Tag Archives: challenge

Short and Sweet.

“The things you own end up owning you.” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club

I’m going to keep this short and sweet as I’m on deadline and honestly I’m mostly only writing over here today so as to give in to the resistance (it’s so strong, you guys) and “cheat” on my daily word count goal. :) Also, it’s been a few weeks…

I’m not quite sure but it’s possible that I’m losing my mind. Obviously, I realize that I should probably watch what I say here, as one never knows what will be taken out of context. I’m not literally going crazy, just making a few necessary tweaks to my life. Crazy is subjective anyhow. And really, it’s all just semantics.

In my case, I blame this temporary insanity on the character I’m writing. Sometimes the lines do blur a little and I’m not certain my brain realizes when I’m on (working) or off. The full moon and mercury retrograde also provide relevant possibilities. Nonetheless, yesterday I found myself sitting across from my husband at brunch naming off all of the ideas I have for the future and a list of the things we need to get rid of, or cut out of our lives so we have less tying us down. Many, if not most of them, being not entirely rational choices. This obviously appears a little clearer this morning. ;)  But, you know what the amazing thing was… he not only listened intently (and I mean without batting a eye) but he told me he was completely on board.

God bless that man. :)

I think everyone deserves someone to embrace his or her level of crazy. I know this because I mentioned these same ideas to two of my best friends and they both told me I was indeed nuts. And, this my friends, is why I’m not married to them. ;)

That said, I actually have cut quite a few things, commitments etc. out of my life over the past few months (I feel like I write about this a lot here) and while I won’t bore you with the details I will say it has been incredibly freeing. And just when I didn’t think there was anything else left to cut….I cut a little more. There are two really great ways to know where cutting can occur and those are: take inventory of what’s on your calendar and watch where your money goes. It’s pretty simple from there.

Anyway, I’d better get back to the novel, which is tentatively scheduled for release on 12/2/14.

P.S. Love, love, love this episode of Shots of Awe. It totally explains my life. ;)

As for what I’m writing to these days… it’s mostly all about Paolo Nutini:

The acoustic versions are typically my favorites…

Guess what time it is??

“I went to my son’s graduation this weekend, and I heard a great quote I’ve never heard before from Albert Einstein. It was that the greatest danger to the world is not the bad people but it’s the good people who don’t speak out.”  -Hamilton Jordan

It’s commencement speech time, that’s what. My son is graduating next week, the son who I gave birth to at fourteen, and so it’s a tad bit emotional around here, these days. If you know me (and even if not I’ve blogged about them a ton) then you know I have a very deep affinity for commencement speeches. Partly because I’m a lover of words and partly because I didn’t graduate from higher education (which makes me appreciate them all the more) but also because it’s typically a certain type of person who gives them, and I swear I could watch for hours upon end.

Most times the only thing that has gotten me through the “struggle”and over the hump (that’s what growth is, right?) has been learning from others who’ve survived struggles of their own. And, really, who hasn’t? Whenever I’m having a particularly tough time and it feels as though I’ll never “get where I’m going” I hit up Youtube and watch commencement speeches, because not only do I know that will they lift me up, but there’s a lot wisdom to be garnered within them. Below are two of my favorites this year. I love what William McCraven, U.S Navy admiral, says here on the top 10 lessons he learned from basic seal training–from making your bed– to standing your ground with sharks. I also loved what Sandra Bullock says about dance parties– dancing before you leave the house, that it changes how you walk out in the world. All true stuff, and it’s good to be reminded of all that we’re capable of, from time to time. It’s easy to forget that we have power, and to take that power back–to remind ourselves that the choice is ours, to choose how we react in any given situation. Oftentimes, it feels better (and safer) to play victim. I’ve certainly been guilty of it, but let’s not do that, ok.  :)

Lastly, a few weeks ago I blogged about a story I told  my husband about  how making your bed leads to overall greater happiness, and while at the time I said it (though I understood it to be true) I was mostly joking. Later that day he asked me if I noticed that he’d made the bed. He said he’d considered that I was right about people who make their beds being more successful. Funny, I had actually used the word “happier” but he’d heard successful. Anyhow, he told me he wanted to put my theory to test (he’s the last one out of bed, to be fair) and let’s just say ever since that things have been even happier than they were before. ;) That said, when this commencement speech crossed my desk, it made me smile. I always say: thoughts are things–and what we put out, shows up in return. And just like is said below, about changing the world, perhaps I won’t get around to that (today)—but maybe, just maybe, someone out there needs to hear this as much as I did. And who knows? Maybe watching it will change their day. If I know anything, I know that by changing one persons day, you create a ripple effect, which has the power to effect a lot of people’s day. And hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? As it turns out, making the bed, just so happens to be not a bad place to do it. :)

 

 

The Creative Process.

“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” ― Alice MunroSelected Stories, 1968-1994

The creative process has always been something that amazes me. It’s just so interesting how something comes from “nothing.” I want take it apart and dissect it, understand the who, why, what , where and when of it, as is my nature, but the truth is that one really can’t. The interesting thing I find, also, is that in most of my “negative” book reviews the issue the person has is over a decision a character did or didn’t make. At first I took personally as until one really “understands” the writing process it’s difficult to explain that the things the characters might’ve done (or might not have) is not a reflection of myself. Part of what is fascinating and albeit at times extremely maddening about the process, is that the characters have a life and a voice of their own. I relate it to parenting a bit, because like children, characters may be “of you” but they are not you, so to speak. They come with a mind, and habits, and a voice–all their own. And just like in parenting as writer I think the real trouble comes when one isn’t able to make that distinction. Some say being a writer is like having multiple personality disorder but (most of the time) I don’t see it that way. I think it’s more like seeing life in 3D verses two dimensional. In Technicolor versus black and white. It’s like the way the Buddhists describe enlightenment in many ways.

Starting/writing a new book for me is always a thrilling and yet terrifying time which I akin to dating someone new. Or falling in love. It’s terrifying to think that you’re starting over, from scratch. And thrilling for that very reason, all the same. You’re getting to know your characters in a very raw, real, and interesting way, but first you have to sift through “all the stuff.” It’s like a Tootsie Pop, I guess. It takes a while to get there…but the good stuff is underneath.  :) I think the key is enjoying the entire process, the getting there, and recognizing it for what it is.

Right now, I’m exploring a new protagonist and sifting through my own “stuff” in order to find her voice. At first, it typically starts as a little whisper, something that makes you go “hmmm” and then as the process continues it grows louder and louder, until you can’t ignore it, where it’s almost a part of you–and yet it isn’t. This morning I watched my half-sleeping husband laying in our bed the I turned and called over my shoulder : “Hey when you get up, make the bed. I read somewhere that people who make their beds are 62% happier, than those that don’t.” I said it in an extremely annoyed and “over it” tone, which surprisingly couldn’t have been any more different from what I was actually feeling in the moment.  I then left the house to deposit my multitude of children at their various schools and as I was driving I wondered just when and how I became a person dreadful enough to make that kind of statement, specifically in the kind of tone I used–and then I realized that it wasn’t me at all. I was partly living someone else’s world, where she thinks and speaks in that way. When I arrived back home, my thoughts now on other things, I walked into my bedroom and noticed the bed was made. I paused and thought to myself: so this is what it’s like to be her. Then I smiled because I realized I am at that point in the process where I know it’s working. It’s just starting to take shape from “nothing” into something a little more recognizable. And it’s a damn good feeling, I must say. After all, as the saying goes: “variety is the spice of life.” Truth is, it certainly doesn’t hurt ones marriage either. ;)

P.S. This is what I’m running and writing to this week: http://youtu.be/sE5WscjdNZs
 

 

 

They All Said No. And It’s Personal.

“Today if you come up against rejection, remember: This does not mean “no.” It just means “not this way.”

Last Friday, this was a part of what I shared at the BookPeople signing and I wanted to share the story here as well:

I’ve always been an avid reader and for at least the last decade or so every time I’ve read a great book or maybe one not so great I’d make the comment that I was going to write a book of my own someday. After one of these comments my husband looked at me and said  “So why don’t you do it, already?” or something to that effect. I remember deadpanning, stopping whatever I was doing at the time and staring at him, strongly considering slapping him. I mean, couldn’t he see all of these kids running around everywhere? Where was the time? Couldn’t he see how hard I was working at work? But after the initial sting of what I perceived to be his abruptness wore off I realized I knew in my heart that he was right. A few short weeks later, I lost my only sibling, my brother who was sixteen months younger than I am, very unexpectedly. So unexpectedly, that I clearly remember sitting in his dinning room staring at his half-eaten dinner as the coroner photographed his body. Perhaps it was the (literal) shock–but I all I could think about in moment as I sat there was how it could possibly be that one minute you’re here, eating and conversing, and the next you’re just…well, gone. His death really made me evaluate my life, all of the things I was focusing my attention on and where and how I was spending my time. Things and places, it turned out, that would not get me what I ultimately knew I wanted.

Then, five months later, I found myself in a hospital with my Grandmother whom had raised us (so for all intents and purposes she was like my mom) and I had to make the decision to take her off of life support after what we thought would be an in and out hospital stay. Her death and the aftermath only further made me contemplate what we’re here for and what we leave behind. In fact, although I didn’t know it at the time, my last conversation with her was about me publishing my first book. She said she was proud. One thing I know, for sure, is that I will be forever grateful that we had that conversation and that she knew that I was going for what I wanted.

As of May 2nd, it will be a year since I decided to independently publish. Since that time I’ve published three novels and the latest, Somewhere With You, is probably the most personal. In it, both characters lose their parents very young. Amelie, loses her father very unexpectedly in a car accident while Jack loses his mother after she succumbs to a battle with cancer. In the story we see how these losses and the circumstances surrounding them shape the characters. Jack’s mother has the foresight to know that she isn’t going to make it. So, she makes the decision to write letters to her son to be opened at key points in his development. As a mother, this has always been my greatest fear, to die before my children are grown. And so I’ve always had the idea to write them letters in case that were to occur which is where the idea came from for Jack’s mother to write him. At the signing last week, one of those letters (an excerpt from the book) was part of my reading and I’ll share it below.

That said, I’m not writing this to say “woe is me.” Because it’s not. I am actually happier than I’ve ever been and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished within the past (almost) year, even if I’m not where I want to be, yet. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing my books on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf, which is no small feat for an indie author. I hope that changes but either way, it was a dream come true. Also, I am told that Somewhere With You will be featured next week on BookPeople’s Best Seller Shelf in their store.

But my actual point here is that going for what you want, for what you know you’re meant to do, is NOT easy. Every single agent I submitted to told me no. To be fair, my book was already published, so yes, this fact probably played into that. Still, two marketing firms that work with indie authors both turned me down saying that I wasn’t what they are looking for. And…I uh… would’ve been paying them, so that’s kind of really bad, the suckiest of all sucky things. :) Of course, there have also been the bad (and the just plain mean) reviews, in addition to the uphill battle to try and get my work out there in the world. But none of this has stopped me from keeping on, keeping on. Sure, just two days ago I wrote author friend of mine and told her I wanted cry, scream, and punch something. Simultaneously. But that is part of it. I was almost at my wits end when yesterday, a pretty significant opportunity came about, I saw my books on the B&N shelf, and scheduled a conversation to speak with a publicist who is interested in taking me on as a client. So…I write this to share my experience but also in hopes that if you have something you’re going for that you’ll push through. Because sometimes it is the only thing you can do. Sure, from afar it may appear that others have it easier than you do, but that’s only because you don’t know their story. Anything worth having takes work. Rejection and heartache and all the rest just come with it. Keep going. It’s probably worth it. ;)

And the excerpt from Somewhere With You:

My Dearest Jack,

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably just had your heartbroken for the first time. Or at least it feels that way, anyway. But I want you to remember, son, that this isn’t the first time (nor will it likely be the last) that you’ve felt this way. You’ve been through so much already, and if you’re reading my letter, then obviously, you’ve survived thus far. And while it may not feel like it just now, you’ll survive this, too.

There are so many things I want to tell you about love, Jack. Oh, how I wish I were there to tell you this in person, to hug you, and hold your hand. Though,I’m guessing at this age, you might not like hand holding so much anymore. I try to picture you, what you look like now, where you are as you’re reading this, and it brings me so much joy to think of you all grown up. I looked in on you tonight as I’ve done every night since the day you were born, and as I watched you sleep, I pictured the man you’ll become. It’s hard not to feel a little bit bitter knowing I won’t be there to see it all. Oddly enough, though, it is with that sentiment that I want to tell you about love. If you are reading this and your heart is broken, you are lucky, Jack. I want you to pause a moment and let that really sink in. You are so damned lucky. Feeling this way, it means that you are living and more importantly—that you are loving. You cannot know how lucky you are to love until you’ve felt the immense pain of having to let that love go. It is a part of life. And as I am learning, it is also a part of death. Do not waste it. Do not play small. Lick your wounds, but then get back out there. Love harder next time. Most people don’t do that, you see. They get hurt once, and they hide behind it. They use it to excuse themselves into living guarded lives, never quite feeling the passion, the love that they are capable of. But not you, son. Don’t make that mistake. And I hope that if you consider taking that route, you’ll think of me and you’ll feel my love and know that even though I may have lost my battle, that I didn’t go down without a fight.

Neither will you, my love.

Neither will you.

I love you always,

Mom

P.S. Tips for healing a broken heart: time, above all else (don’t worry, you won’t feel this way forever), ice cream, and meaningful work. Now is the time to start a new project, Jack. Try something new, throw yourself into it, and let yourself get lost in it. You’ll come out all right in the end. You always have.

On Editing…books, but more importantly, life.

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not. ” ― C.G. Jung

This week I’m working on edits the editor sent back for Somewhere With You. There’s something both freeing and frightening about seeing your work all covered in red and the realization that on page 144 that you’re still making the same damned mistakes you made on page 14. And then on page 145 you SWEAR to yourself you’ll never make that mistake again, because damn it you’ve just spent two days (or two weeks, or two months) of your life rectifying something so ridiculous.

But here’s the thing, or the lesson for me anyway: we make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them– but that doesn’t mean they all of a sudden stop showing up. Oftentimes, they do so over and over, and for what?  Just to make sure we really got it, this time? :) Your guess is as good as mine. It’s a funny thing, life’s way of testing us.

And while this may sound negative, it’s really not. I figure, if we aren’t messing up, we aren’t trying anything new, and if we aren’t trying anything new, we aren’t learning, and if we aren’t learning…well, in my opinion, we aren’t really living.

Speaking of that, recently, I did a little “spring cleaning.” I wiped my calendar (mostly) clean, removed several things that no longer felt right, in order to make room for those that are a little less “certain.” One of these things happened to be joining an indoor soccer league– which as it turns out, is, um, no joke. The last time I played soccer was 20 years ago and I clearly remember leaving the team due to my inability to take organized sports seriously. It seems not a lot has changed. :) It also turns out there’s a difference between having a competitive nature and a serious one. For me, the two do not appear to be mutually exclusive, :) Always a fun lesson to learn, for sure. So yeah, fail forward, I say. It’s pretty fun, pretty freeing, and pretty fucking scary. But scary trumps boring any day of the week.

“In life, there are no mistakes, only lessons.” ― Vic Johnson

Thoughts In A Coffee Shop.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ― Dr. Seuss

It’s Friday evening and I’m sitting in Starbucks–well into the final chapter of my upcoming novel. From here a final proofread and final edits on my part and then it’s off to the editor so she can work her magic. Victory is so close– I can almost taste it.

I’d like to mention that despite what the cover might suggest (with all its warmth and beauty) that Somewhere With You is not exactly a light and fluffy, feel-good read. It’s fun and charming in places, yes, but that’s not the whole of it. I’m just not sure I’ve mastered the art of light and fluffy–yet.  :)

In the meantime…below, is a little insight into the way a writers my mind works. It’s probably proof that it can be a scary and yet a thrilling place–always down the rabbit hole, so to speak. :)

As I sit here pondering my characters and the issues they face and how to wrap it up and tie it all together a van from an adult rehabilitation hospital pulls up and ten or so patients and their caretakers file out. I observe from a distance as they enter the coffee shop, place their orders; and suddenly I’m struck by the beauty of this life and all we take for granted. I’m struck by how self-centered we can be as human race, how we complain about anything and everything, not stopping often enough to be thankful for all that’s worth being thankful for. I type a sentence about this very thing and look up as one of the patient’s stops in front of me. He asks me what I’m working on, about the specifications of my computer, and we spend a few minutes chatting. He wishes me a good night and I think about chance conversations and how much they add to our lives. I think about the man who is walking away and all of the adversity he must have faced in his life–yet here he is finding pleasure in such small things, coffee and a conversation with a stranger. And I hope the conversation brightened his day as much as it did mine. I think about the aunt who helped raise me (she had muscular dystrophy) and how much her adversity has shaped my life. I recall the time she picked me up from kindergarten and fell as we were walking back to my house. I think about what it felt like to watch someone struggle to do something I considered so basic and yet feel so helpless, unable to do anything about it. I think about how she managed to get back up and how she still kept showing up day after day. Then, I consider my lack of tolerance for people who make excuses about why they “can’t” or “haven’t” and consider for the first time in a long time that maybe it’s ok to feel that way.

I watch the barista, how patient and kind she is and how she knows the patrons orders by heart and I’m suddenly a mess thinking about all the good there is to seen in this world—if only one looks for it.  I think about how sometimes we focus so much on the big things that we loose sight of the joy that can be found the seemingly insignificant.

I put my head down and go back to work. Three hundred or so words later I glance up and see a man coming up the street walking past the coffee shop towards the strip center. I realize then that this man is my father. And I wonder how it could be possible that the person responsible for putting me on this earth could be so close–and yet so far away. I do not leave the coffee shop to speak to him. I simply observe and get back to it. I type this and I contemplate the confluence of joy and pain. The paradox of beauty and heartache. I think about how it can be that a stranger can suddenly not be (a stranger) and one that shouldn’t be is…

Time Marches On.

Today marks one year since my Grandma died and quite frankly I just want to say that anyone who says it gets any easier is lying. It doesn’t get easier, not at all. Just different. For the past 365 days there hasn’t been one of them that I haven’t wished I could pick up the phone and call her or drive to her house and soak up all the advice I hadn’t asked for. Not one. My five year old daughter dreamt of her a month or so ago and I swear that the dream was so like my grandma, the things she would’ve said and things she would’ve done that it admittedly made even me go hmmm.

Anyway, I had intended to write something “eloquent” to mark the occasion (<–that’s my best shot at sarcasm) I really don’t have anything eloquent to say on the matter. That and I’m so close to deadline on my third novel that even if I did, there isn’t time. Which is probably a blessing, really. Any (eloquent?) thoughts I have on how bad it sucks to miss someone can be found in the book. ;) Speaking of time, I don’t know what it is about me…I give myself three to six months to write a book and then try to crank it out in three weeks. It’s almost as though I need the pressure. I try really hard not to beat myself up about this um…”process” I’ve created but…in the end I know myself and I’ve decided that maybe this just is my creative process. For me, I always find the story is in the story. It reveals itself when it reveals itself. It can’t be forced. It just is, if
that makes any sense.

To be honest, there has been so much fear around this book– although I’m not sure why. Since its inception I’ve so doubted my ability to pull it off. And I know, if I understand anything at all about marketing that I probably should not be telling you guys this. ;) But, I also know that fear and pressure push me. Tell me I can’t do something and…I’ll work ten times harder to do it. I’ll always be my toughest critic, anyway. The betas are loving it, so there’s that.

Lastly, there’s a PR book/cover reveal scheduled for sometime in March. Since you’re all so great I’ll announce it here first– sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’m hiding out. Writing, writing, writing. And panicking. I’d forgotten how much I love this space. So, SO very much pressure. It’s fun, irrational, served up with a side of moody. And it seriously gives the term “March Madness” a whole new meaning. ;)

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