When Good Intentions Meet Real Life

Yes, it’s been a while. Since my last post, I have kind of lost the motivation for doing much of any kind of writing. Doubt has crept in and I’m not as confident in my skill as I used to be. It all seems like such hard work and I’ve begun to wonder if it’s really worth it.

However, there is now progress being made, small though it is. I signed up for one of those Agent boot camps at Writer’s Digest – mainly to make sure I was actually good at this writing thing. Yes, my writer friends have all told me I am and while that should be good enough, it really helps to hear it from someone for whom finding good writers is a paying job.

The deal for this boot camp is to submit the first 10 pages of the current work in progress. As it happens, I already had the first 10 pages written – in more than one form. I have been struggling with where to begin my current story. I’ve gone way back into the past and several steps into the future with openings written for pretty much every time period in between.

So I sent off one idea, which actually hit on a few items on the agent’s don’t list. Thankfully, from her response, it appears she did read the whole thing. She also gave me plenty of input on what an opening scene should contain. One suggestion was to start with how the hero got into the mess I showed in my submission. As it happens, I did already have that scene written. Just one of the many starts to this thing. I did some work on it and sent it off well before the deadline. I am now awaiting her feedback.

I have already gotten quite a bit of confidence from this exercise. Not that I’m actually looking for an agent, although if I get an offer out of the session, I will give it serious consideration. No, the most valuable thing I’ve gained here is professional confirmation that I do, in fact, know what I’m doing. It’s also given me the motivation I need to get the thing polished up and out on Amazon as soon as possible. Become a published author in real life as opposed to just dreaming about it.

I guess I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not really seeing the point of going to all the trouble of writing something that may or may not see the light of day. It’s been a hobby for so long that it’s hard to make myself believe it could really happen for me. Granted, it would be a self-published work but there are now many inspiring examples of how a self-published author can really make a go of it. Not to drop any names or anything but Hugh Howey is a prime example. The man is currently cruising the world’s waters in a sailboat he has had custom built, basically living his dream. He posts pictures to his Facebook page on a regular basis. Gorgeous views of the ocean that look inviting. While sailing would not be my fondest dream, I can envy the freedom that he’s enjoying.

All of which means it’s come down to this – either I get something out there (or several somethings) or I put writing on the backburner in favor of finding an 8 to 5 and reenter cubeland. I get the shudders just thinking about it but savings only goes so far and it’s time to do something about it.

That’s where things stand right now. I do feel as if I’m at a precipice that demands I either jump or turn back. Jumping is scary as – well, you know. Turning back is even scarier. While I’m not sure of the correct path, I do know I can’t stand here forever. I have to move.

One way or another.

And So It Goes….

Progress report: I’m about to write the final chapter to the novel.

While I’m very excited to finally be able to call these major revisions finished, that doesn’t mean the novel is ready for public consumption. I still have to find a cover artist, decide on the cover art and make some minor changes I’ve decided upon before the thing can be uploaded anywhere.

And when I say minor changes, that’s exactly what I mean. I say that for my benefit more than yours, actually. Minor changes, Penny. Not major plot twists. Not new characters. Not entirely new scenes. Minor. Changes. Period.

There. Maybe I’ll listen to myself now that it’s down in writing and made public.

Yeah. Probably not.

But this illustrates the struggles every writer goes through, doesn’t it? We work and work and work on a project and still feel more work needs to be done. We want it perfect, don’t we? We don’t want our readers finding the flaws once the work is published. Well, guess what? Perfection is overrated.

To paraphrase da Vinci: A novel is never finished, only abandoned. And that’s what I’m going to do with this novel. Do the minor revisions and turn it loose on society. After the cover artist gets through with it, that is. However, one has to locate a cover artist first.

As to those minor revisions – how does one decide what revisions need to be done?

First off, you read the thing and make notes as you go along of what pops into your head. That doesn’t necessarily mean those notes will lead to changing anything. As I’ve completed the final chapters, I’ve made notes of what might need to be changed in the previous ones.

By the time I’ve reached that last quarter of the story, changes to the earlier scenes sometimes become necessary based on plot decisions made leading up to that final, climactic scene. Especially when my characters take off on their own, as they have done with the final climax scene for this novel. That one really didn’t go as planned but I do like what my characters did with it so I’m keeping it their way. (Don’t they always get their way?)

As I wrote those final scenes, ideas came to me that seem like good ones but would require another major rewrite.

For example, my hero is a shapeshifter but, as the story is currently written, he doesn’t discover this until about halfway through. In discussing that aspect of the story with a writing friend, she questioned his reaction to finding out so late that he has this ability. After that discussion, I toyed with the idea of changing things so that he’d grown up with shapeshifting as a big part of his life. I came to the conclusion that the idea would mean major revisions and I’m pretty much ready to move on so I decided to keep things as they were. If this novel becomes one in a series, I might use the idea for another character later on.

I have made what I thought were firm decisions that ended up not being quite as firm when it came time to actually writing the scene. My antagonist was supposed to survive the final climax, however, I’m not sure if he did or not. My characters have yet to let me in on that secret. Of course, if he didn’t survive, I’ll have to come up with some other antagonist if I want this to become a series. But that’s another blog post for another time.

Which brings me back to my opening statement. I am about to write that final chapter but before I do, I need to find out if I’ve left any plot holes behind. I’m sure I have and I would prefer to find them on my own rather than having a reader tell me about them in a negative review. To that end, I am now reading my own work from the beginning. Not an easy task since I already know what’s been written and my brain has this tendency to make my eyes see what was intended rather than what was actually written.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that malady. In fact, it’s one reason why I find it so hard to read as a reader and not a writer critiquing someone else’s work. I tend to mentally make corrections where I think corrections ought to be. Unless it’s something written in such a way that it completely captures my imagination. It’s then that I find reading enjoyable once again. It’s also a rather rare occurrence, even with the more well-known authors.

Still, I’m on the brink of publishing my first book.

Seeing that statement in writing brings up all kind of emotions inside me. Fear being the most prevalent. It’s scary to put yourself out there with something that’s been such a part of your life for such a long time. It truly is like sending a child out into the world. You hope for the best but in the end, what will happen will happen.

Even if my first novel tanks big time, I don’t plan to stop writing anytime soon. I’ll keep at it because, despite the whining about revisions, I enjoy creating these new characters and new worlds as well as the stories that revolve around them.

Letting my imagination run wild and free.

That is the joy of writing. At least, it is for me. It’s a dream I’ve had since childhood and one I’m holding onto as firmly as possible. Even if I see no success at it. Even if it becomes just a hobby. It is something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.




Directional Changes

When I started this new blog, my intent was to document my journey from hobby writer to published author. Well, that journey kind of took a predictable turn considering I’ve been ignoring a certain aspect of my life until it refused to be ignored any longer. Well, until certain people in my life began to nag me mercilessly until I did what I already knew I needed to do. All in love, of course.

I deal with type 2 diabetes. I was diagnosed in 2005 (if I remember correctly), 5 years after having lost my left kidney to kidney cancer in 2000. I did go on the usual treatment: metformin and then glyburide when the metformin didn’t work as well as my doctor had hoped. Truth be told, I had yet to alter my eating habits or begin to exercise, which I’m sure is the main reason why.

When Januvia came out, my doctor put me on that because the metformin was doing its usual thing – causing me digestive issues. If you’ve ever been on metformin, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t – well, let’s just say the bathroom was my best friend for a long time.

For those that don’t know, Januvia is a very expensive diabetic drug for which there is no generic. There won’t be a generic until about 2050/2060. Now that I’m no longer under my former employer’s insurance plan, I can’t afford Januvia any longer. My current plan will cover it but with a 50% copay and they will only pay for 350 pills. Since it costs anywhere from $800 to$1000 for a month’s supply of the drug, I won’t be taking it again until there is a generic.

So for now, my only choice is going back on metformin and glyburide. I’m also, finally, looking into what I can do to help keep my numbers in the lower ranges both I and my doctor would prefer.

In other words – I’m finally taking this disease seriously.

Being off all meds for the last couple of years, as well as avoiding my doctor for the same period of time, it came as no surprise to find my blood sugar had risen to almost 400. Of course, I made excuses when my doctor showed me the result.

First, he took the reading out of my right hand, which I have proven will give a result 20 points higher than my left. Second, he didn’t give me a chance to wash my hands. Third, he didn’t swab the area with alcohol first.

My doctor has this look he’ll give me that I really think he should patent. Needless to say, I got that look.

I’ve been back on the metformin since March and I have tried to change my eating habits but was still seeing major spikes in my blood sugar readings. Since Januvia is not an option for me right now, I had to find some other way of dealing with it. I will be going back on the glyburide later this month once I see my doctor again but in the meantime, what the (bleep) do I do?

While researching, I stumbled over a book that was supposed to be all about how vinegar can be used to help lower blood sugar. The book is not in Kindle form but I did find the hardback version. I always look at reviews before I purchase pretty much anything. For this book, I found reviews stating that the author rarely mentions vinegar in the book and gives the usual information on how to handle the disease. So, I passed.

There were other books listed that promised that I could cure my type 2 diabetes if I followed their plan. Okay. I’ll bite. And what did all of these books say was the cure? Becoming vegan. Um. No. I like my animal derived protein a little too much, thank you.

Then I saw a book that talked about glycemic load versus glycemic index. I’ve read about glycemic index before and I did try it briefly a long time ago but still didn’t find any real success. The Amazon blurb for this book sounded promising so I bought it and in doing so, hit upon possibly the main reason why I couldn’t get my blood sugar under control. I am apparently sensitive to starch. There were three, specific starches the author recommended eliminating so I decided to elminate them. With one exception, which I discovered quite by accident.

I had a crown seated a couple of weeks ago that left my mouth really unhappy. My dad was going out to get himself and my mom lunch at a certain restaraunt and I asked him to get me some mashed potatoes. I really wanted the ones he makes because he makes them so delicious but whatever I ended up with would work. I just wanted something I didn’t have to chew and aggravate the pain I was already in. Knowing the potatoes would probably spike my blood sugar, I ate them anyway. Imagine my surprise when I took my blood sugar 2 hours later, expecting to see a really high number, but instead of seeing a number below 200 for the first time in a long time. That led me to an obvious conclusion.

Potatoes are not my problem.

In fact, when I eat potatoes at a meal, there is no major blood sugar spike. Not really much of a spike at all. Potatoes have helped my blood sugar to stabilize between 200 and 250. Now, while I realize that’s still quite high, it is much better than it has been and it’s very encouraging, to say the least. And now that I see how much better I feel with less glucose running rampant through my body, it’s spurred me on toward the goal of seeing numbers below 200 more consistently.

Keep in mind, every body is different. What works for one person, might not necessarily work for someone else or work in the same way. For me, avoiding breads, even those with low carbs, have made a world of difference. Yes, I’m craving bread and pizza like crazy but knowing that eating either one will send my blood sugar soaring again helps. I have, however, found a wonderful substitute for pizza crust – those very large portobello mushroom caps. I saw these made up at my local grocer and decided I could make my own version. Haven’t done it yet but I’m really looking forward to it. I might even do it tonight. No, it won’t be exactly like having pizza but at least I won’t feel so deprived.

And speaking of pizza, I have decided that once I have my blood sugar stablized below 200 and preferably below 150, I am going to have some pizza. It will be my reward. No, it won’t be a habitual thing but I believe that when we completely deprive ourselves, there is something within us that breaks and we end up binging on the very thing we’ve been trying to avoid. Besides, it might be that once I do get to that point, I won’t want the pizza. It’s just something to look forward to if I still want it by the time I get there.

Exercise is another important factor in getting blood sugar down. I have an exercise bike here in my study and I’ve started climbing on board for 15-20 minutes every other day. Walking is also a good way of working off excess blood sugar but with my outdoor allergies, doing so right now would only end with me sick in bed. I’m hoping at some point in time to replace the bike with a treadmill. I just prefer walking to pumping pedals.

And finally, I’m keeping a food journal. Not to count calories or carbs or anything like that but to log what I’ve eaten, what activities I’ve done and how those things have affected my blood sugar readings. This journal has really helped me to see what foods have bad results an which ones actually help. Of course, I have fallen off the path a few times and I do also log when those happen. Nighttime seems to be my worst time for temptation. I’m usually at the computer watching Netflix (I don’t own a TV and only watch shows I like on Netflix or Amazon Prime). I do play a game on my phone or PC to keep my hands busy and have gotten into the habit of drinking herbal tea after a meal. Once my mouth has settled from the crown, I’ll also be chewing sugarless gum, although from what I’ve read, just the sensation of sweet on the tongue can trigger an insulin surge, which is another factor in this very frustrating disease that I’m trying to avoid.

Basically, if I’ve understood what I’ve read, the glucose/insulin cycle can and will degenerate to the point where insulin production in the pancreas will shut down completely. At that point, I’ll be dealing with insulin injections and that is definitely a place I really don’t want to go. I tried allergy injections a long, long time ago and had a hard time sticking myself with that needle. Best to avoid having to do that and I believe the way I’m going right now will do just that. Then again, checking blood sugar does involve pricking my fingers but fooling with insulin is a lot trickier than just a finger prick.

So, how does all this relate to directional changes in my writing? I suppose it doesn’t. However, I have been so focused on this issue that it has kept me from writing everyday. At this point, the only time I work on the novel is when I meet up with my writing group once or twice a week. Other times, I’m reading books about how to handle diabetes or looking things up online.

I am at what I estimate to be the final two chapters of the novel. For some reason, I just couldn’t sit myself down and get them written. I’ve gone through the previous chapters, made decisions on some minor changes that don’t affect the rest of the novel all that much but will have some affect. I’ve also written a loose outline/synopsis up to the point of the final chapters so that I have some idea of the continuity of the project. I’ve also made some decisions as to the outcome of the climax chapter – who survives and in what condition, that sort of thing – as well as what I actually want to happen in this chapter.

I finally admitted to being afraid of finishing the book. I know that once it’s done and reviewed by my beta readers and the final polishing done, the thing either sits around gathering dust or it goes up on Amazon, for better or worse.

My fear is two-fold. I’m afraid that it won’t sell and I’m afraid that it will sell.

If it doesn’t sell, I might be disappointed enough that I give up writing altogether. What would be the point of continuing something I’m not going to make any money at? Forget that I’ve spent the last 30 some odd years writing my little heart out.

But what if it does sell? What if it really blows up? What if I find that I can be a published author and make some kind of living at it? I’ve always loved writing. Well, I’ve always loved writing that first draft. Revisions are a whole other story.

So, if it does sell and I want to continue, that means I’ll have to write another book. What’s so hard about that? It’s just the process beginning all over again and it’s not like I don’t have enough ideas that I don’t have anything more to write about. I definitely don’t want to be one shot wonder, so I’d just have to woman up and get busy on the second book.

And I’m chuckling as I write this. Like I could really give up writing at this point. I simply can’t help myself. And even if I consciously could do it, my subconcious won’t let me. I dream new stories to tell, many of them so vivid that I feel compelled to at least do a skeleton outline so that I don’t forget certain plot points. No. Giving up will never be an option.

And by the way, I have begun to write that climactic chapter and it hasn’t gone the way I thought it would. It’s gone much better, according to the two writer friends I read it to the other night. It’s not finished yet but it won’t take much to get it finished. I should also have the seeds of the second book once I’m done. Not a cliffhanger so to speak but enough to hint that a second book will be forthcoming.

I know that I’m not alone in this fear. I know this is first time author fear that happens to every first time author, even the ones who say otherwise. Putting yourself out there is scary, especially when it involves something as close to the heart as a novel the author has worked on for months, possibly even years. I have a story that I began 30 years ago that has gone through so many changes that it no longer resembles that first draft. In fact, I have such trouble thinning out all of the ideas that I seriously doubt those characters will ever be introduced to the public. This current novel has been in danger of seeing the same fate but I have really worked hard not to take off on rabbit trails with this one like I have previously. This one is now written pretty much in stone.

And I think I’ve rattled on long enough here. If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for sticking with it.

My Writer’s Life: Keeping The Momentum Going

I’ll admit. Taking this first step kind of freaked me out a bit.  Okay.  Freaked me out a lot. And I’m not sure why, either.  It’s not like I’m still anonymous or anything.  My face is definitely out there and will be somewhere on this site – once I can figure out how to do it, that is.  Still learning.

I suppose I do find all this self-employment, working for myself thing a little daunting.  The more I learn about all the ins and outs, the more uncomfortable I get.  I’m used to someone else handling the finer details related to that little thing called a paycheck.  Before this new life began, I was only responsible for spending the thing. Now, I’m responsible for all of it as well as arranging for the work that gets the paycheck in hand.

There are times when I think it would be much easier to just go out and get the job, already. Wouldn’t have to worry about where the next paycheck will be coming from.  Someone else will deal with the minute details.  Income would be fairly stable.  Then there are the medical benefits.

Only one, small problem with that idea. I wouldn’t be happy working for someone else again. Having someone else control when I worked, when I took time off or giving me grief because I had to call in sick again or take time off for the needs of my parents.  I am an only child so that makes me the sole caretaker.  No one else can go with them to doctor’s appointments, drive when a driver is necessary or just be there when needed for whatever reason.  It’s one reason I moved back in with them.  They are both in their late 70’s and I cherish this time together.  I know how blessed I am to still have them in my life and that I can consider them my best friends.

Of course, being so accessible means that I am very accessible.  Just a flight of stairs or, as has been the case now that we all have our own phones, a phone call away.  Basically, I can add them to the list of distractions I have as I try to work from home.  Good distractions but distractions nonetheless.  All part of the problem of keeping the momentum going.  After I get done freaking out, that is.

Then there’s the distraction of just sitting in front of the computer.  Emails, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ – all crying for attention.  I have transitioned all my writing to a laptop now, which helps. However, my best writing happens when I meet my writer’s group at Panera.  Not as many distractions there, thankfully.  We do some chatting for a while before we actually get to work but eventually, work does commence.  In fact, I’m writing this post at Panera.  Listening to music from Dr. Who, as it happens.  Plugged in is a lot less distracting than not.  I usually write to music, soundtrack type music my preference.

Aside from working on this site to get it set up for both author and copywriter, I have two other projects in the works.  One is the novel that I’ve been working on for the last year or so.  Still in revisions with lots of rewriting since a change took place with one of the main characters.  The other is a short story for the upcoming Writer’s Digest competition.  This will be the third submission to a Writer’s Digest competition.  Apparently the first two didn’t make it since I haven’t heard anything about either of them yet.  I figure that each time I submit something, I’m coming closer to actually getting somewhere.  It’s a rationalization but at least it keeps me writing.

One of my faults right now writing-wise is that I do not write every day.  I know I should and it is the best way to get better.  It also saves time when working on a long-term project like a novel. I tend to lose track of my characters and need a refresher before I can start writing again.  Short stories are a little different.  I can usually come up with a rough draft in a day.  It’s the revisions that bog me down. It’s not called ‘revision hell’ for no reason, you know.  Coming up with the story and writing it in the kind of frenzy that is a rough first draft is a lot more fun.  It’s the revisions that can hinder the momentum.  For me, anyway.

But revisions are a necessary evil.  I’ve read too many self-published books from Amazon that would have benefited from even a quick revision pass and some that just needed a complete overhaul.  I don’t want my work to be seen in that way so revision hell must be endured for however long it takes to get the thing polished enough for public consumption.  Or when I decided enough is enough.

This brings me to a very important question.  How will I keep the momentum going now that I have projects to work on, one of which has a definite deadline of May 6?

Writing every single day would be one way of doing that.  The discipline to do so, however, is more than lacking.  I’ve been in ‘vacation’ mode ever since October 2014 when my employer decided my services were no longer required.  But it wasn’t wasted time.  The last 18 months have given me time to breathe, destress, decompress and collect myself so that I can start on this new journey.  It is daunting.  Still so much to learn, so many tasks that need to be completed before I’m settled into my version of the writer’s life.

Blogging will definitely help.  Since writing this entry, I’ve felt the necessary desire and focus to keep the momentum going.  This is the life I’ve wanted for so long.  I actually had people praying for me that things would work out so that I could begin to live this life.  Seems a waste of good prayer not to follow through.  At least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself.

I know this post is getting a little long but I have one more thing to say.  At the beginning of this year, I chose a word to represent what the new year meant to me and what I wanted to accomplish by the end of it.  That word is ‘risk’.  There is also a phrase that came to mind when I chose that word.  “Do it afraid.”  Anyone who has heard Joyce Meyer has heard her use this phrase. Since this new life takes me out of my comfort zone and, I’ll admit, frightens me just a bit, I think this phrase fits perfectly.

So, here’s to doing it afraid and taking risks this year.

Step One: Create A New Writing Blog

And so it begins.


When I got out of bed this morning, I didn’t plan to create a new website for the writing side of my life but here I am.  Not sure where this is going to lead but I do know that it needed to be done.

Not sure why I’ve been dragging my feet, either.  I suppose it’s easier to just sit back and watch time fly by but that doesn’t get the bills paid or give me that sense of accomplishment that most of us look for in life.  At least, what we’re told we’re supposed to be looking for.

There’s something about putting yourself out there, for better or worse.  Whether brave or foolish, I haven’t decided yet.  So far, I haven’t seen a downside.  Granted, I’ve barely stuck a toe in these public waters – ok, maybe more than just a toe considering the reach of my beauty blog as well as the FaceBook page I created to go along with it.  And yes, there will be one for my writerly side.  Maybe.  Haven’t actually made that decision yet.

I’m kind of at a loss right now as to the next step.  Now that I’ve established a presence here on WordPress, there are multiple options I could deploy.  My mind doesn’t seem to want to put forth that much effort right now.  Guess I’m a bit overwhelmed at what I’ve just done.  Like I said. This wasn’t in the plan when I got out of bed this morning.  In fact, I didn’t really have a plan when I got out of bed this morning beyond getting some breakfast in me.

But it needed to happen.

And so it begins…this next step in my ‘Writer’s Life’.  Lots more steps to take.  Lots more work to be done.  There’s time but not as much as there was when I first embarked upon this life a year and half ago.  Many decision now need to be made.

But first…I’m gonna go make some more coffee.