Celebrate ALL the Wins–Especially the Little Ones

Last year I planted a crepe myrtle tree in my yard. For those unfamiliar with them, this is what they look like in bloom, coming in a wide assortment of colors. I thought it would make a nice splash of color in the the spring.

It died.

Now, I’m not all that surprised. Not because my gardening skills are on par with my cooking skills, which is to say the smoke detector gets a workout in our house. Not because trees and bushes have a high mortality rate in the first year. Not because it was a hot,dry summer.

No. I wasn’t surprised because there was so much death in my life in 2017, I began to feel like a trainee for the Grim Reaper. I lost a lot: three human family members, three furry family members, and my very first horse–the one I bought as a teenager and hid his existence from my parents until I could prove I was capable of paying for him. The one I’d had for thirty years.

Most of these deaths were not unexpected. Old age and cancer both tend to give you lots of warning. It was just bad luck that the timing made all of them come together in the same year.

It was more than just the deaths, though that was bad enough. I also lost my belief that we as Americans were, for the most part, decent, honest people who stood up for the little guy and did the right thing. A belief fostered in part by such comics as this one, where Superman encourages students to embrace diversity. (There’s another, more modern image somewhere of Captain America supporting the same–only the crowd he’s depicted with is actually diverse–sadly, I can’t find it right now. I suspect it was fan art) I lost my faith in our government as an agent for the commonwealth. I lost hope that we’d ever have fair elections again, or that we’d be able to stop a breathtakingly corrupt administration from converting our democracy to an autocracy. Sure, corruption existed in politics before now. But the sheer scale of what’s happening now worldwide is all too reminiscent of the rise of fascism in the 1930s. And we all know how that turned out.

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself to depression. I found it challenging to go on social media. I didn’t have the mental energy to comment on people’s posts. Every day, the news continues to be terrifying and disheartening, which didn’t help. I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. I gained weight. I was still functional, but just barely. So no, losing one crepe myrtle among all of this wasn’t even a blip on the radar. The only reason I share any of this for background to the point of this post.

Recently, a thing has been going around my Twitter timeline in which someone posted something to the effect of “we’re nine months in to 2018–what have you accomplished?” People RT the original tweet, adding what they’ve achieved as part of the sharing.

I have very mixed feelings about this sort of thing. I am not trying to disparage the person who posted it–I just can’t help but feel on some level, subconsciously or not, by the very nature of social media, this kind of thing turns into a brag/competition thread. There is nothing wrong with bragging, mind you. Hell, I think far too often most of us diminish rather than celebrate our victories. But this kind of post falls into the the same category of year-end retrospective posts for me: a means of comparing yourself to others and finding, once again, you’ve fallen short.

In part because if you haven’t lost 50 pounds, gotten married, won the lottery, run a marathon, taken a dream vacation, landed an agent, had a NYT bestseller, won a major literary award, etc. etc. then you haven’t accomplished enough. And I have to tell you, when I look back over the past nine months and look at what I’ve achieved, compared to everyone else out there, I DO come up short.

But I came across one comment on the Twitter thread, which said, “I’m still alive.” And you know what? That is a mighty accomplishment indeed. It made me think about the things I’ve done in the last nine months a little differently.

So here’s my list of achievements for 2018:

  1. I’m still alive.
  2. I learned to make and like green smoothies, the thought of which used to make me gag.
  3. I’ve come to appreciate my body as is, with all its flaws, and know I need to take better care of it.
  4. I’m starting to reconnect with the things I love, things I’d shut out during my depression. I’d lost so much I was afraid to love anything else–and the scary thing is this wasn’t a conscious decision–I just withdrew my engagement. Even when I needed it the most.
  5. I recognize I probably need professional help to manage my depression. 
  6. I’ve started meditating.
  7. I’ve started playing brain games on Luminosity.
  8. I wrote and published a book. People are leaving enthusiastic reviews, which is nice.
  9. I’m playing around with fanfiction again because it makes me happy and life is too damn short not to take your happiness where you can find it.
  10. I’m still alive.

Some of these may not seem like very big accomplishments, but they are bigger than you know, especially the self-acceptance part. And I repeated “I’m still alive” twice because we don’t often give ourselves enough credit for toughing it out through bad times.

This past week, while preparing for some major renovations at the house, I discovered a small determined leafing of what I thought was a dead tree.

What do you know? That crepe myrtle is still alive.

I’m moving to a safer, better place so it can grow. Where I can keep a eye on it, and shelter it from bugs, storms, and the relentless heat. Where it can thrive. Perhaps that’s my biggest accomplishment for 2018 so far.

Friday Feature: His Midnight Sun by Viviana MacKade

 

 

Hey, it’s Feature Friday, so that means we have a guest poster today. Please welcome Viviana MacKade as she shares with us a little about her upcoming release, His Midnight Sun!

 

 

 

 

 

His Midnight Sun

by Viviana MacKade

 

Tormented, fierce, and broken, sculptor Aidan Murphy has judged himself guilty. He yearns for love but pushes everyone away. He longs for acceptance but has lost the key to open his heart. Until he meets Summer Williams. Beautiful and smart, Dr. Williams promises haven for a man who believes he deserves none. All he has to do is let her in and risk his heart and soul.

Summer’s managed to keep her inner light alive, even through tragedy. She’s created a new life for herself and her daughter in Crescent Creek with loving, caring and fun friends–well, except brooding, breathtaking Aidan. She’s used to keeping away from his type, though. All she has to do is ignore the pull of a man who’s turning up to be much more than snarls and storms. Will her compassion and medical instincts let her?

Love can heal a broken soul and shake up a timid heart. Or it can unleash devastation and revenge.

Will Aidan and Summer survive the hurricane?

 

Release September 15, available for pre-sale

$ 0.99 FREE with KU

On Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

I didn’t realize His Midnight Sun had a theme until well after I finished it. Honestly, I don’t write to teach, preach or any other significant and profound reason. I write to entertain. To give people a break. I like to think my stories are fairy tales for adults, where the characters go through changes and problems and tragedies, but will get to the happily ever after. The great Susan Elizabeth Phillips said that life is too short to waste with depressing books, and that sums perfectly the way I want my books to be.

An escape. Heaven knows if we all need it one sometimes.

So I didn’t have anything in mind other than telling Aidan’s story when I started.

And what do you know, I found myself with a phoenix’s story. A man who learns how to leave the past where it’s supposed to stay, who learns how to forgive himself and how to accept love. And through him, I discovered the same things. In many ways, Aidan’s story is my story, his demons are my demons, and because of him, I saw a way to boot them out.

Summer showed him the power of love–not just romantic love, but for the other people. For friends and strangers alike. Which turned out to be the theme of the book.

The healing power of love.

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

Crescent Creek, early July.

With no fight left in him, Aidan Murphy sank down on the wooden floor of his home studio.

Done.

Aidan filled his burning sight with the finished, almost 7 feet tall piece of art. Hell to work on, pure and simple, but it couldn’t be helped, not when it had called to him with such powerful voice.

Two weeks earlier, he’d been wandering around the stone-site when his skin began humming, and his heart beating faster. Years of sculpting had taught him how to hear the calling, the silent scream of whatever form lay trapped inside the rocks begging him to free it.

He’d followed his guts like so many times before and laying a palm on the cold, white alabaster, had known something waited in there. He’d bought the squared monstrosity, never stopped working on it since the day it had been delivered to his address. At every bite of the masonry blade, at every kiss of the chisel and caress of the rasp, its voice had been easier to hear, pushing him, constantly pushing him to keep going, keep working.

A couple had emerged from the stone and if beauty could hurt, by God, this one would in so many ways. Those two people were set to break any viewer’s heart. Nothing happy or gleeful about them, nothing about being lost in the fallacy of love; the pair stood in a tight embrace made of disillusion and reality. Rightfully so, because wasn’t love just that? Another form of pain? A delusion?

Aidan shook his head. Whatever love was for the average person, these two people he’d given life to scratched at the thick walls of his reticent heart. He didn’t care for such shit.

Much smarter to focus on his very real, very tired body.

Too bad the small motherfucker rock poked at the edge of his consciousness, staring from the opposite side of the room.

Not the colossal couple he’d just freed from alabaster. Oh, no, the one giving him attitude was a stupid overgrown pebble slightly smaller than his fist. Why was it even in the house? He’d cut outside, it made no sense for it to be there. “Shut the fuck up,” he grumbled, rubbing exhausted eyes with scarred, dirty hands.

Never a stone’s call had been left unanswered, but… fuck it, it was too much, too soon. He needed time to return human before starting a new project and besides, what could possibly be inside that little piece of shit? A fucking bug? “Fuck off.”

Of course, the nagging didn’t stop.

Ignoring the silent pull to the useless stone, he got up, walked to the other side of the room, picked it up and all but crashed it on his desk. “Better leave it alone, matey. Next time you bug me, I’ll turn you into sable. Ugly fucker.”

Aches pulsed and hissed everywhere; a thin layer of dust, crumble of wax, and sweat covered him, made his skin prickle. For all the good clothes had done to him, he might as well work buck naked next time.

Back in front of the new statue he stood, hands on hips, looking at it–tall and strong, fiercely beautiful in its message of pain. Perfect.

A sudden ray of light stabbed his eyes, made him jerk his head in protection. Fucking morning sun. Or afternoon sun. He had no clue. It was hard to tell the passing of time when he got lost in the wild, strenuous journey into the heart of a rock.

How many days had gone since it had been delivered and he’d started working on it, four? Probably more as not bruising the stone had slowed everything down. He’d heard fireworks in the distance, so Independence Day had come and gone. Hard to say how long had passed after it.

For days he’d eaten bread straight from the plastic bag or some other easy crap when hunger punched his stomach; had drank lukewarm water from bottles scattered everywhere; slept on the couch when he made it so far from the sculpture, although most of the times he’d pass out on the hard floor until discomfort woke him up, and he’d go back at the rock again.

Ah, but what an adventure, he thought with awe as he ran a hand over the side of the sculpted woman.

Now he was done, meaning he didn’t want to have anything to do with stones for the near future.

He took a sharp intake of air when the little rock on his desk poked at his mind again. No clue as to when but at some point, the cleaning crew would come, let’s see how the rock would like it. “If I throw you back on the floor, they will get rid of you. That’s right, they’ll throw you away,” he croaked, his damned throat hurting from not having talked in days.

Aidan sat down, stretched his aching legs in front of him, and tried to lean back on his arms; his muscles screamed in protest. 

Shit, he was in pieces, worse than usual.

Giving up, he laid on the dirty floor and closed his eyes–they scratched like sandpaper.

Bed. He craved a bed more than the next breath. Decent food. A shower. After that, the little stone would stop being a bitch and leave him alone. It was only a fucking pebble, a leftover from the couple and too small to have anything special in it, anyway.

He’d wait five minutes, no more, and he’d get up, order food, hit the shower and, finally, pass out on a real bed. Satisfied with the carved couple, clean, and with a full belly.

Just five more minutes.

 

THE AUTHOR

Beach bum and country music addicted, Viviana lives in a small Floridian town with her husband and her son, her die-hard fans and personal cheer squad. She spends her days between typing on her beloved keyboard, playing in the pool with her boy, and eating whatever her husband puts on her plate (the guy is that good, and she really loves eating). Besides beaching, she enjoys long walks, horse-riding, hiking, and pretty much whatever she can do outside with her family.

 

Find me:

On my website http://www.viviana-mackade.blog/

On FB

On Twitter

Amazon Author page

 

August WIP Wednesday

Hey guys! We missed WIP Wednesday in July because the first Wed of the month was July 4th. And then the first Wed of this month, I was on a rare vacation, so that let out that day, too. It made me realize that the first Wed of the month might not be the best day for WIP Wed here–I know a lot of other blogs doing things on the Wed of the month. So I decided to move it to the last Wed of the month.

The rules are simple: please keep your snippet to 500-600 words (I know sometimes that’s not a good stopping point–a little fudging is allowed) and no graphic sex–let’s keep the tone PG-13 for the general reading population.

I’ll go first–I’m currently working on the origin story for my Redclaw universe. In it, my heroine, Henrietta (“Rhett”) Bishop is interviewing for a job at the mysterious Redclaw Security firm–and it is not going exactly as she’d hoped…

 

He settled a pair of pince nez on his nose and glanced down at the open file. “It says here you can type forty words per minute.”

The Dragon Lady must have given the agency more than just my name. I forced my lips into a pleasant smile. “Yes sir, that’s correct.”

“You realize that is somewhat below average, yes?” His expression was kindly, even a little rueful.

“Yes sir.”

He picked up the top sheet and peered at it. “You seem to have interviewed with several organizations.”

“And was hired by all of them, sir.”

He lowered the page. “But you didn’t stay at any of these jobs. Why is that, may I ask?”

I gave him my stock answer. “Some of the assignments were only temporary ones. In some cases, I felt my skills could be better utilized elsewhere.”

He lifted a somewhat disbelieving eyebrow. “Mr. Billingsly of Haversham’s Insurance claims you broke his hand.”

“Mr. Billingsly’s hand was unfortunately where it shouldn’t have been at the time.”

His lips twitched at that. “And Mr. Steinbreinner’s foot?”

The instep is a very sensitive part of the body. A well-placed high heel can temporarily cripple a man if necessary. And if you open your eyes very wide and apologize profusely, it is possible to make it look as though your actions are merely very clumsy instead of intentional. Even if your intent was self-protection. “That was an accident, sir.”

He placed the paper back in the file and closed it. “Miss Bishop, I’ll be frank. Your shorthand is described as passable, though not always accurate. Nearly every company that hired you states you have excellent organizational abilities, and that you are both efficient and thorough when it comes to assignments. But your reasons for leaving some places of employment aside, most of your previous employers spoke of an unseemly forwardness and a general inability to know your place.”

My face burned.

He continued without seeming to notice. “We’re at an interesting juncture here at Redclaw Security. Our business is growing rapidly, in excess of expectations. It’s more than one person can do to answer the phone, collate information, type up reports, and so on. And yet, at the moment, there isn’t really enough work for two people. We’re looking for someone we can delegate the less sensitive assignments to, thus freeing up Miss Climpson to handle the more critical information.”

“Yes, sir.”

“However, I’ve argued against taking on someone without, shall we say, the particular criteria I think necessary to work at such an organization such as Redclaw. Ryker disagrees.”

“Sir?” I cocked my head inquiringly.

“Mr. Ryker. Head of the agency.” Mr. Jordan removed his pince-nez glasses and polished them with a handkerchief. “Anyway, Ryker feels there are advantages in hiring ‘outside blood’, so to speak. I disagree, but then I am not the boss. I do have the power to hire and fire, though. And frankly, Miss Bishop, though I wish you well, I suspect you would not be a good fit for Redclaw. We need someone who can demonstrate discretion and, above all, a circumspect attitude at all times.”

I thought of the time Em had stayed out past curfew, and then had the nerve to sneak Tigh Brannaugh into our rooms overnight, or when Professor Helmsley hit on me in the chemistry labs and to speak out about it might result in a failing grade, or the most embarrassing moment of them all: Tommy’s drunken proposal. I knew when to keep my mouth shut and when to speak up. “I am very discreet. Ask Mr. Steinbreinner.”

 

 

So there you have it! Let me know what you think, and please drop a snippet from your WIP in the comments below! Everyone knows it’s just a rough draft–no one will hold that against you!

The Mature Writer: Accepting What You Don’t Want to Hear

There’s an adage for lawyers that goes something like this: Don’t ask a question in court you don’t already know the answer to.

The idea being that if you don’t know how the witness is likely to respond, you may have just opened up a whole can of worms you now have to deal with.

The same holds true for getting an opinion on your WIP. If you’re not prepared to deal with worms, perhaps you should refrain from seeking that opinion.

Last year I began a WIP (actually the origin story for the Redclaw series) and was writing gangbusters on it until a series of family tragedies derailed my writing for most of the last fifteen months. Before I’d abandoned the story, my critique group had loved it–they thought it was the best thing I’d written so far. I kind of liked it myself, and yet when I tried to go back to working on it again, I seemed to be stuck. Part of the problem was that my vision of the story had changed significantly from when I first began working on it–and the new beginning no longer fit well with older material. Part of the problem was that having just finished writing another story that had been difficult for me to complete for the same reasons as I mentioned before, I was having a hard time getting back into this older story. But I suspected I wasn’t being objective, so I asked my editor to read over what I had from a developmental standpoint.

Now mind you, I almost never let anyone read an unfinished draft. It took me a long time to get comfortable with the idea of having my critique group read drafts as they were being written. So it was a great act of trust to turn over this fledgling story to my new editor, but she’d done such a great job helping me get the last book to market that I decided her input was worth potentially hurting my feelings.

Here’s the feedback I got–and my reaction–more or less… (Go to the link if you want to see the crying GIF).

Developmental Editor: I love your WIP! The characters, the dialogue, the pacing–all fantastic! There’s just one thing… a small plot point that will require you to rewrite the first third of the story to fix. No biggie.

Me: Okay. I think I’ll go clean litterboxes now. Thanks.

Generally speaking, I’m usually my own harshest critic. I’m the one who thinks the story sucks, that I’ll never be as good a writer as I want to be. It’s not that I don’t want to hear that something is wrong with a story in progress–it’s just that I’ve probably already realized it and am beating myself up about fixing it. It’s one of the reasons I rarely share WIPs with anyone–I have to make sure the story has a strong enough foundation before I begin tearing it down.

That said, I’m usually an adult about criticism. If the recommended changes are something I vehemently disagree with (on the lines of “Oh, hell no!”), I’m comfortable saying so and ignoring the advice. More often than not, the critique suggests altering something relatively minor–playing up one plot point over another, or doing away with an unnecessary subplot. I’m not so precious about my work that I dig my heels in when advised to cut out two pages of pretty-but-useless exposition because it is slowing down the story, and I have a pretty darn good grasp of who my characters are and what they want in that first draft. Most of my failings as a writer are more from lack of quality to the execution than a misunderstanding of what the story needs.

But I’ll admit a little shock of dismay when I got back my editor’s critique. 

Unfortunately, she was right. The things she pointed out as flaws definitely need to be addressed–and I can’t move forward with the story until I do. She was also wrong–in that to her, this would be a relatively simple thing to fix. I don’t think so. I think it will require rewriting nearly every line from the beginning to where I am now. The changes she’s suggested can’t just be slapped on top of the existing story. Threads must be pulled, traced back to the source, and rewoven along the way. The recommended changes will alter the very fabric of the story by fundamentally altering the heroine herself.

And I really regretted opening that can of worms.

I resisted her recommendations. I made excuses as to why it couldn’t be done. I was on a deadline–granted, self-imposed, but on one just the same. This was the third time I’d started this story–did I really want to re-write it again from the beginning? Could I do it without irrevocably changing the tone of the story? Did I have enough room to tell the new and improved story within the scope of one book? 

Ultimately, my decision to capitulate was based on the irrefutable fact that she was right–and also on a scene between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane in Have His Carcase. I’m going to have to paraphrase, as all my books are packed for the upcoming renovations, but the gist of it is this: Harriet, struggling with the current mystery she’s writing, complains to Peter about the motives of her murderer. Peter tosses out a couple of suggestions, making Harriet realize that while he is right, changing the murderer’s motivations will be a painful process for her, both personally and as a writer, and she says so.

Peter’s reaction is somewhat brutal. “What difference does that make, if it makes for a better story?”

Ultimately, Lord Peter is right. And so is my editor. And whether it takes me another six months or a year to make things right with my current story, I need to do so. Because bottom line, what matters most to me is telling the best story I possibly can.

Janet Lane Walters: Author Interview and Book Spotlight for Bast’s Warrior

 

  • Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Janet, sharing about your writing process. I have to say, I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with Ancient Egyptian mythology, so the book you chose to spotlight really caught my eye!

 

 

  • First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

        I’ve been published for 50 years but my career in writing was one done by bits and starts. Raising four children, one of them an adopted biracial child took more and more time. As did returning to college for a BA in English and a BS in Nursing. There was a break from the late 1970s until 1984 when I wrote little other than papers, worked as a nurse and did some ghost writing for doctors. Then I went to a writer’s conference held by the Hudson Valley RWA and began writing in ernest while working part-time as an orthopedic nurse. Jane Toombs, my friend and critique partner sold one of my books to her publisher in 1994. Several years later I discovered electronic publishing, again encouraged by Jane. My first ebook came out in 1998 and I’ve been exclusively ebook with some of the books going to print since them.

        I’ve written a lot of books. I don’t keep track of the number and there is the one I’m working on now and several more outlined. What do I write? There are the contemporary series, many of them involved with nurses and doctors but not all. There are the fantasy and paranormal novels for both adults and YA readers. There are the mysteries. There are also non-fiction books. One of these garnered an EPIC award for Jane and myself – Words Perfect – Becoming Your Own Critique Partner.  What I do not write or read are horror stories. I also don’t write true action adventure stories or science fiction though I read them avidly. I always have a book I’m reading or re-reading on my Kindle.

        A theme in my books is probably general. Good overcomes Evil. Happy ending are possible. Also, gemstones and caves abound. Some kind of medicine, even psychic healing are seen. I guess like my writing, my themes are eclectic.

  • Holy cow, Janet! That’s an impressive resume, both in terms of writing and juggling a family and demanding professional career as well! What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

At present I live in a Hudson River village, not far from West Point and NYC. Years ago, I cane to visit a friend and fell in love with the area. Edward Hopper, the painter grew up here and once Helen Hayes was a resident. There are houses from colonial days to very modern ones.  My home is a Dutch Colonial built around 1917.

        I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh and lived there until after my marriage. After my marriage to my physician husband, we did a bit of moving around the country, having lived in Akron, Ohio, Pawnee, Oklahoma and Fort Worth Texas. We returned to Pittsburgy where my husband did his residency and lived in the area until we moved here.

  • How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

At this point, I’ve been writing for most of my life and published for the past 50 years. I didn’t become serious about putting stories on paper until around 1962. As a child I was a story-teller. We would sit on the porch and tell ghost stories that we made up. I also wrote plays that we performed in a friend’s garage. Then my writing turned to non-fiction things and papers that the teachers thought were more stories than the facts. As a student nurse, we had to do case studied and I couldn’t keep from adding bits of dialogue and putting in the settings.

That is so fascinating. I love hearing about how other writers found their voice. We’re often told, “Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

When I first began writing I believed writing what I knew meant the doctor nurse stories I wrote. But then that began to bore me and I started branching out. I love mysteries and read thousands so I set out to write mysteries but even then there were things I knew. My heroine was a nurse. I also have read fantasy in huge gulps so I began dabbling in trying fantasy and I also had some experience with psychic healing and read a lot about alternate forms of medicine. These have been woven into my stories. Then one day, I discovered the real thing about writing what you know, and that is emotions. We all have and feel emotions. Each one of us reacts in different ways to the same emotional event. So what I know is my emotions and that’s how you write about what you know.

Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I’ll admit to both. When I start a new story, I do a lot of plotting and outlining but then when I begin to right, I go with the flow. The outline is there to get me from the beginning to the end and the middle is a lot of free thinking and writing. Since I’ve been writing for a long, long time msut of my plotting is done in my head. When I begin planning a new story, as I fall asleep, I tell myself the story of the story I’m planning to write. In the morning, I jot down the multitude of ideas that I have and organize them. But when I write it’s all free thought. I write all the rough drafts by hand which allows me to think at the point of the pen and see where each thought takes me.

Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

Now this is a hard question to answer since I write mysteries, romance, paranormal and fantasy. I guess what I would recommend would depend on a reader’s likes. For mysteries. Start with Murder and Mint Tea. Fantasy if you like spicy The Temple of Fyre. If you like sweet – Affinities Escape. For Paranormal Bast’s Warrior, an alternate Egypt story. For romance if you like spice, I’d say Heart Throb, sweet, The Doctor’s Dilemma. There are a lot I believe around 50.

How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

In a way many of my stories reflect things I’ve experienced in my life. They may not be the exact experience but the emotions will matter. Many of my stories deal with nurses and doctors. I was a nurse and am married to a doctor so there is much I’ve seen or experienced that finds it’s way into my stories. The incidents are always changed in some way but the emotions I’ve experienced or seen are shown in my stories. One of my books involves a nurses union. I was involved in trying to form one in a hospital where I worked. Even in my mysteries, there are bits taken from my life or my experiences. I doubt any writer deals only with things imagined, especially since emotions are part of fictional stories. Think about the times you’ve felt fear, sorrow, happiness and the list goes on.

Editing: love it or hate it?

I ENJOY EDITING. But I’m a draft writer so each time I start a new draft, I’m editing as I write. Then I come to the end of the story drafts and I do a final go through. I love finding new words to use for ones I’ve used too many of too often. I always look at the dialogue to make sure each character speaks with his or her own voice. Actually, I revise until the story makes me sick. Then I know it’s ready to send off to an editor. I’ve always been lucky even when I first began writing not to have too many edits from the editors to change. Sometimes to expand a scene or to clarify something.

I do that in my own writing as well, though I’ve never heard of it being described as draft writing. Very cool–I learned something today!

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

Love some of my characters and find ways to put them into other stories. I do a lot of series. Am finishing one right now called Opposites in Love. This is the final book  The Virgo Pisces Connection. Don’t have a cover yet. This ends the stories of six friends who met in college studying nursing moved away and now are back in the same town not far from the college. The heroines have one astrological sign and the heros the opposite signs.  I have other series where the characters may or may not connect but the town is the same. I do have a YA series in which the five main characters play a large role in each of the four books. This is the Affinities series. So I do series mostly where there are new characters introduced in each. Of course my Mrs. Miller’s mysteries have the same heroine in each book and appearances by other friends from other books. It has the longest developed romance, taking four books until she’s married.

Blurb for Bast’s Warrior:

Tira flees a threat to her life and encounters two elderly women who offer her the chance to be sent to an alternate ancient Egypt with no thought of return. She has had a fascination with Egypt and can even read hieroglyphics. Once there she will be given a task. Failure could mean death. Dare she take the chance and can she find the lost symbols of the rule before an enemy finds them? 

Kashe, son of the nomarch of Mero is in rebellion. His father desires him to join the priesthood of Aken Re, a foreign god. He feels he belongs to Horu, god of warriors and justice. He decides to leave home, meets Tira and joins her in the search for the symbols of the rule. Will his aid bring good fortune and will their growing love keep them from making a fatal mistake?

“This engaging voyage into an ancient Egypt that includes power-hungry priests and hazardous treasure hunts entertains from page one. Familial intrigue heightens the tension, as does a kidnapping or two. The cast of characters is dynamic and complements the well-conceived plot.” ~ 4 Stars, Susan Mobley, Romantic Times Magazine

Excerpt:

Tira opened her eyes and stifled a gasp. Where was she? The surface beneath her was softened by a thin pad. She turned her head and bumped her temple against a hard surface. Some kind of headrest prevented her from appraising her vicinity. The substitute for a pillow wasn’t very comfortable. The cover felt like linen rather than the thin cotton sheet she used. She raised herself to a sitting position and the sheet slid to her waist. Light streamed through a series of openings set high on one of the white plastered walls.

Her heart fluttered in a series of rapid beats. Think. Had she been kidnapped and sold as some kind of sex slave? She drew a deep breath. Why did nothing smell familiar? She was Tira. Tears trickled down her cheeks. Someone had died. Why couldn’t she remember who had betrayed her?

She wiped her face on a corner of the sheet. Memories prickled with the same sensation in her head as when an arm or leg woke after falling asleep. If you could go to ancient Egypt tonight even if the Two Lands is not the one you’ve studied, would you go?

She had agreed. Had she somehow been transported to another Egypt? So far she’d seen nothing to prove or disprove the theory. The bed and the headrest had been pictured in books she’d read about the ancient land of the pharaohs.

Now what? She couldn’t remain in bed and she definitely couldn’t leave this room in the nude. Clothing was her first objective. She slid from the narrow cot and nearly fell. The bed stood on a wide platform. Tira visually explored the room and noticed a stack of near-white cloth on a backless bench. She wrapped the sheet around herself and crossed the room.

On a low table she found a pottery pitcher and a bowl. She dipped a cloth taken from the rim of the bowl into the water and washed. The heated air dried her skin.

As she studied the bench she noticed the legs were shaped like the feet of a feline. She drew a deep breath. She had arrived in ancient Egypt. One by one she lifted the pieces of cloth from the bench and studied them. Get dressed and learn where you are and why you’re here.

After several attempts she managed to clothe herself. One strip formed a breast band. A second, she used as a loincloth. The third was a wraparound short skirt rather like a kilt. A leather belt held a knife and a pouch containing a black substance she decided was kohl. Since she had no idea how to apply the stuff she decided to pass.

She looked for shoes and found sandals. She sat on the bench and slipped a foot beneath the leather straps. She drew the shin guards up her leg and fastened the leather ties. Surprisingly they fit. The leather soles didn’t slip on the stone floor when she performed a series of warm-up exercises.

The beaded curtains in the doorway rattled. Tira slid into an attack position. Two elderly women entered the room. Tira stared. Were they the ones who had sheltered her for a time? They looked similar.

One of the women wore the same clothes as Tira. Her graying hair was cropped short like Tira’s but the woman’s didn’t curl.

The second woman’s hair was dark and cut shoulder length. Was it a wig? The woman’s ankle-length sheath bared her breasts. A collar necklace covered her upper chest.

When Tira tried to talk about the world she’d left the words wouldn’t form.

The only knowledge you can take with you is what will fit into the time you reach except for your fighting skills. You will be unable to speak of this world or of modern conveniences.

She glided toward the women. If they proved to be a threat she would attack.

“Welcome to the Two Lands,” the older of the two said. “I am the chief priestess of this temple of the goddess Bast, protector of women and children. A cat with a cream-colored coat wove a path around her legs.

Bast. She had read about the goddess, one of the minor ones in the ancient Egypt of her world. Was Bast a major player in this time and place? What other changes would she find? She swallowed a gasp. How odd that she understood the language. “My name is Tira.” She could speak it as well. She crouched and allowed the feline to sniff her hand.

The priestess smiled. “Come and join us for a meal. We will tell you why you are with us. You are one of the awaited ones. There is a task the goddess has set for you.” She turned to her companion. “Do you have the amulet that marks her as a warrior of Bast?”

 

Bio:

Janet Lane Walters is celebrating her 50th year as a published author. There are probably that many of her books floating on the internet available to be read electronically. She began with short stories and poetry and graduated to novels when an editor told her the short story she’d submitted sounded like the synopsis of a novel. She writes romance – contemporary, paranormal and fantasy. There are mysteries and fantasy for young adults under her JL Walters name.

She is married to a psychiatrist who has no desire to cure her obsession with writing. Mother of four and grandmother of seven, she lives in the scenic Hudson Valley area. She was once a nurse. She did a stint as a ghost-writer for doctors.

 

 MY PLACES

https://twitter.com/JanetL717

 https://www.facebook.com/janet.l.walters.3?v=wall&story_f

bid=113639528680724

 

 http://bookswelove.net/

 

 http://wwweclecticwriter.blogspot.com

 

 

BUY MARK

http://bookswelove.net/authors/walters-janet-lane-romance-fantasy-suspense-medical/

    

    

 

Jake by Suzy Shearer–New Book Release

Jake

The Silk Rope Masters – Book Two

by Suzy Shearer

Heat Rating : Level 4

Word Count: 64,579

Available on Evernight Publishing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

They ooze power, control, natural dominance – and sex. They are The Silk Rope Masters.​

None have ever found love but watch out! When they fall, they’ll fall fast and hard!

Jake Nichols, 53, was so tall that Emily Miller, 49, had to crane her neck to look into his face. Muscular – he could pick her up in one hand and yet he held her as if she were a fragile bird.​

And that’s exactly what she was, a beautiful plus-sized woman with a pain so deep she’s buried her emotions rather than face the tragedy that happened just a few months ago.​

Jake was assigned to care for her by Master Ash, the head of Silk Rope and what Jake didn’t expect was to fall in love.

But she was only in his safekeeping until she could fly on her own then he would have to release her. 

Be Warned: BDSM, anal sex, sex toys, voyeurism, flogging, public exhibition

This is an erotic romance. There are explicit sexual descriptions and explicit language used throughout. It will offend some readers.

 

STORY EXCERPT:  

So here she was.

It was almost eight on Friday night, and Emily sat nervously in her car in the large car park. Would this be the same as either Threshold or The Lair? She hoped it was. If it was a lower classed place she definitely wouldn’t be coming back. Maybe she could find another club somewhere if that proved to be the case. Still she was hopeful. She couldn’t imagine the manager of The Lair, Bevan Fuller, transferring her to a lesser club.

Then she wondered for the hundredth time, “What the hell am I doing here?”

She still felt numb inside. With every emotion rammed down that hard, Emily couldn’t even cry. She actually knew how foolish she was, knew perfectly well the therapists, her family, were right. Time and again they’d told her she shouldn’t keep everything bottled up, should allow herself to grieve and move on, but she was far too frightened to face her pain.

Her weekly sessions with the therapist consisted of her sitting, staring into her lap or answering in monosyllables and refusing to utter one word about what had happened. In fact, she’d never cried, never shouted, never gotten very angry since that day. As soon as she’d woken in the hospital and given her statement to the police, every emotion, every thought of what had happened—her grief, every single thing, she pushed deep down inside her and refused to look at them. She held them down for so long that now she honestly couldn’t take the chance on remembering.

She was dead, and yet she breathed.

Sometimes in a lighter moment she thought of herself as a zombie. An animated corpse walking amid the living. But mainly Emily thought she was like a well-shaken bottle of soda pop with the lid screwed down tight. A slight twist of the cork and the whole bottle would vigorously explode, its contents scattering everywhere, never to be replaced. She couldn’t risk it, couldn’t risk her emotions, couldn’t set them free—the pain would be too great, and Emily knew she couldn’t handle it. She honestly doubted she would survive if at any time she was forced to face her past.

In the back of her mind she knew if she’d grieve, she’d be able to move on and live again, but instead she tortured herself by bottling everything up. This was her only escape now, coming to BDSM clubs—her haven. Sometimes she felt they were all that was left of her life, so at least she could vicariously live through its patrons.

It was strange, but those BDSM clubs now felt more like home than any house possibly could. Inside those doors in front of her she knew what would happen. She knew the rules, and she knew the outcomes. She knew exactly how people would react, how they would be toward her. She could sit and watch and know people would leave her alone unless she indicated she wanted company. No one would expect anything of her, and she could hide in plain sight. It was her secure place, the only one she had, and she knew it would protect her. It really was her safe house—impenetrable, sheltered. All those years she’d spent at Threshold only reinforced the idea. A club was her sanctuary, a place where, even if only for a few hours, she could pretend she was still alive. A place where she could hide among the living.

But at the same time, she wondered, would she ever be able to return to the woman she was?

The one who laughed, who enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest? Or was she destined to remain empty, afraid of showing any sort of emotion, afraid to face her heartache? Terrified of the floodgates she was sure she could never hold back if she allowed one iota of emotion, of agony, of her grief to slip through.

Finally getting out the car, she walked up the stairs that fronted the huge Georgian mansion. Clutching her coat a little tighter, she entered the warm foyer. Behind a desk a large, burly man smiled warmly at her.

“Good evening, Miss.”

“Hello. My name is Emily, Emily Miller. I believe the owner from The Lair, back east, contacted your manager about me transferring from there to here?”

 

© Suzy Shearer 2018

  

LINKS – WHERE TO FIND SUZY:                                                         

Website :  http://www.suzyshearer.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SuzyS

Blog:  http://suzyshearer.blogspot.com.au

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SuzyShearer

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/suzshearer

Twitter : https://twitter.com/SuzyShearer

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sooziiis

Linkedin: http://au.linkedin.com/in/suzyshearer

Publisher: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/suzy-shearer/

Publisher: http://www.bookstrand.com/suzy-shearer

 

Email her at: suzyshearer.author@gmail.com

 

A FEW LINKS WHERE TO BUY:

Amazon: https://www.amzn.com/B07FTHQB8B

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com

Angus and Robertson: https://www.angusrobertson.com.au

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/882008

 

 

BIO:

Renaissance woman, best-selling and Award winning author Suzy Shearer writes contemporary and paranormal erotic romances filled with mature and interesting characters. Her books always feature older heroes and heroines; ranging from mid 40s to 60s. The heroines are usually confident plus-sized women who are proud of their curves. Suzy feels it’s important for readers to connect.

Suzy also wants her readers to understand just because people are older doesn’t mean they aren’t intriguing, desirable, open to challenges and willing to experiment. They may be older but not always wiser. Remember sexy isn’t just for the under 30s.

A Buddhist and artist, Suzy lives in the Western Suburbs of Sydney Australia with one very spoilt dog and two equally spoilt cats keeping her company. When Suzy is not writing, she is usually painting – an accomplished watercolour Artist her subjects range from portraits and animals to nudes and landscapes. She is also a quilter, toy maker, sculptor and potter. Suzy’s Art

 

E-BOOKS OUT NOW

The Club series

The Club: Bound

The Club 2: Uncollared           

The Club 3: Waxed

The Club 4: Displayed

The Club 5: Submit

The Club 6: Unmasked

 

The Hunters series

A Hunter’s Heart – Book 1

A Hunter’s Choice – Book 2

A Hunter’s Challenge – Book 3

 

Dark Desires series

(each book is a standalone)

Whipped Delights      

Craving Her Master   

Melting Her Dom’s Heart

An Artist’s Kiss

Elephants and Ever-Afters

 

 

The Silk Rope Masters series

Steven

Jake

  Single Titles

Daemons Are Forever

Build a Love

Perfect Three

Her Dom’s Secret Past

 

MOST BOOKS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE AS PAPERBACKS

 

Editor vs Writer: Adversaries or Critical Partnership?

Eight years ago, when I first got the bright idea to submit a story for publishing, I was extremely lucky. 

The Kindle was taking off, making e-books easy to produce, and small digital publishers were popping up everywhere. I submitted a story on a whim, and not only did a publisher snap it up, but they wanted everything else I wrote too.

In the beginning, my only job was to write stories as fast as possible. Everything else, including cover art, editing, and marketing was handled by the publisher. I was so thrilled to be published, I didn’t question anything either–not when the cover didn’t meet my expectations, or when the editing didn’t seem as rigorous as it should.

As time passed, I became more savvy about these aspects of publishing–and the audience demanded more as well. The successful publishers were the ones who developed house guidelines and standards, but as self-publishing became easier, more and more small presses caved under the inability to compete with Amazon. It’s no wonder many authors chose indie publishing. Some writers prefer the greater creative control over their work. For me, it’s a matter of scheduling: as a self-publisher, I’m my biggest client–and I can alter deadlines based on my work demands. For others, there wasn’t a choice in the matter. It was self-publish or stop writing.

Which means many of us have had to learn the ins and outs of what makes a good cover, and how best to promote our own stories–particularly on a tight budget. One of the hardest aspects of going indie for me, however, was finding an editor to work with.

Toward the end of my working with a small press, I was assigned a new editor. When I got back my first round of edits, barely legible for all the suggested corrections, I was stunned. Not because I thought my story so precious any suggested cuts or alterations had to be wrong. Not because I was getting a far more rigorous edit than I’d previously received.

Because it felt like someone had run my story through an editing program without even reading it.

There are a lot of great editing programs out there now: Grammarly, Hemmingway, and ProWritingAid come to mind. Depending on the program, they’re going to catch spelling and punctuation errors, but may also point out passive voice, how many times you use adverbs, and so on. But these programs should never take the place of actual eyes on the draft. Many of these programs aren’t specifically designed with fiction in mind. Over-use of these kinds of programs can strip the author voice out of the story. My beef with my new editor was that her suggested changes seemed utterly arbitrary. Across the board recommendations to exchange one type of phrasing for another doesn’t enhance the story. It merely scrubs individualism from the prose.

In the end, I wrote a three page email to my publisher giving examples of the recommended changes and why I disagreed with them. After review, the publisher decided to assign a new editor to me. She took the same story that the previous editor had shredded, and came back with recommendations I could work with–and we continued to work together on subsequent stories.

Did the press accept that I was right and my previous editor wrong? Probably not. What they did was realize we weren’t a good fit and assigned me to someone else in the hopes we’d get along better. I’m okay with that, to be honest. You shouldn’t expect every editor to mesh with you. It’s important that they see your work the way you do and be willing to help you polish it until it shines. If they don’t, then you need a new editor.

The partnership between editor and writer is a special one. A good editor is like someone who helps you set the table at an elaborate dinner. You’ve cooked the 12 course meal. You’re impatient to serve it to your guests. A good editor is going to taste the food and suggest additional seasonings, look at the table and suggest alternative china or flowers, and check the seating arrangements and suggest moving some of the guests.

But you are the one who cooked the meal. The editor shouldn’t scrap your meal and produce one more to their own liking. Remember that.

Finding the right editor has been one of my biggest challenges since going indie. There are two areas of indie publishing where it doesn’t pay to skimp: cover art and editing. Cover art is crucial to catching a reader’s eye and getting them to check out your story. But no matter how good your cover is or how intriguing your story, if your book is riddled with typos and basic mistakes, readers will notice. If you have plot holes big enough to drive a truck through–readers will notice. If your story drags, if there is too much exposition, your readers will notice. And they probably won’t pick up another one of your stories.

Editors are expensive, which is why many indie authors choose to skip professional editing. I get it, really, I do. If you have to pay anywhere between $500-1200 for editing, you have to sell a LOT of books to recoup that. (Something I like to point out to those people who argue it doesn’t cost anything to produce an e-book, so therefore, they have no problem accepting an illegal download–but I digress…)

But you really shouldn’t use that as an excuse to skip professional editing. 

I make sure I send the cleanest possible copy to an editor. That means it’s been through a critique group during the writing process and beta readers before editing. If there are big, glaring problems, I want them caught before going to editing. I also run the draft through an editing program, knowing the limitations of said programs.

I’d never assume that was sufficient to publish without professional editing. That human screening and input is invaluable, in my opinion. If you want to produce the best story possible, that is.

But finding the right editor can be difficult. When I went indie, I did all the right things: I sought the recommendations of fellow authors. I submitted test chapters to editors to audition them. Price wasn’t my only consideration, but it was a factor. I simply cannot afford to spend $1200 on a book edit with no guarantee of recouping that in sales. But even after doing all my homework, I struggled to find a good fit for me.

On the advice of a fellow author, I hired an editor that worked with my old publisher but freelanced on the side. This seemed like a win-win for many reasons, not the least of which was that we’d have a familiarity of what to expect from each other. But this proved not to be the case. Despite being on a deadline to publish by a specific date to tie in with a specific event, this editor missed the deadline by EIGHT WEEKS, and produced a shoddy edit to boot. The edit was so late I ended up accepting it with only a cursory read-through–my bad–and it wasn’t until I began the process of creating an audiobook that I realized how rife with errors the manuscript was. To this day I’m still embarrassed at releasing it in that form.

After submitting chapters to numerous editors by way of auditioning them for the next book, I found an editor I thought would be a good fit for me. I booked his services, spelling out what I was looking for in advance. As he’d done a great job on the sample chapter, I was prepared to receive a decent edit. Instead, I received an edit that I could have done myself with Grammarly.

Grammarly is going to catch some things, but only what it is programmed to catch. It won’t, for example, point out repetitive actions (like the fact that far too many of my characters shrug or raise an eyebrow), or note when the action drags. That’s what a real, live editor does.

I have to say, I was beginning to think I’d never find affordable editing that was a good match for me when a former beta reader offered her assistance. I was skeptical, I admit. I’d been burned by too many freelance editors. I was concerned that as a beta reader, she wouldn’t be firm enough, that too many things would slide.

I was wrong.

She provided exactly the kind of edit I was looking for: encouraging without being unwilling to suggest changes, ruthlessly cutting unnecessary exposition while not trampling on author voice, catching continuity errors and questioning possible plot holes without making me feel like an idiot, nailing the SPAG that is critical to a polished, finished work and yet at the same time tossing out accolades in the form of the kinds of comments that are like crack to an author.

I can’t sing her praises enough. She truly gets the author-editor relationship, and though she is new to freelance editing, she has an excellent grasp on what it entails. You’d be wise to get in on the ground floor, so to speak. She’s working on her website and creating a Facebook page, but you can email her now at CAPSediting@gmail.com

You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

Now Available for Pre-Order: Ghost of a Chance by McKenna Dean

 

The second in the Redclaw Security series, Ghost of a Chance, is now available for pre-order! 

Redclaw Security is an elite paranormal agency whose agents seek out and contain alien artifacts, as well as provide security and investigate matters within the shifter community. Each Redclaw Security story can be read as a standalone, though the the stories and characters are all connected with Redclaw in some manner.

Ghost of a Chance

Blurb: At sixteen, Sarah Atwell walked away from her love of horses and a promising career as a competitive rider after discovering she’d inherited the family curse. Years later, her grandmother stunned everyone by leaving Sarah her horse farm—worth millions—but with conditions Sarah might not be able to meet.

A former Redclaw agent, Casey Barnes retired when a security assignment went bad, killing his partner and leaving him as a partial amputee. His inner wolf is in hiding. He’s been living quietly as a horse trainer, but June Atwell’s death now pits him against her granddaughter for rights to the stable.

With both of them snowed in at the farm, a series of increasingly serious accidents draws Sarah and Casey closer together, but they each harbor secrets that might tear them apart.

Available August 7th, 2018!

 

Free Stories, Upcoming Releases, and More!

Because it’s a national holiday here in the US, I’ve opted to move WIP Wed to next week–so be sure to come back to participate then!

I’m considering starting a New Release Saturday as well–where people can drop in and share what they have that’s about to come out–what do you think?

In the meantime, I’m in the final edits on Ghost of a Chance, the next standalone in the Redclaw Security series.

I can’t wait to share this one with you! I see a lot of similarities between Sarah and myself: we’re both fangirls and we grew up frequently hearing how we fell short on expectations. Part of Sarah’s journey will be to recognize her self-worth, and discovering things some people see as flaws can be your biggest strengths.

As part of the run up to the next book release, first Reclaw book, The Panther’s Lost Princess is FREE until July 5th,  so grab your copy now!

The Greatest Threat to Your Creativity Isn’t What You Think It Is

All my life, I’ve been a daydreamer. So much so, my parents despaired of my ever being functional in society. There were even times when I decided that daydreaming was bad for me, and counterproductive to my goals in life, and that I should do my darnedest to quit. To stop inserting myself into my favorite books, shows, and movies, having grand adventures throughout the day as I went about my daily tasks.

I was never successful at eradicating this behavior, and eventually I embraced it for what it was: a rich fermentation vat of ideas that would bubble and simmer until they produced a story of my own, something original and unique to me. I’ve always been a writer at heart.

The good news is I managed to be a productive member of society despite the relative ease with which I could drop into another universe. I discovered online fanfiction archives, wrote over a million words of fanfic, and then began writing my own original stories. In my fandom days, I wrote the equivalent of a novella a month. The words just flowed out of me. The transition to original fiction wasn’t without its bumps in the road, and my productivity slowed down as the stakes became higher. Without a built-in audience, world-building and character development had to be stronger. It wasn’t sufficient to have beta readers–you need betas, critique partners, and a good editor if you want to turn out quality work. You can’t just throw down words and have everyone applaud because they love your pairing and they’d leave kudos on a story where your characters read from the back of a cereal box. Writing for fun is lovely, but the more you write, the greater the drive becomes to do better than the last story. You begin seeing where you failed, and how your craft doesn’t measure up to your favorite artists. You can either quit at this point, or buckle down and do the hard work. But hard work takes time.

So I just assumed my new glacial pace of story production was pretty normal. After all, I have a stressful day job and a home life that’s heavy on commitments. Some of the people turning out a book every month are actually writing teams, which makes me feel a bit better about only getting out one or two stories a year. 

But the other day, a realization struck me like a bolt of lightning out of a cloudless blue sky.

I don’t daydream any more.

Could that be why my production is way down?

I used to play scenes from potential stories in my head at every free moment–outlandish, outrageous self-insert scenes to occupy my mind as I walked the dogs, or did some sort of mindless task (like the dishes, or folding clothes), or commuting to work, or just before I fell asleep at night. I’d replay the scenes over and over, polishing the dialog, perfecting the action, trimming the worst of the excesses, eventually removing myself as the heroine and replacing the lead with one of my characters. When I sat down to write, the scene was right there before me–I only had to smooth off the rough spots and blend it into the story I wanted to tell. Even better, if I was stuck on something, entering that day-dreamy state of mind often allowed me to untangle a thorny plot problem, causing me to suddenly shout “Eureka!” and grab the nearest pen.

But I don’t do that any more.

My daily commute, which used to be over an hour, is now less than 15 minutes most days. While I’m delighted to get two hours of my life back every day, I actually made good use of that time when I was driving by plotting and daydreaming about my stories. I rarely listen to music these days, as I mostly did so when driving. Music has the power to send me to that dreamer’s state more quickly than almost anything else, and without the pleasant background noise, I find it hard to get in the zone. But I rarely have the time to just sit and listen to music the way I did when commuting.

Getting a good night’s sleep is tough for me these days as well, so I usually read until I fall asleep instead of daydreaming. To be honest, I’m almost afraid to let my mind ‘go’ when I’m trying to fall asleep because instead of exciting adventures or romantic encounters, my brain is most likely to circle at the base of the Anxiety Tree, worrying at problems out of my control for the moment. So yeah, I’d rather lose myself in reading.

Worst, now when I’m walking the dogs, I’ve got the phone in my hand, checking my social media sites. That used to be a BIG source of my plotting time–I’d enter the theta brainwave zone and happily organize plots, scenes, and time lines while getting some much-needed exercise for both me and the dogs.

But now that phone is out and I’m checking to see what fresh outrage is occurring on Twitter.

I used to be the sort of person who carried a book with them everywhere, so if I had to wait somewhere, I could happily read. Reading served as fuel for my own story ideas, creating a lovely cycle of creativity. Now I scroll through timelines. An obsessive thumbing of bite sized pieces of information that frequently has a negative impact on my mental well-being.

The other night, my husband and I were out at dinner, and after we’d placed our orders and caught up with each other’s day, somehow we both drifted into scrolling on our phones. If this is something a middle-aged person that addictive to a middle-aged person, I fear for the minds of our kids. I really do.

I’m not saying don’t be informed. We need to be informed. We need to share information: about natural disasters, government atrocities, mass shootings, lost pets, you name it. We also need to share the good things: our wins, both big and small, the things that encourage us and make us smile, that give us hope when all hope is dying. But we shouldn’t let the constant NOISE of information drown out our creative voice.

We’re told we as creative types must maintain a presence on social media, and I believe this to be true. But I think our utter dependence on our phones to keep us occupied AT ALL TIMES is extremely detrimental to the creative mindset.

Blonde girl with retro camera

I recently read an article that said taking photos of a trip makes your brain forget the memories of the trip itself, and while that appalls me (because I love taking pictures), I can understand it too. Because you’re ‘capturing the moment’ on your device, your brain doesn’t feel the need to do so in the same detail. Think about it: do you remember phone numbers anymore? I don’t. I know where to find someone’s contact information on my cell phone, but I’d be out of luck if I had to call someone if my phone was damaged or the battery was dead. (NTS: make a list of important phone numbers and keep it in your car)

So while I see the need to keep feeding content to my audience, wouldn’t the better use of my time be to write actual, real content instead of snapshots of the boring life of a middle-aged woman? I can answer that one myself: yes.

And while I’m still going to take photographs, it won’t be the first thing I do when I arrive somewhere new. I’m going to take a deep breath and appreciate the scenery. I’m going to memorize what the air smells like, and what sounds I hear, and how I feel at that moment before I pull out my camera.

I can’t leave my phone at home when I am out and about because I need to be available 24/7. But I can choose not to take it out when I’m walking the dogs, or bringing the horses in from the pasture, or waiting in line at the DMV. I’ve deleted most of my social media. I’ve gone back to carrying a book or an e-reader. I’m making a point to listen to more music–turning off commercial radio and just playing the songs I want to hear. Because it doesn’t matter how much content I feed an audience if there isn’t a book to go with it eventually.

And you know what? I’ve started daydreaming again. Without any attempt on my part to make it happen. I just had to open the window to let it in.