Hello, it’s me.

(No, I don’t have a new kitten. I just like cat pictures.)

As soon as I got home from Dragon Con, I put my Facebook & Twitter passwords into the hands of my trusted Spouseman. If anyone noticed a drop in activity on Twitter or my near-total absence on Facebook (I doubt it, but I want to be thorough) that’s what’s up.  I’m getting a lot done offline these days. TONS. It feels great.

I’ve also been thinking a bit about my social media presence.

Fair warning to recent followers: I’m not good at “Maintaining a Social Media Presence” in the ways most book marketing gurus still recommend.

My feeds are not well-curated.  I put online whatever filters through the unreliable sieve of my impulses. I take loads of unmodified food, yard, and cat pictures, post moody observations about my writing fails and flails, log in whatever I’ve collected from pop culture, and indulge in random outbursts of joy, frustration, and/or existential angst.

My Personal Brand, such as it is, might best be described as Flaky Eclectic.

Yes, I have been asked the question, “Why spend time on social media at all, then, especially on a blog, if not to aid in your authorial endeavors?”

Simple answer: it’s what I do. I am a diarist. Not a regular nor a diligent one, perhaps, but the shoe fits. I think things, and I record them. I was blogging for years before I tackled the wacky task of publishing a novel.  This website blog is still more of a life record than a promotional tool.

I’ve been writing random notes to an invisible, possibly imaginary audience a lot longer than that–ever since the day I was living independently and nothing I wrote could be used against me (The potential for judgment horrified me–the idea of my ideas or my emotions being corrected was unbearable.)

ANYway. I’ve been over that fear for a long time. Pretty sure my dad reads my blog, even. (HI, DAD! LOVE YOU!)  My me-ness is well settled in ways that it wasn’t when I was younger. The field in which my fucks are sown is barren, etc, etc, and all that.

BUT I DIGRESS. As I do. Short form: I post stuff online because it’s my way of affirming my existence. No more, no less. I write, so a lot of my posts are about writing, but this is not and never will be a writing blog, nor will it be a pretty one full of promotional perkiness.

My life is not interesting. I rarely have vibrant insights. I won’t solicit much interaction online–too much social contact, even at a distance, even online, wears me out & leaves me paranoid even though I crave attention as much as any other creator. So I will come and go, flit and hermit, all quite unpredictably. (Contradictions-R-Us, hello.)

In short, and belatedly, you’ll be disappointed if you expect me to be entertaining. My books  are entertaining. They’re full of really cool people having exciting, amazing, occasionally painful adventures. Me? Not so much.

This brings us to the end of another mostly meandering post.  Next one will be all about media consumption. I’ve gotten loads of reading done!

 

 

 

 

Fear is the mind-killer except when it isn’t.

I’ve taken some big behind-the-scenes authoring steps recently. I’m pretty nervous about them, but they’re not the point of this post. I’m also not writing about the news being full of atrocities, nor about my nation sliding into OVERT fascism. although those are infuriating, terrible, horrifying things.

Nope. This post is about my relationship with fear as a general thing.

It’s been a while since I talked about feeling frightened most of the time, most days. That’s been going on a lot longer than the current world events, but it’s on my mind lately because it’s tangentially related to my lack of activism and also to my writing.

Most of the things about life that make me happy also terrify me. And by terror I don’t mean I get nervous or worried or fretful about outcomes. I don’t even mean hollow-bellied imposter-cloaked fear-of-failure fear.

I mean the “heart pounding, can’t breathe, feel like vomiting, just-might-piss-myself” kind of fear. This anxious panic isn’t reserved for writing. Not by a long shot.

A lot of normal activities (f’rex simple one-on-one human interactions with friends, loud noises, scheduled appointments, necessary hygiene) you name it, it can leave me slogging through a swamp of of fight-or-flight overload.

I didn’t ask for the quirk. It came with the brain.

I’m also an adrenaline-seeker. Didn’t ask to be, but there it is. Brain. I live for living on the edge, I hunt for things that will raise my heart rate, brighten my vision, knot my guts,, and basically freak me out. This is done on an instinctive level. I can rationalize it all I want, but it isn’t rational.

The biochemical one-two punch has allowed me to function with an appearance of normalcy most of my life. One quirk goes a long way towards balancing the other. It also means I don’t often freak out when major things happen. My baseline is already up there. There’s almost a leveling sensation.

I mastered doing regular-life things on a regular basis before adolescence. All The Things scared me but I enjoyed the experience as long as I stuck to small, manageable doses, so I achieved a dysfunctional functionality. I thrive in a high-structure environment that goes through irregular major disruptions.

Along the way to my current advanced age, I learned  the hard way that hardly anyone recognizes when I’m terrified. Even when I’m standing dizzy and sweaty right next to someone, wondering if I’m about to die RIGHT THERE, most people don’t realize how freaked out I am.

I’d always known I don’t act frightened in a typical way (enough emergency situations where I got praised for calm handling got that message across) but I never connected it with people not realizing I daily dance on a cliff’s edge of coping.

I found out that it was atypical when my life got knocked off its moorings and the terror started erupting as actual anxiety/panic attacks a few years ago. I had to find a new balance, and part of that meant communicating more openly about my feelings.

And when I mention I’m on the edge of a freakout, I get looks of surprise and doubt. Imposter syndrome is brought on  by hearing over and over again, “Oh, but you’re doing great. You don’t look scared. You look fine.” Be aware: when you say that to someone who’s over-the-top anxious, it’s not as encouraging as you think. Anxiety twists that. Seeing is believing. When you say you can’t see the fear, you’re saying you don’t believe in it–even if you do.

Looking calm is a one part survival skill for me, and one part habituation. One, being seen as calm is important for a leader, and I get steered into leadership all the time for reasons I cannot explain.  Two, that adrenaline quirk means I crave fear. So I’m used to feeling it. On edge is my go-to. Basically I am having fun...

…right up to that certain point when the fun stops. That’s when I say something. At that point any tiny little thing will bring on total meltdown. Then I’m bolting for the door of a crowded restaurant, or sneaking out of a party early because…um…fear-induced wardrobe malfunction.

If I say I’m scared, I need protection, not a pep talk.

Here’s the other shoe to drop: even without meltdowns, adrenaline is exhausting. I guard against over-stimulation to protect my balance. I have hard limits. I push them constantly, (see: risk-seeker) but I have to conserve my energy. This means I’m really good at the whole “learn to say no” advice creators get. Not so good at ducking the guilt of doing it, but that’s a different problem. Until I started studying up on it, I never realized how many of my daily behaviors were rooted in emotional self-defense.

The TL;DR: this is my friendly every-so-often reminders that I am not brave. I only play brave on the outside, and it’s hard, tiring work. The crazier the world gets, the more rips in the social contract our government makes, the more I realize how scared I always am. All. The. Time.

I’m aggravating the problem with my creativity –fear lurks everywhere writing intersects with audience. Social media or reader outreach, even mentioning I have a thing to share or that I’m feeling excited about a new story…it’s all a big swamp of scariness.  Since it’s also my happy place I cannot resist diving into that slough, but…BUT.

It’s still like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane into the open sky. (which is one thing I haven’t done, by the way, because typical risk-seeking behavior loses a lot of its appeal when basic tasks like making phone calls provide a monstrous adrenaline rush.  Who needs roller coasters? I buy groceries!)

And again I digress. As usual.

Maybe the takeaway is this: I’m skipping along the scary edge a lot lately, in a world that’s getting progressively murkier by the hour. So if I seem more withdrawn than usual, it’s because I’m a lot more exhausted than ever. I wish I wasn’t, because there’s a lot worth doing right now.

Jesus fucking Christ, there’s a lot that needs doing. There’s been a lot for decades. The surface armor of suppression and willful ignorance has been scraped off the festering ugliness, so I suppose this could lead to healing. It could lead to bleeding out.

Get angry. Get registered. If you can, get out there and fight. I’ll keep doing what little I can. For sure I’ll keep writing stories that provide a little respite from the darkness.

That’s what I can do.

As usual, the picture is a fluffy addendum with no larger purpose.

 

Random Thoughts

Life today means waking up every morning and immediately checking the headlines for overnight catastrophes:

  • Has the country has gone to war (yet)?
  • Has a mass-casualty crime been committed?
  • Who at the highest levels of government has quit/resigned/been fired?
  • Which high-visibility media figure is doing something egregiously stupid or hostile?
  • Was there military posturing short of war?
  • What about natural disasters?

…and every morning, life goes on.

Love means waking up in the limbo between night and dawn with fear turning your whole heart into a cold, sweaty knot because your lover is sleeping so still and quiet you can’t tell if they’re still breathing. And so you touch them–every-so-gently-with the tips of your–fingers to make sure they haven’t died in their sleep.

…and every time, they’re alive and your heart relaxes and you burrow in close for a cuddle.

Pursuit of happiness means pausing to relish every sunset, appreciate every moonrise, celebrate every cuddle, taking not one second of life or love for granted.

Joy is the offspring of life and love, a precious, fragile concept born in patient pursuit and conscious effort. Chase it with all your might, every second of every day and every night.

That’s what’s on my mind today.

This post’s picture brought to you by a snowstorm walk through the Chicago Botanic Garden a winter ago, between Spouseman’s surgical recovery & the start of his radiation treatment. Still cancer free, as of the most recent test.


Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on this page here. 

Thanksgiving and other awkward things


So, I wrote this on my new tablet, which is to say I thought I posted this around 1800 hours local and now it’s midnight. Oops…

Turkey has been in the oven a couple of hours with an hour to go. A pan of sage dressing & one of sweet potatoes w/onion & garlic just joined it. Apples are stewing with spices. A big ol’ bowl of green beans is making friends with chopped garlic to prep for steaming, diced golden potatoes are in their stock pot of water, passively soaking up heat from the oven to expedite boiling them for mash while the turkey rests. Scarborough Fair bread is rising ahead of schedule, so we’ll have extra starch to go with the other carbs. Cream is whipped & ready to go atop the pumpkin pie I always buy because a) I like store-bought pumpkin filling better than (almost) any home recipe I’ve tasted and b) it’s easy.

In short I have time on my hands. So I go online and read the news, I watch TV, and I do a lot of thinking. Dangerous thing, that.

I hear & see all the usual Thanksgiving cliche jokes about men watching football while women slave away in the kitchen over a meal that will be eaten in 20 minutes and take four hours to clean up, and it irks me as it always does. First, it’s wrong, if that’s what happens. Second, I don’t know why it should be so much work. I do NOT work hard on Thanksgiving. There’s a lots of things in the oven for hours, yes. But work time? Not really. I do all the shop & chop prep in the prior couple of days — and slicing things while watching my favorite recorded TV shows is just keeping my hands busy. Turkey day is mix, set to cook, clean as I go, and do a lot of relaxing. Movies & TV rather than sports, but I definitely get in my recliner time, so to speak. And the cleanup? Anything still dirty after supper is Spouseman’s job. Period.

No, we don’t go out & about. We keep quiet holidays, Spouseman & me. Our families are scattered wide across the count

ry and we are nesters. Thanksgiving is about contemplation, gratitude for the bounty we collect and consume, and lately, a lot of bemusement at the weirdness of the holiday itself.

I worked retail for 23 Christmas seasons. (True confession, I loved the challenge of Christmas season in retail. It was FUN. But then I worked in a bookstore, so it was a wee bit different than most retail. ANYway. ) Thanksgiving Day often marked my last real day off until the new year. It was the calm before an exciting storm, a breather before the home stretch, the last chance to marshal up physical reserves and buckle up the emotional armor. For all those reasons I have long loved the third Thursday in November.

Also a bunch of staple foods I love go on steep sale, so I can stock up like a squirrel preparing for cold winter. This day is a tasty “once-a-month cooking” occasion that once saved me hours on exhausted work days and now just saves me hours.

Notice I didn’t mention loving any of the theoretical reasons for Thanksgiving? That’s because those reasons, as have been pointed out by people far more eloquent and knowledgable than me, are purely dangerous bullshit. I loved the Pilgrim story when I was 6 and 7 years old (who wouldn’t? Spunky underdog rebels being embraced by their new neighbors?) but I am a history teacher’s daughter. As soon as I could read she began to inoculate me against the comfortable mythology of colonial heroism. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a detailed survey course, but a foundation of “white Europeans were NOT good neighbors” was well-laid. Any lingering nostalgia was rubbed out over the years as the holiday’s “ideals” became fetishized even as its dirty, bloody roots were dragged further into the open.

So anyway. I love this day off, but not because it’s Thanksgiving. All the Thanksgiving lies are pretty awful, really. But this day can be a time-away-from-work festive gathering day AND an educational springboard to raise awareness of poisonous lies. Events can be more than one thing.

True confession 2. I also love Christmas, but in the same way I love Thanksgiving–not the materialistic consumerism, not even the Christian holiday itself, but as a storyteller, all the layered mythologies that swirl around midwinter appeal to the deepest parts of my psyche.

Also I was raised in Advent traditions, and they hold a special spot in my heart. What’s not to love about elevating the quiet work of preparation to a place of honor, and appreciating the importance of anticipation as a facet of celebration?

But that’s a post for another time.

Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on this page here. Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices!

Telling stories again

I saw some articles on two topics recently that made me stop and say, “Hm.”

Topic 1, how the United States military is drawing from an ever-smaller pool of soldier families and geographic regions, so there’s a growing disconnect in the public view of what the military is and does and what it ACTUALLY is and does–because fewer people in general come into contact with serving military members. (And the articles discussed that can feed prejudice and dehumanization and a wide array of other dangerous issues…)

2, how the concept of evil and what evil groups have done in the past has become so abstract, so disconnected from the daily experience and the personal narratives of whole  social groups. This feeds the human tendency to create false equivalencies between groups exhibiting similar behaviors (Nazis vs anti-Fascists, for example.) Supporting false equivalencies is also Not Good.

Basically, both topics boil down to the problem of “people losing a sense of the importance of things.” Awkward phrasing, but there it is. It’s an awkward situation when things past and the distant become deniable because they don’t feel real.

I don’t know how to be that detached from the world.

I suckled history at my mother’s breast. Well, I would’ve done, if she’d breastfed me, but women didn’t much in the era when I was born. She was a history teacher, though, and an english teacher, and my father was an avid consumer of history and narratives himself, and loved to share every new discovery, yes even with his babies. History was never a school subject for any of us Morris kids. It was all around us, everywhere we went, and it connected everyone we knew.

Visiting ANY destination meant collecting fascinating tales of the local heroes, villains, any gruesome disasters, and other trivia.  Meeting people resulted in stories about their backgrounds and how they came to be where we were. Learning to sing Waltzing Matilda so we could serenade the new neighbors from Down Under came with stories of Australia’s culture and founding, so we knew why there were swagmen as well as what a billabong was…just to name one of many, many such memories.  And dinner conversation could turn to any old topic that struck Dad’s fancy, from apocryphal tales of obscure British monarchs to Russian folk stories that offered insight into political decisions we were seeing on the nightly news. (Because yes, we watched TV over dinner. As a family.)

I thought all families were like this until I started visiting friends’ homes for meals in fifth & sixth grade. Not so much, it turns out. Nope. Kids were seen & not heard most places, or else we were sent to eat and socialize without supervision.

Teaching moments, that’s what some people call the sharing of knowledge and life experiences as they relate to past and present. I call it conversation. Seriously, I don’t know any other way to relate to people.

I think all of us need to look closer at wherever we happen to be, ask when and what, where and who, and then share those tales for their own sake. Histories. HERstories. OURstories. This casual tale telling keeps fresh the easily-dropped point that people are people.  Relating then to now through narratives brings together past and present, distant and near, them and us, so we understand better how all these things are connected.

And most importantly, it reinforces the reality that what we do now is how history happens. Or so it seems to me at the moment.

Okay, I’m done. Until next time.

 

Random thoughts

True love means harmonizing the songs of separate lives. I do not stop singing my own song simply because my partner sometimes bellows off key. This is a metaphor, by the way. Spouseman has a wonderfully resonant tenor singing voice.


Did anyone else watch Wonder Woman doing WWI battle action and think, “Hey, she’s the team tank?” That was my first thought.   In both the main battle scenes she drew aggro from the boss enemy so her DPS teammates can pick off the mobs/adds. And in another scene her team gets together to specifically launch her at the enemy. Literally.

Games have always shaped culture. It’s just getting more visible.


In case you wonder what I mean when I mention I’m pickling things, this is my basic recipe.

Pickling mixture
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1-2 tsp salt
1/2 cup hot water

Occasional additional ingredients, depending on what I’m pickling: peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill seed, onion flakes, garlic cloves…sky’s the limit there.


Heard standing in line waiting for a delicious grilled cheese at my local tasty-foods establishment (Dave’s Finer Foods)

Staffer: “It’s for the lady with the blue hair”
Dave (who knows me personally) “She doesn’t have blue hair!”
Staffer: (eyeing my observably blue hair)  “…”
Dave: “It’s blonde! And it’s blue. So it’s blueberry blonde!”

Blueberry blonde. Heh. I like this and may steal it for future use.


Best status I’ve ever scrolled past on Facebook:

“Does anyone know offhand when the llama costume contest is?”


I said random, and I have delivered.

 

 

Tempus Fugit

I was recently reminded that Borders Books & Music in Mount Prospect closed down six years ago last week. Wow.  I spent fourteen of my seventeen years with that company in that location, and oh, what a time was had.

I hired as a bookseller at another store and became a trainer within months, and it was the perfect combination of structure and constant change for a high-energy, highly inquisitive polymath introvert who loves books.  Transferring to a store I could walk to, rain or shine, put the frosting on my employment cake.

I got to talk books and music and movies and get paid for it. (Paid well, before the company morphed into a corporation and the decline began.) Even better, I got to travel and share my loves with peers and train others to the work. I love teaching, I do.

I worked on opening teams for over thirty stores here in the US and one in Melbourne, Australia, helped relocate at least three, and closed down two before the end. There were also stints in operations & inventory management, merchandising, and the office/HR/accounting position. Cafe manager and general manager were only two store hats I never wore–but I trained cafe staff and general managers, so there’s that.

It was the best job in the world before it became bad, and then it all went away. The change came like an earthquake, with many rumbles and shakes of warning that did nothing to buffer the shock of the final devastation.

That life-quake still feels like it happened only yesterday. It caused life upheavals both financial and emotional, and the loss exposed some major emotional issues I’d been crutching for decades. Just realizing how deeply I had been wounded took more than a year.

I often get frustrated because it seems like I’ve done so little since then. Then I add it up, and it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

Since that closing day I have written and published two novels, two novellas, four novelettes and a few short stories. In the process of that adventure. My bookselling experience served me well in new ways. I mastered basic book formatting, cover design, and publishing programs, learned to use social media socially, broke my foot, memorized long lists of information about butterflies, and dug lots of holes in my yard.

But wait, there’s more! I dove into audio book production and release too. Two new projects are in process, two are on the back burners, and seed ideas for yet two more are newly-planted in the fertile ground of my brain to await the proper time to sprout.

I have a busy new life. I have built a new identity. I love the person I am becoming.

But oh, the loss still aches. Some days, the scars on the roots of my heart still pull. And I still measure my accomplishments against what I built and did with Borders and I know–I know–I could be doing more.

So I will. In time.