Permission to Write

notebook

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a writer’s conference in Niwot, CO, hosted by Rachel Weaver, founder of  Colorado Writing School. I went with enthusiasm for what I might learn and came away with so much more than that. I came away with a head chock full of knowledge, a soul with renewed energy, a heart with renewed passion for the craft, and most important of all, validation for why I do what I do. A hall pass.

We writers are an insecure lot, and if we’re not making a lot of money at what we’re doing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if our time spent writing is frivolous and if we should be doing something “important” instead. Despite five published books, another due out by the end of the year, it’s a rut I fall back into frequently, like the gutters my bowling balls rolled into when I used to bowl.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft (a book I highly recommend for writers of all levels) states that only approximately 5% of writers can support themselves and their families with their writing. Considering his book was published in 1999, eighteen years ago, that the number of writers has grown exponentially with the boom of self-publishing, and  the cost of living has gone up, that percentage is likely even lower today. Does that mean those of us who fall into the less than 95 percentile should pack it up and stop writing? Absolutely not!

Going to conferences or writer’s workshops gives me permission, if you will, to do what I love to do. My day job is a job. It’s my vocation. Writing is my avocation. My passion. And being in a room filled with other writers, those who find joy and fulfillment in the written word and telling stories, doesn’t only make that okay for me, it makes it healthy and good. And  Lord knows we can never have enough goodness.

Conferences and workshops provide the power of brainstorming with each other, the room alive from the electrical energy of so much creativity in one place. In one of the sessions I attended, the writing prompts and exercises produced the synopsis for book two in the Whispering Pines Mysteries. That, alone, made it a success. 🙂

Lunch was spent with Kerrie Flanagan, author, presenter, and writing consultant, who shared invaluable insight. Another was an agent panel with Becky LeJeune and Shana Kelly, who also had invaluable advice when querying. A writer cannot get these nuggets of gold camped out in an office with the door closed.

IMG_3280

Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. In a profession where most of us are introverts, finding comfort within the walls of our home office or tucked comfortably behind a computer screen, conferences and workshops offer a way for us to interact with people to “get” us. They provide connections to others in the industry. And it’s even enjoyable for us introverts!

So write on.  Go create. Get your stories out into the world. Permission granted.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.           W. Somerset Maugham

 

 

 

 

The Company We Keep

We Become Who We Spend Our Time With

Even though it’s not Wednesday, I had to sneak in an extra post.

This morning as I was running around Lake Estes in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, my thoughts circled around who I am today, who I was, and who I want to be. Thank God–literally–that I’m not who I was, that I’m finally comfortable with who I am, and that the power to be who I want to be lies within me.

On a recent episode of Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores (I admit it, I’m a Hallmark Channel junkie), the character played by Treat Williams told his daughter that life is about the re-writing more than the writing. If you don’t like what’s on the page, change it.

Wow! Just wow!

The profound truth of that statement is so enlightening and empowering. Our lives are not changed by anyone else unless we allow it to be.  We have the ultimate power to change our own lives in any direction we want it to be changed.

Last weekend I was out to breakfast in a busy restaurant with some of my extended family. A table of six, not far from our table, got their food, bowed their heads, kids as well, and prayed over their meal before eating. It wasn’t the in-your-face-notice-us prayer, but humble and discreet. My husband and I always pray before meals at home, and when we’re in a public place I will sometimes quietly bow my head and silently give thanks. But only sometimes. Why not all the time? Because I forget. It hasn’t become a habit. That morning, I asked my nephew who is a youth pastor in Minneapolis, MN, if he would say the prayer over our meal. It was powerful, it was beautiful, and it was meaningful.

A week later, I was having dinner with some friends. Our food arrived, we were talking and laughing, enjoying one another’s company. When I got home I realized I didn’t give thanks. I didn’t have the reminder from someone around me, I got busy having fun, and simply forgot. While that’s not a bad thing, I want to be the person who gives thanks all the time, not just sometimes when I remember.

My point is how easily influenced we are by those around us. Subconsciously, we take in and absorb the world around us. We become who we spend our time with. There are some powerful Bible verses about this as well:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1st Corinthians 15:33

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. – Proverbs 22:24

Your boasting is not good Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 1 Corinthians 5:6

Take the time to figure out who it is you want to be, who you want to grow into, and how you want to re-write the pages of your life’s book. Because you, and only you, have the power to make that happen. Surround yourself with the people you admire and respect and you will become someone you admire and respect.

1000789_602599603108372_472059398_n

 

Book Launch Partytime

Untitled design

This past Saturday was my book launch for not one, but two books. Finding Abby was released in November. Life got in the way and I didn’t advertise, promote, nothing. With my recent release, Shear Malice, book three in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, I decided to have a double release. And better yet, sharing it with a fellow author, Donna Schlachter and her alter ego, Leeann Betts. What a better way to celebrate literary success than with a fellow author!

DSC_0029

DSC_0023

In each Melanie Hogan mystery I include a recipe from Nana’s kitchen. The recipe for Shear Malice is Nana’s Scrumptious Chocolate Zucchini Brownies. To stick with the theme, I made some for the launch party. While baking a recipe from scratch takes longer than opening a box, the results were amazing and well worth the time!

Next up? An author event in October with some cozy mystery authors. The planned theme is Cozy With Tea–a variety of hot teas, scones, a fire in the fireplace, and books, books, books.

And now it’s back to Camp. Camp NaNo, that is. A time for relaxation and fun, with virtual bonfires, smores, and campfire chatter with other campers. I’m sharing a virtual cabin with several fellow writers from the Longmont and Boulder area, and creating book four in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, Shear Murder.

More to follow…

Camping

See you next week. Until then…

 

Carpe diem

The Glass Half Full

We’ve been getting so much rain here in Colorado this May that I’m beginning to wonder if we should bypass the umbrellas that are well stocked in the entryway of the stores or go straight for the sporting goods section to fetch some life jackets. I’m pretty sure we’ve passed up Seattle at this point. In fact, this evening we’re expected to get a significant amount of snow, so my husband and I are planning to set the alarm a couple of times throughout the night to go outside and save the newly planted flowers and newly leafed trees by brushing off the heaviness of the snow. Definitely not a typical spring here on the Colorado Plains. And to add a little more variety, we were a little too close to a tornado on Thursday evening.

Tornado funnel

Probably not too smart to be standing out there watching, but I was with a bunch of friends as we all stood in awe of Mother Nature’s power ooohing and aaahhing as if watching a fireworks display. (I try to justify it by thinking we could have all held hands and our collective weight might have kept us on the ground. Okay, I’m reaching there…)

So where am I going with the whole “A Glass Half Full” concept? I’ve heard the phrase so many times over the years, as well as used it. But every once in a while I have an “aha! moment” and it really means something.

One of the few things in life we truly have control over is how we think about something. Whether we view it as a positive or a negative. And what we allow into our mind is usually what comes out in our thoughts and actions. Surrounding ourselves with positive people, positive influences, and positive media leads to positive thoughts, and…well, it all leads to a more positive, successful life. Some examples:

As tiresome as all this rain has been, not to mention that it’s expected to last all weekend, it gives me the opportunity to stay tucked cozily inside and get some good writing time in. I often complain that I’m so busy (more on that in a moment) there’s just not enough time to write like I want to. Well, here’s my chance. I can use those moments to do something I love (aka write) and have something positive to show for it, or I can let that time fritter away while I wish for something that’s not, and look back with regret.

I can complain about how busy I am in life and that “there’s just not enough hours in a day,” or I can be grateful for all of the opportunities given to me and all the experiences I’m privy to. I can worry about what time I’ll actually be able fall into bed at night or grateful that I have a warm, soft bed to fall into. This particularly hit home this morning as I was coming home from the recreation center and I saw a woman living under the steps of a church that closed several years ago. She had nothing but a sheet of black plastic to keep the cold rain out. Wow! Am I blessed!

This morning as we headed to the city’s recreation center to work out in a warm and dry facility since swimming has never been my strong suit (don’t get me wrong, running in the rain is one of the most refreshing and exhilarating activities, but dodging puddles and river overflow is a danger I’m not fond of), I said something to the effect of, “It would sure be nice to be able to run outside again,” complete with a tad of self-pity. Okay, maybe more than just a tad. My husband, the consummate optimist, replied–carefully–“but isn’t it nice that we have someplace we can still go and work out?”

Ghandi

I’ve complained about my job in the past and about the negativity that breeds there. Since I’ve chosen to be more positive, to change the people I interact with, and to be the change I wish to see there, I enjoy my job so much more and am, therefore, more successful and effective. I have a job I love to do (helping victims of crime) and am suddenly finding more spiritual, kind co-workers. They were there before, I was just too stuck in the muck of what I didn’t like in the office to see them.

And tonight when the snow begins to fall? I can appreciate the beauty and purity of the white flakes and be ever so grateful that it will gone within a few hours. 🙂

So now, while the rain is beating on the roof of the house, the droplets creating artistic rivers down the window pane before me, and my cup of hot coffee by my side, I’ve got some time to enjoy working on my revisions so I can get my book off to the editor.

Today, you have a choice how you view your world around you. Whether you look at the glass as half full or…well, don’t even make the opposite an option.

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties” – Harry Truman

57KH-Glass-half-full-wall-decal

Hodgepodge

There’s a lot that’s swirling around in my head these days, the top of that list being sheer gratitude for life in general. There’s something about starting and ending the day with a simple “Thank You” that makes all the rest in between all the sweeter. 2015-02-15 18.37.41 Estes Jan 2015 It’s hard to believe it was a few short weeks ago that my husband and I were enjoying our time in Estes Park for Valentine’s weekend, walking along the riverwalk in the falling snow, everything blanketed in a thick, pristine layer of white. Then cozying up in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea and a good book while the snow piled high outside the window. The weather this past week in Colorado has been beyond beautiful. Add to that the extra hour of daylight in the evenings–thank you Daylight Savings Time–and I feel completely rejuvenated. Once the sleep issues resolved themselves from the time change. But that’s a small price to pay for longer evenings and warmer weather. Yesterday I had the afternoon off work so I slipped into yoga pants and a T-shirt and camped out on the patio. I put my feet up and let the warm sun seep deep into my muscles, relaxing me into a state of bliss. The birds were flying in and out from the feeders, a squirrel ran along the top of the old wooden fence, three times, for the sole purpose of teasing Roxie, my dog, I’m sure–who took the bait hook, line and sinker–and the wind chimes chimed their magical meditative tune. I watched as Roxie settled into a state of complete contentment lying in the grass, head dipping as she dozed, and I savored every bite and crumb of a lemon muffin and every drop of a cup of coffee. It was better therapy than money could ever buy. While on the patio, I finished reading Louisiana Longshot: A Miss Fortune Mystery, by Jana DeLeon, an entertaining read that provided a healthy dose of laughter more than once, and one I would highly recommend. I will definitely be reading more of her work. I also tweaked the back cover copy of my book, Shear Madness, and have decided while editing that I don’t so much like the first person present tense. While present tense seems to add a sense of immediacy, it didn’t read smoothly. So on my next run through I’ll be changing it to first person past tense. I would be interested in hearing what you prefer–present tense or past? Which do you find easier to read? I’m thankful for all of my blogging–and blog reading–friends, and hope you all have a beautiful weekend. Carpe Diem

Light in the Midst of Darkness

The Soul

We have had some amazing weather in Colorado the past couple of days, and today was the best. I was running this morning in the warmth, even the breeze was gentle and warm, the sun’s rays reaching the depths of my soul. The renewed energy and lightness of spirit carried me for most of my run. And I realized how uplifting it is to have this break–or timeout, if you will–in the typically cold dark middle of winter. It gives me encouragement and a glimpse of  spring that awaits just around the corner. It has the same effect as when something good happens in the midst of a whole string of bad. It offers hope. I was even able to hammer out the run-through reading of the first draft of Shear Madness, making notes of changes that need to be made–characters that need to be further developed, the plot that needs to be deepened, paragraphs that may need to be cut, catching inconsistencies in timeline and settings, etc., most of that reading done while sitting on the patio in the sun. What a blessing.

And speaking of blessings, it’s exactly those blessings among the trials in this journey of life that offer us hope for something better yet to come. Those peaks that give us renewed strength and room to breathe after walking through a valley.

One of my peaks came this weekend when I was able to re-connect with a childhood friend over dinner.  We hadn’t seen each other for over thirty years, and yet we were able to recognize each other immediately and it was like we were able to pick up right where we left off.

Coincidence? Nah. I believe it was, and is, purely a blessing.

Kathy and Me 2

Carpe Diem

 

T.G.I.F. – On Saturday

Gratitude

I’m a little late but didn’t want to let this post slip through the cracks. There’s so much to be grateful for that it seems a shame not to express it openly.

My top three for the past week:

3.)  Being a Minnesota girl, now living in Colorado for 17 years, going to the Minnesota Twins vs Colorado Rockies baseball game, sporting my Kirby Puckett jersey and cheering for both teams. It was a win-win. 🙂

2.)  My son’s “Good night Madre” in his own special tone as I call good night to him when turning in for the night. And the bonus when he comes out and gives me a hug. Is there anything sweeter?

1.)  God revealing to me that when others are irritating me, it’s usually not them, but rather a reflection of where I am and my own mental state at that moment.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  John F. Kennedy

I would love to hear the top of your list for the week.

MN 2013 051

All is Grace.