Wednesday, April 8, 2015

That's Life

Photo of my daughter and Dale at the Garden Grill in EPCOT last year. The characters go above and beyond for us. Or in this case, below and behind.

While watching a documentary on Frank Sinatra, a snippet of him performing the classic song, That's Life, resonated with me. In particular, the part about some people enjoying stomping on other people's dreams. If you are a writer, you know darned well what I mean. We have to develop thick skins. Because of all the rejection. So many venues for others to tell us our babies are ugly. Family members, friends, critique groups, agents, editors, peers and if we're lucky, readers.

I began writing at the turn of the century, back in the day of the birth of eBooks. We authors took such ridicule back then, eBooks weren't real. If we didn't have books in brick and mortar stores, we weren't authors. Well, it took a long, long time, but you know eBooks are real and so are their authors.

Anyhow, I've always written the books I want to read. The stories I need to tell. I've had a unique life, good and bad and I bring from it my singular perspective. My heroines aren't 'kick ass' from page one. They are real women, with issues and emotions who grow when life kicks them. I won't write linear tales with expected arcs. I get off on tangents and sub plots and streams of consciousness that really do all matter to the whole and always come together at the end. Of course, critique partners and agents and editors don't embrace this. Nor do some readers and reviewers. But there are people out there who get me. So I write for you, crazy, complicated, dark and silly souls like mine.

Anyhow, after publishing a dozen novels and short stories, with small presses, and winning three industry awards, I left two first drafts on hold and pursued a career as an EMT in a satellite hospital emergency room. That lasted about 18 months. It was Christmastime. I was always driving in the dark to or from work on icy roads. To a high stress job with all Type A coworkers. Understaffed. My mother died. I'd just closed my father's estate and deposited it into her account two weeks prior. My family was home and I missed them. I married well enough, so I didn't need to work. So I stopped. I needed them. I also stopped volunteering with a rescue squad.

I took my rights back to most of my work and self-published. I tried writing again, but my old critique group wouldn't allow me to rejoin. They rejected me. My peers. My friends. Reason:  I never took their advice. Yes, I did. But only about 10% of it. Because they didn't understand what I was doing with my stories. And they certainly didn't like them. This hurt. I also stopped attending the Virginia chapters of the Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime (a women's mystery writing organization).

Well, my kids finished college. My son moved hundreds of miles away. My daughter works nights and sleeps during the day. My husband travels for work. Our old dog with special needs passed. So it's me and my daughter's rambunctious new dog. I'm bored. I'm very lonely. I want a job. I want somewhere to go each day. People to interact with. To help.  A purpose. A reason to get up and put on a nice outfit or uniform. But I don't want to be an essential employee or a night shifter again. I'd like to be able to leave the job at the office/workplace and not get called back in an emergency. I'd like to stay home when the road conditions are treacherous. I crave human interaction.

But I don't want a job like I last had. They paid the EMTs less than the housekeeping staff. I didn't like inserting Foley catheters or cleansing dead bodies. But you see it also bugged me that every job I've had since I've become a mother has been lower paying than the health insurance claims analyst job I had before kids. 25 years ago. If we hadn't moved so far away, I'd be back there if they'd take me.

Then I also have a shameful dread that I won't be able to pass a background check for any new job because I don't have any local personal references. All of my friends and fun neighbors have moved away. I'd hoped to make new ones at the gym, but after three years, I only had a few women to make occasional small talk with. No outside the gym relationships. I know I'm weird. But I'd really love to have friends. Someone to call or have over for tea.

I still have a few dear writing friends, two in Pennsylvania, one in North Carolina, who encourage me to write. I have started a new story. Working title: My Sister the Leprechaun. It's an autobiography. Slipstream creative non-fiction. Paranormal. Women's Fiction. You get the idea. My beautiful non-smoking sister, Beth, passed two Thanksgivings ago. From lung cancer. She hid it from me. I didn't know until her smoker husband contacted me a week before the end.

I've had a really hard time dealing with this unexpected void. She was supposed to take care of me. There were so many things I wanted to do with her. Well, I figured I'd write a story where I could do all the things I didn't get to. But I started dreaming about her. And she wasn't acting nice. She wasn't acting like she was in life. The sweetest person I've ever known. So it occurred to me. She might be a leprechaun. And she's not happy about it. She is in purgatory in Ireland. Because of our dad. But I'm not sure what the old boy is up to yet. But there you have it. My story start.

If I can suck it up and shut down all the nay-saying voices of my past writing encounters, I will write her story. And I'll dust off the two old first drafts I have, a romance and a medical thriller. I'll rewrite them into something entertaining. And if I'm not enjoying writing again, then in September, after my annual trip to Disney World with my daughter, I'll try to find a job. Something I really enjoy. Or a new volunteer cause I can find passion for.

Because after all, That's Life.