Archive for the ‘Personal-ish’ Category

12
Feb

The Important Things

I’m not even going to try to detail everything since September in this one update. But I hope to post about different things in the coming week that should hit everything worth hitting.

Since my last post in September, I encountered what Dean Wesley Smith and his wife call a Life Roll.

The house we lived in was in disrepair for a number of reasons too numerous and depressing to list. I’d been looking for a house or even an apartment to rent for several months, but always came up against either a too-high price or a no-pets rule. With an indoor dog of 9 1/2 years, the no-pets thing was a dealbreaker on all the places I could afford.

Then I woke up one morning to a collapsing wall, and a resultant broken pipe doing a hell of an Old Faithful impression. Things sort of went downhill from there. Planets were aligned briefly that afternoon, though. After months of looking, on the very day when we had to get out of there for health and sanity, I found an apartment a mile away, in my price range, with a landlord who didn’t mind me bringing the dog. I signed the lease that very afternoon, though I’d never rented in my life and really kind of feared the idea of an apartment. We needed to get out, so we did. And things went downhill again.

For reasons not worth trying to explain, many of them out of my hands, we lived here without any real furniture for almost a month. Sleeping on the floor was fun when i was 19. I’m 42 and fat and creakier than I should be, and I like it a hell of a lot less now. I am grateful for family members who helped me move the big furniture one day. And some of the things that happened to delay the furniture moving were things that could not be helped, and that were scary in their own right. Things just happened how they happened, and the end of the year was rough for most people I care about, unfortunately.

Still, with all the delays I had getting furniture here and getting things set up, and the fact that I still don’t have everything out of the crumbling house and over here that I need to (and my car is in mid-death-rattle so running around to do this is impossible), I’ve decided that unless the earth is splitting open beneath me, I’m not moving again until I can pay people to move me at my convenience. If I can’t afford to have movers take everything from furniture to boxes of miscellaneous whatevers in one day? It ain’t happenin’.

So. The last quarter of the year was spent trying to cope with life on a daily basis. I can’t believe that feeling went on as long as it did, and that I still feel that way some days when I think of all that’s left to be done before the whole situation is finally resolved. I’ve pretty much spent my time doing the things that make money, out of necessity, and fighting the urge to throw myself into moving traffic. I had little time or patience for anything else, even the things I really wanted to do like continue participating in W1S1 and the Absolute Write forums. I’ve missed a lot of people and the cameraderie. I just didn’t have it in me.

The one thing that ended up being a high point in the last couple of months of 2011 was something I always kind of swore to myself I’d never do–self-publishing. With a couple of short stories up and selling (under a different name that I prefer to keep private for now), this ended up being one of those things that brought in money, and therefore something that I had to do, even when I wasn’t sure it was worth it to get out of bed. It was a hugely good decision. Monumentous for me, really. So the month of house hell did have a bright spot after all.

I’ve updated the Write 1 Sub 1 page a final time for 2011, and though I’m part of Write 1 Sub 1 2012, January was officially a bust for me. In my mind, it sort of clumps in with the end of 2011, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. 2011 was still an excellent writing and subbing year, truncated as it was. I’ll post about the year’s writing goals and recent publications soon, but it’s too much to add to this one already too-long post.

I still feel beaten down by the end of last year in many ways, but things are better than they were, and slowly getting better still. Apartment life isn’t bad. The place is tiny–I sacrificed having my own bedroom just because we had to get out now–but everything works. The roof is free of holes that squirrels, birds and rain can come through at will. The pipes are sound. There’s no mold in the walls. The ceilings aren’t hanging down and about to collapse. And when something goes wrong, I can make a single phone call and explain the problem, and not have to come up with several hundred to a few thousand dollars to have it repaired. It’s better. All the way around. The line on the graph still bottoms out occasionally, but the general trend is upward.

 

 

 

13
Jul

My Editor is Constipated

And by my editor, I mean me, or that neurotic, picky me that’s in here somewhere. Lately, I edit for all of 15-20 minutes before I can’t even stand to look at the page anymore. What I do during that time works out pretty well. But damn! I’ve got stuff to do, let’s go! Normally I can do this stuff at quite a stretch. Not lately.

I think part of my resistance to editing is that I’m officially stressed out. Being stressed and nervous about a number of non-writing things doesn’t create the greatest environment in which to work. Kind of sucks all the air out of the room, really. I can sit and think about submitting to several publications I want to, and imagine which stories in revision will be best for which markets. When it’s time to revise, though, nah. Just a funk. Incidentally, while staring at the wall earlier I discovered that if you say funk loud enough and with enough intensity and a really hard ending ‘k,’ it’s almost as satisfying.

If my editor is a bit constipated, then my writer must have been eating her fiber. After deciding to scale back to the monthly Write 1 Sub 1 in which I’ll only commit to writing one story per month instead of one per week, I wrote 4 stories in 2 weeks. Two were just under 1,000 words, but the other two are about 3,500 and 6,500 words. Funny how that burst happened once I decided to take the pressure off. Two of them made up both stories I wrote in June (one on the 29th and one on the 30th, no less). The other two were in July. Technically, I’m done for the month as far as new writing, and had promised myself I’d be editing recent stories. Interestingly, I have a brand new crop of story ideas that won’t leave me alone and I keep thinking how I should be writing, instead.

I only have 8 submissions out right now, 5 stories and 3 poems, but I have heard from 3 editors. They each let me know that my submission was in the “maybe” pile, with varying levels of enthusiasm about the writing and likeliness that it would be accepted. One poem that’s being held started out as super-short, darkly odd flash fiction. I rewrote it as a poem, and took it from darkly odd to darkly odd and funny (I think). I’ll be extra tickled if that one runs, because it’s gone through so many changes and was submitted to one of my favorite places. It’s nice to hear from editors when they know they’re going to hold something for a while. Those editors are much better than mine. (Yes, that was a whinge.)

 

 

 

15
Jun

4 a.m. is my prime time

A few years ago when I had to crank out a lot more words to make a living than I do now, I would sometimes get up at 2:30 a.m. to get them done by 10 or 11. That was no fun if I didn’t manage to go to sleep before 11 p.m. or so. Why did I do that? Deadlines and procrastination, or at least I thought.

I do procrastinate a number of things, believe me. But I think the odd hours were less from procrastination than from them being something my body prefers. Years and years ago I worked the midnight shift as an auditor at a hotel. I did that for the better part of 7 years, so I was used to working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. at minimum. Double shifts were occasional, and for about a year I worked all of the shifts as an assistant shift manager. I preferred the midnight shift.

I guess I still do, because if I get up between 2:30 and 5 a.m., I can get a lot more accomplished than I can during the same amount of hours spent working in the afternoon. Late evening/night is also fairly productive for me. But from about 11 a.m. until dinnertime, I can write fiction, but if I try to look at a spreadsheet or non-fiction topics I need to cover, I discover that I need to clip my toenails or dust the baseboards. I can write fiction all afternoon, but that feels like play most of the time. (Editing, for the record, is probably an early morning job. First drafts are different.)

I woke at 4 this morning because of storms, and felt that “get it done” feeling I rarely feel later in the day. I guess it’s time to stop fighting my natural rhythms. I’m fortunate that I work from home and am able to do that.

Now I just need to find that magical time of day that makes scrubbing the tub and washing dishes easier. I’m think it’s in some alternate Hogwarts-like universe that doesn’t register on my plain old 24-hour clock. I do not think this time period exists in my realm of being.

A recommendation that has nothing to do with writing: This is something I rarely do, but I’m excited. I became a fan of Mike Eldred many years ago. He has an amazing tenor voice, and has had a wonderful career. He’s a huge talent whom I could listen to all the time. Apparently, he’ll be releasing a new album sometime this year. Go to his video page and play “The Eagle and the Hawk.” You will be blown away by his voice and what he brings to the song. If you like his voice, and you like broadway music, his album ME is fantastic. It’s one of my go-to playlists and has been for years, along with Howard McGillin’s album (McGillin is the longest-running Phantom on Broadway, in case you don’t know). I can’t wait for his new release. Go support the arts and buy one of his older ones!

14
Jun

Humor to Appear at errant parent

I found out yesterday that my humor piece “Teach Your Kids to Stay Safe from Cannibals” will appear in errant parent on July 27th. This piece and another that I’m still shopping around represent one of my career high-points and a huge disappointment all wrapped up into one. I wrote them as sample pieces for an amazing writing opportunity last year. They impressed the people in charge, got me highly complimented and got me in the door, which is what they were meant to do, but things didn’t work out in the end.

I had a second huge disappointment in that same week, so I had a love/hate relationship with this piece and its partner for a while. I’m glad to see it find a good home. I’m sure the other one will find a home soon enough, because in case you didn’t know this about me, I’m uproariously delightful, witty and funny. I promise.

I’m stubborn, too. So I’ll keep inflicting it on people until someone cries “uncle” and takes it.

It’s mind-blowing to realize that the year is almost half over. I’ve been doing the Write 1 Sub 1 challenge, which has been an interesting and wonderful experiment. I’m pleased with the way my writing and submitting have been going this year. I just withdrew 5 micro-shorts from one market that I wasn’t getting a response from, even after querying. So right now at 3 pieces out to 3 markets, I have the lowest number of submissions I’ve had out since my first week of this challenge, and that feels strange. Within the next couple of weeks, I should have those numbers back up. It’s an uneasy feeling to have numbers that low, after getting used to having many out at once. That’s a much more secure feeling, because no matter what comes back, hey, there’s still plenty out there wowing people. Try it and see if you don’t feel better!

Another “strange” feeling this week is knowing that my one-and-only will be 15 on Sunday. When did all this happen?

13
May

Dirty Underwear and Crazy Hair

Today is Friday the 13th, traditionally a day I enjoy. It’s also my cousin’s birthday, so we’ll be going out this evening to see a movie when she gets off work, and having cake and ice cream tomorrow. So there’s every reason for it to be a good day and an enjoyable weekend, despite lots of work to do.

I went to the ATM this morning at my bank to find it out of order, which was a pain because I needed to withdraw cash from one account to deposit it into another–transfers take up to 3 business days, and I really needed to put some scratch in the main checking account today.

So I drove to the gas station (where I needed to go anyway) and used their ATM. It’s 50 cents cheaper to withdraw cash there than at my bank. Who knew? I can’t decide if I’m aggravated at the inconvenience of the broken ATM that made me double back and waste time, or pleased that now I can save a whopping 50 cents every time I need more than $20 cash (which you can get free at most grocery stores as cash back, after all). I think it’s a mix of both.

I’m hoping the broken ATM hasn’t set the tone for the day, though, as these things tend to do, and because before I realized it was cheaper at the gas station, I was pretty miffed at the inconvenience. I also find myself wishing I’d spent a little more time making sure my hair didn’t look insane before I left this morning, but I hadn’t planned on actually going in anywhere to get cash. No, I didn’t leave the house in dirty underwear, as the old saying goes, but I did have semi-crazy hair. It was combed and everything, but let’s just say I wouldn’t have wanted to run into anyone I knew in high school. And instead of staying relatively sheltered in my car at the ATM and drive-thru, I had to walk inside a gas station full of people.

Lesson learned: Don’t leave the house looking like Cruella in case you must actually face real life people. Why do I feel it’s so much worse to have to get out and walk into a building looking maniacal when the fact is that everyone I pass on the road can also see me. Shelley, say this out loud 5 times–your car’s windshield is transparent. Everyone can see you.

There’s a writing lesson to be learned here. Just like it pays to check that mirror before you leave and get in your car with its transparent windshield, it pays to proofread one last time before you send anything out. A story currently waiting for a response now for a couple of weeks has a word missing in the final paragraph that I didn’t catch until, you guessed it, I’d submitted the thing. I’d changed that sentence a wee bit before sending the story, and somehow left the word out. Should have done that last crazy-hair check.