Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Dangerous Salad

Yesterday for lunch I wanted a salad. Boy, did it look yummy! A perfect day, warm and comfortable, sunny, and nice wind blowing. I usually sit in my car at lunch to just get away and do some quiet brainstorming or reading. It doesn't get better than this.

So, I took my very first bite of mixed greens and bit on something hard! I maneuvered it around until I could grab it and...it was a piece of tooth. A large piece of tooth. At first I was grossed out and ready to go back to the restaurant and demand my money back. Then...I remembered that cracked molar that I've been ignoring for a year and a half.

Wiggled tongue around in mouth and felt the sharp edges of broken tooth. Argh! The only good thing is it isn't causing any pain. Well, unless you count the place where my tongue comes in contact and is irritated.

Today will consist of a trip to the dentist. Now I'm only hoping they can get it crowned before RWA National, but there's little hope for that. Temporary caps and I do not get along.

And, I have a headache so going to the dentist does not bode well for me today.

On a lighter note, I just might stay home today and write. I'm not good with dentists, numbing meds, drilling, and swollen face. I suppose I could write this into my manuscript somehow. Maybe torturing one of my characters will make me feel better.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mental Blocks or Writing Blocks?

It started the day I knew my mother would move in with me. I hit a mental block about my writing. I chalked it up to having way too much on my plate. So, I stepped back and allowed myself some time to "take care of personal business."

Along the way, I'd open my manuscript, edit/write a page or two, get excited about the project, and... Something would come up and days/weeks would pass without my looking at it again.

Did I have writer's block?

No. A mental block is not writer's block. In fact, I've said this before. I don't believe in writer's block. I do, however, believe in mental blocks. Our internal editor entangles issues and fears in our brain that have nothing at all to do with our abilities, and the result is shutdown.

Case in point: I invited some dear friends to dinner. Having eight kids, trust me, I've never had a problem with cooking for anyone. But, after planning the menu, I stalled. As the day drew nearer, I couldn't imagine cooking anything. Everything seemed wrong. Inadequate. I even started searching the internet looking for menus. What happened to me? A simple cook-out meal should not be something to stress over. I had to dig deep for the answer. As a child, I never felt anything I did was "good" enough. My mother, bless her heart, wanted more for me than she'd accomplished. Unhappy with her lot in life, she alternated between being jealous of my accomplishments and pushing me to do more. Now she's living with me again. My mind is struggling with the confident adult and the incompetent child. Thus, I hit these mental blocks.

Opening my manuscript every day is mandatory.

How about you? If you think you have writer's block, maybe you should look deeper inside and ferret out the real problem. Only then can you overcome the obstacle.

Oh, yes. We had a great time, good food, laughter, and bonding with our friends. And, my manuscript is moving right along.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Press Kit...Media...Pictures

I don't look like that! I'm the picture taker in our family, so rarely do I show up in any of our family shots. But when I do, I look like a dork!! I swear I don't look like those pictures. *sigh*

Now I need to put together a press kit, complete with picture. So, what's a gal to do? I understand there are copyright issues when you have your pictures made professionally and you aren't allowed to publish them. I'd rather not get into the issue, thank you very much.

I could ask my hubby to take a picture, but then I'd be headless. Trust me, the part below the head is much worse than the full face.

That leaves me to doing some creative things with the timer on my camera. The problem is getting it set up just right and the lighting just right and body angle just right and...

Forget it. I think I'll just use my cat's picture. After all, I'm a suspense writer. Why not keep the readers in suspense as to what I really look like!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weaving Romance, Suspense, and Inspiration...

...is not easy to do. How do you get the correct balance?

My latest manuscript is challenging me. I have a great conflict. The characters have gripped my heart.

But, when I thing too hard about getting the right balance of everything, it stops my progress. That dratted inner editor keeps whispering in my ear.

So, what to do? I decided to try something different. I'm going to finish the book focusing on the romance and development between the characters as they deal with the mystery/suspense that has drawn them together. I'm not comfortable with quoting scripture as some authors do.

Maybe I shouldn't classify my romance as an inspirational. True, my characters are christian, but I want them to be real people, not cardboard christians that I see in a lot of inspirational books.

Guess that means this book may never get published. But...it will get written, and when I'm finished, I can sing, "I Did It My Way!"

Have a great day. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Getting Prepared for Nationals

So many workshops, so little time.

I'm excited about attending the RWA National Convention for the first time ever. I'm probably one of the few who will be in a room by myself. Why? I get really stressed in crowds and I'm not a party person. Sooo, after a long day of attending workshops, I'm looking forward to the peace and quiet of my room. Hoping to get inspiration to work on my novel in the evenings and spend time talking to my loved ones at home.

But, how do I choose the right workshops? So many workshops, so little time....

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Writing is Cathartic

Writing for me is cathartic. I've used the method for years to cleanse the sad feelings from my heart. The first time I realized I could use my writing gift for this purpose was to cope with the death of a little baby. My best friend in grade school's brother and his wife had a little girl. She was so beautiful. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and unfortunately she had a disease which took her at a very young age of two. I was fourteen at the time. I remember sitting in my room, alone, crying and trying to make sense of the senseless. I picked up a notebook and pen and wrote a poem, pouring out all the hurt and anger about death.

Since then, I've found my release in words.

If only we could bottle up the extreme ends of our emotions and release them in the scenes of our novels, there would be a lot more best-selling authors.

Sometimes my novels start from scenes which are derived from the depth of an emotion. The actual book may or may not even contain that scene in the final version, but writing it down is cathartic.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sometimes You Just Have to Cry

And that's what I'm about to do right now, so I decided to blog about it instead. I'd forgotten that my childhood wasn't exactly a normal one. I don't think my mother ever really loved me...or my brother or sisters. She moved away from her kids when she got her second divorce. My brother went with his dad, my sister went to live with her uncle, and I went to live with my grandparents. My father was killed in the war when I was just a baby. So...I remember seeing my mom occasionally. A visit once or twice a year. But after she got remarried four years later, she came to get me. I spent a lot of time alone, reading, playing outdoors...a loner. I began spinning stories in my head back then. Books were my escape. I moved away from home when I was seventeen and only went back for a visit once a year.

For some reason, my mother has always seemed to resent me. She never said she loved me and nothing I ever did was good enough. I was second rate to my friends, my cousins, everyone. She says with a vengeance that she hated her own mother. Over the years I heard nothing but horrible stories about how her mother hated her. So, when my grandmother loved me and gave me things, my mother resented me even more. I remember her screaming and pulling my hair so hard that it came out in her hands. She would beat me with her fists on my back.

I suppose she felt that I had taken the love from my grandmother that she should have had. At least, that's my psychological take on it.

Then came the time when my mother could no longer keep her home. She had spent all her money, she was alone, and the doctors told her that due to her heart condition she shouldn't be alone. I've always told her she had a home with me and my husband any time she needed it. Finally, in January of this year, she said she'd made up her mind and she would come to live with us. Over the next few months, we remodeled and did everything we could to make our home more comfortable for her. But, she sounded like her life was coming to an end as the date drew closer.

Now she's here and she seems to be content. She smiles more. She has people to talk to, she loves the cats, but...she resents the fact that she has to live with me. She had to leave her home and a lot of her possessions behind. And, I know how hard that must have been. I try not to take it personally when she reminds me in a not so nice way that something she had was left behind. Before she moved here, she told me she really didn't want to move, and I told her it wasn't too late. Her response was a not so nicely toned, "Well, what do you expect me to do? I don't have any choice!" **sigh**

I really thought it would get better, and I suppose it has for her. But now I've reverted back to childhood emotions. My mother doesn't really like me. I can't please her. I try. Maybe I try too hard.

This is Father's Day. I told my hubby he could have anything he wanted for dinner. He chose to go to Bob Evans. At five, I told Mom that we were going out to Bob Evans for dinner and asked if she felt like going along. She said, "Yes." She said she'd been resting in the chair all day and felt fine. So I told her we would leave around six.

All was well, until we reached Bob Evans and she got out of the car and was walking to the door. Suddenly, she turned to me and said, "The next time it's hot like this, don't ask me to go out! I can't take this heat!"

I said, "Mom, you said you wanted to come."

She: "I know. But when it's hot outside, I say indoors. When I was in my own home, if I stuck my head out and it was hot, I went back inside and stayed there."

So, I asked if she wanted me to take her back home.

She declined.

Then, as we walked up to the hostess, mom looked at me and said, "Jessie used to go places without me. I didn't have to go with her all the time."

So what do I do? Sometimes I feel like I should just stay in my office downstairs and out of her way.

Nothing I do is right. I'm an adult now. Why does it still hurt me so much?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cats...Intuitive Healers

Recently we moved my mother into our home. She had two furry cat babies, Maggie and Blacky. Both were elderly and Mom felt they wouldn't survive the long trip to Ohio, so she chose to leave them behind. It's hard to adopt out elderly cats, but we found a no-kill shelter and have hope that someone will open their hearts and adopt them. I know how sad she was to leave her beloved family home and her babies, but there there was no choice. She couldn't afford to keep up her home any longer. When she called with her decision, we immediately made plans to remodel and rearrange our home to accomodate her.
I'm so blessed to have her with me, and she's so much happier now with having people around her to talk to. But, I could tell how much she missed her babies. We have three cats, Charlotte, Wilbur, and Templeton (yeah, can you tell I'm a writer!). Charlotte, like most Divas, chooses the time she wants to spend with us mere humans. However, the boys are a different story. Inquisitive, and very loving, they are people cats. They sensed Mom's need for feline companionship. Wilbur sleeps with her, and when she's in her recliner watching television, he's either on the arm of the chair, in her lap, or laying on the back of the chair, swinging his big furry tail in front of her face. Templeton has been in her lap, too, but he's so much more inquisitive.
Yesterday something really cute happened. If I'd been home I would have taken a picture. He's been investigating her walker. It has a little area where you can sit things, or yourself, and a basket which she uses to keep things handy. Mom has taken over making our bed and hers. It's one thing she can do which makes her feel helpful. Anyway, yesterday Templeton jumped on the walker and was sitting on the little "chair" part. Mom got out of her chair and said, "Do you want to go for a ride? Come on, I have to make the beds." She proceeded to walk down the hall to our bedroom and Templeton just stayed on for the ride. He waited while she made that bed, then she took him into her room and, again, he just sat there watching. Finished, they both came back down the hall! Templeton now believes her walker is his domain, and quite fun, and Mom is so happy to have these furry buddies to help relieve the pain of moving.
We made a lot of changes to try and make her comfortable, but it took our cats to really lift her depression.
I love animals. Guess that's why I always include them in my books!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Facebook and Twitter

So, I've been feeling a lot of pressure to join Facebook and Twitter, I decided to join in the frenzy.

Now, can someone please tell me what I'm supposed to do with these? I know they are mainly social networks, but how does a writer go about using these to the best advantage to draw fans?

*sigh* I know just enough to be dangerous.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Outsmarting a Cat

Not an easy thing to do. When we moved my Mom here from Illinois, we were unable to catch Blacky, her seventeen year old cat. Blacky is very skittish and nervous. After Mom got her cat, Maggie, Blacky decided to make her domain the basement. She'd come out at night when Maggie would be asleep. Maggie ruled.

Consequently, poor Blacky became very antisocial...except with Mom. In order to capture Blacky, she set a trap in the kitchen. But Blacky outsmarted the trap and escaped before the door snapped shut. After that, she wouldn't go near the trap at all. We had to leave Blacky behind because we couldn't capture her. The plan had been to take her to a no-kill shelter because Mom decided neither of her cats would be able to withstand the trip due to their ages.

My cousin, who lives next door to Mom in Illinois, began a campaign to capture Blacky. Her final trick was to put a trail of food along the floor leading to the trap. Each day the food would be one step closer to the trap, then a little inside, and so on until the food was in the area where Blacky would have to step on the mechanism to set it off.

Last night...success! Blacky is now safely in a carrier with water and food in preparation for her trip to the no-kill shelter. Thank you, Lord! Mom is so relieved and so are we. The poor thing had to be so frightened. Left alone in a house suddenly with no one to care for her. I hope she fares well at the shelter, although I'm sure she won't trust anyone for a long, long time.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Editing by Reading Aloud

If you haven't heard anyone say you must read your manuscript aloud, let me say it loud and clear right now. "Reading your manuscript aloud before submitting is vital to your success."

It's funny how our eyes skim over missing words and awkward sentences when we read to ourselves. So many times I've thought everything in my chapter was perfect, only to read it aloud and find mistakes. But, if you are like me, I'm always embarrassed to have someone overhear me reading to myself. Then I tend to whisper...which isn't effective at all.

My suggestion is to find a close family member or friend and ask if you can read your manuscript to them. My solution is to finalize a chapter and then ask. I only read one chapter at a time. Otherwise, my tongue refuses to work properly.

Since my mother can't read any longer, I asked if she would mind if I read her my story one chapter at a time. It's a great solution. I find mistakes as I'm reading and make marks, BUT I'm also able to correct it with the proper words AS I'm reading it to her.

Please try this if you haven't yet. You may be one of the lucky people who has that private time to read aloud without anyone distracting you. Take advantage!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Win an AMAZON Gift Certificate!

If you're interested in winning a gift certificate from Amazon, please check out the contest I'm running on my website at www.carolannerhardt.com

My new Summer Newsletter is available. If you haven't yet signed up, you can do so by visiting my website.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 12, 2009

How to Confuse A Cat

For years, I've sat in a high-backed chair in my office. My cats love to jump to the back and lay at the top of my head. Charlotte's favorite thing is to nuzzle my hair and the fall asleep with her head touching mine. Wilbur likes to run and jump to the back and take us both for a little ride before settling down and wrapping his tail around my neck. Several times he's tried this when I'm not in the chair and both go flying to the floor.

I've been wanting to get a smaller chair to use while writing. My soon to be daugher-in-law brought one to me the other night. I love it. It's not big or elaborate, but it's sooooo comfy. I still have the bigger chair at the other desk, but I only use it when I'm going to settle down and watch TV in my office.

The problem is...I've confused my cats.

They meow and look up at me with these forlorn looks. They just don't understand why they can't rest at the top of my head while I'm writing. They've tried. In fact, Charlotte sat on the skinny arm of this new chair last night and put her paws on my shoulder to reach my hair. Wilbur climbs on my lap and stares in my eyes and asks "why?" Both are very distracting to my concentration. Ocassionally they give up and move to the back of the old chair where they stare holes in the back of my head and make me very nervous.

Actually, they probably aren't confused. Cats are very smart...and vindictive. I probably should watch my back.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Creature in the Bush...

Oh, my! Yesterday while walking with my friend behind our work building, we spied a strange creature. At first I thought it was a small groundhog. She thought it might be a rabbit. The fur color was like a rabbit's. I didn't notice a tail, but it moved rather quickly under cover of a small patch of weeds in the corner of a fenced lot. I moved closer to get a better look.

Whoa! It didn't have a face like a rabbit. The snout was longer and more narrow. Small rounded ears. Beady black eyes. It stared at me. I stared at it.

**shudder** I believe it was a rat, a huge rat with a rather beautiful coat of fur.

However, I didn't notice any teeth showing as in most rats.

Of course, being a writer, I concocted a vision of some elusive organization operating in the vacant end of the huge warehouse--creating a new kind of intelligent mutant creature who could take over the world. Maybe I should be writing science ficiton instead of romantic suspense.

For non-writers, this is the way writers come up with ideas. We'll muse on events like this and tweak them until a scene develops, and magically a story begins to develop. Who knows? Maybe this will become a scene in my current manuscript.

Have a great day!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Patience, Lord...

My daughter tells me I shouldn't pray for patience or God will give me situations in which I must practice patience. *sigh*

Yesterday opportunities abounded in which to practice patience.

#1 - Hubby is a trustee at church and this is his month to lock up the church. NO problem. Our Bible Study group met at 12:30 right after the second service. Problem: We could not open the closet which housed the keys to lock all the doors--and every one was open. There was a Master Lock box on the door which required a code to open. Okay, no one told hubby about this lock box or the code. The person in charge of the trustees had not given him a walk-through of what to do, but we figured it wouldn't be a big deal to lock all the doors, provided we had the tools to do so. At 2pm in the afternoon, all alone in a vast church, the problem loomed quite large. So, I began calling people from the church directory who lived close by. Answering machines. What did I expect on a beautiful, sunny Sunday? Finally, I reached someone who gave us the code--which didn't work! What now? Back to the phones. I reached another lady I knew would be helpful. Guess what? She gave me the same code. *sigh* However, she did tell me to call if I couldn't get it to work because she had a key that would open the door. Ten more minutes of trying and I had to ask her to bring that key. She arrived, in a good humor, thank the good Lord. I had her check the code and sure enough, I had input it correctly. HOWEVER, no one ever told us a Master Box would drop open and reveal a "key" to open the door! She simpy pulled the lock box open and grinned. Well, geesh. Patience, Lord. Then, she showed me the master floor plan with different colored dots. Apparently on the first Sunday, all the fire extinguishers need to be checked and initialed. And all the thermostats need to be checked and set appropriately. Did I tell you VAST church. Our sanctuary seats 1800 people. There is a huge family life center, AND an attached academy for preschool through sixth grade! Two floors of classrooms. An hour later, with all the extinguishers checked, the thermostats reset, and all the doors locked, we made our way home.

#2 - Had to go grocery shopping so we could eat this week. Took Mom with me because she "needed a few things." Last week she bought a one pound package of cheese slices, of which she still had over half left. She kept asking me where the BOX of three packages of cheese slices were. That's what she always buys. Before I could find this box of cheese, she began a frustrated string of words about how she should have brought the two boxes from her refrigerator along with her. Patience, Lord. I explained again how we had no way to refrigerate the cheese on our ten hour trip from Illinois to Ohio and that's why we didn't bring it. Luckily, I found the box of cheese slices, and she's now happy.

#3 - Hubby walked into my office and looked at the box of 100 calorie Kudos. He looked inside, picked up a M & M bar and asked if the bars were mine. I told him to help himself (thinking, this is exactly what he asked me two weeks ago when he took an M & M bar). Then he proceeded to ask me where I got them. I explained I purchased them from GFS when I purchased the paper products for our grandson's wedding reception. He stared at the bar, turned it around in his hand, and smiled. I told him to help himself whenever he wanted...but then I slipped and said, "Just as I told you two weeks ago when you asked me about them and ate an M & M bar." He said, "Really? I don't remember seeing these before." *sigh* Patience, Lord.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Hypnotherapy--I'm Convinced

Four weeks, three sessions, and six-and-a-half pounds lighter. I love the new me. Not the outside me, but the inside me. Taking the hypnotherapy along with having all the stress in my life has helped to heal me internally. Believe it or not, I'm able to handle stress without going overboard and beating myself up, or shall I say, eating myself to death. Perhaps it comes from my upbringing where food became a balm to soothe hurts and tears.

Going through this hypnosis has given me a new lease on my emotions and why I eat. Now I'm in control, not food. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want, BUT, I seem to only want to eat at meal times. I'm satisfied easier, and I eat less and I'm not having the horrible bouts of heartburn any longer. I don't snack or cram down a whole bag of chips. Every day I make progress, and it's a "whole-body" experience.

I'll give another report a month from now. If any of you reading this blog is having a problem with weight, smoking, or anything you can't control, I highly suggest checking out hypnotherapy. Just make sure you find someone who is legit and comes highly recommended.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How Do You Get Your Ideas?

I see this question asked over and over again by writers, readers, and aspiring writers. I've always found this hard to answer when I'm asked this in an interview. So, I did some introspection to try and find out what it is that gives me a story starter.

As I've proclaimed many times, I'm a true pantster. If I plot and outline, you can just bet I won't ever write that particular story. There's something about the process that freezes my brain and stifles my creativity. So, what is it that gives me the idea for a story? It's a mood, a feeling, something I absorb into my mind when I look out the window of my office or my car.

Today, the sky is dark, there is a breeze blowing the trees, and lone bird sits on a wire. No cars are moving, nothing else is stirring. This pulls my mind into a scene of being all alone. I feel a woman who is at the depths of despair over something that has happened or is about to happen. Then I begin typing out what emotions I'm feeling and believe it or not, scene develops. My story builds around this scene. I don't yet know where the story might go, but I do have a deep-rooted awareness of my heroine.

There's nothing magical, nothing formulaic, just a dumping of what comes into my brain. Hmm, perhaps that is magical to someone who plots.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

When to Learn and When to Write

When I first began writing, I never once thought about "learning" the craft. I had a knack of sitting at a blank screen thinking of a first sentence and then just writing, writing, writing and seeing how the story developed on its own. I could spin a story of 1500 words in less than an hour. Writing was fun!

Then a yearning began deep in my heart to write a novel. I'd already written the beginning of a scene a few years prior--a scene that haunted me. From that scene, I wrote Hit and Run. I spent many hours glued to the computer, typing and being surprised by the story which developed until THE END came at page 347 a short three months later. That's when I discovered "writer's groups" existed. Wow! I could take classes on-line and learn how to become an author!

Thus began a "muddling of the mind." So many rules. So many do not's. Immersed in learning my craft, I kept revising and revising my novel. Soon, I became so confused I lost my enthusiasm for getting published. How could I write with all these rules and guidelines squeezing my brain? My writing shelf overflowed with "how to" craft books. Many contradicted another. Egads!

At this point, I could have quit. But, I stepped back and realized that all the classes and all the books had something I could use. I only had to learn what worked for me. Each writer is unique. Each writer approaches the craft in a different way. Thank goodness! No one would read if each of us produced the same type of story every single time.

Writing is a solitary process. I need the comaraderie of fellow writers to keep me motivated and inspired--to help me know I'm not alone. I need to take a class or read a book, if it appeals to me, but I also need to write. In order to write, I need to forget all the so-called rules and let the story flow. For me, turning off the internal editor can be difficult. However, that's when my best comes out.

Here's my advice. Take classes, read books, learn the craft, but don't turn yourself into a perpetual student. Write, write, write. Apply what you've learned in the editing process. Separate the two things. It won't be easy, but it is necessary. Soon, you'll find yourself following the "important rules" unconsciously.

Don't lose the joy of writing.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Getting Into the Zone (Writer's Talk)

If you are a writer who has been at the craft for a while, you'll know what I say when I mention getting into the zone. The first time it happened to me, I didn't know the first thing about writing a novel. Imagine my surprise when the words suddenly started flowing across my computer screen without my knowledge of what would happen next. I didn't stop and think about what I "should" or "would" write. The words just popped out one at a time at a rapid speed. That feeling is euphoric. AND, that's where you'll do your best writing. Well, maybe I'm speaking only from my own experience as a pantster (one who writes without a formal outline). I do believe that my lack of knowledge helped me reach this zone. When I try and plot out what should happen in the scene I'm working on, the words are slow to come. My inner editor is turned on stopping my creativity.

No matter how I seek to reach this zone, it only happens when I'm not consciously thinking about it. I once wrote a piece for Chicken Soup for the Soul entitled "Hands of Time." When I wrote this, I was inspired by looking at my hands and realizing they looked like my mother's hands. I started writing. The words flowed from my heart in less than a half-hour. That story has been published in three different Chicken Soup books now, much to my surprise. Nothing else I sent them has been published.

With the past few months of stress and planning behind me, I hope to get back into writing again. My horoscope for today says: "You need to get in touch with the deeper, less accessible parts of your mind, Write down your dreams, pay attention to stray thoughts or look for coincidences to help guide the way." Hmmm, I do believe this is another gentle nudge.

Thanks so much for stopping by!