Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Everyone Wants to Write a Book

Well, maybe not "Everyone." But according to surveys published in the New York Times, USA Today, and other online forums between 2002 and 2016, over 80% of Americans dream of writing a book. Of course this doesn't address the other half of the question: Of this 80%, how many actually set out to do it? 

Regardless of the answer, there's this little sweetheart to contend with:

According to Utterances of an Overcrowded Mind
"Out of every 1,000 people that set out to write a book, only 30 actually finish. And if you then add on top of that the fact that only 20% of people who write a book actually publish it, this means only 6 people get published."
This would be a good time to note that the author of this post never cites any sources for this statistic, so it could be total hogwash. Nor did he mention whether "published" includes self-publishing and/or publishing through independent presses. 

So maybe this statistic needs tweaking (it definitely needs backing). Still, I tend to believe its basic premise: The majority of people here on planet Earth will not write a book in their lifetime. It's easy to forget this, because when I'm on social networking sites such as twitter, it feels like everyone and their mother is a writer. I'd estimate that at least 2,000 of my 'friends'/followers are published. But here is where I need to remind myself that I spent years deliberately building connections with published authors. These numbers do not reflect the world I physically live in day-by-day.

In real life, I do not have one single flesh-and-blood friend who is published. In fact, I work for the largest employer in my hometown with over 2,500 staff members. Of these staff members, there are exactly two who are published authors. A 6th grade teacher, Mr. A. (from one of our local elementary schools), and me. Two. Of over 2,500.

That's a more accurate representation of real life. 

So I guess the moral of the story is, I need to give myself permission to feel good over writing a book. Instead of wallowing in writer's guilt for being such a slow writer, for not cranking out my next book fast enough, for derailing from writing for months at a time, for being terrible at marketing the f*ing thing...why not simply feel damned good for being amongst the 3% (of a possibly bogus statistic) that actually finished writing a book in the first place?

So if you too have finished a manuscript (or are on the verge of doing so), repeat after me: 

Bite me self-doubt, I wrote a book.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goal for 2018: Be Boring

In the past two days I managed to tear down a huge wall of writer's block. This sucker was beefy and cost me several months of writing (though looking at my word count, we're probably talking closer to a year). The culprit, I think, has been all of the life changes my family has gone through. Not only have these changes been distracting (and even derailing), they've also been entertaining. Walls to paint, rooms to decorate, new places in my neighborhood to visit...I guess it sounds like a good thing, huh? I mean, a lot of people believe that the key to writing a lot is living an interesting and varied life. The thing is, I disagree. I think the key to writing a lot is stability, and even boredom. When I first started teaching, it was my dream to write a book, but I couldn't get anything down on paper. Teaching was too new, and it was taking every ounce of creative energy I possessed to create lessons. The job turned my life upside-down, and I was perpetually drained. It wasn't until 2011, after I had been teaching for 4 or 5 years, that I was settled enough in my job to finally write a book. Three years later, my novel was finally finished.
~ Gustave Flaubert

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon devotes an entire chapter to this principle. The first paragraph sums up his argument nicely:
I'm a boring guy with a nine-to-five job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog. That whole romantic image of the creative genius...running around...is played out. It's for the superhuman and the people who want to die young. The thing is: It takes a lot of energy to be creative. You don't have that energy if you waste it on other stuff (Kleon 119).
I think that's the key. I need to get to a place of consistency again. I need my life to take on a sort of dull harmony, so that boredom can set in, and I can take all of that pent up creative energy and purge it onto pages on my screen.

Thus, my New Year's Resolution for 2018 is to be bored.

(For the record, I think this resolution is better than the one I made in 2015, in which I vowed to be a hermit crab stuffed into a broken piece of bottle).

Seriously, 2017 was too exciting. And too unsettling. Boredom sounds amazing. Can I get me some of that, please?

Happy New Year, and may yours be more exciting than mine!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

New Everything

I feel like we just did some kind of life swap. It's exciting, but also unnerving. I get a little spooked when life throws too many changes at me, and even good stress is stress. I started mentally cataloguing the things that have changed in our lives recently, and taking smaller things out of the equation (such as the renovations we're making on our house, Trinity learning how to drive, etc.), here's what I'm trying to adjust to:

New Career: Not for me, but for Clint. He went from being a train conductor and engineer to a 7th grade math/science teacher. Though this has been a mostly positive change for our family, it has come with it's share of stress (having him buried in school work, his exhaustion as he copes with his new position, etc.).

New Home: You already know about this one. But one thing worth mentioning is that though we moved only 29 miles away, 9 miles of it is straight up a mountain, which means our new house in an entirely new climate.

New Car: Because of the above-mentioned new climate, we need a smaller vehicle with more maneuverability for narrow, curvy roads, yet something that can get us through the snow. I wanted a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. I adore Wranglers. There's just something so classic and timeless about them. Unfortunately the crash rating for the Unlimited is only a 2 out of 5 for the passenger (3 out of 5 for the driver). This was an instant deal breaker. So we ended up with this:

This is a 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk (crash rating 4 out of 5). It has everything on our wish list. It's a 4-wheel drive with a tight turn radius and has special settings for the snow. And yes, we got it in hyper green! I'm not a silver or beige car-person. Best part is we never had to go to a dealership. We found everything we wanted online, and the dealership came to us! We signed all of the paperwork at my work and they delivered us our car. It was pretty crazy showing up to work in a minivan and leaving in a brand new Renegade.

New Dog: This is Gus.

When we moved to the mountains, George (our German Shorthair Pointer) became an absolute terror. Clint's dad has always had a soft spot for George, so he decided to take him. Giving up George left us with only one dog, and Beans gets pretty lonely while we're at work. So we got Gus. It was Clint's idea to go with a Corgi again because of how much we loved Cricket (our old girl who died last year). So far Gus is too adorable for words.

New Diet: I haven't eaten meat since June 22. In less than two weeks I'll be at the half-year mark. I really want to tell you all the cliches such as "Becoming a vegetarian has changed my life!" and "I have more energy than I've ever had before!" but the latter is simply not true, and mostly I just miss meat. Trying to cope with all of these life changes without any comfort food kinda sucks. I've decided to give myself one cheat a month now for fish only, but this doesn't help much when what I really want is a McDonald's double cheeseburger.

New Perspective: I've touched upon this on past blog entries. Ever since the accident the idealist in me has been chipped away a little, and I view the world through a more cautious lens. It's not a bad thing, it's just different.

I think that covers the major "new" things. I did buy a new set of pajamas that I really like, but that's probably not worth its own heading.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Strawberry Flats

It's only the second day of December but I've already been bitten by the Christmas Bug. (That's a thing). I think it's this place. These cozy curving streets and towering trees, the chill in the air and the scent of smoke and pine, all of the festive lights...I love the mountains to a degree that's got to be annoying to others because the wonder of living here is all I want to talk about. But recognizing I have a problem is the first step to curing it, right? (Do I want to cure it?)

Here is our home, decorated for the first time. Well, decorated for the first time by us, at least.

Today Trinity baked chocolate-chip cookies and wrapped them in cellophane wrap with ribbon, while I made Christmas cards. We're going to give them to our neighbors tomorrow. Attack of the Christmas Bug.

Oh, our Amazon purchases are a wee bit out of control too.

So speaking of my obsession with the mountains, last weekend I went to our local library to research the history of our town, and discovered these pictures:

It turns out our town used to be known as "Strawberry Flats", due to berries that were grown in the surprisingly wide/open areas of the community in 1865, along with a successful strawberry farm homestead run by a Mr. Smithson from the 1870s-80s. Twenty-five weekend cabins were constructed in 1914, bringing in an influx of visitors. According to the article "Best Kept Secrets in the Mountain," there were finally enough full-time residents by 1916 to apply for a post office and their own zip-code. Residents requested the name "Strawberry" or "Strawberry Flats" for their town, but the name was rejected because another community in California was already using it. Strawberry residents were forced to accept their second choice, "Twin Peaks," named after two prominent peaks nearby. These peaks are still known today as "Strawberry Peak" and "Little Strawberry." The post office pictured above would have been the very first building to display the town's new official name of "Twin Peaks." It had to feel strange to the locals, calling their home by one name their whole lives, then having to switch to another.

Every town/city has a history, so I'm not sure why I'm so intrigued by this one. When I lived in Oak Creek (WI) for 18 months, I never cared about the town's history. Even my beloved desert hometown, though it's backstory is mildly interesting, has never captured my attention quite like Twin Peaks. Maybe it's the size of the town that makes a difference. My desert hometown has a growing population of over 90,000 residents, and is constantly blooming with yet another chain, whether it be a Von's or a Starbucks. There's nothing quaint or cozy about it; nothing that makes a person want to dig for a story. But Twin Peaks has only 1,500 residents (with very little room for growth due to its geography). That's about the same population as the middle-school I work for. Our local grocery store is family-owned and has been around since 1940. 

When you're living in a town this small, history seems to resonate from every corner, and somehow your presence there feels so much bigger.

Maybe eventually small-town living will get on my nerves. But for now I feel pretty dang grateful to live in this sweet little slice of mountain. I feel very certain that, someday, one of my novels will feature a small foggy town in the mountains...a town called "Strawberry Flats".

Sunday, November 19, 2017

One Thousand Paper Cranes

It's been exactly one month since the accident. We finally got our truck back from the shop on Friday. It's shocking how much damage one motorcycle can do to a 2500 4x4 Dodge Ram. Now the truck looks all shiny and new. Doesn't matter. I still see it the way it was before, with the Harley mangled and twisted into it; with the crushed-in metal and black marks where Kaleena's helmet hit the hood. It's hard for me to look at our truck. It's hard for me to sit in the passenger side, where I see Kaleena's body flying into the air again and again. If we had been driving our minivan that day, the Harley would have crashed through our windshield. I'd be dead. Trinity, right behind me, would have been severely injured. But luckily we were in a truck that was tall enough to take that enormous impact without hurting me or my family. "Luckily." Ha. These are things I should feel thankful about. Why can't I feel thankful about them? 

But it is getting better. I know I sound bitter. Maybe I'll always have these little seeds of resentment that pop up their ugly heads when I'm writing about it, but I really am getting better. I've felt the difference this week. And I've realized three things:

  1. I can be normal again. Life does go on. I can be happy.
  2. The fact that I get to keep living (when Kaleena doesn't) might always fuel embers of guilt inside of me. But maybe I need that. Guilt is the least I can do for her.
  3. Even though life goes on, even though I'm starting to find happy/silly-me again, I'm different inside. Kaleena's death did something to me, something I can't un-do. I've accepted this.
In memory of Kaleena, I've decided to make hundreds of paper cranes. 498 to be exact. Here are the details I posted on Facebook:

I didn't give context for this post. It was too personal. Regardless, several people expressed they wanted to help us reach our goal (I say "us" because once Trin found out I wanted to do this, she was vehement that she needed to do it too). So we came up with our plan. Trin and I, and others who've decided to help us, will simply make paper cranes in honor of people in the country whose lives were cut short by tragedy, being sure to write each person's name on the inside of the crane. On October 19, 2018, the one year anniversary of Kaleena's death, my family will set up a small memorial at the crash site with all of our cranes. At this time, the 1000th crane will be created and dedicated to the memory of Kaleena Porter.

I'm keeping this project on the quiet-side. I don't want this to be about me, I want it to be about her.

This will be the last post I write about Kaleena for a long while. I'm ready to start writing about normal things again. I started to write "normal, shallow things", but my heart just isn't into self-deprecating my life right now. Even if things seem stupid and unimportant, it's life. I'm lucky to have it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

When Everything Changes

For the record, everything below the dandelions was written a couple of weeks ago. I was in a bad place. I'm still struggling, but it's tempered compared to how I was feeling then. On the plus side, my family has been so amazing. The night this happened, I insisted that I didn't want to be around anyone. Yet my parents drove all the way up the mountain and showed up on my doorstep with my sister. They wrapped their arms around me and let me break down and cry. Shannon made everyone hot tea and they stayed until midnight. By the end of it all, they even managed to make me laugh. It's incredible how brightly light can shine in those dark moments. I love my family so much.

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Thursday evening, at about 4:45, I held a young woman's hand while she bled out onto the roadside. A woman who had crossed over onto oncoming traffic and was struck by our truck.

Here is the article in our local newspaper: Motorcyclist Killed in Head-on Hwy 173 Crash. An objective piece that gives the facts. What it doesn't say is how hard me and two kindhearted drivers tried to save her. It doesn't tell you how we pounded her chest with compressions, how we prayed over her, how we begged her to live. It doesn't tell you how her pulse was strong in the beginning, and her eyes flickered every time I yelled at her "Kaleena, fight! You can do this. FIGHT." Or how when we finally pulled off her helmet under the directions of the 911 operator, her brains spilled out onto the cold ground. It doesn't say how she never really had a chance, even though at the time, we thought she did. It doesn't tell you how we foolishly clung onto so much hope.

The article, in its mere 171 words, doesn't tell you that my daughter sat on a rock nearby as this was happening, huddled around her little brother, keeping his head under a blanket so he wouldn't see.  It doesn't tell you about the good samaritan who directed traffic for two hours straight and kept bringing us bottles of water. It doesn't tell you about the dozen other motorcyclists who were riding alongside Kaleena--beautiful woman with even more beautiful souls, who clung to her as she took her dying breaths and clung to each other when she died, who set aside their own remorse to hug me and Clint and the kids over and over again, taking my face into their hands and saying "It's not your fault. It's not your fault." Even though there were a dozen selfish decisions I made that led to us being in that exact place at that exact time. It doesn't tell you that my family had to sit in the desert with Kaleena's broken body for over four hours. It doesn't tell you that my 17 year old daughter is now deathly afraid to drive. Or that I can't see a motorcyclist on the road now without losing my breath.

Kaleena was a young woman who simply made a mistake. One small miscalculation cost her her life. Did you know that, for every casualty that happens on the roads, there's someone on the other end of it? There's the person whose life was cut short, and there's the person who took it. It seems so obvious, but I never knew that. I never fucking knew.

The article doesn't tell you, as it gives its list of facts, that in one moment, everything changes. Everything. Changes.

"Kindness" - The last thing posted on Kaleena's blog.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cover Reveal: Winter's Siren

We're all moved into our new home! Well, minus our farm animals. Poor chickens are still living in the desert until we can find time to build them their new coop. Anyway, sometime in the next few days weeks oh who the hell knows, I'll write a post about our demonic escrow and our grueling move. 

Until then, how about a short and sweet cover reveal by none other than Krystal Jane Ruin? I have to say, this one is stunning.

Back of the Book Blurb

For the last five years, Fawn has been the star soprano of a secluded opera house, forced to sing for her kidnapper.

His daughter, Devi, waits patiently in the shadows, hiding a face so horrible that no one who’s seen it will look at it again.

As Fawn plots her escape, whispers spread through the shaded corridors of dark sorcery, warning her that she must flee by the next opening night.

But when Fawn draws close to the exit, it’s Devi who’s standing in her way, leading Fawn to suspect that Devi has something to gain if she fails.

A dark reimagining of Swan Lake

November 1 

Wanna take a sneak peak? Click HERE to read Chapter One.

And don't forget to click HERE to add to Goodreads.

Cover design by the amazing Najla Qamber

Didn't I tell you this one is gorgeous? I can't wait to dive in! If you have yet to read a novel written by Krystal, be sure you check out her other novel No Rest for the Wicked while you're waiting for this little sweetheart to be released.

About the Author

Krystal Jane Ruin is an author of supernatural and paranormal fiction living in the Tennessee Valley. She's a lover of crossword puzzles, chai tea, Hello Kitty, pandas of all kinds, and Sudoku. She's also a full time crazy person and a proud member of House Slytherin. For updates from Krystal, visit here: