With a Heart of Thanksgiving

How am I thankful? Let me count the ways…

For a husband who loves me and loves to cook – and is very good at it.

For my talented, beautiful, witty and brilliant sons who bring so much joy and laughter into our lives.

For my grandparents who raised me and my mother who entrusted me into their care before she died.

For my Godmother who has been there forever and who has been the mother that I’ve needed and wanted all my life.

For my school friends from Cuffee, Cook and Whitney Young.

For Trinity Christian College and my lifelong friends, especially my roomies and suities: Mia, Patti, Wendy, Sheryn, Sherry, Heather and Kimberly.

My bffs: Michelle, Sharee, Karen, Shirley, Daphine & Cherlisa.

For authors ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Victoria Christopher Murray, Neta Jackson, John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark and so many others who have inspired me personally and professionally.

For Mondella Jones, who believed in me.

For my church families: Providence, which gave me my foundation, and Salem, which helps me to grow.

From my cradle to grave friend, Gina.

For my meddlesome and loving brothers and their incredibly beautiful and long-suffering wives.

For my nieces and nephews who make me appreciate youth.

For my cousins who make me laugh.

For my aunts and uncles who taught me what love and commitment are all about.

For Lillie St. Clair, Helen Van Wyck and Walter Owens who gave me an appreciation of music at its best.

For my health and strength. For my mind. For the gift of words.

For being able to see God move in so many ways. For being allowed to serve Him in unexpected and rewarding ways.

For my salvation.

I could go on and on, but I still have to go cook for dinner.

I hope you take the time today and make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Hopefully, you won’t be able to stop unless someone makes you do so.

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NaNoWriMo – Day 3: Write not, want not

I know, technically this is day 4. But I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday.

No, scratch that, I didn’t want to write. No, truthfully, I didn’t feel like writing. I started out having a crappy morning even before I left the house. By the time I got to work, my mind was swirling with thoughts on character. I had a basic premise for the story, but then I started wondering: should I make the male character into a stereotypical ex-con? Should I make one of the women an ex-con? What is said to motivate the characters? What do they want? How do they get it?

I was still in a funk and all thoughts of writing evaporated. I knew I should have tried to write something, but I just couldn’t do it. My inner critic had shut me down.

There are two kinds of writers: planners and seaters. Planners think out their stories. They create character histories, they research locations, they outline their entire book. The “seaters” are what we call fly-by-the-seat writers. They just put pen to paper (or keys to keyboard) and write the story. I’m somewhere in between. I start out as a seater, switch into planner mode, then continue writing until I get the story done. Where I stall out is my tendency to self-edit and criticize my work. I try to find just the right word or phrase. If I’m describing an article of clothing, I have to find a picture and figure out the exact way to describe it.

The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that you have to become a complete seater. You have to free yourself and silence your inner critic. You have to just let the words hit the page in any way they wish to come out, without rhyme or reason. Distractions must fade into the background as your sole focus must be on what you are writing.

So I’m a day behind in my word count. I have a lot to make up in just a couple of days. But my inner critic is silent. For now.

NaNoWriMo Day 2: Double your word count, double your fun!

So I got off to a good start yesterday with my NaNoWriMo project. I started on the train ride home and after 30 minutes, I was already at 1,000+ words. I spent a little while longer at home working on it, finishing up at 1,686. Inspired by the walk from the train to the house, I even came up with a second blog post.

My ride was with my hubby and I wound up missing choir rehearsal. That allowed me to spend a little time helping my son get ready for picture day and time to work on my WIP. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling the WIP, so I was glad to get a call from my good friend Christy of CT-Designs.  It’s been a while since we chatted and we caught each other up on our various projects. Christy is also a creative mind, but her creative strength is in design. She shared with me the ups and downs of owning her own business and I shared with her the ups and downs of being an aspiring author.

One of the best things about the call was Christy’s whole-hearted determination that she would not go back to a 9-5. It inspired me to put fingers to keyboard and butt in chair to keep writing. One of these days I will be leaving the 9-5 corporate life for a life more suited to my passions. Until then, I’ve got to keep hustling to make the rent and fuel my creative juices.

But back to NaNo: I went to the site this morning to update my word count. They said, at this rate, I wouldn’t finish until December 29. Huh? Forget that! I jumped on my NaNo WIP, taking advantage of a slow day. My current word count is 3,422. At this rate, says NaNo, I’ll be done by November 29.

So far the story is flowing smoothly (much better than my current WIP). Hopefully that will continue through this month. That’s assuming that this bug I’m starting to feel doesn’t get me first. Until then, I’ll keep at it.

Question: What drives you to do what you do?

Vote Proposition 0000 – Ban Celebrity Marriage!

I’m on a roll tonight!

I am instituting a new proposal for your consideration: Proposition 0000 – Ban Celebrity Marriage.

Let me explain.

I am not against celebrities who get married. Martin Sheen, Denzel Washington, Paul Newman are all celebrities who have married and stayed married.

Charlie Sheen, Brittney Spears, Jennifer Lopez have all been married, multiple times. And have disposed of their marriages as quickly as they’ve disposed of a red carpet outfit.

Now there’s Kim Kardashian.

Kim “I’m famous because I’m famous” Kardashian has filed for divorce after 72 days – DAYS – of marriage. In her statement, she said, “I did not make this decision lightly…”

LIAR, LIAR – PANTS ON FIRE!!!

She made the decision to divorce lightly because she made the decision to marry lightly. If she really cared about her marriage, she would have spent time getting to know her intended – for more than four months. She spent more time planning her so-called wedding than actually in the marriage. She secured her TV deal, print deal, photo deal and all the requisite hoopla around a celebrity wedding. Only to file for divorce in less time than it takes to get through basic training in the military.

If she cared about her marriage and didn’t make the decision to marry or divorce lightly, she would have gone to pre-marital counseling. She could still enroll in counseling if she so chooses. And, oh yeah, she could have actually talked to her husband about the decision she was about to make.

So, I’m proposing Proposition 0000 – a ban on celebrity marriage. No celebrity should be allowed to get married without having known each other for at least two years. No celebrity is allowed to publish the details of their wedding, sell the rights to the wedding, get a TV deal about their wedding. Weddings are supposed to be sacred and holy. And I know celebrities don’t necessarily subscribe to themes of holiness and sacredness. But even if they don’t, they should care more about their marriage than who gets the photos.

I appreciate Courtney Cox and David Arquette. Though they have separated, they are still trying to work on restoring their relationship. They take their marriage seriously. And though it may end in divorce, at least they tried to work it out.

It’s people like Kim Kardashian that make a mockery of what so many others refuse to take lightly.

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 1

I decided to resurrect my blog, in part because I’ve been told over and over again that writers should write and they should be blogging. In truth, the main reason I let my blog die is because I didn’t know what to say.

I hit a major depression in my writing, completely shutting down for almost a year. I barely read, and never wrote. I don’t want to get into the whys right now, but suffice it to say, I suffered.

When I decided to restart writing, I began reading (books, articles and blogs) and writing (working on my WIP has been fun again). As I was reading one of my favorite blogs by Joel Friedlander, he mentioned NaNoWriMo and why writers should do it at least once.

I tried it a few years ago and quit after 2 days. I hadn’t thought about it again until I read Joel’s post. For some unknown reason, I decided I would try it this year. I signed up. (cue scary music…) Told everyone on FB that I was signing off for the month and doing NaNoWriMo.

Now, it’s November 1, the first day of NaNoWriMo. I have an idea that’s been percolating (thanks to one of my big brothers) and I have the first couple of paragraphs sort of fleshed out. My goal was to work on my WIP on the train, then do my NaNoWriMo during the day at work (usually I’m slow so I have the time) and then work on my WIP this evening at choir rehearsal. Repeat tomorrow (minus rehearsal).

You know that expression, “The best laid plans…”

I slept on the train. Work kept me busy. And though I turned off my wifi on my Mac to avoid distractions, it’s still working on my desktop.

So you can guess what my word count is for today.

But the best thing about today? Though I didn’t get any work done on my WIP or NaNoWriMo piece, I found a reason to resurrect my blog. I have something to write about.

Hope you’ll join my as I continue on this journey of NaNoWriMo and beyond.

 

Post Script: I started my NaNoWriMo project. Word count: 1686. 48,314 to go. Now on to my WIP.

The Legacy of E. Lynn Harris

A week ago today, the literary world was shocked and saddened by the unexpected death of author E. Lynn Harris. He was on the West Coast in the middle of a book tour when he was found dead in his hotel room. In addition to being a best-selling author (10 of his 12 books made the New York Times bestseller list), he was an educator, activist and benefactor. He was also a trailblazer for this generation of African-American authors, particularly AA male authors such as Eric Jerome Dickey and Omar Tyree.

I will confess that I was never a fan of his work and I don’t plan to jump on the bandwagon now that he’s gone. However, I realize that I have learned a three very important lessons from him.

First, you have to work hard to achieve your dreams. Mr. Harris’ first novel was self-published and sold out of the trunk of his car. He chose to write stories close to his heart, regardless of the controversial (at the time) subject matter. His work found readers and eventually a publisher. But he never coasted on his success. He was always working on the next story or promoting the heck out of the one currently on shelves and his readers and fans loved him for it.

Second, when you achieve success, don’t forget those who put you there or want to get there too. As word of his death spread, fans from all over shared stories of how Mr. Harris would contact them personally and talk with them. Writers and authors shared how he would mentor or offer to help spread the word of their books. He went back to his alma mater and taught writing classes. He helped create scholarships for aspiring writers and lended his name to launch organizations and careers. He was an HIV/AIDS activist, doing his part by raising awareness, education and funds for a cure.

The last thing I learned from E. Lynn Harris, I learned because of his death: you have to take care of yourself. Mr. Harris died as a result of heart disease with diabetes being a contributing factor. It’s been reported that a few days before he died, he was ill and passed out, but refused to see a doctor or go to the hospital. Perhaps he was afraid that taking the time to be checked out would lead to an interruption in his tour and disappointing his fans. Perhaps he thought it could wait until he got home. Perhaps.

Would a trip to the hospital have saved his life? Perhaps. If a doctor’s visit would have sidelined him to help him get healthy, perhaps he would still be here.

I know his family, friends and fans would have gladly accepted a temporary disappointment instead of their permanent heartache.

My deepest sympathies to all those who knew and loved him. The lessons of E. Lynn Harris’ life and death will last as long as the words that he wrote.