Sunday, April 28, 2013

Gotta Have Patience...

I was having a few days where I was having writing sessions that clicked, me thumping my chest in pride and self-admiration at my brilliant writing, only to be sulking-with-head-drooping at receiving two rejections for other unrelated work I had sent out. To then have my disappointment lifted at having work requested by another publisher, to then having a writing session where nothing I wrote made sense. Geez, if I didn’t need Valium before, I sure did at that point.

Emotions ping-ponged from frustration, to elation, and back to frustration, and I didn’t know which end was up.

I get impatient with myself. Impatient on the days where the writing doesn’t click, frustrated at delays in my self-imposed writing goal deadlines. I get impatient in waiting for responses from editors and publishers, only to sometimes receive a nice form-letter rejection, another hiccup in my dreams and therefore another delay in my dreams.

But then right in the middle of my rollercoaster, my frustration with myself at its highest, I got mail. Good mail. Not ‘E’mail, not a letter, but a box. Right on my doorstep. Just to brighten my day.

Publishing Syndicate, publishers of many books including the newest series ‘Not Your Mother’s Book,’ anthologies of funny stories from everyday folks, sent me my author copies. Their newest release, ‘Not Your Mother’s Book...On Travel,’ includes my story, ‘Patience in Princeton, BC,’ a story about how I learned to have patience from my own son’s patience as he fished on a lake during our travels in Princeton, BC.

And as I unpacked the box of my author copies, trying not to jump up and down for fear of hurting something, I flipped open the book to my story (there’s an accompanying picture of two famous folks – be sure to check it out!), and was instantly humbled – by my own words of patience learned from watching my son patiently fish.

Through the days of writing slumps and victories, only to have another writing slump right around the corner, I realized gotta have patience with myself. With continued hard work and determination, I WILL get to fulfilling various writing goals. Things will come together - I gotta have patience.

I gotta have patience in waiting for the mailman, in waiting for editors and publishers to get back to me, in waiting for my laptop to fire up, and again, patience with myself. Things will come together in my writing – I just gotta keep going and have patience.

So if you’re needing a little patience – not just in travelling, but in everything else in life (even in waiting for a prescription for Valium) – maybe pick-up a copy of the book ‘Not Your Mother’s Book...On Travel’ – you just never know where patience will find you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Have Nothing to Read

I applied a green sea-green mineral face mask, and while waiting for it to set, harden, tighten, exfoliate and beautify, I dusted my bookshelf.

My pride and joy.

The dusting process really only took me less than a minute because, embarrassingly, there is barely any shelf space left TO dust.

I have too many books. And I really shouldn’t say that because, for a girl like me, one cannot have too many books. And still yet have nothing to read.

I sometimes wish I could be like one of those girls who opens her closet and after perusing the hangers upon hangers and drawers upon drawer of tops, pants, dresses and skirts waiting to be shown-off to the world, moans about nothing to wear.

But I’m not.

Because for a variety of reasons like financial belt-tightening (all my money goes towards kids and day-to-day living), and having a job that doesn’t require multiple power suits (casual business attire suffices), I just have the basics. Pants, a few tops, a dress or skirt or two for just-in-case moments, are all I need. I sometimes lovingly admire the outfits on display in storefront windows, and longingly eye the girls prancing down the street in boots, skirts and tops perfectly matching. But really, I have a life that consumes my attention from dressing to the nines on a daily basis. Not that there is anything wrong with having daily thoughts about what to wear the next day, but I have other things to worry about, like what to read next.

So when I hear the girls moaning ‘I have nothing to wear,’ I giggle.

Because I know when I set foot in a bookstore, I have been driven there by one need and one need only. I have nothing to read.

But my bookshelves lacking in exposed shelf space that have seemingly forced me to enter the world I love most tell the truth.

I have books upon books excitedly picked out and brought home in packages. I have books from second-hand bookstores, thrift stores, and books (excitedly) won in contests. Books passed on to me from friends - “You SO have to read this!” - wait to be read and reviewed to the previous owner. I have books in every nook and cranny; shelves and floor space overflow.

Yet when I finish one, and I go to my shelf to pick out my next indulgence – and sometimes I might have one I truly AM dying to get to once I finish the one at hand – I peruse the shelves and realize I have nothing to read.

It’s because I can never have enough. It’s because I want whatever is the newest on the market. It’s because something else has come along before I have had a chance to read the previously acquired next-best-thing.

It’s because I’m addicted.

It’s not to say that what I have on my waiting-to-be-read shelf is not good enough, or that I think my newest biblio-acquirement is better than another. I love them all and look forward to reading them all. Soon.

But I have nothing to read.

And really, when you think about it, maybe if I just saved my pennies spent on books and put those pennies towards a new outfit, I would have something to wear and therefore look a little more...together. But then, if I did that, I would have nothing to read.

Oh dear.

Where are my priorities?

I guess because deep down I know fashions come and go, but really, despite trends and fads in books, I know deep down a good book never goes out of style.

I have some books I have read over and over. Books from 10, 15, 20 years ago. Some classics, penned well before I was born, I keep going back to. Some books are only a year old and out of love and devotion to the story and the writing have made it to my keeper shelf. And despite having brand new, ink-still-fresh books waiting to be read in my bookcase, I sometimes pull out last years’ keeper shelf addition and get reading.

“I have nothing to wear” the fashionistas moan while standing in front of their closets full of clothes, some garments with price tags still attached.

“I have nothing to read” is my mantra as I attempt to dust a bookshelf with no shelf to dust, while planning my next bookstore visit.

I know I am nuts, but I gotta run - I have to a face mask to wash off. Maybe I can make up for lack of fashion with beautiful skin. I gotta look beautiful for the bookstore, ya know.

Monday, April 15, 2013

JACKPOT! (or not)

The BC Lotto 6/49 jackpot this past weekend was at a record $55 million dollars, the biggest in the lottery’s history. The record jackpot made the news for days leading up the Saturday drawing, and with time on my hands I got swept away by it all.

I’m not a big gambler. Sure the casino is fun for a turn once every few years with my thrill-seeking sisters, and I buy scratch ‘n win tickets as stocking stuffers at Christmas, but as for the rest of it, I don’t bother. I usually forget, don’t have the time or the money to spend on it all, and really, the few bucks that I might spend on a ticket could be put towards something else. Like a book. Or chocolate.

So I keep my purse strings drawn tight, my change in my pocket, and dreams of fortunes to come via other means (bestselling novels-turned-movies...) keep me awake at night.

But when every news broadcast talked about the $55 million, even though I know money doesn’t solve everything, I was tempted.
You see, three days before the jackpot amount made the news, I was reading a novel where the heroine was contemplating entering a writing contest. At first, her lack of self confidence and low self esteem prevented her from entering the contest. But after a bit of soul searching where she says to herself, “If I don’t try I won’t lose, but then I won’t win either.” (‘Faking 19’ by Alyson Noël – St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005), she enters and later wins.

But it was that phrase kept repeating in my head, over and over. I know it can be applied to so much in this crazy casino called life.

I read this quote a few days before the big lottery jackpot was announced. But when I heard about the lottery, and with those words still repeating like a broken record, I thought and thought and thought some more, and seeing as I had nothing to lose than a few bucks that could have been put toward my chocolate addiction that my ever-growing thighs don’t need anyways, I ran to the store. Well, as best as my chocolate-toting thighs could carry me, of course.

I purchased two tickets, meeting the Saturday night 6pm purchase deadline with minutes to spare; and with the ‘Extra,’ of course.
And seeing as I hadn’t purchased a lottery ticket in a long, long time, I had to ask the ticket sales person a zillion questions, while people in line behind me rolled their eyes at my naiveté. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right – I didn’t want to miss out on anything. ‘What rock did she just crawl out from under?’ I was sure they wondered.

Anyways, after all was said and done I left the store feeling like an idiot, and with ticket in hand bearing two sets of (winning) numbers expertly picked by me, I made my way back home, checking inside my purse every few minutes to make sure the (winning) ticket was still there.

I was tempted to write about it here, pre-draw. I had great hopes of writing missives about the evils of gambling (contradictory), the determination and positivity needed for entering contests, particularly writing contests (uplifting), and the perils of checking your purse every five minutes for potentially lost lottery tickets while crossing the road (obsessive).

But my superstitious nature got the better of me. I knew if I wrote about it, especially in relating the try/lose/win submitting to writing contest parallels, I might jinx not only any potential winnings but also any future writing contests I might enter. I also knew if I told anyone, doing so might jinx any winnings, for sure. In the end I told my husband and mom but I don’t think they jinxed anything as they both said the same thing – If you don’t try, you can’t win.

So the night of the drawing came and went. I had put it all out of my mind. I didn’t want to seem too anxious and race to find out the numbers drawn and compare them to my ticket. I decided I would play it calm, cool and collected. My superstitious nature was at its peak, and I wasn’t about to do anything to jeopardize any possibility of winning.

And really, I told myself, I wasn’t playing for the $55 million. I would be happy with a $1,000 win, or even a $500 win - anything.
So the next morning I checked my numbers online, and out of my two sets of numbers picked, I matched one number, which basically got me nowhere.

Oh well, I shrugged as I put the ticket away in case there was a redrawing or something (can they do that? Like an election recount or something?). At least I tried.

And with everything in life, as we so patiently so tell our kids generation after generation ‘you won’t know until you try.’
So I keep writing, despite how tongue-tied I sometimes get, worrying I won’t have anything to say. I keep submitting to publishers and contests – they won’t know I am here writing, looking cute and all, if I don’t put myself out there and take a chance. I have to keep at it. If I don’t try I won’t lose, but then I won’t win either.

And heck, playing the lottery JUST THIS ONE TIME was kinda fun. But I’m over it now.

So for now I will sign-off and try to get other writing done.

But before I do, I have to run up to the store and have them check the numbers on my ticket, just in case.

Because you just never know...........

Monday, April 8, 2013

I Love Zombies - Don't Knock 'em Till You Try 'em

In my house, I am the minority; one girl vs. three boys. So more often than not, I have to make my voice, my rules, needs and wants, heard a little bit louder. But I have also learned that silence speaks volumes.

And I have also learned that keeping quiet and just letting things ‘go’ gets me farther.

So when it comes to the television, a contradictory means to bring my family together, I have learned to just let things ride, within reason, and just go along with whatever they are watching. Sounds weak, yes, but half the time I am reading, making notes for writing, or nodding-off. So really, why battle it?

At the same time, nothing clears a room faster, ensuring personal peace and tranquility, than turning on a ‘chick flick.’ Pick your battles and all that.

But more often than not, I don’t get to watch the shows I want to watch. In the spirit of keeping the family all in one room - whether for half an hour, an hour, or even better yet, an hour for a movie - I will put-up with watching shows that I would never watch in a million years.

Compromise I guess, and really, it’s JUST television.

So last year when they were all involved in following a show about zombies, specifically AMCTV’s ‘The Walking Dead,’ I mentally rolled my eyes and kept quiet. While sitting with the family as zombified blood and guts filled the screen as non-zombified humans fought back, I stuck my nose in a book and tuned it out. But the good mother I am would always listen with rapture to recounts of the ‘best scene ever.’

But over time as I occasionally peeked over the top of my book only to see the gore seemingly ooze through the screen, I began to follow the show. And it wasn’t just about zombies.

Just a sec - I have to wipe the zombie blood-splatter out of my eyes.

There, that’s better.

For those who don’t know, the show follows a group of people trying to survive in a desolate and post-apocalyptic world – battling for survival where zombies rule, food and shelter is scarce, and sometimes battling greater obstacles than the zombies.

I won’t say anymore, as I don’t want to ruin it for those who might become fans.

I realized the show is much more than the non-zombie human characters fighting the zombies to stay alive. For me the show became an education in writing.

Watching the characters journey through their new world – a world that is a mere reflection of what once was since the apocalypse and the zombies took over – was much more than the fantastic killing and gore. The characters new world also consisted within their social circle of survival; trying to get along and navigate personalities while trying to survive. Their homes destroyed and unsafe, they were strangers who found each other – the only non-zombie inhabitants of the cities they once called home.

Through my fingers covering my eyes - too scared to watch, but too mesmerized to look away - I soon realized all this was what writing fiction was all about; the characters, their journey, and their world.

The characters personal journeys while always under the threat of the undead is what has made the show the most watched drama in basic cable history. Sure the fantastic battle scenes of spurting blood and guts, never mind a rolling head or two at the hand of a sword or knife, is always a bonus. And it’s rather empowering to watch a woman blow off the head of a zombie with a M16.

I never knew I had it in me. I am not a zombie kinda-girl. I have learned the true meaning of ‘don’t knock it till you try it.’ And the best part? Zombies have helped my writing.

Not only have I become aggressively involved in the show, counting down each week to the next episode, and counting down months to the next season, but I have also learned what good fiction is all about. As AMCTV's tagline says 'Story Matters Here.'

And the best part is a show following the weeks’ episode called ‘The Talking Dead.’ Stars from the show, celebrity zombie-fan guests, as well as directors and writers sit down and, with the host, analyze the recent episode. But they don’t necessarily talk about the goriest scenes.

They talk about the characters and the story – two that go zombie hand in zombie hand. They dissect the characters, each of their respective journeys, character arc, story arcs, and symbolism within the show that might not have been picked up by viewers previously. Wow – what a writer’s dream. A writing workshop I can sit and watch from my own comfy couch, waiting for my racing heart to calm.

Yes, zombies might not be for everyone, but a threat is a threat, even if it’s among living humans, and that’s what makes a good story.

Take it from me – don’t knock it till you try it, let zombies improve your writing, and be careful when you open your front door. You never know what might have happened to the pre-apocalyptic world outside....

I guess I will be entertaining more of my family’s television choices.

*Photo courtesy of AMCTV's 'The Walking Dead'

(Spoiler - the title 'The Walking Dead' doesn't mean the zombies...)