Sunday, March 24, 2013

Champagne and Twitter

[Didn't realize it until today,  02 April 13, but this is my 100th post.]

I started the day by attending a champagne brunch at a friend's home, which means that all productivity flew out the car window on the way home, or maybe out the kitchen window after that first mimosa.

The food was delicious: fresh fruit, assorted muffins, two types of quiche, and bacon wrapped dates. I brought along a loaf of French bread and two home made flavored butters (brown-sugar/pecan and peach/lavender). We ate and talked and drank, and then ate and talked and drank some more. It was pleasant, and that's what I need right now, the company of good friend, delicious food, excellent conversation, and nay I say it, champagne. Not because I'm celebrating, certainly not, but because champagne is my favorite wine and should be consumed on a regular basis. Especially with breakfast.

My friends have been the best. Even my crazy work family has been supportive.

And I'm okay. Sad and tired, but okay. It's something I've dreaded for years, and now it's over.

Last week was a total bust, writing wise. I did nothing except lay on the sofa and read or watch old movies. But that's what I needed to do. I didn't even leave the condo until I had to go back to work on Thursday. A couple of days were what my friend, Patti, calls pajama days. I didn't quilt; I didn't write; I didn't blog. I allowed myself some downtime.

That doesn't mean I didn't feel guilty about it, but I just couldn't muster the energy to care enough to make the effort.

Yesterday, I re-doubled my efforts at editing, and slogged through eight chapters. And this editing isn't just looking for typos. I went through and highlighted words that I tend to use a lot like look and turn, and in the case of Maggie's PoV chapters, I used the word maybe and okay a lot. Of course, I tried to cut some corners with the highlighting, and ended up kicking my own butt. I though this is easy. Every time ok shows up, I'll just highlight it red. Replace all. Do you know how many works have the letters ok in them? Let me just say, A LOT. And that wasn't so bad, except when I tried to back it out, then I ended up with words like loOk. It was a mess. And remember that this book is approximately 120K words, 214 MicroSoft Word, single-spaced, pages.

So I spent a lot of time dicking around with find/replace for nothing, but I did manage to get those eight chapters re-worked. And I was going to work on the next section today, but a champagne brunch and Twitter got in the way.

But I consider Twitter, and the relationships I'm building there, as part of the marketing process. But for me, I'm marketing myself.

I don't really understand Twitter yet, but I do know that the many many people there who only want to sell stuff, they annoy me, and I don't want to be like that. I have mentioned Couillon about six times in two weeks, but there are people out there hawking their book every hour. The problem, for me at least,is that they turn into an advertisement, like a commercial on TV which I ignore. I see the tweet and think, or it's X again, selling his book.

I also don't understand how people are supposed to read all these tweets. To be honest, I don't think they do. They can't. Some of these people are following thousands, tens of thousands of people. Right now I'm following 268 people and have 158 followers, but is pretty normal, the skew that is of followers to following. I find it interesting, all the things that are being pushed, everything from what not to do on Twitter to acne solutions. It's crazy. And it makes me feel so self centered, because even following only 268 people, I've gotten to where I just look to see if someone has tweeted, favored, or retweeted me.

On the good side, there's a ton of information out there about anything and everything. I found the @Crowtographer [] on Twitter. He focuses on photographing of crows, almost exclusively. Duh, right. He's the Crowtographer after all, but he also posts facts about crows. My kind of guy, cause you know I love crows. I'm trying to build a business relationship with him. I want to use one of his photographs for the cover of the Counting Crows novel.

There's also another person, @Streetcrow, who mimics crow behavior. A typical post from @Streetcrow is something along the lines of "Alley. Peck at undefinable goo" or "Branch. Rub head." and usually once a day something like "Murder. Highway." He's entertaining to say the least, and he gives me plenty of ideas about how crows act.

And then there's just the purely entertaining tweets. The @DrunkCatLadies posted "Hey, who drank half the bottle of the wine I bought? Asshole." to which I replied (and gained a favorite from @DrunkCatLadies) "hey, i found it on the counter. if you're just gonna leave un-drunk wine around, well... i'm just sayin'".

I don't know if this is correct Twitter etiquette, especially if -- to use the recent jargon -- I'm trying to build a brand, but if I can't have fun along the way while I'm building my brand, then it's not me. It's not a good representation of me.

With all this said, I had a good day. And that's all I'm really after.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Needless to say...

...I haven't done any editing the past couple of days.  I think about it a lot, but my mind is just wandering right now, figuring out what my life means now that I have no nemesis, not that I have had for a long time.  Right now I'm dealing with dis-orientation.  Probably not a good place to do editing.  Or maybe it is.

I've taken several days off of work.  I hope to get my feet back under me and get Counting Crows edited the last, hopefully, time.

I'm also in a dilemma.  Now that I've been calling the story Counting Crows, for real, I don't know if I like it or not.  So titles are still floating around in my head.

A Face for Daughters

What happens when a person who has forged the way you think, the way you see yourself dies?

My mother died this past Saturday, you know, the one I blame for how fucked-up I am.  I hadn't spoken to her in nearly ten years, and even though most people don't understand it, not speaking to her didn't mean that I didn't love her. I loved her too much. And I wanted her to love me, but at a point in my life I was forced to choose to survive our relationship. Therapist now days would say that my mother was a narcissist, an extreme case. She was the center of the universe. And how can you not love someone like that?

Her death doesn't feel real. How can the center of the universe cease to exist?  I feel disoriented, numb. Sad. But not guilty. I tried so hard to be what she wanted me to be, but in the end, I couldn't do it. So, yes, I let her down. Instead I chose to have a life I could live, not one I constantly wished was over, not one where I would never be good enough.

And I mourned the loss of our relationship, a long time ago.

When I was a young girl, I would have given her my last breath. I almost did a couple of times because I couldn't live up to what she needed/wanted/expected. When I was a teenager, I contemplated suicide, and there were several times I came very close to doing it, but then my mother beat me to it. She survived her attempt, and I hate to say it, but I don't think she really meant to kill herself. She wasn't that type of person. I could see her killing someone else, but not herself. I think it was something she knew she could use as leverage.  If you were better, prettier, smarter, more helpful...worthier of my love, then I wouldn't have tried to kill myself.  No, she never said that in so many words, but it hung in the air like a foul smoke, clouding everything that happened in our home.

I grew up confused. I thought everyone's mother was like mine, that week-long silent treatments were normal, that everyone's mother read in bed all day while their family forged for themselves on week old leftovers, that every mother had a whole pharmacy in her handbag. And that her crushing need was as commonplace as going to the grocery store, that it was something I just had to learn to live with. I thought I was deficient because I didn't deal with it as well as my friends dealt with their own mothers. Like my mother, I thought their mothers had different faces. A face for the public and a face for family. A face for daughters who disappoint.

You see, everyone loved my mother. They breathed in the self-worth saturated fog that surrounded her and believed it. She was charismatic. She was funny. A joy to be around, even for us many times. A more saintly human never drew breath. She could be your best friend, could be generous and kind. And loving.

Until you did something to cross her.

Once you angered her, for whatever reason -- often reasons that only made sense in her head -- once you angered her, all bets were off. And not only did she make an effort to make you miserable, she enlisted support. My brother, my kindhearted, easy-going brother, my handsome brother who believes himself to be the ugliest person on the planet because of our mother's words, was accosted in the local grocery store by some woman he didn't even know, a friend of my mother. Right in the middle of the grocery store, this woman walked up to him and gave him the what-for about how badly he treated our mother.

People believed her because she believed what she was saying.

I even believed her, for years and years and years. I easily fell victim to the guilt she spread like rancid peanut butter, so thick and sticky that you couldn't shake it off. The sickly smell of it stayed in your nostrils, smothering and strangling. Not only were her children a disappointment to her, my father, according to her, was Satan incarnate. [Poor man was a saint, if you ask me, for staying with her long enough for me and my brother to get out of high school.] His family, dairy farmers, were beneath her which was a constant source of stress for her, and hence for anyone around her. She had every ailment known to man and God. She had been dying since I could remember from one thing or another. She would complain of problems that I had been dealing with for years, like sciatica, but for her, it was debilitating. In her late forties, she quit working just because she didn't want to work anymore, fully expecting me and my brother to picked up the slack, money wise. Which we did. I paid her rent and mine, and at that time, it meant me doing without a lot of things what I should have had. I would wear shoes until they fell apart so she could have cable TV, which I didn't have.

I was in my forties before I started pushing back. I just couldn't give any more. I realized that she would have taken my last breath if I had let her. I had turned into her personal ATM, her whipping-post, her sweet darling when she wanted something and a terrible daughter when I refused to submit. She would call me at work and rant about how awful I was because... I don't even remember.  Too many becauses piled up over the years for me to even try to think of a specific one. It got so bad that I had my phone number at work set such that I couldn't receive outside calls. Imagine the humiliation of explaining that to a manger. When I changed my home phone number, she started writing letters. When I moved, swear to God, she wrote me c/o Boeing Company, Seattle, Washington.  And it got to me. She was relentless when she wanted something or needed to let me know just how badly I had let her down.

And yet, there are so many things that she gave me, good things. She and my dad gave me my intelligence, my good looks [not], my history. She taught me survival techniques, tons of them. The ability to bend to the breaking point, but to not break. The ability to look at things from many different angles. Generosity [well, she demanded that from me].

And she gave me a wealth of things to write about.  If you read Counting Crows, or whatever I end up calling it, you'll see me in there. I don't want to write memoir, as it seems very self indulgent [like this blog], but there are themes in a person's life which carry into their interpersonal lives, into the way they deal with others or with their own problems. Into what they write. I have chosen to play out some of those themes in my fiction.

My protagonists aren't easily likable people, much like myself. They have complicated lives because they try to hide the things they find lacking in themselves, to hide the thing they hate about themselves. They try to be someone, something they're not. They try to be happy all the while swallowing sadness until their lungs are bursting. They wear many masks.

I don't know how my mother's death will play out in my life, but the story line that develops will be fodder for my writing. I have a good life. I've made a good life with what I was given. I've used the gifts I was given to build a world filled with loved ones, with pleasure, with experiences, and should I say it, with happiness.

I loved my mother. I still love her. And somewhere inside, she loved me too. I don't believe she understood what she was doing. I don't believe she meant to make our lives a mess. She was just trying to survive her own fucked-up life. And in doing so, she gave me a leg up on dealing with my own fucked-up life.

Wherever you are, Momma, I love you.

An old friend gave me this piece of advice regarding my mother's death: A friend told me that sometimes our bodies can't deal with the idea right away and that's why it doesn't feel real.  As your mind/body can handle the idea, it will seem more and more real.  The main thing is to respect how you feel. Nurture yourself. 

That's what I'm doing, nurturing myself until my world turns right-side up again.


If you're interested in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there are tons of books out there.  I found this one insightful and readable:  Trapped in the Mirror, by Elan Golomb

Monday, March 11, 2013

Over Commitment, when does a creative outlet turn into work?

Let’s talk about over commitment, or at least think about it. About how I've made a second and third full-time job out of writing and marketing that writing.

To realize how over committed I am, it took me looking at the life of a dear friend of mine, who shall remain nameless--ok, it’s Kim. Not only does she work full time (away from home), she is a wife and mother, mother not to any human children, unless you count her husband, but mother to a whole assortment of animals. Anyone who has ever had a pet they cared for knows that well loved pets become your children. Anyway, on top of working at work and at home, she fosters kittens from the local shelter, has several of her own cats that she’s adopted from the shelter. She feeds the outdoor stray cats (and any opossums and raccoons in the neighborhood who sneak up and eat the outdoor cat food). She has chickens and alpacas. And get this, she got the alpacas so that she can spin her own yarn from the alpaca hair and weave it into fabric. That and quilting is what she does for fun.  Crazy, right?

Until recently, I didn’t think that was too much. Actually, I didn’t really think about it all. But it is too much. It’s so much, so so very much to do, each and every day, even with her husband's help.

I feel like a slacker in comparison, but then I realized that I have over commitment issues of my own. As I said, I've turned writing into a job. And I quilt for fun, as well. [I haven't resorted to spinning my own thread yet, thank goodness. So, I'm not crazy. Yet.]  I may not have a hundred hungry mouths to feed every day--just the one, BlackBeary, my fifteen year old cat--but I do have something driving me to constantly do more, to be better.

I suspect my friend Kim is the same. Shoot, she just got two more chickens. I think she's worse that me, really. Ok, so I'm in denial.

So what drives us? I don’t exactly know. I do know that I have a very hard time rationalizing just sitting around watching TV. In fact I had my cable-TV turned off because I didn’t even watch it all that much.  It wasn't worth what I was paying for it. And you know what? I don’t miss it. I do have Netflix, which means I can start and stop a show or movie whenever I feel the urge to get up and do something more meaningful than vegetating or relaxing.

Are we compelled to do more because of the way we were raised?

Momma and me when
I was in high school
My mother--who I love to blame for all my problem--she made it her life's work to point out how lazy I was.  She'd fuss at me for sitting in my room reading a book or for sleeping in late, never mind that I stayed up reading or studying until 3am the night before. She wasn’t lazy, not really, but she wasn’t driven the way I feel driven to accomplish… whatever. She didn’t work outside our home. And now that I ponder it, maybe she was lazy. She had my grandmother, her mother, to do the cooking and the dishes. I did the yard work, and our maid, Nettie, came three days a week to do all the heavy stuff like laundry and the bathroom and floors. Really, I'm not even sure what she did all day. So maybe I'm driven by all that bitching she did about me being lazy, or maybe from not wanting to be like her.

Nettie and Granny when
I was in high school
Me and Daddy right before
he died of cancer
As for the rest of my family, my father was a farmer, which in and of itself means that he worked all the time, every day, sun up to sun down. I wish I'd been able to spend more time with him.

My grandmother (my mother's mother), Granny, was always working on something, gardening, cooking, and even after she broke both hips, she’d work crossword puzzles and would do paint by numbers. Granny's the one from whom I get the story telling gene.

My brother and me in
Scotland this past year
My brother, even though I didn’t think so when we were growing up, is more motivated than I am. He works all day and then comes home and works on other people’s cars in his personal garage in the evenings and on the weekends. Golfing and fishing are what he does for fun.  But he eats the fish. So I'm not sure if that's really relaxation or not.  He's very much like my father. He comes in, sits in his recliner to watch TV, and falls asleep.

Then there was my lazy-assed husband (now ex-husband, thank you, Jesus), whose idea of living comfortably was to move back to the one-horse town we grew up in and live in a trailer. Which he did, after I divorced him. [Actually, the bastard moved to the town my brother now lives in, which is a few steps up from where we lived as kids.] He told me once that we’ll always be in debt, so why worry about it. Arrrgggh. I stayed far too long with him. And I never want to be over my head in debt again, even if I have to work sixteen hours a day.

So somewhere in all those experiences, I developed a AAA-personality.  I'm not saying that I haven't benefited from it.  I graduated magna cum laude in Mathematics and Classics (in three and half years while working 20 hours a week), and then went on to graduate cum laude in Mechanical Engineering (while working as a co-op at IBM) in another three years. After college, I worked for IBM for eleven years, then was stolen by Boeing.  I lasted six years at Boeing, with a high level clearance, but couldn't deal with the bureaucratic corporate BS (come on, really, layoffs every year). I left Boeing for a job in the Costco corporate offices, where I was hired to help design their new UNIX environment. You don't accomplish those things by being a slacker.

I started writing for pleasure, as a creative outlet, but as with everything I do, somewhere along the line, it turned into more than just something to do in my spare time. I don't know how to separate pleasure and work.  It didn't help that people started saying "Are you going to write a novel?", "Are you going to get an agent?", "Are you going to publish?".  And I'm not blaming anyone except myself.  If it wasn't writing, it'd be something else.  Maybe spinning my own thread from alpaca hair.  No, that's just crazy.

Now, I see myself writing as a way to supplement my income when I retire from the corporate world. I'm going to be an author. I guess, in all actuality, I am already an author.  Problem is that somewhere in the back of my mind, I don't feel like I'm real. I can't be a real author unless I have a book on the NYT best-seller list, can I?  Do I need to have something "critically acclaimed"?  Of course when that does happens, my goals will rise to Pulitzer level.  Because I'm never happy with what I've accomplished.  I always have to do more, be more, have more.

Wow, this has turned into a long, over-indulgent, self-promoting rant.  Unfortunately it's all true.

And I'm pretty sure I didn't answer the question.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Haven't Forgotten...

I haven't forgotten about this blog.  I've been editing Counting Crows--re-reading, proofing, adding text --hoping to release it to Kindle on May 1st... and I admit, I've been playing with social media (the marketing part of writing).

I created a Twitter account.  Yes, it is addictive.  A week open, and I already have sixty-six followers.  Some who don't give a rat's ass about writing, but some who are writers/novelist.  And I met a person, the Crowtographer, who may be the one who provides the cover image for Counting Crows.

With that said... I'm working on it.  Really.