Over the Hill

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It’s not what you think. Regardless of my tenured years, and personally qualifying as being over the danged hill, I’m talking about a different hill. Picture an arc, or a mountain. Then imagine the journey. You know, the writing a book journey. I’ve been working on my next novel, INVISIBLE SURVEILLANCE, which is the sequel to POWERLESS CONSENT, for over a year now. I know, I know, far too long.

I feel like I’ve trudged up the hill carrying my sled. Along the journey, I struggled to keep my footing, rubbed out the ache in my shoulders, and was out of commission with a mild case of writer’s frostbite for at least two months. In spite of that, I’ve survived the sagging middle, gleefully filled in all the plot holes, knocked out several record-word-count-days and can proudly say that I can see the finish line.

Now that I’ve caught my breath and got a great grip my sled, I’m ready to slide all the way to the end.

INVISIBLE SURVEILLANCE – The Inspirational/Romantic Suspense continuation of POWERLESS CONSENT.
Insert Hero: Jack Oakes, the CIA agent/loner who’s found his match.
Insert Heroine: Callie Hunter – Invisible Surveillance director who’s finally been rescued.
Insert the unthinkable…Rick Powell is back.

Here’s a sneak peek at page one.

CHAPTER ONE
The Moment
Cambria, California – October 22nd – 10:07 a.m.
Ten seconds before the knife penetrated him, Jack Oakes accepted the fact he was about to die. Being a CIA Agent, he’d had his share of scuffles, but he’d never looked pure evil in the eye.
He yelled hoping to deter the inevitable. The blade puncturing his gut hurt like hell. His shirt blossomed a bright red before his eyes. With every ounce of strength he had, he wrestled with the handcuffs. No doubt his wrists were bloody, too. The sweat dripping from his brow stung his eyes yet managed to steady his senses. He blinked until he had clear sight. Shackled by fear and totally powerless, he peered into the eyes of his assailant. He wanted to kick the SOB but his legs felt like bricks and wouldn’t move. A buzzing sound hummed in his ears and he felt outside of himself. That couldn’t be good.
Pow! Pow!
Jack’s head bounced back and hit the wall at the sound of gun fire. Another surge of pain bit into his stomach as the blade released. His assailant fell back in a whoosh with the knife still clutched in his hand.
“Jack!” Her trembling voice echoed from the doorway.
Although she ran toward him, she appeared to grow farther away. Farther and farther than he could understand.

Coming soon! Say a little prayer that I make my deadline!

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Just For Today

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The day started out like any other – two cups of coffee and too many things to do. I replied to the last few emails that lingered in my inbox for a week. I hit the send/receive button and seven more emails floated in. Crap!  I’m already late for work and have way too much to do! In that moment, I wished…just for today, let my to do’s be done! Huh, just for today. I like it. When you think about it, all we have is today. Yesterday is just a wrinkle on our foreheads and tomorrow is merely a dream.

I let the words settle – just for today. I closed my eyes and let my mind wonder.

Just for today.

Hmmm…Hours? Minutes? Or better yet, moments. Each moment is here, it’s now, but then gone.  How many moments would it take before my to do’s would be done?

Just for today.

What if you had to endure 50 moments of disappointment, frustration, or pain before everything would change? If you knew that number ahead of time, you’d countdown each heartache and focus on the result. Picture it…Only 30 more letdowns and victory is mine! Yippee, 10 more moments of hard work and I’m done! But since no one knows how much they’ll have to endure, heartache isn’t something we can tick off a list. So instead of persevering through the difficulty, we quit – throw in the towel – or totally give up. Or live life stressed for no specific reason.

What if you quit 2 moments too soon? What if the season of change was only 1 moment away?

I can’t even imagine what I’d be doing right now if I’d stopped writing just over a year ago. I hadn’t yet finaled in the Golden Heart, and getting my book published was merely a dream. Wow.

I’d better get back to those emails and finish writing that sequel. And if I think about doing it, just for today, it doesn’t seem so hard.

Just for today…I’ll keep on trying. I love it!

A Puzzled Writer?

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The other day, I was hanging out with some of my writer peeps, when someone proposed the question, “Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?” One by one, everyone in the group claimed their tag and quantified it with an explanation justifying the label. The Plotters bragged about their ability to methodically orchestrate their manuscripts chapter by chapter – scene by scene. The Pantsers sung their song about free creativity and the ability to let their characters lead the way.

Soon the spotlight was on me. At first, I tried to come up with a word that would marry both writing styles, but nothing sounded right. Then it occurred to me that I’m a totally different breed of writer. I like to call myself a puzzler. Yep, you heard me right, a puzzler. I imagine my manuscript as a puzzle and I’m the architect. I can visualize the finished product much like the picture on the box. The thousand pieces inside represent the words and it’s my job to figure out what goes where. I usually start with a chapter outline which reminds me the border end pieces of a puzzle. Wow, this is starting to make sense.

Sometimes I write words, phrases, or sentences in a notebook and try to figure out, line by line, where they fit in my novel. I even keep a pocket sized notebook in my car and jot down sound bites I hear on the radio or catchy mantras splashed across the side of a truck. Just like hunting for where a puzzle pieces belongs, I troll my manuscript to decipher where the words belong. Even though it sounds crazy, it works for me!

It works when the words are flowing which isn’t always the case. Like many, I’m also a seasonal writer. That’s right, seasonal. I drift from hot to cold and don’t have Punxsutawney Phil to warn me when the season will change. So…I write when the writing is good!

Run Hilariously Through This Crazy Life!

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A few months back, I went to visit my son and his family in Georgia. My boisterous seven-year old grandson recruited me to read his bedtime story. I was barely through the first paragraph of Curious George when Logan yawned. An odd squeak snuck out of his mouth. His funny little sound made me giggle. And we all know that giggles are contagious. My little Buddy laughed so hard tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. Curled on the bed, each time I tried to end the laughing and get back to reading, he’d howl even more. It didn’t take long for his all-consuming-merriment to become irresistible. I had to join him. I howled hilariously until my cheeks hurt. It was the best ten minutes I’d spent in years. What a blessing that moment was. And it really got me thinking.
When I was young, uncontrollable laughter was an everyday occurrence. And life just seemed…lighter. What’s changed? Why is my life so much more serious? Maybe adopting a hilarious mindset can ease some of the stress I face every day?

There are so many things in our day-to-day lives that are down right hysterical. I’m chosing to look through a lens of humor and hoping life will take on a sweet and joyful flavor. I think I’ll start with writing. Misplaced commas can be ridiculously funny… such as:
Let’s eat Grandpa!
Let’s eat, Grandpa!
I’m smiling! Looks like I’m off to a great start.

Let me know if you have any good jokes to share!

Oh What a Sweet Memory

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June 28, 2010 was a sad day for me. My dear son returned to Afghanistan after a 15 day leave. Jeremy, his wife Casey, and their sons, Logan and Ryder, filled every day of his two week sabbatical with memorable summer fun. Two sun burned beach days, four fun-filled days at Disney, and three cook-your-favorite dinner nights. But like everything else in life, it came to an end. The airport goodbyes were flooded with tears and heavy hearts, so I heard. All I could think about at the time was Jeremy’s homecoming which was in four short months. The taste of sweet anticipation filled my mind and the memory of Jeremy returning from Iraq two years prior replayed like a movie reel.

Here’s how it all went down in July of 2008. Hopefully my description can do it justice.
We arrived at Hunter Army Base, made it through the main gate security checkpoint and were directed to an airplane hanger in the far northwest quadrant of the base. We parked in the lot along with the several hundred other ecstatic family members welcoming home The Combat Aviation Brigade-Echo Company 1-5.

My first heart flutter came as we marveled over the enormous size of the airplane hanger. It was bigger than big-it was awesome. With three travel-size packs of Kleenex, and six hand-held American Flags, and our ‘Welcome Home’ signs in tow, we entered the huge metal building.
Before settling into the bleachers that flanked the ends of the hanger, we stopped to scope out the Chinook Army Helicopter on display. Logan, who was two at the time, went nuts. Like a mini GI-Joe on steroids. That made me smile.

“Can I have your attention please,” said a voice over the loud speaker. “Would everyone please find a seat?” The five story metal doors at the back of the hanger began to close. Slowly, the mammoth doors inched giving off a loud ominous drone. Not a sound I’d ever heard before. That was heart flutter number two. Everyone scurried to the bleachers.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, husband, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and all family members. In a moment, the hanger doors will reopen. The soldiers of The Combat Aviation Brigade-Echo Company 1-5 will be in formation awaiting a command. After they are officially dismissed from their tour of duty, they will be released to you their loved ones.”

For ten long seconds, one could hear a pin drop. All eyes were fixed on the gigantic doors. The wives in their mini-skirts and bright glittery lipstick, the husbands holding their toddlers, the mothers with tears streaming down their faces, and the fathers with their hands across their hearts.
I held tightly on to my hubby’s hand and wiped the tears of joy from my face. “I love you.” I mouthed the words to my daughter-in-law.

As slowly as they closed, the doors began to open. Lined in perfect formation were 192 soldiers. They all looked the same. Camouflage fatigues, helmets, forty-pound bulletproof vests, and laced up weathered combat boots. An instruction to move came from their commander. All 192 soldiers marched in orchestrated cadence. Such a beautiful sight. A rustle was heard in the crowd as everyone searched for their Kleenex. Heart flutter number three.

An officer approached a microphone perched in front of the seasoned recruits. He spoke to the soldiers with respect and admiration. Acknowledging their unfathomable hard work and flawless dedication. Just before officially releasing them from their tour of duty, the captain led them in reciting the Army Creed. In perfect unison their voices echoed throughout the steel structure. The lyrics included words like honor, duty, respect, truth, and teamwork. The crowd was motionless and profoundly captivated. Next, they sang The Army Song. A strong mixture of altos and tenors bellowed their mantra. There wasn’t a dry eye in the entire building. Heart flutter number four.
“You are officially released to your families. Godspeed,” said the captain.

Through a maze of camouflage, Casey and Logan, little Ryder wasn’t born yet, searched for Jeremy. He found them. There were more hugs and tears than a reunion at a bustling airport. Watching them embrace, heart flutter number five took my breath away. After my son greeted his family, I approached, and cradled my hands around his chin. I peered directly into his eyes. “I missed you so. Welcome home, Son.”
“Thanks, Mom. It’s so good to be back,” Jeremy replied. His smile was brighter than the mid-day sun. I sighed out a breath and I will never forget the feeling as my heart danced with the meaning of life. My soldier was home.

In November of 2010, I had the privilege of welcoming my hero home once again. Oh what a sweet, sweet memory that was, too!

The Woman I Want to Be

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I grew up in a middle class family on the outskirts of Chicago. I knew my parents loved me and loved each other dearly. They encouraged me to dream and believe in myself. With a flair for drama, I often used my hairbrush as a microphone and sang, or performed words from a play, to whoever would listen. When I was nine, my parents bought me an organ and I professed to my mom that one day I’d be a star.  I was bold and confident. In middle school, I decided I wanted to build things, like my big brother. Frank Lloyd Wright was my hero. By the time high school rolled around, I was quite popular and had promising grades. Visions of becoming an architect stirred in my soul. And if that didn’t work, I could always fall back on being a movie star.

Life, however, rarely goes the way we plan.

Being seventeen and pregnant dashed all my dreams. I had to marry a man I didn’t love to do right by my parents and being a mom trumped any thoughts of college. Life soon became everything I needed to do. The next ten years were pummeled by broken relationships, financial struggles, and hard work. I really had no idea what I wanted. I just did what I had to do. I tried to keep a smile etched on my face while deep wounds scarred my heart.

Things settled after awhile and I started searching my soul. That’s when I found The Lord. Ignited, I took a new path. Thankfully, God led me to my soul mate and allowed me to find true love. I then let love be my guide.

Today, the woman I want to be is finding me. She’s woven by every trial and every pain I experienced all those years ago. Once again, I’m bold and confident. The fabric of endurance, patience, and obedience cover me like a shield. I’ve learned to cling to God’s promises instead of being ruled by shattered dreams and ravaged emotions. Healing hasn’t been easy, but standing firm on His truths has cemented my joy. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like with God.

The woman I want to be is who God calls me to be. Today, I’m an author whose ‘hairbrush’ has become my laptop and I get to build stories. Who knew?

There’s No Place Like The Zone!

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Click your heels together three times and say, “there’s no place like The Zone.” If you’re a writer, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Picture it…You’re saddled up to the kitchen table with your laptop. A fast and furious rhythm of keystrokes adds to your momentum. Not even the trail of breadcrumbs from lasts dinner can distract you now. I’d liken the feeling to an out-of-body experience. So engrossed in the scene and what my characters are doing, if someone were to call my name, I couldn’t answer. Not because I didn’t hear them, but because every ounce of my being is enveloped by my story. Whee Whoo! I want to live there.

Then…life calls. Little things like eating, sleeping, and responsibilities pluck you from your coveted moment of bliss. Hours or maybe even days go by before the stars align and you can return to writing. Yet for some unknown reason the words won’t come. Each keystroke is interrupted by the dreaded sound of the back space key. Why, oh why can’t I get back in The Zone? Just like an addict seeking a fix, the mind games begin. You dig the clothes you were wearing last time you were in The Zone out of the hamper and add a splash of perfume to mask the smell. All that does is make you stink, yet the quest continues. You pitch and prod your brain trying to focus on the magic. The result is the same. Still nothing. You even go as far as sprinkling crumbs on the table only to find that the mess drives you nuts.

Ah…The Zone…it can’t be bought, forced, or summoned. But…writing, no matter how you feel, is how you can be ready to receive The Zone when she returns. So, my fellow seekers – write. Write with discipline, conviction, and purpose. Eventually, you’ll get another glimpse of that place that resides somewhere over the rainbow! Keep looking!