Flash Fiction Addiction

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m addicted to Janet Reid’s flash fiction contests.  They’re fun.  They’re great practice for learning how to use words sparingly while building a story, which must include a beginning, middle, end.  They give you a sense of accomplishment – yay I finished something! – especially if in the throes of a WIP.

Lucky for us, Ms. JR held a couple contests the weekends of May 30th, and June 6th.  For May 30th’s contest, I think blog comments may have prompted a North Carolina themed contest, and the one on June 6th was a suggestion from Colin Smith a “reg’lar” on her blog.  He reads a lot of books by a client of hers, author Gary Corby, whose latest book, DEATH EX MACHINA was released.

Of course I entered both.  As usual, she gave five prompt words, and then we have to write a story in 100 words or less.

Here is my entry for May 30th, where I placed as a FINALIST (whoop!) out of about 75 entries. Prompt words:  balloon, heart, wife, dare, plott (yes, with two t’s)

I watch the sun rise, a red balloon in the eastern sky. Haint stands at the river’s edge while Banner runs nearby sniffing traces of yesterday.

Never had much heart for anything other than these old Plott hounds, God love’em. Last year when that water moccasin bit Lloyd, then Haint, it tested that very fact.

Lloyd had hollered, “Wife! Move your ass, I’m bit!”

Forty years. Never once called me by my name.

I daresay my decision came then.

Is puttin’ a dog ahead of a human a sin?  


I wipe spittle off Lloyd’s chin and watch the dogs.


For June 6th contest which I WON (!)  Double WHOOP!  Prompt words were:  chorus, ghost, actor, crane, stage

Back when I won’t more’n a speck, I heard what sounded like a chorus of voices under my bed mumblin’ some word.

I couldn’t rightly make it out at first, so’s I kept on listening, night after night.

Finally, I got it.


I reckon they was ghosts.

That actor what shot Lincoln? Useless was last word he said afore he died, no foolin’.

Troublin’ what I see when I crane my neck like so. They been hammering since yesterday.

Come dawn, reckon I’ll be center stage.

It’s alright. I ain’t ever amounted to nothin’.


Useless comes to mind.

These are The Shark’s words verbatim, below my entry in the finalist area, “This is a stunning demonstration of how to show rather than tell, and establishing character through diction.”

Reading that was SUBLIME, and then she added this with her determination of how she chose this piece as the winner, “It was very hard to pick a winner this week because all of these stories had things I loved.  In the end though it had to be Donnaeve for a compelling demonstration of craft and story.


Then, I got up and did this:

Happy Dance

courtesy LOL.ROFL


Updates…, and On Writing With Sentimentality

In the last post “What If,” I described a crazy scam perpetrated by someone who sounded as if he’d previously worked in law enforcement.  I’m happy to say that, although he hasn’t been caught, the local sheriff’s department has made headway.  I’ve been given a weekly update and told it will be a lengthy investigation and that they’ve involved another agency.  Harnett County Sheriff’s office doesn’t take lightly the impersonation of law enforcement officers, much less using a judge’s name (there is a Judge Faircloth in Harnett County).  This crazy operation – which still makes no sense to anyone – will hopefully end up with an arrest.

In addition, and unbelievably, we’ve had a visitor here by the name of Type B influenza, which decided my husband looked like a good candidate for a nice long stay.  I thought flu season was over.  Evidently not.  On May 4th, what was a strange pesky cough quickly disintegrated overnight into a high fever, and it all went downhill from there.  At this point, he’s sick of being sick.

He’s on the mend, but he’s still not “right.”

Then there’s the whole thing about flu shots.  I’ve been told if you get the shot, and end up with the flu, it won’t be as severe.  Someone told me they got one, and they were laid up just as long as my husband.  I was told the serum for this year’s batch was only 2% effective against the strains out there.  I had Guillain-Barré syndrome back in 1993.  I’m not supposed to get them, although as one gets older I think you have to sort of mitigate one risk against the other.  Since GBS is triggered by a virus, it’s “advised” not to get flu shots, yet I’ve read arguments on both sides, and still I’m not sure what’s the answer.


I subscribe to two writing magazines, Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers.  Interestingly, in an old issue of P&W, (old because I’m a year behind in reading these magazines) I ran across an article that was called “The Sentimentalist,” by Nate Pritts.  He writes that lately he’s seen an increasing number of instances in the literary community regarding the issue of sentimentality in creative work.  He questions this latest critiquing expression and wonders if it’s being used to, “excoriate a person or creative work,” and if so, how does one respond to it, if used against their own work?

The article moves on to explore how this view of being “sentimental,” came about.  How was it decided at some juncture this work or that work is sentimental, and therefore not worthy of publication?  A group of essays by Joy Katz, called “A Symposium on Sentiment” was presented in 2010 in a panel discussion at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs where she offered this explanation.  “Modernism…cooled the heart of poetry, confessionalism warmed it up; and poststructuralism threw a bucket of ice water on it.”

Pritts went on to say that sentimentality is seen as a weakness.  “A tired Oscar Wilde quote which calls the sentimentalist, ‘one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion, without having payed for it.’  Or Chekhov’s dictum, ‘If you wish to move your reader, write more coldly.’

Pritts continues on to say there is an underground movement however, in which poets and writers are resisting, or maybe the better word is insisting, that writing with sentimentality isn’t such a bad thing.  What’s wrong with being tagged as a writer “excessively prone to feeling,” as Webster’s defines the word?

More exploration by Pritts reveals a dissection of the differences between sentiment and sentimental.  Sentiment is based on experiences by individuals, those life events which create the feelings, as in nostalgia.  He explains critics use sentimentality to charge certain writing with “unwarranted sentiment, passages of unmoored or unjustified feeling.”

The article has so many interesting facets about the topic and about the fundamental job of a writer to not write as if overcome by emotion, “literally undone by feelings that seem baseless or without any clear origin that readers can trace and feel likewise moved by.”

From my own view, I don’t think a writer has done their work if a character falls apart without first showing that character for who they are, why they are the way they are, i.e., seeing their world through their eyes.  Otherwise, it’s like attending a funeral of someone you don’t know, or like the old movies where melodrama was usually on full display.

Damsel In Distress, courtesy Wingeye.

Damsel In Distress, courtesy Wingeye

How can you tell if you’ve fallen into the “sentimentality” trap?  I think one particular sentence Pritts wrote nailed it perfectly.

He said, “No matter how close we are to something, how invested we are in the subject matter, we have to find some way to retain distance.  The challenge we face as writers is to say something more like ‘Look at this thing that happened; let me show you why it’s terrible.  Or beautiful.  Or disappointing.  Or transcendent.'”

It seems to be back to that old adage, show, not tell, doesn’t it?

A Little Trick

Every now and then I will come up on a writing article which shares a tidbit so simple, yet so juicy, it’s like the salivary glands of my brain kick in and I think WOW, so that’s the trick to it!

Don’t get too excited.  This will not be the Holy Grail of discovery for many writers here.  You might actually feel cheated when I tell you what it is, and you may say to yourself, “Oh.  I already knew that.”  On the other hand, if you didn’t know, then you may feel a bit like this:


….if you’ve finished a project (like me) and now wish you’d had this little juicy tidbit beforehand.  Well.  Nothing can be done about it now, however, for future projects, yes!

So, my last project was categorized as “hard crime.”  I recollect all too well (hey, just look at that pic) there were moments of hair pulling, frustration and downright anxiety where I felt like keeping a somewhat suspenseful or tension filled story going was almost impossible.  I kept wondering, how do they do it, how do mystery writers (even though I wasn’t writing a mystery) suspense writers, or thriller writers DO IT?  What’s their trick?  Maybe their brains just work different than mine.  Maybe I’m not cut out to write this sort of story.

And then?  Months later, well past me typing THE END, this article comes along and explains a tool often used.  It’s making your readers think one way when it’s really not that way at all.  It is so simple, yet for some reason, it never occurred to me this was what I needed to do – don’t ask me why.  Maybe I was stuck on the idea of not tricking readers. You aren’t if you do this, not really.  You’ve simply got them thinking one way, and it’s…, well.  It’s not that way at all.  It’s setting your story up so events appear to be headed in a certain direction.

I like to call this THE GONE GIRL METHOD.  It is, as this article states, using a “fallacy.”

For example, let’s say you have a story where a woman is on the run from her husband.  She’s trying to get away from him because she believes, and you, as the reader believe, he’s going to kill her because the author has planted this idea in your head earlier in the story.  Maybe in an earlier scene the woman says, “I know what you did to your first wife, and you got away with it.”  Maybe the husband is approaching her slowly, with caution, and the story is from her perspective and you see the crazy in his eyes like she does.  You’re like RUN! Run, you DING DONG!  Of course he’s denying it and maybe the author sets up other clues that point to him.  You, as the reader don’t know what’s the truth any more than his wife.

Except.  He actually didn’t kill his first wife and he’s not out to kill his second wife.  That bit, the truth, whatever it is, is what is held back until it’s absolutely necessary to share with readers.

Here’s the article that does a much better job than me at giving you the nuts and bolts of this method.  It delves into some real examples, but for me, as you could tell from above, the very first one I thought of was GONE GIRL.  There were more “I didn’t see that coming!” comments about this book than any other I’ve ever read about.  Your hidden agenda has to be believable, of course, and yet something so well camouflaged, or embedded in your story, when the reveal happens, readers are left dumbstruck by how “they didn’t see that coming!”

What’s the simplest, yet best writing tool you’ve ever stumbled on?

Yellow Dust

Here in North Carolina, spring is busting out all over and it looks like every kind of grass, flower, and weed shot up almost overnight.  The trees are budding out and dropping a variety of “tags” and other debris in competition with the flowers and bushes.  An explosion of pollen, like a giant talcum powder dust storm has settled over every single inch of the outdoors.  My porches, patio furniture and the grill, not to mention the vehicles, are covered in a thick yellow dust.

I went on a run Wednesday morning, when the air was still damp, fresh and clean.  It had rained the night before and water puddled in the curb, street and yards.   As I ran along the road, I saw the run off where it had gathered, a mixture of water and yellow spores so thick it almost looked like pale lemon pudding.  Pretty, but sort of gross too.

Years ago when I did some traveling for work, I recollect flying into Raleigh Durham Airport (I think it was a Regional Airport, not yet International), and it was spring then too.  There were more trees back then because we hadn’t seen the explosion of growth in the area yet.  I won’t ever forget seeing a yellow dust devil twisting and twirling it’s way along the run way because the lack of rain had elevated our usual right of spring passage to new proportions of invasion.


Weeping Cherry tree in my yard.

If you’ve lived here all your life like I have, I guess there is some sort of immunity from the year over year of exposure to pollen, sort of like having a natural vaccine against runny noses and eyes.  For me, all it means is it’s a sign of warm weather, with no more icy cold days standing outside waiting for Little Dog to do his business.

The only thing that bothers me is this stuff makes a mess, and I mean A MESS.  You simply can’t walk outside and then back inside without tracking it in.  You can’t open up doors or windows on a nice day unless you want to spend the next several dusting, vacuuming and mopping.  It’s actually getting inside even though I’m keeping everything closed up as tight as if it were only thirty degrees.

All said and done, this part of the season only lasts about six to eight weeks.  By the end of May, the pecan tree across the alley will be the last of the last to relinquish tags and one final rain or breeze will blow off the last puff of pollen.  I’ll be able to open up doors and windows, and enjoy sitting outside while working on my project.  I won’t look like “Pig Pen” when I walk , with little puffs of dust coming off me as I move.

Spring is here.  Finally.  Yellow dust and all.


Self-Imposed Writing Challenge

Just for the fun of it, I recently took an online typing test to see just how fast I could get my fingers to work.  I’ve never done this before and I’ve never cared about the “official” number because it doesn’t really matter to anyone.  And by that I mean, the only typing I’m doing is on my latest project and no one’s screaming for it.

I found out I type about 65 words per minute and removing errors, that might be adjusted to 60 or 61.  I believe I can go faster – as if that matters – but, at the moment I’m using a rather old laptop with a space key that notoriously sticks.  I’d say in fairness to my brain and fingers, that’s what’s called a handicap like they might give out in bowling or golf.  Anyway, my curiosity regarding this was triggered by a blog I follow called Writers In The Storm.  They have a group of writers who regularly contribute, as well as guest bloggers.  A guest blogger recently put out a post about how to take advantage of writing fast and even came up with a formula for how many words one could do in an hour if you knew your wpm.

Huh.  Okay, so, if I settled for 60 wpm x 60 that would be 3,600 words in an HOUR.  Are they insane???  That’s WAY higher than my usual goal of 1,000 words per DAY.  That sounded completely unreasonable until she went on to say you could work in fifteen minute increments.  Oh.  Okay, maybe I can see doing it that way.  Hey, I’m all for trying something new for motivation.  And if I only stuck with it for fifteen minutes, that’s 900 words – better than what I’ve done most days lately.  She pointed out it’s also helpful to have notes and an understanding of what’s going to happen in the story before you begin.

In reality, this isn’t any different than NANOWRIMO which some of you might still be recovering from.  There are a couple of differences.  1) You are accountable to no one but yourself, and 2) the goal of NANOWRIMO is 55,000 by the end of the month.  Like I’ve said before, I’ve never participated in it, but that’s about 1800 words per day.  Not within a half hour.  I find this concept of fast writing intriguing because I know if I get into my story, sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my brain.

Plus, I’ve experienced a positive result once before by doing something similar.  This was back in 2012 when my first book was on submission, and I needed a distraction.  We always hear about beginning new projects to take our mind off of worry, and the submission process was all so new to me then, I was trying not to act like a psycho every time the phone rang, or an email dinged into my inbox.  For my own sake, I needed to write another book, partly to subdue crazy me, and partly to validate I could actually do it again.

I remember beginning in early April.  By August, I was done.  A completed story around 86,000 words in hand.  This included editing.  By my math, that’s not very fast – no where near this level of “fast writing,” in the WITS post, and not even close to NANOWRIMO, but in my mind, it was still a blistering pace because it took me 18 months to finish the last project.

My main point is, I wrote it  “fast,” i.e., a consistent 1,000 wpd, with more some days, and less on others, but some number of words on page – EVERY DAY.  Was it any good, you ask?  Well, I sent it off to Caroline Upcher, the editor I used at the time, and two weeks later I got an email back.  I opened the review letter enclosed and my eyes immediately caught the word “wonderful.”  And, it got even better.  (some of you have who’ve been reading my blog for a while have heard this story before)  Turns out she was reconnecting with contacts in the publishing world in the U.K., and sent the ms to an agency there to read with the hope of maybe working out a translatlantic sale if a U.S. publisher picked it up.  The agent, Amanda Preston, of LBA, read it, and contacted her and said, ” I absolutely love it.”

That sounds pretty exciting, right?  And it was – at the time.  Very.  However.  I decided not to go on submission for a variety of reasons that are really neither here nor there in this moment, although I do dwell on what might have happened if I’d done that.  What this post is about is I do love setting goals.  Yapping away about it here means I’m about to buckle down and get serious.  Back in 2004 and again in 2006 I ran a marathon.  One of the first things I did when I made up my mind to run in them was to state it as a fact, “I’m going to run a marathon this year.”   Stating goals for all to hear is more likely to make it happen than keeping it to yourself.

And your eyes reading this is stating my goal.  I will plant butt in chair and achieve 1,000 wpd for the next ninety days. 

One way or the other.

*cracks knuckles, glares at keyboard.*

Have you set a self-imposed writing challenge lately?

Practice Makes Perfect?

How many times have you heard, “practice makes perfect?”

Recently an article written by a teacher who taught an MFA creative writing program caused a lot of backlash.  Chuck Wendig’s blog post alerted me to the uproar otherwise I would have never heard of the controversy.  If you haven’t read Chuck’s post or the teacher’s, both are worth the few minutes of time.  The teacher’s opinion is just his opinion, of course.  I’m not planning to drag us all into the weeds all over again about it, at least I hope I don’t.  Chuck did a great job (when does he not?) at articulating his views, and as usual I found myself nodding many times while reading his thoughts.

The debate about inherent talent versus anyone can do it if they work hard enough, is interesting, another hot button topic if I ever saw one.  For the most part, I think some people do have an extra advantage.  Call it talent, or “natural aptitude,” as one commenter on Chuck’s blog pointed out.  If not for that, wouldn’t we live in a world where all of us would be able to do just about anything, become pro football players, elite runners, play any instrument, become physicists, write Pulitzer Prize winning books, etc., if we set our minds to it and practiced or studied like hell?  Personally, I don’t think so.

Our bodies, our brains are not all equally alike.  When I was reading about gene/DNA coding, a fact sheet states “There are small variations between every individual in their genetic information that makes each of us unique.

I think all of us are aware of that, and it’s not really the main point.  Writing, painting, sculpturing or whatever art form chosen, the trite saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true.  And what about “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  The argument was about who decides who is talented.  It’s simply that whole subjective thing – all over again.

After I read Chuck’s blog, and then read the teacher’s article too, I sort of shrugged and thought, “well, I just don’t know what to think about that, and I’m not sure I care.”  Maybe I should care.  It’s about the writing community, after all.  It’s about all of us hopefuls out here, MFA’s or not, who work so damn hard to finagle and wrangle and wring words into stunning, captivating, sentences that might thrill, excite, and grab someone, anyone’s attention and make them turn pages, again and again.

Think about Betsy Lerner’s book, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, where she breaks down into six specific writer personalities or identities. (I think it’s six but, I’m too lazy to walk upstairs and verify, so oops if it’s seven.  Or eight)  And what’s one of them called?  “The Natural.”  When I first read her book years ago, that’s the one I wanted to be.  The one who bubbled to the top of the pile with a natural born, uncanny talent for prose, the one who’d taken years for editors to find, the one they would whisper about around the water coolers (do they still even have those?)  “did you read her…,?  did you hear about…,?  Her name is…”

Huh.  Yeah.  Well.  Rrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeep! That there’s the sound of a needle dragging across vinyl.  If you’re too young to get it, oh well.  Let’s say I’m still “practicing,” shall we?

It’s obvious though, Betsy believes some out there have that awesome, wonderful, “natural ability.”

And then, about three weeks ago I watched the movie WHIPLASH.  Have you seen it?  Watch it because let me tell you what, my heart rate stayed elevated the entire movie.  Talk about perseverance.  Talk about not quitting.  Talk about PRACTICE MAKING PERFECT.  That movie holds all the lessons we receive from the writing communities we dwell in about “never give up, never stop believing it won’t happen, never stop writing, you can’t win if you don’t play,” and on and on.  But, it still brought me full circle back to the question; was the MC as good a drummer as he was because of talent or was it because of all the practice?  I think it was both.

That made me start thinking about the article that fired everyone up, and what if the MFA teacher had a point?  Maybe he was sort of like the jerk of a teacher in this film, who recognized talent, and was simply on the lookout for it.  Maybe he was just calling it how he saw it, but back to the rub, who was he to dictate a writer as talented or not?  Subjective, subjective, subjective.  And around and around we go.

What if I don’t have talent, or natural aptitude for writing?  Is it going to do any good to keep at it?  Is it possible to raise myself above mediocrity, and who will decide when I have?  Will I actually get better and better or will I eventually come to a point where no matter what, this is as good as it gets?

What if we’re really being lied to when told, “practice makes perfect?”


Courtesy Inside The Writer


A Story Worth Telling

Blank.  Vacant.  Meaningless.

Those three words describe the current situation with my latest WIP.  This will be the fourth book I’ve written – if I ever get it done.  I felt like this with the last one too, and I did finish it, so yay, consolation there, right?  Meh, sort of.

What’s different is, I’ve run up against a new problem I’ve not encountered before; what is the story?  What am I writing about? I haven’t the faintest idea.  I still love the setting.  I still love the working title.  I just can’t seem to get my act together, and it’s starting to get a little worrisome.

Here’s what I want.  I want to be buried so deep I can’t see anything else but where the storyline is going next.  I want to drift around the house with that perpetual little wrinkle between my eyebrows, as I worry over a particular plot point.  I want my fingers to strike the keyboard fast as they can and still not be able to keep up.  I want to STOP pecking out a few words only to delete them.  I want to stop feeling like the ideas are all a waste of time.  I want to stop thinking I have nothing left.

I’ve sat on quite a few ideas, for days, weeks even.  I started to write, only to trash all within a day or two – usually as soon as I go back and re-read what I have the next day.  Two months ago, I was ten thousand words in on one lame idea, and it just didn’t feel right.  I think what I mean is, I wasn’t excited.  What actually went through my  head was, “God, this is a stupid story.”  If I’m not excited, how could anyone else feel that way?

Since then, I’ve play around with several other beginnings, only to get about two to three thousand words in, and I’m like, “nah.”  I’ve had so many false starts at this point, my folder for the new project has racked up discarded bits and pieces of this and that, just like the donated clothing bin over on Highway 421 with its overflowing trash bags of shoes, sweaters, pants,and coats.  I think I even saw someone’s red negligee fluttering in the wind.  In typical fashion, I think, ah, there’s a story there.  And the brain cells dry up.

I’ve questioned if I’ve pigeon holed myself by choosing this particular place to write about.  I don’t think so.  It’s a swampy area, and the perfect place for something suspenseful to happen.  But what?

Part of my relentless doubt about my new story’s beginning is because recently, I was blown away by a random encounter with an opening line of a story that grabbed me, and held on.  In my mind, it’s one of the best I’ve ever read.

“The boy was on fire.”

This is how THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY by Shaun Hutchinson begins.  The book is not in a genre I would typically read, (LGBT YA), but I found myself absorbed instantly in the story.  Much like the last post, the writing once again only underscored the point that if the story is good enough, if it pulls a reader in and keeps them intrigued, it’s a story worth writing, a story worth telling.  It has heart.  It has tension filled moments.  It has a MC I want to get to know better.  I want to know how he ended up where he was, and what might happen to him.

If I didn’t know it before, I know it now.  This is why I’m still searching.  It’s why I haven’t yet found what I want to write about because until I’ve got something that snags at my heart strings the way the beginning of this story did, it does no good to start and stop.  If I have any confidence at all, it’s in the fact I recognize this and know it’s all part of the process.

It will happen – eventually.

Bottom line, I really just want a story worth telling, don’t you?

Breaking The Rules

Recently I finished a book by Tim Johnston called DESCENT.  I loved the book, but the reason I wanted to blog about it is related to the way he wrote it versus an actual review of the story.

I’ve heard over and over, from reading articles online, to comments by other writers, and even in a variety of ways spouted by the magnificent Shark herself, if the writing is stellar, you can get away with just about anything.  For instance, recently on her blog we discussed the use of italicized words.  Generally, La Sharque and others felt that keeping italics to a minimum, to emphasize a character’s internal thoughts, or a specific word, was the best use.

So.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered page upon page upon page of italicized words within DESCENT.  And.  And.  Tim Johnston didn’t use it for only one character, or to signal he was dipping into backstory, he used the font “at will,” and by that, I mean when he thought the story needed it.  It is written in third person omniscient, allowing Johnston to reveal the thoughts and feelings of several characters.  Father, mother, son, daughter, sheriff, sheriff’s brother, all get their turns, although a good chunk of it is written from the son’s and father’s view.  The one character you don’t get into the head of, which is probably what amps up the suspense, is the primary antagonist.  The one the daughter refers to as “The Monkey.”

When the italicized chapters pop up (yes, full chapters in italics) you sometimes don’t immediately know from whose perspective you’re getting that part of the story.  There are a couple areas where the italicized chapters are back to back.  You start to think he’s carrying on from the previous character’s perspective, only to find out, it’s now shifted to someone else.  This is resolved fairly quick as you read a sentence or two.

Does this sound like it would have been the wrong thing to do?  I have to wonder and more than that, admire the skill of this decision, because it works.  I’ll admit, I had get used to it, and I definitely had to pay attention as things began to happen, but all in all, because the writing is so good, it didn’t take a thing away, and what I might have thought of as a distraction, wasn’t.  As a matter of fact, I almost got to where I felt a small jump of excitement when I turned a page to find the beginning of an italicized chapter because those parts seemed so significant to the story.  Honestly though, the overall story itself was so well done, I didn’t care what fonts were used.

And that’s really the point of this post.  If you can write a story, and write it in such a way as to grab a reader from the first sentence, they won’t care what you do with fonts or much of anything else.  Hook me, and at that point, I won’t care about anything but the story.

Some writers break the rules, but, who cares, if the story is that good?

How Can I Write?

It’s been a little crazy around here.  I told my daughter at the end of January that I felt book-ended by crises, and once I said that, it only got more crazy.  That’s what I get for opening my big mouth.  I don’t talk much about family.  Matter of fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever written a blog post about anything family related.  Dogs?  Yeah.  The humans.  No.

But.  With all that’s happened and happening, I thought I’d share what’s got me feeling a little wrung out and emotionally drained, and wondering, how can I write?  Let’s start with my daughter.  Her name is Brooke.  Actually, it’s Laura Brooke, Laura being her great grandmother’s name.  She passed away quite some time ago.  My daughter just came through a difficult pregnancy.  She didn’t suffer from anything unusual but she seemed to get “it” ALL.  Like the nausea that makes you lose weight instead of gain.  I said, “it’s a girl.”  (I was right, btw)  Then she had to go through tests for gestational diabetes.  That came back high, so she had to have another, more intense evaluation.  That came back negative, but made her sick for two days.  Then she had to deal with “this,” and was hospitalized.   I won’t torture anyone with details.  She also had this, ptyalism – the entire time.  Oh, why not add in gestational hypertension and then pre-eclampsia to round out the misery?  Sure, that happened too.

By now, any guy reading this has probably said, “Goodbye.”

In addition to all that, my daughter has a heart condition called Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, but, mainly due to the hypertension, they induced her at thirty six weeks, so the baby was unexpectedly here a month early.  She is healthy and mostly just plain adorable.  Her name is Abigail Marie.  (Marie is my mother’s middle name)  She is 18 1/4″, and 5.5 lbs.  Pure “tee” total cuteness.

That’s the good news.

The other crisis is my father, and the opposite end of the spectrum.  A new life has entered my world, a little light shining as bright as a new star, while my father’s own light dims.  A while back he was diagnosed with Stage IV kidney failure.  He refused to do dialysis.  My dad is at odds with doctors.  He loved his chiropractor, and the herbalist woman he went to for years.  Meanwhile, the white coat individuals can take a hike.  “They’re trying to kill me.”

Many, many years ago, before I was even born, and when my mom and he were newly married, he suffered a nervous breakdown, the old fashioned term used to describe “a stressful situation in which someone becomes temporarily unable to function normally in day-to-day life. It’s commonly understood to occur when life’s demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming.” (Wikipedia, 2014)   I wonder about this time in his life.  A time when he should have been happy go lucky, in love, and starting fresh.  Mom said it was the hours he worked.  He traveled.  A lot.  He worked on the large refrigeration units, like this, only older versions, and for this same company.  He’d go somewhere, come home, collapse in bed, and four hours later, off he’d go to another state for days on end.

They gave him electric shock therapy.  After the eleventh “treatment,” my mother said, “no more.”  I think that’s why he’s turned off from most doctors.  That was NOT a good experience to go through.  All my life my dad has been the gentlest of men I’ve ever known.  He’s never cussed.  Not even a “damn.”   He’d say, “That ‘John Brown’ car is giving me a fit,” and that was his way of cussing.  I’ve never heard him raise his voice.  He never spanked me, not once.  He was so quiet, yet always there, the sort of presence where, if I looked back over my shoulder, there he’d be, letting me go my own way, like a shadow, never in the way, simply a part of me.

This past week I went with him and Mom to his nephrologist’s office.   Hospice had been recommended twice a week, and Mom wanted me to verify with the doctor what that meant timewise.  I’d read six months.  She’d talked to her friends at the spa, and they’d said the same.  I know my dad is in denial, doesn’t really understand this isn’t something he will recover from.  His body is toxic, filled with too much acidity, and other waste his kidneys are unable to filter, and this is affecting his mind.  I believe to some degree, my mother too, is in denial.

This coming October they will have been married 59 years.  I’m not sure my dad will see the anniversary because the nephrologist confirmed what we all feared.  His kidney’s are worse, his creatinine level rising.  Ten or above is Stage V, end of life, his is at twelve.  And as I write this post, I’m not sure I’ve been able to get my own head around this fact.  The very idea of his current suffering, and what is yet to come.  I think about “the girls,” their own kidney failure, and how oddly coincidental it will be this same thing that will take my father from me.  And if he makes it six months, the timing will also be in August.

I asked Mom, “what about me giving him a kidney?”

Mom said, “He’d never allow it.”

That’s how he is.  He will just…, go.  He will not want to, but, he won’t fight.  He’ll go quietly.  Without a fuss.  Like the sun slipping behind a cloud so there is no longer a shadow to see.

So, I ask myself, “how can I sit here and write?”  By using the joy, the pain and sorrow, I suppose.  There’s more than enough of it to go around.

So, I am writing.  And strangely, it’s helping.

Have you continued writing during difficult times?


Addict Of The Internet

You’re sitting at your computer, focused, about to open your manuscript.  Your word count goal for the day is planned, and you’re determined to move the story forward.  You’re ready because, as recommended by many other successful writers, you purposefully stopped at a “good” spot in the storyline the day before.  This could be an area in the middle of a chapter where you know what you want to write next, or maybe you left off in the middle of good dialogue.  Now, as you sit there facing your manuscript, all you have to do is take just a second to go out on Google and research something for the next part of your story.  It’s right after this particular scene you’re working on and hey, you don’t want to lose the momentum once you start writing.

You click on your search engine, and take a moment to hop on over to Google and type in your intended search item.

Two hours later, you’ve *mysteriously* ended up on some random website, reading about a new facelift technique discovered by a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, and from there you *somehow* went on to this particularly intriguing article about what foods to avoid eating to cut down on belly fat, and, gosh, who knew that you could put that product, much like spackle, on the cracked area of your foundation, paint it, and voila!  Good as new, a do it yourself project for the spring!

At some point, you resurface like someone waking up from a drunk, staring with glassy eyed alarm at the time.  The time!  You feel like your brain has somehow gone through this strange time warp period, and what was supposed to have only lasted for a few minutes has now dissolved into hours.  Hours.

Despite all of my best intentions, I’ve wasted a lot of time on the internet doing what originally started out as “research” and ultimately ended up like some sort of freakish, uncontrollable free for all of website hopping that burned up irretrievable hours.  It’s almost like some sort of hypnotic pull on your eyes when various sites place these very intriguing blinking, winking windows and outlandish subtitles off to the side that have nothing to do with what you need, and everything to do with what all that other stuff you’ve browsed the internet for.  Like those summer sandals that ended up in hours of research about the Sandals resort vacations.  That recipe for the book club, moves on to watching Bobby Flay cook brunch.  The random search on a music artist leads to a YouTube listening and watching marathon of every song ever recorded.  A medication your mom wanted you to look up, turns into watching a live surgery of a 100 lb tumor.

Ho. Boy.

In the past, I’ve actually given myself a talking to before I Google.  Something like this.

“Don’t get diverted, you don’t need to know about that sale right this minute,” which is countered by the *other me,* “but what if it’s only for today?”  As if my very own fingers have turned autonomous, off they go, much to the horror of my very own eyes, while that good ole internal monologue I’ll call “crazy brainspeak” tries calm my increased heart rate with a bland, “Oh, this won’t take but a second to read…”

Like some irrepressible addict of the internet, boppity bop, there I go.

The word self-discipline comes to mind, doesn’t it?  Since I started on my new project, I’ve switched up the way I do things.  Before I do any research, any at all, I write.  Even if I have to put a placeholder in an area where I’ll need to eventually look for additional information.  I mark that area with a red bold XXXXXXXX.  It’s simple and it has worked. I’ve heard it takes three weeks for a new routine to become habit.  I’m passed that mark.

So far.  So good.

Are you wasting time on the internet instead of writing?

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