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Emmie’s Everest

This post will deal a lot with my writing career, so I reckon I’ll esplain right off the bat why I’m putting it here instead of over at my um…writing blog.

The first reason is because that there blog is for writing about urban fantasy and the business side of my career. Though I might make the occasional foray into the personal there when the occasion demands, this little leafy blog is where my personal meanderings (hence the name) occur. The second is because I got homework today, and I decided to share the concrete bits with whoever feels like reading them.

Without further ado, I give you………*drumroll*………..Emmie’s Not-Top-Secret Goals for Her Writing Career in 2012 and Beyond!

That title needs some work. Cut me some slack.

My assignment was to assess my personal goals for my writing career. Who do I want to be? Where do I want to be in five years? Ten? Three? What do I want out of my writing? Who do I want to reach? What is my definition of success for my career, and how on earth will I know when I get there? What kind of income do I want to get from it? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Let’s start with the introspection.

Who do I want to be as a writer? As Forrest Gump might say, “Aren’t I going  to be me?” Well, yes. Essentially, I’m not aiming to be the next Stephen King or Jo Rowling or Stephenie Meyer or “the next” anyone. I want to pave my own way and establish my own niche in my market.

I know that’s a cop-out answer. I hope this one is a little better: I want to be a best-selling urban fantasy author who turns out new books, each better than the ones that came before them. I want a writing career where I am always striving to be better, bolder, and unique.

Who do I want to reach? I want to reach the lovers of magic and the supernatural. People who love vampires and shapeshifters and twists on our world. People who love human stories in the midst of all that. My ideal audience is people who love the grittiness of Buffy — or Twilight fans after some of the glitter has worn off the vampires. People who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty and like their sweet with a touch of bitter.

What is my definition of success? I will consider myself successful when I can amply provide for myself and my family by the sole means of my writing. When I can quit my day job and still have wiggle room after the squeak of the bills grinds to a halt, I’ll know I got there.

Where do I want to be in three years? In three years, I want to have a book somewhere on the New York Times or Amazon.com bestseller lists. I want to be planning a migration to Scotland and maybe thinking of building our home. Maybe even thinking of spawning some little Emmies.

Where do I want to be in five years? In five years, I would like my family to be ensconced in our home in Scotland with a charming husky and a fluffy orange cat that meows a lot. I want to spend my days writing in my library and continuing to hone my craft. I’d like to have filled another passport up with stamps from all over the world.

I’d also like to have met an elephant by then.

In TEN YEARS?! Ten years from now, I’d like to be done popping out kids so I can make my husband get a vasectomy and stop having to deal with foreign hormones clogging up my body. I want to write every day. I want to teach my children to love books and that they can be whoever they want to be. I want to show them the world. I want to share what I have with others and give back as much as possible. Some dreams I have in that sense are to make hefty donations to cancer research (I’ve lost several loved ones to that cursed disease), to Eve Ensler‘s heroic work for V-Day to stop violence against women, and to find some little girls that remind me of myself and make some of their dreams come true.

What kind of income do I want to make? I would love to have enough to build our dream home (which, by the way, is NOT 10,000 square feet, nor does it have a pool or any columns or more than 5 bedrooms or any other such nonsense), pay off all my debt (including the debt of my immediate family, of which there is quite a lot), and make the aforementioned hefty donations as possible. I don’t care about millions per year. One thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of never having enough of it is that money does not buy “happiness,” but it can alleviate a great deal of stress and improve quality of life. I want my children to have more than I did, but still to know the value of their own work and to take joy in earning something for themselves. I don’t have a specific number of how much money I want to make, just that I want to be able to pay for the things I value: family, books (ha), travel, and causes that matter to me.

That is my Everest. Right now I’m at base camp, starting the trek. Took a long time to get prepared for even this leg of the journey, now I’m about to begin my ascent.

And oh, yeah…

What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? This depends on whether it is an African swallow, or a European swallow. It’s unlikely that either variety of swallow would be capable of carrying a large burden, such as a coconut, over any distance, but perhaps if the swallow were being chased by a large horde of zombie swallows it might have enough adrenaline to do so. Though why it would want to is a question for a greater mind than mine. Perhaps for one known as…Tim?

English: Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler is my hero for too many reasons to name here, but to give you two: she is a champion for women around the world, and she kicked cancer's ass. Image via Wikipedia

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

A couple days ago, as I pulled out of the driveway of my apartment complex, I almost hit a turtle. He was a small turtle, maybe six inches across. I managed not to hit him, but as I stopped at the light half a block away, I watched him in my rearview mirror as he plodded along, narrowly avoiding the F-250 that followed me out of the drive. Such a little guy, but his hard shell won’t protect him from cars. I wished I could have stopped to pick him up and truck him to the other side.

As I drove to work, I pondered how he even got onto the road. The curb is bigger than he is, and yet somehow he’d already made it across one lane. I hope he is okay and that he made it across the road. The world of Maryland suburbs isn’t made for such a small turtle.

Some days I feel like that turtle. I am trying to cross a road in a big, big world with all these large things that whiz out of nowhere, and it’s all I can do to plod one more dogged step after another. The only real motivation I can think of for a turtle to try and cross a busy road is that he’s looking for food. He needs to survive. If the road is dangerous, well, so is starving. I suppose sometimes we have to take risks if we want to get where we need to be.

I get asked fairly often at work why I’m working “in a place like that” and not doing something else. The underlying meaning of such a question is that I’m wasting my time, intelligence, etc. by being a server, and that I ought to be doing something more “useful.” I resent that question as much as I resent complete strangers asking me if my hair is natural. I don’t go around asking all the platinum blonds that question because it’s rude — but because my hair is red, that somehow makes it okay? Growl. Okay, I digress.

The point is, my current job serves a purpose. I enjoy it, and it suits me for now. I don’t have to get up at an absurd hour of the morning, and I’m making decent money. It’s a means to an end, and I’m happy there. I like my managers, and I get on well with my coworkers, so what’s to complain about? In the meantime, I’m revising my novel, trying to establish a presence in the world of the internet to promote said novel, and generally enjoying life. I’m about to marry a wonderful man. So when people ask me that question, it frustrates me.

I am that turtle in the middle of the road. Yeah, there are other places I could have gone, but this way seemed like a good idea. Each step gets me closer to the other side of the road, and when I get there, I won’t forget how I did. I will establish myself as a writer as a career, and while I might never make buckets of money like Stephen King or Janet Evanovich or JK Rowling (who probably make a teensy bit more than buckets), I will be able to support my family. That’s why this turtle is crossing the road, for god’s sake.

To get to the other side.

Forces of Destruction

Another insightful prompt from the folks at WordPress. I wouldn’t respond to this one, except it ties into a lot of what I’ve been keeping on the ponder burner all week about my characters. In writing, characters motivations are what make them believable. There’s more to it than that, of course, but if readers can’t understand what a character does or even predict what their next move might be from knowing that character, they won’t read till the end of the book. They’ll get frustrated.(You can read more about my novel writing process/progress here.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivations this week. For good or ill, motivation is what drives people. It’s what plunked me down in front of my trusty constipated dinosaur of a computer to write today. It’s what drags our butts off the couch to the gym (or in my case, the living room where my weights live). It’s what makes people mug someone on their way home or donate to charity.

What is the most destructive force of humanity? I would say it’s one of humanity’s largest and most powerful motivators: greed. I’m not talking about Scrooge McDuck polishing his piles of gold coins before diving into them in a sparkling splash. Such a cartoonish vision doesn’t do it justice.

To me, greed is the sense of wanting more than someone else has regardless of who it hurts. The qualifier I tacked on the end there isn’t actually separate from the desire to have more, because ultimately the desire for more will hurt someone. It’s why employee benefits are often the first things slashed when a budget gets cut. Not salaries at the top of the chain. It’s why people resort to stealing. It’s why people fight over resources. Not because they think it will make them have enough. It’s because they want more.

If there’s anything I’ve learned on this earth, it’s that people very seldom think they have enough. I’ve heard people complain that they don’t have enough money when they make over six figures every year. If you were to follow them home, you’d see a Lexus in their driveway, which is attached to a million dollar home. Very few could successfully make the argument that they don’t have enough. I think that someone living in a one room shanty in Peru might have a better grasp on what “enough” means than most of America.

Every day I’m thankful for my toilet. That might be a very strange thing to be thankful for, but I grew up without one for many, many years. We had a five gallon bucket with an old toilet seat attached to it that we kept in our kitchen. Yes. You read that right. Kitchen. It was my job as a young teen to empty this bucket into our outhouse, which I dug myself. As a Caucasian American, I understand that I am in the very distinct minority for having had this experience as youngster.

Having grown up with a lot less than most people in this country, I am always very baffled (and I’ll admit, less than sympathetic) when people who have a safe, comfortable home with their own bedroom, a car, food every day (more than once a day), and a pot to piss in that flushes think they don’t have enough. What greed stems from is a lack of perspective.

Recession or not, we live in a golden age. We are utterly dependent on technology for everything from heating our homes to doing our banking to finding knowledge. I always wonder what would happen if we lost that. I see what happens when the power goes out for a matter of days. We have no idea how fortunate we are.

Greed poisons us. I’m guilty of it as much as anyone. I want to provide for my family and give them things I didn’t have — though from my perspective, I don’t have to do much to exceed what I had as a child. In spite of that, I want to raise my children to know that for every one of us who has water, food, shelter, family — there are millions who have to fight every day to have a fraction of what I have.

A sobering fact that I think of often is that if the wealthy of the world really wanted to, they could probably wipe out world hunger. If we weren’t so concerned with financial profit, we could invest in people who have so much less. It wouldn’t be a quick turnaround, but the world would be a better place.

Just to clarify, I don’t think greed exists only on Wall Street or in the upper classes. It exists everywhere, like a noxious weed. People kill each other for clean water when they could probably find a way to share it. At it’s heart, greed is taking for yourself what you could share with others. Everyone might have a little less, but everyone would have something. As children, we’re taught that if we have two of something we should share. We’re taught that sharing is caring. That it’s the nice thing to do. The right thing to do. I feel like we all cling to our resentment of sharing until we’re adults and we can buck that dictate from our parents and finally say no, what’s mine is mine.

Greed is the most destructive element of humanity, because it cannot exist innocently. It always hurts someone. On a wide scale it destroys nations. On a small scale it hurts someone’s feelings. In The Kite Runner, the protagonist’s father remarks that all sin is theft. You take something that doesn’t belong to you, or you lie and steal someone’s right to the truth. You murder and steal their life.

I’ll close with a quote from Shusako Endo (paraphrased). “Sin is to talk brutally over the life of another and be oblivious of the wounds left behind.”