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Top 10: Things That Set Me Off/Things Not to Say to Me

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Soooooooo…this month’s Top Ten post is all about how not to piss me off. These are in no particular order. They all piss me off equally.

Welcome to the unloading.

10.) The phrases; “But her emails…”, “How much damage can he do in four years?”, “There’s a system of checks and balances in place.”, “I’m not racist, but…”, “Trans women and men aren’t real women/men/are mentally ill/are perverted/etc”, “Global warming is a hoax.”

Just. Fucking. Don’t.

9.) Any iteration of  “So you write porn?”, “When are you going to write a real book?”, “So, like Fifty Shades of Grey?”, When are you going to write something I can read?”, “Are the sex scenes from personal experience?”, “How can you call yourself a feminist if you write romance?”

Again… Just. Fucking. Don’t.

8.) The Pain Olympics (not those horrible videos you can never unsee – seriously, do not google them)  also known as “One Downing” – there are always a few of these types in most people’s circles. Could be a co-worker, a family member, a person you deeply regret ever becoming friendly with, but they all have the same M.O.: You’re in the midst of what you think is a conversation, but before you know it, the Pain Olympics have begun. It goes a lot like this:

Scenario 1:

You: *sad because your cat died*

Pain Olympiad: “That’s too bad. Once, my cat was kidnapped and held for ransom and after I took out a loan for a million dollars to pay the ransom, they took my money and sold my cat to a foreign dictator who said he was going to make a hat out of her. At least you got to say goodbye to your cat.”

Scenario 2:

Coworker: “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while.”

You: “I’ve had a cold. Didn’t want to give it to anyone else, so I stayed home for a couple days.”

Coworker: *strips off work attire to reveal Pain Olympiad uniform beneath* “Last year, I got a cold and spent a three months in the ICU and the doctors had to take half my lung. You’re lucky you didn’t get that.”

You get the picture. Whatever it is, they’ve had it soooooooooooooo much worse, and they want to give you all the details about how their experiences are so much more horrific than yours. In normal conversation, we all share things to let others know they’re not alone in whatever they’re experiencing. One-Downing is a little different in that these people tend to be in desperate need of all the sympathy and acknowledgement that they’re the biggest and best victim of all.

7.) Vaguebooking. Either say it, or don’t. I get that sometimes people have things going on in their lives that they’d like to talk about, but they can’t because there may be other people involved, or they just don’t know enough about an upsetting situation to make a definitive statement.

What makes me beyond ragey is the vaguebooking (or any social media) for attention thing. The kinds of posts that are designed to make everyone feel like they need to fawn over the poster. Examples include things like:

“Well, I guess I know who my real friends are.”

“*sigh*”

“I can’t believe someone would be so mean.”

“Sometimes you have to learn who you can trust the hard way.”

Unless any of those statements accompany a photo of your dog stealing your steak, just don’t. If you’re having a bad day and could use some sympathy, fucking own it. If you’re pissed at someone, own that, too.

6.) The phrase, “Well, it’s not like you have a real job.” There are some people who are under the misguided impression that people who work from home don’t actually work and have all kinds of free time for things like babysitting, or driving them places, or endless phone calls, etc. Bitch, between writing, editing, coaching, audio prepping, website creation and maintanance,  and other client assistance, I’m currently putting in 12 -18 hour days, 7 days a week. Don’t tell me I don’t have a real job.

5.) I understand how incredibly difficult it is to find the right thing to say to someone who’s grieving, but I promise you, “God needed another angel” is never ever the right thing to say. Especially to those grieving the loss of a child.

4.) I believe that often adversity can make people stronger, more resilient–it’s certainly been true in my life. But that growth typically isn’t noticeable or appreciated until well after the fact.  So when others learn of something awful occurring in the life of someone they know, like say,  a cancer (or some other debilitating disease or life circumstance) diagnosis. Saying things like, “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle” or “You’ll be stronger for it” or calling a disease a “health opportunity” because you’ve got that life coach mentality is never ever the right thing to do. If the person in question expresses interest in your life coaching philosophy, bring it up then. But if not, calling a cancer diagnosis a “health opportunity” is not a road you want to take.

3.) Okay, so I’m a fat woman. This is not secret. I’m not particularly happy about it, but overall, I’m healthy (I have the test results to prove it) and I’m working hard on self-acceptance, and when I don’t financially need to put in 12-18 hour days, I’ll work more exercise in. If I make a crack or mention something about being fat, for the love of kale, please don’t say things like, “You’re not fat, you’re pretty.” or “You’re not fat, you’re so nice.” While, I understand that you may be attempting to be helpful or kind, the way that comes off is that you equate fat with ugly  and meanness. In addition to being incredibly hurtful, it’s not a good look for either of us.

2.) “This is a Christian nation.” Hard NOPE! One of the ideals this country was founded on was religious freedom and the separation of church and state. We need to adhere to that. STAT.

1.) Other random things that set me off are;

People who lie–especially when their story changes depending on who their audience is and what they want from them.

People for whom literally every last thing in life is a goddamn competition–not people who try to better themselves, people who have a pathological need to prove their superiority to others–even those they supposedly care for

People who are awful to their children and view them as extensions of themselves or belongings as opposed to individuals.

People who leave their animals out in extreme weather.

People who try to impose their religious views on everyone else.

People who constantly assume the victim role and refuse to take responsibility for their own shit.

People who plagiarize or otherwise take credit for someone else’s work.

Okay, so…I’m thinking I should probably stop now. I’ve got a ton to do today, and I need to get moving. Feel free to share what sets you off. An be sure to check out Gwen’s post and see what sets her off, too.

Flash Fiction #64 – Ghost

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This month’s song fic was inspired by Ghost by Halsey. If you’d like, you can read the lyrics here and/or watch the video here. 

“What are we even doing?”

Ryan sighed. “We’re trying to get some sleep because we have an early flight.”

A car drove slowly down the street, its headlights bouncing around the perimeter of the bedroom, and I shifted against the pillow I had propped up against the headboard. In the temporary illumination, I stared down at the man in my bed. My husband, I supposed.

It was weird. Like I was looking at him from a distance despite the fact that if I shifted, I could feel him next to me. But it was still as if I were looking at him through inches-thick plexiglass. Trick of the light or trick of my broken heart? The car fully passed, plunging the room into darkness again.

He wasn’t the same man I’d married. Though, to be fair, I wasn’t the same woman I was ten years ago, either. I knew why I’d changed. If you spend long enough kissing someone whose mouth is always full of lies, it poisons you. Changes your perception of everything around you–even yourself.

I missed the guy I’d fallen in love with, but more and more lately, I was wondered if he ever existed. The soul I’d loved had vanished, and in its place was an empty shell I didn’t recognize. And even more important, I didn’t like him.

His breathing had deepened and evened out as another car passed, illuminating the room again. The white fabric of his t-shirt seemed to glow. He was a ghost sleeping next to me.

But I was done trying to sleep. And I was done swallowing lies.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories. Hopefully, they’re a little more upbeat.

Jess * Kris * Siobhan * Kayleigh * Gwen * Deelylah

Wordless Wednesday: Summer Where I Live

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It’s another edition of Wordless Wednesday, and as usual, mine will probably have words.

There are some things that piss me right off about Michigan, but the landscape isn’t one of them. No matter the season, it’s almost always freaking gorgeous. Here are what some of my favorite spots look like in summer.

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Northern shore of Lake Michigan. We had so much fun swimming in the waves.

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Lake Superior in Gay, Michigan

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Lake Superior in Eagle Harbor, Michigan

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Lake Superior in Gay, Michigan

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Lake Superior in Munising, Michigan

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Lake Superior at Whitefish Point, Michigan

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Sunset on South Manistique Lake in Curtis, Michigan

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Floatie parking on South Manistique Lake in Curtis, Michigan

As you may have guessed, I really like being by (and in) the water. I try to spend as much time by the water as possible in the summer–as long as I have my SPF Vampire handy, that is.

Be sure to check out the other blogger’s posts to see what summer is like where they live.

Jess * Gwen * Kris * Paige * Jessica

Top 10: Character Traits I Like Writing

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I actually like all of these traits equally, but since I numbered all the other posts, I prefer to stick with the pattern.

10.) Bookish – I like writing characters that are at home in a classroom or library and value learning…which is why I guess I’ve written a number of teachers and professors.

9.) Funny – I like characters with a good sense of humor. Actually, I feel that way about most people–real or imagined.

8.) Curious – I suppose this is where some of my own personality comes into play–I tend to end up down a lot of rabbit holes thanks to curiosity, and so do my characters.

7.) Artistic – I’m drawn to creative people–artists, musicians, writers, photographers, woodworkers, etc. I love delving into the minds of people who create art.

6.) Loyal – Loyalty is one of those double-edged sword traits that’s fun to explore. It can be an incredibly noble trait, but it can also be harmful when characters are loyal to people or ideas they’ve outgrown or aren’t who and what the characters thought they were.

5.) Quirky – I love characters who are a bit odd or unconventional. I feel they’re more true to life–at least, truer to the people in my life, I guess. I find them more interesting, more engaging.

4.) Awkward – Awkward can be fun or it can painful, but I think it’s almost always relatable and it can reveal a lot about a character.

3.) Unpretentious – I prefer people who are down to earth and comfortable in their own skin. I think that for the most part, my main characters are kind of WYSIWYG.

2.) Empathetic – Empathy is so important. Even if a character doesn’t start out with empathy, it’s a trait I want them to develop by the time their story ends. I’m not sure it’s possibly to truly love another without the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes.

1.) Resilient – Like real life, characters tend to go through a lot of shit. Even if that shit knocks them down, I think that the struggle to rise again is fascinating to write. Everyone’s journey to getting the fuck back up again is different, and it’s enjoyable to explore the different ways that trust and strength and perseverance factor into resilience.

What are some of your favorite traits to read and/or write? And be sure to check out the other bloggers’ list of favorite traits to write. Jess, Gwen, Deelylah, and Kris.

Brain Dump

So, it’s brain dump time–we blog about everything rattling around in our heads. So, if you read further, please don’t expect a lot of coherence or cohesion. In addition to fighting with ADD, I’m also too tired and depressed and stressed out to try to do much beyond dump. So…here’s the unloading.

I’m tired, depressed, and angry. Lately, it seems the only news is bad news, and it’s not just bad, it’s catastrophically bad. It gets harder and harder to see hope beyond the latest horrific shitshow members of our “government” are pulling.

My house is a wreck a mess–too messy for the houseguest I’ll have Sunday, but trying to get everything organized seems almost insurmountable at this point. I know she’s coming to see me, not judge my house, but as I look around, I’m still freaking out about it.

Honestly, I’m stressed and sad about literally everything from school  issues to job issues to this country’s rapid slide into fascism. And if I actually take the time to write out all the thoughts I’m having about these things, I’ll probably end up in a fetal position in the bathtub.

So, I’m going to move on to other random thoughts in my head.

I really need to get rid of the rest of the wedding dress that was the base for the new wedding dress I made.  It’s ginormous box is taking up too damn much space in my house and my brain.

My feet are ugly and my toes need to be painted desperately.

I have two audio preps that I need to finish this week for a client.

I really want to finish the chapter of my book that I’m writing.

I wrote over 10K while on vacation and still managed to do family stuff.

I’m sick and tired of being the one who has to decide what stays and goes in the big house purge.

I really want some popsicles, but we’re out.

In five more sleeps, I’ll be driving to the U.P. to pick up Jess.

I still need to write my blog about this year’s writer’s retreat.

Jess Jarman, Jenny Trout and I are going to be at the Rust City Book Con during the first weekend of August, and I still need to do ALL THE THINGS for that.

Jen and I are going to go see Billy Joel in Chicago in a few weeks.

I have awesome people in my life who make me realize how lucky I am to have so many people who love me.

I need to remember to bring fabric and scissors when I babysit my niece Saturday so I can use their table to cut out tops after I put her to bed. It’s the perfect height. and I don’t have to fight with cats there.

Cutting out fabric with cats is a nightmare.

I still want popsicles.

Sometimes, I feel like I hate everything, and that makes me feel like a terrible person.

I’m tired of constantly feeling like I’m trying to swim upstream and getting nowhere.

I’d like to go to bed right now, but I have too much to do.

I bet that Gwen, Kellie and Jess have heads full of better thoughts. You should go read theirs.

Promptly Penned: Rock Bottom

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Prompt: Well, apparently, Rock Bottom has a basement. 

I looked around the crowded bar. There wasn’t another server free. “Motherfucker,” I muttered under my breath. I’d have to take his table.

Sighing in resignation, I pulled the hairtie off my wrist and quickly pulled my hair up into a sloppy bun. I turned toward the bar where Veronica, one of my fellow waitresses, was loading up a tray with drinks and plucked the hot pink, prescriptionless glasses off the top of her head and shoved them on my face.

She glanced at me as she lifted the heavy tray off the scarred bar. “Got a creeper?”

“Something like that.” I grimaced and adjusted the glasses as I walked to his table.

He glanced at me then back at his menu. There didn’t appear to be any glimmer of recognition. Sometimes, a different hairstyle and ugly glasses were all it took.

“Are you ready to order?”

He did a doubletake. “Samantha?”

I didn’t respond. Unless glaring at him balefully could be considered a response.

“I haven’t seen you in class lately.”

I tilted my head to the side and just stared at him. The sheer magnitude of his douchery exerted a force too great for me to keep my head upright.

“No,” I finally answered. “I don’t suppose you would have. I dropped out.”

He sighed in seeming disgust. “Well, that was stupid.”

It was then that I noticed the hot, young blonde in the booth with him. I’d been so distracted by my dread of having to interact with this man, I hadn’t even seen her. She was a beacon of golden perfection, I honestly can’t understand how I’d missed her in the first place.

Something inside me snapped. I turned to address her. “Look, I know he’s hot. Smart is sexy and all that. But take it from someone who knows, he’s completely void of any kind of moral compass and has no business being an educator.”

I could hear my voice getting louder, but I couldn’t quite manage to quiet myself. Conversations around me in the capacity-packed restaurant sputtered to a halt. Too bad I couldn’t make myself do the same.

“He doesn’t give a shit about you,” I continued as the girl stared at me, eyes wide and lips parted. “He’ll fuck you, and then he’ll steal your research, slap his name on it, and when it comes time to defend your dissertation, you’ll have nothing. And you know what? The sex wasn’t even all that good.”

He blinked at me as I saw the night manager barreling my way from the corner of my eye. She looked pissed. 

I glanced back at my former advisor.

He cleared his throat and turned to the blonde. “Chloë, this is my former student, Samantha.” Then he looked at me. “Samantha, this is my daughter, Chloë.”

Well…apparently rock bottom had a basement. Fucking fantastic.

That’s it for me today, be sure to read Jess, Gwen, and Kris‘ stories!

Top 10: Quotes I Say from Movies/Shows/Songs

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It’s time for another top ten post, and this month is quotes. In our house, we quote stuff allllllll the time.  Also, this is probably going to be more than top ten–it might even be top ten from each thing I quote regularly.

Top Ten Labyrinth Quotes: 

10. ) “Say your right words.”

9.) “Goblin King! Goblin King, wherever you may be, take this child of mine far away from me!”

8.) “I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now.” (It never worked.”

7.) “You remind me of the babe.” (This inevitably turns into a sing along.)

6.) “Oh, please. I haven’t said it in such a long time.”

5.) “Well? Laugh.”

4.) “No, no, no. Of course, not!”

3.) “Nothing? Nothing? Nothing, tra-la-la-la?”

2.) “Ohhhhhh, what a lie!”

1.) “It’s in the rules.”

Top Ten Buffy Quotes:

10.) “This could be mathier.”

9.)  “Lie to me.”

8.) “Button, button, who’s got the button. My money’s on the witch.”

7.) “It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.”

6.) “Right. Wasn’t here. Didn’t see it.  Couldn’t have stopped you.”

5.) “A vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend.”

4.) “Can you vague that up for me?”

3.) “Bored now.”

2.) “What is your childhood trauma?”

1.) “It sucks beyond the telling of it.”

Top Ten Princess Bride Quotes:

10.) “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.” (Said any time a wedding invitation arrives. But, I also got to open a wedding I officiated last year just. like. this!)

9.) “I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped. ” (Said often when I’m on deadline.)

8.) “Life is pain, Highness!”

7.) “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

6.) “Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much.”

5.) “It’s for posterity.”

4.) “Good night, (insert either child’s ur husband’s or house guest’s name). Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

3.) “Murdered by pirates is good.”

2.) “Jesus, Grandpa, what’d you read me this thing for?”

1.) “Have fun storming the castle!” (Said almost anytime someone leaves the house.)

Top Ten Hamilton Quotes:

10.) “Here’s an itemized list of 30 years of disagreements.” (Sweet Jesus.)

9.) “Uh, do whatever you want. I’m super dead.”

8.) “I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.”

7.) “Take a break. Run away with us for the summer. Let’s go upstate.” (Sung while we’re getting ready for our family vacation in the UP.)

6.) “When you knock me down I get the fuck back up again.”

5.) “We gotta go, gotta get the job done, gotta start a new nation, gotta meet my son!”

4.) “Pick up a pen, start writing.”

3.) “Write day and night like you’re running out of time.”

2.) “I’m not sorry.” (I sing this whenever someone complains about pretty much anything.)

1.) “I’m not here for you.” (I sing this whenever I enter the office I share with my son and all of his art supplies and gaming rig.) 

Top Ten Miscellaneous Quotes:

10.) “I could talk about industrialization and men’s fashion all day, but I’m afraid work must intrude.” Die Hard

9.) “She doesn’t even go here.” Mean Girls

8.)  “Flames…flames…flames on the side of my face!” Clue

7.) “I use antlers in all of my decorating.” Beauty and the Beast (You’d be surprised how often this one comes in handy.)

6.) “Then go ahead and STARVE!” Beauty and the Beast (What I said when someone dares express discontent with what’s for supper.)

5.) “If you don’t let me gut out this house and make it my own, I’ll go insane, and I’ll take you with me!” Beetlejuice

4.) “I have a permit.” Parks and Rec

3.) “I know what I’m about, son.” Parks and Rec

2.) “C’mon! We have a playdate with Banjo and Wingspan!” Baby Mama (My sister and I say this whenever we hear an especially hipster name. Since she works in an infant room at a childcare center, we say it a lot.)

1.) “In this parade of dumb and stupid, I’m the one twirling the flaming baton.” Gilmore Girls

Yeah…I know. Total overkill, but a lot of quoting goes on over here. What about you? What do you quote regularly? Be sure to check out Deelylah, GwenKris, and Jess.

Flash Fiction #59 – Witch

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38479482 - dark witch calling thunder powers . fantasy and surreal studio shot

Tansy’s cell phone vibrated, and she pulled it out of her pocket. After reading the text, adjusted the countdown clock.

This was it.

It was really happening.

They were going to do it.

Nervous excitement built in her stomach making her feeling vaguely nauseated as she laid out her supplies in the middle of her living room floor. Salt, crystals, candles, herbs, and her athame.

She glanced at at the countdown clock again. In three minutes and thirty-three seconds, they’d attempt something that had never been tried. Witches from every country–covens, solitary practitioners, would join together with a single purpose–saving the world.

When her alarm chimed, she took a deep breath and  moved to the center of the room and lit the candles.  Gripping the hilt of her blade tightly, she cast the circle, calling to the four quarters and raising the energy she’d need to complete the spell. As soon as she felt the power surging through her, she closed her eyes and focused on the subject of her spell, visualizing him clearly while reciting the words she’d spent the last three days memorizing.

As she held an image of him in her mind, the power swelled as it spread and joined with that of every other witch in the world. The magical current raced along her limbs, leaping from nerve ending to nerve ending, raising hair and goosebumps over her entire body as her heartbeat fell into rhythm and joining her consciousness with the rest of the spellcasters. And still the energy gathered and grew. When it was too vast to be contained, they all released it at once—sending it hurtling toward their target.

Tansy collapsed, breathless to the floor, pressing her palms to the old wooden floorboards as the lingering remnants of magic dissipated. After she’d caught her breath, she closed the circle and extinguished the candles. Before she’d even gotten her supplies put away, her best friend, Diana, had begun texting.

OMG – that was amazing. Did you feel it? Are you as pumped as I am right now?

Yawning, Tansy responded: I’m exhausted. I can barely keep my eyes open. When do you think we’ll know if it worked?

Diana texted back almost immediately. No clue, but you sleep. I’ll call you if there’s any kind of movement. 

Tansy thanked her and curled up on the couch. When she opened her eyes a few hours later, pinky-gray lighted filtered through the window and her phone was vibrating and and ringing loudly, Diana’s name flashing on the screen.

“Hello?”

“We did it! Turn on the news! Hurry!”

Tansy rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “What channel?”

“It doesn’t matter!” her friend crowed. “It’s on all of them!”

Fumbling for the remote, Tansy turned on the TV and squinted at the news anchor. “In a historically unprecedented move, the United States has thrown itself on the mercy of Canada, granting Prime Minister Trudeau governing responsibilities until the results of the 2020 election are in.”

The camera cut to a smiling Justin Trudeau. “Okay, healthcare’s been sorted. Now, let’s see what we can do about that climate agreement.”

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ takes on this image. Siobhan, Deelylah, Kris, Gwen, and Jess.

Favorite Writing Advice

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Advice is a lot like music. Or styles of underwear. Use what works for you, and leave the rest behind.

Obviously, I can’t tell you what’ll work for you, I can only share what’s worked for me, but look around. You might find something you like. Try it on. See how it fits. If you like it, it’s yours.

So, these are my favorite bits of writing advice.

Emotional Meat Grinder – The first book I ever finished had zero conflict, and my very wise forever-friend, Alex Kourvo told me that it doesn’t matter how much I love my characters, I still have to grab them by the back of the head and shove them face-first into an emotional meat grinder and make their lives hell. Then, when it’s really bad, I need to make it worse.

Write What You Love – There are some people who advocate writing whatever’s popular in hopes of riding genre coattails to fame and fortune. Here’s the thing about that. If it’s not a genre or subgenre you truly enjoy, it’ll show. I saw it often in when I edited for small presses, and I still see it now with my editing business.  If you’re writing something in hopes of a paycheck instead of writing it because you love whatever it is, it’ll never be as good or satisfying for you or the reader than if you’d written something you were passionate about.

Who Has the Most to Lose? – Someone in a long ago and far away critique group had some brilliant advice about POV (point of view) that’s stuck with me to this day. When you’re writing a story with multiple narrative POVs, you’ll have to decide whose POV each scene should be in. Ask yourself who has the most to lose. Who has the most to lose physically? Who has the most to lose emotionally? (Especially emotionally.) Nine times out of ten, the character with the most at stake (in the moment) is the POV you’re going to want to write that scene from.

If You Want to be a Writer, You Need to Make Writing a Priority. – (Full disclosure: I can’t remember who said this to me–in reality, lots of people–but I have to remind myself of it on the regular. Sometimes daily. Sometimes all day long.) This isn’t to say that life–the busyness that comes from living and interacting with other people, a day job, and the world at large–can just be ignored. But if you’re finding it hard making time to write, you may have to take a long hard look at how you’re spending your time and decide where you can cut back to make room for more writing time. Also, make use of whatever tiny pockets of time you have.

Please note, I’m not including depression or other illnesses in the list of busyness. Those are a whole n’other ballgame. But as someone with multiple mental and physical health bullshit going on, I’m reminding you to be gentle with yourself. Constantly beating yourself up isn’t going to suddenly make you more productive. Trust me…I know intimately of which I speak. Be gentle with yourself. Accept help when it’s offered. Ask for help when you need it.

Trust the Story. – Background to this. It’s a paraphrased Neil Gaiman quote. More backstory. Jess Jarman, Kris Norris and I have had a three way text chat going on for almost four years, now. It’s incredibly rare that a day passes that we don’t text each other. I came across this Gaiman quote: “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.” and shared it with them because I loved it so much.

While we were all working on newer to us genres and sort of stepping into the literary unknown (for us anyway) of self-publishing, we were having a lot of of doubt. Certainly, self-doubt, but also story doubt. We’re all mostly pantsers as opposed to plotters, and we’d often find ourselves second-guessing where the characters and the plots were heading because it wasn’t where we’d thought they’d be going. When that happened (and still, today, when it happens) we always tell each other, “Trust the story.”

Thus far, trusting the story and going with my gut has worked beautifully, and it’s brought me to places I hadn’t had any intention of going, but the books are better for it. I’m sure that one day, it might backfire and I’ll end up with a mass of revisions, but so far, this works for me, and I’m going to keep doing it.

Do you have any writing advice you swear by? What is it? Be sure to go check out the other bloggers’ favorite writing advice. Jess, Gwen, Jessica, and Deelylah.

Musical Musings #3

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It’s time for another Musical Musings, and this month, the subject is songs that remind me of my parents, my sibling(s), and my childhood. This should be fun! Also, I’m guessing it’ll be long. Because music. And family. You’ve been warned.

We’ll start with my dad. When my parents split, there were the weekend visits with my dad, and that meant car rides with the radio tuned to one of three things. Lions football, Tigers baseball, or country music. He’s a big country music fan–but you know, only “real country–not this new horse shit they have nowadays”. (Random thought alert: having spent many of my formative years surrounded by cow shit, I always wondered why he seemed to consider horse shit so much worse. I’m gonna have to ask him one of these days.) 

And while there are a ton of songs that remind me of him the biggest are probably The Gambler by Kenny Rogers and Ring of Fire and I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash. They always make me smile. Oh! And Delta Dawn – the Tanya Tucker version. I bet I can still sing that. Not gonna try, though.

There are so many songs that remind me of my mom, I don’t even know where to start, after all, she’s the reigning queen of Wildly Inappropriate Bedtime Songs. For instance, we got a lot of protest songs as lullabies well as other songs you wouldn’t normally sing kids like Brandy or The Eagles’ Take it Easy, Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, The Beatles’ Lady Madonna and Eleanor Rigby, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, pretty much all of John Denver, Carole King, and Simon and Garfunkel, but especially Cecelia. My brother, Tim, loooooooooved that song. But the two songs that probably most remind me of my mom are the Peter, Paul, and Mary covers of Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Blowin’ in the Wind and Don Mclean’s American Pie. You know…for those feel good bedtime vibes – lol. But, I think I get my love of sad songs from all of our Wildly Inappropriate Lullabies. And you know what? I’m good with that.

I have four siblings, so buckle up.

My brother, Tim, is closest to me in age, and when we were younger, we fought. A lot. But when we got along, we had some music in common. Like, I bet if pressed, we could both still sing the entire libretto of Jesus Christ Superstar. (Random side note: Probably the best birthday present I ever got [even better than the signed Brian Froud print] was when Tim surprised me with tickets to a really great touring production of JCS in the early 90s.) But without fail, the song(s) that always make me think of Tim, without fail, is the entire Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction album.

When it first came out, I loathed it–probably just to be contrary because he loved it so much. Fast forward to me moving 500 miles away, shortly after getting married. My husband was finishing up his final year of college, and one night, we were at the bar where he was on a pool league. Some bastard started playing Mr. Brownstone on the jukebox, and I was suddenly so homesick and missing my brother so much, I went into the bathroom and cried.

I’m gonna wait here a sec while that sinks in.

I sobbed overfucking Mr. Brownstone. In a super dodgy bar bathroom. In the U.P.

After that, I may have gotten my own copy of Appetite for Destruction. I am nothing if not nostalgic. You guys oughta know that by now.

I’m happy to report that Tim and I still have some music in common–like Hamilton. We went to go see it in Chicago with our kids (and our sister) a couple months ago. And in theory, we’re going to see Les Miz this year, too!

Next up is my brother, Martin. Now, Tim and I are a bit older than our younger siblings, so sometimes, when our mom was teaching night classes, we’d be on deck for singing Wildly Inappropriate Lullabies at bedtime.

I’ve got several songs that remind me of Martin. Puff the Magic Dragon is a big one. One night when mom was singing it to him, he started wailing. Sobbing like he’d lost his best friend. He realized at that point that Puff is a fucking depressing song. He started sobbing for my mom to fix it. So she had to make up a new, happier verse to finish the song with. Poor Cait was in high school before she realized that no one outside our family knew there was fourth verse.  My kids think there’s a fourth verse, too.

All the Mumford and Sons songs remind me of Martin because he’s the one who introduced me to them. (Yay, Martin!) But the song that always makes me smile and think of him is Turn Down for What. The year that song came out, he was constantly in my face shouting, “Turn Down for What!” He’d begin or end phone calls that way. It was constant. And annoying. But like most things, Martin, it made me laugh.

Fast forward to that summer, he and he’s awesome fiancée were getting married and asked me to officiate the ceremony. So, I got my internet minister’s license (like you do when your brother asks you for a favor) and helped plan the wedding. His wife didn’t know what music to pick for the recessional, so I said, “We could always do, Turn Down for What.” Because she’s awesome, she thought it was hysterical, she also wanted to keep it a secret from Martin. So we surprised him with it at the end of the ceremony. The look on his face was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. He recovered nicely, though, and danced his way back up the aisle.

Then, there’s Andrew. When he was little, he looked and acted so much like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes that I bought him a stuffed tiger.  He had asthma and had to have nightly nebulizer treatments–so many, that he burned out a nebulizer. And like all junk in our house, it ended up in the garage where he cracked the casing off it and attached jumper cables to it and a car engine and jump started it.  He was that kid.

I have a couple songs that remind me of him. One is John Denver’s Country Roads. He loved that song and wanted mom to sing it to him every night. Or me. Or Tim. When he got married a few years ago, he surprised my mom by having the DJ play it for their mother-son dance. It was the greatest thing ever–even though I suspect most of the guests were confused. Especially, when the rest of us got up and sang along. Then, he also had the DJ play Carole King’s Tapestry so we could dance to it. If I was putting him to bed, he always asked me to sing that to him. And yes, I cried my eyes out when he wanted to dance with me to that song. Incidentally, I now sing it for his daughter when I babysit her.

That brings us to Cait (of Texts from Cait fame). Trying to narrow Cait down to a song or two is going to be next to impossible, but I’ll give it a go. Meatloaf’s Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad will always remind me of Cait. And Tim. Because when it was his turn to put the kids to bed, he’d rock Cait to sleep, and I’d hear him singing Two Out of Three to her. And it was honestly the cutest thing ever. And it was just as damn cute when he sang it to his own kids.

But there are so many songs that remind me of Cait, like Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, because she thought the line bright young women, sick of swimming was pregnant women, sick of swimming for years. And sometimes we still sing it that way. And nobody karaokes Janis Joplin like my baby sister. Cait’s Piece of My Heart is amazing.  Then, there’s the entirety of Fleetwood Mac musical catalogue. Not to mention all the 60s girl groups. And literally everything Cher ever sang. Also, Cait does a brilliant Cher impression. Jess Jarman was treated to this phenomenon once upon a road trip. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her love of Bowie. But I think I have to go with ABBA’s Dancing Queen for Cait. She adores all the ABBA, but Dancing Queen is her go-to song forever. It cheers her up when she’s in a bad mood. It makes her even happier when she’s in a good mood. And whenever I hear it, I think of Cait.

Okay, the last topic is childhood–which is tough since, with the exception of Part of Your World, all of the songs here remind me of my childhood. But…if I had to pick just one, it would be Sonny and Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. I know – wildly inappropriate on so many levels, but when I was little, it was my very favorite song ever. And also, I wanted to be Cher. Never was a little pudgy blonde girl so disappointed.

I realize this was probably far more than you bargained for when you started reading, so…sorry? But anyway, if you’re still with me, what songs remind you of your fam and childhood? Share!

And be sure to check out the other bloggers’ song memories. Deelylah, Kris, Paige, Gwen, oh, and my friend, Amanda, likes to play along with these Musical Musing prompts, so she blogged, too.

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