2016 — The Year I Was Abducted By Aliens

The Year Of The Ungodly — a.k.a. 2016 — started off with a wailing screech like a cat with its tail caught in a door. To prove my point, I’ll admit I don’t remember a thing about January and move on to February, the month when I was abducted by aliens.

Mid-Month my husband got hammered with allergies that turned him into a snorting, snoring, coughing, shuffling remnant of humanity. How he got out of bed day after day and hauled it out to work, and directed a play that won regionals at State Thespian Festival is the stuff that’s fueled by passion that stays at a slow roiling boil forever. I was worried about him. I couldn’t understand how he’d survive the ordeal and wondered just how crazy he was to try.

But as my daughter has taught me, I went about my business of cranking out bad books with her command of “I’ll do me; you do you.” If he wanted to work himself into a grave, that was his business. I had mine.

He was sent home from the next level of competition, deemed too sick to stay. I felt like a jerk for dreading the task of driving for hours to pick him up and bring him home to his sickbed, but willing to do so to satisfy my inner martyr.

That was on a Sunday. By then I was feeling a bit ragged and achy. We spent the evening fighting over the last box of Kleenex and chugging chicken broth.

Aside from a few snippets of frightening conversation, a distant siren, and the peculiar feeling of tumbling through space in the dark, that’s the last I remember until Wednesday.

According to the medical records and what I’ve been told by family and friends, Monday morning my husband stumbled over me where I’d collapsed and had me hauled off by ambulance to hospital. I’ve read the report written by the EMTs and now know I almost didn’t survive that ride. My blood oxygen saturation was down to 56% (normal is 95% to 100%), and whatever infection had hit me had taken over my entire body, which was shutting down faster than a serial novelist “writing” with voice dictation.

After days of tests and being kept in ICU Isolation (couldn’t have me infecting the rest of the patients), it was determined I had the nastiest of nasty pneumonias, the one for which there is no vaccination or pristine lifestyle that can prevent it.

Or so they say. I know the truth, and that’s that I was abducted by aliens. And I have proof.

The left side of my face was covered in abrasions that resembled the ones on my arm, stomach, and one leg. All of them had a central patch surrounded by six to eight small round patches.

Now, doesn’t that sound like the handprint of an alien to you? It did to me and was the only thing that could explain the illness that almost took my life so suddenly. Pneumonia? Come on. I didn’t even have a cough. I think aliens whisked me away in the middle of the night, performed their tests, found me inferior (isn’t that a core fear many of us share, being so inferior even aliens don’t want us?), and thew me back. To my way of thinking, which is much better now, it’s also the only thing that explains the hallucinations I had while imprisoned in the hospital and for months after-wards at home with oxygen shooting up my nose.

The hallucinations weren’t big ones like back in the…err…I mean, the kind of thing you might read in a Stephen King novel. Little things, like a concrete curb one had to step down to enter my hospital room, the room changing shape and the bed in different positions around the room. That concrete curb was also on my mind when I got home and contemplated going to bed. Who would hold my hand to help me down that curb? And what did that curb mean? (I was told they had overdosed me on steroids to control the inflammation in my lungs, and that was the source of the hallucinations, but you can’t fool me.)

It’s my opinion that one cannot be abducted by aliens and ever go back to the bullshit of one’s former life, assuming that’s the gut feeling one has. Why would anyone let an opportunity like that pass them by?

Why go to the brink and not jump?

So I jumped.

And I tumbled without direction for the rest of the year.

When I was able, I found a gym with a pool and spent hours floating on my back with the water over my ears and listening to my breath. I ate and slept and watched hour upon hour of mindless TV.

I stopped writing. Cold turkey.

I stopped reading and trying to figure out life, the universe and everything. Stopped trying to figure out anything.

If I had known last January what I know this January, I’d not only have been keenly alert to my own power and authority over my life and my actions, I might even remember the month. I would have long ago stopped fighting so damned hard for the answers and asked only questions.

I wouldn’t try to save anyone or help them without being asked (filthy habit, that). I’d ignore more and focus on less. I’ve come to understand that life is not a journey; it’s a question, a different one for each of us. It’s when we stop asking that we begin the journey to meaningless dust. That’s my understanding. I’m sharing it for anyone who feels a tingle when reading it. No tingle? Find your own understanding.

As I’ve returned to reading, I’ve discovered that the books that sucker punch me are the ones with a theme deeply explored with questions that lead to more questions as they balance that fine line between awakening something inside without pushing my back against the wall of frustration. Magic. Only magic can do that, and it can’t be taught. Or maybe it’s a haunting. The best books in my pinpoint corner of the cosmos, haunt. I can’t disconnect from them.

I also understand I don’t have that magic. Ten thousand hours of focused practice be damned. We live in times that have convinced us we can do anything we desire if we follow a few simple rules, never give up, read the right books and take all the classes. Right. Got it. And this is why men can give birth.

The reason I don’t have the magic. Practice makes mediocrity perfect.

Never again will I hold counsel with anyone other than that still, small voice inside whose language I don’t recognize or understand, yet communicates in a way I can’t explain with words. Have you ever had a silent conversation with a Something much bigger than yourself, greater than a god, smarter than you, and with no pretense of wisdom? I don’t know what to say about it, other than…sorry, I got nothing to say. It’s what Joseph Campbell said about only the second best things are the stuff we can talk about. This type of conversation is the best, and there are no words. It’s all about surrender.

I once had a vocal coach who told me I’d be able to sing if I’d just surrender, let go, stop trying so hard and let myself be sung.

When I return to writing—if I return to writing something more than ditties like this one—it will be with surrender and writing as I am being written. Maybe I’ll finally hit the mark (”sin” in Ancient Greek means “to miss the mark”), and maybe my never-ending luck will cause my editor to say something like, “Alright then, you’ve finally given me a beautiful mess. Let’s dig in and get dirty with this thing. Let’s beat the daylights out of those aliens.”

Right now, I’m happy and feeling things changing in a way that’s swelling from the ground and putting me on my feet as they’ve never been planted in the earth before. It feels good.

And that’s that. My 2016 and new plans taking shape for 2017. I hope your year past was as prosperous.

All the best to you and yours in 2017. May good health and kind people follow you wherever you go, by foot or flight of imagination.

(For the curious, I finally know the what and why of that concrete curb.)

It’s Too Hot, Mom

It dawned on me as I reviewed this blog–three years old now–and set about changing it around, that I often post about my dogs and what they’ve taught me along the way.

About everything.

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I walked around on a badly split tibial plateau (that’s part of the knee) for three weeks, until my dogs wouldn’t stop licking the spot where I’d landed after my fall. That sent me on my way to urgent care, despite feeling no pain and the absence of bruising or swelling. It turned out to be a nasty split in need of immediate attention.

They’ve woken me up hours before a major earthquake and had me on alert when it hit.

They’ve taught me many lessons about being a creative and the difficulties I’ll encounter and the power of focus and tenacity.

Most of all, they’ve taught me about the softer side of myself. The sucker, the cuddler, the crooner of soothing words, the endless patience I often have, and many dangers beyond my sensory abilities.

I’m currently reading a book with a drastic new take on the human condition that blows apart Jung’s “shadow self” and especially Freud and his nonsense (I’ll get to that later). It talks about what’s now commonly accepted as the Internal Family of Selfs. We’re not one or the other, we are many. It’s a matter of which one of our selfs will dominate. I rarely let this more frightened, lonely, goofy, fragile and lazy self dominate. Nobody but my husband knows I strike the pose of a Super Hero, standing on one foot, before I leave the room. Nobody but my immediate family knows how easily a single word sets me off singing (badly) a song from the 60s.

And nobody but my dogs know how often I cry.

Big girls don’t cry. I’m not all that big, and my dogs know it. They don’t let me get away with my bullshit.

Since I can’t seem to get a handle on my other self-hosted sites (I mucked up the name on one–geesh), I thought I’d come back here, cuddled on each side by my dogs, and let down my guard in a place that feels familiar.

I’ll clear up that nasty remark I made about Freud before I get on to what the dogs have told me about today. It’s well known that Jung was Freud’s protege and they had a nasty split after a few years. The history of that split, as most of us who pay attention to those things know, was over Jung’s belief in spirituality and the unseen in this world.

Now I wonder about the true nature of their split. Freud started delving into the mind, along with several other physicians who were beginning to believe it actually existed, about the same time William James was developing the foundation of the mind in the States. The basis of Freud and his cohorts of Everything That’s Wrong With Us was sexual abuse somewhere in our past, at least for those of us that had Something Wrong With Us. The more enthusiastic Freud became about this theory, and the more he researched and explored it, the more he uncovered unbearable atrocities in his own family; things about which he dare not face, let alone expose. He became very loud and dominant in the theory of the mind, and changed it to sexual repression and family dynamics with a whiff of sexuality. He took point amongst thought leaders of his time.

Was their ferocious split about the unseen spiritual world, or was that Jung’s way of protecting his beloved teacher while distancing himself from Freud? He certainly got a lot of attention for the very public split, and people did fancy his unseen world and pay heavily for his therapy. (He’s quoted as saying the patient is cured when they run out of money.) We know that Scientology was a hoax from the beginning, nothing more than a SciFi book that gave the author an idea for starting a new religion. Is that what happened with Jung?

I don’t have an answer for that question. I’m not fond of absolute answers, love rolling around in the muck of amorphous questions, which:

Brings me back to my dogs.

This has been the hottest summer on record in the U.S., especially here in the South.  But I’ve stuck with my rigid routine of rising before the sun, writing 1,000 words by 5 a.m., then taking the dogs for an adventure and some exercise. I’ve pushed myself through this cloak of heat that nourished Faulkner, Harper Lee, Grisham and Maya Angelou with the help of enormous amounts of caffeine, a dose of inspirational quotes from the internet, and the bouncy-de-bounce of the dogs when I put on clothes and try opening the garage door with the TV remote. If anything in my morning ritual fails me, the bouncey-de-bounce of the dogs pushes me onward. Can’t let them down, can I, even if the TV remote is evidence that I’m not fully functional.

Yesterday, after our outing, I kept pushing myself as Molly and Toby headed back to bed. Molly stayed there until 5 p.m.

This morning, she refused to get out of bed. Period.

As I sucked up coffee and chomped vitamin B12 tablets, with Toby’s sleep-craved head bobbing faithfully next to me, I had a revelation via @dogs:

It’s too hot, Mom. The ritual is comforting, but it’s killing us all.

It made me wonder if the nature I feel inside of me, which I now feel is the nature outside of me, hasn’t declared this season as one of a slow simmer of thoughts and ideas and letting tangled knots melt in the heat.

Beside me Molly just whimpered in her dreams, affirming the words I’ve just written. To every thing, there is a season. (Boy, her head is really bobbing now in her day-long release from my good intentions and their comfort of routine.)

I’m aware that others are working just fine in this heavy air, but they’re not me and that’s a damned good thing or one of us would be redundant. They’re not me, and they’re not my dogs, who are the smartest people I know. They say we should cuddle on my cool airbed, nuzzle our throats and ears and noses in a day of heat so thick all problems get lost in the mists. They rolled over in our new morning routine of bed lounging and told me I’d feel much better, and not cry once today, if I rubbed their bellies, so I did. It’s been a very good day.

If you’ll excuse me now, I have some Nothing to do while (stealing from Stephen King here) the Boys In The Basement untangle some knots that are much too difficult for me to untie.

Ah-ha! I just had the thought that I’d use this day to read a style book. Molly gave me a good dream-kick when that thought crossed my mind.

Let it go, Mom. It’s too hot.

Be the Other You today. We need her right now.

Happy Endings

Those of us enchanted with words and language and reading and writing, imagination and storytelling, publication and the business of sharing our enchantment, see all these woven together as the fabric of our days. We’re a fierce tribe, but we forget.

We forget how small we are.

We forget that there are huge chunks of the United States that don’t even register on maps marked off with percentages of the population who read—they read nothing. We forget the studies that tell us 90% of those surveyed after leaving college say they don’t ever want to read a book again in their lives, and don’t. We forget that the average number of books read per person is one, perhaps two, books a year. Average. The size of the population divided by the number of books sold.

We forget the statistic that 10% of the books sold are not read to the end.

We’re so passionate about what we do and read, we can imagine just about anything, except a life not filled with books and the full-body buzz of reading.

Movies and TV and gaming and picnics and dating and hanging out with our crew tower over us on the list of Things To Do With Spare Time, if there is any of it in this hectic new world.

When these things are factored in, we’re not small; we’re tiny. We seek others like us. We’ve got stuff to share. We’ve got curiosity about the minds that make up the stories that we prefer over movies and TV and gaming and picnics and dating and hanging out with our crew.

We are Super Readers! We buy and read mass quantities of books written by other Super Readers! who buy and read massive quantities of books, and we forget.

Forget how tiny we are and how inevitable it is that we’ll bump into one another somewhere, somehow as we chase down everything we want to know about those who are like us.

We love what we do, but we bleed (we’re a bit melodramatic at times, too). We know how damned hard it is to write a book and put it out there. We’re hesitant to leave bad reviews for anyone with the courage to splash their insides to the outside and market it. We don’t review books we think are stinkers, but we might contact the author in private. Maybe talk a bit with them, offer suggestions, or we simply keep our mouths shut and let it be. We don’t want to hurt feelings.

The result? Amazon is now taking down writer’s reviews of other writers work, saying we know that person and, therefore, our reviews are not valid.

Amazon has forgotten what a tightly woven community we are; they see only the numbers.

True, there are ratings gangs that give false reviews.

True, there are too many books that are stinkers with a large number of positive reviews that piss off the average reader when the book is disappointing. Their time is precious.

If we are small, those with no integrity are microscopic, like bacteria that can infect and spread and cause great damage.

Thank you, Amazon, for the opportunities you have given us. Thank you, Amazon, for throwing open the gates and giving fresh air to reading, increasing the numbers of those who think it’s fashionable and fun, and thank you for giving us a platform to start a revolution.

And thanks for your attempt, although clumsy, for doing the only thing you could brainstorm into letters of review rejections to ensure that independent authors get the respect and careers they deserve.

But if we edit our mistakes, so should you.

Yes, please, toss out the reviews that give five stars and say: “It’s downloading now and I just know I’m going to love it!” or “I hate these kinds of books and didn’t get past page four on this one, so I’m giving it one star.” But as it is, those reviews are staying while the reviews of others who may have passed the writer in a hallway at a conference are not allowed. That’s not right.

Here’s where I get blunt.

None of us know what we’re doing, even Amazon. None of us have a universal business model we know will work and can share (quite a few have come very close), and we’re all of us fumbling our way, making mistakes, learning, stabilizing our business, trying new things and saying “Whoopsie. That boo-boo is going to cost me some big bucks.”

The difference is that when Amazon pulls a Whoopsie! it costs big bucks to those who deserve it the least. They’re not allowing those of us consumed by books and reading and writing the freedom to review other writers they may have met in passing. OhmyGod! They may even be lifelong besties who care deeply about each other and exchanged extensive and ruthless help on the writer’s way to publication. OhGoodGod! They may even be leaders who guided thousands in completing the journey beyond the gate you opened. HolyToot! they might know the author and be sucking up. Uh-huh, that works.

Often the good reviews come after many scathing private critiques. Did ya think of that, Amazon? You should. There’s still time.

I’m confident this will get straightened out. Amazon is a smart company and will wise up to the absurdity of this first effort at what I believe is quality control. There’s a better way, and as much of a dip as we may take while Amazon brainstorms something better, they’ve proven the unimaginable can be brought to life and surprise us all. At least I hope so.

There’s an arc to the story of independent authorship, and this one, like most good stories, will have a happy ending.

Until the next plot twist comes along.

They always do.


Speaking of happy endings, this blog as it is and has been, is coming to a happy ending. It’s been one hell of a year for me, but one of the best, culminating in two full months of illness during the spring (my mindset is programed for the academic year, not the ticking over of the traditional New Year).

All year long I’ve been on edge as something sleeping inside struggled  to awaken. When I got sick, the most I could drag out of myself after a few hours of writing was sprawling on a lounger in my backyard, looking up at the sweet gum trees with a mind so numb I became a thinker without a thought, a writer without words. (I’d post a photo of that lounger and the towering trees, but the appearance and disappearance of photos is just one of the many problems I’ve had with this host. It’s not a bad host, just one that’s not right for me.) The minor sinus congestion I’d ignored earlier in the season, roared like a flame on the right side of my face, stealing most of my vision and all of my energy. One day I tried to yawn but couldn’t open my mouth. Not good. Time to pay attention, see a doctor. He said I was lucky. If I’d let it go just a few more days, the infection would have further invaded the soft bone behind my ear and headed straight for my brain. I had to ask him to repeat that several times, please, because my hearing wasn’t so good, either.

Luck follows me wherever I go, probably because I put a choke collar on it and drag it along if it doesn’t willfully trot along with me. In this instance, as I came back to health I finally realized how long I’ve been adrift while being busy to the point of exhaustion. That thing inside me awoke and saw the entire matrix of my messes and the solutions to the riddles of my passage through them. So many people stroll through life without the good luck of a minor illness to knock them down and let their mind sort itself out as the body heals.

Make your own luck. I would never advise idiot illnesses that can be avoided, but I’ve become an advocate of slowing down for extended periods of time, doing nothing and letting what floods in from outside take shape in silence. Think about changing the scenery inside and letting yourself drift away while staying in place.Drift for days or weeks. It’s been the most valuable tool I’ve found for clarity. I may even become a writer who is mildly pleased with what she writes.

I’ve never lost my core driving life forces of being self-sufficient and a nurturing daughter, mother, wife, friend, and helping hand to strangers. But I’m older now and, surprisingly, have been for quite some time. Really. It can be hard kick in the Zeitgeist nuts the first time you get a solicitation for the elderly, and realize they mean you (the jackasses), especially when you look so young and pretty in your teeny-tiny Avatar.

I’m so old mature now that I’m surrounded by people who are either standing strong and self-sufficient themselves, or the memories of those I’ve done my best to help leave this world with grace and dignity. Hell yes, it’s my turn. It’s always been my turn to take the wheel of my own bus, but there simply aren’t many maps for this next part of the journey, and we do fit well on forgotten shelves with the doors shut.

There are plenty of sage gurus thinkers out there making form out of the chaos of change, but if you’re in my age group, there’s something about what they’re saying that sounds oddly familiar yet off in a most uncomfortable way…not to mention the overwhelming urge to lick your fingers and smooth their hair into place. Like Amazon and the world of self-publishing, we’re making it up as we go along. There’s a new voice to this stage of life, and I want to build a megaphone for that voice.

I have experiences those dominating the internet have only read about in books. I’ve been to emotional landscapes younger generations can not yet imagine, and I’m anxiously anticipating others leading me to new landscapes I can’t visit without their help. I’ve witnessed history and even slipped into the timelessness Joseph Campbell, Jung and physicists talked about. (It’s scary! I could only tolerate it for 30 seconds.) I see patterns where others see only bright and shiny new things, like global connection via the internet (it’s nothing new, just a recovery of something lost long ago). With this realization of my vantage point, I’ve found the most powerful source of creation in the universe: the question. Not the why or the what or the how, just an endless stream of questions, and acceptance of my own ignorance and anticipation of how much there is yet to be discovered.

It’s time to gather all my scattered blogs under the newly defined life force found in my silence. I’m as solid as ever on what I like to write and read (that’s a no-brainer: everything), but now I’ve got enough maturity to know how much I do not know and how past wisdom was a necessary illusion for that stage of life. It’s weird being an elder at the feet of elders I recognize by the tunnels in their eyes, not the number of their years. Some of them even flip their hair with their fingers and say things like, “Well, like, you know. What-ev-ah,” and others can’t hold their gas when they get excited (not always a function of age). Some vigorously plow through triple digits.

Life becomes intense the more it contracts; paradoxically filled with more options as what the elderly (definitely going to do something about that word) see as new horizons for GenX reveal themselves as not an option for us. It’s crazy. It’s a hootenanny.

This domain will remain somewhere in cyberspace for keeping in touch with old friends and my own blunders for review when I get too big for my britches (in no way am I a narcissist, but I can be a bit of an exhibitionist). Whether I blog a book of just write the damned thing and create a landing page, this is where I’ll come to shout about it and share a few things now and again that are too exciting to keep to myself. There’s so much to explore, and so much I don’t know at this point, except:

There is no way this story I’ve started here will not have a surprising but inevitable happy ending. I may stumble and stutter and stall now and again, but I don’t quit.


Looking Backwards And Forwards

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This is a new one for me, looking back at a worn out year behind me and forward to the one ahead at this time of year. I’ve always been so involved with the changes that happen with each school year that late August has always been when I take stock of my cupboards and draw up my list of what is missing and how to go about filling it up again. There have always hopes and dreams for myself in those plans, but they come second to the struggles of being a daughter, mother, wife and chief breadwinner. I’m ordinary in that herd of women who are family-centric.

This year is different. This year I’ve gone through big changes in my driving life forces that have brought me out of someone else’s time frame and into my own. This is my time, and busting through to claim my time as my own has not been easy. Like most women with children and needy parents, cutting loose can be very much like being a puppet with cut strings.

© Liette Parent | Dreamstime Stock Photos

One limb at a time, you fall to the floor, then you stay there developing muscle to stand back up on your own, on the stage you’ve been building in your mind for a very long time. There can be long periods of time when the effort seems too much. But you either lay on the stage of your making as a lifeless carving, or you do the work and stand.

I stood.

Once on my feet with head centered between the shoulders, I looked around and saw chaos. Instead of picking up where I left off as the writer I once was, I found myself in a house of mirrors inside a carnival in a nightmare Stephen King might have. Indie publishing was at war with legacy publishing, and within the indie world there were battles being fought over how it’s done (gurus, gurus, gurus everywhere), and the impenetrable world of screenwriting had more rules and regs than a military boot camp. WTF?

I thought writing was about telling stories we pulled from Thoreau’s oversoul or Jung’s collective unconscious. We were hard-wired for storytelling and had a priori knowledge of how to tell them in some ethereal part of our minds, whatever a mind is and wherever it resides. I’d been taught, years ago, that to be a writer meant first serving an apprenticeship of writing a million words, burning them, then moving on to the next phase of reading in equal parts of writing to refine sensibilities and craft and stop that stink from coming off one’s work.

That wasn’t what I found. Not even close. Everybody and their uncle’s monkey had a copy of the latest how-to book in their back pocket and a paper crown of gold they’d gotten from Burger King, with the word “Author” tacked to the back of their names. Without hyperbole, I read nearly a thousand books and felt the majority take a bite out of me and chew it to dust. This was the new landscape of lit-ra-chure? This was what I was to write if I was going to be a writer? This wasn’t the literature I’d left behind.

To be fair, all those how-to books were needed and a blessing. For the first time, those who had harbored a secret desire to write now had the chance, but not the clues. The rise of social media and those whose focus was watching and taming it were overwhelmingly decent people with a strong desire to help others achieve their dreams. But let’s be honest. We’re all children at heart who want what we want when we want it, and when that marshmallow is set in front of us, we take it. The new world of writing and the playground it was pounded on was a mess of marshmallow fluff, and all the good teachers and coaches cried in private, the distant sound of buttons clicking and publishing half-baked books tapping the back of their heads like marshmallows shot from a sling.

Add to this mess the change in contemporary reading habits and tastes, and I was in the mass of those without a clue.

Man, that was messed up. My inner drive had no map.

© Simba3003 | Dreamstime.com - Dangerous Beauty Woman Driving A Car, Close Up Portrait Photo

This is a good place for me to say I don’t believe in goals. If setting goals were the key to getting where I wanted to go, there’d be one book on how to do it with some loosey-goosey guidelines on how to organize the goals, and that would be the end of the story. That’s not the case. But…but…but goals have worked so well for so many, how can I say such a thing? Easy. I have always known that we run on driving life forces, and any success with goals happens when those goals, accidentally or consciously, dovetail with the life forces that drive us. The majority of us have no clue what our driving life forces; they’re big and scary and they hide in sooty dark places. They’re hard to feed because they have teeth that bite and make life uncomfortable. We’ve been taught to keep away from drilling down inside ourselves to find them because it is not safe. You might even find your own darkness down there and be forever damaged. Stick with goals. They float on rafts filled with people who have failed over and over again. You’ll always know where you belong and never be alone if you keep setting goals and fail.

A driving life force is something that you set and forget. The unthinking mind takes over and organizes the path towards the end goal. It’s like walking into an enormous disaster in the kitchen after a holiday meal. When I was very young, I’d walk in and think, “I can’t do it. This is the mess I can’t clean up.” With time I learned to just attack it without thought and let the “executive” part of my brain (right behind the forehead) do its job. I thought of everything and anything but the mess at hand, and without fail, everything was cleaned up, leftovers organized, the refrigerator and cupboards straightened and nothing left behind but the satisfaction of a job well done with speed. Had I not learned to stop thinking, I’d still be in that same kitchen I had 30 years ago and crying over where to start cleaning the mess that could not be cleaned.

The year behind me, without any conscious goals, brought the end of the road of two major driving forces in my life. Successfully. Each time I opened my mouth or made a decision, something other than my thinking mind guided my words and actions. (Insert fist pump here.) There is nothing more satisfying than watching your own efforts build your dreams and keep them afloat. Nothing.

If only I’d been smart enough to stop thinking so damned much, I could have picked up on my writing sooner than I did. Didn’t happen. I got stupid and started thinking, thinking, thinking and letting nasty remarks from people I didn’t even respect push me deeper into thinking, thinking, thinking.

Buckling with mental fatigue, early in 2014 I was ready to quit. I’d had some success, published a bit, but was bitterly disappointed that it wasn’t the grunting, sweating hard work endured for years that seemed to be leading the way. A common description of the literary landscape at the time was “A tsunami of crap.” I’d spent a lot of years successfully ending the journeys of my primary driving life forces, while holding back on my person Big One for so long, and I was ready to rock ‘n roll my own road…but not on the messy road it had become. My mind was on the holiday feast of easy money and book sales I’d been reading about and not my own driving force to be the writer I wanted to be, whether that lead to fame and riches or obscurity and food stamps.

As 2014 starting winding down, there was a grumbling in the land. October, to be specific. Authors, authors, authors everywhere watched their sales plummet for reasons they couldn’t understand. Kindle Unlimited launched and income fell even more for most. There was much beating of breasts, gnashing of teeth, and the ding-dong of the dooms day bells ringing. But why?

Go ahead, take a guess. Have fun with that game because your guess is as good as anybody else, and it vents frustration volleying those guesses around on the ground that was once the playground of books.

I’ll confess I was playing that game and having a good time in hopes of winning something from the marshmallow mess, until I heard some magical words. Over and over I played a portion of a Creative Penn podcast where the word “apprenticeship” was spoken, along with the words “career” and “hard work.” My pesky thinking mind shut down; the driving life force took over.

And then came Kristine Rusch’s blog post. Big ouchie to be found there if you’d been riding the gravy train and found you were now stained with bruised from the ride.

And then Russell Blake.




Blog posts and articles all over the place proclaiming 2015 the year when the bar is raised and quality will strut its stuff.

The targets of each portion of this driving life’s journey will be mapped out by the GPS of my driving life force. I ain’t sweatin’ a thing because:

This is it, kids. The game’s for real. There will still be plenty of us writing foot-off-the-cliff serialized books that do well on Kindle Unlimited, and very naughty shorts of fifteen pages or less for naughty readers (that covers just about everyone, doesn’t it?) cycle through on subscription plans, but even within those ranks the competition will be tough. You’ll have to write better to keep an audience. And the door will always be open for those who write from the heart and publish with the purpose of touching other hearts, helping them rise out of a mucked-up mess. We can all be grateful for those writers and the impossible high bar they’ve set of courage and compassion.

Whatever path we take or niche we fill, there’s just no way around it: All of us have to write gooderer.

Are you in?

I hope so.

Whether you’re in as a professional career writer, a hobbyist, a helping hand with your words, or making a quiet exit for another creative endeavor, the wish remains the same:


Upcoming Posts:

What To Do When A Novel Begs To Be A Screenplay Or TV Pilot

The New Landscape Of Book Cover Photography, featuring Katrina Brown

The Game Is Real, What Does That Mean For Book Cover Design?

Blog Flip Flop

As always, a great big Thank You! to Dreamstime Photos

Photo Credits:

Hand Holding Weight: © Liette Parent | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Calculator And Papers:  © Diamant24 | Dreamstime.com – Target, Calculator, Pen, Notebook,
Glasses – Setting Goals Photo

Woman Driving Behind Wheel: © Simba3003 | Dreamstime.com – Dangerous Beauty Woman Driving A Car, Close Up Portrait

I’ve Stepped In It Now

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That’s my boy Toby. He and I share many traits, like taking off after something without giving much thought to it and ending up muddied and wondering what happened. In this photo, a catfish jumped, which he thought was pretty cool and off he went into a bog. You can see the muddy result.

I’ve done much the same thing. It came time for renewal of this domain name and WordPress hosting, and I got the wild idea that the next book I publish will be under this name, so I hit the button to renew everything for another year. Then I changed my mind. But it doesn’t matter because nothing happens in any area of our lives without some unconscious rumblings that it’s the thing to be done. Well, almost. There was that guy in college. Twice. No excuse for the second time.

Probably an excuse for another go around with this blog. I plan to publish the novelization of my screenplay “A Violet For Christmas” the second week of November. The name on the plaque that says I wrote it and I won the award bears this name, so I guess that means the novel needs to have the same name attached. But really, what good does it do to blog about it? I feel it takes precious time away from writing the damned the beloved book, but I’ve paid my money and I don’t intend to waste it.

And maybe there’s something I can share about the process that will be of value to others. I’m going to pretend I believe that for the moment and jump right in with some observations and tips, even though I know there are so many good blogs with so much good advice out there already that another isn’t needed, at least not by a grunt like me. Onward.

Five Things I’ve Learned About Taking A Script To Prose (may the gods help me; I’m making this up as I go):

  1.  It’s best to torture oneself with scripting a story before venturing into prose. Good God but it feels good rutting around in language after the constraints of scriptwriting. I feel like a beautiful young girl with flaxen hair, romping in fields of lavender on a sunlit day with fluffy clouds for amusement. I feel barefoot and slender. The structure’s nailed in place, and I am free to run.
  2. Structure in scriptwriting is an illusion. Well, isn’t that just spiffy after I’ve waxed poetic about the freedom of having the structure nailed via scriptwriting. In the past year I’ve had a staged readers theater production of the script, turning over my little pretty to the director and giving him total freedom to have his way with it. As hard as I worked getting the beats and act breaks just right in that script, and after it had been judged as being up to snuff, the director had the audacity to put an intermission break at a point he swore was the obvious act break, which was absolutely insane. It was five pages further into the script! We argued the point to death with me finally giving in because I’d said he could do as he pleased. Dammit. The worst part was that the audience thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s entertainment without a single soul standing up and yelling, “This is a crime! The director has obviously assumed the act break was in the wrong place! Author! Author!”
  3. “And then what happens?” is the only thing that matters. As writers we can get caught up in the rules and regs like fish in a net and forget about our audience. The thing that pulls them forward in their seats with thrills! chills! and excitement! is wondering what happens next and how the mess the characters are in will be resolved. There’s a video of two TV writers of a very successful show talking about the epiphany they had in their second successful season when they got stuck. They finally figured out that this happens, and because this happens, then this happens…and on and on and on. Cause and effect. Without it, the story takes on a pattern I used to call and-then-and-then-and-then-and-then. Boring. Very.
  4. The only thing that makes an audience wonder what happens next is caring about the characters. The best stories have some sympathy for the devil; he’s the guy who saves a cat early in the story, or something equally endearing. In the best stories, the villain is the hero of his own story, causing conflict within the audience and the story. I hope it goes without saying that we need to write central characters we care about deeply, and lots of luck with that because it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Nobody loves Pollyanna any longer.
  5. Scriptwriting is terrific training for showing with very little telling. You’ve got to make a weary script reader see and feel and get sucked inside your story within five pages with a minimum of words, and all of them better be strong, visual words.If he dialogue isn’t 85% sub-text and none of it “on the nose” narrative storytelling, your script gets fed to the shredder, maybe even halfway through the first page. Intense mood, voice, evoking the visual, dialogue that’s sub-text all become habits that carry over into the novel, even if you feel like a young girl with flaxen hair romping through a field of lavender.

I never intended to be a screenwriter, which is another post for another day. I’ve continued with screenwriting, and will keep writing screenplays, but it’s all a habit. For now I’ll just say I got lucky. I stepped into it with scriptwriting.

It was the best mess of mud I could have fallen into.

(The verdict on this blog still awaits. Big time apologies for the tiny font size. Something got messed up.)