The cat came back

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Although the title of this post is borrowed from a song, it has a significantly different meaning for me. A few months ago, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and sent my five books to a local address that belongs to the cottage of a Canadian film director with the hope my books would find their way into his hands. Sadly, I came home from work yesterday to find the same box I had sent had been returned to me undelivered. The cat came back, it just couldn’t stay away. It was sitting on the porch the very next day.

Although the ‘next day’ actually totaled a few months, the sentiment is still appropriate. As I ponder the misfortune of not having been successful in reaching this Canadian director, I have no choice but to put my faith in the adage ‘cats have nine lives’. This thwarted attempt to introduce myself was the end of life number one, but I still have eight more to go!

My writing journey has been a roller coaster, and as much as I detest the thought of being strapped into an uncovered train travelling at warp speed, I have embraced the ride. I have done my best to swallow the contents of my stomach before my fellow passengers become victims of being drenched in the gastrointestinal spray of my failed attempts, and I have given myself the courage to embrace the opportunity that lingers in those remaining eight lives.

The cat may have come back, but that emboldened feline is ready for the next battle. I will survive. I will not go gently into that good night. I will not go down without a fight. And one day, I hope the cat that came back will be battling the MGM lion to see who has the loudest roar.

The game of life

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This space used to be my sanctuary, the place I would come home to and allow myself to be the truest version of me. I was able to ignore the world around me. But now, two long months after my last post, I realize the world had called my bluff. It won the last few rounds by catching a lucky break on the river card, leaving me with a small pile of chips and the sheer determination to play one or two more hands to see if I could worm my way back into the game.

For a while, I felt truly defeated. Gamblers with the small stack know their chances of living to see another flop are slim when faced with an opponent who controls the betting. But those same gamblers, the ones who know they only have those one or two more opportunities to command the game, dig deep within themselves to create a strategy. When the cards were not in my favor, I folded, and I waited to see what my next down cards would be. And then it happened.

I peeked at my two down cards and knew I had a chance. I made a smart bet, and the world matched my bet. The turn card gave me even more confidence, and I threw in a few more chips to make the game more interesting. The world saw my bet and didn’t raise. It waited with interest to see what would happen next. The river card was flipped, and I knew I was back in the game. I went all in, knowing the world had an extremely small potential of beating my hand, and I hoped my gut instinct was not wrong.

When the world called, I answered with more strength than I remembered I had. Before revealing my down cards, I paused briefly to savor the moment, knowing the world was waiting to see what I was hiding. For me, that reveal wasn’t in my cards. It was in the belief I had in my own ability to win. I disclosed the two cards I had been holding, and the world had no choice but to reward my victory by allowing me to pull the winning pot to my side of the table.

I am back in the game. The faith I have in myself, and the ability to trust my instincts, has given me the chance to see another flop. The game of life is afoot, and I am anxiously awaiting the next hand.

Thinking outside the box

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This is an odd title for this post, considering the content of this post is about some items I put inside a box earlier today.

My writing journey, thus far, has consisted of a great deal of luck and timing. Five years ago, when I had finished writing my first novel and had the grand notion of querying to find an agent who would help me traditionally publish, I eventually realized the traditional journey was not in the cards for me. I had been dealt an extremely rare hand, and I have been playing those unique cards to the best of my ability.

Having that new perspective has allowed me to develop a great friendship with my mentor, Neil, self-publish five novels, and think of creative ways to put my name out into the world. After a fortuitous double-booking in a volunteer spot, I was given the opportunity to reconnect with a friend I had not seen in a while. She is a fellow author, and a cottager in the area. During our chat, she told me a Canadian director has a cottage nearby, and she had seen him in the area on several occasions. She suggested I find a way to get my books into his hands, and that is what I have attempted to do.

While thinking outside the box today, I carefully packed a copy of each of my five books, a magazine article about my writing, and a carefully constructed letter into an actual box and mailed them to a local address with the hope this particular box will find this Canadian director. This act of fortitude may result in radio silence from the other side, but at the end of the day, I am happy knowing I tried something that was far out of my comfort zone with the hope of making a new connection.

Heading back into the trenches

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I am disappointed with myself. I have been so busy writing books, and working full-time hours at my job, I have ignored this little piece of heaven that allows me to write about anything I deem worthy to write about. I miss the freedom of being able to put together strings of sentences that are not required to tie into the series of books I have written, or the new stand-alone novel on which I am working. This blog is my refuge from the ties that bind me to those ideas. This writing space is my freedom.

While the sound of thunder rumbles outside of my house, and the rain falls heavily on the foliage so desperate for sustenance, I take refuge in the words that don’t have to mean anything, but they mean so much to me. This blog is my escape from the rules of writing. Here, I can say anything. And, though these words may mean nothing to the characters who haunt my waking hours and invade my personal space, the words I share in this space mean a great deal to me.

Since becoming a self-published author, I feel like I have lost my voice to the voices who have added their perspective to my narratives. I will never be ungrateful for their input, but I feel compelled to visit this blog more often than I have been to allow it to give me the freedom to banish those voices and speak for myself for a change.

The book I am currently working on is a stand-alone book that I will carry with me like a shield, back into the trenches to look for a literary agent. The time has come. If I am going to follow my dream of getting my stories onto the big screens, I need a friend in my corner with connections to the outside world that is so far beyond my comprehension, it is alarming. But I am willing to tackle this next step with every ounce of strength I have, and I am ready to face the rejections until I find the agent who will pull me out of these deep trenches and convince me they share my vision.

My first official book signing party

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Every author dreams of sitting at a table and signing copies of the books they have painstakingly brought forth from the depths of their imagination. It is a rite of passage that has always intrigued me and has lingered in the back of my mind since I self-published my first book in January of 2021. Putting out that first book in the midst of a global pandemic was not ideal, so the opportunity to organize a book signing was an unattainable dream that was soon buried under the pile of words swirling around in my brain.

Yesterday, a small group of women I refer to as “The Fab Five” joined me in a small room, and they allowed me to sign their copies of my books and talk about my writing process as well as the difficulties self-published authors face as they attempt to fight their way into the mainstream of the literary world. It is an uphill battle, but one I will continue to walk barefoot in the snow both ways. (I’m showing my age with that reference)

The hour we spent together was nothing short of magical. I allowed myself to feel like an author, and not just a person who wrote a story or two. The more I talked about my journey as a writer, the more I connected to the part of myself that feels like the true essence of my being. I love to write, and I love that the stories I have created have entertained people enough to have them ask to have their books signed by me, and to spark a discussion about the books I will be writing in the future.

When I sent my first book baby into the world, I felt like a writer. But after sitting in that small room with The Fab Five, women who have read and enjoyed my stories, I truly felt like an author. I am compelled to give my eternal gratitude to Nancy, Nora, Evelyn, Sharon, and Jayne. The time you gave to me yesterday inspired me to keep going, and to never lose sight of my dream.

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.