Books, Creative Writing, Encouragement, Writing, Writing Resources

January, The Monday of Months


I read this online and thought, how appropriate, hence the title of this post.

How have you been doing in the first month of 2022? Hanging in there, I hope. I’m doing the best I can, taking care of things within my control, letting go of other items.

Our house is so much quieter and less glittery and green now that the holiday decorations are gone. There is no more spicy chocolate champurrado permeating the air or steamy corn scented aroma from the tamale pot. No more shiny ornaments for the cats to bat and chase. Now they gaze longingly at the corner of the living room.

I won’t ask whether your new year resolutions are still alive on this last day of January, but hey, each day is new, and we can start again. My daily walk and beginner’s Yoga became a three times a week stroll and twice a week YouTube yoga session.

However, my word for the year “Within” has stayed with me. It’s a word of intention and purpose I’ll focus on as much as possible throughout the year. I love this site that helped me pick the word.

When I reflect on this word, I remember to go ‘within’ to write, meditate, sit in the backyard, pray or eat slower. This works for me because I have a daily desire for quiet and being alone in my thoughts. The quiet time helps to balance out everyday life.

The cold weather (even for Southern California) makes me want to read more than usual. Many of you have real winters, maybe too much winter if you’re undergoing the bomb cyclone on the Northeast and East Coast of the US.

I’ve already spent my gift card on Barnes and Noble. I went on a mini-spree of books, especially in the buy one, get one 50% off section. I haven’t read them all but added them to my ever-growing TBR list. I read e-ARC’s on NetGalley for free, in exchange for an honest review, and also Prime Reads, so I have plenty of reading material.


Two five-star books I’d recommend are:

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson– Two estranged siblings must set aside their differences to deal with their mother’s death and her hidden past. This journey of discovery takes them from the Caribbean to London to California and ends with her famous black cake. This is an amazing read with stunning insight and prose. The cast is multi-racial, with different age ranges, periods, and locations, and still, the author tightly weaves events reflecting a history of a family and best friends.

West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge-Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave.

It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo. 

This month, I focused on another revision of my debut novel and resuscitated an old NaNoWriMo novel.

My mother can’t believe how long it takes to publish a book after signing a contract. She reminds me she may not be around in June 2023 when the novel debuts. She’s legally blind so reading my typed manuscript proved very difficult and time-consuming, but she read the first couple of chapters.

Speaking about writing. I’m amazed at how much people share for free on YouTube or their sites.

A couple of favorites this month:

  • Michele Berger’s The Practice of Creativity offered a mini-training on submission strategies. I appreciate a teacher like her who speaks slower and checks for understanding with her audience. Check out her page, she may offer it again.
  • Author’s Guild YouTube sessions on writing, marketing, and publishing.

Tomorrow is February. I leave you with a couple of funny posts in honor of Valentine’s Day.

I may end up with my books and a pizza on that day. Thanks for reading!

NaNoWriMo, Self Care, Writing

A NaNoWriMo Discovery: Why I Quit

This is not another NaNoWriMo (NNWM) story, and it is. When I say it’s not, it’s because I’m not touting the achievements I’ve made and that I’m all into hitting that 50,000-word mark by November 30th.


And this is not to discredit anyone who can and will hit that mark. Best wishes to all of those writers.

To tell the truth (as I should), I hesitated to use the word ‘quit.’ Using the word smacked of failure and I’m not a failure. It’s simply that I did not meet my personal contract and expectation of 1,1667 words per day.

Instead of ‘quit,’ I’d say I surrendered.

I started out with the best intentions, replaced my Twitter banner with the one above, and tweeted encouraging messages to fellow NNWM’s. I sat down every day to write until my wrist and back hurt.


this is not an NNWR story because I won’t hit the intended mark, and I don’t want to do so.

I’m a few days behind the daily word count. That would be 40,008 words by tonight, and I’m at approximately 35,000 words.

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”

Philip Roth

Along this writing way, I’ve learned some interesting things about my writing self. I learned to plan more and ‘pants’ less. I enjoyed writing out character sketches and delving into the world of the characters. I use, and this helped me a lot.

I also learned that the expectations I had for myself didn’t consider my feelings or emotional state while writing. When writing about psychologically heavy topics, the NNWM exercise can’t be sustained over the long haul.

Not that NNWM says this word count can be. They’re actually very realistic about the exercise and have loads of tips to help a writer write.

I’ve written four novels, three YA and one Adult, and two are in varying stages of revision. Three novels took a couple of years, each, but the longest one (several years) is also the YA novel that deals with violence, attempted suicide, and immigration. The novel, Strong Women Grow Here, is due for publication in Spring 2023.

This NNWM novel I’m writing deals with a likewise emotional topic, for me, and that is one’s survival of cancer, and another’s death from cancer.

As I began writing the chapters about cancer, the memories came alive in my mind. I began to rethink all the ‘what ifs’ and the questions (in the novel, a character asks the questions):

Why did I survive, and why didn’t a friend live?

I had to explore the questions so I could write the scene. I asked these questions of myself sixteen years ago, but they were covered with the joy of achieving remission and being grateful to live and see my son and daughter graduate high school.

So, I’m typing along daily, making my word count for twenty days. Then I hit a wall, and my subconscious said enough.

After forty-eight hours of not writing, I realized that November 23, 2005, was the date of my last chemo. I knew this date on the calendar, but I didn’t ‘feel’ this date until I hit that writing wall.

When I was writing the character’s experiences (based mostly on my own), I remembered that three months after that last chemo was the date of my last radiation. A year later was my last monthly Herceptin drip, and nine years later was my last daily pill of aromatase inhibitor.

Everything that I’d buried came to the surface as I wrote the character’s experience with cancer, and I didn’t want to deal with it.

I had insomnia, my stress level went up, I was emotionally eating, and I just wanted to binge another K-Drama on Netflix.

My favorite K-Drama

I realized I was reliving my diagnosis, my chemotherapy, and radiation. And I was also reliving my emotional, mental, and spiritual state. This returned me to the state of my relationships, the battle with my body, and my perception of what it means to be a woman and be me.

When that realization hit me, I surrendered. I said no more daily word count, no more burying my emotions at the expense of my health, and no more typing out emotional experiences like they didn’t mean something to me.

What I learned was to check in with my mind, spirit, and body. I needed to sit with myself and think through the why’s of not writing.

When I write lived experiences of ‘survival,’ I need to take a break. It’s okay to write for shorter times, and I am gentle with myself.

Some days I’ll have 1,667 words, and others, I’ll have zero. I’ve reset my expectations for NNWM, and I’m good with the word count I’ve written because I’m further ahead from November 1, 2021.

I count this NNWM exercise as a success because my lived experiences have found their way onto the page, and that’s a good thing for me.   

“The road to heaven is also paved with works-in-progress.”

Grant Faulkner

Best wishes for a happy holiday weekend. Be well.