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?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What I Learned about Writing from Reading Mr Mercedes

The last Stephen King book I read took me forever. Not only was it long but it was one of his weirder ones.

I grabbed this book from our community library, determined to get in some reading between writing my books. Two nights ago, I stayed up much too late to finish it. I can't remember the last time a book made me give up my pillow.

Best of all, I learned valuable writing points that I hope to employ in my own writing,

  1. Create memorable characters. Not characters who are handsome or beautiful or have no defects or the perfect life. Backstory matters if done correctly. King's protagonist and antagonist were not your typical good guy/ bad guy. It really made me take a look at the character traits of my current WIP. How unique are they?
  2. Amp the Pacing. Not once did I find my eyes wandering from the page to wonder what I'd make for dinner, Instead, I wished my husband would cook while I read. And then when the final chapters bumped up the speed---yes--the right amount of pacing makes the reader keep reading. I was out of breathe in that last chapter but totally invested.
  3. Choose words that Count. King used words that created a sense of urgency as the plot evolved. He shortened his sentences and chose verbs that heightened my fear and intensified my anxiety as I read making me want to know the ending.
  4. Endings that Work. I spent days reading this book. If King had left me hanging or given me a less than satisfying ending, I may never have read another of his books again. I was that invested in the story line and characters. But he delivered. So should I and maybe I will gain another reader. 

You might not be a fan of King's writing. You might be a fan of another popular writer. Read their work. Study why you love or don't love a book. Then apply that learning to your own work. Stretch your writing muscles. 


Monday, May 04, 2015

3 Ps on the Path to Publishing

Ten years ago, I made the commitment to write toward publication. I told my husband it was a choice I wanted to follow, no matter how long it took. I never realized it would require ten years before my first book was published by a traditional publisher.

As I look back, I recognize three major behaviors I needed to succeed.

Persevere: It's easy to quit. It's harder to keep going especially when rejections fill your in-box. If you persevere, you will improve. Read craft books, books by talented writers, and seek critiques of your work.

Prioritize: Time has a way of sucking you in. For the good and the bad. If you choose to write, then you must make writing a commitment in your life. I tell everyone I work from home every day. That means limited phone calls and that I also schedule my writing time. I take writing seriously as my business. It is no longer a hobby especially when I have an agent waiting for the next book. 

Pray: All the time. I pray every day God would guide my writing and that my words might touch one person. I pray He gives me the ideas I need to write and gives me the stamina to finish and not quit. 

No one ever said writing is easy. When someone tells me they have always wanted to write a book, I ask, "What's stopping you?"

Add these behaviors to your life and your answer will be "Nothing!"

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Walls

Someone posted this on Facebook awhile ago. I shared it to my daughter's page. She didn't see it for another week or so. She was busy taking care of a scary situation at work. A situation no mother wants her daughter to endure.

But she made it through the interviews, the fears, the stress and the long hours. I prayed a lot during those days. Prayed for her safety and for God to see her through.

Then she hit the wall.

She called me with tears in her voice telling me she couldn't do this job anymore. Had she made all the right decisions? Had she taken care of the people she needed to? She couldn't sleep, she couldn't eat, she couldn't care for her family.

We've all hit those proverbial walls in our lives at sometime or another. Usually, like my daughter, it's after we've handled the crisis. I remember as a young counselor, going into an apartment to find my client covered in blood. I had to talk him out of his closet to get him to the hospital before he died from blood loss. I went home and cried and cried. But I returned to work the next day.

As I've grown older, the walls are harder to hit. My move to Texas almost undid me. Then the trip home to PA and the struggle with financial needs. Finally, the return move to Florida last year. Little by little, it seems as though the bouncing back and stiff upper lip I need to make it are disappearing.

Sometimes I wonder how many more walls I have inside of me to hit. How many do you have?

But I know the answer. Just like you do.

As many as it takes to live the life we are given.

My daughter pulled herself together that day and returned to her duties. I'll follow my husband to Florida and PA again if that's where we are supposed to go. I'm sure I'll hit that wall again hard but I always know I have someplace to fall when I do.

"I'll be there," God said.