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Month: November 2014

My Own Personal Penguin

My Own Personal Penguin

happy-feet-penguin-birdBefore we officially begin, can you take a moment to click the link here and watch Benedict Cumberbatch, the darling British actor best known for his BBC portrayal of Sherlock Holmes?

YouTube Link to Benedict Cumberbatch Blurb!

Alright, welcome back. So, Mr. Cumberbatch struggles to pronounce, ‘penguin,’ correctly. And, if you noticed, the harder he fights to get it right, the worse his pronunciation becomes. It’s funny, silly and sweet to see a highly capable person struggle to achieve something others find easy, isn’t it?

But, Mr. Cumberbatch’s interview with Graham Norton got me thinking. Don’t we all have our own personal penguin? It could be a professional skill like public speaking. It might be appearing to have nice table manners in front of others. It could be driving in a careful way when you’ve got your mother-in-law in the car. Whatever your penguin is, you over-think your actions until matters disintegrate into a crumbled pile of disappointment and frustration.

Well, I’m no different. My personal penguin is weight loss. The harder I clamp down on my calories, the more I sabotage myself by eating the wrong foods. My only success at being fit comes when I run. But, for two years, even the act of walking hurt my feet to the point of tears; so, I gained weight. A lot. I can’t tell you the exact number because I refused to get on a scale, but I’d guess it was close to a hundred pounds. And when you’re the height of a garden fairy, like me, it shows.

feet on a bathroom scale - isolatedAs an American woman, I’m not alone in this, but I struggle with my body image. I have since I hit puberty, in fact, the exact moment came when my mother offered to pay me a dollar for each pound I lost. We were on the way to the grocery store and her words were not only unexpected, but crushing.

Before her offer, I was under the assumption that I looked fine, actually I didn’t give my body a thought. I was a two-sport athlete and in my offseason, I ran regularly. Yes, I had a buxom chest, but I couldn’t help that. No matter how hard I exercised, I was a 36C. I was healthy. I got my share of attention – wanted or not – from boys. Before that moment, I felt good in my own skin. But, nothing crushes the old psyche like criticism from your mother.

I’d love to report that I’ve evolved into a self-loving woman, but that would be a lie. Even today, I struggle with my body image. I dress to downplay my boobage; opting to wear dark, loose-fitting shirts that become sort of a visual void, a nothing to the keen observer. Yes, I’m trying to achieve a textile black hole where my mass just sort of disappears. It’s a dirty little secret I share with other busty women. But, lately, I find I want to talk about it.

The other day, on a quest for a new bra, I went to Macy’s. The kindest woman helped me navigate the lingerie department. I explained to her that I was meeting Macklemore that night and needed a better bra so my dress fit properly. (actually I told her I wanted my girls to sit up straight) She laughed, saw through my body insecurity immediately, and said, “You know. Women pay thousands of dollars to have breasts like ours.” And we laughed. In that moment, some of my old hurts healed.

I’m raising my daughters to be different. My teen tells me what her off-target subjects are and I respect that. I don’t ask, inquire, hint or nag about those places where she is most sensitive. Because, I realize she nags herself enough about those things – it’s an internal dialogue of self-loathing and she doesn’t need my voice in the conversation. Yes, I compliment her, but only when it’s authentic. Even that, she tends to disregard, but that’s okay.

And because of my experiences, I don’t make body-centered observations about my daughters. No matter how well meaning it might’ve been for a family member to suggest I exercise with them, or choose a more slimming color, it hurt. It did its damage. And I refuse to pass insecurity onto my daughters. They don’t know I struggle to seem confident in my own skin. I don’t want to pass on this trait to them. My wish for them is to have little disregard for what the world thinks about their looks and feel comfortable with all of themselves. And, for myself? I’m making progress. I don’t love or hate myself based on whether or not I exercise or eat properly. I’m trying to love myself consistently. And for now, that’s enough.

 

How a Ghost Helped Me Finish My Second Novel! (Ghostwriter?)

How a Ghost Helped Me Finish My Second Novel! (Ghostwriter?)

On the recent retreat I took to complete my second novel, I had company; in my bed, in the living room, as I stood on the roof deck, in the shower. No, I’m not talking about the kind of company that makes my wedding ring feel itchy, it was the kind that sends a chill down my spine.

view-from-the-park-across
This image comes courtesy of TripAdvisor.com. If you look to the left of the lighthouse, you’ll see Room 303, where I had spectral company.

It was an early birthday present to myself, I drove north to Bellingham, Washington and checked into the beautiful Hotel Bellwether, a property which fronts a lively harbor. My only room request was that it contained a desk, because I knew if I had three days to devote to the effort, I could finish Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch, the follow up to Josie Jameson and the Fourth Tombstone.

My room was #303. It was a delightful suite which overlooked the harbor and mountains. I’d brought a bundle of sage to burn so I could cleanse the energy in the space and make it suitable for writing. But I couldn’t get a match to light. No matter, I turned on the Seahawks game and dove into my writing. When I looked up from the computer the sunset was painting the sky in streaks of pink and I realized I was starving. Notebook in hand, I supped and returned to the room. I finished two chapters and went to bed. Alone.

steve-donna-o-meara-ghost-in-the-hall-at-the-hawthorne-hotel-one-of-america-s-most-haunted
This image comes from Steve & Donna O’Meara’s account of a ghost at the Hawthorne Hotel.

Knowing I never sleep well in strange places, I took a Benadryl and left on a lamp. An hour after retiring, I heard footsteps cross the room and stop at the edge of the bed, then there was the clear sound of someone breathing over me, just inches from my face. When I opened my eyes, I fully expected to find a man looming above, but there was nothing. Nothing.

Gathering my wits, I double-checked that the door was locked, then piled pillows around my ears; I was determined to get a few hours of sleep. And after a short time, it happened again. Footsteps, breathing, and then nothing. I tried once more to light the sage, but the matches were still damp. Instead, I turned on the television for the white noise and wrestled with my pillows until sunrise.

On my morning run, I looked at events with a sober mind. Yes, it was a spirit – I didn’t imagine it. But, it was not dark or threatening, only curious. I knew this from experience – the experience that comes from being awakened by a demon standing over your kids’ beds. Yes, I know what dark spirits look like and smell like. I also know they’re hard to get rid of. They leave scars. What existed in #303 wasn’t that. He was a curious spirit, intrigued by the creative process maybe. So, when I returned to the room, I had a word with him, “Yes, I know you’re here. I just don’t wish to acknowledge you. Please stop bothering me.”

The following nights in my suite went roughly the same way. And when I checked out on the fourth day, my book was complete. Yes, I had a ghostwriter, of sorts. I’ll never know his name, but he was there, reading over my shoulder and maybe he knew what he was doing when he kept me from sleeping. Because, together, we got the words down, the story completed. So, for that, I am thankful to him, my ghostwriter.

 

Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch Cover*******Author’s Note*********

Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch is being called a can’t-put-down-read. I’m so glad readers are enjoying this quick, spooky novel!

No More #NaNoWriMo Updates Please! (pretty please)

No More #NaNoWriMo Updates Please! (pretty please)

girl_with_hands_over_ears_screaming_42-17094837If you’re active on any social media then you’re well aware that it’s November, the month that has been become, “National Novel Writing Month.” The hashtag #NaNoWriMo has been trending on Twitter since November 1st and is mentioned in every third post on Facebook. Meh.

I’m a writer, so you’d think I’d adore all the positive encouragement, posted word counts, and shared advice, but I’m over it. Way. Over. It.

Writers out there, go for it. Do this thing. Silence your inner-governors and write, dang it. Sink into the heads of your characters without shame this month, and the month after, and the month after that. But, because I realize writers are a tenderhearted crew, I’m going to say this nicely, (shaky hands offer you a warm cookie and cup of tea), “Please don’t post about it.”

#NaNoWriMo updates are about as interesting to your potential readers as reading a bus driver’s account of his morning routes, or listening to a play-by-play of a cardiologist’s morning surgeries, or watching a video taken by a dental hygienist of his afternoon cleanings. It’s rather dull. (remember, I’m trying to be gentle)

Ellie's books
Don’t forget that after that novel’s written, you’ll want to find readers that love your book.

If you are tickled with what you’re crafting this month and just HAVE to post about it, then make it interesting. A fellow Booktrope author had the idea to post the last sentence of your work-in-progress at the end of each day. What a great way to entice and intrigue readers. If that doesn’t appeal to you, try sharing an interesting story or fact you stumbled upon when you were doing your background research. That’s always received well. Or what about sharing a picture of your pile of writing-fueling candy bars? Or even better, post a selfie of you in your writing garb, makeup-less face and all.

These are all great ways to share the process and connect with your potential readers in an organic way this month! Because, I realize the purpose of #NaNoWriMo is to connect writers with writers, encourage the craft. Well, do that, but don’t litter your feeds with it. Instead, use #NaNoWriMo as a way to not only encourage the craft, but as a vehicle to connect, not alienate, potential readers; yes, the people that will one day fall in love with your novel.

 

The Man Bun and Other Questionable Choices (to me)

The Man Bun and Other Questionable Choices (to me)

ManBun3-Chris-Hemsworth
Ah, Man Bun. Nailed it!

I’ve got a new obsession to add to my list; right behind coffee, Benedict Cumberbatch, and indie bands trails, Man Buns. I’ve capitalized the term, because this is the standard spelling for the burgeoning new trend. Three days ago, I lived in ignorance of Man Buns, but now, after combing the interwebs, I’ve got a definite opinion about them. Mostly yuck.

Brought to my attention by fellow Booktrope author, Tess Thompson, in a Facebook post, I realized, yes, I’ve seen men wearing their hair in buns. Though, Thompson felt her home state of Oregon was to blame for this abomination, others disagree. Here’s a funny blog post from Harvard that puts the cone of shame on Disney’s, Mulan, specifically “hot warrior, Shang.” <Harvard blog post> In the end, they cast a verdict of “HATE IT!” on the trend.

Others vehemently disagree, not only approving Man Buns, but go so far as to call them sexy. Here’s one of those dissenting voices: <Man Bun Everything Right Now>

th
The man purse. Why?

To me, I lump the Man Bun trend in with the man purse phenomena of the 90s and the recent attempts by men to not only bear a child, but give birth. Maybe I’m being too ambiguous here, but I don’t like it when men adopt our more womanly traits and roles. Maybe I’m territorial, okay I know I’m territorial, but the truth is, women are my favorite gender. Yes, I said it. I love men, too. But, being a woman, I’m biased.

Men are fabulous, too. You can focus really well; shut out the world to finish your task. You’re generally physically stronger than women. You make amazing fathers, stretching the comfort-zones of your children (and worried wives), you are great drivers’ ed instructors, you look better in shorts and much, much more. But, to be sexy, all I want is a man that’s comfortable in his own skin, not someone desperately trying to be different. That’s it. So, until Benedict Cumberbatch grows his hair out and swirls it into a bun, my verdict is, “skip it” on the trend.

bigstock_Pregnant_Man_5393001
Does the man in this photo by bigstock look comfortable in his own skin? Does he?