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2019 So Far

Can you believe we’re nearly a third of the way through this year already? In some ways, 2019 feels like it started a loooong time ago, but in others it seems to be flying by.

In mid-January I made the executive decision to put our house on the market and sell it. My husband and I had been talking about it for a while, but I finally just decided: new year, new life. On top of selling the house (and buying a new one), I also went under the care of a nutritionist, and while that wasn’t 100% successful, I can say we have:

  • Sold our house
  • Bought a new one
  • Moved

And I’ve lost 15+ pounds since January as well. Still have those pesky final ten to go.

Also still have a lot of unpacking to do, but we’re making progress.

I could say that I “knew” 2019 would be a year of upheaval, but honestly, it’s really been the year I’ve felt majorly motivated to make big changes. The upheaval is all self-made. And I don’t regret any of it. I’d been stagnant and semi-discontented for too long.

As for writing, well… I’ve dabbled, but I’m not pushing it. I have plenty enough to keep up with at the moment, and I’m not burning to sit and spill onto a page (or, more accurately, a computer screen). Anyway, I am reading and rating scripts for a screenwriting competition, so that’s enough to keep my toes in the creative pool.

How is your 2019 going?

Does Writing Get Easier?

I saw this question posted online recently, and my immediate thought was: If it does, you’re getting sloppy.

Writing is work. Sure, there are days when the words flow, the characters follow directions, and the plot comes together. Those days feel magical. But I’ve worked office jobs, and I know that those kinds of work days can happen anywhere. Good work days and bad work days are not exclusive to writers. It’s just the nature of the good and bad that can make it seem so different.

People who don’t write can’t quite conceive of writing as “work.” This is because writers, despite all the trials, generally love their work. And some non-writers feel as if loving your work means it isn’t really work. But again, that’s not any more true for writers than it is for anyone in any other field. A construction worker could love his job, but it’s definitely still a lot of work. A computer programmer could love her job, but again, still work.

“Oh, but you sit in a chair all day and make stuff up.”

  • Plenty of people sit in chairs most of their working days.
  • Making stuff up isn’t as easy at it sounds. If it were, everyone would do it all the time, right?
  • Making stuff up and selling it to people is even harder.
  • Making stuff up, selling it to people, and having people like it enough to want more is hardest of all. If your job does not require you to please large quantities of diverse and sometimes very picky people on a regular basis, consider yourself lucky.

Do you remember having to write papers for school? Sure, often they were essays, but sometimes your teacher wanted you to write a story or a poem. Wasn’t that work? Wasn’t it in some ways easier to write the essay because at least you had a starting point, a topic handed to you?

Bottom line: writing is work. And I know many authors say they can spit a book out every month, or six weeks, or whatever, but I have to question the quality.

Good writing seldom goes quickly, and it never gets easier.

Still Here

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I’m just unpacking and sorting and lining up contractors, etc.

Last Thursday I finished up with cleaning our old house so we could had the keys over the new owners. Usually I’d say it felt strange to think we wouldn’t return to a place we’d lived for nearly seven years, but honestly, it doesn’t feel strange to me at all. I think maybe I was done with that house long before we actually sold it. At the very least I’d detached emotionally from it.

There are few places I’ve lived in my life where I immediately felt happy and at home, but I’m grateful to be able to say the new house is one of them. Still, the unpacking process is a slow one as we try to decide exactly where we want things and how we want to use the space. I love that my office is at the very back end of the house (in the old one it was in the front, with the window looking out at the porch).

At the same time as I’m organizing my house, my life, my world, I’m trying to decide what I want to do with myself. What do I enjoy (when I have the time)? Well, I like editing, and helping fellow writers work kinks out of their stories, and reading tarot for my friends. I like speaking to new writers about the process and industry, too. And I love being involved in theatre. Unfortunately for me, I don’t often get the opportunity to do any of those things. And that’s the really sad element to my life—that I’m not valued for any of the things I enjoy doing.

In the meantime, I mostly am relied on for keeping up with laundry, keeping groceries stocked, handling all things kid and school related, and also managing a certain amount of house-related things (like the pool). Since this takes up most of my time anyway, I guess I shouldn’t mourn that no one wants me for my other interests because it would be difficult to fit them in.

There you have it. I may or may not go back to writing if the bug bites. For now, I have plenty on my plate. But if you happen to have questions about writing, editing, or tarot… Feel free to ask.

Movies: Vice

Honestly, I didn’t know half of what this movie told me. I mean, I knew Dick Cheney was, well, a dick. Unapologetic and shady. But the way he laid the groundwork for our nation to nosedive the way it has? I had no idea.

Not that I’m surprised either.

I won’t say I’m any big fan of Adam McKay films. I like them okay—Moneyball, The Big Short—but they usually feel like lessons. Which I think is kind of the point. McKay wants to teach us things, and he’s looking for interesting ways to do that… I think? And I don’t mind that aspect at all. So I have to wonder why his movies are just okay for me. Is it because I don’t find the actual subjects that interesting? Is it because his sense of humor doesn’t entirely align with mine? Or that I feel like I’m being talked down to a bit?

So… yeah. This is a good movie, and informative. I can definitely see why it won makeup awards, and why Bale took home an Academy Award. But as with other McKay movies, I still walked away with a bit of a shrug.

And yet… Maybe because I do pay attention to politics now (and baseball and mortgages don’t particularly interest me), I was also quite amazed by how much damage and undermining Cheney managed to do and get away with. How many loopholes he sniffed out and exploited that, to this day, are being stretched to fit as many of these assholes through as possible. If nothing else, Vice is a call for major political reform.

It’s a little long and jumps around a bit; I found myself skimming Wikipedia partway through to get an understanding of the timeline. But also I’d been drinking wine, so maybe my issues were not universal.

Do I recommend it? Sure, to people with interest in politics and/or a hatred of Republicans. In case you needed fuel for that fire. I mean, Vice is entertaining in its own right, but… I wouldn’t say it’s entertaining enough for just the average, indifferent viewer to sit through and enjoy.

IWSG: April 2019

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

As I type this, we’re facing a weekend of moving house. That pretty much has all my energy and attention at the moment. But I did start working on a really old piece of writing that I dug up, and I’m enjoying that. I don’t intend to publishing (I don’t think); for the first time in a long time I’m just writing for me, for the pleasure of it.

I recently made a decision to quit pursuing an agent or publishers. And I may not self-publish anymore either, simply because the trials are too great: fighting piracy, trying to market, and all for so very little return. I know many self-published authors are supposedly raking it in (those are the stories one hears about, though I doubt they’re the norm), so I don’t know if I’m just bad at writing or don’t write what people want to read. Either way, I’ve mostly ceased to enjoy it. But this older piece… I’m having fun playing with it. So I’ll keep doing that for as long as it amuses me.

Question of the Month: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

I don’t know. I guess I won’t know until I reach that point. Once I got stuck, that’s when I’d want to put that wish to use.

AKA zmethos

I’ve had a lot of nicknames in my day; if you’ve read the FAQ, you know some of them. I’ve been Mandy, Manda Panda, Weeb (as in “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”), Data (from ST:TNG), Indy, Mac (for MacGyver), Sherlock… Not necessarily in that order. But my favorite nickname is still Methos.

It was given to me as an undergrad, and my core of friends eventually took the nicknames Kronos, Silas, and Caspian. You either understand this or you don’t, but after we rented Highlander 2 to see if it was as terrible as everyone said, we started calling ourselves the Zeistmeisters. For fun. No profit.

And so I became Zeistmeister Methos, or just zmethos for short.

I’m only mentioning this because it’s the name I’m using to repost my fan fiction. All of the fics are pretty old, but I’m “shelving” them online because I don’t have a way to open the old files any more. So in a lot of cases I’m having to re-type from hard copies.

Anyway, if you see anything by zmethos, that’s me. Or if on random sites you see really, really old stuff by A.C. Langlinais, that is also me. I’ll admit I’m tidying some of the stuff as I post it, so it may not be exactly like the original. Hopefully that’s for the better. At the very least, I’m trying to fix spelling errors and typos.

And now I’ll sign off in the way I used to do with my friends: ~ZM

The Romance is Gone

First off, sorry for being absent. I had surgery and now I’m in the throes of a house move. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing or blogging. And the truth is, I don’t feel much like writing these days. Despite having a number of projects on hand, nothing is speaking to me.

Or should I say no one is speaking to me?

I was trying to get to the bottom of why I’m not feeling the urge to write. In the past, I’ve had times when I don’t feel like writing, but the pressure builds up in me until I can’t not write. But this feels different. I’m oddly content, even though I’m not writing.

And I have all these WIP, filled with pretty solid stories and characters, but…

Ah. BUT.

I like a lot of my current characters. But I don’t love them. And that, I’ve discovered, is what I really need in order to feel pushed to write. I have to be totally, head-over-heels in love with my characters. (Or at least one of them.) And right now I’m not. I’m the author equivalent of single.

So what I need is a new romance with someone fictional. Until I find him or her, though, it appears I won’t feel that drive to write. Oh, I could try to force it, but we all know that love really can’t be manufactured. That’s true in fiction as much as in real life.

The right one will come along… Eventually…

Books: You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero

So… yeah. I haven’t read any of Sincero’s other books; I just found this one at the library and thought I’d give it a go. It’s not really a book meant to be read from start to finish, though, I don’t think. It’s more like a daily devotional. Actually, I feel like it needs to be put on one of those thought-a-day calendars or something? Or maybe the book needs to be expanded so that there’s an entry to read each day of the year?

As it stands, this is mostly very short bits of rah-rah encouragement and instructions on various meditation techniques. It’s a lot of “visualize what you want, feel it, and it will manifest” kind of stuff. I can understand and appreciate the sentiment, but I also feel books like these shortchange the real, true hardships some people face in life. Rather than deep and/or helpful, it comes across as somewhat glib. Part of that, I’m sure, is just that the entries in this book are so short; they’re not meant to dive deep. But there is a certain kind of self-help that feels like victim blaming, as though to say, “You could think and wish and visualize and meditate your way out of this if you just tried hard enough.” Um…

I also feel conflicted when books like this one highlight eating healthy foods. I know I should eat healthy, but between books (and online articles) like these and my nutritionist, I’m tipping toward self-loathing and guilt whenever I eat something I want to eat rather than something these people would approve of. And while this book doesn’t dig in when it comes to taking care of one’s body via eating and exercise, there’s just enough there to make the author sound judgmental. I don’t appreciate that.

So this isn’t a terrible book, but I do think it’s underpinned by some not very good things. And the bottom line is, I didn’t find it particularly helpful or inspiring or anything either. It didn’t say anything new or enlightening, just a lot of the same stuff you can find all over the internet and on motivational posters. Meh.

Books: The Ravenmaster by Chris Skaife

Chris Skaife is the current Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. That means he’s in charge of the care for the ravens kept at the Tower due to the superstition that, should the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the Tower will crumble and England will fall into crisis (or something like that). Here, then, is a quick and engaging read for anyone interested in ravens or maybe some British history. I finished it in one day.

Part memoir, part history lesson, part ornithological research, the book is a blend. I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but Skaife’s conversational tone makes it an easy book to sail through. He talks about his time in the military, which is relevant because one must have 22 years of unblemished military service to become a Yeoman Warder at the Tower. He talks about his work at a tour guide, what it’s like to live at the Tower with his family, a little bit of the history and superstition, and of course, he talks about the ravens.

The book, I think, is a little bit out of date already as (if I remember correctly from Skaife’s Twitter feed; he’s @ravenmaster1 btw) Munin has since passed and they have a new raven named Poppy. I kind of wish there were an ongoing blog, but I suppose Skaife is busy enough with everything else not to have to write posts too. (Or maybe there is a blog and I just don’t know it?)

Certainly, the ravens are the best parts of the book. Their antics are highly amusing, and at least once I teared up. But then, I love birds, and corvids in particular—three local crows have trained me to throw them peanuts, and I’m worried about them as we’re moving in a couple weeks. I’m sure I’ll make more crow friends at the new house… I hope…

In any case, I can’t help but agree with Skaife that corvids get a bad rap as birds of misfortune, harbingers of death, etc. They’re quite brilliant, actually, and if they turn up where death is it’s because they’re practical and scavengers. My crows recognize me and also my car; they know if I’m home because of the car, and they’ve been known to follow my car to my kids’ schools because they know I also keep peanuts in the car for them. They’ll follow me on my morning walks, too, so now I often bring a handful of peanuts in my jacket as well. They have me well trained!

In any case, I found this to be a fun read, though I’ve read from some that they didn’t like Skaife’s detours into his military history. But I think everything contributes to the big picture. Still, a book of anecdotes solely about the ravens would be great too. I can’t seem to get enough of that stuff.

Highly recommended for light reading and amusement.