The Business of the Writing Conference

I’m a sucker.

Been one all my life.

Someone says please or you’ll be perfect at this and I’m there.

That’s how it all starts to unravel in my world. “will you please?” “please help”

“sure. what do you need?”

Sometimes there is an advantage to volunteering. Tonight one of the other volunteers offered to put in a good word for my writing with his publisher. Tomorrow I get to meet six agents while I control their schedules for a few hours. (Oh the power … hehe, haha … )

But really, being a volunteer in charge of something or other, usually means sooner or later crap will fall, feelings will get hurt, toes will be stepped on …

I learned long ago that pleasing everyone was impossible, so I please myself, act professionally, and give as much as I have to give. I embrace the mistakes and the successes. I never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. And I distribute the load.

I was the president of one organization I belonged to for two years. The biggest gripe I got about my leadership style …

… I didn’t micromanage and try to control everything.

Um, really?? That’s a problem how exactly? I expect adults to act like adults and do their jobs, take responsibility, put on their big girl panties. A true leader doesn’t tell people what to do. A true leader shows people what they are capable of doing and follows happily in their trail removing the dung.

So what does leadership have to do with volunteering?

Everything. Being a good volunteer means knowing how to serve others and the best way to learn service to others is by being a leader.

Not that I’m a leader here. Just a grunt, still. I paid for the privilege of doing all this work. Kind of like a vacation in reverse. I paid for the privilege of understanding what goes on behind the scenes.

It’s like having a back stage pass at a rock concert. Only not so much … drama … or noise.

Writers be mostly a quiet bunch … unless they are all in a room together. Then all bets are off. Talking will ensue. Stories will be told. And the one left standing takes everyone else home.

Good thing we’re all in one hotel.

When the Going Gets Tough, Everything Else Becomes Irrelevant

All those moments of big changes in life, successes, failures, moves, births, deaths, etc … are always bittersweet and somewhat depressing for me. Even the really really really good stuff can get me down.

No, I’m not a pessimist by nature. I don’t thrive on the macabre.

For a long time, the depression puzzled me. We’d sit there at Christmas, unwrap more gifts than some people get in a lifetime, and I’d be on the verge of tears. I win a writing contest and for a week I can’t write a thing and feel like destroying everything I’ve ever written before then.

Someone once told me I was afraid of success. I thought they were nuts. Then I thought about it some more and thought maybe they were right. Which just depressed me even more and made me quit trying. I figured I’d just sabotage myself.

But the older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that’s not it. For me, the depression is simply the normal reaction to a big change in life.

I mean, it would be great if we could sail on forever in the glory of our big successes and let them empower us to new heights. But, the reality is, when we have a big change of any kind in our lives, we momentarily become blind to everything else in our world. Whatever that moment is becomes so intense it occupies every thought, every action, every emotion and leaves us with nothing to give to anything else.

For whatever period of time we are engaged in that big change, all the little stuff of life that keeps us sane disappears making it impossible to transfer all the momentum.

And it’s a good thing too.

I’m sure somewhere in our psyche we installed a mechanism to help us cope with tragedy and not become overwhelmed by it. But our bodies can’t tell if that adrenaline rush is caused by fear or happiness, by utter disappointment or sheer joy, by losing a loved one or winning the lottery. Our bodies just know that we’ve had a rush of adrenaline and it needs to respond.

Sometimes I think that psychologists and counselors and doctors forget that our emotional self is based on our physical being. They like to complicate things. They like to explain everything in terms of their profession, by listing symptoms only or emotions only.

If only someone would see they are both part of one human being … and keep in mind that the easiest and best explanation for anything that happens, is usually the simplest as well.

When something big happens, the adrenaline rush shuts down everything except what I need to survive for that period of time. I become focused on a single task and everything else fades away.

But when the world comes crashing back in, I’m suddenly faced with ten or twenty or forty tasks again instead of just the one. I become overwhelmed, like a baby at a fireworks show. I need time to adjust to the new world around me.

And that’s okay. Because being human … is okay by me.

 

Business Card Mania

business card 2015 back

So this is the back of my new business card.

The quotes read:

“read it before it reads you”

“life is short, be scared”

“being well read is the new red”

“exercise is good for the heart, scream and run”

“sleep when you die, until then read”

Ones by Edgar Allen Poe struck me as too stuffy. Stephen King’s were too long. So I just made them up. The fourth one, about exercise, is a nod to my highschool classmate that is a running coach. My husband thinks it’s hysterical.

For two years people have been telling me that I need business cards as an author to pass my name around. As I’m gearing up for OWFI conference in a couple of weeks, I decided it was time. The front looks much the same, same lettering styles, same colors but sharing my phone number with the world is not really going to happen right now.

I hope they make a statement …

If We Were Really Honest on Social Media

You know those posts on social media where we make a list of everything we have accomplished in a day or everything we have to do for the week? Things like “Baked 6 pies for the church social, finished 4 loads of laundry, weeded the garden, wrote a new short story, made a grocery list, and wrapped three gifts for the birthday party.”

There’s nothing wrong with them. They make us look good, bolster our image, show people what our days consist of. Probably more important, they make us feel good about ourselves or help us to make peace with a not so wonderful day.

I find myself posting them on occasion.

But lately, my newsfeed seems to be overrun and it got me to thinking about what those posts would read like if we were really honest about our days activities.

-Washed the dishes.

-Changed clothes.

-Argued with my spouse 26 times about stuff I can’t even remember now.

-Spent an hour and half petting cats, not by choice.

-Posted 8 updates on social media.

-Sat on the toilet 20 mins after breakfast so I could peruse Facebook uninterrupted.

-Ate half a bag of potato chips for supper.

-Yelled at my kids twice.

-Bought lottery tickets.

-Read two pages of a book, got bored, turned on Netflix and watched 8 hours.

-Dreamed about buying a new house.

-Got depressed about not accomplishing anything and ate a pint of ice cream.

(Obviously, the list could go on and on and on. )

During the 1950’s when television first became common, the shows promoted a life in the US that was all happy and perfect. Everyone had a great house, great parents, great kids, did well in school, wore beautiful clothing, etc. No one ever had troubles in life and if they did they were solved in a single afternoon. Every new product manufactured was the most brilliant thing and would make life easier, better, etc.

People believed the lie and it change society.

Nowadays, TV obviously isn’t the same as it was in the beginning, but in some ways we are in the same kind of phase with social media.

We post pics of our smiling children, happy days from times past, brag about our accomplishments, and show off our new “stuff”. And it’s easy to look at someone elses posts and think what a wonderful life they must have.

But like TV in the 50’s, there is a false facade to it all.

One of my friends from highschool texted me one day about an issue she was having with her spouse over a lifestyle choice she made. When I relayed my own frustration with my own spouse over a similar issue, she didn’t respond for a moment. I thought I had somehow pissed her off.

Instead, a few minutes later, I got a reply. “OMG. That makes me feel so much better. Here I thought you had this perfect marriage and you all were skipping around to disney tunes working together.”

I nearly fell over.

Really.

Who would ever think THAT about my life?

And then I realized that the only thing she knew about my married life from the distance we interacted was what I posted on social media. All she saw was the good stuff … and none of the clawing, fighting, scratching, angst that led up to it.

So, as you go through your day, reading about what others have accomplished, seeing their shiny new stuff, admiring their grandkids, thinking what a grand life they have … remember this.

They are human too. Just like you. Just like me. We all have moments of glory and pride and we all have moments of despair (and all points in between). To really share a relationship with another person, we have to move beyond the pleasantries and politeness and embrace compassion …

not only for them, but for ourselves as well.

Can Someone Please Turn Me Off Now????

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Spring always does this to me but despite knowing that it’s coming, planning for it, recalling last year’s non-stop days and nights, nothing I do ever prepares me for it’s onslaught.

I get up with the sun. I go to bed …

Who am I kidding? I rarely go to bed. I may have my head on the pillow but I’m not sleeping or resting even.

Why? Because my brain never shuts off.

My grandmother had the same problem. She swore that if someone ever invented an off switch for humans, she’d be the first one in line to buy one. I’d be second.

It’s not that I dislike having an active schedule. That part I enjoy. It’s all the moments between the active where I’m waiting or traveling from one point to another or twiddling my thumbs because someone else isn’t quite ready to go yet that drive me bonkers.

And the sheer lack of time to just sit down and do nothing and not have to go anywhere in half an hour or two hours or whatever.

Today I left my house at 5:30 am and arrived back home at 11:10 pm. And in between those two times I drove 5 1/2 hours, sat in the car waiting on someone 2 1/2 hours, interacted directly with 12 people, ate in three different restaurants with snacks from a convenience store, grocery shopped at a big box store, took my son shopping, bought a book, checked on my dad’s garden, talked to my mom about our land surveys, used the restroom 6 times, wrote an article for a blogging newsletter, posted four photos to social media, was attacked by a ketchup bottle, stepped in cat vomit, and finally ate supper at 9:45 pm.

I am exhausted … but so keyed up I can’t sleep.

Ironic isn’t it.

My yawns have yawns but as soon as I lay down my head, my eyes pop open and my mind races to write the perfect pitch, to finish the last short story, to outline the next novel chapter, to polish the current edit.

STOP!!! brain, STOP!!!!

I Don’t Want To Be An Activist

One of the first posts I read on social media this morning was spurring me on to become an activist, to spread the word about the matters of the world, to use my voice to educate others about “causes”.

Well … no.

It’s not that I don’t think people need to know about certain things in our world or that there’s anything wrong with speaking your mind about them. But, I don’t want to be an activist.

I want to be active.

I don’t want to spend all my time talking about compassion and passion or the things I’m passionate about …

I want to be compassionate.

It’s amazing to me how ready people are to take up signs and form a rally and post things on social media about great causes in our world or even small causes in our world … or sometimes even pointless causes in their world … and yet what are they accomplishing?

If you spend all day sitting on the steps of the capitol building or perfecting a blog post and social media storm, what have you done to change the situation?

Isn’t the saying Be The Change You Wish To See ?

It’s like Christians who faithfully go to church every time the doors open and talk about the poor sinners in the world but never make friends with them.

Or the republicans who scream about how families should take care of their own instead of the government … but won’t go see their poor cousin in the trailer park whose kids didn’t eat supper last night let alone give them money to help them out.

Or the non-GMO activist who hangs up his sign for the day and goes out to eat fast food.

What is the point of promoting and pushing and fighting for a cause, if you’re not living the solution in the first place?

It doesn’t take another blog about feeding the hungry to solve world hunger. It takes you and me building a community garden, planting apple trees in the park instead of more daffodils, turning our yards into edible landscapes instead of mowing three times a week.

It doesn’t take another church program, another youth group activity, another church building to bring people to Christ. It takes showing compassion to one person, listening to them, helping them, being their friend.

I don’t want to be an activist. I want to passionately pursue the things I love and show compassion to those I know.

There’s a difference between talking and doing. A fine line that divides the two.

Don’t just walk the edge.

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.

Prepping to Take the Plunge

I decided after many months of thinking, dreaming, and wondering to jump in to self-publishing.

True to form, I haven’t thought much about the down sides of it. I tend to just plow straight ahead and let the chips fall where they may. But I’m at least being a little cautious of what I’m putting out.

I’ve been writing a vampire novel. Surprise.

Actually no one is more surprised than me. I never had any intentions of writing a vampire novel. I never read Twilight or saw the movies. I’ve never picked up an Anne Rice novel.

They’ve sold millions, so I’m sure they’re both great but … I just never had any interest in vampires.

The novel came about from my love of New Orleans, actually, and the merriment of a raucous lunch time banter during a novel writing workshop. A friend and critique partner was sitting across the table from me throwing out ideas, being ridiculously silly about them, and generally just having a laugh.

And then the woman next to me pulled out a very long toothpick with a fringe of red plastic at the top from her sandwich and asked, rather loudly, “What in the world is the purpose of these? They’re like daggers.”

My friend, who also loves New Orleans, and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “You could kill a vampire with one of those.”

The entire table stopped their conversation and stared at us, listening.

Apparently, vampires are a hot topic … everywhere … no matter how much the genre is exploited and morphed and messed with. People love vampire stories.

Our conversation continued for many weeks after that until we both decided to write up a story with our ideas as a joke. My friend took the amusing route with hers. I went for serious.

And somehow it has morphed into a full blown novel that already has fans.

I’m both puzzled and pleased. And feeling the pressure to get it finished.

But, because this has always been something of a one-off for me, I decided to not even try traditional publishing routes with it and instead just go for self-publication on Amazon. It really isn’t my first genre of choice and has nothing to do with all the other novels I have, so it seemed a perfect fit.

It’s my intention to release it in October, before Halloween.

So as a lead up to it, and a way to get a feel for the Amazon route of self-pubbing, I’m going to put out a couple of collections of horror short stories first.

The first is a collection of contemporary scare-the-pants-off-you stories that have gathered in my portfolio over the past year or so. They range from new takes on native American monsters to a tale of an evil Santa Claus.

The second will be a collection of gothic horror stories that revolve around a single manor house on the west coast of Cornwall in England. I love these stories and had fun writing them but I realize gothic stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. The language is a stretch for modern readers.

Both will lead up to the release of my vampire tale set in New Orleans with a new clan of vampires the world doesn’t know exist.

And I will definitely be posting the links on here and making a general big deal out of it. It would be great if others joined me. Writers have to support each other in this day and age. Who else understands our quirky ways?