A Place in the World

Have you ever felt out of place? Most people have at one time or another. An awkward social situation, a feeling of just not belonging. Can you imagine feeling that way about your entire life? What if everything you ever worked for was suddenly ripped away? What if the pages of your life were no longer already written but were suddenly blank and you had no way to fill them?

My hero in Heartsight was born into a family of Marines. His entire life was geared toward serving in the USMC.  But a tragic incident in Afghanistan robs him of his sight. Not so much call for a wounded warrior, let alone one who can no longer see. This story is 100% fiction, but, like most stories, it imitates real life. War injuries happen.

available March 2011 from astraeapress.com

I can think of no more painful outcome to serving our country than for those who were wounded to be forgotten, to feel that because they may be missing limbs, or not have the ability to walk, or see, or carry out business in the way non-injured people do, they have no productive place in the world. All persons have value and worth, something to contribute to the world. Sometimes it just takes a little push to find our purpose.

If you’re a vet or you know a vet who needs a hand, please reach out. The help is there. If you can offer a hand, please show our vets that you care.

http://www.bnwest.woundedwarriorregiment.org/

http://www.militaryonesource.com/MOS/MarineCorps.aspx?MRole=Family&Branch=MarineCorps&Component=Active

http://www.uso.org/

*****

http://www.astraeapress.com/

Never Give Up

You’ve written the perfect story — it’s an appealing idea and you know the writing is as solid as you can make it. But when you submit it, after weeks of waiting hopefully, you receive a rejection. What should you do? If the editor who rejected you was kind enough to give you reasons for the rejection, along with an offer of resubmission should you work out his/her rejection issues, do you accept that with his/her expertise this editor may know just a little more than you and go to work on the rewrite? After all, if the editor saw fit to tell you in depth just what was missing from the manuscript, and also added that he/she found the premise of the story to be of great interest, even though you are not guaranteed a place should you rework the story, surely you have a better chance of acceptance. If you’re like me, you’ve received your share of rejections and yes, they hurt. But you have to have confidence in your ability to convey an entertaining story. If you get as far as having an editor actively critique your work, you would be foolish to curl up and consider yourself to have no talent.

But part of me wanted to. I spent a lot of energy on that manuscript. I could almost quote it in my sleep. My crit partners probably feel they can quote it in their sleep. So for me, it’s not a matter of thinking the editor doesn’t know what she’s talking about…it’s a case of how long can one writer get stuck in a small town in Wyoming and not go stir crazy?  Well, for this writer, indefinitely. Because I DO believe in this story and I think the editor made great points.

I would be foolish not to bow to her expert critique and rework some of the story to flow more evenly. Ten years ago, I allowed two rejections in a row to influence my decision regarding writing. These two rejections simply said I did not write with enough emotion, and besides they didn’t want stories having to do with “the arts.” At that time, all I could think was that I had put my entire self into those two stories and they had liked neither one. I figured that made me not the writer I thought I was.

For 10 years, I have had stories pushing at me from inside but I have been afraid to put pen to paper, or these days fingers to keyboard, because I allowed two rejections to dictate to my mindset about whether or not I can write.

In 2009, just about Christmas time, I felt the urge to write again. I hit the keyboard running, and I haven’t stopped since. My first published story is actually the third one that I completed since Christmas 2009, and it is only because I fell into a marvelous crit group, and let my skin harden to the “cluck-cluck” remarks when I succumb to my major literary weakness of confusing lay with lie that my writing improved to the point of being noticed. Listening to my crit group and making changes they suggested or brainstorming with them made a huge impact in the quality of my writing.

Now, you may discern that I recently received another rejection letter, based on my first couple of paragraphs. And you would be right. A very good friend of mine, knowing my history, said, Don’t lose heart and especially don’t lose your desire to write. You are WAY too good.”

Now, I am passing on that same advice to anyone who reads this, who has received one too many rejections to feel good. Don’t give up. As Dennis DeYoung of Styx said, “If you’ve got yourself a dream, work hard, believe in yourself, because I know dreams do come true.”

Look for my first release through Astraea Press in March:  Heartsight.

Peace and happy writing!

Coming in March 2011 from Astraea Press

Musically Scoring a Love Story

“Every piece of writing… starts from what I call a grit… a sight or sound, a sentence or happening that does not pass away… but quite inexplicably lodges in the mind.” -Rumer Godden

When I was first considering what came to be known as “The Harlequin Challenge,” I had no idea I would embark on a journey that would make ME grow, not only as a writer but as a person. I wanted to write for the challenge, put forth by Kelsey Card last May (I think), which was to write a Harlequin-length novel by the end of the summer. I sat at my desk after work one night thinking, “I’d do it, but I can’t really think of anything to write.” The next song on my MP3 player (2000 songs, perpetually set to random) was Garth Brooks, from the movie Frequency, titled When You Come Back to Me Again. In the next 4-1/2 minutes something amazing occurred.  I didn’t see the movie playing in my mind. I began to see something fresh, the story of two people who knew each other ONLY over the air waves, and fell in love that way…but for various reasons were lost to one another. When they meet years later, they don’t recognize each other at first, at least not consciously. With that simple change of reels in my brain, that song inspired me to write a story that took me from Los Angeles to Wyoming, through sweet love, to passion, to the uncertainty of losing love all over again. Each time, my writing started to drag, I found myself freshly inspired through another piece of music, nothing I went looking for, but always something that came to me. When I needed a dramatic face-to-face, first-time-up-close meeting between my characters, enter Carrie Underwood’s influence. My main characters were passionate in a fiery way, so no sweet love song was going to do it. As I struggled with writing their love scene, again with my MP3 player set on random, enter Garth Brooks holding my answer again, with Standing Outside the Fire. Because NOTHING about my main characters would ever accept standing on the outside of the fire of life. As the story progressed to my heroine being lost and needing rescue, believe it or not, The Moody Blues held my answer with I Know You’re Out There Somewhere. And when I needed a song to inspire me to write a sweet ending to what became a very powerful story, music again held the key, in the form of Martina McBride’s There You Are.

I truly believe I was inspired to write this story by a Divine hand. I haven’t yet figured out why…maybe it was just for me, to show me that I could, indeed write an 80K word story over a summer and part of the fall. Maybe it was just for my own pleasure. Who knows? I do know that getting this story under my belt gave me confidence to go ahead and write a followup story (yes, that one has a score, too), and then an unrelated story. In the end, the third story, Heartsight is the one that got picked up by a publisher first. And soon I will release the details of my inspiration for that one.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep listening to the music that inspires me. And hopefully, my crit partners won’t mind spinning more straw into gold-plate.

What inspires you?

Seeing the Light

Six Sentence Sunday

From Lifeline Echoes/WIP  by Kay Springsteen

Ryan downshifted again and punched the gas. His mind registered the apparition blocking the road in front of him a bare second before reaction set in. With a curse on his lips, he stood on the brake, sending his car into a slow, sideways skid and stalling the engine.

“Holy God!”

Adrenaline screamed through his veins, skirted along raw nerves as he stared, with equal measures of irritation and astonishment. Washed in the golden blush from the setting sun, the horse reared, angrily striking out at the air between them with menacing hooves, nearly unseating his rider. With a toss of his head, the startled horse reared again, baring his teeth and screaming defiantly in Ryan’s direction.

To see more Six Sentence Sunday entries: http://sixsunday.blogspot.com/

And for a taste of romance, watch for Heartsight, an original story of overcoming physical challenges by Kay Springsteen, scheduled for release in March 2011 by Astraea Press.

Ready, Set, Write!

It’s the blah days of January – too late for Christmas, too early for Valentine’s Day. Unless you’re into snow sports, your need for snow evaporated last month on December 26. But here we go again, with much of the U.S. under snow or about to be.

So, now what to do? You have a couple of choices. Curl up and read a good book, curl up with your significant other, bake bread/cake/cookies/brownies.  Or you can write a steamy romance novel to warm you from the inside out.

In the “olden” days of writing, one had to visit scenes, go to bookstores, haunt libraries. But thankfully, we have this tool literally at our fingertips now, called The Internet. Want to go Crete? One word: Google. You will get enough hits to learn about the culture, find photos of places, people, culture that you can use in your descriptions. You won’t be able to see and taste it, but as a writer your imagination already has you most of the way there anyway.

After you research your setting, think about who you’re going to plop into that setting. You need a hero, a heroine, and an adversary or adversaries. Depending on what your basic plot is going to involve, your adversary can be anything from a dangerous international criminal cartel to the weather that destroys the chalk pictures on the sidewalk.

It’s at this point, I find it helpful to partake in something comforting . . . cocoa, herbal tea, a candy bar, some of that fresh bread you’ve been baking . . . even, if the mood hits a nice glass of wine or a bottle of beer. Hey, the weather just trapped you in your house, you’re about to take a self-driven adventure through the windmills of your mind. Whatever makes the boat float at this point.

Weathering the Weather

Now, some people write with music, so if that’s your thing, you’ll want to make your choices. I tend to create themes for my setting, for different upcoming scenes, and for each major character. So I write with a sound track. Again, whatever your routine calls for. But here’s a challenge. If you normally do NOT write with music, do you really want to hear that wind howling just on the other side of the window? Why not try just a little background music? It can be instrumental — classical or new age. You don’t have to search the archives for obscure R&B or classic rock references. If you have a goth theme or a vampire thing going on, try a little Nightwish. If you’re working on a project in Africa, research African tribal drums. Western/cowboy? Try a little country (the newer stuff works better for me). If you’ve actually gone to Greece or Crete in your story, look up ethnic music from these areas. Hey . . . you’ve just been weathered-in. Why not try something just a tad out of the ordinary for you?

Now, you’re ready to write, and here’s a critical part. Turn off the Face Book. You’ve been cut off from the outside world by the weather, make that cut complete. Take a break from everyone, isolate yourself and really go to the scene you’re about to set.

This is the author’s version of making the best of being weathered-in. Of course, if you have a significant other and would rather do . . . something else . . . that works, too!

But if you’re a writer and the weather has you trapped . . . let your imagination roam the face of the earth from the comfort of your desk chair and see what it brings back to you — ready, set, WRITE!

You’re the Inspiration

What inspires you? What brings about in you a desire to go the extra mile? Perform an act of kindness? What makes you want to be your best? Who or what makes you want to be a better person? For most of us, that answer might include seeing a touching story of overcoming adversity, such as the story of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the “Golden Voice.” The story of Mr. Williams is very similar to the stories of homeless people everywhere–once doing well, falling on hard times for various reasons, and hitting bottom. Some people stay on the bottom, but in the case of Mr. Williams, he began to pull himself back up. One might argue that the reporter who noticed him and his golden voice, and posted a video on the Internet was the real reason Mr. Williams got off the bottom. While undeniably this was the catalyst that assisted Mr. Williams in moving so quickly from bottom to being back on stable ground, it should be noted that no reporter would have noticed Mr. Williams’ voice if Mr. Williams had not set about on his own getting clean from the drugs and the lifestyle that had led to hitting that bottom.

This story was inspirational, not only for the way Mr. Williams’ life was turned around, but for the insight and vision of the reporter who, granted while looking for advances in his career, found and told the story of a man who numbered among this nation’s invisible population.

The story of Mr. Williams made me realize that, just like everyone else, just like you and me, all people who currently number among the homeless have unique stories to tell about their lives. Sadly, when I began to research statistics for homelessness in the United States, I found two things:  (1) The numbers are staggering.  (2) The numbers are under-reported. There is no way to say even to a close degree of accuracy how many numbers of homeless people live in the United States. Not all people without homes make it to shelters. Many never make it to the system for various reasons. A conservative estimate by the National Coalition for the Homeless runs in the millions on any given day. We need to help in any way we can, and many of us do. Personally, I would truly love to see more people like videographer Doral Chenoweth III, the “reporter” with The Columbia Dispatch, whose video of Ted Williams went viral.

The things that inspire me as a writer are the same things that inspire me to want to be do more, go further, be better at life. As a writer, I am always on the lookout for my next inspiring hero or heroine. Often people in the news will pique my interest and then my brain begins the “what-if” process.  What if this happened? (Plot.) What if the person had limited use of his hands? (Characterization.) What obstacles does this person have to overcome? (Conflict.) Where does this person live/where can we find him? (Setting.)

So when I see the story of a videographer helping a homeless man, I let those “what-if” wheels begin to turn. And if I am very lucky, very blessed, what spins out of the straw of my thoughts on life might just turn into gold that provides someone else with a bit of inspiration. Who knows?

Have you walked an extra mile for someone else lately?

Annapolis, MD

Improving My LEF

So I made my resolutions last night and this morning. In past years, I’ve always set goals that I am never quite able to meet. Things like “I’ll clean out the storage room beneath my house…” Yeah, sure. I’ll pay my son to do it…if HE even will go under there. I will paint my bathroom-that one I can do. And I will even paint my bedroom. Oh, but I guess I should finish my utility/laundry room first.

Smell me once a day!

I could do the ever popular losing weight goals, eat healthier, get more exercise. These are the goals I typically fail at. Why set myself up for failure?

So, for personal resolutions:

1.  I will spend more time in Fiction Land, either reading it or writing it, depending on my mood.

2.  I will spend more fun time with Sadie, going to the park, playing little kid games, etc.

3.  I will eat more Dairy Queen. Seriously…last summer went by and I didn’t stop at a DQ even ONCE. So this year…this is my year to hit DQ once a week, on a Sunday…with Sadie.

4.  I will smell the roses in my yard at least once daily when they are in bloom. When they aren’t I will smell some other flower I’ve got out there.

5.  I will play in a mountain stream at least once.

Well, those are my top five. I’ve decided that as far as self-improvement goes, it ain’t going to happen. So instead, I am striving to improve my LEF – that’s Living Enjoyment Factor. Life is too short to go a whole summer without one trip to Dairy Queen!

Peace!