Gravity

IMG_3513“Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies, tongue tied and twisted just an earth bound misfit, I”  Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd.

The words I craft for stories and poetry can take hours, weeks, months to assemble properly. There’s blood and tears involved in ensuring my written words convey the thoughts and imagery trapped in my mind.

It takes time, but no one has to see the hard parts of that struggle- the torn up pages, the pacing, the conversations I have with myself about what words mesh best and whether I should give it all up and take an office job that involves none of this struggle. When the computer file is complete and the editing done, the words on the page misleadingly flow as if I sat down by a rushing river and the ideas left my pen on some independent magical streak of luck. They didn’t. Every word was hell to match with the other words, but I like that kind of hell. I’m happy there. When I write, I fly.

In the real, it’s hell too, and not my favorite kind of hell. In waking life, I am what I like to call “almost, but not quite”.

I’m almost normal, or rather, I can give the impression of utter ordinary plainness or clever, bright and shining wit- whichever the occasion calls for. But only for a few minutes. A few seconds if you look really closely. I don’t do small talk with strangers and I avoid the chatty inconsequential party talk with perpetual acquaintances, partly because it’s pointless and fluffy and I just don’t care to talk about the weather. But also because my ability to chat up strangers for longer than 30 seconds is lacking.

I blame my brain for its translation issues. Spoken words that require a response from me come into my brain as gibberish, and I have to translate those words. Next, the words and their meaning must travel along a filter of what I think and also what an appropriate response (regardless of what I may think) may be. Talking with people I don’t know and don’t yet trust is an agonizing bucketful of steps involving defining and refining answers that will make my jagged edges look smooth. The process is warped out in an imaginary slow motion time frame, while I work my ass off to appear calm and thoughtful.

It’s just as hard when I write to find the words, but it hurts less. I fly instead of stumble. I can craft the written words and dialogue so the questions make sense, so the answers make sense. I can make my characters suffer heartbreak and tragedy and show the reader every bit of torment a character suffered, how the past has scarred each character and left them harder, less trusting. In real life, people aren’t supposed to be such open books. People aren’t supposed to know what’s dropped us to our knees and made us cry or punch walls.

Recently I found myself at a party full of guests I didn’t know or barely knew. A confident speaker with the softest, slightest of stutters spoke with me about how things don’t matter so much as people matter. I agreed. And so much more than a nod of my head could ever convey. As she spoke to me, she appeared calm and thoughtful, and I wondered if time had slowed for her too. I wondered if she worked to make her rough edges smoother. Maybe a lot of us, more than I ever really considered before, have to work at that, because life is not always kind. We’re not all as smooth and unaffected as we like to appear.

Sometimes, If I fight against gravity hard enough, I fly. Those moments are everything, the reason to keep trying. But when gravity keeps me still, maybe it’s time to stop fighting for a while, to use those moments to be present and listen, to be still and let my rough edges shine through.

Trail of Destruction

Gravel sprays

everyone in the path

Make way

for the Supersized SUV

barreling down the road

Birds’ skulls crack against the windshield

Turtles crunch under the tires

Exhaust fumes linger

permeating lungs and trees

Soaking into

the surface of the earth

A cough

An exhale

And the damage dissipates

from thought

There’s plenty of birds

Plenty of turtles

The waterways are clean enough

for the fortunate

in the fortunate areas

Drive faster

Change nothing

No need for change under the bubble of protection

reserved for the favored few

joyously driving steel beasts further down the road

further from the truth

and straight into a nice bubble

where the gates of entry

create a wall

to hide

a trail of destruction

 

Copyright © Christina Lynn Lambert  2018

 

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When I wrote this poem (or whatever you want to call it), I was thinking about the whole ripple effect concept. That trashing the environment can provide companies with a gain in the short term. Their legal ability to ruin an area, especially an area where people are less able to fight back (because that’s just easier for a hungry corporation) in the name of building more factories, making more stuff, using less efficient and dirtier forms of energy, hurts people in the long run. Many companies couldn’t care less about the air people breathe or the health of people’s future grandchildren. They care if their shareholders are satisfied with current and projected financial growth and product/service distribution paths. A company cares about it’s survival. Only.

Yeah, a lot of people are greedy. They have what they need and they’ll tear apart our futures to keep their companies and their bank accounts prospering. So we’re all doomed, right? I try not to be a “the glass is already half empty and soon everything will be gone” kind of gal. Is Karma coming for people who treat others like trash? I don’t think it works that way.

Waiting at a stop light the other day, I saw this big SUV tearing through a red light, as if the driver’s destination was more important than anybody else’s destination. They were in a hurry and the rest of the world needed to get out of their way! Everybody’s life gets crazy every now and then. It’s hard not to get caught up trying to survive and make it through daily life, trying to find a way to come out ahead.

When I find myself becoming the proverbial SUV barreling through the world, I try to take a big step back and remember that there’s a lot of stuff that just isn’t that important. It’s the people, the experiences – traveling, learning about different cultures, learning what amazing things we are capable of when we thought we couldn’t take another step or deal with another problem; those are the things that matter. If a few things on my list don’t get done, some deadlines get pushed back,  my house stays a mess, and I make a stop at the drive through for dinner on occasion, the world won’t end.

Finding the good moments and the people who make the bad times worth living through is more important than having the biggest house, the sweetest car, billionaire status. As for the companies who don’t care if they barrel over us- they don’t expect a fight. By ourselves, we can’t directly control what havoc a greedy company wreaks upon a forest and water system, or what damage its products do to users. Standing together we have a chance. We can be more than just enraged, we can have power. Even something as simple as refusing to buy a product from a company that sells an unsafe product, spreads a hate message, or pollutes a river, might start out as a pebble in the water but can eventually turn the tide.

 

Come On, Smile

Stop talking to me

I don’t want to smile for you

But you want to be heard

And your size means I must tread cautiously

A fight would mean I might survive

but not unharmed

A deep breath tells my heart to slow

Nothing to worry about yet

Your words are innocuous

right now

Two minutes later though

I could be be headed into a

passive aggressive minefield

so I watch my step

and give a small, tight smile while

My mind’s busy running calculations

looking for the projected path

that avoids the angry minefield of further obligation

Even so

a hand on my shoulder might

cut through the formalities

Politeness

Never overrated

serves me well

I’m polite

but not too engaging

while I step past

finding an excuse

a friendly face

a place to be

a reason

to not be

acquired

 

Copyright © Christina Lynn Lambert

 

Dignity

Dignity is not guaranteed

when greed is the ideal

of the shortsighted, of the selfish and entitled

They steal and discard what they don’t need

Collecting points in their games

Losing the game means searching

the field in the growing darkness

for minutes, for hours, for years

until darkness becomes too heavy

and it’s tempting to walk around with pieces missing

Find the light or make the light

but never steal the light

from someone else

Find the fallen

Lift them upIMG_2073

Together

burn down the field

and fight to keep

what isn’t guaranteed

Copyright © Christina Lynn Lambert  2018

The Villain Falters

Watching and listening to how people treat one another gives me plenty of inspiration for creating villains. Not all villains have to be acting out due to suffering deep psychological trauma (although that kind of villain is fun to write too!). Some villains are just assholes. Because some people are just assholes. A trip out to basically anywhere in public often leaves me wondering what in the hell is wrong with people. There isn’t enough time in the world to answer the question and there aren’t enough words to describe the problem. In fact, the available pool of words is shrinking, because people are trademarking them away, stealing from people more original, trying to keep what belongs to everybody.

In Bear’s Edge, I created a determined reporter character who grew so obsessed with finding answers and getting interviews, she no longer cared how much of a pest she became or how much pain she caused. Spend a few years working any job and you’ll find someone like her. Sometimes people can be so focused on their own goals, on themselves, on how to get what they want, that they cross the threshold from jerk into monsterbitch villain who bulldozes a path to their dreams while leaving behind a trail of blood and broken bones, literally or figuratively. These kinds of people, villains if you’re painting a caricature of the ugliness you witness, aren’t necessarily psychotic future felons. They just want what they want and they tell themselves “screw the consequences others may face” because they no longer care that much. Or maybe they just can’t help themselves.

I would love to say the villains of stories and movies are just made of nightmares and pure fantasy, but where do nightmares come from? Where does fantasy begin? Real life provides no end of examples of villains. Some villains are easy to hate. For some, the turning point is not so far away. All is not yet lost for them. Some just make me sad because they are bottomless. They want more money, more fame, more of something, and they don’t realize that everything can’t be had. How much does a person really need and what is it worth if we’re sitting on top of a world forged on the backs of others, surveying our empire alone like Yertle the Turtle?

People don’t need to take a baseball bat to a window to be destructive. There are so many other ways to ruin things. Passive aggressive villains get all the fun of causing misery with none of the blood. They play the victim and smile at the mess they created. Then there is the kind of villain who would bully others into quiet by stealing their words and forcing them into submission, by any means necessary. These kind of people don’t usually set houses on fire or slaughter their coworkers, instead they create havoc in the fabric of their victims’ lives. They look for the strands that are the easiest to unravel. They screw over the kind of people they think can’t fight back. This type of villain’s brand of destructiveness can be terrifying, and oh so fun to read!

Sometimes I wonder, how can I create a story where good triumphs when I see and hear so much negativity happening? Don’t the bad guys always win in real life? Don’t the jerks get ahead while decent people starve on principle? Well, not always. It’s just that sometimes I forget that though people can sometimes be horrible to each other, people are also capable of incredible acts of kindness and strength. When people stand up together and fight back, whether fist to fist or lawyer to lawyer, the villain falters. Hope isn’t lost for humanity, it’s just that the villains fight so hard for that spotlight. They want us all to forget that we can fight back, that we can do better and be better. Remembering this, I’m headed forward to make the villain falter. Each word on my page makes the heroine stronger just as e111_0410ach person standing next to me makes me stronger.

The End of the Beginning

My publisher, Loose Id, is closing this month! Sad news, but not the end of the world (though it doesn’t make my life easier either). Since I’m new to writing, the closing of my publisher means the only two books I’ve written so far (Wolf’s Challenge and Bear’s Edge) will be unavailable for a short while. These are the first two books in the Stranger Creatures series and I learned a helluva lot about writing while working on these books, thanks to the help of my awesome editors and all the books I checked out of the library on writing fiction. For me, writing is like sharing a bit of my soul on paper then rearranging it, adding metaphors and challenges, and throwing in a serving of grief and tragedy for which I don’t envy my characters for having to endure such hell.

It’s kind of heartbreaking to know my work will soon be gone from booksellers’ sites, but I’m working on getting both books re-released with another publisher. Book 3 in the series will feature Sean Whitman and detective Nikki Jackson’s search for a happily ever after. Plus, I’m working on a new suspenseful romance series about some sexy firefighters with side jobs even more dangerous than fighting fires.

Truth be told, it’s still weird to think of myself as a writer. I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, chick lit, anything and everything, but I studied psychology and business in college. After graduation, I promptly chose logical careers where the money was guaranteed. I created stories and poems in my head all the time, just for fun. Sometimes I had no choice. Still, I never intended to actually do anything with those thoughts until one idea caught hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I was supposed to be studying for a certification to take my little personal training business to the next level but I started writing a story instead. Weirder still, it became a love story.

Romance novels were never my thing. Why? Because I had in my mind that romance novels were basically all the same narrative as the ones from the 70s and 80s that my mother and grandmother had lying around- the kind of story where the heroine is too stupid to take care of herself but just feisty enough to be cute while the rakish hero rescues her and laughs adoringly at the heroine’s bratty antics. How could I write a love story if I had to make the heroine a dipshit? Could I do something different?

Suffice it to say, after reading a few books by Shelley Laurentson, Nalini Singh, and Shannon McKenna, I learned things have changed for the better in romance novel land! Because women have changed over the last several decades. Our expectations have changed. Society in general has changed. Women can have careers and not just as lower level employees. We can take an active role in the bedroom too. After a little research, I knew for certain I wanted to be a part of a genre that represented strong female characters asking for what they wanted and being a key part of a relationship with their significant other, not just an afterthought or an inconvenience.

Love is scary. Love can be brutal. Giving someone a chance to hold your proverbial heart in their hands is a risk that can’t be managed by a logical list or a statistical analysis tool. Sometimes those cost/benefit analyses tell you to walk away from love or from a chance at something you’ve always dreamed of. But the factor that makes no sense, that something else, that something more that couldn’t be explained away with a list and a calculator is what told me to keep writing, to pursue a career that promised a steady helping of rejection and aggravation.

As I worked on telling Sydney and Derrick’s story in Wolf’s Challenge, I thought about how people, after suffering a tragedy or heartbreak that shook themIMG_2311, often struggle to once again believe in themselves as well as other people. I wanted to write imperfect characters struggling with their pasts, their fears, and their insecurities, because I wanted to show that even though these characters weren’t perfect, they came to the table with the intention of loving someone and treating them right. Not only has my perception of romance novels changed, but my understanding of love and its importance in our lives has changed. Love is not an afterthought. My willingness to take a risk and try a new career that I love has led to my first two books being published. The end of one path is the beginning of another.

The Invisibility Factor

flowerWhen I turn on the television, click on social media, open up any entertainment magazine or really any magazine targeted to women, I find an obnoxious message everywhere. Even when it’s not obvious, the message is saturated into most pages, commercials, scripts. The freaking message is everywhere- invisibility is coming. It’s chasing you down and you have to be faster, smarter, and luckier than the dreaded curse of a less than perfect appearance.

Advertising campaigns designed to strike fear into women’s hearts have become the norm. The products- face creams, injections, cellulite creams, superbras, super butt enhancing pads, pills to make butts smaller, spandex to hold it all in, and so much more all beg for our hard earned money. My current least favorite ad is for an anti wrinkle cream that depicts a middle aged woman walking through her daily routine seemingly invisible to the people around her. But magically, after she uses the anti wrinkle cream, somehow, people are able to detect her presence. She’s shown laughing and smiling and having a great time since the world is no longer oblivious to her previously aged appearance.

Companies are banking that clients will pay a ridiculous amount of money to not become invisible, unimportant, and unnecessary. They want each and every woman that sees their product to wonder “what if I’m the last to be noticed?” They want women to wonder what happens when they are too old to be a mainstream television show character, too old to be a typical romance novel heroine but still too young to be the wise old woman depicted in a rocking chair that gets a decent monologue somewhere in the script (unless the old woman is being portrayed as stupid or senile- and don’t even get me started on how messed up that kind of stereotype is!). These advertisers want women to fear becoming irrelevant.

Product advertisers going the fear campaign route would have women believe we are in critical danger of fading to invisibility or irrelevance if we’re less than whatever version of young, shiny, and perfect is trendy these days. They’d have us believe we need their products to breathe life back into our brittle aging bones, or to slim us down or increase our bra size. Maybe this goes without saying, maybe sometimes we forget or wonder, and definitely the sh*tty advertisers need to hear this truth- A woman of any age can command an audience to listen without the aid of obligatory cleavage showing through a super sexy button down shirt. The knowledge and experience I’ve gained through years of learning, of hard won successes, failures, crushing blows, and moments of absolute joy has added steel to my spine and substance to my ideas. That has to be enough.

I like clothes and fashion. I get the grey streaks colored out of my hair. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your personal best but I refuse to shrink back into myself, apologizing because I’m not “new car” perfect and that I don’t shine with the innocent naivety that strokes egos. But maybe I have become invisible in a different way. A better way. I’ve learned to listen because I don’t need to prove myself at every turn or be seen looking cute to be valid. I can walk through a crowd without turning coyly to see whose eyes are following me. Who’s drooling over me doesn’t matter. Who’s listening to my plans, my ideas, does. I will go on about my life, unapologetic for my refusal to throw on a ton of makeup and increase my less than generous sized breasts.

I don’t need to beg to be seen as relevant. I’m already relevant and I don’t need to be airbrushed to a smooth shine to have a substantial thought. I don’t need to be a specific size to be desirable. Experience is desirable, for those smart enough and secure enough to seek it out. I’ll smile when I’m underestimated because it gives me leverage, and I won’t apologize for not being an airbrushed model of moldability and perfection.

We need to make it clear to advertisers that our fear is not a commodity. We could chase perfection forever but why? Why not stand together and support each other instead? We could fight nature and time and go down kicking and screaming or we could live in the moment and keep our heads up as we go on about our days as beautiful, wonderful, complex, kind, and visible women.