Friday, August 29, 2014

Adventures in Meta (part 1?)

You know how easy it is to get sucked into a story when you're reading it, and even more when you're writing it? Well, blogger extrordinaire Kriss Morton asked me to get sucked into the world of my books "Fairy Godmothers, Inc." and "Huff and Puff" for her Fourth Wall Friday and spend some time with my characters Kate and Hortensia. I was happy to.

Unfortunately, I had no idea we'd get sucked into a Secret Princess Training Camp.


I woke up with a groan, opening my eyes just far enough for my brain to start screaming at me for making terrible decisions. I immediately shut them again, rolling over to my side and pressing my hand against the back of my throbbing skull. “What happened?”

Clich├ęd, yes, but head injuries wreak havoc on my ability to come up with witty dialogue.
“We’ve been kidnapped.” That was Hortensia, using that matter-of-fact voice that meant she wanted to gouge someone’s eyes out but hadn’t yet figured out the best way to go about it. Not that most people could recognize it – few people tended to be intimidated by a talking pig in a dress.

At least, until they found out what happened to her brothers.

“I still can’t tell if it’s my fault or Kate’s, but I’m leaning toward Kate’s,” Hortensia continued, having waited a respectful pause for my internal monologue. “BB’s enemies don’t tend to put people in holding cells that look like a birthday cake exploded all over it.”

Okay, that was unexpected. Deciding the knowledge was worth the suffering, I slowly opened my eyes to discover that the room we had been tossed into was ridiculously pink. There was bunting all over the place, swirled over the walls and bed as thick as icing, then tied up in a bow at every possible opportunity. On top of all that, someone had scattered tiny satin hearts.

It was horrifying.

Read more


If you'd be interested in reading even *more* than that, I'm considering continuing the adventure over on my blog. What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Being A Little Nicer To My Future Self

My future self will regret this eventually
My older self is going to be so mad at me.

When you’re young, it feels like there’s so much to worry about now that the future is the last thing on our minds. We have no time even for our lives right now, juggling our education, one, two or even three jobs, and all of our other responsibilities. The future will have to wait until we have a few minutes to spare.

We don’t have time for exercise, or to make ourselves a healthy salad instead of grabbing a too-salty chicken wrap from the local fast-food place. We definitely don’t have time to worry about retirement, especially when many of us are having trouble with month-to-month bills or even just finding a job. We definitely don’t have time to worry about forcing ourselves to drink milk or calcium supplements, especially when getting proper creamer in our coffee is sometimes more than we can manage.

At least, we tell ourselves that. What we don’t admit is that it’s hard to do things for a version of ourselves we can barely fathom, a distant figure that seems light years away. What right does that older you have to stop you from eating that chocolate bar? Will one less slice of pizza really make their life any better than it would have been? Why should we have to turn down our music? Shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves now, because when we’re old we’ll be in no shape to enjoy any of it anyway?

It’s easy to let ourselves get caught up in thinking that way, to almost resent the idea that we have to take the time to care for a version of ourselves we haven’t even met yet. There’s always time to change, isn’t there?

The thing is, there’s less time than you think.

Getting healthy at the last minute doesn’t erase the years when you’ve been stuffing your body with fat and letting your bones get thin and brittle. It’s like driving a car for years without ever doing any maintenance, letting the brakes wear thin and the oil lines clog up, and then expecting it to run great after a car wash or two.

It takes long-term care to keep your body at its healthiest. True, it will start to break down anyway – even the most well-maintained car runs out eventually – but a healthy body will take longer to lose steam. Slowing down is so much harder on your heart when it already has clogged arteries to deal with. Hearing loss is that much stronger when you’ve been pouring years of loud music into them.

Even though we don’t like to think about it now, we’ll all have to deal with the mess our younger selves leave behind. And when it does happen, we’ll probably wish we could reach back in time and throttle the people we’d been.

I’m sure I will. I know how much of a mess I can make.

So maybe I’ll start worrying about my future self a little more right now, before she shows up and tries to hurt me. I’m not sure how I’ll squeeze in time for that salad, but I can make my own sandwich instead of picking up a hamburger for lunch. I can park my car further away from work, and squeeze in a walk on my lunch break. I can start taking multivitamins, and drink that extra glass of milk even though I don’t really want to.
In the end, my older self will probably still be mad at me. But at least this way, she’ll know I tried. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Textual Salvation

"Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio
I've kind of been going crazy for the last several days. Something had had been working is suddenly not working anymore, the IT people deep in the heart of a faceless corporation that I desperately need to talk to won't acknowledge my e-mails, and to top it all off I was in a constant tailspin of worry that I wasn't figuring out a way to fix these things immediately. You know, my entire future was on the line, I was blowing my chance, failure was imminent, that sort of thing. It was all I could think about, and because there was nothing I could do to fix it I had absolutely zero interest in doing anything else.

Then I had a realized that I had a metric ton of writing to do, and the deadlines were about to hit me over the head.

It was like a miracle. All of my anxiety about my future and success suddenly narrowed down to the simple fact that if I didn't get these writing assignments finished, I would be screwed in very concrete and practical ways. I'm a journalist by trade, so I respect deadlines in a way I respect few other things in my life, and here was a whole stack of them in front of me.

My worry narrowed down in a wonderful way from things I couldn't control to things I could. Even better, I could control them by writing, which is something I would rather be doing than nearly anything else in my life. I'm terrible at social interaction, marketing, long-term planning or convincing people to respect me, but I am freaking great at putting one word in front of another.

I might not have been able to fix my life, but I could absolutely sit down and wrap up the blog assignment I had finally found the perfect idea for. I couldn't predict the future, but I could definitely start slugging my way through the pile of articles I had been putting off for days that had a very immediate deadline. I had little interest in being inside my own head, but I could happily fulfill my obligation to characters whose company I vastly preferred to my own.

Writing saved me, as it has before and as it undoubtedly will again. I see a purpose in it in a way I can't always see a purpose in myself, and I can give myself over to it wholeheartedly when the inside of my head is just a little more than I can take at the moment. Every time I write an article, a story or a poem, I am validating my own existence one more time. Yes, I may be kind of messed up, but look at this awesome thing I made.

I think ... no, I hope, that Robin Williams's movies saved him for a long time. Like everyone, I wish they'd been enough to hold him here with us even longer. And I wish for you all the inexpressible gift of finding some form of expression that might help save you. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Talking to people

I still don't know how to talk to strangers.

It's probably incredibly embarrassing that I'm a fully grown adult and haven't managed to figure this out yet, but I haven't yet been brave enough to ask anyone about it who might actually give me an impartial answer. See, I'm great at talking to my family and friends, because they already know exactly how weird I am. They've listened to me rant about a character who isn't doing what I want them to, or about how the dialogue in a particular movie was so terrible that it caused me physical pain, and they're still willing to associate with me.

But people I don't know well ... that's another story. I'm paralyzed every time I try to open my mouth, so used to my own eccentricities that I'm no longer sure where the line is between "Oh, how eccentrically charming" and "There's something wrong with you." I either say too much and end up looking nuts, or I say too little and sound like the most boring and unopinionated person on the planet. I've been trying to balance the two for decades now, and though I've occasionally managed to hit the sweet spot I mostly end up landing firmly in "Why did you do that?" territory.

The awful thing is that I'm a journalist, so talking to people I don't know well is literally my job. There, though, it's almost easier than it is in day-to-day conversation, since I don't have to talk about myself at all. The entire purpose of my job is to find out about the people I'm interviewing, and I'm curious enough that I'm fantastic about asking questions. The fact that I'm terrible at answering them never comes up.

So I talk to people for a living, but when I stand next to a stranger at a party I'm absolutely paralyzed. I've tried to steal from work and just ask them a ton of questions, but apparently in social situations that's weird, too. They always want to know why I want to know so much about them, and I haven't yet figured out a normal way to say "It's so much easier than talking about me."

So I'll keep guessing, and probably keep missing the balance by a mile. If you're ever one of the people caught in the crossfire, I'd like to apologize in advance.

I hope I don't scare you away.