Tag Archives: writing

Happy Accidents

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A happy auto accident is when nobody gets hurt. That’s what emergency people kept telling me when this happened to me last weekend. At first, I didn’t see it that way. My Jeepster was new with only two thousand miles on it and, as I told one of the sweet police officers, I had my last car for ten years and never even dented it. I’m not usually attached to my vehicles. I like a nice ride, sure, but the Jeepster was my first car crush. So I was a little heartbroken.

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And, as usual, when disaster (as I then saw the accident) struck, I was alone. My two best friends in town were unavailable. My husband was gone on a long weekend. I myself was headed out of town on an adventure of my own. My bags were packed. I hadn’t even hit the village limits when bam, the Jeepster hit a car in front of me and my air bags unpacked. The results looked like this arm and leg shot, but more all over my body. The arm (on left) is an air bag burn. The leg (on right) is just a bash.

They are nice shades of purple and yellow now. Healing and hurting just a little bit. That night, they didn’t hurt at all. After it was determined that everyone was okay and I was not getting a ticket as really the guy had slammed on his brakes so fast I didn’t have time to react, after I had unbelted and removed my overnight bag and checked my Mac to make sure it still worked (priorities!), I decided what the hell. The Jeepster was done for and I needed a rental. My bags were packed. I might as well continue on my journey

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EMT and police, even the tow truck and car rental guy, everybody thought this was an okay idea. My first instinct had been to go home and hide under blankets in bed. But then I thought about that empty house, and I just didn’t think it was gonna be good to go there. I needed to move forward with my plans. So I did. I was maybe 90 minutes late for check in and I was famished. No time for writing before dinner, but I did have an emergency vodka (mandarin orange!) on hand, so I poured that over ice and pressed my not-jeans. Yes, this picture is BEFORE the accident. But they are the same pants. I call them my Jack White pants because they remind me of him.

IIMG_1031 didn’t have the foresight to realize this was going to be a photo blog, as I don’t do those. But I always admire my friend Sharon’s photo blogs, and I did take SOME pictures, so I thought, well if I have to write about this, and I do, I’ll do it a little different. So thanks for the inspiration, Sharon! I only took this photo of myself for my dear friend Bodicia, who encouraged me to take a solo trip when I wavered. She gave me specific instructions on the delicious meal I should order and the wine I should drink and the snap I should take and send to her. So I did.

You can’t tell but my face has so much concealer on it (my nose and cheeks looked like my arm, red and raw) and it looks puffy to me, too. I had a very attentive waiter and a wonderful dinner. I let him treat me like royalty. I felt so good; I can’t remember the last time I felt that good. (Well, yes I can, but I’m not sharing.) I was, without a doubt, in shock. But I didn’t realize it. I just sipped my cocktail and thought, wow this is a happy place.  And I tweeted the picture of myself to Bodicia.

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This was my view. The staff didn’t know a thing about my accident, but they gave me the best table in the house, tucked into a corner where I had full view of the room but felt private, like I was in my own little world. Well, I was. And that magic feeling I mentioned before still has not gone away six days later, even as reality crashes in. I had a few moments these past six days of feeling anxious and worried, but much more I felt cared for by some unseen force, by the universe and by love. So much love came pouring in when I posted pics of the accident on Facebook. I think I was still in shock then because somehow a sunset got in the pictures … I feel like it was a happy accident. The sun is setting on a lot of trouble I’ve been carrying with me for awhile now.

IMG_0942One of my friends, Laura (here with me in Seattle) had a great perspective on my wish to find meaning in the accident, writing something like, well I guess you have the answer to the dilemma we discussed over brunch last week. Laura and I had an amazing time, we’ve known each other several years, but it was our first real life meeting and within minutes I was confiding in her like an old friend and she was listening and exuding empathy. Laura (I realized all at once) was right. And clarity about the next phase of my life was not all I gained by the Jeepster’s unfortunate crunch.

I also learned to take care of myself in a way I had only taken care of others before. This is a lesson I will never let go. It has taken firm root. Call it shock, call it my sweet Aunt Louise, who said “bubble bath, lots of bubbles.” It just so happened that my hotel room had a soaker tub twice as tall as the one at home. I’ve only ever been in a taller one in Belgium. And there on the counter was a nice bottle of bubble gel. After dinner, I drew myself a relaxing bath. I’m sure it helped the next day, when I hardly felt sore at all.

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After the bath, I fell into a deep sleep and woke three hours later at one a.m. feeling so alive and refreshed. I immediately thought “this was supposed to be a writing retreat, and I haven’t written a thing except Facebook comments!” I grabbed Mac, pulled pillows all around me and got to work, writing until the sun came up. Then I took a cup of coffee outside by the water and watched rosy-fingered dawn fight its way through the clouds. And then, I checked out of the hotel and drove home, where I slept the day away and got up to do more night writing.

IMG_1036As it must, reality has intruded on my happy accident interlude. But what remains is the sweetness of my find, and that is more than just figuring out an answer to my “What’s Next?” dilemma. I have my answer now. I know where I’m going, and I know how I will treat myself along the way. The lessons of that blissful adventure and the feelings it captured will live long after the bruises fade.

 

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Guest Blog: Plans by author Cynthia Harrison

I’m so chuffed! My wonderful pal from across the pond published my post on “Plans” today at A Woman’s Wisdom! Check it out:) Guest Blog: Plans by author Cynthia Harrison. Those of you who are my Facebook friends know about the irony behind this story as a plan I made over the weekend went crazily awry. I’ll be writing about that, maybe with pictures, soon:)

Feisty Fifties

59.Cindy.IMG_0913At 59, I’m almost done with the decade Gail Sheehy calls “feisty” and I wonder what took me so long. To get feisty, I mean. Really, I spent my 50s publishing novels and teaching writing. Not what I’d call feisty  activities. But then something happened this year, well, a lot of somethings happened, and I snapped into feisty so fast it made my head spin.

As an example of my new-found adventuress spirit (it’s not new, it just went away for awhile and now it’s baaaack) I’m going away alone today on a special sort of date with myself. I’m even spending the night. I’m not really clear on why I’m doing this except something inside says “you must.”

With Mac and my camera, I’m hoping to get some writing done and maybe start dabbling with a new video project. But then, maybe I’ll just write a few pages and then read. (I want to learn about this next stage Sheehy talks about, the “Selective Sixties” which are right around the corner for me.) I’m going to be spontaneous. I’m going to look out at the water. I’m going to order a really good dinner and eat alone in the restaurant attached to the hotel. I’m considering dressing up. Which for me means not jeans. Just going to see how I feel when I get there.

I first heard about writing alone in hotels from the ever-feisty Anne Stuart. There’s something about being alone in a room with a book project on deadline that fires up a creative spark. It works in a way being at home does not. Stuart has often drafted entire books over a long weekend this way. My friend Laura Zera also swears by writing outside the house. She has a little office she goes to every day where she is not distracted by domestic duties. Natalie Goldberg prefers coffee shops as does Jennifer Weiner.

Me, I like writing early in the morning, in my blessedly empty house, in my pajamas. But just lately I’ve been stalled on my current fiction project and the mere thought of this mini-getaway sparked some plot ideas. Really, I can hardly wait. Check in is at 3. Better start packing:)

Words on Fire

candleOnly four dry days in June 1977, the year my basement flooded. Elvis hadn’t died yet, but another, more personal loss happened under my feet as I slept. My basement filled halfway up the stairs with water. The chaos involved in that was nothing to a big drama in three small boxes that seemed no big deal to my husband.

I’d been writing diaries and filling notebooks with poems since I was 11 or 12. I saw right away that all three of the boxes were soaked, my stuff ruined. I grabbed the top notebook anyway. It was wet, but the ink had only smeared, not completely disappeared.

“My poems! Mike! What should I do?”

He looked down at me. “Throw them away,” he said. And then he left for work.

Alone with the ruins of a necessary part of me I barely understood, I wondered if I’d come to a sweet resting place where my head no longer filled up with words on fire until I had to write them down or burst into flames.

I kneeled over the boxes, not caring that I was wearing my favorite pair of bells. The jeans would survive; they were made of tough material. My writing, on the other hand, was disintegrating before my eyes. I pulled the top spiral bound books, which seemed semi-okay, out of the boxes. My oldest stuff–the white diary with gold lock and key, a picture of Mickey Dolenz, my favorite Monkee, hundreds of sheets of loose notebook paper—all of that was unsalvageable soup.

I came upstairs, my arms full of notebooks. I set them in the kitchen sink and went back down to clean the mess, a jug of Lysol in one hand, old towels in the other. Hours later, I wrung out the rags and hung them on the laundry line that spanned the basement ceiling.

I looked at my notebooks in the kitchen sink, noticed how the light from outside shone down on them. For the first time in ten days, the sun had made it through the clouds. I opened all the windows before getting into the shower.

“What are these doing in here?” Mike said, coming home from work to a sink full of poems instead of dinner on the table.

“Oh, I, ah, maybe I can save them.” I combed out my long wet hair and avoided his eyes after I noticed that he was looking at me like I was a sad and deluded little girl.

While we waited for the pizza delivery, Mike watched the news and I hung my poems up to dry with the damp rags on the line downstairs.

The next day, I set up a card table in one of the empty bedrooms. Then I called my mother and asked to borrow her typewriter. I went to the mall, but instead of shopping for shoes or another pair of velvet hot pants, I bought typing paper, a new ribbon, and a bottle of White Out.

Fifty-six poems survived the great flood. And surprising stuff happened when I typed them out on fresh paper. Hours flew by like minutes. I discovered the value in revision. And I learned how to woo inspiration. The old seductress had come again, and since that day, she has never left.

Blog Tour

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Thanks to my good friend, Terry Tyler, for inviting me to take part in this tour. I met Terry on Twitter; she was one of the first reach out & help me as a writer on Twitter. Because there’s a special way to interact as a writer on social media, and there are rules of etiquette, as well as accepted marketing practices, just like in any other social or business situation. Right. The questions:

What am I working on now?

I’m currently working on three books, all at differing levels:

♥ I’m doing tasks like filling out the art fact sheet and writing blurbs for my next Wild Rose Press release, Luke’s #1 Rule. Awaiting edits that should land on my desk any day now. I expect Luke out sometime this summer.

♥ I am also revising my indie paranormal, Sweet Melissa after receiving comments from beta-readers. Sweet Melissa will released on or before June 1 of this year.

♥ Finally, I am writing the first draft of Fast Eddie, my third book in the Blue Lake series with Wild Rose Press. Eddie and his bar and grill have made cameos in both previous Blue Lake books. I’m finding out some very interesting things about this mystery man. The secondary plot fills in Bob and Lily’s love story from Blue Heaven, cut short then by college and Lily’s issues. That deadline is October, so my plan is to write fresh material every day and have a great opening chapter for my critique group May 9.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I have two genres: contemporary romance and paranormal. One is e-published with POD and the other is indie and e-book only. I think that’s different right there. But my romances are different in that TWRP has let me grow beyond the normal boundaries of romance. I have subplots. I have other POVs. I am closer to women’s fiction than romance, but they’re just labels. My paranormals are different in that there are no vampires. I’ve created a unique world, at least one I’ve not seen done in fiction before. My world is a  mix of science (super string theory) and fantasy (flying and a talking moon mother).

Having said what’s different, I prefer paranormals that take place in an almost recognizable world. So my people do visit their other world and it helps them catch bad guys, but most of the story is set in our contemporary American world.

Why do I write what I do?

I love to read everything: blogs, magazines, poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs, physics, metaphysics, self-help, biography and the Sunday New York Times, mostly for book reviews.

And that might be why I have written in so many different categories. My first book, and only full length non-fiction work, Your Words, Your Story, is part writing memoir, part writing manual. I wrote it for a specific audience, my creative writing students, who would come to class all wanting to write different things. So I covered all the stuff I’d written and published to that point (2007), a wide spectrum from journalism and criticism to poetry and short stories to creative non-fiction. Even a screenplay treatment. And of course my blog, here since 2002.

After YWYS came out, I focused on getting my many novels published. Again, I didn’t stick to one kind of novel, but Luke’s #1 Rule is the book of my heart, the book I always wanted to write but also feared writing. That’s when I know I should write something. If it scares me, pushes my boundaries, it’s good.

How does my writing process work?

It’s a bit chaotic, as I also teach and tweet. Plus I’m on a quest for better health via food and exercise. So I try to write first thing. Often, I have to check for email from my publisher before “first thing” :) Many days I end up tweeting for an hour or blogging for two before I manage to get those new pages written, but that is the plan right now. New pages for next novel every day. Start on them early.

So far, I’ve been writing longhand. I bought a new pen and notebook, a ritual for each new book. I researched some background on Eddie and his first love (they meet again at their 20th high school reunion) and wrote a bit from each of the four POVs. After I fill the notebook, it’s time to write a draft in Word docx.

I’ve tagged Edith Andersen, and Sylvia Hubbard, and Gretchen Riley, three wonderful — and wildly different — writers.

Plans & What Happens

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Had entire plan mapped out for the three books  am currently working on: my print release-in edits now-my indie release-just back from beta-readers- and my current WIP-still in notebook stage. All balls in air, juggling smooth as a circus performer. Ha!

I love this Sweet Melissa cover art by Bodicia.

Sweet Melissa was supposed to be third in my “Traveling Girl” series, after Natalia. But Melissa, like many a secondary character before her, took the book over from Natalia, who never had a chance. Natalia is a strong secondary character and the book wouldn’t be what it is without her extraordinary powers to travel worlds and keep Melissa safe.

But Melissa and her friend are the traveling girls in Book Two. Add to that the awesome fact that Melissa and David are the hot couple in love, and then top it with this fabulous cover art, and even I finally saw the light. With the help of Marla, who said “This is Melissa’s story” and Bodicia, who painted something that drew me in so deeply that I began to write Melissa’s parts with much more power.

Sorry, Natalia. You are too busy in Book Two dealing with the spirit worlds and your new-found powers to even think about love. You’ll get your story some day soon, when you’re just a little older. And it will be worthy of you. And readers, Sweet Melissa, drops June 1.

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