Breaking the Silence…

I have not posted in forever because life has been a little bit crazy. What with school, work, and plenty of family I have been taking a break from posting on here. I have been so mentally tired that in my free time all I want to do is consume (reading and watching) rather than create new content. But I think my shaky little boat has stabilized and stopped taking on water and I’m gonna get back into paddling 😉

So here are a few things to look forward to:

1. Movie Reviews: I watched the new Star Trek over the summer and very much enjoyed it. I also discovered “Edge of Tomorrow: Live, Die, Repeat” and loved it! And I more recently watched Terminator: Genisys and already have some thoughts of what went wrong and right.

2. I am in the infant stages of branding! My graphic designer (if she reads this she will laugh at me for making myself sound so important) has begun work for me. I can’t promise a timeline for new graphics/book covers, but we are one step closer!

3. I really do intend to write more short stories. After reading “Into the Void,” my friend kept bringing up fringe characters that she found fascinating and I kept texting back: “I know. They deserve more…” There is so much thought behind my characters (even the main ones) and I want to start fleshing it out in short stories. Beyond that, there are some unrelated concepts that I want to develop.

4. I ran into an old supervisor at a baby shower. She read an early manuscript of “The Traveler,” and has been harassing me every since to tell her what happens next. So I was excited to let her know that I am finally working on the sequel. Her enthusiasm was encouraging. I was making some progress up until the summer, but that project too has been on standstill. The characters and plot have been haunting me, though, and I’m gonna get back to it soon.

5. Book Reviews: I haven’t been reading too much science fiction lately, but I do still need to do a review for Starship Troopers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes stories worthwhile and which ones are worth telling. Hope your summer has been filled with ice tea and lemonade and that you are as excited for fall as I am!

Why Life is Not Made of Magical Moments

I am not saying that magical moments don’t happen, or that they aren’t wonderful and worth holding onto. But they shouldn’t be what you live for.

Unfortunately, this is too often what films sell us. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that every film should hit us with the grim reality of life. I don’t have much taste for those films, either. And if you’ve read my blog at all you’ll know I am an advocate for using storyteller to instill hope in people. I love inspirational stories. But there is a difference between telling an inspirational story and telling a fluffy tale full of silver linings that gives people unrealistic expectations and makes them discontent with what they have.

Maybe I am the only one who’s struggled with this, but I used to think life was all about magical moments. Granted, there were some valleys in between those mountain tops, but they were just puddles to get through before experiencing LIFE. I have learned since that those puddles are life, too. And even though they can be hard and messy, they shouldn’t be despised.

There may be people out there whose lives really are a series of mountain tops. Congratulations, you are a rare species of unicorn. And I imagine you don’t want to waste much time watching movies because your life is so much more interesting. But for the rest of you out there I have a message for you:

There is beauty in the puddles, too. And to be clear I’m not talking about those artificial moments where the girl with the perfect hair, whose main problem in life is to choose between two beautiful men, has a moment of self-realization in the rain, accompanied by nostalgic music. That is only a shadow of true brokenness, and in truth it is still a magic movie moment. Because two minutes later she gets her happy ending. Real puddle moments are when you sob alone in a stairwell (and wipe your snot on your jeans because you don’t have tissues) and no one ever sees you. And then you stop crying, wipe your eyes, and keep going with life because that’s what has to be done. There is no hero music. And there is no one to rescue you.

Believe it or not, when I experienced those moments, I used to say to myself: if I can only get through this, I bet there is a magical moment coming soon. It can’t all be bad, right? But sometimes you go through years of nonstop bad and at the end there is no magical rainbow that makes it all okay, instead there is only “less-bad.”

So here’s my personal resolution: I am going to fight for the things that are important to me and live every day to the full, even if it is a puddle day. Then, if I happen to stumble upon a magical mountaintop moment, I will appreciate it all the more because it wasn’t expected. My life is not on pause, waiting for good things to happen. My life is happening right now in the messy, painful, but beautiful struggles of everyday life. Nobody may see them, and they may not be romantic, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have meaning.

 

How Seasons Have Made Me a Better Writer

I grew up with two seasons: rainy and more rainy. Then later on in southern California it was hot and dry and then chilly and dry. The first time I experienced winter was after my parents moved to Idaho. But I was only visiting for Christmas and only had to put up with it for a few weeks. My first full winter was a trying experience. I used to think cabin fever was a weird dance from “Muppet Treasure Island.” But it’s real, folks.

Now, I embrace the seasons (mainly because resistance is futile- if the Borg were talking about winter they’d have it just about right). They have taught me a heck of a lot about life and about writing–and no, I’m not just talking about learning to describe nature.

Spring. No one ever told me that some trees and bushes bloom yellow before turning green. When the air is crisp and fresh there are moments when spring and fall look almost exactly identical. Only spring is fall in rewind. Patterns are good and sometimes it’s okay for your character to face the same circumstances twice because the outcome will be different. 

Spring. As much as I love Francis Ford Coppola, his gorgeous spring montages in “The Secret Garden” gave me the impression that everything blooms at once. Well, if not all at once, at least within two weeks of each other, right? Wrong. I did not realize that spring comes in waves. The daffodils bloom while most things are still dead. And they in turn, have faded and died by the time the irises peek their purple heads out. It is rare to have all good things come at once. In real life, even the purest joy is tempered by struggle and sadness close by. But that only strengthens the beauty of that joy. 

Summer. No matter how many seasons we’ve been through, humans often have a tendency to think the one they are in at present will last forever. And summer heat has a way of melting winter from your mind. But the human heart doesn’t always heal as fast as the earth. And just because everything looks green and warm, doesn’t mean there is real life beneath. While winter may be cold and harsh, it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It is brutally honest. There is something about summer that can too easily spread a thick, warm glaze of fake over any imperfections.

Fall. Just as spring is a painfully slow awakening, fall is a drawn out death. Sometimes the best seasons in life are not the easy, breezy summers, but the melancholy days of struggle marked off by the sound of dripping leaves. There is something beautiful about watching a town prepare for winter. You see it in advertisements, closed up doors, jackets and raincoats, but you also hear it in the change of conversation. And you see it in peoples’ faces: “Here come the snows again. We will survive.” There is beauty in patient resignation to difficult circumstances. 

Winter. I have so much to say about winter. Some of it I have already said, and some of it I will say again. Humans have a remarkable ability to endure, and the life under pressure is one of the most worth examining. I suppose there are people out there who only endure a handful of “winters” in the span of their lifetime. But the rest of us go through periods of “winter” on a regular basis. Some of us live at the North Pole. And although it is not fun to live winter, stories about winter are some of the best stories to read because they speak to your very soul.

Is Common Sense Dead in America?

So I’m not one to go pushing my political views, although theoretical politics are very interesting to me. In truth, there aren’t a lot of political leaders out there who I respect and feel I can get behind fully. But over the weekend I watched an interview with attorney/author Philip K. Howard and I was very encouraged.

He’s not pushing a party agenda (he even admits he basically hates both parties). He is looking at the legal system in America and how it needs to change. He is a thinker.

I have spent some time in social work and I completely relate to the frustrations he talks about–having to live by a hundred regulations instead of being able to actually do your job.

I really recommend you take some time to listen to the interview below. And feel free to share your thoughts as long as you are respectful!

Dialogue With Philip Howard

And here’s another video of him:

 

The Eve of New

I was going to write about whether or not to cater to readers, but then I realized I wanted to do a New Year’s Eve post! (So that one will come next week)

It’s here. The Eve of the New Year.

I love New Year’s. Where I grew up it was celebrated with fireworks, roman candles, and loud noise poppers that scared the last twelve months right out of you. It seems a bit more dull these days. But the anticipation is always there.

Time is an amazing thing to me. I have spent hours contemplating it and even wrote a couple philosophical papers on it. (E-mail me if you’re interested in reading them lol) I think it is strange that we have such a rigid construct which affects our perspective of it. Why is December 31st the last day of the year? Is there really something firm and tangible that separates one year from another? Doesn’t time flow evenly? But I suppose it is helpful to our little human minds to have an end and a beginning. I know that it is helpful to me.

Sometimes you get stuck in those seasons that seem to never end…unemployment, difficult family members, difficult friends, grief, frustrating jobs…Sometimes there is no end in sight. Sometimes I think the only way we can bear it is to have endings and beginnings in other areas of our lives.

And so no matter what your job situation is, or no matter what your family is going through, or no matter what struggles you are facing, I am here to tell you 2015 is coming to an end. There will be struggles next year, but there will also be joys.

I used to say this to the girls I mentored all the time: “Most of the time you can’t choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude.” I usually have naive hopes and dreams for the next year, and I secretly know that they probably won’t come true. But at the same time, I have the ability to choose the person I will be in the midst of circumstances.

This past year was nothing like I expected it to be. It had its share of stress and joy. One thing I am thankful for is that I didn’t give up writing. In fact, I made a number of steps to develop and enhance my writing career, and I am proud of the progress I have made. It has influenced me in a positive way and boosted my confidence.

In 2016 I hope to publish two books and write a third. But I also hope to produce some more short stories. I hope to share more and receive feedback from the people around me. I hope to spend time with people I love and even learn to love the people I spend time with. I don’t want life to pass by in a blur. I want to utilize every moment of every day. Those are some of my goals for 2016. But that book isn’t out yet and we can only speculate about its plot.

Happy New Year

Driving in the Clouds

candle

I don’t know if you live in a climate that experiences snowfall. I didn’t until my twenties. You learn a lot.

We had a beautiful snowfall tonight. The unique thing about winter is that sometimes the conventions are thrown out the window. Traffic laws are strictly upheld all year round. But there is a time just after the snow falls when the road is not entirely visible. The first cars to pass over often have to guess where the proper lanes are and everyone after them just follows in their wake. I love it. I love creating a new lane in the snow, knowing that I may be over the boundary line and that as long as I’m doing my best, it’s okay.

Up here drivers are patient and graceful-especially in the winter.

And sometimes if the wind is blowing just right it carries the snow over the road in gusts that look exactly like swirling clouds. There’s nothing else like it. If you’ve never experienced it before I hope you do.

As always, I find myself looking for the opportunities when circumstances are out of my control and I can sit back and watch the beauty of the elements.

For all of you in winter climates: drive safe. And be mindful this week before Christmas. Bills, jobs, and responsibilities can consume your life. Take time to enjoy the people and the beautiful moments around you. Find time to be still.

Winter Thoughts: The Best Things Are Worth Fighting For

Every spring I greet the warm sunshine like a long-lost friend and I wonder how I made it through another winter. In summer, winter seems like a bad dream. And when fall sets in I always brace myself for the inevitability of the ever-approaching frozen season.

But when winter actually arrives I am surprised by my own maturity. There may have been times in the past when I curled up in a ball under a blanket and refused to come out, but that has become a rare occurrence.

Today I drove around the nearby lake and was reminded how stunningly beautiful winter can be. The trees were thickly coated with frost, with the rich brown undertones of their trunks peeking through and the lake creating an icy blue backdrop. And as I have learned with all weather, there is something comforting about the uncontrollable that affects everyone’s lives.

So I am back in the season of sweaters, jackets, scarves, boots, hot chocolate, twinkling lights, and sympathetic holiday gatherings. And I’ve realized that me and winter have come along way. I don’t hate it anymore. Our relationship is still bumpy at times, but we have fought through difficult seasons and come out stronger. And I think that I value winter because it has taught me so much about myself and life. I have come to value winter because it is not easy.

Some of the best things in my life are the ones I’ve had to fight for, or the trials I’ve endured that have made me stronger. I like a good fight.

I have fought very long and hard for “The Creation of Jack.” It started out with a lot of promise and a lot of half-baked ideas. I knew the emotional journey I wanted for the main character, but didn’t have much of an idea of how to get there. I needed more practice with writing and a lot more life experience. It started out immature, and probably a little confusing. Five years later it became much more. Not only did I land on a manuscript that I was proud of (that still moves me to tears), but “The Creation of Jack” became a launching pad for my sequel “Into the Void”–a book that has surprised and astounded me with its ambition, scope, complexity, and insight. I think it is the best I’ve ever written (which is what I always hope to say about my most recent projects).

So here’s to winter, and pushing through difficult seasons and difficult projects. The best things are worth fighting for and the best inspiration often comes out of the midst of the struggle.

Locus of Control

The locus of control is the extent to which individuals believe they can control events affecting them. Those with an internal locus of control believe they can control their own lives and they are responsible for their own success. In effect, they are “the captain of their own fate.” People with an external locus believe that external events, out of their control, tend to effect their lives. Those with an external locus of control tend to believe in things like luck and/or fate.

Have you ever thought about where your locus of control lies? It really can effect the choices you make and the perspective you have. It shouldn’t surprise you that the classic American locus of control has been internal. The culture I grew up in was much more external. Communities bond together to help each other through the ups and downs of life.

Whether your character has an internal or external locus of control will help determine how your character responds to failure, to waiting, to disaster, and to chaos. Is your character a fatalist? Or is she a fiercely independent woman, who thinks everything is either her fault or her well-earned victory?

Think of Ahab from Moby Dick. He was the ultimate fatalist. He could not turn back and save his crew because he believed he had no choice but to live the life prescribed to him. And then there’s Jim Kirk from “Star Trek,” who thinks he can do whatever he wants. He thinks the world revolves around him and it is his responsibility to bless the world with his success.

Interesting, isn’t it? But that immediately makes me wonder about my characters, especially Logan and Druce.

I think Logan tends toward an external locus. Part of the reason she can persevere through so much hardship is because she believes it is her “fate.” She doesn’t believe in avoiding problems as much as she believes in responding to them correctly. Druce, on the other hand, is much more action oriented. He grows frustrated when he feels like he cannot shape the situation. Those are my thoughts, anyway.

Although some might argue that as much as external forces have shaped her life without her consent, she maintains an internal locus–making her own decisions. I guess I’m a little divided on the issue. She’s certainly not ambitious. She makes the best of cards dealt to her. Perhaps she falls squarely in the middle. When she tends toward fatalism, Druce pulls her out and reminds her that she can make her own choices.

Of course, very few people are strict fatalists. I think most people strike a balance between them, depending on culture and upbringing. It’s an interesting question.

TCK Life- In Case You Were Wondering

What’s it like to be an adult TCK (third culture kid)? Well, I’ll tell you.

Imagine you have a cozy, comfortable room with hard wood floors and comfortable throw rugs. You’re accustomed to friendly conversation between your bare feet and the cool, supple wood, only interrupted by the soft embrace of textured carpet. Then one day your room floods with six inches of water. It’s quite the cold shock when you get up in the morning. Everything on the floor is wet. But you are flexible and you refuse to let a little water get you down. What’s more, you feel encouraged when you discover that all your neighbors’ rooms are flooded. In fact, they’ve been flooded for as long as they can remember, and they’ve done just fine.

The first couple days are novel. You find it almost exciting trying to figure out how to adapt your life to your new environment. You may even find the newness refreshing. But it really doesn’t take long for the frustration to creep in. You keep dropping important items into the water. You get tired of rolling up your pants to keep them from getting wet, and you start to miss the old conversations between your feet, dry hardwood and textured carpet. But you’re made of strong stuff and you persevere.

Time passes and the water doesn’t recede. But none of your friends seem to notice. They see nothing abnormal about rolling up their pants, carrying their shoes to the door, and drying their feet before bed. But you find yourself moving your furniture so you can climb to the door without setting foot in the water. You have dreams about sprawling on the floor and sliding across the wood in your socks. You begin to feel insane. And perhaps you are insane. And perhaps you will be insane for the rest of your life, but old habits die hard.

And that’s a glimpse of what being a functioning adult TCK. You’ve learned a lot of new skills. You like your friends. You’re by no means always miserable. But you still climb over your furniture and pine over dry, bare feet.

Some of you are wondering if I’ve lost my mind. But I think some of you understand…