Thursday, May 30, 2013

Brendan O'Connoll Had Better Watch His Back

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "Travel Stories"

The Cashel Dancers- Rowan Gillespie
The trip to Ireland was fantastic. I always enjoy my time there. The people are great, the pubs lively and the landscape is magical. And, I always seem to come back with a random story or experience. 

The Husband (hereafter "TH") and I were enjoying a meal in a restaurant in Derry/Londonderry one evening, about halfway into our trip. This was our first night in Northern Ireland, having been to Dublin many times and once before around the Republic of Ireland's coast. We were pretty exhausted by that time, as we usually are due to TH's "climb every mountain" approach to travel itineraries, and I felt a little weary as the Irish trad band started up in the adjoining bar. 

I was two pints in and needed to visit the loo, so I headed toward the back through the bar area to get to the toilets. As I passed the bar, I couldn't help but overhear a short snippet of conversation between the only two men listening to the band. 

It went something like this:

"Can you imagine? What if someone came into their country and acted like that? What do you think he deserves?" a muscular, bald man wearing a white t-shirt said, slurring his words a bit. He was hovering over his mate who was seated at the bar. The guy was pretty beefy - he had no discernible neck.

"I'd thrash 'em," said his companion with a shake of his fist. 

"Exactly. He had no call to act that way. Who does he think he is?"

Needless-to-say, I walked right past these two gentlemen and continued to my destination, glad I wasn't the stupid tourist who had angered the locals. All of Ireland was crawling with American tourists this trip, and I couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't one of my compatriots who had angered the two men. I cringed at the thought. American tourists don't have the best reputation in Europe (as Europeans are always eager to remind me), but the Irish seemed to cut us a bit more slack and even, dare-I-say-it, like us.  I hated to think we were wearing our welcome thin, here, too. Damn - there's always someone to spoil the party.

On my way back to our table, I stopped momentarily to listen to the band, and noticed that the two men had gone. After the song ended, I started back to rejoin TH. We were seated in the front window of the restaurant, right next to the door, and TH's back was to me as I approached our table. 

As I sat down, he looked at me, wide-eyed, with a funny expression on his face. 

"What's up?" I asked.

"Um, I think we'd better go back to the B&B."

"Okay. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, but I think I almost got my ass kicked."

I just raised an eyebrow at this. I mean, my husband is not the type to get into brawls. Ever. "What happened?"

"These two guys came through to the front door, and the first guy stops at the table and shouts something at me. I think he was shouting in Irish."

"What the hell? Are you serious?"

"Yeah, then he storms out the door. Then, his friend opens the door to leave, but turns to me first and says: 'Are you Brendan O'Connell?' I shook my head and said, 'No,' and he said: 'Good. You're lucky,' and then he stormed out the door, too."

"Holy shit. That really happened?"

"Yeah, what the f*ck?" TH shook his head in disbelief.

"Wait, was one of the guys bald and real solid, with no-neck?"

"Yeah, you saw them?"

"They were at the bar talking about clobbering a stupid tourist."

"Oh shit. Who the hell is Brendan O'Connell? It sounds Irish. Do I even look Irish?" Then TH starts laughing.

Sizing up my six-foot-two, olive-skinned husband, with his Roman nose inherited from Italian ancestors, who had not one drop of Irish blood in his body, I shook my head 'no.' "I don't even think you could pass for Irish-American. Who knows what that was all about." 

We laughed it off and eventually returned to the B&B. Even after that incident, I can't say I felt truly threatened. It was bizarre, yes, and random, but not really frightening. Maybe I'm naive, but I feel safer walking around European cities than US cities - even cities with recent histories of violence, such as Derry. Plus, we're not unseasoned travelers - we do our research and try not to act like idiots. 

In any case, after we returned home, I looked up the name "Brendan O'Connell." Turns out there is a football player by the name, who played for several English teams. Maybe they were making a joke?  They were at least a little drunk, so maybe after a few pints TH might somehow resemble this football player - who knows? 

All I know is - Brendan O'Connell, whoever he is, had better be on his p's and q's in Derry.

Anyone else step into a strange or sticky situation while traveling?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Links-a-lot: Writing News and Inspiration

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Sunday Paper: SFF Links"

Just a general, hodgepodge of links today. Publishing news and interesting bits related to Science Fiction, Fantasy and general writing.

I know the Internet is chock-a-block with blogs and articles on self-publishing tips. I can't say that there is anything totally new or earth-shattering in author Russell Blake's approach, but Karen Woodward does a nice recap of a post by Russell in the Kindle boards on her blog. It is a peak inside his self-publishing and marketing process and methods (and boy, does he churn out the novels).  Here is the original Kindle board post, if you're interested in the discussion, there.

For you Margaret Atwood fans, an article where the author discusses e-publishing.

The publishing industry just gets sadder - a write-up on the fallout from the Borders bankruptcy. Can't imagine this helps the cause of those writers trying to get published with these US publishing houses.

The SciFi future of your dreams is one step closer with advancement in the flexible battery technology!

Marvel fans rejoice - a taste of what's coming for future Marvel Movies.

Copyright protection: Tor's experiment - an article discussing the statement made by Tor on their experiment with copy-protection-free e-publishing.

The Locus Awards Ballot is announced - see what's hot in SF&F.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Something new...coming up!

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at  The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "Literary Pilgrimages."

I've been toying with this idea for a while. As you may or may not know, I'm quite the travel buff. And, in the six years that we've lived in England, I've visited a lot of places and come across a lot of homes or estates of famous literary figures. So, the idea is to write articles about these literary pilgrimages, including pictures, and post them here.

Today, I'm heading out to visit the grave of a famous poet. She's no English rose, either, but a fellow ex-pat American. I'll have some pictures for you next week. Can anyone guess who this American poet, buried in an English graveyard, might be?

Also, does anyone have any place in Ireland or Northern Ireland that I should visit? Outside of Dublin, please, as we will be traveling by car in a loop around both countries in the coming weeks and I'd love some input on a literary site to visit!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Giving up and Moving on

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game."

I came across this post, "15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy." It's a spot-on list. Thankfully, neither chocolate nor alcohol were included. If you are struggling to follow your path, to get that first novel written, to submit a first short story or wavering in whatever it is that you dream of doing, you should go read this post. Even if the last sentence doesn't describe you, go read it. Everyone can get something from it, so go on, read it now. Plus, this post won't make as much sense otherwise.

I'm going to write about the things from the post's list that spoke to me the most, as a writer, and as a person struggling to carve a place for myself in this world.

Give up your need for Control

This has been a big one for me, in accepting myself as a writer and allowing myself to pursue my dream. An artist's life is full of unknowns. Will your work be any good? Will it appeal to anyone enough for them to purchase your art? Will you be able to pay the bills?

My corporate career gave me a sense of more than a modicum of control (one might argue, an illusion of control, but that's another topic). I knew that, if I completed XYZ task, I would be paid ABC dollars. There was a career path I followed and I had constant feedback and could know, to an extent, how successful I could be.

I had to accept that pursuing writing full-time would mean giving up my financial freedom and control, perhaps for good (my kick-ass husband pays my bills, now*). A one-paycheck household is riskier, though. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I can't know how good my writing is until I spend a lot of time and effort writing and put my work out there for feedback. Even if my writing is good, there are no guarantees I'll ever sell a single story or make one thin dime. The structure and safety-nets of a more conventional career just don't exist for a writer, and I cling to my fantasy that control means escaping pain like a drowning man will clutch at straws.

Give up your self-defeating self-talk

Holy hell I am guilty of negative self-talk. Damn the cliche, I am my own worst enemy. For years, I've woven a detailed story about why I can't be a writer: I'm not that clever, I'm not that disciplined, I'll never be anything but a dreamer, I'll never measure up, and on and on and on.

When I sit down to write, I have to first do battle with that little writing demon who likes to tell me how hard it is, how crap my sentence structure is, that my stories are derivative tripe - you get the picture. I have to slay that little shit every single time.

Over the last two years, just doing, moving forward with the plans that scare me the most, seems to have quieted the voices of self-doubt slightly. Every story written, shrinks the demon. Still, I'm not very nice to myself, and that gets in the way.

Give up your limiting beliefs

This one coincides with the previous one in a way. I kept telling myself that writing was too hard, too competitive, too out-of-reach and not very sensible. Successful writing careers are as realistic as unicorns - that sort of thing. Jeez, I sound like a damned librarian.

I used to believe that I could do things, that things would happen, and usually, somehow, but not always in the way I expected, they would. Somewhere along the way, that sense of belief got beaten out of me. Not sure how to repair that damage. I've taken on board a metric ton of fears.

Give up living your life to other people's expectations

I almost want to qualify this one with a "real or imagined." I'm sure I sometimes project my fears onto other people, and decide they are judging me, if that makes any sense. For example, I assumed people would think me a lazy, delusional dreamer if I chucked it all to pursue my dream of being a writer. A lot of my fears about leaving my career had to do with feeling like I'd be letting people down by abandoning the corporate ladder. Here I was, a woman making her way in corporate America, making oodles more money than most everyone else she graduated from college with - well, wasn't that the very definition of success? Ugh, it doesn't sound so hot when I write it out like this.

But, dreams of scaling the corporate heights and smashing through glass ceilings, they weren't my dreams. I honestly don't give a shit about that stuff. I'm not going to lie, it was very hard leaving that kind of money and financial stability behind, but I had my own dreams and they were dying terrible deaths so that I could be a "success" as defined in my money-loving culture.

Then there are the very real expectations people have of me, beyond societal pressures. I've told a couple of friends about my novel writing, and it wasn't a great response. I got that look you get when you are slowly backing away from a pissed-off, soft-ball sized tarantula that you've interrupted as it goes about its morning crawl through your camp site, AKA: its former home (oh, you haven't had that experience? There's a look, trust me.) I suppose, if you're going to be an artist, you have to expect that some people will not think much of that choice, for whatever reason.

These are just a few of the 15 things to give up, and I completely agree with every item on the list. In fact, I think I'll have to print out the list and tape it to my mirror for a while.

What about you? Did you agree with the 15 things to give up? Do you struggle with any of these? Or, are you giving my post the tarantula look?

*Yes, I realize that I'm very privileged that we don't have big expenses (no kids, for example) and that we can afford to live off the husband's paycheck. I'm not suggesting that everyone can or should do this. For me, leaving my career was still about choosing to be dependent on my husband and losing my financial freedom and letting go of my identity of "successful business woman," not so much about taking on a financial hardship. I had this ideal about women paying their own way in life, but sometimes life is also about allowing others to help you. It does put all the financial pressure on my husband, which I still struggle with. I'm a terrible housewife, too!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Even cowgirls get the blues

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game"

Sometimes, life is just shit. Inelegant, I know, but true. Life has handed me a bit of a turd in the last few months, and once again, I'm struggling to keep myself on course with my writing, my studies, my piles of dirty dishes and laundry, and with just about everything else, actually.

It isn't really that hard to keep on going, is it? People do maintain their lives while managing some pretty stressful situations, don't they? What is the matter with me? I think I'm depressed.

Yes, things have not worked out the way I had hoped (sorry for being vague, but I'm not quite ready to discuss this particular issue at the moment), and it is no small thing I'm faced with. The timing for this new crisis, is as always, fracking unbelievable. However, it is also not the end of the world and many people have been dealt much worse in life.

I admit it, I've been alternating between avoidance and wallowing. I've gained six pounds due to stress/grief-induced-chocolate consumption. I've fallen behind in my language and yoga studies, and even dropped my entire semester of language classes. I haven't touched my novel. The only reason I've written any short stories is that I do still make it to my writing class every week. I've logged a ridiculous number of hours on Skyrim, but I've yet to finish the damned game. I weep a lot. 

This is one of those moments where I need to break out a little tough love (or a can of whoop-ass) and use it on myself. Not-so-deep-down, I'm not at all convinced I can do it. Part of me is ready to adopt another cat, gain another twenty pounds, call it a mid-life crisis and surrender utterly to the madness and self-loathing. I didn't say this was a proud moment in my life. 

There's a fork in the road, people. I've got to make a decision, got to decide what kind of person I'm going to be. I can give in to the familiar and easy or choose something better. I could wallow in grief forever- I've had my share of it the last three years. Still, it would be a damned shame, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it?

Thankfully, I have a husband whom I don't want to disappoint. And a sister who wants a creative business partner. And friends and family. 

It is all so close...if I can just get out of bed.