Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother’s Day – a day to celebrate, remember, be thankful

Happy Mother’s Day! 

Whether you are a mother, or an aunt or grandmother who is like a mom…and even to those who only have furry kids to love - It’s a wonderful day to celebrate moms, or to remember moms no longer with us, and to be thankful for the good times we’ve had and the memories we share.

Last year this holiday was a difficult time for me, as a daughter, because both my stepmom and my mom-in-law were losing their battles to cancer and both passed away shortly thereafter and within a few months of each other. Now I can only remember them, celebrate who they were, and be thankful for the time I had them in my life. While I did spend time with my own mom last year, I likely wasn’t the best of company since my thoughts and focus were constantly someplace else; but she is my mom and I’m sure she didn’t hold it against me. That’s what caring moms do.

This year, I celebrate my mom, remember moms who have passed on and I am thankful for my own boys, who have never made me feel as if I need to wait for a holiday to hear how much they appreciate me. I am very, very grateful for that. The hardest part for me this year is the fact that my oldest is living in Hawaii, so this is the first Mother’s Day we haven’t been able to spend together. 

I don’t mean to get too emotional, or end on a sad note, so I thought I’d share some cute quotes about moms to make you smile:

There is no way to be a perfect mother…but a million ways to be a good one.

Good moms let you lick the beaters…great moms turn them off first.

My kids call it “yelling” when I raise my voice.  
I call it motivational speaking for the selective listener.

The quickest way for a mom to get her children’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.

My nickname is “Mom” but my full name is “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom...”

A worried mother does better research than the FBI.

And finally, here’s the definition of “Mother” – 

One person who does the work of twenty. For free.

So to all the mothers out there, whether your kids live near, or far, whether they show you every day, or make today something extra special to remind you they really love and appreciate you, or whether your only kids are the furry kind who have absolutely no idea what the significance of today might be, I wish you a truly wonderful and blessed Mother’s Day!



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Monthly check in – May we look forward to May?

It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of April already…I hate to say it, but where the heck does the time go?

I haven’t offered an update on my monthly intentions since February, and I thought now would be a good time to check in.  So where am I with my tasks and expectations? When I review the words that came to mind when I thought about 2017, there are a number of them I’ve been working on the past few months. 

Instagram post for my idea of Serenity
Reading and writing – I’ve been reading pretty much every day, whether fiction, magazine articles, writing books, whatever I have on hand at the time I have the time to read. With my writing, I’m taking some time to continue to review, edit and make changes to the fourth book in the series since I still have some time before my scheduled professional edit. As long as it’s in my possession, I’ll probably continue to find something I can correct…or change…or add. In the meantime, I’m also working on my young adult novel. And of course, I’m always journaling. 

I’m also planning on which writer’s conference(s) I want to attend this year – one for certain I’m already signing up for, and the other I’m still thinking about since it’s a 4-day commitment. Whether I attend just one or both, I look forward to the continued learning opportunity and meeting other like-minded individuals.

Less clutter – I spent a couple of weekends going through closets and drawers and boxes until I finally had enough items to stuff my SUV and then I donated everything. The amount of clothes and household items we were able to donate was incredible. We just don’t need that much stuff! I’m still working on clearing out some other areas and items, as time permits, and I’m hopeful by the end of the year I will finally feel free from the clutter. 

Reflection – I’ve been doing a lot of this lately…and it’s still a work in progress. I don’t know what answers I’m looking for, but eventually I believe some changes will be necessary and for someone who isn’t terribly great with change, this can be a scary concept but I’m working myself up to appreciate it can also be exciting.  

Be present, find beauty, create – I took part in a photo challenge during the month of April, and I really enjoyed finding different ways to take photographs to show my point of view or my interpretation of what it was we were supposed to be sharing with others. 

Because I really enjoy monthly challenges, I’ve signed up to begin a new challenge tomorrow – it’s a routine & habits challenge. I’m interested to see what I might learn about my habits, or about myself.  If the challenge proves to be useful, I’ll share what I learned.

Travel, adventure, family – I recently took a trip to Vegas and had a terrific time with my family; I’m now planning and looking forward to my next travel adventure. If I’m going to spend money on anything, besides books, I’d much rather spend it making memories with my loved ones, instead of buying stuff to add to the clutter.

Movement, strength – I enjoy Yoga, cardio and other attempts to stay active, and I’m still really enjoying my new Fitbit, as it continues to remind me to move my butt every hour throughout the day, which is so very helpful when my day job has me sitting more than I’d prefer. And there it goes…I just received my notification that I need to get up and move to reach my step count…

...I took a quick walk to reach my goal.  It’s always nice to be rewarded when I reach my step count – the little dancing person icon on my Fitbit is cute – it would be fun if I had a similar little writer icon who could jump with happiness while throwing pages in the air when I reach my word count.

Now that’s an idea…  J

The past few months have been encouraging as I continue to work on my intentions, and besides giving me a sense of accomplishment, I enjoy moving into a new month with a renewed interest in upcoming expectations.

Hello May…let’s do this!



Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Easter Bunny didn’t visit today, but my Muse did.


Today was a special day for many. Easter Sunday is a day for church goers, family gatherings, and fun times for children as they search for colored eggs, whether real or plastic ones filled with treats.  A time for visiting, taking photographs and relaxing on a nice Sunday afternoon.

This is likely the first Easter Sunday, ever, that I haven’t had plans for a family dinner or gathering. It left me with the feeling that I had forgotten something, that I should be someplace else or the sense that I should be doing something.

I did get to spend some time outside. We’ve had a break in the weather and it was nice to just get out for some fresh air while I tackled a project. Once I got myself planted again at my desk, I decided I had to make good use of this holiday if I was just going to sit around at home. I used the rest of the afternoon to review the earlier chapters of the story I’ve written for my young adult novel. This is a novel I’d like to publish later this year, after the fourth novel in the Jorja Matthews’ mystery series is finally released. The fourth Jorja novel will be edited soon by my editor, but she has a very busy schedule and that edit is still a ways out, so I’m taking the time in between to work on my YA novel. My expectation is that the fourth in the series will be published before the end of summer, and if my young adult is ready and gets on the calendar for a professional edit, it will be published before the end of the year.  It’ll be a challenge but very satisfying to publish two full-length novels before the end of the year. 

As I was reviewing and editing the first chapters in my YA novel, I was once again enjoying how much fun it is to review what I’ve already written. To get back into the story from the first day of my characters’ lives in the world I’ve created. To reacquaint myself with them from the beginning; it’s something I just never get tired of. I find little snippets and trinkets of special details about the characters or details about the story that I may have forgotten about until I read back through it again. It’s always a lot of fun and still one of my favorite parts about reviewing my work. The review went so well, I was then able to add additional details and answer some lingering questions I still had with some of the plot points in the story. The Muse was a chatty Cathy today and I took advantage of it.

So today wasn’t my usual type of Easter holiday; it wasn’t really a day off either. But that’s okay. I was able to make good headway on reviewing and editing my YA novel, and adding to the story, as well, so that soon this novel will also be ready for a professional edit. It feels satisfying to know that this will be a productive year. 

However you spent this Easter Sunday, I hope you also had a wonderful day doing something that brought you joy.

Have a great week!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

When childhood memories come calling


I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my childhood, or just what it used to be like to be a kid in the midst of all the grown-up stuff we were ignorant of or allowed to pretend we knew nothing about.  Why the nostalgia about the past?  It’s not nostalgia really…I don’t actually wish to be a kid again. It’s just memories about the way things used to be, and what it was like to grow up as a kid in a small town.   

Maybe it’s due to the preview I watched recently of Stephen King’s novel, It, which is about to make its way on the big screen in a few months. I have always enjoyed horror and suspense novels and I’ve been reading King since even before I became a teen. Like many of his stories, the novel, It, certainly struck a chord with readers, as many could relate to having some sort of childhood fear. I remember my biggest fear as a kid was that something was in my closet, or under my bed. I couldn’t sleep without the closet door being closed, and when I went to bed I would run and jump onto the mattress, rather than risk getting my bare feet too close to what might lie beneath it.

Thankfully, I’m not afraid of clowns, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it through the book King wrote about Pennywise and the children who met him, but there is one thing I’m afraid of, which I won’t mention for those who plan to see the movie but haven’t read the book (and if the movie sticks to the script). I just know it’s one part of the movie when I’ll likely be closing my eyes, or at least peeking through my fingers.

Aside from the childhood fears, there are days when I miss what being a kid was all about – when all you really did was live in the moment. I’m talking before we learned to dread Mondays and wish for Fridays. Before cell phones and video games, before there were more than five channels on the television (oops, I’m dating myself!). There was no whole day spent inside the house in front of any kind of screen. That just wasn’t allowed, or you’d likely get put to work. I grew up on a family farm with hardly any neighbors other than nearby family and with many acres available for us to explore. My brother and I would take off, even as fairly young kids, to go for a walk through the woods, hang out at the creek all afternoon or ride our bikes down the road to our cousin’s house.  Obviously, these days, letting your kids just roam around like that isn’t really advisable. 

But that’s the adult in me talking.

The kid in me didn’t think like that. 

Instead, we followed where our curiosity led us. We’d catch frogs or, even better, find frog eggs before they hatched, put them in a bucket and watch them for days until they finally hatched and we could dump them back in the creek. We’d find logs that had fallen over the perfect spot on the creek, and lie on the log with our hands stretched out towards the water, waiting patiently…until a salamander finally came up for air. We’d use our hands to catch as many crawdads or fish as we could, and see who could finally find the biggest one. We meant no harm to anything; everything we caught, we threw back to be caught another day.

Those are memories I enjoy when I recall what life was like as a kid. We didn’t think ahead to what the day might have in store for us, we lived in the moment, enjoying nature and letting curiosity drive us.

My childhood fears had no basis in fact; there was nothing in my closet or under my bed. And, like most children, even if I knew this to be true, I still thought it was possible, and nothing in the world was going to make me look to make sure nothing was hiding from me. I just jumped in bed, pulled the covers over my head and willed myself to go to sleep quickly. I feared monsters that did not exist but never thought about how I could have very easily run into a bad situation any of those days I played as a child in the woods. 

But that’s what being a kid is all about – it’s letting the imagination roam and the curiosity drive you.  And if you’re lucky, the adult in you will remember how to do that again, even if it’s only every once in awhile.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Which gadgets bring enjoyment to your day?


There’s much to be said these days about taking time away from the computer, the cell phone, the television…anything that tends to keep you inactive for too long, or which limits your ability to really be aware of your surroundings, or live in the moment of what’s actually going on around you.
Courtesy of Death to Stock photo

I’ve written before about the need to unplug in order to recharge – a funny sort of contradictory statement, but I think many these days would have to agree it’s a good thing to do every now and then.

But lately I’ve been having some fun, not with the normal sort of electronics that might cause an increase in pounds and therefore, tighter jeans, but instead other sorts of gadgets which should help do the opposite.

First, music has always been part of my day. I listen to it on my way to my day job, I listen to it while at the office and again on the drive home. I have specific tastes when it comes to music, but any playlist I put together will tend to have more upbeat songs and I generally care more about the beat than who is doing the singing. If I don’t find myself rocking back and forth, drumming my fingers or tapping my foot, I’m on to the next song. However, I don’t really enjoy upbeat songs where the artist is basically repeating themselves, with a few other words thrown in for good measure. And unless I’m in a particularly bad mood and just want the company of sadness, I tend to skip, or tune out, slow or sad songs; although they will win my favor if they actually have a good beat. In fact, I’m listening to a good one right now…The Other Side by David Gray.

I’ve been using a music app on my phone and I enjoy the large number of songs and types of music at my fingertips. My favorite gadget lately has not only been my cell phone and the music app, but also my new JBL portable speaker. It was a gift for Christmas and it’s one of my favorites. Although I’m still not able to listen to music while I work on my novels, I’ve found that I am able to blog, journal and free write while listening to music. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to listen to music while working on a novel. It might sound odd, but I’m a bit tentative about using music when I write, as I don’t want the music to have any influence on any emotions on the page. What if a sad song comes on when I’m trying to write about something funny, or what if an upbeat song plays while I’m trying to write something serious? I also don’t want to be distracted by having to skip a song to find a song that might put me in the right “mood.” 

While the cell phone is often the enemy when you’re told to unplug, I’ve used it to focus less on negative social media and more on what helps keep me focused on my intentions. When I made my New Year’s intentions, I wanted to focus on writing, health, self-care, rest/relaxation and family/fun.  Music is fun, it can be relaxing, it can make you happy and it can make you move. 

Not so long ago, I almost gave up on the idea of using a smart phone. I thought I’d just stick with a basic phone and leave it at calls and texting. Now…I don’t think I’d ever want to give up my Android. I found another fun use for it, and that’s to keep tabs on another new gadget I’ve decided to try out: a Fitbit. While the Fitbit seems a bit bulky for my wrist, I’m enjoying this latest purchase a lot. When my New Year’s intentions included walking/moving more, drinking more water, sleeping better, being more mindful of what I eat, and making time for regular meditation/breathing exercises, this little gadget helps me keep tabs on all those intentions, plus some. When I’m writing, I can sit at my computer for hours…without realizing how much time has gone by and without realizing that the only part of my body that’s moved much are my fingers while I type and my eyelids when I blink (and my arm when I take a sip of my coffee). I enjoy the fact that my Fitbit reminds me every hour to get up and move so that I can reach my step count. It shows me how well, or how awful, I’ve been sleeping so that I can possibly begin to make some adjustments. I can easily keep track of my water intake. I like being able to see a comparison day to day on how active I’ve been, what goals I’ve reached and I’ve never been more aware of my heart rate in my whole life. It really is quite a fun little gadget.

I’m getting no kickbacks for talking about these devices I’m using. I just wanted to share because for me, the gadgets that bring enjoyment to my day also give me in return something that makes me happy (music) and which focuses on something important (my health). Regardless of the fact that these items might need to use an outlet at some point, I can’t take away the benefits they provide to me. 

Now, if I only I can find a gadget that will help me write faster!
    



Sunday, March 12, 2017

How do you travel? Via fact or fiction?


I just returned from a vacation that made me so tired, I needed a vacation to rest after returning home. That’s nothing new, as I really can’t recall a time when a vacation actually meant relaxation. My husband and I are the same in that regard, thankfully, or I doubt we’d ever enjoy vacations together. 

Inside the Venetian at Las Vegas
When I think back to some of the vacations we’ve taken, I can probably count on one hand how often the bulk of one day was spent doing nothing. Why? Because there’s always too much to see and do! I can rest when I’m at home, but when I’m in places like Mexico, or Alaska, or Hawaii, or taking a road trip, whether it’s through three states or even up to ten, I don’t want to assume that I can bypass something that interests me or the rest of the family because we can always see it “next time.” 

My most recent trip was to Las Vegas – a place I haven’t visited in quite awhile. It really hasn’t changed all that much and I don’t know if I expected that it would have, but it was nice to return to find that it was still familiar. The one thing I do not miss about Vegas is the desperation emanating from so many, not only from those who visit but also from those who live and work there. But besides that, it’s still a fun place to visit and play, and where you will get more than your fair share of steps in every single day.

If you’ve never been to Vegas, you may not feel you’re missing out on anything, or maybe you secretly hope to see it someday. Honestly, I could describe what it’s like to vacation in Vegas, but it wouldn’t take the place of seeing it for yourself.  

New York New York from the strip
For those who don’t travel, whether due to financial reasons, health reasons or because other obligations prelude them from even attempting it, they might not ever know what it’s like to visit Las Vegas or Hawaii or Alaska, or foreign areas such as Mexico and beyond. Their only experiences of such places may be limited to photos and descriptions from others. Of course, there are some who just have no interest in traveling – like my in-laws. They were farmers, had little interest for much beyond the farm, and the furthest they traveled was to California or Oklahoma to see family. That was by choice, as they really had no interest in seeing new or foreign places.

But for those who do wish to see new places, how do they explore if they aren’t able to set foot outside their own state line? If someone isn’t able to travel, and they also have a love for books, they will most likely read about it. They will find authors who plunge characters into plots taking part in areas of the world they are interested in reading about.  Sometimes, stories will wrap you up with memories of a place so vivid you can no longer resist the idea of seeing it for yourself if given the chance. Before I visited New Orleans, I read Interview with the Vampire and The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. I’d already had an interest in seeing New Orleans, but after that, I just had to see it for myself. When a conference was scheduled to occur in New Orleans for private investigators, I jumped at the chance, and the city did not disappoint me.

Gaining knowledge from the experience of others might be insightful and exciting to hear about, and reading books by an author who can describe a character’s surroundings so vividly can be fulfilling to some extent, but I hope everyone gets a chance to explore someplace new at least once in their lifetime. I don’t believe anyone will ever regret taking advantage of living life and seeing new things when the opportunity presents itself. When I think back on the amazing places I’ve visited, I feel very blessed for the experiences and for the memories that will always be a part of me.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February: short-term month, long-term gain

This has been a busy month, and for a short month it’s been stocked full. The day job has been very busy, I’ve stayed on track with writing so that I’ve passed my minimum monthly word count even though I’ve had to deal with chronic back pain and more chiropractic visits than I would use in a whole year, there’s been extra time spent with family, and a couple of visits to the vet to learn that the mass the vet felt in Piper’s neck wasn’t a tumor, but actually a toy she had swallowed. 

Yeah, that turned out to be an expensive toy. But Piper’s now doing great, and in the end, that’s what matters most.

For the month of February when I check off my list of mindful intentions, I’m doing pretty well, even if my attempts at exercise have been limited due to having to take it easy because of my back. 

But what I’m really pleased with is the writing…I’m at a place now where I haven’t been in a long time: I’m at the end of a book, tying up the mysteries, getting to the last page of the story where “the end” is appropriate to type in.

It is a feeling I’ve had before with each prior book, but with each book it’s also a bit different.  Either way, it is an emotional ride when you know you’re nearing completion of such a large project and an intense feeling of satisfaction when you know you have finally completed your first draft. 

With each book I write, I learn something: I learn more about the craft, more about the process, and also more about myself. Because it has been awhile since I’ve been able to say that a first draft is about to be complete, I thought I’d go back through old blog posts to review how I felt when my prior first drafts were completed. 

Once the first draft of my first novel, No Mother of Mine, was ready for editing in 2012, I was only just beginning to learn what was involved with the process when it comes to reviewing and editing. The very first book, obviously, is not an experience that will ever be matched again; at least as it relates to the extreme surreal feeling when you can acknowledge you’ve just written an actual novel. By the time I completed the first draft of my second novel, Best Kept Secrets, in 2013, I was more aware of what was ahead of me before the book could be published, but I now laugh at myself when I read over that blog post for predicting that at some point in my future the process of editing would get easier. 

I’m not sure that will ever be true. The first draft of any novel is a wild animal to be tamed, and it should not be mistaken for as an easy task.

Something else I wrote in the post about my second novel, but which I caught myself nodding my head to in agreement as I was reading it, was this:

During the editing process, we come to the intersection of Creation and Control…which is what it takes to make sure the story is complete, the words make sense, the characters aren’t flat and the plot twists and turns enough to give readers true delight.

I like how I described the editing process in that way, and it’s something I’ll have to remember each time I’m in the middle of reviewing any draft of a novel.

The last time I completed a first draft of a novel, not counting the short story I published in 2015, was Ties That Bind towards the end of 2014. For the third novel in the series, I brought in someone new to assist with the editing and as each phase for each novel has taught me something new about the process, so did my new editor. And with the new editor came a new appreciation for the editing process.

It’s been a long time coming, so it feels good to begin the editing process again.  It’s also a great feeling to know that I’m moving forward – working on that momentum I’ve focused on for this New Year.