The coronavirus quarantine hit all of us hard in many different ways. In my world, I lost two theatrical productions I was part of. That may seem trivial, but being of the creative bent, it jarred me. I love my performing community and sharing my heart on stage.
But creativity will have its way. And imagination cannot be quarantined.
I released Book Three of Star Sailors at the end of April. With extra time on my hands, I was able to dive into revising and get that one done. But Jameson, my lead character, kept nudging me to write Book Four.
So I did.
I started writing at the beginning of May, as soon as Book Three was finished. And I'm proud to announce Book Four is available on Amazon today. Everything just flowed and worked. It's a great story with some wild twists. You can get your copy by clicking here.
And I'm excited to get cranking on Book Five...the last installment of Jameson Kendrick's great space adventures!
When I was in middle school, my mom got into oil painting. While she created masterpieces, my dad would chill on the couch, and they would watch Bob Ross on PBS. (I think my dad mostly slept, but still...)
I've been working on one of my books lately. Admittedly, it's been a while since I've written much. I had other priorities. Quarantine and vacation days freed up some time. So I pulled out the last manuscript I had written with the intent of revising, and it struck me how very much writing is like painting.
At least for me.
I'm sure there are Michelangelos out there who can write the Sistine Chapel in one setting.
While this particular story is mostly finished, I still had some changes to make and layers to add. It's like having some basic shapes on a canvas and going in to pull out depth, dimension, perspective, and detail. I'm finding some "happy little trees" moments and a couple of "oops" splatters that--with the sweep a few bristles--turn into glorious brushstrokes of genius.
Bob Ross would be proud.
I hate the words pandemic and crisis. I've been hearing them way too often. I had to pick up a few supplies at a store this afternoon, and an announcement came overhead... "Be sure to practice safe social distancing." I felt like I was in some weird dystopian movie.
Felt like... FEEL like.
This whole situation has bothered me from Day One. As an author, my brain runs through all the various permutations of what could happen, beyond the everyday craziness that is already happening.
I've watched 12 Monkeys too many times.
Also as an author, I appreciate escape. It's a lovely thing. That's one reason I chose theatre as a career. One reason I write. We all need a bit of escape at times.
So I'm doing what little I can to help. I'm offering my books for a limited time totally free. This week, Once Upon a Heist is up for grabs on Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the app on any smartphone.
Once Upon a Heist is completely silly. It's a mashup of beloved fairy tale characters--Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Ridinghood, Rapunzel, and Beauty (and the Beast)--with crazy twists to each story. It's fun and totally appropriate for families. My kids love it!
I hope you're able to partake of my meek and humble offering. And I hope it helps you laugh and enjoy life outside of "pandemic" talk for a little while.
Click here to go to the Amazon page for download: tinyurl.com/freeheist
This evening, I thought about some things I've learned in my theatrical career. From stage management to performance, I've encountered a lot of unique circumstances. But overall, there are some things that seem to be woven through every production and every cast. These lessons are the things I hope to pass on to my kids...not just regarding stage work, but life in general...
As we approach a brand new year, I'm feeling pretty happy. This is the first time I'm going into January, not hating myself and cringing every time I see or hear a weight loss commercial. I'm still amazed at the difference I see. It all feels so new, even though I've been on this journey for a while now.
I went shopping this weekend, and found myself browsing the plus size section. I had to tell myself I no longer need those sizes. I have so many more options available now. It's weird and wonderful! My self-image still lingers in a bigger world, so I have to consciously make myself move on to smaller pastures.
I never thought I'd be here. I had surrendered to the idea of being heavy all my life. I'm thankful and proud. And I will never look back.
My best friend is trying to lighten my not-so-happy show-closing mood by getting me to write a bit. She's sweet that way, and I adore her. The prompt was:
You have to use at least 100 words and then text back. It must start with:
“There are two kinds of people in the world, _______&________.”
And this was my reply:
There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who remember, and those who don’t. Those who don’t keep living their lives, going through the day-to-day toil our society has gotten used to. They get up every morning, go to work, come home, sleep, and do it all over again the next day, living for the two days off they get each week. And by the time those days roll around, they are so shot, they sit in front of mind-numbing screens and do nothing except complain about how time got away from them.
But those who remember linger a bit. They know how things used to be. Before. When the world was calmer. Quieter. They are watchful. They see what’s happening around them and yearn for something else. Something more. They yearn for the stars because that is where the secrets are kept. High above us, twinkling with amusement. The stars know.
I thought I'd post it here. To remember...
Hers was far more lighthearted, creative, and fun. Because that's who she is! Posted with permission, of course...the lovely Bethanie Gellerman...
There are two kinds of people in the world, me and me.
No, there aren’t.
Yes, there are.
Because everyone else, I believe; are cyborgs. Or perhaps chimpanzees. I don’t know because I haven’t met everyone.
And you’re not likely to as long as we are battling for space in the same head.
I did not ask for your opinion.
And yet you cannot escape it￼￼￼￼.
Shut up while I write this. As I was saying, I am unique in all the world.
And so am I!￼
Oh, very well. What shall we do tonight?
Well we seem to be off to a roaring start talking to ourself.
Ugh. I can’t even get multiple personalities right. ￼so many crazies have legions of souls in their heads and all I get is you.
I know right? It’s like the lottery. Like Christmas.
Or the Hunger Games.
You probably don't remember me. I met you years ago. Admired your work. You were part of a cute little production that involved some of my favorite music. I stuck your CD in my collection and pulled you out every so often. I watched your movie from time to time, but I have to be honest...it wasn't my favorite. (Not because of the content, but because of the casting.) As much as people talked about you, you were just no big deal to me.
But then several months ago, you came roaring back into my life.
At first, I didn't want anything to do with you. I figured I'd never be good enough to be associated with you. And you know, I really didn't think you'd be good enough to be associated with me...on a totally different level. But then a friend told me a few secrets and insights about you. Piqued my curiosity for sure.
I started watching you. Studying you. I knew if we were going to see eye-to-eye, I was going to have to change a few things. Which I did. My heart softened toward you. I began to understand some of your choices. I began to see that your choices were also some I have made in my past, even though my life went in a much different direction. I began to see who you really were.
I began to like you.
I worked really hard on myself. Changing my body so I could keep up with you. Finding just the right words, motions, emotions, and tones to capture your attention. Wishing, hoping, dreaming, and praying. And you know, all that really paid off. Because some amazing people saw that I just might be able to fill your shoes for a little while. And they gave me the chance to prove myself in that way.
I've been a part of you for three beautiful months now. And tomorrow, I have to say goodbye. I don't want to, but the time has come for us to move on from each other. I will always carry you with me in my heart. You've become part of me. You've taught me to value myself. You've given me confidence, compassion, wisdom, love, laughter, and freedom. I am forever grateful to and for you. You've changed my life.
Thank you, darling Donna. I will never, ever forget you.
The last couple months, I've experienced one of my dreams coming true. Before I get to that, let me take a few steps back...
This year has been really hard. In April, we lost my mom's dog. Although he belonged to her, he really was the family dog. We all loved him, and he loved us. He started developing a "cough", and when we took him to the vet, they said he had an enlarged heart. My son later said that's because he had so much love to give. But that very night after the vet visit, his heart gave out. It was devastating to all of us.
And in August, my mom had a hip replacement surgery. She was in awful pain, so the surgery was most welcome. My sweet aunt and uncle drove out in their RV to help with her recovery, as I had to travel for work shortly after the surgery. In a freak accident, my uncle took a fall which resulted in his death. Beyond devastating...this was unthinkable! He was a strong, healthy man, and this death seemed unsuited to him after all he'd been through.
With the bad, though, comes good. Such is life. A delicate balance. God blesses us in special ways so that we can work through and overcome the bad. And while these horrible things took away friends and family we love, other amazing things have taken place.
I've spent most of my life doing theatre in one form or another. As a kid, I watched and wanted to be part of it. In high school, I worked backstage, but longed to have the courage to stand before an audience and sing. I got my degree in stage management because I knew I could handle backstage work (and I loved it). I had convinced myself I wasn't good enough...and I didn't LOOK good enough to be a performer. I found my way into bit parts here and there, though, because the calling continued. After I got married and was a stay-at-home mom, I needed a creative outlet. I found that in community theatre. But I stayed in the background, still not happy with the way I looked.
I found a family in a wonderful community theatre company called Sunrise Players. They perform at a church not too far from my home. They embraced both my kids and me immediately, and I've never looked back. I won't perform with any other group. They are loving, kind, considerate...again, FAMILY. Back in March, we performed Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, and I was cast as Queen Maisie. That role was so much fun! I had a blast.
Then they announced their next show would be Mamma Mia!
I was hesitant at first. How could a church ministry put on a show about a young girl meeting her three possible dads? And laced with innuendo and dirty words? I'm not prude, but I spent a good portion of my married life as a pastor's wife, so I'm a little sensitive to those things. But the director--an amazing woman--addressed all my concerns and put my heart at ease. She had a plan to make this production as family-friendly as possible.
And I knew my time had come.
I wanted the lead role of Donna. But looking down at my body, dressed in the Queen's regal size 22 gown, how could I do it? Donna is a former rockstar turned innkeeper. She has awesome songs with dance breaks. And in the dialogue, one of the men says, "I was expecting a frumpy, little housewife," indicating that she's NOT that.
I had to change if I wanted that part. So during show week of Cinderella, I started. My high school director always said tech/show week was never the time to start a diet. But with limited time...from March to August...I had to. I began to log my calories. I focused on eating single-ingredient foods. Rotisserie chicken became a fast favorite. Veggies and fruit, too. I quit eating bread and sugar. My family has a long-standing tradition of pizza and a movie on Friday nights. I ordered or made a salad instead. And I started walking. Twenty minutes a day to begin with. And I increased over time.
A couple weeks after my uncle passed away, I auditioned for Mamma Mia! Over the summer, I not only worked on my weight, but on my voice and memorization. I polished my audition pieces and prayed...a lot.
And the directors graciously granted me the role of Donna.
Despite the bad things my family faced this year, I count myself most blessed. This production is about to come to a close. Tech week is just days away, and the performances are around the corner. I get to sing some powerful, beautiful songs. The script has come to life in my heart. I get to perform with amazing talent under the direction of fantastic directors. And I've gone from wearing sizes 22-24 to sizes 8-10. As of this very day, I've lost 87 pounds.
Donna has changed my life for the better. I owe her so much. My journey isn't over, but I'm on the downhill side of it. I want to lose another 30 pounds before all is said and done. And once I reach that, I will have to work to maintain it. Weight will always be a struggle in my life, but I almost have it under control. Putting on small clothes is FAR more satisfying than a mouthful of pizza or cake. That's my motivation.
I'm grateful for the support I've received through this. I'm thankful for family and friends who have encouraged me. I don't have enough words to thank my directors for giving me a chance as Donna. And to that beautiful character who inspired me and drove me to pursue her...my heart is hers.
If you've read my book Asylum, you know I'm not a big fan of doctors. I know a few personally, and they are awesome people, but in general, I've not had the best of luck with them. Let me share a couple examples...
After I had my second child, I went to a doctor to see about losing weight. He labeled me morbidly obese and said he couldn't do much for me, but I was on the path to having a heart attack. "In fact, it would be easier for me to treat you if you had one," he had the nerve to say.
When I asked another doctor about losing weight, thinking I'd probably be recommended for bariatric surgery, she said, "Weight Watchers is a great program. You should join that."
I was in a tailspin of eating my feelings for way too many years. I hid behind depression, fear, anger...and comforted myself with cheesecake, pizza, and ice cream.
But there's been a major change.
After my last onstage performance, I was inspired. Inspired by the way I felt after seeing myself on camera. Inspired by the hope of the next production. Inspired to get healthy for myself and for my kids.
I changed my diet. I started eating single-ingredient foods--vegetables, fruit, meat. I stayed away from sugar and carbs (knowing fruit and veggies have healthy carbs). I drink only water. I forced myself to get up and start walking. Instead of sitting and watching a Netflix show, I pulled it up on my tablet and rode our stationary recumbent bike.
As of today, I am down 51 pounds! And that's not the end of it. I've discovered a lifestyle change. I like the way I am eating. I feel good. My brain fog is gone. Depression is gone. I can deal with and work through the feelings that come my way. I no longer have to take my daily prescription for heartburn. I like the way I am exercising. I feel strong. Energetic. Ready to take on the world. I finally like myself, and I haven't felt that way in a very long time.
I've done this without doctors, without Weight Watchers, without a gym membership. This has been a partnership with God Who's given me the strength and courage and will to keep going. Looking back, the journey hasn't been that difficult. I wish I had done it sooner. But the timing is right. And I'm grateful.
I'm proud to announce Book 2 of my Star Sailors series is now available!
This is the story that actually inspired the entire series, and it's one of my favorites! Commodore Jameson Kendrick falls in love and gets into a heap of trouble. Isn't it wonderful when characters do that?
Here's the official description:
Now commodore of the Kendrick Brothers Star Lines fleet, Jameson Kendrick eagerly anticipates the maiden voyage of the newly remodeled flagship Corona. But the expected arrival of the ship's headline musical act leads to unexpected chaos.
While Jameson attempts to stick to his shipboard duties and resist the charms of the young woman who is slated to entertain his passengers, he is caught up in a web of galactic politics, including a plot to kill her. Who knew she was at the center of a secret that could threaten the entire galaxy? Solving the mystery and helping her could jeopardize his star lines, but Jameson is compelled to do the right thing…
Get your copy today on Amazon! Click here for more.
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3