Open Journal: In Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss

“Should I be doing this?”

Will Scarlet glanced over to the bed from whatever imaginary thing had his attention. “Doing what?”

Danielle sighed. “Reading this book. Listening to this music station. Wearing these particular layers of hooded garments. ‘Doing this.’”

“Why not?” Allyn-a-Dale wondered, half-concealed behind the sunny window seat’s framing curtain, wholly invisible to anyone who didn’t happen to hold him in their imagination. “What else would you be doing otherwise?”

“I don’t know. A million things. Fixing lunch. Taking a walk. Practicing my lute repertoire. Going through my latest draft of #CamelotWIP. Working on a blog post.”

Will’s vision went momentarily meta. “Well, that last one’s actually happening now. But it never really matters what you’re doing, does it, Dani-babe? You always feel you should be doing something else.”

“Two to five something elses,” Danielle corrected. “Too much to do, not enough time or energy or selves to see it done. What I need is a squad of Deshipley clones.”

Allyn’s lips twitched faintly upward. “So they could all moan over each hour as somehow wasted?”

Danielle snorted a laugh. “On rotation, yes.”

“No time is wasted in the pursuit of your bliss,” Will declared.

Dubious, Allyn asked, “Does she have a bliss?”

“Nobody has a bliss, Allyn,” Will said patiently. “Which is why it must be pursued. Now, Danielle, let’s approach this rationally, since I hear that’s a thing people do. Reading a YA novel from the library whilst smooth jazz plays: Does this spark joy?”

Does It Spark Joy

Danielle arched a brow at him. “Not sure the Marie Kondo tidying method translates to the organization of leisure time.”

“Sure it does! Or it should,” Will maintained. “Chores and day jobs aside, if you’re not having fun with a thing, why keep it up? This is your weekend. Your de-stress time.”

“But trying to de-stress is stressful,” Danielle fretted.

Will sighed voluminously. “Darling, I love you, but ugh.”

“One moment at a time, then,” said Allyn. “Danielle, what do you want to do? Not ‘today’, not ‘this afternoon’, not ‘with your life’; just right this moment.”

“This moment? I want… to review my German.”

“Really?” said Will, in honest surprise. “But you haven’t touched your German lessons on Duolingo since… well, since you switched to Italian, which you haven’t touched in ages, either. Why German? Why now?”

“I don’t know.” Danielle shrugged. “I miss it. Not just living in Germany, but reaching to internalize the language. …Not that I ever succeeded,” she brooded.

“There’s success, and there’s SUCCESS,” said Will.

Allyn asked, “Which is which?”

“Easy. The all-caps one is the version that comes with money and legacy and whatnot. Whereas little successes include taking baby steps to challenge or improve yourself or whatever. Example: When everything stresses you out, but you keep looking for different ways to cope and semi-enjoy your existence anyway.” His smile for Danielle was vividly fond. “That’s a little success you achieve on the regular. So go ahead and brush up on your German. And when that stops sparking your joy, go back to your book, or get lunch, or change into a super stylin’ outfit that no one outside will probably get to see. You’re in the driver’s seat. Pick a direction and punch it!” Will took a break from his non-stop pep talk to breathe and look hopeful. “Feeling inspired, yet?”

“…As opposed to merely caught up in a fictional conversation that could have come straight out of ‘Inspired’?” said Allyn.

“Yes and no,” said Danielle. “The struggle goes on, but I need these reminders. Like, frequently. So thank you for delivering this one in a way that met my nagging need to come up with a blog post.”

Will Scarlet winked. “It’s what we do, babe.”

Allyn smiled in agreement. “Call it our little success.”

In Which I Arrive at Fame and the Big Four-Double-Oh

Today’s post, ladies and gentlemen and assorted rogues, is my 400th on the Ever On Word blog! A very special occasion! …for which I had no special event planned. (I mean, I have a giveaway going on that you should totally enter because it’s awesome, but that’s incidental.) So I thought this would be a fine time to tell you about an even more special event that took place a few weeks back: My first ever live, in-home author interview with two young girls named Mira and Caroline.

It’s Not What You Know. It’s Who the People Who Know People You Know…Know.

Gotta love having friends in high places – or in high fashion, in the case of a designer friend o’ the family who was fantastic enough to talk me up to some folks who work at a local bookstore. And those folks, in turn, somehow ended up giving my name to a school with a couple of girls looking for an author to interview.

Once I was done dancing giddily around the house to a little song that went “AAAAAAUGH, bookstore people are recommending me to schools! Children have been conned into thinking I’m famous! Shiny new levels of legitimacy, unlocked!” (sing along if you know this one), I e-mailed the school to express my eager delight at the prospect of accommodating the girls in their pursuit of firsthand authorial info.

Be the Awesomeness You Want to See in the World.

Upon receipt of my number, Mira phoned me on behalf of herself and her colleague to arrange a date and time suitable to come a-calling. (Don’t tell her I said so, but she was so adorable, it turned my voice to sugar. I will never sound nicer than when talking to children innocent by virtue of having yet to be proved guilty of obnoxiousness.)

I was a little nervous about letting the kids and whoever ferried them hither into my house (i.e., my bubble of protection against agonizing social situations). But, Come on, I told myself, think of the Awesome Points it would have added to your childhood if you’d gotten to sit down for a chat with a not-entirely-unfamous author in his/her home! Put that way, I saw no compelling reason to say no.

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and a Little Bit of Fiction Thrown In. (Also, Hair.)

My interviewers, aged 9 and 8, were relentless in their interrogation, frequently throwing out questions so fast, I could scarcely spit out half an answer! But among the questions I was able to address were…

“When did you start writing?” (Since I was younger than you, kiddos.)

“When did you decide to be an author?” (Not ‘til age 16 or so.)

“When you were a kid, what did you want to be?” (All sorts of things. Farmer, librarian, actress…)

“How many books have you written?” (I lost count ages ago.)

“How long did it take you to publish your first book?” (Somewhere around 8 years.)

“What is your favorite book you’ve written?” (Let’s pretend my upcoming “Outlaws of Avalon ” trilogy counts as one and say that.)

“What is your favorite book to read?” (Robin McKinley’s “Outlaws of Sherwood”. Mad love for the outlaws!)

“Do you like having curly hair?” (So long as it’s dry. Can’t do a thing with it, when wet.)

“Do you live here?” (Yeah, seemed easier to meet you in my own home than to kick somebody else out of theirs to use as our interview space for the morning.)

“What was your sister’s name, again?” (Dianne. *we all wave at Dianne, who’s fiddling with some electronic device in the next room*)

The gorgeous headshot that inspired the unforeseen line of questioning.
The gorgeous headshot that inspired the unforeseen line of questioning.

“Why did she shave her head?” (I don’t know. Dianne, why did you shave your head? *Dianne mumbles her hair’s journey over the years – blonde, shaved, Mohawk, the works*)

“When she dyed her hair blonde, did it grow blonde, or grow black?” (*Dianne and I guide the girls toward a greater understanding of hair dye*)

“How tall was her Mohawk?” (*Dianne holds her hand above her head for visual reference*)

“Is she wearing a hat?” (You’re looking right at her, Mira dear. You tell me. *we agree she is wearing a hat*)

“Why is she wearing a hat?” (*Dianne is bewildered past the point of surety*)

Along the way, I also learned much about Caroline’s reading tastes (she particularly enjoys mysteries and Roald Dahl’s “Matilda”), writing goals (among other things, there’s a mystery story of her own in the works), where she keeps what she calls “documentation” on her family (in her backpack pocket next to the forks, of course), and the perils of hiring very tall boys to play Peter Pan (harness issues).

But probably the moment that touched my heart most was when the girls shared their early concern that an author celebrity like myself might have been too important and busy to reply to an e-mail request for an interview with a couple of kids.

No, little dear ones. I am not (and hope I never shall be) too important and busy for the likes of you.

You Know You’ve Arrived When…

You Know You've Arrived When...

…Or actually, maybe you never do. I used to think there was a single line separating here from there, ambition from success, me from the famous author I intend to be. But where is that line? When you’ve written your first book? When an agent or publisher accepts it? When it’s bound between covers and available for sale? When a stranger buys a copy? When two little strangers, curious and precocious, come to your house looking to you for some answers on the recommendation of friends of a friend?

Looking backward and ahead from where I stand, there is no one line. There’s a whole sidewalk of them, marking out a trail of irregular squares, with exciting landmarks and milestones along the way I hadn’t even known to look for.

I have arrived, and am arriving, and shall someday arrive, this 400th blog post just one more line crossed along the way.

Thank You Note from Caroline and Mira

“Swap” or “20 Questions with Tirzah!”

You all remember Tirzah, right? My bestie and partner in literary crime? If the name’s not ringing a bell for you, worry not; you’ll be hearing plenty from her today, just as her blog’s audience will be hearing plenty from me. Ever On Word and The Ink Caster are hosting an interview “exchange of one thing for another”! 20 questions mostly more to do with writing than not, 2 writing buddies who had way too much fun answering them. Read on below for Tirzah’s responses, and then zip on over to her place to compare and contrast my thoughts!

The notorious Ink Caster, still at large.

1) What’s one of the first stories you remember writing? — “The Ugly Gril with Pretty Hair”, a one-page chick-lit complete with envy, judgment, revenge, and crayon stick figures. I believe I was under the misconception that “girl” was pronounced “gril”, at the time, and spelled accordingly.

2) Name a book you read that you wish you’d written. — Oh man, I’m torn between the “Trickster” books by Tamora Pierce and “Prince of Foxes” by Samuel Shellabarger. The first two are fantasy intrigue, masterfully executed by my favorite author. The latter is a rich and captivating historical fiction—intrigue again. Both of them have charming, sneaky main characters. Those of you who know anything about my Syawn will not be shocked at these choices.

3) Name someone else’s character you wish you’d created. — Oh, there are so many characters out there I revel in knowing… But if I must narrow it down… I wish I’d come up with Darken Rahl, a villain in the “Sword of Truth” series. (NOT THE SHOW, PEOPLE, just the books.) I have never feared any villain more than that blonde, blue-eyed bi-polar maniac of a wizard ruler.

4) Name a character you wish you were.Butler, from “Artemis Fowl”. A sad, world-shattering truth: I will never be a 6’6” Eurasian bodyguard with an Irish accent, a Sig Sauer P220, and a loyalty to my charge that goes beyond the grave. I will never be the epitome of understated efficiency. I can only shave my head, learn martial arts, wear a Kevlar vest under my suit and hope for the best.

5) Who is your favorite side character that you wrote? (Because the main characters are always hogging the love.) — Hmmn. I have to say Harn; a surprisingly friendly fellow in a race of notoriously unfriendly giants. A widower with a death wish and a soft gallantry in his pursuit of vengeance. A poet and songster whose verses flow as easily to my fingertips as his character.

6) Who is your favorite character that I wrote? — Gant-o’-the-Lute. I’ve been in love with him for the last year-and-a-half, as none who know me could escape noticing. A minstrel arrayed in skiest blues, a lutenist with a voice that calls to mind flaming golden bells and sunbirds. A lad with an unconsciously commanding nature and the capricious carelessness of a breeze. I’ve only written him, what, several poems, a slew of love notes, and 15,000 word fan fic? Yes, suffice it to say, he is my favorite.

7) What were your early thoughts of me? — It was National Novel Writing Month. You’d spotted me on a forum and, intrigued, asked to read my work as it came; I was gratified and nervous. Then you sent me your writing, and I remember thinking “Oh—dear, I didn’t agree to read your work, too. Gah, a first draft in a headlong word-scramble like this is bound to be horri…ble…” my mental protests trailed out as I read, and realized that, good Lord, this was gold. So yes, early thoughts: Unexpectedly great writer.

8) If you had to describe Stranger Than Truth to a stranger in three sentences, how in the world would you? — An over-the-phone RPG club with 50-ish members, four of which are on our plane of reality, the rest of which are awesome people we would refer to as “fictional”. We act out hypothetical dramas, deal with real drama, ask poll questions, giggle over nonsense, develop improv skills and a deeper understanding of our characters without even trying, and talk about feelings (to the horror of the fellows… and a couple of the chicks, for that matter). Two sentences, HA!

9) You get to have a monument erected in the middle of San Francisco! Describe it! — I think I would have to pick the statue “Life” from “Faith of the Fallen”: mankind, as the powerful creators our Powerful Creator meant us to be.

10) Who’s your favorite poet? — The great creator of “MacPherson’s Rant”, “Scots Wha Hae”, “Loch Lomond”, “Ye Banks and Braes”, and many more of my favorite auld Scottish songs. Robert Burns groupie forever!

11) Name some specific someone out there that you’d really love to love your book. (Fellow author, celebrity, friend/family member, real or fictional, living or dead…) — Tamora Pierce. I think I would cry with pleasure if she loved my book; she is one of my greatest influences, and though I never try to emulate her, her fingerprints are fairly evident throughout my work. Heck, I’d love to have a book of mine signed by her!

12) What are your thoughts on realism in fantasy? — While I hate it when magic has no explanation and few rules, I can put up with it in the work of others. I think the most important piece of realism in fantasy is this: humanity. Culture variation, sure, but if you’ve got humans or human-based (or anthropomorphic) characters, they must act like humans, both as individuals and as a society.

13) What are your thoughts on vampire-infested chick lit? — Eh. In spite of vampiric pheromones or what have you, it doesn’t draw me in. Dracula is more up my alley. Though after hearing one-too-many intriguing excerpts from Roh Morgon’s “Watcher”, I had to pick it up… and now I await the sequel as eagerly as any fan. As for “Twilight” — I may touch the series with a ten-foot pole, once the craze has faded.

14) What is your deep, underlying desire for why you want to be a successful author? (Not just “money/fame/etc.”, but “why-y-y money/fame/etc.”.) — It’s fairly simple, when I dig to the heart of it. Writing is what I love to do. If I can make a career of it, then why would I do anything else? Not as glamorous as wanting to make an impact on the world (which I do) or immortalize myself in the written word (which I do) or get fan letters from ecstatic readers (which I do), but when you boil down the stock this is what you get: I want to do what I love to do, for the rest of my life.

15) When would you consider yourself to be a successful author? — Now and never. Success comes in degrees, some of which I have attained, some of which I will never gain, because I will always be setting the bar a little higher than I can jump. The bar “write a novel to your satisfaction” has been leapt; I now adjust it to “novel is published and in the market”. Ever upward (or On Word)!

16) If you couldn’t write fantasy, what would you write instead? — Gritty lit-fic, probably action-adventure. I plan to write historical fiction anyway, so I’d do that. As it stands, I shy away from sci-fi, but if you took away my fantasy, that’d be the best way to scratch my world-building itch.

17) If you couldn’t be a writer at all, what would your dream job be? — Oh, I’d be bound to pursue business of some sort. I wouldn’t mind being a high-powered executive in the corporate world… or a bodyguard! Or a cop! Or a mercenary!

18) Popcorn or potato chips? — Depends on the flavor, quality, and arbitrary preference. Kettle sea salt and vinegar chips over microwaved popcorn any day, but if it’s Lays vs. a tub of freshly-popped, buttery, cheese-powdered theatre popcorn, popcorn wins.

19) Top hats or capes? — Well dang, what top-hatted be-caped villain is making me choose? Well, I don’t have a top hat (though I would dearly like one), and I get along. I’m not so sure I would survive if you snatched away my cape and cloaks; such are fashion necessities. The cape is the little black dress for geeks.

20) “Writing” is to “Tirzah” as…? — “Expansive gestures” are to “Storytellers”, as “Boasting” is to “Braggarts”, as “Lovebird” is to “Lovebird”.

~ Thank you, my lovely! If anyone out there has any more questions for Tirzah, leave ’em in the comments — or over at her blog — and I’ll bug her until she answers. (: