Sunday, July 12, 2020

Rediscovering Myself

I never intended to take a year off from writing.  It wasn't a calculated decision; documented in a planner or calendar.  In fact, for the first nine months of my unplanned sabbatical, I chastised myself daily for NOT writing.  I felt guilty and ashamed; that I was letting not only myself down but also those who believed in me.  Oh, I dabbled here and there with my WIP.  Stared at the screen for hours on end, willing the words to come, typing half-heartedly only to scrap my drivel before giving up for the day, carefully considering the notion that my extremely short career as an author might be at an end.

Then, a few months ago, I released those feelings, setting worthlessness and doubt and insecurity aside, embracing that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  My soul was in desperate need of nurturing; of self-care that I'd neglected for far too long.  I have this issue of only feeling worthy-useful-needed if I'm producing, so I'd said "yes" to every opportunity that came my way even though I was already over-burdened.  I even went so far as to seek out new ventures in addition to creating new ones myself.

"It's only once a month," I'd reason.  "It's only twice a week."  "It's only every other day."  "It's only..."

I suffocated my soul with "It's onlys", effectively snuffing out my creative spark in the process, dousing my joy for writing.  I take full responsibility.  It's all on me.  Thankfully, I recognized my error before I completely self-destructed and began scaling back, withdrawing from obligations (not bailing - I spoke directly to those with whom I'd made commitments and explained the situation) and focusing on repairing the damage I'd done to my spirit.  I rediscovered activities that I loved - baking, gardening, caring for animals, basking in Nature's glory.  The weight I'd been carrying for those first nine months lifted, the guilt over not publishing a promised book evaporating.

It's still in me, that story.  And, it'll get written and published, as will the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on.  Not on the timeline originally planned.  That's come and gone.  But the words will emerge from my fingertips because that spark I thought I'd extinguished...well, it turns out an ember survived. It's glowing softly, waiting for me to add kindling and stoke it into a fiery passion.


The cracks in my soul are almost healed, the integrity of my spirit stronger than before.  My joy for crafting and creating is returning; I find myself smiling as a plot twist or line of dialogue flits through my mind.  I needed this - this unintentional break.  No excuses.  No judgment.  Just being who I am where I am at this moment.       

Thursday, January 2, 2020

My Definition of Success

According to multiple dictionary sources, Success is defined as:

a) the accomplishment of one's goals; 
b) the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence; or 
c) a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.  

In my opinion, there should be an option d).  None of the above.

I realized not too long ago that, up until this point, I've been applying the word 'success' to my life all wrong; focusing on the goal part of option A instead of the accomplishment part.  You see, my goal when it comes to my career is to earn a comfortable income.  Hitting a list isn't necessary (though I wouldn't turn it down if it happened), but supporting our household, taking the weight off of my husband's shoulders, that's my idea of success.  And I've yet to reach that point.

So, in the face of utter despair, I began to reevaluate. 

The way I view my life is subjective.  The whole 'glass half full/empty' thing.  I can choose to feel unsuccessful because my monthly royalties wouldn't cover the cost of our electric bill, or I can look at what I've accomplished in the past six years.  Sixteen books published.  A podcast with increasing listenership.  Connections in the literary world and friendships that'll last a lifetime.  If that's not the definition of Success (yes, I capitalized it.  It deserves to be, don't you think?) I don't know what is. 

It'd be easy to get bogged down by what I haven't done, or all of the things I'm not, or the attempts I've made that have failed, or the goals I've yet to reach...

but I'd rather not.

Instead, today and every day to come, I'll proudly shout from the rooftops, "I'm a success!"  For taking chances; for not giving up when the answer is "no"; for finding ways around obstacles that threaten to deter me.  For digging myself out from under the myriad of negative garbage that I toss at myself on a regular basis.   For not believing my inner voice when it tells me I'm not good enough.  For every single accomplishment I've made up until this point.  

That is the definition of success in my dictionary!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Finn-agled is LIVE!!!

A Finn’s Finds Mystery

It’s LIVE!!!

A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school.  There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.

Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters.  But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message.  There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself. 

Get it here.

A slip of paper slightly larger than an index card fell from between the seams and floated ever so gently to the floor. Almost dropping the case in my elation (wouldn’t that just be my luck?), I set it gingerly on the table and retrieved the note.
Zubcd Yefemeby
Xlw k Wrlm no
Vpqre Upbpqee

Huh? What kind of crazy language is this?
I attempted to sound it out, tripping over my tongue because – let’s face it – it’s impossible to pronounce words that have no vowels. Thinking I’d stumbled onto either an ancient, and possibly forgotten, language, or a secret military code, I hopped back on the computer for some serious research. It wasn’t until the Gothic cathedral mantel clock perched on the shelf above a row of whiskey barrels chimed twelve that I realized I’d been staring at the screen for the better part of three hours. That would explain my grainy eyeballs.
“Time to call it a night. Come on, Garfunkel. Let’s go home.”

Shutting off the computer, I slipped the note into my pocket, leaving the writing case in my office for the time being. Who knew what other mysterious messages might be hidden inside? Turning off the light, plunging the room into darkness, I walked out front to collect my sleepy hound, dim lumens from the street lamp outside filtering in through the plate glass window, illuminating my way and casting shadows along the floor and walls. Headlights from a passing car briefly lit up the interior of the shop, glinting off the wind chimes that hung over the front door.

If only I’d had the forethought to hang a set of chimes over the back door as well. Then, perhaps, they would’ve warned me about the person who jimmied the lock, crept up behind me, and wrapped his fingers around my neck, squeezing until everything went black.
Get it here.

Friday, April 5, 2019

A Different Kind of Motherhood...

It's easy to look back and miss those things in life you wanted that, for whatever reason, never became a reality.  It's harder, sometimes, to look around and appreciate - deeply appreciate - those things that took the place of your dreams.

Recently, I was asked in an interview what I'd wanted to be when I grew up.  I hesitated for a split second before answering with the truth.  I wanted to be a mother.  That's it.  That's all I wanted.

Growing up, I had the best mom in the world.  Still do, actually.  The youngest of four, I was her 'baby', and my earliest childhood memories are of the two of us listening to music as I 'helped' her with housework, snuggling in her lap as she read to me, baking Christmas cookies together, even going grocery shopping.  She was there every morning when I woke up, and she tucked me in at night, and was there all of the hours in-between.  She had this way of making every holiday special, whether it was a big one like Christmas or something more obscure like Abraham Lincoln's birthday.  Mothering, to her, was such a joy and more than anything else, that's what I wanted for my life.

I remember when I was twelve I told her that; that I wanted to be a mommy when I grew up, and that desire stayed with me throughout adolescence and into adulthood.  The only career path I wanted to follow was motherhood.  In my mid-twenties, I met a wonderful man who shared my dream, and together we made plans to have a dozen children.  Yeah, I know, but the way I look at it, if you're going to dream, dream big.  So we did.  And we got married and started working on baby number one. 

And nothing happened.

Months of doctors' visits and samples and tests and ovulation schedules became the norm.  Then, one day, the stick turned blue.  Our elation was short-lived, though, because I miscarried in my first trimester.  I'll spare you the tale of my emotional upheaval.  Suffice it to say we didn't give up.  We tried again.  And again.  And again.  For ten years, we tried; trips to fertility specialists, hormone treatments, multiple laparotomies, eight IUIs, and more money than we could afford, we attempted to realize our dream.  Of course, our plan for twelve children was gone.  We just wanted one.  One baby.

Unfortunately, four additional miscarriages  - two of them ectopic requiring emergency surgery on two separate occasions to remove my ruptured fallopian tubes - and my dream was gone.  We considered adoption; spoke with an agency, met with an attorney, came very close to adopting twins, but it didn't work out for a multitude of reasons.  My heart was broken.  I was never going to be a mom.

The Universe, however, in its subtle way, had been providing me with an alternative opportunity to mother.  During that decade of infertility treatments and surgeries and pregnancies and miscarriages, my husband and I had been rescuing strays.  Dogs, cats, puppies, kittens - even ferrets; any animal that needed a home was welcome at ours.  Caring for them fulfilled my nurturing needs, and though it wasn't immediately apparent, I realized I didn't have to have human children to be a mom. 

It's been more than a decade since my reality shifted.  I'm almost fifty-two now, and sincerely believe that my life to this point has worked out the way it was supposed to.  I was meant to mother these creatures who depend on me to keep them warm and fed and healthy and safe. 

There are moments I still feel the longing to have children in my life and wonder what it would be like today had things worked out differently.  When friends post pictures of their kids' big events - proms, graduations, weddings - or when they share photos of grandbabies, I feel like I'm missing out.  And then I look around at the lives I've saved, and I know I'm exactly who and where I'm meant to be.

This guy here is Rebel, and for eighteen years he's been a part of the family.  Eighteen.  The same number of years it takes for a child to grow from infancy into adulthood.  He's just one of the many my husband and I rescued, and while I have moments where I feel like I've missed out on that part of my life that never was, when I look around my home, all I see is love.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Matter of Perspective...

Social media, for all of its interactive benefits and hilarious memes, has done more to reinforce my feelings of worthlessness than five years of elementary school, three years of middle school, and four years of high school combined.  I know it's me - how my psyche is wired.  I could win a Nobel Prize, an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy (assuming I achieved anything worthy of those awards) and hit multiple bestsellers' lists with each book I write, and still not recognize my accomplishments.  It's a battle I fight every day - sometimes I'm victorious and other times not.  Recently, the scales have been tipping towards the 'not'.

I can list a multitude of reasons as to why my WIP is still 'in progress'.  Some would be legitimate; some would be nothing more than me whining like a three-year-old.  The result is the same - the book's not finished.  Now, dependant upon the story I'm writing, my word count on any given day fluctuates between 'not being able to complete a sentence' to 'take a look at that lottery jackpot - I have to buy a ticket'.  (Okay, maybe just the Pick-Four winnings, but it still counts.)  With this particular manuscript, it's been weeks to months of the former.  I'm making progress but at a snail's pace.

So, what do I do?  I turn to Facebook.

As if being online is a constructive way to spend my time, I log into my account and see post after post of authors citing what seem to be unattainable (for me) daily word counts.  5700K, 6300K, 9100K - EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Now, I know there are some who can knock out those kinds of numbers easily.  I'm not saying it can't be done, and kudos to those out there who have both the discipline and ability (are you available to be cloned?), but I'm not one of them.  On either count. 

So, since my story's going nowhere and my brain can't come up with anything clever to write, I roll the dice and take my turn playing the comparison game, losing miserably.  Then I see it - a mention of dictation software.  Then another.  And another.  And, suddenly, it becomes clear.  Some of those authors who are achieving consistently high word counts have found an alternative way to do so.  What's that mean for me?  Hope.

Now, before you say it, I understand that I'm still going to have to put in the time and effort.  The words aren't going to magically appear on the page - though wouldn't it be cool if they could?  I'm going to have to stay offline and WORK, but that's not the point of this post.  The point is, I was so busy feeding my insecurities that I lost my perspective.  High daily word counts are achievable with the right tools at my disposal, and with that knowledge, I wage today's battle feeling a little less worthless.

 Amazon Prime, here I come!


Friday, February 15, 2019

An Author's Anthem...

Not a day goes by that at least one author friend fails to mention their despair over lackluster readership.   I know I've spent the better part of the past five years searching for mine.  Some say the market is flooded - too many books to go around.  While there are millions of titles to choose from, I don't buy the explanation that readers have too many options.  Don't believe me?  The next time you're at the grocery store, take a look at the condiment aisle.  I bet you'll find at least two dozen varieties of barbeque sauce - and those are just the ones that make it onto the shelf.  People like variety, and while the majority of shoppers might toss a bottle of Kraft into their cart, there are always those folks who'll take home Stubb's or Sweet Baby Ray's.  It's the same with books.  There's an audience for everything - the key is how to tap into it.

Now, I'll admit, I'm not very good with puzzles (jigsaws aside).  My brain has difficulty fitting together moving pieces, especially when they shape-shift halfway through the process.  I'm referring, of course, to the ever-changing book market.  What's hot one day is ice-cold the next.  Sales platforms continually update the hows and whys and what fors, and for someone who, thirty years ago, barely squeaked by their college-level economics class with a passing grade, I find the entire undertaking a mystery.  Sadly, as my opening sentence illustrates, I'm not alone.

I've put a lot of thought into what I want out of this career.  Riches and fame aside - just kidding...well, only a little - I want to entertain; provide readers with a few hours of enjoyment and escapism.  But what I really want is for them to take a chance on me.  That unknown author who no one is talking about that wrote the book no one is reading.  My book.

So the following is dedicated to all of the authors out there who feel the same way.

An Author’s Anthem

You may not know me, but I am not unknown.
Though my covers don’t grace your Kindle
And my characters remain unmet;
My words unread;
My stories are not less.

Days, weeks, months;
Years of emotion and sacrifice are
Inked across each page,
New worlds waiting to be discovered
Anticipating exploration by curious minds.

I understand; my reviews don’t number 100, or 50, or 10;
Not necessarily a reflection of quality,
Nevertheless, you’re wary of investing money and time
Into works unfamiliar.
What you don't realize is I’ve invested much more than that.

Time away from family and friends,
Lack of sleep, of proper nutrition, of sanity.
Of believing I can succeed when portents around me suggest otherwise.
My heart and soul are etched into each word; each paragraph;
Each story.

I write of happiness and despair; second chances and renewal.
Of failure and hope and excitement and expectation.
Life abounds between the pages.
My life – your life.
THIS is why you should know me.

Time to take a chance on something new...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Giving myself permission...

As I've matured, I've realized that lessons taught to me in my youth don't necessarily apply in a grown-up world.  For example, it's one thing to be told, as a child, to not talk to strangers, but striking up a conversation with someone unknown is an (almost) daily occurrence in adulthood, so while it's outstanding advice for a six-year-old, it's not as pertinent to a middle-ager.  Therefore, it's about time I adopt a grown-up way of thinking about how I choose to spend the rest of my days. 

I have this odd personality trait of which I'm not overly fond.  It's the worry that someone (and by someone, I mean every known and unknown entity in the Universe) is going to judge me for the decisions I make.  Now, I can't say that every single choice I've ever made in my life has been stellar, but I've got a pretty firm grasp on the concept of right and wrong and tend to err on the side of caution when doing anything, so where all of this imaginary criticism comes from, I have no idea.   Something to discuss with a therapist one day, I think.

It's e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g to continuously stress over what other people may or may not think about how I live my life.  I mean, if my day-to-day activities are all someone has to worry about, they don't lead a very fulfilling existence.  Just saying.  So, after fifty-one years and a lot of internal dialogue, I'm giving myself permission to act, say, and do what I want without worrying about anyone else's opinion - perceived or otherwise.  Whew!  It feels great to say that out loud!  I'm giving myself permission to have crappy days, and eat junk food on occasion, and spend a day in bed binge-watching TV without owing an explanation to anyone about anything.

I'm also giving myself permission to be proud of my accomplishments.  I have a terrible habit of minimizing my achievements, telling myself that they're not important or that anyone could do the same or, by sharing with others, I'm bragging and trying to make it all about me.  You know what?  All of that might be true, but it doesn't negate the fact that, through my own efforts, I attained my goal, no matter how big or small, and have every right to be excited about the win.

I'm giving myself permission to own (and stick to) the guidelines I create for my projects.  I hate inconveniencing other people, even if by doing so I inconvenience myself, but you know what?  In my advancing years, I've learned you can't please everyone no matter how hard you try.  Shocker, right?  Now, that's not to say I'm going to turn into a selfish b*tch who's inflexible and refuses to help someone who needs it.  In my wildest dreams, I could never be that person.  What I am doing is giving myself permission to put me first.      

In a more personal area of my life, I'm giving myself permission to let go.

My father died almost seven years ago.  His passing was sudden, and unexpected, and drove a stake through my heart.  I'd spoken to him on the phone two days earlier with no inkling that it would be the last conversation we ever had.  The last time I heard his voice.  The last time he told me he loved me.  The last time he would be there when I needed him.

For the past six years and ten months, I've been unable to look at a picture of my dad without crying which is why there's not a single snapshot in view.  While my grief has faded from mind-numbing, chest-clenching, nauseating pain to something else and my head's accepted that he's gone, my heart never has.  To think of him, and how much I miss him, brings a wave of anguish as fresh as the day I received the call.  The thing of it is, though; that sorrow, that misery, my heart's refusal to look upon snapshots of his face - none of that changes the fact that he's gone.  Logically, I know that, and it's time that emotionally I face it as well.

Some irrational part of me is afraid that if I purge the grief from my soul, I'll forget him.  I know that's not true.  There's nothing in this world that can take the love I have for my dad away from me.  Nothing!  And moving beyond these feelings that affect me emotionally, as well as physically, doesn't mean that I'll forget him.  I could never forget the man who was, and is, such a part of who I am. 

So, I'm giving myself permission to let go of the sadness, and pain, and silly hope that his death is all a bad dream and he's still a phone call away.  I'm letting go. 

Goodbye, Dad.  I love you, and promise to put your picture where I can look at it with a smile instead of tears.

The process of living doesn't screech to a halt as we get older, and to stop in our tracks and refuse to move forward - to grow; to learn - is the equivalent of dying in my opinion.  Maybe worse, because it's an active choice.  I resist the idea that this - right now, the person I am today - is the best I can be.  I can do more, be more, create more; and I fully intend to because, you see, I'm giving myself permission to do just that.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do?