"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A spanking brand new year

I'm in the habit of starting a blog post with the intention of saying one thing, and ending up saying another instead. This time, I'm going to try harder to stay on target.

Happy New Year!

That wasn't so hard. 

Actually, I was going to talk about the new year and the chance to shrug off last year's bad habits and poor excuses. Before we trade them for better bad habits and shinier poor excuses, let's resolve to think positively about 2016, and make changes that will help us.

The truth is, it's easy to make resolutions. You can make as many as you want, tiny and big. If you're a writer and wondering what you might improve on, here's the annual Joe Konrath list of Writing Resolutions. I like his list because he includes ALL of his resolutions, beginning in 2006, so there's a lot to choose from.


You could make more personal resolutions, although I caution you about any resolutions concerning your body and changing its general shape. Read Anne Lamott's words on resolving to go on a diet. 


"How much weight are you hoping to gain?" I love that line. There's not much about her post (or her) that I don't love. Forget dieting. Honor yourself and let the rest fall into place.

I think that's my wish for your resolutions this year, the one I'm going to take to my own heart: Honor yourself, in as many ways as you can.

1. Honor your health by making a fuss over yourself. If that means using the good china, do it. If it means listening to the doctor, take their words to heart. Live longer.

2. Honor your work by being passionate about it. You are your own valued employee -- start valuing!

3. Honor your joy by having fun. Live, for Pete's sake. As Auntie Mame said, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." Pull your own chair up to that table!

4. Honor the ones you love by loving them with abandon. Open your heart. Wish the best for them. It makes it so much easier for them to love you.

Have a fabulous 2016!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Merry Christmas letter to you

I've gotten them all sent out, so I can now post the annual Christmas letter and photo for everyone's enjoyment. If you read the blog, you get the added extras -- the outtakes!

You’ll be doin’ all right with your Christmas of white…

Oh, for Pete’s sake, somebody send some precipitation to California, please! If I’m very lucky, that statement alone will ensure a deluge by the time I send these greetings.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first, having to do with our photo. You’ll notice a new look to the background this year. In September, we moved the horses to a new stable, two ranches down from our previous location. It was an opportunity for my trainer to grow her business, something no one can afford to pass up these days. Although we miss the Silver Rose Ranch, we love our new digs at Hillcrest Equestrian Center.

You’ll also notice we are missing a family member. Katy the cat succumbed to kidney failure this year. She was 18, and I swear, some nights I still feel the weight of her at the end of the bed.

As for the rest of us, Marcus completed his undergraduate work at Cal State Long Beach. He now has a Bachelor of Music, with majors in Vocal Jazz Studies and Composition. His studies took an unexpected turn, causing him to spend one more semester at school. That, in turn, gave the Vocal Jazz Director an opening for him to sing in Pacific Standard Time one more year. So he’s spending a year with one foot in and one foot out of school, still getting music-related jobs wherever he can.

I asked Dale what he wanted to talk about in the letter and he said, “I’ve done too much, one letter won’t cover it.” I will tell you that retirement led to a lot of travel for him this year. He went to Angels’ spring training in Arizona, the Frozen Four in Boston, golfing in Maine, a family reunion in Louisiana, and even a spur-of-the-moment trip to Denver to visit a friend. When he was home, he coached two youth basketball teams, golfed, and played softball. He’s one busy retiree.

I’m still boring. Write a book, ride a horse, go to the library and make decisions, repeat as necessary. This was my 10-year anniversary of writing for the newspaper, so I released 3 books of columns on various subject matters. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my year, but the highlights all included friends, from the time we got to spend with Michael and Chrissie in Oregon, to having dinner with my high school buddy Mark and his wife Marjie, to our infrequent get-togethers with others. If I could request more time on this planet, I’d want to spend it hanging out with the people I love.

As for family trips, we did our usual mountain getaway. One of our dear, young (Marcus’ age) friends couldn’t make the trip because she was stuck in the hospital due to a recurrence of cancer. This meant our trip was modified to accommodate a visit to her in Sacramento. We love her, and we hate cancer, and we can’t wait for the day when it can all be cured without going through such painful processes.

Although we’ve had a lot of fun times this year, it sometimes feels like an enormous chore to keep the bad news of the world at bay. I’m not looking forward to next year’s election and all its negativity. All I can do is remember to breathe deeply, love greatly, and do my best to be kind.

So we wish you a Most Merry Christmas, and a Highly Happy New Year!

The Carlines

Friday, December 4, 2015

A writer's list for Santa

It's Friday night, and once again, I'm thinking I want to go out, but just can't seem to light a fire under my own tushie to make it happen. This means it will be popcorn and wine for dinner again. In the meantime, I was thinking about Christmas presents, and writing, and this came out:

For those of you with a writer in your house, first of all, thank you for being so supportive. We appreciate all the times you’ve ignored our mumbling about what our imaginary people are doing in their make-believe worlds. We love it when you don’t notice the household chores we haven’t quite completed because we just need to finish this one paragraph. Thank you.

You’re probably wondering what to get us for Christmas this year. Here are some helpful hints, ranging in price from expensive to free, but all priceless to a writer:

1. Books. I know, this sounds weird to you. We write books, why would we want to receive them as presents? The thing is, writers need to read other writers. We need to know what the market out there is doing, what people are buying, and there’s nothing like a well told story to bring us joy and inspire us to do our best. That’s why we write, after all. One caveat: writers like to read books about the craft of writing, but I recommend you let your writer buy those, so they don’t think you lack confidence in their ability. Perhaps you could put a gift card to a bookstore in their stocking.

2. Conferences. As much as we need to read, we need to be in the company of other writers. If you are serious about writing, you are always looking for ways to improve. Workshops about craft, talking about character and plot with other writers, finding a mentor, these are all ways that we get better. Are conferences expensive? They can be. They are also an investment in your writer’s writing. If you don’t know which conference your writer would like to attend, you can start by Googling “writer conference (insert your state here)”, then look at reviews and testimonials. I, of course, recommend the SouthernCalifornia Writers Conference for an example of great workshops, friendly writers, and exceptional mentors.

3. Writing tools. Does your writer need a new computer? A printer? Maybe your writer is old school, meaning journals with lots of blank pages to fill. Timers are good for writing sprints. Pens, pencils, and printer ink make great stocking stuffers. Even a new pair of drugstore reading glasses, or a mug for their favorite inspirational drink.

4. A retreat. This is admittedly a high-end present, but every writer dreams of that weekend spent away from real life, hunkered down and doing nothing but finishing that novel. Maybe it’s a cabin in the mountains, or a place on the beach. It might even be an RV in the desert. As long as there’s plenty of food and drink, and no phone or internet.

5. Uninterrupted time. This costs the least and means the most. Chances are, your writer has to smuggle their minutes of deep-writing time in between work and family. To understand that, and resist the temptation to interrupt their groove, is the meaning of true writerly love.

6. Interest in their work (even if it’s feigned). Another freebie, if done correctly. Interest in their work can include asking them about how the latest story is coming along, and telling them how lucky you are to know such a creative person. More listening than talking is involved. P.S. Asking them if they’re ever going to finish that novel, whether they’ve heard from an agent, or how their sales are going are all forbidden topics. It's like putting a lump of coal in their stockings.

Any one of these gifts will make your writer very happy this Christmas. I know they’d make me happy!

Writer friends, is there anything else you want to add to Santa’s list?

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