Remembering

1817_1346435123 Picture by Libby Atwater Books. 

 

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of that awful day in America, where the planes hit the towers and the pentagon. If you’re old enough to remember that day, I’m sure you can recall specifically where you were when you heard/saw the news. I was listening to the radio in the bathroom while getting ready for work. In disbelief, the DJ’s announced that a plane had hit one of the towers. I flew down two flights of stairs to the large television in our basement.

I arrived in time to see the second plane hit the second tower. I stood there in shock, crying. After a few minutes of watching the news, I returned to the bathroom, hastily finished getting ready and headed to work. By the time I arrived, the pentagon had been attacked. The rest of the day was a blur of calling our partners in New York, trying to figure out what to do with the trades. (I worked in Finance and managed a team who was responsible for placing the cumulative mutual fund trades for the firm.) Eventually, they closed the stock market.

While, I wasn’t personally affected, it still changed the way I thought about my world. It shaped my views and brought to the surface the ugly truth of how American’s viewed Muslims. (My husband was Muslim when I met him and seeing this broke our hearts.)  It also brought about good. People helping others. A renewed belief in God. Kindness to strangers.

Today, I choose to remember the good that prevailed during that awful time as a tribute to the survivors and the loved ones of the fallen.

 

 

Pitchwars

Last month, I submitted to Pitchwars, a contest ran by Brenda Drake, and didn’t get in, but I’m not upset. Of course I’m disappointed. The prize was working with a mentor on your manuscript. Because of that it’s stiff competition. Only 4.7 of the 3,000 applicants did get into it. So, there’s a bunch of people in my shoes. However, I did gain some insightful feedback from author Kellye Garrett. She wrote Hollywood Homicide, which, if you haven’t read it is hilarious. The advice she gave me that resonated with me the most is that the tone of my thriller sounds more like Women’s Fiction. Yikes. That’s the last thing I want. To help with this problem, I read some of my favorite thriller authors and now am trying to correct the tone of my book. A huge thank you to Kellye for helping me get on the right track. If you haven’t read her book, you really should pick it up.

Image result for hollywood homicide by Kellye garrett

Race Riots

Summer is over at least for my school aged children. I’m sad, but happy that the fighting will and has decreased.

My current WIP deals with Black Lives Matter, which is the nice, polite way of saying that it discusses deaths of black people at the hands of police officers. A week ago, I had the opportunity to attend Writer’s Police Academy in Wisconsin. I learned so many things and have come back a better equipped writer who can now write with more accuracy.

This conference also provided me insight into the craziness cops endure while on the job and how every call can end with them not coming home. I always knew it was a dangerous job to be in law enforcement, but I didn’t understand the extent of it and how they have to be vigilant every single minute. Indirectly, it provided the opposite viewpoint of this issue in a way, I hadn’t thought about before.

I came home pumped up to explore both sides of the problem in my manuscript and to give it the weight it deserves. I’m not sure I have the skills or the talent to do it justice, but I’m trying.

I was looking through my research and stumbled across this video from the 1967 Detroit uprisings. I think it’s relevant now and thought I’d share. It’s an hour long, and outdated in terminology, but there are still so many nuggets of truth in it. **Heads up there’s some graphic, disturbing scenes.

 

Blessed

Right now, times here seem a bit harder than they usually are and since some of us are struggling with difficult times, like the loss of a loved one, an illness, or just the overwhelming political situation, I wanted to take the time to write a few things that make life easier for me.

  1. Family–because, well you know, they can lift your spirits, make you laugh, and let you know you are not alone.
  2. Friends–for the same reason as number one.
  3. The good health days. After I became pregnant with my first child, I developed severe anxiety and with the third child, I suffered depression for two years. Because of this, I’m more susceptible to experience them now, which I do. It hits me at unexpected moments and can last for days. Fortunately, for me I don’t have to take meds. Eventually, my body evens itself out and I’m back to my go-lucky, happy self that some people tell me is annoying.
  4. The bad health days. Because without them, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the good days. One of my favorite sayings–don’t know who to attribute it to–is “Only the darkness makes you crave the sunlight.” It also makes you appreciate it.
  5. Working out. This is a love/hate relationship. I love the endorphins of the exercise high or the feel good vibes of knowing I’m doing something positive for my body, but boy do I hate getting there.
  6. The beautiful moments of the world–I’m lucky enough to live close to a reservoir where you’ll constantly find me exercising. It’s the small moments of peace that rejuvenate me. I love how the sunlight sparkles like a thousand diamonds on the water. The dark doe eyes peering at me from the brush. The feel of the cool morning air tickling my skin.
  7. Writing. It is the air of my soul. Without it, I’d wither.

What Does Woke Mean?

Milan Bolden-Morris 2017 Prom Dress, honoring Trayvon Martin #black lives matter (from her twitter post)

My new WIP tackles the subject of death due to police violence. This is something that has been discussed often in our home. My hubs, who is black, has white skin, so do my kids, but my mother-in-law (God rest her soul) is Creole–African-American mixed with other races, and light skinned. Because of this, my in-law family is a variety of colors and cultures.

When there was an increase of violence in the media about cops shooting minorities, it hit home in our family. We had to have conversations with our kids about what this meant for our loved ones. We tried to educate them, hoping that they are woke. Not just about this subject, but about all the injustices.

Recently, I’ve heard several people ask; What does woke mean?  My favorite answer comes from Shonda Rhimes, producer of Grey’s Anatomy/Scandal, in a video by Essence. She defines it as “The world is not a simple place. That everything is not all equal. That justice has not happened yet for everyone. And that there is a lot of work to be done.” There’s a whole video on the subject, which you can see the video here.

I personally think it’s about being aware and for those who have the privilege of being able to ignore the problems-that you don’t. These problems are everyone’s issue and if we plan on making this world a better place, we need to address them in whatever way we can. Whether that’s protesting, educating ignorant or racist people, or just standing up for the right thing. It’s my hope that one day that we’re all woke and we won’t need that word.

Little White Lies

Yesterday was Easter. As active Christians, we celebrate it with Easter eggs, baskets, and a hunt. Unfortunately, our 14 year old caught us hiding the eggs on Saturday night. I thought we might get away with it because she has been a believer for so long. I mean she is 14 after all.

On Sunday morning, after the hunt, she accused my husband of being the Easter bunny. He gave it a valiant effort to prove otherwise, but I saw her sulk off to her room with tears in her eyes. This wasn’t how I’d seen this going down. (I couldn’t tell you how I saw it going down exactly, but it wasn’t with her crying.)

When I could ditch her 6 year old sister, I approached my 14 year old.

“You lied to me,” were the first words out of her mouth. That caused me to pause because heck ya, I lied. Every parent does. She continued, “I wrote the Easter bunny a letter when I was 8, and he responded. How could you?”

I let her rant for a bit longer. Finally, when she was done eviscerating me for being a horrible parent for letting her believe, falsely, in the Easter bunny, tooth fairy, and etc., I explained how I felt. I told her that I believe the holidays are magical. They brighten a world that is full of so many grays, blacks, and bleakness. That parents and children need the magic of hope that the Easter bunny, Santa, and all the others bring. That it’ll bring the family of my 6 year old’s friend who is dying of leukemia a brief respite from the pain. There’ll be smiles, possible laughter, and one more positive memory to call up when their child passes. We discussed how it gives all of us a tiny break of the pain and chaos of the world. While I spoke, her tears dried up, and eventually disappeared. A small smile replaced it. Did it take away all the pain of realizing there is no cute little bunny hiding eggs? No, but I do think it helped her to see it still as a special day.

This has stuck with me the last twenty-four hours. The news lately has been bleak and hard to hear. I suffer from occasional anxiety attacks and it has increased my fears. So, I’ve decided that I need to look for one good thing each day. One thing that brings magic to my soul, that lifts the heaviness of the unprecedented craziness out there. I think it’ll bring back the hope that has been sucked out of me and help me to recognize all the good that is out there.

Spring Break

No posts for the next two weeks due to my kids being on Spring Break. Yes, the younger two get two weeks off, while the middle schooler only gets one.

Unfriendly

Due to Trump’s travel ban, the U.S. is viewed by many to be less friendly and inviting. (Of course, I agree with these sentiments. I currently have a friend who’s father is visiting his mother in Iran one last time before she passes. We’re all worried that he The Firebirdwon’t be able to reenter the United States, even though he’s been a citizen since the Iranian Revolution.) We are quickly becoming one of the countries other people refuse to visit. Recently, Susanna Kearsley, who is the Canadian author who pens the well-known Winter Seas series, is refusing to attend several conferences. In her words:

“As many of you know, I have deep roots in the United States. I had five ancestors on the Mayflower, I’ve lived in south Texas, and I have immediate family, many friends, and valued readers scattered from coast to coast, so this has been a very difficult decision for me to make.

But I have become increasingly heartsick while reading the growing accounts of people’s experiences trying to enter a country that, to me, has always been so welcoming. It’s not an easy thing for me to enjoy that welcome when I know that many others will be turned away, through no fault of their own.

I had already booked three conferences this year in the United States, and was as always looking forward to them. I’ve decided, however, to withdraw from two of them—the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Atlanta in May, and RWA’s National Conference in Orlando in July—which for me are both primarily professional development and more for my benefit than anyone else’s.

My involvement with the third—the Historical Novel Society conference in Portland in June—is different in that I’ve promised to teach a workshop there and I won’t go back on that promise. I will be there.”

(If you want to read her whole excerpt, you can find it here.)

Unfortunately, I expect we will see more of this in the future.

 

Plotting

For quite awhile, I’ve been plotting my next WIP. By nature, I’m a pantster, but my last finished manuscript was the first one I plotted out, and the first draft was less of a hot mess than the other ones. So, I’m trying to recreate it. Except, I can’t seem to get past the 66% mark. I’m using K.M. Weiland’s books, Creating Character Arcs, and 5 Secrets of Story Structure. They’re extremely helpful, but all I do is keep adding more detail to the same chapters. It was so bad on Friday that I cleaned my house and did several loads of laundry. My excuse was that it would allow my brain to free think. It didn’t work. So here I am today staring at my notes, and have I added anything? Nope.

5 Secrets of Story Structure by K.M. Weiland

What do you do to get past the plotting block?