Sunday, February 28, 2016

Write, Write, and Rewrite

Good morning. This picture, taken in March 2008, pretty much sums up what I can see out my window today. At the moment, it's snowing, but according to the weather gurus, that's going to turn into ice pellets, freezing rain, rain, and the same thing will continue tomorrow followed by two days of snow.

If this is Mother Nature's idea of a joke, I'm not laughing. We had freezing rain and rain aplenty last Wednesday and the Tuesday before that. My calendar says spring begins three weeks today, but judging by the weather, Nature and I aren't on the same page!

Write, write, and rewrite. Sounds simple, but it can be as frustrating as all get out. Last Sunday, I mentioned how difficult my characters are being in my new wip, and while I've made some progress, it isn't coming along as quickly as I'd like. That could be due to a number of factors including a week filled with interuptions, real-life invading my writing cave, my crisis of faith over the loss of my beloved minister and friend, and my inability to move beyond my anger and grief. It could also be because I'm trying too hard to steer the characters in the direction I want them to go rather than letting them take me where they want to go--a difficult situation for an author who writes character-driven stories. I have written and rewritten the same scene at least a dozen times, and I'm still not happy with it. In my head, the premise works beautifully, but when I try to put it down on paper, it just doesn't feel right.

How am I going to deal with this?

I have options, and one of them is to move around the difficult scene and go on with the story. As a linear writer, I've never done this before, but I'm considering it. Another option is to set the work aside and go on to something else. Maybe I should just stick with my Tuesday Tale and finish it off. It's at the halfway mark and that work doesn't seem to give me issues. Perhaps I should focus on another episode of Eloisia, although Episode Three didn't sell well. It might be time to pull that all together into one book, too, but I was hoping to leave that until after my trip. I could write a short story or work on another novella. I have lots of ideas I'd like to flesh out, and maybe putting these characters back in the imagination drawer to stew and grow is the way I have to go. The final alternative is to actually write the synopsis and plot outline for the story--a truly scary suggestion, but maybe if I do that, it'll show me what my characters are trying to take me if I let them.

The other thing I can do is just step away from the writing cave for a few days--I can clean out my closets, decide what I want to take with me on my trip later this spring--bake cookies and maybe do more reading. It's been ages since I've actually read something new. Maybe it's time for a break.

I can focus on promotion for a day or two, but the reality is I need to write, so ... write, write, and rewrite. Maybe I'll get to work on my A to Z blogs for the month of April. Get a few of them set up ahead of time. Who knows, if I get moving in another directions, my characters just might want to play nice, and we can have another go at things.

Well, that sums up what I'll do this week. How about you? No matter what you choose to do, have fun. Life is too short to spend in regret. Have a great week.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

New Book Challenges: Shouldn't it be Getting Easier?

Wow! What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, we were freezing our a**es off up here. This week,the temperature is 34 F, and we've had it all.--freezing rain that coated trees in ice, snow, and now we're looking at flooded basements and guess what? More snow.

But the weather isn't the only thing not cooperating this week. My newest work in progress is giving me headaches. At this time last week, I had close to 70K words done in my WIP. Today, I'm down to less than 30K. That's right. I've scrapped more than 40K words because they didn't "feel right" and now I'm wondering if maybe the entire premise of the story is the problem--because, believe me, there is a problem. My characters can't decide which way to go.

This has never happened to be before, and I can't quite figure out why it's happening now. I know people with an outline will say I didn't plan it out right, but since I've never done that before, why would I do it now? Different strokes for different folks. In the past my characters have been focused, striving for a goal and heading there, albeit by circuitous routes, but they knew excatly where they had to be and when they had to be there.

As most of you know, most of my books are suspense novels, but this time I'm trying to write a contemporary romance with humor in If you've read my books, you know this isn't my first attempt at contemporary romance. My two short stories: There's Always Tomorrow and Forever and Always are contemporary as are my Christmas stories: Her Christmas Hero, The Best Day Ever and Come Home For Christmas. My two holiday novels, Holiday Magic and The Perfect Choice fall into that category as does one of my top selling Crimson novels, Just For the Weekend. So, what's different with this one?

Me. That's what's different. I'm the one who isn't as focused as I should be. I'm second guessing myself, something I've rarely done in the past. Why? Because for the first time in a long time, I'm doubting myself and my abilities to bring the story I envision to life. Can this be a by-product of my recent crisis in faith? Maybe. I always thought my ability to write was a God-given talent, and if I doubt some of the things He's allowed to happen recently, why wouldn't I doubt that too?

It feels odd not to be getting ready for church, but my heart is still sore and angry. I spent time with my friend and minister this week, and I wish I could be as forgiving as she is, but I can't. There's still a darkness in me that isn't ready to let go of the hurt, and I think that's the problem. How can I write something "feel good and light" when my mind and spirit are at the opposite end of the spectrum?

So, for today, I'm going to set aside my wip and do other things--groceries, tidying the house, babysitting grandkids, and maybe even attend one of my grandson's basketball games. Hopefully, with time way from the draft, I can  find my happy place again, and when I come back to this wip, I'll be in the right frame of mind to make it work again.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Baby Steps: Getting Used to The New Order Without a Beloved Minister and Friend

Good morning. It's a bright, sunny Sunday morning. With the windchill, the temperature is -41F/C That's right. At this temperature, the scales are the same. How cold is that? VERY!

As you drive along the river, the steam rises from the water--looks nice, but feels frigid. Frost bite is a real possibility after even a short exposure, so it's a good time to stay inside. 

The good news is, the cold is expected to break tomorrow and the temperature is going to shoot up to 21F with 36F on Tuesday and 32 F Wednesday followed by a truckload of snow--as much as a foot if we get the brunt of the storm.
Well, I'm not going outside this morning, but I will be this evening. By then, the temperature will have gone up ten degrees! 

Today is Valentine's Day. So I wish everyone a pleasant time, If you are lucky enough to have a loved one to share the day with, be grateful for it. Many people who've recently lost loved one will be alone for the first time, and the loneliness will be twice as awful as it is other days.

Today is also Sunday, the first time I willfully choose not to go to church. I'm still upset by what I see as the autocratic rule of the Presbytery, not theocratic as it should be, removing a beloved minister from a congregation who wanted her to stay because of the griping and complaining of a small group of individuals with their noses out of joint.

This action has caused me to reconsider a lot of things in my life--most specifically how I will follow my faith from now on. I'm well aware that religion is not faith. It's a man-made construct, a fallible as humans themselves. Different religions have been at war with one another for centuries, and some of the world's cruellest crimes are done in the name of religion. 

Presbyterianism isn't any different. We may say we are theocratic--governed by the rule of God, but when it comes right down to it, we are plain ordinanry people with flaws and we make mistakes. Last week's decision to dissolve the tie between the minister and the congregation was a collossal error.

Let's be clear here. The minister did absolutely nothing wrong. The complaints against her were petty, ranging from something as silly as being a couple of minutes late for something, to forgetting to acknowledge a plate of cookies years ago. Humans are fragile creatures who get their egos bruised easily, but holding a grudge like this--well, that's plain wrong and unChristian. The Presbytery has stated that  the minister remains  a minister in good standing, Her status now is  “Minister appendixed to the Roll of the Presbytery.” But that doesn't help me or the many other people in the church who are angry and feel cheated. I looked forward to going to church on Sunday mornings, hearing her speak to the children, and perhaps entertain us with a song on her mandolin. I enjoyed her sermons, which rarely didn't leave me with a bit of wisdom to carry me through the week. So what if she went five or ten minutes past the hour? I can afford to give God more than sixty minutes a week. 

So what will I do now? This wonderful woman, whose sermon last week was a tremendous example of grace under pressure, doesn't want any of us to leave the church. Out of my deep respect for her, I won't make a knee-jerk reaction. I will step back a bit, give the wounds in my heart time to heal and wait on God's wisdom. If He wants me to keep worshiping there, then He'll send a sign of some sort, and if not, then I know He'll point me in the right way. As a protestant, I have options, many of them, even in a town this small.  

Church is an imporatnt part of my life, one I would miss far too much if I turned my back on it completely, but I will read my Bible and wait for him to tell me where to go. If possible, it will be wherever my beloved friend and minister goes. Maybe I'll become one of the Christmas and Easter people. Who knows? The one thing I will definitely continue to be is a good friend to a woman who is above all else a lady and the best example of a Christina I have ever seen. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Faith Shaken

Good morning.

It's a cloudy, gloomy, winter morning here, so unlike the way it was a couple of years back when I was at Lake Placid in the winter. I dug out the picture this morning to remind me of better times, but even the sight of majestic mountains and blue sky can't break though my sorrow.

It's Sunday, and typically on Sunday, I get up early, catch up on my email and Facebook posts, and then get ready for church. Today, I did all that, but with a heavy heart as this morning will be the last time I hear my minister preach from the pulpit, and the fact that the situation has come to this has shaken my faith so deeply, I doubt ti will recover.

In the past decade, I've watched the moral values I held dear, disappear, one by one, replaced by secularism with the legal system supporting it. No more prayer in school was just the beginning of the end. I've always known bad things happen to good people, but I believed that, in the end, good triumphed over evil. It does in all my novels, but that's fiction for you--not as close to reality as we might like. In this case, a wonderful, caring, person, one who embodies everything I've always considered to be the way Christ wants us to be and live our lives, has been sacrificed on the altar of someone else's personal gripes and ambitions. It didn't matter that more of us wanted her to stay. It didn't matter that none of us really knew what all these complaints were. All that mattered was they got what they wanted-- a beloved minister gone.

Our minister was more to me than the person who stood in the pulpit each Sunday and gave me something to think about. Often, in her sermons, I found the inspiration I needed to get through a difficult scene. She was a friend, a colleague with whom I had a close working relationship for more than ten years. She was a caring individual who stood by my daughter in the darkest times. She was th steadfast force in the lives of my grandchildren who carried them through more sorrow than four children should have to bear in their young lives.

But, after this morning she'll be gone--hopefully not from our lives, but if she has to move away, which is quite likely since she needs to support herself, it will be a bitter pill to swallow, one that may lodge in my throat for years to come.

Now, my faith is hanging by a thread. I do not believe this is the will of God. There is a darkness in all this as the entire process was cloaked in secrecy and spurred on by innuendo and rumor. Sure, everyone claimed the whole thing was transparent, but no one actually came right out and said what was at stake, and now it's a done deal, leaving many people, not just me confused and hurting. Turning the other cheek is impossible now. It will be very difficult to face the people responsible for this injustice and even harder to worship a God who didn't stand by and support this wonderful minister. I'd pray for guidance, but I'm no longer convinced God answers prayer.

My faith's been shaken and I don't think it will ever recover from this blow.