Monday, July 11, 2016

Fondue Me, Baby

The for sale sign will be going up soon. Sixteen years, two childhoods, four people who don't like to get rid of things. Even now, after six months of weekly visits to Goodwill, the purge continues. Does anyone want a fondue set? Seriously. It's still in the box. I sort of accidentally told my husband I wanted one a few years ago and it ended up under the Christmas tree. Oops.

We've been having a competition to see who can get rid of the big stuff. Jim is winning. The huge oak desk he'd had for thirty years, and moved three times already, was gone hours after advertising it on the neighborhood website. Weight set---same thing. He and the neighbor wheeled it down the street. I did give away a couple of nightstands and a futon, though. We got rid of a total of four desks. Why sit at a desk when you can lounge on the sofa in front of the television with your laptop, your phone, your I-pad, your beer and your chips all within reach? Desks are so seventies. Kind of like fondue sets...  

With the purging almost finished, I've gotten serious about the cleaning. (Speaking of purging has anyone read about the new FDA approved weight loss solution? It's a stomach tube with a valve attached. Half an hour after eating, you simply open the valve and let the contents of your stomach drain out into the toilet. Cool huh? Medically approved bulimia--- with no worries about destroying your teeth with stomach acid! Wow.) Anyway, once the deep cleaning began I started seeing dirt everywhere. My computer screen, for instance, has smudges on it. And my lap desk has chocolate on it. When did that happen? Too long ago, to be tonight's snack, sadly. The other night I spent over an hour cleaning that big thing in the kitchen. You know, the hot thing that you put the take and bake pizza in. How was I supposed to know that ovens need cleaning more than once a decade?

I have more important things to do with my time. Like write stories. And read stories. And go for long walks to think deeply about writing and reading stories. Which is why I need a much smaller house. Possibly even a townhouse, with no yard. This way, my writing, and reading, won't be interrupted by feelings of guilt as I watch my husband do yard work. Now he too will be free to sit in front of the television with his laptop and his phone and his beer and his chips.

Hm. I wonder if they give discounts on his and hers stomach valves. We'd better get a place with two bathrooms, just in case...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

21 things that will make sense to writers

I received this link in my email today (Thanks, Tina!) and decided to share it with you all because it's relevant to so many of us writers. And because I've been too busy to come up with any posts of my own. Between writing the new book, vacationing, visiting with my daughter before she moved out of the state,  :(  and working on getting my house ready to sell (we are downsizing) I haven't been spending much time online, even to blog. So if you were wondering what's going on with me, now you know. And if you weren't wondering, well, you still know. Lucky you.

Hope you all are enjoying the sunshine. (Unless you're not getting any, where you are, in which case you have my sincerest condolences.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sample of my Work in Progress

   I've been too absorbed in my current story to come up with any blog ideas lately so I've decided to share a few lines that I wrote this morning. This book is the first in a series about a family with a long history of mental illness. Sierra has been hired to work for the Venzetti's but her first day has been anything but ordinary. Vince is the grandson of the man who hired her. The working title is Pretty Enough.

   “I could be sick in ways you can’t see. Here you are, alone with me, but you have no way of knowing what’s going on in my mind. I might hear voices telling me to hurt you.”
   Sierra felt the thump of adrenaline in her chest, and automatically took a step backward, toward the exit.
   “I’m not trying to scare you. I know what’s real and what isn’t---at least as much as anyone does.”
   “Well, you sure do know how to activate a girl’s fight or flight instinct.”
   “I’m sorry.”
   Sierra wondered how many times Vince had apologized to her today. She was too tired to count. “You should get some sleep. I know I could use a good nine hours after this day.”
   “I haven’t told you my story yet. What really happened the day Guido died.”
   “It can wait until tomorrow.”
   “No, it can’t. Tomorrow, I’ll be sober. I can’t talk about it sober, and I’ve already decided that I’m not going to get drunk again. This is a one time deal. Feel free to take advantage of it.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Self-help Junkie Solves all of your Problems

In my last post, I posed the question, "Is job burn out real?" (My FB friends say Yes!) So, I decided to read up on the subject. The book I got from the library wasn't particularly helpful. I could summarize it in one sentence. Corporations suck and that's why you are stressed out and miserable at work. Hm. As a recovering self- help book junkie, I figured I could do better than that.

My story: It all started for me when I was still in middle school when my older brother---the enabler--- brought home a copy of Your Erroneous Zones, by Wayne Dyer. I devoured it. I seem to recall my mother thinking the title sounded sexual. Well, the book sure wasn't. What I remember most are the parts about worry and guilt being pointless. One is focusing on future events that might never happen, and the other, obsessing over a past that can't be changed. I wish I could say that reading it solved all of my problems, causing guilt and worry to vanish from my life forever. It didn't. Of course, if one book could solve all of our problems the self-help industry would have gone under. It didn't go under. It thrived.

I don't remember the title of my next fix, but I am going to share one book that actually changed my thinking, about my thinking. It's called Slowing Down to the Speed of life, and when I looked it up to see if it was still in print I found this PDF ready for download. Which means it's free. I like free.

The basic idea is that we all have two modes of thinking. One is free-flowing, which means you're living in the moment, and the other is the processing/analytical mode. Both serve a purpose, but it's important not be in the wrong mode. Analyzing can lead to over-thinking and obsessing. It can lead you to feel like you're a hamster on a wheel. (Not to be compared with riding an exercise bike which is good for you. Go Jim!) Free flowing is going with the flow. It can be creative, but also relaxed. I have found that when I'm in free -flowing mode at work, everything goes smoothly. I enjoy waiting on customers, even those who count their pennies. It's when I start 'thinking' rather than 'doing' that I get into trouble. Now, this may sound obvious, but thinking, "I hate people" while waiting on the public, is not the path to a stress -free and happy work life!

The point is, it's hard to be miserable without first thinking miserable thoughts. Is controlling our thoughts easy? No, but, if you learn to spend more time in free flowing thinking than in processing/analytical mode, it's possible to be happier more of the time.

So there you have it. My humble, not an expert, opinion.

Happy Hump Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Job burn out---is it a real thing?

Today kids, we're going to talk about burnout. That's job burnout, in case you were thinking of some other kind of burn out. Is there another kind? I suppose it's possible for a person to burn out on something fun, but when is the last time you heard someone say, "Damn, I'm really burned out from this vacation. I mean seriously, ten days in Mexico, swimming, lying on the beach ogling scantily clad men/women while drinking margaritas, is so freaking exhausting!"

Yeah, I've never heard that one either.

Recently, a customer described herself as a burnt out nurse, and I thought, "No! Nurses can't burn out! You have to be caring and sympathetic toward every patient, every single time. You can't be secretly rolling your eyes behind the back of that nice woman who fainted from a cortisone shot. You can't be thinking how pathetic she is, and how you've had patients deal with heart surgery, or chemo, better than that wimp handled a little pinprick. (Not that anything like this has ever happened to me, mind you.)

No, nurses shouldn't burn out.

Neither should firefighters. Imagine calling the fire department and getting a burned out firefighter who stands outside your house shaking his or her head and muttering, "I got woke up for this little fire? Get the garden hose, I'm going back to bed."

Retail workers, however, are completely justified in burning out. I mean we have to deal with seriously awful stuff, every day. Like the person who says, "Would you believe I only came in for one item today?" The clerk must look at this person's six items, pretend she has not heard this same statement ten times already today, and act astounded. "One item, really? And you bought six? How on earth does that happen?"

It's a rough life. Sometimes when we are on automatic pilot, we might even forget to treat each customer as a separate and unique human being. It's even possible for a burned out clerk to watch a young woman with a small child, separate out her groceries because she's not sure if she has enough money to buy all six items, and feel a tad bit annoyed, that some items will have to be returned to the shelf. And that clerk might just feel shamed a minute later when the next customer pays for that young woman's groceries and then hands her $40 in cash so that she can feed her son.

It could happen.

It makes me wonder if burn job out is a real thing or just an excuse we use for not doing our best at a particular moment, or on a particular day because we are tired and wishing that we were somewhere else.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Keeping Emotion out of Marketing

I've decided to try a new cover on Playing House. I like the old cover. I think it suits the book, which is primarily romance but kind of chick lit/womens fiction too. I love chick lit covers. Fun, cartoonish covers have always grabbed my attention. These covers were quite popular a few years ago. Or was that ten years ago? Fifteen? Something like that. Right now romance covers are popular, even on books that are listed under women's fiction or chick lit. Bare chested studly guys are huge right now---but that didn't seem right for my book. So I went with sweet. Switching wasn't an easy decision.

I chose the first cover because I like it. I like the second cover too, obviously, but I chose it because my 'research' tells me it's more likely to sell. Writing stories is emotional---it has to be. If the writer doesn't care about the characters the readers won't either. Marketing is business. And covers are an important marketing tool. If you're an author you're probably thinking, "Well, duh, you're just figuring that out?" I guess I'm a bit slow when it comes to making the switch from, "My story is my baby." to  "My book is a product that I'm trying to sell." Even writing that last sentence felt wrong. I'm not trying to sell my story---I simply want to share it with people who might enjoy it. For $. But not much $. I mean $2.99 is less than a latte. It's not about the money, though is it? It's about time. I don't think I'm the only one who values my time more than my money. It's an odd thing, really, to ask someone to give up a few hours of their precious time to hang out with the imaginary people that live in my mind. When I put it that way, it's actually kind of weird. Hmm, maybe it's better if you don't read my book. Stay out of my imagination people! Quit invading my private world!

Did I mention that my next book involves a family that is plagued by mental illness? Schizophrenia is the most frightening disease out there. In my opinion. Imagine having disembodied voices telling you what to do. Creepy.

Well, that's it for today folks. Have a good one!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tabloid scum and a new story in progress

So, the magazine lady was in the other night. She shows up every Sunday and Thursday to bring us the new tabloids and I should definitely know her name---she's very friendly and we always chat---but for some unknown reason, I can never remember it. Anyway, I was checking out the headlines with the usual sense of De Je Vu. Same people, same headlines, week after week, month after month, and in one case, for the last two decades. Jen is getting a 170 million dollar divorce. There are a lot of famous Jennifers out there. I don't have to name them. But it's not necessary for them to use her last name. Even without the photo we all know who Jen is. She's the girl next door. Like one of the family. Everyone's best friend. Who just happens to be so rich that she can get a 170 million dollar divorce. Except, of course, that isn't true. Just as she hasn't given birth to twins twelve times in the last decade.

Then there's Britney.  Again, no last name necessary. She's the crazy best friend, who got her shit together and is now really boring. Except for the whole losing her body thing. She does this frequently. I imagine her head with her perfect teeth and phony smile floating around her mega mansion asking, "Now where did I put that damn thing this time? I swear I just had it five minutes ago!" Her body won't be lost for long, though. An observant member of the paparazzi will spot Britney's body on a beach, clad in a bikini looking slim and svelte, snap a photo and send it off to a tabloid. The headline will, of course, read, "Britney got her body back." About time too. That disembodied head thing is so awkward!

Then comes the big headline. It's been twenty years and Jon Benet Ramsey, is still dead! And, sadly, magazines are still making money off her murder. How do those slime -balls sleep at night? Or do they? Do they lie awake hoping for another case as juicy as this one? Greedy scum.

Well, that's it for today folks. I've got work to do. I've started a series. Not because I've read over and over again that writing a series, and putting books out quickly, is the only way to succeed at indie publishing. (Ok, maybe partly because of that.) But mainly because the new story I'm working on has too many characters, and too much story, for one book, unless I want it to be a monstrous 700 page saga, which I don't. In case you're wondering, it's about a family with a long history of mental illness, who live in a falling apart masterpiece of a Mediterranean mansion, with all kinds of deep dark secrets and horrors. Yes, there are love stories. With tortured heroes. Hey, they've been through a lot, dealing with sick family members and all. And there will be heroines who bring joy and passion to their lives.

Now I really must get to work. Lots to do!

Happy weekend everyone!