Monday, March 25, 2019

Blogging Hiatus

I need a break. It dawned on me the other day that between cranking out a new manuscript (very excited about this one) and taking care of things at home, I’m feeling a bit depleted. I considered areas of my life where I could make adjustments.

And I landed here.

I love blogging, and have remained committed to it for over ten years. However, I’ll be taking the month of April to reassess my blogging goals.

I do plan to return in May. I’m just not sure what that return will look like. I’m anticipating my social media presence to be spotty over the next few months.

Thanks to those who’ve been faithful readers. Many of you have encouraged me on this writing journey, and words are inadequate when it comes to expressing my gratitude.

In the meantime, be kind to one another. And enjoy this picture of my dog. She’s a nut. A lovable nut.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Crocus Mode

When the world gets dark, I tend to go the way of a crocus. I close up. Hide out. Sign off.

This natural behavior in plants is called nyctinasty. Scientists provide many explanations for why certain plants do this. I know why I do it.

The world can be a scary place. People freak me out on a regular basis. Not just the mass murderers, but even people on the road or those yelling hateful slurs at others in grocery stores. The last two docuseries I’ve watched remind me just how disturbing it can get out there. Two men sharing their account of being deceived as children. Another child taken in the night.

See, the thing with me is that I feel things deeply. Since I was little I’ve had a tendency to absorb, imagine, and empathize to the point of anguish. I never knew quite what to do when I witnessed others in pain. I quickly began to feel it. I remember there was a boy in my school who had a sibling with cancer. When other girls my age probably fantasized about kissing this boy, my thoughts tangled up with how I could help, how I can ease his pain. It’s always been like this for me. And I’ll be the first one to admit, it’s a little awkward to be like this. I eventually figured out I could stuff a lot of emotion in my stories—my characters. That resolved some of the empathy overflow.

But I still anguish for others. I grieve the current condition of the world. I grieve how it’s always been.

So, for self-protection, restoration, and a way to channel and/or preserve my resources, I close down sometimes when the world gets dark. I nyctinasty. Only for a little while though. Because I’ve also learned the great value of remaining open to the light.

*Miss you, Dad.

Monday, March 4, 2019

After You Put Down the Pen

Writers, every second of every day you make choices that either contribute to the survival of your main characters or decisions that slowly deteriorate them. Bet you’ve never thought about it this way before. How you live your life—what you do after you put down the pen has great implications for what plays out on the page. Another way to frame this is to consider the most effective ways to avoid the proverbial writer’s block.

Here are ten things you can do to ensure you are giving you’re all when you create your characters and draft that future bestselling novel.

Step Away from Social Media Wars
They will suck you in, toy with your emotions, tempt you to comment, then delete, then comment again. Don’t be persuaded or seduced by these Twitter rants, the Facebook vents, and the article comments that rouse your impulses. Your time is far better spent nailing down your main character’s greatest fear. Or contemplating their weak spots in order to create that perfect ending.

Go to Bed
Umpteen thousand studies have proven the benefits of a good night’s sleep. This spills over to who we write. Our characters thrive when we thrive. They chase the rabbit down that trail when we’re going on two hours of sleep, blinking to stay awake as the screen blurs in front of us. Sleep. It does a body and characters good.

Pour Water on Negative Thoughts
Negativity. Lies. Complaints. When it comes to writing, negativity in us can transform quickly into nesting dolls. Our yucky thoughts become our main character’s messed up thoughts, which may not adequately represent them. Work hard not to let negative thinking get out of hand. Like the Wicked Witch, throw a bucket of water on them and melt those suckers to the ground.

Don’t Compare Their Green Grass to Your Brittle Brown
Comparison has a way of stifling creativity like nothing else. Don’t entertain trap thoughts. They got a four book deal. They won an award. They got an agent. They write six books a year. Blah. Blah. Blah. Every writer is tackling their career with a unique slant. Joys and hardships come to us all. By the way, your grass isn’t brittle brown. It’s wheat and it’s beautiful.

Remain Engaged
I get it, this world can be pretty overwhelming at times. I watched a documentary last night that had the potential to slay me for a week. Here’s the thing, we need to tap out every so often. To recharge and forget the world for a while. But then come back and invest in conversation. Listen to dialogue out in public. Ask questions. This will bleed over into the lives of your characters, adding a more authentic voice to your work.

Reflect and Hold Yourself Accountable
The more self-aware you are, the better you’ll be able to understand what’s going on with your main character. Why are they so amped up, and how does it relate to something you’ve been struggling with? Limit the things in your life that drag you down, that squelch your creativity. Be ruthlessly honest for the sake of your MC’s survival.

Study Up on Psychology
Psychology is gold for any writer. Because it opens up the world of motivation and weakness and temptation and hope and loss. Understanding the whys behind actions and emotions for existing people will do wonders to help your characters exist.

Create a Soundtrack
Oh, music. It feeds the soul. Coordinate a list of songs that encapsulate your novel, the arc of growth your character goes through. Have fun with this one.

Read a Book Your Character Would Enjoy (Research)
Invest in what your characters are interested in. Writing a comp to Silence of the Lambs? Buy a book on butterflies. Main character is a teenager? Get excited about reading YA. Expand your horizon by sharing a vested interest with your character. Never know what you’ll learn.

Let Your Imagination Go Wild
Things can feel limiting when we’re unknowingly placing restrictions on ourselves. There is no one right way to go about crafting a book or fleshing out a main character. Step out of the box on this one. Dress up. Act out scenes. Attend a renaissance festival as your character. Beatbox with the best of them. Write a letter to all your secondary characters in the voice of your MC. Get in the car with no destination in mind and see where your MC takes you. We only limit ourselves. The potential is out there. We just need to remain open to finding it.

Writer’s block can be short-lived or nonexistent. We have tools and resources already available to us. Our characters are depending on our ability to be resourceful. To uncap the nesting dolls of negativity, to sleep, and to sing a new song at the top of our lungs.

Our books and main characters could become so much more if we would only get out of our own way, and give them the space and freedom to do so.

*be back next Monday, March 18th

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Letter for D

Hey there D,

Been listening to this song lately and thinking of you. I know you’ve had a rough go of it lately. I remember the stage of life you’re in. Feeling everything with such intensity. Such raw emotion. Memories of friends making the conscious decision to turn away still burrow deep.

But there are a few things I want to remind you of . . . your worth is innate. Intrinsic. The world is blind. Fickle. Many will love you one minute only to forget you the next. They’ll dare you to cower. To hide. To shut off and shut down. {Because they’re afraid of your light.}

Do so. For a while if you have to. But then . . . then we need you to do the exact opposite. See, because this world needs your love. The world needs people like you. A thoughtful soul. Your light is important here. It pierces through the phony and the shallow. It radiates kindness.

When you’re ready, step out from the shadows. Survive. Endure. Search for love. Abide in hope.

The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. Numbers 6:25

Monday, February 18, 2019

Two Minutes After They Say Goodbye

What type of friend are you? I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot about being a friend over the years. I’ve enjoyed some of my greatest friendships as an adult. This topic is so close to my heart I wrote an entire novel based on the theme of friendship, only the bond in my book wasn’t a healthy one.

You can learn a lot about how healthy a relationship is from how you feel two minutes after someone says goodbye. I have two teenagers and a preteen. The topic of friendship isn’t one I’ve brushed over or skidded across lightly. It matters—who we choose as friends. And sometimes it takes time to discern whether someone is indeed that—a good and loyal friend. Here are a few questions that might help with the discernment process. After they’ve said goodbye, do I feel depleted? Exhausted? Like I’ve been manipulated or as though I’m always feeling forced to go along with them? Do I feel like the relationship is uneven in regards to give and take? Am I reflective or peaceful? Am I excited to hang out with them again? Am I too anxious to please them or make them happy? Have they invested in me in equal measure as I have them? Am I making all the efforts? Are they dangerous in any way? Have they been leading me down a path I don’t like? Am I changing into someone I don’t like because of them? Do I feel in control around them or controlled by them? Are they prone to drama, gossip, or bullying others? Do I like who I am when I’m around them? Do I feel a general sense of discomfort when I’m around them? Am I good for them?

Answering these questions may help pinpoint why a relationship has felt off for quite some time. It’s also important to be aware that sometimes we contribute to the uneasy feelings in a relationship. For example, if we are too eager to please that isn’t necessarily about the other person, but something we can work on.

As I stated, this topic is near and dear to me. In No Woman No Cry, Bob Marley sings how he’s had good friends, and how he’s lost good friends along the way. That part of the song always gets me. In the time I have left here on earth I want to be a good friend. I’ve come to understand that it’s okay to create distance from those who don’t treat me the way I deserve to be treated. It’s healthy, in fact. I’m teaching my kids the same—to surround themselves with people who make them feel valued and loved. People who lift them up, encourage them, and bring out their best qualities—not their worst.

Right now I have several dear friends going through some hardships with their teenagers. I’ve been thinking a lot about them and hoping their kids have even just one thoughtful person come into their lives, to bestow kindness. And encouragement during this trying season. I know certain individuals have made a tremendous difference in my life at crucial times.

When I think about the kind of friend I want to be I think about Lester in the non-fiction book I just read (posted about it last week—The Sun Does Shine). Lester showed up for every possible visit to be with Anthony Ray Hinton, an innocent man trying to stay hopeful for thirty years while he sat on death row. Lester encouraged in the truest sense of the word. I cried as I read the following. Ray’s dedicated lawyer had tried almost everything to get him out. There was really only one more shot at freeing him and it came with a great risk. Through years of hardship, Ray found ways to remain hopeful and positive, but this particular day he was struggling. Lester tells him, “We’re not kids anymore, Ray, and we’re not afraid. We’re going to face whatever happens. We’re going to face it, and we’re going to fight if we have to fight . . . We’re still walking home, Ray. We’re still just walking home together.”

A good friend, a true friend will be there to remind you, when you need it most that you’re walking home . . . together. That you’re not alone.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Inspiration from the Most Unexpected Place

I never imagined a man who spent years on death row would be a source of inspiration for me. Then again, I hadn’t known anything about Anthony Ray Hinton. Reason number 1,278 why I love book clubs. Hinton’s book, THE SUN DOES SHINE: HOW I FOUND LIFE AND FREEDOM ON DEATH ROW is our next read for book club.

Forty pages in, and this book has found a way to seep into my day-to-day thoughts. Hinton’s honesty, his ability to see beyond his circumstances has been revolutionizing the way I approach my day. Needless to say, I’m excited about this book. I love when inspiration comes from unexpected places. I’ve been around long enough, and open-minded to a degree where this is happens on a regular basis. I just never know where the inspiration will come from—when it will spark. I’ve learned to expect it from nature, after a lung-burning run, or while reading. And yes, I’m inspired due to reading his book, but there’s something more here. Hinton is inspiring me. Through his book, yes. But also with a greater reach—through his life.

I’m tackling some key edits on one of my novels, but I’m going to carve out some time so I can get back to reading THE SUN DOES SHINE. It’s one of those books that possesses a gravitational pull.

Have you read anything life-changing lately?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Book Club Week

I get to be spoiled this week. I’m hosting book club at my house tonight with a group that’s magically and wonderfully come together. We’ll be discussing Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Then, on Wednesday evening, my 6th grader and I will join other families to discuss Forget-Me-Not by Ellie Terry in a school book club. 

I’ve been pro-book clubs for years now. Not only because I’ve garnered a tremendous amount of support from local book clubs, but also because of the powerful conversations—the connections—they have the potential to incite. The empathy. Seeing the world from someone else’s point of view. Taking us out of our own little worlds and broadening our scope. All good things.

I have to laugh sometimes when I come across mentions of book clubs in some of the novels I read. Often they’re touted as merely social gatherings. The latest thing. Think Bunco or wine tastings. I’ll always be one to argue book clubs—when there is actual discussion of books—possess an intrinsic ability to have us step outside ourselves, if only for a brief time. Book clubs remind us of our humanity, our vulnerability, our innate need for one another. They teach us to be gentle and kind to one another, while also challenging us to stand up for what we believe in.

Book clubs remind us of what’s important. And what’s not.

*Not in a book club and have no idea how to start one? Please, reach out. I’d love to help! I lived here for maybe three months before I got to work and joined not one, but two book clubs. All it takes is a love of reading and a little bit of risk-taking.

Blogging Hiatus

I need a break. It dawned on me the other day that between cranking out a new manuscript (very excited about this one) and taking care...