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?

Overactive Imagination

At the gym today, I found a flash drive in the parking lot, next to the door of my car. I picked it up, and turned it in, but on the way home, my writer brain wouldn’t shut up with all of the possibilities of what could be on it. Most of them were conspiracy theories that had to deal with death and mayhem. I even came up with the bare bones of a plot, which I might use down the road for a short story. It was a lot of fun, and a good reminder of why I love to write.

Lately, it hasn’t been so fun. Two weeks ago, due to a glitch I lost a hundred pages of edits, and then the next day, lost the whole darn manuscript. Needless, to say I was tad upset and depressed. It took several days of reconstructing it with old drafts, and in one case, a partial found on the C: drive. To stop this from happening again, I’ve taken precautions, and am looking at writing on Google Docs. But the whole situation zapped the joy out of it, but thanks to that flash drive, I’m back to loving it.

Funeral

I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted about my grandpa on here, but about 5 years ago, he moved here. I visited with him almost every Friday. When he was up to it, we’d go to lunch. Recently, he passed away, and I’ll be heading out for his funeral this week. Over 15 years ago, when my grandma died, I helped him pick out his coffin along with my grandmother’s. We also, picked out their burial plots up on a beautiful hill that isn’t too far away from the ocean. For obvious reasons, I can’t say I’m glad to be going back, but I am glad that I’ll be able to pay my respects to my grandmother’s site as well and see some family I haven’t seen in awhile.

Anyway, because of this, I won’t be posting next week.

Depression

I covet my writing time. I don’t answer the phone unless it’s the school or my husband and I try to ignore all social media. However, today, I let go an hour of my time to speak to a friend about depression. This disease runs rampant on my matriarchal side–mother, grandfather, uncles, aunt, cousins, and siblings. I thought I understood it. After all, I had so many family members that I knew the ins and outs of it.

Not so much.

I didn’t understand it until I became depressed with one of my pregnancies and continued to experience it until the child was over a year old. Here are a couple myths that I’d like to bust.

  1. The person experiencing depression knows how bad it is for them. Unfortunately, while in the midst of it, we think we’re handling it–dealing with it. Because of this, we do not understand when we need help. Looking back, I wish my doctor had dug further into what I was experiencing. He trusted me because I’d told him I’d seen it every day of my life for 19 years. It’s different to see it than it is to experience it. I was in over my head and should’ve been on medication.
  2. We can pull ourselves out of it. No matter how hard I tried, I could not force myself to be happy. Oh sure, I faked it for thirty minutes, an hour, even up to 3 hours, but inside I was miserable and anxious. There were so many basic functions that made me freak out–grocery shopping, going out with my friends, or even leaving the house for a walk.
  3.  The person understands that they need help. I didn’t. I needed someone close to me to say that it was a problem. My husband was that one for me. Although, he didn’t realize the severity of it, he understood that I needed support. He provided it in so many ways, but there is one I wished he would’ve insisted upon. I wish he would’ve helped me get medical help. While his support eased some of the triggers, it didn’t help fix the main problem.

 

 

Writing Books

After looking at my last post, I realized that I’m reading a lot of writing books. It must be the new year and the desire to write better. Except it might not be that as I’m always looking for ways to improve. My latest read is Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft Of Fiction: How To Write The Story Beneath The Surface.

 

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by [Maass, Donald]

I had the pleasure of meeting him when I sat at his dinner table during my first writer’s conference. He’s a very nice man and I cold-pitched my first manuscript without realizing I had until he called me out on it. Needless to say I was embarrassed and elated after he requested fifty pages. Ultimately, he passed on it, and rightly so, but his letter is one I’ve kept over the years because he was so honest with me about why he rejected my manuscript. Two paragraphs of all the things he did not like with one sentence of what he liked. Did I cry? You bet, but his remarks were accurate. Isn’t 20/20 hindsight awesome.

At the same conference, I also attended a workshop where he spoke about putting the fire in the fiction. It was helpful and insightful. Since then, I’ve always bought his books because I want his guidance still, even if it is only in the written form. His most recent one is about putting emotion in the story and I think anyone can benefit from it.

Here are a few of my favorite tidbits:

“Great storytellers…make the emotional life of characters the focus rather than the sideshow. They make familiar emotions fresh and small feelings large.”

“True emotional engagement happens when a reader isn’t just enjoying a character’s patter, but when she cannot avoid self reflection, whether she’s aware of it happening or not.”

“Skillful authors play against expected feelings. They go down several emotional layers in order to bring up emotions that will catch readers by surprise.”

“What gets readers going are feelings that are fresh and unexpected.”

“The first is to report what characters are feeling so effectively that readers feel something too. This is inner mode, the telling of emotions….The second is to provoke in readers what characters may be feeling by implying their inner state through external action. This is outer mode, the showing of emotions….The third method is to cause readers to feel something that a story’s characters do not themselves feel. This is the other mode, an emotional dialogue between author and reader.”

Aren’t they wonderful? I’m sure if you read it, you’ll find even more helpful tips and writing exercises.