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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Worst Mom Day Ever

There will be days as a mother that you look down at your (probably) sleeping baby and wonder if you were ever truly happy before becoming a mom. The days your child throws their arms around you and tells you they love you--or thanks you for something as simple as making a favorite meal--you may swear that you've never known greater fulfillment or joy.

And then there will be other days: days you look at your offspring and think, "WTF?" It's the bad days no one warns you about.

The day I developed mastitis and my right breast swelled to the size of my head, I thought I’d experienced my worst day as a mom. For any of you non-lactating people out there, mastitis is a crazy painful inflammation of breast tissue caused by a plugged milk duct accompanied by redness, fever, and body ache.

I didn’t experience the condition of boob abscess meets swine flu until baby #3, despite having nursed my first two biological children for thirteen months each—the oldest inadvertently until I discovered like a tiny alcoholic she was secreting a few drinks in the dead of night while everyone else in the house, including me, was fast asleep—and having (or have not) nursed my nephew on at least one occasion when I became convinced his mother was trying to wean him at the age of two months over the course of a half-hour shopping trip. When he wouldn’t stop screaming, my milk let down. You non-lactators may not be aware, but a nursing woman’s milk “let down” can be triggered by the cries of any baby (and possibly any small mewling animal) within earshot, the smell of Johnson & Johnson baby lotion, and chest contact with any object or substance with a surface temperature greater than 97 degrees Fahrenheit.

The evening I sat in the most intense pain I’d experienced outside of childbirth, trying to nurse a fussy five-month old who didn't understand why she wasn’t being offered a second course, I couldn’t imagine a worse day of motherhood.


(The Milk Thief Today. Good Hair. Great Teeth. Clearly, it did her well.)

(Boob Squad. That's my nephew on the left. He turned out alright, considering I only ever fed him the one time.)



Then came a day our entire family will never, ever forget: a day we refer to as PukeFest 2008.

The day of PukeFest 2008 began innocently enough. We spent a few hours visiting a cousin's family and later watching the kids play in the indoor playground of a burger restaurant. Late that afternoon, we said our goodbyes and loaded into the minivan for the two-hour ride home. It was as the last light faded from the sky and the van was plunged into darkness that we heard the first tiny heave.



I've never been sure if it was car sickness or some super-charged stomach bug lapped up by my five-year-old as he crawled and slobbered his way through the majestic plastic tunnels of the Newnan, Georgia Burger King PlayPlace. Looking back, what I do know is that his vomiting spread through our magically shrinking mini-van faster than a Kardashian selfie on Twitter. I’ll never forget sliding the side door open in an attempt to reach and render aid to my ick-covered youngest son only to be met with a river of half-digested milkshakes and Whopper Jrs from the mouths of his ten and thirteen year-old brothers. We rode home, in the dead of winter, with all the windows open. It didn't help much. The boys threw up another two or three times. Each time my husband, who has the gag reflex of a newborn, would have to stop, get out, and walk around the van a few times as he attempted to draw in giant breaths of fresh, vomit-free air. It took us almost three hours to get home. I shampooed the upholstery until late into the night. PukeFest 2008 was a Sucky Mom Day, for sure.

Those other “bad” days have paled in comparison, however, to a more recent experience. And although none of my children were even present for the event, rest assured they deserve 100% of the blame for the day now know as my Worst Mom Day Ever.

So, here it is:  I pissed my pants at the public library. In front of my entire writers’ group. I’m not talking about “I coughed and wet myself.” I freaking peed my pants. And then continued to do so the duration of the drive home.

Yes, there was coughing involved—I’d had a cold for a couple of weeks that was revived with a vengeance when I aspirated some barbecue sauce slurped off a cocktail weenie at the library's Christmas Party for which I was in attendance—but I’m placing my unfortunate incontinence on the shoulders of the human passengers that sat atop my bladder for a combined total of twenty-seven months. They did this to me!

For years my sister and I have cackled at our own poor mother, who’s basically asked us to huddle with her over a toilet if we feel the need to tell a funny story. We’ve taken turns bouncing our grown asses in her lap as she laughs and screams, threatening all the while to kill us if we make her pee in her favorite suede recliner. But I think we may have both finally learned our lesson.



My younger sister has often attributed our mother’s weak bladder to excess weight. Similarly, she has correlated her own fitness with an iron bladder. All that changed a couple of weeks ago when she pulled into our parents’ driveway to find our mother awkwardly trying to heave our brother’s wheelchair into her SUV. Like a good daughter, Little Sister sprang into action to help. She and our mother squatted to lift the chair with their knees, but it wasn’t long before our mother’s bladder felt the strain and she began to, as she put it, “empty herself all the way up." In response to this event, Little Sister began to convulse with laughter so violently that she too, for the very first time in her adult life, peed her pants. I pulled into the driveway to find them both bent double, their knees clasped tightly together, and my sister panting over and over again, “I’m peeing. I’m peeing. Right now. I’m peeing!” I peed a little too. And there we all stood, like a family of knock-kneed imbeciles watering the gravel.

Still, my embarrassment on that day had been confined to those women closest to me. The "library incident" was different. There were so many witnesses—though some of them may have merely attributed my dashing from the room as just more weird introvert, writer behavior.

I’m convinced that no amount of Kegel exercises could have saved me. I’m religious about those suckers. I have a three hour commute every work day, after all, and nothing better to do at all those red lights along Hwy 280. I can tell you that the lady garden isn’t gettin’ any complaints. But it didn’t save me.

 Perhaps if I’d been sitting when the flood gates opened I would have had more control of my faculties, but when “it” happened I was hovering over a sandwich tray choking on honey barbecue.


I’m not letting the little beasties off the hook for this one. They owe me!

Perhaps I’ll repay them by visiting their houses when I’m old and pretending to sneeze as I soil their living room furniture. Or maybe I’ll just sucker punch them in the chest before gorging on fast food and demanding to be taken on a two-hour car ride along Alabama and Georgia’s curviest back roads. I’ll think of something. Until then, I'll try to remember the good days: those days I was so in love with them and hadn't thought twice about an adult diaper commercial.



*After reading this post, Little Sister has asked me to inform my readership that there may or may not have been some flatulence associated with our mother's power squat that contributed to Little Sister's unfortunate accident. She also wants it noted that it was of the "road hog variety and not the less innocuous unicorn sneeze variety" she prides herself on. Mother denies she pooted.

**Please note that I do not take lightly or seek to marginalized any mother who has suffered true and enduring pain as a parent. Those who have children facing life-threatening illnesses or situations or those who have lost a child to some tragedy have surely experienced worse days. My anecdotes are not intended to offend.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Waiting Isn't the Hardest Part

I have a sickle-shaped scar that bisects my left eyebrow--a permanent, physical reminder of what can happen when one does not heed the advice of another older and wiser person trying to spare them pain.

At twenty years old I was newly married and, having spent a day off from my bank teller job to have satellite cable installed, very bored. Youth and boredom...the oldest recipe for disaster known to mankind.

My twenty-four-year-old husband had left instructions for the satellite installer to set up the dish and receivers but to leave the running of the coax cable between them to him. There would be holes to drill through our pristine flooring and sheet rock, and the hubs preferred to be the one making such permanent alterations. "What did some cable guy care about ruining our brand new home?" he'd asked. Never mind that it sat on an underpinned chassy. (We'd bought it new from the mobile home dealership Hubs worked for. Another lesson was to be learned here, but that's a story for another day.)

So, there I sat: twenty years-old in my first adult home surrounded by cow pastures in the middle of the bustling city village hamlet of Lincoln, Alabama with perfectly good satellite television coursing through a coax cable connected to neither of two perfectly good TVs.

There was no way I was willing to wait another four hours for the return of my husband from work. However, neither was I too keen to wield any of his power tools or go making holes willy-nilly through vinyl siding and wall board. Some good sense did prevail that day. What I did consider myself entirely capable of was throwing the coax cable, lasso style, over the 16ft width of the mobile home so that I could fish it in through the window closest to the living room television.

Hubs had said to wait for him. He'd said he knew exactly what he was doing and that within 45 minutes of his return from work that day I would be watching Seinfeld or Dawson's Creek or whatever was showing on any of two hundred other channels. He'd said to wait...but wait I did not.


[What I guess I thought I looked like.]
{Photo Credit: American Broadcasting Company}


Standing a few yards from the trailer, I stood with my feet shoulder width apart and gathered the long coax cable in my right hand. I swung loops of it around and around over my head, and when I thought I'd built up sufficient momentum, I released it. I heard the thwack of the cable high up near the roof at virtually the same time as I saw a blinding white light. Then came the sting of pain.

The metal end of the coax cable had ricocheted off the siding and rebounded to hit me directly on my brow bone. Warm blood coursed down my face as I regathered the cable and tried again. The second time I made it, the cable clearing the roof in a perfect arc before I ran indoors to see what I'd done to myself in the names of Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson.


[What it looked like in my memory. I'm a tad dramatic, what can I say?]
{Photo Credit: best-horror-movies.com}




My left eyebrow was sliced in a way that made if flay open every time I wailed into the mirror or made any sort of facial expression whatsoever. To one side of the half-circle incision there was even a tiny puncture wound from the narrow wire that would shortly be inserted into the receiver box.

As a twenty-year-old, I maimed myself for satellite cable.


A couple of weeks ago my second husband checked our mail to find a marriage certificate for our oldest child. Junior turned twenty in September and is stationed with the Army in Colorado. His high school girlfriend paid him a visit out there a few weeks ago and they eloped.



They didn't tell anyone, didn't ask any of their parents if we thought it was a good idea. They just did it. And while we were all very surprised, I, at least, have wrestled with whether or not I believe this will be a decision either of them look back on years from now and wish they'd let someone a little older and wiser advise them about.

She's a great girl. Pretty and smart. Responsible and driven. She's a year or so older than our son and has already earned an Associates Degree. He's loved her since he was sixteen. She will make him happy. She already makes him happy.

I can't say exactly what I might have told him, if my son had asked me what I thought about an elopement. But I can guarantee it would have been something like, "Don't. Wait. I know what I'm talking about, and if you'll just wait a little while things will work out so much better."

Now that the deed has been done I can see that my probable reaction is precisely why he didn't consult me or anyone else for that matter. His father and I were both married at twenty, though not to each other, and while in the past I might have hoped this fact alone would have served as some warning to my young son, I now accept that not only can he not use my and his father's "failures" when contemplating his own decisions, but that our missteps will not necessarily be his missteps. He's learned from the experiences that have shaped his parents by proxy. He and his wife (my God, it's still so weird to think those words much less see them in print) are not their parents. They are leagues ahead of where we were and starting their life together with surer footing than we were capable of for years.

Still, waiting wouldn't have been the hardest part. It never is. In marriage or in life. The hardest parts will come later. I hope my son and new daughter-in-law will let us be there for those times, that they'll trust us to spare them what pain we're able to.

My marriage at the age of twenty didn't last. I no longer own the mobile home my first husband was so careful with. I've been through at least three more cable providers. But I still have the scar I foolishly earned one day that I just couldn't wait. Deep down I guess I don't really regret any of it. I don't think my son will either.





Friday, October 2, 2015

Cow Down!




I saw the carcass of a dead cow on Interstate 20 driving into work this morning: an entire 1,000 plus pound heifer laying cattywhompus across the fast lane during morning rush hour just six miles or so from Downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The sight of her puzzled me, and all day I have wondered how she came to be there.

Initially, of course, I assumed the black behemoth to have been struck by a speeding car, no doubt surprised to find a half-ton of livestock moseying down the interstate, but the ol' gal, despite being clearly deceased, looked pretty good considering and there were no bits of car strewn about the way I imagine there would be when a vehicle collides unexpectedly with a domestic bovine.


My second theory is that Miss Bess crossed the westbound side of the interstate only to encounter the concrete retaining wall separating the west and eastbound sides, whereupon she died of fright or maybe even exhaustion from the prospect of hauling herself over the barrier.  The world may never know.


While fascinating, interstate cattle isn't the most shocking thing I've ever seen on the road. As a sort of Flashback Friday post, I leave you with a reminder of what remains the WEIRDEST, FUNNIEST, MOST DISTURBING THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME! I still can't think about it without laughing.

Click the link below to see for yourself:

Nekked & Afraid

Monday, September 7, 2015

A-hole Kids Have Lost Their Minds

According to many of today’s “mommy bloggers”, there’s currently a worldwide epidemic of asshole children. Visit the kidsareassholes blog, or the Mothers Against Asshole Kids and Kids Are Just Adorable Mini Assholes Facebook and Pinterest pages and you’ll see what I mean.

While most parents can think back to an incident when their three-year-old destroyed the entire house with a single granola bar or screamed so loudly for candy that wasn’t purchased that everyone in the supermarket parking lot believed they were being beaten, and think, “yeah, that was an asshole move,” there are others who think referring to toddlers and prepubescent children as stupid, incompetent, and detestable (Webster’s definition of asshole) crosses the threshold from edgy joke into inappropriate parenting. In fact, Healthyday.com calls such references “verbal child abuse," along with any name-calling, swearing, indirect criticism, and sarcasm.

While I can agree that regularly referring to innocent toddlers engaging in toddler behaviors with putdowns makes me uncomfortable, I feel no such discomfort when the moniker is used to describe teenagers behaving badly. After puberty has begun, all bets are off.


[Photo Credit: Me, I made this and it's freaking hilarious!]


I get it: teenagers are CRAZY—like literally have stuff going on in their brains that turns them into insane people, but the resulting asshole behavior HAS GOT TO STOP! As the mother of four assho—er, teenagers—I am at my wits end!


[photo credit: columbian.com]




I recently heard a TED Talk scientist refer to adolescence as “the period of life that starts with the biological, hormonal, and physical changes of puberty and ends at the age at which an individual obtains a stable, independent role in society.” Dear Lord! I can’t wait that long for my kids to cut the shit!

This summer, the Summer of Freedom as my kids must have been referring to it in their addled minds, I witnessed behaviors from my children that I used to sit back and wrongly judge “slacker parents” over.

The oldest of my brood got five tattoos in a span of four short months—all but one of them in a foreign country where I have no idea of the industry’s regulations and safety procedures, and one of them containing an error. This has been one of my biggest fears since seeing all the examples of regrettable tattoos on Facebook and TV shows like Bad Ink. The horror! #1 assures me that the erroneous ink is an easy fix, but I have yet to receive a picture of the corrective work. I have begged him to stop the madness!

It wasn’t long before #1’s misdeeds were eclipsed by his younger sister—my kids seem to be in some sort of twisted competition to see who can kill me with stress and worry first and most gruesomely. My oldest daughter, my National Honor Society student and Homecoming Princess, was cuffed and stuffed into the back of a police car until I could get to her for changing t-shirts inside her car in apparent view of a skatehop waiter with 20/20 vision in pitch darkness.  (If only she’d changed before ordering a side of cheese sticks, she may have avoided the witness who was able to somehow differentiate a solid blue bra from a bikini top in July from 50 feet away at 10:00 p.m., but I digress.) Pissed as I was, I thought the handcuffs were a little much, but the cop let her go with the warning, “There are a lot of things you can’t do in public. Taking off your clothes is one of ‘em.” Wouldn’t she know this if not for her hormone-befuddled and junk food driven brain?

Not to be outdone, my middle child has also recently thrown his hat into the ring of Mom’s Death Match, by skipping school three times the month of August and then having the audacity to forge excuse notes from me with grammatical errors! I got a call from the school secretary when one of the closings was followed by a colon instead of a comma.

“Thank you:
Michelle Combs”

Aw, hell no! All I can say is that he deserved the paddling he got, for that damned misused colon if nothing else, along with the punishment we levied at home.

There have been other instances. A couple of them teamed up and snuck out of the house after 12 a.m., supposedly for McDonald’s McDoubles. I didn’t know those were tempting enough food items to risk losing driving privileges over, but apparently to the insane teenage brain, much like Sonic cheese sticks, they too are irresistible. The car the Princess and my own junior aspiring writer share to get back and forth to athletic practices and an after-school job is currently parked at a relative’s house some five miles away until the two can come to their collective senses. We all hope it doesn’t take until they’ve obtained their “stable, independent roles in society.” It’s been a real pain having to cart them around everywhere again.

This summer has made me long for the days when the worst my kids were doing was causing me umpteen trips to the ER for skittles and shit they were shoving into their nostrils and ear canals. I no longer begrudge the money they cost me by flushing my car keys, favorite earrings, and any other object at hand down the toilet every time my back was turned. I’d settle for my youngest son pooping in the bathroom air-conditioning vent as a toddler again over the shenanigans of asshole teenagers any day.


On the bright side, today is Labor Day, the official END OF SUMMER, and #1 turns twenty tomorrow! That’s one of the brood into adulthood, one of the five stable and having claimed his independent role in society. Surely with a little swearing, indirect criticism, and sarcasm I can survive the adolescences of the others, no matter what those HealthyDay writers think.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fractured Days Cover Reveal



Alpena, MI (April 22, 2015) – World Weaver Press (Eileen Wiedbrauk, Editor-in-Chief) has announced Fractured Days, the highly anticipated sequel to Shards of History by Rebecca Roland, will be available in trade paperback and ebook Tuesday, June 9, 2015.

Praise for Shards of History:

“One of the most beautifully written novels I have ever read. Suspenseful, entrapping, and simply … well, let’s just say that Shards of History reminds us of why we love books in the first place. 5 out of 5 stars!”
          — Good Choice Reading

“A must for any fantasy reader.”
         — Plasma Frequency

"A passionate tale that will engage both young adults and more weathered fantasy readers.”
        — NewMyths.com

“Fast-paced, high-stakes drama in a fresh fantasy world!”
        — James Maxey, author of the Dragon Age trilogy

“Roland’s beautifully woven, suspenseful debut novel draws readers into a groundbreaking fantasy panorama and resonates in the heart with its genuine, personal portrayal of loyalty, relationships, and sacrifice. I eagerly await more stories about the Jegudun and Taakwa!”
         — David J. Corwell y Ch├ívez, author of “Encounter at Boca del Diablo” (Tales of the New Mexico Mythos)

Malia returns home the hero of a war she can't remember. The valley burning under the Maddion's invasion, the fate of her late husband, the way she resolved the long-time distrust between the Taakwa people and the wolfish, winged Jegudun creatures--all of it has been erased from her memory. Malia hopes to resume training as her village’s next clan mother, but when the symbiotic magic that she and the Jeguduns used to repair the valley’s protective barrier starts to consume more and more of her mind, she's faced with the threat of losing herself completely.

A powerful being known as "the changer" might hold the solution to her vanishing memories. But the Maddion's new leader, Muvumo, also seeks the changer, hoping the being will cure them of the mysterious illness killing off his people. Meanwhile, Muvumo's bride hopes the changer can bring about a new era, one in which she and the other Maddion women no longer need to hold onto their greatest secret.

Fractured Days will be available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, WorldWeaverPress.com, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram. You can also find Fractured Days on Goodreads.




Rebecca Roland is the author of the Shards of History series, The Necromancer's Inheritance series, and The King of Ash and Bones, and Other Stories. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Nature, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Stupefying Stories, Plasma Frequency, and Every Day Fiction, and she is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. You can find out more about her and her work at rebeccaroland.net, her blog Spice of Life, or follow her on Twitter @rebecca_roland.




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Crossing the Finish Line: 8 Steps to Finishing Your Manuscript



I’ve met many fellow writers who answer probably the most often asked question among our species “So, what are you writing?” with an answer like “Well, I have about three (five or even ten) novels that I’m working on that I just can’t seem to finish.”  Sometimes the answer will even be something like “I’ve been working on a novel for the past twelve years, but I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it.”

As hard as starting the manuscript for a novel is, finishing is often harder.  While I repeatedly tell those that I mentor that it’s the writing itself that makes them writers, it’s only finishing that will make them novelists. And crossing the finish line isn’t easy for any us.  The second novel of my Genie Chronicles series took me an interminable amount of time to write.  An unforgivable amount of time were I with another press maybe.  I’ve learned to finish the hard way.

If the process is taking much longer than you want, or if you’re beginning to lose motivation to finish your manuscript, consider taking these steps:
                                                              
STEP #1     Stop Starting New Projects

Stop it right now! As tempting as it may be latch onto a dazzling new story idea and disappear down another rabbit hole with it, don’t do it.

Keep making notes on any ideas that you want to refer back to at a later date, but make a promise to yourself that you won’t start any new projects until you’ve completed at least one of your WIPs.

STEP #2     Assess You Current WIPS (Works in Progress)

If you have multiple writing projects going on but nothing’s getting finished, it’s time to determine which of these WIPs are worth completing and which aren’t.

Ask yourself which story you believe in most. Which is eating away at you to be told? Perhaps that novel you started in high school or college isn’t the one you should be writing now.  Like everyone else, writers grow and evolve. Make sure you’re writing the story only you can tell.

Separate active projects that still excite you from the dead ones you’re willing to part with and any you think you’d rather set aside to revisit sometime in the future.

STEP #3     Choose One Project and Commit, Commit, Commit

Just one—because something has to be your priority or nothing’s getting done!

This doesn’t mean you can’t work on a side project when you need a break from the world and characters of your Priority WIP, but it does mean that any time and energy you devote to that other project will come after you’ve committed the lion’s share to your Priority WIP.

If you’ve made any commitments to agents, publishers, or readers, those committed to projects must absolutely come first.

Choose a single project as your priority—one that you will cross the finish line with!

STEP #4     Be Accountable

Nothing motivates me to write more than a reader asking when my next book will be available.  A few months after the release of my first, Heir to the Lamp, when the initial hubbub (mostly from people I know) had died away, it was easy to forget that I had a legitimate readership waiting for more of my genie story, not to mention a publisher to whom I’d promised additional books.

With the inevitable writer’s block, technological malfunctions, social media, a family and Netflix all clamoring for a writer’s attention, it can be difficult to hammer out a blog post some weeks much less devote hours to an entire novel, but if you’re serious about finishing your manuscript, you’ll make it work.

Being accountable to my publisher World Weaver Press, my local writers’ group, and writers/readers I’m fortunate enough to get to interact with at conferences helped me finish Solomon’s Bell and launch headlong into the third book in the series, The Island of Antirrhodos.

Be accountable to those you’ve told a finished novel is in your near future. I promise—they’re cheering you on!

STEP #5     Set Milestones…and Start Reaching Them

Some helpful milestones may include:

  • Finishing an outline
Before the experience of my second book, I would have rather been beaten than complete an outline for a WIP. I thought they were too restrictive and stifled creativity. I was wrong.  Having an outline means having a plan for where your novel is going.  Of utmost importance is knowing how your story will end.  Know your ending and use an outline to write to it.
  
  • Writing every day
Making corrections isn’t writing.  Research isn’t writing.  Revising and tinkering aren’t writing.  If you spend all of your time editing, researching and revising, you can’t finish your novel.  You won’t finish this way. This realization was the hardest for me to come to as a writer.

  • Completing a major section of the novel

  • Hitting word count goals for day, week, month, etc
A friend and fellow writer posts her daily word count goals and successes to social media.  Watching her make and achieve those goals goes a long way in encouraging me that I can do it, too.

  • Completing a 1st draft

STEP #6     Remove Distractions Whenever Possible

Television, social media, the chaos of a home with children (sometimes literally) bursting through the drywall:  these are all distractions I wrestle with (sometimes literally) on a daily basis. While it’s important to be willing to take advantage of the opportunity to write anytime and anywhere that opportunity presents itself, we’re all susceptible to distraction and it’s helpful to take measures that enable us to make the most of the writing time we have available to us.

When I’m focused on a WIP—and I mean really focused and ready to commit, commit, commit—I turn off the television and my cell phone at the very least, and leave home for quieter surroundings when it’s absolutely necessary.  If something happens that pulls me away or irreparably breaks my concentration, I try taking a quick walk or completing some small task like folding a load of laundry while I mentally act out a bit of action or dialogue from the story until I’m refocused.

Those are things that work for me. Identify what distracts you from your WIP and take steps to at least temporarily remove those distractions.

STEP #7     Decide What “finished” Means to You

Will “finished” mean:

  • your story has a beginning, middle, and end? 
  • you’ve written 65,000 words and proofread them?
  • you’ve shared the work with a writers’ group, beta readers, or critique group and revised it?

“Finished” can mean any or all of those things.  Obviously a manuscript you plan to self-publish versus one you plan to query may be considered “finished” using different criteria.

Without a clear definition of “finished” you risk your project going on and on forever.  It’s been over a week since I sent in my revised draft of Solomon’s Bell and I know without a doubt that were it not for clear parameters I set for myself concerning the “finished” manuscript, I’d still be revising and editing today—even though the time for all of that will come in the publisher’s editing phase over the next few months, I would have kept doing it over and over again before sending it on had I let myself.

 Decide what you want your manuscript to look like when you cross the finish line with it and work toward that product.

STEP #8     Be Kind to Yourself

You’re writing a novel—accomplishing something relatively few people ever accomplish!  Reward yourself for hitting those milestones in Step #5 with something positive, something you love to do and gives you joy.  Time away from the work that is writing can serve as a much needed escape and allow for the recharging your mind needs to keep going.

For me it may be an episode of Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black when I’ve finished a chapter; an afternoon at the zoo with my husband and kids or dinner at a restaurant when I’ve completed a major section; a gathering with family to toast the acceptance of the manuscript for publication.

Some writers can bang out a novel and race toward the finish line in a matter of weeks, but for the majority of us it’s a long and arduous journey.  Be kind to yourself along the way.

Do you have other writing tips that have helped you finish a project? I'd love for you to comment with them below.

Happy writing! See you at the finish line!





Saturday, March 14, 2015

How I Came to Know Two Part-Time Indians

One of the most exciting things that can happen to someone who loves books is to stumble upon and immediately fall in love with a writer whose work has somehow remained previously unknown to said book lover.  This happened to me this week in A BIG WAY, resulting in the kind of bookgasm perhaps only the wormiest of bookworms can fully appreciate.




I’d had the audio edition of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian downloaded onto my kindle since way back in 2013 when I finally decided to give it a listen while applying my various layers of Revitalift and moisturizer last Tuesday morning. (My love and possible addiction to Revitalift has been well documented on this blog.)
As the adult child of a (deranged?) parent who very recently decided and declared to the world that he himself, clear blue-eyed and fishbelly white, is in fact—regardless of five generations of known family history—an Indian, I chose Alexie’s YA novel on a whim, its title reminding me of my estranged father who was then parading around our small town wearing the World’s Shortest, Curliest Braids and slathered in a self-tanner that gave him the hue of a Dorito rather than a Cherokee.  I would read the title on my virtual kindle bookshelf and later my iPad and have a sad laugh, but for over two years I never delved into the book—partly, I think, because I was still coming to terms with the race/culture appropriation of my father and all the feelings of regret, anger, and shame that have come along with it.

I suppose this would be a good time to reiterate that I don’t usually choose the books I plan to read based on reviews.  I’m a reader that’s most often won over by title and cover design, though I do read jacket copy and have chosen many books based on interviews with authors I’ve heard on NPR.  I love me some NPR, y’all.  (Revitalift and NPR…I’m vain but informed.)
If I had bothered to read any of the reviews available on Goodreads or Amazon for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I would have learned that the book is a semi-autobiographical YA novel and that its author Sherman Alexie is a Spokane Indian, poet, writer, performer, cartoonist, and filmmaker.  Any fears that I had of encountering some version of my father in its pages would have been stifled, and I could have gotten on with that bookgasm years ago!
As is true with any book I fall in love with, before I’d even finished the story I was Googling Sherman Alexie for articles and interviews.  Who was this man whose words so captivated my heart and mind? How much of his life was like that of Arnold Spirit, Jr. from the book? Who influenced him as a writer? What other works did he have available? Why did I not know of him earlier? I mean, he’s a PEN/Hemingway Award winner for goodness sake!

[photo credit: The Seattle Times]


I would learn that Sherman Alexie is a preeminent voice in Native American literature, that he was born with the same medical issues as the protagonist in Part-Time Indian—issues that set him apart and made him a target for ridicule and bullying for most of his young adolescence; that like Arnold Spirit, Jr. he grew up on the Wellpinit Reservation and faced many of the same situations in the book; that he first knew he wanted to become a poet and writer after reading the poem “Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile” by Adrain C. Louis—which induced for him his own kind of bookgasm, no doubt—and that he had many, many short-stories, poems, novels, cartoons and at least one film out in the world for me to enjoy.

[Illustration by Sherman Alexie from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, copyright Little Brown Books for Young Readers]

In his work, Alexie illuminates the despair, poverty—and, yes—alcoholism that often shape the lives of Native Americans living on reservations.  His words, infused with humor in the case of Part-Time Indian, evoke sadness and indignation but ultimately leave readers with a sense of respect and compassion for characters in tough situations—characters involved with crime, alcohol, and even drugs, struggling to survive under the weight of poverty, a constant battering (both figuratively and literally) by white American society, and overwhelming feelings of powerlessness and self-hatred.  And he does it all with so much love:  love for his flawed characters and their equally flawed families, love for his people, love for his culture, and love of hope for a better future for anyone who dares to chase a dream instead of letting it die inside them.
Maybe that’s all my own father is doing really:  chasing a dream, as misguided and inappropriate as it may be. Wish he’d dreamed of being a dad, present and fully participatory, though. That would have been something.  I promise to make a full apology, both in private and publically, if he’s ever deemed medically insane, which isn’t altogether unlikely.

Below is my Goodreads review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:

I love, love, love this semi-autobiographical novel about Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA!
As heartbreaking as it is humorous, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian poignantly explores the realities of Reservation life for one fourteen-year-old Native American, "born with water on the brain", who refuses to give into hopelessness. Junior refuses not to care, and the novel follows him in his attempt to escape the only future the Rez has to offer: one of poverty, alcoholism, and the death of dreams.  His determination causes him to become both outsider and outcast as he moves between the worlds of the Reservation and the white high school in Reardan, WA.
Five minutes into reading the book, I had laughed out loud and cried! Sherman Alexie is among the best writers of our time, and to read his words--stories of Native Americans by a Native American--should be required for all students at some point during their curriculum.
What I was most surprised to learn while reading the book is that Sherman Alexie (and so many of his characters) is a poet. His first published works were poems and even his YA novel reads like poetry.  Take this excerpt from the book for example:
"You've been fighting since you were born," he said. "You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope."
I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply my hope.
"Where is hope?" I asked. "Who has hope?"
"Son," Mr. P said. "You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation." (5.163-5.168)

Poetry. You MUST read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian! I plan on reading Sherman Alexie's other works as well.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate, BUT NOT ON MY WATCH!

You won’t win any popularity contests in small town Alabama when you purport to be a Christian that’s voted for Barak Obama for President TWICE, supports marriage equality nationwide, and openly doubts the Bible in its entirety and current translation as the LITERAL word of God.

I love my home state, its culture, and (most of) its people, but I am emotionally burdened every day by its history of hate and intolerance because it’s a history that I feel Alabama refuses to completely leave in the past.

On the 23rd and 26th of last month, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade struck down the State of Alabama’s 1998 law and 2006 constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in two separate rulings.  This week a federal appeals court denied Alabama’s request to stay that lower court’s decision, opening the door to matrimony beginning February 9, 2015 to couples long denied the right, setting off a veritable crapstorm of hate and condemnation the likes of which Alabama hasn't seen outside of annual Iron Bowls since I was born in 1977.  That’s counting September 11th, 2001.

You heard that right, ladies and gentlemen, large portions of the State of Alabama despise homosexuals more than it hates terrorists, which makes the two groups more similar in temperament than either would care to admit.



I have grown weary, so weary of constantly battling very vocal pockets of racism, hate and discrimination close to home when I encounter them on social media, in my children’s school, or while I’m just out and about. Something about my smiling white face must say to others, “Come, sit with me. Let’s talk about how much you loathe the President of the United States of America, his uppity wife, and all the foreigners and queers sending our nation to Hell in a handbasket.”

My youngest son was in 1st grade during the 2008 Presidential election and as we watched the results pour in via television at a restaurant, Barak Obama was the early frontrunner. This disturbed my six-year-old considerably and he decried loudly to all within earshot, “Oh, no! Bawak Obama will be a tewwible pwesident.” He’d heard more than a little at school about the doom and destruction the brown man on the TV would unleash on the nation if elected.  I was pissed, to say the least. I prefer to be the only one indoctrinating my young children, if you please. And I prefer to indoctrinate them with an open mind, compassion, and empathy.  (Unless we’re talking about Scientologists—in that case I make it perfectly clear that those people are completely INSANE! Entitled to their beliefs, but nuttier than squirrel turds.)



This is one of the same reasons my family and I are currently not members of one of the bazillion churches in our county. I crave fellowship with other Christians, long for a worship experience that I feel draws me closer to my creator, but I haven’t found those untainted by a dose of “homosexuals will burn in hell” that I can’t stomach and won’t subject my children to.

We’ve been condemning people to Hell in Alabama because of who they love since our state was founded. Before the gays it was those guilty of miscegenation. I’ve tried to draw this parallel when supporting marriage equality. There was a time when the people of Alabama supported via constitutional amendment the outlawing of marriage between people of mixed races. Some Southern Christians thumped their Bibles and declared the practice a sin. When the ban on these unions was lifted, couples still faced discrimination from ministers, Justices of the Peace, and venues that didn’t want to see them wed. There are mixed-race couples today in Alabama that will tell you they and their children are STILL sneered at and discriminated against in 2015! IN 2015!!!

This morning a popular radio personality based in Birmingham but syndicated across the county has called for the Probate Judges in Alabama to take a stand and “refuse to sign same-sex marriage licenses” and even goes so far as to cite Martin Luther King, Jr. as a reference point for doing so.

“If you are a Christian and a probate judge do you condone a version of marriage that goes against God even though it's the current law of the land?   Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from a Birmingham jail covered this when explaining to fellow pastors why he would continue to break ‘unjust’ laws.”   ---Rick Burgess

He went on to add, “Christians have the same freedoms given to all people of this country to fight to raise their families in a society that best reflects their convictions. It's time to fight."

Until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many white Alabama Christians fought for their "conviction" that segregation was a Biblically sound practice that spared their families from the horrors of race-mixing. Thank God the federal courts interceded then, too.

 I suppose if people could hold to their particular religious convictions while respecting others’ basic rights, I could roll on, none the worse for wear. The two don’t have to be at odds.  Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one. But don’t stand between two people and their rights to equal protection under the law. In forty years you’re going to look ever as much the bigot as George Wallace standing in the door of the University of Alabama.




I’m tired of the hate. So tired. The days of marriage inequality are over, and a better day is dawning for same-sex couples. That reality makes me smile and gives me strength to go out into my beloved State and keep prodding people to show more compassion, empathy and understanding, ever the while moving farther and farther away from our shared history of intolerance. 


[photo credit: mediamatters.org]