18 January 2019

New Year, New You? Nope.

So how many of you (admittedly, 5-6) Lettuce Readers have already given up on the New Year's Resolutions that you made a few weeks ago? Yeah, me too. The difference is that my resolutions were actually achievable this time - set out your clothes for work the night before, make sure that the coffee pot is ready to go before you come stumbling in for some liquid courage at 6:55am (wow, that might have been a little more disclosure than I meant to have this early in a blog post), make time to write every day and the time in between lunch and class doesn't count.

I'm writing this having just polished off two lovely vegetarian sliders with Palmetto Cheese on top, and I've come to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans if that tells you anything.

Before the end of 2018, I started listening to a podcast by my sister-of-choice, Elizabeth Dunne. It's called #FLAW3D and it is brilliant, insightful, and funny, just like she is in person. I swear. But as with everything that occurred after 12 April of 2018, I was going through the motions with her podcasts and other content under the #FLAW3D brand. In fact - I will admit this if you swear not to tell her I said so - I am embarrassed to say that while listening to her podcasts on the bus on the way to work, I fell asleep. Every time. That has more to do with my level of exhaustion and nothing to do with her content, I swear. My life for most of last year could be represented by the photo above - a long hard slog down a cobbled road devoid of all color.

I also listened to them out of order, because I had started doing that with another podcast I am addicted to listening to called And That's Why We Drink, a Paranormal and True Crime Podcast. The personal information that MUST BE LISTENED TO IN THE ORDER IT WAS RELEASED SO THAT YOU CAN CREEP ON THE LIVES OF THE PODCASTERS is not the point of the podcast there. But with Elizabeth's podcast, it is.

I mean not the creeping part. I would never. I'm having too much trouble remembering to call her Elizabeth rather than 'liz, as I have known her since uni, so there's no way I've got an ulterior motive here. Plus, she is the mother of my eldest niece, so I am versed in the real Elizabeth.

And y'all, if you will just listen to #FLAW3D you will hear the real Elizabeth. She is unabashedly open about everything that she chooses to share - and what she doesn't.

Anyway! So I listened to the first episode of #FLAW3D today - the topic was becoming a digital nomad and working with your spouse - and it was terribly relevant to me not because Hubs is going to quit his job and we are going to open up THE NEXT BEST BIG THING anytime soon. It was terribly relevant because it was just the dose of, "You want to do that? Well, why not?" that I needed. Yesterday was a hard day in the universe of my day job - so bad, in fact, that I couldn't even bring myself to escape to Orana like I normally do when the waters get rocky. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next Clobberpaws, but that was it. One chapter.

Did I mention that I started said chapter LAST NOVEMBER? Yeah. Not my best day as a writer.

But this morning's listen left me with feelings. All the feelings. Why not give up my cushy 37.5 hr/week job where I know what I'm doing and how to do it...if others would just stay out of my lane and let me do it. Why not just keep writing as a hobby and sort-of side gig...even though seeing that three of my books sold all in one day makes me so happy that I literally cried for a few minutes. Why not do what I love, rather than working at a place that I don't love as much as I used to do so that I can afford to do what I love? Things to ponder.

The best bit was probably when her guests, Erin Booth and Tannia Suarez (co-founders of efftheoffice.com) talked to Elizabeth about how for couples that both work jobs outside the home, they have only a few precious hours in the evening to spend time together. Then on weekends they are planning to spend time together but are either too exhausted or want to pursue things that make their individual souls happy - cue the entrance of guilt and resentment.

Hubs and I do that very thing. We get home late. We struggle over what to eat for our tea. We struggle over when to eat or to actually eat at all. We collapse on the sofas and watch an hour or two of television and then go to bed. That is not a life well lived.

So while I'm still processing episode one and moving on to episode two, let me again recommend that you go to FLAW3D.com and check out the podcast and Elizabeth. You won't be sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to completely rethink my entire life. New Year, New Me? Nope. Just New Me - a work in forever ongoing progress.

11 January 2019

Yes, Virginia Woolf, I am an author...

So, I was working on some prep for an upcoming class I have to interpret and I stumbled upon a passage in an essay that not only struck me but absolutely blindsided me in its perfection and appropriateness. In fact, this is going to be my go to now when people ask me what it means to be an author or, in her lovely parlance, a novelist - which sounds far more like the image I have of myself - sequestered in a lovely, seaside town with a leather chair, a fireplace, and my laptop, writing and writing and writing.

Of course, this image flies in the face of my reality - I'm usually on the sofa, holding off anywhere from one to three dogs who DESPERATELY  NEED MY ATTENTION RIGHT NOW and answering questions from my husband while trying to find the right way to describe a creature that heretofore exists only in my mind. That, of course, is luxury; there are also the harried moments of trying to get a sentence typed while simultaneously trying NOT to slide off the seat in a moving bus, or typing out THE BEST DIALOGUE I HAVE EVER CREATED with one hand at whatever desk I can find at work - as the other hand tries not to drop my lunch onto the keyboard.

Anyway, enjoy this passage from "How One Should Read a Book," by Virginia Woolf. She is, as per usual, spot on. I will have some thoughts to share after you're done.
The thirty-­‐two chapters of a novel—if we consider how to read a novel first—are an attempt to make something as formed and controlled as a building: but words are more impalpable than bricks; reading is a longer and more complicated process than seeing. Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words. Recall, then, some event that has left a distinct impression on you—how at the corner of the street, perhaps, you passed two people talking. A tree shook; an electric light danced; the tone of the talk was comic, but also tragic; a whole vision, an entire conception, seemed contained in that moment.
-Virginia Woolf, How Should One Read A Book

Right, so anyone that has written anything will tell you that this is one of the more challenging aspects of the craft - take what you have experienced that inspires you and turn it into words, with all their "dangers and difficulties."  While I do agree that it is difficult, it occurs to me that I have an advantage that I hadn't thought about until today - I am fluent in English, but also in American Sign Language (ASL).

I know, it's a stretch, but stay with me.

ASL, like all other signed languages, is a visual and spatial language - English, and other spoken languages, are more linear in their approach to conveying a message. It is part of the language to describe things, to make the building that Woolf mentions in that passage. You can't convey the meaning, TREE without conveying what the tree looks like. It is built into the language!

I haven't gotten to the advantage yet, so if you're still lost, that's okay. Here we go.

In order to express TREE in ASL, I have to visualize the tree. Whereas in English I might say "the old oak tree with the outstretched branches" to describe the tree I'm picturing now, I would use one sign in ASL:

As you can see in this image by The Tree House, my arm would be the trunk and my fingers the leaves, so in a way, I'm expressing everything that took me eight words in English with one sign. But in my mind, I am visualizing the tree and hanging onto that visualization because I need it to correctly represent the tree.

That was the advantage - did you miss it? ASL requires me to hold onto images of things that I have seen and subsequently want to talk about later. That is such a useful skill for a writer, especially one like me born without an eidetic memory. Do I capture and store everything that I see/hear/experience? No, my internal hard drive that is my brain is far too limited for that. But part of what I do as an ASL user is to slow down for a second and consider the visual aspects of something that strikes me - and that helps me later describe it, sometimes first in ASL and then in English.

My life is weird - and wonderful, and I hope that this will make me a better interpreter AND novelist.

03 January 2019

#tenyearsdunne


Like it was just yesterday. I still remember you on one knee at Manchester Airport (if you want me to say yes to something, asking when I'm jet-lagged and just getting off an 8 hr flight is a good time to ask), and I remember Louise looking concerned that I might have said no when we got to the car. I can still feel the loose buckle on my left shoe that made my leg wobble throughout the ceremony. I can still taste that first sip of Yorks Tea at the reception. 

How are we ten years older in the picture on the right than we were in the one on the left? How have we had ten Christmases and Easters and moved house twice and country twice? How has our house been home to seven dogs and a cat in that space of time? Didn't I just arrive at Heathrow and have my visa stamped? Wasn't it just a few minutes ago when we drove to Atlanta to get my biometrics done, or to Berea to sort out your social security? I'm certain it was only a week or so ago, maybe a month, that I picked you up at Hartsfield right after you collected me at Manchester when we were basically living at various airports and train stations. Wasn't it?

I'm so grateful for the macaroni and cheese, the shared nerdiness, the willingness to put up with my shenanigans, the flashlights bought for me to take to faire, the resolve to get up when the girls are howling so that I can lie in, the whispered, "love you, bye" when I think I've managed to get out the door without waking you, the love of travel and history, the debates over whatever has just been said on telly, the ability not to laugh in my face when I think I'm speaking Yorkshire, the shared love of Greenville, the support and encouragement to be a writer, the shared - and different - expat experience, and all the other things that I have been given over the past ten years that I most certainly did not and do not deserve. 

Ten years done and dusted, and as many more as I can get to come. Love you to absolute bits, Simon.

02 January 2019

Scorched and Clobbered on my way into 2019

Yeah, that's what I look like in my head - but less blonde.
Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Yeah, so I'm a little behind, but no blog of mine would be worth its collective weight without a farewell to the old and promises I plan to keep break for the new around this time of year, right? Like here, two years and change ago, when I made the decision to go to grad school...again... Or here, where I acted like a big-time fancy pants writer and announced a book cover on the blog, promising to keep to a deadline. Y'all have met me, so stop laughing and keep reading.

This past year has been a different beast. I lost my dad in April. I lost my mind, more or less, in the summer. I lost my office around November. I lost the regular and pain-free use of my right elbow somewhere during the fall semester. For once, as I said in a very maudlin post on Facebook, I was not desperately clinging to the previous year on New Year's Eve and was ready to kick that biz to the curb. Roll on, 2019!

For the however long New Year's Eve took, I was standing between two realities, in a way. New year, new me, right? Sort of. I'm not making specific resolutions, save the generic ones like, "Enjoy life more and read more and so forth." I'm going to live my best life (so far) in 2019 because really, that's all we can do, right? That's all I have been doing, trying to live my best life - perhaps the resolution is to let less of the stuff of life get in my way.

Oh, and to the writerly stuff:  I will have a Clobberpaws book coming out in the spring/summer of this year and at least one Orana Chronicles novel out by May, if the scorching and clobbering process (that is writing and editing) doesn't kill me first, that is.


On JR Ward and Rune-Carved Bedrock