Writing hiatus

Since the hurricane, I’ve been a little AWOL, I know. It’s been a little bit about the holidays and a little bit that I think I’ve written myself into a corner. Mostly though, it’s been about a 1000 page medical terminology book that I’m right tired of looking at.  I’ve been taking some of my husband’s advice and just trying to bulldoze my way through it. Everything else has taken a back seat. My plan is to finish the book by New Year’s Eve. I have three chapters left. If I do a chapter a week, I can happily float into 2017 having moved on to anatomy & physiology.

The terminology has been daunting, to say the least. I feel overwhelmed and I don’t feel like I’m retaining much of what I’m learning. I haven’t gotten to the “all of a sudden it will click” yet. Certainly, I won’t have to know every single term I’ve learned. If I work in a dermatology office, for example, I won’t need to know what a pulmonary parenchyma is (which is good, because I don’t ~ I can’t even pronounce parenchyma).

On the writing side of things, I’m reading an interesting book on the history of Charleston called, Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City and it’s been a slow read, but terribly interesting as I imagine my characters living on the streets of the author’s pages. It has confirmed my imagination isn’t too far from something that could certainly have happened in the way I’ve described. Knowing this, I’m more confident moving forward that I’m not a complete idiot. This will be a great resource for editing later.

If I ever find my way out of my medical terminology hole. And bring my protagonist’s husband back. When last I visited with them, he had just experienced the end of his hope and walked away from his life. I wasn’t expecting him to leave and so far, he hasn’t asked me to take him back. I’m trying to give him his space. It’s going to be a challenge, because he doesn’t get his hope back. In fact, he dies of diphtheria in a couple of years. But Shhhh! Don’t tell him or he’ll never want to go back.  He must come back. He has some loose ends to tie up…


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My First Hurricane

I now understand why the natives make light of hurricanes. You have to or it will make you lose your mind.

The meteorologists brought Matthew to our attention before the storm had even earned a name. We’re talking weeks of weather segments on every local TV channel giving us the latest update about where the storm was currently and where it “might” possibly go next. For a storm that started somewhere towards Africa, traveling about 12 miles an hour, the average local has time to sell their home, pack up, drive all their worldly possessions to Ohio, then unpack and settle into their new home long before the storm will cause a ripple on the beach.

Anyone who has lived along the coast for any length of time knows this. I learned quickly that if the natives talk less of hurricane parties and more about boarding up windows, we’re screwed.

I haven’t lived along the coast for that much time and I was worried from the very first spaghetti models showing Matthew coming right up along the coast.

Once the Weather Channel got involved, I was updating my life insurance beneficiary – no sense in it being my husband because, according to the Weather Channel folks, we were all going to die. I understand having to take the storm seriously, but it seemed a little bit to me like this was their 15 minutes of fame and they were darn well going to make the most of it.

I can’t speak for everyone, but my husband and I only watch the Weather Channel when there’s a weather crisis somewhere that might affect our family or friends. Because our local meteorologists weren’t on 24/7 (until the storm actually got to our shores) we were often forced to watch the Weather Channel if we wanted to know how our friends in Florida were faring. I think the Weather Channel knows this so they better hit the ground running and give us the best storm coverage they can muster up.

I didn’t see/hear this myself, but one of our friends watching the coverage from Wisconsin said one meteorologist (I’m not sure what channel he was watching) basically said anyone who doesn’t evacuate should put their social security number on their arm in permanent marker so the body could be identified later. WHAT!?

Even though it was my first hurricane, it seemed that a storm not scheduled to even make land fall (at that point) could be so serious that you better make it easier for the morgue to contact your next of kin.

Certainly Hurricane Matthew was serious and it did a lot of damage, but I don’t think it warranted that bit of gruesome advice. The storm was more deadly in Cuba, Haiti and other islands in the Atlantic, but for the U.S., the magic marker advice was a bit heavy-handed. I hope that person was reprimanded off air.

Nevertheless, the impending doom and gloom of Matthew was a train wreck I couldn’t turn away from. I didn’t write, I barely went to work (in fact, three days before the storm arrived, the governor declared mandatory evacuation of the coastal communities, so I didn’t go to work because various roads were closed). We stocked up on water, non-perishables and batteries just like everyone else. We bought a generator and took the flag pole down off the porch. We sat down with our TV tuned to the Weather Channel, changing the channel only for our local news. We went to the Waffle House because that was the only place open.

Seriously, they never close.

The waitresses were talking about who was scheduled to work on Saturday (when Matthew was scheduled to visit our slice of shoreline). We asked them if they were for real going to be open during the storm. One of them nodded her head, “The windows might all blow out, but we’ll be here.” I turned to look at the two walls of nothing but floor to ceiling glass windows. My jaw dropped straight into my chocolate chip waffles.

I spent several days with a migraine headache surely caused by the fact that I slept little more than 4 hours a night for almost a week. By Friday, my husband and I decided that waiting was the worst part.

I found the whole thing hideously ominous. The sun would be out, but on the TV, we could see Matthew blowing into Florida and bending palm trees in half. It was a little bit like watching ourselves inside of a horror movie. We knew Jason was coming…he was around the next bend…but he had all the control. We were tied to a palm tree in the middle of town and had no choice but to wait him out.

Friday night we slept in shifts. If something happened, one of us would be awake and aware. Not that either one of us could sleep anyway. I think that was the scariest part for me. Why do these things always come to town under cover of darkness? You can’t see the wind swaying the trees to the point of pulling them out of the ground. You don’t know if the water rushing down the road is also creeping silently up to your front door. It’s harder to be pro-active when you can’t see the enemy coming.

Fortunately, we made it through the storm with only a few shingles missing from the roof and a broken gate on our fence. We can see cracks in the ground where one of our trees had been swinging in the wind. Thankfully, it didn’t come down. That tree will be removed – hopefully before the next storm blows our way.

Hopefully, there won’t be another one for many years.




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Summer Reading List Success

At the beginning of the summer, I was inspired by a fellow blogger to post my summer reading list. Labor day weekend officially being the end of summer, I thought it would be appropriate to see how I did.

My summer reading list:

I skipped American Dreams because I hadn’t realized it was a part of a series.  And not the first book of the series. I also read a book not on the list called, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, because I felt I needed to break up the reading list a little bit with something light.

Right now, I’m in the middle of Breaking Night, and I have Beautiful Day, Case Histories and Charleston! Charleston! left to be read. I didn’t do to bad, if I do say so myself.

My next goal is to have these last three read before the end of the year. Charleston! Charleston! is the size of two books, so it seems fair to give myself a little extra time to get through it. I am excited to read them and move on to the rest of my bookshelf!

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I’ve Actually Done Some Writing Today!

As of today, I have 50 pages written. I felt pretty good about it too, until I realized 50 pages was only 22,179 words. What a let down. I was imagining 50 type written pages turning into about 100 book print pages and thinking, Whew! I’m really getting there now.  And then I checked the word count for this post and thought, that’s it?

my chair

My writing chair today. The pillow is because my back still hurts.

I know that www.nanowrimo.org has their November writing challenge where 50,000 words means you’ve written a book. Crap or not, you’ve completed it. So, I suppose I should be excited to be halfway there?

But still, all the time invested, the trials and tribulations to get my butt into the chair and actually pound out these pages…well, it would be more gratifying if the word count was up there a little further. I don’t know how much further…maybe 30,000?

jack helping

Jack’s chair, while he “helps” Momma write. Seems wrong, doesn’t it?

But then again, I’m only part-way through the story I want to tell and if I had too many words already, I might start to panic that I would end up with some ridiculously huge book and have to spend an inordinate amount of time cutting.

I just stole my chair back from the cat.

Well, actually, he got up and left, so I regained my chair on account of the fact that he was done with it for today.

Same thing, right? As long as I get my chair back.


Word count: 22,179


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Post Olympics Writing

The Olympics was every bit of the distraction I expected it to be. I love gymnastics and I watched our ladies kick some butt!  Congratulations to Simone Biles ~ you’ve rocked it! You’re the best in the world and we couldn’t be more proud!

I’ve also been knee-deep in beach volleyball, cheering on Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross on the road to the bronze.

Sadly, living on the east coast, these two sports were usually televised well after my regular bedtime. Olympics coverage goes until midnight for me and I’m up every morning at 5:30. This has not lead to gold medal performances. Although you would think, for as poorly as I sleep anyway, it would be same old, same old. Come to think of it, that must be how I’m still getting through the days without my boss walking into my office to find me face down on the desk, snoring into my delinquent tenant worksheet.

Because a lack of sleep by itself isn’t a good enough reason not to write, I also found a way to mess up my back. I don’t know what I did – in fact, at first, I thought maybe I slept wrong. But it got worse as the days went on and I could hardly sit long enough to use the bathroom, let alone try to sit long enough to write coherently. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor and while it’s not 100%, it’s much better than it was.

The not sitting thing has also affected my studies. I’m in chapter 5 of my medical terminology book (only 20 more to go – whee!) but it’s difficult to study when you can’t sit long enough to read a paragraph.

Yesterday, CareerStep sent me an email advising that the book has a ton of information and I shouldn’t worry about learning it all in one swoop (I’m paraphrasing of course). Concentrate on the basics and it will all come together over the course of the book – plus, as a medical billing and coding specialist, I will always have reference materials available. Obviously they thought that my being away from the computer for over a week had something to do with my studies.


Actually, that email came at the perfect time because I spent the entire day getting myself through chapter 5.  I was writing flash cards about skin conditions and medical treatments and diagnostic tests. Finally, I had to stop – partially because my back could no longer take the folding chair I was sitting in (even though I was sitting on a pillow). It was shortly after that when the email arrived. It took the edge off a little bit, but I’m looking ahead and worrying about taking a state sponsored test at the end of this. I can’t imagine I’ll be so lucky that it will be open book. I know I should focus on the steps to get there (small, doable goals) instead of jumping straight to the finished product, but I’ve always been this way. I look at the final goal but I rarely make step-by-step goals to get myself there. Then when I get frustrated and feel I’ll never get there, I walk away.

I do the same thing with my writing. I suck at coming up with smaller goals that will lead me to the last page.

Even more than that though, is my habit of taking on too much. Right now I work full-time, I’m in school and I’m trying to write a novel. With a two-hour round trip commute to work. I also have flower beds that need some love, genealogy projects I want to dig into, craft projects in various stage of complete, and a cat who will settle for nothing less than my undivided attention every second of every day as long as it’s not his nap time.

The little brat sleeps while I’m at work.

Did I mention I’m also a perfectionist? My husband suggested maybe the book needs to be put on hold for now. Just take it off the table completely and focus on the job (so we can keep our house) and school (because there is a deadline to complete the course). The perfectionist in me says, No, you can do it – you just need to budget your time more efficiently. And that leads me back to making small, doable goals.



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Confession of a Moody Writer

I learned something new about myself and my writing habits over the last few weeks.

I’m a moody writer. That doesn’t mean drama and sudden mood swings are necessary for me to create my best work. Nope, because that would be too easy. If a little bit of drama was all it took to glue my butt to my writing chair, I could have written my books YEARS ago.

When I’m moody, I don’t write. At all. Nothing. Not even a shopping list. My butt doesn’t even see the writing chair.

And there’s been a lot of mood going around lately.

It’s mostly stress I bring on myself – working full-time and going to school can be a challenge by itself. Add to that my grandpa leaving this world. And my friend’s cousin. And another friend’s dad. I’m also terrified about the state of our country, no matter who wins the upcoming election.  We now have feral kittens living in our backyard and I worry about their fate. I want to save them, but they won’t let us near them. There’s been so much floating around in my head that my characters can’t get a word in edgewise. My brain has curled up in a fetal position in the back of my head and it refuses to get involved in my life.

Even if my butt does hit the writing chair, I’m not able to focus on much more than the view out my window.

It’s a nice view, but still….


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Distractions of Olympic Proportions

I love the Olympics. Not in a stay home from work and watch from morning till night kind of way, but I’ll happily give up my evenings for two solid weeks to watch gymnastics (or figure skating, depending on the time of year).

This morning I watched an interview on Facebook with the Magnificent Seven. I remember like it was yesterday…Shannon Miller, the most decorated U.S. gymnast…Kerry Strug, clinching the title on the vault, wrecked ankle and all. Before 1996 we had a powerhouse in Mary Lou Retton. Since then, I’ve held my breath while Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin worked their way across the balance beam.   I’m excited to watch Gabby Douglas compete again for gold.

I’ve always loved gymnastics. Maybe because I’m such a tall, gangly girl whose entire gymnastic repertoire was a back bend (you know…bending backwards to touch my hands to the ground with my belly button arched to the sky).

Gymnasts seemed to always be petite, but powerful. They seemed fragile but determined. Their strength always amazed me, both in the routines they performed as well as their ability to handle what must have been crazy amounts of pressure.

Certainly the same could be said for many Olympic sports. The sacrifices made by athletes to compete at the top-level of their sport. Having a goal and being in it, heart and soul, putting in the work and then enjoying the glory of reaching your dream and competing against all the other bests in the world. And if you came out the other side on the podium…what a powerful moment. I’ve spent many years living vicariously through our U.S. gymnasts, cheering their success and mourning their losses.

It’s almost time to sit in my living room and share their adventure again.

I don’t follow gymnastics enough to know the ladies on the team this year. I know only that Gabby will return along with Aly Raisman. But by the time the all-around champion is crowned, I’ll feel like I’ve known these women since they were babies. Great Olympic coverage has always let you into their lives and created a sense of family for me. These are “our” athletes. The best the United States has to offer. Our sons and daughters. In a world turned upside down, maybe more than ever, our Olympic athletes make me proud to be an American.

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