Friday, September 30, 2011

The good things breast cancer brought to me

About 1 1/2 years ago, I went in for my annual physical and mammogram.  I was worried about blood sugar, since diabetes is in my family.  When my test results came in, I was thrilled to see that my blood sugar was just fine.

Whew!  Then, the phone rang.  My mammogram had shown something very tiny, but suspicious.  Would I please return for a second one?  I was stunned.  Talking to friends, researching online, I found that about half of women over 50 get a call back.  Of those, very few actually have anything wrong. 

I went back in, knowing that this was going to be fine.  Again, I got a call.  When I went in, the radiologist showed me the teeny specks he was wondering about.  He said they were so small, that I could wait six months, or I could go in for a biopsy. 

Hell no, I was not going to wait six months!  I went in, and they assured me that very few of these things are cancerous.  However, I was not fortunate.  The call came a few days later.  I had breast cancer.

I could blog for hours about the fear and horror I felt when I got the news, but that is not what I am writing about today.  I will tell you, though, that the strongest reaction I had was that my feelings were hurt.  Deeply hurt.  I don't quite know how to explain that, but there it is.

I was lucky in that it was Stage 0.  I had a lumpectomy and 6 weeks of radiation.  No chemo.  My doctor says I should plan on eventually dying of something other than breast cancer. It was so small, so new, that it practically did not qualify as cancer.

But, the fear, the surgery, the recovery and then the radiation (with burns that blistered and wept) were not easy. I was unbelievably tired for months.  I still don't have the energy I had before.  And you know what else?  At times, my feelings are still hurt.  I know I am lucky. I know people have worse.  But, I can't help my feelings.  I feel betrayed, and somehow physically abused, at times.  Those feelings are now infrequent.

In Ocotber I have 2 more follow up tests.  Just when you forget you had cancer, it seems something is scheduled to remind to that you did.  I am glad they have these tests, but still, it is scary. 

I had read many times that various people said cancer had brought good things to them.  How can they say that, I wondered.  Surely they are just trying to put on a postive face.  Once cancer happened to me, I understood.

Cancer brought me lots of good things.  For one thing, that old saying about not taking life for granted?  I don't.  Not anymore.  I try to stop-every day- and just look at things.  Really see those birds at the feeders, their feathers, their antics...really see the face of the person talking to me, loving me.

Secondly, I learned that true love really does endure all things.  The care and patience my husband gave to me was tremendous.  I always knew he loved me deeply.  This just brought it home even clearer.  We spent a whole summer pretty much sitting on the deck when not working, because I was too tired for anything else.  He never complained of boredom.  Not once.

Friends, bosses, family...they were amazing.  Having cancer also made me realize even more that any day I could lose one of them.  I am more patient with people now, try to be more understanding.  We are so easily destroyed by things outside of our control, like cancer.  I try not to be a destructive force myself, because that IS something I can control.  Am I perfect?  No. I won't ever come close. But, I do believe I am a kinder, more forgiving person after having had cancer. 

Lastly, it brought home the fact that those things I always thought Iwould do might not get done.  Not unless I do them today.  Oh my God!  All of those paintings I always thought I would paint, when I became a better painter!  All of those novels in my head that I was afraid to write, because...well...who did I think I was! Those might never get done, if I waited until I was more talented, more educated, more deserving.

And so, I painted.  I sat down and began to write a novel.  And I kept going.  Pretty soon, some of those paintings were done. And, unbelievalby, pretty soon I had published my first novel!  It was an e-book for Kindle and NOOK.  And then, I took the plunge and formatted it for paperback.  A few weeks ago, I held the book in my hand.  A real book.  With Caddy Rowland on it in big letters!  Just think.  In 200 years, someone might buy the e-book or the paperback, read it, and think "Who in the hell was Caddy Rowland?"

I am on fire now.  I don't paint much, because I am determined to became an author that sells a decent amount of books.  I have written book two and it is in the editing stage.  I have started book three in the series.  I have plans for at least one more, maybe two for the series before moving on to another book.  I have so many in my head to write! The paintbrushes that are gathering dust don't have to worry, though.  I won't forget about them.  Those paintings will not be silenced.  As I get better at the "indie author" thing, more time will get spent on painting, too. 

Cancer was the impetus to me creating the things I always wanted to create.  I had painted, but not really painted what was in me.  I had written, but never completed anything.  All of a sudden, I understood that if I wanted to do it, I had to do it now. 

Please make sure you do the things that are bouncing around inside of you. Now.  Now is all you are guaranteed.

Cancer made me understand that I don't paint or write because I am good enough, or because I want to.  I paint and write because I have to.  It is why I am here, and I don't know how long this visit will last.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Authors, have you made arrangements for ownership of works and royalites when you die?

No one enjoys thinking about dying, but let's face it.  We are all going to do it. I have wondered what would happen to my work, and my royalties, when that I pass.
This morning, someone in the Writers' Cafe on asked the question.  So, what does happen to our work when we die, and who gets the royalties?  Those are very important questions, and every author (even first time authors) should know the answers to them.

Someone else posted a link that takes care of this.  Here is the link:

If you are an author, or starting to write, don't wait.  Read the article, print out the document they provide, and take care of this as soon as possible.  Then, you can rest easy. If something happens and you are no longer here, the people you love most will be the ones who control your work and reap any benefits.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Which kind of writer are you?

Perhaps you have already written some books, perhaps you are just starting, or perhaps you are just considering it. Regardless, I feel that you will get your creative process from one of three places: The brain, the heart or the gut. Here is how I see it:

Those who write from "the brain" are using logical thinking and would primarily be writing nonfiction, manuals, textbooks, etc.

Those who write from "the heart" are using their love for something or someone to motivate them and their creative thoughts stem from that. Perhaps you are "in love" with being "in love". Lots of romances are written this way.  Or, if you have a genre or a hobby/interest that you are passionate about, this might lead you to write from the heart. Someone who has experienced a death, abuse, losing someone violently could also write from the heart.

Writing from "the gut" is where you have an idea for a story and it just "feels right". You know inside that the story should be told, don't have a clue how it is going to develop, but trust your instincts to just get it down in words and go with it.

I happen to get a gut writer. I have always believed that your gut will never let you down or lie to you. Your brain defines something by past experience or knowledge, your heart defines something by how you want it to be or feel it should have been, while your gut defines something by how it IS for you, how you deep inside know who you are and what you want to say.

In regard to fiction, many people say to write from your heart. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I say write from your gut, if you can.
That comes out true and gritty, with a part of your soul and essence inbedded in the story. To me, that will make your characters real and the story believable, no matter how far out you go. It IS ficiton after, all!

Feel that hard push deep in your gut, open yourself to the momentum from the push, and start putting words down. Pretty soon your story will take shape. You will then be traveling down roads you never even imagined.

Writing a book, romancing the keyboard.

If you are like me, the dream of writing a novel has been in your head for months or possibly years. I know I had wanted to write one ever since I was a kid.

Thinking about it can be overwhelming, can't it? "How am I going to be able to write that much?" "Will I be able to write interesting, effective dialog?" "Will people care about my characters?" "How will I be able to tie everything together?" "How do I even start?" are many of the questions that may run through your head.

Some people start by making a list of characters, their traits and an outline of the story. Others just start with an idea and let it develop. I think the best way to do it is to think about your personality.

Are you a planner? Do you feel more comfortable with having all the details down before doing something? Then by all means make an outline and a list of characters.

However, if you are totally right brained, like me, you go more by emotion and intuition. That means you simply have to discipline yourself to write!

Either way, once you have decided which type of person you are, and have taken the appropriate action (or lack thereof), the next step is simple. It is the most important step you will take.

WRITE! Seriously, don't worry about anything else. Things will fall into place, but until you have a story, nothing else matters.

If you are any early riser, get up an hour earlier. Or, write one hour per day after work, before you go home, if you can, do that at work (after you are done with the work day). Write one hour a day in the evenings instead of watching mind numbing reality tv. Or, write for one hour before bed if you are a night owl. But you MUST discipline yourself to do that if you truly want to be an author.

For me, I worte one hour per day after work from Monday to Friday. Sometimes I wrote on the weekends, but not always. I simply promised myself that one hour a day during the five work days. Nothing, and I mean nothing, took me away from that hour. Sure, if I had a doctor appointment or something, I would have to have that hour later. But I made sure I used that hour to write every single work day. The hour goes by before you know it. Sometimes I kept going.  I just could not stop.

As you write, don't worry so much about if it makes sense, if the dialog is crisp, of if you have good sentence structure. Just write! Keep going from the place you left off the day before. Don't stop to correct the previous work until your first draft is finished. The point is to get the first draft written! That is inspire you to keep going.

Once it is written, you will go back and make it sing. We will talk more about the process in future blogs.

For now, make a promise to yourself that you will commit to that one hour and start making your dream come true!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Great Way to Start the Week

This is going to be a great day!  Have not painted in over a month, but today I will be going to a class that I enjoy and making love to the color.  I am so excited!

My friend and teacher is Susan Fryer Voigt.  You should check out her work at  I think you will really love her work.  She has just recently returned from a class in Scotland, so she should be full of cool ideas.  My paintbrush quivers just thinking about it.

Another thing that makes me quiver, but not in a good way, is the play of the Minnesota Vikings this year.  What in the world? 

I am so busy that I don't have a lot of time to get emotionally involved with football anymore, but my husband is not a happy camper.  Truly, I am glad that I have stepped away from becoming too involved in sports in recent years.  I just don't want my mood to be controlled by sports.  They have very little to do with my personal life, so I needed to let that go. 

Sure, I watch when I can, but this year?  0-3 tells me that if it is nice out, they are not worth watching.  I would rather enjoy the day outside.  Soon, it will be cold here in Minnesota, so I don't want to waste a Sunday afternoon swearing at the tv and getting angy.  I will be found outside in nature, where there is peace and beauty.

Time to go pack up the brushes and paints.  The color is calling!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Finding time to do art

Here I am a new blogger, trying to find my niche in the blogging world!

As a writer and a painter, I find it really hard to balance my time between the two.  Since my first novel has just come out, I have decided to put painting mostly on hold for awhile.  Yet, it bothers me to think of those brushes gathering dust!

I need to promote, write some more, format those...the list goes on and on.  I realized today that, even though different things may be pulling me than what pulls at other women, we really all suffer from the same things:

Too much to do in too little of a time period, and guilt that we are doing the wrong thing-no matter which thing we are doing.  Why do we do that to themselves?  Is this something mostly female, or do men feel guilt like this?

If I am writing, my brain gets after me that I should be marketing or painting.  If I am painting, my brain screams at me that I will never get the 2nd novel done unless I put down that brush!

I am willing to bet that women (men too?) all over the world hear that same voice.  It does not matter if you are a mother, lawyer, doctor, writer, clerical worker.  Why do we allow ourselves to feel guilty and ineffective no matter which of our many "hats" we wear or how well they fit?

I would love to hear from others that have this same issue.  I would love even more to hear from others that have quieted that voice!  Oh.  I need to go now.  I hear paintbrushes and novels calling, along with my husband, a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and 2 parrots that would love some socializing.