Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Obstacle Course & Sizzling Sex

If at first you don't succeed, maybe you were born to fail. Right?

Now, if the goal was to turn this into a religious or philosophical debate, we could go on forever about free will versus predestination, karma and whatnot. And no matter what I believe spiritually, I find those opposing philosophies intriguing.

Clearly, some people believe that you make your own path (free will) and others believe that you're on the path you were put on and it's out of your control (predestination). And if that's the case I want to order my future life with cabana boys, close proximity to Bunions and more money than Bill Gates has.

Let's put the religious aspect aside and look at the day to day. I believe both free will and predestination are true, in a matter of speaking. Somee people were born to be writers. Others were born actors. And others still were born artists.

But I'm convinced that the ones who actually become writers, actors, artists or whatever are the ones who choose to make it happen.

When I studied the elements of a classic quest story, it boiled down to this:
- hero with special calling or powers
- hero is given a specific task
- hero acquires helpers to assist him in his goal
- hero must overcome obstacles that try to prevent him from fulfilling his quest
- hero fulfills quest
- hero returns home from quest

I think the problems most people face are creating their own obstacles to keep them from fulfilling their quest and lose site of the goal.

This is something I did in my own life for many years. Every guy I dated was a jerk, completely uncommitted to me or a control freak, and I knew it going in, I just refused to accept it. I wanted to write but my study of journalism almost killed me. I was working full-time shift work doing care for the elderly and studying by day and six months into year 1 I was in the hospital. But I couldn't afford university and I wasn't eligible for a loan because my parents made too much money. Didn't matter that they thought school was a waste of time...

I've definitely made some bad choices in the past. Sometimes they came full circle and I ended up getting a second chance to make it right. Other times, I missed out on opportunities. When I look back on my track record for screwing up, it's no wonder I was convinced I'd never have a healthy relationship in my life and that I was going to spend my years living in my sister's basement eating kraft dinner until my teeth fell out.

Ultimately, I had to make some firm decisions about what I wanted in life, and then I had to learn to make choices that would increase the likelihood of getting what I wanted. It took me almost 28 years to find Kevin, and when I did I was the worst woman ever. I totally kept it cool, all cards on the table from the beginning, no bullshit. And I wouldn't even kiss him on our early dates. Lucky for him it didn't take long for us to get engaged.

Career-wise, I've still been learning how to make the future I want happen. Ever since I was a child I wanted to be an author. I loved putting words together and making stories.

But every time I got close to a career writing, I got scared. I put up mental and emotional obstacles and persuaded myself I should be working, even after I was married.

Finally, almost two years ago, Kevin was out of work. It was just after we'd bought our house too, so it was a super-stressful time. My work was a nightmare - a full caseload was two children and I had three. I lived out of my truck, I ate while driving, all I did was sleep and work and I was miserable.

Kevin told me to quit my job.

It may have seemed the most ludicrous thing in the world. Here we were, no income, and I was turning into a full-time writer. That was June 2004. And while I was writing, I didn't even care about if it was good.

I gave myself one attainable goal. Good, bad, whatever, I was just going to finish that manuscript.

And I did.

I couldn't write a query for it. It was impossible. It was a bitch to edit because the story is huge.

I got one place to look at it. They passed.

I got another publisher interested, but they wanted something 80,000 words. And I was still swelling at 133,000.

I thought about making it a romantic suspense and trying to sell it to harlequin because I didn't know where else to try with this particular manuscript.

Finally, I submitted it to Tico. And they loved it. It won best fiction out of six months of submissions, and earned a publishing contract.

I got my editing notes from the reviewer. "Within the suspense/mystery genre it stands out as a complete tour de force for the main character" and a ranking of 9 out of 10. And this was a manuscript I'd almost given up on.

Now, this fall, I will see another dream realized. I'll be a published author. There will be more dreams, I suppose.

But considering that even just two weeks ago, I was thinking that all the manuscripts I'd been working on might not be there yet, I can honestly say that I'm glad I didn't let self-doubt get in the way.

Part of the reason for that is that I have a helper. I dreamed. Kevin believed.

There have been other helpers too. Alison. Stuart MacBride. Marsha. Simon Kernick. Kate. Cornelia Read. Mindy. Mystery Writers Ink.

And their belief in me helped me persevere. For that, I'm grateful.

On Monday JA Konrath was posting about planning for success in your career. If you haven't checked it out, you should, because there's a lot of good advice in there that isn't only for writers. It applies across the board.

Whatever your dream is, make a plan. How are you going to make it a reality?

Then get to work on it. Life is too short to be spent living with nothing but what if's and might-have-been's.

On The Wire, Lt Daniels' wife said, "You cannot lose if you do not play."

But you definitely can't win either.

Sizzling Sex

An elderly couple is enjoying an anniversary Dinner together in a small tavern.

The husband leans over and asks his wife, "Do you remember the first time we had sex together over fifty years ago? We went behind this tavern where you leaned against the fence and I made love to you."

"Yes," she says, "I remember it well."

"OK," he says, "How about taking a stroll 'round there again and we can do it for old time's sake."

"Oooooooh Henry, you devil, that sounds like a good idea," she answers.

There's a police officer sitting in the next booth listening to all this, and having a chuckle to himself. He thinks, "I've got to see this... two old-timers having sex against a fence. I'll just keep an eye on them so there's no trouble."

So he follows them. They walk haltingly along, leaning on each other for support, aided by a walking sticks. Finally they get to the back of the tavern and make their way to the fence. The old lady lifts her skirt, takes her knickers down and the old man drops his trousers. She turns around and as she hangs on to the fence, the old man moves in.

Suddenly they erupt into the most furious sex that the watching policeman has ever seen. They are bucking and jumping like eighteen-year-olds.

This goes on for about forty minutes! She's yelling, "Ohhhh, God!" and he's hanging on to her hips for dear life. This is the most athletic sex imaginable. Finally, they both collapse panting on the ground.

The policeman is amazed. He thinks he has learned something about life that he didn't know. He starts to think about his own aged parents and wonders whether they still have sex like this.

After about half an hour of lying on the ground recovering, the old couple struggle to their feet and put their clothes back on. The policeman, still watching thinks, that was truly amazing, he was going like a train. I've got to ask him what his secret is.

As the couple pass, he says to them. "That was something else, you must have been having sex for about forty minutes. How do you manage it? You must have had fantastic life together. Is there some sort of secret?"

"No, there's no secret," the old man says, "except that fifty years ago that damn fence wasn't electric."


M. G. Tarquini said...

That joke. Oh dear.

Wonderful post, Sandra. I also liked JA's post about goals. As writers, it's easy to let ourselves get distracted from starting, from finishing, from writing the query. It takes real discipline to work day in and day out without reward or recognition. Often, all we need is a little encouragement, a glimmer of hope, a sliver of belief that we can write, that our work is professional quality, that it's worth somebody spending 15 bucks to read.

So, you, me, everybody else out there working at this seriously, be like Winston Churchill - Never give up.

Sandra Ruttan said...

You don't like my joke?

Yes, I think attainable goals is key to success. I'm a list person. I love crossing things off my list. So by jotting down notes like, "500 words on SC" and "research decomposition in water" and "edit article on Harrogate" under a date, I feel very good if I get them all done. Then I feel a sense of achievement and feel positive about my day.

Even if I have to rewrite those 500 words.

JamesO said...

The self-doubt gremlin is a nasty little beast that preys on all of us at times. Writers are particularly vulnerable because we do what we do in private, in our heads, alone. But most of us (the lucky ones, at least) have a support network out there, even if at times we forget it.

And as for that joke. Wrinkly sex - ewww!

Bernita said...

All the power to you, Sandra.
Funny, I was thinking about fear too.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, a support group is a very important thing! And I should have listed you, James, in mine!

Right now Bernita, I'd take the power to raise the temperature. brrrr!

I think these fear things go in cycles. No matter how far you come, you still go through rough patches.

Erik Ivan James said...

Excellent post today Sandra. Thank you.

I visited JA Konrath today for the first time via your link. Thank you for that as well.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, I might have to apologize for some of JA. But whether you agree or disagree, he gets my blood pumping.

Not like that though! Really people! We're married.

Bernita said...

And oh, does James think no one should have sex after 30 or something?

S. R. Hatcher said...

Sandra.......I guess we are List Cousins. I do the same thing and find it sometimes helps because it breaks my huge project into manageable pieces and helps me get more done.

Good post today, good information. Thanks.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey, List Cousins! I like that!

Sounds better than anal and neurotic.

Good question Bernita! I'm going to have to ask him...

JamesO said...

After 30 what?

I don't mean to be ageist (much), but there are some things my overactive imagination doesn't need to be pointed towards, and elderly people having sex is one of them.

I'm not saying they can't have sex. Good for them if they're still up for it. But I don't want to have to watch, thankyou.

And just when did being over 30 mean you were old? All those years I could have been drawing a pension...

Trace said...

Tenacity is a wonderful thing.

Anonymous said...

Very inspirational post, Sandra. Thanks for it.

And that joke.... I'm still laughing.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Some times you just have to jump and know that you'll be okay. Having that kind of support system is important, and irreplacable. Congratulations on the book. Looking forward to seeing it in the fall. Do you know when in the fall?

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, you're in a mood today!

Glad the post encourages you Jason - and yes, Trace tenacity is priceless.

Stephen, thanks! As for the book release date, I don't know officially yet. I've said, "likely this fall" because that's the target. My publisher and I are reviewing stuff and looking at various options but I may not know for a bit yet. But as soon as I do, you can bet I'll be blabbing about it all over the place!

Boy Kim said...

Hi bloggers. Hope all is good for you today.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Hopefully. (Who said "Damn, I thought we'd got rid of him for good"?!?!?!?!)


Sandra Ruttan said...

Kim, I am always ECSTATIC to see you drop by my blog.

Sniff- breaks my heart when you're gone.