A Month of Everything and Nothing

July has come has come and gone. I had big plans for July, but most of them were not fulfilled. And then I ended the month flat on my back so sick I couldn’t even read. Four horrible, blurry days of boneless misery. I’m a fidgeter, so my husband says he knew when I was starting to come back to life because my fingers and toes started wiggling and tapping again.

The brightest point of the month was the annual summer visit from my son Daniel Lewis and “daughter-in-law” Sarah Chavez, both professors at Marshall University in West Virginia. We always have a good visit with them. On one afternoon, we visited the Nonini Winery—said to be haunted. It’s been owned by the same family since it was founded in 1936, and I loved the old photos and documents displayed in the tasting room. I enjoyed the wine and, yes, it was a little spooky standing among those massive, old redwood aging tanks.

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The second brightest point was the release of my latest novel, High Tea & Flip-Flops. Unfortunately, launch day was one of my sickest. The early reviews are good. Readers are laughing, which is a relief because it’s my first romantic comedy novel. Of course I hope for more reviews, even a couple of negative ones—especially if the reviewer complains about too much s-e-x and bad language, since I hear those complaints tend to sell more books! 🙂

High Tea & Flip-Flops is available for Kindle at Amazon worldwide as well as in paperback at Amazon and other online stores and by special order at your local bookshop. (Amazon.ca is slow adding the paperback, but it’s coming.) If you’d like to help me spread the word on Facebook or Twitter, please click this link, choose the appropriate image, and copy or save it. When you share it, please remember to add the link: author.to/LindaCassidyLewis in your post or tweet. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

So, that’s the everything part of this post.

The nothing part concerns my writing. No progress. I haven’t added a word to the first draft of my next novel. Oh, I think about it. I open the file and read parts of it. I stare at the Scrivener screen for a while. Then I hit exit. It feels odd not to be writing every day. It feels scary, to be honest. What if I never write again?

The odd thing is that it’s not this particular story I’m struggling with. The plot outline is complete. I’ve visualized the rest of the scenes. I believe it’s a story worth telling. The problem is not in that manuscript.

The problem is in me. I’ve had a blow to the confidence in my writing (concerning another manuscript) and haven’t been able to get beyond it. That seems silly when I have a new book out that readers are praising, doesn’t it? Or maybe it doesn’t. I’m as confounded by the writer’s mind as anyone.

I hope your July was fabulous and your August is off to a wonderful start!

Linda

I’m Back and Wishing You and Me a Happy New Year

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to start a new year. If you’re subscribed to this blog or follow me on Facebook or other social media, you may have noticed I disappeared about five weeks ago. Though I hadn’t planned such a break, it came as a relief. Let’s just say 2013 was not my most successful year and I’d had enough of it.

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Please, accept my apology if I missed saying Congratulations or Happy Birthday on Facebook. And I’m sorry I wasn’t around to wish you a Merry Christmas. Today, I’m still under the influence of a beastly cold, but otherwise I’m mostly re-energized. And, since I also took a five-week break from writing, I’m anxious to get back to work, and I entered the WFWA Write-A-Thin Challenge to give me a boost.

What did I do while I wasn’t writing or blogging or socializing on Facebook? I read, of course. During the second week of December, I read two novels and a short story collection! Maybe that’s no big deal to you, but I think the last time I read books that quickly I was in third grade. I’d forgotten how fast the pages add up when you have few distractions. In all, I read five books, abandoned a couple of others after a chapter or two, and then started the one I’m still reading.

Then it was time to put normal life aside to prepare for family Christmas visits. Our out-of-state sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren came to town. We had our usual Christmas Eve Syrian feast and though one granddaughter came late due to work, as you can see from the image above, she made it into our annual family photo by magic. (Otherwise known as Photoshop.) We had a lovely holiday. I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family.

I have many hopes for this year, but my main goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy balance in my life. What’s your main goal for 2014?

The Memory Keepers

My mother has dementia. It’s increasing rapidly, now. At first, she suffered only the loss of recent events, which my father kept secret for a while. Not long before he died, he pulled me aside and told me, “Mom forgets a lot.” But it wasn’t until after his death, that I realized how much of her memory loss he’d compensated for.

sandsoftime1In the last year or so, her dementia has progressed to long-term memory loss. Often, she can’t remember what great-grandchildren belong to which grandchild. Or where her grandchildren live. Or what they do for a living. I live across the country from her, so I’m already on the periphery of her life. Someday, I’ll phone and she won’t know who I am.

I’m reluctant to remind her of her youthful escapades she’s relayed many times throughout my life for fear I’ll discover that even those events, grooved most deeply into her memory, are now lost. Sometimes, I think of something I wish I’d asked my father before he died, and now I’ve waited too late to ask my mother many things.

I’ve always had excellent recall of my childhood, which most of the time is a blessing. But I already know I’ve forgotten some things I used to know. That saddens me. Once upon a time, I started a written record of my childhood memories. Too soon, I got distracted. But now it’s imperative that I start again. To record not only memories of my childhood, but memories of my children’s and grandchildren’s lives. And all that I know of my parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

There are too many things I don’t want to forget. Eventually, that book of memories may read like fiction to me, but the tales will not be lost. They will remain for those who care to know them. I will be a memory keeper. And I must begin now.

It’s never too late … until it is.

Linda

Forty-six Years Ago

Forty-six years ago tomorrow, I began a new life. It was the Viet Nam era. I was not quite eighteen. And my fiancé was in the U.S. Army. So, like many young couples of that time, we got married. Three weeks later, my brand new husband left me—under military order.

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31 August, 1967

We were lucky; they sent him to Germany, not Viet Nam. And I found myself caught between two worlds. I was married, but I had no husband. I was still a teen, but I no longer fit in with my old friends. I still lived with my parents. I had no car—in fact, I’d not yet learned to drive—so I got a job caring for a neighbor’s children while she worked.

I no longer thought about going to art school. I dreamed only of moving to Germany to be with my husband. A few months later, that became reality. In a country nearly 5,000 miles from my hometown, I set up my first household—a two-room apartment on the ground floor, below our German landlord. By the time our first son was born, we’d moved to three rooms on the third floor, above our landlord.

The next year, I moved back to Indiana, just in time to see the first man walk on the moon. My husband returned a couple of months later for a brief leave before being shipped off to Texas. One year later, just after the end of our army days, our second son was born. We increased our family with two more sons in the next six years. We two had become six.

Have all these forty-six years of marriage been blissful? Of course not. We’re human. We’re opposites in many ways; clashes are inevitable. But we also complement each other. And we’re both too stubborn to give up.  We grew into adulthood together. We grew into friendship. We love each other in the true sense of the word. We have what matters most.

Happy anniversary to us!

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Chow Mein for Breakfast

I’m alone—in a quiet house—today, so I ate leftover chow mein for breakfast. That’s the sort of wild and crazy thing I do when left to my own devices. My youngest son, Daniel, is visiting from Nebraska and took some of the family to the Cincinnati Reds game in Oakland today. I stayed home to care for the dogs.

connect_heartNo next novel in production, yet, but I may get my brain in gear to revise a short story today. Otherwise, I’ll probably read the afternoon away. I’ve surprised myself by reading seven novels since I wrapped up An Illusion of Trust. For me, since I started writing seriously, that qualifies as binge-reading.

Maybe soon I’ll be able to shut the doors, insert the earplugs, and binge-write. I’ve been a little nervous that one of my novel ideas hasn’t taken me captive. But now I’m trying not to listen when the dark side whispers, “Does that mean none of your story ideas is worthy?” I’m trying hard not to take my Muse’s silence as a sign that I shouldn’t write at all. I’m trying to keep my distance from that perfection trap.

I wish I could remember where I saw the link to Brené Brown’s TED talk, which I’ve linked to below, but I thank, thank, thank whoever posted that so I could find it—and watch it over and over. I’m learning to have the courage to be vulnerable. I’m learning the difference between shame and guilt. I’m learning to accept my short-comings and still feel worthy. I’m doing this because I want to connect to life wholeheartedly.

More than anything, I seek connection through my writing. But as an author, just as in my real life, I allow my fears to restrain me. I write from my heart, but I don’t write wholeheartedly. I let my perfectionism steal that from me. Maybe when I learn these lessons, I’ll be free to write another novel.

Also read: Knowing that my friend, author Michelle D. Argyle, struggles with some of the same issues, I shared the link with her. Brené’s talk inspired her to blog about The Price of Perfection.

How are you living wholeheartedly?

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