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.    

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Confessions of a book addict

Hi, my name is Paula, and I’m addicted to books. Reading books, writing books, buying books… 

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

I was thinking back to my first love of books and I’m pretty certain it was during grade school when I was allowed to purchase them during the Scholastic book fair. I’d have a set amount to spend, and while I can’t recall what that was, the amount probably couldn’t purchase even one book today. I’d devour the little paper catalog, choosing a book, a poster, and whatever else might not put me over the maximum amount I was allowed. And when I finally received my purchase, it was like Christmas in July…or whatever month the book fair usually occurred.

My love of books since I was a kid has only grown and it might be called an obsession, but I’m sure there are others who have many more books than I do. Right? I’m sure there are. 

But it’s more than books, oh yes, I’m on the lookout for more than just new books to read…I have a watchful eye for new journals, scrapbooks or scrapbook paper, stickers, notebooks, note cards, you name it. Anything paper, I adore.

So the other day, I visited the bookstore with the intention of getting a coffee, but also with the secret hope that one of my favorite magazines was finally available at the store. This particular magazine is made for paper-lovers like me. It felt like I’d been waiting for months for the next issue. Well, actually, I had…as I believe the English edition of the magazine is only printed quarterly. Worse than that, it’s printed in Poland, so it takes longer to finally become available in U.S. stores, which is maddening when I can see the issue is available on the website. Why not just order it online? I wish, but shipping and handling would mean my cost would be more than three times the amount I pay when I buy it in the U.S. And I can’t justify paying $70 for a magazine.

Anyway, I checked the usual area where the magazine is usually waiting for me and…it wasn’t there. Disappointed, I moved away from the magazine rack to stand in line to order my coffee. I almost bought a cookie too, to pacify my mood, but I had to remind myself I’m trying to change my eating habits to include more healthy choices (the coffee doesn’t count – it’s the one vice I won’t give up).

After placing my order, I wandered around to look at some of the other magazines for sale and as I neared the area where I find some of my favorite Yoga magazines other than the one I subscribe to, there it was…THE magazine. 

Hiding in plain sight, but near the fashion and health magazines; not its usual location.

I felt like a kid in a candy store…or like the kid I used to be, gleefully receiving my next purchase chosen so thoughtfully from the Scholastic magazine. 

When life as an adult can feel so hectic, so overwhelming, and so…serious, it’s nice to have moments when something as simple as a book, or in this case, a magazine I’d so (im)patiently been waiting for, can give you a taste of that childish glee many have lost along the way to adulthood. 

Moments like these should be cherished for what they are – little moments of happiness to take pure pleasure in, especially if it brings out the kid in us.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Letting memories drive passion, not stall it.

I'm pushing on through the muck. What is muck? For me, today, muck means “feelings.” Sometimes they hold you back, sometimes they can really mess with you, they can mess with your ability to function, and they can mess with your ability to move on.

Last weekend I took a break from blogging – for various reasons:  There was the Superbowl, which was a very entertaining game, and we got quite a bit of snow, which was a huge distraction by itself, and I was taking it easy due to a back injury, so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the computer.

Taking a break is good sometimes. 

I think we can all agree on that.
Me & my Dad

Today I could be taking a break again, for other reasons, this time more personal. It’s my Dad’s birthday today, but he’s not here to celebrate this special day with us, which only leads me down memory lane about why he’s gone and the fact that he’s been gone now for two years.

Grief is a funny thing – not really – but there’s the fact that it doesn’t matter what the books, or blogs or good doctors tell you, the one true fact is that it is not a one-size-fits-all and you just have to remember that everyone deals with grief in their own way. You should never compare yourself to others when it comes to how you’re dealing with your grief. And you should never apologize for it.

Today, instead of keeping my mind completely in memory lane, I’m going to push on through the muck of my feelings and forge ahead with what I would normally do.     

A day at the beach

My main reason for this thought-process is due to one thing: it’s what my Dad would want me to do. Why is today any different than yesterday? Just because it’s his birthday? I thought about him just as much yesterday as I have today, but I was still able to write 1,800 words yesterday. I know that if I don’t work on my book, it’s not going to be completed, and if my Dad could relay a message to me, I’m fairly certain he would be upset with me if his death were the reason for my lack of progress.

Maybe this means I’ve finally moved on to the fifth stage of grief: acceptance. Too bad actually getting through all the stages of grief doesn’t actually mean you feel like you're done with it. 

But what it really means is that to live fully, you have to live in the moment, not in the past. My Dad and my memories of him will always be a part of me and my daily life. I don’t wish for my memories of him to fade, not ever, so I won’t let those memories stall me or excuse me from doing what I love. Instead, I’ll keep my memories intact and let them drive my passion because I know that he’ll be proud of whatever I accomplish in life. 

For that is the only gift I can give him now that he’s gone. 

Happy Birthday, Dad.