Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ways We Grieve

I've spent the last few days wandering in and out of extreme grief. I can't count the number of times I've cried. I think yesterday I can only count the few moments when I didn't.

But all people aren't like me. My daughter and I are similar in this--cry all at once, for as long as it takes, and sob at every opportunity, telling the whole world how awful we feel that our little fuzzy kitty is dead. Even now tears are welling in my eyes...

My son has cried, too, though he also runs away from it (or from us when we dissolve into tears). He can only take so much, and he doesn't feel comfortable with the same loss of control. But then he comes back to it, again and again. I found him this morning, still in his bed, tears in his eyes.

My husband holds it all still deeper. His way of grieving? He cleaned up the litter box, donated Skooker's bed, cat litter, and huge bag of food to the vet who took such care of the little one, and picked up Skooker's neatly swaddled body and buried it beautifully in the back yard, with bricks embedded in the soil to mark where our little kitty lies.

His grieving is most useful... I just hope it serves him as well as my sobbing helps me.

I think it helps him grieve. But it also comforts me, and that act of love is one of the reasons I so dearly love my husband.

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments. You have also comforted me, and I've read your comments to my husband, too, to help him.

What is it, friends, that you believe most helps you through the grieving process? I would love to know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Last Cat

This is not what I intended to write about today... but I am all too aware in my life that plans change. My little kitty, whom I have loved for nearly 16 years, is gone. He was very sick off and on over the last few months, but his death was far quicker than I'd expected.

I'm not sure if he had just gotten too deaf, or he didn't have the strength to get up, or what, but he had placed himself on the garage floor when I came home yesterday, probably for the first time ever, and didn't move out of the way when the garage door opened and I backed in. And my mirrors don't show the garage floor. I can't describe the event, but my daughter and I instantly knew what I had done.

He was alive when we left him at the vet's, after a tearful ride in the car nestled in my daughter's arms, but both of his hips had been destroyed, and at least his bladder punctured, and he was far too old and weak to go through surgery and survive. The doctor could tell he had severe arthritis--and we've known this by the way he had walked for a few years--and said it was better that he not live his last month in such pain.

We've had a few scares just in the past month, times when he slept the whole day or had seizures, but I never expected that it would be my fault he would die. My guilt is almost unbearable. I don't think any words can console me, and I'm not certain I will ever be consoled (or that I even deserve to be consoled).

I just hope he died gently, knowing, despite that last hour, that I truly did love him his whole life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Reviews for the Week

Finally, a book that makes me forget I'm an editor and lets me just fall into the pages! It's been months since I felt this way, since I was riveted by an adventure enough to stay up late at night reading, forget to do dishes, and lose myself into the adventure that is SNEAK by Evan Angler.

My only regret is that I didn't read the previous book in the series first. This is one of my Booksneeze books, which means I downloaded it for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers, but it doesn't mean I have to say anything nice about it. At first, too, because this is the second book in the series (the first is SWIPE), it took some time to figure out what was going on. This world is a gripping one, where, in the name of "unity," the government places a Mark on its citizens while they are in their teens--refuse the Mark, and you lose all privileges, from home to job to money to, well, really everything. Yet people choose not to be Marked anyway, for all sorts of reasons. Either that or the government decides, based on a mind reading, that a particular person is too dangerous to receive the Mark.

That's what happened to Logan in the first book, and this second in the series records his journey to Beacon (situated where Washington, D.C. is now, I think) to help the Markless gain their freedom, to stop the government's control, and to restore balance to his world. And it's well worth reading. Gripping, dramatic, with good, clear, complex characters. It's better than Hunger Games by a long shot, and all I can do is hope it takes off in the same way. This book deserves to do well, and I am downloading the previous book SNEAK on my own dime today. This may be the best book I've read all year.

I also tackled a book called HALO, a sort of angel version of the TWILIGHT series. It's funny that only two weeks ago I reviewed ANGEL EYES, and the same sort of thing was happening, but this book is better. It's cover alone is magnificent, and I snatched it up based on the cover alone. The premise is good: an angel sent down to do good ends up falling in love with a mortal while she does her mission. Ill-fated love is one of my favorites (don't know why).

My biggest problem with the book is that the main character is supposed to be an angel, and should thus be above the normal humanness of mortals, but besides her being really pretty, I can't find anything about her that is truly angelic. She just seems to be a rather wimpy, whiny teenager, and that gets on my nerves. She lies to her fellow angels, sneaks out to be with a human she falls in love with, and makes all sorts of stupid choices, as if she really isn't an angel at all.

Her two fellow angels, Gabriel and Ivy (yes, Gabriel is THE Angel Gabriel) are a whole lot more likable, but I couldn't get around the main character's lack of judgment. Her love interest Xavier is a sweet boy, but perhaps, like Edward from the TWILIGHT series, he's too perfect. Every big fear she has turns out to be not so bad. We keep expecting him to react to something, but he is unendingly patient, no matter what. That's sort of the way the whole story goes: we're told to fear something (because the main character does), and then her fear turns out unfounded.

Her best friend at the high school is pretty stupid, and not very nice, either. I couldn't figure out why they were friends at all, especially after her friend got her drunk at a party and then left her. Even their talk of prom was gag-worthy, and though I know the book will have a sequel, I definitely won't be reading it, cover or no cover.

That's all the books I've read this week. I now want to tackle SWIPE and another novel on my Kindle... I'll report back once I've finished those.

Have a great week! And, please, share what you've been reading...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fun Stuff to do This Friday

Why does Friday seem to be the only day I have time to post?

And why am I up at 3:30 a.m. when I could sleep until 6:30 for once?

Yes, I've gotten myself a bit overwhelmed now, and it's taking its toll. Honestly, most of my stress comes from not having control over my environment. Sure, I can get most of my own work done--the important stuff, anyway--but I spent last night trying to attend to job as art gallery director WHILE also making sure my kids finish their homework, check up on my house when the burglar alarm went off (I think one of the door sensors isn't properly working), and juggle countless other things. Needless to say, I was not the best art gallery director last night. Very distracted.

I am convinced that distractions lead to stress--and too much of it. Multitasking is hard, and the last few weeks I've greeted Friday with a sigh, ready to take a break somewhere in my schedule, just so that I can breathe.

I figure by now that most of you are ready for a break, too. And that break is NOT made up of doing laundry all Saturday, re-grouting the shower (my weekend project), sweeping, taking out the trash, cleaning toilets, grocery shopping, or any of those lovely tasks. Don't kid yourselves. Those are not breaks.

So, what can one do when one needs a break? My first goal is NOT to run straight to food. That never makes me feel better, and it's far more likely to make me feel worse. But I have other things that work better.

First, we have the relaxing things that cost money, but they may just be worth it, especially if one's week has been really awful.

--Get a massage. Sure, an hour-long one will cost $60-$80, but try half an hour, and you'll get most of the same benefits.
--Go to a chiropractor. All that stress (or lots of sitting, bending over computers/papers/children) has likely thrown your back out of whack, and many forms of insurance pay for this.
--Go to a show. Live theatre's great, but movies work, too, as do concerts, orchestras, choirs, whatever. Go to a piano concert, and you might even work in a good nap.

What's this you say? You're broke? No problem! For every one thing that costs money, I have a ton of things that are free:

--Get a movie from the library. You won't believe the selection, even in a small-town library like mine. And it isn't just Schoolhouse Rock, either, although that stuff is very entertaining. If you can afford a buck more, go to Redbox.
--Go for a walk. You might want to time it when the sun isn't too hot (or skin damaging), but a walk by yourself can be a true boost. Just don't take your kids with you. Or at least don't take my kids with you.
--Play piano. Sure, it won't beat a piano concert, but it's still relaxing. If you don't have a piano--or any other instrument--just listen to music. Avoid the AC/DC for once, though. Relaxing is better.
--Read a book. Again, the library is your best bet. You can even download stuff on your Kindle, if you can figure out how.
--Make your house quiet. Give the kids something to do on their own for an hour, and shut off the TV, radio, phone, dishwasher. No wait, keep the dishwasher, and just lean your ear against it. Sounds just like you're back inside good ol' mom... comfy... warm... see, you're relaxing already.

If none of this strikes your fancy, don't stop trying. And don't put relaxing on the bottom of your list, or you won't ever get to it. And then you'll have no choice but to see a chiropractor. And he'll take one look at your spine and break out crying in pity. And he'll tell you it's too late--your bones are fused. Too much stress for too long. No breaks.

And you don't want that, do you?

So get out there and relax! And report back. I'm always looking for more ideas.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fun Friday: A Poem about The Hubby

My children and I often "write" orally--telling stories and inventing all sorts of verses aloud. I wonder at times whether I'm raising them to be writers or just nerds... perhaps both.

Anyway, in the car on the way home from school, we started discussing how people lose their hearing, eyesight, etc., and we all three realized that their beloved father was nearly deaf in one ear, nearly blind in one eye, had issues with one foot, etc. Thus, this poem was born:

Half of Our Dad is Falling Apart

We know that our father looks quite normal to you
His clothes are all neat, and his hair tidy, too,
But his looks are skin deep, his appearance deceiving,
For half of his body is planning on leaving.

While one of his eyes keeps on dutifully looking,
The other is blurring and swirling, and lurking
Inside it are dark spots and pressure abounding; 
Its lazy reluctance is truly astounding.

But that isn't all, for his ears are the same
One is still sharp, but the other is lame
From too many KISS concerts or some other reason
It's left off its senses, gone deaf, bent on treason.

His leg is bum, too, for its knee doesn't work
Locking his hip bone and moving with jerks
And shooting some pain further down to his heel
Which also rebels, going rigid as steel.

One hand is all crampy, its thumbnail is sore,
Its knuckles all puffy, its fingertips four
Either move with some effort or don't move at all
Or ache from his pushups or bouncing a ball.

One nostril works great, while the other is plugged
One shoulder is fine, but one numb and drugged,
One side of his back creaks and groans as he walks,
One side of his lips won't help out when he talks. 

So do not be fooled by this man from the start
For one half of our dad is all falling apart.

Got any body parts that are rebelling at this point? Any of this strike a chord? My students are all in their late teens, but even they claim to have body parts that have stopped working...

Have a great Friday, everyone, and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Why I Don't Need an Agent (Yet)

I don't need an agent.

I don't.

No, I really don't.

I know what an agent can get me. I know that I can only send out my manuscript to a handful of publishing houses without one. I also know that even if I'm allowed to submit my stuff to a publisher, an agent's recommendation will carry more weight. I know that the agent will help me get a good contract, that I'll have a much better chance of making it as an author if I have one.

I know all of this. But I still don't need an agent.

Why? Because none of my books are ready. Not a single one. Because, even if I manage to write the best pitch letter EVER, the book it describes isn't good enough to be published.

Right now all my stuff sucks.

I don't need an editor, either. I don't need anyone to tell me my stuff sucks, mainly because I know it does already. I even know what's wrong with most of the plots/characters/etc. I just can't figure out whether fixing these problems is worth it. Will the novel, if repaired, be any more worth reading?

I don't know. I'm at that awful stage in so many things--painting, writing, piano playing--when I'm good enough to realize how completely awful I am. It's a hard peak to reach, but it's even harder to face when I've done so much work only to realize that most of it's a waste.

So I don't need an agent.

I need a good book to read, a good night's sleep, and a little perspective. Then I'll return to the computer and start editing (again), return to the piano to work on Pachebel's damn Canon in D, and return to my paints to try something new. I do realize this is all practice. I just wish I could see my practicing getting me somewhere.

Perhaps I need a little courage, too. Anybody got some extra courage they can spare?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Travel Tuesday: The Ideal Writing Spot

I will eventually get to real places... I promise. Right now, though, it's so much more fun to travel back into my brain, at least in the parts where they ugly voices aren't living right now.

(The ugly voices are living in most of the dark corners of my brain right now. You'll hear them speak for themselves tomorrow.)

For now, let's consider the ideal place to disappear to and write one's novel. NaNoWriMo is coming up in November, and I'm already making plans. Since I am holding down 8 jobs at the moment, though--yes, I said 8, and only three are volunteer--I can't quite go on vacation. Still, my little writing closet could use a fake window of sorts, one that looks out onto a blissful, almost real scene, as if I'm really on vacation there. Like this one.  

See, there is the lovely little Alpine valley, tucked into the mountains, and I'm sitting in my writing room gazing at the clouds as they float by. *sigh*

Only I'm not writing. And that's a problem.

I need to try something else. I know. How about a beach?

Yup, this is the ticket. A sunset at the beach. For a little added depth I could buy a CD of wave sounds, complete with birds calling and wind blowing. 

Ooh, I need a margarita. Or at least a bathing suit. And sunglasses. 

But I'm still not writing. 

Perhaps the key to all of this is that I need to stop thinking of doing my writing when I'm on "vacation." When I'm on vacation, I shouldn't be writing. I should be on vacation, watching reruns of TV shows I haven't seen in 20 years (or at least five), painting my toenails, swimming, doing stupid things. Not writing. 

Writing is work. It is. It's like my other jobs--it takes some of my time, requires preparation, and sometimes I have to do it when I don't particularly want to. And when I denigrate it by filing it with my "leisure" activities, I don't get to it. And I have to. It's my job. And it's a job I love, one that deserves my time and concentration--without one of these stupid windows.

And that's what today is about for me. I had my Labor Day. I played tennis, watched TV, read, washed my car, and swam with my kids. I played. Sure, I did a little cleaning, but mostly I was on vacation. 

But now it's a Work Day. Let's see how many of my jobs I can get done today... including writing. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Music Monday: Play On

I've been revisiting a bunch of my old CD's lately, and I happened upon one I bought after a concert in Bothell, Washington. It was a concert by An Dochas, a group specializing in Irish/Celtic/Gaelic music, and it's about as rousing a style of music as I've ever heard.

Forget the placid coffee-sipping kind of stuff. This is more like the kind of music to possess the red slippers, to make you skip through the house cleaning everything in sight before you can wonder what the hell is going on...

I have two of their CD's, "Play On" and "What'll Ya Have?" though I like the first better.

It's rather like Zumba music... I can't keep my feet still from the first measure, and before I know it I'm whirling all around the house. It would horrify all of you, I'm sure, but my kids and the hubby are used to it by now. And when An Dochas is playing, my kids are dancing, too. It's rather contagious that way.

Now I just need to get a pair of those clogs to go with the music. And one of those twirly skirts, too.

What music gets your feet tapping? Please share. Even better, how do you use music in your daily lives? Does it help your writing? Does it calm you down at the end of the day? Entertain you on your commute? Well, don't hold back! Get out that twirly skirt of yours and let us all see!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Book Reviews for the Week

It seems ironic to me that so many books lately are imbued with elements of the Twilight series. I'm not sure if it's my luck lately, or perhaps I'm imagining things, but Twilight is figuring in the books I've happened upon lately. The first of these is Angel Eyes, by Shannon Dittemore. 

The book, free from my Booksneeze account (which does not require a positive review, I might add) was the first I've read on my new Kindle (hurray!), and it's premise is pretty cool, really--some of us have real guardian angels protecting us, and they fight real demons, and if we get to know our angels well, and have direct contact with their halo, we get some sort of power. Very, very cool. 

One reviewer of the book said she feel kind of uncomfortable, though, because the book felt too much like Twilight, and she thought those books were, well, sinful perhaps? I don't have the same qualms--if I had any in the past, I tossed them all when I fell in love with the Harry Potter novels. The obvious references to Stephenie Meyer's novels made me uncomfortable for a different reason: this book is BETTER. 

The description opening the book is downright lovely, and except for a few scenic problems when the author seems to forget it's pouring down rain in a scene, only to remember a page later, the dialogue and character interactions make a whole lot more sense. It's a good read, but I expect it's only one of a series to come. Is that a problem for me? Nope. I'll be checking out the next one, most definitely.

Everlasting (Everlasting, #1)
The Eternal Sea (Everlasting, #2)The other Twilight-ish books I've encountered are by Angie Frazier, books one and two in the "Everlasting" series. Yes, another series. That seems to be the MO of publishing today. 

These books are quite well written, even if at times the characters change their emotional mood and inner minds too quickly for my taste. I like the search the books are dealing with--the quest--even though this format is so overused it's starting to make me jaded against reading. 

But then Twilight rears its ugly head, and the part of Meyer's series I have always disliked comes back to haunt me. I've never been a fan of the whole Jacob vs. Edward controversy. Ack! Gag! As far as I'm concerned, if a girl isn't sure which guy she loves more, she doesn't really love either of them. I have little sympathy for a woman who is trying to figure out which guy she likes best. I'm lucky I had one guy to fall in love with, and I certainly don't find more guys to be more entertaining. 

Perhaps I am in the minority. Perhaps there are all sorts of girls out there gasping at the chance to have "two knights tilt" for them, or other such male macho crap. Then again, if a guy I liked made it clear he wasn't sure if he liked me or some other girl better, I'd be outta there, without a backward glance. I just don't get it. 

Unfortunately, even though the situations are really interesting, and all the ship sailing/ocean/storm/travel stuff is good, too, the love triangle thing is not nearly so fascinating. It's the reason I almost didn't read the last book in the Twilight series, for book three nearly turned me off the story completely (and still does). And these books could do without it, too. All they do is make the heroine Camille seem like a creep.

So, what have we learned from all of this? That Shakespeare likes originality, but is a prude when it comes to love relationships. That sometimes referring to a popular piece of literature is silly, especially when one's own work is better. What does all this make me want to do? Open my novels up and revise them, making sure to cut out all this quest stuff and any hint at a romantic rivalry. So I'll keep revising, and reading. How about you?