The first time it happened, I figure it was a great coincidence. I took a break from my writing and while walking my dogs through the park an injured crow showed up on our path. The coincidence, of course, was that I’d been working on my novel Black Crow White Lie and there was a scene where I needed to describe a crow. The one I came upon that day was very calm and slow with his movements. He was either injured or very old, or a bit of both. He let me watch him and didn’t show the usual agitated crow behavior at someone being nearby. This seemed like amazing luck and so I took my dogs home and went back up to the park to observe him alone.
By the time I got back to the park, I found that the crow had crossed the street to a neighbor’s house. He was in the planter. I carefully approached him and sat on the walkway just a few feet away. It was a strange experience. He watched me and I watched him for about a half hour. Not much happened, but it was enlightening. Having never been this close to a crow, I discovered that when he blinked his eyes, the lids moved from the sides inward instead of top to bottom. It was curious and cool and in our half-hour relationship, I felt like I’d learned enough to properly describe a crow in my book.
A couple months later, I had just dropped off my kids at school when I noticed something black in the middle of the street. As I got closer I found it was another black crow. This one’s wing was so injured, it couldn’t move. There were two men outside their houses talking and I asked if one had a shoebox I could use. I wanted to take the crow home and call animal control to see if they could help it. One of the men brought me a box, and I was able to transport the crow home. While waiting for animal control to come, I had yet another half hour relationship with a crow. This one was more vulnerable than the first. Instead of learning about the crow and analyzing him up close, I felt for him. It was more of an emotional connection, as animal control had explained they might have to euthanize him. Spending his possible last moments with me, I hoped I could comfort him with calm energy.
That should have been enough coincidences while writing a novel about a crow, but it wasn’t. The next time, I was specifically writing about a dead crow when I took a break from my computer and walked my dogs around the block. On a grass area near the park, one of my dogs approached something black and stopped to examine it. I froze in disbelief when I saw what it was—a dead black crow. Now it was just getting strange. I actually looked around to see if anyone was there, setting up the scene for me. And yet how could someone have done that? No one knew what I was writing about. So instead I looked upward. And I nodded.
I was familiar with the law of attraction but I thought that it simply meant ‘think positive and positive things will happen, think negative and negative things will come your way.’ What I began to learn through my writing experiences—with the crows and then with other strange synchronistic occurrences—was that thoughts are far more powerful than just floating ideas in our heads. Motivational author Louise Hay says, "The law of attraction is that our thinking creates and brings to us whatever we think about. It's as though every time we think a thought, every time we speak a word, the universe is listening and responding to us."
I understood this in a brand new way. It inspired me to write about things I wouldn’t mind showing up in my life since it seemed that there was a good likelihood they would. It also made me more careful about what I allowed into my mind. My thoughts did more than just float. They opened doors to the outside world and let into my life the things that I attracted.
As I went on writing Black Crow White Lie, the crows continued showing up. Though later experiences weren’t as intimate as the three I described, there were still unusual chance encounters relevant to the novel. I came to like their visits. They were a reminder that the universe was listening and responding to me. When I began my next novel, I fit crows into the story again, knowing that if I kept my doors open, I could keep the black birds coming around.
(This post first appeared on the Long and Short Reviews website)
"I was a stay-at-home mom of two little ones when I started writing novels..."
I did a guest blog post for "Janine's Confessions of a Mommyholic" about being a writer and a mom. Check it out here:
Janine's Confessions of a Mommyholic
My latest guest blog post at
I wrote a guest blog post for "Blogging Authors" about the day a dog chased me up a tree... and what I learned. Check it out here:
Every day I walk my three small dogs around the block. It never fails that my youngest, a Shih Tzu named Littles, becomes Mr. Fearless when we get to one particular fence. Just as we round the second corner of our walk, Littles lowers his head, sticks his tail straight out behind him, and runs as fast as he can to a fence where a big dog lives. I have to drag my other two dogs to keep up with him. It's a tall backyard fence and near the bottom, there is a small peephole about the size of a silver dollar. By the time we reach it, the big dog is usually already barking and even howling as he shoves his nose into the hole. Littles comes along and shoves his own nose right back at the big dog's, barking into the peephole while jumping at the fence and wagging his tail. This same little dog, who freezes up and drops his tail between his legs at the park when a big dog approaches, becomes the aggressor when he's behind a fence. The peephole is his safe view into the big dog's world and he loves to use it for a brief ego boost.
When I got home from our walk the other day, I was reading an online article about a local man who was murdered. In the comments below the article, some woman made an inappropriate, heartless joke about his murder. She didn't know the man. The joke was more about his occupation and she tried to cleverly relate it to why he was killed. I can't imagine she would have said this in the physical presence of the readers, as most people would attack her heartlessness, but behind the safety of the computer, she had no threat. It made me think of my earlier walk with little Mr. Fearless and the protective fence. The internet was this woman's fence, and her peephole was the small box on the website that said: "Post your comment here."
Bullying and serious internet aggression are something altogether different. This incident was more on the level of your average person getting a whim to post something she wouldn't be held accountable for. The woman struck me as someone who just got a quick dose of courage to throw out an outrageous comment. It's like my dog Littles. He's not a bully, but a really nice dog most of the time. He just likes to take that brief opportunity every morning to feel big and strong. I'm not sure what the woman online was trying to feel. Funny? Cool? Or maybe she just wanted to be noticed. I don't know her, so I can't know her heart. Judging her is useless, but using her as an example can be worthwhile. Have I ever been tempted to write something online that I wouldn't say in person? Of course. While her particular joke wouldn't have been my choice, I am certainly capable of voicing opinions that don't need to go out there. If I'm willing to stand behind my comments, and my intentions are pure, then I can speak my mind in good conscience. But if ever my thoughts and motives resemble Littles barking into the peephole, pretending he is something he's not, I will try to recall how pathetic false courage looks, and keep those comments to myself.
There are plenty of positives having this computer peephole to the world. Everyone now has a voice, and the safety behind the computer gives people courage to speak out. That in itself can be a good thing. It starts getting negative when the little Shih Tzus out there lose all sense of their usual decorum for the sake of a quick ego boost, or a laugh, or even just an opportunity to be heard. I think it's a good idea while online to pretend that at any moment, the peephole could open wide up. Face to face with my readers, it would be best to choose words that feel right while looking into their eyes.
I was asked to write a guest post for Literary Agent Andrea Hurst's blog on my path to publication. I thought I'd share the story on my blog as well. Here is the link:
I just re-read one of my favorite novels, The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch. One passage stuck with me and I haven't been able to get it off my mind. There is a scene where a woman asks the main character, Miles, how we know when we’re moving forward. Not understanding the way people always use the word "forward," Miles responds to the woman saying, “Crabs move sideways. They don’t worry about going forward or backward.”
Something about reading that simple passage really hit me. I don't remember it from the first time I read the book, but this time it stood out. So I've been thinking about what it means to me right now in my life.
As the kids have left for college, sideways movement sounds appealing. All those years raising them required a lot of forward movement-- sometimes even fast forward. There was always something to get done. And it wasn't only my own agenda moving me ahead. While teaching the kids about accomplishing and achieving I often held their hands to guide them forward. Whether it was homework, getting them to practices and appointments, or just helping them with life lessons, I was often caught up in their movement. Sometimes all that going forward generated such momentum that it just took over, and it was easy to miss some of the beauty around me- the plumerias blooming in the backyard, the full moon looking down on me, and even that great guy I married over twenty years ago.
Now that the kids are off to college and I'm not holding their hands anymore, I'm adjusting and finding my own movement and pace. I still have goals set ahead of me, but they're not as constant or consuming. There's no denying I miss the kids like crazy and I even miss some of the hectic schedules that kept them close to me, but I am finding a new sense of peace in this next phase. I get to go sideways more often these days. Instead of always working in the garden to clean things up, some days I can be found just sitting in it and enjoying it. I've noticed how tall the palm trees have grown since we planted them when the kids were little. Instead of constantly moving forward to some destination on my busy schedule, I've been seen these last few weeks moving sideways to the neighbor's house, just to chat. And yesterday when my husband and I were walking along the beach, there was yet another sideways movement I notice I've been making more lately. As we walked, I moved sideways, leaning in closer to him, so that my arm was touching his arm. Now that it's just the two of us again, there's less urgency to always get somewhere, and more time and space to get closer.
The warm sun on my skin, the sand beneath my feet, the soothing sound of waves, and the comfort of my husband by my side, I couldn't help but notice all the beauty around me.
Todd Dillard made a great suggestion when I asked for help with blogging. He said, "... take photos of interesting things you're doing, see, etc." And then Stephen Woodfin suggested, "Find something you can offer that is different." Well, here is a photo of something interesting and different. I see this everyday when I pass the window to my backyard. What is it, you ask? It's "creativity off the page." As a writer, I put so much of my imagination on the page, and yet this visual reminds me that life is full of opportunities to use imagination off the page. It's a lesson my outside-the-box thinking husband has been teaching me over the years. And so here's the story:
Our backyard is just a modest size. That never stopped my husband from making it awesome. When our kids were young, he built a planter where our Guinea pigs could roam around and the kids could play with them. After a few years when the pigs were gone, our kids got into a new phase--remote control race cars. The planter came out and our backyard was transformed into a dirt race track. Kids would come over with their cars and the races would go on for hours. When that phase passed and both of our kids got into volleyball, turf was put in and a net was put up. Most days after school, from junior high to high school, kids came over to play mini tournaments on the small 2-man court. Our little backyard always had a lot of action-- until this summer.
Both of our kids have just moved off to college. My husband and I are empty-nesters for the first time and adjusting to the quiet around here. I'm spending more time writing, and my husband has taken up golfing. As I should have expected, he has changed our modest backyard to fit this new phase in our lives. It's not a drastic change, but it does the job. He took an old shower curtain and hung it over the volleyball net, then set a small golf mat to practice hitting balls. A shower curtain in the backyard is an odd look as you can see, but it reflects the creative approach my husband has always taken as our family has gone through changes. It's actually kind of nice hearing the whack of the golf ball in the late afternoon--complete quiet there in our backyard makes me miss the kids too much. So while I'm continuing to use my creativity on the page to make the best of my fictitious stories, my husband continues using his creativity off the page to make the best of our real story.
I'm giving blogging a try. I planned on waiting until I had something important to say, but instead I'm starting now. I thought I'd get some practice so that I'll be better prepared when something important to say finally comes to me. I'm going to keep this first post simple, a simple request.... Teach me how to blog. My blogger friends on Twitter and WAE Network, I'd love if you would take the time to offer me just one piece of advice. I am a fiction writer, so this kind of writing is new to me. Share some wisdom with me and I will be sure to take a look at your blog, and even Tweet links to your posts. I'm excited to hear from you!