Category Archives: Susan Speaks

Susan Speaks: Talking to Others

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I always tell people that when they see the Orange S on the Red Background, they know it’s me.

But sometimes, when I have given an interview or a quote and it appears on other sites, or it’s not proper to use, you can’t see the Orange S on the Red Background. And you may not know it’s me. Or you may not know to look.

I’ve got two such links for you today.

One’s from, of all places, Huggies.com — yes, the diaper people! (And yes, when my kids weren’t in cloth, they were in Huggies. Hard to believe, as I look at them now, but there it is.) The question of the day was “The Best Job in the World: Inspirational Quotes for Moms and Dads.” Click on through to see my words of inspiration.

The second one is more political, so if you’re dead set on the need to get rid of the ACA and don’t want to listen to reasons why it’s been good for people, don’t click through. This one’s on Rewire, and it talks about how the ACA has allowed me to be the amazing editor you guys know and love — and how it saved my hide during the saga of my eye. My medical totals have gone up since I gave this interview, and let how much money is involved boggle your mind. It sure boggles mine.

I’m at work on other spots to spread the gospel of Susan, such as it is. Know of anyone who’d like to host an editor? Send ’em my way.

And like always, get your manuscripts in my queue!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: An Overdue Eye Update

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

People have started coming up to me, asking how things are since I haven’t updated about my eye in… eons.

There’a reason for that. Multiple reasons, actually.

First is that leading up to the third surgery, I was a total basket case. It was either going to be a perfect operation, the sort of thing you write textbooks about. A walk in the park.

Or.

It was going to be an absolute disaster that would turn into an emergency and would necessitate a fourth surgery the Monday after Christmas. We even had my original surgeon standing by, just in case.

The original surgeon actually walked me from pre-op to right outside the operating room the cataract guy used. The cataract guy was standing outside, waiting, when the original surgeon and I arrived.

I have never felt more cared for.

Now, it didn’t go totally smoothly. I was all wrapped up, the anesthesiologist had started to do her thing, the staff was great about telling me exactly what they were doing, I was having a great conversation with the surgeon and his chief resident (who was only introduced to me by his first name and as the surgeon’s assistant, and who I don’t recall ever actually seeing because he stood at my head) about the size of the cataract — it was bigger than they’d anticipated — and the microscope, which was really cool. I was kinda fascinated by it, to be honest.

It looked nothing like I’d expected.

It was WAY cooler. But not blue.

I don’t think.

And then… the staff forgot to tell me they were bringing something toward my face, I had a flashback to a certain pink-taped handlebar and… next thing I remember was being wheeled out of the ER and into recovery and the surgeon walking out behind me and giving a whoop, a fist pump, and yelling, “That went GREAT!”

Thank you, Tony the Tiger.

But he was right. The filaments in my eye, which we’d been so worried had been wrecked by the impact, had survived, entirely intact. The entire cataract surgery had taken five minutes.

Five.

Five minutes.

And then the surgeon and his chief resident spent ten minutes cleaning up some of the inside of my eye. They weren’t entirely successful, since they didn’t want to risk ripping anything, which would have sent the whole thing south, so they proved my original surgeon’s maxim: Everyone talks about how good a surgeon’s hands are, but they forget that what makes a truly brilliant surgeon is the exercise of good judgement and knowing when to stop.

Christmas Eve morning, I woke up and… I could see better than I had in almost a year.

Now, things still aren’t perfect. They need to finish cleaning up that spot on my eye, and they’ll need to use another laser to do it. I’m already fascinated by how this works.

And… it seems my close vision is what it is. Any correction we’ve tried with it has only made it worse. So I’m pretty much going through life now with a left contact lens and a bionic, Frankenstein right eye. I have a pair of glasses that make my distance vision crystal clear, but… at the sacrifice of my close-up vision. And they make my face feel funny, too, which is a really weird sensation. It’s like it’s melting.

Does this mean I’m disabled? My original surgeon says he doesn’t believe you’re ever disabled. He also doesn’t believe in concussions, but when I went to the concussion doc at the end of January, he used my own metrics to be pretty convincing: when I first saw him in August, my memory was in the 16th percentile. On January 31, it was in the 93rd.

But I can work. And I have been, pretty steadily, although of course I’ve got room in my roster for more. I’m starting to rebuild what I lost over the past year, bringing in new subcontractors so that we as a collective can turn out more of the quality work you’ve all come to associate with the West of Mars name. A bigger and better editing service is at your command.

Yet the question remains about how much I can see. And the answer is that it’s hard to answer. Yes, I can easily work. No, I can’t thread a needle, but that’s okay because I am less than domestic to begin with. I have trouble finding new places in the dark, even with a GPS or nav system–but I can read street signs. But I can see a Frisbee fly. And I can see the road in front of my bike. Can’t shop at my local Trader Joe’s, and florescent lighting is my worst enemy.

I may look into getting a funky pair of glasses that I can slip on without having to take out my contact, something so that I have that crystal clear(ish) vision when I go to the movies, to the theater, maybe to watch my beloved Thunderbirds. I’m not sure yet. I want that fourth surgery, with the laser, before I make any decisions.

But I’m here. And I can see you. Best of all, as I’ve been able to do all along, I can see my clients’ manuscripts.

So to those clients who stayed with me, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

And for those who didn’t stay by me over the past year… well, I hope you find someone as good as the editor you walked away from.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan’s Promo Tales: For you Paranormal, Time Travel, and Ghost authors (and readers)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

(A little reminder never hurts)

So. There’s a call for authors of time travel, paranormal, and ghost stories over at Wise Words Book Bloggers (aka, Louise Wise’s blog).

I’m still seeing a fair number of these subjects cross my desk, so if you’ve written one, here’s some free promo for you! Free is always good, especially if you’ve gotten active and donated your promo budget to worthwhile causes of late.

And if you’re a READER, a lover of ghost, paranormal, or time traveller stories, what are you waiting for? Add Wise Words to your feed reader, to your e-mail, however you like to read your favorite blogs, and find yourself some good new reads!

Don’t forget… reviews help authors more than words can say (pun intended). If you need help with a review, holler! I’ll fix you up, although, sadly, not for free. I do have a mortgage to pay!

And, of course, there’s free promo for you here at West of Mars. The Featured New Book Spotlight (and remember: it only has to be new to my readers) and Lines of Distinction.

Advocacy and #Resist is important. But so is taking time for self-care and escapism. Do it through a book!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: It’s Simple, but Oh, so True

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Thanks to Ramona DeFelice Long for the amazing graphic.

And for you authors out there, remember that now that I’m healthy(ish) again, the Featured New Book Spotlight and Lines of Distinction are yours. Use them. They’re free, they’re simple, they’re easy.

Don’t merely spread the word about your book. Remind the world why reading matters.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: Meditate Your Writing into a New Place

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

This showed up in my inbox, and I thought I’d pass it along.

Here’s the thing: I love Madhu Wangu. If you haven’t read her fiction yet, what are you waiting for? I totally love her works, and I suspect if you like smart, woman-first fiction, you will, too.

But Madhu doesn’t just write. Oh, no! She’s way more versatile than that. She leads a local writer’s group at a restaurant near me. Why don’t I go, you ask? I wish I could! But it’s a many-hours-long enterprise and my clients, all of whom I love dearly, keep me busy enough that I can’t go routinely, and the meditation work is the sort of stuff that you need to do consistently in order to make progress. Plus, not being there consistently would lead to disruptions when I do put in an appearance, and who wants that? While the attention is nice, it’s the wrong time for the spotlight to be on me.

I wish I could go because I believe strongly in Madhu’s meditation guidance. Her practitioners say it makes them better writers, and they are certainly all — well, the ones I know — lovely people with amazing things to say. They have learned to find the stillness they need for their fiction in walks in the woods, in walks down city streets, at home at their desks… wherever they need to. And like most people with important things to say, Madhu wants to reach more writers — or even people looking to enhance their focus, their creativity, their… anything! — by producing a new CD with material that can be downloaded and accessed whenever you like. Perfect for people like me, who can’t be there in person.

Things like professional recordings cost money, though, so Madhu’s put up a Go Fund Me page. I know… there are a million Go Fund Me accounts, and all of them are for good causes, so why is this one different?

Because it benefits YOU. Need some help to stop screaming like a harpy at your kids? Trying to find the inner strength to do something new and difficult? This would work! And Madhu’s voice — I say this because I’ve met her in person — is hypnotic in the good, soothing way. I’d listen to her before some random YouTube person leading a meditation. Maybe that’s because I’ve met her and know how warm and caring she is.

Can you tell I’m a fan girl? Total and utterly.

Please. Take a new direction for your writing and/or your life. Even five bucks will help, and best of all, that’ll leave you money to get the CD when the recording is done and polished and ready to be listened to and absorbed. This is one of those Go Fund Me campaigns that will give directly back to you.

As Madhu says at the end of her Go Fund Me Page, “Thank you so much for helping me bring these meditations to the people who want focus, inner-depth, productivity and connectedness into their creative life.”

(and before you ask, nope, Madhu hasn’t paid me off to be her ad campaign. I’m doing this because I adore her and want good things for a really good person. Who can argue with that?)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan’s Promo Tales: Got an Opp for You!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Got a book you’re promoting? Looking for somewhere to do it?

Not only do I offer two options — and they’re free (unless you want to reserve your date) — but my buddy Susan Leigh Noble is booking for her 2017 spots.

Go on over. Check out what Susan’s doing. Drop her a line (yes, in that order!)

And, of course, send me your graphic teasers or your answer to the one-question interview. I miss hearing what you guys have to say, so look for more of these to pop up in 2017.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

#SusanSpeaks Ahh, Here We Are

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

So where have I been?

Busy. Lots of clients cleaning off their plates and wanting to launch books prior to the end of 2016. Which means that as we get further into December, my queue is strangely empty. C’mon and fill that right on up, will you? ‘

And, of course, we can’t end the year without more surgery, right? The cataract needs to come out so the original surgeon can keep an eye on the damage behind it, and so the concussion specialist can determine if the migraines that continue to plague me are related to the TBI or if they are related to my attempts to see through a cataract the size of Texas.

This one scares me, in a way that nothing up to this point has. I’m having a hard time being my usual optimistic self about it.

That’s because it’s up to my eye. Either the filaments that hold my cataract-filled lens are in place or they’re not. And if the cataract surgeon saw signs that they’re not, he’s not talking. But my original surgeon will be standing by, just in case.

Because this can go THAT badly. Another retina tear. The lens falling into the back of my eye. More vision loss. Another gas bubble and no driving for 8-10 weeks.

Or… it can go absolutely swimmingly, be a fifteen-minute procedure, and no driving for 24 hours and then a slow return to my crazy life.

My response to this isn’t merely to be scared out of my wits, terrified like nothing else has ever terrified me. Nope. It’s a restlessness, a need to put it behind me, to get out of the holding pattern of the injured, and move forward. Explore new things. Embrace new hobbies and people. To be outside more, despite the weather.

There are some pieces of this already in place, but they are personal and don’t affect work (yet), so we’re not going to talk about them. On the radar is fixing the temperature problem in my office, so I don’t freeze in here all winter and sweat all summer. But that’s on the radar, and only worth mentioning because I’m sure there will be disruption to my day-to-day process when this gets going. Because one can’t work in one’s office when it turns into a construction zone.

Feel free to distract me over the next not-quite-two-weeks. I keep trying to soothe myself by saying we’ll know the results of the surgery in less than two weeks, but… it’s not helping that much. Better to bury myself in a manuscript and lose myself in work.

Fill up my queue, folks. Right now, I need you maybe more than you need me. And if you’re writing, you need me. Believe me. I’ve been reading a lot more lately and… I’m kinda sorry I have been. People need me.

Fill up my queue.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

#SaystheEditor: I’ve Said it Before and I’ll Say it Again

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

EDITOR  2

Facebook has its uses. But like everywhere else on the Internet, the bullies reign.

Interestingly, it came this time from a fellow editor. Someone who should know the value of words, how to wield them most effectively, how to come across as a professional and someone whose opinion has value. When dealing with authors, I think this is an absolutely imperative list of skills. To be good at what I do, I have to step outside my world view and try to engage with the author’s. I’m helping them bring the best out in their book, not make them bend to my will. I’ve found that when I can consider the view of others in general, I bring a better approach and experience to my clients. Can’t always do that, but hey, I’m human. We all are.

And it takes all kinds to make the world, and it takes all kinds to call themselves editing professionals.

Now, we’ve all done slips of the tongue before. But follow the tale. This isn’t a bad choice of words. Nope. Not even close.

It began harmlessly enough with a question: how’d you pick your business name. Fun topic. People often ask me about West of Mars, and while the answer is long, convoluted, and private — and harshly reveals things I’d like to leave in the past — the simple answer is, “It’s where I live.” Nice and easy. So I was taking a break from editing for my client, Steve, and answered with that short, pithy phrase.

It wasn’t the timing of the reply, as the bully assumed. It was his wording. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… (blah blah; lots more high-handed language)”

In other words: “I keep talking but you’re not listening, so I’m going to keep escalating the intensity of my response and keep saying it until you listen up and do what I say.”

Need proof?

Revisit your childhood. How many teachers, parents, adults in charge used that phrase on you? And what were they saying? “Shut up and do it my way.” Or maybe it was softer: “My way is the right way. You must follow.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…”

The implication is that the speaker isn’t going to shut up until not only heard, but obeyed.

Whatever, I thought. For me, it ended there. I’ve got two edits after this one; I’m not getting paid to engage on Facebook with people who are so absolute that their way is the only right way. I’m dropping in to take a break, clear my head so I can jump back in and give Steve my best.

At my next break, I took a look at my mail, including the notifications from Facebook. Seems my new friend has posted a brand-new post, broadly apologizing to the world for potentially offending anyone. And then he offered details about our exchange, including his assumption that I was miffed at him because of the timing of our replies.

And of course, his supporters showed up and began to bash this “mystery” member of the group. Editor dude, you are THE BEST. They must be having a bad day! What sort of jerk is that? Don’t they know you have a depth of knowledge that is unsurpassed? (and yes, that’s an almost direct quote)

Still doubt “If I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again” isn’t someone being the bully? He had to go and post a whole separate discussion in order to get one up on me.

And people pay this editor for help making their manuscripts better. Think about that. Does this mindset bring YOU the help you want/need to make your manuscript better? Can someone like this bring an open-mindedness to your work? Can they bring out the best in you, or will they harrangue you into doing it their way, even when your gut tells you it’s not the way that’s right for you? And if you dare to disagree, will YOU wind up as a conversation on Facebook, invited for ridicule?

I’ve met too many authors who have wound up in this position. People who feel forced to produce a book that they don’t love anymore. That the joy has been sucked out of. Some of them are stuck: they’ve signed a contract with a publisher. But others have used freelance editors who’ve left them feeling like this.

And that’s a shame.

There are a lot of really good people out there who look at editing as a way to bring out the best in the client. Who don’t make fun of their clients on Facebook. Who don’t ask others for grammar help; they know it, or they know who to seek out privately to find the answers.

If you’re looking for an editor, go find one of them. It’s YOUR book, YOUR vision, YOUR creation.

Don’t let someone pull that line on you: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…”

When you hear that and you’re an adult? Stop listening. Find yourself better people to surround yourself with.

.
.
(Oh, and for those of you keeping score, when I responded to a few geninue requests to understand what wording I was reacting to — with an explanation similar to what I said above– suddenly *I* was the one who had misunderstood *his* intent. He’s not a bully, merely misunderstood! Which… of course… perfectly explains all those other conversations inviting people to build him up while tearing me down. Can you say gaslighting, boys and girls? I haven’t been back to look, nor responded to the gaslighting, but you know his next move will be the personal attack. Yawn. Dude, go find someone else to bully. I got clients to take care of.)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: Been Awhile

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I’ve heard from a couple people now that they’ve been looking for updates from me. What’s going on, they’re asking. How’s the eye?

I have no idea.

It’s in my head, it’s working. (And now that I think about it, having been through a severe eye injury, I don’t buy TWD’s season premiere, and you who watch know what I mean, but it made for a grand, romantic gesture, so I’ll shut up now.)

But the cataract is big and fat. And slurping down whatever it needs to get bigger and fatter by the day.

Every time it grows, I have less and less of an idea of how the original injury is healing. I have zero idea at this point how much vision I truly have, if the ripples on the retina have smoothed out as they seemed to be doing. Nothing. I have zero concept of what my vision is behind Fatso the Cataract.

The second surgeon was able to make time for me… in a month from now. So it’ll be six weeks between the time the appointment was made and when I see the guy. And who knows how long before the surgery.

But in the six weeks between the last time I was at the optometrist and the original surgeon, I lost a line on the eye chart. Doesn’t sound too terrible, but stop and think for a minute.

Forty-three weeks ago, I was faced with horror of losing my sight. And let me tell you, it’s a horror.

And here I am, losing sight.

This isn’t a comfortable place to be. Not even close.

Needless to say, life’s getting tough. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to work; I may have to switch out of my home office and my big screen on the desktop and work on the laptop for awhile. Strangely, the smaller screen is easier to see (maybe because I sit closer to it and even when standing at my desk, I’m not as close). For someone who freelances, and who is still down in income from the original accident, this is a problem, and not just because I am expecting five or six manuscripts to show up between now and whenever they arrive.

And driving? Ugh. Unfamiliar places after dark proved to be a poor option last weekend, even with GPS directions.

I am leaving messages for the second surgeon every week. Let me tell you this: when they send out that survey asking what I think, these people are being marked as horrible. I mean, I totally GET that they are doing me a favor by finding me an appointment in this calendar year. My original surgeon’s office had to call in a favor. I get it. I do. I should be grateful. I am.

But surely people cancel appointments, and surely they keep a list of people who need to get in sooner. And surely they can call me.

Because by the time the appointment comes, it’s going to be in an unfamiliar place. During the day, sure. But unfamiliar. And I may not be able to do it by myself.

So that’s how I am. Heading to end 2016 the way I began it: worried about my vision. Because as routine as a cataract removal is, mine won’t be. You can’t take an eye that’s been through as much as mine has been and expect even something simple to not have a chance to go sideways. That’s why I am stuck with this one particular surgeon: he operates on the same day as my guy, in the same hospital. If the original guy needs to come save my eye and/or my vision again, he needs to be right there.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

News Roundup, end of September edition

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I’ve been super busy and haven’t had time for an update, but lots of friends and clients and cool people are doing newsworthy things, and since it’s mostly all book related, let’s spread the love.

Reviews are continuing to roll in on my friend Joyce Tremel’s first book in her new series, Brewing Trouble. The second book comes out in early October, so check out what our mutual friend (and amazing writer, herself) Annette Dashofy has to say over at the #30Authors event.

West of Mars friend KC May has updated her E-Book Formatting for Novelists. It’s available for free at a number of locations, including this one at InstaFreebie.

West of Mars friend Liz Milliron (among mega-cool others) has a story in a new anthology, Blood on the Bayou. Check out this glowing review — and then get a copy for yourself.

If you don’t know by now, West of Mars is located in the Pittsburgh suburbs. I’ve always loved living here (okay, not so much in high school, but how much do you really appreciate in high school anyway?). My beloved city is currently having a sort of renewal, rebirth, or has simply done stuff to be trendy and hip. I’m not sure which. But at any rate, to go with our killer new restaurants, we’ve got a brand-new bookstore: Nine Stories. I’m busy during their grand opening, but I’ll have to go on down and (find parking. Ugh. The bane of my existence; I hate being a suburban girl!) make some connections to help better the writing/reading community in the city… and beyond.

Over at The Rock of Pages this week, Jett’s coveted a few books and left an important announcement about Rocktober. Which is that I’ve been busy recovering from the bike accident (yes, still — today’s the 40-week mark and go and make all the pregnancy jokes you’d like to) and didn’t have the time or energy to hunt down authors to ask them to join in. If you know an author of Rock Fiction or read Rock Fiction, Jett and I are always glad to hand the site over for a guest blog post and/or review… or anything you can think up, so long as it joins music and fiction. At The Rock of Pages, it’s Rocktober all year round. Spread the word. Get involved.

On an editing front, I’m booked out about three weeks at this point, but there are a couple potential clients who I’ve been talking to, and I’m awaiting a major project from a client, as well. If you need an edit, better be in touch with me soon. And by soon, I mean NOW.

Also on the editing front, although a bit differently, one of my clients is debating the merits and advantages (and disadvantages) of ACX versus Audible. Leave your feedback here or at the West of Mars Facebook page. Help a fellow author — or two. You never know who is lurking and will take your advice to heart!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

#SaystheEditor The Morality Police

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

EDITOR  2

I belong to a number of editor groups at this point in time. I usually lurk, but wound up following a thread the other day.

…there were other places that seemed homophobic to me, which is not something young people should read

*blink*

not something young people should read

You were hired to EDIT a work of fiction. You were not hired to interpret the content. You were not hired to be the morality police.

You were hired to perform a job. You were not hired to overlay your views, beliefs, and politics over someone else’s work or vision.

If you have a problem with it, yes, bring it to the author or publisher.

But to make a blanket statement about what people should and should not read?

NOT YOUR JOB.

You are not the acquiring editor, who (in this case) has paid the author an advance against royalties for the work. One presumes they have approved the content and have seen this content that is not something young people should read. Clearly, the acquiring editor, on behalf of the publisher, does not agree!

Gah.

I once edited a book, helping get the third book in a trilogy ready for submission to an acquiring editor who had already bought the first two, and the storyline stretched plausibility. I said to the author, “This is problematic to me. I have trouble buying that a person in this profession would act in this way.”

“But this is my life,” she huffed back.

“I get that,” I said. “But sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction and I’m concerned this won’t go over well with your publisher or the audience you’ve built.”

Her publisher refused to publish the book. For the exact reason I’d raised. The trilogy was never completed and remains a two-book series.

So what’s the difference here?

Easy. I won’t make a judgement about what should or should not be read by the public.

This other freelance editor did exactly that. And that bothers me.

She wasn’t hired to be the morality police. She was hired to interact with a text and make it better.

Maybe making it better means flagging the material that she finds inappropriate. (But let’s face it: if she was hired to do a straight grammar check, then no, she wasn’t hired to flag material that offends her. She was hired to make sure the grammar is correct. Nothing more.) But more to the point, it means swallowing your sensibilities and approaching the work as a professional would do. Is this in context? Is it realistic that this character thinks/feels/acts this way? Does it advance the storyline? Does it let the reader have a better/different/illuminating glimpse of the character? Does it help shape the way the reader interacts with the text, in the way that the author has indicated via other parts of the text?

That’s what an editor does.

Freelance editors are not here to be the morality police and tell the world what they should and should not read. They are only here to make the work of fiction in front of them shine. Go ahead and challenge the author. “Is this what you mean to say? Do you see how it can be taken the wrong way? Are you prepared if it is?”

Save the blanket statements. Tuck the morality police away.

Do the job you were hired for, which is to make a book shine. Not to judge what a segment of the reading population should and should not be exposed to.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: Thirty-Six and Still Counting

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

It’s been a whirlwind around here as the clock keeps moving forward. Thirty-six weeks since the accident and I’m still counting.

Therapy’s helping, but slowly. Feeling’s starting to come back to the fingers of my left hand. My strength is coming back even faster — just in time for snow shoveling season!

Being concussed is, quite frankly, a total pain in the ass. I liked it better when I didn’t know I was concussed and was just living my life, full-speed ahead. To go from full speed to a crawl has been the hardest part, although the isolation is hard, too. Remember your chronically ill friends, folks, and try to keep the support coming. Sometimes, the longer things drag out, the more they need you. I’m learning this one through experience.

Since I was cleared almost two months ago to wear contacts, I piggybacked an appointment for my son to have his eyes checked with an appointment of my own for a valid prescription for contacts. The little computer they made me stare at said my prescription has gotten better and the tech asked if my strongest glasses were too strong, but then she had me read the eye chart and yep, the doctors were right when they said the cataract would make my vision worse, not better.

I see the surgeon in another month, and we’ll see what he says. On the one hand, I want my retina as healed as possible before we tackle the cataract. But on the other, I’d like the surgeries behind me. I’m eager to get on with living, not healing.

This surprises no one.

What will probably surprise all of you is that my September editing calendar is now completely booked. Depending on work, therapy (once a week, I have three hours of therapy, between the pinched nerve and the concussion work), kids, and life, it might spill into October, which is hard for impatient clients. But it’s super for me. And it’s not just that dates are booked, either. It’s that manuscripts are here, all files open on my desktop, ready and waiting for me. This is job security, man.

I have missed this. Having manuscripts waiting, being in demand.

This is what happens when you are good at what you do.

So keep it coming. Keep counting with me; I’ll be fully healed one day (maybe) and on to something hopefully with less risk and even more personal fulfillment. If you can consider anything about the past thirty-six weeks to be in any way personally fulfilling.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: Pulsed

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I have been Pulsed.

What the heck does that mean?

Pulse is the name of my son’s summer team. It’s a complex organism, the summer team, comprised of kids from all over the city and suburbs. Kids my kid competes against in the fall and spring, kids he has a rivalry (usually friendly but maybe not always) with now become his teammates and they have about ten weeks to come together and gel so they can perform at a high level on the field.

All I’ll say about that last bit is that they entered the tournament as the #10 seed. They left it in thirteenth place.

We can say the team got Pulsed.

Despite the poor finish, there’s a lot to be positive about. Great coaches, one of whom is going to be a rock star of a coach, if he so chooses. And the Spirit of the Game that is mandated by the rules pervaded pretty much everyone on this trip: players, coaches, chaperones. People were friendly and talkative and… yeah. Spirit of the Game. The three Pittsburgh teams rooted each other on. They helped make a strong sideline, which is an important part of Ultimate, and they taught my son’s team — the under 16-year-old kids — how to be that sideline. They did it through example. It was a good thing.

This is why I love Ultimate. Spirit of the Game extends off the field.

Of course, there were problems and we won’t get into them now. My kid had a rough first day. REALLY rough. But his coaches knew what to say and they even figured out how best to instruct him so his final two days of competition weren’t just better, but I watched him push through his own obstacles and elevate his game. Of course, with only ten kids by the final day (one left early and one tore a pectoral muscle) while the other teams had 22, there wasn’t much choice. Which is what we’d wanted: lots of time on the field. Lots of touches on the disc. Experience.

My kid’s been Pulsed.

This was his last year of eligibility for this Under-16 team, as his birthday’s coming up in a scant two weeks. Next year, he may or may not make the more competitive Under-19 team. That’s on him and how he chooses to elevate his game. Time will tell.

On a work front, I’d thrown the edit I was working on into Dropbox, but the hotel Internet was really quite poor (and again, I have major issues with Hilton hotels) as I got nailed with Malware of some sort and when I ran the scanner, cleaned it up, and restarted the machine, Dropbox decided it wasn’t going to cooperate with my laptop. What the heck? I have to go open the file and see if the changes I’d made up to that point saved or if all that work was wasted…

I got Pulsed. Not in a good way.

But the pictures from the weekend are uploaded and if you’re a close friend, I’m glad to share the link. If you caught my Facebook post, I was the one not only taking pictures but running the team’s Twitter account, which had parents on the first night wandering around the hotel lobby and asking who was so much fun. Like this surprises any of you?

So… lots of catch-up work. And, of course, I heard from a number of potential clients over the weekend, all of whom need to be followed up on, and not only do I have the current edit to deal with, the next in line has arrived, too. This is all good, as I now have a mega trip to pay off!

Right now, it’s off to PT to deal with the pinched nerve from the bike accident.

And who messed with my desktop while I was gone?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: The Mountain, Conquered

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Week 32. And I can say I did it. The mountain is conquered.

This year, I didn’t just take my Venturing Crew out to summer camp. Nope. We went full-octane: to the mountain. The mountain in West Virginia, in fact. The mountain where the Summit Bechtel Reserve has been built.

Half-healed, I set foot on one of the BSA’s high adventure bases… and almost let it beat me.

I blame it on a couple of things. We got into camp and it was hot. We were rushed to set up our tents — the tents were up, but the cots were not, and the tents themselves had the windows shut, so they were furnaces — and then join the orientation tour. We saw lots of statues of donors but didn’t get enough information about what activities were open and where things were. Since we were largely relying on the boy, who had been at the 2013 Jamboree, to know where to go, that wasn’t good.

It was rush, rush, rush, and then we were back at the campsite and heading up to the dining tent. It was a fifteen-minute walk, so I’d say it was about three-quarters of a mile. Shorter if you ignored the switchbacks, but between the constant yells to stay on the paths and how steep the grassy areas were, the long way was the best way.

My crew, not thinking, walked at their usual pace.

At my best, I walk slowly. But between the heat, being rushed around, and frankly being overwhelmed by a totally unfamiliar situation — the first time that had happened since the accident, despite the crazy adventures I’ve had over the past 32 weeks — I was walking even more slowly.

And they didn’t notice.

They went into the dining hall before I was near the top of the path. I tried following them in.

To commemorate the first night, a DJ was playing. People were everywhere. I changed my glasses, but I still couldn’t see. Couldn’t see how the room was set up. Couldn’t see my people. Heck, I couldn’t make out much of anything, just the tables directly in front of me.

I tried texting my Crew. They didn’t understand. I got more scared and frustrated.

I fled, intending to grab my stuff and my car keys and really flee.

The mountain began crowing its win.

My guys and girls came and got me. We worked it out. And for the rest of the week, they kept an eye on me. They’d turn around and make sure I was close enough. They’d tell each other to stop and wait. Sometimes, they’d just stop on their own. They rallied, and they helped, and they made sure we sat near doors and that I always knew where things were.

And I declared the mountain conquered.

It tried again to get me, though. Wednesday was both my lowest and highest point after that rough start.

Despite the pinched nerve, despite the concussion (one night at dinner, I proclaimed we were being fed peas and carrots. Which would have been fine if those yellow things had been peas and not corn!), despite it all, I decided I wanted to do the canopy tours with the guys. We harnessed up and… I failed out of ground school.

Two reasons for that: first is that my balance is off. WAY off. Scarily off. And you had to go up and down little wooden steps with no railings to get attached to the zip line. And then, they sent you halfway down the line and made you stop yourself. No problem there. But pulling myself back? No strength in the poor left arm.

If I got stuck, I couldn’t help myself. If I fell off the stairs, bad things would ensue.

I failed ground school.

In 31 weeks, I hadn’t been tempted to cry. Not once, and most of you know what I’ve been through. Even Sunday night, when we got to camp and it tried to kick my ass, I did not cry.

I almost cried after failing ground school.

But thanks to a kind woman, I redeemed myself later that night, during open program. I grabbed the boy and a couple of the others and we jumped on a mountain bike. I told myself I was only doing the absolute easiest route and… dude. That was my personal high point of the week. For those few minutes on a bike, I felt like myself again. I felt like Susan. There were pedals under my feet and handlebars under my hands and a helmet on my head and mud was flying and I wanted to throw my head back and laugh and savor because I felt normal. Finally normal.

The high lasted the rest of the night.

I didn’t chase the high when we had our scheduled session at the more hard-core mountain bike trails, opting not to ride but to hang out and chill instead. I did yoga on the stone sign marking the program area. I chatted and posed for pictures with our new friends from Virginia.

But afterward, when we were hiking back, we stopped at the line for the Big Zip. One of the longest zip lines in North America, my boys had already been down it twice. The rule was that if there was a long line, repeat offenders were bumped, so I had to check: If the guys walk me up there, are they going to ride down with me?

Yes. No one was up there.

We had arranged it beforehand: we’d take the forty-five minute hike up (and I do mean up! I’d love to know the elevation gain) and do it slow. Take an hour, an hour and a half. But dammit, I was getting up that mountain and I was riding that zip line.

My lungs had adjusted by this point, and so had my legs because I’ll be damned, but we made it in forty-five minutes. (It helps that I left my daypack at the check-in point and that one of the other guys carried my water bottle, although the boy kept handing me his, silently reminding me to stay hydrated.)

I had no balance problems on the steps at the launch point. Okay, they were bigger steps, wider than at the canopy tour. And yes, I had a rope already attaching me to the zip line to hang on to.

“Take a step down,” the staff said when my lines were all attached. “Sit down in your harness.”

I did.

“GO!” she shouted.

The boy and I whooped as the release let go. The view was everything they said it would be. The ride was peaceful and gorgeous and if we were really moving close to 60 mph, it didn’t feel like it. And when I saw the boy tuck into a tighter ball to try to pass me, I tucked up, too… and beat my own kid. Handily.

But let me tell you, it wasn’t the same thing as that mountain bike the night before. Not even close.

So, my mountain, The Summit Bechtel Reserve, you tested me. And I won. It was a close fight, but not a fair one: I’m nowhere near healed yet. And yet I won.

Imagine how unstoppable I’ll be once all this is behind me.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: Into the Woods

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

So you need an editor like NOW.

Sorry. I am taking the week off this week and heading into the woods. I’m sitting on a mountaintop in West Virginia, by and large. Distances are large and I’m hoofing my way around, camera in hand, to take pictures of my seven so they’ll have cool High Adventure shots for their Eagle ceremonies. Concussion (which may not be a concussion) and pinched nerve (which definitely is a pinched nerve) and bad shoulder be damned. I’m going. Cool High Adventure shots for Eagle ceremonies.

Okay, the girl won’t have an Eagle ceremony. She wants to earn a bigger and better award, and we’re going to see what of that we can get started, too.

This is my reading this week:
images

Existing clients, or those content to wait, my phone and my laptop are coming into the woods with me, and the camp is entirely connected (thanks, AT&T) so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or manuscripts that need my eagle eyes. Just… don’t expect me to do a lot of editing. This week’s about giving the eye time off. I know the surgeon said it’s healed, but… what if it isn’t, and the time I’m spending into the woods is a helpful thing?

See you when I survive the bears. And the poisonous snakes. And the ambient showers, camp food, and a tentmate, which is scarier than poisonous snakes.

After that, we go from Into the Woods to Frisbee Central again, and a trip to the Youth Club Championships. And then, if I don’t collapse from it all, I get to be home for a good, long while. Flood my inbox with your fantastic manuscripts, authors. I’ve got to pay for all these adventures! And beyond that, you guys make me love what I do. I can’t wait to come home, chomping at the bit to get busy again.

You guys inspire me. Keep it up. And flood my inbox.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: Thirty and Still Counting

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Last week, I was set to stop counting. The surgeon had proclaimed my eye healed.

But guess what?

Far from it.

The eye is stable. It’s fully healed from the surgeries. Which means it’s time to figure out what’s going on in my left hand and why I can’t lay down. (You know. To do fun things like sleep.)

Now, my massage therapist and I have been working on this. We thought we knew what was up, and my massage therapist, the sports med guy said, was pretty darn good with what he did catch. The problem is that there’s more to it. And yes, it all comes back to the accident. And so, we’re at week thirty and still counting.

I guess when you fall twice on your left shoulder, it’s inevitable that you mess it up. And now, all these weeks later with zero medical attention, it’s not happy.

Neither, apparently, is my brain.

Now, if you go back, I’ve mentioned many times my frustration with the nurse in the first ER. I was sitting there, leaking eye goop, and could not, for the life of me, even begin to comprehend what a passcode on my phone was, let alone what the code could be. “Use my thumb,” I kept telling my best friend, who gave me a weird look and told me to keep thinking as I held my thumb up like he should detach it and carry it into the hallway with him so he could use my phone to call my family with updates.

The ER nurse, when I asked if I could be concussed, said, “Probably” and walked out of the room. And then it was all about the eye. As it should have been. The surgeon did not think it could be saved. The heroic battle was necessary. And damn if I don’t appreciate it.

Fast forward to the other day. My sports med guy, who has worked with our local concussion center, said he wasn’t surprised that the ER brushed off my brain. They don’t really address concussions, he said, because concussions either clear up in two weeks or else they linger. Most people figure out the headaches are a problem and don’t wait 29 weeks to see their doctor.

I, as well all well know, am not most people. A headache? After the migraines I used to get? Not even worth paying attention to. And so… I didn’t. Besides, I was still focused on the eye, then the arm, and I’ve got a business to run and kids to raise and Ultimate to watch to help me feel better about the world. What’s a headache?

Yeah. So.

PT begins on Thursday, and I’m grateful for a good friend who gave me a great referral and agreed that my plan to have it all treated under one roof was the right plan.

But as for my head? Well. Hmm. Wow.

When I called to make my appointment, they said, “Oh, it’s been seven months. We’re in no hurry to see you, then. How’s mid-August, AFTER you’ve been in PT for a month and after you’ve flown to Minnesota and spent another month taking two or three naps a day and wondering why you can’t work for more than thirty minutes at a time? Yeah. Okay. Good. Mid-August it is.”

Dude. Thirty weeks and still counting. I’m chafing to get all this behind me and resume my life.

But… I guess that’ll begin at week 34… unless the PTs can make something happen. Because how can they fix my arm if it makes my brain worse?

Week thirty. Still counting.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Susan Speaks: Time to Stop Counting?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Today makes twenty-nine weeks and I don’t know… maybe it’s time to stop counting. But maybe it’s not.

Maybe it is because I was at the surgeon earlier in the week. He pronounced the rupture and retina tear fully healed. That was the best part, I suppose. There was more good stuff: I can try to wear a contact in the injured eye and see if I can tolerate it. The scar tissue and my eye in general is finally stable. He’s ordering a retina scan so we have a benchmark of what my new normal is.

There was middle-of-the-road stuff: he estimates between six months to a year before the final surgery.

And there was some bad: I may be on the pressure eye drops for the rest of my life. The cataract surgery may change things. It’s hard to know. The surgeon may send me to a glaucoma specialist; he’s not sure yet. And… I will never see 20/20 out of the bad eye.

So on the one hand, it’s time to stop counting. The eye is healed. Time to start a new chapter, the post-eye-trauma chapter.

Except…

When I fell, I must have done something to my left arm. I remember landing on my left side, and I remember falling back on my left arm a second time, right before the handlebar hit. Two weeks ago, the pain became intolerable; I hadn’t slept for two weeks prior to that. So I took myself off to my trusty massage therapist (really, everyone needs a Keith in their lives!) and he spent two back-to-back weeks working on it. He relocated my radius and a rib up near my shoulder. He teased and coaxed and worked my muscles and the nerve that’s been problematic. He gave it his all, and for Keith, that’s saying quite a lot.

Which brings me to where we are: we’re both ready to concede I did something when I fell. Something that is so inflamed and angry and nasty that I need more than he can give right now. (read: right now)

So yesterday, I called my sports med doctor and I’ll let him take a look. He’s going to love this one… and I’m sure he’ll share my frustration that everyone was so focused on the eye that no one thought to look beyond the most obvious part (even when I asked them to).

Which means maybe it’s not time to stop counting. Because I’m not fully back to whatever my new normal is. Things are still wrong. Very very wrong.

But today, I’ll try not to think about it. The boy is home from Frisbee camp, full of new experiences, new lessons, new relationships — and a pair of shorts that used to belong to this year’s Callahan winner, Trent Dillon. Hopefully, he’s elevated his game. The boy, that is. Not Trent, who seemed like a nice guy when I chatted with him at pickup yesterday. I’m not sure Trent can elevate his game, but I hope I’ll get to watch.

Today is week 29. I’ll be on two fields today, sort of. The boy has practice with his summer team. Tonight, my Thunderbirds play their first-ever home playoff game.

My hand, I’m sure, will tingle and hurt and make me want to cry and puke and even contemplate cutting it off, just to get the pain to stop. But I’ll look up at the sky and watch the disc fly and… somehow, it’ll all be okay. Twenty nine weeks later, I know this.

I’d just thought the end, where it’s all okay, would have come sooner. And I’d thought, like everyone else seemed to, that the eye was the least of it and the worst of it, the most of it and the easiest. We all might have been wrong.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

#SaystheEditor Character Consistency

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

EDITOR  2

“Why is it,” I muttered under my breath, or maybe in that part of my writer’s brain that’s always writing and narrating, “that the boy is so damn good about getting up every day at 6AM for school but can’t get up at 8AM twice a week to volunteer at the local township’s camp?”

The answer, of course, is multi-layered:
1. Mom’s cranky when she has to get him up in the morning
2. He doesn’t care as much about volunteering at the local township’s camp as he does about not missing the bus
3. It’s summer and he wants to be lazy and have zero responsibilities, even though he’s started to work on his Eagle project
4. It’s summer and he’s been staying up late, as is the right and responsibility of every teenager ever. Circadian rhythms and all that.
5. He likes being awakened by a smart-aleck of a mom.
6. It’s two days a week instead of five, and harder to find a rhythm.

But if you strip out those reasons, you’re left without character consistency.

In fiction, this can be taken a few ways:
1. It’s bad writing because characters should be consistent to themselves
2. If this was Young Adult, it’s a Sign! Of a Big Problem! a Tragedy! And the parents must now investigate, but they are bumbling idiots, so it’s up to the younger sibling (usually a girl) who is the main point of view character and who will now save the day.
3. The author is using the lack of character consistency to signal a left turn in the plot and character arc that you didn’t see coming (refer back to #1)

Most of the time, it’s taken as a sign of bad writing, not a flaw in the character. (note: MOST of the time) And a lot of the time (note: A LOT, not all and not most), you can avoid being called a bad writer by taking a bit more time to show what’s going on. The mom who wakes up at 1AM to see the light seeping through the cracks in the door, or hears him talking to his friends via Skype or voice chat or whatever he’s using this week. Maybe you show that the kid needs the interaction with his mom, who’s a lot less cranky two hours later and a heck of a lot funnier or more reasonable (You’d have to ask him how different I am without the pressure of “No, I am NOT schlepping your rear the whole way to school so get moving” and all.) — as always with fiction, there are a million possibilities.

Which means that it’s okay to let your characters be inconsistent from time to time, especially in the early drafting stages. You can revise them into submission later. But, like I’m always encouraging you, push yourself. Stretch. Don’t fall into Reason #2 time and time again. Do you see how many cliches I packed into that one point?

Don’t be a cliche packer. (wow. That sounds… wrong)

Push yourself. Stretch your writerly wings. Once you do, you can either revise and work on crafting it into perfection, or you can revise and edit it out until no one knows you tried.

But you’ll know. And if you’re the kid of writer I know you are, all you who struggle with Inherent Writerly Insecurity, you’ll learn from the experiment. Which means that next time, you’ll be less likely to fail.

Go for it. Character consistency. Character INconsistency — except, it’s not inconsistent. Not when you get done with it.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Six. Six months. Six diopters. Twenty-six.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Today is the twenty-sixth Saturday of 2016. That means it’s exactly six months since I fell off my bike and tried to take out my own eye.

How you noticed how the way I talk about it has changed? From a “catastropic fall off my bike” to “trying to take out my own eye.”

Time heals all wounds, the cliche goes. And my eye is healing. I just got back from a visit to my optometrist, who was able to adjust my prescription down. It’s still honkingly high – that’s what one of those sixes refers to — but it’s better than it was. And for the first time, the optometrist grabbed a prism and took a look inside. He said it looks good. He said that until he looked up to the area of the original tear, he’s seen similar scarring in eyes that haven’t had surgery, eyes that have had worse vision than a minus six. And he said the cataract was almost impossible to look through without dilating my eye. I can’t wait to hear what the surgeon says when I see him in a few weeks.

Way back in February and March, when celebrities and it seemed like everyone else was dropping dead on a daily basis, a lot of my friends were wishing they could have a do-over for 2016.

I get where they are coming from. I feel for their pain. It was a very rough way to start a new year.

But me? Nope. I wouldn’t redo most of the past six months. I wouldn’t reset time and not be on my bike. I wouldn’t stop my handlebar from hitting me. I might have gone directly to the second ER a bit faster, but that’s about the only change I think I’d make — but even that is a hard call, as it was the first ER who called the surgeon who saved my eye. Would the second have done that? Or would they have called someone else, someone who wasn’t as skilled?

I’d let it happen again. I think I’d let it all happen, exactly as it did.

Crazy, huh?

That’s because I had to almost lose my vision in order to see more clearly.

And boy oh boy, do I see more clearly. Like the value of so-called friends and the people who don’t call themselves friends but act like it when the time is right. Like the difference between what’s worth fighting for and what’s worth fighting over. The definition of respect, of healthy relationships, of what it means to be scared and what it means to have faith in yourself. I first noticed this back in March, at my son’s Frisbee tournament, but I am not planted in one spot anymore. I can and do move, and it’s fun and it’s great and I’ve got a right eye full of scars and ripples that may never go away and will always affect my vision and dammit, but I’ve never been happier.

I had to almost lose my vision to find a new freedom.

Six. Six months after that horrible Saturday morning. You can still look at me and see the incision the surgeon made just to the side of my iris. You can still look at the outside corner of my eye and see where it ruptured. You can still see a bloodshot eye that’s not quite as white as its partner. The incision should smooth out. The bloodshot areas may or may not go away and the trauma and steroids may not let my eye ever be totally white again, but frankly, I hope the rupture never lies flat.

I almost lost my eye, not just my vision. I should have a visible reminder of that. You all should see the scars; you all should know what happened, what I’ve overcome. And you all should celebrate with me that we can see those scars, that there is an eye to look at.

On the six-month anniversary, on the twenty-sixth Saturday of the year, the vision in my beat-up right eye is a minus six. It’s an improvement from what it had been.

Six. Six. Six.

I remember being in the hospital the day after it all happened — the fall, the hospital hop, the surgery — and asking the good-looking resident and the cool-as-anything fellow if it was fair to expect to spend the bulk of 2016 dealing with this. It was a fair question: it was the third day of 2016. People are still thinking about the promise of a year ahead at that point.

He couldn’t answer. Or he wouldn’t.

But I knew.

Twenty-six weeks. Six months.

And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

#SaysTheEditor: Shut Down, Defenses Up

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

EDITOR  2

You can probably guess where Week 24 found me… among other places. Life has taken a new, fuller swing, although the healing’s not nearly done yet. I’ve got another month to go before the next surgeon’s visit and I’m both on pins and needles to see what his verdict will be — another back-of-the-eye surgery to deal with scar tissue or not — and I’m beyond ready for all of this to be over. I keep reminding myself to be patient, to give myself time to heal, to be gentle with myself.

Being gentle with ourselves is a big one, a reminder most of us need. As writers, we’ve got a double burden: compelling fiction demands we torture our darlings while at the same time, giving them the space to be gentle with themselves.

That’s something I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say when talking about torturing our darlings. We talk about putting them in conflict. Not letting them take the easy way out. Action, action, reaction, reaction, more action.

But without that gentle period, that time to shut down, defenses up, our characters — and ourselves — can’t do the other essential part of fiction (and life): grow.

And without growth, no one’s satisfied. The real-life people become stuck in a rut (often a dangerous one). The fictional ones become frustrating to read about because as readers, one of the elements we seek — albeit unconsciously — is the character growth part of the journey. That’s the part we need in order to make the emotional connection to the characters on the page. That’s what brings them to life.

What made me think of this all night wasn’t my own frustration with my slow healing. It was watching one of the guys at the field last night. One in particular. He’s someone I’ve met, chatted with, someone whose smile makes me swoon. We have mutual friends, of course; the community isn’t nearly that big.

Over the course of this season, I’ve noticed that he’s been stiffer than he had been last summer. Last week, someone pointed out that his physical appearance has gone from being very colorful (and often joyously mismatched, at that) to being scarily monochrome. And when I speak to mutual friends, there’s an undercurrent when they talk about an action this guy took last autumn. Like they don’t approve. Or understand.

I’d like to say it’s the writer in me that’s intrigued by this guy, and until he smiles, it probably is. Where’d this new stiffness come from? Where’d the ease of his movements go, the quick smile, the dancing eyes?

At the game last night, my friends and I were standing in a spot that let me have a good look as he walked past, to and from the locker room. And that’s when I noticed it: he’s not just stiff. He’s shut down, defenses up. Suspicion in his eyes, maybe a bit of anger. Body held tight, shoulders taut, hips stiff. The arms don’t swing the way they had. He’s shut down, defenses up all right. And then some.

He looked like one gentle touch was all it would take to make him completely unravel.

Damn, I’m tempted. To grab him, to find out where his colors went, what it’ll take to bring them back. To remind him that being gentle with yourself is important, it’s vital, it’s how we figure out who we are and where we are headed, although one thing I’ve learned over the past six months is that trying to figure out the why of it all is an exercise in futility. That’s one of those things only hindsight can give us.

Of course, as crazy fun and outrageous as I can be these days — one of the blessings of that damn fall off my bike — reaching out to someone so very shut down isn’t something I’m going to do. Too much of a risk to my own need to be gentle with myself.

So I’ll put it into fiction: mine and that of my clients. Are we letting our characters have the time to shut down, defenses up, until they are ready to emerge from the cocoon, new and (hopefully) improved? Are we giving them the space to make sense, or do we merely let them react, react, react, act, act, act? Sure, sometimes in life and fiction, that’s where growth comes from. Changing the strategy and/or actions taken in order to have success in the penultimate fight.

But a little self-reflection, no matter how plot-driven a story, isn’t always a bad thing.

As for that guy whose smiles make me swoon? Yeah. Now that. That is a bad thing. The unattainable always is.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
« previous page · next page »