Chapter Five – Understanding Kasey

After Kasey put her mom to bed, she went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She leaned on the sink and looked at herself in the mirror as the water dripped down into the sink. She rubbed at the dark circles under her eyes that had become a permanent part of her face. She hated them, and wished she could rub them off completely. A 25-year-old woman shouldn’t look as old as she did. Taking care of her mother had taken its toll over the last few years. She needed help, but who could she turn to? It wasn’t like she had any family to turn to for help. Her father was never a part of her life. She’d lost most of her friends. Maybe if she had gone to college she could have avoided this whole mess with her mom. And as for dating? Nobody wanted to date a woman with an invalid mother, nor did she have time to find a date. At least she had her customers at the Rusty Anchor and the coffee shop. She wasn’t sure she could consider them friends, but at least she saw them on a regular basis. Except for Willow…she couldn’t figure her out. She seemed to want to push her way into her life. Kasey didn’t want to be rude, but she liked her life compartmentalized. She was a different person at the coffee shop than she was at the Anchor. At the Anchor, she could let her guard down. But since Willow had started showing up at the Anchor, Kasey felt guarded.

She heard a rustling sound coming from the living room. It startled her at first, but as she passed her mom’s bedroom door, she realized her bed was empty.

“What now?” she mumbled. “Mom? Why are you out of bed!”

Naomi had pulled the cushions off the couch, and was sticking her hands deep into the crevices.

“Not this again,” Kasey said.

“Come on, Mom. Time to go to bed,” she said, and pulled gently on her mom’s shoulders.

“They have to be here somewhere! Daddy is going to be so mad at me! I lost his keys again!” Naomi said. She was agitated, even frantic. She pulled away from Kasey.

“Mom, please,” Kasey urged and reached for her again.

“No, I have to find them!” Naomi said, and pulled away.

Kasey had reached her end with this nonsense. She reached for her own keys, grabbed them and shook them violently.

“I found them! Now let’s go to bed!” Kasey raised her voice.

Naomi paused, and studied the keys.

“Those aren’t Daddy’s keys. Now help me look, or we’ll both be in trouble!” Naomi yelled.

“Yes, they are! I’m sure of it!” Kasey yelled back.

“No, they aren’t! Daddy’s keys have a bottle opener on them!” Naomi said.

Kasey thought for a moment. She had to get Naomi off the subject, or they could be up for hours.

“No, remember? He took that off the keys! I’m sure of it! Now, let’s go to bed!” Kasey yelled and threw the keys into the dish on the counter. She reached for Naomi, and Naomi struggled against her.

“Mom, please!” Kasey was beyond exhaustion. She was crying, and desperate to distract Naomi.

Naomi saw Kasey’s tears and paused. For a moment, Kasey thought she saw recognition in Naomi’s eyes, but it didn’t last.

“Oh, sweetie, what’s wrong? Did someone hurt you?” Naomi asked.

“Yes,” Kasey said under her breath.

“What can I do to help?” Naomi asked, forgetting about the keys for the moment.

“Let’s just go to bed, okay?” Kasey asked, and wiped her tears. “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

“Okay. If you’re sure there’s nothing I can do to help,” Naomi said.

Naomi looked around the living room, as if she was forgetting to do something. Kasey gently grabbed her by the shoulders and took her back to her room. She covered her up, and turned off the light, closing the door behind her. Then Kasey made her way to her room, and collapsed onto the bed. She wanted to cry, but was all cried out. She turned off the light and prayed for a better day in the morning.

 

The sun streamed through Kasey’s window, hitting her in the eyes. She squinted and looked at the clock…6:23am. She realized she hadn’t set her alarm, but she still had time to get to the coffee shop on time. Hopefully her mom would cooperate. She took a quick shower, pulled her hair back in a ponytail, and went to wake up her mom.

Naomi lay in her bed, snuggled under the covers, silent, in the same position Kasey left her the night before.

“Mom?” Kasey said quietly.

Naomi didn’t stir. Kasey sighed, knowing that getting Naomi up was going to be another struggle. She opened the curtains and turned on the light beside her bed.

“Mom,” she said again, and gently shook her. She still didn’t stir.

“Wow, you’re really asleep. Come on, Mom, time to get up.”

Kasey rolled her over and noticed how cold Naomi was.

“Mom?”

She felt her cheek…cold.

“Mom!”

Kasey shook her and put her ear to Naomi’s chest. She couldn’t hear anything. Her mom wasn’t breathing.

“Oh, God…Mom!”

She shook her again. Still nothing. Kasey ran to the phone and dialed 9-1-1, then ran back to her mom’s side. She tried to start CPR, but didn’t know if she was doing it in the right order. Was it breathe first?! Or chest compressions?! How many breaths?! She went back to chest compressions. Still nothing. She was panicked, breathing and compressing as best as she could remember. She didn’t know how long she was there before she heard the knock at the door.

“It’s my mom! Please help!” Kasey yelled and led them to her mom’s bedside.

She watched from the doorway as the paramedics tried to bring her mom back to her. She could hear the paramedics talking to one another, but couldn’t focus on what they were saying. She replayed arguing with her mom about the keys over and over in her mind. Did she upset her mom so much that she had a heart attack? Was it her fault? She should have been more patient with her. She felt so selfish and so guilty.

“Ma’am?” the paramedic said.

“Is she alive?” Kasey asked and strained to see over the paramedic’s shoulder.

He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

“Are you sure? There’s nothing else…”

He touched her shoulder. She watched from the doorway as the paramedics picked up everything from around her mom.

A police officer introduced himself to Kasey. She didn’t hear his name, and didn’t remember when he’d shown up. He told her that she’d have to answer a few questions, and fill out some paperwork. And the coroner was on his way.

The Officer led Kasey to the couch to sit down, and the cushions were still on the floor from the night before when her mother had been searching for the keys…those damn keys.

The next few hours were a blur. She talked to police and made arrangements with the coroner’s office. But none of it seemed real. Kasey felt like she was in a dream. Her mom was really gone.

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Chapter Four – Understanding Kasey

“Mom, come on! I can’t be late!” Kasey yelled. She was losing her patience fast.

Naomi lifted the couch cushion, and looked in the creases of the chair.

“I’ll just be a minute. I think I lost Daddy’s keys. I always have an extra pair lying around here. They must be here somewhere,” Naomi said. She was determined to find the keys that didn’t exist anymore.

“Come on! You can bring him the keys later!” Kasey yelled. He’s dead anyways! She wanted to scream.

“Nope, they aren’t there. Just a minute sweetie,” Naomi said.

Finally, Kasey reached into her purse and pulled out her own keys. She shook them wildly.

“Here they are! Look! I found them! Can we please go?!” Kasey said, at the end of her rope.

“Oh, good. Here let me have them,” Naomi said, and reached for them.

Kasey pulled away, knowing that Naomi would realize they weren’t her Dad’s keys if she got too close. The brain sure worked in weird ways when it was broken, Kasey thought to herself.

“No, no…that’s okay. I’ll hold on to them. Grab your sweater,” she instructed and pointed to Naomi’s sweater on the chair, distracting her long enough to get her out the door.

“Where are we going again?” Naomi asked once they were in the car.

“To work, Mom,” Kasey said, exhausted, and running late.

Naomi seemed satisfied with the answer, and was quiet the rest of the ride.

 

Kasey walked briskly into the bar, her mom following close behind.

“You’re late,” Ben, the other bartender, said.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” Kasey said and motioned to her mom. She walked her mom down to the end of the bar and made sure she was comfortable. She threw her purse in the locked cabinet, and poured herself a small glass of beer, and drank it down quickly.

Ben scowled at her, and left. Kasey poured her mom a club soda and set it in front of her.

“You good now?” Kasey asked.

“Thank you, sweetie,” Naomi said.

Kasey watched her mom as she sipped her drink, and slipped into her zone. Guilt overwhelmed her. Bill watched from down the bar.

“You need a refill?” Kasey asked him.

“You need a break?” he asked in return.

Kasey smiled at the thought. If only it was that easy. He slid his glass across the bar and she refilled his beer.

“Do you ever leave this place?” Kasey provoked him.

He smiled. “I have a life, you know.”

Yeah, well…” Kasey said, and went about getting the bar ready for the evening regulars.

 

Willow wandered in around 7:25pm and sat next to Bill.

“You back again?” Bill asked.

“Yep.”

“I thought we would’ve scared you off,” Bill teased.

“Not a chance. Besides, now that you know my secret, I gotta keep my eye on you people,” Willow needled. “Did I miss some excitement?” she asked him, and nodded towards Kasey, who grumbled to herself quietly.

“She’s kind of roughed up, I think. Looks like Naomi had a rough day.”

“I wish we could do something to help,” Willow said.

Bill shrugged his shoulders.

“Does she have any family?” Willow wondered out loud.

“I don’t think so. As far as I know, it’s just her and Naomi. I’ve never heard her mention anyone else.”

“That’s a shame,” Willow commented.

“You’re back again, huh? Tom Collins?” Kasey asked, and tucked a stray chunk of hair behind her ear.

“No, I think I’ll stick with club soda tonight,” she said.

“I thought you might,” Kasey said. She was all business, cleaning the bar, and washing glasses, and straightening bottles. Willow could tell she was avoiding talking, so she didn’t press her for conversation. Instead she talked to Bill. Bill talked about his years as a bus driver and the characters he met. He said it wasn’t so different from being a bartender, except for the drunk part, although he did run into his share of drunks on the bus. Willow discovered he was a great storyteller. His stories got more colorful as the evening wore on. She thought that being a bus driver would make for some great writing material. She made a mental note to take the bus more often.

“No Judy tonight?” Willow asked as she looked around the near empty bar.

“Guess not,” Bill said.

“Didn’t she say she was going to her sister’s for the weekend, or something like that?” Kasey commented.

Willow turned to Bill to answer her.

“What are you looking at me for? I don’t keep track of that wild red head,” Bill said.

“Really? You don’t talk to her outside of the Anchor?” Willow asked.

“What gave you that idea?” Bill asked.

“I don’t know. The way you two hassle each other, I thought you were friends or something,” Willow said.

“We are…just not in the real world,” Bill said.

“She wouldn’t have him anyways,” Kasey chimed in. “He’s not her type.” She laughed and winked at Bill.

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Bill piped back defensively.

Willow laughed at the exchange. Kasey had a talent for ruffling people’s feathers.

“Her type? What’s her type?” Willow asked.

“She likes them younger…and with a full head of hair,” Kasey added just for fun.

“Hey!” Bill said and ran his hands through the few hairs combed across his head.

“Ignore her. She’s just egging you on,” Willow said. “I’ve seen her do it before.”

“You have not,” Kasey said.

Willow raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms.

“What?” Kasey asked. “Who are you talking about?” She played innocent.

“You know exactly who I mean. Don’t play innocent with me,” Willow said.

“Who? What?” Bill asked, clearly missing their cryptic conversation.

“She means Chase,” Kasey admitted, as she dunked a glass into the sink.

“Who’s Chase?” Bill asked.

“He’s a young man who works at the coffee shop with her. She hassles him all the time,” Willow said and elbowed Bill. Bill nodded knowingly.

“That’s just because he makes it so easy. If you’re dumb enough to leave the door open, I’m going to go through it,” Kasey said.

Bill caught on, and winked at Willow.

“So, this guy…Chase is it?” Bill asked. Willow nodded.

“Is he good looking?” Bill asked, knowing he was in the driver seat.

“Chase? I guess so. I never really thought about it before. He’s not my type,” Kasey said.

“Does he have all his hair?” Bill sniped. Willow laughed almost spitting out her drink.

“More than you,” Kasey teased.

“Hmmm…I see. And he’s a young man? About your age?” Bill continued.

“Yes, and he’s a college man too,” Willow added.

“Hmmm…” Bill said, and rubbed his chin.

Willow leaned closer and whispered to Bill, “They are perfect for each other.”

“What are you two talking about down there?” Kasey asked.

“Nothing, dear. Bill’s just rambling. You know how he gets,” Willow said quickly. She’d planted a seed and that was good enough for now.

“Yeah, you know me. Just rambling. Maybe I’ll have to trade my beer in for coffee and come see this guy,” Bill said.

“Really? You’re going to trade your beer for coffee,” Kasey said.

“Nah, you’re probably right. Guess I’ll have to let Willow keep me informed about this college man,” Bill said.

Willow winked at Bill.

“Sorry to disappoint you, Bill, but there’s nothing to tell,” Kasey said, and changed the subject. “Mom, are you hungry?”

“What? Are you talking to me?” Naomi asked.

“Yes. Would you like something to eat?” Kasey said again, leaving the ‘mom’ part out this time.

“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Naomi said.

“Would one of you mind going next door to Tony’s and get her a slice of pizza? She was so busy looking for those stupid keys I forgot to make her eat something,” Kasey asked.

Neither Bill or Willow were sure what she was talking about, but they figured it had something to do with the mood she was in when she got there.

“I got it,” Bill said. “Just cheese?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Thanks, Bill,” Kasey said, and slid a five dollar bill across the bar to him.

“She had a rough day, huh?” Willow asked, cautiously.

“Yep. It’s always something,” Kasey said, and walked away.

Willow wanted to reach out to her, but she knew Kasey wouldn’t talk about it. She hoped that they hadn’t teased her too much about Chase.

When Bill got back, he handed the pizza to Kasey and she took it down to Naomi.

“Do you think your mom would talk to me?” Willow asked Kasey.

“She might. It all depends on her mood,” Kasey said.

Willow picked up her drink and moved down the bar to where Naomi was seated. Willow sat at the corner of the bar near Naomi.

“Is the pizza good?” Willow asked her.

Naomi didn’t answer, she just kept eating.

“Ask her about Cliff,” Kasey suggested.

“Cliff?” Willow asked.

“He was my grandfather…her dad. I never met him. Her long-term memory is nearly flawless. She just can’t remember what she had for breakfast this morning. Her short-term memory is shot,” Kasey said.

Willow gave Kasey a wink.

Willow turned to Naomi. “Does Cliff like pizza?” she asked.

Naomi’s face lit up. “Oh, yes. He loves pizza! Especially anchovy. I can’t stand anchovy pizza, but he loves anchovies. Even puts them on his salad sometimes. Do you remember the time that he tried to sneak anchovies onto Mama’s pizza and she nearly gagged?! That was so funny!” Naomi said and laughed.

Willow figured she’d play along. She looked to Kasey for her approval, and Kasey shrugged her shoulders.

“That was funny!” Willow agreed.

“Of course, fish was a staple at our house. I guess that’s what happens when you work on the docks, right?” Naomi said.

Willow nodded and looked to Kasey for clarification.

“He worked on the docks. He was a fisherman. She always used to go down there to hang out with him when she was a young girl,” Kasey said.

“The docks! I love the docks! Oh, my gosh! What time is it? Do you want to go down there with me? We could play hide-and-seek on the boats if you want,” Naomi said. She sounded like a little girl.

“Oh, I think it’s a little late. It’s dark outside,” Willow said.

“That’s the best time! The boats creak and moan and it’s so scary…and fun!” Naomi said.

Kasey heard the conversation and stepped in to rescue Willow.

“We can’t, remember? He’s on an overnight trip. The boats aren’t there,” Kasey said.

Naomi looked disappointed. “Oh, boo! Maybe tomorrow?” she said to Willow.

Willow looked to Kasey and Kasey nodded at her.

“I think tomorrow would be better,” Kasey said.

Willow played along. “Yes, I can go tomorrow too.”

“Oh good! It’s a plan!” Naomi said.

Willow was quiet for a few moments and Naomi went back to eating as if the conversation had never happened. Willow picked up her drink and made her way back to the seat next to Bill.

“Weird, isn’t it?” he said.

“That must be so hard on Kasey,” Willow said, feeling deep sympathy for Kasey. “How does she do it?”

“She’s a tough kid. I don’t think she really had a choice in the matter,” Bill said.

Willow had a new appreciation for the pain that Kasey probably felt on a daily basis. She couldn’t imagine having her own mother not know who she was half the time, or not know that she even had a daughter. No wonder Kasey was the way she was.

Chapter Three – Understanding Kasey

“Where are we going, sweetie?” Naomi asked Kasey for the third time in twenty minutes. She looked out the car window as if she was trying to recognize the landscape.

“To visit your friends,” Kasey answered abruptly.

Kasey had spent the morning fighting with her mom about getting dressed. Naomi wanted to wear her purple floral jumpsuit that Kasey hadn’t seen in the past ten years. They finally settled on the green pants and a yellow blouse. It was sort of floral-like. Then Naomi had fought her while Kasey tried to brush her hair. She’d screamed at Kasey and complained that she was pulling too hard on the brush. Kasey finally gave up and left her hair half-brushed. Thank goodness that the daycare was right around the next corner.

Kasey checked in with Helen at the front desk, and a nurse met her mom and took her back to the activity room. Kasey heard her mom ask the nurse who that woman was that brought her there. Kasey mumbled, “It’s your daughter, remember?” No one heard the hurt in her voice.

She filed the hurt away in the recess of her mind while she drove to the coffee shop.

 

“Morning,” Kasey said to Chase as she walked in the door to the coffee shop. After some loud music on the car ride to work, she’d managed to get her blood pressure back to a reasonable level, and was able to conjure a semi-friendly greeting.

Chase was arranging the pastries in the front counter window.

“Hey…anything good in there today?” Kasey asked.

“Just the same old stuff. Were you hoping for something different?” Chase asked.

“It would be nice to have a little variety every now and then.”

“Agreed.”

Kasey ground some coffee beans. She shouted over the grinder, “Guess who I saw last night?”

“Who?”

“Willow,” she yelled back.

“Where? At the Anchor?” Chase asked, surprised.

“Yeah. Weird, huh?”

“I didn’t know she was a drinker,” Chase commented.

“Me neither. Honestly, I don’t think she is. She said she was there because she had writer’s block,” Kasey said and rolled her eyes.

“What? Don’t you believe her?”

“I guess. It seems sort of a silly reason to run to a bar though,” Kasey said.

“I don’t know. Have you ever tried to write anything? Seems like it would be hard to keep coming up with ideas. Especially if you have the added pressure of being a well-known author,” Chase said.

Kasey poured the grinds into the machine. Did Chase know Willow’s pen name? She wanted to tell him, but she had been sworn to secrecy. And even though she didn’t consider Willow a friend, she did want to keep her word.

“She doesn’t seem like the type that would have a drinking problem, or anything. Probably just needed to let off some steam,” Chase added.

“Maybe,” Kasey eyed Chase suspiciously. “How well do you know her? You two seem awfully chummy some days.”

“What? Why? Not very well. Just from short conversations here and there,” Chase said defensively.

“Okay, okay. I was just asking.”

Kasey was sure he knew more. He answered too quickly. She’d have to keep her eye on him.

“Speak of the devil,” Kasey said, as Willow walked in the front door. She looked more tired than usual. Her gray hair was frazzled, and Kasey could see the dark circles under her eyes from where she stood behind the counter.

Chase grimaced at Kasey. “I got her,” he said.

“Morning, Willow. The usual?” Chase asked.

“Morning, Chase. Better make it extra strong today. Late night last night,” she said, and forced a smile.

“You got it,” Chase said, and walked away. He met Kasey’s glance and mouthed the word ‘wow’ to her.

Kasey whispered back, “I told you.”

Chase brought her coffee to her, and she already had her journal out, but Chase noticed the page was blank. She picked up her pen and began to write:

Missy reached for his hand, but he quickly pulled away. It had been too long since they had been together. She’d forgotten his touch and it felt so foreign to her. He was confused and searched her eyes for an explanation. Only a single tear fell down her cheek.

Willow quickly scribbled through the few sentences. It sounded cheesy to her, contrived, forced. Her head pounded. The aspirin had already begun to wear off. She tried again:

She walked on the shore and felt the sand between her toes. A gull flew overhead and cried out. She watched as it flew towards the sun. She looked back towards the rocks and saw a figure silhouetted by the sunset. Was it him? Had he found her after all these years? No, her eyes must be playing tricks on her. But there he was, waiting for her.

Again, she crossed out her words. What was wrong with her? Had she lost her muse? Was she done? She took a drink of coffee, hoping it would help her think. But it didn’t.

Chase came back with the coffee pot.

“Refill?” he asked.

“You know…could you make this ‘to go’ for me? I’m not feeling so well. I think I’ll get more work done at home,” Willow said.

“You sure? Anything I can help with?” Chase asked.

“No, thanks. I wish you could,” Willow said.

“No problem. I’ll be right back.”

“Wow, she’s worse off than I thought,” Chase said to Kasey.

“I told you. Why do you care, anyways?” Kasey questioned.

“Because we see her every day. She’s practically family,” Chase said.

“Seriously? Family?” Kasey said. Chase was far too friendly for Kasey’s taste.

Chase poured Willow’s coffee in a ‘to go’ cup and gave Kasey a look of disgust.

He gave Willow her coffee.

“Feel free to come back if you feel any better,” Chase offered.

“Thanks, Chase. You’re sweet,” she said.

They watched as Willow made her way slowly out the door, and head up the street. They knew she lived around the corner. Chase felt compelled to follow her to make sure she got home okay, but didn’t want to be intrusive. Kasey watched the concern on his face and wondered what the connection was. Nobody was that nice.

 

Vinny was asleep on the windowsill when Willow opened the door. He jumped down and paced around her feet wanting attention. She gently nudged him out of the way, and he meowed. She closed the door behind her. Her head throbbed and his meow sounded like a roar. She set her coffee down and got an aspirin out of the cabinet, then poured some water in a glass and took several aspirin. It was going to take more than one to get rid of this headache.

She sat down at her desk, Vinny still following her, and turned on her computer. The cursor flashed on the white page, taunting her to write something of value. She spun her chair around and looked at her wall of books for inspiration. So many other authors had fought through their writer’s block, why couldn’t she? The small picture of a shoreline caught her eye. A fan had painted it for her after reading “A Walk Along the Shore.” She’d been so flattered that someone was inspired by her work that she framed it and gave it prominence on her shelf. A fan…she wondered if she had any left. Did they think she’d gone into seclusion, or worse, that she’d met her demise? Would they still be there if she ever wrote something of value again?

Writing was never supposed to be a career choice for Willow, at least not in the eyes of her family. They expected her to follow in the family accounting business, but she hated numbers, absolutely hated them. During college, she secretly joined writing groups, something her father thought was a complete waste of time. She wanted to prove them wrong. She wanted to show them that she could make it as a writer, but they insisted she was being foolish, and that writing was a waste of time, a road to nowhere.

Her parents never knew that she’d made a name for herself. By the time her first novel made the New York Best Seller list, her parents had already passed away. She had no one to celebrate with, except her agent, Silvie Rose. But it wasn’t the same. And she realized too late that proving her parents wrong had been a waste of her time. She’d rather be loved than be right. But time heals all, right? She wasn’t sure that wound would ever heal.

Back to the cursor…Michael called her name but she couldn’t hear him for the crowd. He tried to push through the people, but he was against traffic. He watched as she stepped onto the train, and the doors closed behind her. He was too late this time. He’d missed his opportunity.

Willow read what she’d written out loud. Vinny meowed.

“Yeah. I think it’s awful too,” she said to him, and hit the backspace button until the words were gone.

I think it’s time to serialize…

 

I’m a writer…or at least a self-proclaimed writer. Though I’m not sure when the appropriate time to call oneself an official “Writer” is. Is it when you’ve been published? Is it when you completed one novel, or two, or three? Is it when you’ve been rejected by agents and publishers? Because I hear that’s when you should really give yourself a pat on the back, because rejection should be considered a compliment. It means that agents/publishers are finally “reading” your manuscript…or at least a Query and the first 50 pages or so. Or maybe that’s just what writers tell ourselves to keep pushing forward, chasing the brass ring.

But here’s the thing. It isn’t working for me.

Some call these excuses, but I call them valid reasons for not pursuing a career in writing: I’m a wife and a mom; I work full time, and mother full time (yes, when you’re working full time, you ARE still mothering full time); I have bills to pay, college to save for, a household to run, homework to help with, dinners to make, and don’t get me started on how far behind we are on saving for retirement. At this rate, we may never retire.

The truth is that “Querying” is almost a full time job in itself. It can take hours upon hours of researching agents that might give your Query a read, let alone get to the first 10 pages of the manuscript. It’s not only exhausting, but it’s time-stealing. For every hour I spend sending out Queries, that’s an hour I can’t get back from being with my family.

Again, I’m not making excuses. But I’m a practical gal. I know my limits, and I know what’s required of me to raise my family, and keep a roof over our heads. I know that I could easily waste 20 more years, taking hours and hours away from my family in pursuit of something that may very well NEVER happen…getting published.

I’ve thought about self-publishing, but I’m still on the fence with that one. I know I can publish for “free,” but let’s face it…nothing is ever really free, is it? My time is not free, and neither is my family’s.

I have 3 novels under my belt, and basically under my bed. Only a handful of people have read them. I’ve never been able to find a critique group. Again, the time factor.

So, maybe it’s time to “serialize” my novel on this blog. I know, it’s taboo…they say it means that you don’t believe in yourself enough to pursue a writing career. I disagree. Maybe it just means that I want people to read my stories and relate to them. THERE IS NO SHAME IN SERIALIZING.

I think, as writers, we must decide for ourselves what we want from our writing. So, I asked myself these question:

Do I want to be famous?   Not really.

Do I want to make money from writing?  Of course, but at what cost?

In the long run, what is the reason I write?  To connect with other women (I write women’s fiction) in a way that makes us say, “I’ve been there,” or “I know someone like that,” or “How did she know what I was thinking?”

And I think that’s where I have my answer.

Famous – shmamous. I just want to connect.

I think it’s time to serialize “Understanding Kasey.” Coming soon to a blog near you.

Writing Like a Panster

I finished my latest Manuscript and am seeking representation, which can be a long process. So, until then, I’ve started a new project.

But it’s been slow going so far, and I think I know why.

I’m OVER-THINKING.

I’m not an outliner, I’m a “Panster.” Which is weird, because being a “Panster” goes against every other part of my life. With the rest of my life, my family, my finances, etc. I am a planner. Type-A all the way.

But not when it comes to writing. Writing is the one place that I give myself permission to fly free.

I usually start with a character and go from there. The story reveals itself to me along the way. Of course, that means there is going to be a lot of tweaking and rearranging, but that’s the price I pay for being a “Panster.”

If you’re an Outliner, you plan your novel way ahead of time, from what I understand. Some people have story arcs and everything before they even start writing.

This time, I started my story with a few characters and how they interact and I immediately jumped to plotting. And I’ve been trying to make my story “fit.” But doing that for a #Panster is like putting a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe. There’s a lot of forcing, and whining and pain involved. And it isn’t fun, and it isn’t productive. Trust me, I worked in a shoe store when I was young and watched hundreds of women insist they were a size 6 when they were clearly a size 7, and then proceed to blame it on the shoe.

I’m blaming the shoe right now instead of just finding the right fit and giving myself lots and lots of room.

So, I’m starting over…in my own Panster way. I’m going to let my characters tell me their stories. I’m merely the recorder. I need to let them tell me their hopes and dreams and fears and conflicts. If I set them free on the keyboard, they will show up. But I need to stop shoving my large characters into the small shoe.

How do you start a new story? Are you a Panster or an Outliner?

Entering a Local Short Story Contest

 

Every year, our local library holds a Short Story Contest. I’ve entered for the last three years, and have yet to place.

I’m considering entering again this year, just for the practice.

But I don’t write short stories. I never have.

I write novels, so writing a short story, for me, is a bit of a challenge. I’m also a “panster” which makes it even more challenging. Without an “outline,” it makes it much harder to wrap up a story in 2500 words or less.

I write women’s fiction, and women’s fiction differs from most other genres. Without completely sounding like I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ll try to explain what I mean: women’s fiction isn’t necessarily trying to “solve a problem,” as in conquering the neighboring tribe, or saving the planet from the comet headed straight for it. Women’s fiction tends to be about “relationships.” It isn’t as cut and dry as some other genres, and I don’t mean any disrespect by that at all. I just don’t can’t write those other genres without sounding like a 4th grader wrote it (no offense to the 4th graders out there).

Women’s fiction is different in that it’s character-driven. There’s still a problem to solve, sometimes many, but it’s painted with a much broader brush, at least the way I write. My characters are flawed and their flaws are what drive the plot.

So, back to the short story.

First, condensing a story to 2500 words is daunting for me. That means that I need to come up with a premise that can basically be solved in one and a half chapters! What?! That’s when things usually just get going in a women’s fiction novel, not resolved!

Thinking of something that fits into that box is really, really hard for me.

I’ve tried using writing prompts, but have yet to find one that inspires me. I’ve tried different genres, but I really can’t write fantasy or SciFi…I just can’t.

But, like most writers, I like to bang my head against the wall, otherwise I wouldn’t be a writer. (Writers will understand that). I’ll keep trying. I’ve started 3 short stories so far that have fallen flat. I still have until July 31st to submit my entry. It isn’t impossible, just improbable, and I can work with those odds.

What about you? Have you ever tried to write something different than you’re used to? What got you over the hump?

Explaining Being a Writer to Friends and Family

 

I should start by saying that I have not yet published a novel. I’ve published poetry and articles, but I haven’t hit the mother lode yet.

Explaining being a writer to friends and family can be frustrating and humorous.

First and foremost, unless they are writers themselves, they don’t understand the process, the time commitment, or the frustration that comes with wanting to be a published novelist.

Every time I talk to my mother she asks me “Are you going to get this one published?” as if I just need to walk down to the local bookstore and hand them my book. I would love to tell her, “Yes! It’s going on shelves next week!” But when I try to explain that it’s completed, and that it really isn’t “finished” just yet, I hear silence on the other end of the phone. She doesn’t get it. It isn’t her fault, she just isn’t a writer and doesn’t understand that writing is a process.

Truth of the matter is, aside from the initial completion of a novel, most of my non-writer friends and family could care less. Some of them ask about it from time to time, but then glaze over when I bring up editing, or second drafts, or the nature of the business. They don’t really want to know.

Even my own husband has only read one of my early novels. In fact, when I was teasing him about not being interested in what I was writing, he insisted that he was interested, and that he’d read my book. That was 3 manuscripts ago! If it was me, I would want to know what my partner was writing about: am I in it? Is the psycho man-hater character modeled after me? What sort of personal stuff did you put in there? But not him. I guess I should consider myself lucky on that note. I could write a whole book about him and he’d never know it until it was on the shelf of Barnes and Noble. Hmmmm…maybe…nah, I wouldn’t do that. But the point is that I could, and he’d never know.

The truth is that writing can be a lonely business. People won’t understand what you do. They won’t understand the effort you put in to character development, and structure, and plot. They won’t understand what’s taking so long to get your book published. They won’t understand that just finishing a first draft is an accomplishment in itself, even if it never gets published. And writing a second or third novel is even more impressive.

So if it seems like you don’t have the support of family and friends when you’re writing, don’t give up. Those same family and friends will be there when your book goes on the shelf. They might even buy a copy…maybe. They may even open it up and read it just to see if they’re in it.

Don’t worry about finding an answer when they ask if you’re book is published yet. Just tell them it’s in the works. Because it is…the moment that first word is written, your great novel is in the works.

More writing and less explaining!

Besides, the writing community gets it.

Do you have a creative way that you explain writing to your friends and family? I’d love to hear it.