I attended high school at the end of the 1980’s and my school wasn’t the most racially diverse. Most of the students were suburban white kids, pretty sheltered. Still, I don’t remember race being an issue (though it is very possible I just didn’t see it). I naively believed that the racism which plagued America for hundreds of years had (for the most part) been overcome, and that my generation had grown beyond that sort of idiocy.
By the time I was in college, I was not quite so unobservant. But even then, it was clear to the majority of us that anyone acting overtly racist was an asshole. We dismissed their behavior, their rhetoric for what it was- Unintelligent garbage. Absolute crap.
I really believed America was growing up, putting aside old prejudices, becoming a more welcoming, open minded place.
I continued to believe it, even after the abhorrent behavior I witnessed from those who did not like having a black president. It was easy to do. Things seemed better. Social progress seemed to be unstoppable.
Maybe it moved too fast. Small minds weren’t ready.
And I had misjudged the pulse of the country completely.
In the last year to year and half, the voice I’d thought reduced to a dying whisper has become a very loud shout. Scared white people are running about screaming the sky is falling, their culture (whatever that means) is under assault, and they have to stand up, reclaim their country from everyone who suddenly won’t stay in their *proper* places.
The violence this past weekend is likely only the beginning of a nasty string of events.
Emotions are running dangerously high.
This isn’t just a conflict of ideas (one does not attend a debate armed, in full riot gear, ready to club the opposition), but a war against an ideology of oppression and hate. One that has already shown us what atrocities it is capable of committing, and one that cannot be given another chance.
Last weekend, I drove 8 hours from Salt Lake City to Lake Tahoe to attend my brothers bachelor party. I like driving long distances. It calms me, gives me ample time to think. Also, it allows for excellent conversations with travel companions. On this particular trip, it was me and one other fine gentleman, a close friend of two of my brothers. We talked sports, kids, dogs, politics, music, anything that came to mind. The first four hours passed quickly.
After stopping in Winnemucca for gas, my traveling companion crawled into the back seat for a nap. Out in front of me, the road stretched straight and unbending for what seemed like hundreds of miles. I put on some music, made myself comfortable in the seat, and drove. Hours passed. My mind wandered through so many topics, lingering on some for a while, allowing others to slip by almost without a complete thought.
Rhythms of the road.
When I find myself in that state of mind, I can go for hours without stopping. Small towns and cities passed by, and while driving through Reno (oops, I should have exited earlier as we were heading to Stateline, Nevada) was nerve-wracking, I adored the drive.
As for the party, well let’s just say that I am clearly too old for that sort of shenanigans. I love my brother and enjoy spending time with him, but this weekend I felt nervous and out of place most of the time.
At first, things were great. I drank some delicious beers, went on a spectacular group hike where we found a rock formation to summit. From there, the views were stellar. The lake was to our right, a sprawling valley of farms to our left.
This was my favorite moment of the weekend.
We stayed in an amazing place- three floors and ample bedrooms for all of us (between 12-15 fellows depending on the day).
All the elements were there for an epic gathering. I can only blame myself for not having an amazing time. Apparently, I’ve become a crotchety old man, always worried about everything. People were too loud, too happy, too drunk, too outrageous, too destructive for my comfort.
Maybe I should have drank more, allowed myself to be buzzed for three straight days, get into the spirit of things, but honestly, most of the time I just wanted to be anywhere else.
That worries me some.
For months, I had been looking forward to this weekend, anticipating the stories we’d have to tell afterward, the craziness we’d create. To then have a continual gnawing in my stomach, an anxiety that grew deeper each day; I have a hard time blaming that on age (even if it is super convenient).
I’ll have to ponder this some more.
The drive home was equally as pleasant as the ride out, and the conversations I had with myself (as my travel companion was exhausted from the weekend and slept for much of the ride) kept me stimulated and engaged. I’m super entertaining, really.
Also, the puppy love I received upon my return was epic.
As I missed most of the discussion last month, I’m quite excited to participate in this months Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog hop. If you don’t know about us, what we do, why we exist at this point, I’m pretty embarrassed for you. Seriously, do better. Check us out here. Sign up. Participate.
It has been a very interesting month, writing wise. I spent two days working on a flash fiction challenge while trying to function on tiny amounts of sleep. I also spent a very stressful day tweeting different pitches for my three manuscripts during IWSGpit day. I didn’t get any nibbles from agents or publishers, and overall the day was difficult and frustrating. But I am grateful to the IWSG team for putting the event together, offering support to all the writers, and overall being super supportive and positive. Things may not have worked out as I’d hoped, but I am undeterred. Rumor has it another pitch party is on the calendar for January of 2018, and I will be sharpening my approaches to participate again.
Another positive thing- I’ve two stories in the final editing stage and plan to seek out places to submit them in the next two weeks. I really think I’m done sitting on the sidelines, hoping some miracle happens and my work magically finds someone who wants to publish it. I am the only one who can find that person, and it certainly won’t happen if I put in zero effort.
On the puppy front, Athena is growing and learning at a very fast pace. She is 14 weeks old, and weighed in at 32 pounds this morning. She still chews everything and has the occasional accident inside (almost always due to owner negligence), but her sweetness makes up for any bad moments. Here is a lovely photo of the two of us from the other day.
We were about to attend our second week of obedience training classes. It was socialization day, and the room was filled with all sorts of strange objects for the puppies to explore, climb on, into, over, through. My girl was all sorts of excited and brave. She still struggles with traffic noise, and the sight of moving cars frightens her. I hope continual exposure and positive experiences can do the trick. Wish us luck.
Tomorrow is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group twitter pitch party! I’ve been gearing up for this day for the past three months, trying out various ways of pitching each of my three completed manuscripts, and somehow, I still don’t feel ready. When I look at what I’ve put on paper, each effort seems silly, and somehow not quite catching what I think the novels are really about.
I’ve always struggled with describing the first novel. I have three different query letters for it, each highlighting a different part of the story, and I am equally unimpressed with all three. Now, I’m trying to pitch the same novel in less than 100 characters. Thank goodness I have a clever wife who has a gift for simplification. She was able to send me two really decent ideas, both of which I will be using tomorrow.
As for the other two manuscripts, I feel a bit better about what I’ve put together for them, but I still wouldn’t say I’ve got it all figured out. And that’s okay, really.
I am going into this event with my eyes wide open. It is likely I won’t get any interest from publishers or agents. If I do get a nibble, the manuscript or query letter might not satisfy. But this is all part of the process, part of putting myself out there and taking risks. Sitting back, doing nothing hasn’t been all that successful a strategy, so perhaps it is time to try a new, bolder approach.
Wish me luck.
Any of you planning on participating? How have your pitches come together and are you feeling confident?
And just because, here is a picture of my sleeping Athena.
As if having a 12 week old, teething, biting, super curious, super sweet, quite devious puppy taking up most my time wasn’t hard enough, I decided it would also be super smart to enter a flash fiction contest run by NYC Midnight.
Writers are put into groups, given a genre, location, and item, all of which must be written into a story of no more than 1000 words. Oh, and that story must be completed and submitted 48 hours after receiving the assignment. Super easy, right? Even under normal circumstances, I’d struggle with something so structured. Add to that some severe sleep deprivation and I was in for a rough weekend.
Still, I was excited to get the email, find out what sort of story I was going to be writing. At 10:59 PM Friday night, my path was revealed-Romantic comedy, a tropical island, a brick.
What? People actually write romantic comedy flash fiction? Visions of Love Actually and a half dozen Adam Sandler, Drew Berrymore movies instantly came to my head. This genre was definitely not in my wheelhouse or toolbox. I would rather have had romance, a soviet era gulag, a french fry.
My first attempt on Saturday Morning was a disaster. I had a couple, a clever way for them to meet, but that moment itself took 400 words. Scratch that. Delete. Try again.
A second idea had more promise, but also took up too many valuable words without getting me anything resembling a story.
Then the tiredness took over. I couldn’t concentrate, spell, type, do much of anything but stare at the screen. Also, the puppy needed attention, and the puppy comes first right now.
A few hours later, I tried again, this time with some more success. I had several awkward encounters, silly moments, and the outline of a story. An ending still eluded. I had Sheryl read what I’d written so far and while she liked it, she agreed it wasn’t quite right.
Sunday could not have been a more awful day. I didn’t rest well, and a very intense wave of puppy depression hit me early that morning. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless. Writing was impossible. The contest was out of my mind completely.
I did some heavy soul searching that day, spent a lot of time talking with my amazing wife. I am so grateful for her advice, patience, love. She is my best friend and perfect companion.
With less than 3 hours until I had to submit the story, I had no draft, no ending, and very few ideas, but I was determined. I sat at the computer and hammered out three very sloppy endings, picking one to flush out and use. I read through, edited, read through again, edited, then asked Sheryl for her opinion.
“It’s okay, but the ending lacks pop. It’s too sweet. Something needs to happen that puts them at odds again.”
I was crushed, out of ideas, ready for defeat.
“Something like…” and she said it. The exact ending. And I loved it. With forty minutes to go, I rewrote the ending, not worrying about word count. When it was finished, I was at 1020 words, but the ending was just what this brief romantic comedy needed.
I spent the remaining time cutting words (easier than I thought) until I was at 997. One more read and edit, just to make sure, and it was time to submit. My first romantic comedy was complete. I’m not sure it will get me enough points to move out of the second round (two rounds are guaranteed each writer), but that is fine with me.
I’ll keep you posted.
Wish me good sleeps. I still need them.
And dogs are awesome.
In October of 2015 the time came to put down our 14 year old German Shepherd, Keyara. Being a stay at home dad (and before that, mostly part time at the library), I’d spent more time with her than anyone else in the family. It isn’t an exaggeration to say I was closer to that dog than most humans. Making the decision to euthanize her was difficult and the actual act was heartbreaking. I still tear up looking at this picture, taken during her last few hours.
I think of her every day, along with her adopted sister, Sage (who died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 9).
I had determined I would not be ready to adopt another dog for several years, maybe never. My heart hurt too much, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be over the loss of both my beautiful girls.
Things change and time makes some wounds easier to deal with.
Last Friday, after likely not enough thought or conversation, we took the plunge and adopted another beautiful German Shepherd Puppy.
This is Athena.
She is 11 weeks old, loves to test my patience by chewing on everything in sight, eating pill bugs (rolly-polly, potato bugs) by the dozens, munching on bark mulch faster than I can get it out of her mouth, biting my toes, spilling her water bowl each time I fill it. And we won’t mention bedtime or crate training…
She is also absolutely adorable. And while I have moments of absolute terror at what we’ve done, hours of depression brought on by too much thinking, I already love her deeply. She makes me laugh with her silly prancing, her determination to get her own way, and the sweet kisses she offers me each day.
She already knows her name, how to sit. We are working on *leave it* (silly bark mulch), and will get to *stay* next week.
I know I shouldn’t let her on the bed, but I’m gonna anyway.
As you might expect, taking care of her requites almost all my time and effort. She has so much to learn, and everything is new to her. My writing has been put on hold, along with almost everything else. That will change as the weeks roll by, and soon enough our routines will be established, and she will not demand as much attention. But for now, I will be mostly absent from Social Media. That will likely be great news to some of you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a puppy to smother with affections.