Pay it backwards

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I am not a frequent visitor to our local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I have my favorite Hazelnut Vanilla coffee beans that I grind daily so my house can be infused by the rich fragrance of my morning java, but lately that has changed.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been visiting Tim’s more often than I usually do and each time I have gone, I have paid for the order for the car behind me in line. It’s like a Pay It Forward, but in reverse. Some days, it’s as simple as one coffee. Other days, it has been an order of six coffees and donuts for a work crew. Regardless of the size of the order, I drive away with a smile knowing the person in the vehicle behind me is most likely smiling as well.

Simple acts of kindness have a ripple effect. This post is not being written to pat myself on the back for doing a good deed. In light of all the anger and arguing on social media about current events, this simple gesture helps bring back a sense of peace to my brain. It makes me forget the ugliness in the world and focus on small ways to inject a bit of happiness into someone else’s day.

Jennifer Dukes Lee summed it up best when she said, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

 

The shameless act of self-promotion

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I am a writer whose dream is to one day find an agent and get published in the traditional way. That is much easier said than done.

The publishing industry has a death grip on their door handle and only a few authors are lucky enough to be invited through that door to the magic world that exists beyond the barrier between us and them. Having a novel that is marketable is one thing, being able to find the ONE agent who happens to be looking for that EXACT story is another.

I have been diligent in doing as much research as I can to find an agent but there comes a time when you have to sit back and take a deep breath. The publishing industry has become so specific about the gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation of the lead character in the story that many books will never find their rightful place on a shelf unless they are self-published. My first novel, The Waking Hours, meets none of the criteria the industry is currently looking for in a protagonist. Although the story is a great read and would make a fantastic movie, I have pushed it to the side to focus on my second novel and have heeded their new guidelines by creating characters who align themselves with the industry’s wishes.

When I began the journey of becoming an author, I thought the writing itself was the hard part. I was wrong. Many times when I sit down to write, the words pour out of me. I can’t type fast enough to keep up with the characters as they will me to tell their stories. I don’t have an outline, I just listen to them. The writing is the easy part, the self-promotion and the marketing are the difficult parts.

I talk about writing on social media. I post to this blog as often as I can. I have created an author’s page on Facebook, all in the hopes that I can create a platform that will be ready to hold me up when the time comes to announce my signing with an agent and a future publishing date. This is a dream I am not willing to let go. So when you see me posting about my writing, know that I am not doing it to inundate you with my progress. This shameless self-promotion is the only life raft I have to navigate these unstable waterways until I can float on my own.

Sending 840 characters into the Quantum Field

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Writers spend countless hours crafting ideas into words, words into a story and a story into a novel. I have likened my experience writing my first novel to birthing a child. Long months were spent nurturing this concept and, once the book was completed, I had an outpouring of emotion and wanted nothing more than to snuggle the pages of my book and weep for the joy I felt holding this thing I had created.

Asking someone to love your child as much as you do can be challenging, especially if that person is a literary agent. They are well aware of the painstaking process from conception to labor and delivery but asking them to love that child as much as you do is a hurdle some Olympic athletes could not successfully cross without incident. Where you reserve no judgement about the beauty of your child, agents are the first to find the flaws. But you are the parent and they are the teacher. Their job is to identify those flaws and to help your child to be as successful as you know they can be.

The query letter is the introduction of your child to the prestigious school you have always envisioned that child attending and the agent is the head of admissions. You have a small window of opportunity to convince that person your child will do great things if given the chance. The query letter is exhaustively crafted based on the agent’s criteria and you helplessly send your child into the arms, in essence, of a stranger.

Social media introduced a new avenue to aid in the effort to place your child with the perfect school. In 2012, PitMad was introduced on Twitter and writers are now able to send three pitches, each two-hundred and eighty characters, not words, into cyber space to catch the attention of an agent. This challenge happens quarterly and the next phase is rapidly approaching.

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On September 5th, I will be sending my two-hundred and eighty characters, three times, out into cyberspace but there will be a decisive difference to my approach. I am going to find the head of admissions and help them to see the potential in my child, and I will be afforded the chance to brag about the second child I am nurturing and will soon be bringing into the family of my novels.

This is my opus. The quantum field of possibilities has been listening to me brag about my child and this child, and my future children, will do great things.

 

 

People die twice

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I attended a dinner last night to honor my best friend’s brother who was killed in a car accident five years ago. Family and friends gathered to share their stories and keep Cam’s memory alive with their fond and funny recollections of a man whose life was cut too short.

I have written before that I fall back on words for comfort during times of turbulent emotion. Words give me the ability to process things in a way that nothing else can. I was shocked to find out that many of Cam’s family habitually read my blog and even more overwhelmed when his mother quoted back to me words I had written after his funeral in this blog post.

The patriarch of the family got up to make a speech and was joined by his wife close the end of his rhetoric. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she regarded the faces staring back at her and gave a speech of her own. Her words punched me right in the heart and, not surprisingly, I cried.

She spoke about a woman who told her ‘people die twice’, once when they stop breathing and again after people stop talking about them and cease to say their name. Instinctively, my hand went to the tattoo on my right forearm I painstaking endured in honor of my parents who have both passed. This ink on my skin continually starts an exchange with people and I happily talk about my parents on a regular basis.

This yearly event, held at the cottage Cam held so close to his heart, is a way to keep the discussion going, a way to keep Cam’s name in the conversation and a way to ensure he will never die a second time.

 

 

 

Taking the next steps

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I have spent many hours blogging about my writing. Writing, for me, is less of a hobby and more of a need. I feel unsettled if I have been away from my keyboard for long periods of time. I crave the clicking of the keys and I miss watching the ideas appear on the screen as my brain furiously works overtime to craft a story. It is an amazing gift to be able to conceive complex characters and weave them in and out of scenes that have come from the depths of my creativity.

Until now, my prose has been something I have accomplished within the four walls of my home but that is going to change. Today, I took a couple of giant steps toward becoming a member of the larger collective and have joined a local writer’s association as well as registered for a writing conference in the late fall. It didn’t feel like a monumental decision when I pressed the enter key to send my information but I am now realizing I just took a gigantic step outside of my comfort zone.

Soon, I will be face to face with other authors. I will be in the company of agents and editors. I will be in a room with like-minded people who share my passion for writing. I can absorb their knowledge, share their apprehensions and become a member of a new community that has been created for people like me. I am not sure if my nerves are outweighing my excitement or if it is the other way around. Regardless, I have opened that door and am looking forward to seeing what is on the other side.

Words of encouragement

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I have been picking away at my second book. July and August are generally months when my writing wanes because I am too busy at work during the day and too exhausted at night to formulate sentences. But that has changed.

A friend asked to read what I had written thus far. It was a mere 2,750 words but her reaction to those words was nothing short of amazing. It gripped her in the first few paragraphs and she was slightly sad there were no more words to read. I was elated and that was just the cattle prod I needed to get back at it. I came home after work on Sunday and opened the lines of communication between me and my characters. To say they were chatty would be a gross understatement. They would not shut up.

Sunday afternoon, I wrote. Sunday evening, I wrote more. And this morning the floodgate remained open and words poured out of me and onto my keyboard. By the time I looked up at the screen, I had crafted another 3,500 words and the ideas are still at the forefront of my brain. Thankfully I keep my phone close and utilize the voice memo capability because the ideas just won’t stop.

I am going to continue writing until the impending thunderstorms arrive and I am force to unplug from the world while it passes. One Eleven has had new life breathed into it and its pulse continues to quicken. I may get this thing written much sooner than I thought!

If you can’t handle Amber, you’re not ready for RED!

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This post may be more of a rant than anything else and, for that, I apologize. In the wee hours of Thursday morning, my phone blasted with the warning sound of an Amber alert shortly after 3:00 a.m. I struggled to find my reading glasses to see where the story was coming from and read the details of the alert. The alleged abduction was not anywhere close to me so I settled in to drift back into sleep. The alert went off one more time and I wished for nothing more than the safe recovery for the two children who were reported missing.

Fast forward to the next morning on social media. Once again, a shameless number of people were complaining about having their sleep interrupted by the crass sound of the amber alert through their phones while they were snuggled comfortably in their beds. Countless other idiots actually called 9-11 to complain about their precious sleep being hindered by the obtrusive tone of the alert that two young children were missing.

I continue to struggle with the audacity of people when responding to Amber alerts. This siren, this loud cry in the middle of the night, is hoping to find one person in a sea of tens-of-thousands of people who may be able to bring these children back to a safe haven, one person who may have a clue as to what happened, one person who may be the key to finding the children who have been taken against their will. Why is this a difficult concept and why are people so obtuse?

I really don’t care if your sleep is interrupted. I abhor the fact that selfish and self-absorbed people feel it necessary to complain about Amber alerts on social media and I have already unfriended those who have done this. I cannot even fathom calling 9-11 to complain about my life being interrupted by an Amber alert and can only hope, one day, this type of asinine behavior is mitigated by a hefty fine for those who feel their sleep is more important than the life of a missing loved-one.