The Sidelines

Life is hard.

Beautiful, exciting, frustrating—but so damn hard.

In one moment, a person is on top of the world, then in the very next, they are at rock bottom, wondering how they got there. And as I walk the path of life, a path unique to me, I experience the highs and the lows. But now that I’m a little older, and maybe a little wiser, I see things through a different lens. A lens experience has given me, which doesn’t make my path any easier or any prettier, but I know that in the end, things work out the way they are meant to.

And yet, as I watch my father-in-law deteriorate from alcoholism, I try to find the meaning, try to find the purpose, and I fail.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Because I can’t understand how something can consume a person so much that they lose sight of what is important. That they say horrid things that destroy their kids’ hearts as it tramples on their souls. And for me, it’s personal, just in a different way. It isn’t my father drowning in addiction, but I see the impact it has on my husband, on my sister-in-law, and those are the arrows that pierce my heart.

And I find myself being angry.

No, not angry, furious. Furious at my father-in-law for the years of pain he has caused. Furious at him for getting drunk on a day of a family barbeque. Furious at him for not knowing his grandchildren. Furious at him for saying he has no regrets when he has been absent from his children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Logically, I know alcohol changes people. I do. But right now, he’s sober. Not because he wants to be, but because the alcohol has stripped him to bare bones. And he’s not grateful for the months his children drove him to and from work in the middle of the night, for the time his daughter spent completing insurance paperwork and making appointments as he battled throat cancer, for them being there when his house burned down.

So here I am, still trying to find the meaning, the purpose.

But I don’t understand how he can say such villainous things when he doesn’t have a drop of alcohol in him. And I wonder if he was always selfish.

Then I remember a time when we sat on a riverbank for hours casting a line into the water, a time when we sat across from one another playing Rook, a time when he would tell a joke just to get someone to laugh. And I wonder if the alcohol has forever changed him… even when he’s sober.

Sadness dampens the anger, and I feel hollow.

Because no matter how much I wish I could give my husband and my sister-in-law a father who is present, a father who cheers them on, a father who encourages their dreams, a father who knows his children… I can’t. Instead, I’m on the sidelines watching the destruction alcoholism has created, and the only thing I can do is be here, be present. And maybe that’s enough.

Al Cinder & Princess Charm WIP

Rays of the morning sun filter through mangled blinds, and Al turns onto his side, blocking the annoying sunlight with his arm. A breeze taps him on his backside, and he grumbles as he sits up. His blanket was a size meant for an infant, not a young man on the verge of adulthood, but complaining to his stepfather or his bull-like half-brothers was pointless. Even though they lived off of the money from his mother’s death, they did not share it with him, nor did they use it on the house.

A rat pushes hole-riddled slippers towards the foot of the bed. As Al tries to get up, the mattress sinks further in the middle until his eyes are level with his toes. Pink beady eyes peer over the wooden rail followed by another. Pinky and The Brain had been with him for years. Most of the time, they were helpful creatures. Today…not so much.

Al reaches for the rail, smiles when his fingers fold over it. “Aha!” But his victory is short-lived as he tries to pull himself up, and the mattress sinks until his hind end is on the floor. “Really?” he grumbles. 

Pinky and The Brain squeak at one another, then dart off. 

“Where are you going?” Al fights with the mattress, but he can’t quite get in a position that will allow him to pull himself out. 

A few minutes later, just as Al’s grumbling under his breath, a short, balding man waddles into the room. Not far behind is Pinky and The Brain. The cigar almost falls out of the man’s mouth as he chortles. 

“What’ ave ya gotcha yourself into, Al?” He wiggles his caterpillar-like eyebrows. “You’ve been tossin’ in the sheets with a lady?” He grabs Al’s hand. “It’s about time if you ask me.”

“No one’s asking you, Leo,” says Al as his feet finally hit the floor. 

Leo tucks his thumbs underneath his suspenders, stretches them out. “Maybe they should.” His eyes scan the room, stopping on Al’s slippers. He picks one up, waves it in the air. “Is this the best they’ll do?” Al doesn’t say anything as he snatches it out of Leo’s hand and slips it on. His big toe peeks out, and Leo’s rugged face turns crimson. “Those no-good, sons of a pig. Your mama would be appalled! I bet she’s a-rollin’ in her grave, God rest her soul. After everything she did to make sure you were taken care of, and this,” he grabs the small, hole-ridden blanket off the bed, “is how they honor her memory?”

“It’s fine, I—”

Leo’s brown eyes turn black as he rolls the blanket into a haphazard ball and slams it onto the bed. The bed shimmies and groans, then the headboard caves in as the rails smack the ground. “That’s it,” Leo says, “I’m callin’ the Godfather. And you, my friend, are going to the ball.”

Fear’s icy fingertips crawl down Al’s spine as he sputters. “B-b-but you c-can’t do that! Riccardo will have my head, and probably yours, too.”

Leo shrugs, unconcerned. “It’s a masquerade. They’ll never even know it’s you. Trust me, Signorino.”

Before Al can protest any further, Leo leaves the room, whistling a merry tune as if he wasn’t angry just moments ago.

 

Later that morning, Al urges Murray forward with a light click of his tongue. The mule brays as it tosses its head in annoyance. The red-clay field was hard as a rock, the rusty cast-iron plow didn’t slice easily through it, and when it did, the soil stuck to the moldboard, which Al then had to cleanout. It was a long, slow process, and the sun shows no mercy as it heats up the back of his neck. The straw hat he’s wearing is useless. There are more holes than a strainer. But he doesn’t complain. Not like Murray. Instead, he methodically tills the ground until the sun begins to lower on the horizon. And with it, so does his stomach. There are still several rows remaining. Rows he’ll never finish before dark.

As he takes a drink from his canteen, he almost jumps out of his skin as a voice breaks the silence.

“What’re ye doin’, Carrot Top?”

To Be Continued…

I decided to start sharing short stories as I wrote them. They’re nowhere near to being perfect. But I wanted to start writing down fairytale retellings where the princess doesn’t need to be saved by a prince. And no, Al is not going to be saved by Princess Charm. Just wait for me to finish the story. I promise, it’ll be worth it.

~Tiffany~

Haunted

The chipped asphalt stretches for miles. Miles I’ve walked hundreds of times. Ghosts of my children stand in front of the old grocery store—five-years-old, seven-years-old, ten-years-old—and a pang of sadness wraps around my heart, squeezes. Toddlers turn into children, children turn into teenagers, teenagers turn into young men.

And I can feel them slipping away.

So I cling to the memories. Memories of little, chubby hands wrapping around mine. Of giggles serenading the sunlight. Of wet kisses smacking against my cheeks.

I closed my eyes one day, a mom to two small boys.

I opened them the next, a mom to two young men.

Time slipped away. And no matter how much I want to reach back, to hold onto them being babies, I can’t. Life happened. My babies grew up. And now I stare at empty seats, and I wonder where the time went.

Their heads now tower over me, their hands envelop mine. Men. My boys are young men. And they will take many paths in their lives. Some will even be the wrong paths, but they will learn something valuable from each. And I will be here, waiting and watching, with my arms held open wide to welcome them back home. To hold them when they fail, and I’ll whisper words of encouragement. And when they succeed, I will be here, waiting and watching, with my arms open wide to welcome them back home. To hug them and congratulate them.

As long as I’m alive, I will be the sunlight in their darkest moments. And I will be their biggest cheerleader in their greatest moments.

Because one day, I will be nothing more than a ghost. Nothing more than a memory. And I hope that what I do here on this Earth carries them through the rest of their lives. For there’s been no greater accomplishment in my life than my children.

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Pitch Wars & Team Velvet Steel

Oh, how I love Pitch Wars. But mostly because of the awesome Discord group I gained from tossing my manuscript into the mentoring program. Team Velvet Steel is a group that is a riot. From obsessing over Rhys in the ACOTAR series to Cardan in TCP to mulling over dark characters, they keep things entertaining. And amid all the stabby-stab characters, they create spreadsheets and praise each other’s work.

In the query trenches, it is essential to find a group, or groups, of people who understand the emotional turmoil of putting a manuscript into the world. It isn’t easy. It isn’t for the faint of heart. It doesn’t happen overnight. And waiting…it’s torture.

Every member in Team Velvet Steel pitched their manuscript to Pitch Wars between the 26th to 30th of September. Their pitch consisted of a query letter, a synopsis, and the first chapter of their manuscript. Over the next several weeks, mentors can request more pages and ask questions. And then, it’s radio silent.

Having a group to commiserate with, celebrate with, and hold on to hope with helps fight the mental battle. It is a rollercoaster of emotions. So why not ride it with a group instead of riding solo? I promise it is much more entertaining.

There are a little over two weeks left until the chosen mentees are announced. And even if I’m not picked, I will celebrate those who were—especially those from Team Velvet Steel. They will take the world by storm…one word at a time. And I’m here for it.

 

Writing Group Shenanigans

If you are a fellow writer, you have combed through Twitter and other sites searching for quality critique partners. Don’t get me wrong, having family who will read your manuscript is freakin’ fantastic, but writers speak a different language that only other writers understand.

Case and point #1: If I asked my dad how my pacing was, he would say it sucks. He’d think I was asking about my jogging pace, which is atrocious at best.

Case and point #2: If I asked my sister about the MC in my manuscript, she would blink a few times and ask what the f*** I was talking about. Not kidding. That’s a friendly version of her typical sentence structure.

Anyway, you get the point.

A few months ago, I signed up to join a writing group thanks to the wonderful Bianca Marais’s Tweet.

Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made.

Y’all, I found a group of phenomenal ladies.

They catch stuff that leaves me blinking in a stupor at my computer screen. And we all bring something different to the table. I like to think of us as dynamic dynamite. Even if it is kinda cheesy.

Crystal has a smokin’ hot character, Slate, who we all drool over. Not to mention her strong, caring cliff diving protagonist, Luren. Her story has a really cool concept with steamy scenes. Keep cold water nearby. You’ll thank me later.

Defne has a genius character, Roya, who has been stepped on and plotted against from an early age. The political intrigue and tension between characters are killer. In addition, her story has a unique concept that gets my brain cranking.

Then there’s Joy. Joy has impressive descriptions (I’m not jealous, not at all). Her character, Fen, is cool, calm, and just might knock someone off. Assassin much? Yes, please.

On top of their amazing stories and fresh concepts, Defne pops into Slack with memes she created. And I died. On the spot.

For your viewing pleasure:

Defne shared her meme-making secret with us, and y’all, she created a meme monster. Me. I’m the meme monster. I’ve been memeing all day long.

And to add a little more sugar to the topping, Joy throws this at us:

Luren – Joy’s Amazing Drawing

Whaaaaat?! Girl has serious art game. If I could steal that ability from her, I would do it in a hot second. Instead, I resort to buying artwork I can hang on my walls and drool over.

And then…Joy turned into a meme monster and created these:

If you haven’t joined a writing group, I highly recommend checking into it. It can be scary because you’re putting your heart and soul out there for others to critique, but you will become a stronger writer. You will learn from your group members, and you will chase the same dream…together. They will understand you in a way no one else does.

So take the scary leap, find your writing people, and see the magic unfold.

~Tiff~

Love Fights Through It

Not a single picture hangs on the eggshell walls. A faded couch and recliner fill the cubicle-sized room. Legos are scattered across the vinyl floor.

Living paycheck to paycheck. Fighting for their family. Fighting for their dreams. Fighting together.

An official letter sends one a thousand miles away. The other is left carrying their hopes, their future. Phone calls, emails, and letters fill the void. Together, they fight. Together, they hold on.

Land, oceans, and sand separate them. One fighting for his country, the other fighting to bring their son into the world. One fighting for freedom, the other fighting emotions as their newborn son fights to breathe.

Machines beep. Machines breathe for their son. Machines keep him alive. Weeks feel like years. But phone calls keep them from falling apart, from giving in. Together, they fight.

Six months pass. A father meets his son. Holds him. Holds his wife.

The eggshell walls are still bare, but it doesn’t matter.

Love fights through the rain, through the storms, through the battles of life. And they’ll continue to fight. Together.

It’s a Wee Bit Gremlinly

Raising boys is like raising gremlins—cute and sweet one minute, razor-sharp teeth monsters the next.

In the midst of submitting to Pitch Wars, my gremlins decided to be a wee bit more gremlinly than usual.

As I was spit shining my submission package, my youngest gremlin mentioned he had written an essay in one of his classes, and his teacher was happy the movie Freedom Writers changed his perspective. I stop typing, my head turns sideways, and I ask him to show me. He ran off to grab his Google Chromebook, and I had a million thoughts zigzagging through my mind.

This gremlin is rule-oriented. Everything is black and white. There is no gray area. So what did my gremlin write? Please, please…let it be nice.

He comes back with his laptop and hands it to me.

I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants, grab the gadget, and dive in. The words veer by as I skim to the meat of his essay. And then I see this:

What. The. What?!

I read the last sentence out loud to my husband, and he dips his head to hide his smile.

This isn’t how we roll. My husband and I help people, and we try to instill it into our kids. But, somehow, we missed the mark with the youngest gremlin.

This was me the rest of the evening:

👆🏻Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a brighter note, the eldest gremlin started working this week. Here’s a tidbit from our conversation last night:

Being an adult sounds like fun. Until you go to work.

Welcome to the real world, eldest Gremmy.

<-insert evil laugh here->

I hope everyone else has had a phenomenal week. And if you submitted to Pitch Wars, you, my friend, are a rock star. Go celebrate!

~Tiff~

Beat Sheets, Helpful Websites, & Books For Authors

I’m going to make a concerted effort to create posts with helpful information for aspiring authors. Over the years, I have read a ridiculous amount of books on the craft, stalked awesome websites with great info, and I have created documents to help organize my novel.

Helpful Websites

Creative Indie – By Derek Murphy – One-Page Plot Outline

Janice Hardy’s Fiction University – Show Don’t Tell

Query Shark

Query Tracker

Books on Writing Craft & Style

  1. The Lively Art of Writing by Lucile Vaughan Payne (there are three books – one on composition, one on forms, and one on style.) I bought mine at thrift books.
  2. Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
  3. Creating Character Ars by K.M. Weiland
  4. Show Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy

Templates

Beat Sheet

Novel Outline Template – 3 ACT

For the Novel Outline Template, it is crucial to have the Navigation Pane selected in Word and the bullets on the left side. You can quickly move through different sections in the document by selecting one of the headers listed in the Navigation Pane.

Hopefully, you find this helpful. And if you have any questions, hit me up.

Carrying You With Me—Always❤️

Grams,

It feels like you’ve been gone for decades instead of a few years. There are so many times I want to pick up a phone to call you. To rant and rave. To gush about my plans, my hopes, my dreams. Instead, I take a walk and speak to the sky. The vehicles that whiz by probably assume I’m softly singing to myself. But I’m not. This is where I talk to you.

Sometimes, Grams, I feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff, teetering as I stretch out my fingers a little further—reaching for my dreams. And if I just stretch a bit further, I can grasp them and hold them close to my heart. But if I go too far, I will fall into the rocky valley below.

So I learn to balance. I learn to breathe. And, most of all, I learn to believe. Believe in myself. Believe in what my life’s purpose is. Believe in the woman you envisioned I’d be. Because you knew it would take strength and endurance to chase a dream. And I kept that two-sentence email from almost a decade ago to read when I needed to pick myself up off the ground after being defeated. I needed it as I brushed my knees off and dug back in. You gave that to me.

 

As I go into the Pitch Wars site and upload my submission, you will be right there with me. Just as you have been for every single word I’ve typed since you left this world for a better one. But no matter what happens, Grams, I won’t give up. Ever.

Love,

Your Tiffy

 

🧱The Echoes that Built Me 👷🏼‍♀️

Life is a beautiful, messy thing. When I was young, I thought I had life figured out. I blazed through each day, taking whatever path tickled my fancy and hoped for the best. As I became older, I realized I didn’t have a mother lovin’ clue. But through the chaos, the echoes of people, places, and events in my life molded and shaped me. 

Growing up, my grandmother poured her positive spirit into me. If I said I was going to do something—no matter how crazy it was—she believed not only could I do it, but I would excel at it. All the conversations, all the emails, all her words of wisdom and hope echo within me. Even though she’s been gone for over eight years, I hear her voice cheering me on. Through her, because of her, I learned perseverance. I learned that doors would shut, but if you keep at it, others will open.

My father’s leadership echoes within me. Who I am as a person was created through the conversations I had with him. Conversations that I will carry with me always. I learned to listen, respect others’ differences, and stand up for what is right—even if it meant standing alone.

I learned how to be a survivor because of my mom. The horrors she faced as a child and as a young woman could have destroyed her. But, instead, she chose to place one foot in front of the other. She decided to have a family and pour her love into her children instead of letting the hate she grew up in taint her. No matter what I face, because of her, I choose to be a survivor. 

Unconditional love echoes within me. The love I have for my children. Strong, steady, powerful. It is unselfish. It is humbling. It defined me and shaped me into a better person. A person that sees through a different lens. A lens of compassion, hope, understanding, and faith.

No matter how many doors closed, what obstacles I faced, or the heartache I felt, I was prepared for them because I had a strong foundation. Every echo built me into the woman I am today. For that, I am grateful.

Ms. Write Life

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