20 Things I Learned on Vacation

We drove home overnight from a short camping trip to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Taos on notice that our goat had given birth while we were gone. (rolleyes) Really?! How do they know when the absolutely most inconvenient time will be?

Anyway, in an effort to keep vacation alive and kicking for at least a few more minutes, here is a list of some wonderful, wacky, and odd things I learned on this trip. (Please remember I’m Scottish and have a hard core bent for sarcasm.)

1. Despite a babbling mountain stream and chirping birds filling a serene canyon with peaceful, meditative sounds, playing music as loud as possible is a MUST-HAVE for camping out.

2. Sage brush tangled in a barbed-wire fence in the dead of night looks suspiciously like a deer ready to bound into traffic.

3. The Rio Grande is a big river in New Mexico and has formed a gorge that is fun to explore, or at least drag your dog un-willlingly to the rim.

4. If you walk through a spa to check it out in your street clothes, everyone stares wildly.

5. Anyone parked on a forest road in a beat up car at one in the morning terrifies me.

6. People with a chain saw can make good money in a national forest.

7. A bottle of soda at a ski resort in the summer months costs more than a McDonald’s hamburger.

8. Eighteen year old girls are just as bitchy in the wilderness as they are at home.

9. Flies beside a babbling mountain stream smash without taking flight.

10. The mini-van battery will fail if the doors are left open and someone plays the WiiU for two minutes.

11. Being two miles down a dirt pot-hole filled road in the middle of a national forest when your car battery dies sucks.

12. Even if I move my chair two hundred yards from the fire pit, the smoke will still engulf me.

13. Driving hairpin ‘S’ curves back-to-back at twenty miles per hour after dark in the mountains is almost as bad as driving a flat straight road at seventy miles per hour across the Oklahoma panhandle.

14. Farm animals birth their young while everyone is gone.

15. Wal-Mart is not universally the “same”.

16. The degree by which an item is necessary for a successful camp-out is directly proportional to what remains at home on the dining room table.

17. The shadow from a cloud can look like a dragon climbing over a mountain top or a pterodactyl attacking a T. Rex.

18. Despite amazing and yummy looking pictures on the internet, cooking a hot dog wrapped in biscuit dough on a stick over a fire results in a gooey mass of half-baked dough falling into the fire with the hot dog still cold.

19. Cats left behind will search their owners belongings at will … and leave behind presents in the most unusual places.

20. Four-wheelers top the list of camping essentials. Apparently.

A Simple Lie

I’ve heard a lot over the years about the “simple” life. Especially in the last half-decade or so, people are gung-ho to lead a more simplified life, eat simple foods, have simple hobbies, etc … Even long running tv shows like “The Victory Garden” have subscribed to this genre of living.

Every time I hear the phrase “The Simple Life”, I have to laugh. Because the reality is, it isn’t simple. No matter where you live, what you do for a career, the size of your house, or the diet that you eat, life is not simple.

It’s complicated.

Relationships with other people are complicated.

Making money is complicated.

Obtaining necessary life items is complicated.

Raising chickens is for certain complicated.

Raising children is even more complicated.

(I think you get the gist. )

So, honestly, no one lives a simple life. There is no simple life to live. If you are alive and you are living and you are doing anything – parenting, gardening, farming, banking, teaching, living in a bus, etc … – if you get out of bed in the morning and speak to anyone else, if you go to a store of any kind, if you pick up your smart phone from your bedside table, … you have already lost the “simple” life.

Simple is a lie we tell ourselves to make us feel better or perhaps make us feel like we’ve accomplished something more than we have. All I know is that if someone is selling you free range eggs in the farmer’s market along with their veggies and honey and jam, and they are extolling the virtues of living the “simple” life, they are lying to you.

Want proof? Okay, go buy a few chickens, dig a garden, and cook up a jar of jam. Then come tell me how simple your life really is.

Paragraphs in Fiction

I review a lot of other writers stuff. Or maybe critique is a better word. Hands down the one problem I see over and over and over is with paragraphing.

The most common thing writers seem to do is combine the actions of more than one character within a single paragraph. For instance:

“Mary watched as Jimbo combed his hair over his bald spot. She just didn’t know if she could love a man with a bald head. Jimbo clearly made googly eyes at her all the time, so he must be interested. But Mary was going to have to stop this before it went too far.”

Is this paragraph about Mary or Jimbo?

The reader will make a determination about it even if the writer didn’t mean what the reader infers. If the reader infers correctly, then all is good, but if the reader infers incorrectly, problems will ensue that could lead to the reader putting the book down and walking away. No one wants to be confused.  And no writer wants the reader to quit reading before the end of the book.

Each character should have their own paragraph for action. Period. It’s that simple. So, to correct this:

“Jimbo combed his hair over his bald spot.

Mary shook her head. She wasn’t sure she could love a man with a bald head. What would people think?

He looked her way, winked, and smiled. Turning in his seat, he waved a finger towards her.

She didn’t wave back. The flirting had to stop and stop now. She was never going to love him.”

Prose aside (I am not a romance writer by any means … ) This version is very clear as to who is doing what and thinking what. Each paragraph contains the actions of one character. There is no chance for confusing the reader. Yes, it uses a few more words, but those words mean something.

Good writing takes work. It’s more than just putting a story on the page. And making sure you’re paragraphs are clear is one small way to make your writing better.

Monday …

Ewwww … look at all the pretty sparkles on my computer screen.

Sneezing my brains out on this fine Monday. Sneezing my brains out and itching like mad from chigger bites. Sneezing my brains out, itching like mad, and blogging.

What a Monday.

I really need to take some time and re-plan, re-focus, and generally overhaul my blog. But I’m just not sure what I want to do with it.

So many writers have a focus that they pursue with gusto, advertisements for various companies popping up on the page, and, I assume, a means of income from it. They talk about food or family or parenting or kids or travel or books or ….

I don’t think I’m cut out for that.

I started this blog to journal my descent into madness    loss of sanity     writing adventures, no matter what path that took and focusing my efforts on one thing, or one part of it, wouldn’t work for me.

I am going to start posting more writerly things though. More book reviews by authors I love, more tips for the fiction writers out there, more experiences I am having in the publishing world.

And stop focusing on whatever comes to mind as I write.

At least that’s the plan.

But it’s Monday … and my plan’s almost never work the way they are supposed to …

A Series of Short Stories

Well, I did it. I am officially a published author who has now actually sold my work and gotten reviews on Amazon for it.

For so long I thought it was such an ultimate and somehow unachievable goal and then I did it. Now I’m wondering what it was I kept thinking was so hard to achieve.

Here’s the link to the first short story in the series. Only 99cents available worldwide.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZMWRLNA?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

and

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/551602

One day it even made it into the top 50 bestsellers for the day in Kindle short reads. And I have my first two reviews for it … both 5 star.

I’m certainly not going to become rich and famous from it. It’s only one little short story. But I have more stories to add to it. The next installment will come out on July 10 but is available for preorder through Amazon now. It will have three short stories together that continue the tale.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010123S2I?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

The plan is that once I’ve finished writing all of them, to put them together into one book and make it available on Kindle Unlimited. But for now they’ll come in installments at a mere 99cents. Great for a lunch time break or quick read before bed.

Adoption: The Fine Print

I read a twitter post the other day that said: “What’s written between the lines is more important than what’s written on the lines.”

Honestly, I was offended by it. Immediately I set out to refute it in any way I could. I even started writing three different blog posts about how wrong it was, but I couldn’t complete them for one reason or another. Suffice it to say I don’t agree.

Why might you ask? Because I have had people “misunderstand” what I’ve said in written form and all but persecute me for their misunderstanding all because they didn’t read the words on the page and instead assumed what they read between the lines was the most important thing … no matter how wrong they were.

The problem with what is written between the lines is that it is personal to whoever is reading it, to their mood, the happenings of their day, their past, their insecurities, their life experience. Like writing in first person POV, it is flawed before it ever begins. Those things written between the lines are unreliable, fleeting, changeable.

And yet, there are times when I find the writing-between-the-lines speaking to me.

Like today (and many others like this). Today is “one of those days” with our teenage daughter. She’s being a rude, disrespectful, stubborn, dramatic, know-it-all. Yeah, basically she’s a teen.

But she’s not like every other teen in one big way. We adopted her at the age of eleven.

(Before you go all knives and bombs on me … walk in my shoes. )

The adoption judge told us, point blank, “If you sign this contract of adoption you are agreeing that this child is yours just as much as any child you gave birth to. There is no difference. You are agreeing that you will not refer to her as your adopted child or give up on her and try to give her back or otherwise make her feel as if she isn’t a part of your family in every way.”

Okay. We agreed.

Problem is … no one explained that to the kid. And no matter what our agreement or intent, she has always had her own.

I have regretted the decision to adopt her many times over … probably as many times as I have applauded our decision to adopt her. And no matter what anyone says adopting a child is not like having one of your own because of one little thing.

They always know they have someone else with whom they share blood out there in the world and they want to meet them and have dreams that somehow that family will be everything perfect in the world that they don’t have now.

That thought is ever present in their mind and as adoptive parents there is no way to remove it. Ever. Not even when they find out the absolute worst about their biological family and why they were given up for adoption. They’ve held on to the belief that life is better and somehow perfect somewhere else their entire life and no amount of truth will dislodge it.

As adoptive parents we are fighting constantly against “what is written between the lines” in their life. Striving to be better than an unknown ideal of perfection that we can never achieve.

It isn’t OUR viewpoint, it isn’t what WE see between the lines.

It’s their monster that we can’t even begin to understand, let alone fight or conquer. And yet we’re the ones left dragged through the dirt and mud, trampled on by boots and words, emotionally ripped to shreds, and then left to rot in the summer sun.

No, adopting a child is not like giving birth to one. But if you hang on to the end, you know that you have loved someone else in a way that is harder than you’ve ever loved anyone else. If you can adopt a child, you can do anything, survive anything, conquer anything.

What’s written between the lines is not more important than what’s written on the page but it can have a significant impact on your life. Being aware of what might be there is important but the words are what counts.