FIVE MORE THINGS NOT IN THE MEDIA

It’s been up and down here. Mostly up because I work at it, but with an underlying current of down that every so often threatens to suck me under. But then, nothing is 100%, nothing is forever, right? And things are better for me than for so many, so shut up Lif.

1) WEATHERPhoto of temperature gauge

It snowed last night — just under 2”. It got down to 1° below zero overnight and it’s not going to go above freezing today (the high on the gauge is yesterday’s high, todays was 30°) but the sun is shining and the wood stove is cranking out the BTUs. I’ll have to get my butt on outside shortly to haul in some more wood. The dogs will like that. They’ll figure we’re going for a walk. Sorry, pups — to the woodpile and back is it. Later I’ll go to the barn to feed the horses but no farther. The rest of today is inside time.

I plan to spend that time reading. I just finished Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which I very much enjoyed. I also just read Robert Heinlein’s The Pursuit of the Pankera, a book that I found annoying but strangely compelling. I’m currently reading W. Michael Gear’s Alpha Enigma; David Comfort’s The Rock & Roll Book of the Dead; and The Wonder Engine, by T Kingfisher. I like to read with Post-Its at the ready for any ideas I come across that spark my own thought processes. I don’t know how I survived before Post-Its.

2) WRITING

I sent a copy of my book, Evolution Device, to my writing mentor, Steven F. Havill,  Since he had given an early draft of the novel a firm thumbs down, I was unsurprisingly rather anxious about how he’d react to the published version. To be honest, when I saw he had sent an email with the subject line “Evolution Device”, I didn’t read it right away.

Steve Havill at book discussion, Round Valley Library, Eagar AZ January 2017
Trudy Balcom/The Independent

Let me explain something about Steve. He’s written a couple dozen books or more, but is also dedicated to helping new writers get going. He’s a former English teacher, junior high kids I believe, and gives writing workshops and talks about writing at book discussions (I’m in the photo on the end). I’ve tried to go to as many of his talks and workshops as I can. The mentor-mentee relationship has grown  to friendship. Am I lucky or what?

Steve provides unflinchingly honest, constructive feedback. He points out what he likes and why, and what he doesn’t like and why. It’s the “and why” parts that are so valuable. It took me a while to figure out what he was doing — my fault, not his. I was taking his criticisms personally and responding personally. Then I had a big duh moment, when I realized everything I was saying to him in my defense was stuff that should be in the manuscript – that is what Steve was telling me!

So I gave him a copy of the published book and he read it. When I finally steeled myself to face his email, I almost wept.

With joy.

He liked it! He liked it! Phew!

3) MORE WRITING

Related but this needs its own point: Getting from rough draft to published book is a trip — but what comes after is its own journey.

I’ve learned there is absolutely no point in second-guessing what I wrote. It’s too late now, the book’s out in the world. I doubt I will ever read Evolution Device again from beginning to end because of course I will find fault with it. I’m no longer the person who wrote that book. I’ve learned by writing more. My writing skills have grown (credit to Post-Its and writing mentors, not to mention Editors). There’s no reason to inflict myself with even more doubts about my writing than I already have.

I’ve learned promotion is hard. It’s a kind of bragging and I feel uncomfortable about it. I’m by nature a hermit. I don’t invite people to my home, I don’t socialize, and when I write about my personal life it’s curated. So to blab on about my work — I mean, promote it — it’s, well, embarrassing. And yet that’s what authors have to do. We have to not just sell our books but sell ourselves. Who wants to read books by an author who doubts her own work? People like to think that authors are like the characters in their books. Brave! Bold! Exciting! Intriguing! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! And able to overcome all obstacles by The End.

I’ve also learned that in this year of COVID the world of writing is even more daunting a place than it normally is. It seems everybody and their aunt is writing books. And they’re all writing great books that apparently are selling like crazy, or so the publicity would have one believe. Is there room in the world for another writer, — namely me? I sure hope so.

On top of it all, there is no end to stuff that isn’t writing but is necessary to be a successful author. I’ve got more books in the works, in different genres. Different genres means querying literary agents. Querying is a time-consuming, dreary, disheartening process that teaches an author to not care about rejections anymore because after a while they’re the norm.

4) EVEN MORE WRITING

Here’s the thing about writing a book that people enjoyed reading. Almost the first question asked is going to be when is the next one coming out.

Oh. My. Gods. I have to do this again? And again?

5)  THE BEST CHOCOLATE DESSERT EVER!

I learned a great recipe for a kind of chocolate pudding that’s actually healthy. I have to thank my friend Valorie for it.  It’s so darn simple to make, and it’s incredibly flexible (I’ve tweaked it already and it still tastes great). Here’s the recipe exactly as Valorie provided:

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN VERY RIPE BANANAS ARE STARING YOU IN THE FACE?

Here’s the recipe I use for our Cocoa/Carob/Cacao Banana Pudding.  We really enjoy this pudding!! If you like bananas and chocolate, we think you’ll like this dessert as well.

I especially make this pudding when I don’t want to heat up my oven and take the time to make Banana Bread.  This recipe is a fast and easy way to use up ripe bananas quickly.  It is also very forgiving so I do not measure bananas or dates.

Enjoy!

Valorie

Cocoa/Carob/Cacao Banana Pudding 

  Makes 4  – 1/2 cup servings  

Note:  Soak sunflower seeds ahead of time.  Dates as well if using Medjool dates.

Place all of the following ingredients into your blender and blend until smooth.
You may need to stir the ingredients a bit at first to get them moving and blending. Either turn your blender off or be very careful not to hit the moving blades.

2 cups organic, blended ripe bananas – for those who like to measure.  I use 3 very ripe medium/large sized bananas or 6 to double the recipe.
1/2 cup organic sunflower seeds soaked for 30 minutes or over night and drained *
1/4 cup organic cocoa, carob or cacao powder
1/4 cup organic pitted, chopped dates **
1 tsp. organic vanilla
pinch of salt

Once blended, taste for smoothness and sweetness and adjust by blending longer and/or adding more sweetener. ***

Pour into serving containers and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Enjoy!

* I have also tried soaked almonds and they were very good as well but I’ll probably opt for using sunflower seeds as they are less expensive.  I’ll save my organic almonds for other things where sunflower seeds just wouldn’t do.

** I use two (2) pitted, chopped, soaked and drained Medjool dates. I soak them in water for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes to soften them up as they are a tougher/denser date than many other types of dates and soaking makes them easier on my blender. Substituting 1 or 2 tablespoons of date syrup or maple syrup or honey would work well and probably give a bit of a different flavor.

*** Level of desired sweetness varies from one person to the next.  Remember that bananas get sweeter as they ripen so the riper the banana the less sweetener I tend to add.

6) BONUS

Read my post on Patreon.  It’s about critters that… well, go read it.

 

I got the blues

Title pageI have a sad case of postpartum blues. No, I haven’t given birth to a squalling, pooping little bundle of joy, but I did send my manuscript — supposedly the final edit — off to my professional editor. Now I wait till she goes through it and (hopefully) tells me it’s good to go.

I thought I’d be bouncing around today with a big weight off my shoulders. Last night I couldn’t sleep for going through all the things I’d be free to do today now that I wasn’t shackled to my manuscript. My house looks like a crash pad. And why not? That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past few months while I focused on this book.

Envelopes are piled up on my desk. I shudder to think what might be in them that I’ve been ignoring. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry baskets. When was the last time I changed the bed sheets? Stacks of books I’ve used as references, or read in the evenings and never reshelved, or borrowed and never returned are on top of my sewing table. One the rare days when I felt like I had to swamp out the house but didn’t want to take the time, I just put things in empty Amazon boxes. Who knows what might lurk in them.

Ick, the cat boxes need emptying. No point in scooping. They’re beyond that – gotta just dump the contents and replace with fresh… um… I do have more kitty litter somewhere, don’t I? I did do dishes almost every day, but the clean ones are piled high in the dish drain.  Why bother putting them away? I just kept using the same ones over and over.  Other than baking a few loaves of bread, I haven’t cooked much of anything since Christmas. I can go a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, salads, and wine.
Fabric
I look around the house and there is stuff everywhere! Not only stuff that needs to be put away, but projects that need to be completed. Fabric that I’ve purchased but not stored for the wall hangings I’ve started but abandoned. Houseplants that need repotting sit on windowsills and on the kitchen counter and on the floor. Tools that I’ve used to band-aide things that broke that I had no time to fix while I’ve been living in the dream world of writing need to be put away. And of course, the interior walls of my tiny little straw bale house still have not been plastered.

I have so much to do and now I’m free to do it.

But no. I’m sitting here feeling no motivation at all. I’ve got postpartum depression. I’ve had my creative baby, so to speak. The creation process took all my psychic energy and now I’ve hit the post-creation let-down.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the massive amount of work that I need to do to get my house back in order that is off-putting.

Maybe I should write about it instead of doing it.

Hey – I feel better already!

Still coming to a bookstore near you…

Last May I wrote on my Mage Music blog about a book I’ve been wrestling with since 2009, Evolution Device.   It is vaguely inspired by Jimmy Page — but it’s absolutely not about him at all, as you will see when you read the book.

I had hoped to get at least a digital version online before now, or preferably find a publisher, but that hasn’t happened.  What happened instead was a professional editor.

Bwahahahaha!  Read more

One of the book covers I dreamed up.