Crime Against a Creative Spirit

Legislating away my right to create is criminal. Sometimes its the weather or circumstances that commit the crime which freezes imagination. Might as well hit it with liquid nitrogen.
Creativity holds an artist hostage. It plagues the mind at inopportune moments (like when I should be sleeping). The very element of creating can wind up like a fast-pitched softball and, if released too early, peter out short of the plate (our expectations).


Lately, I’ve been keeping up with one of my betterment goals designed for No Fear this Year. It involves reading an inspirational book before bed at least four nights per week.
The current read looks to link creativity and spirituality. It’s an interesting connection, but I’ve yet to sell myself on its reality.

The Difference between Soul and Spirit

Even though my title mentions the creative spirit, I believe creativity emerges from my soul.
The soul is the part inside me that makes me have the character, personality and world views that distinguish me as an individual. While I strive to grow my character to look like Jesus Christ’s, I’m certain my personality is not a thing like his. Because I’m a woman living in the 21st Century, my world view looks completely different, too.
On the other hand, the spirit in me is what makes me alive. It’s the breath of life that God gave Adam on the day of his formation. It’s the thing that keeps my heart beating and lungs working without any conscious thought on my part. And if the spirit of life leaves, then those automatic functions stop, too.
Therefore, I believe the soul is the source of my creativity and the spirit the source of my existence.
Can creativity be linked to spirituality then?

The Difference between Heart and Mind

There’s another level of personality that I see as diverse. Decisions I make might originate in the heart but are carried out by the mind.
The heart is the seat of my emotions. This is where I feel the death of the hunting dog in Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s where disgust over political lies or ire about injustice kindle and ignite.

Is this linked with creativity? Is creativity all about emotion?

My mind is where reason holds court. It listens to the exclamations and rhetoric of the heart’s reactions, and it weighs that in my soul’s world view balance. If it deems there is sufficient reason to act, the mind wills my mouth or body to do so.
I hope my mind is engaged when I’m creating. It should be running the show when I’m worshiping, too.
In this case, I believe both the mind and the heart are involved in pursuits of creativity and spirituality. Things that are emotion-driven might seem to come from the heart, but the heart is only a messenger. It can’t act apart from the mind. (Although there are times when I let my heart lead and wished I’d thought things through a little better.)

Creativity or Spirituality?

This brings me back to my original inquiry. Is there a link between my creative self and my spiritual self?
Unless I’m two people, there’s a link. It’s me. My individuality that shines forth through my lifestyle.
Can the spirit operate on it’s own? Or is spirituality tied to every facet of life because it is the seed of life?
If only I had the answer. Perhaps when I finish the book, I’ll know for certain if these two aspects of my being are related. At times, I’ve felt deeply spiritual while being wildly creative. However, there are plenty of instances when I was quite spiritual without a creative thought, and creating like mad without being spiritual.
I believe that means they aren’t mutually exclusive. Perhaps I would be more creative if I focused wholly on strengthening my spiritual side. But am I less spiritual when I set my imagination free?
The truest crime against my creative spirit is giving it a question like this that has no definitive answer.

Do you think creativity and spirituality are linked? What drives your creative spirit into hibernation?

Reflections from a Lifetime Friendship

Friendship comes easily for some people. Other people need to tangle with a metal hurdle and eat cinder from the track to find a true friend.
You guessed it. I’m the second kind.
In fact, ramming my right knee into a hurdle in eighth grade is exactly how I met my long-time friend. Believe it or not, our junior high (now a middle school) still has that red cinder track.
And my right knee really bugged me recently, after a five-hour stint in the car and our five-mile hike up Icicle Ridge.
It’s safe to say I don’t take friendship lightly, and I try to value each person who calls me a friend.
And I think the list is pretty short.
And not just because writer’s don’t get out much. Besides being an introvert (which doesn’t mean I’m shy or don’t talk much), I don’t share my heart with many people.
Well, except portions of my heart are available to anyone who reads my stories and books.
It’s funny how I try to be transparent in my writing, but I don’t bare my heart and soul to many people in face-to-face relationships.
Some people call everyone a friend, and while I try to be friendly to everyone, I have only a handful of close friends.


In my mind, these are rare people who can accept my flawed, opinionated self at face-value and aren’t trying to change me into something more acceptable. Not that all of them think I couldn’t change for the better, but their affection isn’t tied to those invisible standards to which I don’t measure up.
Here are some things I’ve learned about friendship from the tall girl who had to walk me in to the locker room on that long ago day at track practice:

  1. No one’s perfect, but anyone can pretend to be. When people only like you or want to spend time with you because you act a certain way (dress a certain way, work in a certain profession, earn a certain amount of money…and the list goes to infinity and beyond), they probably aren’t showing you their true heart and they don’t want to share yours.
  2. Time and distance never diminish authentic feelings. Some people can go years without seeing each other, and when they’re together they pick up as if no time passed. And they experience the same joy and connection as if they’d been together the entire time.
  3. Laughter only has value where tears do. Laughter’s the best medicine. A laugh a day keeps you healthy and young. As far as the benefits of laughter, they can’t be underestimated, but what makes a true friend unique is that they value tearful moments as highly as mirthful ones.
  4. Advice is given freely without any strings. Some people want you to tell them what to do, and when they give advice they expect you to follow it or “they’re done.” That’s not friendship. Friendship is 50 percent ears to hear, 40 percent heart to love and 9 percent eyes to see with only one measly percent mouth to spout advice.
  5. Listening goes both ways. Everyone knows people who talk and talk and talk. And when you talk, they aren’t listening but planning what they’re going to say next. A friend isn’t all about talking out their issues. They’re eager to hear what’s on their friend’s mind almost more than they’re waiting to finally share their burden with someone.
  6. Communication happens silently. “We looked at each other and burst out laughing.” Have you ever experienced it? Yes, if you knew the other person well enough to understand you were thinking the same thing at that moment.
  7. Time spent with them is a great investment. We’ve all spent a day with someone and felt emotionally and physically exhausted afterward. Time with a true friend energizes our soul and strengthens our emotions, even if we do things (like stay up all night talking) that sap our bodies of energy.
  8. Acceptance is the currency of friendship. Even when you disagree with beliefs or choices, it doesn’t lessen the emotional bond. Two can walk together even if they disagree when they accept that being right isn’t as important and being loved.

What are the characteristics of your longest, most meaningful friendship? What did I leave off my list?
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Check out Reality Meets its Match and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Five things you should never say to an author

*This post was first published on May 4, 2016 on the Roane Publishing Blog.

If you’re an author, you’ve heard these platitudes before. More frequently than you want. For those of you who meet and talk to writers, you may have said one of these five things.

Authors aren’t the only ones to suffer from people’s gross inconsideration. How many times did I hear unsolicited advice from strangers when I was pregnant? Yeah, I have better things to do than keep track of that.

Still, if I didn’t ask for your input, could you refrain from offering it?

It’s a tad easier to accept hearing these things from strangers on the street. Unfortunately, friends and family are often just as guilty of being nosy and unkind. People mean well, right? They are clueless about the writing process and ignorant about a published author’s required skills.

That said, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. But after you read this post, you’ll need to step up and stop belittling the work of writers.

What are these five things you should never say?

Here they are along with an explanation of what an author hears when you say them. AND why you shouldn’t say it – or anything close to it – to them ever again.

  1. “I’m going to write a novel some day.”

What I heard you say: “What you do is easy. Anyone can do it.”

Really? You’ve written 70,000 (or more) words in less than thirty days and then spent three months rewriting, revising, editing and polishing them? During that time, you cried and screamed, laughed and danced. Afterward, you attempt to find a publisher who likes this piece of your heart and soul.

The fact is most sane people would give up on this after their first attempt. Or spend ten years reworking the same story. Authors write, rewrite, revise, edit, polish and ship.

Then they get to work on the next project.

2. “What’s your real job?”

What I heard you say: “Writing books is a hobby. Get a paying job.”

For some people, writing books might be a hobby. For me, however, it’s my full-time career. I head down the hall to my office five days per week. I spend three to five hours working on my current project(s). Most days, it takes another hour to beef up my online presence (called an author brand or platform) and cruise through my email (queries, rejections, connections, and blog comments).

Sounds like a real job to me.

But you’re right, I would make more money slinging burgers at McDonald’s. But my soul would shrivel.

3. “Everyone writes books these days.”

What I heard you say: “There’s nothing special about what you do. Anyone can get published.”

Everyone can publish their own work, sure, but that doesn’t mean anyone reads it. I might have only a handful of people who aren’t related to me reading what I write, but that’s not my dream or goal.

Furthermore, everyone can’t get published through traditional means. In fact, it’s harder to get a publishing contract than it is to get a speeding ticket.

4. “I’ve never heard of you.”

What I heard you say: “You must not be a decent writer because you’re not famous.”

If I listed the authors with the most books on the market today, I bet you wouldn’t recognize even half their names. It’s not all about Stephen King, Nora Roberts and James Patterson.

I’ve heard of many of these authors but haven’t read their books. In fact, I will NEVER read a book by Stephen King because horror gives me nightmares. No thanks. I need my sleep.

Fame isn’t even the goal for most authors. Most of us would like to make enough to pay the bills and take a nice vacation once a year. And, no, we don’t care if someone who’s never read our books knows our name.

5. “What’s your book about?”

What I heard you say: “Explain in one minute what you’ve poured your heart, soul, mind and time into for the past three months.”

My first thought is “Which one?”

For the record, I’m working on two or three projects at the same time. I’m not sure which one of these you want me to talk about. Most likely, you’re asking about the one I most recently published. I’ll have to think a minute (or five) because that story has already been told.

I might give you my elevator pitch. Or maybe I’ll talk about the premise or underlying theme. Asking an author what their book is about is like asking a psychologist what she did at work or a heart surgeon to explain a triple-bypass.

So-now you know what we don’t want to talk about. And this isn’t to say we don’t want to talk about our book, believe me. But with a general question like that last one, we could be here all night without satisfying your curiosity.

On the other hand, authors love when people say:

“Will you sign my copy of your book?”

“Oh my gosh! You write books? I know a real live author.”

“I loved your book more than The Hunger Games.”

So the next time you’re chatting up a perfect stranger, and you find out they’re an author, you’ll know exactly what to say (and what NOT to say).

You’re welcome.

So, author friends, what other things do you hate people to say to you about your writing? Or what do you love to hear?

Writing in a New Direction

Which-Way-is-the-Right-way-for-Satellite-Web-Browsing-Sometimes directions are clear: “Turn left at the next stop light.” Other times, the directions can be convoluted: “Take the next right. Keep left.” (My GPS often says this, in fact. Amazingly unhelpful.)

In 2013, I started in a new direction. I quit my job with the school district to pursue a writing career full-time. I finished my bachelor’s degree and wanted a change.

Immediately thereafter, I finished my first young adult fantasy novel and had begun writing its sequel. I took a class on antagonists from Writing Jedi Master Kristen Lamb. When we spoke on the phone about my story, I learned it was gobbledygook without a clear purpose.

Back to the drawing board. For another young adult fantasy series, which Kristen and I had discussed during the heart-shattering call. Her advice: write the entire series before going back to edit book one. That way I’d know what the “real” story of the series was by the time I was rewriting.

Six months later, I had three complete novels in very rough first draft form. The summer of 2014, I attempted to market the first book in the series. By the time I’d gotten the final rejection back, I knew the first book was crap needed work.

But I had this amazing idea for a contemporary young adult fantasy. Dragons, erupting volcanoes, teenagers with special powers and the end of the world at stake. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Or maybe the question should be: who wants to read it?

I’m still waiting for the rest of the rejection letters to roll in, but I think I finally figured something out.

What I Can Sell

As much as I love young adult fantasy, I’m not going to break into publishing with those stories.

No, I’m not giving up. I’m not copping out.

I’m being realistic.

Young adult is the fastest growing and most competitive fictional market right now. And fantasy has to have a certain bent to even get a look.

Sadly, dragons aren’t it.

Dragons: so TEN years ago.

Short fiction: I have sold three short stories. Two of them are sweet romances written to a new adult audience. The third is a young adult dark biblical retelling.

Bible studies: These are independently published by me, and I don’t price them to make a bundle. However, I do have a small following who enjoys my quirky teaching style.

Writing that Grows Me

In the end, writing the biblical fictionalization and Bible study books challenge me as a person. They require a slightly different writing voice and tons more research than most of my fiction stories.

In short, they stretch me out of my comfort zone.

And if people will buy them, I should produce them.

My Big Dream

During November, I wrote the first book in another young adult series.

I know. I know. I never learn.

What’s different about this book? It uses the short story I’ve already sold as a springboard into my post-apocalyptic universe. I continued the story of Scisco Irons, a sixteen-year-old blacksmith who dreams of discovering the technology destroyed in his homeland during the Demon Wars. And escaping the backward region he’s lived in forever.

I introduced a snarky teenage girl with major trust issues. Added in a “mentor” character with a pile of his own secrets.

The best part, I pitched the outline to the publisher of the short story (at her request, because she liked the world introduced in that story and saw potential for the story to continue). She wants to see it.

I have a professional editor who will help me content edit the first draft and polish the second draft to get it ready for submission. She’s employed by the publisher but has offered to help me because she believes in my story.

The dream:

I submit this manuscript in May 2016. The publisher adores it and offers me a three-book contract (that will finish out the series as I’ve envisioned it).

During our conversations, I mention my four other manuscripts. She asks for outlines of each of them. Why not, right? It doesn’t cost her anything.

She sees the potential in all of them and offers me another contract on Doomsday Dragons and asks to see the first Gates of Astrya book before deciding on that series.

Of course, the Age of Apocalypse series will appear in bookstores everywhere during 2017-2019. I’ll have an enormous fan base. They’ll scarf up anything I write.

The rest is J.K. Rowling’s history.

Where I’m Going Now

As often as I’ve been accused of being a dreamer, I’ll argue that point. I’m a realist. Yes, I’m a realistic optimist, but I know better than to float on the puffy vapors of “hope it happens.”

I’m going forward. I have a novella releasing in a collection with nine other independent romance writers in February. And I’ll say this, romance rolls from my heart onto the page. Nearly effortlessly (and then the editing torture begins).

All those years of sneaking my mom’s romance novels into my room to read when I should have been sleeping are paying off. Unfortunately, those royalties aren’t buying too much at the moment.

I have another study book in the works. There are ideas for sequels to Reflections from a Pondering Heart, but I’m not convinced that’s where I should invest my time.

My biggest project idea is a grief memoir/Bible study combination. I’ve got this baby outlined, and I’ve started amassing research. Am I ready to tap into my personal losses for the memoir vignettes? That’s the big unknown.

I’ll keep subbing short stories to anthologies – romance, young adult and fantasy. My crazy ideas will find their way into the spiral notebook I have dedicated for them.

Writing is more than my passion or my dream. I’m convinced it’s my calling.

And I’m saying “yes.” Even if I’m unsure of the direction it will take me.

Any advice? What would you like to read from me?

One bad vein leads to another

Fight age. yeah right

The leading cause of ugly and bulging veins is age. Apparently, it’s past time for me to face facts. Spider veins could be caused by varicose veins, and all of it is a result of nearing the half-century point in life.

I’m old. There. I admitted it. Are you happy now?

I’m not. Most of the time my brain thinks I’m 38 or thereabouts. Or I have the wisdom of a white-haired sage, but not the years or wrinkles to pair with it.

Yeah. Denial. I’m pretty good at it.

In July, I began a three-treatment therapy for the spider veins in my ankles and calves. Sclerotherapy. Read about it here.

After my second treatment, I learned about the miracle-working properties of castor oil. If you missed that, click here.

My third treatment was on September 15. I know, a whole month, and I’m just now sharing the results.

Even better: I’m not really sharing the results.

Bad Veins

I may have mentioned that my left ankle is hideously marked by spider veins. It was so nice when someone commented that the picture I posted of that offensive appendage “couldn’t possibly be” mine.

Oh, yes. Whether I want to claim it or not, this disgusting exhibit of tiny blood vessels is mine.

Left Ankle: Before the First Treatment
Left Ankle: Before the First Treatment

I noticed some good results in my right ankle from the treatments, but I noticed something terrible in my left.

The veins seemed closer to the skin than ever. Furthermore, the stretched-beyond-recognition varicose vein in my calf was puffing up like a territorial cat.

Worse. It popped out –would you believe it-in the joint on the top of my ankle.

Alittle bit of medical information might be helpfule here. Varicose veins enlarge because blood is pooling in them, rather than being pumped back to the heart. They appear blue because veins carry blood that is low in oxygen, blue until the big Os hit it and then it sees red.

Spider veins appear in areas where there is too much blood with nothing to transport it back to the big veins who will send it off to the heart for recharging.

Does anyone see a correlation? Varicose veins mean blood is pooling. Spider veins mean blood is pooling.

So those little spiders might relieve some of the pressure on the non-elastic varicose.

And I so thoughtlessly stomped out those spiders with my prickly needle treatments. Big Sister Vare made her irritation known.

Treatments

There are ways to treat varicose veins. For instance, I’m supposed to wear compression stockings to help encourage the blood back up toward the heart.

Other ways to treat these unsightly big girls is sclerotherapy (but this wasn’t an option offered at Hale Health where I had my treatments), laser surgeries, vein stripping and vein surgery.

No, I didn’t sign up for it.

The medical procedures could be covered by insurance if your doctor refers you. The doctor’s questions:

“Are you in pain?”

“Have you been wearing the compression stockings?”

Since only negative answers are true for me, having the medical plan cover the cost isn’t going to happen.

There are places that will do it and offer payment plans. Supposedly, they even charge someone who walks in with cash a discounted price. After all, the insurance company can afford to pay whatever they demand, right?

Is it any wonder the cost for medical insurance keeps rising while the benefits fall?

Not chasing that bunny trail.

What I meant to tell my readers is: I won’t even know if the sclerotherapy would have cured those webs from my left ankle.

Dr. Brooks and I agreed that dissolving those little guys may have been what pushed the varicose vein to bulge where it had not previously been noticeable.

This is the left foot after two treatments.
This is the left foot after two treatments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all that money, time, inconvenience and a small amount of discomfort, the ugliest duckling remains. It sucked up a gluttinous portion of magic serum during two visits, and as you can see, was still an unsightly mess.

Varicose veins feed those ugly spiders. If you take their spider outlets away, they bulge out in ugliness. One bad vein leads to another. Go figure.