Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Technical difficulties and a book about trolls

Good morning!

Thank you, thank you to everyone who stopped by from last week's IWSG post. I promise I haven't forgotten you and I WILL repay the visit. Ever since my laptop died over a year ago, it seems I've had one technical glitch after another. Wednesday, after I posted my post for the hop, the mouse died and navigation on the desktop was impossible. Le sigh. BUT new batteries and an old mouse forgotten in the belly of a great beast of a backpack came to our rescue...sort of. It's a temperamental little thing and in order to get it to move where you want it, you have to move to the bottom of the mouse pad, slip your hand under it, and gently place it back on the pad. Otherwise, the cursor goes to the bottom corner of the page and you have to start all over again. Now I know I'm not the most tech-savvy person out there, but I do know to operate a mouse and THIS is NOT the way to go. Ah well...better that no mouse at all (I suppose...)

But enough of my gripes. How's your New Year going so far? Honestly I can't complain. I've been tweaking those ideas that trickled in the first week and honing in their importance in the direction I see my life going. Pruning I guess you could say. It's very freeing, really. When I was younger, I figured that if I made a goal then by-dern it was going to be done. NO MATTER WHAT! Do not back down and never retreat! I was like a miniature Churchill on myself only...it got me nowhere. In reality, all the harping about never retreating freaked me out and I froze. Even though the only person who knew of my goals in many cases was myself, I still freaked out about letting myself, and in turn, my family, down.

Balderdash! And I'm happy to say I now know that my goals are my goals. If I feel the need to tweak them half way through the year, then so be it! If I've told someone and they don't understand, call me fickle, let them. I have to live with ME and I have to live as authentically as I can. Deciding not to sew a dozen knapsacks this year will not make or break the rest of my life.

Pruning aside, I finished a very wonderful, very disturbing book this week. The Shapeshifters by Stefan Spjut.

Ooooh, Dear Reader, if you like a story that gets under your skin and slowly sinks in days after you've finished it, this is the book for you. It starts out innocent: a young boy and his mother spending the summer in a woodland cabin. You get the sense they are running from something but that's not the focus. Then the boy goes missing, snatched, and the mother swears he was taken by a giant. Fast forward to present day Sweden and a main character who is about as flawed as they come, a cast of characters who are rather plain and dry, and a quest started by the MC's grandfather that involved trolls and "stolli": shapeshifters. To tell you anymore would give things away. 

This is a very carefully crafted book. It starts slow, meandering, giving you time to get your bearings. It's translated from Swedish and the language is lyrical, as most books-in-translation are. I loved the prose! About half way through this 580+ page tome the pace picks up and you don't realize you're reading faster, holding your breath, and being hunted. Then: it's over.

You close the book, sit back, and think, "Hn." Then you start to think, really THINK about what went on in those last two dozen pages. And the eeriness creeps in. The book is like a Twilight Zone episode. The more you think about it, the more disturbing it gets. I couldn't shake the feeling I was being watched for two days and let's just say I'll never trust a squirrel again.

Not that I trusted them to begin with.

Happy Tuesday all! May your week be filled with adventures, goal-tweaking, and books that haunt your every step!

If you're weird like me and, you know, like that sort of thing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

IWSG - January Edition

Welcome and Happy New Year! It's the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post for 2016! Click HERE if you want to know more about the IWSG or sign up to participate in the coming months. As always, a huge THANK YOU to our fearless leader and the creator of the IWSG Alex Cavanaugh and a great, big THANK YOU to our wonderful co-hosts this month: L. G. Keltner, Denise Covey, Sheri Larsen, J. Q. Rose, Chemist Ken, and Michelle Wallace. xo.

Well, here we go! Another year, another opportunity to clear the slate of what-might-have-beens and start looking forward to what can-be. For YEARS I have looked forward to January as a time to "finally get things right". I make lists, make plans, post sticky notes all over the house with DO THIS highlighted and emboldened. And you know what? It never, ever, ever works.

Goal setting is important. It keeps us focused and helps us define our plans and dreams. Sometimes, however, I think our goals are inconsistent with where we are in life at the moment. How many times have your New Years' Resolutions resembled this:

1. Get Published
2. Write six novels
3. Finish two dozen short stories and 63 essays
4. Get invited to speak at BIG DEAL Publishing's next conference
5. Win an Oscar

Yes, I'm being sarcastic...mostly. And yes, for some folks, two dozen shorts and 63 essays are a walk in the park. Something done every year for years. Yes, some of you will be published this year and, heck, someone reading this just may win an Oscar next month.

The point I'm making is this: perhaps this year we should try something a bit different with our goal setting. Put more of LIFE into our life goals. During that past three months I've come to terms with something, something that has driven my life my entire life. The pursuit of FAME and RECOGNITION. And those things, Friends, are NOT why we should be doing anything we do.

We are writers because we write, not because we are published and not because we win awards. Those things are WONDERFUL and, yes, I want to be published. I have something to say and I want to share it with others. THAT is why we should be pursuing publication: the share, to be heard, and to connect.

I've taken a big step back this year. I've decided to focus on three very simple actions that will force me to pay attention to each day as it comes:

1. Write something everyday. No word count, no specific task, just put words on paper in ways that make me smile.
2. Make something beautiful everyday. Either through sketching or my new-found love of stitching, I want to make time for art everyday, no matter how simple or how small that time is.
3. And this is a big one: ONTOLOGY. This is a word I learned years ago and it's finally settled in that deepest part of my gut. The very act of BE-ing. To BE is to be present, to be at peace with yourself and your surroundings. This doesn't mean resigning yourself to wrongdoings or the negative. It means allowing yourself to just BE - for a few seconds, a few moments, or for one, blessed entire day.

I want to refocus and regroup. I want to remember why I first started putting pen to paper and forming words into tales. I want to remember the sheer joy of creating something beautiful just to look at it and say, "Hey, I did that!"

Happy New Year to everyone! Congratulations to each and every one of you who were chosen to be published in the IWSG Anthology. Congratulations in advance to everyone who WILL find their work published this year. Who knows? It could be me, it could be you. The point is, we need to WRITE first, HEAR our voices and SEE our own beauty. THEN we'll be set to fly.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

Well, hello there! Happy 2016! I certainly hope your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/New Year's Celebrations (and any I may have missed) were blessed and joyous. We journeyed north (ahem - back to metro-Atlanta) to visit family and had a wonderful time! It was present mayhem and casserole chaos. Exactly how a southern Christmas should be.

Settling back into the swing of "normal" life has been much, much easier this year. Last holiday season was a real drag for us. It was tougher than we thought moving 250 miles from where we were both born and raised. And living on one, meager income is enough make anyone consider if they made the right decision or not.

I'm happy to say we did and this New Year finds us both in wonderful jobs and enjoying life as it comes. And I'm happy to say it's coming slowly. 

There's something to be said for just enjoying life. Not running or pushing forward at breakneck speed. For my entire life - at least as far back as I can remember- I have constantly FOUGHT for what I thought would launch me into stardom. Every interest from college degrees to music has always been backed by the urge to strive for the "big time".  But something shifted this past November. I realized I was happy. Life isn't perfect (is it ever?) but it's good. We're moving forward and I have some plans in line for the coming months. Plans that reflect what I truly WANT to spend my time in. Mostly, though, I plan to enjoy the days as they come. At work or at home, reading, writing, crafting or ringing up herbal supplements in Ye Olde Natural Food Shoppe : I want to simply enjoy BE-ing.

What about you? Any big plans for the coming year? Letting some old thoughts simmer on the stove while you toss in a bit here, a bit more there? Madeleine L'Engle once compared her method of writing to the cooking style of a French peasant cook. Many pots on the stove with ingredients going here and there until she looked at the one that was closest to being done was the one she decided to take off the burner and garnish. I've got pots bubbling away and I'm enjoying the nuggets I'm tossing in. Who knows which one will be brought to the front first? All I know is I'm excited to see where I'll find myself (and what pot I'll be holding) when I write my first post next year!