Friday, December 14, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life, the Grinch & Charlie Brown

Christmas will be here soon, and I have taken out the Christmas DVDs. I have "It's a Wonderful Life," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I started watching them right after I recovered from my Thanksgiving turkey hangover.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is one of my all time favorites. I cry my eyes out every time I watch it, even though I have seen it hundreds of times and I know how it's going to end. There is something magical about Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and the direction of Frank Capra that makes you believe in family, faith, and angels named Clarence getting their wings. It makes me stop and realize that one person does make a difference and touches so many other people, even though they might not think they are anything special, or that they have done anything spectacular in their lives. Lessons that I can carry with me throughout the year.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is one of my favorites, the animated version. I thought the live action version with Jim Carrey was good, but there is something about the voice of Boris Karloff as the narrator and the Grinch, and the animation of Chuck Jones that brings me back to when I was little and watched it on television. Same with "A Charlie Brown Christmas". The speech Linus gives at the end with the children singing at the end, still makes my eyes water, but it shows how the meaning of Christmas can get lost in all of the commericalism.

So, sit with your kids, your friends and family and watch a little bit of Christmas tradition. And don't forget the tissues!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

I love Thanksgiving. I have many reasons to love this holiday, but mainly it gives me the opportunity to thank everyone for everything, all at once. I thank God, my family, my friends, my co-workers, and some of the strangers I have met through the year who I believe to have been "angels in disguise". I was taught this lesson of gratitude over 20 years ago during one of the most difficult times in my life.

I was 18 years old. I had just graduated from high school, my parents were separated and heading for a divorce, my mother was struggling to take care of all of us, and the decision was made to move from Garrison, ND to Minot, ND. More job opportunities, a fresh start, we were hopeful that this would be what we all needed.

When we arrived, we had to find a place to live. Mom found a small apartment. She found two jobs, one at the Little Flower School as a cook, and the other was at K-Mart. I found a job at McDonalds. But even with 3 incomes coming in, we still had a hard time. It was Thanksgiving, and with all of the family drama going on, nobody in Garrison was inviting us for dinner. We were on our own and we didn't have much. A container of Jello and a half gallon of milk with assorted condiments were in the fridge. That was it. We were trying to keep from thinking about it, and getting more depressed about this situation. Not only was I worried, as I'm sure Mom was, about eating for Thanksgiving, but for the rest of the week. Then, there was a knock at the door...

Two ladies carrying big grocery boxes full of food were there to give us what we needed. Food. They were from the church. There was two of everything. Turkeys, canned vegetables, boxes of stuffing, boxes of mashed potatoes, bread, butter, and pies, and of course, the cranberries. Mom had to swallow hard, because pride doesn't go down easy, and she had never taken or needed to take a handout in her adult life, that I could remember. I remember Mom starting to cry and in a shaky voice, she said, "Thank you on behalf of me and my children." We hugged those ladies and Mom and I vowed on that day to try and donate something, ANYTHING, to the food shelves because they had helped us when we needed it the most.

I thank those ladies to this day, whereever they are, for helping me and my family. I'm not Oprah, giving away refrigerators, or building homes for people, but I try to do what I can and give what I can. It might be a few dollars to a friend in need, who is down on their luck. It might be to the Salvation Army in the big red kettles (they are all out now and they need your help this year more than ever). It might be to give a ride to a co-worker that has their car in the shop. Any small Act of Random Kindness is important in the life of someone who has run out of luck and hope. Just do it, and then thank God, the Universe, your Higher Power, for all of the blessings you have received in your life. Here is a small portion of mine:

1. My health.
2. My home, job, family, and friends.
3. My future.
4. My past. Because I can't appreciate anything I have today or tomorrow if I don't appreciate where I've come from.

Make your own list, and then in a grateful voice, say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

To everyone in my life who has helped me get this far, and for those who will be there to help me in the future. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Misfits Unite!

My name is Laura, and I'm a misfit.

Let me explain. I subscribe to a number of online ezines, newsletters, blogs, etc. I am going to be launching my own zine soon, or newsletter, or both, and I needed to research the best and the worst to get a feel for what is being put out there to find my niche. Tonight, the posts I read from John Carlton's Big Damn Blog( )"The Slippery Truth" and "Misfits In Charge", were like a splash of cold water in the face. Surprising, refreshing, but most importantly, eye opening.

How many of you walk through your life like a zombie? You're here, but your not here. You function at a level that doesn't seem to take much thought whatsoever, going through the motions, day after day, and it usually takes something like a tumor, a heart attack, or worse, the death of someone close to you, to make you realize that there is more to life than just "going through the motions."

I'm not judging anyone, because I am guilty as charged, but I realized, thanks to John Carlton's post about misfits, I am one of them.

I'm a misfit. It all makes sense. Only a few people in my circle of family, friends, and co-workers actually GET ME!

I am not happy going through the motions, trying to live up to other people's expectations, following their rules, all of that! I've been labeled lazy, out-of-it, a daydreamer, a failure, a troublemaker, and my personal favorite, angry. Of course I'm angry! I haven't been living the life I'm meant to live, trying to conform to a society and rules that don't apply to me! I've been trying to do the right thing for everyone else...but not FOR ME!

Why? To avoid conflict. To keep the peace and keep everyone else off my freaking back. But now, I understand. I wasn't born to conform. I have a hard time following the idiotic policies and procedures of my job, and society, because they don't work for me!

I'm not advocating everyone create mass chaos here (although, with regard to the gas prices, I think the zombies need to wake up or go feast on some oil barons masquerading as politicians!). Just a little anarchy to get the juices flowing. We creative types need stimulation!

I'm a writer. I will make a living as a writer, or die trying, and since I have way too many people, places and things I want to meet, see, and do before I start pushing up daisies, I'm going to make it one way or another. I'm not ready to quit my steady job yet, but I will post when that day arrives. Watch for the fireworks!

Most of the goals I have set for myself, in regards to my writing have been accomplished:

1. I have been published. Yes, in my local paper, but it counts!
2. I have started my own writing business and have business cards to prove it!
3. I am writing my second novel for NaNoWriMo 2007, editing the first novel from 2006 and outlining a third.
4. I have a mentor, Beth Erickson, who is helping me get my writing business and career off the ground.

I haven't stopped dreaming, laughing, or praying for help when I really need it, but most of all, I haven't stopped being grateful for all of these things and more.
These are just the ones I have completed for myself. I still have a long way to go, but here are some that I will be working on in the next few months:

1. Get a domain name, website, etc.
2. Market my business locally, then regionally, and finally, nationally.
3. Establish more than one stream of income using my skills as a writer and speaker.
4. Teach writing classes, marketing classes, seminars or workshops, and get paid for it!

I am having more fun and I have never been more scared in my life doing this, but sometimes you have to just jump in and do it.

I am an observer, which is a good trait to have if you want to be a writer. I have observed the most successful people are those who follow their own path, the "The Road Not Taken", as Robert Frost wrote. It is one of my favorite poems, and when I think things are tough, that I can't go on, or I want to give up on myself, I read that poem.

Imagine where the world would be if Robert Frost didn't take "the road not taken." What if Stephen King never wrote or tried to publish his work? Or if John Lennon didn't get together with 3 other musicians to form The Beatles? Or if Bill Gates didn't drop out of Harvard to follow his instincts with regards to computers? Or if Oprah didn't start her talk show? You get the picture.

Think of all the people you admire, who inspire you, who have come from absolutely nothing to be where they are now, if they didn't take that path, drop out of school, break the rules, or "didn't fit in" with the rest of society and yet, they were successful and they ended up making the world a better place. Or they are trying to, in their own unique way.

I say, "Misfits of the world, Unite!" as John Carlton says at the end of his post. Stand up and be proud! And for the rest of you, I leave you with the wonderful words of Mr. Robert Frost:

The Road Not Taken


Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Choose your path. Make a difference.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope this holiday brings you lots of candy and other sweet things in your life. Fall came quickly and most of the leaves are now blown off the trees. No pictures from the North Shore this year, darn, but hopefully next year we will be able to go again.

I have been busy beyond belief. I am working hard at getting my home business up and running and it is taking longer than I anticipated, but that could just be because I'm impatient and anxious to get it going and be successful. But I don't want to get too ahead of myself and screw things up, so if it has to be slow, so be it. I am getting a lot of help from my mentor, Beth Erickson. She is phenomenal, and she and I clicked right from the get go, and the things she has taught me have given me more "light bulb" moments than Oprah! So, with her help, and my drive, I should be sipping champagne from my private jet in no time! LOL!

I am still working nights, still babysitting my nephew, Cannon, who is such a joy. He's more active and talking and it still amazes me that children soak up and learn so quickly, so I have had to watch my language around him.

Alex will be enlisting in the Navy this Spring, Thank God. He wanted to wait for a variety of reasons, and the fact he will be home for the holidays makes me want to jump up and down. I know he will be leaving, eventually, but I am now getting more acclimated to the idea of him going, and I think I will be ok with it when the time comes.

Tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month. I am participating this year again. I am writing the sequel to the novel I wrote last year, "Office Politics", a murder mystery thriller. I decided to plot this year, which I hope will make the writing go a lot smoother and faster, and I hope to get my certificate saying I'm a winner. I know I am already, I just have to do it.

I won't wait another whole month before I post again. I have a lot of other things I want to share, but they can wait. In the meantime, have a great Halloween, and stay safe!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back to School--Not this year!

School started yesterday for most of the schools in this area, and for the first time ever, I didn't have to wake my son up and make him breakfast for the first day of school. Weird. Really weird.

To tell the truth, this has been a weird summer. Hotter than usual, drought, humidity that brings memories of the Everglades in Florida, and just the fact that Alex won't ever go to school again, unless he chooses to. I went to Wal-mart last week and ended up in the Back to School section and nearly broke down. Looking at the colors, the markers, the notebooks and folders, the pens and pencils, erasers, the was just overwhelming to think I wouldn't have to buy any of that stuff again for him.

It's also been a really hard week since he called his Navy recruiter to enlist. Reality hits again. My son will be leaving for who knows how long, and I will not be looking for him to drive up after work, or be sitting in front of the television or computer playing video games, or chilling out on the couch watching a movie. I still have that to go through, but I think I will be ok. Not great. Just ok.

I won't promise I won't cry. I will probably shed buckets of tears, and will be down in the dumps for a while, but I do have other things in my life to keep me going. I have the LOML (Love of my life) QH, who promises that if I get too worked up, he will take me fishing or flash shiny objects in front of me to distract me. I have my nephew, Cannon, who I am still babysitting during the day, who is also turning into a little ball of fire. And, my writing, which I couldn't give up even if I tried (I tried, but then I couldn't breathe, so I had to go back to it. Life or death, you know!). I can't disappoint my fans at Pro Drywall (Lori, Karen and Diane, **waving** hey, girls!), or Dan on 3rd shift who reads my articles in Zimmerman Today every other week. Also, those friends and family members who "don't get it", it drives them crazy that I would pursue a writing career because they don't think I can be successful at it. Those are the ones I love the most, because when someone says "You can't", I say, "Watch me!"

Truth is, I have plenty to keep me busy until my son comes home, for a visit or for good. I am in the process of editing my first novel for publication, and working on the sequel. It's a murder suspense thriller and the sequel is coming along nicely. I have also started my own writing business, Crawford Writing Services, Inc., and I will be doing a lot of promotion for that. I also have a great project I'm working on with Zimmerman Today, plus, a lot of articles I plan to shop around to magazines and other publications. Lots to do.

But I still want to go school shopping anyway! Just for old times sake!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

This is How to Have a Wedding!

On Saturday, August 11, 2007, we were invited to a wedding. The bride and groom, requested that everyone show up at 4pm to celebrate their wedding. We never got to see the wedding ceremony, that was reserved for an intimate gathering of family and friends. The wedding was held outside in their yard. Everyone was asked to dress casual, meaning shorts and shirts and sandals. It was welcome attire since the temperature was over 90 degrees and the dewpoints were in the 70's. It did cool off later in the evening, but it was plenty warm that day!

The bride is the daughter of our longtime friend, Bob, and the groom is a great guy we have all come to know and love and the newlyweds make a great couple. This is a second marriage for both, and they wanted to keep it as simple as possible.

One of the most interesting things I heard was from Bob, who said that the pastor was in bare feet for the ceremony and said that it was his first "Barefoot Wedding". He also commented by saying, "This is how to have a wedding!"

I know if I can ever afford to marry QH (LOML-love of my life), it would be small and simple, if we both decide to go through that. I don't understand why people spend such enormous amounts of money on a wedding! A small wedding is now over $25,000.00! That's almost a year's salary for me! I would rather do a Justice of the Peace, with all of our family and friends and have a nice party after the ceremony and put some of that money toward a house!

I do know some people that spend a fortune on their wedding day, they have planned for it since they were in the 3rd grade and when the day is over, they don't know what to do, or they don't realize that marriage is more than just walking down the aisle, it involves work, trust, seeing someone at their absolute worst or near death's door and staying by their side, or nursing them back to health. It's loving them even though they do things that drive you nuts, or you do things that drive them nuts and they stay with you, and yet you find a way to make it work. It's the big things, and the little things. It's appreciating them for the person that they ARE, not the person you want to change them to be, or that you fantasized they would be once you got married.

We get asked all the time, "When are you going to get married?" Like the relationship we have had for the last 12 plus years doesn't count. I don't need to have a Judge or a pastor or a piece of paper to tell me I am committed to QH. I don't need the validation. I don't need a diamond on my finger to let me know that we are committed to one another. I feel that every morning when I reach over and he is sleeping there beside me, or he is helping me with the housework, or he is supporting my decisions to run my own writing business, or my writing career in general when other people are telling me to be "practical" and find a better paying job, or he is helping my son, Alex, when I am not there for him.

I feel it and I am grateful everyday for every moment I have with him. I appreciate him for the man he was 12 years ago when I met him for the first time, and for the man he is right now. What piece of paper on this Earth will tell me that? What shiny rock pulled out of the dirt will symbolize the love I feel in my heart? None. And if we decide to get married, we will. If we decide we don't want to, we won't. Either way, the relationship, the committment, the love, the respect, that we feel for one another are there and going strong. We feel like we are already married, without the cost and all the paperwork! Since we have been living together for over 2 years, in some states, we would be considered to be in a "common law marriage". That's good enough for me.

The bride and groom also requested we not bring gifts, but we made them a card anyway, just to tell them congratulations on their special day. Now that is definitely one thing I would change. Gifts and donations are gratefully accepted, at our house, so you can send them anytime! Then maybe I can afford to keep him! LOL! :)

Congratulations Terri and Kirk! May you both live happily ever after!

The Bridge Fell Down

I was at work when the I-35W Bridge collapsed on August 1, 2007. I could not believe that it happened, even though we watched it on the television in the breakroom at each break time. I prayed my heart out, especially for two of my friends who work downtown, and I was relieved to find out they were okay. I also prayed for all of the victims lost, the survivors and for the First Responders and those who were just there to try and help as much as they could to get everyone off that bridge safely.

It's been 11 days and not all of the victims have been found. The divers are having a terrible time trying to get through the debris, the currents of the Mississippi River are creating whirlpools and the visibility is almost nill.
Above the waterline, the politicians and the media are busy making promises that this will never happen again, but they are also pointing fingers at who they feel is responsible for the collapse in the first place. If you ask me, I think they are all to blame.
One of the first things they brought up was the gas tax that was voted down last fall, citing if we had voted it in, this wouldn't have happened. Baloney! The money that would have been raised from that would not have saved that bridge, or the people who perished on it. Why does the government think that if you throw money at a problem it will solve the problem? It's not the money or lack thereof that created this problem in the first place.

If they are really concerned about the lack of money in our state's transportation budget, then why don't they take a pay cut and donate that portion to the transportation budget? HMMM?

Why don't they make the things that should be a priority a priority instead of making their little pet projects at the top of their agendas? When our governor, who is a Republican, said that he would veto the gas tax because he felt that Minnesotans were burdened enough with not one, but 2 stadiums being built, plus all the other little things they were trying to pass, he caught a lot of flack for it. Now he's being attacked in the media for not passing that bill. I think he was right. We don't need another tax, especially one on gas. We've done without it for this long, we can do without it a little longer. And when Governor Pawlenty took over, the state was so far in the red and in 4 years (his first term), he turned it around without raising taxes and whoohooo, we have a surplus! He was picked apart for cutting this and cutting that, but he had to do it in order to get the state back on track. But the other politicians were just drooling at where they could spend that money. No gas tax was being sought at that time, nobody ever mentioned a gas tax until last year, so why not put that surplus towards our roads, bridges and building the Northstar Rail to alleviate some of this traffic that seems to be getting worse and worse each year?

Now, I think he is going to have to do whatever he can to make the safety of our bridges a priority so this won't happen again. Anyone who has ever come to Minnesota knows, you are crossing a river, or a lake or a stream or some body of water in this state on a bridge and some bridges have more traffic than others.

The I-35W Bridge was a main artery into and out of downtown Minneapolis. Now everyone is going to have to figure out a new way to get there and home again. Not such a bad thing, but until the bridge is rebuilt, it's going to be a traffic nightmare. But I would rather see the traffic nightmare instead of the nightmare that occurred on August 1, 2007, happen again.

I'm not saying I have all the answers. I waited a while to post about this, because it has been a hard thing to process. I do know angels were there that evening, for the deaths have not reached the double digits yet. (As of this writing, the 9th victim was pulled from the wreckage today). Four others are missing. And the heroes of that night were shown in helping other people who were hurt and injured while they were hurt and injured themselves. They weren't thinking about who passed which bill for whatever political reason that night. They were doing what Minnesotans are famous for: Helping their neighbor. Maybe they should attend our next legislative session and show the politicians how it's done.

Please keep the families and all of the people still working in the recovery process in your prayers. Pray for those who passed on and for those who survived. Hug everyone you love, because you just never know.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting your house in order

Today was not a glamorous day, by any means. We awoke early to get my son, Alex, off to the airport. We awoke at 5:00 am and had to make to the airport 2 hours early so he could get checked in before his flight. By some miracle, there was NO LINE!!! He got checked in and he gave me one of those quick, one-armed hugs and a kiss on the cheek, and he was off to spend a week at the home of my brother, Andy and his wife, Lisa, in Oklahoma City. We left the airport and we were home around 8:30 am. I resisted the urge to go back to bed and catch a few more hours of sleep, and instead, began working on cleaning the closet, my bookcase and the ...GARAGE!!

I am a master (or mistress?) at procrastination, and I have put this off so long that it was actually making me physically ill! I couldn't take it anymore, it was driving me crazy! I couldn't write, because I kept thinking about all of the crap I needed to sort through and organize and I know that is why there was nothing but crap coming into my life. I had NO ROOM for anything good to come through! Time to silence my inner packrat who has had full reign for too long!

I was ruthless. I tackled my closet. Yuck! The first thing I went through was my clothes. Anything that was ripped, torn, or beyond repair, went into the rag pile. Next were the clothes I wear all the time. Those were sorted into piles. One for the clothes I have NOT worn in a year or more. Gone. Either going to Goodwill or Salvation Army. The rest was separated into work and dress up. Not much on either side, but that's ok, I have hangers now! Yippee!

Next was the bookcase. It had morphed into a giant sponge, sucking up energy and life because it was collecting crap all over it. It's the "catch-all" of the house. But the kitchen table is usually worse. I pulled everything off the shelves and dusted them (or plowed, if you prefer), and once they were all polished, I set about sorting the books and stuff that had accumulated there. Books I wanted to keep, I put back on the shelf. The rest went into a box for me to take to the bookstore to cash in for money. Felt like I lost 5 pounds just doing that!

The Garage. Did I mention it was almost 90 degrees today? By the time I was out there starting to sort through stuff around the door and the shelves, it was around 1:00 pm. Hot is not the word for it. I was practically melting, but I was driven to get 'er done! I was on a roll and the heat actually helped me do it a lot faster than I would have, because I didn't stand there looking at all my magazines, books, and junk and think, "Oh, I'll just keep that around, I might need it." Nope. I silenced that pack rat right away by saying the same thing in the closet. "If I haven't touched it in a year or more, out it goes!"

Unfortunately, I did lose a lot of books that would have been good to sell at the bookstore to mold and mildew. They got wet somehow and the box and everything in it had to go. I was sad for a second, but then realized that if I had done this sooner, I could have saved them. I didn't want to stand there and keep kicking myself in the pants for my procrastination. It doesn't do any good.

After I sorted what was going to Goodwill or Salvation Army and what was trash and going in the dumpster, the rest was easy to sort through. It was the giveaway pile to family and friends I know who can benefit from some of my junk. Then the smallest pile of all was the pile of what I really wanted to keep. Not a whole lot, which is good, because I don't want to do this any time soon, but I do want to schedule and organize things to the point that once a month, at least, I am sorting, donating or throwing out the junk I don't need. I have too much to do. I have writing to do, a writing business to run, and most importantly, a family to take care of, and now that I have this off my mind, I feel like a huge load has been lifted and the energy can flow in, with all the good we can stand!

So, if you think the world has it out for you, or you are so frustrated at how things are going, take a good, hard, honest look around and "clean out the corners." You will feel so much better!

Just for the record, this was brought on by my friend and fellow writer, Jen Nipps who is in the process of moving and posted to our online writing group that she is cleaning out all the clutter from her life right now. Thanks, Jen! :)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Crawford Writing Services, Inc.

Yes, that's right! I have decided to make the leap into my own business. I'm tired of working for other people and feel that my writing skills are sufficient to go out on my own.

Don't worry, I have to keep my night job for now, but I am bound and determined to make this work and be successful.

I do have a lot of people to thank, the list is not in any particular order of importance, they are all #1 in my book.

Thanks to everyone who believes in me enough that I could ever have made it this far.

Q.H.(aka. Q-man),LOML-Love of my life,
Alex, my son,
Tom & Mavis, my parents,
Andy & Lisa, my brother and his wife,
Kelley & Travis, my sister and her husband,
Jim & Susi, my uncle & aunt, thanks for the big coffee mug!
Sandy Lender, author and fellow Duranie,
Dorothy Thompson, my FFG (fabulous fairy godmother),
PappaGale Sparks, artist, writer, redneck renaissance man,
Jamieson Wolf, writer and friend,
Steve Conklin, my editor at Zimmerman Today, my first paid writing job.

Also everyone in my Writers Life family, who are too numerous to mention. I have learned so much about myself, my writing, what works and what doesn't, and that sometimes you just have to go for it, no matter how scared you are.

I toast all of you and appreciate everything you have done for me.

My website for Crawford Writing Services, Inc. is now up. You can visit at

Here's to success!

Friday, July 20, 2007

A New Era Is Upon Us

Tonight at midnight, there will be thousands of children escorted by their parents to buy their copy of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling, which is the seventh and final book in the series. Most of the children and their parents who started reading the series are a bit older now and while I am sure they are sad to see it end this way (NO! I am NOT going to spoil it!), they are wondering, "What's next?" My answer is simple. "Choices Meant for Gods" by Sandy Lender.

In the article that follows, Sandy is kind and brave enough to reveal that it's not all glamour and glitz, at least not at the start. One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn about writing and publishing is that you are responsible for promoting your work! And work it is! But one thing I know for sure is some of the top notch marketers in the publishing industry can't predict what will become a bestseller or the next trend, so that gives all of us an equal chance, doesn't it? I feel a new era is upon us and Sandy Lender is just the author to lead us there.

So, sit back, relax and read Sandy's article below. Comment here or on her blog, and support her in this final day of her blog tour.

And what ever you do, don't start reading it before you go to bed, thinking "I'll just read the first two chapters," because you will blink and it will be 3 a.m. You just can't put it down. It's really that good!

And now, ladies and gentlemen...Ms. Sandy Lender.
Sandy Lender Doesn't Recommend Quitting Your Day Job
Or...the joy and insanity of being a writer

By Sandy Lender, fantasy author

Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman University, prides itself on offering a liberal arts education to graduates. I got out in four years with a degree in English and a liberal arts education that has garnered me a 15-year career in magazine publishing and public relations/marketing, but my true passion, the "career" I've nurtured since I was about six years old, is writing. And I don't mean journalism. Yes, journalism and editing are what have paid the bills the past 15 years (and will continue to do so), but fiction writing...oh...fiction writing is what has kept me alive.

It's probably going to be the death of me.

Let me explain. If you're visiting this site, you've probably been drawn here by an interest in books or authors or a writer's lifestyle or something along those lines. Let me give it to you straight. All writers have a touch of insanity about us (this is normal). We usually carry a muse around with us, but this is not always by choice. We complain about characters fighting for their rights, refusing to conform to our wishes in a scene. We go on writing binges that keep us up until 3 a.m. before collapsing next to our computers just to get up and start typing again when the sun blazes in to wake us around 7, skipping meals, showers, potty breaks and phone calls until some aspect of reality forces us out of the writing cocoon. We will tear a room to shreds looking for a pen if an idea has just struck us. And woe to the fool who gets between us and a piece of paper when we get hold of that pen...

Because I've experienced the insanity described above, I've been lifted up by hearing stories of people who have enjoyed my first published novel, Choices Meant for Gods. Now I get to read comments on my page of people claiming Nigel Taiman is "by far" their favorite character, or "I want to be just like Chariss when I grow up," and I feel this lump of pride in my darlings rise in my throat.

That's the joy and insanity of being a writer. You pour your heart and soul into the work; and pray that someone out there likes it, too. Now here's the hard part. People have to read it to like it. They have to know it exists to read it. So you have to get it to them.

Enter the marketing and promoting aspect of the new author's job. I attended the ArcheBooks Publishing's Professional Novelist Workshop about two weeks before receiving my contract for Choices Meant for Gods, and had attended the Naples Press Club Writers Workshop the week before that, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of the marketing nightmare new authors faced. I was ready. Lay it on me, I thought.

Now I'm on the last day of a two-month online book tour I organized myself, contemplating repeating a moderately successful instore book signing at the local Barnes & Noble that I organized myself, and managing six blogs (including for the promotion of my fantasy novel that I've organized myself, preparing a spate of press releases I've written myself that I'll spew forth like water from an erupting sprinkler next week, etc. Do you see a trend there?

New authors are on their own. Unless you have the few thousand dollars it takes to hire a publicity firm/PR agency to send out press releases for you, you're on your own. I don't have a few thousand stray dollars and I don't trust people who charge less than professional rates to do a professional job.

I take hope in the fact that even J.K. Rowling was once in the same boat I'm in now. She was down to her last food stamp as the story goes when that fateful call came: Her little story about a boy named Harry Potter had been picked up. I've already had my call. Choices Meant for Gods is published and out there. Now I need my lottery winning event to propel me into J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter status, but, for right now, I'm going to just keep writing deep into the night and reading those fabulous e-mails that praise Nigel and Chariss. Because making a living at this would be nice, but, truly, the writing binges that result in someone singing Chariss's praises are the real joy and insanity of being a writer.

I'd like to thank my host today for posting this guest blog article. And I'd like to thank everyone who made the CMFG Online Book Tour the raging success it's been. You know that paragraph above where I said new authors are one their own? I'd like to correct that. We actually have each other. Without each of you, the name Sandy Lender wouldn't be all over the internet right now, and readers wouldn't be one click away from to pick up my epic fantasy novel. And new author Sandy Lender is grateful to every one of you.

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"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

From Sandy Lender, Author of Choices Meant for Gods
Available right now
Taking over the Web Saturday, July 21, to complete the CMFG Online Book Tour.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Learning how to ride a bicycle

I'm not sure how old I was, but I know I couldn't have been much older than six or seven years old. The way my mother tells the story, she has never seen a child with more determination in all of her life, who came home dirty, bloody and thrilled with the fact she learned to ride a "big bike" with no training wheels.

It was summer and I didn't have a bicycle of my own, but my neighbor, Angela, who came from a large family, had an old blue bicycle that was just leaning up against the garage. It was the perfect size for me. I didn't have to bring it up to the steps so I could get on it and I knew that once I was on it, I could control it and not kill myself. So, I got this idea in my head that I was going to learn how to ride bicycle that day. Without training wheels.

So, I set about my task by going out into the middle of the street, down far enough that we were not visible by the picture windows of either of our houses. We would have been in BIG TROUBLE for playing out in the street, by both of our mothers. We kept to the side and tried to make sure that we wouldn't get "run over" by any cars.

Angela tried first, after all, it was her bicycle. She couldn't get the pedals going fast enough and fell. She didn't get hurt, but she got up and handed me the bicycle. She held onto the back of the seat to steady it as I got on and I tried to steer and over corrected and fell. I scraped my knee. Not bad, but it stung. This went on and on for hours. Angela finally gave up, she was tired of falling off, so she helped me in my quest for success. Finally, just before supper time, I did it! I pedaled. I steered. I even turned around, pedalling and steering and...I DIDN'T FALL OFF!! Of course, I nearly killed myself jumping off the bicycle to hug Angela and to celebrate my victory! But the fact of the matter is, I did what I set out to do. It hurt, it was painful, but I didn't give up, no matter what.

I thought my Mom was going to have a heart attack when she saw me, but I hurried up and told her I learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels and to come out and see. I demonstrated on the sidewalk out in front of our house.

I know she cried. She cried because I did it myself. She cried because I had to go through all of that pain and hurt to accomplish what I did. She also cried because it was one more small step away from me being her little girl and becoming a grown up. I know that because when my son learned how to ride his bicycle without training wheels, I cried for all of those reasons.

Why do I bring this up? I am 38 years old, and in a way, I am learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels all over again. My definition of myself is changing. I'm not just a woman, a daughter, a mother, a girlfriend, a sister, a human being, but now I am embarking on a new chapter in my life that will add business woman, entrepeneur, writer, copywriter, motivational speaker and I hope, teacher to my list of definitions.

I'm scared, like I was that day, but I am also determined to succeed. And I will be so proud of myself, pedalling down the road or the sidewalk...scabbed knees and all.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My Declaration of Independence 2007

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Over 231 years ago, our forefathers decided that they’d had enough! The signing of the Declaration of Independence was the equivalent of drawing a line in the sand between what would become the United States of America, and it’s mother country, England. We celebrate this day with parades, marching bands, barbecues and fireworks. All in all, it’s a great day!

Today, I guess you could say I have drawn my own line in the sand. I am hereby declaring my own independence from a lot of the stuff I have been carrying as baggage that I am just sick and tired of carrying around. Enough is enough!

Most of what I have as “baggage” is emotional stuff. I’ve been through a lot, that’s true, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t trade any of the bad stuff because without it I would not appreciate the good that came my way. Also, I would not be in the position in my life to recognize that I need to just let some of that stuff go. You can’t change the past, so what’s the point of dragging it around with you everywhere?

Also, I have been unhappy in my job. I’m there for a paycheck and health insurance and that’s about it, and my attitude and my anger and my frustration show that. I am not doing the work my spirit is intended for, which is to write, but I can’t give the factory job up yet until the writing takes off.

So, for now I will try to make the best of things, but I am also giving myself a deadline. If all goes well, (and there are opportunities that are presenting themselves that I am on the right track), I will be able to say goodbye for good to the factory job and hello to the life I have always dreamed of! I’m not saying that I’m going to just up and quit my job and become a full-time writer, and jeopardize my family’s financial future, oh no! But I have been working on a few things that will be coming to fruition sooner than I planned. I’m dancing I’m so excited about what’s to come.

As for the rest of it, the whining, the complaining, the bitching and moaning: Life sucks and then you die, I’m fat, I’m poor, I’m not pretty enough, I’m a horrible mother, I’m a horrible girlfriend/life partner to my boyfriend, I have no talent, I’ll never be a success at anything, I’m hopeless…well, you get the point. The tapes we play over and over in our minds have the voices of many dream killers we have known over the years. You hear it enough, you believe it.

But, I have a question to ask you, dear readers. Why do we believe all that crap? Why do we believe that life is hard, that nothing comes easy, that we are not of the lucky lot in life that gets their needs and wants met and that we don’t deserve to be happy? Why?

This is an abundant universe, and we are unlimited beings and we limit ourselves by saying the opposite of what is true: There is more than enough good to go around for everyone! We just need to figure out what it is we truly want, ask for it, believe we deserve it, be grateful for what we have already and then allow it to come into our lives and be able to receive it.

It's so much easier to complain about what we don't have, to look at someone else and say, "I want their life!" without looking in the mirror to see why ours isn't up to par. It's easier to see the bad things when they happen, and then diminish the good things by saying, "It wasn't that big of a deal." That's not being modest, that's called denial. You aren't going to get a medal for being in denial over what good comes into your life.

If we believe all of that, then we are doing a disservice to those who founded this country on the belief that we are all entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We are not honoring those who have fought and died serving this country to keep the borders safe, to protect the freedoms that we enjoy everyday: like waking up, speaking English and not hearing bullets and bombs outside of our homes. We are not honoring the Declaration of Independence. If they believed then, that we were all entitled to live abundant lives in the greatest country in the world, why do we discredit that belief by listening to all this shit?

Honor the Declaration of Independence. Honor the soldiers who have fought and died for all of us and continue to fight in the name of the greatest country in the world. Honor yourself by choosing to live the life you always dreamed of, pursuing your own happiness and sharing it with those you love and with the world. Honor all of these things and be grateful.

Let the fireworks begin!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Welcome Sandy Lender to the Polebarn!!

As promised, I would like to extend a warm Minnesota welcome (and I mean WARM. The temp will be over 90 degrees today), to my friend and fellow author, Sandy Lender. Her debut novel, "Choices Meant for Gods" hit the bookstores this spring and she has been on a relentless promotional tour. I really appreciate her stopping by here to chat. Sandy, welcome!

Laura: What do you think has been more difficult, writing and publishing your book or the promotion and marketing?

Sandy Lender: Now that I've learned that no one cares who I am, I'm going to say the promotion and marketing is the most difficult part. And I mean that! There are some wonderful people (probably 50) who have purchased the book and read it and called to tell me that it rocks (I've heard other positive adverbs and adjectives, too), but, ummm, I'm not going to build a great audience with 50 sales. (I'm under-exaggerating; it's more than 50, but I'm trying to prove a point.)

Now, don't get me wrong, I never set myself up to believe I was going to make any money off this first novel. My publisher was very clear in the seminars he's given that new authors in small- to medium-sized houses just don't make money - certainly not the kind of money that lets you quit your day job and focus on the career you love. So I didn't go into this with any "delusions" that I know of. But, wow...I had hoped at least one radio station or magazine would care that a local artist had succeeded in the publishing game. Not so much. Having the people who have read the novel tell me that it's amazing and genre-breaking, etc. is a great ego boost, but that's not going to get me anywhere in life, and that's heartbreaking in the end. So I'm going to say writing is the easiest part of the equation. Getting published was next in line in terms of ease (and, by the way, that was NOT easy...took three years). Marketing and promotion is the part that will kill me.

Laura: Now that you have the book published, the first in a trilogy, do you feel the other two books will be easier or more difficult to write and publish?

Sandy Lender: Book II in the Choices Meant for Gods trilogy is complete. I'm editing now. There's a scene I have to include and I've been writing and rewriting it during traffic jams. Book III in the trilogy is almost complete, but I stopped when the Marketing and Promotion Nightmare began in full force in March. My publisher has already requested Book II and has intimated this is a long-term relationship, and I have no reason to doubt him. The arrangement is not akin to the cut-throat, bizarre situations you read about in some of the online chatgroups around the net. I'm quite surprised by some of the animosity I see authors feel toward their publishers and I'm thankful for the peace I have with mine. Very thankful. (very thankful)

Laura: You have been very open about your work schedule, your writing schedule, and the places you are going to promote your book on virtual blog tours, book signings, etc. When do you sleep? LOL!

Sandy Lender: Oh, my. be honest...I am getting a bit more sleep now than I was for a while there. I get about four hours of sleep a night. It can't be helped. I'm a new author that no one has ever heard of, so I must build a presence for myself. I must "brand." And then there's my personal life that has spiraled completely out of control thanks to the stellar choice I made in life partners 13 years ago. Like the Nazi at the end of the Indiana Jones movie...I chose poorly. So I have more than one job to try to make ends meet. (Did I mention that I won't make any money off the book?)

Laura: Writers by nature are very isolated souls, perfecting their craft out of the public eye. Do you find it more interesting to see readers in person at book signings or to participate in the virtual blog tours and promotion where you are not out in the public? Is there one way you prefer over the other?

Sandy Lender: Readers? What is this illusive creature you speak of?

Laura: What has been the most interesting thing or most interesting person you have met so far during your book tours?

Sandy Lender: Oh, man, I know who I want to meet, but I don't think he's paying attention...
The most interesting person...I'm drawing a blank, but that could be from lack of sleep. The most interesting thing...I had an online chat early on in the tour that about five people attended (if you include the host, who I think was studying for an exam or something, so he didn't really participate) but the people who attended and participated had this fantastic discussion. We covered everything from how childhood experiences affected our writing to great works of literature affecting our writing...I don't remember all of it because I never got the transcript, but I remember it being a really productive and intriguing conversation with folks, only one of whom I knew.

I'm going to have three more online chats before the end of the tour. One is this Thursday evening at at 8 eastern. I encourage people to participate because the conversation can get really good.

Laura: Your novel is an epic fantasy. I have read the Harry Potter series, but I felt your book was more adult and spellbinding. I read it in just a couple of days, and I got completely involved in the story and the characters. I know you had to do a lot of editing, but for the life of me, I cannot imagine what you cut that didn’t appear in the book. Is the material you cut out going to end up someplace in the second or third book? Or are you going to just keep it ‘just in case’ it inspires you to write something else?

Sandy Lender: I cut more than 70,000 words out of Choices Meant for Gods. A couple of scenes went into Book II but a majority of the material just got slashed. I'm ruthless with the delete key. If I decide I don't want something in...pow...I just yank it out and it's gone. There were a few scenes, though, that were breaking my heart to remove and those will be posted as deleted scenes on my website (as soon as I learn how to build a website in my sleep). I've already put some scenes - in the archives now - on my blog at, one of which almost got me maimed by a reader who wanted more. So, ah, I think I'll be posting more (in my sleep).

I'm not concerned about the missing material inspiring me, though. Everything around me inspires me.

Laura: When you first held your book in your hands, was it surreal for you? Do you think you will have that same feeling once you publish the other books in the trilogy?

Sandy Lender: I don't know how to describe the way I felt (which is mind-boggling, considering I wrote a 250,000-word novel, eh?). I knew the books would be waiting for me on my front porch when I got home from work one evening, so I was watching for them as I backed into the driveway, practically driving off into the yard. But once I got the box open and had MY book in my hands, I just sat down and stared at it, amazed that it was real at last. I mean, Choices Meant for Gods took three years to find a home and another 18 months after contract to get to this final, hardback stage. I cried like an idiot for a few minutes, and then dried my eyes and started reading. I found a huge typo on page 13 and let out one of those gurgling sounds like you're on your death bed. I've been an editor for 15'd think I could have caught that BEFORE we went to press. But we can fix it before the second printing.

Laura: What is next for Sandy Lender?

Sandy Lender: Ugh. Well, I'm marketing and promoting...

Seriously, I have a conference I'm speaking at this fall called Context 20 out in Ohio. Some of all ya'll may be attending... Then there's DragonCon. And I have several books rattling about my head that I need to write. I have six blogs. I'm finishing this online book tour. I want to set Nigel Taiman up on a tour (not even half as long as this one I'm doing, though). So I have plenty of the writing career to keep me busy!

Laura: I have kept a journal since my Aunt Peg in the 4th Grade gave me a diary for Christmas. It has helped me through a lot of tough times in my life. Do you keep a journal and do you find any kind of writing as therapeutic?

Sandy Lender: I do not keep a journal for fear of it falling into enemy hands.

Laura: Do you have any plans to stop in Minnesota or any states close by, during your book tour? What is your next stop?

Sandy Lender: If Duran Duran has a concert near there, I'm all over it, Baby.

Sandy, Thanks for stopping by the Polebarn!

Sandy Lender: Thanks for hosting me today, Laura. I hope my answers don't feel too negative. I'm overtired from a long weekend of marketing and promotion so that topic has me on edge! Tell all your visitors that the writing is the fun part. Stick with the fun part as long as you caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.

Thanks so much Sandy! If you would like to learn more about Sandy Lender, go to or to obtain a copy of "Choices Meant for Gods" go to or And feel free to leave a comment! I love hearing from my readers!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sandy Lender is coming to the Polebarn!

Hey, everyone! Now that the graduation festivities are over, it's time to get back to business. The writing business, that is, and what better way to kick it off than to have a published author visit the Polebarn?

Mark your calendars folks, because Sandy Lender is visiting on Tuesday, June 26th. She is the author of the breakthrough epic fantasy novel, "Choices Meant for Gods." The novel is the first in a trilogy, and if you are waiting for the new Harry Potter, this will be a great read until the final series installment arrives. I read it in a couple of days because once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down! Seriously!

So, if you don't have anything pressing to do on Tuesday, stop on over and meet Sandy! And if you want a copy of "Choices Meant for Gods" just click on this link:
You can read more about Sandy Lender at her blog:
See you all Tuesday!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I surrender!

Ok, I admit it, I am mortal. I don't possess any supernatural powers, I cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound (I can't even hop from a boat to a dock without getting wet, sheesh!), ...and I cannot control the Universe. There, I feel much better now. I give up, and I am not going to keep trying anymore! I'm getting out of my own way. I submit. Tap, tap, tap!

What has brought me to this "lightbulb moment", you ask? Well, tomorrow my son, my only child, will be graduating from high school. There has been a large part of me that has been in denial of this since, oh, the first day of school this fall that this was indeed his Senior year. This was it. In true dysfunctional fashion, I have been in total denial that this was coming about, that it would be here so quickly, that time was NOT on my side, and God, the Universe, the Holy Trinity, has given me the spiritual equivalent of a smackdown! Hoo boy, did it hurt!

You see, all of the "bad luck" that has been occurring in my life has been a side effect of my denial. I realized this today, and it didn't cost me a dime or any time on the therapist's couch. I have been so wrapped up in thinking that this was going to take place later, that I realized that nope, tomorrow is it! No more school supplies to buy, no more backpacks to buy or forget in the morning rush, no more books to lug around, no more fingerpaintings of turkeys at Thanksgiving or metal geometric shapes welded together from shop class.

No more field trip fees! No more permission slips or medical emergency cards to fill out! Hey, I'm seeing the good side of this now! He, he!

All joking aside, I guess I have been stressing myself out and working myself into a stroke because I didn't want it to be over...not yet. When I put him on the bus that first day of Kindergarten, I was wiping the tears from my cheeks as the bus rounded the corner and looked across the streets to the other mothers in the neighborhood doing the same thing, then we all turned and went home. At least we knew we weren't alone. Now, my son is a grown man, who is driving, shaving, holding down a job, and I cannot believe that he is who he is, but mostly, I cannot believe he came from me!

I have a biased opinion, I know. But he is the kind of person I am proud and honored to know. Truly, I am. And I will be sitting in that fieldhouse, crying my eyes out and I am sure I will look around and see the other mothers from the neighborhood and we will nod and acknowledge each other and one of us will smile and the others will smile back as if to say, "Here we are again! Wasn't it just yesterday we put them on the bus for Kindergarten? Where did the time go?"

My son is taking the summer for himself, to have some fun with his friends, to work and save up some money. He is planning to enlist in the Navy and leave in the fall for boot camp. He's not doing it "just for the money" for college. I asked him if I hit the lottery if he would just take the money and go to college and he said, "No. I would still enlist in the Navy. I want to see the world." Fair enough. I totally support him on that. I'm still scared for him, our world is at war and there is a part of me that prays he never has to fulfill his duty as a soldier and kill someone or be killed or wounded himself, but if that is where his heart lies, I will be there to support him. So, when he takes that journey this fall, I will have a whole new set of worries, but I know my son will be taking the path that is right for HIM, not the path I think is right for him. And that right there tells me that we raised a fine, young man. And I am grateful to all of those who helped me make that possible. In a way, we are all graduating too. Congratulations!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm going to shut up now.

This morning started out with an argument with my dearly beloved "Q" and before it escalated to something worse, I decided that I would shut up and leave and when we were both calm, we would discuss the overdraft issue. Both of us were reacting badly to what the other was trying to communicate and since were were just misunderstanding each other's message, it was best I shut up and leave. He was mad, and I was mad, and I think both of us were hurt, so...enough.

Then I was listening to the radio on my way to my sister's house this morning. I'm a channel changer, I go up and down the dial, and I listen to KQRS and 107.1 FM's Ian and Marjorie show. It was during one of the commercials for Ian and Marjorie that I heard Kevin Burger detailing her recent diagnosis of breast cancer and that she would be later discussing this topic this morning on her show, The Kevin and Colleen show. I almost drove off the road. When her show came on, I was at home and I pulled out the only radio I have that will pick up the station to listen to what she had to say.

After the Race for the Cure, a Breast Cancer charity fundraiser in which most of the 107.1 FM radio personalities participated, Kevin was scheduled for a mammogram. She also has a monthly breast self-examination that she does Live on her radio program. It was after this mammogram, that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, possibly Stage 2 or 3. She is scheduled for a right breast mastectomy, with reconstruction, and a follow-up of chemotherapy. She was on an hour of her 3 hour show. It was emotional to say the least.

Kevin is a well-known television and radio personality here in the Twin Cities. She is fifty years old, with 3 kids, and a near newlywed to her husband of a year and a half. She makes her living making conversation and she is straight up funny and to the point and I love listening to the topics she discusses on the radio. She's her own person and she is every woman, all at the same time. And like every woman who has to face this diagnosis, she is asking, Why me? Why now? What can I do?

I fell apart listening to her in my kitchen, tears streaming down my face, especially when she said that her children would be forever changed because of this. They have no idea!

It reminded me of when my mother was diagnosed over 7 years ago, and the feelings that ran through me and the fear of the possibility of losing my mother. I remember the surgery, the recovery, the complications, the pain she had to go through, and the relief after one year, two, three, all the way up to now seven years of being cancer free.

My mother was lucky. She was diagnosed early, through a mammogram and later a biopsy, and surgical intervention was enough for her. She didn't have to go through chemo or radiation like her sisters did that year. Yes, you read that correctly, two of her sisters were diagnosed and underwent mastectomies in less than a year's time. Her younger sister was diagnosed first and had her surgery the week of Thanksgiving in 1999. Then my mother was diagnosed on her birthday, January 10, 2000. Then around April or May of 2000, her second oldest sister was diagnosed and had surgery.

Am I afraid this will happen to me? Yes. Am I doing anything to prevent this from happening? Yes, but I don't think it's enough, and I need to do more, but if you're going to get it, you're going to get it! I pray I don't, but I am also prepared for the reality that it just might show up someday. I won't sit back and let it run my life, but I know I will have to fight and I am prepared to do that.

In the end, I realized that as bad as the last few weeks have been, they haven't been as bad as that. No more whining. No more fighting. In the grand scheme of things, it's only money and I am grateful that "Q" is still in my life and I would take him over all the money in the world any day, and yes, including this morning when we were both not communicating properly to one another. After I thought about a while, I realized that in the end, he was just being concerned and trying to help, and that I shouldn't have reacted so defensively towards him. At least we are both in reasonably good health and that we aren't facing an illness or impending death. Sorry, I will try to do better, honey. Love you.

As for Kevin Burger and her family, I wish you love and luck and blessings as you help each other through this journey. Be kind to one another, hug a lot, laugh even more, and believe in your heart you are healing. Cry if you need to, it's painful, I don't care who you talk to, you are losing a part of your body. But that part that leaves doesn't define you as person, or a mother, or a wife, or a woman. My prayers are with you all and for anyone else going through this in your life right now.

OK, no more whining, and I'm going to shut up now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some days you just don't want to get out of bed!

"If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all..." I used to watch Hee Haw! That has been my theme song the last few weeks.

The last couple of weeks have been hell. Nobody has gotten terminally ill, or died, but it has been the little things, one after another after another that have hit me and my family in a series of disasters that it has almost become humorous. Let me share.

First, "Q", my soulmate and partner, went to pick up his son from the train station. His son was visiting from Montana because a high school friend was getting married. When they were on their way home, his truck died, right there in the middle of the street. Fuel pump went out. Thank God it was the company truck, but he still had to call AAA to have them tow him to the mechanics and he was forced to drive the car for a few days. But nobody got hurt, that's the main thing. Speaking of cars...

That same week, the starter went out on my son's car and that needed to be fixed. No big deal. He did his brakes at the same time, and then discovered that he had the wrong brake pads for his car. But the best was yet to come. His "CV" joints are bad. UHH!!! But wait, it gets BETTER!

This past weekend, me and "Q" decide to take his boat out for a spin on the lake. We took it out to Blue Lake, close to home, and the wind was blowing so hard that we couldn't anchor off to fish. I just purchased my fishing license for the year that very day (Saturday), and it was tucked safely in a small plastic ziplock bag in the pocket of my shorts, along with my digital camera and my cell phone. He gets frustrated because it's too windy to do anything and we decide to just pack it in. We reel up our lines, and off we go. He kicks it down and then we hear a strange sound, like a "crack, pop, ...PLOP!". He turns around just in time to see his trolling motor fly up in the air and come back down in about forty (40) feet of water in the middle of the lake. Nice. But wait, there's more...

As we approach the dock, I get ready to jump ship, (Captain Jack Sparrow has nothing on me!) and when I think we are close enough, I make my move. I land between the dock and the boat, right in the lake! I was not dressed for swimming. I didn't have my lifejacket on or my water wings or my floatie with the duck on the front (ala Country Acres). The temperature of the water was... well...frigid to say the least and then to come out and be hit by wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph, it can take your breath away!

When I got up to shore, I pulled the contents out of my pocket. My digital camera, in the case, wet. My cell phone, no case, wet. My keys, wet. My brand new fishing license, nice and dry in the little plastic ziplock bag! We loaded up the boat, and while on the landing, I could hear the people on the shore behind me laughing. 'Fat lady fell in the lake!' then to make my day even more special, a six year old by comes on the dock and looks at me and says, "You should have been wearing your life jacket!" Thanks, kid! I almost started crying right there, but I held it together until I got home and in the shower.

After a few days of drying them out, the camera still works and takes pictures and the phone works, but now I lost my SIM card and had to order a new one, so I still don't have a cell phone, but I hopefully will once I put it in there. (Murphy's Law: Once you order and receive a replacement for the item you lost, it will turn up.) So, it looks like "Q" will be getting a trolling motor for Father's Day. (Shhh! Don't tell him!) But first, I have to have a chat with my bank...

Today, I got a huge overdraft in the mail. Nice again! I almost didn't get out of bed today. But tomorrow will be better after I yell at my bank and ask them why they feel it necessary to bounce my checks when I had more than enough money in there to cover the bills and the checks I wrote. My mistake or theirs? Does it matter? I just hope that this is the end of this series of disasters so I can actually look forward to getting out of bed. At this point, I'm grateful I still can!

I hope the blue moon tomorrow night will bring a shift in my luck, and everyone around me. Now, where did I put my lottery tickets?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Writing for Gas Money

As writers, it is sometimes a challenge to find reasons to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and the daunting goal of writing the "Great American Novel" can be overwhelming and keep you sitting in a corner muttering to yourself, or suddenly, the dishes are the most important thing to do "Right Now!" Well, I have come up with a new inspiration for my creations. Thanks to the government and the oil barons, I have decided that I am going to set my sights on writing for gas money!

You read that right! Gas here in the great state of Minnesota has been $3.29 a gallon. Remember when $5.00 would at least give you about a half of a tank or more and $10.00 was just about full? $15.00 will hardly give me a quarter of a tank of gas now. It's a good thing I gave up smoking or I would be in trouble! And to make this situation even more unbearable, the Minnesota Legislature is considering passing a "Gas Tax" that would increase the cost of each gallon of gasoline by as much as 5 cents per gallon. (As of this writing, I am not sure if it passed or not, and if our great governor, Tim Pawlenty, vetoed it as he said he would.)

Drastic times call for drastic measures and I really don't want to go out and work a second job dressed as a taco (OLA!). But I have to be able to drive. I have to be able to get around, and since I haven't written or sold my "Great American Novel" I have to use my God-given talent for good, the good of my family and my financial future. That, and I enjoy writing in my jammies until 11 am., OK?

Here's my plan. If I can write 2 articles a day, with 2 queries to go with them, send the queries off to various magazines and publications, and if I can do that for one year, that would be 730 articles sold (2 articles x 365 days per year). If I can get paid an average of $100 per article (give or take) then I would make $73,000.00 per year! I wouldn't have to drive! I could stay home and make money in my jammies! I could be home to cook and clean the house, to hold garage sales, to tutor young writers in the craft, to babysit my nephew, to...well, you get the idea!

So, instead of complaining about the gas prices, I have decided to turn this into an incentive to get on my butt and write my way into the next tax bracket!

Oh, darn! I didn't think of that! Oh, well, it's going to be a lot of fun to see if I can actually do it! Now, how much are stamps again??

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What happened while I was on vacation?

We came home from Florida on Monday, and through some great weather miracle, the temperature in Minnesota was almost the same as Florida. It was 75 degrees! When we left Minnesota, waaaay back on April 5, it was 12 degrees in Minnesota. I was also updated by everyone when we called home for various reasons, that it was snowing back home, that it was freaking cold, that we all sucked because we were in Florida, etc. But somehow the weather made it easy to come home so it wasn't such a shock to our systems. Thank you, God, for that!

In the meantime, I have been trying to catch up with all that is going on in the world since we left. I made a decision that I was not going to watch or read any news, other than the weather, while we were gone. My reasons are many, but mainly, I have a screen addiction I am trying to break. Yes, I am addicted to the television and the computer screen. I can't get anywhere, or get anything accomplished while there is a 'screen' in operation. The world would fall apart around me and I would be sitting on my couch watching grass grow (golf), or be on the computer trying to find out if I could make money at home racing cockroaches in my kitchen, or any other nonsense.

I also was not about to get caught up in the whole negative media feeding frenzy that happens because I was on vacation with my son and my "hubby" (we aren't married on paper, but we are in every other way) and I wanted to spend time with them and have fun and let the rest of the world take care of itself for a couple of weeks.

So, for 11 glorious, wonderful days, I didn't have a clue until I came home that the world went to hell. There was the whole "Don Imus Incident", then the continuing war in Iraq and the standoff in the government about whether we leave or send more troops or what. Larry Birkhead won the Anna Nicole Smith Baby Lottery. Then a crazed lunatic shot and killed 33 people at VA Tech before turning the gun on himself. I haven't turned on the television for more than the weather since I came home.

But the kicker was when I checked my answering machine and there was a nice message from the Sherburne County Sherriff's office that there have been a rash of home burglaries and car thefts in our area and if we see anyone suspicious or someone comes to the door selling something or are there and we didn't ask them to be there, to call 911. Nice. Welcome home.

Suffice it to say, we did a thorough sweep of the house and grounds and accounted for everything. We talked to our landlord and suggested better locks on the doors. We also are going to update our renter's insurance policy and inventory all of our valuables. We should have stayed in Florida!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Florida, Here We Come!!

The snow is now all gone. We had 80 degree weather a week ago, and it was just enough to kick me into high gear with my spring cleaning. This year I am brutal, throwing or donating anything that I haven't touched or used in a year's time. Painful, for a packrat like me, but necessary. I need to open up the pathways so more good things can come into my life. I feel like I lost 10 pounds this weekend!

I am doing this for another reason, not just yearly ritual. My family and I are going to Naples, Florida, for a vacation. We will be gone for 11 days! We really need a vacation right now, and since my son will be graduating high school this year, this would be our last chance to go as a family. I want to come home to a nice clean house, not be bummed out and overwhelmed by all the mess I left behind! So, if I have not been as "chatty" as usual online or offline, I apologize. I'm not being snotty, just getting my house in order! I will be back and will have a lot to write about when I get back!

Have a Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Wow! This is the view of the Polebarn (the one I actually live in!) and as you can see the snow we received this last weekend was significant! These pictures were taken by "Q", my boyfriend on Saturday, March 3, 2007, with my digital camera.
This is the view from the front part of the polebarn. This door doesn't get used in the winter, too much cold air coming in so we put plastic over it. My son, Alex, decided to "walk through" the snow up to the door. It came up over his waist, and he is about 6 feet tall. The car bumper you see on the left is his car.
We spent 2 days holed up in here and I loved every minute of it! We just sat around watching movies and television and just hung out together! I made Tater Tot Hotdish and it was sooooo nice to just slow things down and not have to rush and hurry to get somewhere or worry about being late or traffic! It was even better when "Q", my boyfriend, came home because then all of us were home safe and sound. I was hoping we would get a "snow day". I guess I should be careful what I wish for, huh? :)

Mrs. Fliginger wrote back!!!

I could not believe my eyes when I saw the email in my Inbox. I clicked on it and started to cry. It was her!! She wrote me back!! Suddenly, the years have seemed to melt away and I can still remember her strawberry-blonde hair, her glasses, her voice. Wow! Talk about a time warp! But I am glad that I was able to contact her and let her know how she helped me through the most difficult time of my life.

I guess the real reason I chose to seek her out now is that my son is graduating from high school in June and seeing him go through all of the things as a senior compare in contrast to what I was going through at his age, and THANK GOD!! He doesn't have any of that to deal with!!

I have received a few emails since she first replied back and I have replied to her. It still feels funny to call her by her first name, it seems disrespectful to me, even though I am no longer a student! Does that make any sense at all? Anyway, she stopped over for a visit to the Polebarn here and said I "write well." Again, with the crying. She was a tough teacher. I was a writer with an "attitude." I had been told by all of my former English teachers that I was an excellent writer and I would do great and wonderful things, and blah, blah, blah. I have to confess, I used that to get some special favors for grades and other things, and they let me slide by with a lot of stuff! Not Mrs. Fliginger. She basically looked me in the eye and said, "You think you're a writer? Prove it!" I had to work my tail off and she didn't let me slide with anything. My point? I got knocked off my pedestal, and I became a better person, AND a better writer!

Sometimes the greatest lessons come from the toughest teachers!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mrs. Fliginger, I thank you.

I recently decided it was time I contacted my old English and Speech teacher, Mrs. Fliginger. I had to find her first, but thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I found her via the Internet and a Google search led me to Harvey, North Dakota. Ironically, her husband is named Harvey. I haven't seen her since I was a senior at Garrison High School, in Garrison, North Dakota, where I had a different name (Michelle, my middle name), and a very different life. She had an impact on me and did something nobody else was able to do at that time in my life. She came back from maternity leave, after having her daughter, Diana, and noticed that I was not myself. That was an understatement. I was messed up.

At that time in my life, my parents were separated, heading for what I knew would be a long and drawn out divorce. The scandal was all over the small town and to make matters worse, it was being played out as I sat in English class everyday at the house across the street. SHE lived over there. The person my father was having an affair with, and I could see his pickup truck sitting in the driveway, then leaving. The truth had come out in February, and sometime that spring, Mrs. Fliginger had come back and saw me in my miserable state. She kept me back after class. She asked me, "What's up with you?" I tearfully related the horrible events that had transpired in her absence and she listened and then asked me if it would be ok to refer me to the school counselor. I nodded. I couldn't keep this to myself any more. I was planning on suicide. I had the whole thing worked out, it just seemed like the more I wanted to do it, and the times I actually was going to do it, something would come up and I couldn't ever get it done. I was severely depressed. I did anything and everything to stay away from home. I signed up for paper staff as editor, and I sucked at it, but it kept me from going home. I was in Band, like I had been all through school, and I signed up for Speech Team, and I sucked at that too, but hey, it beat going home! I was also working at the local hospital, but there was no relief there either, because SHE worked there and was down in the break room each day to stare me down, daring me to say something, before I would go to wash dishes in the kitchen. I just ignored her as best as I could, but I would often break down in tears on my breaks.

Anyway, I ended up going to the counselor, relating the whole horrible nightmare that was my life at that time. I also had my friends, my best friend at that time was Carol, and without her to keep my mind off of what was happening, I would have ended up in a rubber room or worse, a coffin, if I wouldn't have gotten the help I needed.

I survived, and later the thoughts of suicide went out the door, and I moved around a bit before I ended up in my current home, "The Polebarn", and I don't regret a single thing I went through. Why??? My parents would not have reconciled, my father would not have sobered up, and my family would not have become as strong as it is now. I know for certain, I would not be the person I am today, doing the things I have always wanted to do, and living this glorious life I have always wanted to live. My son would not be here, my current BF (the love of my life 12 years and counting) would not be in my life, and I would not be excited about graduating to the next phase of my life, as a mother, a writer, an artist, a human being. I have found my bliss, now I just need to make some money at it!

But first, I had to thank you, Mrs. Fliginger, from saving me from myself.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ask. Believe. Receive.

I have always been a firm believer in faith and in making your own destiny. True there are certain events that we mere mortals cannot control, the weather being one of them, but anything else in our lives we pretty much have a say-s0, good, bad or ugly. On Friday, I received my DVD of "The Secret". It was featured on Oprah a few weeks ago, and again in a follow-up show and I was completely riveted to the shows. I knew that if I am going to make any lasting changes in my life, I had to find out what the "Secret" is.
The secret has to do with the "Law of Attraction", or in simple terms, "like attracts like". I am a slow learner, I admit it. I have wasted a lot of my time worrying over stuff that didn't happen, or fearing the worst, or just being too lazy to do anything about changing my life because deep down I didn't want to admit that I was terrified of failing, so why even try? Which is why it has taken me this long to get my writing career off the ground. I kept listening to the toxic people in my life, the naysayers, the critics, the losers, and believing that I would not ever make it as a writer because I would never make it period! I had been told by some people in my past that I would never amount to anything, make a name for myself, that I was just a waste of good oxygen. I was young, and dumb and thought they were right. Now, I know that they are definitely WRONG! I'm going to have a great time proving to them and myself that anything is possible if you ASK, BELIEVE and be ready to RECEIVE. What do I have to lose??

Friday, January 19, 2007

Welcome to the Polebarn, Jamieson Wolf!!

Ok, everyone. Grab a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and get cozy. Jamieson Wolf is here at the Polebarn to answer questions, comments and to promote his new book, "Garden City" a collection of fiction stories. Jamieson, so glad to have you and welcome!! But first, I have a few questions of my own.

In your bio, it says that you started out writing poetry. Do you think that learning to write poetry first has had an influence on writing fiction? Do you find the rhythm, the cadence, the descriptions more lively, colorful, in your fiction writing?

Indeed I do think that writing poetry has an influence on whatever else I write. I'm more conscious of the flow of words, how the words sound, where the words are placed. This doesn't have much effect on dialogue, but it does come in handy when I'm trying to describe something. Words have a rhythm all their own and, with learning how to be poetic, I find I have a better understanding of how to use them.

You also held a variety of corporate and office jobs before you discovered you wanted to be a writer. What was the worst job you ever held and why was it so bad? Let me guess, it had nothing to do with money! Even if you never make a dime as a writer, do you feel you are pursuing your life's work? That this is your purpose?

The worst office job I ever had? I was working at a call centre and it was awful. I can't even describe the stress, the unhappiness. I hated almost every moment of it. In the company I worked for, you were just a number. You weren't a person and were expected to do as you were told. There was no union, so employees had little to no rights. It was also shift work which made it hard to have a life outside of he office. I was being paid $18 an hour after five years and I had had enough. I decided to leave because I realized that money isn't everything. Mental health is.

I know for a fact that writing is what I was put on this Earth to do. Even if I never make a dime, I am always happiest when I write. Now, I couldn't not write. Writing is my passion, one of my reasons for living and I'm thankful to the Muses for giving me a kick in the butt when I needed it. :)

In "Garden City" the first story was about Time and her Sisters and trying to keep Time from aging. What was the inspiration for this story?

To be honest, Times Malaise was going to be a romance novel with a supernatural twist. It was going to be the novels prologue. The problem was, when I went to write the rest of the novel, I found I didn't want to write that story, I wanted to write Time's.

So I went back and fleshed out the story from a two page prologue into the story that it is now. I may eventually go back and write out that romance novel, but that may be a while in coming.

The inspiration came from one of my friends complaining that she was growing old and calling Time a bitch. Well, I thought, what if she really was? And thus Time's Malaise was born...

The second story was "Magic Man" and you had a line in there that says, "Life itself feeds the imagination". I just love that! Where did that line come from and do you believe that is true?

I do indeed believe it's true. It's what my course, The Muse for the Long Story Short School of Writing, is based around. The conversation at the beginning of the story actually took place. Owen is me in that story; in fact, every time I have a story that is loosely based around real life, Owen seems to be my mouthpiece. It's what makes Garden City so autobiographical; Owen's in a lot of the stories.

Life is the greatest inspiration there is; think about it. In life we have food, love, music, passion, friendships, marriage, birth, death. Is not every great story that has been told not about one of these things? Laura Esquivel wrote Like Water For Chocolate based around her love for food; she went on to write The Law of Love based around music.

Inspiration is all around us, if we take the time to open our eyes to it.

What has inspired you to keep writing everyday? You post on your blog daily almost, and you have a lot of fun things to learn about, interesting articles, etc., do you feel like the blog is almost a full time job in itself?

It's funny really. I started my blog in October of 2006 to see if I could do it. I had tried in the past to write in journals, diaries and online postings but it never really clicked with me. Now my blog has become a part of my life and, in some strange way, a reflection of my thoughts at the time of the postings.

I post daily because I made a promise to myself to keep writing every day. Whether I write a poem, a chapter of a story, a poem, a scene from a novel; it doesn't matter. As long as I write something every day, it makes that day worthwhile.

The blog is becoming a job in itself, but I'm enjoying every moment of it. People who don't check my web site DO check out my blog on a regular basis. To each their own I guess.

If you could write your life story for the next 2 years (I would ask for 5 years, but that's too predictable and too much time to try and think about, in my opinion), where would you like to see yourself in your personal and professional life?

Personal life? I'm already married to the most wonderful man in the world and we have been talking of adoption, so that's something. I'd like to mend bridges and have a relationship again with my estranged brother. I'd like to have a few more quality friends.

Professional life? I want to see Hope Falls published. I'd love to go on a physical book tour, publish my book of essays on Stephen Kings Dark Tower Books, publish one of my children's books.

I'd love to write full time, but I know that, until I hit the big break (if I ever do), I need a full time job to pay the bills. The job I work at now is wonderful and hopefully I'll still be here in two years time learning and growing.

It's all about learning, really. About myself and what I can do. Without learning, there is no life. :)

You live in Ontario, Canada, do you find inspiration in your current environment, and do you notice any differences in writing for a Canadian audience vs. an American audience, or do you just write for your reader, no matter where they come from?

I just write for the reader, no matter where they're from. Actually, that's not true; I write for me, for myself. If someone reads my work, I'm just tickled pink.

I don't think writing should have anything to do with where your from. It should have more to do with the words inside you. Now, don't get me wrong, I get a lot of inspiration from the environment I live in. I see things, hear conversations, and I get ideas for stories or novels.

I think that would happen where ever I was though. I can never stop being a writer.

You also will be teaching an online class called "The Muse". Is this the first class you will be teaching and what events brought you to teaching? What is your Muse?

Yes, this is the first class I have taught. I had the pleasure of taking a course through The Long Story Short School of Writing called The Reel Deel-How to Write Movie Reviews with Betty Jo Tucker. I had SUCH a great time working on assignments that I wanted to teach my own course.

I did a workshop of the course for The Muse Online Writers Conference as a test run and it was a huge success, so now I'm teaching the actual course at The Long Story Short. I'll also be teaching another workshop at The Muse Online Writers Conference this year on how to write serial novels. It should be great fun!

Thank you Jamieson, and good luck and best wishes on your writing career. What I have read of your work, you have a bright future as a writer! Thank you so much for stopping by the Polebarn!

You're making me blush. Thank you so much for having me here, Larua and thank you for the bright blessings for my writing career!

If you have comments or questions for Jamieson, you may post them here. Jamieson will be available today to answer them. If you would like to know more about Jamieson Wolf and his work, please visit him at these locations:

Weaver of Words, Teller of Tales

Thanks for stopping by!!