Tag Archives: Experience

Writing Out The Storms

This morning, I sat wondering for a few minutes if it’s “bad form” to begin a blog post with an addendum. A quick Google search on addendum placement yielded too many unnecessary bits, so I’ve decided just to go with it.

So here it is: I was supposed to post the following blog over two weeks ago. In the interim, a devastating earthquake ravaged Mexico, Hurricane Maria inundated an already-decimated Puerto Rico, and a gunman slaughtered 58 innocent people in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Some days, I feel so deeply hurt that I hardly know what to do. I certainly don’t always feel like writing. And even when I do, the words don’t necessarily come out the way I’d like.

With all the madness in the world swirling around, I also had a smaller, though personal, issue to deal with, the poison ivy/oak I mention below. Apparently, I’m severely allergic, so I’ve spent almost 3 weeks on steroids and dealing with swollen and blistered arms and a rashy body. The drugs gave me woozy head, and sitting down to write or brainstorm yielded nothing good.

Well, I’m slowly returning to the land of my living, and still processing the incredible events of these past weeks, trying to make sense of what I can and trying to keep going in a positive way. I hope you’ll take a few more minutes to zip through the rest of my original post below. And I truly hope this finds you well and striving to be happy in this crazy world. Thanks for spending some of your time with me! <3

————-

I’m not sure if Hurricane Irma wiped out all my thoughts and blog ideas in a wild, massive rush of wind, but it sure feels like that tricky witch did something to my brain. Though I can’t say exactly how she managed to do so, since I was about 5000 miles away in Europe when she hit my home in Florida.

As happens more often than not, this isn’t the blog I’d planned to write. But as circumstances change often and quickly, I usually try to go with the flow. When it comes to writing, that feels most natural and hopefully, therefore, is the best writing I can do.

When Irma blasted the Caribbean and the Southeast, my reaction was different this time than with Matthew last year, because I couldn’t return from Europe. I’ve only been home for one week, and it’s been hard to get back into writing.

I want to write again—especially, to work on the edits for Treasure Bound—but I don’t have the words yet. My creative brain has disconnected or something. Not a breaking off, but more like a pulling away to process what’s happened in the world.

Too overwhelmed with reality? No, that’s not it. Reality often overwhelms me ; ) so that’s nothing new. (October note: Hah! If only I’d known how much worse things would get. It all feels so unreal still.)

And maybe I’ll come back tomorrow to reread this before posting and will feel completely different. Tiredness impacts my creativity, and we’ve been tired a lot since we began following Irma’s antics almost three weeks ago.

Let me back up a moment. You see, my husband and I had planned a relatively last-minute visit to his family in the Czech Republic, and we were due to fly home—to Orlando airport—on September 9. The airline, Irma, and MCO all had other ideas, though.

So, we spent many hours on the phone with various people and places and eventually were able to book a flight home on September 15.

But I have to say, not being here—home—to ride out the storm brought me a different sort of anxiety. It felt strange and wrong not to be here, to be too far away to help, to know if family, friends, home were all right.

So, I guess I’m still sorting through the different levels of emotion and tiredness that’ve followed me. Though we did enjoy our extra time away, it was more stressful than you’d think, and the travel home kept us awake for almost 26 hours.

In all, though, we’re immensely grateful that our friends and family are all right. Things are so much worse for so many, and my heart breaks with the latest news from the Caribbean and Mexico. How truly overwhelming.

So from my perspective, the few more downed trees we had, though sad to see and to lose, are merely proof that far greater things than us exist. It’s a process, though, dealing with the changes and problems. I don’t downshift that quickly, unfortunately.

A small segue: I do have to sneak in a photo or two of our yard here, because Lou and I could hardly believe what had happened on the rear of our property. A huge tree with water-logged roots toppled, ripping up a chunk of ground. Check out this mass of dirt and roots!

Tree roots
Downed trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately, when he cut the tree apart, the stump rose and the dirt/roots have settled back into position. But I wonder how long that’ll last.

The almost-week’s-worth of jungle clean-up did leave me with one other present: a nasty occurrence of poison something-or-other, worse than last year, it feels. So, just add steroiding myself to the list of “out there” feelings, and I think we’ve got the lack-of-writing issue mostly clarified.

Anyhoo…maybe writing this blog will help get my head on straight. Though I did write some on vacation, it was without regularity and not often. Me falling off the writing wagon is not pretty, as it takes several ugly attempts before I can claw my way up again. Think I’m finally getting there, though. I hope.  : )

And here’s a nice ending to this post: the birds are coming back. A blue jay streaked by the window and nestled in the pine tree. And a pretty bright-red cardinal just landed on the orange tree outside, perched amid the yellow-lime fruits, which I hope survive till ripeness.

Happiness, seeing that flash of crimson and imperious crown, since I think of angels when I see cardinals. And I have a few special guardians I know are looking out for me and my hub, through all the madness this world can throw at us. <3 Stay strong.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Writing Forts

Nothing screams “summer blog post” more than a hulking, stone fort, am I right? Suuure. I can see the heads shaking. What you’re probably asking yourselves is: What does a fort have to do with writing? Well, let me tell you about that.

I’m always on the hunt for relevant writing-life ideas to blog about, things both useful and personal. I hope you learn something fun and different after reading my posts, that you engage in your own writing or reading in a new way, become inspired to change something in your writing repertoire or habits. See things from a fresh perspective.

So to find ideas, I check out the holiday calendars to see what’s going on, I read other author blogs (check out this list for some cool ones, but be warned, some links are out of date), I review Writer’s Digest and other online sources for inspiration.

And sometimes I simply walk outside and see what my imagination fires up. In the case of this month’s post, “Writing Forts,” my inspiration was two-fold: calendar spark and walkabout spark.

One of the many things I love about St. Augustine is its history. One big chunk of that history is the Castillo de San Marcos, a National Park, located at the northeastern edge of historic downtown. With July named as National Park and Recreation Month (the calendar spark), and me so enamored of this massive fortress—also a designated National Monument—I knew I had to blog about it.

Which leads me to spark number two, the walkabout. Because I’m fortunate to have this historic fort in my backyard, I’m free to wander the grounds for inspiration whenever I’m able to go downtown (and able to find parking).

Water in the moat of the Castillo de San Marcos
The Castillo at night, with visitors.
Canon fire at the Castillo

Those of you who’ve read my previous posts know how much I love being outdoors, love Florida’s warm, mostly sunny weather. I carry my notebook everywhere, and I love writing longhand outside. Weather permitting, naturally, but also in the rain. As long as I’m covered and my notebook is dry, I’m good.

Sometimes, writing in the rain is actually better, depending on the scene. A moody, rainy day can be perfect for stalking, murder, surprise attack, even simply an eerie feeling or two. I think you get my point. Writing outside or somehow exposed to the elements, exposed to the ambience of a historic space, imbues my writing with a vitality I can’t always capture when sitting at my computer behind a desk and gazing through the window. Kinda like life, you know. Sometimes you have to stop reading and writing about it and go out and live it.

Now, about this fabulous fort. I’m intrigued by history (I’m not a buff, mind you, but forever learning). Those of you who’ve read Emerald Obsession know that while it’s a contemporary mystery, it has its roots in history. The Castillo has survived over 300 years as the oldest masonry fortress in the United States.

Rambling over the fort grounds, reading the educational material the park rangers offer, climbing stone steps to look over the Matanzas River and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, steeping myself in the environment and knowledge of its age brings the fort’s history to life, helps me imagine what living there centuries ago could’ve been like.

Being able to experience such a unique piece of history firsthand is extraordinary. When I walk through historic places, I feel the weight of time surround me. I feel the lives and deaths of those who passed that way before me. A quiet settles in, respectful and deep. I knew the fort would find its way into my writing somewhere, somehow.

And here’s where I get to tease a little info about Treasure Bound, Book Two in my Found Mystery Series. I’m so excited. This story follows up Emerald Obsession to continue Lexy and Jack’s treasure hunt, and part of the story takes place in St. Augustine. Surprise, there’s also a scene or two set at the fort. Hope I do it justice.

To learn more about the Castillo de San Marcos, click here. It’s one of my favorite places in St. Augustine. And don’t forget to take your writing outside! You may not have a fort at your disposal, but any outdoor spot will offer a new angle and enliven your writing.

As ever, to weigh in on this or any of my posts, please share, share, share in the comments section, or on social media. You can find me in all the usual places. Thanks again. : )

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Stress Management and the Zen of Journaling

People live with varying amounts of stress, and I totally admit I make my share too easily, despite my intention to simplify things. Is that ironic? No, probably just slow learning on my part. But what starts out simple often morphs into something complex faster than I can keep up.

Case in point: this is (one of) my April blog(s)—that’s a whole other story right there, the tale of my lost second blog of the month—and here I am, posting it in May.

Should I mention this post was prompted by learning that April is Stress Awareness Month? Well, there you go. Welcome, May; hello, Stress, I am aware of you; and, am I on the ball these days or what?

Despite the date, I wanted to share this post because I’m pretty damn sure everyone can relate to the stress in their lives getting out of hand now and again. Worse, perhaps way more often than that. And while I’m no police officer or doctor or someone who holds others’ lives in their hands, stress is real and evident in each person’s life to varying degrees, and that stress needs a release before it takes a physical, mental, emotional toll on a person.

Having said my little piece about that, life—as ever, it seems—has been a tad taxing, so I’d like to share how journaling helps me cope.

On one level, writing is stress-inducing because I’m striving to make my living with it. Learning the intricacies of publishing, marketing, blogging? Switching mental gears from the other aspects of everyday life to something creative? Creating compelling stories to share in the hopes readers will enjoy them? No stress there. ; )

On the flip side, writing is incredibly stress-relieving in another form. I’m talking about journaling, keeping a diary. Or in my world, AKA writing to a therapist without paying for one. ; )

I’ve kept a journal, diary or daily calendar for most of my life. Doing so goes back to my first real diary, which still lives somewhere in my mom’s basement in a dusty cardboard box with my name scrawled in black Sharpie on the outside. Prior to receiving that journal, I vaguely recall using cute, pink notebooks (Hello, Kitty, anyone?) for my scribblings. But being presented with that book—a most-cherished gift—was a turning point.

The perfect-bound book is small but meaty. It’s about 4 inches wide by 5 tall, an inch thick with lavender-lined, white pages dated for every day of the year. No year, though, just days, and I wrote in the diary for many years, on and off, when the mood struck and the need great. When I look at the pages now, I see the rounded loops of my childish cursive mingling with the flatter scrawl of my “grown-up” script.

The cover looks like bleached leather, off-white and semi-smooth, with the word “Diary” debossed in gold lettering.

But perhaps the best part of this notebook was the tiny lock and key that protected all my secrets. That lock freed me. Finally, I had a place to pour out my heart without fear of ridicule or retaliation. For a sensitive young girl like me, that was gold in paper form.

I didn’t understand at the time, but that diary would help me in immeasurable ways. Writing as a career can be exceedingly stressful, but writing for passion, for catharsis, is one of the best stress reducers I know. And a handy side effect: journaling is practically free.

For those of you who’ve not journaled yet, I encourage you to try. Maybe the best part is that you can (and perhaps should) write about anything. When I write in my calendar or a spiral notebook—my diary of choice these days because it opens flat—I’ll jot whatever comes to mind. Sometimes what happened during the day, what new food I made, or what errands I ran. I might segue into a mini rant on the bad drivers around me. Or a musing on the nice person in line who pointed out I’d dropped a five-dollar bill.

Journal and coffee

In its longer form, my notebook holds nighttime secrets, dream depictions that lingered until the next morning. Lots of folks are big into dream analysis; I’m intrigued by that, and I try to note my more unique experiences, either to try to decipher them or simply for later amusement. Whenever I die, whoever reads those dream notebooks will have a field day with my mental state, I’m sure.

Anyhoo, my point is writing in this manner is a release. Putting words to paper releases the emotion—good and bad—that fills my day. When it’s good, writing it solidifies the feeling and helps me enjoy it longer. When it’s bad emotion (stress), I’m able to channel it away to a large extent.

Remember Julia Roberts’s line from Pretty Woman? “The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?” It’s always stayed with me because I feel like the bad stuff is also what really sticks with us. Too often, the good stuff falls by the wayside, easily forgotten or overtaken by some other worrisome feeling. So, writing the good stuff is how I enjoy and retain that happy feeling, how I focus on the good when all the mayhem tries to sneak in and overwhelm me.

And writing the bad stuff is how I expel my anger, alleviate the immediate pressure, vent my sadness and confusion and worry. When I need to, I can return to my spewage later to evaluate my reaction, to understand why I responded as I did. To view my stress from a safe distance and work through my problems with a clearer head. Wow, talk about handy.

So, readers, does any of this resonate with you? Who of you have journaled or written in a diary of any form? It’s a practice I’ll keep for my entire life, I’m sure. I hope you found something useful in this post, and that maybe I’ve offered a reason for you to start scribbling in a diary or notebook. It does wonders! Please share your thoughts below. Thanks, and have a brilliant day.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Book Club Brilliance

Every year, February’s brevity catches up with me, no matter how many times I remind myself it’s a short month. In my effort to keep on schedule, I’m squeaking in my second February blog with a few hours to spare. Whee! I’m lucky, though, because I have a fun topic for this post: book clubs. More specifically, my first invitation to attend a book club and to join the discussion as the author of the group’s chosen monthly read! What a freaking treat for me. : )

Through the most excellent graces of my friend Monika—she talked me up to her friend Melissa who’s part of this club—I was introduced to a wonderful group of authentic, candid readers who are in love with books.

As much as I appreciate book clubs, I haven’t participated in one before, even as a reader. And it hadn’t occurred to me to offer to speak to or participate in a book club discussion as a writer. Those of you who’ve followed my blog from the onset know I feel challenged by marketing and putting myself out there as an author.

And I’ll share this: discussing books and telling stories to friends is one thing, but stepping into the spotlight of this group felt so intimidating. It’s an entirely different experience to sit before a group of intelligent, time-pressed individuals who purchased your book on someone’s recommendation and then be held accountable for your words, creativity and entertainment value. I mean, what if these people hated my book? Or found inconsistencies? Or thought it too simplistic? I’ll say again, a tad bit intimidating.

That was, until I met this group of lovely people. Well-read, well-traveled, outspoken and outgoing, these women welcomed me and treated me like a friend while being honored I, “a local author,” joined their discussion.

And let me tell you, these guys do Book Club right: their once-a-month evening meeting begins with catch-up chats over a welcoming glass of vino and simple starters, is followed by a delicious, no-fuss meal (we enjoyed chicken chili, salad and fresh fruit; I’m hoping Natalie will hook me up with that recipe!), and culminates in the discussion of that month’s selected title. Their discussion format is straightforward and begins with the host opening with a book-related question or discussion topic to get the ball rolling. The conversation is free-form, with members commenting and asking additional questions until by consensus the evening ends. Simple, fun, effective, entertaining.

Vino
Cheese Platter

 

 

 

 

 

Every writer I know struggles with the desire to share stories but not to feel rejected by those who dislike, don’t understand or fear them. And we struggle with how to tell those stories the best we possibly can. The club’s questions were engaging and thought-provoking and even gave me ideas for a couple points I plan to work into the sequel I’m writing now, TB. Though a bit unnerving in the anticipation, in all ways, this experience was fantastic: the welcome, the interest, the engagement, the thoughtful and valuable questions and comments.

Bunch of Books

Though the group said they felt honored by my presence, I have to say I’m the one who was pleased and humbled by their invitation. They welcomed me and my story, Emerald Obsession, into their lives for a time; they allowed themselves to be carried away by my characters’ antics and transported to unfamiliar locales where they feasted on exotic fare. How fortunate am I?

Special thanks to: Melissa, Natalie, Leslie, Carolyn, Sarah, Kathy, Eleanor, Maggie, the fab ladies of (mostly) Davis Shores for their warmth, interest and welcome. Also, for your encouraging response to the vignette I read from Treasure Bound, my work-in-progress sequel.

You guys rock. Read on, ladies!

So, readers, do you belong to a book club? How does yours work? As I mentioned, I haven’t been in one before, but this experience really made me want to start. How about you? Let me know below or by email (carolyn@carolyngreeley.com). Thanks!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

3 Reasons to Find Your Writing Mentor

I discovered an interesting tidbit the other day as I scanned an online calendar of fun facts: January is National Mentoring Month. Okay, maybe you take that sort of online info with a grain of salt, as I do (Really, National Crown of Roast Pork Day? It’s March 7, according to some.), but now and then I run across a factoid that stays with me and spins the gears.

Such is the case with National Mentoring Month. This struck me because I’m an advocate of mentors (and not just recognizing their usefulness for a month). This past year, I’ve been talking about their importance with my husband, whose business is expanding. As it grows, I’ve encouraged him to reach out to friends and colleagues who’ve already traveled similar paths, so he might learn from their experiences.

Why take this path:

Foggy path

When you can travel a clear path with a trusted advisor and friend:

Path to follow

But to be honest, I hadn’t thought of a mentor for myself as an author before now. I don’t know why. It took that chance mention to make me look at my career and realize how critical a mentor could be for a writer. And many of the ways in which a mentor helps say, an entrepreneur, are the same ways one would help a writer.

So, as ever on my kick about continuing to learn and grow, I searched around for more information. 🙂

Here are three ways a writing mentor can help you:

1—Experience. One of the best things a mentor can do is share the wisdom of their experience. I love the expression “work smarter, not harder.” By finding someone who’s attained the goal you’re aiming for and having them mentor you, you’ll benefit from their knowledge and hopefully will avoid their mistakes. An established writer will counsel you on both creative and business aspects of writing and will guide you along your specific career path.

2—Connection. Another benefit of your mentor will be access to their broader network of contacts. Though writing is usually a solitary effort, if publication is one of your goals, then connecting with others—readers, publishers, agents, editors, other writers—is essential. As an author looking to grow and reach an audience, having a mentor to open doors and offer ways to connect with people will be invaluable.

3—Inspiration and Input. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but for me, it doesn’t happen on a consistent basis. With a mentor, though, you may be only a call, text or coffee chat away from the butt-kick motivation you need to flush out that sketchy scene that’s vexed you for a week. The right writing mentor will offer creative support and unbiased, constructively critical insights. And that’s huge for gaining confidence and thickening the skin to the rejection prevalent in the writing world.

So, readers, what do you think about writing mentors? I believe engaging with one is a great idea for anyone looking to grow their career or passion. Do you have one? Or would you consider mentoring someone less experienced? What would you hope or expect to gain from that association? Please let me know in the comments section. I’d appreciate your thoughts. Or feel free to email me at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail