Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Silly Reflection

No, I'm not talking about the person I see in mirrors or shop windows. I'd never call my glass surface self silly. Unless I wore a top hat and monocle. Actually, after thinking about that for a second, a top hat and monocle would only make my reflection better.

*puts on top hat and monocle*

Now, back to the blog at hand:

Posts are being...errr...posted (it sounded so much better in my head), statuses are being updated, tweets are being tweeted, emails are being sent, parties are being organized and I am smirking. Yes, I said smirking.

People the world over are preparing for New Years and I'm sitting back in my chair and shaking my head. Unlike other people, I don't dedicate one specific day for self reflection. I do mini-reflections all year round. The reason for this is, if I left it all to one day, say December 31st, I'd collapse under the sheer weight of all I did, didn't do, meant to do and screwed up.

This is mainly due to the fact that I don't drink. Most people need a rum and coke after watching their year-in-review reels. I am not afforded that luxury, which is why I spread my self mulling over 365 days. It makes the punch a bit softer when December dons its cap and leaves. 

I've never been a fan of New Years. While the idea of a clean slate is appealing, a new year doesn't really mean we have a fresh start. Things carry over. Like bills. Stupid bills. But I suppose it's nice, in those final moments, as people count down the end of one year and leap head first into the next, to imagine you get a second chance at pulling yourself together and tackling your to do list.

The reality is, you always have that second chance. Every morning you wake up you get one. Change doesn't need to come at the end of the year. I figured this out ages ago, but it seems like other people seemed to have missed the memo. I've noticed an unhealthy trend with humans. We tend to wait until the 'right' time to do something. It's part of our nature. The fact of the matter is, sometimes there simply isn't a right time, so why not do it now?

I can't imagine anything worse than waking up one day and realizing I've waited my life away.

We've all done it. We've waited for the right time to quit a job, to travel, move and end a relationship. We wait for the right time to tell someone we love them, to reach out to a friend in need, or to tell someone something we've been meaning to tell them. And sometimes the right time never shows up. So, we stay in a job we don't like, a house we hate and a relationship that's unhealthy, all because we are waiting.

Waiting for what? The right opportunity? The right time? When it will hurt the least? Not be as tedious?

Change is hard. It's why we only dedicate one day of the year to thinking about it. It's why it takes us so long to put the ball in motion. It's why we waste so much time waiting. It's why we toss and turn at night thinking about all the things we wish were different and worrying over how we're going to make it so.

But you know what's more difficult than change? Living a life you aren't happy with, in a body you aren't happy about, with a heart that's weighted down like a stone.   

This year wasn't exactly easy for me, and I know it wasn't exactly easy for a lot of people. Even as I towed my line, I knew my road could be rougher, with more potholes and flooding. Everyday I told myself, it could be worse. And then one day, I woke up, and I thought, maybe it could be better. Interestingly enough, better wouldn't come for a few months after this revelation. Better wouldn't come until things got a whole lot worse, but as I went about completely deconstructing my life, I told myself things would, one day, get better.

I'm thankful I held onto that hope. Without it, I don't know where I would be right now.We all need hope.

You see, when I finally woke up, I was so far off from centre. I was orbiting around the person I used to be, and ultimately the girl I'd become, and I felt confused and disjointed, displaced and alone. I didn't know how I'd evolved into the negative ball of energy who was spreading cynicism and clinging to doubt, worry and fear. In truth, it wasn't evolving at all. I devolved into that person by ignoring my heart and smothering my common sense.

Earlier this year, I told a friend I'd lost sight of who I was. He told me I'd lost less than I realized. In many ways, he was right. I hadn't let go of my core values. My dreams and aspirations hadn't changed. And yet, at one point, when I looked in the mirror, I didn't recognize myself anymore. No one would ever describe me as a happy-go-lucky person, but I've never spread as much anger and sadness as I did last year or the beginning of this one.

Sure, I could blame others and point fingers, but that's not taking responsibility for my own actions. I let people get to me. And that's simply not who I am.

Facebook updates, tweets, emails, blogs and interactions with people on forums, I passed my unhappiness around to people I liked, some I even loved, and then there were those I disliked. But not even they deserved to be weighted down by my misery.

So, I changed.

(And you thought this wasn't going to tie in. Please. You should know me better than that.)

I changed not only where I lived, but who I spent my time with and, most importantly, how I looked at the world. I changed my clothes, my routine, and my attitude. I axed the negativity. Not only my own, but the bad vibes others sent my way. As soon as I did this, the world looked different. I saw things I missed before like spiderwebs reflecting sunlight, the heart someone drew on my window in dusty grime, and how good it feels to exist.

There is a lot of beauty existing all around us. Sometimes it is dwarfed by the hate and ugliness, sometimes it's hard to see, but it's there. All we need to do is take notice. It's in the chick-a-dees giving themselves a dust bath and the raindrops falling from the Evergreens. It's in my dogs paws.

The decision I made was a conscious one. I chose to move with love in my heart. Don't get me wrong. Some days it's hard. I have bad moods, bad moments, bad weeks, but I still love. I love the smell of the forest, finding a new song, remembering an old one, the sound of mud squishing under my shoes, getting a lovely email and seeing the beauty in something people walk past every day and don't take notice of.
And above all of those things. I love to love. It feels good to love. It makes my heart lighter and the darkness seem further away. Besides, I'm good at loving. It's something I do well. And I'm going to keep on doing it, even when things don't work out, even when things hurt. There will always be love in my heart. And a dirty thought in my mind.
In the end, I'm hugely grateful I didn't wait. In my gut, I knew there would never be a right time for what needed to be done. And so, without a ball dropping or a count down to a new year, I cleaned my own slate. I didn't make a resolution to do so. I just did it. And I stopped wallowing and feeling sorry for myself. 

I honestly can't image what life would have been like if I waited another eleven months or six months or six weeks or a day to change. Part of me wonders if I wouldn't have stayed where I was forever, which scares me. Time is one thing we can't waste. We need to live in the now. Tomorrow has no guarantee and the past is said and done. Today counts, more so than the future, because we are living it as we breathe and blink. It is passing us by.

The beginning of a year is not our only time to self reflect and make goals. I think we should be doing it year round. Every day, in fact. We need to work on our own happiness. If we can't make ourselves happy, then how can we make others? If we don't love ourselves we can't love others. Everything starts in our own hearts and the rest will fall in line.

Oh, dear. I sound like a freakin' hippy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

In The End

Christmas wasn't so bad this year.

Those who watch my vlog already know I was a bit out of sorts leading up to the 'big day'. Mostly because, I've never had a good Christmas. Also because this was the first year I didn't actually have any dinner plans. What I suspected, turned out to be true. The apprehension I felt about not having anyone to eat my feast with came from how I was raised. I thought I needed to be with friends and family for this occasion, but that's not the case at all. This feeling of obligation spurred from what I thought I was supposed to be doing.

I was wrong. What a shocker. The night, though uneventful by most people's standards, was in fact very peaceful. More peaceful than the last ten Christmases. The truth is, after the year I've had, it was really nice to hole up with the dog and cat and simply exist.

Here is a rather boringly spectacular account of what I did. In the morning, I dropped off some gifts at my ex's place and let him see the hound. Afterwards, I made my way over to my sister's house for a couple of hours where I spent some time with my siblings. At about three, I returned home to take a rather festive nap. Then I cooked up a delicious Tofurkey.

Yes, that's a turkey made out of tofu. And, despite what you may think, it is fairly tasty. I think meat-eaters the world over just cringed. Well, it doesn't matter. I enjoyed it. Besides, my meal ended up looking pretty.

After dinner, I had some pie. Apple pie, in case you wanted to know. I honestly can't remember the last time I had a piece of pie. Granted, I didn't have anyone to feed it to while sitting around in my knickers, but the thought was still there. The knickers and guest would have only made this a bit better, seeing as I pictured him naked. But that's my dirty mind going into overtime.

In the evening, I did something I've never done before. No, not something naughty, I wish! As I settled down in front of the fireplace and cracked a book that I should have read years ago. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

The story is one we all know. We've seen the movies and heard the tale, but I wonder how many people have actually read it. In some ways, it's like the story of Jesus' birth. Everyone knows it, but so few have read the words themselves. Just between the two of us, or however many are reading this blog, I ponder over whether the book would have made it to publication if submitted today. I think not, but it is a classic, and one I encourage others to read.

To put a nice cap on the night, I hunkered down and watched The Muppet's Christmas Carol, which actually remained very close to the original story. After that, I retired. I mean, how can one person possibly stay awake after such a rip-snorting good time. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought of someone near and dear to my heart, but simply is not here with me. Once I sent them a little love, I curled up under my blanket and ended what will now be known as my first, but probably not my last, Independent Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vegetable Soup

The title of this blog is not an imaginative little quip that will tie in later and make you have an ah-ha moment. It isn't an analogy or metaphor about writing or life. Mostly because, this blog is actually about vegetable soup. Homemade vegetable soup, to be exact. The reason for this is, moments ago, I got up to fetch a pair of scissors and ended up making a batch of veggie soup. Don't ask how I detoured over to the stove and started cooking whilst on a mission for the magic, handheld paper cutters. My mind works in odd ways.

Truth: there is nothing better than homemade vegetable soup.

Well, except homemade baked goods, like pies, cakes, cookies and...if I don't stop here I'll end up not finishing this blog and slipping into a diabetic coma instead. The thing about homemade vegetable soup is that it's one of the easiest dishes to serve up. Oh, I don't mean putting it in a bowl with a spoon and crackers. I mean making it.

First, there are only two steps.

Step one: bring ten cups of water to a boil and four bouillon cubes.

(I use vegetarian chicken bouillon cubes, which means there isn't actually any poultry in them. They are fairly tasty. Side note - I find it weird when people use real chicken stock in vegetable soup. I mean, it's VEGETABLE soup, for crying in the...well, soup.)

Step two: dump whatever else you want into the pot and boil until cooked.

And done.

Some more skeptical folks might scoff at this recipe. Mostly because, it isn't a recipe at all. But there are some things in life that you don't need to follow a guideline for. Making vegetable soup is one of them. Another one is sex, which has nothing to do with this blog. It could, but the chances of me crossing lines, offending people and embarrassing myself would sky rocket and, while I enjoy doing those things, I feel I should try to stay on target tonight.

Where were we? Oh, right, the guideline for what we don't need guidelines for.

The reason we don't need a recipe or a guideline is because no matter what you put into that pot, it's going to be good. Well, if you use your common sense. There are a few hard and fast veggies that simply belong in this kind of soup. For one, onions. You will need one of these and it will need to be diced. It might look like a lot on the cutting board, but once it's in the water and boiled down, you won't notice. This adds flavour. Something we all enjoy. Two other things I put into my soup as the base of the stock are carrots and celery, also for flavour.

From here, I'm much like Pocahontas. I go wherever the wind takes me.

In the soup I made tonight, I tossed in green and orange pepper, zucchini, cauliflower and mushrooms. I would have put broccoli in, but mine had gone bad, much to my annoyance. Broccoli and cauliflower don't seem to make an appearance in a lot of people's soups unless they are creamy. This, my friends, is a shame, because these best veggie buds, who always seem to go hand-in-hand, are simply delightful in a clear broth soup.

 When selecting vegetables for your soup, try to think outside the box. There are a plethora of tasty veggies out there, and a lot of them seem to get neglected. In the past, I've put potatoes, corn, peas, sugar snaps, radishes, leeks, okra, asparagus, gai lan, bok choy, bean sprouts, tomatoes and even eggplant in my soups. Variety is the spice of life, and not just in the bedroom.

Honestly, when choosing what to put in the pot, I only have one rule. Make it pretty. The key to a fantastic soup, is colour. If you keep it vibrant and interesting, your tongue will thank you. And I'm not only talking about when you're slicing them up on the cutting board. It is pertinent that you keep an eye on them while they are simmering in the pot. If you overcook your veggies, they will lose their colour and crunchiness, which means their taste will suffer.

The truth is, most people do not know how to cook their vegetables. Not just in soups, but in stir frys, stews, and even when steaming and roasting them. Personally, I think this is why a lot of people don't like vegetables, because they are cooking them into nothing, taking away the colour, crunch and taste, not to mention those oh-so-important vitamins.

Once you have the vegetables boiled for a very short amount of time, like fifteen minutes, if that, you can add a little something extra to bump the calories up a bit. Tonight, I added lentils, because legumes are our friends, and a bit of orzo, which is a pasta that goes very nice in soups. I don't recommend a lot of pasta, but go wild on the beans, they are an excellent source of protein. My most favoured legume to put in soup is actually chickpeas. I know, I know. When we think chickpea we think hummus, but this little bud of awesomeness is perfection in vegetable soup, and salads too, actually.

In the end, the beauty to homemade vegetable soup is that you can use whatever you find in your fridge. Toss it in a pot. Bring it to a boil. And, just like that, you're a domestic diva. Or something like that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tis The Season

I'm not really a Grinch when it comes to Christmas. To be honest, I appreciate the whole idea of the season. Like, I love the idea of stockings, decorating trees, pumpkin pie, and letting people know you love them. Unfortunately, the idea of the season isn't what it turns out to be. Well, not for me.

I've never had a good Christmas, at least not one I can remember.

People think this is sad, but I'm indifferent to it. I mean, it's the way things have always been. A change of pace would only throw me for a loop. While I can see why people embrace this oh-so-festive time of year, I have troubles doing so. You see, Christmas only means fighting for me, both internal and external.

For one, the idea of hanging out with other people and celebrating makes me uncomfortable. Not because I don't like gifts and food, but because I'm usually around a couple people who put me on edge. Either there is something about their personality that irritates me, or they act oddly towards me which makes me feel sort of like a leper. This could be in my head, but I'm a fairly perceptive gal and I highly doubt it.

Another reason is that I hate feeling like a burden. As some of you may know, I'm vegan. I like my vegan ways. They aren't going to change. And despite what people think, it's actually really easy to feed a vegan. Yet, for some strange reason, I find myself with a boiled potato and bland vegetables on my plate nearly every year. I don't complain, of course not, because this is my choice and it's nice they even make an effort, but I'd rather stay home and make my own dinner. At least that way I don't feel like I'm putting anyone out.

Greed is another factor that contributes to my humbug-esque feelings towards the most wonderful time of year. I cannot count how many times I've seen people upset over what they've got for Christmas. In fact, I remember a time when I myself was upset. Though, to be fair, that was with my ex-ex and I spent a month making him this really saucy, sweet book of pictures and poems and junk only to have him hand me a punk music box set. And, to be honest, I would have been perfectly happy with that if he just wrote something meaningful in the card.

He didn't, of course. He wrote two lines which consisted of 'Merry Christmas. Hope this next year is fun.' Like, come on! FUN? I suppose I felt jilted because the sentiment wasn't even there. We worked at a record store, for crying out loud. He didn't even go shopping! He just picked something up when he got off his shift.

Oh, dear. I'm getting myself all worked up.

When I think of Christmases past, I remember feeling awkward and out of place, even amongst my own family. There was always fighting. My mom worked on Christmas, which left me waiting for her to get home in the hopes that things would pick up. Someone always ended up being upset or saying something they weren't supposed to. And I always had an upset tummy. Those were my childhood memories too. I think I've completely blocked out my teenage ones.

This year I am faced with a whole new scenario. With my new (not really) single status, I find myself with absolutely nothing to do. And maybe that's a good thing, but it sort of makes me feel a bit lost. I don't mind being alone, I really don't. I can go watch a movie and make myself soup for dinner. No one will argue with me. I won't have to wait for someone else to be ready to go home. No one will watch me open up the one Christmas gift I have sitting under my tree. Still, I feel like I should be upset.

I'm not saying I am upset. As of right now, I don't know what I feel exactly. This time of year has always been melancholy for me. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I dread it. The worst part is the disappointment. While everyone prances around, singing songs and wrapping gifts, I feel incredibly let down. Christmas is never what I want it to be.

And what I want is so very simple. Romantic, even.

All I want to do is hunker down with someone, preferably the love of my life, watch movies, go out for a stroll around the neighbourhood to look at the lights, and then curling up by the fire with some tea or coco. In my head, my ideal Christmas is spent laughing and talking. There might even be a little love making. Something low key, not filled with countless people and noise and feeling like I'm putting people out. Hey, there might even be an exchange of gifts, either something homemade or from the heart. Where the sentiment is palpable.

And soft kisses, of course. Soft kisses seem to be involved in my ideal Christmas. My ideal birthday, too. And Valentine's Day.

Well, let's just face it, soft kisses make everything better. Rough ones have their time and place as well.

Of course, that won't be happening this year. Probably not next year either. I guess I have a two year plan.

So, I'm not really a Santa-Hater. There's a little beacon of hope that I will one day have a good, no, great Christmas. It just isn't going to be this year. And I'm okay with that. I can wait.

I'm patient.

For some reason, I think I'll have to wait until I have my cabin in the woods. Then things will really start to fall into place.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Planting The Seed

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post. It wasn't anything controversial, I didn't talk about how I thought kitten stomping was a good idea, and yet, somehow, a fight ensued over it. The details of the fight don't really matter. What is pertinent is why I got my back up. I am not an overly sensitive person. I get called names and mocked daily, most of it self-deprecation. After all, I'm a firm believer in not taking one's self too seriously. I mean, what's the fun in walking around thinking you're faultless and infallible? Boring is what I say to that.

Regardless, I posted the blog (my last one about the book I finished co-writing) and shared it on my Facebook. The co-author of said book excitedly passed it along to her followers and the first comment she got was from another writerly type. To say the comment was condescending and disparaging would be like saying zombies like to eat people.

Now, instead of replying hotly, I decided to ask what he meant by it. You know, because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. (Okay, you can stop laughing now.)

Well, the belittling just kept coming!

The impression received, not only by me, but by others, was that he felt we were incapable of writing Science Fiction. That we didn't have the knowledge to pull it off accurately. And, to sum up the whole battle, that we were out of our element in even considering to write a book in this genre. It didn't seem to matter to him that this was a YA book and the sci-fi aspects all took place on Earth. Actually, he didn't even bother to ask. By the way, he hadn't actually read any of our novel.

But that's all off topic and the fighting over me taking his comments out of context or blowing them out of proportion is moot because he later admitted to thinking we "didn't have the necessary grounding in science to pull off a science fiction novel". Yep, that's a direct quote.

Let me clear something up: I don't give a crap what people say about me. I really don't. I've been called ugly, fat, told my ideas are derivative, laughed at, poked, prodded and outright harassed for years. It comes with the territory--the territory of being awesome. Just kidding. The territory of being on the Internet and accessible to countless people from all walks of life who have an abundance of time on their hands in which they can either adore or attack me.

What I do care about is what people say to others. The reason for this is fairly simple: words hurt. They do. They say sticks and stones break bones but names will never hurt and that's an outright lie. We all know it, but we sing the mantra so that our children aren't as affected by schoolyard bullies when they head off to the playground and get called a freak. In reality, words can do more damage than a slap across the face, just ask every girl who has ever been called fat. Some things just stick with you.

People don't think. That's not news. I'm not breaking ground on some new theory. It's simply fact of life that people like to voice their opinions and often don't consider how other people will take what they say. Or maybe they just don't care. The ever-growing popularity of the Internet is only making this worse. At least in person when you say something you can see the person's physical reaction. If someone flinches, blinks rapidly, flushes red or furrows their brow, it's a clear indicator that they aren't happy with something you said. On the Internet, we aren't afforded the luxury of seeing how people react to what we tell them, so we say things we might not normally let slip. But that isn't a good enough excuse. Not in my books.

I'm not saying I don't have negative opinions about people's work. Of course I do. Sometimes it's a matter of taste and other times I simply don't think someone can write, draw or sing. The difference is, I don't go out of my way to say this to them. I might discuss it with a friend, but I don't post it on their excited status update or tweet it for all their friends to see. And the reason for this is common sense, but I'm going to spell it out for the masses, or the few people who will take the time to read this.

We, the creative types that we are, need to support one another because this is a hard business and a cruel world. We need all the support, motivation, encouragement and cookies we can get. The negativity that seems to be in abundance is pointless, not to mention damaging. Lately, I've been looking at the world from a different light and I see where we have gone wrong. Instead of offering up a kind word and excitement, we often put forth skepticism, cynicism and sarcasm. While all of those things certainly have a place in this macabre world we live, it doesn't belong in our reactions to other peoples creative endeavours, especially our so-called friends. I mean, if we can't be supportive and understanding with the people we care about then how are we supposed to give it to others? And how can we expect it in return?

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all went forth with love, hope and optimism in our hearts?

Our daily encounters would leave us light, happy and renew the passion we have for living, learning and creating. Maybe we wouldn't feel so weighted down. Maybe we wouldn't feel so alone. The world is a massive place, but we have these virtual communities that connect us and give us something we should be thankful for, except some of us don't use it in a healthy way. Instead of giving guidance and providing a shoulder to lean on, they tear people down and shake their head at their efforts.

All this does is plant the seed of doubt. And doubt is a terrible thing.

It's fear and uncertainty. Doubt derails us from the paths we are on. It rocks our self-confidence. It destroys our faith. It makes us question the things we hold dear and forces us to look at things differently, and not necessarily in the right fashion. Doubt is evil. It leaves us feeling empty and lost, broken and battered. It staunches our dreams. It cultivates unhappiness.

Which makes me wonder, why would we want to plant that in someone else? Why would we want to sow that seed? Why would we want people to doubt what they love? To doubt something they get joy from? To doubt themselves and who they are?

Words are a powerful thing. As a writer, I know that all too well. Which is why it baffled, and irked, me so much to see another writer toss his words around without a care in the world. It's unnecessary to try and bring someone down. To give them unwanted advice. To kick their excitement to death. To put them in their place or judge them.

The truth is, people aren't going to plant doubt in me. I won't be derailed from my path, but what if this guy says the same thing to someone else? Someone not as stubborn or determined as me. It might stop them from creating and being artistic. It might prevent them from taking the leap and trying something new. And that's why I got my back up. That's why we should all get our back up when we see things like this.

We need creative people. We need artists, writers, bloggers, vloggers, musicians, painters, photographers and dancers to keep doing what they are doing. It adds beauty to this world. A world so focused on everything people are doing wrong that we don't see what they are doing right. Together we should work towards eradicating doubt because it's toxic and there simply is no use for it.

Like my mother always said, think before you speak.

And like I have started to say recently, drop the negativity.

It isn't doing us any good anyways.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another Book Bites The Dust

As of last night, at approximately eight o'clock, I finished another book. Writing. Not reading. I don't feel the need to blog about books I finish reading. Though I just reread The Pearl by Steinbeck and...Well, that's off the topic, isn't it?

So, this book I finished writing. It's rather special to me. Not only was it a challenge to write because it's a genre I've never delved into, Science Fiction, but I didn't write it on my own. Nope. This is the first novel I've penned with someone else.

The experience has been thrilling. And that's not even an exaggeration. From the word go, which came a month early on November 11th, it was a rollicking ride. You see, we weren't supposed to start until December, but someone (the other author) was stuck on her Nano project and I gave the go ahead to start this one. Well, no one advised me to keep my hands and feet inside the vehicle at all the times. And the safety bar was a little loose. At times, it felt a little dangerous since the two of us were moving at such a break neck speed. But, now that the cart has pulled into the station, I am impressed with what we have done. It's hard work coming up with an idea, executing it and being happy about it, let alone doing with someone else. I mean, an extra pair of hands, eyes, and lips adds a whole other element.

Not to mention we were both knee-deep in Nano during the month of November. Yes, people were questioning why my Nano book was moving so slowly and I simply didn't have the heart to tell them I'd passed fifty thousand words halfway through the month.

So, less than thirty days after we started, my co-author, the always amusing Missy, and I finished The Withering Of Amblethorn. A name I'm rather fond of.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out. I mean, I knew I could count on Missy. She's a fast writer and one that wouldn't leave me hanging for months on end. That said, I didn't know how it would unfold or what steps we needed to take to ensure it went smoothly. To say I was apprehensive would be accurate, but my excitement outweighed my nervousness. I mean, sure, there was a chance she'd end up hating me, but I couldn't let that hold me back. Could I?

As we started to drum up an idea we both liked, I wondered what sort of things we should be taking into consideration. Should we have a document to work off of? Do we jump around? Does one person write a chapter and the other add to it? Who would go first? What happens if we don't like something the other person writes? Can we change something the other person comes up with? And whose name would go first on the book cover? You know, really important questions.

In the end, I realized, no steps were needed. We simply started. Missy wrote the first chapter and I did the next. From there, we leap-frogged each other. I think the fact that we chose to have two points-of-view helped because our characters were our own. But that produced a whole other set of questions for me. How do I write her character authentically? What if I make her say something she wouldn't say? And what happens if I write us into a corner?

The answer to all of these really came down to one thing: open communication. And boy did we openly communicate! We talked about the book nearly every day. Through MSN, email and Facebook we were able to discuss the chapters before we set out to write them. The talking was an essential part because we also offered a little something called encouragement throughout the whole process. A pat on the back here and a kind word there really went a long way when it came to keeping motivated.

Now, I am not insane, I know this was probably harder on Missy. After all, she had to deal with me. Not only am I some-what of a control freak when it comes to plotting, which I tried to ease up on, but my brain works at a mile a minute. Ask me a question, get a million answers. How is someone supposed to handle that? And while I might have been a bit unruly at times, I always stressed the fact that she could disregard anything I said, especially the dirty jokes.

Would I recommend co-authoring a book with someone? Yes, I would. But I would suggest you select someone you actually like. Luckily, I like Missy. And I think she likes me. So, it worked out well. I couldn't imagine doing this with someone who mildly annoyed me because it'd make the whole project so tedious. Not to mention it would completely break down the verbal sparring.

The key to pulling something like this off is teaming up with someone you trust. Oh, and someone who is reliable. No one wants to wait months on end for a chapter that may or may not ever come. Also, someone who writes at the same speed as you would help as well. And perhaps a person who is interested in the same genre. Granted, the Sci-Fi novel was new to both of us, but the Young Adult aspect wasn't.

Of course, we aren't truly finished. We have now started editing which is going to be another intimate experience. Still, in the end, I'm confident we will have a novel we can both be proud of. Heck, I already am proud.

And that my friends is success. In my mind, at least.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Change

I'm going through a bit of a change. Not menopause. On my blog, silly!

I've recently added tabs.

You may have noticed. You may not have.

Against my better judgement, I have posted a few of my completed books. If you click on the book covers, you will be taken to excerpts and pitches. What a wonderful blog I weave.

I'm not published. Just to clarify that. These are the novels I have sitting on my hard drive collecting dust. They look pretty. So, I thought, why not put them all in one spot.

Not too long ago I had a website. I axed it after much deliberation and decided to rope everything together on my blog. I am, if nothing else, organized. That was a bold face lie! I am so disorganized and it took me nearly a year to put the tabs on my blog. Still, I am patting myself on the back.

Good job, Tyson. You done well.

Or something like that.

If any of you know any literary agents or publishers looking to find someone with seven or so novels in need of publishing, feel free to give them my blog link.

They say word of mouth works well. I guess we will have to wait and see.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Keeping The Faith

No, this blog isn't about God. Not that I have anything against him/her/them. I simply don't want to tackle the beast of religion at this moment in time. This also isn't about that Ben Stiller/Ed Norton movie about the priest and the rabbi and them falling in love. Actually, now that I am writing this out, the title seems all wrong, but, to be frank, I don't want to change it because it actually applies to what I plan on posting about.

It's been awhile since I've wrote a blog about writing. Mostly because I've actually been doing a lot of writing and haven't had the time to contemplate the act of it. This afternoon I found myself on the lovely Lexi Revellian's blog and thought the last line of her post was mull-worthy. After toying with it for a long time, I realized why it resonated with me.

The last couple of weeks I've stumbled across a few posts from fellow writers that have bothered me. Whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or detailed in a blog, I took notice of what these people were saying because they all seemed to be stuck in the same conflict. And I think the reason I was so interested is because what they were talking about was something I'd never even thought of, let alone made public for others to see. 

These writers were all talking about quitting. Yep. Tossing the towel in. Giving up. Stepping off the hamster wheel.

Now, there are enough blogs out there talking about rejection and how it's hard and how we all have to take it in stride, so I'm not going to bother joining that ticker-tape parade. What I am going to talk about is faith and why it's important to not only keep it, but to cultivate it, shelter it, water it and feed it so that it can flourish. As creative individuals, we need faith in ourselves and our art. And if we don't, we won't succeed.

Unlike a lot of people, I don't measure success by how much someone has had published, whether or not they have an agent or if they have been offered a six figure deal. Not at all. For me, success as a writer comes from how you feel about about the work you're creating. I consider myself successful because I have wrote a book (or six). In fact, I feel successful every time I write a sentence that makes me smile or feel sad. There is a blossom of success when I come up with a unique plot twist, develop a flawed character, or write an interesting bit of dialogue. I even feel a bit successful every time I post a blog or produce a vlog. And this success allows me to experience faith.

Faith that I'm doing what I should be doing.

Sometimes people write for the wrong reasons, like being published, becoming rich or for fame. These things are not a guarantee. I mean, I wish they were, but they simply aren't. To be honest, if this is why you are writing a book, chances are, it isn't going to work out for you. It might, but most writers aren't Stephen King or J.K Rowling. Most writers struggle their whole lives to get published and a lot of them never do.

This might seem like a harsh truth, but I don't intend it to be. We need to be aware of the market we are in. It basically comes down to being realistic and understanding the amount of work that goes into writing. They say an author needs to write a million words before they are ready to be published. That's a lot of words. But I don't think that's necessarily true. I think you need to write a million words and be open to growing and learning. Without growth and the ability to learn you won't succeed. You will continue to be disappointed in your work. And you'll continue to battle with whether you should even be writing at all.

For me, writing isn't a meal ticket. I don't know what will come of it, but I do know I will never stop. Quitting is not an option. I've been cultivating my faith for a long time. At this point in my life, I know I'm supposed to be writing. I have faith in myself and the work I produce. Which means it only comes down to time.

And in regards to that, I can only hope I'm not the next Herman Melville because he died before he ever got to see his work celebrated.

So, if you're one of these people who are contemplating quitting, take a look at why you are so frustrated. Try to keep the faith, but if it isn't there, look inwards and figure out why. And if you really aren't enjoying the process and are constantly disappointed perhaps a new hobby is in order. Or maybe a new way of looking at things.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Random Factor

I'm not really an open book, but there are some things about myself I refuse to hide away. A lot of people know I'm vegan, that I've never indulged in alcohol or partaken in drugs, and that my favourite colours are purple and green, which, I think, go very nicely together. But no matter how many blogs or vlogs I post there will always be parts of me that remain hidden away. You know, there are some things that aren't for public consumption, like my religious and political views. My mother told me to discuss everything except politics and religion. I listened. Also, my measurements. Girls need to keep some things private. Or what I was thinking about as I drifted off to sleep last night.

Like you, I have secret behaviours and thoughts that are just for me. Ones I will never share. The ones that are for me to contemplate and obsess over. Then there are the other thoughts, feelings and traits that I just don't think to share. They are silly things. Things I don't really care if people know, but which are so unimportant and random I don't even think about them. These things are really what set us apart from others, not our political or economical views.

We all have ideologies that comprise us. They guide and form a part of who we are, but it's pretty much a guarantee you'll find someone else who agrees with you. I know plenty of people who have the same views on the world as me. But there are other qualities in myself that will always set me apart from everyone else.

It's this 'random factor' that makes us individuals. Whether it's our nightly routine, something we say to pep ourselves up, what we find funny or how we react to situations, we all have quirks that make us unique. Sure, there might be one or two people who do similar things, but to find another person who possess all the same characteristics is never going to happen.

Here are ten things I do/think/say that contribute to the elusiveness of my being:

1. When I take the garbage down to the compactor, I toss the bag over my shoulder and call myself 'Garbage Santa'.

2. I am in love with the smell of Oliver's paws. They smell like corn husks and a simple whiff of them makes me happy.

3. When people hold their fingers up to their mouth in a 'v' and stick their tongue out it repulses me. I know this is the hand symbol for cunnilingus, but I don't think it's necessary or appropriate. It's a pet peeve that extends beyond pet peeves. My eldest sister does it in photos all the time. And I hate it. But I've never told her that.

4. Every time I say 'yikes' I add 'bikes' onto the end. This started because I watched a Drew Barrymore movie where she did it and it stuck. And, yes, I say 'yikes' more than you might think.

5. Sometimes, when I go home, I open the door to my house and say, "Honey, I'm home." And then I add, "Oh, right, I'm not married." This is a part from Batman Returns when Selina Kyle comes home after being licked by the cats and she hits the sign on her wall that says 'hello there' and it changes to 'hell here'.

6. I eat an apple a day. Before I take the first bite, I always smell the apple first. Just in case it's poisoned.

7. Every time I get to work, I take my shoes off and leave them under my desk. I can't work with them on.

8. A game I play with myself is to pick out the attractive qualities in the people I see, regardless of what they look/act like. Since I've been playing this game I've only found one person who I couldn't find a redeeming quality in. And I know some really shady characters...but they're family and I love them regardless.

9. I have an intense sense of smell. My ex used to say I have a wolf's nose because I could smell things most people couldn't. I wouldn't mind being part wolf. Baying at the moon sounds nice and erotic to me.

10. I believe in soul mates, but I deny this fact because I also think it's hokey. That's the cynic in me fighting the hopeless romantic. I'm not sure who will win out or whether they can coexist in harmony.

So, what are some of your 'random factors'? What sets you apart?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That Girl Patricia

Sometimes if you're lucky life delivers beautiful people to you. They may pass in and out of your life or you might be lucky enough to keep them forever. And, if you're truly blessed, you are able to recognize their beauty and let their light fill you up. These people do one thing for you: they make every day better simply by their existence. But this isn't about all those beautiful people, this is about one beautiful person. My sister.
Not everyone gets along with their siblings. Actually, as far as I can tell, the bickering between most brothers and sisters lingers well into the adult years, sometimes straight through until someone dies. And even then I've still seen it at times. I'm fortunate to have a sister I don't bicker with, one I don't resent or hold grudges against. 
 Like a lot of older sisters, mine taught me many things, some valuable, others not. Unlike other people's sisters, mine didn't teach me how to apply make up or flirt with boys. No, the life lessons Patricia taught me extend beyond beauty tips and boyfriend banter. She taught me the important things. The things they don't tell you in Cosmopolitan or teach you on Saved By The Bell, like the unimportance of shaving your leg in the winter. I mean, the hair will help keep you warm and aid in holding your socks up so your ankles don't get a chill. 
In truth, I owe her more than she even knows. Not only did she give me my love for books, but she indirectly gave me my passion for words. Without her, I doubt I'd be a writer. I'd probably be a world famous brain surgeon. All jokes to the side, Patricia validates who I am as a person. She has always embraced who I am, whether that was the severely awkward teenager in plaid pants and gas station attendants' shirts or the vivacious and severely awkward creature you see before you today. That sort of respect and acceptance can't be bought. It doesn't go on sale, you can't pick it up for half price at Wal-Mart and you certainly can't just trample someone for it on Black Friday. 
No, what Patricia offers me surpasses anything else in this world. It cannot be held in my hands or put in a box for safe keeping, but it still lights me up. Her love keeps me grounded. It reminds me of where I came from and how far I can go. I know I always have someone on my side, someone in my corner, someone who will either hold my hand or give me a kick in the ass, depending on what the situation calls for. But the best part, she lets me make my own mistakes and has always been there to lend a hand when I discover how much I've truly messed up.
There are many memories that come to mind when I think of my sister. We've had so many laughs, mostly inappropriate ones, and yet those aren't the times that stand out the most. The moments I often find myself reflecting on are the ones where I'm at my rawest and she's been there, not only to listen to my sob story, but to remind me of who I am. She's always demonstrated a faith in me that is baffling. She shows me that I will find my way back home, no matter how lost I am in this crazy world.
Right now I am thinking about when I broke up with my ex-ex (the ex before my last ex). I left his house with my pink bike and a backpack stuffed with as many things as I could shove into it. There were still two garbage bags left at his house. Baggage, indeed. I didn't live far from him, I could have rode my bike home and been there in minutes, but I just couldn't work. My feet wouldn't peddle. The sorrow and anger refused to be stopped.

And so, I called my sister. 
To this day, I don't know where she was or what she was doing, but she came for me. I sat at the side of the road, cross legged and cried as I waited. I don't know how much time passed. All I thought about was the shattered feeling inside me. Later on, I reflected on how there was no hesitation on her part. And when she got out of the car and proceeded in trying to shove my bike in the back of her car, there was no judgement or annoyance. She didn't even ask me what happened. We sat in the car for along time. Not really talking. Just sitting. Being in her presence in that moment started healing me. It was as simple as being next to her.

There's been countless other times, some very recent, where I've turned to her for help and all it took was being in her company to settle me down and clear my head. I can't describe all the things she does for me. Words do her no justice. There are no lines to be crossed. No judgements to be had. And certainly nothing deemed too taboo to say. She makes me laugh even when I'm crying and that truly says it all. 
 Happy Birthday, Patricia! I love you more than a fat kid loves cake. And I'd know. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Little Things

The other day I helped a woman carry her groceries to her car after she dropped a flat of cat food on the ground. She was really apologetic over it. I told her she didn't need to apologize, that I didn't mind giving her hand. This woman clearly hadn't been offered help in awhile. My help flustered her, but by the end, she gave me a bright smile and thanked me. I didn't even need to be thanked, the smile was enough.

Isn't it funny how the littlest things throw people completely off their track. Chances are, I will never see that woman again. I won't lend her a hand or wish her a good day for a second time. The moment we interacted was so fleeting. It only took me a matter of a minute to help her out, but her day was shifted because of my presence in it. At the time, I didn't even think about it, but as the day wore on, I began to wonder why people don't do these little things more often.

You know, why don't we help each other out?

Just yesterday, I helped a woman with a stroller through the doors at the mall. I was buying crackers and vitamins, in case you were wondering. She was probably heading in to start her holiday shopping. The automatic doors didn't work so I, in a rather awkward display, pushed the doors open for her. We exchanged a couple of words and then went on our ways. For just a blip in time, we connected. We came together and then we parted. People come in and out of our lives all the time, but so rarely do we strive to make the interaction positive.

The sad part is, we don't do the little things enough.

Is it fear? There seems to be this underlying theme to humanity that you can't help people because it makes you vulnerable to sickos, weirdos and axe murderers. Do we blame Silence of the Lambs for this? The girl gets tricked into helping Buffalo Bill move his couch into the back of his van because he has a broken wing. This is a fictional example, but people like Ted Bundy preyed on the generosity of others so he could take advantage of them. But these horror stories are far and few between.

This is going to come as a shock, but most people aren't going to murder you.

Some people say, "Yeah, but there's still a chance."

I don't live with that sort of fear. It's like when my mother gets a phone call and her first thought is that something terrible has happened to one of her kids or that someone has been in an accident. I can't live like that. It makes me feel as though I am being suffocated.

I'm not saying get in the back of someones van. Oh, God. No. Please don't get in the back of vans! Vans are dirty, scary places. Especially white cube vans. You know what I'm talking about. Every time I see one I think a girl is tied up in the back of it. That's my morbid imagination running rampant though. All I am saying is maybe offering a bit of kindness to the people we brush past on a day-to-day basis will do us more good than averting our gaze to the ground and hustling past. 

The funny bit about offering kindness, it comes in all shapes and forms. It can be as simple as a wall post, an email, a smile as you pass someone, a kind word or a compliment. It's holding a door, offering someone a tissue if they sneeze, and letting the bus driver know someone is running for the bus.

In fact, I had a bit of kindness on my chair when I got to work this morning. A friend of mine left me a note. It's a simple note, but it put a smile on my face and helped get my day off on the right foot.

And then I thought, what if we all left similar notes on the chairs of the world?

What an impact it might have!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Think I Like You

Last night as I was soaking in the tub after a stint at the gym, I found myself reading Noelle Pierce's latest blog post entitled: Pssst. I Hear He Likes You. It was a short little piece. A blip. Not even two hundred words, but something about it got me thinking. Like really thinking (not fake thinking) which was odd because I enjoy spending my time void of any thoughts. (That's a joke. I appreciate thinking just as much as the next person.)

The main idea of her blog was that we like those who like us. If someone leans over and tells us so-and-so has a little thing for us, we end up looking at them in a different light. We keep the company of the people who compliment us, think highly of us, yadda yadda.

Now, while I, like everyone else, enjoy it when people appreciate me, whether that's physically, mentally or emotionally, these are not the people I always appreciate back. That's in real life and in the virtual world. Of course, the reverse exists as well. There have been several people I've fancied, thought highly of, complimented, who didn't feel the same way about me. And, rather sadly, there have been people who I've simply adored and when they actually noticed me I ended up realizing I didn't like them at all. Then there was the awkward moment when they started showering me with compliments and I ended up wishing I never showed interest at all.

Of course, there are also the people who like me. Who compliment me. Who seem to be drawn to me. And I don't want to engage with them in the least. This isn't because I've had bad experiences (though I have). No, it's because attraction isn't always mutual. Just because someone likes the cut of my jib doesn't mean I'm going to like the cut of theirs. Actually, chances are high, I'm not going to like them at all. Don't get me wrong. I try to give the person the benefit of the doubt and, from time-to-time, I engage in conversation with them, but very few 'friendships' or 'relationships' spring from these encounters. (Truth!)

The truth is, what makes a person attractive to me as a friend or lover extends beyond whether they like me in return.  (Lover makes me laugh. Not saying I wouldn't like a lover. But I feel like I should have a silk robe on and be holding a martini as I say it. Okay, I sort of imagine myself as a cougar while using the word 'lover'. Or that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie tells her friends she's taking a lover and she keeps saying it funny. Like lov-ah. I digress.)

What Noelle's blog got me thinking about was what is it that draws me to a person. I'll even use her as an example. I love Noelle. I think she's fun, funky, sexy, sweet, talented. Both mentally and physically, I find her attractive. She's my friend. She's actually more than that, but there's no word to really describe it. She's my confidant, friend and sister.

She's my confrister.

See what I did there? I combined the words to create one EPIC word that shall rock this earth for ages to come. Or die once a few people take a perusal of this blog. Whatever.

Out of all the people I engaged with and bantered with, Noelle stuck. Over time, we cultivated a friendship, but there was something that initially interested me about her. And it wasn't because she left a glowing comment on my book and stroked my ego. It really wasn't. To be honest, I think it was her sense of humour. She got my brand of funny. That's important. If people don't get my brand of funny I come off as an asshat. And yes, it happens all the time. I'm always mistaken as a complete *insert bad word here*.

Anyways, you see it all the time. In the real world and the virtual arena, people gravitate towards each other. People pair off, both as couples and as friends. Like Bert and Ernie and Casey and Finnegan, some individuals just click. It has nothing to do with compliments and mutual appreciation. Those things come after the initial attraction.The initial spark. And when that spark goes off, it's hard to ignore.

The biggest spark I've had to date with someone is a person who will remain nameless for privacy sake. And because I don't think he even knows I write a blog. What a surprise it would be if he stumbled upon it! Regardless, before I knew what he looked like, before I even knew his name, I was drawn to him. Like completely and utterly drawn to him. Words can't even explain it. It was almost as though my soul (heart? body? mind? being?) knew I was supposed to get to know this guy. Before he ever paid me a compliment. Before he ever let know his admiration. And before I let him know mine. I was attracted to him.There was a spark. Honestly, we were playing in the same massive playground and for some reason kept finding ourselves in the same corner of the sandbox. It didn't make any sense. Instances like this make me  contemplate the likelihood of fate actually existing.

For the record, and I am setting this away from the previous paragraph for emphasis, I do not believe in destiny, fate or any of that other mumbo-jumbo. But there are things in life that make me wonder. I suppose wondering it good. At least it keeps the brain active.

I do have a point (if you were wondering) which is, the compliments and ego stroking don't really come into play until after the initial grounds have been set. Well, at least not in my world. Just because someone thinks I'm witty or pretty, doesn't mean I'm going to appreciate them. Perhaps it's because I'm a bit cynical. I have this whole idea that people often project onto me the person they want me to be, but I'll tackle that in another blog post. This one's getting a little long as it is and then someone will post in the comments about how I rambled off pointlessly for six paragraphs. Tough beans. It's my freakin' blog!

Where was I?

Oh, bother. Let's just wrap this up with me saying...

There is no better feeling in the world than finding out the person you're attracted to feels the same way in return. That trumps all other feelings. Except for love. To quote a friend, "Love knocks everything else out of the ballpark." Yeah, he used a cliche, but sometimes a cliche is needed.

Interesting enough, last night, after I read the blog post and was submerged in the cesspool of my thoughts, my sister ended up telling me someone I used to have a crush on now has one on me. It made me laugh, but there was still that little surge of "woohoo". I mean, ten years too late, buddy, but still, I did a fist pump and strutted around my house in my stretchy pants and tank top with a bit of a bounce in my step.

Attraction. It's rather inexplicable at times.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I write a blog. Every week I post a vlog. I have a Facebook, a Twitter account, a fan page and even a YouTube channel. Many strangers, people I have never met or spoken to, know what I look and sound like. People follow my blog. They subscribe to my YouTube channel. Some people even comment on things I post or like my status updates.

I am not famous, nor am I a household name. People don't ask for my autograph, except that one time, which was awkward because I still don't know who the girl thought I was. I hope she didn't sell my John Hancock on EBay. Or, if she did, I'd like to know how much she sold it for.

To me, all this intersnackery is a bit overwhelming and I can't honestly say why I do it. It isn't because I think I have something to say, or because I like the attention. Maybe it's because there are thoughts bubbling up in my head, needing to be released, and this is the only way I can think to do it. If I didn't post these things, perhaps I'd be loopy and weird. Or loopier and weirder.

For the most part, this whole Tee L Tyson thing is a bit surreal. The truth is, I'm no one special. Except to my mother, she thinks I'm pretty damn special. And my dad. My sister might think I am special, but that's an inside joke and really not very PC of us, so I won't share. But in the grand scheme of things, I'm just a blip on the radar of life. Not important. Insignificant.

Not too long ago I came to terms with being insignificant.

Don't get your back up about it. It's okay. It isn't a sad thing to admit. It's the truth. I am insignificant.

You see, I won't change the world. I can't change how people think. Despite my desire to free the animals, stop the pain and suffering and eradicate war and hunger, I know I can't stop these things. They are, like so many other elements of life, out of my control. Regardless if I live another ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, or if I die tomorrow, the world will keep rotating. The sun will still rise and set, the moon will continue to mingle with the stars in the night sky and people will continue to live their lives.

When I die, the world won't stand still for me. And I'm okay with that. Because someone, somewhere will. If only for a second, when my life ceases to exist, a person, one single individual, will stop and take notice. They might even offer me up a kind thought. Or perhaps even two. To me, that's all I can ask for.

For the most part, our lives and deaths won't make an impact. We won't make headlines in the paper. We won't be remembered for all eternity. Books won't be written about us. Our phrases won't be coined. And our faces won't make it onto t-shirts. We will simply slip away and cease being.

If you think about it, most of us, if not all, are only a couple of generations away from being erased from existence altogether. If I die tomorrow, my siblings might teach their children about me and perhaps their children might mention their aunt to their offspring, but eventually, the memory of me will fade.

I find people are afraid of being forgotten, but why? It won't matter because you'll be gone. Many people have been forgotten before you and many more will be forgotten after. We can't control what happens once our physical self passes on, so I find it amusing that we worry ourselves over it while we are here. What a colossal waste of time and energy.

They say life is short, but that's a vast understatement. It's a blink of an eye. I went to sleep and woke up ten years older. Why would I spend any second of my life worrying about what's going to happen after I've shuffled off the mortal coil? It doesn't make sense.

This doesn't mean that you have to stop searching for your happiness or looking for someone to love you. No, not at all. If anything, those things are more important. By embracing your insignificance, you're freeing yourself to focus on more meaningful things. Don't stress over whether or not someone will pay ten thousand dollars for a pair of your undies on the Internet and start focusing on making your heart lighter.

I'm not saying don't try to change the world. By all means, recycle, don't eat meat, protest, make signs, write blogs, do vlogs, stand up for what you believe in and fight the things you think are cruel and unfair, but don't do that for the future. Do it for the now. Because the now is what matters. Life is meant to be lived. Only by living your life, by experiencing all the joys and heartaches life has to offer, will you be able to pass from this life content. And that's all we can ask for. A nice, big slice of contentment.

In all honesty, I don't know how anyone can look up at the night sky, at all those twinkling stars, at the expanse of immeasurable space, and think they are anything but insignificant.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Last Night

I got married.
In my dreams, that is. 

A part of me feels the need to put it down somewhere.
Luckily, I have a blog where I can post whatever I damn well please. 

This fellow and I were standing in this open field where one lone oak tree stood, proud and immovable.

I swear it was Autumn because there were red and yellow leaves littering the grass,  but my clothing wasn't indicative to the season.
I wore the simplest white sundress.
It reminded me of those baby doll night gowns girls used to wear.
There was a breeze in the late afternoon that caressed my legs and played with the fabric.

My hair was down, which is unusual for me, and it ruffled around my face.
To be honest, it looked lovely and if I could get my hair to look like that I would wear it down all the time.
The man I was marrying reached over and brushed it off my face. 

For a moment, there was eye contact and I felt myself blushing. And I thought, how nice, to have those feelings for the man I was marrying.
 Then his hand found mine and he gave it the gentlest squeeze as if to say, "I'm here."

A wind kicked up and the leaves of the oak tree rustled.
We both turned our faces towards the heavens.
I remember the leaves well because they reminded me of Pink Lady apples.
And I always want to buy that type of apple, but every time I do I am disappointed with it. 

The thought made me laugh in my dream.

And there was an incredible sense of calm  to the whole thing.
Neither of us were afraid or anxious.
It just was. 

A woman married us in a simple ceremony.
A few other people were there, but they didn't matter, because we were there for each other, not the onlookers. 

And then there was a kiss. 
A kiss so soft I questioned whether it even happened.

Then we walked off with no direction or destination. 

And this dream was as close to a fairytale as I've ever thought up. 
So vivid and rich. 

And oddly real.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Denying The Muse

Like I've said a handful times before, I used to be the Queen of beginnings. For the longest time, I wrote stories I never finished. Beginning after beginning, start after start and nothing to show for it, except a truck load of half stories that I never wrapped up. I feel this is the curse of an overactive imagination.

A lot of writers talk about their 'muse'. This is basically what we call our imagination. Some people even name them, things like Bob and Flutterbutt DeBarnacle, and give them characteristics. The idea of a muse is a bit crazy if you break it down. A lot of non-writers don't understand why we have them. Well, a muse to a writer is much like an invisible friend is to a child. They keep us company when we're all alone, or in really boring, never-ending business meetings. In a lot of ways they keep us sane, while giving the world the impression we're completely off our rocker.

Writers, like fingerprints, are all uniquely different.

Some need complete silence while others need music. There are some people who can create under any circumstances. They have the luxury of being able to shut the world around them out. Others need to lock themselves away, burrowing themselves in a dank, dark cave as far away from humanity as possible. Some even write with their laptops precariously perched on the arm of their couch with the television playing the latest episode of something they can pay little attention to, a cat laying across one arm and a dog's head in their lap. The later might be close to what I experience on a day to day basis.

But that's all physical environment and, in reality, there is another environment writers are tested with every day. The mental environment. Humans are moody bastards. We allow the people around us to dictate our moods, as well as the weather and trivial things like how many dishes are in the sink. There are some writers out there who can write no matter what mood they are in. I hate them with my whole heart. Just kidding. Well, sort of. I just went through a very tedious couple of months where I was unable to write a word. Even the outgoing dirty emails I like to send screeched to a halt. (That's another joke.) For me, I need a mental environment like a soothing rainy day, calm, slightly gray and a total sense of not caring.

The key to becoming a successful writer (which I gauge by works completed and not books sold) is to know what environment you need in order to utilize your muse. A lot of writers will agree, if something is off in their house or mind, they won't be able to write. You hear writers talking about 'writer's block' and, if I am being blunt, I think it's a crock of crap. (Sometimes my way with words shocks even me.) As I am not one to state anything without telling you why, here's why:

No matter what a writer says, they are never completely blocked. Never. They can stream out a paragraph of complete dung if they wanted to. The thing is, they have a standard of writing they like to craft. It's when they feel their standard isn't being met that they lean back in their chair, throw their hands in the air and say they have writer's block. Creativity isn't like the heart. The arteries to the muse are never clogged with fat. There is no surgery to get you back on track. Doctors can't stick a shunt in your imagination to clear it out. The truth is, your imagination is always there, but sometimes it doesn't function the way you want it to. 

This is when you have to step back and take a look at your environment, physical and mental. I can almost guarantee you a hundred percent that something is off. Did you move your furniture around? Is the season changing? Got a headache? Did someone annoy you at work? Irritating song stuck in your head? Even something as insignificant as changing your haircut can mess with your mojo.

The key is to not despair. You can adjust your environments to get your muse talking to you again. And sometimes, it speaks a bit softly, so you really have to listen. Oh, and you might notice it strikes when you least expect it. Usually, for me, late at night when I have to be up in a couple of hours. Know when it likes to deliver its message and wait for will come.

Most of us are accustomed to jumping to attention when the Muse graces us with their presence. But I believe in denying the muse. It's something I've started doing in the last two years. I don't sit down to write a novel until I've allowed the idea to fester for awhile. Unlike many writers, I don't plot or draft or outline. No. I mull. I turn the idea over and over and allow my imagination to run rampant until I've sorted the ideas out in my head. Then, and only then, I sit down and writer 'chapter one' at the top of a new word document.

Denying the muse is important for me. It has stopped me from being the Queen of beginnings and allowed me to actually end a few things. Don't get me wrong, I have a vast array of twenty page stories that I don't know if I will ever finish. But I also have a few completed novels under my belt as well. And that's all because I had the guts to deny my muse. To cultivate my idea. To water it. To let it grow until it was ready to be put on paper.

Much like a lover, the muse needs to be wooed and teased. Sometimes playing hard to get can work wonders. After all, it is the thrill of the chase. And do you want your muse thinking you're easy? Heavens, no! It's okay to make it work a little for your attention. Toss things up a bit. As we all know, variety is the spice of life. And it's always good to try new things.

Take that as will.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Miss Independent

Women can do anything a man can do. I know some men will scoff at that and say, "Well, you can't pee standing up."

Actually, thanks to the SheWee, we can.
I've always been one of those girls who thinks sex doesn't really matter. Except when I lay down at night. Then it's all boys, boys, boys. Or, if I am telling the truth, man, man, man. Yeah, I like them older and...only one at a time. Because...

I don't think that needs explaining. I'm pretty sure most of you understand why gang-bangs and orgies aren't necessarily my bag. Not that I have anything against people who like to partake. I mean...


How did I get so off subject?

As much as I like to sit by and watch a man hammer a nail (that sounds dirty!), I am perfectly capable of hammering a nail myself. You know, I remember a time when my ex and his father were sitting around laughing over how small my hammer was. Granted, the joke was on them, because my ex didn't even have a hammer. Who was inferior then? Yeah, that's right. And my tiny hammer still did the job. Like they say, it isn't the size of the hammer but how hard you swing it.

Okay, I may have just made that saying up.

I am fiercely independent which kind of goes against the whole damsel in distress thing. It can also put a damper on a relationship. My mother once told me guys like to feel needed. Which sort of is a problem when I don't think I need anyone. It would be like a prince trying to rescue the princess from the people-eating monster only to have her already slay the beast before he arrived. If it was me, I'd then push past the prince, climb down the rope and ask, "What took you so long?"

Blame my father. He never made any excuses when it came to sexes. Boy or girl, it didn't matter. I've done everything with my dad from car mechanics to demolition to holding a goat down and grinding out its hooves. Actually, I've always been the one to jump at the chance to do those things. Maybe it's because I wanted to prove I was just as good as a son, if not better.

Oh, and don't go all Freud on me. I don't have daddy issues. My father has openly admitted that without daughters his life would have been a heck of a lot harder. All the quality time with my father, building sheds and scooping dog crap, instilled in me the need to get things done and get them done right. When I think about my childhood, some of my favourite memories are the ones where I am helping my father. The most cherished are his looking over his glasses and asking me to tell him what colour a wire is. Nothing like a man who is colourblind trying to rewire something.

I moved out a very young age. Seventeen. Ever since then I've taken care of myself. I've always been the one to make sure I am clothed, fed, warm and clean. No one else is responsible for those things. I don't know anyone who would want to be responsible for those things.

To further drive home how independent I actually am I will tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, about five years ago, I'd just moved in with my ex and I was suffering financially. It was because I owed money on my last apartment and then the mortgage overlapped with the strata fees. Regardless, I found myself at the bare minimum when it came to the green. I had to do what I'd never done before...ask for money.

I went to my dad. All I needed was a couple hundred to get me through until payday, but asking for it devastated me. I felt like a failure. I remember crying as I asked him for it. Which, if anyone knows me, I'm not really a big fan of crying.

In the moment, it was the lowest part of my life, which is odd because a lot worse had happened to me. It wasn't that I thought my dad would think less of me. There was no way he would. It was because I thought less of myself. I had let myself down. That's how hard it is for me to ask for help. Even from my own father who thinks I'm great.

My dad didn't hesitate in giving me money. And, two weeks later, when I gave him the money back he was a bit insulted. I didn't need to repay him because I'd never asked for anything. I told him I had to pay him back. And I did. I forced him to take that money.

Of course, when my ex found out I'd gone to my dad and not him I was in a bit of trouble. But that's a story for another time.

Not too long ago, I thought asking for help was weak. This was right around the same time I thought crying was weak. Not for other people. No, I admired others who could cry and ask for help without batting an eye. Weak for me. I know neither of these things are weak. Actually, it's the reverse. Doing these things are an act of strength. Unless you're doing them every day, then they are back to being weak. Funny how that works.

Like a good cry-fest, you have to know the right time to bring in help.

This last Tuesday I would have loved to have called in help. I even entertained it, but then again, I am stubborn. And I like to do things for myself. Here's what happened:

And the truth is, just between us, I actually do want to be rescued. I'm sure my prince is out there. He's probably just waiting for the right moment to save me from the fire blowing dragon. Right? Right???

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On Being Cool

I've never been cool.

I doubt I ever will be cool.

But I know cool when I see it.

This is cool:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

That Thing, That Thing

No, I am not channelling Lauryn Hill this fine Wednesday morning. That said, I kind of want to hear 'Doo Wop'. I'll be right back...

Alright, let's get down to business. I figured my lovely blog followers might be getting a little sick of my contemplative blogs. I mean, they're entertaining and well-written, but all you're learning about is me, me, me. As awesome as I am, I think it's time for me to do a blog about the written word.

Today I have selected a pet peeve of mine.

What, another one?

Why, yes. I have a few. Shocking, I know.

One day I'm going to post a blog about the things I actually like and completely throw you for a loop. Jaws will drop. Gasps will be heard. And, chances are, pigs will fly.

Lately, I've been spending a fair amount of time reviewing other people's work, both on websites and through email. I love it when people ask for my help. For a couple of reasons, one being that it gives me a little ego boost to hear people think I actually know what I'm doing! Sometimes it keeps me awake at night knowing I've fooled so many people.

All jokes aside, there are a few problems I see repeatedly when I am reading people's work through. (I'd say editing, but I have never been an editor. You can tell this by the state of my manuscripts) The most glaring issue for me is 'had' and 'personal pronoun starts', one of which I have blogged about previously, the other is waiting in the wings to have its moment of glory. The third, and easiest to correct, is one simple word.


That's the word. That.

This word constantly overruns new authors' novels, to the point where it can actually be a bit embarrassing when it's pointed out. Of course, I say this as someone who knows. A kind lady once pointed out the overwhelming amount of 'that' in my first novel. Actually, she only pointed out how many I had in the first chapter (close to 50) and I'd be lying if I said there weren't upwards of 2,000 that ended up being removed from my manuscript. This is where my cheeks turn red. The ones on my face. Just to be clear.

I suppose some of you are probably thinking, how could anyone not realize they are using a word THAT much?

Easy. We don't see it.

Often we write how we talk and, as authentic as it might seem to do so, it tends to weaken our writing. More often than not, 'that' in narrative is unnecessary. In dialogue, where I think it is more acceptable to use, I feel we still need to be careful we aren't overusing it. I am a firm believer in the importance of writers knowing what words they rely on. Bill Withers might want you to lean on him when you aren't strong, but no one should use any word as a crutch for weak writing. Once you recognize the words you depend on, whether they are 'that' 'just' 'only' 'really' or any of the other pesky critters that sneak into our stories without us noticing, then your writing will become stronger, your sentences fluid and you might end up growing as a writer. 

And that's what this journey is all about. Growth.

I have a feeling a few people are reading this blog and wondering what the heck I am talking about. Well, I love to explain myself and examples always seem to drive the point home. So, here are four examples for you to review before I continue:

After the day's events, Sherry thought that she needed a nice bath to ease her muscles and her mind.

Thinking back on the mistakes that I made in high school, I don't know that I would have changed them if given the option. 

The moon that hung in the sky was like a beacon calling me forward.

All I wanted, more than anything, was to know that he cared.

As per the rules, we don't critique my examples. We accept them for the terrible writing they are and move on.

These sentences have one thing in common (other than being poorly penned) which is the word 'that'. Obviously. I mean, that's what this blog is about. In these instances, we can eradicate the word and pretty much leave the sentence as beautiful and awesome as ever.

After the day's events, Sherry thought she needed a nice bath to ease her muscles and her mind.

Thinking back on the mistakes I made in high school, I don't know if I would have changed them if given the option.

The moon hung in the sky like a beacon, calling me forward.

All I wanted, more than anything, was to know he cared.

Actually, in a lot of cases you might notice the sentence is sturdier without the pesky word clogging it up. Also, paying attention to this sneaky little critter will help with your word count. There's an old saying, 'less is more'. The fewer words you use to say something, the better. Just like people on a diet trim excess weight from their muffin-tops, we writers tackle the task of trimming excess words from our sentences. It isn't easy, but no one is going to do it for us and, in the end, we want a novel that is clear, concise and not-so-clunky.

Here is the point where I stress for the masses (and those who already are irked) that I don't want you to cull all the 'that's from your manuscript.

And in case that isn't enough, I will make it clearer by saying: 

Sometimes the word 'THAT' is necessary.

Sometimes you have to have it. And sometimes we use it to convey tone and expression. Here are some instances where I would let 'that' go forth and do its job:

Aren’t we supposed to avoid making the same mistakes our parents made? Isn’t that our goal?

 "Honey, did you here that?"

And it didn't matter that her parents couldn't love her the way she wanted them to.

That thought never even crossed her mind.

In these examples, I think they are justified. They add expression, tone and swagger. It's like your oddball Aunt Judy. A visit from her every once in awhile is great because she adds a bit of colour to your life and energizes everyone with her boisterous, larger-than-life ways. But you always know when she's made one too many family appearances because everyone gets exhausted and needs a break to regain their strength.

Please keep in mind, if you do notice an exuberant amount of instances where you feel the word is needed then I suggest taking a deeper look. No one needs ten thousand instances of 'that' in their manuscript. And I do mean no one. Rework those sentences and be aware.

The main purpose of this blog is to make you privy to how easily this word is overlooked and how it can slip into your writing without you even realizing it. I have a feeling a few of you are going to go run the 'find' function on your novels to see if this word is an issue for you like it was for me. Don't freak out when you see all those highlighted examples because, and this is the great part, they are easily adjusted and removed. There is a bright side to this. Once you're aware of this often overlooked word, you never forget about it in the future. When writing, you will notice it and be able to decide whether there isn't a stronger way of writing what you want to say and if that 'that' is really necessary or not.

Well, I'm glad we sorted that out.