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.

National Poetry Month, 2021

It is April, which means springtime and Easter and National Poetry Month!  I have already written about springtime.  Easter was nice, but not too exciting since we are still taking a lot of precautions.  So, let’s talk about poetry, naturally.

For the past two Aprils, I have shared a few poems with you.  Now, as explained then and reexplained now, these are stragglers…poems that I don’t intend to send out for publication.  (Presses frown on blog publications when considering your work.  Even with your own blog, it is still considered to be “published.”)  If I ever do decide to send these guys out or publish them elsewhere, I will remove them from my blog.  But for now, enjoy some poems.

Oh, and should you be interested, you can always support a poet and purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage!

Pasted as photos, because I can’t figure out how to format a poem on WordPress.

We’re on a BOAT.

One evening in 2011, as I was clearing the table after dinner, my mother asked me if I would ever consider going on a cruise, which I thought was a strange question.  I said yes, I would try one, I had heard fun things about them.  My mother then asked if I would go on a cruise to the Bahamas in 2012 in order to chaperone my sister, whose dance troupe was invited to perform.  They’d cover the cost of both of us if I agreed to take her.

This was some serious left field shit from my parents, just so you know.  I don’t think Bernie thought for a hot second that they would ever consider lettering her do this, never mind actually let her do it.  I was flabbergasted by the invitation, too.  Both my parents were wary of sea travel, and not interested in going, but I was, so they figured I could take her.  So, for the next year, we raised money by selling candles and whatnot and December 4th 2012 found us on our very first plane ride.  Neither of us had traveled by air before, so that was interesting.  I’m not sure who calmed down whom.  I do recall badly wanting a cigarette, taking a Xanax instead, and falling asleep.

 When we got to the Orlando airport, I went outside for a smoke.  I took three drags, then hacked my way back inside, because Florida air is simply unbreathable.  I went back and we found our group, and took a cab to the dock, where we boarded the nice, air-conditioned ship. That afternoon, I fell asleep.  I missed all the little “welcome to the boat” festivities.  This made me sad.  However, I woke up the next morning in Freeport, the first of the three places we would be visiting.

What we saw of the island on the way to the “tourist” area was dismal.  Deserted houses, abandoned buildings, a hospital with only three cars in the parking lot…it was like a ghost town.  There were also huge oil reserve drums everywhere with big tropical fish painted on them, like that made it better.  When we got to our stop, we found an overpriced open air market.  Then we wandered over to a beach, and the kids (none of whom are really kids anymore) played in the water while I got some sun and took pictures.  It was…fine.  If it hadn’t been the first time my toe touched ocean in 20 years I probably wouldn’t have even registered the trip. 

The following day, we went to Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by Carnival cruise line, which was paradise on earth.  It had a gorgeous beach.  It was exactly what you think of when you think of a Caribbean island, and I wish we had gone there first, of course, that would have made Freeport a bigger let down, probably.  There were three details I loved about HMC: chickens, just running around at your feet; a tiny wedding chapel; a very tiny post office.  Bern and I spent a wonderful afternoon there, splashing and sunning and drinking (well, me, not her.)

The next day, we went to Nassau on New Providence Island.  We spent much of the day on Paradise Island, so I didn’t see much city, but there was a beautiful beach that we visited and Bernie went on a banana boat.  I wished we had simply stayed there.  I know that when I come back to the Bahamas, and I will, I will stay at a resort on New Providence, so I can experience the whole island and city.  Something about it struck me, the way NYC did when I went there when I was 16. 

Anyway, I’m telling you about this trip because it inspired the setting for my WIP.

I didn’t know it at the time.  I knew that my MC’s grew up on a small deserted island, much like Half Moon Cay, but I had no idea other events would end up taking place in Nassau.  I was aiming for Colorado in the beginning, but discovered the distance could not easily be crossed, so they will soon end up on Paradise Island.  I like using a setting I have a little familiarity with.  I have been researching a lot, though.

First, I took to Twitter, to see if I had any friends with any info, and I talked to a couple people who gave me their impressions of the Bahamas and some much needed information on firearms.  Then I thought, “gee, maybe you should ask someone who WENT ON THE TRIP WITH YOU.”  Cue my sister, of course, and her friend Audrey.  Audrey was only 12 at the time, and she spent most of the time off the boat with her family doing other things, so she had a lot of insight into the city and such that I did not get.  I wish I could contact the “kids” I spent my time with…I suppose I could, I’m still FB friends with them, but I feel weird being like “hi I haven’t talked to you in forever but what was your favorite thing about the cruise?”

I loved taking that cruise for many reasons, not just the islands.  I mean, they had 24-hour frozen yogurt.  But also, it’s when my little sister went from being my little sister, to being my friend.  Now, it’s 9 years later and she is one of my best friends, and my number one person (sorry, Mark.  But he knows how it is.)  So, when I look back on the cruise and the memories and try to relive it all, I feel a sort of peace and happiness well up inside, and I am hoping I can put that emotion on paper.  I want to convey everything I experienced and felt, and use my MC’s to do it. 

Anyways…I’m going to go drink some coffee and finish watching the news and try not to get mad at the stories.  It’s already too late.  Some idiot in my county scheduled SEVEN vaccine appointments.  Bro…leave a little for the rest of us.

Bernie, on Half Moon Cay.

Sickness and Writing

So, this time, I didn’t update on Monday because I was sick.  It was an easy ER trip, though.  The doc knew about my condition, so he did a quick exam and then gave me my meds and sent me to wait in a recliner until they kicked in and knocked me out.  A nurse came and asked if I was ready to go and I said no, because I still felt nauseous and probably couldn’t walk.  Then another half hour or so passed and the nurse was back, and I felt confident enough to be on my way. 

I got home and went to sleep.  I woke up around 430pm, and my sister brought me Gatorade.  Then I went back to sleep, and woke up around 7.  Then I went back to sleep at 9 and woke at 1230am. Which is why now, at 3am, I am writing my blog.

I didn’t have much to say.  I was just going to write about writer’s block.  I suffered a short-term case during the past few weeks, as evidenced by my lack of output.  But yesterday, I reworked the ending of part one of my WIP.  I introduced a character, small but important, who explains a few things that need to be known to my MC’s (main characters.)  The MC’s are on a major Caribbean island after living their life on a significantly smaller one with few people, no cars or big buildings, and relative quiet.  I was struggling with a scene, where I’m getting them off their rowboat and onto the island, and I obsessed over it for a week.  I know I should have moved on and come back to it, but it was the final scene of part one and I just had to finish it.  So, I brainstormed with Mark.

Mark is great for this, as he is not a writer, but he does have a vivid imagination.  He’s not much of a reader either, so I am kind of telling him the story as I go, which is also helpful.  But sometimes I get stuck and I go to him, and we spend half an hour or so going over my ideas.  He likes to give suggestions of where the story should go, and sometimes they are good.  A lot of times they aren’t applicable to what I’ve already got going on, in which case I say a simple “no,” and we move on.  He never gets mad if I shoot down his idea.  He knows this is my thing.

Anyway, we brainstormed, and out popped a character that the MC’s know as “the man with the hat,” but whom I secretly named Bernie after my sister and her youthful affinity for bucket hats.  (Photo below.)

This gentleman explains to my MC’s some very basic information that they need on the island, and points them in the right direction in their quest.  It’s probably a frowned upon trope, but I don’t care.  I needed it to get to where I had to be.  Plus…this is just a first draft. 

So, I am back on the writing train, and I am working hard on my WIP and hoping more ideas come to me soon for my blog, because I can’t write about the same things all the time…sickness and writing.  I mean I’m a pro at both, but I just need new topics.

But, I got past the part of my book where I was stuck.  I completed part one, at over 20k words.  That is certainly something to celebrate.

My sister, age 3.

Tell Me Your Name

How am I supposed to write about anything other than my WIP right now, when it is the only thing taking up space in my brain?  During NaNo19 I only updated on the writing process once a week, but here I am with blog number 2 about it, because I am consumed.

Today, I plan to write my first ever character death.

Ok, that’s part lie.  In my novella, the grandmother dies, but it is of natural causes and shown through flashback, and you kind of know she’s gone right off the bat.  And in Dog’s Eye View, well…I guess you’d have to read it to decide.  (See what I did there?  You should read it.  I’ve been advised you will need tissues, though.)

I’ve never outright killed a character, though.

My characters are always the roots of the story.  They are the thing that comes to me first: a being calling out to have their story told, and I oblige.  I planned out many characters for my current WIP, more than I have ever worked with before, but each serving a purpose.  One came to me from nowhere a few days ago, shouting “hey!  I’m a background guy, but I can do SO MUCH MORE.”  And so, Samir Nammari was born.  I would like to write about him to illustrate how the characters first develop in my head.

Mr. Nammari was originally named Mr. Tehan, from a name generator that told me it was an Arabic last name.  Further research showed many sites saying it was an American Arabic name.  This family is straight out of Palestine, so I needed something better: cue Sahar, of course, offering to me her mother’s maiden name, classic Palestinian.  And she also offered some first names, and I chose Samir.  I don’t usually name my characters, they name themselves, but there was no necessity for a first name in planning so he never told me his (and yes, I am well aware how crazy that sounds.).  Then, Monday, he started screaming at me, so I looked though the list of names and he yelled “SAMIR!”

Turns out, Samir means “friend.”  And that is what he became, friend to my main characters (MCs) and helper in their plot.  But now, he must die.

It will be sad, and painful.  Gunned down on a beach at dusk, in an effort to save the MCs.  Leaving behind a loving wife and a dutiful daughter.  I didn’t know he would die when I started telling his tale, and I was as surprised as a reader would be when I discovered it was his only exit.  I wrote about the magic on Monday…that is part of it, the unexpected moments that suddenly manifest in your mind.

So, I bid you adieu, Mr. Nammari, and thank you for your assistance.

Now, I am off to write the death scene, my first.  I’d like to write more about character development but I’m already trying to type without my pinky much because it hurts today and would really like to drop 1000 words in tribute to Samir at some point.

Happy Thursday.