#Blogtoberfest Day 16: #NaNoWriMo Prep

Ever since my first NaNoWriMo about 2004, I’ve run fast from any mention of “NaNo.” What a big mess of a manuscript I wrote – something I could never edit into coherence.

The writer of this post thinks people should stop writing and start reading – that writers get way too much attention at book stores. I agree, that it isn’t for everybody and there are reasons to do it or not to do it – only you can make that decision. But here’s why I’m going to commit to doing it this year:

I’m reading the revised edition of “No Plot, No Problem” and the author made this statement:

“The year was 1999, and I was working as a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, drinking way too much coffee and watching the dot-com boom rewrite the rules of life around me”

That was me, too!  After moving around quite a bit since then, I love the idea of reconnecting with Bay Area people who were there back then and maybe still there. But NaNoWriMo also connects me to a writing community and after writing in isolation for too many years from moving around a lot, stumbling around in the songwriting community, which is nothing like a writing community, I’m eager to reconnect with a writing community again.

So, yeah,  committing to #Blogtoberfest is the warm-up to writing every day and so I’m preparing to writing a novel during November, no matter how short or long, as long as there is a beginning, an ending, and a middle.

#Blogtoberfest Day 15: A Phenomenal Woman (#poem)

I read “Phenomenal Woman” in Maya Angelou’s Poems, and I’d like to quote it here. I hope that’s allowed as long as I give credit with a link to the book. Anyway, she’s such a brilliant poet, and I have much to learn from her writing.

I totally relate to this poem because I’ve often said it’s not so much about how pretty or skinny or young you are – it’s your attitude and the confidence you display that gets attention from both men and women.

Except for the “chick lit” era when I had my “Chicks Over 40” blog, I often feel invisible online. I feel far more appreciated in person walking down the street among total strangers.

Phenomenal Woman (a poem) by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s sin the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
“Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

#Blogtoberfest Day 11: Poetry-Inspired Lyrics

The Flame, Leonard Cohen’s last book of poetry (and more), arrives on Friday. I can’t wait to read it, especially after reading some of the poems in the sample. I got the hard cover because some books should be read in print.

I love that his songs started out as poems. My first song submitted for professional feedback to a NY Broadway composer started out as a poem and he led me down the path to making it a song.

In Nashville, “writing to title” co-write sessions are scheduled – they have nothing to do with poetry but the good news is everybody in the room gets songwriter credit. (Two NSAI mentors loved one of my “hooks” but somehow my story wasn’t the usual Nashville story and it didn’t go anywhere).

In Confessions of a Serial Songwriter by Shelly Peiken, she laments today’s songwriter in L.A. being relegated to “topliner” – the person who is called in to write the melody or lyric or maybe just a hook or phrase. The “producer” provides the “backing track” and gets 50% of writing credit and the rest is divvied up according to some sort of formula.

But you know what? This is what you get when a society decides that humans can be created the same way – sperm donor meets egg donor meets surrogate and somehow the couple who purchases all of this genetic material becomes the “parents” and a “family” is created.

I don’t see much difference in creating a human and in creating a song today. Very sad with many consequences with this type of thinking. But that’s the world people have shouted into being. At least for now. I pray that people will come to their senses some day.

#Blogtoberfest Day 5: Social Media Makes You Stupid

I believe that people aren’t normally stupid. Dysfunction, inauthenticity makes people look stupid. Social media actually makes people do stupid. It dulls your brain, your thinking ability, lessens your communication/people skills.

Take writing, for example. It’s often been said that you need to exercise your writing muscle and write every day or most days to stay strong. So inactivity weakens that writing muscle. And if you’re inactively writing because you’re sharing photos and likes on social media, your brain becomes lazy.

And so I sit here day after day this October unable to focus on writing a scene. It’s like when I first started writing, only worse. Back then, it took me all day to actually sit down and write a scene. I had good intentions of starting my writing day int he morning. But I couldn’t get anything out of my head until about 4 p.m.

Now I’d be happy if I could do that. Instead, my brain is jello, my attention span is ridiculously short. It’s easier to flip through youtube channels, peek into Twitter, and play a game on my iPad. I might read, but even that seems like a challenge – all of that focus on understanding content.

This is sad and must come to an end. I must sit down  and write every day to get that flabby writing muscle in shape. Even music has become a crutch – it’s easier to open up Logic Pro and start auditioning Apple loops or keyboard a few midi notes.

Maybe that’s what #Blogtoberfest is all about for me – getting my writing muscle back in shape. A daily blog post is the warm-up, hopefully leading to writing a sentence, a paragraph, a page, three pages maybe. That used to come so easily. But one thing I’m noticing is that I feel such peace when I’m sitting down and actually writing something… anything.

 

Who Am I? (#poem) National Poetry Day

I read on Twitter that today is National Poetry Day so I decided to finish this poem I started last month.

Who Am I?

Who am I supposed to be in this land of make believe play?
Wearing a mask I did not make but just another’s overlay
Searching for truth amidst the lies
Sifting through sand and my favorite disguise

Holding on for dear life with fears I can’t shake
Holding back in safety keeping the distance of arm’s length
What we want, what we need, and what we fear most
Reflections in the mirror of a lost soul’s ghost

Assignations with people who do not exist
Adventures not taken are what I have missed
Poems are friends where I come alive
Seeking connection with those with like minds

#Blogtoberfest Day 2: Reading-Inspired Writing

The call of the novel will not sleep no matter how hard I try to put it to rest. So I’ve decided to prioritize writing for the next two months: this month I’m taking a class to get inspired and next month, I’m seriously considering NanoWriMo, although my first experience with it years ago did not yield anything worthwhile.

In the meantime, I’m reading like mad because reading inspires my writing. I imagine that’s true for all writers, right? We first thought about writing as readers.

I was sampling a few different genres but in the contemporary novels, I was finding too many references to Facebook, texting, Google, etc. I mean, I’ve done all of that, but I don’t want to see it in the novels I read. For some reason, some writers feel they need to include all of that, as if their readers expect it. In fact, I did read a comment about a reader who was disappointed that the book didn’t include social media. But as our society discovers more and more how unhealthy these things are, I think they will disappear from novels and that will really date your so-called contemporary novel.

It’s fiction, it does not need to represent real life. So I’m finding myself more and more reading novels set in the past. In fact, the book I finally settled on reading is set in 1959, Hassie Calhoun: A Las Vegas Novel of Innocence by Pamela Cory.

This is inspiring my own writing, because I really enjoy writing stories set in the past and Las Vegas is a frequent setting for me. Thoughts of my next novel are whirling in my head as I read.

#Blogtoberfest Kickoff, Day 1: The Hazards of Social Media

I’ve noticed several vloggers out there kicking off a #Vlogtoberfest for the month of October and I seem to recall that this was once also a thing in the blogging world. So I’ve decided to do my own #blogtoberfest by blogging every day for the month of October.

I’ve missed blogging on a regular basis and when my aunt and I were working on her new blog together, I remembered how much I enjoy it, especially now that I’m really cutting down on social media.

A fan of #deletefacebook and #deleteinstagram, my life has improved greatly. In case you haven’t seen this, check out this link to this guy’s comments on how social media changes our behavior and not in a good way. Or go straight to the source and watch this video with Jaron Lanier. He has some especially insightful comments about how Trump’s Twitter addiction has changed him for the worse. There’s motivation right there to get off.

One of the blessings of getting off social media (not entirely – I’m still holding onto Twitter and was forced to return to LinkedIn when I wanted to take some classes on what was once Lynda.com. Ugh!!

But I don’t find either of these addiction or even compelling – they’re just there. But soon after the founders of Instagram left Facebook, I could see Facebook all over it. Instead of leaving Instagram as it was, which was kinda fun, they’re ruining it by making it more like Facebook. Dudes – if Instagram is supposed to save Facebook, why not leave it alone instead of ruining it, too?

Anyway, one of the blessings of leaving social media is that surprise has returned to my life. Instead of people browsing predictable news feeds on social media, thinking they’re all caught up with your life, they actually surprise you with a text or email or even a phone call – maybe even a visit or meetup. Imagine that!

Getting of social media is the path to sanity, my friends!

(From 5 Legit Reasons to Delete Facebook...)

Time to Retreat to my Writing Cave

We’ve returned from my super fun birthday trip to Mexico. The sad thing was that after we landed at LAX and picked up our rental car, we got a call from the pet sitter that our beloved 18-year-old Skipper was gone.

He was more son than pet. He’d been having good days and bad days but he kept rebounding, so I was hopeful he’d still be around when we returned. So with a heavy heart, we soldiered on with the trip, knowing that Skipper would want us to have a great time.

Friends and family told us that Skipper chose his way to go and, while no way would be easy, this would be best for all of us. That sounds like Skipper because he definitely did things his way. He was King of our house for 18 years!

My cats have taught me many things and Skipper has given me somewhat of a sense of what it must feel like to have a son or daughter go off to college, although I realize it’s not the same, but it does give me a peek into that emotion. I like to think he ran off to Nashville to pursue a music career or enroll in Culinary School. lol!

Anyway, because of this sadness, I’ve really pulled back from my music. I need a break. It’s too much of an Exfrovert pursuit right now for this Introvert, and I need to retreat, be quiet, and take time to grieve.

I am inspired to write, though. It’s quieter, more introspective, and after watching “The Durrells,” I’m inspired by writer Larry. I miss that kind of writing life.

So no 50/90 for me this year. Instead, I’m working on the third book of the “Real Women” trilogy, the one about Sandy cruising the Mexican Riviera, searching for her self-esteem and purpose in life.

In the meantime, why not check out the first two books in the trilogy: Real Women Wear Red and Real Women Go Hawaiian. For a limited time, you can get a special edition of Real Women Wear Red that includes book 2, Real Women Go Hawaiian.

The Day I Died

According to my mother, I died the day she was called to school to speak to a counselor in my junior year of high school after moving from sunny Southern California to the gloomy, rainy, dreary grey skies of Oregon. She yanked me out of school, scaring me half out of my mind. I asked, “What’s wrong?”

She said, “Somebody died!”

My heart thundered in my ears as my fear escalated. I asked, “Who?”

“You!” she said with force in that dramatic way of hers when she wanted to control a situation.

The truth is, my English teacher and I had had a misunderstanding about the due dates of a particular project. I thought I was supposed to hand in the paper at the end, but, according to her, I hadn’t been handing in my weekly papers. I had no idea it was supposed to be weekly. How I could have misunderstood that, I’ll never know, because I was an “A” Honor Roll student. This was a new progressive school, unlike any I’d known before, with study periods sprinkled throughout the day in various study nooks. It made sense to me that the project was due at the end of the term – like my science paper.

The situation escalated when the school counselor called my mother in to meet with him. Mind you, none of this was known to me until the day my mother yanked me out of school, declaring my death. The counselor supposedly said, “When a student changes this much in a short amount of time, they’re usually on drugs.”

Drugs? Now I was supposed to be on drugs due to a misunderstanding? Drugs were the last thing on my mind. This was the late ’60s/early ’70s when adults were hyper watchful and suspicious about kids taking drugs. Of course, I only have my mother’s word for this conversation. As I would discover much, much later in life, it was difficult to know the truth about anything because she lied even when there was no reason to lie.

But she might be right about that moment being the day I died, because, honestly, I think I died as soon as she’d decided to leave our beautiful new home in Orange County, California where I had the best year of my life. As editor-in-chief of the school yearbook in the first graduating class, I had many privileges such as being the first editor and naming the yearbook, singing in the choir, and even featured as a soloist in the spring program. Life was looking pretty rosy in that moment.

Not only did we leave this beautiful home, friends, and family and school, but we moved to Oregon and lived in an old 1930s farm house where the kids’ bedrooms were all upstairs where there was no heat. My small container of water I kept for my eye liner froze over. That’s how cold it was.

Not to mention our enrollment in her mother’s religious cult (Jehovah’s Witnesses) where we gave up birthdays, Christmas, in fact, all holidays had to go plus that door-to-door pushing JW magazines with the threat of total destruction at Armageddon, thereby, avoiding “bad associations” (“worldly” friends at school) and the places they hung out (the choir, and all school activities beyond the required). And then there were the male chauvinistic elders who policed our behavior. Eventually, I was totally indoctrinated.

But God had plans to turn things around for me. Fast forward twenty-five years when I met a lovely Christian man at work and we both converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church in Cupertino, California and experienced the most amazing Sacramental Orthodox wedding.

When I informed my mother of this decision, she called me at work (again, for the most dramatic effect), and said she’d called to “Say good-bye.” As a Jehovah’s Witness, she officially would have to “shun” me. Of course, she admitted later that she never really believed in the religion and didn’t consider herself spiritual at all. I concluded it was more of a crutch, a tool to control, than it was any deeply held religious beliefs.

From that moment on, I set out on a journey to find the truth about so many things, including my biological father, which led to discovering the type of person my mother really was. Looking back, I see that, not only did she deprive me of my father and the rest of that side of the family who all lived within thirty minutes of our home, but then she took me completely away from the place I called home, leaving behind everything that was important to me.

Much later I would discover there’s a name for mothers like that and the daughters who must endure their cruelty. They’re called “Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.” or DONM. We hear the word “narcissist” tossed around lightly on social media these days but this is something far more than what we might think. One book I recommend is “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistc  Mothers.”

Soon after I met my father, I wrote about meeting my father for the first time and the lessons learned in Myths of the Fatherless but often my fiction has a similar theme. One work in progress is called “She’s Not That Good.” I’m also working on an album I’m calling, “Fathers and Other Strangers.”

So my real life didn’t end at all back then, but the real life I was supposed to live just began.

 

My Favorite Words: Not What You’d Expect

I saw this article about favorite words written by one of my favorite writer friends, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, on Twitter this morning. We were in the same Chick Lit writing group back in the day. Anyway, her post sparked this blog post about my favorite words and why.

I first became aware of having favorite words in the first grade. A classmate of mine named Lucy obviously loved the word “Lucy” because she’d write “Lucy Lucy Lucy” all over the place.

But my favorite words were “said” and “David.” This seemed really strange to me. Why “said?” Why “David?” I liked the sound they made. The beat of the “d.” It wasn’t until I met my father’s family, who happen to all be musicians, especially drummers, that I understood first of all, why I loved the drums so much (“All my kids play the drums,” my father said), and why I loved “said” and “David.” (The story of that meeting was published in Myths of the Fatherless.)

If you listen closely you can hear that “said” and “David” sound like drum beats. So my love for words wasn’t really about being a writer and lover of expressing those words. No my love for words was about the sound they made. The drums. Music. And that’s why I switched from pursuing writing fiction solely to broadening out to songwriting and learning all I can about producing modern Electronic music. So many drums. So many sounds.