New Year’s Resolution? Hah!

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution that you kept?

Well, that could be the shortest blog ever.

It does raise an interesting question for me: If I never keep my resolutions, why do I keep making them? To answer that, I had to sit down and take a painfully honest look at the three big resolutions that keep popping up every year.

Lose weight. Yeah, that’s always on my list. So why don’t I do it? I like food. I hate exercise. Pretty simple equation. Every year, I have stronger incentive: it’s harder to lose as I get older, I have kids who need me to play with them, my sister had two heart attacks in her early forties, etc.

The past year and a half have given me more reasons to gain and even stronger reasons to lose. My new limited mobility makes it harder to exercise and easier to sit on my ever-increasing butt. But the heavier I get, the more difficulty I will have in continuing to recover. If I ever want to walk normally and live without constant pain, I absolutely must lose weight.

I refuse to be one of those fat ladies using the scooter at Wal-Mart.

Finish writing my novel. Another repeat offender. I haven’t followed through on this one because I’m a champion procrastinator. I’ve got a house to run, kids to raise, meals to cook, etc. I can always find something that has to be done, something that I give higher priority than my writing.

It probably has something to do with fear that I’m not as good as I like to think I am. If I never finish the novel, it can never be rejected by a publisher. If I never finish the first one, I never have to worry about following up with a second one. If I never finish, I can’t fail.

Wow, that’s really stupid.

I have to set this one again. Now that I am physically unable to go back to work, writing seems to be the only job I am qualified to do. And since our government says I am not disabled, I have to find a way to earn a paycheck before my lost-wages checks run out. This is my only employable skill.

My car accident took away so much, but it also gave me an incredible opportunity to focus on writing. I can’t waste a chance like this. It’s life’s way of forcing me to put a positive spin on a terrible event so I can haul my ass out of self-pity.

Be a better Mom. Don’t all parents make this resolution? We all should. In a way, I do keep this one, simply because I keep trying to improve. There is no perfect mother in this world (although the Big Guy will argue that his mother is perfect), but sometimes doing my best is just the best it’s going to get. My kids are clean and well-fed, and they know their mommy loves them. They may not get the best help with homework or the most consistent discipline; they eat far too many meals on TV trays instead of at the table and sometimes they wear the same pair of jeans two days in a row because I’m behind on the laundry.

But at the end of the day, the last thing any one of my kids hears from me is “I love you.” They look out for each other, and they treat others with respect. They know they are loved and they know that they matter, and there are days when that just has to be enough.

And that’s my resolution list for this year. I’m going to leave off most of the others that just aren’t going to happen: Keep a cleaner house. Read Anna Karenina. Learn Spanish.

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

I am a nervous wreck today.

It’s pretty stupid to be so worked up, really.  My life is not going to change; when I go to sleep tonight, I will be the same person I was when I woke up this morning.

The list of winners of the Launching A Star contest is supposed to be announced today.

I really have no idea why I’m all cranked up like this.  I know I’m too early in my career, too inexperienced, too unpolished to win the top prize.  I am not going to get a star named for me in the National Star Registry, and I’m okay with that.  That honor belongs to someone more advanced than I am.

That’s not being negative.  That’s just being realistic.

I entered this contest with no delusions about winning in my category, either.  I just wanted to be a finalist, because the judges for the final round  are editors and agents who can critique my work and tell me where I need to improve.  Imagine having my work in the hands of a real editor and a real agent!  Launching A Star finalists have been known to get full manuscript requests and go on to actually sign publishing contracts, all as a result of making it to the final round.

And I finaled.


Then it dawned on me that there are only three finalists in my category.

Third Place is great.  Third Place is more than I expected or even hoped for.   I  can put it on my writing resume:  “Third place finisher in the 2012 Launching A Star Contest” instead of “Finalist in the 2012 Launching A Star Contest.”  It is a validation of me as a writer.  It’s my big “So there!” to certain people in my life who refer to my writing as my little stories and ask me when I’m going to get a real job.

Hot damn, third place.

So why am I on pins and needles?  What am I hoping for?  Whether from humility or insecurity, I really don’t think I took First or Second.  It would just be too much to ask, too soon.   And I’m very much okay with that.  When the winners list comes out today, I am going to sing from the rooftops with joy over that third place finish.

But . . . now there is this tiny spark of utterly unrealistic hope:  what if I won?

I’ll admit, I googled  the other two finalists in my category.  One of them  seems to be very active in writing groups and forums; her name pops up in several places, along with some really intelligent questions and comments she has made.  My money is on her winning our category.

The other is an enigma.  She shares her name with a 1940’s pinup girl, but there is no information about her as a writer.  We’re probably pretty evenly matched for second place, although her title is way cooler than mine.

With all of the categories combined, there are thirty-seven finalists.  I wonder how the other thirty-six are feeling right now.  Am I the only one behaving like a four year-old on Christmas Eve?  Perhaps they are just going through their day without a thought toward the announcement, only to utter a casual “oh, was that today?” when they read their email tonight.

Whatever the mood, whatever the hopes – good luck to all of the writers who made it this far, and congratulations to every single one of you for making the final round.  Here’s wishing we could all get together tonight for a celebratory round of virtual drinks.

I am honored to be one of you.

Daily Prompt: At My Worst

What is your worst quality?

Well, that’s a loaded question for this overweight, middle-aged woman who has spent a lifetime battling self-esteem issues. Do I really have to narrow it down to just one?

I could talk about my inability to trust or my poor impulse control; I could really dig deep into my tendency to bend the truth when I don’t want to face reality in bad situations.

But the truth is, my worst quality would have to be my utter lack of follow-through.

It has plagued me through my career over the years, whether it meant neglecting to mail out thank-you cards to new clients or procrastinating about filing client records. I would set aside projects and then forget about them when something more interesting came along. I wasn’t incompetent in any of my jobs, but I never reached the potential I could have hit if only I had ever followed through on some of the great ideas and plans I came up with.

It’s been a problem in my personal life as well. I have wonderful ideas for redecorating my home, great plans for the vegetable garden I want to plant, baskets of clean laundry that never make it to a dresser drawer. I have Rubbermaid totes full of half-finished cross-stitch pictures and intricate quilt tops that will never be finished.

I start diets and exercise plans every few months, but the food scale and low-fat cookbooks are as dusty as the treadmill and Gazelle.

My lack of follow-through has had the biggest impact on my dream of writing. I was four years old when I realized that this is what I want to do, what I want to be; that has never changed. While I may lack confidence in many areas, I have no doubts about my writing talent. I have the potential to be really good. I believe that I write well enough to publish my novel and be successful.

But I haven’t written the damn thing.

Life has presented me with an opportunity to sit down and write full-time. When I broke my neck and lost my career, I got the gift of time to do that one thing I have always dreamed of: write a book. No need to shut off the computer and go to work, no boss to argue with when I needed a moment to scribble down an idea. But it’s so much easier to let the computer distract me with Facebook and Listia and Fanfiction.Net rather than follow through and actually write.

My book is half-written and completely planned. It’s also good enough to earn me a spot as a finalist in this year’s Launching a Star contest. One of the first-round judges wrote on the critique that she was “sad when I came to the end of this entry”. But instead of celebrating this huge accomplishment, I am in a state of flat-out panic at the realization that this may lead to a full manuscript request.

Holy crap, what am I going to do if an editor wants to see the rest of it? I might have to actually finish what I started.

Erotica 101


I’ve been struggling all day today to write one of those scenes for my romance novel.  Yes, one of those.   I thought this would be the fun part of writing romantic fiction.  Fun and easy.   After all, I’ve been married for nearly seventeen years and I have three children; it’s safe to say that yes, I’ve had sex.  I know how it works, which parts go where, what makes the good stuff happen.

Write what you know, they tell me.  Well, I’m no sex therapist, but I’m far from being a blushing virgin.

I got this.

So I’m baffled as to why I spent most of the day staring at my computer and blushing myself into a Rosacea flare-up.  I have finally come to the conclusion that I am going to have to write a squeaky clean romance novel, where the sex takes place behind closed doors.  Either that or I’ll end up writing a novel that contains “real” sex scenes.

And that will never get published.

In romance novels, characters say passionate things to each other during the act.  “No man has ever made me feel this way!”  the heroine shrieks at a key moment, and the hero tells her things like, “I’ve wanted to do this to you from the first time our eyes met across the room at that party.”    “I’ll love you forever,” she whispers as they roll over and start again right away.

Conversations like that just don’t happen during real sex.  If there’s any talking at all, it’s usually along the lines of “shhh, don’t wake the kids” or “ow, ow, ow, elbows!”   On a really special night, someone may utter a throaty “No, my left” but there’s no calling out of names or frantic declarations of undying love in the midst of things.  Frankly, there’s just not always enough air in one’s lungs to do all that talking while everything else is going on.

Sort of like jogging and carrying on a conversation at the same time.

Besides, I don’t know about the romantic heroines in those novels, but I just can’t focus on that many things at one time.  Forming words takes thought processes that I may not have right then.  If I stop everything to try to form intelligible words at crucial moments, I’m likely to forget what’s going on and simply end up in a conversation.  I’m easily distracted.

Real people have conversations before and after.  Not during.

Sex in those novels is always so pretty.  Bodies fit perfectly with no fat parts making slap-slap noises against other fat parts.  Nobody ever gets an inner-thigh leg cramp or whacks their head against the headboard, and God forbid those perfect bodies emit any juicy squelching sounds when parts start working in tandem.

In romance novels, the sheets have always just been changed.  Hotel bedding never has bedbugs.  Couples can romp on a beach in the pounding surf without making mental comparisons to sandpaper grades.  Sex can last for hours and hours, moving from the kitchen table to the bedroom floor to the shower stall and then finish up in the neighbor’s begonias, after which they just happen to have the right ingredients on hand for one of them to whip up a five-course gourmet breakfast while the other showers.

Seriously, don’t these people ever have to get up for work in the morning?

I’m not trying to criticize the entire genre of romantic fiction.  On the contrary, I love reading romance novels and I’m doing my best to write them.  But I have to wonder:  am I the only one who reads them for the love story and not the naughty bits?  Or am I like the man who claims to buy Playboy for the articles?

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