Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions...Final Tally

Well, it's accounting time.

I did a partial accounting of the resolutions last September, as a progress report of sorts. But the only official accounting, naturally, is the one that happens on New Year's Eve.

So how did she do?
When we left our heroine, she had made six resolutions:

1. To lose 10 pounds.

2. To send the thank-you notes and birthday cards.
3. To stay, as much as possible, away from Catholic media, for particular reasons.
4. To make two new friends.
5. To stop being so damn practical about my writing and start enjoying it again.
6. To calm the "contrarian" within. 


The results? I've done moderately well at some of them, and failed miserably at others.
I didn't lose the 10 pounds. In fact, the main reason I wanted to lose some--my son's wedding--actually turned into a point where I was heavier than I was when I'd MADE the resolution in the first place. So that was a colossal fail.

The irony? I lose weight best over the holidays. That's because from about Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, I never stop moving. All that activity burns off calories, and I don't often eat a lot during that time, either. Ergo, if I try to say I'll lose 10 pounds from THAT setpoint...it may be setting myself up for disaster.

I sent thank-you notes, at least some.
I sent some birthday cards.
I sent some birthday greetings via e-mail or Facebook.
So that wasn't a total fail by any means.

I stayed away from Catholic media quite a bit. This being an election year, the media was plastered all over my Facebook pages sometimes, whether I wanted it or not. Overall, while I've gotten hot under the collar a few times and blasted a few salvos (witness the post in this blog on the morning after the election), on the occasions in which I've strayed into too much media that irritates me too much, I have generally been able to stop myself before it eats me alive. There's a lot of NASTINESS online, and unfortunately, Catholic media aren't exempt from this. There are some good, positive places I've found to hang out, and I've had to block/hide several dozen posts from Facebook over the year...so that's at least progress. 

That also covers controlling the "contrarian" within; I've had to force myself NOT to feel that I must go around "correcting" everything that seems stupid, wrong, or misguided around me. If I try to do that, I have no time to do anything else. Which is stupid, wrong, and misguided in itself. Ergo, I'm redoubling my efforts to look at the bright side of things and say, "Not everything is my fight. In fact, very few things are worth any fight at all."

This is a win. I intend to keep it up. :-)

I haven't technically made two ALL-new friends. However, I HAVE connected on a deeper level with two people I like very much and whom I was already friends with on a surface level. I've also made more efforts to connect with people I was acquainted with and make them better friends--let them see more of my personality. I've made a point to reach out to several people with specific encouragement, compliments, or fun stuff. So I'm getting better at this people thing. That's a win.

As for my writing? I've dealt with that in depth in the previous evaluation, so I won't belabor it here. However, my new resolution for 2013 is to finish THREE BOOKS.

Yes. Indeed.

Which means that a lot will change with how I structure my writing time, from the get-go.
I intend to edit less and write more. I intend to Facebook less and blog more. I intend to sit down and screw up my courage and give myself as many pep talks as necessary to believe that I do, in fact, still "have it" when it comes to storytelling. (That isn't a given, and that isn't a constant belief. So I feel another resolution coming on. :-D)

All in all? I think these resolutions were a win. The weight thing is always going to be a mess; I may as well just accept that. If I get my other stuff in gear, I will lose weight without thinking much about it, and that's a better resolution to have than trying to lose X number of pounds by X date.  We'll see how I fare in 2013 with some different strategies.

So what are my resolutions for 2013? Well, you'll just have to wait for tomorrow to see those...IF I make any at all!

How'd you do on YOURS?

Janny

Monday, December 03, 2012

Always A Bad Idea...

...writing a book when you're functionally illiterate.
Unfortunately, too many people do just that.
And it's beginning to wear on the CFWC. 

My days as an editor may be coming to a close, if the latest stuff is the best they can hand me.

More later,
Janny, who needs a "quiet room."

Friday, November 09, 2012

Nungazing, Now Made Easy

...because of the presence of these wonderful women in Huntington!

I love seeing young, fresh-scrubbed nun faces in the morning. :-)

(ahhh)
Janny

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Only 1,459 days more to go....

...until we can vote the biggest mistake America's ever made out of office.
Provided, of course, that he doesn't find a way to declare martial law and name himself Emperor.
Don't laugh. All he's got to do is deliver an executive order and he can override the Constitution. He's done it a dozen times already, without so much as a challenge from the limp-wristed so-called legislators we've got sitting in plush offices in Washington at the moment--and with complete complicity by the bought-and-paid-for media. 

Yanno, it's bad enough when people elect a ham sandwich the first time.
The second time?

Moochelle (one of my favorite nicknames for our Least Lady), in one of her first embarrassing statements in a long line of embarrassing statements over the past few years, was reputed to have said that when her husband was awarded the presidency (by a fawning media and, no doubt, by a Chicago machine bullying and/or making up voters as they went along) was "the first time in [her] adult life she was proud to be an American." 

Well, November 6 of this year was the first time in my adult life I was deeply ashamed to be an American. 

So does that make us even?
Oh, no, wait. It doesn't. She's got a good $20 million in vacation trip money she still needs to "redistribute" my way.

I'll be waiting, Mooch.
Any time.

As for me and my house, I'm a social, political, and fiscal conservative.
Yeah. One o' dem "right wing nut jobs."
You don't like it? Don't hang around here any more.
Because I will be actively doing whatever I can during the upcoming 1,459 days  to hold  the feet of this mock president and everything he stands for to the fire.  To call him on every lie and every false promise. To help with his impeachment. Hell, I'll send him packing boxes to encourage him leaving the White House in the dead of night, if that's what it'll take.

In short, to defeat the insanity every chance I get.

If that was your man, you're an idiot.
Unfortunately,  your idiocy is about to cost me money--at the very least. It might cost me much, much more.
And you don't have the right to do that to me.

Game on,
Janny

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Editor Is Your Friend. No, Really: Part 3.

Last time in this editor discussion, we'd just finished talking about what to be aware of, stay away from, or at least carefully and WARILY question when it comes to the editing biz.
So now, out of the good, the bad, and the ugly...we're gonna talk about the GOOD.

A good editor is...

1. Competent in the language.
A good editor MUST have command of the English language, at least. Some editors are multi-lingual, but I'm here to tell you that (fortunately) that's not required. (Thank heaven!) And, frankly, knowing English well is probably enough to ask of your editor, anyway...because so few of them do.

Do you doubt this? Then how many times have you seen copy that...
...has a plural formed with an apostrophe?

...has a word usage error (as in, say,  affect versus effect or metal versus mettle--among dozens of others)?

...has disagreement of subject and verb numbers (singular subject, plural verb, or vice versa)? 

Don't laugh. This happens far more often than most people realize, for a couple of reasons. 
First, sheer sloppiness. Something that's actually WRONG gets used so many times that it starts to sound correct to the ear. That's how we get sentences like "Every child should know their address and phone number."  Uh-yup. (Every child, actually, should know that that sentence is incorrect!)

Second, words that look singular and are actually plural...or plural and look singular. MEDIA, for example, is plural, while STAFF is singular. So if you say, "Our staff look after you with tender loving care," or "The media is a big problem"...guess what. (!) 

The reason you see these and multiple other egregious errors is because, in fact, so few people calling themselves "editors" nowadays actually know the language very well. This is no accident: they're products of an educational system that, some years ago, threw out grammar and phonics in favor of...well, whatever in the world they were in favor of. Spelling? Who needs it? Just spell the way you feel. Grammar? That's just dull, boring, and stifling. Word usage? That's the stuff of picky people!

So...editors many times don't know that they don't know something
Which wouldn't be so bad if they looked things up just to be SURE.
This brings us into the second thing a good editor needs to be:

2. Humble. 
I can see your jaws dropping now. "Humble? Doesn't an editor have to have confidence in her own ability? Why would I want a guy who's HUMBLE editing my stuff? I want my editors to know what they're doing and believe in themselves!"

Well, there you have it. Yet more proof positive of how little many of us know the language. Because none of those objections has anything to do with humility.

So what DO we mean by an editor being "humble"?

A humble editor isn't one who denigrates him/herself. It isn't an editor who lacks confidence, or one who's unsure about what he or she can bring to the table, skill-wise. 
What humility IS in an editor is what we might call "teachability."
It's knowing one's limits.

A humble editor, in short, knows that s/he doesn't know everything there is to know. Not about the language, to begin with--but certainly not about everything else in the world.

This is a bitter pill for many of us to swallow, for many reasons--not the least of which is, if we've paid our dues in the world, we DO pick up a cornucopia of "stuff" along the way. 
Facts. Figures. Proportions. Odds. Specific terminology and jargon. The inner workings of clocks, or radios, or cars, or amoebas, or piano actions, or tiger lilies, or welding torches. Illnesses and their symptoms. Speed and trajectory. Recipes. The proper way to do a backstroke. And so on. And so on.

Yep. We do pick up collections of all kinds of semi-useful stuff, don't we?
But in the process, we also pick up...mistakes. Or misinformation. Or misconceptions.

Some of that's not through our own fault. Especially in the case of historical information, as any student of history will tell you, sometimes what's "factual" depends on who's writing the text!

But even allowing for that gremlin now and again, in the end, one of the most valuable attributes an editor has is the insatiable urge to GET IT RIGHT.
Which means LOOKING IT UP...sometimes in several different places.
And which also means LOOKING IT UP...even if you're fairly sure about it. 
That's what we mean by editorial humility.

Let's repeat that.
A humble editor has learned just enough to know that s/he doesn't know everything. So one of the most valuable things he or she can "know" is what he or she doesn't "know"...for sure.
And one of the most valuable traits he or she can have, then, is the need to GET IT RIGHT.
No matter how small the detail may be, or how "sure" an editor is that s/he already knows it.

I'm a crackerjack speller, yet there are still words I have to look up. There are words I've only recently learned I may have been misspelling. You may wonder how that can be: it's simple. The people around me can't spell any better than I can, so they take my word for it!
:-)

All kidding aside, however, do look for an editor who is humble, in the sense that he or she knows that all editors have limitations. Look for an editor who's willing to be taught (some of us do it kicking and screaming, but we CAN do it). Look for an editor who'll query your stuff along the lines of saying, "Are you sure? What's your source for this?" rather than saying, "This is wrong. This would never happen." Because if there's one thing that good editors learn over the years, it's that pretty much anything can happen on this good earth, given the right circumstances, characters, background, and setting. If you're an expert in something I'm not, I'm more than willing to let you teach me about it.

Just don't mess with the grammar...because there, nine times out of ten, I'll getcha. :-)

We'll talk about more aspects of GOOD editing in the next installment. Don't worry; there aren't many more important than these two we've just listed: confidence and competence in the language, and enough humility to make SURE that together, the editor is  working with an author to GET IT RIGHT. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the story in part 4!

Janny

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sigh. And Grin.

Well, I did not final in the Harlequin contest.
Of course, the editors are tweeting all over the place that just because you didn't final doesn't mean they won't be getting in touch with you...if they found your entry "intriguing."

I could hold my breath, but that'd make it hard to sing tomorrow night. :-)
I DO have other plans for the manuscript I sent them, as well---or actually, for the idea behind the manuscript I sent them. But this was an experiment: I wanted to see it get in front of more eyeballs to see if it could pull out complete strangers to vote for it.

Until I know how many votes it DID get--and I doubt I'll ever know that--there's no way to gauge the impact my entry may, or may not, have had upon strange eyeballs. 

Ah, well. There are better things to feast one's eyeballs on....like THIS:




My son Matt and his bride, Deirdre...October 5, 2012. MOMGRIN TIME!

(heh heh)
Janny

Monday, October 08, 2012

Reeeeeemember.....

...to vote for my manuscript at the "So You Think You Can Write" contest! 
Voting runs through the 11th, so vote early, vote late, vote often. You can vote once PER DAY!

(yee hah)


Thanks,

Janny

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Well, I Did It!

...both entered VOICE OF INNOCENCE in the USA Book News Best Book Contest, AND entered RAINMAN'S BRIDE in the Harlequin "So You Think You Can Write" Contest. And yes, I DO think I can write. :-)

The nice thing about the Harlequin contest is it gives me another crack at getting RB into the Harlequin system, where I have believed it belonged since long before it won the Golden Heart (and then was summarily dismissed). 


And yes, I understand that Harlequin has a couple of black clouds over it of late. Frankly? I don't care. A lifelong dream of mine has been to sell "those little paperback romances." If I've got a way to do that now, I'm going to at least try it. :-) Yes, they're not the  best paying market on the street. But royalties, as I like to say, is royalties. I'll take 'em.


Besides, what goes around comes around. You'll never guess what's finally RETURNING to the Harlequin fold? Good old-fashioned clean romance. Yeppers. The kind, as they put it, you can share with "daughters and granddaughters."


My time may have finally come. One way or the other. :-)


The manuscripts will be posted on the Harlequin Contest website, soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com. Click on "Read Entries" and see what you find. And if you vote for my book, I'll be over the moon. :-)

More later!
Janny

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Editor Is Your Friend. No, Really: Part 2.

Last time here, we talked about what a good editor does for your work. But, it must be said, there are a lot of people out there claiming to be editors, book doctors, editorial consultants, writing coaches, et al. Not all of them will be very good at it. Some of them can hurt you.

So how do you know the good ones from the not-so-good?
First of all, let's deal with the truly nefarious, because they're easier to cull--and spot.

You probably want to avoid--or at least QUESTION--any editor or editorial consultant if he/she:

1. Has a Web site full of writing, syntax, spelling, punctuation, usage errors--or just plain wrong information about the business.
This should be obvious; it's not. Now, one or two typos, or a formatting problem--that, ANYBODY can have. We're talking about rampant errors--such as an "about" page that has a dozen or more typos or misspellings on it, and/or recycled "myths" about the publishing industry, blindly repeated. Usually when or if you point such things out to a good editor, they'll thank you and take pains to correct them. If you write a note to an editor about any of these things and he/she gets snarky, however...walk away. Quickly.  

2. Has been listed on one of the "warning" sites (Writer Beware, Absolute Write Water Cooler, etc.) as questionable--under ANY name or incarnation. 
Crooks or scam artists--in this business as in many others--will often get "busted" under one name, go underground for awhile, and then resurface as a whole new name, business, or enterprise. Some of them will even claim to have "gone straight" and be "legit" in a new partnership...only to have it revealed, upon further research, that they've merely formed a partnership with ANOTHER scam artist and are trying to "con" a whole new generation of writers who haven't heard the horror stories they've left behind them. Don't be fooled by it. Google their names and do a little research. It'll be time well-spent.

3. Makes any guarantees about whether, where, or when your writing will sell.
Yes, I know there are professional book doctors out there who have LOTS of contacts, some of them very high-profile, in the publishing and/or other media industries. That being said, however, not even THEY can "guarantee" that your work will sell at all, much less that it will sell in ____ months or ____ years. Note that this is also different from saying your work will be publishable in ____ months or ____ years. THAT, a professional may be able to tell you. Whether anyone will actually decide to PAY you for that publishable work, however, is something no editor can vouch for unless he or she...

4.  Also owns a publishing company, "manuscript showcase" site, or "literary agency."
...which is another BIG FAT RED FLAG.

This is not to say that you should refuse, out-of-hand, the chance of getting your book edited by people who are also publishers--if those two services are separate enterprises. But, in truth, it's danged hard to run ONE of these businesses, let alone BOTH of them, and keep them both separate and high-quality. See the first rule about "warnings" above--many scammers do this kind of thing, offering "editorial and book publishing service" packages that, in truth, are nothing  more than what you can do yourself as a self-publisher, with a little elbow grease. 

And it goes without saying--or it should--that it's damnably hard to be both an objective editor of work AND a literary agent representing that type of work. Very few people can do it; I'd be tempted to say no one can, actually, except there's probably one or two noble souls out there who manage it. So I won't say it's "impossible." It's just...highly unlikely. 

In short, you'll do yourself a favor if you keep the editing, agenting, and publishing aspects of your work SEPARATE and maintain the integrity of each. It's the best way to save yourself time, money, and heartache.

5. Gives any indication that he/she is "above" whatever you're writing or tries to manipulate it in any way.
This is a more subtle element, but it does happen. You're in a creative writing class, or a writers' workshop, where Ms. Incredibly Big Name Famous Editor is on hand to read and possibly consider (gasp!) taking on manuscripts to "nurture." Needless to say, your hopes are dancin' on the ceiling...until you meet this editor, and she looks at your work with a vaguely pained smile on her face and damns it with faint praise--or just comes right out and damns it. No writer's willing to take that kind of abuse, though, right? 

Think again.

The world is full of newbies who worship at the feet of Big Names. Newbies who will do anything the Big Name tells them to do. And in the process they take fresh, sometimes wonderful, work--albeit in a raw state--and beat all the freshness out of it. By the time they're done, the book might be salable...somewhere. But more often than not, it's not, because the Big Name didn't get what they were trying to do in the first place, and didn't have the humility to say, "Yanno, honey, this isn't my cup of tea. You might want someone more comfortable with the kind of story you write to take this on." So in the process, the Big Name made them over in the image she's most comfortable with...and they'll sound like no one but a derivative clone of Herself.

Don't misunderstand this; a good editor WILL change your work. A good, ethical editor may ask you to make changes that you think will "gut" the thing; in that case, a little dialogue is in order. But the kind of "editing" we're talking about above doesn't involve dialogue. It involves a condescending, dictatorial relationship in which Big Name says "Jump," and the only acceptable reply is, "How high?" THAT does not a good creative partnership make, and sometimes it takes years to recover from that kind of treatment--both for your self-esteem AND your voice. So don't succumb to that temptation. The best and most talented people in any industry--by and large--are also the nicest and most down-to-earth.  Keep that in mind every time you hand your work to ANYONE,  no matter what his/her reputation in the business might be. Life's too short to waste it trying to kiss up to prima donnas.

Lots of information here, we know. But it helps to know how to avoid the editorial "weeds" right away, so you can find the editors and writing professionals who will help your "garden grow" the way it should. Next time, we'll talk about what a GOOD writing professional looks like--from professional behavior to fee schedules, and much more in between.

Stay tuned!
Janny

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Editor Is Your Friend. No, Really: Part 1.

Aha! Some solid information in this blog for a change!
Seriously.

Not that many of you don't LOVE pot roast recipes...I know you do. :-)

But it's occurred to me several times (because people come right out and tell me, doncha know) that after as many years as I've spent in this profession, and as many millions of words as I've written, slashed and burned, rewritten, cut and pasted, and rephrased with and for people...I might know more than a little about this editing game. How it ought to work...and when to run for the hills, if necessary, to avoid major headaches and/or a lot of wasted money or BOTH.

Ironically, even in this age of unprecedented information, a lot of people DON'T know much about editing. Why it's necessary in the first place. And when they're being well-edited versus HACKED. 

So in a series of posts, I aim to help you out with a little information about editing, editors, and the process...and how to make the most of it. It'll be based on my experience, which is wide-ranging and varied. It'll be laced with more than a little cantankerousness. But above all, it'll be helpful.

Trust me on this. It will be. Because that's what I DO. 


So let's start from the very beginning...

(This space for singing, "Do Re Mi" to yourselves, now that I've put that song in your heads. HAH!)

The first thing you need to know about an editor--and the most important thing---is whether you need one or not.

The short answer is, "DUH."
The long answer is, "Of course you do."
Everyone does. Yes, even Stephen King. Even Mary Higgins Clark (something that's been painfully obvious by its absence of late). Even lots and LOTS of other "name" authors. And you can tell them I said so. They won't care, of course, because they don't know who I am. (Yet.) But, hey, make my day. Go ahead and tell 'em if you like. Heaven knows reader reviews on Amazon do it all the time.
(When they don't get taken off, like one of mine did. But I digress.)

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, can use a good editor. I don't just say that because I'm in the business; I say it because it's true. Just as a singer needs a vocal teacher (the "third ear" that can tell you where you're going wrong--or right), the writer who knows and uses a good editor will benefit from that "third ear" wordsmith. You'll never regret having a good edit, and your work WILL be much better as a result.

Not "may" be. WILL be.
Why is that?

1) Good editors will catch things you'll never see. Literally.
This is a given, but the reason it happens is more complex. You see, our brains are wonderful things. They will take a piece of writing and "fill in" gaps in it so that when we read it, it makes sense to our brain--even if what's on the page is gibberish. If you doubt this, take one of those "tests" online that has a box of text with letters missing, the wrong letters in a word, etc., and then tells you something about your perception and intelligence if you can understand it. News flash: it has little to do with perception and intelligence. It has to do with brain chemistry, and how our synaptic connections fire. For some of us, they fire faster...but for all of us who write, they can actually sabotage us. You've experienced this sensation if you've ever spent so much time on a piece, either reading or editing, that you literally don't "see" it anymore. It happens to everyone at one time or another. Hence, the need for a "third eye"--or, more accurately, a second PAIR of eyes. 

2) Good editors catch you out on every single bad habit you have.
We all--every one of us--have pet words we lurrrve to use in our writing. I LOVE to use "just" and "even" and, of late, "basically." Those are only (another favorite of mine) the tip of the proverbial writing berg; I have many more that good critique partners and editors have caught and underlined or highlighted (or just slashed and burned). (See? I told you it was one of my favorites.)  We all also have pet phrases, ways we express ourselves, or ways we like our CHARACTERS to express themselves that are cliched, are anachronistic for the time period in which we set our tales, or make all our people sound the same. What does this say about our writing? That we're lazy? That we don't have wide enough vocabularies? That we're uncreative, or uneducated, or something else equally nefarious?

Nah. All it says is that we,  like all of mankind, are creatures of habit. Part of it may be a tiny shred of "laziness," but in truth? I've rarely if ever met a truly LAZY writer. I've met a lot of them who fall back on habits, cliches, or pet phrases...but that's not because they're not trying to write the best things they can. It's simply a matter of writing from a certain comfort zone. We speak the language we speak, however broad or narrow that is, unless someone gently prods us to stretch ourselves and do better. And that's the end result of a good editor...

3) Good editors help you write better than you think you can.
Notice what we say here. Good editors don't tell you you need to write "like someone else." Good editors don't mess with your voice--any more than absolutely necessary--but, once again like a good vocal teacher, they'll strengthen that voice and deepen it until it's true music. Good editors don't make you change things that don't need changing--but they don't let you get away with doing something that's "good enough," either. They'll challenge you. They'll dare you to try things you don't think you can do. They'll push you and prod you and nag you to the point where you wonder whom they think they're talking to, anyway.

The answer? They're talking to a good writer who they think can be better. And the stubborn, persistent, craft-minded, picky ones won't let you get away with less than your best. You may never work so hard in your life as when you have a good editor--but your writing will amaze and astound you when you look back at the difference between what you started with...and what you end with.


That's with a good, topnotch, professional, skilled, artist of an editor.
But how do you know one when you see one?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, and we'll talk about that!

Thoughts?
Janny




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I'm Doing...

...in between writing and editing for other people, is trying to get somewhere MYSELF.
I'm hoping this 
can help me get noticed for some old/new work that's been waiting for just such an opportunity...
...and this can help me get notice for VOI to take off the way it should.

So I'm gonna be a bizzy chicky, if I can make these things, or others like them, pay off.In any event, I'm going for it.

What are YOUR next targets?
Janny

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beats Me!

What do you know, as a writer, about "beats"?
And why do so few people seem to be able to use these things?

Second to the myriad errata I see in manuscripts of late in terms of commas, word usages, homophone confusion, and action/reaction transposition--and there are tons of THOSE--comes an embarrassing number of writers who, apparently, have never been taught about beats.

(Some of them haven't been taught about dialogue tags, either, which are related...but not quite the same thing.)

Do you know what a "beat" is?
Can you use it effectively?
How would you describe it?
And how do you learn how to write "beats" well in your prose?

I've got thoughts on this (yeah, like you ever doubted I did?), but I'd like to hear from other writers on this. This problem is so prevalent that I'm beginning to think NO one's taught it for at least a generation of writers...maybe more.
If so, I know what I'm doing my next workshop on.

Chime in if you would!
Janny

Monday, September 17, 2012

Balance in the Morning

...so I'm back to taking a regular walk in the mornings.
I've been doing a morning walk for YEARS now, to the point where I can hardly remember when I didn't do one. And yes, I did take a hiatus from the morning walk for a little while--under the guise that "I can get more work done if I don't spend a half hour in the morning walking nowhere."

I'm here to tell you, however, that for me...that's bunk.

I need that walk--not so much for exercise, although it certainly serves that purpose.
But I need it to establish a sense of balance in the morning.
Sounds odd, but that's the best word I can use for it.

I CAN start my workday immediately after my bath and first cup of coffee.
I DO go to adoration, two days a week, right after said bath and coffee.
But even to adoration, at this point anyway, I walk. It's not MUCH of a walk, but it's a walk.

Now, I do anywhere from 15 minutes to over a half hour, and at times, almost 45 minutes' worth of walking in the morning.
Depending on how I feel, what mood I'm in, etc.
And it's important to note that often, before I start out, it's with the intention of only going 15 minutes or so...but that by the time I've gone about two blocks, I feel like a longer walk, and by the time I've gone about five blocks, I'm ready to keep rambling.

There's something about fresh air, being outdoors, and just walking in the morning that gives me a sense of balance. It makes me feel like, no matter how I woke up, I can start the day refreshed. It does refresh me. If I'm desperately overtired, the fresh air soothes me. It can invigorate me. It makes me feel more relaxed, which paradoxically gives me more energy to start the day. And on the days when I spend the walk praying, it gives me extra "prayer points" as well.

However, it needs to be said that I have to keep the walk unstructured for it to work this way. The moment I start designating it a "prayer walk" or a "fitness walk" or determining that I have to go such-and-such amount of time or distance every day...it loses all its benefits for me. It becomes another thing to check off the list rather than a breath of fresh air at the beginning of the day that enables me to plan the day, shake out the cobwebs, or just enjoy everybody's garden as I amble along.

If for some reason I need to jump in the car to go to adoration--say, there's a dangerous storm or the like and it's hazardous outdoors--I feel the lack of that fresh air respite.
It really DOES make a difference.

So I'm doing the walk every morning again, and I'm feeling much better balanced because of it. To the point where, at least in theory, I can think more clearly and calmly about everything, and in the long run, be more productive.

Which kind of shoots holes in the idea that it's "spending a half hour walking nowhere."
It may be, technically, walking in circles. Walking a few dozen blocks away, and coming back.
But it's far from going nowhere.
And I'd highly recommend it as--paradoxically enough--one of the best ways to actually find yourself, at the end of the day, having gotten further than you thought you would when you woke up.

Just a thought.
Anything that gives YOU balance in the morning? Share it here!

Janny

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

So, What's that Holy Spirit FEEL Like, Anyway?

One of the things I like best about Catholicism, as opposed to many "faiths" I've seen out there, is that Catholicism doesn't depend much on FEELINGS.
This is not to say that emotion isn't important in spirituality. Of course it is. God created us in His image, which means that He feels emotions, too. And they have a big role in how we worship--at times.
But there's a danger there, cherie.

For you nondenominationalists out there...think about how you choose a home church.
Really.
I mean, you go to where you "feel" you belong.
You go to where you "feel" you are "called" to be.
You go to where you "feel" God is "leading" you.
See a common denominator here?
Uh-yup.

By contrast, the traditional way a Catholic chooses which church to go to is--brace yourself--GEOGRAPHICAL.
Nowadays, that's not as tightly binding as it used to be. But it still holds true in the large majority of cases that the church you go to, as a Catholic, is the parish church that "covers" the boundaries of where you live.
It's simple. It's neat. It's predictable. And, for anyone relocating, it's a snap. Just look at the church nearest your house, and that's probably the one whose parish you live in. Not always--like school boundaries, sometimes parish boundaries have some quirks--but as a general rule, the church closest to your home is the one to which you belong.

It does cause some problems sometimes, mainly because of inadequate Church supervision over some folks who can't get the idea out of their heads that "Vatican II" said you're all supposed to hold hands at church and sing "KumBaYa" at Communion.
(It DIDN'T, by the way. Just so's we're clear on that.)

So what if the parish church you're technically "supposed" to go to is one of those bat shit crazy places with multicolored rainbow vestments, weird-ass dancing, or priests who think dogs should be co-celebrants in liturgy?
Are you still bound to be members of that parish and support it no matter what, simply because of where you live?

That's a tougher one. Sometimes you have to go outside your parish boundaries to find a church that's faithful to the Magisterium, knows what's what liturgy-wise, and is unapologetic about proclaiming real Church teaching.
But it's still gonna be a Catholic church. 
You're not going to be searching among the 40,000 other "also-rans" out there to see if a better home for you exists somewhere else. Not if you're a real Catholic.
Chances are, the parish is still going to be fairly close to your home, if you can swing that. Even if it's a place you've had to decide on by process of elimination.

But one thing that choice is NOT based on...is "feeling."
Which, I believe, removes a whole lot of nonsense from the Christian experience.

You see, if you go to where you "feel" the "Holy Spirit" moving...
...then what happens when you no longer "feel" the Spirit in that place anymore?

I see this happen all over nondenominational churches.
At best, it leads to church-hopping, sometimes even denomination-hopping.

At worst, it can lead to infighting, opposing camps, and divided church bodies, whose members then go on to form NEW church "families" with folks from one side forming the new body, while the other is abandoned.
Not that bad, but still bad, is its tendency to leave people "without a church home" for a given period of time. Which means they don't go to church at all.
Because they haven't found the place they "feel led to be" yet.
Or they haven't found a place they "feel" has the Spirit, or is led by the Spirit.

But not going to church at all isn't an option for a believer.
And no, I'm not just talking about Catholics.
True, we're bound under pain of mortal sin (which is a Big Deal) to go to Mass on Sunday. 
EVERY Sunday, and EVERY Holy Day of Obligation.
But not going to church at all is not an option for any believer.
It's Scriptural. Look it up.
When Paul says not to neglect the gathering of yourselves together, he's not suggesting. He's commanding.
It's not a "nice thing to do." 
It's a sin NOT to do it.
It's a command. Based on a commandment.
And it has nothing to do with "feelings."

Fact is, no one can truly tell you what the "Holy Spirit" FEELS like.
No one.
Because the presence of the Holy Spirit isn't a "feeling" at all.
The leading of God can, in fact, be to a place where you're not "feeling the love" in the slightest.
It can even be one of those bat shit crazy places, where you become the salt and light that brings 'em back to the way they're supposed to be.
Is that fun?  
Nope.
Will you be "feeling" like you're in the Spirit?
Hardly. Usually you'll be "feeling" like you're being a fuddy-duddy who doesn't "understand" what "Church" is all about.
But if it's where, as far as you can discern, you are finding obedience...
then it's where you're supposed to be, and the Spirit IS present there.
Regardless of how you're feeling.

Which is why Catholicism, and its (ideal) separation of feeling from obedience, does a lot less harm and injustice to the believer than this notion of going where you "feel" led to go.
It makes things infinitely simpler when you're not testing the spirits based on how you "feel" about them...but on whether they're obedient to what Jesus declared His Church to be in the first place.
Feelings are, in the end, a really crappy substitute for faith.
They're an even crappier substitute for obedience.

Which may be why, in so many nondenominational Protestant churches today, there's a constant striving to be bigger, more innovative, more flashy, more "sincere," and reach out to more people as fast and in as many media-savvy ways as possible.
Because if people are going to go to churches based on where they "feel" the best...
you gotta keep those good "feelings" coming...or you'll lose 'em.
And that's considered a tragedy of eternal proportions.

But is it? Is it, really?
Or is the tragedy actually the foundational reliance on "feelings" in the first place?
The Gospel does not say,
"You shall know the truth, and it'll make you FEEL awesome."
It doesn't say,
"You'll know the presence of the Spirit because you'll FEEL it."
Nor does it  say,
"I am with you to keep you FEELING GOOD 'til the end of the age."

It does say, "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free."
It does say, "By their fruits you shall know them."
And it does say, "And know that I am with you always." 

People sometimes get their noses out of joint when Catholics say that they belong to the true Faith. But the fact is, a Faith that relies on knowing what Jesus promised we would know has a head start on being the real thing...
...and it's a much, much more stable place to be than waiting to "feel" where we're supposed to be next.

Jesus wants us to find the real Faith and stay there.
By knowing.
By obeying.
No matter how, or what, we happen to FEEL throughout the ebb and flow of our lives.

So I would submit that looking to belong to any church based on "feelings" is not only a futile endeavor--it may, in fact, be playing with fire. 
Feelings...change.
Moods of individual church bodies with no authorities but themselves...change.
(And don't tell me, "Our authority is Scripture," or "Our authority is God Himself." If that were true, there wouldn't have to be 40,000 of you out there all disagreeing with each other.)

The fact is, human authorities in charge of churches, no matter how sincere...change.
They can change churches  from being places you're sure the Spirit is a-movin' in...to places that Jesus would call unrecognizable. (As in, "I never knew you.")
It happens.

But the teaching authority of the Holy Spirit doesn't change.
And it doesn't rely on feelings.

Which is why, IMHO, when it comes to faith--it's dangerous for US to rely on that, either.
That road, eventually, always ends up nowhere...and God doesn't want believers to be nowhere.
But the devil just loves it when we are.

So you have to wonder whose "feelings" you're actually following at that point, when your "feeling" has led you to stay away from church...for ANY reason.
And you have to wonder whose "feelings" you're honoring when you can't "find a church home" that "suits you."

News flash: Church isn't supposed to suit YOU. Your job is to belong to IT...not the other way around.
If that hurts your FEELINGS, it's not the Church that's at fault.
But it may just be your theology.


Thoughts?
Janny

Monday, September 03, 2012

Now, if Michigan had only SHOWN UP on Saturday....

sigh.
I guess that takes us out of the national title picture, huh? 

:-/

More later,
Janny

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enough With the "Issues," Already.

I thought I'd seen a peak on this twenty years ago. (20! Yipes!)
But, apparently, it's still an Important Thing to some authors.
That Important Thing being...the "issues" your books deal with.

If I had a dollar for every author who tried to convince me her novel was a serious book because it dealt with "issues" on some level...well, I probably wouldn't be able to retire on it, but I could at least buy dinner.
Probably a couple of times. If not more.
And I just wish we'd all Get Over this.

RWA went through this phase during that 20-year-ago period I talk about, to the point where there was a special mention during the awards ceremonies of what "issue" each of the RITA award nominees centered around. It was pretentious, embarrassing, and--mostly--a bore.
I classified that under an exaggerated idea of one's own importance  then, and I still do.

People, we're fiction writers. We make stuff up.
In the case of romance writers, we make stuff up that has to do with some of the "softer" emotions of life, albeit also with conflicts that need resolution, with some character growth, and with happy endings.
In many cases, what we're retelling bears more resemblance to a fairy tale than it does to anything real, gritty, or down in the trenches.
That's not a criticism, however.
That's a strength.
Why can't we just go with it?

Why are we seemingly ashamed that that's "all" we do?

Fiction writers serve a purpose on their own, without having to appropriate additional meanings, layers, or significances to their work.
Romance writers in particular serve a purpose on their own. Who doesn't love a love story?
Even guys who disavow "chick flicks," when cornered, have some sentiment in their souls.
And all kinds of people love happy endings.
That's because we, as human beings, need them. 

We always claim to be the generation who needs them "as never before," but let's not kid ourselves about that, either. Romance stories endure because human nature needs, craves, and is reassured by a happy ending. It needs the brightness, and it has for thousands of years. That's why many great romance stories are also the stuff of great literature. 

But even if "all" we're writing are paperback romances, murder mysteries, cozies, adventure stories, or thrillers that are here today and gone tomorrow...
If that's our calling...
That's still a perfectly good and valid reason to keep writing.
And it's still a perfectly good and honorable way to make a living.

Sheer enjoyment is highly underrated in today's society, and in certain circles of certain societies, it always was. But that hardly makes it unimportant.
Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, after all. Go on. Tell the Holy Spirit that that's not important. I want to be a fly on the wall when you do that. :-)

I don't think, when we get to our last judgment, God's going to ask us what "issues" we dealt with in our fiction...and burn off everything else.
I think God's going to ask us if we used our gift to its fullest--whatever we wrote.
And if we did, I think that's going to be just fine.
We won't have to justify, excuse, or apologize for that.
And we shouldn't now, either.

Please understand this. If you're writing a story that happens to come out of some trauma, some struggle, some issue, and you've delved into the dark sides or tough sides of things in the process--that's great, too. That's what great storytelling can do for us.
But that doesn't mean that in order to be great, storytelling has to have more to it than a simply wonderful yarn, well-told.
Putting yourself into the box of having to have an "issue" to make your stories "important" is just another way of handcuffing yourself--and in the process, dishonoring the craft and the stories God's giving you in the first place.

Don't do it.
Don't fall victim to the pressure.
You don't need to tell me an "issue story" to hook me. In fact, one of the main reasons I will AVOID certain books is because they're specifically presented as dealing with a specific theme, "issue," or aspect of society.

When I want social commentary, I'll read the op-ed pages.
I don't want that in my stories...at least not superimposed upon a tale that would be perfectly good without any added "weight" that's artificially applied or implied.
For the same reason I despise "study questions," I despise issue books.
If you want me to read yours, don't tell me about the issue.
If I'm meant to get that message, I'll get it.
If not, and I enjoy your story anyway....
...maybe it was a perfectly fine tale in and of itself.
Which is, after all, what we're supposed to be doing in the end, anyway.

So can we please get over this?
Before we stifle all the life--all the "juice," whimsy, and fun--out of our books in a mistaken effort to make them "important"?

What you do is already important enough, if you're telling the best stories you can, in a way that fires your blood and makes you excited to read and write every single day.
If you're not feeling this anymore, then stop telling stories. Period.
Don't try to make them "important" or "valuable" by layering on additional "relevance."
Because what the world definitely does NOT need is another "issue" novel.
EVER.

Thoughts?
Janny

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Best Part of Wakin' Up...

Live image
(image from savior.org)

Eucharistic Adoration. We've got it at Peter & Paul's on Wednesday mornings, and at St. Mary's on Fridays. If you've got that, and a good supply of coffee...you've got your morning covered. :-)

Janny

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anyone Know a Good (Cheap) Body Shop?

...because this morning or some morning this week, I'm going to have to go out and retape my Stratus together.

Yep. You heard that right.

We have a perfectly good 2004 Dodge Stratus in a lovely silver color...with a LARGE owie on its rear driver's side fender. We're talking shattered rear end, large holes, etc. Courtesy of an ex-boyfriend of my daughter's who backed it into one of those gas-station barricades. Made some five years ago.

Body work is expensive. We didn't have "expensive" in our budget then, and we still don't.
The ex-boyfriend promised to pay for it.
He disappeared shortly thereafter.

So this week, I get to take silver and gray duck tape and do my annual Retaping Of The Fender. The good news is, when I tape this sucker, it stays for a year. :-)

The bad news is...when and if we trade this car in eventually, that tape job will not substitute effectively for the real thing.
It is to sigh.

I just had to vent that. :-)

More later,
Janny