Facing My Fears

My good friends bought an awesome A-frame cabin in Great Capacon, West Virginia a year ago. I’m in love with their cabin and all the rustic furnishings, especially the amazing stone fireplace that reaches the ceiling. They have three beautiful acres that surround the cabin and plenty of places for their Golden Retriever to find adventures. It’s a magical place where I can see myself finishing my second novel. I’m very fortunate that my gracious friends have invited me to write there during the week and it’s only an hour from my house. And, they have Wifi!

On the second morning of my visit, my friend B asked me if I was ready for a mini road trip. I’m always ready for a road trip! I grabbed my camera and off we drove up and down hills and along the Great Capacon River. The snow on the ground was finally melting and I could see spots of ice on the river. It was a beautiful day in West Virginia. Soon, we were driving up a steep hill and then, we stopped. From where we were parked, I couldn’t see anything but trees, so we got out and B walked aka kinda slid down a small embankment to what looked like the edge of the known world. I caught a glimpse of a river, but I turned away as quickly as I could.

This little story is about how we are able to freak ourselves out and how ridiculous our thoughts can be when we are faced with our greatest fear. My friend had no idea that I am deathly afraid of heights, so I don’t blame him one bit! I was thrilled to see this little piece of Heaven that B loves and it was a beautiful sight to behold.

So, B went to the edge, looked over and came back. “It’s awesome, El! Wait until you get down there!” The incline was pretty steep to the edge and my boots kept skidding. I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared, but when he held out his hand, I took it, mostly to steady myself. I immediately felt light-headed and not sure on my feet as we inched forward. I sure as hell didn’t go out to the edge where he’d stood. I told him that I had gone as far as I could. I sat on a rock because I was getting dizzy.

I suddenly realized that this was a perfect place to kill someone. Like in the movies. Had I pissed B off in any way in our many years of friendship? Was killing me the reason he hadn’t asked Angie to join us? He could bring me to the edge and lightly push my back and over I would go into the wild blue yonder. No! This was ridiculous. Stop it, I told myself. I love this man, my friend!

I was fascinated at my body’s reaction to the height, the imminent danger and our potential deaths. My body shook, my stomach felt really weird and I finally knew what it must have felt like for Thelma and Louise before driving off the cliff! I couldn’t control my hands and flipping stomach. A small landslide could surely knock us into the abyss and forget about a shale avalanche, sheesh. I forced myself to think pretty thoughts.

I kept fighting with my imagination of losing my balance and falling to my death onto the craggy rocks below and then, Bob went closer to the edge filled with shale chips. I couldn’t even look at the river and small waterfall because I thought B was going to die any second. What would I tell Angie?! Uhmmm, A…your husband is dead. I’m so sorry to tell you that B is dead. She would ask me if I’d helped him and I would have to tell her the truth or lie.

I managed to take a photo of B looking toward their cabin (which we couldn’t see) and I wondered if this would be the last known photograph taken of him before he became one with the Great Capacon River. Then, I had a horrible thought. What did the cliff look like from underneath? What was holding up this inclined cliff? More shale?

I couldn’t stand it. I asked him to pretty please come back a foot and from the look on my face, he realized that I was petrified. He laughed and came to where I was sitting. “You that scared, El?”

“You bet your sweet ass as I am!” I had to laugh and before I knew it, I was looking to my left and this photo is what I saw. It was breathtaking in every sense of the word. A miracle of nature. I took more than 25 photos and even managed to slowly stand up for the last few and then, I was done!

Before coming out to visit my friends, I’d told them that I wanted to shoot some guns. I wanted to cross that off my bucket list. We shot rifles, a 45 and a huge handgun. My hands shook with every pull of the trigger and my shoulder was sore, but that was an exhilarating fear, not like my fear of heights. Ellie will remain on safe ground where she intends to stay. Yep.

Remind me to tell you about the one car wooden “bridge” we had to cross to get back home. No railings and the rising river was no more than a foot below. Yeah. A vacation house for sure IF you can get there and remain safe inside the cabin with no avalanches, floods or mudslides.

Note: I am presently looking for a cabin in that area. I honestly love it out there 🙂 I had a lovely weekend, thank you, B&A! You are the mostest of the mostest.

Ellie

The Mind Games Writers Play

Boy, do writers play mind games with themselves to stay in the writing seat. I sure do. I’m trying to ignore the fact that the weather is gorgeous today. We have blue skies, a light breeze and mild temperatures. Normally, I can work through most distractions, but my Inner Child is alive and well today. After such a brutal and long winter, can you blame me for not wanting to remain indoors!

My dogs and I walked around the flower garden this morning and the daffodils are coming up. The Lily of the Valley are popping up near the ancient grape arbor and the peonies should be coming up soon. I inherited my love of gardening and mostly green thumb from my Puerto Rican grandmother, Meme who had the most beautiful garden in Ponce, Puerto Rico where I’m from.To make matters worse, last week, I bought a great greenhouse and trays of organic dirt pots to grow seeds in. It is taking everything I have not to bring that box inside from the trunk of my car. I have editing to do this weekend. I am ignoring the greenhouse because then, my editing and writing will be doomed for today.

Are you like me? Is it all or nothing for you? I get in those moods. Most days, I can write for nine or ten hours a day and if I don’t have a huge chunk of time the following day, it can threaten my creative mood. If anything on my every-growing to do list for my house crosses my mind, it can break the creative cycle, as well. I’m not allowing that to happen today. I’m nearly finished with the final edits of my novel, A Decent Woman. I promised Mindy, my editor, to send her a fresh copy of the manuscript by next Wednesday and I’m honoring my promise.

What else must we do to write without interruptions, distractions, and delays? Just do it. That’s the solution? Yep. Just write through it ALL. Steal an hour or two to write and don’t give in to the censors and distractions in our heads. The dishes will be there tonight or tomorrow and Spring isn’t here yet. I have time for gardening later!

Okay, I feel better. My Inner Child is happy again. I don’t have to pull my hair out and stress my semi-organized house that could look better. All I have to do is show up to write. So simple. It’s not complicated, it’s ME who is complicating it all.

I do, however, have to color my hair. Some things just can’t be left for later.

Happy Saturday!

Ellie

The 30-Second Elevator Pitch

You know what I find to be the two most difficult experiences about writing books? Writing a brief synopsis and the 30-second elevator pitch. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.  You meet someone at a cafe, on the Metro or on an elevator and they ask you, “What is your book about?” The dreaded five words for an author…namely, me.

Give me a topic, ask me to describe a scene from a movie, complete with dialogue, or write you an email about something that just happened to me. I’ll write my head off. Pages and pages of information will spew forth with details that you never knew or cared to know. That is how I tell a story–with a beginning, middle and an end. You will also have background information and all you need to know about what just happened to me which is why I began a journal years ago. I seem to have a lot to say which is why I write books. My friends seem relieved and my children are happy that Mom has an outlet.

Writing a synopsis was tough for a long-winded person such as myself and it took me awhile, but I managed to put together a good, four-page synopsis. Not easy, but done. Two weeks ago via Skype, my editor asked me the dreaded question, “What’s your book about?” I should know this, right? I’ve written the book, for goodness sake! But, I struggled to give her a succinct, complete and clear description about what my book is about. All I have to say is that I was humbled and boy, did I fumble with words! She kindly explained. “Pretend you’re on an elevator and have 30 seconds to get a person so interested in your book that they go right out and buy it.” The 30-second elevator pitch. I said that I would get right on it and get back to her!

Listen, I wrote the first draft of my novel, A Decent Woman, in six months. I ended up with over 300 pages and roughly, 28,000 words came pouring out. I had an outline and a four-page synopsis which was what agents and publishers were looking for. I could do this!

A week later, I sent my editor the 30-second elevator pitch for A Decent Woman. Three sentences. Do you know how hard that is?! Damn hard. I deleted four versions. Last night, my editor sent me her revision of my pitch. This morning, I incorporated her changes into mine and came up with this:

A Decent Woman is a novel of catastrophe and survival, choices and betrayal, the story of the midwife Ana and the women she meets along her journey who find themselves pitted one against one another in the male-dominated Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. It is the story of the bonding power of unlikely friendships that carries them through tragedy and betrayal and the cost of living with dark secrets.

What do you think? Would you buy this book based on this pitch?

And remind me to tell you what happened to me this morning on the way to the corner store to buy half and half…

Ellie

 

Can You Blog? Yes, You Can!

* This is an older blog and I’m resubmitting it with additions on this new blog because I’m still asked this question. *

Can You Blog? Yes, You Can!

When I’m asked what I do for a living, I answer that I’m a writer, poet, artist, photographer and blogger. The word blogger usually generates interest and creates dialogue.

Here are a few questions I’ve received about my life as a blogger:

What’s your blog about?
How often do you blog?
How and why did you start a blog?
Do people follow your blog?
Do you know who reads your blog?
Do you give out personal information?

and lastly,

How can I start my own blog?

Here are my answers and a little information about me:

What’s your blog about?

My blog, The Writing Life, is about my life as a writer. I blog about my life’s experiences as they relate to writing and living my dream of being a full-time writer. I blog about the challenges, perseverance, joys and hard work necessary to write a novel, query agents, write and edit, query editors and publishers, and market a blog and first novel. My historical fiction novel, A Decent Woman, will be published in Summer 2014 by Booktrope.

How often do you blog?

Nearly every day. I kept a journal for over 15 years and blogging was easier than writing long-hand. I began journaling while reading Julia Cameron’s seminal book, The Artist’s Way and never stopped!

How and why did you start a blog?

My son introduced me to blogging and I think my kids encouraged me to blog because they thought Mom needed an outlet/creative outlet. They were right. I also believe they were tired of listening to me 🙂 I journaled long-hand, every day for over 15 years and blogging felt very natural. Not blogging feels like not brushing my teeth!

I began blogging anonymously in 2007 on Thoughts.com about the dating life of a 50-year old divorced Mom of two college-aged kids–me. Yes, mostly comedy! I was on that site for seven years and then, I got the seven-year itch to begin a writer’s blog on Blogger.

I started my blog, The Writing Life, on Blogger because I learned I needed an author blog as a platform for my novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman. I discovered that new authors must have an established platform before they publish their first book. Blogging keeps me writing and working on my novel when I think I can’t read or write another word! Writing a blog is a discipline that I love and can’t imagine not doing. I was on Blogger for two years before I forgot my password and had to move to WordPress~!

My new blog has changed from a writer’s blog to an author’s blog as my book, A Decent Woman, will be published Summer 2014 🙂

Do people follow your blog?

I enjoyed a large blog readership/following on Thoughts.com and have met six fellow bloggers over the years which is great because that blog no longer exists. The interaction with readers was great. I’m thrilled when someone adds my blog, The Writing Life, to their reading lists and I love receiving comments! I always reply to comments, it’s just good manners.

Do you know who follows your blog?

I had over a hundred followers on Thoughts.com and nine on Blogger which didn’t compute with the 6,000+ page views that seemed to grow every day. I’m grateful for my followers and readers and no, I don’t know every person who reads my blog. Making friends wasn’t why I started blogging, however, I love the interaction and would love to connect more with my readers. So, please make yourself known 🙂 I love the kind comments I received and would love to know more about my readers who seem to live around the world.

Do you give out personal information?

No, I don’t. I’m a writer living West Virginia, originally from Northern Virginia, born in Puerto Rico. I’m the mother of two fantastic young adults who no longer live in my nest. I’m also Mom to a Pug named Ozzy, a Chihuahua puppy named Sophie, and a Maine Coon named Pierre. We have a very harmonious home and my furry children are great company.

While I may blog about my writing adventures, road trips, false starts, and my goals in writing, I don’t give out personal information, i.e., my address, phone number. I never use the full names of my friends and people I come into contact with, either.

How can I start my own blog?

Just start right where you are today! Just start writing about your life, what you love and are passionate about.

Think of a catchy user name or title for your blog.
Research your favorite people, authors or artists and peruse their blogs.
Take a great pic and upload great pics for your blog.
Write about what interests you.
Write about your dreams, struggles, joys and/or travel adventures.
Write what you know.
You may be an expert at something, share your gifts!
Be real and allow yourself to be vulnerable.
If you write novels, poetry and/or have wonderful creative gifts, definitely start a blog!
Show and share your work within reason.
If you have an unpublished manuscript, do not upload the entire document. Try a sample chapter instead to share with readers.

Interact with your readers!
Leave comments on your favorite blogs! Let them know you are interested and reading!

What do I still need to work on in my blogging life:

The last entry–Leave more comments on my favorite blogs and review books on my blog.

I’m still learning to organize my time so that I have time to read, write and edit my novels. I read two books at a time and I read at least a dozen author blogs a day. I don’t always have time to comment on other author blogs and I need to fix that!

I can and WILL make time to comment on other author’s blogs, especially those in my genre, historical fiction. I will also begin to review books, especially those in my genre. Cross my heart.

Ellie

Don’t Screw with Momentum

I learned the hard way not to screw with momentum in December 2013. After blogging for on Thoughts.com for five years (anonymously because I blogged about dating in your 50’s which I won’t admit to) and blogging as a writer on Blogger.com for two years, I took December off to enjoy my family and the Holidays. Big mistake.

I finished editing my historical novel, A Decent Woman, for the hundredth time and was busy avoiding the mailman who only seemed to hand me rejection letters from the many query letters I’d sent out. I was feeling the winter blah’s and decided that I needed a break. So, I took a break, all of December. Did I mention that was a mistake?

I messed with momentum and angered the writing gods. So in January when I was ready to begin blogging again, my red laptop decided that it would no longer turn on. It was then that I realized that I’d never written the password for my Blogger blog. That was a horrifying feeling! What could I do? I bought a new laptop and started this Author blog because on Valentine’s Day this year, my historical novel was accepted for publication by Booktrope.

Now, I’m busy with edits, synopses, story arcs, and future rewrites of my novel (hopefully not many!) and learning the ropes at Booktrope. I’m happy, seriously happy and I have to get back on the blogging saddle once again. I took to blogging like a duck to water, so it shouldn’t be too long before I’m blogging first thing in the morning. I’ve been a nearly every day blogger for years, so you will see me again!

Ellie

 

 

What Happens When You Forget Your Password….

Always, always, write your password down. Don’t rely on your memory or your current laptop to remember it. My red laptop remembered it well enough and when it decided to call it quits, I was out of luck.

I relied on my red laptop to always work for me. I would fire it up and presto, my blog popped up with my password.  My new black laptop is great, but it was never introduced to my old blog:

Eleanor Parker – The Writing Life on Blogger

So, after three years of blogging on Blogger, I’m now at Word Press.

For three years, I blogged about the writing life and my life as a writer. Now, I’m an author. My historical fiction, A Decent Woman, was accepted for publication by Booktrope and I am thrilled. This is a new world for me and it is fitting that I begin my new blog on Word Press at this time. Timing is everything, you know?

Welcome to my world and please bear with me as I learn the ropes on this awesome site!

Ellie xo