Thursday, May 30, 2013

She Stood in the Storm...

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way,
she adjusted her sail.
-Elizabeth Edwards


I remembered this quote after I wrote yesterday's blog post. I'd reread my words and realized that it was time to adjust my sail. I was already tired of feeling like the kid standing in front of a carousel, wanting to get on, but who can only watch the painted horses go round and round. I'd symbolically licked my index finger and put it up, searching for a breeze and yesterday, I didn't find a breeze. I don't do whiny and victim well, so writing out my feelings really helped me.

I decided that I would adjust my sail and find that damn breeze because I know it's out there. There's plenty of breeze to go around, I just have to find it and keep adjusting accordingly.

When I began my first novel, I was the kid who sits on a large piece of cardboard, giddy and eager to go down the snowy hill that glistens in front of her. The anticipation and adrenaline of seeing my novel published and read by family, friends and strangers really kept me going. I didn't know diddly squat about the publishing business, but I had high hope that my story was fresh and unique enough for publication and representation. The momentum was great.

But sometimes, we hit a patch of ice that derails us or we hit a patch where the snow has melted and the grass is growing, forcing our piece of cardboard to come to a dead halt. We keep scooting forward, hoping to find that momentum again and sometimes, we just don't find it. I'm not sure if my piece of cardboard came to a dead stop yesterday OR maybe I stopped it. Yesterday, I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I got tired of the false starts,  rejection and seemingly, dead ends with my novel.

In 2006, I went through a marital separation, a trans-Atlantic move with my kids back to the US, and I divorced. I'd turned 50 and worked full-time while going back to school part-time. I'm no quitter. I've come through adversity and challenges with flying colors (to me) and I don't shy away from the road less traveled. I finish what I start.

This sounds like a pep talk, doesn't it? Well, sometimes you have to talk yourself into believing that you can do it. Fake it until you make it, they say. But, I'm not faking it--I'm doing it. I do, however, have to remind myself that I'm tough, tenacious, and that I've accomplished great things in my life. I've lived an interesting life here and abroad and I still have visions of adventures, living overseas, traveling, sharing in my kid's happy moments, and of holding my future grandchildren. There's a lot left to experience and I'm excited for the future with my children and my future as a writer and published novelist.

The writer's life isn't an easy road to navigate and the publishing world is even tougher. It's a lonely life at times, but I love it. I moved to WV to be able to write full-time and I've done just that. I received lovely comments and emails after I posted yesterday's blog post and I say THANK YOU. Two friends, both published authors, came forward to give me encouragement, support and virtual hugs. I needed them!

I went out with a good friend last night who has come through difficulties and adversity in her personal and professional life. She called out of the blue and didn't take no for an answer when she suggested we go out. I tried to beg off, saying my hair didn't look great and that my jeans were dirty (true), but she ignored me. "Be ready in 10 minutes, I've already left the house," she said.  Okay, then! In that situation, I faked it until I made it. I really didn't want to go out.

During our catching up, I realized that my friend had needed the night out as much as I had. We kept thanking each other for the fun evening and vowed not to allow ourselves to get bogged down with the small stuff. And, that we have to get out every now and then!

This morning, I realized that I'd brought down my sail yesterday. I'd folded it carefully and put it away. Self-preservation? Perhaps it was. But, I've decided to unfold and raise that sail again today. I'm adjusting my sails toward small presses for my novel. I'm pleased that many big name agents have asked to see sample chapters of my novel. That shows me that I'm on the right path. I just have to keep adjusting my sails until I hit my stride by rewriting and making my novel the best it can be.

Good luck to all the writers out there! Hang in there, I know it's tough and you're not alone. Praying for smooth seas and lots of wind for us! I have renewed faith today. It's fragile, but it's there.

Thanks again to the writers who came forward yesterday, fanning my sails for me when I just couldn't catch a damn breeze :)

Peace and love to you,
Ellie


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yes, Patsy. I Must Be Crazy.

I'm tired. It's not even 9 o'clock in the morning and I already feel the need for a nap. My body isn't tired, but my mind is saturated with information gleaned from reading too many blog posts by agents, writers, and authors. I can't take anymore in.

This morning, I feel like the little mouse in the book, "Who Moved My Cheese?" My gut tells me that it's time to jump onto the self-publishing wagon, but my brain is telling me, "Wait. Just be patient. Do the work and then, think about all that." But then again, if I self-publish now, I could add that I have a published book in future query letters when I finished my second novel which is going quite well.

Is it time to move forward with an ebook or hang back, watching from the sidelines??? 
Am I going to miss the boat altogether by sticking to my novel and initial plan?
Do I have time to wait several more months to requery (is that a word?) and wait, wait and wait some more? 
What to do?

I'm tired. My brain is tired and I need another cup of tea. I'm not tired of my novel, not by a long shot, but I AM tired of thinking about querying agents, researching Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and tired of thinking and reading about the publishing world as a whole. My mind just can't take in any more information! Done. I need someone to help me navigate this world of self-publishing. Yes, I do!

HOW can one writer do it all? How can a writer with a limited income (like me) hire a publicist, another editor and a company to help navigate the self-publishing world? I can't and according to the experts in those fields, I need one of each BEFORE my manuscript is online. Sheesh.

I just want to write. That's it. I want to write interesting, thought-provoking and fabulous novels, one after another, and have readers love my work. Is that nuts?

Why do I write? I write because I'm compelled to and can't seem to stop. I also write because I want readers to perhaps learn something, live in the world I create, and love the characters I love. Is that too much to ask? I love writing.

I miss simpler days when a writer wrote a novel and got published. Maybe it wasn't that easy, but if you managed to write and sell a novel, the publishing houses did it all for them. The author was simply charged with writing and handing in a manuscript that had been well edited. Not today. Okay, I'm whining now.

It's one crazy world, the world of the writer. I feel like a kid standing in front of a spinning carousel, waiting for a break in the momentum to hop on and enjoy the ride that I know will be awesome. I just need one agent. One agent who believes in me and my books.

Could someone slow down the world, please? I feel that if I don't hop onto the damn self-publishing carousel soon, it will all change by the time I'm ready! I worry that it won't be free, it will no longer be easy to self-publish, and everyone will be on the carousel but me. If I wait any longer, I might not have a spot and I won't get the carousel horse of my choice.

I don't know any more, but I'm glad I can write this out and sorry you have to witness this whiny blog post. Sigh, off to write now.

Is that Patsy Cline I hear singing? I hear the song "Crazy" playing somewhere on my street. Yes Patsy, I must be crazy to write, but I love it.

Peace and love,
Ellie










Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adventure, Adrenaline and Stimulation in Storytelling




The first chapter of my historical novel, A Decent Woman, opens in 1901 as Hurricane San Cirilo bears down on the southwestern coast of the island of Puerto Rico as my main character Ana, an Afro-Cuban midwife, ponders whether the souls of those lost to hurricanes return to claim the lives of sinners...and boy, has she sinned.

Many agents encourage writers NOT to open a novel with weather, so why did I choose to open my story during a hurricane? I chose that beginning because hurricanes are a fact of life living in the Caribbean as are childbirth and death. I was born in Puerto Rico and it made perfect sense to me.

This coming Saturday, the first of June, marks and opens the beginning of hurricane season 2013. NOAA predicts an "extremely active hurricane season for 2013." If you live on the coast, most probably, you will already know this. If you live near the ocean, you are already making preparations. If you live in a historically high impact area, you've probably already purchased batteries, water, canned food and for sure you know where your can opener and flash lights are. Perhaps you've bought a generator this year and you definitely have a battery-powered radio to keep up abreast of the inclement weather reports and alerts for your area. You might have purchased wood to board your windows and doors should you be in harm's way to protect your family, your home and its contents. If things get ugly, you have a family evacuation plan, an emergency plan and kit, and your car should be gassed up until November 30, 2013 when hurricane season ends.

I have a friend who lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. She has two cars. One car sits in her garage, packed 365 days of the year with photo albums, family heirlooms, paintings, anything she deems precious, ready for evacuation. Her other car is her run-around town car. When I commented on how wonderful it must be to live in Hilton Head, she said, "You want to live in fear?" Hmmm...all is not perfect in paradise, but my friend remains. She has lived in Hilton Head for nearly ten years now and there is an evacuation route off the island to the mainland. There is no such bridge off the island of Puerto Rico nor neighboring islands. You're pretty much stuck and SOL--shit out of luck--so, you ride it out the best way you know how.

As a child and teenager, I spent practically every summer in paradise aka Puerto Rico with my grandparents and relatives. My sister and I would get out of school in the US in late May and fly TWA to San Juan with our mother where our relatives picked us up. We spent June, July and August in the southwestern city of Ponce where my family is from. As kids, we never thought about hurricane season, we just went to visit our grandparents and family for the summer, but I'm sure that my grandparents and my mother sure thought about it as our summer vacations always coincided with hurricane season. I certainly thought about it when I traveled to Puerto Rico with my own children during the summer months, but we went anyway. It's life.

My grandparent's house is situated near the city center of Ponce and we can drive to the beach, la Playa de Ponce, in ten minutes. My grandmother, Meme, grew on right on that beach and I always loved to hear her stories of life in the Playa. Meme's stories of living through tropical storms and hurricanes and even a devastating earthquake in Ponce always mesmerized me. I was the kid who sat her feet, listening and eating up every last word and description.

I've always been in awe of nature, Mother Nature and my grandmother. Meme, was the epitome of a storyteller. I took up the storyteller baton from Meme and still love a good storm. My sister and I share a love of inclement weather and we're not frightened by thunder and lightning. When we hear one of our areas is due a good thunder storm, we text each other and add a big smiley face and when it's a bust or blows around our area, we're bummed out. I don't really know where that comes from, but I have an inkling that it began with the adrenaline rush we didn't realize we grew up with by spending our summers in PR during hurricane season.

All I know is that as a kid, I was a handful. I constantly whined to my mother, "I'm bored!" I craved adventure, stimulation and couldn't wait to step off the airplane in San Juan. Maybe that's why my mother took us to PR for the summer. I was never bored there!

Writers write what they know, have lived and experienced. No surprises there.

Peace and love,
Ellie














Monday, May 27, 2013

REMEMBERING...



I remember my father telling me the story of his enlistment into the United States Army. He had to have my grandmother's signature when he enlisted in 1949. He was that young. My grandmother didn't want to sign, but she knew her son would go with or without her signature. My father retired from an honorable 30 year career in the US Army as an active duty soldier. He is also Vietnam veteran. My Dad is still that tough ol' Command Sergeant Major despite his 82 years and I'm very proud to be a daughter of a soldier. 

I also remember my ex-husband who served in the US Army for 28 years as well as his father and his brother. All West Point graduates, two Vietnam veterans, one Desert Storm veteran, all three career officers.

I honor my father and all the men and women who have served our country's Armed Forces, at home and abroad, at peace and in times of war and conflict. I am keenly aware of their sacrifices and those of their families as an Army brat and an Army wife of 25 years.

This morning, I attended a wreath laying ceremony in my West Virginia town. It had been a long time since I'd attended a military ceremony. I watched as a mother walked with the President of the Ladies Auxiliary to the our United States flag and laid a wreath for her 20 year son who died in Iraq three years ago and for all the fallen heroes from every war. It was very moving and my tears fell as Taps were played. My heart broke for that mother this morning. Most of us know a family who has lost a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a husband, a wife, a mother and a father.

God bless all the men and women who serve today, here and abroad. God bless those who have served in past wars and conflicts. Rest in eternal peace our fallen heroes. All heroes to me.

THANK YOU.





Friday, May 24, 2013

Why We Write What We Write


Last month, a girlfriend dropped off a book for me to read during my travels--Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining by Judy Sheindlin as in Judge Judy Sheindlin. Fantastic title for her book of nonfiction! I'm not a huge Judge Judy fan, but when I've caught her show, I've laughed at her astute observations and raised an eyebrow at her sharp tongue that often spews out acidic comments at the people who walk into her court room. Can we say reality check? It's tough to get one over on Judge Judy, the epitome of reality, rules, and laws. I think Judge Judy is awesome and the book is on my stack of books to read this summer.

Can we imagine Judge Judy writing a romance novel or a YA novel? Hard to imagine, right? Well, Judy Sheindlin is a mother of five. If anyone knows the heart and mind of a child, teenager and young adult, it would be her. In her acknowledgment page she writes, "My husband, Jerry, is the excitement in my life and my friend. I love him so much, I married him twice." That's romantic, right? Beautiful. Don't judge a book by its cover...

Do you worry that you write in too many genres and won't be taken seriously in any genre because you're scattered here and there? There are many facets to each of us and it's no surprise to me that authors write in many genres. Some writers and authors KNOW where they belong and are headed; they remain in one specific genre all their writing life. Good for them! Some kids know they'll be a dentist or a lawyer when they grow up and voila, it comes to pass. Some kids like me, however, were/are creative. I didn't like being in a box, being labeled or being put into a box. I still don't. It takes all kinds...

I've written an historical novel, A Decent Woman, that deals with women's issues in 1900 Puerto Rico mixed with murder, Santeria, spiritism, death and lies. My second novel, Finding Gracia, which I'm writing now, falls into the historical genre, as well. The second book is a coming of age, love story mixed with history, mystery, mysticism and a little of the paranormal. I have a murder mystery series in mind and I've dipped my toes in YA fiction. I also write poetry, lots of poetry with symbolism, fantasy and the metaphysical. That's a lot of genres, right? Sometimes, it's difficult to stick to ONE genre as we write and I would venture to say that most authors and writers have dabbled in other genres or write with a nom de plume.

However, there is one common denominator in my books and ideas that you may have picked up on - the mystery of the unknown and the metaphysical. Why? I'll tell you why.

Like Judge Judy must be described, I've been described by friends and family as a realist. A no-nonsense woman who asks the hard questions. If you ask me a question and want the truth, ask me, I'll tell you what I think. If you don't want to truth, I won't bring it up. I've worked as a counselor, a refugee case worker, a residential treatment center staff member for kids 13-21, and up until two years ago, I worked as a bilingual family support worker in the DC area. My main resume might tell you that I'm an advocate for children and women, that I'm socially conscious, liberal, compassionate, empathic, and that I must be tough and thick-skinned. You'd be right, but never as tough as Judge Judy!

The other sides to me are my spiritual, religious, and mystical sides. My other resume shows that I've worked in the piscines, the baths of the Sanctuary of Notre Dame de Lourdes in Lourdes, France for over 13 years. I've led pilgrimages to the Sanctuaire and it is my favorite place in the world. I'm also a Reiki Master/practitioner, trained in Belgium and in the UK. Surprised? I joke that my realism comes from my New England roots and my spiritual and mystical side comes from my Puerto Rican roots. True enough and my family is Catholic on both sides. Plenty of mysticism in the Catholic Church and in Puerto Rico.

I had a Reiki practice in Belgium and today, I work on family and friends when I'm asked. Next week, I'm interviewing for a freelance job as a Reiki practitioner for a hair salon/spa in my area. Last year, I wrote a blog called Practical Spirituality 365 where I wrote a blog a day about spiritual and religious issues. So you see, it's not far-fetched for me to write with these themes in mind, they resonate with me. I've lived them.

My life experiences prepared me to write the books I write. As I look back, my life experiences were my education, my tuition. The 'good' and 'bad' experiences have made me who I am today and they've made me the writer I am. No one can tell my story but me.

My advice to you? Just write. Write what you know and are passionate about. Don't get bogged down with genres and worrying about which 'box' you fit in as you write. Just get the words down and worry about that later!

Peace and love,
Ellie





















Thursday, May 23, 2013

Getting Back on the Horse aka Rewriting


Yesterday, I began the rewrites on a couple of chapters of my novel, A Decent Woman, after over a month away from my characters and my story. I had a major interruption with the city's letters to everyone on my historic district block to remove all chipping paint from brick. My brick duplex house wasn't as bad as others and it was a pain in my arse and my pocket book, but it was worth it.

I love how my house looks now and while I had the workman there, I had the old metal awning and storm door removed, as well. This morning, a friend picked it all up. My house looks like a proper row house now and my garden is happy with all the rain we've been getting. Now, if I could just NOT go onto Pinterest for ideas for a great looking front stoop!

Getting back to a manuscript after a month away feels much like falling off a horse and feeling a bit of fear about getting back on. But, if we intend to keep writing and are committed to writing, we have to get back on the proverbial horse. I intend to ride off into the sunset with my writing, but I had a few preparations to make to ensure a full day of writing. I have no plans for Memorial Day weekend, so I needed to set the stage for some profitable and positive writing time this weekend and into next week, as well.

I've already created the perfect writing space for myself in my dining room, but it needed clearing after being out of the country for a month. My head needed clearing, as well. I can't write with distractions. I called, texted and emailed my kids, friends and family. I checked Facebook for birthdays and okay, I played Words With Friends with my cousin's daughter and friend early this morning! I stacked bills in a pile for next week...there's always next week for bills. I cleared my dining room table cum writing table of unnecessary items, books, bills (ugh), and papers. I even dusted the table! Sounds silly, but we all have our creative rituals. I know when it's right and we all know our personal distractions. If I don't create the perfect writing space and time, no one will do that for me.

While the water boiled for tea, I perused Pandora for the right channel to listen to while writing. I selected my Rodrigo and Gabriela channel, two classical guitarists I love. When I'm writing, I can't listen to words. It's strictly instrumental for me and I LOVE Spanish songs played on a classical guitar, so Rodrigo and Gabriela, Armik, Jesse Cook and Ottmar Liebert are perfect choices. When I get tired of guitar, I switch to cello concertos, Bach or Mozart. I turned off my phone, closed the drapes so that I wouldn't be distracted by my garden and neighbors, and put the AC on as it's been really humid. I created my cave and immediately felt great and at peace. I made a pot of Earl Grey and patted my dictionary and thesaurus. I keep a photo of my mother and grandmother nearby as well as a picture frame with a photograph of my children that I love. I said my prayers.

The last thing I did was remove the Writer's Digest Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and the Guide to Literary Agents books from the dining table so that I don't think about being picked up by an agent, my author platform or a publishing while I'm writing. I need only think about writing the best novel I know how to write; a book I'm proud of. The rest will take care of itself or I'll self publish...which I think about more and more.

As I write this blog post, my Pug snores lightly on the floor beside my chair and the cat is draped across my coffee table. Again, I'm reminded of how blessed and fortunate I am to be doing what I love. I'm grateful. I created this writing world and life for myself and I'm enjoying it to the max.

All is well in my writing world this morning! Ahem, it's actually 1:24 pm, but who's checking :)

Happy writing to you.

Ellie


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Such Profound Sadness...

I want to share a writing exercise I enjoy when I'm either feeling a bit blocked or feel so scattered that I can't imagine concentrating on my manuscript. Today is that day. In light of the horror, pain and devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, I can only write.

I've selected a photograph that my daughter took while on vacation. At times like these, I am at a loss as to what I should do and I must write out my feelings and emotions. It helps me.

I stare at the photograph until something comes to mind. I love that my daughter thought to have her camera or cell phone with her when she decided to wade in the ocean. My children are wonderful photographers. It's an awesome shot. I notice the rocks and pebbles that are visible on the ocean floor and the beautiful reflection of the sun hitting the surface of the water. I imagine the water is turquoise and the skies were clear. My daughter was happy on that day.

My thoughts soon turn to the ideas of clear and murky. Clarity and darkness. In light of the devastation, horror and unfathomable pain in Moore and Joplin, Oklahoma and other towns in the state, it is a dark day in Moore.The situation in the town feels murky, dark and heavy as I watch the rescue workers fighting to clear debris away, hoping and praying to find more men, women and especially, children alive. Lost pets. Homes and businesses lost. Hundreds of people desperately working through the muck, dangerous, sharp objects, cars, mangled steel and aluminum, searching non-stop for any sign of life or a piece of cherished family memorabilia. It can't be easy to know where to look, but I am deeply touched by people's love, involvement and commitment to the rescue of possible survivors. It's a massive debris field ten feet high and yet, the people of Oklahoma are clear--they will continue in the search and they will rebuild.

Our hearts break for the children and for the parents and family members who don't know where their loved ones are. Heart wrenching to watch grieving parents and family members. Enormous grief. I shed tears of joy as I watched parents reunited with their children with the mountains of debris all around them. Beautiful and so moving.

I pray for strength, courage, and more strength as the people of Oklahoma as they go through the following days, week and months of recovery and rebuilding their town and their lives. I pray for the souls of those lost and especially, for the young children who perished. Sweet angels who sought shelter in the one of the safest places they knew. I am in awe of the teachers and other personnel who sheltered, shielded and cared for the children during this deadly tornado with their bodies and with their lives. All heroes to me.

I will continue to support the residents of Oklahoma with prayers and assistance where I can. I pray that no more tornadoes touch down as hurricane season begins next week across the United States. I wonder when the murky feelings will clear for the good people of Oklahoma. If they ever clear. Such palpable and profound sadness...

Peace and love,
Ellie







Friday, May 17, 2013

Patience, Prayer and Being Proactive in Publishing



So, my horoscope for May says that this is the best month of the year for Virgo which would be me. Apparently, my houses of fame and recognition are highlighted this month, specifically in the fields of writing and publishing. Woot! Well, that is IF you believe in horoscopes, astrology, the planets and stars aligning for our highest good. I'm a middle of the road believer in astrology, but of course, I'm rooting for the planets this month. Yes, to writing recognition and a publishing contract! I'm in!

This morning, a friend posted a quote on Facebook which I can't remember verbatim, but it basically says that good things come to those who wait. Hmmm. I believe in patience and praying. I do. Lord knows, writers need and require tons and tons of patience and prayers. I pray, but I also believe that God gave me a brain. As in, I can't just sit here and wait for something to happen for me--I have to be proactive. For that publishing contract to happen, I have to query, query and keep querying agents.

It's like the joke about the guy who is sitting on the roof of his house in a flood. He's calling to God, pleading for Him to help him escape and survive the flood. A guy in a row boat approaches the house and encourages the man to jump into his boat, but he says, "No, I'm afraid I'll fall into the water and drown! Go on and save yourself! God will save me!" The man in the row boat can't convince the man. He shrugs and rows away.

In a few minutes, a helicopter flies by and spots the man on the roof. The pilot circles back, throws down a ladder and yells for the man to grab a hold and he'll fly him to safety. But, the man yells back that he's frozen in fear and is afraid that he'll grab for the ladder, miss it and be thrown into the flood. The helicopter flies away.

The man calls out to God, again pleading for Him to save him. God answers, "Boy, I've sent you a boat and I've sent you a helicopter, what are you doing to save yourself?! Use your brain, man!"

So, I'm a bit superstitious and IF I get an agent and a publishing contract this month, I will always and forever believe in astrology!! But to be on the safe and sane side, I'll keep praying, working on my novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman, and I'll keep querying agents :)

Happy Friday to you!

Peace and love,
Ellie












Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Muck and the Mire

Sometimes you have to go through the muck and mire to get to a beautiful place.

I bought this 107-year old house (duplex) two years this month on a wing and a prayer. I'd never purchased a home on my own and it was a terrifying experience. If I hadn't had the most amazing, awesome, and encouraging real estate agent in the world on my side, I wouldn't have done it. I know this. Well, with her gentle push, I bought the house and I'm so glad.

My old house is solid and sound and today, everything works! I LOVE old houses, old furniture, old books and it's no surprise to me that I LOVE writing historical fiction.

Yeah, the water pressure isn't great in my old house and I don't have outlets where I'd like them, but all in all, it's a great house for me. Unfortunately, the chimney was closed off, so I don't have a working fireplace, but I have a great mantle. All the floors are Southern Pine and the doors, door knobs, and sash windows are original. I was smitten.

I'm missing sixteen wood shutters that were stolen when the house was in foreclosure years ago and I hate that crappy metal awning, but the house works for me. It's just the right size with three bedrooms and one bathroom. And, room in the utility room for a teeny weeny powder room in the future.

The small yard which runs along the side of the house to a flagstone patio in the back, off the kitchen door is just enough for me to maintain and I can mow the lawn in five minutes. I planted a garden along the front fence which I can see from my dining room window where I write. A special writing place is important to me.

I've decorated the house like I like it with furniture that reminds me of my many postings around the world and my children's photographs surround me. I've had happy times in this house and although my children live in the DC area and I miss them. This is home, our home. They don't visit as often as I'd like them to, but they're allergic to cats and there's Pierre, my cat. So, I visit them.

Life was good before I left for Europe four weeks ago. Then, I received a letter from the city. All the owners on my street (the city planner is making her way to every street in my town) received a letter citing the things we have to do to be in compliance with city ordinance. My letter stated that I had three months to remove the chipping red paint on the red brick...that's my whole house.

I don't know why people paint red brick with red paint. Doesn't make sense to me, but that's what a former owner did. So, as the new owner, it was my problem. I was really upset with this news and tried not to think about it during my vacation, but the idea of a major financial ordeal kept creeping into my mind. I dreaded going home to deal with this.

So, my friend and former owner of the house graciously offered to help me scrape paint off the brick when I returned. We didn't know how we were going to reach the second story and up from there, but we would begin. She and I began scraping paint yesterday morning and after an hour, a man walked by and offered to scrape the paint off my entire house for $130! Thank you, God!! A stranger to me who was looking for quick money. I was a bit hesitant, but after speaking with him and asking him to sign a legal contract that I printed off the laptop, I agreed to the price.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, so he is nearly finished with the largest portion of the house, the side. This morning it's raining, so I doubt I'll see him, but I'm so happy that he walked by when he did, looking for work. The house looks great and I'll deal with the mortar later.

As I looked at this photograph this morning, I had a great idea...I'll have him remove the crappy metal awning! He has to work on the front of the house and that will make it much easier for him and make the front more aesthetically pleasing! The thought makes me so happy! The house is an historic property, BUT the awning isn't original to the house, so I'm good there.

It's said that to move forward to a better place, you have to reach and go through a rough patch. The city is just doing their job and now, I will be able to remove the awning at a great price. In the future, I'll have someone build a wood railing with a Federal style wood awning with two wood pillars. Perfect. That should make the Historical Society or as we jokingly call it, the Hysterical Society, happy :)

My manuscript, A Decent Woman, will have to wait a week for me to get stuck in it again. However, this glitch in my writing routine turned out to be the best thing ever.

I'm happy on this rainy West Virginia morning.

Peace and love,
Ellie




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writing Momentum and My Inner Child

I want to spend the day writing after four weeks of international travel and visiting family and friends in Europe and the DC area, but...I'm feeling scatterbrained. I visited and toured three countries with my best friend and then, a long-time, dear friend died while I was gone. I don't know if I just had too much excitement or what. Maybe I'm just plumb tired and overstimulated! I'm 55. I guess I'm allowed a bit of tired after a wonderful vacation that continued into the following week with visiting with friends and family in the US.

I arrived in the US and stayed with another friend for two days before heading home for two days. Then, I got on another train and headed back to the DC area for my nephew's graduation and Mother's Day. On Monday, I stayed with my friend's daughter and we grieved the loss of her mother and my dear friend. A lot of emotion and activity for one lady.

I truly don't know what day it is and when I woke up, for a split second I didn't know where I was. If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium! Wasn't that a movie from the 70's? Must look that up...and look at my phone so that I can find out what day it is because I honestly have no clue.

Anyway, I LOVED visiting my friends and enjoyed a beautiful Mother's Day with my children. I wouldn't trade those special moments and new memories for anything, but, it sure was nice to sleep in my own bed last night. I had a great night's sleep and so did my furry babies. We had a very nice reunion last night. Ozzy the Pug is at my feet, snoring softly and Pierre the Maine Coon kitten looks like a sphinx, lying on the window sill, watching cars go by. The kitten's tail is swishing from side to side and Ozzy's rhythmic breathing is kinda making me sleepy. Am I still jet lagged?

It's early on a cloudy morning and the weather people are calling for rain, two days of rain which is perfect writing weather. I have a bad feeling that I won't be able to write today, though. I feel pulled in too many directions this morning. I don't feel grounded. Actually, I feel a bit jittery. Have I already had too much tea? Is the Universe conspiring against me writing today? 

I had a mental to-do list going on the train home last night. I just hate that. I want to get stuck in my manuscript and I want the world to slow down. I resent having to clean my house, pay bills, do laundry and I'm feeling my Inner Child come out! I want to be alone with my characters and my story. I want to get reacquainted and I want to work on the issues the agent in NYC suggested I work on. I want to write! I'm feeling a mid-life tantrum coming on. "I'm not doing that because I don't wanna!"

I must return to saying, "No, thank you," to invitations during my work week and this weekend will be spent at home alone. I've just decided. I've seen most of my good friends during the last four weeks and it was wonderful. Time to get to writing and spending some quality alone time with me, myself and I...and with my furry babies who need their yearly shots, nails clipped and Ozzy could do with a bath. Crap...even the animals are pulling me away from my manuscript. I miss my friend in Austria dearly

Just before I departed for Austria in late April, I was gaining ground with my manuscript, A Decent Woman and had a daily writing schedule that I was very happy with. On Mondays, I cleaned my house (lightly cleaned, let's not lose our heads here, I don't love housework) and I did the laundry. I paid bills and wrote replies to emails. I also cut my grass and weeded the garden a bit. After all that was done, I had Tuesday-Sunday to write and blog. I was one happy camper, but don't get me wrong--my European vacation was awesome!! I wouldn't trade that experience with my friend for nothing! We had a super time together and we have new memories that will never be forgotten.

I've arrived home mid-week and I'm feeling discombobulated. Time for a list! A list will help ground me and I'm a great list maker. That's what I need to do--make a list to regain my momentum at home and with my novel. I'm behind on bills and my house needs scraping and repainting...which began today. I'm tired just thinking of all that.

Hey. I just thought of something. I'm a fiction writer...if I want today to be Monday, it shall be so. If I choose tomorrow to be my To-Do List Fictional Monday, no one will be able to convince me otherwise! My Inner Child is alive and well. 

Time to check the phone to see what day it is and to look at the 1,000 plus photographs I took in Austria, Hungary and Romania :)

Peace and love,
Ellie








Monday, May 13, 2013

Planes, Trains, Metro and Automobiles


No, I'm not dreaming of a white Christmas nor is it anywhere near December. My sister posted this photograph of us on her Facebook page and I nabbed it. As with old family albums and lack of know-how, my sister and I share the albums which means she has many photographs that I don't have and vice versa. I don't have a scanner at the moment and would love to purchase one so that we each have a complete family album.

Photographs. Many people complain about Facebook and many have decided to jump ship through the years for various reasons, but I have to say that enjoy it. Many days, I have to force myself NOT to check FB. It can get addicting. I have friends in many corners of the world and this is how I keep in touch with them. I keep up with my kid's and family's news, chronicled with photographs. If I lose my camera or my iPhone, well my photos are relatively safe on FB. If I drop my laptop and shatter my hard drive (which I've done) and lost it all, my photos are safe on FB.

Social media. Author platform. Many have a love-hate relationship with social media and authors...well, get used to it. It's now part of the author/publishing/marketing experience. There's no escaping Facebook, Twitter, writing a blog, reviewing other authors, and writing essays in magazines and ezines, it is what it is. Much as I dislike tooting my own horn ad nauseum (that's what it seems like to me), I know that I have to keep up-to-date and active on these accounts. I must put myself  'out there' for my novel's sake and for the sake of adding numbers to sales once I'm published. Yes, I'm taking the positive route here.

On being published. Well, that seems a long way off on this chilly Spring morning in Northern Virginia. I spent three wonderful weeks in Europe with my friend and her family, flew back to the US a week ago and four of those days were spent in Northern Virginia with my super kids, family and friends for my nephew's graduation, a cemetery visit with my friend N and for Mother's Day which was amazing! Tonight I head to my friend's N's daughter's house. I haven't seen her since her Mom passed away. Should be an emotional evening and I'm happy to be with her and her children for one night. Then, I head home tomorrow afternoon.

NO complaints. But...I'm ready to get home. I want to fully unpack, wash my clothes and wake up in my own bed, make coffee in my coffee press, fire up my laptop, kiss my furry children, check and enjoy my garden, and return to my normal routine. I'm excited for my writing routine to commence as well after nearly four weeks away from my novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman. It's time to put the pedal to the metal as they say. I have some work ahead of me before I can resubmit my manuscript to the NY agent.

Precious moments. Although I'm a bit weary, I wouldn't change a thing about the experiences I've had this past April and May. I never dreamed I'd return to Europe. I ran for domestic and international flights, found the Viennese house I shared with my ex-husband and two beautiful children 25 years ago, I walked through Austrian vineyards, up cobblestone streets and snuck under a fence to reach a heuriger for a icy cold Radler beer with my friend K. I marveled at Gothic and Baroque architecture in Vienna, onion-topped Orthodox churches in Romania and was introduced to Gyor, a Hungarian city I'd never been to. I rode an elevator up to the top floor of Stephansdom to view the frescoes, visited nearly every church and palace in Vienna, and witnessed an awesome lunar eclipse as the full moon rose over the Carpathian Mountains as my friend K and I approached Brasov, Romania. I shared my nephew's happy graduation and had the most beautiful Mother's Day with my children. I visited with my departed friend N at her grave site. I will miss her.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be on the train home.

All blessings, every single one. Special memories.

Peace and love,
Ellie












Thursday, May 9, 2013

Finally, Home Sweet Home.

Boy, am I happy to be on land and to sleep in my own bed! I departed Vienna, Austria on Monday at 7:40 am, headed to London where I had a six hour lay-over. I had tried to reroute my trip through Brussels, Belgium instead of London to have time with in-country friends, but the cost to change that leg of my trip was outrageous. Just not possible or feasible for me at this time and I knew I could keep myself busy at Heathrow Airport with my Kindle and with people watching.

However, six hours are six hours and they dragged on and finally, I headed to JFK Airport, the longest leg of the trip. I actually dreaded that flight as I don't usually find sleep when I'm flying, it has always eluded me. But, I'm happy to say that as the passengers got settled in their assigned seats, I had two empty seats, one on either side of me! That has never happened! The guy across from me had four empty seats in his row and I could tell we were both dreaming of stretching out. I might be able to sleep, I thought!

The guy and I eyed the stragglers who entered the plane minutes before take-off and I was praying that they wouldn't be sitting next to me. At that moment, more than any other time, I wanted that door to close! Close, dammit! Ha ha~! Passengers around me eyed empty seats, wondering how fast they could stand up and claim a seat or two once the doors closed and the pilot asked the flight attendants to take their seats. When we heard the doors close, the guy and I exchanged high five's like we'd just made a slam dunk! Yes! Sleep was possible! He immediately stretched out across the five seats and I gathered the three blankets and pillows, ready for a movie on my choice of three screens! Life is good!

I watched one movie and actually fell asleep during the second film, only to be woken by the flight attendant asking me if I wanted a beverage. Nooooo! I sat up, politely asked for a Bloody Mary, heavy on the vodka, hoping it would lull me back to sleep. Nothing doing. I rewinded the movie (isn't that an awesome feature?!) and watched until the end and then, dinner was served.  And, what a wonderful dinner it was--curried chicken on basmati rice. I was able to catch a few winks and before I knew it, we were landing in JFK. I took the red eye to Washington, DC and boy, were my eyes red!!

British Airways, I love you.

All in all, I had a wonderful time with my friend K in Austria, Romania and Hungary. I miss her already. I had a great flight back to the DC area where my friend D and her boyfriend picked me up at the airport. I spent two relaxing days with them, spoke to my gorgeous children and caught up with the daughter of my oldest and dearest friend N who passed away while I was gone. I missed her by a day and also missed her Muslim funeral on Monday as I was flying home. She will be sorely missed.

My friend N never regained her speech nor mobility after her stroke. I believe I grieved for her during the year she spent in the nursing home or it just hasn't hit me yet. I miss our morning phone calls and I'm reminded of the many trips we took together in my 20's onto my 50's. A long friendship that I will always treasure.

N kept a photo album of all our trips and I asked her daughter if I could possibly have that album. N always managed to get the best photos of our trips and it will give me a lot of comfort. Her daughter graciously said yes and for that I am very thankful.

Rest in eternal peace, N. You will never be forgotten.

Peace and love,
Ellie




Thursday, May 2, 2013

European Update & Cutting Characters from My Novel

My friend K and I are back at her home in Wien (Vienna) for the weekend before my flight back to the US on Monday after spending a few days in Hungary on our way to and from Romania. I can't remember when I've enjoyed a trip more!

We stayed in Gyor, another Hungarian city I was unfamiliar with and would visit again. What a lovely little jewel of a city! K and I didn't have time to take a proper tour, but walking through the town square and down little streets is usually all I need to get a good sense of a town, village or city. We sat in the town square sipping Radler beers, eating amazing goulash soup with crisp frites and people watching while the sun set behind the main church on the square. Amazing.

K and I had both been to Budapest, Sopron and the Lake Balaton region, so we headed home early to have more time in Vienna. I still wanted to visit the house my ex-husband, children and I lived in 25 years ago. I also have several churches and the Belvedere Museum I would love to go through and enjoy before my departure on Monday morning.

                                                          . . . .

So, yesterday was May 1, also called May Day in Europe and Labour Day in England. K and I decided to head back to my old stomping ground of the 19th district in Vienna. We bought two gorgeous lilac bouquets along the way and found my old street address on her map. Nothing looked familiar as we approached my old street, but when we turned the corner and looked up the steep, cobblestone street, I remembered...memories of pushing the English pram that held my three year old and one year old came back to me. Some things you never forget. My body remembered the strain and I remembered how difficult it was for me, a young mother with no German language, living in Vienna at the time. Vienna was our first overseas posting as a young married couple and the first time I lived in Europe as an adult, not an Army dependent. My children are now 28 and 24 years old and I am happy to have photographs to share with them.

As I write this blog post, my long-time friend is still in hospice in Northern Virginia. Her daughter and family have decided to take her off antibiotics that aren't helping with a severe infection that is coursing through her body and the last thing I heard was that the family had also decided to take her off the feeding tube...all very emotionally charged and strained. I don't know if everyone in the family is in agreement with this decision. I will only support their decision and my very private opinion will remain that...private. I've asked the necessary questions (to me) and I'm leaving that to the family and God.

I also received a very kind note from the agent who had the exclusive read on my manuscript, A Decent Woman. His recommendation to take out the chapters of Serafina, the second most important protagonist in my novel, is spot on. I've often thought that my two female protagonists were vying for first place. Years ago, I wondered if the story would be better served by focusing solely on Ana and have Serafina be a minor character. I will do just that. I highly concur with him. It is Ana's story to tell. The narrative momentum must remain strong.

I've decided to save the original manuscript and make a copy where I remove Serafina's chapters and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Last night, I emailed the agent to ask whether he would accept a second look at my manuscript once I make the necessary changes and beef up Ana's story. He said yes last night. I was thrilled.

This morning, I have renewed faith and again, have hope that I'm on the right track with this book and this agent. He has seen something in my story worth pursuing...or he's been super polite. Regardless, I am highly encouraged by the agent's quick responses to my emails this week and his "yes" in answer to my question about resubmitting.

Early next week when I depart Vienna and arrive in the US, I begin the rewrites after I am reunited with my precious children and visit the hospice on my way home to my furry babies in WV. 

My lifelong friend's battle with life is precarious at this time and I am again reminded of how precious life is. This trip has reminded me of how beautiful life and the world is. I'm very thankful to my friend K and her family for the kind and gracious invitation to spend three weeks with them. She gave me a beautiful gift.

Peace and love,
Ellie