A dash of stress

No, I am not doing NaNoWriMo. It’s an attractive bandwagon, but I’m not jumping aboard.

I have my hands full enough as it is without adding more stress to my life. I lived with stress for years and the result was a tumor the size of a golf ball in my right boob. Don’t want to go there again. Ever since my Year with Chemo I have avoided stress like … well, like I should be avoiding poison ivy.

Not that stress can be shrugged off like an unwanted invitation. “No thank you; thanks anyway.” We need a little bit in our lives or we wouldn’t get up in the morning. In my case, I have to feed the cats. The minute I stir, they are on the bed with plaintive nudges and soft meows. “We’re starving! We haven’t eaten in hours and hours!” In full disclosure, this is more their stress than mine unless I really need another hour or two of sleep. In that case, I can own it.

So I get up, pad to the kitchen, turn on the light, and see … three bowls half full of food.

Just not fresh, poured-from-the-container-right-now food.

Jack enjoys a stress-free snooze

This week, I had a little angst-filled moment of stress when I realized my book club meets Tuesday and I had yet to read the book. Too late to order a paperback so I resorted to the e-version and then wondered if it would show up on my device. This has happened, causing a lot of calling and not complaining so much as whining, “Where is my fully-paid-for-book?”

Now, those of you contending with jobs and children under 18 — no, I take that last back. I have no children under 18, heck, I have no children under 40, and they still cause me stress. Sometimes it is good stress and sometimes it is the tearing-your-hair-out kind. I think there is no turning your back on child-related stress. My mom in her 90s worried about me. My kids worry about their kids. I worry about my grandkids. Nope, that stress is here to stay.

Everyone has stress. School, bills, illness, you name it. Some of us can handle it, some can’t, some ignore it and some (think sky divers or cave explorers) go looking for it. Some people need a certain amount of adrenaline just to survive. Some would like to be wrapped in a soft quilt and sung to sleep.

The key is balance. Too much can kill you. Too little, and life isn’t worth living.

I recently answered a request to speak about my new book (see last post) at the local library. I’m already stressing. What will I say? What will I wear? (This is a real thing.) Suppose no one buys a copy after I’ve ordered a crate from the publisher? (This has happened.)

But in the midst of my agonizing, I realize being asked to speak is a good thing and even if I don’t sell a single copy, people will have heard about it and maybe will buy it later. Or not.

That’s something I have learned not to stress about. I write because I love creating stories and I love it when people buy my books and read them and I really love it when they bother to write a favorable review.

Today’s lesson is that we can’t really live a stress-free life. If we did, we’d be pampered, indoor cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shameless self-promotion

I may have used that title before, but hey, every once in awhile you gotta do it.

I have (ahem-drum roll please) just released my 10th book.  It is called “When He Said Goodbye”. Here’s the blurb:

Church organist Marcie Wicker is the only person, including the police, who doesn’t believe her husband, Stan, is sunning himself on a tropical beach somewhere after withdrawing every cent from their joint savings account. She refuses her father’s advice to seek a divorce and her mother’s advice to move on, and grieves that her college-age twins are letting their anger sully the memory of their father.

With the arrival of the new pastor, Adam Shepherd, Marcie realizes that she is ready to love again, but as neither wife nor widow, she is torn between accepting that Stan left her or stubbornly clinging to her belief that he has come to harm. Adam, divorced,  is struggling with regaining the confidence of his rebellious 13-year-old daughter and wonders if he is ready for another relationship.

Will Marcie and Adam’s faith be enough bring healing to their fractured families?

Earlier beta readers will realize that I cut a sub-plot from the original that a few thought distracted from the main story. I liked it and cried bitter tears (figuratively, not literally) as I cut the offending sections. Sorta like lopping off my little toes.

So I feel this is a kind of milestone as I only set out to write one book way back when and was ridiculously pleased when it was published. Then I got an idea for another, and it was all downhill from there.

The first book was my one and only work of nonfiction. All the rest are products of my fevered imagination. Some are traditionally published and some are self-published, which earns me the title of hybrid author.

Will I write another? Reluctantly, at least until I get started and then can’t stop.  As usual, the story buzzes around in my brain until I sigh, sit down, and start typing just to get rid of it, like an annoying insect. Of course I hope it will turn out to be a butterfly.

With Christmas coming up, may I suggest this might be a suitable gift for the readers in your life — especially if they are fans of Christian fiction?

Here is the link for the e-book on any device: Smashwords

And the link for Amazon, both Kindle and print:

 

If it isn’t one thing…

Ah yes,  you recognize the quote. “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.”

That’s the way it’s been for the past two weeks. Or I could have quoted Robert Burns and wrote: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

My October calendar page started out nice and neat. No penciled-in notations. Well, a few. A meeting here and there. My annual mammogram. No big deal.

Then another meeting was called. And then Matthew came and went, so those meetings were put off until the following week. Which already had meetings penciled in. Some were church and community business meetings and some were fun meetings such as book club. I had to take minutes at three of them. And write them up before I forgot what my scribbled notes said.

Plus visits to the vet: my calico, Spooky, for her  annual exam and shots and Frenchy to check out her ears because for eight weeks I have been putting drops in twice a day. And she HATED them and ran whenever I even glanced in her direction. Fun times.

But it worked and her infection cleared up. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know that, so the little gray cat is still running, casting accusing looks over her shoulder.

I volunteer at the animal shelter every Wednesday morning, which I enjoy. They held a fundraiser, a chicken plate luncheon, so said I’d make a cake. I make a really good Orange Crush pound cake. So you can guess … I left the first one in the oven too long and it dried out. I trashed it and mixed up another. This one looked and smelled wonderful, but when I went to take it out of the oven, it had fallen. Disaster. Not on a par with Hurricane Matthew, but still…

I bought a cake at the grocery store and explained that I HAD baked a cake, and apologized for the substitute.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to format my novel to upload to Smashwords. I got up Saturday morning thinking I would have all day to work on it, and found my right eye inexplicably swollen almost shut. I could manage, but I can’t wear my glasses because of the swelling.

I debated going to the ER (which they now call ED for some reason) but the last time I went after being stung by a  hornet near my eye which then swelled to epic proportions, I was told to just let my body absorb the swelling.

So there we are. This week on the calendar — and how can it possibly be the last full week in October? October just started! Anyway, this coming week looks pretty clear except for a routine doctor visit.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

 

 

 

 

 

Basket weaving 101

I gave up knitting long ago, don’t ask me why. I guess too many dropped stitches and losing track of the pattern discouraged me. Still, I recently decided I wanted something to do with my hands.

So I took up basketry. Afraid that that weaving baskets might be as daunting as knitting, I took a one-day course on making pine-needle baskets. Sounded easy. All you need are pine needles, a (steel) needle, and raffia. And then you go round and round, somewhat like making a clay coil pot.

 I should have known better Nothing is easy. But the movement is soothing, so I’ve kept at it. I think each little basket is just a smidgen improved over the one before it. And I’ve learned something with each one.

You need a good foundation. Unless you get those first, crucial rounds right, nothing you can do will make the rest come out the way you want it.

You need to maintain the coils of pine needles so they are of an even thickness throughout. Otherwise, your basket will will come out lopsided. Same with the width between rows of stitches. You can see where I have some too close together and some too far apart.

You need to be careful whenever you add a new length of raffia. If you weave in the loose ends carelessly, your basket will have lumpy places or stitches where you don’t want them.

So,  in the end, I am still losing the pattern and dropping (or adding) stitches. I’m not discouraged, though. I can see progress, and I feel  the next basket will come out the way I want it.

I work on the my baskets when I need a respite from editing. I had ordered a proof copy of “When He Said Goodbye” and found, to my dismay, some typos that had escaped detection. And, to be honest, there were places I felt a another word would be better. Or where a sentence simply wasn’t necessary.

So that I would not gloss over the same mistakes that had eluded me earlier, I started at the back of the book and read each sentence in reverse order.  Its a tedious process, but it works. Errors become clear. But reading backwards tires the eyes more than just reading, so I needed frequent breaks.

Maybe writing and weaving baskets aren’t so different.  Start out without a plan and you will soon find your story off course with no prayer of getting it back. Dialogue, action, and narrative need to be balanced. Introduce new plot lines carefully or you will lose track of the main story. You should have an idea of where the story is going and what the end result will look like.

I hope to have the book published within the next few weeks. I need to finish it (although to be honest, I could keep fining ways to improve it every time I read it) because I am eager to start on the next book that is now taking up space in my head.

My ambition is to have it be an improvement over my last book, just as the next basket will be better than the one before it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need inspiration?

In the past two weeks I have attended a baby shower, a wedding, and a funeral.

All were life events, and for those involved, life-changing events.

I thought of how writers take advantage of life-altering happenings like these to weave their stories.

Birth: babies switched in the hospital, switched purposefully, born with defects, born into the wrong circumstances … only your imagination adds limits.

I’m reading one of the “switched at birth stories” now. It isn’t a new plot line. Think “The Prince and the Pauper” or “Puddin’ Head Wilson.” Yes, Twain loved the premise.

I think I see where the story I’m reading is going, but I could be surprised.

Then there are weddings. The one I attended was between two older people, both widowed.  It was a sweet and simple ceremony, but many an on-looker wiped away a tear, whispering to a neighbor, “They deserve to be happy.” We knew the backstory, and we rejoiced in the new chance at a life together.

Romance writers writers have grasped the “second chance at love” premise.

Related image

The first love could have been beautiful or terrible. Doesn’t matter, the reader wants the lovers to succeed and find their happy ever after.

I’m editing such a story now.  My protagonist had a happy marriage. I had to make her let go in order to embrace a new future.

Funerals are sad, no matter how much we pretend we are celebrating life. Loss is hard.

But. I have a friend who religiously reads the obituaries. I asked her why, and she said, “Because the people led such interesting lives.”

I have used obituaries to come up with distinctive names, but not out-of-the-ordinary occupations. I realized she was on to something. We don’t want our characters to have boring, run-of-the mill jobs or hobbies. Obituaries are a rich lode of backstories we can use.

Birth. Marriage. Death.

You don’t need more inspiration for your novel than these.

It’s not over yet

As of this writing, Hurricane Florence has come and gone.

Well, not exactly gone. The effects will linger for years as North and South Carolina residents rebuild after the devastation caused by water and wind — Mother Nature’s double whammy.

Downtown Wilmington. Photo by Matthew Ray, shared on Facebook

Roads and bridges are destroyed, buildings and homes inhabitable, and lives changed.

Except for three days of heavy rain, I was not affected. My youngest son and wife live in Wilmington, as does my granddaughter. Was I worried? Yes! But fortunately, even though we couldn’t talk by phone, we could still text, so I was able to stay in contact. As you may know, there was no way in and out of Wilmington because all the roads were flooded or damaged by fast-moving water.

Although they elected to stay, they had prepared by stocking up on ice and non-perishable food.  (A week later my son missed fresh veggies almost as much as he did Internet access.) But they were safe and I am grateful.

I can’ say enough about the rescue workers who braved rising waters to save people and pets, the linemen who repaired downed wires to restore power to homes and businesses, the many who sent food or set up kitchens on site to feed people who had no way to prepare food themselves — if they had any. I am grateful for the churches and businesses and sports teams who collected money or filled trucks with supplies from food and water to diapers and paper towels.

Of course, after the disaster come the predators. People who promise to fix a roof or remove downed trees for prices double or triple normal costs. When you are hurting and vulnerable, you grasp any any help and these people know that. I can only hope that someday the tables turn and they will receive their just reward. I believe in karma.

Today, the sun is shining and the skies are blue. People living on the coast or near one of the still-cresting rivers are likely relieved that it is no longer raining, but they know it is not over yet, and won’t be for months and years to come.

If you can help, please do. There are many sites listed in your newspaper or you can search online. I won’t tell you where to give, but your heart will.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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