Monday, July 29, 2019

A Guide to Writing Your Next Novel

Writing a novel is hard no matter how many times you've done it. I'm currently working on my fifth and my brain, as always, refuses to cooperate. I've lit candles and made blood sacrifices, but every time I sit down to write I end up asking myself the same questions: "Why? How the hell did I do this last time? How do you even words? Why is the good stuff in my head incapable of showing up on the page?" I know all writers go through this, and that's why I'm happy to be sharing this guide with you all. It's been working wonders for me. Hopefully it'll do the same for you:

Guide to writing your next novel:

1. Stand in the middle of the road in a strange part of town and scream "Everything's a construct!" at the top of your lungs.

2. Read amazing novels and get angry because you'll never be that good and maybe no one loves you. Maybe you're really a hack.

3. Get inside your blood. Find the ghosts that ride your veins and fight them. Let them win the fist round. Then get up and destroy them.

4. Pull your deepest fears outta the bottom drawer of your soul and staple them to your face with the sharpened bones of tiny birds.

5. Listen to your favorite music. Then listen to something impossibly darker. Listen to something new. Listen to something awful and scary. Listen to the ominous silence. Listen to the blood pounding in your head. Listen to music from movies you've never seen. Listen to atmospheric black metal while walking around the woods at night holding a knife.

6. Eat tacos and ponder life without soy sauce or garlic or salsa.

7. Remind yourself of every fight, every accident, every dance with absolute fear, every instance in which a fucking gun made an unexpected appearance, every night spent pressing your tongue against the blood clots on the inside of your lips, every broken promise, every drop of anger, every death that crushed you, every spirit you've ever felt, every broken relationship, every second of crushing loneliness, every night spent battling a fever, every letdown, every frustration, every fucking nightmare.

8. Punch a wall until your knuckles bleed. Lick the blood off your knuckles. Punch the wall some more. Remember no one owes you a thing. Smile. Pick up a gutter flower and put it in your hair. Tell the world you can do this. Tell yourself you can do this. Do this.

9. Type as if the keyboard owed you money. When you hit a passage that means something, hold your breath and keep going. Kill every meaningless word. Slice every unnecessary word.

10. Reply to the voices in your head. Recognize aliens are real. They live in the closet and come out to watch you sleep sometimes. Scream at the moon. Understand that, if there is a hell, its fire is nothing compared to what you hide underneath your skin. Obsess about everything. Cry without shedding any tears. Finish the damn thing. Move on to the next one with a new set of neon scars.


Gabino Iglesias is a writer, professor, book reviewer, and journalist living in Austin, TX. He is the author of ZERO SAINTS and COYOTE SONGS. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Back Jacket Hack Job - What Alice Forgot

Hey there, readers! It's my turn for a back jacket hack job - a feature which I haven't done in AGES here on Across the Board. Basically, it's my take on what the blurb could/should be vs the blurb on the back cover. 

Today's feature - WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty. You might know Liane Moriarty from BIG LITTLE LIES (which is a phenomenal book, haven't seen the HBO series) and THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, which is considered to be her breakout novel.

I admit, I read WHAT ALICE FORGOT blind. I was looking for women's fiction and my online library had this one available. I'd liked other books by Moriarty, so why not this one? Little did I know how much I would love it.

If YOU read the blurb, you know from the very beginning that Alice takes a fall at the gym and wakes up thinking she's 29 and newly pregnant, not 39 with three kids and on the verge of divorce. Her story is about rediscovering herself against the Alice she remembers (her 29-year-old self) vs. the Alice she's become by 39.

If you read MY Back Jacket Hack Job blurb, it would go something like this:

Don't start this book without time to dive into the story, because without giving yourself time to read the first few chapters in one sitting, you might give up and that would be a travesty. (Spoiler alert: I started this book one night when I was tired and couldn't read more than a few pages. Same the next night. I almost quit reading thinking I just wasn't into it. Turns out I was just super tired.) And Alice in the first couple of chapters is a little hard to connect with. She's just woken up in the hospital and is confused at the timeframe, which made ME confused as well. Again, I was super tired. I don't think this is a problem for well-rested readers.

The story is what the original blurb describes - but so much more. Because Alice ten years ago is really different than the Alice of today, but the relationships she has with her sister, her kids and her ex-husband, in particular, are colored by those ten years. And they don't reflect so well on Alice.

Without being all spoilery - let's just say that as a woman who used to be ten (or twenty) years younger, newly married and child-free, it was eye-opening to see the ways Alice had changed, and the ways her interactions with family and friends had become so different. Strained. It's understandable - looking at it objectively - but Alice wonders if it's inevitable. And you will too.

I don't want to give away anymore of the plot, but I think this story will resonate if you're a mother, especially. So, tell me - have you read WHAT ALICE FORGOT? Did it make you stop and think? Do you find yourself still thinking about it, even weeks after finishing? Or is that just me? (Tell me it's not just me!) And if you've read it, would LOVE to chat about it on the comments.

Monday, July 22, 2019

In Praise of Paper Planners

A post by Mary Fan
Most folks who know me have noticed a significant uptick in the number of hobbies I've gotten written before on just why I find purely-for-fun activities that I aspire to be mediocre at so rewarding.

In a nutshell, it's because with all the pressures of writing and publishing and day job-ing, I find relief in getting to just play around for a change.
involved with over the past year or so. I've

It started a few years ago with choir...

... and then last year it really took off when I decided, pretty much around the same time, to resume kickboxing (which I'd done a few years back but dropped for... more writing time, I guess? laziness?)...

... while simultaneously taking up aerial silks (say what now?).

And then choir let out for the summer, so I decided to use that time for flying trapeze classes, which I quickly became addicted to (who'd've thunk).

Meanwhile, I'm also an active member of my local writers group, in which I co-moderate the full-novel critique track and give the occasional workshop. Plus, you know, having to visit my family and hang out with friends every now and then. Oh, and traveling for conventions or vacations... basically, I've totally overscheduled myself. But it's okay -- it's all fun stuff.

Problem is, I have Swiss-cheese memory. Can't remember a dang thing on my own. It was really after I started publishing and doing writer-type events (conventions, events with my local writers group, etc.) that my schedule got really whack. At first, I tried doing it the modern way -- that is, entering things into my iPhone's calendar. I mean, I carry that thing around with me everywhere anyway, and this is how us Millennials are supposed to do it, right?

Except I hated that stupid app. I hated how when it showed me a month, it only indicated with a frickin unhelpful dot that something was up on any given day -- not what. I hated that it somehow synced with Facebook and added the birthdays of all my rando Facebook friends (most of whom I barely know anymore... Facebook is basically a phone book to me), so I couldn't tell if I ACTUALLY had something to do, or if it was the birthday of that random friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-someone-I-met-once-at-Freshmen-orientation. I hated how annoying it was to add an event -- typing things out on that stupid keyboard, fighting autocorrect, scrolling around for dates and times... ARGH.

So a few years ago, I switched to a wall calendar. It was also because I just liked the idea of having a wall calendar (and it was Star Wars-themed). That worked nicely. I could quickly jot down "JCW 1PM-3PM" to indicate that I had a critique session with the Jersey City Writers... much faster than typing all that into the stupid, stupid app. It also made it a lot easier to visualize any given month, particularly when I had multi-day events. I even started entering writing deadlines so I could plan my writing schedule around all my other things.

For about 3 years, this worked nicely. There was just one issue: if I was out and about and someone asked if I was available for a thing, I'd always have to say "let me check my calendar when I get home." So last year, I switched to a planner. And it's been AWESOME.

I can't tell you how much easier it is to just track everything in one place, and then take that place with me everywhere. Also, something about the physical action of writing things down actually helps me remember it better.

Maybe someday I'll give that annoying app another shot. But for now, I'll be jotting things down old-school.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Put on the headphones

Hellooooo all. It's been hella hot in the Poconos, and I am loving life. There is something to be said for when the heat pushes 95 degrees in the mountains. The freezing pool water actually feels refreshing for once. I do love a good thunderstorm when the evening rolls in and washes the humidity away.

So this is my children's last week of camp. Nothing like the eleventh hour to make a girl hustle. So what did I do? I set the ultimate deadline. Finish the goddamn revision this week before I head out to see Silversun Pickups in Stroudsburg. That's right. It's summer concert season, baby. And I intend to reward myself.

I canceled the gym this week. Put off an overdue haircut. I realize this sounds super bougie, but I was simply trying to reclaim hours for work. I probably (read: definitely) would get more stuff done if I just did the stuff in the first place and didn't fart around (as my mom would say). A lot of this is psychological. I am one of those terrible people who needs adequate conditions to write. Like quiet. And snacks. And certain cloud coverage and moon in retrograde. I kid. However, I am definitely the kind of person who procrastinates in order to avoid the drudgery of working out plot problems or trying to come up with another way to describe a character's mannerisms. Writing is work. It's fun in the beginning when the story is new and full of rainbows, but then it becomes work. Mundane, difficult work. And who enjoys that?

I envy authors (mostly men) who get to sit in a quiet spot and work uninterrupted. The only way I can do that is if I wake up at 5am (which I have done) or start writing at 9pm when the kids are in bed. And my brain is akin to oatmeal at night. I sometimes read forum posts where writers (again, mostly men) lock themselves in an office and work until it's finished. They announce to everyone that they did a marathon drafting session. The only way I've done that is by driving an hour away and spending money on a hotel. Either these writers don't have kids or they have a very awesome spouse who watches the children and keeps them out of the workzone. It's what I do when my husband teleworks. Cuz I'm awesome like that. Remember, behind every successful man is a great partner and behind every successful woman is her own insatiable ability to just get stuff done. Women are superheros.

But distraction-free writing isn't always an option. So I've compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you finish that draft. Even if you're working inside a rodeo. Here goes:

  1. Buy noise-canceling headphones.
  2. Listen to classical music. I use YouTube for this.
  3. Send your kids outside.
That's it. Three things. I'm serious.

I find I do most of my best brainstorming in the shower or when I'm driving--two very solitary activities. I work out the plot problem, scribble it down, and then put damn headphones on and two hours worth of Mozart, and I am working. It's dumb I know, but I'm tired of writing whiny blog posts about how hard it is to juggle life. I want the pay-off. I just gotta put on the headphones.

Monday, July 15, 2019

VSCO Fiction

My daughter will turn 13 in about a month. Yikes. Pardon me a moment while I go chug a bottle of wine.

OK, I’m back.

One of the items on her birthday wish list is a newly decorated room. She said she wanted one that was more like a teenager’s room rather than a little girl’s room. The hubs and I understood her request and agreed that we’d start the process of changing up her room. She’s already picked the paint color (gray) and has sent me countless pictures on things she wants to incorporate into her new room (fairy lights, hanging chair, photo walls, etc.). Then last week I overheard the following conversation between her and her friend:

My kid: I’m getting a VSCO room!
Friend: No way! I’m so jealous!

I’m standing on the sidelines going, “What the hell is a VSCO room??” 

After a bit of research (including my favorite resource site - I’ve been able to determine that while VSCO is an app, it is also used to describe things that basically equate to perfection in a 13-year-old girl’s mind. It’s following a formula. And as a few of the Urban Dictionary posts pointed out, it’s essentially everything that’s basic. It’s like stripping away all your own individuality to copy thousands of others by hopping on some sort of trend - from how you decorate your room to how you dress. Now I understand some of her recent fashion requests and her sudden need for an expensive Hydro Flask water bottle . . . I suppose I can relate on some level - after all, I was all about the Swatch watch craze back in the day.

Anyway, this got me thinking about trends and formulas in fiction. Trends such as when 90% of mainstream books had to have ‘girl’ in the title after GONE GIRL was such a huge hit. As for formulas, they range from plots to characters to story lines. The formulas may vary by genre, but they exist in abundance. Why? 

Because it sells. 

It really is that simple. Many readers aren’t ready for an open reading lifestyle and prefer to stay in their comfortable and predicable reading boxes.So, yeah, I get it.

While I understand the need for some trends and formulas in fiction, I actually kind of hate them. As a reader, I get bored reading the same thing over and over again. And I really do hate predictability in books. There are times when an attempt is made to replicate a successful concept rather than copy it outright, but many times it doesn’t work for me. It feels forced and rushed (which makes sense, because if you’re going to jump on a trend bandwagon then you need to do so quickly before the wind shifts to something new). I did discover it wasn’t so bad when I started reading across genres. And I’ll be honest - there are the occasional times when I crave a sappy YA romance, so predictability helps when that urge arises. But I do enjoy it more when the author makes even minor detours from the standard formulas. 

As a writer, I don’t want to follow trends or formulas. I kinda wanna do what I want. Thankfully, being an Indie writer allows me to do just that. Although, I don’t hate on those who prefer to follow trends/formulas. Just don’t hate on me if I don’t read your stuff as a result. Oh, and if you’re determined to stick to writing with the trends, then make sure you’re up to speed on all things VSCO. The Urban Dictionary description of a VSCO boyfriend sounds like it was ripped straight from the pages of a contemporary YA romance novel, so you’re probably good there. However, your girl might need an upgrade with some Vans, scrunchies, and a Hydro Flask. 

What about you - are you into trends and formulas (either in reading or writing) or do you exist outside the boxes?

~ Carrie

Thursday, July 11, 2019

There's More than One Way to Skin Your Craft; Or, The Many Facets of Storytelling
The other day, I was watching a Youtube interview from 2017 with Brad Pitt and Shahrukh Khan--an unlikely duo, perhaps, until you understand they were brought together not so much for their perspective as actors but for their outlook on movie-making as producers. Particularly as a pair of "early-adopter" producers who utilized Netflix as a tool to express and expand their passion for storytelling. The interviewer asked a question, that I'll paraphrase, to which Pitt and Khan responded similarly with an answer that I'll also paraphrase.

Here's the whole interview if you're curious. It's a little long but pretty interesting:

The question was basically this: Over the years, you've both evolved to become more active on the production side of movie-making. Why?

Putting aside the issue of fewer roles being available for aging actors (yes, men too) that writers don't have to contend with as much, Pitt and Khan's answers came down to them still having a passion and desire for storytelling. For them, producing is simply another means of propagating those stories. When they said that, I wanted to jump up and cheer because I felt such a connection to those sentiments--it was like they'd spoken words straight from my heart rather than their own.

My feelings and thoughts may not be representative of all writers, but I think many of us can agree that we write because, yes, we love words and language, but predominately because we love stories. For me, above all, I love story crafting, and that has manifested in so many ways.

When I first got serious about writing, my goal was to compose a complete novel. Once I proved I could do that, I wrote another one. And another. And another. Yes, I wanted to get published, but I also wanted to improve my skills, so I turned my focus to short-story writing because, let me tell you, learning to write a good short story is like putting yourself through writing boot camp. It took a while, but I saw some moderate success. I published in a few professional venues. My confidence grew. I tackled writing another novel and managed to get a contract with Red Adept Publishing, a dynamic small press dear to my heart.

Since then, I've published 7 novels (that doesn't include all the ones I wrote that will *never* be published) and countless more short stories that have appeared in anthologies and speculative fiction magazines. Over the years my passion has never waned, but my hunger for storytelling has evolved similar to the way, perhaps, it had for Brad Pitt and Shahrukh Khan. My realm of story-crafting has taken on new shapes and dimensions

Once I'd developed a community of writer-friends, I became a regular "beta" reader for a few trusted authors. In that role, it's my job to read, analyze, and constructively (emphasis on "constructively") critique their manuscript and provide feedback. Although I'm careful about projects I'll accept and people I'll work with, beta-reading is one my favorite ways to participate in the storytelling process.

About five years ago, I started reading short-story submissions for a now defunct but high-quality speculative fiction venue called Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi. At the time I thought being a submissions reader ("slush" reader) would help me develop better critical skills for my own writing. Maybe it did, but more than anything it sparked a new flame, and I realized I enjoyed cultivating and disseminating fantastic stories at least as much as writing them myself.

From there I moved on to reading submissions for Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and my current home: Cast of Wonders--a young adult speculative fiction podcast. Cast of Wonders, more than anywhere else, provided community and mentorship. They offered me  opportunities to gain experience and expand my love for storytelling. Earlier this year, I was blessed with the chance to co-edit the 5th edition of Cast of Wonders' special Artemis Rising series. In a cooperative effort with a small group of talented women, I selected, edited, published, and produced five fabulous short story pod casts.

That experience hooked me. Going forward, I hope to participate in more forms of storytelling, either as the one putting literal pen to paper, or as the one finding great stories and helping to build the path that brings those tales into the world for others to enjoy.  Behind the scenes or on the page, either way it's all storytelling to me, and I'm looking forward to discovering ever more ways to skin my craft.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Batman vs. God

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey, everybody!  I recently had the great pleasure of appearing on the Matters of Faith podcast with handsome and irascible raconteur Jay Wilburn.  We had a lovely conversation which you'll get to hear in its entirety in the next few weeks.


I've always wanted to be on Jay's podcast, but there was (I thought) a little problem: I'm an atheist, and a pretty hardcore one at that, so I wasn't really sure how I could talk about, well, matters of faith.  Of course, I don't really have much trouble talking about my understanding of the universe or my life philosophy, so we really had quite a bit to discuss.

As it often does, one point occurred to me in the shower a few days later that I wished I'd brought up during the actual interview.  (Your standard "Jerk Store" moment for the George Costanzas of the world.)  So, since I have access to a blog, and an audience, I thought I'd share it with you lovely folks.

So my thought is this: God is, in a lot of ways, like Batman.  And I don't say this to be disrespectful to believers, but, rather, because I think for the first time in possibly human history we have an illustrative analogue to religion, and that is pop culture.  (That probably says a lot about our society.)

To start with, I would ask you, gentle reader, to picture Batman.  Got it in your head?  Okay.  

What did you picture?  If you're like me, it was probably Paul Dini's sleek Batman design from the '90s classic "Batman: The Animated Series."  For some folks in my parents' generation, it's Adam West and Burt Ward, straight up.  For others it's Michael Keaton but absolutely not Val Kilmer or George Clooney.  But for some people Batman looks the way he does in the comics.  Or maybe the way he looked in the comics in the '40s.  Or the '60s.  Or the '80s.  

My point, which you've doubtless already sussed out, is that a person's conception of Batman is shaped by his or her youth and upbringing, not to mention personality.  We've probably all been exposed to multiple, multiple incarnations of Batman, and yet there's one that we still picture when asked to.  Perhaps our conception is even something of a gestalt entity, composed of the blending of many different interpretations.

But here's what's interesting about this: not a single one of those Batmen is canon.  The current, canonical Batman is Ben Affleck.  (Actually, I think it's not even him anymore - more to follow on that from Warner Brothers, no doubt.)

Here we come upon our first religious word: canon.  Religion and pop culture are the only two places where we use that word, and I think tellingly so.  Canon's function in pop culture is to tell us which fictional stories to accept as "real" and which were merely a dream, a misunderstanding, or the events of a parallel dimension.  We know in some fundamental way that Batman never "really" fought Cthulhu as he did in an Elseworlds comic once.  And yet, that comic is no less or more fictional than Batman's canonical encounters with, say, the Joker.  They both didn't happen, right?  So isn't it a little petty to argue over which happened less?

Now, if we replayed that initial thought exercise, but this time I asked you to picture God, what would you see?  What is, canonically, the face of God?  Well, as with Batman, it probably depends a lot on where you grew up, how you were raised, how you practice your religion, and any variety of factors.

If I asked you what Batman was like, how would you respond?  Depressed, tormented, dark?  Maybe.  Goofy, campy, loves to dance?  Equally legitimate in its own way.  Batman has many faces, depending on what story resonates with you.  Would you mention Alfred the stiff upper-lipped British butler?  Alfred the surrogate father?  Alfred the badass MI-6 agent turned guardian?  Is he absolutely vital to the Batman story?  What about Robin?  The Riddler?  Orca?

It depends, I suppose, on how deeply you've studied Batman, how deeply you've ruminated on his doings, how important he is in your life.  Perhaps every few years when a new Batman movie comes out, you typically go to see it, and you watched one of the TV versions when you were a kid.  Or maybe you're a truly dedicated Bat-fan, and read every comic book every month, and watch every TV show and every movie, and are able to dissect them all at length on the internet.

In reality you're likely somewhere between those two extremes.  But if you're in the less engaged camp you're going to have a tendency to look down on that dedicated Batman devotee.  You might consider him a nerd.  I mean, Batman's not even real, right?  Who has the time to dedicate all of their waking thoughts to something that's utterly made up?

Well, to be fair, I don't think there's anything wrong with being devoted, obsessed even, with fictions like Batman.  Batman can be inspiring.  He can be something to look up to.  Reading his comics may have gotten you through a rough time in your life.  Maybe it was a tradition that you always went to see the new Batman movie with your Dad, and now he's passed on.  Maybe Batman means something to you because of the role his story played in your life.

Hockey is essentially meaningless to me, and yet I have good, close friends whose lives are deeply affected by who wins the Stanley Cup.  What goes on the horror community is fascinating and deeply instructive to me, and yet to the guy in the cubicle next to me at work, it's utterly meaningless.  We all value things differently, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with valuing a story.

We all value different things.  If you value your family, good for you.  If you value Batman, good for you, too.  If the universe is indeed drab and cold and uninterested in you, then really the only value anything has is what you assign to it.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day

By Cheryl Oreglia

It's Independence Day, we're up at the lake, and I'm listening to Blake belt out Your lips taste like sangria (go ahead, click on it). Just for the hell of it I lick my lips. Nothing. Nada. They taste a little like chapstick and peanut butter. I won't be falling into a wild warm kiss any time soon. Story of my life. And then as if I were able to materialize my own desires, a tub of sangria walks right through the front door, and lands on our laden counter. Well the tub didn't actually walk into the house on its own, it was carried by Cole and Ned, but I'm fairly certain my lips will soon taste like sangria. 

When the cars are stacked up like dominos in the driveway I think "It's time to get this party started...Tippin' n' spilling that home-made wine." The house is fully stocked, sangria is flowing, and there is no chance we'll go hungry, thirsty, or lonely for the next three days. #whoareallthesepeople? The snapchats are posting, tweets are rolling out, and the weekend hashtags are taking form. Our top three: #frontallobing (I didn't hear a thing you just said), #slushietime (adult beverage for adults that want to act like children), #wheresAudrey (self evident). The age range this year is fifty-eight to negative four weeks (Taylor's about to pop). It somehow works. My youngest son is MIA all weekend. I still don't know where he is, but I keep telling myself he's 21, let him roll. He does return my texts, so unless he's being held by a hostel texter, I believe he's fine. I begrudgingly remind myself we are celebrating our independence from an overbearing motherland. #Chill

All week there are these incredible pyrotechnics displays hosted by towns and casinos all around the lake, like a dress rehearsal for the big event, and we made it to all of them cheering, "Here's to our lady." The script is the same, you boat out at dusk, drop anchor with hundreds of other boats dotting the lake, and sip adult beverages. During one of the shows we literally hooked up (the boats not the people) with our tulip festival friends from several blogs ago. How we found them in the pitch dark is still a mystery. Yelling, "Terri" did not help at all because her name is TAMI. Note to self, read old blogs before trying to find new friends. What the hell were we thinking? I blame the homemade wine, deteriorating memory, and #frountallobing. 

Fourth of July is like Ground Hog Day, it repeats every year, even though the cast of characters seems to ebb and flow. We tether ourselves to the deck most of the day, yoga mats come out in the morning, endless cups of coffee, reposition the umbrellas for afternoon shade, charge up the readers, pull out a book, boat rides to cool off, swimming, paddle boarding, and floating are favorites. When the salami and cheese board surface, Slushies appear, and we enter into a few rousing games of Cornhole or Mexican Train. Sometimes we go to the Richmond grill for wave runners and onion rings, or stop by the the wineries and check out the new releases, but end the day you'll find us barbecuing burgers on deck. 

On the morning of the fourth we cheer on the participants of the time-honored neighborhood parade, Rachel and Craig pass out Bloody Mary's in dixie cups, and we dress in red, white, and blue sporting miniature flags. We're smitten with America. It's tradition and we look forward to this weekend every year. 

All good things must come to an end. The last car pulls out of the drive, flags waving from the back of Rosie as the train exits Kono Tayee, horns a honking. I decide to stay back and indulge in some light house keeping. I spent the day putzing around, eight loads of laundry, three blessed toilets (for which we are thankful), miles of sticky floors (sangria much), and a pantry that has gone completely insane. I listen to pandora as I work, until that magical song comes on, "Your lips taste like sangria," and I take that as a sign. Time to wipe the sweat from my face, put down the toilet brush, and go in search of a fruity beverage. Plant a flag because I found a pitcher of leftover sangria in the fridge! I pour a glass and dump my weary ass in a lounge chair on the back deck. Everything is quiet and calm. The vacationers have pulled out, #Clearit. I love this quiet and I embrace it like a lover. 

I let my mind wonder, casually reviewing the weekend, my stomach still hurts from laughing, or maybe it was the five mile hike straight up the face of Mt. Konocti. I think about all the good things that happened this weekend, Ana Russo's grandson was born, Audrey on deck, incredible wine, long boat rides, selfies of Kelley, great meals, good friends both near and far. I am languid with happiness (or sangria).
Seth Godin says, "All of us have a narrative. It's the story we tell ourselves about how we got here, what we're building, what our urgencies are. And within that narrative, we act in a way that seems reasonable. To be clear, the narrative isn't true. It's merely our version, our self-talk about what's going on. It's the excuses, perceptions and history we've woven together to get through the world. It's our grievances and our perception of privilege, our grudges, and our loves." 
This is why we celebrate our independence or freedom of thought. As we build our lives we get to decide who fits into our narrative and who doesn't. I think that might be our only true freedom. I realize it is difficult to understand each other, mostly because #frontallobing has become a national obsession, and we certainly don't want to make the difficult journey, one if by land, two if by sea, to empathize with each other. Your thoughts are as foreign to me as mine are to you. But here's the newsflash. We occupy the same territory in glory or defeat. I am so happy to run through the streets yelling, "the regulars are coming." The people in my life who show up, brandishing the wine, and are thrilled (or at least reconciled) about ending up in my damn narrative. Life is a privilege, friends a rare blessing, and now my lips taste like sangria. 

A penny for your thoughts?

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime! 

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