Looking backward, looking forward.

My nine-year-old son loves baseball.

He plays on a AAA team, which means nothing to me, but means something to my husband.

When he was nine–and for most of his youth into college and a little beyond–my husband, Billy, played baseball. He was a State Champion pitcher who got drafted into the majors at nineteen. But back then, there was no such thing as a pitch count for young players, and by the time he was twenty, his body was worn out. Even today, at the age of 47, he has problems with his rotary cuff. He did the thing he loved until it broke him.

Now Brady is playing. He’s not a pitcher–he’s a catcher. This is possibly by design (my husband’s) or maybe because Brady loves the position. It’s the most important position on the field, come to find out. He has to be aware of the positions of all the opposing players on the bags (that’s baseball jargon for “bases”–I didn’t know that either, once). If someone tries to steal a base, he has to see them and make snap decisions on where to throw the ball–and be on target. He can’t overthrow his intended baseman, because then the runner can move on to steal another base.

He also has to be aware when he can’t stop a pitch; when he goes running to get it, he also has to have eyes on the field to be sure to stop runners.

And then, there are other times when he just needs to be in the game and with the program. My favorite is when one of his team’s young pitchers are wobbly and walking batters; Brady looks so serious as he lifts his mask onto the top of his head and marches out the the mound to talk to them. He doesn’t take long, and he never fools around. Usually, he’ll pat the other player on the shoulder as he talks to them, and he looks right at them with such a grown-up expression on his face. Usually, this exchange works to calm the pitcher down and get them to throw strikes. Later, when I ask him what he said, he tells me things like, “I told him to take a deep breath and just play catch with me. Don’t worry about the batter.” Or, “I told him to follow through, just like we practiced.” Wise counsel from someone who needs reminding to brush his teeth and to use deodorant.

His coach has told us that he’s the best player in the league, and in fact, some of the “major” league coaches are scouting him. (Not the major majors, you understand. But the coaches of the older kids. My husband and Brady know what this means–I’m just in the stands, cheering when everyone else does.) Baseball has become something that means so much to both of them. Billy has volunteered to coach the young pitching “staff” and with amazing patience, teaches them the physical mechanics of pitching and how to strategize their pitches. Brady has  gained confidence and leadership skills he’s not even aware of, and has developed a focus that has helped him in school and other places because of baseball. And it’s something both of them, father and son, can share and discuss and analyze–man to man. More than a game, it’s a common link for the two of them.

As I sit on the bleachers, I’m  watching: Billy, looking backward through this current experience and reliving the golden, glory days of his youth, and Brady, looking forward and planning for his future in the game. Me? I’m just here in the present, looking forward and backward, and enjoying the view. I never understood what was so good about sports, but I think I’m finally starting to understand.

 

About Marnie Blue

Cyn D. Blackburn is addicted to love. And caffeine. She lives with her husband (of 20+) years, three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs and one terribly outnumbered cat. She knows that nothing eases the difficulties of life--and falling into love--more than a little humor.

Life in our Books

Do you ever wish you had done something differently? Wish that you’d had something extra inside of you to stand up when things didn’t seem right? That happened to me this week. And I ended my day, thinking…

This is why we write books. 

I went to drop my daughter off at school. I noticed a man, sitting on the bench outside. He was average good-looking and wore a Captain America shirt. And when we started for the door, so did he. Okay. No biggie. Lots of people come and go from the school. And I don’t know everyone. But because he caught my attention in that odd way, I locked my car, which I never do when I’m running into the school at noon to drop my daughter off.

I opened the front door, but didn’t wait for him, either, which is also something I would normally have done. Out of politeness, you know? And then I approached the inner door to the office and I rang the bell to get in. The guy waited behind me, but instead of waiting “in line,” he moved beyond me into the corner. Abnormal? Yes. Red flags [or yellow if you’re a football fan] were waving in my head. I was let into the office and he came in with me. Also a regular occurrence. Happens all the time. Other moms. Dads. Grandparents.

I went to the “visitor sign in” desk, and he went to the front desk and said, “I’m here to pick up my son.”

Front desk Lady: “What’s his teacher’s name?” [they ALWAYS ask that, even when you think they ought to know by now, they ask]

Mr. RedFlag: Mrs. Farfignewton [he said a name that didn’t exist]

The Front desk ladies look at each other, and I’m thinking, “What an asshole, deadbeat dad. Doesn’t even know what his kid’s teacher’s name is.” The front ladies asked him what his son’s name is, and he said, “Richard.”

WHAT THE FUCK? Richard? Really? I know this sounds crazy. But as parents and active members of a school community, you just get used to hearing names. And believe me, RICHARD is NOT one of them. So the Front desk ladies are wary by now and they ask him, “His last name?”

Mr. RedFlag: Uh…Smith.

By then, I’m actually getting nervous. I let some dipwad in the door, and he’s a very bad man. And i’m also thinking, well this guy isn’t getting anyone from this school. And then I wished I never let him in. Wished I’d listened to the voice inside me that knew something was off.

That’s when he identified himself as from the Sheriff’s department. And he had a partner who came in at that point as well, and I’m not going to mention how good-looking and romance hero worthy they both were. <3 hotguyAnd even knowing they are the good guys and were probably doing random checks on the safety of the schools [there was a kidnapping a couple of weeks ago where a woman picked up her daughter from school], I was also mad. One, at them for pulling the stunt [even though it really wasn’t a stunt] and two, at the world that this is what we’ve been reduced to. That we must be suspicious of everything, everyone. Sad.

But the writer in me will take that scene, and she’ll turn it into a romance. Because the principal will be a younger single woman who will take offense. And then when she and the Sheriff’s deputy happen to run into each other later that weekend, sparks will fly.

And…maybe, somewhere in that book, a mom will do the right thing and NOT let that Dipwad through the door. She’ll know that something is off, and she’ll close the door behind her without letting him in the front office. 🙁 That’s what we can do in our books. We can make the world hopeful and less scary.

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About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

I’m planning to fail. Several times.

“Fact: From quitting smoking to skiing, we succeed to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure.” -Martha Beck

I really like this quote–it makes failure seem less frightening. In fact, it makes it seem like a positive thing. I’d never thought about failure as part of my success, but now that I have, I know I can deal with it.

One of the things I always tell my kids is, “We learn by our mistakes,” meaning that it’s okay to do something stupid once in a while if, in the end, you’ve learned something from it. For example, over the winter my nine-year-old decided he didn’t want to wear his heavy coat to school. Instead of fighting with him about it, I let him make that choice (though I did warn him I didn’t think it was a very wise decision). So he went to school and when he came home, he talked about how cold he’d been at the bus stop and during recess. But, you know, he’s never gone without a coat since. In fact, he’s sure to wear a hat and mittens as well as a warm jacket on cold days because he never wants to experience that level of discomfort again. No nagging on my part, and a lesson well-learned for him.

In a sense, this quote is similar. It gives me permission to fail and learn by my mistakes. It’s especially poignant for me right now because–for the fourth time in my life–I’m doing Weight Watchers. In the past, I’ve gone off the diet at a certain point for whatever reason, and then–because of my failure to stick with it, I consider myself hopeless and regain the weight I’d lost. But by using Martha Beck’s philosophy, I won’t give up completely as I have in the past. Instead, I can give myself permission to relax, accept the failure–briefly–and then return to my healthy eating and exercise plan.  If I do this, I’ll be able to succeed in spite of my failures.

How can you apply this quote to your life?

 

 

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About Marnie Blue

Cyn D. Blackburn is addicted to love. And caffeine. She lives with her husband (of 20+) years, three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs and one terribly outnumbered cat. She knows that nothing eases the difficulties of life--and falling into love--more than a little humor.

Ringing In The New ~ @oddlynn3 #LynnCrain #PCers

Resized-Goals

Just like when we run around before the holidays, many people decide on their New Year’s Resolutions during the month of January. I have read many things that people are going to do, or hope to do, for the coming year. Some are so specific that there appears to be no wiggle room whatsoever.

Unfortunately, I know me, I have to have that wiggle room or I feel crushed by responsibilities both personal and professional. With that in mind, I did a little research on just how to approach things this year and what I learned is amazingly simple.

This year, I’m planning everything around a series of goals without getting too much detail on how to get it done. Let’s face it…if you put a goal down…you have a very good idea on how you can accomplish it or it never would have made your list.

What I did was come up with seven categories that are important to me: Writing, Health, Financial, Family, Learning, Social and Other. Under each of those I put down 4-5 items I’d love to do throughout the year. For example, under writing I put down that I wanted to work on one big novel every month. I also want to work on and finish one short story, one novella, and write 2000 words a day. For health, I put down things like exercise daily, portion my food and so on. I did this for each of the seven categories.

I then went one step further to try and ensure I keep on track this year. I put together this chart for the current month and I plan to fill it out for two months at a time. This way, I can be flexible enough if a project has to run over into a second month. Plus I don’t feel so boxed in that there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s an example of what I did for January:

Writing
Novel: HeartSword
Novella: Magical Intentions
Short Story: One True Love
Edits: Captive Illusions
Words: 2k per day
Health
Walk/Jog Daily
Log Food
Financial
Look at places to retire.
Family
Plan possible family trip for when you get home.
Learning
Finish the ‘Developing A Language’ online class          .
Social
Blog Daily
Plan a MSS boxed set.
Other
Don’t forget to crit!
Work up a workshop/talk.
Self-Pub 1 item.

Everything listed is something I want to work on for completion by the end of the month. They are specific enough that I know what I’m doing but general enough to be flexible should something need to change. Plus, I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t do everything on that list.

I am always looking for new and better ways to get things accomplished. I am also the type of person who has to stay busy in order not to be bored. And to be honest, so far it’s working very well. My novel is about to be turned into my agent, I’ve written more than 2k per day plus I have both my edits and short story nearly done. All the other goals have accomplishments in their area as well. This is a very good thing!

How do you approach the New Year? Do you set goals or do you just plunge right in, hoping it will all turn out okay?  I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time…

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

End of Summer Funk ~ @oddlynn3 #LynnCrain #amplanning #PCers

By this time next month, fall will have begun and summer will be fading into memory. But in this moment, I can say I have what I call an end of summer funk.

It’s the time right as school starts, when one is planning out their next moves and how to accomplish them. It is also the time of new beginnings, maybe it’s the end of a special summer or even just starting a new school. Every fall, something begins and something ends.

This year, it has made me reflective and almost sad. My kids are all grown and out of the house, we’re in Austria as life moves on. I noticed it in the pictures of my grandkids at their first day of kindergarten. They were full of happiness for new adventures. Full of those things that had somehow slipped away from me over the hot summer.

With the heatwaves here in Europe, I felt a little more defeated and aimless in my efforts. Then I saw the boys and realized that maybe I wasn’t so aimless but more lost because of my lack of focus. Heat with humidity does that to me. And I just didn’t realize how much until this year. But somehow, somewhere, I know I was thinking along the right path because of a few steps I’d taken earlier in the month.

Before any of the above happened, I had a moment of clarity where I ordered planning materials designed to help me focus and maintain my momentum. I have a lot of writing to do this fall through next spring and unless I can keep on task, it won’t get done. Now this is hard because I can’t use anything from here because it’s all in German. I don’t know enough of the language to think in it and that’s what one needs when using a planner.

I was in luck as my husband’s work was having a working group where a lot of Americans come to Vienna for updates and training. These are people I knew well and who frequently deliver things I can only get from the US. So I went on a hunt for a planner that would do a writer justice. Now, this will help me plan my time, my projects and my priorities, which always seem to get skewed this time of year. When I do a plan then work the plan, I stay focused and on track.

While I’m a pantser at heart, doing this type of focusing will always help me write better. Once I’m on this track, I will start doing outlines that help me in general. I tend to deviate away from most outlines because my characters talk to me differently when I actually do the writing but at least I have an idea of where I’d like them to end.

Yeah, characters sometimes – wait, revise that – many times will not go where I think they should go. That is the number one reason I will remain a pantser because I can’t force them to do what I want any more than forcing my kids to do something either. Characters are living things and if I can just plan little things, names or likes or dislikes, I’m at least ahead of the game.

For me, it is the life planning of my day, what projects I want to do and how I plan to do them is what keeps my writing career on an even keel. And I was extremely blessed to have found something at Amazon from the group Tools4Wisdom called a Month-Life-Planning-Agenda because that’s what I needed. I was immediately impressed with the cover because it’s a trail through an autumn forest. I love walking through places like that.

Planner-Cover

Then I looked at the pages and saw a Goals page where I could put in my individual projects, namely books, into perspective. This would help me tremendously because I could plan for the whole year. And for me a year runs from September to August because I guess I’m still on the school year or government plan. It just seems to work better for me.

Goal-Page-#2

The next page I saw was the Essential Goals page. This page is gold because it lets me name a number one priority for the month then I can add some other smaller items to be finished. Every item is accompanied by a why and how accomplishing that goal will add value to my life. While I’d never thought of my writing in that manner, I could see where it would be beneficial to my overall plan.

Goal-Pages

Then comes the daily pages where you actually set out to do the work. The time increments are in 30 minutes and start at an early 5 am then don’t end until 9 pm. Just perfect for a writer since we do work at all times of the day. Now, you can also flip that so it starts at 5 pm and doesn’t end until 9 am. It all depends upon when you work best. I work best first thing in the morning then I get a second wind later in the afternoon. Normally, I need my coffee first before I do anything. Weekends you have hour increments and not as many.

Day-Pages

Each day has a place for Top Priorities, Secondary Priorities and other. You also have a section for Vision, Purpose and Action. All these are necessary if you want to remain focused and totally on task. This is something I definitely needed as I’m always at my best when I plan. So I ordered it.

Priority-Page

The bad thing was that I had to wait a couple of weeks before it would be hand delivered to me. I decided I’d use those weeks for reading, watching movies or shows, critiquing and trying to do some organization. This plan worked pretty well since it was still very hot. At least for a while, then the rains came. Sigh.

Finally, the day arrived where I was getting my planner. My anticipation level was high and I wanted to get my hands on it to get planning. The first thing when I got it was I marveled at its size as it was twice as big as I thought it would be. This is good since I wanted lots of room to put items down. I felt energized and somehow accomplished. I was holding in my hands the instrument needed to take my writing career to an even higher, more focused level. I loved the feeling just holding it gave me.

I thanked my friend for delivering it and put it in my backpack. Pulling it out once I was in my office, I realized I needed to clear a larger space for it. When my planner is open next to me is when I get the most from it so that I can frequently refer to it when I see myself deviating from it. Yes, there will be some days that it’s going to be too structured for me as I’m more of a free-bird type person. But for the long haul, this was definitely the way to go for me as it has already pulled me out of my funk, forcing me to embrace a wonderful well-planned future.

What about you? Do you need to plan major things out or can you accomplish your goals with little forethought? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’ll keep everyone updated at my weekly blog column just how using the planner is going, My So Called Writing Life, and hopefully, some of you will join me there.

Until next time…

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

The Meandering Writer

Scotland-Swing-Resized

I’m late and apologize for it. Then again, I’m always late and I recently read an article as to why. It seems that while I know time is important, it isn’t the only thing important in life. Apparently, people who are late make more time for those important things. Hmmm, I thought, maybe I do, maybe I don’t.

But while on a walk today with my husband, who kept asking me if something was wrong because I wasn’t walking normal speed according to him, I had a revelation. It’s something I’ve always known but am just now putting into perspective. I’m a meanderer. I take my time, I smell the roses. I want to see everything, do everything and want to enjoy it. So I don’t rush a thing, I meander through something to absorb it all.

Now, you may think this is odd for a writer to wander through life, meandering through, taking one’s time. But meandering is an age old tradition. The Grand Canyon was made by a meandering river who cut down through the top soil into the hard rock. It took millions of years to do so but just look at what a little meandering can do.

Much of my writing is that way. The pieces that I feel are my best are also the ones that I’d write a little on every day, set aside then come back later to them. I’d make sure the setting was perfect, that the characters acted true to themselves and a host of other things because I was striving for perfection.

Notice I said striving. Nothing is perfect and we as writers need to realize this. We need to make things the best we can make them then hand them over to others to help us find flaws we’d overlooked. Once they go through our critique groups the story will go to our agent if we have one. Then it’s back on our desk for another once-over before it goes to an editor.

If we’re not all worn out by the process, we’ll start it over again. If we’re lucky, sometime we can do this at a fast pace, sometimes a little slower but always meandering through the parts that need to be meandered through. Taking time to get something done isn’t a flaw but a trait that should tell the world we want to put our best foot forward. We want to give you the best story possible for us to give.

And if I have to meander to be a better write, I’ll take meandering any day.

So…are you a meander? Or are you someone who likes to go through life a little faster?

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

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