Category Archives: My Experiences

Whatever Happened to . . .

…that nice Pattyann! 🙂

I know it seems as if I dropped off the face of the planet, but I’m still here. So much has happened since I wrote my last post back in September of 2015, and most of it isn’t good. So here’s a recap of some of what’s happened to me, and I’ll try not to whine too much.

 

The most major thing that happened was losing my mom last May. That was devastating; I was devastated losing my best friend in the whole world. The sad part is, I didn’t know she was my first and best friend until after she died, and I never got the chance to say farewell to her. She died seven tiny minutes before I got to the hospital and my heart is broken. I spent my whole adult life fighting for my autonomy from her, and then she died, and I realized how important she was in my world; how important she was to me! I lost the only person in the world who truly had my back, right or wrong, fail or succeed, she stood behind me 100% and no one can ever take her place. Some come close, but she was my biggest cheerleader, and God knows I miss her every single second.

 

I thought after she died that I was okay. That I could continue on, adapting to the fact she was no longer here, and my beliefs told me she was finally living in a better place after suffering for so long with her many illnesses. Guess what? I wasn’t okay. I’m not okay. Not on any level and I sort of died too. Even worse than dying was – my life collapsed. I allowed my life to collapse . . . completely. I always thought of myself as a strong person, and now I have to admit, as painful as it is to do, that I’m not strong at all. Oh sure, I wore a brave face, all the while devastation surrounded me and still does.

 

My writing was the first thing to collapse on me and then the depression hit. I hid myself from the public, not engaging online with anyone and on the rare occasion I did, it was extremely brief. I didn’t want anyone to see how weak I was and am. I tried to write here and there, entered a flash competition once in a great while, but it was all so dreadful; my writing was dreadful. Creativity vanished in me and that was my breaking point. I just, stopped, writing. I stopped trying to create something, anything and now, I’m struggling to get the fires lit again because I know none of this is what mom would’ve wanted for me. It only took me eleven months to realize. So, it feels like I’m back at square one, trying to get up and running and find my writing mojo once again, but it isn’t going well and here’s why . . .

 

Not even four months after I lost mom, as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, I lost my precious granddaughter too. My youngest son went through a nasty break-up. I’ll spare the unlovely details, but suffice it to say, I lost my beautiful little grandbaby in the process. My sons’ ex immediately cut off all forms of communication with me and my family which made it clear she didn’t want any of us involved with our own flesh and blood. She kept mementos from my moms burial, family heirlooms that are not hers to keep, and the things I lovingly preserved from my sons’ childhood, including all the Christmas ornaments I collected for him since he was two years old and she’s made no attempt to try and return them. My ex and I have spent countless harrowing hours with our son dealing with legal issues, thousands of dollars that neither of us have, and more time and sleepless nights than I can tell you, and we’re still not out of the woods yet. There are more hoops to jump through and more money to throw at a gutless, heartless legal system that aims at destroying lives based on hearsay. Suffice it to say, I’m exhausted, broke and stressed beyond comprehension and it’s not over yet. I feel as though I’m drowning in stress.

 

In the process of all this, my granddaughter is growing up, and I’m missing her life and I bleed over this every single day. I’m heartbroken that I missed the first Christmas she actually knew what Christmas was, and her first birthday was taken from me. Her first steps, first words and so much more, stolen. These first moments in life; there are no do-overs, they can never be given back and I’m devastated over it!

 

Not only am I missing her, my son is missing his daughter terribly; missing the daily changes as she grows, and it kills me that I can’t help ease his sadness and distress. I never saw him ache as he does and there’s nothing, absolutely NOTHING I can do to help him except be there for him when his pain gets unbearable. I can only pray for God to help and comfort him.

 

And then last November, I got really sick with a major infection in my body. It was on again, off again through the holidays and just after the New Year, the pain came and didn’t leave. Course after course of antibiotics and pain medications did little to alleviate the infection, so I had some minor surgery in the beginning of March and am presently still healing, but I’m feeling so much better physically.

 

Since December and currently, my aunt and I are house-hunting. Every available moment we have to spare we are trolling real estate sites for a new home, seeing houses in the physical and praying to God to bring us a home that we can afford which suits our needs. So far, nothing. We need to dismantle the household we are currently residing in since the owners want to sell so we’re in a bit of a time crunch and life feels hurried and moving at a snails’ pace at the same time. My aunt and I feel as if we are stuck in Limbo, our lives and work on hold (she is an Artist,) until we are settled in our own home and some days it feels as if that will never happen. All we can do is keep up with what we’re doing and pray something comes soon!

 

I’m dealing with the return of my little Westies’ cancer, the tumor on his leg bigger than ever! I’ve chosen not to have a second surgery on him since the first one was so traumatic for him and having a second one would be far worse. He would have an open incision for months and months and I can’t in my heart put him through that again. I’m not resigned to losing him though and I look daily for natural treatments that may help to prolong his days without injury to his body and the stress I live with every day isn’t helping him in any way. I pray constantly that God won’t take him from me – I need my little one. He’s my source of comfort and security and I love him as much as I love my children!

 

In the meantime, life is happening all around me, but I don’t feel a part of it. I feel disconnected from everyone and everything and I dislike this feeling immensely. I watch my friends and social circles online, rejoicing for them as they enjoy their lives and accomplish their goals, and I keep an eye on all the writing sites I’ve been involved in and I want say THANK YOU to each of you for remembering who I am and tweeting my name. I WILL be back and stronger than ever, I just need the time to get through this desert I’m wandering in. It’s an arid and lonely place I roam and I’m unaccustomed to not being in my fertile creative place where my mind is free to create something of value, instead of bogged down with all the stresses of my life at this time. I’m trying to fight my way back to the green pastures, but right now, with my moms’ birthday next week and her one year anniversary next month, this is the best I can do – for now. Don’t give up on me! I guess that’s a tall request, since it seems I’ve given up on myself since last May, and, although I’ve been weak, I know the strength I had is still within me – somewhere, I just need to start fighting back against the deserts’ wind storms trying to break my spirit, hopes and dreams. I promise you, I’m coming back! I’m fighting as hard as I can and I feel, if I can just get ONE thing to go right in my life, everything else will fall into place. I don’t even care which one thing it is, I just need ONE thing to go in the right direction, to resolve, then I believe, I know, I’ll be all right!

 

I want to thank you for taking your valuable time to read of my journey for the last year. I would prefer it be more positive, but life is life and this is my sojourn for the time being.

 

If you feel moved by my words, please take a moment to share me! As always, I’m Just Me and this is my story – for now. 🙂

Trying to find this smile again!

Trying to find this smile again!

 

Just a Quickie Today

Just want to take a moment to share with you, one of my stories titled, The Depression found here: https://flashmobwrites.wordpress.com/ under week 1X26 won an HONORABLE MENTION today! So very happy about this, and ever grateful to Ruth and Cara who run this fantastic site!

If you’re up to the challenge, come #write and #play with us! It’s great fun and #FlashFiction is a great way to hone your #writing for longer stories and novels! Come and check us out!!

The Judge’s comments for this story:

SOLDIER | HONORABLE MENTION | – Pattyann McCarthy | @PattyannMc 

Cara Says: 500 words to capture the love of a lifetime… the result is sweet and sad, and my heart ached for the MC who longs to reunite with his love.

Ruth Says: The payoff on those first ten words (‘Love winds up ripping your heart out if you’re lucky …’) is sweetly wrenching!

Here’s my badge for this newest placement, though the title is incorrect on it, the Judges comments refer to it succinctly: 😀

https://flashmobwrites.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/soldier26.jpg

 

Lots of News.. 1ST PLACE WINS

Well, to start . . . The story posted here on my previous blog, titled ‘Death Comes Unnaturally,’ I’m EXCITED to share WON 1st place http://www.shortstoryflashfictionsociety.com/ So honored to be chosen! My first PRIZE win, EVER! 😀 I will forever be grateful for juicing my spirits, and as if I’m not addicted enough to writing, pushing me to write harder, faster and throw all caution to the winds!

 

And, in other news, my story titled, ‘The Wilderness of Chaos’ submitted here: https://thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com/ in week: 3.13 WON 1st place also! This is beyond great news having TWO 1st place wins this week. I’ve been battling personal issues the last two weeks, and feel as though I’ve been in a writing slump, but I’m REVIVED now, and nothing’s gonna stop me from going for my dreams and goals! Here is my newest badge!

 

https://thetsuruokafiles.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/bbster.jpg

A Real Quickie for You!

Just a quickie today, as I’ve soooo much to write over the next few days, and the NYCMidnight Flash Competition begins this Friday, which I’m VERY excited about!  I’m honored and excited to share with you that yesterday, my story ‘Tripping with Jack’ snagged 1st Place yesterday, here:  www.thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com

Check out my winning story under the Mid-week Blues Buster week 3.08 and four others written by amazingly talented peeps! Running off to create some more magic! And I leave you with the Judge’s comments, which nearly blew me off my chair, and here they are with my newest badge of honor. . .

Judges Jeff Tsuruoka’s Comments:

We had another low-turnout week here at the MWBB.

I had five great entries to read, and read I did. So… without further ado, here are the Winners.

This week’s Runner-Up is… Ruth Long.
Ruth’s story featured fantastic banter. I’m a total sucker for fantastic banter.

And this week’s Winner is… Pattyann McCarthy!

Pattyann crafted a tale with vivid sensory imagery and an understated, highly effective emotional punch.

Mazel tov to both of you!

Pattyann – here’s a Winner’s Badge for you;

bbster

Wow! Blown away!

One of my recent submissions this past weekend received a Special Mention! I’m absolutely blown away because it’s just a fun little story that sang to me to write, and so I did.  This happens most often at night, just before bedtime where I’m compelled to stay up late and get the story committed to my laptop and more often than not, submitted before bedtime too. The website is here: www.flashfriday.wordpress.com and it’s a tough nut to crack for a Writer! There are many, many talented Writer’s on there with brilliant stories and run by a fantastic Admin team and my hat’s off to them for keeping it all running perfectly.

Each week the Judge’s rotate, and do they ever have their work cut-out for them. Last weekend, over 70 stories posted to the sight, all incredible by incredibly talented Writers!

I hope you’ll bounce over there and have a read for yourselves. They’re all Flash Fiction pieces based on book prompts; this past weekend’s was George Orwell’s “1984′, where we choose two of the 5 prompts listed, such as totalitarianism or dystopia, or theme, or character and so on . . .

They’re all quick reads and I hope you’ll grace them with a visit!

Without further ado, here is my story that received a Special Mention with the Judge’s comments after! Have fun!

Conflict (Man? Vs Society)
Theme: Totalitarianism
@PattyannMc
WC: 224

One Down, One to Go

Wee red Smud and black Hairy Harry precariously walked across a glass table.

“This is kinda scary, Harry. What if we fall through?” His eyes shifted everywhere.

“Don’t be scared, kiddo, we ain’t gonna fall through.”

“It’s slippery too!”

“Well, put yer glue on yer feet. We’re almost to the edge.”

Voice trembling, “I don’t know bout this, its awful high!”

“Yer okay, foller me!”

They glided down a gossamer thread, reaching the ground. Wee Smud cried as he fell, petrified. A world of weird fibers, thick and twisted, was a forest of obstacles, as they struggled to go round, over, and under. Flecks of debris and strange-looking dusty tumbleweeds stood in their paths, barring progress. Insects as big as boulders attacked them, one in particular was after Smud.

“Harry, whatda I do? Help!” Smud cried.

“Keep yer wits about ya and run! Put yer legs into it.”

A wall of rubber blocked their way, and then it raised. All sixteen eyes reflected the tread as it came towards them. Harry split, all eight legs making a run for it, while wee red Smud became a red smudge, eight legs splayed around him, a goner!

“Janice turned to her husband, what can I say? It’s a totalitarian society in this household, and we don’t abide spiders. One down, one to go. I’ll get it!

Most Terrifying Dystopia, Arachnid Edition: Pattyann McCarthy, “One Down, One to Go.” Rollicking fun, though not for the hilariously-clepped characters!

THAT makes me happy! 😀

Incredible!

Rolling right along, baby-stepping in the right direction . . .

One of my recent flash fiction pieces titled ‘Indigo Mourning’ won 2nd place on www.microbookends.com So incredible and so incredibly honored. The prompt was a picture of kids playing stick ball in the street, and the bookend prompts were: child and star. It was a brilliant challenge to make something of all that, but we writers, well, we’re creative like that, and it’s fun! Here’s what this weeks Judge Foy S Ivers had to say about my story, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart:

2nd Place

Indigo Mourning by Pattyann McCarthy

This piece took the idea of a lost childhood and peered at it from a fresh angle. That of a mother, her “dreams disappearing into vapor,” dealing with a childless reality as it forms. That originality alone clinched a spot on the winner’s podium. Through stunning imagery, the author captures the soul-shredding pain of a miscarriage (“I’m learning how to breathe, how to exist”), and the irrational guilt that often follows (“my uterus couldn’t sustain him, killing my son”). Life begins as a blinding joy, friends and family singing with you, only to dim, singing silenced, as the heavens appear indigo “through mourning eyes.” Personally it was difficult to read and I was grateful that the final line held so much truth: “In the midnight beyond, my baby’s the brightest star.”

Her words made me cry and I couldn’t be happier! The winner of Micro Bookends round 1.38, Iskandar Haggerty with his story, ‘Dull Silver’ is well deserved!

Pop over to http://www.microbookends.com and have a read of my story, and the winner’s, along with many, many talented and oh so creative Writers! Have a look around, and if you’re a flash junkie like me, jump on in and give the competition a go for yourself!

The point is, it sharpens and hones your skills, you get kudos out the wazoo, you get the voices of other talented writers’ in your ear, pick up a word here and there you might not have thought to use, and it’s so much FUN being a part of a community! Writing can be a lonely business, but it’s not so lonely when you’re amongst your peers dealing with the same struggles as yourself, so swallow your fears and just do it, like I did, and you know why I did it? Because,  I love setting up challenges for myself and because,  I’m Just Me . . . 😀

I'm Just Me . . .

Holy . . . WOW! First Place . . .

I JUST learned my story, ‘SOME OTHER TIME’ won FIRST place on theangryhourglass website and I can’t tell you how incredibly honored and excited I am at this news!

My thanks to Judge F.E. Clark for choosing my story, and a big CONGRATULATIONS to Catherine Connolly and Mark A. King for standing on the winners podium with me!

I’m invited to stand as a Judge of this competition the weekend of July 24th through July 25th and as scary as that sounds, I’m going for it; getting my feet wet as it were! I hope I can do this justice – No! I’m certain I can do this justice.

Just a quickie here today, but I’ll be back, and soon to showcase some writing and Writers! Until then . . .I’m Just Me, and damn it feels good today! 🙂

Momma, I wish you were here to share this with me, but I’m certain you are, even though I can’t see you with my eyes anymore . . . I love you . . . Always . . .You made me who I am . . . Thank you . . .

The Art of the Short Story

cropped-1187067_492134337546957_2041107084_n-e14086479232141.jpgLet me tell you, and if you’re a Writer, you already know, there is nothing easy about writing. If it were, everybody would write. While it’s true that everyone has a story to tell, and also true, nearly everyone has a book in them, if it were easy, then everybody would be writing their stories. It’s just not that simple. Harder still, to get that story or book to make sense going from your head to your fingertips and out onto an intimidating blank page. Add to that, a firm grasp of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, syntax, passive voice, pacing, defining and forming characters and conflict, creating plots, looking for plot-holes, and maintaining continuity all while searching for vision-inspiring words that create pictures in your readers’ minds, and so much more, it’s just not easy.

 

I began my incredible journey writing my scathingly humorous memoir, which after a seven-year long journey with it, is finished as of the spring of 2014. Maybe another polish over it, but for the most part, it’s done. It’s such a huge part of my life and an extremely personal one, I find it difficult to shop it around to agents and so, instead, it’s sitting locked in my desk drawer, waiting to grow its wings and fly; If I ever find the courage to release it. I suppose I’m what you would call, a scardey-cat. No matter. When it’s time, it’s time, and anyway, I’m not quite sure I want that book to be my debut novel. I’ve reread it a few times, and truth be told, I’ve grown immensely since then, so, maybe it isn’t finished. Perhaps it needs a new rewrite in my more ‘grown-up’ voice. Whatever. I’ll get around to it at some point, but in the meantime, I’m having the time of my life writing stories with more brevity. The short story, to be exact.

 

Comparing the short story to novels is pretty unrealistic. In a novel, you’re able to languish with your words, create more and multiple conflicts and characters, and you’ve got a great deal more white-space to play around with. True, your story still needs to unfold steadily, but there’s so much more time getting around to building your climax for your grand finale. In a short story, this isn’t the case. A short story is more succinct. Word counts vary on the short story, and are usually predicted by your publisher, or a competition’s requirements, though generally most short stories fall into the 3000 to 4000 word count, as compared to a novel – which is also at the mercy of the publishers – but generally speaking, those word counts run around 90,000 to 120,000 words and often more. So, you see the difference already. Short stories are to the point.

 

Writing a short story requires two main things: a great story idea and – focus. Narrow focus, to be exact, and you need to keep that focus honed through the entire story. Keep asking yourself as you go along, what’s the point of my story and how do I want it to end. What’s the story really about, and what isn’t it about, so that every time you veer off course, you’ll remind yourself of what’s important to say, and what isn’t. The body of the story still needs to incorporate a beginning, middle and end, just as in a novel, but in the case of the short story, you only need focus on one main conflict and a few main characters. Sometimes you may have a second minor conflict, but not having much space to play with, generally you would focus on one plot, one conflict, a few scenes, or even just one scene, and a small smattering of well-developed characters. And, there’s no room for fluffy, purple prose or filler words either. Cut all that stuff from your narrative and keep it clean and streamlined while still delivering a KAPOW story with a phenomenal climax!

 

It’s not as easy as it sounds, either. One would assume a shorter story would be easier to write, right? Wrong. It’s much more difficult. Sometimes, incredibly difficult because you still have to create the depth of plot, conflict, characters and scenes and not use your entire word count to do it, and you still need to build towards your finale and resolution throughout the entire story. Having fewer words makes your story tinier, but you still have to deliver the KAPOW! If you don’t, your story will flop, face-first into the discard, do not resuscitate pile. Though, you may want to resurrect it at some point with a healthy dose of rewrites. I’ve personally had a few of those along this fantastic journey, and some day, I’ll revive them with a good rewrite, but rather than bemoaning the fact that my story flopped, I list it as a work in progress and move on to something better. There are rare moments when I’m not pushing deadlines, when my workload is small that I take another crack at it and usually, I get what I was after the first time, and if I don’t, I place it back in the WIP folder and move on once more.

 

This is the art of writing short stories, and as always, there are more rules and things to consider, but these are the main points to bear in mind should you decide to tackle writing one, and I hope that you will. I took up the mantle of writing the short story as a challenge to myself, because I want to stretch myself beyond comfort, I want to learn all I can about this crazy business I’m immersed in, and because I want to be a well-rounded Writer. Believe me when I say, it was frightening and exhilarating at the same time to test these waters, but what I’ve come to know is, I love writing short stories. Why? Well, I’m an impatient person in some respects, and writing novels, though I love doing them – I have three in progress as we speak, and yes, I will finish them, I always do – takes a greater time investment, and as I’ve told you, I’m impatient. Writing the short story is much more immediate. The gratification I get writing the words, “The End” a lot sooner than I would in a novel is pure adrenaline to me. I’ve accomplished a finished project, a finished story in mere days, rather than months or years, as was the case of my memoir. I don’t want to wait months or years for my readers to deliver feedback on my stories, I want that feedback now. It keeps me jazzed to write more, which I do, because I like feeling jazzed! And, after all, I’m Just Me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience, and as always, if you did, please leave a comment and share me! 😀

Waste of my day, or not?

file000331832223I’ve learned I have limitations. Always believing I’m limitless, I now know that’s not true and here’s why.

Three days ago, I saw an open call for a 2200 word short story competition and being a competition junkie, I grew excited. I had a story already written that I knew would be a great fit for what the call was looking for, but the word count on my written story stands at 3000, which meant I’d have to cut it down by a little over 800 words to have some breathing room. This particular story is one I deconstructed last summer and rewrote, cutting it from 4000 words down to 3000 and I thought back then, it was as clean as a whistle, and I still stand by that thinking. I knew the task of rewriting it and cutting another 800 and some words from the manuscript was doable and I was up for the challenge, but here’s where the rub came. The deadline for it was yesterday by 7:00 pm my time as the competition is in the UK.

Sunday was a family celebration, and though I managed to do a deal of editing on the story, I really didn’t have the time to address the rewrite fully, and I can’t say that I regret the family day, because I don’t. It was an emotionally fulfilling day and I’m glad we took the day to be together, and I knew I’d have all of yesterday, (Monday) to finish the rewrite.  Well, that’s what I thought.

Monday morning came, and after my daily morning chores, I went to work, writing. I had such high hopes that I could cut my story to a little less than 2200 words without losing its integrity and still keeping the emotional impact, but I didn’t want it to read exactly the same as the original version. I was ready to tackle the challenge. Draft one came, and it hardly read any different, so I went to work on draft two and though it sounded a bit different, it wasn’t different enough and the story no longer felt like it flowed smoothly and somewhere along the line, I lost the integrity of the story and the emotional impact. Draft three came and it was 2:30 in the afternoon and I realized I began watching the clock tick off seconds, the hands growing to giant proportions and I knew then, I was playing beat the clock and the pressure was pure stagnancy. I didn’t actually sweat, but I certainly felt pressured and after the last read of draft three, I had to admit something difficult to myself, the story wasn’t ready for submission, I couldn’t seem to get it, not only the way I wanted it, but in fact, not even close. I very much disliked the way it turned out, and there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell that it was going to be even halfway ready before the deadline.

Now, I’m not one to give up easily, but in this, I felt there was no choice. I reluctantly threw in the proverbial towel, and then I spent an hour beating myself up over it, angry at myself for defeating my own challenge. I didn’t like the way I felt, but then I realized, if the story isn’t right, if it’s not what I would be proud to submit with my name on it, why would I even consider doing it? And more, why would I be willing to pay for a competition submission and waste my money on something I know without a doubt wouldn’t stack up or stand a chance. And no, I’m not being overly critical about my story and the day’s work I put in, I know it wasn’t good enough. The original is fantastic, though too long, but this third draft wasn’t good enough to enter the competition with and so, I let it go and forgave myself for getting angry over wasting my day and not meeting my challenge. If I’m being honest with myself, the day wasn’t a total loss, for two reasons. First, It gave me an article to write for you here, and second, and probably the greater of the two reasons, I learned a couple of valuable lessons yesterday.

The first, I’m limited. In time. In the inability to whip something out of story with too many words without the proper time required to address its needs as necessary to create something fabulous, cohesive and that reads exactly as I want it too, and I learned that it’s okay to admit I’m limited. And the second, I learned it’s okay to not put so much pressure on myself. I learned to take the necessary time I need to get the story done correctly. I learned that it’s okay to release self-imposed pressure after a good venting. After all, it’s not like there aren’t other deadlines  – in this business, there are always deadlines – and other competitions; ones that I have already properly prepared for and have stories ready to go, written specifically for those submissions. So, I’m okay with what happened and even though I thought my day was wasted, I find, I was wrong about that too, because I learned valuable lessons and that makes yesterday okay. I did do something good with my day after all. That’s the way I choose to look at it, but maybe it’s because ‘I’m just me ‘ and the way I see it, if I’ve learned something valuable from an experience, then it wasn’t a waste of time, at all.

What are your thoughts and experiences? Feel free to leave a comment. And, as always, if you like my style, feel free to share me.

 

:) Just a quick note

Woohoo! My newest short fiction titled, ‘Retribution’ is finished. I love writing short and flash fiction. The gratification is so immediate, and the reviews, whether good or bad are almost instantaneous.

Now to find a good home for it, while I move on to finish a flash fiction piece I started a few days ago. Excited!