Having Courage, Taking Leaps

Yesterday was my last day at the job I’ve had for five years.

It was a scary thing, making the decision to turn in my notice two weeks ago.  But it was a decision that had to be made.  It was one that my fiance and I had discussed for months, one that I’d fretted about and fussed over.

An important thing I’ve learned over the last year or so is that when a job makes you feel like mine did — irritable, depressed, spending all weekend dreading coming into work on Monday — it’s not worth it.  I tortured myself with that job for months, years.  I never wanted to become a “subject matter expert” in the type of work I did, and as soon as I was considered that no one would ask anyone else questions or give them issues to solve.  While the workload grew at an insane rate, no new employees were hired on to handle it — until it had gotten so completely out of control that there was little hope of us getting ourselves back above water.  I grew stressed, got constant tension headaches, cried at work and at home multiple times a week, and felt depressed — literally depressed — every single day I had to be in that office.

And I’ve learned when it gets to that point, it’s time to walk away.

I loved the people I worked with.  My coworkers themselves were awesome and funny and good people.  I enjoyed the times I got to spend with those people outside of the office, and also the conversations we had during those rare moments.  I felt guilty turning in my notice, because I knew that my leaving was only going to put the rest of the team further under — but I had to do it.

And you know what?  About an hour after I turned my notice in, once the panic about taking that step had subsided, the weight lifted off my chest, I felt light and happy again for the first time in months.  And in that moment, I knew I had made the right choice.

I’m lucky to have a fiance who is so supportive, who encouraged me to look after my health rather than sticking with a job that made me feel so hopeless and stuck.

Now it’s on to new dreams and new paths.  I’m going to focus on my writing — something I’ve wanted to be able to make a career out of for most of my life.  And, at least in the situation I was in at my now-previous job, that wasn’t something I was able to really do.

So have courage and take the leap.  It’s scary, but you’ll know when it’s right.

Planning a Wedding

First of all, welcome to my new website!  And by “new” I mean it was created a couple of months ago, and I’m only just now adding a new post to it.  The rest of the posts you see on the site before this one were imported from the blog I kept up for a few years.

But why was a website set up a couple of months ago and I haven’t added a new post until now, you ask?  Well, I’ve been a little busy, and getting busier by the day.

And that’s because I’m getting married in 69 days!

The months since Alan and I got engaged back in October have been filled with making arrangements with venues and vendors, shopping for dresses and tuxes, organizing the wedding party and the music.  The weeks since my wonderful fiancé and resident tech nerd surprised me with this domain and website have been filled with alterations fittings, getting the invitations together, making final to-do lists that take up an entire closet door, and starting the process of picking out all the décor for the ceremony and reception.

I’m a stubborn, stubborn girl.  I find there to be no reason to hire a wedding planner when I can just do it all myself.  And it would probably stress me out more having a wedding planner anyway, because I wouldn’t have complete control over everything.  But, yes, it’s true.  Doing the wedding planning yourself is a lot to do if you’re not a professional event planner in the first place.  (The way I look at it, though, during these months I’m gaining a lot of life experience I can use down the road.)

So that’s where I’ve been for the last months.  And that’s where I’ll be for the next two.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a couple more wedding-related posts here before the wedding day comes.

Why Don’t You Ever Write Nice Things?

I don’t remember what exactly triggered that question a few years ago.  I was probably researching something weird or disturbing…maybe it was during the medical dictionary incident…but in any case whatever “not nice” information I was on the hunt for caused one of my parents to ask, “Why don’t you ever write nice things?”

(The medical dictionary incident, for reference, was because I couldn’t find what I needed on Google, so I asked my mom where the medical dictionary was…she asked why I needed it…I explained I needed to look up head injuries for a novel…and she just kind of blinked at me and pointed at the closet.)

Why don’t you ever write nice things?

I can’t remember what exactly my answer was.  Likely I just shrugged.  There’s also a large chance I answered with something like “because nice things are boring.”  And that’s the truth for me.  Nice things are perfectly nice, but they’re also perfectly boring for me to write about.  I’ve tried to write humor before…I’ve tried to write happy little tales…and they never work for me.  I have a lovely, nice life…but that doesn’t mean anyone would want to read a novel about it.

So what made me think of this?  I’m currently doing research and starting to write the first draft of a novel about Jonestown and Peoples Temple — the cult that committed mass suicide by drinking Kool Aid laced with cyanide (and other poisons) on November 18, 1978.

Now…see…while I find this fascinating to research…while I get all nerdy about the psychology behind Peoples Temple, and how Jim Jones managed to convince over 900 people to drink poison, and just cults in general…the whole concept of me reading these things creeps out a lot of other people.

My roommates?  Not so much.  They’re used to me researching weird things.

My boyfriend?  He’s a trooper.  He seems to find it vaguely amusing when I do things like this.

My parents?  I think I’ve desensitized them to the whole Erin’s-Googling-things-that-should-never-be-in-her-search-history-ever by now.  If nothing else, they know it’s just best to smile and nod.

But people who aren’t writers, or who don’t deal with my research oddities on a regular basis are a little more open in their reactions when they see me reading a book written by, say, a Peoples Temple defector.

This is what first happened a few weeks ago.  At dance class, while a performance I wasn’t going to be in was being ran through, I decided to entertain myself for a few moments by reading Six Years with God, a book written by Peoples Temple defector Jeannie Mills.  One of my fellow dancers asked what I was reading, so I showed her the cover, where it said rather prominently that it was about Jim Jones and the Temple.

My fellow dancer’s eyes kind of widened and she just said, “…..Oh,” in a semi-disturbed voice.

Why can’t I write nice things?

And then this past Sunday, in between church services that I was ringing handbells in, I was reading a different book — Seductive Poison, written by Temple defector (and Jonestown survivor) Deborah Layton Blakely.  One of my fellow bell choir members asked what I was reading, and I explained what it was…and she too just kind of took the smile-and-nod approach.

The fact of the matter is, nice things are boring for me to write about.  And in order to write about the not-nice things I prefer to write about, particularly if those not-nice things are based on history or rather complicated psychological manipulations, research must be done.

It’s not my fault that I just get overly excited about the research!  (That’s just my inner Ravenclaw.)

Regardless of what people say, I’m going to write what I want to write, nice or not.  It’s my belief if there’s a story that is begging you to tell it, then you have to give that story a chance.  This story about Jonestown has been brewing in me for several years now, and its only recently that a few characters came along to give the story a voice.

And so their story will be told.

**If you’re interested in reading about the story of Peoples Temple or about life inside Jonestown from the perspective of people who experience it first hand, I highly recommend both of the books I’ve mentioned above: Six Years with God (by Jeannie Mills) and Seductive Poison (by Deborah Layton Blakely).**

Unexpected Goodbyes are the Hardest

If you’ve followed this blog for any significant amount of time, or if you’ve gone back through to read some of my older posts, you’ve inevitably discovered that from time to time I have trouble processing things.  And when I have trouble processing difficult things, it usually helps me to write them down.  (This is the case with not difficult things too, but the difficult things are the worst.)

This is another one of those situations.  Fair warning.

I always have trouble with goodbyes.  Loss and I don’t get along very well.  I’m one of those people that gets super sentimental when goodbyes come, and that’s even when I know the goodbye is coming.

When the goodbye is unexpected, my emotions and I really don’t know what to do.

This morning, I received a call from my mom.  As it’s the weekend and I’m not at work, this isn’t entirely unusual.  I thought maybe she needed help with something before my cousins arrive to visit, or maybe something had come up.  I really wasn’t expecting to hear from her that Diane Stanley, our church bell choir director and a long-time family friend, passed away this morning.

There are many pieces that makes this news hard to swallow.  First of all, Diane was quite young–about my parents’ age–and had been perfectly healthy, all things considered.  Second of all, this week she came down with a cold or a virus that made her miss bell choir rehearsal–it was just a normal illness, one much like anything any of us gets from time to time.  And lastly, I’ve known Diane almost my entire life.

Diane and I go way back.  When I was around 4 or 5 years old, Diane was the director of the little kids’ choir at my church for a short time.  I was a member of that choir.

When I was in early elementary school (I’d have to check with my mom to be sure what age exactly), I started taking piano lessons.  Diane was my piano teacher.  She was the person who taught me how to read music, gave me my first foray into the world of instrumental music, and she was a wonderful teacher.  I gave up piano lessons before high school, for time commitment reasons, but that was an important part of my life.

Around fourth grade, I joined the kids’ bell choir at my church.  Diane was the director, and was also the one who very actively recruited me.  That bell choir no longer exists, but I made several friends that I still have to this day–and quite a few of us graduated up into the adult bell choir while we were in high school or college.  Two of us are still ringing together, and we still reminisce about the times we spent with Diane in the kids’ bell choir.

In high school I joined the adult bell choir–the Chancel Bells.  I’ve rung with them ever since.  Diane had been the director of that bell choir for years, for longer than I’d been a member, and those of us who had been in kids’ bell choir with her would still play the same pranks on her that we did in the kids’ bell choir.  It was a thing.

Through all of this, all of those experiences, Diane was an amazing teacher, a great mentor, a fantastic role model, and she became a great friend.  She laughed along with us when we were being difficult and sarcastic during rehearsals.  She was a good sport when the younger group of us would, say, steal her director’s baton or change the tempo on her metronome.  Rehearsals (and lessons) were always fun with her, she was always smiling, and she was easy to talk to.  I saw her go from crazy cat lady when I was a kid to being the crazy dog lady once I’d grown up.  She loved animals, she loved her students, she loved teaching music.

It’s hard for me to imagine the world without her in it, especially since I didn’t expect to have to face that world for many, many more years.  Diane has been a huge constant in my life and had a large impact on my life as well.  She was loved by many, and I know she’s going to be missed.

But none of that, none of it, makes any of this news easier for me to process.

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are lead to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.
~Wicked~

Greetings from Write Stuff! (Plus Music…)

I know, I know.  It’s been another while.  But my life has been one chaos after another for the last several weeks to the point where I just blinked and it’s almost April.  Between my grandfather passing away in mid-February (not really unexpectedly), constant business at the day job, my car having a rather large and dramatic temper tantrum (yay for breaking down on the highway while going to writers group), and St. Patrick’s Day (Irish dancer, ya know…), I kind of can’t believe we’re almost done with March already.  Where did time go?!

Now, while I could colorfully elaborate on some of the stuff mentioned above (most namely the car drama, which was the most frustrating thing of late), I’m not going to.  Why?  First of all, some of that stuff was weeks ago and that seems very belated to rant about it.  Second of all, it’s very late and I kind of just want to go to sleep.  But I also wanted to give you an update.

And some music.

Most important update, really–I’m writing this from a hotel room in Allentown, PA rather than from the floor of my bedroom in Dublin, OH.  I’m at the Write Stuff conference, for my second year, and I’ve been having a BLAST!  Today I actually went to a few of the pre-conference workshops, which was something I didn’t participate in last year.  (Remember last year?  That was the trip in which all the things went wrong with my flights.  Yeah.  Gooooood times, guys.  Good times.)  This year, my only flight drama was a bout of airsickness.  And while that’s not fun either, it’s incredibly less anxiety-inducing than finding out your flight was never supposed to exist in the first place.

I’m sure I’ll give you a full and beautiful run-down of the conference either tomorrow night, after it’s over, or Sunday, but for now just know I’m having a great time!

And now, before I go pass out in preparation for another full day of conferencing, have a song.  That’s the other update, really–I’ve started research (and written the opening) for a new project that tells the story of the Jonestown tragedy in 1978.  Yup, you know me and writing all the cheery things.  Anywho, this song below really struck me when I heard it, and it makes me think of that project.  I have no doubt that it’s already become my “theme song” for this currently-untitled WIP.  I hope you like it too (it’s very pretty)!

Good night!

Someone Who Believes

I got cut from the ABNA contest yesterday.  While I was disappointed, obviously, I was relatively okay.  Getting to Round 2 is always something of a long shot, and I was very lucky to make it to that (and beyond) last year.  Getting cut at this juncture hurt a lot worse than getting cut as far into the contest as I did last year, to be honest.  By this morning, I was more or less fine.

However, I happened to stumble upon this quote by Stephen King from his book On Writing today.  And after yesterday, when a lot of people were telling me they were sorry I didn’t make the cut, it spoke something more to me than I originally read it in the book a few years ago.

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
 

The thing is, I’m really lucky to have several people who believe in me.  And after yesterday, and all the other rejections they’ve seen me get, I feel like they need to be thanked.  Because I am grateful.  I truly am.  So here are just a few of the people I’m blessed enough to have in my life and who have made it very clear how much they believe in me.

That’s me when I was 2 years old playing with my parents’ typewriter (and that’s my dad with me).

  • My parents.  When I was still too young to read on my own, they read to me nightly and took me on trips to the library to get books.  I firmly believe they’re the reason I have such an active imagination (because of all those stories in my life at such a young age).  And when I told them I wanted to study Creative Writing in college, they didn’t scoff or tell me no or tell me to major in something more likely to get a job quickly–they told me they wanted me to be happy, they wanted me to study something that makes me happy.  And ever since graduating and beginning querying, they’ve cheered me on.
  • My sister, Laura, because she’s a good enough sport to beta read for me when she has the free time.  And then she gets just as excited about some of my stories as I do (the ones she’s read, anyway).
  • Obviously my writers group, the Marysville Writers Group, who welcomed me with open arms a couple of years ago and have been my writerly support system ever since.
  • My friends and my two roommates, all of who are just awesome and who support me in their own special, sometimes sarcastic ways.
  • My boyfriend, Alan, who hung out with me last night after I got cut and seemed to make it his personal mission to get me to smile.  And then when he asked what I do now that ABNA’s over for me, and I told him I’m going back to querying, he seems to have made it his personal mission to make sure I get my querying done.

So I’m pretty lucky when it comes to having a support system for my writing life.  And I’m so glad I have all these people in my life.

LIFE UPDATE: Write Stuff, ABNA 2013, and Revisions

I know.  It’s been forever and a day since I posted here.  On the bright side…I’ve been journaling more since the New Year (and by “more” I mean…more or less once a week…but coming from someone who hasn’t kept a journal in probably a good decade, that’s pretty impressive), so I haven’t been completely idle.

It’s been a rather busy start to the New Year, which is why I haven’t gotten around to writing an update post on this blog until now.  In my non-writing life, it’s been a blur of my day job, family stuff, friend stuff, HPA stuff, hanging out with the boyfriend, Irish dancing, stupid weather, and meetings meetings meetings.  Or that’s what it feels like.  I’ve been on the move practically the entire start of this year, so I’m having a lot of trouble processing the fact that it’s already mid-February.  Time flies.

In my writing life, however, I kind of highlighted the big three things going on in the title, so how about I highlight them down in the actual post as well?  Sound good?  Yes?  Awesome.

Write Stuff

I’m going back to the Write Stuff conference again in March.  This will be my second year attending and I’ll be doing some of the pre-conference stuff this year, so I’m pretty excited about that.  Granted, I haven’t actually gone yet, seeing as how it’s not for another month, so really all the time it’s taken up thus far has to do with me picking out what I wanted to do and then registering…and then booking flights and hotel.  Always an adventure.  If I can just avoid last year’s travel nightmare, I’ll be a happy camper!

ABNA 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest for the second year.  In the weekend before entries opened, I was scrambling to clean up my novel more (meaning I reread and did minor tweaks on it for literally six hours the Sunday before entries opened).  However, now we’re in that wonderful stage of waiting.  We’re in limbo.  And all of us are just commiserating with each other over on the ABNA forums and counting down.  The cuts for Round 2 are announced on Wednesday of this week, so the panic has set in pretty effectively by now.  I should probably make sure I have some antacids at home.

Revisions

I’ve been a crazy person and trying to revise multiple projects at a time.  Which might account for the fact that little has gotten done on any of them.  I think of these revisions I should be doing and my brain seizes up and I quickly get distracted by shiny objects.  It’s an entertaining, if highly unproductive, process.  I should probably just focus on one project to revise right now, but they’re all so wonderful.  I can’t choose between my babies.  In any case, the procrastination monkey is mostly what’s been going on on the revisions side of things (and pretty much every other side of things writing-wise too…I’m surrounded by procrastination monkeys).  However, I have novel documents open on my computer at home…so…step in the right direction, yes?

There’s your update for now.  I’ll hopefully update again in the next few days.  But tonight?  Tonight I’m going to a Harry and the Potters concert and will be nerding it out hardcore with my fellow Potterheads.  All is right in the world for tonight.

Stay awesome!

NaNoWriMo Day 2…and Stuff

Well, here we are.  We’re winding down the second day of NaNoWriMo 2012, and at this moment I have 4,057 words logged so far.  Woohoo!  I’m pretty proud of myself and am getting into the swing of this novel.  It took a bit for me to work up the momentum for it partly because A) I’ve been in a pretty nasty writing slump for a couple of months so am vastly out of practice, and B) my main character had to deal with some feelings post-apocalyptic-event before she could move on. 

(Of course, if I ever go back and revise this sucker, many of those feelings will probably get cut out, but for now she had to deal with them.)

Anywho, having gotten past my quota for the day, I’m now sitting here watching Doctor Who Confidential from series one, and working on a crocheting project for Christmas.  And freezing, because apparently my room must always be absurdly cold (I’m gonna have to break out the fingerless gloves and/or arm warmers and/or Hogwarts snuggie here soon, me thinks).

It feels good to be working on a first draft I’m actually really excited about again.  Some of my other half-finished drafts I might return to later, but for now I feel like this is what I need to write for my sanity.  I’ve actually found myself thinking about it a lot and it feels really good to be working on a draft that consumes my thoughts again.

In other news, I have this tendency to pick a “theme song” or a few for each of my novels.  For the part of my NaNo I’m in now, this is the theme song for my main character, Alissa (for reference, she’s just lost her home, her family, and has no idea if anyone she knows at all is still alive).

In 8 Days…

…the normal chaos of NaNoWriMo begins again.  This will be my ninth year and I couldn’t be more excited about it!  (I mean, first of all–wow, it’s my ninth year.  And second of all–well, it’s NaNo, I’m always excited for it.)

I’ve been working on my idea for this year’s NaNo novel and I thought I would share what I have thus far.  This general idea has been stewing for several months and I’m very excited to finally start writing it.  Its working title is The Apocalytes and here’s the clarity that has come out of the stew so far.

For years, the group sarcastically nicknamed as the Apocalytes predicted the end of the world every few months. While the first few times started a frenzy, now it’s just gotten old and the group began getting ignored. And it was during one of those predicted apocalypse days, while everyone went about their normal lives, that something finally did happen–explosions, fires, death. Half the country just wiped out with no idea why.

Sixteen-year-old Alissa Carter, by some miracle, happened to survive. The lone person of her family and friends to do so, as far as she knows. She’s one of the only survivors from her small Ohio suburb and, for a few weeks, survives as best she can. And then she’s found by a scouting group of survivors, who convince her to come back to safety within the confines of the city, where a number of survivors have taken up residence, hidden in an underground parking garage. It’s not safe, she’s told, for girls and women to wander around by themselves anymore. The Apocalytes staged their little end of the world for the purpose of starting over, building a new society, and they’re desperate to gain followers, particularly ones that can help them grow their new population.

But Alissa has never been one to hide away. They might not have contact with the other survivors. They might not know what the Apocalytes are planning or when they might strike next. But Alissa plans to help fight back, even if sacrifices have to be made in the process.

Alissa Carter– main character and narrator
 
Kane Thomas

Sarah Hart
 
Cooper Randall– one of the main antagonists

Lauren Randall

It’s Been a While…

I know it’s been a while since I posted on here.  My mind has gone in about a thousand different directions since I last posted…I blinked and suddenly it had been two months since I’d written anything here.  Oops.

So here’s a general idea of what’s been occupying my time and attention:

  • Writing:  I’ve been working on a first draft of a Titanic story.  I’m determined to finish it.  Not necessarily because I think the story itself has merit, but because I’ve tried to write so many different Titanic stories, but never finished one.  This is something I need to do.
  • Revising: I’ve been continuing to revise the sequel to the novel I’m querying, and I’m also considering revising the novel I wrote the first draft of during NaNo last year.
  • Reading: So.  Much.  Reading.  But it’s been fun.
  • Irish Dance: The Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, OH is at the end of the summer.  This means my dance group is in intense rehearsal mode.  Add in that I’m planning to compete again this year…and I’ve been Irish dancing up a storm.
  • HPA: I’m on the Blog Team for the Harry Potter Alliance now, and I post things over there on Wednesdays and Fridays.  It’s a large possibility that that has been taking most of my blogging energy.
  • LeakyCon: Okay, so I’m really not THAT preoccupied by LeakyCon yet, but it’s something I’m REALLY EXCITED about.

So I’ve been keeping pretty busy.  But I’m going to try to keep this sucker more updated.  Or, at the very least, not go this long without posting something.