A Glorious Summer Day…Not

I hate the heat. More specifically, the humidity. Today is 90 degrees and about as humid as you can get. Blistering heat. Nauseating heat. Pick your adjective and it fits.

So I’m trying my best to ignore this scorching, miserable heat, sweat dripping down my body in buckets, reading glasses slipping off my nose, when my husband enters the sunroom modeling swim trunks he’s had since the Regan administration.

“Wanna go swimming?” he says.

“Umm…you going like that?”

“Yeah. Why? You don’t like this suit?”

My gaze sidles. “Where would we go?”

We live in a vacationer’s paradise. Each week Newfound Lake gives itself a blood transfusion with seven underground springs. Which makes it perfect swimming water. Hence, why our area floods with people in the warm weather.

“I dunno. The lake?” he says.

Now I’m envisioning being on the beach with hundreds of people, each having a towel-width of space. Men wearing black knee socks and sandals. Don’t laugh. It happens more than you’d think around here. But I’m gazing into Bob’s eyes and I can’t crush his eager spirit. “The lake?” Involuntarily my upper lip twitches. “Haven’t you found a private inlet somewhere yet?”

He hangs his head. “No.”

“I would, but I don’t have a suit. I haven’t bought one since we moved here.” I probably have one somewhere, but if I’m going out in public I’ll be damned if I’m going in a suit from the 90’s.

“Isn’t that a bathing suit top?”

Men. “No. It’s a sports bra. Big difference.”

“No one’s gonna know. C’mon. It’ll be fun.”

This, I didn’t need. I’m sweating– No. My mother always said: horse’s sweat, men perspire, women glow. So, I’m glowing like a firefly in July, a puddle of glow? under my chair and my husband wants me to slap on a happy face and parade down the beach in my sports bra and shorts. Help me, Jesus!

A ball skids across the room and our dog cries, breaking Bob’s concentration and reverting his attention away from the lake idea.

panicked

For once my dog does me a favor. Normally, he’s a jerk. I don’t often admit this, but it’s true. I had seven–count ’em, seven!–sweet, loving babies and him…the troublemaker. Guess who’s still with us? The one who allows us to pet him–when HE feels like it. Who doesn’t like company. Who refuses to share the fan. And to top it off, he now suffers from separation anxiety. If he is more than three feet away he cries until we move closer. Because God forbid HE move. Not in this lifetime. He’s a playful boy, too, for nine years old. One his favorite activities is bouncing a ball–off my face. He rolls it down my leg, over my arms, across my keyboard. Because I’m not paying attention to him.

Yeah. You know the kind. If he were human he’d be the bully in school. Yup, that’s my kid…the jerk. Still, we love him with all our hearts, buy him anything his little–and I mean little–heart desires. For instance, because of the heat Bob brought him home Frosty Paws. He devoured it in seconds, glanced over his shoulder and threw us the stink eye. “You gonna put another one in here, or do I have to beg? Bitches.”

Between the swimsuit auditions, the ball bashing me in the face, and the heat, I needed a few moments of peace. I decided to take a shower. You know, cool off a bit. I just get my hair shampooed and…CRACK. Lightning shakes the house.

Oh, great. Now I’m gonna die…in the shower no less. Then something else occurs to me. If I do die, would Bob release my trunk novels? I tiptoe in between the drops, praying to God that a lightening bolt doesn’t shoot out of the faucet and strike me dead before I have a chance to tell Bob, “Under no circumstances are those books to be released. Ever!”

After that relaxing time away, I rejoin my family. It’s getting late now so the lake is off the table…for today. I get back to work on my latest manuscript that I’m tearing to shreds and Bob wants to chitchat. About nothing. Just ramble on and on and on and on. It is Sunday, after all, so I stop what I’m doing and smile. “Uh-ha. Wow. Really?” I have no idea what I’m saying, but it’s going over well so I must be close.

He strolls into the kitchen, presumably to go upstairs and change out of that suit he’s owned since Moby Dick was a guppy. “Oh…my…God!” he says. “What IS that?”

Now, he has my full attention. “What is it?”

“I don’t know. It’s a…a…I don’t know. It’s big, though.” He gives the hardwood the lightest tap I’ve ever heard. Like his big toe barely swept over the floor.

Now, if I saw something as gigantic as he made it out to be, you can be sure I’d be stomping my foot. But no.

Tap.

“That’s it? Tap? How big could it be if all you’re going to do is…tap?”

“What? I got it.”

“Well, what was it?”

“A bumble bee…I think.”

“And a tap like that killed it? A bumble bee. Come on.”

“Seriously.”

“Then it obviously wasn’t that big. Men, always making things out to be larger than they really are. Typical.”

“I’ll prove it.” He swipes a paper towel and marches into the living room. Gently scoops it up and carries it over. “Actually, it’s a spider. Wow. It’s got big sacks of babies on its back too. This thing’s enormous.”

“A spider? The size of bumble bee?”

“Yeah. It’s huge. Look.” He unfurls the towel, and I peer over his shoulder expecting to witness a grotesque spider.

Drama queen.

I sigh, and open the fridge. “What do you want for supper?”

“Whatever. I’m easy.”

“How about ice cream?”

“For supper?”

“Yeah, Mr. Easy. That a problem?”

He ignores me.

“Fine. I’ll throw a steak on the grill.” Forgetting that we’re expecting torrential thunderstorms any second and have already been experiencing lightening galore.

I throw the steak on the grill and…CRACK. Within seconds, sheets of rain fall from the sky. The electricity flickers. Goes out. Flickers.

I’m not wasting twenty bucks worth of steaks, so if you don’t hear from me again you’ll know why. I’m face-up on my deck, dead or in a coma, holding a metal grill fork with long, dark scorch marks running up and down my body.

I hate the heat.

Come Take A Walk On The Wild Side

Writers spend so much time behind their keyboard that sometimes it can feel like we’ve crawled into our own little world, separated from the rest of the planet. That’s why now and then it’s important to take a break. Daily, if possible. Breathe in fresh air. Clear the mind. Kick your endorphins into high gear. S.K. Nichols wrote a post recently entitled Detoxing The Brain And Opening Up New Worlds and Robin Rivera from Write On, Sisters! wrote a post entitled 5 Life Hacks For Writers, about writers being at risk for health issues because of always being seated. Both posts are superb. If you get a chance I think you’ll enjoy them too.

When the weather cleared — it was a long winter in New Hampshire — I started taking walks. And what I discovered was incredibly freeing. Instead of describing it to you, I thought I’d take you with me.

Come take a walk on the rural wild side…

The first thing you have to understand about this area is it seems the entire town is on the side of a cliff. What this translates to is you are either walking up a hill or walking down. Rarely do you get a straightaway. When you do it’s like a ray of sunshine on a cold winter day.

I love this area. Truth be told I’m a country girl at heart. Even when I lived in the city — traffic, beeping horns, commuter trains — I dreamed of country living. For fifteen years we lived on the coast surrounded by nature and sandy shorelines. Pretty surroundings. Still, I longed for mountains and lakes, a quieter more peaceful existence. Three years ago we finally made our dream a reality.

So now, I walk…

Let my mind wander. My imagination reaches through branches, around rocks and fallen trees, over pine needles and across streams. There’s no limit to where I can go.

I walk.

open woods

Imagine black bears coddling their cubs, nestled in the trees, Momma teaching her young to forage for food, pilfer garbage cans and bird feeders, how to stay concealed from hunters, or defend themselves for when she won’t be there to rescue them.

Is she hiding in those trees, snuggled with her infants in her arms, a slow tremble starting in her chest, eagle-eyes on a nearby intruder?

Shuffling leaves. Crackling sticks. A light breeze whisks through a canopy of oak, birch and maple trees shielding the forest floor from sunlight.

I walk.

shack

Who lived in that shack that’s now abandoned in the middle of nowhere? Was he a mighty woodsman, a leper afraid of humiliation from the townsfolk? Or, was he a writer using this cabin as a retreat? His escape that allowed his imagination to drift to far away lands, where dreams always come true or where reality takes other forms. Did he have a wife and kids at home who were waiting patiently for him to finish his novel?

These are some of the questions I ponder as…

I walk.

woods with stonewall

Can you hear children laughing? Their spirit very much alive as they play hide and seek in the forest. An older brother left in charge of his baby sister. Five years old, I’m guessing, with a curious innocence and a smile that could illuminate a room during a power outage. She likes to throw a handful of leaves in the air and run underneath, screaming as though the crisp edges might sting if they touch her unscathed flesh.

I walk.

woods1

The heavens open up and grant this wondrous place light. Maybe an angel hovers nearby to watch over the animals. She has long, flowing, golden locks and porcelain skin like that of a china doll. Her voice is barely audible to human ears, a little more than a whisper in the wind. But if you listen closely you just might hear her heart sing.

I walk.

trail

Who, or what, lives up there, I wonder. A troll in a mushroom-shaped cavern? Perhaps. He waits patiently for wanderers to stumble across his domain. As they approach he cackles to himself, palms rubbing together, an evil little smirk arching his lips. “I’ll get you my pretty. And you’re little dog, too.” His favorite lines from the Wizard of Oz.

Then one day the unthinkable happens. A beautiful troll happens upon his little abode and asks for directions. Mr. Troll tries to resist her charm, his heart blackened from years of bitter loneliness. But her warm heart fills him with something he’s never experienced before… love.

Not wanting to intrude on their courtship…

I walk.

roadSteep pitch up ahead. A burning sensation develops in my outer thighs. I’m really getting a workout today. At the top I peer over the edge and see…
the pitch

You may think this is an oddity. It’s not. So,

I walk.

stream

The stream looks refreshing about now, snaking around rocks and under packed-down winter leaves. I wonder how many animals have stopped to rest here? Moose, deer, bear, coyote, wolf, fisher cat, bobcat — yes, we have bobcat. After the mighty hunters enjoy feasting on their prey they stop, glance in all directions and lean down for a cool drink.

A gunshot rings out.

They scatter.

False alarm. Just some good ol’ boys shooting at cans. Pickup trucks, tailgates down. Country music blares from speakers as their women chew on straw and strum the banjo. This is sounding more like a scene from the Deer Hunter.

Time to make a quick exit.

I walk.

A little faster now. I can see my road up ahead on the left. But first, I need to stop and say hello to my new friends. This is Big Red. He’s the main squeeze on campus, popular with the ladies.

rooster

This is Wilbur. Don’t ask me why. Wilbur lives at the Paterson’s, one T not two. Still, I can dream a genius writer/marketer lives here.horse

I walk.

Up the side of the mountain where I live. Across my yard, just showing signs of spring. Yearlings and flower sprouts peek through the earth and reach for a tangerine sun. Soon colorful blossoms will grow from their arms — glorious scents of lavender, rose and cherry will waft in the warm summer air. Until then,

I walk.

Thanks for coming with me today. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work. Playtime over… for today.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this: do yourself a favor and make time for the little things in life. This crazy, fabulous, hard business of ours can crush you if you don’t take the time to enjoy life. So, go for a walk. Get out from behind that desk and experience the things we write about. Let your spirit soar — your creativity run wild. Then… get back to work. There’s always more to learn.

Are you searching for a way to commit fictional murder? Experience a taste of what you’ll find within the pages of my FREE .pdf 50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters. And discover how to receive your copy (title linked).

A Heartbreaking Goodbye

Many of you know that my dog, Gideon, has been gravely ill. And I thank you for your patience while we’ve gone through this terrible time.

Today, we had to say goodbye.

In remembrance of my baby Gid I’ve posted this poem. A kind soul posted this on my FB page when Gid’s illness took an awful turn. Grab your Kleenex. You’re going to need it.

THE LAST BATTLE

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.

You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend.

Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.

Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

~Unknown

Where I’ve been… and why.

I don’t normally talk about my daily life. I guess I’m private that way. But I feel I need to clear some things up. I’ve been seriously lacking lately in reading your blog posts. I know this and I’m doing the best I can to rectify this. There is a good reason for it though. One of my dogs– Gideon, I’ve talked about him before– is gravely ill.

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Gideon

 

He’s been sick for a few weeks, but took a turn for the worse six days ago. Without going into detail, he requires massive amounts of my time while I attempt to keep him alive, with a quality life. At the same time my other dog, Cascius, is seething with jealously. So I try to give him extra attention. It’s both physically and emotionally draining.  lazylion

As such, everything else falls to the wayside. Family first. It’s a must.

I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish Gideon would magically bounce back, return to being healthy, running and playing. I wish I could leave him for a few hours to see my granddaughter, too. She’s growing so fast and we’re missing it. But the sad reality is I don’t know how much time he has left, could be days, could be weeks. When I do get a break I read to escape the horrors of my reality. Books are magical in that way. Don’t you agree?

Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

So, I haven’t abandoned you. I always have and always will support you in any way I can. I just need a little time to deal with the ones I love. I think everyone can understand that.

I do have some exciting news, a surprise guest appearance by the author of six critically acclaimed thrillers, who’s also written two of the best craft books I’ve ever read. A must for every writer’s toolbox, IMO. I’ve also added some new links on the crime writer’s resource page and added menu items. More on all that later. For now, I’ll hold you in suspense.

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This pic just never gets old.

 

 

 

To The Writer Who Dares To Dream…

Friends often ask me why I’m glued to my computer, always in the house working and not out having fun. My answer, “Because I have a dream.”

When I first started writing a book it was exciting, new, shiny. I wanted to tell everyone about this huge undertaking. By the time I finished writing 90K words half my world knew about it. It’s human nature to want to share a new venture with the people in our lives. So I filled everyone in about rewriting my first draft, tried to educate them a bit about the process. They politely smiled and nodded because they were sick of hearing about it by this time.

Then it came time to choose a publishing path. That was when everyone had an opinion, and most didn’t know enough about either option to properly list the pros and cons. Since I didn’t know any other writers I listened to my heart and chose traditional, and then sent out my “masterpiece” just knowing that some lucky agent would snatch it up and make me an over-night sensation. A star.

steinbeck

And then…

When that first rejection came in my dreams shattered into a million pieces. Some of you will quit at this point. Some of you, like me, will be too stubborn to admit defeat. I told myself things like, “Maybe it wasn’t the right agent. I just need someone who will appreciate my hard work.”

Again, I was fooling myself. I was still riding the high of dreaming about becoming a best seller. And you know what? That’s okay. I should dream. And dream big. That’s what drives us. That’s what keeps our rear-end in the chair and us working. It’s the kind of thinking that WILL turn us into stars one day. That’s what differentiates us from the ones who quit after four rejection letters.

But I also learned that it was important to set smaller goals along the way toward that dream. And I’ll tell you why. By conquering small hurdles I had something to be proud of, a reason to pat myself on the back, a reason to keep forging ahead.

Some small goals of mine were:

1. Finish writing the first draft.

2. Finish rewriting and editing the first draft until I could not make it any better.

3. Show my polished work to a beta-reader. At this point most probably won’t have a critique partner yet unless they have friends who are writers. At least for me this step took time. It took years for me to find good critique partners. Which is why I’d bind and gag them before I’d let them go. Just kidding… sort of.

4. Tackle the query letter. Don’t rush this step. I made this mistake too. This is your first impression and you can only make it once. Trust me on this.

Once I conquered one of these goals I rewarded myself in some small way. Had my favorite treat or gave myself an hour of free time to surf the net or chat with a neighbor. Each small goal drove me toward my dream. And I was building confidence along the way in an industry that can be crushing to one’s spirit.

Writing is hard. If you don’t agree with this you’re probably not doing it right. No one– and I mean no one– ever quickly jotted down a story and sent it off only to discover it soared to number one on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List. It just doesn’t work that way. Writing is work, it’s passion, it’s art. When you write you should pour your soul into your words. Feel the emotions you’re trying to portray. Robert Frost’s famous quote: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” It’s so true. If your words don’t move you, how do you expect them to move anyone else?

no tears

Then I had to face a hard truth that my first novel might never see the light of day unless I published it myself. Which, for me, wasn’t an option. For me, that would mean compromising my dream. And I wasn’t willing to do that. Not then, not now.

Here’s a little fact that will be a hard pill to swallow for most of you. I know it was for me. Most traditionally published authors wrote four to six novels before they ever got an agent. Honestly, I almost fell off my chair when I read that one. Now, does that mean you can’t rewrite that first novel over and over again? In my opinion, no. I don’t see that it would make a difference whether you rewrite one or write four new ones as long as you’re honing your craft.

Letting go of that first novel was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I lived with this book for years. It was my baby, my first-born. I’d held on to it longer than I should have because I’d poured my heart and soul into it, rewrote it so many times that I got sick of looking at it. My husband could practically recite the novel from memory. It’s called A Strangled Rose, and it will always be close to my heart, which is why I keep it listed on my website. Maybe someday I’ll rewrite it one more time and set it free. Never say never.

But it was a necessary step in order for me to grow as a writer. I needed to let go of my baby and create something new, fresh, have a new adventure. I needed to do this for me. Now, you may not need the same thing. You may be happy rewriting the same story 400+ times, because when you first start learning that’s about how many times you’ll need to do it before you hone your craft. Ask any writer out there. I bet they all tell you the same thing.

fail only if you quit

It all comes down to perseverance. How badly do you want it? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get there? If you can’t imagine not fulfilling your dreams then you will succeed. It’s the writer who sacrifices, who writes when they don’t feel like it, who studies the craft when they’d rather be out with friends, who writes and writes and reads and reads who will rise above the others. I believe this with every inch of my being.

But it all depends on what your definition of success is. Some are happy to sell 100 copies of their book. Some shoot for 1000. Others say anything under 10K is failure. Whatever your idea of success is the most important thing you can do is never, ever give up on your dream. No matter how many times you fall, get back up and keep going.

Writing is not for everyone. Some write as a hobby, and that’s fine too. It’s the writer who dares to dream beyond that I’m really speaking to today. The writer who wants it all and won’t settle for less. The writer who won’t quit until they see their name at the top of the New York Times’ Best Sellers List. And even then, who will strive for not one book on that list but two, three, twenty. The writer who sees their books turned into television series and movies. That’s my dream. What’s yours?