“It was Christmas Day…”

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Available on Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

https://www.amazon.com/Their-Souls-Wishton-Wanda-Penalver/dp/1625263864

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/their-souls-met-in-wishton-wanda-penalver-bevan/1123995094?ean=9781625263865

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The Calling as Comfort

img_2954ONE OF THE THINGS I discovered when I discovered I was a writer, was that feeling of standing at the edge of an abyss and knowing that to jump, although it was a terrifying thought, was the only thing to do. The abyss held no answers or guarantees, in fact, it was impossible to see anything down there, no evidence of anything I could be sure of, or of anything I had known before.  I confess, I have been away.  Many refer to it as writer’s block. I prefer to think of it as the writer turning his back on the abyss, stepping away from the edge, folding one’s arms across one’s chest and facing the opposite direction–the SAFE direction.  Except for a sporadic flow of poetry, which comes naturally to me, I’ve turned my back for a while on “story”. My awareness of this has been compounded by updates from author friends who excitedly share with me how many thousands of words they already are into their second (or third, or fourth) novel.  Of course, I feel nothing but happiness for them, not only because it means they’re doing the job we’re supposed to be doing, but because we need the support of each other.  But instead of being inspired by their motivation, the spray that lands on me from their creative juices squirting in my direction has only served to illuminate my feelings of inadequacy.

Being absent from “story”, stepping away from the abyss, facing the other direction, etc., all imply a shift in movement.  On the other hand, “writer’s block” is a noun. It’s seen as a THING we writers encounter, a THING in our way, a THING that happens TO us.  So when it showed up in my consciousness as “stepping”, “facing”,  “folding (one’s arms)”, it occurred to me these are all verbs, and “I” am the subject, the one doing–or, in this case, NOT doing–and that meant I was responsible. (Yuck. How we humans hate taking responsibility for stuff.  I had finally received my membership card from the Artists’ Club of Art Peace Truth and Beauty, the one place that provides safe haven from the Real World,  where creativity is not only expected, it’s in the mission statement, and now I had to be responsible here, too?) The occupation of a writer is made more difficult by the fact that there’s no boss standing over you making you do it. This is not to be confused with having an agent or publisher who’s given you a deadline for work completed or work-in-progress. The writer has “no boss” in the sense that the creative process, the birth, the origin of it all, is something only the writer can produce.  The cozy confines of the lining of your pocket where the key to the creative floodgates rests is controlled by the writer.  No matter how tightly her hand may be wrapped around the key, how warm the metal has become from the heat inside her closed fist, no one can make her take the key out and use it, except herself. Continue reading

Naked Outside

APOLOGIES FOR NOT POSTING in awhile, though I’m not sure to whom. It would seem that it’s to you, the reader, that I owe the apology.  But if a writer is not constantly writing–the writer is hurting himself. It’s the thing that smothers us, if we let it. The thing that sits waiting in the corner, or over our shoulder, or under the bed, that waits to earn points in the game of I Am Your Creativity.  As writers, we must go, move, stay ahead, find the short cuts, remain focused at all costs, for Creativity to win. It’s the only reason we’re in the game. The only reason we’ve shown up. Doubt is our opponent. Fear is behind him. Defeat wants Fear to win as many rounds as possible, and if Fear wins the game, Defeat proudly receives the champion’s trophy, raising it high above his head for all of his cheering fans to see.  As writers, we can see Fear.  We understand Doubt. But if we ever get close enough to FEEL Defeat waiting on the sidelines, it’s crucial to our own survival that we revise our game strategy.

There are no words to describe how I felt when I was offered my publishing contract for “Their Souls Met In Wishton”. (The original title was “Two Souls That Met in a College Town”, but I was concerned that would imply the characters were in college when they met, and they weren’t.)  After I answered a couple final questions for the chief editor and submitted a marketing plan, I was told a contract offer would be forthcoming. When it came, all I could do was stare at the email for several minutes before finally opening it. When I did, well, like I said, there are no words to describe my joy. This stuff that was part of me, this story I told, these characters I took every last ounce of my soul to bring to life over the past few years, these words on paper–MY words–were going to appear where people could actually read them!

Now, with the release of my first novel just one week away, I can only compare the feeling to another major thing that I’ve never done before–being naked outside. Or, as my next door neighbor, Sue, put it, when I shared with her what it really felt like now that the book was coming out, “and not naked like here in the driveway. Naked like, at the mall.” We shared a huge laugh. She absolutely nailed it (leaving me to speculate whether there may be a bit of a writer in Sue waiting to come out, because I don’t believe a non-writer would have understood the type of nakedness I was talking about, as perfectly as she described it).

We human beings are physically naked all the time, in so many ways. Naked in the privacy of our homes, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, around the house, naked making love, naked at a nude beach, or at the doctor. When we’re naked in the company of a person or persons other than ourselves, it’s assumed there is, at the least, some level of acquaintanceship, and at the most, profound trust. Naked outside, for all the world to see, is another concept altogether. If going about your day naked outside (and I think we’ve established that I don’t mean outside, as in, watering the garden in your back yard) is beyond your realm of experience, as it is mine, that level of vulnerability would be terrifying, not to mention, illegal. And I don’t believe it matters where on a scale of 1 to 10 that you, or others, rate how great they believe your body is. Ordinary or athletically gifted, exposed is exposed.

One of my favorite quotes of Stephen King’s about writing is, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Then after you start, it gets easier each time, and soon you discover that Fear and Doubt aren’t in the room with you anymore, and the process draws you in, and you can’t hold your eyes open because you’ve stayed up for hours doing it, and when you finally do go to bed, you can’t sleep because you can’t rest until you can write again.  After awhile, anything you do that ISN’T writing feels unnatural, and something in you starts to take over in this game of I Am Your Creativity in a way that makes you feel like you could actually win it.  In time, the scariest moment will become such a distant memory that you might not even remember what it felt like, or maybe, that it ever existed. The exhilaration of YOU, the thoughts in YOUR head, pouring out like a pitcher of YOUR favorite beverage with unlimited refills (because writers know there’s so much more stuff where that came from), whether beautiful, ugly, scary, funny, mysterious, sad, joyful or mundane, is all birthed from a very safe place.  It’s a special place from which there is nothing to offer except yourself, a place only you can see. Until, what has to be the second scariest moment for a writer…being naked outside.

 

“My eyes popped open in the darkness.”


Excerpt 3 from THEIR SOULS MET IN WISHTON

MY EYES POPPED OPEN in the darkness.The only thing I could see were the red digits on the alarm clock, 3:06 AM. It was the third night of sleeplessness because the ideas for the book were coming fast and furious like runaway trains. The concept sounded rather ordinary at first—a romance novel about a romance that never happened. Weren’t all romance novels about romances that never happened? Unless they were non-fiction? The premise was not an unusual one, a man and woman reconnect on social media after not seeing each other for decades. As childhood friends do, they give each other a brief update of the past years—the spouses, the kids, the pets, the careers, and create a newfound friendship across the miles. That’s exactly how it all started, if you started from a month ago. That’s how Liam Kincaid drifted back into my unfulfilled, purpose pondering, self-searching, married—with two children—life. But the story of Liam and Miranda began a long time ago. And that’s where I wanted to start.

I pounced out of bed and stumbled in the dark to our cluttered home office adjacent to the bedroom. Neil and I agreed I couldn’t die first because I was the one who knew where all the important documents were. I also knew, after twenty years of marriage, that Neil could sleep through anything, so I was fairly confident I wouldn’t wake him up. The sad thing was that our entire relationship had also been asleep over the past few years and there were no encouraging signs of breathing life back into it. I groped in the dark for the desk lamp and turned on the light, sending a stack of bills and Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons cascading to the floor. I clicked onto a blank white page. My fingers raced across the keyboard to catch up with the scene that was taking place in my head…It was a winter’s day in 1973 in a small town in upstate New York. They were in high school and secretly in love with one another. Wait—I wanted to change their names. Their names should be gentle but strong, appealing but believable, just like their characters, and not stray too far from mine and Liam’s. Melinda? Monica? No. Leonard? No. Melissa and Luke? Maybe.  Shhh… Let them tell you their names, said a voice. I breathed deeply and closed my eyes.  My two young characters introduced themselves to their author. I felt my arms wrap around them and hold them close, the way I did my children. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen in their lives, but I knew I would love both of them forever.

***

Excerpt 2 from “Their Souls Met in Wishton”

Traveling Boy, Art Garfunkel, 1970

Nicole could feel the chilly fragments of snow dropping down inside her boots as she ran as fast as she could after Garrett. Her giddy squeals only made her more out of breath while he scooped up another mound of snow and sculpted it into a perfect ball. So unfair of boys, she thought. They could always outrun her. Even if she could make a snowball as perfect as Garrett could, he would be able to out-throw her, too, just like every other boy, and some of the girls, in the eleventh grade. The one thing she would never be was an athlete. Garrett drew back his arm and pitched the snowball through the air, right for the middle of Nicole’s forehead.

“Ahhh!” she roared. “No fair!”

“You’re giving up,” he said.

Nicole went silent. Garrett walked towards her with concern. This was her chance, she thought! To get a better aim, she needed him closer. To get him closer, she would fake being upset, as if something was wrong.

“Are you all right?” Garrett asked, trudging her way.

Nicole waited until there were only six feet between them, bent down and grabbed an enormous mound of snow, and charged towards him. Garrett took off running. Nicole caught up and hopped onto him piggy-back, mashing the cold white stuff into his face with one hand while she hung onto his neck with the other.

“Ouch—wait!” he cried.

Nicole slipped off his shoulders. Garrett’s palm covered his left eye.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” she asked.

“Ahhh—I don’t know. You got my eye.”

Nicole panicked.  They were miles from any kind of place that could deal with an emergency. She reached for his face. “Let me look—”

“No, don’t touch it!” Garrett shouted, and crouched down on the ground in pain.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it.”

Nicole knelt beside him in the snow, nearly in tears. Garrett started to chuckle. The chuckle turned into a laugh. The laugh became uncontrollable. He had gotten her. Again. She punched him hard on the arm.

“You are so full of it!” she said. “Why do you always do that?”

“Why are you so gullible?” He stood up and helped her onto her feet. “C’mon, we gotta get back. I don’t want your mom pissed off at me.”

“She would never be pissed off at you. She adores you,” Nicole said.

“That’s because she doesn’t teach me. If she had me in class, I’d drive her nuts. Lucky for her I’ve got Mrs. Sherman for English instead.”

They started the short trek down the hill towards his car, the firm layer of a day’s worth of fallen snow crunching beneath their boots. Garrett grabbed the sleeve of Nicole’s parka, pulling her to a gentle halt. With his other hand he pointed to the frosty orange horizon that rested above the Finger Lakes this time of year.

“Look at the sunset… Cool, eh?”

The view made her heart skip a beat. But then, her heart rarely beat normally when Garrett was around.

“Yeah,” she whispered.

He was standing closer to her than she remembered him to be a moment ago. Still holding onto her sleeve, he trembled slightly as he leaned his face into hers, bringing them nose to nose. His nose was cold and it gave her a pleasant tingle, but when his lips parted slightly and touched hers, the heat of his breath was like intense sunshine. Her lips were soft, and the sensation shot through his veins like an injection of warm honey. A handful of snowflakes descended softly on their closed eyelids as the ground beneath them fell away, and for a few seconds they both forgot where they were. They had each dreamed about what it would be like to kiss the other, and now neither of them could believe it was happening. She would always remember the first time he kissed her, and it would join their hearts together in a way she would never be able to comprehend…

[The full version of this excerpt can be found on my “EXCERPTS” page under “FICTION”]

The Music of “Wishton”

MY UPCOMING NOVEL is woven with popular music from different decades, with each chapter named after a particular song title. This came about because one day while I was listening to one of my favorite songs, “A Thousand Years” by Sting, I discovered it embodied what the entire book is about: the main character of Miranda believes that her love for Liam, the boy from her past, is a timeless, soulful connection, that cannot be defined by the past, present or future. The hauntingly beautiful lyrics and melody of “A Thousand Years” reflect the core of Miranda’s motivation to tell her story.

AS I CONTINUED TO WRITE the book, I kept hearing more songs in my head that reflected what was going on with the characters, and eventually decided to use songs as chapter titles. These are songs that, at the very least, are favorites of mine and, at the most, have touched my own life in some way. None of the song choices are random, and though more than one recording artist may be famous for covering the song, the version indicated has been specifically chosen.  It’s important that I point out here that the chapters led me to the songs, not the other way around. In fact, I can’t imagine developing an entire book solely around a group of songs (though it’s been done, and by individuals far more creative than I am). It’s my hope that most of these songs will be familiar to you. It’s also my hope that they’ll touch you and make your travel along the “Wishton” journey even more special. If you have a favorite among the ones below, I would love it if you’d leave a comment saying which one, and if you’d like, share why.

Introducing the (partial) playlist from  TSMIW:

TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, Supertramp

A THOUSAND YEARS, Sting

THE FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE, Roberta Flack

TRAVELING BOY, Art Garfunkel

SO FAR AWAY, Carole King

SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD, Elton John

MAYBE I’M AMAZED, Paul McCartney

ONE LAST CRY, Brian McKnight

IN TOO DEEP, Genesis

LOVE YOU INSIDE AND OUT, The Bee Gees

SARA SMILE, Hall and Oates

ALL I DO, Stevie Wonder

FRIENDS, Bette Midler

IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME BY NOW, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

IN YOUR EYES, Peter Gabriel

***

 

 

Welcome to My Blog

∼ JUST WORDS ∼

Welcome to my writer’s blog!

The fact that it was born today, February 1, 2016, the month of Valentine’s Day, the month “for lovers,” makes me feel like falling in love—with words, that is. I’m in love with words and how they dance and flip and soar and land and move us with their power, but what I love most, is writing them down.

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In my more than a couple decades on the planet, I’ve come to the realization that your true calling is something that chooses you, not something you choose. As my acting teacher in college said on the very first day of class (acting, I discovered, is not my true calling) “Some of you will make it early in life. Some of you will make it late. Some of you won’t make it at all.” I found them to be horribly harsh words at that moment in my 18 year-old life. But once you determine for yourself—and only YOU can determine it, my friend—what making it means to you, though the work may be hard, the choice is simple. If you don’t give up on whatever it is you’re passionate about, you’ll make it. If you give up, you won’t.

So, this is me moving forward on my true calling. I love that you’re here to share the journey with me. So read, enjoy, feel, think, be moved, respond, speculate, and thank you for letting me share with you the stuff in my head.

My way is write.

W

Happy Valentine’s Day

It being Valentine’s Day, I feel I should post something. This comes after hours of contemplating that I’d only just arrived at a point in my life where I understand there is no value in doing anything strictly out of obligation. That being said, I’ve been thinking about the significance of the major symbol of this holiday, the HEART.  Scientifically, the heart is the single, solitary thing responsible for keeping our bodies alive. The machine that pumps blood through our veins. The muscle that, when revived after it collapses, sends oxygen to our brain and shouts, “Breathe!”

In a non-physical sense, the heart is equally powerful.  “Heart language” is used throughout our culture on a daily basis. We speak of heart felt wishes, a heart warming story, bless her heart, having a broken heart, heart skipping a beat, a heart that’s filled with joy, giving your heart to something, listening to your heart, and, my personal favorite, following your heart. The list goes on. In my upcoming novel, a contemporary women’s fiction romance (more updates soon on the release date!), you’ll find many references to the heart. There are moments when the main character struggles to listen to her heart, believe in her heart, feels her lover’s heart beating when he gently takes her hand and places it against his chest, and, at another time, blames her heart for the mess she finds herself in. Continue reading