Monday, May 9, 2016

I'm Not Wonder Woman--And That's Okay

Once upon a time I was Wonder Woman. I was one of those people who could do 8 million things at once and still find time to read a book. I went to school and pulled straight A’s, I had two part time jobs, I had three very active kids that I ran all over the state and sometimes even to other states for soccer games, I kept my house clean--well except for laundry because really, even Wonder Woman knows laundry is a never ending battle--made dinner, scrubbed my toilets every Saturday, blogged regularly, and still had time to write 1500-2000 words a day.

Life was good.

And then one day it wasn’t.

I’d dealt with different forms of chronic aches and pains for years and just figured it was part of life. I felt like I had a fairly high pain threshold so I just downed a few Excedrin with a Dr. Pepper if I needed relief and went on my way. Around January 2014 the pain started to get worse and I found myself tired no matter what I did. Concentrating on one task, let alone my usual twenty at a time, became excruciating. A job that should have taken 10 minutes would span on for hours, I stopped reading anything that I didn’t absolutely have to for work because I’d find myself having to reread things five to six times to even remember what I’d just read, and writing? Forget about it. I couldn’t come up with 10 words a day let alone 2000.

I’d graduated in December of 2012 and was now working full time. I was also still doing a part time editing job, along with kids, husband, house, and all the other jobs a mom has. Throughout Spring and Summer 2014 I kept telling myself that I just needed a vacation. I was certain if I could make it to August when my mom, sister, and I were taking my son and my nephew to Germany, everything would be fine.

Germany was great. I got to sleep in, didn’t have to do anything but eat, shop, explore, and spend time with family. It was completely stress free and wonderful. I still was a little tired and had my bottle of ibuprofen on hand at all times, but I really thought that if I could just relax for a little longer everything would go back to normal.

Two days before I was set to come home (because of work I had to come home a week before everyone else) we went to Berlin. I woke up excited, but with a weird pain in my chest. I popped a couple of pain pills and went on my way. As the day went on, as much as I was enjoying the city, the pain got worse and worse, spreading down my arm, and making it even hard to breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. So of course I did the stupidest thing possible (I was no longer Wonder Woman anymore so I didn’t have to be smart), I didn’t tell anyone how much pain I was in or my rather alarming symptoms, and just went on with the next two days until they dropped me off at the airport and I gave my little boy a huge hug goodbye.

Then I went to the terminal and silently cried--in pain, but also in fear because something was seriously wrong and I was alone in a foreign country and what would happen if it really was a heart attack and we were over the Atlantic and I would never see anyone again and…          

I survived Munich, Reykjavik, and Denver Airports and was still alive when I finally made it home. But I was glad I’d planned one recovery day before I was due back at work. The morning after I got home I went to the doctor. After a few tests he determined that I was not having a heart attack, but was having a severe case of costochondritis--inflammation of the rib cage. I just needed rest, ibuprofen, and time.

Two weeks later when it still felt like someone was probing my chest with a knife blade, and when the fatigue returned with vengeance I was back in the doctor’s office. After several more tests I got the news: Fibromyalgia. The good news the doctor said was that overall I was fairly healthy and should live a long time. The bad news was that I would be in chronic pain and fatigue for the rest of my life.

And so I went through the next year struggling to get out of bed each morning, collapsing when I got home from work, not being able to focus on pretty much anything, and gaining almost 40 pounds because all I could do all day was sit at my desk and make it home to collapse on the couch.

By this time I just knew pain and fatigue were part of my life, and I really had no choice but to deal with it. But around August of 2015, something strange began to happen. I would get up to go to the bathroom during the workday and it felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was walking down the hall, but my head felt as if it was watching me walk and not really there with me. Also I could never stand up without getting extremely dizzy--even to the point of blacking out a few times.

It turns out I had a completely unrelated health problem--extremely low blood pressure (which my mom has so I probably should have been more aware of it, but I was no longer smart, remember?) My fibro was also getting worse, which meant I needed to stop using Dr. Pepper as my wake up fix because sugar was becoming a no no. It also meant no artificial sweeteners--so diet soda was out of the question (which was fine by me because, gross!). My doctor actually recommended a cup of coffee every morning, but absolutely no caffeine after 2pm.

I tried it for a few days--but I am not a coffee lover. I had to gag the stuff down which made me not want to do it, so I went back to my Dr. Pepper fixes just trying to have them not too late at night. I did this because let’s face it, changing your diet is hard, and it wasn’t like I had a deadly disease, so I mean who cared if I had a low quality of life? It was better that than giving up Dr. Pepper and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, right?

I made it through the holiday season with good days and bad. I would quit soda for a week and then need just one, which would completely addict me again. In January I actually quit for a whole month, but allowing myself one for my birthday threw me back into the caffeine mood. Soda was my drug of choice. I always joked, I could give up bread no problem, but Dr. Pepper--no way.

And then I got a new pain.

Turned out I had arthritis in my hip. So that was super fun. Again, not deadly, but my quality of life was just spiraling down down down. I couldn’t go out back and play soccer with the kids. I hated myself in any and all pictures. I could barely muster up the strength to go to my much needed GNO/Writing Group once a week. I just wanted to sleep.

It was then that my friend sent me a TED presentation on achieving your goals. It was exactly what I needed to watch. For some reason, that was the spark that made me want to change. I’d read enough to know that fibro could be managed (a lot better than I was managing it, even if I tried to tell myself that at least I was able to get out of bed most days--Sundays became my actual day of rest, sleeping pretty much all day to recover from the week.

It was time to start reaching my goals. To get my life back. I decided of all the lifestyle plans I could choose, Primal made the most sense to me. So, a little over two weeks ago I took the plunge and cut all processed foods, soda, added sugars, and grains from my diet. I eat healthy fats, lean meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. In two weeks I lost 10 pounds and 9 inches. That has been an added bonus. But the real benefit has been that I have gone from a full dose of pain meds daily, to only have ibuprofen once in the last two weeks. (Because once the fibro pain stopped, I realized that I had tennis (mouse) elbow.) But even that is survivable.

Point is, I’m loving the way I’m feeling, and I want to keep it up. So I am going to blog again--sometimes about my fibro journey, sometimes about editing/writing, and sometimes about my accomplishments, because after a year and a half of feeling like I had no life, I have one back--and I want to keep it. The doctor said I would live a long time--I plan to do it in comfort. I'm not Wonder Woman anymore, and that is okay. I just plan on being a pain free me for as long as I possibly can.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Starting Over

It is never fun to start from the beginning when you thought you were finished with something. But sometimes it is necessary. That is where I am right now. I finished a full draft of my novel Room for Two last year, but there were a few major problems in the plot and it turns out that editing just wasn't cutting it. So I broke down and finally did a full chapter by chapter outline.

And here I am. Staring at a blank file. Ready to rewrite this novel from scratch. 

It is a little nerve wracking. I am, however, looking forward to the challenge. A second write is always refreshing in the fact that I know my characters so much better than I did the first time through. It is amazing how much easier Elle's voice shines through. It is also terrifying because I can't help but think: Is this really the last time I am going to have to rewrite this book?

This is the second time I have chosen to rewrite an entire book from scratch. I claim it is because I am a discovery writer, and in some ways I am, but after outlining this time around I finally see the benefits of nailing down some key points before you start writing with just an idea in mind. Still you gotta do what works for you.

So how about it? Are you an outliner or a write by the seat of your pants type? Whatever gets those words down on paper--best of luck!

Write On!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Throw Back Thursday

Things have been a little busy here in Berlinland, but I have not forgotten my blog. Since Throwback Thursday is such a hit on FaceBook I thought I'd give it a try and post an old article I wrote for Eschler Editing. If you like it you can go see more great articles here.

I especially love that this talks about how Caroline should end up with Klaus. Funny how time can change everything. She should totally get together with Stefan! (I'm like 5 episodes behind this season, so if she does--don't spoil it for me!)

Team, Who Cares?

Love Triangles in YA Fiction

by Sabine Berlin
Bella had her Edward … and Jacob? Katniss had her Peeta … and Gale? Elana had her Stefan … and Damon? Love triangles are everywhere in YA fiction, but I’ve recently seen tweets and comments that they are done. I’m not sure I completely agree with that. Teenage girls love a good love triangle. They like picking a team and arguing it with their friends at lunch, over Facebook, on the way to soccer practice. Unfortunately, teenage girls are not the ones who will be publishing your book. Agents and editors are tired of “the same old girl can choose between two hot, perfect guys and what will she do?” story. So where does that leave you? Before you cross out one of your characters to avoid a love triangle, take a step back and see what works—and what doesn’t.

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t let your protagonist be a tease. Yes, there might be more than one guy who’s right for her. But don’t have her kissing boy A in one scene and then kissing boy B in the next. All this does is make us lose respect for the main character. So she has a crush on two guys. So she needs to spend time with each of them to sort out her feelings. Fine. But there are ways of realizing which is the right guy that don’t involve playing back-to-back games of tonsil hockey.
  2. Don’t let her fall for the bad boy just because he’s hot. There isn’t a whole lot better than a hot bad boy. But that doesn’t mean your character should be with a bad boy, no matter how much you want her to. With that being said, if you give your bad boy a great story line, all of a sudden he isn’t just hot—he’s misunderstood. So if you’re determined that your girl needs to fall for the bad biker boy because he’s just too beautiful for words, then at least give him a personality to match.
  3. Don’t make it too easy to predict who she’ll be with. Why is it that there’s always a great guy who loves her until super-hot (insert the paranormal creature of your desire here) boy comes along and sweeps her off her feet? And why is it that even though he’s a cocky pain in the neck, he’s so super-hot that of course she’ll pick him? Yeah, don’t do that.
  4. Don’t make the plot of the book be about a love triangle. Make sure your book has real conflict in it that isn’t just about who the girl will pick. Give us a plot. Give us real conflict. And then if you can use that conflict to further the intensity of your love triangle, great—but don’t use your love triangle to further the intensity of your plot.

The Do’s

  1. Do give your guys decent backstories. If you’re going to have your girl be wishy-washy in trying to decide who to love, make sure that there’s a compelling reason for her to love each guy beyond the fact that one or both of them is super-hot. I can’t think of a single Pride and Prejudice adaptation where I started watching and thought Mr. Darcy was hot, but by the end of each one I am completely smitten—and not just because of the accent! We love Mr. Darcy because he isn’t just pretty and rich. He is human. He makes mistakes, he is proud, he is a little bit of a snob, but in the end he has reasons for why he acts the way he does. Mr. Darcy has personality.
  2. Do understand the difference between being in love and being in attraction. Attraction in this case goes even deeper than looks. Your MC (main character) can find herself attracted to more than one guy. Love requires sacrifice; it requires putting the other person ahead of you no matter the cost. Love isn’t romantic getaways and moonlit walks on the beach; it is soul searching, heart giving, for better or worse, never ending. Your teen MC might not know that at the start, but by the end of the book she’d better have it figured out.
  3. Do let Guy B find his own set of happiness. If you are going to have a love triangle where two guys are both perfect, the least you can do is make sure they both are happy. Sure, there are other ways you can deal with Guy B. You can kill him off, turn him into a jerk, or worse, turn him into an evil jerk. But if you’re going to spend the series building up both guys, then why not let them both be alive and well at the end?
  4. Do let your guys respect one another on some level. Love triangles where the guys hate each other are too cliché. If your MC really respects both guys and they really hate each other, doesn’t that tip her off that one or both of them are really jerks? In that case, she shouldn’t be with either of them. But what if they respect each other—maybe are even friends? All of a sudden the reader isn’t certain which way she wants it to go.
Good, unique love triangles aren’t going anywhere—not any time soon—and that’s fine with me. I love debating every week whether Elena should be with Damon or Stefan. (We all know Caroline should be with Klaus, so there’s really no love triangle there.) If you’re going to write a love triangle, be unique, make us care, and give us a story that would still be completely worth reading—even if there was no love triangle.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

This is the third and final book in the Anna and the French Kiss series. The main characters are Isla and Josh who were both featured in the first book.

Isla and Josh have a lot in common. They both attend The American School in Paris, they both are New Yorkers, they both love comics, and it turns out they both have had a secret crush on each other for the past four years. Unfortunately, Josh has been in a relationship for most of that time and so Isla has had to admire from afar, but when she sees him sitting inside Kismet over summer vacation, finally girlfriendless, she figures this is her chance--or actually the pain meds from having her wisdom teeth pulled make her loopy enough to plop down at his table and strike up a conversation.

And so begins a whirlwind romance that takes us from New York to Paris to Barcelona and back.

I liked this book, but not as much as I liked the other two. One thing Stephanie Perkins is awesome at is description. I could totally picture Cafe Kismet in New York, the treehouse in Paris, and the steets of Barcelona--and I want to go to each of those places now!

The biggest downfall for this book was that there really wasn't much of a plot. Yes, it is a romance and we get that, but the other two books felt like they had real stories, and this one didn't. I liked Josh, but there wasn't nearly enough of him. And yes, this is Isla's story, but to be honest, I didn't really care for her. Not the way I found myself rooting for Anna and Lola in the previous books. When the book ended I really had no idea what Josh saw in her.

Still the other two are must reads, so if you are like me and have to finish the trilogy you will probably read this one and just know while it isn't all that,
it isn't all bad. Hey, it is definitely better than Mockingjay was so at least you won't want to be hitting your head on a brick wall when you finish it!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Long and Short of It!

Is this the year you are looking to write that short story, novella, or novel? I am usually too long winded to get out a short story. In fact, I have only written a few short stories and one novella and they were for college classes. But this year that is going to change. The shorts are making a comeback and if you want to be part of it then I have a new article up on the Eschler Site that talks about short stories and novellas in the marketplace. It also links to a few really great stories to read so make sure to head on over and check it out.

Write On!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Healthy 2015!

Well 2014 came and went. My year pretty much consisted of work, kids, and soccer. A few highlights were getting to teach an editing panel at Write Here in Ephraim, two amazing Critiki Retreatis, taking my 9 year old to Germany, and Thanksgiving in San Diego with the family. The not so great part of the year started about March and finally had its blowup in September with a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

I've dealt with chronic pain for a few years now so that was really no big deal. Over the past few years I have been diagnosed with IBS, Restless Leg Syndrome, Chostocondritis, and just general aches and pains with no good reason for them. In March I added Chronic Fatigue to that list. It increased slowly, not to the point that I was too worried until August. By that time I also got hit with what is called brain fog. I couldn't concentrate on anything and was tired all the time. I figured I was just overworked and was super excited to go spend nine days in Germany with my little bear.

The trip started out great. We flew into Munich (by way of Iceland!) and spent a day there, saw Dinkelsbuhl and Rottenburg, then on to Lubben to visit family. We went to Berlin (of course) and shopped, and I visited a bunch of places that I plan to use in the new book I am outlining, which right now just has a working title of Germany With Love (yes, I listen to Alphaville way too much, it was almost going to be titled Summer in Berlin!). The night we got back to Lubben from a full day in Berlin I had this throbbing pain in my chest. Again, I wrote it off as a lot of walking and carrying shopping bags.

The pain persisted the last three days of my trip and the flight home about killed me (I thought it was because my bags were overstuffed with chocolate). The day after I got home I woke up and was sure I was having a heart attack. A trip to the doctors and several blood tests and EKGs later, they said it was just an extreme case of Chostocondritis (inflamed rib cage) and gave me some pain pills. Two weeks later the pain was not getting better, the brain fog came back in full swing, and I just knew I wasn't feeling right. So I got in with my actual doctor and we had a good long talk. He asked a lot of questions, looked over my medical history, and then started poking me in the strangest places. 

These turned out to be Fibromyalgia pressure points, and man did it feel like I was being tortured when he barely touched them. So I got a diagnosis, got a rude awakening that I could no longer keep going at the neck breaking pace I was accustomed to, and got on some meds to help things out. That was in September. Since then I have learned a lot. I got to talk to an old friend from high school who suffers from this and learned a ton from her. (Thanks Jeanette). I have slowly started to overcome my brain fog and fatigue. I have realized that I get every bug there is and am working to build up my immune system to combat that. 

2015 is going to be the year I take my health back. I want to write, I want to edit, I want to read, but none of those are possible if I can't even get out of bed. So those will be my rewards instead of my goals. The more I regain my health with diet, exercise, and knowledge, the more I will be able to do the things I love.

So yeah, I plan to finish Room for Two, I plan to outline and draft Germany with Love, I hope to work on expanding The King's Brother--and I want to do all of these things because that will mean I am healthy enough to do them. 

Here is to a Healthy 2015--for me and for you. I wish you the best and hope to be on here a lot more with writing updates, editing tips, and so much more!

Write On!


Friday, February 14, 2014

What’s Your Excuse?

I love to write. I really do. When I am doing it I’m happier. So what happened this week? I could blame it on writer’s block--except last week my writing group gave me some brilliant ideas so that is no good at least until this scene is written. I could blame it on not having time, which would be a lot more realistic. I mean this is my typical day: wake up, make lunches, get the kids going, get myself ready for the day, take kids to school, go to work, lunch is spent going to my class, or running errands, work, pick up kids or take kids to soccer, get home around 7, make dinner, chores, help kids with their homework, get kids to bed, spend some time with my husband, edit, go to sleep around midnight. There, it is therapeutic to write it down (because as you know, I love to write). I am busy, really busy. It's a valid excuse--except it isn't really because lots of writers are busy, and they still write.

And so the question no longer is what’s my excuse? I could come up with those all day long. The question needs to be: How much do you want this? Do I WANT to write? Yes. Do I HATE paying the fee for not writing? Yes. (I owe 2$ to my writer’s group for this week, ouch!) Do I LOVE my story? Yes. Can I get up 30 minutes earlier? Err...okay there it is. This is my excuse. I like my sleep. I like my 8 hours. I want my 8 hours. And so a new question comes into play. Which do I want more? I wish I could say I was willing to set the alarm for 30 minutes earlier each day. Maybe someday I will.

Until that day--15 minutes earlier actually sounds doable. If you think you could wake up 15 minutes earlier to get some writing into your busy day, join me--not really I’ll be in my PJ’s and I won’t have brushed my teeth yet!--but in spirit. It's always easier to do something if you have a friend. So if you need that extra push, know that you are not alone. And hey, when you are ready for that 30 minute push--go ahead and shove me! And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Write On!