The Tolls of the Season Rain Down on the Depre...
Image by pixieclipx via Flickr

As I start to recover from the last two months of moving, another road trip for a wedding, and a steep learning curve for my nascent marketing/PR business, I’m trying to get back into the habit of reading my blog subscriptions. Can’t really be a good writer without reading, you know?

Anyway, this post from one of my favorite cop bloggers, The Roanoke Cop, caught my eye. He and a lot of other emergency services workers–police, fire and rescue–did a great job of talking down a suicidal man from jumping into the path of a train. He credits the job he did to this:

I was at a suicide once where the deceased left a note to his daughter, telling her he loved her. It angered me then because evidently he didn’t love her enough to live for her. Or at least that’s probably the perception she’ll have growing up. But it was a good experience for me because the guy tonight also had a daughter. I drew on that previous call and I was able to articulate that she needed to know he loved her enough to live for her. That past experience helped me tonight to talk to this guy, I knew what to tell him.

I wrote him that it’s too bad we have to live through a little piece (or more) of hell before we can help other people. I thought of a lot of things when I wrote that:

  • The dispatcher I worked with, who I watched talk down a would-be suicide over the phone. I was in awe (and a little jealous) till she told me she’d made an attempt as a teen.
  • The friend whose ex-wife, who has a few mental health issues, is trying to get almost full custody of their three kids. He has a unique opportunity to help guide them through living with her… tough as it will be.
  • The computer forensics folks I work with who have seen all manner of depravity on people’s hard drives. They don’t have to go into many details; they bear a tremendous burden to keep other kids safe, try to save the ones they see.

There’s always a price for wisdom — just wish more people realized that. Instead, it’s so easy to get caught up thinking everyone else’s life is so much better. If more people accepted their lot in life and went with the lessons it was trying to teach… what kind of world would we live in?

Or is it that bad? Sometimes I think there are a lot of people who accept life the way it is. We just don’t hear about them because they’re not sexy or psychotic or exciting. They’re too busy helping other people get through the rough spots. Is it even possible?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
South Carolina Sunrise as viewed from North Ca...
Image by TrombaMarina via Flickr

My blog title is an oblique reference to the Allman Brothers‘ tune. You know, the one with the lyric, “Goin’ to Carolina, won’t be long till I’ll be there…”

Okay, enough broad hinting. We’re moving. Although I held off saying anything “officially” for fear of jinxing it (our first offer on our house fell through; the buyers couldn’t get financing, and I figured it was as likely as not that in this economy it could keep happening).

But our second offer was solid. We close on May 29, Rain Dog’s birthday, and next time I blog we’ll be in the sunny (warm!) Piedmont region. Greenville SC for now, though Asheville NC is not out of the question. We love the area, have for a long time. Having both grown up in urban environments, we’re looking forward to 1) no longer having to drive an hour to get anywhere interesting and 2) having lots of interesting places to pick from.

Oh, and the weather. This past winter about did us in!

In the coming months I hope to blog a little more regularly about life as a full-time writing mother, like how cool it is that I have clients who don’t mind hearing little voices in the background, because they have their own, and some other stuff I have going on. No promises but it’s never been my intent to let this blog languish. It just hasn’t been a priority while I’ve been getting business rolling.

I’ve already made some contacts via Twitter and I’m looking forward to getting to know the area, which on our first visit we realized was a place where people work to live — not live to work. If pulling up roots is about making a better life for our children if not ourselves, then that’s just what we’re doing. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

award1Brittany at Rewriting Motherhood was kind enough to award this to me, even though I never comment over there much less update over here. She is a sweetheart and I hope to meet her in person soon!

Here are the rules:

First, admit one thing you feel awful about involving being a Mom. Get it off your shoulders. Once you’ve written it down, you are No Longer allowed to feel bad. It’s over with, it’s in the past. Remember, you’re a good Mom!

(I’m cadging Brittany’s response. Because I feel the same. Exact. Way.) I feel bad that sometimes I care more about having peace and quiet than I do about being with my own children. I find myself trying to tune them out, find ways to put space between us, and really thrill at the idea of the day when they both attend half day school five days a week. It’s not that I don’t love them, but I have the energy level of an introvert, and must have peace and quiet to internally reboot.

Then, remind yourself you are a good Mom, list seven things you love about your kids, you love doing with your kids, or that your kids love about you. These are the things to remind yourself everyday that you rock!

1. I am totally serious and intense, so I love it when I surprise my boys by doing something totally off-the-wall and silly. Their eyes get really wide and then they open up with laughter. It is the best way to connect with them!

2. I love sharing scientific facts and interests with Hamlet. He has such a mind for detail and even though I can’t get too in-depth with him yet, he really wants to know how things work and why. I love being the person to show him.

3. I love what great friends they are. Even when they spend much of the day fighting, they really do love each other and it shows. I hope they are such good friends for the rest of their lives.

4. I do have to laugh when they argue. It’s near constant and they never agree on anything. It is just so funny sometimes to hear them go back and forth as they each try to differentiate themselves from each other.

5. I love when I get to take a break from work to go do something fun with them.

6. They love when I let them do grown-up things like press the button on my camera, type something on my laptop, or help me cook dinner.

7. I love that I have finally grown into being a mom. It took quite a bit longer than I ever expected, but I am so thankful that it was “OK” and for the most part I was given room to allow it to happen naturally. I think it ultimately made me a better mom, even if I do long for more space and time! (Who doesn’t?)

Finally, I am supposed to link 5 other mothers across the Blog-o-sphere, to nominate them for this award.

ML at Yes, I DO Mind

Joanna at Greenie Weenie

Bethany at Mommy Writer

Kristine at Inner Voice

Amra Pajalic

Is a good website that explains who she is and what she does.

My site, christammiller.com, did that for about 18 months. I had started to get my short fiction published, and was trying to sell my novel. The two-sided site hinted at an equality in the two kinds of work in my life.

Last year, all that changed. And over the last six months, I began to suspect my website would have to change with it. I had paid a small amount to have a friend design it for me, but I had no idea how to get rid of the information about my novel, or change emphasis on various places where my career seemed to be headed.

I’d heard great things about WordPress themes as versatile content management systems, and I love working with the interface, so I hunted down a great free theme. A new contact, who’s a lot more versed in WP technical issues than I am, installed it for me, and I found it pretty easy to tweak (or at least to get him to fix when my tweaks went wrong)!

So here it is: http://christammiller.com. It casts a broad net, but I figure I can tweak that as business goes along and begins to fall into place. Meanwhile, it’s a great place to showcase my published work. For free and easy, what more can you ask?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

10. You get all the time with your kids that you thought you were missing out on.

9. Your wife’s happily vindictive grin when 4 p.m. rolls around and you collapse on the couch in exhaustion while the boys climb on you, shrieking, still with another three hours of energy.

8. Time to complete all the household projects you were too tired to complete on the weekends. (Provided your wife’s workload allows.)

7. No more meetings.

6. No more getting up at 4:45 a.m. This means you’re not in bed at 9 p.m. anymore, and you and your wife can do husband-and-wife things. Like…

5. You can watch all the movies and TV-to-DVD shows you’ve been missing out on.

4. Did I mention no more meetings?

3. You actually make it easier for your wife to be self-employed, because you’re not spending valuable cash on gas, coffee, or work clothes.

2. You can finally read all the books your wife has been telling you you would love.

1. You’re writing again. Fiction. Good fiction. Stuff your wife thinks will get published. If she can find the time to help you do it!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


It may seem crazy to donate money to a family I’ve never met, via an online contact I’ve never met either. But things have been crazy around here for a long time. And, well, crazier has been done, in worse ways, by much worse people.

So please read David Armano’s blog entry about his friend Daniela and her family. Their situation is what’s crazy. Donating just seemed sane by comparison.

UPDATE: They have raised more than $14,000 – nearly 300% of their original goal. I know I’m not the only one who has more faith in humanity now!

Big changes afoot here in the Miller household. Only now do I have enough of an idea of what’s going on that I feel comfortable telling my mother talking publicly about them.

Rain Dog quit his job nearly three weeks ago. I knew it was coming–he’d been coming home from work daily saying things like, “I’m not going to last the year” or “Can I quit tomorrow?”–but I thought he’d probably wait until after Christmas break. He didn’t.

For a couple of years we’ve talked about the possibility of my taking my freelance business full-time. Again, I thought we might wait until we’d moved south, the cost of living being so much lower and thus better able to sustain a small business and a family together. But everything this year has been moving toward that goal now. The contracts I worked on over the summer, and especially, the incredible opportunities I’ve found in the last couple of months… the last three weeks especially.

The timing feels exactly right, so I’m making a go of it. I’ll keep writing, and I’m learning social media in hopes of becoming a consultant. (More on that once it’s more firmly established.) Rain Dog is going to enjoy being a stay-at-home dad, something he’s dreamed of since Hamlet was a baby. It will be unconventional, and it will be hard. But it will be more fully us.

How I spend my days

When Hamlet went back to school, I had the idea that I might be able to get at least a little more writing done during the day. Puck seemed better at entertaining himself than his brother had been, and surely the incredible creative synergy I’ve been experiencing this year meant that I’d be able to jump right back into it. Right?

Well… not so much.

Puck is better at entertaining himself. But he’s still 2 and, like most 2-year-olds, still needy. (In fact, honestly, if his entertaining himself was enough for me to write, I’d have him checked for autism or some other pervasive developmental disorder.)

So what am I doing with myself during the six hours we’re alone together–other than our walks, playgroups, other activities, and chasing him off surfaces higher than himself? I’m networking. No, really. Stop laughing! I’m networking! Online! With sources and clients and other writer friends and readers!

Seriously, Maurice Broaddus talked about this recently. “Friends make things easier…. Networking isn’t about using or ass-kissing people, it’s simply about building relationships, for their own sake.” And it’s not, he wrote further, about goofing off; although anyone watching me sit in this chair, toddler on my lap, trucks between him and my keyboard, my hand on the mouse, would think otherwise.

What they don’t see is what’s going on in my head. I read blogs about social media and think how I can apply the subject matter to a column proposal. I read friends’ blogs, their updates on Twitter. I chat and IM, and what blessings those all are, the platforms I can use to dash off a quick note before Puck pushes my hands away. I can build relationships with people, not just prospective sources and clients, but the people who read my stuff, whether it’s for entertainment or education. The people who need what I have to say, in other words, the people I can help.

So no, not much deathless prose going on while I hang out with my 2-year-old. But in the grander scheme of things? Something much more deathless than that.

Love and horror

Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story didn’t resonate with me as much as his earlier works, namely The Shining and Salem’s Lot, but one thing that stood out was his great affection for his protagonist–not meant to be his wife Tabitha, but certainly based on her and his love for her.

At the time I read the book (shortly after its printing) I wondered what it would be like for love to inform fiction to that extent, to write a story meant as tribute (which I think, in some small way, The Shining was also–to fatherhood, if not specific children). The fiction I was writing at the time was very dark indeed, and as the year wore on, I had the sense of writing the same story over and over again. I think this was partly what led to my “block” during the spring and summer of this year–this feeling, and the desire to change it.

In the last few weeks, I got back to writing fiction. And was surprised, when I returned to an old and already-published piece, to realize that I don’t think I could have written it today. Just as I don’t think I could have written this month’s story last year.

The difference? I think this year, I developed a greater appreciation for the people in my life. Last winter was brutal on many different levels–cold, snowy, and worst of all, isolating. I had two young children home with me (the younger of whom couldn’t yet walk well enough to enjoy playing in the snow) and no real adult contact; I didn’t feel lonely or depressed, but when I got back to work in the spring? I felt alive again. Work led to new friendships and, in turn, the realization that strong attachments were the difference between burnout and fulfillment. (Sadly, Rain Dog is experiencing job burnout for just that reason.)

So when Hamlet inspired me to write a story about a little boy who figures out how to “turn werewolves into pussycats” (his words!) I finally got to write a story informed by love. It won’t be published for awhile yet–I need to find a taker–but it was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it will make him proud someday. More importantly, I think it represents a turning point in my fiction, one I am looking forward to exploring during the coming winter.

Promos for my peeps

I can never figure out whether to lead with my own stories, or end with them. Psychologically, what does either choice say about me? What if I buried my self-promotion in the middle?

All right anyway. I have a new story, “Going Gandolfini,” at Demolition. Beware readers: it is one of my darkest. If you don’t mind being shocked and depressed, especially by the end, please read. I’m sure new dad Bryon would appreciate the traffic. While you’re there, read the other good offerings by Kieran Shea, Nathan Cain, and Doug Perry.

Speaking of new dads, I want to share info on two blogs I recently discovered via Twitter. Christian author Tricia Goyer writes about parenting advice for Gen X at Generation Next Parenting, while Dad-O-Matic gives some great insight into the mind of the men in your kids’ lives – dads, stepdads, dads no longer living with kids, dads of toddlers and dads of teens. It has become one of my favorite daily reads thanks to Chris Brogan.

I also want to promote my friend and neighbor’s creations. Aimee recently joined Twitter to promote her SoBenArts bibs and other hand decorated baby items, available on Etsy. Go visit her and buy her stuff!

And finally, I would never have known it was Blog Action Day if not for Taxgirl Kelly Phillips Erb. Read her poignant post, then figure out what you can do for the poor. Back in December I said my New Year’s resolution was to spend $10 or so a week to buy things for our church’s food pantry – the things food stamps don’t cover. And you know what? That’s the only resolution I’ve ever kept for this long. And how much more important it is these days!

UPDATE: Stephen Blackmoore snuck a good one in after I wrote this, but his post about a sudden rash of foreclosure-related suicides (and murder-suicides) is one of the major reasons I admire him. What can you do for friends and neighbors facing financial woes?