Friday, June 28, 2013

Physical Signals, Mental Responses and Cues of Doubt.

Why have I posted this photograph on my blog today? I uploaded the photograph I took of a lovely cup of coffee because I just threw a perfectly good cafe con leche with two teaspoons of sugar down the kitchen drain. Cafe Bustelo, mind you! Puerto Rican coffee and the best coffee in the world. I even liked their Facebook page, that's how much I love Cafe Bustelo.

I write my blogs as a stream of consciousness writing exercise, so my plan this morning was to write a blog and then, begin editing my novel, A Decent Woman, with a new book that my friend, fellow blogger and chick lit author Meredith Schorr recommended: The Emotion Thesauraus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Mecca Puglisi.

I just can't say enough about that gem of a book! If you write novels and you don't own this book--run, do not walk to the nearest bookstore. I'm all about supporting our local bookstores, but if you must, buy it online!

Back to the reason I chucked that lovely cup of coffee down the kitchen drain. I quit smoking last Sunday and this morning, I tried to drink my first real cup of coffee since Sunday, Cafe Bustelo, thank you very much. I thought that five days would have been long enough, but as I took the second sip...I began to feel anxious. I tapped my foot, inhaled and exhaled slowly. Ommmmmmm. There was that urge to smoke. Ugh, my trigger reared its ugly head. At this time, coffee and tea remain my two biggest triggers for lighting up. I still can't trust myself. So instead, I posted a photograph of a cup of coffee I drank in real life back in April of this year.

I enjoyed that lusciously decadent kaffee melange with two teaspoons of caramel-colored Demerara sugar across the street from the Belvedere Palace and gardens in Vienna, Austria. The little glass at the top of the photograph did not hold a shot of something yummy, it held water.That's the way we used to drink cafe con leche y chocolate caliente in Puerto Rico--with a glass of water on the side. I've found this tradition in Belgium, France and Romania, as well. This was a lovely kaffee melange, I remember it well :)

This weekend I'm headed to the river with my neighbors, their first time at our river place. We're planning on fishing, boating and enjoying the river from our riverfront patio. I have a bottle of red wine at the river and I also have the fixings for Margaritas, but the jury is still out on whether I can partake in alcoholic libations at this time. I might enjoy iced tea or coffee instead or just plain water as I am now. No big deal, I love water and wasn't drinking nearly enough of it. I must say that my skin looks awesome with all the water I've been drinking this week. Not a bad thing!

So in a few minutes, I'm returning to my first novel-length manuscript armed with The Emotion Thesaurus. I'm excited to beef up my character's physical, internal, mental signals and behavior and their cues of acute, long-term and repressed desire, anger, anxiety, relief and hatred! Yes, they have them all!

"Cheers!" said Ellie as she cleared her throat, shoved her hands in her pocket, and avoided eye contact while worrying over her current path. Ha! I already love this book!

Peace and love,
Ellie




Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Write a Book While Remaining Smoke-free

Today is Day Four of my smoke-free life. I kicked the smoking habit last Sunday afternoon after a weekend of puffing away. Cold turkey is the only way to go for me. I've done it cold turkey before and I lasted eight years. I blame my ex-husband for my smoking relapse. Yes, I do. But of course, had we remained together...you fill in the blanks here :)

So, Day Four. My pets are alive and the police haven't been called to my house for any disturbances caused by me, anyway. The police were called to my street which was a great distraction for an hour. I live on a "colorful" street in the historic district of my town. It's not as colorful as other streets, but with school out, it's "lively" around here in the summer months.

They (I don't know who they is) say that after day three, anything becomes a habit and that just may be true about my quitting or maybe I was focused on day three and it distracted me from smoking! I'm not sure, but I feel fine and dandy. Actually, I feel great. I thought I'd have a rough time giving up coffee and tea and was dreading the withdrawals from caffeine, but I didn't get the headache people talk about (again, those people). I'm not sure if my mild withdrawals are because I've been drinking Dr. Oz's green juice, detox concoction, and taking my vitamin D religiously but I feel pretty damn good. Giving up red wine for the time being isn't a big deal, either. I'm not a person who enjoys drinking alone and I live alone, so meh. Be gone, triggers!

There are, however, specific times where I've notice a stronger pull to run to my neighbor's house for a cigarette or ten:

After a meal;
after writing, when it's time to proofread and edit;
and, after great sex.

Not really. I just threw number three in there to make sure you were paying attention. However, my neighbor tells me that sex is THE KEY to success for battling just about any addiction. Unless your addiction is actually sex, of course. Then, I suppose you'd take a cold shower, scarf down a Klondike bar or you'd substitute sex for another addiction like bungee jumping from the nearest bridge, for example.

Anyhoo, yesterday I noticed a stronger urge to smoke after a meal and after I wrote my blog post. The urge happened again as I wrapped up a newly written page of my second novel, Finding Gracia. I  literally had to get up, go outside and weed the garden. As I was weeding, I thought, "Wait a cotton pickin' minute!" (my mother's favorite American phrase when she arrived in the US from Puerto Rico), 'I could play games with my head! I can trick myself into believing that writing is the activity and the "reward, prize" is the editing!' An aha moment.

Well, it could work. If you think about it, we are quite able to psyche ourselves into believing any number of things, and not all are smart things, either. If I'm on a balcony, I have to talk myself into believing that I'm not afraid of heights (which I am) and I've talked myself into believing that I could kayak when I had a fear of capsizing and not being able to right myself. I had nightmares of drowning under a canoe, not fun. 

I remember the day when I decided to call myself an artist when I began painting for exhibits. I had to call myself a writer when I began to write my first novel, A Decent WomanFake it until you make it. I don't just write, I'm a writer. I'm going to do whatever I need to do to not smoke. I'm a retired smoker, an ex-smoker, a recovering nicotine addict, yuck. It even sounds nasty!

I'm nearly finished writing this blog post and I've caught myself looking to my right where my cigarettes, lighter and ashtray used to be. There was nothing better than dragging on a cigarette at a job well done aka my blog and/or novels.

Must trick myself into believing that editing is the same as smoking...or I just might just buy the Blu electronic cigarette for editing. Nah, that would be a crutch. Off I go to think about all that...

Peace and love to you!
Ellie




Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Novel Is About...

Today is Pierre's first birthday and so far, he has spent the morning napping in a sun beam. Pierre has a great life and so does my Pug, Ozzy. My fur babies make me smile, laugh and sometimes want to pull my hair out, but all in all, they are super awesome company.

There's always a story to tell with those two underfoot or overhead in Pierre's case. I can tell you in detail about how Pierre and I met at the shelter--love at first sight. I can share how great it was watching Pierre meet his older brother Ozzy for the first time by rubbing noses, and I can even tell you about the items and collectibles Pierre has broken in our home as he continues to test his kitty prowess and by sowing his wild oats or catnip.

Perhaps during this morning's nap, Pierre is thanking his nine lives that I rescued him from the SPCA in my town. But most probably he is pretending to be asleep because before this nap, he probably knocked over some valuable in another room that was high on a shelf that I'm unaware of. All that stalking of collectibles, pushing them to the edge, and watching said collectibles drop to the wood floor and/or rug can get tiring and yes, boring. I can tell you a ton of stories about Pierre and Ozzy...

BUT...ASK ME WHAT MY NOVEL,  A DECENT WOMAN, IS ABOUT AND I MIGHT FREEZE.

What's that all about?! I don't know why I instantly freeze and thaw out slowly, and it has happened to me more than once. A person asks me what my novel is about and I stop and think. I'm going to answer you, but I hesitate. Now, I KNOW what my novel is about for goodness sake. I wrote it! All 77,557 words of it! So, why do I hesitate before telling interested people what my novel is about?!

I'm known as the storyteller in my immediate family. I can tell a good story, honest to Betsy. I tell stories from when I was little and I share stories from a simple trip to the hardware store, a walk to the mail box or even about a neighbor I spy from my front yard, for goodness sake. I can tell a great story, but ask me what my first novel is about and I'll begin to tell you, but I seem to fall short.

Why do I find it so difficult to tell you briefly what my novel is about? I've researched my novel and I'm from Puerto Rico, the island where my novel takes places. I'm from Ponce where my characters live! But, I either add way too much detail or I leave out way pertinent information. I begin telling the person what my novel is about and midway through, I add something else or omit something and by the time I finish, the person might have just yawned. The person or people may have smiled at me politely, but the subject has gone from my novel and my spotlight (my Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame!) to a missed opportunity!

I'm a balance between an introvert and an extrovert, leaning more toward introvert in my older age :) I can tell you a story about stuff that happens external to me, about me, but when it comes to explaining what my novel is about...I flounder. I'll tell you stories about my past, my failures and joys, fears and dreams, but when it comes to my novel that only four people in the world have read from cover to cover--I get nervous.

My query letter is well-written and has been well-received. It is clear, concise and grabs a reader, piquing their interest. But, if you ask me to tell you in three sentences what my novel is about...I flounder and hesitate as to what I should share with you.

So, I've decided to memorize the first paragraph of my query letter which has a great synopsis of my novel. That synopsis says it all.

I'm attending my first writer's conference in NYC in October--

The 2nd Annual Comadres and Compadres Latino Writers Conference, which will take place at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York on October 5, 2013--

and I'm psyched! I need to have my synopsis down pat by then because there are agents, publishers, writers and authors attending and the list is awesome. http://lascomadres.com/countonme/latino-writers-conference/

I have to be ready to talk about my novel and not be shy about marketing myself!
I have to sell myself and my book to people who don't know me and need to know me!
I have to find a bit more self-confidence so that I can speak eloquently and concisely about myself, my novel and my awesome characters because if I don't, no one else will!

Happy Hump Day to you!

Peace and love,
Ellie










Monday, June 24, 2013

That Super Moon and My Quit Date

I've had this photograph of the moon in my laptop file for a very long time. I'm not sure if I took this shot as I'm a big fan of the moon or if someone else took the photo. If it's not an Ellie shot, I'm sorry and thank you. I love it!

One of the reasons I will remember the Super Moon of this past weekend is clear--it was a mad, crazy, gorgeous moon. I will remember that I saw it best last night, Sunday, June 23, 2013. But, I will mostly remember that date for a very good reason--I quit smoking on that day.

When I wrote the first draft of my first novel, A Decent Woman, I was a non-smoker. I'd quit for eight years...and then, I found myself separated from my husband of 25 years. I didn't smoke for a year during our divorce proceedings, but on my 50th birthday, I had one celebratory cig. Just one. Well, you know you can't have just one cigarette. A year later, I was a divorced lady and a 50-year old smoker. Fast forward five years and the habit was well-reestablished. Yesterday morning was my quit date and with the help of a close friend I hadn't seen in years and a gorgeous moon to gaze upon, I put the cigarette pack down.

I want to complete the first draft of my second novel, Finding Gracia on El Camino, (not 100% sold on the title) as a non-smoker. I want my non-smoking status to remain in effect until forever. I have adult children to enjoy and I want to be around for all of their joyful occasions and for my future grandchildren. Done.

Now, I write a blog about the writing life which happens to be MY life. So it would make sense that I share some personal things because what I experience in life has influences on my writing, why I write and the ins and outs of my writing and blog posts. Although I'm able to put 'my stuff' on the imaginary shelf above my head while I write my books, stuff, my stuff seeps into my blog. That's tougher for me. Very often, I view my blog as my journal which is what they used to be known as when I first started blogging in 2007.

I'm a good, solid writer and I'm 100% committed to writing and publishing books. I don't know it all and I'm learning every day. That's what I share in my blog posts with my readers--The Writing Life--my experiences on my path of writing books and seeing them published. I'm always going to be a student of life and a writer who learns every day. I do tackle writing challenges and the joys of writing in my blog, but not as an expert, but from my personal experience. I often blog about style, marketing, publishing, agents, and the writing biz in this my only blog, but my life also sneaks into blog posts. As much as I'd like to believe that outside 'stuff' doesn't affect my blogs and my writing, I know better. I sure does.

I'm a little groggy this morning and I know why. I've given up coffee, tea and red wine for a few months while I get a good grip on this non-smoking thing. All triggers for me. I haven't had a coffee or a tea this morning. I'm sure I'll go through caffeine withdrawals, as well. Great :) That's okay, a little headache is okay and it won't last long.

Off to make Dr. Oz's green juice. I need to detox a little more and I definitely need a week full of peace, quiet, serenity, calm and R&R.

Peace, love and ZEN moments in my path to a smoke-free life.
Happy Monday to you!

Ellie













Saturday, June 22, 2013

Will The Real Johnny Depp Please Stand Up!

I started tweeting again last week after a couple of months of silence. I wasn't quiet because I don't enjoy Twitter or because I had nothing to say, I always have plenty to say! It was more like...what's the point? Is tweeting really helping my blog? Well, my stats tell me that it is indeed helping to attract new readers and remind past readers/followers that I'm still alive and kicking.

So this morning, I had a huge shock--Johnny Depp began following me on Twitter. Yes, he did! I just knew that he'd come to his senses about us finally meeting and living happily ever in a French village in the south of France. Isn't that wonderful news?!

You're probably wondering what in the world I'm talking about, right? Well, Johnny Depp began following my tweets. THE Johnny Depp. If you check my Followers on Twitter, you'll see that gorgeous man's photo right there on my list with that cheeky grin, small glasses and goatee. I'm over the moon.

We have a whole lot in common, Johnny and I. We're both in our 50's, we're single and we have two kids, a boy and a girl. We've both lived in France and we love France, pirate movies and Tim Burton. I ask you, what else could be better in a relationship than sharing passions and sharing common interests? It was just meant to be, that's all there is to it.

Of course, I began following Johnny and checked out his profile. Yep, that's him, alright! Johnny had finally found me and I'm sorry Ms. Paradis, he'll be happier with me. Ellie Depp. that has a nice ring to it. Mrs. Eleanor Depp, love it. I'll have to see about monogram towels and sheets. I must call my sister, daughter and friends! They will just burst with happiness for me. I've finally found my love and soul mate.

I'm sure it's just a matter of time for Johnny to email me which of course will lead to a first phone call. I can see us now--phone calls that last long into the night as we get better acquainted. I need to call Verizon to add international calling if he's still in France visiting his kids before he heads to Los Angeles. He's so busy, poor thing.

I want everything to go smoothly as our first meeting will be in a few weeks. I can hardly wait. I'm not sure where we'll meet, but my passport is up-to-date. I will run to him, anywhere he is!

This morning I went back on Twitter to tweet so Johnny can see that I'm available to chat and I typed name in the Search space and lo and behold, there are roughly six other Johnny Depps!! Oh, my goodness. Boy, was I upset and confused! Was this the REAL Johnny Depp or an imposter? Who would play with a fan's heart like that? Simply awful. Who would do that?

Will the real Johnny Depp please stand up??!!

Johnny, I love you today, tomorrow and always. Please come find me. I'm waiting!

Have a great weekend, folks :) Hope I made ya smile this morning!

Peace and loving Johnny,

Ellie




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Clearly Not the Vienna I Knew!

I visited my BFF in Vienna, Austria for two weeks this past April. The trip was my first time back to Europe in five years and the first time in Vienna since my children were three and one years old. Nearly 26 years had passed and I didn't always have great memories of that time in my life.

I was a young American mother of two toddlers and Vienna was a very proper city with very proper Viennese people. It was a grown up city with old world charm where people dressed well even when they went to the market which used to be two times a day. Elderly ladies I didn't know often chastised me on the trams and buses in German for not dressing my children properly in summer, in the rain or for not putting hats on my children in the fall. I was learning German at the time, but it didn't matter--I knew I was being chastised!

Vienna hadn't been my favorite posting as a young Army wife. We were the first American Army family to live in the city,so we broke ground in many ways. Life was tough. We had one car which my husband took to work every day which left me with public transportation. Not an easy feat with a bulky stroller and two toddlers. My husband, two children and I lived in Vienna for three years and my mother's three month-long visits during that time kept me sane :) Life became easier during our third year as the children were older and when I could defend myself in German against the 'old lady brigade' on the trams. You'd best believe I learned to listen for the weather before leaving our house and dressed my children accordingly! Ha!



The historic city center of Vienna was the same as I'd remembered with the grand palaces, many Gothic and Baroque cathedrals and churches, and old world cafes. That hadn't changed a bit. Vienna is a beautiful, fascinating and clean city, no doubt about that. But as K and I descended the stairs to take the boat tour of the city, I was blown away by the fantastic street art I saw along both sides of the Danube River that runs through the city. What an unexpected surprise! I looked around half-expecting the graffiti police to run down with white wash in hand! There were some pieces that were clearly political and I'm sure they ruffle some city feathers, but for the most part, the graffiti was pleasing to the my artist's eye.

The Vienna I knew 26 years ago was not a city that would have smiled on or tolerated graffiti. I was almost giddy when K went to the ticket booth to buy our cruise tickets, I took a dozen photographs with a huge smile on my face. As an artist, I have a great appreciation for any form of artistic expression, but this took the cake! How had this freedom of expression happened and was it really tolerated?



I don't know when street art became accepted in Vienna, but it was great to see that the prim and proper city I remembered had relaxed. I love when modern and old come together. The past and the present. The result is often vibrant, alive and beautiful. The Viennese have always had a love and appreciation for art, music and culture as do I, but seeing this young form of expression really made me happy for a different reason--the city seemed to have evolved and changed with the times. Had the city embraced street art or had they tired of painting over it, I wondered!



Before the boat tour left the city area for the pastoral part of the cruise, K and I saw throngs of young people sunbathing along the river and enjoying the open air cafes. Young people everywhere waved at us as our boat passed by. I loved seeing the young clearly enjoying themselves among the graffiti--their personal art gallery. I had to chuckle. Had the Viennese powers that be, given the young Viennese their own area along the river? Had the agreement been to keep street art out of the city center and the communes of Vienna in exchange for the river area? Well, it worked for me and apparently, street art in Vienna is alive and well! I loved it and the rebel side of me cheered them on ;)


The weather was glorious that day. K and I had a great time sipping white wine spritzers along the Danube and taking photographs, but was it the best cruise we'd ever been on? Not really, but the street art made it special for me and spending time with K in her newly adopted city was awesome. Kudos to all the artists!


Peace and love,
Ellie

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Secret to a Successful Writing Career...REALLY??

At this very moment, a good friend and former co-worker is in labor with her first child. I'm very excited for her and her husband and found myself waking up like a nervous Auntie every two or three hours to check my cell phone for updates. I texted my friend about 40 minutes ago, thinking that maybe the baby had been born since her labor began early last night. She texted back that her contractions were every two minutes. I was AMAZED that she texted me back, I thought I would surely hear from her husband and not her! She must have amazing drugs or an incredibly high tolerance to pain or as they called it in my birthing class way back when--discomfort. Yeah, right. Discomfort :) I'm praying for my friend and her baby. What a beautiful time for them.

Several of my younger friends have had babies this year and all returned to their jobs within a few months of giving birth and in one friend's case, after she gave birth to twins. They all seem to have supportive husbands with their own jobs and super daycare situations which you would expect in the DC area. A couple of friends have relatives living nearby for extra help which is great.

This morning I read an article in The Guardian by Alison Flood about author/mother Zadie Smith's criticism of author Lauren Sandler's (single child, mother of one) suggestion "that women should restrict the size of their families if they want to avoid limiting their careers." The suggestion that limiting the children was the secret to success initially raised my eyebrows and annoyed me. But, as I continued to read, I began to vacilate between agreeing with a small point of the suggestion and shaking my head in disagreement at Sandler's suggestion. There are so many sides to this issue.

I began writing my first novel in 2006 when my children were in high school. It wasn't a choice, mind you. I had been an at-home Mom in a traditional marriage (as was my parent's marriage) where my husband worked outside the home and I took care of the house and the children. I was blessed to be able to stay home, I always said that. I was a working artist and a late blooming writer who didn't get the 'writing a whole novel' bug until my kids were in high school. My then-husband drove the kids to school in the morning and I remember thinking that I had eight wonderful free hours to write as both kids played sports after school. My husband didn't get home until 7, so my creative life was productive and seemless. When my kids and husband walked through the door, I closed the laptop and put down the paintbrushes.

At that time, I had a married author friend who had two elementary school children. She managed to write and publish two books, so I knew it could be done. We were both at-home Moms and many times we agreed that it was easier to focus on writing while working at home. I used to say that having children gave me three things I personally lacked--organization, discipline and focus. I knew I had limited time and energy so, I made good use of my time in those days. My husband's income allowed me to write and not worry about the bills. Fact.

Today I'm divorced and support myself.  I write full time. My children have graduated from college and have successful careers. I retired myself from a short career in the social services arena and have free time every day. And, you know what? With a lack of structure and schedule, and no real demands on my time--I find my creative organization, discipline and focus lacking some days! My friends with careers and children at home do more than anyone I know and accomplish great things and, good for them! As a 55 year old, I can no longer run around like I did in my 30's and 40's. Their schedules make me tired, but I applaud them.

I don't think the question should be how many children could possibly interfere and mess up a writing career. I believe it's who we select as the father of our children that's important (since we're talking about women in this blog), if they want children. My girlfriends with children seem to have husbands who support their careers for the long haul. Their husbands seem to be on board with taking turns with household chores, running the kids around and taking them to doctor appointments. As long as the children are well taken care of, it doesn't matter to me who does it as long as it's done and done well. Whatever floats your boat.

What I know--the keys to a successful career are discipline, organization, focus, drive, creativity, money, a supportive spouse (if they're married), family nearby, or excellent daycare (if they have children). There's no one answer here. So why add children to the issue? Children aren't the issue and the number of children isn't the issue.

I can't count the way in which my children enriched my life as newborns, toddlers, grade school children, tweens, high schoolers, college-aged kids and now, as adults!

Did remaining childless make Emily Bronte a superior writer? Were all of Hemingway's children taken care of by a nanny or his ex-wives? Was that why he was such an amazing, prolific writer? Who knows. I believe every situation was/is different and you'll find every possible scenario with any author, male or female. There are plenty of single Dads out there writing and publishing fantastic books with young children at home and women with three or four children pumping out highly acclaimed books. There are single or married writers, men and women, with no children who with all the time in the world, can't seem to finish a book.

After I read the article, I read all the comments (which are sometimes more interesting than the blog post they follow) out of curiosity. Well, weren't my panties in a damn twist by this comment made by a reader I'm assuming is a man:

"On the other hand there is the argument that the quality of women's writing never quite matches that of men, regardless of how many children are involved."

This guy gave me a major wedgie that I'm still having trouble with! Who says that?!

I know that I'll return to that article all day long to check out the comments to this little nugget and this genius' rebuttals.

Ellie











Monday, June 17, 2013

Lavender On The Brain


Julia Cameron introduced the concept of the Artist's Day in her seminal book on creativity and tapping into our creative sides called The Artist's Way. I read her book over 20 years ago when I lived in Brussels, Belgium and have now read it three times. I highly recommend Cameron's awesome book over and over again to friends and family who feel stuck in a rut and want to find and pursue their passions in life.

An Artist's Day to me back when I lived in Brussels could have meant an afternoon with Magritte, marveling at the Grand Place and trips to Provence, Ghent or Brugges. I live in West Virginia now and these days, my Artist's Days look more like a trip to a farmer's market, a picnic at a Virginia winery, a visit to a Civil War area, and year-round, myriad festivals in my neck of the woods which I love. But, an Artist's Day could also mean baking a cake, picking wildflowers, making a collage of favorite photographs. Anything to fill your emotional well is an Artist's Day.

This past Saturday, two friends and my sister joined me for a road trip to Willow Pond Farm Herbs & Everlastings in Fairfield, Pennsylvania. This was our third time at the Annual Lavender Festival and we were excited. We were coming from Northern Virginia and West Virginia and met in Frederick, Maryland to carpool in one car which is always fun. Willow Pond's lavender festival had actually been held the weekend before, but with all the rain in our area, the lavender hadn't bloomed. So, when the farm offered another weekend to pick lavender, we jumped at the chance!

Sadly, the lavender at Willow Pond Farm was not in full bloom and our dreams of colorful photographs were dashed. We still had a great time, enjoyed lavender ice cream and watched a young woman making lavender wands, but we were a bit bummed. I felt sad for the elderly owners of the lavender farm and the festival organizers, but what can you do? Lavender needs hot sun and dry weather which we have not had much of this summer.

Oh, well. C'est la vie. We'd still had a nice outing together and it was a beautiful day. We left Fairfield and headed south on 15 toward Frederick, MD and my sister spotted a small lavender sign that read: Lavender Festival. I saw the sign, but thought it was an old sign for the Fairfield festival the week before. Lo and behold, we spotted a larger sign on the side of the highway. A different lavender festival and it was that day! I laughed at how a male driver might not agree to turn the car around and we were almost giddy as we made the U-turn and drove up the gravel driveway.

LAVENDER! Rows and rows of lavender at Springfield Manor! What a feast for the eyes, nose and soul. We jumped out of the car and began taking photographs as if the lavender would disappear into thin air. There were also rows and rows of grape vines dotting the hill. We bought bouquets of freshly cut lavender, my sister and I bought lavender plants (Munstead and Provence variety), and we discovered from the owner's children that the old stone house on the hill is soon to open as an Inn and their newly renovated barn and patio are to open as a winery/future distillery in September. Wine, lavender, and B&Bs, three of my favorite things in one spot. Awesome! We'll be visiting soon!

After the festival, three of us headed to the river for a fun evening and relaxing Sunday. The weather was perfect and the river was beautiful. Artist's Day well done!

I'm heading outside with my lavender plants to select the sunniest part of my garden with thoughts of France, friendship and future road trips.

Peace and love,
Ellie




Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Choices We Make in Life

I can't say that this week has been a fruitful writing week. I was so far behind with chores that I couldn't focus on writing for very long. I hated it. After a couple of days of trying hard to push 'things' out of my head, ignore the mess around me and get stuck in my second novel, I just gave up. Housework won.

Ellie-loss. House-win. It happens, but I don't get bogged down and fall into a slump. I know things have to get taken care of and I write better when I'm focused and energized. I know the house will be here long after I'm gone and I tell myself that, but I've also run out of paper plates and plastic bowls and Solo cups! It was time to clean, wash and put away. I did manage to connect with friends and family this week and that was wonderful.

My cyber friend Linda (who I've never met in person) has always pulled my chain about all the stuff I do and get accomplished :) She jokes about my desire to have it all and get 'er done! Okay. I write, I paint and exhibit my work, I garden, I take road trips with friends, I host gatherings at the river, and I take photographs. Creatively, you won't find anyone happier to do what she loves than me. I'm grateful, blessed and I know it. BUT, I also created a world that would give me the opportunity to write and be creative. And, so can you. I felt an urgency to change my life nearly three years ago and finish my first book started many years ago.

I moved to an area that I could afford, bought a house that I could well afford, and I live frugally, but living frugally doesn't mean I'm lacking a thing. It just depends on what makes you happy. I wanted to write full time, so I had to learn to live with less monthly income. Sacrifices had to be made.

When I decided to change my life, I imagined myself like a balance with arms outstretched, palms up. On one hand, I put living in the DC area, paying through the nose for a large, beautiful townhouse and working my ass off for little pay. I lived ten minutes from each of my kids and I had friends nearby which I loved, but I was also stressed out, overweight, frustrated with my pay, and lacked of creative life.

On the other hand, I put a better life for myself. I envisioned myself doing what I love and am passionate about, living in a largish, small town, and owning my own small home. I put writing and painting, puttering around my perennial garden, and my Pug playing in the yard. I knew I'd have to leave my children in the DC area and it pained me, so I searched for a home one to two hours from them. I found that house. I am able to visit my kids one to two times a month which always makes me very happy.

The balance (and my soul) tilted so much toward the creative life that the DC townhouse, the job and the stress fell out of my hands and I liked how that felt. I began my search for a new life and a new home. I could feel the weight lifting off my shoulder as I searched and when I finally bought and moved, I remember the joy and peace I felt seeing the DC area in the rear view mirror of my car. My heart was happy as I drove through the countryside and around the mountains to my new home. I'm still happy here and I love the life I've created for myself.

Yeah, I don't have a dishwasher, the water pipes are original to this old house and water pressure sucks and I don't have central AC, but the house is mine. I downsized and every six months or so, I get rid of items that I no longer need and that don't serve me. I don't always have extra money for travel and dinners out and I do stress about money, but who doesn't? Every time that I bemoan the fact that I don't have extra money for travel or new plumbing, I remember that I'm blessed to own a home. And, I write for a living. Done.

When I get a good bit of writing done, I go outside and weed. I have a small yard, a courtyard patio and I live in a small three bedroom duplex. I water my plants and vegies, take photographs of them and I sweep the patio. I go back inside and write for a few more hours. I might go back outside and repot a plant or paint a wall of my outdoor shed and go back inside to vacuum the rugs which are always hairy with a dog and a cat at home. The breaks I take from writing help me decompress, think and clear my head. A beautiful garden feeds my soul and make me happy. Yes, they are distractions, but they also feed me emotionally and spiritually. They fill my well. The major distraction for me with writing I discovered isn't my garden or house--it's the Internet. Can't live with it and can't live without it!

So, Linda :) Watch out, girlfriend! I'm going to continue to be like the US Army and get more done before 8 am than anyone you know!

Happy weekend to you all!

Peace and love,
Ellie






Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Summer 2013 Reading List

I'm a list maker and trust me, I need lists in my life. As a writer, I'm in my head a lot and when I start writing, I lose track of time. When writing, I go into a deep creative state that some people compare to hypnosis and others call the Beta state. When I really get going, I've been known to write for eight or nine hour stretches with only potty and tea breaks in between. My adult children are out of my nest and I'm single, so I'm able to write to my heart's content. I truly believe that the process of writing allows us to access things and places in our brain (and outside our brain) that aren't easily accessible in our normal waking state.

During a good writing session, I've been known to miss birthdays, hair appointments and utility bill deadlines. My cell phone is turned to the lowest sound setting, the curtains are closed and I hang a little sign on my front door that reads, "Writing" with a big smiley face on it. I might forget to call someone back or reply to an email during those writing jags. I tend to forget food items I'm out of at home which, of course, I remember as I stand there with a kettle of hot water and realize that I'm out of coffee. I'm a woman who needs lists in her life!

My family and close friends know all this about me (or at least, they humor me), and they're good with it. Weekends and Mondays are my days to reconnect with the special people in my life. I DO have a day job, I tell people--I take my writing seriously.

I write daily lists, weekly lists and I also make lists that help me as a writer. There are lists of agents to query, small press publishers who I want to research, and there is a list of authors whose books I want to read that also includes their author and blog Web address and the name of their agent. This week, I began thinking about whittling down my reading list to a doable summer reading list. My reading list includes books I've read years ago and want to revisit, all the books below are in my bookcase and on my Kindle.

Summer Reading List: (in no particular order)

Fiction:

The Breakers - Claudie Gallay
Hemingway's Girl - Erika Robuck
Calling Me Home - Julie Kibler
Our Lady of the Night - Mayra Santos-Febres
The Glass Wives - Amy Sue Nathan
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy (read before)
Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard - Kiran Desai (read before)
The Ladies Gallery - Irene Vilar
The Painted Girls: A Novel - Cathy Marie Buchanan
Wait For Me - Elisabeth Naughton
The Doctor's Wife - Luis Jaramillo
The Age of Miracles: A Novel - Karen Thompson Walker
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (may not get to this summer, but will watch the newest movie adaptation)
Receive Me Falling - Erika Robuck
The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
The Paris Wife: A Novel - Paula McIain (currently reading...and can't seem to get through by no fault of the author. I think I've picked the book up and put it down because I already know the ending--Hemingway cheated on his first wife and later said that she was his first and only true love...yeah, yeah, yeah. That clearly bugs me :)

and, I've decided to purchase the series A Song of Fire and Ice that inspired the high fantasy HBO series, Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin. I LOVE Game of Thrones!

Non-fiction: (on my friend Kristine's recommendation)

A Little History of the World - E. H. Gombrich and Clifford Harper.
The Story of Art - E. H. Gombrich (Huge book that will take me a LONG time to get through, but it's a feast for the eyes and soul! Do not purchase this for your Kindle!)

Have a beautiful day :)

Peace and love,
Ellie














Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Multi-tasking During A Tornado Warning

Yesterday was my cleaning day and I managed to get quite a bit done around the house. The lower level is "spic and span" as my Dad would say and I was happy to get it done so that I could concentrate on writing the rest of the week. But, let me tell you, it wasn't an easy day.

I work/write better when I have chores completed and that was my plan until I was interrupted by the County weather bulletin beeping loudly on my television. At first, I thought it was a test of the early broadcasting system, so I continued to dust the living room furniture. When I looked over at the TV, I saw maps with red, yellow, orange areas and realized that it was my area! I raced over with my rag in hand, I watched the words go across the lower part of the screen informing me that a tornado watch was in effect for my area. Well, now. That's a new one for me. I'd been in a hurricane before, but not a tornado.

I thought I'd certainly have time to vacuum the dining room, so I did just that. I was glad I'd had the Weather Channel on because the tornado watch quickly turned into a tornado warning, in effect until 10 pm. What the heck? I cleaned the television screen as I watched the maps pop up on the screen and then, I saw my town listed. Holy shit. I wrapped the vacuum cleaner cord around the machine and something told me to leash up my Pug. I looked around for my cat and didn't see him, so I called him and he appeared. Yes, my cat comes when I call him.

The severe thunderstorm with a high chance for tornadoes seemed to be following the path along Interstate 81 going north and within five or ten minutes, the loud beeping resumed and a voice said that if you live in this town, you should take cover NOW. The power of words. I heard NOW and I didn't move for a couple of seconds. I was dumbfounded. Was this really happening? Now? That town is very close to where I live! If the tornado was following the route they described, I had only minutes before it would hit. The weather people predicted the severe weather would veer off 81 N and head east, but try telling that to a tornado. Hey tornado, you're predicted to go east, so go east and leave us alone! Who the heck knows with tornadoes? They're as unpredictable as I was as a teen. Now, I had to think where I would be safest. My Pug stood at the front door, wondering when the hell we were going for our walk. I forgot he had his leash on!

The stone cellar of my 107-year old house is solid, but unfortunately, there are three sets of small windows, as well as hundreds of spider webs. I didn't really know what to do and I hate spiders, so I grabbed my cell phone, took the leash that had a very confused Pug at the other end (who is terrified of thunder and lightning) and looked around for my cat and saw him in the kitchen because he hated the loud noises that were coming from the television set. I realized that the area on the first floor of my house has nine windows and a kitchen door with a window, but the area near the door that leads to my basement is shielded by the dining room door that I could close and the refrigerator would block us. I dragged my Pug into the cubby, closed both doors and we sat in the dark. Where was my cat? I called out to him and saw him on the kitchen table (where he's not allowed, of course), looking at me.

I hadn't realized it had gotten so dark outside which added to my increasing anxiety. I texted my children and my sister to let them know that I was okay and to warn them that they should be on alert as the tornadoes (from what I could hear from the television in the other room, through a closed door) was heading east toward the DC area. Shoot! I knew my daughter was in class in Virginia and my son is in NYC working. Then, my sister called to ask if I was okay. I said we were, but that it was pretty scary. She was at home and said that she feared a tornado more than a hurricane and I had to agree as they are so unpredictable. I told her to keep in touch and I hung up.

The beeping continued and I realized I had a bad headache. Just then, I felt my cat near my feet and I picked him up. We three sat in the dark listening to the rain and the wind outside. I worried about all the objects on my patio that could be turned into projectiles. Great. Right through my windows or my neighbor's windows. I thought about the people of Oklahoma and any other place in the US that had been hit by a tornado. This was scary as hell. I worried about all the people on 81 in their cars who might not have anywhere safe to get to, much like the people of Oklahoma. Me who loves extreme weather and watching storm chaser stories had gotten a small dose of what it really feels like. Not good. I've always listened carefully to tornado survivor stories and marveled at what had saved them--a mattress over their bodies, a closet, the bathtub. There was nothing to put over my head where I was sitting and I wondered if I had a helmet anywhere! I laughed to myself at the absurd picture of me wearing a helmet, but hey. I sat petting my animals and realized that yes, petting an animal can calm you down.

I also wondered if I could clean behind the fridge as I sat there. Nothing like multi-tasking in a tornado warning! Instead, I sat still and checked FB to see if friends in my town had heard about the twister warning and sure enough, two had posted. I posted that I was okay and at home. I worried for my elderly neighbor and tried to call him, but he didn't answer. Great. I was glad I'd taken my high blood pressure meds that morning as my fear rose.

I had a gut feeling that I was going to be okay and tried to keep my imagination from running away from me with visuals of the Oklahoma tornadoes I'd seen. Ten minutes later, I ventured out of my cubby to the TV and sure enough, the warnings were now for areas along route 340 going toward Frederick, MD. It was going northeast toward Baltimore. I have friends all over that area and I prayed for them.

That evening, three tornadoes hit Maryland, sheesh. One to two hours from me. Trees damaged, garages and sheds obliterated, and flooded streets and houses in the DC area. This week, we have more severe weather coming our way. I'd better get writing today! Not only is it hurricane season, but we also have to worry about tornadoes now. The derecho that hit my town hard last year was the first one that local friends remember ever hitting our town, but there have been tornadoes before. I didn't know that...guess I DO have to have a tornado preparedness kit in place. Oy vey. After buying extra water, a better flashlight, batteries, extra dog and cat food, and canned food for me, I'm going to buy a pack of college-ruled notebooks, a bunch of pencils and an eraser or two so that I can continue to write while I ride out whatever chooses to come my way.

Happy calm Tuesday, I pray!

Peace and love,
Ellie

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mental Health Monday!

I woke up to a rainy, muggy Monday and I'm relieved the sun isn't out this morning. The sun would have made it a hot and humid mess. I'm debating whether or not to put the air conditioning on and leaning toward yes. This house needs some deep cleaning and it's going to require some elbow grease, better to work in a cool house.

Mondays are my mental health days. I don't work on my novels on Monday. I usually enjoy playing hooky from life at the beginning of the week, but the inside of my house needs some major attention, cleaning that I've put off while I was busy querying agents and writing for the last month. I write better when my house is clean and as organized as it's going to get this week. A cluttered, a cluttered mind!

I could have stayed home cleaning this past weekend, but I opted for a nice weekend at the river with my co-owner. I saw rain for the entire week, so I knew it was a good weekend to go. Saturday was my first time back this season since the park opened in April and my first reaction when I pulled up was, "This looks like a version of Sanford & Son's junkyard!" Our wood dock lay in the yard along with the 12 blue plastic barrels that are usually strapped to the underside to allow it to float. The john boat given to me by a friend last summer was in the front yard, as well. My friend assured me that the boat was waterproof and seaworthy, but when it sank three times last summer, we put it in the side yard. The aluminum boat will either be scrapped for money or turned into a huge planter for annual flowers. Pinterest would be proud.

The inside of the trailer didn't look half bad as we'd cleaned before closing it up last fall, but it smelled stale after being closed up for the winter. I saw cobwebs here and there and it was dusty, but the water was running and the lights and outlets worked, so I was happy. We aired the trailer out for a couple of hours and then, put on the air conditioning which worked like a charm. 

D and I spent the evening at the farm table and benches that my uncle and I built two seasons ago, catching up until the sun went down. I'm glad we moved the farm table to the riverfront patio side, it was just beautiful. Boats and pontoons sailed by and people enjoyed the river on their jet skis. When the outside light wouldn't turn on, we moved inside and it wasn't long before my eyes were tired. I went to be early (early for us at the river!) and woke up around 9. I always sleep well at the river, especially when I get the back bedroom which is nice and dark. I made coffee and grabbed the broom. I swept the patio, the carpet on the pontoon boat and the side patio. By then, I was a sweaty mess and was relieved to have hot and cold running water in the shower.

D slept in and by 1230, I'd had two cups of coffee, a banana and had cleaned the entire trailer to include windows. Once I get started, I can't stop. I'll leave the next deep cleaning to D, we take turns. She busied herself outside in the yard which also needed lots of tending and weeding. Do I usually get that much done at home? Not so much. I've never been  exactly sure why that is other other than our trailer has the bare necessities and there's no clutter. It's much easier to clean. I have too much stuff at home and usually, my cleaning involves throwing stuff away which makes it a huge production. It's tough to have moved from a four bedroom townhouse with a completed basement to a three bedroom duplex with no basement. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

We were able to rent out two boat slips for the season and we're looking for one more renter. Our newest boat slip renter and his wife came by on Sunday and I think we'll all enjoy the season. The husband stacked the blue barrels into a pyramid and moved the john boat out of sight. The front looked so much better and we're excited to have a guy around for stuff like that. He's a very handy guy according to his wife and he laughed when he saw our 'tools'--a crooked screwdriver and a tiny hammer. His grin told me that he's secretly happy to have more things to do. We can definitely keep him busy :)

D and I don't own a boat (except for the sinking wonder), but we enjoy watching our mini marina and the activities from the river patio, and the money helps us with the yearly dues. All good. It was a fun, productive Sunday and I felt great leaving a clean house.

Now back home, I'm looking around now and everything needs attention. I think I'll start in the living room and work my way back to the kitchen. I need some cleaning music to motivate me! My brain is pushing me to clean and my body is reminding me that it's Mental Health Monday. So, the tug-of-war begins :) I wonder who'll win?

Happy Monday to you.

Ellie

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Memorabilia, History and Shenanigans

There are many things I hold precious in this world and I'm a very sentimental person, so I hold onto items that have special meaning to me.  My kids call me a pack rat and they're right. I need to be better at this, but there are a few things that I would never throw out.

As I looked in the attic for the journal I kept during my walk on El Camino and the photographs we took on the morning we left Brussels and on the last day when we finally reached the city of Santiago de Compostela, I found so many things that made me smile and shudder. I'm in the early stages of my second novel, Finding Gracia on El Camino, and I wanted to set the mood.

I've kept 90% of everything my children have ever drawn at home, on vacation or in school from the time they could barely hold a pencil to their college days. From a tiny drawing, to their first attempts at letters and sentences to their college papers. I know, that's a lot and I keep it all in a huge plastic Rubbermaid container up in my attic. Thank God for attics! Their school trophies and academic achievement certificates are up there with their high school and college graduation gowns, caps and tassels, too. That was the part that made me shudder. I need to go through those papers and keep just the best, but it's tough!

I still have my children's silver baby cups engraved with their names and the date of their births, and I have my ex-husband's baby cup, as well. I've also kept many items, newspapers and magazines printed on the day of their births as well as their belly buttons and first bottles and pacifiers. Nuts, right? Not to me. For whatever reason, my mother didn't save a lot of things for my sister and I, so I vowed I'd do things a bit different. It could have been that we were a military family and hauling all that extra stuff was a pain. Could be. 

My sister and I have tried to split the family albums and shared photographs with each other. Photographs galore. In newer albums, loose photographs and photographs pasted to those old albums with the waxy paper in between the pages and black paper edges. Remember those? All in a container so that the mice don't get to them.

In another container, I keep things from my childhood and young adulthood. I have a Mother's Day card I made my mother on a piece of manila paper. It's a pencil and crayon drawing of cheerful flowers in a blue vase and I wrote in cursive: "To the best mother in the world. Your daughter, Eleanor."  I was always drawing and I remember drawing many things for my mother, but this is the only drawing I found after she passed away in 1992. She kept many cards in the drawer of her bedside table and she showed my handmade card to me the year before she passed away. I often wonder if my mother somehow knew her time was short because that same year, she gave me a pair of my baby shoes and a mint green dress I wore when I was an infant in addition to a silver punch bowl with ladle and 10 silver cups that I always loved. I hope this punch bowl will be included in my children's weddings :)

In an old folder, I have dozens of drawings and a drawing of a woman and a centaur I made in my early teens from a racy ad in Cosmo magazine when I wasn't supposed to read those magazines. Oh, well :) We got a hold of them, anyway. I still have a few school notebooks and black and white composition books from high school as well as an autograph book from middle school. Yearbooks galore. The notebooks and composition books are full of drawings, poems, small snippets of writing, and tons of quotes I collected over the years, thanks to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Diaz.

I have jewelry given to me by old boyfriends, an ex-husband and some remnants of shenanigans I pulled in middle school. I found love notes exchanged during class, a Turkish puzzle ring that I stole on a dare from the Monostiraki Flea Market in Athens, Greece when I was 13 years old and a yearbook entry written by my BFF at the time who made mention of other shenanigans that only she and I know about! I didn't say they were all proud moments, did I? A ticket stub from the ferry from Athens to Aegina and hair tied up in a faded ribbon from a haircut long ago. I found a car emblem that a boy I liked stole from a Mercedes Benz car, trying to impress me and a dried flower in a book of poetry from my second boyfriend who died at 17 in a motorcycle accident. 

Goodness me. The history of a family, my family. The history of a life well-lived. Every item I picked up had a history, memory and stories attached. It's no wonder I write historical fiction and love vintage and antiques, is it? And, it should be quite obvious to you, dear reader, that I did no writing today. I did a whole helluva lot of research, though!

Happy weekend to you!

Peace and love,
Ellie












Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Strange Thing About Arriving At Your Final Destination

As I prepare to read my novel, A Decent Woman, aloud for what I hope will be the final time in the editing phase, I realize that I feel like I did when my children and I were one town over from the end of our two-week walk to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, the final resting place of Saint James.

We were so close to finishing El Camino, the medieval pilgrimage walk, and I remember it it was near sunset. My feet and heels had blisters the size of quarters. My kids and I were exhausted, mentally and physically exhausted from getting up at dawn and donning 20 lb backpacks and walking 20-22 miles a day in the Spanish summer sun until near sunset. Together, we'd walked 370 kilometers.

During our walk, I'd had visions of  my kids and I running into town, our destination. I'd say that we'd yell in celebration when we entered the town, hug and kiss each other, but as we stood on the hill with Santiago de Compostela in the distance that evening, I changed my mind. It didn't feel right to walk the mere 10 final miles  for some reason. I trusted my gut as I'd done when I decided to walk El Camino and drag my teenage children with me. I'd learned to trust my gut more and more on the walk and I've never deviated from those life lessons learned on our walk--our personal caminos. My kids agreed to wait.

I remember my children and I were silent as we looked down the hill at our destination. We were lost in our own thoughts about the walk and how it had all come about. At times, we hadn't believed that we could finish the arduous walk as we walked down country roads, through villages, trekked beside highways, and hiked up hills and mountains. My kids worried that I couldn't finish because of my blistered feet and I worried that my children would chuck it all aside and demand to go home. But, we hadn't given up. Home seemed so far away on that late afternoon, and crazy as it might sound, we realized that we didn't want our walk to end.

When we finally spoke, my kids and I expressed a desire to savor the moment. It hadn't been all that bad, had it? Yes, it had! We laughed and decided to enjoy a great meal, get a good night's sleep and enter the city fresh and clear in the early morning. I had dreamed of walking El Camino for years and here it was--the end. So close and yet, I wanted to wait.

Waiting to enter Santiago de Compostela was the best decision EVER. That evening, we had dinner with fellow peregrinos, pilgrims who had walked El Camino from various starting points around the world. Some of our new friends, all pilgrims had walked the entire Camino from France to the village we found ourselves in the night before the end and others had begun in Holland, Germany, Belgium like us, and we'd all heard the story of the 80 year old woman who'd walked our her front door in England, took the ferry from Dover to Calais, France and finished the walk. Others began their journeys in the US, Portugal, France and as far away as Japan.

There are many paths that lead to Santiago de Compostela. We'd all taken the path that made sense to us or the path that we found ourselves on at the time. During dinner we discovered the various reasons we'd decided to walk El Camino and the reasons were amazing to hear. There are as many reasons to walk as there are stars in the sky.

I'm glad that my children and I took the time to process our walk. We needed to process. And, as it turned out, we took two days. We loved the albergue, hostel, where we found ourselves and we enjoyed the pilgrims we came into contact with. It was clear that my kids and I needed to be alone with our thoughts and we needed to laugh about the things that had happened along our camino

My kids and I shared many laughs and stories with each other that night and there were tears, as well. Our lives had changed so much in two weeks and we knew we were different people. We also knew that when we returned to Brussels, the lives we knew would be different. My husband and I had just separated and my kids and I were heading back to the US after 13 years of living overseas.

My children and I had always been close, but walking El Camino with my precious children, when we were hurting, confused, and doubting a good future, was the best experience of our lives. I will never forget walking into Santiago de Compostela with my kids. We were overjoyed, hugely relieved, tired and we'd grown by leaps and bounds. I'm amazed we survived that walk and then again, I knew we'd reach the end.

This morning, I remember the night before we entered Santiago de Compostela because my novel is finished. I've sent out new queries and I want to be alone with my book for the day. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and with my last reread (aloud), I'm savoring every word. I remember when I started this book and where I was in my life. So much has happened to my children and I over the last few years. Some days have been difficult for us, but we're happy and healthy today.

Of course, I've already starting writing that book! I'm going through the journal I kept on the Camino, gazing at our photographs taken during the walk, and remembering how it felt to begin a journey and to come to the end. I'm in awe of what we accomplished and I marvel at our resilience, courage and strong bond of love.

Today, I'm going to savor the moment because I'll never write my first book again. It's been quite a journey.

Peace and love to you,
Ellie


Read Your Novel Aloud - Tip of the Day


So, you have a great idea for a book. It's unique and you finally listen to your family and friends who have always encouraged you to write a book. You've never written a book before. Sometimes, you think that you could write better books than those you've read lately and at other times, you marvel at an author's artistry with the written word. You could never write a book like that. But then again, maybe you could and you should. I say you should.

One day, something inside you propels you forward and you decide that today is the day that you will begin to write a book. You might have a title in mind and you may even know how the whole book plays out. You've dreamed of your characters and they just won't leave you alone--they want you to write this book, too. There's a story to be told.

Writing your first book is much like buying your first car. You've dreamed about it, you know what color it will be and how cool you'll look driving that car around.  But as a young person or a person of any age who buys their first car, you're afraid. What if the book is dumb and you've wasted so much time on it? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Trust me, write the book. It will change your life.

So, you decide you want to write the book more than you're afraid of it. You buy the car and you begin to write that book. Baby steps. You drive for a while and realize that could take a road trip! Why not? You have some free time or enough vacation days or a long weekend without the kids. You create a vision board of your destination aka your book with photos you've cut out that inspire you. Dreams are more vivid and you begin to meet new people who have been sent to you by the Universe because you've just made a momentous decision--you're going to write a book.

Hey, you've written a few pages! But, you stop. Who do you think you are? An author? You ignore the annoying censors in your head, those voices that have made you quit before, and you continue. What have censors done for you lately? Before you know it, you have a chapter written. Now what? You continue. You've got the bug and soon, you find that you're in deep. You can't stop now. Your characters need so much from you! They're depending on you to help them find their way in the crazy world you've built for them. You can't leave them on the side of the road and take a detour!

Armed with a map, enough gas for a long drive or a spontaneous road trip, you open the car door and invite your characters into the car and off you go. Now, you're in the middle of the book and kinda stuck. The ending you thought possible just might not be possible for your characters. Instead of forging ahead, you go back to Chapter One to do a bit of rewriting. This feels safe and you can pat yourself on the back for the chapters you have written. You take a few days off, but the book is calling you all the time, begging you to resolve the issues and celebrate with them at the end of the journey. So, you continue revising. But, remember that your characters are sitting with their luggage on the side of the road, ready to hitchhike. Call them over, trust me, they'll be ecstatic that you're continuing the journey--their journey!

While revising/driving, you come up with a brilliant ending, you change your protagonist's name just because you love that name and you know exactly what your characters must do and why. You realize you know what's best for them and you know how to achieve it. Leave  the beginning chapters alone for the time being and move forward with the next new chapter. Done. See that wasn't so hard, was it? You were afraid, that's all. Feel the fear and do it anyway! Get back on the road.

Hey, if you don't write this book, who will? Won't you hate to see someone else write a similar book? Won't you really hate it when you see a movie trailer with a similar story? It's going to bug you, trust me. You don't want to be that bitter person at the party who complains about the book that got away. Please don't ever be that person! Finish the book because no one can tell your particular story, but you.

You fill up your emotional gas tank, check under hood, change the spark plugs and you're moving steadily down the road. The drive is smooth and the way is clear. You wave at people on the side of the road who cheer you on. At times, you need to rest and you begin researching on the Web. It's a great idea. Take a breather when you need it, but get back in that car! Before you know it, you're over the middle hump and sailing toward the end. Feels great! You find yourself telling people at the next social gathering that you're a writer. Well, you are and you realize that not many people in your inner circle write books. Pretty cool, huh?

So, your book is done. What a major accomplishment! You join the ranks of writers around the world. You've written a freakin' book! Congratulations!! You've reached your destination and now what? It's been quite a journey with twists and turns, some U-turns and false starts, but you're there. Now what? You can't rest on your new author laurels for long, it's time to edit. You read your book, some friends and family have read your book, you find a great editor and now what?

You begin to edit your book. You edit and edit some more. You fill in the blanks with more research and you may find that during your research, that things might change. Your character might not have said what she said in Chapter 22 or you might come up with a gem of information that changes things around. Don't worry, it's all part of the process. Trust your gut! Yes, it takes a whole lot of hard work and determination to write a good book.

My advice is to keep reading, rewriting, take writing courses, read up on the craft of writing and keep editing. Join a writer's group, a critique group and meet other authors and writers. You're in great company. 

And, when you're confident that your book is ready, read it aloud. That's what I just did with my first book, A Decent Woman. I read it aloud last night and you know what? In the first chapter alone, I found sentences that needed strengthening and run-on sentences. I also found that in one short chapter alone, I used my protagonist's name three times. Gawd...

I'd never read my story aloud and THAT is my tip of the day. I'm going back to my novel in a few minutes to keep reading. More rewriting is in my immediate future :)

Happy writing to you!

Peace and love,
Ellie










Monday, June 3, 2013

How To Avoid a Marketing Plan

Cover letter, check. First chapter and synopsis, check. Merde, that synopsis was dificile. From nine pages, I was able to whittle it down to eight and that was tough, but it's done. Marketing plan, check...well, that could use some tweaking. So, that's what I'm doing this morning--getting my package ready for a small press publisher. No easy feat, that's a lot of stuff to send out for un petite livre. Mais, c'est la vie aujourdui. That doesn't look right, doesn't it? But, I'm in the mood to speak French, so bear with me. I love speaking French. Anything to avoid that marketing plan!

For the last couple of days, le weekend complet, actualment, I went to bed earlier than usual. I had no plans with friends and woke up earlier. Huit heure matin is my normal waking time and then, it was seven and this bright and beautiful lundi morning, it was six. I was wide awake. I fall asleep thinking about my novel and I wake up thinking about my novel. I suppose c'est normal for a writer and I'm clear-minded in the morning, so the early morning hours works for me. So, bonjour mes ami!

At six this morning, my Pug, Ozzy, looked at me like something was seriously wrong. I pulled back the bedroom curtains and watched the soleil come up while Ozzy continued to snooze with one eye open. I don't know how he does that. Incroyable. I padded downstairs, Pug and Pierre, my cat, in tow and let Ozzy out. Pierre circled my ankles and jumped on the washing machine, meowing for breakfast, his favorite time of the day. Saumon et fromage est le menu du jour pour ma chaton, I told him as I nuzzled his neck. He's fluent in French, ya know. I speak broken French.

Minutes later, the Pug was sitting at la porte de la cuisine, staring up at me. His biological clock seemed to be stuck on eight o'clock. Maman, c'est fou! Je suis fatigue! I walked out and prodded him to pee. Ozzy kept looking back at me for moral support and courage like I'd just dropped him on a foreign planet. Pierre stood up against the kitchen door, his mouth moving as if to say, "Let ME out, I'll show him how it's done!" Non, Pierre. Tu est un chaton de l'interiur. I lured Ozzy onto the wet grass and of course...he pooped in my flower garden, right on les snapdragons, and my slippers are still wet.

NOTE TO SELF: Wear gardening gloves and look into some low fencing. Take a French refresher course, I need it.

The pets have been watered and fed, I brewed a nice cup of tea and my babies now napping. That didn't take long!  So, now back to the marketing plan...wish me luck. Bonne chance a moi!

Happy Monday to you, wherever you are! Aren't ya glad ya read this Frenglish blog post?

Peace and love,

Ellie


Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Village Approach

Good morning! 

The temperature outside already feels like the high 80's and the air conditioner is working hard. I feel an inside day is called for and I have plenty of work to do. The grass could use some cutting and I could weed the garden, but I'm ignoring my garden today. I have to get cracking!

List of things to do today:

Whittle my nine page synopsis to six or seven pages. This is no easy feat for a talker and a writer! Send said synopsis to an author friend for her advice and comments when I'm done.

Call an old friend to help me create my website. We've reconnected on Facebook after 17 years and lo and behold, she's a web master!

Review my query letter and send it out to small presses and agents, specifically to one agent who an author friend has highly recommended.

Sometimes it takes a village, folks! I'm so very thankful for my friends and their support, encouragement and love.

This is plenty for today, don't you think?

I have renewed faith, confidence and excitement this morning. Sometimes, you also need an old fashioned mini rant to get the blood pumping :)

Have a super weekend, everyone. Stay cool!

Peace and love,
Ellie