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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Wright’

She’s not at all what you would expect.

No shroud of murky darkness. No raving anger. No muttering excuses. No whorls of swirling depression blasting everything else to bits.

Just a sympathetic smile.

She sits on my desk sipping from a delicate teacup, as if her appearance in the middle of the night – and the middle of my writing – is a perfectly normal occurrence.

Okay, maybe it is a little more normal than it should be. But it’s not any less annoying.

Looking for all the world like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, I half anticipate her guzzling from a jug of “rheumatism medicine” instead of that dainty china doll accessory. But then, I’m not entirely sure of the contents, and she’s the type that hides that kind of stuff in plain sight.

“It’s all right, dear,” she coos. “It’s for the best.”

I just glare at her. I know what she means, and what the rest of her litany will entail. I’ve heard it my whole life. Every time there’s a bump in the road. With every obstacle, every challenge, every rejection. Even with the successes, too. Always that little whisper just off my shoulder.

A raging monster would be easy to ignore, by comparison.

“It’s just the way of the world now.” She takes another sip, pinky out, and rests her cool blue gaze on me. “And it’s ALWAYS been the way of the entertainment industry. You’re battling terrible odds on the best of days.”

She’s right about that. I’m no spring chicken and ageism is rampant, even for novelists. It should be about the product – it should ALWAYS be about the product. But people are what they are. Prejudice dies hard, if at all. And being a good writer isn’t always good enough.

“You can’t help support the household with rejection slips.” Her gnarled hand rests gently on my arm, with a little pat for emphasis. “Maybe you should just stick with what makes money. There’s no shame in that.”

No shame.

No shame in settling. No shame in giving up. No shame being good, but not quite good enough. That’s the story of my life.

All my glory days were long ago. All the genius, all the talent, doesn’t mean anything in a world that favors the loudmouth, the provocateur, the bombastic. Give the masses a sequined three-ring circus and blow up the MC as the finale, and you might get some attention. Social Media is god and goddess. Repeat the inane enough times and it turns into a catchy phrase. Watch that catchy phrase all tarted up for Sunday dinner at the whorehouse win the presidency.

“No one wants smart anymore.” Granny pulls out her big brown jug and chugs a few. I’m not sure what happened to the teacup – there’s no sign of it amidst the clutter of my desk. “It’s all about fake news and alternate facts and screwing everybody but the rich in the name of Jesus H. Christ-on-a-cracker. That’s just not for you, dear.”

Ain’t that the truth. But someone has to be the light keeper. Someone has to be the repository of reason and common sense and fact-based intelligence. Who better than a science fiction writer?

“There’s already so many good ones out there.” She winks at me and swigs another gulp off the jug.

I hate that she’s in my head. I’m never really free of her. And I hate that she’s so often right. There are a ton of good writers out there, already. The David Gerrolds, the John Scalzis, the Chuck Wendigs, the Jim Wrights. All fabulous writers with scathing wit and near-prescient powers of observation. They’ll not only keep the light burning, they’ll weaponize it and napalm the hell out of the stupids. I live barely in their shadows – a cockroach hoping a crumb will fall my way so I can feel like the gods have blessed me.

The jug is proffered in my general direction. “It’ll take the edge off.”

Like that’s a good idea. Just hide in your poison of choice. Hide in that world someone else created because you can’t handle the world you live in. Or the world you should be creating. Real writers write. Fake writers dream of publishing deals while killing orcs.

Too bad I’m old and have tits. I’d probably be a damn good game writer.

“Of course you would, dear.” The jug is tipped over and drizzling its contents down the side of my desk. “Everybody loved having you run games in college. Thirty-five years ago.”

She may look like an innocent little old lady, but her delivery would rival Dame Maggie Smith’s best Downton Abbey snark.

On the downhill side of middle age, and nothing to show for my efforts. So much of my life spent dreaming instead of doing. Because of that little bitch perched in the middle of my soul.

“It’s too hard for you, dear.”

“It doesn’t matter how good you are – you don’t know the right people.”

“You’re good. But not good enough.”

“You don’t really want success, do you? Just think of all the crowds you’d have to deal with.”

If she were an ugly monster, beating her would be easy. Heroic, even. But Granny is a sweet little thing, always looking out for my best interests, of course. Protecting me from the hurt. I won’t get rejected if I don’t put myself out there in the first place. I’m okay right where I am. I have a nice house and a great husband and there’s no need for me to get myself all beat up over something that’s really a pipe dream. Let’s face it – everybody wants to be a writer. And they’re a dime a dozen. So many of them will write for free. And so many of them will write badly. The world is littered with terrible copy under noisy videos claiming to be news, and no one seems to care.

“That’s right, dear.” The teacup has returned, held between finger and thumb like it is a dirty diaper and there’s no pail in sight. “No one cares about quality anymore. So you shouldn’t waste your time.”

I lean back in my chair and scowl. “Fuck you, Granny.”

 

 

Worst thing you write

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A couple of things have happened over the last year that have made me re-examine my life and goals. Besides the Trumpocalypse, that is. That’s a whole ‘nother bag o’ worms I don’t want to get into right now. Plus there are people out there who do a much better job at explaining and poking the bear than I could possibly hope. (Some favorites: Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Jim Wright. Humor is definitely the best medicine in this case.)

First, my middle niece has been to Europe and Asia in just the last few months. She and her best friend spent New Years in London, after a quick side trip to the Eiffel Tower in France. Then several weeks ago they both went to Japan via the Great Wall of China for the friend’s sister’s wedding. Barely legal-to-drink Millennials, they scrimped and saved and planned, and are doing things I’ve always wanted to, but could never afford. You go, ladies. Do it all now, while you’re still young and able.

Second, I had a bit of a health scare. Over the summer I was having problems with my joints – especially my knees – swelling. It turned out to be a side affect of some new medication (which I have since stopped), but in the process of making that discovery we had to weed out a few other things. Since I have artificial knees, I was worried that carrying so much weight might have damaged them, so we did x-rays to check. The knees are fine, but just above the left knee, in the marrow channel of my femur, we discovered an anomaly. The radiologist defined it as a “sclerotic lesion” approximately the size and shape of a small egg. My primary care doctor immediately ordered a bone scan and referred me to an oncologist. I proceeded to freak out.

 

Version 2

 

The next few months consisted of long waits between appointments as I dealt with referrals for tests, referral from the oncologist at my primary care facility to an orthopedic oncologist at Cedars- Sinai, my insurance, retrieval of old x-rays from before my knee replacements, and indeterminate answers. I’ve been questioned, examined, x-rayed, MRI’d, and, finally, biopsied. (Yes, that entailed drilling through my leg into the bone while under CT scan. And sedation – Yay!) Thankfully, the biopsy determined the thing in my leg was a benign growth called an enchondroma. While there is a remote chance it can become cancerous, the odds are highly in my favor. And given that I have no noticeable symptoms, the doctor recommended we just keep an eye on it. That will mean periodic x-rays, but at my age I probably glow in the dark already, so that’s not an issue. Sure beats the hell out of the alternatives.

Between being reminded of all the things that could go wrong in life (and how short it can be), and all the things I haven’t accomplished, my bucket list came roaring back to the forefront of my attention. We all have one, whether we actually call it that or not. Things we want to do before we die (aka: “kick the bucket”). Some items might be kind of mundane, such as getting married, or graduating college. Others might be more adventurous, like climbing Mount Everest or swimming the English Channel. And the list often changes as we ourselves change. When I was a kid my list included making All State Band (done), graduating college (done), and riding in a helicopter (done). Now… well, now it tends to lean more toward the adventurous than not. Being on the wrong side of middle-aged and middle-class means a lot of them probably aren’t going to happen. But who knows? Maybe the gods will grant me a favor.

 

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What’s in your bucket?

 

So here, in no particular order, are some of the things on my bucket list:

  • Hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Yeah, that’s a lot of hiking, especially for someone who’s longest walk most days is to the kitchen and back. But it’s still within the realm of feasibility. And the new treadmill has been installed. I’ve even used it. Hubby thinks it would be cool to do, too. Once I can do a couple miles in one shot on the treadmill, we’re going to start looking for short local hikes we can do, and work our way up. Even if we never make the PCT, getting up and being more active will only help.
  • Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. Thanks to all the fat I carry, my buoyancy is pretty extraordinary. Plus I lettered in swimming in high school. All I need is a burkini to keep my lily-white skin from broiling off in the Australian sun, and I could spend days with my face in the water looking at all the cool stuff. Probably should do that soon, given the damage pollution and climate change are causing the reef.
  • Visit Machu Picchu. An Incan city in Peru known for its finely crafted stone walls and the grueling trail to get there that tops out at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. Stunning views and archeological finds make it a must-visit-in-person, while being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site helps justify the very limited visitor roster.
  • Canoe the rivers of Alaska. Our 49th state is the last bastion of true wilderness we have. I want to smell that air, feel that chill, and witness the herds of caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before our government sells the last of it off for drilling rights.
  • Bicycle through Europe. I did a ton of riding in high school and college. It was my primary form of transportation and at one point I was racking up over 100 miles a week, between school, jobs, and student teaching. And there’s so much I want to see, especially in the Germanic and Scandinavian countries. Bicycling through it all would allow a more leisurely pace from which to witness the world of my ancestors.
  • Horseback ride across the US. Probably the least practical of my fantasies. But, like bicycling Europe, a great way to see the states. Plus I love horses. What could possibly go wrong?

 

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  • Attend both Summer and Winter Olympics. TV coverage can be great. You get interesting back-stories, jump straight to the finals, and don’t have to deal with the crowds. But sometimes you just need to experience some things first hand. And maybe this way I’ll see some of the events I like that don’t often get covered that well.
  • Attend all three Triple Crown races. More horsey stuff. When I was a teenager, one entire wall of my bedroom was covered with horse pictures. And my scrapbook has a ton of articles about my favorite, Secretariat. I watched his races live at the time, and remember being overwhelmed by his power. To this day I tear up a little when I see those races again. I’ve always wanted a horse, but between constantly moving and finances, it just never happened.
  • Learn to fly both fixed wing and rotary aircraft. Especially helicopters. Something I’ve wanted to do since childhood. Even toyed with the idea of joining the Air Force so I could get flight school paid for. Later I did all my ground school courses at the local junior college, getting instrumental and commercial ratings. Finances ruled against me getting actual flight time, though. And being that ground school was over 30 years ago, I’ll have to start from scratch again, anyway. Hey, Harrison Ford was my age when he got his license, so I’m not out of time yet.
  • Go to space. And I mean more than a ride on the Vomit Comet. Spend some time on the ISS, or a moon base. Or Mars. Don’t let the grey hair and cellulite fool you; inside there is a starship captain waiting to escape Earth’s gravity. Why do you think I’m a science fiction writer, for fuck’s sake?
  • Publish a novel. Ideally, more than one. It would be especially cool if I could actually make some money with them, too. Don’t need to be huge, like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Just would like a sort-of regular income. Right now I’m making zero off my writing, so anything is an improvement. Yes, I still have queries out. Need to do more of that writing, thing, though…
  • Own a castle. With radio-controlled alligators in the moat, and an automated dragon belching fire on a turret. Just kidding! (maybe…)

As you can see, I have pretty expansive (and exPENsive!) fantasies. Plus most of them require me to be in a whole lot better condition than I am. And while there are always possibilities, it’s the probabilities that work against you. But as one of our favorite space rogues once said:

 

Never Tell Me the Odds

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