Thursday, October 25, 2018

Gators, Scorpions, and Bears - OH MY!

Gators, Scorpions, and Bears! Oh my!
It has been four months since I've blogged at Babble 'n Blog. Time flies when you're preparing to retire from your day job and hit the road full-time in a van!  The van is already my home and has been for seven months, but I'm still counting down the days until I make the highways of this country my home.

During these past seven months, I've been very busy learning as much as I can about my Travato and how to live as a civilized nomad. I belong to a lot of groups on Facebook. Some are for van life in general. Some are just for Travato owners. Some are only for women or for campers over a certain age.  In all of them there is often discussion of wildlife.  Not wildlife as in drinking and carousing, but as in creatures who live in the areas I'll be visiting.

Back in May I went camping in Yosemite for the first time.  I loved it, but for weeks before I was worried about bear attacks. I was sure a bear was going to break into my RV and eat me and my Oreos. I never saw a single bear, even when I went for a long walk by myself (brave of me, right?).

Throughout the year in these groups, people talk about the wildlife they encounter. Bison in Yellowstone is a popular one. Sightings of grizzlies in Alaska. Alligators roaming around watering holes on the outskirts of RV parks in Florida. Rattlesnakes in campgrounds in the desert. Of course there are also the tales of spotting sweet deer, the occasional moose, and magnificent birds. Even wild horses. But today one of the forums was abuzz with talk of scorpions.

Yes, I said scorpions. Scorpions in shoes. Scorpions in beds. Scorpions seemingly everywhere.

Let me say this right now, so there's no misunderstanding: I am a city-raised wussie!

Yes, I managed to see Yosemite without being eaten or losing my Oreos.

But still ...

The first quarter of 2019 I'll be spending a lot of time dry camping in the desert, the natural habitat of scorpions and snakes. True, I'll be in a van. But I'm still breaking out in premature hives. What if I encounter said snakes and scorpions? Many people in the forum said it will be winter and the critters will be hibernating. Then someone else will counter with a tale of finding such creepy crawlies in the winter when they slither into people spaces looking for warmth.

O.M.G.!!!
 
Okay, Sue Ann, get a grip! You're not going to let a few snakes and gators spoil your plans, are you?

I'm thinking. I'm thinking.




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Laughing In the Slow Lane

People always ask me: What do you miss most now that you're living in a van.

I miss two things: my queen-size bed and my former 15 minute commute to the office.

My Winnebago Travato has twin beds and they are narrow twin beds. It's also the model year before they added the ability to turn the twins into a full size bed. Even so, that feature has its drawbacks, like having to crawl over the bed to get to the bathroom, and having to dismantle the bed every morning, instead of just making it. It took me a few months, but I've finally adapted to sleeping in a twin bed.

One of the biggest downsides of having downsized from a large apartment to a van is I went from a 15 minute commute to my office to a 90 minute commute. Unfortunately, the closest RV park I could find to make home until I retire was in Van Nuys. It's not that far from Century City, only about 15 miles, but during weekday rush hour mornings, I might as well be driving to Vegas.

On really bad traffic days, the commute can stretch to 2 hours or more, depending on whether some dumbass caused an accident along the already overcrowded 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. Without accidents, it takes me about 90 minutes to get to work and about 60 minutes to get home. The shorter travel time home is mostly due to my not leaving the office until after 7pm, when traffic is a bit lighter. However, several months ago there was a horrific accident involving a big rig that made my commute time home over 3 hours.

This is why true Angelinos pee out every last drop before starting their commute.

My usual morning view.
One of my favorite things to do during my commute to work is listen to audio books.  On the way home, I'm more likely to listen to the news. This morning I almost finished Calypso by David Sedaris. I love listening to audio books, especially interesting autobiographies read by the author. Sedaris's books are a series of essays about his life and observations. They are hysterical.

This morning I was in the usual bumper-to-bumper traffic, listening to the chapter titled I'm Still Standing. As the chapter began,  I had just taken a big gulp of coffee. With the first belly laugh, I nearly sprayed it all over my windshield. The entire chapter was that way, so I put a hold on the coffee and just enjoyed the wild ride that is David Sedaris.  I was laughing so hard, tears were running down my cheeks. By chance, I glanced to my left to see the man in the car in that lane watching me and laughing.

He was laughing at me laughing.

Now that's the way to start a Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Not That I'm Keeping Track Or Anything

Well, I did it! I gave my law firm my date for retirement. It's January 11, 2019. Just 212 days away!

Holy Crap!

This just got real!

I have 212 days to:

Update my dental work
Get new glasses
Get a passport
Sign up for both Medicare and Social Security
Update websites
Make sure Novella is in tip-top shape
Write my fat ass off and get things ready for publication

I'm in the process of taking care of most of these items, and recently created The Novel RV website and updated the Sue Ann Jaffarian website. Medicare and Social Security will need to wait until I'm closer to retirement, and I'm learning more about Novella all the time and am growing more secure in my ability to take care of my van.

The one thing I really need to focus on is my writing. I've been writing here and there since the beginning of the year, but not nearly at the pace I'm use to writing. Of course, I had to put writing on the back burner a bit while I bought and set up Novella and learned to live in a van. But now I'm back in my writer's groove and ready to produce all kinds of fun things.

Why January 11th?

I can tell you that I didn't pull that date out of a hat. Careful and deliberate planning went into choosing it. Mostly due to finances. You see, I have to be at my job on December 31st to be eligible for pension distributions, not to mention there's the year-end bonus, and I don't turn 66 until the end of December either. So it all works out just fine.

I decided to dribble into the new year for specific reasons also. The last few weeks of the year and first week of the new year can also be extremely busy at my job and I didn't want to leave them in a lurch in case they didn't have my replacement lined up yet.

So When Are New Books Coming Out?

There was also a lot of consideration of when to publish new books. I will be writing like a mad woman and getting new books ready for publication in the next 7 months. After all, I'm mostly an indie author now. But since I am so close to retirement, WHEN to publish them became important because of tax reasons, I will not be releasing new books until 2019, when my personal tax base is much lower.  I will be releasing a new short story soon, but no new novels until 2019.

In addition to the above chores, between now and January 11th, I'll also be taking a couple of camping trips, as Novella and I become better acquainted. So far, we doing great together, and every day I'm sure this was the right decision for me.

Novella and my new office.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Novel RV Lives!

Novella and Me, Together At Last!
I have not updated Babble 'n Blog in three months, but in my defense, I have been very very busy.

You may recall that I was planning on buying a Winnebago Travato, downsizing all my stuff, and moving into the van full-time in preparation of retirement. Well, guess what? That's exactly what I've been doing!

I started getting rid of all my extra belongings in mid-February and didn't stop until it was all gone. Some went to charity, some were sold, much of it was given away. Most of it I didn't care about. The stuff I did went to friends and family. All my books went to a local library and a senior center. The biggest pain in the butt were my clothes. I purged and purged and purged, and I still had way more clothing than I could fit into the van. I gave away even more, and finally I had my wardrobe pared down to the clothing I really did need and little more. The same went for my shoes and handbags. Even my jewelry.

On March 17th, I flew to North Carolina and took possession of a 2016 Winnebago Travato 59K Touring Coach, which was purchased from a friend. That same day, after he gave me a thorough crash course in the vehicle, I hit the road for the long drive back to California. My first stop for the night was a Walmart parking lot, where I not only camped for the night, but also spent a nice wad of cash on things like sheets, blankets, a mattress pad, shelf liner, soap, and food.

The trip wasn't without its mishaps, but all were small and manageable. The largest being when my black tank overflowed because I left the water pump and a faucet on one day while driving. Trust me, you haven't lived until you are stopped in a rest stop wearing rubber gloves and scouring sewer water from your tiny bathroom/shower.

In fact there were a lot of things I did along the way that I never thought I'd ever do:

  • Scrubbing sewer water from my bathroom somewhere along a highway
  • Washing my panties out in a rest stop ladies room because I didn't pack enough (Yeah, I know, I should have added those to my Walmart shopping list.)
  • Taking a shower at a truck stop
  • Sleeping in parking lots of Walmarts and truck stops. (Only one night was spent at a friend's home, all the others were spent in parking lots.)

Once I got back to California, I parked Novella at an RV park at Dockweiler Beach and went back to work, living in the semi-set up van while continuing to empty my apartment mornings and evenings. A week later, the apartment in my rear view mirror, I moved to my semi-permanent spot in an RV park, where I'll stay until I actually retire from my job in less than a year.

Novella is all set up now. She's decorated inside and my stuff is pretty well settled. I really enjoy living in her. She's cozy and cute. We even took our first camping trip. It was to Yosemite for four days to meet up with other Travato owners. Next week, we'll take another trip. The plan is to take long weekend camping trips to get use to it until it's time to hit the road permanently.

If you would like to follow the adventures of  The Novel RV, Novella, and me, you can do so on Instagram (thenovelrv), The Novel RV Facebook page, and The Novel RV website (which is still under construction.) The full story of my maiden trip from North Carolina to California is posted on The Novel RV Facebook page.  Please stop by and catch yourself up. There are also lots of photos of the van inside and out.
 
* * * * *


In all this there was one major change that wasn't fun, but expected. B, my beloved sweet cat, had to be put down. She was 19-1/2 years old. She had feline dementia and was starting to really fail. She did manage to get moved into the van with mixed reviews on her part. As long as the van was still, she seemed to be okay. When it moved, she lost her mind. I was worried she would die while I was on the road from North Carolina and she was under the care of a friend, but she lasted a few more weeks. She died with me by her side rubbing her belly.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

We Need To Break Up

I just finished my second week of my 28 Day Challenge. I didn't lose any weight this week, and even fell off the wagon once. Considering I lost a lot of weight my first week, I'm not too concerned by the lack of weight loss. Falling off the wagon concerns me more.

One of the things I'm trying to accomplish in my 28 Day Challenge is to adjust my relationship to and with food.

And it is complicated.

We use food to celebrate. We use food to remind us of childhood memories. We use food to comfort us in times of disappointment, anger, and loneliness.

I'm an emotional eater. I tend to eat more when my world is shaken or rocked. The more upset I am, the more likely I am to overeat, and when I'm in that state, I NEVER choose salad or fruit. It's more likely to be pizza, mac 'n cheese, pie, or ice cream. What adds insult to injury is that I'm never happy with just a slice or a cup or a scoop. Having a really bad day means decimating a half bag of Oreos.

Odelia Grey, the main protagonist in my Odelia Grey mystery series, is an emotional eater. She will stuff down a carton of Ben and Jerry's or a box of Thin Mints or cheesecake while stuffing down her true feelings or emotions. But that's a character in a book and it's funny. It's not so cute and funny in real life.

"Put down the cheesecake and no one gets hurt."
Zee to Odelia in Too Big to Miss.

So one of my goals during this month is to break up with food. It can't be a complete break up, of course. I need to eat to live. I just don't need to live to eat.

I did have one night the first week when I received some bad news and was very close to doing the backstroke in a half gallon of ice cream.

But I didn't.

I stood strong again the emotions and long bad habits whispering in my ear to just go for it.

Who will know.
 
Who will care?

But, you see, I will know. And I will care.

Last night my fall from grace was face-first into a bacon burger and fries, and I know it was because I was so upset over the shooting in Florida. Not that eating that crap would have made things any better for anyone, but I knew I didn't want to go home and cook, and I knew I needed to calm my stress. Seeing that in the past I'd always done that with food, I made the easy choice. But on the bright side, I only ate half of the burger and fries, and I did not have a soda. Baby steps.

My exercise this week was spotty but improved on last week.

I vowed that in 2018 I would fall in love with my life, and this is part of that journey. I like my life, but I need to care for it and truly, deeply, love it. Eating healthy and getting exercise is part of that. And it's never to late to start.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

One Week Like A Boss!

On February 1st I began a personal 28 day challenge.  The challenge was to eat healthy and increase my exercise for the entire month. Yesterday marked the end of my first week - 7 days - and I'm proud to say I did it. YAY! But it wasn't without some close calls.

For the food challenge, for 28 days I vowed to not eat fried foods, fast food, sugar, or dairy. This last one I shouldn't eat anyway because of an allergy to it, but I can't seem to keep my hands off dairy in spite of the horrible rashes, sometimes painful, it gives me, but I'm too much of a dolt to listen to my body.

But I digress..

Anyway, my first near stumble came on the very first day when on my way home, tired and grumpy, I started to point my car in the direction of a fast food drive-thru. But in the end turned the car for home and a healthy dinner. Win!

Later in the week, I received some really disappointing news that put me in a bad funk. I had to go to the grocery store on my way home and once there battled the urge to fill my cart with mac 'n cheese and ice cream - my two favorite comfort foods, along with pizza (notice the dairy theme here, and YES, I am aware of all of the yummy non-dairy substitutes, so no need to be a nag and remind me).  Like with the first day, my strong, determined side, slapped my weak side upside the head. I left the grocery store with only what was on my list, along with a basket of strawberries. Win!

Another challenge for the week was adjusting portion control, even with healthy foods. I fought the urge for second helpings and kept to normal portions. Win!

For the exercise, I didn't jump right into anything strenuous, but I did do senior yoga several mornings and I brought my Fitbit out of retirement and fired it up. I try every day to add a few more steps to those of the day before and have mostly managed that.

Sleep, it's what's good for you. Another health challenge for me is getting enough sleep. I tend to burn the candle at both ends. I get up early and often go to bed late. This week I was asleep no later that 10:30 pm each night, sometimes earlier.  I would get up usually at 5:30, but if I was still tired (and not just being lazy), allowed myself to sleep in a bit.

And the proof is in the pudding! After 7 days of healthy eating and moderate exercise, I am down 5.6 lbs and feel better overall. And I'm much more productive, both at work and in my writing. Do I still want all that yummy fattening food? Yes! But I'm taking one challenge day at a time.

So, what's up for the 2nd week? Incorporating more exercise.

See you in a week!


Thursday, February 01, 2018

28 Days - Go!

One of the attorneys at my law firm who, in spite of having four children and juggling a busy career, is carving out time to challenge herself physically.  For the last several months she has been doing personal challenges such as 30 days clean eating, 30 days of intense exercise/yoga, etc. She's always been one of my favorites and most inspirational bosses and yesterday she left the firm, along with another favorite attorney, to pursue a new opportunity.  I am deeply saddened, but happy for both of them.

Any way, I was lamenting to Hope about how I used to be much more focused on my physical well being. When I challenged myself to do the Camp Pendleton Mud Run in 2009 I set my sights on training for this grueling undertaking, knowing that my doughy out of shape body would be chewed up and spit out. I knew I could not run the course with my gimpy knees, but I did walk the entire course and finished. In preparation, I walked 2-3 miles a day, and on weekends 5-6 miles on a day. I trained for hills and distance. I lost weight and I got stronger.

Okay, I know that was 9 years ago, and I was younger and about 45 lbs lighter than I am today, but more than the weight, I am mourning my lack of focus on my physical care. Last year my doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure and pre-diabetes.  The blood pressure is now under control and I've lost weight since then, but I'm still depressed/angry that I can't focus on this or take it as seriously as I should. Frankly, I'm pissed off at myself.

Right now I'm focused on packing up my apartment and getting my RV for my retirement next year. I'm also focused on building an independent writing career. But there should still be time to take care of my physical well being. It's especially important as I head into retirement that I be stronger and self-sufficient physically, considering my plan is to hit the road and travel full-time. I need to be the best I can be for that endeavor.

In the movie 28 Days, Sandra Bullock goes to court appointed rehab for drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, I don't have a problem with either substance, and when motivated I eat extremely well. But I still need rehab of sorts.

Beginning today, February 1st I'm putting myself in "rehab."  For the next 28 days I'm going to eat healthy (i.e., no fast food or sweets or fried foods), and I'm going to exercise at least 6 days a week.  There is absolutely no reason why I cannot do this. No reason on earth, considering the other goals I've set and met in my life.

I know you've all heard me say this before, and I'll keep saying it and setting these challenges until I get it right or die trying.

Women like Hope and super athletes like Jessie Graff can be my inspiration, but only I can be my own superhero. And it's never too late in life to be a superhero.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2018 - Fall In Love With Your Own Life

My friend Christopher Hudson sent me this after finding it on a FB page. I loved it immediately, and decided to adopt it for my 2018 mantra.

2017 was a year of turmoil, uncertainty, anger and division, and I don't see much of that ending as 2018 opens.  We can't control a lot of what happens around us, but we can control how we react to it and how we allow it to affect us.

In 2018 I'm sure I'll still be anti-Trump and voicing that opinion. I'm sure I'll be speaking out against things I find unjust. I'm sure I will be disappointed in some of the people around me, and even in myself. And I'm sure I will disappoint others. But in 2018 I vow to think more about other's feelings, and I vow to not let others' bad attitudes and behavior be destructive to my life and thinking.

I have a lot to do in 2018 as I ready for retirement and plunge into my new independent author role. I'll need a clear head and clear path to make those goals a reality, and negativity, whether it comes from others or from my own mind, just gets in the way. No one has time for that!

Every year I make New Year Resolutions. For 2018 I vow to fall in love with my own life. I already like my life and love my friends and family, but in 2018 I'm going to do whatever I can to make my life better, whether that be eating healthier, getting more exercise, managing commitments better, or pushing negativity to the background. 

I will love my life and treat it with respect and kindness. I will protect it, not just physically, but emotionally. If not me, then who will do it?

In 2018 let's all put the hurt and insults behind and fall in love with our lives and grow together.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I Read In 2017

Reading-wise, I'm saying goodbye to 2017 a bit disappointed. I had pledged on the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge to read 40 books this year, and that's doable in a normal year, but 2017 didn't turn out to be a normal year and I only had time to read/listen to 22 books.

I like to mix up my reading with fiction and non-fiction, with the fiction divided between mystery and general fiction.  This year half of my completed books were non-fiction and four of those were autobiographies.

So what were my favorite reads of 2017:

Nonfiction:  Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming.  It was almost edged out by Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. It really was a photo finish, and I highly recommend both books.

Fiction: IQ and Righteous, both by Joe IdeThis is a two-fer because both books are by the same author and are his first and second books in his new mystery series.  Don't miss these!

Book that made me laugh my ass off: When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris.  Honorable mention goes to Human Resources by Bill Fitzhugh.

Book that touched my heart: Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. A moving book about a growing and serious trend.

I'm looking forward to 2018, and am pledging again to read at least 40 books in the upcoming year. You can always check my progress in the bar to the right of the blog.

Currently I'm reading Stone Cold Dead by James Ziskin and The Rooster Bar by John Grisham.  On my 2018 list already are more by James Ziskin, a couple by Matt Coyle, and definitely Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.


So let's all get reading in 2018!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Stress-Free Christmas

As I wrote back in 2015, I keep my Christmas celebrations very simple and have for years.

But this Christmas has been even more simple and stress-free. You see, this was the first Christmas I have not been facing down the barrel of a writing deadline - or two.

I went to parties. I did my shopping, sent off packages. Watched holiday movies, and planned outings with friends. All without guilt. What a concept!

The only fly in the ointment was a knee injury at the beginning of the month that kept me from one party and from doing a few more active things. But the knee is much better, and I've cast aside the cane to resume festivities.

Today is a Christmas brunch with dear friends. Christmas Eve I'm going to a party. Christmas Day I'm going to make myself a nice meal and relax. And write. But not because I have to. Because I want to. And I will enjoy the process more because there won't be a gun to my head.

Everyone have a lovely Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

12 In Cat Years

This week on Life In Pieces, one of my favorite sitcoms, one of the characters turned 35 and was having a meltdown over it, especially when a cake arrived at the dinner table with the number candles reversed to say 53.

Hey, I'll take 53!

You see, this week I turn not 35 (ha!) or 53 (I wish!) but 65.

Yes, 65, that magic year when you have to sign up for Medicare, and retirement becomes a real possibility. It's an age when you're eligible for all of the senior menus and discounts.

My mother died at 52 of heart disease. My father passed away at 79 from a stroke. If you average their ages, it comes out to 65.5. This birthday, I'm smack between the two ages when they died. My brother died in his 60s due to liver disease. It definitely makes me pause to reflect, even though I'm pretty healthy for an old broad.

But I digress, which, by the way, is part of getting old. As I pause on the brink of turning 65, I don't want to bemoan lost years, growing old, or creaky knees. I want to celebrate what's ahead of me, and when I turn my head away from the past and focus on the future, I flutter with excitement. 

As most people wind down, I'm starting a new adventure. Soon I'll be retiring and making my goal of becoming a wandering writer a reality. I have places to go and people to meet, as well as connecting with long-time friends scattered around the country.

I have about 26 published novels under my belt. Time to quit and rest on an impressive body of work? No way! In the next two years the plan is to write and publish at least 4 more novels.

I'm so excited, I could widdle!  By the way, another problem with getting older.


Monday, December 11, 2017

A Modern Grapes of Wrath?


I recently finished reading Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. This book was recommended to me because I'm planning on hitting the road on a continuous writing and book tour when I retire.

I highly recommend Nomadland, but not for the reasons you might think.

This book did not chronicle the life I expect to live in a well appointment and fancy camper van. Instead, Nomandland tells the story of a modern exodus and shrinking middle class, something on the minds of most of us who follow the news and worry about the future.

Author Jessica Bruder meets, follows, and interviews people who, for the most part, once lived in nice homes and had good jobs, who found themselves broke and homeless due to the economy, health care costs, and layoffs. They could no longer afford to keep a home or an apartment and job prospects were slim, so they gathered up what money they had left and hit the road in a variety of wheeled domiciles. Some moved into RVs, trailers and vans, also known as wheel-estate. Others lived out of their SUVs and cars with no facilities.  Most of the people she met during her research were over 60 years of age, living off meager Social Security, sometimes as little as $400-$500 a month, after losing everything in the economy crash of a decade ago.

For work, many of these modern nomads go from job to job. They have become itinerant workers driving from seasonal job to seasonal job, like the Amazon Camperforce, during which these workers walk as much as 15-20 miles in 12 hour days on concrete floors filling orders for the holiday season, while living in their homes on wheels in freezing temperatures. Others migrate to the sugar beet crops or take on camp hosting positions. These are not glamorous jobs. They are physically demanding, low paying, and have zero benefits. But it is all most of these people have to supply food and shelter. More than once during the book, I was reminded of Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

This book hit close to home. You see, when I was in my late forties I was laid off from a job due to a merger. I did find another fairly quickly, but a couple of years later found myself unemployed again when that company was sold. That time I wasn't so lucky. I was out of work six months, taking on part-time short-term gigs when I could while I looked for full-time work. By the time I landed a job, my savings was gone and my credit cards were maxed out. My new job was in a truly awful and abusive law firm for about half of what I was making before, but it was enough to keep the wolves from the door, barely. A year later I got another job in another law firm for a bit more money. It was another awful job, but more stable and I moved to Los Angeles from the suburbs to cut down my commute. Three years later I got another job offer and gave notice, but that new job fell through and I was left with nothing again. For six months I took low paying temp jobs. I cleaned apartments for people. I was just starting to get published when this happened, so while I wasn't making any royalties yet, I was, at least, getting some meager advance money. I hadn't quite recovered from the layoffs of earlier, so when this hit, I had no choice but to declare bankruptcy.

But all was not bleak. I wrote, worked hard at anything that could pay the rent, and held myself together. Some friends knew of my hardship and loaned me money.  Finally, I landed the job I have now and have held for over twelve years. It's a great job in a great firm. It has allowed me to rebuild my paralegal career and become financially stable again. Loans were all paid and now I'm looking forward to retirement. I won't be flush with cash when I retire, but I won't be in the same boat as the people in Nomadland. And thanks to my writing career, I won't have to work itinerant, physically difficult jobs.  But I have felt their desperation.

While often pretty bleak, Nomadland also reflects on the strength and strong spirit of this wandering population. Long lasting friendships are built on the road and fluid communities come together. Many see it as a means to eventually re-establish themselves in the mainstream population. Others come to enjoy and thrive on the freedom and independence that comes with having few encumbrances. Some never manage to shake off hopelessness and despair. None consider themselves homeless.

After reading this book, I wondered,  had I known living on the road was a possibility when I was going through my hardships, would I have chosen such a life? I'm choosing it now as a fun adventure after retirement, but could I have tackled such an undertaking twelve-fifteen years ago when I hit bottom? I'm not sure I had the fortitude then to do it, so I take my hat off to these brave people.

As the middle-class continues to be squeezed out by government policies and an unfriendly economy, I predict we'll see more and more of these modern nomads on the road. It has become the new reality for many.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving is Da Bomb!

Growing up, I wasn't that fond of holidays. The idea of holidays, yes, but not the actual getting together stuff. You see, my family fought a lot. When we were kids, Mom and Dad would mix it up pretty good. As we got older, my bother and I were thrown into the mix. Before my mid to late twenties, I honestly can't remember that many enjoyable Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters, even Fourth of July cookouts, that didn't involve yelling, swearing, and people getting pissed off at each other. Holidays meant drama, and not the good kind. And we were not alone. Holidays seem to bring out the worst in a lot of families. The stress of having a big gathering, perfect food, and pretending to be happy, cracks many foundations several times a year.

I really enjoy holidays now. Some I spend with friends; some I'm prefer to be alone; during some I travel. I even have my own holiday traditions for each.  I keep them simple and as stress-free as possible.  I celebrate them as I wish, and do not allow other people's expectations to interfere.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, hands down. It doesn't matter if I spend it alone or with friends or on a beach or in a mountain cabin. Thanksgiving is da bomb!

Why?

1. It takes place in my favorite season - fall.
2. There's no direct religious or political connection.
3. There's no gift-giving, unless you bring a hostess gift when you're a guest.
4. It involves good food - a single hearty meal and, if you're lucky, leftovers.
5. No one is setting off fireworks that scare the crap out of my cat.

Thanksgiving has one purpose: to give thanks.
 
It's a day of giving thanks for the good things in your life - your family, friends, good health, love, food, and shelter. And it's a day to remember that not everyone has these basic needs.
 
It's a day of putting greed, differences, and sense of entitlement aside, and being humble in the face of your good fortunes and blessings.
 
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Committing Murder For The Sake of My Craft

I commit murder on the page quite often. Sometimes multiple murders. As a crime writer, it's what I do. An old boyfriend used to ask me: Is this book a LBC or HBC? Meaning, does this book have a low body count or a high body count.

Today I committed a different type of murder. It wasn't on the page as much as the page or pages themselves. Basically, I killed an entire short story in progress. Why? Because it wasn't living up to its potential.

Yeah, I'm a bad ass in that way.

I've been working on this particular short story for months. Longer than it often takes me to write a novel. It's a departure from what I normally write and I found it laborious and dull. Usually writing comes easy to me. I'm a fast writer, often speeding through words with ease as the story flows from my head and out my fingers. But this story was like lugging a bag of rocks up Mt. Everest. So today, I had to really take a good long look at the work. Was the drudgery of it trying to tell me something? Was it the story line itself? Was it the main character?

What? What? What?

Over the past few months, I've sat in front of the computer screen staring at the page, begging it to tell me what was wrong. When I got no answer, I'd push ahead, putting words to the page in the hope it would spring to life. But no. It was as flat a cardboard and just as compelling. Finally, out of desperation, this morning, armed with strong coffee, I thought long and hard about it. I didn't think about what was wrong with the story itself, but whether or not the story deserved to live at all.

I was contemplating killing off my darling.

I've killed darlings before. It's a term used for deleting scenes and phrases in your writing that you're particularly pleased with, but that don't move the story along or don't work at all, no matter how well written. In this case it was fourteen pages of worthlessness. A trophy to wasted time and a wrong vision.

But here's the thing... once I decided that, yes, it was time to murder this travesty of fiction, a new story started peeking out from behind the naked bones of the story I'd been writing.  A different story with a totally different feel, but with some similarities. For example, while the main protagonist had to go, another character could stay and even thrive. The setting stayed, too. Intrigued by this new idea, I started a new short story.

Guess what? YES! out of the remains of the old story emerged a wonderfully funny and entertaining story. I've only written a few paragraphs so far, but those words are singing loud and clear. I can't wait to see where it leads.

So, dear ones, don't be afraid to kill your darlings. On the page, that is.  Because behind that carcass might be a beautiful new life just waiting to spring forth and take its place. A fabulous phoenix rising from the ashes.

November is National Novel Writing Month. I figure if people can complete a novel in a month, I sure can finish this new short story!