Like many of my fellow Soulies, I’m sure, I can’t write all the time, even though I want to. Thus my life is divided as follows:
Things I HAVE to do …
Things I SHOULD do …
Things I WANT to do…
Things I LOVE to do …
Yup, you guessed it. Writing is number four on the list, after the day job, balancing the budget, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, laundry—all falling into the first two categories.
Then there are the things I want to do. I want to read ten times as many books as I do already. I want to landscape my yard so it doesn’t look like a jungle in comparison to all my neighbors’ yards. I want to spend more quality time with my husband, with my kids and grandkids. I want to learn how to speak German. I want to learn archery. I want to seek out and attend every…single…Renaissance festival I can find!
I want to go to another heavy metal rock concert—and yes, be fully aware that I’m the oldest one there. I don’t care.
Then, last on the list, are the things I LOVE to do. Writing is, of course, number one. Researching for my next novel is right up there. I also enjoy the editing process, the marketing, and making my own book trailers. But I have another passion that has absolutely nothing to do with writing.
I raise freshwater angelfish.
It started as a “what if” question, much like the inception of most of my novels. I’ve always loved angels, mostly because they are hard enough to keep alive, let alone breed and raise. Numerous times in my life I’ve adopted several lovely angels, only to have them weaken and die, from one cause or another. They’re a persnickety species. I never really understood what I was doing wrong.
So a couple years ago, I set a goal: I WILL obtain a breeding pair of angelfish, and rear my own fry to adulthood.
Geez. I should have taken up archery.
Now, there are an obscene number of fish tanks in my house. There are two in my office, and four—count ‘em, FOUR—in my “front parlor,” the room where I also harbor orchids (another eccentric passion of mine). My son calls it the “Circle of Life room.”
I started out with eight baby angelfish in a 36-gallon tank. You see, angelfish aren’t like human babies: their sex is not evident, not even discernible, until they get old enough to reproduce. You know you have a breeding pair when two fish sequester themselves and start trying to kill all the other ones.
Sort of like high school.
Out of the eight original babies, I ended up with two breeding pairs. Fast forward four months, and looky what I got!
There are forty, at least, in my 36-gallon tank, who are now quarter-sized and eating me out of house and home. And who are ready, next week, to take to the local aquarium store, ready to go to their new homes.
Yes, I will cry. I raised these guys from eggs, for God’s sakes!
But as my husband has delicately pointed out, I can’t keep them all. I’ve got another tank with about forty more, two-week-old fry who I feed baby brine shrimp to twice a day. And another spawn ready to hatch, any day, in yet another.
What have I gotten myself into?
Creativity assumes many forms. I create with images when I do book trailers. I create with words when I write. I help create something precious—LIFE—when I lovingly nurture angelfish from eggs to graceful, beautiful aquatic creatures.
And believe me, it’s not easy. Fact: cichlids (that’s what angelfish are) like to eat their young. Only one in four or five spawns ever make it past the fry stage.
But then again, nothing that’s worth anything comes easy. So even if you awaken one morning to find your story is floating, belly up and lifeless, you can’t give up. You’ve made this commitment, damn it. You can attain any goal you set for yourself—if you want it badly enough.
Claire Gem writes romance w/a paranormal twist. Her debut novel from SMP, Phantom Traces, is available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook.