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Filtering Our Lives

From the archives

(This post first published on Erotic Readers and Writers blog March 2015)

 

I’m in the States at the moment having a wonderful visit with my nephew, his wife and their four lovely daughters, but I have been thinking about the filters through which we view the world — mostly social media and VR and this post seemed appropriate. Enjoy

 

I’ve been thinking about filters lately, going through one of my periodic stages of resenting smart phones, social networking and all things techno. That may well be in part because I’ve only ever managed to master what it takes to survive in that online world. I’m a klutz on my best days. But sometimes I’m an angry luddite wannabe, who grumbles incessantly while I bury my nose in my kindle to lose myself in a good book … Oh the neuroses of my life!

 

When I’m lost in the world of navel gazing and trying to connect to what matters without losing myself in the detritus and the trivia of a world online, I often find myself thinking about the filters we live our lives through, and what being once removed from everything, while at the same time up close and personal with the whole world and all the information in it means to us as a civilization – to me as an individual.

 

I can go online and hear the background microwaves that are the remnants of the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe. I have done, have listened over and over with goose bumps crawling up my arms.

 

I can go to Facebook or Twitter and have meaningful conversations with friends all over the world, people I’ve never met physically and yet I’ve connected with and feel somehow a kin to.

 

I can keep up on films and stars and gossip, I can join any group, be a fan girl, talk trash, be a part of any organisation with any cause imaginable – political, religious, medical, physical, magical, practical, any hobby, any sport, any obsession. It’s all there. All I have to do is log on. Easy.

 

When we were in Dubrovnik over Christmas last year, we found ourselves in a random café for lunch one day. The cafes that were open in the dead of winter were happy for customers, and when we arrived, we were the only ones there. About halfway through the meal a young man came in, eyes glued to his smart phone. He asked us if we’d read the reviews for this particular café. We said no, we’d just dropped in. The food was lovely. We had a local beer, local specialties, and the owners of the restaurant were friendly, and patient with us as we practiced our rusty Croatian on them. Meanwhile the man ordered without looking at the waitress, ate without looking at the food, all the time lost in communion with his phone. We left him that way.

 

Back out on the streets, after a wonderful walk in the sunshine around the medieval city wall, we stopped for coffee and once again were astounded by the number of tourists gripped by their phones even as they walked, obliviously, down the main street of the Jewel of the Adriatic, the sea the colour of sapphire and the sky a shade darker still, contrasting with the red tile roofs.

 

A few weeks ago we went out for lunch and observed three very lovely young women who came in and sat down at a near-by table, again completely caught up in whatever was happening on their phones. They barely spoke to each other during the course of their meal and never put their devices down.

 

I recently received an email from a friend of mine in the States, and I was saddened when the rather extensive epistle was all about what series she was now watching on telly. I know for a fact this woman used to be a librarian. We used to spend our time talking about books.

 

All of these events, and lots of others leave me slightly queasy, even as I sit here writing this blog post, hoping that a lot of people will go online to my blog and read this post. It’s the filters that leave me feeling this way. They leave me wondering about our connection with the real world, about MY connections with the real world. I wonder if we’re now more connected, and I just don’t ‘get it’, or are we less connected because we’re joined at the hip with our devices. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination of the two.

 

The world I live in is totally dominated by the technology my profession depends upon. The first thing I do in the morning is get up my laptop and see what I missed over night. I do what I need to do for PR on twitter and Facebook, I see what I need to do for the rest of the day, and some days that involves a good deal of being online and interacting with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I have some control over the promotion and sales of my books, no matter how little that may be. The feel that I’m at least doing something is worth a lot, even if it is at times only the placebo affect. In a time when publishing is entering the strange new world of self-pub, when the gatekeepers are no longer the guardians of all things literary, when the gates are quite literally wide open, I see how important it is to be present online. But I fear very much that being present online often costs me the simple pleasure of just being present.

 

I remember when I launched Interviewing Wade after a day spent mostly in promo, looking at reviews spending time on Twitter and Facebook and blogging, at last I went into the darkened kitchen to reheat the pasta from lunch for dinner and discovered something truly amazing. Through the kitchen window, I had the most exquisite view of the thinnest sliver of a new moon in conjunction with brilliant Venus, and for a few minutes there was the added pleasure of red Mars just about to sink below the rooftops of the neighboring houses. I was stunned. I couldn’t take my eyes off what I saw. I reached for the binoculars for a closer look

 

The moon was illuminated with earthshine and, through the binoculars, the darkened areas were visible with the brilliance of the sunlit crescent making the whole look almost dark purple, huge and 3D. As I tried to focus on the bright smudge of Venus, my heart beat kept jarring the binoculars, so I couldn’t resolve the phase, but I’m sure it was as close to full as Venus ever gets.

 

Venus is always in phase. How amazing is that! We never see the full face of Venus because it’s in between us and the sun, and it’s only full when it’s on the far side of the sun from us – something that’s only true with the inner two planets. Mars dipped quickly and was gone, but I stood for ages, trying to hold my breath and brace my elbows so I could look. But no matter how hard I tried, Venus constantly quivered through the binoculars with the steady beat, beat, beat of my pulse. I shifted back and forth between the shiver of Venus and the pock marked darkened surface of the moon with its crescent of brilliance at the bottom edge. When my arms got tired of holding the binoculars, still I stood.

 

It was one of those rare moments of being in focus, of standing with nothing in between me and my little sliver of the universe; experiencing a moment, one raw, naked, aching moment without anything in between me and my heart. That tiny shred of time felt like skin freshly formed over an abrasion. And I wanted to stay there forever in that little sliver of
the present with nothing in between.

 

I couldn’t, of course. The moon set, and I had work to do. It occurred to me as I nuked dinner, that even that incredible few minutes of focus were filtered, brought closer through the lens of my binoculars. We’ve been filtering our world for probably as long as we’ve walked upright. Perhaps we can only be safe in – and from our little slice of the universe when we filter it, analyze it, look at it through eyes – and heart — well protected.

 

The next morning, online, there were more images of Venus and the New Moon in conjunction than I had time to look at. I was far from the only one bringing that moment into myself through filters that helped make sense of it, helped make it personal and, clearly, I was far from the only person needing to share it. Somehow that makes the world community seem just a little bit smaller, just a little bit closer. Somehow that makes the filtering of my universe and all the contradictions that involves set just a little bit easier in my mind. That and the knowing at least for a little while that earthshine, that sliver of moonlight, that conjunction with bright Venus was mine. All mine.

 

 

 

Writing Gives Me Hope

I’m an HEA sort of girl – have been most of my life except for a few years when I was a surly teenager. Being a novelist and loving a good HEA tale means that every time I put fingers to the keyboard to write a story, I deal in hope. Every time I read a good novel, I do it for hope. I understand that we too often don’t get an HEA in real life, and I realize that hopelessness is a constant battle everywhere. I suppose that’s part of the reason I write HEAs. I deal in hope in a world that’s sorely lacking it at times.

 

Yes, I’m well aware that there’s nothing more escapist than an HEA romance … unless it’s a paranormal HEA romance, one with plenty of steamy sex. I get it, and I don’t apologize for it. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I DO write my stories to escape. I’m not getting any younger, I don’t have any super power (you guessed it, I’ve seen Wonder Woman recently) and I’m never going to be an astrophysicist or a prima ballerina. But I have grown up to be a damn decent storyteller, and that, in itself gives me hope. Maybe that is my super power … Sometimes it feels that way when I’m in the zone and my characters and I are in close communion, when I create a world and a situation that broadsides me with possibilities I didn’t expect. Oh yes! Those are the times I definitely feel larger than myself, timeless, living beyond the flesh and bone of physicality.

 

Strange, as I started to write this post, I was going to share a list of the things that give me hope. As is often the case when I write – whether it’s a blog post, a journal entry or a story – I end up in a difference place than I thought I would. My list grows and changes, but at the core of it all, it’s writing that gives me hope. It’s knowing that I write tales of hope, it’s knowing that I do it for love. I do it for myself first and foremost because it’s at the very heart of who I am.

 

The truth of why I do it, why I write, when writers are struggling in the market, when worthiness of a work has less to do with success than luck, when I know the cynical side of the business, when I no longer have stars in my eyes, is that I can’t NOT write. The truth is that writing is as essential to me as breathing, and I’m never happier than when I’m penning a story. That gives me hope. That gives me great hope. My purpose is to write. In that hope I can safely explore my mortality as well as imagine my immorality. In that hope I can examine all the facets of me that can’t be lived out in one lifetime, all the secret depths of me that I keep hidden from the world – both the light and the darkness. In that hope I can face the dark fearlessly. All of the other worlds I create, all of the other people who live and breathe and are flawed and neurotic and sometimes frightening and wicked; who make mistakes and act impulsively and do impossibly heroic things are the hope inside of me, and that hope is steadfast. That hope doesn’t change with the flux of the world around me, and I rediscover it daily in the telling of the tale. That gives me courage to move forward, confidence to share what I write with anyone else who reads stories for an HEA and for a little bit of hope.

 

Side Effects of a Good Read

I’ve spent the last week dragging around with a brutal cold. I’m very seldom ill, and almost never ill enough to take to bed. But this time, without full brain function, it seemed the expedient thing to do — lousy timing or not. While I groused and grumbled between sniffles and sneezes, aches and pains, I also made a discovery. I did have enough brainpower to lose myself in a good read. Since I wasn’t sleeping well for the first couple of nights, I took full advantage, binge reading Pippa DaCosta’s wonderful Veil series while snuffling and coughing and feeling sorry for myself.

 

I’m on the mend now. Though I’m still dragging, still dealing with the after effects. But here’s the thing. Being forced to take some down time and fully indulge in the pleasure of a good read was worth every sniffle and ache. It’s not that I don’t do my best to make sure there’s reading time in my schedule. It’s just that it’s often the first thing to go when that schedule gets tight. It’s sad that it takes a nasty bug to remind me that reading is far more than just my duty as a writer. It’s far more than just a frivolous pleasure; it’s a priming of the pump, a feeding of the creativity, a grounding for the storyteller in me.

 

Creativity cultivates creativity, and being inspired by the works of other people’s imaginations is one of the best ways I know of to be more productive and more creative myself. Sadly that fact is one of the easiest things for a busy writer to forget. I’m willing to bet it’s one of the easiest things for most of us to forget, whether we write or not.

 

I used to read every novel with the idea of learning how to be a better writer – whether the novel was a good one or not. Now I’m way less likely to even finish a poorly written novel. Time is too valuable. More often now I hold out for the really good novels, and I read them for the sheer pleasure of being drawn outside myself into another world, into another person, into an experience far different from my own. Coming off a good read, I’m reminded just exactly why the ancient storytellers in some cultures sat with kings and queens as their equals.

 

It’s far too easy to pick up all of our information in bits and pieces off social media and the Internet. We’re connected in ways we could have never imagined even twenty years ago. But while all the information we could ever want and, in some cases WAY too much,is available at our fingertips, the magic, the real magic, only happens when we slow down, back away and let the storytellers enthrall us.

 

My New Old Desk

 

Some things just make us feel really good about ourselves. Few things make us feel better than finding a bargain we love. I love to shop at charity shops simply because one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure – right? I LOVE a good browse about, and never more than when I’m doing some redecorating. That’s how I found my new old desk.

 

I’m very intimidated by redecorating because I live in my head so much and seldom pay attention to my immediate environment, but this time, my redecorating is all about claiming a space for myself. I’m sure every writer – every person — for that matter, understands how essential claiming our own space is. Many of you know that I’m quite tunnel-visioned when it comes to my craft. I’ve kept my head down writing hard for such a long time that I haven’t bothered to claim any space except for my end of the dining table. While tunnel vision can be a good thing for a writer in the throes of a story, it can also keep us from seeing the obvious. Neck and shoulder problems and a wonderful trainer who suggested that part of the solution would be to have a space that was dedicated especially to my work have made me realize, I need to claim a proper space. It’s not that there hasn’t been the opportunity all along, but the room that was earmarked to be my study devolved into a junk room when I had to have surgery not long after we moved into our house. The longer I put off the claiming of space, the more stuff we accumulated. Now it’s cluttered with the detritus of too many moves and the serious accumulations and hoardings of two pack rats.

 

 

God! I’m a psychology lesson happening to myself, aren’t I? As my mind clears from the mad rush to write more and more and the wild fantasies all writers have when the task is new, and the excitement comes from just having someone actually reading our books, from seeing our books in public places, I find myself seeking space. I find myself longing to hone my craft in new and different ways – paths on which my heart leads me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those desires coincides with the purchase of a new ‘old’ desk.

 

The desk is like my mind, a bit on the used side, but ultimately, a hidey-hole for my craft, for my imagination, a place to shut it all away for just me. When it’s closed, no one even knows that it’s there. Ooh, I love secret places, don’t you? But when I open those doors, I’m gone – to another place, to another time, to another planet. I’m someone else, I’m multiple someone elses all with a story to be told. Opening those doors is another reminder that, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell, I get to follow my bliss! I get to pursue your deepest passion every day. How lucky am I? The desk is a symbol of where it is I go when I write. It’s a bit battered. It’s used. It has secrets, secrets I’ll never know. But now it’s mine. Now it opens to me. Now my stories and my secrets will fill it every day.

 

I’ve dusted and cleaned and tried out each little compartment and cubby hole inside, filling it with my treasured tools of the trade. At the moment, the room that’ll be my study isn’t ready, but my desk is ready. It’s temporarily making itself at home in my living room right next to the jumble of workout equipment, and I’m making myself at home with it. I can’t keep from wondering what stories I’ll write in this space of my own, and what adventures will result from the simple act of laying claim to space.

 

Taking Risks: Writing with Wild Abandon

fitbit-image-2-writing-wit-wild-abandonimg_6549That’s right! You might as well get used to it. I’m on a writing high at the moment, just over the halfway point with NaNoWriMo 2016 and loving every minute of it. So it stands to reason that you, my lovelies, are going to get a few of my navel-gazy, ‘gawd I love to write posts.’ For those of you who just stepped outside your caves for the first time in awhile, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, the object being – you guessed it – writing an entire novel in one month. I joyously participate every year if I possibly can by taking risks, by writing wildly, recklessly and eccastically for a whole glorious month.

 

I have to admit that when NaNoWriMo comes around, all bets are off. The house gets cleaned even less often than it usually does. The garden clean-up goes on hold. I drink lots of coffee, eat lots of one-handed meals, and reach for insane word counts. NaNoWriMo is the only time of year that I generate almost as many words on a daily basis as I do when I go to Lyme Regis every year on writer’s retreat. To be honest, I’m beginning to think that planning the time, setting November aside, making that effort to focus in and write a novel in a month is going to become at least as essential to my writing year as the retreat.

 

The thing is, each year I do NaNoWriMo, I take more risks and I write more innovatively. As a result, I come away from the experience a better writer. It’s not so much about word count. There are days when a few paragraphs are so essential that I may get nothing else done because they need to be perfect. When they are, that’s a victory in itself. What it is about is taking risks in a safe container. I have a month, only a month, and for some strange reason, I’ve always thought of November as a particularly short month. To me it always seems even shorter than February. Maybe that’s because it’s the last chance to breathe before the holiday season hits like a battering ram and there’s no slowing until after January first. All I know is that if I’m doing NaNoWriMo, I love, love, LOVE November! If I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, I hate, hate HATE November. It’s cold its bleak, it’s wet and windy and the days are short and dark and you know with that sense of cold in deep in your bones that summer is not well and truly over, and even Indian crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76Summer has had its last painful gasps. BUT absolutely NONE of that matters when I’m writing hard.

 

Bring on the coffee! Bring on the novel I’ve always wanted to write, but never had time for in a genre I’ve never been
brave enough to tackle before and I am SO close to nirvana I can almost taste it!

 

This year’s wonderful discovery for me has been something truly amazing with my FitBit. Yes, I know, live by the FitBit,
die by the FitBit, but write by the FitBit??? Oh you betcha!

 

FitBit encourages people to get up and walk 250 steps every hour. Good advice whether you’re a FitBit addict or not. It takes almost no time to do, and it gets me out of the hunched position over the computer. If I’m stuck, it also gives me time to walk through the problem. However, if I’m truly not ready to break, I’ve discovered that I can walk and write on my iPhone at the same time. OK, it ain’t elegant, I’ll admit, but it works! I walk, I write, I live very happily, and healthily in NaNo-land.

 

Eep! My walk alarm just went off. Must! Walk! Steps! And think! Be right back.

 

Yes, now where was I? Right! It’s sort of like a mini timed writing, a mini sprint, in NaNoWroMo terms, only it’s timed by steps rather than minutes. Okay, it’s sloppy and messy, but it works! Besides, sloppy and messy is what writing is all about. It never happens neatly or orderly. It’s either a mad scramble to get it all down fast enough or a pull-your-brain-out through your left nostril effort that leaves you exhausted and raw. Either way, it gets messy. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much, it’s permission to get messy, permission to give over control to those magical 26 letters and those squiggles of punctuation from which great stories, from which ALL stories are formed. Wow! I just gave myself chills!

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering, here’s the blurb for my NaNoWriMo WIP, my first ever scifi novel. Proud much???

 

imagesPiloting Fury Blurb:

“Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer, Rick Manning’s
slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her she life she’d dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when the Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands the Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. But she does. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out the Fury is way more than a cargo ship. It’s a ship with a history – a dangerous history, a history Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer that she could imagine, and Rick Manning was not above fixing a bet to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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