The Solar Panel of Happiness – Mothers Day Part 2

DSC_8288Today is the day before the official Mothers Day day. Yesterday, I told you about the gift from my son, Eric. Today, I want to tell you about the gift from my firstborn, Alex.

Alex is a lover of the arts. More importantly, he is a champion of the artist. He is a talent manager who owns The Green Room Talent Management Agency. He spends his days searching for the perfect roles for his clients, making sure they are heard, and planning their futures with care in a business that can be impersonal and lonely.

Because I make my living in a creative profession, and because I have had many agents but none who went on a limb for me, I am in awe of this man I call my son. He not only recognizes a talented actor, he is a loyal and tireless advocate.

Alex is also incredibly fit and visits home always include an invitation to go on a walk. Last week, our walk was actually a seven-mile hike from our home to Terannea Resort on the cliffs of Palos Verdes. I usually love this mom time with him, but three miles in I was not a happy camper.

Me:   How much further?

Alex: You can rest. I’ll do some pushups while I wait.

Me:   No. I guess it’s okay. I was just wondering how much further.

Alex: Do you need to go to the bathroom?

Me:   No, but. . .

Alex: Okay, then. Long strides, mom. Did I tell you. . .

Whatever he told me got lost in my growing resentment of this forced march – and that was a shame. To our right was the ocean, blue as a sapphire; the sky above us was robin’s egg. Scarlet and magenta Bougainvillea climbed over every fence was passed. Roses as big as a babies face pocked their bushes. We passed other walkers, bikers sailed by and I kept grumbling and huffing and puffing. Alex laughed and he smiled and that turned my gloomy cloud of annoyance a dark, foreboding gray.

Me:   Why are you always like this? Why doesn’t anything bother you?

Alex: Because I have a happiness reserve.

Me:   You have what?

Alex: You know how a solar panel catches the sun and stores the energy? I store up stuff that makes me happy. When I need it, I’ve got it.

Me:   Like what?

Alex: Like you’re being a pain complaining instead of thinking how neat it is that I like to come home and take a walk with you. So instead of getting upset that you’re upset, I pull up something that makes happy: Tucker (his awesome dog), a tree or flowers (he’s an avid gardener), the way it feels when I’m kayaking, the booking I got for one of my clients. It’s like a solar panel of happiness. Nobody can drain that kind of energy. You’ve just got to remember to store it.

I paused to look at him – not because I was tired but because I was struck by his simple, profound life philosophy. I couldn’t imagine how he had come by it, but I was impressed that he lived by it. It was this quality – this principled belief that life is worth living well with all its ups and downs – that made him so unique. I was humbled and grateful that the stork had dropped this amazing human being into my lap. I had spent many years nurturing him, showing him things I thought were right and explaining why other things were wrong. Now the tables were turned. He was pushing me to be better: walk another mile, open your eyes to the beauty around you, change what you can, treat the world and the folks in it well, and always appreciate being alive.

For Mothers Day Alex started the construction on my solar panel of happiness. I will forever keep the memory of that walk in the sunshine in my reserves. It will never loose its brightness nor it’s ability to energize me. I will always be in awe of my beautiful baby who grew up to be an excellent man in every sense of the word.

Thank you for a wonderful mothers day, Alex. Nobody is loved more than you.

PS Thank goodness dad was around to drive us home. Seven miles is my limit. That’s not a complaint, just a fact.

I AM ‘THE BROOD QUEEN’ & ONE LUCKY MOM

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My son Eric

It is Mothers Day weekend. As with the last 31 holidays since I became a mom, I have reveled in this holiday. I celebrate my own mother (more on that Sunday) and happily accept whatever accolades, surprises, and gifts my kids feel like sending my way. Usually this involves eating at a food court and seeing a guy-movie since I am a boy-mom and that’s what boys give their mothers.

This morning, I left the house to take a walk before I went to work. It was 5:30 in the a.m. and the sky was still sleepy-gray as I plugged my earphones into my phone and called up my podcasts. The first podcast on the playlist was a mother’s day gift from my youngest son, Eric.

Like me, he is a writer; unlike me he is an edgy, out-of-the-box writer. He is also the writer, produce, and brains behind the fiction/music podcast Howl Out Loud. Science fiction, fantasy and magical realism are his thing, pushing the envelope is what he does and he was in his element with his Mothers Day podcast, The Brood Queen. Continue Reading →

5 Things I Learned during Mentoring Month

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January was the mentoring month and  over the last four weeks Rebecca and I have been working with Rebecca on my first novel, The Witches of New Moon Beach.  She has been incredibly creative, using many different strategies to teach me her craft. I think that this project has actually required far more time than she ever thought it would, and writing a book is far more work than I thought it would be.  I know how lucky I am to have her stick with me through this process. I get frustrated easily and expect perfection from myself far too often. Still, all is not lost.  I have learned a lot in the last few weeks and here are the five most important lessons.

1) Rewriting – a lot of rewriting – is part of the process not a punishment. Often, when I thought I was done, I was really  still at the starting line. I had to learn to be more patient and to embrace the fact that a book is not written overnight.

2) My  characters started living in my head. They travel with me everywhere. I see an outfit in a store and wonder how my character would look wearing it; I see a car and imagine her driving it.  That is kind of freaky, but it is definitely fun.

3) I found out that keeping track of a word count defeats creativity.

4) Sometimes I just had to walk away, rethink, and then re-imagine where I wanted my story to go. That downtime is just as important as the time I spend typing.

5) I learned that my mentor – and probably yours –  has  clear vision. They see things you don’t. As new writers we all need someone who can identify both our strengths and weakness.

Really, the most valuable lesson I learned is that I need to stop dreaming and really think about what kind of book I want to write. My mentor may be my friend (and in this case my sister-in-law) but she can’t and shouldn’t write my book for me.

My book isn’t finished, but it will be. The one thing I’ll never do is give up. One of these days I hope you’ll be looking inside a book called The Witches of New Moon Beach.

Thanks for the encouragement sent my way. Maybe one of these days, I’ll be mentoring a new writer of my own.

Happy writing,

Meriam Wilhelm.

 

 

 

The Magic of Mentoring: 3 weeks, 10 lessons

  • Iimages-2 hardly saw Meriam this last week, but it’s only because she’s been so busy. Here’s an update on her progress as an author and a report on my walk down memory lane. First, let’s look at what Meriam has accomplished:
  • 1) Revised dialogue making it less formal/creating distinctive voices.
  • 2) Completely revamped one main character and deleted another (the latter is being saved for another book).
  • 3) Rethought/reworked at least one full chapter in the book (many writers – including me – can’t bring themselves to delete or minimize large sections of their work. Kudos, Meriam.)
  • 4) Knocked chapter endings making them both compelling and strategic
  • 5) Policed herself on show/don’t tell

At 25,000 words and counting, this is a milestone draft for Meriam. A document that read like a character sketch of The Witches of New Moon Beach is now taking on the form and substance of a book. Continue Reading →

The Mentoring Maze #2: Meriam’s Turn

images-1My name is Meriam Wilhelm. Two years ago I retired after 35 years in education. Finding myself with more time than I knew what to do with and feeling a bit lost, I consulted my bucket list of Things To Do Once I Retire. And there it was – #1 on my list – Write A Book.

After sharing parenting advice for so many years as a school principal, I sat down and wrote a four nonfiction books for parents of grammar school age children. I am proud of my books, especially my recently revised edition of Bully Maze: Finding A Way Out. As happy as I was with each of those books, I understood that writing about what I knew was comfortable and came rather naturally. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone.  I decided to write a novel, and that’s when my real education about writing began. Continue Reading →

The Mentor Maze: 4 weeks, 2 authors, 1 book

images-2According to Costco Magazine, January is Mentoring Month.

I’m not sure it’s necessary to have an official month since most adults already mentor someone – parents to children, teachers to students, managers to staff – but this January that news meant something to me. I had just become a mentor to a newbie author.

This wasn’t my first time. Thirty years ago I mentored a woman  who had a wonderful story to tell. For three months I labored over her work giving it as much (if not more) attention as my own. One day she informed me that writing was too much work. I was bewildered. Of course writing is a lot of work. Continue Reading →

The Day Bailey Devlin Was Born (or the story of a long, painful, labor of love)

BD_Horoscope_Final_Digital By the time you read this, I will have published the Bailey Devlin Series. These three books were written over the course of six grueling months. It is a miracle that I am still married and that my children still speak to me. Pretty much, about three months into the process, I morphed into a walking nerve and stayed that way until I typed ‘the end’. Conversations around our house kind of went like this:

Husband: “What do you want for dinner?”

Me:             “I don’t think these books are funny. They’re supposed to be funny. I’m not sure

they are funny. People have to laugh. Or at least smile when they read them.”

Husband:   I’m sure they’re fine.”

Me:  “I want a taco.”

Husband:   “Sounds good. I’ll go to. . .”

Me:   “You don’t think it will be fine, do you? I can hear it in your voice. You’re just being nice. You don’t think they’re funny, I can tell. I don’t think I can eat.”

Husband:  “I’m sure they’re funny. You’re funny. . . (pause). . . you were funny. Before. . .”

He mumbles something as he goes upstairs and closes the bedroom door. No dinner.

I yell up the stairs: “What do you think? About the books, I mean? Being funny?”

I recall having conversations like this when I was pregnant – just substitute fat for funny. The only difference is that I got tacos when I was pregnant. To be exact, I got giant burritos. I ate a giant burrito and a waddled around the block the day I went into labor. At three in the morning I thought my labor pains were indigestion. Neither was pleasant.

I swore off burritos.

I had one more baby then I swore off babies.

Now that the Bailey Devlin series is launched, my literary hormones have settled, I am ready to tell you the truth. The truth is that being an indie author – one who has gone rogue and written outside her normal thriller genre – is just like childbirth and here’s why.

1) Conception: Fun, exciting, and takes place in a burst of extraordinary passion. That’s what it was like conceiving Bailey Devlin. My mother asked for some books-with-out-bodies. Not that she didn’t like my thrillers, it’s just that she wanted to see if I could actually put more than three sentences together without killing a character. I heard that wistful tone in her voice. It sounded like ‘will I ever be the grandmother to a book-baby that makes me smile?” Her 91st birthday was in September and Bailey Devlin was her present. It took a few tries, it took some restraint not to kill Bailey off, but eventually the seed was planted; Bailey Devlin was more than a twinkle in my eye.

2) Gestation: No morning sickness, no sleepless nights, no discomfort. The Day Bailey Devlin’s Horoscope Came True came trippingly off the keyboard. Piece of cake. The Day Bailey Devlin Picked Up a Penny took a little longer and by the time The Day Bailey Devlin’s Ship Came In, mine had sailed, leaving me adrift in a sea of doubt. Were these books as funny as I thought? Would anyone really care about Bailey? Was she ever going to pass the bar and find happiness? Who did she really love? Would she have my eyes but her father’s feet? Can’t they give me something for the pain? Oh, sorry, keep getting these two events confused. We’re talking books not childbirth.

3) Labor: It never goes as smoothly as you think it will. No matter how often you’re coached, you forget to breathe. I knew there would be the mind numbing pain but I didn’t realize I would be the one inflicting it. My very patient editor* was not fooled by the fake smiley faces at the end of each email asking, WELL? HAVE YOU READ IT? The poor cover designer* has probably decided that selling insurance would be more fulfilling than ever working with the nit-picking me again. And then there were the frantic emails in the middle of the night begging the formatter* to revise the files because I’d found yet another typo. Think breach birth on that one. I kept wondering if these files would ever turn around and come out the right way.

4) Delivery: I delivered triplets; three books published on the same day. By this point, I was goofy with getting them written, formatted, covered and published, so I did what any reasonable person would do: I went on vacation and left them with grandma.

Now readers are visiting my offspring. I hope they love the covers and adore Bailey Devlin and her crew. I hope they laugh and cry because the stories are sweet in a sexy world. They are inspired by people I know and love. Bailey Devlin is me and I think she is every woman. Like an anxious mom, I’m waiting for someone to chuck me under the chin, and tell me I did good, and that they really like my babies.

Happy Birthday Bailey Devlin. It was worth every minute.

Thanks to my birthing team:

*Jenny Jensen -editorial

*Paul Ziomek – covers

*Steff McDaid – formatting

*Robin Blakely – PR/marketing

*Tod Damotte – Bailey mini-movie

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WHO WILL READ MY WRITING

I have never had a guest post on this site, but this rumination by my friend, judge and fellow writer Anthony J. Mohr made me laugh. Talk about hitting the nail on the head.  I first saw this post on Charlotte Rains Dixon’s site and knew immediately that I wanted to share this wonderful piece with my writing colleagues. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Sometimes (okay–all the time) when I’m writing, I wonder who will read my work. Not just whether the audience will consist of millennials or astronauts, but whether an old friend or a long lost crush will happen to see it thanks to a Google search or, better yet, because someone will tell her, “Hey, you used to know that guy Mohr? You’ve got to read what he just published in the Left Toe Review.”

That hasn’t occurred yet. Everything I’ve published seems to have vanished, passing by the earth’s seven billion souls without touching anyone. I understand. After all, how many people subscribe to the Left Toe Review? But I did make it, once, into the Christian Science Monitor and, twice, into Chicken Soup for the Soul. And still nothing from the long losts.

Twenty-five years ago, I walked by a news truck that was parked along a West Los Angeles street. When I stopped to see what they were doing, the reporter asked for my view on some issue of the day. Of course I agreed to say something on camera. I was a lawyer, then, and thought the exposure would land me a client. I answered the question; they broadcast five seconds of my brilliance; and that night, my phone began ringing. At least ten friends saw me. So did a potential client, who never paid his bill. Continue Reading →

STUMPED (for writers)

There is a large stump in FullSizeRendermy backyard (see Stumped, the blog). This thing is an inspirational: big and hard and almost impossible to move. I am going to keep it in my backyard, right outside my office to remind me that a writer is never truly stumped.

-If we write ourselves into a corner, we can do one of two things. First, we can get really creative and write our way out of it. Working hard to figure it out will make a better book. Or, we can go back and change what we’ve written. The second option would involved lots of changes and possibly use of the delete key. Either option is labor intensive. One involves moving forward and the other backward. I like the forward option. Either way, the author is no longer stumped.

-The stump in my backyard is big and solid. At one time it was the foundation of a huge tree. It reminds me to make sure the premise I am building my story on is wide enough and deep enough and dense enough to build my novel on.

-Finally, if you’re really stumped, move on and leave it in your writing ‘garden’ as a reminder that not every tree survives or thrives.