Thursday, December 20, 2012

A World of Pairs

I wrote this several weeks ago, about "couples" and how difficult it is to be alone during the holidays.  This passage was discarded as happens during the editing process, but the truth of it stands.  In Pages in the Wind, Emily struggles with feelings of isolation and loneliness in a world of "pairs."

I tried to relax as much as someone can relax on the metal mall chairs.  Looking out at the mall shoppers, holding shopping bags and walking in and out of stores, one thing was readily apparent - pairs.  Pairs were everywhere; friends laughing and chatting, couples holding hands and occasionally stopping to look in the windows.  The world is made up of pairs, paired up as friends, lovers, mothers with their children, husbands with their wives.  That's the way it's meant to be, the world is not supposed to be traveled alone - and from the day we're born we scramble to find someone to pair up with.

As the story evolves, this isolation will prove to be far deeper than she could have imagined.....

Monday, December 10, 2012

Self Worth

Struggles with self-worth - many a therapist's couch has been worn out on that one.  We see this in Pages in the Wind, as Emily tries to fully embrace love.

My overwhelming love for Reid was inexplicably tied to my desire for him to love me.  I was still that starstruck girl sitting on the curb waiting for him, clinging to every second that I could spend with him.  Still, here he was telling me he loved me, so I pushed the insecurities out of my head and pretended to be good enough, pretty enough, and interesting enough to be with him.

Emily's insecurities send her on a never-ending quest to prove that she's worthy of love - and worthy of Reid.  She's tied her self-worth to what she sees in Reid's eyes, instead of her own.  How this plays out in the coming chapters may surprise you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chosen Paths

The book is progressing, it's taken some unexpected twists and turns along the way - which is indicative of the main character - Emily.  She takes some unexpected paths, that if she had known better at the time - she would have avoided.  That's part of life's lessons, for sure.  Of course, some paths should be avoided altogether, especially if you're not prepared for where the path leads.   Emily faces an inward battle between what she wants and what is best for her future.  In this scene from Pages in the Wind, she contemplates whether to take a path that her much wiser brother warns her not to take  

I wiped the tears from my cheeks, and began walking in the direction of my life.  Something stopped me, and I had to turn around.  It wasn't Reid, I knew that he'd still be there.  After all, he'd moved heaven and earth to find me.  It was something else, a haunting feeling about one of the last things Robert said to me: You cannot go back there.  It's very, very dark.  I'm sorry, but you just don't have enough light in you to fight it.  I instinctively rubbed my arm vigorously to stop the chills that were surging through me.  His words left me wondering if it was some sort of premonition.  But Robert wasn't a fortune teller, he was smart and measured - and he spoke with a certainty that scared the hell out of me.  

Emily is conflicted - for sure.  It makes for good fiction, but I can certainly relate to it in my own life.  I wonder how many of us wonder at times if we had only chosen a different path - how would our lives be different.  Would we go back and change it if we could?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Amplified Reactions

Anger is a natural emotion to perceived injustice, and most of us succumb to it from time to time and then get over it.  Unrestrained anger is another matter, for it often leads to rage which casts a wide shadow on its victims.  We see this in Pages in the Wind, when Emily is confronted with the mild anger of a trusted friend.

I recoiled, taken aback by his sudden outburst.  I felt myself welling up, and for good reason.  I was all too familiar with anger, and it was not my friend.  For me, anger too often bled into rage, and then violence.  My learned instinct was to duck.

The heroine's reaction is a learned response based on a history of violence.  She has a hard time distinguishing between anger and rage, and has no coping skills other than to run.  As the story progresses, this amplified response leaves her vulnerable as she struggles to find coping skills that will protect her adult relationships.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Competing Forces of Desire and Reality

It's never easy to face the reality of something we don't want to believe.  Why? Because it hurts.  It's that simple - it hurts.  Sometimes it hurts for awhile, and sometimes it hurts for a lifetime.  As I near the final chapters of Pages in the Wind, Emily is faced with an ugly reality as she graduates from high school and plans to leave her past behind for a new life in a new place.  She is hopelessly conflicted, and the conflict lies between her desire and her reality:

Step by step, I just kept walking in the direction of the cafeteria.  I knew that my thoughts were jumbled, remnants of this and remnants of that - thoughts strung together like some haphazard quilt.   Desire and reality were competing for my attention.  My desire was to stay here, to live out the fantasy of belonging to a happy family but reality was also here - walking in the direction of the cafeteria.  I knew that I just needed to keep walking without stopping - just keep putting one foot in front of the other in the direction of Robert and his plan to leave.  I knew that if I stopped walking, I would run in the other direction.  I would run in the direction of my desire, and the ugly truth is that my desire was nothing more than a made-up fantasy that would never, ever happen.  

Her choice will ultimately change the course of her life.  The competing power of desire and reality end up colliding - and what happens will be a turning point in her life and one that she could not have anticipated.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Breaking Through

To a surprising extent, being exposed to prolonged trauma holds us back.  This is especially true when the trauma is comes from the outside, beyond our control.  We see this in Pages in the Wind as Emily contemplates how to venture out, now that she is turning eighteen.

I envisioned myself walking on a sideway, day after day, and never going anywhere because I can’t cross the street.  I want to cross, but I can’t.  The oncoming cars are everywhere, one after another, and they’re speeding so fast I can hear the repetitious sound of tires and wind as one flows into another in steady procession.  It’s too dangerous to cross, so I stay on the sidewalk where I know I’m safe.  I desperately want to go somewhere, any destination that gets me off the sidewalk to a place where I can be happy.  Even if the destination doesn’t turn out to be the right place for me, at least I could find out.  I wouldn’t have to stay here, I could cross the street again and find something else.  If I could get off the sidewalk, and cross the street, I could explore the world in front of me.

At first glance, you would think that her dismal surroundings would propel her forward and out of her environment.  In truth, at least for Emily, it does the opposite.  It holds her back from exploring what life has to offer.  As the story unfolds, she will struggle to break through her barriers of fear, and find out what is out there.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lost Optimism

It’s a challenge to be optimistic during difficult times - I know that I struggle with it.  Emily, the heroine of my developing book, finds this particularly difficult when she is forced to move to a new city and leave the man she loves.  As she arrives in the city, she inadvertently draws a comparison between the city and her own feelings of abandonment. 

The decaying buildings were coated with layers of murky filth from decades of carbon monoxide spewed by speeding cars.  It was deeply embedded in the wood, which made it hard to see what was once new and magnificent.  Through the lens of my darkened mood, all I could see was the damage clinging to the building as a testimony to what people do without regard for preserving the ancient building.  I couldn’t think about it anymore; I had to shut my eyes and stop the onslaught of barren, cracked, and damaged images.  When I closed my eyes and repeated the words barren, cracked, and damaged - I realized that I was describing myself.  I felt barren, cracked, and damaged, and arriving in this unwanted city was a match to exactly how I felt all the time.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Most of us manufacture reasons to excuse the behavior of the major players in our lives.  As simple as it sounds, sometimes the truth just hurts too much.  We see this in Pages in the Wind, as Emily searches for a reason that her relationship with her mother is so barren.

Mother gave me a conciliatory smile that said "oh well" as she turned to follow father. As I leaned against the doorway to my bedroom, I wondered if father demanded so much of her time and she had nothing left to me.  I couldn't help but blame him for her inability to embrace me as a daughter.  She always held me at arm's length, like she spent hours perfecting her beauty for a fancy soiree and had a dirty toddler begging to be held. 

It's so easy to get caught in this trap - I've done it many times, though not with my own mother.  I've made excuses in other relationships, and once to a disastrous conclusion.  It definitely changed me in ways that I wish I could have avoided.  The flip side is that I did learn a hard lesson, and am hyper-vigilant to not repeat it.  

I wonder if you have made excuses for the key players in your life, only to wish that you hadn't.  It doesn't even have to be a family member — mine wasn't, and the painful result was devastating.  I'm listening to my inner voice more clearly now, and letting my brain overrule my heart when it needs too.  Still, even with the lessons I learned — that's one lesson I would have preferred to avoid altogether.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Doing Something - in the Aftermath of Colorado Tragedy

In light of the mass shooting in Colorado, it was hard to sit down and work on my book today.  The pictures and stories of the victims have been flashing through my mind, and weighing on my heart.  It's all so senseless, and yet it's hard not to look for a reason or meaning behind such an evil act.  If we don't find the reason, which is undoubtedly complex, we can't possibly even begin to fix it.

I suppose my biggest fear is that we can't fix it, that society has gone too far in its thirst for violence, the mental health system is inadequate, and the gun laws are inept.  The list could probably fill a book, it boggles the mind to the point where we can't wrap our head around such acts.  I just know in my hearts that I need to do something.

Perhaps the answer for me as a lone individual is to leave the heavy analysis for the people far more qualified than I am to tackle this multi-dimensional issue.  Still, I can't just pretend that someone else will handle it - and off I go with my usual routine.  I have to do something, because for me anyway - nothing just isn't acceptable anymore.

I remember the first time I started feeling uneasy about that "something" that was going on in society.  I was a mother with children in elementary school, and I turned on the television to the horror of school shootings.  This wasn't happening in a war torn nation - this was a small town similar to the town I lived in.  It was senseless - and frightening.  For the remainder of their school days, when I would drop my kids off for school - I said a prayer that they would be safe. I couldn't imagine my life without these two precious girls, and faced with the fear inside me, all I could do was say that prayer. It was a helpless feeling, and haunted me daily.

So, today as I sit down to write fictional words and continue my book - I know in my heart that I have to do something to try to help.  I don't know what it is yet, and I know it won't change the world - I don't have that capacity, no one does.  I just know that when I try to sleep at night, at least I'll know that, however small, I did what I could to make a difference somewhere and somehow.  I just have to try.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Filling in the Blanks

Some people are open books, and some open the book enough for us to see a paragraph or two.  I suppose that the difference lies mainly in the personality, but I have little doubt that some is based on life experiences.  Let’s face it, some of us skate through life relatively unscathed.  Some of us have experiences that change us, make us more guarded.  The guarded ones - the private ones, can confuse us.  Unfortunately, sometimes the “blanks” are filled in using our own experiences - which are biased and often inaccurate.  We see this in Pages in the Wind, when Emily tries to figure out her brother and his various moods.

I rubbed my eyes trying to figure out who Robert really is — the sweet boy that helped me or the irritable boy that just walked out of here.  I leaned back in my chair deep in thought, and realized that he is probably both.  The second one scares me, because it’s a side of him that he doesn’t want anyone to see - a kink in his armor.  There is something in his eyes that I see when he doesn’t know I’m looking at him.  It’s always been there at one time or another, and I know what it is - it’s fear.  Maybe being the perfect kid all the time has it’s own burden.
Emily got the fear right, but not the reason for the fear.  She can’t know because she hasn’t seen it.  I find myself becoming much less judgmental the older I get.  Too often I have found that what I thought was true - just wasn’t.  Avoiding conjecture and biased interpretations is a challenge, for sure.  I have learned that it’s better to wait - let the truth unfold - with my eyes open and not clouded with false interpretations.  I’m a work in progress - but I’m trying.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Author's Note

The book is progressing nicely, the characters are all coming together and developing a life of their own.  Some of the characters have taken a more pivotal role than I anticipated, and that's good.  That's part of the intrigue of writing, finding twists and turns along the way that you didn't anticipate.

The characters are aging, and lives are becoming more complicated, and darker, for sure.  I find that I can't write as long these days.  It's not that the time or energy isn't there - it is.  The characters can be draining emotionally.  I don't want to short-change the depth of the characters, so when I find myself becoming depleted - I stop.  I don't want to compromise the content by pushing beyond my own creative endurance.

I wonder if other writers have felt drained by their characters.  I find that giving myself some space at times - is helpful and keeps the character from dominating me - so I can direct the story without feeling overwhelmed.  Just a thought.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Mystique of Claire

Emily’s mother, Claire, is beautiful, cold, and mysterious.  It’s a blurring combination of characteristics for the young Emily.  She longs for her mother’s love, and desperately wants to know her, to figure out who she is.  That’s the thing about being cold, isn’t it? A cold personality is often mistaken for mysterious, especially when mixed with intense beauty.  This is a passage from Pages in the Wind, when Emily sits in the foyer at a party, and tries to figure out who her mother is.

Watching mother was like trying to figure out the clues to a spellbinding mystery.  Her entrance was like watching as a shadow exits a train, obscured by fog.  As the fog clears, you see a stunning and mysterious woman emerge.  The minute you see her, you know instantly that she is the heroine of the book.

Sometimes a mysterious personality is not mysterious at all – it is just empty.  For Emily, she tries to solve the mystery of her mother and fill in the blanks.  What she doesn’t see is that the clue is in the blanks – which are just that – empty.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Role of Brother is Now Being Played By......

Have you ever discovered someone that you thought you knew, suddenly different in the absence of someone else? It could be someone’s wife that you never knew until you talked to her without the front-and-center husband.  It could be the studious kid sitting in front of you in class, the one with his hand raised all the time (to your annoyance), that you suddenly find yourself talking to in the cafeteria.  In Pages in the Wind, Emily is surprised to discover a brother that she never knew existed…..she found him when he was alone.

We sat there in silence, two people sharing something that was impossible to understand.  Robert kept his head down, lost in his thoughts as he stared at the cement steps.  I was lost in my thoughts too, or maybe just lost ……I don’t know.  I looked at Robert out of the corner of my eye, not wanting to disturb his thoughts or embarrass him.  Something was different about him; he didn’t seem like Mr. Perfect…at least not right now.  He just looked like a nice boy in shiny shoes and a red bow tie, with more on his mind than just getting to the science fair or the next endeavor in his long list of future achievements. Sitting there, side- by -side on the cement steps outside our house, he was just my brother.

It’s easy to be eclipsed by another person, but when you get him alone and relate to him one-on-one………..wonderful insights can be discovered.  New relationships can form.  Has this happened to you?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Challenged Beliefs

We go along believing something is true, because that’s all that we know and it’s all that we have experienced.  It could be any belief; who we are based on what we’re told, who we trust based on who we love, or an authority that we don’t question because well…..they are the authority.  Then one day, something is said or something happens that challenges everything.  This happens to Emily, in Pages in the Wind, when someone challenges her belief about who she is. 

After I shut the door, I remember sitting on the couch and something felt different.  It was as though someone had snapped a rubber band on my bare arm.  It was a momentary jolt, but the unexpected shock put a voice in my head that challenged everything that I thought was true up to that point.  I was too young to understand what it meant, so it lingered as tweak of uncertainty about the way I saw my life.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it questioned the way that I looked at my father.

This is an important challenge for Emily, and most effective because the challenge comes from outside her immediate circle.  I wonder if you have had your beliefs challenged and what that meant to you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Weapon of Silence

For Emily, in Pages in the Wind, she faces the timeless demon of passive aggression - silence. Silence coupled with desire is excruciating.  It is also cruel.  We see this in Pages in the Wind, as Emily spends time with her mother hoping to win her attention.

I felt like I had been dropped from a ten foot ledge, not enough to kill me but enough to leave some pretty big bruises.  Her question was not a question at all; it was a request for me to leave.  I was being dismissed, like a meek maid facing the mistress of the manor before a curtsied exit.  She never looked at me, not even a passing glance.  I stared at her, feeling like the invisible daughter, who never rates her time.  I would have pulled the sun from the sky, and danced on the boiling surface to get her to notice me. 

This silence will play an important role in Emily’s relationship with her mother and set the tone for how she relates to her as an adult.

Have you experienced silence in your interpersonal relationships, and how did it affect you?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Inward War of Wills

It’s an inward war of wills, I suppose, that battle between what we think is best, and what we want.  Whether it’s a promise to make a boss respect our work more, or a promise to make a relationship better – it is that inward war between the brain and the heart.  The message is usually the same: try harder, try harder, and try harder.  I told someone once that if you have to always try harder, what you are trying to fix is probably not all that good.  This is true with Emily, in Pages in the Wind, when she desperately tries to make her relationship with her father better.  Her intentions are good, and her efforts are vigilant but unfortunately the results will prove barren.  Why? Because what she is trying to fix is inherently broken on the other end.
Father took Robert’s hand and Robert pulled dad toward the door, anxious for breakfast.  Father looked back at me, and said “come on Emily, time for breakfast.” I guess that he knew I was there after all. Not wanting to get in trouble for disobeying orders; I got up and walked toward the house.  I couldn’t help but take one last look at the brick path, but somehow I still saw it as a yellow brick road leading to a magical place if only I could find it.   I squinted, blinked, and closed my eyes trying to see the red brick path that father had built, and not the yellow brick road that I built in my mind.  Just try harder, Emily, there is no yellow brick road, there never was, remember? Try to be happy and stop looking for more.  With the vow clearly in mind, but the yellow brick road clearly in my heart; I followed Robert and father into the house for breakfast.                                                                                           
Emily’s brain is more in sync with her heart than she realizes.  She knows that something “isn’t right” but societal norms give her the message that she should have a good relationship with her father.  She’s too young to pin the blame on anyone except herself, which of course is a ripe breeding ground for later insecurities.  I wonder, have you been in a situation where you tried harder, and tried harder and finally realized that the battle was lost before you started?