Friday, December 20, 2013

Advice We Can Use

Yesterday I received the news that an editor was interested in a story I'd sent in but that it lacked character motivation.  To any authors out there reading this, you know how exciting this is! To NOT receive a form letter of rejection and be told exactly what is the missing link between being published and slipping from a slush pile and into the trash is a huge gift.  Advice that makes sense from someone who could be my next editor is like winning a mini-lottery. YEY!

Advice is one of those funny creatures in life.  It most often comes without being asked for, is seldom recognized as a gift, and is fully contaminated by the viewpoint of the giver.  But when it works, it can be manna from heaven.

The unsolicited kind can bring out our inner dragon.  To be told what to do and how to do it when we never asked to be told can relinquish uncontrollable scary monsters with in us.  The type of monsters that spit out fires of retorts, sarcasms, and childish temper tantrums.  It can take all of the mustering with in to pull together our adult responses and either thank the advice giver, or politely state that the advice was not requested, thank you anyway.

The other side of the advice coin is that it could come at a time that it is needed in the recipient's life.  There's that saying about when the student is ready, the master will appear.  And I am assuming the master will be dishing out unasked for advice.  A master will know how to flavor the advice so that it will appeal to the needy student and cause him to relish what he receives.

Comedies often portray mothers as the givers of unwanted advice.  Perhaps because most of us feel tied to the outcome of our child. When our kid does something wrong, we can feel like it is a reflection of our parenting--that we will look bad.  So if mom can control what the offspring are up to, we look like the mom of the year.

I try to stay away from tying my self-worth to what my kids accomplish, but I too have back slipped into force feeding advice more than once in my career as a mother.  I don't worry too much about my fault comings, though.  My teens are always the first to point them out to me, so I never have to wonder.  But I do have to be able to listen to them and acknowledge when I have crossed the line.

In regards to the editor's advice, I grabbed it like a relay baton.  Yesterday was spent developing character motivation for Piper in the children's picture book called, What Piper Peppertree Discovered.  Let us pray to the gods/goddesses of the world of publishing that soon you can read this book and give me some advice as to whether or not I accomplished the goal of clear motivation for why Piper does what she does.

Until then, I have plenty of other books you can read to let me know what works and what is a dismal failure. Just be gentle with me. As with all writers, I am a beginner.

Heather Leigh

Monday, December 16, 2013

Meditating On My Cats

In my author profiles, I always give credit to my cats for their muse abilities.  To be sure that I am using this word correctly, I just looked it up in that big honker of a book on my shelf called the dictionary.  Here is what Webster says about muse: 1.  to think or meditate in silence. 2. to say or think meditatively.

While I always thought of a muse as someone who gives inspiration, this true definition is actually more fitting than I had realized.  When I am getting too much into a story, one of the cats will sense that it is time for me to spend a moment in this world--not the world on the computer monitor.  And I need to be in this world not just in thought, but physically as well. In other words, I need to pet them.

Yes, I do have the pronouns of the last sentence in the correct place. Cats have little need for us human beings. It is us who need to feel their fur and appreciate the softness of earth.  We must take breaks, reset our brains, and be present to each moment.  Makes for more efficient writing.

In recognition of my writing about Girl, our fat black cat, she just opened a bottom cupboard she had been sleeping in to kick out a jar.  The cupboard is generally kept empty for her as this is a cat house and her desires rule over our need for jar space.  She knows she is being written about.

So when it is my time for reconnection with the real world, either Girl or Playful will saunter up beside me and MEOW at the appropriate noise level to get my attention. If I am not fast enough, the noise will get higher.  They are thorough in their jobs and will not stop their cries until they feel my hand rubbing down their backs and stroking their chins.  Those animals are exceptional at their jobs.

Next, our Australian Shepherd, Sydney, will follow his companions and offer her head for scratching. And while I will include her in the attention, her motive is not to serve as muse. It is to get petted. Same outcome, different motives.

People suggest to me the idea of setting a timer to be sure and take breaks at regular intervals.  These are the people who do not have a companion cat.  In my sincere pity at their lack, I thank them for their advice. I don't wish to brag that cats make much more personal and loving interruption getters than a mechanical timer.  Oh, those poor souls.

Perhaps there should be a cat muse rental service geared toward writers.  Those of us who work alone at home, typing away the day, should be an easy sale.  Feel free to create this business idea of mine into a money maker. Just let me know how the cats do.

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Month As A Novel Prisoner

I read a cartoon once in which a husband was consoling his crying wife.  He said, "Honey, I know you really wanted to win that Pulitzer Prize in literature, but I think you need to write the book first."

The National November Writer Month, NaNoWriMo, pushed me over the edge last month and forced me to write the sequel to my young adult novel, Red Nectar.  The goal was to write a complete novel, 50,000 words, in November. Thank you to every person involved in that glorious company!!!

There were no excuses for me to make each evening as to why the book had not been worked on for days at a time.  I could not say that the kids needed me to make elaborate dinners, that the baseboards needed cleaning, or the dog needed a third walk for the day.  Could not even say the cats needed to be pet for another half an hour.

There was only word count to fulfill every single last day of that entire month. It was relentless. Write, write, write.  Do not move my rear end from the seat or allow a moment of fingertips from straying away from the keyboard.  Eat? That could be done between chapters for three minutes at a time. And who needs to shower when you don't go outside and sweat?  My arms may have been frozen in place for unnaturally extended time periods, but letters were forming on the screen.

Every night came the ritual of updating the new word count onto the NaNoWriMo.  There was no hiding from the mockery that came when I had once again not met my self-imposed daily goal. The graph shouted out how far below the line I was in being able to finish on time.  By the last two days of November, I would have needed to write 4,000 words a day to be a victor.

But yesterday, I did finish.  Because I was able to get so close at the end of the month, the motivation was high for me to stay within the depths of writer's purgatory and complete a rough draft of Black Licorice, second part of the trilogy of books about Emily, telepathic teen living in a world that will torture and even kill those with her abilities.

Yey! I did it!

And not only did I succeed, I learned a new way to write that I will continue.  In simply writing the first draft without editing what I did the night before, I remained a part of the story. There was no stopping to think of what would happen next.   I did not worry, fret, or grovel at the mountain of mistakes a rough is prone to.  I just wrote.

Now I can go back and have a book to edit and revise and make super pretty.  There are only improvements to make on an imperfect structure.  Do you get the way this frees me up?!  The structure is already there!!!

Bless you demanding, whip carrying, sadists from NaNoWriMo. You are beautiful creatures in deed.

Heather Leigh

Sunday, December 8, 2013

November Novel

There has been only one posting on my blog in the past month, kids have been virtually ignored, laundry stacks up daily, and (organic) Mac and Cheese has been the food of the month.  Must be National Write a Novel in A Month month!  It's this crazy, insane, stupid thing that writers have been doing for years with a national organization dedicated to helping us writers get on our butts and complete a 50,000 word manuscript in the month of November.  And it works!

Every day in November, I wrote when ever I could snatch a moment at the computer and type away at the sequel to 'Red Nectar'.  It was a new approach for me. The goal was not to get out a great story, but to get the story out. In so doing, I did not re-read what I had written the day before, but rather continued where I had left off.  This kept me in the story, with Emily (the protagonist) and her friends following along with them on their daily activities.  I did little self-correcting but a lot of immersion therapy.  With the result that I got to 42,000 words and an almost complete rough draft of a story that I wasn't finding the time for with all the day-to-day stuff that fills the minutes of a mother's time purse.

After learning this new mode of relating to a story, it is one that I recommend and will keep for myself. I can hardly wait to finish and then re-read what crazy sentences I concocted in my writing stupor for the month.  The best result will be a story that needs little correction, has some inspiring moments, and will not embarrass me as a writer.  I suppose that is the desperate plea of every writer--to not be in utter self-humiliation when reading what I have written the night before.  Kind of like waking up to a one night stand after a night of unremembered drunkenness and hoping the person in bed with you is not a clown, serial killer, or a life time stalker.  We can only hope for the best.

Thank you to the folks at NaNoWriMo for the motivation for us authors to make our manuscripts happen. For being one of the brave few who will look a writer in the eye and tell him/her to get to work and write that story.  It is a courageous endeavor that few would take--writers can get moody, volatile, hostile and full of excuses when it comes to completing what we've been thinking of writing for years.  I appreciate your work, NaNoWriMo.

After this posting, I will be back to finishing up the sequel--probably called 'Black Licorice'.  And although the drive is ever present to get it done and over with, I will take more breathers and remember that I have children, laundry, and three blogs that love me, too.

Any writer out there reading this, get ready for November 2014.  We can do the next one together!

Heather Leigh 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Better With Practice

Last week I finished the latest Jodi Piccoult novel, The Story Teller.  What an amazing book on so many levels. There were several main characters who each had their story to tell, with each story relating to the other characters. The details must have been thoroughly researched, each character had their own voice when they spoke, the settings were clear, and I stayed up late many nights because I had to find out what happened next.

Having read several of her novels, this was by far my favorite.  What made it so great is that her writing  was incredible. Each of her books has been fantastic, but the level of her writing ability has improved with each book. I don't say this with the audacity to believe that I am yet at her level of expertise, but with an appreciation that, like her, the more I write, the better I will become.

Oh, and that is good to know!

My first young adult novel, Red Nectar, was the  best that I could write when I wrote it. Now, a year and a half after starting that one, I am half way through with its sequel, Black Licorice. And my writing is much better! That is exciting and motivating for me!  I don't have to look at better authors and think that I will never be that good, I can know that I am moving toward being that good. Yey!

Every profession, art, and talent must be like this.  There is a local independent rock station in San Diego that plays 'The Bottom Top Forty' songs every morning. Because, as they say, every band had to start somewhere.  My dad used to watch The Rolling Stones play for free in Golden Gate park in San Francisco decades ago.  Yes, free.  They aren't doing that any more.

So it is a lovely, motivating thought to keep in mind that in doing what you enjoy, you will also be getting better at it.

Disclaimer: there are exceptions. I've never learned to whistle no matter how hard I've tried and you don't ever want to hear me sing, and I practice karaoke loudly in my car every day. So this getting better thing doesn't always work.

 Following authors on their career paths and observing their upward growth helps me to accept that I am also getting better.  Someday, I may even write something half as good as Charlotte's Web.

Write better daily,
Heather Leigh

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Insanity Keeps Us Sane

For my twenty-first birthday, my friends and I rented a limousine and went bar hopping. I’d tell you about the night but do to extenuating circumstances, i.e. alcohol, I don’t remember much beyond dancing on some tables.  

On the twenty-fifth birthday, we went bungee cord jumping off a hot air balloon. This I do remember as alcohol would not have mixed well here. The crowd below counted down and I leaped off at the shout of “one”!  The ground rushed in quickly and the bungee cord pulled me away.  In between time gravity was lost and I was in unbounded joy.

Skydiving, while attached to an instructor, hit me in for my thirties.  Trust me, there is a good reason for jumping out of a perfectly good airplane—it’s fun!!!  I had the best instructor who followed my silly wishes to spin and spin and spin.  There is nothing else like it on earth; the world below looks like a dollhouse and you get to play all the way down.

Somewhere in my thirties, I rappelled off of a three hundred foot cliff in the jungle beside a waterfall. The guide showed me the thick rope secured to a huge, well-rooted tree in reassurance of my safety. He said that most people were terrified of the drop over the edge. That never affected me, but once over the edge, I was terrified of the thought of slipping and hitting that cliff. At the same time, I was in a state of awe and bliss. Why the combinations of feelings, I don’t know, but I am so thankful I did it.

Forty, I was in the air again on a paraglider attached to an instructor. And again, I was blessed with a crazy instructor who adhered to my request to spin, spin, spin.  We sailed over the beach--almost close enough to feel its spray.  On one side was that ocean that never quits in its beauty of blue, and on the other were multi-million dollar homes to peek at how the other side lives. When we landed, I hugged the instructor and brought in another decade of joy.

Last weekend, my friends took me to a Drag Queen show to celebrate. Men in bling bling costumes flung out crude jokes, wore fabulous dresses and held hairstyles a foot high. The other birthday celebrators and I led the conga line up to the stage for dancing and revelry. Oh, what a night!

Sometimes we all need to break out of our comfort zone and do something crazy.  Sheer fun with friends keeps us sane in a world filled with stress and anxiety. I highly recommend doing something crazy as a natural stress reliever at least once a decade.


Heather Leigh
P.S. DO NOT tell my grandmother anything dangerous that I have done. After the bungee cord episode that I showed her a video of, she kindly requested that I keep my dangerous antics to myself. Thank you!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Publishing A New Book Just Feels So Good!

Publishing a new book will never give me the same high as having children, but it is way up there with feeling good.  The initial idea to the moment of publication is like a pregnancy of growing bliss, wonder, and fear.  Ideas can shake me alive in a night of sleep, splash coldly at me in the shower, or jerk me out of the mundane experience of traffic.  When ever or where ever they come from, ideas are a welcome kid in my brain.

From the idea springs the outline, journal notes, and blank new document on the computer screen. Touching the keyboard and setting up what will be happening is like writing out your best day and what you want from it--could be a trip to Disneyland or the moon, it is all up to me. With the wondrous computer, I can write, delete, cut, copy and paste my story into whatever I please. This is my story, and I'll do what I want.

Having finished an outline, I know where I will be traveling. Of course, I can always head my car in a new direction.  An outline serves me as a guide, but I will always be the commander--that's something I don't get to be with my teenagers. My journey of a thousand miles has been prepped: shoes are on, lunch is packed, water bottle filled and the keyboard is at the ready.  Story has commenced.

I will write a rough draft, read, leave it for a day, re-read, re-vise re-vise and re-vise, ask for critiques and re-vise again. Once it is ready, I feel the birthing pangs hitting.  If there is no fear in my tummy that this may be the best or worst thing ever written, then I have not done it right.  There is no done as an author, only the need to feel done because re-vising again draws the bile to my mouth.  So rather than vomit fear, I publish.

What fun and horror it is to be a writer.

Yesterday I launched my first non-fiction eBook for Kindle.  It is a how-to for massage therapists wanting to break into the world of working in a luxury spa--something I did for close to ten years.  I hope to help therapists, pros and newbies, get into the field that I loved and served me well.  Being in a profession that helps people feel good is insanely wonderful.  Being I writer, I get to reach more people and hope to entertain in a different way, but the role of the therapist was a good one for me.

Now I will watch as my newly launched book goes forth into the world like the boys on their first day of school.  Being the successful young men they now are, I can only hope my books do as well as they have.

Oh, the possibilities of where this book will go!

Heather Leigh

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dragging Birthday

Last Friday evening, my core group of friends took me out to see a Drag Queen show for my birthday. Yes, it was crazy fun.  All of us celebrating our birthdays were led via conga line to the stage for some dancing.  Sometimes we all need to shed our 'roles'--Mom, Sister, friend, children's book author, and  dog walker--and experience a night of bliss outside the box. Yelling and hollering along with the joy seeking revelers as men in bling bling costumes sang and danced and made us laugh is by far one of the best ways to celebrate turning forty-five that I can think of.

Looking back on the wild night, what really strikes me is the love, support and joy that I get from my friends. Can there be a greater better birthday gift? There were five of us and we make a group, but the unique personality of each needs to be appreciated to really capture the significance of how blessed I am.

In talking with one of these friends a few days ago about the significance of a loved one, I said that for me it is their physical body; the way they hold and express themselves, move, and laugh. She thinks of things that they have done together, events shared.  One of our friends was missing from the group due to a retreat she is on, and her presence was with us.  But that is not the same thing.

As I think of each friend at the Show, and the one at the retreat, I see a part of me in them.  Friends are like a refracted version of ourselves; like looking through five windows at how your life could have been if you had been born at a different time, location, and through different parents. At the same time, I know that I would still have a personality that, like a snowflake, would be a modified version of who they are.  The variance of the individual is as amazing as my friends.

But the most amazing thing is that I am blessed with some really good friends, ones who take me out for an evening with men dressed as women.

Heather Leigh

Monday, October 7, 2013

OMG! Two Teens In One House!

Saturday was my son's birthday, the big thirteen, meaning that there are now two creatures in my house called teenage boys.  They hover over me at 6'1" and 5'8", eat enough to fill a small cow daily, and combined let me know that they are more knowledgeable on every subject in the Universe while I daily grow more slow and stupid. Their sweat is more potent than any being on earth, if I ask for something to be done twice in one day then I am a nag, and they have attitude that could stretch to China.

Oh, how I love them.

They are figuring out who they are, what girls are about, how much relationships can hurt and give joy, and how to drive a car (the oldest). Getting away from me to hang out with their friends is paramount to their happiness, but want to know when I will be home when I am fifteen minutes late. The fact that I may have ever, could ever, have possibly gone through similar feelings, emotions and experiences as a teenager is as elusive a thought as cleaning the bathroom toilet without being told.

Their relationship is love/hate. Hate when the other drank the last soda in the house and love when they collaborate to get me to buy something new. Oh, and when they play computer games together--nothing brings together a family like League of Legends.

Every stage of their lives, I step back and recognize the wonder of what they are going through. It's like watching reality television in my home. There are times when I get caught up in the drama, hurt by insensitive remarks, angry over chores not done, and exasperated with the attitude. As I get better with the parenting thing, my times of reacting to situations lessons and is filled instead with clarity of response.

The teen years are about passion, discovery, and breaking away from parents. They learn about the loyalty of good friends and how to be a friend. Life long memories are created, good and bad, that can only be experienced with such intensity when it is for the first time. There is nothing else like the teen years for the rest of our lives.

And I get to be a part of it. Albeit, from a distance, some times more, some times less, but always present--even if its just by cell phone or a ride home. They push me away but want to be certain that I am around to be pushed.

Every stage they've gone through, I've sworn that this is the best one. Emotionally, this is the most challenging for me; watching them go through hurts and not being allowed in to help.  But I thank everything there is to thank that I am a part of their wonderful lives.

Heather Leigh

Friday, October 4, 2013

Writing Perks

I'm learning how to write a how-to ebook for Kindle.  It will be a must have for massage therapists wanting to get in to the spa business, which was my career for almost a decade before dedicating my life to the joys of writing full time.

The teacher is unbelievably awesome. She seems to know everything about the subject and is constantly giving creative examples. Every class I feel like my brain is going to burst with all the stuffing I've tried to do to it.  And she remains perky and alert through the entire class. She was a NFL Cheerleader, so that attitude must be ingrained in her.

Although the class is too late in the evening for me to share her perkiness, I am excited with what we've been learning.  There is information on researching keywords, formatting the book, covers, marketing, and how to make everyone want to read what I have to say. Who wouldn't want to listen?

This is what I love about writing: no matter how much I learn, there is always some new genre or way to write to be explored.  The potential is boundless.  And not just new genres, but just plain being a better writer is a life time process. The more I learn and practice at this gig, the less I feel I know.  There is always more to learn. It's the kitten tail chase that never gets less cute.

Now you are on the edge of your seat with bated breath awaiting the release of this book (two cliches in one sentence--I am writing at my best tonight!). I know because an ex-NFL cheerleader is teaching me how to make you want to devour every work I put to print. Calm yourself, it will be about a month before it is ready on Kindle for only $2.99.  I'll send you a Save the Date for publication and we can celebrate its release together. Until then, go back to breathing and feel compensated in the fact that I will still be blogging and you can purchase one of my other extraordinary works of literary art--right now!

Keep reading,

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Classical, Writer Geek

Driving into the library parking lot yesterday with my car radio blaring out a Beethoven concert, I was hit with the realization that I am the epitome of geekness.  Not sure if it was the Classical music that my teenage boys do not allow me to play in their presence, or the fact that discovering a novel that I fall in love with makes me giddy, but I was hit with the self-realization that I will never be cool.  Never.

I just can't do it. In college, I attempted to blend in by wearing the popular dress code of college t-shirt, blue jean shorts, and flip flops.  The shirts were boring, jean shorts never felt comfortable, and flip flops hurt my toes.  Try as I might, blouses and skirts and summer dresses would always sneak into my closet and beg to be worn.  I don't even know how those clothes got there.

The most popular form of social entertainment, the television, has not been in my house for over a decade. After a few years, I learned to stop revealing this oddity as the reactions I received were severe.  Most strove to be thoughtful and offered me one of theirs, thinking that the only possible reason for my lack of TV was that I was too poor to afford one.  When I said it was a choice, that I preferred to read, they would look at me as if to say, 'Oh, okay, we'll just accept your lie and know that the reality is that you don't want to accept my charity.'  The best reaction that I ever got was from a friend who was shocked into asking what on earth I talked about with others.  People were trying to be helpful, but I decided to keep the non-TV choice to myself--a discussion to be avoided like politics and religion.

So let me keep my secret that I love to read over watch TV. Don't bring it up if we meet, it brings up so many bad memories.

The music issue is painful. While I love Rock n Roll, the lyrics pull me in and insist that I listen to them.  This may seem innocent enough, but then I am not open to dwelling on a story that I'm writing. There must be something wrong with my brain that I am at so challenged to think about one thing and listen to something else at the same time. Seems like every other car driver in America can do this but me.

Now I sound like the ultimate whiner, but in reality I embrace being a Geek.  There are more of us out there--we make up a significant number of a niche market.  Look for us on the fringes. We often lurk in libraries, dark shadowed coffee houses with a book in hand, and the far corners of used bookstores. We'll be the ones at the symphony who stay awake throughout the performance--and probably even know some of the pieces.

When you see one of us, please don't run away, or laugh at us. We have feelings too.  Just leave us to our music and books, and we will never bite you.

Best melodies,

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where the Ideas Are

As a writer, the most frequently asked question I receive is where do my ideas come from.  My answer surprises people and is easily dismissed as too kooky to deal with. I tell them my ideas come from meditation.

Being a meditator helps me to stay present. You have to be aware of what is going on right now in order to be open to fresh proposals that are floating, flouting and fidgeting for your attention this moment. 

Three types of meditation I do:

1.  Three-Breather
This is the easiest, least intimidating, and you don’t need a master yogi certificate.  Being able to breathe with awareness is the only requirement.  You can be driving in traffic, waiting in line at the DMV, or reading one of my fascinating blogs.  For three breaths:
·      Focus on the oxygen entering your body
·      Where it is going
·      How it feels
·      How your body is feeling

BAM! You have just meditated.  Do the three-breather whenever you think about it. Now you are a lifetime meditator.

2. Mantra Stick
In India, it is the common practice to give an elephant a stick for his trunk to hold when riding through a market place.  With a stick occupying his trunk, he can’t reach for all of the goodies for sale.  Please don’t ask me why the animal doesn’t drop the stick and pick out what he likes; I don’t know any elephants to present that questions to.

A mantra, or silent chant, is like the elephant stick but it is for your mind. When you are repeating a mantra, your mind is paying attention to the words you have given it. Just like that science thing about two objects not inhabiting the same place at the same time, your mind only thinks about one thing at a time.  Your thoughts may jump around as quickly as the Mexican Jumping Bean I ate when I was five, but it is still jumping on one thing at a time.

The mantra that you choose is personal, should be something you feel good about, and needs to be memorized. Mine is the Prayer of Saint Francis.  Others are:
·      ‘God is…I am’
·      The Lord’s Prayer
·      The Alcoholics Anonymous one about God giving strength

The bible has some great stuff to work with, as I’m sure the Koran and Torah do also.

Now find a comfortable, relaxing, quiet place to sit with your arms limp and feet on the ground, and close your eyes. Over time, these can be done anywhere—including punk rock mosh-pits—but starting out in a tranquil environment is the recommended method.  Silently repeat your mantra, repeat your mantra, watch your thoughts float away without judging them, and repeat your mantra.  Start this process at three minutes a day and then add time, and daily amount, as you feel ready.

3.  Stream Listening

A disciple asked the master monk how to meditate. The master said to sit under a nearby tree and listen for the sound of a stream that was on the other side of the hill.  The disciple did this and heard birds, chattering animals, breezes through the tree and children laughing in the background. With much concentration, he eventually heard the stream.  He listened for a long time and was content and joyful.  When he asked the monk what would have happened if he could not have heard the stream, the monk said that he would have told him to listen to that. 

So now you can probably guess where we are heading.  Going back to your comfy chair and relaxation position, close your eyes and listen.  What do you hear?  Is there a wind coming through the window that is flapping at your vertical blinds, children watching a silly movie in the living room, a neighbor parking in her driveway, the cat licking her long black fur, the dog panting from the heat?  That is what I am hearing.

As you are ready, bring your focus to your own sounds: your heartbeat, breath and body. You may not be able to hear this with your ears, but you can feel it and know the sounds are there.

Over time, you may feel a sensation of energy that radiates from your hands. When you get to this point, you will have achieved a PhD in Meditation.  Congratulations.

Three last minute tips:
1.    Be gentle on yourself
2.    Watch thoughts float away without judgement
3.    Keep a natural breath

Allow meditation to be a joyful, easy part of your life.  My belief is that it should be a requirement in the Universal desire for a peaceful world.  Focused, aware breathing keeps us alive to the creative world of ideas that are present at every moment. Now go meditate on that.

Heather Leigh

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friendly Plankton

Being back in San Diego has brought a fresh appreciation for warm weather but the epitome of the loveliness of this place was discovered last night when we went to La Jolla Shores to see the illuminating  water.  I don't know how often this takes place, but on occasion there are plankton close to shore that as they die in the water, they illuminate. From our perspective on the shore line, we see the crashing of the white water with a neon glow.  There is a gentle casting of aquamarine strewn in with the whiteness.

There was no moon, so the stars were especially abundant.  The combination of the glowing whitewater and starry night allowed for a more clear view of the occasional seagull, returning to his nesting ground.

As the air has been hot from Santa Ana winds, the water was so warm it could hardly be felt as we stood there getting wet up to our knees.

I was surrounded by friends, my boys, and their friends.  The boys skimmed boarded and even body surfed without being able to see their feet with out the sun to show them.

It was one of those nights in which conversation was not needed or desired.  One of those occasions that will be recalled with the phrase, 'remember that night we watched the illuminating waves?'.

While I loved many aspects of the Pacific Northwest and will miss the constant beauty, there are some really awesome things to be appreciated in my hometown: old friends, happy children, warm weather, and dying plankton giving light to warm waves.

I am thankful to have discovered a new thing in my old town.

Heather Leigh

Monday, August 26, 2013

Between Humor and Therapy

My parenting goal is to raise my boys to be somewhere between not having to see a therapist to get over their upbringing, and still have a sense of humor when they are adults.  It's a tricky combination that I sometimes fail at. Luckily, when I don't do the best that I am capable of, they are more than helpful in letting me know of my mistakes.  Teenagers are often thoughtful like that.

The no-therapist goal is a biggie.  How many people do you know that don't need a bit of tweaking to get past Mom or Dad issues? Especially when we are kids and parents are just learning how to do the parenting role.  Even parents hardened by the antics of previous children are challenged  as kiddos never come out the same.  My solution to keeping therapy-need at bay is to:

  • seek honesty
  • attempt compromise over control
  • listen to them and myself when I speak
  • be of service to them without creating a dependent cling-on
  • not be attached to how they turn out as human beings
  • get out of their way and let them explore life in a safe, supportive environment
  • guide only when needed
  • walk the line between minding my own business and knowing if they're doing something harmful  
With those goals in mind, I do my daily best to shuck off the uncivilized part of them so that society will accept them as functioning, productive citizens.  The uncivilized part has evolved over the years from not kicking each other in the face in public, to saying no to designer drugs and weapons of mass destruction. So far, we've each done a good job.

Having a sense of humor, well, that I am over joyed to report has been successful.  Both are funny--thank God/Goddess.  If they weren't:

  •  our dinners would be dull
  • their future happily married life would be over before it began
  • they would not be welcome at Family Reunions
  • High School would be depressing
  • jobs would not last beyond six months. 
While I'll never know if they are secretly seeing a psychiatrist once they leave home, I do know that humor will forever follow them like a pound dog puppy.

When one of the boys at eight years old asked that I not call ketchup and mustard 'condiment' as it sounded too much like condom, he laughed right along with us when we asked him to not make a mess when putting mayo on his hot dog.  In being open to a family joke at his expense, I knew right then that he was going to have a wonderful life.

If you have kids, I highly suggest that you keep an inner parenting goal.  You are welcome to adopt mine as long as you include the one I did not write about: love them no matter what.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tortillas and Traffic

On one outing today I drove ten miles to my son's soon-to-be high school, two miles to the pet store for dog food, down the street for a snack at In and Out, and stopped at two thrift stores in a quest for a new computer keyboard on the way home.  We came in long enough to take our dog, Sydney, out for a potty break, grab dance shoes, and quench thirst from a hot San Diego day.  Then we were off again for a five mile jaunt to the boy's ballroom dance class (believe it or not, they love this class! It's where the girls are.)

Since returning from a two-year escapade in a small town in northern California, it is remarkable how much the definition of a lot of driving has changed for me.  Up there, the ten minute drive to the town that held the only Target department store in the county was worthy of much bitching and moaning on my part. Now, in the spread out geography of million-plus citizenry of San Diego, a ten minute drive is laughable.  How did this town get so spread out?

Here's my ideal: Put every store that I frequent within walking distance of my home.  I go to Sprouts for organic veggies, Trader Joes for sea salt and caramel chocolates, Target for inexpensive pesto sauce, and Pancho Villa for freshly made tortillas, mexican cokes and pico de gallo.  Make the boy's schools across the street, along with the post office, library and an Olympic sized pool because I love to swim.  There must be a short cut for Sydney and I to get to a lovely walk along a river from which I cannot see any billboards or cars.  Throw in a bike ride distance to the beach, and I swear I will never complain again, or attempt to escape from city life with another move to the Pacific Northwest.

The real question here is why didn't the city planners of San Diego ask me where I wanted my favorite stores before they did the planning?  What is wrong with these people that they did not think of my needs and my daily desire for sea salt and caramel chocolates?

Actually, the real question is why does this big city have such lousy public transit?  It would take me over an hour to get to just one of the aforementioned stores if I were traveling via bus and/or trolley.  For such a fine city, why is it such a challenge to get anything done without using a ton of gas and hurting our skies?  Monorails, rapid public transit, anything that would lower our driving time seems like a smart thing to have in a large, sprawling city.  Life is often a puzzle to me.  Maybe someday I will understand the complexities of San Diego--it will probably be on the same day I figure out how to make my own home-made tortillas.

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wild Wave Women

Every Wednesday, throughout this summer, several friends and I  have been meeting at the beach.  Yes, we are that lucky to live in southern California and have weekly beach trips while the rest of the country goes to the monotony of a mall, a dinky lake, or a boring river.  Do I sound pompous and arrogant about where I live? I'll try to remain tactful and not rub it into any one's face that I get to lay in the warm sand, chat with friends, watch playful dolphins and muscular lifeguards, and refresh my legs in cool ocean water.  I won't say another word about living in a warm beautiful city that tourists come to from all over the world for a week at a time and I am here year round. Hmmm.

My friend, Chris, and I got pretty crazy today. For the second time this summer, we got our feet wet. The water was 70.5 degrees, so our bravery is extreme.  The other two moms were not feeling the same dare devil heart that Chris and I were experiencing.  They hung back in the safety of the dry warm towels and wished us luck as we ventured forth to the frothy salt water.  

While cascading toward the wide open sea, our feet took in the change from dry to moist to wet to anticipation to actually touching the water in good stride.  Our hearts pumped faster. A light shallow wave brushed over our toes. Chris was ready to return to the safety of our friends and dry towels but I, like a true friend, threw peer pressure her way and convinced her to stick it out.  She did and we inched forward.  Soon the coolness was lapping at our ankles, teasing our calves, and sneaking a blow at our knees. It was a wild moment.

After holding our sandy ground for at least three minutes, we marched back to our companions.  Triumphant and proud, we had challenged ourselves in the extreme sport of 'middle-aged mom getting her feet wet at the beach'.  I'm still feeling the pride.

There was a shirt I wore as a teen stating that 'if it's too loud--you're too old'.  I think I've crossed the point into the side of being too old.  My kids play their music too loud, the beach water is too cold, and sitting with friends beside a pool is more fun than swimming.  

The great thing is that I am happy sitting with my friends and doing the occasional water dipping.  Next week, however, will be my yearly full body swim day.  You may hear a scream of shock, fear, and joy coming from southern California.  Don't be alarmed--that will be me.

Because as they say, "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History"

Heather Leigh

Friday, August 9, 2013

Water Aerobics With John Steinbeck

Water Aerobics has been a weekly class held every Thursday, all summer long, and every Thursday we've been busy doing SOMETHING.  From buying cat food for my starving felines, to watching my kids surf with visiting cousins, to being in a temporary coma (i.e. I forgot), I missed the class. Oh, and then there was that one night when I was swimming laps in the other pool and also forgot about the water fitness class. Finally, last night, I went to the last class of the summer. It was soooo much fun!

Johnnie, the instructor, was one of the perkiest persons I have ever been around.  Ever see 'Parks and Rec' TV show? If you have, picture the role played by Rob Lowe with a snarky sense of humor--perfectly fit and perpetually happy.  He kept our heart rates on high while puncturing funny bones with jokes interwoven with demands for underwater triceps pulls.  In the middle of a sixty second egg beater leg burner, the exercise of choice in water polo, Johnnie yelled out the succulent ingredients of a carne asada burrito. He is lucky I don't eat meat or dairy as I may have been tempted to clobber him with my foam floaty weights. His intentions were actually honorable, he was not out to taunt us; after the egg beaters we had officially burnt enough calories to consume the normally forbidden calorie-cholesterol Mexican staple.  Perhaps two of them washed down with a pina colada

When he played Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show, I had glimpses of how cardio raisers would be in heaven.  I mean, music from the cult classic in a refreshing pool on a warm evening in southern California; sky so blue it seemed wrapped in neon, and palm trees waving their fronds in the distance.  I was working out, feeling the fat cells float away, gluteal muscles firming up, and having an evening as much fun as a personalized weekend writing retreat with author John Steinbeck (he'd be alive for the retreat, of course).

As revealed in the first paragraph, that was the last class of the summer season. The college to which the pool belongs will be back in session in two weeks.  Should I laugh or cry, I wonder? I was able to spend fifty minutes of aquatic bliss while working heart and muscles but could have been experiencing this all season.  In order to prevent my head from exploding or dive into a pool of despair, I am going to force myself to choose to appreciate the time I did get to spend in Johnnie's class.

Maybe I could hire a private investigator to find him and attend some of his other classes.  He must teach elsewhere.  Now that is the most reasonable outcome to the situation at hand: stalk the swim teacher.  Sometimes, just sometimes, my intellect astonishes even me.

Hope you have a day of joyful health and don't miss a whole summer of something that tightens abdomens through laughter and leg pull-ups.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Aussie Admirers Beware

Fellow dog lovers commonly compliment our Australian Shepherd, Sydney, on her beauty. She is one of those tri-colored mixes, black brown and white, with chocolate eyes that can lure visitors straight to her personalized box of biscuits (it's from Milk Bone and it has her picture on the front).

When she was a younger bitch, the beauty was needed as a way to keep her place in our home.  Most people are aware of the Aussie reputation for high doggie intelligence, but the consequences of this feature are not as prized with the owners as they are with outsiders.  She could take an avocado off the table, delicately peel it, lick out all traces of the yummy green insides, and have no idea how the pit and skin got on the floor when we got home.  After eating a box of pink candy once, she was baffled as to how we knew she had eaten it.  I suppose being canine color blind prevented her from witnessing the lovely pink her once white chest had become.

The best food trick she had was opening glass jars.  Having purchased a bag of those incredibly great tasting macadamia nuts, I foolishly thought they would be safe to store in a glass jar on the high kitchen counter. Wrong.  When I got home, the empty, open, unbroken jar was on the floor.  She opened it with her lady like teeth after safely retrieving it off the counter.

Speaking of glass, we once had a glass front door. Everyday when the mailman came, she would throw her self against it and bark with wild abandon until he went away. I suppose she thought she was doing a great job as the mailman never stayed long on our porch. Did you notice my choice of words in writing that we once had a glass front door? After months of being slammed against by our loving Sydney, the door finally broke free from it's daily harassment.  We weren't home but learned from neighbors that our snarling baby busted through the glass and was greeted by a shooting of pepper spray from the mailman.  That was the first of two write-ups, and three postal pepper sprays, the postal service sent us for our beauty. I think she is still on their list of three strikes and you're out.

When we got home that afternoon, we pulled up to a happy dog standing in the middle of a once unbroken glass door.  I don't know how she managed to not deliver a scratch to herself--not one drop of blood.

Oh, and getting loose.  Aussies do not do well when left alone. She broke out of three fences, each one reportedly too strong for a dog to get out of.  You know those metal kennels that no dog can break?  Well, Sydney proved that theory wrong, too.

All that being said, our once rambunctious challenging Sydney is now a ripe and lovely twelve. She takes breaks on long walks and thinks walking up the stairs is some kind of punishment we have concocted for her. Used to be that she would herd the other dogs at the dog park, now she watches all the silly youngsters while laying down.

Her greatest joy now is car rides, short walks on cool evenings, and licking the cats clean.  She still gives them baths that leave them sopping in dog saliva; the cats love it and will tap her mouth for more.

Once Sydney is gone, my dog days are over.  Somehow, over the years, that damned challenging dog crept into my heart and ruined me for ever being able to love another dog again. How does that happen?

Heather Leigh

Friday, August 2, 2013

Job Jokes

Today I woke to the happy e-mail that I am now a professional freelance writer for a local law firm. Yey! The articles that I will be creatively typing away at will persuade untold millions to gain representation from the firm that I am now supporting.  The job sounds creative and imaginative on my end.  After being given a subject, my end is to research, report and write an article.  The especially intriguing aspect is that I will be signing a disclosure stating that I will not tell ANYONE any details of a case.  So now the jokes can begin:

I could tell you what I am doing, but then I will not only have to kill you, I will also sue you.

Why was the blond author not fired for throwing away the W's at the M&M factory?  She had representation from her moonlight job as a writer at a local law firm.

Why did the blond author put lipstick on her forehead? She couldn't make up her mind. Luckily, her lawyer friends cleaned up the mess.

Okay, I'll stop killing you with the terrible jokes.  They are certainly crappier than the ones I told when working on my Economics thesis in school--the economic feasibility of sewage lagoons. Well, it was a shitty subject, but everybody poops.

Job jokes have been even worse in my life time. When we owned a Children's Resale Shop, there should have been a law made against people asking me how much children re-sale for.  If I had a quarter for every time I heard that one...

Hmmm, maybe the biggest laugh came from a friend when we were discussing royalties made from Hey Little Baby (she is not a writer). In discovering what I made, she pondered her financial situation for a moment and came back with this.

"I owe about that in credit card debt.  Maybe I could write a story this weekend, get it sold, then pay off my debt."

Perhaps only a fellow author will appreciate the ache that was worn in my side from not being able to laugh at her naivete.  I did not want to offend my friend.  If only it were that easy to get published by a major publisher!  I would be retired in, well, wherever I wanted that was tropical, gorgeous and served plenty of pina coladas by very good-looking tan waiters.

In reflecting on my life and the many careers I have chosen, I am gaining a deeper understanding as to my love of variety--it gives me a great source from which to draw some extremely stupid jokes.

Thank you for sharing in my joy.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Brutality of Ending A Good Book

I read somewhere that finishing a good book is akin to ending a relationship.  Story characters that we've come to care about are no longer luring us back to find out what has happened to them since the last time we've visited; revealed plots and subplots have released their clutches from our need-to-know; situations have been resolved and no longer need us to be sure everything checks out okay.  The whole relationship has died just as suddenly as the man in J.K. Rowlings' The Casual Vacancy.

Now I am left standing in a church yard with all of the people I was teased into feelings for.  Damn the whole five hundred and three pages of interwoven lives that gulped me alive for three weeks of late night readings. Damn it--its just not fair!

At least the characters in the book have one another to bump into between the covers tonight. I'll have no one with whom to commiserate as I relinquish into a night deprived of their fictional lives spread open for me to greedily read with out ever having been a part of their world.  How did my emotions sink so low from just a collection of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters?  What is it that made this novel slink into my heart, rip apart its red muscle, and cause me to plunge into a river of turmoil, just because I turned the final page? How did the author do this to me?

Reflecting on whether or not I am being overly dramatic, well, perhaps a bit.  But not by much.  After all, it was a good book.

Heather Leigh

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Imagine This

When my teenaged sons were three and six years old, they got into the best argument EVER! Second only to the huge weekly warfare over whether or not The Incredible Hulk is truly a superhero.

We did not have a television in our home (we still don't--I know, it's a crazy thing) and hadn't for over a year.

One morning, the three-year-old lay on the living room floor and said to me, "Look Mommy, I'm watching TV."

Cute as bug on a rug, he was on his tummy, head held by hands on his chin, playful grin, staring at a box that did not exist in our house.

His brother ran over, stood in front of him and yelled, "I'm blocking your TV! Now you can't watch it."

Younger face crinkled in sadness and anger, screaming, "Get away from my TV! I'm watching that!"

"Ha ha! No you're not! And now I'm going to unplug your TV!"

"NOOO!!! Don't unplug my TV!"

First-born reached over to imaginary cord, and slowly, deliberately unplugged it.

"I've unplugged your TV!"

Okay, now, how, as a parent, do I get after someone for unplugging a non-existent electrical device? Especially when I am caught between laughter, and awe at the intensity of a fight over nothingness.

Parenting is a Universe unto itself. I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would have to make the needful rule that putting a cardboard box on your head and running around the house is not allowed.  Who would have thought that needed to become an actual rule?  On numerous occasions, this practice broke furniture, glassware and gave some nasty head bumps.

The TV fight only occurred once, though, so a rule was never needed. I guess the intensity of blocking even a pretend TV view was just too much for either of them to endure more than once.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Great Today, Better Tomorrow

I have heard it said that what we appreciate in others, we are capable of doing ourselves. I sure hope so because I would love to come even close to writing at the level of J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy.  While we, referring to my children and myself, loved the plot driven Harry Potter series, this book is so much better!  In a radio interview, I recently heard her saying that the difference between the wizard series and this novel is that she had five years to complete this book--she was not driven by a desire to get out of her economic circumstances.

The first part of the book goes straight off into an unexpected death of Barry Fairbrother, a forty-four year old man living a good life with his wife and four teenagers. Each subsequent plot shows the life, personality, and reaction to someone who was connected to the man. I purposely used the word 'shows' above as there is nowhere in these chapters that we are told what the character is like; we learn as we go along. I love that! Further, each character personality is different and their reaction to the death is different.  As we go along, being carried from character to character, we learn what Barry was like--obviously we do not learn from the dead man himself.

Generally, I want to know right away what the problem of the story is.  However, because the writing is captivating, I don't mind waiting to find out.

As this blog is not written to be a critique of a novel, let's go back to the first sentence: what we appreciate in others, we are capable of doing ourselves.  Woo hoo! Now that is exciting news. That means that someday, with practice, learning, blood sweat and tears, I can write at the level that I am appreciating in J.K. Rowling.  Yes, I love good news like that.

I assume that being as good in the future as the marvelous writers of today, comes gradually and in bursts.  Attending a writer's conference, taking a class, partaking in a retreat--those will give more rapid writing headway.  Writing daily, going to writing critique groups, appreciating what I read from a writer's viewpoint--those will bring about improvement at a steady pace.  Fast and slow, both are necessary for my improvement.

Who do you admire? What can you do to work toward what they are now capable of doing? What are you doing to improve your life's passion?

Next time you see someone doing something that you think is awesome, remember that the only reason you are able to recognize that what they are doing is awesome, is because you hold this ability within you.  You hold within the greatness that you can appreciate in others.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Super Funky Groovalicious

Do you have something in your life that takes over your attention when you are engaged in doing it? For athletes, it's called being in the zone; when my son plays his video game called Minecraft, we say that he is in his cave; when I'm deep in a story and my children ask me a question, I will often answer twenty minutes later and have no idea that there has been more than a minute delay. There is no word or catchy phrase for what happens to me beyond  just being absorbed into the story.  Having something in your life that you are so in the zone with, that time and distractions disappear from your comprehension, is a wonderful possession to have.

Quick disclaimer: as with all brain distorting chemicals, moderation is necessary when delving into your zone.  Make your passion serve you and bring joy to your life, don't let it take over like a pushy in-law or a mountain of chocolate covered caramels with a touch of sea salt crystals.  My way to avoid writing without ignoring my children for so long that they starve, or I starve, is to set a timer.

Whatever it is that that we delve into takes us out of our routine and posts us onto a new realm.  This adds excitement and passion to our inner selves.Woo hoo! Don't we all need that sometimes? Even something as commonplace and simple as reading a good book can take us to that far away land of 'don't even try to bother me right now because I just can't hear you'.  Then, when we come back from the land of far, far away, we often feel refreshed and ready to jump back into our daily grind--but with a better attitude and more joy.

Getting out of ourselves to experience a rush of intense moments, brings us back to the nature of who we are--lovers of life!

What is the something that you have that gets your groove on? Is it caring for animals, playing peek-a-boo with your child, accounting, sipping a good hot cocoa on a rainy day with your best friend, laughing at stupid movies, writing?  The creative beauty of this world is that the possibilities are endless; as diversified as there are people on the planet.

I demand that today you partake in your out of this world enjoyment because I just did mine.

Heather Leigh

Friday, July 12, 2013

Writing Social Faux Pas

Today my teenaged son informed me that the use of the word 'lovely' in speech was never done. I made the grave mistake of using it to describe the swimming pool we had just swam in.  As a teen, he is bound by pride and tradition to inform me when I have committed a social faux pas and the use of rarely used words is one of them.

But in my head, I was rebelling. In my head, I was thinking that I have used the word lovely in writing numerous times. In fact, it is one of my favorite adjectives. As a writer, I am blessed with the ability to write seldom used, potentially social faux pas words. Ahhh, what a double blessing this writing gig is. Not only do I get to make up stories, but I'm also able to expand my use of the English language.  Mmm, life is good.

What other words can I type out publicly, for the whole wide world to read, that must be hidden within my vocal cords when in contact with others? Let's see, how about whimsical, gracious, nonsensical. Oh, and old school expressions: Holy Moly, Good Gracious, Holy Macaroni, and Hot Dog!  Then there are ways to describe good-looking men from Grandma's day: tall cool drink of water, cheesecake, cat's meow.  Ten cent words: misanthrope, austerity, clodpate and maunder. Have you ever told someone to take a short walk off a long pier?  Me neither, but I've seen it written.  Boy, the fun of writing the words that can't be spoken is a treat unto itself.

So now I'm wondering what other professions have hidden perks?  Things not allowed in public (especially with a teen nearby) that will get you banished from polite society, but are welcome in with your business constituents.

Oh, I just used the word constituents! Bet that is a word you seldom hear but have often read. The joy of writing will never cease.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Write Time

Getting the time to write is a cliche among writers that can be applied to anyone who has only 24 hours in their day to get things done. Oh, does that include everyone on planet earth? Well, then, this message is Universal.

This morning while doing my daily meditations, it came to me I need to see writing  and selling my books as a profession or a business.  I am partaking in a start-up business feels more solid, and true, and empowering than 'how do I make money while awaiting royalty checks?'. This subtle shift in my self thought shifted away mental obstacles, giving me a sense of clarity as to what I am doing and where my focus needs to be.

The result is that I was actually out of bed before 9 A.M. on a summer morning (wow!) and after feeding screaming cats and taking our dog out for morning rituals, I made a weekly schedule of which blogs I will adhere to each day. Also, a mental promise to spend X amount of time each day writing. My desk is now clear, the animals are appeased, e-mails have been sent, my sons are sleeping, and now I know what will be done today.

Thinking of successful businesses, most began with energetic seedlings of owners with a dream and a passion for what they were doing.  Many entrepreneurs kept inventory that crowded their homes, schedules that undermined sleep and family time, and a constant networking that was once called 'knocking on doors'.  Nowadays, a lot of the work is done via computer, for which I am thankful. I get to write and post blogs that are available world wide, and Face Book many friends at once to let them know when a new children's story is available or where a book signing will be held.  I am blessed to live in an age in which my dream and passion can be followed and still leave time for spending with my family and friends.

Does anyone reading this have a career that you want to follow that you are not presently in? Is there a way to shift your thoughts and actions to make you an owner of a start-up business rather than a dreamer? Then I challenge you to do it.

But at the same time, keep being a dreamer.  Dreaming is good, too.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Publicly Praising Publicists

Publicist: a person who publicizes, especially a press agent or public relations consultant. That's what it means and I've just hired one.

I hired her because she is better than I am at that scary vast expanse of eSpace known as social media, can handle her way around researching and submitting Red Nectar for review, and actually enjoys promoting. I love when two careers can coalesce into a win-win situation. It follows what I believe is one of the great things about America, and other free-market societies: people can follow what they love to do for a livelihood.  We can take our creativity, our passion, and our talents and turn it into a way to make money.

The other plus is that in my paying for her services, I am supporting her in doing what she wants to do. And because she is awesome at doing her thing, I am free to do mine--write! Supporting small businesses, especially at such an intimate level, feels like I've just sent a huge hug to the Universe. Supporting one another must be good Karma!

Finally, it's also easier to have someone else promote my work. I think Red Nectar is a great story, but to tell others with out sounding like a self-absorbed spoiled princess is a fine line to walk.

I am incredibly thankful for my new publicist, Amanda Branham.  This working relationship is exploding into something bigger than either of us could do separately.

Publicize away, Amanda!

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day Job

Aahh, the sweet warm month of June; beginning of beach sand and the lingering of late spring flowers. When school graduates are celebrating and fathers are being celebrated.  Relaxation is setting in. are the lowly writer awaiting advancement and royalty checks. Then, you are chained to the forces of the inevitable Day Job. What is it for you? Food server, office manager, guest services something or other? For me it's the best yet...parking cashier at the county fair.

Underneath the low, pervasive scent of car exhaust and the occasional diesel fumes, I can just make out wafts of kettle corn, funnel cakes, and the newest deep fried dish: cookie dough smothered in chocolate sauce.  Even the obnoxious boom of over ripe car stereos and the yells of those directing the never-ending traffic cannot drown out  sounds of children crying out from the bliss of the swing rides, or the terrified/excited screams of those brave souls bouncing from the huge bungee cords.  This is the epitome of American enjoyment.

The IQ requirement for the job is low: be able to exchange $10 for a ticket, tell people to have fun, wave them through. This is lovely for me as I have been able to look at this whole experience from a zen perspective.  Waiting for 30 minutes in your car to reach the fair entrance can be one of acceptance and contemplation, talking with friends/family in the car, wondering what ride to experience first. Or it can be frustration and anger--being ready to burst at the slightest provocation. It's all a choice.

As a cashier, I can observe how the clientele are choosing to handle this situation and decide that 'going with the flow' is probably the safest, most peaceful route to follow.  Actually, I am in awe at how many people get to my booth and are still in a good mood. Does this show a happy nation?

Come 2014, I will be too inundated with writing to even attempt a day job. But for now, it's not too bad of a gig.

This too shall pass.

Heather Leigh

Monday, June 3, 2013

Swimming Laps

When I swim, the pool floor is decorated by the sun.  It turns the ripples of water into thin rainbows, taking the shape of moving lines that resemble electrical currents.  The bottom is concrete white with small black square tiles that form into long rectangles, making it easy for me to follow the way to the other edge.

There are two different views at each end. I see them when I rise for air breaks. One is the medium brown stucco wall.  Spools of blue and white lane dividers are rolled neatly, ready for swim classes. The two circles that I search for are the clocks that let me know how long I've been swimming. As I have recently returned to this exercise, I congratulate myself each time I've not drowned for five minutes. This side also holds a lifeguard on their chair, vending machines with exercise defeating sugared soda and snacks, and bleachers for fans of whatever water events take place here.

The other side of my watery travels has a row of beige lounge chairs placed on the tan deck. Behind them is a thin strip of grass that stops along a tall black iron barred fence. This is the side I enjoy resting at as I can see palm trees poking their spiky heads up from the chaparral canyon.  palm trees are not indigenous to San Diego but they are abundant. I believe their beauty is magnified on sandy beaches when the wind tussles their fronds.

From college swim classes, the habit of doing a crawl, breast then back stroke has not left me. The first two I am led by the black tiled lines and can swim in a straight line. There is no constant guide for the back stroke, aside from bumping into the lane dividers; this I do a lot of. In the early afternoon, I only backstroke toward the palm trees so that I am not blinded by sun rays.

Swimming laps is a physical meditation.

Heather Leigh

Friday, May 31, 2013

Animal Connections

Not only do pets tend to look like their owners, I believe they share characteristics of personality.  Girl is a large boned (aka fat) black with orange and beige interwoven into her thick longish fur. She has a natural gift for laziness, napping, and finding the prime sleeping locations.  There is nothing unusual in our household to have a cupboard open and see a large ball of fur glide out in search of another, more fulfilling sleeping place. She is the personification (catification?) of my love of rest.

At ten years old, Playful continues to live up to her name. Waking me at four in the morning as she tackles a bookmark, small toy, or my foot gives her no greater joy. After ensuring that it is not a mouse she is chasing, as has occurred before, I marvel at her dedication to play no matter her age. When she was younger, we put bells on her collar in an effort to quit receiving the gifts of half alive song birds she brought home. That cat represents the reason I have so many facial laugh lines.

Australian Shepherd, Sydney, is the household Queen of Drama.  You should see her tell people how she never gets enough attention, and the way she looks ready to die when left alone.  But her disposition is of the extreme opposite when I reach for the dog leash. Just going outside to use the restroom is of the same level of bliss as visiting Hawaii for a month.

Her extreme nature is also found in the attention she pays to anyone getting too close to me.  She is the self-appointed guardian of the bathroom door. If one of my boys tries to knock at the door, she'll growl and send them away. I've tried for years to explain that they are not out to attack their mother, but she does not believe me.

The cats I can see as parts of my personality, but the dog, well, I don't know. Maybe it's the side of her that is naturally beautiful, even as she is aging. Everyone who meets her oohs and ahhs over her gorgeous fur, lovely face, and friendly disposition. Yes, that must be it. It's our inner beauty that we have in common.

Definitely not connected in the Queen of Drama syndrome.

Heather Leigh

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Blasts

Getting a book promoted--how is it done? As I have chosen the self-publishing route this time around for my young adult novel, Red Nectar, now I have the opportunity to learn about self-promoting.  First, of course, I told family and friends. The issue with this, however, is that none fall into the age category of the audience this book is written for: ten to twelve year olds.  That, and my circle of friends is limited and my family is small.  Even if every one I knew bought a copy, it wouldn't get onto the New York Times Best Sellers List--my ultimate goal (or maybe a movie--dreaming big is always a good thing!).

My Creative Writing teacher and friend, Dave Holper, suggested buying copies, giving them to every preteen I meet, and asking that it be passed on to others and reviewed on-line.  Okay, great suggestion number one is underway.  Last night I ordered ten copies and will order more when those are gone.

Next, my second cousin, Amanda Branham, has recently started an artwork promotion service. Now we're talking good stuff.  I'll be paying her an extremely reasonable amount to hit the social media waves with giant shocks of Red Nectar advertising.  I can write stories, and let someone else do the promoting and networking! As she loves the latter and I love the former, it's a win-win situation.  Don't you just love when that happens?

Lastly, I am begging, pleading, and beseeching at the top of my naturally quiet voice for The Universe to move mountains and get the word out there about what I think is a really darned good book.  Angels are allowed to advertise, aren't they?

Hey Little Baby went with the prized route of a major publisher, Simon and Schuster.  They got it reviewed in the big time writer's magazines and on-line, and got it selling in books stores and libraries.  Red Nectar is going to show its stuff through the non-traditional path (but becoming more popular) of self publishing. The other picture books, and one chapter book, I've written have been sent to smaller publishing houses.  And now I'm writing for a local magazine, which widens my resume and gets my name out there in the world of search engine optimization.  This is one of the things I love about writing: the diversity.  So the answer to my initial question about getting a book promoted is that, for me, each book will be promoted differently.  But that's today. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

If anyone out there has a suggestion that worked for them, feel free to share. Creativity can go farther when more than one person adds to the pot of ideas.

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Walking, Wading, Wafting

Walking along the north side of the dark olive river this morning, there was a bird sound that I'm not certain was authentic.  It was a blending of a hoot and whistle at a medium pitch.  But there would not be duck hunters along a river that runs between a mall and condominiums, so it was probably a bird.  At first, I searched for the bird, but then decided that I would rather not know what was making the sound.  It gave me a pleasurable sense of mystery to not know where the call came from.

Wading a few feet from the bank of the slow flowing river was a fisherman in a rubber suit.  His body was supported by an air filled round tube that kept his chest above the water and allowed for free movement of his arms.  I wondered what it would be like, to be in a tranquil place out of view of the city not fifty feet away.  Did his feet touch the ground? Did his outfit keep him warm? Was he there for the love of fishing or the desire to be immersed in natural settings?  I wonder how he stayed in one place without being tugged down stream toward the ocean only a few miles away.  Why does water seem thicker when I can't see the bottom then when it is shallow and clear?  It appears more like the consistency of a watery olive paste then the water that I drink. But it's water, so it must be the same.

Wafting every few feet were smells that only my dog was interested in pursuing. I remind myself that this walk is for her enjoyment as well as mine as she stops periodically to take in the odor left by dogs before her.  What would life be like at the sight level of a dog? How would it feel to be at the mercy of a leash and who decides to adopt you? What would life be like if everyone I met was my friend and needed to be greeted when we passed? What does it feel like to have a black fur coat on every moment of your life?

Back at home, the palm tree outside the window is straight but the fronds flow with the movement of the wind.  Another day to write.

Heather Leigh