Helping Someone Else Helps Us

Shakespeare - There's a Professional

Shakespeare – There’s a Professional

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

Today as I sit down to write this post, I’m still blurry eyed and recovering from the play performances my students did last week. I hope what I have written makes sense.

The last few months I’ve been juggling book revisions on my first novel, The Space Between Time, and teaching a theatre workshop class. That’s a class in which the students perform, and do all the tech jobs for an eventual performance before an audience. This time, we performed five student written plays which added a whole new level of complexity and creativity to our production.

When I came up with the idea to offer this class, my students had been writing their own scenes in acting class. My initial thought was to encourage them to continue to expand their creativity. I knew it was going to cut into the work I need to do on my novel. But how could I be selfish and not encourage my students?

Sometimes we do things for others because we think they need it. I’ve always struggled with doing things for others and doing what’s right for me. I took on this project knowing there would be times when I’d resent not having time to work on my book. But seeing the enthusiasm build among my students has been worth all the time spent encouraging them. After all, there really is nothing like the feeling of performing and being appreciated by an audience.

It’s been a busy semester, but I’ve remembered something very important: helping someone else be successful, helps me be successful too.

I don’t believe in accidents. Everything that happens has a cause. It’s up to us to determine how we are affected by it. I chose to teach this class, then I sent my manuscript to two writer friends just as the semester was beginning. It took longer to get the comments back from them than I thought and at first I was frustrated. It’s only been in the last week or so that I’ve had an awakening of sorts. These months that we’ve been perfecting and rehearsing these plays, I’ve had time to reflect on the comments my friends gave me about my novel. Because I haven’t had time to work on it, new ideas about how to improve my manuscript have percolated into my consciousness. I now have some great ideas of ways to improve my book even more. I must say I’m grateful that I was so busy teaching, because I’m not very good at multitasking. The big production is now finished and I have a month and a half to concentrate on book revisions.

Next semester I’ll face the same challenge because I’m offering theatre workshop again, but the joy my students feel from accomplishing such a huge task is worth every effort I expend on their behalf. Enthusiasm is building and it occurs to me that perhaps part of my reason for being is to empower my students to follow their dreams too. I look at it this way, it’s better to have a world filled with happy people doing what they love rather than to have everyone doing work they hate. So I’ll encourage as many students as I can to use their creativity as I complete my own creative work.

Thanks for reading. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday for those of you in the U.S. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Snippet #3 The Space Between Time

Cochise Campus Flower

Cochise Campus Flower

This is the third installment of segments from my upcoming novel, The Space Between Time.

Set Up: Jenna has moved back to her hometown to recover and regroup. In this segment, from Chapter 7, She’s unexpectedly confronted by her ex-fiancé.

“She hadn’t been out of the house much since the funeral. No doubt on this little trip she’d run into old friends, and renew acquaintances. It was still difficult receiving condolences, but being cooped up in the house all the time wasn’t good. She grabbed her purse and keys, opened the door and ran into Sam.

“Hi Babe.”

Jenna’s stomach clenched, “Sam. What in the hell are you doing here?”

Leaning on the door jamb so she couldn’t get out of the house, he said. “You hung up on me, Babe. I needed a chance to explain,” Jenna wasn’t fooled by the look of mock contrition on his face.

“About what? That you were cheating on me? And don’t call me Babe.” She pushed him out of the way. Then shut and locked the door. She brushed past him starting for her car wishing this encounter would soon end. But Sam’s car was parked behind hers. She’d have to deal with him.

Knowing he’d trapped her, he smirked. “I always call you Babe.”

Jenna turned, walked back to him and put her face close to his. “I’ve told you time and again I don’t like it when you call me that.”

Surprisingly he took a step back. “I don’t remember that.”

“Of course not, because you never listen,” Jenna said through clenched teeth.

“Now, Babe,” The look on Jenna’s face made him amend his approach. “I mean Jenna, aren’t you gonna let me talk to you?”

Oh, if only he’d go away. Keeping her eyes on his face and putting her hands on her hips, she said, “What for? You said it yourself. Neither one of us was happy, so it’s over.”

Pulling himself taller to pretend confidence, he said, “I know I said that, but, I’ve been thinking. I might’ve been wrong.” He had that I’m-innocent-of-whatever-you-think-I’ve-done look on his face she’d learned to hate long before the break-up.

She looked at him, trying to formulate the response that would make him leave. The moments slowed. For the first time she noticed muddy waves emanating from and surrounding his body. Her instinct was to back away from the unwanted onslaught of his murky energy, but before she could do so, it touched her own energy field. She nearly fell over as dark feelings of self-doubt swept over her. The image of a wounded wolf flashed through her mind. Somehow she knew exactly what had happened that brought him to her doorstep. “Ah, what happened, Sam? Did she leave you? I know you hate to be alone.”

The dark energy was sucked into Sam’s body and he stuttered “I – I don’t k-know what you’re talking about. There’s never been anybody but you.”

“Oh? But, you know I heard her in the background when we talked on the phone!” She faced him square on, “Now, please get in your car and go back to L.A.”

Suddenly Sam took Jenna by the arm, and clamped down hard, “It was a one night stand thing. I was hurt that we broke up.” Dark gray and brown energy shot out at her again. This time she thought to shield herself and her own aura in red, orange, and yellow shot out to block what was coming from him.

Gasping from the pain, she tried to get her arm free. “You were hurt? Oh, yeah, I see that now. You’ve been wounded from the very beginning, but I was too dazzled by the bling to notice. Now let me go!” They struggled. Sam grabbed for Jenna’s other arm. She tried to back away, and slid on a mossy patch on the sidewalk forcing her to sit on a porch step.

Just then an unmarked police car drove up. Sam’s back was to it as Detective Spade got out of the car, putting his hand on his gun.

Walking toward the struggling pair, Detective Spade said, “Let go of her, Sir!”

Sam turned around, still holding onto Jenna’s arm. “Who are you to interfere in a private matter? She’s my fiancée,” Sam said as Jenna continued to struggle to get her arm free.

Advancing on Sam with his hand still on his gun, Detective Spade said, “That’s not what I heard, Sir. Now back away from her.”

Sam puffed up like a rooster in the ring, but he let go of her arm. Jenna moved away. Sam turned toward Detective Spade saying, “What you gonna do, shoot me?” Jenna heard the fear underneath the bluster for the first time. With a snarl, Sam said, “We’re having a private conversation. That’s all.”

Detective Spade had stopped a few feet from Sam. “It didn’t look that way to me, Sir. Is that true Miss Holden?”

“Miss Holden? So, you’ve met before. Who is this? Your new boyfriend? You didn’t waste any time,” Sam said with a sneer.

Detective Spade was surrounded by a clear yellow and green aura. He was relaxed, though cautious. Jenna knew she could trust him, but Sam was getting angry. She saw the wounded wolf image surrounded by dark gray and muddy brown fog emanating from him again, and knew if she didn’t do something he’d become dangerous. She saw that Detective Spade knew it too.

She took a few steps closer to him. “Sam, are you drunk or something? He’s a police officer, and he’s got a gun. Do you want to get arrested? What’ll that do to your precious career?” Sam’s countenance changed, and the swirls of muddy energy retreated close to his body.

Now that she looked more closely at him, Sam did look a little unsteady on his feet. She hadn’t smelled alcohol on him, though, so it must be drugs.

Taking a deep breath, Sam said. “I’ve been on the road for twenty hours with not much sleep before that. I guess I’m crashing from the wake-up pills,” he said as he sat abruptly onto a porch step.

Taking his hand away from his gun, Detective Spade gently took a hold of Jenna’s arm and moved her behind him. “I’ll need to see those pills, Sir. Are they in your car?”

“Yeah, go ahead. You won’t find any drugs. They’re the over the counter kind,” Sam said as he ran his hands through his hair, then deflated like a balloon and rested his head on his arms.

“Sir, is the car unlocked?”

“Yeah,” came the muffled reply.

Detective Spade looked over at Jenna and indicated with the jerk of his head to follow him as he went to Sam’s car. He kept his eyes on Sam. She opened the driver’s door and moved back so Detective Spade could investigate. He’d put on latex gloves, pulled the trunk release, then examined the open briefcase that sat on the passenger seat. The pills were in the briefcase. After searching the car and trunk, he approached Sam. “You’re telling the truth, at least. Did you read the instructions, you’ve got to be careful not to take too many of these things. How many did you take?”

Not lifting his head, Sam said, “I don’t know, one or two whenever I got tired.”

“Just as a precaution, I’m going to take you to emergency to get you checked out.” Detective Spade took Sam by the arm and led him to the police car. Miraculously, Sam didn’t object. Putting Sam in the front seat, he turned to Jenna. “Is it okay if we leave his car here?”

“Sure, I’ll move it. I was on my way out. Does he have his wallet?”

“I got the wallet out of his briefcase. The keys are in the ignition. Do you want me to make sure he doesn’t bother you when he comes back for his car?”

The adrenaline was beginning to wear off and Jenna was feeling shaky. She tried to lighten the atmosphere by saying, “Feeling protective, Detective?”

“It’s my job, Ma’am,” His handsome face lit up in a big smile.

Smiling back, Jenna said, “I’m much obliged to you, Sir, but I think I’ll be fine.” Then breaking the spell of their moment, she said, “Say, why did you come?”

Sounding disappointed, he said, “Oh, I came by to tell you you can pick up the things we found in your mother’s car. Just come by the station anytime and sign for them.”

“Oh, I thought maybe one of the neighbors called the police.”

“No. I was in the neighborhood, and thought I’d stop by.”

The look on his face made Jenna think there was more to it than just a friendly call, but she let it go. “I see.”

Looking at his rugged face, a tingling sensation started at the top of her head and moved down. Ripples of clear lavender, yellow and green energy swirled around him. She felt safe. Even so there was an awkward moment as if they each had something they wanted to say. Sam broke the spell by yelling something incoherent. She looked over at him. Detective Spade turned toward the car with reluctance. Jenna said. “I know he’s a jerk, but thanks for taking him to the doctor. You don’t have to stay with him do you?”

“No, he hasn’t committed a crime … yet.”

Jenna laughed. “No, he’s not the type. He’s insecure, but also very ambitious. I don’t think he’d do anything to harm his precious career.”

Detective Spade looked back at Sam leaning his head back against the head rest. “He doesn’t look too tough right now.”

Laughing, Jenna said, “No, he doesn’t. Will tomorrow be okay to stop by the station? I’ve got an appointment with Jim Marshall at the paper. I could come by after that.”

Smiling, Detective Spade said, “That’d be fine. I should be there most of the day.”

“Great. I’ll see you then. And thanks for the rescue, Detective.”

“My pleasure, Ma’am.” Detective Spade tipped his nonexistent hat and got into his car and waved as he drove off with a wilted looking Sam in the front seat.

She moved Sam’’s car then left on her errand.”

There is a scene between these two segments, but for the purposes of this post I cut it.

“When Jenna got back to the house, Sam was leaning on his car. Jenna still had the keys. Her heart sank. This wasn’t over. As she got out of the car, Sam came up the drive. “What’d you do, break bail?” Jenna asked.

“You’re boyfriend got me checked out right away. There wasn’t anyone in the waiting room. All I need is some sleep. Can I crash here?” Sam put that, aren’t I irresistible, look on his face that Jenna hated so much.

“Nope. There are some nice hotels downtown, or you can find a motel out by I-5.”

He frowned. That look usually melted women. “So, I’m not yet forgiven.”

Jenna rounded on Sam and poked him in the chest as she backed him toward his car. “Not even close. But even if you were, I still wouldn’t let you stay here. You cheated on me! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks. I let you walk all over me because I thought we loved each other, and that’s what I was supposed to do. Now I see things differently. I deserve better, someone who knows who he is and loves me just because I’m me.”

Jenna was surprised that Sam was letting her poke him without fighting back. Maybe meeting Detective Spade made him cautious. He looked around to see if any of the neighbors were watching. Jenna jabbed him three times as she said, “That’s not you. Now, get out of here.” Sam started to interrupt, but Jenna cut him off. “No! It’s over! Now I’ve got work to do, so you can just take your keys,” she put them into his hand with a slap.  “Get yourself back to L.A, and may you be happy there.”

Sam just looked at Jenna for a second, then twirling the keys, his expression changed back to his usual expression of self-absorption. “You’re a bitch! You’re blaming me for everything. I don’t know what I ever saw in you. You’re pathetic. I hope you’re happy with your sad little life and your cop boyfriend. I’m off to bigger and better things. You’d only drag me down, BABE!” He got into his car and screeched off, leaving the smell of a burned up relationship, cremated into vapor.”

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Snippet #2 The Space Between Time

August Sunset

August Sunset

No quotes today since this post is long.

Today I’ll share a segment from Chapter 4 of The Space BetweenTime, the novel I’m currently working on. Jenna has merged with Morgan’s consciousness a second time. It is early spring, 1859. This is the day of Morgan’s father, Thomas’, funeral. In this scene, Morgan is facing her Aunt Veronica who has always tried to control her life. Now that Morgan is an orphan, her aunt thinks she can gain the upper hand once and for all but Morgan stands up to her.

For those who didn’t get to read last week’s segment, Jenna has found Morgan’s journals and when she reads, she merges with Morgan’s consciousness.

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

Morgan felt a shiver run down her spine. Jenna understood very well how she felt. It had been the same for her when interacting with Fletcher and Mr. Dayton, but they weren’t family, and she didn’t have to associate with them any longer.

Morgan squared her shoulders. “Father wanted to be left in peace. He and I wanted to spend what time we had together uninterrupted by fussing nurses, which you no doubt would have insisted upon. We didn’t want that.”

“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 when your mother died to give you every advantage he couldn’t.”

“Aunt Veronica, father was a good and kind man who loved me very deeply. He knew that I’d be just another bobble for you to polish and have admired as your crowning achievement.”

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’d 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?

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’re properly looked after by marrying 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, as she spoke softly to her aunt. “No, Aunt Veronica. I am not going with you.”

“How dare you refuse! You have no other relatives and no money to support yourself. No one to protect you if you get caught helping slaves. You must do as I say.”

“You’re wrong. Father has saved some money and there is also the money left me by mother. There is quite enough for me to live on until I decide how to support myself. If you don’t believe me, I can send for Mr. Bachman, father’s lawyer. He’s staying at the hotel.” Morgan stood looking at her aunt in defiance with an emotionless face waiting for her aunt’s reply. Emma, Mrs. Waller and Mrs. Carlsen came into the hallway to lend their support, though once they got there they realized they weren’t needed.

Veronica’s mouth was gaping open uncharacteristically. She’d thought it’d be easy to manipulate Morgan into doing as she dictated. She hadn’t made a plan for Morgan’s removal except to order her to pack her things and get her to Boston as quickly as possible.

She looked over and saw the three women stepping forward behind Morgan. “This is a family matter, ladies,” she said with a snarl of derision accompanied by the most withering look she could muster.

Mrs. Carlsen, who had not grown up in Rutland, broke the strained silence. “Mrs. Alistair, I’m new here, but I can tell you, you’ll not find anyone to take your side. If you try to force Morgan to go with you, we’ll stand in your way. We love her, as it is obvious you do not. She’s of age and will remain here to make up her own mind about her future.”

Just then there was a knock on the door. Emma went to answer it. When she came back, Dr. Waller, Mr. Bachman and Reverend Carlsen were with her.

Mr. Bachman, a short, portly, middle aged, well dressed gentleman, stepped forward. “Hello Madam. I’m Mr. Gregor Bachman, Mr. Carlyle’s lawyer. I’m very pleased to meet you. Your husband is quite well thought of in Boston.” He came forward extending his hand. Veronica looked at it as if it were a snake coiling in the grass. Mr. Bachman went on as if the snub had not happened. “I’ve got Mr. Carlyle’s will here. He wanted me to read it in your presence as you are mentioned. Shall we sit down?” He extended his hand to the sofa. Veronica, too dumbfounded to object, took the few steps to the sofa and plopped down as her knees gave out. “Please everyone, gather around. Reverend Carlyle wanted you all to be here.” Dr. Waller and Reverend Carlsen brought chairs from the kitchen table. Morgan sat in her father’s chair with Emma by her side. Mrs. Waller sat in a chair provided by her husband as did Mrs. Carlsen. The two men remained standing. Mr. Bachman took up a place near the table, opening his briefcase. He withdrew the will, which was backed with blue paper, and sat next to Morgan in what had been her chair. No one sat near Veronica.

“The will is short and to the point.” Clearing his throat, Mr. Bachman read, “I, Thomas Wendell Carlyle, being of sound mind, do hereby bequeath to my dear friend Dr. Joseph Waller the chess set that he so admired as we often played together. Thank you Joseph for sharing your wisdom with me over the years. I also bequeath the sum of $100.00 to you, Joseph …” Veronica took in a quick breath, which no one acknowledged, while Mr. Bachman continued on without missing a beat, “for you do not charge enough, and can use the money to support your family. To Reverend Martin Carlsen, I leave my concordance and other books pertaining to biblical criticism and church ministry. I also leave you the sum of $50.00 for the support of your family. In the few short months you’ve been here, I’ve seen that you are a wise man. You have given me good counsel. I know the congregation is in good hands. To Miss Emma Martell, I leave the cameo brooch that belonged to my dear wife. On her death bed she asked me to give it to you on your wedding day. Since I won’t be able to give it then, I leave it for you now. She said you had admired it, and since Morgan did not have an affinity for it herself, she wanted to give it to you, Morgan’s dear and devoted friend.

“To my dearest daughter Morgan Angela Carlyle, I leave all monies in my savings account, the rights to all the books I’ve written, and any future royalties they shall receive. I also leave you the remainder of my books, furniture, household goods, and the jewelry left by your mother upon her passing. In addition, I leave the small amount of money she left for you upon her death. Words can not say how much I have cherished being your father. I’ve watched you grow in wisdom and beauty. You are an intelligent and loving woman. I leave these things with all my love.

“Finally, to Veronica Masters Alistair, I leave you the rope of pearls left to my dear wife by your mother upon her death. The rope of pearls you wanted so desperately that you cut off all relations with my wife, your sister, because your mother did not give them to you. The pearls are yours now. I have taken legal steps to insure that you will not get anything else, nor be able to interfere with Morgan’s future. Take the pearls, and may they make you as happy as you thought possessing them would. Signed this day, December 30, 1858.”

Mr. Bachman folded the will and slowly placed it in its envelope and gave it to Morgan. No one moved, each alone with his or her thoughts. After a few moments. Veronica rose, breaking the spell and said with venom dripping from every word, “This is not over. You are a young single woman. You can’t inherit any amount of money. I’ll be back with my attorney.” She looked at Morgan with a cold stare and walked out of the room to get her own hat, coat and gloves. A moment later the door slammed shaking the windows.

Again, this is a work in progress. I hope you have enjoyed reading another small section of my novel. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-MIdgorden © 2015

First Snippets from My Novel

Daffodils serenading the sun.

Daffodils serenading the sun.

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” ~ Rumi

The above quote opens my novel, The Space Between Time. You might say it’s a theme of the book. Below is a very short segment from Chapter 3.

The Set-up: Jenna has had a life shattering week. She’s gone back to her childhood home to recover and regroup. This is a portion of the scene where she finds her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan’s, journals begins to read and starts an extraordinary journey of discovery.

“Just then Jenna felt a rush of energy swirl around her. As she looked at the attic walls trying to determine what was happening, fog obscured her vision. She felt as if she were shedding her body like she would a cloak. Within the span between breaths the scene changed in front of her and she found herself sitting in a rocking chair looking out at an early spring afternoon just like the one Morgan had described. Something about the atmosphere was different than her home – more than that, it smelled different. Wood smoke instead of gas fumes permeated the air.

She looked down at the hands that were resting on a sketch pad. They were not her hands, nor were the clothes hers. She was wearing a dress that she thought was from the Civil War era. After a few gut wrenching moments, Jenna realized she was not only in Morgan’s world, she was sharing Morgan’s consciousness.

Panic overtook her, and she hyperventilated, or she would have had she been in her own body. This was far different than seeing the spirits of her parents, or reading a bunch of old journals. I’m going to get stuck here! How do I get back? The moment she thought that, Jenna felt the grief that was washing over Morgan. Grief – that was something she could related to. As Morgan took a deep breath, calm settled on Jenna. As crazy as it seemed, somehow she felt she was going to be all right. Okay, I’ll just go with it. I can panic later. What else could she do but trust? Hard as it was to admit, that was something Jenna didn’t know how to do well. Her mind merged again with Morgan’s.

She, they, were sitting facing the window of Morgan’s father’s room, a forgotten sketch pad on Morgan’s lap with a half finished sketch of Morgan’s father, and the greening mountains beyond. The apple tree just outside the window dripped with leaf buds. The daffodils she, they had planted near the front gate serenaded the sun. It was warm. Children laughed and played on their way home from school. The ice wagon rolled by hurrying to finish the day’s deliveries. Across the lane Mrs. Gardener gossiped with Mrs. Webb about the new dry goods shop owner. Their voices were audible inside the sickroom.

Mrs. Gardner said, “I have it on good authority that Mr Krause’s wife left him. He moved to Rutland to start a new life and forget. It’s too bad that the truth came out. He seems like such a nice man.”

“Why should it make a difference?” asked Mrs. Webb. “She’s the one who left.”

“Well who can tell, maybe he beat her,” said Mrs. Gardner.

“We don’t know the whole truth of the matter, Gladys. So don’t spread that rumor,” said Mrs. Webb.

Bird song followed the women’s voices. The afternoon light streamed in the window illuminating the white curtains and bouncing off the mirror on the dressing table. The room glowed with warmth and light. Jenna saw it all while at the same time experiencing everything as if she were part of Morgan. It was a disquieting sensation. The charms of the spring day could not entice Morgan away from her grief. Jenna recognized those feelings. She’d felt the same way when her mother lay motionless on her hospital bed.

Looking at Morgan’s father, Jenna saw the same signs of life leaving his body that she’d seen in her mother that night only a couple of weeks ago. Fully in the past with Morgan now, Jenna shared her pain and tried to give comfort.

Thomas lay sleeping fitfully. The pain was worse each day and sleep eluded him most of the time. That morning the doctor, seeing Morgan’s strained and weary face, had given Thomas a large dose of laudanum to help him sleep and instructed her to increase the dose when he stirred. There was nothing else that could be done for him. This was the end and Morgan knew it.”

This little segment gives you an idea of the basic premise of the book. Jenna shifts between dealing with the challenges of her own life, while periodically visiting Morgan’s. Both women face difficult challenges and help each other along the way.

I’ll share another segment next week.

Remember this is a work in progress. Thanks for reading. Make a comment if you like and feel free to share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

The Value of a True Friend

Pumpkin Possibilities

Pumpkin Possibilities

“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” ~ Junot Diaz

“True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I define friendship as a bond that transcends all barriers. When you are ready to expect anything and everything from friends, good bad or ugly … that’s what I call true friendship.” ~ Harbhajan Singh

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” ~ Helen Keller

I’ve got a terrific writer friend, or maybe she’s my mentor, who has read my manuscript more than once and tells it like it is. Last Friday I got her assessment back on the latest revisions and she wasn’t afraid to tell me I have more work to do. On the one hand, I’m sad when she tells me I need to do more work, on the other it’s a relief. It’s a relief to have a friend who knows exactly what I’m going through writing my first novel, and who doesn’t shy away from telling me what needs improving.

The first time she read my manuscript was in the spring. At that time she told me her story of sending what she thought was a finished manuscript off to a contest thinking she was going to win the prize, get an agent and have her book published by a traditional publisher. When she got the critique from one of the judges that she needed to do more work, she was devastated. “She told me things I didn’t want to hear but in the end her suggestions made the book better.” Right now I can relate to that. And I’m so glad that my friend is willing to do that for me. I could ignore her and publish my book now, but for some reason, that’s just not my style. I want it to be the best it can be.

The thing is, when artists mentor each other by giving honest critiques, there can be a hidden blessing in it. My friend told me my characters and story were good, from a new perspective, but it still needs more work. Thank heavens I don’t have to throw the entire thing out and start over again. I’m sure my friend would have been brutally honest and told me if I needed to do that. I’m not as courageous when giving critique. Or at least not with people I’ve only met online. I think bad news should be delivered in person.

About a year ago I had someone send me their manuscript so I could write a review of the book and post it to my blog. It was a romance novel, not one of my favorite genres, but I agreed. I could tell it was written by an amateur, like me. I think it may have even been a first draft. There were so many mistakes that I gave up reading it. I did learn a great deal from reading the manuscript, but I’m sorry to say I never sent any of my extensive corrections and comments back to the young writer. I was afraid if I did I would discourage her from ever writing another book. And continuing to write is one of the best ways we become better writers.

I’m sorry to say I was a coward. When I wrote the blog post about her book, I couldn’t in good conscience tell people to go buy it. So I couched everything I said about it in terms of what I’d learned from the experience of reading it for review. I have to thank that author for giving me a wakeup call about my own writing.

For those of you who are writers, I’m sure you know exactly how I’m feeling. I want to get my work out into the world. The long gestation period of birthing a novel can get tedious at times. The thing is the baby is born when its ready and not before. My baby isn’t ready to be born yet. I wish she were, but being impatient and rushing the process isn’t good. We don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression with readers. I’m not willing to rush my process just so I can say I’ve published a novel, or so I can sell some books. Nope. I’ll keep plugging away until my friend and I think the book is finished.

I’ll keep you posted about how it’s going. Perhaps I’ll include little snippets of my novel from time to time to get your take on how I’m doing. Creative and constructive criticism is always welcome.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

How Do You Know When It’s Finished?

Approved by my readers

Approved by my readers

“The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lighting bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow.” ~ Carlton Cuse

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” ~ Julia Cameron

“Any creative process is about being in a territory which isn’t secure, isn’t necessarily familiar, and isn’t convenient in any sort of way. And that’s the excitement of it.” ~ Susanne Bier

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” ~ Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

When I first thought of writing this post, I was asking myself, “How in the heck will I know when my book is finished?” It’s been such a long time in coming. Years in fact. After so many revisions, so many I’ve lost count, I wonder if I will know when my manuscript is ready to publish.

Many authors think they are finished with their manuscript so they go through the long process of finding an agent, then a publisher, then there are more edits according to the advice of the publishers. No wonder so many people who think they want to write the next great American novel give up. You spend years writing and revising and then you will probably get rejection after rejection before, or if, someone decides they want to publish your book. And then it takes another year or two before its available in bookstores. I’m not sure I have that much time. After all, I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t begin writing until I was fifty-four years old. I’m now sixty-two. I don’t want to wait another two or three years to see my book published.

That’s why I’ve decided to publish my book myself instead of waiting until a publisher decides its worth their time. Maybe I’m crazy, but something inside tells me to follow my own instincts about every aspect of this process and not rely on the approval of other people. In any case, the way the publishing world has evolved, even a new writer backed by a traditional publisher, needs to have a following in place and they have to do much of the marketing themselves. So, why not self-publish? The process of publishing a book is fairly easy now days.

Even though I’ve decided to publish the book myself, I still have the question in my head, “How will I know when its finished?” This is what I think happens. There is a click in an artists head that tells him or her when their piece is complete. That doesn’t mean perfect, it just means that the work is as finished as the author’s abilities allow at that time. Nothing created is ever perfect, but there comes a point when any changes made to the painting, or the song, or the book are just changes. They don’t improve the piece.

I read a quote recently, I can’t remember where, that said something like, “An author writes the book, it’s the reader who attaches the meaning.” Since I believe that is true, it’s my job to finish telling the story that wants to be told and then send it out into the world. No one will be able to attach the meaning to it that I do because they didn’t live the experiences that brought the book into being. I just hope it touches people. That’s the most I can hope for. Writing this article has helped me see that my manuscript IS nearly finished. There may be a few more tweaks after my writer friends give me their comments, but my instincts tell me that I don’t need to make any more major changes. It’s as good as I can make it and that has to be good enough for me. I hope it’s good enough for my readers.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Allowing the Stretch

Temporary Book Cover

Temporary Book Cover

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” ~ John Wooden

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” ~ Bruce Lee

“There’s no limit possible to the expansion of each of us.” ~ Charles Schwab

“My ambition comes from my passion: finding what I love and then expanding on that.” ~ Miranda Kerr

In general I love learning new things except when I don’t think I have a facility for it. Then I resist the lessons. I have this idea in my mind of my skill set and for the most part I don’t want to stretch past that. Most of us don’t want to do things we don’t think we’re good at. But sometimes we surprise ourselves if we try to learn something new.

When I became a full-time writer, all I wanted to do was concentrate on the writing. I didn’t want to think about the marketing and promotion that I was inevitably going to have to do when I published my books. I’m not a marketing genius, nor am I a good salesperson. The idea of peddling my book made me cringe.

Knowing that at some point I was going to have to address this issue, because I plan to self-publish, I would from time to time read how-to essays by artists and writers about the ins and outs of getting their work noticed by the general public. Unfortunately, after reading only a short portion of the book or article, my eyes would glass over and the pit of my stomach would sink. The experts I read said you have to be aggressive, you have to get your name out there, you have to talk about your work on social media, you have to push, push, push. Ugh. I hated it.

I’m an introvert. I don’t want to do blast marketing where every hour a tweet or post screams at people to go buy my book. That’s just not me. It seemed to me that most marketing and promotion wisdom is created by extroverts who have no problem tooting their own horn. I have a difficult time doing that. But the problem of how to market my book kept nagging at me. I knew I needed to come up with a plan but what?

So, I meditated and prayed about the problem. I hoped that providence would send me a new way to promote myself and my work that wouldn’t feel awful. I was just beginning to despair when Hay House sent me an email about Jeff Walker, with an internet marketing scheme that intrigued me. His business is called the Product Launch Formula (trademark). I watched the first video and was surprised that he gave so much great information about how to market anything I might want to sell but, as he said in the video, not is a sleazy or used car salesman kind of way. A few days later another email with a video link came and a few days another. By the time I’d watched the three videos I had the outline of how to market my book in a way that fits who I am.

Jeff is all about giving good value to your prospect ahead of time and asking for their advice and comments. If you can get to know the people who are interested in what you have to offer, it’s easier to promote your product. I loved that! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign up for his six month course this time. But when I was poking around his site I discovered he had written a book (Launch) that contains the information I needed to get started. I bought it that very day and have since read it. As I read, all kinds of great ideas of how to promote my work popped into my mind. This method was exactly what I needed. Because of this book I feel like I can be an expert at building a list of followers without coercing them to buy. That’s something I didn’t ever think I’d be able to do.

Before the Jeff Walker videos, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to build a list of followers. Part of my mind was closed. I didn’t want to have to market my books myself. Couldn’t I just have someone do it for me? However, the reality for authors today is that you’ve got to be actively engaged with your readers or potential readers even if your book is published in the conventional way. There are so many books being published, that it’s hard for new authors to get noticed and to gain a following. Jeff suggests you begin by using your email list to grow your customer base. You can start small by directing potential customers to an opt in page and you can also use word of mouth to attract new followers. I love that!

Even before learning about Jeff Walker, I made it a practice to avoid the best seller lists and read books by authors who aren’t as well known. If I like their book, I write a review on Amazon, iBooks, and/or Goodreads so that hopefully the author will expand their readership. Already I’ve made some online writer friends because I’ve written reviews, or retweeted the link to their book. It’s amazing how many new people I’ve met using this method.

Maybe I’ll coin a new phrase, “Karma Marketing,” in which helping others be successful will help me be successful too. That’s what Jeff Walker advocates. As you start your business, you make connections with people who resonate with you, and you support each other. He uses the term Mastermind Group, which is more than just a networking group. In your mastermind group, you hold each other accountable for improving your business by offering new products or services that your customers or fan base can use. Always give more value than they expect. It’s a new trend in business to be of service, rather than bilk your customers by selling inferior products and getting top dollar for those products. That’s something I can get behind.

Of course building a fan base takes time and effort, but it’s effort I’m willing to make if I can offer my readers something they will enjoy. Something extra I’ve created just for them. When I do this I may make some friends along the way. That’s always a good thing. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally someone who thinks like I do, and who is willing to help me build a business that is people friendly.

I’m going to do a little bit of word of mouth promotion for Jeff. If you buy his book, Launch, you get a step by step process that will help you begin your business, and access to a resource page with videos and instructions on how to do some of the technical stuff that an online business requires. This is what makes me excited. I won’t be alone as I step outside my comfort zone and stretch into learning a new but vital skill I will need to help me grow my fan base. Thanks Jeff and thanks Providence!

Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Mind Shift from Amateur to Professional

Shakespeare - There's a Professional

Shakespeare – There’s a Professional

“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 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

“Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” ~ Brit Hume

“At 20, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father and asked him permission to engage in a professional career. In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin.” ~ Rita Levi-Montalcini

About a year or so ago, I read the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and it changed my life. Six years earlier I’d retired from teaching public school to follow my dream of being a writer. I thought it would be easy to work from home, another dream come true, but it wasn’t. Every morning I found all kinds of excuses and tasks to do INSTEAD of making writing my first priority. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, but I’ve seen lots of people do the same thing when they attempt to follow their dream. What is it about humans that makes us sabotage ourselves? Anyway when I read Pressfield’s book I realized that there was a switch in my head that had not been flipped from amateur to professional. By the end of the book, I’d flipped the switch and I’m immensely happy that I did.

Steven Pressfield’s concept of what it means to be a professional is very simple. A professional puts the work they want to be doing first every day no matter what. For me that means that I have to set a time to be in my office everyday with my hands on the computer keys working on my latest project. Writing is my work, and I must treat it like any other job even on the days when the ideas don’t come easily, or when there is a shift from one task to another. At the end of the writing day, I may throw out all that I’ve written, but at least I stuck to my commitment.

Being creative is like anything else in life, sometimes it flows easily and other times we’re faced with difficult challenges and feel like we’ll never create anything wonderful again, we’ll never be happy again, and we’ll be stuck in our misery forever. Yet, if we are willing to do the work, we always come through to a happier situation. Our muse comes back and we find the solution to the problems we’d been struggling with.

I’m in a little bit of a lull period in terms of my fiction writing right now. My novel is in the hands of writer friends and I’m waiting to get their comments back so I know whether I need to do more work or if I can have my manuscript edited and published. That’s a completely different set of tasks. My fingers itch to be working on something creative, but so far all I’ve been writing are this blog and pieces I hope to use in marketing my book. It’s good to work on those types of writing too, but I don’t find as much joy in writing them as I do creating characters and the worlds in which they live.

As I was typing that last paragraph, I remembered a story Pressfield shares in the book about finishing his first novel. When he’d finished the first draft, he went to tell his mentor that he’d finished the book. He felt a great sense of accomplishment, but his mentor said, “Good. Now go start the next one.” Remembering that little story helps me realize that I’ve fallen down on my commitment to myself. I did what Pressfield’s mentor said when I finished the rough draft of The Space Between Time. I sat down immediately and started the sequel. But then I got caught up in revisions of the first book, which were rather extensive. I haven’t gone back to the second book even though I’ve got this span of time while I’m waiting for feedback. That’s not good. I need to be working on the sequel in addition to my promotional materials.

I’m convinced that every creative person has to find their own “voice”, their own method of creating and being a professional. Maybe it’s more about finding their own rhythm. I’m still new to this writing thing and still learning how to juggle the various parts of the process. For now, I plan to go back and do more work on the sequel to my first novel. Who knows perhaps parts of the sequel novel can be things I include in the promotional materials for this first book.

Thanks for reading. I hope you don’t mind that I used Shakespeare’s picture again this week. He’s my idea of the ultimate professional. If you’ve got ideas about how I can improve my creative process, feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

How I Get My Ideas

Shakespeare - Great ideas

Shakespeare – Great ideas

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” ~ Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

“I don’t know exactly where ideas come from, but when I’m working well ideas just appear. I’ve heard other people say similar things – so it’s one of the ways I know there’s help and guidance out there. It’s just a matter of our figuring out how to receive the ideas or information that are waiting to be heard.” ~ Jim Henson

“My creative process is quite slow. I hear melodies in my head while I’m washing the dishes and I allow my subconscious to do the work.” ~ Sinead O’Connor

I’m in the process of writing my first novel and the question I get asked the most when people hear me talk about it is, “How did you get the idea for your book?” That’s something that’s kind of hard to explain unless you’re a writer too. I don’t think the muses visit people who are highly creative in exactly the same ways, but here’s how it happens for me.

First of all, a writer doesn’t get just one idea. Okay, maybe initially we do get one idea. But during the writing process I’ve had hundreds of ideas. Some ideas made it into the book, others I chucked because they slowed down the story, or I discovered they didn’t fit with the overall message I was trying to get across.

To tell you how I got the initial idea for my novel, first I have to tell you my internal thought process. The way I learn from my experiences. When something happens, or a new idea occurs to me, I often set it on the back burner of my mind. I let it simmer along with all the other things I’m trying to figure out. I’m not really paying active attention to those simmering ideas, yet they are there. At some point I may see a movie, read a book, hear a song, or someone says something to me that applies to one of those pots that I’ve got simmering and I make a connection. A light bulb goes off and I have an aha moment. The two seemingly unrelated concepts have come together to give me a completely new idea. They finally make sense.

That’s also often how I get material for this blog. That’s definitely what happened when I got the idea for The Space Between Time, my novel. And it keeps happening little by little as I continue to work on and revise the book.

The initial incident was this: It was 1999. My husband and I had moved to Arizona three years earlier to be near our parents who had all retired here. Part of our motivation for moving was because my father had heart disease and not knowing how long he had to live, we wanted to be close to him. One weekend, we drove the five hours to see my parents. Something about that weekend made me feel that my father had taken a turn for the worse and was on a descent to his eventual death. As we drove home, I was thinking about my father and all the wonderful things he’d taught me and wondering how I’d cope with his not being here. Then the kernel of an idea for a book about the relationship between a father and a daughter came to me. In a way, it would be my tribute to my father. When I got home I began to write.

Unfortunately for the book project, I got a full-time teaching job very soon after and didn’t have time for writing. However, I put it on the back burner of my mind and thought about it often.

Finally, several years later, I’d had enough of teaching high school and began my writing career. But for some reason, I felt compelled to write a memoir first. However, when it was finished, I decided not to publish it. There was one advantage to writing the memoir before the novel. I got a perspective on all the things I’d learned over the years especially those things I’d learned from my father.

At first, after finishing my memoir, I was a little stumped what my next writing project should be. Then I remembered the novel I’d started all those years ago. This was now 2010 and my father had passed away in 2004. I’d had sufficient time to mourn his passing and to get a handle on the nature of our relationship. When I hit upon going back to the novel, I was happy to pick up where I’d left off.

I’d set my story in the past, 1858 was where it began, but at about the half-way point of finishing my manuscript, I came to stand still. My novel needed something new. For a month or two I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say with my story. Just when I was beginning to get frustrated, I got the inspiration I needed. Something someone said, clicked with my thoughts and feelings about my novel, and I had that blessed aha idea that helped send me off in a new direction with my book. All of sudden I was energized. It wasn’t long, relatively speaking, until I had finished the rough draft. Now, of course, the real work of revising and polishing began.

As I worked on the book revisions, I understood that the real technique I use to help me find inspiration is related to daydreaming. When I was stumped about how to fix a scene, I’d spend a little bit of time allowing my mind to wander. I’d read a book, or watch a movie, or sit and watch the sunrise or sunset then the answer would come. Every day I give myself time to have no mental tasks at all, or at least not strenuous mental tasks. In all honesty, I can’t say my mind is ever quiet, except for short periods during meditation. I’ve learned that answers to questions I’m asking about any aspect of my life, can’t be forced. I have to let go and trust that the perfect answer for whatever dilemma I’m wrestling with will present itself in time.

Most of the time my best ideas come in the netherworld between sleeping and waking, or while driving, or taking a shower, or doing housework, because all the while, I’m still connected to all those simmering ideas on the back burner of my mind but I’m not consciously thinking about them. I give myself permission to allow something in the movie, or book, or song to trigger an idea that fits the project I’m working on. In fact, I got the idea for the title to my novel while listening to a Beatles song one night on the way home from teaching my college class. And the funny thing is, I don’t remember which song it was, but that’s not what’s important. It’s that my mind was open to suggestions from the ethers to the problem of what to name my book. Then at the right time, the answer came.

Let me say that just because I’ve shared my method for getting ideas for creative projects with you, doesn’t mean you have to do it like I do. Everyone has their own way. The important thing is to let go and let yourself discover how ideas come to you. Being creative involves trust. You have to trust that a way to express what you’ve longed to share will come to you. Then when it does, create whatever you’re inspired to create.

One final important thing to remember is, don’t judge your work, especially when you first start out. Just create the work and let it go. You’ll get better as you practice, and more ideas will come to you. It’s kind of like learning to walk or talk. When we first stood on our feet, we fell down, when we first tired to speak we couldn’t pronounce the words very well, but the more we practiced the better we got, because we learned to use our muscles to the best advantage. Creativity is another muscle that needs to be developed and the more we use it the stronger it gets.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

On Death and Life

Butterfly Close up“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” ~ Rumi

My dear Aunt Nila died on Saturday. I wasn’t able to be with her in her last days, which makes me sad. However, my mother was with her, the sister she shared a bed with. She could be extremely sad, but she’s not. She told me that her sister was surrounded by so much love that she was happy to share in a most beautiful experience. In fact, I could feel the love when I sent Reiki after hearing that my Aunt had collapsed and was in a coma. Not only was my Aunt surrounded by family, many friends came to say their goodbyes as well. That’s how I want to go, surrounded by love.

My Aunt Nila was a fierce and loyal friend. She was funny and gregarious. I wouldn’t say she was a great cook or housekeeper, but that didn’t matter to those she who knew her. She had an open heart and was willing to help anyone in need. People loved her because she accepted them without judgment. My Aunt Nila left the world a better place in which to live and that’s the best epitaph anyone can have.

While I was thinking about this post not only contemplating what to write about my Aunt’s life, but what to write about death in general, I realized that I’ve done a great deal of thinking about death and the meaning of life in the past few years. In fact, that’s one of the themes of The Space Between Time, the novel I’m writing. One of my readers said it was a dark book, but I don’t see it that way. We all ask the question, what is the purpose of living in this human form and then leaving it? Granted the death of a loved one can be a sorrowful experience, but I believe every experience we have, gives us an opportunity for deeper understanding about ourselves and our purpose for being here.

It’s true most of us don’t like to think or talk about death. Beyond this earthly life is the unknown, and that’s really scary for most people. I’ve had a chance to observe three or four people during their death process and there is something so beautiful about embracing what comes after leaving this earthly body. It’s sad when the process is filled with fear. My father’s death process was one that had a big impact on me. We talked quite a bit about what he’d learned during his lifetime that helped him approach his death without the anxiety many people feel. He believed that death is just a kind of portal to another chapter in our lives.

I know my father was right. It’s hard to explain how I know this, it’s really just a feeling because I’ve never had a near death experience, but I think that when our physical bodies die, we’re set free. I don’t know the full meaning of why we’re here on earth or that of our bigger lives after we leave it. But it feels to me like there is a plan for this living and dying thing that we go through. It’s just that when we’re in our dense human bodies it’s difficult to understand the bigger picture.

Just because I feel that there is life after death, doesn’t mean I don’t mourn my loved ones when they die. I miss talking to them, and in my Aunt’s case, I won’t get to see her one last time to say goodbye. That makes me weep, but I’m weeping for myself and the lost moments with my Aunt Nila that I failed to gather. And yet, she’s not gone. The love we felt for each other still lives on. That gives me comfort and hope.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015