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Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Miss Making Shit Up

I miss making shit up.

I've been so busy with the anthology and the end of the year at school, I haven't written a word. The little notes scrawled in the margins of my notebook are becoming unmanageable. I hardly remember the thoughts that prompted them.

My desk calendar at work is much the same. This morning I looked down to see a note in tomorrow's block that says, "Be afraid. Be very afraid." What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that? I don't have a clue.

I miss writing. I miss thinking of people that don't exist and giving them life. I miss the fictional places I've made up in my head. But to start something new, or even to work on something unfinished is NOT a good idea in the days before finals start. I have real work to do. The kind that pays the bills, you know?

Tomorrow is Friday. I might make it. If I do, there's a chair overlooking the creek with my name on it. I think I can. I think I can.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What a Weekend!

Our anthology, Hot Summer Reads, came out this weekend. What a freaking rush. The chatter amongst my fellow authors was invigorating. The updates on how many downloads we got was inspiring. The tweeting was overwhelming. By the end, I was exhausted. And I can't wait to do it again.

By the end of the weekend, I reached my goal of having six ebooks on Amazon, one for each of the six categories on my website. I think it's a good start, and it will hold me for the next two weeks while my life is crazy.

Once things settle down, I'll figure out the right way to tweet and see how giving away a book for a couple of days works out.

One thing I've learned already is that my covers, for the most part, aren't working. I knew that naked bodies were the way to go, but for some of them, I couldn't do it. Eventually I'll get off my high horse and change them, but not right now. I'll do better in the future instead.

The other thing I've learned is that it isn't my best written stories that will sell. Again, I knew that would be true, but I'm pretty surprised to see that the story that is selling the best is the first one I ever wrote, Hurricane Season. I knew nothing about writing fiction, but I put a couple of perfect asses on the cover, and it's outselling all the others put together.

I'm pretty hopeful about this whole Amazon thing though. As long as I can nail down tweeting and make enough money to advertise on Facebook a bit, I may just make this work.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Making a change

In the summer of 2011, I started writing erotica. I started with true, but grossly exaggerated, and moved on to my first piece of fiction within weeks. I wrote a few stories, thinking they were the only ones I had in me, and then my real life took over, and I set the smut aside for a year and a half.

In the summer of 2013, I returned to writing. Skater's Waltz was churning in my brain for about two years. The idea of a woman skating naked was powerful, and I thought about it from a bunch of angles.  I thought of a bachelor party, hiring figure skating strippers. I thought of a skater at an early morning practice, all alone except for the Zamboni driver. Somehow I came up with the idea of a former competitive skater working out on a private, frozen pond, stripping while listening to a Jackyl song, Screwdriver.

That was my Literotica Nude Day 2013 contest entry. I felt good about it. It didn't win, but that was okay. What was important was that I was writing again. And I haven't stopped since.

Now I see stories everywhere I look. Every song gives me an idea. I overhear a sentence, and I see a plot forming as clearly as I saw the chick in Frozen building an ice castle. There's a lot going on in my brain.

My conflict comes from the fact that I'm weaning myself away from Literotica. I've enjoyed the feedback, the discussions, the friendships I've made. But the conflict I've found there has spoiled it for me. Too much posturing, grandstanding, fighting and backstabbing.

I'm just about to publish my first stories to Amazon. If I am giving up the feedback and friendship from Literotica, I need something in its place. I'm making the leap to trying to attain some monetary success from Amazon.

My biggest struggle is that my 20k word stories will never sell on Amazon. Erotica readers like shorties. I'm trying to embrace chopping my "babies" into shorter pieces of a series, but it hurts dammit. Sigh.

I have a plan, and hubby says I have to shut down my computer. I guess that's enough to get me through tonight, huh?

It ain't easy being a smut writer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do you know what it feels like to live with anxiety?

Do you know what it's like to live with anxiety? This is an explanation, not a plea for pity.

The month of May is a rough time for me. The rest of the year, I manage my anxiety with 150 mg of Zoloft, and it keeps me from going crazy. The middle of May sneaks up on me every year, and I don't realize it until the third day in a row that I have to take a Xanax. That's when I remember. It's time to up the dosage.

200 mg. I'm two days in, and it happens. The external stressors collaborate. Conspire to hit me from all angles.

My mother just texted me. Hubby's mad because I forgot to go to the Post Office. Kids are tired. Daughter is screaming that I just don't understand. Computer is retarded. Forgot to wash the black pants and white shirt for the band concert in two hours. I wish I hadn't left that comment on facebook. Can't get it to delete. Don't feel like fighting over my opinion on the girl that is suing the university I went to because she didn't pass. Have to ask permission to leave early on Friday. Food allergies on the field trip. Why won't you let me take honors classes, Mom. I know I can do it. Computer is retarded again. Didn't teach 3rd person to Spanish 1 yet. Science fair tomorrow. Field trip tomorrow. Field trip Friday. Field trip Monday. He doesn't know a lick of French, but his IEP accommodations are allowing him to pass. Where is that permission slip? CAN'T FUCKING SLEEP. Get those stories ready, PL. The deadline is looming. Band concert tonight. Late to bed. Kids are still exhausted. May 23. Computer still won't fucking work. Four finals to write. Only 17 days left. Don't miss the Memorial Day boat! Still didn't correct the speaking tests. Or the French 2 projects. So tired. Can't keep my eyes open. Parents call. The bell rings. Third period at the end of the day. Food allergies on the field trip. Email daughter's teacher. And the band teacher. Mom just texted. Never mind the last text. Why did I post that? Am I THAT parent?

It started as a butterfly, fluttering inside while I drove to work, obsessing over yesterday's stresses. And the facebook message. It's that "job interview" feeling, even though I've been working there for 20 years. My heart beats faster than necessary. My breathing is fast and shallow. My hands are cold. I chew the inside of my mouth, but slyly, so no one sees. I put on my mask of calm confidence. I know it fools people. I write in my notebook. It makes me look busy, efficient, in control, bitchy, mean.

I should take a Xanax. I know what this is and where it's going. But I don't. The anxiety is part of the punishment.

Here's where the anxiety takes over.

I scheduled my son's IEP meeting for 2:00 on Friday. It's usually my free period, but this week we have an inservice day. I see the vice principal in the cafeteria. I figured we'd have the afternoon to write final exams, but I ask permission anyway. Here's how that conversation went.

Me: Is there an agenda for Friday's inservice, or will we be working on finals?
VP: I don't know yet. (Insert tone of voice that he usually uses when he knows he has been "out of the loop.")
Me: I have this meeting at the elementary school. My son's IEP meeting? (I explain the situation.)
VP: I have no idea what's going on. (It's Wednesday afternoon. 48 hours in advance.)
Me: Can I arrange it so that if there's nothing scheduled, I'll just leave here at 1:50 on Friday?
VP: (Tone of voice changes to one I don't recognize.) No. I'll have to let you know later.
Me: O-K.

My RATIONAL mind knows all of the following:
1. The VP's "tone" has nothing to do with me. The principal doesn't respect him, and he's pissed off that no one has shared the agenda with him. He's tired of being left out of the loop until the principal dumps the shit jobs on him, and it makes him grouchy. I KNOW this.

2. The VP's mother is dying. He hasn't smiled in two weeks, and I've never seen him so miserable. His "tone" comes from inner turmoil, not my request to go to a meeting. I KNOW this.


My anxious brain, kicked into overdrive by the mere existence of the month of May, leads me down a different (but not straight) line of thinking.
Immediately, I am certain that the VP doesn't know if I can go because there is some sort of meeting on Friday afternoon, and it has to do with me. A parent called to complain, and I'll asked to justify my grades, or my policies, or my tests, or myself. My brain turns, trying to think of all the things I've done wrong. I come up with an impressive list.

·         A huge stack of papers to grade.
·         Couldn't check my junk mail yesterday because the Internet was down. Should have done it from home.
·         Forgot to log my conference day into the employee portal (although I did put my request through the learning plan site, and I requested a sub through the other site).
·         Bounced a check to the cafeteria last week because I wrote it from the wrong checking account.
·         Played Candy Crush during lunch duty.
·         Didn't remind the VP that I haven't scheduled my observation yet.
·         Wore jeans today, and it wasn't dress-down day.

And then the big one hits. THEY KNOW.

They know my super-secret alter ego. They know what kind of stories I write. In my excitement about our first eBook, somebody must have overheard me whispering about it, and now they know. They know, and they don't want me to know that they know because they don't want to give me time to cover my ass. THAT's why he can't give me permission to leave early. It's obvious.

My heart beats faster. My hands get colder. My mouth goes dry. The butterflies in my belly alight. Again, I think about taking a Xanax, but I deserve to feel this way. It's part of the punishment.

The Zoloft is working. I feel reason, like two hands, trying to push anxiety down where it belongs. Under the surface, like trying to dunk a volleyball under water.

The VP just left the cafeteria, so I go to the other teacher. The one that usually talks to the VP during lunch duty. "What's up with him?" I say.

"Illness. Not his. Somebody in his family."

"His mother," I say.

"Yeah. He's (eyebrows furrowed, searching for the right word) off."

I tell him about our conversation, leaving out the part about the anxiety. I look like I'm in control, so he thinks I have my shit together. People believe what I want them to believe. Control the facial expressions and they buy it.

"Yeah," he says, "he's off. Sometimes he won't even answer a direct question. He just walks away."

"Jeez." I feel sorry for him.

"And he says I'll let you know like a knee-jerk. Instead of saying yes or no, he automatically says, I'll let you know."

Which brings me back to the list of things my rational mind knows.

3. The VP does this to control a small part of his universe. The principal gives him little power, micromanages his every move until he dumps the shitty jobs on him. His wife probably does the same. His mother too. Saying I'll let you know lets him control a little part of my world, which fools him into thinking he's in control of his own. I understand this. I accept it. I feel bad for him for feeling that way.

But my hands are still cold. My heart still beats too fast. The butterflies have started a dance party in my stomach. What if there IS a meeting. What if they do know? What if…?

I should take a Xanax. Settle my symptoms—calm my heart, warm my hands, put the butterflies to sleep. My rational mind knows this too:

4. If I had taken a Xanax as soon as the butterflies were set free, as soon as that "job interview" feeling took hold, my thoughts would not have followed them into a swirling vortex of crazy thoughts. MY BRAIN WOULDN'T HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO FIND SOMETHING TO PIN THESE SYMPTOMS ON. Instead, I would have written this in my book:

Friday, May 15- Ask VP about leaving early (OR reschedule meeting).


And so, I wrote this instead. I feel better now. For now.

THAT is what is what it feels like to live with anxiety.