Monday, February 18, 2013

The Year of Living Hedonistically

Well, it's almost over. My year of being 40. Soon I will turn 41 and fade off into the obscurity of smaller numbers and middle-aged overweight housewifery until 50 looms large. At which point I'll be an older overweight wifey chick.

And what a year it's been. I'm not saying there have been huge dramatic events in my life. There haven't. But in the past year, I've:

  • Written a book. Yes, a real, full-length one.
  • Spent more than 3 months not eating anything with wheat, eggs, or dairy in it. While at the same time ingesting large amounts of potato chips and gummy bears.
  • Seen a naturopath - for my son and for myself - and tried a variety of supplements, some with wonky results for my son.
  • Gotten addicted to too many games again online. Words With Friends. Gems With Friends. Candy Crush Saga. CastleVille (but I gave that one up!). Time sucks, all of them. 
  • Gone from working out fairly regularly to - well - not at all. 
  • Dived face-first back into terrible junk food after giving up the giving up diet. And I can't seem to pull myself out of it. 

See? Not much. The book is cool. The rest relates, as much of my life does, to food and weight and (lack of) movement. The common denominator for most of my experiences/emotions/entanglements these days. 

The hard part is, right now I don't care. And it's pretty impossible to change something if you don't care. I feel so focused on this new writing life - which is cool, fun, thrilling, terrifying, and something I actually haven't been doing much of in the last month since finishing the book draft - that it feels O.K. to let all that pesky concern over eating well and exercising fall to the wayside. 

Hey, people, I never said I was logical. At least not in this area. 

So, yeah, as I approach 41 I'm thinking I need to give up this hedonistic, epicurean approach to life. Because it's gonna come back to bite me in my huge ass. My steady diet of chocolate may seem relatively harmless now, especially since my weight, ironically, has stayed about the same since going back on the gluten (but let's not mention the 20 pounds I put back on after losing them last year. Darn things must have GPS.). But it isn't, and I WILL pay for it. 
So, please, unwilling, addicted brain: please consider trying again in small changes to improve your diet and get this body to move. I'm 40. I'm not dead. But I will be if I don't stop living in the fantasy world that what my physical body looks like is irrelevant now that I'm "old" and living in a world of fictional characters. 

And pardon the incoherency, but it's 4 in the morning, I'm getting sick, and my editing skills are therefore non-existent. Or at least unwilling to come out and play right now. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Round 2

Just a quick dash in today to express my excitement at making it to round 2 of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest. They winnowed the original 10,000 entries down to 2,000 - 400 each across 5 categories - by reading each entrant's pitch. Apparently they liked mine enough to shoot me through to the next test, which is that they read a 3000-5000 word excerpt of each of the remaining 2,000 works, and then cut those down to the top 500 overall.

It's doubtful I will make it to round 3, but I'm O.K. with that. The thrill of having made it past the first hurdle is huge - as is the joy that more than fifty FB friends "liked" that I achieved this today. Thanks, peeps. I feel loved!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


It's a Sunday morning. Hubby is still sleeping. Son is on an overnight with the grandparents. And my daughter is sitting next to me in the same chair in which I am sitting, playing on the iPad and, as she puts it, "snuggling me."

We're each doing our own thing, she Drawing Something, and me now crafting a blog post after repeated failures to pass level 102 in Candy Crush Saga. But it's lovely to be sitting here with my daughter, my 6 year old daughter, who laughs with delight at the antics on the screen, and still wants to snuggle with her mommy.

She's such a daddy's girl that it's nice to get to have her all to myself right now. I am content on this Sunday morning, squished into this chair with my little mini me next to me. And content is good.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Self Censorship

When I write, I write as if I have an audience. As if someone else is reading these words other than me. Which, of course, with this being a blog, is the intent.

But I've always done this, long before social media and online interactions made it so easy. I've actually always enjoyed writing more when I knew there was the possibility that someone would read it. That's why journaling never holds my interest for long - what's the point in writing just to myself, if the words are only for me? Isn't the point of writing the attempt at communication? (Clearly this is not true for everyone - but it is for me.)

I have, of course, written diaries and journal entries in the past. Some of them I still have - my memories of my first serious love affair in college, my chronicling of my descent into bulimia and my railings against, well, what it seemed to mean to be a young woman in America in the 1990's and how I could never live up to other people's expectations. Others I've discarded along the way.

But mostly I write as if you're reading it, whoever you are. What an egocentric thought, really, to expect that others want to hear what I have to say. But isn't that part of the human condition? The desire to make contact with, to communicate with, to be connected with others? We are all souls alone in our bodies and our minds, only able to relate to others through effort and intent, and it seems for most of us - extroverted or introverted - that we all need that. In varying degrees, but we all do. Like some famous person said, "No man is an island."

Here's the thing. I read someone else's blog today. I read someone else's poem on their blog. And it was visceral and intense and honest and intimate, so much so that part of me felt uncomfortable reading it, even as the other part marveled over the author's adeptness with words, her amazing ability to express succinctly, in just a few lines, a myriad of emotions and experiences. Why was I uncomfortable? Because it was about sex. Not sex in general, not someone else's sex life, but about hers. And I felt I should run away.

This actually cracked me up, seeing as how I want to write torrid romance novels, true bodice rippers. I don't want to write them because of the sex, but because of the love stories. But in romance novels, those stories are usually quite graphically linked with getting naked and doing stuff. And I'll admit, in a well-written romance novel, the steam adds to the story.

Apparently it's a lot easier for me to read detailed smut than to write it. I discovered that recently while drafting my first novel. Granted, one of the reasons I didn't want a lot of gory details when it came to the main character's interactions with two of the other characters is because they are not the character with whom she is supposed to end up. And I'm enough of a romance junkie to still buy into the idea of there being "the one and only," in romantic fiction and in life (I love you, hubby!). So part of it was a conscious decision, but part of it was...

... Knowing that people who know me would be reading it. They would know I wrote those words. And it makes me embarrassed. Like somehow this 40 year old overweight wife and mother of two kids shouldn't know anything about sex, much less write about it like that (of course the having had two kids part suggests I knew something at one point at least, right?). It's one thing to read romance novels on my own, it's another to have friends and family gawking at the words I've sketched on the page. And I know at least some of them would have issues with it: one friend told me my book got a little too graphic for her (which surprised me, because others complained it was too tame) and my mother-in-law told me she was surprised I swore in the book, because I don't swear in real life. I reminded her *I* wasn't swearing; the character was. But I could tell she was still kind of shocked and probably faintly disapproving.

Granted, those two people are probably not my intended audience, and they read my work, this romance novel draft, only because they know me and want to support me. They probably wouldn't pick it up in the bookstore were it ever on the shelf. And that's fine.  

But here's the rub. When I was in my twenties, I wrote some fairly erotic poems. That felt O.K. It doesn't feel O.K. in my forties. Somewhere along the way I've censored myself. Don't worry, I'm not about to bust out into verbal porn here, but it made me feel... sad... today to realize I've circumscribed myself in that way, that I feel there are things I just can't do, or at least can't write about it, because it won't match my idea of who I think, and who I think everything else thinks, I am as a person.

Isn't that the point of writing fiction? That it, even if influenced and informed by the author's personal life, is FICTION? I am not my characters. And that is a distinction I need to remember. Writing romance novels doesn't reveal anything about me personally when it comes to my sex life, anyway. Nor does it reveal anything about anybody else's. I am not my characters. It's O.K. to have them do things, behave in certain ways, take certain actions, that I would never do in real life. It's O.K.

But that self-censoring runs deep. Why? Is it from my desire to people-please? To have people like me and think of me as a good girl? Because I want to present a certain image? Maybe. People compliment me fairly often on being so honest, so real... whatever that means. And while I get that to some extent, because I AM willing to reveal some of my battles, some of my struggles, there's a whole other side to me that I think I keep hidden and censor - from myself, and from others (and no, I'm not talking sex now - not that I am going to give you deets on that even if you wanted them). Just... stuff I feel might not be acceptable, I guess.

So here's to bravery. Here's to being willing to write in ways and about things that other people may not like. I'm not saying I will. I'm just saying I can if I want to.

Uh, maybe. As soon as I stop blushing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Today I give thanks. I give thanks for central heat. Even as I'm sitting here in my cool basement with my (naked) feet freezing, I can't help but think of how much colder they would be without the furnace chugging away in the background, working to bring the upstairs temperature up to 70 degrees.

Isn't central heat an amazing thing? Think about it. Think about how people had to live for hundreds and thousands of years before central heat. Sure, if you were living in a warm climate, no biggie. But the Inuit? The Russians? The Vikings? No wonder they were grumpy - they were probably freezing their tuckusses off!

I can't imagine living in cold climate with only fire to warm me. Sure, you can heat up a brick to warm your feet, or maybe manage a hot water bottle. You can stoke up the wood in the fireplace to a roaring blaze - but that will heat a limited area for a limited time, and frankly make the rest of the space that's further removed from the fire feel even colder.

So I'm assuming people were cold. It's a big assumption. I don't live in 19th century England or 16th century Minnesota or Siberia at any given time period. I can only guess what it was like, and how one dealt with the vicissitudes of weather sans heat (and AC!). Looking at 19th century British fashion plates, the dresses shown for winter don't look all that much heavier than the summer ones. I suppose they often used wool, that they wore more layers, etc. But were they COLD?

I was reminded again of the blessings of central heat, which I admittedly take for granted, while hawking Girl Scout cookies with my daughter this weekend. We were in the entry vestibule of a grocery store, not even fully outside - although the doors were constantly opening and closing, so it wasn't all that much protection from the elements. And while it was a cold day, especially for Virginia, it was 30 degrees - which was a good 10 degrees warmer than the highs of the previous week.

Still, I froze. Dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt with a wool-blend sweater, followed by my medium-weight Lands' End winter coat, gloves, and a hat. And I was freezing. Granted, I DID stupidly wear my tennis shoes - which, I realized, are actually running shoes, which meant they had just mesh across the toes. Hardly insulated. It was, therefore, mostly the toes that were screaming for warmth.

Three hours we stood there. That's it. Just three hours, and I was fairly warmly dressed, and I was SO DARN COLD. What would it be like to be in England in 1814, when it was so cold for so long that the Thames river froze and people held fairs on it? Would one EVER feel warm? Could fireplaces adequately heat a home? And when you had to travel - how did you stay warm? Even sitting in a carriage I would imagine still to be quite chilly, not to mention being the drivers or footmen who had to ride outside, exposed to everything.

I'm determined in my next novel to write about this cold. I suppose I should look in period sources to see if there is much reference to it, but my modern-day woman who ends up in 1812 is going to notice some major differences. And until last week, I hadn't really thought about the fact that one main one would be heat (I HAD thought about AC).

In fact, isn't it amazing trying to think through all of the changes of the past two hundred years? It's rather mind-boggling to be trying to puzzle out what would strike a time-traveller most. What would be easiest to accept? What most difficult? How do those play into a work of romantic fiction - I want a semblance of reality and probably WILL address the toileting issue, but truthfully, how much do readers want to know about that? And how much will I really be able to learn about toilet habits, anyway? I'm not sure they were the subject of many treatises. (I've already discovered there were special chamber pots ladies' maids could slip under a lady's dress - can you imagine being the maid having to hold the pot while the lady tinkled - or worse?)

It's amazing to think about all the differences in the ability to provide for a general sense of comfort - many great, some probably not so great. Toilets. Running water. Heated water. Central heat. A/C. Maxi pads.

Yeah, there are tons more, but you get the picture.

In the meantime, I'm going up to find some socks. After I take a hot shower. And then head out on errands in my heated horseless carriage to procure ready-made foods of an amazing amount and variety. I might even consider stopping at a restaurant that hands you food through a window.

Can you imagine THAT in 1812?