The writing bug is back

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I hope you are all well and staying safe. I have not posted here as often as I would like, but for good reason. I am finally continuing the adventure of writing my second book.

My creativity from March to July was dismal, at best. I could not put together a string of words that gave me any sort of joy. My work in progress collected dust and my characters had self-isolated to the extent I feared they had taken reclusiveness to an award-winning level and would never return. I was devoid of ideas and was deeply saddened by the reality my prolific brain had atrophied.

But a series of chance discussions in August sparked my imagination and charged new life into the decaying cells in my brain. One by one, the neurons began to fire, and the ideas began to flow. The novel that had sat in solemn darkness with only 18,000 words is currently over 31,000 words in a span of two weeks, and the characters are now tripping over themselves to add their stories to the chapters of the adventure I am writing. This is a writer’s dream.

The inspirational voice that sounded was unexpected, but quickly presented ideas that got me excited. The stagnant pool in my head is now churning with ideas. I find myself at my laptop, writing for hours at a time and then having to physically readjust to the life I am living outside of the life I am creating in my story.

This is my bliss. This is the elusive happiness I struggled to find for four months before the muse came back. This is what being a writer is all about and I cannot tell you how excited I am to finish book number two and continue to write the following three in the series.

 

 

The elevator and the stress of knowing exactly what to say

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As a writer, I craft strings of words into sentences. Those sentences become paragraphs that eventually blend into chapters to create a novel. To say that process is easy is ridiculous. When I wrote “the end” after finishing my first book, I felt like I had nurtured the story from conception, and I had carried those words until I had given birth to a full manuscript. After I typed those two words, I wept.

I thought the most difficult part of writing a novel would be the writing itself. I was wrong. I have recently become much more aggressive in my plight to share my words. After chatting with a friend, and then a friend of that friend, I was gifted some great advice and given the task of coming up with an “elevator pitch” for my book. For those unfamiliar with an elevator pitch, it is basically condensing the eighty-three thousand words of my novel into a twenty-word pitch that could be quickly shared on an elevator and outline of the backbone of my book. It was an arduous task but one that made me strip back all the things that take place in the story to the reveal the true essence of what the book is about.

I was forced to forget about the characters and all the great plot twists I had woven into the fabric of the story. I was tasked with creating a succinct delivery of two lines that could pique the interest of someone who could potentially propel my first child into the private school that had a three-year wait list. It was hard. It was intimidating. But it was achievable.

After many drafts that were close to the mark, but not close enough, I managed to put together twenty-three words that truly convey the heart of my first book. I also created a similar pitch for the book I am currently writing as well as a pitch for the third book waiting to be written. The elevator may skip my floor a few times while I am waiting for the right door to open, but now I am confident I will know exactly what to say if given the opportunity.

 

 

 

Even my exhaustion was exhausted

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Frayed nerves aside, this summer was one for the books. From not knowing if I would even have a job this year to spending countless hours researching all the Covid protocols for opening a family resort, this summer presented a profusion of challenges. Thankfully, we rose to meet them all and we had an extremely successful and safe season.

When you work in a fast-paced job, there are few moments you can stop and realize how exhausted you have become. It is natural to wake up in the morning, jump into the deep end of the day and swim with all your might until your feet finally touch bottom in the shallow end, allowing you to tiptoe up the stairs to escape the water. This was the summer of 2020.

Our respite, this year, came much earlier than it has in past seasons and my body responded very quickly to the welcome down-time. And when I say responded very quickly, I mean I crashed. I went from going to bed long after midnight and waking at 5:00 am with a brain loaded with scenarios for the day, to sleeping for a solid twelve hours because I could not keep my eyes open much later than 7:30 pm.

But with the exhaustion came the overwhelming pride in knowing that we had not only survived the Covid summer of 2020, we had succeeded in providing a safe and enjoyable environment for our guests. Though they were aware of all of the protocols we had in place, they were still able to relax, enjoy the change of scenery from the concrete jungle to cottage country and forget the turmoil that still existed in the world outside of our resort bubble. In the end, it was a win-win.

My exhaustion has since been remedied. A few nights of sleeping like a teenager has brought me back to life. The Covid demon that stole my ability to write has been vanquished and my creative life is back on track, largely due to a great mentor I had the honor of sharing ideas with during the summer and who continues to fuel my desire to write.

What I have learned from this summer is that exhaustion cannot steal the best parts of you. It may have the power to suppress your joy, your tenacity and your creativity, but it does not have the power to fully take those things from you. You must weather the storm until the sky clears and have faith the best parts of you will eventually be restored.

 

 

 

How one book has potentially turned into a four-part series

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Writing is an interesting pastime. Some days my fingers cannot keep up with the speed at which ideas come, and other days I stare at the screen for countless hours and nothing happens. For five months, especially during the initial Covid-19 isolation period, my characters self-isolated as well. The voices I am proud to admit I listen to were so muted, I began to think I had never heard their voices in the first place, and I was unable to write anything. But divine inspiration is a wonderful thing and it comes from sources that are never anticipated, but truly cherished.

Last week, I had the extreme good fortune of having a guest at the lodge who had read my first, unpublished novel in July take a keen interest in the story. He had arrived back at the lodge for a second stay in August, and during each day of his vacation, he dedicated a portion of his precious family time every afternoon to meet with me and discuss his ideas of how he saw the concepts of my future novels morphing into a series. My creativity exploded with the force of a Supernova and an abundance of lights reappeared in the dark recesses of my brain. By gently weaving the characters from the first novel into the fabric of books two, three and four, the “Relative” Series was given life. To say his input was invaluable is an egregious understatement.

In the short span of seven days, my creativity came back with a vengeance. Spending thirty to sixty minutes a day sharing ideas about my characters and my story lines relit a fire within me that had long been extinguished. My neurons recharged, the bubbling cauldron of ideas overflowed and one book turned into a series of four stories, now all connected, taking the word ‘relative’ to a new level.

White board at the ready, I will be spending my day off tomorrow journaling ideas for the new books and documenting the connections between stories. Book number two is still in its infancy, but it is pulling itself up to the table and is ready to take a few more tentative steps before it hits the ground running. Zoom meetings have been scheduled with my friend every Monday beginning September fourteenth and I am ready to be accountable for getting this series written. 2020 has just take a giant turn for the better!

 

 

 

 

Getting my characters out of self-isolation

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The voices in my head, the ones I admit I listen to on a regular basis, have been annoyingly silent over the past few months. Those tentative whispers that regularly woke me from sleep at three in the morning have taken self-isolation to a whole new level and have remained reticent since the Covid pandemic took the world by storm. I am not ashamed to admit I miss the sleepless nights. I long for the wee hours when I can wake up with new ideas for my book and the characters trip over each other to take a prominent position to tell their stories.

I have never been one to write an outline for any story I am creating. I am merely the vehicle for my characters to drive in any direction they choose. My responsibility is to follow the rules of the writing road to keep them from careening over a cliff or crashing into a cement barrier. It sounds much easier than it is if I am being honest.

I have always been a big fan of fiction that is character driven. Sure, it’s nice to read stories that are wonderfully descriptive but, if I cannot find endearing qualities in the characters, I tend to lose interest if I am unable to find a connection to the personalities who are telling their stories. I had developed a wonderful rapport with my new characters and am thrilled they felt comfortable enough to share their narrative with me.

But the time has come to coax them out of hiding. I am going to bait the trap. I am going to lure them out of their cushy recesses and put them back to work. They have a story to tell and my fingers are hovering over the keyboard, ready to make some sense of what they are telling me. I went back to my job after a government regulated hiatus. It is time for them to do the same.

The signs we shouldn’t ignore

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When the souls we hold dear move on to the next realm, I believe with my whole heart they send us signs. As strange as it sounds, when my friend Sandra passed away in 2003 I found my ear drums pummeled by the strains of the song The Girl From Ipanema. It was not a song I would ever have on my play list, and she knew how much that song made me cringe, but its chords would sound in random places and that same song magically appeared on the list of music I have on my iPhone. I have gone through my iTunes history and I have never downloaded nor have I ever paid for that song, but it IS there and I don’t have the will to delete it.

When my dad passed, it was owls. I would hear the Barred Owls at night having what seemed to be a profound conversation and one of those miraculous creatures would frequently visit and perch itself on the largest branch of the tree closest to my deck. When I am having a bad day, those owls seem to make themselves known with their signature call and the calming effect takes me back to when I was a child and would curl into my dad’s protective embrace.

Years later, when we lost my mom, it was butterflies. Although Monarch butterflies are relatively common where I live, these stunning winged creatures would appear in such a way that we knew my mom was letting us know she was close. There was a playfulness to their flight, like she was reminding us of how strong her spirit was on Earth and how that spirit continues to be a part of our lives even though she has been gone for almost six years.

Today, still fresh from the raw emotion of having to recently let my dog go, it was birds. Callaway and I used to sit on the deck together and I would marvel at the unique species that would visit my feeders. There have been many different birds who have frequented my deck, but Chickadees have always been my favorite. With the tears still sneaking up on me, I sat in my living room today and watched at least five dozen Goldfinches jockey for a position on the feeder through the window to my right. The slight movement to my left made me look out the other window and a single Chickadee was sitting on the window sill, looking directly at me from outside the glass. It stayed for longer than a confused bird would and its gaze was trained on nothing other than me.

These are the signs that make me feel like our lives are not limited to where we are now. Every one of the signs I have acknowledged over my lifetime gives me a sense of peace. They provide me a continued connection to those important souls in my life and let me know that they have not actually left, but they are now able to communicate in a way that is special to me.

 

New year, new decade, new mindset

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It is the first day of a new year, a new decade, and I have made no resolutions. However, I have resolved to do a few things that are very important to me. A resolution is a decision to do or to not do something. Resolve is a firm determination to do something and I stand strongly in the resolve camp.

I go into this new year with a great deal of hope and while my bleeding heart would love to see the world embrace a new decade of kindness and acceptance, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Those steps need to begin in many places and go in a multitude of directions and I can only hope the ripple effect of kindness is sent far and wide.

My biggest objective is more focused on the path I would like to follow throughout this new decade. I have resolved to accomplish the things I have talked about but, perhaps, never truly believed could happen. Now, more than ever, I have the steely determination to see things through and to make things happen in my life. There will be no waiting for luck or timing, I am going to make my own luck. I am going to take the bull of life by the horns and stare it down until it realizes my potential.

There are a few facets of my life where this new determination could become a very welcome guest. I don’t have a bucket list. I feel my life is very full with the people and things I have in it and I have no desire to throw myself out of a perfectly good airplane. I am simply driven to succeed, to take my passions and harvest every leaf of hope that grows on their vines.

This is much more than a new year or even a new decade. This is a new mindset.

Micro-fiction and getting the writing bug back

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When I find myself wordless and lacking the drive to write, I go back and read through some of my past blog posts. Once I choose one, the suggested posts underneath take me on a journey into my own writing. There are not many things that will make me pat myself on the back but my writing has the ability to make me extremely proud of some of the things that have come from the depths of my imagination.

I used to participate in several micro-fiction competitions. Writers would be given a photograph or a phrase and we were left to our own devices to see where our stories would go. Mine, more often than not, led to the macabre but that is the genre where I feel most comfortable, the creative avenue where the words lead me and not the other way around. Click here to read one of those posts.

Not only did I feel the cylinders slowly coming back to life, I could almost smell the gas as it turned into power. The engine sputtered slightly but eventually roared back to life. I felt excited. I felt hungry for the high that writing gives me and then I felt inspired to put all of those micro-fiction pieces together and organize something resembling a chapbook.

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For now, this collection of fiction will serve as my inspiration. Those pieces of make-believe will remind me that I have the ability to weave a yarn that is entertaining, if not sometimes disturbing. Maybe, one day, I will want to publish those stories or perhaps they will remain on the pages of my blog. Regardless, they have rekindled the writing flame and it’s time to restore the lines of communication to the characters in book number two.

Every now and then, I follow a recipe

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Although I was able to attend the gift opening portion(s) of the day, I missed Christmas dinner and the family fun that followed. It seems one of my Christmas traditions is to get sick during the holidays and this year was no exception. I could have handled the sore throat and cough, but the fever did me in. I am always hot but, when I asked for a blanket on Christmas day, my brother knew I was sick. The pellet stove was cranking out some warm air, the oven was set to an ambient temperature to cook the bird and I was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a blanket. On a normal day under those circumstances, I would have become the victim of spontaneous combustion but I was still shivering. I left before dinner began and after a couple hours on my couch watching Christmas movies, I drifted off into a twelve-hour sleep.

The fever finally broke shortly after one o’clock today. I didn’t have a lot of energy but I knew I needed to muster what I had to spend some time in my kitchen. I had an order for an Apple Streusel Cheesecake and I had three pounds of mushrooms in my fridge waiting to be finely diced and made into my mother’s famous mushroom soup.

It’s no secret I love making soup. More often than not, I channel my father’s method of throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and turning it into something wonderful. I love to experiment with flavor combinations and have created an amazing Cauliflower, Pear and Blue Cheese soup that is outstanding. But I cannot “wing it” with my mom’s mushroom soup. The cocky wannabe chef in me has tried, on many occasions, to make a mushroom soup that would compare but I have fallen short every time. Today, I opened the recipe book and followed it step by step. The result is divine. Both the smell and the taste transported me back to the kitchen I knew and loved as a teenager.

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This weekend, I will be given the turkey carcass and whatever leftovers remain to make what I like to call Christmas Soup. Every leftover, minus the turnip, becomes a part of this delicious soup my dad used to make after our festive holiday dinners. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, gravy – all of it gets thrown in with the freshly made turkey stock to make the best turkey soup ever! There have been years when the leftovers were almost non-existent, so I made a fresh bowl of stuffing, a new pot of mashed potatoes and created a gravy so the soup would be perfect.

If my dream of having a soup truck ever comes to fruition, I am sure the only soup sold on the truck that is made from an actual recipe will be my mom’s Mushroom Soup.