Movember: The Hairy Ending

moustache(1)Happy Friday. Hope you are all well. November, better known as “Movember”, is coming to a close. Secretly I couldn’t be happier. I dread this month for several reason: One- the weather usually sucks. Two- My husband grows a horrible, ugly moustache for a very great cause. He calls himself a Mo-Bro the whole month and insists on calling me a Mo-Sister. He posts moustache selfies to his Movember profile which you can find here http://ca.movember.com/mospace/1853472 to raise money and awareness about men’s health issues, predominately prostate cancer. Having several family members affected by this disease, the cause is close to our hearts. While I would never intentionally try to make light of this, I do believe laughter is the best medicine. Saying that, I’d like to thank Jheric (my best friend’s son) for telling me to write a short story about my personal Movember experience in a silly short story. So I dedicate this blog to: my hubby, whose worked hard all month growing that moustache and whom wears it proudly, to this great cause (http://ca.movember.com/), to all those who have been affected by it and to Jheric for encouraging me to write this. Happy last few days of Movember, my mo-bros and mo-sis’s.

❤ Melissa

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The Hairy Ending

The hours are slipping away from me this cold and rainy day mid-November. Given the sun is setting earlier this time of year, it should be the ever-growing darkness making me feel uneasy. But it isn’t. Given the dampness outside, it should be this feeling of claustrophobia from being contained in my house making me feel unsettled. But it isn’t. Given that Christmas is nearing so quickly, it should be the hysteria of consumerism making me feel panic. But it isn’t. Given that my son has left his toys lying all over the house, goldfish crumbs on my couch, spilled his sippy cup all over the kitchen floor and left wet footprints down the hall, it should be the mess filling me with dread. But it isn’t. It is none of those things making me feel so anxious and panicky as I see the clock change over another minute. 5:21pm. I know it’s coming closer. I’ve done my best to distract myself all day; the laundry is folded neatly in the basket next to the stairs and there’s fresh-baked banana bread cooling on the stove, but I can’t deny much longer; they are coming for me. Sitting down at the kitchen table, my foot twitches as I try to come up with a game plan. I know they won’t just come for me tonight. They will come for my son as well. This I fear most. My motherly instincts instruct me to sacrifice myself, throw myself at them as they enter the door. Maybe I can create enough of a distraction that my son will have enough time to escape. The front door will open and he will run to it, excited to see who has come to visit, but I will run faster. I will stand at the baby gate guarding the stairs at that door and I will pretend that I am excited to see them. I will pretend that I’ve been waiting all day for them to arrive, mention that I was so excited for their arrival that I have baked fresh banana bread, which awaits in the kitchen while motioning for them to come see. I will lead them to the kitchen and my son will retreat to his playroom where I have strategically left cartoons on, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to be exact, his favorite. Because of this, I know he will only leave the TV for a brief moment and not want to miss the ‘Hot Dog’ song the clubhouse crew is about to sing. I believe strongly this will spare him and the horror that is in store or at the very least it will buy him some time. Sometimes time is all we have. I briefly think about hiding him some where, that would only make it worse. Drawing attention to his absence would only force them to look for him. They would search until he was found and then make their attack. My son would squirm in their presence and attempt to escape, but it would be no use. They have their ways. Once they were done with him, they’d be back for me. In fact, I’m certain they’ll be after me all the rest of the night. Over the years I’ve built up some tolerance but still my body isn’t that strong. I am sensitive.

Just then, I hear the lock on the front door turn. My heart races and my body springs into action. My son appears from around the corner of his playroom, but I know he has trouble getting up those two steps quickly; I have bought myself another thirty seconds. The door is slowly creaking open and I race to the baby gate. My palms are sweaty, but I have a bright smile on my face. I must not show my fear. I feel my son’s arms wrap around my leg and that brings me some relief because I know he is behind me. I can still protect him. They are entering the doorway now and I say, hello. The anticipation is making my head swirl, but I keep my eyes locked on them. The ‘Hot Dog’ song starts playing in the background and my son runs off towards the TV. They are nearing me now, but I can only feel relief. My son is safe in his playroom and my plan is succeeding. They are only inches away from me, nearing still and I close my eyes, brace myself for impact. It’s happening. They are stabbing me, teeny-tiny swords, one prick after the other. The skin above my upper lip instantly screams out in torture; I can feel the blood rushing in defence underneath. In a jolt, I pull away from them and place my fingers upon my inflamed skin to calm it. As soon as it began, it is over and I can breathe a sigh of relief. The greeting is over, but I know there will be a goodnight still. I take one more slow, deep breath and remind myself it is all worth it in the end. I am sacrificing myself for the greater good and it only lasts a short while- the month of November in fact and I am already half way there. I have enough strength left in me to survive another fifteen days of… moustache burns. I have enough strength left in me to avoid looking at those hideous hairs, curling around his lips. The hairy ending is coming soon, at least for another year. Next November they will return for me again and I will be ready with my donation… will you?

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Warning… December Is Approaching.

33-days-until-christmasHappy Friday and happy 33 days until Christmas. Yikes! That’s a reality check for me for sure. I really wanted to be on top of everything this year and get all my shopping done by the end of November so I can enjoy lots of family time in December instead of running around in the consumer chaos. My plan may not exactly on schedule yet but I am trying to do my best. Of course that means with so much to do that my writing gets pushed to the bottom of the list which is so frustrating. I am in such a good place with my book and I can see everything unfolding so naturally in the story, but I don’t have time to write it. Worse yet, every time I step away from my story for a long period of time, the longer it takes me to get back my story mojo. People tell me all the time that I am too hard and put too much pressure on myself, but it’s only because I want to be able to do it all. I don’t want to waste a second of life and this story is burning in my soul to be written. I need to write it, but I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that it could take a decade to write. Okay… maybe a decade is a bit dramatic. Maybe another year would be more reasonable, but I am so terrified within that time that I will lose my passion for it. It’s happened to me before when life becomes overwhelming and the thought of writing and completing a novel feels daunting so I shut down. I know the difference this time around is I am far more committed to my writing; this being my 36th weekly post and counting. I know I need to live in the moment more and appreciate the small victories. I suppose it could be worse and I could have absolutely no inspiration; no story burning inside me to tell. I have lived through that horrid writer’s block many times throughout the years. That is not fun.

The holiday season is stressful for everyone: finding the perfect gifts, decorating the house just right, attending parties and events, finding time to reflect on the past year. Ultimately I know Christmas is supposed to be about family. It’s about sharing that day with my son, soaking up the small moments. He is still young enough that he doesn’t care about the presents under the tree (though I’m sure he’ll be happy) but he cares more about his Mommy and Daddy being there on the floor with him. He wants to snuggle near the fire with us and play our silly little games. In 33 days from now, after the day is done and the house is quiet again, I’ll put my head down on the pillow exhausted and think about the simple moments with my son. Those are what I will carry with me. So I guess when I start to feel stressed about trying to balance everything in my life and pushing my writing down to lowest priority, I will read this blog post again and remind myself. It’s okay. It’s okay to give myself a break for the next 33 days if I simply can’t find the time. My characters will survive in my mind until the new year…however spending time enjoying my son can’t wait. 

So I wish all of you good luck finding balance over the next month and accepting time is limited. I’m sorry if I rambled a bit in this post; I think I might be under a bit of stress. I ramble when I’m stressed.

Until next week!

❤ Melissa

When Years Have Elasped… Can You Really Go Back?

Back in timeHappy Friday everyone. I hope you had a good week and found some time to reflect on Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day for my US friends). I always make time to appreciate the sacrifice those soldiers made all those years ago and those today who are still sacrificing to make our world a better place. This kind of inspired my blog piece for this week because it reminded me of the novels I wrote when I was 17. 

I wrote a romance trilogy over the course of about two years, from 17-18. At the time, I was so excited that I completed three manuscripts and so sad when I finished them. I remember sitting at my computer screen typing the last words of my third novel and after I saw the words ‘the end’ I ended up crying. I cried happy and some sad tears because I knew my time with those characters had come to an end. After that emotional rollercoaster, I needed to take a break from it, so I left those books alone for years until one day I had an itch to edit them. I had some more writing experience under my belt by then; I’d taken a few college writing courses and felt like I was ready to make my return to them. Reading about five or six pages in, I realised they were horribly written and it was going to take some serious editing to get them where they needed to be. I think I tried for six months before I just couldn’t stand the book any longer. The plot events and character reactions were so far-fetched that no one would believe them. The grammar of the book was just as bad and quickly I became overwhelmed by the crappiness of my book, so I turned my back on it again. This happened several times over the course of ten years that I kept coming back to those stories and trying to fix them up piece by piece, but I couldn’t figure out why I would only grow more and more frustrated and never felt like I was getting anywhere. The crap book hole just seemed to get bigger and bigger every time I touched it. But just a few weeks ago I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. During one of the seminars I attended the instructor was talking about how he edits a book by telling us about a book he’d written years prior but just couldn’t bring himself to edit it because too much time had passed. He explained that the writer who wrote that book no longer existed. As years go back our writing evolves, we evolve and to try to go back and edit the words just doesn’t work. YES! Yes, it totally completely made sense. Every time I added a sentence or edited words, I was doing so as my current writer self, not as the 17-year-old writer. The only way to go back to those stories would be to rewrite them all over again from scratch and edit them to perfection soon after completing them. All the anger, frustration at myself I felt for trying and failing, it all got washed away. I wasn’t a failure because I couldn’t edit my story. Finally after all these years, I can just appreciate those stories for what they really were…. practice. I was practicing to be a romance novelist. I feel good now that they are a part of my history and don’t need to be in my present. One day, far in the future, I might get the courage up to rewrite them all over again, but if I don’t, I will always have those three novels, frozen in time, as only my 17-year-old self could write. Those books are my time machine to bring me back to those nights after school, typing furiously in my bedroom, for hours. Back when I had endless amounts of free time and much angst living inside me, ready to spill out on to the pages.

I can’t wait to read my blog posts in twenty years from now and admire how much farther my writing will develop. Maybe I’ll appreciate my angst-y 30-year-old self then too.

Til next week. 

❤ Melissa

Character Connection

Hi everyone, hope you all had a great and safe Halloween. It was the first time we took our son trick-or-treating and I’m not sure who enjoyed it more- us or him. He was so adorable knocking on doors and then trying to reach into their bowls to take extra candy. It’s still hard to believe at times that I am taking my son trick-or-treating; I swear five minutes ago it was me out there. Yikes!

Anyways, today I wanted to write about character connection, more specially my connection to my characters. Last week I felt I really hit a good stride in my writing. I always seem to pick up steam half way through my books because that’s when I really start knowing and understanding my characters. It might sound strange, but once I figure them out, the story starts to write itself. The outcome of the plot situations becomes so much clearer to me because I understand their needs and flaws as people which makes how they react in those situations so much easier to write. In fact, I really feel the ending of the story I originally had planned just doesn’t make sense anymore; the way my main character is acting and feeling right now is telling me she wouldn’t make the choice I thought she might have in the beginning.

In such in a wonderful way, I feel like she is one of my good friends. I feel what she feels; I want what she wants; I fear what she fears. She hasn’t quite reached the emotional climax of the story yet, but she isn’t far away. My focus right now is on her emotions being in a relationship with her current boyfriend and how despite the fact that she just moved in with him, she feels more alone than ever. If I can make the reader feel her anxiety, her longing for love, her confusion then I have done my job. My challenge is to make my characters feel like real people. Believable. That’s hard. I am emotionally involved with my characters because I’ve already spent most of this year with them, paragraph by paragraph, getting inside their heads and deep in their hearts, but how to get the reader to feel that  in a much shorter period? Hmm… time will tell I suppose.

One of the tips that stuck with me the most from my Whistler Writer’s Festival was to use beta readers. One of the lecturers said he always uses beta readers before going to an editor. He told us that he had a big group of people who are more than happy to read his book for free in exchange for an honest review. That was something I hadn’t heard of, but definitely made a lot of sense. Why wouldn’t you want the type of people you want to buy your book eventually tell if you before you got to the editing stage if your book had huge issues? It certainly would save on your editing costs.

I’m still half way away from beta readers for sure. I know if I gave my book away now and people told me I had a fix a bunch of issues, I’d probably crumble, cry and then never look at my story again. I know the most important thing right now if to complete the manuscript first and then let myself and other people rip it apart. 🙂

So I better get writing… have a very, very happy weekend. With the weather turning cold, I hope you cuddle up warm, cup of hot beverage in your hand and sink deep into a book. 

Til next Friday…

❤ Melissa