So Why Am I Crying?

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I’ve been working as a freelance writer since 2011. It’s hard work because every article has to be perfect by the AP Stylebook. It’s frustrating because you can’t please some clients, and because you have to spend years on short, low-paying articles, and it seems that you’re just wasting your time.

I kept working. I kept taking little articles for websites for exterminators, parking lot paving companies, and companies that install walk-in bathtubs. I’m not denigrating that work. The business owners needed well-written content to bring in clients, and the clients needed to learn about the businesses. And I feel good about writing anything that helps seniors or people with disabilities, because I’ve spent so much of my life caring for older relatives with physical problems or Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I applied for hundreds of jobs through websites, the local newspaper, and just walking into businesses. I’m 44. I’ve been out of the workforce since 2004. My ex-husband wouldn’t allow me to work. I know that’s the main reason that I can’t even get my foot in the door for an interview.

I kept freelancing, and over the last six months, I’ve gotten two major clients and one small but regular client. My two major clients are repped by the same editor. After I wrote, oh, 20 articles for him, he offered to double my rate of pay if I would agree to be available for 20-30 articles a month. He asked if he could add me to a team of writers for a particular subjects because he wants his best writers on that team. He sent me eight more articles today.

I can work from home. I can work whenever I want as long as I meet the deadline. There are disadvantages to working at home: you don’t have co-workers, you get used to living in your PJs, you get interrupted by family members. But there are advantages: no commute, no annoying co-workers, no meetings.

Freelance writing is feast or famine. Even with these great clients, I sometimes go weeks without work. If you freelance, you have save your money. Your “boss” tells you that a client has shut down their ad campaign. You get depressed. Then one morning you wake up to a week’s worth of work, and the client has decided to restart their campaign.

I looked at all the orders, and I know that the client likes my work, and I know that they will buy all my work, and I started crying. Not because of the time the work will take (two-four hours per article) but what if I fail this time? What if I do all the work, and the client decides they don’t like something?

What if I screw it up and lose the client?

There’s no job security these days, but I’m in a particularly tenuous position. Many, many days I wish that I could just stand behind a cash register in a department store eight hours a day.

That’s not my job. I applied for this job, got it, and I’m building a career. I just have to keep believing that I can do it.

Ann Wilson, Queen, and Writing

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I have been laid up for three days with the worst chest cold. We had two weeks of spring temperatures, everything started pollinating, and now we’re under a winter storm warning. Last night I was so delirious that I had a dream about being at a music festival in Central Park in the 70s and Queen and Heart were playing. Roger kept trying to hook up with Ann, but she had a baby and blew him off to go back to the hotel after the show. I dream about Queen a lot.

ANYWAY.

I have been struggling with my vampire books and struggling to write a story about a witch without any vampires sticking their noses in, and I got stuck in my all of this has been for nothing, you can’t salvage the vampire manuscripts, you can’t write about anything but vampires, you’re screwed.

I woke up at two in the morning, and I was so weak that I couldn’t sit up or cough. Thank goodness my mother was still up, and that she had the strength to pull me into a sitting position. I spent the next three hours coughing, you know, that burning, croupy cough. In between periods of coughing, I kept thinking, I really want to write. I know how to fix all the things.

I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink in 12 hours, but I wanted to write.

Now I’m up, and I’ve figured out my problems. The last third of book one of The Empire State Vamps is weak. I rushed through it. I have to rewrite it.

I have a good beginning for a story about fairies and changelings, set in the present. I think that’s my strongest story in progress. I need to do some plotting and outlining.

I have a good idea for a story about a witch. I have a good beginning. I don’t want to lose my momentum, but I have got to get this vampire book ready. I thought it was ready to query. It’s not. I was right for not just “putting it out there,” as people kept pushing me to do.

I have a lot of work to do and I’m still sick and very tired, and it’s frustrating. But I did start reading a new book last night that hooked me immediately (it’s about books and writing): The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s the perfect book for a wintry weekend of getting my strength back. And more resting means more thinking about stories, plotting, and dreaming about Queen.

Resolved

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I have three New Year’s resolutions:

Stop worrying about offending people who don’t/wouldn’t like the real me.

Spend more time studying and practicing my religion.

Start drawing again every day.

The first encompasses the other two. People have always attacked me or mocked me for my interest in Wicca, to the point that I tried to fit myself into Christianity or at least more “acceptable” belief systems that Wicca. I’m done being mocked. Spending more time studying, practicing, and drawing will mean less wasted time online. It will all help my anxiety and OCD and depression, and it will help my arthritis and hand tremor.

More time practicing my religion will naturally lead to healthier eating by eating fresh, seasonal foods.

Focus on study and practice, I hope, will help with my OCD. I do not expect a cure. I do think that Wicca will help me learn to turn my thoughts to positive things and start to banish these intrusive thoughts that keep me from functioning as well as I could.

I’ve been drawing fairies and goddesses since I was in high school. Over the past couple of years, I’ve bought art supplies but not used them. Just as I’ve bought books and not read them. I’ve felt like an old doll cast into a corner, out of date, out of chances, immobile.

But I’m not a doll (although I’m really fucking tired of whiny losers getting their undergarments in wads over my dolls) and I can start to live again in 2017, and I plan to.

I feel like re-starting that story I started in high school, I feel like taking my camera for a long drive.

I feel like stretching and listening to my joints creak back into movement.

The Mangers

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She had been on the donkey’s back for so long, but she was a small girl, excluding her huge belly, so they made it to Bethlehem. Her back hurt. The ride had been agonizing towards the end, but she bit her lips bloody, veiled her face against the cold, and said nothing. He walked beside her with the donkey’s lead loose in his hand. The poor thing wasn’t going to bolt. She had cared for it since she was old enough to do chores.

She and Joseph had been engaged since her fourteenth birthday. He was thirty. He was sweet and handsome, even with his prematurely graying beard. It ran in his family, he said. He had built a bridal chest for her, but they had to leave it behind. The census gave them an excuse to disappear. She had packed only a tiny cedar box that he made for her trinkets, her earrings, a pair of carved wood dolls.

Joseph stopped walking. She woke from her half-sleep. She had been dreaming of a fortune-teller who foretold a journey and a separation. The fortune-teller was real, and the prediction. She started her menses last year. After the first one, when she came back into society, a woman walked boldly up to her at the well and gave her a story. She asked nothing in return. She wore an amulet that was a symbol of one of the old goddesses. Mary kept the conversation in her heart, with many other things.

Joseph went from inn to inn and came back each time with the same despairing look. Mary tried to sit up straight. Her back ached dreadfully, and she was thirsty. The donkey made little huffing noises of distress.

“We can sleep in that stable,” Joseph said, pointing across the roadway. It was a large stable, and bright. Then Mary Salome came out, carrying a lantern. She had traveled with them, walking the entire way. She was a midwife.

“It’s clean,” Mary Salome said. “And warm. There’s plenty of hay, and the well in sight.”

Mary slid down from the donkey into Joseph’s arms, and was immediately embarrassed. She had been riding for so long that her water ran down her legs. She looked up at Mary Salome, but she was looking at Joseph.

“It’s time,” the midwife said, and Mary understood, but suddenly she was bent double, and Joseph picked her up and carried her into the stable. The animal smell was not too bad. The innkeeper must have had it cleaned when he ran out of rooms.

Because she had been in labor for most of a day, the birth went quickly. Mary Salome was expert even though she was still officially an apprentice. “Your boy,” she said, holding up the child so that Mary, resting in a bed of hay, could see him. But then there was more pain, waves, like the sea, and Joseph with his fine, slender hands was almost fumbling with the boy when Mary Salome held up another baby. This one had red hair. This one was a girl.

A tabby cat with a new litter of kittens had occupied one manger. Mary nursed both babies. Joseph went to the inn and bought bread, lentils, and salted fish. Mary Salome talked quietly to Mary about the twins. When Joseph came back with the food, Mary Salome was gone, on foot, with the red-haired twin, Mary was weeping, and it was thirty years until Mary and Joseph saw the girl again, grown into a woman, troubled, driven nearly mad searching for her twin.

(A bit of explanation: the midwife didn’t steal the twin. It was part of the old woman’s prophecy, that the twin would have to be hidden for her protection, so that she wouldn’t be harmed when people turned against Jesus. It was just an odd thought that came to me on Christmas Eve–what if Jesus was so close to Mary Magdalene because she was his twin sister?)

The Best Place to Be

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I think the best place to be right now is in a creative community of writers, readers, photographers, and artists.

Some creatives avoid talking politics online entirely. Some touch on the subject in a neutral manner. Some are talking more politics than anything else right now, while others are trying to strike a balance between political talk and subjects that don’t induce panic attacks. I’ve tried to cut back on the politics but there are just so many things. So many many terrible things.

Ever since Sarah Palin blundered into our collective conscious in 2007, the “educated people are really the dumb ones” movement has spread like an infection in a bad sci-fi movie. You don’t have to go to college to be educated, especially right now when there’s so much knowledge at your fingertips. Instead of spending 12 hours a day on Twitter ranting, people could actually learn something . . . if they were so inclined. Me, I only have an Associates Degree in Paralegal Technology from the local community college. I attended a private college for a year and a half, but I had to drop out due to cuts to financial aid. Luckily, the library was my second home since I was a small child and I went to work there immediately after I graduated from high school. I read. About everything. I still do. I believe in learning for your entire life. No one reaches a point where there’s nothing left they need to know. No one on the face of the entire planet.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with my life.” Every single thing in the world has something to do with my life and everyone else’s life. Sharing Facebook posts and retweeting and forwarding emails isn’t learning. Want to learn something? Go to the library.

Creatives are lifelong learners. It’s comforting to be surrounded with people who all have that and expressing themselves in common. Every creative speaks the same thing in their own language.

Yes, Twitter has an ugly side, a side that repulses every person of conscience, but there are so many good people there. I’ve met many new people over the last week. As long as the creative community remains vital, I feel safer.

Excerpt, Love Lies Bleeding

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“I’ve already eaten. I’m just going to have another glass of wine. She’d like coffee,” he said to the waitress.

We sat in companionable silence. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the lights of the bookstore go dark. “Oh, shit,” I said. “What time is it?”

“After eight,” he replied. “Your friend is going home, so now you’re alone with me. You aren’t going to turn into a mouse or a pumpkin or some other damned thing and leave me sitting here with nothing in my hands but a glass slipper, are you?”

I laughed. “No, I’m afraid that you’re stuck with plain old me.”

Stephen King hates the thesaurus. Who the hell cares?

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Not me.

I use multiple thesauri every day. I use them for work (hey, you sell the same damn chair 20 ways without some suggestions) and I use them for writing fiction. And I don’t care what Stephen King thinks.

I wrote this post because I’m seeing a new STEPHEN KING RULE OF WRITING RTd unto a Stephen King character death on Twitter: “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

Bullshit.

Let’s say that you want to describe something in a scene as “glowing,” but that doesn’t quite work in your scene. Or you have another word on the edge of your fingertips. So you go to the thesaurus and find the words florid, vibrant, and lustrous. And one of them is the word you want. It’s the right word for your work.

Writers have their methods and to each writer, that method becomes a personal rule. Unfortunately, sometimes it becomes a quote bandied about by aspiring writers and makes other aspiring writers feel UNNERVED. I came up with that one all on my own.

There are exceptions to every writing rule.

And if it worries you that much, well, no one knows that you consulted a thesaurus unless you tell them.