Split Personality: lexicon Sabotage

Dr. Jessica and Mrs. Hide-the-beiotch psycho Jess. This has been my life this month.

I was set to do a challenge: 52K in May that my bestie Owen generously crammed into my busy stay-at-home-mom schedule. It was only two thousand words a day. Seemed easy enough. Even challenged myself to try to finish a rough draft.

You may have noticed I was speaking in the past tense. Yeaahhhhhh. I haven’t even hit the 20K mark.

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming, especially given the life-changing events that happened in the first week of May. Plus I just know me. I did tell Owen I would start strong and peter out. I haven’t developed that fine skill called “discipline” yet. I write my blog posts because I must but I have about 7 half-finished Mother Project stories and uncategorized fiction pieces. My story has one and a half scenes done in it.

I tried many days to sit and force myself to write at least 1000 words. Then it was 800. Then it was even 200. I was slipping away from reality.

It was overkill. Emotionally strapped. Mentally tapped. Physically exhausted from the stress. Happy Pinkie Pie Jessica was gone. Mrs. Hide-a-beiotch came out to glare. There was no way I was going to write another damnable word until I was good and ready. This started a downward spiral of “not caring”. This was different that the “take a break and come right back” situations. This was a full-on “I EFFING HATE YOU GET AWAY FROM ME” situation.

Boycott for three days.

I did nothing except the basics. Fed the family. Got the kids to and from school. Fought off the outbreak of the Norovirus going around. There was a cease-fire in my life.

Normal Jessica could only sit and watch helplessly as one, two, three days went by with no progress. She watched as Black Jess moved listlessly from activity to activity, trying to find something interesting to do. It was just too much to even do those things. Lots of naps were taken.

Congratulations are in order though, for the part of me that’s developed enough to recognize the urgency of needing to write. That was something I hadn’t been able to cultivate before. I sat within my own skin and as my deadline got closer and closer, the more I pressed against the skin of my Stubbornness to try to break free. I am sabotaging myself and I can see it. One step forward, two steps back.

“WRITE!” I screamed to unresponsive fingers. “Write anything! Just put words down!”

Black Jess summarily ignored the pleas and proceeded to eat a second brownie.

This post is the first thing I’ve written in four days and it’s only being written because I’ve trained myself over the last year that Monday Blogs are Necessary. Yes, it took a whole year of consistency to get this small victory locked in and it’ll take even longer to move past the other barriers keeping me from being a successful writer. I AM proud of it. I can give myself credit for this. But…

How does that saying go? “Leo the late bloomer…?” AKA extreme procrastinator. I’m the Queen of it.

You see, my split personality sabotages me. Black Jess is very much a self-satisfier; child-like and demanding. She will absolutely refuse to do anything that doesn’t please her. Nothing will shake her out of this mood until she’s good and ready to be shaken. I believe this will be the biggest stumbling block of mine. Publishers and agents won’t take tantrums as an excuse for unwritten manuscripts. They don’t got time for that. Time is money and they will cauterize any leaks the suspect will be a long-term problem.

I have to write like my life depends on it. My happiness certainly does. It’s my biggest dream after all and it deserves every effort from me. But I don’t know how to force myself to write when Black Jess comes out. I don’t know how to do ANYTHING when she comes out except sleep. I’m genuinely concerned about this Mr. Hyde quality in myself. Is it manifestations of the stress I’ve been feeling? Is it the culmination of a lifetime of being sheltered and spoiled? Do I just wait it out and come back when I can? Do I schedule “writing vacations” so this doesn’t happen randomly?

I have no answers for these things and I know I’ll have to figure it out before I start to seriously query agents.

How do you deal with these types of things? I sincerely want to know.

More than Words– Part 4 (#7)

Part 1 HERE  Part 2 HERE  Part 3 HERE

5 minutes till game time. My kitchen was clean, the trash was taken out and I took a record breaking short shower. 12 texts from Alma, demanding to know why she hadn’t been informed of my sickness. 1 text from Gale, making sure I really didn’t need anything. Nothing else on my phone though. Even though it had been with me in the bathroom where I could hear it clearly, I still checked. Dammit.

I sat back on the sofa, brushing my hair, the TV remote in my lap. My blanket would be done by half time. Rather, the blanket I stole from Jer would be done. It was the blanket that started me on the path to being an Registered Dietitian for a sports team. It was a “lucky” blanket now, forever immortalized in my mind and forever on the “do not throw away” list (much to Jer’s relief I imagine. It WAS his favorite after all.)

I was not a football fan by any means growing up. My mother was a die hard Packers fan. She had the Farve jersey, the cheese head and everything. While she hollered and screamed at the refs, I would hibernate in my room with head phones in, blasting music whenever a game was on, happily oblivious. I only came out for snacks. The first thing I said when I stepped foot in my dorm room at college was “THANK GAWD NO MORE FOOTBALL!”

Jer laughed at me hearing this. I didn’t know it was a sadistic laugh until later.

He figured out early on in the friendship that I would basically do anything for food. Every time a game would come on he wanted to watch he would try to convince me to watch too. Always it started out being a firm “NO” with me. I would rather do Calculus than watch grown men chase after an elongated brown ball and I despised math. My mustachioed friend would try to bribe me or threaten me sometimes but he knew he could always get me to agree with a good snack platter. Food was my downfall. So shameful.

Plus, it was Jer. Being with him was second nature.

In the early days, it was awful watching football on his little TV and being completely oblivious. Nothing made sense to me, no matter how much Jerry tried to explain. But he was a die-hard fan and so I became an honorary fan by extension as his best friend. He made me wear the fleece Lion’s blanket every game to mask my “unhealthy dislike of his future career prospects”. He thought I might absorb some football appreciation from it or something. He had some weird superstitions.

One day before a game while wrapped in his stinky blanket we were talking about his career and he had mentioned possibly getting a minor in Nutrition.

I laughed at him.

“Seriously Jer? You cook vegetable soup every night for dinner. EVERY night unless I cook for you. Your team would hate you.”

The look on his face made me laugh. It was sad puppy mixed with indignant playful man. I swear only he could pull it off and be handsome and adorable at the same time.

“Leave my soup alone! It’s healthy and satisfying.”

“Whatever you say, darling.” I tried to keep the smirk off my lips and failed. He sighed dramatically for my benefit.

“It’s NUTRITIOUS Jac and it’s tasty.”

“Kale is NOT tasty.”

He ignored me.

“Career-wise it never hurts to have more knowledge. I need to take care of my future team on and off the field and learning to keep them on track with their diet helps achieve this goal. Besides, I would just be advising, not actually cooking. Leave that to a dietitian.”

I gave him a sarcastic look and watched him flick more chili lime popcorn into his mouth. He raised his eyebrows at me, waiting for my rebuttal.

“Plumber has a leaky faucet. Nutritionist has a limited diet?”

“Impossible woman.”

He tossed a kernel at me and I snorted, feeling I had won the battle and grinning accordingly.

During the game while he was engrossed, I researched careers in nutrition and educated myself on earning the Dietitian degree. It was supposed to be for Jer’s sake but my interest was more than just peaked by the end. I was enraptured by the possibilities.

“It would be kinda cool to be an RD,” I admitted a loud, over Jer’s mumbling about flags and unnecessary roughness. “For you and I to be on the same team with our careers. Athletic trainer and Dietitian Besties. We would see each other every day!”

“We already do,” he said, only half listening while he watched. I nudged him with my foot and demanded his attention. I got a half glance for three seconds.

“But we could travel together. We could wrangle gorilla men like people from the circus! Crack the whips. I like being bossy. It might be fun.”

He made affirmative noises and then started absently massaging my foot, absorbed in the tv. I sighed and pursed my lips. Impossible indeed.

“In the off season, I can consult with restaurants on their menus and teach children about health and proper diet. It sounds pretty amazing.”

“Yep. Sure does. Go for it Jacquie.”

I was already learning to become a chef anyway. It was what I was going to school for. This made my career choice broaden quite a bit and it sounded so appealing. I could take my job anywhere and didn’t have to be stuck behind a counter at a restaurant. I could educate people and cook and travel. So much win.

I talked to my counselor that week and we made a plan to alter my major and that was that. Why wouldn’t I follow Jer into a sport I disliked and cook for a bunch of stinky, ball toting behemoth lug heads? Duh.

Of course I would.

Why?

3 minutes.

With an irritated sigh I powered on the TV. I had no discipline. My heart tapped an erratic rhythm against my ribs while the commentators rambled on about team updates and player bios. My eyes were glued to the screen. I couldn’t seem to help it. I scoured the snippets of field shots they showed, backing up my DVR to see if I could see him. AT’s don’t usually get much air time unless there was an injury but Jer always said he would try to wave at me from the field if there was live coverage.

My head grew annoyed at my heart for being ridiculous and my heart railed at my head for being so…well, pig-headed. I leaned against the cushions and huffed at myself. Impossible.

“And here’s the coin toss–!”

_______________________________________________________________

Do Re Mi–dafah is Writing Voice?

Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or. Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of the narrator of a work of fiction. ~(Taken from www.thebalance.com)

Go to your book shelf and pick a book by a favorite author.

Now pick another book from a different favorite and set it beside the first.

Open to the first page and read a chapter out of both.

They’re different right? Well, obviously they’re different but can you explain HOW? Can you describe specifics other than the novels aren’t the same genres or reading levels? (Saying they have a certain “Je ne sai quoi” is cheating btw.)

“It’s tone,” you might say. “Like the authors are writing with different accents or dialects.”

Or you might say it’s the way the sentences are structured. Maybe in the first novel they are short and gruff. In the other they may be beautifully sculpted, rolling trippingly off the tongue. Maybe they’re as dense and hard as stale bread. However the writing may be, you should be able to pick up any book by the same author and instantly recognize it as theirs. Different story, different plot line and characters maybe but still distinctly THEM. Why?

Writer’s voice should be consistent,  like speaking to a friend or receiving a letter from them. The way they curse a lot or the way they dot their “i”s with little hearts. If they speak softly or write ONLY WRITE IN CAPITAL LETTERS should be instantly recognizable as this specific friend. You’d recognize it anywhere. Authors have branded each of their stories with their own unique thumbprint; it is something they’ll be known for forever after, no matter how many books they write.

This concept is perhaps one of the most difficult I think for young writers to grasp because it’s not something that can be TAUGHT. Plot, characterization, pacing, arcs…these can all be taught and perfected with time. Voice cannot. It’s something every writer has to discover for themselves through the process of writing. For some it might take a couple of novels to figure out. For others it may come quickly and naturally.

I find myself in an in between category when it comes to discovering my own writer’s voice. When I write my blog posts or my flash fiction, I find that the writing style is bold and consistent. A little passionate sometimes maybe but it flows from one subject to another smoothly. At least in my opinion it is does. I rather enjoy that it is that way currently and that it is a reflection of my true self.

However.

(Yes you knew that was coming.)

Thus far I have limited myself to only writing short stories or flash fiction, usually fantasy or reality based. I’ve also had a steady diet of YA fiction in my reading lately, which explains the writing preferences.

BAD JESSIE! SPIT IT OUT!! SPIT OUT THE YA FICTION THIS INSTANT!

Awwww.

Writing fiction makes me feel confident and competent. I’m safe to bull shit safely within it’s walls because anything and everything goes. But it limits me as a writer. In a way, it’s taking the easy way out as compared to writing Nonfiction or poetry or even a genre I don’t read, like horror, subjects that require research and deep thought.

(Did I just make a blond joke out of writing fiction? I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry!)

Now it’s never bad to be thoroughly versed in one category before moving onto another. Being able to have an anchor to safely return to in this crazy writing world is a GOOD idea. Trying to have a finger in every pie as a beginner will likely confuse and deflate a budding writer. To really be certain that you’ve had a balanced diet though, you should explore different types of writing and reading. Penning a dark macabre flash fiction should still sound like you as much as the romance novella and the only way you’ll be able to achieve that is by knowing what you’re writing.

Telling a different story with the same voice takes practice and it’ll take some time for you to recognize it. Even longer to carry it throughout your career.

I guess I don’t really have much to say on this because I’m just discovering my own Writer’s voice but I felt I had to write about it so it’ll be on the list of subjects I can come back to eventually and expand upon.

Do Rei Mi! Good luck with your writing scales and arpeggios! 😉 I look forward to hearing your sweet new voices ^_^

Tears for Buddha

I chose to become homeless.

Yes, you heard me. I didn’t stutter. I chose to become homeless. I gave up 99% of my possessions, got a divorce, bought a truck with a camper shell, and I live in it.

Yes I’m a moron.

Yes I’m crazy.

Yes I’m scared.

No I don’t care. Because I’m free.

We grow up living for the dream of a big house, a career, a partner and maybe a dog or some kids. This is the current american dream. It’s what people should strive for. I had that. Or, tried to have it anyway. The redneck poor people version of it. I was on government assisted living so rent was super low.  I had food stamps and the kids had free lunches from the school. I had a husband for 15 years. I’m not going to say they were “good” or “bad” years. They just were and that was the problem. I got tired of living in monotony. There was a rut we couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of and I realized if I didn’t get out, I would be living this same life for another 50 years.

Um, no.

“Just wait until the kids are gone,” my husband insisted. “Then it’ll be just us.” HA! Likely the kids wouldn’t be gone until they were 30 with their own spouses on government housing. That’s just how the economy was right now. I didn’t have any investment in the “kids move out at 18” mentality. It was an antiquated notion. Besides, if we couldn’t find ways to make it work with the little time we have–the important “us” time when the kids go down for bed– why should I believe that we would be any better with whole days at our disposal?

My husband is a good man. Just not the man for me so I left. It almost hurt he didn’t try harder to keep me but it wouldn’t have made a difference. I needed freedom from the comfortable cage so i picked the lock and pushed open the door….into a dark blue beat up Toyota with a camper shell and extended cab.

Yes, a truck. Why? Because I was morally affronted by vans. They were the symbols of soccer moms and large families, neither of which I ever wanted to claim. A truck meant I could only have me and the kids. It meant I could pack a box of food, a cooler, a bag of clothes, and a box of essentials and GO. I didn’t have to imagine it anymore. I was doing it and it felt great.

At least for the first month it did.

So what about showers and bathrooms? What about cooking food? Where would you stay? What about BOREDOM?

The first and second ones were easy. My ex husband wasn’t home during the day so I could use his house at my leisure when I wasn’t working. It helped him too since I could still clean and do laundry in return and I always made extra food for him and the kids until he could fend for himself. Bathrooms? Duh, there were public ones everywhere.

The third question was trickier. It seemed like it would be easy to answer since I should be able to say “anywhere.” Literally could just pick a street and settle down. Well, not all neighborhoods were created equal. I used to live in the ghetto where a stray bullet could kill a fool and even a beat up truck was prime chop shop fodder. So for the first week I kept myself parked right outside my old house within screaming distance of my ex-husband’s rifle. Then I got my own gun license and relaxed enough to drive myself up to a camp ground for a few weeks. Because of the ridiculous closed in heat from the camper shell mixing with my breathing and warmth, I kept the back hatch open and draped mosquito netting over it. I slept relatively comfortably when I wasn’t stressed out about bears or murderers. I kept my handgun within hand’s reach. I’m a little ashamed to admit how many raccoons almost bit it because of my nerves.

But a campground was expensive these days. $30 a night. Barely better than the cheapest hotel rooms. So then it was basically wherever my rump wanted to rest, I stayed. Sometimes it was randomly in front of somebody’s house on a random street. Sometimes it was in a Walmart parking lot or at a hospital or near my work. This was what I wanted. The freedom to choose. Having no rent to pay meant more money to save and more money for the occasional splurge, like the thumpin’ sound system for my truck.

But what about boredom?

This was probably the most difficult and the easiest question for me to answer. Boredom was never really a thing for me. If I had books, I had endless entertainment. I could grab a few from the library or change out the small collection in the truck for new ones at the house. I was also pretty artsy so I re-learned out to crochet and cross-stitch. Whenever I could manage it I would park it next to the beach, prop open the back to let the breeze waft in, fluff up some pillows and relax. But the thing about working with my hands is it left my mind free.

I had little responsibility now except to my kids and my job. Books only helped to distract and fiction became monotonous; predictable. I became restless. Suddenly freedom choked me and I was a vessel of discontent.

The instant gratification of acquiring new things through shopping didn’t help. Well-meaning friends with their jokes and teasing couldn’t console me. Rowdy bars with fried food and tequila didn’t numb the nagging Even long luxurious showers didn’t help (and I DO love showers). I glared at the southern California sunny skies through the darkness of my sunglasses and rain left me surly as a wet cat.

What to do now? What does a drifter do with her time alone? I went for a lot of walks. I went to the gun range. I got a new tattoo. Needle therapy. Nothing was helping. One night, after sleep eluded me, I filled up my tank, turned the radio off and drove. Just drove.

And I went back.

No, not back to my ex. That would defeat the purpose. As I continued to think about my situation and really contemplate how I got there, I went back to the catalyst. What GOT me here? What was the spark of understanding that lit my dark world? I drove on the empty streets with blurred eyes. I was crying. Then crying turned to sobbing and I had to pull over. I gave half a thought to the fact that I was lost in a city I didn’t know and then broke down.

When was the last time I cried? Really cried? Years ago probably. It was a book that did it, naturally. I cried for days while reading it because it described my inner most desire so perfectly I felt it had been written for me.

It was a biography of a woman who was unhappy in her marriage, who looked around and realized that the shelter she had built for herself was a cage. So she left it. She traveled and got her appetite for life back. She found love with another man and she found love for her spiritual guide. She became the best version of herself that she’d ever been and she did it all on her own. She went out and LOOKED. She had the bravery to face everyone’s criticism and her own guilt and come up out of the ashes of her life-like a phoenix reborn.

Her written words mimicked my pain and lust for life back then and the memory brought everything back up in me like emotional vomit. I could feel the damn breaking inside me and the hot tears gather in my eyes. I let out a soft gasp in the dark interior of my car and lost it.

This was where her journey started. Crying and praying for guidance at ground zero, the rubble of her life around her. Yes I had shucked the responsibility of a marriage but now the burden of my own self was entirely on my shoulders.

I think this is the part where I was supposed to start praying. But to whom?

My husband was raised religious and I had been part of his flock for a while. They sheltered me and guided me until I stopped drinking the kool-aide. I developed a fondness for Jehovah thanks to the church but there were too many issues I had with the Bible and the antiquated rules to commit myself seriously. God was simply the nameless deity I could direct my thoughts to. He was the closest I came to a religious Father but I discovered early in my childhood I didn’t need a father.

Most of my life I had actually been drawn to paganism. I believed in energy and good karma and being kind to the earth and others. I understood that for some, using rituals and spells to focus the mind and put intent out there in the universe was their kind of prayer for luck and love. But even with that religion I never felt any connection to a higher power. It was just energy and feelings. I didn’t get names involved.

The woman from the book practiced one of the eastern religions. She followed a guru and went to one of the temples to learn more about it. I didn’t have much experience with eastern religions except the odd Buddhist phrase and fortune cookie proverbs but it seemed pretty peaceful.

I believe it was human instinct to throw their problems on somebody wiser and older. We’d been doing it since birth. Children were taken care of by their parents. Teenagers were counseled by teachers and bosses. But who did adults turn to? Grandparents maybe, if they were still alive or other adults. The blind leading the blind there. But adults were supposed to have the answers. They were supposed to have built themselves a safety net of friends and family by now to catch them when they stumble on the hard questions.

I felt utterly and completely alone. I cried harder than I had in my life, hysterical gasping sobs pouring out of my throat as if I’d just gotten the news one of my kids had died.

It didn’t occur to me that when I jettisoned myself out of the familiar comfort of my home and family life that this would be an issue. I enjoyed being alone. I was comfortable enough with myself that not talking to anyone for days or months didn’t bother me. I was self-sufficient in that regard. Proud even. I didn’t understand the need for religion or gods. Prayer only made you feel better; it got everything off your chest so you could sleep better at night. It didn’t usually get shit done.

So why in the hell was I having an emotional break down in the middle of nowhere at o’dark thirty in the morning? My head pounded with a raging headache and I could barely breathe from the snot clogging my nose and throat. I leaned over and cracked open my glove compartment to grab napkins. I groped inside, blind still with tears and got a handful. While I dabbed and blew, choked and cried some more, I tried to have a conversation.

Universe, I began, attempting to form rational thought, I need your help. We’ve been on good terms I think. I recycle and try to be nice to people and plant trees on Arbor day. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t but I hope you can help me now. 

“I don’t know where to go.”

I said this out loud. Admitting it to myself and the Universe. If I said it out loud, it was true. Not just a secret inside my head anymore. The first step in so many of those programs is to accept you have a problem right?

I’m happy with my decision to leave my husband, even if no one else is. They don’t matter anyway. I’m making it work with my kids. I have the ultimate freedom. No rent. No bills. I was happy for a while. Why not now? I need a direction. Can’t you just…point me? 

“I’ll do the hard work,” I said, my words muffled by the twentieth soggy napkin. It was the last one I had. “I just need a direction.”

I didn’t expect a flash of inspiration to enlighten me or a ghostly figure to appear in front of my truck, pointing me east or west. I think religion and I were too different for any kind of divine intervention. I did brave the chance of getting shot or raped by sliding out of my truck and grabbing a roll of toilet paper from the back, finishing clean up duty on my face. Maybe something divine was watching out for me. I kept my gun close just in case though.

I did feel better, a little. Soul-rending crying jags usually do. I sat there on the tail gate, swinging my legs a little and peering up at the stars. I breathed in the cool night air. I was getting back to normal. That’s when I heard it.

Miiiiiu?”

At first I thought it was my ears misinterpreting a bird call or something it was so squeaky and faint. But it sounded like a very young kitten.

Miiiiiuuu?”

I grew very still, trying to figure out which direction the sound was coming from. Left? Right? Was it in the bushes? Up a tree?

“Hello?”

MIUUU!”

“Omg. No way…”

It was a kitten. Where?

“Kitty kitty!”

Miiiiiiuuuuuuiuuuuuuu!

Below. It was coming from below. I slid off my truck and crouched on the ground, my eyes trying to pierce the darkness to find a furry body. It’s cries grew louder seeing me and I inched nearer, still unsure. It was over by the engine where it was warm no doubt where was it? How did it get there? Was there a mama cat anywhere?

I finally saw it huddled next to my front right tire, terrified and crying out. I sat cross-legged at little ways away from it, trying not to scare it but keeping it in view. It was mostly dark I think. I don’t know how much was dirt or real fur. I saw flashes of white stripes on it’s face when it turned toward me.

Miuuu? Miuuuu?

“It’s okay baby. I’m here.”

MIUUUU!

I didn’t know if it was scared of me or wanted me to pick it up. It screamed whenever I spoke to it. I wanted to badly to reach under and pick it up off the cold ground but I knew better than to play chase with a small dark fluffy in the dark. Counter intuitive. So I sat there for an hour, occasionally talking to it to make sure it was still alive, waiting to see if a mama cat came or if there were any other far off meows.

“I’m here sweetie. Auntie loves you. It’s okay. C’mere!”

I wasn’t an expert on kittens but this one didn’t look old enough to be away from its mother. It could barely waddle around. I tried putting my hand toward it but it backed away and meowed pathetically.

I am here. I love you.

The thought came at me like a sucker punch to the face. I felt my face grow slack in shock. It was a line in the book. It was the line that made me cry for days after reading it. I am here. I love you. And here I was, repeating it to a cat. A CAT. I felt a hot jolt electrify my spine and I straightened with indignant.

So this was it huh? A sickly kitten that needed rescuing? THIS is my sign?

Miiiuuuuuu.

Yep. The Universe had a sense of humor. Asshole.

I didn’t wait. I grabbed the squeaky terrified thing and wrapped it up in one of my dirty shirts from the truck, ignoring it’s complaining. It was 3 am. Nothing would be open except maybe a CVS. This thing needed some sort of food. I’m sure I could use baby food in a pinch. Then I would take it to a vet when they opened in the morning.

Now I did say I would be willing to do the hard work. So I carried this raggedy smelly thing into CVS and got a bottle of infant medicine for the syringe and a jar of lamb puree baby food. It pooped in my shirt. One of my favorites, naturally. Annoyed, I threw it away, wrapped it in another one and forced the food down it’s throat.

While it struggled to figure out the syringe, I looked at its tiny face. It looked like a tabby cat, mostly brown with black stripes and little patches of orange here and there mixed in. On its face though, it had two white stripes coming out from its eyes and a single white patch on its forehead.

“Got your make up on wherever you go huh?”

Miu.”

It complained less after it had eaten a syringe full of the lamb and managed to fall asleep. I kept it wrapped and clutched to my chest while I drove back to familiar streets and parked in front of the first Vet’s office I found.

4 am. I had to be to work at 9. I set my alarm for 4 hours and climbed into the back of my truck. The kitten slept in the crook of my arm near my chest where it could hear my heart beat and we slept fitfully.

The kitten, I found out, was only 4 weeks old and it was a male. It was likely born outside as a feral (which explained the hissing and screaming) and had been abandoned because it was the runt or it had wandered away from its mother. It had been homeless as long as I had. It had also wandered away from the only warmth and comfort it had ever known in its life to explore the scary dark.

It was just as lost as I was and was probably crying just as hard as I was last night for comfort.

The Universe may be an asshole but it certainly made things happen when it wanted to.

I told the vet’s office I would pay for all the kitten’s medical bills and vaccines. Just make sure he’s healthy. I did happen to have a month of pay checks in the bank. How fortuitous. I didn’t know how I would keep an overactive kitten in the small space of my truck but he was already mine. When you ask for a sign and you get one, no matter how stupid it seems at first, you take it and run.

After work that day I purchased everything a kitten could possibly need and then some. When I went to engrave the tag for him, I stood at the machine for a long while, trying to think up a name.

I am here. I love you.

Ah. Of course.

When I got him back with a clean bill of health a week later, I put the collar on, which he hated immediately and tried to wiggle out of.

“I feel you man. I hate collars too but get used to it.”

I was already talking to him like a crazy cat lady. Awesome.

“Buddha?” the vet tech asked, eyeing the tag and entering the information into the computer for his microchip.

“Yep. I think he’s supposed to be the answer to my prayers,” I said, rubbing my face on his soft clean baby fur. He attacked my forehead and we laughed.

“Seems more like a fighter than a philosopher to me.”

“Well, if you knew me at all, you would know I can be pretty stubborn about things. I need someone with attitude to get through this thick skull.”

Buddha. Our tears brought us together. He sneezed on me and bit my hair. I laughed again.

I chose to become homeless. Yes, I’m a moron. Yes, I’m crazy. Yes, I’m scared. But at least now I’m not lonely.

52k in May: We will writes the nasty wordses—

And so it begins.

I’m going to run the gauntlet. I’m going to do a trial by fire. I’m–going to write. And I will hates it.

I was challenged to do a Camp NaNoWriMo this month by my bestie Owen. I think it’s because he loves me and wants me to succeed but it might be a little bit because he’s tired of hearing me whine. “I want to be a published author wah wah wah! It’s hard to write waaahahhaah!!” Poor guy. He’s my unofficial editor (and psychologist) and he only gets paid in gratitude.

“SO WRITE.” <–passive aggressive voice of Owen.

Wha…? His demand startled me out of my latest tantrum.

“You’re going to do another NaNo in May.”

“Whoa wait! What?!”

“Fifty two thousand words. Thirty one days. NO complaints. NO getting out of it. DO IT. (Rewards and punishments to follow).”

Owen doesn’t make demands. Ever. So of course I had to do it. And it will indeed be a trial by fire because on top of this I have to deal with deep emotional crap from just about everyone I know AND allergies AND my exercise routines. Yee haw. I’d better come out of this rock hard and ready to be a savvy published novelist .-.

LETS DO THIS THING!!!!

As I thought about this challenge though and May 1st was drawing nearer, I realized that as simple as the challenge was, basically 2k words a day, I wasn’t going to be satisfied just writing short stories or flash fiction everyday. I mean, it would definitely give me a leg up on my blog but it wouldn’t put a stop to my whining. I needed to complete something; beginning, middle and end. So I added the challenge to my growing list.

As we all know, however, first projects are usually crap. There are a few exceptions that have published best sellers right out of the gate but so many authors I know have misses because it’s their first. They haven’t found their voice yet or locked in the secret to a  successful plot arc. Whatever the case. I kept this in mind as I perused my story ideas and realized I didn’t want my first rough draft, the one that would be my first guinea pig, to be a story I cared deeply about like Silver Sun or Hourglass.

Okay, I care deeply about all my stories. Don’t get the wrong idea.

I care enough to want to write them, after all. This was different. The stories that have stayed with me for years I wished to give my best and most honest effort to. I want them to be the best versions I can make them and that requires more practice from me. So I chose something instead that I haven’t outlined to death but has a good strong foundation. (I’m a pantser at heart. My best work comes out of that.) It was a plot bunny story that wouldn’t leave me alone a few months back.

So far, I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear, this has been working for me! Within the first two days I wrote 5K in this plot bunny story and I like the hook. It starts out with drama and eases the reader into the strange world the book takes place in. (Apologies for being vague. It’s still an ugly baby story and I must protect it!)

Day three I finished a 4K blog post short story

Day four I had four different visitors to my house and wrote in between conversations.

Day five I had…a very big development in my personal life that confounded me so I only wrote 600, understandably.

Now it is day six and I am trying my very hardest to get back on track, in spite of my turmoil. Because that’s what writers do, don’t they? Which brings me around to the title of this post.

This is perhaps the first time in my writing career that I have forced myself to write when I didn’t want to. Yep. I’m pretty much the adult version of a child throwing down her toys and declaring in a screechy voice that I WILL NOT be doing my chores today.

C’monnnnn we’ve all been there! There’s shopping to do, cars to wash, kids to wrangle, toe nails to clip…no time to write! Or we’ll use one of those excuses given to us by the writers that have come before us. “Yes, it’s okay to take a little break. Recharge your brain. Go relax and come back when you’re ready.”

Yeeeep. Legit “get out of jail free” cards from the Pros. BYE! Netflix and popcorn. Just one or two episodes….or binge watch 13 Reasons Why. It’s okay. Go for it.

AS IF!

Writing is hard. It’s especially hard when inspiration has left you and you have to pound out one word after another, hating every damnable letter. These are the moments where authors have to dig in deep. You and your novel are married. You have to sit down now, have a long talk, and muscle through it. You have no other choice because this is your dream.

I have to put my big girl panties on in times like these. I need to get serious. Think of it as practice for when I have a REAL deadline form a REAL agency. Getting paid to write books. Have to develop good habits now while I’m still a tender young thing, ready to be molded and taught. I know this now so I’m going to force my way through it. Even if it takes many shots of alcohol, three walks a day and a full hour of exercise to get my frustrations out, I will write gawd bless it! I can always go back and edit the crap that I wrote but I can’t edit NOTHING.

So I will writes, but I will hates it. One step closer to the big leagues. I hope.

You too! Keep going!

More than Words – (Part 3) #7

(Part #1 HERE) (Part #2 HERE)

In the very beginning of our friendship, that first summer in fact, Jac put a muzzle on me. She told me that if I were to ever fall in love with her that I had to keep it to myself. She couldn’t know about it or everything would be ruined. I was taken aback by her sudden request. Who even says that kind of thing? I was alarmed until she followed it with a cheeky smile and I raspberried her, waved her off, sure it would never come to that.

What I didn’t know until later was that it had happened before. A good friend of hers had confessed his love for her but she didn’t feel the same way. She thought he would be able to deal with her rejection and be cool. Turned out not to be the case. The friendship became strained and they couldn’t talk anymore without fighting. Eventually the relationship died out. She muzzled me as a precaution, afraid it would happen again, but neither of us really thought it would need to be employed.

Until I fell in love with her of course.

It was around the time she was dating a guy she was pretty serious about. We were freshmen in college then, young and free from parental control and she had a long queue of guys after her. I didn’t understand then the burning feeling in my chest was jealousy. My experience with girls until Jac had been pitifully short. I ignored the ache because I knew Jac would always be with me, no matter what fool tried to take her away. #Bestiesforlife. That’s just how close we were.

Once I realized what was going on though, I felt that I didn’t have enough romantic influence over her to make her leave her boyfriend for me. Friend-zoned for the win. It became a painful cross to bear when she came to me sobbing because of her break up one night. There was nothing I could do though in the face of her tears. Words wouldn’t work. So I hugged her and bought her pints of ice cream and a box of tissues. It’s what best friends did.

“You know, I’m an Athletic Trainer, technically. I know a body’s weak points. Wouldn’t be to much trouble to debilitate him and make it look like natural causes.”

She laughed weakly and wiped her nose again, giving me a pathetic, watery smile.

“I could poison him with Belladonna and you could hide the body.”

“There you go. Team work!”

I could have told Jac that night. I could have made her forget that her heart had ever been hurt over the mongrel. “I LOVE YOU.” That’s all it would take. But it would have been a hollow victory. I wouldn’t do that to her on the heels of a bad break up. Plus such a declaration would most certainly push her away from me and that was the last thing I wanted. So I remained muzzled.

I stroked her hair as she curled beside me under our favorite fleece Detroit Lions blanket and let her soak my shirt with her tears, holding my tongue. She didn’t see it but my heart bled all over her that day and stained her. She had it all now. My blood, sweat, tears and now my heart. She had become, in so short a time, my life’s purpose. Whatever else happened to me, I had to keep this woman by my side.

“I’m sorry Jerry,” she sighed, on the verge of sleep with her puffy eyes and chapped lips. “I love you. What would I do without you?”

She never had to find out. Not for the next 5 years. I was there for everything, internalizing my agony over every new boyfriend and suppressing my jealousy with my own attempts at dating. It never ended well because Jac was still #1 for me. No woman likes to be told she’s second best. So I made the decision to be alone and focus on my career, being content as the best friend. Until now. I don’t know why I did it now. Maybe I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Maybe I thought the risk of losing her was worth her finally knowing.

I turned my face up to the iron skies above the stadium and let the snow flakes sting my skin. What are you doing without me now Jac? It was strange not to know. Between us there were hundred of texts a day when we weren’t together. Small things like what we had for breakfast to what we thought about global warming. The radio silence from her was killing me. But I couldn’t think about it too often; my anxiety would flare. Staying busy was my only sanctuary.

“Ready champ?”

Steph set a hand against my shoulder and pushed, breaking my day dream and my balance.

I saw the team and coaches start to head to the locker room to dress and I nodded, trying to get my head into the game. I jogged along beside Steph, half listening to his story about his crazy night at the bar last week while I made a mental list of injuries I needed to ice and rub out.

In the locker room I set my phone in my locker and snapped the lock in place. There. Then I turned to the fridge and started to dole out ice packs and do my job. Focus. Focus…

Conquering biblio-phobia, one afflicted at a time

(Image is Maka Albarn and Soul from the anime “Soul Eater”)

“I blame you, you know.”

This statement was directed at me three times this week from three different people. (When it rains, it pours, no?)

“Oh lovely. What for?” I ask with trepidation.

In a fraction of a second I’d listed ten possibilities for deserving blame. What a guilty and skittish conscience I possessed!

“I didn’t like reading before you. Now I can’t walk into book stores with money or I become the proud owner of section four.”

*Blink Blink* “Oh.”

HA.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Double HA! <–this is the sound of my soul laughing gleefully and with much sadistic pleasure. Truly, is there any greater blame to shoulder than that of “forcing” books on people? I’m happy to be guilty of this. It’s shaped my life really. My mother read to me every night before bed when I was a kid and she was always reading herself.  Then I entered school and had the pleasure of choosing my OWN books from the library. Wonder of wonders! It took off from there. Words became my life.

I was the weird kid that wanted to go to the library instead of the park when we had a choice. I was only allowed to take out three books of one subject at the time, which was fair for most people. Three books in three weeks. HA. More like three books in two days. Mom started having to check out extras for me to last me the week until we could go back. Finally the librarians threw up their hands and let me get as many as I wanted. I was on a first name basis with everyone.

My sister was not this kind of person and it was through her I saw the other side of things. She was an action person. If she had a choice she would Energizer Bunny her way through everyday, eating on the go, sleeping on the go, going on the go… She had no patience or time for books. She got frustrated with the words she couldn’t pronounce and couldn’t understand and she was embarrassed to read aloud. She grew to hate it. When there were books as required reading for school she would have to seek out the large print editions to help her focus better and mom would have to sit for a grueling hour to get through one chapter. It was the most difficult task to sit, read and absorb. I felt sometimes she was Golem from Lord of the Rings:

“We will reads the books, but we HATESSS ITTTT!”

Complete with hissing and spitting.

Such an alien concept for me. She lived for reality and I lived for my imagination. Once my sister was out of school and she was free of books she ran away and didn’t look back for many, many years. Meanwhile, I was filling my shelves with paper goodness and plowing through my first writing endeavors.

She was one of the people who laid blame squarely on my shoulders this week for turning her into a book eater. She found a book at one of my library sales and she liked it so much she got the second one. And then the third. My sister willingly BOUGHT a book. With her own money. And then, be still my heart, she asked me for recommendations.

Yep.

*blink blink* Wha….?

I think I marked the day on my calendar. August something or other two years ago. (It was also the day my radiator cracked. It was a yin/yang day.)

The other two victims were no less shocking to me although in different ways.

One was my long time friend from middle school. She was much like my sister; always go go go! She wasn’t as averse to books as my sis but she found most of them boring and predictable. If she was going to read something cover to cover, it had to be something beautiful and challenging, like Shakespeare or John Milton. She aced book reports and read perfectly outloud but there were much more interesting things to do for her. She teased me, ever the book worm, for always having my nose in a book.

We parted ways for a long time, going to different High Schools and then life taking us to different cities. When we reconnected later though, well into our adult years but still ‘forever’ friends. (One of those friends that, no matter how long you go without seeing, will always feel like no time has passed at all when you see each other again.) We set a date to meet up for dinner and drinks and after the shock of seeing each other fatter and wiser, we got to talking. As per usual with me, books had to slip into the conversation.

“That reminds me, ” she said. “While we’re here I need to try to find the last book in a series I’ve been reading. They don’t have it in the store near my place.”

*Blink* “Really?!”

I felt my ears grew like a cartoon character’s, engulfing our booth with their keen awareness of the words “Need Last Book”. MY friend. My PICKY book friend wanted a book. Joy of joys! I threw down my napkin and asked for the check. We did indeed find that book for her and we both left feeling satisfied. When she returned years later (under less auspicious circumstances) her visits became a regular occurrence at my house and she snorted at my “hoarding”. By this time I had three tall shelves double stacked with books and a pile waist-high on the floor, also double stacked. (Shhhh.)

Well. One thing led to another and soon her tote bag was heavy with inked dead trees full of awesome. I couldn’t help smirking. Two for two. We didn’t have the same tastes and that’s okay. I was at about a 50% approval rating from her but she managed to find her own interests amongst my shelves. Still a win. I deserved that smirk of triumph, dammit!

Last to lay blame was an unexpected person. He’s a very mature and learned guy. Well-traveled thanks to being in a military family, an Online School honor student most of his life, knowledgeable and healthy and active. He seemed to have the whole package from my point of view. But he had a fatal flaw. Yes, you can probably guess.

He was book poor. Owen, my darling, I love you but you’re on this list.

*GASSSPPPP!*

I KNOW! How does such a smart guy become this way?! His reasoning was entirely different from the other two afflicted and probably baffled me the most. His reluctance for literature was more that “he chose bad books.”

*Blink blink* HOW THE FU**——?!

AHEM.

I am ever a student of life. This was news to me.

Yes, he somehow managed to choose the exact wrong books for himself. Frugal to begin with, the thought of spending money had to be a careful decision for him. Then insert the millions of titles out there to peruse and no wonder my poor friend felt like hiding under a rock! And then finally to have the bad luck to choose novels that let him down…

Well. As a connoisseur of fiction, I offered to him the gentle hand of friendship and made him a list of my most favorite books. This seemed an acceptable form of research for him. He could do his own contemplation on them via the interwebz and decide for himself if it was something he wanted to buy in his own time. To further ease his anxiety about spending money on books I recommended he first try Second Hand stores. They were about half the price or cheaper for books at a chain store and there was less pressure from the sales people to make a purchase or push their recommendations on him. It was endless books and peacefulness with the smell of dust and old paper in your nose.

HEAVEN.

Much to our mutual delight, the first trilogy on the list was a success. I rejoiced with him for weeks as he delved in and grew more interested. We talked and laughed and shared quotes back and forth. It was a beautiful feeling. Not only did I have a new person to talk about my favorite books with but he now had a positive experience with a book! THREE of them!

It didn’t stop there, much to my delight. My second and third titles also caught his interest and he began to actively pursue acquiring them in preparation for reading. After this happened, he then had the confidence to purchase, of his own accord, an entirely new series I had not even heard of. He purchased them on Amazon and they came to him in the mail. He thus got to experience the agony of waiting and the mini Christmas celebration of getting packages in the mail.

~Deck the halls with books and shelves, Muahahahaha hahahahaaaaaaa…~

I’m 3/3 curing these beloved afflicted of their Biblio-phobia and I could not be prouder of us. There’s a great joy in sharing interests with people who are receptive to them. You create a rapport and a new thread of trust is formed, adding to the rope already connecting you.

I don’t mind giving myself a pat on the back for this. My purpose on this earth is to inspire and create. They are a living manifestation of my dream.

*PAT PAT*

To hopefully further this dream, I’m going to include a brief list of the books I have recommended to my family and friends that we’ve mutually enjoyed. These recommendations are  mostly fantasy based with some sci-fi and romance thrown in. Big thanks to Goodreads for providing summaries for these 😉

“Sabriel” , “Lirael”, “Abhorsen” (The Abhorsen Trilogy)–Garth Nix

“The Belgariad”–composed of 5 books–“Pawn of Prophecy”, “Queen of Prophecy” “Magicians Gambit”, “Castle of Wizardry”, “Enchanter’s Endgame“–David Eddings

“Daughter of the Forest”, “Son of the Shadows”, “Child of the Prophecy” (The Sevenwaters Trilogy)–Juliet Marillier

“Iron King”, “Iron Daughter”, “Iron Queen”, “Iron Knight” (The Iron Fey Series)–Julie Kagawa

“The Unexpected Dragon”–Mary Brown

“The Wee Free Men” (Discworld #30)–Terry Pratchett (READ ANY AND ALL OF HIS BOOKS!)

“Archangel”, “Jovah’s Angel”, “The Alleluia Files”“Angelica”, “Angel Seeker” (The Samaria Series)–Sharon Shinn

“Neverwhere”–Neil Gaiman

“Men in Kilts”–Katie MacAlister

“The Devil Wears Prada”— Lauren Weisberger

“Eat, Pray, Love” –Elizabeth Gilbert

“In her Shoes”–Jennifer Weiner