“Why Not Now?”

Forest Flowers

(Photo Courtesy of Cindy Pope Lowman)

 

After working in Corporate America for thirty years and writing a novel, I finally signed a three-book contract with a local publisher. Knowing I had to get the rewrites completed in a few months, plus two other books written within the next two years, why not retire and concentrate on my writing? This had to be God’s timing.

Great! No more getting up before dawn every weekday, no more beginning my commute before the sun comes up, no more coming home in the dark. Instead, I could sleep late, go to the lake during the week when it is not so crowded, go to the park, walk the dogs, and stay up late. Oh yeah, and get some writing done.

But there were two things I had not counted on.

The reality was that suddenly, it was just me, my spouse, the dogs, the cat, and my computer. Now I had no co-workers around, no one to talk to or laugh with. All of my friends and family were either at work or had already retired and were busier than ever with grandchildren or volunteer work.

The second was worry. Every morning between three and five, I would roll over, wide awake, my mind refusing to shut down. Did I have enough income to last me the rest of my days? Can I afford to go to writing conferences? What if something goes wrong? What if there is a medical emergency? What if I lost the house? What if . . .?

That feeling of gloom and doom sat heavily in my heart.

I worried so, I became sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t write.

But I could pray. Each time I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, I prayed. And cried. Oh, God, how I cried. I laid everything out at God’s feet. And I prayed some more.

During this time, I continued attending my critique writing group. One Saturday, I got there early and was able to speak to our hostess, alone. Since she and her husband were retired, I had to know how they coped.

She smiled and advised that I was transitioning into a whole new way of life. She said that everyone went through these changes, and that I was perfectly normal. It’s a period of adjustment that takes about six months to get used to. Because everything was so new to me, I was afraid of the change.

I also spoke with my editor about this. With her having a degree in counseling, I told her candidly how I felt. She told me that I was feeling guilty for following my dream instead of contributing the household responsibilities, as I had for the past thirty-plus years.

She then advised that I get up at the same time every day, perform my morning toiletries, and make sure I dressed and put makeup on. She said for me to find out my best writing time and make sure to schedule my day around that time.

She advised me to go write in a public place, like Starbucks, a park, etc. That way I would be around people and surround myself with new sights and sounds. I could also people watch for body language and listen to their voices and speech patterns. Maybe I could use these for making my characters realistic.

It all made sense, and I agreed to all of the above.

But that fear, doubt, worry and gloom and doom would not leave.

At one of my lowest periods of feeling lost and useless, someone posted on Facebook a motivational video from Les Brown on the Chinese Bamboo tree. He said it takes five years for the tree to break through the soil. During that time, it has to be watered and nurtured, with nothing to show for the time, effort and patience the planter put in. After five years, it is fully grown and standing tall in five weeks. And I just knew this was God talking to me again.

But worry and doubt again prevailed in my gut.

In order for me to become even remotely successful as an author, it will take at least three years, which is a lot of time, patience, and effort to put into a dream, with no guarantee that the book will ever be a success.

Could I hang on for that long to get my book published, my name branded, and my platform going?

Another day, my daughter posted a Cookie Monster meme on Facebook that read “Live in the Moment.” That was yet another message from God I was meant to see.

Suddenly, it hit me that I had been living in the future. My mind kept repeating, “If you do this now, will there be enough money in ten years? Will you even be alive in ten years? Will you have something to leave the kids after ten years?”

I finally calmed down enough to listen to God, who asked a simple question. “You’re going to have to transition to retirement soon anyway. Why not now?”

I realized that our dreams are like the Chinese Bamboo tree. They have to be nurtured with our time, patience and effort.

And our belief in God.

Still So Much to Learn

Dark Obsession Cover(1)

Tentative Cover for Dark Obsession.

Cover Courtesy of Crystal Wilkins

I attended the Georgia Romance Writers meeting in Atlanta recently and sat with Mary, my editor (that still sounds funky) and other authors at Gilded Dragonfly Publishing. For some reason, that particular Saturday meeting generated a packed house.

The president, Tanya, began the meeting with announcements, then asked if anyone had sold a book.

I sat there.

The announcements continued.

Mary looked at me and asked why I didn’t raise my hand.

“Because I haven’t actually sold a book to the public.”

She stared at me. “You sold a book to us!”

So that’s what that meant! I still have so much to learn.

I met up with Tanya and admitted my ignorance. She brought me up to the front of the room and introduced me as having sold my first book. Then she asked me to go to the podium and say a few words.

All those eyes upon me, I froze. Somehow I managed to rattle off a bit about the contract and acknowledged Gilded Dragonfly Publishing.

Then I received my Purple Rose Pin in front of everyone. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that would ever happen.

Purple Rose Pin

Photo Courtesy of Cindy Pope

 

While I made my way back to my seat, they all cheered and clapped.

Mary advised me there was much more to come. She then asked if I was working on the new book.

Suddenly I was brought back to reality.

But it was fun. And I’ll treasure that pin forever. And the memories.

 

DREAM COME TRUE – SIGNED CONTRACT

Contract
Photo by Cindy Pope Lowman

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to announce that I ended 2017 with a signed contract from Gilded Dragonfly Books, LLC.

My dream has finally come true!

The rewrites for Dark Obsession are to begin late winter of 2018.

I am currently working on Book #2 – Dark Desire.

Updates are forthcoming.

As are future Writing Life blogs.

I want to thank everyone for hanging in there with me. It’s been a long road with a lot of hard work and frustration. But I’m getting there.

 

 

The Writer as Portrayed in Hollywood

 

Movie Review

In a Lonely Place

Vintage typewriter keyboard

History has recorded countless brilliant writers who turned to alcohol or drugs for their muse. And Hollywood has not been any better in its portrayal of writers in the movies. We’ve been depicted as irresponsible, conniving, manipulative, depressed, and even demented.

Writers understand that showing them at work is dull. Who wants to sit and watch someone type or stare blankly at a clean, white sheet of paper or computer screen for hours?

But showing us in trouble is a different story.

In the 1950 film noir, In A Lonely Place, Humphrey Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a famous and distinguished writer, who is a genius at screenplays, but has an explosive temper.

As the movie opens, Steele is a down-on-his luck screenwriter, yet likeable and intelligent. He has one last shot at writing a movie treatment on an epic novel. The complication is the attractive and young Mildred, who is helping him with the plot of the novel, is murdered just after leaving his home, implicating him as the number one suspect.

That same evening, he catches the eye of his new neighbor, Laurel Gray, played by Gloria Graham. She knows how to help with his issues, and he is more than willing to oblige. Because of her, he finishes the script and the movie is ready to go into production.

Happy with the way everything is falling into place, Dixon and Laurel become engaged, but the murder investigation is still hanging over Dixon’s head. And his anger issues only make things worse. Everyone begins to wonder if he really did kill Mildred. His only saving grace is the detective in charge of the case was Dix’s commanding officer and friend in the war, and his fiancée alibis him throughout.

Then, with one slip of the tongue, all hell breaks loose. And Dixon’s temper flares to the point that anyone close to him is in jeopardy, thereby ruining the murder investigation, his engagement, and his writing career.

The farewell notes in the movie are attributed to the screenplay Dixon has just finished:

I was born when she kissed me; I died when she left me.

            I lived a few weeks while she loved me.

Maybe our imaginations do get us into trouble. We are often misunderstood, yet temperamental, and easily bored. We listen to the characters in our heads, get distracted by the smallest things, yet work feverishly to get it on paper. And all with the knowledge that possibly no one will read one word of it.

But when we sit down and do the work, look at what we create.

We definitely have our moments.

 

The All-Important First Line of a Novel

Genesis: “And God created the heavens and earth.”

Fountain Pen Writing in Journal

Throughout my writing career, the importance of a memorable first line has been greatly stressed. As I closed the book I was reading the other night before bed, I got to thinking about all the novels I’ve read and which ones I still remember that opening first line.

The Bible opens with a first line the entire Christian world knows by heart: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.” And thus begins the story of humanity, and where we came from. But this is just the beginning of the tale. God created our world, and us, for a purpose. It is up to us to complete our journey with God as graciously and honestly as we can.

For his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” Before continuing, you know the character has experienced the best in his life, but has also suffered through personal tragedy. While you, the reader, knows he has survived, you still want to know more. Plus this opening has a duel meaning. At the time, Paris, France, was like two different cities at once: she was at her best, but her downfall was forthcoming.

My favorite first line of a novel is from Dame Daphne du Maurer’s Rebecca. This novel opens with the haunting line: “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I immediately sense the mood of this thriller, and know the main character has suffered a hurt so profound that even in her sleep, she cannot escape. And I know that her journey from a dark place has only just begun.

For my own humble attempt at an opening line for my forthcoming paranormal romance, Dark Obsession, I chose, “Blood pounded in Mark’s ears as his dark obsession pulled him once again to Bell House.”

Have I done my job as a writer to make you want to know more?

What are some opening lines of novels you remember most?

What makes you remember them so?

The Hard Work of Writing

DSCN0453

Photograph by Cindy Pope Lowman

 

Genesis 2:15: “The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it.”

 

It never ceases to amaze me at the people who say, “Oh, what fun it must be to write! To have the perfect words just flow over the pages. And, after a couple of hours, your work is done so you can go play and spend all that money that you make.”

I wish!

Writing is work – like hard, manual labor – the kind of labor that every day you dread starting. The writing portion is bad enough, but with the research, critiques, rewrites and reorganization, it is intensive shedding of blood, sweat and tears that seems to go on and on.

At a book signing several years ago for non-fiction writer Ricky Bragg, someone asked him about his writing process. He admitted that writing was work – hard work. He likened it to “diggin’ taters.” I chuckled out loud and said, “Or hoeing cotton.”  He looked my way and said, “Yeah, that too.”

You don’t jump up in the mornings and think, “Oh, goody! Today I get to dig taters and hoe cotton!” As writers, we don’t jump up each morning and think, “Oh, goody, today I get to work on that Great American Novel.” Or finish that article that is fast approaching deadline, or even start the blog that’s due.

And I never could figure out why.

Upon doing some research, I learned that when we write, longhand or on the computer, we are using both sides of our brains at the same time. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and is responsible for logic, science and math. This analytical section of the brain is used to get the mechanics of words on the page, forming letters, proper words and coherent sentences. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and is responsible for our creativity. This emotional side produces the scenes, dialogue, sights, sounds, aromas, character traits, plots and plot twists.

Even during the editing process, the writer must keep track of the characters and who has said what and when, as well as make sure the research is correct and all sentences are grammatically correct.

Why on earth would someone go to so much trouble for so little gain? When just setting up a scene and having a character enter that scene takes a lot of brain power?

We do it because of the finished product. It gives us such pleasure and a sense of accomplishment that we have created something to be proud of.

There is nothing like working on a piece and have someone genuinely touched by our words. It brings joy seeing our thoughts and images on paper for all to read, enjoy, and maybe learn from. To see someone smile or cry at our words is very special for writers. And no one can take that away. Ever.

For writers, that is akin to being in the Garden of Eden.

Even if it’s a bad writing day when nothing goes right, we are there to work the writing and take care of our precious gift from God. It is up to us to nurture that gift, mold it into something worthwhile, and share it with the world.

And if we don’t?

Well, we all know what happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve did not do God’s bidding.

I’ve Got the Music Back In Me

11Photograph by Robert Lowman Photography

 

I GOT THE MUSIC (BACK) IN ME

Sydney Montgomery

 

Genesis 31:27: Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps?

2 Kings 3:15 (NKJV): But now bring me a musician.Then it happened, when the music played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.

 

Most people give up something they love for forty days during Lent to show their empathy for Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. I know that Lent is for deep contemplation and being in the depths of despair with Jesus in His darkest hour.

However, I discovered that gaining something lost just as powerful.

Months ago, I began listening to one radio station in the car, as my choices were limited. This particular radio station plays the same handful of songs ad nauseam, and the identical commercials that seem to go on forever. I get up at the same time very day to this radio station, and listen as I drive my familiar path to and from work. Some days the same song would play as I approached the same intersections in both directions of my daily commute. There were days on end that just coming home and preparing for the next day took everything out of me, which included my writing. And I just put up with it.

I was in a deep rut that weighted me down. I didn’t even realize, but I knew that I wasn’t happy.

But then one day my car had to be taken in for a small repair and detailing. In the meantime, I was given a rental, a much newer vehicle than mine, with an activated Satellite Radio account.

The following day on my morning and afternoon commute, I listened to music from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 8-‘s – songs that I had completely forgotten about. I sang along, drumming on my steering wheel, and thoroughly enjoying myself. People sitting next to me at traffic lights thought I was Looney Toones, but I was having myself a grand old time. All because of music.

Once I picked up my car, it dawned on me. I USED to do this all the time.

I re-activated my satellite radio account and selected the stations I wanted. Then at work I went to YouTube on my desk computer and searched for specific genres music. I began not to mind my commute as much, and I discovered that I wasn’t so burdened at my work desk. I found this “new” experience to be very uplifting.

And all because of Music. Music is a part of my soul – a universal language that speaks to every heart. The spring is back in my step, and I’m having fun again. The music is bringing me back to life!

This Lent Season, instead of giving up something I love, I’m gaining something I thought I had lost forever. An energized piece of myself that I thought I had buried forever. I began to feel alive again, as if a switch had suddenly been turned on inside.

What I have decided to give up during this Lent Season, is all the negative and depressive thoughts I’ve allowed to take over me. I no longer consort with angry and pessimistic people, and I’m staying out of solitary situations I had continued to put myself in.

Why did I run from God and allow circumstances take away a part of my soul in the first place? I have no idea. But I truly feel as if the hand of the Lord is upon me again, and He is sending me into the world every day with joy and “singing to the music of timbrels and harps.”

My winter of discontent is over. I’m ready for a new season, a new chapter, and a whole new enthusiastic me. The more uplifting situations I put myself in, the more energized I am, and the better I am able to spread the Word of God!

Whatever you give up for Lent, I urge you to make sure it is not a part of your soul, or something that takes you further away from yourself. And from God.

Make Changes, Not Excuses

7Photography by Robert Lowman Photography

 

You wouldn’t know it by looking at my website and Facebook presence, but I have been writing. Honestly. I’ve been concentrating on the rewrites to my novel, and even began plotting the sequel. However, there are times when it feels like there is a devil sitting on my shoulder. I call him PROCRASTINATION. He’s a mean little fella, but wields a lot of power over me. He tells me things like: Who do you think you are? Don’t call attention to yourself or everyone will know how stupid you are. You don’t feel all that well today, so your writing won’t be all that good; you know no one is reading, so why bother? The book project is just too big for you to manage. You’ve worked hard all week, take a break and relax – the manuscript will still be there. Oh, look – there is your favorite movie on TV that you’ve seen a thousand times – why not watch just one more time? Who is it going to hurt?

Seeing many of my writing friends get so much further ahead of me, I realized I was the one getting hurt. I decided to call PROCRASTINATION’s bluff and looked up ‘to delay’ in the Bible. I found something very interesting.

Deuteronomy 23:21 (NKJV) – WHEN YOU MAKE A VOW TO THE LORD, YOU SHALL NOT DELAY TO PAY FOR IT; FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL SURELY REQUIRE IT OF YOU, AND IT WOULD BE A SIN TO YOU.

WOW!

Writers who have made a vow to God to use His Gift to spread His word, and it is a sin to waste it. And here PROCRASTINATION sits on my shoulder whispering excuses for me not to write.

And I believed the devil’s insidious words, all the while wallowing in the all-too brief comfort he provided. Then I felt bad the next day because I hadn’t gotten any writing done.

Not exactly what God had intended for me. Once I noticed that trend, I knew changes had to be made.

Motivation comes from beginning a project, and yes, a novel is a huge project to undertake. Picking a chapter of the book to work on like a “Project of the Day” took some doing, because it was so easy to fall back into old habits. But working on smaller pieces was easier to manage, so I was able to finish the book and get it into the hands of my beta readers. Now it is re-write time, and I used that same process of picking the first section the beta readers found trouble with and working on that as a daily project, before moving on to the next section. Going through the checklists from each beta reader, I was able to tick off the sections one by one, and before long I had one section left. Seeing that progress motivated me to continue and see the project through.

That’s when it began to feel good. That’s when I began to feel in my REAL comfort zone. That’s when I began to feel God smile upon me for putting His gift to me to good use.

What Gifts from God are you not sharing?