Tag Archives: life

Last Post – New Blog

22 Mar

Typewriter

Hello to all of you beautiful people who have followed me from the start. I’m sure you have noticed the lack of posting in recent months, and I didn’t want to leave you all high and dry without the news of why that is.

I’ve started a new blog: christinakaylenhart.wordpress.com

I need to focus more on writing, and actually building more of an author site. Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and if you’d like to stay in touch, click the link above to follow my new blog.

Much love to all of you!

Mesothelioma Awareness Month: My Small Tribute to Cameron & Heather

23 Sep

Cam_Lil_HVSJ

I was honored when Cameron reached out to me and shared his family’s touching story. Eight years ago, his wife, Heather, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Three months after she gave birth to their daughter, Lily, Heather was told she only had 15 months to live. Could you imagine being given an expiration date? Well, she was. But, after a life-saving surgery, which included the removal of her left lung, she is alive and thriving more than ever. Below is a picture of the blessed family.

Since Heather is one a survivor of the rare cancer, their family made it their lives’ mission to spread awareness of mesothelioma, which is a preventable disease that takes so many innocent lives. In honor of the 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day (which is September 26th) they reached out to me to help spread the word by dedicating a blog post to share some eye-opening fats about mesothelioma.

“Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the body cavity called the mesothelium. The only known cause to mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos exposure was first linked to mesothelioma cancer in 1964. Worldwide mesothelioma cases are expected to reach their peak around the year 2020. Mesothelioma commonly sits dormant in the body for 20-50 years after initial exposure to asbestos. 80% of all mesothelioma cases occur within the lining of the lungs. There are two other recognized types; peritoneal mesothelioma occurring in the abdominal lining, and pericardial mesothelioma occurring in the heart’s lining. Between 2,500 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. On average, they are given 10 months to live. Mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70, but it is not uncommon among younger generations who may have experienced second hand exposure. Mesotheliom incidence in women is on the rise because many women experienced second hand exposure from parents or spouses who worked closely with asbestos.” –Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance facts and statistics

On the culprit: Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is classified as a known human carcinogen, because of its association with mesothelioma. On average, 30 million pounds of asbestos are still being used in the United States today. The substance can still be found in many homes, schools, and commercial or industrial buildings. Even 30 years after the peak of its use, asbestos still remains as the number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States. During the 1930’s until the late 1970’s asbestos was at its peak production and use. US Navy veterans who served during World War II and the Korean Conflict have the highest probability of having asbestos related health problems. Asbestos is used as building material in several developing countries throughout the world, including India and Brazil. Industrialized nations such as China, Russia, and Canada also continue to mine and use asbestos as material for consumer products. On July 12, 1989, the EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products. In 1991, this regulation was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result of the Court’s decision, only a few asbestos-containing products remain banned. This year 10,000 Americans will die of asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma and 200,000 people will be living with asbestos. To this day, asbestos is still found in many schools, homes, commercial, and industrial buildings. Asbestos was once used in common household items such as toasters, hairdryers, and over 3,000 other consumer products. The EPA estimates that there are asbestos containing materials in most of the nation’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings.” –Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance facts and statistics

My ex-boyfriend used to work in flooring. He had to wear face masks sometimes, but only when it was known that asbestos was under the tiles. It’s extremely dangerous for people to do this type of work for that reason. I remember he got pretty sick once, and we were both worried it could have been from asbestos exposure. So, asbestos isn’t as rare as you might think. It could be under the tiles in your house. Keep this in mind when considering remodeling your home.

“Asbestos may be found in many different products and many different places. Generally, any of the following materials* installed before 1981 are presumed to contain asbestos:

Sprayed on fire proofing and insulation in buildings

Insulation for pipes and boilers

Wall and ceiling insulation

Ceiling tiles

Floor tiles

Putties, caulks, and cements (such as in chemical carrying cement pipes)

Roofing shingles

Siding shingles on old residential buildings

Wall and ceiling texture in older buildings and homes

Joint compound in older buildings and homes

Plasters

Brake linings and clutch pads

* this listing is not complete

Buildings constructed prior to 1981 will have asbestos postings in most mechanical rooms.” –Princeton University Environmental Health & Safety

I hate to ask the obvious question here, but if Mesothelioma is preventable, and people are aware how dangerous asbestos is, then why are they still using it?!?!?! Where is the common sense in this?

The stats are frightening, and while I never believe in people receiving expiration dates, I do believe in miracles. Heather beat the odds, so if you or a loved one is living with mesothelioma, there is always hope. Miracles happen. People are saved every day. Heather is a prime example.

Heather- my heart goes out to you and your blessed family. Thank you, Heather and Cameron, for sharing your story with me. I wish your family nothing but the best life has to offer. I only hope this blog post will reach at least one person in some way.

The 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day is Friday, September 26th. Help spread the word on Mesothelioma Awareness! You never know. It could end up saving someone’s life. Knowledge is power.

Links:

http://www.mesothelioma.com/

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/awareness

My Tips on Writing a Novel

20 Sep

So many writers out there want to finally write that novel, or maybe even just finish one they started eons ago. I’m not on the NYT bestseller list, so you may have your doubts on trusting me, but I have self-published three books and I’m working on the third and final book in a fantasy trilogy. So, want to know how I did it or how you can do it? I have a few simple tricks; well, maybe they aren’t simple, but it sure sounds simple enough.

  1. WRITE! Don’t quiet all the voices in your head, just quiet the ones who are telling you that you suck and you’ll never write anything decent. The other voices you want to listen to. Those are the voices telling you what you want to write. The voices of your characters convincing you this will be a good book, and that there is a story to tell, one that you must write.
  2. WRITE! No matter what, the water doesn’t start pouring until the faucet turns on. Or something like that. It’s a quote, by someone I’m too lazy to google. You need to sit down and force yourself to write. I don’t care if you’re not “inspired”, neither does your potential. If you never start, you’ll never finish. And if you never finish, you’ll be all depressed about this great idea that went to waste. Every writer will tell you the same thing, set aside some time during the day/night just for writing. If you’re bad at sticking to a set schedule like I am, just write when you know you should be writing. You know you hear that little voice in your head, telling you “you could be writing right now.” LISTEN TO IT! Stop watching reality TV, stop eating cookies (okay, have one more and then write), and stop staring at a spoon and trying to make it move with your mind. WRITE!
  3. DON’T RE-READ IT! Whatever you do, my god, do not re-read the sentence you finally just managed to write. It is the kiss of death. Your inner critic will be telling you what a dumb loser you are. And, hey, maybe the sentence could have been better, but that’s what REVISIONS are for. DON’T RE-READ IT UNTIL YOU FINISH WRITING THE ENTIRE BOOK! You can fix it later. At least then you’ll have something to fix!
  4. Please don’t use dialogue tags like “she snapped ferociously” or “she irritatingly whined like a baby who wanted milk”, keep it simple. He said. She said. Of course, you can change it up when it comes to dialogue tags, with action tags, etc. (Look it up if you’re unsure but want to improve your writing). Because when you do want to publish the book you just finally wrote, nothing screams amateur like terrible dialogue tags. For one, it completely interrupts the conversation happening. Readers don’t want to pause every second to see how your character cried out in pain and then screamed in agony. They want to read the conversation as if they were hearing it. And in real life, conversation moves quickly for the most part.
  5. I’m sorry for that last step, it’s not really a necessity in writing a novel, but if you want it to be as good as it can be, please, keep your dialogue tags simple! Okay, now I’m sorry for this step too. Waste of a step.
  6. WRITE! All you need is the idea. Maybe you don’t even need an idea. Just start writing, and something will come out of it. Something will pull itself together magically. Words are powerful, and writing is powerful. You’ll feel so alive once you’ve written that book and printed it out and you see it with your own eyes. You can read it. You’ll see that it wasn’t a total piece of crap like your inner critic was telling you it would be.
  7. REVISE! Now, comes the annoying part. Revision. Yes, yes, edit and revise, we all must do it. Unless of course you want to hire someone to do it for you, but sh#t, it’s hard out here for a pimp. Do it yourself if you’re capable of doing so. Some people are terrible with editing/revising/grammar/punctuation/line edits. That’s okay. I’m sure some editors are terrible writers (sorry, just trying to make a point). Not everyone is good at all things. If you want to write, DO IT! Worry about the rest later.
  8. WRITE! Just f#%@ing WRITE ALREADY!!!! Stop reading this and go write.

I hope these little tips have been useful to at least one person. Because, well, I just put off writing my third and final book in my trilogy to write this blog. And so help me god if it was a waste of time…

I want to see novelists out of you. Now go. WRITE! Oh, and don’t worry about how much you should write a day. Some writers write 100 words a day. Some write 200. 300. 400. 500. 2,000. 10 pages. 20 pages. 30 pages. For me, I try to sit down and at least write one full chapter. Of course, I’ve had days where I write two pages, other days where I write ten pages. One day I wrote almost fifty pages. That was a lot of effort. I was mentally exhausted after that. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. But do give yourself some sort of deadline and commitment, this way you’ll feel more obligated to do so. Commit to writing 500 words a day to start. That’s not a lot. Sh#t, this blog post is almost 1,000 words. Damn. That could have been another thousand words for my novel.

GO WRITE!

Writing, Wishing to Write, or Wondering if You Should Have Ever Written at all?

19 Sep

After finally revising the first novel in my fantasy trilogy for the, oh I don’t know, thousandth time, it’s finally time to start querying agents again. But, now that I’ve started, and I’ve received a request for a partial manuscript, it’s starting to terrify me. I’m writing the third and final book in the series as we speak, which I’ve been wishing to write for some time now. Before I could, I knew I had to go back to the first book and give her an old fixer upper. A SERIOUS revision. I’m not talking about simple editing for mistakes here and there. I mean…I changed the entire POV. The first book was written in the first person POV, and the second book was written in the third POV. By the time I sat down to write the third book, I realized how wrong it truly was.

I looked myself in the mirror one day and told myself it had to be done. It needed to be changed. So, I dreaded it for a few weeks, and then I got to it. A few months later, I finally finished. I re-wrote the entire first book, not only changing the POV but strengthening each sentence the best I could. When I tell you it felt like it would never end, I mean it. However, I’m glad to report that it is done, and I am so much more satisfied with the first book than I ever was before. I smartened up my main character, and was able to add in certain foreshadowing for events and characters that are introduced in the third book. It was easier because I already know what’s (basically) going to happen in the third book.

With all this being said, I still have to revise the second book, but I’ve decided to put that on hold and just finish the third book already. Honestly, I can’t consider revising another novel right now. It gives me a headache to simply think about doing it.

I’m about to start chapter 5 of the third book. I am confident that the final book will be the best one, which is starting to frighten me a bit. I ask myself, shouldn’t they all be equally as exciting? Are they? Now that I’ve revamped the first book, I know I owe it to the second book to make it just as page-turning, but it’s daunting. The third book is off to an exciting start, and I have people waiting to read it who have been pressuring me for months.

This leads to me to the most terrifying aspect of it all: the dreaded series in general. I started watching True Blood, and although I’ve never read any of the novels, I started looking up on the internet which was better: the books or the show. This was the worst mistake I could have made. First, let me just state that typically I think the book is better than the movie (although sometimes the movie can be better). You just get so much more out of reading the book, mainly the character’s inner thoughts or desires. You also get to have more fun imagining what the character looks like in your head. I’m going off topic. Let me get back on it.

When I started googling about True Blood vs. the novels, I found all of these websites with chats and discussions and interviews. But one site I pulled up made me feel quite sick, actually. It said that the author had been receiving death threats for the way she ended the final book in the series. I don’t mean a few, I mean, A LOT. It said she even wasn’t going on tour for the final book to basically avoid the hatred coming her way.

This is the problem with a series, for me, and why I never wanted to write one. First of all, I’ve been hooked on series, and when they end, I’m always so…sad inside. I want the author to write more. I want it to last forever to fulfill my desires to read more of the characters and/or the world they live in. I never wanted to do that to my readers. And, if it’s a good series, readers will want more. And if you end it in the way they don’t want it, then what? Seriously, death threats??? Second, when you begin to write a series (as I’ve discovered), the world you create and the characters that inhabit it have the potential to go on forever. And I mean forever. Hell, I could probably write a book on each of my characters’ lives before my protagonist stumbled into their world. Third, I keep reading that you should never pitch a series to an agent. Pitch the first book, and that’s it. IF it ever gets published, mention the idea for a series. But, I can’t grasp this idea. For starters, because some agents take months to get back to you. By the time I finished my first book, queried agents, and then heard back from them all, I had already written the second book. So, all of those rejections kind of stung. But now, I see why all of the agents said no. The book was a baby. It wasn’t ready to be born. It was so new, so early in its stages of development. But I have to say I disagree with the notion of holding back your story on the hopes that the first book will be picked up. Aren’t we writing to tell the stories that must be told? Aren’t we writing what inspires us, and aren’t we inspiring others with what we write? If so, why wait? If every writer who wrote a series waited to hear back from agents before they wrote the second, third, fourth, or even fifth book, I wonder if there would have ever been a second book. I can’t lie, the rejections that come in don’t necessarily inspire you to continue to write the book that continuously gets rejected. But, I can’t help it, I believe in it. So every “no” I get makes me feel closer to a “yes”. Cliché? Sorry.

But now…now that I’ve started querying again, I can’t help but feel terrified. What if the agents reject it this time after all the work I’ve put into it? Try again in five years, maybe? With a different title? The worst question I ask myself in my head is: is this all a waste of time? As soon as that thought enters, I kick it out. I actually punt it like a mental football. Because, well, writing something you love is never a waste of time, even if it never sees shelves in a bookstore. I write because I love to. Because I want to. Because I need to. And even though right now, and for the past two and a half years, only people who are close to me have read it, it’s more than enough. Because they’ve enjoyed it. I’ve seen them grow to be attached to the characters and love them as much as I do, even when they weren’t as mature as they are now. And if I can make one person’s day and/or night more thrilling just by reading one of my books, then it’s all been worth it. Not to mention, if I wasn’t writing this trilogy the last few years, I’d have no excuse not to be in a relationship right now. Christmas in sweat pants, here I come!

A Foreclosure Story: White Desk Stuff: (3) The Death of a Loved One

16 Mar

Image

White Desk Stuff, Chapter Three

The Death of a Loved One 

During the time just before the foreclosure process began, a few things were happening. As I look back on it, all the events seem to be connected in one way or another. My mom started having health problems. My Great Oma passed away. The death of a loved one is more important than anything else. You need to be with family. You need to grieve. You need to mourn the end of a great life on this realm or celebrate the beginning of their afterlife in another.

                It may seem odd, but when my Great Oma passed away, it was the only time I never cried when faced with death. This was the one instance where it didn’t feel sad or unfair. She was 97 years old. She married the love of her life and didn’t date anyone after he passed away. She had children she loved, and children that loved her. She had a full life of love, family, books and cards. She got to see her great grandchildren born and raised. She was walking until the time she never woke up.

                She passed away, peacefully, in her sleep. I like to think of it as if she were dreaming of going to the other realm, to be with the love of her life. She just ran into his arms and it was just that easy. She never woke up.

                How can you be sad about that? I think dying in your sleep is the most peaceful way to go. There is no heartache, no anger. There is only warmth and comfort. I couldn’t be upset. A sweet woman died the way she lived; in peace, with a smile on her face.

                She left behind a legacy. She carried on her family line. Because of her, many were born and many will live beyond her death. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be alive. It’s all connected.

                And despite the fact that this was part of what caused my mother to fall behind in the mortgage payments, because she went down to be with her family for almost a month, I’m happy she got to see my Great Oma before she passed away. I’m happy my mom got to spend those last days with her mother, and her Oma. She needed to be there.

                There are certain things in life that are more important than other things. We all may get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and its seemingly meaningless things, but at times like these, when someone you love is on the verge of death, you realize what actually matters. You realize that money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That life is something to celebrate. That death is something that is inevitable. It makes you appreciate the loved ones you still have with you.

                Looking back on it now, missing that damn mortgage payment was the beginning of the end, but it was also the end of a beautiful life. And what’s more important? I say life.

                While that house was our home, that woman was a vital matriarch who we all are indebted to for giving us life. Banks are an institute that need to keep up with their business in order to thrive. I understand that. Mortgages need to be paid. It’s not up to them to be understanding of our individual circumstances, though it would be nice. I don’t blame them anymore. The anger has faded but only in retrospect.

                During those first few months of the foreclosure process, it seemed like it were all a dream. It seemed unrealistic to think that we would lose our home. We did everything we needed to do to save it, it just wasn’t enough. 

**If you want to read the rest of this book as I write it, just follow my blog and sign up for e-mail notifications of a new post. I’m putting this up here for free in hopes that it will reach even just one person and let you know you’re not alone.

A Foreclosure Story: White Desk Stuff: (2) Beginnings & Ends

13 Mar

Image

White Desk Stuff, Chapter Two

Beginnings & Ends

Let’s start in the near beginning, which I hadn’t known was the beginning. I was twenty one when I first moved out of my parents’ house. My little brother was a young seventeen years old. We were going to move in together. We had bright ideas and hopeful eyes. The promise of a future was laid out before us in dreams and vodka shots. We’d have it all.

Rats had infested our old house. They lit a fire under my ass. Time to get the hell out of here. Waking up with rat shit in my bed under my covers: that was my incentive. It was a sudden decision. Our grandfather’s house was empty. He had died years ago. F#%@ it, let’s move in there and take over the responsibility of the bills before we lose it to the bank. It meant something to me to save it. It was my grandpa’s. He died Christmas Eve when I was twelve years old. I still remember. The pain is something that can fade like a dimming light, only it never goes out. It burns deep inside you and you don’t forget, you only remember when you choose to, and sometimes when you don’t choose to.

We packed our sh#t and got out and moved into the house. Living with him were some of the best years of my life, and I still wish my other brother had been with us. Although, the sudden responsibility of having to buy oil and pay other bills on top of my own bills was weighing on me. We were living off ramon noodles and pasta, but still, we were having fun. The glory of the ramon noodle chicken flavor didn’t taste cheap. It tasted like freedom. We tasted our first bite of life on our own, without our parents.

Looking back, I don’t know how we both afforded to smoke cigarettes. We realized we needed a roommate and we did just that; inviting someone else to join in on the crazy. While the three of us (plus friends & my other brother) were having fun and going bat sh#t crazy, I didn’t realize my mother was struggling to pay her own bills.

At the time, she was dealing with health issues having to do with brain atrophy and confusion. Since I wasn’t living with her, I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. Long story short, it didn’t work out. We were having issues with family in regards to us staying in the house vs. them wanting to sell it. After about two years of us living out of the nest, almost as quickly as we moved in, we moved out. My little brother moved to Jersey City and I moved back in to the nest with my mom and other brother.

Once I moved back in, the foreclosure process had already just about began. My Great Oma passed away, and my mom went down to Florida to visit her mother and brothers. She was there for almost a month and due to the fact that she wasn’t home or working, she missed a month’s payment for the mortgage. When she came back, the next month, she sent them about half the monthly mortgage payment, but they sent it back; saying they needed the two months paid in full. Of course, if she couldn’t afford to pay the one month in full, how could she pay both?

This logic didn’t apply to the mortgage company, as they don’t see individual complications or family issues as something to do with paying your dues. And so, the foreclosure process began. We saw a light at the end of the tunnel. We didn’t think we’d actually lose the home we lived in for over twenty years. Our home. But we did.

***This is chapter two. If you want to read the rest of this book as I write it, just follow my blog and sign up for e-mail notifications for a new post. I’m putting this up here for free in hopes that it will reach even just one person whose house foreclosed and let you know you’re not alone.You can find the introduction and chapter one in the category ‘White Desk Stuff’ or ‘Non-fiction’. Thank you for reading. If you’ve been through this, or know someone who has lost their home, please comment. I will be self-publishing this book.

Reading and Writing: Simultaneously

13 Mar

Today, while I was at work, I had a pile of five books. I was reading one. My laptop was open on something I was writing. And I was answering phone calls in-between.

“What are you doing?” a co-worker asked.

“Oh, just reading five books and writing two.” I said.

She looked at me with a look of surprise, curiosity, and bewilderment all at the same time.

“What?” I laughed. “Is that not normal?”

It led me to begin to think about multitasking. And writing in general. How many of us have ever found ourselves writing a novel while wanting to read other books at the same time? I used to be a firm believer in not reading any other books while writing my own. I was afraid of outside influence sneaking in. I was afraid another author’s ideas would somehow interact with my own and confuse my own ideas.

Now, I’ve just given in. I’ve succumbed to the desire of reading while writing my novels. Why? Because, I’m constantly writing my next novel. If I keep putting down books to write, it’ll not only stump my intellectual growth, but it’ll make me hurry to finish my book just so I can read again.

After I gave in and started reading, I realized I was false in my assumptions. I realized that my story is completely separate from the others. In no way, shape, or form did another author’s thoughts sneak into my own. There are also benefits. While you’re reading, you’re seeing what works in a story and what doesn’t. You see patterns you either like or dislike. It doesn’t affect your own style, but it does make you realize a certain rhythm is necessary. It makes you understand even greater just how vital it is to have a good narration and an endearing main character.

You walk away after reading a good book with the realization of how necessary it is to end a story well. It keeps it bright in your mind so you don’t forget it. It helps you write your story along so that it all makes sense. So everything you think is important is there.

Of course, this might not work for everyone. I used to strictly write until I was finished and not read any books until mine was over. But, also, it used to be a lot more difficult for me to actually finish a book. Now that I know I can, it’s easier. I’m more comfortable reading now. I know my style and my voice will always be there, regardless of what else I read in the meantime. And anyway, isn’t everything an influence on our thoughts and ideas in one way or another? Our past? Our education? Films we’ve seen? Books we’ve loved? People we’ve loved? Things we’ve hated? Everything.

So I say, gather up your influences. Gather them all up and mix them in a giant pot with fresh concepts and new ideas. Make a delicious soup full of interesting characters, driven plots, and rhythmic prose.

But no matter what you do, just write god damn it. Whether it’s great or not. Lower your expectations of yourself. Set the bar low, and you can’t disappoint yourself. Tell yourself you’re going to write a piece of crap today. But who knows- maybe it will come out smelling like roses.