And here y’all thought I was going to complain…

Not today.

Okay, earlier today, but not now, even though the sun is creeping up and into the window I’m sitting in front of and making it darned near impossible to work because I CAN’T SEE…

Nope, still not complaining. I am instead starting a new way of working – may or may not have asked permission or cleared it with the higherups but you know, sometimes, to quote Christine Kane, you have to “leap and the net will appear.” At least I hope there will be a net.

This is a time of change in my office. Great change. But only for me. After seven years of sitting at a certain desk in a certain office within our suite, I am being relocated. At first, I was angry. I have been here the longest! Why am I having to move? But now, I’m starting to look at this arrangement as a new way to work – semi-digital semi-nomad life, here I come.

So I was going to get myself all worked up over having to be out of my office today, but I’m not – I’m in my office now wherever I am. It’s a scary thing for someone that had needed the stability of a 9-5 job for most of my life, but it’s turning out to be more okay than I thought.

More time for writing when I’m not chained to a desk. More time to sit in a comfy chair and read my prep materials. More time to be me, rather than the poor team player that I always seem to end up being. More time, less office. Yeah. I think the net is appearing.

Hey, I just noticed the purple and orange in the photo up there. Huh. Coincidence?

New Year, New You? Nope.

So how many of you (admittedly, 5-6) Lettuce Readers have already given up on the New Year’s Resolutions that you made a few weeks ago? Yeah, me too. The difference is that my resolutions were actually achievable this time – set out your clothes for work the night before, make sure that the coffee pot is ready to go before you come stumbling in for some liquid courage at 6:55am (wow, that might have been a little more disclosure than I meant to have this early in a blog post), make time to write every day and the time in between lunch and class doesn’t count.
I’m writing this having just polished off two lovely vegetarian sliders with Palmetto Cheese on top, and I’ve come to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans if that tells you anything.
Before the end of 2018, I started listening to a podcast by my sister-of-choice, Elizabeth Dunne. It’s called #FLAW3D and it is brilliant, insightful, and funny, just like she is in person. I swear. But as with everything that occurred after 12 April of 2018, I was going through the motions with her podcasts and other content under the #FLAW3D brand. In fact – I will admit this if you swear not to tell her I said so – I am embarrassed to say that while listening to her podcasts on the bus on the way to work, I fell asleep. Every time. That has more to do with my level of exhaustion and nothing to do with her content, I swear. My life for most of last year could be represented by the photo above – a long hard slog down a cobbled road devoid of all color.
I also listened to them out of order, because I had started doing that with another podcast I am addicted to listening to called And That’s Why We Drink, a Paranormal and True Crime Podcast. The personal information that MUST BE LISTENED TO IN THE ORDER IT WAS RELEASED SO THAT YOU CAN CREEP ON THE LIVES OF THE PODCASTERS is not the point of the podcast there. But with Elizabeth’s podcast, it is.
I mean not the creeping part. I would never. I’m having too much trouble remembering to call her Elizabeth rather than ‘liz, as I have known her since uni, so there’s no way I’ve got an ulterior motive here. Plus, she is the mother of my eldest niece, so I am versed in the real Elizabeth.
And y’all, if you will just listen to #FLAW3D you will hear the real Elizabeth. She is unabashedly open about everything that she chooses to share – and what she doesn’t.
Anyway! So I listened to the first episode of #FLAW3D today – the topic was becoming a digital nomad and working with your spouse – and it was terribly relevant to me not because Hubs is going to quit his job and we are going to open up THE NEXT BEST BIG THING anytime soon. It was terribly relevant because it was just the dose of, “You want to do that? Well, why not?” that I needed. Yesterday was a hard day in the universe of my day job – so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t even bring myself to escape to Orana like I normally do when the waters get rocky. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next Clobberpaws, but that was it. One chapter.
Did I mention that I started said chapter LAST NOVEMBER? Yeah. Not my best day as a writer.
But this morning’s listen left me with feelings. All the feelings. Why not give up my cushy 37.5 hr/week job where I know what I’m doing and how to do it…if others would just stay out of my lane and let me do it. Why not just keep writing as a hobby and sort-of side gig…even though seeing that three of my books sold all in one day makes me so happy that I literally cried for a few minutes. Why not do what I love, rather than working at a place that I don’t love as much as I used to do so that I can afford to do what I love? Things to ponder.
The best bit was probably when her guests, Erin Booth and Tannia Suarez (co-founders of efftheoffice.com) talked to Elizabeth about how for couples that both work jobs outside the home, they have only a few precious hours in the evening to spend time together. Then on weekends they are planning to spend time together but are either too exhausted or want to pursue things that make their individual souls happy – cue the entrance of guilt and resentment.
Hubs and I do that very thing. We get home late. We struggle over what to eat for our tea. We struggle over when to eat or to actually eat at all. We collapse on the sofas and watch an hour or two of television and then go to bed. That is not a life well lived.
So while I’m still processing episode one and moving on to episode two, let me again recommend that you go to FLAW3D.com and check out the podcast and Elizabeth. You won’t be sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to completely rethink my entire life. New Year, New Me? Nope. Just New Me – a work in forever ongoing progress.

Well, that escalated quickly.

[Disclaimer: Nothing like that, no books were harmed in the making of this post. It’s just that my nano has taken off again, rather like a house – or, in this case, book – on fire. Book burning is still awful and closed-minded and useless. Don’t do it. Read. There we go.]

So for a few days, I was stuck – horribly stuck – at best, my nano word count was falling behind. At worst, I had lost my voice as a novelist and all of Orana had abandoned me. Same thing, really, if you throw a panic attack in the middle over a poorly elbow in your dominant hand when both of the things that define you (interpreting and writing) involve the pain-free movement of your right hand and arm.

I did what any rational adult in my shoes staring at a blank page would do – I hit the panic button and freaked WAY the heck out for a little while, and then I started thinking about my support system as a writer. You may think that we sit at our IKEA desks all alone in our writing sheds, surrounded by lovely greenery and sipping a mug of tea as the ideas just flow out of our heads into our novels, but I am here to tell you this: if that is the truth, I’m not sure what it is that I am doing because it involves sitting on my worn leather couch, laptop on my knees, wolfhounds clambering about on clobberpaws and crying. Lots of crying. Anyway!

I have recently gotten to know someone that I’m fairly certain I already knew from another time in my life – a fellow novelist who attended the same college I did in the mountains of northern Georgia. So after all the crying and panicking, I sent him a simple text that said that I was struggling to find an antagonist and that my protagonist was stuck, sitting on a horse in the Outlands and watching someone ride toward her. For two days, I literally did not know who it was that was riding toward her. His responses led me to my antagonist, and to the rider who is merely the catalyst for the main story arc. Since then, I have written more than 10,000 words, and even though I am not at my daily wordcount target it is in sight. I still am not sure what the antagonist’s story is, but at least I’m back heading in the right direction.

So writers, lean on each other. It doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to write or that you are a phony (impostor syndrome, anyone?), it means that you are using the community we find among like-minded individuals. You are doing the work, and you do not have to do it alone. Now, get your characters off those lonely roads and into some good plot points!

(Not actually on the) Bus Poetry v4

Dismantled

Piece by piece
I’m taken apart
The sum of my parts
Weighed. Measured. Found wanting.
Not enough
Never enough
The parts don’t matter
Until they add up to respect
The sum of the parts is a colleague, an equal.
The sum of the parts commands respect.
I’m being dismantled.
First go the desks and then the walls
The shelves and the drawers
The kettle
The tea towel
All taken apart
Because they were never enough
I am never enough
Before I am even dismantled.

Just…wow.

I waxed poetic in my last post about how long it has taken me to get to this point – years of living with this story and these characters – and how surreal it still feels. Wanna know what will kick that feeling of being just on the verge of an anxiety attack right over into full-blown WHAT HAVE I DONE?

One little post on social media, from a real-life friend who happens to be KIND OF A BIG DEAL in the Rennie world saying she can’t wait to start the new trilogy in the picture she posted: The Nature Walker Trilogy. She is about to find out about Gin and Sath and Orana and all the rest. The horrible little voice in my head says that I am about to be exposed as the imposter I am. Exposed – by someone that is my friend.

Now, all of us living in the rational world know that none of the drama described in the above paragraph is realistic. She may hate the trilogy. But she may also love it. In fact, there is a good chance that she will love it. And if she doesn’t, my world will not end. Right?

There is a good chance that a lot of people would love it, and if only I would GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY and let them experience it then they will love it and share it with their friends. But that’s the rub – getting out of my own way. I suppose this is something that all writers (and artists and dancers and anyone of a creative ilk) have to face. The tiny voice in my head is firmly standing in the way of me returning to dance class. But on the positive side, the tiny voice in my head kept me from following a traditional publishing route, and so far I’m quite pleased with the results of indie publishing (or self-publishing). I have a great team that provides me feedback and editing and creative support – a team that the tiny voice can’t touch. One dissenting voice in the face of a supportive chorus is drowned out most of the time.

I hope that my friend’s post on social media will lead to more people giving Gin’s story a try and falling in love with her and Orana. But most of all I hope she enjoys the story because that’s why I wrote it and published it – for people to experience and enjoy. All the wow moments pale in comparison to that.

Things I learn from my job, part 358.2

No image in the post today. In truth, it won’t be a long one, but just something I wanted to share. People often wonder how I can interpret certain things that I’m booked to do without losing my mind. In a lot of ways, I do still lose my mind, you just don’t see it.

I’ve compared this before to the ‘Confessor’s face’ that author Terry Goodkind created for his character, Kahlan Amnell, in the Sword of Truth fantasy series. Confessors are women that are born into a magical sisterhood and have the ability to discern truth from lies (by basically taking over the mind of the person and leaving them a slave to the Confessor, but that’s beside the point here). From Temple of the Winds:

Kahlan was wearing her Confessor’s face: the blank expression that showed none of her feelings.

We are taught as interpreters to do this – to an extent. We are conveying communication and by necessity that involves emotion, so I am never that ‘blank,’ but it is not MY emotion you are seeing. It should never be my emotion.

I periodically discover things that I can’t interpret, mostly due to lack of knowledge of the subject matter, but occasionally because my confessor’s face cracks in the face of the topic and I can’t continue to be impartial. One of those topics has resurfaced again: guns and gun control. I’m not going to debate that here, mainly because the debate is only the catalyst for this post, but also because my mind is made up on that issue and won’t be changed.

When I was in high school I was threatened with a gun on two separate occasions. I have fired two guns in my life, both at a gun range. I lost a friend in the Virginia Tech incident. So while interpreting recently when the topic came up I readied myself. Unlike another incident over the summer last year (that I can’t say more about than that because CONFIDENTIALITY) where I legitimately became too distressed to continue working (after a direct reference to Virginia Tech), I could continue working – but I’m sure it was obvious how I felt about what I was interpreting, and that is not okay. My confessor’s face fell away, and all that was left was my own face, filled with the emotion that this sort of topic sparks in me. I was told once that I have a million facial expressions – an occupational hazard when your second language uses the face for grammar as well as intonation – and I’m sure that at least five hundred thousand of them were on display.

So, yeah, I can mark that one off of my Can Be Interpreted Safely list and add it to the I Need to Work on That list. Ugh. But the small, quiet voice in my soul says it is okay, because I’m being honest with and about myself, and that will ultimately make me better at what I do.

And then, this happened…

It was just like this…minus the fur and claws, though.

So as you may have surmised from my previous post, yesterday was not one of my better days. I haven’t come that close to just handing in my notice and going home in a long time.

I was mad all evening. I had a fabulous night out with the girls, incredibly scrummy Italian food, everything I needed to cheer me up. But it didn’t. I was still walking the line between pleasant fun-time Nancy and will bite your face off for looking at me Nancy. I’m sure that my girls were tired of me complaining, and I’m forever grateful to “Whiskey” for hanging around in the parking lot to listen to me rehash my day. Again.

Got home and watched some telly with Hubs. No longer angry but still annoyed. Firestorm on my FB timeline sort of burned itself out. Still annoyed. I just couldn’t seem to shake the WHATEVERITWAS that was driving my blood pressure up and making me twitchy and just generally crabby. I went to bed and woke up several times with a stuffy nose and painful ear (which just reminded me of how I “never get sick and never call out of work” and set me off again). But the last time I managed to drift off, I had a fabulous dream that I’m going to chalk up to equal parts my brain looking for something happy in my miserable Thursday and the universe reminding me that I am loved.

As often happens, I don’t remember the exact circumstance, but I was in Savannah, Georgia, and I was in a restaurant and somehow, my oldest friend (that I still maintain contact with, met him when I was 13) Robby and his beautiful family were eating there. I haven’t spoken to Robby on the phone or in person since I lived in Alabama in ’06-’07, but I heard his voice in my dream as clear as day and followed that sound – the sound of his laugh – over to the table where they were sitting.

I approached the table and immediately he was on his feet, looking down at me with concern. “Are you okay, Lil’ Britches?” his voice rumbled and I began to cry and shake my head no. With the care of a parent comforting a child (or, a bear picking up an orphaned child in a Disney movie), Robby hugged me tight and whispered to me that whatever it was, he loved me anyway. As the dream began to fade, he was shaking hands with Simon, I was hugging his wife Kim, and I just felt so much better. It carried over into today, and I have felt…not happy, but content.

While I know that it was my mind that created that scene, I think it’s important who my mind picked to be my comforter in whatever storm was brewing in the dream. Let the work-related hurricanes blow.


Look for the bare necessities 

The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That’s why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life


Love you, Baloo, to the moon and back. -LB