The reality of great expectations

I think the biggest trouble with going into a situation with expectations is the risk of being disappointed.

I started November with high hopes about Book 8 and things didn’t turn out as I planned. Last year, I knocked out about 30,000 words in the month; this year, I got to 18,000 (and because I’m an idiot, I forgot to post my final tally on Nov. 30 on the National Novel Writing Month website so technically I didn’t even reach that).

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Can I just say how much I love this movie?

Things went sideways on Nov. 1 – not necessarily for bad reasons but just life. I had applied for a new position at the University where I work. I had heard nothing for such a long period of time that I assumed I didn’t get the job. I was fine with that and was geared up to start writing Book 8 in earnest because while I like my job and it works extremely well for my family, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t love being a full-time writer again.

But on Nov. 1, I found out that not only did I get the job but that my new boss had asked my former boss to allow me to start right away, with me still working a few hours at my old job each week to help with the transition. So things got crazy really fast and unfortunately my writing time suffered.

To make matters worse, I got a nasty cold that sucked up all my energy, probably from the stress of a new job. Then things just started to snowball until I finally had to let go of my expectations. I love writing but it’s not my first priority right now even though I wish sometimes that it could be. I worked when I could and am still plugging away. Because I had some of Book 8 already started before November, my total word count is still more than 30, 000 words so there’s that. And for some reason that I don’t understand but am not complaining about, I figured out what’s going to happen in Book 9. Random, I know, but I’ll take it.

So while I’m disappointed, I’m trying to find the positives. For one, last year I was so tired after November that I did almost no writing in December. But this year, I’m still cruising along to make up for lost time.

Once I get the first draft done for Book 8, I’ll be posting excerpts here on my blog and on my Facebook page so follow or like one of these if you want to receive updates. I still plan to put out Book 8 in 2018, and I still think that goal is doable.

I hope I don’t sound like a whiner; the new job will offer me some great opportunities. I’m glad being sick was just a cold and not something more serious. I have much to be thankful for, even when things don’t go the way I want. I’ll start posting again on my blog, including my random thoughts, if you care to read them. It’s good to be back!

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Book 7 is here!

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“Hidden in Darkness” has been uploaded! (breathe a sigh of relief)

It’s available now at Smashwords and will soon be live at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and other online book sellers.

I’m super excited about this book because it’s the first time I started a novel with no idea how it was going to end. I’ve definitely changed my mind before mid-stream, but this time, I had no clue going in. I tend to think about my plots a lot before I actually start writing so this experience was unique.

I’m starting Book 8 tomorrow for National Novel Writing Month so I hope to have some excerpts to share in the near future. I already have some scenes plotted so I’m hoping to make lots of headway in November.

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Happy reading!

It’s almost NaNoWriMo time…and an update on Book 7

So here’s the situation.

Last week, I started what I hope to be the final round of edits for “Hidden in Darkness.”

I have a cover, even.

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(Though I’m still tweaking it so please don’t be shocked if I scrap it and go with something completely different.)

If all goes according to plan, I really want to upload this to Smashwords and Amazon no later than Oct. 31 because I plan on doing National Novel Writing Month in November. Don’t know what that is? Check it out here.

I was a first-timer last year, and it really helped me carve out “Hidden in Darkness.” Last November 1, I started with a few scenes and a basic premise. I knew an accused killer was going to ask to see Emily, but I had no idea what he did, why he did it or whether he was  guilty or innocent. By the end of the month, I had a real plot and new characters that were emphatically telling me what to do next, way more than I had expected.

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I’m in the same boat for Book 8 so I’d love a repeat of last year’s performance.

With that goal in mind, I’m going to tentatively plan to release “Hidden in Darkness” in October. But if my month gets sideways, the release date will get pushed back to December so I can properly work on Book 8 in November. Sorry to do that, but there was something about posting my word count online daily that really kept me on track. It’s the deadline thing.

But the good news is I can’t see the release date extending into 2018. It’s so close to being done. I’ve really enjoyed writing this book and can’t wait to get it into your hands so you can let me know what you think. I’ll post more updates as the month moves ahead. Thanks for reading!

Sticks and stones…yeah, that’s a lie. Name calling hurts

Last week, I was on a popular news site and noticed an article about a woman being shamed online for being too thin. Right next to an article about a woman being shamed online for being too fat.

Really?  I’m not sure why people think it’s OK to pass judgment on another person’s body. Most people know what they look like and have features they like and dislike about themselves. No one is saying “I had no idea that I had a muffin top! Thanks so much for telling me!” It’s not the same thing as nicely pointing out someone has spinach between their teeth.

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Those that are very thin may want that hourglass figure. Or maybe that person has an eating disorder or is sick and would love to gain some of that weight back. Having someone tell them real women have curves is insulting. What are they? Fake women?

For those of us with excess weight, we know we need to lose it and most of us want to drop a few pounds. Someone telling us we’re lazy and worthless because we don’t wear a size 2 isn’t going to suddenly inspire us to do better.

And just maybe the woman being shamed is happy just the way she is. Maybe she is at what she considers her ideal weight, and she felt great when she posted that picture with her kids at the beach. That snide remark probably ruined her day.

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No matter what our weight issues are, it’s no one’s business. It’s not right for me to comment on a person’s body any more than it is right to tell someone they are a loser if they smoke. Or stereotype someone because of the way they dress. Or make a judgment about them because they have crooked teeth. We all have our issues, some more visible than others. Those issues shouldn’t prevent us from posting our vacation pictures online out of fear that someone will make a derogatory remark.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that every online retailer courts reviews or if it’s the anonymity of the internet, but more and more, people feel like expressing their every thought and opinion publicly is their right. Even if those words are hurtful. We’re all human and have not-so-nice thoughts. Maybe I see a coworker’s Facebook post and think that the dress she chose for a party isn’t doing her any favors. But there is a huge difference between thinking it and publicly saying that online. All of us with manners know that would hurt her feelings and embarrass her so we’d keep our thoughts to ourselves. But too often, thinking about other people’s feelings goes out the window when commenting online, particularly when the comment is directed at a stranger and there really is no fallout for behaving like an ass.

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I’m often appalled by the viciousness I’ve seen online when it comes to people’s – especially women’s – weight. It’s like carrying extra weight is a deep character flaw on par with kicking puppies and selling drugs to little kids. Or being skinny means you’re a witch. But I wonder, is every woman in the commenter’s life in tip-top physical condition? If the commenter’s mother or daughter was overweight or underweight would he/she want her subjected to that kind of abuse? I’m thinking no.

Can we please start looking at others as human beings and treat them accordingly? Can we agree that a person’s appearance is not the measure of that person’s worth? I’ve met people in all shapes and sizes that are kind and loving. I’ve been treated poorly by people who are drop dead gorgeous as well as by those who aren’t. We all have to learn to live with our exterior flaws or work hard to change what we can; but thankfully, that doesn’t determine how we look on the inside. In that area, we have total control. That’s a choice that we make every day when we decide how to treat one another.

Don’t judge a book … or the person reading the book

The thread started innocently enough.

I was on a popular book site, in a Christian group, following a thread about reading secular authors. The original poster was looking for ideas for secular authors that were readable without being offensive. I bit because while I have a few Christian authors I love, I read a lot of secular fiction, too. And it’s tough finding authors that don’t use the f-word every other sentence or throw in graphic sex scenes. But, it can also be hard to find Christian authors that I can relate to. Some are so saccharine that I can’t handle it. I know that’s not nice, probably a character flaw. But that’s me.

It wasn’t long, however, before the thread degenerated into judging, snarking about what people were reading that wasn’t “Christian” enough. I had initially thrown out my two recommendations – Harlan Coben and John Grisham – but by the time I returned to the thread to look for suggested authors, no one was suggesting. A hostile few had taken over and were judging. One woman proudly detailed that she had flamed a fellow churchgoer on the churchgoer’s personal Facebook page for reading the “50 Shades” series, questioning her salvation. I was appalled — not by the “50 Shades” reader but by the poster.

Sorry…couldn’t resist a little jab.

I personally would never read that series – first, because it’s not my thing but second, because I don’t think God would want me to. But I don’t think it’s up to me to question a person’s faith by what they choose to read, especially not publicly. I can’t imagine how the churchgoer felt being attacked online, in front of her other friends and acquaintances. I doubt she felt convicted. Probably embarrassed. I’m sure she was mostly offended.

One of my favorite Bible passages is in Romans 14 when Paul pretty much tells us to mind our own business when it comes to other Christians and their walks. It was liberating to know that I didn’t have to worry about what others were doing; I just had to focus on what God was teaching me. I’ve started books and been convicted. I’ve shut off TV programs or movies that are disturbing. I know when God is telling me to stay away from a bad situation. Sometimes I don’t listen – behaving like I did when I was 11 and watched “Poltergeist” at my friend’s house when my mom said I couldn’t – but I usually end up with consequences later. Yes, nightmares. Or setting a bad example for my kids. Or just that feeling of disconnect that comes with not obeying God.

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As a church, we need to get out of God’s way and quit judging so much. It’s not helping. Unless you know that you know that you know that God gave you a word to share with someone, keep your mouth shut. And if you do have a word, share it privately. Public flaming does way more harm than good.

The older I’ve become, the more I realize I don’t know all that much, certainly not enough to judge someone else without walking in their shoes. And normally when I falter and fall back to my judgmental nature, I’m usually eating crow not long after. It doesn’t taste good.

So this is Kitty….

This is a picture of my cat, Sassy, who died this past weekend at age 16. I can’t even describe how much I miss her. Really. After ugly crying a good portion of Sunday, I’ve had tears in my eyes off and on for the past four days.

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My kids named her after the cat in the movie “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.” Yes, she had plenty of attitude, but I never was a huge fan of the name. So I always called her Kitty. That way I wouldn’t hurt their feelings because she was a kitty, right?

But after awhile, no one called her Sassy except the vet. She’d come running if I called her Kitty but wouldn’t budge for the name Sassy. Of course, sometimes she wouldn’t come at all if she wasn’t feeling it. Like I said, she had loads of attitude. But that’s probably what I miss the most.

I’m sharing this because Sassy was the inspiration for Emily’s Kitty in my books. I added her to the stories on a whim, and now I’m glad I did. It makes me feel like she will still be with me whenever I’m working on my books. And that makes me smile.

I’m not a perfect mom and — wait!– what did I do with the cat?

I read a news article the other day that linked to this heartbreaking blog post, a confession from a mother who accidentally left her child in the car for about 20 minutes on a warm day. Thankfully, the little girl was fine. Poor Mom was the one with the scars.

I give the author a huge amount of credit for sharing this story. I knew before even clicking on the comments associated with the news story that some people – mostly other moms – would be spewing judgment and hate. I seriously don’t understand where that level of superiority comes from. Because I’ve never met a perfect mom.

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I never accidentally left my kids in the car. But I remember plenty of incidents I refer to as “bad mommy moments” when I failed. I can make jokes about them now because my kids were fine but if I think about those moments too long I can still feel the fear and self-loathing created by my mistakes.

Ironically, the blog’s title is “This is Motherhood.” And, yep, it is. Motherhood is full of triumphs and failures, learning and growing. And sometimes those lessons are painful. No one is born with the perfect mom gene, knowing exactly what to do all the time. It’s why we lose sleep and cry and commiserate with other moms. And it’s time we cut each other some slack rather than looking for a chance to stab another mom in the back.

There is a big difference between a mother who deliberately decides to leave her kids at home for the night to go party, and a mom who in a moment when she is tired, overwhelmed or stressed makes a bad call among a thousand good calls. But as women, we beat ourselves up when those bad calls impact our kids. We will be harder on ourselves than anyone else could be. So why do other moms feel it necessary to pile on? Do you think you are really helping the author – who is clearly still processing what happened – by saying “I would NEVER…?” Does anyone really benefit from you publicly patting yourself on the back for your perfection while putting down the author for her mistake?

Um…sorry. You’re human so never say never. It may not be a hot car. Maybe your kid gets away from you and runs into traffic. Or your kid stuffs too many Cheerios in his mouth and chokes. Or your kid wanders out of the backyard when you go to sign for a package from the UPS guy. Or your kid races ahead of you at Disneyland and gets lost….I could go on with a thousand scenarios. Kids are notoriously unpredictable and our society is horribly judgmental. I’ve seen kids on leashes and people judging the parents, but I think, hey, if they know their kid is a wanderer, they are making the right call. But in the eyes of society, you’re screwed either way.

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I’ve read a lot recently about “the mental load” that moms carry, those thousand things that are forever running through your mind: I need to make my son’s dentist appointment. Did I sign the permission slip for my daughter to go to the zoo? We need more milk and bread from the store. That credit card bill is due on Friday. All that thinking can take its toll.

I used to drive my kids to school sometimes on my way to work and almost invariably, they would have to remind me to drop them off because I was just on auto pilot, thinking about what I had to do that day. I left the house and followed the path to the office, not the school, even though they were sitting right next to me.

Just last week — and both my kids are at the local college now — I got to work and couldn’t remember what I did with the cat before I left. Usually she stays in our (finished) basement when we are gone because she’s naughty if left alone upstairs. But the last I’d seen her, she was lying behind the couch. It took me a good five minutes to determine if I had put her downstairs or if I’d left, closing the basement door and cutting off access to her litter box. In the end, my son had put her downstairs but I had to really think to remember that because I’d been rushing to make coffee, pack my lunch and gym bag, clean up the kitchen, turn up the thermostat, check the locks, etc.  before heading out the door.

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So, I get it. I do.

So much of what we see online is false. Photoshopped images, Facebook posts gloating about perfect families, Pinterest projects that make life seem wonderfully organized, food blogs with mouth-watering pictures that just aren’t doable in a 30-minute window. But while it’s fine to aspire to improvement, it’s not OK to judge others, or yourself, too harshly. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human. And, conversely, publicly spearing someone else for a mistake doesn’t make you better. In fact, it takes away a piece of your humanity.