So, I made this deal with myself that I would make two blog posts each week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I made this decision when my life is being thrown into chaos yet again with selling our house, buying a house, the move itself, and of course the ongoing editing, rewriting, and revising of Within the Petals.

What was I THINKING???

I need to make such commitments though, because I am VERY skilled at the fine art of procrastination, and of making excuses about why I can’t write.  I even did it a few posts back when I renewed this blog (yet again!).  I wrote about not being able to do any writing when I was in Kansas City this past spring for the birth of my granddaughter.  WHAT was keeping me from writing then though?  Did I really have any valid excuses?  Do I ever?  Does ANY writer?

I’m leaning toward believing that no, there are NO valid excuses for not writing, at least not for me.  Okay, yeah, sometimes I’m busy, sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I have other commitments that take priority…

But WAIT!!!  How can anything else take priority over the thing that makes me the most ME?  Why is anything else more important than the thing that makes me feel fully ALIVE?  How can I not make time for the thing that NOURISHES my SPIRIT?

Yet, I tumble off the Word Wagon repeatedly, and have to struggle to pull myself back aboard.  WHEN will I learn???

Even when I’m busy, I can take SOME time each day to devote to writing!  I’ve shown that for the last three weeks when I’ve done 750 Words every day—the big test on that will be when we’re in Jacksonville next week.  I’m going to PASS that test though!  Hell, I’m going to get an A!!!

I know from experience that even when I’m tired, writing gives me energy.  I need to do it the MOST when I feel I’m the least able to do it!  Today is one of THOSE days!  We had a handyman here doing repairs on Monday and Tuesday, so we were up earlier than usual, and today, although I slept later, we painted the ceiling of the front porch (in the heat, and some of the time, in a thunderstorm).  When I realized it was Wednesday, so I needed to write a blog, I groaned and thought, “Oh, no!”  But now, after writing about writing I feel MUCH better, more focused, more HAPPY.

MAYBE I’ll even be able to write a drabble for Shared Words, because I’ve fallen behind!

I will just need to keep remembering WHY I write during the coming months, when I KNOW I will often be busy and tired and have pressing commitments.

I have to WRITE!!!  I will accept NO excuses from myself!!!  And this blog?  It will keep going and going and going…

The Boy in the White Suit (Nice Day for a White Wedding)

Posted July 14th, 2012 by Julie Carriker

The ceremony itself had been rather a blur to me —perhaps due to the numerous drinks my cousin had been pouring down me all afternoon while she was doing my hair and makeup.

Lynn had known I was nervous, but I don’t think she suspected what I had been wondering all day, what I’d been wondering for the past several days actually, longer even maybe…wondering if I was doing the right thing.  But the plans had all been made; the church was reserved, gifts had been arriving for the past couple weeks, my dress had been bought and my bridesmaids’ dresses made, family and friends were in town, my parents had spent so much time and money on this wedding…  I couldn’t back out still…could I?

I looked at the man wearing the blue Marine dress uniform standing beside me.  He was only a boy, really, only a few months older than I, and when I was truly honest with myself, he wasn’t the sort I would have ever imagined as a husband.  But those days of imagination and dreaming of someone who would never be mine were gone now, and best left to girlhood fantasy.  This boy was here, and he had offered me an escape.  Not good reasons to marry, I knew, but I would do my best with the choices I had made, and I would be the best wife I could be to him.

Friends and family came along the receiving line, people that I saw nearly every day, and others I hadn’t seen in many years.  My God, my kindergarten teacher was even here!  I accepted their congratulations and best wishes with a smile and a thank you, shaking hands and kissing cheeks.

‘It was such a lovely wedding.’

‘My, that’s quite a dress you’re wearing!’

‘Your friend and your mother both sang so beautifully.’

Then I saw him.  He was standing on the far side of another friend from high school.  He’d said he was going to wear white too, just in case I changed my mind at the last minute.  I had thought he had only been joking, or that it was nothing more than a clever thing to say.  He’d always been a big talker and had a flair for the dramatic.  And besides, we’d never been ‘serious’ about each other, had we?  It was all fun and games, wasn’t it?  A fling.  An affair.  We had discussed this and had felt so adult that night before anything had really begun.

My nervousness grew as he walked closer.  He was wearing a three-piece white suit like the one John Travolta had worn in the recent film, Saturday Night Fever.  And he was a dancer too, so it looked good on him…  I looked sidelong at my baby-faced groom, wondering if he had noticed, but he was deep in conversation with his best man who stood on his other side, and completely oblivious.

I smiled shyly at the young man in the white suit as he approached me.  He took both my hands in his and we stood there looking at each other for what seemed like hours.  In all the years we had known each other he had never looked at me like that before.  We had never even exchanged so much as one word of love, yet we both knew that we did love each other, and that there was some deep bond between us.

It seemed deeper at that moment and I wondered if he could feel my trembling.

I looked into his eyes and saw the promise of a different future.  It would be a life far removed from the ‘ordinary one I had agreed to in my recently spoken wedding vows.  It would be a life facing the unknown, where two adventurous kids tired of the trappings of suburbia could defy convention.  It would be a life where we could be free to explore all the possibilities available to us, and to make our own rules.

He said my name, barely above a whisper.

I was unsure of what to do and my mind raced.  Part of me wanted to clasp his hand tightly and run for the door.  Part of me wanted to chuck the last few hours, days, weeks, months and start anew.  Part of me wanted to become a person I had barely imagined I could be.

But part of me was more rational.  Or was that part of me just more afraid of the consequences of such an action?  There was a church-full of my family and friends surrounding us, and there was also the boy at my side, his blue eyes matching his tunic.  He’d asked me to marry him and I had said yes.  I’d made a promise to him, and to all those witnessing our union.

The young man holding my hands looked at me for another moment.  And I looked at him.  Finally, deciding that I must do what was right, I smiled the smile I had given to all the others.

He nodded slightly, then he moved on.

My heart sank as I realized what I had lost in the choice I had just made.  I watched with sadness as the boy in the white suit moved along the line, and away from me forever.

I smiled again as the next person moved to congratulate me.

 

I first wrote a version of this in late 2008 as a Flash Writing (a piece 500 words in length), for my Shared Words writing group.  It was inspired by the prompt “Song Title,” hence part of the title being “Nice Day for a White Wedding.”  After I thought about it more, I decided five hundred words weren’t enough to tell the story I wanted to tell, so I expanded it to the nearly nine hundred it is now.  It is currently a “finished” piece, but someday I may expand on it and tell even more of the story of this girl and this boy, and the life together they never had.

Stay tuned every Saturday for new selections of ‘The Words.’  I have a lot to share.  As always, PLEASE feel free to comment.

De-Cluttering: In “Real” Life & “Word” Life

Posted July 11th, 2012 by Julie Carriker

They say that life imitates art, or perhaps it’s the other way around, but there is definitely a relationship–at least in MY life and MY art.

During the past week Lee and I have decided to sell our house, and when we got a realtor, she told us “less is more,” (I could rant on THAT concept, but I’ll save it for another time and place), so we needed to de-clutter the whole house.  Personally, I LOVE our clutter, and much of it is tied to my creative process and is part of ME, but I do understand the concept, so I have been trying to pack as many things away as possible.

With thoughts of these excess items in our house, I opened the latest message from Deneen, my editor for Within the Rose Petals.  She said she was hesitant to say anything negative, that she didn’t want to discourage me in any way, but wrote that she had finally figured out why she was having trouble maintaining interest in the story, (She was having trouble MAINTAINING INTEREST? I shouted to myself, and tried to calm down).  Anyway, she’s had this trouble because there is just TOO MUCH detail about everyday occurrences, and that is slowing the plot down.  Basically, she indicated that I need to de-clutter.  Personally, I LOVE all the detail!  I want readers to hear, see, feel, smell, and taste what’s happening with Roddy and Linda; I want them to BE THERE, and I think this attention to detail is what makes that possible.  However, I can, sort of, see that everyone won’t see each moment as “precious,” as Deneen called it, as I do.  So I will try to let go of some of the words, packing them up until the day my “psycho fans” (a term I use with great affection, since I’ve been, I AM, one myself), cry for “More!  More!  More!”  Then I can, as one of my idols, Stephen King, did with The Stand; give them the “Definitive Edition,” with all those discarded words and phrases returned.  That’s why I save pretty much everything I’ve written.

Hmmm, I’m getting this same message in two areas of my life in a very short time span, so perhaps the Universe is trying to tell me something that I really need to learn.  As anyone who has read this blog, or anything else I’ve written, knows, I LOVE words!  The MORE the better!  Verbosity is my thing, and I’m PROUD of it!  I remember in grad school a professor handing out an essay test and saying, looking directly at me; “Be as succinct as possible.”  I grinned, shrugged it off, answered in my usual fashion, and still got my A.

I hang on to people and things just as tenaciously, and find it VERY hard to let go.  More deep psychological stuff to get into some day…

But I DO want this book, and all my future books, to be the best they can be, so now I am forced to take a good, hard look at my word choices, my phrase choices.  Deneen made the comment that, “you can say what you’ve said in five paragraphs in one,” and that hits pretty close to home.  I don’t want readers to have to force themselves through my descriptions to get to the action, or worse yet, put the book down in frustration, so I will have to address this issue, and put my personal feelings aside for a moment.

After all, if I’m writing just for ME then I’m journalling (or maybe blogging, since I have no interaction here, although the counter keeps going up, so people are coming to these pages, they just don’t comment—PLEASE, SAY SOMETHING, readers!  Let me know you’re out there!  Let me know how you feel about what you’ve read!  I NEED to hear from you!).  If I’m writing something that I want others to read, I need to have the reader first in my mind, and not myself.

Perhaps I’ve made some real progress here?  Perhaps I’ve shifted my mindset a bit?  I suppose it will only REALLY show when I go back and try to de-clutter my writing as well as I’m de-cluttering the house.  But THAT has to wait until Deneen and I have gotten through the whole book.

I’ll let you know how I do.

750 Words: Yet Another Way to Keep Myself Writing

Posted June 30th, 2012 by Julie Carriker

As of Wednesday, I’ve resumed participating in a web-group called 750 Words.  It’s a site promoting the free-writing of 750 words every day.  There are virtual “prizes,” badges, etc., for different levels of participation, which is good for the competitive types.  I’m one, but MUCH more so with people I know, so since I don’t know anyone on this site, I’m not motivated to “beat” anyone—those in my Shared Words writing group can attest to how a am about THAT!

I’ve started 750 Words a couple times now, but didn’t keep with it—kind of like blogging.  I stopped the first time because I didn’t feel like I was getting anything from it.  Last fall I did it during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), plus a couple weeks beyond, and I found it very satisfying and productive.  I forgot about it one day last December, then hurried to try to get my words done before midnight, but I didn’t make it.  When I lost my 100% participation for that month, I just let it slide, intending to start up again in January, but it never happened.  I’ve thought of restarting several other times, but have always remembered a couple days into a new month, and if I wasn’t going to get the whole month, I figured I’d wait for the next one.  This time I started toward the end of a month, hoping that by the time the new month starts I’ll be well into the habit and will keep with it.  I have a streak of four days so far.

Doing that kind of forced free-writing seems to unlock things for me, in me.  It also kind of gives me a jump-start to writing every day, and I think I write more during the rest of the day when I start off with 750 Words.  I stopped keeping a journal a couple years ago—I still have NO idea why I stopped, but I haven’t been able to get back to it—but I’m hoping doing the 750 words each day will help get me back into that as well.  I miss it, so why don’t I do it again…?  Hmmm…  At least it will assure that I’m writing EVERY day.

Hopefully the THIRD time WILL be the charm for 750 Words!  We’ll see, and I’ll keep you posted.  Maybe some of you would even enjoy it.  Just do a google search for “750 Words” and you’ll get the site.

Yeah, I know, the last time I revived this blog I was REALLY going to DO it!  I do have a good excuse though, and I will take a few paragraphs to share the amazingness of my beautiful little granddaughter, Soraya Jade Standifer!

I made my last blog post on April 2, and planned to keep blogging REGULARLY.  However, two days later my daughter went into the hospital (at 33 weeks pregnant), for observation.  This observation showed pre-eclampsia, and the only cure of that is delivering the baby.

Well, Lee and I were on a plane to Kansas City that Saturday, April 7, and I remained in Missouri until May 4.  I am happy to say that when Soraya was born on April 12, her only major complication was learning how to eat.  She was hospitalized for three weeks mastering that skill, but is now a healthy 2 ½-month-old, weighing over seven pounds (she was just barely four pounds at birth).  I haven’t seen her in nearly two months, but I’ve seen pictures and videos (not enough, but CAN there be enough of a grandchild?).

The whole becoming a grandma—I’m “Yaya”—thing was/is truly amazing, and if I hadn’t been so sleep-deprived, worried, stressed out, etc. it would surely have made for some interesting blogging, but I just couldn’t make myself write.  The only things I wrote during my time in KC were a few emails and Facebook updates, and baby shower invitations.  The NEXT time I experience a life-altering event I will do much better, I promise!  And if I don’t…well, we’re not even going to discuss that possibility!  I WILL do it!

I HAVE been writing during the time I’ve been back home; well, I got to it after a couple weeks.  I’ve done yet another “final solo edit” of Within the Petals, which my editor and I are in the process of reviewing/rewriting.  My goal is to have this novel FINISHED, as in ready to SEND OUT by the end of the year, and I’m also planning to get into a pitch book to agents/editors/publishers this fall.  Cross your fingers!

I’ve caught up with my Shared Words writing group, which was also left by the wayside during most of April and some of May.  Please take a trip over to those sites, which you’ll find in the links.  Not only will you find my writing, but also writing from the other, VERY TALENTED, Shared Words authors.  And STAY TUNED!!!  Shared Words is working on publishing A BOOK, hopefully also by the end of the year.  2013 is going to be a BIG and EVENTFUL year for me!  I just KNOW it! (and you can say, “I read her when…”)

I would like to thank my wonderful-and-wise editor, Deneen, for giving me the ‘assignment’ of getting back to this blog; and she’s promised to restart hers also!  You can find a link to her blog, “The In & Out Patient” on the Shared Words site.

Deneen suggested the other day that perhaps blogging is like quitting smoking—a thing I never really had to do, since I was only a social smoker and never addicted—most people have to start and restart it several times before it takes.  Hopefully FOUR is my magic number!

Spring Cleaning

Posted April 2nd, 2012 by Julie Carriker

Spring has sprung, as they say (actually, that happened well over a month ago here in Savannah, but who’s counting, right?), and with it come thoughts of the future as well as the life-changing events I’ve experienced during this season.  I’m in an organizational and  reflective  mood, which has led me to make some conscious changes in my daily life and to read through some of my NUMEROUS unfinished pieces of writing—WOW, I do have a bunch of them!

 

Is it egotistical to think, while reading, that most of the things I’ve written are very good?  I know confidence in one’s abilities is a positive trait, but I’m not certain my feelings about my writing don’t sometimes—okay, maybe MORE than sometimes—border on, or cross the border on, conceit.  Hmmm…  I guess my feelings for/pride in my writing are much like those for my children, so maybe it’s NOT so arrogant, because they are their own entities, not simply my creations…  Does that make it all right?

 

So, I’m spring cleaning my life and my writing files, and in the process I’ll be posting more in my ‘What I Did For Words’ and ‘The Words’ categories here, sharing some of WHY I’ve written and also WHAT I’ve written over the past eight or so years.  Perhaps some of you will comment and help light a fire under me to get some of my long-neglected projects FINISHED.

 

Yesterday I posted the Prologue of One Last Dime, the first novel I began seriously writing, in late March of 2004.  It is a story VERY personal to me—yeah, as most of what I write is—and I have been doing the same thing with it that I have done with so much of what I’ve written.  I’ve held it close to me, loving and nurturing it, keeping it “safe.”  Safe from WHAT?  Safe from WHO?  I don’t really know.  It’s not like someone’s going to hurt its feelings or beat it up!  This is something I need to work on.  I did it pretty well with my girls—letting go—so WHY is it SO hard for me to do it with my writing?

 

Yes, THAT is the BIG question, I think!

 

The things I have to say through my writing won’t really mean much if I don’t SHARE the writing!  So, be warned, dear blog readers—there ARE some of you OUT THERE, aren’t there?—I’m going to start sharing!

 

REALLY this time!

One Last Dime: Prologue

Posted April 1st, 2012 by Julie Carriker

It is a sunny, summer morning, July tenth, 1981.  I am twenty-one years old, and the day is mine.  This is a day for just me, and I don’t have to answer to anyone for a change.  No parents, no friends, no husband.  I am free!  I am free to go after my own dreams—at least for a few precious days.

 

I have been married for two years now, to my “high school sweetheart,” or at least that is how it looks to everyone.  The reality of the marriage is not quite so sweet.

 

Yes, Stephen and I had met through a blind date our senior year of high school.  Yes, I lost (or got rid of), my virginity with him a couple weeks later.  But he was not the only one I dated, or slept with, and he was not the one I really wanted.  He was just in the right place at the right time.

 

You couldn’t really call the marriage happy, but it wasn’t miserable either.  It got me away from home, gave me something to do, and a certain amount of freedom.  I had always wanted to escape from my hometown, and since Stephen was in the Navy, I got that chance.  The locale wasn’t exactly exotic, but it was out of the boring Midwest and there was a beach to go to on hot summer days.  Within a month of our wedding day, Stephen had his first girlfriend, but it didn’t bother me all that much.  He went off to do his own thing, and I was left to mine.  I had my reading, music, and television.  I had my time to myself.  I had my fantasy life, and my fantasy love.  That was all I really needed.

 

That hot summer of 1981 Stephen was far away, and just as far out of my thoughts.  He had been sent out on a ship for nine months.  This was the way with the military, of course, I’d expected it, I’d WANTED it.  I thought it was a pretty good deal to have a husband who really wasn’t around all that much.  Since Stephen was going to be gone so long, and because my mother had recently had cancer surgery, I quit my dead-end fast food job, put our belongings in storage, gave up our small apartment in Norfolk, Virginia, and moved back home to Kansas City, Missouri.  I’d planned to help my mother, and since I had dropped out of college two years before to marry Stephen, I’d also take some classes.

 

My two summer classes, Algebra and British Literature, met on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this was Friday, and I wouldn’t have to be back to the university for four days.  I had told my mother that I was spending the weekend with my best high school girlfriend, Jeane, so no one was expecting me.  I had my bag packed, and enough cash to cover whatever might happen over the next three days.

 

I had never done anything like this in my whole life, but I needed a vacation from being me.  I was off on an adventure, but I had no idea what a big adventure it would turn out to be, or that my greatest fantasy was about to become reality, and change my life forever…

 

 

This is part of the novel I began in spring 2004; the one I talk about beginning with remembered snatches of a dream.  It remains unfinished, and I haven’t even looked at it in a LONG time, but it just had a “birthday,” so I think it needs and deserves renewed attention.

My Soft Underbelly

Posted October 18th, 2011 by Julie Carriker

As I go through my poetry, preparing to share more of it here, I am reminded of the EXTREMELY personal nature of this work, and ponder the wisdom of revealing so much of myself.

In the summer of 2004, I was privileged to attend a class/writers’ workshop through The Writers Place and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in Kansas City, MO (some poems written during that experience will be posted soon).  The facilator, Maureen, said something that strongly resonated with me, and it is something I have tried to incorporate into my writing AND life.  She said that a writer is someone brave enough to show his or her soft underbelly to the world.

 

This is SO true!  How can one write–and expect anyone to READ or CARE ABOUT it–if one is not honest enough to show the deepest, darkest, craziest, most sensitive parts of him/herself?  Readers deserve honesty, and to me, that means being COMPLETELY honest and candid, especially with myself.  It means being true to myself and to who and what I am.

 

I’ll admit that it is uncomfortable sometimes, like when I was posting the October 1998 poem, but that piece speaks the truth of what I was feeling, so if I am going to share my writing at all, I must be willing, EAGER even, to share it.

 

So, hang on, dear blog readers, A LOT of soft underbelly is going to be displayed here!  Hopefully, you will enjoy this journey with me.

 

And PLEASE, let me know you’re visiting from out there in Cyber-land!  LEAVE COMMENTS!

 

My Oldest Poem: For Roddy, 1998

Posted October 18th, 2011 by Julie Carriker

I love you

I miss you

I’ll never get the chance

to know you

Please come to me now,

if there is a way

 

I wish I had known

I would have helped you

I would have cared for you

(I do care for you)

I would have left my family,

my life

(it is no life without you)

 

I love you so much

I don’t care if you’re straight,

gay, neither (both?)

It didn’t have to be physical

(I just wanted you)

 

It’s been 25 years

The longest romantic relationship

of my life

No one can tell me

It never was

 

As promised, THE WORDS!!!  So far, I’ve only gone through my poetry files, and this is the oldest poem I’ve found.  It’s no surprise this one is about Roddy McDowall (I wasn’t kidding about that Muse stuff!), written the month he died in October, 1998.  I had a VERY difficult and lonely time dealing with his death, so writing, as usual, was my best therapy.  Some have called me “maladjusted,” but if it IS maladjustment, it is MY maladjustment.

 

Coming Soon!!!

Posted October 15th, 2011 by Julie Carriker

Hello friends and blog readers!  I’m adding a new section, focusing on the words–it’s even called ‘The Words,’ original, huh?–since they are so important to me.  I’ve been madly in love with words as long as I can remember!  I love to play with words, to dance and sing with them, so of course, I want to share my passion through my completed, and even nearly completed,  works.

 

Here I’ll share pieces, or parts of pieces, I’ve written.  Many will no doubt be poetry, since that plays a huge part in my life, and also lends itself well to short format (something I’m generally VERY BAD at!), but I’ll also include excerpts of longer pieces, including the novels I’ve been working on with Lee, and even other novels that haven’t really gone anywhere (yet!).  I may even find some OLD things I wrote when I was in college (and I may rewrite some of them).  And, as always, I am EAGER for your comments.

 

I’m currently taking some time from shining and polishing Within the Petals, Lee’s and my first novel (yes, AGAIN! another ‘definitive’ edit), to dig through my files for things to share, and I expect I’ll write some pieces especially to post here.  As I said when I re-launched this blog, I’m trying to “get myself out there.”

 

So stay tuned!