The Dim Light of Understanding

Waking up by 6 a.m., tending to the dogs, making certain the bills get paid and I brush my teeth regularly would be responsibilities even if I didn’t have a day job. The following is a repeat of a pep talk I have given myself before. Maybe you need it, too.

I long to work for myself, from home. Many times during a single day I fantasize about possessing the funds to stay in the house and write.  Many times during a single week I suffer bouts of bitterness as I drive through traffic toward the lowly day job. And only once or twice in a single year will the dim light of understanding settle on me: I need this right now.

I need the structure of it, the added responsibility, the accountability, the socialization. I need to be needed as a problem solver, a friendly face, a voice of reason. Imagine that. And yes, I need group health insurance, a tiny tiny 401(K), and a dental plan. I need to continue learning, absorbing productive structure, creating inter-office administrative organization that is efficient and pleasing to the eye. All of this will prepare me for the future in which there is no boss to answer to other than myself.

Daily reminders to be grateful for what I have need to be a thing today, tomorrow, and ten years from now regardless of whether my paycheck comes from the corporate beehive or a publishing house.

Get up, Kathy. Write in the early hours, feed your dogs and let them run in the backyard while you shower and prepare for that drive in rush hour. Go be a grateful person.

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Rain Rain Rain

Last year I e-published two poetry collections and a short story. My goal was to follow up with ad promotions and social media blitzes in hopes that reviews would roll in but life kind of got in the way. Without promoting the ebooks,  25 copies sold and Kindle Unlimited users got another 125, which pleased me. Still no reviews, though.

I’m one of those weirdos who believes just about any criticism can be constructive (especially when given by other writers), so the lack of reviews have been disappointing.  Now that I’m working up a list of agents to send my novel to in hopes of traditionally publishing, my mind is clouded with lack of feedback and my sporadic social media presence. (Apparently a writer is supposed to have stuff like that in their bio.)

So, now I’m going to start what I should have done a year ago: Whoever out there is a Kindle Unlimited user and hasn’t read and reviewed my titles yet, I’ll be glad to return the favor. Hit me up with the links to your stuff poets and novelists! All it does is rain here and I’ve got a comfy chair to sit in while perusing books 🙂 All of my titles available for Kindle

Summit

Four writing projects—that’s all I’ve ever finished. Self-imposed major projects with self-imposed deadlines for the sake of the right to call myself A WRITER.  The fourth being my first attempt at a novel. I finished.

In all honesty, I finished the major points of the story necessary to build the novel I had in mind. There are still line edits, plot polishing, and lord only knows what else to be done to actually make it THE NOVEL (it’s away with first readers right now). But the point in all this is to say, I finished what I set out to do. I am done with a lowercase d in a satisfactory amount of time. Not by the first self-imposed deadline, but within a time frame that I can live with.

If it sounds like I’m giving myself a lot of leeway here, it’s because I am. This is my eleventh draft of a story whose main character whispered her name to me 9 1/2 years ago. My first earnest attempt to turn a three-segment short story into a book started four years ago almost to this day. But frustrations pushed it back in a drawer. If I were to list those frustrations in a single post, I’d sound like a crazy person. So, I’ll spare us all that for now.

The image of that mountain with all the blue mist and mystery was taken by Stuart Bennett and shared on Unsplash. I nabbed it about two years ago and put it in a collection of images to stare at when thinking about the novel I was going to write … someday. If I ever figured out a title, and if I figured out what the main character really wanted, and if I was ever able to articulate what the story is about.

 … a story of grief, friendship, horror, love, home, and badassery, all told in Holly’s southern accent.

That’s a sentence I came up with yesterday. YESTERDAY. In an attempt to make a one-line pitch if ever asked what my story is about. People have asked—when I make mention that I’m writing a NOVEL, hey what’s it about—then I go on and embarrass myself by talking and waving my hands until those unfortunate people’s eyes glaze over.

In my collection of images I have one of an old mountain cabin that looks like it emerged from the land covered in age and ivy rather than being man made. There is also a big white Jeep Rubicon with fog lights and a wench and a lift kit. There is a man with broody brows, and the photograph of a Memphis office building with a mile-long view of the river.

There are maps of narrowing roads stretching across the state of Tennessee, of mountain passes in Afghanistan, and enough gun searches on Google to put me  on the ATF’s watch list. Not to mention a copper tipped brass cased forty-caliber S&W bullet in  my makeup bag—I’ve been carrying that around for a year now. Tangibles are important.

Writing a novel that contains people you adore is difficult. Like, spine crushingly heart wrenching, cold sweating difficult. And guess what I’ve discovered?

That’s not even the hard part.

 

Haiku & Other News

There are azaleas bursting to life in the front yard, and an unwanted pond in the back. In the meantime, while my head has been full of finishing THE NOVEL, Daniel Paul Marshall has shared some of my poems over at The Zen Space.

Thank you, Daniel. I adore the photographs featured on the Showcase and can’t wait to devour read all the other poems featured!

One Of Those Days

Today is one of those days full of enough sun to fool you into thinking winter has given up its labor. So desperate for mornings free of gray cold rains spent warming the car and trying to untangle another cardigan from dog hair, you squint into those golden stripes of warmless sun and decide not to mind the wind threatening to chase it off.

You decide to ignore the fact that the patches of green burrowing out of dormant lawns are weeds, not real grass. You decide to sidestep shadows clinging to corners in spite of all that bright light at their edges. You’d freeze to death in those narrow swaths of darkness, promise.

Hopes surge strong as another day of almost is promised on the heels of the first. Color is suddenly craved with a strength equal to that of your winter coffee cravings. Once your cardigan, the only one akin to a pastel left over from a clearance sale two years ago, is free of stray blond canine locks, optimism gets the better of you. It’s decided: sandals are the only suitable choice of footwear.

This means, of course, you have to tend to frightful seen-nothing-but-fuzzy-socks-for-months-feet. This task will spend a high percentage of your faux spring energy boost. More coffee won’t hurt anything. Sip a mug full of sweetened caffeine while soaking those poor feet, you’ll be fine.

Lavender toes, almost-lavender cardigan, strappy black sandals, a pasty lick of ankle and neck showing, you go out the door looking forward already to a lunch break drive under yellow skies. Delicious, frothy yellow-gold skies. Not a drop of warm in all that froth.

Memory Fades

There is a fifth season. Autumn has its golden light and breezes that sift away bright leaves. Winter has its dreary skies, slick roads and frozen windshields. Spring births greenery and multicolored blooms, brand new allergies. Then there is Summer’s damp blanket heat and late concerts of insects wanting more.

Weather forecasters don’t mention the fifth season much, because it is an anomole that can bring itself forth betwixt any of the big four. In the past Mudhole Days have swallowed up entire Tennessee Springs and Summers. Confused Autumn and Winter so badly one year the harvest moon showed up in a three hour long hard freeze and mosquitos swarmed on Christmas Day.

The Mudhole Days have no celebrations, only the solemn rituals of floor mopping and staring at bad hair. Some parents warn their children that this is a time of dreadful suffering, so eat your vegetables or else.

The old folks say that back before the internet happened, one fifth season lasted an entire year. But the weather channel claims not to have any record of such a thing.

How To

How do you get over this? How do you go through the motions of being a responsible adult? Pay the bills, clean the kitchen … carry on as if you didn’t just create a living breathing multi-faceted heart racing story rich with blood and bones and human foibles. How do you step away from the page?

How do you stay with the page and fight off the creeping sensation that you are the only fan of this story? All that will ever be, because it won’t see the light of day. You’ll fail somehow. Fall on your face when an agent rejects it. Maybe never send it to an agent or a writerly reading friend, or anywhere at all.

The story full of fear and hope and shame and memory will sit in a doc file until doc files are obsolete, and you never really accomplished anything other than spending hours, weeks, a year of your life wanting. In between the day job days and the chores and hitting that submit button for yet another of all the online payments in your life, maybe what you really did was waste daylight and ink.

In between sporadic bouts of self-care and wish lists, and allergy attacks, you have handmade characters so real all there is to do is reach out and touch, say good morning. Good night. Sweet dreams until tomorrow. Everything will be okay, eventually. Tell me how to keep them alive.

Tell me how to get to the end. Not THE END. That’s just around the corner. But the end of the process, the culmination of imagination, inspiration, hard work. What’s next? What comes after the end?

Quiet Mornings

A slow waking backyard, a city street abandoned before dawn of all its revelers, laborers, and commuters — the emptiness is motivational, inspiring, refreshing as baptismal waters. I covet the hope of such stillness returning to me daily.

True creativity was a mystery to me until the opportunity arose to sit in utter silence. A Saturday moments after sunrise, surrounded by lush new greenery I’d come to tame but something deep in my writer’s soul stirred. So, I abandoned yard tools for a pen and paper and lay down in the overgrown grass until the quiet gave me words.

That day when early errands pressured me into the car while sleep still lay warm on my back. Returning home, a traffic light caught me without companion or neighboring errand runner, or passersby. I had the wherewithal to capture the moment, the gloomy clouds gliding over without a sound. A breeze never stirred. I turned off the car and found a scrap of paper to write: Remember this.

Remember this in the drum beat of rush hour traffic. In the midst of clutching pain while the ambulance screams. In the shadows of a bad dream where too many voices clamor and the walls can’t stop creaking. Remember the sensation of quiet sinking into the skin, slowing the heartbeat, stopping the questions.

Remember the quiet mornings. More will come.