Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Can I Stop?

Sydney, the Australian Shepherd who allowed us to take her home from the animal shelter a decade ago, was all a frolic and joyful when she saw me take out a plastic bag from under the kitchen sink. It's our little communication that it is time for a potty trip. Although she is taken out four times a day, it is still like a mini-doggie Disneyland excursion each time. She was hopping and full of glee, as only an old dog can muster, until the door was opened and she discovered the truly rare of San Diego...RAIN!

She looked back at me and kindly asked me to turn off that water. It was not her intention to wet her coat. That beautiful black, brown and white fur of which she is so proud does not smell nice when wet.

Well, I told her, I can't stop the rain. 

Humph! She answered, and made her way down the stairs with raindrops falling in her world.

So that got me to thinking about what else I can't do. I can't change the amount they put in 12 ounce cans, and I would like to be able to. What about all those times when I am at a 13 ounce thirst level? What am I supposed to do then? Bust into a whole 'nother soda and pour out the other 11 ounces? Talk about waste. I couldn't even mail it to some thirsty person because by the time they got it, it would be flat and lifeless.

I can't change the color of the sky when it rains. I mean, who picked gray? Gray is an indecisive color. It's always asking if it should be black or white and ends up being in-between. It's unsettling for everyone outside taking their dog for a potty run. When we look up, all we see is an ambiguous, non-color formed gray. 

And what about skunks? Aren't they like the cutest animal, ever? Watch one waddle on those four tiny legs, with the thick batch of fur, and the white racing stripes, and tell me you don't want one. If, that is, it weren't for their whole stink issue. Another thing I can't change.
(Someone out there is going to ramble on about skunk stink removal operations, but I'm not going to go around de-flowering skunks. They have their protective ego thing, and I have mine. Let's leave it at that.)

There has got to be one thing I can change with out missing up the grand scheme of things. Oh, I can go see the last of the Hobbit trilogies tonight and finally change my status of not knowing how they end the series. Well, that puts me back into control of my universe.

Thank you, oh heavens that be, for a smidgen of something I can stop.

Heather Leigh

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Physical Body and the After Life

Last night I received another fantastic, mind-blowing massage by Erin of Organic Energetix. And while relishing in the feel of stress and muscle pain relief, my mind formulated this question: If, when we die, we leave behind our bodies and drift around as a soul (in heaven or where ever we end up), do we get to partake in the sensations of massage?

If I am body-less, what compensation is there for massage, a good hair shampooing at the salon, or a sugar scrub from a pedicure? Hand holding? Ear whispering? My cats licking tuna oil from my fingers?
This is a (almost) G-rated blog, so I will just refer to the things we do towards making babies.

As the After Life is always (unless you go to a place that is hot, of which I will not discuss as per my personal beliefs) tooted as being so great, what are they dishing out in replace of the good body stuff?
With out a tongue, can I taste sea salt, chocolate covered caramels, fancy Italian Cabernet, or Uncle Jerry's home made apple pie? With out ears, how do I hear ( I know I'm a classical music loving geek) Vivaldi's Four Seasons, my boys telling me they love me, or my friend Heather laughing with me at that Improv show we went to last week?

And don't get me started about the things I'd miss seeing with no eyeballs. I can spend hours watching palm tree fronds swaying in the wind and seeking out dolphins past the breakers on the beach. How do I feel sunshine on my skin, with out skin?

All of these tough questions have put my old dog into a deep meditative sleep. She'll probably wake with the answers, but have no voice to tell me. And no opposable thumbs to use a pen and write it down.

If she is having that many problems trying to communicate her answers, how do I pursue my love of writing with no brain matter when I die?

So, as the After Life is supposed to be great and all, I want, at the very least, a brochure as to what they offer souls when we leave behind our bodies. Because we are giving up a lot of good stuff here.

If you don't believe in the After Life, I hope you at least appreciated the irony and humor that his blog was making a stab at.

Have a wonderful day appreciating what the world has to offer the physical human body you are in right now,

Heather Leigh
current owner of a 46 year old, healthy body

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Writer-loving Zombies

There is something wrong with me. Monday, December First, I spent ten hours completing the rough draft of 'Suicide Soda'. As some of you may know, I was a willing participant of the National November Writing Month (affectionately known as NaNovWriMo), and I wanted to get the book done, albeit a day late. The goal was clawing at me like a loving zombie with raccoon-like nails.

And now, rather than sit back and wait until November to write the next novel, that loving zombie is whispering into my ear ideas for my next series of young adult novels.

I'm an addict, aren't I? Where is that loving Intervention crew of friends and family to help me stop? Are they just going to stand by and let the Undead drool on my cheek with his fowl breath and rotten teeth? Is my team of supportive writing friends just a bunch of inebriated enablers?

And why didn't I wind up with a normal addiction, like Crack, or chardonnay, or chewing my hair? At least those wouldn't make me a social outcast. I mean, who wants to hang out with the writer? All we do is ask questions to get story ideas and ignore people when we're working. Boring.

I also want to share with you my story idea, but I have a superstition about talking about plots before I've written them: if I let go of the idea, it will drift away like a helium balloon and be captured by another writer, before I've even typed a word. And this also goes with why I HAVE to start writing it. If I don't start, someone in the world with telepathic abilities will read my mind and steal my fabulous story. In order for me to avoid this catastrophe, I HAVE to start writing NOW!

Did you have any idea writers were so crazy? Because, I think we all, at some level, have these ideas. I mean, it's not like we choose to write. It's more like the ideas come from that writer-loving Zombie and we are forced to type out the story to avoid being eaten by the Undead.

Okay, the zombie is now chewing on my ear, so I have to go write an outline. Eww, zombie spit is so gross.

Heather Leigh, friend of Zombies

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Life In Review

Just now, just a second ago, I sent the next Scout and Ellie, The Beauty Pageant in for review with CreateSpace. This means that once they give the big thumbs up, it will be available for Amazon purchase.

This brings me to thinking about other things in my life that are up for review.

How about my dog, Sydney. She is old, lazy, and still melts my heart with those big brown puppy eyes. In the nine years that she has lived with us, I wonder how many walks we have taken her on. Have I done my job with giving her enough pee spots to smell at the dog park, trimmed her rear end fur  sufficiently to avoid dingle berries, pulled every tick from her body after hiking in tall grasses? What about attention...I would say she gets loads, but she would probably disagree. You see, there are times when I pet the cats, and she is not okay with that. So, hmmm, verdict is out as to whether or not I have been a good enough provider for our Australian Shepherd.

Second review item would be my sons. They are teenagers, so they are half-way formed into adulthood. They both allow me to be seen with them, text me when they need something, and allow me in their rooms. These are all good signs--right? AND, neither have been arrested, only one broken bone each, and have never done hard drugs. All positive signs. I'll even go further than that. They are both intelligent, good-looking, and awesome. I am not just saying that because I'm their mother--it is actually true!

Guess now it's time to review my self. My kids are great, so my parenting skills must not suck. I have never forgotten to feed the animals, the cats sleep on my head at night, so they must like me, and I even clean up their poop. Scout and Ellie, The Beauty Pageant, is my 8th published book, so I'm following my bliss as a career choice. My family seems to like me--unless they are faking it to be polite. I even have friends who will hang out with me.

On the other hand, I have an addiction to chocolate--but what woman doesn't? I am the worst decorator and house cleaner in the United States: be sure to call ahead when coming to visit. I preach about the grossness of coca-cola, but secretly love those bottled cokes from Mexico. After every chapter I write, I sneak in a game of Mahjongg. I start listening to Christmas Carols in November and The Sound of Music is my favorite movie. Eating cheese gives me gas. I don't floss enough. I still believe some men have cooties. My weight info on my driver's license is not quite correct (but in the general ball park!). That divinity chocolate great-aunt Diane made every year because she thought it was was my favorite? Secretly hated it. I fell on my face and ripped my jeans the one time I tried to skateboard with my sons.

So, in review of my life thus far, I declare myself--fair-to-middlen. How about you? Can you stand up to the review of your life?

Heather Leigh
Author and mid-level on the life review scale

Monday, November 17, 2014

Story Character Anarchy

Story characters can be mean, heartless individuals with no respect for an outline. They have been known to put the no in no-respect. And I have been their latest victim. Here is the setting: I have been full of writer pride; pumped up with the fact that I actually finished the outline for Suicide Soda. Showing off to friends, patting my back, thanking the often elusive Goddess of Writer Outlines, I have been totally jacked up with a smooth, sleek, polished outline. Even my eight grade English teacher would have been amazed by it.

And then--WHAM-O!!! That adventure seeking character, Jack, suddenly decided he wanted to change everything. Ignoring the path set for him, he decides that he wants to liven things up. Add some vodka to the juice, some passion to the air. Did he even ask me if it was okay to change the outline? Even send me a memo of warning that an alteration might be on it's way?

NO. He just waltzed right in and messed up everything I had carefully lined up to happen. And I am now being treated like an outsider. I was there when he was created, for goodness sake. Don't I deserve some respect?

And who can I turn to for help? Is there a Writer Outline Crises line for me to call? A division of the police force that could arrest Jack for his crime? What about an intervention group for fictional characters who blow off their inventor.

So this leaves me stuck with an outline that has to be massaged, caressed and wooed back into life.

AND, I have to admit to my writer friends that I no longer have a completed, beautiful-beyond-compare outline. OH, the tragedy of it all.

When I started writing stories for fun, why didn't anyone warn me that this stuff can actually be difficult?

Heather Leigh,
Author of Stories and Victim of Characters

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nerd Writers Are People Too

Yes, I see that it has been three weeks since my last posting. Before you stab me with a pitchfork, call out the attack dogs, or send out flying monkeys to pick my up and drop me at the feet of the wicked witch, please hear my extremely valid excuse: this is National November Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo.com)

For those of you not in the 'know', this is a fine organization in which crazy, stupid, foolhardy writers with no soul or legitimate thought processes volunteer to write a novel in a month. I know what you are thinking. You already thought writers were a bit eccentric, a tiny glimpse of functioning madness, chaotic, disturbed human beings, and now you have proof. Yes, it is all true what you have always known. We are that kind of weird.

We have committed our selves to writing a fresh, new, from scratch novel--fifty thousand words in thirty days. In order to get this done, we give up house work, friendships, dog walking, and even nightly glasses of Cabernet in the name of the great and holy novel. We are that dedicated.

--Okay, I'll admit that giving up housework was not a rough thing for me. And, if you have ever seen my house before or during NaNoWriMo, you would probably not really notice any great change. But aside from that, the other things that are let go of are a hardship.

Okay, well, admittedly, I still walk the dog. Sydney does need the exercise and I crave fresh air. But the only social activity of which I have been a apart of, is attending Write-ins with my friend Karen. I hope it's cool to mention her name. She might not want to share the fact that she has also signed up to be a member of the collective lunatics.

Write-ins are the extreme in Nerd Sports. You may have glimpsed one at a restaurant or coffee shop. It would be a group of people, quietly hunched over laptops, immersed in their made-up world. It's how we bond. And gives us a place to focus, without ever feeling guilt about dirty dishes or friends we will not communicate with until December first.  We are a pathetic crew. If you are a witness to a Write-in, please pretend you don't see us--don't degrade yourself by being a party to our embarrassing behavior. Save yourself, and just walk away.

The only thing I ask of you non-writers, is that you hold a particle of understanding for your writer friends. Yes, you may be an enabler by not doing an intervention on us, but, we need this month. It may be the only way we can function in society for the other eleven months of the year. And it will take us until next November to re-write, revise, critique, polish, and hopefully publish our novel.

I don't know if the end justifies the means, but I hope that we can slide through this month and remain a part of society. Please hold on to us November novelists like the book mark that you treasure and know that we will return to the world--at least until the holidays when we can share a bottle of Cabernet.

Until then, have a wonderful life. You will hear from me again, I just can't promise when.

Heather Leigh
admitted addict of NaNoWriMo

Friday, October 24, 2014

Laughing Away Ego

So, the word ego is now being used as the stuff in us that is uncool, negative, and yucky. It is vanity, anger, blame, whining, and ignorance. My dog gets it as a disease when we come home to a house strewn with kitchen garbage about the floor--how it got there is the fault of the cats. Then she feigns guilt and shame. Ego is our defense in a crazy world; it is an attempt to keep us protected, safe and sane.

But the reality is that ego goes a bit too far in it's pursuit of happiness. It becomes a suit of armor that blocks us from a freedom of forward movement in our life. It needs to be tamed, comforted and laid to rest.

How do we tame our inner dragons of ego that are sucking away at our freedoms of joy and bliss, love and peace? The first step is recognition. Then responsibility for the actions that we chose.

And here is the part that I want to play in serving humanity. I want to help kids face, recognize and watch from a safe place the stupid silly forms that ego can come about in their lives. And here is the really fun part of my job, as I am choosing it:

I want to do this through laughter

Okay, so there you have in a nutshell analysis what I want to be when I grow up.

All of this big sophisticated talk brings me to my present project. The story is about a pre-teen girl with an ego flirtation with vanity. In order to make the flirtation in-your-face obvious, her actions and words get a bit extreme. What fun would there be if they were not? Kids reading it will recognize her ego, but not see the same within them selves. Well, not at the surface level. But at that super-duper deep level that only the truly brave (and/or stupid) ever visit, is our recognition of our own vanity ego.

So, to get more concrete and personal about what I am talking about, here is my example:
A few days ago, I was booking a train reservation for my son. I waited until the day before to buy the ticket on-line. My other son had told me that they sell-out, and that I should buy the ticket in advance. But I scoffed at such nonsense. Surely the ticket would be at the cheapest rate available for me, where and when I was ready to buy.

You know where this leads, don't you? You smart reader you. When I got on-line to buy it, there was one ticket left at the cheap price. As I was attempting to purchase it with my credit card, there was a problem with the system accepting my information. By the time everything was figured out, someone else had snaked their way in and bought that last cheap ticket. The only one left was at full price. 

But this could not be my fault!!! It was the fault of their system (ego of blame). This should not have happened to me (ego of vanity). How could I have to pay more on my budget (whining)? I called the Customer Service line and they would not reimburse me. I explained in a rude, loud voice that this was not my fault (not accepting responsibility). 

The Service Rep was calm and polite but would not budge in giving me a better price. So, I had to pay the extra because of that mean, old, scamming system out to get me.

I guess I will give myself recognition that it only took about an hour for me to figure out that the whole thing really was my fault. Had I bought the ticket last week, I would have saved $75. 

Looking back, I am finally ready to laugh at my self. My silly, crazy, blaming others, self; resorting to anger and reactivity. Laughter feels better than anger, any old day of the week.

And I want to teach this to children through stories: that an ego is a protection system gone completely haywire. It does not help them. But as an obvious message in a story blows the fun of reading it, please don't let your children know what they are learning when they read my words. It will just be our little secret.

OH, and never ever in a million ga-zillion years let the ego know what is going on in my books. That mean, nasty ego will keep your children far away from the stories, if it knows what is happening on the pages.

Are you ready to keep such a big secret to yourself? I'm trusting you. Be good.

Heather Leigh
Author of Laughter

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Addiction to Ry Ting

I met Ry Ting while doing my thesis in graduate school; a dragonfly brought us together. I was at the downtown library, researching sewage lagoon usage in Third World countries, when a dragonfly fluttered in and landed on my reed shaped pen. Too easily, my mind sucked in to imagining what life was like as one of the world's most incongruent insects. The miracle beauty of those translucent rainbow wings, pinched onto the body of a hugely mishappen fly. Where did it come from, what was its life like, where would it be going next, what was the story behind this creature?

And then from behind the story forming in my mind, I heard,

"I'm Ry Ting," he said, "and your life will never be the same again."

His eyes were so easy to look at, then. His smile--warm, inviting, welcoming. Even the mocha cream curls poised just above the eyebrows gave the hint of wanting to be touched and played with. He was so easy, then.

My pen dropped, I picked it up, and when I rose, we watched as the dragonfly bobbed it's way out of the library and into the heat of a summer day. I don't remember that any words were spoken between us, but we knew to go to a coffee house and muse the story of the dragonfly we shared. The thesis no longer held meaning in my life. Not when Ry Ting and I had a story to explore.

We laughed, we shared, we exposed our vulnerabilities. Between us, we knew nothing of how things were supposed to be. We just were. It was so easy, then.

Everyday after that, he showed up. Everywhere I turned there he was, begging my attention. The whirlwind, the passion, the satisfaction of being around him--it was all so perfect. Looking back, I can finally admit that I was part of the addiction. I, well, I was flattered.

And then, on some days, he was cold. Some days, I just couldn't even reach him. It was like I could see him, feel his warm breath against my shoulder, tickling against my ear, but he was estranged from me. Once, we were in the same coffee house, and he would not even look at me. He sat with another woman, toying with her hair, and looked at me, smirking all the while.

Angry! I grew so angry! I hurled my notebook at the ground and swore Ry Ting would never touch my mind again. He would never seep within my soul because the pain of his loss was too  deep for me to bare.

He just laughed, and sauntered away, the other woman held captive by his spell.

But when he showed his face the next day, I ignored all of the nasty words swirling in my head and grabbed him back to me.

Now, we are partners. Oh, yes, it is true that our relationship will never hold the ease of those first days. Seems the more entwined we are, the more difficult our connection. But I can't let go. I am hooked, cast under the allure of those first words of Ry Ting. Because he was right, my life will never be the same.

Heather Leigh

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wisdom to be Passed

Of all the stuff that I did not learn in high school, typing is not one of them. I suffered through the excruciating pain and endless monotony of pressing the same key repeatedly for half an hour at a time. Did I really go through that? This is back in the age of BK (aka before key board) (aka typewriter). And my mother, after a life time of leaving me alone to choose my own electives and classes through out the precious schooling years, insisted that I learn to type.

And, of course, after witnessing the struggle and agony of two-finger typists, I have to bow down and say, thank you, mother, you were right.

Which leads me to reflect on other wondrous opportunities of learning that have been plunged in my path.

My father's first driving lesson was the ability to steer with my knees. This is of vital importance so that I could hold my cigarette in one hand and coffee in other. Unfortunately, I don't partake in either activity. BUT, in the case that I decide to start smoking with my morning smoothie, I will be ready. Thanks Dad!

The boys taught me the reason that choosing sides when kids fight is never a winner. They were in the car at the do-it-yourself car wash. After scrubbing on abnormally pink, bubble soap and rinsing away the built up grunge, I entered the car to find the youngest, then four, howling in pain. The oldest, then seven, looked guilty, scared and quiet. Younger blubbered out that the older had punched him. Now what would you think? After comforting my poor baby, I gave the older a stern talking to with controlled anger. Then I asked him why he had punched his little brother (poor little guy--punched by the big bad bully brother).

"He kicked me in the face," said older.

Slowly turning to younger, I asked for confirmation. There was an abrupt stopping of tears and a very slow affirmative head nodding.

Okay, so that taught me the Pandora's box that is flung open when making an attempt to find out who started the sibling rivalry fight. Just like the Law of Gravity, there is a Law of Blame that goes with every act of brotherly violence: the original perpetrator is always someone else. Don't try to understand how this can be, just accept the science behind the Law.

So here I am now, with all of this accumulated knowledge that is just itching to be passed on. Thank the God of Blogs for providing this easy way to pass on what I know to be true. The wisdom must live on!

Oh, and thank you to that typing teacher. Just imagine what it must have been like to be a typing teacher before the age of freetypinggames.com. Bless you, oh Great and Patient One.

Heather Leigh

Monday, September 8, 2014

More Knowledge=Worse Writing

When I first started writing, I was really good. I knew just what to say to captivate and enthrall every reader on the planet. And then something damnable happened: I learned more about writing. I took classes, analyzed what I read, participated in critique groups. Eventually, the inevitable happened...the quality of my words dwindled down to muck.

It's the same with parenting. Before having kids, I was the best mother who ever walked the human powered earth. What did a parent need to tell their monsters to get them to quit bawling at the restaurant table next to ours? Just ask me, I could have told them. How do you get your kids from playing too many video games? Heather Leigh knew. I knew it all.

Until, that is, I had kids. Now I know a mosquito brain sized amount about raising them the right way. The lucky rainbow that made my kids the awesome way they are now, is that they were born that way. Only the bad habits they have picked up come straight from my motherly failings.

Like blurting out to my youngest that I would love to be in the room the first time he got drunk, just to see how he would act. Now that definitely was not supposed to be said. Before I had kids, I would never have told him that.

Back to writing. So, the first of my stories were stupendous! Instant charmers that were written in a week. Everything from obvious setting, to strong characters, to intriguing plot, to showing over telling--I had it all.

Until I did not.

Where did I go wrong? Should I have stayed in my own little 'awesome author' viewpoint cave and never ventured out? I mean, if I thought I was great, would not the whole world agree? Why was I not a NY Times Best Selling Author with the magic that was strewing out of my keyboard flying fingers? Surely, it was the fault of someone else that I was not recognized for the wit and imagination that was so wholly apparent to me.

Why was I so stupid? The more I learned about writing stories, the more I realized how little I know. Is that what a negative correlation is? (I remember that big, ten-cent phrase from some Economics class in college--using it shows how smart I am)

I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole: the ground beneath me has given away to a never-ending pit. The only way to ever claw out is through the  publication of quality, award winning children's literature. But if my words are becoming more droll by the moment, how will I ever fight my way back to civilization again?

Gazing out in desperation at the palm tree fronds that flow constantly from the San Diego sea breeze, I receive no answers. No downloading of the book that will push Heather Leigh into a household name. The only hope I have is that I could fall off a roof, get a concussion, and have to re-learn the English language. Oh, this is a good idea. I will make an appointment with a lawyer today to have my wishes notarized: that if I have to start my writing skills all over again, don't let me ever learn about how to write better. Then, I will always be a great writer.

Best idea, EVER!

Heather Leigh

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Day Like This

Now, I am probably the only one who has had a day like this, so I have to share my incredibly unique experience ( a creative writing teacher told me that we cannot have incredibly unique experiences--it's either unique or it is not. There is no adjective or adverb that applies to that word. So in my using the expression, you know this is truly a unique situation).

As a massage therapist, my job is physically demanding. And this is Labor Day weekend, as in it was REALLY busy. The massages I've done for the past week have become a blur in my mind of bodies and backs and sore muscles and trying to be friendly to all the clients when I am about ready to push them off the massage table and tell them it is my turn.

And so, when I got home this afternoon, I called my friend to cancel my appearance at her BBQ. My intention was to stay  home, relax, read, eat popcorn, and get to sleep early for another busy day tomorrow.  WEELLLL, as I sat on my couch, I realized that I could not relax with the living room looking so messy. So I put my things away.

Then I thought I would lie down for a bit and read, but saw that my sheets were covered in dog and cat fur. Leaving early this morning, I had forgotten to cover the bed with the spread. That translates to laundry time.

Then I remembered that my son had told me when I was at work that the toilet had overflowed. Another translation: clean bathroom floor, cat box in which toilet water and spilled into it, and get to use the new mop. Since I had all the cleaning tools out, might as well freshen up the other bathroom floor, right? Oh, and the kitchen floor as well. This process also included dumping out two cat boxes and cleaning them in the laundry room.

By now, I am really really hungry. But the kitchen is a mess. What does that translate to? You got it, clean the kitchen.

The consequences of this busy day is that my house is clean enough to tolerate, but not enough to pass any kind of inspection. But, yummy times, the kitchen can be used. This brings me great joy because now I get to cook my own dinner.

Good thing I skipped that BBQ where my friend would have cooked my meal for me and I could have sat in a chair, relaxed and met new people. Wow, I feel refreshed!

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Searing Bird Questions

Ever watched a pigeon walk? They jut their heads forward with each step. So, what I have always wondered is this: if a pigeon were to have a popsicle stick tied to its neck so that it could not move its head forward, would it be able to walk?

PLEASE NOTE: This is a question to ponder. Please, please, please do not go around tying popsicle sticks to the necks of the poor little pigeons. That would be mean, and bad, bad, bad karma.

Okay, next bird question. This one will be readily understood by those of us who frequent beaches with an abundance of seagulls. How do seagulls know which bags carry Cheetos and Doritos?--because those seem to be the chip of choice. Is it the bright orange packaging? Are they not color blind? Can they smell through plastic packaging?

And is there a school in which they teach their young how to unzip backpacks, open picnic baskets, and pry open boxes of cookies? Or is this a genetic skill?

Following this discussion: Why are tourists at the beach not given a class in how to seal their food properly, in order to avoid seagull rampages while they are playing in the water? I mean, for goodness sake, Locals, those tourists are spending their money in our town.

But who am I to talk. After years of running off seagulls from tourist food pillaging, I have lowered myself to sitting back and watching the show. It is amazing to see those birds in action; how quickly they can attack and devour entire meals in mere moments.

Well, I'm not that cruel. After a while, I will send my son over to scare them away.

And now we get to the raven. Are they not the Bad Boys of the neighborhood? The way they have that strut down with their puffed up chest and bad attitude walking. I'll bet all the girl birds have a secret 'thing' for the raven.

Why do doves of peace make me feel peaceful when I see them?

Are geese and attack dogs related?

Once I saw a crane eating a baby duckling. Does this mean cranes are cannibals?

Why is it that watching turkey vultures soaring in circles in a group, evoke a calm, peaceful feeling within, when we know very well what they are about to do?  As in, they are stalking an animal about to die, and then eat the dead carcass. Yuck!

Why are pelicans so funny looking? Did they mess with the God of Jokes and Laughter before they appeared on Earth? Is he getting them back with those huge, freaky throat/chin things? They must have done something really crazy to inherit that body part.

Thank you for any information you folks can provide on my questions. Feel free to reply on my facebook if you have any answers for me.

Heather Leigh

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Been There, Done That

A few nights ago, I shared a healthy meal of quinoa and curried lentils with my old friend, Joe, and my new friend, Virginia.
     --BTW, they are a 7 month new couple and I am tickled pink happy for them in their new happiness!--
As the three of us are writers, the evening naturally got a bit on the crazy side, cause you know how us writers get even more weird than usual when placed in the same room together. As a result of our three hour incarceration, a boastingly funny blog sprang out of our creative dinner conversation:

Things I Wish I Could Say, "Been there, done that," To:

1. Being in a shark cage. I didn't ask for clarification, but I am assuming that means that the sharks are outside of the cage and I am safe within. Guess I should have checked. Because with writers, maybe they wanted the full experience of being in a cage with the sharks. You know, for accurate literary description.  Hmmm.

2. Vegas. --How could a friend of mine, living only a few hours from Vegas, never have experienced the joy of a man-made, gambling mecca, that promotes decadence and greed? I mean, really.

3. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. Now, I have done this so I get to say 'been there'. Ha ha--I get to cross this off my To-Do in a life time list and you don't. Eat that, Virginia and Joe!

4. Open Mic. Okay, that scares me more than the time I went bungee jumping off the hot air balloon. Perhaps with a bit of Photoshop, I could fake my way through that one. I mean, what if people laugh at what I am putting out there? What if they don't laugh? Man, scary stuff.

5. Horseback riding in to Tibet and then getting your horse stolen. Unfortunately, even my lively brain could not have concocted that story. But it really  happened to Virginia. Wonder how you hitchhike out of a place that doesn't allow cars? Mystery I will have to solve before I steal away to my death bed.

6. Write New York Times Bestseller. Okay, not an original desire, but dang if we don't all share in that request.

7. Start revolution with Myanmar workers! Oh yes! Who is in with me on that one?! Not only could we overthrow the over-rich corrupt, meany pants, owners, we could hang out afterwards and have the best party EVER!

8. Break into the Louvre and steal a Monet. Any one know how to sell one on the black market?

9. Steal $27,013,540 from JP Morgan Chase and disperse the money by placing it into packages from the World Wide Relief Agency. Talk about a feel good, yummy day!

10. Get plastic surgery to impersonate a dictator and demand that all citizens dress and act like a Grimm fairy tale character. Who would you be? Oh, and start wearing a shoe on my head.

Next dinner together, we are going to spend the evening gossiping about movie stars and complaining about our jobs. You know, the usual.

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

10 Things I Would Rather Do

Someone very near and dear to me is getting medical treatment tomorrow. So as not to embarrass him, I won't reveal who he is. I will only say that he has known me since the day I was born and may have been a part of the how I got into this world.

And, so as not to further embarrass him, or reveal any touchy, back area issues, I will only say that the treatment involves a camera at the end of a wire/tube thing that goes up a private area in the butt region.

I amaze myself in my discretionary ways.

So, in tactful surrender to what he will be dealing with, here is the top 10 things we would rather be doing than get a colonoscopy:

10. Playing horseshoes in the desert with metal horseshoes, exposed hands, and no water.

9.  Lying in the sand, on a tropical island, under a palm tree, and having a coconut land on my head. (Don't laugh--this is actually more common than being attacked by a shark! Maybe we should start a coconut awareness group)

8.  Passing gas in front of the President at a presidential dinner after I won a literary award. Could happen.

7.  Being on a crowded passenger airplane, traveling around the world, with all bathrooms out of order. Oh, I can smell it now--oh, wait, that was my dog.

6.  Being cornered by a flock of geese with no way out, while holding the last bag of Twinkies left on the planet.

5.  Sleeping on a bed of nails with one of those crazy yogis.  I'm just not trained for that!

4.  Listening to an out of tune violin being played by a beginner, while laying on the bed of nails (see number five).

3.  Eating Lima beans, cooked carrots, bell peppers, and my son's gummy worms every day for six months--every meal.

2.  Sending a sensual love note to my partner but having it get sent to an ex-boyfriend by mistake--like one I most sincerely dislike, and who still likes me.

and the big one of all time at number one is:

1. Pretty much anything.

Love you Dad!
Oops, did I let that slip?

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crystal Clear Decision Maker

Wouldn't life be a whole lot more simple if we were each given an official crystal ball for high school graduation? One that:
       accurately portrayed what was going on anywhere in the world
       told us what magic was to come in our life
      answer any question--even ones google doesn't know
      tell us what to do to be happy
      show us how we would look with a new hair style
       give the best advice on what to do with our lives

I mean, why the heck don't we get one? What is up with this whole learn-as-you-go lifestyle we are leading? Who is in charge here? I demand to talk with the World Organizer who neglected something as simple as a life-defining crystal orb.

Hmmm, what would I ask my ball. Well, first thing would be what to have for dinner. After all of the meals that I have prepared for the years of having kids who eat on a daily basis (that is every day for umpteen years!), my new ideas are gone with the days of me being a size six. After that, I want a direct answer as to how to be a millionaire and I want that answer RIGHT NOW! No more waiting on that one.

What to do with the million dollars, I do not need the ball for. In my mind, it is already set on exactly what to do. The first thing being to book a cruise. The cruise would, of course, solve the dinner issue for a couple of weeks, as they provide meals.  Second would be to get a house and write and act like I've always been a millionaire.

But I would keep the ball around for such necessities as lottery numbers, clothing that makes me look like I still wear a size six, and how to achieve world peace in under a month. That should cover the main needs of my life.

Hmmm, and as an author, it would be fabulously wonderful to know which of my books will sale the most. Also, should I be writing more chapter books, children's picture books, or pre-teen novels. What is the best way to end my current story? Which character should die and who will be rescued? What is the most captivating, awe-inspiring start to my next creation? See, there are so many needs attached to a crystal ball.

Again, why don't we receive one with our diplomas? I spent 12 years in public schools and that is more than enough justification for being granted a personal fortune teller.

Well, I can say this for certain. My eldest son graduates next year. If things in this world are not organized enough for him to get a crystal ball with his diploma, someone is going to get a big talking to from me!

Heather Leigh

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ten Thankful Things

1. Having children has (almost) rid me of my ego. From the time they were wee little ones and would poke at the back of my legs and enthusiastically cry out, "Look Mom, you jiggle!", my boys did their best to ensure that I will never be vain. Love them boogers. Now that they are both teenagers, their combined eye rolls, sighs, and glares let me know that I am old, slightly stupid, incredibly slow, will never achieve any sort of wisdom within this life time, and laugh too loud at the movies. Thank the good lord for the gift of ego hacking children to protect me from all forms of self-centeredness.

2. Sydney, our Australian Shepherd, has helped me with redecorating, bathing the cats, and eating all of that pesky food that gets in the way of the kitchen counter. See, while I believe that the trash belongs under the sink in a bag, she knows that it looks WAY better spread across the dining room. Sydney, the darling, looks after the cats by licking them thoroughly everyday so that they are nice and clean. Although it is a bit gross to pet them when they are covered in dog spit, I know it must be keeping their coat extra shiny.  Finally, if left alone for too long, Sydney will do a bit of counter cleaning. It is so nice to come home and find any food that was left out (including opening glass jars with her teeth) is no longer something we need to worry about. Such a great dog we have.

3. Over the years, I have developed an intolerance to dairy products and wheat. And in this beautiful U.S. of A. there is almost no food that consists of cheese or bread. I mean, how often do you eat pizza? Almost never, huh? I mean, I like never miss Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Frozen Yogurt--a pint every Friday evening like I used to do. Or designer Kalamati Black Olive sourdough bread fresh from the bakery by our house.  Hmmm...never even think about it. Oh, and why is this on my thankful list? Because these food issues and my non-eating of them, has made me lose like a ton of weight. No seriously. I was getting a double chin and now I am back to high school pant size.

Okay, you caught me. I'm not exactly high school size, but really, pretty darned close.

4. After having lived in Central America, I am thankful for hot showers. No more needs to be added on that subject. Just think about going without for one second and you will know what I mean.

5. So, I believe that when I am in a bad mood, I attract people who are in a negative state. It's part of my spiritual beliefs, so just go with it for this one:
Thank you to the woman at the pool gym last week. While swimming my laps, she got into the lane I was sharing with another swimmer.  BIG NOTE: there were several lanes with only one person in them. Then she stood in front of my swimming path and proceeded to run in place. I had to stop swimming and stare her down for a good five seconds before she finally moved over. The bi**h.

So, a special thank you to her for letting me know that I was in a bad mood. I made sure I thought of a funny joke quickly to ensure that I was in a more positive state of being. Laughing under water was a bit difficult, though.

6. Thank you to my cats, Girl and Playful. They both know when to interrupt my writing time. Through their incessant meows/screams to be petted when they feel the need, I am never bogged down by pesky overwriting spells. It's like they both know when I am coming to a crucial moment in a story and don't want to forget anything my mind has latched onto. Because that is when they will inherently need attention. They are so good to me.  Keep my mind fresh and in the NOW.

7. Thank you for rainbows.

That's it. No really, I love those things.

8.  Thank you for the thousands of people who have read my blogs. If you are reading this now, consider yourself appreciated.

9. The Sound  Of Music is my all time favorite movie. If I don't watch it at least once a year, Julie Andrews will forget to pick up her nun hat in the opening scene. Remember? She almost leaves it behind, when she is caught up in the beauty of the mountains and bursts out in song and dance. I have to watch it to remind her. AND, I get to sing along with her and the Van Trapp kids and Christopher Plummer. I feel so useful and happy when I watch that movie.

10. Thank you to the thousands of people who have purchased my books. I mean, you guys really rock. What more can I add to that?

And the list goes on...

Thank you,
Heather Leigh

Friday, June 27, 2014

Remodeling My Vacation

Working at a luxury day spa, I am often privy to wealthy people's conversations. While most are happy, wonderful people, there are those who, well, like to complain. And the two most common complaints I hear are about their home remodeling job, and how this year's tropical vacation was NOT as good as last years.

Well, I can sympathize.

First off, when I do my own remodeling job at home, such as put a chair back in the dining room or replace a broken piece of tile, the job is just not that great. The chair either tiptoes back to its original place in the middle of the room, or the tile is cross-eyed backwards (don't ask me to explain what this means--you get the gist of it). Or, last year when I tried to paint over the rust in the bathroom sink, the white color didn't match anything the human eye has ever seen. And forget about the new futon in the living room. The cats have taken it over and won't share a single paw space.

And don't get me started on that last stay-cation.  Can you believe I had to park two blocks away from the beach and walk! Where is the free valet beach service in San Diego? Where are my tax dollars going? Then at the dog park when Sydney pooped on the grass, the people there looked at me like I was supposed to pick up her mess. What is this country coming to when I have to take responsibility for my own dog? Please, people, please.

Okay, and can we talk about house cleaning? Years ago, I sent my maid on vacation to Hawaii and she never came back. There is just no respect for employers anymore. But don't worry, when she comes back she will learn her lesson. I have not dusted or cleaned a single window since she left. I am letting the gunk build up for her to clean. That will teach her!

I have to leave now to get my son. While I'm gone, Sydney has agreed to clean things up a bit here. It's only fair after that dog park incident.  She said she is going to rearrange the trash onto the kitchen floor and put my bedspread into a new format. At least I can count on my dog to help me on remodeling and decorating. Now maybe the cats will start licking the walls clean like they do their fur. Oh, what a beautiful home we shall have!

Heather Leigh

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ego Bashing the Therapist

Today I am happy to report that I had my judgemental ego handed to me on a plate with a side of relish.  As somebody reading this may already know, my day job is Massage Therapist, working at a fancy day spa. In case there are those among you who have never fallen into the blissful trappings of a day spa, I will give a brief run-down of how things are done.

When you make an appointment for a massage, the time given is carved in stone. If you show up late, it is your time that is grabbed away from the minutes spent under the loving hands of a therapist. This has to do with scheduling and efficiency.

So, when clients makes an appointment for a 25 minute massage and waltz in 15 minutes late, well, you see where the complications arise.

When this happened today with a couple who my co-worker and I were to work on, we decided to relent and give way to going past the pre-set time. BUT, then the couple walked in slowly, ignored us therapists on the way to the massage room in order to discuss business, and gave an overall feeling of a lack of appreciation for our services and us as people.

My co-worker and I judged them to be inconsiderate and rude monsters.

But, we are in a giving, serving profession and gave the best massages in the 15 minutes we had available.

At the end of the massage, I escorted them to the relaxation lounge and got to chatting with them. Turns out they have seven girls and one boy ranging from ages two to seventeen years old. After a bit of freaking out on my part, the husband went on to joyously convey to me how much they loved their family life, how wonderful their children are, and how much love is shown between the siblings.

Gracious, how I had misjudged them. From just one sliver of information about two people who had a whole lifetime of personality outside of the 30 minutes that I had known them, I was excruciatingly quick in defining their character.

They were the world's nicest family! Right up there with Andy Griffith and the Brady Bunch. This is one of the few times that receiving an ego bashing was done peacefully. I got the message and was thankful.

Heather Leigh

Friday, June 6, 2014

Proud To Be Rotating The Earth

Our normally peaceful, on the verge of boring, home has been quite the busy place this month. My youngest son has been preparing his eighth grade portfolio, memorizing his scarecrow lines for the school's version of 'Dorothy In Wonderland', getting ready for the 8th grade end of the school year white water rafting trip, and competing in a ballroom dance competition. Wow! Did we really do all of that in one month? No wonder I'm tired.

The older one went to his girlfriend's prom, tonight his prom, finished up the end of the school year exhibition night projects, applied for summer jobs, is getting ready for college, and applied for a summer internship at the huge Aquarium center at at nearby university.

Whew! And they still have another week of school.

Doesn't it seem like nothing too crazy or much has happened in your life until you look back and think about what has been accomplished in your past few weeks? Does to me quite often. I like to look back at every day and reflect on what I did. Then the rushing around, or pure laziness, shines out as actual things taking place that our family was a part of. Takes away any guilt of having snuck in Mahjong on the computer when I should have been attending to this blog. Or watching 'The English Patient' for the umpteenth time with a mountain of laundry tumbling from my room straight into the hallway--blocking the way to the bathroom, for gosh sakes.

I rambled too long on what the boys did, so I will hold back from boring you with what things were crossed off my Forever Present, never quite done, LIST OF THINGS TO DO.

Not to get off this flowery yet in-depth subject of our family's May accomplishments, but I wonder what will happen to my LIST when I die? Surely, the world will stop spinning--or at the very least, wobble a bit. My list must be holding together something in this perfectly turning globe. Doesn't your list help the world spin more peacefully on its axis? Can't you feel the gentle hum of the rotating earth being moved along with more efficiency every time you cross something off of it. I sure do.

But now here is the really weird thing about that rotating earth and our connection with it through our lists...

No one, I mean, not one single person on this crowded planet, has ever thanked me for keeping their world in spinning harmony by ticking off another item on the LIST. How about you? Ever been thanked? Yeah, weird, huh? Its like they don't even know.

Well, that was enough time away from my list. If I don't get the vacuuming done, there may be a significant jolt in the planetary cycle just as people are sitting down to dinner. List crossing off may be a thankless job but some one has to do it. Might as well be us.

And thank goodness that the next generation is being trained on getting things done. Makes me feel a deep, unabashed part of the universal scheme of rotation to have produced two contributors to the revolving of the earth. Spin on, earth! I will get the dog washed and finish writing another chapter this weekend.

Heather Leigh

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tighten Up That Iron!

After dropping off the kids at school and am too tired to write, have dishes in the sink, and an (almost) overwhelming desire to eat popcorn and watch The Sound of Music for the millionth and one time, I hear my Creative Writing teacher, Dave Holper, calling whimsically out over the land from northern California:


So, I trudge my way over to the over worn but not overly comfy chair and start writing.

Damn that Dave Holper.  If it weren't for him and that class in which he also demanded that we write at least a line a day, I would be basking in a bag of Spice Drops--the only decent candy left in the world--and laughing about piano playing cats on the internet.  Life would be much more decadent and lazy, as well it should be.

And then, to add more to the cauldron of teachers with wickedly good advice, my picture book instructor, Diane D'Andrade, from long ago whispers firmly in my ear to tighten up my writing.  Okay, I whisper back. But can't I keep this one little tiny paragraph that has absolutely nothing to do with the story but shows how great of a story teller I am? Can't I keep at least that? I mean, give me something here, woman.

And into my ear, from years ago, she kindly, mildly, screams NO you may one keep that paragraph.
And that adjective? She adds, cross it out, not needed. 


Okay, I meekly respond.  And I highlight and delete the words and my ego. Now stricken from public view for an eternity.

At the end of a rough draft of each chapter, when I go back to review, there is a third teacher who haunts my tales.  Her name is caught somewhere in the mysterious folds of my brain, meaning I do not remember.  "I don't know where I am in your story. Give me setting. Ground me."

So, I dutifully go back and place her spirit gently on the floor in the middle of the story and show her where she is.  She is blindfolded, so I have to describe every silly little detail.  

Now that I think about it, Dave used to tell me the same thing.


Hand in hand, step by step, word by word, I show them.  We travel about the room, smelling, feeling, touching, sensing, seeing where we are.  We look out every window and examine characters in every mirror.  Finally, we all breathe sighs of comfort when we gain the grounding essence. It is a magical moment.

It is not until these past demanding teachers have been appeased every day that I can grant my self rest. And yet, I still search out writing classes and add more teachers to my list of words to attend to. Why am I so crazy? Oh, that's right, I almost forgot. It is because I am a writer.

And for that, I have only myself to blame.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hippo Secrets and Crocodiles

Okay, so my newest kids story is COMPLETELY hush hush secret.  But let me tell you this--research has never been more fun!

I was never into research in school and especially not college.  Everything I was looking into was boring and the topics were chosen by the teacher.  Oh, I am leaving out that WAY back then, there was no internet or google to glean information from at the tip of my fingers. I actually had to go the the library, for gosh sake. From there, books had to be hunted down from a computer catalogue and then found by myself or a helpful librarian. It could take an hour to find the necessary books for just one subject and then only get a paragraph worth of information.

And my sons complain that our internet is too slow!  If they only knew.

Now when I desperately need to know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, it is within a moment's lightening speed. Even funny images about how a croc eats babies with its mouth opened with a 'C' shape and an alligator with an 'A' shape.

Research life in this era is so grand.

Even doing freelance article writing is fun. For every one I write, I just google the subject, and there is a plethora of stuff already written about it. All I have to do is a bit of reading, put together what I've learned, and then spit it out onto a new Word Document.  People actually pay me to do this!

The things I've learned, too--stuff that makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about during bar conversations.

Back to my new hush-hush book.  Okay, the stuff I am learning has nothing to do with non-fiction newsworthy stuff. It's for a kids chapter book. But oh is it funny! I'm looking at images of creative stuff other people have done and boy are people crazy.  I want friends like this who would do the kind of silly stuff I am downloading pictures of.

This is making me scream with a desire to tell you what I am writing about.  But, as I swore a blood oath with friend CJ, I am not at liberty to tell. I will just have to hold in this hippo sized secret until the book is ready--hopefully in the Fall. It had better be, I don't know if I can wait any longer than that!

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Philosophy, Mud Pies, and Therapy

Talking with a long time friend and fellow writer recently, she revealed that finishing her young adult novel was proving to be a challenge.  She just keeps adding and adding and adding to the pot and the soup is never done.  As everything in writing is about what is going on inside of you, this is an outer display of some inside challenge.  I don't mean to throw philosophical mud pies into this blog, but there you have it. Authors have stuff going on in their core, and it is going to show up in their work.

Which slams open a variety of topics. Such as: you nor I have any idea what her challenge is on why she is not making an easy, neat and tidy, efficient ending to her story. Why she cannot wipe the dust from her chapped finger tips and declare the tale she has undertaken as concluded.  We can assume, conjecture, and imagine, but only she will ever know the complete truth as to her inner wrestling with the beast called The End.

The young adult novel that I just posted on Amazon, Black Licorice, is so much better than the first in this trilogy. Does this mean that I am getting better as a writer, that I am sick and tired of writing so just sticking up stuff on the inter net so I won't have to face it anymore, or that I have obtained Writer's Enlightenment and can pump out perfect stories in a single weekend?  My ego will definitely go for the latter of these choices.  Probably, however, it has more to do with the fact that I have had more practice at writing a novel than when I wrote Red Nectar.  That, and the reviews that sweet, kind, generous people bestowed on me helped me to know what to do and not to do in subsequent novels.

I find it fascinating to read reviews of my stuff. It's like being the fly on the wall to people talking about you. Reviews by people I've never met are the best. They are not holding back due to some fear that we won't be friends if they say they don't like the way I wrote something. It is a chance to gain insight into my character, personality, and relationship with the world through words.

Scout and Ellie, a middle grade chapter book of mine, ended a 10 book giveaway through Goodreads.com last week. I'll be sending out the books to the winners this week.  Once readers check out the book, they will most likely log on to Goodreads.com and post a review. Yey! More insight as to where I am in life from outsiders, and how I can improve my writing.

In the last giveaway that I did for Red Nectar, a very insightful reader said she would have given the book 4 stars over the three that she assigned it if it weren't for the interruptions that I made in the telling of the story.  Seems my talking about political and environmental situations that were not necessarily relevant to the story, well, they weren't wanted.  On a personal level, this means to keep my topics of discussion with others connected to what we are talking about--not to interject with my own biased views.  And as a writer, I see the importance of the words of one of my favorite writing teachers, Diane D'Andrade, "Stick to the story--no one wants to hear your 'message'."

Writing and casting my stories up to the public eye is like having the general public as my personal therapist. If I manage to shove aside my ego, I can gain profound inner knowledge. Of course, I have to remember that each reviewer has their own 'stuff' inside of them that is affecting how they perceive what I write. But somewhere between my ego and their stuff, glimpses of core stuff both personal and writing-wise can be seen.

Wow, all of this stems from writing words on a computer. One of the biggies of why I LOVE being an author--and why everyone should write at least one book in their life time.

Heather Leigh
aka author of the freshly posted Black Licorice

Thursday, May 8, 2014

BIG Questions

There is a small bird perched on a street lamp outside my window. His song is a sweet chirp that is amazingly loud in comparison to his tiny size. How do birds chirp so loudly when they do not seem to have the lung capacity to make enough for anyone to hear them more than a foot away?

Another question for you that can never solved: on what day did my boys go from being in need of a hug every time they scraped their knee to becoming Freshmen in college and high school? This is one of the great mysteries of life, never to be solved by any parent in the Universe.

What happened to the days when the most passionate discussion in our house was whether or not the Incredible Hulk was a legitimate Superhero. Can anyone tell me?

Okay, I'll quit with the nostalgia whining.  Here are some more questions that have stumped me but perhaps you can answer:

Why has Alan Rickman not asked me out when I have told all of my friends that he is my movie star crush. I mean, what other hint does that man want?

How is it that Harper Lee was able to write one book, To Kill A Mocking Bird, and retire in Hawaii from the profits? Has anyone else ever done something so clever in one shot?

Why are we still using cars rather than a huge network of mass transit? Am I the only one who gets that traffic sucks?

Why do people say that cats are aloof and impersonal when mine YELL at me for attention every night. They are so demanding--you wouldn't even believe it.

How can an ex-boyfriend send one silly little e-mail to say hello and make me realize that I still like that big old stupid jerk. What the heck is up with that?

Why is the sky blue? Okay, just had to add the obvious question.

Who invented chocolate covered caramels and where can I send my eternal gratitude for this godly treat?  And did you know that now they offer it with a touch of sea salt? Where are these genius candy makers?

Why have I never met a leprechaun? Do they really store their gold at the end of the rainbow? What about when there is a double rainbow--are there two pots of gold?

Has anyone done a truly thorough search for unicorns, dragons and fairies to be sure they are really gone from the earth? It is a worthy quest.

Anyone have any answers for me, please let me know. And, if you have any questions for me, post it on my face book.

Heather Leigh

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Better Than The Last One

Having recently finished the sequel to my young adult novel, Red Nectar, I am amazed, stupified and stunned with the advancement of my writing skills. Black Licorice is just so much better! I look back at the difference in writing skills and am darned plumbed pleased with my literary growth.

Then, of course, I read something by Barbara Kingsolver, Cormac McCarthy, or John Irving and I sink back down to my lowest depths and gaze in adoring wonder at the heights to which I can only hope to approach half-way on in comparison to what they produce as a matter of course.

But still, I sigh as I console my writer's ego, I did do better this time.

And, there are many things that I am good at. Just ask my dog, Sydney.  Every time she sees me with a leash in hand, she thinks I am the Queen of the Land of Dogs. She says that I do a marvelous job of handing out dog biscuits.  The cats? I am so cool to them that they actually purr when I grace them with petting time. I know right where their chins need to be scratched.

Of course, if I am searching for compliments after feeling a down day of writing, my teenage sons are not who I go to. Last week when I made Ahi steaks for dinner, and thought they were mouth-wateringly delicious, the younger of my sons asked if they were supposed to taste like leather.

Oh, but when I buy them what they want, I am back to being an okay mother.

And, the idea that Black Licorice is better written than its predecessor is mine.  Writers must have SuperHuman strength to shield off ego crushing rejection letters and nasty mean critiques. I don't know if this strength stems from ignorance, stupidity, or the ability to ignore what words are cast at us just so we can tell yet another story.  I guess we really listened to the "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" garbage that is thrown at us when we are young, naive and easy prey.

So, for now, I am going to continue to feed myself with the truth or lie that this story is better than the last. What is for certain, is that I will feel the same about each book I write as time goes on. Practice does seem to make us better at what we do. Unless you are an aging athlete or an old dog trying to learn new tricks.  Well, there are always the exceptions.

Excuse me now while I start on my next writing project. Who knows, maybe this one really will be better than the last. Could happen.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Deathbed No-no's

Ten things that I will not be saying on my deathbed:

1.  I am so thankful that I kept that hateful, dull, monotonous day job and gave up on my dreams.

2.  Thank goodness that I ignored my family in order to work to get more money and things.

3.  Friends are a waste of time.

4.  I am a better person for having stayed home to be comfortable and safe rather than experiencing risky adventures.

5.  Healthy eating should be followed strictly 24 hours a day and desert should be banned.

6.  Laughing so loud that my teenagers are embarrassed must be avoided at all costs.

7.  I never made a single mistake in my life because I never tried anything new.

8.  Smelling roses is a stupid idea.

9.  Pets are a nuisance that should not be bothered with.

10.  Life sucks.

Thought I would share what my life will not be all about at the end of it.  What will you NOT be saying?

Now, I think, my next post will have to be what I will be saying on my deathbed.

Heather Leigh

Friday, March 28, 2014

Grateful For Writing Opportunities

Inkbok is launching today! Now, please don't mistake this blog for another commercial site, but their whole gig is another way for self-publishers to share their work and get paid for it. So, the real purpose of this blog today it recognition and appreciation for the many avenues that are now available for writers to support themselves by doing what we love to do--write!!  Here are examples:

Inkbok is like an on-line library ($5 bucks a month) that readers can go to and read any posted book. And there is a huge selection. I downloaded Red Nectar, and Scout and Ellie on there are few weeks ago. So, if you are a member, you can read my books and all the other listings whenever you want. They give the authors a percentage of the earnings. Also, the more people who click on books by Heather Leigh, more more money I get. Yowza!

Next is GoodReads--I love them! Members (this is free) get to read reviews posted by other readers so that they can know if a particular book is something they want to spend money on. And then you can also leave a review. There are book chats going on, and you can follow other readers that have similar taste.  Again, my books are on there so this gives me advertising and I can read the critiques about my books, helping me know what to improve upon.

Through GoodReads, I've also done two book giveaways.  Feels awesome to give away my books, receive reviews, and be promoting all at the same time.

Kindle and Amazon work together to offer discounts to people who buy both the ebook and paperbacks, further supporting authors.  In addition, I've done their promotions of free downloads and discounts to spread the word about newly published works.

CreateSpace is available to self-publish your book for free as a paperback. You spend nothing, unless you want to pay for extra services.  The books are available for purchase and are not put together until they are sold. They do all the shipping stuff.  You just promote and let people know about your books and where to find them. I know you've heard of social media!

There are other self-publishing sites, but I chose CreateSpace because they link to Amazon and offer a plethora of promoting tools.  Lulu is great for different formats of your book, like the old classic--the hard cover.

And I can't possibly leave out Facebook as a way to spread the news as to what I am up to with the book situation, as well as support other artists and writers.

This blog is a way for me to express my thoughts on writing, and stories that come up in my life.  It's a great way to share.

My aunt and I have a free blog with illustrated children's stories. She illustrates and I write them. It is our way of giving back to the community at large. Check it out with some kid you know: www.thechildrensstoryplace.blogspot.com   There is a new one posted about Alexander Pig and what he is complaining about.  How fun is that, a free site for kids to read stories.

So, I say thank you, thank you, thank you for all the opportunities that are available for writers and artists in todays computer world.  It is a great time to be a writer!

Heather Leigh

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Insanity Of Writing

My friend, Melissa, told me that she loved that I was the ‘mad’ writer, sitting at home, writing away. She asked what inspired me. I asked what inspired her to own a day spa. She replied, “insanity”.
I took a step back in my thoughts and realized that it was the same for me. Writing as a profession is insane. I'm sticking my thoughts to letters on a keyboard and talking to people whom I cannot see—hoping or assuming that they will read it in the future.
Story writing is even more insane. Plucking words out of the air and making a story out of nothing. Following the lives of characters as if they were real.  Discovering plots and actions that are derived from nothingness and spitting them onto the page as though these journeys had actually occurred to real people. My characters have never drank a smoothie or read the newspaper or held someone’s hand and yet I listen to their conversations as though I were sitting at a table next to them, copying down tales of their lives.  Shouldn’t that be classified as psychotic?
If you are doing in your life what gives you pleasure beyond just working for a paycheck, then the same thing inspires us.  Of course, it is acceptable to keep your desire as a hobby and remain at the ‘day job’ to pay the rent. But partaking in your creative side is a must for your health, sanity and happiness.
The creative side does not have to be writing, or decorating a spa, or molding clay on a potter’s wheel. Cleaning houses is filled with beauty if you are imagining how the end result will be—the feeling of contentment that being in a house with everything clean and clutter-free is it’s own relaxation.  I used to love being a food server and bring people an hour of fine food and keeping their needs met.  But really, my guess is that most people have a creative side that they are ignoring.  Rip yours out of the dark hidden cave within and expose it to the light.
I was able to win the life-career lottery in that I found what I love to do before my life was over.  I wish you the same insanity.
Heather Leigh

Friday, March 14, 2014

Surprisingly Terrific Idea

Last week, a friend sent an e-mail that she had a story idea for me. Now, in the history of me telling people that I am a writer, I have received an average of 99% percent of the time being told that they have a great story idea that I should follow up on. While I appreciate their offer, I've never received one that fits what I am into writing about. So I always suggest that they write about it

So when CJ, whom I know because our boys have been friends since the third grade, e-mails me with her idea, my first thought is that I am being spammed, or sent a virus. At the very least, I think that I will be politely telling her that the story is something that she should follow up on--not for me.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not only was she not a spam or a virus, she has a terrific idea that we are running away with. We met for an official business meeting the next morning over coffee at Starbucks (she had coffee, I just kept talking). After presenting her idea in full, I ran off at the mouth of what I had been thinking of to go with her suggestion and then couldn't shut up with what I wanted to do with the characters.

We started out, feeling around in the dark, molding the elusive plot, crafting characters out of thin air, and laughing at the silly things the hero and protagonist could do together and against one another.  Turns out, this is going to be a really fun book to read and write.

The extra whipped cream on this whole shinboggon is that CJ is a born media marketing genius.  That woman knows how to get the word out to the right audience about any subject known to man/woman/animal.  And she enjoys doing this. In my mind, that is a crazy awesome skill to possess but more difficult than gaining and keeping the respect of my teenage sons.

And if I am able to write half as well as she seems to think I can, well, I can tell you that we would be on Oprah for our success story if Oprah were still on television. Perhaps our story will be so danged impressive that she will do a special on the Internet about us. Could happen.  Or maybe Ellen Degeneres because I always thought she was a funny woman. Oh, no wait, on that show by Zach Something--the guy from those Hangover movies who is hysterical.  My son just showed me a YouTube video of him interviewing Obama and Zach Something is a comic genuis. Well, all these interviews I'm dreaming about could come to fruition, could happen. Of course, I have to write the story first. There is always that.

But I did start writing it and the beginning is really funny, the middle does not entirely suck and the ending (which I will write this weekend) has great potential.

I wrote most of it so far in the format of a boy just telling non-stop what has been happening to him. There are some pretty good lines and I think there may even be something that might possibly make somebody laugh someday. Could happen. Once that is done, I'll go back through and see what format it will go in. Also, have a more firm grasp as to the main character's personality.  This is backwards from how I am supposed to work. I should start with the personality, and then write the book. But when I got to the page to start an outline and write out personalities of the characters, my fingers started to type a story and then as I was reading what my fingers were typing, I found that I did not hate what was going on.  When people ask how a writer writes, I think the truth is that we are all just idiots feeling our way in the dark and trying to figure out how we write and then hope that what is on the page doesn't suck too badly.  At least, that is the truth for me.

So, as soon as possible, probably within a few months, I'll have a story that is ready to be critiqued by a writing group. I'll let you know if any big epiphanies come up as to the story and how to write a story. But don't hold your breath. I don't want to be responsible for you winding up in an emergency room from lack of oxygen.

Heather Leigh

Friday, January 31, 2014

Not Insanely Bad Rough Draft

After writing the rough draft of Black Nectar by writing, writing, writing with no stopping for editing or revising, I was scared to read what I had written.  Thought I would open up over two hundred pages of babbling mess and run away to hide.

But guess what? Surprise of all surprises, I like what I have written. For some backwards crazy reason, the stuff is pretty good.  The revisions I am now making on it are minimal. Why didn't someone tell me this wild way could actually work? Or maybe I was told, but like my inner teenager, I did not listen.

Writing the rough draft straight through was brutal. Felt like I was creating words by pulling them directly from the inner lining of my teeth.  My back ached and my forearms screamed at the end of each hours long session.  There was no rest for this weary writer. Only mockery that I thought writing a story could ever be an easy venture.

Sometimes in the midst of plucking out the keys that would form the words that told the story, I would remind myself that this was fun. That this was the career path that I had leaped to with love and joy in my heart.  Are all writers this delusional? Or do we have a split personality? One that believes writing to be fun, and the other than knows the wickedness of an addiction that has me clutching a story plot out of thin air.  Where did this madness come from?

Perhaps I could stoop to the level of blaming my mother as she possesses the writing addiction also. But I am too old and no longer naive enough to blame Mom for my issues.  Besides, she would just laugh and roll her eyes and let me know I was being ridiculous.  Writing addiction is not an inherited disease.

So in this past week of discovering that the rough draft to the sequel to Red Nectar is not something that I will run away screaming from like I did when I went to see Heath Ledger playing The Joker (he was scary!), my joy has been extreme.  I could just kiss every word that actually sounds not half bad in the way that it was placed in the creation of a new story.

Next story that I write with the hunker down and right the rough straight through method will be met with a glimmer of hope at the end of each chapter.  I will know that the efforts do pay off.  There can be gold within the time spent picking out the story.

Now I just need someone to critique it for me so that I know I am not just lying to myself. Telling myself that it is a decent young adult novel so that I won't fling myself over the Coronado Bridge after all the time and pain invested.

Rough drafts, revising, critiques. Let me remind myself again that the entire process is joyful and easy.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Being Thankful

Some friends and I are doing a twenty-eight day being thankful process through The Magic by Rhonda Byrne.  Everyday, we are given some thing to do that will enhance our mode of being thankful.  The reasoning is that if it is hammered into us for four straight weeks, SOMETHING will have to stick and we will be happy campers for the rest of our lives.

Well, truth is, I've done this last year and it helped me immensely.  It became an ingrained system of being thankful for every situation that I encounter.  But over time the toy of gratefulness was not as shiny and pretty as it was when I first unwrapped it. So we are re-opening the gift of her book and doing it again.

It can be a creative challenge to figure out how to be thankful for EVERYTHING that comes my way. For instance: this weekend I came home overly tired and when my sons started arguing about who was going to take the dog for a  potty break, I yelled at them.  How do I be thankful for that?  Well, the look of shock on their faces at my raised voice told me that they were not accustomed to being screamed at. So, okay, I am not a total failure as a mother, just an occasional one.  And one who can say I'm sorry a few minutes later, so I am doing okay as a person, too.

 When I have to clean up dog poop? I'm thankful for having a wonderful Australian Shepherd.

When the car almost over-heated? I'm thankful for a mechanic neighbor who came to look at it and found it was a cheap and simple repair job.

When I have to wait another year for the next series of 'Sherlock Holmes'? I can be thankful that the darned show exists--there is something about those quirky characters that makes me love that show.

When I realize that my movie star crush, Alan Rickman, and I will probably never meet in this life-time? I can be thankful for all the movies I can watch him in (thank you Jane Austen for Sense and Sensibility).

As an author, being thankful in this time period is easy breezy lemon squeezy.  There is a plethora of opportunity in the self-publishing kingdom.  And social media is everywhere for promoting.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for Kindle Publishing and CreateSpace.  Next I'll be trying out the soon-to-be-opening Nokbok, like a library for on-line readers. Oh, and Goodreads, can't forget them.

We all have mucho to be grateful for. And if you are finding it too difficult to be thankful for a challenge in your life, appreciate that 'this too shall pass'.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading this blog!

Heather Leigh

Friday, January 10, 2014

Roughing It With Scout and Ellie

Scout and Ellie, the characters from my middle grade chapter book, just finished telling me their story in rough draft form.  They were on a crazy adventure of getting Ellie ready for the Miss Dainty Flower Beauty Pageant. Can you imagine watching a beauty pageant and seeing an elephant come on stage as one of the contestants? Walking in a fancy dress, then bathing suit, and finally juggling peanuts?

I have fun writing about the antics of this human-like elephant. Although I write an outline of what the pair will be doing in each chapter, Ellie is the wild card that keeps the outline from getting too specific. Truth be told, I don't know what she is going to do, or how she is going to react to each situation until I am with her in the chapter.  Going to get her nails painted? Oh, sounds innocent enough. Until there is another store she decides to visit along the way.  And how will she react if laughed at, loses, or wins?  She is like that inner raw emotion inside of us that we don't know quite how to control.

Scout gets stuck with helping her get ready for the contest.  All that poor kid wanted was a new toy. He didn't ask to get dragged into Ellie's emotional roller coaster life.  But then again, roller coasters can be fun.  Just hope this one doesn't get going too fast and fly off the rails.

This weekend will be spent recharging for the next writing adventure--revising the rough draft of the sequel to Red Nectar, the young adult novel about Emily, girl with dangerous telepathic powers.  She's not crazy wild like the elephant, but I do enjoy watching her mature.

Revising is easier than writing the rough draft.  It's more like fine tuning a piano that already exists as opposed to building one from scratch.  Well, maybe it is just as challenging but in a different way. In writing a draft, I don't worry about the details. I just figure they will get the magnifying glass treatment later. So now is the inspecting and fretting time. The time to make sure my 'i's are dotted and the 't's are crossed.

Wonder what I will end up doing this weekend? I have an outline of events to cover and will probably stick closely to them.  Because to my misfortune, there is no elephant in my life to screw everything up.

Heather Leigh

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Long Live Coincidences

I read a facebook post recently in which someone wrote that writers use coincidences as a cheap and easy way to get out of a difficult plot situation.  At first I thought that sounded like a half-way true remark, but then realized that life is full of coincidences so why wouldn't they be a part of storytelling?

For instance, yesterday, after leading my dog over to do her morning business in the McDonald's grassy area (we live in an apartment with no poop place), I ventured over to my car to attempt to learn why it had, almost,  over-heated the day before.  As I was peering under the hood, hoping that the location of the radiator, and where and how to check the coolant level, would jump out and announce itself, a neighbor walked by and asked if I needed help. I had only been standing there for 30 seconds and he was walking by on his way to work. I've never met this neighbor.  Turns out he works in an auto parts store and knew all about radiators and how engines work and had way more knowledge of the automobile than my narrow vantage of where the gas goes in.  With in a couple of minutes, I learned how to check the coolant level, about the reserve thingie, and where to buy the necessary fluid; it was almost empty.

So if that was not a coincidence, than I need to relearn that basic word.

And haven't we all experienced those random, lovely happenstances in which the seemingly impossible suddenly works out because of some accident of fate, being in the right place at the right time, or stumbling on a new situation at just the correct moment in our lives?

So phooey and blah to those who think coincidence should be shoo-shooed out of books. If they happen in real life, they need to be in stories.

Heather Leigh