2014: The Year of Getting Serious Again

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First, to Everyone who reads this, Happy Holidays! I wish that all of your wishes come true during the next year and that you live life to its maximum capacity. Always.

This past year has been rewarding and challenging. I graduated with my associates degree, lost one job and got another with the same employer (lost student assistant job at St. Petersburg College when I graduated and got hired back on a few months later as an OPS writing tutor), started new university to go for the bachelors degree, moved into a new apartment  in the downtown area, and gave up my car (it was a piece of shit anyway) for the benefit of walking for exercise.

I was busy writing many essays for my junior year at the University of South Florida, so my creative writing efforts suffered a little. But those essays helped me improve my writing, and I hope all future academic witting will do the same.

For my resolutions in 2014, I don’t have many. I’m keeping it simple and doable.

  1. Continue to improve my health by walking. School and grocery is within walking distance from me now, as well as many other activities and entertainments that the downtown St. Pete area has to offer.
  2. Write new stories. Turn on my creative juices and get them flowing whenever possible. Write for fun, but also write for publications. Poems, too. I want to write some more poetry in 2014.
  3. Submit stories and poetry to major publications and journals. I’ve already started on this one. I’ve submitted my previously unpublished award-winning short story Parker’s Pygmalion to Glimmer Train literary magazine and three unpublished poems to Northwestern U’s Tri-Quarterly journal. I’ve started some fantasy and sci-fi stories that are pretty good so far, I just need to finish them and get them out into some slush piles. I will also continue to try and get some previously published stories reprinted.
  4. Keep my magazine going. My side-project as publisher and editor of the spec-fic ezine The Were-Traveler has taken a toll on my sanity this year. Finding time to read and respond to stories while reading 2-3 books a week for lit classes has been very challenging, but I have no desire to stop doing it now. In fact, I’m even more determined to make it work. I may ask for help along the way, but I’m definitely keeping it going. I nominated 3 stories to Critter’s P&E Readers Poll and wish I could have showered other writers with that kind of love and recognition. I’m still trying to find all those yearly award venues out there, where I can give my authors the cred they deserve. If any of my readers have recommendations, please let me know.
  5. Keep my sanity at school, work, writing, editing, publishing. This is a given. I must maintain a sensible balance to this crazy happening that is my life. Need to breathe a little in between and enjoy other things, too. Relax, take deep breaths, meditate.

That’s it. I’ll probably add goals as I go along through the first part of the year, but this is enough to start with.

I hope all of your goals for the coming year lead to success and happiness.

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Six Degrees of Thankfulness…

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Image courtesy of © mch67 – Fotolia.com

Another Thanksgiving has come and it’s time to evaluate the months gone by and give credit where it’s due.

It’s been a year of triumph and failings…I’m equally grateful for the failings because they’ve helped me to learn and grow.

Here’s my list of thankfulness:

  1. My friends. Especially you, Kathy, who helped me transition in my move from my old decrepit mobile home to my  chic antique apartment closer to school. You not only helped me to move, you provided me with lodgings at your place before the move, when I lost my AC in the trailer and was too hot to study and read material for my classes. Also, my former boss at St. Petersburg College and friend, Jessica, who helped in the move and provided me with a great reference so I could get re-hired at the college in my current position as writing tutor. My friend John, for walking me home from my night classes. Linda, former co-worker, for encouragement and coffee. My online friends, those of you I have not met, you are the best friends in the world for encouraging me. You don’t know what your support means to me. You keep me going.
  2. Chance encounters with friendly strangers. As an introvert (Jungian type INFJ, I just discovered), I don’t find talking to strangers to be that pleasurable, but I find myself doing it more often than you’d think for an introvert. I remarked to a lady at the store while picking up my pre-cooked turkey breast that I was up to my eyeballs in work for school and I could kick myself in the ass sometimes for going back to college at my age. She said “I did it, too. You can do it. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep moving forward.” I don’t know who she was, but I needed to hear those words just then. So, thank you, Kind Lady.
  3. My health. Rotten as it is, I’m still alive. And there’s cause to believe it is getting better. I moved downtown not just to get closer to school, but also to get closer to shopping and all the other great things downtown has to offer. Downtown St. Petersburg is a very walkable city. I gave up my car and moved here in order to get into better shape. It’s working. Just two days ago I wore a pair of jeans that would not fit me three months ago. So yes, body, thank you for being patient with the abuse. I promise to do what I can to make it even better.
  4. My education. I know I’ll be paying for it eventually in student loan payments, but I am thankful to be learning more and more each day. I’m thankful to have the open and free use of my mind and imagination. Sadly, we have seen just this past year that there are unfortunately places still on this earth in 2013 where a woman can’t receive an education. As troublesome as America can be sometimes politically, I’m still glad I’m here. I earned my associate’s degree this year and am now working on the bachelor’s. Upward and onward. Keep moving forward. That’s the plan.
  5. Family. I know I don’t see them a lot, but I’m still glad they are there. Soon the Xmas cards will start coming and I’ll be reminded of them. I’m friends with my Aunt Leona on Facebook, so I keep in touch with her rather closer than anyone else. They are on my mind all the time and I miss them, the ones still here and the ones departed. I love and miss them all.
  6. Writing. I haven’t been writing a lot of stories lately, but boy, I’ve been writing academic papers every week. I’ve had to begin to comprise a portfolio for some of my academic work, which I may share with the online world once it’s all set up. I’ve gotten some inspiration from the Muse for some poem and short story ideas,so maybe I’ll try penning one when this  term is over.

I know there are other things I must be thankful for, but it’s going on noon on this chilly Thanksgiving day, and I have essays to write and a meal to cook and enjoy.

I wish all my friends and readers out there a very Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays ahead in December!

About Time…and the lack thereof…

cropped-blue-keyboard-lrg.jpgIt’s been a good long while since I’ve written a blog post. I wanted to maintain regular posts after graduation from SPC, but then life started throwing me lemons and rather than make lemonade, I decided to become even more gloomy and depressed than I had been already. I lost my air conditioning during the hottest part of the summer in my little mobile home. I began my first semester at the University of South Florida by taking two long bus-rides to the St. Petersburg campus and then home again, leaving in the morning to get to an early afternoon class and night when I arrived back home—me being too tired to do much of anything. My old Macbook died before I could transfer over files and documents from it, so I lost a lot of writing I’d done. I managed to have most of my “Quellseek” novel on flash drive, so a major crisis was diverted there. All-in-all, when I should have been celebrating after getting my AA degree, crap started hitting the fan as they say, and I didn’t enjoy either the summer I had off, nor the thrill of starting a new university. School has also been a challenge. I’m either reading or writing (academic papers). I haven’t written a poem or a creative piece, or a blog post—not counting the editorials I do for the issues of The Were-Traveler—in a long time now.

Sorry to contradict you, Stones, but Time has not been On My Side lately.

I put some of my saved cash aside and managed to get into a nice little apartment three blocks from both campus and the local grocery chain store. I have my own little den, where I study and do my academic writing. I got rid of the car that was costing me too much time and money, and moved to walker’s paradise of Downtown St. Petersburg. I’m already losing weight from all the walking I’m doing.

School is still an enormous pressure, but I already feel better…less depressed and more energized and focused.

Even better news is that the Muse has been visiting me with ideas again. I’ve started no new stories or worked on any older stuff (rescued from the flash drive) as yet, but I feel confident that I will soon. I’ve downloaded some images to start doing writing prompts on this blog again, and I will post one very soon.  Also, there may be another cause for celebration here very soon, but I can’t spill the beans on that yet…not until it’s official. I anticipate that news to come within the next week or two.

While the struggle to manage what little time I have for my own pursuits continues, I have been setting new goals with plans for life and writing. They are:

  1. To continue working on “Quellseek: Army of Empaths.” I was lucky that I only lost one chapter when my old computer died. And I remember much about the chapter I lost, so rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. But, I need to DO IT!
  2. Two ideas involving the future of animal intelligence have shaped themselves (sort of) into story plots. One will be called Eros and Mathilda and will focus on two couples: one human, the other chimpanzee. The primate cousins have had their intelligence raised, at a cost. NOTE: this is not Planet of the Apes type story. The other story also involves a primate, but it’s not the focus of the story. This story, untitled as yet, is a futuristic carnival in which the animals are more intelligent than the humans. The primate in question, for example, is a 2nd half of a hurdy-gurdy duo who has just joined an animal performers union. Yeah, it will be just a little bizarre.
  3. Poetry. In one of my upcoming terms, I hope to take a poetry writing class. I would like to improve my skills in writing poetry.
  4. Get my literary short story, Parker’s Pygmalion, up on Smashwords or Amazon. Somewhere. Anywhere.
  5. I need to submit some stuff. Somewhere. Anywhere. I’ve focused the last year on publishing and editing The Were-Traveler. I need to spend the coming year getting my own work back out in the markets. In order to do that, I need to…
  6. Write. WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! Then write some more.
  7. Get through my first term at USF. Survive. After term, go to Sake Bomb and have a sake or two. Or three.

I have other goals, pertaining to my new apartment and new life in the downtown. The ones above are what I need to work on to get the creative juices flowing again.

Look for more posts soon. I will try to avoid long disappearing acts. I promise, I will try.

 

Looking Behind and Looking Ahead

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Graduation from SPC on May 4, 2013

I have not made a post in quite some time. I apologize. When you’re a college student/author/publisher/editor/part-time employee it’s hard to find time to blog.  I am enjoying a nice summer break, though, so I hope to be able to catch up on my posts.

First, let me catch you up on the recent past. After a grueling spring term, I graduated from St. Petersburg College with my Associates of Arts degree on May 4th. It may not seem like a very significant accomplishment to some folks, but it means the world to me. I am an older student (47…not afraid to say it) who was told in high school by a guidance counselor not to waste my time with college. I wish he could have been there as I not only proved that it wasn’t a waste, I did so by graduating summa cum laude with a 3.95 G.P.A. and by being a finalist for one of SPC’s most prestigious academic honors, the Apollo Award. I didn’t win, and that doesn’t matter. Just to be considered for it is a huge accomplishment that will no doubt have a lasting effect on my life.

Ahead lies my goal for a BA in English Literature. I’ve chosen to remain in this area and transfer to the University of South Florida—St. Petersburg campus. I’m not quite ready to move out of Tampa Bay or Florida yet. The St. Pete campus of USF is gorgeous. It sits right on Tampa Bay with lovely water views from nearly every building. I’m looking forward to starting my classes in the fall…one of which includes a literature class on the occult. Hell yes!

Now for the present and future of other aspects of my life.

This summer while I am off I have many goals. Here are a few.

  • Employment. I lost my student job at SPC, so I’ve been working on updating the resume and creating a portfolio. I hope to use it to land my next job.
  • Writing. I have lots of writing goals for this summer.
    • More Blog Posts. That’s a priority. Need to get back into writing more frequent updates and doing the writing prompts again.
    • Parker’s Pygmalion. I’ve decided to upload my Phi Theta Kappa award-winning short story to Smashwords as a free e-book. I have to start doing this indie thing soon anyway, and this is a good story to start with. If it works out, I will likely add it to Kindle on Amazon as well.
    • Kill the Crow. I’ve begun putting the stories into one document. I still need to finish writing and editing a few of the tales for the book, and get it formatted for publishing. Once  that’s done, I will upload it to Amazon…maybe Smashwords again, too.
    • Quellseek: Army of Empaths. I have people who will murder me if I don’t finish this novel,  so I’m working on it. The biggest problem I’m encountering is that the plot bunnies have tortured me with another great idea, one which I’ve started the research on already.
    • The Dragon Siblings. See above. I’ve got Phandara and T’kanyae (a.k.a. Kane Anthony) Morphyrades story starting in my head and I’ve begun a research project on it involving (fictional and real) sorcery and alchemy.  I don’t even have a title for this yet and have no clue about the scope of it, because Quellseek and that series MUST come first. The tale of Rafael Errick, Emory Atarem, Marta Sanis, Alverin Ness, and Wellynd Niles/Well-and-Truly must be brought to a close and that could take 2-3 years to tell it all. The Dragons will happen at some point, though. They’ve sort of already happened in some pre-cursor/same multiverse short stories.
  • Publishing and Editing. 
    • The Were-Traveler. Yes, I also edit and publish a speculative fiction magazine. It’s a rewarding venture I dove into like a madwoman and for the moment I’m enjoying it. Not quite ready to give it up yet. I recently posted the descriptions for up-and-coming issue themes. I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming themes. I may have to pen something myself for the Lovecraft/Poe issue. So tempting.

Life is going to be a challenge for me once school starts again in August. I have decided to attend USF full-time, which means I will have even less time for the other parts of my life than I do now.

Going to do as much this summer as possible…got to get it while the gettin’s good.

Cover for NaNoWriMo WIP “Quellseek”

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year.

I’m insane, I know, what with intense classes and all the other stuff on my plate. It’s okay. I’m not as fanatical about winning as I was in 2010, which I did win…with a 50K plus novel that’s still unfinished.

I just want to get in the driver’s seat and start spinning down the road on this story. It’s been in my head for a good long while and it needs to come out.

I’ve been playing with pics and fonts and making a cover for it. That’s one of the fun parts of the NaNo experience (next to the writing and the camaraderie of 300 K plus other insane people in the world, of course). If you’re one of those insane people, feel free to buddy me on NaNo. We can encourage each other in our mutual craziness.

I’m putting up a synopsis of the story later in the week.

Meanwhile, I envision this young man on the cover as one of my POV characters, Rafael Errick, a Quell in hiding. I’m planning for Rafael to be one of my more intense characters. I picked a good image for him, I think…

Igniting Creative Spark: Going Outside the Comfort Zone

Photo courtesy of Zachary Tomlinson.

Sometimes you have to do things that make you feel uncomfortable when you make decisions to take your writing to a different level.

For me this involved a recent foray into journalism.

I normally adopt an “I’ll-leave-your-opinons-alone-if-you’ll-leave-mine-alone” stance when it comes to politics. I’m honestly very middle of the road. My philosophy is very much like Neil Gaiman’s: “If there was a party whose main platform was being nice to people, freedom of speech and supporting libraries I’d sign up for it.” I don’t get into virtual, all-caps-on, shouting matches on Twitter or Facebook over politics. I just don’t think that it does much good. I may occasionally repost a meme about teachers getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop or internet privacy or censorship. Those are my pet peeves, but I don’t do it very often.

But  when an opportunity of a lifetime emerges, a chance to also test myself as a writer…well some things are just too good to pass up.

I almost enrolled in journalism school ages ago…years before the major life change I made two years ago to go back to school at forty-something to get my Masters in English Literature. But life happened…I got a full-time job, got married, and didn’t do journalism school. So, recently, when the guys at The Sandbox news asked me to write some articles (book reviews were discussed at the time) I said I’d do it. Partly because my writing has been in an idle place and I’ve been looking for some way to rev it up a notch, but mainly because I always wanted to write for the school newspaper, and when I first started at SPC, they didn’t have one.

Then…an amazing thing happened. Just a few days later we received the news that President Barack Obama was coming to deliver a Grassroots speech at our campus in Seminole. And I was asked to go along with the other reporters and cover it. Me! See a president of the US give a speech! I was overwhelmed and more than just a little bit scared. I don’t do politics, remember.

After I calmed down, I reasoned that a chance like this doesn’t come along very often and it was not just an opportunity to see a US president make a live speech, it was also an chance for me to write a journalistic piece…write it to the best of my ability, all the while trying not to air my own political views. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, a challenge…and there’s nothing I like more than a writing challenge. We writers need to challenge ourselves, and sometimes that means stepping outside of our comfort zone and writing about things we’d normally steer well away from.

So I wrote this…my very first experience with writing for the mass media. I hope you enjoy it: The President Visits Seminole, Emphasizes Education. 

Image courtesy of Maggie Susens Livingston.

September: Down the Home Stretch

It’s September.

It’s that time when leaves begin to change color from green into vibrant oranges and reds (if, unlike me, you live somewhere where they do that).

It’s also a time for recollection. What have I accomplished the past eight months? How do I move down the home stretch for the remainder of the year?

Accomplishments:

Although writing has been slow during the past eight months, I’ve still been active. I had a story win some awards. Shiny New Pants, which won 1st place at Phi Theta Kappa’s Florida Regional Conference and took 2nd place in the Carolyn Parker English Awards (sponsored by of St. Petersburg College/Gibbs Campus) was recently published by the college’s online arts magazine Ember Skies. You can read it here.

The anthology Eighty Nine published by Literary Mixtapes received a wonderful review from a reader. The reviewer ranked my story Nowhere Land among her top favorites in the book. There’s no words for how great it makes a writer feel to have their work loved by a reader. It’s just….WOW! This is the second person this week to compliment a story of mine, and it’s giving me incentive to get my butt back to writing something…anything!

I have two stories coming to print soon: The Best of #FridayFlash, Volume 2, will be reprinting my science-fiction The ABCs of the Apocalypse, and I have a horror tale titled The Apprentice’s Mother appearing in the anthology Sunday Snaps coming out in October. 

On the academic front, I was nominated by my school for awards: Coca Cola All-Community College Academic and All-Florida Academic Teams. I got a pretty medal in Orlando for All-Florida, and it has led to me being recruited by some of the top schools in the nation. In addition to the Carolyn Parker English Award mentioned above, I also received the Steve Meier award and scholarship from the PTK chapter at my campus (ETA WHO? ETA NU!!) for my involvement and contribution to our Honors in Action project: Science Fiction as a Record of Culture and History. I was thrilled to to be the first recipient of this award, named in honor of our recently retired advisor.

If I have been thin on the writing front, I’ve made up for in editing/publishing. My online speculative fiction e-zine The Were-Traveler is still kicking and was recently added as a legit market on Duotropes. I’ve even had an author come forward and suggest an article for the next issue, which I love! Please, by all means, if you have an idea for something that may lie just a little outside the current theme, let me know. I may like the idea and say “Go for it!” as I have in this case.

Down the Stretch:

The editors of Ember Skies have asked me to write some articles for the college’s online newspaper, The Sandbox. I’m thrilled to be asked and I’m hoping to write a book review and/or some articles for them before the end of the year.

I’m planning to write and submit a short story to Phi Theta Kappa’s literary journal Nota Bene. That would be a nice feather in my collegiate writing cap.

I’m planning another project with my PTK teammates for Honors in Action, and I’m also chairperson this year for Native American Week on our campus so I’m going to be very busy planning events for that.

The Class of 2012 community college graduates will be getting their Associates degrees on December 15th. I will be one of them.

I would like to get some formatting work done on my own anthology, a collection of my short stories titled Kill the Crow. I’ve been working on the cover art and trying to get some of the last of the new stories finished. I hope to start formatting it by the end of the year, at least for the Smashwords market.

Whew! All this and trying to remain a geeky college student. It’s going to be a challenge. Think I can do it?