Archive for the ‘Keeping Sane’ Tag

Mind Numbing Days – Ebook Formatting   8 comments

I think my ankles are swollen—probably because I haven’t stood up in five hours—calves are a bit sore, thighs a bit numb.

But—Oye Vey & Hallelujah—I’ve managed to upload my first novel Amy’s Own as an ebook on Smashwords.

I began 6 days ago by printing out their 75-page style guide because I best absorb information holding something tangible (printed material) and while sitting and reading out in my petite patio.

Note: the guide states that some people can format and upload their manuscripts in 2 hours. I understood immediately that I would not be a member of the “some” club.

It was evening in lovely South Pasadena, California. I turned on the Christmas lights that are tacked to the worn wood enclosing my patio and gave a nod to my Chinese warrior statue (an imitation of the famous Terracotta Army) that I use in place of a buddha. I sat in my much-loved, soon-to-trash old camping chair, the material having stretched and aged to the point that the seat has lowered to the perfect height for my short (not petite) legs. I read the guide with my yellow highlighter sliding along line after line, page after page. When I went to bed around 2 a.m., I was semi-understanding the dumbed-down language for non-techie beings like me and felt as though I was making progress (though with my brain being so tired by this influx and overdose of new info, I couldn’t be quite sure).

Mind-numbing Day 2: I opted for the Nuclear Method (evaporating all previous formatting from a manuscript) from the get-go as I knew I had made simple indents and centered things via the icon on the Word doc and that was repeatedly, emphatically stated in the guide as a no-no-NO! I was forced to learn about paragraph styles in detail, hyperlinks, appropriate copyright and licensing statements, “front matter,” and the typography term pilcrow. A slight PITA, but I’m happy to know this now, since I’m typing up my new work Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations.

Mind-numbing Day 3: Downloading Adobe Digital Editions and going through the whole manuscript of Amy’s Own page by page, looking for mistakes. The hardest part was not going through the pages too quickly. I just wanted to glance and say, “That looks great! Moving on!” But I found a place where a line of dialogue jumped up to the line above. That screeched me to a halt, and I started looking at every single paragraph. I found three other times where the same thing happened (I’m assuming as a result of the Nuclear Method), so I’m glad I slowed down, even though I had to continually squash my impatience.

Mind-numbing Day 4: Bleary-eyed, stiff, and tired, I quadruple-checked everything out of absolutely heart pumping paranoid-anxious-doubtful-tense-amped up uncertainty. Then—with a deep breath, fingers crossed, swollen ankles crossed, and an excited flutter in my stomach—I clicked “publish.”

It may only be noon, but I hear a celebratory cocktail calling my name.

Note: Amy’s Own is free for download until July 13, 2012 at Smashwords. It’s a commercial drama with comedic and romantic elements. Visit Smashwords for a complete story description and access to multiple download formats. Feedback welcome (no holds barred!).

Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations – a novel   12 comments

This posting is another part of my current novel, though it’s not necessarily the next to come in the final manuscript. This introduces another character in the story of Samantha Stosur, an 11-year-old American girl in the 3rd Millennium.

“It’s the light. You must always take the side of the light. Resist the dark, Samantha, dear. Don’t let it lure you under.”

That’s Mrs. Marcie Doweel. Two down and one apartment over. At a gazillion plus, she isn’t a fraction taller than I am (considered a “good” height at 5′ 4″ in the fifth grade). Mrs. Doweel seems just as wide as she is tall but that may be the illusion of her narrow front door. Her apartment is always ablaze with lights, even during the day. As her body blocks the entranceway, she has a halo-head of light above her that makes it hard to truly see her face, which is fine because now that she’s past the octo-decade she’s kind of covered with what they call skin tags. My Uncle Ross is sprouting dozens of them, even on his neck and at the point of the “V” of all his t-shirts that are more undershirts and no child should be subjected to seeing the dark outline of his—yes, I’m going to say it—nipples, especially when the hair on them pushes against the meagre cotton and puffs it out. It’s enough to turn a girl sideways.

Anyway, shadow works well on Mrs. Doweel’s face, though I know if she realized a part of her was in darkness she would pop a majority of her pulled-too-tight buttons. Once she asked me in I saw that her apartment was a treasure chest of religious icons. Virgin Marys hang, sit, drape, and loom next to pictures, statues, throw blankets and pillows of Mary and her baby Jesus (who always looks like he has the face of a middle-aged man). Oddly, the grown-up Jesus’ that Mrs. Doweel has around—crucified on the cross repeated half a dozen times along the ivy wallpapered living room or carrying his cross or riding the donkey or having his last meal—is quite good looking in a rugged, manual laborer sort of way.

But, the freakiest of the freaky is the life-sized head wearing a crown of thorns with thick red drips of paint running down his face representing his blood (I re-emphasize that this is life-sized) which is kept pristine under a dome of glass. I had to put down my juice cup of V-8 when I first caught him looking at me; my hand shaking as it tried to find space on the side table with the year-round crèche stable scene (minus you know who). I nearly leapt off the couch, the plastic ripping at my thighs (don’t sit on the couch while wearing shorts in the heat of the summer) and made my excuses.

Mrs. Doweel seemed momentarily flustered. “I thought we were having a lovely visit,” she said.
I calmed down a bit when I looked back from the front door and Jesus was still staring; magic like the Mona Lisa—he’s eyeing everyone. Thank you, Jesus, ’cause I don’t need any religious hooji-booj in my life, though Mrs. D would say it’s a sign that I might want to do a little prayer or two, ’cause her savior is obviously eyeing me for a reason. A dark, evil-eye reason.

The thing is, I like the dark. It feels restful to have all of us hyped-up souls take a time out. It seems to me like people speed through their day like they’re in an all-out sprint. Sometimes this life feels like a whole lot of elbow swinging, the shoulder-height kind, the way basketball players swing after a rebound (elbows up and out) holding tight onto the ball, twisting at the waist right and left to clear out any of the opposing team. Mine, mine, mine. “Looking out for number one,” Uncle Ross would say. “Nothing wrong with that.” But, I’m not so sure. How does number two feel? Hell, what about number twenty-two? They’ve gotta feel like crapola.

The night is stillness, it’s down time. Of course, I know the quieted souls are merely re-energizing so they can do it all again once their alarms start kicking up a fuss, but I feel like I’m getting some respite (vocab list #4), so I can be re-energized to meet them head on.


© 2011 Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations by Kat Ward

Posted September 30, 2011 by Kat Ward in Fiction Writing

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I’m a Liebster Award Winner! Thanks, Juliet   13 comments

A big Grazie, Danke, Merci & Thanks to Juliet Greenwood for nominating me for a Liebster Award when I’m such a newbie to this blogging thingy. In only a week, I have read multiple wonderful pieces, been delighted by so many designs of people’s blogs and intrigued by everyone’s individual stories. It’s widened my world, and I love that.

I enjoy reading what people think, finding out what issues concern them and getting a taste of their fiction writing. All of it is quite impressive.

As I understand it—and it’s all a bit vague, cuz, like, where did this all start? Germany makes sense—as “liebster” means “dear,” from the verb “lieber” [to love]. The Liebster Foundation? I have no clue, but it’s a great idea—these are the Liebster Award rules:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
3. Copy & Past the award onto your blog.
4. Nominate 5 blogs to receive the award.
5. Inform them of their nomination by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here Are My Nominees:

1. Emily Kennedy has a great piece titled I Don’t Vote for the Party, I Vote for the Person. Anything political and ya got me. And, yummy recipes, too.

2. Jeff Silvey was the first person to read and comment on my blog and he has an interesting, fun and thoughtful blog called Five Things At Once, the daily ups & downs of a stay-at-home-dad.

3. Amy LeBonte at 3to9travels, because I enjoy her writing and love her playful and arresting header that she created.

4. Michael Ann Riley posted the laugh-out-loud article Watch Your Language! and being someone who can swear like a sailor (in the right company, of course. I was brought up with manners!). And, I love the name of her blog: Thinking In My Head, Ma (!).

5. A woman in Portland, Oregon has a fascinatingly, visually moody blog Reality Space. I loved her piece on “Extreme Ironing.”

Thanks again to Juliet. Everyone who reads this, please check out these other blogs, and remember, subscribe! Cuz we all need the love. Have a great weekend!

Will I Ever Be a Bona Fide Grown-Up? Part III   9 comments

Nasturtims Giving Homage to Georgia O'Keefe

Image by garlandcannon via Flickr

My depression and anxiety is held at bay with a daily dose, but meds are no wonder cure. Most people would never guess that I am a depressive. I like to socialize. I love, love to laugh. I adore my daughter, my family and my friends (even my ex-husband!). But, the depression hovers. It’s tiring. Exhausting. Many days, I feel that all I can manage is to be a good mom. Nothing else. Love my daughter. Accomplish that in a day, stay focused, create quality time and check the “task completed” box. Because, I actually love our life. I love her smile and her laugh and how she expresses her creativity on a daily basis as we make up chapter stories every time we buckle up in the car, how she devises dance routines, plays in three acts and performs cooking experiments in the kitchen (without a recipe) that are actually edible. It’s all a tremendous wonder. I’m still in awe that she is my child, that I was lucky enough to be rewarded this exact being.

I remind myself that I am indeed a good photographer. I’m good at taking kids’ headshots. I can tap into their ability to allow their inhibitions to melt away and bring forth their full personality. So, why can’t I make a decent living? And, every day I vow to not give up on my dream to be a published writer who can actually sell enough books so that I can write full-time. But, is this delusional? Parents aren’t supposed to be delusional, are they? Chasing a pipe dream is not the best example for a child. (Though, it IS if you succeed.)

I can taste success. Some nights, it seems so close. When I finished my second manuscript, I gave it to four very different friends, and completely different readers. I received great constructive criticism and I returned to editing feeling invigorated and re-energized. I finally have a query I like and a synopsis that recaps the story in four pages, reflecting the novel’s voice and style (Oiy!). I drift off to sleep, imagining an agent signing me, a publisher wanting me, believing so much in my work that they give me a good—great, incredible!—advance and I’m strolling the streets of New York City after my first amazingly successful book signing. Then, my adrenalin surges and I’m wide awake. (At least it wasn’t an anxiety attack. Progress, no?)

Well, I’m still here in my sweltering second-story Hollywood apartment (down on the flats, not up in the coveted, moneyed hills). The wall-to-wall carpeting incessantly draws in the heat; the fan blows hot air around. My daughter’s asleep next to me in the bed (she’s going through a bout of fearing the dark—every shadow, every darkened doorway, even the lovely moon outside her window). I stroke her back, happy that she’s calm now, sleeping without fear. She even laughs in her sleep (I hope she never stops doing that!).

I am typing on my laptop. It’s ten to one in the morning. I love the stillness and quiet. The peace. The contentment I am feeling is enough to help me through one more day.

A grown-up? A full-blown adult? I hope to be one some day. It’s a worthwhile goal. A worthwhile dream.

 the end


© 2011 Will I Ever Be a Grown-Up? Part III by Kat Ward

Posted September 14, 2011 by Kat Ward in Essay

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Will I Ever Be a Bona Fide Grown-Up? Part II   1 comment

The sun seen through stratus clouds. Taken wit...

Image via Wikipedia

My single-employee photography business (me) continues to struggle. I never have enough money. I have allowed my parents to pay for my daughter’s guitar lessons, my health insurance and many other things that were beyond my reach. They, as well as my older sisters, have been there when I have come up short. And, that makes me feel diminished, a not-quite adult. I am blocked about how to make money. I have no problem working hard, giving my all to every job I’ve had—to the point that in her first year, I was often getting up at 4 a.m. to load my work equipment into my 4-Runner, then getting my daughter packed up and ready to drive her to a friends’ nanny, so I could work a 12-to-14 hour day before picking her up in the evening at my friends. Thankfully, I was able to find 9-5 employment (as her father worked long days when he could find work), and she appeared to adapt well to full-time daycare at the age of one and a half (and, so I keep telling myself).

I am stumped. Insufficient income and insolvency creates stress and I am not as good a mother as I want to be. My patience flags; it’s hard to stay in the moment and have quality time with my daughter—my mind is almost always half elsewhere. I look at my friends who married and are now stay-at-home moms and I envy them. Crazy envy. (How gross is that?) I don’t regret my ex-husband because he’s a great dad and the love we experienced was intense, wonderful and it produced our daughter, but I loathe (loathe!) the bone-aching, stomach-bubbling, constant worry about money.

I can’t manage to keep money in my savings account. There is no retirement fund. No college fund. I am at a loss. Everyday, I try to figure out the correct path, to see what I have not been seeing that will lead to financial success. How delicious to have a small house with a yard for the dog my daughter wants so badly (I want a black lab puppy). I would love to take her to Europe where I extensively traveled in my youth or Down Under where I backpacked for a year. I want to feel the thrill of a foreign land again, and, hopefully, infect my girl with the travel bug and the endless wonders of our world. But, I have to steal from Peter to pay Paul, and now Peter’s constantly broke and refuses to have anything to do with me.

So, I fail. Every day. And I work, every day, to rebuild my spirit, my belief in myself, in my talent, and in my ability to succeed and provide for my daughter. Copious amounts of energy is exerted trying not to lose hope, not succumb to the spirit-paralyzing reality that this may be the best I can do. I try to shake it off, but with each passing year and the same financial distress, it’s harder to revive Hope. The road ahead seems truncated, paths of opportunity hidden by granite walls and malicious thorns. Have I got blinders on?

My first black hole of depression began in the 7th grade and lasted until my 17th year and a soul-reviving three months in Europe, exemplified by a Sunday afternoon sitting by the lakeside in Lausanne, Switzerland. I felt content. And, I knew that all was not lost. In subsequent years, I have often tapped into the way I felt in that moment and, somewhere inside (and it can be buried really, really deep), I know that whatever the current struggles, I emerged once, and I can again.


Part III, next post


© 2011 Will I Ever Be a Bona Fide Grown-Up? Part II by Kat Ward.

Posted September 14, 2011 by Kat Ward in Essay

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This is me. My name is Kat.   Leave a comment

Keeping Sane is not only the name of my blog, but it is a state of mind that I have attempted to maintain throughout my life (and, yes, sometimes successfully, and sometimes, quite clearly not).

I have had a photography company for over a decade, primarily shooting actors’ headshots, specializing in children (cuz they’re a blast); business and publicity photos; school pictures (not your everyday, sit against the grey-blue background, fold your hands in you lap and hope-for-a-decent-smile kind of traditional school pics–for examples, visit my website); and family portraits.

I am an unpublished writer, working very hard (and crossing my fingers) to change that. I am currently soliciting for representation of my novel AMY’S OWN and working on my new fictional piece KEEPING SANE, AND OTHER ASPIRATIONS.

I have begun to write blurbs for the website Hometown Pasadena created by Colleen Bates (Prospect Park Books) who wrote the guide book of the same name, along with Hometown Santa Monica and Hometown Santa Barbara. Reading them is like being shown around town by a friend (conversational, informative and humorous). I highly recommend them. And, check her publishing website for all her latest titles.

It’s official. I can put “Editor” on my resume. I have received a credit in the self-help workbook Where Are You Stuck? by Lori Bertazzon. Lori’s personal one-on-one sessions in conjunction with her workbook has hauled me out of the hole in which I was stuck and started me on the ride of my life. She is a stunning talent and gets a 5 Star recommendation. If you’re stuck, look her up.

I have also just finished experiencing Kevin Bertazzon’s newly released illustrated storybook ISMS (a faery mobster story) as an Apple App for the iPad (did I just muck up all that jargon?). It will soon be available in different formats. Anyone drawn to the work of George R.R. Martin should check out Kevin’s masterful work.

(I’m not throwing out these adjectives like “stunning” and “masterful” lightly. These two works have blown my tender little mind into wonderful, light-filled, inspired pieces. (I’m trying to reassemble them now—but, then again, maybe not).

Otherwise, I am in love with the new neighborhood into which my daughter and I have moved (after decades in L.A. proper, I was ready for a night-and-day change); I’m attempting to get my awesome rear end to run more times around the block to dissolve the far too many fat cells I’m carrying; and my daughter and I are making an impassioned, concerted effort to maintain the health of our favorite cat who has diabetes (diabetes!?!?!)—all the normal stuff.

My next post will be a piece I wrote some years ago which I think illustrates the point I made in why I chose the blog name Keeping Sane. Hope you enjoy.

*photo from my photojournalism days: Saugatuck River, Westport, CT