I honestly didn’t realize I’d missed blogging last week until Saturday. I’ll pretend it was because of all the bustle leading up to my family hosting TWO Thanksgiving dinners. Yeah, that’s the reason. I was certainly distracted by the massive list of things I had to do, clean, cook, prepare. When you are about to welcome and feed close to 50 people, the pressure can get to you.
I’ll stick with that. I was too busy.
But really, Thanksgiving was great! We usually host both families, but have one group over on Wednesday night to make things a bit less stressful. That didn’t work out this year, so we decided to have my family over at noon, Sheryl’s at 6. That gave us just enough time to smoke turkeys, make sweet potato casserole, prepare gravy, cook stuffing. We rely on the others for the rest of the food, and they always come through with fantastic pies, sides, rolls.
I’m fortunate to have both parents and all my siblings living near me, and while we get together often, Thanksgiving is still special. I’m also extremely lucky to have fantastic in-laws. I love my wife’s family as if they were my own. They are a huge part of my life and I am thankful for their love and friendship.
I’ve become quite sentimental in my old(er) age. My emotions run closer to the surface, and being in the same room with the people I care most about makes me insanely happy. This year was particularly poignant. Several times I found myself close to tears. I am grateful, thankful, joyful.
And the best part- I get to have all these wonderful people in my house again on the 24th of December for another fantastic evening of food and family. It really is a pretty great life.
The leaves are changing on the mountains. Temperatures are hovering near perfection. I get to wear sweaters and long sleeve shirts. Autumn is here! Oh, and also, it is the first Wednesday of the month which is when the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gets together for their monthly blog hop. Check us out and sign up HERE
From the website:
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.
You can also answer the optional question each month.
for October the question is: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
When I first read this, I thought in terms of identity theft. You know, something like I wrote my social security number on page 17, or maybe used my current street address. I can say with surety I’ve never done that.
But slipping personal things about myself, stories, traits, desires and dreams, sure.
When I was in my teens and twenties, the majority of my protagonists were loose representations of myself. I’d write about actual events, slightly tweaked, but anyone who knew me or was there could see through the flimsy disguise.
With practice, I got better and hiding things. Like many writers, I was able to create characters who could do and say things I might never dare try in my actual life. I would write idealized versions of who I’d like to be (and on one creepy occasion, someone I’d never want to be). The fictionalized adventures would be mine, become something like my memories.
If I’m being honest with myself, I think I still do this more than I’d like, but rather than jumble all these things into one character, I spread them out over everyone in the story. Maybe others are talented enough to write complex and interesting characters based entirely on speculation, void of any connection to themselves or anyone they know. That is beyond my skill.
On another note, I finished the second round of the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. Hopefully this story is more well received than my last effort, which honestly wasn’t very good. This time, I wasn’t sleep deprived or unable to focus. Hopefully, I’ll actually score some points and maybe advance to the final two rounds. If not, it was a fun and challenging experience.
My only complaint about the contest is the rigid use of genre and accompanying expectations. I know it makes judging a bit easier to have set criteria, but it makes the writing feel very controlled. I mentioned my story wasn’t quality work, but one of the critiques was, in romantic comedies, we expect a happier conclusion. In other words, don’t play with the genre. That seems a strange and vapid critique.
What about you clods? Any good words to share?
I’m struggling this week with the hectic and frightening mood permeating my country. The dieification of the military, the proliferation of forced patriotism frightens me.
I cannot help but shake my head and wonder what terrible thing lurks around the corner.
I do not believe my government really acts in the best interests of its people, and I do not believe that any of the current conflicts are doing anything to preserve my freedom or protect my rights.
Governments do not give rights, but they sure know how to suppress them.
As I looked up, streaks of pale pink and yellow stared back at me me. For a moment, it seemed as if the sky were moving at an incredible rate of speed, stretching the clouds, and the earth lurched to keep pace. I stumbled, confused and dizzy, forgetting why I had come to the city, who I intended to meet. A passing stranger spoke to me, but his words were a jumble of incoherent sounds. I could only stare at the fading light, awestruck.
Three deep breaths, three rapid blinks, and I regained a recollection of my surroundings, who and where I was. She was waiting for me in the bar around the corner, a cold beer already placed on the table in front of the empty chair I would soon occupy. I was excited to see her again, share some conversation, one hundred laughs with someone I did not see enough of during the autumn months.
And in that moment, as I fumbled with my phone, framed a picture, instead of thinking how much she would appreciate the stunning sunset, the mountains dark silhouette like an oil painting, all I could think was how I wished you were right here to see this with me instead.
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.
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.
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.