Saturday, July 18, 2020

1,095 Days Later

Several months ago, I was at lunch with my wonderful Word Weaver buddies. As we ate, someone asked a question for all of us to answer: Why do you write? My answer: It's the ideal thing for me to do for my self-starter personality and the enviable trait of finishing what I've started. At the time, those two character traits were challenged

One of the things that has amazed me about being an author is I think of ideas in the most unusual circumstances. Such was the case for my upcoming novel, Writing Soulmates.

Here is how and when I came up with the idea...

In July 2017, I was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, at a big weekend-long convention for a women's auxiliary for a military organization. I went from one meeting to another (the ones I could legally and ethically go to) and interacted with a lot of military family members. One evening when I was on my way to get a bite of dinner with everyone else from the auxiliary chapter I was a member of, I thought of an idea for another romance book. I already knew the title and some of the plot: Writing Soulmates and a high-school English teacher who meets the lead singer of a new local rock band.

It bears mentioning that while I was at this convention between meetings, I worked as much as I could on what is now Professional Fans and Twofold Love Comeback . And I couldn't believe I had conceived another idea for a book.

Since the summer of 2017, in addition to a few major personal life changes, I published not only the two above-mentioned books but also Active Waiting ...all in 2018. I thought since 2018 was a great publishing year for me, 2019 would be even better. However, though I wrote on a nearly daily basis I didn't publish anything. I felt discouraged and wondered if I really had what it took to be an author. Was my chance at being a better author gone and the stories I had been working on would only be ones I'd never publish. And if I publish them several years from now, everyone would lose interest in me.

Yet I still wrote...and rewrote...and continued doing so day after day, regardless of how I felt. On Black Friday last year, I finished the first draft of Writing Soulmates. I thought during the long, cold winter, someone would read and critique it. In that way, I could publish it just before Valentine's Day. That plan fell through. Without going into too much detail, I just didn't "feel" it. At the beginning of February, I decided to publish it on April 25. Again, nothing materialized.

At the end of June, I finally got someone to read it. However, she read only the first two chapters and said she wasn't into it. She then challenged me to write a more detailed and compelling first two chapters. After all the hard work I had done to grab the reader's attention at chapter 1, I get this?! In thinking about it for a few days, I realized those first two chapters had content I had never written before. Therefore I booted up my laptop again and, in a matter of days, wrote an even better first two chapters...and beyond.

As a result, most of the remainder of the book changed, not to mention how I took feedback from others. With renewed determination, I got to rewriting Writing Soulmates and set another goal...

It no accident that I finished this "literary child" of mine three years after its conception. I mentioned earlier that I thought I didn't have what it took to be an author. I beg to differ; I didn't give up when my best-laid plans failed.

What is going on in your life right now that is taking longer than expected?  What have you learned? What things have you had to change to make your goal come to pass?

If you'd like to download an advance reader copy of Writing Soulmates, please click on this link.

Monday, June 15, 2020

My Own M Train

In addition to it being one of the subway lines in New York, the M Train is also known as a "mind train"; it "goes to any station it wants."

At times this past year, especially recently, I've read parts of Patti Smith's best-selling memoir M Train. It not so easy writing about nothing. What a way to start off a book! You get a taste of the mind going to any station it wants in the very first chapter, titled Cafe Ino. Patti is at Cafe Ino, one of her favorite coffee shops. She starts a conversation with Zak, one of the employees who is completing his last day there and will open up a coffee shop of his own. She then starts talking about the coffee shop of her own she wanted once upon a time. At the conclusion of the chapter, she and Zak are wrapping up their conversation. Zak promises her free coffee every time she visits his new coffee shop.

A few days ago,  I couldn't think of what to read. My mind was going in so many directions, yet I wanted to read something "mindless." What did I want to read from my personal book collection? Was there a certain book at McKay's Used Books or on Amazon I just had to have? I thought I'd re-read Obstacles Welcome. It's almost funny, un-accidental, that I was reading such a book as we're all still prisoners in our own homes, still getting through this pandemic. However, other than a few lines I had highlighted when I read it a few years ago, I lost interest in the book. Either my tastes in books have changed since then or it wasn't the book for me to read right now.

That's when I decided to re-read M Train. This time, I decided to read random chapters. There were some stories that stood out to me this third time, such as Clock With No Hands and Changing Channels. In the latter story, Patti starts it off with after "shed[ding] my coat, time to get on with it." She was referring to working on a poem or a story. However, she didn't do this work at her desk, though she had a laptop, a typewriter, and a Brother word processor, and was surrounded by "scores of notebooks...plies of napkins...dried-out ink bottles, encrusted nibs, cartridges for pens long gone, mechanical pencils emptied of lead. Writer's debris." My response to that: Uh-huh, yep.

All of these details led to Patti's need to write a hecatomb (a 100-line poem). She had been trying to write all through the holidays one year and worked on it on New Year's Eve. She ended up writing 101 lines and couldn't decide which line to take out.

I've been on my own M Train lately. I'm still waiting (desperately!) to get Writing Soulmates published. I've been longing for another published book. Yes, I know I've had some life changes since I published Active Waiting in November 2018. I've got so many great works in progress. What I currently have on Amazon is nothing compared to what I'm going to have. And I'm so anxious to publish all that I'm working on right now.

At the moment, I'm combatting the effects of allergies and...well...the inevitable, complex changes that happen at my age. This week especially, I've had good days and bad days. I've had days where I had difficulty concentrating and other days where I only wanted to write. Then there have been other days when all I wanted to do was rest. Other days, I battled between wanting to be left alone and wanting companionship. This internal battle continues for the extrovert I am whose love languages for friendships are words of affirmation, physical touch, and quality time.

On Thursday especially, I was having a full day of it with "changes." That morning, I went for an injection to control their effects. I felt numb and out of sorts and therefore couldn't get there fast enough. I was almost to the point of tears when I told the nurse about what had been bothering me (and still is as I'm writing this). As she gave me the shot, she said what I had been feeling will go away. I just had to give my body some more time to adjust to the treatment I've been receiving.

This made me want to work on Kill the Locust. It would have allowed me to be more emotionally connected with Amy Freeman, the main character, who has a complex journey in overcoming endometriosis. However, on that day I was out and about, having to live everyday life. I wanted to scream out loud that it was only taking me away from what I felt was really important. By the time I got around to it, I was exhausted and all that came out were random words.

I'm glad to report that the new daytime nasal spray I've started taking for allergies is working well. All I want to do now is write. Everything seems clearer. I'm now just waiting for all of the physical and emotional effects during the current phase of my changes to even out. In spite of these two physical things going on with me, I still have so many ideas for Kill the Locust and for The Unknown, Beautiful Missing Piece. But then when I think about either or both of them, I get back on the figurative M Train. Should I read a book or watch another movie on Amazon Prime? Or what about that bill that is due in a few days? Or how about I call or text a friend?

Note to self: attempting to write on a beautiful Friday evening in early summer will not work. The same goes for watching a movie on Amazon Prime. I wanted to see how much more I can appreciate Reese Witherspoon's Just Like Heaven now that I'm a writer. I saw that movie for the first time in 2007...back when I had to drive all the way to Blockbuster to rent the DVD. Wow! Hard to believe we once did that.

Although the movie really was captivating, as soon as I started watching it, I realized how much I had been sitting most of the day. How could I not go outside for a walk? So I put on my shoes and headed outside. It really was a beautiful day. And when I say that during summer in all its hindering humidity, it's true.

When my husband finally got home after working at his second job, I was exhausted, to the point where I could barely lift a fork to eat. Though I was beyond spent when we sat down to eat, as I was filling my stomach with this much-needed though light dinner, I realized I needed to boot up my already-overworked pay a bill. In spite of being more than ready to read and sleep, I made the payment and slept peacefully.

It's now a Saturday morning. The only place I need to be at right now is right here at my desk. So many things on my mind. I'm still feeling numb, among many other things, from changes. Whatever I write, it will be good. If it doesn't appear to be that way, it's okay. Maybe it is better than I realize.

And yes, it is better than I realize. As I sat here in front of my laptop Sunday afternoon into the evening, I thought of an even better way to start off Kill the Locust. Then the most awesome thing followed: I wrote an even better chapter 2 and chapter 3.

It's Monday morning. I think this week is off to a good start. One of the things I need to do is continue to read random parts of M Train and to appreciate the author I have become and how my mind, body, and life circumstances will eventually all work well.

Friday, May 29, 2020

I'm Not Going to Cry!

The late 80s-early 90s, the era of some of the best pop and rock music, a time when there was no Internet, and the best social networking was hanging out with friends at the mall. It was also an era of tear-jerker movies, such as Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes...and Beaches.
The 40 Best Movies For Girls - Movies To Watch With Your Daughter

Beaches was one of the first movies that made me cry (the very first one was Ice Castles). That was 1988. Here I am, 32 years later staying home a lot during the pandemic. Not unlike most of you, I'm either streaming one movie after another or listening to songs on YouTube I hadn't heard since I had big hair.

I had recently gotten an Amazon Prime account and instantly fell in love with it. I was quickly amazed at the wide selection of available movies. As I scrolled through each category, my jaw dropping to the floor at the sight of long-forgotten 80s movies such as Vibes (bonus points to the first one who can guess who starred in that).

Then a random thought came to my mind: Do they have Beaches? The next question I asked myself was, am I going to cry while watching it? 

I wanted to challenge myself. No, a better way to put it is, I wanted to see if this movie elicited the same deep, forceful emotions when I first saw it, as well as the subsequent times I saw it on video.

Let me digress here for a moment. Over the past few years, I have had a dramatic change in friendships. There was one friend in particular also liked Beaches. We imagined each other as CC Bloom and Hillary Whitney. I will plead the fifth on which character I represented. I thought this was a beautiful thing to share; I loved finally having a friend! It was to where I couldn't hear Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" without crying. Don't get me started on hearing it on the speaker at Montgomery Ward around 1996 and waiting on a customer. For the record, I kept it together.

Time and circumstances have a way of making me more jaded, cynical, and sometimes more objective about things. That people come and go in your life is part of character development. I still hear that beautiful hit ballad at the grocery store or in a waiting room at a doctor's office. The number of tears I cried: 0.

With that in mind, I thought while watching this movie, I'd be Stoic, s if I'm watching just another movie. I found Beaches on Amazon Prime and watched it this afternoon. I remained relatively emotionless throughout the whole movie. Then when the soundtrack started playing that familiar keyboard intro to Bette Midler's song at the end...

Do I need to say anything else?

By no means do I berate myself for crying during a movie I know the ending to. That I cried, albeit a little bit, shows this movie is still making an impact, even after over thirty years since it was a hit at theaters. So a big kudos to late director Garry Marshall for making a bigger hit of a movie than he realized. I only hope that long after I publish my books, those who read them will still laugh or cry.

What movies have you seen over and over that still make you cry? Is there a certain movie you and your best friend share as your favorite? Is there one with "all the glory" and another with "all the strain?"

Perhaps you're healing from losing a friend, whether by death or betrayal. How have you healed?

On a brighter note, would you like to challenge me to see if I'll cry when I watch Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment? Perhaps I'll make a web site like and call it

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Writing Train Kept a-Rollin' All Week Long

Anybody who's anybody likes at least one Aerosmith song. Whether it's in the era they made albums with hits such as "Dream On" or "Sweet Emotion," or in the era they made music videos (albums, too, of course), like "Dude Looks Like a Lady" or "Love in an Elevator." While the latter originals take me back to my early teen years, I can't not mention their cover of "Train Kept a-Rollin'" (originally made popular by The Yardbirds).

I finally noticed this song about seven or eight years ago, when I first started writing. At that time, I was working on Crawling to the Light and, if I recall correctly, starting the work on Wise Turned Foolish. Though my works in progress will change...they will develop...what remains the same are my passion and undying desire to write as much as possible in the early mornings. In fact, at this writing, it's Tuesday, April 28, 2020, 6:47am. What also hasn't changed is my need for some great music to write to, especially on Monday mornings to get a great flow going, to get my own train a-rollin'.

This week, I have more time and fewer distractions than usual. Therefore, I'm able to devote a lot more of myself to writing. As if by instinct, I cued up this timeless Aerosmith cover. What I have always loved about this song is the simultaneous tension Steve Tyler puts on the words train and rollin' and the downbeat. That love transferred to the pages in front of me that I easily filled.

I'm now going to give you a day-by-day account of what great writing I've done.

Monday, April 28, 2020

At approximately 7:30am, I put my headphones on, listened to said Aerosmith song, followed by those of The Doors, The Guess Who, and Led Zeppelin. What I worked on was a chapter-by-chapter outline of Nick Clemente's memoir, of which I am the contributing author. This was day three of working out even more kinks and inconsistencies. By 1:00pm, I was done and took it easy for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Chap. 10. This was what I wrote on a sticky note on Monday. In that way, I'll know what to do first thing this morning. It's now almost 7:00am, time for breakfast. I shall return and work on that chapter...

I had a productive two and a half hours of writing as I listened to most of George Harrison's Greatest Hits. Nick's memoir looks so much better. Before I left my desk for the day, I wrote Chapter 9 on the sticky note. Sometimes, I have to go back in order to move forward.

I got dressed and went on a mini-vacation to Norris Lake to meet up with a fellow music lover Brittaney Breisch. On the way there, it rained a little bit but it cleared up quickly. I got to a picnic area an hour and a half out before meeting up with Brittaney. This allowed me sufficient time to outline even more of The Unknown Beautiful Missing Piece. In doing this, I believe I figured out an effective way of outlining and brainstorming my books.  That in itself is still a work in progress, but I'm closer to it than I was before. I attribute that to the beautiful day and was the wonderful moment Brittaney and I had talking and taking it easy. I'll take time with new friends any day.

Photo Credit Brittaney Breisch

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
It's just past 8:30am, and I have already gotten Chapter 9 looking better than before. Therefore, I'm not going to work on it again until tomorrow. This may be a good time to do whatever, whenever. I've found that works every time I do it. I listened to Whitesnake's Slide it In and some of Restless Heart. It made for a productive morning.

Thursday, April 30, 2020
Though I am a bit weary from the hard work I've done this week alone with writing, I had a great morning of it today. In fact, it was the best yet. I surprised myself in the writing I could tighten up in the memoir. One of the contributing factors was listening to Led Zeppelin II and once again to Untitled. What is it about their music that makes me write so well? 

I rested some this afternoon. It's just past 5:00PM. Off to do more writing. 

Friday, May 1, 2020
I'm less than halfway done in reading over this memoir (again). I have time. I'm going to give it all I got today as I listen to some random classic rock favorites and rock ballads.

As of 2:30, EST, I have finished reading this memoir once again and making small and big revisions where needed. To make sure I stayed alert, I listened to some KISS and when I had had enough of YouTube, I tuned into WUOL (a Louisville, KY, public radio station).

I can't believe I decided to stay home for the rest of this weekend. Of course, most of where I'd like to go is closed. If I could, I'd go down the street to Lost & Found Records. I need to give my laptop and myself some much-needed rest. 

Am I going to write tomorrow? I'll let you know.

Saturday, May 2, 2020
Today is my day to do whatever writing I want to, whenever. After all the hard work I've done this week, I need to spend today taking it easy. 

Are you working hard toward a goal, on a project you're determined to make? Have you been able to take advantage of this down time to get it done?

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post about how my writing train kept a-rollin' all week long. I just had to tell you so...

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

I Did it Anyway

They say the first time you do anything, you're going to be awkward. This is true no matter what you're learning. Zoom is no exception. It's an app all of us, whether you're 8, 18, or 80 have to settle for during this COVID-19 pandemic to stay connected to family, friends, and colleagues.

The first time I joined a Zoom meeting, the connection was lousy; so was my ability to navigate this unfavorable means of communication (I love face-to-face interaction any day). I couldn't easily hear everyone in the meeting. In order to hear at least something, I had to hold my smartphone close to my ear. This was too much to concern myself with for something I'm going to use for only a short time (this pandemic, too, shall pass).

Not long after that, I got another invitation to attend an ACFW meeting. My initial thought was I didn't want to have the same struggles with hearing everyone. However, the closer the time came for the meeting, the more I wanted to join it. I felt like a narrow-minded outcast displaying poor team spirit.

It bears mentioning on that day, I attended two Zoom meetings, back-to-back. The first one was with my Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) small group. All went well with that meeting. And guess what? So did this one with ACFW. It was so nice to see not only Debra Jenkins and Kristi Cain, whom I have loved getting to know in a short period of time, but also some new people, one of whom was Burke Speed. I also loved having the opportunity to see Melissa Ferguson. Let me just say she is doing so well as an author. I was glad she had taken some time to speak with us, to offer us advice and encouragement.

It only made me look forward to this past Saturday morning's Word Weavers meeting. In the days leading up to it, I wondered how we were going to critique each other's writings, how we were going to arrange all of the meetings. Though the leaders of the two groups gave timely step-by-step instructions, it still wasn't clear to me. Nonetheless, I joined the meeting anyway. To make a long story short, everything went better than expected. I gave the best critiques to those who shared their works in progress. Best of all, I was re-inspired. This has been the best week of writing yet during this pandemic. I can't begin to think of how it would have been had I not attended these meetings.

Has there ever been something you've had to learn during some unforeseen circumstances that you were hesitant to try? If so, what was it? What did you do to overcome it?

Monday, October 14, 2019

Keep Calm & Watch a Chick Flick

It seems like lately at the writing group meetings I've been at, we've talked about such topics as how to make a story, how to create characters, and how to effectively create a "world" in a good story. In these discussions, we've mentioned certain fictional characters in books and movies. I had seen my fair share of movies before I put pen to paper, and have "stolen" ideas from a lot of them. I've noticed watching movies allows me to relax. Therefore, I appreciate them now more than any other time in my life.

I'm currently in a season of my life where my focus is on some minor but important personal matters. As a result, it has kept me from not only writing as much as I'd like to (or what I'm used to), but from having some time to "chill", to sit and do nothing. Therefore, my time to watch movies is catch-as-catch-can.

It's in these ultra-busy seasons of my life I mind the HALT approach. That stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Any time you feel any one of those, you need to halt, to not make a decision or say something you're going to regret. Simply put, listen to your body.

What my body was telling me Sunday morning: You're working too hard. Watch a movie; that's long overdue.

One of the intermediate-term projects my husband and I have is to find a good way to stream TV shows and movies. In looking around and not yet finding a good deal, I found Digital Hoopla. As I started to search for a good movie to watch, I noticed one of them was 13 Going on 30. I remember watching that when I was around 30. I had been curious about it. And I remember hating it, thinking it was the dumbest, cheesiest movie I had ever seen. I was determined to never watch it again if I could possibly help it.

Image result for 13 going on 30

Not too long ago, I was in a conversation with a good friend of mine. Somehow, we got to talking about 13 Going on 30. She told me she has been that movie hundreds of times! This dear friend of mine and I have similar tastes in movies. This led me to believe it was an indirect way of telling me that I need to not only make the time to watch movies but to give that movie another try. After all, I'm a different person from what I was back then.

It got my attention from the very first second. The movie opens up with "Head Over Heels" by the Go-Gos. The opening lines of the song were what I was feeling, word-for-word: "Been running so long/I've nearly lost all track of time/In every direction/I couldn't see the warning signs/I must be losin' it"...

I was intrigued (finally)!

As the movie unfolded, I asked myself, What was I thinking in not liking this movie? I can relate to it because it takes place in the 80s. Last night, it served as a departure from, in modern-day vernacular, "adulting".

As the movie wrapped up, tears moistened my eyes for the first time in a long time. It may have been the sweet ending to 13 Going on 30 impacted me more than it should have. Or it may have also been the relief I felt after working so hard most days of the week.

No wonder I wasn't ready to get up this morning to be an adult. I didn't want to pay bills, iron part of the permanent press load, clean the kitchen, or even go to the grocery store. In spite of my apathy, I did all of the above anyway.

I guess I needed some time to be like a teenager again, to dream of what awesome things I can do with my life. I know in making the time to watch this simple and funny chick flick, I'll be a stronger, more inspired writer.

With that said, I wrap up this post with this mantra: We are young! Heartache to heartache, we stand.

Monday, August 26, 2019

My Untitled Moment

Awhile back, I read something about how Led Zeppelin didn't expect their album, Untitled, also known as Led Zeppelin IV, to be a hit. Therefore, they decided to give it the simple name of Untitled. There may have been a variety of reasons the band decided on this. However, as many of my hard rock music cohorts know, it's one of their best albums and includes their immortal "Stairway to Heaven". I play Untitled from time to time when I'm writing. After reading about the band's low expectations of the success of this album, I listen to it as often as I can while writing. And...oh...the great things I write when the rich, skillful strings of  "Battle of Evermore" are playing in the background!

Last Saturday, I was at a show that headlined a metal band called Deceased. Vendors were invited to come, as well, and set up a table with their merchandise. This was the kind of event I had dreamed of but never had a chance to attend. Needless to say, when I saw this event announcement on Facebook, I jumped at the chance to go.

However, I felt like, with the limited amount of time I had to prepare, this whole event would be a bust for me. How was I going to sell well if I didn't have business cards (I had run out and hadn't gotten around to ordering more) or copies of my other books, other than those of Crawling to the Light and Wise Turned Foolish? Regarding the former item, I kept thinking I'd come across as cheap, lame, and unprofessional.

Nonetheless, I packed my car with my books, tablecloth, and book racks and made a 40-minute drive to the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Not long after I set up my table, I was reminded of how much space the few copies of two books take on a standard-sized table. It seems the more shows I attend and the more books I publish, the less room I have. Therefore, at least for this show, it worked out that I had the physical copies of those two books.

I was also reminded that I forgot to make a sign that announced my sale: $10 each book, $15 for both; regular prices $15 and $25, respectively. I noticed a plastic erasable board in my big plastic box. With a Sharpie, I wrote the following:

I also had two copies available of Twofold Love Comeback just in case someone showed interest in it.

After I got set up, I noticed there was a woman setting up a table next to mine. We hit it off really well as good friends. She said her husband is the guitarist of one of the bands playing that evening. I showed her my books and she loved my ideas. In talking back and forth about family, music, and dogs, she decided to buy Twofold Love Comeback.

When the doors opened and as fans and bands and their crew passed my table, many of them stopped, introduced themselves to and hung out with me, perused my books...and...bought them!  That I didn't have business cards and copies of all of my books was trivial. As the evening unfolded, one band after another played, and fans came and went as they pleased, something dawned on me:

This was the best show for me to go to when I had something to offer but, at least this time, it was less than what I usually have. In looking around the room, I knew, without a doubt, that the featured bands have had moments where they didn't have much or had to come up with a last-minute alternate plan.

I consider this my Untitled moment. With what little I had, I didn't expect much. However, it ended up being the best show I had been to.

And guess what? I'm going back to the Historic Grove Theater two additional times in October for the following events: Warfest and Halloween Horror Rock Show

I'd love to hear from you. Please share a time you had to do something at the last minute and/or had to come up with a Plan B. How did it go? Was the outcome good or bad?