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.

 

So Happy I Could Cry

♪ I’m So Glad (Skip James, ca 1931) YouTube

What is it about joy that has such power to make me teary-eyed? How can I be grinning like a maniac as I’m hauling wood from the woodpile in a wind so cold it freezes my snot?

I want to ask how I ever got to this place, this happy place I am in this moment, but I don’t need to ask – I know the answer: Even though it seems like a miracle bursting into my life it’s actually the result of decades of work of purposefully changing who I am.

Purposefully creating a life as opposed to being tumbled through the stream of time willy-nilly. Making my own choices even though they often pit me against the flow. Risking drowning in order to save my life.

No – to create it.

We each have our own life story and we each are the sole author of that story. The question is how the story will be written: by chance or on purpose?

I’ve known my answer since I was a kid — but knowing isn’t implementing.

The problem is I keep forgetting to choose in spite of the fact that it feels so good when I do. It’s not my fault. It’s simply the nature of living as a human being. We have epiphanies but we are bound to lose them. We spend more time seeking than basking in enlightenment. It’s not our fault! We’re human!

Thank the gods for art, what we humans do to memorialize our connections with enlightenment and to remind us to remember them again. Doesn’t matter what kind of art: writing, music, dance, painting, sculpture – and yes, the art of being ourselves, too, if we allow it. Art stretches our inner selves, makes us high. What’s not to love about that?

But enlightenment is an impermanent state of being. We don’t live in the Zone, we aspire to it. While we bask in instances of great art our souls are hauled up to a higher level – but we don’t get to stay there.

We have to choose it over and over again. On purpose.

Enlightenment for human beings is not a state of being but moments of bliss. The trick, it turns out, is not to try to grab those moments and hold on to them, for they are ephemeral in nature and will slip away. The trick is rather to choose have lots of those moments, one right after the other, until miraculously it feels like they are all the moments there are.

Chop wood, carry water. That’s said to be the way of the path. Most people take it as a metaphor. Much to my surprise, in doing the wood and water thing in real life I discovered that those tasks have kept redirecting my feet back onto the path. The path is not to enlightenment but of enlightenment.

So, hey, make your choices. Choose to have a blissful moment or a million! Here, have a tissue.

♪ I’m So Glad (Cream, 1966) YouTube

This post was originally published on my Patreon site.  You can be my patron for a buck a month!

Sometimes it’s good

Moon rising in evening skyI write all the time

I don’t mean all the blabbery on social media.  I’m talking real writing — at least by my definition of “real”.

Stories.  I stopped writing them a long time ago but now I do again.  Why?  Don’t know.  I write the occasional poem.  I’m no poet, believe me.  I journal and have done so since I was a kid.  I wrote my first novel-length manuscript nearly 40 years ago and nowadays I’ve always got a novel in the works.  Two at this time, with a third that I’m poking at.  I write scenes for what I’m working on or for no reason at all.  I jot down ideas about character motivation.  Sometimes I just spew words that have to come out and because I don’t know what I’ll do with them I email them to myself and then forget about them.  In November I commit to NaNoWriMo and drive myself crazy keeping up.  I wake up in the night and record my dreams.  I scribble phrases, sentences, paragraphs, scenes on scraps of paper or I text them to myself.

It’s kind of embarrassing, actually.

I mean, if I was a published author — which I am not, having just today received yet another story rejection — what I write would be Important.  It’d be MeaningfulSignificant.  It would Matter.

But I’m just another wannabe writer.  Um. By wannabe I don’t mean I’ve never been paid to write, since that’s how I earned my living for the past two decades. I mean I want to get paid for writing what I want to write, and for me that’s fiction.  In other words, I don’t want to write about what’s out there but what’s in here.  In me.

So yeah. I have this burning desire to be paid for writing what I want to write, not what somebody else wishes they could write but they can’t so they hire me to do it.

I want to make stuff up.  To transform possibilities into reality by writing them. That’s a kind of magic that has always attracted me.

I love writing.  Good thing, because I have to do it.

I love writing but I have to do it?  Hah!  That’s kind of like saying I love being high and oh, by the way, I’ll go into withdrawal without that drug or drink.  Ahem.  So what.  I have nothing against drugs or alcohol (but remember — don’t drink and drive, my friends).

I love writing.  I love the process and challenge of making a direct connection between the inside of my head and the outside not-me world.  I seek to capture the words that express precisely what’s percolating in my brain.  I call it flavor — the fullness of what I’m trying to convey.  Not just description but the wholeness of it.  When it’s good it’s as close to psychic sharing as I can get.  That quality of writing gives me the shivers.

It’s a kind of magic, that, and I love letting that power flow through me.

But whoa — just like a drug addict  I need more.  I can’t just write in the dark.  I can’t just write for me.  I’m compelled to wreck the sublime joy of capturing my inner imaginings by exposing the writing — and myself — to the world.  As scary as it is, I have to risk it.

Because oh yeah, I need the audience.  I crave applause.  I want outside validation that my writing is doing what I want it to do.

I wanna get paid

And there’s the rub, isn’t it?  I want to get paid for what I create — in today’s world, payment being the functional mark of approval.  So it’s not just about writing for myself, is it?  I have to write stuff other people want to read.

Do I write for me or do I write for you?

Obviously… the answer is yes.

 

PS You can become a patron of mine, yes you can!  A buck a month will get ‘er done!

 

The Mother of Invention

A fabric wall hanging being worked onNo, I don’t mean Frank Zappa, not that he and his Mothers aren’t worth a listen.  But discovering that you don’t have what you need when you’re at a quilting retreat far from anywhere doesn’t mean it can’t happen there.

We’re sewing in a restaurant.  Long story… READ MORE

PS – would appreciate your patronage.  Check out my Patreon account.  Thank you.

I’m over there!

I finally went live with my Patreon Creator account after a lot of dilly-dallying about it.  Asking for money to support my creative efforts was a high bar for me to leap.  I bashed against that obstacle for a year before finally just hurling myself over it because… after some point it’s either put up or shut up.  It’s part of the creative process, this money thing.  It’s not about starving artist, it’s about validation.

Believe me, many artists would rather be validated than eat.  Chocolate or approval of my work… chocolate or approval of my work…  

Please, take my chocolate.  It would be a fine thing if you went over to Patreon and gave me a thumbs up with your patronage.  Thank you!