Indie Lives Matter

One of the unexpected benefits of becoming an indie writer was joining the wonderful community of indie writers. I cannot even begin to describe how supportive, helpful and awesome these folk are. Critical in the best ways. Cheering me on in the dark days when I think my writing is shit or I can’t find my way out of the hole I’ve written. Just stellar people who are doing exactly what I’m doing and struggling exactly the way I’m struggling. Yet, we all laugh at/with each other, send cyber hugs when needed and promote the crap out of each other’s work. And all with good reason. I’m telling you, people, the indie world is where it’s at. There are some truly talented people penning stories right now, stories that put traditional publishing house fare to shame.

We all know the game is rigged and how difficult it is to support yourself off of being an indie writer. I’ve been a judge for several contests and it always leaves me scratching my head at how the winners are, nine times out of ten, big House books that are such crap, I wouldn’t even feed them to my shredder. Even still, we indies trudge on and churn out the stories and characters we love. And you know what? I think that’s why our stories are so much better. Because our writing is not our job. It’s our passion.

In some ways, it reminds of watching the Little League World Series. Those kids pour their entire hearts and souls into the game they love. They play through blood and sweat and cry when they lose. That’s because they don’t get paid to do it. They do it because they love the shit out of it – something blatantly absent from professionals.

I write all of this because just in the last 24 hours I’ve gone on three wild rides, thanks to two of my fellow indie authors, and it occurred to me today how I might have missed out on these five-star reads had I not joined the indie community myself. I might never have known about great authors like R.C. Matthews, Heather Blair, Rachel Chanticleer and Danielle Ward. How sad to have potentially missed out on such great reading.

With author Heather Blair, I took a trip into an alternate reality where nursery rhymes are actually spells and Jack Frost is a hero (or villain?) you love to hate – an action-packed wild ride that had me desperate for the next book in the series (which I’ll shamelessly plug here: https://www.amazon.com/Sixpence-Whiskey-Toil-Trouble-Book-ebook/dp/B01CZINZ42/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472530797&sr=8-1&keywords=sixpence+and+whiskey#nav-subnav )

Once that series left me breathless, I was whisked away to 19th century England by author R.C. Matthews, where a pirate named the Devil takes possession of a haunted mansion and hires a local blind medium to rid the place of the ghosts left from the massacre that took place in the underwater ballroom. (Shameless plug #2: https://www.amazon.com/Devil%E2%80%99s-Cove-Tortured-Souls-Matthews-ebook/dp/B01KGO4A6O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1472530954&sr=8-2&keywords=Devil%27s+Cove#nav-subnav )

Seriously…I can’t make this stuff up. But my wildly imaginative and talented indie friends can. Thank you to my GR buddies and good friends I’ve made along the way. And to those of you looking for some good-ass writing, just check out my Goodreads author page (that’s Sawyer Belle in case you didn’t know whose blog you were reading!) and check out my five star list. You won’t be disappointed.

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The Method Writer…I Think

Is there such a thing as method writing? I’ve read many times about method actors and it used to always intrigue me the lengths some artists would go to in order to connect with a character. It was a level of dedication and obsession I didn’t think I could ever identify with.

Until now.

I’m pretty sure I’m method-writing with my current work-in-progress.The funny thing is that I’m not doing it conscientiously. There have been several times while writing this current work where I’ve connected with my heroine in a way I’ve not done previously. As writers, we love our characters, almost like we love our children, for they are borne from us. We’ve molded them, shaped them, helped them grow and become their best selves. So, if one of our characters is hurting or dies, we hurt and grieve. But this is not the kind of connection I’m talking about this time.

My objective in this book is to really explore the depth of human hurt, how that hurt affects our minds, emotions, relationships and even personalities. It’s a serious subject and a very tall order, but I’ve felt, at times, overcome by the darkness my heroine is enduring. And I’m talking to the point of walking around in a mood of melancholy and hopelessness.

Here’s the weird thing: even though I know I’ve done this to myself, it doesn’t make the despair any easier to bear.

Here’s the other weird thing: on these dark days I feel compelled to write more than ever, almost as if I must write the scenes that require the darkness before I forget what it really feels like.

It’s a weird mental trip, let me tell you. I was thinking of it today, as I had a particularly “dark” day, a day where I felt like nothing I was doing in my life mattered, where I felt like a pool of tears was swollen behind my eyes and desperate for a reason to spill, a day where I couldn’t remember ever having smiled in my life. You know, the kind of day where you wake up wishing for bed time so you can go back to sleep. I was trying to figure out why I’d woken up in such a state of mind and it occurred to me that I had a very prolific night of writing last night, and then I started to wonder if the frequency of these “dark days” in recent months has to do with my writing sessions.

Am I method writing without knowing it? Or am I simply being extremely empathetic? Or just plain old pathetic?

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Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog

Now that I’ve started writing again, I fully understand why I was so hesitant to jump back into it. The creative process is a bear. It really is. You start out with an idea, spend months and months thinking about it, dreaming about it, mapping it out, even listening to its soundtrack until you feel solid enough to put something on paper. I outline, and I mean thoroughly outline. I have outlines that are ten pages long. I do research. Do ALL of this leg work and as soon as I start writing the damn thing it goes wildly off the course I so painstakingly planned.

I know it’s cliché to say that the characters become alive to the author, but it is so true. I’ve laughed and cried with my characters; really, really ached for them. They become real once you start writing, and as cool as the experience is, it can get frustrating when they hijack your story and make it their own. It all ends well, of course, but the creative process is exhausting. It’s a lot of work, endless work. So, why do it? Simply because I have to. And I love it.

When the inspiration hits, I just start writing. I used to write songs and the inspiration would hit at the oddest times: like while I was driving on the freeway zooming into the spaghetti bowl. I used to carry a notepad and pen in my car so I could write things down as they came to me, but I was getting so prolific that, in the interests of safety, I bought a mini tape recorder and carried it with me so I could just talk into it.

Every author has their own quirks, their own ways of doing things and mine is very much inspiration-based. Sure, I can bang out something if needed, but it won’t be something with heart or that I believe in. So, I choose not to do things that way. I wait for the inspiration to hit and then pounce on it like a ravenous animal on food scraps. I think this is why the creative process is so exhausting to me. It’s a yo-yo at maximum speed, and sometimes it has me juggling between projects.

When I began writing again this year, I started on one project. Felt great about it. Was in the groove and then that inspiration went right off the deep-end. Just disappeared, because another project suddenly woke up inside of me and I had to yield to it.

As I walk my coonhound, I realize he does the same thing: zig-zags on the trail just following his nose, treating each direction with equal zest. But when he hits on a particular scent in a particular direction, he’s off and running and there’s no stopping him. I guess that’s me when it comes to writing.

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Goodbye. Hello.

Well….I did it. I cleaned out my closet and ended up with three garbage bags full of beautiful size six and size eight clothes: dress pants, jeans, capris, shorts, dress shirts, sweaters, dresses……all I’ve been unable to fit in for the last four years. I must say, my closet looks pretty bare now.

Aaaaand I do have to admit I cried a little bit. When I told my mom about my great purge, her first words were, “Aww…you don’t think you’ll ever be that small again?”

And that’s exactly why I cried – because getting rid of those clothes is like me giving up, admitting defeat and accepting the reality that I won’t ever be that small again. But let me explain why that means so much to me.

From childhood, I was overweight and teased mercilessly in school. My family moved eight times in my youth. If there’s anything worse than being the “new girl” it’s being the the new fat girl in all my schools. Back then, there was no attempt at fashion for bigger people, let alone bigger children. So, while my skinnier, prettier cousin wore the latest fashions to our school, I wore men-sized jogging pants and oversized t-shirts. I was insulted, shoved, laughed at, had my hands slammed in lockers and much more torment.

In the summer before my Senior year in high school, I started to starve myself and began running. I ran three miles in the morning and spent the rest of the day fighting through hunger pangs until I passed out. I started dropping weight, but not quickly enough. However, with so little food intake, I didn’t have energy to work out more. And that’s where the pills came in. Pills to give me energy.

The first day, I only took half a pill. That was enough to get me through my three miles, but by the end of the week, I had to take two pills to achieve the same amount energy. Soon, it was three. Then four. They gave me so much energy that I decided to run three miles in the evenings, too. So, I was running six miles a day. Soon, it became eight miles a day, which required me to up the number of pills. Ten a day became twelve, which became fifteen.

By the time I finally weighed 140 pounds and fit into a size 10 pair of jeans, I was taking 22 pills a day.

My mom, worried at the dramatic weight loss, found my pill stash and put the kibosh on my destructive behavior. I still kept up with the running, and I started eating again, very healthy. But I was stalled. No matter what I did I could not get smaller than a size 10 nor lighter than 140 pounds. At the time, I thought it was because I needed the drugs and I was angry with my mom for finding them and “getting me help.”

Depression set in and I slowly crept back up to my old physical self: 180 pounds, size 16. Over the next eight years I stayed mostly there, with brief periods of weight loss done the right way – through diet and exercise, but I could never keep it off. And I could never get below 140 pounds, size 10.

Until I got pregnant with my son. I was sick during that entire pregnancy and lost a ton of weight. After giving birth, I got even more sick and ended up hospitalized. When I was released, I weighed in at 122 pounds at 5’7. I wore a size 6 jeans and size 4 dress.

And I loved it.

Even though I felt weak and in constant pain, I loved the way I looked. Once I got healthy again, I gained a little bit of the weight back, but I topped out at 135 and worked my ass off to maintain that weight for six years. There was no way in hell I was going to let my weight creep back up above 140, because I knew I’d never get it back below if it did.

I worked out constantly, ran, hiked, weight trained. I was fit, healthy and happy. SO, so happy. I felt great about myself, about my body, my looks. I loved wearing mini-shorts and cami tops in the summer, halter tops, maxi dresses. Jean skirts. For the first time in my life I owned a size 0 dress. I enjoyed that body and swore I’d never be “fat” again.

Then, I got pregnant with my daughter and gained 50 pounds. It didn’t matter that I ate healthier balanced meals because of my diabetes. It didn’t matter that I ran even up to my delivery. For some reason I will never understand, I gained 50 pounds. That was almost four years ago. And though I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to get below…..you guessed it…..140 pounds or size ten pants. But I’ve mostly plateaued at around 155 pounds and size 10.

I’m in that place I swore I’d never be again, where my weight is an everyday thought and concern, an everyday fight, where I study every roll or dimple or unflattering curve, where I feel ugly and fat in everything I put on. I’m that size I never, ever wanted to be again. And today, I finally gave in to the fear that this is the size I’ll always be. I’m always going to be fat. And yes…I cried. No matter how many more important things are going on in the world, I’m always going to care how I look. I know it’s vain, it’s shallow, and stupid. But it’s etched into my psyche, my personality. It might be different if I had never been thinner and fitter, if I had never had my dream body or had never known how much better life is when you’re happy with your body.  And I really feel bad for my husband. He married a size 6 and is going to end up with a 10. (and yes, it matters)

If you can believe it, that’s the “short” version of my lifelong struggle with my weight, and that is why accepting defeat in the clearing of my closet was such an emotional experience for me.

The good news is that I’m a mature woman in my mid-30s, and while my weight issues are on my mind every day, they are certainly not the most important thoughts on my mind every day. I knew I had to turn this clearing-out-the-closet thing into a positive. So, as I sat staring at my nearly-empty closet, a memory sprang into my mind from fifteen years ago when I used to volunteer at a local shelter for battered and abused women and children. A lot of those women were unemployed and had been prisoners in their own homes. Finally on their own, they searched for respectable good-paying jobs and needed the wardrobes to go with. Suddenly, I knew where all my clothes would go.

As I drove into the heart of the poorest area of Las Vegas, the sidewalks, abandoned buildings and adjacent dirt lots were absolutely riddled with homeless people, makeshift shelters and cardboard lean-tos. I pulled up to the shelter and went in. Nothing had changed in the last fifteen years. The place was filled with the same fear as it had been the last time I was there, the same eyes widening when the door opened only to relax when it was me who walked in instead of the predators  they’d escaped. Children huddled quietly, no playful glint in their eyes, no smiles. No trust. A lot of the women are foreign, mail-order brides from places like Ukraine or the Philippines.

In an instant, I was mad that I hadn’t brought more of my clothes, mad that I’d decided to hang on to a small handful that I have a greater chance of fitting into one day. I was mad that I don’t volunteer there anymore, that all of my charitable donations have somehow morphed over the years from giving my time to giving my money.

I know that was the right place to give those clothes away to those women. If it helps them land a good job or just even feel beautiful, it’s better than them sitting in my closet making me feel bad about my own appearance. There is no reducing the power of a good outfit. Like a good haircut, it can make a woman feel good. I know it did for me once.

And the experience has made me realize the need to work on my inner self. I need to give more of myself, and not just my money. Yes, I felt wonderful when my body was smaller. But I felt best when my heart was bigger.

 

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It’s About to Get Personal.

It is a strange feeling to be a writer who hasn’t written a word in…oh…four months. Last year, I published two books – which is amazing considering that my pace in years prior was a single book per year. Now, as we slide easily into March, I wonder if I will release anything this year.

It’s not writer’s block. I’ve still got several stories that are hanging where I left them, and I know exactly where and how I want them to go. If anything, I have even more stories piling up in my brain to be written.

It’s not lack of time, for my schedule is the same as it’s always been.

It’s not lack of desire. I still have the urge to write wonderfully vibrant stories.

It’s not lack of inspiration.

It is a thing with no name (or else I haven’t discovered its name yet). But it can probably be best summed up by this sentence I gave my husband when he asked why I wasn’t writing anymore.

“I just feel like I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said before.”

Part of me wonders if that has something to do with being a romance writer. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good love story and I try to make the ride as bumpy and thrilling as I can, but in the end romance novels are always the same: boy meets girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after.

And that’s great. I love it. But I’m wondering if maybe there is something inside me that is wanting to branch out, genre-wise.

It’s kind of like film tastes. I love a good romance. But I don’t ONLY want to watch romance. I may prefer them nine times out of ten, but every once in a while, I put on something vastly different, like Saving Private Ryan, or Everest, or something that explores the other deep emotions of human beings.

Is that what I’m feeling as a writer?

For a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of getting my Master’s in creative writing. The idea behind this is to 1) grow as a writer and 2) use it to eventually teach at the collegiate level. One of the programs I looked into joining asked for a writing sample of 20,000 words upon which my acceptance would be based. No romance, sci-fi or fantasy genres allowed. For me to start the program this fall I would have had to submit the sample a week ago. I’ve known this for six months and did not submit a sample.

Why?

Because I have nothing new to say. And if I’m not writing a romance then I actually have to SAY something. I have to write a story with an unscripted path that has an ending of my choosing that means something besides happily-ever-after. I have to make a point.

And there’s no way I can do that without pulling from my own life experiences. And there’s no way I can do that without pissing off people in my life, or worse, hurting them

So, why do I feel pulled to do just that? I feel pulled to write something else right now. Not to say I won’t go back to writing romance, but I’m being pulled in a different direction. I’m being forced to SAY something.

Eek!

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Mumblings on Materialism

I was putting laundry away in my closet tonight and was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clothes I own. This bothers me because A) I’ve never cared much about clothes and B) I only wear the same four pairs of jeans and same handful of t-shirts and work shirts and C) there is absolutely no way to organize my closet so that it doesn’t look cluttered.

There is a simple answer to this problem, right? Get rid of the clothes I don’t wear, right?

But I can’t do it, and here’s why:

Because getting rid of them would mean I’ve given up on ever getting my body back.

As I said, I wear the same pants and shirts, a total of 10-15 articles of clothing. I only wear those clothes because none of the other clothes fit me anymore. In the last ten years of my life, I’ve gone from a size 14 to a 6 to an 8 to a 10. My weight has swung from 180 pounds to 122 pounds to back up to 180. Right now I’m at 155. The weight at which I was most healthy, most comfortable, and most stable was 135, a comfortable size 8. I was there for six years.

Then, I got pregnant. And for some reason I will never flipping understand, I gained 45 pounds. I was super healthy during my pregnancy. I had gestational diabetes and so my meals were ultra managed and healthy. I worked out. Even up to the week of my delivery I was jogging on the treadmill. And I never gained a single pound until my third trimester. Then, I packed them all on in three months, to my horror and helplessness.

And since that blessed day in July of 2012, I have never been a size 8 or 135 pounds. The closest I got to it, weight-wise, was 145 pounds, but I’ve pretty much swung between 145 and 160 pounds for the last three years. Once I’d worn holes through my size 8 maternity pants, I had to break down and buy size ten pants and larger shirts. BUT, I was playing a psychological game with myself! I’d only buy enough to get me through the work week. Not buy anything cute or pretty because I figured I would get tired of looking and feeling like a total frump, I’d get tired of staring wistfully at all of my cute size 8 clothing and then somehow magic up whatever was needed to lose the damn weight and get back to my old size.

But that hasn’t happened. I am still 15 pounds away from my goal, and have spent the last three years looking and feeling like a frump. The person I feel sorry for is my husband, and I can only hope that he doesn’t take it personally, all of my disbelieving snorts and looks each time he compliments me. He tries so hard to make me feel beautiful, but he can’t. What he doesn’t understand is that no matter how much he loves my body, I don’t.

Sigh…what to do?

I figure I wore out the “I just had a baby” excuse two years ago. I am terrified of my current size/weight becoming my new normal. I don’t want this normal. I want my old normal. If I get rid of all of the clothes I loved wearing for most of my adult life, then it will mean that I never expect to become a size 8 again. I never expect to put them on, look good, feel like I look good in them ever again. And that thought just depresses me.

And I hate that this is even an issue in my life. There are so many more important things to worry about, stress over and think of. And my physical appearance doesn’t consume me…until I set foot in my closet.

And that got me thinking tonight, that maybe I should get rid of all of those old clothes. Maybe having them in there makes me feel like a failure, takes away my motivation by reminding me how long it’s been since I’ve worn them. Clearly, they aren’t doing me any good.

Hmm….I’m sure there’s a metaphor somewhere in all of this…

 

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A Thing of Beauty

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the beautiful things in my life, the things I seriously, truly love. Rather than try to write something pithy or significant about blessings and love and all of that really good stuff, I’ll just make a list.

I make beautiful children. I seriously do. I was staring at both of them today and they are just beautiful, inside and out.

A glass of good wine is a beautiful thing. It tastes good, cools my throat and warms my cheeks, and it helps me relax out of my own head.

When it’s clean, my house is beautiful. So, right now, it’s beautiful. I was folding my laundry in my kitchen (cuz it’s right next to the laundry room) and I was looking out at my home. The wood floors, the bookshelves, the fireplace, the piano, the family portraits and captured memories hung all over the place. Just beautiful. I love my home.

The weather in the Southwestern US is beautiful. We are guaranteed hiking weather all year round and are greeted with spectacular sun shows with each dawn and dusk.

My husband’s love for me is beautiful. It’s so nice to feel loved and desired.

Good book reviews are beautiful – a validating, fulfilling thing of beauty.

Good sleep on a good mattress.

The tiny three-year-old voice that greets me each morning with a, “Good morning, sunshine! Did you have a good sleep?”

The happy and unwavering loyalty and devotion of my golden retrievers, Daisy and Dixie.

Music.

Chocolate.

Garlic-stuffed olives.

Wonderful parents.

The love of the Lord.

No matter what else comes into my life, good or bad, these things will always be beautiful, and I pray they’ll always be here.

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