Live Through Us at The Burrow


Jane Doe

My Proudest Moment as a Parent

The other night my son came to me with a mischievous grin on his face, and a story on his lips. “I have to tell you something.” We were sitting in the hot tub, an almost nightly ritual for our family where we talk about our days and have those special sharing moments. So I told him to wait for his father to join us. He said, “I’d rather wait to tell him. I want to tell you first, because you’re more rebellious than he is.”

I wasn’t sure how to react to this.

Arlis joined us soon enough, and he was not disappointed!

Marcus got ahold of the password for the teachers’ network/wi-fi, not the students’. He uses this network because he says it’s faster, etc. OK, not a problem.

It was the end of history class, and they were allowed to goof off until the next class started. He started watching YouTube – Pina Colada. Then he pressed “cast”. Then he turned the volume all the way up. He later heard the story of what happened in the classroom full of victims because some of his friends were in there. In the Culinary Arts classroom (a whole other story on its own), the TV turned on and started blaring “Pina Colada”. There was a mad scramble for the remote. They turned the TV off. Marcus turned it back on. Off. On. Mute. Volume max. Turn down. Turn up.

He stopped the casting, presumably when class was over. He repeated this with a different song a day later, on a different TV.

Then he watched “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis. And he found a new TV, one he hadn’t seen before. He pressed “cast”. For whatever reason, he was able to roam the halls this time. I assume it was lunch time. So he walks around, trying to find which TV he’s just invaded.

The same battle ensues. Off/On. Up/Down. He hears the song’s lyrics bouncing in volume from down the hall. He follows it. It came from the office. Oops.

He about faces and disconnects. Now, Arlis is not angry, he’s laughing. I’m loving it. But Arlis mentioned something I hadn’t realized, “You know your YouTube username shows up when you do that.”

Without missing a beat, Marcus said, “I know. I used a fake account.” Bam!

And that, folks, is my proudest moment as a parent.


Why This Manuscript Means So Much to Me

I’ve had a lot of curious people ask me some interesting questions. They all seem to be about my current situation and future plans in writing. I’ve answered the ones I can think of below.

I started this book like any other, with the intention of getting it published. My last manuscript,  Inhabitants, never caught the attention of an agent. I had plans of trying one more time, with the one I’m writing now, and then thinking of my writing as a hobby. Just slap a cover on them and throw them on Amazon. I’ve already stopped marketing. I’m not in this for the sales.

So why do you want them traditionally published?

Two reasons, maybe three. One, the approval of the powers that be. I want my work to be good enough for a traditional publisher. The other reason was so I could have a job I liked instead of one I tolerated. I love every aspect of writing. I love the joy of a new story popping in my mind, of sorting through those stories to see which one, if any, will work, of plotting those stories, of writing those stories-discovering the characters and what happens, the tears, anger and frustration when it doesn’t work. Every. Aspect.

Except marketing. I love going to events, whether story-telling or book signings or other stuff. I love interviews and conversation, but I hate trying to get sales. I mean, if I had a PR agent who told me, “Do this and this and this,” and I was a full-time writer, then sure, no problem. But with my limited time and money, forget it. It’s not worth the stress. Traditional publishing takes care of that for me. (allow me to qualify my definition of “traditional publishing” as not including micro publishers.)

So what’s going to happen to Inhabitants?

Ah, I get asked this alot. I told so many people (because at the time it was true) I would self-publish it if an agent didn’t take it. At the same time, I also thought it would be my last attempt at the traditional route. It has since been shelved. My current plans with it are to let my current manuscript run its course, whether an agent picks it or not, then go another route. Whether that route is a quick overview of Inhabitants before listing it with Amazon or querying small publishers, I don’t know. I won’t know until the time comes. But I will follow through with my promise, one way or another, and have Inhabitants published at some point.

Why have you made these decisions?

There are several reasons for this, but they basically boil down to I have to move on with my life. I have been writing, marketing, querying, researching, etc. every spare second of every day for years now. That’s not fair to myself or my family. Our family is changing, and I have to adjust to that. That’s not to say I’m going to quit writing or that I won’t be this obsessive about it in the future, but for now, it has to take a backseat.

What if a book sells?

Of course I would go with that! Unfortunately though, the book would have to sell well for me to not have to work elsewhere at the same time as writing. That said, I would probably return to my obsessive writing behavior until I no longer had to work elsewhere or I fizzled out, whichever happens.

What’s the rush with your current manuscript? Why are you so obsessed with it?

Again, two reasons-lol. I am really proud of this manuscript. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever written. I honestly believe it’s my best work. At the same time, I am filled with the self-doubt all writers face (another reason I want to be traditionally published. If I was represented by a reputable agent, etc, much of that self-doubt would disappear…or so I believe).

The other reason is because I’m going back to school in two weeks. Yikes! Yeah, I already have a degree, but it’s not going anywhere, so I’m getting a second one. It’s the right time in our family’s life to do this. I can’t write and attend school and work all at the same time. That’s why I’m so obsessed with finishing this manuscript by a certain time. I’m trying to get this thing in betas’ hands by the 14th so I can query it over summer break.

So there you go. I hope that answers most, if not all of your questions. Yes, Inhabitants will come out, one way or another. Unfortunately, this is a business for the very very patient. I hope to announce my request for beta readers via my mailing list, The Collective Cauldron, very soon. Hope to see you there!

Lucy and Ethel at the Cash Machine

We closed today at 6PM, which meant some of us, such as yours truly, stayed until 7 closing down registers, etc. The self-checkout registers are recyclers. That means they recycle the money people put into it and give that money back out as change, etc. So every night when they are shut down, we print out a little slip that tells us what they need to be “topped off”, we get that money from the main recycler, and we put that money in the self-check out register. We literally dump the coins in the same slot you do when paying. It sorts the coins slowly, and sometimes (OK, alot of times) it doesn’t like the coins. This is when it spits them into the well at the bottom-that place you normally pick up your change. We then take all the extra money (bad bills/coins, coupons, etc) and turn it into the cash office. In order to get to those bad bills/coins and coupons, we have to open the front door.

So here’s the story. But before I start, bear in mind this is the first time Katy has done this.

Katy, that’s not her name of course, is standing in front of a self-checkout register with the door open. It starts shooting quarters out like a cannon. She screams, “Debby! What’s happening? What do I do?”

I, while miraculously not falling over laughing, yell, “You’ve got the door open! Shut the door! Shut the door!”

Three co-workers getting ready to leave run to her. “Katy! Katy! Money!” Although it was more like, “Sputter! Words! I don’t know what to say!” They ran around stomping coins to stop them from rolling away. Meanwhile, I stood on the other end of the chain (I was actually too far away at the time to be of any physical use) laughing my head off, pointing, and trying to tell everyone left in the store what was happening.

Katy, still in shock, manages to find her legs again and use them. They pick up all the money, but by this time they’re laughing too hard to be of much use. I wish-I had this- on camera. O. M. G. It was like Lucy and Ethel on the chocolate belt. It. Was. Hy-sterical.

Y’all have a good night now and enjoy yourselves.

The Human Turd

By now you know I work at Wal-Mart. And I’m sure your realize the random insanity that can happen there. Like the other day when the maintenance guy finds a turd under the bench by the front door. A human turd.

This bench is not made so that the patron could have backed up and deposited their treasure out the back. It was made in such a fashion as to make one wonder how it got there.

So. The maintenance guy calls security up and tells them to look on the film and see how it got there. She does. Here’s what she told him.

An old guy came in, shook it out of his pants leg, then kicked it under the bench.

Um … doing this outside was out of the question? You felt the need to deposit this in a store with people and food? How long have you been carrying this around? Or, did it appear during your entrance? I’m not sure I want to know the answers to these questions, but thank you for reading another prime example of #mylifeatwalmart #helpmeiworkretail

Rolled Ice Cream in Crossville, TN

I remember the first time I saw rolled iced cream (yes, it was originally iced, not ice). It was in Taiwan or someplace like that and on YouTube. I never imagined it being near me. I suppose if I ever thought about traveling far and wide, like NY or something, I could have imagined it being there. But here? in the middle of  nowhere? a place where it takes a minimum of one hour to find a town? No. I never imagined.

But then some friends starting talking about it at local places like fairs and such, like a temporary little booth they were selling it out of. I was crestfallen that I had missed it. Then I heard about an outlet in the local mall, yes an actual mall, in Crossville-a half hour’s drive from here. Which, btw, it a normal excursion for us. (Now you know why time is so precious to me.)

We happened to be in Crossville, trying to have a family day, pulled over on the side of the road because the place we had intended to visit was closed. As in, weeds three feet high closed down for unknown centuries closed. The memory of the rolled ice cream vendor in the mall came to me. Let’s go!

My family didn’t want to really. They thought it was silly and moaned and groaned. Then they got there. Then it happened.

Klix is not a tent vendor or even a temporary booth set up in the middle of the mall. They’re a real store set up as part of the mall, like permanent. So you can drop by anytime without worry!

You get to choose a base flavor, two additives, and three toppings. The price, $6, was way too high for me, but it was a one time fun thing. I later decided it wasn’t too bad. It was very good, and you’re also paying for a display of sorts. Still, it is expensive and therefore not something to be done often.

Marcus chose strawberry with pineapple, caramel drizzle, topped with whipped cream, a cherry, and butterscotch chips. Arlis chose Oreo with caramel drizzle in vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream, cherry, and a dark chocolate pirouline, since we didn’t know what that was. Btw, a pirouline is that cylindrical cookie of very flaky pastry/cookie/cracker with a filling of a type of light, fudgy icing inside.

Image result for pirouline

This thing.

They basically pour milk onto this frozen pan, chop up the additives, and toss on the toppings. The texture has more surface area and is therefore harder to press a spoon into than normal ice cream. It’s not as fluffy and creamy either. But it is good, and if you’ve never had it, I suggest you try it. The flavor combinations are endless enough to keep you coming a long time. Enjoy!

Are you setting the right goals?

Are you setting writing goals? Are you meeting them? Are you coming short? Are you expecting too much of yourself?

I’ve had a lot going on in my life for the past … ohhhh … month. First our kitchen floor fell through. Again. It did this once before maybe three years ago, something about the sink. This time it was the hot water intake for the dishwasher which meant our hot water heater was going non-stop for a good long while. We kept wondering why our electric bill was so high-geez! Good thing we have well water. I couldn’t imagine the water bill!

Anyway, so that put us without a kitchen for two weeks, which was honestly the least of our troubles. A new puppy, who brought mites with it, and another infestation, all within a single 48 hour period quite literally drove me insane. I was sleeping four and five hours a night. Two weeks of that, and I started to hallucinate. Normal, but annoying. And dangerous.

I spent every waking hour I could trying to fix our problems. There was no writing.

Two weeks later, we finished the floor.

Dad and Arlis did 100% of the subflooring, etc, and I did the top flooring. Again, there was no writing, for obvious reasons.

Then, on that very day I went to work to show everyone my pictures of my new floor, and how all my troubles had a light at the end of the tunnel, I came home to a message on my answering machine. My husband’s test results came back. He had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

For those who don’t know, this is a deadly tick-borne illness with potentially life-long organ damage. And when I say deadly, I mean actually something to be afraid of, not the “potentially deadly” the media uses over the measles.

So yeah, he started treatment for that. So far so good. I think it’s been about two weeks since then, and he seems to be OK for now. 

But wait.

I kept getting headaches, something I’m not used to getting. I shrugged them away as stress. I even had to leave work early one day because of them. Turns out, it wasn’t stress. My husband and I sleep in the same bed with the same dogs with the same ticks. See where I’m going with this? My test results came back negative, but I had to miss two days of work and spent the next three I had off in bed. Since the tests take five days to get results, the doc went ahead and started me on doxycycline, the treatment for RMSF. I got better. For the first time in two weeks, I was getting better, not worse. RMSF and Lyme have a lot of false negatives, so I think I had one of them. I never got the giant ring around a bite, so I’m leaning towards RMSF. But it really doesn’t matter. I finished my course of pills yesterday and still feel good, hopefully it will stay that way.

During this month of insanity, I also had, Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, and most of my author event/story telling days. All rolled into one tidy “betcha can’t do this!” package. I did.

Needless to say, the writing took a back seat. And it should have. There is no reason whatsoever I should have made time for my writing during all of that. Working, holidays, events, putting in a new floor all at once? Let’s not topple the tower.

But now, I can get back into routine, almost sorta. My life is still a hot mess, just not as big. If I try to reach the same goals I set before, I will fail. So, instead of pushing myself too hard, instead of failing, I changed my goals.

See, I have to have goals, much like I have to have routine. If certain things get too out of wack, I get sick, physically sick. So I’ve learned how to manage those things. If I don’t have goals two things happen, and often at once, as if that were somehow possible. The first is that I stress over not getting anything done, like I don’t feel I’ve accomplished anything. The other is not knowing how far to go and therefore not pushing myself when I should. I know, two opposites which somehow exist simultaneously.

So, where am I going with this? If you’re like me, you don’t live in this dream world of stay-at-home writer. You work. A lot. Outside of the home. Your writing takes a backseat to something called responsibility, as it should, and you push yourself harder and harder until it’s way too much. So the way to get it done is not necessarily daily tasks, but weekly tasks. Reasonable weekly tasks.

Let’s say I work Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday. That gives me Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday off. If I try to cram all my writing into the three days I’m off, I burn out and don’t have a life. Let’s set a daily goal of 1000 words. I rarely get 1000 words on the days I work, but I can usually get over 2000 on my days off. So, I set a weekly goal of 5000 words. This gives me Saturday for rest and Sunday for household chores. I may write 200-500 on my work days and 2000-2500 on my days off. Sometimes I write more, but I’d rather have reachable goals than feeling like a constant loser. Even if I only have two days off instead of three, I get those 5000 in. Not too much, not too little.

So there’s the key. Set goals. Set a routine (if that helps. I understand many of you probably flourish on chaos/spur of the moment randomness, but you might want to give routine a couple of weeks’ try. It might surprise you). Set goals you can accomplish. If you find you never reach your goals, lower them. That’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of reality. Of having the maturity to know what you can and can not do. Just because someone else is doing more, doesn’t mean you can or should. It’s OK not to be the best, and btw, stop comparing yourself to other writers!!! If you find the goals easy to reach every week, raise them. It’s OK if you don’t hit the mark every time. Remember all those times you went over the mark when that happens.

And most of all, keep writing!!

Believe in yourself, aka, fan mail

I remember my first “fan” very clearly. My good friend Eve (hope you don’t mind me mentioning your name here). I don’t want to be insulting. To me, the word “fan” conjures ridiculous idol worship with screaming and pandemonium. That’s not what I mean by the word fan. I guess the best way to describe it would be someone who likes my work, a reader if you will. She begged me for chapters, rereading them when I needed her to so I could go on. If it weren’t for her, I don’t know if I ever would have finished that first book and gone on to write more. Thanks, Eve, my gratitude is never ending for that gift you gave me.

Since then I have had other “fans”. People who have told me how much they love my books. People I have inspired to keep going with their own personal goals and challenges. People who have started writing because of me, and people who have thanked me for making a book/story they really liked.

My initial reaction was typical, confidence. I can do this. My writing is good. Keep going. People like it. Then, as more and more queries proved fruitless, and the sales flatlined, that confidence waned. I debate quitting. I’m not a quitter, so it was very very hard for me, but there comes a time when you have to decide what’s best for you. Should I keep spending time, money, and emotional muscle on a barren endeavor? Then a newer, better story pops up, and I write it; the cycle begins again.

I’m currently on another new story, my last one still in the waiting area (don’t worry-it’ll get there soon enough-see below). And by now I’ve learned depression and bouts of quitting are all part of the process. I’ve also learned something else. I was watching a video this morning of Patrick Stewart announcing a return to Star Trek. He talked about a letter written to him by a cop who needed his show to survive. Literally.

That’s when I realized. I’ve had that. I’ve actually had people write me to say how much my writing, my journey has meant to them. I’ve had people thank me for getting them back into reading when nothing else could. And this has taught me a great great lesson.

I have accomplished.

I had never, I repeat, never been one to care about what others thought, to hit some stupid standard of society. My heart was always elsewhere. But when I think hard about it, I do. I want to be traditionally published. Why? Stigma. I want to feel like I have accomplished something. I ask myself what. I have a great family, a son I couldn’t ask better for, everything I need and more, and a promised ending for my soul. What more could I ask for? But it keeps at me. But then “a fan” says or writes something to me, and I realize, that’s what matters.

If I never get an agent. If I never land a publisher. If I never make a noticeable income from my books. I have accomplished something in this life I can be proud of.

Back to my last story in the waiting area. I lost passion for it. I don’t know why. The queries had no results, and I honestly thought it would be a shelved piece. But I had several people want a copy, signed for that matter. I figured after my current WIP I would print up a few just for those people, but after today, I think I might publish it afterall. If they loved it that much, maybe someone else will too.

I hope this post has inspired you as much as that video inspired me. If you have touched one person, you have accomplished.

Don’t be afraid to break your own rules

Pretty sure this is a common problem with most if not all writers. We write something and then insist that every single word after that correlates with those first words. That’s not how it has to be. This isn’t a perfect world, you’re not a perfect person, your writing isn’t perfect. You can use that delete key!

Just because the new something you wrote doesn’t follow previous set rules doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It could be the previous work that needs readjusting. As soon as you realize what you’ve done, sit and think. Which is best? Which will provide the best experience for the reader? Can’t decide? No problem, leave a little side note and come back to it when you’ve written more. A lot of these things take care of themselves. Right now the planned ending for my current piece is a cliffhanger. Readers don’t like that, but I’m not sweating it. I know things will change a dozen or more times before I get there, and I can worry about it then. (Of course I’m still holding out for not having to 😉 )

Can’t bear the thought of removing or changing your beautifully crafted words? No problem. Cut them out and paste them in a special section title “removed” or something like that. (If using Scrivener, be sure to paste them in the notes section instead of the actual document area to prevent an off word count.) Those words are not lost forever, and yes, I have actually gone back and used them on multiple occasions. One thing I do is before transporting my piece from Scrivener to Word, I reread all my notes, deleting the ones I’ve taken care of or are obsolete and then doing the same with the removed section. By the time I’m using Word, my piece is to the point I know what I will and will not put back in or throw away.

Good luck with your writing, and don’t be afraid to contradict your previous work! It may just be the best thing for it.

Don’t be a lazy writer

I remember reading an article where an agent mentioned, “I hate lazy writers.” This shot a fire or fear through me. Was I a lazy writer? I didn’t think so. I certainly spent enough blood, sweat, and tears on my work. But would she consider me lazy? In other words, was there something I wasn’t doing I should be and didn’t know it?

Turns out I was being lazy and didn’t know it. Maybe you’re lazy where I am too, don’t realize it, and this post will help.

So something’s not working. Your murder mystery took you to the bottom of the family well where Tommy drowned only, wait, you didn’t write it that way. You wrote Suzy poisoning him during the breakfast of their honeymoon. But you like the well so much better! Everything else works out perfectly and it’s a groovy twist (whoa-did I just say groovy?) that NO ONE would expect, and, and… You just love it, OK?

So now you have a choice. You can either go back and rewrite countless words to make it so Suzy throws him into the well instead of poisoning him, you can change it back to poisoning at the end, or you can spend countless hours struggling to make the well work.

Here’s where my lazy comes in. I had the plot and character a certain way. I get stuck. I spend the day figuring out what to do. I fix it in my head. Well crap! Now I have to fix it on paper too! GRR!! I have two choices, keep working on it in my head until what I have already written somehow works, or rewrite what’s on the computer screen to match what I spent the day formulating. The lazy writer (and me a few months ago) will do the former. I chose the latter. Which will you choose?

Don’t be a lazy writer. I know chucking and rewriting can be painful (this is your baby we’re talking about) but what it really comes down to (for some writers anyway) is the desire not to have to spend more time writing what you already wrote. Annoying, but think of it this way. You will actually spend more time putting it off and trying not to do it than just doing it. Put on your work clothes and get dirty.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to pull my sleeves up and rewrite a scene.

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