Old songs

This old Tracy Lawrence song has been on my mind today. I'm much more of a rock fan than country, but this song is timeless.

Life & Love & Writing

This is bound to be a messy, all over the board kind of post. Life, in all its wonderfulness, can also be damn hard. I know friends who have family members battling health problems, friends who've recently lost parents, and friends who are enduring financial hardships. Life is messy, and sometimes it hurts.

Right now, for me, it hurts. And all because of a sweet little cat. My pets are family members. I adore them. I had a cat for 19.5 years, and losing her was really hard. Devastating. Another cat died at 16.5. Long lives, but not long enough when compared with ours.

Last summer, my beloved Miss Pitty Pat suffered a thrombosis, otherwise known as a saddle thrombus. She wasn't supposed to live, but she did. She lost a leg, but she regained strength and went on to be her old self again — running, playing, jumping up to her favorite window seat, sleeping with me, sitting on my lap at the computer and my legs on the couch.

But the vets warned us her time was limited. Yesterday, we were jolted by the reality of that. She's survived seven months beyond her initial episode, but yesterday she suffered another blood clot. This time it's to a front leg, much less painful, but she can't use the leg much. As I write this, she's at the emergency vet. We don't know if she'll survive, but of course we hope she will.

I am devastated and furious — because we can't control life, can we? We can't prevent innocent children, beloved friends and family members, furry or otherwise, from getting sick and leaving us behind. Life is amazing, but life hurts.

It's love that does this to us. Love gives and loves takes. I adore love, I write about love, but I know love makes us so vulnerable. What's the choice though? Not to love? How empty would that be?

This gets me to writing. Yes, it's damn hard to even think about that at the moment, but I'm in the middle of a book and my characters are in such pain — and I know how they feel. I know that pain always comes from me, even if I can't understand the precise incidents that caused it for my characters. The truth is that I draw on that well deep inside, that place where I try to stuff all that hurt and anger down, when I write.

I think all writers do. Life and love have given us gifts, and they have taken those gifts away, and we don't forget. I've written about the character, usually male, who refuses to love because he doesn't want to hurt. Some readers and reviewers might call that cliche. I call it reality. If we could protect ourselves this way, mightn't we try? Some of us would, and some of my characters do.

Naturally it doesn't work out for them. The hero usually finds out he can't stop love, and he becomes so terribly vulnerable when he realizes how he feels about the heroine. That's got to be scary.

I saw a photo this week of a woman holding her husband's hand while he lay in his casket. And I thought how sad that was. How awful that she would never see him again in this life. That all those years together ended and she was alone.

Pain. It's what we write about. It's what we try to overcome and control, at least in fiction. If you're a writer, you have to put it all out there. You have to put your feelings on the table, or your fiction will be flat. You want to feel and you want the reader to feel.

That doesn't happen if you leave your own sorrows untapped. I know it's hard, but tap them. Mine them. Does it help? Hell if I know. I do it anyway, and maybe I feel better somewhere down the road.

Right now, I feel like hell. I ache and I'm frustrated because I can't fix this. But I have a book to write and characters to torture and I know part of that is me working out my own feelings on paper. It's how I cope. I couldn't imagine not writing for a living, because I think I'd burst otherwise.

I put my heart on the table every time. I give it my all.

And now I'm going to bed and pray my kitty girl gets to come home again. It's borrowed time, I know it, but I want more of it. Don't we all?


EDITED TO ADD: There is good news for now — the clot resolved and MPP can come home. I am relieved, and still scared because I know I'm going to lose her to this awful disease. But hopefully not just yet.

You gotta have friends

There's something about early morning which lends itself to contemplation, I think. Mr. Harris had an early meeting this morning, something to do with a tele-conference with people in other parts of the world, so he had to get up at a criminal hour — and I woke up too. So now I'm sitting in bed with my laptop and my tea and thinking in the quiet hours before dawn. I have a lot of work to do, but I'll do it after I do this.

I've been thinking about this business, which I love, and about the people in it. Readers, y'all are the most amazing, wonderful, necessary people in the world. Without you, I have no job. I'd write anyway, but I'd have to do it while working 9 to 5 at something else to pay the bills. And no one would be reading the stories but me — and maybe a couple of friends. So this is preferable, and I thank you for it! I'm glad you like my books, and I always love to hear from you. So don't hesitate to send that email!

The other people I love in this business are my writing friends. I have a core group, people I can rant to about covers, sales, blurbs, revisions, etc. There's nothing like a good rant with your fellow writers. They understand what it's like to have a cover you hate or a blurb that fails to mention that lovely hook you wrote. They are also there when you have an emergency and need to brainstorm something. Romance writers are some of the most giving writers you'll ever meet.

This weekend, I attended the Southern Magic Reader Luncheon. Sherrilyn Kenyon was the guest speaker. She is amazing. As successful as she is, she's also humble and doggedly determined to keep working as hard as she can. She deserves her success. And she moved me to tears more than once as she gave of herself to that packed room with a dynamic speech that was personal and inspirational.

Today, I sit at the computer determined to go over, under, around, or through, as Sherrilyn said. Somehow, some way, I'm getting a ton of work done before I go to sleep tonight.

So I'd better get to it! But here's a picture of me with one of my writing friends, Kira Sinclair, who writes for Blaze and who can always be called upon to listen to a good rant.

Who do you rant to? Who are your friends you can always count on? One commenter will win a copy of my current release, THE GIRL NOBODY WANTED.

What I did this weekend

It was a long weekend in many respects. This is what I did:

I made crawfish dip for a party on Saturday.

I had my eyebrows ripped out with hot wax.

I went to dinner with friends and drank Pomegranate Margaritas.

I wore these shoes to dinner:

After dinner, I lurched around the mall with a group of women, squealing over clothes and shoes and generally having a good time.

Saturday, I attended a workshop given by Morgan Doremus and Stephanie Klose from RT magazine.

Saturday evening, I attended a party with homemade BBQ, the aforementioned crawfish dip, and lots of yummy Southern cooking.

I laughed my butt off. (I wish it were that easy to shed fat.)

I got home late and the cats were pissed. Fed them and dealt with the fall out.

Got to bed late.

Slept late. (Embarassingly late.)

Talked to a friend for 2.5 hours Sunday morning.

Watched football with Hubby.

Talked to another friend for an hour.

Wrote a blog post while football was on.

Thought of significance of 9/11, cried a bit with all the tributes and that Budweiser commercial, but decided not to write about my 9/11 memories. Many people have done so more eloquently than I.

And that's the weekend. Notice there was no writing in there. Today, back to work. Oh, and the New Voices competition begins tomorrow. I'm a mentor, and looking forward to it!

Snowmageddon in Alabama

These pictures were taken a while ago now (Sunday night), but it was up to about 4 inches the last time I looked out the window — and still coming down. And while I know this cracks up the Yankees, it really does cripple the South when this happens. I do know how to drive in snow, having learned when I lived in Germany, but it's not so much the driving that does it. (Though that's part of it because most of these people have no training.)

It's the lack of snow removal equipment and proper tools for melting ice. They sand the bridges around here, which is just nuts. I don't know why they don't have a supply of salt or urea on hand, but they don't. Or maybe they salt/urea the heavily traveled areas and sand the side roads. Whatever, all I know is the last time they sanded the bridges, it was a joke.

We're expecting up to 10 inches they say. And that really is quite amazing for us. I just hope it melts really quick. Otherwise, we will be stuck in our houses for days. Schools are canceled, no work for Hubby, the city is shut down, and my Mojo Lunch with Kimberly Lang is postponed. This, dear friends, is a tragedy! We were going to the yummiest little bistro, darn it. Hopefully, we'll get to go later this week!

I think the snow is pretty, but I wish it would go away. It's not like in Germany where the snow came down and life kept on going anyway. No, here we're stuck. No lunches out, no runs to the post office, no impromptu shopping trips. No visiting with friends, unless they live next door and you can walk. I could walk to Kimberly's house, but it's a bit farther than next door and I'm not doing it. She's not coming here either. 😉 Lunch is postponed for sure.

I suppose I'll start work on the next book! It's due in a couple of months, and I already have a great idea that's really making me think about it all the time. I have the hero and heroine, their core problem, and I'm really excited about it. I love it when that happens, when the idea takes over and begins to really speak to me. It doesn't mean the book will be easy to write, but I have hope it will come to me easier than others have.

And now I'm going to go bundle up and read for a while. It's cold, the snow is coming down, and I'm not going anywhere for a while. 🙂 Hope you are safe and warm in your corner of the world, that you aren't snowed in, and that you've got a fabulous book to read and/or write!

UPDATE: Morning pictures of the snow!

The Labyrinth Experience

As a writer, I often daydream. Sometimes, I daydream at the computer when the words aren't flowing and I need to figure out what happens next. Sometimes, I take a shower and the thoughts just start to happen. Getting unstuck, finding a new path, whatever I need, often happens when I take that mental break and stop trying to force things to happen. I've even had breakthroughs on the treadmill while making deals with myself that I'll get to that next mile mark. Whatever it takes.

But on Saturday, I found a new place to think. My RWA chapter went on a field trip where we learned about labyrinths. After the presentation, we walked a labyrinth. It's not as complicated as you might think. Labyrinths can be quite simple. They aren't mazes, first of all. There is one path in and one path out and you walk the path with a clear site of the center. There are no tall hedges to get lost in.

I was surprised at how simple the labyrinth looked. We walked one that was patterned after the one here, which is a medieval labyrinth. Specifically, this is the one that's in the Chartres Cathedral in France. The path we walked was grassy, with bricks to mark out the way. It's meant to be walked barefoot, though as our teacher stressed, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I walked in wearing shoes, then took them off for the walk out.

And it was different each time. It's a surprising experience, in fact. Our group of writers, who are normally quite boisterous and talkative, got very meditative as we walked. I found that I was a bit bored and distracted at first. And then I had a moment where a recent painful memory crashed in on me and had me on the verge of tears. It was surprising how it came out of nowhere when I wasn't expecting it. Then the memory went away and the knowledge that things happen as they are meant to happen gave me comfort.

Then I settled into the experience and started to think of many things. I can't even remember everything, though some of it was writing oriented. As I got closer to the center, I felt calmer. And then I was in the center, watching others walk the path, and feeling very peaceful and content. When I was finally ready to leave the center, I took my shoes off and began the walk back out. Oddly, I felt as if I'd left any baggage I was carrying in the center. I felt lighter, relieved in some way.

The farther I went, the less light I felt. It was almost like picking up the worries I'd left behind as I walked out. By the time I got out, I felt the same as when I'd entered. I felt like me, with all the worries and cares and joys that I have. It was a very interesting experience, and it's one I intend to repeat. Because, as our teacher said, each experience in the labyrinth can be different. You won't always get the same thing out of it.

I wouldn't always anticipate having an experience where grief hit me out of the blue. But I definitely see the advantages to working out those thorny plot problems while walking the labyrinth. When I went in this time, I had no expectations, which is why so many things hit me. But if I went in thinking of my plot and characters, I know I would get answers to my questions. Just like standing in the shower or daydreaming on the computer.

I highly recommend the experience if you're looking for a new place to think. You can learn more about labyrinths, including whether there are any in your town, here. If you've ever had the labyrinth experience, what did you think of it?