Friday, October 16, 2015

Creating my space...

Having the right soundtrack ready and the ideas running through my mind gets me a long way when I'm getting in the writing zone.  But there are a few other items that really help me hit that sweet spot.    

I've realized I'm not the only writer like this.  I have several writer friends that have their own 'things' they surround themselves with before even hitting a single letter on the keyboard.  Maybe it's a bit of superstition, like those hockey players who don't shave during the play-offs or the baseball fans that put their rally caps on when their team is done in the 9th inning.

We all have our own ways of preparing.  Then again maybe I'm a bit OCD and need things to be just right before I can try to get any work done.  It wouldn't be the first time I'd be accused of being weird like that.

So here are just a few things that help me get my ducks in a row.  

Grandpa's sweater - My paternal grandfather passed away when I was 17 years old.  He was a preacher and when he wasn't in his light blue dress shirt with his red tie, he was either rocking a white tank-top undershirt, an Ohio State sweatshirt, or some other button down shirt.  On chilly days he had a sweater that reminded me of Mr. Rogers.  I became the owner of said sweater after he passed.  To most people it would seem ugly.  It is pea/puke green with brown buttons down the front.  I feel as if I need to be in a library whenever I wear it...maybe that is why I chose to wear it only when I am writing.  It has the same effect as Superman's cap for me...the minute I put it on I go from scatter-brained-Amy to Focused-Writer-Girl.  

Writing board - I'm a visual person, I love vision boards and when it comes to preparing for any new book, I first start with finding photos of actors who look like the characters I have in mind. This is super helpful for me when I'm writing a scene and trying to imagine what the characters facial or physical gestures at any given time would be.  I used to keep the photos in a word document, but once I created my office I got a large cork board that I have over my desk.  This really helps me too so I don't have to switch from my writing document back to a photo document.  I also like putting the pending cover design on there too.  (FYI - this is the OLD cover for Down for the's being revamped).

Jolly Rancher Cinnamon Hard Candy - Yes...candy helps me focus!  Maybe it's the sugar, maybe it's the doing two things at once (sucking on candy and using my brain).  I don't know why this works...but it does!  I know another writer who prefers peppermint candies while another loves chocolate kisses.  But for me there is something about the cinnamon flavor that does the trick.   Added bonus - the spicy flavor helps keep my sinuses clear as well!  It's a win-win!

That's just a few things I have around me when I am addition to making the walls a cool mossy green that is calming, the throw blanket over the back of my chair that I got as part of a trade of my books with another vendor at a craft show, and my dogs sleeping on the loveseat next to my desk.

So there you have it, a glimpse into what constitutes my happy writing space.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Give me the beat boys....

The title of today's blog is a lyric from one of my favorite songs - DRIFT AWAY by Doby Gray ( Uncle Kracker did an alright cover as well).  Whenever this song comes one, I stop what I am doing, start singing (albeit poorly) and drift away to happy memories of when I first heard this song.

Music has that power, to mentally teleport us to another place and time, to release us from the stresses of the moment, to help us grieve, and also to make us smile.  Music, to me, is the great connector that lets the song and the listener meet and allows the listener to feel, even if just briefly, that their voice is heard somehow, that somehow someone somewhere saw into their innermost part and 'saw' them.

Music for me also has the uncanny ability to ignite the creative forces in my brain.  TAKING CHANCES came to life because of a song!!!  It hit me so hard and brought up such feeling about a lost love that I couldn't help but get it out onto paper....and I'm glad I did as  that book is my best seller to date!

For every new book series I write,  I create a musical playlist to help set the mood.  For the Califonia Dreamin' series it was beachy music, laid back tunes by Colbie Calliat, Jack Johnson, and Ben Harper.  For the Small Town series it is country all the way - old greats by Willie and George (Jones and Strait) as well as new hits.  And for my Redemption (formerly Villiage Vixens) series it is a mix of country and folk like Chase Rice and The Civil Wars.

Here is just a hint of some of the music inspiring me right now as I write DOWN FOR THE COUNT:

And here are a few for the first release from the REDEPTION serires:

This is just a taste of the songs, but I promise there will be a mix of steam, passion, soft kisses and caresses, and plenty of drama and laughter as these characters dance and stumble their ways to romance!

Stay tuned!!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Happily Never After...

Today I'm departing from my usual happy posts and talking about a little bit darker side to romance....the underside, when love fades, hearts get broken, and lives are torn.  This side isn't usually shown in romance books, except those star-crossed lovers.  No, this Happily Never After rests in reality.

Why, today, do I want to talk about something so un-upbeat?  Because today marks 6 years since my Happily Ever After changed into Never.  Because what followed was 6 months of a terrible depression, and because maybe someone out there needs to read this and know they are not alone.  And things will get better.
Me and Jake on the day I married my 2nd ex-husband

Six years ago yesterday I was just over a year into my second marriage.  We had a good life, were financially stable and had a beautiful home.  We were building a family with my son from a previous marriage.  Life was 'perfect'.  On that day my husband and I were having a strange vibe between us.  Days before the issue of more children or foster/adoption came up and while I felt we were ready he stated that we had too much to work out.  But I didn't know we had ANYTHING to work out.  I had no clue because we never fought, never said a harsh word to each other.  That night he slept in the spare room and I felt he must be internally dealing with something...I had no idea what it was.

The next day - October 2, 2009 - was the first day my son would wear his new karate uniform. I'd just signed him up and he was so excited!  He came home from class full of energy.  As we ate a late dinner my husband complained of stomach issues and excused himself.  I finished eating with Jake and got him ready for bed, then went and checked on my husband.  He was laying in the spare room, with the covers pulled up to his chin.

I tried to be a dutiful wife and ask what was wrong and what I could do to help.  I knew things were 'off' with us and when he started to talk about it I suggested counseling, wanting to immediately deal with the issue and move forward.  That is when he pulled back the covers to reveal he was totally dressed (even had his shoes on) and that he wasn't 'going to do this anymore.'

My mind reeled as I watched him grab a packed bag, apologize and tell me it was over, and walk out the door.  The entire time my son was fast asleep in his room, not knowing when he woke up life would be totally different. We'd been together for over 5 years, but in the blink of an eye it had completely changed.

I immediately called my sister-in-law (whom I also worked with - that didn't help!) and told her what happened.  She assured me that maybe a few days away he would rethink things.  I saw his car pull in again a few minutes later and prayed he'd had a sudden change of heart, but he didn't.  He'd forgotten his toothbrush!

In the coming days I would contemplate what I did wrong.  I reassured my son it wasn't his fault (he's admitted he thought maybe my ex was angry that he'd joined karate).  I wrote my husband a letter telling him all my flaws and how I would be a better wife if he would just come home.  He did at least try to make an effort of showing up a few times, but his heart walked out and stayed out the day he first left.

After investigating I realized he'd been talking to a female friend for weeks before he left.  I found it out by calling a number that was on our bill a lot.  She answered and I hung up.  I then called him and asked him if he was cheating.  He said he wasn't, and maybe that was true at the time.  But I knew there was something more going on.  His family and mine and friends thought I was crazy for thinking it, but 6 years later they are married and have 2 children - maybe I wasn't crazy after all!

I began calling psychics and meduims within weeks of him leaving.  I was so desperate for someone to tell me it would be okay and he would come home.  I spent THOUSANDS of dollars for people to blow smoke up my ass.  I knew somewhere deep down that it would be alright, with or without him, but my heart and head battled.  I couldn't believe this fairy tale marriage and life was over, gone with the slamming of the door.

The stress and anxiety I experienced caused me to not eat.  Anything I did eat would rapidly go through my body and within 10 weeks I'd lost over 50 pounds.  My body was over-producing acid and years later I had to have my gallbladder removed because there was so much damage...not to mention the ulcer that was found as well from the stress.

My days consisted of going to work and trying to put on a good face, coming home and being a mom, but as soon as 7pm hit I would hide under the covers while my son watched a movie.  On the weekends he was with his father I would stay in bed the entire time except to get up to get the phone to call more psychics.  Even on Halloween, when my sister invited us to go trick-or-treating, I went in my pajamas, grateful for one day where I could be a slob to the real world but they would think it was a costume.

My husband told me just before Christmas that he'd filed for divorce, but after I begged and pleaded he promised to not have me served with papers until after the holidays.  Months later during our first divorce hearing I was still pleading with him that he loved me, I just knew it.  The entire time since he'd left he'd been sleeping on a friend's couch (or so the story goes).  I couldn't fathom how he'd choose a couch over our family at home.

It wasn't until the divorce was almost final that I accepted it - happily ever after was no more.  One day while driving home 
from work the clouds literally parted and the sun began to shine.  The radio was playing 'Hey Soul Sister' by Train.  That was the moment I began to feel hope again.  I stopped calling psychics on a daily basis (at the worst I talked to over 15 in one day).  I found only one who was willing to tell me the truth - that he was never going to come home.  After I first hung up on her, I eventually called back (months later) and asked for more.  In that moment she stopped playing 'seer' and actually imparted great advice.  She told me I knew deep down  I would be fine, but that I had to choose to be fine.  It was that simple, yet that hard all at the same time.

Today, I am grateful for that slamming door.  I've loved and lost several times over since then, and I've learned....oh the lessons I've learned. I've realized my happiness shouldn't be dependent on another person or the money we have or stability we have.  In hindsight I can see that 'perfect' marriage was lacking something.  I wasn't myself, I was playing a role that I know I would have resented eventually. And I believe he was doing what he felt his family thought by marrying me.  But his heart wasn't really in it either....I don't hate him for that.

After the depression passed, I realize I could have reached out sooner,  I should have.  I regret shutting people out during that time.  I regret the joys I missed during those six months of depression.  What I wish most of all is that I could go back to that moment, sit on the couch beside that broken Amy and hug her.  Oh how I wish I could hug her.  

If I could say anything to THAT Amy it would be that things will get better.  The day would come when the darkness would fade and I'd see the sun was always shining, I'd just been too busy seeing the darkness that I couldn't appreciate the light.  I'd tell her she is worthy of a real love that accepts her as she is, doesn't want to change her, and she will find it.  And to never lose hope.  Dark days still laid ahead, but that in the end if she held onto hope she would smile in the sunshine.

The depression I faced during that time was terrifying and exhausting and I felt as if I had no one who could understand me, but I see now how wrong I was.  I didn't reach out to my family at the time because, well, I've always been seen as the drama queen and I didn't think they would take me seriously...but it was serious, VERY serious.  

With the help of a counselor, journaling, and major soul searching on my part,  I was able to get through and begin to enjoy life again.  Since then I am very aware at all times where my thoughts are at - are they positive or negative?  Unfortunately last year I went through an even deeper depression, but I was still able to get through it once I remembered all those things I'd worked so hard for and the determination to follow my joy.

I don't know if I will have another battle with depression, but I am also not naive enough to think it isn't always lurking.  Each day is a choice on what I will focus on.  Today, as I have for most days (especially since last year) I choose to focus on being happy.

The other day, as the darkness tried to creep in with memories at how deep my dispare was 6 years ago, I will admit that I struggled.  I called my mother and started to cry and she helped comfort me with her tough love (stop it, it's over).  I wanted to go home and drink away the memories (I did enjoy one beverage).  After a few moments of weakness I turned on empowering music, remembered my belief in God and that everything happens for my good - even when I don't see it at all at the time.  And finally I REFUSED to allow bad memories from years ago steal the joy of the day.  With that the clouds once again parted and I was singing along with a smile on my face.


If you or someone you know is battling depression, please know that you don't have to struggle alone.  Reach out to friends, family, or seek counseling.  I was lucky that my work has a free 800-number available  24/7 to call for mental health concerns.  I had free counseling at my fingertips and eventually used it and also went to see a counselor in person.  Having someone to release the hurt and pain too does help.  I promise you it does.

If you need immediate help, please go to your local hospital and they will get you to a mental health professional.  You can also call for help at (800) 273-8255.  It's the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, but just because you aren't suicidal doesn't mean they can't help...they have resources to help you find counseling or lead you toward free resources to get you help to cope with life.


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