Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Old Soul for the New Year

The Party’s Over, It’s Time to Call It a Day… One year ends. A new year begins.

The New Year is a special gateway, I believe. It’s a magical, mystical time for me. Maybe that’s what made me take that Internet quiz, “How Old is Your Soul?” What is on the horizon? What magic awaits? What challenges will I confront? This year will be like no other ever has been. What’s not to like about that?

The notion of old souls pulls at me. Since I believe in reincarnation, the idea that one comes back and back to resolve issues with individuals or character traits appeals. I get another shot (or six) at trying to improve myself. One gets to be an old soul, not by returning so much, but by working out those issues so that each lifetime has fewer areas in need of resolution.

When someone labels me an old soul, it’s supposed to be a compliment. A recognition that I am higher-evolved than many of their acquaintance. That I have learned many of life’s lessons.

The fact that I am again corporeal, am living another life after having lived many others, is evidence that I haven’t learned all I need to know to be the highest evolved. I am here to work out character flaws that keep me from the highest level. I know that two of mine are my judgmental nature that is directly tied to how difficult it is for me to forgive grievances.

Knowing that about myself is better than not knowing, but I fear I will leave this existence still
bearing the onus of those flaws. (See how judgmental I am?) I think I am still a toddler (in developmental terms) in mastering those two areas. Sigh. I think it will take me a few more lifetimes to figure out how to let go of them.

So much as I like the label of old soul, I have to say it bugs me to be so labeled. The implication is the one telling you that is an old soul, too, recognizing a comrade. It takes one to know one? Is that hubris or what?

While I do feel I have an awareness of what I need to work on, I don’t feel like an old soul so much as a mature adult who assesses what lies ahead and sets about to do it. I know, because I am actually old, that my soul will not accomplish its tasks in this body. I am too far from achieving the goal and seem unable to make myself do what I know needs to be done.

Sigh. I’ll be back! See you next life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why We Didn't "Do" Santa

As our oldest son and his wife near time for the birth of their first child, I wonder about what choices they’ll make as parents. You read books, you talk to other parents, but nothing really can prepare you for the out-of-the blue things to decide. Like perpetuating the Santa Claus myth in your family holiday tradition.

We chose, after our first son was born, truth. I had an easy transition as a child from the Santa myth to the Santa reality. That was made easier, I believe, because my earliest memories are of being told that Santa is the spirit of Christmas giving that we all should emulate. Giving is better than receiving. It’s the thought that counts not the cost. You know the lines.

DH, on the other hand, had a shocking and upsetting revelation about the Santa myth. He told me it took him years to get over it. And for a long time he wondered what else his parents had lied to him about. It eroded his basic trust in the two people he should always be able to count on.

Wow! That shocked me. In all the things I had been considering about parenting, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t do Christmas like my childhood Christmases. It never came into my consciousness--until he brought it up. We discussed it, and we decided to opt for honesty from the beginning.

Additionally, being Unitarian Universalists, we didn’t like all the threatening stuff around the Santa myth. Naughty or nice? List-making of deserving recipients? Watching you all the time? Yuck.  We were trying to give our children a moral core that said you are good and do good because that’s what people are supposed to do. You don’t do good to get a reward or for fear of punishment. Part of being human is making the world a better place because you walked here. That’s a responsibility you have.

In our holiday celebration we had stockings (and still do) and “Santa” gifts (unwrapped presents set out with the stockings), but we always told our kids that the gifts were from us. So give us a list, don’t keep anything secret. If you don’t tell us, it ain’t happening since there’s no man in a red suit who can read your mind. To this day, my adult children submit their lists.

Oh, and did we ever get criticized! “You’re taking all the joy out of Christmas.” “They need the magic of anticipation.” “Christmas should be fun.”

Excuse me?

Sure, I wanted the joyful season experience for my kids. And we got it. Shopping “angel trees” in the mall to get presents for less fortunate children. Making a gingerbread house each year that had to be different from any other we had done. Baking cookies and breads and taking them to neighbors and friends. Inviting friends over to make ornaments, cookies, and wrap presents for their own families. We had a super holiday each year. But Santa wasn’t a part of it.

Some families choose the no-Santa-myth route for religious reasons. Santa is an overblown commercialization of Christmas so far from the original Saint Nicholas as to unrecognizable. Others choose to go the truth route like us.

But I had to ask my friends who worried that their children were doubting the myth why they felt compelled to continue the lie when the kids had heard/figured out that Santa was not real. Who were they doing it for? My guess is that most parents who continue the myth beyond the time of ‘fessing up are doing it for themselves. Why else not just get it over with and back to the focus for the season?

And for us, having our children know that we would never lie to them was foundational to how our family functioned, and still does. Trust is worth so much more than participating in a charade.

And remembering the “reason for the season”, as the saying goes, was important to us as well. When they were little, and focused on how birthdays are done, we always had a birthday cake for Christmas dinner and sang “happy Birthday” ot Jesus. It was, after all, a world-wide birthday celebration.

What about my kids spilling the beans? Not a problem. I threatened death if they dared spoil how someone else celebrated the season. And since I don’t lie, they knew it would happen. (Okay, so maybe a little lie!) It never got tested. They were true to their word. Must be all that honesty modeling.

A quick family story:
Youngest son, Chicago, was a strong-willed child. And smart. He knew precisely the trigger to pull to get me going. One particularly trying day during the holidays, I was so frustrated I said to this kindergartener, “It’s a good thing there’s no Santa who gives gifts only to good children. You are being very naughty, but you’ll get gifts because we love you even when you’re not being good.” Not my finest moment, I agree, but it was in keeping with truth-telling.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone with family and friends.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Four Tips for Staying Together after You Get Together

My heroine, Carrie, in Streetwalker has commitment issues. And so does my hero. That makes for a very difficult relationship.

Carrie doesn’t trust any man since she thinks she is only "tits and ass" to them. And she made her living based on that presumption for a good many years.

Harlan is a sex addict. Not officially recognized by the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), sex addiction has been tossed around for years as a possible syndrome that merits inclusion. Psychiatrists are split on whether sex addiction is an official syndrome or a manifestation of a syndrome, like obsessive-compulsive disorder.  

So you put together someone who doesn’t want to be touched with someone who has to be touching everyone, and, well, you see the problem.

If I were Carrie’s psychologist, I’d be advising her to take some advice from the research. Harlan’s issues notwithstanding, this couple can make it. They love each other but they don’t communicate about feelings, issues, desires. Their conversations are relatively superficial.

So, as an unofficial family counselor, here’s what Angelica French says the research says about staying together once you get together.

Relationships are like gardens. You can’t neglect them. You must prune away the dead stuff and the weeds. You must feed and water them. Watch your relationship for signs of disease or blight, then apply the proper fix.

You can’t neglect your relationship.
In the early stages of your relationship, you were very attentive and supportive. You cared about what you looked like and how you were coming across. Now some of that was over the top. You reallllly wanted him to like you more. You worried she would break off the relationship. So while you have a comfort level with your SO now, there should always be some slight tension leftover from those early days of doing and being your best, even now.

Taking someone’s affection and attention for granted is a potential road to heartache. Make serious and regular efforts to show your partner that you really want to be with him/her, and you are appreciative of the relationship you have.

Prune away the dead stuff and weeds.
All relationships have detritus after while. It’s like outgrown shirts or worn out shoes. Take a look at your relationship and see if you’ve outgrown something now that your relationship is firming up. Do you really want to go clubbing every weekend night? Maybe you do, but examine the relationship’s patterns of activities, interactions, and friendships and consciously re-choose them, together.

Are you getting into a rut with movie-and-a-show? Why not mix it up with a picnic in the park where there’s an outdoor movie showing? Do you always go to a particular friend’s house for card games? Why not meet instead once in a while at a game store that has a game night? Boredom kills relationships, so keep it fresh.

“Feed and water” your relationship.
Too much togetherness can stifle a relationship, however. You’ll each have more to talk about if you each have a wide circle of friends and interests. Read and talk about what you’re reading. Watch out for competitiveness and instead aim for a collaborative relationship. Be spontaneous and not always predictable--in a good way--to add a little extra nourishment to the relationship.

Meet your partner at a coffee shop, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, give a note to a waiter telling your partner where to meet you next, and then disappear. Head to the next stop and do the same thing. Keep him/her guessing about how you might bring some pop into your relationship.

Watch for relationship blight.
While you shouldn’t overanalyze a relationship, you should pay attention. There are always warning signs that things are going south. Always. The people who say they were blindsided simply missed or misread the clues. Maybe your partner isn’t as physically affectionate as early on. Find out why. Free, easy, frequent communication is one of the surest ways to nip blight. There should be nothing off limits for discussion, ever. If there is, are you sure this is THE ONE?

If your partner begins spending unusual amounts of time away from you, there are problems. If you notice avoidance of topics you could always talk about, there are problems. If you are being controlled/criticized/isolated/blamed there are serious problems to work on. If you feel jealous or needy, start working on the problem. If one of you is cheating or wants to … uh, oh!

Relationships are both fragile and durable, resilient and vulnerable. Let me mix metaphors here. Building a strong foundation allows the relationship to take some storm lashings, but without keeping up regular maintenance and needed repairs, the house will crumble over time. Keep your house a mansion; don’t let it become a ruin.

Need a last minute gift for someone who likes erotic romance? There's always Streetwalker
Here are a few of the resources I used for some additional reading:






Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Month of Ideas for "What Can I Write on My Blog Today?"

I write three blog posts each week (barring something weird going on in my life--and it happens).  I don’t really have trouble coming up with blog topics for the three very different blogs. Now time to do the research and write them … that’s a story for another day. But coming up with ideas, no, not what I struggle with.

In fact, if I were to have that kind of difficulty, I would pack in one or more of my blogs. If it ain’t fun, at this point in my life, I ain’t gonna do it.

But friends of mine confess to having difficulty. Voila! A blog post topic occurs.

If you struggle, too, here are some suggestions. Please add suggestions in the comments section below. I’d love to have some fresh ideas, too.

1) Interview one of your characters, just as you might an author. Giving other authors some interview questions could be your spin so they get to know their own characters better.

2) Talk about some interesting historical or scientific (or some such thing) aspect and how it fits your book. For example, I was fascinated with brothel tokens from the OldWest and wrote about them connected to my prostitute in Streetwalker.
3) Helpful tools you rely on to help you write better/faster. I wrote a post on the tomato timer for the Pomodoro Technique.

4) Review the best on-line tutorials you've found helpful for writing. Kathy Weyer, author of Stitches, did for Scrivener.

5) Share the writing risks have you taken and what you gained--or lost--by taking the risk.

6) Publish a short story that might be backstory for a character in your novel.

7) Describe how you navigate social media and build your unique platform.

8) Ask readers to give you direction on a project. I did this with my NaNoWriMo options. People like telling you what to do. ;-)

9) Create and publish 50 or 10 (or whatever) writing prompts or exercises for readers for when they're stuck. I did that and had lots of page views. That's what I did here!

10) Choose an odd topic to inform readers about, such as “What is fan fiction and what are the caveats, sites, issues?”

11) Interview another blogger or an author you admire. Create one set of questions you can use again and again.

12) Describe your journey to being an author from the beginning through transitions to your vision for the end point.

13) How do you carve out protected writing time in the midst of a busy life? Authors are always looking for ideas.

14) Read titles of others’ blog posts and get ideas for topics you can give your take on.

15) Review books related to your blog’s focus. I’ve reviewed writing books and books on relationship issues. Notify the author of the upcoming review to see if he/she will promote it, too. Drive more traffic to your blog.

16) Have you just learned about/started using another new social media outlet to promote your writing and your platform? Share that experience with your readers?

17) What are you realllly good at in the writing process? Editing? Plotting? Planning? Choose that element and write a series on various aspects.

18) What is your business plan? How did you develop it? Most writers don’t have one, so help them get where you are.

19) What experiences have you had with critique partners and/or writing groups? Share what you’ve learned and give some guidelines that worked for you.

20) Reading online articles on relationships or science or … provides you with information you can share and then translate to writingnovels. I do that a good bit.

21) What are the steps in indie publishing? How does one get started? What are the most important considerations?

22) Choose a category, like food, and do a post a day for one month. In February, I do a recipe a day, which is pretty easy to put together. I’ve done soup, chicken, and appetizers. I’ll let my readers vote on the category for the upcoming February.

23) Explore an aspect of your own life and how a situationis impacting you. I did a series on my mother after her sudden death in September.

24) Share an excerpt from a novel of you are writing. Explain some background and just paste in the excerpt.

25) Become an expert or exploit your expertise to create blog topics like Fiona Quinn does at thrillwriting.blogspot.com or http://forensicoutreach.com/ or http://historysleuth.blogspot.com/

26) Invite others to guest post on your blog. First, set up guidelines you can communicate at the beginning so they know what kinds of topics, how many words, what media you can use, and what kind of links you’ll promote.

27) Do a post of links to blogs you regularly read and/or posts you found engaging and why.

28) What is happening in magazines or newspapers you read that got your attention? What is your perspective on it? Think of this as an extended “letter to the editor”.

29) What genre(s) do you write? What are the elements of the genre(s)? Describe those elements so others can write them, too.

30) Select a quotation that means a lot to you. Write about what it is and why it matters. This can be in your life or in your writing.

31) What writers do you regularly read and why? What is it about their writing that keeps you engaged?

And you know? There are bunches more ideas! I hope you’ll add to this list below. And, more importantly, I hope I shared some ideas for helping you keep at that blog.