Saturday, May 16, 2015

Uneasy Writer

It makes me nervous when people I know start dying. One’s bad enough, but so far today the count is three. The blues legend BB King who lived a long life, but will be missed by generations. Mark Johnson IIII, one of the marines that went down with the helicopter in Nepal, married to a distant cousin (of mine) with two little children, ages four and eighteen months. Now Elaine Dwyer, a sweet lady from my church.*

This engenders a streak of unease that runs through me like a snake exploring dark, tortuous tunnels and now that it’s exposed to the light, guilt creeps in for just feeling uneasy when the families must truly be suffering.

Clouds crowd together overhead as the wind blows past, impotent to make it rain. I want it to. I need it to, as much as the near-parched land. But it doesn’t.

~ Olivia J. Herrell
* Plus the eighty-five hundred dead and three thousand injured in the Nepalese quakes.

BB King (and guests) performing "You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone". Yes, BB, we sure will!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Works Every Time: Sit Down, Slit It Open, Spill It Out

Today is Saturday. I wrote this on Monday. It seems like weeks ago.

Today I realized I’m unhappy. Again. Oh, not in my mind. There I’m happy. Or I think I am. I have plenty of evidence. I love my work. I enjoy my community and volunteering for the city. I have a church (for the first time in forty years.) My completed manuscript (first in nine years) is tucked away waiting to be reread with a fresh eye, and manuscript two is half written.

When I look at my behavior, or rather behaviorS, plural, all the signs are there. I won’t list them all, but I bet you’ll recognize one or two. They include:
  • eating crap “food” including demon sugar
  • weight gain
  • hopping
  • moping
  • disinterest in outside activities
  • inability to exercise
  • running off to coffee shops, restaurants or other places to write
  • hours of Netflix
  • going to bed early
  • staring in to space (not the good, daydreaming kind)
  • avoiding decisions
  • running on auto-pilot

There’s probably more, but these off-the-top-of-my-head ones are enough. I get the idea. Do you? Now, what to do? Figure out why? Not necessarily.

I could distract myself from it, flesh out a profile on match dot com, find a man and ride that “new love” feeling for, well, maybe years. Or rent an apartment within walking distance of my favorite coffee shop/writing locale. That would open up space in the office for a couple of massage therapists, a nutritionist and/or some other cool-ist. Or I could bring in a doctor to share the practice, take care of patients when I’m away.
Any of these would bring activity. Break the boredom. Create happiness. If only temporary. But the truth is, I don’t know if I can be happy here. Behind closed eyes (and a seeming-eternity ago) I’m in Southern California on a trail as it meanders through a scrub canyon, alone and safe, a half-mile from my complex and bustling traffic, with a smile that could only get wider if it split my face in half. All from pure joy. Of place. I miss that. I miss it a lot.

Is my unhappiness place-related? I’m leaning toward yes. I have evidence. I’ll spare you the details. But the last I remember that beatific smile bursting upon my face and my heart soaring, was a year ago.* In Oregon. On a coast so wild as to never be tamed, in old-growth forests that march to the sea, along a ring of fire that will someday bring doom to us all. There I was happy. There my heart soared. There the smile stayed plastered to my face. And joy dwelt in my soul.
*Other than in church.

Now. If you’re one of the way-too-many people that don’t know this secret, listen up. Something wonderful happens with you put pen to paper or fingertips to keys and spill your guts. The subconscious is appeased because it’s had its say, and whatever the dilemma, you can always, always get relief.
Tuesday, I returned to manuscript two, specifically the stitching together of twelve different voices in to one fluid, hopefully-flowing story. I cut the crap and sugar, including cola, got lots of sleep and in spite of the fact that my day-job workload increased and it was a crazy, bouncy, electrified-energy kind of week, I felt better every day.

I’m happy to report that not only did I complete those edits today (through the last page written - 202), but I finished the related “God’s Eye View” spreadsheet, color-coded to keep the stories straight and evenly s/paced. It also ensures that one of the many (and egads! growing number of) characters don’t stay silent, or hog the spotlight, for too long.

God's Eye View of Peace Makers - Part Deux
(Compressed to Protect Contents)
So. Hooray for me! Instead of making a splash on match dot com or running off to spend a bunch of hard-earned cash on an apartment I don’t need, I cleaned up my food, walked around the neighborhood, cleaned the house, belly-laughed at an old comedy I discovered on Netflix (Out of Practice) and drank lots of home-brewed kombucha.
But mostly? I dove back in to writing. My true love. My precious. My own.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Momentous Moment

Awen Rays
After taking a week off from editing and writing (no it wasn’t a vacation, I still did my day job), I spent seven hours yesterday adding finishing touches to the manuscript. It’s so close to done. No, I haven’t turned it over to my first/alpha/beta readers yet. And yes, you’ve heard “I’m close” before. But that was wishful-thinking me. This is happy-reader me.

With one caveat.

According to the big boys, the two I listen to most when it comes to writing (because my personal process and preferences mirror theirs and I respect them as prolific, profound and prosperous writers), this is the point (before letting anyone else read it) I should stick the manuscript in a drawer and walk away from it for a month. A whole flipping month. Or in my case, let it sit on my laptop. Untouched. For a month.

Then, and not until then, I get to break it out, dust it off, brew a big pot of yerba mate or some other delectable tea and read it from cover to cover. If reader-me is satisfied, meaning there are no plot holes and things are tied up nicely at the end, I can consider turning it over to my beta readers. Otherwise, it’s back for another rewrite.

So. I just solved my own dilemma. I really, really want someone else to read it. Now. Not tomorrow. I want to see if I’m the only one who thinks this story is pretty special. My readers are standing by.
But I will wait. I will listen to Stephen King and Papa Hemingway. I’ll let it sit. And I’ll wait the requisite month before rereading it, God bless it.

But not until I fix one last little thing. Then somewhere around this time next month, mid-May, I’ll set aside a whole day to read the complete manuscript. I’m already looking forward to it.
Here’s to May!

~ Olivia J. Herrell
P.S. I’ll still be sticking to my twenty-four-hour-a-week writing schedule. Next up: finish Book Two!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

La La Land Redux

Danger, Plot Hole Ahead

I hit another plot hole today while clocking along editing, enjoying the story and character-development, then BAM! I’m in La La Land. And not totally sure of the culprit.

Part is timing. I cut and spliced an event forward, now I’ve run in to a chapter in which the characters have forgotten they’ve already been through all this. GAH.

Told ya!
Time to edit deep and edit hard and though I’m two and a quarter hours short of my weekly writing goal (of twenty-four hours), I’m calling it quits. The week starts over tomorrow.

Right now I’m on Page 237, shooting for 300 by the end of the week.

Rock on.

Looking Up -
Pics taken at Villa Rica Gold Museum

Thanks, Guys for talking me through a stuck place. Now it’s time to kill some darlings*. But not tonight.


On a related note, did I tell you I’m in a virtual writer’s group, one with a blog entitled RelentlessWriters?
It’s the same group of writers that helped me win NaNoWriMo 2014. You can find us at

Twenty-one writers (I believe that’s the last count) post articles three times a week on all things writing. I post one to two times a month. Click here to read my latest, also related to plot holes (aka La La Land), and click here to read the first one, in which I talk about why this writer-loner joined a group.

If you’re a writer, or not, and like what you see over there, give us a follow and check back weekly.

~ Olivia J. Herrell
*killing darlings = cutting extraneous wordage

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Madness and Laying It on the Line

March Madness is here and to celebrate, I'm dumping, no skatoles or basketballs, I promise. Just important information that's rattling around my head.

1)      Edits are moving forward on Blessed Are The Peace Makers – Coming Home (that's what I'm calling Book One for now). As of last night it's about one-third complete;

2)      Book Two (yet untitled) still percolates. Sitting at 52Kish it’s about half written;

3)      Recently, while soul-searching yet again, this time questioning my literary dedication, not just to writing, but to seeing my works complete and out there for others to read, I came to a realization. All I need are three things - commitment, a plan and time to do it;

4)      So I committed. I will spend at least 24 hours a week editing, writing, doing research, whatever it takes to bring these books** to publication and distribution;

5)      In 1994, I gave up a good-paying career to be a full-time medical student. At 31 hours a week butt-in-class, plus countless more spent memorizing every bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, organ, system, medical term/history/failure, microbiology, macrobiology, histology, x-ray techniques and interpretation, adjusting techniques, anatomy, physiology, holy-shit-the-list-goes-on-and-onomy, I knew chunks of my time would have to be reallocated. The decision was difficult, but I gave up television and the daily newspaper, graduated summa-cum-laude and never looked back. (Well maybe there was an occasional Seinfeld or Friends episode...)

6)      During this current existential exploration, it occurs to me that my situation today is not dissimilar to 1994 and in order to pay my bills AND bring these works to distribution, it would be logical (thank you, Spock, ) to repeat those success behaviors; SO

Goodbye dear Spock, RIP Leonard Nimoy
7)      I must choose again with heavy heart. After work (because I ditched cable years ago), rather than melting in front of mindless Netflix reruns and HuluPlus commercials, I will turn to my manuscript. Or blog. Or reading your blogs. Or research. Those pursuits that feed my writer-soul and move my works to fruition;

8)      Yes. You heard it here. I said it out loud. This evening recliner-slug is selling her recliners and giving up HuluPlus (goodbye insufferable commercials) and Netflix in favor of her literary aspirations. No, I haven’t cancelled them yet (the decision is fresh), but I will. This week. Before my paid-months run out;

9)      You may also see less of me on Facebook. Or more. This depends on how a side-project* shapes up;

10)    And finally, a big shout-out to Andrew T. Post (one of my earliest Blogger buddy/writer friends). for mentioning on Facebook his new practice of tracking his daily writing productivity. That fell on fertile ground and inspired me to do the same;

11)    Last week I began tracking my own productivity, first by-hand which was satisfying, but I kept having to dig for the infernal notebook and once beside my laptop it became a coaster, collecting spilled crumbs and tea stains, SO;

11)   This week I started an Excel spreadsheet, it’s even more satisfying and ever-handy. You'll likely be hearing more about it; AND

12)  All this has fueled both forward-motion and a sharper focus on the prize, plus given me concrete and useful data on my progress. For instance, this week I’ve invested 19 1/2  hours completing edits on five chapters (totaling thirty-three pages) and cutting 788 unnecessary words.

Is it working? Feels like it. Time will tell.

That’s good enough for me.

 ~ Olivia J. Herrell

*I’m toying with revamping or rebranding (or both) That Rebel, focusing more on issues we face on a day-to-day basis, similar to many past posts: social and cultural anthropological issues as relates to life through my particular lens/voice);

**Not just the Peace Makers trilogy, but also the abandoned women’s-fic novella Churches, Chickens and Chi-Chi’s and children’s book series Frank & Ernie Find Home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Walk Away

Some days the words aren’t there.
Nor will they come.
Not new shiny ones.
Nor old standbys.
Not. One.
Stinking. Word.
Those days, it’s best not to try.
Prose falls flat.
Edits make murk.
So don’t.
Go there.
Walk away.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

And here to concur are Joe Walsh and the James Gang performing the quintessential Walk Away:


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome to 2015 - Year Eight

Welcome to the new year 2015, excitement is in the air! Numerologically, it's an eight year for me, which means:


So look up, fellow Rebels, I'll be breaking out this year! What will that look like? Oh, I don't know. But I've decided to GO BOLD and THINK BIG!

How about:
  •  A six-figure, multi-book deal!
  • Travel to exotic (and not-so) places, spurring the birth of a travel b/v/log by yours truly!
  •  Exponential growth for me as a writer, as a human be-ing, and as an emerging voice for the people!
Courtesy: sylvester-neujahr

Whoa. As I wrote that last bullet, the beginning strains of Stairway to Heaven played on Pandora, giving me confirmative goose bumps. After all, it is my anthem. And apropos.

For these past five years, life has been (varying degrees of) tough, but I can see now through the lens of 2015 that I that am being transformed, shaped in to something different, something new, something exciting. Something scary to comprehend. For me.

For too long, I've hidden behind convention and restraint-of-tongue, rather than speak out on many issues. Call it paper-thin skin or an over-developed lizard-brain, but the fear of being condemned makes me tremble at the first sign of opposition, then I beat a hasty retreat.

But hey. God is in charge here. Not me. So I will take advantage of this year-eight energy to keep showing up, and let Him take care of the fear, thin-skin, lizard brain, conflict rest.

Oh yeah. Lest I forget, here's one more biggie for my bullet list:
  • A life partner to gallivant about with!
What will your 2015 look like?

~ Olivia J. Herrell

P.S. Click here to calculate your own year number and get your related energetic "meaning" for your life and for 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Awakenings, aka Inconsiderate People

Why is it that I get so angry when people are inconsiderate?

It happened today. Just a while ago. I was waiting for the line of cars to pass so that I could pull out on Maple Street. My chance came when the light changed, stopping traffic. But nooo. Rather than stopping short so I could pull out, some guy stopped in front of me, blocking my exit. FLASH went my temper as a surge of adrenaline and other unhealthy hormones rushed through my system.

Luckily the guy behind him was nicer and allowed me to zigzag out from behind the inconsiderate arse, praying nothing was now coming from the other direction, then pondering the anger as I checked my rearview mirror.

The other day I was in Marshalls when a woman and I, both pushing those tiny carts, arrived at the same small intersection in the clothing department. I let her go first and she proceeded to park right in the middle to browse clothes. Whaaat? Idiota! She never even acknowledged her lack of consideration. Not on your life. Clueless I tell ya, clueless.

Really people? If you’re so damned wrapped up in your own personal kingdom of SELF that you can’t be bothered to give a little common courtesy, STAY HOME!! In fact, stay in bed. Don’t get up in the morning and foist your enormous ego on the rest of the world. Stay swaddled in your own little Self cocoon.

Now, back to my original question. Why is it that I get so angry when people are inconsiderate? Because I can’t be? Because I am and don’t know it? Or is it merely that people ought to know better? To do better? Or maybe it's because I was taught as a young child to be considerate, or because it's second nature for me to look out for others, or that I simply do not understand any other way of being.
Whatever the answer, it's a good reminder for me to be vigilant, to look for opportunities to make life easier for others. Because life is to be found in the little things, not so much in the grand gestures.

Though I sure am glad the Red Baron spared Snoopy. Life wouldn’t be the same without him. Enjoy one of my favorite holiday classics, "Snoopy's Christmas".


Merry Early Christmas, Olivia J. Herrell

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