27 February, 2009

ReadingWriters Silent Characters Contest

I just spent the last three days working on a short story for the ReadingWriters Silent Character Contest. The minute I saw the contest criteria for the contest posted at C. Hope Clark's blog, I couldn't resist. The silent character in the competition just so happened to be a mirror, and I had a really neat idea I wanted to try out.

I'm excited. I've been trying to send out at least one short story or packet of poems each week. It's progress. I've sent out quite a few things this year already and I'm really proud of myself for doing it. Last year I hit a bit of a rough spot and felt so discouraged that I didn't send much of anything out.

Wish me luck! I hope that you are all having the best of luck with your own submissions and deadlines.

If you're interested in checking out the competition, you can do so at ReadingWriters. If you decide to enter, good luck.

25 February, 2009

What's your motivation?

As writers it is imperative that we devote time to our craft every single day. Whether you have a strict daily regimen that you follow or a basic routine that motivates you to write each and every day, holding that motivation in check is so important. For me personally, if I go for any great length of time (more than a couple of days,) without writing, I get very depressed. On the other hand there are days like today that no matter how I try to motivate myself to write it's just not there.

What do you do on days that the motivation just isn't there?

The wise are prone to saying that motivations isn't enough and that you can't rely on motivation to get you buy. You have to take action. That even when you don't feel like writing that you should sit down at your computer or your desk and write anyway. Just write whatever comes out until it feels right. Some people can do this, while others cannot.

There are a lot of writers who operate under a strict regimen of special rituals whenever they write. Perhaps they require use of a special pen, or maybe they need to light a certain number of candles before they start. For me it's best if I'm alone. I can listen to music, write with the television on, but if there are any people within a fifty foot radius of me that want to talk, I will forgo writing and chatter like teeth at ten-below. So timing is often a motivator on how much writing I get done. If it's early and the morning and everyone's asleep or at school/work, I can sit down and write entire short story drafts and full-length chapters without looking back. It's just as easy to do this at night, but when the house is full of people, even people doing their own thing, writing is just not an option.

I'd love to hear about some of your motivations. What pushes you to sit down in the chair and get things done. Do you need a deadline? Do you have routines you need to follow in order to write? Special pens or a candle fetish? Talk to me about your experiences.

23 February, 2009

When the Universe Speaks...

...Perk up your ears and have a listen. You'd be surprised how much you might be missing simply because you aren't paying attention to the signs. Yesterday I blogged about characters and their relationships to us writers, and for the last week or so my fabulously creative musician husband and I have been talking rather deeply about where inspiration comes from. We've also been talking about synchronicity. Of course, yesterday as I finished posting my blog on our relationships with our characters, I checked my blog roll to see what my fellow bloggers had to say. I was drawn immediately to a post by Matt Selznick, author, blogger and podcaster extraordinaire titled, All Creators Please Take Twenty Minutes to Watch.

So I did. And I called in my husband to watch it with me, because frankly we both felt like we could use a little creative advice from the universe right now. And it was exactly what I needed to hear. So now I want to share it with you, because I think that as creators we all come from this weird place that the so-called normal world can't identity with. We've all gotten the complimentary eye-rolls when we mention that we're writer or artists or musicians. You tell someone you're a painter and automatically they want you to help them coat the outside of their house. You mention that you're a writer and automatically everyone wants to know if they've read your novel. Musicians must come from famous bands or orchestras, otherwise how could they classify themselves as musicians.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love spoke at the TED conference earlier this month, and she put into words a lot of how many of us have felt for years. She also spoke at great length on the magic of the creative process. It was such an inspiration that I want to share that speech with you now. I hope you will take twenty minutes out of your day. I know sometimes it's hard to find twenty minutes to do half of the things we want in the span of a day, but this speech is well worth the listen.

We get so wrapped up in the daily motions of the world, in the rat race and that longing to simply belong that we sometimes forget to celebrate our creativity. I strongly believe that we all have a little genius in us. I hope your genius is doing its job, and I hope that you all continue to show up and do yours!

Please stop over and subscribe to Matt Selznick's blog. He's always got something interesting to say and you won't regret it.

22 February, 2009

Who Are These People and What Do They Want From Me?

A lot of writers walk around thinking they're insane. After all, we hear voices and sometimes we talk back. We learn to love and appreciate the voices. In some cases we think of ways we can torment them and in others we do everything we can to get them out of jams. In a way, we are like their Gods and Godesses, answering their prayers, meddling in their affairs. We have control over the outcome of their stories, or do we?

It's easy to play the role of divinity in our characters lives, but is that really our purpose? Or are we there to give them an outlet? As often as I would like to think I had control over my characters and what was supposed to happen in their lives, they tend to fight every step of the way when they disagree. Is this because they are art imitating life, or perhaps it's even deeper than that. Maybe we are conduits somehow, tuned into the universe.

It sounds wacky, I know, but sometimes the people in my head seem so real that it frustrates me to no end when they take on a life of their own. I remember a story I was writing years ago in which a teenage character with a mind of her own wanted to kiss her best male friend during summer break. She already had a boyfriend whom she loved very dearly, but the moment and the connection between her and her friend made her react as though she might die if she didn't do exactly what her impulses dictated. I actually felt myself being pulled in that direction, started writing out her wish and then stopped. That was NOT what the story was all about. In fact, there were several stories that followed, stories that had already been written, so I knew for a fact that there was no secret kiss between them and there never would be. But she was adamant. She fought me every step out of that scene and actually refused to "speak" to me for a full day.

There is definitely a strange connection between a writer and her characters. I used to think of myself as their creator, but now I'm not so sure. They certainly come into being with their own agenda, their own names. I've "tried" to name characters, but they always name themselves, and if the name I've chosen at first is wrong, they quickly correct me, lest I not go on writing with any luck at all.

So I ask you, what kind of relationship do you have with your characters? Do they speak to you? Do you hear their voices in your head? When you go against their wants, do they let you know? What kind of role do you see yourself as in their lives? Are you simply the bard spinning their story, or are you the great creator to whom they cling and pray?

21 February, 2009

Jacqueline Roth's Circle of Wolves

My friend and fellow author, Jacqueline Roth released her newest novel yesterday, so I wanted to take a moment to promote it! I have been fortunate enough to have this novel and it is WELL WORTH the read.

For an excerpt and synopsis, check out her latest blog post: Circle of Wolves and be sure to check out her book. Rich with magic, history, culture and animal magnetism, this book is a must-read!!

20 February, 2009

Truly Terrifying...

Ever since I was a girl, I have been fascinated by the truly terrifying. The oldest of four children, I was the evil baby sitter who stayed up late after the kids went to bed munching on popcorn and watching A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. My mother was a huge Stephen King fan, so by the time I was twelve I had read some of his most hair-raising work and still recall going to bed and pulling the blankets tight up around my neck after reading Salem's Lot.

I have often blogged about my own endeavors into horror writing. During NaNoWriMo I worked quite a bit on a zombie novel and the novel I am trying to complete right now is a ghost story. This afternoon I was working on a writing prompt that came out like some twisted version of Revelations that ended badly for humanity, and it got me to thinking about what types of things other people might find horrific and terrifying. What scares me might not scare you, and visa versa.

Writers like John Saul often incorporate the supernatural and demonic into their work, relying on the Christian fear of God to frighten their readers, while others use monsters and apocalyptic situations. More and more often these days, it seems as if horror has employed a "nothing's shocking" approach, taking nightmares right out of every day life to give their readers a scare. Serial killers and stalkers are the boogeymen of the new millenium, and it would seem that the more outlandish their murder tactics, the more appealing their stories are to most readers.

I personally have a hard time getting into that type of horror and prefer a more paranormal threat. There's something safe (and yet equally mortifying) about the monster under the bed when he's a zombie or a vampire, something we categorize as unrealistic, but it seems that the lack of paranormal proof has pushed the limits of horror into the ghastly and realistic.

Psychological thrillers are another big seller these days. Stories that test the bounds of what is real and suggest that the most horrific of all horrors is the reality we create for ourselves. For example, Stephen King's short story, "1408," which tests the bounds the between the paranormal and the human mind, have the capacity to be truly thrilling because one has to ask, "Is this real or is it a product of the imagination?"

So whether you write horror, read horror or occasionally enjoy a horror movie, what brand of horror scares you the most and why? Has this changed in your lifetime? It has for me. When I was younger I was all about the slasher films. While I definitely appreciated a good ghost story or zombie film, the idea of a serial murder hacking up teens was my idea of a good scare. As a mother to a teen those types of movies now just depress me more than anything.

18 February, 2009

Writerly Readings... The 4 A.M. Breakthrough

I am a lover of books. You almost have to be to want to write them. Even before college, however, I was always fascinated by what other writers had to say. The advice they have on writing, publishing, beating back writer's block and sharing their secret rendezvous with the muse. It's like sitting in on a secret conference with someone you admire, listening to their methods and exploring their techniques. The most inspiring writers who have delved into the "How to..." market have not approached the genre with holier than though professorial pomp, but often incorporated stories of their darker days as writers.

One story that touches me every time I read is Stephen King's memories of writing Carrie. He was so frustrated and agitated with the script that he wanted to throw it away, and probably would have had it not been for the insistence of his wife Tabitha that it was some of the most brilliant fiction she had ever read. On her encouragement, he finished the story and went on to become the master of horror we know and love today. He has often spoken of the rejection letter nail on the wall so thick with rejection that he didn't think he would ever hear the encouraging words, "We're pleased to inform you that..." Imagine if his wife hadn't pushed. If she hadn't seen in him that which he was most afraid to see in himself: success.

I am a sucker for books about writing. I think that no matter what your level of education is there is always something you can learn from others in your craft. There are techniques you would never have imagined, scenarios you may not have come up with without a little nudge. Many writing books come complete with instructions, tips and writing exercises, which is what the book I am reading now is all about.

Follow-up to his The 3 A.M. Epiphany, Brian Kiteley released The 4 A.M. Breakthrough: Unconventional Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction. Kiteley's intent with the book is to teach writers to make creation itself a more organic, automatic process. I am only on the first exercise, titled Parataxis, a 500 word prompt with two options. One of the things I like about Kiteley's book is that he draws references from other well-known source material to show not only example but how it works and the usefulness of the techniques.

There are two hundred exercises in the book overall. That's two hundred prompts that offer you the opportunity to explore a side of your creativity you may not have even known was there. It's a great tool to get you off of the excuse wagon and into the writer's seat. I highly recommend that you check this book out. As I said above, even as a master craftsman or published writer, you should never stop learning about your craft. There is always something to discover.

Brian Kiteley is a creative writing professor at the University of Denver. You can learn more about him by checking out his home page: Brian Kiteley. The site has information about his other books, including an upcoming fiction novel scheduled to release in the fall of 2009.

17 February, 2009

Tiny Dream in Swan Dive (sounds like a poem...)

So this afternoon, my friend and colleague, the lovely and talented author, Jacqueline Roth, and I were talking about the difficulty of making a living as a writer these days because of the economy when Jae gave me some very disheartening news. Realms of Fantasy Magazine, of which I have been a lowly reader only (despite several attempts to sell them my brilliance,) for the last ten years or so, is going under. Their final publication is at the printer now, and will hit the shelves next month. Woe is me. That hit me pretty hard, considering one of my goals in life was to have a story published in that magazine, preferably in an issue that mentioned Neil Gaiman's name at least four times.

Now it will be gone, and one little dream will wither to ash. Lo, tho, I do digress... My disappointment is more sympathetic than anything, sympathetic to the other aspiring fantasy and sci-fi writers who will never see their name on the cover or their works in her pages.

I enjoyed the magazine overall, and it was still one of my goals to be published in its pages one day, but in truth the editorial choices for a lot of the stories printed these last few years have not really been that memorable, which is incredibly sad since I know there are literally thousands of talented sci-fi and fantasy authors out there submitting like mad. In fact, the last issue I purchased was only because my aforementioned brilliant author friend Jacqueline Roth's book was going to be advertised in its pages, and the stories in that issue... I think I remember one.

The thing that does make me incredibly sad is that there are already so few beautiful and glossy fantasy and sci-fi magazines as it is. Asimovs, Fantasy and Science Fiction and Analog often have better quality stories, but not near as many pretty pictures. It really is like watching a giant fall, and as I sat by last week and mentioned to my husband that I really didn't like many of the stories in "that magazine," I know I'm going to miss it when it disappears from the newsstand.

Times are changing. Coinciding with yesterday's epublishing post, with more and more people looking to the internet to publish their work, or actual magazines and papers moving to an internet audience to cut back on costs, it's only a matter of time before just about everything is electronic, and long gone are the days of hiking into the bathroom with a brand new issue of your favorite rag.

In more positive news today, I managed to send a poem out to Strange Horizons. Here's crossing my fingers. It's been 2 years since I had a poem published with them, and would very much like to end the poetry dryspell with a publication. I've made some progress on my novel, but have come into the tangled web of rewrite hell that warrants me to pick it apart like a quilter with a stitch-ripper tearing out a crooked patch. I know that in the end it will be worth it, but the process itself can be stressful.

So, as an outro to the demise of Realms of Fantasy, here is a guy on YouTube playing Cradle of Filth's "Swansong for a Raven" on piano. Anyone who ever said Cradle of Filth was untalented trash, as far as I'm concerned this is just testament to their incredible deity-like talent. No one makes music this melodic or complex anymore. NO ONE! And this guy does an outstanding job on the cover.

16 February, 2009

The Wonderful World of ePublishing...

Publishing articles, short stories, poems and memoirs is easier today than than anyone would have ever dreamed even just twenty-years ago. The simplicity of epublishing has opened up the writing world to anyone and everyone who has ever had an idea to share. Magazines and publishers that once only accepted submissions via snail mail have opened up their email boxes, making the submission task for writers just a little bit easier.

The fact that submitting your work is easier than ever is no cause for slacking off! Editors are definitely going to be pickier than ever when it comes to your queries, your cover letters and formatting, so you'll want to make sure everything is up to date and in tip top shape before you submit anything.

Now, before you start thinking I'm some kind of expert on epublishing about to spin you a fascinating and useful yarn on how to polish your esubmission, stop right there. I'm just a writer like you, fascinated by the ever-increasing opportunity to share my work on the world wide web. I've learned a few tricks along the way, as I'm sure you have to, but what are the editors learning?

Well, I just so happen to be the poetry and fiction editor for the online literary arts ezine eMuse, and I can tell you that it has been an eye opening experience over the last eighteen months. Not only is our small staff responsible for all of our own promotion on top of editorial duties, we also have to make sure that our contact information is always up to date, that our contributors are properly attributed and that we produce our issue on time, as promised every quarter.

Editing for eMuse, something I enjoy and look forward to every issue has been a major challenge because as I'm putting together the poetry and fiction resources for each and every issue, I'm reminded of my own experiences as a writer. Being a writer has pushed me to a point of professionalism as an editor that I hope I never fail at.

You see, in the last year, I've had two lousy experiences with online submissions that I would like to share with you. If you're an editor, I hope that it will inspire you to practice editorial professionalism to the best of your ability (and I am sure that you are already at your professional best as it is...) If you are a writer, I hope it will inspire you to step out and draw attention to this kind of unacceptable behavior as well.

Publishing is not a joke to writers. Whether we are publishing for no to low or even professional pay, getting our work out to the public is a top priority for us. Sure, we can all say that we write because we love to write, but in the end we all know the truth: we write because we want to share our thoughts and dreams with the world. When you as a publisher send an acceptance letter to a writer it is one of the most thrilling things in our world. We will dance around, parade, blow our horns and promote the hell out of your publication because we want the world to not only read our piece, but support the people who support us.

When you send an acceptance letter to a writer and then never follow through with the publication it is one of the most crushing experiences you can imagine. I recently had an experience like this with a "motherhood" magazine that accepted one of my memoirs about teaching my daughter the value of everyday magic. I originally submitted the memoir in February of 2008. I received a response in June apologizing for how long they were taking, but asking me to hang in there for a little while longer. Finally in September I received an acceptance letter, telling me they were going to print my story in their next issue. That issue was set to publish after the New Year. It is now mid-February and not only has the editor put off mailing me the proper permissions forms twice, the new issue has still not gone to print. I just checked their website again before starting this blog, and there is no information about an upcoming issue available at all.

How does this make me feel? Like strapping on my Christian Bale attitude and sending a letter to let them know I'm done with them professionally, that's how. It's not only completely irresponsible, it's downright rude.

You have a responsibility to your contributors and your readers to publish on time. Get the correct information from every contributor in a timely manner, or don't run a publication. If you can't act professionally, no matter how busy your personal life is or whatever other excuses prohibit you from being professional, don't run a publication.

Now my second pet-peeve is outdated contribution information. This is the information age, people. If you're accepting submissions via email, promoted through your website, make sure your guidelines, email address and contact information are all 100% up to date, 100% of the time. My second story today is about a submission I sent out back in November. There was a deadline, an estimated time of contact regarding acceptance of rejection. I waited and when I finally sent an inquiry to find out why I never heard from them, the email bounced back to me. So I contacted the editor via another email address on the site only to find out that email is now defunct, and she gave me a completely different email not even listed on their site, in their magazine or anywhere else. How disappointing is that, and how many other possible contributors had their submissions lost by the wayside? The funny part is that the editor (who is really one of the nicest people alive,) told me they were lacking enough submissions to go through with the theme of that particular edition... well, no wonder.

It's hard enough to 1. work up the courage to send our work out under circumstances of rejection, 2. make sure every submission is perfect according to each individual editors preferences and 3. to wait for months and months on end to hear a response about the status of our work. When you add unprofessionalism to the list, it's a crying shame. The standards writers are expected to live up to are exceptionally high, and that is as it should be, but editors and publishers need to be held accountable to the same standards. Keep your word, make the process of submitting as easy as possible, and for blog's sake, publish when you say you're going to.

We all understand that things happen. People make mistakes, disasters pop up, but lack of communication is simply no excuse for unprofessional editing and publishing. The wonderful world of epublishing is supposed to have made things easier and more accessible to writers, publishers, editors and readers. Let's do everything in our power as a unit to keep it this way.

I'll step off my soapbox now, and get back to editing my novel. In the meantime, may the writers keep writing, the editors keep editing, and may all of us enjoy the successes we believe we so rightly deserve.

15 February, 2009

Write What You Know

I have heard this my entire life, "Write what you know," and it will be the truest form of your gift. Whether it's poetry or prose, writing from the heart and soul is the fastest way to reach out to an appreciative audience, but what counts as "what you know?"

I love to use Stephen King and Anne Rice as examples, even as they are both fading out of the limelight and into the annals of literary history these days. Now I know you're asking yourself, "So what are you saying, Beans, that Stephen King is in league with the devil, and that's where all those dark and terrifying ideas come from? Or that Anne Rice really is the secret head of a vampire coven located somewhere in New Orleans?"

Silly, silly, that's exactly what I'm saying. Stephen King and Anne Rice write from experience. And not with the dark and demonic, though a great deal of Rice's inspiration is obviously the result of her Roman Catholic upbringing, but with their region. You can't read a Stephen King story without venturing off to Maine as he sees it, and it's a rare thing to wander too far from Louisiana in one of Anne Rice's stories. These two authors have taken their hometowns and run with them like Olympic torch carriers.

Whether we're travelers, or we've spent the last thirty years of our lives living in the same town, that which surrounds us often the perfect muse. All I have to do is walk down one of the main streets in the neighboring towns surrounding me, and I can literally find dozens of short stories just waiting to be written--from the macabre to the sweet to the romantic.

The reason I am blogging about this today is because I'm currently polishing off the second draft of a novel I'm working on. The novel actually takes place in an imaginary town nestled mysteriously into Pennsylvania county I grew up in. It draws from the atmosphere, the region and heavily relies on the fact that this is farm country. I grew up with people who lived on farms, my family's house smack-dab in the middle of dairy farm central. The interesting thing is, I hated that when I was growing up. I hated being a bumpkin, being stuck in this small town atmosphere where everyone no only knew your business, but more often than not, knew it before you did. I grew up in a small neighborhood where we often joked that our neighbor's mom was a super spy, and if she was around, there was no getting away with anything!

What better plot than a character resistant to this environment, a character who managed to get away, but finds herself drawn back home after a tragedy? I felt that way myself. I hated this place I grew up in. The minute I turned eighteen, I was in the backseat of my friend John's Rabbit, hightailing it to the nearest city. Even after tragedy and circumstance brought me back to to my hometown, I promised myself for years I wouldn't stay. One day I would get out of here, but then it snaked in around me, showed its appeal. Time passed and the urge to escape didn't feel as strong as it once was, and eventually, I felt like this was where I was supposed to be.

No matter where you live, your region, your neighborhood, your weather patterns are unique to you, and they are the perfect fodder for inspiration. As I mentioned above, today I need only walk down the street in my area to find short stories and poems just waiting to be written.

So the next time you're wracking your brain for something to write, step outside and listen to the voice of your neighborhood. You might be surprised by the unique whispers of that area, and how well you can personally put those whispers into scenarios that appeal to the world. And if you're a memoir writer, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Places soak up memory, withhold the past, and as a writer you can unlock those secrets for all the world to hear.

On another note, writing what you know doesn't mean just sticking to your area, it also refers to your personal experiences. Whether you've been a soldier, a mother, a sister, a teacher, a student, a postal worker... you name it, every experience you've ever had is simply asking to be related through your work. There are characters inside all of our experiences simply begging to have their stories told. Maybe you once worked with someone who claimed they spoke with the dead, or there was an old lady that walked her cat into the post office every day to get her mail... All of these things are stories simply begging to be told.

I guess one of the reasons I'm feeling so passionate about this lately is because with all of the Hollywood film remakes, it starts to feel like there really is nothing new under the sun. The thing is, I don't buy that. I think all of our experiences in life are unique because of our unique perspectives (the same logic the movie remakers are using, I'm sure...) so even if we all lived through the same experience, our stories would be unique based on our regional upbringing, our experiences and our personality. So the next time someone says there's nothing new under the sun, look out your window. You'll see it there. I can almost guarantee it.


14 February, 2009

I Pick Up My Books, I Read Bukowski

I've been reading a lot of Bukowski again, lately. It comes and goes. Sometimes when you feel like you've descended into a new place dirtier and grimier than any other place you've ever been, it's best to have Bukowski in your pocket. He's like a tour guide through Hell.

Not that I'm in Hell, or anything like that. It's just a dark state of mind to sink into when you're carrying old Buk with you everywhere you go. I think that so much of his work can be likened to this time we're having now, this endless depression, where all the stakes are changing once again... There are experts saying we won't ever recover from this if we collapse... that unlike Soviet Russia we have all tasted too much wealth to ever recover if our economy falls apart.

Well here's the thing. I grew up in a house with two brothers and a sister. We were only four children, but during the eighteen years I lived at home with my family, my parents were always on the verge of losing everything they had. That was why mother stressed the importance of not only dreaming, but standing on the tips of your toes until they break to reach those dreams. So that is what I do. That is what I will do all the days of my life.

Believe it or not, I've been places, seen things I hope to never be exposed to again in this lifetime. The first year we lived together, my husband and I shared a house with three other roommates. We spent an entire winter without heat and we rarely had enough food to get us by. We literally lived off of rice and ramen noodles for days and days on end, until some miracle presented itself and we were able to buy food. We spent a week on a bus going out to Arizona, where we couldn't get jobs because we had no place to live, and despite having enough money for an entire year's worth of rent, we couldn't get a place to live because we had no jobs. I was pregnant at the time, and desperately afraid of the kind of life I would provide for my child. In Arizona less than a month, we felt like we had failed, so we headed back to our hometown, and wound up living in squalor for about a month with my husband's friend.

It was the most disgusting place I had ever lived in my life. I should have known it would be bad. The guy's car had always been a virtual nightmare-you know, the kind when half a bag of garbage came rolling out whenever you opened a door. You had to arrange the garbage to make yourself comfortable in the back seat. Imagine how his apartment looked. He had a cat. An old Tom he'd found inside a car or something, but never got him neutered. The cat walked around and pissed on everything. Furniture, clothes, blankets, food.... anything he could lift his leg on, he did. And the guy we lived with chewed tobacco, so all over the apartment were cups, bottles and cans filled with putrid brown ooze.

I cleaned the apartment from top to bottom because I was not raised that way. How anyone could live like that and think it was normal, I never understood. Even after I cleaned it, he worked very hard to mess it up again. I remember an instance shortly after I had sterilized the apartment from top to bottom that another guy who was staying with us woke up because he felt something crawling on him... it was a maggot. Talk about never wanting to close your eyes again.

Shortly thereafter, my parents found out what kind of conditions we were living in and came to the rescue. Sometimes I think it was a miracle that we had their help, but we sacrificed a lot of what we believed in by going to stay with them. It was a year and a half that we stayed with them, and in that eighteen months, spirits were crushed, dreams were lost and our small family was nearly torn apart. But we made it through. We finally moved out into our own apartment, and while it wasn't exactly the Ritz Carlton, we made it into a home, and there we stayed for nine years.

During that time we struggled to maintain that which we felt was important to both of us, while also trying to keep up with our financial obligations. In order to provide the best family atmosphere for our daughter, we worked opposite shifts, so someone was always home with her. It wasn't until she started school that I actually got a day job so we could all be home at nights together.

After September 11, 2001, I felt like I'd been hit with a reality check. I was twenty-six, and still hadn't gotten any closer to achieving any of the goals I had set for myself throughout the years. I had no success with publishing, and even worse, had no idea where to start. Within weeks of September 11, I had decided to go to college. And I did.

The thing is, the quality of our life improved dramatically during the time I was going to college. Our finances were looking good, we had gotten rid of past debts and had finally started to save enough money to buy a house. Eight months before graduating, we bought our house. I had the promise of a college education behind me to help me get a better job, and it looked like some of the things we wanted in life were finally going to pay off.

Then the housing market took a dive. Our very first winter here was difficult, as my husband struggled to maintain his job. It wasn't until June that he went back to work full time, but come December he was right back on the same boat. The next year he didn't go back to work full time until July, and by the time September hit in 2008, they were already back to working three day weeks. He's been laid off since the second week in January.

Sob story? Not really, but after everything we've been through it's a real motivator, let me tell you. Not to go out and work nine jobs to maintain material happiness, but to step up our game and start doing some of the things we hesitated on in the past out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of whatever.

I know that so many of my friends are in this same boat. So many of us struggle from day to day to make sure there is food on our table, while our big bosses go on elaborate trips around the world, deny their employees security, claiming that the economy is bad. How bad can it be when they are out living it up like celebrities while the rest of us worry from day to day whether or not we're even going to get our next pay check. My husband's employer has sent the salesmen group every year on a week long cruise to the Bahamas as a reward for work well done... Well guess what, the salesmen haven't sold anything in months, but they leave to go on their cruise at the end of next week.

I very rarely talk politics, and I certainly don't like to blog about them because differences of opinion often tear friendships apart, but this bailout garbage is like trying to stuff a wad of chewing gum into a dam already about to burst. The same people who have always had it easy get another leg up while the world crumbles underneath them, while we're left down here at the bottom wondering NOT where our cruise to the Bahamas or our full-sponsored trip to Pokerfest 2009 is, but whether or not we're going to lose our home or have enough money after paying our mortgage to feed our family. Our jobs, which were propositioned to us as full-time employment just a year ago, waver in the balance, thin as spiderwebs about to break.

The thing is, and I know you're wondering what the hell does any of this have to do with Bukowski, Charles Bukowski defied odds during the depression, World War II, after the War... He painted accurate portraits of the world around him that we can look back on today. If you are a writer, a poet, an artist or a musician of any kind, now is your time. Catalog these days. Paint portraits of the world as it falls apart and rebuilds itself again. There is more than enough inspiration right now to go around. Draw on the misery around you and turn it into something pure, something beautiful.

I know that this blog was probably one of the more depressing blogs I've penned this week, but don't miss the underlying thread of hope glimmering within the darkness. We write our own future, our own destiny, and right now, as it seems like sky is falling, there's a pen or a paintbrush or a guitar waiting for you to pick it up and show the world what you've seen.

Read Bukowski

The Aliens, by Charles Bukowski

you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
very little
friction of distress.
they dress well, sleep well.
they are contented with
their family
they are undisturbed
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy death, usually in their

you may not believe
but such people do

but i am not one of
oh no, I am not one of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of
but they
are there

and I am

11 February, 2009

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda...

I have done a lot of crazy things in my life. From the time I was very young until about thirty minutes ago when I was at the gas station, I've done things that have the potential to make other people feel ashamed or even worried. Not ashamed of me, of course. I'm not that outrageous, but I do take risks that many people would consider foolish. The difference between me and them is that some people will take the same risks, but they walk away feeling ashamed and foolish... beating themselves up and crying over spilled milk.

The three words I chose for the title of this blog are perhaps three of the most useless words in the English language. Should. Could. Would. Think about what each of them means, what they really mean, and while you're thinking I will use each one in a really silly sentence.

1. I should have passed on that cheesecake.

2. I could have volunteered for the fundraiser, but I didn't.

3. I would have doublechecked the answers if I'd had more time.

Whether you've come up with your own examples, or you've read over mine, you can clearly see the error in each sentence. Yeah, maybe you SHOULD have passed on the cheesecake, but the fact of the matter is, you didn't. You can't take it back now, so why are you crying about it? I'm sure the people you could have volunteered for were really happy to hear about what you could have done (but didn't...) for them. And obviously, whether you would have doublechecked your answers or not, the simple fact of the matter is you didn't.

Those three words are the types of things we utter whenever we have remorse or regret. Unfortunately, so many of us are walking around everywhere we go, all day long experiencing regret and remorse over everything we do. The foods we choose, the people we talk to, the words we say, the choices we make in the grocery store and the money we spend. If I had a nickel for every time I said, "I shouldn't have bought that (insert object here)," I would be a millionaire.

The thing is, I've spent a great deal of time in the last ten years trying to rid those three words from my vocabulary entirely. Believe it or not, there are ways you can do it. There are two methods I employ in my own life and they work very well. The first one is that I decided a long time ago that as far as I know, I've only got this one life to live... Even if science and spirituality one day discover that reincarnation is a fact, in another life I am not the same person I am in this life. When I do things, no matter if they are stupid or brilliant, the last thing I want to do afterward is waste time thinking about how I could, should or would have done them better. I decided a long time ago to live my life without regret, which cuts back on the amount of time I spend moping over decisions made and executed. The second thing is boils down to responsibility. When you take responsibility for everything you do, no matter how brilliant or foolish, there's no need to reevaluate what "should, could or would" have been done better or differently.

Dr. Wayne Dyer once talked about using should, could, would on children. Children automatically see the error in those words because they operate on that mindframe. They inherently know that you can't go back in time to fix what you should, could or even would have done differently.

So the next time you're about to say, "Oh, I should have...could have...would have... done things this way," stop before it even leaves your mouth and think about those words. If you can still change the outcome, just do it. If it's said and done, let it go. There's nothing you can do to change it.

Now before you say, "But what about learning from our mistakes? By saying, could, should or would, I can think about the next time and change my reaction..." Let's face it. There isn't going to be a next time. The next time you're thinking about is going to be a completely different experience than the one you just had. If you already know your error, you'll correct it without dwelling on what might have been. Like I said above, we get to live THIS life just once. Why not own all of our choices, even the ones we're not so proud of. Instead of ending this blog post with the words, "I should be editing my novel," I'm just going to go and do it!


10 February, 2009

Another One of Those Days


I don't like to sink into the because it's just negative energy, so instead of letting the little things get to me today, I schluffed them off and washed them down the drain. Now I'm sitting here with a warm hot chocolate and Bailey's reflecting on where I need to go from this new perspective of mine.

Things have been a little tense for quite some time. When you aren't able to rely on something you put 100% of yourself into, it's incredibly disheartening. Especially when you put so much of yourself into that thing, often sacrificing other things that are important to you for the sake of someone else's success.

If I've learned anything today, it's this: my successes are my own. Times are tough right now, but if I let that discourage me from following my dreams those who would oppose and oppress me win. Maybe the ideals I was raised under are outdated, but they shaped and molded me into who I am. My dreams are my own, they will be my successes, and nothing short of death can take them away.

That's the great thing about being free. Even under tyranny and oppression they can't take your dreams away from you. Dreams are what provide hope on an individual and mass level. I've heard tell recently that the time for being childish and dreaming has come to an end now that the economy has plummeted, but if you ask me what better time to strive for a better reality?

It doesn't matter if the things in your life that are holding you back right now are simple or so major you feel you'll never be free. I hope you take a moment today to remember at least one dream that has sustained you through thick and thin, and pay homage to the power of that dream. It may just lift you up and put you in a place of empowerment.

09 February, 2009

When You're Just Not In the Mood

Today was a little rough around the edges, though now that it's winding down it doesn't feel like the little annoyances really mattered all that much. Despite it all, I managed to spend a great deal of my day laughing, and in the end that is all that matters.

At the end of it all, I just wasn't in the mood to blog tonight, at least not on a philosophical or technical level. But I did want to share a laugh with anyone who needs it at the end of a long Monday.

08 February, 2009

There are No Fair Weather Dreams

I am not a winter girl. I have never been about winter. Born in the second half of May, there is a great longing that begins inside me right around the end of December that is not quelled until I can open the windows for an hour or so each day to start airing out my house. This doesn't usually start in Pennsylvania until the end of March, sometimes the end of April, but these last two days the weather has actually been mild. After spending the last three weeks on edge over temperatures borderlining the negative, yesterday's rising temperatures inspired a bit of hope in this winter weary heart.

My husband thinks I'm crazy. I can't imagine leaving this side of the country because I would feel empty without the change of seasons, but winter weather wears on me so quickly. For years now I've joked that in another life I was a bear because I hibernate the long winter months away, preferring to stay indoors in my comfy clothes, rather than venturing out into the ice and snow. My temper is also just a tad bit higher during the winter months, like a mama bear just daring someone to push her too hard.

The thing is, winter has been a tough time for my family for as long as I can remember. My husband took on a job in the same field as my father because it paid well at the time, but even as a child the housing industry lulled during the winter months. I remember my dad getting laid off from his job, the long months of unemployment barely enough to get our family through. Now my own family struggles through winter under the same pretenses. It's been worse this year than it has been in the entire time my husband's been employed there. For the previous three years he was working half weeks, three day weeks and collecting partial unemployment. This year, he's only worked three days since the New Year dawned.

Despite the financial lag, I enjoy having him around. We get to spend a lot of time together, something that is tough under the strain of his job. During the summer he often worked ten hour days and was required to work at least four on Saturdays. I miss the money, the stability that comes with it, but on the other hand I am reminded of how much he never wanted to take that job in the first place. He is an artist and musician. Plagued by the calling of his craft to create, not being able to answer the muse's whim can be somewhat devastating to one's creativity. Now that he's home, he's been juggling creative projects slowly, trying to regain a sense of what was lost during those long years of slaving for something he really didn't even believe in.

We all do it, and of course I have heard it said, "What else can you do?" I disagree, even though I've been in this situation myself. Suffered through the wrath of disappointments, the hardship of struggling financially through the winter months when work was slow for both of us, but to sacrifice so much of one's self for material gain seems a shame. While I was in college I worked two very flexible jobs, one on campus and one in a restaurant and bar I had worked in on and off for about five years. It was still not enough.

It got me to thinking about all of the gurus out there that talk about doing what you love. There is even a book titled, "Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow." How many of us sacrifice that which we know in our hearts we are meant to do out of fear of failure? Even as we know that if we put our hearts into our dreams, anything is possible. I realize it's difficult to keep that frame of mind when times get tough... even now as the news touts the economic disaster that is our time, there is still possibility. We just refuse to grasp for it out of fear. The thing is, as long as mankind has been recording his history, there has been art, music, stories and even sports.

Sure, we need manufacturers, farmers, computer technicians, teachers... and there are people who are born with that passion in them as well. My mother, for instance, has said for the last fifteen years that all she ever wanted was to be a teacher. So she went back to college, got her degree, became a teacher... And it wasn't easy. Sometimes it's still difficult for her, especially now as it's so hard to find permanent work in our area, but there is potential, and she knows it. My own history hasn't been easy. Since I was ten years old, all I ever wanted was to be a writer. It's how I express myself, how I communicate. I can say things so much more eloquently if I type or write them out, but my own mouth is like a curse, often spewing forth things that don't make sense at all compared to the thoughts I have inside my head. So I've written... I've had my share of minor successes and continue to have them even now. I went to college thinking maybe I should study something that might actually bring me a job, but halfway through my first semester I knew that I was lying to myself. I declared English/Creative Writing as my major despite the hesitation of my advisers.

Why would you want to get an education that isn't going to serve you? That was what one adviser asked me. He told me stories about another girl who majored in art, but worked at Wendy's fast food restaurant now because who was going to hire an art major. But the thing is, my education does serve me. It serves my soul. I know in my heart that despite struggling from time to time, I've made the right choices. I have been true to myself, and I hope you have to. If you haven't, maybe it's time to start listening to your calling. There will always be a need for people to step into places they don't belong, but even greater is the need for people to step into who they are meant to be.

Be yourself. Be true to yourself, and even as the winter months are long, and you find yourself feeling like a bear trapped in a hibernation stupor, remember that the spring will come again. The sun renews the soul and your dreams are waiting for you to remember them.


Believe in yourself
To the depth of your being

Nourish the talents
Your spirit is freeing

Know in your heart
When the going gets slow

That your faith in yourself
Will continue to grow

Don't forfeit ambition
When others may doubt

It's your life to live
You must live it throughout

Learn from your errors
Don't dwell in the past

Never withdraw
From a world that is vast

Believe in yourself
Find the best that is you

Let your spirit prevail
Steer a course that is true

--Author Unknown

07 February, 2009

Pack Up Your Knives and Come Cook for Me


I haven't done this often on here, as I blog entertainment from time to time with my bff on the 2 Screaming Chicks blog, but I love food and I love this show, so the time has come for me to strap on the foam finger and wave Top Chef's Stefan Richter right on through to the Top Chef New York season finale.

I realize that supporting Richter could potentially earn me a bit of slack. After all, he's possibly one of the most arrogant contestants ever to have appeared on Top Chef, as if anyone thought that was even possible after Marcel. On the contrary, there is something much more appealing about Richter's arrogance, and he has certainly proven himself these last few weeks.

I started routing for Stefan when he decided to take it upon himself to seduce the series' lesbian, Jamie, to no avail. Then there was his shirt, "I Make Great Babies." How could you not love a guy with confidence in his sperm count? One of the greatest motivators, however, was when rival contestant Hosea decided to compare his own skill level to Stefan's, grasping at any opportunity he could get in front of the camera to bash the Danish-born, German-raised chef.

During the entire season of Top Chef, Stefan has been on the bottom only once (a complete farce, let me tell you,) which just goes to show he obviously likes control. And if you've got any doubts about his skills, watch this man handle a writhing eel!

Mad Eel Skills

While his arrogance is obviously an issue for many Top Chef viewers, I think there is a lacking "entitlement" that makes that arrogance endearing. The same arrogance on Hosea is lacking in charm, evidence of definite overwatered-wallflower syndrome (ie, he thinks he deserves better, but won't take action to prove himself, unless it's when making out with fellow contestant, Leah, but that's another story.)

My Top Chef prediction is that Stefan is going to take it all the way to the finale and mop up the competition because there hasn't been a chef on there this season who can compare to his skill or his confidence.

You can find out more about Stefan Richter by visiting his website: Stefan's European Catering

Pictures of you....

One of my favorite writing outlets is the personal memoir. I didn't realize this until I took a creative non-fiction writing course in college with one of my favorite writing professors. I had always viewed non-fiction as history, essay and hardcore fact, completely forgetting that some of my favorite non-fiction books were actually auto-biographies and memoirs. The thing that makes memoir-writing exciting to me is that no one ever remembers the same event in exactly the same way. You could have four different people experience an event, and two weeks later have all four people write down the memory of what happened. You can almost guarantee that while all four stories have a similar theme, each one will be completely different.

Not everyone experiences things in the same way. Not everyone processes things in the same way. It's one of the reasons that there is often discord within society. Mankind just wants others to see his point of view, to experience things in the same way he does, but it's just not possible. Sure, we meet up with people that we share views with all the time, but that's not the same thing as trying to get someone to see things exactly the way you do. This is where a good memoir comes in.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Pennsylvania farm country. Though if you had asked me as a kid how fortunate I felt about that, I would have laughed in your face. My family bought a home slap-dab in the center of a middle-class neighborhood that housed about fourteen kids ranging in age from seventeen years to one year. Because of where the neighborhood was nestled, at the base of a small mountain and just above the banks of Muncy Creek, the fourteen kids in that neighborhood had more potential for adventure than you could possibly imagine. Even within the smaller branches of the group, generally based on age, we saw tragedies, wonders and learned a lot about ourselves from each other.

My memories of the way things were are probably much different than the people I grew up with. My views were shaped by perception and personal experiences that none of the others had gone through. My emotions were often altered by my own dealings with those other people, shaping my reactions and experiences. I often wonder how the people I grew up with would react if they were to read some of the stories I've told about our quiet little neighborhood. The revelation of a number of skeletons would probably horrify some, while drawing others together in mutual acquiescence. I often wonder what parents will think when they read some of the things we got up to, and not just my own parents, but parents I respected as a kid immensely. I wonder who would call my memories lies, and who might call them exaggeration, as both have been known to happen where memoirs are concerned, but in the end I don't care.

Those experiences were my own. They were some of the most vivid and colorful years of my life, even on days the color was a hideous shade of blackish-green.

If you've never taken the time to write a memoir before, I can tell you, the experience itself is liberating. All you need for inspiration is an old photo album, maybe some old letters, or just a little time strolling down memory lane. You can start out the process by telling and retelling stories to others by mouth. After all, the art of story telling itself was once verbal, and the more you tell your stories aloud, the easier it will be to write them down.

Many of us who are adults today grew up in a time uniquely different than the one we live in today. There were no cell phones or personal computers when I was a kid. There was no cable television or satellite in my neighborhood. We grew up so far out there that the cable company refused to run a line out our road. Kids didn't spend all of their time indoors battling imaginary video game forces. Sure, we had systems. I grew up on Atari and Sega Genesis, but we knew when to put the paddles down and go outside. As writers, even better as memoir writers, we owe it to our time and to the people who will never get to experience that time, to share our memories. Otherwise they'll be forgotten.

So next time you're wracking your brain for inspiration, and you just can't find a plot, why not take a trip down memory lane? Once you're on the path it'll come rushing back in ways you never dreamed, and that's the stuff history is made of.

Forever the smart ass...

06 February, 2009

Sneak Peek at 2009 Grammy Awards

Take a peak at these great pages the Mahalo Team put together to celebrate the Grammy's this weekend. Everything you want to know and more about this year's Grammys, right here at your fingertips.

Neil Diamond MusiCares Person of the Year
Smokey Robinson Grammy Performance
Stevie Wonder Grammy Performance
M.I.A. Grammy Performance
Kenny Chesney Grammy Performance
Sugarland Grammy Performance
Jamie Fox Ne-Yo Grammy Performance
Carrie Underwood Grammy Performance
Jay-Z Grammy Performance
T.I. Grammy Performance
Chris Brown Grammy Performance
Adele Grammy Performance
Kanye West Grammy Performance
Jonas Brothers Grammy Performance
Jennifer Hudson Grammy Performance
Rihanna Grammy Performance
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Grammy Performance
Kid Rock Grammy Performance
U2 Grammy Performance
Radiohead Grammy Performance
Paul McCartney Grammy Performance
Katy Perry Grammy Performance
Coldplay Grammy Performance
Lil Wayne Grammy Performance
Justin Timberlake Grammy PerformanceBest Rock Album 2009 Grammy Performance
Best Alternative Music Album 2009 Grammys
Best Country Album 2009 Grammys
Best Pop Vocal Album 2009 Grammys
Best Rap Album 2009 Grammys
Grammy Awards
Grammy Nominations
2009 Grammy Nominations
Album of the Year 2009 Grammys
Song of the Year 2009 Grammys
Record of the Year 2009 Grammys
Best New Artist 2009 Grammys
2009 Grammy Nomination Performances
2009 Grammy Performances
Grammy Winners 2009
2009 Grammy Awards Photos
Grammy 2009 Live Coverage

05 February, 2009

Into the Dreamscape

As long as I can remember, dreams have been one of my favored pastimes. Whether I was waking up from an intense escapade and hurriedly recording it in my dream journal, or sitting by the window as it rained daydreaming about some faraway place I'd rather be, my life has been a myriad of wonders thanks to how attentive I have been to my own dreams.

So fascinated with dreams have I been that it is a rare occasion for me to write anything longer than a short story without some kind of dream sequence in it. Main characters dreaming of the symbolic guidance they seek or slipping into a world dictated by dreaming itself... the dream world is a place in which anything can and usually does happen.

Whether you're Freudian in your dream beliefs or you've evolved with the studies over the last century, what we know about dreams and their actual function in our life is very little. Some theorists believe that dreams are the mind's way of processing events, thoughts and occurrences from the day before. Others think that dreams are important messages sent to us by the brain about things in our life that we might be overlooking, ie. health problems, struggles in relationships and so on. There are even people who believe that because dreams occur during an altered state of consciousness they are messages from the divine or the universe that occur in symbolic forms. People have told stories of the divine messages they've received, of how they dreamed of things before they happened, dreamed of people before they ever met...

The thing about dreams that makes them great fodder for stories is the interpretation of symbols. Universal symbols are easier to work with, and if you do a little research into basic dream symbols it's easy to incorporate a little dream mystery into your plot line. Deeper research into dream interpretation methods holds the potential to create a rich plot steeped in subtle symbols. The thing is, we all create our own symbols, based on our personal experiences, so the universal symbol for a bumblebee might not mean the same thing to someone who lives in the Tundra as it would for a person who lived on the equator.

Another great idea that has actually proven pretty productive for me over the years is writing down your dreams and drawing story ideas from the bizarre occurrences and symbols within. This morning I dreamed about robots that looked exactly like people (yeah, yeah, we all know I watch too much Battlestar Galactica while on the treadmill...) infiltrating a city school system to destroy the children. I was chosen, along with four other people to go back into a specific section of the school to secure the area. I had one person to back me up. As I walked into the school, my back up person behind me, there was a flash of light that revealed a person up ahead. I shot and hit the person, and we surged forward to detain them. It was Arnold Swarzeneggar... ironic because of his role in the Terminator series... Now I'm certainly not going to write Battlestar Galactica/Terminator Crossover Fanfiction, but there were several inspiring ideas in the overall span of the dream.

And what if you're not into writing fiction? Poetry! My personal notebooks are filled to the brim with dream-inspired poetry. Abstract and structured poems alike, the unstable territory of the dreamworld is an intense medium for channeling the profound.

I know there are probably quite a few people out there who are already shaking their heads while reading, ready to assure me rather matter-of-factly that they don't dream, but that's just not true. Everyone dreams, every night. As long as your body enters into REM sleep each night, you can guarantee that you have dreamed. Unfortunately a lot of people don't remember their dreams. If you happen to be one of those unfortunate people, you can work to change this by thinking differently about dreams. By deciding that you will remember your dreams, you increase your chances of waking up with the aftermath of nightly wanderings still fresh in your mind. The next step is to start writing them down. Keeping an active dream journal will guarantee that you not only increase the frequency of your dreams, but you become more likely to remember them.

In a world where they continually say there is nothing new under the sun, why not step out onto the dreamscape and take a gander. The sun may not even shine where you dream, so what on earth are they going to say about that?

I leave you with these final thoughts by Edgar Allan Poe:


Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! tho' that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
'Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.
But should it be- that dream eternally
Continuing- as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood- should it thus be given,
'Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven.
For I have revell'd, when the sun was bright
I' the summer sky, in dreams of living light
And loveliness,- have left my very heart
In climes of my imagining, apart
From mine own home, with beings that have been
Of mine own thought- what more could I have seen?
'Twas once- and only once- and the wild hour
From my remembrance shall not pass- some power
Or spell had bound me- 'twas the chilly wind
Came o'er me in the night, and left behind
Its image on my spirit- or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly- or the stars- howe'er it was
That dream was as that night-wind- let it pass.

I have been happy, tho' in a dream.
I have been happy- and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life,
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality, which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love- and all our own!
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.

04 February, 2009

Watch Your Mouth... or Your Pen...

Or even your keyboard. This is not something I ever really wanted to do. Watching what I said for the simple sake of sparing someone else from disagreeing with me has never been my style. Not that I go around looking for ways to offend people, but with the luxury of free speech, why not speak our minds?

I started thinking about this when last night, while writing my nightly poem in bed, I had a great starter line for a short story. Offensive, completely! As I scrawled it on the back of the poem so I didn't forget it to today, I thought about all of the people that one line had the potential to offend. Neighbors, old family friends, former professors, hell, just about everyone I'd ever met really. It made me want to get to work straight away on writing the story, even if it's already been hinted at or done in other places.

Why? Because watching what we say has made us soft and boring. Soft like goo, oozing through the world's fingers without thought or opinion of our own. I swear if I could go back in time and erase political correctness before it became a trend, I would, but then what?

So tell me, fellow writers, even fellow speakers or just human beings, how often do you hold back and refrain from exploring a plotline or avenue of interst out of fear for what the majority will think? While biting down on your tongue so hard you start to taste blood, does it ever occur to you that maybe the people you're afraid of are thinking the same thing? It's a fine line between being honest and just being crass, I realize that, but by not being honest with the world, we lie to ourselves.

So the next time you have a really good thought that you shy away from simply because you're afraid of what others might think of you for writing it, or speaking about it, embrace it. Maybe you're not out to start a revolution in the way people think, but your words may be powerful enough to inspire someone else to do it. Don't bite your tongue. It hurts.

On that note, this is what I want for my birthday:

CAD - Starbucks mug @ SplitReason.com
CAD - Starbucks mug design @ © SplitReason.com

03 February, 2009

A Health to the Company

We all have our blessings, things we go to bed at night thanking the Gods for. When I step back from the shadow of the day, I can't complain about the hand I've been dealt. Sure, I have wanted more at times, and there have been other times when I was sure that I deserved more than I got, but when it all comes down to it, there has been very little in my life I have had to do without.

As I mentioned in Sunday's blog, I was blessed with the good fortune of finding my soul mate early in my life. On that same note, I was lucky enough to encounter two of the greatest friends I would ever know in those final years of high school, and I'm sure it was their love and friendship that saw me through some of the most awkward and difficult moments of my youth.

Good friends are hard to come by, especially when you're young and the way you define friendship is so confused by all the nonsense going on around you. There were a number of people I kept in touch with for awhile after I left school, but even they dwindled out of my life, our experiences and dreams putting a wedge between us that made us no longer as identifiable to one another as we once were.

Maybe our values changed, or our habits differed. Maybe one grew up and the other didn't. The truth is, people move on, but you can tell who was meant to be a part of your life longterm when after eighteen years, you can look to your left or your right, (or even on your facebook page,) and see their smiling face beaming back at you. Even after all this time, you can still share a good laugh together (sometimes so hard you almost pee your pants.)

Today, my friend Mindy commented about how lucky she was to have been blessed with real girlfriends in her life. People she had lived with, gone through weddings, births, divorces and deaths together. People you could call at any hour of the day when you needed someone, and that was one of the things that got me to thinking about this topic.

I know that I am blessed. I have some of the most wonderful friends in the world, people I have shared dreams and shattered hopes with. People who stood on the sidelines and cheered me on, or got up and walked the walk with me, even through rain and sleet and snow, sometimes without shoes. People I would do the same for without any expectation whatsoever, because that's what love is.

So, here's a health to the company, let us drink and be merry all out of one glass. I hope you'll all raise your glass tonight (be it filled with water or wine,) to all of the friends in your life, be they old or new, borrowed or blue (they could be aliens... I don't know). In a world that all too often seems at odds and war, the more often we reach out and squeeze the ones we love around us, the less daunting the hardships will be.

The Beatles once said, "All you need is love," and I'm inclined to concur. Thank you, good night, I love you all.

02 February, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

So I was tagged a couple different places for this one, and the same list is getting posted everywhere because if I kept doing it it would like 100 random things about me, and frankly if you think I'm random now... keep asking me to create random craziness and you'll see I get much more random. I also already tagged about 40 people all over the net for this, so no tags attached. If you do decide to post a 25 random things about me blog, please let me know. I'd love to learn 25 random things about each and every one of you.

Now, without further ado, 25 Random Things About Me:

1. I am not afraid to admit that I kicked the treadmill's ass today!

2. I currently want to throw my dog out the window... Seriously, who eats pumice stones, Loki? Who?

3. I have giant hair. It's massive. Seriously.

4. My favorite show every created in the history of the universe is Battlestar Galactica (the reimagined series).

5. I am secretly hiding the fact that I am a cylon. Call me a toaster again, I dare ya!

6. I have one daughter who just turned fourteen and I think she is the most beautiful human being ever to have been brought to life.

7. I have two ideas for new tattoos and can't wait until I have the money to get them.

8. Didn't think I would like facebook, but it brought me back to a couple people I really missed. Go internet.

9. I went to college with the intention of getting a degree I could enter the workforce with, however, once I got there, I couldn't stop myself from becoming the inevitable English major.

10. Firmly believes that what you focus on expands. If you're sitting around whinging about how crappy your life is, guess what, it's gonna get crappier... Suck it up and think positive.

11. I have a secret crush on Sting... shut up, it is too a secret. :p

12. I have never met my biological father. He likes to pretend I don't exist. The good thing is, I got a good dad without him, so take that. *karate chop*

13. I think the world needs to laugh a little more and whine a lot less.

14. I have very little tolerance for people who refuse to help themselves. It's a flaw, I know.

15. I plan to move to Scotland to live out the rest of my days.

16. It was firmly decided upon my tenth birthday that I would grow up to be a writer. If only I had known that not all writers make Stephen King's salary.

17. Have I mentioned lately that I'm a cylon?

18. I believe we need to step backward in time and return to the place where family and friends were more important than money and "things."

19. I was fortunate enough to have met my soul mate early in life. Spending life together has been an adventure. YAY for adventure.

20. I think everyone in the world should have an iPod. Music is love, people.

21. I think we need to return to a time of patronage so that real artists with real dreams aren't left to suffer in factories.

22. I think it's lovely that everyone gets to express themselves these days, but people who can't tell a story shouldn't be allowed to get paid to write them.

23. I am not ashamed to admit that Neil Gaiman is my hero.

24. I am glad that I only need to come up with one more random thing-a-ma-whats-it.

25. I miss living in Pittsburgh sometimes, but I would never raise a kid there.

Out with the Old, In with the New

This is the perfect frame of mind for this time of year, Imbolc, which is also known as Midwinter and Candlemas, depending on who you are. Imbolc is an ancient, Celtic pagan holiday that honors the first inklings of the coming spring. In days of old, it was the time when the ewes udders began to grow heavy with milk, a sure sign that the birthing season was on its way.

Today, Imbolc is more commonly known across the western world as "Groundhog Day." Prognosticating woodchucks all across the states climb out of their holes and dictate whether or not winter will flee or linger based on whether or not they see their shadows.

For my family, however, it is a household holiday in honor of the Goddess Brigid. Brigid was the daughter of the Dagda and the Morrigan. She is often turned to by poets and smithies and those who practice the healing arts. Brigid also centers around the element of fire, something that is both abundant in our hearths during the long winter months, but lacking in our skies with the sun only just beginning its long journey back to warmer days.

In honor of Brigid today, and to show the sun how much I long for his return, I took our holiday wreath down from the door and burned it in our fire pit out back. As one of the last symbols of yule remaining in the home, it was a farewell to winter ritual that left me feeling filled with hope for the loosening of tension to come as the weather grows warmer, work returns to our region and the earth prepares itself to receive our seeds. Because Imbolc is an early celebration of fertility, it is the perfect time to begin planning out the garden we will plant this spring.

For those who feel wound in the endless twines of winter, Imbolc is a time to loosen the twine and take a deep breath. Rest assured that spring is on the way, and before you know it tulips will be pushing through the fresh, green grass.

Last, but not least, Imbolc is a time to look to the future. Spring cleaning is obviously not a favored pastime for many, but consider it a time in which you can make room for new things in your life, but packing up the old and removing it. Think of your life and your space in terms of how full it is. If your home is filled with clutter then in order to create space for new things you'll want to part with that which no longer serves you. This also applies to people, ideals, thoughts and habits. It is a great time to remove negative energy from your life in order to make room for positive energy and growth.

Blessed Imbolc, and may Brigid whisper endless inspiration into every muse's ear, providing a year's worth of creativity and prosperity.

01 February, 2009

Love...it's exciting and new...

This morning was a great wake-up. To be able to roll over and cuddle up in those final few minutes before climbing out of bed. I have been married to my best friend for almost thirteen years. We've known each other for nineteen years, and even after all this time, there is no one else in the world I want to spend time with as much as I do him? We've been through a lot of difficult times together, and yet even through the toughest of them we managed to come out of them even closer than we were before. That is love.

What got me thinking about love is the interaction between two of the charcters in the current story I am working on. A male cybernetic being is talking to a human woman about love and death. She mentions that her husband died before war broke out, shot by terrorists in the park, and had she not shortly thereafter discovered that she was pregnant, she would have taken her own life. She tells him that now if anything ever happened to her son... if it ever came down to it, she would throw her life down without a second thought to save his. He is perplexed by this, not able to process the notion of love being strong enough to dictate the outcome of one's life, but for some people it really is that strong. Romeo and Juliet... suicidal at the mere thought of one losing the other. Characters in a story, yes, but as Oscar Wilde once said, "Life imitates art fare more than art imitates life."

Love is such a powerful force. Those five words seem limp as three day old lettuce in comparison to the actual power of love. When I sit down and try to imagine what my life might have been with him in it, I seem nothing. No him would mean that the child I have now would never have come into being, and thinking about a life without either of those two people just isn't something I like to do.

The funny thing is, we were destined to be together. I truly believe that. We met at the local mall while I was still in high school. He had only just come back from living in Los Angeles. Being a giggling teenager, I and my friend Liz followed him and his friend Andy around the mall for about an hour before we finally followed them out one of the exits, pretending we were going to our car. He came after us. Being incredibly shy, it was a feat for him that only fate could have pushed. He came over and gave me his phone number and the next day we talked on the phone for six hours before he finally convinced his friend to drive down to see me. That night before he left, he kissed me for the first time and told me that he could already see himself spending the rest of his life with me... like we had known each other for an eternity.

I don't like to think about what my life would be like without having ever met him. There were times in the past when things seemed tough that I thought maybe we both would have been better off had we never met, but I know better now. Life's experiences, the ones that we lay on our deathbed contemplating, it's those types of experiences I want to be thinking about. How I was blessed enough to have loved so deeply, to have been loved so deeply... how that no matter how low I felt because of things I had been through, or how badly I felt about myself, there was someone there for me who couldn't see all of those flaws I thought were fatal. And if he did see them, he could see through them, into the person that I really was, and that was who he loved.

I think about all of the people who never find love... who marry out of loneliness only to find themselves even more miserable than they were when they were alone... who marry because their parents' made a choice for them before they were even old enough to think about their own future, and it makes me very sad. Sure, some of those people fall in love. I am reminded of the scene in Fiddler on the Roof (yes, life imitates art, yet again,) when Tevye comes home and asks Golda, "Do you love me?" It seems an absurd question to her. Their relationship has gone on so long that they no longer thought about love the way the young do, but it was there nonetheless. Despite having an arranged marriage, over time they came to love one another very deeply, but not everyone is so lucky.

So when I think about how lucky I am, I don't gloat, but I do treasure it, and I hope that everyone in the world can experience the kind of love that I have been fortunate enough to know. It makes the world go around. Some days it may seem like money, war, hatred and greed are what spin the globe, but that's what the media would like us to believe. They want us to dwell on the gloom and the sorrow, but there is beauty and wonder out there yet.

There are people who are filled with love and hope, and in the end I feel very strongly that love will triumph over all this darkness. Maybe I've read too many fairy tales, but that's what I believe. The strength and power in love is more powerful than hate, it's just easier to sink into hate when things feel dark.

Love. It's the order of the day.

Oh yeah, and GO STEELERS!