Good day, my lovelies!
The pace of life has definitely ticked up a notch since When Never Comes hit April’s Amazon First Reads list, and that’s a good thing! But more demands on my time means less time for savoring the actual fruits of my labors, which is probably why I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things like beauty and simplicity, and how they’re often crowded out of our lives in the name of productivity. Meals become rushed affairs, prepared on the fly and often eaten in shifts, gulped without tasting in order to move on to the next thing. The bath ritual, once a symbol of serenity and calm, has become a forgotten art, replaced by five-minute showers mindlessly taken in preparation for another jam packed day. Even sleep, one of our most precious commodities, has lost its sense of the sacred, as our bedrooms are increasingly filled with digital gadgets that keep us up later and later, and affect our ability to quiet our minds.
We’ve become slaves to a hair-on-fire, 24/7 pace of life that isn’t really a life at all. And the truth is we’ve CHOSEN this. Maybe not in word, but certainly in deed. We’ve stopped setting boundaries on how we spend our time and energy. We’ve stopped observing the small traditions that refresh and renew, like meals prepared with care and enjoyed together, self-care routines that require us to slow down and honor the body and its needs. Long story short, we’ve stopped valuing beauty, richness, quality, and ritual. Now we just value fast. Or as Daft Punk so succinctly put it: Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. And I get it. There’s a lot to do, people counting on us, places to be, targets we need to hit in order to see ourselves as successful.
But success isn’t always about cramming MORE into our days. More stuff, more time, more lists. Sometimes it’s about slowing down, deepening our experiences, savoring our moments. One. At. A. Time. It might look like setting the table, pouring the wine, turning off your phone, and enjoying a meal together, instead of wolfing something down on our way out the door. Running a bath, adding some salts, lighting a candle, and having a good long soak, rather than stumbling blindly out of bed and dragging ourselves to the shower. Preparing for sleep by slipping into your favorite PJs, turning off your gadgets and picking up a book (I have some suggestions there!) and reading until you’re drowsy, instead of dropping off in a stupor, still dressed, with the TV droning in the background.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… who has time for THAT? You do. I do. We ALL do. If that’s how we CHOSE to spend our time. And by choosing, I mean setting priorities and establishing boundaries, making ritual and self care as critical as whatever else is on our to-lists. And yes, it’s about saying no to some requests. As the saying goes, “Something’s gotta give.” Well, shouldn’t YOU be the one who decides WHAT that something is? Today, why not set aside a few moments to ponder the kinds of rituals you might add to your life to make it richer and deeper. If you’re stumped, here’s a tip to get you started… stop saving “the good stuff” for later! Live now, fully and richly. Sleep on pretty sheets. Pull out the guest towels. Eat off the good china. Slip into the silk jammies. Buy your own flowers. Read good books. Sip good wine.
Savor. Savor. Savor.
This. So much… this.
You should go home to your hermitage; it is inside you.
Close the doors, light the fire, and make it cozy again.
That is what I call “taking refuge in the island of self.”
If you don’t go home to yourself, you continue to lose yourself. You destroy yourself and you destroy people around you, even if you have goodwill and want to do something to help.
That is why the practice of going home to the island of self is so important. No one can take your true home away.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
In judging our progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education … But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being.
Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity…
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As some of you may know (and may be sick of hearing by now) my fifth novel, WHEN NEVER COMES, is due out on May 1st, and the last two days have been an absolute joy. And yesterday, the UPS man (aka: the book stork) brought me a big beautiful box of… you guessed it… author copies! Toss in the fact that it’s my first hardcover release… AND my first audio release, and you can probably guess that I’m a pretty happy girl!
Ask any proud mama and she’ll tell you the moment she held her baby for the first time made was one she’ll never forget. But I’m here to tell you, for authors, holding our book babies for the first time isn’t so very different. And when you think about it there are some pretty striking similarities. There’s the moment of conception, the giddy quickening of new life, followed by months and months (and… months) of awkward and uncomfortable stuff, like insomnia, exhaustion, second thoughts, not to mention the absolute certainty that you’ll never survive the process. And then, at long last, after much angst and weight gain (starting to sound familiar?) comes that final agonizing push, and viola! our creation enters the world in all its new and squalling glory.
And here’s something else–the best part, really. Most mothers will tell you those feelings don’t disappear with the second or third child. Or the fifth. Maybe you know what to expect (or think you do) but each birth is unique, fraught with its own hopes and fears and dreams. This holds true for authors as well, which is why, when that 40 lb. bundle of joy appears on the doorstep, courtesy of the UPS man, be it the first, the fifth, or the fifteenth, it can be a bit of a weepy moment. Because until we can finally hold it in our arms, call it by its name, and yes, even cuddle with it in bed, it’s never quite real. So excuse me while I coo just a little over my newest addition. I’m a new (ish) mama, and absolutely over the moon that I get to do this wonderful thing for a living!
This week I’ve been working on the first chapter of my brand new novel, and I don’t mind telling you, it’s been going spectacularly. And by spectacularly, I mean it’s been a bit of a disaster. You see, I’m a perfectionist. Now I know that sounds like a good thing, perhaps even a bit of a brag. But I assure it’s not. Because as a writer, there are times when perfection is the absolute last thing you want to strive for.
Confused yet? Okay, let me try to make sense of that. Writing a novel—or anything, for that matter—is a process that requires two distinctly different states of mind. (if we’re not counting mania, confusion, or total unworthiness as states of mind) The first is the “just get it all out” state of mind, required to get a fledging novel off the ground. It’s the starting point: messy, undefined, a brain dump of all the ideas swimming around in your noodle. The second state of mind is the “laser-focused” state of mind required to bring a novel to market. It’s the end point: the pretty, the polish, the song, the art. It’s also the dotting of Is and crossing of Ts, the refining of theme and voice and absolute clarity. “Laser-focused” is how you finish every writing project of your life.
And therein lies the rub.
“Laser-focused” is NOT how we should start a new project. The truth is, there’s nothing I find quite so torturous as making the shift between editing mode and first draft mode. In editing mode I’m focused on details, on the rules of grammar and punctuation, slashing wayward commas, polishing my words like carefully-mined diamonds. Editing mode is my wheelhouse, my holy grail, my mother’s milk! In editing mode there are rules. Clear do and don’ts. Best practices and never-evers. But then I’m done with that bit of art, ready to begin the next one, and I’m just supposed to… wing it???
Yes. I am.
And so is everyone else who wants to write. Because that’s what the process looks like when you don’t know what you’re doing, or where your story’s going. You have to be okay with being OUT OF CONTOL (not my favorite thing AT all) to be willing to just throw up on paper, knowing some of it (okay, most of it) is never going to see the light of day. You also have to understand what a first draft is—and more importantly, what it’s not. It’s NOT a book. It’s NOT art. It’s NOT sacred. It’s a therapy session, an excavation, an exploration of previously uncharted territory. And it’s supposed to be a mess.
5 Quick & Dirty Tips for Writing a “Throw-Uppy” First Draft:
- Know going in that it’s going to suck (yes, suck) and be okay with that. Stop agonizing over word choice, comma placement, to adverb or not to adverb. This is not time time or the place. Keep your hand and your brain moving. Think throwing up on paper.
- Keep the words flowing. (even the bad ones) You can’t edit what you haven’t written. But you can spend a ton of time editing words that are never going to make it into the final draft. Get the story out, build the ideas, explore scene options and character traits. That’s what this stage is about; feeling your way to your story with both hands and a flashlight.
- A first draft is for your eyes only. Seriously, this draft is about you. Your process, your discovery, your epiphanies. Critique partners and beta readers can provide invaluable insight later in the process, but right now, you don’t need anyone else in your head.
- Stop trying to put lipstick on a skeleton. First drafts are about laying down the bones, building a structure for your ideas, a foundation for all the details that will come later. In other words: it’s everything. The pretty will come later. (I promise)
- Muzzle your inner critic and keep writing. This where the rubber meets the road, where you have to ignore everything your 9th grade English teacher or last copy editor has ever told you… and just write. Forget the spelling, the punctuation, the endless searching for the perfect word, and just make a mess. Messy is okay. Messy is part of the process. Messy is GOLD.
As some of you know, I’m a southern girl living in New Hampshire, which means dealing with months and months of… you guessed it, snow. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love snow, but by the third week of February this southern girl is coming down with one nasty case of cabin fever. It hardly helps matters that it was a glorious and sunny 72 degrees yesterday, and that today we’re getting… you guessed it, more snow. (I SWEAR I’m not making that up!) So can you really blame me for pining for my flip flops, and musing about what to pack in my beach bag? I mean, where’s a girl to turn when she’s stuck inside, if not to books? And so, I thought I’d share my three top beach read picks, all due out in April or May, and all written by authors who never EVER disappoint. Just give me a minute to swap out my steamy mug of cocoa for a frosty pina colada. Okay, ready… here goes!
THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM by Kristy Woodson Harvey (April 3, 2018)
After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.
Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.
But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.
BEST BEACH EVER (Ten Beach Road Series) by Wendy Wax (May 22, 2018)
Forced to rent out or lose their beloved Bella Flora after the loss of their renovation-turned-reality-TV show Do Over, Maddie, Nikki, Avery, Kyra, and Bitsy move into cottages at the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club believing the worst is over. Only to discover just how uncertain their futures really are.
Maddie struggles with the challenges of dating a rock star whose career has come roaring back to life while Nikki faces the daunting realities of mothering twins at forty-seven. Avery buries herself in a tiny home build in an attempt to dodge commitment issues, and Kyra battles to protect her son from the Hollywood world she once dreamed of joining. And Bitsy is about to find out whether the rewards of seeking revenge will outweigh the risks.
Luckily, when the going gets tough, the ladies of Ten Beach Road know that their friendship–tried and tested–can chase away the darkest clouds and let the sun shine in.
THE HIGH TIDE CLUB by Mary Kay Andrews (May 8, 2018)
When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.
Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of The High Tide Club—so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.
So there you have it peeps, a sneak peek at what the well-stocked beach bag will hold this Spring and Summer. All three titles are available now for preorder, (which I have already done myself!) and I’ve linked the titles to their Amazon pages to make it easy for you! Also, make sure to add them to your Goodreads “To Be Read” Shelf! Happy reading, y’all. And don’t forget your sunscreen!