Thursday, November 29, 2012

One Way to Overcome Writer's Block

Hi all,

Yesterday I found out that my local library has a fax machine for public use.  I don't mean that you can stand there and fax any ol' thing you want.  First, you have to get through the tall, wiry, and might I add, stern-looking woman who will fax documents for you at one dollar per page. I don't know if this is common practice in libraries, but as a person who hasn't figured out how to install her printer at home which has fax/scanning and printing capabilities, this was awesome news.  Please don't tell my local library if it's not 'normal', I love it!

After I faxed my documents (so easy!), I trudged upstairs to the computer room  and decided to see what it would feel like to enter a strange room, write a new blog on a strange computer (to me) among 20 strangers. 

As I waited to get assigned a computer, I scanned the room.  Much like I do in a crowded restaurant while I wait for the host/hostess to seat me. I want a nice table and not in the middle of the room, thank you very much. The computer room was packed with people of all ages.  The only free computers were right smack in the middle of the middle aisle of three aisles. Damn!  People on all sides.  I don't like sitting in the middle of any room. I've always liked my back against the walls, so that I can view YOU :)

NOTE: I've worked in residential treatment centers for kids...you don't turn your back, ever. I learned that quick and it has stuck with me.


I didn't have to stay in the computer room.  I have a perfectly lovely red laptop at home. I could have left any time after faxing my documents. But something pulled me upstairs. I'm curious, intuitive and I happen to reading "The Alchemist" for the third time.  (My daughter gave me her Kindle and the book happens to be on her list, so I started at 4:30 am when I couldn't sleep.)  Yes, 4:30 am.  Well, I love a good challenge and I wondered if I would meet anyone interesting in the computer room.  Would I meet someone with a message for me about my novel?  Would I meet the Alchemist? The King? The Englishman? A talking camel?  Who knows, but I'm open to new experiences.

I was up for the challenge, but writing my new blog in this computer room was posing an internal challenge for me. I could do it and I would!  I would accept whatever computer was offered to me and not worry that someone was looking at my screen.  That was it!  I was feeling 'naked' and spied upon and I hadn't even sat down.

I pushed through it, looked to my left and right several times (just because) and looked behind me because the guy was having a conversation with his rental office. Highly annoying.  Someone else had their music blaring and I could hear the rap music through his head phones.  Very annoying.

I pushed on!  I checked Facebook, checked my two email accounts and replied so some emails and I wrote this blog :) There is ALWAYS a lesson and a lesson learned in every situation and experience that we have. I usually learn something new from a brief conversation with a neighbor or someone in line at the grocery store.  I truly believe that. You have to be open to people, places and things.  I usually am.

What did I learn this morning during my writing experience at my local library?

Writing at home is freakin' awesome :) I can't wait to walk home and fire that baby up and write to my heart's content.  Make your writing experience crappy, challenging or just interesting enough and I guarantee you that your computer will look awesome to you when you get home.

Peace out,
Ellie














Tuesday, November 27, 2012

But, I Digress...

Hi all,

We had snow flurries this morning!  I woke up, checked my phone for the time (no one wears watches anymore) and at 8:38, we had wet snow and snow flurries.  I was as excited as a kid, teen or adult who is hoping to get out of school or work or the commute to work.  And, I work from home :)  Hell, as an at-home Mom, I was excited for my kids to stay home so we could play! They had my ex-husband's genes in that respect, however...they never wanted to miss a day of school.  But, I digress...

Then, it was all over.  The snow flurries landed on wet sidewalks and it was all over, really before it even began.  Bummer.  I really wanted to see snow on the ground this morning.  I wanted to put on my old gray robe, make a pot of vanilla chai tea (chai means tea, doesn't it?) and write to my heart's content, watching the snow fall from the dining room window.

I've always wanted to live in a Currier & Ives painting. I want to live in a thatched roof cottage by a lazy river that has a brick bridge going that leads to my children's homes because they live a stone's throw from my house.  But, I digress...

Of course, I put on my old gray robe, made a pot of vanilla chai and powered up the laptop.  I edited my novel yesterday from 9 in the morning to nearly 10 at night with a few breaks. I was on a roll! Why?  Because I forgot to pay my cable bill that includes the Internet :)  No distractions and it worked like a charm.  I made huge strides on my novel and I'm so, so pleased with the first ten chapters.  But, I digress...wait.  What is this blog about any way?  Writing, snow, or kids?

So, I powered up the laptop this morning, shoo'd the cat away from my vanilla chai (which must be a drug as powerful as catnip for my Maine Coon, Pierre) and took Ozzy my Pug out for a quick walk.  On our walk, I noticed that Main Street has put on their Holiday accessories which are beautiful.  I just LOVE walking through small towns with big Christmas and holiday decorations like the town I live in.  It's charming this time of year, but I digress...

You know what? I don't have a damn clue what this blog is about.  I started losing the thread almost immediately and I don't think I even had a thread!  I just started writing.  That's the way it happens with me.  I just start to write and I end up with a short story, five poems (I canNOT write just poem) or a blog.  I write dialogue, scenes and character descriptions.  I rewrite paragraphs, whole chapters, beginnings and endings.  I never get bored.

I don't really know what today is all about, but I DO know that I have to write like I have to breathe.  I have to write and you should, too.

So back to my novel :)  Happy writing.

Peace and love,
Ellie

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Pumpkin Pie Debacle

Hi all,

I hope you had a super Thanksgiving with your loved ones.  I had a wonderful weekend with my family.  A busy, fun, and wonderful weekend full of laughter, joking around, hanging around, and eating way too much.

Okay, I'm not going to lie...since Friday, I've enjoyed four smallish plates of Thanksgiving leftovers and one delicious sandwich of turkey, dressing and gravy. I haven't, however, had enough slices of pumpkin pie with Redi Whip.

I could have baked a pumpkin pie, but I was traveling to my kids by train and my kids ran out time.  My sister swore she would have pumpkin pie for our dinner and I believed her, but I wanted just one more pie.  Just one more.  I love pumpkin pie.

As soon as I arrived in Northern Virginia, my daughter, son and I drove to Safeway to buy an extra pumpkin pie.  No big deal, right?  Well, normally not a big deal, but it was Thanksgiving Day.  I grabbed the pies, super excited and loving Safeway for the extra pies.  I paid for the pies, got into my daughter's car with a huge smile.  "A real coup!  I found two pumpkin pies!"

To which my son jokes (and probably jinxes), "Watch her have bought sweet potato pies!"  We all laughed and then, I checked the bags.  My heart sank.  Are you kidding me?  Two sweet potato pies and no pumpkin.  I had picked up two sweet potato pies at the supermarket by mistake.  Damn, was I mad.  The sign behind the stack of pies was clearly marked and clearly read, "pumpkin pies" but, I failed to read the labels slapped on the boxes which held the 'wrong' pies.  These were clearly sweet potato pies.

I immediately opened the car door, yelling, "I'll be right back!  I'll just exchange them, there was a huge stack of pumpkin pies!"  My daughter grabbed the belt loops of my jeans, holding me in.  "You're not going back inside, we're late, Mom!"

"You don't understand, Sweetie." I said, laughing as I unhooked her fingers from my jeans, "I MUST have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving!  I don't eat pumpkin pie but twice a year and sweet potato pie will not do!"

On and on my kids kept telling me things like, "Mom, pumpkin is exactly like sweet potato pie", "Let it go!" and, "Let's go!" When my kids realized that I wasn't leaving the Safeway supermarket, they gave in.  Exasperated, my son got out of the car, vowing to come back with a pumpkin pie.  My hero!

Ten minutes later, he came to the car carrying a Safeway bag.  "Well?  Do we have lift off?  Did you find a pumpkin pie?"

"Um.  Safeway is out of pumpkin pies.  All they have left are sugar-free pumpkin pies."  

"What?  No!  It won't be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie."  I'm told I actually pouted like a four year old.

"Mom, it's okay!  Let's just go, we're late."

I moaned and groaned, "Should have made a pie."  After a while, it changed to,"You're right, we are late."  After all, I am an adult :)

Thank goodness, my sister had a pumpkin pie for us.  Yay!  I had my slice and everyone wanted slices of sweet potato pie (which surprised me) and I got to take the remaining pie to my daughter's house (where I was staying).  I snuck a midnight slice of pumpkin pie with Redi Whip, happy as a kid.

My family and I had a great Holiday dinner. I was blessed to enjoy two wonderful days with my children.  I loved our time together and I went home with no leftovers and no more pie.  Good.  I was beginning to forget about leftovers and pumpkin pie when my girlfriend invited me to share her Holiday leftovers tonight!  I'm SO there, I told her!  I have no will power, damn!  She made a homemade pumpkin pie to die for :)

I swear, no more Holiday food.  Enough is enough.  Zumba is calling me. Vamos a bailar! Vamos a rebajar de peso!  Si!

Peace and love,
Ellie


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Being Grateful and Gracious

Hi all,

This will be my last blog before Thanksgiving as tomorrow morning, I'll be on a train headed to Northern Virginia.  I'm excited to see my children and cook our side dishes together.  I'm also excited to share our Thanksgiving meal with my sister and her children in Maryland.  

I wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving with your loved ones and safe travels if you'll be on the road!

I love traveling by train.  Not only do I love the beautiful West Virginia and Virginia countryside, it's a great way to people watch.  I'm not a stalker, believe me!  I just enjoy observing and listening to people, wondering what their story is as I sit quietly, enjoying the views.  More than once, I've built characters on people I've watched and listened to.  I watch their body language, how they interact with others and their facial expressions as they converse. People are fascinating to me :)

I'll be cooking side dishes with my son and my daughter in her home while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC and in the afternoon, we drive to Maryland to share Thanksgiving dinner with my youngest sister and her kids.  We always have a great time when we get together and this Holiday should be no different.  We laugh and joke while we get dinner and the table ready, we take photos of each other and the kids as a group, we start dinner off with a prayer and I always ask my family to say what they're thankful for.

That Thanksgiving tradition might be getting old for our kids who range in age from 27 to 21, (maybe it's already old for them!) but I never tire of it.  To me, it's important to give thanks and NOT only on this day.  I believe that the root of happiness and joy is in the giving to others and not in the receiving.  This year, I got a surprise that changed my mind a bit.

My family is blessed and we know we are.  We've all had difficulties, faced challenges and found ourselves in the deep valleys before.  Most of us have come out of those valleys into the sunshine.  I hope you have, too.  When I've found myself in the dark, I only have to look around me and listen - there's always someone who needs help, my help.

In the past, it was me who was the helper whenever I could.  This year, I received many blessings and realized that for once, I was the person other's thought needed help.  That came as a big surprise to me as a self-sufficient, stubborn, single Mom!  I like to think that I've got all my ducks in a row and my shit sorted out :) I just didn't expect it and it was beautiful!

This year I received four invitations from beautiful new friends in my new town to share Thanksgiving dinner with their families because they wanted to make sure I wasn't alone.  They know that I live two hours from my kids and family.  Another friend brought me a little artificial Christmas tree with lights because he knows that I'll spend Christmas with my kids and family in Virginia this year and he figured that I'd probably not put up a tree this year.  Beautiful!

Those invitations and gifts, were precious gifts to me.  Gifts that warmed my heart and yes, made me cry. I cry a lot these days which I attribute to menopause :)  Happy tears, mind you.  My friends wanted to make sure that I was taken care of and that's a beautiful thing. I was so thankful and grateful.

I learned a valuable lesson this week.  Life is a give and take and it's as important to allow others to help us as it is to help others.  It's good Karma for everyone involved :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Peace and love,
Ellie 



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We're Having Technical Difficulties

Hi all,

Apparently, there is a little button on the top of the Microsoft Word panel that says "UNDO".   I still can't find it, but my daughter assured me it's there.  That little button would have undone the potentially devastating deleting I did of my entire manuscript two days ago!  Someone will have to show me where it is because I'm not seeing it.

Disaster averted yesterday afternoon, however, when I went back to search for the deleted manuscript and found a copy of it deep in the files!  I'm good!!  I can't tell you how relieved and grateful I was to God and Microsoft for automatically making a copy for me!  Prayers answered.

The saved copy of the manuscript was the most recent copy minus the adverb search and changes I'd done, but no big deal.  I don't mind redoing that, believe me!  I was smiling like crazy when I saw that copy.

This morning it occurred to me that when the power is off in my house, the only way to find out the time is to check my phone.  I realized that with the TV off, the laptop off and having no way to charge my cell phone, the only source of time would be the stove which is off by an hour!  There's gotta be a better way.

I've owned one watch in my life.  I love that watch and it needs a cleaning.  It's an expensive watch, so it makes sense that the cleaning will cost me a few $100's.  After buying a house, I never have a couple hundred dollars sitting around so, the watch sits in my bedroom and I rely on the clocks in the house when the power is on :)

It also occurred to me that if my laptop was lost, stolen or broken - I wouldn't have access to my novel nor could I save changes made.  I now have several copies of the manuscript on the laptop, the hard copy my editor sent me, and I've saved the ms onto a USB thingie, as well.  As a matter of fact, I saved it onto two USBs and one is on my key chain.

Have I checked all the boxes of being safe?  This morning, a friend recommended that I download (burn) the manuscript onto a DVD or CD.  Good thinking!  I would do that if my laptop CD drive worked, however it hasn't worked in years.  It might be time for a new laptop...I've had this one for over two years.  It seems ridiculous to me that laptops don't seem to last over four years.  Why is that?

I suppose I've done all humanly possible to save and protect my manuscript save for saving it on an external hard drive which I own, by the way.  But, I lost the cord to it when I moved two years ago.  I carefully wrapped the respective cords of my laptop, computer, printer DVD player and external hard drive and put them in one box...which, of course, I can't find.  Don't you just love moving?

A friend suggested taking my hard drive to Radio Shack and perhaps, there is a universal cord and battery pack.  I guess that's where I'll be next week.  Aren't you happy I wrote this blog?  Ha ha!

I'm supposed to be working non-stop on this novel and I seem to be dealing with technical difficulties and issues relating to technology!  Stop already!  I just want to write a book and see it published, for goodness sake.

Have a beautiful day.  It's all good :)

Peace and love,
Ellie








Monday, November 19, 2012

I Laughed 'Til I Cried

Hi all,

I don't know much about the human brain nor how it works, but I believe that what we experience and think about in our waking life manifests itself in our dreams.

Have you ever woken up from a dream crying and/or laughing ?  I've experienced both and it happened again this morning.

My dream early this morning (isn't that when REM happens?) involved an old fishing buddy/friend.  In the dream, we were on a fishing trip and he was trying to get all romantic with me and I playfully pushed him away.  He had wanted to slow dance and when we started dancing, we fell through the wood floor and landed in a mud pit!  I laughed in my dream and when I woke up, I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes!  I lay there laughing for about five minutes until my sides hurt. Laughter is the best medicine for what ails us :)

Here's why I had that dream:

Late last night, the very friend in my dream (who I haven't heard from in six months) sent me a photo via text of him proudly holding up a huge trout that didn't look too happy.  We've been friends for years and I secretly think he has a crush on me, but I would never  jeopardize our friendship (and he has a girlfriend) so, I've jokingly pushed away his friendly advances.

and,

After I received my friend's text, I watched a comedy with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin (just before bed) entitled, "It's Complicated".  It was complicated!  Divorced ten years, Streep and Baldwin start an affair while he's married to someone else. See? It was all connected and led to my dream!

Our brains are so complicated that it boggles the mind. My dream was a composite of things I'd experienced and thought about before bed.  The falling through the wood floor part stumps me though.  I'd watched the newest episode of "Walking Dead" before the comedy and I don't think anyone fell through the floor (although a dozen zombies or so bit the dust last night) and it certainly isn't a comedy!  The falling through the floor into a mud pit did make me laugh, however.  I know what makes me laugh :)

I suppose I needed that laugh this morning after losing my manuscript edits yesterday that I'd been working on for two weeks straight.  It worked and so, onward and upward we go!

Peace and love,
Ellie

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Did The Unthinkable.

Hi all,

The unthinkable happened this afternoon...I lost the copy of my manuscript that I've been editing for a week.  It wouldn't have mattered if I'd saved it, either.  I was deleting a paragraph on page 98 and must have hit the wrong key.   I then clicked on the Enter key without noticing I'd highlighted the whole manuscript and poof, gone.  I went from over 300 pages to page 1 of 1.  Gone, all gone in a blink of an eye.

Wow, I couldn't believe it.  Shocked and stunned would best describe my face.  I immediately set about retrieving the manuscript, but no cigar.  I couldn't find it!  I checked the trash can icon and it wasn't there either because I didn't delete it, I simply erased it.  Shoot.  I didn't actually say "shoot" by the way...it was more like, "shit, shit, shit".

Thank the good Lord I have two earlier copies of the manuscript in my files, a hard copy and one copy of my editor's Track Changes, thank GOD.  So, I started again.  There was no sense in screaming, running around the house or getting mad, it was done and I had to accept it.  I could say this was a disaster or put a positive spin on it.  I'm no Mother Teresa, believe me, but what would have been the point in losing it or worse - giving up?  I guess I am getting wiser with age or I truly have gone nuts.

So, I just chalked it up to life.  Live and learn.  I am a fan of things happening for a reason, so who knows?  Maybe this version will be THE one.  Maybe this was meant to happen and maybe not.  I had a choice and I made it.

I made a copy of the manuscript with my editor's Track Changes and decided to begin on page one.  Yes, page one.  I decided to focus on re-removing (that might not be a word, but it aptly describes what I have to do!) all the "ly" words, the adverbs throughout the entire manuscript and tweaking dialogue without the adverbs.  It's going faster than the first time and along the way, I've remembered dialogue that I'd tweaked before, places where I'd made changes, and remembered to delete unnecessary paragraphs.  Carefully deleted, mind you!!

I've certainly been through much worse in my life and I survived.  I shall survive this, too :) It's not life or death for goodness sake.  I'm happy and healthy; my kids are happy and healthy and that's all that matters.  It's all good :)

Be careful with your writing, editing and saving!

Peace and love,
Ellie


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Denutting of Pierre

Hi all,

My kitten Pierre will be under the knife in a few hours which I hate, but it's necessary.  My   pet sitter, Junior (75-year old Junior) calls it "denutting".  I laughed out loud when he said that to me, but I'm sure Pierre isn't laughing.  Denutted.  That Junior is a hoot :)

Pierre and I met at the Humane Society on the outskirts of my town and it was love at first sight.  Ozzy (my Pug) and I fell in love at a rescue event at Petsmart in Virginia nearly four years ago.  Do you get the idea that I can't go to rescues or shelters?  You'd be right and that's why I don't go on a regular basis!  I'd come home with puppies and kitties every single time.  It's very difficult for me to leave empty-handed.

Junior says I have the best dog and kitten in the world and I have to agree with him.  They're awesome furry children.  I told Junior that they're great because they were raised right :) They're well-loved, they get along great, and they give me unconditional love every day.  That's worth the price of admission as far as I'm concerned.  

I might have to juggle a purring kitten on my lap as I try to edit my manuscript or find several lines of "zzzzzzzzzzzzz" on the page when I return to the room, and I might have to take several breaks during the day to walk and play with Ozzy, but it's all worth it.  Watching them play and nap around me is very comforting and a lot of fun.  Ozzy welcomed Pierre with open paws and it's heart-warming to see them drinking from the same water bowl.  They don't have to as the kitten has his own food and water bowls, but Pierre loves his big brother and Ozzy is happy to share.

What writer doesn't need a warm lap and several breaks during the day to get away from the laptop?  My pets remind me to stop and smell the roses when I'm headed inside my head with my novel and they remind me to stand up and stretch my tired muscles from sitting at the laptop for hours on end.  Lord knows I need the exercise as I sit on my bum nearly all day long with this novel!

My kids live two hours from me and I can't imagine living in a house without pets. I would be too lonely.  Pierre and Ozzy don't talk much, but they're great company and even better listeners :)

Happy Saturday to you!
Peace and love,

Ellie





Friday, November 16, 2012

Am I Finished Yet?

Hi all,

Well, it's official.  I can't eat cheese, bread or rice.  Milk, either.  Actually, I can eat those things, but I suffer the consequences!  I've taken a one week, self-imposed food test this week, eating suspicious food items only to have an upset stomach, cramping and then, some in the evenings and early morning.  I had a bad night last night and am still harboring an upset stomach and a headache this morning.

This week, I tried three small slices of cheese pizza and gave the rest to my neighbor; garlic shrimp with white rice and wonton soup and trotted myself (no pun intended!) to my neighbor's house with the left-overs; and had a bowl of cereal with skim milk last night.  I was uncomfortable hours later.  My neighbor ate well this week!  Half and half with my coffee doesn't seem to bother me as much and I'm NOT giving up my cafe au lait or cream in my tea.  No way.

So.  Today, I go on a liquid fast to detox my body from all that nasty stuff that's making me feel ill and queasy.  I hope it works and maybe I'll lose a few pounds in the process.  That would be nice, too.  My life's run with cheese pizza, white rice and the occasional white bread is over.  I've tried and my body just can't deal with it anymore.

This morning, I've already tackled three more chapters of my manuscript and I'm satisfied with them.  It's amazing how many times I can read a chapter and STILL find things to change and improve upon.  When does it end?  When is a ms truly finished and ready?  Will I know when that times comes?  Or does someone else have to tell me?!

Much like painting, it's tough to know when you're finished.  In painting, there comes a time when I have to give it up and just say, "This is the best I can do" while knowing deep inside that there's always something I can tweak and improve. Drives me nuts.  Maybe it's helpful to have a friend who is brutally honest who can drag us away, saying, "Back away!  It's finished!  Leave it alone!"  Do we trust ourselves or someone else to make that decision for us?

Writing this novel has felt like a pregnancy and I'm in the 8th month now.  I can feel it.  I love this baby, love working with it, enjoy thinking and dreaming about holding that book in my hand...and yet, I'm getting tired of being pregnant :)  My internal feet are swelling, I'm gaining weight (true), I'm bloated, and I have gas!  Ha ha!

I enjoy the winter months for producing work.  It's a nice, quiet, cozy time of year and I predict...that this book will be finished by January 1st.  Yes, I do.  That is my self-imposed deadline and procrastinators like me need deadlines.

And like I experienced after childbirth, I'm sure I'll say, "That wasn't so bad, was it?  I think it's time to start thinking about another baby."  Smile.

So, on we go.

Happy Friday to you!
Peace and love,

Ellie









Thursday, November 15, 2012

How NOT to Write a Novel

Hi Mama!  What?  I'm sorry, were you working here?  I was cold and this thing is so nice and toasty :)

The Writer's Life in Winter

Hi all,

Despite having the heat on and the small heater in my bedroom on HIGH, it was cold this morning!  I grabbed my old, gray cashmere robe with the holes in it (moths?), put on thick socks and my black yoga pants (I don't DO yoga), and slipped into my fake black Uggs before coming downstairs.  This is my favorite winter writing outfit.  It was even colder downstairs in the kitchen!  Wooeeee!

Note to self:  buy another space heater for the kitchen.

I let the Puglet out from the kitchen door and he turned back at me like I'd told him to walk the plank off a ship into freezing waters!  "Be a man, Ozzy.  Get out there and do your business!" I told him and had to shut the kitchen door or he would have run back inside.  Eventually, he sniffed around and did his business on my nearly frozen hydrangea bushes.  Nice.  I'll have to remember to wear gardening gloves next Spring.  I could hear him say, "There, happy now?"  He did look a little smug when he ran inside.

Winter is the perfect time of year to write if you tend to hibernate like me in the winter months.  There is no gardening to be done in my yard although I could put those bulbs in the ground that have been sitting in my gardening shed for a year already.  Nah.  Too cold already!  My grapevine doesn't get pruned until March, so I live indoors now.

I either write downstairs on the dining room table with the view of my garden or upstairs in my bedroom.  I can choose between my comfy, warm bed or the huge banker's desk that sits against the wall if I go upstairs.  Nice to have choices :)  All my writing books are in a bookcase in my bedroom, as well.  My dictionaries, Thesauraus, books on plot, character development, POV, the latest Writer's Digest, and then some. I make a pot of tea or coffee and I'm set for the day.

To be a writer means playing alone in your head for hours upon hours a day.  It's nuts really, so you may as well be comfortable, warm and happy going nuts.

I usually begin writing and editing downstairs and as the day progresses, I move upstairs because the TV is close to the dining room and I can easily switch it on out of habit.  Too many distractions with the History channel, the Food Network, Bravo TV, NatGeo, SyFy shows and I am addicted to the Housewives shows!  All of them.  I know, I know, don't ask!

Do you have a favorite place or time to write?  What's your favorite writing outfit?  Have a nice day :)

Peace and love,
Ellie


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thank you, Julia!

Hi all,

I had a very productive day yesterday with the manuscript despite worrying that my author blog was already too personal.  I've blogged since 2007 (on Thoughts.com) and was told on many occasions that my forte was being up close and personal.  I wasn't so sure I should be as personal on my new author blog, so late last night, I decided to take a little tour of other author's blogs before bed.

Many of the blogs I visited are personal in nature and some even add photos of their children, furry children and families.  These authors post a blog a day (which I'm used to doing) and it turns out, they treat their blogs like diaries or journals.  I can do that!  Now, you might not enjoy what I post, but that's another kettle of fish :)

Writing comes easy to me.  Words and ideas in a blog come out in stream of consciousness style and I rarely go back and edit what I've written (unlike my novel and short stories).  In addition to a love of writing, I think this comes from being a devotee from way, way back of Julia Cameron and her seminal book, "The Artist's Way".  

Per Cameron's advice, I dutifully wrote my Morning Pages in beautifully-bound journals in longhand for over ten years.  (I had special fountain pens in all colors for my journals.  There's just something magical about a fountain pen, especially a Mont Blanc fountain pen.)

My father's new wife gave me the book, "The Artist's Way" in 2000 as a Christmas present and I "did" the book alone for a solid year.  The next year, I invited ten women to join me once a month.  One group turned into three and ten years later, the second group is still meeting in Brussels, Belgium.  That makes me very happy!

Cameron taught me to write and push through writer's block, fear, distractions and the excuses.  I kept writing even if I started writing out a list of what I needed at the grocery store, my list of things to do and/or a scathing rant (very healing!).  Just keep writing, she encouraged me, and I trusted her.  Working with "The Artist's Way" was very cathartic and healing for me when I finished.  The experiences truly changed my life and I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true for me.

I love what Cameron says about journaling and truth (and I'm paraphrasing here) - start writing and keep writing anything that comes to mind.  Right smack in the middle of your three pages (or a bit later for me), you will find that your "truth" comes out.  That thing that has bugged you, kept you awake, that fear, the dread or the reason you're blocked, comes out.  As she says, you can't lie to yourself when you journal.  She's absolutely right.

When I returned to the US as a newly separated, single Mom to two college-age kids in 2006, my son introduced me to blogging.  Very soon afterward, journaling turned into blogging and I never looked back.  I blogged anonymously for four years and very soon, I was emailing with fellow bloggers on that site; ones that I had a lot in common with.  On occasion, I still wrote my Morning Pages in long-hand because I'm a Virgo and a stickler to being a purist when I can be :)  But, that soon fell by the wayside as I began to interact with fellow bloggers.  It opened a whole new world for me.

I went on to meet five bloggers who I count as very dear friends today and I keep in touch with all of them to include the women in my "The Artist's Way" groups.  Some of these women still live in Brussels and some returned to the US after I did.  These women have been my sounding boards, my shoulder to lean on and cry with, and we've taken turns being mentors and students for one another.  A creative group is so important for creative people!

Blogging as a writer/author, however, is a totally different beast, I've found. Authors review other author's books, there are contests for free books, blog tours, Holiday give-aways and ways to market your book.  So, I'm learning new things every day.

I highly recommend blogging and as I look back, it can change your life as it did mine.  Blogging kept me sane and writing during the time that I was working full-time and going to school part-time and didn't have the time or emotional energy to pull my manuscript out of the Belgian packing box.  Blogging was my daily exercise, my drug and helped me remain sane through my separation and divorce.  I found a wonderful support group of men and women through blogging around that period of my life.  Yep, I highly recommend it and if you know me, you know I've recommended it to you :)

Good luck to you and happy writing!

Peace and love,
Ellie






Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Three Steps Forward and Two Steps Back.

Hi all,

As the Amtrak train rounded the bend toward my town, I reached into my purse to pull out my keys.  No keys!  I double checked and then remembered - they were on my sister's kitchen table.  Oh well.  I knew Junior, my dog sitter, had a house key and I have a spare car key at home.  Disaster averted as Junior answered his cell phone; he was on his way to my house.

I'm always happy to get home after a weekend away.  My house and garden looked great and it was lovely to be in my comfy bed with a good book last night - mine!  The hard copy of my manuscript arrived while I was gone.  I'd already made the changes my editor suggested (they were awesome changes) last week on Track Changes and now, I held 365 pages of my novel.  How wonderful is that?

This week, I begin fleshing out the friendships in my novel and working on Point of View (POV) which I've found to be quite difficult!  My editor has recommended taking out the two male character's POV which I totally agree with.  My target audience - women.  I get that and it makes sense to me.  So, on we go :)

I had a nice time with my children and my sister this past weekend, celebrating our friend Carmen's 80th birthday.  Carmen's three children, their families and nearly all her grandchildren were in attendance to include two new great-grandchildren.  Carmen looked beautiful and her family did a wonderful job putting her party together.  I was happy for her and happy that my children joined me in celebrating the special day.

As I looked around the Clubhouse dining room, I was reminded that all of my mother's friends have lost their husbands - all widows.  I wondered if that still holds true, that women outlive men.  None of these women were smokers nor heavy drinkers.  My grandmother outlived my grandfather.  They were the heads and hearts of their families.  My grandmother was certainly the head of our family - the Matriarch.

What am I as the eldest daughter of my family?  Am I the matriarch?  Does that still exist in this day and age?  Maybe it does.  I suppose I felt like the matriarch when I was still married and financially able to help my children and my family after my mother and grandmother died.  When someone had a problem or issue, I was ready and able to assist, but now as a divorcee living on a budget and two hours from my children - not so much.  I guess I did feel like a matriarch in those days and was always happy to help; just didn't give it much thought until yesterday.

My children have graduated from college and are on their own.  My sister and her children are doing well and my half-sister's children are pretty much on their own, as well. My kids know that I would sell my car and house if they were in dire straits and, thank God, they are doing more than well at this time.

My kids used to listen to my advice, suggestions and gentle words when they were in high school, in college and for a few years afterward.  These days?  Not so much!  They roll their eyes, disagree with me and poke fun at me.  My "words of wisdom" (judging by their reactions and facial expressions) must seem old-fashioned, out-of-touch and cooky to them :)  I've kind of given up the generational or self-imposed title of matriarch.  As they moved forward in their lives, so did I but it felt strange, at times.

I guess I thought I was the matriarch by default because my mother and grandmother has passed on.  Unlike my mother, grandmother, Carmen and her girlfriends whose husbands passed on, I was divorced and didn't fare as well as I probably would have if I were a widow.  Just sayin' and I wish him well :)

None of these women entered the dating world at 50 after divorce and none of them worked past 50 because they didn't have to.  For the most part, women of my mother and grandmother's generations just settled into living alone as widows and living for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Many of these women volunteered their time to favorite charities and their churches; they still do as I learned yesterday.

Do today's matriarchs date, live lives as single women and still take single's cruises?!  Do our children see us as matriarchs?  Do mine?  Is that word and title passe or non-existent?  I think my children would love for me to be a matriarch.  It's complicated...they don't like hearing about my dating life (non-existent at this time) and they'd love to see me married. I think my children secretly wish I would stay home and bake cookies like the old days when my world revolved around them.  By the same token, they wish I would get a life so that they can live theirs without my interference and two cents :)  It's a different generation.

My kids might not realize that I wish I could go back in time...but, it's NOT my reality at this time in my life.  It's not their fault - they were raised in a traditional, father works outside the home, mother stays home family.

So, I'm a 55 year old, single woman who still has dreams, goals and aspirations.  I have adult kids and I'm trying to figure out how I stay loyal to myself and parent adult kids IF we in fact, parent adult kids under 30!  I don't think we do.  I think my kids tolerate me and would pat my head like a good ol', loyal dog if they could :)

My youngest sister isn't the matriarch as she lives her life in MD and gets together with us on holidays and special occasions.  Is Carmen the matriarch of her family or is she just the oldest?  Why in the heck did I bother thinking that I was the matriarch, the family cheer leader, the wise old lady?  Delusional, right?  Am I more traditional than I thought?  Why did I think that being the head of a family was so damn important and why have I fought tooth and nail to keep my small family tight and close-knit?  No one else seems to be bothered by it.  We just get together when we can and go our separate ways afterward.  I've learned an important lesson this weekend.  And it's all good.

Well, it's no wonder I write fiction, for goodness sake!  I can be the matriarch in my novel, the heroine and the sage wise woman. As they say, I believe my debut novel is more of an auto-biographical than I thought.  I thought this blog would be about writing and my novel...and I guess it is.  These are the thoughts that come to mind as I edit.  Am I supposed to only write about writing?  Teach creative writing, give tips, and play the expert or is writing about life and what we've learned along the way WHILE we write?  I'm not really sure.

I just hate letting people down, but time and life lately have shown me that I'm not letting anyone down.  I was standing in my own way and didn't realize it.  I was hanging onto a role that no one wants me to play...HUGE light bulb moment here.  I'm okay with that now, but God help them if they want me to revert back.  You can't have your cake and eat it, too :)

Peace and love,
Ellie
















Friday, November 9, 2012

We All Have a Book to Write.

Hi all,

I'm a person who believes that when you put your mind to something, a dream, a goal or a challenge, you can do it.  I also believe that when you decide what you want in your life, the Universe conspires to facilitate the process and the path.  

Yeah, that sounds like New Age lingo, doesn't it?  Well, I believe it because I've experienced it.  Any time I've decided to pursue a dream and reach a goal, I've known full-well that the prize wasn't going to be handed to me on a silver platter.  Dreams and goals require research, thought, soul searching, lots of hard work and at times, sacrifice.  As soon as I've done the necessary legwork, it's amazing...people and complete strangers have come out the wings and shadows to either walk beside me, mentor and assist me.

When I wrote a tribute to my Puerto Rican grandmother for her 90th birthday, I sent it to my female relatives.  The tribute was well-received which pleased me and my grandmother loved it.  I was one of those kids who sat Meme's feet, listening intently to her stories of growing up poor in the Playa de Ponce in Puerto Rico, marrying well and the struggles and challenges of being a woman/mother in the early 1900's.  My mother, Mercedes, knew all the stories and when we'd return from our summers on the island, she'd regale my sister Elaine and I with those stories we loved.

I showed my then-husband the tribute to my grandmother and he encouraged me to write an outline to see if I had "a book in there".  In fifteen minutes, I had an outline.  He said to me, "You've got a book to write."  He was right.  Right then and there, I sat at the computer and in six months, I'd written a 326 page novel.  With two kids at home and a husband/household to manage :) I finished it.  I'd always journaled, but a novel?  The idea never crossed my mind before.  I've always joked that the spirits helped me write this novel...and I'm not so sure that isn't true.

Through my research for my debut novel, I've met two professors of women's studies from various US universies in Washington, DC; I traveled to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic interviewing women; and I traveled to Cacao in the mountains of Puerto Rico where my grandparents owned a farm with my cousin, Josefina. A stroll down Memory Lane for us.  I met two female Puerto Rican authors who I'm still friends with.

Synchronicity after synchronicity has occurred during my writing path and I am just amazed.  I am passionate about the arts and I love my story.  Fast forward six years and I'm still blogging, Tweeting, still meeting and communicating with latinas/latinos and hispanics from around the world.  I'm new to social media and I'm learning so much.  At times, I feel as if I've opened Pandora's Box with this novel and the marketing involved before, during and after publication!  To me, the Internet is mind-boggling and mind-blowing place that I'm learning to navigate and I'm not too proud to say I don't know and I'm always open for advice, suggestions, and comments!

Let me tell you, it takes a village to write a book!  We all have a book in us.  If you've felt the need to write and have dreamed of writing, do it!  Don't wait, my friend.  Jump in there and just start writing.  Sit your butt down and write.  I'm rooting for ya :)

Peace and love,
Ellie

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Making Myself Comfortable on Blogger!

Hello!

I'm not a new blogger, not by a long shot!  I blogged as Ellie2008 on Thoughts.com since October 2007 (until yesterday) and had a brief foray as PracticalSpirituality365 for six months on the same site.  Thoughts.com is going through some major changes, so I moved on and I'm happy in my new home!

My Ellie2008 blog was primarily about the adventures and misadventures I experienced as a divorced woman in her 50's who is thrown into the dating scene after 27 years as a wife and at-home Mom.  My real life stories will make you laugh your ass off, might break your heart and cause you to make your husband breakfast in bed so that you won't be a single woman in your 50's!  Just kidding, of course!  I love being single :)

I also wrote some blogs in Spanish because I'm Puerto Rican born.  A proud Boricua from Ponce, Puerto Rico!  I was educated in the US, Puerto Rico and Europe.  I've lived in six European countries and am happy to be back on the US with my two gorgeous children, Heather and Matthew.

The Practicalspirituality365 blog was about lessons and things I'd learned along my path which is my life.  I started this blog as a way to give back for all the blessings in my life and it gave me much peace to write these blogs.

These two blogs are in my past, but believe me, the dating stories WILL be put to good use in my next novel.  Of course, a comedy!  You can't make that shit up :)

So, why am I here today, introducing myself to you?

I finished my first novel, "A Decent Woman" and I can't 'wait for you to read it!  My novel is an historical novel set in 1900 Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico about the life-long friendship of Dona Ana, the Afro-Cuban born midwife and Leila, the young society wife whose family was poor before she married well; and the difficulties that society puts on these two women who strive and fight to remain friends.

My fabulous and generous editor Deborah has sent her editorial letter and edits to me this week and I'm very encouraged!  I want to begin this blog the night before I open those Track Changes!

I'm excited to share my writing life with you.  I'll be happy to share my lessons, experiences, mistakes and joys along the way to seeing "A Decent Woman" published.  And, I WILL be published :)  I've visualized it, dreamed it and tasted it...

I'm the new girl on the block and I'm happy to meet you!

Peace and love,

Ellie