Monday, July 30, 2012

Guest blog: Locusts of Control

My friend Skye posted this over on her blog and I loved it so much, I asked her if she would be willing to let me post it here too.

Locusts of Control

There is a psychological term called "locus of control". It basically means where you perceive the control over your life coming from: inside of you or outside of you. According to my therapist, people with an internal locus of control tend to be more successful and happy than people with an external locus of control. 

Having an internal locus of control means that you perceive that you are in control of your life and that what you do determines what happens in your life, as much as possible. 

Having an external locus of control means that you think that something or someone else — your parents, God(s), luck, the Universe, your neighbor's dog — determines what happens in your life; you don't feel that you have much if any control over it.

There is even a simple test you can take (the site asks for a name, but just so the program can be friendly and refer to you by your name; give it a fake name if you like, or just a first name), that will give you a quick and dirty determination of where you fall on the scale between 100% internal vs. 100% external control. Thirteen is 100% external — I got a nine. My BFF said he was pleased at that because he would have been unsurprised if I'd gotten a 13.

I titled this post Locusts of Control because while I often perceive a great, malicious Universe being in control of my life, I don't always. There are things I feel I am in control of (my side of a job interview, for example), and things that I feel that other people are in control of (whether or not to even read my resume, for example). For me, there are many loci of control, and sometimes they work in my favor and sometimes they descend like locusts and devastate my life (like my mother getting cancer and dying, or my being unable to find work).

Mind you, I would do better with a more internal locus of control, I know that. And I have been working on it, which is why I got a nine instead of a 13. But I doubt I'll ever have a one, for I have experienced the locusts. 

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" is a quote by Seneca, a Roman philosopher. I do believe that you have to be prepared to take advantage of when luck introduces you to opportunity. But bad things still happen that have nothing to do with being prepared and everything to do with rolling dice with the Universe. I know a woman who's life has gone to hell this year, and basically little or none of it was within her control. I think that in situations like that, your locus of control can only help you determine how to deal with what you have been given to deal with. After the locusts have gone, do you replant or do you give up and move to the city and try to make a living there? It depends on how you perceive life ("If I replant, the locusts will just come again" vs. "The locusts have come and gone. They won't be back this season."). 

I'd like to think I'd replant. That's basically what I've been doing by returning to Houston rather than running off to live with friends in Seattle. I still have some things to do that I am in control of doing; they may provide me with what I want. There are still options where the locus is within me. There are options where the control is part me and part others — do they want my skills and experience?

I know the locusts will return on and off again in my life and I perceive that the locus of control varies. Being able to perceive what I am in control of, and controlling it, will ultimately build a stronger and happier me. And that's what therapy's all about, isn't it?


Skye is a writer and editor of many things and has chosen to share her therapy with everyone in the perhaps-mistaken idea that everyone want to know about it.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rainy Day Cat Nap

It's been raining here since I woke up, and it rained on and off for much of yesterday. That's good for two reasons: one, we really needed the rain, and two, a rainy day means no gardening or yard work, so I'm likely to get a lot more writing done instead :-)

Yesterday I hit 20,600 words in the new mystery project, writing almost 2,900 during the day. I hope to repeat that today, and also maybe get some jewelry making done.

In the meanwhile, everyone else seems to feel like taking a lazy day
Looks like a great idea, doesn't it? Maybe after I get the writing done...

I hope you're all having a lazy or productive Sunday (whichever you prefer). And a big happy birthday wish to my lovely friend Chris, who is spending hers selling pottery at the Canal Days fair. And not, thankfully, being rained on.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Crash Boom Zowie

I was sitting in my recliner in the living room a few hours ago, writing and listening to the rain through the open windows, when I suddenly heard a loud crack. As I watched, a huge limb slowly came off the pine tree by the side of the house and crashed onto the ground.

Mind you, it was only raining! No lightning, no major winds. I have no idea why it suddenly decided to come down. But thankfully, it missed the house by about four feet (from the tips of the branches, the largest piece of limb is a bit further than that) and the only damage it did was to crush a few berry bushes whose season ended a week ago.

I feel very lucky.

If a tree falls in the yard, and it doesn't hit your house, did it still fall? Um, yes. Yes it did.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Day in the Garden: Harvest

I spent much of Wednesday (my day off from the shop) in the garden, trying to catch up with weed-pulling and plant-taming now that we've finally gotten some much needed rain. I may have gotten slightly carried away when I was planting the spaghetti squash this spring, since it is now trying to take over the entire garden.
(This is what the bed looked like AFTER I corralled all the sprawling vines.)

I love this time of year, when I go out with empty baskets, and come in with overflowing ones.
Wednesday's harvest included onions, shallots, three different kinds of potatoes (French fingerling, red, and Yukon Gold, in case you were wondering), cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, kale, one cauliflower head and a single cherry tomato. Which I ate on the spot. Also, as you can see, the garlic is ready to be harvested. I ran out of time and energy, so that is about a fifth of the crop, and the rest will have to wait until the weekend.

I love my garden pond, and had a lovely chat with a couple of friends:

Of course, I am also still hard at work on the Sekret Project, my current WIP. When I was talking to my friend Skye last night about edits, I told her that I saw writing as a kind of gardening, too. You plant the seeds, work hard to make them grow, nurture them with love but also do some harsh pruning and weeding as necessary until you have a beautiful finished product. With my last manuscript out to editors, I am hoping to reap a book deal in the near future (please Goddess!).

What have you worked hard at, and what kind of a harvest do you hope to reap as we enter the harvesting time of year?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

500 Words a Day

I have been fighting to make anything that resembles progress on the new novel (yes, the title and theme are still a secret...I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you). Not because I don't like the story--in fact, I'm more excited about this one than I have been in ages. Which makes the lack of progress even more frustrating, really.

Mostly summer is just not a great time for me to write. There are too many other things going on; the shop is busier because of tourist season (yay tourists!), the garden and yard demand constant upkeep, and so on. (Also, a number of folks in my life are in crisis, and they're not people I can say "call me back later, I'm writing" to when they call and interrupt. Not if they really need me.) And I haven't been sleeping well for various reasons, which tends to turn my brain to mush. Well, more mush than usual, even. Yadda yadda yadda.

Usually, when I am in full-on writing mode, I average about 1,200 words a day (at an average of 300 words a page, that's about 4 pages, although it can vary). On a good day, I can double that. This week, I'm averaging about 500 words a day. That's right--less than two pages. *headdesk*

But I'm still making myself sit down every night and do whatever I can do. Even if it is only 500 words.

Here's why:
If you write 500 words a day every day, after 180 days you will have 90,000 words. That's a novel, folks. So even at only 500 words/day, you can finish two books a year. TWO BOOKS.

Obviously, that's not taking into consideration things like editing and revision. But still. 500 words/day = TWO BOOKS A YEAR.

So if you write, don't let the slow days discourage you. Remember: BICHOK: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Or my particular version... BICHOKNOL (Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, NOT online!)

Now go write 500 words, then come back here and tell me you've done it :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

And on a lighter note...

The last post was a fairly serious one, and frankly, I think most of us are having a tough enough time as it is this week. So here are a few lighter thoughts:

I actually found high heeled shoes I can walk in. (Mostly because they're wedges, and therefore not nearly as high as they look.) They're amazingly comfortable, made in Italy--which makes me feel very sophisticated--and (wait for it) they were on sale! Score!

As some of you know, I am on my second attempt to trade in my waterbed (which I've slept on for 30 years) for an actual mattress. This one comes from Salem, of all places, so hopefully it is magical. I had Pilar Conde,  one of the artists at the shop, make a new comforter cover from some beautiful material I found, too. So far, I am having a rough time adjusting, but the cats seem to like it just fine.
And the new stuff did inspire me to neaten and rearrange the tops of the dressers. (And clean behind them, which apparently hasn't been done since I moved in 10 years ago. Urg.)
I also found two cloths for the dresser tops that my grandmother (Germambie, for those of you who remember my posts about her) wove back in the day, that go perfectly with the new colors. So there is some old in with the new. You can also see the amazing goddess wall hanging that Pilar made for me a few years ago. (I tried to pick out fabrics for the new coverlet that would go with the wall hanging, since I love it so much.) Pilar also made the very cool massive dreamcatcher you can see hanging over the dresser on the left.

Home sweet home :-)

Okay, there you are. I hope you are all having a great weekend, and that the next week is filled with fun and satisfaction. I'm off to write...

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Need to Please

Despite my public persona, I am actually a fairly private person. I'm happy to share all the superficial happenings in my life with all my fans, friends, and followers, but I tend not to talk about the deep stuff. I'm more likely to post a picture of a cute cat :-)

But something happened this week that I thought many of you  might be able to identify with, so I thought, for a change, I'd share some of the scary stuff that goes on inside the "real" Deborah Blake. The person, as opposed to the author.

It really was such a small thing. I came to look at the blog and noticed that I had dropped from 217 followers down to 214 overnight. Such numbers are relatively meaningless. After all, the blog has almost 40,000 total page views (something that boggles my mind, frankly!); I've got over 2,000 followers on Facebook and almost 1,400 on Twitter. And really, what do those numbers mean in real life? Do they translate to more sales of my books? Do they actually mean that people find me interesting or amusing? Who knows? In other words, going from 217 to 214 means nothing, in the greater scheme of things.

Except, of course, inside my own head.

My immediate gut response to seeing that drop in numbers (where they had only ever increased before, albeit slowly) was to think: Oh, no--what did I do wrong? Did I say something that offended people? Am I getting boring or repetitive? Doing too much promo? Not posting enough cat pictures? Posting too many cat pictures?

My head spun around those questions for a couple of days. I thought probably I wasn't blogging often enough. Maybe I should be talking about more personal stuff. Or less personal stuff. The big question was: what could I do to make my readers they'd like me?

Any of this sound familiar to anyone else?

The scary part about all of this was how much those three missing people rocked my interior landscape. They'd tripped one of my own personal triggers: the need to please. The fear of not being liked. Not being good enough. Not being wanted.

It's no secret where all of this stuff comes from. I was an extremely unpopular child. The weird kid in school that nobody liked. Too shy and timid to do anything about it. And I had a very critical and angry parent whose expectations I could never meet. (Not to worry--we have a great relationship now. *waves hi to Dad* And he is, ironically, one of the loudest members of my cheering section. But that's now, and things were very different then.)

At 52, I have mostly put those issues behind me. I am blessed with an abundance of amazing friends, and some of the best fans and online "pals" that anyone could ask for. I may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there are plenty of folks who think I'm reasonably nice, and interesting, and fun to hang out with.

And yet...the loss of three--count them, THREE--followers sent me into a tailspin of self-questioning and doubt.

In the end, my wiser adult self prevailed, thankfully. And I shrugged and said, "Oh, well, you can't please all of the people all of the time." And I guess I'll just keep doing what I was doing, and hope that you will continue to take the journey with me.

But if you ever feel the need to please, and the fear of not being liked, I just wanted to say: I get you. Me too.

And just for the record--I REALLY like everyone who comes here. Thank you so much for reading, for following (if you do), and for sharing this space with me. It makes that shy, unpopular girl pretty damned happy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just One More Thing: The writing to do list

I keep adding "just one more thing" to my writing to-do list (which is almost as long as my everything-but-writing-to-do list, which tends to make me want to either weep, drink, or hire an illegal alien...or possibly an actual alien...never mind, that's a whole other blog post).

You may have noticed that the progress bar on my current WIP (work in progress) isn't moving nearly as fast as it usually does. That's because I have a whole slew of nonfiction obligations that mostly have to be done first, although I am occasionally sneaking in a few hours of work on the novel, so I don't loose ALL forward momentum.

I just finished reading and editing three short stories for an author friend of mine. Who needed them back ASAP, of course. And sent my first blog post to the new (and already insanely popular) multi-author blog for Witches & Pagans (where I do a regular column in the print magazine as well), Pagan Square. I'll let you know when it goes live. I also finished the copy edits for new Llewellyn book and sent them back to my editor.

Still on the list:
Four articles for various Llewellyn annuals--the Witches' Companion, the Magical Almanac, the Witches' Datebook, and the Sabbats annual.
Copy edits on the mini-ebook we're releasing at the same time as the Ritual book (or possibly a few weeks earlier)
Write and edit an interview for Witches & Pagans with my friend Alex Bledsoe.
Get interviewed by author pal C.S. MacCath for W & P
Write up workshop submissions for Pantheacon next year (the conference isn't until February, but I have to submit my proposals for workshop ideas way earlier than that. [Any requests, BTW? From those of you who attend.]
Write my next column for Witches & Pagans

And then there is blogging, writing long-overdue reviews of books I loved and want to recommend, and no doubt...just one more thing.

Tomorrow. How's your to-do list looking? Not as overwhelming as mine, I hope. (But I wouldn't bet on it.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Copyedits, how they work and such

I spent the last week doing final copyedits on Everyday Witch Book of Rituals, my next book from Llewellyn, coming in October.

Here's what happens: you write a book, send it off to your acquisitions editor, who okays it, sends it off to your production editor, and then...well...nothing, for a long time. That editor, in my case the fabulous Becky Zins, has a bunch of authors, after all.

But eventually, the editor edits, and sends the next-to-final manuscript back to the author, covered with scribbled notes in red pen. [Some editors are doing it electronically these days, but we're not there yet.] Some of those notes are questions, like "Did you really mean this?" or "Could we do X here instead?" Some are comments or explanations, like "I'd like to remove this bit because you said the exact same thing three pages ago. You ninny."

Becky and I have been working together since my second book (this one is #6, is case you haven't been keeping track) and we work really well together. I think she's amazing. She thinks I'm a great author. It's a publishing marriage made in heaven. Of course, that means that she knows I can be depended on to plow through final edits quickly, and so she only sent me the ms about a month before it was due at the printer... But that's okay, since when these things show up on my desk, I just want to get them done and back out anyway.

Here's the interesting thing about rereading your manuscript after a long time has passed: you never know if you are going to be pleased or disappointed. Most authors positively dread this moment of truth, me among them. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Some of the rituals actually moved me to tears, or made me laugh out loud (that's the Croning/Eldering ritual). Hopefully they will have the same effect on my readers.

Now the book is back in Becky's capable hands, where she will make the last few changes, then send it off to the printer. Raise your hands, anyone who is going to run out and buy it! (It's available for pre-order right now, she mentions casually, fooling no one.)


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author class

A number of years ago (I don't remember how many), someone (I don't remember who...but I think it might have been the lovely folks from the Low Country RWA chapter) asked me if I would be willing to come up with an online workshop for fiction authors who were writing about witches and wanted some factual information to help them make their characters more accurate.

The result was the "Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author" class, and that was the beginning of my online workshop-giving career. That class is still my most popular one, and I've given it on various loops across the interwebs, including the FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal) RWA chapter, where I was thrilled to have one workshop go-round attended by both Katie MacAlister and Linda Wisdom--multi-published authors whose work I like a lot.

I'm not giving that class, or any others, on other folks loops anymore, because they usually last about 3 weeks, and I just can't spare the time from my writing. Instead, I'm giving shorter classes on my own workshop loop (set up by the fabulous Heather Long).

As an experiment, I'm going to try giving the Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author class there 5 days, instead of 3-4 weeks. Gulp. If you haven't taken the class yet, and you have any interest in writing paranormals that contain witches or other magical folk, I hope you'll join me!

The class runs July 16-20, and registration closes on the 15th, so run--quick like a bunny!--and sign up now. Also, if you want to spread the word to all your friends who might be interested, I'd be very, very grateful.

*blows kisses*

You can sign up here See you in the classroom!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Family, Faeries and the Fourth

Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow Americans. Heck, it is still the 4th of July no matter what country you're in, so I hope you're doing something fun today even if it isn't a holiday.

I'll confess--I'm not doing anything to celebrate. Mostly, I'm just trying to catch up on the things that got away from me [yes, garden, I'm looking at you] while I was out of town visiting with my sisters and their families Thursday thru Saturday, then gone all day at the NY Faerie Festival with Robin, 5 yo Sophie, 4 yo Nate, and our pal Ellen. Also, I'm draining my long-suffering waterbed (which has a number of patches from run-ins with Magic the Cat over the years) to make room for the new mattress that is being delivered tomorrow...from SALEM, of all places. More about that later...

To keep y'all amused while we're waiting for the bed to empty out, here are some pics from my adventures.
This is my gorgeous family: Stamo, my sister Becky, Athena (from CA) and Brianna, my sister Sarah, Addy, and Rich (from Schenectady). Good looking bunch, eh?
On Friday night, we surprised Sarah with a cake for her [important number deleted] th birthday. It was really a surprise, because her birthday (a big know, like 30 or 40, only more so) isn't until September. But since we were all together now, we decided to celebrate early. We went to a fabulous restaurant that Rich does caricatures at every week, so the owner was happy to play along, and let him drop off a cake earlier in the day. FUN! And hey, she's still younger than me.

The only downside of being with my family is that I always feel blue for a few days after leaving them. We live too far apart, and don't get to see each other nearly often enough. But the day out at the Faerie Festival was a great distraction. Sophia and Nate were as adorable as always, and I love spending time with them and their mom (and pal Ellen). More Faerie Fest pics later, probably. It was very cool.
My family-by-choice is as gorgeous as my family-by-birth. How lucky am I???

All in all, a lovely four days...although I am definitely ready for a vacation to recover from my vacation. Or I could weed my garden and drain my waterbed :-)

What are you all doing for the 4th? Something fun, I hope!