Story Saturday: Ghosts

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Story Sunday: Shadow of Death

 

I once lived in an old house

haunted by a formless shadow

 

Mom died as she gave birth to Tye

my two-year old babbling brother

 

I don’t blame anyone for her death

but I do of that depth-less darkness

that devoured Daddy

Writer’s Life: Back Home!

Just returned from a 12-day trip to the East Coast.  It was a whirlwind.

We drove from North Dakota to North Carolina in less than 30 hours (we did spend one night at a hotel near the border of West Virginia).  We went on to spend three days with my mother (NC), and then three days with hubby’s aunt and uncle in MD (just outside of Annapolis), and then two days with hubby’s side of family in western New York before driving back home.

Home sweet home.

Will take today to recuperate before diving back into writing/blogging tomorrow.  For now, here’s one of my favorite quotes by Hans Zimmer:

You Tube Tuesday: Glacier National Park

 

(*YouTube Tuesday idea originally came from the Martians Attack blog)

 

Last week, our family went on an adventurous vacation.  When I say “adventurous” I meant that practically everything was done on the fly.   Such is our life with my former-Navy-officer hubby 🙂

Originally we were going to spend the entire time down in the Black Hills region (South Dakota); however, the place was too mad with tourists.  We stopped very briefly at Mt. Rushmore, and then left.  We drove most of the night through the remaining sixty-plus miles of South Dakota, and most of the width of Wyoming, arriving at a truck stop just south of Billings (Montana) around 3:45am.  There, we slept for a few hours in the vehicle.

After a quick breakfast, we were back on the road heading north for Helena.  We ended up settling in at a KOA twenty miles south of the city in a nice cabin nestled close to Canyon Lake.  There we stayed  for three days before heading out for Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park is so huge, and incredibly beautiful!  You could easily spend three or four days exploring and still not see everything.  We were only there for a few hours; long enough to drive up a very scenic highway to Logan Pass which was where I took this amateurish video clip (using my Trio tablet).

I added music to it before uploading to YouTube.

Hope you enjoy 🙂

If you’d like to participate in YouTube Tuesday, post something from YouTube that you enjoyed and tell us a bit about it.  Don’t forget to include the link to this post in yours so I can check it out.  Also, if you’re on Twitter, tweet about it using the hashtag #YouTubeTuesday.

 

Favorite Friday: Ray Bradbury (on leaving behind a legacy)

 

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

One-Liner Story Saturday: This Thing Called Life

 

 

A young woman who lost her parents, one to infidelity and the other to a war in some foreign land, must choose between a childhood dream and her familial responsibility…real life sucks.

What Happens When A Writer Stops Writing?

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

This month’s question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

 

I wrote an essay on this last year, and today I took and created a video from it.

 

 

 

 

You Tube Tuesday: Brotherhood

It’s another Tuesday and that means it’s YouTube Tuesday 🙂  This is an idea originating from the Martians Attack  blog which I absolutely love.

This week I decided to include a short video I created called “Brotherhood.”

Throughout my life, I’ve always known soldiers whether they’re currently serving or are veterans.  This would include both of my grandfathers who fought in World War II, my father who spent nearly two years in Vietnam, and my husband who’s still haunted by his time in the first Gulf War and beyond.  I grew up not far from the Plattsburgh Air Force Base, and now live a short distance from the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

I admire anyone who serve.  Believe me, it’s NOT an easy thing to live a life as a soldier.  But what intrigue me the most is the bond between soldiers.  It is unlike anything in the world.  I have heard countless stories from the men in my life about their comrades whom they entrusted with their own lives through various experiences (and some were quite harrowing).  I used these as an inspiration as I wrote an one-line story, and then turned it into a video.

If you’d like to participate in YouTube Tuesday, post something from YouTube that you enjoyed and tell us a bit about it.  Don’t forget to include the link to this post in yours so I can check it out.  Also, if you’re on Twitter, post a Tweet about your post using the hashtag #YouTubeTuesday.

Author Interview With Jeanne Blasberg

Today we have a very special guest, Jeanne Blasberg, as she tells us a bit about herself and her DEBUT novel! 

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve kept a journal all my life and have always loved to read. My favorite book as a child was Harriet the Spy. Being an only child who spent a lot of time alone, I got scarily close to emulating Harriet’s spying ways.

My passion is fiction, but my early professional life had me writing business case studies and articles on the retailing industry. My first serious pursuit of creative writing involved memoir and essays based on personal experience, but I always knew I had a book in me.

Once my three children moved out of the house, things got quiet and my mind could slow down. I used that time to write and study the craft. My husband and I also love to travel, and I blog about it on my website. In the last nine months I have been to South Africa, Uganda, Patagonia, the Canadian Rockies, and Iceland.

 

What aspects of your life led you to writing the kind of stories you write?

I have always been fascinated by family dynamics. What is spoken and often unspoken between siblings (which I can only imagine, having always wanted to be a sister) and how bonds strengthen or deteriorate between generations are things I think about.

I have also witnessed (as well as read and thought about) the way behaviours get passed down from generation to generation, especially painful ones such as addictions and secret keeping.

 

 

You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

EDEN is the story of a family matriarch in her late seventies who, after the death of her husband, decides to introduce her family to the daughter she gave up for adoption fifty years earlier. The setting is their grand summer home, built by her industrial tycoon father, in a fancy summer community on the coast of southern Rhode Island. The chapters describing the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as relatives arrive, and our matriarch prepares to make her announcement, are alternated with chapters revealing the 80-year history of the family. Four generations of women are introduced, each with secrets of their own.

 

What inspired you to write it?

The idea was born after my husband discovered he had a brother who had been given up for adoption. In getting to know this newly discovered brother and having conversations with him and his wife, I understood something about how the mystery around his birth had been bound to his self-identity. I related to this immediately. The product of a hasty marriage, I was ten years old when I did the math on my fingers to figure out I was a mistake, something a could never quite shake. I never stopped thinking about the different choices our mothers had (or didn’t have) and also the residual effect on the children.

 

How do you get into the minds of your characters?

I spend time meditating or quieting my mind and then I think about the scene I am writing until I just know how a character would react. Sometimes, I get it wrong and in the editing process I think “no, no, no, that’s not quite right.” My characters are evolving and so getting it right sometimes requires writing an entire first draft and then going back to refine them. I understand my characters so much better when I know the ending.

I often think about my characters when I’m out in the world. I might notice a woman’s clothes and think that is something Becca would wear. Or overhear a conversation and think that is something Camilla would say.

 

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing female writers today?

Maybe the same obstacles face men as well as women, I’m not sure. I am a debut author and don’t feel I have a very knowledgeable opinion on this topic. But the one thing I have noticed in the process of launching EDEN is that there are a lot of books being released each season and there are a lot in the genre I am writing…. By Women For Women.  Is the obstacle one of continually feeling relevant and original?  I have found the communities of women authors that I have become a part of to be extremely helpful and supportive. So whatever issues we have as a gender, there is a big movement around taking them on!

 

Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

Here are 5 good writing tips for a satisfying writing life:

1) Consistent routine, for 8 out of 10 people morning energy is best – take advantage of that time and don’t give it away

2) Meditate – unclutter the mind

3) Find a community of writers and hold each other accountable

4) Be generous – with yourself and others

5) good writing has a lot to do with intuition – trust it

 

Click on the image to order the book

Synopsis of the book: “Becca Meister Fitzpatrick―wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community―is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition . . . until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca is inspired by her granddaughter’s boldness in the face of impending single-motherhood, and summons the courage to reveal a secret she was forced to bury long ago: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. The question now is how her other daughter, Rachel―with whom Becca has always had a strained relationship―will react.” 

 

Jeanne can be found at the following sites:

Author’s Website

Twitter

Facebook

 

Guest Post by Simone Lisa: Heart Open Please Enter

*As we continue our Mental Health discussion, here’s a post by a very special guest, Simone Lisa.  Thank you, Simone, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us! 

 

There’s a little glimmer of warmth, burrowing into my chest. And a chink of light, peeking into my spirit. If I listen carefully I can almost hear a heart-warming song. It has taken me awhile to recognise it – the song of hope. Unfamiliar. Really scary. Really positive. Hope.

Hope has a few different acronyms:

  • Hold On Pain Ends
  • Have Only Positive Expectations
  • tHink pOsitive oPportunity comEs
  • Help Open People’s Eyes
  • Hanging Onto Positive Expectations

But I think my favourite is…

  • Heart Open Please Enter

I have had years of being knocked over and having to pick myself up again.

  • Grief after eight different family members died.
  • Worry as my teenage boys dabbled in the risky behaviours so many indulge in as they grow into adulthood.
  • Sorrow as my marriage started to crumble.
  • Stress as my elderly grandmother became more and more dependent on me.
  • Fear as my body aged and my youth disappeared.
  • Pain as my back deteriorated.

Coupled with a lifetime of burying emotions and not dealing with personal issues as they arose, it became too much for me to cope with and I crumbled. Every time I thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, I was wrong. Every time I tried to stand up and move on, another phone call came in. Someone needed me again. Someone wanted my help. Someone else had died. Another problem arose. Too much. Endlessly and relentlessly battering me to the ground, and in 51 years I had never learned positive mechanisms to deal with stress. The past two years have been eye opening and debilitating, and while I went a long way backwards, perhaps that is the direction I first needed to travel before I could embark upon a different path.

The past few days I have felt hopeful. Every time I become aware of that sense of positivity, that I may have a future and  things will improve, I worry I’m going to be battered to the ground any minute. The phone will ring and I’ll be given bad news. Again. I’ll be needed. Again. The phone will ring and I’ll be forced to choose between doing the right thing by family or the right thing by work. I’ll be put in lose-lose situations. Again.

But you know what 2017 has shown me so far? Nothing but positivity. Sure there are major stresses I’m still dealing with – but they are last years’ stresses and we’re working toward positive outcomes.

  • My teenage boys have grown into beautiful young men.
  • My marriage is receiving some tender care with tentative hope for the future.
  • Nobody else died.
  • My grandmother is being cared for in the nursing home.
  • I love my job. I love my friends and family.
  • My physical health is good and my mental health has improved.

You know what else? I found myself singing in the car. Singing!! I love singing and I’d stopped years ago. It is so good for the soul. Like alcohol however, I can’t indulge when I’m sad and stressed. I don’t drink to cheer myself up – I drink because I’m cheery. I don’t sing to cheer myself up – I sing because I’m cheery. When I realised I was singing, I realised I must be cheery.

So it turns out I have hope.

  • I am hopeful my beautiful boys will be okay – they will grow into the wonderful young men they are destined to be. They will experience love and happiness and success. They will contribute. They make me proud.
  • I am hopeful our marriage will continue. Hovering on the brink of separation has taught us both we’re not ready to throw in the towel. We value what we have enough to put in the hard yards.
  • I am hopeful my mental health will improve. My depression and anxiety are alleviating. I recognise them for what they are and have strategies in place to deal with signs and symptoms as they arise.
  • I am hopeful my life will go on. My story isn’t over yet. I have the opportunity and means to contribute financially to our family and meaningfully to society. I have abandoned plans to end my life and instead accept I have a lot of time ahead of me.
  • I am hopeful my elderly grandmother and ageing father are in safe hands. Their health is good and they are well cared for. I also accept that yes, I will have to farewell them both in the future, but they have had wonderful, happy, long, productive lives and I have support to deal with the grief when it inevitably strikes.
  • I am hopeful my back pain will go. I am thrilled about this in fact. I finally have a diagnosis and treatment plans and it is not major or degenerative and I will once again be able to exercise pain free.

More significant than all of these put together however, I am starting to feel a small sense of hope my eating disorder will improve. I won’t say disappear. Or aim for full recovery. I would be glad of those things – but so early in the phase of recovery (I may have been doing this a long time, but I went backwards before I moved forward. It’s a long and winding road…) I don’t want to jinx myself with unrealistic expectations.

You know what else? Without hope, I can’t recover. Without hope it is an intellectual exercise. Without hope I won’t make the right choice when faced with a difficult situation – I will make the most familiar and immediately comforting choice. Even if that decision leads to a poorer outcome. Because without hope, recovery is pointless. It feels temporary. Why would I make a good choice today if tomorrow it’s all going to fall apart anyway? I may as well eat a box of chocolate and be happy for five minutes.

Recovery is reliant on hope. Recovery needs my heart to be receptive – not just my head to be willing. So for today I want to say, my Heart’s Open Please Enter.

 

(Post originally appeared on Simone Lisa’s Blog )

Story Sunday: Journal of Life

 

January 15th

Where to begin? Because of so and so, and of something that happened, I’m to start keeping a journal of my thoughts and feelings and whatever else I care to share. WTH.

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. My name is Carla Jones. I’m twenty-five, and I live with my parents. Eh, that sounds like an opener for one of those Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. I’m not an alcoholic, but I am a screw-up.

Damn. That sounds pretty harsh now that it’s out there. But this is what my shrink wants to read, so there you go.

I lived a fairly normal life, I guess. Grew up in a small town in the mountains. Mom was a telephone operator for many years before switching to being an administrative assistance at a local community college. Dad’s a salesperson at a hardware store.  I have two sisters. Trish, the eldest, moved out of the house when she was eighteen. She joined the Navy. I hardly ever see her. Mandy, the baby, is off to college, studying power engineering. She’s the brains, like Dad.

Me? I’m the oddball. The one with all the problems.

Heck, I’m not even related to these people. Not by blood anyway. You see, my parents tried to have another baby after Trish was born, but nothing happened after four years.  So, they adopted me. Mandy came along as a complete surprise three years later. That left me, a brunette with blue eyes, sandwiched between these blonde-haired, brown-eyed individuals. Yep, like an oddball.

We lived next to Mom’s parents (Dad’s parents died when he was a boy).  Nana and Papa to Trish and Mandy, but not to me. They made that well known as soon as I was old enough to understand. I was to call them Pat and Dave.

Ugh.

Trish and Mandy were always into sports. I tried, but I was deemed too klutzy to play on any team. So, I turned to running. I never competed, though. All that hardcore training and competing in meets or races never interested me.

I never excelled in anything in school. It’s not for the lack of trying…it’s just that I really didn’t care. I studied just enough to pass the exams. That’s it. Mom and Dad never really pushed me. They pretty much let me do my own thing. They rode the other two daily, though. They accepted nothing less than As or Bs from them.

When it came time to head off to college, I had no clue what to major in. I wasn’t interested in science or math or business. I ended up picking a major in Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. I had always doodled with poetry and wrote in my journal, so why not take them one step further, right? Boy, my Dad was not happy with that. I asked, what’s wrong with being a writer or a journalist?   He said that those weren’t respectable fields. So, in order to appease him, I switched to a major in Kinesiology with a minor in Athletic Training.

I got as far as sophomore year before dropping out. I sucked in science classes and ended up failing them.

I refused to move back home—didn’t want to endure the daily scorn from Pat and Dave or the disappointed looks from my parents. Instead, I moved to a small city an hour from home and got a job working as a writer for the city’s newspaper. I rented a tiny, run-down apartment downtown that robbed me of over half of my monthly salary. I had no furniture, slept on an air mattress, and ate meals on the grungy carpet.

I guess I got too carried away with my sudden independence, or perhaps I was just overly desperate to be accepted for who I was. The people I ended up hanging out with liked to smoke pot. Personally, I hated pot, but these people made me feel like I was a somebody, like I actually mattered, so I just went with it.

Anyway, I ended up getting caught with some weed and was sent to jail. Lost my job and my apartment. Dad bailed me out and took me back home. Not sure what he did, but he somehow got the charges against me reduced so that there was no court or jail time for me. However, the judge ordered me to see this shrink, and since I liked to write, this same shrink gave me this ridiculous journal assignment.

 

 

January 29th

I’m writing this from my hospital bed. Actually, I’m in a psych ward within the hospital. The day after I wrote the first entry to this journaling assignment, Dad and I got into a big fight. Apparently, I’m a hardship to him and Mom, and it’s starting to affect their health and job stability. I guess I just lost it. I yelled at him saying something like, well, if I’m such a hardship, perhaps I should just remove myself from their lives.

I ran into the only bathroom in the house and locked myself in. I grabbed a shaving razor and proceeded to slash the top of my hands. Freaking out, Mom called 911. From there on, everything’s just a blur. I remember waking up in a hospital room, strapped to the bed. My whole body felt bruised. Mom was sitting beside me, crying.  Dad, well, I haven’t seen him since that night. She said that it took three people tackling me to stop me from continuing to slice my wrists. I don’t remember that part, but she was right, both of my wrists are bandaged up. The top of my hands are also bandaged, so I can barely write this stupid entry.

This stupid assignment. Stupid shrink. I hate him. I hate them all.

 

 

February 3rd

I’m still here, in the psych ward. It seems that I’m not ready to be released yet. Or rather, my parents aren’t ready to take me back home. Either way, I don’t give a rip.

 

February 7th

Mandy visited me yesterday. She said she was worried about me. She then turned around and told me how angry she was with me. How could I be so selfish to have hurt Mom and Dad. I told her to get out of my face. I don’t need this from her or from anyone for that matter!

 

 

February 12th

Why is everyone against me? What have I done so wrong to be treated so? Pat stopped by for a few minutes. Long enough to tell me that my own parents were seriously considering having me permanently committed. She went on to tell me that she did some research on my biological parents. My mother gave birth to me at the age of 13. She had been raped by her 16-year-old cousin who then committed suicide shortly afterward. Pat said that I should never have been adopted and that I’ve been nothing but a heartache to Mom and Dad.

After she left, I just lied down on the bed and cried.

 

 

February 15th

The shrink told me that I was actually starting to make progress and that I should continue to journal. Whatever.

Today, I wrote my first poem in months. It’s called “Alone.”

Heart is the bridge to

one’s soul, break it in

pieces and it will

strand you, immerse you

with unspeakable loneliness

You know what? After writing this, I felt better. Purged. Does that make any sense? I’m looking back over it, and am wondering…where did this come from? Am I really that pathetic? Do I really feel that way?

The answer is yes.

 

 

March 2nd

It’s been a while since the last entry. I have a good reason. Well, make that twenty-five reasons, as that’s how many poems I’ve written. I’m somewhat amazed at how dark and desperate some sounded. I thought about rewriting a few so they don’t make me out to be some kind of psychotic bitch, but I didn’t.

I worked up the courage and gave some to the shrink to read. I felt certain that he would definitely have me permanently committed after reading those particular ones (that would just please the family wouldn’t it?). I was stunned when he said that they were really good. Then he had to ask if I had thought about submitting them to places to have them published.

Seriously?

Hmm…

 

 

March 27th

I’ve been released from the hospital/psych ward. Since I’m no longer welcome home, I’m now living in a halfway house of sorts. I’m working part-time as a dishwasher at a college. It’s nothing glamorous, just a no-brainer, tedious job. I did something last week that scared the crap out of me, though. I submitted a few of my poems to four literary journals. Shrink seems confident that one of these places will publish my work. I have serious doubts. I mean, who would want to read my stuff? They’re just stupid poems. Nothing special about them at all.

 

 

April 30th

I’m in disbelief. I received word yesterday that my poems have been accepted by Julienne Literary Journal to be published. Oh. My. God.

I think I may have even hyperventilated because I found myself on the floor breathing hysterically with a bag over my face. All those poor people at the post office. God bless them for not freaking out on me.

 

 

May 16th

Good news keeps rolling in. Apparently, Dad has been working with a judge to try and get my criminal/drug/psych ward incarceration expunged from my record since it was my first offense, and guess what? As of this morning, I’m a free woman with a clean record! I’ve a feeling that my shrink may have had a hand in this even though he vehemently denied it. I know better.

This will be my last entry for the journaling assignment—the psych sessions are ending. As I read through the earlier entries, I hadn’t realized just how full of anger I was, and rightfully so, but I’ve learned that I no longer need to be. There is so much more to life than holding on to the feeling of anger because people refused to accept me as I am. No more. I want to live my own life the way I feel is best for me. I no longer need to rely on others to help me feel worthy. I can do that for myself. Writing poems and journaling have shown me that. They became the keys to unlocking my true soul.

*First published with GFT Press March 2016

Writing: 3 Reasons Why I’m in Camp For April

 

April is generally a busy month for writers with NaJoWriMo, NaPoWriMo and CampNaNoWriMo.  In the past, I participated mainly in NaPoWriMo; but this year I decided to do CampNaNoWriMo.

Why?

I have mainly three reasons:

  1.  Being a stay-at-home Mom, I have lots of difficulty with set writing schedules; however,   I found that setting an overall monthly goal works better for me, and CampNaNoWriMo fits that agenda perfectly.
  2.  I discovered writing serial fiction was much more enjoyable than writing novels (I can explain my reasons in another post if you’re interested-just let me know! 🙂 ).  A current serial I began back in December stalled due to busyness that goes with family-life.  I’m looking to Camp to help jump-start it.  I’ve set a word-count goal for the month at 10,000 which should give me the spark I need.
  3.  Community.  I crave connection with other writers, and Camp gives it to me.  Each participant is assigned to a cabin with other fellow Campers where we announce our goals; from there, our cabin mates encourage and support one another as we each  try to achieve those goals.

What about you?  Are you participating in any of these mentioned above?

My Own Battle With Mental Illness

Doll Hospital is an art and literature print journal on mental health

Just a little blurb this week about an essay I have published with the current issue of Doll Hospital Journal.

In the essay,  In Search of Hope, I recount my struggles through various losses and disabilities that brought me close to suicide as well as my battle with anxiety and depression.   Mental illness also runs in my family.

What helped me through all these?

Writing, and the love for my family.

For those of you struggling with mental illness, just know that you’re not alone, and to never give up!

*To read this digital issue, click on the Doll Hospital’s image on top and this will take you to the site to download the item.  It will ask for $5.00 but this is only a suggested donation amount. 

Creativity and Mental Illness

I read an article recently that got me thinking about creativity and its role in mental illness (or vice versa): Creativity and mental illness share genetic markers on Genetic Literacy Project.

“Scientists in Iceland report that genetic factors that raise the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are found more often in people in creative professions.”

Hmm, this statement wasn’t anything I did NOT know; however…

“Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, a genetics company based in Reykjavik, said the findings, described in the journal Nature Neuroscience, point to a common biology for some mental disorders and creativity. ‘To be creative, you have to think differently,’ he told the Guardian. ‘And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.’”

Wait, there’s more…

“Stefansson believes that scores of genes increase the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These may alter the ways in which many people think, but in most people do nothing very harmful. But for 1% of the population, genetic factors, life experiences and other influences can culminate in problems, and a diagnosis of mental illness.”

Not only do we, as creatives, think differently I believe we also feel differently.  And we just don’t look (or feel) at the surface, we dig deep.

Very deep.

We dare to.

We must.

It’s okay if we’re viewed as being different.

Odd.

We’re used to being alone, standing in a room full of strangers (even family members tend to be viewed as strangers at times).

But do all of these make us mentally ill?

We tend to delve so deeply into our minds that we start to see things (and people) that may or may not be there.

We talk to our characters that no one else can hear.

Our minds…our imagination are our greatest weapons.

And our downfall.

All because “normal” people do not understand us.

But does that make us mentally ill?

Author Interview: Judy Walters

We have a very special guest today!  Please welcome Women’s Fiction author, Judy Walters! 

Tell us what first drew you to writing.

I’ve always written, since I was a little girl. I always knew I wanted to be a writer.  It’s just something I’ve always done, and I don’t know why, but I don’t feel complete without my writing.

What do you write?

 Women’s Fiction, stories about common people struggling with uncommon situations, many of my novels have some kind of medical twist.  

You were an editor in your previous life. How much has the publishing industry changed since you left?

I was an editor a long time ago — I stopped working in publishing about 19 years ago, right before my younger daughter was born. At that time, and people will laugh now, my office was just setting up email and I was afraid I would never learn how to use it!  

What seems to be the recurring theme(s) in your stories?

I like to write about families struggling with unusual but not unheard of problems. In A Million Ordinary Days, a woman is struggling with Multiple Sclerosis, and that struggle extends to her family. Other books I’ve written focus on families struggling with Autism, adoption, and infertility.

You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

My latest book is called A Million Ordinary Days, and it’s due out March 14. It’s the story of one woman’s fight against Multiple Sclerosis to try to live a normal life both with her career — working with pregnant teenagers — and raising her teenage daughter.

Which do you prefer: traditional, self publishing, or both?

I’m not one of those people who strongly prefers one way or another. Both are valid ways to publish. All of my books have been self published so far, but if I ever had the chance to have the traditional publishing experience, I think that would be great, too.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?

One of the biggest obstacles is the ability to get published. People with wonderful novels can’t find publishers and feel uncomfortable or unsure of self publishing.  People who had great publishers lose their contracts for a variety of reasons and then don’t know how to publish their next books.

Allison Wheeler is fighting a war inside her body, a war with Multiple Sclerosis that she doesn’t want to acknowledge and certainly doesn’t want other people to see.

As Allison’s health deteriorates, she tries desperately to hold on to all that is important to her – her family, her career as a social worker for pregnant teens, and most of all, her independence. As her ex-husband and two daughters rally around her, they’re fighting their own demons – Glenn, in a new relationship, is afraid of shifting the comfortable companionship that he and Allison have built since their divorce fifteen years back. Melanie, whose sad past haunts her, is an adult realizing that adult life is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Hailey, a junior in high school, is debating how she can go off  to college knowing that even though she desperately wants to spread her wings and fly, her mother may be too ill for her to go. Just when they all think they’ve made peace with their lives, they must readjust to a “new” normal – or risk losing everything they’ve struggled to hold onto.

Release Date: March 14th, 2017

Want more info on this book?  Go to Judy’s website

Story Saturday: Jewel

black hooded figure

 

She hurt all over. Inside and out.

She wore no shoes against the jagged rocks on the trail, and no jacket against the skin-biting cold of the late autumn air. She had run away so quickly there was no time to grab anything.

The pain in her chest throbbed as she tried to ignore it. She hated feeling this way. It was a nagging reminder of all she had lost.

She stumbled on as she kept her back to the destruction that lay behind. Black smokes rose to the sky as the putrid smell of burnt flesh permeated her nostrils. Bile burned in her stomach as she covered her cracked lips with a dirt-streaked hand.

Images and thoughts tried to force themselves into her mind, but she shook them away. No, she couldn’t face them now. They would break her into a million of pieces, pieces that she could never put back together.

A snarled tree root suddenly snagged a foot as she tripped and fell to her knees with a whimper. The impacted skin burned, and something warm trickled down that foot.

She brushed the once golden-brown-now-mud-caked hair away from her pale face, and stared down at herself. The left pant-leg now torn which exposed her ankle completely. There was a gash on the top of her foot where blood oozed from. As she sat on the icy, hard ground, she debated with herself on whether she should bother to continue. With an injured foot, she’d either be an easy prey, or die from an infection.

Stifling back the urge to scream, she pounded the earth with both fists. Hot tears blinded her as her teeth ground together.

Life was so unfair! What had she done to deserve such a cruel fate? What?!

The snapping of nearby branches startled her as she sat up and peered ahead. All she saw was a thick canopy of dark hardwood trees. A moment later though there were several shadows moving within them.

The predators have found their prey.

“N-no!” She rolled over on her knees and stood up. She then scanned around but realized that it was too late to run. She reached down and grabbed a sharp-edged rock.

And waited.

Ignoring the burning pain, she faced the wavering shadows as they neared. Her nails dug into the rock as she fought to steady her panting.

Would death come quickly for her? Or would they take their time as they tortured her?

She tried to swallow but discovered that her mouth had become parched as she licked her chapped lips, and tasted blood.

The awning of the trees closed in as roaring filled her head. With her other hand, she pressed against her temple.

She couldn’t pass out now!

The sound of a horse’s neigh roused her back to full consciousness as she turned towards the source, and sucked in her breath.

The high stature of the animal clopped towards her. Its brown coat shiny with sweat and rain water. A figure sat on it, draped in a long, black coat. Her eyes moved up the muddied black boots, black pants, and finally to the face which stayed hidden behind the hood.

“State your name.” A deep male voice spoke.

Her body began to tremble, but she forced herself to stand tall and steady. “I’m called Traviata.” Her words barely came out in a hoarse whisper. Her hand gripped the rock tighter.

The hooded figure turned its head towards the smoke-laden sky above her. “State your crime.”

“Crime?” Vivid memories of her past life filled her mind. “The only crime I’ve committed is by being born!” She couldn’t hold the pain and rage back any longer as she threw the rock, and it smashed against the back of the black figure. The explosive movement caused her to fall forward as she landed hard on her knees and hands. There she stayed as she allowed the tears to flow freely down her face.

Unmoved, the low voice asked again, “Your crime?”

Without raising her head, Traviata answered, “For being me. That’s my crime.”

“You were forced out of your home?”

“Yes, by my own family!” Her chest heaved. “A-abandoned. They burned the house and my cats!” She needed to get it all out. “Why? For what? For not being like them, normal? For choosing my own path and not theirs?” She shook her head. “Why? I don’t know why — they couldn’t accept me as me. And somehow that became my crime.”

Several moments of silence passed as she continued to stare down at the gray earth. She expected pain to come at any time. She prayed that the end would be swift.

The leather from the saddle creaked, and then a loud thud sounded when a pair of boots hit the hard ground.

“Traviata.” The tone now soft, kinder.

She hesitated before glancing up. The figure now stood before her, exposed. The golden-brown eyes that adorned a youthful face squinted as a smile spread across his lips. He held out a hand to her. “Stand, please.”

Traviata exhaled and then reached for the hand. The man pulled her gently up.

“You are a jewel. Rare and precious.” His face radiated benevolence behind the smile as he continued to hold her hand. “Come with me and leave your old life behind.”

She blinked at him, and then smiled back.

(first published with Piker Press December 15th, 2014)

The Magic of Christmas

magical-cmas

 

On many level, Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year.

  1. It’s magical.   The Christmas holiday always has that “magical” feel to it whether you’re a kid waiting to see what Santa will bring; or an adult who enjoys watching kids open their presents on Christmas morning.
  2. It’s inspirational.  Creativity seems to soar around this time of the year; and of course, I’m usually too busy to do anything about them right away so it’s nice to keep a notebook handy to jot ideas down.
  3. It’s a time for remembering.  The holidays, especially this year, have special connotations for me as they remind me of my Daddy.  I have so many memories of him around Christmas.  You never could tell who was the biggest kid: him, or me and my siblings.  🙂  He’s been gone for over two years now, and it still hurts to not have him here to spend it with us.

What about you?  What makes this time of the year special for you?

Gratitude (Happy Thanksgiving!)

thanksgivingsubwayart8

 

Gratitude: “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.”

A step further…grateful is being “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received.”

So…

i-am-grateful-for

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Family (and sharing the memories of those who have passed on)
  2. Home (it’s been a challenging year with our farmstead sustaining nearly $30,000 in damages from the summer storms, but we still have a roof over our heads, and all of our animals)
  3. Friends (including all of you!)
  4. Writing (can’t imagine life without my characters filling my mind with images and stories)

 

What about you?  What are you grateful for?

Getting Out of My Own Way: Building a Writing Life By Samantha Bryant (Guest Blogger)

samantha-bryant-pic

 

 

I’ve had it pretty easy in my writing life. Grammar and syntax come naturally to me. I had great English teachers who praised my creativity and encouraged me. My mother was a reader who indoctrinated me early in the joys of fiction, with the help of a great library. No one suggested that writing wasn’t a good career choice, or that I needed to be more practical. I’ve had support out the wazoo.

So far as a crucible to forge a writer in, my childhood was a good one.

Many writers have had more to overcome—unsupportive or outright abusive families, second languages, mental health issues, political persecution. All that is to say that I know I have very #firstworldproblems when it comes to my writing life.

See, I was always going to be a writer. Ask people who knew me in first grade. It’s always been on my agenda. An assumption, like being a mom and a teacher. A given.

As I grew up, I used to talk about writing a lot. I’d get all dreamy and imagine my future career as a world-famous novelist. But it was always a hazy dream, filmed through Vaseline so you couldn’t see the harder realities of it: the actual work. It was “someday.”

But I wasn’t doing anything to make it happen.

Sure, I wrote. Once in a while. When I felt inspired. When I was in the mood, or when one of my ideas was just so tenacious there was no escaping it. But I didn’t take myself seriously as a writer, and neither did anyone else. Why would they? It was like I thought some big publisher was going to somehow just find me and pay me to write without my ever having proven I could even do it. A fantasy discovery scenario. Not a career plan.

Then, I was turning 42, which Douglas Adams taught us is the answer to life, the universe and everything. It was my crisis moment. I told myself it was time to give writing a serious attempt. There was a lot less “someday” left than there once was.

The obstacles in my writing life were all internal. Setting priorities, finding focus, making time. I was my own worst enemy, putting my own dream last on the list of things I would spend my days and hours and years on.

That’s when I committed to a daily writing habit. It was a game-changer for me.

It was harder than that might seem. At age 42, I was in the middle of a teaching career and a marriage. I was parenting two daughters and a dog, maintaining a house and household, fighting the battle of the bulge, and trying to have some kind of social life. There were a lot of pulls on my time. And I’d made a habit of many years of giving my time away.

But, I started to insist on writing time. Slowly, over the course of a few months, I renegotiated my contract with life, and made sure there was room in it for writing. I gave up things that I could: television, social opportunities that I didn’t want badly. My initial goal was 250 words per day. Just one page. And I struggled to put down that many words. It took me two or three hours some nights. It was hard and frustrating.

But I am stubborn. And it got easier. Soon, I could write 250 words in half an hour. I learned that the words didn’t have to all be keepers. That sometimes, I had to write garbage to get it out and get to the good stuff underneath. I learned that if I could just get something on the page, I’d be able to make it better in the next pass, but that I had to give myself something to work with.

Now, I can’t imagine a day without writing. I write somewhere between 800 and 4,000 words a day, depending on other life demands. A day when I only write 250 words is a day that was full of lots of other life—parties, sickness, travel, or something—and a decision I made about my use of time.

My family notices when I haven’t written. They see me getting grumpy and say, “Hey Mom, did you write yet today?” the way other families might suggest you get a sandwich, take a nap, or take your meds. It’s that important to my equilibrium.

And because I’m writing every day, I’m getting better at it. I have flow. I’m finishing things, revising and polishing and publishing things. People are reading them. Some people even like them. This summer, I sent my third novel off to my publisher. I get to say things like “my publisher.”

So all this is to say, if you want to be a writer, you’ll have to write. Look at your life. Figure out what’s in your way (even if it’s only you that’s in your own way). And find your way around those obstacles. You can’t ever get there if you don’t start the journey. And it’s quite a trip!

 

 

 

s-bryant-books

Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. You can find her Menopausal Superhero series from Curiosity Quills on Amazon, or request it at your favorite independent (or big box) bookstore. You can find her online on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+, and now on Tumblr.

Interview: D. Denise Dianaty

*Today we have a special guest with us- D. Denise Dianaty! 

denise-dianaty

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you write.

Well, when I think of ME, I think, “I am an artist.”  It isn’t just something I do… it’s who I am, bone deep.  I’ve always enjoyed singing. I have a nice little church voice. My mother thought it was more and saw in me a chance to realize her dream of a Country Gospel star. So, I began college at a Christian college studying music, specializing in Voice.  I was miserable. The only class I passed was Drawing and Painting.

The elective… LOL

As a visual artist, writing always seemed sort of second nature to me.  It was a kind of companion to my art.  Many of my drawings and paintings inspired or were inspired by poetry. I’d sit down, for example, writing out notes about a painting I was planning, and poetry would be result.

 

How long have you been writing?

Once upon a time, I kept scads of journals and sketch diaries under my mattress. When we moved, my mother found them and was deeply offended by them.  She destroyed them with fire in the BBQ grill.  I didn’t share my writing for over thirty years. I convinced myself it was all just very bad, rather pathetic poetry.  As my mother called, “wallowing in self-pitying drama.”  But, I didn’t stop writing. I just hid that part of me away for a very long time.  I didn’t share my art much either. It did see more light of day than my poetry. Art classes in school kept that part of my creative expression alive.

 

Why do you prefer to write short stories/plays/scripts over other forms?  What are you currently working on?

Every year in junior and senior high school (middle school and high school for you millennial readers), it was an agreement, I’d take chorus or voice for mother, and she’d let me take Art for my second elective.  Oooo! TWO electives in school? Generous, eh? I had drama club in high school too! And Home Ec as well as Vocational Office Education. School used to actually teach you stuff to get a job with and included entire classes of art and music. WOW! Radical thinking, right? LOL  Anyway, a couple of years ago, a writer friend of mine who’d occasionally tried to convince me that I was a poet, introduced me to the idea of writers’ forums to test the waters to see if there was anything to the idea.

I went to look for them online and found http://WritersCafe.org .

After around a year there, I’d gained enough confidence to start composing a partly autobiographical book of my poetry to self-publish.  I also tested my mettle writing fiction. I published the book of poetry on Amazon. Then, the first short novella I wrote was very well received on the Cafe. It seemed everyone who read it was telling me I should publish it. So, I did.

Sigh.

I’m glad I published both books. And, even though I’ve had little sales, I’m working on a couple more.

It’s like…it’s like I had been gagged for nearly forty years. When the gag was finally ripped off…well, it’s like that verse in “Fight Song”:

And all those things I didn’t say

Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time!

No one is ever going to silence me again while I breathe.

 

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published for the first time? 

My best advice for writers is to remember that “Writers write always. Great writers read… then write.”  And don’t ever let anyone silence your voice.

 

Who is your favorite author?  Why?

My favorite writer is and always will be my brilliant friend who helped me take back my voice. She is the sister of my heart.  I do have other favorites, primarily Georgette Heyer, Lois MacMaster-Bujold, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Emily Brontë, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, Charlotte Browning, Omar Khayyam, Arthur Guiterman, and more.

 

You moderate/run various groups like We PAW Bloggers and Pandora’s Box of Horrors; what inspired you to start them?

WE PAW Bloggers was begun by Pryde Foltz. She made me admin and turned her primary focus to WE PAW on YouTube. WE PAW Bloggers is a group focused on driving readers to our larger bodies of work. That, and the protections of date stamping and/or copyrighting that are automatic parts of blog sites and writers’ forum sites, is the reason the group requires sharing external links our writers’ accounts.

Pandora’s Box of Horrors began on the Women Writers, Women Bloggers (WWWB) group. There was this post, around Halloween. Someone started a list of horror words. I think it was me who had the idea to turn those horror words into the basis of a horror short story contest. I created the Pandora community page for that contest. This year, I ran the Challenge 2016 and found that a community page wasn’t meeting the group need for a place to interact as I’d hoped. So I created the Pandora’s Box of Horrors group page. After this year’s challenge is wrapped up, I’m going to shut down the community page run with the group page.

 

You’re also passionate about various issues. Tell us about them.

Most of the issues I’m most passionate about are social issues and this current election cycle.  I got started engaging on social media after reading an article about self-promotion as an author.  See, I have a problem with naked self-promotion. I just can’t get past feeling like a braggart.

The article – I can’t recall the name or source now – suggested authors “create a relevant presence” by engaging intelligently in social media. “Activism in writing” was advised in another, very similar article – again, I can’t recall the source now.

Most of my blogging lately has been issue related, rather than pure writing for the sake of the creative art of writing.

 

 

*Want more?  Here are her various sites:

Twitter

Amazon

Blog