Shit—Life—Happens

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“Shit happens” is a common phrase used to express the concept that unfortunate things in life are unavoidable. But rather than simply state, “life is full of unpredictable events,” it is more satisfying to utter this more vulgar phrase.

While I’m not clear on who coined the phrase, I do know it was first introduced to print by Connie Eble in 1983.

The 1994 movie Forrest Gump takes creative license in giving fictional character Forrest Gump all of the credit. In one scene, he runs into dog droppings while on a jog across country. When a man in the bumper sticker business points it out, Forrest replies, “It happens,” to which the man asks “What, shit?” and Forrest answers “Sometimes.” The very next shot shows a car slamming into another. And do you know what the bumper sticker says? “Shit Happens.”

Personally, I would never display such a vulgar phrase on my personal vehicle, but I would use it to summarize the theme of my birthday party weekend, which didn’t go according to plan.

For starters, when I walked into the gym on Thursday to go for a swim, staff informed me that the large pool was closed due to their being literal shit in the pool. Literally. Shit in the pool. Desperate for a workout, I lapped the kiddy pool about a hundred times. Needless to say, I did not get a good workout in before my party weekend.

Then on Friday, as my sister and I were packing for our 2-day mini-vacation, my dog has a seizure. After canceling our hotel reservations, we took the dog to the vet. She did not come home with us.

Not even an hour after I said goodbye to my dog, my nephew’s grandmother calls, saying he’s sick. Just in time for his birthday party.

Then the morning of, roughly an hour before Rylee’s big party, Walmart calls to inform us that they can’t make our cake because the image we requested infringes upon their “copyright policy.” Well, thanks for letting us know the day of, and heaven forbid he let one more cake slide. So we’re scrambling to get cupcakes before the party, because who the heck doesn’t offer cake at a party?

Let me remind you this little boy has had a hell of a year with his grandmother passing away and his many medical issues. All we wanted to do was throw him this awesome birthday party.

And did we accomplish it? Yes we did. Surprisingly enough.

For starters, we didn’t tell him the dog passed away. She’s “at the vets” until after school starts. We also distracted him with the decorations, which blew his mind, as well as a surprise visitor, a storm trooper from the emphasis 501st Legion. Needless to say he had a great time.

Oh, and by the way, the cupcakes were delicious.

Now that I’m thinking about it, the phrase “shit happens” doesn’t actually describe my weekend. I think the phrase “life happens” is more accurate. Don’t get me wrong, putting my dog down was total shit, but death and saying goodbye is just a part of life. Don’t I know it. Three months ago I said goodbye to my mom. And on Tuesday, my sister and I will say goodbye to our twenties and the remainder of our childhood.

Even though a lot of shit happened this week, my sister and I were still able to bring it together for Rylee. At least his birthday turned out to be a success. What else can you do when shit—life—happens?

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Surviving My Mother’s Cancer: On Writing, Humor, and Realizing Our Dreams

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My mom is the funniest person you’d ever meet–that is, if you can get her sick sense of humor. Her favorite movie is Mommy Dearest and she can quote the entire movie by heart. A few years we took her to see the musical rendition. Yes, there was a musical version. Actually, it was pretty good . . . we enjoyed it anyway. But then again, I inherited my mom’s funny bone.

It’s not big secret, my mother’s battling cancer. And although she’s apparently had it for some time, we only recently discovered it in August of 2014. I know what you’re thinking: how the heck wouldn’t she notice having stage 4 liver cancer? Well, my mom’s always been a tough old gal with a high tolerance to pain and discomfort. Plus, she’s stubborn as I’ll get out. Hmm, I wonder where I get that from? Anyway, at the time of diagnosis, things were looking bad, really bad, and I was anticipating funeral plans in the near future. And this scared me. I wasn’t prepared for all that, but mostly I wasn’t ready to lose my mom. And for the first time in my life, I discovered what helplessness really felt like.

How did I survive my mother’s cancer? A combination of things. Number one, a positive attitude and a sick sense of humor. And two, by immersing myself in my writing. Throughout my mom’s treatments and the never-ending trips to the ER, I began serious efforts on completing my first novel, an Arthurian parody that centers around the misadventures of a girl named Pig and her knight, Sir Kay, as they journey in search of the elusive holy something-or-other. Considering the work is humorous in nature, I thought it would cheer me up, but more importantly, I thought it would give me some distraction and a sense of control. And it did. While mom underwent treatments, I made edits to my manuscript. While she stayed overnight at the hospital, I worked with a freelancer to create the cover art. And amazenly as the story improved, so did my mom’s condition. It was almost like the progress of the two were intertwined. By the date of my novel’s release, my mother received a positive update from her doctor. The cancer was responding to treatment and the tumors had shrunk. My mother was given the promise of time, maybe only a year or two, but it’s more than what we’d hoped for.

To say I am grateful is an understatement. I have my mom. More importantly I have time, time to help her achieve her lifelong dream of riding a horse. I know that doesn’t seem like much but when you put it off for ten years it becomes a huge deal. I can’t wait to see her realize her dream as she saw me realize mine.

Life is made up of experiences, both good and bad, and how we respond to them shapes the person we become and inevitably the outcome. Mom was given a death sentence, but beat the odds with courage, a morbid sense of humor, and the support of her children. If I can even be half that courageous going into the publishing world, I will no doubt succeed.

Currently, mom is doing well, all things considered, but I know realistically she will probably never be “cured” of her cancer. There will be ups and downs and things will get eventually turn for the worse, but I am better prepared because of the time I was given, the strength I have gained, and the ability to find humor in even the most grim of circumstances. Armed with courage and an unwavering sense of humor, I know I will survive my mother’s cancer and whatever life has to throw my way.

Why I’m Particpating in NaNoWriMo 2014

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November is a crazy-busy month. It’s the last decent month before winter (Brace yourself winter is coming) and its between the two biggest holidays (sorry Thanksgiving). So, why would we choose to add more crazy to this month by participating in NaNoWriMo? Is it because writers are crazy? What is it that motivates us to join this event each year? For some writers, it’s breaking writer’s block. For others, it’s connecting with other writers. For me, personally, it’s about personal growth.

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My mantra for the month of November

With everything going on in my life right now: transitions at work, family illness, etc., etc., etc., I’ve had a difficult time staying motivated and keeping a writing schedule. To say I’ve kept a writing schedule would be a gross exaggeration of my efforts to just sit down and write. In the last four weeks, I have written maybe 3,000 words tops! I figured participating in NaNoWriMo would help get me back into a serious writing routine, and if nothing else, it would give me the push I need to finish this rough draft. At the very least, it’s a break from editing. I’m so burned out on editing. Haha!

I’m hoping by taking part in this event I will reignite my creative spark and rekindle my love of writing. I know it’s not an easy fix, but sometimes you just need a hard push to get you back on track. Please wish me luck, and if you’re looking for a writing buddy on the site, look me up at kbbetzner. I’m always willing to cheer on others. We’re in this together, not only during the month of November, but all year-long!

October’s Featured Author: Elizabeth Hein

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October is finally here! And that means pumpkins and pumpkin flavored everything! It also means its time to introduce this month’s featured author. I know it’s not the first of the month (nuance) but it’s the first full week of the month so that leaves us plenty of time to get to know Octobers featured author, Elizabeth Hein, author of the newly released How to Climb The Eiffel Tower. This month’s featured author is of particular interest to me because she speaks on a topic that has recently impacted my life–cancer. More so, she focuses on cancer as a life changing experience, not just as a fatal disease. Her message is inspiring for cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their families. I know it inspires me.

About the Book:

EiffelTower-Cover-webBlurb: Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.

Check out the book trailer:

About the Author:

Elizabeth HeinElizabeth Hein grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of storytellers. Her childhood was filled with excellent food and noisy conversation. After studying psychology at the College of the Holy Cross, Elizabeth and her husband embarked on the adventure of parenting. While homeschooling one of her daughters, Elizabeth also started a small business and explored competitive swimming. She and her husband now live in Durham, North Carolina.

In 2002, Elizabeth was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of them. These friendships were the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. She learned that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet it does not necessarily change a life for the worse.

Elizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. She has published one other novel and several short stories. She is currently working on a novella and another novel. Elizabeth enjoys interacting with her readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and her blog.

On with the Interview!!!!

Lit Chic: Tell me about your latest release How to Climb The Eiffel Tower. What is the inspiration behind this amazing story?

Elizabeth Hein: How To Climb The Eiffel Tower came about as my way of working through a conundrum. When I was in the throes of my own cancer treatment, I met several people who told me that getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them. I found that hard to believe at the time. Still, that statement was a seed of an idea. I wanted to give voice to those women’s lives, so I imagined scenarios for how getting cancer could lead to a positive life transformation. After a few false starts, Lara and Jane began talking.

Lit Chic: What is the message you’re hoping to get across in your novel?

Elizabeth Hein: The message I would like readers to take away from the novel is – you can weather any storm with a little help from your friends. Human connection is so important for a person’s mental health. Also, I hope readers see that the women in the novel are all strong, yet vulnerable, people.

Lit Chic: Your writing tends to focus on ordinary people, such as the woman in the check-out line, etc. Why is that?

Elizabeth Hein: I am inspired by the stories of ordinary people quietly facing extraordinary challenges. You truly see what a person is made of when they are under pressure. Also, I want readers to see themselves in my characters. If Lara and Jane can get through cancer treatment, other people can too.

Lit Chic: What inspired you to become a writer?

Elizabeth Hein: Unlike many authors, I didn’t decide to write until I was an adult. I was an avid reader long before I ever put pen to paper. As a kid, I spent many afternoons in my room reading. It wasn’t until I felt I had lived enough to have something to say that I took the idea of writing down the stories in my head seriously. Once that decision was made, I through myself into learning everything I could about the craft of writing.

Lit Chic: What was the most difficult challenge you faced in becoming a published author?

Elizabeth Hein: One of largest challenges I faced in getting this book to publication was finding support within my local writing community. Writing is a solitary endeavor. You sit in your little room for years banging out a story and eventually get to a point where you need some critical feedback. A good critique group can help you hone your craft and support you through the inevitable periods of rejection. A bad critique group can stop you from ever writing another word.

Early on, I put myself out there and joined several local writers groups hoping to learn how to become a better writer and hone my craft. I didn’t anticipate that those groups would teach me how to stand up for my characters and myself. I was surprised by the push back I received from people who simply shutdown when presented with a character like Lara Blaine in How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. People expected a book about a twenty-nine year old woman to be a romance. It took trying out several different critique groups before I found a group of people who took me, and my characters, seriously. In retrospect, those first few groups did a favor. They taught me to dig deep and thoroughly get to know my characters so I could defend them.

Lit Chic: Throughout the writing process and in life, who is your greatest support?

Elizabeth Hein: My family has been wonderfully supportive of my writing. I am extremely fortunate to be married to a fabulous man that understands the time and energy that goes into writing. He has supported me in every way possible. My two daughters have also been hugely supportive. They both listened to me blather on about Lara as if she were a member of the family. All three of them have been wonderful.

Lit Chic: As a writer, what is one thing you cannot live without?

Elizabeth Hein: Good tools make any job easier. I use a writing software package called Scrivener that makes composing and organizing a manuscript manageable. The software allows me to keep all the drafts of a project together. I also hoard heavy weight legal pads and fine line markers to hand write my first drafts.

That being said, the one thing I absolutely can’t live without is coffee. (I totally understand–coffee is my vice!) I have a coffee maker in my office and love to hang out in coffee shops. No words get written without caffeine. (Can I get an amen!)

Lit Chic: As a reader, do you gravitate to the kinds of books you like to write?

Elizabeth Hein: I usually have several books in the process of being read at any given. One of them is usually women’s fiction. I like the way women’s fiction handles serious topics with a personal touch. I also usually have a mystery on my bedside table. I grew up reading my mother’s extensive library of British psychological mysteries, so P.D James, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, and Josephine Tey were big influences on my writing. I am also slowly working my way through the classics. Like my character Lara Blaine, I reread one of Charles Dickens’ novels every year and saw the characters in those books as my friends. Lately, I have been reading Nabokov. On top of that, I like to read books of the craft of writing and non-fiction books about psychology and history.

Lit Chic: You have a strong presence on all kinds of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Amazon. Which social media site is your favorite?

Elizabeth Hein: I am an introvert so all forms of social media are a little difficult for me, but I do enjoy interacting with people online. Each platform has its good points and bad points. I like how many conversations can be going on at once on Twitter. It is a little overwhelming but it is fun. I have gotten to know many lovely people on Facebook, but the algorithms confuse me. I see some of my friends’ posts, yet not all of them. Google+ offers a nice social media platform, although there doesn’t seem to be as many people hanging out there as there are on Facebook. I like the way you can actually get to know people in the Google+ communities. I’m not sure why more people don’t use them.

Lit Chic: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Elizabeth Hein: Allow yourself to write terrible first drafts; just don’t mistake them for final drafts. (Can I get another amen!) Get your ideas down on the page, then edit. Then edit again. Rest. Then edit again. Run the manuscript past some writer friends, then edit again. By the end of the process, you can refine the story into something you can be proud of.

And that concludes the interview. For more information on How To Climb The Eiffel Tower and Elizabeth Hein check her out her author page on Amazon and her website.

Thanks again for stopping by. Come back and visit me next month to find out who the next featured author will be!

Could it be you? If you are interested in being featured on Lit Chic, or if you know someone who should be, please contact me via kyliebetzner@gmail.com or message me on twitter @kbbetzner.

Life Has a Sick Sense of Humor and Why I Write Comedic Fantasy

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Sometimes, the universe just points its finger at you and says, “ha ha!”

It’s no secret, life is hard, and sometimes it seems as though the cosmos is laughing at our struggles. I, personally, feel like I’ve become the butt of some cosmic joke. My mom was recently diagnosed with cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good at all. To say life’s been hard is an understatement. Not to mention my sister and I are still settling in to our new home situation. Then there’s the craziness at work, not to mention my novel’s impending deadline . . . it’s enough to send me over the deep end!

Several of my writing friends have suggested I hold off my novel’s debut, which is probably good advice, but writing seems to be the only thing keeping me sane right now, that and a bottle of roscato. Haha! Writing provides a means of escape (better than the glass of roscato) and a sense of control. I can’t change my mom’s prognosis and I can’t force my home and work situations to improve overnight, but I can make progress on my book. And right now, that’s exactly what I need. That and a good laugh.

Which leads me to the point. Why I write comic fantasy. I like to laugh, and more so, I like to make others laugh. As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed epic fantasy. The worlds, the creatures, the magic, all inspired me to write fantasy, but as a writer, I could never master the tone of that genre. I still wanted the magic but without all of the drama. Then a friend of mine introduced me to parody. After reading a few books she suggested, I was hooked. I had found my genre, and my writing has flourished. Now, I write comic fantasy. My books are humorous, creative, and more often than not, entertaining. As a writer of comic fantasy, I take advantage of imaginary characters and worlds to parody other works of fantasy while satirizing current cultural issues, making them the most relevant and irrelevant stories ever told! My goal is to write a series of novels that makes readers happier and smarter at the same time.

In the infamous words of Forest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” Hopefully, you enjoyed this post and learned a little bit about me. Thank you for stopping by:)