What Begins With “A”?

ImageRecently I learned that the month of April is the “Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.” Always up for a good writing challenge, I of course signed up to participate! (I know those of you that followed my 40 days of Lent photo-a-day challenge on Twitter are skeptical because I “crashed and burned” after day 16. I have two good excuses, reasons though: 1) My “me” time is from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM and I couldn’t take good photos at night and 2) The themes were two stifling for my creativity). Any way for this challenge, I have to blog about something that starts with the letter of the day from A to Z for the entire month of April (except Sundays). Today’s letter, being April 1, is the first letter of the alphabet, “A.”

Whenever I think about the letter “A,” I immediately have the Dr. Suess “ABC” book running through my head. . .

“Big A, Little a…What begins with A?”

Why, April begins with “A.”  And that’s no April Fool!

I wonder how many teachers are secretly rejoicing that this prankster’s holiday falls on the Monday after Easter and a lot of schools are still on Spring Break! My daughters were pretty disappointed. I can remember as a school-ager the hushed whispers and laughter in the halls, the girls’ bathroom and by the lockers as we discussed and planned how we would fool our teachers. We thought we were pretty tricky back then.

Besides April Fool’s Day, as a child I remember that April brought with it a very real anxiety in the pit of my stomach. You see somewhere I read or heard or possibly even imagined that April was tornado month. I thought that most tornadoes occurred in April because of the changing seasons. The thought of those cool and warm masses mixing it up in the sky above my house caused me to lie awake many nights, especially if it was thundering or heaven forbidden a tornado watch in effect. The tornado scene in the “Wizard of Oz” terrified me. I lived in fear of being sucked up in a tornado in the middle of the night. I sweated each day of April and rejoiced at the first day of May, some how having avoiding another tornado season (little did I know back then that tornado season lasts all summer). I’m sure the fact that we had many tornado drills at school during April and that for some reason it seemed the “Wizard of Oz” always seemed to come on TV right around Easter contributed to my April/Tornado association more than anything else.

These days I’m not as fearful April tornadoes (although I still have a keen ear for hearing the tornado sirens and will be the first one waiting on a bad storm in the basement – a must-have criteria when purchasing a home). In fact, April now brings with it anticipation of the longer days, spring flowers, budding trees, warmer weather and the A to Z.

What about you? What do you think of in April? Leave me a comment below!

 

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Boots, Diet Coke and Other Stuff that Make Me Smile

As I lay in bed last night, wide awake, listening to that January northwest Ohio wind do its thing outside, I realized that today is the last day of January and I had yet to blog this month. Not that anyone noticed or even really cared (except maybe my twin nephews. Love you guys!), but I do like to write and blather on. And once upon a time, I made a goal or a resolution or something or other to at least blog once or twice a month and pending this post I would have failed. And I so hate failure, especially mine. Although I know that you must sometimes fail to succeed, I still don’t have to like it.

So I mentally went over the past month, pondering what topic I should wax upon today without seeming whiny or bitchy or depressing. The whole point is to make someone smile as they read along. If I get one smile, it’s all good. I don’t do January resolutions as my birthday is in February, so in my book, the new year doesn’t actually start for me until then. I don’t have a rock star life style, so nothing extra-exciting on that end either. Religion? No. Politics? Definitely No. What then?  I went back to the smile. What makes me smile? I like it. So here it goes, this last day in January, the five things that make me smile the most (at least today anyway).

2013-01-31 07.33.09Cute Cards from My Kids
My daughters make me smile on a daily basis. My girls also make me want to pull my hair out on a daily basis. My kindergarten daughter has proved to be challenging. One day I’ll hear words like “Do you have the biggest butt at your work, Mommy???” as she barges into the bathroom while I’m squeezing into my jeans or “Your hair looks ugly” as the stylist finishes a new hair cut or “You look like a witch” after I finish applying eye makeup, pour out of her mouth. I can hardly wait to hear what she comes up with as a teenager. She’s quick to repent though and when the “what did you say?” comes out of my mouth, she’ll tell me “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” (you didn’t, sniff, sniff) or “you’re pretty Mom” (too little, too late). She can also be very kind and loving when she wants to be. Last Friday I had surgery to remove my gall bladder. She’s been very caring and concerned. She’s brought me cards home from school every day this week telling me how much she loves me and how I’m the best mom in the world. These little notes and the ones from my other daughter from days past hang on my cubicle walls and on the mirror in my bedroom. They always put a smile on my face.

2013-01-31 08.28.22Cappuccino and Diet Coke
Yes I am predictable and have certain rituals. One of those being that every morning I walk down to the corner Shell station and get two 20 ounce Diet Cokes and in the winter a yummy Cappuccino (today’s blend is chocolate-covered strawberry). I know both these addictions will not help the cause of my yet-to-be-set resolution to lose weight, but oh well. I can’t seem to give them up. And sure I could save money by getting a twelve pack or a two liter or whatever, but I like taking my walk and talking to the girls that work there. I always have a smile on my face when I leave.

2013-01-23 20.10.08

Boots, Sandals and Handbags
Shoes, shoe, shoes. Yes! I love my shoes. In the winter, it’s the boots. In the summer, it’s the sandals. And purses? You can’t have enough of those. A dear friend of mine always gets a new purse at the beginning of each season. An awesome idea, that I have joined her in. A new bag on a dreary day, makes my days. Pulling on a pair of black, knee-high boots paired with some skinny jeans and long sweater almost always makes me feel happy. It’s like hey me — You look good? Trendy? Fashionable? Passable? At least not like a frumpy mom?  Who am I kidding? (Well obviously, I’m trying to kid myself! Duh!) Anyway I like wearing them, so who cares what everyone else thinks! (Me? Shut up you irritating, little, downer voice in my mind).

reviewsA Great Review
If you don’t know, I write romance novels. Well, I wrote two anyway and am working on the third. The first, Take a Deep Breath is published and the second, Take Your Time, will be out there soon. Getting lost reading or writing a good romance is a sure way to make me smile. Romances always have a happy ending. Count on it. As an indie (that’s the new cool word for self-published) author, I always have misgivings and doubts about my talents as a writer. So whenever, I get an email or someone posts a review on Good Reads or Amazon and gives my book a great review, I can count on a smile to be pasted across my face for a good ten minutes or so (until I scroll down and find a review where someone hated my book). So the review thing is definitely a double-edge sword. On my writing loops, most authors advise not to even bother reading them. Somehow, I can’t help myself. I’m drawn to see what others think. I confess that I am a needy writer seeking approval. Yes, I said it (wrote) it. I’m an approval junkie. Sigh. Maybe that should be my number one would-be resolution for this year.

A Perfectly Clean Room
For me walking into my home to find a perfectly neat, orderly room is the ultimate happiness. With everything in its rightful place, the counters wiped, sinks shining, carpet vacuumed and every surface dusted. Chaos and clutter gone. I can ease back on my couch with a good book, a glass of wine, some soft music and no guilt over something else needing to be done. Now that is pure bliss. And a regretfully, it is only a dream. As you can see, I don’t have a picture for this smile. This state of home-happiness happens once in a blue moon and lasts about as long as a lunar eclipse. The chance to snap that photo has alluded me as of yet. But someday when the members of my household (myself included) finally get on that “let’s clean this place up” bandwagon at the same time, I’ll be sure to capture that moment with my iPhone.

What about you? Tell me… What makes you smile?

The End

Winner-180x180The End. No, as you already know by now, it’s not the end of the world (as you know it). Today is December 23 and  I feel fine (yes, I know you are humming along to that catchy R.E.M. song). It’s not the end of this blog either as some of may have thought do to my blogging absence the past month and half (then again maybe nobody missed me). Life is full of beginnings and endings. 2012 is coming to an end and 2013 is beginning. Tonight’s ending though is in relation to my next novel. I finally, typed in those words that make any author smile, “The End.”

And so now, you know why the words of my blog have been missing these past months. As a working mother, I only have so much time in the day to dedicate to my writing. This past November I focuses and dedicated those hours to my book as I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I spent thirty days writing the rough draft of said novel and came away with 50,000 + words. And, today at around 63,000 words, I finished the draft and now will start revisions. For me revisions are my favorite part of the writing process and hardest part is behind me! Yes. Yeah me!

Anyway, I am participating in a “blog hop” with a group of authors that also participated in NaNoWriMos. The rest of this blog gives you a sneak peak at my WIP (work in progress) that hopefully will see the light of day in the Kindle book store in late February or early March.

I’ve been tagged by Shirley Wine, author of Seven For A Secret (http://amzn.com/B009XJAKLS) and  Lovers’ Lies (http://amzn.com/B009GQGUWQ) who recently shared with readers about her current WIP at www.shirleywine.com.

Thanks Shirley Wine for this opportunity to talk about my current WIP!

What is the title of your next book? Take Your Time

Where did the idea come from for the book? I got the idea for this book as I was finish writing my last book. Take A Deep Breath was about a woman named Liv, who has four sisters. The sisters don’t play a part in the first book, but I thought it would be fun to write about each one. The second book centers around the youngest sister Maddy, who we find out from Liv’s daughter Sara is a photographer.

What genre does your book fall under? Contemporary Romance

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Late-bloomer, Maddy takes her time finding love, but wonders if she waited too long.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Or are you with a publishing house? I will self-publish this book as an ebook and a paperback via Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble. I love the creative control self-publishing gives me. I hate waiting, especially if  I’m going to be rejected and haven’t sought an agency or publishing house. After researching indie-publishing it seemed like the perfect avenue for me. The royalties are higher as well. The hardest part has been finding readers, but I have slowly built a small following with my first book and hope it will grow with this one and the next… I have thought about shopping my books around, but for now I’m enjoying success as an indie author.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? It took me a little over 45 days to finish the first draft of this manuscript. I wrote mainly at night from 10:00 PM to midnight.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I think my writing style and stories are most comparable to Robyn Carr, Susan Wiggs, Barbara Freethy and Debbie Macomber.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? I wanted to write another book in this series ever since I published my first book, but finding time without having a real deadline was the hardest part. The NaNoWriMo website helped motivate me to get the draft finished. Emails from readers of my first book inspired me to write the next one.

If you get a chance stop by my fellow writers’ blogs and read about the books that they wrote during the NaNoWriMo challenge and find out what prompted them to write their books.

By the way, Take a Deep Breath will be free in the Amazon Kindle store from Dec. 26-30!

 

 

 

Walking On Sunshine….Oh Yeah!

A few weeks ago, a few days ago even, I was plagued with self-doubt. Yes, I love to write and tell stories. Writing is one of my passions in life. It’s what I want to do, what I’m compelled to do. But loving to do something and being passionate about something is not the same as being good at something. And, I am one of those people who likes to be good at what I do, and if I’m not I move on. I try to think of it more as knowing my limits as opposed to being a “quitter.” Practice makes perfect, hasn’t always rung true in my life. After eight years of piano lessons, I knew I’d never be a concert pianist. Two years of gymnastics, two years of CYO volleyball, eight years CYO basketball and an athlete I’ll never make. Yet, writing was something I always something I thought I was good at. The words flowed through my fingers naturally, effortlessly. My talent. So why the sudden, “am I good enough” self-doubts?

Last fall I blogged about my “dream deferred.”  Throughout my life, I’ve taken a lot of the “safe” paths. I took the writing jobs that provided and still provide and steady pay check and benefits. Those are all good things. I get paid to write, which is wonderful, but I wanted more. So I started this blog as a creative writing outlet. But, the big dream was to write and publish a novel. And in May, I fulfilled that dream with my contemporary romance, called Take A Deep Breath. When I finished the book, when I saw it the Amazon store, when I held the paper back in my hands for the first time, I felt wonderful. An author at last!

The problem? No one was reading my blog. No one was reading my book. Why? The word haunted me. Why? Was I just a wanna be? Did I even have any talent as a writer? Sure my family and best friends, reassured me. But the niggling pessimist inside me, kept saying, “They just don’t want to hurt your feelings. They’re just being nice…” I started wondering if I was just wasting my time trying to publish my novel, the blog and should just “move on.”

And then, three things happened. The first my best friend, who is in marketing, offered to help me with my marketing efforts. She sent me a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and had me fill it out. It gave me a lot to contemplate. She is working on completing the SWOT and giving me some other ideas. The second thing that happened was I read a novel called “Forged In Fire” by Trish McCallan. At the end of her novel she asked readers to write a review, lend the book, etc. and that she would send those that did a copy of her next book for free. What a great idea! I loved her book and wrote the review. I emailed her afterwards and told her about my book. She gave me some great ideas about marketing and told me about a Yahoo group just for indie romance writers. The last thing that happened was I attended my first Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America meeting and met some very successful and inspiring romance authors.

This weekend everything culminated for me. I added a similar blurb about writing a review to my book, submitted it to the Kindle Select program, and  offered the book for free on Amazon. I spread the word about the book via Facebook and Twitter and the Yahoo group. Perhaps the biggest difference, though, was that I notified Michael Gallagher about my book, and he included my book in his Free Kindle Books and Tips blog. Readers started to download my book. As the number of downloads grew larger, so did my smile. No, I wasn’t am not making any money, but people were downloading my book! Then within 24 hours of the first downloads, I started getting reviews. Wonderful comments and 5 star reviews! Readers liked my book. People that didn’t even know me liked my book and wanted to read more!

I know external validation isn’t the end all and be all. I know I don’t need someone to tell me, “I’m good enough,” but it sure helps!  For the next couple of days, I am going to bask in this success. I know if no one else reads this book or leaves a positive review or even if they leave a bad one, that I am good enough.  And so today…I am walking on sunshine! Oh Yeah! And tomorrow, I’m working on my next book (already in progress)!

BTW – if you are reading this blog before midnight Pacific Time on July 31, 2012, you can still download Take A Deep Breath for free from the Amazon Kindle store.

Handwriting – Nature or Nurture?


keyboardMesmerized a moment, I watch my 10-year-old daughter as she carefully writes instructions to her father on how to take care of her rabbits while she is gone. She perfectly forms each letter in neatly uniform lines, asking me how to spell unknown words as she goes along. I’m always amazed at the exact neatness of her hand when I read over her homework, a note, a song or a story she’s written. At ten, her scroll is neater than mine has ever been or will be. Her handwriting  reminds me of my mother’s and sister’s teacher-perfect neat script.

I’m sure no one has ever (or rarely if so) pointed at a word or sentence they’ve written with a confused look of disdain on their faces and said, “What does that say?”  I on the other hand have heard those oft spoken words from teachers, my grandmother, mother and the like.  My brain, my thoughts, my ideas typically come fast and furious, and my hand with a pen in its grip can’t keep up.  The faster I write to keep up, the harder those words are to translate into meaningful prose for the untrained eyes and sometimes even my own. You see, unfortunately for me there are times my brow furrows in the same look of confusion as I concentrate on my script trying to decipher what I wrote only perhaps days before. Huh, I can’t read it either… Wracking my mind, though most times I can translate the cryptic writing into some form of English.

My handwriting resembles my father’s and paternal grandmother’s looping scrawl. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I concentrated, how much I practiced I could never train my letters to look like my mother’s or my sister’s. As a grade-schooler, a high-schooler and even into my college years, this mark of inadequacy both bothered and haunted me. The only “D” on my grade card I ever received was in third grade handwriting. In high school, the nun that taught me freshman English kept me after school one day to admonish me and tell me my handwriting was atrocious and that if it didn’t improve my career, my life would be going nowhere, it would limit me and hold me back. I sat stunned, holding back unshed tears. I knew my handwriting was bad, but would it really hold me back in life? In reaching my dreams?

My father, who is also in the messy handwriting club, tried to encourage me and help boast my self-esteem after my talk with Sister Neat Handwriting. He pointed out that Einstein’s handwriting was practically illegible and he’s considered a genius! He went on to name famous inventors, authors and many others whose lack of penmanship had not held them back (although maybe if they’d got a gold star in handwriting they’d have gone even further…who knows?). However, I’ve always strove to please others and the bad handwriting black mark on my so-called record was one I desperately wanted to erase. It wasn’t that I was lazy or didn’t try or didn’t care. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table, a pen posed in my hand above the lined paper of my composition book, writing my letters over and over and over. Hours and hours of practice made my handwriting legible when I wrote slowly enough, but never would it be called neat.

Luckily for me though, the age of keyboards, computers, and laptops appeared just as I began college. The advent of these beloved inventions rendered my bad-handwriting pointless and mute. I rarely have to write anything using the antiquated pen on paper. The typing class I took my sophomore year of high school is probably the best, most helpful class I’ve ever taken. My fingers fly over the keyboard, keeping pace with my thoughts and ideas turning them into words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and even a novel. And as read back over the pages that streamed through those fingers, I can read every word without question.

Alone At Last

The house is quiet. No one is whining or arguing or screeching. The TV is not blaring, nor is it even on. No music, no vacuuming, dish washer hum or clanking of the dryer, the wind isn’t even blowing. The only sounds I hear are the permanent ringing in my left ear, the taping of my fingers on the keyboard as I write and the occasional car drive down my desolate country road. More bliss. Alone at last with only my thoughts to keep me company.

It had been over four months since I last found myself in this wonderful predicament. And now for the second time in three days, I find my self totally and completely alone in my own home. Yeah me!!!  Thursday I took advantage of the fact that the girls still had one more day of school before the holiday break and my husband had to work, and took a vacation day. What did I do with my short-term freedom you might ask? Did I sleep until noon and then take a nap at 3, stay in my pajamas all day, read the next romance in the series, take a luxurious,soothing bath, dance naked through the halls singing Jingle Bell Rock (sorry for the visual there), eat chocolate ice cream as I painted my toenails pink? Sigh, alas I did not, but I could have, if I wanted to, and no one would be the wiser.

Instead, though I finished the last-minute Christmas shopping, bought groceries and wrapped all the presents. You might not think those three things would take that much time…but after I dropped the kids off at school at 8, it was almost 11:00 by the time I got done running errands. I did at least indulge in some cinni-minis from Burger King. After putting the groceries away, I started the daunting wrapping task. I drug all the presents, paper, ribbons, tape and scissors into the living room. What a pile it was. At this point I almost did go back to bed for that nap! But to encourage myself, I popped in the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie (at least I would have Jack Sparrow to keep me company) and went about the task.

Even though I had two pairs of scissors, three rolls of tape and a couple of pens it seemed I was always searching for one or the other. How they could manage to hide and move was beyond me – I think my daughter’s “Elf” may have been messing with me. In the end though, the wrapping was done and so was the shopping. I glanced at the clock and realized it was already almost 4 o’clock. I had still had to stop by work and pick up the last of the online presents I bought due to be shipped by the end of the day and then get the kids. Damn-I hadn’t even started my cleaning frenzy…

And thus my alone time end. So, today I find myself with a second chance at aloneness. The kids spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s and my husband went hunting with his dog.  Hmmm…what to do, what to do. As you can tell by now I have not started my cleaning frenzy yet nor am I sleeping in. I am procrastinating by blogging instead… I know I should vacuum and dust and mop and clean the toilets, but well as my daughters would say…”That’s not fair!” Why should I have to do all the cleaning, while everyone else is having fun. The house can stay dusty for one more day, week, month, year.

I think I will dance nak… Just kidding, I can’t even subject myself to that, but maybe I will stick Just Dance into the Wii and do a little clothed “Hammer Time!”  Can’t Touch This….

Happy Holidays!

S

Anxiety Amuck

As I cleared the pile of junk mail cluttering our dining room table, I salvaged a scrap of paper and set it aside for safe-keeping. No, I’m not a hoarder, although sometimes I do feel buried alive among the toys, clothes and shoes that litter the floors of my home.  As soon as I pick things up, it seems something (or someone) else sneaks behind me and puts something else in its place like quick sand.

But back to the all important scrap of paper. On it my nine year-old daughter had scribbled the lyrics to a Christmas song she had written. I smile to myself as I read her neat handwriting and phonetically spelled words. Her song is about having a “wonderful time.”  I take the scrap upstairs and put it in my keepsake box with the other songs, stories and poems she has written. She loves to write and she loves to read me what she has written. Pride and love fill me as I listen to her and watch her face light up as she reads something she has written aloud. She asks me if I like what she has written and of course I do. She is aspiring and I want to help her get there. I admire her creativity and openness. Her kindness and empathy.

She reminds me a lot of myself at that age. I still have a box of old stories and poems that I wrote when I was a kid. We both like to be liked and are hurt easily. Criticism can cripple us; even if it is not meant to. As I have got older I have learned to take criticisms as avenues for growth and not take it to heart. After all, it is my right to agree or disagree with it. It is just someone else’s opinion. They don’t have to like me, nor I them. I am worth more than one person’s opinion. My daughter has not learned these lessons yet and worries — a lot. This is another trait she got from me.

Nature or nurture? I am not sure. Was she born with propensity toward worry and anxiety or does she emulate what she sees? I have struggled with worry, anxiety and panic for most of my life. I empathize with the stomach aches and  racing heart. I know what it feels like to have some unknown heaviness pressing down on your chest threatening to cut off your breath. I intimately know about the restless indecision and unrelenting “what if’s” that make you want to jump out of your skin and run as far and as fast as you gave. I understand the waves of nausea, hot and cold flashes and the urge to pull the covers over your head and sleep. Sleep to escape. Sleep in the hope that tomorrow, you’ll feel OK again, but fear prevents you from actually sleeping, because what if you’re not?

Over the years I have learned many coping skills and have learned to keep the anxiety and panic at bay. My faith has given me that strength; continues to feed that strength. And still I worry about my daughter. I know I should give it to God and I try, but… The big “but.” I want to spare her from the pain, protect her and keep her safe. I don’t want to watch her go down the same path I did. I want to reassure her she is OK, not matter what. I teach her what I know when she starts to “freak out,” and it helps. She is seeing a counselor and created a worry box to put her worries in. She is making one for me as write this. She has a notebook where she writes down all the gifts God has given her that day – watching a funny movie, playing with her best friend… She re-reads her list of gifts when she starts to worry about something. The other day, she gave me a new notebook she got the other day from the treasure chest after one of her appointments. She told me I could use it to write my gifts from God in.

At the top of the list right after God’s grace, is her name and her sister’s name. I am truly blessed.