And So It Begins

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Let’s get right to it.

The holiday season can be stressful. Unless you completely Grinch-out for the next six weeks, there’s likely to be a day or two (or forty-something) that are challenging.

Here are some ideas to help maintain enough sanity so you’re less likely to require legal help (with nods to Keenan and Kait). I promise to avoid the obvious… exercising and saying no are givens, right?

  • Take a whiff of something citrusy. Studies show this can be a huge mood elevator. Dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on a handkerchief and keep it handy.

 

  • Work your hoku spot—that fleshy place between your index finger and thumb. If you apply firm pressure (I like to massage it) for 30 seconds, you can reduce stress and tension in your upper body.

 

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. —Sylvia Plath

 

  • Consider letting go of old customs and starting some new traditions. This can be especially important if your family has suffered loss through death or divorce or a relocation. Maybe you have friends in a similar situation and can begin something new together.

 

  • Honey is truly an elixer worth paying attention to. The darker the honey, the more positive impact it will have. I’m also told that if you can find local honey, it can help with any allergies you’re dealing with.

 

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. —Etty Hillesum

 

  • Unplug. Have you seen the commercial that’s curently running where the grandparents enforce a technology-free zone? Yeah, they use tech to get there, but it makes a point. I’m due for what I call a Pajama Day. Basically, I do as little as possible for the entire day and wrap myself up with a book. No makeup. Little cooking. No laundry. The only tech might be my Kindle.

 

  • Eat before you coffee. Studies have shown that caffeine on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar to spike which can lead to attention difficulties and irritability.

 

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. —A.A. Milne

 

  • Laugh like crazy. Your sanity might depend on it. Find a place that tickles your funny bone. (We have Becky, but she can’t be with us 24/7 and we should have backups.) Laughter centers us. It helps us let go of the strangling bits of stress that in the end really don’t matter.

 

  • For some reason, mango keeps showing up as a happy thing. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a fresh mango, jarred or canned, or a mango pie. I think at this point, we don’t look a gift mango pie in the mouth. We take it in our mouth.

 

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way. —Douglas Pagels

 

  • Giving a massage can be more beneficial than receiving one. Hello? Got a partner? Indulge.

 

  • Make sure and get some sunlight. If you live in a place like Alaska (waving to Keenan) you might need one of those artifical sunlight machines. Otherwise, get outside or figure out a way to sit by a bright window.

 

For fast-acting relief try slowing down. —Lily Tomlin

 

And finally:

Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down. —Natalie Goldberg

 

 

What have you found that helps you move from stress to relaxation? Does it work during the holidays? Or do you just close your eyes and basically hold your breath for the next forty or so days?

 

It’s all better with friends.

Accessorwhat?

 

It’s 4:07 in the morning. I know this because I steal a peak at my magenta colored plastic travel alarm (there’s a term you don’t hear these days) stowed in the drawer next to my side of the bed.

“Okay,” I say to myself. “This might be a good time to think of something to write about for my Mysteristas post.”

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My eyes open again. It’s 4:30. I think I have The Most Brilliant Idea Ever. Having been in this place before—sure I couldn’t possibly forget such a stunning concept—and then waking up a couple of hours later with only a hazy recollection, I grab paper and pen and record the basic info.

“Accessorizing” I write boldly at the top of the page. I tell myself I’ll check spelling later.

We accessorize ourselves, our homes. Our cars. (I add this for Tom Burns or any other straight man out there who might read our blog. Or women who happen to be car-buffs. And yes, Tom, I’m assuming. And gay male readers, I’m assuming. I know this is stereotyping and wrong on so many levels and opens me up for challenges that would be completely valid and deserved. But it’s 4-fricking-thirty in the morning. And I’m trying to be honest here.)

What about our books? I write with confidence.

Do we accessorize our stories with our worlds—geography or weather or decade? Do we accessorize our characters with unique personality traits or physical attributes?

Just like backstory, there’s a danger that we’ll over-accessorize or under-accessorize. Or choose the absolutely worst accessories possible.

Now, as I look at this Most Brilliant Idea Ever, I understand and appreciate the act of not writing things down at 4:30 in the morning.

Hazy is often the best way to remember my Most Brilliant Ideas.

 

It’s all better with friends. (And yes, I’ve reset the clock.)

 

Character Diversity—Should You?

 

 

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If I wrote a story and everyone in it was just like me, it would be um… boring. Even to me.

Writers know this, being the smart and savvy readers we are.

Instead, we write stories populated with individuals who are not only different from us, but different from each other. We work to understand their multi-dimensional personalities and to portray the most interesting bits of them in our fiction.

Male authors write female characters and female authors create male characters. Timothy Hallinan perfectly captures a ten-year old girl in his Poke Rafferty series. If Arthur Golden’s name wasn’t so prominently displayed on the cover of Memoirs of a Geisha, I would’ve sworn a woman had penned it.

Still, I’m sure there are plenty of examples of writers getting it wrong.

Interestingly, Hallinan’s series is set in Thailand, and Golden’s world was Japan. These two authors not only jumped gender and generational attitudes, but cultural and ethnic ones as well.

There’s some debate about whether that’s a wise thing for an author to do. Should a white woman even attempt to write about someone of color? Curiously, the negative assumptions seem to be directed toward white authors, not the other way around. Or maybe, it’s just where my attention is naturally pulled.

To me, it comes down to one word: Sensitivity. Promoting stereotypes is worse than using clichés. To me, it falls into the racist, or homophobic, or just plain ignorant category.

It’s also important to get input from people who are intimately familiar with the culture, the race, the sexual orientation, of a character you’re creating.

Having said that, I probably won’t ask for any input from White Supremecists about the characters I’m creating. But then, I’m not sure the word “sensitivity” is part of their world. Is that wrong of me?

Where do you fall in this debate? Does it matter? Do you care? 

Does Podcasting Pay?

(Just between us, my body has been falling apart the last week or so. I pretzled my back into a twingy-stabby antagonist, have begun clenching and grinding my teeth to the point of pain, and now fear I have an ear infection. My back is better, I dug out my dental appliance to wear at night, and I’ve curtailed my audiobook/TV Ears usage.

I’m just finding things are a little trickier these days than they used to be, that’s all.

Okay. I’m done. Poor Little Ol’ Peg is getting the boot.)

***

I want to talk about podcasting. Not podcasts (they were discussed on this blog here, by Kimberly G. Giarratano in 2016, and here, by Mia P. Manansala just a little over a year ago). I want to talk about the idea of creating a podcast (which I lump in with YouTube videos, which may or may not be wrong).

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Image by Florante Valdez from Pixabay

Before I go any farther, it’s important for me to let everyone know I am not a regular listener of podcasts. At the most, I’ve dabbled. I can’t exactly say why I haven’t been hooked, but I haven’t.

And yet…

Creating a podcast has been on and off my list for several months, with saved informational emails going back to last September. I haven’t done anything with anything because, well… it’s just one more thing to do. And it can be pretty expensive to get the right equipment to do the thing right from the beginning. Which, unfortunately, I can be pretty obsessive about.

On the other hand, every time I’ve spoken before a group of people, I’ve completely sold out whatever inventory I brought with me to sell. (With one horrible exception several years ago where a major local bookseller had me buy an extravagant amount of inventory because of an event with another author, and after several weeks I had to lug those sad puppies back home with me in Brown Paper Bags of Shame.)

So, I’m thinking… isn’t podcasting sort of similar to speaking in person? Okay, I get there’s no room for interaction, but don’t you think it’s a way to get “closer” to readers who might enjoy your books?

Am I delusional?

Have any of you tried podcasting? Do you have any advice?

 

It’s all better with friends.

 

Habit Rabbit

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to develop bad habits rather than good ones?

  • Streaming the next episode of the new series you’re watching instead of working out that problematic plot point in your story.
  • Going on Facebook to see what’s happening rather than writing that blog post that’s due.
  • Googling “Icelandic Sheepdogs” instead of going to the grocery store.
  • Researching the history of thread (or anything else) and convincing yourself it’s relative to your manuscript

There are rabbit holes everywhere you look, and it’s easy to fall into them.

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At the same time (and you know this) it’s those good habits that make you feel… well, good.

  • Getting some exercise in first thing in the morning before your workday (or that next episode) makes it more difficult.
  • Avoiding carbs.
  • Prioritizing your To Do List and getting things scratched off.
  • Making your word count.

And even though I mentioned rabbit holes a few lines up, that isn’t where I was going with “Habit Rabbit.”

I tend to rabbit between good habits and bad ones. I know which ones make me happy, and which ones end up making me miserable and disappointed in myself. The trick is remembering that good feeling, and making the decision every single day to find it again.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes (and I have no idea who said it—I learned it at Weight Watchers, but it applies to so much more):

The chief cause of unhappiness is giving up what you want the most for what you want at the moment.

Do you rabbit? Have you ever? And if so, what things bring you back to those good habits?

It’s all better with friends.

 

Pretzel Knots

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I’ve learned something interesting about myself by writing this current manuscript.

While I’m not rigid, I’m not as flexible as I thought I was.

In general conversation with some friends, I mentioned that I needed a clever way to track the culprits taking potshots at car tires in Aspen Falls. Not ballistics. That’s too common. Something else. One friend got a devilish gleam in his eye and told me had just the thing.

So I took The Thing, and assuming it viable, researched how to make it happen. I learned about different tools and techniques and access and wrote and wrote and wrote. As you know, you do way more hours of research than actually make it into your story, but I bet there’s a good 7500-10000 words that have been written based on The Thing, or at least surrounding The Thing.

Which, as I recently discovered, isn’t. It isn’t The Thing. It isn’t A Thing.

It isn’t anything.

Some people, finding themselves twisted into a pretzel and knowing they have a significant rewrite ahead of them, would simply untwist the pretzel and delete the words, no matter how much time and effort and story had gone into them. I’ve never had a problem with killing my darlings, but somehow I couldn’t do this.

Some people could say, “Oh, I’ll come back and clean that up later. It’s not the main piece of the story. No problem.” They’d put The Thing in a drawer and, when they were finished with the rest of the draft, pull it out of the drawer and deal with it.

But mentally, rather than focus on pliable dough and “there’s more words where those came from” I found myself focused on the knot. This knot in my pretzel was hard and twisty and mocking.

And I was paralyzed. I knew I needed to slice out the knot and figure out what to do with the pretzel bits before I could move on. My desk doesn’t have drawers for a reason.

I asked for another solution. It’s totally not as sexy as The Thing. But it is a means to an end.

I learned that when Peg the Paralyzed Pretzel turns up, there’s no getting around it until I cut out the knot.

Have you experienced surprising paralysis? A pretzel knot that you can’t work around?

 

It’s all better with friends.

 

 

When FREE Isn’t

Piracy, the unauthorized use of copyrighted works, is a serious issue for publishers. Book piracy, whether in print or digital form, is costing publishers around the world billions of dollars annually. … Sharing illegal copies for free online means publishers lose out on sales and authors lose out on royalties. -–International Publishers Association

Google “book piracy” and you will see a host of optional sites from which to obtain books. Here’s a top contender: Merabheja. 

And speaking of Google, I finally gave up asking them to respect my copyright.

Part of the problem is that these pirate sites don’t use the words “pirated” books, or “stolen” books, but they use the word “free” book.

Another part of the problem is that some people don’t seem to care that they’re actually stealing. Doctors and lawyers and other professionals are “reading before they buy” because they’ve bought some losers, and swear that if they like the book, they’ll buy it. Other people say they’re “putting it to the man”, although it’s unclear who the man might be. If the man is a publishing house, their margins are getting squeezed, and if the man is the author… well, you see my point.

“I’m too poor to buy books.” Say a lot of readers who download from pirate sites.

“How do you read the books you download off that site?” (Sounds like a good question to me.)

“On my iPad.” Oy.

Some author friends of mine have taken to going on attack mode. They’ve hunted down their pirated books, sent threatening emails, and pretty much wasted their time (like I was doing with just one pirate site, Google). Their passion has shifted from loving what they do to just being angry at the world, including readers.

Other friends have simply decided there’s nothing they can do about it, why worry, and elect to consider it publicity, thereby giving their tacit approval of the enterprise.

I’m in between.

I have a passion for justice, but I also know my own limitations and what I’m actually willing to do. For about a year, I’ve contracted with Blasty whose job is to track down my books and remove them from what I consider to be criminal sites. I receive reports from them telling me how many “blasts” they’ve made of my books. Is it perfect? Probably not. But it’s one thing I can do—a statement I can make—without running the risk of becoming angry with readers.

What about you? How do you come down on theft of intellectual property and copyright?

 

It’s all better with friends.