Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Dreams May Come

I have an overactive imagination.  No, really.  See, I have to be careful what shows or movies I watch because a lot of the times, they seep into my nighttime dreams.

This last "episode" was caused by The Raven starring John Cusack and Alice Eve.  It was a good enough movie, though not quite as scary as I thought it was going to be.  But still - still - it was enough for me to have gory dreams.  Really?  And let me tell you, ew!!  says it all.  I don't remember much of the plot of my silly dream, just that the bad guy was skinning the corpses of the people he'd killed.  And this from a movie I liked!

It's not the first time.  I had the same problem with Pitch Black, the first Riddick movie.  I loved the movie - but it took me watching it at least three times before I could do so without dreaming about the demon-like aliens in them!

I will even dream about books I've read.  The ending of the Wheel of Time series left me so unsettled - hello, Robert Jordan left us hanging!!! - that I've dreamt at least twice trying to come up with a 'better' ending.  Only I can't seem to do it!

Some people don't like hearing what others have dreamed.  They get down right frustrated with it.  I am not one of them.  Nothing amuses me more than sharing my latest crazy nighttime adventure with Mr. Janney the next morning, and when he has a crazy dream - which is less often then me - he'll return the favor and share his.  He was telling me just this morning about the crazy ones he had last night.  Volcanoes and zombies predominated the dreams.  The best one of his that I remember was he had dreamt he was some kind of contract killer and was going to get paid $90million dollars for the job.  I think I liked that one the most not because of the payday, but because in his dream I was the sharpshooter covering his back!

One thing I've noticed on Facebook is that I have at least two friends that share their dreams in their statuses.  I find it fun.  One even shared a dream his mother had shared with him!  That lucky woman dreamt about Brad Pitt!  So I know I'm not the only one that gets a kick out of sharing the wacky dreams we have.

Dreams are funny things. Sometimes they are our subconscious trying to work out a problem, other times it's just our imaginations running away with us.

When I was growing up, I had a reoccurring nightmare. Nothing as dramatic as I gave my characters in my novels.  No, in my dream, I would do something simple, like go for a short walk on our dusty dirt road - maybe a hundred yards or so - and then I would turn around and my home would be  GONE!  A child's insecurity perhaps.  Other times - well, what possible explanation could there be for dreaming about dinosaurs in the trailer park???

What is the craziest thing you've ever dreamed?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Week of "Meh"

This has been a rather blah week.  I haven't been feeling good and that throws everything out of whack.  I even tried blogging about "nothing" last night - but it just sounded whiny so I tossed it in the bin.  I don't like to read whiny blog posts, so I imagine you don't either.
Photo art by Tiffany Robbins-Gigee

I'm getting a little nervous about next Saturday. Next Saturday C.P. Stringham and I, the chicks over at Broads of a Feather, will be doing our first library presentation.  I'm more excited though.  I mean, I know that once it gets going - I'm going to be loving it.  It's just about not getting myself worked up about it beforehand!

Regardless, I'm feeling a bit better tonight.  But then I've gotten to hang with Mr. Janney and had a good birthday celebration for him.  Not much really, just a dinner out at a restaurant of his choice.  My young man is getting old - a whopping 27 now!  His birthday was actually Wednesday, but as it is in the way of grownups, we put it off until a night when neither of us had to work the next day.  Which is why I am still up at ten o'clock at night!

Our dog Jaclyn has managed this neat trick at getting into the garbage without taking the lid off the can.  I'd really like to know how she's managed that, the sneaky little devil!  This of course means I can never ever turn my back on her, which can be rather tiring.  Tonight she managed to dump the entire thing on its side, so she's trapped in the computer room with Mr. Janney and I - she's not happy, but she'll get over it.  I may have to follow +Jacqueline Brown's advice and bleach the garbage.

I hear my washing machine spinning out, so I'd best be getting back to my chores.  At least through it in the dryer.  And then get to working on book two of my series so I can get that out soon!  My goal right now is to have it done and proofed by summer's end.  Before would be nicer.  But for some reason I have "summer's end" in my head.    Let's keep our finger's crossed!

2014 ~ A Year of Redefining

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

How much do our names define us?  Anne Shirley, the young heroine of Anne of Green Gables, insisted on being called "Anne with an E".  When assigned to write on the blackboard as punishment, Anne quietly corrected the teachers misspelling of her name by chalking that missing E in.

Of course, Anne also wanted to be called Cordelia, because she thought it was much more romantic than Anne, even with an E.  But would Anne still have been as charming had she been called Cordelia?  I doubt it!

Can the name we write by affect our sales?

Assuredly.  Just ask J.K. Rowling how well she did under her pen name Robert Galbraith before it was revealed who was behind that name!

I was talking with one of my sisters the other night (I have four), and she was sharing her thoughts about my choice to write by my married name.  She feels, and correctly so, that I would receive more local sales had I either written by my maiden name or if I had included it. Because I was tired, I was probably more irate that the subject warranted - partly because I know she's right.  But as I told her, it's a decision I stick by because I chose change my name when I married for a specific reason and I chose to write by that name for a specific reason.

In the long run, I don't believe it will matter.  In the short term, yes - it hurts local sales.  For now.  Because I tend to think in the long term.  I think globally.  To the people in the UK who downloaded my book when it was free on Kindle, they don't know the difference between Robin Slater (maiden name) and Robin Janney.  It's all the same to them.  To the locals who still haven't gotten the news that Robin Slater got married last summer - well, they'll catch up eventually.

So much of the series I am writing is about Identity.  As a woman and as a survivor of trauma or abuse.  We see some of the latter in the male lead, as he struggles to no longer let his painful past rule his life.  We see both in the female lead, Angela Carman.

Who is Angela?  While she never outright asks herself in the novel, the self doubt is there.  In Farmer's Daughter we find a young woman making her way in the world, and struggling somewhat as she does so. Studying to be a veterinarian, and in a very real sense going against her parents' wishes as she adds another job to her schedule in an attempt to save the family farm.  We even see at one point where she is questioning whether or not she really wants to be a veterinarian.  As the story progresses and the tone turns romantic, we see a young woman trying to understand what kind of relationship she has with her boss.  Sometimes it felt like they were friends, other times it felt to her as though she were a thorn in his side.

Towards the end of the novel, we catch further glimpses of Angela's struggle in regards to her family.  Something she never allowed herself to dwell on was the fact that she wasn't a true 'Carman'.  Or so she thought.  Even though she had the same last name, she never felt like she truly belonged because of that conversation she had overheard as a child.  (Kids eavesdrop on their parents all the time)  Imagine her surprise when she learned that she had been legally adopted by her blood uncle and his wife!  She really was part of the family, and didn't know it!

As Angela's life changes throughout the course of the books to come, we get to watch how she chooses to identify herself.  We see how other's perception of her effects how she views herself.  All too often we as women will let other's opinions of us shape out own opinions of ourselves.  The kidnapping that happened near the end of book one shook Angela, badly; and the events that unfolded in the Dream she had while in a coma most definitely affected her identity.  Upon awakening, once she'd regained her voice, she plainly told her new husband, "I need time Craig ... I don't even know who I am anymore ..."

That needed time was short lived, perhaps a month.  And then she was on his doorstep, telling how she was choosing to identify herself.  Not by who had fathered her - but by the man who had raised her.  And as his wife.  But what she felt what was best for her - leaving her hometown - warred with what she knew of him, his love for the store he ran and the small town they lived in.  His choice, of course, was her. Because his story - his struggle for identity - began and ended in his love for her.

When Mr. Janney and I decided to 'tie the knot' - I decided I wanted to change my last name.  Why?  For starters, just because I wanted to.  He'll never say it, but I think he liked my choice - and he did leave it up to me.  He's not the one that would have to do any paperwork, that never seems to end.  It was my way of saying to him and the world that I'd decided to partner up with this man.  Two parts of a whole.  Could I have kept my maiden name and still say the same?  Probably.


This is where some might say I'm being silly.

I was tired of being a Slater.  For reasons that have nothing to do with any of my family members.  I'll always be a part of the Slater clan. Family love never dies, even when you're fighting and want to kill each other.

Even though it's been twenty years since I've ridden the school bus, I still remember.  The hurt is not the same.  I barely think of it, unless I have one of those dreaded back in school dreams we all have.  My family name was made into a slur.  And that feeling stuck with me a long time.  I know many of those kids have repented of the torment they put me and my siblings through, and for that I am grateful.  But I still have not "unlearned" that feeling of not liking my last name.

So I changed it.  It was not the defining reason, not by any stretch, but it was a factor.

And when I decided to publish my novel, I decided that seeing how that was my identity now - that's how I wanted to be known professionally as well.  I will still write poetry under the name R.A. Slater, mostly because I'm just too lazy to go back through my blog and change all those names.  I don't always write poetry, but when I do - I'm very prolific.

Time will tell whether I've made the right choice.  But even if sales never explode, I still know that I made the right choice for me, for where I was at in my life at this time.

Because at the end of the day, it's not about who writes the book, but whether that book is worth reading.  And that's where I think I've got a winner.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Random Thoughts About my Day

Last week when they told us we would be working five days, we all thought - the bosses included - that my department would be getting at least 40 hours.  Well, the harvest floor had a bad day and even though we'll still be working five days, we'll be lucky to get the same amount of hours we have been getting by shoving everything into four days.  But still, while the paychecks will suck, it is nice to have a couple of short days.  I mean, who doesn't like being home by lunchtime?

I've been home since a little after 12 noon, and haven't gotten much done really.  I walked the dog - and then put her back in the kennel since she can't stay out of the garbage while I run into the bathroom.  I'll let her out again shortly.  Made myself a warm lunch - as apposed to the cold cheese sandwiches I usually eat, I grilled them this time.  I didn't have any tomato soup to go with them, which was sad, but I found a can of stewed tomatoes and decided that it was close enough!  And then I moved the clothes from the dryer to the bed, the clothes in the washer to the dryer, and started a new load in the washer.
I blogged about TV, but I don't think I'll be watching any today.

And now I'm on the computer.  I checked to see if there were any comments on my post over at Broads of a Feather and replied to them like a good little blogger.  I've done a favor for my hubby - at least I hope it worked, he hasn't messaged me back yet.  I've checked my email, sent two quick replied with a promise to get back to them a little later this afternoon.  One involved converting a file to PDF so that my one Beta Reader will be able to make comments easier.

I have at least one phone call to make too, see if I can't get some help paying this winter's electric bill.  It is huge!  Sometimes there are too many bills, and too small of a payday, especially when you're not getting the work hours you're used to.  And I'm sure I can find a few other chores to attend to before getting down to writing.  I hate that, but some things just need to be done.  Dishes and laundry both reproduce while you're doing them and so they never get done.  Ever.

Now I have to turn my thoughts to the presentation Broads of a Feather will be doing April 5th at the library.  I'm excited, and daunted, all at once.  I'll give you more information the closer we get to the event.  :)  So on that happy thoughts, you all have a great afternoon!

2014 - One Day at a Time

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Random Thoughts About Buttons

I have been having a lot of trouble focusing this past week and a half, due to a death in my husband's family. My cohort from Broads of a Feather suggested I try blogging about random things to help me keep posting.

So today's random thoughts are about buttons.  It's something I overheard at the post-memorial service meal last weekend, about how people used to have button collections.  People used to collect buttons for all sorts of reasons, one being the lack of availability of buttons.  That is something we don't really have anymore.  It doesn't take much to buy a package of buttons, if you really feel the need to replace one.  Many people don't bother anymore.

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to rifle through my mother's button collection.  It was kept on the shelves between my parents' bedroom and the living room.  They were deep shelves, built into the wall.  I used to sit for hours just looking at the different buttons.  My favorites were the ones that had plastic 'gems' and the ones with rhinestones.  I would pretend that they were precious jewels; even in my early teens I would do this.

Today, I have my own button collection.  Inherited not from my mother, but from her sister.  I was helping my aunt go through some items in her upstairs room during a visit, and one of the things I walked away with was a large tin full of buttons.  I think it was a special edition Schwann's ice cream tin.  No reason, really.  I don't sew that much anymore, so it's not like I need them for anything.  I just like having them, and running my fingers through them.  I love the different colors, the different designs.  The older ones are the best!

Sadly, my home has been in state of remodeling for just over two years now and I'm not even certain where
my tin is at right now.  Maybe I will try finding it this weekend, though I make no promises, not even to myself.  My plans have a tendency of being changed on me at the last minute.

Do you collect anything?  Is it something people would consider normal?  Or like me would it be a little bit quirky?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Not Just For Fairy Tales

Kindred spirits. defines kindred spirits thus
             a person who shares beliefs, attitudes, feelings, or features with another

As Anne Shirley said in Anne of Green Gables, "Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think.  It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."

I'm never sure how exactly I stumble upon others whose blog posts reflect a shard of my own heart.  Sometimes I find them through friend's shares on Facebook, or through tweets.  I have found a few in the past simply by hitting the "Next Blog" button, which is why I always try to keep that little button on top of my own blog; it's served me so well in the past.

The one particular person I want to share with you today is @micahjmurray of the blog Redemption Pictures.  I'm going to be honest, I haven't read enough of his stuff yet to know whether he is a true kindred spirit or not, but this Blog post of his is about a subject I struggle with.  The type of writer I want to be.

It can be hard, writing the scenes and characters I have dancing in my head.  Because like real life, the imaginary world I live in is far from picture perfect.  People swear, they do things they shouldn't, they're mean and cruel to each other, they lie, they cheat, they steal, they kill.  Even the most devout and sincere Christian falls short of their ideal faith.  Just like in real life.

For many years, I read nothing but "Christian" fiction.  That was 'safe' for a good Christian girl to read.  No swearing, no sex scenes, the characters rarely made mistakes that would cause a good girl to blush.  I still read these from time to time, when all I'm looking for is a nice fluff read.  There are some authors that I like that write with a bit of an edge, but even their characters never crossed 'that' line.  If they did cross any lines, it was bad language left to our imagination by phrases I myself use.

Lines get crossed in real life.  Sometimes without meaning to, other times very purposely.  In my novel, my two main characters pressed up against the line of what was proper more than once.  I kept them from crossing it because - I was afraid.  I mean, it was bad enough that I was including a very light sexual scene when they marry.  What would my family say if I had them engaging in sex before then?  I knew how harshly I was judged for doing that in real life - what would they say of my story?  That and certain elements of the story (and the ones to follow) wouldn't have worked the same, and to be honest I wasn't sure I'd be able to salvage that much of a change in the storyline.

In some ways, I got off the hook when it comes to family reading my novel.  Two brothers claim it's 'not their thing' which I totally understand (although I kind of expected the one sister-in-law to read it but I've heard nothing there) and the one sister says she's no longer reading fiction at all.  Which if that's what feeds her mind best, then that's okay.  I have one brother waiting for it to be made into an audio book so that he can 'read' it.  My mother didn't say too much, beyond that there were times when she wanted to reach into the book and smack some sense into the characters (high praise indeed).

In the sequel that I am presently working on, not fast enough for certain fans (you know who you are), I am struggling with that same fear.  There are two female characters whom are not the nicest.  And I struggle with the brutality the one demands, and the sensuality the other commands.

To be true to their personalities, I have to write things that some of my family members, and maybe even my friends, are going to find objectionable.  I'll be honest, I fear that kind of criticism.  Especially since some characters are never going to embrace grace, some characters are going to spurn God even after their death.  That goes against everything a 'Christian' stands for, right?

I don't want to be the kind of writer Micah describes.  One who writes and then erases it all because someone somewhere isn't going to approve.  My characters are real to me, and that means I have to be true to who they are and tell their story without overly censoring it.  Some censoring is necessary.  I want to entertain my readers, and pull them into another world, not make them want to run in the other direction because a scene was too harsh or it triggered a bad memory.

One of the reasons we read fiction is to escape harsh reality, not visit it.  Like that thought? Tweet it!

I can still paint a picture of harsh reality and still leave enough blurred lines that they reader can imagine as far as they want to.  If I'm brave enough.  And I become braver the more I come to know these 'despicable' characters.  Life tests our faith, in our God of choice, in ourselves, in our talents, in our friends and loved ones.  And my characters are no different.

2014 - Moving Beyond Fear One Day at a Time