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?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

My Laundry Room Temper Tantrum

There's nothing like having a temper tantrum in the laundry room.

Such was the case for me yesterday afternoon. The day was stressful for me all around. Since my husband had overslept, and we had gone out the night before, I didn't get a chance to iron his clothes. I wanted to make the time for that, in spite of being pressed for time. I wanted to leave the house around 7:15 to get my allergy shots.

Without going into a lot of detail, it was a challenging day at work. One of the reasons was I skipped lunch for a good reason. I was hungry, but I wanted to show my dedication to my job, in spite of a growling stomach and physical and mental weakness.

By this time, I felt like I had been spread too thin. I cried on my way home.

And my good cry elevated to a temper tantrum the minute I got home and realized I had two loads of laundry to fold, one to iron as much as time permitted, and another load of permanent press to wash. The mere sight of a basket overflowing with clean but unfolded laundry was enough to make me want to throw in a fit of rage some of the things I had hanging out to dry on top of the washer and dryer. In defiance of completing the adult version of the never-ending story, I grabbed that basket full of clothes and threw it to one side of my bedroom and myself down on the bed and cried.

I soon fell asleep. I must have been so sound-asleep that I didn't hear the loud buzzer go off from the washer. When I woke up and realized the wash was done, and more time had passed than I wanted to, I cried even more as I put them in the dryer. The only thing I wanted to do was write. I wondered if I was going to be able to do so in spite of having limited time. It was 4:10; before too long, my husband would be home and we'd have a quick dinner before going to church.

Nonetheless, I booted up my laptop and wrote something that birthed as a result of these tears. That, and talking to my husband about what was on my mind over a warm homemade meal, made me feel better. What did I do after we got done eating? I washed the dishes in the sink and folded both loads of laundry that were in that basket before we headed out to church.

If having a quick, late, and mostly unfulfilling lunch served a good purpose, it allowed me to have a soul-soothing moment after we got home from church. While eating some yogurt with some almond M&Ms mixed in it and a piece of bread with butter, with a tall glass of milk to wash it down, I wrote down a rough idea for another devotion. It is based on the Scripture I thought of during what I call my laundry room temper tantrum. Psalm 71:3, NKJV, italics mine: Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress.

As for ironing the permanent press, I could do that later. It's in this moment of disengaging that I realized David is going to be off from work until next Tuesday. Why not give myself a mini-resort at my laptop to write some more of the ideas I have for the book with my journal entries, my devotions, and all of my novels in progress, especially Writing Soulmates and Kill the Locust?

When I woke up yesterday morning, I wanted the day to go by fast. I had a long-awaited doctor's appointment in which I had some burning questions for my doctor. It's now 6:15am. And I'm so happy to have had an opportunity to write to have taken the edge off of my anxiety.

I just had to cry first.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

When I Have So Many Works in Progress...

I'm now receiving treatment for allergies.

You might ask yourself what that has to do with writing, especially with today's current subject, which is about my having not a few works in progress.

For a while now, I had had this feeling that something was getting in the way of my creativity. It wasn't work, everyday living, or being too lazy to write (I hardly ever am). I got the answer around mid-March when I was sniffing, sneezing, sleeping, and wheezing (notice that rare poetic moment). Instead of putting my hand to this labor of love, I put my hand to the labor of blowing my nose.

Image result for sneeze blowing nose

I thought if I drank more fluids and rested, I'd feel better in a few days. Those few days passed by and I wasn't any better. In all this time, I knew there were some ideas I had tried to get out on paper.

I also had to bear in mind the pollen count was at its highest this year. And, unfortunately, I wasn't exempt from it. After all, I live in The Allergy Captial of the World. Therefore, I went to the doctor and got some new prescriptions filled.

Image result for pollen

That was all I needed to do in order for me to have an explosion of ideas, including but not limited to...

  • A chapter-by-chapter outline of Kill the Locust and Writing Soulmates. The pantser I am may have to play the role of planner sometimes because of this.
  • Concerning the latter book in the above item, I've rewritten the first two chapters, which will more than likely affect the outcome of the rest of the book. It's also looking like I have to either kill a character or just have her in the shadows.
  • Writing devotions and making a devotional book.
  • Having an even clearer idea of how I'm going to write Stone Solid (I know I rarely mention this work in progress, but I'm still thinking about it) and maybe even change the title.
  • A plan for what I'm going to study to make the plot for Crack Hill intense. And I may also change that title. I thought of an idea for it a few weeks ago when I was working out.
  • Writing a book of short stories. And that's all I'm going to tell you about it since I have some more things in mind for this work in progress. I'll give details as they unfold.
Oh, and then, I also have to do some more planning for the Punk Rock Flea Market. In thinking about it, especially most of the time I've been away from my desk, I'm more prepared for this than I realize.

And I can say the same thing about my plans for all of my works in progress.

Now awaiting Monday morning to get my next allergy I can be even more productive and creative.

Image result for typing at laptop

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Cheap Trick or Ironing?

Writers gotta clean.


Writers gotta write. 

Many of them are so dedicated to and passionate about their craft, they hate reality in every way. That was how I could describe yesterday around noon, if not every day of my life. 

The beginning of this past week was off to a rough, slow start. I was a little under the weather, combatting allergy and sinus symptoms. My husband and I thought it was more than likely due to the blooming Bradford Pears (or the bloomin' Bradford Pears, however you want to put it). Therefore, instead of making the most of my mornings in writing as much as I could until lunchtime, I rested. I hate doing that because I love writing so much and hate wasting my spare time. Writers gotta rest at times, too.

As the week unfolded, I was able to get past my achy head, runny nose, and tiredness and to resume writing. And I did better than I expected. Yesterday was especially like that, which, I've noticed is different from the way I used to have it. 

For a long time, I would be so tired by Friday afternoon, I'd be depleted of creative juices. The converse seems to be the case these days. But I had errands to run and a few things to do around the house. No matter what I did, I couldn't easily pry myself away from my desk. 

I eventually did. Once I got into a flow of activity, mostly ironing and cooking dinner for the week to come, I put on some music. What was I going to choose? Paul McCartney & the Wings? Beasto Blanco? Stryper?...Whose music did I really crave after a week of hard work in spite of seasonal sniffles? Whose music would be ideal in getting my mind off of the drudgery of Friday afternoon tasks?

See the source image

With the raw melodies of "Hello There" and "Big Eyes" coming out of my laptop speakers, I continued alternating between cooking dinner and ironing the weekly load of permanent press.

See the source image

Then, it hit me...

How about I have occasional parts in Writing Soulmates with Brian Eastman's point of view? Someone had suggested it, but I didn't realize the beauty it would add to the storyline until I was doing my least favorite weekly task, ironing, while listening to one of my favorite albums.

The question now is: Was this epiphany brought to my mind when I was ironing or listening to Cheap Trick, or both?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Flourish Writers Conference

A free conference!

"I think I'll pass on that," said no one ever.

That includes me, too! Therefore, I jumped at the chance to watch the Flourish Writers Conference, a  six-day virtual conference, from right here in my house, on my laptop. I delighted in wearing my jammies and eating a pint of ice cream. While chillin' out (for a lack of better words) and feeding my sweet tooth, I got fed spiritually and mentally.

And I learned so much!

Below are the names of the featured authors and a little bit of what I learned from them. The lines in italics are the ones that are more personal to me

Joanna Weaver

  • Include outtakes of works in progress. They just might be used for future work.
  • Do it simple; get fancy later.
  • Do not fall in love with your words.
Havilah Cunnington
  • Everyone relates to pain.
  • What about the pain do you want people to know?
  • You don't need to be profound.
  • It's okay to be in a process.
Lucretia Berry
  • There is much freedom in self-publishing. Lucretia, you are my self-publishing soulmate.
  • Do not despise small beginnings.
Andi Cumbo-Floyd
  • Write for the joy of writing.
Renee Fisher

This is an example of brainstorming a story with sticky notes. The pictures below show the brainstorming I did for Kill the Locust, my next work in progress.

Need I say more?

Arabah Joy
  • Micro-writing is small chunks of writing, done in one sitting (eg. social media posts, journal entries, blog posts).
  • People have short attention spans.
  • I need to improve on this style of writing.
Tiara Cloud
  • Discover your "why".
  • In her book, Cracked Mirrors, people have been able to identify with the fiction parts of this book. I now feel more motivated to, as the voiceover for the introduction to these videos says, write the story inside of me.
Bonnie Gray
  • No matter what you write, point to hope.
  • Writing can be healing just as much for you as for your readers.
  • Nurture your soul. Exercise, listen to music.
  • Do artistic things that inspire you.
  • Spend time with people who encourage you.
  • Don't clean up your story.
Tisha Martin
  • "Insignificant dialogue" can kill the story sometimes. However, it is good for when the character is nervous.
  • Get rid of "overdressed dialogue," taking out adverbs and inserting character action. This is one of the things I am working on right now for Writing Soulmates.
Patrice Gopo
  • Essay (verb): to try to make sense of a personal experience
  • Journal (verb): a raw verbal dump on paper
  • Journaling is a pathway, a stepping stone, to an essay.
  • Since I have written in tons of journals, I think there may be an essayist in me. This avenue of writing has piqued my curiosity.
Katherine Reay
  • There are stories of victories and defeats behind every successful author.
  • Bleed on the page.
Mindy Kiker
  • Devotionals should be less than or equal to 1000 words.
  • Let the Scripture shine.
  • Make it a message of hope.
  • This is a form of micro-writing I'm now longing even more to start doing.
Kate Montaung
  • When making a writing platform, elevate God, not me.
  • Interact online and be a blessing to others.
Kaitlyn Bouchillon
  • I can't always hide behind writing.
  • What social media actions are draining me?
  • What form of social media do my readers frequent?
  • I should take a picture of some part of my book from time to time.
Lindsey Hartz
  • What kinds of readers am I trying to help?
  • Where do my readers hang out?
  • If I want to know them, they will find my passion.
  • Think of marketing while working on a book.
Shauna Letellier
  • No one cares about your book the way you do.
  • I plan to make more live videos.
  • I'd like to include a discussion guide at the end of my books.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Flashback to 2009

For most of this week, when I wasn't working even more on Writing Soulmates, I was watching the video interviews that were part of the Flourish Writers Conference. I immensely enjoyed watching every one of them and took copious notes. What I especially loved hearing was the testimonies of these authors, how many of them had never considered writing a book, that they hated writing, had been in day jobs that involved very little to no writing, or maybe even had some crisis, such as an illness, injury, or the death of a loved one.

Humble beginnings, hope, healing...and the persistence when the going gets tough. Add to that the crises, and I have all the more a great reason to be a writer!

There was something about hanging onto, absorbing every word I could that made me think about ten years ago, back in 2009 (Wow! Hard to believe that was a decade ago already.)

I was working as a physical therapy tech for a private practice outpatient physical therapy clinic. I had written this "silly story". Back then, it was on one of those now-obsolete 3 1/2" floppy disks. Since I had no idea what to do with this story, I only worked on it at random times, maybe about once a month, if that.

What I'm about to say, I don't talk about very often. I think now would be the time to let you know even more how humble my beginnings were. The laptop I have now I didn't have back then. For some circumstances beyond our control, we didn't have a computer. Therefore, we had to use the public computers the local libraries have. For those times I wanted to work on my "silly story", I had to drive all the way over to the library in blind faith that one was available. I had to work around their business hours (never mind the fact I may have wanted to work on this on a federal holiday or at 8:30am or 10:00pm), and do as much as I could in the two-hour time limit.

What a big difference a decade makes!

One laptop, six published books (and counting), many hours of hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears, and many hundred ounces of sweet tea (or like drink), and many hundred M&Ms later...

I'm a writing machine. It's the only thing I think about the minute my feet hit the floor; I can't get to it fast 4am. 

It's no longer something I do when it's convenient. It's deeper and something I need to do every day (yes, including Christmas Day). And, best of all, there are no more limits on places and times to write.

{Insert dramatic pause}

I'm here at the Panera in Fountain City on a horrible rainy Saturday morning (it's rained all week). I am camped out here, with my headphones plugged into my laptop, once again listening to some hard rock to get my fingers moving and the ideas flowing from my head to the screen.

Where do I see myself in 2029? I don't know. However, if you told me in 2009, I'd be an author, I'd think you were out of your mind.

What did I learn at the Flourish Writers Conference? I will have that in my next post. Please stay tuned.

P.S. Another remarkable thing about my writing journey was, when I finally got a flash drive and transferred Suitors (formerly the "silly story") onto it, and gave it the final title of The Long Road Around the Corner of Hope, I wondered how I was going to keep up with that small thing. If I had a spotty history of losing floppy disks, how was I going to not lose this flash drive? No, the question should be: At what moment would I know I really am a writer? I don't consider it an accident I'm writing this post a year to the day we moved. All I will say is: I could lose a sweatshirt or all of our drinking glasses could have broken, and I wouldn't have cared. The only thing I cared about was my flash drive. I had bought a wallet that had a safe place for it. I put it in there as the packing and the moving got more intense. And seeing as how I still have it after eight years and one move, my writing is going to get even more intense.