Did Ya Miss Me?

a long absence semi-explained and a brief tribute to Bowie.

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Egad! Five months! I must have really been busy, eh?

Well, kind of. We’re working on getting the house ready to sell – always a nightmare, but more so when a barfy, senile, half-blind cat and Dr. Sheldon Cooper are involved. To be honest, Dr. Cooper has been pretty low-maintenance these days (KNOCK WOOD VERY, VERY LOUDLY). It’s almost like he’s growing up or something…

I promise to get back to blogging more frequently, if only because we’ve put the house selling on hold until the fall, when Dr. Cooper will be (gulp) living in HIS OWN APARTMENT near the campus of the college he’s attending in the fall. Right now, it seems like said college has some meeting or orientation or pep rally every five minutes, so it’s been hard for any of us to focus on anything other than college in the Fall.

There’s also a trip to Toronto/Stratford/Niagara coming up soon. I’d be excited about it if it didn’t involve flying there.

I’ll also be back soon with some things to say about the horrible, horrible Castle conclusion and the sad kluster*ck of bad publicity that surrounded it – and what it says about the value placed (or not placed) on female stars of shows. (Yes, I’m also looking at you Sleepy Hollow.)

Last but not least, I am still trying to find the words to say how incredibly sad and broken up I am about the death of David Bowie. It’s embarrassing how sad it makes me. I never met the man, only saw him live in concert once, but he was truly an idol for me. When I heard the news on the morning of his death, I sat down and burst into tears as if my mom had just died again. I have played so much David Bowie music lately, that even Dr. Cooper (he who would prefer listening to the King’s College Choir) is starting to appreciate the guy’s oeuvre.

In fact, there’s nothing I can say that doesn’t pay tribute to him half as well as this does:

A Time to Rest

sabbatical-mug-300x260The word “sabbatical” comes from the same root as the word “sabbath.” Sabbatical means “of the sabbath,” and Sabbath means “rest.” Which is what I am going to be doing for at least the remainder of this year, possibly longer.

I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen. Really. My mom had some stories I wrote at the age of maybe ten, all about Ollie the Elephant and my imaginary friend Paula. (Not to be confused with the later real-life friend also known as Paula.) For decades, I wrote nonfiction in the form of newspaper and magazine articles and press releases for WORK and I wrote fiction for FUN.

Around ten years ago, I decided to get serious about fiction. I just wanted to see if I could finish a full-length novel. I did. Then I wanted to see if I could sell it to a big-name publisher. I didn’t. Then I decided it would be nice even to sell it to a small publisher. I did. But the experience with the small publisher was disillusioning to say the least — three changes of editor in the course of editing, a last-minute publication date that allowed no advance time for promotion and a poor job of promoting it once it was published. I started a second book and pitched it to a very big-name publisher  when they held a writing contest. As originally written, the book was a spy adventure with a touch of romance called The Capri Caper. An editor at Very Big Name Publishing took a liking and convinced me to take the characters out of that plot and turn it into a steamy romance. I did. After months of round-the-clock writing and revising to their specifications, Very Big Name Publisher ultimately rejected the novel anyway and I wound up going back to the less-than-satisfying small publisher for an even less satisfying editorial experience than I’d had the first time around.

Then the self-publishing wave hit. I decided it might be cool to get my rights to both books back, get new editors, new book covers and do my own promo. It was fun. The books actually made a bit of money this time. One even made the Amazon Best-Seller List for a little while.

Since that time, about three years ago now, I’ve written and published a couple of short stories and contributed to a cookbook. I’ve started at least three different “chick lit” style novels and failed to complete any of them.

Meanwhile, my nonfiction writing career has picked up enormously in the last year — I’ve been writing half of every issue of a local glossy mag that gets distributed in a major newspaper. I’ve also done a fair amount of PR work for a couple of local clients.

And for the last year, I’ve been struggling to help my son, Dr. Sheldon Cooper as he is called on this blog, transition to adulthood. It is going very so-so at this point. He is still a good kid, still mostly happy, BUT…. And the list of “buts” keeps growing: he rejected offers from two very good local colleges for a major he seemed very sure about in favor of going to community college. Once there he changed his major four times in the first semester until a counselor pretty much ordered him to put down “General Studies” and his father ordered him to not change it again at all if he wants us to continue footing the bill. He has drifted away from a lot of  hobbies he had in high school and refuses to consider even a minor in Music, his one area of true giftedness that could help pay his tuition in the form of scholarships, not to mention leading to a fulfilling career in something he loves and at which he excels. He’s developed a serious and unexpected case of stage fright.

Frankly, life with Dr. Cooper has ever been a roller coaster, but it’s always a worry when the car takes a downhill turn, as it seems to be doing this year. I foresee another season wherein I spend almost every free minute getting him organized, boosting his spirits, cheering him out of his dark moments. A season filled with visits to doctors, counselors, coaches, psychologists, acupuncturists, even priests, trying to get him to Focus! Cheer up! Have confidence! It is an exhausting, time-consuming place to be and it is a place I come back to with him every few years. Many parents of special needs kids or kids with developmental challenges know this place as “Holland,” from the Emily Perle Kingsley essay “Welcome to Holland.” And indeed, Holland is not a bad place to be. But we wouldn’t want to, say, let him take the wrong train entirely and wind up leaving Holland for Outer Slobovia or something even less appealing.

So I will put aside much of my self again and make one last push to try and help him acquire the confidence, the optimism, and the social skills he will need to succeed at an independent life without me someday. I will fit that around the newspaper, magazine  and PR writing that pays so much better than novel writing now (although ironically it was the opposite just three years ago). I will fit it around that stuff because it’s what I do. The Boy Who Was Autistic eventually graduated from a mainstream private high school with a 3.6 GPA and a bright future. I believe he can still find that future, but he needs a few more years of coaxing and coaching and maybe even a little hand-holding to do so.

But the coaxing and coaching of Dr. Cooper takes a lot of time and mental energy away from things like novel-writing. And then there are all the market changes in the novel-writing world. Self-publishing was fun, but I’m pretty burnt out on the whole phenomenon now. The market is flooded with new self-pubbed authors who have no professional background whatsoever in writing or editing and just hope to hit it rich “like that 50 Shades writer.” Unfortunately, the market is definitely not flooded with an equal influx of new readers, leading to entire sets of full-length books being sold for as little as $0.99. You can see, then, why novel-writing isn’t even on the back burner for me right now. It’s in the freezer, cats and kitties. A freezer in the basement. In the back. And the stairs to the basement are missing.

The bottom line, cats and kitties, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now is: no new chick noir novel in 2015. Probably not in 2016 either. Even if I get back to novel writing at some point in the future, I suspect it won’t be chick lit. Maybe it will be horror or steampunk or my old first love, science fiction. Maybe it will be a weepy women’s novel or an edgy action thriller. There’s a good chance it will be something for kids or teens, since I’m reading and enjoying more and more of that stuff these days.  But all that is in the vague future. Right now, the focus is on Dr. Cooper and my freelance business.

There will probably be book review posts in the future, and there may be some short stories and another cookbook contribution coming in the next year, but I don’t see a novel coming soon. And trying to pretend I even want to write another one right now has become another thing just making me tired and stressing me out. And so this post: a confession and an acclamation: Lynn Reynolds the novelist is on sabbatical.

All Apologies

I know, I know. I took that little break in Lent and found seventeen other ways to waste time, and I’ve barely been back here since. I warned you about my attention issues, didn’t I? But I’m back and this week I’m starting a new revolving series of posts:

~ Buried Treasure highlights widely ignored or somewhat obscure movies, books and TV shows

~ This Writing Life highlights tips, advice and other wisdom about – what else? – writing

~ Love Letter To: is just what it says: my love letter to a favorite writer, performer, or maybe even fictional character.

and of course:

~ Random Thinking – like Random Dancing, but with your brain instead of your feet. A catch-all category for all my other blog posts, like all that stuff about zombies, Sheldon Cooper and Nathan Fillion

B*tches Be Crazy

So it’s looking like Dr. Sheldon Cooper is turning out to be an even bigger magnet for weirdos than I was in my youth. And I was an incredible weirdo super-magnet, believe me.  Plus. he’s starting with the weirdo magnetism way earlier than I did—in his teens, whereas I was such a wallflower, I didn’t start pulling them into my orbit until my early twenties! So kudos to Dr. Cooper once again for being an overachiever.

As for my personal collection of weirdos: first there was Ralph, your standard unemployed loser with a wispy mustache who lived with his mom. There was Jack, who played a mean game of darts but was mean in so many other ways too. A couple of dysfunctional married men, of course. And last but not least, Rich the Elvis Impersonator. Because how can you call your life complete if you haven’t dated at least one Elvis Impersonator? [Note: Rich was not nearly as cute as Drew Ahearn.]

But enough about me. We were talking about Dr. Sheldon Cooper‘s nascent love life. I say nascent but at the rate it’s going, it could in fact be stillborn. [Actual quote from Dr. Cooper—who is not very religious at all—after the latest “incident:” Maybe I should just become a priest.]

We’ve talked before about the tragic figure of Ophelia, whose ongoing battle with severe mental illness informs Dr. Cooper’s reaction to all “interested” females (for lack of a better term). When he met the new girl, who shall henceforth be known as Annie (after that famously self-involved neurotic, Annie Hall), things seemed to be looking up. They met at a school mixer and she asked for his number. This will be quick, I thought. Because I am OLD.

[Okay, I’m not really that old. But it was too entertaining to pass up. Thank you, Retronaut!] Back in my day – you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, wearing shoulder pads and really big hair, a girl would never have dared ask for a guy’s number. Then she would never have dared use that number. And if she had used it once, she would never have used it again, because she would’ve then taken the hint if he didn’t call her back. Even if he was just clueless and didn’t actually mean it as a hint to stop calling.

But that was B.C. – Before Cellphones. Now, with the joyous advent of mobile technology, you can politely give out your phone number to someone you barely know—and be pursued by them relentlessly for a year or more even if you offer almost no encouragement whatsoever.

And of course, that is exactly what has happened to Dr. Cooper. Both he and Annie are, frankly, remarkably lame when it comes to social skills with the opposite sex. So was I as a teenager, but without cell phones and Facebook, I had a lot less opportunity to display my lameness.

With almost no encouragement, Annie Hall has continued to text Dr. Cooper about her life on a semi-regular basis, clearly hoping at some point he will ask her out. Or something. Dr. Cooper confided that while he would like a “female friend” to invite to dances and other obligatory adolescent social events, he really does not want a “girlfriend.” And who can blame him after the Ophelia incident?

Over the summer, the texting stopped, but now that school has resumed, so has the texting. My theory? Summer romance gone wrong, Annie Hall has decided to target her back-up option. Mildly annoying but no big deal.

And then, last week this:

U R A WASTE OF TIME! GOOD BYE

WTF?

Well, it turns out that while Dr. Cooper was meeting with his algebra tutor (with phone turned off, of course, because algebra tutors are like that, especially when they’re also head of the school’s Discipline Committee)—Annie Hall had repeatedly texted him. The entire content of those texts: “Hello.” Followed by the ubiquitous and annoying, “Hey.” Apparently, his failure to respond solicitously was the last straw. Thus the searing wit of her “Waste of Time” missive.

RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

I would like to say I found all this out because Dr. Cooper confided in me and asked my advice, but alas, he did not. Truth is, I snooped. Since the Ophelia incident, I figure my job is not to be his friend or his friend’s friend. It’s to proactively protect. Some experts might call it “helicopter parenting,” but that is because no one ever tried to commit bloody suicide while talking on the phone to their thirteen-year-old. Call me Tiger Mom. Rowr. Also, I pay for the damn phone, so I can look at whatever’s on it. After three or four days of Brooding Dr. Cooper with no explanation, I checked out the call log and discovered the message. But it turned out, that wasn’t what had annoyed him. What really annoyed him is that he thought the “Waste of Time” message meant she was out of his life. But of course, with girls and Dr. Cooper, it can never be that simple. Two days later, she had texted him while he was hanging out with friends at the Homecoming Game. 

HEY. I’M HERE.

And when he didn’t respond to that with a heartfelt invitation to come sit with him, she dashed off an irritable:

FINE. I AM LEAVING NOW.

I’ve got a newsflash for Annie Hall: Once you call a guy a “waste of time,” it’s kind of over. Unless your next text is, “So sorry, it must’ve been the vodka and PMS. Forgive me.”

But even then, you might want to just delete that phone number from your Contacts List and find someone who gives a darn.

Here’s hoping that in college (if not sooner), Dr. Cooper can start attracting girls with higher self-esteem. And not so much of the passive-aggressive Bella Swan Velcro Personality Disorder so popular with teenaged girls these days.

MORE ABOUT WRITING NEXT TIME. I SWEAR. CAN I HELP IT IF MY LIFE IS A TEEN SOAP OPERA?!

Back in a minute…

Stephen Hawking being presented by his daughter Lucy Hawking at the lecture he gave for NASA’s 50th anniversary. He is probably thinking about how doing those guest shots on ST:NG and The Big Bang Theory helped pay off her student loans, so she had better give him a damn award. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was really doing good with the blogging every week thing, but then I got this thing called a JOB. You have to put on real clothing (which does not include t-shirts and yoga pants and flip-flops, apparently) and you have to show up at their office at specific times of day and then – this is the really freaky part – you stay there for HOURS and do what they tell you to do.

I vaguely remembered jobs. I had several before giving birth to the shrieking, colicky mess that eventually became our own  Dr. Sheldon Cooper. For most of Dr. Cooper’s young life, I’ve been self-employed, freelancing for area magazines and newspapers on a pretty regular basis. Until about three years ago. In that time, the range of freelance assignments on a local and regional basis has gradually dwindled down to almost nothing. One of my former editors walks dogs and teaches yoga now. Another manages the county senior centers. With the advent of outsourced sweat-shop style journalism via “content providers” like Journatic, freelance news writing is pretty much a dead end these days.

And writing Internet content, which I tried for a while, is a poor substitute for actual print journalism. The emphasis with Internet content is to make your story short and fast. That means churning out lots of not-very-carefully researched articles week after week. Which might be worth it if the pay was stupendous. But in fact, the pay for producing Internet content is more in the range of – wait, let me do some math here: zero times zero, carry the zero. Yes, the pay range for Internet content is more in the range of laughable.

My fiction writing has begun to produce a very modest but steady income, but if I kept trying to churn out laughably under-compensated Internet content, I’d have no time to work on the fiction. So I’ve pretty much given up freelancing of all kinds at this point.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cooper is rapidly approaching the College Event Horizon, at which point he will become a singularity. The gravitational waves produced at the College Event Horizon are known to be more powerful than those emitted by a Black Hole. Stephen Hawking himself has commented, “If I had known how expensive raising a kid was going to be, I’d have canned the Physics crap ages ago and got myself a nice reality show gig on TLC.” Okay, maybe that wasn’t Hawking. Probably it was Bruce Jenner. Or that scary-looking chick with the huge lips. But you get the point.

So the bottom line is – lots less time for blogging, more time wearing make-up and real clothing. No pantyhose required, though. Thank God. I think I’d turn to a life of crime to fund Dr. Cooper’s college education before I’d start wearing pantyhose again.

Once Dr. Cooper is back in school in the fall, I should be able to spend more time on all my writing – including this blog – since I won’t be balancing the JOB with my priority duties as Dr. Cooper’s chauffeur.

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Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program. Soon.

I hope.

I was really doing great with the weekly blogging thing for about five minutes there, but then some little thing came unhinged and then another thing and another and –. You get the idea. That’s my life all the time. Nothing’s ever really wrong, I just can’t seem to stick to a schedule very well. This is probably because I’m so busy managing everyone else’s schedule. And by everyone else, I really mean the sullen, Asperger-ific Teenage Taz, who craves structure and order more than a German traffic cop. Actually, when he was little we called him Taz because of how hyper he was. Then he settled down. Now we call him something else. We call him Dr. Sheldon Cooper. This is Sheldon Cooper:

 

You might think that is funny, but you try really living with it every day. Fortunately, I don’t really have to live it with it for very many hours a day now that he’s a teen, because he’s so busy with school, homework, band practice, play practice, and of course, texting strange girls. But he’s been on Easter break for what is starting to seem like forever and I’m lucky if I have the energy to take a shower by the time I’m done organizing him and helping him schedule his homework down to the minute a week in advance — because you certainly can’t just spontaneously pick a subject and decide to do it depending on your mood of the day. That would be chaos. Then aside from the whole scheduling thing, there’s the chauffeuring thing. This is one of the main duties of a mother of a teenager who does not yet drive. I would wish for him to drive, but that would be a whole new kind of chaos, and I’m not ready for it yet. Neither is the rest of the world, trust me.

Anyway, my series of Irrational Fears blogs will resume in a few days when all returns to whatever passes for normal around here. And by then I should also have info on the publication of the new edition of my romance novel, Love Capri Style. I got the rights back to it from my old publisher and I’m having a new edition issued. It should be available as an ebook in a few days and a print edition will follow soon after.

Until then — don’t sit in that chair!