Preptober, Abbreviated

The year got away from me, as it did with many of us, and so I found myself on the 15th wondering when it had become October.  The weather in the area was unseasonably warm, so I just kind of kept the summer going in my head, only to be blindsided by Autumn mid-month.  It wasn’t so much the seasonal change that bothered me, it was the fact that I wasn’t focused as I should have be

I forgot about Preptober.

Preptober is where you get ready for NaNoWriMo.  If you think I sound like a crazy person, read the next section.  If you know what I’m talking about, skip ahead one.

NaNoWriMo (NaNo) stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is in November.  The goal, though the website, is to pen 50k words in a month, leaving you a “winner” with a little bookie-book at the end of it.  It’s fun and pushes you to write.  “Preptober” is the month of October, when you prepare for NaNo.

Anyway, I did it in 2019 and ended up a winner, with a nice little novella.  Then in 2020 the world stopped, so I figured no problem!  I went hard in planning during October and was raring to go on the 1st of the month.  Alas, on the 8th I broke my finger, and dashed all dreams of getting a book out of it.  This year, I shall try again.

But I haven’t touched my outlines.

I’m so behind.  I have a workbook that helps me prepare and I have two weeks of exercises to look over.  On the up side, it’s the same project I worked on last year so much of it is already done, but I need to familiarize myself with everything again.  I have to get my head back in the book, so to speak.

I suppose the key to it all is to not stress myself out.  For instance, just thinking to myself that I already have so much more prepared for this novel than I did for the last when I started it makes me feel at ease.  I have a game plan; a script to work from.  It will make everything that much easier. 

So, for the next two weeks, I will be reacquainting myself with my book, and bonding with my characters, and dreaming of my settings.  Then, on Monday, November 1st, I will tap tap tap away on my keyboard, and hope I don’t smash my finger in a folding chair again.

Happy Preptober.

Camera Shy

One night, I was managing a show called The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia at a tiny bookshop in downtown Buffalo.  I could fit maybe 15 people comfortably in there at a time, but this particular evening at least 20 folks showed up, one in a wheelchair.  It was my job to handle the crowd while they were in the small space, and so I did what had to be done.  I stood on the stage area and announced we were all going to play a game of Tetris.  The crowd laughed.  I then comically rearranged all these strangers so that everyone could sit comfortably, and so the woman in the wheelchair could get a spot in the front row.  For five or ten minutes, I just riffed, no problem.  In my head I thought, what is this, if not acting?  I mean, it’s basic improv.  I’d been onstage acting for so many times in my life at that point, that it was just natural.

Now, I don’t believe I have lost this ability, but technology has altered it.  As it turns out, I have no stage-fright, but I am painfully camera-shy.

I never liked having my picture taken, and with the advent of the selfie I was very cautious.  But now, things are changing again, and it is videos that rule the world.  And I just can’t.

I’ve made a few.  The ones where I introduce myself and read a poem are best.  The one I made for the suicide walk didn’t turn out too bad, but I stumbled a little, and my palms were sweaty, and my heart was racing.  Then came the Patreon idea.

On my Patreon, I have The Vociferous Vlog, where I read a poem and then talk about the inspiration behind it.  In theory, it’s a really good idea, but as it turns out, videos are not my strong suit.  I should have realized…I’d always rather read the article, y’know?

The first one I made was ok, but E and I did it together and couldn’t quite get the angle on the camera right.  I was far away and not as clear-sounding as we had hoped.  The second one was worse, because Mark tried to hand-cam it and shook the whole time, which wasn’t even obvious until I uploaded it to the computer.  Then, it looked terrible.  I looked good, but I also kept my eyes down the entire time, which is something I will have to work on.

You would think I would be better at this.  And also, I’ve done plenty of Zoom calls during the pandemic, and never felt this way about those…perhaps because I’m talking with someone?  PLUS, my Patreon is just starting out and only has a few subscribers, so why am I bugging over people I KNOW seeing me in a video?

No really, I’m asking.  I have no answers.

I know that you could drop me in the middle of a stage and I could entertain for an hour.  I know it.  But to get me to film myself doing five minutes of poetry talk on my own?  Nope. I try to summon the theater person deep within me but I guess she’s sleeping (likely due to some SSRI’s,) and won’t be coming to my aide today, at least.

I shall try again tomorrow.

The Return of the Writer’s Lift

As some of you know, in 2018 I started my publication journey.  A tool I found useful in this endeavor was Twitter.  On Twitter, there is a hashtag: #WritingCommunity.  I started following folks who posted in this community, and most of the time it was very fruitful.  I made new friends, and it connected me to literally thousands of writers in every stage of development.  There were these things called “Writer’s Lifts” where everyone got to know each other and promoted their work a little.  Thing is, back then, those lifts were about making friends.  Now…it’s all about selling books.

Don’t get me wrong, I participate, particularly on Saturday as that is #ShamelssSelfPromoSaturday on Twitter.  I drop my link into some lifts and hope for a retweet or two.  I can confidently say I have sold a few books this way, but it’s not like it’s breaking the sales records.  It’s just a nice way to get your work to someone who otherwise might not find it.  So yes, I’m cool with promotional lifts.  However…

I’ve lost the connection.

I don’t KNOW my followers like I used to.  Yes, there are a great many more now than I had a couple of years ago, but I don’t feel the camaraderie like I used to.  We don’t chat.  We just hype each other’s stuff.  Again, don’t get me wrong, that’s cool…but I have no real writer friends.  I searched for such on Twitter, and I found some.  Two live in the area; a guy from the city who writes what he refers to as “dude lit,” and a blogger in the southern tier who has a garden I am envious of.  I often contemplate what it would be like to meet these folks, and have some sort of Algonquin roundtable writing discussion, but I’m an anxious human who has trouble stepping outside her comfort zone.  So online friendship it is.

Anyway, I was thinking about how Twitter used to be cool and decided I would see if it still could be.  I posted a Writers Lift, but I made rules.  Number one, you could not drop me a book link.  If you did, I deleted it.  Number two, you had to introduce yourself and tell us what you write or what you’re working on.  Third, you had to make a friend.

I got 188 replies.

188 people introduced themselves and their writing, and conversations broke out all over the place.  I tried to keep up but eventually had to mute the tweet when I got 35 notifications at once.  Many folks thanked me for this “new spin” on a lift, which made me chuckle because really, I’m just bringing back the old-school jams.  One person gave me an idea for another kind of lift, where we praise OTHER author’s work, not our own, which I think I may try out sometime this week.  A woman in Greece emailed me and told me she liked one of my poems, and asked if she could translate it to Greek and publish it in her lit mag.  I agreed, and you can find it HERE.  Someone else emailed me and told me that they read my excerpts on Amazon and immediately bought the book.  Others talked to me about their writing endeavors.  Overall, it was a very productive little tweet for me, and I really hope it was for others too.

A lot of the crap I see on Twitter now is people trying to up their engagement with ads and random questions and the like.  Me, I have always kept my tweets either about writing or observations from life, and I try to keep the selling of myself to a minimum.  Not that I don’t, because I’m an indie author and that’s part of the job description, but I’d rather read “real” stuff, if you know what I mean.  I’d rather you tweet about the sandwich you had for lunch than see another post that starts with “now available on Amazon…”

I mean…yeah, I’m guilty.  But I’m trying to do other things, too.  Got to keep it fresh, y’know?

So my finding in this little experiment is that people actually do want to connect on Twitter still, it just seems to be a little harder somehow than it was 2 years ago.  Perhaps it’s the algorithm, which has totally screwed me more than once, but overall, I think it’s just that we have lost touch with each other.  I don’t like that, and I won’t do that.  I won’t succumb.  My

DMs are always open to fellow creators.  I am always down to chat about the business of words, and all I really want is a few folks who feel the same.

A Lonely Wreckage

I’ve been sitting at the desk for half an hour.  I wasn’t sure what to publish today because I had three topics in mind, so I did a poll on Twitter and in 5 minutes its’ going to tell me people want to read about the Twitter experiment I did yesterday…and they will.  But I’m in a contrary mood and gosh darn it, it’s National Poetry Day.  How can I not write about my favorite form of expression?

But that leaves me with more choices…share some poetry, as I have in the past-my little outliers who have no homes?  That’s what I usually do.  Alas…she is mad at me, and that is all I can think about today.

She…is my book, A Lovely Wreckage.

She’s a year and a half old and we are already in an argument.  She doesn’t think I’m doing enough…she wanted things like a signing or a store shelf to sit on, and I couldn’t get her those things, so she said I was a terrible mother and shitty writer and slammed the door in my face.  I tried to coax her out of her room with the discovery that she was now for sale on the Walmart website, but this was fruitless.  She is angry and refusing to sell.

Thing is, she knows she could do it.  She knows she’s a lovely little debut that would have been much better received were we not in the midst of a pandemic at the time and ever since, and she’s bitter about it.  And she’s not wrong…she shoulda had somthin’.

I wrote a blog called Schrodinger’s Chapbook about her and she liked that attention but then she never sent a royalty check so who knows…children are so moody.

All kidding aside…I really need to sell some books.  Everything I’m reading tells me that I need to be shoving my book down the throat of every person I meet, and honestly that is not something I’m capable of.  I wish I was, truly, so that I could give her everything she deserves.  We have worked so hard.  We are so tired.

So, today, on National Poetry Day, I will give you a poem.  One of hers.  My favorite of hers, actually (my mom’s too!)  And I hope that you love it, and I hope that you love her…lord knows I do.

Even when she calls me a hack.

Dead Nerves
I quit smoking but this poetess
needs her hit, her puff, her drag and
I can still taste nicotine on my fingertips like
the sweat on your skin but
it’s a phantom sense
like the tingling in my toes-
Dead nerves.
I put on black nail polish and an old flannel
because I feel like sixteen again when
the wind whips my hair up
into the tornado that hangs over my head.
Rain clouds are for amateurs and I build weather formations
to hide my intentions.
I dance with demons and dummies but it’s all the same
as being young and in love,
before needles prickled at my skin and
left me numb and frightened.
These little bits of a broken heart,
these sharp shards that leave
faint pink lines on my skin
keep me from second guessing my silly self.
This itching in my fingers is a reminder
of bad decisions and salty storms,
that youth betrayed me.
Dead nerves in my hands
like dead nerves in my heart.

Wanna buy a book? Click here!

Blog-Sick

Some mornings it’s really hard to write because I don’t feel good physically.  Other days, I don’t feel good mentally.  Today I feel ok on both fronts, but my creative flow isn’t there so much…I don’t have any ideas springing from my fingertips right now.  This weekend was hard.  The kids were here and I was sick and I hate when that happens, and everything got cancelled or delayed in some way.  Then I find myself here on a Monday, already behind scheduled, trying to peck out a blog when really, I don’t feel like it.

But I’m not sick and I’m not depressed so I have no earthly reason to put off all I’ve to do, and so I pull out one of my favorite old coping mechanisms, “the Chandler.”

As a kid, Friends was one of my favorite TV shows.  When Monica and Chandler were getting married, he had a full-on freak out and went and hid in his office.  Ross found him there, and convinced him to get on with his day one step at a time.  “All you gotta do is go home and take a shower,” he said.  So, Chandler did.  Then, “all you have to do is put on your tux,” and so on and so forth.  I pull out this trick when I am feeling especially overwhelmed.

So, this morning, I said “all you gotta do is get dressed.” And I did.  “All you gotta do is get some coffee.”  So, I did.  “All you gotta do is get to the office.”  Here I am.

But then comes the writing, and there goes the brain, fritzing out on me so that I’m staring at the ceiling and wondering where that cobweb came from.

Other things I have to do today include cleaning and showering and updating my Patreon and sending out submissions and honestly, I would rather be there than here.  My blog may feel a little neglected, but my heart just isn’t in it.

I was musing to Mark what I should write about and he said “Why don’t you write about how hard it is to blog sometimes” and I thought nah…been there, wrote that.  Alas, here I am again, with the struggle.  Of course there’s that slight fear that it’s an oncoming block, but I am confident it’s just a lazy blog day.  Anyhoo…happy Monday, folks.

Word Updates

The absolute last thing I want to write about is how I feel right now, which is crummy.  Not sick, per se, though my tummy is sad, but that’s only because the rest of me is depressed.  There’s this whole brain-body thing happening where my depression and anxiety aggravate my digestive system and also my achy back and then I feel like hot garbage all morning.  That’s where we are right now, with me typing these words by force and also trying to figure out how to get myself into the shower at some point today.

Major Depressive Disorder at it’s finest, folks.

Now, I’m not worried because this sort of thing usually only lasts a few hours to a day, and the doc upped my Xanax so I am well equipped to deal with any issues.  Alas, I feel like crap.  But, I must solider on.  Bringing me to today’s blog, where I discuss a couple of endeavors. 

It’s been a few weeks now since I stared my Patreon account, and I have two very excellent subscribers right now.  They are extremely biased however, one being my aunt and the other being my mother.  But then, they are probably also my biggest fans.

So right now, I am creating content for them but also for new subscribers, who would have access to everything I’ve done on there so far as well as something new on a weekly basis.

If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it is a platform for creators to earn a monthly income.  It’s a subscription service, so, for example, you would pay 5$ a month and I would send you subscriber-only content each week, including poetry, stories, essays, newsletters, videos, and more.  If you want to check it out, here is a link to my page.  Just sign up and click “Become a Patron!”  But don’t go crazy…it has you set up tiers so my price goes from a 5$ plan to like a 15$ plan and i strongly advise you go with the cheap one, especially if I know you personally.  As I said to my mother, don’t pay for what you get for free.

So today one of the tasks I must complete is the making of this week’s content, which will be a vlog about one of my poems, which Mark and I are going to shoot as soon as I get myself out of the aforementioned shower.

In other news, I had a poem come out this week, and I have posted it below for you, because it was just a one-day run.  Pink Plastic House, A Tiny Journal is one of my favorite lit mags and they are doing a countdown to Halloween with spooky-themed poetry.  I was day 56, with a piece called The Squirrel that’s about the change of seasons.  It’s one of my “story” poems.  I don’t do them often but when I do, I always love them a little harder.

Speaking of “story” poems…I’m on pins and needles over here.  This is me, putting out into the universe, that my editor needs to email me back, because I’m freaking out here.  Last year they accepted my piece and I didn’t hear anything for months, and when I finally did, he said we could go at my pace…well, my pace dropped edits in his inbox a month and half ago and I haven’t heard a thing.  I’ve sent follow-ups.  I tried him on Twitter.  Nothing.  NOTHING.

Impatience is my worst quality.

So that’s what’s going on, writing-wise.  Just chugging along.  Obviously, my personal life is a shambles because I can’t even get myself into the shower.  But maybe I can do something else.  Afterall, I just finished this blog.  One less task to complete, and it didn’t kill me.  Perhaps now I can take a shower?

Nah.  Probably going to take a break.

Add It or Slash It?

When I edited A Lovely Wreckage, we (my editor Mark and I) made changes, of course. Not a whole lot, because they were individual poems that could stand alone without the collection.  However, Mark made some suggestions, and looking back I’m pretty sure I took all if not most of them, because they line4d up with the idea I had in mind.

Tuesday Afternoon ain’t like that.

When Zachary (new editor) suggested format changes, I was all for it, and here is why:  I wrote the piece for performance (more on that later.)  This was rewriting the piece for reading purposes.  It’s a different ballgame, and I am all for his format suggestions.  Also, there were some other aspects he suggested changes on…some I like, some I don’t.  Anyway, I made the fatal mistake of sending it to Sahar, who reads everything I write including various correspondence and many long text messages.  As my best friend, you would think she would have glowing things to say, but no, she hated it.  My mistake was not telling her in advance about the performance vs. reading thing.  Of course, she hated it.  She heard me read it…she heard me perform it.  So did Mark.  He’s going to hate it, too.

But as Kevin said to me during one of our deep conversations that we fit in between inside jokes and YouTube videos, you’re not writing for your friends and family, you’re writing for your fans.  Your friends and family are going to love whatever you do in the end.  They’re not the real audience.

So, my cousin Erin read it.  Yes, family, but Erin has the talent of being extremely blunt when asked to be, no holds barred.  And she enjoyed it.  Likely, because she never read the original.  But really…what is an original?

When I worked in theater, every single play I ever did went though massive edits during rehearsals, from straight-up script rewrites to blocking reworks.  Everything was moved around and crossed out and added on until you got the final product, and that is what is going on with this mini-chap.  That is what has always been going on for it.

It started with a line from a poem by another woman, for chrissake.  It was a challenge…take a line from her poem, and start a new one of your own with that line.  I picked a line; I wrote a poem.  I won a prize.  I polished the poem and deleted the other poet’s line.  I added to the poem…a lot.  I edited the poem.  I sent it off to be picked, and it was.  And so…I continue to edit the poem, changing things to make it better than it was, albeit different.  Enhanced, I prefer to think of it.

Kevin also said that the only person whose opinion really matters is my own, which is definitely true.  What comes out will be what I wanted it to be, no matter what is printed on the page.  Some of the edits are big leaps for me, but some that I am willing to take to put out the best possible finished product, just like I would do if I were working a show.  Kill your darlings, and all that jazz.

Sigh.  I suppose I am off to reread.  I will sit with it a bit, then make some more edits, then send it back to Zachary who will likely throw it back to me and so on and so forth until it’s ready to roll.  All I need is patience and a clear eye.

Chillin’ with Jesus

Sometimes, I’ll be sitting at my computer minding my business and Jesus will walk in and demand some of my time.

I wrote a poem about that once.

Anyway, today He comes in the door and tells me good things come to those who wait, and I tell him to get off my back already.  As Chuck Palahniuk wrote in Fight Club, “You can’t teach God anything.”

So, I go to check my email and sure enough there is word from a man named Zachary telling me to forward my manuscript to him…the MS that I have had in limbo for a year now, waiting to be put into print.  I understand the mix-up…they had staff changes and, y’know, a pandemic.  The world slowed down for us all.  I am just grateful that this morning I got a little nudge in the right direction.

Jesus looks at me and says: “Get up out of the dirt.”

I intend to accomplish several things in the coming weeks, all of which are scary and foreign to me, but which need to be done to better myself and my surroundings.  Today, I am out here working on my writing, so neglected since before my surgery, when I was at my sickest, and after, when I was at my weakest.  Now, I feel better and stronger, though tentative, but happy, also.  So, I shall take strides to improve the areas of my life that I have neglected, just like my writing.

Today I am going to my preferred bookshop/cafe with Sahar, my port in the storm.  Nothing could kick off my journey towards improvement better than lunch at one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people. 

Don’t get me wrong, my inner self still fights with Jesus.

He’s all “You can do it!  You’re so strong!”  and I’m over here incredulous.  What does Jesus know?  He’s only the Son of God.

Happy Bookday!

I didn’t update Thursday for two reasons: one, I was behind already and updated on Wednesday, and two, I have a milestone today.

Today is my chapbook’s first birthday.

I finished it over the summer of 2019, and when it was picked up in early spring of 2020, I was flabbergasted.  If you go back and read some of my old posts from that time, you will find a giddy yet terrified recount of my attempts to complete and publish it.  And then, oh the imposter syndrome!  The feeling of being a fake, that my contribution didn’t really “count” for some reason.  That took months after publication to come to terms with…not until the day I was published in The Buffalo News.  And that poem wasn’t even in the book!

I have 4.9 stars on Amazon.  I have 17 ratings, and 12 reviews.  Recently, a few copies made their way over to my favorite tiny bookshop.  I have had two book blogger reviews and a radio review, and have set up both a podcast interview and an author blog interview for the future.  Three years ago, I couldn’t get myself to even talk about a poem I write to someone.  Just a thought.

Have I sold as many copies as I would like?  No, I have not.  I don’t know what that magic number is that would satisfy me, but we aren’t there yet.  I think I would be happy if I could generate enough sales to cover my web hosting costs for the year, actually.  I want to be able to make money that I can put back into my work, somehow.  Because it takes money to make money…I only get a percentage of each book.  Less if it’s overseas.  When it’s in a shop, it’s even less than that, and I have to FRONT the money for the supply.  I also have an illustrator I need to pay for another project, and two websites I need to host.  Like any business, you need to start with a little capital in order to generate more.  I, unfortunately, started with nothing but a dream, so I am taking the long way around.  For year one, I am sadly still in the red.  So, y’know…buy my book.

Ok, that’s enough of a shameless self-plug.  Happy birthday, A Lovely Wreckage.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the kiddos are here, so naturally there are things to do.  Like clean and reorganize their rooms, which is the big project for the weekend.  I think the Skylanders and Disney princess motifs are going out the window.  These kids are no longer as interested in these things as they once were.  Time for some teenage-style rooms.

Also, I hope to get some fishing in, of course.  Yesterday I caught a few sunnies and a baby something-or-other, and Mark caught what I think was a small catfish.  So, the skunk is out of the boat, as they say.  And L brought his skateboard and K brought her rollerblades and E promised to help me in the garden and M and I are experimenting with new computer monitors so we all have something to do today.

If I can just get Mark out of bed.

Happy Friday.

Stuck in the Mud

Three weeks post-surgery, and I am trying very hard to get back into the swing of things.  I have been out fishing with Mark, and caught my first one of the year: a very tiny trout.  Mark caught a gobi, which is an invasive species that we typically throw to the seagulls.  Tiny fish in both cases, but still…first of the year.  I have also decided to take up hiking with Kevin, and am hoping to start that next week as I am going to be able to return to mostly full activity.  I still can’t lift or bend, but I can walk as far as my legs will carry me.  And then, there’s the writing…

I’m so stuck, in every aspect.

My novel, my baby, the one that’s going to make me that Netflix money someday, is stalled.  I simply cannot envision the final scene of part one.  I almost think I am sabotaging myself, because maybe I don’t want that part of the story to end.  I keep reminding myself that I will come back to it in edits, and be able to add all sorts of details I didn’t have in the first draft.  I tell myself that once part one is done, I can move on to part two, where the action really ramps up.  This both excites and terrifies me.  I haven’t written anything like this before, with murder and gunfights and secret plots.  My last novel (well, novella,) was a simple tale about a woman with depression.  That’s my wheelhouse.  The current WIP, though…that’s a whole different ballgame.

Meanwhile I am discouraged with my poetry.  It hasn’t been coming as smoothly as it usually does, and I haven’t received an acceptance in a while.  Sales are down on my chapbook, although I am quite happy to report that you can now purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage at Dog Ears Bookstore on Abbott Rd. in South Buffalo, my favorite tiny bookshop.  This all happened right before I got sick, so I wasn’t able to celebrate it much.  And then there is Me and Jesus, which is stalled.  I have emailed the publisher and am waiting to hear back.   Finally, (Un)Requited, which is out at a few places and I am patiently waiting to hear back from someone.  I feel like it isn’t going to happen, though.

Of course, I felt that way with A Lovely Wreckage, too. 

I am sitting in my office and forcing myself to peck out some words because my blog is already a day late.  I am kicking myself for that, but also reminding myself that while I do feel stuck, I am writing, even if its just in here twice a week.  It’s like an exercise.  It’s going to the gym, but for your brain.

Pretty soon I can eat food again.  I miss it, I do, but not as much now as I did that first week.  In a few months, I can eat whatever I want.  In a few months, I can lift and bend again.

In the meantime, I shall drink my protein shakes and write in my blog and hope that the inspiration for a poem or chapter strikes, because I am ready, finally.  My health seems to be at a place where I can get back to work on my projects, and I am very excited about that.

Of course, I am also very, very stuck.