Between readying for the two-and-a-half week celebration (cleaning, shopping, and decorating), as well as for when my brother-in-law moves in soon, I’ve had scant time for novel-writing. Fortunately, I attended a couple of Shut Up and Write/Meetup sessions. They’re virtual opportunities for writers of all ilks to rally each other while offering camaraderie and accountability.
An author I’ve had the pleasure to meet thanks to this Meetup is Diane Williams. Working out of California, she writes, coaches, trains, and encourages audiences great and small to achieve their best and happiest. She’s published a memoir, “The Invisible Child,” along with a collection of 17 inspiring stories called, “Angels in Action.” Get to know her better and see her books at her blog as well as her Amazon pageher Amazon page.
Using herself as an example, here she shows us how everyone deserves joy and our wellbeing helps others…
The writing process I used to write my memoir, The Invisible Child, took me twenty years to complete. I didn’t have a desire to write a book about my life. However, my life took a dramatic change; it plummeted. My once vibrant healthy body was invaded by the disease called rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor prescribed drugs and a wheelchair for treatment. The effects of this disease on my body left me helpless, jobless, and husbandless. The most devastating of all, I had to parent our young daughters, ages seven and eleven, alone — on my back.
Through it all, I developed a fearless desire to live life with relentless faith.Folks began to ask how I keep going while living in an immobile body. I repeated the story so many times, folks suggested I write my story, and thus it began.
I devoted three hours per day to just brainstorming and freewriting every thought that entered my mind. Some days I wrote two or three pages and other days a few paragraphs. Next, I drafted an outline by grouping topics, scenes, timelines. That whole process took a couple of years including my much-needed breaks.
Immediately after my break, I increased my daily writing from three hours to five, and I began to write chapters. I brought my work to the community critic group to be critiqued. They were graciously forthcoming with feedback on my theme, voice, character development, plot, scenes, timelines, and libel laws. Thus, I began to rewrite.
While writing, I began to feel stronger, energized — a cathartic victory. This gave me momentum and much needed motivation to push forward. I found a professional editor, and she complimented my message and emailed me a thick file with suggestions for style, edits, a guide for the timeline, and content such as how to raise conflict and when to reach the climax. I increased my writing time to nearly seven hours per day.
As I wrote the story, I began to thank Charles Babbage, considered by some to be the “father of the computer.” I am most appreciative of the copy and paste device. I had a quick thought about how long it would have taken me with the white, correction tape.
After twenty years of writing my story, my memoir, The Invisible Child is born. And now, I am on to my next project, Unbelievably True Caregiver Stories, to be launched November 1, 2023 on National Caregivers Day.
I love to bring value to people and remind them that they matter because I want to live in a world with happy successful people; this is my main reason for sharing so much of my personal scars and victories.
I have lived a life of complete health, and life was good, then an uninvited disease entered my body, it felt like a truck ran into my home and wrecked everything and everyone. As we all know, when one family member suffers it changes the dynamics of the entire family. I truly hope this story inspires readers to care for their health and well-being to live a healthy, independent, and vibrant life, we deserve.
When does Spring spring where you live?
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This week I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel of writing my first novel (more about it H-E-R-E)! Yay!!!!
To celebrate, let’s get moving! Can you do this?
Sit in a chair, both your feet on the ground. Then lift your right foot a couple of inches off the floor and use it to make a clockwise circular motion. Meantime, with your right hand, write the numeral six.
Gotcha! It’s an unsolved mystery why that’s so hard to do.
Now for our dance party! As you might remember from my posts H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E, I grew up with flamenco (and classical music). For my father, the louder, the better. After all, that way those neighbors yelling and pounding our walls could enjoy it too, no?
José Planas Moreno, a priest in Málaga, Spain, tears up the church floor with his parishioners. The videographer’s site shows how the province celebrates everything with dance, be it blackberry roots, or plain ole’ regional dance. (A quickie swerve off-topic: what’s your opinion and experience regarding hyperlinks, meaning the sorts in this paragraph vs. the prior paragraph?) …
Carmen Amaya is known as the Queen of Flamenco for good reason! Head to toes, she’s music and dance incarnate…
With her extended family of Romany dancers and musicians, Carmen toured the world. Hollywood (including the Hollywood Bowl) fell in love with her. Here she casts her Fandango spell…
Whew! Dunno about you, but I’m out of breath! It’s time to sit back and meet our guest blogger…
Volunteers Needed: Shira needs feedback on the book she’s writing about how Do Better works, as well as the project itself. Find out more at h-e-r-e.
On her way to also becoming a historical fiction novelist, she’s already published an academic text, “Stayed on Freedom’s Call: Cooperation Between Jewish And African-American Communities In Washington, DC.”
Read on for a sample of her writing. When the following incident occurred, which she titles “Standing in the Gap,” she was completing PhD studies…
That was what Mona thought. I knew better. That was an old sound, from a lifetime ago. One I thought I’d finally escaped. I should have known better.
I looked out the window, counting five men holding smart phones up toward the screams. Then my feet moved of their own accord. It was only from hearing a muffled shout as the door slammed behind me that I knew I’d left the flat. The rain had just ended, and the pavement was still wet. My feet pulled me to the source of that sound. Not the shouting, not the screaming, but the one I remembered so deeply that it still hid under the table with my inner child. The sound of a head hitting a wall.
There it was again, but this time, I could see them. Both of them. The woman’s head sounded like a watermelon when she slammed against the wall, sliding down those slimy bricks to finish crumpled on the filthy paving stones. Her eyes were open wide, looking stunned and frightened, as a giant advanced on her from the ten or fifteen feet from where he’d launched her. My stomach churned as the pain of that impact coursed through my own body, as if I had been the one tossed like a sack of rice into that wall.
Looking at the giant, I wanted to flee, abandon this woman to her fate. But my feet had a will of their own, carrying me right into the one spot where I didn’t want to be: about 5 steps between each of them.
I realized that I’d carried an old umbrella with me out the door. At least those Kung Fu lessons had had one result: they kept me from rushing in where angels feared to tread entirely unarmed. Then again, my next thought was that this flimsy brolly was more like a liability against that big drunk guy. I took a second of comfort in hoping that as a foreign PhD student, at least the NHS would cover my hospital stay if I didn’t manage to duck fast enough.
I flinched as the sound wave from the giant’s lips struck me. It felt just like the impact of furniture breaking against the wall that night. When the giant stepped closer to me, my feet moved me back the same step, but my body refused to budge. That brolly, I now realized, was balanced in my left hand behind me, just like a short staff. My stomach had turned into a solid ball, no longer churning. As I saw him look at me, the giant’s eyes suddenly grew wider. If he hits me, it is going to hurt. But then why did he seem to be afraid of me?
Who said that? Oh, wait, that was my voice. So why did the giant look confused?
I risked a glance backward. That sobbing voice had come from behind me, as the woman I was foolishly blocking wept, her tears mingling with the rain on the wall as she’d stared up at me.
Focusing on the giant as I’d learned to do in so many sparring classes, I drew a deep breath, preparing. But the giant stood frozen himself, staring at me with some odd drunken mixture of contempt and fear. Both were clearly written in his face, as well as the frustration of being denied another chance to strike the woman on the ground behind me. What was he waiting for?
He was treating me like a man? He really must be drunk. Then I realized that I’d dropped into an automatic fighting stance. He wasn’t that drunk, then.
“Ok, but you should be ashamed of yourself.”
As those words tore themselves from my throat, I began to tremble so violently that I thought I’d begin crying like the woman at my back. The giant looked so confused that I could practically see the gears turning in his drink-addled mind. Then, a tall woman stepped between us, her back to me, placing a hand flat upon the center of the giant’s chest. I found myself letting out the breath I’d not known I was holding, and heard movement behind me.
I turned to see the two young bar girls helping the woman, finally, up off of the pavement, and taking her inside the pub. As I looked back at the giant, he had backed away, the tall woman’s arm guiding him to the curb.
I stood straight, now in tears myself from the relief, and from the shock. I was still four years old, still hiding under the table, while furniture still shattered, as my mother screamed in the other room. But this time, I had not stayed hidden under the table.
This time, I had come out to help.
Lost in these thoughts, I turned down the bar girl’s offer of a drink. As Mona came over, saying something I couldn’t hear, I wondered where she had been during all of this. Recalling her nights of coming home drunk, I realized that she had been standing there, 20 feet away, the entire time. Now I could see her in my mind’s eye, standing off to the side, just watching. As the five men and two bar girls had stood by and just watched.
All standing idly by while… And all but the young bar girls were bigger than me.
What’s a problem you think people need to know more about?
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A dear friend recently complimented me on my hair and requested I do a blog post on hair coloring for men. I’m not a man and my husband doesn’t die his hair, but hair is hair, right? And after all, any novelist (here’s more about the books I’m working on) worth their salt can imagine, no?
In my late teens, I hated my straight hair so much that I permed it. When my hair turned into something that looked like a cheap wig, I spent the next 10 years trying to fix it with chemical treatments that all looked like hell, hell, and more hell.
Enter color! It took a while to get the hang of, but when at long last I did, my hair became something other than either limp and greasy or fried and broken. Henna in particular gives it body and shine, and nourishes the hair and scalp.
Regardless of the type of hair, the way to avoid breakage and dullness is to steer clear of toxic chemicals (I try not to put anything on my scalp and skin that would kill me if I ate it) and heat. That means keeping to a minimum stuff like hairdryers and products with strong chemicals (the scalp takes in whatever we put on it almost as readily as our mouth membrane), including ammonia, peroxide, and alcohol. Sprays of any kind are iffy because they usually include alcohol. Moreover, they’re not so great for the lungs.
Buyer beware: “natural” doesn’t always mean what it should, so read the ingredients. This beauty site lists a bunch of places where you can analyze beauty products. Products don’t have to be pricey to be healthy.
Scalp and root care are as important as hair care. Our scalps easily absorb whatever we apply. Don’t over-stress follicles with excessive massaging and brushing.
Hair is weakest and stretchiest when it’s wet, so gently comb it with a wide-toothed comb. If it’s too tangly to manage, detangling sprays can help.
Warm to cool water, not hot, helps immensely. Think fluffy wintry cats and dogs, versus short haired ones that live in hotter climes.
Many men, of course at all, have shorter hair. If one ruins short hair, it grows out relatively quickly. Keep in mind that the longer one’s hair is, the more pummeling it gets when mistreated.
Hair Repair: Olive Oil
Lots of oils and conditioners are out there, but olive oil works wonders for me. Once a week or so, first thing in the morning, I don grubby clothes that I don’t mind getting stained, slather it on, then I go about my business (as long as it’s not the kind of business where I need to look presentable) for a couple of hours. It soaks in while I eat breakfast, write, clean my house, and talk on the phone. Then I shampoo it out.
Conditioner is also great for mending hair and can be used in place of shampoo.
Dyes in General
What color to choose if you want to stay close to natural and are only covering grays or roots? To avoid looking artificial, first try a shade slightly lighter than your darkest strands. It’s easier and gentler to hair to darker over a mistakes than it is to go lighter, which is quite involved and can be damaging.
Everything requires gloves. Get any on your fingernails and be prepared to have to grow that tint out. Try to keep as much of them off your hairline so you don’t stain your face (some dyes stain worse than others). Many people apply a thick oil like vaseline to prevent their foreheads from getting marked.
I’ve dabbled with semi-permanent and permanent dyes. Again, read their ingredients or you’ll wind up with awful hair. Application for both is the usually same, always marked on their boxes: in a nutshell, leave it on for roughly 20 minutes, then wash it out.
Coloring: Root Touchups
These are meant more for covering what shows, i.e. temples and where you part your hair. They wash out immediately and come in many forms: sprays, crayons, powders, and mascaras. Check customer reviews so you don’t wind up one that rubs off onto hands and pillow cases.
Spray: A dear one recently mentioned they were wearing a spray. Even after they showed me, I couldn’t tell at all!
These are less likely to include harsh ingredients like ammonia, though read the ingredients. Depending on brand, color, and frequency used, they wash out in anywhere from a week to a couple of months. As a result, it’s easier to go back to natural, if that’s what you want. They fade gradually, as opposed to needing to be grown out, and the contrast between dyed hair and undyed roots is lessened.
By the way, semi-permanent tints also come as “coloring shampoos.” For the sake of this post, I tried two. Neither deposited any color I could see, though maybe it was just the type of hair I have? Worse, though, the one supposedly for men and with added conditioner made my scalp burn. When I shampooed the following day, after doing my best the following morning to make up for the abuse by applying olive oil and letting it sink in for several hours, there were quite a few more hairs than usual in my drain.
** NOTE: anything that results in hair loss and/or the sensation of burning and/or itching are to be avoided at all costs. Remember, scalp health is paramount.
These last longer, but depending on the brand (read the ingredients), they’re harder on the hair. Also, growing them out involves sporting the zebra look.
Natural Dyes: What I Use
Basic henna is what I use. Henna, a.k.a. lawsonia inermis, is powdered tree leaves. It’s cheap and I have yet to find that one brand is superior to another, so don’t be fooled by the expensive varieties. You can buy it by the box at most Indian and International grocery stores, or online in bigger bags, like I do.
If the package of henna doesn’t say only “natural henna” and lists a variety of colors, it has other stuff added to it. Beware that often those are as chemical-laden as commercial dyes.
Basic henna (which Wiki defines here) is a greenish powder that dyes coppery and translucent, meaning it shows the color of the hair beneath it, same as water colors reveal the color of papers they’re applied to. They stain coppery orange, as you can see at this site. The lighter the hair, the brighter the result. To tone down the orangy red, I continually experiment with adding stuff to it, which I’ll get to later.
The more frequently henna is applied, the richer and more permanent the color deepens. Hairdressers often warn against using it, because it can’t be bleached out if you don’t like it, though you can apply a darker dye over it.
The night before, I mix henna powder with olive oil (or inexpensive natural conditioner) and water. For my length of hair, I use four ounces of henna, one cup of cool (not hot) water, and roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (From what I’ve read, unrefrigerated henna keeps its dying strength up to 12 hours.)
The trick is to stir in whatever liquid incrementally, so you can add enough that it’s not overly thick and stop before it’s too runny. You’ll be leaving it on your hair for a couple of hours, so you don’t want it driving you crazy by running down your neck and spilling into your eyes. Conversely, you don’t want it so pasty that you can’t spread it down to your roots.
Cover it and let it sit overnight. The dye is said to be “released,” when it turns extra dark in places. The next morning, scrape the sides of whatever container you use and give everything an extra stir.
Using an iron pot darkens henna, which is why I use this one intended for Korean cookery. The plastic shower cap I later use on my head protects the charming wooden lid, even though I use this pot only for henna.
To help it take better hold, I stir in a bit of acid, like lemon juice vinegar, or cream of tartar, which I buy in bulk at a fraction of the cost of small grocery store shakers.
Eucalyptus oil is said to stimulate hair growth. So are rosemary and thyme.
To offset the orange color, sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of cheap instant coffee granules (no need to waste the good stuff).
I haven’t tried it, but some people dye their hair simply by mixing instant coffee granules with conditioner, no henna, and letting that sink in.
This greenish powder from indigo, that Wiki defines here, leaves dyes blue-black. It was used to color the first jeans. It’s great for dampening the reddish hue of henna.
Indigo requires 10-20 minutes to get wet, but if you wait a lot longer, it loses its coloring ability.
First thing the following morning, I heap a couple of mounded tablespoons of indigo into a separate container. Sometimes I just stir it directly into the henna, but I think it stains better with this extra step. Dyes stain, so using plastic containers, like clean empties from yogurt, is a great way to recycle.
Applying the Henna Treatment
Wear something dark enough to not show stains and grubby enough to not bother you if it does stain.
In the bathroom, where I have enough mirrors to see the back of my head, I clothespin old bedsheets that I use as drop-cloths to prevent staining walls and floors. (Any messes that happen anyway are easily removed with a couple of drops of bleach.)
Dampening hair beforehand (I spray mine with a conditioning detangler) enables the henna to slide on easier and more thoroughly down the the roots.
Gloves on, I massage the henna into my scalp and through my hair. Then I cover it with the cheapest shower cap I can purchase in bulk. Wrapping keeps the henna moist and prevents brown smears on every wall I pass. For good measure, I tightly wrap a length of plastic wrap around my hairline and tape down the end to keep it from unraveling. With the protective film on, I continue to press the henna down to ensure it nourishes my scalp as it works.
Two hours or more later (I hear some people keep on henna overnight, though I haven’t tried it), after I’ve eaten breakfast, cleaned the house, done some writing, texted friends, etc., I’m ready to wash it out.
Rather than shampoo, I use conditioner, working it in and rinsing it twice, similar to how I use shampoo. For the sake of conditioning, though, I let the second application soak for several minutes. Then I rinse it in cool water until the water runs clear.
Use a darker towel to dry your hair, so you don’t have to worry about stains.
If you can help it, don’t shampoo for at least a couple of days, for the color to intensify over time.
Comment or leave a question and I’ll use it to update this blog post.
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Writing my first novel is hard work. Veteran writers have a lot to teach us. Take Jacqueline Diamond, for instance. She’s published — drumroll here — 102 (maybe more by the time you read this) books! It’s no wonder she won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and is a two-time Rita Award finalist. Her books range from mystery and non-fiction to romances for all ages (including some about couples over 50) that span the 1800s to present.
Characters in a novel take on a life of their own—and not always what the author expects. Animals are no exception!
There weren’t any furry creatures in sight when I began writing Really? At Your Age?, Book One of my Sisters, Lovers & Second Chances series. My heroine, Dr. Cody Matchett, has no pets. She’s too busy delivering babies, risking romance at the age of 52, and losing her heart to the possibility of finally having children of her own.
Then her older sister, Mandy, a resolutely single nurse, has to move in with her for a few weeks…bringing her cats. Beanie and Queenie arrive with attitude! For me, they added a lot to the fun.
Next, while searching out cover images for my next book, Don’t Be Silly! At My Age?, I came across a cat who looks just like Beanie, squaring off with a German Shepherd. And since I wanted Mandy and the new man in her life to (more or less) fight like cats and dogs, it was irresistible.
Suddenly, my hero—a mystery novelist—became the owner of an aging rescue dog. Throughout the story, the animals play a key role.
One of my favorite scenes occurs when the heroine’s ex-boyfriend worms his way into her house by bribing her cats. A furious Mandy tells him, “You are literally something the cat dragged in!”
How did I develop personalities for my cats? That was the easy part! I’ve been owned by several of them and, seriously, have you ever met a cat that didn’t have a distinctive personality?
My experience with dogs is spottier…literally. My family once owned a Dalmatian, a rather high-strung fellow. My hero’s German Shepherd, who gazed at me with soulful eyes from the photo, turned out to be mellower.
On reflection, I’m surprised animals haven’t figured into more of my novels. Perhaps that’s because many of the stories are set in hospitals, such as my Safe Harbor Medical series.
But I’ll be looking for more furry possibilities in the future. After all, they’re fun to read about and fun to write!
What’s your fiction right now? I’m in the middle of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Garden of Eden,” published posthumously. The protagonist is a writer much like Hemingway and apart from the main story, it’s interesting to read of his writing routine and philosophy. Also, I just finished “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows,” by Balli Kaur Jaswal, a fun yet thoughtful novel that wins beaucoup points for the title alone!
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