Reading as a writer

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From Pixabay

Before I turned my hand to stories, I was a reader. The first writers that grabbed my imagination and took me to other worlds were in the sci-fi and fantasy field. I think then they may have called it speculative fiction. Don’t mind me– my mind comes up with odd facts and sometimes it is right.

I was that nerdy girl that would carry a book bag that always had at least one fiction book. I would have gone into withdrawal if I didn’t read something. I was that girl who read on the bus to school and home. I was that girl who read in the bathroom. I do remember hiding in the bathroom with a Witch World novel by Andre Norton. By the time I finished reading, my bare butt was cold from sitting on the toilet so long. I think there may have even been a red ring around my butt. So I am that girl.

When I started writing, my goal was to write entertaining stories that I would like to read. I wanted to be able to write such an interesting story that some one some where would have to admit that they were caught in the bathroom with their pants down, reading my stories. An odd goal for an odd girl.

So now I am older and hopefully not wiser. This last writing class gave me some good ideas and tips about dragging you guys– yes, you!!!– down into the depths of my character and my stories. So be warned.

Here be dragons.

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A day, a day, and another day

So I had an appointment on Tuesday, a lunch on Wednesday, and another appointment today. Then at the beginning of next week after the holiday, I need to get my labs done to check my kidneys. In between I have been looking critically at what I have overflowing in closets and other spaces, and I have decided to get things cleaned, sold, or given away while I have the energy.

There is a thought in the back of my mind that I won’t have the time or energy to complete all of this in three months. Don’t ask me what is going to happen in three months because I don’t know. When I think that far ahead, I feel a heaviness that tells me another big change is coming.

I used to like change. When I was younger, moving to a new place wasn’t scary. I thought that adventure was seeing new places and making new friends. Then off I would go to another adventure in a new place with new friends. It changed when I had my huge health change. It wasn’t just a scare– it was an entire change of life. I had orders that I couldn’t be around large groups of people. Since I live near Las Vegas, it meant that while I was on a chemo like Cytoxan, I couldn’t go to events, theaters, or malls. My late-hubby used to take me to malls during the time of day when most people were doing other things. I carried wet wipes and we would wipe down every bench before I sat. I would walk twenty feet and then have to sit down again. Those were survival days.

When I lost my hubby, it was another huge change. It changed my physical, social, and mental frame of reference. I am still dealing with the aftershocks. I suspect this change that I am dreading has to do with my kidneys.

I notice that I cramp more at night even when I take vitamins and drink enough water. Sometimes I have a low- grade fever. Both of these symptoms can cause sleep deprivation which can cause the short-term cognitive problems. Or it might be the kidneys again. So last night I slept like the dead. It was good. The little doggy jumped up and down on my side before I woke up. I could have slept another two hours.

So I am beginning to dread change– change means illness and more problems to solve. Change means that when I move, I can’t carry those heavy boxes, like I used to do. It means that when I move the furniture, I spend two to three days resting.

Change means that I meet new people and worry about getting new infections. On the other hand, I have met others who are dealing with some of the same problems. Plus I am learning tolerance for the ill and infirmed. Sadly, I had to become one of them before I could feel for them.

Still– I have cleared out things that I haven’t used or seen used in a decade or more. The apartment feels lighter.

A candle for health

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Last week my nephrologist started to prepare me for dialysis. She said that I needed to be ready when my kidneys failed. The kidneys had lasted a very long time. They had started to slide.

Part of the preparation for dialysis would be to have a stent made. Apparently it takes one month to get the appointment for the stent, and then it takes three months for the stent to mature so it can be used.

In the beginning days of my disease, (you can find the book here), the doctor put a heart catheter into my neck. My late-hubby held my hand, while the nurse put a shot in my neck, and then the doctor slit my throat and pushed in the plastic tubing.

I don’t want to go through that again. First it was scary. Second it hurt. Third my neck rubbed raw from the tubing after over four weeks of use. My late-hubby told me he didn’t want to go through it again either. He watched the entire procedure and almost fainted. It wasn’t because of the blood, (there was very little). It was because they were cutting into his wife– me– and he was watching.

Last week I did negotiate with the nephrologist. If my kidneys didn’t stabilize, then she would order the stent in September. I know most of you know this from a post on Facebook. When I came home that day, after the news, I cried. The well-wishes and prayers were a blessing to my aching soul.

It felt like I was starting down this road again. Two years ago it was with my late hubby, and now it is the same road I started in 2003.

So I am eating more cabbage and less protein. I got rid of corn syrup, processed products, and sodas almost a decade ago. I added turmeric and more omega 3s. I am more diligent at drinking large quantities of water. Still it feels like there isn’t much I can do to stop the slide this time. There are no drastic changes to make to my eating and drinking habits. I will NOT give up coffee.

The only real change I can make is to meditate. It helps to put my mind in the present moment and not into the future of pain, kidney failure, and dialysis. Yes, I am noticing more pain. Yes, my muscles are less forgiving than they have ever been. And yes, I am cramping more.

But all of these symptoms can be caused by taking chemo. I can even blame my age.

Today I asked for health and lit a candle. For a moment my brain quit thinking and I felt peace.

Dandelion tea, cold Northern winds, and bright sun

Northern NV 2013

Northern NV 2013

We’ve had a Northern wind blowing through Boulder City, NV the last two days. This morning I was shivering enough that staying cuddled with Foxy sounded like a good idea.

But I need to get back to my goals for the coming new year – 2016, mainly writing. I know that I can write 500-1000 words a day without stretching or hurting my brain. So if I make a goal of 1000 words a day times 366 days for 2016 (yes, this coming year is leaping), I should be able to write 366,000 words this year. So if I keep to this schedule, I should be able to have four books in first draft by the end of the year. Unlike the last two years, I hope that I won’t be facing other catastrophic circumstances. My logical brain is telling me that I am probably not due for more of this pain for another five years. I am not sure that I can trust that brain of mine.

Of course this doesn’t include making covers, writing blurbs, doing my minimal advertising, and especially editing– But this is a good goal. I am looking at 7,000 fresh words written weekly.

During my sick time, I was watching David Amen’s program on the brain. Yes, it was on public television. He likes to do SPECT imaging of the brain to see if the brain is working properly. Many times the personality problems we see in people (high anxiety, depression, and even some mental disorders) are found by just looking at image of the brain. I’m not into having my brain scanned unless I really have a serious problem. However, I saw that he used the same system that I have used for years to accomplish my goals. There are four areas he suggests that we need to develop to keep our brains healthy.

The areas are Biological, Psychology, Social, and Spiritual. I know my weaknesses. I do have a chronic illness, which makes biology a weak point. However, I keep that under control using food, supplements, and doctors. It did surprise me that a test would show that I have anxiety. I am really good at hiding it– but there is anxiety underlying many of my actions. Meditation and quiet time really helps me to calm the anxiety. But I am stable in most of these areas except social.

Yes, I am an introvert. You know that loner that likes to watch people, but is very nervous when you invite her to join your group. That’s me. Introversion has a bad name in our society. We think because of Columbine and other tragedies that introverts are on a short fuse.

That myth is so far from the truth. Introverts have incredible imaginations. They are in all fields of the creative arts, science, and business. Not all of them are shy. It just means that they need to spend more time with their thoughts so that they can recharge.

Introverts can be socialized as long as you let them have down time. They are just fine and are contributing members of society. In my case, I know I have a weakness in the social area. I lost my entire social connection at the loss of my late-hubby. I really have a hard time building new connections and stable structures that involve other people.

It does help that I write. I can build people, worlds, and connections in my mind and through my fingers onto the blank screen. The emotional and psychological part of me find it satisfying when I finish a story. There are times when I am in the middle of it that I think “holy shit” this is not going the way it should.

So my two goals, write every day and build a social network. I think  this is going to be a full year.

Knitting and Storytelling

dogsweater111815I tried the sweater on Foxy before I did the finishing touches (i.e. tuck the ends into the sweater. I should have sewn the sweater to the neck, but I was more worried that it would fit too snugly.

I was wrong. It fits just right except she can wiggle out of it and turn it into an off-shoulder sweater.

But for some reason she wants a sweater. I have an old one that I bought at PetSmart. Unfortunately it hasn’t lasted that long. I have knitted sweaters for myself and others that have lasted years. The one I bought is falling apart after one winter of use.

Since the world is falling apart right now, I find that knitting is relaxing. I have a dog that sits on my lap as I knit and watch “Closer” or some other TV episode on Amazon or Netflix. I am still unhappy that most of my favorite shows “Constantine” and others have been canceled. NETFLIX for the love of the fans– Please get those shows and make new episodes. I would watch.

If Netflix won’t listen to me, then AMAZON I don’t want to see a middle-aged (almost late aged) transgender. I want to see more Marvel with superheroes and great story lines. Heck, I’d even watch some of Neil Gaiman’s old graphic story lines on TV.

One of the reasons (I have a lot of reasons for writing including that if I don’t write, I’ll act out in my dreams), is that I am tired of the story lines on national TV. The mystery detective shows that I have enjoyed for a long time have been co-opted with message fiction. It seems that global warming, gamergate, or bad corporations mixed with evil returning soldiers has taken over the entertainment. Seriously I am tired of messages… since I was in the Navy from 1988-1994, I am tired of messages that denigrate our returnees, whether combat soldiers or support personnel.

It became fashionable to spit on our returnees after Vietnam. A completely alienated generation is bad for us all.

But back to what I want to see in entertainment. I want to see stories. Something that will help me escape. Something that will make me laugh and cry. Something that will make my life a little more hopeful and a little more worthwhile.

Don’t tell me I am a bad person. I know that I am the hero in my own story. And you are the hero in yours.

One of the reasons I have a problem with dystopia is because many of these stories are– it was bad, it was your fault, and now you’ll die. Huh?

So this is why I like Marvel– as bad as it gets, the hero wins. Not always big… and not always apparent. I can relate. I have small wins every day. I take a pill and my disease is pushed back another day. I walk and my muscles move another day. These small wins have added up from 2003 to the present day. I am still living.

I want to write this way, too.

 

Paris, terror attacks, and knitting

Last night, I was getting ready to do a little Facebook time when I caught the beginnings of the Paris terror attacks. It was reminiscent of our 9/11 attacks. In this new terror attack, young men without masks went to several venues, killed people, and then suicided. The attack was claimed by ISIS.

I hope this time we will actually support France instead of just giving them lip time. “I stand with Charlie Hepdo” is all nice, but this time action is required. I heard the French President’s call to action, I hope it is heard.

So far we haven’t had a major attack of this nature, designed to crush a nation’s spirit, since 9/11. But then, we may yet. We have been adding a lot of immigrants to our nation who won’t assimilate. Go back. Look at history. What happened to Rome? What happened to other nations who were overrun by masses of people.

France has closed its borders. One of the gunmen was a “supposed” refugee that came to Greece and then France. How many sleeper cells do we have in our own nation?

It may sound like a cold war novel in the making. I do remember the underlying fear in the entire nation that the Soviet Union would “push the button,” the fear that we would have a nuclear war that would kill entire swathes of population in both countries.

When the wall came down and when the Soviet Union broke into pieces that fear dissipated. Our children and grandchildren have never felt this fear.

So I am feeling the beginnings of this fear. My stress relief is knitting. Foxy, my little dog, can tell that it is for her because I am holding it against her and hoping I didn’t knit it too small. I should be writing. I really should. The unrest I feel in the bottoms of my feet is disrupting my thoughts.

Therefore I knit and hope that “Rome” doesn’t burn.

What is Human Wave

Since I am part of a group of writers who are trying to make stories interesting, entertaining, and uplifting in some way, I am reblogging a post from Cedar Sanderson about Human Wave. This was first defined by Sarah A. Hoyt in 2012.

I have written literary in my lifetime. In my humble opinion Human Wave writing has opened up an entirely new way of thinking. Many of the writers who write this way, I would recommend even though they are not big names yet.

May this information help you with your writings. Yesterday I was thinking of my late-hubby (he died one year ago). Today I will be writing on Dark Moon Rising.

How to write Human Wave:

1 – Your writing should be entertaining.  If you’re writing for the awards and the literary recognition, you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. (Does the other crowd have a tiny raccoon in a kilt?  Or even a quilt?  Think!)

2 – Your writing shouldn’t leave anyone feeling like they should scrub with pumice  or commit suicide by swallowing stoats for the crime of being human, or like humans are a blight upon the Earth, or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.

3 – Your writing should not leave anyone feeling ashamed of being: male, female, western, non-western, sickly, hale, powerful, powerless.  It should use characters as characters and not as broad groups that are then used to shame other groups.  Fiction is not agit prop.

4- Your writing shouldn’t be all about the message.  You can, of course, have a message.  But the message should not be the be-all end-all of the novel.  If it is, perhaps you should be writing pamphlets.

5 – You shall not commit grey goo.  Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining.  (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment.  Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)

6 – Unless absolutely necessary you will have a positive feeling to your story.  By this we don’t mean it will have a happy ending or that we expect pollyanish sentiments out of you.  Your novel and setting can be as dystopic as you want it.  In fact, your character can die at the end.  Just make sure he goes down fighting and dies for something, so the reader doesn’t feel cheated.

7 – You will write in language that can be understood.  You will have an idea of what your story is about, or at least of its beginning, middle and end.  And so will your reader, once he reads it.

8 – You are allowed to write scientific speculation that counters “currently established fact” – just give us a reason why that makes sense in your universe.  (For some universes it can be highly whimsical, for others you’ll need serious handwavium.)

9 – You will not be boring.  Or at least you’ll do your best not to be boring.

10 – You shall not spend your life explaining why your not-boring is better than your fellow writers not-boring.  Instead you will shut up and write.

And this is the original manifesto, for fiction that entertains, is inclusive, diverse, and above all,healthy. 

You are allowed to write escapist science fiction – or fantasy.  Sometimes we just need a good read.  If it doesn’t have a big idea but is enjoyable, it’s still a worthy endeavor.

You are allowed to write as much as you wish.  In the new limitless market we see no reason to artificially restrict your output.  Anyone who thinks quality depends on how long something took to write has never known either professional writers or struggling middle-graders.

You are allowed to write first person.  You are also allowed to write second person, third person, and in persons yet to be invented.  As long as your work is entertaining, we hold you harmless in matters relating to verbal malfeasance.

If your world building holds internal consistency, at least according to the buying public, anyone objecting because it doesn’t conform to his or her idea of a future shall be pelted with soft boiled eggs and wear the yolk of shame.

Your objective is to sell books.  Writing is communication.  Your objective is to communicate with as many people as possible.  Or at least to amuse them, distract them, or make the burden of life less burdensome for a while.  Wishing to feed your family is also an acceptable goal.

You can write male heroes.  You can write female heroes.  You can write alien heroes.  You can write human heroes.  You can write western heroes.  You can write non-western heroes.  You can write squirrel-heroes (but you have to know you’re weird.)  You can write it in a boat, you can write it with a goat (but which end do you hold on the paper?) You can write it in a moat (but it will probably drip) and you can write it on a stoat.

You can have a happy ever after.  You can have a happy for a while.  You can have a fleeting happy.  It’s your happy and you can have it if you want to.

You can write action and plot oriented books.  (Who will stop you?  You’ve researched fighting techniques, right?)

You can write sex.  Or not.  It all depends what fits the plot.  You can even write sex with a robot.

You can write politics.  You can write them from the right, from the left, from the middle, the top, the bottom or everywhere at once.  Just remember to make them fit the plot.  And remember not to infodump.