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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”.

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.

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.”

What in the World is Kate Doing?

Oh, yeah, I’ve been off the grid quite a lot lately.  I have my reasons, and I think they are pretty valid.

I’m a Baby Boomer and my husband and I have toyed with the idea of retiring somewhere different. Our 165-year-old home requires a lot of care and maintenance. As we get older, we won’t be able to give it the justice it deserves.  So, we started researching, traveling and sometimes making lists of the pros and cons of living in different places. We considered spots in the Midwest, living on an island, moving to Ireland and several other possible destinations.

We had a list of what we wanted in our final home and commuIMG_1953nity.  We wanted a newer home to reduce maintenance. A small town with plenty of safe areas for walking, easy access to a grocer, pharmacy, a few restaurants and a golf course that was close to our home. We wanted that small town feel that we love in our tiny village along the Mississippi River with small-town festivals and friendly neighbors.  But we decided after this past winter, we also needed warmth.

We’d lived along the Gulf Coast (Texas and Florida) as well as in Sicily, Italy.  Two years before my hubs retired from the military, we started looking at where we wanted to raise our sons. Growing up in the Midwest, we determined we wanted to return. Now, after twenty-three years in Wisconsin, we think it would be nice to be back in a warmer climate, so we headed to Arizona.

We found a community that meets all of the requirements we determined were important to us.  We are building a new home where I can walk the miles I need for my health and creativity.  We can play golf anytime.  It’s close to a larger community so we don’t have to drive hours for certain services like an airport, for example.

We are fortunate to have this opportunity, and one of the things that I like about the town where we are moving is that they offer a variety of housing options in several different pricing levels.  We will be in a community that values diversity with different age groups, socio-economic levels, cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Isn’t that what America is all about?  We believe so.

Stay tuned as we begin our new adventure.

 

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!

 

Thank You to My Readers!

I want to take the time to thank all of the people who have downloaded my books over the past three months, read my books on Kindle Unlimited and left reviews.  I hope you were entertained by my tales about Clare Thibodeaux and her friends.

I promise you there will be more action, drama, romance, and suspense to come.  Mark your calendars for February 5th and 12th.  I will be offering special deals on books in the Clare Thibodeaux Series on those dates. Watch for more info on my Facebook Author’s Page

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Book reading/signing at local library

I was invited by our village library to do a book reading and signing this past week. Despite the nasty weather earlier in the day, I was pleased to have some brave souls navigate the snowy roadways to attend. I am so blessed to have so much support from so many nice people.

Now, I need to start writing again… TTYL!

Book Review — Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

My local book club selected the novel Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford for January’s meeting. I had two days to read it and let me tell you, I couldn’t put it down.

The story is set in Seattle’s Chinatown area, and the story’s protagonist, Henry, is in his mid-fifties at the story’s beginning.  Henry is passing by an old hotel in what was once the Japanese section of their community. It has been recently purchased for restoration, and the new owner has called a press conference after making an unbelievable discovery. After 40 plus years, she has found the stored belongings of Japanese residents of the area who were taken to internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The news has Henry thinking back to those days when he was eleven years old and struggling with his place in this wartime world where the slant of your eyes and the color of your skin could make you a target.

The author does an insightful job of weaving his WWII tale of growing up in a strict Chinese family. Henry faces conflicts with his father, children at the “white” school and his former classmates at the Chinese school. His life seems dismal, and then he meets Keiko, a fellow scholarship student at the school.

The only problem is that Keiko is Japanese, and his father hates all the Japanese people because of their invasion of China.  Henry’s father makes him wear a button that states “I am Chinese” on it,  Whether it was for his protection so he wouldn’t be labeled as Japanese or because of his father’s hatred for the Japanese people or not, Henry detested wearing it.

The story painted a raw, detailed portrait of life for immigrants in this country; and especially for Japanese-Americans as they were forced to leave everything behind and were taken hundreds of miles away from their homes until after the war ended.  The conditions they lived under at the internment camps is a terrible stain on the history of the United States.

The story jumps back and forth between the 1980s and the 1940s as Henry tries to mend his relationship with his son as he searches for a treasure from his past.

This is a story of families, of different cultures, of generational conflict, of love, of loss and of prejudice.  I would recommend it to readers who like historical fiction, romance, and stories set in the WWII era.

Mom’s Favorite Reads

I’m happy to be a member of this fast growing group, and wanted to introduce to the organization and one of its founders, Hannah Howe.


Hannah Howe writes psychological and historical mysteries. Her books can be found at over 300 outlets worldwide. Her novels have reached number one numerous times on the Amazon charts and her book, Saving Grace, a Victorian mystery was a bestseller in Australia this summer. With all of this activity, Howe found time to co-found the new magazine — Mom’s Favorite Reads.

What is Mom’s Favorite Reads? It’s a community of book lovers which produces a quarterly book catalogue, featuring over 400 books, and a monthly magazine. The magazines, available as eBooks, in print and audiobooks, have topped the Amazon Contemporary Women charts, the Seasonal charts and the Graphic Novel charts in America, Australia, Britain and Canada. Alongside leading independent authors our magazines also feature contributions from high profile mainstream authors. For example, in the new year the magazine will feature exclusive interviews with a Dr Who screenwriter, an expert on Sherlock Holmes and Terry Deary, author of Horrible Histories, one of the most popular series in the history of publishing.

Also, in 2019, the plan is to develop the community to support literacy amongst adults and children. One of the ways we will do this is by offering schools, societies and literacy projects bundles of free books.

If you are an author, you are welcome to join Mom’s Favorite Reads. If you are a reader, please visit our website and check out our video, book catalogue and magazines https://moms-favorite-reads.com

If you would like us to support a literacy project, please email Hannah Howe at momsfavoritereads@outlook.com and we will explore the possibility of supporting your project.

Odd Things About Me

It is those quirky differences which make humans so interesting. Jane Austen had a knack at finding the humorous in her interactions with her neighbors and acquaintances that she later immortalized in print. The outrageous, bizarre and laugh-out-loud hilarious moments are the stuff of writers’ dreams.

I’m an odd duck. Always a bit nerdy, I loved school, reading and history. In elementary school, I read every biography of the founding fathers of the United States. They were my heroes. I loved playing “Landslide” — a board game about U.S. Presidential Elections where you collected Electoral College votes to win the Presidency. How many ten to eleven-year-old girls today would find that game captivating?

I asked for a globe for Christmas one year and on my img_1199 1bedroom wall, I had a poster of the universe. I would force my younger sisters to sit through my rendition of the Catholic mass or would drill them as their teacher using old school books of my mother’s from her youth. (I wonder what happened to them?)

I had a rock collection when I was young and kept it in an empty cardboard egg carton. Way before Indiana Jones had youngsters wanting to be an archeologist, I wanted to explore ancient ruins for artifacts. I also wanted to be a pop singer, Peace Corps volunteer and a nun. I ended up being a nurse, an Army Reserve officer, a bed & breakfast owner, and an indie writer, go figure.

We all have our stories about our youthful fascinations and dreams. They are the very things which mold us into the individuals we are today. What were yours? Did you follow through on your dreams?