27 April 2017

On the Subject of Embalming

I am now on the fifth revision of Incorruptible. This time around I am correcting plot problems. I have two major plot problems. Both can be corrected by strategically adding information somewhere within the narrative. They both also require research.

This past week I have tackled the subject of embalming. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I can say my protagonist is a mortician, and I am familiarizing myself with embalming equipment. I’m not sure how much will end up in the novel. There is a delicate balance that I am trying to maintain. A novel is fiction, after all, so a lot of what I write comes from my imagination. Yet, it needs to be realistic, too. I have to keep my readers in mind, so I need to maintain a level of realism without being overly graphic. It is not an easy thing to do.
    
One of the criticism I’ve had about my writing is that I am not very descriptive. There is truth in that. So I am trying to add more descriptive prose. Yet, I am someone who doesn’t really like a lot of description in the novels I read. I tend to be bored when people describe scenery or physical features of their characters. My mind wanders, and then I find myself pulled out of the story. I also don’t like an author to tell me everything. I like to use my own imagination. So again, I am trying to find a balance in that, be a little more descriptive when necessary, while at the same time, not bore my reader with a lot of unnecessary details. Again, it’s not an easy thing to do.

In the next few weeks, I am going to call a local funeral director and conduct an interview. A lot of the information I need about funeral homes and embalming in general, I have found on the internet. But I need a live human being to answer some of the more interesting questions. I’m actually excited about it. I can’t wait to get into the mind of a real mortician.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

21 April 2017

My Muse Is Back

After a long vacation, my muse is back. I dove into my manuscript and really got to work this week. I'm about two thirds finished, and I've cut over 4,000 words. I hope to cut more with the next revision.

I've now identified the main problems in the story, and I'm trying to fit the solutions into the draft.

Then, I'll need to go through the whole thing once again to see if it all works. After that, I'll examine my sentence structure, phrasing, and grammar. After I'm done with all that, I'll send it off to my editor and then to a proofreader. So right now, I have no time frame on when the novel will be published. That's the good thing about Indy writing--no deadlines.

I've also been doing research--a lot of research, learning from authors, editors, and book designers. I've come to discover just how little I know. And I think back on how I just jumped right into my first novel, as a true novice, and I wonder how I did what I did. I imagine if I had done my research before I wrote the book, I probably would've been too discouraged to even try.

But now with book three, it's important for me to learn as much as I can about writing and publishing. I've made a lot of mistakes in the past, but the important thing is I've learned from them.

I'm also planning a few other things that I'll tell you about when the time is right.

That's all for now.

11 April 2017

Why I Decided to Share My Port-a-Cath Story

I’ve been doing some soul searching, wondering why I feel the need to share with the world that I suffer from Crohn’s Disease and have had a port-a-cath placed to receive my maintenance drug, Remicade. Seriously, I wondered why I wanted to share such a personal thing. I’m actually a pretty private person, yet here I am telling such a personal story on the internet.

I thought long and hard about it. Why did I feel the need to share it?

Here's the story . . . 

Two doctors and two nurses told me to consider getting a port-a-cath. They all said it would make my life easier. Since Remicade is keeping me in remission, I have to stay on the drug. That means infusions every two month for however long it works. That is years of IVs. But I was still unsure. After all, health care professionals don’t always look at the patient. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Things become routine—patients become routine, too. I am just one of thousands of patients, and a port-a-cath is nothing to them. They see them every day, but they don't live with them.

We are now in an age where we have to be our own health advocates. And that’s what I decided to do.

So, I did all kinds of research on the internet. I even watched the actual surgery of a port placement on YouTube. I read about all the risks and all the benefits, but I was still unsure.

I watched more videos about accessing the port during treatments. I read blogs and went on chat sites. I wanted to know exactly what I was in for. Many of the stories I read were what could go wrong—infection, malfunction, etc, and I was still undecided.

Port-a-caths are usually associated with cancer treatments. Oftentimes, cancer patients have to receive chemotherapy every week or even every day. The port makes the treatments easier. And of course, I thought, I only get my treatment every two months. Do I really need to have a port? Yet, every time I went, I was filled with anxiety. Even if the nurse could find a good vein and start the IV, sometimes it would stop mid-treatment. There was always a fear that one day I wouldn’t receive the drug at all.

Finally, I went to speak to the surgeon. He told me everything I already knew, but it was his wife who finally convinced me. She had had a port, and she could give me a first-hand account of her experience. I think that’s what I was looking for, and I think that is why I wanted to share my own experience--maybe someone somewhere will read this and not be so afraid.

Port-a-caths aren’t just for cancer patients. So many people need treatments for so many things, and many have port-a-caths. At first, I saw getting one as a sign of illness, but for me, it is a sign of wellness—something that will help keep me well. I am not just dealing with the physical aspect of the disease, it is also the emotional aspect, and if I could make my treatments easier, less stressful, and less painful, I was willing to try it.
   
I had my first treatment with my new port on Saturday. There was absolutely no stress and no pain. I was told that the first few times it is accessed, it might be painful. I felt nothing at all. I should have done it years ago. If I had, maybe my veins could have been saved. But I am thankful I have it now. 

So I wanted to share my story for this reason: You must be your own advocate, search for your own answers, and do what is right for you. Seek out guidance from people who know, and stop listening to negativity from people who don't know. 

While I was debating on whether or not to get the port, I remember telling someone that I shouldn't get it just to make my life easier. I remember he answered something like, "why not?" I was surprised by his response, but it got me thinking--why not? After all, isn't Crohn's hard enough? Shouldn't my treatments be easy, if they can be?

Of course, the answer is yes. And that's exactly what a priest told me a few years ago, when we were talking about suffering . . . Crohn's is a big enough cross to bear, he said, so there's no reason to look for more suffering. 

Yes, everything is connected, and each person I mentioned played a role in my decision. 

And I will admit the doctors and nurses were right! 

I won't say the surgery was painless. It wasn't. I still have pain now and then where the catheter enters the subclavian vein. (I told you I did my research.) But I can deal with that, knowing it is temporary and I can receive my treatments without stress and anxiety.

So now, I will be another port-a-cath story on the internet for someone else to search out. 

04 April 2017

Today is My Anniversary

Yes, today is my anniversary. It is not an anniversary someone would want to necessarily celebrate, but today is the day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and that was nine years ago.

I never would have thought I could have made it this far, and I’ll be honest, on April 4, 2008, I really felt like my life was over. I was so sick I could barely pull myself out of bed, and when I did pull myself out of bed, I was in constant pain—a pain unlike any I had ever experienced before—or since.

A year later, and after trying several medications, my condition was still out of control, so my doctors sent me to Philadelphia to see an expert in the field of gastroenterology. This doctor saved my life. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but she definitely saved my sanity and my livelihood. I am in remission now, and I have her to thank for it.

On May 5, 2010, she started me on Remicade infusions. Remicade is considered a chemotherapy drug and it is administered through an IV infusion. I won’t go into the hows and whys of this medication, but it works for me right now, and it has given me my life back. For seven years now, I have received these treatments every two months.

Now, I am beginning a new chapter, and I thought I would share it with my readers. Three weeks ago I had a port-a-cath placed in my chest. After seven years of IV infusions, my veins are no longer easy to access. On the recommendation of three doctors, I went ahead and agreed to have the port placed. I will receive my first infusion through my new port on Saturday. I’m not sure what to expect, but I think my new port will bring with it a sense of freedom. I have to stay on Remicade to remain in remission, so I see the port as a necessity.

Since I now have a port-a-cath, I have to wear a medical ID bracelet. I received a silicone bracelet along with a card to keep in my wallet from the hospital right after my surgery. But the bracelet is gray and bland and boring. I needed something more fashionable. So I found myself an Etsy seller who makes bracelets for ID tags. Here are some of my bracelets.  I have to wear my bracelet every day, so I need a bit of variety—and a little bling doesn’t hurt either.





This last is a special request. I asked Michele to make me a bracelet with a Snow White theme--poison apple and all. Isn't it lovely? You can visit Michele's store here. She makes medical ID bracelets, but you can have any of her designs made into a regular bracelet. 




 And here is a fun fact about April 4. It is also Robert Downey, Jr's birthday and that just makes it a great day all around. 


01 April 2017

Surround Yourself With People Who Lift Your Spirit

Last week I was finally able to get together with an author friend of mine. He and I have become close over the past few years, and we are a very strange match. If providence hadn’t played a role in things, I doubt our paths would have ever crossed.    
 
I won’t go into the long story of how we met, but circumstances put us in the same place and time, and since we are both authors, we have bonded in a way that is very unique.     

So last Thursday, after a few cancellations, we finally met for dinner, and as usual, a large part of the conversation turned to writing—the ups (mostly his attitude) and the downs (mostly my attitude).
And a strange thing happened. I left feeling recharged. Once again, I am reassured about what direction I am taking with my writing. All the doubts have been erased. I owe a lot of my change in attitude to him. He is not just a friend, he is a cheerleader, and whenever we get together, I am reminded of why I am really writing.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s had his share of knocks in his writing life, but it doesn’t seem to get him down. He doesn’t forget why he writes, and that is something I need to be reminded of every now and then.

His positive, upbeat personality has stayed with me, and it has made me realize that we are all affected by the people around us. If we surround ourselves with negative people, negativity begins to seep into us. If we surround ourselves with positive people, we are lifted outside ourselves to something even higher.

My point?

Surround yourself with people who will lift your spirit, not break it. If it taps your energy, rethink it. We all need someone in our life who can talk us through the bad stuff and help us celebrate the good stuff. If you can be that for someone else, great, but sometimes we need someone to be that for us.

29 March 2017

My Blog Has a New Look

I’ve made some changes to my blog. I gave it a new look, expanded it, and streamlined it in the process. I’ve turned what was just a blog into more of a website, by adding pages that offer information at a quick glance.

Now, if you are wondering where I am with my writing, you can just click the tab to view “What I’m Writing.” If you’d like to know what I’m reading right now, you can click the tab to view “What I’m Reading.” 

Well, you get the idea.

I know people are busy, and rifling through so much information online is hard. I also know most people read on smaller devices, so the mobile version of my blog will offer more information in a simple, organized way. Yet, if you still read on a computer or laptop, the desktop version is appealing to the eye, with a little less clutter.

I'm back to purple and green. I still haven't figured out the whole branding thing. But as I move forward with my books, things will most likely change. For now, green is a good solid color, and it goes with everything. Purple means a few things to me, but it's the color of my first book cover, and I seem to gravitate back to it over and over. 

So, what do you think? I'd love some feedback. Let me know what you think of the style, color, and simplicity. 


27 March 2017

Editing Incorruptible

This weekend I got back to editing Incorruptible. I should actually say I am rewriting Incorruptible. That is really what it will come down to—a whole rewriting. Sure, most of the draft is good, but a lot of it is not, so I have a huge job ahead of me.

Confession time: I have been procrastinating.

Why?

Because I knew there would be an overhaul of this third draft, and I honestly didn’t want to face it. It is quite daunting to think a large portion of the story doesn’t work. But this weekend, I decided to face that fact, and get back to it. The truth is I need to face it head on before I can fix it—and I will fix it.

My approach will be to take things one small step at a time. I know what the problems are, and I think I know how to fix them, but I’ve been looking at the draft as a whole, and that created an overwhelming anxiety. I even thought about tossing the whole thing and using Corruptible as my third book. After all, who has time to rewrite a whole novel? I have a full-time job, a house, a husband, cats, and health issues to deal with. 

Who has time to rewrite a whole novel?

Then I came to my senses.

What about Mac and Joel and Dante and Will? What about their story? Don’t their voices deserve to be heard?

So back to the drawing board I went to start all over again. 

My characters are pleading with me. Their story needs to be told. I just have to listen a little closer this time. 

10 March 2017

Friday Update

Next week I will send off my novella, Corruptible, to my editor. I am excited to see what she thinks and what advice she offers. I think our working relationship will be a good fit. She’s an author herself, and I am a fan of her novels. I’m already learning a lot from her, and if I can be half the writer she is, then I will be happy.

While she is editing Corruptible, I will be working hard on its companion novel, Incorruptible. I handed the manuscript off to beta readers last December, and from the feedback I have received, it is in great need of work. Writing the novella has actually helped me iron out some of the problems with the novel, and I’m confident that I can have a good final draft ready to hand over to my editor in a month or two. I’m taking my time with this one. That is one valuable lesson I have learned in my writing life—patience.

Incorruptible is long, really long. I know I'm going to have to cut a lot. Some characters or scenes may have to go, but in the end it will make for a stronger story. This is a big change from my first two novels, where I had to actually add scenes to make the story stronger.

I am also working on my fourth novel. I have a few scenes written, but mostly I am formulating the plot in my mind. That’s how it works with me. Usually, while editing one novel, I’m thinking of the plot line for the next. I’m beginning to grow attached to the main character now, and I’m anxious to start writing.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about writing a non-fiction book. The idea has cropped up now and then, and I have pushed it out of my mind for reasons I won’t go into right now. But it keeps nagging at me, so I think I’ll begin that project once Incorruptible is in the hands of my editor.  The idea won’t go away, so that is a sign for me to take the idea seriously.

That’s all for now.

Stay tuned.

20 February 2017

I Have an Editor

Yes, I have an editor! I am so excited. I really feel I am now entering a new phase in my writing life. Hiring a professional editor is a huge leap for me, and I am convinced my writing can only improve.

I won't lie. Hiring a professional editor is an expense, and for the last four years, I have put the whole idea on the back burner. I simply didn't think my writing deserved the investment. After all, it was just a hobby.

But now, circumstances have forced me to ask myself: Can I afford to hire a professional editor? Then I asked myself the more important question: Can I afford not to?  And I realized, I can no longer wait. If I want to treat my writing with respect, now is the time to invest in its future.


An editor is probably the most vital thing a writer can have, and it is a important decision. Any editor won't do. You need an editor who can tap into your writing style, not change it, but improve it. And I have hired the perfect person for the job.

I actually feel very good about my decision. In many ways it will take away the stress in publishing. I know I will now be publishing the best manuscript I can, and that, itself, gives me a feeling of freedom.

15 February 2017

A Big Leap

As I said a few posts back, I’ve decided to make some changes in my writing life. The first step was to reach out to other authors and learn more about my craft. I’ve joined the Catholic Writer’s Guild, and their resources have been invaluable to me.

Now, I’m about to take the second step.

Moving forward with my third book, I am hiring a professional company to format my manuscript and a professional editor. This is not just a step, it is giant leap, pushing me beyond hobby to career—part-time career, maybe, but career, nevertheless.

I’ve already contacted a company who will do the formatting and cover for Incorruptible. They’ve accepted me as a client, and I am excited.

Today, I have contacted a professional editor/proofreader. At this writing, I am waiting to see if she will take me on as a client. Keep your fingers crossed! I have done my research, and she is my first choice to edit my work.

Stay tuned . . . 

08 February 2017

Into the Minds of Characters and People

 “She sees the world as she is, Anna, not how it really is." This is a quote from Charlie, a character in Corruptible, my novella.
Every now and then, a quote comes to me in my writing that is filled with truth. This quote is one of them, and it turns out to be one of my favorites. It is a short quote, but it says a lot about a character, and a reader might read through it quickly without paying much attention. But when I wrote it, it was well thought-out and deliberate.
And it is something I believe myself. In fact, Anna replies with, “Well, maybe we all do.”
I have an analytical mind, and I try to figure people out—what motivates them. It works well for writing fiction. It helps me get into the minds of my characters. If you don’t know your character’s motivation, you may end up writing flat, one dimensional characters instead of complex characters with many layers. People are complicated, so are well-written characters. That is what I strive for.
But, having an analytical mind in real life is not as helpful. I tend to over analyze things, wondering, why did she say that, or why did he do that. Then I move into, I would never treat someone that way. That is when I have to take a step back and realize that I, too, am looking at the world as I am. And it becomes a delicate balancing act.
Bitterness.
Anger.
Suspicion.
Self-absorption.
Deceit.
Kindness.
Cheerfulness.
Honesty.
Thoughtfulness.
Compassion.
Where do these traits come from? Some, I imagine, come from life experiences. But why do some people experience a tremendous amount of suffering and remain kind, cheerful, thoughtful, compassionate, and honest, while some people experience very little suffering and hold on to bitterness, anger, suspicion and self-absorption? Some traits must come from personality. I imagine it is different with each individual. But I have found that those that offer bitterness and anger to the world around them, most likely don’t like themselves very much. It is an internal struggle that seeps out into the world around them.
In the writing life, it helps me get into the minds of characters I have very little in common with. In the real world, it is a reminder to take a self-inventory every now and then, just to be sure I’m not harboring bad feelings, ready to be unleashed into the world on an unsuspecting soul. 

02 February 2017

A First Step

In my last blog entry, I stated that I wanted to surround myself with fellow authors. The first step I’ve taken to that end is to join The Catholic Writer’s Guild. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons, but I finally did it. I applied for membership.

One of my future goals is to apply to the Guild for A Seal of Approval for Vocation. I would like to see if Vocation meets the standards set by the Guild as a book that supports Catholic beliefs and values. If it does pass the criteria, I would be able to offer copies of the book to Catholic book stores for sale.

I’ve come to a point in my writing career to realize that I need to branch out beyond my local market. There is an audience out there for Catholic fiction, I just need to tap into the market.

When you are an independent author, you are your own agent. You really have to believe in yourself in order to sell your work. Connecting with other authors, who support you, can be very beneficial, and for me it is time to make that commitment. I have reached out to other authors, one-on-one, but now it is time to reach out on a greater scale. It is time to take pride in my writing, and take the leap into a bigger pond. And I am proud of Vocation, and I want to get it out to more readers.

As I see it, I have two major handicaps to overcome—being and independent author and an author of Catholic fiction. I don’t have an agent to sell my books, and I am writing books in a genre that is limiting. But the simple fact is I write what I write, and I believe with more knowledge and more confidence, I will one day find my readers.

 It is small step, but that's how it all begins, isn't it.

17 January 2017

A Simple Message

I had a really bad day yesterday. Yes, a really bad day like the book says . . . the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was that bad. I won’t go into the details, but I will say, afterwards, I was in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mood.

Then early this morning I signed onto my author email. I don’t get much traffic on my blog, so I don’t check my email too often. Today something told me to check it, so I did. I am learning to listen to that little voice that gives you direction. Call it intuition or whatever, but I listen to it now.

Well, I checked my email, and there was a message from a friend I haven’t heard from in a long time—asking about my second book.

What a way to cheer my heart.

Today I can move forward with a lighter heart. My friend never realized what a lift in spirit she gave me with that simple message, but now she does.

10 January 2017

Revisiting My Genre

Sometime last year, I changed my author bio from Author of Contemporary Catholic Fiction to Author of Catholic Fiction. It is a subtle change but a significant one.

When I began writing book three, I discovered I was branching out. In a way, Vocation was a continuation of A Future Spring, not so much in plot but in style. And both books were safe, meaning, I was a bit timid in allowing the creative juices to flow. I actually held myself back.

Incorruptible has changed all that. I was less timid when I wrote it, and the plot has a different tone. I also delve into the supernatural, moving beyond what we experience in the natural world. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it doesn't mean New Age. It means I dive into the spiritual nature of things, the unseen world, but I still do that through my Catholic vision. That is one thing that has not changed.

After I wrote my third book, I started thinking about why I call myself an Author of Catholic Fiction. Why do I choose to write my stories around my faith?

Well, there are two reasons, really.

First, I see the world through the eyes of the Church, and there are things that have happened in my life that force me to write the way I write. I don't think I can really write any other way. If I try to write in a different way, my stories will become contrived.

Second, I find the genre lacking. There are "clean reads," meaning books without sex and violence. And there is "Christian fiction," usually written from a Protestant worldview. But there isn't a lot of Catholic fiction out there. In fact, there isn't even the genre on Amazon. Sure, there is Catholic fiction, but you have to hunt for it.

So why did I decide to drop the Contemporary from my genre? Well, like I said, Incorruptible changed the rules, and I plan to branch out even more with book four. I no longer want to be limited to contemporary themes and settings, and I will be moving to the past with book four.

Yes, there is a book four already making itself known to me.

I am just about finished with the novella that will be included with Incorruptible. There was more to tell of that story, and without giving out spoilers, I had to make this last part of the story an entity all its own. I thought about writing it as another novel, but you must read the novel, Incorruptible, before you read its companion novella, Corruptible, so I settled on a novella included after the main novel. I didn't want someone reading Corruptible first. It gives up too many of Incorruptible's secrets.

So, in order for my readers to know what they are getting themselves into, I will retain my own branding as an Author of Catholic Fiction. It may be limiting in some ways, but in other ways it opens up a whole new world.

01 January 2017

My Goal For 2017

I came across this quote a few years back, and I found it to be interesting. It goes against the grain, so to speak. I thought I would write my first post of 2017 around it, since now is the time people make resolutions and goals for the year. 

Here is the quote from actor Greg Kinnear . . . "Setting goals can blind you to opportunities. You might be trying to get to point C; when opportunity B comes, you don't even look at it because you're going straight to C. I've never had a clear road map. When things come along, I benefit."

I find this quote to be filled with truth. He doesn't say it here, and I don't know if he was even thinking on these lines, but to me, it means God is in control. God takes you places you are never prepared for and can never plan for. If you are seeking your own goals, you cannot see the plan God has laid out for you. Why have a clear road map of your own when God is driving? 

So, for me, 2017 will not be filled with resolutions or goals. I guess my only goal will be to sit back and let God do the driving. I won't say I will relax, because I need to be alert to the signs He places along the road. But, this year, I will try to trust God's road map and not my own.