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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

This weekend I spent 24 hours with 21 amazing women, 3 that work in the medical field and 18 that have faced the monster called breast cancer and knocked it on its butt. This was the first breast cancer survivor retreat I’ve ever attended, and like me, most of the women who were at the retreat had been reluctant to come. As a whole we are all pretty private women who do what we have to do and move on, but we all had to admit that when we were told we had cancer, for a moment or six, our worlds stopped.

There were a lot of similarities in this small slice of the Sisterhood of Pink, but there were a lot of differences too. We all had tremendous emotions around the disease itself and our journeys in particular, most of which many of us had never talked about. I’ve been reluctant to call myself a survivor or to even talk about my breast cancer because mine was caught early and I didn’t have to go through chemo, the trauma of losing my hair, or a mastectomy. I was surprised that there were other women in the group who felt similar, but it was lovingly brought to our attention that we did go through the same emotions, through surgeries, through enhanced diligence about mammograms, and we live with the niggling fear that is now always with us that the big C struck once, will it strike again.

Many differences emerged over the weekend as well. Some women there had tremendous support groups including husbands who were with them every step of the way, and through the journey, relationships were strengthened. For others, the disease and all that goes with it had taken a toll on their marriages, family relationships, and even friendships. And others were single women without large families, and these women were pretty much doing this journey alone.

But, through it all, whether they had strong support groups, were trying to find the strength within themselves, or were struggling, one thing emerged so clearly ― each and every one of these women had a core strength that could bowl you over with its intensity. There is a saying that life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% about what you do with it. And that 90% was very evident in this group of women. These strong souls use humor, compassion, intelligence, and pure determination to climb above the results and indignities that come with fighting a powerful, aggressive enemy and then dealing with the fact that they are no longer the same, and discovering who they are now.

This Sisterhood of Pink is not one that any of us would willingly join. Most of us would rather be on the sidelines ― encouraging those who are in the battle and helping as we can, whether it’s wearing pink, running races, or volunteering for fundraisers ― but entering this sisterhood is not a choice we get to make, it is made for us when the disease takes residence in our breasts.

As a part of this sisterhood, I am so grateful to all who are dedicated to stopping the disease and to helping along the way. As a whole, the people who work in the field of breast cancer are caring, nurturing souls. Three of the women doctors in Roanoke, Virginia who are specialists in breast cancer, took a big chunk out of their Saturday to travel to Camp Bethel and talk to our small gathering of women. They answered our questions, hugged us, laughed with us, assured us, and let us know that while some of the medical community can feel a bit distanced and uncaring, we were surrounded by love and support.

I began thinking about the women who came before us ― like Susan Koman who died of breast cancer and whose sister began the Susan Koman foundation. This foundation has done more for breast cancer awareness than any other entity. And, until a cure is found, there will be women who come after us ― like my niece who was recently diagnosed and my daughter who has fought it and triumphed. Because of women who came before, we have the Sisterhood of Pink and for the women who come after, we are here for you.

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Leidich, Terri Ann_Thumbnail.jpg We all like to get “up close and personal” with our favorite writers and authors by finding out more about them and why they do what they do. This blog is a part of a virtual blog tour that is giving us the opportunity to do just that with people we know, and introducing us to people we might want to know.

I was invited to participate in this tour by Sarah Beth Jones, a dynamic, fun, creative business coach and blogger that I met at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference in 2013 and then reconnected with again at the same conference in 2014. Sarah Beth and I delight in the fact that we are extremely different, yet delightfully compatible. We learn differently, approach the world from divergent perspectives, yet when our minds and approaches of life are put together on a project, a many dimensional, informative product emerges. 

Sarah Beth Sarah Beth has a casual, laid-back approach to life that truly comes out in her writing. Check out what she had to say in her contribution to this tour here.

As I mentioned, my part of this blog tour is to give readers a chance to get “up close and personal” with me, discovering things about who I am as a writer and author. And, the vehicle to deliver this sneak peek is a list of standard questions. So, here we go. 

1. What Am I working on?

As with many new writers who have not yet “made it” to the degree that they can devote their entire life to writing, I have a day job that keeps me extremely busy. Along with that, my debut novel Family Inheritance releases on October 1st so I’m learning how to go from being a writer, where all we think about is creating stuff, to being an author where we also have to put energies into promoting the stuff we create. So a huge part of my time is now being taken up with that.

But, writers are always working on something, and I am working on my second novel. I had written the basics of the novel in 1995 and had then shoved it into a file cabinet for some future time. Well, that future time is here. I’m not yet ready to reveal the title or a synopsis of the book, but hope to have something to my publisher by the end of the year. I feel a bit of pressure to get it done because of the wonderful comments some reviewers of my debut novel have made about “looking forward to reading more from this author.” Great words to hear, but if I don’t apply the discipline that writers need, I’ll be a “one novel” author. So, a little pressure can be a good thing when it comes to writers.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve been told that I write emotions well, pulling readers into what my characters are feeling. My books are often described as “requiring a tissue box before opening.” I blame that on the stories I choose to tell and my characters, who get a hold of me and then just “take off,” pulling me into their experiences. I often teasingly ask the question – “Am I a fiction writer or am I a schizophrenic?” Luckily, the voices only appear when I’m lost in the middle of creating a fiction story or novel. Whew!

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m all about relationships, life experiences, and overcoming the obstacles that we all have thrown in our paths by this curious journey called life. The ideas for my fiction come from the stories of people I know, people I read about, or general trends or problems in our world. I like to read stories about strong, determined, unbeatable people that, while they may be battered by life or the experiences that are either thrown in their direction or brought about by their own choices, still beat the odds and figure out a solution, figure out a away to overcome or move forward. And those are the kinds of stories I like to write. 

4. How does my writing process work? 

 Ideas for stories come to me at various times and in various places. I write them down and keep a file of ideas that have been jotted in a notebook, on a napkin, on a grocery store receipt. Then, when I’ve finished a project, I dig into the file and the idea that grabs me at that time is the one I go with. I begin with an outline and an idea of who my main characters are, but after that, my first time through a story is what I call a “creative dump.” I just let the story flow and let the characters take over filling in the blanks. Once the first draft is done, that’s when I get busy with making sure the story has an arc, the characters are fully developed, and I’m “showing” readers, not “telling” them. Part 2 usually takes the most time. After that, I go back in and edit and hone to the best of my ability. Then it’s time for a professional editor to help me, guide me, show me where the flaws of my story are and what I know about the characters and story but am not relating to my readers. Creating a finished book takes a village, and I’m lucky to have a wonderful village of talented people who help me and teach me a lot along the way. 

Writing isn’t really a choice for me. It’s a part of who I am. The choice is in when I’ll do it and what I’ll do with it once I’m done. 

Thanks for reading to this point and being interested in who I am and why I do what I do. Now, I want to introduce you to three amazing authors who will be following me with their own stories. Check out their websites and follow their blogs so you’ll be sure not to miss what they have to say. 

 John Daly, author of From a Dead Sleep, Book 1 in the Sean Coleman Thriller series. (Book 2 is done and soon to be in the hands of John’s Publisher.)  Here’s a bit more about John. 

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 A lifelong Coloradoan, along with his wife and two children, John Daly graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in business administration and computer information systems. With a thirst for creative expression that went beyond the logic and absolutes of computer programming, John developed an interest in writing. His first novel, “From a Dead Sleep,” was released last year, and he’s currently working on the second book in the series. He writes political, cultural, and media analysis columns for BernardGoldberg.com and weekly parenting columns for GreeleyTribune.com. Check out his author website

Tamika Christy is the author of Anytime Soon, a coming of age, new adult novel that was published last year and this year won a Finalist Award in the African American Fiction category of the Indie Next Generation Awards.  

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A Bay area native, Tamika began writing at an early age, prompted by the gift of a journal one Christmas. With pen in hand, she continued writing throughout college where she realized her talent for creating intriguing plots and multidimensional characters. Tamika continued to nurture her love for writing while attending law school, where she gave birth to her first novel, Anytime Soon. Tamika describes her writing as urban prose — funny, warm, soulful with blunt dialogue and familiar realism. Learn more about Tamika on her author website.

Ameera Unveiled, the first novel by author Kathleen Varn, received an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Beach Book Festival in the general fiction category this summer. 

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Kathleen Varn’s love affair with words manifested when she turned four and taught herself to read. As she grew older, books and reading were an escape from responsibility. Eventually, Kathleen dove into journaling, which helped her find solace when life through lemons. Throughout her journey to pursue personal growth as she raised her children and juggled a career. She explored the idea of freedom through allegorical short stories. Kathleen is now very happily married to her soulmate. She resides in Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for an adoption attorney for twenty-three years. With her two children settled in adulthood, she is exploring a beautiful world, from scuba diving in Fiji or photographing in Alaska’s frozen tundra. Check out her author website

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Family Inheritance Cover Art Smaller FamilyYesterday I received my first negative review on my debut novel, Family Inheritance, that will release in October. I’m okay with the fact that somebody didn’t like the book because I don’t like every book I read. What I’m concerned about is the message in her review. Here’s part of the review:

Coming from a mental health career, the idea that these characters resolved major trauma so easily is insulting. No one opens up that easily or quickly and especially three women who haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. The dialogue was ‘cheesy’ and very predictable.

I agree, no one resolves major trauma ‘so easily’ but these women had been dealing with their individual trauma for those 20 years, and had each reached a crisis point. We’ve all gone through traumas in our lives, some of them very major, and those of us who have survived and thrived understand that there is a moment when everything changes — when our thought processes change because of something we read or something someone said, or people come into our life who help us understand that we are better than our circumstances. When those things come together, resolving past experiences and trauma can be that ‘easy’ to use the reviewer’s word.

I don’t often share private stories in public venues, but I will share one here to help make my point. I was married for the first time when I was just over 18 years old. I knew him for two years and he seemed kind and loving. But . . . two weeks after we were married, I had the audacity to talk to him while he was watching a football game and he proceeded to beat me and leave me curled up in a ball, sobbing on our bed. That was the first beating I endured, but it was far from the last. And all the while, I kept thinking it was my fault . .  . that I was saying or doing something that made him mad enough to beat me.

I stayed in that marriage for 14 years. My parents were both alcoholics so the culture I had grown up in taught me to not talk, to keep everything private, and put on a good front. And that’s what I did. No one had a clue as to what I was enduring at home, not even my parents or my own siblings. If I had a black eye, I covered it with makeup or blamed it on being clumsy. If my legs and arms were covered with bruises, I wore pants and long-sleeved blouses. I learned to cope because at that point, it’s all I knew how to do.

Then, during a coffee break at work one day, a co-worker was reading a book that caught my interest. When she finished reading it, she loaned it to me. It was Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer. His words began to open up new ways of thought, and the co-worker and I started sharing personal experiences. In that safe environment, at that time, it was ‘easy’ to open up and it happened quickly with this person because I was ready. My private hell had gotten to be too much to bear alone.

My thoughts began to shift. Then, more caring people started coming into my life telling me ‘cheesy’ things like: I was important, they cared about me, I made a difference in the world. My mindset started to change and with that new mindset came new ways of behaving and new choices. While life still had its challenges, things were ‘easy’ compared to what I had previously endured. I left the marriage, started caring about myself, surrounding myself with positive people, and making choices that created a good, safe life.

I rebel against people who want to continue the victim mindset that says things can’t feel easy and that solutions to our issues can’t be simplistic. Why can’t they be? There is a saying I use quite often in my life, “To change your life, change your mind.” I’m not sure where it originally came from, but it is one of the most powerful sayings I’ve every heard. It doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to slide back to what you knew. What it means is that you now know a different way of being and you get to choose each day which way you’ll go.

Don’t let anybody or anything tell you that recovering from a past experience or trauma can’t get to a point where it feels easy and simplistic. That’s your choice. As for me and my life, bring on the ‘easy’ and the ‘cheesy’.

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Image I don’t consider myself a poet—even though I have written some poetry—and I certainly don’t like all poetry. But I have to admit that there is something wonderfully magical and even spiritually healing about writing and/or reading it. Only in a poem can three or four lines resonate with feelings that don’t have to be explained, a back story that doesn’t have to be told, and a voice that is simply accepted for what it is.

I’m not a person who memorizes poetry or even the names of poets, yet I have several poems that are earmarked for easy access, and each time I slowly read them out loud, they calm and mesmerize me.

I love the writings of Kahlil Gibran and often read Song of the Flower. I will share the first six lines with you and highly recommend that you seek out this poem to read it in its entirety.

I am a kind word uttered and repeated

By the voice of Nature;

I am a star fallen from the

Blue tent upon the green carpet.

I am the daughter of the elements

With whom Winter conceived;

Yet, with all its beauty and wisdom, poetry is not as well read as fiction and poets have fewer outlets in which they can share their talent, their craft, and their appreciation for beautifully written verse. That’s why I love it that April has been designated as National Poetry Month. During thirty full days, poetry can take center stage to revel in its own beauty, and poets are encouraged to come to the forefront. It’s a time that those of us who dabble in poetry from time to time are encouraged to slow down, clear our minds of things we have to do or characters we are creating, to let the words flow in lyrical verses that we can then hone and tweak to be shared or set aside to be enjoyed in quiet moments.

From time to time, I’ll come upon a verse whose simple words guide me daily in how I want to live, and I’ll end this post with one of my favorites from Longfellow, A Psalm of LIfe:

Lives of great men all remind us

                  We can make our lives sublime,

 And, departing, leave behind us

                 Footprints on the sands of time.

If you are a poet, or someone who dabbles in the craft, BQB Publishing is sponsoring a poetry contest worth checking out. The information is posted on their Facebook page.

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I feel like I need a drum roll, or a curtain being raised as I wait in excitement and anticipation to see what the audience will think. After all, the cover for my debut novel which will release in October, is a big deal to me.

It always amazes me how things can be happening all around us, all the time, and we don’t notice any significance until we step into those shoes. I’ve been surrounded by book covers ever since I was a young child and began to love and be fascinated by books; and I still have that fascination to this day. But, until I started working with my publisher on my own book cover, I had no idea of the love,  patience, creativity, thought, and work that goes into creating a good cover for a book. Nor did I really understand the extreme importance of a strong cover that will draw the audience to the book and then to open the pages and want to take the book (or eBook) home.

When we first started creating a book cover for Family Inheritance, I had an idea and concept in mind. Yet, as the publishing team and I worked together, new concepts started to emerge, and the characters from the book began to make themselves known in regards to the cover. (I know . . . for those of you who are not fiction writers, I’m beginning to sound a bit nutty.) Then one day, it just fit. The book, the cover, and the characters all seemed to belong together in one solid unit. Now, I can’t imagine the cover being any different than it is.

So, this phase is done. The book is in its finishing stages of being polished and honed, my marketing plan is coming together, and stage fright is starting to set in. Ahhhhh, the joys of being of author. But, I’m loving every moment of it.

Imagine a drum roll as the curtain slowly opens. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to present . . .

Family Inheritance Cover Art Smaller Family

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