Choices, Procrastination, Overbooking

Today, I made a choice to work on yearbook for PTA. I made a choice at the beginning of the year to be the Yearbook co-chair, and no matter how much I may regret that choice I committed myself and therefore must do it! The thing is, I usually like doing creative tasks, like design the yearbook. But now, I feel like it’s one more thing I added to my list when I should have made my focus this year writing and running.

I started out this year gung ho about writing. And as other humans may know, sometimes that insatiability at the beginning wanes with time.

For instance, when you meet a new person and fall in love, all you can think about is that person. 24/7 you are thinking about them, fantasizing about them, and wanting to talk to them over and over again about everything under the sun. You literally cannot get enough. You think the feeling will last forever, and suddenly without warning you’ve been married for fifteen years, and that person you used to feel so giddy about is scratching his butt on the couch and peeing all over your guest bathroom floors. Honeymoon over.

The same thing happens when we take on a new endeavor like writing. When I first started focusing on my writing, all I wanted to do was write. I loved the feeling of writing. I loved the rush it gave me when someone praised my work. But then, I hit a roadblock, and wham! I stopped writing.  Why? Because writing is hard, and a writer has to make a conscious effort to choose to write, even on the days when that writer feels like the writing sucks. Even on the days, when the writer writes 1,000 words and promptly hits delete. Even on the days, when she feels like no one is buying her work. Writing is hard and full of roadblocks and rejection. So how can we stop the roadblocks from holding us back in what we want to achieve in life? How can we go forward with our writing when we feel overwhelmed?

  • First, stop choosing everything else over writing. Stop blaming procrastination. Procrastinating is a choice.  Once you realize this, it’s easier to think consciously about moving on from that procrastination and choosing to write especially on the days it’s hard. People have praised me for having written two books saying, “I can’t believe you do that, have three kids, and a day-job,” but the truth is when there’s something you want to do and love to do then nothing can stop you from doing it. So don’t let yourself stop you from doing it simply because it’s hard.
  • Don’t take on more than you can chew. I need to listen to this advice. I think in our world, we’re expected to do so much. Be a working parent, go to all the school functions, volunteer, make food. But don’t. Seriously learn how to say no. I didn’t say no enough this year and probably overextended myself. Don’t add things to your life if you don’t have the time to commit to them.
  • Prioritize: If you’re striving to be a writer, get published, or finish a novel then make writing your priority. Get up early and write. Stay up until midnight to write. Just write so words can get on paper and you are achieving your goals. Make choices that are conducive with this lifestyle, instead of making choices that will sabotage your end-game.
  • Give Yourself Grace: Being someone who has dealt with depression for most of my adult life, this one is very important. Everyone needs weeks and sometimes even months to regroup. Sometimes I do this by watching hours of Netflix. Then I won’t watch TV for months, and I’ll refocus on my writing or my reading (which by the way helps you be a better writer).
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help: I think we humans tend to think we live in a box and that our experience is individual from everyone else. The truth is, we’re part of a larger society. We have other people we can depend on when we need it. My husband is a huge supporter of me. He makes my life easy at home, often doing laundry, cooking, and generally picking up the slack. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have his help (live in a pit). And the thing is, I know I can always talk to him when I’m feeling down, or when I’ve been procrastinating for months, or when I think nobody will ever read my book again. The truth is, being a writer is hard and can be discouraging, so having someone who can talk you out of the deep pit of despair is awesome. Having people who say, “You need to write,” is inspiring and it helps motivate me to do what I want again. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because true friends want you to succeed.

This post is as much a reminder to myself as it is to my audience on what I need to do to stop letting life get in the way of achieving my dreams.

What do you think is your biggest hindrance to your goals?

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Introducing William Hill

Today was one of those days where I didn’t know what to blog. Lately, I’ve been busy procrastinating. I haven’t felt well since Sunday, and on Monday I was sick and watched seven episodes of Scandal. I mean really folks, why didn’t someone tell me what I was missing? Amazing. I love this show, and now it’s all I want to do, but I have a book coming out. No rest for the weary. (I really wouldn’t have it any other way).

So, I decided to write about William. Who is William? He’s the main character in my book, The Devil Within, which is due to be released on June 22, 2015! William is a nine year old boy who is growing up in Pine Level, Alabama. He’s very much like any typical nine year old: swinging on tire swings, playing in dirt, loves comic books and super heroes, and discovering himself. William has a younger sister, Maybelle, and an older brother Roy. William shares a room with his brother Roy (and boy, do I know what that’s like–Allison!), and is always getting into his big brother’s stuff. One fateful day, before the book begins, William’s mother, sister and brother are ripped away from him in a horrible car accident while William is at home sick. He’s left to be raised by his father, Leroy, who is an alcoholic and a religious zealot who has no idea how to deal with his own grief. Over the course of a year, William grows and changes in the face of daunting circumstance and finds an ally in his grown cousin Tommy.

Interested now? On June 19th, right here, I’ll have a cover reveal on this site. And stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I introduce the characters from the book, so you can get to know them a little better!

 

Quit

Q? What am I going to write about for the letter “Q?” Maybe I thought I’d have quit by now. I’m not generally a quitter. I could be described more as wishy washy. I make up a decision, and then sometimes I change my mind. Sometimes it’s too late at that point to actually be changing my mind. But quit–no, not me!

I’ve thought about quitting writing. Several times. I have all the usual author complaints.

But it’s hard

I don’t want to rewrite. 

My first draft is awesome, do I really have to put more work into it? (Said nobody ever!)

I put hours and hours of work into something and only 20 people read and review my books! 

Plus, the doubt. I’ve written about that before. Let me tell you something, writers don’t become successful by quitting. They become successful by coping with lots rejection. They become successful by plowing through the edits, even when looking at their piece one more time makes them want to vomit. They become successful by submitting over and over again, until someone accepts their work and believes in as much as they believe in themselves.

It takes ONE person to make a writer successful. The writer, herself.

Don’t quit!

Just Desert

Pun intended. Years ago, when I was just a college kid, I drove across country with my friend Jon and his sister Cass. We had gone to high school together, and we decided to go on this little adventure together. We stopped at Bryce Canyon in Utah. Utah has amazing scenery–so different from the greenery of the North, a lot red.

Thor's Hammer at Sunset

I  read about the desert. I just knew it was hot during the day and cold during the night. So we pitched our tent, and we went for a hike. Then we came back to our campsite, baking in the 100+ degree heat and complaining about it too. I told my friends it would get cold during the night, so we zipped up the tent and snuggled into our tents and baked like burritos, because the temperature never fell.  You see, even though it’s in the desert, the Bryce Canyon campground is at the bottom of the canyon, and it traps heat. I’ll admit it: I was wrong.

Today’s story, I wrote yesterday for Flash!Friday. The theme needed to revolve around a blunder, like the one I made in Bryce Canyon. And the photo was of a desert. And just a warning, there is some profanity in this post. I mean, I for one would be cursing up a storm if this happened to me!

Mirage
@laurenegreene
208 words

Bloody blunder that’s what it was. Bollocks. I could have sworn, I was signing up for a trip to Mount Desert, Maine. All-inclusive. When I showed up to the airport, I was surprised to see my plane was going to Africa. I mean, who doesn’t look at their tickets? Me, that’s who.

And now, here I am, running down a freaking hill for my life. And it’s hot, dreadfully. They’re chasing me, but they’ve fallen far behind. My marathon days have served me well.  I didn’t even know hills existed in Africa. Who invented this horrid place anyway? A sadistic god content on torching his fallen people, that’s who.

Thank God I packed extra water today. I stop for a minute, look behind me. There’s no trace of the errant tribe; I stumbled upon their sacrifice by mistake, but there’s no way I’m going to be their next victim.

I come to the bottom of the hill, and I’m surprised to see a road off in the distance. Blurry, weathered, but a road. And I hope to fucking God it leads me the hell out of here.

When I get out of this place, I’ll be content if I never see another grain of sand in my life.

Sweet Caroline

This post isn’t really about the Neil Diamond song, “Sweet Caroline,” but now that you have it in your head, I’ll do you a favor and post the song right here:

Blogging every letter of the alphabet is hard, especially when normally I just post pieces I write for Flash Fiction challenges.  Today, I thought about writing about confidence, but instead I decided to give you “The Last Straw,” in which Caroline is a peripheral character.  I won the Special Challenge over on Finish That Thought for this piece.  The first sentence was provided, and then we had to use at least one emotion/noun combo (e.g. angry waffled).

And although Caroline is a secondary character the story revolves around her. Her mother, the protagonist, makes the right decision for her.

Enjoy!

The Last Straw
@laurenegreene
450 words

This was neither the time nor the place for his antics. Lines were being practiced on the stage. Kids flitted around like anxious butterflies. My daughter sat in the glum corner.

“Where’s your father?”

“He took the happy juice, again,” she said, without looking up at me. “He forgot my costume.”

I sighed. My tired feet weighed a thousand pounds from a double shift. He had one job, to bring Caroline’s costume to school, and he’d failed like he had a dozen times before.

“Is he here?”

“Outside, with Victor. Mom, how can I be Juliet without my costume?”

“Go talk to Ms. Harrison.”

I knew I didn’t have thirty minutes to get up the mountain and back down. Caroline’s eyes were stained red from too many tears as she went to track Ms. Harrison down. A seething bull settled inside me, ready to gore Darnel. I’d given him so many chances, and he kept disappointing me—a record constantly on repeat. And now, he’d shattered our daughter’s dream like he had the cracked window in our lonely bedroom.

Darnel was out on the school’s quad with Victor. He was dancing around, a raving lunatic, and I knew he’d taken more than just happy juice.

“What’s he on?” I asked Victor, as Darnel tried to kick up his heels and belly flopped onto the firm green lawn.

“I’m not sure,” Victor said. “Honestly I’m surprised he even made it here without running off the side of the mountain. Caroline was something else. Mad as a tick. She yelled at him in front of everyone. Told him she wished he was dead. Didn’t faze him one bit either.”

Bones ached, and I shifted my legs trying to find a comfortable position, having stood all day at the diner. Low on tips too, and I needed to pay for Caroline’s senior trip still. I was bone tired of coming home to find Darnel having spent the money on booze and drugs. And the lying. That was the worst of it. He wove tales with a dishonest thread. I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of who he used to be. The man I fell in love with all those years ago—he didn’t exist anymore.

I reached into my pink apron, and I pulled out fifty dollars, a good chunk of the day’s tips.  I settled the money into Victor’s hand and caught his eye.

“Take him down to Bradford. I don’t want to see him again.”

“What’ll you tell Caroline?”

“Leave it up to me.”

I turned my back on Darnell, and walked away from the man I had once known. Caroline wore the color of hope when the curtain rose.

Blogging! Bananas!

B

Blogging seems an appropriate word for an A-Z Blogging Challenge.  Why is this post called “Blogging! Bananas!?” Because I’m sitting here at 5:20 AM badly wanting a banana. I can’t explain it, besides to say when I played around unsuccessfully with Canva this morning, a monkey mysteriously appeared in the “charge” box. I scraped that, because I didn’t want to pay $1 for a monkey who didn’t exist in my image. But ever since, I have wanted bananas. And guess what? No bananas. In my house, bananas either fester and grow black or they’re gone within a day. Sort of like blog posts. You either get a lot of hits or none at all, depending on so many factors: topic, tags, categories, advertising, marketing or just dumb luck.

I started seriously blogging about four years ago. When I say serious, I mean I tried to blog a couple of times a week. I’ve never made, or really tried to make money, on my blog. I blogged over at http://www.lululandadventures.blogspot.com/, which I’m sad to say I haven’t been updating recently. I need to, because I’ve changed that to my personal blog, and this is my writing blog. I came to blogging after years of ignoring an urge to write. I came to blogging to deal with the loss of my hair to alopecia areata. I’d had it as a child, but after I stopped breastfeeding my daughter I lost all my hair. At first, my blog was used as a cathartic release.

I feel like blogging gave me the stepping stone to start writing again. Once I started writing again, I had the motivation to start querying. When that didn’t work, I self-published. Now, one of my books is in editing with Booktrope, and I hope it’ll be published in May.  All of this, because I had the courage to put myself out there and blog.

Go To Church Or The Devil Will Get You

IMG_2474

If you live in Alabama, or have driven through Alabama to get to the beaches, then chances are you’ve seen the above sign. This sign was inspiration for my new book, “The Devil Within.” The real truth about this sign is that a contractor, named Billy Newell erected the sign because of his deep love of God. You can read more about the truth here: http://blog.al.com/live/2009/09/ws_newell_dies_contractor_erec.html

But this sign inspired to spin some fiction! Here’s a little blurb from the first part of “The Devil Within” (still in editing, but hopefully will be out in May), just to give you a little teaser!

Everyone has seen the sign.  It sits on the highway between Montgomery and Birmingham: Go to Church or the Devil Will Get You! A caricature of a devil holding a red pitchfork with eyes burning holes into every car that passes by.

My pop put up that sign.  It was the beginning of the end in my eyes.  He did it right after the accident.  He went down the street to Baker’s Seed and Feed and Hardware Shop, squeezing my hand too hard as he dragged me in—the only child left.  He bought red paint and some two-by-fours, and then we hopped back into the Ford truck and drove all the way down to the end of the property next to where the pond stands.  He handed me a Coca-Cola, and I lay under a tree thinking about how Momma had looked like an angel in her casket and wondering when I’d ever see her again.  The Coca-Cola almost burned going down my throat.

“What you think, boy?” he asked, spitting some tobacco out of the wad in his cheek.

I stood up and walked around, looking at the sign.  He had traced the devil from an old sign, colored him in, painted words in bright red, and then put it up.  It looked crude, but I guessed it would do.  I was more interested in finding some peanuts to add to my Coca-Cola, but I nodded enthusiastically like it was the best piece of artwork I’d ever seen.

Write What You Know

What’s the mantra you hear the most in the writing world? Write What You Know. The more I write, the more I find this is true. Writing what you know is absolutely necessary. Little snippets of conversation you listen to, the aura of where you live, all of these items need to be included in your books. We, as human beings, are shaped tremendously by our environment.

I’m reading Ron Rash’s Something Rich and Strange right now. As I’m reading this wonderfully woven short stories of Appalachia, I’m finding in myself more and more the knowledge that I need to write about the South. What an amazing backdrop to be raised in: tumultuous, redneck, Christian, genteel, country, city, beautiful, history being lived over and over again. There aren’t enough words to describe Alabama in all its glory. It’s a place constantly misunderstood and ostracized–all the people thought to be back woods. But they’re not. There are writers and artists, scientists and doctors, living in these backwoods. And there is pain and history and love and hope.

My stories have slowly started to take on a southern feeling. Not all of them, since I still can’t pick a genre, but a lot of them have. It’s even showing up in my Flash Fiction. The Southern characters, as different from each other as anyone who lives here.  I think that’s what makes Ron Rash’s short stories so beautiful. He’s a poet who can describe the people and the place where he lives as no one else can, because he’s been there and he’s seen it with his own two eyes. The South is part of me–it runs in my blood, and so it must run through my fingertips on to my computer screen as well.

It’s Spring Break here, and I took a whole week off (I haven’t been getting much editing done either, unfortunately). The family and I have been driving all over ‘Bama soaking up history. We saw this beautiful house in Tuskegee.  They are looking for donations for restoration.

FullSizeRender

When I saw this house,  I knew it was it. This was the house I’d imagined William Hill living in. Who’s William Hill? He’s the character of “The Devil Within,” my book coming out in early May. He’s nine years old when he loses his mother and siblings in a car accident, and he’s left in the hands of his overly religious father who doesn’t know how to cope with the boy. Stay tuned for more teasers, including a photo of a southern landmark that will be included in the book.

Cinders

Today I wrote a flash fiction piece for Finish That Thought. Obviously, Cinderella was still on my mind from yesterday. My Mom and I took five kids and one teenager to see it yesterday. It was too old for the little girls, but Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed it!   I’m trying to get a little bit of writing in this week and a lot of editing, but it’s Spring Break, and I have all three kids at home with me. We’re trekking across Alabama this week to keep them busy on some day trips. So far, I haven’t been all that productive, but I’ve been having great fun with them!

Here’s my story for today:

Cinders
468 words
@laurenegreene

They never asked me why I set the tree on fire. They simply dragged me away, my face covered in soot from the cinders. The tree, they said, was a national landmark. Dry enough to burn down the whole forest if they hadn’t caught me.

The policeman drug me to the office, sat me down in a chair, and bellowed at me as the EMTs checked me out. I fingered the plastic dragon in my pocket, Henry, I’d named him, and he was there to keep me safe.

“Right—so where are your folks?” the policeman asked.

I shook my head.

The policeman paced in front of me as the park ranger came up and tapped him on the shoulder. The park ranger whispered something into the policeman’s ear, and nodded my way, then they both walked off.

One of the EMTs had smiling eyes and pigtails. She took my hands in hers.

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Mikey.”

“This looks like a fine karate uniform you have on, Mikey,” she said.

“I’m a ninja! From Japan. And my dragon,” I said, pulling it from my pocket. “It helped me beat the wolf.”

“What wolf? There aren’t wolves in these woods,” the nice lady said.

“Are too. That’s why I burnt down the tree.”

“Where are your parents Mikey?” she asked.

I didn’t answer. Grainy memories of my parents played in my head. I hadn’t seen them in years, and that said a lot seeing as I was only six. I couldn’t stand the foster home I lived in. The older boy picked on me, something dreadful, and I had decided I was going to run away and join a circus. Be a clown, or better yet, a lion tamer. With the dragon, I knew I was capable of anything.

“It must be awful special to you,” the nice lady said, squeezing my hand. “You’ve rubbed off his eyes. Where did you get him?”

“Mom. She gave him to me, when I was little. She and Dad took a drive somewhere. I can’t remember. It’s fuzzy—like a peach. He made me safe for three days, until they came and took me away. They told me they’d find me a home. But I haven’t had a home since.”

The policeman and the park ranger came back and hovered over me.  The nice lady EMT wiped the soot off my face and my arms with a wet rag. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around her neck, squeezing her tight. She patted my back and squeezed me back.  Her hair smelled like green apples, sunshine, and happiness.

“I reckon he’s too young for juvie,” the policeman said.

“He just needs a mother to love him,” the nice lady EMT said.

“Will you be my mommy?” I asked.

Bullseye

First off, I want to apologize for being missing in action this week. This is the first Flash Fiction challenge I’ve participated in this week, because on Monday I had somewhat of a medical emergency.Today is the first day I feel more like a human again, instead of just a crumpled ball of pain. I looked at a computer screen to watch television all week, because reading and writing simply weren’t possible. I missed the actual art of writing. I missed participating in the flash contestst, but I knew on the pain medication whatever I wrote wouldn’t be comprehendable. And plus, most of the week the pain medication didn’t actually help with the pain. But now I’m on the mend and actually going to function and go about my normal day today, and as such, I’m participating in Flash!Friday.

The setting: parking lot. The picture: Night archer. Once again, trying not to go dark, I end up going with love. So check out my Flash!Friday piece for today. And go easy on me, it’s the first thing I’ve written in 5 days!

Bullseye
@laurenegreene
202 words
We left work every night at the same time and would stand next to each other in the parking lot, under the flickering streetlights, talking about anything but our feelings.

That night, Mitchell had called in sick. When I asked our boss, he just shook his head and said he didn’t know why. Fumbling with my keys, I dropped them on the white line of the parking space, and when I looked up a vague image was sitting in the distance.

“Who’s there?” I called out into the darkness of the night. The lights were more off than on that night.

No answer. I tiptoed across the parking lot, and on his knees with his hands up sat Mitchell. Arrows were sticking out of a sheath attached to his back. He wore all black, blending in completely with his surroundings. My heart beat loud enough for him to hear, as I drew closer to him, facing my trepidation.

“Relax,” he said, as he turned his eyes to me. “I had an archery competition today. No time to change. But I had to come straight away, because when I looked at the bullseye, Madison, I saw your face. How about dinner tomorrow night?”