Cinnamon grateful

Homemade pumpkin cheesecake

My last post was on the first of November, about the behind the scenes creation of books. Today is the thirtieth, and I’m unsure what to say in only my second blog of the month.

It’s been a tough month in a lot of ways. Broken bones, illness, the black dog, exhaustion…we’re both crashing, and we don’t have time to do so.

But, on the other hand, we’ve had good reconnect time with friends, we’ve had great food, full workshops, new book ideas, and I’ve had a new book come out. That’s always exciting and nerve wracking.

I’ve had passing thoughts on blog topics, but then I don’t have (or find) the time and I forget the idea. Or I think of something and dismiss it as too personal or maudlin.

So I’m going to go a little bit cliche and tell you what I’m thankful for as the days grow shorter and the darkness encroaches.

I am grateful for:

  • My wife, who gets me
  • Words, which although sometimes elusive are always powerful
  • The fact that we both like to cook
  • Cinnamon, a perfect spice
  • New and old friends, and the ability to let them wander on and off my path with less anxiety in both directions
  • Books. All of them
  • My wife, who makes me laugh every day
  • For light days that arrive like the tide after the dark ones
  • Long, hot baths
  • Peanut butter in all its forms
  • My mom, who keeps managing to find her feet, time and again. She’s a survivor
  • Physical therapy to help my pickle finger
  • My wife, whose smile makes my heart ache
  • Teaching things I’m passionate about and seeing people’s excitement
  • Good reviews
  • New possibilities and the courage to take a leap of faith
  • Soft sheets
  • My wife, because she never gives up on me, even when it would be totally understandable

I hope you have some things you’re grateful for too, and I hope you have something or someone to help you head for the returning of the light in the distance.

See you soon…

Creation and nerd references

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How often have you, as a reader, thought about the world behind the book? The aspect of creation?

Do you enjoy meeting authors? How important is it to you that you have some inkling of who the author is behind the books you enjoy?

I think, in this world of voyeuristic, instant response social media, we’re far more in touch with authors than ever before. There used to be some mystique, some element of distance between book and author.

I gave a little squeal the other day when one of my favorite authors responded to a tweet I put out about her forthcoming tv series. I’ve never done that in my life. The one time I met Stella Duffy I started crying like Sheldon meeting Mark Hamil.

(Are you nerd enough to get that reference?)

Being on the other side of that fence is odd. When people tell you how much they enjoyed your book, when they show you the tattoo they got inspired by your characters…it’s quite surreal, truthfully. I tend to give the situation an awful lot of suspicious side-eye. Why are they saying these nice things? Are they just being kind? Do they feel obligated?

And then I sit in front of a blank screen, as I’m about to do tonight, to begin the next one, and the process begins again. Sweat details, write, flow, block, write, eat, coffee, write. Backtrack. Delete. Write, flow, plan, contemplate, block, eat, coffee, write.

Edit. Proof. Publish.

I love the process, and I’m learning how to be the public persona, I think. I wonder if any author ever feels totally comfortable in that space?

Anyway.

My sixth book comes out today. Changing Course is available through Bold Strokes Books, and available worldwide from other sites on the 15th.

Not a joke

So, we saw Joker yesterday. I went in expecting a typical comic book film filled with action and larger than life characters.

What I got, though, wasn’t that. What I got was a disturbing, deeply troubling movie about a man who needed help in the face of a cruel, careless society. A man who was victimised over and over again. A soft soul twisted into something lost and desperate, someone who “didn’t even know he existed” until he went over the edge and was finally seen in his most intense moment. And all around him were people feeling the same way. A movie about mental health, about confusion, about illness and the poor ways in which we deal with it. A movie about the disenfranchised and what happens when they’re finally pushed too far.

We couldn’t even talk abut the film for the first half hour after we left it.

Am I glad I saw it? Yes. It’s a brilliantly acted film with a sociological message that resonates very strongly right now. It’s one-thirty in the morning and I’m kept awake by the haunting message of a society in chaos. But be aware that if you go see it, (and you should), you’re not getting typical comic book villains. You’re getting a dystopian vision of what happens when we fail each other as human beings.

Let the words out

So I’ve clearly fallen down on the attempt to blog weekly. Life gets busy, right?

I suppose it’s about priorities. I choose to read in the bath rather than blog. I choose to respond to emails, scroll FB, even play candy crush…instead of blog.

And I’ve come to realise it’s because I don’t feel like I have anything to say. I remain rather private, so sharing my daily goings on feels both like twaddle and a little too life-like. And I don’t want to bug people or bring them down.

And weirdly enough, today’s word is:

detritus

noun dih-TRYE-tus

1 geology : loose material (such as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration

2 a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris

b : miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends

Odds and ends. That’s what the last few weeks have felt like. Rushing to hospital for our daughter, breaking fingers, foot, elbow, shoulder injuries, falling downstairs (more than once). Being told fat people don’t deserve compliments or kindness until they lose weight. And then crying through the rest of that appointment and trying not to let it show. It’s working out six or seven days a week to try and feel less hideous when I’m among people I don’t want to think poorly of me.

It’s all odds and ends and is hard to put into coherent form that means anything to a reader.

But that’s life, isn’t it? We all have our own detritus, the disintegration and destruction of odds and ends blowing through our days.

It’s picking through the leftovers, the unworn odds and ends that helps us find the important stuff, the things made of titanium. Those pieces of ourselves that remain, at their core, strong and untouchable.

I suppose, really, the words are there. I just have to allow them out. As do so many of us who hold them back for fear of being a burden, too opinionated, wrong, etc.

We should let our words out. Like the chihuahua in the photo.

Building, learning, flaying

repertoire

1 a : a list or supply of dramas, operas, pieces, or parts that a company or person is prepared to perform

b : a supply of skills, devices, or expedients; broadly : amount, supply

c : a list or supply of capabilities

I’ve lapsed on my desire to use a word of the day for more regular blogging, mostly because I’ve been reading. Real, paperback books with ink and pages. And I’ve been loving it.

And so today’s word resonates, especially as I begin to put together a course and presentations for an upcoming trip.

I think, when you’re in your twenties, you believe you have the keys to the kingdom. There’s little you aren’t good at, and you’re ready to learn more, even though you know it all already.

And as you get older you begin to realise how little you know in the scheme of things, and you really begin to learn. That’s where I am now. I’ve learned quite a bit, and yet there are tomes of things I don’t know or understand yet. And the best thing about that?

I love it.

I love learning. I love adding to my own repertoire by learning from people who have a supply of capabilities far beyond my own. I love passing that knowledge on once I’ve got a handle on it myself. And I love knowing it will never stop. There will always be more to add, more to learn, more to share. I’m at a place where I can value what I do know, and yearn for that which I don’t. And that makes each day an adventure where I try to learn something new or take on something I don’t agree with, so that I can truly flay at my understanding of it until I reach the core and know why I believe and feel as I do.

Today’s word is repertoire, and I’ll be forever building mine.

Jabby little teeth

I seem to be out of words.

I sit down to blog, but there’s nothing there. There are personal things I could rant on about, but that feels a little too close to the bone and obvious and, and…And that leaves me not knowing where to start. I self censor to the point of muteness.

And then I thought about the courses I’ve taught, and how many of our quick writes start with just a word. So that’s what I’m going to do to get myself writing again. (I can’t seem to get into the headspace to begin my next manuscript, either).

I’m going to use the Word of the Day at Merriam Webster and simply see where it takes me. Like this…

balkanize

1 : to break up (a region, a group, etc.) into smaller and often hostile units

2 : divide, compartmentalize

This was a weird fit today. I’ve been fighting the black dog all week, its jabby little teeth nipping at my already moth eaten confidence. And in order to keep moving I have to compartmentalise. I have to focus on my manuscripts and words and the gym and movies. Anything that muzzles the black dog for even a moment. But it’s always there in the background, a dark region spreading over the shadow of my soul and kept at bay only by forced balkanisation, where the regions shift and grind against one another in an ever present battle for the essence of what is left of me.

Perhaps, one day, they will be less hostile toward one another, these balkanised regions of me.

Let’s get steamy

Last year I was honoured to co-edit the Escape to Pleasure anthology with the wonderful Sandy Lowe. It was fun and we had a great time choosing the stories.

This year I’ve been given the opportunity to do it on my own. Silk and Leather is about losing your inhibitions, about taking a wild ride, and about chasing that dirty dream.

We had a ton of submissions, and it was really hard to choose. Some submissions came from total newcomers to the game, some came from old pros. They were all excellent and they were all hot. But at the end of the day we could only take twenty.

And those twenty are a sexy submersion into sublime sensuality that will have you turning pages.

We’ll release the list of authors included soon. It comes out in April so you’ve already got something to look forward to in 2020.