Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Conflict and Tension: A Practical Writing Experience

Early last week, I received very helpful feedback about my second book from a fellow writer.  One of the details was that the conflict and tension at the first part of it is powerful, but it wears off as the story unfolds.

I decided to not get started on it right away. I wanted to do something else, like read a book, talk to a friend, do something around the house, or watch a movie.  However, some other personal matters, some of which were beyond my control, kept me from this plan. 

This was a conflict!

This continued the rest of the week into the weekend.  I know I shouldn't spend every morning in front of my laptop.  I do need some time to do other writing-related things (which I know I need to do in the near future) other than pecking away at a computer.  I kept telling myself that this experience will help me with the conflict and tension in my story.

Do you feel the tension?

As strange as this may sound, I wanted Monday to come so I could have the writing time I'd been craving over the past few days.  By that time, the conflicts I had had resolved.  And I resolved to be in front of my laptop!  On Monday morning, I drummed out the best conflict-and-tension moments in the story, which brought more life to it.

Had I not had my own conflict and tension, I wouldn't have been able to do this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Separated to Writing

At the beginning of this year, one of my goals was to spend less time on social media.  In looking at what 2014 looked like for me-the publishing of at least my first book, harder and more in-depth work for my second one, relocating to Maryville, and the desire to learn new things, the biggest of which is Spanish via Rosetta Stone-I felt the need to make certain sacrifices, just to make all of this and more happen.

In January and February, it was pretty easy.  I went on Facebook about once or twice a day, posted one or two status updates, chatted to a few people, and made posts on some friends' timelines.  Sometimes I did this before I launched into my writing time, sometimes afterwards.  There were other days I had such a strong writing project that I denied myself access to any social media, maybe even other offline social atmospheres, just to get it done.

(I'm also still trying to put certain relationships into perspective.)

At the beginning of this month, I took an eight-day break from Facebook.  This was the longest I had been away from there since I got on there in 2009.  I was getting overwhelmed and easily distracted.  Some of the status updates I read were depressing me and very superficial. This was taking away a lot of my creative energy and precious writing time, which has a tendency to be curtailed on some days by work and family commitments.  And in some cases, in the time it took me to write my status update what I had planned for the day, I could have already started on it.  

I decided to not go on there at all until Monday, which happened to be David's and my wedding anniversary. I went on there only to make the status of announcing that.  I was then going to not be on there as much in the days (maybe even weeks) to come. 

Yesterday morning, something great happened.  I received e-mails from two of my fellow writers, telling me they would like to be a beta reader for my first novel, and another one from a writer from California I've been corresponding with since January who's intrigued (and that's an understatement) by my second book and offered me very helpful detailed feedback about it.

Receiving both of these e-mails was more than enough for me to know that I needed to really take my writing to the next level. 

That I'll be posting this on Facebook shortly is undaunting to me!  I do plan to work out once I've done that.  And those who know me, know how serious I am when it comes to working out.  This is a very serious test-or even a set of tests-in my self-discipline!

I just hope that knows who have supported me will know that I won't be spending a lot of time on Facebook because of my getting very commited to and serious about writing.

Thank you to those who have supported me!  It really means a lot to me now, while I'm making all of these necessary sacrifices, just to accomplish what I've worked so hard for.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Celebrating Recovery & Taking it Easy: Thoughts for Week Ending 3/1/14

Where has this week gone?  It just seems like yesterday I made that last post.  And though this week has gone by very quickly, there are a few things that happened that I wanted to share with you.

First of all, my husband is home from being gone for a months' worth of military orders.  I made a big deal of his coming home by having a steak stroganoff in one slow cooker, "pizza potatoes" in another, and baking some chocolate oat squares for dessert...Of course, my husband loved it; after being without my homemade food for an entire month, he inhaled it all.

I took the rest of the dessert to work.  In the short time I've been there, I've revealed myself as someone who loves to bake.  And they love these chocolate oat squares the best!

It's also great brain food for me for my writing!  Writing-something I've done so much of in the past year...

Today is the ten-month mark that I've been symptom-free of endometriosis.  I seem to celebrate the first of each month, because I noticed that on May 1st of last year, I felt absolutely no pain, nor any related symptoms.  Just the other day, I had a doctor's appointment-the first one in at least ten years that wasn't about the pain, the cysts, the fibroids, and the less-than-average treatment I had received from many doctors in the two other states I had lived in.

Endometriosis sucks! But I won't allow it to suck the life out of me!

I make a point to celebrate the small things!  Recovering from this is no exception.  A few things I can now appreciate include but aren't limited to:  enjoying a live band and not coming home doubled over in pain and being that way for about two or three days (sorry to break that news to some of you); being able to concentrate on my job, my household duties, and being able to dream up many other things that would make me a better person, a lof which lays in my writings. 

I was able to do many hours of deep cleaning last Saturday!

And many are celebrating with me-from the women at the doctor's office to many from my church family.

WATCH OUT, EVERYONE!

I haven't had much time to write in the past several days.  That's ok; sometimes, I need to do some "living."  I know what needs to be done, will get done, one of which is to review the first draft of my first novel before sending it off to an editor.  For the past two months, I've been busy working on my second book and many music reviews.

And when I cry while writing, especially when working on my second book, I'll allow it to happen!  If I didn't cry, that means that my heart isn't into it.

(Cue up Annandale.)

I'm not as hard on myself as I once was.  On Thursday, I had to take it easy some, because I had some sinus trouble  (something else I'm glad to report I have recovered very well from over the past few years, since around 2008).  I was hoping I would get some writing time before going in to work that evening.  But I slept that entire morning, which as many of you know, is so not like me. 

I believe my ambitious, go-getter, hard-driven personality is more easily broken than it has ever been.

Mark my words:  I didn't feel badly about taking it easy.  In fact, I enjoyed it and as a result, had a great day at work.  I even got to see one of my favorite pit bulls come in to the store for some training.

The weekend started with something great:  getting a full-body massage-just what this writer, military wife, and joyous, caring, and compassionate PetsMart cashier needs.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thoughts for Week Ending 2/21/14

This is something different from what I've done.  I've realized there are many thing that go on during the week, and most of them are unrelated.  But I wanted to share them with you.   I'll try this for a few weeks and see how it goes. 

I wanted to do this because there might be some things that happen during the week, whether it's some insight on something, or something funny, interesting, or dramatic.  Up until recently, I've tried to make posts about these certain things on Facebook.  But I found I was spending way too much creative energy on social media.  To thoughtfully put all of these posts on here would be very unrealistic.  Putting it in these posts at the end of each week would not only make for some legitimate writing time, but also a chance to share it with you.

These points will be in no particular order.  Since this is my first post like this, it may be longer than the ones I'll have for the weeks to come.

  • What do Zoe's Kitchen and Newk's have in common?  Their food is good only when it's catered.  In other words, I like the food, but it's too pricey. 
  • I've noticed how many times people say "I'm sorry."  Think about it: "I'm sorry I can't take your call"..."I'm sorry to bother you"..."I'm sorry I forgot it"..."We're sorry for the inconvenience."  This might make a great freelance article, just to make people aware of how many times they say that, and more than half the time, there's no reason to be that profusely sorry.  Don't sweat the small stuff, that's all I got to say.
  • In the times I've been out and about-which I have been quite a lot lately-I would invariably overhear conversations.  All of them have been about health problems:  debilitating health issues, to the point to permanent disability and death, struggles to find or keep a job (some of them might be due to health issues), and about how much their head or sinuses hurt.  I know I have my moments where I complain, but, just for once, I'd love to overhear a conversation that has good news about someone's health, a kid's success in school, finally finding a job, and just being happy to be alive!
  • My love affair with Levi Strauss jeans has strengthened.  I bought a few new pairs of boot-cut jeans.  So, I have finally found my favorite style and brand of jeans.  There's just something about wearing them that get my creative juices flowing!
  • There's a time to write and a time to read.  I've written quite a lot of things in the past week, or even so far this year-many music reviews, more work on my second novel, blog posts, and e-mails-to the point of being nearly cross-eyed (and sometimes emotinal) as it gets closer to the end of the week.  That's when I read others' blog posts, read a book (currently reading about the Concord Minutemen Marching Band, very interesting story), or just listen to some music, some of which I recently reviewed. 
  • Once again, a big thanks to Ross stores for having such awesome clothes that have made me look so beautiful.  I'm living proof that I can dress very well for less!
  • In talking to a customer, she told me that she had just gotten off the phone with her daughter who needed advice from her.  Her dilemma was whether to go to graduate school or to accept a job as a flight attendant.  I told her to tell her daughter to choose the latter.  In that way, she won't be considered "overqualified" by a lot of companies, and she'll have a job where she can go places, meet people, and learn about many things. (I hope she'll want to be a writer.  It's a great adventure, that's for sure.)
  • I can't write well when I have nail polish on my finger; it's better on my toes.
  • Why is it that your cell phone has to ring when it's your turn to be waited on at the checkout line?  I see this so many times in one shift at Pets Mart:  a customer's cell phone rings, they answer it, and start talking, and pay more attention to them than to me.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is considered very rude to talk on your cell phone when you're being waited on at a store.  If you have to, just walk around the store until the conversation is over.
  • I finally have a retro t-shirt.  It's the Let it Be album cover.  I'm sure it will do something great with my creativity.  If so, I'll be sure to make a music blog post out of it.
And thus ends all of my recent random thoughts.  If you like this, I'll try this again next week.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February: National Helpful Conversation Month

February-a month to celebrate Valentine's Day, black history, and George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

As for me, this month I celebrate the conversations, just about all of which have been in informal atmospheres and were very helpful.

I call this month "National Helpful Conversation Month."

On the first evening of this month, I told "Sparky," Eden's Way's drummer, about some of my recent writing accomplishments, the biggest of which is finishing the first draft of my first novel.

This is how the conversation went:

Drummer: "Did you go to school for writing?"

Me:  "No.  I went to school for something totally different...I take that back:  I did go to school for it-the School of Hard Knocks."

Why, after having many unhealthy dating relationships, many less-than-helpful "friendships," being misdiagnosed with a medical condition, recently overcoming another very painful one (WATCH OUT, EVERYONE!), moving so many times, having below-the-gutter self-esteem, and getting one job rejection after another, from as far north as Minnesota to as far south as Florida, did being a writer not cross my mind?  Well, you all know my story(ies); I need not repeat it.

In the weeks that followed, and just about every day, I was in the right place at the right time for some truly awesome, edifying conversations. 

Earlier this month, I was a guest writer for www.rockingodshouse.com . My article was a woman's perspective of Christian hard rock. In talking with the point of contact for this, I took the liberty of sending him what I had had so far of my second novel. His words: "Compelling...It made me want to read more."

That, my friends, is exactly what I wanted someone to say about it. Now, I can't wait to finish it (let alone get my first one published, still working on that).

In case you missed my feature article, here is a link to it:  http://rockingodshouse.com/a-womans-perspective-of-christian-heavy-metal/

One of the Facebook comments I received about this article:  "Your sense of voice has developed quite nicely,"

A few nights later, I had a cup of coffee at McDonald's with someone who had like talents.  We talked for at least an hour about what we've written, how it's impact us and others, and what we plan to do with our respective aristic pursuits.  "You have such inner beauty and are so talented."

And I have formed wonderful relationships with a few journalists in this area!  We're not only on a frequent e-mail basis, but on Facebook as well. About a week ago, I was feeling very frustrated about knocking on doors, and getting no response.  I initiated chat with a freelance writer of downtown Knoxville, and confided in him about this.  "Keep trying," he said.  That was all I needed to hear.  Even though it was Facebook chat, I could still feel his sincerity.

This past Sunday night, I went to The Well for Open Mic Night.  I talked with Thadd Presley, the bass player for hard rock-alternative band Minor Nine.  I had written a review for that when they played at the Birdhouse in Knoxville.  They, as well as their manager, love it so much they put in on their Reverbnation page (the fourth band to do that).  When Thadd saw me, he said, "I love your review.  It made my day. It made my week.  It made my month."  As our conversation quickly unfolded, he told me he himself is a writer (and a fellow leftie).  He no sooner said that than I got out my laptop, sat down with him, and a few other people, and showed them a few things I had written. 

"I can relate to some of the content in that story," Thadd said, pointing to one particular line in my second story.

(Did he even know that that's what I want my readers to say?)

Just yesterday morning, I received a phone call from one of the journalists I'll be working with very soon.  She called at a time when I was busy getting everything ready for the day.  Our conversation wasn't brief!  She followed up with me after I had submitted an article to her about Open Mic Night at The Well (attention, Minor Nine and Susana Cole), and gave me some more assignment suggestions-and many compliments about how well I write.  And I even swallowed my pride by admitting that I am painfully weak in photography and want to strengthen that in time to come. 

Let me just say that sometimes there are things that can wait, that it's good to be distracted by an unexpected phone call-just so I can hear good things about some hard, honest and sincere work I've done. 

Mark Twain said that one could live on a compliment for two weeks.  Well, only two weeks have unfolded in this short month, and I have enough compliments to last me the rest of the year. 













Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kick-Butt, Killer, and Epic

I have some great news:  I'm completely healed of endometriosis!

I cannot tell you how proud I am to say that.  After about ten years of marginal treatment, my battle with it is now over.  I've been told that the symptoms may come back, but I'm not claiming that at all.  I've had enough of going to one doctor after another and being pricked, prodded, and palpated...and a lot of times, doctors blowing off my complaints of excruciating pain.

Most of the day yesterday, I thought about how far I've come in this journey.  I remember being  devestated when my doctor told me back in February that I could possibly have it (after all).  To have to wait two more months after that for a "test" to be administered to see whether I had it or not only brought more physical and emotional pain to me.

Two weeks after that "test", I noticed how great I felt. But it was on a level I had never known!  I can't accurately describe it.  But I told everyone to "Watch out!", because with this burden being lifted off of my shoulders-or from my whole body, I should say-I knew some great things were going to happen. 

A few weeks after the manifestation of my healing, I bought You Are a Badass, a book that, notwithstanding its salty title, transformed me.  I proceeded to confess daily that "I kick butt."  When I told some of my friends about it, they joined me on this bandwagon.  Ever since then, a lot of amazing things have happened to them and to me.

And those amazing things for me lay in my writings!

I started writing more music reviews, the work on my two stories got deeper, and my blog posts had more clarity.  My relationships with people strengthened, too.  Team Rise Up, please consider this as a shout out to you. 

Between being pain- and symptom-free from "the e-word", I could not only concentrate better, but my self-esteem was better (apparently, this illness affected it).

As a gratuitous comment, I was able to enjoy going to see live bands and not have the music trigger the pain!  So, guys and gals, my support for you is better and more meaningful than it was before.

Not only was I writing more reviews, but they were "killer"! Some of them are now on a few bands' Reverbnation pages.  I don't consider it an accident by any means that I noticed this for the first time just before going in to a doctor's appointment.

At the moment, I'm at a temporary standstill with writing music reviews.  That's because just in the past month, I've done some for such talented musicians as Jordan Eastman and Aaron Ball, a killer rocker chic Leona X, and for Eden's Way, a Christian hard rock band I'm so blessed to know personally.  Some of these reviews can be found at http://www.echoeyes.com/echoing/?page_id=305

Yesterday, I had my last appointment for "the e-word".  I was so ready for it to happen and be over.  And it ended on a happy note!

Once again, I told everyone to "Watch out!"...because what I am to accomplish in due time is going to be...

"Epic!"







Saturday, October 19, 2013

Julia & the Green Nail Polish

I believe the multi-colored set of nail polishes I bought a few months ago has done something to my writing, and the topics of my blog posts!  I didn't ever think such a thing was possible, did you?

Last week at this time, I was hot in Cleveland...Tennessee, that is-going to see Affliction Asylum for the first time in nearly a year.  I missed them so much!  My best friend, Susan, and I were going to meet up there, I would introduce her to the guys in the band (Jeremy Scott, lead vocals; Jeremy Mitchell and Thomas Neal, guitars; Ben Miller, bass; and Chris "Slam" Anderson, drums), and we would get our faces melted, something the band promises everyone who comes to see them.

A few days prior to this, I saw a song review of mine in the "Press" section of Leona X's Reverbnation page.  That now makes two on that web site that are mine, the first one Deaf Angel from Ft. Worth, Texas.  I bragged about this on Facebook.  "Slam" Anderson requested Affliction Asylum to be next.  I immediately agreed to it.

I wanted to make this review the best I had ever given them.  But I couldn't do it without wearing some things that would allow me to do it, b.k.a. my "concert dress code":  boot-cut blue jeans, multi-colored shirt with a short-sleeved, lightweight jacket over it, long necklace, Affliction Asylum plastic bracelet, and burgundy lipstick. 

Although I don't normally wear nail polish on my fingers, I felt compelled to paint them...

Green

Once they were dry, and I got in some writing time before I left (very important), I headed for Cleveland. And if you happen to have "Anything But Mine" by Kenney Chesney in your head while reading this, I won't take responsibility. Susan and I had a great time there, and I easily thought of some good words for my face-melting brothers.

And I was able to post it on their Facebook page that very same night! 

(If you work for a newspaper or a magazine, I'm capable of submitting stellar reports on short notice.)

The next morning, I removed the green nail polish and replaced it with red.  I wore a red and black outfit to church, and wanted a balance between those two colors. 

But there was something about my wearing green nail polish affected my creativity the same way the purple did.

It seemed to have an effect on my music reviews. 

With the one for Affliction Asylum behind me, I started this past week continuing my work on another one for New Beginnings, a thirteen-song CD by Aaron Ball.  Nice guy Aaron Ball of New Zealand is a very talented musician, who has many elements of music in each song.  I saw the talent, but I couldn't find the right words.  I wanted to have the right words to do him at least some amount of justice. 

Off to the Guitar Center!

I stood in the center of the store, looked all around me a few times to get a panoramic view of it, took a few deep breaths, and left the store.

Twenty-four hours later, I completed this self-imposed project!  I no sooner submitted it than I got a Facebook friend request and a thank-you from Aaron Ball himself.  Not only that, this review of Ball's new CD and my song reviews for Leona X are now on this web site

http://www.echoeyes.com/echoing/?page_id=305

My new mantra:  If I can write a review for a thirteen-song CD, I can write anything.

While I was working on the CD review, I saw a wall photo of Leona X that said, "Ready for This?", which is the title of one of the songs I did a review of.  The purpose of the picture was to promote her EP, which is to be released November 1st.  Although I don't "Share" as many wall photos as I used to, I made this one an exception.  A comment to me from Cherie of Echo Eyes:  "You kill it on reviews!" 

The green nail polish caused me to be a "killer" music reviewer.  I like the sound of that.

So, what color am I going to choose next?  Is it going to be on my finger- or toenails?  And what will happen to my creativity?