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What Writers Don’t Want to Hear

I was Wasting time the other day while trying to clear “writer’s block.” So of course, I turned to the convenient Internet where I learned that 1) there’s no such thing as “writer’s block” and 2) many people are much more focused than I am, and 3) I was wasting time surfing the Internet.

I also made a list of statements I hated to hear from other writers:

  1. I never use an outline–the plot just comes to me.
  2. The Universe sends me my inspiration & I run with it.
  3. My characters lead the way–they tell me what to write down.
  4. I finish a first draft in 3 months.
  5. I never have to edit–it comes out right the first time (or second time).
  6. I sold my first book after fewer than 10 queries.
  7. Other writers ask me to review their books (all the time).
  8. It took me 5 years to write my book.
  9. It took me 3 months to write my book and 5 to get it published.

Just–uggg…

National Western Stock Show

The 116th Annual National Western Stock Show returned this year (Jan 8-23). https://nationalwestern.com/

I have a fondness for this stock show & rodeo (among many other events). I’m taking my daughter and grand kids to the working dog agility show (much more PG than the bull-riding.)

As someone who grew up on a farm (that wished to be a much larger cattle ranch), I went with my dad to the National Western. We put on our western best, which wasn’t so much western as “farm country.” I went with either my sister or brother, I don’t remember which. We were able to wander around the stock yards and go to a couple cattle auctions. I do not remember if my dad bought anything there.

I caught a peek of a rodeo in all its glory. We couldn’t afford to go, and so I decided that rodeos were for “rich people.”

I’ve been to a few now, and would recommend them over a circus any day.

I’m not immune to the controversy over rodeos and stock shows and treatment of animals (especially the bulls and the calf roping). However, strides have been made in managing the treatment of these animals, as well as the safety of the cowboys.

I was working in downtown Denver years ago and was able to see the annual “cattle drive” through downtown, where cowboys, dogs and others guide a small herd of bovines through the “concrete jungle” of downtown Denver.

On an aside, my oldest daughter, who is a President of Morris Media, who work with PBR (Professional Bull Riding), was able to be on Closing Bell for the New York Stock Exchange. Exciting!

Tina Battock,lower left at Closing Bell of NYSE, January 2022.

A Very Covid Christmas

Like many families we were forced to celebrate our Christmas & Hanukkah season at somewhat of a distance, and it turned out better than I expected.

One daughter tested positive for Covid a couple days before Christmas, so we made the decision to hold a “non-covid” event via distant gift exchange and a Zoom call to open.

We met outdoors to exchange gifts, each family piling them into their respective cars (overflowing, I might add). This included handing out food that was meant for the events that we weren’t able to have in person.

The Zoom call to watch gift opening was, for me, even more fun than doing it in person because we were forced to see each person opening their gifts rather than have the event turn into a whirlwind of flying ribbon and paper.

I’m hoping that this pandemic wanes in the coming year, but scientists (yes, I believe in science) believe it may become an “endemic” and thus we will need to live with it.

Vaccines work. I and other family members were exposed and didn’t get sick. We were all vaccinated (including the one who tested positive and got a mild case). Breakthrough cases happen, but hospitalizations after vaccinations are rare.

That’s my opinion, of course. And, I’m sticking to it. Happy New Year!

Let it Snow in Denver

We go to Maui every year (pardon the humble brag), and so check the Maui news often. Yesterday, the headline was: Snow forecast for Maui, but not Denver.

Denver once welcomed its first snow at least by Halloween. 2021 (and 2020) has turned out to be predictably unpredictable. No snow. And, it’s December 7th.

I do read climate crisis news and watch talking heads on news (trying to wean off), and believe that we humans are having a negative impact on our climate. I (and my family) try to do what we can by eliminating waste, considering alternate fuels, using UBER (does that help?) and other things.

How do we know if climate change is causing the distressing lack of snow in Colorado? We won’t, I guess, but hope for snow soon, especially for the ski areas. And, of course, we want enough to fill up Lake Powell again and see the Colorado River rise again.

Knowing Not Enough, Knowing Too Much

I am officially putting myself on a “news diet” for my own mental health.

I have a self-diagnosed addiction to news (both trivial and serious). I’ve known it for years, going back to when I looked forward to reading the daily newspaper, interspersed with “junk magazines” that told me more than I wanted to know about who was who and who was doing what in the world of celebrities. The latter only serves to make me feel inferior (or old and out of it).

I first was reading news to try to inform myself about politics and the world.

This last few years though, as we all know, we have different biases for what defines “news.” We can switch between CNN and FOX and other news sites and get entirely different ideas of what constitutes news. It’s as if we are being bullied as a nation (and torn apart) by the very outlets that at one time served to inform, and only inform.

I know what my beliefs are by now, and so don’t need to watch any “talking head” shows that only serve to make me anxious or worried about our future. I know how I’m going to vote, so when the time comes I’ll educate myself on candidates and issues.

I also don’t need to read comments that only serve to bully others or bully readers of comments.

So, I’m limiting news to once a day (hopefully some kind of nightly news that isn’t biases one way or the other.

I don’t think I know it all, but I plan on knowing less unless I “need to know.”

War Between Generations?

While procrastinating during my “designation writing hours” in the morning, I happened upon an internet article decrying “the horrible foods Baby Boomers refuse to let go of.”

I confess to being a Baby Boomer, but not to eating or enjoying some of the foods on the list. Some, I still eat, like canned tuna (and, horrors, tuna casserole), canned soup, t.v. dinners (although now, isn’t it just a frozen meal?), and I admit to occasionally cooking with Velveeta. Oh, and I occasionally still make a meatloaf.

I don’t eat Jello much any more, despise Spam (unless eaten in Hawaii). canned meat spreads, fried liver (only made it once), Cool Aid, soda (don’t drink it much). fish sticks.

I’ll only say that food tastes and fads come and go, and they will come and go during Millennial’s lifetimes. Some of it has to do with availability of certain foods (Sushi, for instance was unheard of in the west at least , & hence we Boomers ended up eating fish sticks and canned tuna). Some of it was marketing. What better way to sell canned soup than to provide convenient recipes to women struggling to come up with meals for hungry families? Transportation of foods is better now, travel is more common, production is better for the most part.

That brings me to the point that we should be on the same team, we Boomers and Millennials. We all have something to bring to the metaphorical “table.”

Maybe we should agree or disagree on things like how to spend the government’s money (social programs via Democrats, or weapons and border security via Republicans), women’s rights, jobs, the state of our nation.

On a separate but related note, this very article (that must’ve gotten under my skin more than I thought), stated that Millennials, unlike Boomers, care about the environment, about people other than themselves. I have to say: 1975, Greenpeace Save the Whales (they saved a lot), Save the Trees (ditto), The Peace Corp (yikes, they now require Master’s Degrees to join), rebellion against the Viet Nam War, women’s rights, etc. etc.

Our generations may be more alike than we think?

Granted, a safer discussion territory is food. I seem to take refuge in food myself….I’m going to go make a tuna casserole.

Things That Are Not a Mystery To Me

I was asked why I don’t like horror movies and stories, since I like mysteries. There’s a huge difference in the genres to me. While there is an element of mystery in every book and every movie (that what keeps us watching and reading), horror many times involves suspending disbelief about things like zombies and witches and other supernatural creatures. Or, if not that, sheer violence and extreme fear. Not for me.

A little more subtle, is the difference in true-life stories and fiction. I’m drawn to documentaries, particularly those that have an air of mystery. Not so much true crime and mystery that I’ve lived to or watched happen live on television. That’s why I’m not much interested in watching the up-coming movie about former President Clinton and his drama with Monica Lewinsky. Nor did I watch much about 9-11 on the 20th anniversary of that disaster. I lived through it, watched almost every waking minute for a couple of months. I will never forget, but do not want to relive it.

I think we’re all attracted to different kinds of stories, ghost stories, murder mysteries, domestic drama, women-in-jeopardy. There are not rights or wrongs.

Squirrels & Sunflowers

Today I’m seeing symbolism in the lives of squirrels. Yes, squirrels. They have double-meaning for me. In Denver, we have many squirrels and in Denver there are two types of people; those who think squirrels are cute, and those who think squirrels are rats with furry tails. We are the former.

We actually (secretly) put out food for the squirrels that skillfully use our wooden fence as a balance beam, scoot across to the front yard, where they successfully strip our oak tree from all acorns, and take a bite out of each green apple and throw them down to the ground. They seem to be incapable of waiting until they are ripe. We’d gladly share.

The other meaning, aside from the literal meaning of a squirrel (cute animal or rat with furry tail), is that to “squirrel” is to divert from the intended path, to fail to sit with butt in chair and work on whatever project I’ve set some liquid goal for myself. I’m expert at “squirreling”, which is really just a rat with furry tail way of saying “procrastinating.” I even have a sticky note on my bulletin board instructing, “No Squirrels.”

Which brings me to the sunflowers. I’ve grown some giant zebra stripe sunflowers this year, which grew to astronomical heights (above our house roof). I eagerly watched the flower buds begin to grow, and they promised to be over a foot in diameter. However, now when I go check them in the morning, the flowers are missing, taken most likely by a squirrel.

If only they knew that if they waited, the payoff would be much greater for both of us; i could have a beautiful flower to look at and they could have a large sunflower with hundreds of seeds.

Nature provides us with lessons of patience and procrastination.

History & Mystery

What to read? What to write?

I’ve struggled (well, that’s a strong word) all my life to narrow down my reading and writing interests. When I first became a reader at an early age, it was Nancy Drew mysteries (because that was available in the library?), Little Women, and my favorite L ‘Engle’s A Wrinkle in time. Three decidedly different genres: mystery, SyFy and somewhat romance.

As I got older, I read what was on the best sellers list, with a few literary novels thrown in.

Now I read mostly mystery, because that’s what I’m aiming to write.

But lately I’ve found myself drawn more and more to history, Colorado, British and world history.

What I don’t want to do is to abandoned the mystery genre because “It’s too hard.” Is it, or is all writing hard?

I’ve decided that I can meld mystery & history, meanwhile I won’t try to add any more genres (distractions) to the list.

I think with writing as with life, it’s hard to narrow down our interests. What should we focus on? What are we good at? Where do our passions lie?

Can We Pick Our Battles Better?

I don’t usually get political–too busy trying to learn how to write novels & non-fiction. But, some political “noise” becomes the circle on the Venn Diagram that intersects both my belief system and my health and my family’s health.

How did we come to battle over whether we should be forced to wear a mask (for our health and the health of others), whether our children should be forced to wear a mask to school to protect themselves and their teachers, and whether or not we should be required (forced?) to be vaccinated against Covid19 in order to stop it from evolving into even more terrifying variants?

I get that some people cannot or will not get vaccinated. At least think about whether you want to win the battle, but lose the war. And, on whose behalf are you fighting the battle not to wear a mask or be vaccinated?

That’s all. Back to reading about writing.

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