Goals for December 2017

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Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I managed a weekend post. I’ve been having some issues as well as just general laziness, so those are my excuses. They’re not good ones. But there they are.

I was decidedly unmotivated last month. I don’t know if that’s because I forgot to do a goal post, if I did a goal post and ignored it, or found that I just didn’t care because November was a month full of stress and depression for me. I did manage to win NaNoWriMo though. I barely squeaked by with 50,067 words, though if you look at the NaNo website it says 50,167. I heard from a lot of friends that the validator on the site added 100 words to their documents too.

So, here’s December’s goals –

  1. Get back on the weight loss train. – This is getting rather vital as I’ve gained back all the weight I lost and my health isn’t that great because of it. My end goal is 135-140 lbs, which is the “healthy weight” for a 5’3″ woman. At 40, this is going to take a lot longer to get rid of than if I was still in my 20s or 30s, but it is possible.
  2. Document more of my cooking adventures. – My ultimate end goal with a lot of my cooking adventures is to write a cookbook. I can’t do that if I don’t have pictures of the foods I’m preparing. So I need more pictures! I also need to be better about writing down the recipes I make up off the cuff so I can repeat them later if they’re popular.
  3. Finish the first draft of Into the Flames. – I want to be able to start the rewriting process for The Tiger’s Keeper (aka Tiger, Tiger) in January so it’s hopefully ready for publication by June. To do this, I need to get the second draft done and into shape for my beta readers.
  4. Try to get non-fiction posts up every weekend. – Yes, this is still the goal. It’ll continue being the goal even after Tiger, Tiger is done on my blog since you’ll be going back to the short little drabbles of fiction during the week, sometimes supplanted by my “slices of real life” posts as things happen.
  5. Focus some time on personal growth plans. – I have a lot of ideas for what I want to do to and for myself to become a better person. I really need to do this, as some of my less pleasant personality quirks are causing issues for people. So I’m going to be addressing at least one of those this month.

I think this should be enough for me to get through December. We’ll see how everything goes in January. I hope you all have a great weekend and we’ll see you tomorrow!

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Questions, questions – too many questions (or is there such a thing?)

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Again, the picture is from Pixabay, courtesy of qimono – CC0

If you’ve seen The Dark Crystal, you should remember Augrah and her great machine that maps the heavens. Here’s the scene where she’s discussing the Great Conjunction. Pay special attention to what she says to Jen at the end.

“Questions, questions, too many questions.”

How many questions do we ask in a day? In a week? In a month? In a year? As a writer, I should be asking a lot of questions. Yet I don’t. I’m too scared to ask questions. If I don’t know something – like the definition of a word or some idea of science – I’ll look it up. Yet when someone says something I don’t understand? I’m mum.

I’m afraid I’ll ask too many questions. I don’t want to be a bother. Yet am I a bother when I ask questions? Will I annoy anyone by asking questions when I don’t understand something? I’ll tell you one thing – it irritates people even more when I assume and don’t ask questions.

If you’re curious? Ask. If you need to know something? Ask. If you want help? Ask. If you don’t have all the information and the temptation to guess or make an assumption, don’t make the assumption. Ask questions!

On the other side, when people ask you questions, don’t evade them. Answer them. At the very least tell them that you don’t know the answer, or that you’re uncomfortable giving them the answer and would prefer not to say. You can tell people no and mean it. Inversely, you can tell them yes and mean it.

Don’t be afraid to question everything. Don’t be afraid to answer questions. Live your life in a cloud of curiosity and honesty (as much as possible.) Be happy, be healthy, and enjoy your life.

Enjoy your day and we’ll be back to Tiger, Tiger tomorrow. I hope you’re still enjoying it, because we’ve still got a long way to go. 🙂

If you’re TALKING…you’re not LISTENING

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As usual, the picture is from Pixabay, courtesy of geralt –  Creative Commons 0.

I have a horrible problem with not listening to people. I’ll interrupt them, ignore what they say, or cherry pick words and only hear what I want to hear. This applies to the spoken word only. If you write something and hand it to me, or if I read something online, I’m better able to process it. I was never really taught/I never learned on my own how to process verbal cues, concentrate on what was being said to me, and pay attention to a speaker. There’s a reason I nearly flunked out of high school and college was a nightmare for me.

My husband and I have had several arguments about this over the years – some of them very heated – because of this fact. He points out frequently that I still do this. It’s not surprising to me, but I get very defensive and very aggressive (another issue I’ll address at some later point down the road – maybe) and verbally lash out.

Last night we got into another one of our arguments. But this time I actually listened to something my husband told me. The saying is now up on my whiteboard, and it’s also the title of this post. If you’re TALKING…you’re not LISTENING!!!

What does this mean? Well, it’s simple: if your lips are flapping you’ve stopped paying attention to the speaker. How can you listen to someone else if all you hear is your voice? Likewise, if you wait until they’re done, you get the whole picture. You can respond in a way more appropriate for the situation. You can also figure out how to deal with the person’s emotions as well.

Another thing to consider is acknowledging another person’s emotions. Don’t just run off with the conversation and not at least tell the person you’ve heard them, that their feelings are important to you, and that you empathize with them. You may not understand why they feel that way even after they’ve explained it to you. If that’s the case, don’t leave it at that. ASK QUESTIONS!!! That’s another key point of listening, interestingly enough. If you don’t understand something, let the other person know. Ask for clarification. Don’t just sit there in confusion. It’s not going to do either of you any good, and will actually do great harm as the conversation winds on. (Speaking from personal experience here once again.)

In the end, the key to communication boils down to this: LISTEN. ASK QUESTIONS WHEN UNSURE. ACKNOWLEDGE THE OTHER PERSON’S EMOTIONS. AND FOR THE SAKE OF ALL PEOPLE INVOLVED, DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO THEM. IT’S NOT A GOOD IDEA, AND IT SHOWS YOU CARE MORE ABOUT YOURSELF THAN THEM.

I hope y’all enjoy your day, and that you consider what I’ve said. Hugs to all and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Recipe in flux – Gingerbread Pancakes

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(These aren’t my pancakes – I forgot to take a picture. But there are gingerbread pancakes.)

I’m attempting to find a good recipe for gingerbread pancakes to make for Christmas Day. I tried one I got off of Genius Kitchen. It was abysmal. It tasted nasty and there was no gingerbread taste.

Instead of continuing to hunt online for a recipe, I decided to take it into my own hands to make my own recipe. I took our base pancake recipe, use my gingerbread muffin recipe (which everyone loves because it does taste like gingerbread) as a guide, and make a new batch. I’m sharing with you my current recipe. The pancakes tasted more like gingerbread, but they’re not quite perfect yet.

Gingerbread fluffy pancakes

1 1/2 c milk
1/4 c white vinegar

2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves

2 eggs
1/4 c vegetable oil
3 T molasses

In a separate bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together to sour the milk.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, oil and molasses to the milk and whisk those together, then add to the dry ingredients. Whisk together well, but leave some lumps.

Heat up a griddle. Using either a 1/4 c or a 1/2 c (depending on how big you want these) measuring cup, pour onto the griddle. Cook until done all the way through.

For me, I got 13 large pancakes using the 1/2 c measuring cup. You might get something different, and with the 1/4 c measuring cup you’ll definitely get more.

For those of you who are cooks, what else would you recommend I do to make these taste more like gingerbread? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

The fear of clowns – and what it means to me

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Coulrophobia – that’s what the phobia of clowns is called. I don’t suffer from it (and I’m sorry for any of my readers who do) but I’m still like so many people with a general dislike and a mild fear of clowns. I’ve explained it several times to many people, and yet I find I have to defend myself from time to time.

I dislike not being able to see people’s faces. This is true of people in masks as well. Veils not so much (unless we get into burqas, but that’s a different matter altogether) since I can still usually see the features through the material. I realize that even with the makeup on the features of the person’s face are still there. Still, I can’t see their true face and it creeps me out.

The only way I can handle seeing a clown is if I watch them put on their makeup. That way I know who’s behind the painted on colors. It sounds childish when I explain it, yet there are a lot of people I’ve talked to who feel the same way as me. There are those whose fear of clowns is so intense that it engenders panic attacks at the mere sight – or even thought at times – of them.

The fear of clowns plays into our fear of the unknown. We can’t see who’s behind the paint, even though we can see their faces. We don’t know who they are in spite of the fact that they’re standing right in front of us. The unknown frightens us because we don’t know how to interpret it. We can’t anticipate what will happen.

Clowns also haven’t been portrayed in the most favorable light. There’s Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT. There’s those evil clown YouTube videos that are going around. A more gruesome real life example was John Wayne Gacy Jr. He’s a serial killer who killed 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. He worked as a clown during the time of these murders. To borrow a quote from one article I read: Gacy became known as the “Killer Clown” because of his charitable services at fundraising events, parades, and children’s parties where he would dress as “Pogo the Clown”, a character he had devised.

It’s no wonder so many of us fear them, with pop culture painting them as evil monsters and real life criminals using them as a way to hide their evil. My husband loves clowns. He loves clowns, jesters, and anything like that. He prefers the demented, evil looking ones too. I find some of what he finds a little freaky, but I will admit he’s got great taste in artists. What he finds is usually well done and executed perfectly. So while the subject is a little freaky, the artwork itself is amazing.

You can turn your fear into admiration of something, if you can get yourself past the fear. You can use that fear to become stronger. Have I overcome my general fear and dislike of clowns? No. Not really. But I can still manage to admire those images my husband finds for the artwork they are. I can find images for my blog as needed, so long as I don’t have to look at them for a great deal of time.

Just remember, whatever you’re afraid of, use that fear to make you stronger.

Note 1: Sorry if this is a little incoherent. I’m writing it at 3:30 in the morning (only half an hour before my alarm goes off normally) and I’m not quite fully awake. But I wanted to get a blog post up today and this is my chance to get it written.

Note 2: I got asked privately who was taking all my pictures and did I have permission to use them since I’m not crediting them anymore. All of my pictures come with Creative Commons 0 licenses from Pixabay, with no credit required. So I tend to forget to note who took the picture when I grab potential pictures for blog posts. (This is also where all my tiger pictures come from for Tiger, Tiger.)

Insomnia is my enemy

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This lady is doing what I wish I could have done last night – sleep. I got hit with a bout of insomnia and ended up not going to sleep until 4:30 this morning. I was up by around 7:30.

I’m looking at my to do list and just groaning. I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to get done, but I know in a couple hours I’m just going to crash and have to take a nap. But I realized that it’s okay. What I don’t get done today can be done tomorrow or Monday. Most of what I want to do isn’t extremely vital. It’s also the weekend so it’s a bit more laid back around here.

My husband and my roommates are going to a Halloween party tonight. I was invited to go along too, but I declined. It’s at a bar, which I don’t think I’m quite ready to handle. Too many people – many who’ll be in costumes (possibly with their faces obscured in some way) – and too much noise. Not to mention I’ve sworn off drinking alcohol for good. But that’s not the primary reason. The social anxiety/PTSD/feeling trapped and claustrophobic situation is.

My husband and I are going to a smaller social gathering (a bonfire) at a friend’s house tomorrow. There’s going to be drinking there. I’ll be taking my own drinks and just kicking back and enjoying the company of friends. I’m not sure how well it’ll turn out – since social situations still freak me the hell out – but we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, I hope y’all have a wonderful day and a great weekend! See you tomorrow!

The beginning of the rainy season

This is the view from my back deck. The left one is across the river. The right one is directly to the left. As you can see, the river is quite high. Usually there’s a lot more room between the edge of the river bank and the river. Now, there’s another 3+ feet before it even comes close to reaching the deck, but it’s still something we all pay attention to starting around this time of year.

Why this time of year? Well, here on our part of the Oregon Coast, this is the real beginning of fall – the start of the rainy season. Fall and winter are often gray with long patches of rain. Last year we went two months solid where we had maybe five days total of sun. It gets rather depressing at times.

So fall and winter I spend more time playing Sims 4 than writing, which is a big problem for me since I want to publish Tiger, Tiger next spring and Into the Flames next fall. (Yes, I’m ambitious.) So I need to buckle down and get to work.

So here we go on a writing adventure! I plan on writing in the mornings and giving myself permission to play Sims 4 later in the day. I figure that will give me my writing as well as my relaxation.

Let the writing commence!

My writing process

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Every now and then I get asked how I write, since I’m a pantser through and through. Often I get the question, “How can you write not knowing where you’re going to go?” Well, while that’s half the fun, it’s also not entirely true of what I do. Let me explain.

I go in with my characters – the majority of which introduce themselves long before I get started, the setting, and a vague plot. I do have a beginning and an end. It’s the middle part that I tend to write by the seat of my pants. Essentially, I know where they’re going to end up. It’s up to them to choose the roads to it.

People look at me odd when I say the characters “choose” their own paths, but other pantsers understand exactly what I’m talking about. Also, there are many authors who agree with me that they hear the voices of their characters in their heads, talking to them, pushing them on when energy flags so that the story can be told. I’ve ended up having to supervise arguments between the characters in my head so I could see where it led. That was fun. I learned a lot about my characters with that one.

The truth is I enjoy learning about my characters as I write, which is why my first drafts get almost completely rewritten when I go back to them. I look at my first drafts as sort of an overly complex set of character sketches. I use the plot as the guide to let the characters sort themselves out. Once that’s been done, I go back and use that information to pare down what I’ve been given and then add more information where it was lacking.

I can rewrite a story five or six (or more) times before I’m somewhat happy with it. Only then will I send it to a beta reader, who will then go through and pick it apart for me. I’ll take the advice they give me that I feel would strengthen the story and discard the advice I don’t think will help. I have taken advice I don’t agree with and ended up enjoying the results anyway. So even if I don’t like the advice given, I don’t discard everything.

I can be very scattered in my methods, but the result is the same – a fun story that I’ve enjoyed writing and that I hope readers will love reading. We’ll find out next year when the first of my books gets published (by me).

My musical awakening – 2017 version

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I’ve always been very particular in my music choices. I haven’t ventured out of the rock genre in ages, though I’ve dabbled in dubstep, techno, and a few other varieties as well as revisiting some of the classic country I heard when I was a kid. Then I got on Discord and discovered that they have special bots that allow you to play music through the voice chat options.

Let me just say…this has been eye opening.

I’ve been introduced to Manowar, Sabaton, Eminem, Lil Wayne, NF, Bruno Mars, and so many others. I’ve started adding to my writing playlist on Spotify, putting in my favorites from the lists. (Though Manowar’s Sleipnir isn’t on Spotify since they don’t have the license for it – the turkey butts.)

I’m loving every bit of what I’ve been shown, and if you’ve known me for any length of time, you know how odd that is. I’ve sworn up and down that I *hate* rap, that I’d never listen to it willingly, that I’d shut off whatever program was playing it rather than listen. Well, there are a few songs from Eminem, Lil Wayne, NF, and Bruno Mars that have made it into my repertoire now.

I’ve also gone into foreign language songs. I’ve got some more German language songs, and a few Japanese ones. Granted, these are covers of anime songs, but hey, I have to start somewhere, don’t I? 😀 I also have one Arabic/French mix song, and as soon as my friend gets back on Discord, I’m grabbing another Arabic song. Well, it’s actually Arabic/Latin/Spanish. Why? Because I can.

Music can open so many doors. We are literally a gathering of people from across the world, and all of us are sharing music we enjoy. It’s so much fun to see what everyone else int he world listens to, and share what I enjoy with them. I’ve even been reintroduced to old favorites (from the 80s) I’d forgotten about.

If you like a song, and have a chance to share it with someone, do so. They may not like it, but it’s a good conversation starter.

Manowar – Sleipnir