You Can’t Unbreak An Egg

18057045_1360092054083191_7716455132572231782_n

There are some opportunities in life that only come along once, some things that you only get one shot at. You can’t unbreak an egg.

For the most part, I’m one to be philosophical about such things. My go to example is one morning many years ago when I was running incredibly late for work, and I’m not a person who is generally or habitually late, especially if being late is going to keep other people waiting because that’s incredibly inconsiderate and it devalues both your time and theirs, so I had that going on where I was thinking “I’m going to be late. I am never late.” My alarm didn’t go off, I couldn’t find one of my work shoes, eventually I got out the door. If I’d been on time that day, I probably would have been involved in a multiple vehicle collision that resulted in four fatalities and sent three other people to the hospital.

By the time I got to work, I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t work, thinking how angry I’d been that I was late, and that being late had probably saved my life, in that instance. Ever since then, I figure there’s a reason when things seem like they aren’t going “right,” or going the way that I want them to, or think that I want them to. Really, there have been countless times when things seemingly haven’t worked out and later on, I’ve realized that it saved me from something, one way or another, even though it really was a drag or completely broke my heart at the time.

There were a lot of things that I really wanted for myself when it came to my writing, in fact, there are a lot of things that I still want, but, the reality level of my expectations has changed considerably. That’s been a tough thing, but it’s okay somehow, perhaps it is even a good thing.

As a writer, I started out ( we’re talking decades ago), dreaming of winning a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, then I thought I’d write something epic like, “The Stand”, and then I’d write crime fiction, at some point, I learned about The Bram Stoker Awards and thought, wouldn’t it be cool to win a Stoker? Never mind even thinking about the “Big Book Deal” that would catapult me to never-ending financial success. That was before I ever really understood anything about being a writer. I’m kind of proud of myself for thinking so highly of myself that I’ve dared to have such lofty daydreams, I mean, if you’re going to dream, then dream big. Talent, however, isn’t everything. ( is it the only thing? probably not.) I’ve had some challenges along the way, not to mention having previously admitted that I knew nothing about the modern publishing world going into this, but I didn’t let that even slow me down, I mean, there was no time to waste.

giphy

The truth is that you get to certain places in your life and there is a narrowing of certain possibilities. I mean, yeah, okay, anything is possible, but at some point, it’s kind of about probability as well. I still have really amazingly large dreams, and wonderful hopes. I also have a pretty good reality where having let go of a lot unrealistic, if not immature, expectations, I can just write again, and have it be about the writing. That is an incredible relief. You know, I figure, one way or another, things are happening the way that they’re supposed to. So it goes, keep moving forward. I probably won’t ever win a Bram Stoker Award. I might hold out some hope for that Pulitzer but, even at that, it is more important to me to be doing work that I think is good work, work that I want to be doing.

e238f03df0064c79054536ecfb96d2d7
There’s not a little truth to this.

Writing that I want to be writing, for whatever reason it interests me.

To that end, I had about seven different beginnings written for the sequel to the vampire novel, a completed outline, and it just wasn’t working. I was staring into space, a lot.  I was getting discouraged, I was getting depressed. I realized that my heart really wasn’t in it. There are a lot of jobs that you can do and do well if your heart really isn’t in it, writing a full length novel isn’t one of them, at least, it isn’t for me. I rationalized myself into that being the first book I was working on this year because it’s the one that would take the longest for me to write, etc. I thought, Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t want to write this, I didn’t want to write about vampires to begin with. I gave myself permission to not write the sequel to the vampire novel. I am not going to force myself to write something that my heart isn’t in, that would make for a lousy book and be a waste of my time as writer. It’s really important to know when to cut bait.

When I did that, I gave myself permission not to write a bunch of other things that I don’t want to write or re-write either. I’ll never re-write “Souvenirs, The Rain” that was my first novel, a psychological thriller, the one that I just about sold, and I’ll call it a learning experience, but that’s still my work so I may use some parts from it, or not, and writers do that quite often, cannibalize their own work, however, I am never re-writing that book as that book. ( Never is a long time.) I will tell you that the opening paragraph is one of the best things that I have ever written. I just read it again and it flat-out flys and sings, but it wasn’t meant to be, or it would have been. I’m likely done with my Sci-fi/Western as it is too, it has recyclable parts as well. “Westworld” kind of kicked everything’s butt on the western front for a while, I think. I wrote both of those books in 2012, and they both broke my heart in different ways, for different reasons, I’ll salvage what I can, but it’s time to cut loose of them. I learned a lot from writing those books, but it is time to move on. That’s kind of freed up my writing schedule ever so slightly. There’s always poetry, a couple of collections that need serious editing for the sake of well-being and continuity. I can also tell you that the original draft of the “Loralee” novella was not quite twenty-six thousand words. (Sometimes it just isn’t the time for something. Things change. Who knows.)

You can’t unbreak an egg. I was putting the eggs away when I dropped one the counter and it’s like another secret of the universe revealed itself to me. I cleaned it up. Then I cleaned my house, and I did some serious thinking. I thought about quitting. I thought about it all day, because if I’m not making the beaucoup dolores or winning awards, becoming exceedingly popular, etc., ( could all still happen) then what’s the point?

Every writer’s first audience is themselves.

Long before anyone ever knew that I was a writer, a real and true honest to goodness dyed in the wool writer, I wrote for me. All day, all night, whenever, on and on, I wrote because I love to do this. I love to write. So, having thought about it, I don’t really see the point in quitting. I have, however, adjusted my thinking about it all, to accommodate happiness.

TS

Here’s a link to an article, The Truth About Publishing, it’s from 2005, but it might be helpful to those who don’t quite grasp how tough this business is.

April is National Poetry Month

So, I am a poetess

And I knowitess.

April is National Poetry Month. Here is a link to poets.org, if you are interested, you can check that out.

Rarely have I discussed my favorite poets. Some of that is because it has been very personal to me, and some of it is because if you came up to me wanting to talk specific poems, quite honestly, there are a few poems that have stuck with me but I’m not walking around like an encyclopedia, but, I’d try.  To that end, though, I will share some of my favorites with you and, perhaps among them you will find something that speaks to you also.

Sara Teasdale, 1884- 1933

Sara Teasdale was a lyrical poet, given to simple yet eloquent, and elegant, rhyme. Some background-   I had been writing poetry for a good ten years before I really started to read any poetry, completely true. I understood rhyme-scheme from the simple poems and nursery rhymes that we all used to learn during the normal course of our youth, also,  likely from Dr. Seuss. I also understood it from song lyrics. But, I didn’t read a lot of poetry because I wanted to learn to write like me. I picked up a book of Sara Teasdale’s poetry from the library sometime in the early 1990’s, after reading one of her poems in an anthology. I felt like I had found a poetic soul-sister. Rhyming poetry is sometimes frowned upon because it isn’t an easy thing to do well. Sara Teasdale is wonderful, old-fashioned and romantic though much of it is, her poetry is also filled passion and heartbreak, longing, a depth of understanding of what it is to truly pine for someone. Sara Teasdale was in love with poet Vachel Lindsay, women of her day, however, were often traditionally very practical in their choosing of a husband, forgoing passion for stability, and Teasdale chose to marry a more secure suitor. It is often said, believed, that Sara Teasdale’s suicide, in 1933, was ultimately brought on by this unfulfilled love and longing for Vachel Lindsay, who had taken his own life in 1931. Though I moved on to writing a variety of other verse, Sara Teasdale’s poetry still speaks to me, and she remains a personal touchstone, and one of my favorite poets.

Rod McKuen, 1933-2015

I’ve collected most of the small volumes of McKuen’s poetry that were printed in the 70’s, and as yet, much of them remain unread, but that has to do with how I tend to read poetry, and is no reflection on the poet himself. Here’s what I wrote-up about McKuen at his passing in 2015.

Anne Sexton, 1928-1974

Make no mistake, when it comes to poetry, Anne Sexton is a cold-blooded killer. Listen to some of her readings, they’ll just about curdle your blood. To me, some of what is interesting about Anne Sexton is that coldness, she plummets through the underside of passionless detachment to a hollowness that is devastating. Anne Sexton comprehended nothingness as an emotion, but not only that, she could translate it and put it on the page. What I also found interesting was her re-writing of fairy-tales with the reality of the bitterness of unfulfilled promises, with an anger at the bill of goods they sold her and then failed to deliver on. Given to fits of suicide, often on or around the time of her own birthday, she was cold enough to be somewhat jealous when Sylvia Plath succeeded in dying, and finally managed to end her own life after a lunch in 1974 with long time friend, poet Maxine Kumin. Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Live or Die, in 1967. Anne Sexton was a woman who mapped the abyss with a shuddering fuck.

Robert W. Service, 1874-1958

As previously stated, I love old books. Wandering in bookstore one day, I happened to find a copy of “The Spell of the Yukon,” from 1907, opened it up, read one of the poems, laughed, and his work has been a favorite of mine ever since.

Jack Kerouac, 1922- 1969

Dorothy Parker, 1893 -1967

Dorothy Parker is perpetually annoyed, and she’s perpetually annoyed with you because you’ve got a brain, but, apparently you haven’t evolved beyond figuring out ways to use that brain for anything other than being annoying. Dorothy Parker also had a lot of heart, it caused her to drink to excess sometimes so that she might better tolerate all of the stupid. Yes, how very funny, but she was quite seriously, however wittily, sick of people’s nonsense. Her failed romances led to a suicide attempt, or two, but she never succeeded in that and finally gave up on it, and I, for one, think the world better for it. I love the titles of her books, “Enough Rope,” “Sunset Gun,” wonderful wit. She was also something of a humanitarian, she left her entire estate to Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr, believing in his life’s work. I think that was an incredible statement about how she felt about the world, she wasn’t a jokester, she left her money to someone she believed had the integrity to do something good with it. I think that Dorothy Parker is the prime example of the kind of writer, person, that we look at and don’t really see for what’s really going on there, this was a woman who cared deeply and who was in a tremendous amount of pain, but, oh well, she was just darling at it. Who’s really cold, callous, and shallow, in that equation? She left us with a wealth of wonderful writing, and timeless witticism.

Carl Sandburg, 1868-1967

Charles Baudelaire, 1821 -1867

Like so many other books, I picked up a translation of  Fleurs du Mal in a thrift store. I’ve read nearly all of it but I don’t know that I could tell you one poem in it, though certainly, SPLEEN, comes to mind. It’s dark, its dreary, but it is also quite beautiful.

Some of my favorite books of poetry, some of which I am still in the process of reading.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

How To Take a Bullet, by Hollie Hardy

Streaming, by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Moon Crossing Bridge, by Tess Gallagher

Come Late to the Love of Birds, by Sandra Kasturi

If you would care to read my poetry, you can find the links to my poems that I’ve shared here on this webpage, on this page.

I’ve also published two books of my poetry, Winsome Vein, and Red Line Wine, both of which are available on Amazon.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Teri

Why I Write Fiction

Sometime last winter, I posted on a temporary page that I had going on that I was going to write this particular thing, and then I was going to write that thing, and then I was going to write this other thing. Then I looked at it and I thought, but, I don’t do that, I don’t discuss my plans like that, what the heck? It isn’t necessarily about being “secretive” about a current, or upcoming project, it has more to do with being and staying motivated to complete the work. I think that I had previously used the analogy of talking about working out or going to the gym, versus actually working out. As much as I have talked about it, it probably isn’t a secret to anyone paying attention that I have an actual list of books, stories, of my writing to work on, publish, what have you.

But, there’s this other thing that happens, or can happen, sometimes, I had a moment of, “Well, no one is going to stop me from writing this thing, and this thing, and this other thing too! So, there!” And in that, the idea of something of a memoir came up, again, in poems, sort of, not a start to finish autobiography, because I’d already said I wasn’t writing that, but something talking about the back stories behind some early poems. Well, that’s another trap that writers sometimes fall into, the trap of The Cool Idea. The cool idea isn’t necessarily a good idea, or a smart one. So, I’ll always write poems, but, and I’ll say it again, I’m telling you for the last time, I am not writing any kind of a memoir, probably not ever, and, I’ll tell you why. My thoughts, feelings, and opinions, on the subject of fiction versus non-fiction, and how I arrived at such, because, this could, perhaps, be helpful to others.

1.) It makes me completely miserable ( writing nonfiction). I really don’t want to. If you’re going to write something like that, a memoir, an autobiography, I think you have to ask yourself why you’re doing it. When I was younger, I had these grandiose thoughts about, well, about a lot of things, but about that this, writing non-fiction, would help people or, oh this, or saving the world, things like that. I wanted to buy the world a Coke and teach it to sing, in perfect harmony. What’s so special or different about your story, or mine? I’m saying that not to deride the value of any person’s personal story, but saying that in asking myself the question, for me, would the misery of the writing of it be worth the imperative value of the story as a “unique”story? For me, that answer is no. The truth is that there are many wonderful memoirs out there, if you’re looking for something to read along those lines. I read Shawn Colvin’s memoir, “Diamond in the Rough”, last year, and it was really good, helpful even. Now, if it was about money, how much money would make the misery involved in writing a memoir worth it to me? Not to quote Star Wars, but, “More well than you can imagine.” And trust me, on this, my imagination, when it comes to amounts of money that would make such an undertaking worth it to me, is thoroughly schooled in the math of the matter.

2.) It would, or might, hurt people who I don’t want to hurt. Anyone considering writing a memoir who isn’t considering this point, might be lacking the emotional depth needed for such a work. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I went through a very dark time, during that time, I made some not great decisions with regard to my writing, possibly in regard to some other things too. I hurt some feelings that I did not intend or want to hurt, even if people had hurt me, even if they had it coming in some way, a lot of it was still out of character for me. If you’re writing a memoir and you’ve got any kind of story to tell at all, chances are you’re going to hurt other people. There are people who I don’t owe the consideration of the time of day to, and plenty who, I’m sure, feel likewise about me, well, then be done with them, I say. Don’t give them one more minute of your life. Evil people aren’t a new invention. Most of us aren’t all good or all bad. I haven’t ever been a vengeful person, that’s not a motivation for me, I happen to be of the firm belief that life evens things out, God knows what He’s doing. There are those who think that you have to forgive people to move on, or that if you forgive them, well, then you won’t be mad anymore, or that that somehow makes them good people again, or that it makes you one. I’ve learned that you don’t have to forgive people to move on, they don’t have to forgive you, you can just be done. Indifference is a beautiful thing. Forgiveness is a deeper matter, I’ve found that if that’s going to happen, it will in its own time. But, there are others who, even if they really hurt me, I know they were able to hurt me, because I cared, and that means there was some bit of myself there that I want to respect, and some bit of them too, or of that moment. There are people who I hurt, intentionally or not, and that’s life, but what I know from having been hurt, well, a lot of those apologies don’t quite get it done. People do that to one another along the way which isn’t to make light of it, but to say that, okay, at some point, it’s been enough. So, there are the people whose feelings don’t deserve consideration in such a matter, and in most every life, at some point, there are likely situations where everyone has been through more than enough. There are also “innocent bystanders” in any such situation, meaning that perhaps they weren’t main characters but they were wherever and they didn’t do anything to me, they’ve gone with their lives, some of them are completely different people, changed or grown up or whatever, and they’ve every right to that. I thought of all that a long time ago. I wrote my autobiography once, for myself, and then I burned every page of it, more than a decade ago, because I decided then that that isn’t who I want to be as a writer, or a person. Getting older comes with the applicable comprehension of the wisdom behind such statements as, let sleeping dogs lie.

3.) In every true story, is a multitude of fiction. That right there, is a true statement in more ways than one. Telling your true story is, pardon the expression, kind of blowing your wad, in a lot ways. If you are a writer, you’re drawing from your own life, your own experiences, in some way, at some point, you can get a lot more mileage out of that if you’re writing fiction. Sure, some people who know you, or knew you, might be able to read something and say, “Hey, that’s the diner up on old highway 96 she’s writing about, she just moved it to another street, it wasn’t on that street. What’s she doing? There wasn’t no damn whale mural painted on that wall.”  That’s what makes it fiction. Once you do that, you are writing fiction. You can take that same diner and drop into a million different stories and change the painting on the wall every time, change the street it’s on, etc. Your larger audience, and hopefully if you’re a writer, at some point you’re thinking about your larger audience, doesn’t know that “real” diner, and they just know the one you made up. People out there don’t know that you wrote cousin Lolly into the south side madame, or the fairy godmother, or the Duchess of Delusion in the Forest of Barking Ferns, and they don’t need to. Fiction, is a lot more fun to write, way more fun to write, in every way.

4.) What do you want to talk about? Imagine that the book you’ve written is the biggest hit in the world. You’re on a book tour. People love your book, and day after, they’re coming up to you and want to talk about what you wrote. What do you want to talk about? And is the paycheck you got for writing that memoir enough to make it worth it to be talking about it for however long? Telling an anecdote now and then, saying, “Oh yeah, that’s from my own life, kind of based on this trip we took once.” isn’t the same thing as writing your true story, not in the least, not at all. If I say that it was my mother that introduced me to the likes of Perry Mason, Kolchak, Alfred Hitchcock, who gave me a book to read about a vampire, who let me watch the film “Ghost Story” with her, and said I might like the movie and the book, “Wolfen”, ( I still need/want to read that book), sharing those anecdotes, that she encouraged my poetry and fiction, or honoring those influences, isn’t the same as writing a memoir or autobiography. Saying you got an idea for a story from a song, or rambling about books, music, and movies, also, not the same thing. So, what do you want to talk about? Stuff that makes you miserable, or stuff that makes you laugh and smile and that makes writing a fun thing for you to be doing?

5.) Vampires and Werewolves OR Whatever You Want to Invent to Write About. I recall when I thought that all stories were fiction, unless they were books about important historical figures, like the biography of Abraham Lincoln.  I even remember when I thought that biographies were boring. I didn’t want to write about vampires. I threw a lot of fits about that, for quite a while, and I now think of it as part and parcel of my own snarling transformation to writing fiction, and writing horror. I am, primarily a noir writer, a crime story writer, and a poet. I started writing my vampire novel, THE SLICK FURIES, and I couldn’t stop writing it. The story was rolling and I knew where it was going and I knew the ending and I was excited to be writing it. Writing fiction is limitless. I’ve learned more truth from writing fiction than from any true story I’ve ever written or tried to write. I’ve published four books, of those four, the vampire novel is my favorite. During the course of the last five years, I wrote six books that were completely new, and amassed enough material for a couple of others. I’ve written a variety of fiction, and of varying lengths, everything from flash fiction to full length novels. It’s afforded me the opportunity to figure out what I enjoy writing, what I want to do. There are stories that I’ve written that, while I think they’re very good stories, I didn’t enjoy writing them, and to even think about some of them, makes me kind of sick to my stomach. There are stories that I’ve written that I even think are great stories, but that I wish I hadn’t written because looking at them now, I really understand where that influence was coming from. I don’t have any interest in writing things that make me feel that way. Like figuring out that for me, “On the Road”,  was something that I read at the end of a phase that I was going through, and though it was my favorite book for about ten years, more than ten years ago, well, I’ve read some other things since then.  Jack Kerouac died an unhappy man, his glory days and ability to revel in them, or lie to himself and romanticize about what he was observing or had observed, behind him, he drank himself to death. Stephen King and Anne Rice both got sober. I don’t know if that’s really any kind of comparison or not, but there you go. I think, as a writer, it’s important to give yourself the time to figure that kind of thing out, to sort out your own influences, and sometimes, time, is the only thing that can do that for you. I love writing long form fiction, and I can do it, not everyone can. I love the challenge of it. It makes me happy. ( Though, personally, I’m probably done writing about vampires for the foreseeable future.)

 

I did some complaining on my way to these realizations and decisions and understandings and what not, took some wrong turns, have had to make corrections. Really, it was the first time in my life that I know I was, for a while, a “complainer.” So I guess I needed to, in that it provided some kind of relief, but the reason I was never a complainer was because, it really doesn’t do any good, never really has made me feel any better, like just talking about working out. Which is also why I didn’t share the four thousand word rant that I wrote last night, it was helpful to me, but otherwise wasn’t constructive. Now, here you have why I’ve become a fiction writer, I enjoy it, it’s fun for me, it makes me happy.

Every writer, every person, has to find their own way, has to find what works for them as an individual. Like I always say, find what works for you, and treat it like the gospel.

TS