Bas relief

Yep, those are mine.

Yesterday I threw out karate belts I earned between the ages of 18 and 20. They were musty. Hidden away, like all the stuff I haven’t found places to display yet. I like space. I value space. Open, empty space and shelves that say, “We don’t need to be filled to feel important.” What they need to be filled with is essentials for survival, but that’s another story.

A friend on Facebook asked me how I could bear to throw them away because I earned them. I see her point; they are a trophy and I did earn them. All these years I have not wanted to throw them out (if I thought about it), but something’s been changing in me for a while now, about carrying baggage and grudges.

I carry a lot of grudges that I’m shedding slowly. The one I may never be able to shed, the one I need to shed most, the one I have to consciously shed every day, is the one against myself.

My 7-year-old self for an embarrassing moment.
My 12-year-old self for an embarrassing moment and hurting someone’s feelings.
My 15-year-old self for something that should have gotten me arrested for assault (that’s the one that’s killing me right now).
My 18-year-old self for being starry-eyed, stupid, and too immature to be let loose on the world with no guidance.
My 25-year-old self for …

And all the years before and in between up until yesterday. I’m sure today I will do something today that I will find beyond the pale after I’ve committed the offense.

What prompted this? I don’t know, but I think it was when I had to cut off a dear friend I’d had for years. The relationship had gotten toxic years ago, but since we were separated by distance, it wasn’t an issue. Then I got on Facebook and that changed everything. I tried to resurrect it, but that’s always a bad idea.



I hate that. I’m one to let friendships fade and it’s only in the past few years they’ve flamed out and left me grieving for a while. Those you can never patch up.

Being married has taught me the value of talking things through instead of letting things flame out. It’s difficult for me, and I have had to evaluate each to figure out if it was worth it. In two very recent cases (one yesterday, as a matter of fact), it was more than worth it. Their friendship means far more to me than walking away feeling righteous and hurt and angry and guilty. People are more understanding (of relationships, of my toxicity) than I ever gave them credit for. I faded away so as to not poison the relationship myself because, in the words of Jack Burton, “Sooner or later I rub everybody the wrong way.”

I realized I was making very slow progress on letting things go when a Twitter friend I’d had for years cut me off in a blaze of fury for … nothing important. That was the second time he’s done it. I grieved the first time. Deeply. It took nine months for him to cool off. This time … I didn’t care. It was time for that relationship to go bye-bye.

Anyway, in thinking about my friend’s question about trashing my karate belts, trying to explain it, I realized that what I got from my time in karate were life lessons and examples to follow (or not). I’m still operating on the principles two men (both my teachers) taught me.

Those two men could not be more different:

Number One was a charismatic lawyer, a salesman if you will. I am (was) susceptible to charismatic people, but I learned my lesson about that. Really well. Occasionally, bits and pieces of him come out in my characters. The bad ones. But. He said something to me one time that I have struggled with ever since and really sort of defined me. At the time it horrified me, because somewhere in my entrepreneurial soul, I knew he was right.

He said, “You paid for your training in sweat, money, tears, and sometimes blood. Why are you giving it away?” I was horrified. I said, “Knowledge should be free!” It’s based on the way I was reared. He just shook his head and walked away. But it spoke to me.

Number Two was a taciturn law student, really mature for his age, quiet, observant, discerning. Unapproachable. Nobody and nothing amused him. Except me. Suffice it to say, I was the teacher’s pet. I wasn’t very good, but I was funny. But then, as I do, I crossed a line and then I wasn’t funny anymore.

These two guys hated each other. I could never figure that out, but I was 18 and stupid. Number One owned the place. Number Two was a subordinate teacher fifteen years younger. There was no question who was the alpha.

Number One was making me crazy, but I didn’t realize it because I was 18 and stupid. I thought something was wrong with me. My time in martial arts faded, but I never let it go.

Anyway, these two guys ended up battling it out in a courtroom some years later. It’s a tale straight out of a lawyer novel (no, I didn’t write it, hint at it, or use it for the basis of anything). It involved knowledge. Who had a monetary right to it and who didn’t, which is where the “You paid for your training in sweat, money, tears, and sometimes blood. Why are you giving it away?” comes in.

Some years later, I was still carrying Number One’s crazymaking and Number Two’s disapproval—heavily—and I worked up the courage to call Number Three, somebody I didn’t know, but who could maybe let me vent and then talk me down out of the trees. It was a huge gamble. It paid off. And I got back in for a while, but first, training was logistically impossible by that time; second, I didn’t have the fire in my belly and I never did. So I let it go.

Almost thirty years later, I’m hanging with my Tax Deductions in the storage room of my house pitching and tossing. It’s past bedtime for a school night, but they’ve both got messed-up Circadian rhythms and I’m a night owl. My 12-year-old XX TD is tossing out sly innuendos at me, making me aware she knows what she’s saying, and, like the bad mother I am, instead of chastising her, I’m snickering along with her. XY is reading and offering his opinions on everything, as per usual. Dude is in his office busy supporting us like the awesome Dude he is.

I open the box (my dad’s wooden Scout ditty box, which is far older than I am) with my belts, nunchakus, bag gloves, and jump rope. It’s musty in there. “Eeww.” I pick up a belt, sniff it, and tell XX, “Those go.”

She protests.

I start singing “Let it Go” just to annoy her and it works. Natch.

And we go on pitching and tossing.

Veni, vidi, vici.

stfu_lg1I had several ideas for this post’s title:

“I’m not one of you.”
“Repeating myself”
“Tired of the sound of my own voice”
“Being silent”
“Serial starter”

Anyway, all of them are pertinent to my point, but they all mean different things. I’ll take them one by one.

“I’m not one of you.”

In the cult of self-publishing, the loudest voices are the ones who write fast and put out an oeuvre faster than I can switch channels on the TV. They are the ones who say such things as:

“If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.”
“If you want to make any money at this, you have to write X number of words per day.”
“Writing is a business.”
“You must outline to write a decent book.”

and my personal favorite,

“Writers are lazy,” which post I would link to, but it has since been pulled. (Here’s the rebuttal.)

It’s all bullshit. Rather, the fact that all writers must follow these instructions as gospel is bullshit. The fact is, writers write for a whole host of reasons, only one of which is to make their works commodities. I provide a commodity service. I’m not in the business of writing novels to make them commodities too.

Commodities are soulless, interchangeable widgets, and I don’t believe that books are commodities at all. I also don’t believe that writing fast makes a book soulless. I simply can’t write that fast and put the time and thought into them that I do.

So, to you incessant voices in self-publishing and those of you who were trained as midlist authors to keep putting product out there, I’m not one of you.

Which leads me to my second point:

“Repeating myself”

I am not on the vanguard of self-publishing. Dan Poynter is. Aaron Shepard is. Morris Rosenthal is. April Hamilton is. They are mostly nonfiction writers and they speak to writers of niche nonfiction. For instance, Dan started out publishing parachuting and skydiving treatises.

I am, however, on the vanguard of self-publishing fiction, along with Ann Somerville and others in niche genres. I took a lot of heat for it, too. The loudest voices in self-publishing now were once rabid anti-self-publishers and some of them attacked me personally both publicly and in email for it. Hey. Assholes. I blazed your trail. You’re welcome.

(Oh, is that arrogant? Yeah, I know. I’m a woman. I’m not supposed to be arrogant. Suck it.)

I’ve said all I want to say, I’m noticing repetitious themes in my writing that annoy me, and I’ve become

“tired of the sound of my own voice.”

You may have noticed that, other than posting Dunham chapters, I haven’t blogged a lot.

“Being silent”

I seek silence like water seeks the ocean. You wouldn’t know it to meet me at a cocktail party, conference, or convention, but I’m an introvert. (Please see “Caring for your introvert” and “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.”)

“Serial starter”

I like to start projects. I rarely finish them. The ones I finish, I really, really care about. And then I abandon them. Because I’m bored with that.

“Veni, vidi, vici.”

You know where I’m going with this by now. For decades, I have wanted to be a published author. Like, since I was 15, which is exactly three decades. It may have been earlier, when I was around 10 and wanted to submit something to one of the Reader’s Digest quip sidebars. I knew how to follow instructions. My submission wasn’t published. But by the time I was 15, I had found out a) how to submit to Harlequin, b) what to submit to Harlequin, c) how many words I had to write to submit to Harlequin (Presents line, in case you were wondering), and d) about how much a Harlequin advance was and how much in royalties I could expect and when (answer: zero, which was okay with me at the time).

Along the way I have had disappointments and obstacles and tangential projects and replacement projects, all while going to school, earning a living being, basically, an administrative handyman because I had an unbelievable skillset and a degree. You know, living life as a marginally normal person. There was always something odd about me. Everybody knew it but me, until I finally got a clue by working in a very dysfunctional place.

So along comes 2007 and, after 7 or 10 or however many years when I had given up writing totally, out pops this doorstopper. And so I published it. And so I had MOAR STORIES TO TELL!!! So I did that. And here we are, five years later and I’m about to publish book 4 in a planned 5-book series, and I realized this morning…I’m done. I did it. I did what I wanted to do, which was to get my stories out on paper and to the public.

I have no more stories. I will write book 5, but it’ll be a while, and I will likely go dark for that time, but I owe those fans who have been slowly accumulating and who love the world I built.

The difference this time, in seeing the light at the end of this obsession’s tunnel, is that for the first time in my life I have no overarching “This is what I want to do.” I’ve done it. I quit writing once and had nothing to fill that creative void so I made a cross-stitch design company and permanently killed my love for my favorite hobby. But always, getting a book published was my overarching life goal–because I thought it would take my entire life to do so. Writing was my life’s work and I never thought I’d run out of stories to tell.

But I have, and now it’s time to move on.

So…where do I go from here?

I dunno, but I’m gonna read a lot of books while I try to figure it out.