A Writer’s Retreat

When authors get together for a writing retreat, you can usually expect four things to happen: lots of writing, some brilliant ideas passed around, catch up on the latest news and a trip to Wally World. Not particularly in that order.

I recently had the pleasure of hosting my first writing retreat. It was, without doubt, the craziest and best time I can remember.  Some things, however, I never saw coming.

One gifted author was desperately searching for inspiration for the hero in her current WIP. She said she could see his individual features in her mind but she couldn’t bring it all together. And, of course, he had to have heroic values.  He had to act in a heroic way regardless of what he might encounter. We tossed out a few names of famous people but none did the trick.  “Maybe it will clear your mind if we do our Wally World run now?”  All agreed.  Off we went.

I needed Dr. Peppers. Another sought bottled water and so on. We walked into the store and each of us went our separate ways.  I grabbed a cart (yes, I’m lazy) and headed to the drinks isle. After parading up and down several times I found cases of Coke, Sprite, Pepsi, Mountain Dew – everything but Dr. Pepper.  About then the others approached me and ask if I was finished shopping.

“I can’t find the Dr. Peppers.” We all looked and nope – none to be found anywhere.  It was about then the trip to Wally took on a whole different meaning.

“Excuse me, Ma’am.” I turned toward the deep, southern drawl. “The Dr. Peppers are back there,” he pointed, “on the very back wall.  Had a hard time finding them myself.”

This guy was about six foot four, clean-shaven, boots, worn jeans, plaid shirt and if I had my guess, his western hat was in his pick-up truck with or without his horse trailer attached. He was pushing a cart.  In it was an adorable baby about six months old.

“If you’d like to come with me, I’ll show you where they are.” Where they…?  Oh!  The Dr. Peppers.  Of course.  I followed him to the isle. Down about half way he pointed at the cases.  I thanked him profusely and he gave a nod. “Yes Ma’am.  Glad I could help.”

He went his way and, sadly, I went mine. I hadn’t gone far when the other girls caught up with me.  They had witnessed the whole thing and the one looking for her hero said, “That’s HIM!  That’s my hero!!  I’ve GOT to get a picture!”  We tried to follow but with those long legs, he out maneuvered us.  Finally, I told them to put their groceries in my basket.  I would check out and they could do what authors do: hunt the man down.

After checking out I waited at the front of the store. I saw the hero and his baby in line. The girls joined me.  Sadness prevailed.  They couldn’t get a picture.  He was too fast.  Too many people; too many corners. One sighed and said she may have gotten a butt shot.  I’m thinking… we have all gone a little crazy.  We are, in essence, stalking this poor guy!

His wife joined him in the line and our shoulders dropped a bit further. Giving up on the picture, we all headed to the car. After unloading the basket we took off for the exit, a route that propelled us down the main isle of the store… the one right in front of the doors; the one where you stop if pedestrians need to cross.  We stopped, looked harder.  It was him.  How many chances are we given on something this important in a life time?  This was destiny.  This picture was meant to be!

“Girls! Grab your phones!  Hurry!” was the unanimous cry. Again his long strides took him across the cross walk faster than we could dig the cell phones out of the bottom of our purses.  A sad sigh and accompanying groan was made by every author in the car.  I’m in the back seat thinking… this just isn’t right.  We worked for this picture.  We earned this picture.  We should not let fate or unpreparedness stop us from getting a picture of Every Girl’s Hero!  With no sane thought in my head, I bailed out of the car, my phone still in my hand.

My hubby can say what he wants but I’m not totally brain deficient. I went straight to his wife.  I apologized for bothering and explained we were authors for Harlequin and we were in need of a picture of a true hero to serve as inspiration while we write the next story.  I explained what her hero hubby had done for me and asked if we might take his picture.

She grinned and looked at him with a new appreciation in her eyes. “Sure.  Absolutely.”  Bless his heart.  It never occurred to anyone to ask if he minded.  Like a true hero, he merely asked “Where do you want me?”  The other girls bailed out of the vehicle and we proceeded to have a photo session right there in front of Wal-Mart.  We had traffic backed up out of sight in three directions but who cares?  We were getting pictures of a real life hero!

We presented our business cards as proof we honestly were authors and let the obvious impression we were all crazy as a bat slide to the background. Returning home, we all felt the excited peace of success.  We came.  We saw.  We conquered!!  And we bet his sweet wife had a whole new appreciation of her hero hubby!

One last tidbit… The baby’s name turned out to be the same as the heroine in the story. You can’t make this stuff up and it just doesn’t get any better!!  Who’s up for another writer’s retreat?

Dentists

Dentists are good people.   Dentists are good people.

I honestly do believe this to be true. I keep chanting the words in case I forget. The positive thought generally flies out the window when I hear the words… “How long since you’ve had a check up?”  The temptation to lie is overwhelming.  My mind quickly considers the fib I want to tell vs. the believability of it.  I finally settle for…It’s been a while.

“Lets lay you back and have a look.”  It’s then that every fear I can possibly imagine comes screaming to the forefront. I am suddenly six years old and pretty sure I heard something dark and threatening under the chair.

The green chair begins to hum, down I go and the world tilts on its axis.  Then comes the attempt to make me feel comfortable.  “So, how are you enjoying this weather?”  I have a metal pick, a rod with some kind of mirror on the end and a suction tube in my mouth.  Why would I be inclined to have a conversation?

Then we get to the heart of the matter. Presented with a list of my oral concerns that has to be five pages long, single spaced, I glance at the bottom line. Holy Moly. Since my last visit, dental work has apparently increased to a cost consistent with that of a gold bar.

There is no question in my mind that my dentist is the at top in his field. Absolutely THE best. But the question I must now consider…how much is my house really worth? And yes, I acknowledge they can put me out for part of the work. But won’t I have to wake up at some point? I am allergic to pain. Didn’t I mention that under the section “Allergic”? Did he read that part???

Dentists are good people.

“You might feel a little stick.”

OK.  Time to get a grip.  I’m an adult. And adults are supposed to handle things like this. Right?  I just hope the good doctor understands when, during the procedure, I keep yelling for my Momie!!

Dentist%20Drilling

As he tells me to count backward from 10, I hear the shrill sound of a drill.

Dentists are good people.

It’s A Pretty Day

It is late spring in Texas. The temperatures average eighty degrees. The Bluebonnets are in full array. The roses outside my window are in full bloom. Birds are raising their new babies as are the squirrels and the many other creatures that make their home near mine. And it occurs to me…they are outside thriving in the beauty of nature while I am on the inside, beating on a keyboard, struggling to put thoughts and words into a hard-wired computer that has become my only friend.

There is something off about this picture.

Yes, I love being an author. And while it isn’t always easy, there are certainly more difficult ways to earn a living. While I can’t say with any certainty, I would imagine working two miles below the earth in a coal mine would certainly have to be a contender. At least I have a window. I should not have any reason to quibble over the profession I worked over twenty years to attain.  And I don’t.

But it sure is a pretty day.

Okay. Put it in perspective. I’m also sitting in the same spot when old man winter encroaches and the temps drop into the teens and snow covers the ground. The little birds and animals are still out there. Cold. Shivering. Accepting their circumstances and probably not griping one little bit. Would I want to switch places with them then? Well…okay. No.  Not really. I mean I’m all about corn and nuts, but the cold I can do without. I tend to go for warm slippers and some hot chocolate in front of a fire.  But it isn’t winter right now- it isn’t even fall.

And it sure is a pretty day.

So…why don’t I take my laptop and go outside? I rummage around my junky garage that I meant to clean out a few years ago and find a lawn chair. I plop myself down in the shade of a tree, prop my feet up and continue to write my story. With one hand I shoo away the bugs suddenly zooming around my face, ignore the screech of the Mockingbirds on the limbs above me – apparently not liking me trespassing of their turf – tune out the neighbor’s dog barking incessantly at the postal person – never quite sure when the letter carrier is gone. That little pooch must have a really boring life.

I ignore the private planes and crop dusters overhead that sound as though they are about to crash land in my back yard; the traffic from the highway a few blocks away, the neighbor mowing his lawn. I try and lend patience and understanding to the cat who insists on sitting on top of the keyboard and refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer. I determinedly ignore the neighbor kid who is learning to ride his motorcycle – which has no muffler – in front of my house. I can even stop myself from counting the number of trips he makes up and down the street. Twenty-two…twenty-three… twenty-four.

Then thirst hits and I realize it’s not quite as cool outside as it looked from my window. As the beads of perspiration run down the back of my neck I have to wonder why a dirt dobber would even consider building a nest under my chair. Before I can contemplate further, the sound of water being forced out of a sprinkler head reaches my ears- about 2 seconds before I get a stream of water right in the face.

I grab my laptop and head back inside to some semblance of normalcy. Ten minutes later I’m back at my desk, a glass of iced tea within easy reach. It is quiet. It is cool. It is minus bugs. Ahhh. Sweet relief.

It sure looks like a pretty day.

I hope someone is out there enjoying it.  Me, I get to stay inside and work on a story.

Write To The End

I was recently asked, “How long have you been writing?” and “Why did you chose to be an author?”

In the past I would provide some uninspiring, flippant-but-true answer: since before stone tablets were used. Or an equally redundant non-clarifying response that showed my amazing mental aptitude: Ah…geeze. You know? I don’t know. I guess…like… a long time.  But thanks to a discovery I made a few years ago, I am now able to give a truthful, heartfelt answer. Probably more than anybody would want to know!

I’d never realized how long my inner heart had been pushing me toward being an author until that summer I decided to take the plunge and clean out the attic of my family’s old home. I happened on some wooden crates shoved into a corner. As it turned out, they housed some of my earliest attempts at writing. I never knew Mom kept any of the stuff, but there they were: poems about my dog, my horse, my dad, my first crush, and that stupid Mockingbird who perched on a limb just out side my bedroom window and woke me each and every morning as soon as the sun touched the far horizon. Hated that bird.  Evil bird.

Beneath the poems were the stories. Kindly dragons who would gobble up children and keep them safe and warm in their mouth on a cold day- until their mother’s called them in for supper. The mystical red robin who would lead the way to a magic kingdom if you whistled the right tune. And not to be forgotten, the tale of the day Eddie Snodgrass wore a sack to school.

On his head, people! I was ten years old. Geeze.

Then there was the day the fire alarm went off. I smelled the smoke for possibly an hour, maybe longer, but brushed it off as inconsequential as I strove to write yet another clue to the mystery of the broken cuckoo clock. Even calls from the neighbors standing outside my house and the fists pounding on my front door couldn’t dissuade me from my single-minded determination to nail that clue. At some point, the dog bounded to the top of the stairs, took a stance just outside my office door, and began to sing. (Some may call it howling). “Okay Murphy,” I said, pushing the glasses further up my nose.  “Give me five minutes and we’ll go for a walk.”

Murphy knew I was lying through my teeth.

Finally finished, I had a belated epiphany that there was smoke billowing up from the general direction of the kitchen. OMG!  My lunch!  The same lunch I had put on the stove to reheat just before my brilliant clue idea hit my writer-blocked brain… some two hours earlier.

Yikes! Oh m’gosh!  Kitchen on fire!! Why didn’t somebody tell me???

I know it’s too much to hope that the world will cease to exist when I become totally focused on a story. But going forward I carry the hope if smoke is detected I will leave the story long enough to put it out.

 

What Is Crazy?

We all have heard or used the phrase… “He/She/That is crazy.” Some people I know throw it about like it’s an end-all/catch-all and nothing more needs said. That’s it. End of conversation.  But what is crazy?

Webster defines crazy as ‘departing from proportion or moderation’.

    1. Possessed by enthusiasm or excitement
    2. Immoderately fond; infatuated
    3. Intensely involved or preoccupied
    4. Foolish or impractical; senseless

Based on this definition, I can honestly say, most, if not all, of the people living on this earth are truly crazy. And I am one of them.

Possessed by enthusiasm or excitement. ‘Hey Lauren… the editor just committed to buying your next four books.’ I hear those words and I’m extraordinarily happy that months of effort have finally paid off. Am I excited? Oh. Yeah. So, according to Webster… I’m crazy!

Immoderately fond; infatuated. Guilty here too. Let Jon Bon Jovi- who is inarguably the most gorgeous male human walking this earth- be the guest on some talk show, I am so there! I would willingly admit my adoration for this man and his music exceeds “moderate”. I buy his CD’s. I watch his movies- of which there needs to be more- Hey Jon- are you listening?—and I believe he is one of the most intelligent people I know. Or– don’t know, as it were. But I don’t stalk the man. I’ve never written to him. So, does being an ardent fan make me crazy?

Intensely involved or preoccupied. This one I nail for sure through my daily ritual. Roll out of bed about 6 am, find the coffee pot, turn on my computer, and spend my day struggling to add words to a story that may- or may not- ever be read. If, as sometimes happens, the proverbial light bulb comes on and I suddenly realize a fleeting idea that might possibly make the difference in published or not published- well, even the dogs know to leave me alone. No phone call is answered. No doorbell is acknowledged. Even Jon takes a backseat! I am intensely concentrating on that idea- preoccupied with it- and until I get it down on paper. True emergencies aside, I allow no distractions. Guess I’m crazy.

Foolish or impractical; senseless. Yep. I’m a record holder here too. But I sure can’t blame my mother.  She tried.  She was a penny pincher. No sale was good enough. If I found the perfect pair of shoes on sale for 75% off, it was always… “Let’s wait and think about this.” What’s to think about? I need shoes. These are perfect. The money is in my purse. The sale ends tomorrow. There is ONE pair left in my size. And she wanted me to wait and “not rush in to anything”. Used to make me… well.. crazy!!   But in her eyes, I was being impractical. I was rushing into things before I took the time to step back and spend more time than I thought it was worth, contemplating… should I or shouldn’t I?. Now, to me, that is crazy!

So yeah, we have all achieved the degree of crazy sometime in our life. Does this make us bad people? Does it infer we need to be locked away? Should people be leery of us? Are we a danger to ourselves or others? The answer is a resounding NO!!

So, why is this word flung about in such a detrimental manner? Why do people- even friends – throw this description out as though you had just attempted to hold up a gas station? I mean…are they crazy?

I’ve decided I’m going to do my part in making this word a positive. When my 6 month old male Terrier finally goes outside to do his business.. I’m gonna pick him up, give him a big hug, and tell him…Nonie- you’re CRAZY!!!!!

If Bon Jovi’s limo ever becomes lost in my neighborhood and stops at my house to ask directions.. I will greet him at the door, smiling ear to ear, and loudly proclaim- use the phone? Of course! Come on in.. I’m CRAZY!!!!

The phone rings.. I can hear from the answering machine that it’s a great friend calling from the airport. He had a stop-over for a couple hours in the near-by city. Would I like to have lunch?

I’m gonna grab that phone before he hangs up, agree to meet him as soon as I can get there and not give a second thought to the potential brilliant story idea I was slinging fast and furious into my computer when the phone rang.

What? But you just said…

Guys… He’s a hunk! How crazy do you think I am???

The Diet

Have you ever realized you’ve become so self-indulgent that you couldn’t see who—or what—you’d become? I never comprehended, until recently, that my mind was showing me what I wanted to see regardless of the fact it was lying through its teeth. So to speak.

Apparently, the mind can be extraordinarily accommodating.  Sneaky. Underhanded. But I’m here to tell you, all it takes is seeing one picture of yourself someone posts on Facebook and reality will slap you so fast, so hard, you might never recover.

Apparently, my loony-tune brain has been changing any mirrored visions to look like the skinny seventeen-year-old I was a millennium ago. It even convinced me I still had a waistline. Dear old Facebook slam-dunked those illusions and stomped them into the ground. The fog had been lifted. My true self had been revealed.

Oh. My. God.

After the shock wore off I went to the scales. I’ve kept them tucked beneath my bed for years. And years. Surely they would tell me the truth. In desperation I recalled reading some movie star saying the camera always added twenty pounds. That had to be it.

Swallowing back my trepidation I pulled them out and dusted them off. And stared. It was a black hole. My cowardly brain told me once I stepped on those scales, I might never be the same again. Maybe I should do this another day? I had laundry waiting.

No. NO. I might—or might not—break the thing, but I was gonna do this. I had to know.

Oh. My. God.

In spite of my delusional mind screaming it needs a new battery!- I knew the truth. I ran down the stairs in a total panic, fleeing from that little conniving monster on my bedroom floor. All those TV commercials touting weight loss and I had ignored them as I sat enjoying my bowl of Blue Bell extra chunky chocolate swirl. The increase in dress sizes…why were manufactures making clothes smaller? My evil mind had ignored all these knocks on my door of reality. Not only had it ignored the rapping, it I had me internally bragging on the remarkable quality only I possessed that kept me thin no matter what, and toasting that feat with a couple of blueberry pastries. Or three.

Okay. Pull yourself together. You’re not dead. Yet. Loose the weight. You’ve been paying for a gym membership for three years. Maybe you should see what’s inside the building. You can do this. You’re a citizen of the United States of America. You are not alone!! It was easy enough to put on the extra pounds. So easy in fact, I’d never noticed doing it. How hard could it be to make those pounds go away?

Oh. My. God.

After a week of dieting (my inept brain calls it starvation), I now hate any food remotely green. I’ve made the acquaintance of the intimidating, totally unfriendly treadmill. I’ve realized there is nothing I can do to a glass of water to make it the least bit appealing. And frustration has become my closest friend.

But—on the positive side—I’m happy to report I’ve lost 4 pounds.

And a friend.

She just couldn’t keep it to herself that the first ten pounds were the easiest to lose.