17 June 2014

Maybe When I'm 30

I started another blog a while back to talk about being childfree, but I haven't updated it in quite a while and decided there's no reason I can't share all my thoughts right here. So over the next few weeks I'll be re-posting some of the things I originally posted there. This post was originally from last year, just as I turned 30.

Maybe when I’m 30

That’s what I used to say when people asked me about having kids. I always thought that I’d have kids at some point because I figured I’d want to at some point. No one ever tells you it’s perfectly fine to neither want nor have kids. They spend most of their time, in fact, telling you the exact opposite.

You’ll change your mind… One day you’ll have kids… You’re too young to know yet…

Whenever anyone asked what my plans for kids were, I certainly did know that they were not in my near future. I just didn’t have that urge. But I swallowed what they were feeding me and was convinced that one day I’d wake up and realize Oh my god, I’m ready. I want to be a mom! So in high school, and college, and after college when I got married, whenever anyone asked about kids, I told them maybe we’d start trying when I was 30. That seemed like a good age. I figured we’d be financially established by then, but it wasn’t so late in life that I’d be risking health issues for either myself or a potential baby.

Well, yesterday I turned 30. (Edit: Actually, now I'm 31!)

A few years ago I started getting a little anxious about that number. Not because it means I’m getting older, like many people seem to assume. Hell, I’m excited to be 30 years old! I feel like this will be a great year for me. No, the reason I started looking at 30 a bit sideways when I was still in my 20s was because there were still so many goals I hadn’t reached and that seemed like they would be ten times more difficult if I suddenly had children to care for. I’d been saying maybe when I’m 30 for so long, but I was starting to think I should start saying maybe when I’m 35. That wasn’t too late, right?

My concerns over the age at which to have my first child were superficial at best. It was a distraction from the real reason I was wary about reaching the maybe when I’m 30 deadline. The truth was that I just didn’t want kids. I still hadn’t had any urge or desire to have a child. Whenever I thought of my future – where I’d be or what I’d be doing – kids never factored into my daydreams and desires.

But… I couldn’t say that… could I? It seemed so strange. So foreign. As I mentioned before, we’re all indoctrinated with the message that we will all be parents one day, and it will be glorious, and hard, and rewarding, and frustrating, and miraculous, and fulfilling, all at the same time!

No one tells you that you can choose not to have kids.

When I first realized that I didn’t want kids, period, I couldn’t even assert myself fully. It was all I don’t think I want kids… Maybe I’ll want them in the far-off future, who knows? But I doubt it… Who knows, who knows… Because I was afraid of the reactions I would get. I mean, doesn’t everyone want kids? How weird was I for not wanting what everyone else wanted?

It’s taken a few years, but it finally doesn’t feel weird to say it. I’m not having kids.

Okay, I lied, it’s still weird. I still struggle with worrying what people will say or how they’ll look at me when I say firmly, “I am not having children.” But even though I worry about that, I’ll still tell them.

No kids for me. Not even when I’m 30.

23 May 2014

Anniversary Time! A New Ebook Cover and New Price

One year ago today, my first novel went live on Amazon. It has been a year of learning, growth, and (I won't lie) some WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING???? moments. I think taking the plunge and self-publishing has magnified certain aspects of my personality that I can never be sure whether they're good or bad. Like my stubbornness about what I like and don't like, my perfectionist tendencies, my occasional (okay, so maybe it's chronic) indecisiveness, and my "If you want it done right, do it yourself" attitude. In my life in general, those things have definitely shaped my decisions and produced some wonderful (if occasionally stressful and slow-burning) results. But they're results I've been happy with. The same is true so far for my publishing journey.

I think there are likely things I could do differently that might result in more sales or faster results. But I'm unwilling (so far) to compromise on how and why I do things. I figure if I'm going to self-publish, where I have complete control, then I'm going to do it exactly how I want to do it, no exceptions. I'm happy with where it's taken me so far. To celebrate one year of publishing, I've given Sorry's Not Enough a face lift with a new ebook cover, which I created myself (see above re: perfectionism and DIY attitude) and I've also dropped the price from $3.99 all the way down to $0.99! The sale lasts through June 1, 2014 only, so get it while you can! It may never see this price point again. Links are below. (My free short story collection, Consenting Adults, also has a new cover courtesy of my friend and fellow author Cali MacKay.)

Thank you to everyone who has helped me along on my journey so far. I hope you'll follow along as I continue forward.... :-)

Amazon US    Amazon UK    Nook 
Kobo    iTunes    Smashwords

22 May 2014

For the Love of David Tennant and Real-Life Heroes

On Monday I shared this photo across a few of my social media outlets. If you know anything about me, you know how much I love David Tennant. Not just because he's hot, but because he played one of my favorite heroes of all time, Doctor Who. When I saw this picture, I didn't look too closely at it. I just swooned, pretty much. Then a friend on Twitter burst my bubble when she said she was pretty sure it was photoshopped. I was super bummed! But when I looked more closely I realized she was right. My first instinct was that it was David Tennant's head shopped onto Tom Cruise's body from Top Gun. But I couldn't find a photo of Tom Cruise in the same stance and clothing. So I kept looking.

I'm not sure what it was that made me keep digging through the depths of the Internet, but I spent just about half a day scouring images. I was determined to find the original. Finally, with the help of TinEye, I found the original image. I was not at all prepared for what I found out, either.

Let me introduce you to Major Michael Donnelly, United States Air Force veteran. Donnelly was a Connecticut native who served 15 years as a fighter pilot, including service during Operation Desert Storm. He retired in 1996 after being diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. He then spent many years doing work as an advocate for his fellow Gulf War veterans and wrote a book, Falcon's Cry: A Desert Storm Memoir, published in 1998. Donnelly lost his battle with ALS in 2005. His home town of South Windsor, CT created a land reserve and award in his honor.

Considering I found very few places online where the original image of Donnelly shows up, I'm not sure how someone came to find it in order to shop David Tennant's head onto it. But they did. I wasn't sure how to feel about the fact that someone had taken the image of this man who selflessly served his country and made him unrecognizable to serve their own David Tennant obsession. But they did. And my love of David Tennant brought the photo to my attention this week, which in turn led to my discovery of the life of Major Michael Donnelly. And now you know a little bit of his story, too.

Life is funny sometimes.

31 March 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was tagged by two wonderful writing friends, SK Keogh and Precy Larkins, to participate in a blog tour where authors answer a few questions about their writing process and what they're working on. SK Keogh writes historical fiction. You should check out her Jack Mallory Chronicles, of which two books are published and a third is on the way. Read more about her writing process here. Precy Larkins is a Young Adult author and you can read all about her writing process here. Now, on to the questions!

1. What am I working on?

Well that's a heck of a question. As a self published author, I'm never just working on the next book. Writing-wise, I'm currently working on a women's fiction manuscript tentatively titled Confessions of a Non-Believer. In this story, Bree is a young woman dealing with the emotional fallout after the sudden death of her fiance. She faces the daunting task of keeping her life and sanity together while facing a crisis of faith--or non-faith, as it were--and acknowledging the growing attraction to her would-be brother-in-law.

Additionally, I have the start of a contemporary romance on paper and fighting for brain space. This one is untitled, but it's in an introverted love story that I was inspired to write because I think the quiet soul is super sexy and underrepresented.

In terms of marketing, I'm working on some new cover concepts for Sorry's Not Enough. The book will be one year old at the end of May and I'll be revealing a fresh new cover and it will be hugely discounted for a short time as well! My short story collection, Consenting Adults will get a new cover to celebrate also. I've already decided on that and will reveal it soon. (Check out my Facebook page to stay updated on when that happens or to give me feedback on the things you love/hate to see on book covers)

2. How does my work from others in its genre?

That's a difficult one to answer. Based on feedback I've gotten from readers and what I see in my own writing, I would have to say the degree of realism. But in a good way. We want to get lost in stories and characters, so sometimes being too true to life can be boring or dull. I think my realism is the opposite. My characters are flawed, sometimes awkward, emotional, sometimes uncertain, sometimes very certain about something only to discover they were wrong. I think they can really touch on elements of the human experience that speak to us all. I've also been told I write great, natural dialogue.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it. That's the simple answer. The more complicated answer is that emotion and drama make me feel connected and alive, even when they're sad ones if a character is going through something bad. Maybe it's because I am, in my own reality, a fairly even-keeled person who goes with the flow and doesn't express extreme emotions very often. So I like to live it out in fiction. People fascinate me, which is why my stories are character-driven. The vulnerability (and, of course, sexiness) of what happens between two characters in the bedroom, is beautiful and presents a great opportunity to explore more of the emotional things I like in fiction, which is why I never shy away from sex in my stories when it makes sense.

4. How does your writing process work?

I'm a slow drafter. I do all of my first drafts by hand, in notebooks. It involves a lot of staring at the page or off into space as I decide the next word, the next sentence. There's also lots of daydreaming and working through potential scenarios while in the shower and before falling asleep at night. It can take me quite a while to get that first draft written. I'll type up large sections of it when I get stuck or feel uninspired, to put myself back into the story. And as I type, I do some minor edits. So the typed draft is a little more polished than the written one. So far, I've been very lucky that my first drafts are often pretty clean and I don't usually have to spend months ripping it apart and putting it back together again. With the exception of my first novel, but we won't talk about that! Then it's off to some trusted readers for feedback.

I'm supposed to tag others to participate, but if you've read any of my other meme or blog hop type posts, you know I often decline to do so. Mostly to spare myself the awkwardness of asking others and fearing they'll feel obligated because they're my friends even though they don't want to. What can I say? I like to avoid even the potential for conflict or awkwardness. Guess that's why I write it instead. If you feel inclined to share your process, then consider yourself tagged! Tell folks I inspired you to blog about it, and tag some others to participate the week after you do yours. Or don't. Whatever. You're a grown adult. You can decide. :-)

05 February 2014

On Happiness and Mental Health

A friend asked me recently if I consider myself a happy person. I do. Most people would say I am. One of the most frequent comments I get is about how much and how often I smile. Even in spite of the I love humanity/I hate humanity dichotomy that lives in my brain, my default is positivity. Sure, I'm happy. Easy to answer. The next question was a little tougher.

What makes you a happy person?

Well, hell. That's a hard one to verbalize. It's sort of like asking why my hair is brown. Short of the scientific explanation offered by genetics, the short answer is "It just is." I can chemically alter my hair to make it a different color, and I can do that for a multitude of reasons, but it doesn't change the fact that my natural state of being is to have brown hair.

Same goes for my happiness. It's how I am and how I've always been, at my core. My default position is to smile, to trust, to love, to go with the flow, to see the good and to actively look for it if it's not immediately evident, to laugh, to be content. How do you break down something that's as much a part of you as the nose on your face so that someone else can understand it and adapt it for their own life?

Depression, Anxiety, Sadness, etc.

The fact that I'm generally a happy person doesn't mean I haven't had my own emotional struggles. I know sadness and fear and anxiety. In my teens and early 20s there was an undercurrent of tension and sadness in my head that most people wouldn't have known was there. Being a shy introvert probably didn't help matters, since talking it out with someone didn't even register on my list of coping mechanisms. I preferred working through it in my own head, or on paper. My "standard" of happiness didn't go away during that time, though. It coexisted either simultaneously with the sadness or as a reminder of who I really was during those times when I could not figure out why I was feeling so bad.

I didn't learn to drive until I was in my mid-20s and even then it took me a couple years before I actually got my license at the age of 28. My anxiety about it was that overwhelming that I truly had no desire to get behind the wheel of a car. I'm coming up on three years with my license and I still get slightly anxious when driving to new places, or driving more than a few miles in the dark, or in the rain/fog/snow. I won't go anywhere for the first time without my GPS. When I joined a choir last fall I used the GPS on my phone to get there and back the first time... but also for every weekly rehearsal for three months after that until the anxiety about driving in unfamiliar areas subsided.

The struggles I've been through are the equivalent of coloring and cutting my hair. My hair has looked all kinds of crazy ways temporarily, but there's nothing that will change the fact that my natural state is brunette. And while I've had moments where my mental health looked a bit different, I honestly don't think there's anything that can change my happiness default. For some reason, that was a big surprise when I realized that.

Is Happiness Rational?

My fear of driving was not rational or logical. The sadness and frustration that sometimes crashed over me when I was younger was not rational. But that didn't make them any less real to me at the time or any easier to conquer. They just were. I couldn't really explain those things to other people without feeling a little silly. But the same things goes for my happiness. I don't know how or why I'm happy, and trying to dissect it makes me feel weird. There's no logical reason for it.

Part of me believes strongly in the power of positive thought. I don't mean thinking about being a millionaire so you'll magically attract all the right things to make you one. I mean having the ability to recognize and change thought patterns to reclaim my happiness when I feel it slipping. A teacher in high school would often say "Today is going to be a good day" out loud in class and I find that helpful still. It's not about ignoring or denying the negative. When I find myself drifting into one of those irrational funks, I look at it and ask myself Is there a reason I'm feeling this way? Has something happened to make me feel this way? and if the answer is no I'll ask myself Is this mood serving any purpose besides making me moody? and if the answer is still no then I decide right then and there that I will strive for something more positive. There are times when what I'm feeling is the direct result of something happening in my life and/or what I'm feeling is driving me to make positive changes or get things done that I need/want to get done. And when that happens, I acknowledge what I'm feeling and even embrace it for a short time before sending it on its way in favor of my usual happy disposition. It sounds easy, but it's not. I don't mean to imply that it's easy. It's just a place to start. (Let me be clear that I'm not trying to say that anyone can and should just "positive think" themselves out of depression or mental illness. Please don't be afraid to seek professional help.)

Positive thinking is more a coping mechanism for when I feel unlike myself. I wouldn't say it's why I'm a happy person because it's something I've had to learn to do. And like I've been saying, being happy and upbeat is just who and how I am without reason. In talking with my friend it hit me:

It's likely that all the people who've ever asked me about my positive outlook on life and my happy disposition were just as baffled by my explanation as I was about the notion that I could do or be anything other than how I've always been.

I don't like to think that I've been so oblivious that I haven't realized that not everyone is happy. I know they aren't. But it was a bit of an epiphany to think that not only are some people unhappy, but some are unhappy (or at least "less" happy relatively) because they just are and always have been. We have different baselines and my happiness doesn't make any more logical sense than their unhappiness.

My friend and I have always had certain different ways of approaching things and that's part of why we're such great  friends. I like to think we've challenged and checked each other over the years in ways that made us both better people. But I admit to qualifying my feelings and private thoughts now and then with sentiments like "if only you were happier." How things would just be so much better "if only you were happier" because I was convinced that that was the answer to my friend's troubles. I never understood that our differences in how we see the world extended so far beyond political and social ideology all the way into that non-rational space of happiness. I never thought that other people weren't equally as happy as me, down in their core. I figured their unhappiness was either a temporary state of being brought on by whatever biochemistry is responsible for our mental health, as mine often was, or the result of any number of external factors and experiences and that they would return to their natural state of happiness with time or counseling or medication. Those things can affect happiness, no doubt, but that's not the point.

I can't change my friend's baseline any more than they could change mine. It's not a huge revelation, although it feels like one to me. But it does change the way I'll think about, talk to, and empathize with my friend. I love this person like mad and it breaks my heart to see them struggling with something that comes so naturally to me. All I can do is continue to say I love, I'm here for you. Most importantly, I hope my friend and I can take a bit of the pressure off - me off myself for feeling like I should somehow be able to explain my own happiness in a way that they can make it their own, and my friend for feeling like my or anyone else's happiness is the gold standard.

Happiness doesn't make any more rational sense than anything else. My happy isn't your happy. Mentally healthy is what we should strive for, not the amorphous sliver of happiness in anyone else that they likely have no more control over than anything else.

And to my friend, who may be tired of hearing it by now: I love you. And I'm sorry if I've ever made you feel like you should just look at things through my happy lenses in order to make all your troubles go away.