Writing and Reading Lessons

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series.

“Nobody needs me to sing MacDonald’s praises, but that yard of books did more for me than provide excellent entertainment. For some reason the McGee books spoke to me like textbooks. I felt I could see what MacDonald was doing, and why, and how, as if I could see beneath the skin.” ~ Lee Child

“Dickens didn’t write what people wanted. Dickens wanted what people wanted.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” ~ Stephen Pressfield

I’ve gone back to working on my sequel novel to The Space Between Time, and because of that and the political climate, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about my characters Jenna and Morgan and their relationships with their husbands. I’ve known for quite some time that Morgan becomes a Suffragist, and Jenna has a tangle with the conservative right who want to keep women in their place. But when I first started working on that manuscript in 2014 I felt a little bit stuck. Things were going along pretty smoothly at the time but events have turned to give me more fodder for my imagination. Because of that I’ve been thinking about how Jack and Seth will react to their wives becoming activists. I want to get into their heads to see what interesting things their struggles will bring to the story. This book may turn out to be more about how men and women relate to each other than Jenna and Morgan’s involvement in the women’s movements of their respective time periods.

As I’ve no doubt written before, my mind is rarely quiet. I’m always storing away bits of information I pick up from the books I read, current events, the movies and TV shows I watch, and conversations with friends and family.

Every once in a while all the disparate things I’ve been thinking or observing come to a conjunction and I get a big AHA. I’ve recently had one of those ahas when I read an article about “The Awesome Omega Male.” I don’t want to go into detail about how my thinking came together, however, I will say that I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about the different kinds of male characters in movies and books.

My husband and I had been watching many action movies lately. After reading the above mentioned article, I realized that male oriented action movies come in two basic categories. There are the alpha male movies with the characters who are egotistical and on a rampage of revenge. It could be as trivial a reason as somebody messed with their stuff, or crossed them in some way. I don’t like those kind. They don’t seem to have a point.

In the other category there are characters who are alienated from society, but they have more omega male qualities. These characters are introverted and like it. They don’t go seeking trouble but if it comes, they have the skills to take out the bad guys. They can be empathetic and kind, but for the most part they like working on their own. They don’t have much of an ego because they know their own strengths and weaknesses and how use both to accomplish their goals. In this last category of movies, the men use violence only when necessary to protect those who really need it.

One thing I loved about the article on omega men was it defined the type of men I grew up knowing. I knew that I could go to my father with a problem and he’d listen without judgment. I could rely on him to protect me if I needed it, but he also encouraged me to stand up for myself. So that’s the kind of male characters I created for The Space Between Time. When my writer friend told me that she thought my male characters were too soft, I told her I wrote the kind of men I knew, yet I did consider making them tougher. However I just couldn’t do it. I liked the men I’d created, and I didn’t want to change them. The article on omega men gave me the justification for the type of male characters I had written.

As Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series says, “Character is king.” He’s right. We remember characters over plot, but the plot is what the characters swim in to learn their lessons, to grow and change, and to accomplish their goals. That means that we must create lots of challenges for our characters to deal with, which in turn helps us show who our characters are.

Child also said in the introduction to the first Jack Reacher book, that he likes characters who are winners but alienated in some way. He likes characters who are confident and who can defeat their enemies. We have traditionally thought that the winners are the alpha males, the strongest, loudest, most domineering egotistical men. But the world is changing and so are men. We need winners who fight for all of us, not just to make themselves look good.

As I’ve been thinking about the omega male model, I’ve been comparing it to the female psychological models. According to an article I read by Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., and Janet L. Surrey, Ph.D., women’s primary motivating drive is toward connection with others. Alpha males think that’s a weakness but we’re discovering it’s a huge strength. That’s the one omega man trait that the above movie characters struggle with. Many of them have had a significant close relationship, or they would like to have a connection with someone but for now, they’re loners.

Since reading, as the Lee Child quote above says, is like taking a writing seminar, I’m reading some Jack Reacher and other books with strong male characters. I want to get a different perspective on men so I can use this information to flesh out Jack and Seth and the other male characters in my book. I want them to be distinct from each other and believable, but most of them will continue to be omega males.

I’m discovering that reading really is a fantastic way to become a better writer.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

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Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Mother of Invention

Apollo Launch

“The Cold War did a lot for us. Just think of it, we went to the Moon and back because we wanted to win the “Space Race.” ~ Aaron Sneary

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.” ~ Harry Lime in The Third Man

A few weeks ago we had dinner with a friend who is going through huge life changes. During our discussion, he pointed out that the Cold War helped us with a great many technological advances. My husband and I agreed with him. It seems to be our way for necessity to be the mother of invention.

Last week I used some quotes from Gary Zukav’s book The Seat of the Soul, to make my point that the human race is evolving. Sometimes we need to take a look back to discover where we are going. Near the end of his book, Gary Zukav points out that at some point near the beginning of our existence, we five-sensory human beings chose “to learn through fear and doubt instead of through wisdom.” Yet the point he is making with his book is that we now have a chance to choose a new way to learn and evolve.

Here we are at this crucial time in human history, not just in this country, but all over the planet. What will we invent? How will we grow? Will we choose to set aside our petty squabbles and begin to work together? I hope we really do move away from inventing ever more complex technology, and instead make deeper connections with each other and with who we really are.

Last week I also referenced an article on the site, Prepare For Change that gave evidence that humanity is waking up because the frequency of the earth has risen drastically in the last few months and years. If you didn’t read my post, just know that the frequency of the planet is linked to human brainwave activity. Maybe we’re finally using parts of our brains that have been dormant for so long.

If you look back at history, it takes a lot to shake us up enough to make us adopt major changes in the way we think, in the way we treat each other, and in our societies. Usually most of us fight that change with everything we’ve got. It doesn’t seem to be that way this time. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that the number of people trying to hold on to the old ways of being and doing are relatively small. Unfortunately, at the moment they also happen to be those in power positions, at least in this country. But the flow of history has changed. The old ways no longer work. We can’t abuse the environment, or people and assume the planet or people will lie down and take it. This is illustrated by the multitude of demonstrations, calls, emails, and snail mail being sent to our elected officials. It’s also reflected in our art.

I think I can speak for other artists when I say that the work we create is our attempt to understand, and maybe even define what it means to be a human being. And some artists of late have attempted to point out that humanity is standing on the precipice. We can either evolve or die. The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Matrix series, and Arrival are just a few of the movies that use human evolution as themes. There are also other art forms that do that same thing, but I don’t need to list them all here.

Arrival is particularly interesting because it advocates cooperation as a way for the human race to save itself so that millennia in the future humans can help save the alien race that has arrived. I’m all for using more cooperation probably because that was a major lesson I learned from my involvement in theatre. If the director, producer, actors, designers and crew don’t work together, the production falls apart. It’s like that for companies, sports teams, educational classrooms, families, and so many other life situations

In Arrival, the key to human evolution has to do with changing the way we think by learning the language of the aliens who have come to earth. I loved the idea that the language we speak causes us to think in specific ways and one way to change the way you think is to learn a new language. So, maybe we need to require that all students learn one language other than English by taking six or eight years of the language they choose. Wouldn’t that be great, to have lots of different language offerings for students. I for one am sad that I attended a series of small towns with scant foreign, (I don’t like that word) language offerings. I wanted to learn French, but when we moved to a new school, they only offered Spanish and German. I wish now living so close to the Mexican border that I had taken Spanish. Instead I took one year of German. Not enough to learn the language properly.

What we need is one universal language that everyone on the planet learns, like everyone on the planet eventually learns in the movie Arrival. I think it would be great if it was a completely new language not spoken by anyone on the planet at this time. Maybe some linguist will come up with such a language, or the one that they created for the movie could be developed further and we could use it. I’d learn it. What do you think?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Evolution

Great Buddha, Kamakura, Japan

“The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life.” ~ Gary Zukav

“Only choices made in love are compassionate. There are no exceptions. Do you have the courage to act with an empowered heart without attachment to the outcome? If not, you have no ability to give or experience compassion. That is the shocking truth.” ~ Gary Zukav

The Sunday morning ritual in our house is to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. Last Sunday there was a segment on Kellyanne Conway. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch but I’m glad I did.

My first impressions were that her life has changed in ways she had not anticipated. That she gets attacked, like lots of public people do, for things that don’t matter like what she’s wearing. I don’t agree with her politics, but seeing that interview, which I admit is the first time I’ve seen her talk, made me feel sorry for her. She seems afraid and out of her depth. But what she said about being hounded for everything she does is a reflection of our hunger for “the dirt” on people. That’s not fair no matter who is in the public eye. I think we judge others when we feel out of balance and helpless. We think it’s a way we can control the outside world.

Watching the interview caused me to do a great deal of thinking about the discourse among the various political factions in this country. I’ve struggled since the election with the best way to help the evolution of our country, culture and myself. And for some reason seeing this woman trying to express herself clearly during the interview, helped me see that the great divide has more to do with our evolution as a species, and not for any other reason. And what does the evolution have to do with politics?

Not long ago I found a link on Facebook to an interesting article by Edward Morgan. It was on the site Prepare For Change about scientific evidence that the human race is waking up. The earth vibrates, as does every living thing on the planet. These vibrations are connected and have an effect on all the others. The very first sentences of the article states, “On 1/31/17, for the first time in recorded history, the Schumann Resonance has reached frequencies of 36+. This is a big deal. In 2014, it was considered anomalous for the frequency to have risen from it’s usual 7.83 frequency to somewhere in the 15-25 levels.” The article goes on to say that the spike in the Schumann Resonance is not returning to it’s usual 7.83 Hz. Why is this significant? Because, “These emerging resonances are naturally correlated to human brainwave activity.”

It seems to me that if the earth’s frequency has been raised by the elevation in human brainwave activity, then perhaps there are people who feel the change and are deeply frightened by this unseen vibration that they sense but can not define.

Years ago, in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, when I was going through a significant spiritual upheaval, I read the book The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. It was not only eye opening, but comforting as well. In it Gary Zukav says, “We are evolving from five-sensory humans into multi-sensory humans. … The perceptions of a multi sensory human extend beyond physical reality to the larger dynamical systems of which our physical reality is part. The multisensory human is able to receive, and to appreciate, the role that our physical reality plays in a larger picture of evolution, and the dynamics by which our physical reality is created and sustained. This realm is invisible to the five-sensory human.” pg. 27.

We’re struggling all over the world with what it means to be human and whether to continue on in the same old patterns, or to embrace new ways of being. The political climate has forced us to take a good look at ourselves and examine what we’ve created. If the article published by Prepare For Change is right, most of us are choosing to evolve and become multi-sensory. If that’s true, then we have to show compassion to those who are not yet ready to evolve.

I have to say that I have struggled a great deal about how to do that. We can’t let the people who are asleep run the world. That is proving to be counter productive. So, I have considered marching. I do sign petitions and send massages to my elected officials. But for some reason the words resist and protest seem wrong to me.

A local friend of mine posted her thoughts on this issue in a very long essay. She may have borrowed it from someone else, but the gist of it was that we should use the word persist instead of resist. I loved that because as a writer, I’m a big fan of using words carefully. They can be like daggers, or they can heal. We can be like the drops of water that eventually split the rock in two through persistent dripping. So, to help humanity continue to evolve, I will persist in my own awakening, in being kind and compassionate, in listening, in working to help others become successful. I will persist in urging our elected officials to think of every one of their constituents instead of lining the pockets of the wealthy and in turn getting rich themselves. But most of all, I will trust that even though it looks like everything is falling apart, it is really falling together. Sometimes you have to tear down the old to reconfigure it into something new.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Perceptions and Filters

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” ~ Viola Davis

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you.” ~ Deepak Chopra

One thing I’ve learned is that we each see the world from our unique perspective and often, because of our personal filters, what we think is true, isn’t true at all.

I first began to consider this through someone else’s story. This woman is a kind of mentor figure to me and she told me of an incident with one of her children. They were reflecting on some event when he was young and she said to him, “And do you remember the love?” to which he replied, “No, what I remember is the condemnation.” This was, of course, a shock to her.

As she and I talked I understood that no matter what happens to us, we interpret the events through the filters of the way we feel about ourselves, and through our responses or reactions to what has happened to us in the past. My friend taught me to take a step back when I was in conflict with someone else. I had to take a breath and ask myself, through what lenses am I seeing this situation? Is my perspective affected by my reaction to past events? Asking those kinds of questions is a vitally important communication tool.

With that in mind, here is another short section of The Space Between Time. In this scene, Jenna and her new friend Jack, have gone to a barbecue with some of her high school friends. Here Jenna finds that maybe she had been wrong about her mother’s reasons for being distant. Perhaps her mother did love her and one of the ways she showed that was to support Jenna’s school activities. There is more to that backstory, but you get the idea.

Let me know what you think, and don’t be afraid to point out any errors, or improvements that I could make.

 

During dinner, Jenna was surprised when the conversation turned to her mother.

“Remember the sleep overs your mom let us have?” Matt said.

Jenna crinkled her brow. “Sleep overs?” She had no idea what Matt was talking about.

“Well that’s what we called them. You remember, when we had a deadline for the paper. Sometimes Mr. Stevens would have to go home to be with the kids because his wife had the night shift at the hospital. When that happened, we’d go to your house to finish the mockups.”

Gina chimed in, “Those were fun nights. All our parents knew if we were at your house, we were okay. And your mom was great bringing us snacks and making suggestions. She would stay up all night with us, then feed us breakfast before sending us home to get ready for school.”

Jenna was stunned. She didn’t remember those times at all.

Fred said, “You had the cool mom. We loved hanging out at your house. It’s sad she’s not here to see you become a writer. I think she would have loved that.”

“Yeah, I miss her,” was all Jenna could choke out. I had the cool mom? Why had she blocked out those memories? The swirling telescoping feeling she had the day she stood on her mother’s front porch after the funeral came back. Guilt engulfed her. I have blamed you for my unhappiness all these years. She couldn’t wait to get home to her journal to process her tumultuous emotions.

 

I wanted to include this little scene in my book because I, like many of us, blamed my parents for things that happened in my childhood. But, as children, we never know what our parent’s are dealing with. We don’t know their whole story. We forget that they have challenges and emotional baggage too. Most of them are doing the very best they can. I wanted to show that Jenna was finally growing up and able to understand her mother a little better just as I did my parents.

By the way, I had the “cool parents,” and I loved that.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Dilemma

Confused Reader

Confused Reader

“I understand why creative people like dark, but American audiences don’t like dark. They like story. They do not respond to nervous breakdowns and unhappy episodes that lead nowhere. They like their characters to be a part of the action. They like strength, not weakness, a chance to work out any dilemma.” ~ Leslie Moonves

“Build your reputation by helping other people build theirs.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

“By helping others, you will learn to help yourself.” ~ And San Suu Kyi

I love reading. For me it’s a lesson in writing. I learn about writing from the great books as well as the not so great ones.

Recently I’ve read two books with great stories, but with not such great writing. I’ve been thinking about sending messages to these writers to point out things that bothered me about their books. But here is my dilemma. The books are already published, and I’m a new writer, so do I have the right to critique their work?

I don’t know these people personally. One has written many books, while the book I just finished is the first novel by the author. Both writers have won awards. The books are fantasy. Hmm. Maybe the standards are different for fantasy writers but I don’t think they should be.

I had some great mentors while writing my book. Even though it hurt a little to hear that I still had work to do to improve my manuscript, in the end I was grateful. And I’m committed to making my book enjoyable for the reader. I don’t want them to skip sections or be irritated by the writing.

Here are some things I learned from my writer friends that I think these authors could benefit from.

The information dump. There is always important information the writer wants the reader to know, but to stop the action to dump the information all at once is not good. Spread the information out a little at a time throughout the book.

Use of adverbs. Now, when my writer friends first talked about this, I didn’t believe them. I thought that adjectives and adverbs spruced up my writing. Then I read a series of books that I loved, but the writer used an excessive amount of adverbs and I got irritated by the shear number of them. I got the message loud and clear. I went back to my novel and cut out almost all of the adverbs.

Keep the main character in hot water. In this last book, there were huge sections of the book that I skipped. These sections were about side characters. This is information I might need, but not pages and pages of it. Like my friend Debrah said to me, “Give the information in a couple of short paragraphs and get back to the main character. He or she is the one we care about. And keep them in hot water. That helps the story build to the climax.”

Creating the world with language. In fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction you have to send the reader to the world you’ve created. Therefore, the language needs to be different than the everyday language we’re used to. If a writer uses current idioms or slang, it throws the reader out of being immersed in the story.

Edit, edit, and edit again. If I read a book and there are only one or two typos, stray words, or even awkward sentences, I just read over them and don’t think a thing of it. But if there are lots of them, I get annoyed. After reading these two books, I’m inclined to go back and take another pass through my novel. I was going to use a section of my novel in this post today and found a mistake. Whew, dodged another bullet. The more eyes on your work the better.

So, the teacher part of me says I should send the critiques. After all, I was irritated as a reader and if I was, others might be too. I want these authors to be successful. And maybe we can help each other become better writers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Tenacity

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” ~ Thomas Huxley

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

People succeed not so much because they are smart, but because they don’t give up. There will always be the naysayers. The people who take cheap shots from the top row seats, but who are afraid to get down and do the work to make their own dreams come true. The winners never listen to them. They don’t complain, they find their way around obstacles. But one thing is sure, they keep moving forward no matter how slowly.

Now that I’m about to publish my first book after seven years of work, what have I learned?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the work feeds the work. When I made a commitment to work on my novel a little bit every day, more ideas came and soon I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to begin working.

I’ve also learned that the work feeds the work only when you’ve found the RIGHT work for you. I was fifty-four years old when I found the right work for me. Yet no time was wasted while I was looking for my place in the world. Everything I’ve learned along the way contributes to what I now write.

Another important lesson has been that the time to be the most tenacious is when you’re stuck.

For five years I developed Morgan’s story in the past. It was the easier story to tell because I saw Morgan as distant from me. But eventually I was stuck. I couldn’t move on with her story until I wrote Jenna’s story in the present. I didn’t want to write Jenna’s story because much of what happens to her happened to me in different forms. I didn’t want to relive those tough times. But I learned something else that is vital for a writer, you can’t close the books on one part of your life until you’ve wrung out every bit of the lesson your soul desires to learn. As the character Pi in Life of Pi says of not saying goodbye to Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger he’s just crossed the Pacific Ocean with, “It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day.” pg. 414

I don’t know if it’s this way for all writers, but for me, writing is the way I say the proper goodbyes. It’s the way I can reimagine or redefine what happened to me and put closure on those things that nag at my psyche, and my emotions.

One of the things Jenna suffers is being unjustly fired from her job, and then accused of embezzling money from the publishing company she worked for. I included that situation in my book because I lost a most beloved job teaching drama. I lost it unjustly. Years later one of my students told me that the story told by those who had engineered by dismissal was that I was let go because I had mishandled the drama club funds. It was a lie of course. In fact, the woman who handled the accounting for all the clubs had thanked me earlier that school year for making sure my accounts were accurate when I turned them in.

I used Jenna’s situation as a way to put some closure on my own story. In The Space Between Time, the lie was exposed and the perpetrators were tried and found guilty of not just one embezzlement scheme but of many. I used Jenna’s predicament as a way to get that negative energy out of my body. I didn’t want it to continue to rumble around in my head and heart.

Will the truth ever be revealed about that situation? I don’t know, nor do I care. I’ve had a chance to tell my story the way I wish it had happened and that helped me forgive my accusers once and for all.

Maybe the naysayers will be right. Maybe my book won’t sell no matter how hard I market and promote it. But I still have the advantage over them. I created something and if I did it once, I can do it again and again. One day there will be people who appreciate what I’ve written. I’d rather be working on something I love than dying in anguish and desperation doing work that I hate.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden @ 2017

Another Sample from The Space Between Time

Civil War Woman

Civil War Woman

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” ~ George Burns

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

This week I thought you might like to read a section from early in Morgan’s story in the past from my soon to be published novel, The Space Between Time. This segment takes place in the past. Morgan is Jenna’s three-times great-grandmother and upon finding Morgan’s journals, Jenna sat down to read. When she did she entered Morgan’s consciousness. This scene takes place on the day of Morgan’s father’s funeral.

At that moment, her Aunt Veronica opened the sliding doors and stood glaring at her. Morgan’s heart took a little summer salt but seeing her aunt’s face cemented her resolve. She stood up, straightened her spine and stepped past her aunt. Jenna’s panic drained away as Morgan relaxed her face so that no emotion showed at all while staring into her aunt’s cold eyes. While neither woman spoke, Jenna felt the vast difference between the woman standing in front of them, and Morgan’s mother Julia.

Gold, silver and shimmering diamond described Veronica. She was a handsome woman, but cold, ambitious, and hard-hearted. Morgan’s mother Julia, on the other hand, had been made of different colors, pink, green, and lavender. She had been a loving, open minded, and caring woman.

Veronica closed the sliding doors and said with malice, “So, you and your father decided to deceive me. How do you think this will look when my friends back in Boston hear that you did not inform me of Thomas illness? Don’t you think I had a right to know? After all, I am family.”

A shiver ran down Morgan’s spine but she suppressed it. “Father wanted us to be left in peace, to spend what time we had together uninterrupted by fussing nurses, which you no doubt would have insisted upon.”

Veronica sniffed. “Your father never knew what was best for you. I’m sure he did this to spite me because I wanted to take you away and give you every advantage he couldn’t.”

Jenna shuddered as Morgan crossed the room and stood in front of her aunt. “Aunt Veronica, father was a good and kind man who loved me very deeply. He knew that I would be just another bobble for you to polish and have admired.”

At this statement Veronica bristled and lost control of herself. “Morgan, you are too independent by half. I see now that your father has taught you too much and not had a thought for your future. If he had cared about you, he never would have raised you to think like a man nor would he have involved you in this underground railroad nonsense.”

Morgan gasped. How had her aunt found out about that? But her part was small. Other members of the congregation had larger roles in helping escaped slaves cross the border to freedom.

A malicious smile spread across Veronica’s face. “Ah, you’re surprised I knew about that. Your father exposed you to filthy, shiftless slaves who ran away shirking their duty to their masters. Any number of terrible things could have happened to you because of your father’s thoughtlessness. I intend to change your foolish notions by taking you back to Boston with me and see that you marry the right sort of man. I will brook no refusals. You’re not getting any younger, you know. Go upstairs this instant and pack your things. We’re leaving on the evening train.”

Deep calm swept over Morgan. Ignoring the old argument, she spoke softly. “No, Aunt Veronica. I am not going with you.”

I hope you enjoyed this little segment. You can join my mailing list here if you are interested in receiving notification on this and other of my creative projects.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

The Space Between Time Sample #1

A Woman

A Woman

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” ~ Yehuda Berg

“And it’s human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.” ~ Alan Rickman

Since I’m getting close to publishing my first novel The Space Between Time, I thought I’d share a scene from the book.

This is scene with Jenna in the present.

Sitting in the chair in front of Jenna’s desk Joan said, “Hey, are you all right? You look like your dog just died.”

Jenna took in a deep breath, needles pricking her heart. “Sam walked out this morning.”

“Oh man. That S.O.B. Did he say why?”

Jenna rolled her eyes. “The usual crap, ‘It hasn’t been working for a long time.’ Oh, and he got a promotion and he’s moving to L.A.”

Joan clasped her hands. “Well, good riddance. You were thinking of ending it anyway. Now you can move on.”

Wiping away a tear, Jenna said, “Yeah, but when it finally happens, it’s still a shock. And as usual I blame myself.”

Joan got up and walked around to sit on the edge of the desk closest to Jenna. “Oh, sweetie, just because he wasn’t the right guy doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.”

Jenna took Joan’s hand and gave it a little squeeze. “Keep telling me that until I believe it will you?”

Joan squeezed her hand back. “I’ll take you to lunch and we can talk, okay?”

“That’d be great. Thanks. We better get to work. I don’t want to lose my job too.”

Standing up, Joan said, “Okay. We’ll go to Chin Yen’s and boil him in oil.”

Jenna laughed. At the door Joan said, “Still haven’t heard anything about your promotion?”

“Not yet.” Just then Jenna’s phone rang. They both jumped.

Joan said, “Maybe this is it.”

Jenna cleared her throat. “Jenna Holden.”

A female voice on the other end of the line said, “Miss Holden, this is Officer Parker from the Roseburg PD.”

“Yes. What can I do for you?” She looked at Joan and shook her head. Joan waited to find out who was on the phone.

“I’m sorry to tell you that your mother’s been in a car accident. Can you come as quickly as possible? She’s just gone by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center.”

Trying to make sense of what the officer had said, she felt the blood drain from her face as she looked up at Joan. “What? What did you say?”

“You’re mother has been in a serious accident. You need to come right away.”

The room began to spin. “No. It can’t be. Oh, God in heaven, Mom.”

The officer said, “I’m so sorry Miss Holden.” her voice was so kind that Jenna nearly lost her composure. “Can you drive yourself here? Or is there someone who can drive for you?”

“What? No.”

“I’m sorry, what do you mean? Do you want us to arrange for a State Policeman to drive you down?”

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath to help herself think, Jenna said, “Um. No, I’ve got my car here. I can drive myself.” First Sam, now this! Jenna looked at Joan who had a concerned look on her face while she waited to hear what new disaster was unfolding.

The officer was saying something. “… All right?”

“Thank you. I’ll leave as soon as I can.”

“I’ll let the hospital know you’re on your way. Again, I’m sorry to be delivering such bad news.”

Jenna couldn’t say anything more. The phone beeped three times indicating the officer had rung off.

Joan’s voice floated into Jenna’s consciousness. “What is it?”

“It’s Mom. She’s been in a terrible accident.”

Joan knelt down next to Jenna “Oh, man! I’m so sorry and on top of Sam walking out. Do you want me to go with you?”

Clenching her jaw with determination, she said, “No. I’ll call you when I know something.”

I hope you enjoyed this little segment from, The Space Between Time. Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

The Work of Writing

Kate Chase by Brady-Handy

Kate Chase by Brady-Handy

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” ~ Dale Carnegie

“Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.” ~ John Updike

So, how does a writer get ideas? Last week I told about how I got my idea for my soon to be published novel, The Space Between Time after a weekend with my mom and dad. When I began writing, the storyline that was most vivid to me was the father-daughter relationship in the past. I wanted to link Morgan to someone in the present but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Then I had to set the story aside. When I picked the book up again years later, I was still baffled about how to link Morgan to someone from the present time period. By then, though, I was able to trust that one day the answer would come so I continued to flesh out Morgan’s story.

Perhaps I should write here that I did not create a plot outline before I began writing. I just sat down and let the ideas flow until they stopped and then I’d go do something else while the story simmered on the back burner of my mind. It often happens that the best ideas come to me in that netherworld between sleeping and waking. But there came a point when I was was stuck. I knew the story needed something, but I didn’t know what. Though I was frustrated, I trusted that if I was patient the answer would come and it did some weeks later at a writer’s group meeting.

A local writer came to speak to our group. He asked each of us to tell what we were working on. When my turn came, he commented that it might be nice to have a character in the present somehow linked to the storyline in the past. Of course, I told him that had been my original idea but that I had not been able to figure out how to do it. That storyline wasn’t alive for me yet. But it occurred to me that I was stalled on Morgan’s story because I needed that other timeline. So on the drive home I let my mind wander about how to use a character in the present to finish my book. Miracles do happen because on the drive home the idea came. The woman in the present would find her three-times great-grandmother’s journals, and that’s how Jenna was born.

Though I was jazzed about writing Jenna’s story, it was the most difficult. Many of the things that happen to her are altered versions of events in my own life. I didn’t want to go back to those dark emotions much less put them down on paper. So in the first drafts, I glossed over the pain Jenna feels. I tried to rush her to healing before she was ready. And that’s why I had to be open to allowing people to critique my work. It’s scary. I often felt angry, or stupid and ripped apart after hearing my friends comments. For a short time I wondered if I should continue working on the book at all.

But through that process I learned that I had to be careful who I trusted with my manuscript. There are people who will rip you and your work apart just because they like to see you squirm, or they’re jealous, or they wish their work was as good. I encountered a person like that. However, I was fortunate to find one writer friend who was compassionate, yet firm. She encouraged me to keep writing and told me that the story was worthwhile. Yet she pushed me to let my characters get beat up by events and go to dark places so that in the end what they learned would mean more to the reader. As hard as it was to hear some of her comments, I knew she was on my side and after each read through, I felt energized to get busy on the next draft.

In the end The Space Between Time has become a story of two women, linked by blood but separated by time, who experience life shattering events. They must find ways to rebuild their lives. When Jenna finds the journals, she enters Morgan’s consciousness and through their link they help each other heal and discover who they really are. They each find their true life’s purpose.

More on the story in a later post.

If you’d like to join my mailing list to get updates about this and subsequent books, you can join here.

Thanks for reading. Welcome to my new followers.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

My Writing Life

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~ Ray Bradbury

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ~ Anais Nin

“An artist’s job is to make us feel less alone.” ~ Viola Davis

“I always wrote. I wrote from when I was 12. That was therapeutic for me in those days. I wrote things to get them out of feeling them, and onto paper. So writing in a way saved me, kept me company.” ~ Carrie Fisher

As you might surmise from the various quotes above, I’m having difficulty pinning down what I want to express about my writing life. It’s a most profound privilege to wake up every morning and try to grasp those wispy thoughts and feelings that are demanding to be expressed. But they’re capricious; they like to be chased. They run and hide until I catch their shirt tails and drag them out into the open.

I’ve always had lots to say, even though most of my life I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. During one very short period in my life, I ventured to share what I had been feeling on an empathetic level, but that hadn’t gone so well, so I retreated and kept quiet. But I met people who told me I had a facility for writing, and what they said planted seeds. It took them a long time to grow, but finally one day I gained enough self-confidence to allow myself to begin to express what had been dammed up for so long.

In almost any story no matter how it’s told, there is always an inciting incident that begins the main character’s journey. My inciting incident was a visit to my parents in 1998 or 1999. My father had been living with heart disease for many years and something about his manner, or the way he talked that weekend, gave me the clue that he was on the downward path toward his eventual death. I was stunned. My dad was my mentor. What would I do without him? It was then the beginnings of The Space Between Time, came flitting through my consciousness. I began work on the book the day after our return home. All I had at that time was Morgan’s story, though her name was Anna in those early drafts.

I was a substitute teacher at the time, and shortly after I began working on the book, I was given first one, then two more long term substitute teaching assignments. Those led me to get my Master’s degree in Education and becoming a full-time teacher. If you’re a teacher you know that there is little time for anything other than your job. But the way I felt about my relationship with my father and the story I wanted to tell about the close relationship between Morgan and her father never left me. In fact I thought a great deal about those two characters. It was as if the story was simmering on the back burner of my mind.

Skip ahead ten years. My father had died in 2004. I missed him terribly, but his influence and love for me continued to guide me. A lot had happened by then. I was forced out of my position teaching drama in one school district and began teaching English in another. In some ways my life had been shattered. In others I was discovering talents I had not known I possessed. Then one day I knew that what others had told me was true. I could be a good writer, and I had lots I wanted to say.

I didn’t go back to my novel when I first began writing full-time. But when I did, it felt right. Every morning I was excited to get to work. I won’t lie and say that it has been easy. There were stretches of weeks when I had no idea how to get from point A to point B in my story, or when I fought writing the raw emotions that the characters were experiencing. I wanted my main characters to learn their lessons without going through the pain and suffering I had gone through because I didn’t want to drag myself through the muck again.

Thank heaven for good friends who kept pushing me to “beat up” my characters. Finally my resistance crumbled, and I made the connection between the satisfaction we feel at the end of a good story, and the main characters overcoming frightening and/or tragic obstacles to win or grow. We can’t skip to the end and be healed in life or in literature. I’ve started work on a sequel novel and a fantasy story and this time I’ll be looking for the best trials and tribulations to get the characters to their eventual transformations.

Next week, I’ll give you a little glimpse into the story of Jenna and her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan and how I came up with the idea to intertwine the two timelines.

If you would like to join my mailing list and get updates on the publication of my books, and new installments to my video series, “Loving Literature”, here is the link.

Welcome to my new followers and thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017