Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In Which I Digress

This is not my normal kind of post. Still, I hope you read and enjoy. This is a bit close to my heart.

I took the kiddos to a movie today. We had an amazing time, but while there I saw a preview for an upcoming movie called “The Shallows.” According the Wikipedia that shallows is about, “a young pro surfer named Nancy [who] is surfing at a secluded beach when she becomes stranded on a giant rock 200 yards from shore after an enormous great white shark attacks her. Now, she must find a way back to safety, proving the ultimate contest of wills. For those of you interested in the trailer, you can see it here.

I will not be seeing this movie. I heartily implore you not to see this movie. Sharks are easy targets for horror films. They are large, and toothy, and appear seemingly out of nowhere. So, it makes sense that they fit neatly into the summer scare niche in order to make people think it’s “not safe to go back into the water.” However, time and time again it has been shown that such films have negative effects.

Peter Benchley was the first to cash in on this trend. His Freshman novel, Jaws, sold over 20 million copies and was made into the movie with the iconic two note soundtrack. However, Benchley later greatly regretted the novel, despite it becoming one of the top 10 grossing movies of all time. He was upset that people often forgot that the book was simply fiction, and was heartbroken over the rise in shark killings that took place as an indirect result of the fear the book and movie inspired. The Great White Shark population was decimated by those seeking an awe-inspiring trophy in the years following the movie; a hit to their numbers from which they are still recovering. To counteract this, Benchley  dedicated much of the rest of his life to the conservation of sharks.  

Years later, Deep Water would spur another round of shark killings as fear prompted people to act irrationally. Sharknado has yet to have an impact on anything other than Ian Zearing's career. 

Now here we are, after a year of record shark attacks. Greater numbers of people entering the water combined with warmer water led to 98 unprovoked shark attacks in 2015. People are already tense. In fact, just recently a 24 inch nurse shark was killed after being provoked and harassed into biting. However, despite their size and reputation, sharks in general are not quick to attack. Great Whites especially are not incredibly aggressive to humans, with only 220 documented attacks since 1907. Humans are, in fact, far more of a threat to sharks; for every human killed by sharks, 25 million sharks are killed by humans. History has shown us that “The Shallows” has potential to make those numbers rise even higher.

Please don’t contribute to the senseless fear-mongering and murder of a non-harmful and beautiful special. Please don’t support “The Shallows.” 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Case For Grace

I was always a vengeance sort of girl. There was something deeply and uniquely satisfying about dealing with a problem by leaving a piece of scorched earth. Issue? Solved. Quickly and efficiently and with a good dose of catharsis thrown in as the icing on the cake. You see, it wasn't enough that a person be wrong. They must know without a doubt they were wrong. Other people had to know they were wrong. It had to be done quickly, and it had to completely eliminate the chances that anything like that would ever happen again. To paraphrase Ender Wiggin, the first punch was to stop that fight, the rest were to stop any others that might happen. And there was just so much I wanted to say.

And it worked. But not really.

The collateral damage was high. There was no chance of reconciliation with the person who had wronged me. While it felt good at the time, eventually guilt and remorse would kick in. So, things changed.

I started a business. There are people involved in this business that I don't like. There are people who engage in shady business practises, who are just damned abrasive, who are unprofessional, who have unreasonable expectations, who break promises. There was even one who headed up one heck of  a Salem style witch hunt against me. And man, sometimes I just want to put them in their place. But I can't. I have a business. Which means I have to be professional. There's way too few bridges in this microcosm of the publishing world to start burning some to the ground. So I learned to moderate myself. I made mistakes along the way.

I had a family. I didn't want to reflect badly on them. I didn't want my children caught in any crossfire. I wanted them to enjoy the stress-free holidays that I didn't. I wanted their lives to be filled with joy and ease. I had done a couple of things that were irreparable and didn't want to do more. I wanted people to be proud of me. So I learned to moderate. I made a few mistakes along the way.

I grew closer to God. For me, that means extending the grace I am so freely given. That's the biggest tenant of the Faith, for me. No matter what I do, He will forgive me. He will bless me. No matter who I am, he will love me. So, I tried to emulate that. I made A LOT of mistakes along the way.

I am now in a situation where there cannot be mistakes. There cannot be missteps. The stakes are way higher than anything I've ever encountered. A huge amount of damage has already been done, outside of my control. And oh, man, I want the vengeance. There are so many lies being spread and so so much I WANT TO SAY. I want to hurt those who hurt the ones I love. But I can't. I cannot. So, while actions have consequences, I am doing my best to move with grace and dignity. I have to trust the judgement of the people I love. I can trust them to see the truth. I have to trust in God that He knows the truth and will act in truth and justice and love, especially when it is difficult for me to do the latter two. To hold my tongue. To walk slowly. It's not cathartic. It's not fast. It's not efficient. But you know what? I feel better at the end of it. I can look around at the end of the day and say "I did good." I can turn to my loved ones after engaging in more grace and dignity than I thought I could and say "did you see that?" And they say "yes, that was awesome." I can help my loved ones heal the wound, protect them from further wounds, but not accidentally create more.

And it's working. Slowly. Painfully. Diligently. But it's working.

Vengeance? That was effective in it's way. But I'll take grace.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Here's the Thing About Extroverts

I've been hearing a lot about introverts lately. I get it, introverts have been feeling the strain for years. They feel as though they are expected to be something they're not, that it's an extrovert's world, and now with the rise in popularity of the geek and so much of our lives being done in the relative safety of Facebook, they feel as if they are finally given a voice.

And that's awesome. Anytime anyone can be their authentic self (without actively harming others) is great. Anytime someone can be heard (and they are speaking our of love or desire for understanding) is great. Most of my friends are introverts, and I love being able to understand how to better care for them.  But, as the token extrovert, here's what extroverts want you to know:

It's not all sunshine and roses for us, either. Here's why:

1. People don't understand this is a need for us. When we ask you to come over, to go do something with us, to talk to us on the phone, it isn't always just casual. Just as you need time without people to recharge. We need quality time with people to recharge. So, when we are rejected, it can be difficult. It hurts. When it happens consistently, it hurts more than just a casual "I don't want to" or "I don't have time." Because what it means is "I don't understand or care about your needs enough to step outside of my comfort zone to help you refuel." Too much time without people makes us feel claustrophobic, a little twitchy. This is what we need to  feel the most healthy.

2. It's hard to balance our extroversion with our duties. It really is a golden balance. I have to clean my house. I have to educate my kids. I have to run the publishing house. All of these things require quiet time at home. However, too much of that, and I lose the focus to do those things. Working quietly with others is optimal, but even then quietly means with music happening, chatting while we work, and a lot of introverts aren't able to function that way. And two extroverts together means very little work gets done. So it's a constant balancing act of keeping myself charged enough to function optiimally, but leaving time to function.

3. You feel like you are constantly told to change who you are. Yep, introverts don't have exclusive rights to that. "Why don't you just sit quietly and relax?" "You're too outgoing and it puts us off." "Wow, you spend more time out of your house than you do in it." "Can't you just dial things back a bit?" People don't realize that relaxation is different for us, and so to please them we do things that are antithetical to our extrovert nature, and then people don't understand why we are fidgety. We have to tone down our fire for the comfort of others. We have to be alone for a socially acceptable amount of hours. It gets exhausting. But because your need to refuel depends on other people, we have to be dependent on their understanding of our situation. As most people aren't, it can get a bit claustrophobic.

4. People suggest solitude and you want to die a little. "You've had a tough time, why don't you just take a little while to relax." Let me tell you, we need people, and energy, especially when we've had a rough time. Leave us in a quiet room when we are already emotionally strained and you'll have us clawing at the inside of our skulls. We will get mopey, lethargic. But all too often, well-meaning people give us our space in times of trial. I don't need space. I need people. I need energy. I need activity. I will come back better able to deal with things, if given those.

I love my introvert friends. They go out of their way to help me balance my needs. So, if any of you are reading this, please don't be offended. But I do get frustrated at the concept that societal pressures are exclusive to the introvert set. They aren't. They're just different, that's all. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a whole wide world out there and I need to touch it all.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Oh Gwyneth

I will admit, I've become fascinated with Gwyneth Paltrow's website, Goop. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for tips, and I'm certainly not shopping. It is kind of like watching a video of pratfalls, or maybe a trainwreck. I'm pretty sure, in her glorious, pristine world, that she's not sure what goop means.  It's painful, it makes no sense, and yet I cannot look away. Lately, I've noticed some of her invigorating morning meals and routines. She wakes up, most likely wearing some of the $100 pajama pants that she offers on her website. She floats, ethereally down the stairs, and makes herself a smoothie. The recipe for the smoothie literally reads like this:
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon maca
1 teaspoon ashwagandha
1 teaspoon ho shou wu
1 teaspoon cordyceps
1 teaspoon moon dust of choice:Action Dust to soothe overworked muscles, Beauty Dust for a glowy complexion and healthy hair, Brain Dust to combat mental fogginess,Goodnight Dust when sleep has been evasive, Sex Dust, for, you know, and Spirit Dust to get that extrasensory perception going.
pinch Himalayan sea salt
pinch vanilla powder (optional)

I don't know about you, but I don't even know what half of those ingredients are. That's okay, 
I'll move on to the omelette. Wait, that involves free range duck eggs, organic spinach, and organic crimini mushrooms, none of which I frequently keep stocked in my kitchen. And you only use the whites of the duck eggs. At roughly $3 an egg, that's a lot that I'm just throwing away. Unless I want to make some duck yolk lemon curd. With organic lemons. 'Cause Gwenyth. Also, this invigorating morning routine costs about $85. And seems to involve at least 45 minutes of effort. I have neither.  So, I've decided to pass on 6 of my most invigorating morning wake-up tips. 

#1 See if you can plan your puppy's vomiting to take place within an hour of when you'd like to wake up. That sprint down the stairs, dragging a reluctant and heaving puppy, that will wake your right up. 

#2 If you live, like I do, in a poorly-insulated 200-year-old house - go straight to the kitchen to make coffee. Do not put on slippers or a robe. Standing there while the wind whips around your head, your feet getting chilblains, while you wait for that blessed brown cup of sanity will ensure that you don't get to sleep again anytime soon. And those capillaries will expand again someday. 

#3 Check your email - Most likely there will be something in there from either your psychotic ex or something involving your job. They will not be good news. You will have to write a furious response, refrain from sending it, type a more reasonable response through your rage and frustration, and then send that. This actually does double duty as it will not only stimulate your brain but will also get your heart pumping. 

#4 Finally get around to pouring that cup of coffee. Then, on the way to the couch, make sure you step on a stray lego left of the floor. The excruciating pain will cause you to dump some coffee down your shirt, which will not only further invigorate you, but will leave you with a warm, pleasant all-natural parfum, if you are carbon-footprint and temporally aware enough to eschew changing your shirt. 

#5 Take a shower. This will ensure that your sleeping children will wake up, no matter what time it is. They will file into the bathroom with their demands, which you will try to accommodate while lathering yourself with soothing aromatherapy-based shampoo. You will not be able to do this, but will instead come charging out, soaking wet, wrapping yourself in a towel, in order to put out whatever hopefully metaphorical fire is now raging. This will again, stimulate your brain, your skin, and your cardiovascular system. 

#6 Stare longingly at the coffee which has, by now, been spilled on the floor. This doesn't help, but is necessary for the next three steps which are a) clean up coffee b) pour more and c) get around to drinking it. 

These tips are tried and true; I have been using them for nearly a decade now. I guarantee that they will work for you. Best of all, this whole morning costs less than $5! Tune in next week for more happy, healthy, joy-inspiring tips from someone who truly understands goop. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

5 Things Not to Say to an Author

Occasionally I go out. When I go out, often it comes up that I am an author. People are usually pretty great about it, but many times someone says something that really just gets under my skin. After three years now of informally gathering data, I present to you the five worst comments that we hear.

1.      I Could Write, but I Don’t Have the Time
Here’s the thing, none of us have the time, some of us make the time. Most authors I know have a day job and a family in addition to their writing career. They have houses, hobbies, significant others, field trips, and pets. Being an author doesn’t somehow magically release you from all of your other obligations, though wouldn’t it be amazing if it did? We write because it is such an intrinsic part of us that we don’t feel whole unless we do. We become cranky, irritable, creatively constipated. So we make time. We give up sleep, we jot things down in the checkout line at the supermarket, or dictate into our phone while we are driving. We sacrifice time out in favor of a night at our laptops. We wake up hours early or stay up hours late. To assume that we just “have the time” cheapens the deliberateness and sacrifice we make for the sake of our passion.

2.      You Should Write My Story- You Wouldn’t Believe It.
This is generally followed by the line, “you’ve never heard anything like it.” Actually, I have. In fact, I have this exact conversation at least once a week. I don’t want to write your story. You write your story. I want to write my stories. Also, real-life drama generally doesn’t for good stories. Either they are not as interesting for the larger audience than they are for the writer, or they come across as trite, bitter, or contrived. So listen, if you want to write your memoir, do it. You have my full support. If you want to fictionalize some aspect of your life, even better. But please, please do not make me feel like I need to sit down with a stranger and take notes on their life story so that I can somehow help them. I love helping people, just not that way.

 I Always Thought I Could Be a Writer?
Really? I always thought I could be a Neurosurgeon. You know, if I’d applied to med school Then graduated. Then picked a specialty. Then excelled at it. If I’d done all of that, I could totally be a neurosurge
on. In fact, I bet I could do it now. I’ve watched a lot of medical shows after all. I took an anatomy class online. Sound ridiculous? It does to us as well. Being a writer involves dedication, practice, honing your craft, talent, all sorts of things. Can anyone do it? Maybe. Should everyone do it? No, no they shouldn’t. Can the average person toss out a well-crafted novel on the fly? Not usually. Give us some credit, please.

4.      If I Tell You My Idea, You’ll Steal It
No, I won’t. There are so many reasons I won’t. First and foremost, I have way too much respect for other people to do something like that. Our ideas, that little seed that germinates into this (hopefully) beautiful, blooming plant, those are precious. I won’t come creeping into your garden and steal yours. I’m a better person than that. Second, I have enough ideas of my own, thank you very much. I currently have 12 novels outlined, and that’s less than a lot of people I know. These are ideas that I had, about which I am passionate. I don’t need your idea, and I’m kind of insulted at your implication.  Finally, I know that it wouldn’t be as good even if I did. Our ideas are our passions, our perspective, and trying to write as you, or write something you saw, just wouldn’t work. So please, don’t worry.

5.      But What’s Your REAL Job?
Other job? Sure. Day job? Likely. But please don’t use the word “real.” “Real” implies that writing is fake, invalid, when the simple fact is that for most of us it’s the other job that is unreal. Writing is when we come alive. It’s when everything feels like it is falling into place. It is us pursing our passions, talents, and drives. Please, don’t try to tell me that’s not real.

So that’s it. Next time you see an author, pull up a chair and chat if you like. But be kind, be respectful, and don’t be one of those people.

So, fellow authors, what WOULD you like people to say?