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Month: September 2014

Wow! That was easy.

Wow! That was easy.

This afternoon in my art loft, I spent a few hours catching up on all the emails I’ve ignored this week in order to help put on the Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation fundraiser. Over a glass of  iced tea, I read and responded to emails, wrote to-do lists and tackled a few smaller projects. This is what happened out my window as I worked:

Before
As I began my emails, over a bowl of soup…
After responding to emails, checking social media and refilling my water cup...
After responding to emails, checking social media and refilling my water cup…

In less than an hour, a house that stood on the corner of my neighborhood for over three decades was demolished. How long did it take to build that house? A year, maybe? And now it’s gone.

After taking pictures from my roof deck, I went back to writing book two, the follow up to Four Rubbings. The novel’s sketched out in two notebooks, but I’m working in earnest to finish the manuscript before the first of the year. The hours I’ve put into it are already countless. I’ve done research, collected images, fact checked, not to mention the time I’ve invested in creating my cast of characters in the first place. In fact, I usually talk about the teens in my book as though they’re my own children, my four kids that live on paper. The actual writing of the story will go quickly, but I’ve no doubt it will consume me in the months to come. Why? Because I get inside their heads, set them in a situation and watch where they go and how they react. I quietly take notes, or write what you would call a first-draft.

I’m not unique, nor is my process. The fermentation of the story and characters, the editing, the proofing and finally the publication, it’s how a book is born. Even for the most prolific authors, like bestselling author, Tess Thompson, who writes 2-3 books a year, the process takes time.

And like that house across the street from me, the final product can be torn down in a blink: one reviewer, one bad blog post, one incensed reader and what took months to build can crumble down. Amazon’s been criticized for taking a day or more to post five-star reviews, but posting one-star reviews immediately. That needs to change.

I’m not asking you to stop reviewing books honestly, but be fair. If you hate romances, downloaded the book by accident, and didn’t read past the first chapter, then don’t post a review. Please. Don’t tear down a book that wasn’t written for you. Be mindful of the time, process and people behind the book, and act accordingly. Then, when you sit behind that desk and write your own novel, we’ll grant you the same kindness and consideration. We will.

A Shift in Perspective Makes All the Difference

A Shift in Perspective Makes All the Difference

zoetrope
Zoetrope watercolor with film distortion by Jennifer Hotes

If you follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my blog, you might characterize me as a sunny, Pollyanna-type. If pressed further, you might speculate that I’m only this happy because I’ve never faced anything jarringly sad or unfortunate.

At the same time, if you’ve read my first novel, Four Rubbings, you might have a hard time accepting the dark images I stir up, the complicated characters, the terrifying revelations. Yes, this is part of me, too. I have darkness as well as light inside. But, both the blogging and the suspense writing are socially-acceptable ways for me to express all of myself.

So, yes. Bad things have happened to me, as to you, I suspect, because we weren’t raised in a bubble. Awful events. Sad. Tragic. And raw, even, if I choose to dwell on the memories. But, I don’t. I can’t, actually. Not if I’m going to be a good mother to my kids, a supportive best friend to my husband, an enthusiastic volunteer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying the bad stuff happened, I just force myself to take a different perspective on it, is all.

Perspective. That’s why I painted you the zoetrope above. It’s a simple machine, but it depends on perspective to work correctly. You thread a strip of paper into the middle of the drum, spin it, and the series of drawings rotate in a perpetual loop, like a crude movie. It’s like Vine, without the hashtags and comments.

When viewed from above, the pictures blur together, becoming the fuzzy outline of a never-ending mountain range. But, lower yourself. Look inside the drum, nose nearly touching the mechanism, and the drawings jerk to life. Then, pull back a foot or so, and the strip of paper becomes a smooth loop of action. Just a slight adjustment in perspective makes a dramatic different.

cd58f2a98f5576653ddc432beefec0d1It takes effort to shift perspective. And now that I’m active in social media, it’s exhausting. As a student of the media, a communications major at the University of Washington, I learned the statistics. Mainstream news loves negative stories, the ones that strike fear, evoke raw emotion, and oftentimes pit you against me, us against them. Fear is their money-maker. And anger is it’s red-lipped whore. I remember reading one study that said people who rely on mainstream media for the bulk of their information have a skewed perspective on how much violence occurs, and the result is that they live in fear. And guess who consumes the most mainstream media? Seniors.

Yes, bad things happen in the world. Sometimes they occur in the apartment next door, other times it’s half a globe away. We will care deeply. But, if we feel we can’t do anything to exact change or help out, then we’re left feeling hopeless. Studies have confirmed this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to hide your head in a hole and pretend that world events don’t matter, they do. People will always matter. I’m simply challenging you to shift your perspective after consuming the hard stuff. If it really hurts you, research ways to help, donate, promote a worthy cause. But, if you can’t do anything about it, then maybe you can help the world best by putting something positive out there, a cyber-hug of sorts. Even if it’s to publicly thank your lucky stars that you have your health, a roof over your head and food in your cupboards. Your perspective may be the thing that encourages someone else to keep trying, keep living, and make their own peace with the darkness.