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Category Archives: Musings

Enough

Sunday mornings should be peaceful. Calm. Quiet. This past Sunday was the opposite, and as I watch the news reports rolling in, I want to weep and shout my anger in equal measure.

You already know what happened. Two gunmen in two different places walked into public areas and opened fire, murdering as many people as they could before being apprehended by police.

By most standards, the police moved swiftly. In El Paso and in Dayton, they cut short what would undoubtedly have been a much larger massacre without their intervention. The work they did was, relatively speaking, successful.

But this isn’t about the police.

One of the gunmen posted a blatantly racist screed on social media. The media is blaming his violence on a racist viewpoint. The other shooter’s violence is being attributed to possible mental illness. In both cases, the weapon of choice was at least semi-automatic, allowing more bullets and faster firing than a standard rifle or handgun. Such guns are not meant for hunting, or even target practice, though they can admittedly be used for both. Their main function is far uglier. They are human killers, plain and simple.

Regardless of the cause, these types of shootings are on the rise. From California to Florida, we are seeing mass shootings on an unprecedented scale. People are dying in terrorist incidents perpetrated by our own against our own.

Never in civilian history have so many died so pointlessly, and yet nothing is being done to prevent future incidents like those that occurred in Texas and Ohio this past weekend.

Calls for universal background checks, red flag laws and bans on certain weapons rise into the stratosphere after every one of these massacres. This time is no different, and as usual, none of them have been put into effect. The most recent gun legislation bills (HR8 and HR1112) passed the House in February, but both are stalled in the Senate and unlikely to pass. The bills extend the requirement for background checks and the time allowed to complete those checks.

How many must die before we demand action?

And while the Senate stalls, hemming and hawing with the NRA whispering in their ear and plying their pocketbooks, our people die. Our mothers, fathers, siblings, and spouses, die. Our children die.

What will it take before we demand action?


The Evil Worm

Category : Musings

Worry is an evil thing.

I don’t say this because worrying will cost you sleep, give you an ulcer, break up your marriage, ruin your health and cause you mental anguish and, eventually, illness. All that is true, but that’s not why I say that worry is evil.

Worry is evil because it does all of this…and it’s useless.

Jesus wisely pointed out that worry adds nothing good to your life. It fixes nothing, builds nothing, attempts nothing, succeeds nowhere except in immobilizing the worrier. Like a great noxious mud puddle, it simply sits, a festering, seething moil, between us and our goals. It is the thing that holds our horrifically fascinated gaze so that we can no longer see our blessings.

I’m not talking about looking carefully at real possibilities and taking reasonable precautions. I am speaking of fretting, or even obsessing, over things that “might” happen; allowing the very dregs of our imagination to paint worst case scenarios in our tired minds until we become physically ill. Or even just a little nauseous.

Because even a little worry has the potential to grow into an all-consuming monster…if you let it in and feed it.

So don’t feed it. Instead, make a good plan and move forward, because “worry is rust on the blade.” (Henry Ward Hughes) And nobody wants that. If you’re having a hard time letting go of it, take Bobby McFerrin‘s advice.

Meanwhile, relax. Follow your plan, and let go of the things you can’t fix, change or eliminate by worrying. (Which is basically everything, BTW.)

Now, where did I put that margarita mix?


Fault Lines

I have a tendency to wonder about things. In general, this is a helpful habit for a writer.

Full disclosure, this isn’t me. It could be, but it isn’t.

For example,  I wonder if corporate America is really scheming to take over our educational system in order to increase profits. (Probably.) I wonder if I’m good at my job. (Possibly, hopefully.) I wonder if the person who just cut me off in traffic needs a complete attitude adjustment or just a rigorous course in the reasonable operation of a motor vehicle.  (Maybe both.) Cue half a dozen possible plot lines.

Anyway.

While I’m wondering about these things I write, and take classes on writing, and teach and grandmother and wife and friend and complain to my husband about the aforementioned bad driver. Fortunately for all concerned I usually do these things one at a time because, the usual expectations of my gender aside, I am a one focus type of gal.

I can’t help it. With the exception of a few special situations, I have the attention span of a Chihuahua. I am, in fact, so easily distracted that I have been known to stop mid-sentence and

In general, I don’t mind this issue. It’s part of who I am and I’ve kind of learned to live with it. I do understand that it can be extremely irritating to those around me. My husband, in particular, has experienced a colossal increase to his patience gland due to having to live with me.

My point is, I know this about myself. I understand, accept and try to take steps to decrease the effect of my attention deficit on others. But, as a person who wonders, I got to thinking about my disorder and realized that everyone, and I do mean everyone, has issues. I’m not talking about actual, diagnosed illnesses. That is a whole different kettle of popcorn. I mean just regular, everyday faults.  We all know someone who is chronically tardy, or forgetful or impatient.  Everyone has flaws.  But do we all recognize that we are part of “everyone?”

One of my biggest pet peeves is the statement, “that’s just how I am.” The implication being that a person knows they have this fault, but they aren’t willing to at least try and improve. Instead they expect all those around them to simply learn to live with it. Not cool, oh faulty one. Not at all cool.

Not that we need to get all Judgy Jean on each other. We need to be compassionate and forgiving of each other’s foibles. But we also need to work to become kinder, better, more responsible versions of ourselves. Tell you what…I’ll try if you will. Who knows, if even twenty percent of us did that…

Oh look, a kitten in a basket!


True Patriotism

Today is July 4th. Independence Day for the United States of America.

For most of us, that means hot dogs and fireworks. Maybe a family trip to the lake, or a nearby park. Plus plenty of red, white and blue bunting, balloons, and other decorative paraphernalia, in various places. All this meant to celebrate the birthday of one of the most powerful, and in my view, best countries in the world.

Not everyone would agree with that last bit. Some say we’ve lost our footing, our moral imperative. Some would say we never had one in the first place, and there may be some truth to that. Lately, I’ve seen our government do some things that made me cringe. Things I never would have envisioned happening in America. And it made me want to rage, and wail, and weep.

But I still love my country.

I love that we are supposed to be a nation of equals. I know the ideal isn’t always – or even usually – realized. But it is there, and if we hold it up long enough, support it vigorously enough, maybe we can make it the norm instead of the exception.

I love that America takes a hodge-podge of cultures, ethnicities, customs and viewpoints, and not only allows them all, but gives them a place in the greater social experiment. Whether we recognize it or not, our American culture exists, a tapestry woven together with threads of every imaginable shade and texture. Traditions and faiths from all over the Earth have a home and make a contribution here. And that is beautiful.

I love that the majority of our people tend toward generosity more than toward stinginess. Check out any crowdfunding page created by those in genuine need, and time after time, you’ll see that need filled, and more than filled. Often by those who are struggling themselves.

All these things have flip sides. There are those who routinely work the system to get over on those they consider “less” than themselves. Some of our people have an unhealthy addiction to racism, sexism, faith-ism and a host of other ugly isms that tear down and destroy rather than lifting us up. Far too often, the greedy and ruthless among us succeed financially while the kinder and more compassionate bear the burden of assisting those in need. And the blame-game is far too popular here.

There is the challenge. Love your country without allowing yourself to be blind to her faults. And then work to repair those faults as much and as well as you can. It isn’t easy.

But that is the work of a true patriot.


My Top Ten

Occasionally, in my electronic travels, I come across a list. Some are smart, others are funny, some are just plain weird. My favorites are the “Top Ten Things I’ve Learned” type. So, I got to thinking, if I were going to come up with a list, what would be on it?

  1. Things that are planned generally go better than things that aren’t. The same cannot be said for things obsessed over.
  2. In the heat of the moment, when anger presses hardest against your teeth, is when your lips should be closed the tightest.
  3. Never fight the spirit of generosity. The rewards of giving may be uncertain but regret caused by resistance is virtually guaranteed.
  4. Thoughts engender words, and words give birth to actions. Control what you think, and you’ll have less cause to regret your offspring.
  5. Pursuing your passion is not selfish. Done right, it allows you to offer your best self to the world.
  6. It costs much less to be kind than it does to be mean. Never doubt it.
  7. Choosing to forgive releases you even more than it does the offender.
  8. An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but an ounce of communication is probably not enough.
  9. “Knowing all the facts,” is a mythological concept.
  10. Seeing through another’s eyes is one of the hardest tasks you can set yourself. It is also one of the most necessary for an honorable life.

So – these are ten of mine. What has life been teaching you lately?


What The World Expects

What do I have to offer the World?

What have I got to say?

Is it important?

Does that matter?

Some days I don’t know the answer to any of those questions and yet, I keep talking. Because isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Isn’t that what’s expected?

Expectation is a strange and ugly beast. Most of the fights and nearly all of the heartache in this world can be boiled down to unmet expectations.  It’s easy to forget that the world owes us nothing, and if it did, it would never acknowledge the debt.

So many of us have difficulty with the painful lesson that the world does not love us. Neither does it hate us. It simply lacks the capacity to care. We say, The World, or The Universe, in proper noun capitalization, as if either were an entity with a mind and a heart that is conscious of us. It isn’t.

A dithering head at either end with a voracious belly in between

Even society, made up of billions of minds, isn’t a conscious being. It is a hive without a mind. In fact, it’s rather like an amoral version of Dr. Dolittle’s pushmepullyou; a dithering head at either end with a voracious belly in between. Try to ride it and it’s likely to devour you, two tidy bites at a time.

It isn’t surprising that we often expect the World to care for us. All the time we are growing up we are told repeatedly what we “have a right to expect” from the World. Then we get a zapped at some point in our young adulthood with the discovery that the World had no knowledge of these expectations and further, has no plans to meet them. If our expectations or even needs are to be met, we’re probably going to have to do it ourselves.

The disappointment can be crushing.

The only way to avoid that blow is to realize that the World can do nothing for us, and it isn’t going to try. But we can, and should, do what we can for each other.

Our best shot at a good life is to put aside the childish notion that the World is obligated to give to us, and realize the beautiful truth that we are instead, created to give back. Not to the amorphous, anonymous World, but to our neighbor, our friend, the stranger we meet and find we can help.

If enough of us do that, the World will become our friend, even if it doesn’t mean to.


Lighting the Lamp

Category : Musings

Light the lamp.

Lately (as in, for the last several years) I’ve become gradually aware that I am slowly running out of time.

Don’t worry, I’m not terminally ill or suicidal. But I am a realist.

When I was twenty, I believed that I had “world enough, and time,” as the poet once said. But as I close in on the middle of my sixth decade, I realize that though death is (hopefully) not imminent, neither is it getting any farther away. So I tend to think about life a bit differently, and my priorities are being adjusted accordingly.

I’ve started thinking more about a thing’s importance than its urgency. Watching TV has dropped way down on my “to do” list, while writing has leapt into the top five. I’ve pretty much eliminated computer and online games in favor of reading. I’ve added a number of non-fiction titles to my TBR list, most of them dealing with publishing in some manner. I’ve dropped my attendance at conferences quite a bit, but plan to pick that up again next year.

Spending time with my husband and family was always in the top five, but even there, I’ve done some rearranging, moving it higher on the list. And playing with the GBs? Even writing plays second fiddle to those little bits of starshine.

As far as I know, I’ve plenty of years on my ticket yet. This is simply my way of not riding “gentle into that good night.” Don’t know about you, but I plan on raging until it is full dark.

And then I’m going to light a lamp. There is too much joy and beauty in this world to do anything else.

How about you? Are your priorities lined up the way you want them? What is at the top?


Emotion As Fuel

Emotion is a basic component of creativity.

As an angsty teen (weren’t we all?) I used poetry as a way to work through and express the confusion, sorrow, and joy that flowed through my adolescent years. 

In my twenties, I used writing to find my way out of the forest of grief that the loss of my first husband landed me in. 

These days, all the ebb and flow of life finds its way into my writing. Poetry is still my go-to for personal emotion, but I’ve turned to novels and short stories for the majority of my art and self-expression.  

Whether the emotion is sorrow or anger, love or sheer joy, it comes out in my writing. Often it is a process, where the emotion is transformed into a character’s reaction to a situation that is nothing like the one I experienced in real life. Whatever the situation, the feelings it engenders tend to be universal.

Everyone experiences loss, betrayal, ambition, in some form. Everyone needs love, security, happiness, in some measure. Tapping into these experiences and desires creates a universal language everyone can relate to and understand. 

The need to communicate those needs is just as universal. For me, writing is the form that communication takes, and emotion is the fuel.

How do you express yourself?


Plot Twists and Protecting the Lore

Did I mention I love Bobble-Heads?

I recently went to see Captain Marvel™ at my local movie theater and was favorably inclined. The acting was good, the action swift and I thought the plot-line held together well while answering a few questions for me. (Most notably, where was Carol Danvers during the whole Thanos debacle in Infinity War?)

Others were not as happy with any of the above.

The objections come in multiple flavors from arguably valid down to outright misogynistic. I’m going to pass on answering the misogyny in this post because others have already taken care of it quite well. But there were a couple of objections in a particular post I read that I’d like to discuss.

One: They replaced an awesome, powerful character with a weak Kree scientist.

I’ll grant you that Captain Mar-Vell was originally envisioned as a nega band wielding male character, and certainly engaged in more physical battles than than the current incarnation. But beyond that there are number of similarities.

Most notably: both the original character and the new movie’s character adopt the persona of a scientist. And neither is weak.

The main complication for both of them is comprised of the realization that the society they serve is unethical. To do the honorable thing, both must turn against a corrupted governmental structure. The original character does so with fists and brawn on behalf of humans, while the new iteration uses science and innovation on behalf of the embattled Skrull.

Both take the incredibly difficult path of fighting against ingrained loyalties against their own interests in order to do what is right. That takes immense strength no matter how you do it, the coolness of nega bands notwithstanding.

Two: The new iteration disrespects the lore.

Plots are twisted all the time, and the movie certainly takes some major departures from the original comic, from the gender of Mar-Vell to the true nature of the combatants in the Kree-Skrull war. The point is, none of this is a new phenomenon.

I also love legos…

Look at Spiderman.

Peter Parker has at least two origin stories, one that includes Mary Jane and another that ropes in Tony Stark. And I have no idea how Into the Spiderverse fits in. (Haven’t seen it yet.)

Now maybe the changes were made a while back or maybe it was done more recently to accommodate additional movie plot twists. I’ll leave that to actual aficionados of the genre to determine.

All I’m saying is, the new Captain Marvel isn’t the first time Marvel themselves have tweaked a storyline to suit later innovations, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

And Fan Art

And I don’t mind.

Art, including literature, is a reflection of the society in which it is produced. The original Captain Marvel comics were written and illustrated in the late 1960s, some say as a commentary on the activities of HUAC and Senator McCarthy. At the time, freedom of speech was in jeopardy. Some would say this hasn’t changed. Added to that are the recently revivified issues of feminism and social justice.

The world is undergoing an enormous plot twist. Is it such a surprise to see art undergo a corresponding change?


Expectations

I’ve been having a little trouble recently in the “why the H*** am I in this business anyway, department. And then the guest post that was supposed to go up was unavoidably detained at the blogger station. So that left me with the following questions, considering my recent bouts of existential angst:

What have I got to say?

What have I got to say? Is it important? Does it matter?

Some days I don’t know the answer to any of those questions and yet, I keep talking, ermm, writing.

Expectation is a strange and ugly beast. Most of the fights and nearly all of the heartache in this world can be boiled down to unmet expectations.  It’s easy to forget that the world owes us nothing, and if it did, it would never acknowledge the debt. So many of us have difficulty with the painful lesson that the world does not love us.

Neither does it hate us.

It simply lacks the capacity to care. We say, The World, or The Universe, in proper noun capitalization, as if either were an entity with a mind and a heart that is conscious of us. It isn’t.

Even society, made up of billions of minds, isn’t a conscious being. It is a hive without a mind. In fact, it’s rather like an amoral version of Dr. Dolittle’s Pushmepullyou; a dithering head at either end with a voracious belly in between. Try to ride it and it’s likely to devour you, two tidy bites at a time.

It isn’t surprising that we often expect the world, or at least society, to care for us. All the time we are growing up (assuming that we have good parents who love us) we are given ideas about what we have a right to expect from the world. Things like fairness, kindness, compassion. Not getting them comes under the heading of radically unfair.

Then we get a zapped at some point in our young adulthood with the discovery that the world had no knowledge of these expectations and further, has no plans to meet them. If expectations, or even needs, are to be met we’re going to have to do it ourselves. The disappointment can be crushing.

The only way to deal with that blow is to realize that the world can do nothing for us, and it isn’t going to try. But we can, and should, do what we can for the world. And by that, I mean each other. We need to lift up our fellow humans with the kindness and compassion that we’d like to see extended to ourselves.

…make an impact The World will notice.

Because what the world lacks as a whole, individuals often possess in abundance.

Our best shot is to put aside the childish notion that the world is bound to give to us and realize the beautiful truth that we are, instead, created to give back to the world.

Do that, and you might just make an impact that The World will notice.


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Current WIP

Gaia's Rebellion
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70,000 of 80,000 words