Hello! Thanks for your interest in my writing!

I created this combination blog and website to make my life easier so I can focus on adventuring, writing, and wellness. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Adventure or Misadventure? Feeling/getting lost in thought about big things.


Here's the situation. Spent all day in the world's largest cancer ward, blood tests and three CT exams, late lunch and dinner to go, now tired but wired in my hotel room. I'm not sad or writing this to elicit hug emojis. I get the results tomorrow and am confident there won't be surprises. The chemo pills are keeping my assassin cells at bay. But with imaging chemicals flowing through my body, I'm not in a productive way. I watched the movie American Fiction (loved it) followed by the Seinfeld "Spongeworthy" episode (loved it again) and then John Oliver's show about Chuck E Cheese (loved it).

Suffice it to say my mind is a bit scrambled. But also stimulated. And my take-aways from all this?

Play full out with Gumby flexibility

Create what moves you and don't waste a second second-guessing what the market wants from you. 

Time brooding about the not-knowing is wasted. Delve to learn not impress.

I like being weird. I'm almost 60. Invisibility=freedom. It's time to play.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

How to Say NO...to YOURSELF!


I bet many of you suffer from the same weakness I do, which is continually starting and getting into TOO MANY PROJECTS. Here I am, retired due to 18 million health issues, and I'm way too busy, not slowing down, and focusing on some of the wrong things. Or maybe the more correct way to say it is: focusing on too many correct things if time were unlimited. It's not, of course, so it's too many wrong things.

Here, Lisa - are you listening? - are your priorities:

Health: Be as strong and active as you can be and eat as well as possible. Optimizing health is your job #1 because it enables everything else. This is also about sport - biking, hiking, walking, exploring. Bill and I want to spend more time having fun outdoors.

Gardening: This is a priority because I'm interested and we have nearly 175 plants. Because I love plants.

Creative work: Writing, mostly, but also some house craft projects.

Volunteering: As time permits. This area is outsized right now. I feel like I have four part-time volunteer gigs and that they are pushing the other stuff off the "done" list. Especially health and creative endeavors.

I'm nearly 60. Am I too old to learn new tricks? I hope not.

Ways to say NO to Myself:

Identify I have an issue that needs to be solved. Not just casually over a cocktail with a pal like complaining about too many streaming services. THIS is a problem like a boil oozing puss on my foot. I can't walk until this boil is treated. It's keeping me from living my best life.

Do some scenario planning. Visualize what life looks and feels like when I'm living in alignment with my priorities. Notice I'm not focusing on an end point because life IS the process. Reflect on if/then scenarios that help me get clear about where a new "no" is warranted. No, not right now, not in this way, not as much, or I can't but have a solution are all NOs.

Explore if there are win-win solutions that might free myself up. This is harder to do. I get stuck because I don't want to impose on others. And I value follow through. But I can't value diddly from inside an ash urn or when Bill turns my ashes into stones (see previous post).

Fall on my sword. Sometimes the best thing to say is "I screwed up. I thought I could do this but I can't and I'm breaking the promise I made to myself to focus on my health. Doing this well requires more time than I'm giving it."

Those are a few ideas I will reflect upon and put into action - fingers crossed - very soon. Do you suffer from YES, YES, YES, syndrome too? Let me know what works for you. 


Monday, February 12, 2024

Writing Humor - One Layer at a Time (a.k.a. eat your broccoli)

The process of writing something funny happens differently for every creator. Here's how it goes for me:

I get an idea. There are funny bits or at least one weird slant or detail that propels me. I decide to write a story/book/post.

The idea flutters about in my mind. Perhaps a few more funny bits emerge. I should've started writing some of this down but I don't.

I resist the drafting stage. Why? 

The rough drafts that flow from my head through my fingers and onto the screen are not funny. 

They form the foundation of the humorous thing to come, but do not look or read like the idea in my mind. I liken it to having to eat my broccoli before I can have dessert.  Rough drafts are like steamed broccoli.

The idea swirls through my head at 4 a.m. in the morning. More funny bits emerge although I've forgotten some of the funny bits I'd previously thought of. Nothing is written at this point. 

I add an appointment in my calendar to begin writing the first broccoli because relying on my "love of writing" is not working. 

It's the day and time to write the broccoli draft. I make a pot of milk oolong tea and settle into my ergonomic desk chair.

I review my Todoist to-do list and see that I haven't written a blog post for a while. I open Blogger and begin writing about writing. I assure myself this is a warm up exercise for the drafting work to be done.

I post on my blog and then share the post on Facebook. I look around for another thing to do.

Argh! 

OK, I say to myself, I'll start drafting this story. 

Once I get the boring broccoli out of my head, I begin layering funny bits and weird details. Some are the same as those I've envisioned for days/weeks, but most are different because I failed to write the initial funny bits down.

Note to self: figure out how to write more funny bits down when they occur to me.

And that's how I write humor. One layer at a time and after dozens of self-imposed delay tactics designed to avoid the broccoli.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

I love saving sad plants!

Bill and I went to our favorite nursery (Jericho) today and got a few cool tolerant veggie plants. They also had some flowers and I was looking at them when a staff person pointed at some that were marked down to $2 for a six pack. She said their next stop was the compost pile. So why not?

I've planted these hopefuls in a raised bed with lots of mulch. Six bucks worth of flowers and a big win if even one or two thrive. 

And if they don't, or some don't, that's ok. They will continue to do good by becoming nutritious compost and will feed the next generation of flowers. 


Cycle of life keeps turning.

I don't have strong maternal instincts - I never had children - but somehow sad plants with a wee bit of potential tug on my life-giving strings. 

I love plants and gardening! Fingers crossed my new plants will be happy and prosperous. 

Look at those cute purple flowers. 

The nursery staff person told me the pansies were hardy. Hehehe.

AND! Right after I snapped these pictures, a bee came and checked out the flowers. Now I'm doubly pleased with my six dollar experiment. February is a tough month to be a hungry bee.




Tuesday, January 23, 2024

New Book Launch! Far From Ordinary

I’m delighted to announce that Far From Ordinary: Predicaments, Misadventures, and Illuminations is now available from Amazon in print and e-book formats. Find it at Amazon here. I hope you'll pick up a copy and that you enjoy it. 

Here’s a brief description:

 

Far From Ordinary: Predicaments, Misadventures, and Illuminations is my quirky collection of essays, poems, and short stories about unpredictable adventures and misadventures. Readers of my work will recognize my passion for juxtaposing well-researched, fascinating facts and eccentric tales about awkward experiences that went seriously sideways. 

 

Adventures provide the fuel for a fulfilling life while misadventures are life's tax for playing full out. To embrace one, we must wrestle the other. Like relishing breathtaking landscapes while on a 9,400-mile solo motorcycle trip around the country and then driving at 70 mph into a screaming, horny, miles-long swarm of fat cicadas on a Chicago highway. 

 

That really happened! Imagine cicada DNA on every surface and in all orifices. 

 

Far From Ordinary is a unique book and I’m super proud of it. If you walk into a bookshop, you’ll find essay collections, poetry chapbooks, and short story collections in separate sections of the store. I know this and have blissfully ignored conventions to offer what I believe is a refreshing and entertaining reading experience. 


I know what you're thinking, dear readers. Ignoring dumb rules is par for my bratty course. Thanks for supporting my work! I hope you enjoy Far From Ordinary. 



Friday, January 19, 2024

How to Write Humor: Learning from Funny Novelists Hiaasen, Evanovich, Moore, Leonard

I will be teaching a two hour workshop on writing humor in May. It will be delivered in person in ABQ and also online - more details coming in case you'd like to register. During the workshop, I'll lead a discussion about the comedic "secret sauces" that four of my favorite writers use to write clever and unique humorous novels. As you might imagine, their approaches and results are different. And ingenious! That's four secret sauces, and I can't wait to delve into them further.

To prepare, I'll need to re-read books by each author and then select the emblematic and secret-sauce-worthy passages I will share during the workshop. 

Poor, poor, me. :-)


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Can Chaos Gardening Simplify My Chaotic Life?

Although I've understood the general idea of this style of planting for a while, I heard the term chaos gardening today for the first time. It means planting a bunch of stuff in no particular design plan. Something that looks natural and where the soil is covered with plant material. 

Thick coverage. A natural lushness. Something that re-seeds itself. Love it.

This Better Homes & Gardens post offers a good summary. 

We have a small wildflower garden in our backyard but I'm thinking about expanding the idea to be a mini chaos garden. Seems like it would be lovely and sure would be simple. I'll let you know how it goes. 

I like the idea of chaos being simple.

Photo credit Meadowlark Journal. 



Monday, January 15, 2024

What to Do If You Are Off Course

I thought I'd revisit a couple of posts I wrote in 2009 and 2012 about what to do and how to be when we're off track based on our goals and intentions. 

I need this message right now... I feel like I should be making better progress toward my goal to live pain free. I'm piddling about with the PT exercises and weight loss plan. I need to get back on course. My quality of life depends upon it.

You are Amazing Even if Today You Are Off Course

December 30, 2009

I thought I would end the year's blog postings on a high note and with a call for self-forgiveness (continuing the theme of best mind forward) as a vehicle for refocusing on generating the life and work you desire.

You are amazing. I know this! If you and I enjoyed a chat over foaming lattes, I am sure that your greatness would shine bright and I would find your hopes and dreams inspiring. Everyone I meet possesses clear and special talents. I love to discover the source of a person’s passions and am fascinated by our diverse natures.

Every night on the TV, we see people at their best, but more often, they are at their worst (crime shows, reality TV, Jerry Springer). If everyone is amazing, what’s going on? I think that stress and the dizzying circumstances of our lives can push us off course. We know this is not how things ought to be. We know that we have something greater and more compelling to offer the world. Even so, we get farther off course with each mismatched turn.

You are amazing even if today you are off course. You have the potential to contribute to society and live a wonderful and fulfilling life. You can get back on track. I work with many people who choose to stop moving in the wrong direction and see a new set of possibilities. They flap their butterfly wings fast and furious, manifesting joy and wonder along the way. They ooze exuberance and become flexibly strong, like a tall Sequoia tree swaying in the wind. An awesome force of nature. What’s your goal? Do you need an adjustment?

You can start right now. Define - Answer - Act - Use that energy to repeat.

  • What can I do in the next 12 hours to get unstuck? (Do one big or five tiny things then rejoice)
  • Which is more powerful - physical or mental barriers? (Hint: it's likely mental - obliterate the barriers by taking on a new perspective)
  • What two things can I do for the next five days to get back on track?

Isn't it more complex than this? Yes, of course it is, but if you act like it isn't - guess what? It will become simpler. And yes, this is familiar. To generate breakthroughs:

  • Define goals that inspire you and share them broadly.
  • Take forward action in support of goals.
  • Make requests that move things forward.
  • Do all these things and you will create velocity.

Getting back on course can be this simple - elegant and simple - powerful and simple. But we all get off course sometimes and that does not make us any less amazing - we're like Ferrari sport cars parked in our garages. Not performing because the engine is off. Turn the key and go for a ride.

=====================================

Are you off course? Here is a thought about how to get back on track.

April 20, 2012

Yesterday I was reminded of a post I did a couple of years ago called, You are Amazing Even if Today You are Off Course. Check it out if you need some perspective/inspiration/relief/ideas.

I have been thinking about this topic a lot this week. Partially because I want to ensure that I stay on course with my goals but also because I see how hard we are on ourselves and the toll this takes on our spirit and desire to keep moving forward. Shorterm"itis" perhaps.

I think there is something to be said for believing in ourselves. Really believing. Believing that even though our daily choices are imperfect and our resolve wanes at times....And even though we sometimes say one thing and 30 seconds later do the opposite.... That we are fully capable of massive and transformative progress. That we can do _____ and we can be the one that others think about when searching for a good role model. "Nothing stops her," they will remark.

Few aspects of our lives require perfection to work. This is true! Woo-hoo! Yippeekayee! Momentum, progress, small wins, sweet daily victories, moments of glorious clarity - that's the ticket to success.

Don't let being off course become a source of power pulling you away from your goal, see it for what it is. A spec of time that will be gone in a minute. If in the next minute we become the change we seek, we can skip forward once again and enough that future setbacks will also be insignificant. Keep the progress big and the setbacks minuscule.

Enjoy being in alignment in this moment. And don't look back. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

What is Autofiction?

I've been seeing more classes and articles pop up that mention autofiction. It's a relatively new term that describes a very old writing practice. Short for autobiographical fiction, autofiction blends fictional and autobiographical story elements.

You might ask: Isn't most fiction a wee bit autobiographical? And isn't it common that nonfiction is sometimes embellished or dramatized?

Yes and yes. But autofiction is a wee bit more specific than this.

According to Brooke Warner in this Publisher's Weekly article, autofiction is not a genre or subgenre. It describes stories that are fueled by the truth. 

Masterclass.com describes autofiction this way, "Autofiction, short for autobiographical fiction, is a genre of literature that combines elements of autobiography and fiction."

I'm quite keen on this quote from storaenso.com: "As well as autofiction being an intriguing concept for the reader – “When you see that this is a novel but that the protagonist's name is the same as the author, you understand that something a little different is happening here,” says Koivisto – it can give authors something special, too."

And this post by Adele Annesi on the Jane Friedman blog is very good. "The writer then melds these realities with fictional plot elements, characters and events in a way that often reads like memoir or autobiography."

This notion that the author is a fictional or quasi-fictional protagonist is quite appealing to me.

I've written several autofiction pieces...well...depending on the definition. But one thing is for sure, it can be fun and freeing to include fictional elements in our autobiographical works. What's important, of course, is that we clarify whether it's truth, autofiction, or fiction. This is something I've done in my upcoming collection, Far From Ordinary. Each piece is labeled so there's no trickery. 

I'm thinking about making my next novel autofiction. Would be a blast to try! Will keep you updated. 

And if you're interested in reading some autofiction - other than mine - the storaenso.com piece linked above has a good list of autofiction novels. Also, a search on Amazon yields and interesting and eclectic list.

For writers: If you're a Lexington, KY based writer, the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning is offering a class on autofiction. And there are others online for those of us who live elsewhere.


Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The Unique Satisfaction of Milky Oolong Tea


Check out my adorable tea pot (and its cozy) and adorable tea cup nestled up next to my upcoming book (mid-Feb pub date), Far From Ordinary

The tea is milky oolong. Have you tried it?

The difference between white, green, oolong, and black teas is processing. They're all made from the same plant but some are dried and fermented to different degrees. Oolong is fermented more than green tea but not as much as black tea is. This in-between taste is sublime in my humble opinion. 

Oolong embodies the flavors of the earth, rain, and sky. Milk oolong is fermented a bit less than other oolongs - still more than green - and this helps it taste delicate and butterscotchy. The smell is incredible!

No milk is used in the making of milky oolong. It's magic, and I love it so.


Saturday, January 6, 2024

Bitter Choices for Better Plots


I love this post called Add a Luke Skywalker Moment: Give Your Main Character a Bitter Choice by Janet Fox on the Jane Friedman blog. In it, Janet shares a learning experience she had that helped her improve her novel by amping up the decisions her protagonist. 

If you're a writer, please head over and read the entire post. I love this quote from it: 

"A bitter choice creates a balance edge, tipping the character and audience one way or the other."

Adding more nuance to the defining moments in our story can make it a more satisfying read.  Here's my interpretation of what a bitter decision is:

  • There are two or more choices. 
  • All choices have significant downsizes.  
  • The bitter decision challenges the character and reveals their major flaw. 

As I think about the novels I've written and am considering, there are usually five or six key decisions my protagonist needs to wrestle. Not all can be bitter choices, but it's helpful to ensure all of these plot points are satisfying and complex.

Do they run the background check on their new love because there's something not quite right about their story?

Do they set up a sting that no one else knows about and risk failing with no help in sight if it goes sideways?

Do they gamble on their partner's life to safe another?

And I will challenge myself that if I don't have half a dozen questions like this my plot might not be there yet.