The feeling came rushing back

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Last year, I made the courageous decision to let two of the guests at the lodge read the first three chapters of my novel.  It was a large hurdle for me to jump, to trust my writing enough let them read it and, as I sat waiting to hear back from them, I was concerned that their critique may destroy the hope I had for my book.  I was dead wrong and I wrote about it here.

That same couple checked back into the lodge yesterday for their annual “Shammy” vacation.  I was delighted to see them again and we embraced like we have known each other for decades.  We had been corresponding by email over the winter and they were two of the people at the top of my list to share my news once I had finished writing the book.

As she began to leaf through the 8 1/2 by 11 pages, I watched her brow furrow.  She agreed with the changes that I had made in red ink but I sensed there was an underlying urge in her to be wielding the same red pen she had used last year.  Instead, she set the pages down on her lap and seemed so overjoyed that I had finished my work in progress.  She was thrilled and her joy seeped into me.  I was elated.  The excitement I had felt after finishing the writing now came flooding back and the two of us acted like we had just won the lottery.

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I have been dutifully editing my novel for egregious grammatical oversights as well as making the story flow as well as it should so the reader is not lost at the beginning of any of the chapters.  I plan to spend all of my free time over the next week finishing the revisions and beginning the hunt for an agent.  Game on!

They had me at bacon

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I have two words for you – carrot bacon.  Coming from a professed meat lover, I know these two words will shock and amaze you but I have just made my first batch today and will continue to do so.  It was delicious!

My foray into more of a vegetable and plant-based world has been encouraged by a friend who has recently decided to eat a Vegan diet.  I am supportive of his decision and I am hoping that his food choices will help him alleviate some of his medical anomalies.

In his quest to research his new eating style, he has sent me several videos on the topic and they have been very interesting, to say the least.  For a woman somewhat shy of fifty, I have noticed my body does not react well to the foods that were once digested without a second thought.  Bloating is a common complaint so I decided to investigate a plant-based diet and give it a try.  I am not confessing to becoming a Vegan but I am going to give this new lifestyle a fair shot and see how I feel after a couple of weeks.

Food plays a huge role in our lives.  In our twenties, we could eat whatever we wanted.  In our thirties, we became a little more conscientious and made better choices.  In our forties and fifties, we become sadly aware that we are no longer in our twenties and thirties and our lifestyles have to evolve.  I am excited to venture into this new chapter of healthy eating and thankful that the internet is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to recipe ideas.

The carrot bacon is done.  The pistachios, walnuts and almonds are toasted.  The breakfasts and lunches are prepared for the next few days and I am eager to find out how this journey evolves and how my body adapts to the changes.  My first two plant-based dinners were a huge success and I felt full without feeling sluggish.  That to me is a huge step in the right direction.

I am not committing 100% to the Vegan diet.   I may have the odd meal that may not be entirely plant-based but  I am willing to commit to taking this new journey one day at a time.  If it improves my health and well-being, I’m willing to give it a try.

 

 

One dark cloud can rain on everybody

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Moods are contagious.   When a mood is allowed to live and feed on the energy from which it was born, it is given the power to grow exponentially and infect everyone around it, like a slow-acting poison.  That mood can seep under the skin of unsuspecting people and change the trajectory of their day.

Last week, one dark cloud hovered above my surroundings and it spewed forth its acid rain.  What started as a relatively happy day slowly spiraled into a morning from Hell.  I was astounded at how quickly one bad mood could leech itself from its host into every organism with whom it came into contact.  I bore witness to a malignant energy infecting everyone in its path.

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A quick discussion with my superiors resulted in temporarily removing the poison from our work system and eventually the day became much brighter.  Within minutes of the cause of the discomfort leaving building, calm was restored and the dark cloud was lifted.  The miserable rain ended and the sun began to shine once again.

Although it may be a small cloud in a vast sky, one dark cloud can rain on everybody.   We just need to be strong enough to blow that cloud into a different sky.

 

 

 

This is my circus and these are my monkeys

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My aunt recently had a milestone birthday and  last night we had dinner at our family cottage to celebrate.  As much as I admit to having some absurd personality traits and a slightly off-center sense of humor, I realized my apple does not fall far from my family tree.

The conversation flowed freely as we all caught up on the relevant stories in each other’s lives.  Lots of laughter was shared and the dialogue eventually focused on funny stories from the past, as it always does.  Though the tales have been told many times and in many ways, they never get old.  These stories are the thread that binds us, the string that weaves through the fabric of our relationships.   Spending time with these people is home to me.   I am never more myself than I am with this crazy circus I call my family and I am happy to be one of its monkeys.

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After spending a couple of hours around the dining room table, the summer solstice sun began to make its descent into the horizon.  The waning orange glow reflected on the water and we made our way out onto the screened porch to watch the evening sky struggle to hold onto the remains of the day.  For a moment, no words were spoken.  We were enveloped in a comfortable silence as we watched the sun disappear.  A single voice broke the silence, more stories bubbled to the surface and the darkness of the evening was welcomed by our laughter.

As the saying goes, you don’t choose your family.  But if I were given a choice to go back and make that decision, I can’t imagine choosing any other people to go on this journey with me.  Thank you monkeys, you fill my life with love and laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

A wish to build a dream on

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After successfully losing hours of sleep, multiple strands of hair and a decent portion of my sanity, I have completely read through my novel for the first time.  This first run-through was to catch any glaring grammatical issues that I would have been humiliated by had someone else seen them before I had.  Along the way, I did make some notes about slight plot restructuring and that is what the second reading will accomplish.

The romantic portion of writing a book seems to be a tiny pinpoint of light in my not-so-distant past.  The business of writing a book has taken center stage and the formidable task of marketing a book is waiting in the wings, making faces at me and sticking out its tongue.

I have been told many times and in many ways that for every one author who has the good fortune of being published, there are at least 10,000 writers whose novels will never be seen in print unless they choose to self-publish.  I want to exhaust every effort in traditional publishing before I entertain the thought of self-publishing.  Call me a bleeding heart, a romantic, a crazy…..whatever adjective you choose, my wish is to follow the path of the many authors I have read and followed for decades.  Their sacrifice, their blood, their sweat and their toil have carved a path that I want to follow.

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I want the criticism (I think), I want the rewrites (I hope), I want to inhabit my space on the arc of the learning curve and I want to have my book published in the way in which I have always dreamed.  Perhaps my dream is lofty but I am willing to follow the bread crumbs to their inevitable conclusion, whether that outcome favors me or not.

At the end of this journey, at least I can say I followed the culmination of my devotion to writing and gave it everything I had.  In no way have I conceded my efforts to appease the writing Gods.  I can only hope that, after my constant effort, the writing world has something it would like to give back to me.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

The business of doing business

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I have a very large, very dead pine tree looming over my driveway and threatening the safety of my home and my new car.   It has been dead for several years but each day when I drive in my driveway, I convince myself that it is leaning closer to my house than it was the previous day.  It was time to call in the professionals.

I found four local companies that offer tree removal services as well as free estimates.  All four came to my house and gave me a wide range of quotes for different ways that the tree could be felled and cleared.  The company I chose to do the job was the best fit in terms of safely felling the tree with the right equipment and not charging me a fortune to move the pieces off to the side of my driveway.  I thanked the other companies for their quotes and let them know I went with a different service.

Two of the other three were understanding.  One was not.  After I told him I would be happy to pass on his information to others looking for his services, I received a text message from Brian and this is what it said, “Well thank you Susan.  No need to pass my name around since you have not experienced the level of service we provide.  In future, I would respectfully suggest you exhaust your cheaper options before calling someone that spends their time and fuel to look at your work.  Good luck with your tree and hopefully the damage will be minimal.”

WTF???

To say that I was angered would be a gross understatement.   I had to hold myself back from responding with the words that were churning in my head.   Instead, I politely explained that I had chosen a company with a similar rate but a better option for me and the safety of my oak tree since Brian was going to strap the dead tree and pull it down so it would come into direct contact with my 100-year-old oak tree.  (But he assured me the oak tree would be fine!)

What I should have texted was this, “Well, thank YOU Brian.  I will certainly be passing your name around now, just not in the way I had expected since I now understand the level of service you provide.  I respectfully suggest that you not offer free estimates if you are going to whine about the time and fuel you spent doing something you advertise as free and act like an asshole when you don’t get the job.”

The stages of writing a book

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I am writing a book.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m out.   Although the book is not quite finished, I have stopped to reflect on the different stages of writing a fiction novel.

The first stage, for me,  was definitely the romantic stage.  Writing a book has an allure about it.  There is something truly whimsical about imagining yourself dancing in a meadow with a plethora of phrases spilling from your brain.  Each of those phrases floats through the air and settles onto fluffy white clouds until you are able to collect them all and put them to paper.

The second stage is certainly more realistic than the first.  This stage for me was jotting down the plot twists that I wanted in my story but not knowing where they would be presented.  I also had to decide whether I wanted to write a full outline and follow it or if I simply wanted the characters to tell their story as they saw fit.  There are many places in my life where structure and organization are crucial but creating a story is not one of those places so the characters were able to share their voices without my framework.

The third stage was fantastic.  Once I had the basic premise in my head, I just sat down and wrote.  Some days were better than others but I spent a significant amount of time each day seeing how much further I could delve into the story and where it would lead me.  The best part about the third stage was getting excited when I came up with a new plot twist and  having those ideas create even more scenarios that I had never thought of before.  This stage was the ‘perpetual high’ stage.

I am now in the fourth stage, which is the panic stage.  I am so close to finishing the book and now I am second guessing everything I have written.  Are my characters deficient in some way?  Does the story line flow properly?  Is there enough meat in the story to keep readers interested?  Am I even going to have readers?   The list goes on….

I am hoping that there is a bright light at the end of this arduous tunnel when I gain back a little more self-confidence and I can just pat myself on the back and say, ‘you finished your book’.  That in itself will be a monumental occasion.

I already have the sequel planned and seemingly I am willing to put myself through these phases all over again.  They must make some sort of pill for this……