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Authors: You don’t have to set yourself on fire . . . .

imageOn a popular “talent” program, often the judges will tell the “contestants”  that they must kick it up a notch, take it further or farther than before, give more, be more more more MORE! No matter how much the act sings her heart out, juggles his arms and legs in amazingly weird pretzel shapes, climbs towering structures and falls–almost–to his death, dances their feet bloody, the judges tell them it’s not enough. You must engage the audience in ways you never thought you could! In ways that show what you have done before is Just Not Good Enough! Two such acts on a recent program showed me how we do not have to set ourselves on fire.


The first act rose to death-defying heights on their motorcycles, proclaiming, and rightly so, that what they do is extremely dangerous. These guys have lost (and by lost, I mean they died–gone from this earth–no more) friends doing what they do. They pushed themselves to the limit, yet at the end of the death-defying heart-stopping act, the judges said, “You have to do more if you want the audience to love you.” So what did they do the very next week? They set themselves on fire, and did the same death-defying act as before. Later came the Houdini act: a man hung upside down while struggling quickly out of a straight jacket. How did he pump it up? By lighting himself on fire.

What next? How to top something so out of control? How to prove what doesn’t need proving: you are who you are; you do what you do, and you are good at it even without the flames. And the flames aren’t really fooling anyone–they see your core.

What you talkin' bout Willis?

What you talkin’ bout Willis?

While I agree that we must always strive to do more and to be more, there does come a point in our lives where we must acknowledge that among all our striving, at the core of us, we simply are who we are. We give our best, and when we type The End, we feel pride and a sense of good work done. When it is just us and our work, we dream of our readers loving the words and language and characters because we created with love and hard disciplined work. No, we should not sit on our hands, rest on our laurels, give up and become lazy and sloppy. But to ask us to be more than who is the very core of ourselves, to give beyond the capabilities of our talents, well, what can happen is we set ourselves on fire and try to fool people into thinking we are doing something Great and Wonderful. It’s like the Wizard behind the curtain while fire roars! We’re still the little old man.
images (1)
Do we really need to set ourselves alight with fire to grab our reader’s attention? Won’t our readers see what I saw with these two acts: they were doing what they know; what they do best, except for the addition of bright hot distraction. Why hide the behind the fire? What they’d done before was the top of their game, the pride of their life; a culmination of many many hours of hard work and sacrifice. We do live in a “viral video” society. Reality is that not many of us will ever go viral. I refuse to set myself on fire and risk a painful death of my Self. My readers deserve my best, and if I give my best, I do not need to add a distraction.

imagesWe are often those judges. The voices in our head judge us, tell us to set ourselves on fire–surely we’ll be noticed then. Surely we’ll grab everyone’s attention, so engulfed by flames we are! Are we only teaching others that we are willing to do anything to grab their attention? Anything at all? Why not let the work underneath the flashy flamed fire be enough?

So let it be written; so let it be done.

There comes a time in an author’s life when she considers whether she wants to do this anymore

writer's blodkaAt some strangeling point in an author’s career, she begins to be weary of her thoughts, and of the worries and stresses, and of the fears.  Of the whole self-indulgence of it all. The whining and boohoo’ing and self-doubting. The loneliness and sacrifice. The highs and lows and the lows-highs-lows-lower lows-high-low and the roller coaster that was once so much fun begins to jerk you around and toss you into the air and pulls your stomach out through your mouth—Blorf.

The author begins to avoid the writing. Sneakily so. She’s crafty. Cunning. There is no lacking of excuses. Why, that’s the easiest thing in the universe, an excuse. You breathe explanations into your nose and down your throat and then vomit them back up—they don’t taste so bad once you get used to the sweet rotten of them.

People say to you, “I hear you’re working on a new book!” And they are so sincerely excited that you say (and you mean it at the time; you do!), “Yes! I’m working on something new.” And you are—sort of kind of. You are sort of kind of going into the word document and sort of kind of pulling it up and sort of kind of staring at it and then sort of kind of pecking away at it and sort of kind of considering how you just don’t want to do this anymore.

Maybe there will be a free-fall feeling. You’ll stand on the precipice, open out your arms, and just Let Go. The air will rush against your face. You won’t notice how the ground is growing larger and more menacing—the air feels so good! The freedom! The exhilaration that you’ve jumped right off the cliff and left everything behind you.  “I was pushed!” you say, when people look at you strange—why, there you are flat and bloody where you and the ground met most undeliciously.

028You stare at the bookcase, and there they are! Your books. You wrote them. They were published, and people read them—still do. They aren’t mocking you there but you turn your head away. Because it hurts to look at them, as if your published books are the morning sun and you are still sleepy and in the dark.

“Sometimes it just hurts too much,” a well-known author you admire once said to you. You didn’t understand that at all. You said, “Oh. Well.” And then you went back to work, smug with smugnitude. You think to contact that author and say, “Hey, remember that time you said that? Guess what! Me, too!” But you do not.

Why, it’s all about letting everyone think you are writing fully and happily, and the money is pouring in, and you are on the verge of greatness and successfulness and awesomeness and authorial queendomness! It’s about big smiles and posting pictures on Facebook with zippity do dah day quotes on them about writing. You are living the dream! You author you! You chuck yourself on the chin—aw now you!

You once looked forward to your royalty checks. How fat they seemed to you! How healthy and plump! You signed the back of them and skipped off to the bank, pride and love and luck filling your marrow. As time went on, you began to cringe, just a little, when you’d see the envelope from your publishers in the mailbox. You tell yourself that some authors would give up the fifth toenail on their left foot and then offer up the toe as well just to make any money at all. Still, you can’t stop the flutters in your stomach when you know the check will be arriving any day.

DSC09985“Money doesn’t measure our worth as a writer,” you say, and you mean it. You really do. Still. You begin to worry about money. Who doesn’t? But somehow money received for writing books becomes entangled in how you feel about yourself and your talent and gifts and love of this profession. It makes the love tainted. You hate that. A lot.

All you wanted to do was to write. That’s all. All you wanted to do is to write. And write. And write and write and write write write write. “Please let me write,” you say to the only one stopping you—well, you, of course.

You don’t want to, but you wonder how much money other authors are making. You wonder how they feel when their royalty checks come to the mailbox. You wonder if one day yours won’t come anymore at all and you can’t breathe for ten whole seconds, plus five. It’s madness.

So, one fine day that has really been about three hundred and two fine days, you consider giving it all up. You will always have your books that were published. You don’t have anything to prove at all. You can pretend for as long as you can, and then one day no one will ask anymore. No one will think about you and your books. You will be forgotten by most. Your books will end up at garage sales, dusty with faded covers and torn pages. Or deep inside e-readers in a file marked “Old shit from authors no one remembers” that is rarely opened.

You can take up art or cooking. You can pick up your camera and see where its lens takes you.

There comes a time in every writer’s life when she will consider giving up the writing.

What magic sprung from the works of those before us, and how can we create our own magic? How can we cast a spell upon our readers?

A day will pass. Two. Fifty. One-hundred. Three hundred twenty days will pass. It feels as if a ghost is following you, but when you turn around, it disappears behind a dreamlike tree that only you can climb, only you can see. The apparition follows you every second, every minute, every hour, every day, week, month.

It winks at you—it knows the joke is all on you. It knows you better than you know you.

It knows. When you are ready again.

You will write again.

When you are ready again. You will write again.

When you are ready again; you will write again.

You will write again.

Galaxy of Disappointed Disillusionment: you were in love with the writing once . . . .

galaxy nexus wallpaper-WmOIYou were in love with the writing once. A kind of love that churns the belly. The kind of love that wraps around you warm and alive and pulsing. Trusting kind of love. And you think that love will never leave you, nor would you ever leave it.  You think it will be as strong and lively as it is in the beginning of all that began all the way to the what should never ever end because it’s too beautiful to die. Too perfect.

But things begin to change. Subtly at first. Insidiously. Oh, it’s little things here and there that don’t mean much—at least that’s what you tell yourself. But all those tiny things begin to pack together, sticky and mean, tightly, balling up hard and fast, until there before you is what you tell yourself is only a sweet marble you think isn’t so bad—it’ll still fit into your pocket! You can carry it around and won’t feel the weight of it at all. But it grows. And you can’t carry it around anymore. It first settles in the room you always wrote in, but it soon pushes out into the hallway, and into the bedroom, and the kitchen, and the living room, and the entire house becomes filled with it—it pushes against you, insistent to be noticed. It is a Moon,  a Neptune, an entire galaxy right outside your mind’s window. It groans with its own weight.

DSC09985Still, you think you can live with it. You think you can soldier on. You think that everything will be okay if only This Thing would happen, or That Thing will occur. “If Only” becomes raggedy with your use of it, what with your rolling the If Onlies around in your head until they are barely recognizable. Still. You loved! It all had meaning! Didn’t you? Didn’t it? Doubt sets in. Were you loved back? Maybe it was only an altered state of being that led you down into the most pleasurable of senses. Why, before the Galaxy of Disappointed Disillusionment, you’d even allowed yourself to become a little arrogant. Held your head a little higher—after all, you were in The Club. That Club with those heavy heavy gates—the ones that swing open randomly and without sentimentality. You often imagined the gates closing behind you, yet this time you are pushed back to the outside.

You want out anyway, you say. You want out and you don’t know when, or if, you’ll return. You want your space. You want time to think. You want to do other things. Find yourself, you say, wincing at the cliche. You’ll do: Fun things. Other necessary things. Things that don’t require pushing through that galaxy of hard knotted failings and failures and fails.

You soon forget (you say emphatically) what drew you to that love. You don’t remember (you think most apparently) the feeling of joy you had just by opening your laptop and your mind—flutter flutter went the beautiful creation butterflies—how lovely they were! Oh how you hate them now! Hate them!

The heart of you is crushing under the weight of the groaning Galaxy.

Who cares?, you say. I don’t!, you say. And you trippity trip about, laughing gaily on the outside, while on the inside you are slowly terribly dying. The Galaxy suffocates.

imagesOne day, you are alone. Perhaps walking in the woods, or down an aisle at the grocery store, or driving your car aimlessly, or most obviously of course staring at the darkened night ceiling. And a blinding light explodes while millions of hard knotted disappointments and disillusions Supernova. You are blinded for seventy-two hours; burned down to the bone for seventy-two more.

Then the quiet talks to you. You rise, walk through the house, glowing embers dying and ashes flying. Something gives way. A loosening.

You run then, opening windows and doors until every window and every door is wide, and out and out and out on a brilliant wind goes the ashes, and all that is left is You and You.

Something stirs. Something old and ancient. Something you recognize.

Fingers to keys. A letter appears. Another. Another. A word. A sentence. A paragraph. A page. Five pages, sixty pages, one hundred pages plus three.


Sometimes, you say, all else must be burned away so your new skin can feel anew.

Screen+Shot+2014-02-25+at+12.17.37+PMYour fingertips are alive. Push push push on the keys. It is like music.

You recognize, you say, that you never loved fully before but only with conditions. Love must Be, you say. It is its own and no other.

You say: each hard knot of disappointment must be kneaded and chewed and swallowed and digested and then shat out and flushed away.

A grand love. A passionate love. A true and honest love.

It finds you, grabs you by the beating heart and squeezes the life into you.

Fingers on the keys. Push. Push. Letter by word by paragraph by page.  Five, six, seven, eight, open up the heavy gates.

(. . . and still, as you push the keys, the if onlies and the what ifs and the why can’ts ind the little nooks and crannies of you and settle in. You push the keys and try not to notice the hard knot you couldn’t swallow as it falls to the ground and quivers.)

What if writing/publishing were like a “traditional job” . . . ?

DSC_0174If we were to think about our writing life, and publishing life, in the way of a “traditional job,” we may consider things quite differently. You interview and you then “sit by the phone and wait for it to ring” (most things are done online now, but you get the idea), sweating, hoping. Phone rings—you didn’t get the job—DANG IT ALL TO HELLVITICA! That happens again, and again, until finally that phone rings and the answer is Yes! The job is yours! WHOOOP-WHOOOOP! You put on your work clothes and—

I’m set! I’m in the money!

The company offers you “upfront” money. That money will take care of expenses and such until you show them how successful you will be and how much money you will make them, or how much output you provide to make yourself a worthwhile risk. They’ll hold back your salary until you work enough to make up that upfront money. If you work for a huge company and they have reason to believe you’ll make them lots of moola, your advance could be Big. But, if like most of us pea-headed littlers you are more of a risk, advances aren’t going to be big, and some “companies” do not pay advances at all.

I receive advances on my books that are manageable enough to “earn back” quickly. You have to “pay back” that advance—meaning, you have to sell enough books to cover the advance before you begin making royalties. Dream big, but know the realities, y’allses.
DSC_0175I’m going to buy a car and a house and ten gallons of gelato from my trip to Italy. Zippity do dah! Zippity Ay!

Better check your salary again, y’aaaawwwwl! Whether big business or small, the money the company takes in and doles out—including your salary—has to go many different places. Imagine Good Ole Bubba’s Tools & Supplies. Bubba the owner hires you to make tools, and when you make those tools, he sells them. From that money he has to pay rent or mortgage on his building, utilities and other expenses; he has to pay taxes, insurance; he has to buy inventory; he has to pay all of his employees; he has to pay himself. If you provide Bubba with a service, you are only a part of the entire operation of who has to be paid. The money has to be spread around to keep the business afloat.
So, your book is published—print, e-book, ethereal transcription on a moonbeam. Everyone involved receives their cut. Industry standard royalty rate ranges, give or take percentages based on that particular contract, are from around 6 to 15 percent for paperback/hardback and 25 to 40 percent on ebook. So, let’s suppose you earn 10% royalty on each print book you sell, and your book sells for $15.00: 10% of $15.00 = $1.50 per book is your cut—well, not exactly, as you must pay taxes, and “pay back” any expenses you incurred (if any), and for those of you with an agent, take 15% more off the top of that $1.50 before you do anything else. Lawdy be in a bucket!

Takes a whole lotta books to make a living off that, doesn’t it, my beauties? Now, e-books earn a better royalty, and you can plug in the numbers yourself—still, tain’t a goldmine lessen you become a Kindle Millionaire or sumpin’—be realistic about your salary. Royalties can be really good one royalty period and not so good another royalty period. I have had royalties for a year that weren’t as much as just one royalty check earned off the sales of a book promotion. It’s a stressful way to make a living if you are on one income, and finding another income source is most likely a reality.

Dream big, but temper it with the certainties of just how difficult it is to make a good living being an author.

dsc04492My book will be reviewed by: Magazines, Oprah’s Book Club, New York Times Books, et cetera.

You’ve been working hard. You’ve put in your time and then some. You walk by The Big Boss’s office every so often, showing him/her your determined face, your sincere attitude, the nights you’ve stayed late, the weekends you’ve worked, the family time you’ve sacrificed. You’ve gone to meetings and didn’t even fall asleep-haw!—okay, once, but no one was the wiser.

You’ve done everything you can think of to be noticed by The Big Boss. And, well, he/she just doesn’t notice you. He/She has so many other employees who are doing the same thing, and some of them are backed by People who are able to slip into Big Boss’s office and put in a good word, or, some other employee just happens to be in the elevator with The Big Boss when she/he’s in a good mood, or when he/she just happens to be looking for that particular person’s smile or nod or look or good morning. Or somehow, an employee has some buzz going on a project he/she did and it develops legs and ruuuuuuuuuns.

There’s a lot of competition out there. And lotso times, the Big 5 (I believe it’s still five now) published authors garner the most attention, or the authors who’ve already had best sellers or are gaining attention for some other reason, et cetera-oony. It’s a saturated business, folkses. It’s a tough business. The Big Boss is busy, and important, and frankly, doesn’t have time to come to know every little employee out there—no matter how sincere or hardworking, and even, no matter how lovely and captivating and beautiful your work is. Yup. Dang.

My book will be in many bookstores across the land.

Your proposal is done. You’ve worked hard on the Slim Slam Piddly Lam account. It’s all done up in a nice folder, and you are proud of it. Now time to get it to the right hands. There’s two-hundred offices in the building; heck, if you could get even one-hundred or so Boss Peoples to look at your proposal, why, even that would be great; better to have all two-hundred, but, you’ll settle for half. You take your shiny proposal for the Slim Slam Piddly Lam account and make a hundred-fifty copies. You put them on your desk and wait. One person comes by—it’s Ms. Office Fifteen. She’s been a casual acquaintance and you bought her coffee one day. She takes a proposal, then because she likes you, she takes three more.  HOT DAMN! You are on your way! Whooooop Whooooop! Four proposals! The other hundred-forty-six sit. La la la tee dah. *check watch* *tap fingers* *tap toes* *sob a little*

You make the rounds of a few offices: “Will you take my Slim Slamp Piddly Lam account proposal?” And a couple take one, but it ends up under a big stack of other proposals.

Some shake their heads no. They have enough proposals, no more space. You realize you just don’t have time or funds or energy to go to all hundred-forty-six offices, so you place your Slim Slam Piddly Lam account proposals on your desk, again, and hope word will get around—ungh ungh. Your supervisor who works with you on accounts is helping, too, taking half of those proposals and sending out word, newsletters, samples, et cetera. A few more proposals are placed, but nowhere near what you thought.

The truth is: sometimes you and your publishers (agent/editors/publicists, whomever) have to practically beg a bookstore to stock your book—until they tire of begging and stop—even if you are traditionally published by a viable press. Bookstores have limited space and they’re going to stock the “bigger names” –that means bigger in publishers and in authors.

Sadly but true, you can be a champion of brick and mortar bookstores, but when you approach them, they may or may not care. They may or may not stock your book. They may stock one just to be nice. Since you can’t conceivably contact every bookstore there is, there’s no way to have your book noticed by many bookstores—for them, it’s about their budget, and sentimentality usually goes one way: the author may be sentimental about having their books in brick and mortar bookstores but the sentimentality is often not returned—it’s a hard cold world out there in this book business. Make friends with your local bookstore owners and you probably will have success there, at least.

This is why Amazon and Nook and other e-readers have become important to authors—authors feel “heard” and authors are able to see their books on “shelves.” And author’s books are more likely to be read.

Aw, shoot

Aw, shoot

Once I have one book published, I am assured to have more published.

You landed the Shots a Lot account! Oh Happy Days are Near Again! Surely now the next couple of accounts will be Yours! You can kick back and relax now. Or . . . not. Well, dang it all to Dang Town!

With each book, you (or if you have an agent, the agent) still need to convince your publisher/publishing editor to take on your book. Even if the last book was successful. Now, granted, if you’ve had success with your first book or books, the chances are higher; however, you still need to present the book and have it approved.

This means: just as with the first time, you’ll write your novel without knowing whether you will have it published and without knowing whether all your work will be realized in print/e-book. You write regardless of the outcome. You write never knowing where it will take you, or if you will be published, if you will ever make a dime, or if you will only make a dime.

So my lovelies, tell me:
How many jobs would you take knowing these kinds of odds? How many jobs would you take making an unknown salary? How many jobs would you take where you could work your arse off for weeks, months, a year, or more, and Maybe MAYBE be paid, and maybe not? Would you take that job?

You have to love this business and have a crazy amount of faith and hope and daring.

 highway of writing pensI want this crazy-arse roller coaster job—do you?

(pardon this reprint of an earlier post – I have a danged ole Texas cold! I rarely was sick in the mountains, but here? Dang!)


Touty Plug of the day: (I’m really happy with how the covers to these little sweet stories turned out – beautiful water colors).

three set_edited-best_edited-1

Story Snacks” through “Howling Wolf Press

On your lunch break? Sitting bored in a waiting room? Need just one little simple story before you go to sleep? Shortie short stories are satisfying, and can be read quickly in one little spark of time. Download one of Kathryn Magendie’s very short stories, between 3,000 and 6,000 words, and gobble them up in one gulp—a nice little story-snack.

The phrase “I will never . . . .” is a coiled snake ready to bite us on our asses

Snake_strike_coiled_HIHow many times have you used that phrase only to have it come back later and bite the shit out of your ass? Now, that doesn’t mean the biting isn’t going to be a good thing—maybe you needed to be bit on your ass to propel you in to some kind of motion. Maybe you’ve been stagnant, bored but not recognizing that, or meandering around aimlessly, or unhappy with a situation but in denial.

007Maybe you said “never” with the fever and fervor of THIS WILL NEVER EVER CHANGE and have just been bitten on the ass and aren’t sure if that bite will propel you towards something better, or just as good, or towards—THE SCARYASS UNKNOWN! *cue dramatic thunderous slightly dark music*

Or perhaps, my friends, you told someone, “I will never,” and you didn’t really mean it. It isn’t that you lied, it’s just that you could not face up to the truth inside of you—buried there deep, where only the snake biting you on the ass could cause a draining away and revealing of your truths. You said the words because to admit the other words would cause pain and turmoil and disruption and feelings of failure and that SCARYASS UNKNOWN looming. You said them so the other would believe and not be hurt, yes, but also to force yourself to believe so you wouldn’t do the hurting.

We do have our “Nevers” that are iron-clad. For example, “I will never kill another human being,” but then, is that true? If someone were going to fatally harm me or mine, wouldn’t I kill the shit out of them? “I will never jump off the Empire State Building!” Okay, that seems pretty safe. But what if I’m up there and there’s a fire behind me and no escape—I  either have to jump or burn up. I’m jumping! Okay. Well. Huhn. “I will never stop loving my son and granddaughter!” There. That’s a never that holds forever true! But those iron-clad “nevers” are few, even when we think they are not.


Then . . . .


Now . . . .

“I will never grow out my hair.” “I will never write erotica.” “I will never sit around crying like a big baby because I’m a tough-ass bitch.” “I will never leave *insert something or someone here*” “I will never give up/give in/give to/give back . . . .”

Oh, my friends. The phrase “I will never . . . .” is the universe’s big laugh at you; it’s the coiled snake ready to bite you on your ass; it’s the swallow those words you spoke because, guess what? Never became “oh shit, it’s happening/happened/going to happen.”

Maybe that snake did surprise you. Or, maybe you sat on that badass snake so it WOULD bite you! Maybe you pretended you didn’t see the snake and just stuck your bared ass right in its face and taunted it while pretending you were going about your business all la tee dah.

So. Little things are easy to talk about first. For instance, I remember clearly and distinctly standing at Hart Theater in Waynesville, North Carolina a couple years ago, talking to a theater friend who’d just cut her hair short, and I said (there’s a metaphor here, isn’t there?), “Yeah. I love mine short and will NEVER go back to longer hair. Ever.” Um. Yeah. Guess what? I not only grew it out, but longer than I ever thought I would have. But that night as I stood there smiling and confident, I really truly believed myself. I honestly thought the words “I will never  . . . .” were true and real and were never to be altered. I thought myself completely  happy with my shorty ole hair. I couldn’t see a day when I wouldn’t be satisfied with that look. Oh how we tempt the fates with our ultimatums and declarations!

SEDUCTION COVE CVR6_edited-1 for amazonOr, I remember standing by my mother, my face all sincere and true: “Nah. Not for me. I’m not going to write trashy erotica stuff! I will never do that. I will stick to what I write.” And then, three months later, on a night when I was full of vodka and bad intent and after I’d smashed a writer’s conference mug against the tree outside my little log house and yelled into the night, “I QUIT! I am NOT WRITING ANOTHER WORD! I AM PISSED OFF AT THE WHOLE BUSINESS! FUCK THIS SHIT!” (the snow hid my shame, until it melted – lawd), I preternaturally-calm opened my word document and wrote Seduction Cove and I laughed a vodka-infused laugh, and of course, I ain’t telling my mom. I also said, “I will NEVER tell anyone I wrote it–I’ll keep Tasha a secret.” Oops; didn’t happen that way. Mom, if you happen by here: I’m sorry. Dang. And now my writing world has altered. Where will I take it next?


I will never leave this beautiful place

So, my friends. There have been some changes in my life, and more are coming. I’ve spent the last six months or so (actually, the last two years after my father died—something about a parent dying sets a woman on quests and questionings and searchings)—wading through the molasses of change and discovery and heartache and decisions that changed my life and the life of others and etc etc etc – ET CET ER A!

I will begin a series of posts about my “nevers” and my “soon to comes” and my “already happeneds” – and I hope you’ll learn something from them, or be entertained, or nod or shake your head, or ignore it all—but I need to write it. That’s what I do. I am a writer. I write things out. And when I do not, I bother my friends with my whiny angst, or send texts that are full of self-indulgent whines that I later regret (that’s a post in itself). So write I will.

Some topics—and I will never stray from them (hahaha!) are:

  • What not to do when you are alone and vulnerable
  • When you are the one you says, “I want a separation”
  • When you have said you “never” have writer’s block and suddenly you cannot write
  • When you have to leave a place/an ideal/a way of life that you thought was “forever” because you said “never will I leave this place/ideal/way of life
  • When disappointment in people attacks—when you realize the people you thought would call never do, and the ones you never thought would reach out to you do.
  • When the word “lonely” expands beyond and above what you ever thought it could be
  • When you think you cannot, absolutely cannot, face something—but then you do
  • What happens next?
  • At my age! . . . the prospects of dating and all that jazz (and being called a cougar—? Um, what?)
  • Etc.

I’ll be back soon . . . .

The Work-Out Writer . . .

DSC_0015Work-out: In my personal trainer days, I used to tell clients to “listen to their bodies” to let them know how much they could do. I now recognize how this isn’t always the case. Sometimes our bodies/minds want to fool us, because it is Hard and we don’t always like Hard. If we give up because something is difficult, then nothing great is ever accomplished. Something pushing through the hard stuff rejuvenates, takes us places we never thought we’d go. We become stronger with every hurtle we sail over–even if we smash into a few hurtles along the way and break a leg–haw! Okay, maybe we don’t wanna do that, but I certainly have sported quite a danged few bruises–my badges of Badness, yeah!

On the flipside of that: if you are over-working hoping for an over-night miracle, stop the hell doing that. Along with our hard work comes a dose of reality: it takes time to develop a strong and healthy body, especially if we’ve been sitting on our asses waiting for it to magically happen for us. Lawd y’all, and please stop listening to those infomercials–they lie. I know! Hard to believe our faithful televisions sometimes spout lies! Whadya know . . . huhn.

Writers: Working hard and not expecting an “over-night success” applies to our writing lives, as well. Sure does, uh huh! You can talk about it, or whine about it, or hope about it, or you can sit your ass down and do it. Ain’t no magic.

dsc09606Work-out: Sometimes we want some chocolate(or pick your “poison”), dammit. Sometimes we wanna sit on our asses and do nothing but eat crap and feel depressed and not do a danged ole thing. Some days everything feels sucky. “I can’t run a maratttthooonnnn.” “I’m tired of not eating what I waaaant toooooo any time I want tooo.”  Well, y’allses, when we sit on our asses and gobble down an entire box of chocolates or ten ton plate of pasta or Big Mac and fries and shake and fried apple pie, feeling sorry for ourselves and the state of Everything, welp, what happens is we feel even worse than before—inside and out. Our bodies will be bloated and sick from Crap Overload.

Better to treat ourselves to just a few pieces of that chocolate(or whatever), savoring every bite and feeling happy. Better to eat 80-90 percent Well/Healthy, and 10-20 percent Crap. Yeah, that’s easier to swallow, right? If you know you can eat, say, 10% to 20% or so of crap, the rest of the 80% to 90% is not so hard to swallow, right? riiiggghht. Cause it’s going to take you to a better body and mind and heart and guts and veins and lungs and heretoforwith so let it be written so let it be done.

Writers: Received another rejection? Feeling like shit? Well, you gonna lie back and let that suck you into the dark abyss of depression/over-eating/over-drinking, or you gonna get back up and try again? Try 10-20% whining and crying and then get back to the 80-90% work.

Work-out: It’s fruitless and stupid to compare ourselves to Any One Out There: say that loud and say it again and again and again and ever more again: Don’t compare yourself to others. Carve your own path. And, geez, you don’t know who is comparing themselves to You and wishing they had what you had: just say’n’!

Writer: Above, redux. Yeah.

156Work-out: Getting in shape/staying in shape and eating healthfully isn’t always easy, but once there, the feeling is like no other. A strong healthy body will take you into the minutes, days, months, years of your lives, and not in some half-assed way, but in Kick Ass way! Don’t you want to be in this life for the long-haul, and not just “in” this life, but fully immersed?  Then do it. Excuses are just that, and they’re boring and fruitless, and get you No Where. You ain’t foolin’ no one but yourself—nuh uh. Find your truths and learn to ignore your sneaky excuses/justifications–and they can be sneaky.

Writer: This business isn’t always easy, but ask yourself: Is this what I really want to do? Am I ready to be in this for the long-haul? Do I love writing more than my right arm? Am I ready to sacrifice? Can I handle the rejection without breaking up and breaking down? Sometimes this is the easiest best job in the entire danged ole world, and other times it sucks like a big fat suckity sucky britches—but I for one know I love it more than my right arm and have, and will, sacrifice for it.

Work-out: At the end of a grueling work-out session, find time to stretch those muscles, and then just as important as the work-out and the stretch comes the quiet moment of reflection. Time and distance from wants and needs will lift us away as we respect our bodies, minds, hearts.

kat on pierWriter: When the writing day is done, find a moment to reflect on this writing life. Calm the voices, the rejections, the expectations, the harried hurry and the long-ass frustrating waits, and remember just why you love this life so much. The raw beginnings of it, when it was just you and a white space of whatever in the world you wanted to say to anyone who would listen, even if it was only your own ears. Find that joy in quiet reflection.

dsc09608Work-out: Night comes. Time to rest the body. Rest is as important as movement. A good night’s sleep prepares you for the next day’s challenge. Let go and sleep sleep. Be grateful for the body that carries you from day to day. Keep it healthy and strong and then give it rest.

Writer: Ditto!

Finally, give yourself a big ole break, okay? Really, there isn’t a one of us who can tell you how to do this work-out life or this writing life and why and how much and for how long—only you have that power within you. Relax. It’ll all be okay. Your journey will not be mine and mine will not be hers his yours. Calm. Calm.


(Portions of this post were posted in another post when I posted about a post about a post similar to this post when I posted while not feeling kickass because GMR gave me his germs and for once I didn’t fight then off, so this post is sorta like another post, which posted the post of posty posted post, most post-like. And do you know how hard it is for me to admit I caught some flu-like illness from GMR? Me? Mrs. McToughass Britches? Yeah, I’m pissed, and humbled, and all ARGHY, and achy! Even the kickass are knocked back sometimes. Post ya later!)

Stop. Sit in your chair. Open a word doc (or pull out pen and paper) and Begin

We not only have holiday company for a few days at the little log house at Killian Knob, but I am up against a deadline, or two! The post below is a repeat post from 2009 but bears repeating. And it applies to more than just writing!

As for me, I am right now doing some last minute edits on the final Graces novel in the Graces Trilogy. The contract is signed. A date of March/April is planned for its release, and as well, Bellebooks/Bell Bridge Books is re-doing Secret Graces’s cover so that all three Graces Sagas bookcovers are similar, so they look like a trilogy (I had a lot of mixed letters/comments on the original cover for SG-some hated/some loved). I can’t wait to see what SG and the third Graces novel covers will look like – I still become excited; I still am giddy about it all.

And as well, Rose & Thorn will go live January 15 – we are busy preparing the winter issue. My New Years Holiday will be busy, but in a good kind of way.

So now –

What someone wrote in a comment one day: “You know all that is what kind of halts mein writing. It just overwhelms me and then I block. I like blogging because Ihave the feel of freely writing. I guess it is a bit of a quirk.”

Never never never never never never never never never nevernever never never never never NEVER NEVER NEVER let anything stop you fromwriting if this is what you want to doand you are ready to discipline yourself to it—no one else on this earth orbeyond should stand in your way: no advice from well-meaning writers, no rules,no nuttin’.

 Trust me when I say that if you really want to write anovel, or stories, then you must practice your craft and the only way topractice is to just sit down and write. As you practice, you will figure outwhat works for you, what your “voice” is, what your “tics” are, what yourweaknesses and strengths are, what delights you and urges you on and whatfrustrates you and makes you want to stop writing. You will find out your ownpersonal style of writing in both how you write and what you write.

 But listen! If you are happy writing blog posts, what iswrong with that? If you write a successful blog and people come to your siteand leave happy interested comments, areyou not a success? Are you not writing for an audience who loves coming byand seeing what you have written?

 When I began writing Tender Graces, I didn’t have a clue whatI was doing; I didn’t even know how to write dialogue! But I had desire. I haddiscipline. I had want. I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and thingsbegan to come clear as to my own style and voice and what made me feelcomfortable. I wrote 200,000 words and most of those had to be trashed orre-cast or fiddle-dee-deed, but, boy did I have fun, and boy did I learn muchabout what kind of writer I’d be. I was writing for an audience of one: Me.That is free-ing, let me tell you!

 Don’t let the “rules” or advice of others stop you or scareyou or make you feel as if you are somehow lacking if you don’t write in acertain way—just write and in the writing find out who you are, what kind ofwriter you are, what you love to write, and how you will write. I can’t stressthis enough. Find what makes you happy and do it.

 If the writing feels strained and you want to back away fromit, then find out what is hindering you: Are you writing for someone else? Areyou listening to too many writers (like me!) give advice and it confuses you?Are you straining towards something that isn’t meant for you?

 Stop. Sit in your chair. Open a word doc (or pull out penand paper) and Begin. Just have some fun, see what comes out. Who cares if youhave so-just-very-little; who caresif there are many adverbs and presentparticiples and dangling participles andsimiles and blah blah blah blah—how will you know what you want, or whereyou want to go, or how far you will take things, until you sit down and begin?How will you know what makes you happy until you write it without restraint?

I had to get to acertain point in my writing before the advice I read made sense –Hear that:I had to know how to sit down and writeand find out what kind of writer I’d be before all the “rules” began to makesense, and only then could I use them, manipulate them, have fun withthem—and I’m still having fun, and I’m still learning my craft—there is alwaysroom for growth, never become complacent even if you are a best-seller.

You all would laugh your arses off if you could see some ofmy first attempts at writing stories. So what? I laugh too! Haw! But I also seehow far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned and how much more I can learn.  Lawd, even some of the works I’ve had published I want to go in and change the heck out of them!

Sit. Breathe. Tune out the voices. Have fun. And, write howand what you want, and where and for whom you want. Be sincere.

Dig it out from the you that is uniquely you.
See y’all Friday for Links Day! Hope you are having a wonderful holiday.

The Work-Out Writer: How Bad Do You Want This?

I climbed on the treadmill today with less energy than I wanted. Since at least Monday, I’ve had a dull headache and that weird “impending doom” feeling. GMR teases me about it, but I usually say “Something’s coming,” when I feel this way. That something’s usually geological or atmospheric or combo. I’ve been “right,” but maybe as well there are times I’ve been wrong and just didn’t note it—all could be a coincidence. I’m still feeling it today, and danged if some weird thought didn’t bomp me in my head: “under the sea,” and now I’m feeling foolish and where was I on this post? I sure need to talk about “distraction” don’t I?

Oh yes . . . treadmill, no energy – the old “I don’t know if I can do this today” come calling . . .

You think this snail worries about how long it’ll take it to cross the road? Does it pause to consider how sucky it is?

During my jog, I wanted to stop multiple times. I didn’t want to challenge myself. I wanted Easy. To go along at this slow steady pace, or better yet, walk, or better yet, jump off and go do something else. I became so frustrated with myself, that I yelled in my head, like a red-faced coach, “HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THIS? HUH? HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THIS?” And all of a sudden, I wanted it BAD! I was fired up! I was ready to work. I bumped up the speed and tore off on the treadmill.

During one particular song, I pushed off on my leg and hovered in the air before slamming down, and did it again and again. As I hovered there, it felt as if I were suspended about a foot in the air, when in reality, I probably only came up a few inches—but the Perception was I felt myself higher. Does it really matter if I only came up a few inches? Or is the Perception of what I felt I accomplished a just-as-important reality? I like to think the latter, for it inspired me to take it further/farther, to run stronger, to push myself past the point of what I thought, or what I told myself (and this is an important insight), was my limit.


Take what I said above and apply it to your writing life, or your musical life, or your artistic life, or your work life, your home life, your Life. How bad do we want what we think we want the most? How hard are we willing to work for it? How often are we willing to feel uncomfortable? How often are we able to face disappointment and still go on? And how much are we willing to push ourselves past the point where we think we must stop?

And when we push off, hovering in the air, feeling powerful and strong, do we let that wonderful perception spur us on to do more and better and stronger? Or do we say, “Eh, I was really only inches off the ground. No big deal. Other people can jump higher. Eh.” How bad do you want this? Bad enough to sweat and push and sprint and, as well, sometimes to feel pain and set-backs and exhaustion but pick yourself up and do it again. And again. And again. And again. Once again.

I’ll tell you what giving up or giving in gives you: Not a danged thing but regret. And the flipside of that is this: you can work your ass off and still not reach all of your goals, but I can guarantee you’ll have accomplished more than you ever dreamed you could if you do not give in to negativity and fear and doubt, and note I said “not give in to it” not that you’ll never feel those things.

You’ll have jumped up, hovered higher than you ever thought you could soar, grow stronger, faster, more determined. Note the accomplishments and savor them, for even the smallest goal reached is A Goal Reached. Why do we disregard even the smallest of goals? They weren’t so small when we were arching towards them, were they?

How bad do you want this?

Photos by kat . . .

Ghostly Hands in the shower, and Linky Love

I’m having a good old time laughing on my Facebook page about, um, the weird thing that happened to me while I was in the shower. This came after a night of really bizarre dreams. But the comments about it are cracking me up The weird thing that happened is this, and I’ll just cut and paste from FB status:

At the risk of sounding really weird (hush up! I heard that!) here’s what happened: I was in the shower, rinsing shampoo from my hair, pushing my hands through my hair—right hand, left hand—when suddenly I felt a THIRD HAND push against my head! Freaked. Me. Out! I turned, heart pounding: nothing there. Then I realized it must have only been water hitting my head just so—that’s my story & I’m sticking to it. Dang.

Ghostly hand helping me wash my hair – good lawd! Then last night, my coffee maker turned on and started the coffee while I was in bed reading -LAWD! – okay, maybe it was accidentally programmed – or … do do do do do do do do do do do do …. So, anyone have ghostly tales?

Today I have links –

I was a guest at the wonderful William Johnson’s place: Life through the Prism: an author’s journal – stop by and say hello and visit: Writing out the Fear . . .

I hope you’ll go by the Rose & Thorn Journal blog – lots of good stuff there. I am the first post today (we post every Wednesday) but if you scroll down, you will see so many great posts about writers and writing and life. We have a feature called “Back Story” where the writers we have published in Rose & Thorn Journal write a post for the blog about their experience or thoughts, etc, on the story they wrote. My post is actually an archive from my blog here “Behind the Wizard’s Curtain.”

I just finished two wonderful novels – one is yet unpublished and the other recently published: Our own Sharla Scroggs (She is writing under Sharla Lovelace) has a novel coming out soon – I read it to “blurb” it for her and was so enchanted; I adore her book! I simply could not put it down and was sad when it was over; BRAVA Sharla!

The second novel is The Secret of Lies by Barbara Forte Abate. What is funny is we were both reading each other’s novels at the same time and we both loved each other’s novels – I felt so lucky to have read two books in a row where I could not put down the book and where I loved loved the characters and setting, etc. Barbara has a great inspiring blog post up today: If you write it, they will reject it.

You can win a copy of Teresa Frohock’s newly almost-released book – Win an autographed copy of MISERERE: AN AUTUMN TALE! on her agent’s blog, Weronika Janczuk.

Jan O’hara, Miz Tart, is doing a survey on Author Interviews – she’d love your help and response!

Okay, that’s enough for today. Y’all have a good great day and weekend to come!

(all photos are kat magendie’s except for R&T keys icon & R&T cover art

Allowing the possibility of failure, but also the possibility of success . . .

It started out as an experiment. I wanted to jog, just a little. Part of me was afraid, because I had just a tiny glitch in my heart valve, or something or other, that my heart rate would race up very quickly and I’d be dizzy and nauseated. It’s a scary thing, glitches of the heart are. For one wonders if suddenly the heart will race out of control and then freeze up and the keeling over dead would occur and that would suck—my doc reassured me I wouldn’t die, but could pass out. Okay, I thought, I can deal with passing out as long as I won’t die. Good. Yeah. Okay.

But, the idea of running any distance or at any but a slow plodding pace seemed far-fetched for me. Still. I wanted to try it. I’d watch others at the gym or at Lake Junaluska jogging/running and they looked so . . . I don’t know . . . intense but satisfied? Happy? Healthy? Successful in their goals? Wait, I know: as if they belonged to a special club. I wanted to be in the club.

In April of this year, I began. It started at Lake J, where I’d go in one direction and GMR in another and we’d meet in the middle. Little Maggie Lou and I would jog a little, walk a little, jog, walk, jog-walk. My feet barely left the pavement. Even so, when I’d pass another runner, I’d feel a little thrill as I waved at them. They’d sprint past, but I’d not let myself feel as if I were somehow “not enough.” No. I’d keep running my little pace, plod plod plod.

Even still, it seemed my heart and lungs weren’t going to be cooperative. I’d meet GMR and have to walk until the weird light-headed feeling faded. The first time I was able to jog without walking most all the way to meet GMR halfway, I was euphoric! I did it! But, I told myself, that’s only maybe a mile. And I was going pretty slowly. And . . . well . . .I wanted to see what else I was capable of. I could feel tiny changes inside of me, like knitting.

The next time I was at the gym, I stepped onto the treadmill, punched in 3.5 and did this little light jog where my feet came up about a milli-meter from the treadmill. I set a goal of twenty minutes of straight jogging. The next time I pushed it up to 3.8 and tried to go longer. Soon the dizzy weird light-head feeling came and I had to slow up, then walk. Twice a week, I went to that treadmill and set tiny little goals: I’ll go a mile without stopping. I’ll speed up for a minute and then I’ll slow down. I’ll go a little longer. I’ll go a little faster. One mile turned to two. 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8. Two miles turned to two and a half, then three, then four, then five. Two days a week turned to three days a week and 3.8 turned into 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 . . . then I tried sprints—5.5, 5.6, even yesterday 6.0 (though I couldn’t sustain that for long—yet).

Sometimes my back pain hits me hard. Sometimes I push myself too much and the old light-headed weird feeling comes on. Sometimes I’m tired and can’t do as much as I’d like. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing all this when I could be working, or goofing off. Sometimes I look at other runners and wish I were doing what they were. Sometimes I wish I’d have started this a long time ago. Sometimes I think for all the hard work I’m doing my body should respond in ways it may not respond because I am a 53 year old woman and not a 33 year old woman.

But, I am seeing many changes in my mind and body. Progress.

I keep running. One step, two, three, four. From April until now I’ve learned things about my body and myself. I’ve grown as a runner. I’ve learned to focus on what I’m doing and to enjoy the process instead of letting my mind wander all over creation or looking way ahead to where I could be or maybe be or if I was here there or yonder or etc etc etc. I’ve learned what my weaknesses are and my strengths and what weaknesses I can make stonger or what I have to accept, and what strengths I can rely on and experiment with. I’ve learned what to accept as “it’s just how it is so get over it,” and what I can change–or at the very least that trying is better than sitting around wishing. No one gets anywhere by sitting around WISHING . . . you eventually just have to take a step, then the next, then . . . the rest.

If in April anyone would have told me that I’d be doing what I’m doing now, I’d have said: “Me? I can’t do that! My heart won’t let me. I have this problem, you see, where my heart rate rushes too high and I could pass out. Nope, not me. I wish, but, nah, not going to happen. Oh well. Dang. Guess I’ll just WISH.”

If I had not tried. If I had not just Done It. If I had not pushed myself just a little and a lot. If I had not practiced practiced practiced. If I had not allowed myself the possibility of failure, but also the possibility of success. Then I would never know how great it feels to run. How my body has responded. How I feel as if I am a member of some club I never had access to before.

Now—take everything I just wrote about running and apply that to writing.

Enjoy your weekend!

(PS – for some reason I can’t upload photos any longer in blogger – bummer! – I haven’t said “bummer” in years – huhn, wonder were that came from *laugh* anyone else having that problem with photos?)

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