Why write?

7C6E77F7-When the words aren’t flowing and the manuscript gets rejected and your back hurts from too many hours at the computer, writing sucks. After fifteen completed novels, it doesn’t get any easier. The ideas have to be unique, the characters need arcs, the pace needs to move, and words somehow have to find their way from head to fingers.

This is the point non-writers ask why I would waste my time. They’d remind me that I’m not banking the amount of cash that Higgins, Grisham, and King are. I’m probably not even making the interest on their royalty checks.

Writers, however, understand. I have so many stories in my head I could sit and type for the rest of my life and never run out of plots and new characters. Creating conflicts, describing a scene, polishing up my first drafts. It’s all a labor of love. The worlds become so vivid I ignore my own family to stay with the interesting people populating my head.

Even with the pull of the words, I remain functional. I practice law, hang with my kids, chill with my husband, cook, sort of clean, and I even attempt gardening, but the words hum inside when I’m not writing and if I try to put it off, they shriek until they have my attention.

Today, I’m editing a book I love. The more I tinker with it, the better it gets. I can see the world moving from black and white to high definition color. I could take the day to work on the pile of files on my desk, go for a walk, clean my basement, or phone a friend, but despite the aching back and the need for far too much coffee than is good for me, I prefer writing.

 

I am Fifty

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It’s here. I’m beginning my fiftieth year.

Fifty.

It’s been a long road to get where I am through swamps, over mountains, across oceans, and under my covers. I spent the last year trying out fifty new resolutions to bring with me into the second half of my first century. I didn’t find fifty things to actually resolve, but along the way, I made some serious moves toward being the person I’ve always wanted to be.

Here’s a few discoveries I’ve made last year:

  • I’m resilient. A few things came at me like a tsunami in the past two years, and I survived them all. I might have been knocked down, but I was never knocked out. Experience makes a person stronger. I can survive some pretty good hits and that gives a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger.
  • My friends are my lifeline. A person doesn’t need a lot of friends, but the ones I have are priceless. They support me when I need it, and lately I’ve needed them more than ever. My hope is to make it up to them in the next half century.
  • Raising children is not a job for perfectionists. My kids, no matter how much I try to convince them, will not take the easy road to success that I’ve laid out for them. They push out in directions I would never go, and they face challenges that they wouldn’t be facing if they only listened to all of my advice since birth. Yet, they’re forging amazing paths that perhaps I would have been too fearful to pursue. So, as I stand back and allow them to fail when the road gets too bumpy, and watch them brush themselves off and head out into even more difficult challenges. I’m glad they didn’t listen to everything I said, because their lives are turning out perfect for them.
  • I’m privileged. I grew up in a middle class family with the most amazing parents. They supported me in all my efforts. Financially and emotionally. As a brand new lawyer, I married a medical student who worked hard and made something of himself. Our careers allowed me financial freedom many people don’t have. Today, his everyday efforts have allowed me to pursue careers in public service and writing while raising our children. Some of the hurdles I’ve had to jump over on my way to success were lower for me than for others following a similar path. I understand that and appreciate it, and my law practice hopefully will make the road a bit easier for others as well.
  • I’m a hard worker. I definitely have advantages in my life others don’t have, but I never squander opportunities. I take each task I do and commit to doing it the best I can. As I tell my kids often ( too often if you ask them), in most cases of success, it’s not about talent, luck, or genetics, it’s about showing up and putting in your best effort every step of the way. Hard workers who can overcome challenges and setbacks stand a better chance at success than someone who arrives at the top without any effort, because to stay at the top, effort will be necessary.
  • I can’t eat flour and sugar. Not even a little. I have no willpower when it comes to sweets. One bite of a cookie can become a plate full of cookies in less than fifteen minutes. I gave up eating the evil substances back in December and am surviving. In fact, I feel better than ever. My Youngest can even eat ice cream next to me on the couch and remain safe from me attacking her for the last bite.
  • Someone told me to write a bucket list for my next 50 years. It’s not necessary. I’ve achieved pretty much everything I’d wanted to achieve during the first fifty years of my life. I traveled all over the place, I met so many wonderful people, I was able to work in many fields, and I found my best friends and my home. For the next fifty years, I want to make it all matter.

Fifty Resolutions Before I’m Fifty: Aren’t you 50 Yet?

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A lot of people have been asking me when the hell I’m turning fifty, since I’ve been blogging on and off about the transition for over a year. The truth is, I’ll be fifty in February. My goal was to transform myself before I hit the date.

I still have time.

My newest resolution? Don’t quit, even when a tsunami knocks you from your path.

It’s never easy, but I’m a work in progress. Every morning I begin the day with a list of things I need to accomplish. I finish some, ignore others, and never make it to the rest. But everyday, I move forward. My health is improving. My focus is better. My French isn’t better, but I don’t put any time into improving it. It’s all about choices and never giving up.

This year decided to kick me in the ass, but as I look back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

The best thing that could have happened to my writing career was getting thrown off the mountain. It’s made me regroup and go back to writing for the joy of it. Only now, experience and education has made my craft better than before.

I had a major knee injury which made me pause in my physical activity. I’ve now added a weight lifting element into my workouts. Something I wouldn’t have done without the need to improve my muscle strength to support my knees.

I gained ten pounds this past year. It was as if my metabolism had decided to take a vacation. But that’s made me really look at what I eat and when. The pounds still refuse to budge, but I feel better and have much more energy.

My family went through a tough spell. We regrouped and are a closer unit, despite one of the clan moving three thousand miles away. I would never go back to our past dynamics.

So all in all, I’m moving toward fifty at a decent pace with a better life than I’ve ever had, and a much better attitude.

Have you had a set back this year? If so, I hope you conquer it and move forward stronger than ever.

Resolution: Keeping Sane When Everything Falls Apart.

New Orleans in 2005 and 2015

New Orleans in 2005 and 2015

So everything fell to sh*t last week. I made a stupid assumption that if I worked hard, I could control the outcomes in my legal practice, my writing career, my family life. NOT TRUE.

I’m not God. I’m pretty much on this rollercoaster called life and am unable to stop the worst of life from destroying people I truly care about, the work I give my heart to complete, the relationships I think I have a grasp on. As I struggled with one disaster, another bit me in the ass. At one point, on a plane to New Orleans where I was supposed to enjoy a carefree weekend, I scrambled to make something work out, to fix one of the tragedies that was beating me down. I couldn’t bring anyone back from the dead, but I could resurrect my story, and I could tighten the bonds with the one person who matters more to me than anything. The plane hit the tarmac as I tried to pull a brilliant idea from my exhausted and emotionally void brain. I fell asleep in a hotel and woke with no motivation, not ambition.

Instead, I roamed the streets of the city alone for two days. Drinking coffee, watching the city that had been completed devastated resonating with life. Tourists walked through the French Quarter headed for beignets and coffee as though nothing had ever interrupted life here. Yet this city had gone through a hardship of biblical proportions. Hard work and faith brought the city back from complete destruction (only 15% of the city was inhabitable at the end of the Katrina). Time had also healed many of its wounds.

Did I have time? Had I already used up too much of it chasing the wrong dreams? Had my priorities become so twisted that what really mattered in life had fallen from my radar screen? Suffice to say, I was unsure whether to head back to bed and hide under the covers or dive into a mountain of work to fix whatever was wrong in my life.

What pulled me out of my funk? Hours on the phone with my girlfriends from every corner of the country and a few hours at a coffee shop with one of the dearest of writer friends.

Now that I’ve had time to think about all that life has thrown at me, I’m ready to accept my limited role in things that happen and move on. I can’t change the past, but I can learn from it.

I’m headed back to work this work with thicker skin, a refusal to back down from challenges, and the love of an army of friends who have my back and my heart.

I care about the braided life I’ve created with law, writing, and family, and I do make a difference in the world. I just can’t guarantee all HEAs in life, although maybe I can in my stories.

50 Resolutions in 50 Weeks Before I’m 50: Resolution 5

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It’s been a month on my quest to change my life. Overall, I love the idea of resolutions. They help me keep on track with things I want to accomplish, but tend to blot out of mind when life gets too hectic. For fifty weeks, I have to think about resolutions, all of them everyday.

How am I doing so far?

  1.  Journaling

I’m surprisingly not great with this. I’m too tired to write before I go to bed at night and so I write a few sentences in the morning. More a summary of my day than an overview of my feelings.

  1. No television after 8pm

My family time has become richer by shutting off the television at night. I work on my computer, but I’m available for everyone while they’re doing homework and as they wind down for the day.

  1. Exercise everyday

When I get my exercise done in the morning, I’m good. But if I try to fit it in later in the day, I miss exercise over 60% of the time.

  1. Eat better, at least one salad and one nutrition shake per day.

Forcing myself to eat has been a blessing. I eat salad everyday, and have a shake for breakfast. They are filling enough to me that I don’t snack as much. So this one so has been the best resolution yet.

As time goes by, my life is better with these tweaks, but nothing is perfect. I have good days and bad days, but doing nothing is not an option.

For my fifth resolution?

My brother wants me to try meditation. I hate meditation. The idea of trying to not think about anything for a writer who has thirty plots trolling the background of her mind daily makes the task impossible. If I’m stressing about whether I can get away with a pounding heart in a scene instead of something infinitely more unique, to I’m thinking about my grocery list or whether the kids brought their homework to school.

As a compromise, I’m going to try two minutes of mediation per day. I can do anything for two minutes, except planks. I even have a guided mediation program on my phone. I’ve got this.

 

Baton Blog Hop: My Writing Process

Veronica Forand Romance Writer

The wonderful Kristin Contino, invited me to be part of a Baton Blog Hop. Each writer involved answers four questions and then passes the baton on to another person. I’m receiving the baton from Kristin Contino. Her debut novel, THE LEGACY OF US, will be published by Sparkpress in September. It’s a wonderful journey in the lives of the women in one family through three generations.

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Susan Scott Shelley and I are preparing to publish a novella, TACKLED BY THE GIRL NEXT DOOR published by The Wild Rose Press this October. We’re in the “Oh my God, we have to promote this thing?” stage of the process, but we’re a good team and have been learning about marketing books from our friends who have published before us.

Last week, I finished the third novel in my Truth series. It’s been sent to my beta readers and will hopefully be at a publisher at the end of the month. I have another book in the series that requires a full overhaul. It should take a month to whip it into shape and then I’m starting a new romantic suspense series about three brothers and the women who bring them to their knees.

Susan and I are finishing our third novella together and have started plotting the fourth. I love plotting sessions with her, because our imaginations run in opposite directions and create amazing storylines.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

My characters, especially the female ones, are often hampered by society or their family’s expectations or lack of expectations for them. I love stripping characters down to their true selves and having them become who they were meant to be. Authenticity is a real issue for me.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

My writing style does not include long descriptions or narratives. It tends to jump between dialogue and actions with enough narrative and description to keep the plot moving. Romantic suspense fits that style of writing.

My tendency to be a wise ass bleeds onto the page. In some cases, I create the most unlikeable characters ever. If there is a contest for characters people hate the most, some of the earlier versions of my characters would win (ask some of the contest judges for my earliest manuscripts). Making characters that are real and not Disneyesque versions of people or characters you don’t want to slap up side the head is a challenge, but I love challenges.

The novellas I write with Susan are fun, fast, and full of action. Our voices aren’t similar, but very complimentary. We combine our styles to create really interesting storylines and cool characters.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I usually start with a character I obsess over, often for months. Finding a partner for that character also takes time.

Creating the plot is fun. It sometimes takes days, weeks, and an army of friends to keep a plot moving in a believable direction. I love when all the pieces of a story are linked together in a cohesive manner. I tend to redo the plot when I hit the middle after I run into logic problems or find myself becoming bored. If I don’t like the story, no one else will.

When writing, I try to complete about 2,000 words per day. I spend my mornings revising what I’ve written the day before. Each scene is edited about five times before I finish the book.

I rely heavily on my critique partner (Susan!) to catch flaws in my logic and confusing issues in the book. When she’s finished, I send it out to my beta readers.

So that’s all about me! Next week, I’m passing the baton to my critique partner/writing partner Susan Scott Shelley.