How Chaos Has Stifled My Creativity

It’s been a very long time since I’ve pulled out my laptop to write anything. My surgery was on August 19th. It was tough but manageable for the first few days following surgery. My knee was swollen to twice its size, stiff and painful causing me to move with slow and precise steps. But by the end of the first week, I navigated without the aid of a walker and began using my cane. By the end of week two, I walked without the cane, and by the end of week three, I was discharged from physical therapy.

I wrote twice over those weeks. So much for using rehab time to advance the storyline on my work in progress. When I could, I walked, climbed stairs, and packed boxes. My life became involved in determining where to stack cardboard cubes and judging what should be placed into the same box. My somewhat orderly world with all of its cozy spots morphed into chaos.

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My library  & writing haven, before.

Where would I find a place to sink into a comfy chair, sip on a cup of coffee and write about strong women searching, struggling, and surviving in the fictional landscapes in my head?

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My library, now.

Every room in the house that I’ve lived in for almost twenty-four years has been rendered almost unrecognizable. Is it a wonder that my internal voice has grown silent when I have problems leaving dishes in my sink before I can even begin to sit down and write.

Even my dining room which is used on holidays, when guests visit, and when I videotape or record podcasts, is a cluttered mess with all of my packing supplies,

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The dining room at Thanksgiving.

extra boxes and the like. The rooms where our bed & breakfast guests lounged while they stayed with us have been emptied of any of the grace and peace that embodied those spaces. My compulsion to put things into order wars with the countdown to moving day.

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The dining room, today.

Instead of working through how my protagonist will find purpose, love, and adventure, I focus on my struggles with chaos and my feelings that I will never be able to write again and the nagging insecurity that my contribution to the world of fiction has ended.

Now, back to packing those boxes. The kitchen is next!


The Clare Thibodeaux Series can be found on Amazon.  Watch for Kate’s short story “What Happens in Vegas…” in the Strong Women anthology to be published by NeoLeaf Press. The story features a character from one of her 500-word short story challenges — “Talent Discovered”.

A Glimpse at the ‘Work In Progress’

Hi all! I wanted to give you a glimpse at the first chapter of my current WIP. It’s a story of second chances, love lost and found, and dealing with a new chapter in life.  The story’s protagonist is Libby Crenshaw — a 50-something widow whose life is empty when the story begins… 

Here is a glimpse at Empty Chairs, Empty Promises


Chapter One

I suppose some of my neighbors would call me crazy IMG_1889or at least odd if they watched me standing in subzero temperatures along the Mississippi River. I wasn’t sure how long I had been standing in the snow. I didn’t wear a watch today. Hell, I don’t even remember what day of the week it is. Don’t even ask me the date.

I think I’ve been frozen in this same spot for more than a few minutes. My fingers start to feel numb inside my thick gloves as I stand on the riverbank searching for the small splotches of white among the bare branches along the river. Slapping my hands together does nothing to relieve the effects of the winter temps. My breath surrounds me with crystalline clouds.

For the last twenty years, I’ve watched the bald eagles soaring over the river and roosting in the bare trees. Today they are absent. The other oddity is the frozen river. For the first time, it froze solid without a trace of open water. Would it hold me if I walked out on it? Could I make it across the wide expanse to the other side without falling through the ice and being swept away by the force of the mighty river that flows beneath it?

Something bumps my leg. I look down — for a moment perplexed — at the yellow lab smiling up at me with its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. Mia. That’s her name. She pulls on her leash encouraging me to move. It wasn’t a bad idea, I guess. We would be much warmer inside.

I pull up the collar of my wool coat and adjust the scarf around my neck. Definitely, time to get away from the river and the cold winds blustering through the valley. I wave at the passing vehicles and stop briefly to exchange a few words of greeting with some of my more adventuresome neighbors who brave the cold as I have to walk the dog or get some exercise.

Mia’s pace increases as we near the large white house I’ve called home for the past 25 years. The house I had shared with my husband, Joshua, for almost as many years. Our children are grown and live far away. They call, but it isn’t the same. I open my back door and stomp my boots to get the snow off. I unhook Mia’s harness hanging it, my coat, and scarf on the hooks next to the door. Toeing off my boots, I kick them into the corner and scurry across the icy cold cement floor in my socks eager for the heated interior of my home.

The warmth of the kitchen is comforting on such a cold morning. The radio is tuned to the morning news and fills the still house with the humming drone of the announcers. I find it soothing. Leaving the radio on during the day is a new habit. The house has been too quiet, too empty. The hypnotic tick, tick, tick of the hall clock just reminds me of time passing me by.

My birthday is just around the corner. I’m going to be fifty years old. I never envisioned my life would take this fateful turn. I pictured vacations to exotic locales with my husband at my side. In my dreams, I watched with pride and pleasure as my husband walked our daughter down the aisle. Our future would involve both of us playing with the grandkids. And on days like today, the two of us sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a hot cup of coffee as we planned our day.

Oh, I’ve heard all of the platitudes. Life isn’t fair. You’re young — you’ll meet someone else. You’re lucky you are financially stable. And my favorite, don’t you think it’s time to get past this and get on with your life. I’m sure most of the advice is well meaning. But I will handle my grief in my own way and in my own time.

I fill Mia’s bowl with kibble adding a tablespoon of coconut oil because I read somewhere it was good for her coat. Grabbing a mug from the dish drainer, I fill it with water and pour it into my coffee machine. The new coffee makers are quick and make a decent cup of coffee, but personally, I really miss the sound and smell of coffee percolating. Inserting a packet into the correct slot, I wait for the machine to produce my hot cup of caffeine. My chilly hands welcome the wonderful warmth radiating from the mug.

The kitchen did have a table and 4 chairs by the bay window overlooking the back yard. After Josh died, I was overwhelmed with the thought of sitting at that table alone with three empty chairs. I replaced it with two chaise lounges with a round table placed between them. The second chaise doesn’t cause any discomfort for me. It provides the promise of one of my children visiting. Nathan is in the Navy stationed in Washington state and Carrie moved to New York City to pursue a banking career. They returned home for the funeral, but their work commitments cut their time at home short. I understood. They are adults with their own lives.

Within the toasty security of my kitchen, I look through the help wanted ads in the local paper. Housekeeper. No thanks. I don’t like cleaning my own house much less anyone else’s. Bartender. Not in my skill set. Milker. I try to picture myself up at 4 am every day hooking suction cups to cow teats. The mental imagery makes me giggle. It could be a backup plan.

The radio news changes to easy listening music. I tune the radio to a station that plays classic rock. It’s the beginning of another long day.

After a morning of repetitive tasks, I’m ready for a break. The sound of the doorbell gives me an excuse to cease and desist from my chores. I wipe my hands off on my jeans and shoot a fast glance in the hall mirror as I pass. I look like crap. At least my hair is combed today.

I open the door and a gust of frosty air intrudes into my home. My body shivers at the sudden decrease in temp. Standing on the stoop is a dark-haired woman who looks to be in her early 20’s. I don’t recognize her and wonder if my mind is failing me again.

“Can I help you with something?” At my query, the young woman squares her shoulders and runs her tongue over her dry lips before answering.

“I am looking for Mr. Joshua Crenshaw.” She gazes past me into the house, her eyes searching.

“He doesn’t live here anymore.” It sounds like a half-truth, but I don’t know this woman and my husband’s death is too personal to share with strangers.

The brunette’s eyes widen. “This is the address I was given. Do you know where he lives now?” she asks. I sense a weariness in her voice as well as her appearance.

“Before I tell you anything else about my husband, could you tell me your name and your business with him?” I have an uneasy feeling. Nausea makes my insides churn as my hands grow clammy.

“My name is Amanda Norton. Joshua Crenshaw is my father.” I gasp. The room spins around me. I detect a distant voice asking if I’m okay. My tongue lies heavy in my mouth. The acrid taste of my coffee coming back up in my throat makes me gag. I lean my forehead against the frigid surface of the front door hoping this is a nightmare and I’m still in my bed.

I croak out the words, “My husband is dead.”

Eliciting Emotions from Your Readers

Every writer I’ve ever communicated with over the past few years will tell me that they want people to like what they’ve written. I do as well, but I also want them to feel something beyond “liking” my story.

I want the reader to feel a multitude of emotions when they read my books — fear, sorrow, anger, indignation, love and happiness. In essence, I want them to feel what the main character is feeling at that time. My goal is to have them step into the story become a part of what is happening by playing it out in their minds.

I read somewhere recently that when we listen to a story various areas in our brain are stimulated. If a passage talks about how something feels or sounds, the sensory cortex becomes active. If we are reading about some type of physical activity, our brain’s motor cortex responds. As storytellers, we can affect our readers deeply.

My characters aren’t perfect, and I don’t want them to be. Real people cannot be assigned labels like “good” or “bad”. People are too complex to be deemed one thing or another.  I want my readers to react to the fictional characters inhabiting my story’s world. Whether it’s a negative or positive emotion, I want them to feel something.

Clare Thibodeaux is the main character in my suspense series. Clare can be distant, stubborn, and can make some very bad decisions. She can also be a loyal friend; and at times, she cares about people many readers dislike.  gallery clare seriesClare resists being told what to do, being overprotected or treated like she’s weak. Throughout the series, she struggles with letting someone else help her.  Some of the other characters are overbearing and too protective to the point of being dismissive at times.

Because of these unflattering character traits, some of my readers won’t care for my books. That’s okay, I don’t like every book I read.  No matter what, I have elicited an emotion, and that is what art is all about!

 

Talent Discovered

I originally wrote this short story for a Write In Weekend Challenge for WriteOn Refugees. Recently, Neoleaf Press decided to publish a “Strong Women” anthology for Mom’s Favorite Reads group. I figured this was the opportunity to expand on this particular story. My friend, author Sue A. Hart, had encouraged me to tell readers more about Elle. 


My grandma used to say that ‘everyone is talented, but some people haven’t discovered their talent yet.’  Grandma was a wise woman.  I don’t know if she would be proud of my new-found talent, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

My name is Elle.  My dad was a fan of Elle MacPherson.  What can I say?  It was the 80’s, and my dad was a scumbag who left us years ago.  I was as far from the supermodel type as someone can be.  I’m short, plump and unremarkable.  No one notices me.  This fact helps me as I hone my new talent.

I discovered my new talent quite by mistake.  I was minding my own business walking down the Las Vegas strip towards my hotel.  I was at a conference of greeting card writers.  You know — those little sayings inside of special occasion cards.  In the age of the internet and social media, the greeting card business is looking for innovative opportunities to expand their market.  And that is how I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.

I was sipping on my diet soda running through some ideas for a “Happy Divorce” card, and I heard the squeal of tires.  Turning, I saw a black sedan jump the curb and continue to skid in my direction.

My little stubby legs didn’t carry me very far.  I stood with my mouth hanging open and my diet soda spilling onto the sidewalk awaiting my imminent death.   I squeezed my eyes shut and said a quick prayer.  But death never came.   I cracked open one lid far enough to see the black sedan inches from me.  Prayer does work!  Hallelujah!

What happened next defies any rational explanations.

Two beefy guys sprang from the car; their guns were drawn.  I sidled back hoping they weren’t interested in a greeting card writer.

“Stop right there, toots!”  One of the behemoths rumbled in my direction.  I felt the cool press of steel against my temple.  Sweet Lord!  I’m gonna die!  In Vegas!

I don’t know what came over me, but I decided right then and there that if I were going to die, I would go out fighting.  I stomped on the guy’s foot, slammed into his solar plexus with my bent elbow, and as he leaned forward gasping, I socked him in the nose with my clenched fist.  Blood gushed out of his nose, and the dumbass dropped his gun right where I could grab it.

I didn’t hesitate.  I put a slug into my attacker’s forehead.  His friend was frozen for a second before he charged me.  That second was all I needed to put gangster #2 in my sights.  I hit him in the chest and the forehead.  They call those “kill shots.”

I wiped my prints off the weapon with my shirt, picked up my cup (DNA, you know) and blended into the growing crowd.  Remember, I said no one ever notices me.  It comes in handy when you moonlight as an assassin.

I’m not in the greeting card business any longer.  I’ve found my talent.

 

Talent Discovered

I originally wrote this short story for a Write In Weekend Challenge for WriteOn Refugees. Recently, Neoleaf Press decided to publish a “Strong Women” anthology for Mom’s Favorite Reads group. I figured this was the opportunity to expand on this particular story. My friend, author Sue A. Hart, had encouraged me to tell readers more about Elle. 


My grandma used to say that ‘everyone is talented, but some people haven’t discovered their talent yet.’  Grandma was a wise woman.  I don’t know if she would be proud of my new-found talent, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

My name is Elle.  My dad was a fan of Elle MacPherson.  What can I say?  It was the 80’s, and my dad was a scumbag who left us years ago.  I was as far from the supermodel type as someone can be.  I’m short, plump and unremarkable.  No one notices me.  This fact helps me as I hone my new talent.

I discovered my new talent quite by mistake.  I was minding my own business walking down the Las Vegas strip towards my hotel.  I was at a conference of greeting card writers.  You know — those little sayings inside of special occasion cards.  In the age of the internet and social media, the greeting card business is looking for innovative opportunities to expand their market.  And that is how I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.

I was sipping on my diet soda running through some ideas for a “Happy Divorce” card, and I heard the squeal of tires.  Turning, I saw a black sedan jump the curb and continue to skid in my direction.

My little stubby legs didn’t carry me very far.  I stood with my mouth hanging open and my diet soda spilling onto the sidewalk awaiting my imminent death.   I squeezed my eyes shut and said a quick prayer.  But death never came.   I cracked open one lid far enough to see the black sedan inches from me.  Prayer does work!  Hallelujah!

What happened next defies any rational explanations.

Two beefy guys sprang from the car; their guns were drawn.  I sidled back hoping they weren’t interested in a greeting card writer.

“Stop right there, toots!”  One of the behemoths rumbled in my direction.  I felt the cool press of steel against my temple.  Sweet Lord!  I’m gonna die!  In Vegas!

I don’t know what came over me, but I decided right then and there that if I were going to die, I would go out fighting.  I stomped on the guy’s foot, slammed into his solar plexus with my bent elbow, and as he leaned forward gasping, I socked him in the nose with my clenched fist.  Blood gushed out of his nose, and the dumbass dropped his gun right where I could grab it.

I didn’t hesitate.  I put a slug into my attacker’s forehead.  His friend was frozen for a second before he charged me.  That second was all I needed to put gangster #2 in my sights.  I hit him in the chest and the forehead.  They call those “kill shots.”

I wiped my prints off the weapon with my shirt, picked up my cup (DNA, you know) and blended into the growing crowd.  Remember, I said no one ever notices me.  It comes in handy when you moonlight as an assassin.

I’m not in the greeting card business any longer.  I’ve found my talent.

 

Writing & Recording

My latest blog for the One Million Project is online. Check out the One Million Project’s website and blog about the work they are doing to help raise money for Cancer Research UK and EMMAUS homeless programs.

theonemillionproject

When I was a little girl, oh so many decades ago, my first form of storytelling was just that — sitting with my younger siblings and telling them a story that I made up. Creating little plays that we could perform in for my parents and grandparents. Playing in the yard, I would concoct a scenario of what we were playing that day. Sometimes we were settlers crossing the vast prairies looking for a place to build our cabin; at other times, we might be cruising through space in our spacecraft. (Can you tell I grew up in the sixties on series like Bonanza and Star Trek?)

Originally, I had planned to write a post on one of the One Million Project’s causes, but I decided to write about something new that I and several other writers I know are tackling in addition to self-publishing our work.

My new venture…

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What’s Kate Reading?

This month’s book club selection was The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The book is based on the memories of Lale Sokolov’s time as a prisoner in Auschwitz. It is a story filled with the atrocities witnessed first-hand by Lale, and it is also a love story. Lale met his soulmate in the camp and only knew her by the number he’d tattooed on her arm. He sought her out, and their relationship helped them fight for survival even when life seemed unbearable and death seemed to be a way to peace.

It was a fast read and the insider’s look into the concentration camp was fascinating and horrifying to read. The romance was an important thread throughout the book. I would recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs, historical fiction, WWII stories, and romance novels.

What’s Kate Reading…

I wish I could read more often than I do, but Need to Know by Karen Cleveland was a super quick read because it was sooo good! I love reading thrillers and suspense stories, and this novel was one of the better ones I’ve read in a while.

Cleveland weaves you through the intricacies of being a CIA analyst and having a family while trying to uncover Russian sleeper cells embedded in the US. Things get more complicated when she uncovers evidence that implicates someone close to her.

The rollercoaster ride is only beginning. When I reached the end, I closed the book firmly saying, “Brilliant ending” out loud. I don’t do that every day. I’d give this book 5 stars.

Mom’s Favorite Reads Emagazine for April 2019

# 1 on Amazon for six straight months, Mom’s Favorite Reads is an enjoyable addition to your reading list with interviews with people making news in the publishing industry, short stories, informative articles and much, much more!

theonemillionproject

Mom’s Favorite Reads, a magazine for the modern Mom, #1 on the Amazon charts six months running!

Our April magazine, now available to download FREE.

In this issue…

* An exclusive interview with Sunday Times bestselling author Lesley-Ann Jones

* Easter stories and activities

* Recognising Autism Awareness Month

* The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll

* Challenging your fears

* And so much more

https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2019/04/20/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-april-2019/

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Stories that thrill with a kiss and chill with the promise of danger

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