May 7 is a Reflections Post Day in the Blogging from A-Z Challenge. So what did I discover and learn from blogging 30 days in a row? I re-learned that I'm one of those people who need discipline (i.e. a schedule) in my life or I degenerate into an unmotivated lackluster couch potato that does nothing but play games all day. So in that regard, blogging everyday got me on a schedule and motivated me. It game me a huge feeling of accomplishment. Why? Nothing more complicated than I set a goal for myself and I followed through on it. That, my friends, leaves one with a HUGE sense of self-accomplishment. I didn't even realize the cumulative effect of this challenge until this morning. Yesterday, I made myself a list in the morning (thank you, maryjdal, for that idea!). This isn't something new, I often make myself lists, but only when there are a ton of things I need to get accomplished. The difference this time? I wrote writing-related items on this list. I usually keep my daily life and my writing life separate. Merging them into one was a big step for me. It announces (if only to myself) I AM a writer. This may seem like a DUH! type of statement, but it's something internal I didn't even realize I was doing (keeping myself separate). I did almost everything on this list--the two things I didn't accomplish went on today's list (so yes, I still have the stove to clean and one phone call to make). I revised a story. I subbed a story. And then I went on to write, even though it was growing rather late by then and I had nothing to write, I remembered I had stillnotbored's monthly challenge beginning sentence, so I wrote 127 words there. Nothing major, but I accomplished something. This morning I was looking over the end of the A-Z Challenge, and thinking of my reflections post and I realized that yesterday's accomplishment was mainly due to the challenge. I was feeling accomplished and full of goals. That, my friends, is what I call a successful challenge of blogging daily.
Z is for Ze End
Since I started this 30 day A-Z Blog Challenge with a "push" of "An" Introduction, I thought it only fitting that I end with another "push" of "Ze" End. What else starts with a Z? Zoo? That's about all I can think of. And although I do love zoos, they're not one of my very favorite things. And Ze End to this blog challenge is now one of my favorite things. Nothing against the Blog Challenge, I really enjoyed it. But I'm glad to see the -- er, excuse me, Ze -- end of having to post every day. So, what did I come away with from this blogging everyday thing? I hope I got into a better habit of posting more often. I learned how to schedule posts, which I LOVE. I wish I would have visited a lot more blogs, but I couldn't seem to find the time to visit nearly as many as I'd like. But I'll most likely do it again some day, just to say I can. So now, yes, you all can take a much-needed break from me. I can see you all going, "Geez, doesn't she ever SHUT UP?" Actually, I do, more often IRL than I should. I'm just not a big talker. It's different when my fingers are doing the talking for me, though. My fingers have no censor, they just blab it all out. Thanks for listening to me, and I hope it didn't come off as too self-indulgent!
Sunday is a free day in the A-Z Blog Challenge, but I'm on a personal goal now to post every single day of April. I love seeing my calendar with every day darkened. And I don't imagine I'll ever accomplish it again, or not very often anyway, so I'm posting today. And besides, I can't let up on you guys. Are you starting to skim over my posts yet? ::evil grin::
After I wrote up my Y post for Yard, which I do truly love working in the yard, it's definitely my favorite thing besides writing and grandboys and family, I realized I had another Y that I love. And this was after me thinking I had no Y's at all! Talk about surfeit! Anyway, I do love Yoga. When I first began, I remember thinking how damned HARD it was to hold those poses, and having to come up out of the pose for Warrior 1 about 4 times, my poor thigh muscles just couldn't take it. And all that breathing! I came away dizzy as hell. My balance was bad, and I kept almost falling over. My muscles would shake from the strain. Well, 5 years later, and I'm loving it. My balance is a lot better. I'm a big klutz, so having better balance has helped me a little in not getting so bruised up from bumping into walls or doors when I go around corners. And I don't get nearly as car sick as I used to. I don't know if that's age-related, but I do think the yoga has had some to do with it. I can work on the computer while riding in the car and read a little bit, although I'm really careful with that. And I can hold the poses now in yoga, and do some of the hard ones that I couldn't do even a tiny bit. And I find it easier to deep breathe to relax during all sorts of times. Like the dentist the other day. I'm not terrified of dentists, but it's definitely not one of my favorite things. I went for my cleaning and there are times when I'll tense up, but I was trying to breathe through my nose instead of my mouth so as to not blow my bad breath into the hygienist's face, and I realized that I had automatically gone into my deep breathing relaxation. So I kept it up even when she hit some tender spots. Ok, over and out. You only have one more day of me to go.
Y is for Yard
When I say yard, I mean gardening. Not yard chores like mowing the grass, because that's the hubby's job. And that's about all I let him do outside--except he keeps sneaking around to cut (I won't call what he does to shrubs and trees pruning, because it's almost damn murder!) plants or rake where he's not supposed to. But anyway, this isn't a husband rant, it's about one of my all-time favorite things--gardening (which I get to by way of Y for yard). My forte in the yard is flowers. There's very few flowers that I don't love. My weakness is growing from seeds, though, I can't get the hang of that. I either water them too much or too little, so I only transplant in my yard. I do very few annuals anymore, maybe a few here and there but the majority of my yard is perennials. Our area is a little harder because it's so dang hot in the summer, we have to have more drought tolerant plants. But yet a lot of tropicals don't do that well here, either because our winters get cold.
I do love being in the yard and getting my hands dirty, pulling weeks, planting and dividing, pruning, just messing around. I can feel sluggish and yucked out and when I go work in the yard, I get all energized and happy. My maternal grandmother lived right next to us, and so I was very close to her, but she died when I was six. I know I got my love of gardening from her, because I have very early memories of her tulips in the front yard, and after she was gone, most of her bulbs kept blooming. She had a greenhouse, and I can only guess at all the gardening knowledge she could have given me had she lived longer. (The gardening bug skipped a generation, my mother has a brown thumb.)
Here, have some of my miniature garden pictures. These turned out pretty well.
X is for X-rated Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones, the HBO series of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series, is now in its 2nd season. I'm really enjoying it, except for one thing. Geez, do they have to keep showing naked women? I know, it is HBO. And there was a lot of sex and sexual references in the books. But some of the scenes are really close to soft porn, and most are there for no reason other than to (supposedly) titillate. It just irritates me because most of the scenes weren't even in the book--or not that I recall anyway. I'm pretty sure that Joffrey never turned down whores that Tyrion sent to him and then made one beat the other. It did show his character well, but there's been enough instances of that already. I won't stop watching because I do love seeing the characters come to life, but I really am getting more irritated the more bare breasts they show. They could at least show us a few male naked asses--or more--they've been doing full frontals on some of the women, they could at least throw us poor women a bone, too (oh, hahahahah, look at that pun). But then that would be considered porn probably. Why is that? Do men feel demeaned by it, I wonder? Maybe if they'd do it more often they'd see how women feel about it.
So, I only have 4 more days and I'll be out of your hair--or not in it so often. I've enjoyed making my calendar light up with posting every single day, but I don't think I could keep this up on a permanent basis. See you tomorrow for X! I have an idea for it, but and I know what Z will be, but Y is still very much in the air. Yellow? Yours? Yeck? Yertle the turtle?
It made me wonder if this is what's happening to my mother--not that she was subjected to violence at an early age, but she did have the care of my father, who was chronically ill with Type 1 Diabetes. There was always a lot of stress involved. Maybe I'm just looking for a scapegoat, because the thought of her dementia being hereditary scares the ever-loving beejeezus outta me. Although, it does seem like most of the elderly people I know right now are either A) well physically and not-so-well with mental function, or B) have a host of physical ailments and yet "with-it" mentally. Those that are doing well in both physical and mental status seem to be few and far between. Or maybe just the ones I'm around.
U is for Unicorns
Who doesn't love unicorns? Or, maybe a better question would be, who will admit to loving unicorns? When I first started reading fantasy, unicorn stories abounded. Unicorns are symbolic about everything fantasy stands for -- that mystical, magical thing that doesn't exist, but *might*. I mean, folklore says there were such creatures, so maybe, just maybe? The possibilities of imagination, the unseen, hidden worlds, the things that Used to Be but Are No More. In my story file, one of the earliest entries is a unicorn story. Sadly, I never got around to writing it.
Once everybody and their brother and six uncles and step-grandparents started writing stories about unicorns, they quickly became passé. Trust me, if you want to write a unicorn story, it had better be Damn Fine and Entirely New and Awesome or your story will be the object of editorial snark. Sorry, but true. It's a damn shame, I say, that the poor unicorn has come to this. Likewise for elves. At least dragons still garner a little respect. Maybe I should start a Unicorn Fan Club.
Want a laugh? Go read about the idea for a Unicorn Success Club.
T is for The Three Stooges
I grew up watching The Three Stooges after school and on Saturdays. I loved them. Especially Curly. (NOT Curly Joe. Nor Shemp, although he was okay.) Even though they were crude and crass and violent towards each other, it was all in fun (?), slapstick at it's best, and they always make me crack up. I still laugh at Curly, no matter how stoopid he comes across. So when I saw they had a Three Stooges movie, I had to go see it. Even though I expected it to be lame. But guess what? It wasn't. Or I didn't think so, anyway. But I suspect you have to love the Stooges, as I do and did, to appreciate the modern day retelling. I was most impressed with the job the new actors did in copying the original Stooges look and actions, especially Will Sasso. He was perfect as Curly, and it was plain that he'd spent many hours watching the old films in order to get things just so. He even did the famous "Whoop-whoop" while laying sideways on the floor and running in a circle. Priceless. The other actors were very good, too, although I did wish Moe would have had a deeper voice, because the higher one kept drawing me out of the masquerade. There was even a storyline that I thought worked very well. So, if you love the Stooges and slapstick, I would recommend the movie. But I do understand that their humor is not for everyone. I appreciated too, how the Farrelly brothers had a short little speech at the end about "kids, do not do this at home, these are plastic hammers and poking someone in the eyes could *really* hurt." Cause, you know, kids can be pretty dumb sometimes.
S is for Shimmer Slush
I've been reading slush for Shimmer now (shimmerzine) for about a month. I'm certainly no expert at it. Here's our process: All slush goes to email, which is very cleverly and efficiently handled by our slush wrangler, who assigns it to the various slush readers about 2-3 times per week. We read the stories individually, and if we feel a story is right for Shimmer, then we post the story to a private online forum where final decisions are then made by the editorial board.
Everything you've ever read on editor blogs about reading slush is true. Some times, it really isn't the story. The story is just fine, and it is good, but it's not right for Shimmer. I would say this accounts for about 50% of stories. Other stories are easy to reject, because the writing is not the best or the ending doesn't wow. Sometimes a story is awesome until the ending. Or maybe the beginning and end is great but the middle lags. I haven't seen many instances where a rewrite is requested in those cases. Sometimes the reason for rejection is purely esoteric -- the voice of the story isn't there. I think Shimmer stories have a definite voice, although I have trouble explaining what that voice is. I have found that if a story has a voice, you'll hear it in the first paragraph. Putting a voice to a story is sometimes the hardest part of writing, especially since there's no set of rules or advice on how to achieve it. The closest I can describe it is, to be able to let go of yourself as a writer putting a story to paper, and to just let the character tell the story.
R is for Rejection-itis
I suffer from rejectionitis. It's a crippling ailment that causes much suffering and mental anguish. It's so miserable that I do anything I can to avoid it happening. And you know what that "anything" is -- no submitting. This is the catch-22 of submissions. You can't get an acceptance if you don't submit. You can't improve your writing if you don't practice and try and learn. Sitting in the corner and crying and lamenting about how mean the world is doesn't get you out of that corner. I know this. I understand it. Putting it into practice is really hard for me. I can't grow thicker skin. I have thin skin that is very sensitive (oh poor me! ;-D). I keep thinking I need to "learn" to not be sensitive, but sensitive is who I am. Yes, I can become harder --there's a lot of truth in that familiarity breeds comfort, so if I just would do it more often, it would help to make me more immune to rejections. But for me, the key is time. I will swear to myself that I'm done, and I quit submitting. And then in a week or so, I've forgotten the sting, and I'll get back to it again. Time, for me, is the greatest healer of all. And then there's the greatest tool any aspiring writing can have -- sheer, donkey stubbornness. And that, I have in spades. In the end, I always refuse to quit. Just because I'm obstinate to the point of being obtuse.
Q is for Queen -- I hear that since I'm the only female in my line of direct descendants (sons and grandsons), I can now officially call myself the Queen. And so I shall. You may now kneel and prostrate yourself before my queenly presence. If only I could make that rule with my sons and grandsons, that they must treat me as a Queen. I can already hear the laughter that pronouncement would be met with. Except for the grandboys, of course, who do think of me as queen -- well, unless they're mad at me, that is, and then they don't love me anymore. For about 3 minutes.
Pretty impressive posting record for the month, isn't it! The A-Z blogging challenge has been nice I guess, although today I found myself a little burned out about posting, even though I had the topic already picked up and partly written. I'm afraid I'm burning you all out on me, too. So this post is short and sweet. Or maybe short and sour. But either way, it's short -- like me!
We’ve always believed the fiction we publish at Shimmer can stand with the best. And we’ve always thought it was worth a lot more than we were able to pay for it. Today, we’re taking a big step toward paying our authors what we think their stories are worth.
I am delighted to announce that we’re raising our pay rate for fiction from 1 cent a word to 3 cents a word, beginning with Issue 16. (Authors already under contract for Issue 16 will be recontracted at the higher rate. I’m sure they won’t mind.)
From here, it’s just one short step to pro rates. This is the golden age of the independent press, and we will thrive.
We’re also increasing the size of each issue by about 50%, so there’ll be even more Shimmery goodness for our readers. (Why not subscribe right now, before the price goes up?)
There's also plans for a "Best of" anthology, a YA special edition, and novellas and novelettes. Read More HERE
For those of you not familiar with Shimmer, most of the fiction is contemporary fantasy, and I'd say it has a literary bent. But the best thing about the stories, I feel, is the "Shimmery" voice. It's hard to describe, but you know it when you hear it. You can buy a Kindle edition of Issue 14, if you'd like to give it a try. Available at the link above.
(shimmerzine (dot) com)
And please, share the news!
O is for OMG, itz Internetz-speakey
So come on, confess. More than once, you've read some joke or cartoon or humorous story, and thought to yourself, "LOL" instead of "oh, that was funny." Yes, you, I'm looking at you. You know you've done it. And you know you've read something shocking and thought, "O.M.G!" Yes, this is what the Internetz has done to us. There's more acronyms on the web than I could ever hope to learn -- or is it, want to learn? Look how far we've come since the early days of the internet. It's changed the way we read and communicate, and especially for writers, how we submit. Remember the old days when you had to submit through snail mail? Now print markets are disappearing, but that's not necessarily all bad, I guess.
Anyway, my thoughts on the Internetz came about because I watched "You've Got Mail" the other day. I love that movie. I love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Loved the story of them being online friends and real-life enemies, and how he gradually wins her over. And when Harry Nillsson's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" plays at the end when they finally meet each other, oh my, I cry every time I see it. In fact, I think I need to buy that movie, I like it so much. The only thing I didn't love about the movie was how they were both in relationships and flirting with someone else in emails. I thought that cast a rather dark light on internet chatting and friendships. But it was funny, watching the movie now, and seeing the old email interface and remembering how AOL was the Really Big Deal back then. Did you know "You've Got Mail" was a remake of "The Shop Around the Corner?" In that 1940 movie, Jimmy Stewart (::swoon::) and Margaret O'Brien were pen pals who worked together but rubbed each other the wrong way in real life. It's interesting, Jimmy Steward is my all-time favorite movie star and Tom Hanks is one of my current favorite actors, and they more or less played the same part in a favorite movie of mine.
I forgot yesterday was a "free" day in the A-Z Blogging Challenge, and I went ahead and posted a N entry. So what to do today? I guess what I could have done is skip today instead, but then my pretty little calendar showing I've posted EVERY SINGLE DAY this month would be messed up. I could have posted about anything. Or I could just do another N post. And I thought of Nest. And look! I have a picture, too! The date on this picture is from 2005. That's how long doves have been nesting in my hanging planters on the patio. They haven't been very successful at it because we're out on the patio a lot and that scares them off the nest and eggs. And I had cats. And neighborhood cats. The year of the picture, we actually had eggs -- lots of times the doves get scared away by all our activity outside and never lay eggs. But that year, they did -- you can tell by the poor plant underneath the dove that didn't get water! And then baby birds actually hatched! And then one day we were gone all day and came home to check on the little birdies and they were gone! I think there was a feather on the patio, so we never knew if they had flown the nest or if a cat got them.
But last year, eggs were laid, and my poor Crooked Cat was too sick to go outside much, and so the birdies hatched. And we watched them in the nest, and then one day we looked out and the babies were sitting on the chair below the nest. I kept an eye on them all day, frantic that a cat would come along and get them. One of the babies was brave enough to fly, but this one was scared and just kept staying on the chair all by himself. The papa or mama bird finally got mad at started flying at it and soon enough, the little scared baby flew a little bit. But then they just hung around in the backyard all that day and into the next. We lost track of them for a while after that, although we did keep seeing doves in the yard, but whether they were the mama and papa or the babies, we didn't know. Boy those babies grow fast once they start growing!
So, the doves are back. I like to think they're the babies, come back to where they were hatched, but maybe they're the parents, come to try again?
N is for Nuisance
For the A-Z Blogging Challenge, I decided to blog about favorite things. But no, Nuisances are NOT one of my favorite things. But it was the first thing that came to mind.
I don't know what is up with my notebook or mouse. I can't figure which it is. I guess if I was really smart, I'd switch out the mouse and see if I get the same trouble, eh? (DOH! -- I just thought of that.) When I highlight a phrase or word or sentence, to copy or delete or move it, the highlight will disappear or drop words or include more than I want, or it will try to move the highlighted section before I'm even done highlighting it. Sometimes, I'll be typing along and look up, and my cursor has moved up a line, without me doing a thing or touching the mouse or the touchpad. The other day, as we were driving over here to the coast, on a bumpy section of road, the cursor was moving all over the screen when we hit a bump. This leads me to think it's more the touchpad and not the mouse. But when I'm highlighting text, the touchpad will work better than the mouse, so it's confusing me. It's getting worse and I'm getting irritated. If anyone has a clue why a notebook would behave this way, let me know. Could the touchpad/mouse be interacting in a very bad manner with each other or something? I'm betting it's something that will never be solved, as it's one of those things you can't really reproduce when you try.
M is for Master Gardener and Matt
In 1996, I was still involved in PTA, but knew it would end in the next few years when my younger son graduated. I saw an article in our local paper about a new gardening group starting up in our area, under the guidance of the University of California and the County Cooperative Extension Farm Advisors. It was a 4 month course of a three hour class once a week, learning about all aspects of gardening, including soil and pests and diseases and basic gardening principles. I was intrigued, so I applied. I was mainly looking for another volunteer opportunity, plus I wanted to increase my own gardening skills, as I really didn't know that much about it but my grandmother (who died when I was 6) had been an avid gardener and I had fond memories of her flowers. So I've now been a Master Gardener for 16 years, and I've enjoyed it so much. I've met some wonderful friends, discovered the joy of gardening, and learned a ton of new stuff. We provide resources for the home gardener, and are trained by the Cooperative Extension Farm Advisors, although officially, we are an arm of the University system. There are Master Gardener organizations in almost all of the states. California is working on unifying the training and programs throughout the counties. Gardening has given me so much joy--I can be feeling rotten and go outside to work in the yard, and come back in exhausted and happy.
M is also for Matt -- my firstborn. Since I mentioned Jeff for my J day entry, I thought it only fair to include Son #1, although his name comes with no special meaning (other than the boy, and now man, attached to it!) He's a sensitive, quiet, but fun-loving guy, who loves his family no end. He's turned out to be a really great dad, too, and I'm really proud of him.
L is for Laughter, Love, and Live Journal
While I don't consider myself a marriage expert, I have been married for 34 years with no major problems. Even though I complain (just ask my walking partner) about the hubby, I'm really very happy. And to what do I attribute our success? Well, respect and tolerance, which are R and T words, and really have no prominence in today's post, but mainly Love and Laughter. Of course the love part is elementary, my dear Watson. If you don't love your partner, you're doomed from the start. Laughter is the important part, IMO. I'd say one of the biggest qualities that made me pick my to-be was his ability to make me laugh--and apparently, vice versa. And it's still going on today, 34 years later. Just this morning, on our walk, he said something teasing and silly and we had a good belly-deep laugh together. I mean, really, if you can't find joy and laughter in the little everyday things, and even the big, deep problems, then it's just not worth it. A little laughter makes everything better.
I'm cross-posting in Blogspot, but I'm not going to cross-post this section. I started a blogspot account because I decided maybe I needed a blog with my real name, instead of a nickyname, but I haven't utilized it much. But since the A-Z Blog Challenge started there, I thought I would post there, too. But really, the system is not set up nearly as nicely as LJ is. The LJ flist page is, (IMO) vastly better than the Blogspot Dashboard. It allows more interaction and replying to your flist. Over there, it doesn't seem that people interact with comments and replies as much. While the owner of the blog gets an email when comments are made, it doesn't look like the commenters get an email when their comment is replied to. I don't know, it just seems more sterile and not as neighborly over there, but maybe it's just because I'm not as familiar with it.
K is for Kids
I grew up in a sexist age. This is what every little girl was expected to have as her grand ambition: to get married and have kids. "Make-believe play" when my friends and I were very young was how many babies we were going to have and their names. The dichotomy that was also going on was that many women had been working to support their families during World War II, and some (including my mother) continued to work after, for various reasons, mostly economic. In the process, they were getting a taste of independence and self-worth, and beginning to question the status quo of women having a "place" in society, which was always in the background, behaving themselves. There were really only a few professions that were considered "womanly" -- nurse, schoolteacher or librarian, or secretary. In the meantime, the women's lib movement was growing and by the time I was nearing 20, women were burning bras -- and not just figuratively. My mother wanted a different life for me and always steered me toward college and "practical" professions, mainly nursing. But I had a deathly fear of needles, born from an episode when I was about 5 and very sick and getting shots once a week or so, and at the same time, watching my father, who was diabetic, stick himself in the stomach every single day with one of those needles that hurt me so much. So nursing was out of the picture in my mind. But still, while many of my friends always talked about kids and how many they were going to have, I didn't really want any. I didn't babysit during my teens like some of my friends, nor did I have younger brothers or sisters to care for. So imagine my surprise when I did become a mother and discover how much I liked it. Having kids was the transforming experience in my life. I found my great ambition was to stay home and take care of my kids, and I felt a great amount of guilt over that, like I was doing something less or demeaning. I really only meant to stay home until they started school, but by the time that happened, I was enjoying my "new" life of volunteer work. Now my life is wrapped up again in kids, but grandkids this time. And they're even more precious. Sometimes now I regret that I never went back to work, especially now that retirement is looming. But it is what it is, and overall, I wouldn't go back and change a thing.