Listening to the Dark and Edgy

I’ve been wanting to write a short story for a few days now and I had this idea that I thought could be really funny in spots with a lot of wise-cracks and stuff. But over the weekend I couldn’t make it work and almost thought about abandoning it altogether. Then this morning I took my dog for a walk and came back with the realization that’s not the kind of story I want to write right now. Maybe some time in the future I’ll be able to put out something funny and goofy but right now, that’s not going to happen.

I hate to think I can’t shut out a dark and edgy mood but now I realize I don’t have to. As I’ve said before, I don’t have to do jack-shit but I also don’t have to feel a certain way if it isn’t working for me. Writing helps me peel back the layers that build up sometimes inside me, layers that I pull over me because I’m getting close to something.

Now please understand this isn’t some dark and terrible thing inside me. It’s a swirl of emotions about the world we live in right now. But it’s not just the news feed that’s feeding this swirl, but the realization that it’s the same damn shit all over again. It’s not that we don’t learn from the past. We just get bogged down in the daily grind of life and lose hold of the things that can take us above that.

This short story I’m working is the first time I’ve tried to write a story with a post-apocalyptic setting. I’ve been a fan of that stuff since I was a little girl and I also grew up in the 1980’s and remember feeling like the world was on the brink of being blown to Kingdom Come with all the nuclear warheads that had been amassed. But what if it doesn’t go like it’s been said it would? And how would people react to that? That’s the premise I’m starting from and I’ve got about three-thousand words to tell a story to that.

When it comes to my writing, I know whenever I don’t want to work on something I need to figure out why. What I’ve written could be good but if doesn’t feel soul-deep to me I can’t make it work. Because if I pushed through and wrote something that didn’t have that soul-deep feel, it wouldn’t be as good as I thought it should be. And I won’t put out work that doesn’t make me feel that. It doesn’t have to be super-powerful in feeling, but I have to feel the emotion behind it. Because if I don’t feel it, my readers sure as hell won’t.

So how does my current bout of writing-neurosis apply to my life in general?

Although I like to laugh and do so on a daily basis, I know I can’t run from the darker and edgier things in life, too. I don’t think anyone should be forced to either smile no matter what, or be down-and-out gloomy all the time either. A balance is possible and sometimes I have to remind myself of this. I think we might fear those down-and-out gloomy times but to me, they’re like storms. Even in deserts on this planet, or on the frozen continent of Antarctica storms come with rain or snow. Winter comes yes, but so does Spring, Summer, and Fall. Nothing lasts forever.

I just need to let this story, and my own thoughts and moods run their course. So if anyone reading this wants any advice here it’s this: feel the fear and go down that darkened road but remember you can always crack jokes along the way.

Comfort Reads: All of the Comfort with None of the Calories

Yet another article re-print from me because I’m having trouble working on something else here.

For long periods of time when I’m not feeling well or I’m stressed out, I read books I’ve read many times before. These are what have been referred to as ‘comfort reads’. A comfort read is like comfort food but without the calories. Both I think are a good way of coping sometimes that we all need but thank goodness a book doesn’t add inches to a waistline. I know for me a comfort read is a way of holding on to my sanity amid the storms of life sometimes.

But what makes a good comfort read?

First, I think the book has to be very well-written. It’s a book where you’re not pulled out of the story at any time by issues with editing and such. It’s a book that flows well and that you can pop in and out of and immediately pick up where you left off without having to think back to what happened before.

Second, in the books that I call my comfort reads it’s the characters that keep bringing me back. I know the story and the plot twists so well that I barely notice them. But what I do notice are the characters and how they make me feel. I care about these people and yes, I would love to know how their lives turned out after the end of the book (that’s why I love books with recurring characters from previous books: it’s like visiting with old and dear friends).

I think I get my re-reading from my late father who like me read the same books over and over so many times he could practically recite them. Personally, I think if someone re-reads your books many times it means it’s a really good book. Because if something is mediocre or un-memorable then I honestly don’t think people would go back for a so-so experience.

So I won’t rag on anyone who re-reads the same books over and over again because either they’re going through some difficult time in their life, or they just need to give their brain a break. Eventually, something new and shiny will come along and hopefully, it will become a comfort read.

In addition to writing a good book that someone wants to read the first time, I hope to write a book that people will read again and again. Because to me, a comfort read not only will build a relationship with a reader and hopefully get them to buy my other books, it will give them a respite from their daily lives. I want to write good stories, but I would also love for my stories to be so good people come back to them like they come back to their favorite comfort foods.

Hot Flash-Mood Optimizing Optimism

This morning I was just thinking that I must have been having a bit of a hot-flash because I was comfortable wearing a pair of shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt even though it was about forty degrees outside. Now I didn’t go outside wearing that but I liked that I felt comfortable enough to wear summer clothing inside on a clear yet very windy day here in January.

But as soon as I had that thought my internal a/c switch kicked off and I got cold. So I put on a pair of leggings and a long-sleeved t-shirt.

Then I got to thinking I should enjoy these hot flashes because I’d rather feel hot than cold. I hate feeling cold because when I’m cold I just want to hide under the covers until I stop feeling cold. But then being cocooned under the covers gets me so hot I break out into a sweat.

I really can’t do a lot about the coming hurricane of menopause so I have decided to try and enjoy what I can from it instead. This thought got me thinking that despite the sarcastic cynicism that I sometimes revel in a little too much, deep down I’m an optimist. But my optimism is more Monty Python-‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ in that it’s optimism with a good dose of sarcasm and cynicism.

Why should I fight something, or piss and moan about it, or feel sad and sorry for myself over something that I have no way of vanquishing? Menopause, like most problems in life, isn’t one that can be solved like a math equation. It’s just something you have to go through and try to alleviate the symptoms if possible. In my case, due to my late mother’s cancer, hormones are out for me. I’ll definitely give supplements a try to keep the hot flashes from turning me into a Captain Marvel-like raging inferno though if a hot flash could make me look and fly like she does I’d be so damn happy. But alas, I don’t think I have any hope of turning into Captain Marvel so I’ll be the trusty sidekick instead.

A few weeks ago I decided the crazy-ass mood-swings of PMS were to be ridden like a tiger rather than make me running away screaming in terror. So now I want to be a blazing-hot, flaming-flying, mood-swinging bad-ass tiger. Which is what I tell myself now especially when my mood swings to ‘I want to break down and cry for no damn good reason’. When I have that stupid breakdown-thought I now tell that dumb-shit thought to shut the fuck up. There is very little in life worth breaking down and crying over so I’m saving up any tears for that. Besides, if you break down and cry every five minutes your eyes will get puffy and you’ll go through Kleenex like you’d go through toilet paper after eating at Taco Bell. And I know people love Taco Bell but the food there doesn’t love me therefore I will do my best not to bring any type of that toilet-paper consuming misery on myself.

For many, many years I’ve felt like I’ve had to hide my optimism. I was told that I was an idiot for looking for a bright spot to things, or that I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to find that bright side. And as I read back over that last sentence I realize how stupid that was, and that the people spouting that bullshit to me were dumber than a bag of rocks. If you can find something to laugh about, or just smile about regardless of the situation you’re in, do so. And if someone doesn’t like that or tries to put you down or undermine you, tell them to fuck off or just give them the silent treatment and hope their bowels get unplugged later and they have to ration toilet paper.

So by the last sentence about you can see I’m not a blind-optimist. I’m a sarcastic and somewhat nasty one. But I refuse to think about why some people have to be so damn rigid in their thinking or how they want the world around them to be. If someone’s not unloading their bladder or bowels on everyone else, or burning everything to the ground, leave them be. If they want to sing and dance, or just smile and laugh, let them. This rigid-don’t-ever-laugh-at-anything bullshit makes my blood boil because it’s designed to slowly poison a person’s heart and soul. It’s like telling young children they can’t laugh at silly things or have fun at all. That attempt to kill laughter is totally evil to me so I know that’s what causes my blood to boil.

Don’t let your blood boil like that unless you’re using the heat to make coffee. And don’t get your bowels so locked up that you can’t laugh at anything. And don’t think that everyone has to be a certain way that only you get to decide. Most people aren’t this uptight but the crappy thing is, their voices are pretty damn loud.

So I say crank up your own rock ‘n’ roll and find your own optimism. Even if it’s a brief laugh, or a single joke, or a single sarcastic barb. Your heart and soul will thank you.

Where Is (Political Poetry Friday)

Well, the good news is we haven’t blown ourselves to Kingdom Come. Bad news is the shutdown is still grinding on. But there may be a sliver of hope for more things to come with a devastating news report of possible obstruction of justice, which always seems to start off the Impeachment process (at least it did for Nixon and Clinton).

But like Carmen San Diego or Waldo, no one seems to know where Senator Mitch McConnell is so he can get to the floor of the Senate and hold a vote on reopening the government. But he’s not the only thing that has been lost but eventually found.

Where Is

 

First, where is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?

Or better put,

Where is his commitment to serving the American people?

Where is his conscience in terms of suffering?

Who does he stand with?

 

Where is the reasoning for the shutdown?

What part of working without pay is right?

Why do some of our elected leaders just don’t care?

Or seem to, anyway.

 

For if someone in power cared

They’d open the government

Get everyone paid and caught up

And make sure it never happened again

They would put people before politics

 

But then it’s seriously alleged the President lied

And had his attorney lie

And not just about an affair

Or a blow-job like a Democratic predecessor

 

So where is the outrage for this lie?

A lie that is a direct threat to national security?

A lie that is taking away from the shutdown?

 

Where is the outrage from the Right?

They don’t like being told they don’t care

But why aren’t they campaigning for a reopening of the government?

Because they’ve demonized government for decades?

Because if they campaign for actual working people

Forty years of demonization might have been for nothing?

 

Where is the Truth?

For there are no ‘alternative facts’

And the only ‘fake news’ is made up of lies

Or an attempt to back-track

To Deny

And Lie

 

Impeachment

For telling someone to lie to Congress

For under the law that is obstruction

It was the first article of Impeachment for Nixon

And for Clinton

 

But this is not just obstruction

Or collusion

This could be high treason against the United States

This could be allowing a foreign power to subvert

To destroy America

Through a political party

Through a movement

Through a gun lobby

 

So where is the truth?

It is out there

And it will be found because there are people who do give a damn

They give a damn about what really matters

They sift through the evidence

And justice will prevail

 

So where is our real leadership?

Working hard behind the scenes

And in front of the cameras

Looking to be the leaders we need

And certainly don’t deserve at times

 

Where is hope?

It’s right here

It didn’t leave the White House in January 2013

It arrived back in force after the 2018 Mid-Term Election

It’s also still working hard in the Special Prosecutor’s Office

 

It’s where this will all end up in

The hope for a better future

With lessons learned

And questions answered with just the truth

My Top-Ten Writing Guidelines

Another article I wrote some time back (when I re-launched this website, I had lost all my previous uploads such as photos and pdf files).

My Top-Ten Writing Guidelines

I don’t believe in writing ‘rules’ because there aren’t any. There are NO laws governing writing because even ‘rules’ on grammar and usage keep changing over time. What doesn’t change is the infinite variations on the writing process based on individual writers and their need to communicate with the written word.

But if I have to impart any advice to writers it would be the following:

1) Don’t write to perfection. There will be a few but very rare times when something comes out the first time and doesn’t require any significant editing. Most of the time, your writing will require multiple rounds of editing to make it work well.

2) Remember, you can always revise later. As one of my all-time favorite authors Nora Roberts once said, “You can’t revise a blank page.” Get it down first so you can revise and edit. Because revisions and edits are a fact-of-life with writing.

3) Edit and revise but don’t beat the crap out of yourself in the process. I know so many writers who write and edit while beating themselves up at the same time. Yes, there are times when you’ll read something and not have any idea what you were trying to say. But unless you were writing drunk, high, or seriously messed-up, cut yourself some slack.

4) Try to understand that writing is purely subjective. What one person likes someone else won’t. Accept that as a fact of life and try to figure out what it is that works, or doesn’t work for you.

5) Writing days can be up and down. Some days the words will flow out of you like a water tap turned on full. And sometimes it will be a trickle. And some days the tap will be dry. Yes, you can push yourself but if the writing isn’t flowing, you might need to take a step back to try and figure out why.

6) Don’t adhere to absolutes with writing. For some writers, adverbs don’t work at all and for some writers they’re good friends that can be very useful. Personally, I don’t have a problem with adverbs though I do make sure they serve a purpose and aren’t just marshmallow fluff.

7) Don’t compare yourself to other writers. You’ll always fall short sooner or later and then you’ll feel bad and probably not be able to write. I believe every writer has to figure things out for themselves and you have to do what’s best for you.

8) Read your work out loud to yourself. I believe in this because when you read something out loud not only do you hear the rhythm of your words, you’ll also catch a lot of mistakes, too.

9) Know that with writing, like anything else you do in life, you will get better over time if you keep at it. Because if you keep learning, you’ll push yourself to go further and deeper and your writing will get better because of that.

10) Don’t let Fear stop you from writing. This is advice I really need to take myself but knowing that I’ve retreated from my writing because of Fear is the first step in moving away from it. Don’t let the bullies and jerks of this world ruin writing for you, and don’t give them any power over you.

Good luck with your writing.

My Top 10 Writing Guidelines pdf

There Are Four Seasons in South Texas (article)

This was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News in January 2010.

There Are Four Seasons in South Texas

I have heard many times that there are only two seasons in South Texas: hot and not so hot. I don’t believe that because it does get below ninety degrees after September and the trees do change colors.

But how do you know the seasons have changed?

I know it’s Spring when I see the first bluebonnets along the side of the road. Spring is a sea of wildflowers and trees budding out along with grass turning green. It’s mornings that have a bit of nip in the air and afternoons that are warm but not too hot. Though if you’ve lived in South Texas for more than a year or two you know to be on the lookout for that last cold front that drops temperatures fifty degrees in one afternoon along with a blast of cold rain. But once that last cold front moves through, it’s blue skies and sun all the time.

Then there is summer, the most famous season in South Texas. Summer is blazing blue skies with a side of haze, and humidity that makes you want to wring out the air. That first blast of heat ignites a burning desire for cold drinks, water parks, and fun. The grass is green if we’ve had rain and brown dust if we haven’t. You see yellow lantana blooms along with hibiscus and bougainvillea in every planter in the city. It’s the smell of barbeque, cold beer and margaritas at every party. It’s ice cream and raspas, shorts and flip flops. And if all else fails, you can find someplace with air-conditioning to get out of the heat.

Fall comes later in this part of the hemisphere though you know it’s here when there’s a chill in the mornings and the afternoons aren’t as hot. It’s traveling through the Hill Country and seeing the trees changing color and the grass turning to light-brown and swaying in the fall winds as you drive to the Hill Country. Then there’s that first blue ‘Norther cold front, and the burnt dust smell when you turn on your heater for the first time. It’s also time to put away the flip flops and pull out the socks.

Finally, Winter comes. Temperatures stay below burning-hot and above bracing cold unless a cold front has blown through. Winter is snuggling in coats as you shop or take in the lights on the Riverwalk. It’s also abundant sunshine on Christmas so kids can go outside and play with all their new toys. It’s bright blue sky, star-filled skies at night, and tamales and sweets at every party in town.

The seasons do change in South Texas in sight and smell, sound and delight. And all you have to do to see that is look at the changing colors and savor the delights of each season. And remember, the cold never lasts more than a few days.

Unlike the heat….

Four Seasons of South Texas

No Pants Required

No pants are required

If you can wear shorts

Or walk around your house pants-less

 

No pants are required

Unless you don’t your legs to get cold

Or for no one to see how fish-belly white they are

 

No pants are required

If you’re at a nudist colony

But then no clothes are required there

 

No pants are required

If you’re an Emperor

Who has no clothes on to begin with

 

And yes, leggings are pants, too

As are yoga pants that you don’t do yoga in

 

Personally, I like shorts over pants

For I can’t find regular pants or jeans that fit just right

I like leggings for their stretch

And the yoga pants I had

Got stretched out too much

Even though I never did yoga in them

And I like sweat pants

Though not to sweat in

 

But pants are required

If you don’t want to get arrested for public nudity

Or if you choose not to wear shorts or skirts instead

Or if you have to take your dog outside

And don’t want to give any innocent bystander

A view they can never un-see

Monday Motivation: Get a Dog

I see a lot of ‘Monday Motivation’ on the internet and it’s all nice and well to see things you can do to drag your ass out of bed when you don’t want to.

But what got me out of bed this morning gave me one single bit of advice to add to the massive pile out there: get a dog.

Yep. Get a dog so that you have to get out of bed to take them potty. Because I can tell you this morning that was the only thing that could get me out of bed. My bed was nice and warm, the covers soft and fluffy even if the pillows were flat. And my cat was curled up at feet sleeping. But my doggo is well-trained enough to nag me until I get up and take her outside to pee.

I honestly think I need to design a toilet-like apparatus a dog can use inside a dwelling. Because I know I could train my dog to use something like that. I’m not sure about my cat because sadly, he’s not always the brightest bulb in the box.

But to get semi-serious here for a moment about motivation: last night in the car alone I was thinking as I often do and not about trivia and life in 1985 since the American Top Forty Countdown show wasn’t on yet. Instead, I was thinking about what keeps me motivated to get up out of bed and do what I do. My motivation is more than just because basic survival such as needing money to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly, and to be a responsible pet-owner.

No, it’s something more than that. Because although I pretty much live day-to-day I do have hopes and dreams for my future. They’re simple ones, though: enough money to live on, a van fitted out to live in, and the ability to earn money in a way I like most of the time. Now I’m flat-broke and just writing every single day to hone my writing skills but I know that I won’t have a chance in Hell of moving beyond my bare-bones existence if I roll over and sleep on it.

And here’s where the asshole thought of the day comes in: what do you do if you feel like the world doesn’t want you to succeed? You tell the world to go fuck itself. If you encounter anyone who pisses on your goals and dreams, or tries to undermine your work, you can be polite and walk away and tune their shit out. Or you can be impolite as hell and tell them to fuck off. Either one will work even if the asshole-thought-of-the-day voice is just inside your head.

A lot of times right now I feel like I’m just slogging it out day in and day out. I have felt the urge not to write or blog every day but have fought that hard. I fight it knowing I don’t have much of an audience and it’s not bringing in any income. I tell myself I’m doing this because I want to write, and I won’t get better at it if I sit on my ass and don’t do it. Because I know anything that I’ve ever gotten any good at wasn’t because I was blessed with all the software I needed in my head. It was because I got to working on the hardware and worked through pain and bullshit sometimes to train my somewhat dumb-ass brain on how to do something.

And please don’t tell me I shouldn’t call my brain a dumb-ass. Since asshole-thoughts are present there it’s earned the right to be called a dumb-ass sometimes. But I know if I just keep working eventually the asshole-thoughts-of-the-day will wander off and try to be assholes elsewhere.

Back to my advice to get a dog in order to motivate your butt out of bed every day: dogs have it right in a lot of respects, especially when they go potty. My dog sniffs around till she finds the right spot to piss on then she kicks dirt over it. I like to think she’s not doing that just because of instinct, but because she finds the asshole-thought-of-the-day and pisses on it.

So in addition to survival and working towards the things you really want in life, find a reason to get out of bed and piss on any asshole-thoughts-of-the-day that come to you.

My Prayer of Thanks

From time to time, I’ve had people ask if there is anything they can pray for me. I tell them thanks for the offer of prayer but I decline because I’m grateful for being given the day I have to live my life. Because no matter how tired, angry, sad, or hurt I get during the day, I also give thanks for having the day to live in. So if I were to say a prayer for myself, it would be a prayer of thanks, and go like this:

 

For every single day I live

I give thanks

I give thanks to God, the Goddess, and the Universe

For being all around me

And within me

 

I give thanks that I awoke today alive

I give thanks for the breathe in my body

For the energy I had to get out of bed

For the needs of my pets to feed and care for them

 

I give thanks to seeing the sun and the sky

For breathing clean air

For having clean water to drink

For having food to eat

I pray for those that don’t have these things

And I pray to God to guide those who can alleviate this suffering on Earth

 

I pray for people to find hope in the darkest of parts of their souls

And in the world around them

And I pray that those who bring the darkness

Are brought into the light of justice

 

I know I can pray at any time

So I pray for hope most of all

Not just for myself

But for everyone in the world

 

But for myself I simply give thanks in prayer

Write and Edit (and Live Your Life) Instead of Beating Yourself Up

My late father always used to say to never get into a one-legged ass-kicking contest with yourself because you’ll always win. I want to apply this to writing because I see so many writers beating the crap out of themselves simply for writing stuff that isn’t perfect on a first draft.

I know going in every single time I put my fingers on the keyboard and begin tapping things out that I’ll be going back over what I wrote and add and delete like mad. But I was taught writing and editing went hand-in-hand and that you couldn’t have one without the other. I will admit in the past I used to look at what I wrote and think, ‘who in the hell wrote this steaming pile of shit?’ That was only because I wrote stuff that was all over the place and needed one hell of an editing job, not because I didn’t think I couldn’t write or that I shouldn’t write, or worst of all, that no one would ever like it.

Not everyone is going to like what you write so no use pissing and moaning about it. If you find yourself doing that, just stop it. And if you think you’re supposed to do that in order to be thought of as a ‘real writer’, that’s a load of bullocks. Because like I said before, you don’t have to do anything, and you will never be everything to everyone, and your writing will not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Good writing involves a ton of editing to make it work as well as it can. As I type this here, I keep going back over what I wrote and if I need to edit something I do. And most of all when I am editing, I don’t call myself an idiot or any of that bullshit.

I will admit here I used to be terribly anxious about writing certain things and posting them for the world to see on the internet. I used to be worried about what people would think and that they would let me know in no uncertain terms if they hated me and what I wrote. A lot of that fear was just internal anxiety and hormonal bullshit but I had to work through that to get to where I’m at now. And I’ve been lucky in that I made a key breakthrough in my mind that gave me the ability to let go of a lot of emotional baggage that I didn’t need to carry around.

But to be honest here, I haven’t gotten a lot of feedback on what I’ve been posting so far. Which is fine by me as I don’t do this to get clicks or feedback or anything like that. Right now I’m just doing this to get in the grove of writing and editing every day and putting my work out there. Because writing, like anything else you do, is something you’ll only get good at by doing it. And you won’t get good at something by beating the crap out of yourself while you’re doing it.

I used to think that I had to beat myself up and put myself down so that other people couldn’t do it to me first. It was like I thought if I did it to myself that other people wouldn’t do it to me. That wasn’t the case because if someone wants to talk shit to you, they will. How you deal with that is entirely up to you. And for me, it’s letting that shit roll of me like water off a duck’s ass.

So rounding back to writing here specifically: don’t beat the crap out of yourself and your writing. It’s a waste of time and energy that can be much better spent on writing and editing till your work flows as well as it can.

And if someone out there doesn’t like that, just say ‘bullocks’ to them and get back to work.

Writer and Poet