The elevator and the stress of knowing exactly what to say

1 Comment

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

2 Comments

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

3 Comments

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

1 Comment

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.

Micro-fiction and getting the writing bug back

3 Comments

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.

(image credit)

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.

A few glitches in the software

2 Comments

Technology is a wonderful thing. Several years ago, my place of work took the leap from the traditional punch clock to a facial recognition clock. How easy it was in the past for our staff to ask their co-workers to punch their time card when they knew they were going to be late for a shift and how quickly that all changed. This new software meant each individual employee had to stand in front of the scanner to be recognized by the clock and punched in at the precise moment they arrived for their shift.

It was a seamless transition in the beginning. Each employee face was recorded in the system and I had easy access to be able to update photos and download the daily activity. No longer could employees get paid for time they were not physically at the lodge. Making necessary changes when employees forgot to punch in or out was as simple as a few key strokes and did not require any manual calculation of hours as we had to do with the old system. It seemed like the perfect strategy to circumvent any future problems with the time clock – until we hired identical twins.

For the life of me, I could not figure out how two girls could manage to have so many problems with their ability to punch in and out. My job has many facets and spending so much time correcting their time cards was not an anticipated part of my day. I later realized when one twin punched in, the clock would think it was the other twin and the problem was effortlessly fixed by changing their photos and having one twin wear glasses.

Cut to yesterday. We are preparing for a month-long social media blitz of Elf on the Shelf being found doing mischievous activities at the lodge each day. I have created a list of twenty-four activities and many pictures have already been stored, ready to be sent into the world wide web. My co-worker and I have been having a great time setting up all these scenarios and when I go home for the day, she places the Elf in different locations for me to find upon my return the next morning. Yesterday morning, the Elf was sitting on the facial recognition clock.

For those of you who know me, or read this blog on a relatively frequent basis, you know my imagination is a bit “off”. As soon as I saw our Elf on the punch clock, I wondered if we could have the clock recognize her face and set her up as a lodge employee. The software system did not disappoint. After a lot of laughter, aching stomach muscles, several close calls almost peeing our pants and a great deal of patience, Clover became an official employee in the eyes of the time system software. When you hear the clock say “thank you” in the video below, Clover has officially punched in for her non-existent shift.

There may have been a moment when I questioned the validity of the software, but unless our employees are going to make miniature three-dimensional versions of themselves I think we are safe to continue on with the status quo. I can’t wait until our bookkeeper calls down to ask who Clover is when she gets the time sheets for the next payroll.

 

And how does that make you feel?

4 Comments

With December rapidly approaching, I am anticipating many social media posts about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. What seemingly started as an innocent way to get children to behave during the month of December has morphed into an epic competition to see which parent can get more creative with the benign holiday character.

Many blog posts and articles have been written with very strong emotion regarding this cherubic creature. Parents either love him or their contempt is so strong they hold ill feelings towards those parents who embrace his presence.  Some argue that he is the Elf on the Shelf, with a strong emphasis on the word shelf. He may stealthily maneuver his way around the house in the darkness to take refuge on another shelf, but that is his only purpose. Others, holding tightly to their innovative genes, have created a list of 101 ways the Elf can get into mischief during the night.  Spoiler alert – most of those creative ideas require extensive clean-up the following morning although I’m sure the children would be thrilled to see what mess the Elf made while they slept.

elf

Had my life been different and I had kids of my own, my children undoubtedly would have been in therapy either during or shortly after the Christmas holidays.  I blame my choice of reading material but my sense of entertainment tends to lean towards the macabre.  Picture Dean Koontz or Stephen King finding indecent ways of displaying the Elf and you have entered the world that my Elf would have had to endure.  There would have been crime scenes, possible Elf DNA and an abundant amount of Police tape. This is the stuff that my dreams are made of, the stuff that helps me write my books. But this is also the stuff that would have a child sitting in the waiting room of an analyst’s office at least once a week.

elf2

For those of you able to remember to innocently and creatively display your Elf each evening after your children have fallen asleep, I applaud you. You are creating memories that your child will inevitably pass on to their children.

As for me….perhaps I will get out the Elf my brother gave me and track his bizarre habits in a journal.  CSI – Elf on the Shelf.  Hmmmm…..I may be on to something……stay tuned.

I need to hear their voices in my head

4 Comments

I love to read. I was a voracious reader as a child and thankfully that passion has followed me into adulthood. I can spend countless hours getting lost in a story and forget that real life exists. I am transported to the places and times the author has skillfully crafted and I forge an unspoken bond with the many characters who have been cleverly woven into those pages. Their voices, albeit silent voices, for me, are the loudest part of the story.

As a writer, character’s voices, the voices only I can hear in my head, are the strongest motivation in my storytelling. It is their expression and language that seeps from my brain and compels me to tell their stories. And it is for that particular reason, I regretfully do not enjoy audio books.

Trust me, I am not invalidating the popularity of this enjoyment of the written word or the happiness many people find listening to audio books. For me, it is simply a disconnect. It is one voice telling a story that should have many voices and inflections, and I struggle with that concept.

In my younger days, I read most of the Harry Potter series to three children I loved dearly, and I still do. On the nights we would be snuggled together in the King size water-bed, I would do my best to read the stories in as many voices, and accented inflections, as I could to make the story plausible. But hearing audio books today, I fear I did those stories a grave injustice.  It is one voice telling a story from many characters perspectives and I find it difficult to follow the true essence of what the writer had in mind when they painfully created the abundant number of personalities it took to tell their story.

This post, itself, is somewhat of a paradox. I am a writer and hope to  one day be a published author. With that promising designation comes the prospect of one day having my novels available as audio books. The irony of this is post could tragically bite me in the ass, but when the day comes and my novels are available as audio books, I know I will have a monumental shift in my opinion of them.

What is your opinion of audio books?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shameless act of self-promotion

Leave a comment

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.

A visit from an Angel

1 Comment

For the past few weeks, my driving could have been compared to a young recruit at a police academy on a tactical driving course. The biggest difference is, I had been strategically steering my car to avoid running over fuzzy orange and black caterpillars, not trying to narrowly miss clipping each cone in a line of orange traffic pylons.

The Woolly Bear Caterpillar has been attributed with the gift of predicting the length and fierceness of the upcoming winter. I’m not sure if I would put money on those predictions, but The Farmer’s Almanac has historically used these furry little creatures to forecast the severity of the snowy season.

When I came home from work yesterday, I was greeted by two beautiful butterflies in my entrance way. I have had the pleasure of seeing many Monarch butterflies this year but these were unlike any butterfly I have ever seen. When their wings were open, the combination of colors was stunning. When their wings were closed, the mottled blend of grey and brown would be envied by any living being trying to camouflage themselves to find shelter in the forest.

I thought these butterflies were a product of the orange and black caterpillars I had so carefully been trying to protect, but these winged beauties are Compton Tortoiseshell Butterflies, also referred to as Angel Wing Butterflies. I immediately thought of my mother and the tattoo that has secured a permanent place on my forearm.

My mother loved butterflies. I always knew when she left this Earth she would find ways to come back and visit. Every time I see a butterfly, I know she has made that journey and my heart feels as full as it did when she was still a daily, physical presence in my life.

Never doubt our loved ones who have passed come back to visit. You just have to be willing to recognize the signs.