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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.


A Moment of Zen

Do you ever need a moment of Zen?

Just a few minutes, of cool water rippling over mossy stones, laying in the sunlight, kissed by the lightest, sweetest breeze, and the gentle thought that, Praise the great Time-Clock in the sky,

Tomorrow is NOT Monday.

No one is knocking on the bathroom door, and there are no deadlines on your horizon. Your work is, mercifully, if temporarily, finished.

I get so few of those Zen moments.

And this is not one of them.

It’s just a breath caught between steps, a pause to evade the lightning.

So breathe deep and step quick, but when the Zen moment comes, catch it in a death grip, close your eyes and let go, drift and be at peace in the cool, pristine space between rushings.

Because like Winter, Monday is coming.


XX Authors Interview: Featuring Tawdra Kandle

Category : Uncategorized

CLR: Give us the deets – genre(s), length of writing career, how long you’ve been writing – all the basics.

TK: I’ve been writing romance in multiple genres for a long time—most of my life, in fact!—but 2011 marked the launch of my career as a published author.

CLR: What made you choose romance?

TK: I started out writing young adult paranormal, but pretty quickly, I realized my favorite part to write was the love story. Once I’d completed my first four books, the King Series, I dipped my toes into adult contemporary romance and realized this was what I was meant to write.

CLR: How do you feel about female characters?

TK: I am passionate about writing female characters. I’m a woman, raised by strong women and the mother of three incredible daughters (and one amazing, perfect granddaughter!), so I can’t imagine not writing women.

CLR: What are the dos/don’ts of writing them for you?

TK: I have a strict policy about writing strong, realistic, flawed women. I won’t write women who depend on others to save them or to change their lives. It’s important to me that my women characters have courage, yet I also feel it’s imperative that they have a journey, a path to growth, that is part of the story.

Get your copy here.

CLR: Male characters, same question.

TK: When I wrote my paranormal romance, Undeniable, it was the first time I’d written from the male POV. I had so much fun that I couldn’t wait to do it again, and consequently, I almost always write dual POVs now. Men just have a different way of communicating and relating to each other.

CLR: What do you think about the “strong female character” trope in literature?

TK: I think of Scarlett O’Hara. Talk about a strong lady! Yet she is seldom seen as a likable, appealing character. Often, it seems, strength and relatability have been assumed to be mutually exclusive. Part of our job now as women authors is to change this perception.

CLR: Are there any special challenges to writing female characters in your genre?

TK: One of my favorite subgenres to write is sports romance. Not long ago, publishers believed that women wouldn’t read romances that involved football/baseball/hockey players, because they assumed women didn’t enjoy sports. Oh, how wrong they were! There’s a large and growing population of women who are crazy for sports romance—but while writing it, I have to walk a balance of creating female characters who are passionate about sports along with those who aren’t. I also try not to fall into stereotypes about women no matter what subgenres I’m writing. Traditionally, women in romances, be they contemporary or historical, tended to be needy and stupid in love. Often, women were depicted as manipulative, trying to trick or trap men into love and marriage. Happily, that’s changed—mostly. I don’t read or write romances with wimpy women.

CLR: What does your writing day look like?

TK: Every day is different! I’ve never been someone who sticks to a strict schedule . . . and with my husband’s calling (he’s a priest, a chaplain to the community) lending itself to a need for flexibility, I like to go with the flow. What is a given is that I work every day. When I’m in the middle of writing a book, I’ll usually make sure I have my laptop with me wherever I go. I try to write between 2500 and 7000 words a day, depending on the scene and my deadline.

CLR: Do you think the industry treats male and female writers differently?

TK: I don’t know many male authors, but my perception is that male authors are often seen as more serious than their female counterparts. However, in this new world of indie publishing, I think that’s changing rapidly.

CLR: What outside influences, if any, do you see having an impact on your writing?

TK: My family and their interests and experiences definitely influence my writing. My youngest daughter just graduated from an environmental college, and she is passionate about agricultural sustainability and protecting our environment. Consequently, many of my recent books have some element of that passion. Most of my books also include some of my kids’ real-life adventures!

CLR: Do you make a conscious effort to include feminist themes in your writing?      

TK: I don’t think I do it deliberately—I don’t set out to say, in this story, the female lead is going to be a feminist. But because parts of me end up in each character, it would be odder if the women weren’t feminists. I find that often my female characters are discovering parts of themselves, journeying to a place of acceptance and strength.

CLR: What themes are your favorites to include in your writing?

TK: Personal growth and overcoming the past in order to enjoy the future are probably the ones most often found in my work.

CLR: What advice would you offer to new women authors coming up?

TK: Last year, at a conference, I happened to lead a round table about contemporary romance. I was shocked to my core when several of the younger women who are writing con rom claimed that they won’t write strong female characters. They prefer their women characters to be submissive and needy, or so they said. Careers are not needed. Now, as a woman who was a wife and homeschooling mom first and foremost, I have the utmost respect for that choice. But I also know that it’s imperative for us to present realistic, well-rounded women in our books, and most women do have careers. I love giving my characters common jobs with a twist . . .

CLR: What are you working on now?

TK: I’m getting ready to release my 75th book, The Anti-Cinderella Conquers the World. It’s the third book in The Anti-Cinderella Chronicles, which has been so much fun to write. Kyra is a non-traditional woman who marries into the British Royal Family—and you can just imagine what challenges she faces! I’m also writing on my fall release, Sway, which is the sixth Keeping Score book (football romance).

Author Bio: Tawdra Kandle writes romance, in just about all its forms. She loves unlikely pairings, strong women, sexy guys, hot love scenes and just enough conflict to make it interesting. Her books include new adult and adult contemporary romance; under the pen name Tamara Kendall, she writes paranormal romance, and under the pen name Tessa Kent, she writes erotic romance. Tawdra lives in central Florida with her husband, two sweet pups and too many cats. Assorted grown children and a perfect granddaughter live nearby. And yeah, she rocks purple hair. 

You can learn more about Tawdra and her work at the links below:

FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | BOOKBUB | WEBSITE

NEWSLETTER SIGNUP | THE TEMPTRESSES (PRIVATE READER GROUP)


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?


Boldly Exploring Audio Space

Guest Post by Bria Burton

My first foray into audio began many years ago as a listener of speculative fiction podcasts, and an eventual participant (more on that shortly). Some stories have a single narrator while others include a full cast production of voice actors, music, and sound effects. The more I listened, the more the itch intensified within me to hear one of my own stories produced on a podcast.

Some examples of speculative fiction podcasts include Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, Clarkesworld Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, Journey Into, Starship Sofa, Cast of Wonders, and many more.

Fast forward several years and I’ve now done voice acting for podcasts. On one occasion, I produced a story with sound effects, music, and my own narration. In 2014, I received my first speculative fiction acceptance from a podcast, and it was thrilling to hear my sci-fi story as a full cast production. An upcoming publication will appear on the Journey Into podcast this month. The short story is called “Journey Into the Dying Light of Stars.”

How did I go from casual podcast consumer to amateur voice actor and producer? I started with voice work. Podcasts featuring stories need narrators and/or voice actors, and when a casting call was made on one of the podcast forums I’d been perusing, I thought, why not?

Through the advice of the podcast host, I downloaded a free, open source software program called Audacity where I could do my recordings. Next, I purchased a $35 mic from Amazon. There are much better mics out there, but the one I use is decent enough for amateur voice work. Plus Audacity has some useful editing tools to help with things like removing background noise. If I decide to narrate my own audiobooks, I’ll probably buy a better mic.

One of the great things about podcasts? Many of them are completely free to listen to, such as the ones I listed above. If you’re interested in checking out free stories where I’ve been a voice actor, or free stories I’ve written that have been produced on podcasts, here’s a list:

Stories by Other Authors

Journey Into IFC by R.C. Anderson

The Dragon Muse by David B. Coe

Journey Into the Cosmic Lottery by Emily Asad

Like a Good Neighbor (Part One and Part Two) by Rish Outfield

Beggar’s Canyon by Rish Outfield

A Slight Delay by Rish Outfield

Hope on the Rocks by A.W. Gifford

Wikihistory by Desmond Warzel

Stories by Bria Burton

Journey Into the Dying Light of Stars – Coming Soon!

Switching

A Dream Within A Dream

Questions for the reader: what podcasts do you enjoy? Have you ever considered narrating for a fiction podcast?

Award-winning author Bria Burton lives in St. Petersburg with her wonderful husband, her darling son, and two wild pets. Her fiction has appeared in over twenty anthologies and magazines. Her novelette, The Running Girls, was a 2017 Royal Palm Literary Award Finalist. Her novella, Little Angel Helper, won a 2016 RPLA and earned high praise from the 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. While she writes, her dog and cat do their best to distract her, which is why they star in her family-friendly short story collection, Lance & Ringo Tails. She writes under pen name Shayla Cole for her epic fantasy trilogy, Livinity (awarded a First Place RPLA in unpublished fantasy). At St. Pete Running Company, she’s a blogger and customer service manager. A member of the Florida Writers Association, she previously led the St. Pete chapter and served on the statewide FWA Board. She’s also a member of the Alvarium Experiment, a by-invitation-only consortium of outstanding authors who created The Prometheus Saga Volumes 1 & 2, Return to Earth, and The Masters Reimagined anthologies.

You can find Bria on Amazon or on her website.


Maledicte: A study in Contrasts

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead…

Lane Robins’ Maledicte is an extraordinarily strange and unflinching foray into the human psyche.

Miranda is a street urchin with an extremely sharp edge. When her lover/soul mate is taken from her, she vows not only to get him back but to seek revenge on the taker, namely, his father. But how? Enter the taint of dark magic and the price of dealing with a goddess with an agenda of her own.

None of the characters in this novel are pure and many of them aren’t even likeable, yet I couldn’t stop reading. Miranda’s transformation into Maledicte is so complete that she stops thinking of herself as female, willing to deny a basic component of her personhood in order to achieve her objectives.

He turned, studied himself in the mirror, distracted from worrying in the shock of self-exploration. It had been so long since he had taken the risk of loitering unclothed, or even thought of himself as Miranda; though he had all her desires, her dreams, he spoke truly to Janus when he declared her dead. Maledicte could not put himself back in her position, could not remake time, unable to remember how it felt to not carry this secret.

The depth of Maledicte’s obsession is fully matched by the warped nature of her beloved and yet I couldn’t stop hoping that she would awaken to the costs of vengeance and finally say no to evil.

Robins’ novel is a study in contrasts; darkly lyrical, love versus hatred, female becoming male. Even the gods are dual in nature. Black-winged Ani is the goddess of love and vengeance. Baxit is the god of indolence and reason. Maledicte is the shadowy reflection of a love story coupled with a tainted coming of age, and the offspring of this merging is a very strange child indeed.

Highly recommend for readers of dark fantasy. You can find more on Lane Robbins here.


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