Posts tagged with: writing
Posted by Heather McCollum Apr 26 2013, 12:01 am in adventure, craft, Details, writing
As writers we are blessed with endless imagination (on those days our muse graces us with her fickle presence). We can dunk ourselves into shark infested waters, flirt our way through 16th century masquerades, and find ourselves trapped in Egyptian sarcophagi. When we close our eyes we can imagine the feel of winter wind slicing like a knife off a Scottish mountain (ben) or smell the earthy moisture permeating a rainforest. Those details make our good stories fantastic, something for which must all strive.
And for the most part, the internet, books, movies, and workshops can give us those details without us ever actually having to step outside our houses. We can stay perpetually in our sweat pants and bunny slippers, dreaming of far off adventures, living them in our heads and tapping them into existence on our lap tops.
However – the details that we read about and then use in our manuscripts are recycled through the lens and words of others. They are not “fresh” or unique to your voice. We can take the details and reshape them through the filters of our own muse, but again, the details can become diluted.
So today I am going to throw out a suggestion: Step out. Experience. Find adventure. Live.
For those who don’t know me, I’ve been through two hellish years fighting and beating the sh*t out of ovarian cancer. Major surgery, 15 months of chemo, 6 more months of nerve regeneration, and then weaning off massive pain meds has been a journey of huge proportions. My diagnosis 2 years ago was very unexpected (who expects to hear “you have cancer”?) and I had registered for a 5K mud run/obstacle course called the Rugged Maniac. Well…that didn’t happen. So two years later, when the pain subsided, I started to train again. And last weekend I did it!
The Rugged Maniac race (http://www.ruggedmaniac.com) took over an hour and a half, ten friends and my Highlander husband to help me through it, but I did it, all of it. What an awesome experience! An experience that I can use first hand in my writing.
I now thoroughly understand how shockingly cold pond water is when it hits your hoo hoo. I know how scary it is to wade through murky water over rocks and sucking silt when you’re blind to what’s below the surface. I’ve learned what it’s like to crawl, pulling myself with cut elbows, through thick mud under barbed wire. I will always remember what it’s like to have a handsome Highlander catch up to me in that mud and kiss me senseless so I won’t give up.
I jumped over a line of fire, feeling the scorching heat warm my shivering body as I leapt through the smoke. I realized painfully that you can’t use a rope to crawl up a tube when it’s covered with slippery mud. I crawled through underground mud tunnels in the dark while slapping my claustrophobia in its shocked face. I learned the best way to get across a cargo net 40 feet in the air is to roll across it. And once again I tasted sweet victory.
I made it across!
It was a day I will never forget, and I will use every bit of it in my novels. I don’t write army basic training stories, but all those experiences can be translated into challenges for my characters. The simultaneous chill from the wind on wet skin mixed with burning heat from exertion. The rocky, uneven, red-clay earth. The taste of muddy water in my throat and desperate blinking to get mud out of my eyes. And the unabashed love for a man willing to crawl through mud and kiss me to cheer me on. It’s all there now in my repertoire for my muse to use at will, no copyright concerns.
I’m not saying that you need to go out and dive into mud (although it was quite stimulating). What I am recommending is for you to increase your experience base. Go places.
Risk discomfort. Try new things. For some of you, this is second nature. You were born with a love of adventure and take on challenges each day. For others of us, this is something we need to push ourselves toward.We write about adventures. To do it well, with authentic details, we must have some adventures of our own. Then when you’re living it, pay attention and build your own reference library in your mind. You can pull bits and pieces from it to enhance your stories.
I’m planning a trip to England and Scotland this summer. I will be snapping photos, tasting foods, touching 14th century dungeon walls, checking under kilts (LOL!), smelling the countryside, listening to brogues, feeling the mist of the isles, and imagining fairies as I hug monolithic standing stones. It’s a trip to remember forever and I will be savoring every detail. It will make me a more rounded person and will in turn fill my stories with authentic, sensory-rich details.
So again, I urge you to put down the research book, close the lap top, step outside your zone of comfort and live.
Looking for adventure or fresh details? You could try:
Comedy shows, theater, art shows
Fairs (Renaissance fairs are full of fresh details)
Cultural events (learn about other countries, the people and foods, fabulous research!)
Historic sites and museums
Girls weekend to Vegas or the beach
Mud run, ropes course, learning a new sport (as a spectator or participant)
Spa trip, meditation center/retreat
Trip to NYC to see a play on Broadway, train trip to another city
Picnic in the woods, camping, finding a waterfall
Volunteer (homeless shelter, animal shelter, mission work, Special Olympics)
Go to parties you are invited to (or crash some if your muse wants you to ramp up the adventure!)
Join a social group (wine tasting, gardening, swinging – LOL! Just seeing if you are still there : )
Get something pierced (eeks!)
Dress up for Halloween
Talk your hubby/partner into going away with you on a romantic trip
These are just a few ideas to work adventure into your life. There are multitudes more. But look for something, anything to broaden your experience base. Put on your big girl panties, invite your muse, and step out there into the big wide world. It’s thrilling and fun – it’s life!
What are some of the adventures you’ve taken or long to take, and how can they enhance your writing?
Posted by Heather McCollum Nov 13 2012, 12:01 am in cancer, goals, reaching goals, writing
We are almost half way through November – National Novel Writing Month. Have you been writing frantically? Or has life dropped boulders all over the road, tripping you up and slowing you down?
Let’s talk about goals. I have writing goals, but they fall second on my list. My #1 goal is to get my life back. My old life was taken from me in April 2011 when the “you have cancer” bomb blew up in my face. Major surgery to remove all my girlie parts (that’s what they do with ovarian cancer), fifteen months of chemo, and lots of teal t-shirts later – I have beaten it.
Yes, victory is wonderful, but even with victory there is collateral damage. I gained 40 pounds from all the steroids I took to keep my body from freaking out while being poisoned by chemo. One of the chemo agents was a neurotoxin, so I have total body nerve damage and inflammation. I went from running with my dog everyday to hardly being able to walk. Each step hurts like someone has beaten my feet with a baseball bat. Some nights I wake several times because the pain, from regenerating nerves, aches so badly in my teeth, legs and shoulders that I can’t sleep.
Make sure your goals are really important. My #1 goal is to reclaim my healthy body. It is something I don’t just want to do, I must do it. I can’t be the mom I was to my three young kids without it or the woman my husband fell in love with. I can’t be a helpful daughter or a drop-everything-when-you-need-me friend. And I totally suck at dealing with constant pain. So I must reach my goal.
Each morning I wake knowing there will be pain. So I’m prepared. I keep special slippers by my bed so I can step right into them. I still end up wobbling to the bathroom like I’m walking on hot coals, but they help. I lay my work out clothes out the night before so I just put them on. If I had to walk back across my room to find them, I might not do it. I get ready before the kids get up so I have some time alone while I work the worst out of my shoulders and legs.
I have a routine. Yoga. I both love and hate yoga. It hurts – enough said. But when I get through the slow stretching movements, amazingly I feel better.
I have a back-up plan. Once the kids are off to school, I walk the dog unless my feet hurt too much and then I ride a stationary bike. When you have a back-up plan it is easier to stay on track.
Accountability. Twice a week, on set days, my friend helps me work out with weights to build up my muscles and strength. Having a partner, who knows your goal and is willing to help you reach it, is golden. We are also friends on a calorie/food tracking free app (My Fitness Pal) so we can e-mail each other encouragement.
I learn and read to stay on track. There are tons of people out there who know more than I do about maintaining an über healthy lifestyle. So I read what they have to say, and I try some of it. Yes, I’m a juicer. I juice kale and fruit almost every day (and I drink it : ). I’ve brought toxin neutralizing plants in the house and managed to keep them alive. I avoid nitrates, tephlon, and pesticides like they could kill me (because they could!). I do everything I can NOT to invite cancer back into my cancer-prone body.
I do even when I don’t feel like it. That would be the discipline part. I don’t feel like getting out of bed every single day because it hurts every single day. I don’t feel like starting the yoga DVD and I don’t feel like juicing the whole veggie aisle at Whole Foods all the time. But I do anyway. When you have a goal that you really, truly want to reach, you must follow your plan even when you don’t want to. You put on your big girl panties and just do it.
I reward baby steps. I’ve lost twenty of the forty pounds I gained and my strength has improved. That there is reward in itself! My pain is still here – damn blasted nerves! But at least I’ve taken twenty pounds off my poor feet.
I also take time out of my busy day to enjoy life. If I do my routines and eat well, I reward myself with a hot bath or some dark chocolate (which is also healthy for you BTW). Today I took the dog and kids to walk under the autumn foliage at a park. I LOVE doing that but never have the time. So today, I stole the time. Yes, I got less writing done, but that comes second on my goal list.
1. Okay, what are your goals? Write them down or know them by heart. Make sure it is something you REALLY want to accomplish.
2. What is your plan for reaching your goal? Be prepared, have a routine, learn how others have reached the same goal.
3. How can you measure your progress? Is it pounds, inches, words written, bulbs planted, grades?
4. Do you have a back-up plan and a partner to help you maintain discipline?
5. How will you celebrate as you reach each wrung on your ladder to success? Don’t forget this part or you won’t last to the end. Every good manager knows, if you want people to push the limit and reach a goal, you’ve got to pat them on the back on the way there. Praise and celebration is good for the soul and the goal : )
Reaching a goal requires determination and discipline. Beating and recovering from cancer teaches you both, although I truly can’t recommend it. A less painful way to learn to reach your goal is to follow the above steps. Just put one foot in front of the other and climb, and I will definitely see you at the summit! I’ll bring the celebratory chocolate (and kale juice)! Hugs! Heather
Posted by June Love Nov 8 2012, 12:01 am in inability to write, juggling life and writing, writing
How do you write when life interferes?
Seriously. I want to know. How do you sit down at the computer, maintain your focus, and form cohesive sentences when life sucks you in, spins you uncontrollably, and then hurls you to the ground without warning?
When I told my husband I was writing a blog about how to write when life gets in the way, he burst out laughing. “Well, that should be both an easy and short blog for you,” he said. “Because you don’t.”
I just hate it when he’s right.
As career oriented writers, we are expected to write. Come hell or high water our fingers should be flying over the keyboard at any given moment during the day. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but writers are human. And, sometimes, life just gets in the way.
It could be job related, it could be health issues, or it could be family related. The reason doesn’t matter. The important thing is whatever is going on in your life, it’s serious enough to prevent you from either having the time, energy, or frame of mind to sit down and put words on the page.
Several years ago, I experienced the unexpected death of a close family member. My world turned upside down in many ways. Apart from the sudden loss, I went from having an independent mother, who lived over two hours away, to one whose grief and subsequent health issues had her relying heavily on me.
I didn’t quit writing completely, but finding a time when I wasn’t mentally and physically exhausted from my duty as caregiver only added stress and guilt. Yes, guilt. Remember? Career oriented writers are expected to write. I grabbed a few hours here and a day there, but my concentration was shot. Simply put, I didn’t want to think. Thinking meant coming to certain realizations that I wasn’t ready to face. My life had forever changed.
I began wondering how many other writers had faced similar situations. Were they able to channel their pain into their writing? Were they able to block out their situation and power through to keep their writing routine?
The guilt that I couldn’t produce in the face of life’s challenge loomed over me. I questioned my dedication. I questioned my desire. I questioned my ability. I was driving myself crazy trying to fulfill my family obligations and justify why I wasn’t writing. I was adding stress on top of stress. So, I quit. Writing, that is. I came to the realization that it’s okay to take a writing break. I hadn’t lost my passion or desire, I just had to put it away for a short time.
Should writers give themselves permission to take time off from writing? It that really okay? Some would argue that if you don’t write every day, you lose your momentum. Some argue that powering through a rough time helps keep the emotion in your story. I say it’s up to the writer. She knows her limits. She’s aware of what’s going on in her life. My mother always told my two sisters and me, “Don’t criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
In my situation, it was absolutely the right thing to do. I don’t have any regrets. I was there for my mother when she most needed me. Her health has since improved, she’s moved closer to me, and we’re both healing from our loss. More importantly, every second I spent with my sister instead of writing is a memory I hold precious in my heart. As I said, no regrets.
What about you? Have you had to make some tough choices in your writing due to life’s interference? How did you juggle life and writing?
Posted by Gwynlyn MacKenzie Oct 18 2012, 12:01 am in craft, editing, employing beta readers, writing, writing tips
During my teens, Max Factor and Mary Quant dominated the make-up aisles. Periwinkle-blue cream eyeshadow (looked like silvery-blue foil), Petal Pink lipstick (one drop of blood in a vat of chalk would have had more color), thick, black eyeliner, and blackest-black mascara applied with a trowel to lashes later separated with either a straight or safety pin were de rigueur. All the coolest gals added a ‘cat-eye’ flourish to their eyeliner, mimicking the models walking NY’s runways.
Like all teens, I wanted to be cool, so I followed the program. The heavy black, with a little assist from the shimmery periwinkle, made my crystal-blue eyes shine like beacons across a midnight sea. With my lips all but erased, they made a striking focal point. I knew it to be true. My mirror told me so.
Now, our high school had mirrors on every corner of every hall—ostensibly for safety, but who cared about that? Teenage girls just want to be certain they look good. So, being a teenaged girl, I knew the location of every one. There should have been no room for suprises, right?
One day, while walking to class and arguing with a friend over a potentially tricky AP bio test, I glanced up. Some garishly raccoon-eyed chick who looked like death very slightly warmed stared back at me like I was the nightmare come to life, not she. It took me a moment to realize my friend and I had reached an intersection, and since that death-masked horror wore the same outfit as I—well, you get the picture. I wanted to vomit. All the people who’d offered make-up advice (including my mom who I had, naturally, ignored) hadn’t been jealous or spiteful or just plain mean. They’d been trying to make me see the truth.
That’s when I realized mirrors lie. Or, perhaps more accurately, we lie to ourselves, seeing what we expect to see—until faced by a mirror for which we are unprepared.
The same can be said of our writing. We look at it and look at it until we cease to see what’s there. We can practically recite it by rote, so when we read, we see only what we want to see and ignore flaws evident to anyone but ourselves.
I’ve often heard other writers suggest putting a work aside for several weeks before attempting to edit. The idea is to see it with new eyes.
Newsflash: You haven’t changed much in those few weeks or months, and the story you wrote, the product of your imagination, research, blood, sweat, and tears, is still yours. You will pick it up determined to be objective, but you won’t see the death mask; you will see crystalline-blue and be deluded by your own expectations. Your eyes can never be new to the story again. It’s like trying to regain innocence lost. It isn’t going to happen.
So many people are going the indie route to publishing these days, which is good in many ways. However, we can all agree there’s a great deal of dreck available, tarnishing the credibility of hard-working, responsible indie authors. While many can’t afford professional editing—yet—there are alternatives that can better the product of both the indie and traditionally published author.
I do the lion’s share of the editing for my critique partner. I don’t claim to be an editor, mind you, but I am rather anal about quality, and when trying to make something the best it can be, that usually undesirable characteristic can be a blessing.
One of the tools I use is a voice program that reads the work aloud. A word missing? Your ear will catch it even if you eyes don’t. Awkward phrasing? Trust your ears. Unrealistic dialogue? Ears are a much more reliable detector than eyes.
Even so, never underestimate the value of a second set of eyes. Don’t have a CP or a particularly anal friend? Get a couple of Beta Readers. These can be anyone who reads romance. Romance readers have expectations, and they’ll let you know if you fall short. If you confuse them, they’ll tell you. They don’t need professional training to recognize slow pacing or cardboard characters before you submit to an editor or agent or make the jump to indie publishing.
If you plan to go indie and can afford it, hire a professional editor. Of course, finding a good one may require some work, but both the effort and the cost will be small in comparison to the potential rewards. Ask around. Talk to other writers. Join the appropriate loops. There are good, free-lance editors available.
Don’t let yourself be deceived. Realizing that ugly girl in the mirror is you is nauseating, but make-up comes off with a bit of soap and water. Realizing you sent your book into the world too soon, painted on a death-mask that no amount of cleanser can remove, could destroy something precious. Don’t risk it.
Have you encounted a mirror, whether literal or metaphorical, that has revealed something you’d rather not have seen (fitting room mirrors don’t count; those things are simply diabolical), and how do you go about the editing process?
Posted by Cate Rowan Oct 12 2012, 12:01 am in contemporary romance, giveaway, paranormal romance, Ruby Release, writing, Writing ideas
I consider myself a fantasy romance author, which means that I get to make stuff up. And it usually means I expect to make stuff up.
That’s why I was so surprised to write a tale that includes
a blunder (ahem) an incident from my own life.
At first I didn’t think of turning that event into a story. I simply posted it on Facebook as part of my continuing adventures in the Colorado mountains. A friend had to nudge me before the idea even entered my fabrication-focused brain.
I’m so glad she did!
Naturally, I had to bring magic into things. (I’m still a fantasy romance author. ) Flirting with the Fireman: A Romantic Short Story is a “first meet” tale and my second contemporary story published this year.
When Jessica Walker escapes the city life in Atlanta to pursue her dream of being a successful sculptor in Colorado, she departs with a gift: her best friend Lily’s magical recipe for a “Get a Husband” Brunswick stew, guaranteed to work even though Jess recently drop-kicked her two-timing dirtbag boyfriend.
Skeptical Jess is sure the Rocky Mountains hold all the “magic” she needs, until a wildfire threatens to drive her from her new home—and a sweet and studly fireman comes to her rescue.
Amazon • Barnes & Noble •
Kobo • Smashwords •
All Romance eBooks • Apple’s iTunes
So here are my questions for you: Have you used any of your own real-life experiences in your stories? Were they good incidents—or ones you’re embarrassed about?
To celebrate this release, I’m giving away a digital copy of Flirting with the Fireman: A Romantic Short Story to EVERYONE, visitors and Rubies alike, who requests it by 10p Mountain / midnight Eastern today (October 12). To nab your goodie, head to my contact page and click the “Email me” link. Please mention your preferred e-format—Kindle/mobi, nook/ePub, PDF, etc.—so I can get you the right version. (I respect your email privacy and will only use your address to send you the story.)
Thanks for stopping by!
Posted by Liz Talley Sep 29 2012, 12:01 am in subtext, Winnie Griggs, writing
A few months back, the sisters were talking about subtext and how to apply it to our writing. That struck a note with me because my chaptermate and fellow Harlequin writer Winnie Griggs had just presented a workshop on subtext, so I invited her to come talk subtext and how writers can put this tool in our toolbox to work for us. Take it away, Winnie
Let’s start off by discussing what subtext is and what it does for your story. Subtext is an impression or conclusion conveyed by the author to the reader through inference rather than explicit communication.
Linda Segar, in the book Creating Unforgettable Characters, describes it this way:
“Subtext is what the character is really saying beneath and between the lines. Often characters don’t understand themselves. They’re often not direct and don’t say what they mean. We might say that subtext is all about underlying drives and meanings that are not apparent to the character, but that are apparent to the audience or reader.”
A story without subtext feels flat and clichéd. If every character says exactly what they mean, and they display all of their emotions openly, we wouldn’t have a very interesting story. It’s when they try to hide something from the others around them that things get interesting.
Posted by Heather McCollum Sep 6 2012, 1:31 am in Crisis, Diagnosis, Ovarian Cancer, Survival, writing
Battling cancer with chemo and Nutterbutters
March 26th 2011
Paper crinkles under my butt. “While I’m here for my maybe-broken hand, could you test my urine? I think I might have a UTI and I’m going away with my girlfriends this weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday.”
“Sure, but lay down first,” Jenny, my nurse practitioner said. “Where are you going?”
“Grove Park Inn spa. I can’t wait!”
Silence. Pressure. Ouch! “Does this hurt?”
“Yeah, off and on.” The ceiling is white and ugly. They should paint something up there to look at.
Pressure. Ouch! Ouch!
“Sorry…Heather, I have to do a pelvic exam.”
“For a broken hand?” My giggle stops short. Jenny’s easy smile is dead flat. “Okay,” I say. “Now? I have my annual GYN visit in another couple weeks and I was just there for some spotting five months ago and everything was fine.”
“We need to do a pelvic exam. Now.”
March 27th 2011
The room is cold. Why do they make it so cold when they know we’ll be in these flimsy hospital gowns sitting on a vinyl table?
“Did you drink a lot of water?” the technician asks and dims the lights.
“I’m about to burst.”
She laughs. “This won’t take long and I’ll let you go.”
“I hope I don’t pee on the table.”
“Well it’s happened before, but we’ll try to let you go real soon. Sorry, this might be a little uncomfortable.”
Wow – another unexpected invasion of the hoo hoo. The transvaginal ultrasound isn’t nearly as much fun as the ultrasound to see a new baby.
“How long have you been feeling this pain?”
“Off and on for about a month.”
“Is it sharp or more of an ache?”
“More sharp when I feel it, but I’m starting to feel a little heavy down there.”
God, I have to pee!
“Okay, go use the bathroom.” She has a sweet voice, like high-pitched honey that I’ve only heard in the south.
Thirty minutes later I sit in a chair in my thin, guard-your-butt gown.
“Do you want something to drink, sweetheart?”
“A warm blanket?”
“Sure.” I bundle up in the heated wrap that reminds me so much of the hospital after the birth of my babies. No wonder the kids like it when I heat up their towels in the dryer after a bath. I rest my head in my hands.
“Are you okay?” The technician must be watching me. I rub my hair in my lap as I nod. “You can get dressed, sweetheart, but don’t leave. Just wait out there. Is someone with you?”
“My husband brought me.”
Good? Why is that good?
30 minutes later
“A large mass?” my husband, Braden, repeats while I stare at the puppy print on the technician’s shirt.
“We can’t get through to her GYN, but she needs to be seen right away.”
“Let’s go,” he says and helps me to the truck.
“What’s that mean,” I say when he starts it up. “A large mass? Is that the size of a pea or the size of a grapefruit?”
“It’s on these films. I’m taking you right to your GYN.”
“It takes months to get an appointment.”
“We’re going now.”
1 hour later
“You have a complex, 12 cm mass on your right ovary,” Dr. Hawk says, finger to his lips as if contemplating how to get a dollar out of one of those puzzle boxes.
“That’s big.” Braden holds out two hands. “Like 5 inches.”
Dr. Hawk nods. “I want you to see a GYN oncology surgeon. I could remove it, but since it looks complex, it would be best if we send you to Duke Hospital.”
“But I’m going out of town tomorrow.”
“They’ll see you at 8:30 AM.”
“But we are leaving at 8.”
“We’ll be there at 8:30,” Braden says.
30 Minutes Later
I get out of the truck. My neighbor, Margaret, is getting her mail.
“Hi, how was it?” she asks.
I shake my head, unable to speak.
“Is it bad?”
I nod and the tears start flowing – the precise start of my rainy season.
“Oh my God,” she says and pulls me into her chest. I rest my head there.
“It’s a mass on my ovary. 5 inches. I’m seeing an oncologist tomorrow,” I squeak out.
“Oh my God,” she says and holds me.
I hear my 12-year-old daughter, Skye, behind me talking to Braden. They whisper and I feel her hand on my back.
“Are you going to be okay?”
What do I say?
“Mommy, mommy, mommy! You’re home!” my four-year-old, Kyrra, vaults outside to grab my leg. “Hold me!” she demands.
“She can’t,” Braden says and picks her up, but she reaches for me.
“Why are you sad, Mommy?”
What do I say?
“Hey Mom!” my 10-year-old son, Logan, calls from the house. “Can I have TJ over? What’s wrong?”
What do I say?
Braden and I sit on the back porch together, next to one another but not touching. We stare out at the lawn that needs to be mowed. It’s sunny. The birds dip and soar, searching for bugs. I stare out, letting the world absorb my numbness for a while, letting the fear of what could be lay like a wet washcloth, cold and musty, in my stomach.
I breathe in, not knowing if I’d been doing that all along or not. I guess I have. It’s funny how everything feels so still, so muted, like the world is holding its breath, yet the birds keep moving. The trees watch. The house behind me is unusually quiet. My mom has taken Kyrra to her house to play.
“Wow,” I whisper and see Braden nod out of the corner of my eye.
“Amazing how suddenly everything seems different,” I murmur, barely moving, not wanting to set everything in motion. As if I’m on a precipice and know that as soon as I look over the edge, everything will start moving way too fast as I head toward the ground.
“It could just be a mass. Easily taken out,” he says.
“I’m not tired. I run every day. It grew way too fast to be cancer, right?”
“Yeah. I don’t know.” He reaches for my hand. It’s as if we are looking over the edge of the cliff together, waiting, hardly moving, to see which way the wind will blow us.
2 Weeks Later
Surgery. “Stage IIc Ovarian Cancer. 70% chance of living five years. 15 months of chemo.”
“We can do this,” Braden says.
“So many want to bring meals,” Margaret says and smiles though her eyes glitter with tears she won’t shed. “You’re fed for four months already.”
“My little girl,” Mom says. “You will do this. You are strong.”
“I’m selling my sea glass jewelry to give the money to Ovarian Cancer research, Mom,” Skye says. “Read this poster I made, everyday okay? I am a survivor. I am a fighter. I am stronger than the world!”
“Promise me you won’t die. That’s all I ask. Just promise me,” Logan says in the glow of his nightlight, his big eyes full of brave, big-boy tears.
“Who will you play with in Heaven if I’m not there with you?” Kyrra asks as I kiss her goodnight.
What do I say?
I creep back to my room. Each step is a reminder of all the hurt my body is enduring. The tears on my cheeks are a constant. I don’t even look for tissues anymore. I stop by my bed in the dark. The house is quiet, again holding its breath. The demons of fear and panic growl in the shadows, waiting for me to let them in. I lower to the floor, my side where they scraped away the cancer is a piercing, lightning wound inside. I am on my knees and lay my head on the bed.
I. Know. What. To. Say.
“Dear God,” I whisper and the stillness leans in. “Dear God, please.” I think of my wonderful husband, my three kids, my rescued dog, my mom, my friends. “Oh God, please…please let me live.”
The above, dear friends and fellow authors, is how I survived. Oh yes, the doctors and drugs battled inside me, reclaiming my body with miracle poisons. But me, the essence of who I am – mom, daughter, wife, friend, writer – I survived cancer by writing about it.
I couldn’t write my fiction, no romance with a guaranteed happy ending since I wasn’t sure I would have one. In fact I couldn’t read either. I tried, but after a couple chapters I’d put it down. I couldn’t lose myself in another world when mine was so gripping, so full of life and death struggle. I was smack dab in the middle of writing my fourth novel and couldn’t write another word.
“You have to write. It makes you happy,” Braden told me.
“Write something. Write what you know.”
So I did. I wrote my story. I wrote what was going on inside me. How it felt to deal with questions from my kids. The pain of going from independent mom to very dependent friend and neighbor. Of being furious about not being able to taste the salt in my tears because I lost my taste buds with my hair. About realizing that the victims in the chemo ward were the strongest warriors I’d ever met.
I wrote about battling from the front lines. I poured my heart and fear and desperate prayers into my posts. I bled them out of me onto the page. And you know what? It helped. A lot.
This post was going to be all about how to go on with your career even when something terrible smacks you in the face – divorce, death of a loved one, illness, disaster. But I still need to bleed, still need to heal, still need to write about it.
Today is the first time I’ve written the very beginning, the day the first tears fell, and I cried through writing most of it this afternoon. Cathartic. It’s how I heal. And I thank God for giving me this gift so I can help myself do so.
If you find yourself in a mess, a terrible mess, remember to use your gift. Do what you love to do even if it’s in a new way. If you can’t write fiction, try writing about your experiences and what you learn along the way. It has been a huge component to my healing.
I am in remission. No sign of cancer : ) And I refuse to knock on wood. I beat it. I am healthy, and I’m not afraid to say it. I’m owning it, wearing it and strutting around in it. I am living a long and healthy life!
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and teal is our color. It is the deadliest of the GYN cancers because there are no good tests for it and it is usually caught in Stage III or IV, giving women only a 20% and 5% chance (respectively) of living five years. Those numbers are horrendous and we are raising money for research to find a detection method (a PAP smear does NOT detect OC) and a cure. Until then your best defense is knowledge. The symptoms of OC are:
Bloating that’s persistent
Eating less and feeling full
Trouble with your bladder
Other symptoms may include: fatigue, constipation, menstrual irregularities, back pain, pain during intercourse and indigestion.
If you experience a couple of these symptoms almost every day for three weeks, please…PLEASE go get a pelvic exam.
Pass along this information. We have started the SHOUT Against the Whisper! campaign because the symptoms are mere whispers in a busy woman’s life, and we will SHOUT until everyone knows what they sound like. If you have questions or comments, please post or e-mail me off line at Heather@HeatherMcCollum.com.
We must not cower away from cancer. We must look it in the face and use all our tools to crush it without crushing our spirits in the process. Hugs! And remember to SHOUT Against the Whisper!
Posted by Liz Talley Jan 17 2012, 12:01 am in History of Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood, inspiration, liz talley, Winter Writing Festival, writing
Long, long ago in a galaxy…well, right here in the Milky Way…calls went out from the National RWA Board that would knit a group of women together in a way very few can ever experience – in the quest to procure a little golden heart, the symbol of the best of the unpublished writers, along with all the wonderful accolades and opportunities such an accomplishment would bring. Little did those 59 women know that the knitting together of a group in 2009 would lead to such joy, inspiration, and dare we say, the hottest red shoes to hit RWA Nationals in Washington, DC?
Posted by C.J. Chase Jul 7 2011, 12:01 am in color, mood, theme, writing
“Hey, CJ, what’s your favorite color?”
A simple question with an obvious answer: green. For as long as I can remember, my favorite color has been green. When other girls had pink bedrooms, I chose green. As I type this, I’m wearing a green shirt. (But not the same green shirt I first put on this morning. Along the way, I switched to a different green shirt. I have a lot of green shirts.) In fact, terrible Ruby that I am, I don’t have any red shoes — but I do have a pair of to-die-for emerald green heels.
Lisa asked because she wanted to do something special for my upcoming release, so she was planning to change the blog background. Except, as my fingers typed the quick and easy answer — green — I realized my book isn’t green. Well, I suppose considering most copies sold will be paper and not electronic, it’s not environmentally friendly either — but what I really mean is that I don’t picture green when I think of my book. I see gray.