Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Memories




Summer has ended for most people. Today my grandson starts second grade. A huge part of me wishes I could be there with him in Seattle, take his hand and walk with him into his new classroom. Well, I'm sure the take his hand part wouldn't happen. But maybe I would be allowed to take a peek at where he will be spending the next nine months. 

When I see all the ads for back-to-school stuff and see Facebook photos of kids standing in front of their front doors, smiles on their faces, it stirs memories. Memories we all have of first days. New classrooms, new friends, new beginnings.

For some reason, my memories pull up fourth grade. May, to be exact. I was extremely shy. Always would be right through college. So when my teacher, Mrs McMahon asked me to be a princess in the May Day court, I was shocked. I remember running home to my house to find my mother baking pies in the kitchen. She didn't go back to work until the following year so I was able to share with her my joy and excitement.

We remember those highs and lows in our lives. What I wonder about is the in-between times. Those memories that don't quite make the list. I see myself in kindergarten drinking milk and eating graham crackers and then in first grade learning to read. Then time skips and I'm in third grade with Mrs. Dawson, scared of the teacher they called Dogface Dawson.

What happened in second grade? I can't pull up one scene. No pictures of my classroom in the old brick building a few miles from my house. Nothing. 

How much time in our life is forgotten because something monumental didn't cause us to remember it? What else was happening then? 

I think about all this stuff and yes, it's just stuff, as the season turns. What will I remember about this past summer? What will lodge a permanent home in my memory to pull out some day and smile? Or cry? 

If anything over the years, I've learned to appreciate each day a little more. Grab onto it and find a purpose. Today started like any other day but I have a plan. A plan to make a memory. Do you?


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Highs and Lows of the Writing Life


My husband snapped this picture of me with my grandson at a park in PA while on vacation in June. We're waiting in line for a ride. The guy behind us--a stranger. The way he's pictured gives me the shivers if I let my imagination run wild.

That's what I intend to do. That's what I want my books to do.

Last week was a turning point with my writing. Highs and lows. After reading the beginning of my latest work, my agent decided to shelve it.

I don't blame her now.

Her decision didn't sit so well with me at first. She said the story needed more 'sit on the edge of your seat' stuff. The opening dragged. Something every writer dreads hearing.

So I gave her the first three chapters of the story I'm writing now--suspense. She loved it.

She also took the time to show me through detailed edits how I could further improve it,

I finally got it. No more writing to impress the reader. Just write the story. Make it move. And make it a good story.

For a moment last week, in the throes of my poor me cry, I wanted to quit writing forever. Why should I waste any more time in my life creating something that ends up being worthless? I ranted and debated alone in my house, telling myself  I should just get a real job where my time meant something. If you're a writer, I'm sure you have been there. Many times. So have I.

You would think rejections would roll off me by now. They don't. They stick a little.

I finally took a deep breath and read her suggestions. It struck me by the second page what she was talking about. I needed to change my writing style if I wanted to keep a reader's interest.

So I ordered two more books on writing, plus delved into the pile of fiction I've been meaning to read. My agent not only turned me around but helped drive me to the place I should be headed.

Not every writer gets that chance.

There will be highs in writing and there will be those lows. It doesn't matter how thick our skin is or how well we think we are prepared.

Because this is writing. Can you relate?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

THAT story. Are you writing it?



I'm writing my 10th novel. Having said that, I must admit that writing novels does not get any easier. Sure, I understand better about how to lay one out. I have improved my editing skills. I have learned the current trends in writing. I have an agent and one book out there already.

So what is the problem?

Writing a new story is work because you must come up with a good story. Not just a jumble of words. And more work when you push yourself into a new zone.

Have you ever felt like you want to write THAT story? The one milling around in your brain. The one you think you really aren't talented enough to write? Yes, that one.

Let me introduce you to my number 10. It's the book I have thought about for some length of time. It's the book that will require me to step outside of what I know and push myself deeper. But what better time than my 10th?

Why did I wait so long?

Why are you waiting?

For me, I wanted to learn what I could about novel writing. I wanted to practice with my words and process until my comfort level grew. I wanted those rejections to not sting so much before I dumped my full heart and soul into a work that might not ever evolve into a great story.

But it still isn't easy.

Where are you with your writing? Are you at that #10 where you are willing to take chances and risk your normal style for something more? Or are you at #4 or #6, still perfecting what your comfort level can take? Do you have THAT story working through your thoughts as you write a different story?

Are you ready to take a chance?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Writing Scars



This picture is a door on a barn we are purchasing next to our property in PA. You can tell by the marks and peeling paint it's gone through many memories. Battle scars. It stood up to a tornado that passed through years ago, riding it out without a scratch while dozens of trees fell around it.

My husband used to own a horse that resided behind these doors. When I first met Curt, I was ecstatic that he owned such an animal. I think that might have been part of his appeal. He lived on a farm. I begged him to let us ride Flash,

Being a young man who wanted to please, he saddled up the old horse, and he loaded me behind him. I clung to Curt's waist as we plodded up the back mountain. Unfortunately, it was a short ride. When he turned Flash in the direction of the barn, the horse lived up to her name. In a flash, the ride was over. Like a horse to the barn...so the saying goes.

I'm a lot like that barn door. 

I like peeling paint. Fingerprints. Erosion. Wear and tear. That tells me I've lived and loved. My writing is also like this door. It's been worn down over the years through rejections and harsh critiques. I've gotten a few bumps and bruises. Sometimes I imagine my work creaks when I open a new story. But here's the thing, my desire to write is still standing. I'm still writing, My door to my thoughts are still open.

 And like a horse to the barn, I can't wait to get to my desk and write each day.

If your writing has been tested through time, be proud of the wear and tear you've gone through as you grow as a writer, If a tornado tries to blow you over, hang on. You can come through it. We develop stronger skills the more storms we go through. 

My husband plans to paint these doors a fresh coat of white this fall. Part of me hates the thought of covering all that history. I like imaging the past. Conjuring up memories. 

But I also know I can do that only so long. I need to move forward. Pack the memories away--learn new skills. Stretch my muscles. My next book will be much different than my others. Maybe I'll be adding a few more chips to my door but  that's a writer's life.

Have you had recent writing battle scars?




Friday, July 24, 2015

Are you a risk taker?

In my last post, I mentioned my plan to create more of  a life here in Florida by reaching out to other women in the community. I received several responses. I met with a few women and am emailing with a few. The difficulty lies in the going forward.

Making friends involves a common interest. Finding that interest with another person isn't so easy. I just finished editing my latest novel called Winterheart. It should be in my agent's hands shortly. The main character, Penny, has to start her life all over again too. She tries everything just as I have. I wrote a happy ending for her. I'm hoping mine will go the same course.

Part of me has decided maybe I'm an introvert after all. I was one growing up. It wasn't until I became a mom that it hit me I had to be more vocal for my child's sake. My jobs required me to be more outgoing too but I haven't worked outside the home in awhile. It's easy to go back to my original personality.

It's also less battering to my ego and self-confidence. Ever try to talk to a stranger over a salad when you know nothing about them and they don't share much? You begin to wonder if you've lost all communication skills or maybe you are just plain boring. You leave feeling like you said too much or maybe delved too deep.

Then begins the battle in your head wondering if meeting others is something you really want and is it really worth what it takes.
It would be easier to hide out where you live all the time.

But as a writer, it's important to do life. It's one way we come up with plots and character traits for our characters. It's also a way to stay in touch with the pulse of people by hearing the issues people face.

And as a person, life isn't meant to be lived in isolation. Many of my best memories are with good friends.

My question today: when was the last time you put yourself out there with strangers and what were the results? Do you consider yourself to be outgoing and do you take risks?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pass me a friend, please



I want to return to kindergarten where making friends was as easy as passing  a milk carton.

In the past week, I've met three new ladies. Two last week and today I ate lunch with a woman who has been here three weeks. My heart raced as I neared the restaurant--all my old insecurities rising to my throat. Would we instantly bond? Treasure a new-found friendship? Decide it's easy to talk?

Or not.

Why did I ever set myself up for this? Why can't I do life alone, being content with my husband as my only friend down here in my new community? Why did I place an ad in our online website asking to meet other ladies my age for chatting and lunch?

I am supposed to meet one more woman on Friday but the flight part of me wants to cancel. I'm not sure I can go through the awkwardness one more time. It is much easier to stay put in my own routine surrounded by my own bubble.

But then I remind myself how precious life is with those friends I've enjoyed in the past. Do I want to do the next thirty or so years alone?

The same answer always surfaces. I enjoy people.

But this is hard, God.

Again, I'm reminded that nothing worth having is ever easy. Friends, too. If I want friends, I have to show myself friendly. Even if it's hard. Even if I get rejected.

 Even if I have to play trivia games or do pool aerobics.

Pass me the milk, please.






Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Divided Heart



I've just returned from PA where we spent a week working on our future home. It sits along the Susquehanna River nestled in a very small town. Anyone who has ever read my book or my past blogs knows that I talk about home a lot. It seems to be a recurring theme for my thoughts.

Our return to Florida came harder this time. Perhaps because summer in PA is so delightful. We spent hours with our family making memories. We took a day trip to Knoebel's Amusement Park--a place we often took our daughter as as a child. We enjoyed the blessing of seeing our grandchildren enjoy the same rides.

But the biggest hurdle for me is coming back to an area that offers no memories and trying to pretend it's home for now. I never know how long we'll live in Florida. Right now, it serves its purpose as a place to work and rebuild what we lost in the recession. Try telling that to my heart though as I flip through my pictures.

But like many events in our lives, we don't always get to choose. We do what's needed. For now my heart is divided. One piece in Florida, one piece in PA. 

Where do you call home? Like me, have you moved around a lot and struggle finding that special place where you can settle your heart?




Monday, June 08, 2015

Bending with Life's Changes



My mind is filled with too many thoughts today. Mostly thoughts about going home. On Thursday morning, we fly to PA to work on our house again. Already, my heart clenches with anticipation for that moment when we round the bend and look to our left toward the river and our home.

When we vacationed there in October, our goal was to side the house. Unfortunately, my husband's father passed away the day we flew out so our plans changed. This week, we'll finish what we started plus do the electrical.

Life is crazy. You can have the best of plans and then bang! they change.

I live in Florida when 90% of  belongings reside in PA. Along with my friends, my church and my memories. It's where I wish I could live. But I've come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with these changes is to stay on course, bend with the wind and make up what you must later. Even  if that means being out of your comfort zone.

My other thoughts are hovering on my grandchildren. I have two--a boy and a girl. They are also flying in to vacation with us. I see them maybe once or twice a year so I am eager to connect with them once again. It's something we have to do each time we meet--we are the east coast grandparents. That role, being the faraway grandparents, wasn't in my plans either. But I would not trade my son-in-law for the world even though he lives on the west coast. Another case where you bend with the wind and  make up where you can.

Finally, my thoughts are on my writing. My first novel debuted. I get my first royalty check next month. That's when I'll know how many books I sold in those first six weeks. I'm realistic about the number but there is always that small voice of hope that pricks at my common sense. While I wait for a publisher to accept my second book, I'm tackling my tenth novel.

Swinging out of my comfort zone more than I have before.

Just like everything else in my life.

Bending, adjusting, and moving forward. It's the life God has given me. It's the life I'm glad to take part in. It's the only path I want to walk.




Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Taking Back My Blog

 


I started this blog in 2006, almost ten years ago. Since then I've alternated between writing about what was going on in my life to writing tips and about the writer's life. I guess it was a natural progression as I became a writer during that time period.

I've found as time went by, I worried more about my words and wrote less about what I really wanted to write here.

  I think it's time for a change.

For example, what's really on my mind today? A woman who's marriage is broken. A woman I don't know but if I made one phone call, I'm certain I would be part of her life. For days, I've been teetering on calling her. We played phone tag for a few months. I'd decided I really didn't have time for this friendship. After all, I don't know how long I'll be living in this area. Why get to know someone and then perhaps move again?

But the other part of me tells me I'm so wrong. Wouldn't I want someone to reach out to me? Didn't I when my husband lost his job? I begged God to send me friends who cared.

So that's just one concern filling my mind today. The bigger one is I worry if I can pump out another book. I worry that I've used everything I had in me and that the last two books I wrote will never sell anyways so why bother.

My thinking is as gnarled as the roots in the above picture. 

I pray, I wait, I pray more. I have come to realize too not to make decisions until I'm positive it's God's plan and not mine. I wait for that peace to fill me before I do anything. Today I'm waiting. 

Meanwhile, I'm going to end with this declaration: I'm taking back my blog

I'm going to once again write what's in my heart and not because it might help my stats or my sales or is popular. I'm going to blog because blogging used to be fun. And I like fun.

 So hang on, I'm back.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Living Life as an Adventure


I've lived in 11 houses since I married 37 years ago. I've lived in 4 states. Florida twice. I married my husband 9 months after meeting him. I've had 5 good careers. Not including other jobs along the way. I've built 2 homes. I had 1 child. And owned 4 pets.

When I was much younger, I had this plan as to how I would live my life. I would go to college, get married, have children and a career(simultaneously) and travel. For the most part, my plan played out.

I didn't want to just live life--I wanted to live an adventure.

This week, I've spent several hours on the phone listening to friends and family share with me how disappointed they are with their current status-pro--whether it be their job, social life or lack of time to enjoy life. They don't want advice, they want someone to listen.

Their concerns made me think about the way I'm living my life now. I've always taken chances and was more than willing to risk careers and security for a chance at something better, Sometimes it has worked out, sometimes not so much. But at least I didn't play it safe when everything was stacked against me. I reached out for the next adventure and trusted that it was what God would have me do.

Now that I am 60, a number I'm still coming to terms with, I find myself questioning my current choices in life. How many more adventures are waiting for me to grab? How many more opportunities for me to live my life and not just exist?

I often say "Never say Never" because each day offers new promises. That thought gives me reason to get out of bed and open my eyes and mind to my surroundings.

I'm ready to add more numbers to my list. Are you letting your life play out or are you living your life as an adventure?