the day job

Rob MacGregor and his wife are a stellar writing team (for decades) as is evident from their non-fiction books, Rob’s novels, and Trish’s novels.  Rob’s interview for his new book shows there’s intensity, synchronicity, and some ridiculous deadlines when novel writing is the day job.  Here’s Rob’s answer to a very common question a writer is asked:

If you could only provide ONE piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?

Rob: The cynical response would be to keep your day job. However, a better response: write because you enjoy telling a story or writing about a subject. The rest will follow.

I’m going to disagree with this advice. Having a day job is a good way for an aspiring writer to observe story in process. Learning the nuances of character goals, motivations, and how they react to conflict is best learned at a day job. Too often aspiring authors lament the day job as what prevents their brilliance or strangles their time and energy. They are missing the point. The people they see and interact with at the day job are potential readers or (well disguised) characters.

Every published author I know has a day job from childcare to farming to teaching and a variety of careers that produce consistent paychecks. The reason is, publishing books is a turbulent and random business.  The day job keeps writers grounded and present in their personal life while they learn the art and craft of storytelling.

The day job is where a storyteller feels the setting, smells the pacing, and tastes the dialogue of a story. Story fulfills a primal need beyond the basics of shelter, food, and clothing, to survive as a human. Story aspires to show that love, strife, community, solitude, culture, fantasy, history, and dreams are the building blocks for humanity. Conflict generates hope, despair, strength, failure, and the opportunity for character growth in a story.

Story travels through time and includes the day job. Writing is not an expensive passion and it can nurture aspiring authors for life, but to live life, regular paychecks are a bonus.

New Moon in Libra

Check out Trish’s post about this Super New Moon.

I’ve always been interested in new moons because they are potent to me for their invisible energy. The full moon is awesome but it’s obvious and visible in the skies even over large cities where light pollution will hide the stars. But the new moon symbolizes the pause between fading lunar energies and what will begin when the goddess of the night returns.

have to share

Please visit my friend Rose’s blog Skip to the Loo for some great pics of outhouses.

She posted more about this lost cultural treasure, not that I’m complaining. I truly appreciate flush toilets!

There’s so much intensity in the news and our lives that I will forever delight in the gods of the internet (and awesome friends!) so we can lighten up with outhouse designs. Have you upgraded your toilet seat?

Maybe it’s time for a new roll holder. If so, the answer to the age-old debate is that the paper is supposed to flow over the top of the roll, not hang down against the wall.

the seasons turn

Phew! It’s fall now. 2011 has been a jumble of events and activities for me since the first firework. To quote my article (written in 2009):

The full date 2011 adds together to a single number, and primary energy of the year, the number 4.

An ancient school of thought says the number 4 resonates with Uranus, the planet of innovation, and unexpected events.  Another school of thought says the number 4 resonates with Earth, the planet of stability and endurance.  The action energy of the number 4 is associated with building foundations, and work.  Work is action with purpose.  Understanding the work that matters to us will promote personal happiness in our life.

My experiences this year have resonated to all of the above with lots of lunar flavors and dramatic emotions. I’m glad there’s still a few months to go because I’m enjoying the turbulence and have some goals yet to complete before the end of the year.

7 romance novels serve a new purpose with an old place mat to prevent slipping...

As soon as I typed those words, my monitor fell off its stand. I’m sure there is some significance to this event, but what could it be? To remind me that I am innovative and can replace the fancy pedestal with a bunch of paperbacks off my shelf? Will this unexpected event be a better position and angle for this high tech monitor? It seems so at the moment.

Or does this have a deeper meaning? Like, this quick and awesome fix would not be available with an ereader and ebooks?

Will this new stand be more stable and endure longer than the adjustable   pedestal that is barely a year old?

Can we get too carried away with potential signs and the significance of the event? 😀

I’ve done tons of work this year that was dedicated to helping our daughters create new foundations for their lives. At the same time, I’ve had huge chunks of time to work on my own dreams and goals, interspersed with a riot of fun and parties.  This is why I’ve been unplugged most of this summer. It’s been exhausting but worth every moment.

This week has been appointments for health checks, hair repair, teeth cleaning and a long overdue eye assessment. (Bifocals instead of reading glasses?) My hot tub should be repaired on Monday and we’ll have a tarp on the roof of our 5th-wheel camper in case the repair wasn’t enough to stem all leaks. The rains are forecast to begin next week… It’s Oregon, it rains.

There’s been a lot of scuttle regarding the 2012 energy but my plans for the year are utterly boring routines, by choice, because I’ve never had it. My sisters and my friends have all given me the same stellar advice this year, “What do you want?”

It’s a good question and until my monitor fell off the stand I didn’t realize how much I didn’t like having it on a tall perch…

Gambling on an Angel

I’ve known Paty Jager for a few years and recently recommended her as a speaker to my sister, who was organizing diverse events for a weekend conference. As a result, my sister has been thrilled to discover Paty’s books. Gambling on an Angel is one I hadn’t read yet but my sister was adamant that I would love it. I did but I’m not going to review it, instead I want to share why I liked it…

First – the writing is rich and textured. There’s no rushing into the story with guns blazing. It opens on the Lower Cascades dock on the Columbia River in 1873 Oregon. As the words flow, I am totally there, over a century ago. Good historical novels are my personal time travel experience.

Second – since I’ve traveled back in time, I  became absorbed into the concerns and hopes of Bas Slokum and Letha Harrison. The physical baggage they haul cross-country for creating a whole new life may only be one suitcase, or a few crates, but the emotional baggage is more complex.  Life was shorter and more precious. Choices were clearer – wash clothes or starve.

Third – the passionate fervor for a cause is the same in any century in the American past. The example in Gambling on an Angel explores the Temperance movement against the Wild West saloons, and as a subplot, the reality of building a railroad to connect this massive continent.

My personal conclusion, after reading this enjoyable book, is that building a physical infrastructure is an important foundation for progress. Societies are established from a personal need of connection to the greater whole, even prior to TV and the internet. But personal fulfillment comes from the connection with individuals and the best connection is when love and partnership is established from those on opposing sides of the train tracks.

This was a love-thy-enemy-for-they-are you type of book. It is wonderfully written and a rich tapestry to read. Enjoy!

the vacation

Prior to this last week of summer fun, I posted a question on facebook, What does the word “vacation” mean to you?

Here’s some replies from the tiny world of my personal friends and family:

  • No Dishes..No Laundry…oh and getting a pedicure! 🙂
  • hmm.. Doing only what I want to do & when I want to do it.. No demands. Maybe a cruise where I sit back and do NOTHING & everything is done for me!! 🙂
  • It means a pile up of work when I get back.
  • no setting the alarm (if I stay home); packing as much as I can do into each day(if I’m travelling)
  • Being able to take naps in the afternoon, and blow off a whole day without feeling guilty
  • to quote the go-gos… “Vacation, all I ever wanted, Vacation, had to get away…”

For me – I relate to “the pile of work when I get back” which today included six hours of activity and three loads of laundry. 

Webster online defines vacation as:

  1.  a respite or a time of respite from something : intermission 
  2. a : a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended b : a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
  3. a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
  4. an act or an instance of vacating
I personally see vacations as intermissions,  an interval between the parts of an entertainment (as the acts of a play) –  a space of time between events or states
I can honestly state I have never had a desire to do nothing.
Pedicures are something that I need to add to my personal hygiene routine and cloud gazing is a valid activity.
So what does “Vacation” mean to you?

still unplugged

It was 1984 when Ed brought home some electronics and set them up for me to use with the comment, “This is my career now so you might as well know something about it.” I was interested because our oldest two were toddlers and I was 300 miles from family and friends.

I played with a monochrome monitor and noisy CPU, using keyboard commands and a dot matrix printer. A few feet away, our girls played with the Strawberry Shortcake kitchen, Lego’s and a variety of puzzles, blocks, games and more. Through the years, the girls and I always had access to the latest computer gadgets and tools, they learned to play the piano by computer. I was writing novels on Ed’s old laptops long before desktops populated offices or anyone used the word Apple for anything beside the fruit.

In 2003, I wrote a novel using a PDA with a trifold keyboard while I traveled with Ed after his car accident. The logistics of hauling two laptops that year wasn’t something we considered. He was a technical trainer and software specialist, I was an unemployed tech writer.

With the recent explosion of social networking, Iphones, Ereaders, mini’s, pads, and apps, I chose to return to the basics. The CPU has half a dozen USB ports and two high speed ones. The monitor has exceptional graphics and screen resolution.  The printer and mouse are both laser. I am not virtually mobile on any level. I’ve been physically traveling again but am unplugged from the electronic noise. I haven’t decided on a mobile device even though Ed will discuss with friends the potential for creating a private cloud.

I “unplugged” earlier this year and I will go for days without access to the internet or local TV stations. This explains my sporadic blog posts and comments this summer while the weather has been good for kayaking. I know this will change because the seasons do and I’m too fascinated at some of the new technology toys. I’m getting bored at being off the grid. But that novel I wrote in 2003 is vastly improved, after years of sitting on a shelf.

When George Orwell wrote his novel “1984”, it was considered a horror-doomsday story. I’ve never read that book but I expect the 2012 doom machine will also be an interesting story in thirty years.

care-less characters

The movie Always seemed to be a good compromise to watch as Ed’s interest is in aviation sequences and I love a romance. The ghost story could be a plus, or so we thought. John Goodman made this movie worthwhile, the rest of it was good photography.  Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter are great actors and portrayed these quirky characters with skill and passion.

I knew from the blurb their romance was doomed but even death hanging over the love story wasn’t enough for me to care about them. The romantic hero was instantly recognizable and hardly on screen enough to like, and the final trauma was give-me-a-break melodramatic. But I liked John Goodman and his portrayal of the character Al, who was in most scenes and the only character who took action and made decisions. He made the story.

Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts was my chosen vacation read. It’s book #2 of a quartet of wedding stories. I believe they were written during the time Ms. Roberts was totally involved in being mother of the bride (or groom). It was written “For girlfriends” and both the cover and internal flaps are a nice presentation as are the weddings described in the pages. I do not like offset pages that make the edge of the book look like a sloppy paperback, and this was one more book of Nora’s that I wish had been edited into a novella.

The reason I couldn’t care about Emma or Jack’s romance is because they are too nice and become more clueless at the end. Neither will survive a real life conflict or challenge. I did read the whole book because the descriptions were beautiful and some of the other characters were cute. I also wanted to see if the final conflict was going to be as lame as I expected. It was worse.

I’m trying to care about the characters in the novel I’m currently reading except the heroine is a former art thief and the hero an expat billionaire so I’m not relating to their lifestyle or attitudes. The appearance of a “dead” father and now a theft and potential intrigue probably won’t elevate this story to one I’ll care to finish.

Fortunately, I’ll have dinner with my sister tomorrow in honor of our dad’s birthday last week and she’ll give me a book to read that she enjoyed: Paty Jager’s Gambling On An Angel. It’s a historical and I’m trying to stick with contemporary novels right now but I’ll probably read it this weekend because I want to care about some characters. 😀

Long weekend

Kayaks & a wave runner

We brought our own shade

We ended the final summer weekend with extra days,
an impromptu party
and lake activities with our grandsons.
There was also a parade that introduced me to more rural fun and I remained within the spirit of the event and drank beer from a can instead of a bottle.

Mountain Men

Racing Lawnmowers



Muscle and Antique Cars

Veteran Floats

All experiences are treasures. 😀

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