Saturday, April 30, 2011

Life-Be Grateful-Be Very Grateful

Many of you might already know about the devastating tornadoes that ripped through the state of Alabama. I can't tell you how frightening that day, April 27th, was for me and my family. 16 hours of unending sirens, warnings, and horrific news flashes. 16 hours of texting my friends every time I went into the bathroom to let them know we were safe: for now. 16 hours of PURE TERROR. When the lights went out in Northern Alabama, we stepped outside. Not sure what to do. We saw two funnel clouds forming overhead, and one coming straight for our home. Back inside we ran. We three. An eerie silence. A POP. A moment where I believe we all thought "this is it."

It wasn't. It was not our turn. But that didn't make us any more special or god-loved. Nope. It didn't. Why were we spared a devastating tornado hit when just half a mile up the road a church steeple had been ripped off the church and flung to the ditches? Why were we spared when just a few miles north of us an entire neighborhood incurred so many losses of homes an even a fatality that the devastation is incomprehensible?

Why were we spared and others were not? I don't think I'm less of a sinner or more of a saint. I don't think my religion saved me, though I did have my bible in the bathroom and I did pray. I believe many others who weren't spared worse prayed, too, regardless of their faith background. I don't believe I had a extra divine intervention. I just believe that in praying I was given a measure of comfort during a terrible, frightening day. The words I read from my bible gave me a sense of calm I otherwise would not have had in those moments.

I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that my house stands unscathed. I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for my blog and cyber community. I am grateful that I am here typing these words.

I cry for the ones who sought comfort and didn't survive. I pray for their families. I cry for the families who have lost their homes in the matter of a moment in time--lives were shattered. And I pray for them to find a way to draw comfort from their faith, their friends, their loved ones.

On Wednesday, April 27th--in the dark gloom of the 16 hour day blaring warnings and striking fear into our hearts--my community lost so much. My state lost so much. But during that day, we held onto one thing that nothing could take away from us: our hearts. I am so grateful to all my friends who searched for me, who worried for me and my family, and who showed me that by focusing on what matters that I am indeed a blessed and rich woman.

Tears come whenever I think about all of the people who were praying FOR me and my family that day.

Thank you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Today's Post is Interrupted by Mono

My darling teen has mono. She is one sick puppy. I'm putting out fires left and right at her school. Meanwhile, she is home and resting. I promise to be back after I get life back on track.

There's normal. Then there's the "new normal."

My "new normal" is to put my teen first, help her heal up, and then write. Anything else is secondary. I once read a story by a girl who had lupus. She said she only has so many spoons of energy per day. She keeps one in reserve.

Now I only have so many spoons of energy and time. I am parceling them out very judiciously. Priorities have shifted to make room for this new curve ball. And, you know what? That is okay. Life happens. Then we readjust. It is in being flexible and understanding what is most important that we get through the dicier parts of life.

Perhaps my lesson of the day is that it's okay not to do everything and to change your priorities instead of trying to do it all and falling apart when life throws you a curve ball.

How do you realign your priorities when life throws you a curve ball?

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Day to Remember

Usually I post about my 4 Hour Body diet on Fridays. But yesterday my romance writing community, in particular my Heart of Dixie romance writing chapter, lost a beloved writer, Beverly Barton. And I can't write about how many inches I've lost or about my diet week because these things are trivial in light of this loss.

I've only known Beverly for 3 years, but every time I saw her she was kind, gracious, and fun. She always had a smile on her face. She made me laugh about ordinary things like "who the heck designed the bathroom at our meeting site?" She was real. Accessible.

Beverly was a generous author who mentored and encouraged all of us to pursue our dreams. Many people in my chapter knew Beverly far better than me. Several have become published authors themselves and credit her as being a significant influence in their lives. They are hurting and sad. My heart aches for them.

Beverly was more than a prolific romantic suspense author. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend who will be missed in ways that cannot be measured. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and close friends.

Today I remember a good person. A generous spirit. A gracious soul. Rest in Peace, Beverly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Dash of This and A Smattering of That

I have tons of ideas to blog about, but this week has been filled with so many "this & that" moments and events that I haven't had time to execute anything creative or elaborate. So today's blog is brought to you by my ramblings through the Cyber World. I am bringing you a dash of this and a smattering of that...

Last weekend Darling Hubby and I drove to Atlanta to spend the weekend in Historic Decatur. I attended the Nancy Knight Workshop: Half Done is Well Begun hosted by the Georgia Romance Writers of America while we were there. I learned a lot, was glad I never had to read my assignments out loud, and I was inspired to write the best book that I can write by the time the day was finished. If you want to read more about the workshop experience, click here.

While I was learning, my Darling Hubby was exploring. Then we went to two fun places: Leon's and MacMcGees in Historic Decatur. I loved the fact that my writing friends brought their husbands along. The atmosphere was fun, the company congenial, and the laughter abounded. I'd love to see a workshop led by husbands of romance writers. One that highlights how to live with a romance writer, and maybe even a few survival tips.

We arrived home on Sunday afternoon, and eagerly awaited our Darling Daughter's return from Orlando, Florida. She'd gone there with her choir group to participate in a competition. The fact that she was also able to check out the Magic Kingdom and Harry Potter World was another great reason to participate. We'd already taken her to both places, but going to them with a her friends from school was something she couldn't miss. After all, we're old folks and unable to run through the parks the way teenagers can run through them.

I learned on Saturday that HER PRISONER OF LOVE finaled in the Wisconsin Romance Writers FAB FIVE contest. Yay! Now an editor is judging the pages. I received great feedback from several of the judges on this entry as well as the entries that didn't final. I can highly recommend this contest. Speaking of contests, I entered the TARA with four manuscripts. I have three uploaded, and one to go. I should have it done by the end of the week. I already sent my thank you notes to the judges via the category coordinator. If you have entered a contest, please remember to thank the coordinator and the judges. It's hard work.

My darling friend Sharon Wray, a double Golden Heart finalist, and a fine critique partner, has launched her website and her blog. I hope you join her and read about how she developed her amazing romantic suspense series. I always tell people her books are like Suzanne Brockmann meets The DaVinci Code. Sharon is a fabulous writer, but more importantly, she's a true friend. I'm honored to be her date at the Golden Heart Ceremony.

On Monday night we got a call from Darling Daughter. She was quite ill and had to go to emergency in Orlando. Naturally, as a mother and father, we were very afraid. I revisited the Dark Night of the Soul. While I knew her chaperones, the school trip nurse, and the choir director were with her and doing the best they could for her my mother's heart was fearful and afraid. I couldn't rest till I heard her voice, touched her, held her close again. I think we believe that we have a special cloak of protection over out children. We know them. We can read them. But as children grow older, we have to let others protect them. And they did. I'm so proud of my daughter's chaperones.

While I was fearful and afraid, I was surrounded by my own protective cloak. Friends in the Cyber World kept us in their prayers and posted support for us on Facebook, Titterland, and in emails. I received phone calls from dear friends. My hubby was there for me, too. I was there for him. Once again, despite my dark night of the soul, I was given hope through my friends' faith. I read a lot about another mother who has to battle back the dark night of the soul regularly when it comes to her precious daughter. Her baby just had a heart transplant. I learned about this baby via Twitter. Now I follow the mother's blog here.

Despite wanting to eat the last three boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and desperately longing for chocolate to help me get through the day on Tuesday, I stayed true to my 4 Hour Body diet plan. I'm determined to lose the fluff by the RWA National Conference in NYC this summer. I found some really yummy vegetable chips that have no sugar added and are all natural. They helped. So did Sugar Free Jello. I didn't work out--too tired. But I am a firm believer in regular exercise so I will be back on the treadmill today.

I have a lot of writing projects to work on these days. I'm juggling three manuscripts right now, and I've got querying to do. Oh, Queryland, how do I love you not? I really just want to write, but can't be published if queries don't fly out the door. So this week I am going to send three more out into the world. I've had great interest in one particular manuscript which is my only single title manuscript. So off into the world it must go.

I'm also polishing the rest of the story for Mills & Boon's editors. I am in a holding pattern, waiting over the airport of publication, wondering if my first three chapters landed and if the rest should be asked for. I must be ready for any traffic control call. So I work in a vacuum. I'm also storyboarding the manuscript that did so well in the FAB FIVE. I have 6 weeks to finish revising it and polish it. I wrote about this manuscript and it's journey through revision here.

Today is a day of recuperation and rest for my Darling Teen. It's also a day of regrouping and revising for this tired mother. If I can impart any words of wisdom for how to continue writing when life just gets very scary and overwhelming, it is this: do the "busy work." Consider this the ironing time of your writing. It is impossible to create beautiful words and stories when one is tired, worried and afraid. But one can send thank you notes, clear out the computer files, straighten out the desk, make folders for the stories, work out a plan of attack for writing, and read great blogs. As long as you're participating in the process, even if it is just ironing out pesky administrative details, you're still writing.

And that's what separates the professional writer from the hobbyist: you still come to work even if you can't face the task. You find a way to be involved in the tasks of writing!

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 18, 2011



Workshop Title: Prose and Contests: Everything You Wanted to Know about Contests But Were Afraid to Ask
Instructor: Amy Atwell
Date: May 2-22, 2011
Cost: $20
More Information:

Overwhelmed by the number of writing contests out there? Unsure whether to enter? Unclear about why you should enter? This class is geared for unpublished writers seeking feedback and/or a chance to final in the hundreds of writing contests offered through RWA® chapters. Contests offer opportunities for feedback from published authors, agents and editors. But contests cost money and valuable writing time. This interactive lecture format will include handouts, examples and open Q&A to help writers understand what they can expect to gain from entering a contest. The class will provide an overview of the contest process, sources for researching contests, help writers identify their motives for entering a contest, and even give tips on preparing your contest entry.

Presenter Bio: 2008 Golden Heart® finalist Amy Atwell has experienced every aspect of writing contests.  Having entered over 60 contests over the past ten years, her manuscripts have won the Winter Rose, Great Expectations, Beacon, Golden Gateway, Heart of Outreach contests and Award of Excellence.  She has over 25 contest finals to her credit, including The Maggie, The Sheila and The Daphne du Maurier contests.  Amy's also judged numerous contests and she coordinated the 2009 Golden Pen Contest. Amy runs the WritingGIAM community of loops to help goal-oriented writers improve their productivity.

****Permission to Forward Granted and Encouraged****

Friday, April 15, 2011

4 Hour Body: Operation Skinny for RWA Nationals--Check In Time

I have had a fabulous week which started with my amazing CHEAT DAY. This time I went whole hog. I had a quarter pounder with cheese, a small fries, a donut, turtle cheesecake, cheese, and PIZZA!!! Yah, baby. It was good. Oh so good. The best part about it all was that I never felt guilty the entire day. I just enjoyed the food and had fun.

I love CHEAT DAY. But I also love getting back on track with the 4 Hour Body diet. It's actually pretty easy to follow, not too much to think about really, and I like eating meat, beans, and veggies. I've had a couple of days when I seriously wanted chocolate (hello? Easter candy is all over the stores!!). But I survived my craving with a small, sugar free strawberry jello.

This week was a bit tough because Darling Hubby was out of town, and I missed my dieter-in-arms. However, we prepared for the week by cooking our favorite cedar plank salmon and steaks on the grill. I also had some pre-cooked chicken and tilapia filets to bake so all was well in my world. I did have a few moments where I just wanted to nosh on something "easy." Easy being a roll and a hunk of cheese. After all, Darling Daughter wasn't home as well so it was boring to cook for one. A "why bother" time. But I succeeded to last throughout the week on the plan.

My go-to vinegar is White Balsamic Vinegar. I just love it on a bed of lettuce along with my fish, etc. So tangy and yummy. I've also enjoyed my tomatoes and eggs this week. I cut a tomato, drizzle balsamic vinegar on it, sprinkle some sweet basil on top, and drop my eggs on top of that combo. It's pretty tasty. And it hits all my taste buds in a satisfying way.

I managed to work out Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I didn't work out on Wednesday because I had to clean house. Mind you, I've burned tons of calories cleaning toilets, tubs, vacuuming and mopping. I figure the clean was a workout in that regard. I did Jillian Michaels' Shred 3 times and went to Zumba twice. I also walked for thirty minutes on Sunday. I've noticed my shoulders and arms are getting slimmer and more toned. My legs are also looking better. So all this exercising and dieting is making a difference.

Stats for today are:

Total Inches lost this week: .5 (off my hips!!! Woohoo!)
Total Inches lost since start: 6.5

I'm heading to Atlanta for a Georgia Romance Writer's Workshop which you can read about here. I  can't wait to get to Historic Decatur and visit my favorite restaurant, LEONS on my CHEAT DAY. Darling Hubby is coming along. Should be fun!!

So let me know how you are doing. And give yourself a pat on the back. You're one week closer to reaching your goal!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wonderful Wacky Wednesday

I have a lot of things to share today.

On Monday I celebrated my 500th blog! I had so much fun tripping down memory lane with you. And I promised that one of my commenters would receive a prize.

The winner is Sandy Elzie!! 
I'm giving you a $10 Starbucks Coffee Card!! 

The Heart of Dixie Online Workshops are gearing up for business again. As moderator, I want to share this great workshop with you. I hope to see you in the class.

2011 Workshop at Heart of Dixie

Prose & Contests: Everything  You Wanted to Know about Writing Contests But Were Afraid to Ask
Amy Atwell
May 2-27
Cost: $20

Description: Overwhelmed by the number of writing contests out there?  Unsure whether to enter?  Unclear about why you should enter?  This class is geared for unpublished writers seeking feedback and/or a chance to final in the hundreds of writing contests offered through RWA® chapters. 

Contests offer opportunities for feedback from published authors, agents and editors.  But contests cost money and valuable writing time.  This interactive lecture format will include handouts, examples and open Q&A to help writers understand what they can expect to gain from entering a contest.  The class will provide an overview of the contest process, sources for researching contests, help writers identify their motives for entering a contest, and even give tips on preparing your contest entry.

Bio2008 Golden Heart® finalist Amy Atwell has experienced every aspect of writing contests.  Having entered over 60 contests over the past ten years, her manuscripts have won the Winter Rose, Great Expectations, Beacon, Golden Gateway, Heart of Outreach contests and Award of Excellence.  She has over 25 contest finals to her credit, including The Maggie, The Sheila and The Daphne du Maurier contests.  Amy's also judged numerous contests including Romance Through The Ages, Great Expectations, The Golden Pen, The Barclay Sterling, More Than Magic, and she coordinated the 2009 Golden Pen Contest.   In addition to her writing, Amy runs the WritingGIAM community of loops to help goal-oriented writers improve their productivity.  Read more about Amy at her website:


I'm heading to Atlanta for the Georgia Romance Writer's day long workshop run by Nancy Knight. It's not too late to sign up. I'd love to see one of my cyber friends on Saturday! If you are interested in going, click here.

Stay tuned for another Road Trip blog. This time I'm bringing Darling Hubby with me to share the adventure in Georgia. I'm wondering how he'll survive being around so many romance writers, but he's getting kind of used to us now. While I am attending the Nancy Knight workshop, he'll be exploring Historic Decatur and, if I know him, reading some very complicated physics book. 

I'm considering this a training run for a bigger conference in his future. You never know. He might have to sit next to me when I wait for the Rita Winners to get announced :-)

I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, April 11, 2011

500th Blog Post Anniversary Celebration!!

Well, it is official I'm celebrating my 500th Blog Post today on Digging Out of Distraction. I started this blog with nary an idea of what I was doing. I did know that I wanted to develop my writing voice, and I wanted to connect with other writers in my world. Since that first post, I've been on a strange and wonderful journey. I've made new friends, I've grown as a writer, I've experienced many firsts. So for today, rather than go on and on about the journey, I figure the best way to share it is to show it to you via my retro blogs.

So enjoy my little trip down memory lane. If you discover a blog you never read, or you rediscover one that tickled your fancy, then please let me know! I would love to hear from you. And today I'm adding to the fun because I will have a prize for one lucky commentator.

Here is my first blog post from November 16, 2008. I kept it pretty short. I think I've gotten more verbose over the last three years.

I blogged about my favorite feline, the Dowager Feline Clancy here. Since her introduction to my cyber world, DFC has developed renal failure. She was diagnosed in August 2010. I thought she was not going to last long, and I was quite distraught. Once again, my feisty kitty has proved me wrong. Although she has had some tough days, she still has a lively personality and an incredible will to live. She's often curled up on my office chair waiting for me to show up and get to work. Every day is a bonus.

Writing is often a lonely pursuit, but my Romance Writers of America groups give all of us a lot of ways to connect. Since I began this blog I've attended the RWA National Conference twice, the Moonlight & Magnolia's Conference twice, dozens of local chapter meetings at the Heart of Dixie, Southern Magic, and Georgia Romance Writers of America writing groups. I've traveled with my writing friend and shared many adventures about my road trips. You can read about one of my favorite trips here.

In November, 2008 I had written three books. My third manuscript, SWEET SENSATIONS, finaled in the prestigious MAGGIE contest in 2009. It's gone on in various incarnations to win the Emerald City Opener contest in 2010. I have written two more books and completed an overview of a series of four books as well. My 4th manuscript placed second in the Emerald City Opener contest in 2010. So that was a one-two hit for me. While I am not published yet, I feel that I am edging closer to my goal.

Part of writing is learning to embrace one's process. Each book is a learning experience. I've written about my process here and here. At times I've doubted my abilities, but I've rallied and bounced back with the help of my friends, my family, and my own determination to beat the odds. I've written many blogs about how to stay focused and on task. I hope that in some way I have encouraged other people to keep reaching for the brass ring. I've written about how to beat the demons of doubt and despair here and here.

I've been fortunate enough to join two group blogs. Southern Magic's Romance Magicians and Georgia Romance Writer's Petit Fours & Hot Tamales. I love being part of the group blogs. The authors and writers who contribute to them are a blessing to me. Check them out some time by clicking on the links.

The new year meant the dawning of a new me. I am more focused than ever on my writing. I've had some serious interest in my manuscripts, and I'm determined to beat back the dark days of writing with the glowing memories of what has been and with the hope for what can be. I don't know WHEN I'll be published, I do believe in my heart that the operative word is WHEN. If I get down or discouraged, I remind myself that there is a bigger picture. I remember that WHO I am is more important than WHAT I am. You can read about those thoughts here and here.

Too often people get so focused on the end result of their pursuits that they forget that who they are when they get there is much more important. I'm determined to succeed, but not at the expense of my internal moral compass. I have a lot of examples of published writers who give generously of their time and who support those of us who are not published. I wish I could name them all, but that would take many blogs and many days. Those of you who have helped me, particularly with my agent questions and my revise and resubmit questions ;-), I give you my ongoing gratitude. I promise that when I make it into the world of publishing that I will pay it forward. I will strive to be the mentor that you have been to me.

And now, the fun part! If you have time to read or revisit any of the blogs I linked to for my 500th Anniversary blog, let me know which one was your favorite. I'd love to know. I'm drawing a name from the list of comments and giving a surprise to one lucky winner.

I hope you continue to join me on my journey toward publication. I hope each and every one of you reach your goals. And I wish that when you do that you will also continue to pay it forward with grace, dignity, humbleness and generosity.

Friday, April 8, 2011

4 Hour Body: Operation Skinny for RWA Nationals--Check In Time

I've been following the 4 Hour Body diet pretty religiously for three weeks now. I can say I totally look forward to "Cheat Day." Last Saturday I had cookies, cheese (my all time favorite), extra drinks, ketchup on my eggs, and my favorite Trader Joes Meal MANDARIN ORANGE Chicken with rice and broccoli. Sigh. Sooooo yummy. By the end of the day, I was ready to go back to the plan.

Two possible problems arose this week due to travel and company coming for dinner. While I was on the road, I didn't have access to my usual egg dish. I chose to eat a protein bar for breakfast and had small packages of South Beach style nuts to nibble on. I must say it wasn't fun going to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner, THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY, and not being able to order what I wanted. I ended up getting chicken medallions, extra veggies, no rice and edamame for an appetizer. My dinner companions could eat bread and tortillas, but I valiantly abstained. Not going to lie. It was tough.

On Monday I had to host a dinner for one of my darling hubby's colleagues. No problem. I had a lovely pork loin which I rolled into Herbs de Provence, seared, then popped into the oven for approximately 50 minutes at 400 degrees. The aroma was divine. I also had nuts on hand for an appetizer to munch on, but not the usual cheeses etc. because why tempt myself? Or hubby for that matter? I made two different veggies thinking this would suffice, explained that we were on a low carb diet and the man's face literally fell. He lives for carbs as he is of Italian descent. Sheesh. Thankfully, I had some frozen french rolls in the freezer, so I bopped three into the oven and baked them alongside the pork toward the end of the cooking time. Noted this issue to myself and picked up another bag of  mini rolls while at the grocery store just in case another carbaholic shows up at my place for dinner.

Due to my travels, I didn't hit the grocery store till Tuesday. I bought tons of fresh salads, beans, meat, salmon, the works. We had the chili lime grilled on the cedar plank Salmon last night over a bed of lettuce drizzled with white balsamic vinegar and fresh asparagus spears. Yummy. The week was very busy with Darling Daughter performing in her high school musical, GUYS AND DOLLS. I prepped a shredded beef dish which I served with lettuce wraps and "allowed for" condiments. Thursday we had a grilled flank steak with veggies and beans. And today I plan to serve balsamic chicken breasts, scallopini style with the usual beans/veggies. Usually by Friday I am over beans and meat. I can't wait till Saturday so I can eat bread, pasta, anything but meat and salad and veggies.

I'm not just trying to change my diet, I'm also working out. This week proved challenging because of my travels and a dentist appointment on Tuesday (yuck--can we say crown and total pain? Yes!). However, I managed to get to my favorite Zumba class again on Thursday and I used Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD on Wednesday. I was going to punt working out today, but after I took my measurements, I was motivated again. So I'll do another Jillian Michaels' Shred workout this morning.

And now, drum roll please, here are my stats:

Total Inches Lost this Week: 1.5 (half an inch off my waist! Hallelujah!!)
Total Inches Lost to Date: 6
Favorite Go-To Food: Sugar Free Jello and Kale Chips for the crunch
Favorite New Dish: Mexican Beef Lettuce Wraps

I blogged about my technological challenged at Petit Fours & Hot Tamales today. Come read all about my trials and tribulations with all things technological here. And today is a special day. This is my 500th blog post since I first started Digging Out of Distraction!! I'm celebrating the next 500 on Monday. Come join me for a trip down memory lane.

So how are you doing on your plans? Did you stick to it? What were your challenges to your will-power? Did you work out? Is your energy higher or lower? What are your favorite foods to keep you going when you are struggling to stay away from cookies and sweets?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Dark Night of the Soul: All is Lost

I'm a writer. I write commercial fiction. I follow a basic structure and format as I cobble together my story. I also let the muse come in and dance when I am in first draft mode. This dance releases me from the handcuffs of perfection. However, it does not release me from the reality of following a basic map. A guideline of sorts that gives me an idea of where I'm supposed to end up. Every story, whether carefully plotted or not, must have certain elements in it in order to fly into the publishing world.

Some of the elements are compelling characters, a unique hook or high concept, an interesting plot line, and a mastery of basic writing craft. I'll be the first to admit that grammar is my least favorite element to master. I'm a decent writer, an intuitive writer, but I am not a super technical writer. I don't have years of technical writing as a profession, nor do I have a degree in English, Literature, or journalism. But I don't believe I need any of those things in my background to be a good, compelling storyteller. 

That's what I am and what I have always been. A storyteller. An imaginative, creative, daydreamer with thousands of ideas and wonderings about how people mesh together despite the odds against them. I'd like to believe that I have a lot to give as a writer because I also have a wealth of experience that comes from having lived a life that wasn't perfect. I've experienced loss, loneliness, extreme fear, the daunting aspect of where will I live tomorrow? I've experienced hunger, real hunger, because I didn't have enough money to pay both the rent and the grocery bill. I've experienced the Dark Night of the Soul. I know what is like to believe All Is Lost. 

Understanding the Dark Night of the Soul is a key element to writing compelling stories. If I had always had everything run smoothly in my life and if I always received accolades for my hard work, I'd never be able to truly translate the dark night of the soul onto the page. 

What is the dark night of the soul in the writing world? In novels it is the part of the book where the reader believes the hero and or heroine have lost everything. There's been a terrible black moment. In a romance, the black moment is emotionally gripping. The hero and heroine walk away from each other because they believe they've lost their chance at true love. They believe all is lost and there is no way back. But they're wrong. And as a writer, I owe it to my readers to bring these two people back together because they do deserve each other. How they've grown emotionally, despite their backgrounds and their emotional baggage constantly driving them apart, is they way they will find a path to each other.

The dark night of the soul is an intensely personal, emotional moment for the hero and the heroine. As much as I'd like to make my readers laugh a little, the truth is that at this moment if my readers aren't reaching for a tissue, I've failed. This isn't easy stuff to write, folks. This is mining the heart. This is where the technically sound, pulled together neat little story might just fall apart. Why? Because the depth of emotion isn't there for the reader. They aren't sad. They aren't feeling anything. They may even think the couple should stay apart. 

In fiction, the Dark Night of the Soul is resolved by the writer's words. In real life, the Dark Night of the Soul isn't so easily resolved. So how do we mere humans, myself included, survive and grow past the feeling that All is Lost? We can't rewrite the terrible circumstances. We can't re-order the world into a nice, neat box. We can't make the pain of the loss evaporate in an instant. 

I think if we allow ourselves to feel the pain, to know the pain, to acknowledge the pain then we will get through it because we've been HONEST with ourselves and our emotions. We need to reach out to our most trusted friends and life's companions and reveal the truth about the darkness within. Even C.S. Lewis suffered from extreme bouts of depression. He turned to his friends for guidance, for support, for encouragement. 

I've experienced the Dark Night of the Soul when I was sixteen years old. I could no longer live at home, but I had no place to go. I had no relatives to take me in. I had no one to watch over me. I was as alone as a girl can be with my one blue suitcase in my hand. That was all I possessed. One suitcase of clothing. I literally had no place to go. But a girl I'd barely known, someone I'd briefly shared my sad tale to while at school, had told her mother about me and this family of strangers took me in. They housed me for over a year.

I've experienced the Dark Night of the Soul. I remember calling my best friend up when I thought I could never have a child. I was ironing (I always iron when I am scared or upset). I'd suffered so many miscarriages that this last pregnancy attempt was literally my last go. I just couldn't face another loss. I needed her to hear my pain, to hear me cry and wail at the wall of my misery of loss. I needed to unleash the firestorm of anger, sorrow, and agony within me because I was going to be denied the one thing I so desperately wanted. She said she'd carry a baby for me if I needed her. And that was when the darkness lifted. I wasn't alone.

I've experienced the Dark Night of the Soul. I remember working on my third manuscript when I received a call from my best friend's husband. He was unusually calm, yet he wasn't himself. My friend had a diseased kidney that had to be removed. They were 99% sure she had cancer. The sheer drop of my heart into my stomach can't even begin to describe my fear for her. For me. This woman who had known me through many of my dark nights, who'd held my child and cared for her when I was finally blessed with a baby, who'd counseled me wisely and without holding back, was in danger. And there wasn't a thing I could do to stop it. For three weeks we waited for news about her life. Three. Long. Weeks. We talked a lot. We laughed a lot. But behind the laughter there was a beast of dread so dark in the pit of my stomach that I couldn't focus, couldn't breath, couldn't relax. What if all was lost? I turned to my faith, my friends, and my hope for encouragement. The day my friend called to say she was cancer free ranks up there in the top 5 golden moments of my life. The house rang with our joy, it bounced off the ceiling and ping ponged around the rooms as we laughed our first unrestrained laughs in weeks.

The Dark Night of the Soul. All is Lost. But nothing is lost until we give up and say there is no hope. That is what we as writers, as people, must strive for in our lives. Cultivate hope. Cultivate friendships that nurture your hope. Hope restores light into our lives, into our characters' lives, and restores us to a place of peace and happiness.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Cleaning the Veranda

It's spring! Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, tornadoes are looming, and I'm making some changes. I'm switching my blog days to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I'll start this change tomorrow.

Wanting to look fit and trim for the summer? Me, too! As many of you know, I've embarked on a lifestyle change called Operation Skinny for NYC. You can read about it here and here. I'll be posting about my "lifestyle change" journey every Fridays. If you want to join in the fun, come visit the veranda on Fridays and let me know how you're doing.

I'm also blogging for Petit Fours and Hot Tamales on Fridays so I'll give you a link to one of my infamous confessions--stay tuned for Confessions of A Wannabe Techno Geek and Confessions of Teenage Drama Queen's Mother. I am working up those blogs for PFHT this week.

Need a little inspiration? I do, too! I'll be blogging about how I stay focused and on task throughout the month. And I'll also be sharing Debut Authors with you on Break out the Bubbly and Dark Chocolate. Lots of my friends are debuting their first novels this year. I can't wait to celebrate with all of them.

The RWA National Conference is in New York City this year, so I think I need to get my travelogues out and start planning my trip. An occasional blog about shopping for fun clothes for the event might pop up as well. And I hope that some of my Golden Heart and Rita Finaling friends pop in and say hello to us.

Want to read some other fun blogs? I'll be sharing some of my favorites with you on Mondays. Some of them might surprise you.

What are your spring plans? Making any changes to your blogs, your houses, your gardens, and your wardrobes?

Friday, April 1, 2011

4 Hour Body: Operation Skinny for RWA's National Conference

I've blogged about my foray back into diet and exercise world on Petit Fours & Hot Tamales. You can read about my ongoing rebellion and submission here. So here's the deal: I've decided to share my ongoing mission because I need to be held accountable. I've got lots of reasons to get back into shape, but the primary one is sheer vanity. I want to look good in my clothes. I especially want to look good in my clothes at the RWA National Conference being held in New York City this year. I'm a Golden Heart Finalist's date (how cool is that two of the people I've critiqued are in the Golden Heart Circle of Finalists???? Very!). I don't want to embarrass my good and dear friend, Sharon Wray. She deserves a date who looks great in her dress.

My Darling Hubby has joined me on my adventure. And my Darling Teen is also watching her calories. We're not an obese family, but we are a little on the, shall we say, "fluffy" side. And I am tired of being fluffy. I decided to share my journey with my blog world because I hope it will make me more accountable. Plus, I think it will be fun! I'm not posting my weight (ugh--scale is so demoralizing so I avoid it). But I will post my inches. Inches? Well, that is the total amount of inches around my thighs, my navel area, my hips, and my left bicep (which is getting pretty buff).

In my PFHT blog about my ongoing love/hate relationship with the scale, I revealed my total inches and diet plan. I confess that I didn't add the numbers correctly so I think I wrote something like 114 (I wish!). Actually, I started at 145 inches. Sigh. But the good news is that I'm already seeing results. I had been searching for a plan that would suit my lifestyle and my personality. I'd pretty much tried everything as far as diets are concerned. I knew I didn't want to give up wine, hated counted calories, and hated the very thought of starting a diet then being invited somewhere to eat where NONE of my "allowed foods" were an option. I'm also lousy at counting points (hey, I have trouble adding inches!).

Then a friend of mine told me about the 4 Hour Body diet. She said, "You'll like it Christine because you can drink wine." Sold! Well not totally, first I researched it and then I bought the book. I liked it for three reasons: wine was allowed, no calories counted and one full day of not worrying about what you eat or how much you eat. Yay!! I can do anything for 6 days if I can cheat for 1 day!!

I started my foray back into "diet world" very slowly. First I incorporated a new exercise program. Then I made two changes: no more food in the bedroom (I confess a certain penchant for a snack at bedtime while I am reading), and no carbs till dinner. Then we went to Disney World and I didn't worry about the carbs or the plan after breakfast. I also walked a lot. I had a great time and didn't regain any lost inches. When we returned from our fabulous anniversary trip, Darling Hubby and I began the plan.

We're on week two. So far it hasn't been awful. We aren't hungry. We like the foods we're eating (lots of beans, greens and meat), and we're seeing results. Darling Hubby does miss his grain alcohol, but I let him cheat a bit on Friday night last week when we went out with friends so he was okay. We already had our first cheat day. Ate anything we wanted. We got super stuffed super fast and we were eager to start again on Sunday (we picked Saturday as our Cheat Day for now).

So, now for today's blog, I'll share my stats so far:

Start Date of Modified Plan: 3/3/11
Total Inches: 145

4/1/11--Day 11 of Full Plan
Total Inches: 140.5

Total Lost Inches (darn I have to do math): 4.5 inches!

Favorite go-to food when desperate for something sweet? Pistachios, macadamia nuts, and sun dried tomatoes. Oh, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm eyeing the sugar free Jello!

Favorite new recipe? Salmon on a cedar plank. We dust the salmon with hot chili powder, red peppers, a bit of coarse salt. We place it on a soaked cedar plank and grill it till done. We squeeze fresh lime juice over the salmon as we grill. It is delicious over a bed of lettuce with a legume side salad.

Favorite exercise? Zumba!!! At the local YMCA.

What shall I have for Cheat Day? Oh, not sure, but I can assure there will be cookies, dark chocolate, cheese, and more than the allowed amount of wine :-)

Are you on a plan? Is it working for you? Share your stats with me. Let's get skinny for the summer!!