Monday, December 15, 2008

Kicking the Holiday Blues

This has got to be the hardest time of the year. We remember people who are gone and, frankly, cry. A friend of mine once told me that it's all right to cry, "tears are like rain and help us grow." He was right.

Then everything gets harder when you go shopping. You can't blame people for shopping online. Too many people. Too short tempers. Too much stress. Too many expectation.

There's also a biological reason some people feel sad during this time of the year. S.A.D. is Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here's the website for what the Mayo Clinic says about it.

Personally, and I can only say the following works for me--I try to be busy, eat healthy, and get enough rest. I kickbox, which helps me on many levels. While doing my kickboxing, I tend to zone out and my mind experiences peace.

Going to worship service and lunching with friends brings me past the peace into joy. So does staying warm with family and curling up with my laptop.

May everyone have a happy holiday experience regardless of what you celebrate. Look past the shopping lines and gruff voices and hear the music of life. It's there. It's you.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Writing Kicks

Today is a splendid day for writing. Why? Well, it's 10 degrees Fahrenheit here. Even the birds at the feeder are all fluffed up trying to keep warm. There's nothing like curling up on the sofa with a laptop and writing away. When the story flows, it's like blood flowing through your veins. Lately I've had the opportunity to learn so much. My ending was all wrong for a chapter, so I took one of my favorite books off the shelf and examined the ending of a chapter. Oh, mine had been so lackluster. So the key is to leave the reader on the edge of something, wanting more, needing to know the next sentence. I recut the ending of that chapter.

Later I will be warming up by kickboxing. I feel every writer needs an activity that gets the heart going and clears our minds out even for just a while. I don't know about you, but my mind operates at about light speed--no joke. At least it feels that way. I usually have at least 8 things to do in addition to several story lines being juggled in my brain at any one time. There are other ideas and concepts that linger on the edge waiting for me to notice. As a friend of mine frequently says, "There's always something." And since that is the case for so many of us, it is a luxury to linger on one thing--spend time with it--caressing a story with the keyboard.

I enjoy doing a lot of things, but writing kicks. It's the thing I always go back to. A writer the other day was giving me his word counts. I guess on a bad day I write 200 words, which is a page. On a great day, I can easily write over 2,000. I'll let you do the math. Sometimes I think of making jewelry or cookies or painting or playing the flute, but when push comes to shove, I'm happiest writing. At the end of all times, I want to remember all the great things I've done and people I've known and in some cases loved, but I don't want to regret that I didn't write enough. I think I'm finally writing at a rate that makes me happy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kicking Box and the Writer

Kicking the box is kicking the routine, kicking the expected. As a writer, I'm always seeking a new concept, a new view, something I hadn't seen before. I'm pretty open. That's just the way I am.

On writing: I write everyday. When an aspiring writer asks me how to get published, I tell them to write everyday, send it out, and then write something new. You create a kind of perpetual motion for yourself of writing and sending it out into the world. I've learned over time to worry less, have less angst, and just enjoy the process. What I'm writing now makes me giggle all over the place. If you're not having fun when you write, do something else.

On cold winter days, I can think of nothing but writing. Well, I do think of kickboxing too, but it's more of a release, an emptying of everything. When I come back from kickboxing, I have a clearer perspective for writing.

Snow also creates a clearer perspective, as everything slows down when it snows. I love writing a piece that vibrates with excitement. A lot of writers tend to rush. I know all about that. I'm an associate editor of a magazine. Too many of the stories we receive were not given their full justice by their writer, because he or she rushed through it.

Ah, Thanksgiving. Turkey, family, and writing. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kicking the Box and Romance in Fantasy

I recently returned from a wonderful sf/f convention called Albacon in Albany, NY. I drove up through the Berkshires and the autumn foliage colors were glorious, a very breathtaking and peaceful journey. The con was amazing fun.

I also had the priviledge of talking with some amazing writers of Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy: Jackie Kessler, Stella Price, and Bianca D'Arc. The conversation was lively, fun, and I learned tons. I moderated a panel called "Fantasy and Romance," and it was very revealing in the hows, whats, and whys of the romance author.

Another panel I moderated was "Bad SciFi Movies." It was a full room involvement kind of panel with the panel and audience sharing their picks for really bad movies that no one should see, and those that are bad but marvelous at the same time.

I won't go into all the panels I went to or participated on--the main point is that is was overall an excellent con. From the banquet to the masquerade, I'll remember Albacon for a long time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kicking the Box and Suicide

I don't usually speak about controversial topics. I vote in every election, but I don't enjoy talking politics. But today I was struck with the overwhelming feeling to speak on a subject hushed up by our society--Suicide. I read about an author, who was at the top of his profession, and he hung himself. When I read it, I couldn't breathe for a moment. Then I got angry. He had wasted his time. He had wasted my time as well as I won't get to meet him.

I'm going to be blunt here. Often when someone kills themself, they mean it as an outcry for help--rescue me before I die--or to punish someone for hurting them--or to punish the world. Sometimes they want to punish themselves for the hurt they've caused others. In the long run, they have only cheated themselves of the opportunity to make amends either to themself or others. They haven't given others the opportunity to help them. Worse yet, they've missed the step that comes after pain and sorrow--the adventure that the next day brings.

Recently, I sent my husband to Ireland to see his family. Most writers don't have a lot of money. I'm one of them. Even though it was a pretty penny, it was worth a million to hear his experiences. He told me that he felt like Frodo and around every corner was a new adventure.

That's what life is. Every moment, around every corner, there is a new adventure. There are people waiting to meet us. Something we say or write may make them laugh or cry--it's a sharing of the adventure. Something they say or write may make us laugh or cry. If you kill yourself, you miss out. And all of us miss you.

Each of us is important to the world. If we were missing, something would be missing. People we haven't met yet would not receive the gift that is us. Don't waste the gift that is you! If you're having the worst day of you life, remember that tomorrow starts a new adventure. There are people waiting to meet you. There are sights you haven't seen, stories you haven't shared. YOU ARE HERE AND YOU'RE IMPORTANT!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Movies in the Summer--Relaxing in the Cold Dark

I love going to the movies in the summer. There's something refreshing about a cold dark room where you can sit and escape. Here are some of the movies I've seen so far and how I would rate them.

Five Stars--Amazing
Four Stars--Great
Three Stars--Good
Two Stars--Okay to rent on dvd
One Star--Okay to rent on dvd if you have nothing better to do

Beware that I have not put the ratings on any of the movies I've recommended. If ratings are a concern to you, please, Google the movie title and find the rating. Thanks.

"Iron Man" -- Five stars: I was just blown away and Robert Downy Jr.'s performance was a masterpiece. I don't want to say too much as it will give it away. A must!

"The Incredible Hulk"-- Four and a Half stars: Wonderful but an inch below "Iron Man." Well worth seeing.

"Journey to the Center of the Earth"--Two stars: I was disappointed. I went with someone who loves this story and it ruined it for him. Brandon Fraser was good but the script let him down.

Now if you're going to the dvd rental store anyway, there are three recommendations I have to make.

"The Lives of Others"--A Five Star movie--an amazing drama about life before the Berlin wall fell. It's riveting. I couldn't leave the room. I don't want to say too much.

"Black Sheep"--Four Stars worth of giggles: It's a New Zealander film on zombies--when I wasn't laughing hysterically--my mouth was open in disbelief. Yes, the Kiwis have quite a sense of humor.

"Shaun of the Dead"--Five Stars worth of laughs: This zombie movie comes from Britain and answers the age old question of what to do when surrounded when zombies. I'm not telling. You'll just have to see it.

That's it for now. I've got kickboxing to do. Bammm!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kicking the Box - Poison Ivy & Death Not Necessarily Together

In the never ending search to Kick the Box--all those stereotypes and preconceived notions, I had the chance to look at poison ivy up close and personal and the death of a friend.

I've been ill for the last two weeks. For me, the poison ivy rash doesn't go away under the usual treatments. It spreads. Forget about itching. I don't itch. I burn. I needed a doctor's help and a severe med to begin to recover, which I have. The funny thing about this, was that I couldn't figure out how I came in touch with poison ivy. Then I remembered. I was in bed on a Monday two weeks ago and realized that I hadn't put out the garbage for the collectors. I jumped out of bed and ran out to pull the cans up to the street. One lid fell into the grass and overgrowth of the woods. I searched for it in the dark. When I came in I washed my hands, but by the rash in the morning the poison ivy must have brushed an arm. What followed was a hectic, sleepless, and painful two weeks. All along I tried to maintain my normal life--do chores, work on the websites I maintain, and write. Between the pain and the med interfering with my ability to concentrate, it was difficult to do. I was incredibly grateful when my vacation started. Though the medication made me sleepy, tired, and nausous in addition to creating brain fog, it has beaten the poison ivy.

I look at it this way. The poison ivy kicked me and I kicked it right back. While the medication had the reverse reaction on me, it gave me much needed sleep. Even though I had planned to do a ton of things in the last two weeks, my plans changed. I guess they were supposed to and that's okay.

Death is something else I've been kicking around. Friday a dear friend of mine died. When I received the email from another friend, I sat stunned reading it. This friend named Tom was very close to my family. He was a geniunely kind person. When my husband was in the hospital, it seemed that everything in the house began to break. My computer went out and after trying everything I could think of, I called him. He came over and opened up my computer. There was a screw laying on the motherboard. He looked at it and said, "You have a screw loose." We laughed and laughed. A thousand memories went through my head as I read that email and thought about him. I am glad he came my way. I don't know what you believe, but I know deep in the core of my being that death is just a door to another realm. I know that those he's meeting now will be glad he came their way too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kicking the Box and Be Free

I've taken up Thai Kickboxing and find it exhilarating, fun, and very challenging. To give you a better picture think of a 53 year-old woman who has never been athletic a day in her life suddenly kickboxing. I've been at it since the end of January. I'm a gold belt now. That's good for me. No, don't get all impressed because I have a long way to go.

Kickboxing does several things for me: relieves stress--I have major stress, strengthens my body--I have different medical issues, and takes my mind out of the loop. I get huge migraines at times and I've discovered that stress brings them on. My brain keeps working on things even when I sleep. If there's a lot of stressful things happening, my brain is running like a computer out of control and the migraine builds and explodes. Kickboxing has helped tremendously in making my brain focus on one small task at a time and lock out everything else. That's why I call it Kicking the Box. Think of the box as being all the things you have to do, all the things you expect of yourself, and all the things that others expect of you.

Kicking the box frees me. It could free you. If you aren't interesting in kickboxing, find something--anything that will help you kick the box. You deserve to be free. I knew I deserved it and I am.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Kicking the Box - Genre & The Labels of Life

I'm going to discuss "kicking the box" in several posts. It started out as a joke between me and my friends whenever I went off to kickboxing class. They would say so "you're going to kick the box" or "how was kicking the box?" But the term eventually took on a bigger meaning--bigger than thinking outside the box--exploding the sterotype--more like exploring the universe within.

I found the child within long ago--my child within is a mischief maker but as a child doesn't know enough to do anything really well. Now I'm looking for the Ancient Elder within. I want to know all the secrets of the universe. Wouldn't you, if you could?

One of the boxes I'm going to kick this week is because I'm a writer. I write science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance. I have written practically everything including non-fiction. Now I've been told it's important to being able to label a particular piece, but it appears to me that by doing that I'm limiting the audience for the story or book. I can think of several mainstream novels I've read which to me are clearly science fiction but are labeled mainstream. They reach a larger audience of readers by being labeled that way.

I've kicked the notion of labeling anything all my life from works of art or literature to people. But it appears people in general need labels to anchor thoughts on. They are not confortable in the total freedom of free thinking. So I've created my first non-label--Experimental Fiction. The label implies that this is an experimental form and you won't be able to pigeonhole it into one single aspect of life. So I must be a writer of Experimental Fiction. Sounds explosive doesn't it. Sounds surprising? Sounds like the unexpected could happen? Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Isn't that what literature--all literature--is supposed to be? Let literature move us, inspire us, and become part of our reference for life.

I'm going off now to write more Experimental Fiction. How about you?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Quiet Tribute to a Great Artist

My mother died a few years ago. She was a great artist. Her name was Sultana Hanniford. She signed her work as S. Hanniford. My mom was a quiet, shy person. She was the former president of the Lyme Art Association and displayed in their gallery as well as the Mystic Seaport Gallery and many others. She painted primarily maritime scenes in oil. My father was entirely devoted to her. He gave me some of her art supplies, and I thought about it. I considered being an artist when I was a kid and following her to outdoor art shows and galleries in the Northeastern United States. But I'm a writer right down to my toes. So I didn't know what to do until today. I took the collection of unused watercolor pads and the expensive blocks of art paper to the university where I work and into the hall where the art classes are. I put up a sign: Free Art Supplies. I knew my mom would want artists to have them. By two o'clock, they were all gone. May the artists that found them today be blessed with great art. May their art inspire others, just as the work of Sultana Hanniford does.