National Novel Writing Month Is Now Over…

My novel ended up being 56,244 words, much less than I had originally hoped for, but I succeeded at meeting the required 50,000 words with about two days to spare. My goal for these writing month marathons is always to finish the complete first draft of my novels in addition to the word count goal.

The novel I worked on in November, “Before I go” turned out to be 41 chapters (I took one out towards the end that seemed to be a pointless chapter once I got to it) and was inspired by a photo I spotted on Facebook that looked like a family member that died many years ago…coupled with a handful of old family folklore stories I have heard repeated many, many times.

This novel, not unlike my other first drafts, is in line with being just as awful. I saw some glimmers of hope peppered throughout but I am now ready to bench the manuscript for a little while and pick back up where I left off with my queries and (older) novel rewrites.

This is also the first December that I am still plugging forward. Normally I am exhausted (you can’t see me but I am putting the back of my hand up to my forehead and am ready to faint) after writing a complete first draft during November plus being knee deep in the holiday season – my writing has always taken a backseat during December. The problem with that, I have discovered over the years, is that by the time I get myself into full swing come January it is the end of February. So I’ve lost a good three months “recovering” from the oh-so-difficult writing of a first draft. Oh, the horrors. Poor me.

I have decided this year I don’t have the luxury of not writing for several months (not to mention how cold and out of shape it makes me) and while the first couple of days of December is hopefully not an indication of what is to come…especially with the goals I have set for an exciting and hopefully VERY productive 2015.

Here is my opening line from “Before I Go”:

The casket was sealed without embalming the man that died suddenly on his anniversary.

And there are 56,230 words left that are equally horrible…(for now.)

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18 Million Dollars

I read a post on Facebook today that asked people, “What would you do if someone handed you a check for 18 million dollars?”

The responses were ALL the same.

Give.”

“Faint, then donate.”

“Contribute to non-profits…”

“Help those that don’t have anything.”

“I would give my church 10%.”

“Tithe and live a life of charity.”

Okay, this is why I will not suddenly be handed a check for 18 million dollars without some kind of work attached to it.

It is also the reason I will not be one of those people who finds a suitcase in the bathroom with thirty thousand dollars inside and turn the suitcase in so the owner could be found.

Because, turning a suitcase I found with thirty thousand dollars inside would be hard to hand over…

So shoot me. I’m a terrible person.

But if I was given 18 million dollars the first thing I would probably do: pay off my mortgage and my kid’s student loan debt. Maybe get a second car to replace our current second car that actually has a heater that works. I would probably travel a bit too – see the world. Maybe I would hire a gardener and a housekeeper who would actually clean inside my oven and my five hundred windows. Hire a trainer that will come to my house every morning and force me to workout. Yes, yes I would donate money to charity too. I’m not totally a heartless, selfish person after all.

My point is that I find it funny that everyone on social media…with everyone watching and reading the comments and if they type it on Facebook then surely god will see they are good and honest folk…would hate to look bad and god forbid, selfish. If I went on there and posted about paying off my mortgage, traveling the world, and hiring a trainer I would be taken out to the nearest oak and slapped with a verbal whip so common on Facebook. But I bet there isn’t one person hiding sitting behind their laptops counting the thousands of ways they would spend that much money, if handed to them out of the blue, right down to a new big house, weekends in Paris, and a new Coach handbag for every season. Vainglory at its best.

To the people who claim all they would do with their money would be to give and donate to charities: I call bullshit.

Writing Challenges

When I was in high school I used to show my best friend all my silly little short stories I wrote passionately on a typewriter my parents bought me after my 9th grade junior high graduation. She used to tell me that my spelling was awful (I had the hardest time with words like ‘clothes’ and ‘deodorant’).

For Christmas one year I put together a small cookbook of family favorite recipes my mom and grandmother used to make and gave it to both my brother’s and their family, one to my parents, and one to that best friend I mentioned above. Inside the cookbook I thought it would be fun to add a few Christmas related short stories. Since no one (I mean NO ONE) said a thing about the stories I decided to put my Writer Hat on and bravely ask my friend what she thought of my short stories. I wanted to know if she liked the twist at the end of one of them. Her response? “I figured it out halfway through.”

Oh.

I know. I need to pull up my big girl pants. Writing is a tough business for us sensitive types.

Then, on another Christmas my sister-in-law picked up my 10-years-worth holiday scrapbook that I brought out to share with my family since we have been spending every Christmas Eve together from the beginning of time – or the mid-1970s, whatever. Anyway, she read something in there she didn’t like.

In a nutshell: I journaled about one Christmas Eve that took place at her house (and my brother) and I said that the highlight of that holiday was after we left their house and went to my uncle’s house where my grandmother and extended family gathered. (In our large Italian family Christmas was spent together for two straight days of talking, eating, cooking, and repeating.) It was one of my grandmother’s last Christmas but of course I didn’t know that then. Well, she got offended with what I wrote and stormed out.

Yes, in the dramatic flair of a high school drama student with a sparkly crown on her head. All that was missing was the sash around her chest.

And chaos ensued.

My brother went after her followed by my other brother and other sister-in-law, all in an attempt to calm her down and bring her back to the house so the holidays could (awkwardly) continue. Meanwhile, my parents were pissed AT ME. “Why did you write that?” “Why do you have to write stuff like that?”

When my sister-in-law did return to the house she started yelling at both me and my mother asking my mother “How can you allow her to write this stuff?”

Mind you I was thirty-five years old.

Needless to say I never (and I mean NEVER) allowed ANYONE to read any of my scrapbooks again. In fact, I now hide them whenever I have company coming over.

But that event was the turning point for opening my eyes at a challenge I think I’ve had my entire life and one that these days I have to constantly – as in EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. – tell myself that I can move past and not be defined by what others think. So what if they don’t like my writing? Who cares if they don’t support me in the job that I feel was a true calling of mine? What difference does it make that they snicker at the silliness of it all behind my back? Big deal if they read something and only point out a few typos and that’s it?

Every day I have to work at being a Big Writer Girl who isn’t so sensitive and who has to move past the need to be accepted as a writer by her family/friends.

Believe me, it’s fucking hard.

Enter blogging and social media.

Oh Me Gawd, someone hold me. If I had known back when I started it all (blogging and social media) that it would have caused as many problems as it has, I might have been less public about it from the beginning.

When I first began blogging I was over at Typepad, which meant all my friends and family knew where and how to find me. That was actually one of the big reasons for putting my Typepad blog to rest and beginning anew over here in Wordsmitheryland.

That best friend I mentioned in the beginning of this post? She is the one that read my blog and felt I was talking directly about her. The post was about people who are so busy with life and how I choose not to live my life that way. (It was longer, I believe, but that’s the gist.) She felt I wrote that in direct response to her (she never did understand that all that I write about on my blog(s) is about ME and that “too busy with life” post was about every single person I know). Our friendship began to suffer around mid-2008 when I did the blog post and around the time of personal and huge life changes in my own life.

Anyway.

To this day we are still considered “friends” but we are not really talking or involved in any sort of relationship even though she is godmother to my firstborn and I am godmother to her firstborn and we’ve known each other since we were tweens.

Since that incident on my blog there has been nine hundred other posts that have stepped in and caused the same problems.

In another words, my words have gotten me in trouble since I began writing those little books in the third grade on tablets of paper my dad gave me.

And then there is social media.

I can’t even count how many times someone (my extended family) will comment about what I write about on Facebook. (Give me a break, seriously, it’s Facebook, not the United Nations.)

I complain too much. I shouldn’t have said this. I said that in a bad way. I hurt someone’s feeling talking about the other thing. I shouldn’t talk about that. Why does she have to say this or that? I showed someone what you wrote because I was like, she is saying that on Facebook? My mom will call me and tell me that so-and-so said they couldn’t believe what I posted. I will have family members tell me how they roll their eyes at what I write about on Facebook. A week doesn’t go by that someone won’t negatively comment to me about something I have posted on Facebook.

I’ve heard it ALL.

And every time I (literally) scratch my head. What? Really? WHY DO YOU CARE? It’s Facebook! It’s a fluffy place to talk about fluffy things. And I somehow made you mad or offended or pissed off? Seriously?

Fuck.

That is my life. It never stops.

Which is now why I have a blog without a name so I can’t be as easily found. And no one in my family has asked for my new blog. And for awhile I got away with blocking people on Facebook until I was called out on it and was like, “oops.”

And to this day not one person in my extended family ever asks me about my writing, my books, or my projects. But, I will say I am kind of used to that by now, but sometimes when I think about it the lack of care hurts me. Sometimes my mom will say, “When are you going to ever be done with that book? You’re going to be fifty before you get it published.” Or she will write on my Writer’s Digest magazines, under headings of “How to get published in whatever-year” “WHEN??? HA HA HA.”

Maybe people don’t know what to say to writers – kind of like how people don’t know what to say to someone who just lost a loved one. I don’t know. And believe me, I don’t let this hold me back – but I do have to work on keeping that weight on my shoulders from hurting and crushing me. I have to constantly keep my head above water and remind myself regularly that I was meant to be doing this – despite not having any support – because I have loved writing since the third grade when I wrote about doughnut sisters (yes, actual doughnuts, complete with sprinkles). 

And for the record, the book my mother was referring to IS finished – along with almost ten other novels and non-fiction books AND a children’s book – I am only rewriting and editing now.

The Water Challenge Woes

Sometimes I wonder if we are all getting more touchy and picky and argumentative or the Devil of Social Media is making everyone bat shit crazy.

Let’s take this whole ALS Ice Bucket Challenge thing.

People dump a bucket of ice cold water on their heads, nominate a few people, donate to the ALS charity and go about their day.

Seems simple, innocent, and for a good cause.

And then someone – somewhere made a comment on social media about people wasting water.

And that California is in a drought after all.

And then images of poor children drinking dirty capfuls of water in third world countries alongside photos of careless water-wasting Americans dumping (gasp, wasting!) water over their heads.

And then serious folks began to suggest dumping the buckets of water at least over your grass or in your garden and not on your driveway or somewhere else careless and wasteful.

Oh. Me. Gawd.

Are you kidding me?

A bucket of water we are talking about, right?

Do these complainers of Wasting Water take showers? Do they turn the water off when they brush their teeth? Do they have their car washed? Do they have a yard or a garden or herbs growing on their windowsill? Do their children play in the sprinklers? Do they fill the birdbath with water? Do they give the dog a bath? Do they wash out the cooler after a long day at the beach/camping/car ride? What about the football players who squirt water in their mouths during a game and miss, dribbling wasted water onto the field? Do these complainers wash dishes? Do laundry? What about those careless doctors who wash their hands all day long? Or those people who have swimming pools? Let’s not forget those people in places like Arizona who plug in misters to their hoses when it is too damn hot outside. Or family reunion goers who toss dozens of water balloons at each other, laughing…when people in third world countries are thirsty. The shame.

Give me a fucking break.

It’s a bucket of water, for heaven’s sake. Dump it on your head, donate some money, and stop letting the Devil of Social Media win here. Believe me, the state of California will still be in a drought with or without this Ice Bucket Challenge.

The Problem With Reunions

This year marks my thirtieth class reunion. Hard to believe it has been three decades considering I just graduated a few years ago.

I have a very interesting class. Those silly folks of the class of 1984 just love each other so much we have had a ten, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five class reunion. Good god, enough already.

I went to the tenth and fifteenth. By the time we had our twenty I was moving to Idaho and no longer in southern California, or Los Angeles where I went to high school. By our twenty-fifth, as luck would have it, we were moving to Pennsylvania.

I guess I could say I haven’t seen these folks in while.

But.

Hello, Social Media.

We are EVERYWHERE.

I know more about folks I didn’t even know or socialize with in high school – nor the other reunions for that matter. I know the names of their dogs. Where their kids are going to college. What they ate for dinner last night. I know when they left their last job and even saw pictures of where they work now. I know all about their vacations and birthday parties and trips to the gym. I know how much weight they lost, what color their cars are, and even when they clean their house. I know every single award given to their children and even the exact moment their marriages ended. And I know how liberal, religious, and conservative they are.

My questions is: do we even need class reunions anymore in an age of social media? Are reunions soon to be in the dying stack alongside eight tracks, typewriters, and Betamax?

I’m still on the fence about going. It means flying to L.A., figuring out how to get to and from the venue, where to stay, blah blah blah. At this point in the game I would go alone. Nothing is more torturous than dragging a spouse along to relive the days when you were too young to watch R rated movies and your life was made up of cheerleading, writing in a diary, and girl drama.

Worse, what do I say to those “friends” from Facebook who de-friended me? Do I just go up to them and carry on a conversation knowing full well that we were friends on Facebook but then they de-friended me? And, gawd, does that put me right back into high school which is the bad part about digging around where the past lives. Oye. And what about the people I talk to all the time on Facebook but truly have no memory of them in actual high school? I mean, I had to look them up in the yearbook and I still have no recollection of walking the same halls together nor having classes together.

Social media has made it easy to regain friendships, (re)connect, share your life with people who don’t live nearby, and develop new relationships with people who share a commonality, such as graduating from the same high school.

It has also made class reunions almost unnecessary.

The Age of Saying Anything

I’m addicted to social media.

I am.

And I wish to god I wasn’t.

Some days it feels as if the world of social media has unleashed a firestorm of people, anonymous or otherwise, out there saying whatever it is that comes to their mind, day or night, and without much care as to how their words make others feel.

I’m certainly not saying I have been passed over by this trend but right now it feels – as a society – we have thrown up all over ourselves. We are a society that doesn’t take the written word seriously. We curse, argue, defend, fight, and slam people for everything from a news station posting about the weather to medical advocates trying to dictate what is said and not said on their Facebook wall.

And people are nasty.

I mean, downright naaassstttyyy.

They seem to have no objections to dis on anyone whose beliefs differ ever so slightly from their own. 

Political, religious, even bad drivers that have relocated – all fair game in the World We Live In Today.

Everyone has a target on their back and no longer are we conversing around tables, hashing out arguments and discussing politics or medical developments with a glass of wine and a fine dinner but instead hiding behind these keyboards and typing away all the disgust we can muster at – well, complete strangers in most cases.

I guess the same could be said about blogs and podcasts and websites where anything we want to talk about – voila – we can talk about. Are we becoming simply full of ourselves? That we all have something monumental to talk about? People living in remote areas with no formal education and hasn’t read a book since the sixth grade are finding ways to converse with us? Why do we care what other people, strangers, have to say anyway? Is this making us somehow better? More enlightened? More connected?

I don’t know, honestly.

I wonder when the pendulum will shift and our society will head back into some kind of civilized existence when we aren’t spending hours and hours arguing with complete strangers about who are better drivers in the rain.

It’s all becoming extremely tiresome, narcissistic, and dreadful.