It doesn’t take money to be kind

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I have not been present much on this platform, this accessible soap box that allows me to write about whatever topic I choose to write about. The lodge is busy getting ready to open for the long weekend, and I have been preoccupied by finishing my fifth novel and preparing my new baby to enter the world.

But, as writers do, I became distracted by social media while trying to write the blurb for the back of the book and I was unsettled by a tweet I saw while I should have been writing the outline of my latest novel. I’m sure the phrase in this woman’s bio was simply meant to insinuate that she could do more good if she had access to a plethora of funds, but the simple line “I wish I had the $$ to be more kind” took me by surprise.

I do not have access to heaps of cash, but I choose to be kind every day. Money, in my mind, does not equate to kindness. Simple gestures of humanity can bestow a great sense of compassion on those who are fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of that gesture. Perhaps if the line in her bio read, “I wish I had more money to donate to great causes”, I would not have been so affected. But her reference to money being equated to kindness burrowed under my skin, and the contamination of her misguided ideal caused that small, polluted remark to infect my sensibilities.

While this post may seem like more of a rant, my intention is to simply have my words be a reminder. We are not all blessed with wealth, but we are all given the opportunity to be kind on a daily basis. A few thoughtful words, or a simple gesture, could change the trajectory of someone else’s day without monetary currency being a factor in that communication. Kindness comes from the heart, and not from a bank account. Cash should not be the currency in a world of good will. It does not take money to be kind. It simply takes a willingness to take the time to shine your light on someone else and let that person momentarily bathe in its glow.

Live deliberately

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I wrote this poem several years ago, but it popped up in my memories and is worth sharing again.

I am not here to just put my toes in the water.

I am here to cannonball off a spring-board,

fully plunging myself into the deep end.

I am not here to simply smell the flowers.

I am here to roll through the meadow,

to give in to careless abandon,

and to saturate myself in their fragrances.

I am not here to be a guest in my own life.

I am here to live deliberately,

to deeply inhale the essence of this life,

because I know, all too well, that life is short.

And at the end of my journey through this lifetime,

all the things I did,

and all the life I inhaled,

will hopefully serve to remind me,

that I lived a purposeful life, and that I made a difference.

The Waking Hours

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The title of my first novel came to me long before the story wrote itself in my head and it eventually pushed the words through my fingers and onto the keyboard of my laptop. I spent many hours listening to the voices of my characters telling me how they wanted to have their stories unfold, and I did my best to tell their tales as they wanted them to be explained in my books.

Fourteen months after self-publishing my first novel, and the three other novels that soon followed, my waking hours now consist of coming into full consciousness while plucking words from the cartoon balloons that linger above my head until they eventually fade into the new day. Many of my mornings, I scramble to madly dictate ideas that I received in my dreams into the Notes app on my phone before they vanish into thin air.

Yesterday morning, I woke up earlier than usual and lay in bed, enjoying the fact that I did not feel the need to release myself from the cocoon of my blankets and rush into the day. The words that followed me from my dreams were profound and gave me an idea for a great plot twist in the book I am currently writing. I could not document the words quickly enough before they faded back into the landscapes of my dreams.

I raced to the living room to animate my computer and do some research to find out if this new idea was remotely possible. My Google search gave me the thumbs up, and I spent the rest of the day going through the 65,000 words in my book to see how many changes I would have to make. Thankfully, this plot twist will not require too many adjustments to make the story flow properly and will allow me to insinuate this new ending without having to fully rewrite the book.

After getting the green light from my mentor, with only a few caveats to make sure I would be able to return to the initial outline if the new idea fell flat, I spent the remainder of last night reworking the story in my head and adding the words that were begging to be freed from the confines of my cranium to follow the path that had presented itself in my waking hours. I am excited to follow this journey and find out which ending wins.

On the days that I write

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Over the past fourteen months, I have worked extremely hard to achieve the rite of passage from wearing the badge of a ‘would-be novelist’ to being able to proudly give myself the moniker of a self-published author of four novels. The road I followed on this journey was certainly not the one I sought, and it was undoubtedly fraught with peril, but it is a road I would travel one hundred times over to regain the confidence in myself I never had, but I now exude.

On the days that I write, I go to a different place. I am not me sitting in my tiny living room, enjoying the sparkling white lights that should have been put away after Christmas. I am a conduit for ideas that come from places I have never seen, and voices I have never heard. I knew writing a book would be an interesting journey, but I never knew how many hours could pass while I was basically in a fugue state, writing words that came from the far reaches of my mind, and from people I have never met, but merely created in the depths of my imagination.

On the days that I write, these characters slowly become a part of my family. Their back stories may not be fully written into my books, but I know these people. I know what makes them tick, and I listen the words they want to say as I let their stories flow from my brain, through my keyboard, and onto the page. When people read my books, they get to experience the same introduction to these characters I had as I wrote about them. They were not outlines on a page before I began the story. They introduced themselves to me the same way they introduce themselves to anyone who takes the time to read my work.

On most of the days that I write, I am blessed to continually hear those voices. I have had days when the voices are silent, and I try to fill the words on the page anticipating where they would want to go, but inevitably, I end up deleting many paragraphs when the characters finally voice their opinion and tell me what I had written was wrong. We come to an agreement, I delete the words I had written in their absence, and the story continues according to their vision.

My stories are their stories. I have learned to listen and not plan. I have heeded their wisdom, and I am bound to tell the tales they want to tell. I am restrained by an unwritten agreement to not put words in their mouths or share stories that are not true to their characters. On the days that I write, I am happy those characters keep coming back so we can continue our journey together.

In Like a Lion

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Today, March 7th, is my still day. It is the day I hold my breath and try to fathom how eight years have passed since my mother died. I vividly recall trying to catch my breath after hearing the news shortly after 7:00 am, swinging my legs over the side of my bed and letting myself sob uncontrollably while the poor woman on the other end of the phone was so lovely and let me cry until I was able to pull myself together. The hours that followed were a blur. They were filled with emotional embraces with my brother and his family, endless phone calls and the inevitable trip to the funeral home. Many days it feels like it happened yesterday. Today is one of those days.

Tomorrow, March 8th, is my bridge day, the day I allow myself the time to rest and let the well of my emotion refill before I am required to dip into it again. These early days in March are saturated with a blend of sadness and tears, but they are also filled with a joy that is hard to describe as my family and I share the stories that will always make us laugh and still feel loved by those we have lost.

The following day, March 9th, is another melancholy day. It is the calendar day my father passed away sixteen years ago. Regardless of the weather, March always comes in like a lion for me. And although the 28th of this month is the day I came into this world many years ago, the beginning of March will always be stained with a sadness I am unable to remove. The two most important people in my life were taken away, and these three days in the month of March always deliver a swift punch to my gut.

As I recover from the annual blow, I remember how much I was loved. I fall back on the memories of their laughter and the fun we used to have, and I take solace in the fact they would be overwhelmingly proud of me for pursuing my dream to become an author. My dad was an avid reader, and he would be thrilled I have self-published four novels in the last fourteen months and have ideas for many more. My mom was my biggest fan, and I know she is always around me, telling me to ‘stick to my guns’.

Although the darkness surrounding these three days is oppressive, remembering their smiles will be the light that helps me find my way back to the happiness I know they would want me to embrace.

The other two percent

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I was fortunate to grow up in a loving home. Both my parents were supportive of my brother and I and they were proud of the people we had become before they passed away. I’m sure they are looking down on us now and are extremely proud of the way we continue to live our lives and take care of the people around us.

My dad, in particular, always wanted us to be the absolute best we could be. I remember coming home from high school, at the age of fourteen, proud to show the results of my math test. I had scored ninety-eight percent on that test and was over the moon. I showed him the test, and the first thing he said was, “what happened to the other two percent?” It was like an invisible hand balled into a fist and punched me in the gut. I went to my room and cried. He wasn’t being mean; he was simply pointing out that there was a slight margin for improvement. But the teenager I was at time could not see the forest for the trees.

Sadly, that comment has stayed with me. Thirty-eight years later, I still doubt the success of my endeavors and always feel there is room for improvement. Nothing, in my mind, is good enough.

Today, one of my dear friends reminded me to stand tall and accept the pride I am allowed to feel. She didn’t ask why my fourth book wasn’t two percent better than it could have been, she simply told me to embrace my writing talent and be proud of the fact I have written four entertaining novels that have received great feedback. In the back of my mind, I know my dad is beaming with pride, and so is my mom. If he knew how much that flip remark had affected me, and that I carried it with me throughout my life, he would be devastated.

It is now time to turn the page, to move on to the next chapter and leave that comment buried in the story of my life. It no longer has the power it once had, and I am filled with a sense of pride that threatens to burst out from the ends of my fingertips. I am an author, and I have a talent for writing. I have completed four novels and am currently working on the fifth in a series of six. Perhaps that two percent was hovering in the background, waiting to be applied to the thing I am most passionate about, my writing.

562 days

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In July of 2020, my life changed drastically. In a chance encounter, I was having a discussion with a guest at the lodge about the novel I had written. She knew I had been pounding the online pavement seeking an agent without success, and she was keen to find out if I had made any progress. Had it been anyone else sitting at the table behind me, this blog post would end here. But as luck would have it, Neil and his family had overheard our conversation and they were eager to hear about my book. After a brief exchange, he asked to read it and I emailed him the manuscript. His response to the story changed the trajectory of my life.

He loved the premise of the story, he could see it being a series on Netflix, and he even went so far as to email the names of actors he could see playing the parts. Cloud nine was miles below me. Neil and his family were back at the lodge in August, and the two of us sat down every day and figured out how to incorporate my other ideas for stories to create The Relative Series.

In September of 2020, I had a Zoom meeting with Neil’s friend who has connections in the industry. He liked the idea and encouraged me to self-publish and start getting feedback. On January 11th, 2021, I published the first in the series, The Waking Hours. A book I began writing in 2001 was out in the world and was getting great reviews. My writing became fast and energetic, and I self-published One Eleven on April 30th, followed by Darkroom on August 26th.

562 days later, Root Cellar is in the hands of Beta readers, and should be published in mid-February, and I am three chapters into writing book five in the series, called Gemini. Fellow writers, I have said this before – talk about your writing, talk to anyone, and talk to everyone. The Neil in your life could be sitting at the next table, eager to inspire to you keep writing and believe in your stories.

Are you there blog? It’s me, Susan.

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“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon

I started this blog over a decade ago. In the beginning, I would publish posts on a regular basis but the freedom I once had of being able to post what I wanted, when I wanted, has slowly taken a back seat to the new dynamic of dealing with the other plans life has inadvertently thrown in my path.

This is not a pity blog, and I will never complain that my blogging has taken a backseat to my writing, and self-publishing, three books. The words I write today are written to simply remind myself that I have this forum to share my whimsical thoughts. I am not bound by the non-existent outline of the novel I am currently writing. This is my safe space, the space that allows me to exist on my own terms and follow the rules I create without being compelled to write the words my characters encourage me to write.

I have missed the freedom I feel in this space. Every time I open a blank page to create a new post, I am overcome by same emotion I felt when I wrote my first blog post and I let the words come to me from the same place they came from ten years ago. This space will always be my happy place, and I am always overwhelmed by emotion knowing this space will always be here to greet me and be willing to listen to what I have to say without casting judgement.

I know now that I don’t have to ask ‘are you there blog?’ because it will always be here, waiting for me to come back to it and share my thoughts.

Thanks, Yoda. I needed that.

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The quantity of words being added to my latest novel over the last two weeks has been abysmal, to say the least. I won’t bore you with the excuses I have for not writing, but the physical, mental, and emotional things I have been wading through lately are reasonable justifications for my inability to put words on a page.

As I looked out my window at the darkening sky, I talked myself into trying to write. My own words echoed in the kitchen as I repeated the mantra ‘I’m going to try’. As those words fell onto my kitchen floor, shattering into a thousand invisible pieces, I surprised myself by immediately uttering this well-known phrase in my best Yoda voice.

This quick blog post is the start of my doing. This is the place where the freedom of words has no limitation and I can allow my brain to create strings of words that have some sort of meaning, even if they are only meaningful to me.

It is time to kick the imposter syndrome back into the gutter where it belongs, find my chutzpah that seems to have gone into hiding, and write the words that will fill the pages until book number four is complete. Do, or do not, there is no try. Indeed.

I hope this is not my new normal

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I should be adding a considerable number of words to book four of The Relative Series. I should be tuning out the world and listening to the voices in my head that help me create my stories. But I am still distracted by any sounds outside my house that should be familiar sounds in my logical brain, but are still slightly menacing sounds in my overactive, imaginative brain. Conjuring up scenarios about serial killers and their potentially heinous crimes is not going to help me sleep while I am on high alert for any noises that make me think the intruder has returned.

Although the person who tried to gain unlawful access to my home last week was unsuccessful, I still feel the overwhelming anger of having my freedom violated. Since last Thursday, I have installed security cameras outside my home and will be installing motion-sensing lights to thwart any further break-in attempts. Having lived in my house for the past twenty-one years without incident, being forced to implement these new security measures is disconcerting, to say the least.

I live in a small town. I faithfully lock the doors and windows in my home, and I lock my car doors when I return home from work. I have a pact with my neighbors, and if they hear the panic alarm on my car and it doesn’t shut off immediately, that means I need help. But I never thought that back-up plan would become necessary to being the front line of my defense.

The extreme feeling of distrust in humanity will eventually wane, I hope. The serenity I felt living in my tiny home will return, I hope. And the melodramatic perception that I am under surveillance at all times will soon be a distant memory, I hope.

I am willing my logical brain to win the battle of what-ifs, but for now, I will heed to the paranoia of my overactive, imaginative brain and err on the side of overly suspicious caution.