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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Retrospective 2011

As each year draws to a close, I like to take the time to look back at the twelve months that have just passed. I can't get them back. So, what went well? And what could have gone better? More than anything 2011 was a good writing year for me. I saw two novels into print and had seven short stories accepted for publication. I also made the discovery that I'm not any good at marketing. So that's something to focus on during 2012.

When I embarked on a writing life, I thought it would encompass, well, writing. And it does. It also includes lots of editing. I spend probably three times as long editing books as I do writing them. Then there's marketing. Oh yes, I already mentioned that. Back to editing. I'm fairly certain writing and editing come from vey different parts of the brain. One is creative process, the other nit-picky, niggling put this word here, ah no, put it there kinds of decisions. I find I can edit when I'm tired. I need to be fresh, though, to write.

Other than writing, 2011 was the year I retired--well, sort of since I'm still working. The experts--whoever they are--suggest a segue into retirement is smoother than an abrupt shift. What I've found is still having all the responsibility for something, with half the time to fulfill it, is downright scary. I'm hoping I get out of here with all my parts intact. Only another month or so to go, so it's looking better than it looked awhile back.

And then there's the weird weather pattern. The high passes in the Sierras weren't really open until late August, leaving about a six week window for serious backpacking. Now, here it is December and it feels like spring. In the meantime, the midwest is being slammed with blizzards. Sometimes I think the premise in many of my stories that we've terminally damaged our ecosystem isn't far off the mark.

2011 was also the year my last parent crossed the veil. It feels strange not being able to pick up the phone and call her. Mother was a lifetime reader. I'm sure my love of books and reading came from her. I am touched and humbled that the last book she read in this life was mine. I wish she could have lived to see the second one come out. I dedicated it to her. I'm really lucky in lots of ways. One of them was to have had a parent survive so far into my adult life. Many of my friends lost theirs decades ago.

Like all years, the one nearly gone was a mix of joys and sorrows. But that's a metaphor for life. Kahil Gibran said it's the selfsame vessel that contains both one's joy and one's sorrow. If you try to avoid one, you limit your ability to experience the other. Grateful for the lessons of 2011, I'm looking forward to what 2012 will bring.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Deck the Halls, Ho Ho Ho, Bah Humbug

The end of December is rapidly approaching. It always does. While I'd love to do something to stave off that transition from holiday through New Year into the January blahs, I've discovered time marches on in spite of me. At the close of each year, I try to look back over the last twelve months to see what I accomplished and which tasks are still there to carry forward into the year to come. I'm sure it won't come as a big surprise that the, ahem, less desirable tasks seem to show up on my hit list year after year. Things like deep clean the house and finish up edits for a book I completed six months ago.

It's human nature to want to do the things where you can stand back and look at what you've accomplished. As a long time governmental administrator, there really aren't very many tasks like that. You know, the ones with a beginning, middle and end where you can actually see a difference. After a ten year argument, I finally got the county to agree to let me put opening windows in mental health's five thousand square foot office suite on the third floor. I think the propane leak last winter that practically killed all of us convinced them opening windows weren't frivolous. Now there's a project--albeit a very long term one--that makes me feel I've accomplished something. I was bragging to my husband about my open-up windows. Since I'm basically retired, he just looked at me and said something like, "That's nice, Frodo. You've saved Middle Earth, but not for you." Sigh, how true. Someone will enjoy those windows, but it won't be me.

Isn't that the way of things, though. You knock yourself out and someone else reaps the benefit of your blood, sweat and tears. I came to terms with that a long time ago. It's not important for someone else to give me an "atta girl" if I know in my secret heart I did the right thing. To me, that's at the very center of the holiday season. Doing the right thing regardless if anyone notices or not. Remember the O'Henry story where both halves of a couple sell their most prized possessions to get their loved one something for Christmas? She sells her hair and he sells his watch. Well, he buys her combs for her hair and she buys him a fob for his watch. Some might call that story stupid, but it's always warmed my heart.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or some pagan version of the Winter Solstice, I wish the the merriest of seasons. A time for contemplation, a time for joy and a time to regroup and find places to love in yourself and others.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How To Get Through The Holidays

Having worked in the mental health field forever, I always breathe a silent prayer when January rolls around. The holidays are a tough time for a lot of us; although it's certainly not popular to complain. What tends to happen is everybody thinks they're the only ones not having the wonderful time all those smiling faces in the media are. So the fake smiles get deeper; as does the sense of failure and all those internal questions like: What's wrong with me?

Let's take a look at the holidays. For most of us, it means spending time with our families. We're supposed to love our families, right? No one ever talks about the alcoholics and addicts in the mix; or how they embarrass everyone year after year. No one ever talks about the childhood abuse. And it doesn't have to be blatant. Emotional abuse is present in many, many homes and takes nearly a severe a toll as other types since it makes us question our own self worth. It doesn't feel very good to be compared negatively with others; or to be ignored. Or yelled at.

While we're there, childhood abuse is shockingly common. A beta reader for a recent novel of mine commented that both male protagonists had grown up in houses where there was molest. She didn't think that likely. I beg to differ. There's nothing like being in a workshop with 2000 people (all with MDs, PhDs or Master's Degrees) and having the moderator ask everyone to answer three questions privately. One of those questions has to do with sexual abuse as a child. When the responses are tallied up, generally between forty and sixty percent of the participants admit to childhood sexual abuse. If you add in physical and emotional abuse, the total edges upwards to eighty-five percent. What that means is you can tack at least ten percent onto those totals since people tend to carry their denial into adulthood with them. It's protective; but it also keeps us from growing. Takes a lot of energy to hide secrets.

But this blog isn't about molest. It's about all the myriad unhappinesses we carry on our backs and in our hearts that tend to rear their ugly little heads when we are forced to spend time with our families of origin. Some really important things to remember are:
1.  You can say no.
2.  You can stand up for yourself.
3.  You can get up and leave if you're uncomfortable.
4.  You don't have to do things like they've been done since God was young. You can create new traditions that feel healthier.
5.  You can make your expectations known ahead of time. For example. "Dad, I'll always love you,  but it makes me really uncomfortable when you start drinking. So, if you do that, I'll quietly excuse myself from Christmas dinner." When you do this, you're giving the other person a choice in terms of their behavior. Yes, I know it doesn't feel very good when they choose alcohol over you. But they've probably been doing that all your life. And, it's NOT your fault. In fact, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

While there's still a spot of time before Christmas (or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate), think a bit about what you'd like over the holidays. If you think your kids get way too many presents, do something else. If your partner works through every holiday, book a vacation somewhere. It doesn't have to be fancy. You can drive to a neighboring town.

It may take some experimentation, but try to come up with things that will fill you up during the holidays, rather than draining you. Don't be afraid to tell people what you need. No one is a mind reader.

Does anyone have any holiday wisdom they'd like to share?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys Reviews

Psyche's Prophecy was reviewed on Ann Wilke's Science Fiction and Other Oddyssey's Blogspot by Clare Deming. Clare is a veterinarian and part of my online writers' group, Other World's Writer's Workshop. Please check out her site and my review.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Psyche's Search Is Available Now!

The second book in the Transformation Series has just been released. The e versions are available as of today's date nearly everywhere ebooks are sold. The print version is at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Gypsy Shadow Publishing. Thanks to everyone who helped make Psyche's Prophecy, initial book in this series, a success and a contender for an EPIC 2012 Award.

Cover Blurb:
Born with the sight, Lara McInnis is ambivalent about her paranormal ability. Oh it’s useful enough some of the time with her psychotherapy patients. But mostly it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience—especially when her visions drag her to other worlds. Or into Goblin dens. In spite of escalating violence, incipient food shortages and frequent power blackouts, Lara is still far too attached to the comfortable life she shares with her boyfriend, Trevor, a flight attendant who lost his job when aviation fuel got so expensive—and so scarce—his airline went out of business. Forced to seek assistance to hone her unusual abilities in Psyche’s Prophecy, Book I of this series, Lara is still quite the neophyte in terms of either summoning or bending her magic to do much of anything.

Reluctantly roped into channeling her unpredictable psychic talents to help a detective who saved her from a psychopathic killer, Lara soon finds herself stranded in the murky underbelly of a world inhabited by demons. The Sidhe offer hope, but they are so high-handed Lara stubbornly resists their suggestions. Riots, death on all sides, a mysterious accident and one particular demon targeting her, push Lara to make some hard decisions. When all seems lost, the Dreaming, nestled in the heart of Celtic magic, calls out to her. Heeding its summons brings sorrow, while opening the gates to a new life.