Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Early Readers of Our Finished Manuscripts

My novel-length, historical fiction manuscript, A Decent Woman, is in the hands of a publishing company that has a team of early readers who will give early feedback as to whether or not they believe my book should be published. If it's a green light from the early readers, then a creative team of editors, managers, marketing pros, and book cover artists will sit around discussing the pros and cons of publishing my book. I'm excited, fearful and very curious to receive their feedback. I wonder how much feedback I'll receive if any at all?

So far, my editor and several friends have read my novel and I've read it more times than you can shake a stick at it. I still love my story, but of course, I'm biased. What will this group of early readers think? Will they like and relate to my characters Ana and Serafina? When I read a book, I must feel a connection to the characters for me to remain engaged. Have I accomplished that with my novel?

I probably won't have the opportunity to answer the early reader's questions (if they come up) or clarify any confusion they encounter as they read. My novel must stand on its own two feet, so to speak. It's a done deal. It doesn't matter who I am, what my credentials are or what life's experiences I've had--my book now speaks for me and represents me. There's no time to revise or change anything at this point with this company. Have I done enough?

I'm glad that I'll be on vacation for a week in August and I look forward to Labor Day weekend with my children. I can't imagine sitting in front of my laptop, waiting for an email reply. Of course, my iPhone will be with me, so I'll be able to check my emails several times a day! I hope I don't do that though. My friends have promised a fun-filled, busy vacation with BBQs, pool parties, and sailing regattas. I can't wait to spend time with my friends. We haven't seen each other in 11 years and we have much to catch up on.

I'll be meeting new people from all walks of life during my time away which is exciting. As always, I will people watch, participate in new conversations, and share new activities. I'll tuck away figures of speech, stories, observe body language and like a kid, I'll absorb it all like a sponge. I will have new eyes on my trips and I'm always open for a new adventure. This is where stories are born--in the listening, experiencing and in the quiet watching. And no, that's not stalking!

I'll pack the laptop, one camera, a new notebook and several pens and will continue to blog while I'm away. My camera will be close by and my thoughts won't be too far away from the early readers who have my manuscript in their hands. If I am near a church, I'll light a candle or ten for a positive response from the early readers and the publishing company. I'll also light a candle for patience and serenity for myself :)

Happy Tuesday to you.

Peace and love,


Monday, July 29, 2013

Celebration of Bloggers Tour

My friend, author and blogger, Meredith Schorr, invited me to participate in her Celebration of Bloggers Tour last week. I was happy to oblige and wish Meri all the best of luck with the launch of her third chick lit novel, Blogger Girl! Thanks, Meri!

In 2007, my son suggested I write a blog. Write a what? I immediately thought blogging was a style of dance like clogging or maybe it was a new way to meet people as I was a newly divorced 50-year old woman. Since I’d journaled long-hand a la Julia Cameron for decades, my son thought I would like it and in the process, give my writing hand a break. Son, you were right. I took to blogging like a duck to water. I bought a bright red laptop and entered a strange and magical place.

In my first blog profile, I joked that I blogged because I had a lot to say and my adult children were tired of listening to me and would no longer answer my calls. My beautiful children had graduated from college, moved out and found great jobs which made me happy, but I also knew that they wanted me to find a life and start writing again. Blogging became my new hobby and before I knew it, became my new addiction.

Soon, I made cyber friends by reading and commenting on blogs and grew a blog readership which is how I met Meri from New York City. Despite our 30-year age difference, Meri and I had something in common—dating.  My niche was dating in your 50’s and the funny stuff that happens along the way. Believe me, funny stuff ensued. I loved writing anonymously about my dates which was very therapeutic, actually. I soon discovered that dating at any age had not changed all that much--men were still from Mars and women were still from Venus.

I blogged about my dating adventures and misadventures for three years until I grew tired of dating, false starts and 60-year old men who were still finding themselves. By that time, I’d met four blogger friends in person who are still dear friends to this day, but I was listless and bored. It was time for a change. 

I decided to focus on moving West, buying a house and I started writing a chick lit book entitled The Prime of Ms. Ellie Parker. Believe me, I had plenty of material. However, my first novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman, kept nudging me. I’d finished the historical fiction novel set in Puerto Rico in the 1900’s in 2006, but with divorce, working, kids heading to college and a trans-Atlantic move, I’d shoved the manuscript into a packing box and forgotten about it.
I moved into my new/old house in 2010 and when I unpacked my manuscript, I knew what I had to do. Instead of continuing with the chick lit book aka autobiography, I finished editing, A Decent Woman, which as we speak, is in the hands of a NYC agent and a small press publisher. (Prayers are welcome.) 

No more blogging, I thought. It was time to focus on finding an agent and publishing my first book. I queried agents every day and while waiting for the Golden Ticket and wondering if I could repaper my bathroom with rejection letters, I discovered author blogs—a brand new adventure in writing and blogging for me. Every writer and author had one, so I jumped on the bandwagon. 

I decided to call my new blog, The Writing Life, which would encompass my life as a writer.Although at times my musings on life, gardening, adult children, and restoring a 107-year old house creep into my author blog, I write about the writing life as I see and experience it. What I don’t include in my author blog is my dating life. I have more material than one adult woman should have and then some. Amen.

I still have a lot to say and have been known to exclaim, “Hey, I wrote a blog about that!” Friends will playfully roll their eyes and tolerate me and for the most part, friends, cyber friends, and family who follow my blogs, keep up with me which I very much appreciate.

Blogging is a great creative outlet and author blogs are wonderful marketing tools. I see blogging in my future as I continue to connect with readers, writers and bloggers from around the world. I am a work-in-progress and my new writer website is under construction. You’re never too old to learn, folks!

Peace and love,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fact or Fiction? You Decide.

** This blog is written tongue in cheek, but it's like the Enquirer, there are elements of truth throughout. I'll allow you to decide which parts are fact or fiction. **

After blogging nearly every day, for forever and a day, I went through withdrawals last week as I waited for a new laptop charger to arrive. I was not a happy camper. It was the second time I'd had to order a charger for this Dell laptop. One solid week of no computer.

By Saturday afternoon, I couldn't take it. I needed to check my emails and write a blog. Enough was enough. I also realized how addicted I was to my laptop and being connected to the world. I walked (huffed and puffed is more like it) three city blocks in 90* weather with 95% humidity to my local library to use their computers. That's pretty bad. I know for a fact that I sweated off a dress size.

I climbed the library steps with one thing on my mind, blogging and checking my emails. I was one sweaty mess, but I had a huge grin on my face. A computer was within my reach! As I entered the library, I saw an old gent entering the elevator. The only thing upstairs was the computer lab and I seriously doubted he was going down to the children's library, so I sprinted up the stairs two steps at a time. I was going to beat the old guy to the punch! By the time, the elevator doors opened and he shuffled into the computer lab, I had my Golden Ticket--I had a computer for an hour's time.

I felt a little smug as I sat down in the air conditioned room in front of my computer. I'm not proud of that, okay? But an addiction is an addiction. I had things to take care of. The gentleman ended up sitting next to me and immediately started playing Solitaire on his computer. I smiled at him and he gave me a weak smile with an arched eyebrow. He knew my agenda, who was I fooling? I certainly wasn't fooling him. I would have pushed this cute retiree aside to get to a computer at this very busy computer lab and we both knew it.

I checked my emails for any news on the agent who has my full manuscript as we speak and found no emails from him. I logged onto my Face Book page and checked up on my children and 'Liked' a page so that they would know I was alive, and began to write a blog, but I got nowhere. I could write a blog on my home laptop, but here at the library, I had the World Wide Web! Instead, I read the news online, did a bit of research for my second book, Finding Gracia on El Camino, and answered some emails. It was a very satisfying Saturday even though I hadn't earned brownie points with the octogenarian. He left after one hour and I was able to remain at the same computer for a couple of hours as most 'normal' people were at home, lounging by the pool, and at parks, enjoying family BBQs.

When I got home, I called the computer store to check on the status of my order and got the same reply, "Nothing yet, Ms. Parker. We'll call you the minute it comes in." 

So here I am on a much cooler Tuesday morning at my local library researching new laptops. I spent yesterday at home, writing this blog on Word. I remained indoors as the temps soared and the humidity reached what seemed like an all-time high.

The best part of this past week without my laptop? Reading. I finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain which I LOVED and finished Receive Me Falling by Erika Robuck which I liked, not loved. Last night, I began Our Lady of the Night by Mayra Santos-Febres. I've waited to read Santos-Febres' novel until I finished my own novel, set in the same town (my hometown), of Ponce, Puerto Rico.

It is amazing to me how much more I read when I don't have Internet...

Peace and love,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Slice of Historical Fiction and a Dash of Confusion

The first question my new friend asked me when I told him I wrote an historical novel was "What years does it cover?" I answered that the novel begins in 1901 and ends in 1940. "A family saga after the Spanish American War."

I made a face. "Kinda, but not really."

"Who was the decent woman? Anyone famous or historical? You've named your novel, A Decent Woman."

"I guess you could say that it's a family saga," I said, "but, it's not a saga about one family. My novel is about the lives of two women during this time period and how their lives intersected, deviated and came together at the end."

My friend looked confused. I shared that Ana, my protagonist, was my grandmother's midwife, comadre, and the character of Serafina is based on my Puerto Rican grandmother.

"So, your main character isn't anyone famous, but you include Puerto Rican history. Did you include Hurricane San Ciriaco? That happened around that time." It was clear to me that he wanted to stay focused on dates in history.

"Hurricane San Ciriaco hit in 1900. My story begins in 1901. I investigated, researched, but I wrote about two women's lives."

"This is historical fiction? I thought historical fiction had to be about a real person and real events." Had I written an historical fiction novel or not? Was this a women from Venus and men from Mars conversation?

My friend is quite a history buff and is well-versed on the wars to include the Spanish- American War. We have great conversations about history, but he's not as well-versed on the history of Puerto Rico. He wants to learn about the history of the island, but didn't seem as interested in how my characters maneuvered life during that time in history which is what interested me in writing the novel in the first place!

"So, you kept to real dates in Puerto Rican history?"

I nodded. "Yep. I've included the hurricanes and tropical storms of that time frame and even included the earthquake that hit Ponce, the town where my story takes place. I'm accurate with women's daily lives--how they lived, loved and died at that time. I researched quite a bit, but I've always had a feeling that my novel and characters were set in history rather than an historical fiction novel based on a real person in history. It's the story of two women." 

"Well, it sounds like women's fiction to me," he said. My friend seemed confused and I felt as though we were destined to agree to disagree.

"I read more non-fiction than fiction," he admitted. "But, I am curious how you marry the two." He returned my smile.

I read novels for entertainment and I love historical fiction. But honestly, I don't want a history lesson when I read. I want to be entertained and swept away by events that the characters find themselves in. History by osmosis, perhaps. I'm a people person. I love novels about people and how they maneuver situations and life's challenges. My novel, A Decent Woman, is the story of an Afro-Cuban woman and a Puerto Rican woman who forge a fierce friendship despite differing racial, social and economic situations of the early 1900's. My novel is about how Ana and Serafina lived, thrived and overcame personal challenges while discovering who they were and what they were made of in a tumultuous slice of time of Puerto Rican history. A slice of time. I like that phrase.

I also like the description--a novel set in history rather than an historical novel. That works for me. I wrote a fiction novel that I hope will be as entertaining as it is historically educational in the literary sense of the word.

I'm okay with that.

Peace and love,

Friday, July 12, 2013

Balance, Juggling and Writing in the Summer Months

I'm in awe of authors who manage to write in the summer months. Many juggle a house full of children, hold full-time jobs and keep spouses and significant others happy while managing to write and publish books. I'm single and dating, I juggle a small house, care for a largish Pug and a year old kitten. I have a great group of friends I love to visit with and I can barely manage to write for three or four hours a day this summer. How do they do it?

I suppose this is where babysitters, summer camps, stay-at-home husbands, and grandparents come in for these super authors. I like to imagine that their homes look like a train wreck or look like a small tornado went through, but I highly doubt it. I see incredible organization, spotless homes decorated a la minimalist, and no clutter. I certainly don't see piles of laundry, papers that need sorting through, and pets holding their water and food dishes, hoping to get their master's attention. Okay, that's my house. I'm seeing my house.

I read several blogs written by women authors and I can look at a photograph and know who has their stuff together. There's a confidence that radiates from some of these women and I know they run their homes and lives like a well-oiled machine. I ran such a machine when I was married and had children at home, but I didn't write books in those days. I wrote in my journal daily, but I certainly wasn't writing books.

As a single woman with no children at home, I'm finding it difficult to write in the summer months. That shouldn't be, right? Well, believe it. My garden and the Museum rose garden I volunteer at on Saturdays constantly call to me for more attention, especially in light of all the rain we've had this month. My old house is a work-in-progress and as with any 107-year old house, there's always a window sill to strip and a staircase to sand in preparation for painting. I still have two upstairs bedrooms to paint and tile floors to put down in my kitchen and bathroom. The work never ends in this house I bought two years ago. My house wasn't exactly a fixer-upper, but it definitely needed painting throughout.

How will I organize myself in the summer months to write? I won't. I won't drive myself bonkers, trying to get it all done. How will I get this new book written? One page at a time. I just have to reorganize my priorities. The painting will get done in the fall and winter months when the gardens are slowing down and the new flooring will be down before Christmas. I'll continue with my weekly cleaning and write when I can this summer. I'm going on vacation with my kids and visiting friends in NYC in August which I'm excited about and I'm planning a trip to Boston with a new friend in September to visit his daughter and then, shoot up to visit my family for a few days. I also have blogger friends I want to see this summer.

Balance. I'm trying to find the right balance in my life where I get my work done and I also have a life, especially a social life. After all, I'm a single girl :)

Peace and love,

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How An Audition Helped Me Push Past My Fear

I'm all for taking on challenges that put or push me outside my comfort zone. It has been my experience that when I do this, I am able to tackle and finish projects that have me stuck or stumped at the moment. I've also found that taking a risk and doing something totally out of character builds confidence.

Writing is one such challenge. Once I finished the first draft of my novel, I had no idea how much out of my comfort zone I'd go. Writing a book is one long, lonely road which requires strength of character, persistence and patience of which I didn't have a lot of when I began. I was absent the day God handed out extra patience.

I believe that putting ourselves out there in new situations can help us in ways that we never expected or dreamed of. For example, I wrote my first novel, A Decent Woman, in six months. The first draft came quickly to me and then, years of rewriting and editing as I was new at writing novels. I learned as I went along, read books on writing and storytelling and always kept reading books by favorite and new authors. I didn't always really know what I was doing, but I plugged along and soon I had a copy of my manuscript I was happy with. I was in a great rhythm and very pleased with myself. I was proud of finishing a book!

Soon, it came time to query agents. Now, I was in a world I knew nothing about. I hemmed and hawed, read through books on the subjects of marketing and publishing books, but still I couldn't see the next concrete step. That was when I lost a bit of self-confidence. Now what? Was I stuck? Was I blocked or was it a case of never seeing my book in print? I couldn't let that happen. I had too many books to write to just lay down the manuscript and forget about it.

Right about that time, a friend called to invite me to her theatrical performance of The Vagina Monologues. I invited ten friends who were doing The Artist's Way with me at the time and we had a wonderful time. After the performance, we hung around to congratulate our friend who'd done a monologue theater piece the year before. She told me that her theater group was holding auditions for a comedy to be performed in the fall and she urged me to audition. Me? No way. I'd performed in high school and had a bit part in a college production, but I was a writer and an artist, not an actor. 

My friend bugged me until I accepted the challenge. I was scared to death. As I stood there among veteran actors, I just knew I was in the wrong place. What had I been thinking? This was a joke. I had a fear of speaking in public. I'd given talks on subjects I knew a lot about in school, but this was entirely out of my comfort zone. So, I pushed past my fear and since I was already in the theater and would have looked like a baby if I walked out, I went through with the audition process. Well, the audition was a blast. We read lines in funny voices and foreign accents and at the end, my sides hurt from laughing so much. I made new friends and although I didn't get one of three parts for women, I had a great time and learned a lot about myself--I can do comedy.

I came home that night with renewed strength, pride and new-found courage. Things always look worse and harder until we actually do them. The unknown is sometimes scary, but looking back, we realize that the things we feared weren't all that bad. I began querying agents the next morning.

So, say yes to new challenges, you just might surprise yourself.

Peace and love,

Monday, July 8, 2013

Spinning Yarns and Ghost Stories Around the Campfire

I spent Saturday evening sitting on that log around a blazing fire in the fire pit pictured below with two good friends, a married couple, their enormous Golden Retriever and their male friend who became a new friend to me.

When my Northern Virginia friends called to invite me to share their rented cabin, I was thrilled. I love the mountains and boy, were they really tucked in deep in the woods. After a few wrong turns, I finally found them.

As soon as I arrived, the grilling began--hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken thighs and the best baked beans ever which reminds me that I need that recipe. Well, after our delicious meal, it was time to sit around the campfire which our host had dug out earlier that afternoon.

We each had a log to sit on around the blazing fire and the conversation and laughs continued under a starry, starry night. Around 10 pm, the subject of ghosts and spirits came up as it ALWAYS does around a campfire! Here we are, forty and fifty year olds, sitting around the campfire spinning yarns about ghostly apparitions, telling ghost stories about unexplained phenomena, and urban legends from around the world. We four were clearly storytellers and nothing had changed--we four seemed to go back in time and became kids again.

As the stories continued and I told my story about the ghost in my house (true), all of the sudden, the cabin seemed far away and the woods around us seemed to circle in closer. I honestly was a bit afraid and kept looking over my shoulder into the woods imagining all sorts of things! Bears, bobcats and rogue West Virginian mountain men! My girlfriend's husband is a real jokester and loves pranking people, so I was alert and watched him like a hawk. My friend doesn't mind being his accomplice, so I was watching her, too. I just knew that he was up to no good. Every time he excused him to either get a beer or use the facilities, I stood up and kept a good eye on the path from the house to the fire pit. No one was going to sneak up on me!

At one point, our hosts went inside for more drinks, leaving me with my new friend, a former police officer. We'd just discovered that we shared a love of travel and adventure and he was telling me about a recent trip to Brazil. We were so engrossed in conversation that I'd neglected to keep an eye out for our hosts. I told him that I was a little spooked about how dark it was and how I didn't trust our host when all of the sudden, I felt a furry paw on my arm. Well, I screamed what was most definitely a blood-curdling scream. I jumped up and grabbed the man's arm and he yelled, too! This big, burly guy and I whipped around the see our host's Golden Retriever wagging his tail and 'smiling' a goofy smile like only a Golden can. The 'monster' dog  quiet had been quiet as a mouse and as stealthy as a thief as he approached us, we hadn't heard a thing until his paw landed on my arm.

Of course, my (our!) scream brought out our hosts and soon we were laughing our heads off. What a night :)

I hope you had a super weekend. I sure did.

Peace and love,

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lilly Pulitzer's Reading Glasses

I'm into this enlarged font today. It's so much easier on my eyes. I'm hoping to reduce the time I read with reading glasses because lately, I've found myself using them way too much. Last night I realized I had them on while eating my dinner. Not good. I'm too dependent on them, so hence the enlarged font this morning.

There's usually a positive and a negative side to any activity, depending on who you are and how much you do it. Perhaps there'll be more than a couple of ticks in one category in which case, you might want to look into that activity or choice. If there are way more negatives, you might need to quit what you're doing as in smoking, eating an entire rhubarb pie in one sitting, or drinking a pot of tea at midnight..not a good idea. This pot of tea at midnight is clearly not good for you or anyone else who comes in contact with you and especially not for the person next to you who is trying to sleep. Highly annoying.

Take writing for example. I write and/or blog every day. I love it. When I'm into my writing, I can sit here for eight to ten hours a day and in that time, my little reading glasses are perched on the bridge of my nose. Every now and then, I take my glasses off to clean them, when I run to the kitchen for a cup of tea or coffee, or let the dog out, but pretty much, they're on my face.

I have reading glasses in my car, by my bed, in the bathroom, by my laptop and in several purses should I feel the need to change purses. Actually, I should leave a pair at my son and daughter's houses, too. I can think of no other item that I have as many duplicates of...well, okay...I have a helluva lot of shoes. 

My reading glasses are light aqua and brown (stolen from an old boyfriend because I just loved them), brown, tortoise-shell, black, silver and gold and I used to own a pair of reading glasses in Lilly Pulitzer colors. Remember her preppie pastel-colored vacation clothes? Yuck. I must have been insane to wear those clothes. 

Well, I'm always on the lookout for a new color and I'm craving a lavender pair. I know, it's nuts, but I'm addicted to reading glasses. Okay, I said it. I'm owning it, but I don't like it. When I travel, I look for new colors and must pack at least three pair because there's nothing more irritating or unseemly as trying to read a Paris or London subway map with your face all scrunched up. 

And since we're confessing here...I cannot go anywhere without a notebook, a pen, pencils with erasers and mechanical pencils for my crossword puzzles. Never. I pack a fun bag for me just like you do for a kid!

It's pretty clear to me that if I don't stop using my reading glasses so often, I'll be entirely dependent on them. I'm not too far from that now. I'm entirely okay with adapting to my age. I'm adapting to my fluctuating weight, my arthritic knees, gravity, and my more taut than usual muscles that need constant stretching, but my eyes--they need a rest. I don't want to adapt to the change, not this change. I'm not going to go from a -2.00 reading glasses prescription to Coke bottle!

So, since I know that I'm never giving up writing and blogging or painting in watercolor and gardening, I'm going to use my reading glasses less and enlarge the font. So there, old age. 

Who am I fooling? I love reading glasses. I love wearing reading glasses and I am drawn to own every single color and shade under the sun! Have you ever begun to write your blog and ended up uncovering a secret? An addiction? I just did.

I'm Ellie Parker and I'm a reading glasses addict. I'm not even a recovering reading glasses addict. I'm an addict. But, they say that realization and acceptance are the first steps in kicking any habit and I've done that here.

Meh :) I'm off to CVS and Rite Aid to check out their summer and fall collections of reading glasses. I wonder if the lavender reading glasses will come with a cute case?

No matter. I'll be that awesome writer lady in the neighborhood with the funky, kaleidoscope reading glasses. The eccentric author, Ms. Ellie. It was bound to happen and I accept it. But...I'll never wear Lilly Pulitzer reading glasses, ever. That's where I must draw the line.

Peace and love,

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, America!

The United States of America is 235 years old today--Happy Birthday, America! The finale tonight in Washington, DC is to include 3,000 fireworks in 17 minutes!

When I was young, I couldn't wait for the sun to go down on the Fourth of July. My mom would pack us up and walk us to the nearest park no matter where we lived. I remember walking too fast for my mother's comfort and her fear that my sister and I would get lost in the heavy crowds. Every boom and grouping of shooting stars illuminating the dark skies made my pulse race and every combination was better than the last one. My sister and I would yell out our favorites as the lights above us shimmered and shone on practically every surface around us, to include my eyeglasses. And then, the much-anticipated finale! It doesn't get much better than that.

In my 20's, I worked at the Pentagon and enjoyed the concerts and shenanigans near the Washington Monument with friends and my younger sister. Early on the 4th, we'd staked our claim to a little plot of land on the National Mall with a blanket and a cooler full of alcoholic drinks (those days are over!), listening to band after band and getting way too much sun. The finale in Washington, DC was always spectacular and the party afterward was always fun. I have great memories of meeting wonderful people from all over the United States and abroad.

As a young mother living in the Washington DC area, I did the same thing with my kids--I packed up the car and off we went. Some years, we watched firework displays locally and other times, we headed to the Mall in front of the Washington Monument. One year, we sat beneath the Iwo Jima Memorial along the Potomac River. We never missed the displays until we moved to Europe as a young military family in 1993. While living in Europe, we enjoyed annual 4th of July American community picnics, but there were no fireworks in Vienna, Austria nor Brussels, Belgium as there were no US bases near us. We ended up living in Belgium and France for 13 years and I missed those firework displays.

When my kids left for college in the US, I returned to the States as a newly-separated woman. I rented a house on a hill in Frederick, MD where my kids and I watched the fireworks from lawn chairs on our front yard. We watched them together for a couple of years while they were in college until they graduated and moved out on their own. Soon, they had their own friends to watch the fireworks with and I made new friends and reconnected with old friends.

As a single mother of adult children not living at home (shouldn't that be--SMACNLAH?), I've joined new and old friends at firework displays on the shores of Lake Anna in southern Virginia, along the Potomac River in West Virginia, and on a beautiful sailboat in Plymouth Harbor in Massachusetts which was awesome! One year, I was headed to dinner with my kids in Washington, DC a few days before the 4th and I saw fireworks from Memorial Bridge. I stopped my car and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular display by myself. Last year, friends and I watched the fireworks from our river place. I was impressed by our river community, they put on a super display.

Tonight, I have no plans. For the first time, I have no plans to watch the fireworks of the Fourth of July. My city isn't hosting fireworks because of a shooting last year involving a child. I'm a bit afraid of joining the huge crowds in Washington, DC in light of the massacre at the Boston Marathon and boy, does the unrest in Egypt and Syria worry me. We're living in a different world today.

There will be no coolers or backpacks allowed in firework locations in Washington, DC and everyone will be searched. It saddens me that we've lost a bit of innocence, but all the precautions are necessary. How safe can we really be in public places? Very, very safe, I hope and pray. I pray for my children, family and friends wherever they are tonight. But, we can't allow fear to grip us and cause us to stay hunkered down. That's not who we are.

So maybe I'll call my friend and take a little ride tonight. She grew up in my adopted city and I bet she knows all the best places to view fireworks. It's just not the same watching the fireworks on TV :)

Peace, love and safety to you and yours.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Morphing, Symbolism and Signs in Nature for Our Writing

A few days ago, I spotted a beautiful insect on my Puerto Rican grandmother's little wicker table that sits on my kitchen patio. I'd never seen anything like it. As I ran back inside to grab my cell phone to snap some photographs, I'd hoped it wouldn't fly away. My daughter's boyfriend told me what it was--a leopard moth.

Yesterday, I took a good look at this leopard moth and wondered if it was dead. It hadn't moved at all that I could see. So quiet and peaceful. I poked the moth lightly with my finger and it moved. What was it doing?

I wasn't sure if the insect was getting ready for something like morphing or coming to end of its life. I wondered if this lovely insect could fly at all. Perhaps it was injured or were its wings as decorative as the spots on its body, not really made for flying? The moth had moved to rest on a leaf of the pineapple top that I'm rooting in a glass of water last night. Maybe it was hungry. When I checked on the leopard moth this morning, it was gone. I was kinda sad and wished it well.

I love seeing and recognizing signs and symbolism in nature, so I thought about what this leopard moth might signify for me as a creative person. The ideas of morphing, change, rest, patience--the various stages of growth that the leopard moth had gone through resonated with me. It had morphed from caterpillar to chrysalis to moth. Quite a journey and here it was gracing my kitchen porch.

Over the last few years, I too have morphed as a woman, a writer and as an artist. At times, I'm crazy productive and other times, I've rested and gone inward. I've learned to preserve my creative energy and not burn out. I take breaks when I need them and if I need a week away from my novel or a painting, I take it--just because I'm not writing or have a paintbrush in hand doesn't mean I'm not being creative.

Much like this leopard moth, a lot is happening inside while I rest and am still. I may appear dormant at times, but I'm not dead! Rest and being still are an important stage in writing and being creative. I don't have huge swings of creativity aka I'm not up until all hours and then sleep for a week. But, I do listen to my mind and my body. I'm much more productive that way and I truly believe in things happening at the right time.

Timing is everything. One day soon, my first novel, A Decent Woman, is going to fly, fly, fly away like the leopard moth while at the same time, my second novel, Finding Gracia, is still in the caterpillar stage. I might feel sad to see my first novel go out into the world where I can no longer protect it, but my book is ready for that. I'm ready for that. My second novel is still where I can protect it and feed it dandelions until it morphs into another beautiful novel.

Peace and love to you,