingers walled up inside the cathedral, sanctuary. I’m speaking of it on a more personal and sometimes mental level.

 

Are you safe in your own mind? Do you have a place to go, in your brain, where you can let go, remember to breathe, where your shoulders can drop away from your ears and you can feel at peace? Or is it all hell-fire and disaster, 24/7 from the moment you wake from stress-induced nightmares to the moment you’re knocking yourself out with Nyquil just to escape?

 

We all need peace. We all need change. How much of each is dependent on who you are.

 

One person may be content taking 15 credit hours, while raising a family of six and working part time for the PTA. Another may be perfectly happy chiming into an online forum on bee-keeping once a week and counting her reading in hours not minutes. One person may be at home living from a suitcase, jet-setting to all parts of the world for a story and a perspective never gleaned. Another may never leave their childhood hometown and yet still maintain contentment in the smaller world around them.

 

I’m not here to tell you how much change to accept. I’m here to tell you to accept some change. Pursue some change. But if you find that all you do is change, and you can’t recognize yourself or the people you love anymore, then it’s time to come back home.

 

Use that one word…what is it? Shoot, I’m not very good at this word, though I’m learning to let my lips form it’s simple monosyllabic music…it’s… NO. The word is NO. If you’re genteel you may even tack on a “Thank You” at the end.

 

NO is a great place to start. No I do not want to go to that party. No, I do not want to volunteer sixteen hours a week when I’m barely getting my chapters written. No I don’t have time to bake seventy-two cupcakes for the basket-weaving club…would you take a donation instead?

 

Conversely…don’t forget your YES button in the gleeful mania of refusing. Yes, I would love to meet you for coffee, it’s been too long! YES I would love to take a weekend class in basket weaving. YES, it would be an honor to help out for five hours a week. YES, I’ll go to Italy with you, tall-dark-and-handsome stranger…(*guffaw* still waiting for that one to come around).

 

You know you best. If you aren’t sleeping. if you’ve bitten your nails to the nubs and can feel the bonds of your family life deteriorating. If you’ve sacrificed what you’ve loved to do what you “should” for too long, then its time to take a long hard look at your hurricane and find a graceful exit from the storm.

 

If you’re still in a dead end job because you’re too afraid to throw caution to the winds of the hurricane blowing outside, do yourself and everyone who loves you a favor and chase that storm. Live a little for gods sake, we only go get so much time! Don’t waste it wishing for something better, when you are perfectly capable of hunting down the something better and taking it back to your sanctuary.

 

Now I’m going to go see how the holes in my walls are fairing and make myself a quiet cup of tea whilst in the eye of the drywall free hurricane. Ductwork is fascinating.

 

 

Verseday 8-9-18

Good evening! Today is about the terrible habit of looking behind, and being tethered to memory… and I also think I might have a hankering for fall.

Enjoy!

 

autumn autumn leaves blur close up
Photo by Vali S. on Pexels.com

Lie in Weight

 

Now the days of yielding past

And fallow fields in quiet repose

Beckon down dark geese in flight

 

The crackle of air settling cold

The dusty birth of Autumn spreads

Waits for coy light to brave horizon.

 

I am still and lingering.

Patient like the fading light

The callous bite of snows to come

And the bitter taste of wood smoke in lungs

 

I remember the hush frosted grass beneath feet

Like your breath on the apple of my cheek

Clear as the fading day and vibrant as fog on the moor

How I long to miss the memory

 

When will it burrow beneath ground

Settle somewhere in the dirt where you hide

Silently waiting.

For my dawdling to cease.

Cross-Writing

Today was my official first run on an abbreviated 10-week marathon training plan. Okay, that’s a little fictitious. I’ve been running. I trained for and completed a 200-mile relay race last weekend, surpassing my hopes to not die by not only surviving but actually enjoying the whole thing. But this morning I dusted off the old chart and began to slowly start building the mileage I’d need to not die again in October for the Blue Sky Trail Marathon.

runnerIt got me to thinking about different types of runners. Some would have started training much sooner than this. Some are going to show up on race day with minimal miles and legs full of ego. Some have calculated calories to the numbers, selected precise nutrients per ingestion, and are weighing their shoe laces. Some are probably going to drink the night before and show up with four-year old sneakers and a day-old bagel with green chili cream cheese for fuel. The rest of us will fall along the spectrum between.

We’re all in the race, we’ve all got different reasons why, and different motivations to pursue that finish line.

In the same way, there are many types of writers in the world.

Those that dabble only when the muse traipses through their line of sight. Those that succumb completely to the words, to the exclusion of all else in their lives. The researching non-fiction gurus and the world-building sci-fi pros. The haiku aficionados and epic scribblers. The plotters and pantsers. The pious and the pornographic.

We cover all the bases.

penThe one thing we shouldn’t be as writers, no matter if we’re outlining or winging it, is stagnant. Yes, we need periods of repose  where we can recoup our mental losses and rest the neurons. Just like runners need a resting season, writers should take breaks as needed. This doesn’t mean we sit still. We are always, in some way, in training. And sometimes, the best way to train is to diversify the hours we spend at our art.

My suggestion for today’s post is to make a plan with your writing.

HEY! Come back! Hear me out…sheesh…pantsers!

When I say plan, I’m not suggesting you go investing your hours in spreadsheets and calendars. I’m saying expand your repertoire. It’s one of the best ways to grow as a writer.

If all a runner does are long, slow-paced runs, they will only develop a certain set of muscles. If all a runner trains at, are speed drills around a track, the same thing occurs. Unless you’re an olympian in a specific event this is a waste of your potential and a recipe for injury.

Balance, writer. That’s what I’m talking about.

If you are a novelist, take a break and work on a short story (you can even make it about a side character or your main character thrown into an alternate universe). If you’re a flash fiction genius, take a couple minutes to start plot building a novella or research a topic for a non-fiction essay.

If you spend your writing hours researching and plugging away at your non-fiction novel about the long line of Fredricks ruling the Kingdom of Prussia in the eighteenth century, try giving your brain a break and write a noir short story set in 1920’s Chicago. Or, *gasp*, try your hand at a little poetry.

writingStretching your brain is just as important as stretching your training plan to incorporate different activities.

Just like miles for runners, words for writers are not a waste. It doesn’t matter if they’re on paved or dirt roads, up hellacious hills, or on even city streets…the miles are the work and the work makes you stronger for the bigger tests ahead. Your words, your writing, grows stronger and better with every method you use to stretch it.

So get to it.

Go out and do ten fartleks of sonnets and a long-day of article submissions to Knitter’s Weekly.

Get uncomfortable.

Get better.

Damnable

 

For the love of all that’s holy it’s hot. My garden is parched, my houseplants are wilting, their stems thrown across the table in dramatic death scenes. My hair falls in flat, dirty-dishwater blond against sun-damaged cheeks and sticking to shoulders that sag, heavy, with heat and sweat.

 

It’s the doldrums. Insomuch as February is the lull of winter, the end of July is it’s sweltering kissing cousin. When the novelty of sunny, endless days, snow cones, and happy children is replaced with the nasally cries of “I’m bored!” and the gnat-annoyance of siblings chiggering under each other’s skin with parasitical genius, the world becomes a stagnant hell.

 

The words don’t come, the ideas dry up, and the desire to do anything but lie beneath the AC unit and wish you could take off a layer of skin just to ease the burning, is squelched. (And let’s not even get into the latent idea, sitting the back corner of my brain, knowing that this is a trend that will only worsen due to my own species’ idiotic, selfish, money-obsessed path to self-destruction. I don’t need anything else piled on the heap of hopeless sagging.)

 

It’s Damnable.

 

What do we do in these contestable times? To find the beauty? To find any reason for heaving off the physical discomforts and brain lag?

Push on through, I guess. Isn’t that what the tough do? Get going?

 

Remind the under-five-foot rebel rousers of the house, with knowing eyebrow raises towards the shiny new school supply displays in every store, that the end is near and these day should not be wasted just because the heat and boredom has drained us all of the will to step up with any kind of exuberance.

 

Push on through.

 

Keep going.

 

Write the words even if they’re awkward and faltering. Even if over half will be cut and the other half will be changed. Get out the gunk and keep at it.

 

Turn your heated brain fog into the crisp daydreams of low-lit falls, exultation of Autumnal leaves and the bite of cool in every morning breath. The dark early runs, clean and shivering, cheeks pink with cold and breath puffing in perfect clouds before you.

 

With anything in life, any challenge, any weight, any trial; Just. Keep. Going.

Because the one thing that I do know for sure, is that it all changes. Always, it changes. Today was not yesterday. Tomorrow will not be today. The heat to cold, the children to young women, the sapling to tree…it all changes. You have this day. It’s all yours. Damnable or not, it’s the only time given with any sense of certainty.

setting sun

Bust open an otter pop, strip to your underthings and sit in the shade-drawn room with your thoughts. Write them down.

Run through the sprinklers with your children. When they get sassy and obnoxious, remind them how you used to rule the kid-kingdom of summer time boredom with a decent water balloon fight.

Plenty of things will make us miserable in life. Annoying heat or total emotional upheaval, bitter cold or catastrophic life events, none of it is permanent.

 

We are not permanent.

So live.

Push on through.

VerseDay 7-26

Good morning! It’s a busy day around here and in honor of my reader’s limited time as well, today’s VerseDay is short and sweet. (I’d say ‘like me’ but we all know I’m of average height and more bitter than sweet.) Enjoy my first haiku in a long while.

 

Caught

In tepid stillness

Dark thoughts seize hold of my mind.

So I keep moving.

 

 

Two-A-Days

IMG_5400

Hey, ya’ll. If you know me, you know that I’m a runner. Sometimes more of a hobbled, panting jogger. Occasionally a hitch-in-her-giddyap mosey-er. Currently I’ve worked up to the ‘two-a-day’ portion of my training schedule for the 2018 Wild West Relay

Basically, this tortuous routine requires two runs within a ten-hour period. They say it will help the body learn how to run on tired legs and get over the mental barriers associated with that. I say, gushing sweat on a 98-degree afternoon, beet red, and looking like I just stroked out, that mental barriers are only half the issue.

I’ve been participating in relay races for the last 4 or 5 years and have captained the team for two of those. It’s one of those stupid, addictive things that once you agree to do it, you hate yourself.

From the nerves that strike even before you start, all the way until the last section of your race when your legs are throbbing and you’re sleep-deprived-drunk and everything and nothing is funny, and you’re pretty sure between the altitude, miles, and meals made of gels and power bars you might be hallucinating that there’s a raccoon pointing you in the direction of the next exchange…where was I? Oh yes.

You hate it.

You f#&king hate it! And why in the hell did I sign up for this goddamn thing again!?

Except there’s this sweaty group of misfits that welcomes you back into the van and gives you the roomiest seat after your leg, and feeds you bananas and homemade pasta salad and nods as you commiserate over all the shoulda’s you encountered over the miles.

 

Except there’s a group of total strangers that cheer you on as you come across every exchange, smiling, and clapping and honestly glad that you made it there…because runners (almost every single one I know) know what you go through on those miles and what it feels like when you feel like you can’t go another step. And they slap your shoulders and congratulate you and it gets to that you are disappointed when you walk into the grocery store and aren’t met by a group of moms cheering you on.

“Atta Girl! You made it and you’re dressed! Look at that, choosing fruit over cookies for the kids! You rock! You got this momma!”

Wouldn’t that be nice? We should start doing that…

Except that you stick around at the exchange to cheer on those tired, aching souls that are pushing themselves beyond boundaries and comfort zones. Those runners, those humans, striking out against every thought that tells them they can’t. That they shouldn’t, and getting to look them in the eye, smile and cheer and say, “You did! And you should! And you will!”

 

Except the stars. The countless masses, splashed over the night sky coming out of the expansive heaven of Wyoming plains and into the hills of Colorado, painted above you and reminding you of how small you are. And yet how beautiful an existence, to stand in awe while recognizing your own insignificance.

 

Except the cold beer at the finish. And the sleep you get in a real bed the first night after. And the way you have to Lamaze breath just to lower yourself onto the toilet for the next couple of days. And the medal hanging in the closet, and the smile that lasts for a good two weeks after…

 

So what can this insane process teach us about writing?

 

That it’s not all easy.

 

That it’s turbulent and painful. Merely signing up for it can cause panic, and self-doubt, and the desire to quit. That training for it, sacrificing other areas of our life to devote time to it, doing the hard editing, admitting to our faults in order to change them, and opening up dozens of rejection letters are the painful “two-a-days” that build our mental stamina for the road ahead.

That there are people, in your own circle, waiting back at the table for you with open arms (and maybe bananas, I don’t know… I’m not in your circle) able and ready to listen to your trials.

That there are people, not even in your immediate circle who are cheering you on to the finish line. Because, like many runners, writers know what it feels like to drudge through the pages, to cut out the organs of your favorite story, the elation of inspiration and the crushing self-doubt of the whole process.

That there will be an end product, and perfect or not, it will be yours. And that’s something, insignificant human speck. It’s something to have your voice put into pages.

 

If you’re a runner of any level and have considered a relay; Do it.

 

If you’re a want-to-be writer who hasn’t committed to it; DO IT.

 

Because the work is hard, and its dirty and painful…but the work is where you find the deeper level of strength that you haven’t met yet. Where feet hit the road and pens kiss paper, that’s where you discover yourself.

 

Get out there and do it.

VerseDay 7-19-18

Good morning!

Here’s a little poetic sidetrack for your day.

Remember to send me your stuff and I’ll enter it into the running for The Beautiful Stuff’s poetry anthology due out Fall of 2019.

 

Not Ours

Count you now,

The minutes and hours of indiscretion against civility.

The innumerable times the heart wandered far into the woods

Captivated by the sounds and sights

Of a universe untouched

Count the ways

You failed to be the raging commercial machine

Felling the bounty of a sphere so generous

Count the ways you threw off the endless hunger

And returned to the beast that made you

The first beast, the wild.

Count it down

The moments we have left her

She fades against the nuclear brilliance of human greed.

Soon to be lost

Only remembered in poems and pictures

Of vagabond souls who understood their own hearts

Count you the ways we miscarried

Crowned champions of the self-destructive species award

Annihilating our gifts as toddlers in a tantrum

Always wanting more

Always seeking to control, to own

That

Which

Is

Not Ours.

It sickens the heart

It drops guilted weight onto the body and cannot be shed

The wrecked and torn pieces left those to come.

Count the beauty lost

The moments yet found

Ephemeral and far between

Fill your heart with them

Spur the fight.

Remember, you upright beast

Rabid and teeth-bearing

Mere genes shy from clamoring in trees

Defend your home.

Worth for Awhile

A large part of human nature’s beauty lies in our failures and follies. Perfect people are rarely very interesting. As a writer, creating ‘perfect’ characters is a sure-fire way to distance your readers and lose their interest. Why? Because no one wants to read about someone who always gets it right. Who can share commonality with that? And yet…our reality is often ruled by what we, as actual humans, fail at.

When thinking about human frailty and my own failings I stumbled across the largest stone in my path of late; Self-Worth.

I know I’m not alone. I see you out there.

It’s more than fair to say that we are comparative beings. The media propagates it, competitive constructs in work and school demand it, and long-standing cultural threads tie our successes (and our failures) to what we’re worth in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Its the single most destructive lie we’ve ever been told.

And its easy to say that it doesn’t affect us. That we don’t care how we stand in relation to other people, that we don’t have a competitive nature, that we don’t feel the need to be anything else than what we are. I say those things all the time. And they rarely do more than offer a feeble disguise over the surface of self-doubt.

If we didn’t care, we’d cease to try. We’d stop looking for ways to improve. But something that should drive our greatness often tears us apart and we are left with shreds of the human we used to be, torn apart in an effort to create something more inspirational in the eyes of the world.

I was recently told, by a very generous soul, that my self-worth shouldn’t come from anyone but myself. That I couldn’t let the berating, criticism, or comparisons of the world let me feel any less than what I was worth. That it wasn’t the outside that should decide, but what was inside of me.

So it made me wonder; What am I worth?

In terms of chemistry, my physical make-up is probably no more than about $3.00 worth of material.

If you broke down my daily tasks and how much you’d have to pay someone else to do them, some would say I’d be worth about $140,000 a year. If you based my worth on what I contribute to the world with my writing we’re looking at a solid $50 a year. Monetarily, its not very impressive. And again, I’m basing my worth on what other’s consider useful tasks/materials.

So what am I worth? What are you worth? Sit still with yourself and ask the question:

“What do I do, what am I, that matters to me? That impacts the world? That brings me contentment?”

Deep…yes. Sometimes we gotta get past the cloak of simple thought to really understand why we matter. We have to, for the sake of our own self-preservation. After all; if you don’t see worth in yourself, you start to feel like a burden to the people you love. And all sorts of ugly outcomes arise from that train of thought…trust me, I’ve been building a scary set of tracks in that direction myself of late.

So I sat down, prompted by my friend’s words and suffering through a trough of depression, and asked myself what I was worth.

I came to the conclusion that for a long time I’ve let the words and actions of other people (in their own beautiful human imperfection) determine my self worth. If they were mad at something in our shared existence, I took it on as a fault of mine. As a problem that I didn’t fix or prevent. If comments were made about appearance, I took the darkest path of focusing on my imperfections and felt the need to correct them by any strange and unhealthy way possible.

It left me wanting and sick.

Why do I let my brain do that?

Because we’re taught to improve. To impress. To be better. To strive for more. Instead of just being what and who we are and understanding that we aren’t responsible for other people’s happiness or conforming to ideas of perfection. We must set boundaries to the information we let affect us. Even my friend’s well intentioned advice was still someone on the outside telling me what to think about my self worth. It’s not about letting someone tell me I am worth-while. Its about knowing my own worth and not letting the outside world sway that knowledge either negatively or positively.

Now there are times, when someone who loves us may come to us with good intention, and full hearts and offer us a viewpoint about something destructive they see in us. There are times when someone has honest praise to offer. With careful appreciation of the information we’re given we can chose to look at it with neutrality and see if there is helpful advice within it, and take it as an opportunity for self-reflection.

I love you guys, for all you are. Just as you are. Have a beautiful week and stretch your brains and hearts to fit the worth inside of you. It’s there.

 

“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”
― C. JoyBell C.

VerseDay

Despite the urge to limerick you with inappropriate words that rhyme with Enis, I’ll attempt to reach for something more high brow… Enjoy!

 

The Heart

 

I spring up from the heart of a wooded path.

The smell of pine needles breaking down, and the crackle of acrid leaves

Feed my roots

The heat rising from Earth, through dirt and granite.

The brush of seeded grasses,

Passing along their generations to my body as I stride on.

The scratch of bark,

The quiet bending of grass

The warning cry of finch and chickadee,

Telling me in no uncertain terms

That I don’t belong.

 

It Bears Repeating…

Hello friend.

Listen, I feel like we’ve known each other a good while now. I feel like I’ve showed you some pretty vulnerable and tender under-belly stuff here in the last few months so we’re working with a good soul-rapport. Therefore, I feel comfortable spilling the beans.

This is not a new blog.

I was pounding my head against keys last night in the midst of a very stressful and busy week, wondering what I could possibly come up with that was meaningful and timely. I began looking through my old blog posts from the NCW Writing Bug days (still a FANTASTIC blog, go and check it out if you can; The Writing Bug) and found this one. Though years have passed, it was serendipitous to see myself immersed in the same turbulent cycle of stress and not writing, so I’m sharing it again for all of those out there who are suffering in kind as a gentle reminder:

Find your joy. Life’s too short and miserable to live without it.

“I haven’t been writing.

There. I said it.

I thought I’d give it up for a little while, because, hey, life is busy right now and I have things that NEED to be done.

Writing is a luxury. It feels selfish and languid to sit in front of my computer and write, especially with such little measurable profit for my effort. It feels greedy. I mean, how can writing be more important than getting through the never-ending pile of laundry or the constant but unnoticeable job of keeping the house from tanking into disarray? How can it possibly be as necessary as feeding the kids or taking the dogs to the vet? The living things must take priority after all.

I haven’t been writing. I’ve been cleaning out closets and cutting back the dead and brittle death of winter in my garden. I’ve been carting the kids to school and extra-curricular activities and logging countless, mind-numbing miles in the process of training for a marathon (which, have I mentioned? I’m so over the joy of running).

I’ve been planning and executing birthday parties (which I wish meant that I actually got to execute the idea of gift baggies filled with tiny, un-organizable stuff). I’ve been replacing broken crowns and Craiglisting the contents of my crawlspace. But I haven’t been writing.

The result: It’s been one of the most stressful, anxiety-ridden months of my life. I can’t ever seem to catch up on anything, and when I do it falls back into needing done. There’s no progress. I’m as irritable and surly as a hamster stuck on a wheel, running but not moving. I have no patience and no joy. In short I’ve become a jerk.

And I can’t help but wonder if the lack of doing something, just one thing, that I love is letting the dark and ugly side of me run rampant.

Somewhere in the scramble to be an independent adult I sacrificed the idea that my own joy was a worthwhile venture.

When did following our happiness become something selfish?

I’m putting “WRITE” on the top of my list today, and I’m not doing anything else until I’ve given time to my own happiness. It will pay more than money. It will pay in fulfillment and give meaning and beauty in a world of laundry piles and dentist appointments.

What brings you joy in life? Have you invested in your joy today?”

Reincarnate

Happy VerseDay!

dewdrop-morning-sun-mirror-blade-of-grass-106150

Reincarnate

 

The patter of rain,

Softness of baby cheek,

And the feeling that we’ve done it all before.

 

Cyclical sway of life,

Birth to death,

And over again.

 

Rain to ground,

Grass rising,

Breathing out,

Clouds to earth

 

How quickly we forget our place.

 

Soul to body,

Body to soul, and over and over again.

Recycled lives going round and round

 

Until we get it right.

Until we find the exit

Off this spinning ride.

 

So it goes.

Independence

For the last few weeks I’ve been listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, catering to my daughters’ obsession of the rhythmic and addictive lyrics. I realize there’s some language in it that many would deem inappropriate for kids. But being a lover of all language and knowing my kids’ ability to differentiate between words used for flavoring and appropriate alternatives for mixed company, I don’t shy away from it. Because more important than a few f-bombs is the fact that they love it, and by loving it are learning from it.

Miranda

I love it too. I love that this amazing man (hats off to you, Lin-Manuel Miranda), took an overlooked story and breathed life and passion into for a new generation with quick-witted writing that tied the past with present day issues. Suddenly, not just my family but our nation as well, is interested in history and the grit it took for our country to break free of tyranny.

I have to look up the answers to questions my littles bring up and I love that they are making me revisit it, because we should all strive to remember our past. When we don’t, we stop being on guard for the behaviors and situations that can lead to tragic ends in our own country.

I don’t make political posts, in general. Tempers flare quickly and civil discourse takes too much compassion and introspective thought for most people. However, we are living with a surreal administration and I think we can all agree that when one person in power disenfranchises entire groups based on their gender, race, religion or economic status, it sets us back as the nation built on the idea that all humans are created equal.

Larger scale problems deserve attention, but for this post let’s think about independence on a smaller scale.

On this day, I want you to consider what it means to you to be independent.

Independent in thought; independent in pursuing your true self. Conversely, think about how dependent you are.

What makes you dependent? What ties you down, what chains you? Is it your past? Is it your job, your partner, or your family? Is it your fear?

What keeps you from being your best self? What keeps you from following your passion? How can you, today, on this Independence Day, free yourself?

Revolutions rarely take a day. They are years in the making, with sacrifices of blood and lives. Revolutions are not free. There is a cost to rise up against the powers that seek to tie us and use our one precious lifetime for their own gain.

So today, I could tell you to sit back, relax, enjoy the barbecues and hot dogs, slather your standard American body down with potato salad and jump into a kiddie pool filled with Bud Light while waving sparklers from every available appendage…but I won’t.

Today I’m going to tell you to remember the past, remember the fight. Remember there are things worth standing up for and things won’t change unless you rise up and change them. One person’s anarchy is another’s revolution.

Free yourself from the fear, trepidation, and self-doubt that keeps you from the things you want. Free yourself from the ideas and practices that hold you back.

Rise up.

Don’t throw away your shot.

Be young, scrappy, and hungry.

Take back your life, your country, and the principles that sparked revolution and won freedom to pursue happiness.

VerseDay: Stardate June 28

Today is Verseday!

I’m still accepting submissions to be posted and considered for the anthology due out Fall of 2019, so send me your good stuff, your hard stuff…your beautiful stuff.

Here’s your verse of the day. Enjoy!

Stupid Heart

Beacon in the night, the safety of arms I know around me.

You are the dark expanse to my nebulous cloud.

What primordial gene, residual trait,

Makes my heart blindly ache?

Succumb so wholly to the stardust swirling

Catching me in its current.

This animal heart roams ever closer to yours.

I love you in gnashing ways, unbreakable

Unrequited.

A worsening disease; malignant and wild,

You are the celestial mess embedded in me.

The something deep in cells and will not be ignored.

I want to climb you like an oak and shake your leaves,

Nest in your branches. Feel the wind whipping ’round,

While I hover in your safety.

I want to touch my thoughts to yours

Have you understand how you upend me.

The ways you break me. The need filling its home where the lowest point is.

Where it’s meant to be.

Like water in a gully.

My heart, a nightingale, shooting across the darkening dawn,

Pounding breast with no purpose but to take to your air.

It cannot be explained or dissected.

It just is.

It does

What.

Love.

Does.

Aimless and reckless.

A butterfly tottering into the arms of a hurricane.

Beating paper wings against walls of wind and rock

Orange dust scattered across concrete,

Rendering itself useless through stubborn insistence that,

There’s something about you…

Given no instructions and taking no advice,

It flutters into the burning embers of you,

Happily meeting the char of death.

Stupid Love.

Free Stuff

Not everything free is worth the taking and there’s much truth to the adage that nothing is ever, truly free. But occasionally, in life, we land a jackpot. Its all about in our perspective.

I bring up this subject for selfish reasons that will be discussed later on, but for now, I want to talk about appreciation of free stuff.

What kind of free stuff?

The samples at Costco? The swag bags at your local 5K races? The couch sitting on your neighbor’s lawn for four days with a sad cardboard sign begging someone with a large truck and a strong back to take it home? (Sorry, by the way, Harvest neighbors…you’ll be happy to know the large brown beast is gone).

Sure those things are “free”. Somewhat.

I mean, you pay for your Costco membership, you pay for your race fee. You pay with a minor rotator cuff tear from hoisting a giant sectional onto the roof of an Elantra. In some way, we always pay.

We pay with our time. We pay with resources or trades of our services. We do favors and scratch backs. But what’s really free? It deserves a moment to slow down and think about it.

Take a deep, slow breath.

Notice that? The air. Free of charge, yet something we take for granted. Take a moment to notice the summer finery around you. Hear the birdsong, allow yourself to be mesmerized by the sunrise lifting over clouds. The laughter of babies, the hug from your child, the cuddle of a furry friend. (I hesitate to expunge on the ‘free’ affection between adults as, sadly, a price is sometimes attached.) A smile from a stranger passing on the street. Someone opening a door for you. Even better–you helping someone else with no expectation for reciprocation.

Here’s the main point I’m making…Free doesn’t always mean cheap. Free doesn’t always mean worthless. We can give freely our hearts, our compassion, our empathy, our decency and respect for our fellow humans.

Kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

So today, think about what you have in your life, the little and big, that you get for free. The 86,400 seconds in every day you are gifted with, your dog’s love (minus the cost of a beggin strip or six), the beauty of the natural world, daydreams, sunshine, and most importantly, your human capacity to love others.

With all this talk of free stuff, here’s the shameless plug:

Today only, my novels will be available, FREE, for download from Amazon. If you’re looking for something to enjoy in your summer hours, please check them out and let others know.

Fixing Destiny Book One

Finding Destiny Book Two

Fighting Destiny Book Three

Enjoy your day, and breathe a little free into everything you do.

 

VerseDay 2.0

Hey Darlin’. Listen, I know this is a little late in the posting, but I was spending an amazing afternoon with my kiddos touring Fort Collins’ awesome Museum of Discovery and spending upwards of three hours testing out every. single. musical and weather related experiment. It was a rare moment of beauty when I could drop being the “serious parent” and play. I hope you can find this in your life too.

Today is an oldie but a goodie. I’ve hung on to this one, revamped it, tweaked it, poured over it and abandoned it in a thousand ways, so I’m submitting it to ya’ll with a grain of salt and the caveat that I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Partly inspired by that amazing song of Paul Simon’s “Train in the Distance”, partly from the muse of young love (like I said, this one’s been around a long while because we all know, I ain’t no spring chicken.)

Enjoy.

Letting Go

Hard is the moment when your heart loses hold,

Throws you down the last stair you didn’t see.

Shakes your body, breath-catching, squawk of fear.

The impending release, a train in the distance.

Hear the canyon-rolled moan, feel the grumble,

Shaking through the bottoms of your feet.

When you thought there was time.

Time to roll the memories over your tongue.

The smell of his shirt,

the fleshy warmth of his bottom lip between your teeth.

The particular scrape of stubble against your neck.

Time to hold your lonely gravity against his charming heart

Time to hope for a chance

that his soul might settle into yours

Like some god made him just for you.

The key to your dreams.

But that damn train…

Howling as it knife-edges closer.

Until, predetermined on its track, it rolls in

and the horror hits you.

They have to go.

And trying to hold them is like holding on to madness

Except, you’ve already stitched him there,

With that unreasonable spark hope. Incredible notions of destiny.

The train pulls away; tugs at delicate threads,

Unevenly, where your heart has grown around the stitches.

(Like the stitch of crows feet around laughing eyes.

The stitch of a stolen kiss while he watched you sleep)

And you ache from the pull. but you can’t stop the train.

And when it’s billowing stacks are all you see,

When its mournful bawl is all that’s left your ears,

you look down.

To all that remains… a gaping, bloody mess.

Shredded tissue, dripping a fever

Soaking wooden platform beneath feet.

That’s what letting go feels like;

Dripping blood, hot on your toes, shadowed by the fading

light of a train in the distance.

Where You Hang Your Hat

This particular phrase came to me me during last week’s abbreviated post on home. I was limited on time and a bit “Chihuahua and fireworks” excited about Verseday, so I didn’t do justice to what home can mean and why its important to filling our lives with good things.

I’m from Wyoming, born and raised, with some detours along the way.

Wyoming has some pretty awesome colloquialisms (for more on that, keep in the loop about my new series set in Wyoming—very romantic-west) and “Home is Where You Hang Your Hat” is no exception. (Some other, unrelated, favorites; “wouldn’t mind if his boots were under my bed,” and “wish I had a swing like that on my back porch.”)

 

I could go into the history of hats, cowboy and otherwise, what they meant, where they came from, who wore them, the political and pop cultural significance each one carried, but you didn’t come here to listen to the historical social scientist in my back pocket, you came here for an expansion on home.

Cowboy Hat1

Hanging your hat up was something you used to do when you came in from a long day of work. I’m looking at you…slack-jawed twerker, with your suuuuper cool trucker’s hat turned sideways at the dinner table…you realize that it’s the same ‘model’ my 97 year-old grandfather would get free from NAPA (that’s the part store, not the wine country) and wear until the brim fell off… And, he wore it better but never at the table… sorry where were we?

 

Yes, gentlemen used to take off their hats inside and, in the case of coming home, would hang them on a hook or rack by the door.

 

A simple move that signified something so much more profound.

 

Hanging your hat, coming home, dropping the world at the door and breathing. Breathing in the place of your own, the space you occupy, the people who wait for you; who love you, who have seen your head without hat, your hair going gray. Coming home meant escaping the life’s demands and the outside world’s burdens and just be.

 

Why is it important, that we take off our ‘hats’ in today’s world? Why does it matter?

 

I’m glad you asked. It’s kinda why I’m here.

 

Humans these days are so connected by technology and the speed-of-light information bursts, that there’s really no such thing as a safe space anymore. Now your home has multiple outlets for this information to stream in, constant and blaring.

 

And the ‘hats’ have changed too, haven’t they? We used to wear one, maybe two. Now, we’ve got them stacked one on top of the other until they tilt in the breeze and wobble when we try to move forward. We’re doctors, and scientists, social activists and martyrs. We’re frienemies and friends, lovers and exes. We’re husbands and mothers, daughters. Victim and accuser, the pious and the demon.

Caps For Sale
Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business. Esphyr Slobodkina (how is it I never knew that was the full title?)

We’re chained to the images that we build on our pages and constantly feel the need to live up to the happy smiling selfie that the world thinks we are. It’s getting so one can’t even close the door and drop what’s not real for a few minutes.

 

And if you can’t ever drop it, how do you even know who you really are?

 

It’s no wonder we’re overmedicated, depressed, anxious and stressed. People constantly shoving hats into our hands, telling us what we should be, what we could be, showing off how beautifully they’re balancing their own stack with perfect pictures of perfect lives through perfect filters that they post fresh every day.

It can leave a person feeling that if they aren’t getting enough ‘likes’ that no one actually likes them. That the measure of being loved is dependent on some superficial and meaningless emoji.

Listen, kid, ain’t nobody that happy. Ain’t nobody that perfect.

And the brilliance of those images, I guarantee, is hiding the same nasty, visceral darkness that resides in each of us, fed on self-doubt and anger. Jealousy, dis-ease with the person in our skin, and the pressures squeezing through our walls each day.

 

I just want to go home.

 

Let’s go back to that place.

 

The place where you put your phone on the shelf by the door and kick off your shoes. Leave your meal un-Instagramed. Your run un-shared. Write down the cute thing your two-year-old said, and then tell your mom face-to-face over a cup of un-tagged, un-pinned coffee.

 

Wait for your meal in silence and anticipation. Look up something– in a book. When you feel the need, the itch to pick up that screen, or turn that television on, or otherwise disconnect from real life, don’t. Over half of our lives are spent looking at the world through our screens and its becoming a new, cold, disconnected home where we find no respite.

 

The ball is in your court, the stack of hats in your arms. Drop them all, for just a moment and pick up only the ones that satisfy your soul. Even those, hang up once in a while and sort through how they make you feel when you wear them.

 

Find your home by letting go of the things you feel you need to be. Find the home in the center of your chest, your truest self, and come back to that. Hang your hat there. That’s your home.

Inaugural Verseday!

Welcome to the joyride, ya’ll. Today is the the first Verseday of the year and I’ve chosen a simple little thing I’ve dusted off from a few contest entries ago.

excited

 

Remember to send me your poems, and/or thoughts and comments on what you’re reading here. I’m so excited to begin!

Enjoy!

 

 

robin

Soul, Lifted

 

I watched a robin take the sky today

Bright red breast striking blue cerulean,

a rocket cutting through air

Silent beats

 

Free. 

 

That must be what it’s like to die.

Wing lifting, pounding rush.

Air swirling behind feather tip.

 

Untethered

Unbound

from the confines of earth and expectation

Like too-high clouds, out of reach. 

 

A soul lifted.
 

A Super Secret Guide to Finishing Your Damn Book: Part Four…

Okay, look. I realize that I’m a couple of days late. I could go into the messy details of powder room renovations, balcony patio refreshes, banister painting and contractor calling that has overtaken my life in the last two days but I don’t want to waste the precious time we have, gentle writer. So. here I am, as my grandfather used to say, a day late and a dollar short (several dollars short, blown away at Lowe’s mostly on fifteen different paint samples of varying shades of gray–not the bondage kind, just the regular old, actual shades of gray kind). But here, nonetheless, is a final bit of information I think you should have.

If you’ve gotten through all of my previous blogs on the matter, first of all: Kudos to you, Kid! You’ve put up with a lot of tenth-grade-level writing, inappropriate swearing, probably some sort of weird butter sculpture or Robert Downey Jr. memes, and cut through all of that to, hopefully, gain some inspiration and insight into finishing your book.

So let’s say, for argument’s sake, you followed all the handy tips and tricks. Let’s say you’ve taken the time, effort and guts it needed to type those final words and sit back in front of a finished novel. You’ve let other’s read it, you’ve taken suggestion and time to fix it. Now, here you are.

You big stud. You big amazing pile of human visceral awesomeness. You should take a night off. Go have a drink, or a movie, or a hot bath, or a cat-o-nine-tails whipping. Whatever you like to do to celebrate.

Then, come back to your work space…and write a query letter.

Gulp…a…a…what? A what kind of letter? Qu—Qu—Query?

Yep. You heard me.

At some point along your journey you’ve wondered what it would be like to see your book, your blood, and sweat, and sleepless nights up on a bookshelf. Something hold-able.

Maybe some of you want to leave behind something beautiful, and tangible, and real, before you shuffle off your mortal coil. Some part of you wants to share your story, or you would have never come this far.

Getting an agent is one of the best ways to get your book shared on a large scale. But you don’t just get one (unless you’re fucking fabulous and have the superpower of Luck…)

Domino-in-Deadpool-2
Obscure nerd-worthy image of Domino.

You have to catch them (not like kidnapping–please don’t let your takeaway from this be an agent abduction). You have to entice agents, capture their attention and interest, and to do that, you’re going to need a rockin’ query letter.

Make sure to research what a good query letter looks like. Here, it’s Friday and I feel bad for being late so I did some of the hard work for you.

Agent Query

Writer’s Digest Query Letter Perfection

Jane Friedman’s guide to query letters

There are some key elements that you should in mind.

  1. Address the agent by name and do your research. Know who you are querying. Know what they’re asking for. Don’t send your erotic space opera to a Christian YA publisher.
  2. Keep it short, but snappy. After the greeting, jump into the most intriguing aspect of your story. “Victoria Sullivan threw herself out of a moving car to escape her husband. How far will she go to start over?” A query letter starts like a movie preview and it has to make an impression.
  3. Keep it under a page. Three to four paragraphs, with three to four lines each and don’t indent them.
    1. First paragraph is your greeting, brief, personal but professional
    2. Second paragraph is your project summary: Title, genre, word count, comps (which style or writer can your book be compared to).
    3. Third paragraph is your PITCH, remember this is the movie tag line, the “Sell Copy” not the “Show Copy”
    4. Fourth paragraph is your bio and credentials.
  4. Write a bio that shows you are committed to your craft. I don’t care if you’ve been published sixty times or zero. Write about your passion, any successes you’ve had, and the work you’ve done that relates to your book. Agents love new, undiscovered talent, so don’t shy away if your accolade list is short.
  5. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS follow submission guidelines, including correct genre, correct word count, and appropriate agent for your specific project. These poor agents (yeah, I just gave a sympathetic nod to them–little secret, they’re actually human too…with feelings and families and all that beautiful stuff you’ve got filling your life) slog through a lot of queries a day. It behooves them to weed out any that haven’t followed the rules right off the bat. Don’t waste their time; submit in the form, length, and manner they request.

That’s the cut and dry of it.

I will add this; if you have met an agent at a conference or workshop, mention it. Try to remember something specific about them (not creepy-stalker specific “I really appreciate how thoroughly you brush your teeth in the morning, and are those new panties?” is too personal). Try something innocuous and personal; “I enjoyed exchanging stories about our Jack Russell terriers.” or “I enjoyed meeting you at the Erotic Space Opera Conference and talking over our mutual obsession with Jean-Luc Picard.”

Well kiddies, I think we can wrap up this little project on finishing your work in progress. I’m not saying there isn’t more (so, so much more) about writing and publishing to learn. But I’ve got limited time and it’s Friday; I’m sure ya’ll got more fun things to get to.

Write that query letter. Find yourself an agent (go local and small, independent and new agencies are more open to building their own portfolios) and offer them a chance to be a part of your journey. Until next week, when I PROMISE to be on time, write on.

picard
Make this query letter so…

A Super Secret Guide to Finishing Your Damn Book. Part Deux: Seeing The Bigger Picture

Bonjour!

I’m so glad you decided to come back.

How was last week?

Did you separate the amoebic tendrils of your technological parasites long enough to remember how to write, free-style? Did you get hand cramps? Keep it up, before you know it, you’ll be cleaning and jerking 7,000 words a week, vocabularian veins popping out all over the place.

For this week we’re going to zoom ahead to the future; to the cumulation of all your writing efforts and the massive chunk of story sitting in front of you. All of those beautiful words you’ve poured into a pile are just waiting for the dexterous hand of a good story teller.

Your rough draft is like a thousand pound hunk of stone. If you want to get all “Americana” on it, you could even say its akin to a 100 pound ‘pat’ of butter. Yeah, let’s go with butter.

The rough material has potential. Your story has energy and power. But if you were to send in a stick of butter to the Iowa State Fair judging committee, they’d probably to one of three things: write you a scathing review for wasting their time; send it back and write a scathing review for wasting their time; or batter it, deep fat fry it, and send their thanks for the mid-morning snack.

jabba butter
Jabba the Butt(er). No? Come on. You have no idea how many hours I spent looking at butter sculpture.

Your book, your words, your ideas deserve better. If you loved it enough to write it, then love it enough to shape it into the best it can be. And by that I mean…learn to edit your work properly. This week’s true secret to finishing your damn book is something you won’t hear from a lot of writers and here it is:

Being a great writer is 20% writing. and 267% editing. Shut up, I’m not good a public math. Seriously though, when you get your ass in that chair and throw all the good and bad down, and your mind learns to work in the space and time you give it to create, you can really accumulate a massive amount in a short period of time. But the art of writing, the finesse, the je ne sais quoi, if you will, lies in the ability to edit that beautiful mess into a story that captivates.

Que voulez-vous dire?

How does this magic happen, you might ask? If you’ve been around in the writing game for any amount of time, you’ve had the old adage banged into your skull over and over “Kill your darlings, Kill your darlings…” Yes…yes Maestro Faulkner, whatever you ask!

What does that really mean? Well–*le sigh*–it means you as a dreamer, a wordsmith, a lover of story and character…you, creator…must become a destroyer. A hard, eagle-eyed machine; disconnected from the rapport you’ve built over the years with your characters. You must let go of the personal angst, pain, and joy you’ve brought into the world enough to see its true potential. You have to take that beautiful hunk of marble (or butter) and break the rough and useless parts away to reveal the true work of art beneath.

buttered saddled cock
Yep…that’s a giant butter cock with a saddle. You. Are. Welcome. (By the way, ‘giant butter cock’ is now trademarked. By me.)

Oh, Mon Dieu!  (which literally translates to OMD—OMD Becky, regarde ses derrière!)

The practice of “Killing your Darlings” is meant to make you understand that editing is hard. That letting go of the phrases and pieces of your novel that you love, when they are distractions to the story and its flow, can be the best thing you do. Cut. Cut deep. Cut the subconscious catch phrases and passivity. Give your readers a stronger character by making them the center of the action; by putting the reader in their shoes. Stop telling us everything. Cull the useless, the distracting, the stuffy, the monologues and head hopping. Give us the moonlight glinting off of window panes.

Take that lump and make it into something where details pull double-duty and every word counts. Line by line, strike out that which does not serve purpose or cause emotion to rise in the chest. Because even the most indescript lump of butter can turn into something quite magnificent when given the time and attention it deserves.

angelic butter
Sweet, Angelic Milk Fat.

Next week…after all of you hoodlums have taken a hard look at your work and gutted it to buttery perfection, we’ll take a look at what you can do next to get that silky minx out into the world.

Until then, keep writing. Drop me a line. Tell me how you’re doing.

Does anyone really want a giant baguette right now?

 

 

 

A Super Secret Guide to Finishing Your Work In Progress. Part 1: Technology vs. Creativity

Hey there, writer? Whatcha doin’? Surfing the Internet? Caught up in some devilishly clever blog post that has promised to give you the secrets of the craft in one easy-to-read, bulleted list with some fancy-schmancy graphics?

 

I see you.

 

I’m glad you’re here, actually, I DO have some important advice in this my first lesson on finishing your work in progress.

 

Get off the Internet and back to your writing, you filthy animal.

 

Ok…wait! Not right now…just hear me out. I promise, I’ll be brief (500 words or so…Look! Only 420 left! 418…)

 

Fewer things deter the creative process like the multi-faceted distractions we face in our interconnected world. The phone, social media, the addictive thumbs-up ‘likes’ and sympathetic sobbing emojis. Constant information streams into our overworked, underfed brains; the lies, the truth, the barrage of sight and sound that, when boiled down, amounts to so much nothing. So much noise.

So shut it down.

That’s it.

That’s all. Part 1, in a neat little nutshell. Expand? Ok, but only because you asked…

Do you want to write more? Then disconnect. Grab a pen and paper and sit your ass on a park bench or in a coffee shop with your phone and laptop “conveniently” left at home.Stop Wasting Time

 

“But…but I can’t just write! I won’t be able to spell check or word count (320 left) or research the typical milk production of a Nubian goat in April!”

 

First of all, my little perfectionist, rough drafts don’t need to be spell checked the moment words hit paper (shocking, right?)

 

Secondly, one page of average handwriting has about 250 words give or take. You’re welcome.

 

Third (ly?), you sound like someone who could use my patented “Blah Blah” technique to avoid distraction in the middle of your writing flow.

Not familiar? Well, don’t search it on line (Jesus, haven’t you been listening to me?) It’s a secret I share with only my closest creative misfits, lucky you.

When you don’t know a factual detail of some part of your scene, insert the words “Blah Blah” into the space and move on.

Image result for images eye roll

 

Did you—did you just roll your eyes at me?  Watch it…I will mom voice you so hard…

Observe:

“Victoria knew that the Nubians would produce at least blah blah of milk next month, giving her blah blah bars of homemade soap to sell.”

It also works if I’ve forgotten a secondary character’s name but know that scrolling back to find it will dry up the good stuff that’s pouring out:

“ ‘You’re a handful,’ Mr. Blah Blah said and scowled over the drag pole fence.”

Don’t fiddle with your flow. Let the unnecessary lay in wait and avoid the pitfall of jumping on the Internet to do some ‘quick research’ which will curtail your thought process and take you away from your work (16 hours of baby-goats-in-pajamas-videos later and I’ve forgotten evil exists in the world. Good for sleep, bad for fleshing out antagonists.)

When the creative dust has settled into a beautiful, uninhibited outpouring of ingenuity go back and find your ‘blah blahs’ (they stick out like sore typos, especially being ‘repeat’ words) and you can designate a specific, allotted time to research and check them.

 

There it is.

But in my forty or so words left, I should give you at least one bullet (I believe I promised it somewhere up there.)

  • More than just in your writing, consider disconnecting in your life. Be present in the world around you, not face down in a screen. Your writing will be better. Your life will be better. Power down for at least an hour a day. No phone, no television, no laptop, no screen. Live through your eyes, your ears… all those messy, beautiful human senses your mother worked so hard to make for nine months. Notice the vibrancy of color in nature, the way wind feels against your cheek. Listen to your own breath. Taste your food. Powerful writing comes from living with powerful intention.

 

Ok, now you can leave me. I apologize for surpassing the mark. What can I say? I didn’t want to mess with my flow.

Go work on your book. Your poem…your passion. Come back and let me know how it’s going.

I’m signing off for the day, but I’ll get back to you when my creative dust settles.

Expecting The Unexpected

Remember Darkwing Duck?

Anyone? Anyone out there?

A child of the late 80’s and 90’s will remember the daring and billed crime fighter and his catchphrase of “Expect the Unexpected.” I’m pretty sure that phrase has since been taken over by an insurance company, or pregnancy tests, or police searches; but once, it was the mantra that a hero lived by to always be on the ready.

Adults live by it in more boring ways (insurance, pregnancy tests, radar alert gear on the dashboard of our cars). We’re taught to prepare for the unexpected. At least, in all of the adult ways we live by. But to expect the unexpected isn’t just about saving for a rainy day or assuring ourselves, in the most pessimistic of ways, that something bad will inevitably happen and we must be prepared for it, it’s also about preparing for opportunities.

How do we prepare for something that can’t be predicted? In a similar way as with expecting the worst; by keep open in our mindset that anything can happen and allow for flexibility in our plans.

Now, I’m a big believer in the fact that the only constant in our lives is inconsistency. Change. We can always count on things to change. The world turns, human’s doot around in their peculiar and quirky little ways and the tides of life fluctuate. Sometimes they recede, sometimes they tsunami. The more ridgid we are, the harder we are pushed against by the ever-changing, chaos-driven shift of time that swirls around us. Or the more disappointed we become when that tide draws ever farther away from us.

But if we can shift our mindset to accommodate this certainty of the quirky dance of life around us, then we will be prepared to deal with the challenges and also find opportunities in them. Because when you open your mind, you can look past the immediate hurdles of a change, to the bigger picture beyond. This is the important part. Remember how I italicized that “anything” up there? Pay attention to that.

I like to call this the “Anything Can Happen” moment. Here’s the caveat; shhhh…come closer and I’ll tell you…little closer…little closer… okay that’s too close, did you have onions at lunch? Back up a bit, here’s it is:

You have to look at what’s beyond the obvious challenge, with a positive lens.

UGH! Positivity! No! I’m a bitter and jaded, starving artist! I don’t DO positivity! It’s sooooo naive!

Yep. Sometimes it can be. Trust me, I’m a former, card-carrying member of the Pessimistic Society of Debbie Downers. I still get stuck in that rut too. But, it always leads me to nothing but dead-ends because I’m limiting myself by the perceived constraints change seems to bring.

I’m not asking you to be all zipidy-do-dah-Disney-slap-happy-blind to reality. I’m asking that you take a step back and be a realist with an eye for what good can come from the situation. There’s always something good.

Expecting the unexpected means being at the ready. Not just for danger and doom, but for the possibility of something better. To always be in a position where you can slip through the crack of those opening doors and explore new paths, different ideas, an unobstructed view. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but this can lead to an ever-increasing sense of well-being and a little more calm when faced with upheaval.

Stagnation may seem safer, but it will leave you treading water eventually and you’ll look back on the things you should have, could have, done but didn’t have the open mind and the faith to try.

In your writing life, which can often seem to err on the side of challenging rather than rewarding, I urge you to keep your mind open. To throw yourself into opportunity and be willing to accept with a sense of curiosity and humor the outcome. Life is chaos and beauty; destruction and creation. Remain flexible and willing to see the challenges in your life as opportunities to grow, to learn, and thereby succeed.

Back in The Saddle

Ever get side tracked?

Waylaid?

Distracted?

Veered off of course; far outside of the navigational beacons?

Maybe an unanticipated wind hit you on the 45 and you didn’t crab enough into it. Maybe you paused to look to the side and the wheel shifted with the direction of your gaze. By the time you’ve roused yourself into present moment awareness, you’re fifty knots south of course or three feet deep in a burrow ditch, and it’s too late for small corrections.

I’d like to take a moment and share a problem that I think many of us struggle with in our over-packed, over-scheduled lives. Distraction. A falling off of our horse. A monumental sidetrack.

I’ve spoken before about being true to your path and not straying from your destiny and the things you love. But life has a quirky way of making us look away. We all veer. We all must. Life is not a straight-line stretching out into infinity. It’s a curvy, succulent dance, filled with random peculiarities and delicious distractions. Honestly, we’re all really just one absent-minded neuron away from dog-and-squirrel level diversion.

Let me tell you a story. I’ll keep it brief.

Once upon a time a writer needed a break from her head. So overpacked and under inspired were her thoughts that she looked outside of her normal realm of expertise for a hobby that would balance her mind and body. She found something that she loved. She dabbled. She accelerated; one might say she began to excel.

The problem with acceleration and the momentum associated with skyrocketing off on a new and less-resistance riddle path is that in no time at all, you’ve soared hell-and-far from your home, and it becomes increasingly hard to slow your trajectory down. By the time this writer looked up and realized what had happened, she was soaring across the cosmos, her original pursuits long behind her. Worse, she realized she was tied into the obligations of a hobby that had become something different.

Something more akin to work.

She’d thrown her effort, her energy, her time and body in so wholeheartedly that nothing was left for her writing. She became tired; uninspired. The sidetrack, the hobby, had taken over. The horse dumped her in the ditch.

Awareness came as her child lay battling the flu on the couch next to her, with nowhere else she COULD be. She slowed down enough to read her writing group’s newsletter; something she hadn’t “had time for” in months. Because she was too engulfed in the everyday (some days every hour) demands of her ‘hobby’.

Glancing over the call for submissions she thought, “Wow, I remember when I used to submit. I just don’t have time for it. Wish I did.” (What did daddy alway say? If wishes were fishes, we’d all stink?)

The child snorted in the silent house and roused her into awareness of the present. To remind her that she was not truly bound to anything except that which she loves. And if she does not love it any more, the universe says (perhaps even demands) it’s okay to let it go. So our writer got a pencil and she numbered off ten promising leads. She reconnected the creative powerhouse in her brain, adjusted her heading, checked the map and 180’d her ship. She put a foot in the stirrup and hoisted her ass back into the saddle.

Now, after months of excuses and “too busy”, and “just until this next benchmark is met”, she’s at her laptop. Writing. And she doesn’t care if its good, or if it fits guidelines, or if it will be picked apart by whoever may be watching. Because she’s writing. Again. Like the first time.

My hobby took over. It sort of ransacked my life. I resisted and succumb, I got angry for submitting and resisted more. I felt guilty because I enjoy it still. I got mad for feeling guilty. Like a cat bouncing on the end of the leash, frantic to get away, feeling trapped and powerless against the ties, I forgot that I’ve got opposable thumbs, brains in my head, feet in my shoes. I can steer myself wherever I choose.

I’m choosing to turn back to the place I call home. To the page. To the work and the characters, the words and worlds and delicious dance of ideas and thought. Will I visit the other place again? Of course! Balance is balance. And I’ve learned too much to cast it aside completely. I’ll still dabble.

But it isn’t my home. It isn’t my story.

Some moments it feels like a long way back, and remembering my brain and fostering creativity will take some priming of the neural pumps. But even the longest journey starts with a single submission.

 

saddle2

Finding The Path

Human lives are constantly being pulled in different directions and subjected to demands from outside forces. Some of them we want to go along with; some we’re forced to ride along beside. The older we are the more paths we’ve walked, lost, found ourselves on, resisted to leave, and feared to lose.

Of late, I’ve found myself being pulled off of my desired path by well-meaning but (for lack of better word) pushy people. They are people in my life that I respect and admire. We are compatriots in a common goal and therefore, we walk beside each other on parallel paths. But sometimes their strong personalities engage in manipulative tactics to pull me over with them on their path.

It is, in part, my own fault. I’m a people pleaser. I want to make people happy, often at the expense of myself. After all, what greater gift can I give than to be a benefit to another?

But now, after months of stress-related, psychosomatic issues, I’m realizing how detrimental this pattern can be. When I tie my worth around my ability to be useful and giving to others, I let myself be pulled along by people who insist that their path is the right and best path for me in order to feel valuable.

I let myself believe that they know me better than I do, that perhaps, they could be right. Their path seems like a good one. It’s not a bad path. It has interesting things to see along the way, it’s headed to different and new places, it has challenges and triumphs…it’s a decent path. Nothing is acutely wrong with the path.

Except it’s not mine.

It’s theirs.

I am slowly learning that there is no goodness in putting yourself second time, and time, and time again. There is no goodness in letting someone lead you away from your dream and your path. It twists your gut, it drops your mind into dark places, until all you can do is stare at your feet and feel the heavy weight of someone else’s wants and expectations breaking you down into the ground with every step as you cast longing glances back at the sunshine dappled trail you once took to so excitedly.

So how can I stop, mid stride on the dusty path, let go of the expectations and wants of others, and get back on my path? How do I love myself enough to know that I am worth the leaving?

Every decision, no matter how coerced, is a lesson, not necessarily a mistake. And what I’ve committed to for the wrong reasons, I don’t have to continue with. I tried another path. I tried to please others. I did what I thought life wanted from me. I’ve learned. I gained education along the path, methods, techniques, and experiences but most importantly–I’m learning about Me. Learning about oneself is never a mistake.

Sometimes the most important thing we can learn about ourselves is what we don’t want, what we will not endure, what we will not take, and what we will not put up with. That is how we grow strong.

So the next time you are on your path, where you should be, and someone takes your hand and says, “Hey, come check out my path over here!” you can look at it, and understand that your priorities and dreams are important enough to stay on course and take your hand back with a firm no thanks.

Your dreams are important, more than anyone who isn’t wearing your shoes will ever understand. You don’t have to justify their worth to anyone else. Your goals along life’s journey are enough.  Your path is well-suited and enough. You are enough.

I’d love to hear any stories or comments you may have about how you’ve chased your own dreams and what it has brought you in terms of fulfillment and/or hardship.

Until next time, stay on your path.

 

What a Character: A Brief Study on Character Development and Creation

 

I get a lot of good questions from readers and curious friends about the art of writing. Recently, I was asked how I create characters and if they were ever based on people I knew. Since character development is one of my favorite aspects of writing and I thought I’d pay homage to it’s process in a two part post.

So first, let’s address where characters come from.

I’ve had characters come to me in dreams (day or night), sometimes they’re inspired by true stories from the news that I trip across. Sometimes they spring from hazy memories of a childhood friend, or the curious behavior of the neighbor across the street who steals decorative rock from the common area and smuggles it away in her purse. Any one adept at studying human nature and observing their fellow human beings can get inspiration simply from watching what our nutty human brethren do and don’t do in the course of their day.

Often, though never in their entirety, I write from people I know. By this I mean people I know both casually and intimately are good places to start for characters.

Although real people can help jumpstart the process, they rarely become the character in the final draft, and here’s why.

For one, it would be creepy (and, depending on the story and topic, possibly slanderous) to write about an actual person from your life, unless it is a memoir of said person and they are asking you for your help. Ethically, a writer looking to publish or share their work with the world must adhere to certain rules of respect and common decency concerning using the likeness of other people. That being said, you can (and should) borrow personality traits, history, and physical attributes that enhance your character’s believability, without putting someone’s life down, verbatim, on your page.

Secondly, even when based on someone you may know, something magical will inevitably happen when you put a ‘real’ person on a page and shove them into a conflict (the driving force of your story). The character you began with will be forced to shift and evolve into someone else because we don’t know how the actual person will behave in a, let’s say, apocalyptic dystopia and the situations and subsequent decisions that the character is faced with and make are more a result of the author’s reactions based on their experiences and what they want or need that character to do to move the story forward.

For example, Joe Smith may start off looking like your high school biology teacher but if you write him exactly as he was, including is normal day to day, your audience will be too bored to stick with his story.

Now, if you put the body of an alien in the school science lab’s freezer next to the dissected frogs, Joe Smith, your old biology teacher will automatically become way more interesting. And as he does, he will move away from the real person you started with and morph into a different character. A man of his own alien-hiding design.

A writer can tweak, correct, enhance and play with personality types, turning one, real-world person, into a completely different but still realistic character. But it’s important to keep the relatable aspects of the initial ‘muse’, including the physical attributes that you can describe in realistic detail, or the personality types that can be explored in depth from a place of personal interaction.
What can be left behind are names, exact and undeniable physical description (don’t be a creeper) and any ‘boring’ or typical parts that may be cliché or expected. The character will change to be their own person with the natural progression of their role and development within your story.

The other method of character development is to begin with a story and let your mind follow the natural path of who lives it. This is one part plot-driven creation and one part spontaneous combustion.

An atomic bomb goes off, a virulent disease hits the population, a train switches tracks, a car runs through an intersection, an alien shows up in a freezer.

Start with something that happens and ask yourself; who would it affect most? Who stands to lose or gain the most? Who is equipped to deal with the situation? More interestingly, who is least able to cope with it and how do they survive?

Characters will find their way into your mind. They may look and act like someone you know or they may have a mind of their own. As a writer you will find that as your plotline advances the character will become less and less your creation and more a product of their history combined with their destiny.

We all have these personalities in our heads that sit dormant on the shelves until something shakes them loose. Most writers, (yes, I’m saying it) are a little bit schizophrenic. We are geniuses of introspection and observation. Humans are interesting and a good writer will watch and learn from their interactions how to build characters that could be a best friend or a worst enemy in their reader’s own world. They talk to us as we write their paths, they argue when we move too far away from their true reactions. They trip us up by throwing random but necessary bits of history our way that we hadn’t considered for the bigger picture. It’s maddening and magical all at once.

Next time we’ll talk about developing intricate characters and some tips I’ve picked up along my journey to make them somebody your reader’s will root for, love, and hate. Until then, take a few minutes today to think about some characteristics that you love and loathe in human beings and think about why they draw your attention.

Make a list of character traits that are interesting in both beneficial and detrimental ways.

Also, feel free to write or comment about your favorite characters, and if you’ve ever found yourself ‘accidently’ writing about someone from real life. Next time we’ll have an exercise on character development and I look forward to your responses!

 

Happy Writing!

 

VerseDay Submission Guidelines

From now until May 31, 2019 I will be accepting poetry submissions to be considered for The Beautiful Stuff’s weekly “VerseDay”. Poems may not exceed 80 lines, must be previously unpublished (unless if it was on authors own website), and must be the original work of the author. Please send all submissions to: sereichert@comcast.net, or via The Beautiful Stuff website: (https://thebeautifulstuff.blog/contact/) with the subject line “VerseDay Submission 2018-2019”.

Please include the title; your poetry, your name, and a short bio in the body of your email. You may submit as many times as you would like, but please no repeated work sent. If your work is a simultaneous submission please let me know.

There is no fee for submitting.

Every submission will be read and, if selected, the author will be notified of the date of their poem’s publication on The Beautiful Stuff. Promotional links will be provided to make it easier to spread the word about your poetry.

In June, after submission closes, I will sort through the year’s entries and select poems for the inaugural Beautiful Stuff 2018-2019 Poetry Anthology. Winners will receive a free copy of the anthology and the option to purchase more at a discounted rate.

You may email me or message me via Facebook with any questions or concerns you have about the contest rules and submissions.

That’s the long and the short of it. So send me something good. Give me guts and heart, all the dark and light of your thoughts. I look forward to reading your poems and giving you a chance to showcase your work!

VerseDay 8-30-18

Happy VerseDay.

Today was darker, as some days can be.

Enjoy…or if you can’t enjoy it, sit with its awkwardness for a bit and don’t be afraid of the feelings you may catch. Part of our Beauty lies in those dark and painful corners.

I Belong

I am yours and I am theirs.

I am the scale’s and the mirror’s

I belong to the vogue airbrushing

And the PTO.

I am the tethered hawk,

Forgotten her wings.

Hungry to hunt,

No freedom with which to fly.

I am the man’s and the patriarchy’s

I am the lament of God

And the decent substitute,

When nothing better comes along.

I belong to so many,

Each a share of grief,

Each a pound of flesh

So many hyenas tearing at a picked over carcass

I am wasted and wanting,

Found without

I am the lukewarm spread, the mannequin arms,

The expected response and sweaty spectral.

I am the failure of my skin

The price of privilege

The stain of guilt.

For apples I did not eat.

I am the sunken boat,

long forgotten; a weathered splinter in the reeds,

I am the once useful, fading at dusk.

I belong to you.

And to them.

I am no more myself, than anyone else’s.

But oh the torture of knowing.

How different it could have been.

In Defense of the Senses

Happy Wednesday good people of the world. Extra Happy Wednesday to the bad ones…since you probably need more happy.

 

Today, I’m writing about the beauty of the human senses.

 

The human senses are invaluable to a writer, being the most surefire way to engage your reader in what the main character is feeling/seeing/hearing/tasting/smelling and, if you’re really good at the descriptive narrative, making them feel as though they are feeling/seeing/hearing/tasting/smelling the same things.

 

Senses are powerful. The words you choose to describe them must be impeccable to harness this power.

 

I realize, if you aren’t a writer, you may feel left out. Well I never leave a person behind, so hang on.

 

Why in the hell does a human need to explore their senses if they’re not showing someone the glint of moonlight on glass?

 

Well, hear me out, human.

 

Every single one of us, writer or no, deserves to indulge in our senses.

 

Why? Why is it important?

 

Well, shucks! Thanks for asking, new paragraph that makes my self-questioning seem rational…

 

Because part of living beautifully, is living with purpose which is closely tied to living in the moment, and living in the moment has everything to do with connecting to what is real, around you presently…not the feeling of a chair you sat in five days ago, or the way spring will smell eight months from now.

 

I’m talking about being present through the use of gifts you’ve been given.

 

Sit still for Christ’s sake. Seriously. Just sit.

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime
Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

Someplace safe and comfortable, turn off your goddamn phone, close your eyes and listen.

Take a deep breath, really hear the wave of it rush in and out against the shore of your throat. Listen to what you can only hear when you stop moving, and worrying, and obsessing. Bird chatter, the quiet hum of the neighbors AC unit (hey, not every sound is some natural wonder sent to give you soulful clarity.) Maybe it’s the squeal of tires outside or the school bell in the distance. Now, before you start having judgments or memories, or ideas that are inspired by what you can hear in silence, let those noises go. Let them pass through your brain like clouds in a sky. Take a deep breath.

What do you smell? Last night’s dinner, the oily basset at your feet (who’s probably clyde.jpgcracking off the most horrific clouds of flatulence you’ve ever suffered through—wipe your eyes, try to get past it).

Maybe it’s soap (the decadent scent of a man newly showered) or maybe you smell the old books on your desk, the bed linens behind you and all the interesting smells that reside there. (Remember, basset or sheets, reserve your judgement.)

 

Open your eyes, focus on the small details, try to descern the exact colors, watch the play of shadows and the shimmer of reflections.

 

When you walk through gardens, through stores, through life, hold out your hand and touch things (no butts please…or unwilling butts? Don’t go touching unwilling participants is what I’m saying…stick to the inanimate). Touch fabric, leaves, dead branches and icicles, let the dog passing by snuffle your hand and leave its viscous slobber behind. Touch your hair, the arch of your foot, the base of your nose, tug on your ear lobe…how different it all is! How does it feel to be touched in those strange little places? Get to know your own body and the sensitivity of your fingertips.

 

When you sit down to eat, really taste your food. Keep it on your tongue and think about what’s going on there. When you kiss someone, taste them, their lips, their breath, the

man and woman kissing together on body of water
Photo by Edward Castro on Pexels.com

flavor of them and their body chemistry…it is different for everyone and that’s something fascinating to explore.

 

Finally…and this is an important one…your gut. The so-called sixth sense. Intuition. IT’s there. IT’s often drown out by the madness of our modern world, the overstimulation and cultural rules and denial of the naysayers who believe humans are so far above ‘animals’ that we no longer need such ‘witchcraft’.

 

Tell those voices to stuff it. Listen to your gut. Listen to your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You’re still an animal and don’t forget it. Don’t get too lost in the  modern world. Remember, use the gifts biology and genetics gave you.

 

IF you are a writer, use these exercises to bring clarity and realism to your work.

If you’re a normal human with a ‘real’ day job (oooo self-burn!), use these exercises to be more present in your own life—to slow down time and remember what you are; A beautiful, messy human being with magical guts, wandering eyes, soft to the touch, with angry squirrels chattering on rooftops, smelly bassets underfoot, and a taste for the sensuality all around.

 

 

Book Review: Kathryn Mattingly’s “The Tutor” Will Stun and Captivate

I was lucky enough to pre-read a wonderful new novel out by one of my favorite authors and an all-around amazing woman, Kathryn Mattingly. I just wanted to take a moment, on this site that expunges on the beautiful and chaotic journey’s our lives take, to promote “The Tutor“. A wonderful book to begin your Autumn reading list.

Here’s a little review:

Kathryn Mattingly’s newest novel, “The Tutor” delves into the dark underbelly of the horrifying international baby-trade business and the unscrupulous men who profit from it. This page-turning thriller captivates readers as it follows the story of one woman’s desperate escape from her controlling husband to save their traumatized son from being locked away.

Following Natalie Giovanni’s flight with her troubled and beloved only son, Matti, lands us across the globe, in the lush world of Roatan, Honduras and paints a striking difference between the world that Natalie is accustom to and her new life, hidden away.

In her trademark style, Mattingly paints a vibrant world of crystalline beaches, reefs teeming with life, colorful people, and a vivacious culture. The reader is offered an inside perspective from the men and women living on the island and becomes part of their day to day lives in striking detail.

Mattingly explores both the differences of life in the United States and life on the island and also the similarities in their systemic patriarchal controls. This contributes to the complex plot and journey Natalie takes in finding herself and in helping her son recover from the shock and trauma of witnessing his father’s unspeakable act of cruelty.

The dynamic between characters is complex and engaging and begs the reader’s investment in what will come with every turn of the page. Her dynamic heroine remains relatable and captivates the audience with the trials and transformations she faces on her path to self-reliance and helping Matti to heal.

As always, Mattingly is an artist at character development and gives the reader a thrilling adventure that offers a deeper theme of the heartening bravery it takes to do what is right and protect the ones we love.”

 

Find it here:

 The Tutor by Kathryn Mattingly

VerseDay 8-23-18

My darlings…This humble writer took a short break from her blog this week, but I will catch you on the beautiful flip side of life, next week on Wednesday. Also, look forward to a formal submission call for VerseDay, and all the fun rules and regulations that includes.

Until then, Enjoy a little VerseDay with your Thurs….day.

 

SHE

She came wailing

Screaming into the world on slippery tracks

Destined to set apart the befores from the afters.

She came pink-faced and angry

Perfect petals pouting tirades

Fingers tightly curled into tiny, life-lined palms

She came disgruntled

Protesting the cold and bright,

Raging against the metallic and sterile.

She came to show us, to shake us,

To remind us.

Life twists on, where we least expect.

And where we struggle to control and contain,

She always comes…just the same.