#AtoZChallenge B is For Be



Phrases I have come to hate.

“Time heals all wounds.”

“Give it time.”

“Death is a part of life.”

“The pain will eventually go away.”

“Just let it go.”

“Have you thought about taking up a new hobby?”

These things are said with the best of intentions. But it’s also said the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It’s a sad Catch-22.

The loss of a loved one is a difficult time, even for those who care about you and want to reach out and let you know you’re on their minds and hearts. Communicating those feelings can be awkward and misunderstood… especially when the person who suffered the loss is in a downward spiral.

It was only days after losing my husband that I began to pull away from people, more so for their sake than my own. I felt guilty as they stumbled over words, trying to find the right ones. I’d smile, thank them, and say I was fine.

But I wasn’t, and I didn’t realize at the time the harm I was doing to myself.

Before she returned home, my daughter found an online support group for me. I wandered in one night and found a long-time member I’ll call Millie.

Well into her eighties, Millie joined the group after losing her husband of more than fifty years. She said she was a retired elementary school teacher, but I believe she would have made a great prison warden! When Millie spoke, you listened, end of story.

I got more insight into myself and the grief journey that night than I’d thought possible.

Millie told me to: stop letting people off the hook, stop apologizing, stop hiding my true feelings.

We talked for hours, but in the end, she made me see all I had to do was BE. Happy, sad, angry, confused… it didn’t matter.  Instead of suppressing feelings and emotions, I should just follow them to wherever they took. I didn’t owe anyone anything. This was my personal journey and I had to travel it the best way I could, and that didn’t include hiding from others or myself.

That twenty months ago, and while I have had some huge, horrible bumps in the road, when I allow myself to simply BE, I always find my way again.


On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.


atoz badge 2021


Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay


#AtoZChallenge A is for Alone



The loss of a spouse or partner can be devastating and life altering.

It can also be suffocating. At least for me it was.

While I was in shock and trying to wake up from a nightmare, there were notifications to be made and a service to be planned. Our three adult children and my stepson and his family arrived in quick fashion and split up the work, but they were also in shock and emotional pain too.

My sisters kept the kitchen full of food and made sure everyone ate something, and that everyone had a place to rest at night.

Despite being surrounded by people I love, I still felt alone.

My daughter stayed ten days with me after the rest of the family had to return to their lives. But she also had to get back to life as her husband was deploying soon.

The morning we said goodbye was almost as painful as the morning my husband didn’t wake up.

It wasn’t simply that I was saying goodbye to my baby and was anxious about her returning home safely, but when I walked back inside and closed the door, for the first time in thirty-eight years, I was alone. I crawled up into his favorite recliner and cried for the entire day, believing life couldn’t hurt any worse than it did at that moment.

Of course, I was wrong.

Life doesn’t care about anyone’s personal grief.  The legalities of death have to be dealt with and there are time constraints and deadlines. Over the next few days and weeks,  I had to present legal documents and death certificates to change/remove names to comply with the law. I had to erase a lifetime and restart alone.

I died a little each time I had to remove a copy of the death certificate from my file. But it was a visit to our doctor’s office that sent me over the edge.

I’m sure the receptionist meant no harm or disrespect, but as she updated the file, she asked if I now wanted to be addressed as Ms.

I had a meltdown.

Seriously? You want me to erase any evidence I was ever a Mrs. and that the Mr. is now gone? Why don’t I just wear a sign that says, “ALONE?”

I was a total mess and the office staff went above and beyond that day, assisted by two patients who were “seasoned” widows.

One of the women shared a link to the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief—which I’ve received one-hundred gazillion times—but the other woman had a more salty nature and said after three years as a widow, she was tired of being told her feelings about her new life alone were valid and normal.

I understood her words that day, and they still resonate with me.

We take for granted being married or in relationships, but no one ever misses a chance to remind us we’re alone.


On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.


atoz badge 2021


Image by chezbeate from Pixabay





#MondayBlog The Rules of Writing?

The Rules of Writing banner


Don’t use prologues.

Don’t write multiple points of view.

Don’t write in the first person.

Don’t write in present tense.

Don’t write in passive voice.

Don’t head-hop.

Don’t use adverbs.

Show don’t tell.

Sound familiar? These are just a handful of the Rules of Writing. There are more. Many. Many more.

But no need to fear—rules are good things created in part to establish order and organization, maintain quality and maximum outcomes, and define best practices.

They’re also made to be broken.

I’m not saying anyone should write Rebel across their forehead and pen a prologue filled with adverbs. I’m saying you need to know when to break the rules, and moderation is always key.

If you want to include a prologue, go ahead. Prologues can be effective, giving just enough details to set-up the story and prime readers. They should never be info-dumps, burdening readers with information they’re supposed to carry and remember throughout the book.  That’s what plots are for and story details should be shared and shown to readers as the story unfolds.

If your prologue is full of plot points, skip it.

The debate over POVs (points of view) will never end. Some prefer one POV—the protagonist, while others feel the protagonist and the antagonist should be heard from. Still, in genres like romance, POVs of the hero and heroine are popular.

But, it’s the writer who gets to decide the POV of their story, and it should be compelling, always moving the story forward.

A writer once lamented she struggled halfway through her first draft before she realized she had the wrong character telling the story. With a different character’s POV, the story flowed, and in her words, “made so much more sense.”

Multiple POVs can be troublesome and too often lead to head-hopping—multiple POVs in the same scene or chapter.

And that will open up a brand new can of worms.

Some say never, ever, ever hop heads. It’s confusing to the readers and weakens the story.

The opposing teams say it can be done as long as the reader is cued in such a way to know the POV is about to change.

And again, from books and blogs I’ve read and chats I’ve sat in on, head-hopping appears to occur often and be acceptable in the romance genre.

Case in point—author Nora Roberts is a notorious head-hopper who sells books in the millions. Anyone complaining about her books being confusing?

In the end, the issue of head-hopping is between writers and their editors, because they don’t care for it and will point it out.

If you didn’t know any better (like me) or drifted into head-hopping by mistake, correct it and move on.

If it was intentional, be prepared for a fight. You’re not Nora Roberts.

Speaking of famous authors, Stephen King says, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs,” so don’t use them… ever, and who’s going to argue with Stephen King?

Well, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer might. And William Golding definitely would… while waving his Nobel Prize for literature in your face.

I believe most writers will agree adverbs weaken writing. You can prove it to yourself by writing a paragraph laced with adverbs like, quickly, silently, suddenly, really, and only. Then write the same paragraph replacing adverbs with strong active verbs. There’s no question the second paragraph will be clearer and more compelling… and less exhausting.

Yes, adverbs are considered weak words, but all words have power if used correctly. Books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Twilight Saga, and Lord of the Flies are still leaving bookstore shelves—adverbs and all.

Again, the problem with the Rules of Writing is all too often you don’t know you’re breaking them until you do. So, it’s in any writer’s best interest to make learning an active part of their writing journey. We’ll never know it all, but it’s better to know when you’re breaking the rules… so you can high-five your inner rebel and enjoy it.

Camp NaNo Update Day #9

Camp NaNo Update #9 banner


NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo has very few rules.

The goal is to write, write, write and get that book, blog project, or screenplay out of your head and on to paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect because the first draft never is.

That being said, NaNo’s most famous rule is no editing.

Editing takes time and patience. Time can be lost while a writer searches for the perfect phasing or a different way to describe bad breath.

The focus on the writing is gone. Frustration levels are high. Goals are not met.

That’s why NaNo encourages writers to turn off their inner editor. Bound and gag them and toss them in the proverbial closet. Send them on a virtual vacation…. whatever it takes to not edit during the writing challenge.

It’s difficult in the beginning. When writers see those read squiggly or double blue lines, our brain tells us to fix it. But the minute we get involved in editing, we’ve abandoned the writing.

Example: The word that is misspelled as thst. You go back to correct it but then get confused. Should it be that or which? Which is it? By the time you find the definitions you’re looking for in your jumbled writing notes, you’re tired and annoyed and walk away from your WIP.

Writing time gone.

By my second challenge, I’d gotten quite skilled at not editing during the month. I remember my April 2017 Camp Nano WIP was a hot mess as far as errors go. There were so many red squiggly and double blue lines on the white background, my smart-ass son would peer over my shoulder and salute it. (He’s no longer allowed to visit during writing challenges)

So as much as I believe in the no editing rule during Camp NaNo I am actually editing while writing this time.

Calm down.

I am adding to an existing WIP, right? Meaning I am cutting some scenes and extending others.

How could I not edit as I go?

Because another Nano rule-of-thumb I follow is to put the WIP away at the end of the challenge for at least a month. If I didn’t edit and make changes NOW once I go back to the WIP it would take me another year to figure out what the heck was going on.

And I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. I’m married and I have a dog. Isn’t that enough?



Day 9 word count – 17341


Want to see where this WIP came from?

The Devil You Know

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update #3

Camp NaNo Update banner #3

WriMos have more in common than, well… just being WriMos.

Regardless of whether writing goals are met in the first ten days; metered out over the month, or never met, challenge participants have to do more than simply write.

We have lives to live.

Work or school, spouses, partners, and children, health issues and caregiver responsibilities, and yes, even pets require our time and attention. As much as we may want to bury our heads in our WIPs… it ain’t happening.

NaNo organizers send out the first emails early telling WriMos to get organized and find the best writing tools… and snacks.

We’re told to clear our calendars of all major distractions, send our inner editors on vacation… or lock them in the proverbial closet, and get ready to write, sprint, write!

Because it’s just that easy… only not.

July and November have the distinction of including two major U.S. holidays—Independence Day and Thanksgiving—and even in years when Easter Sunday occurs in March, everyone from pre-schoolers to PhD candidates will celebrate the one-week-to ten-day break from studies in the U.S. known as Spring Break at some point during the month of April.

But NaNoWriMo is a global event.

So while some WriMos may not be concerned with cookouts, roasted turkeys, or trying to get to the nearest beach or amusement park, they’re still living lives which come with a laundry list of things which can pull them away from writing.

Water heaters break. Cars won’t start. Children need their parents. Out-of-town guests show up unexpectedly. Friends extend dinner invites. Writers get sick.

Life will get its time, one way or another.

And don’t we want it to? Isn’t that what being a writer is all about? Doesn’t the total sum of our experiences make us who we are?

True distractions? Maybe. Necessary? Definitely.

What are we writing about if we’re not living? How can we create our best work if our minds are only focused on creating our best work?

There’s a quote which says all a writer needs to do is sit down and write. However, before you can write, you need to live.

Our two oldest are in town for the rest of the week. We’ve already decided no one is standing out in one-hundred-and-five-degree heat just to flip burgers, but their list of movies to watch is massive and full of action movies… my weakness. Thank God I’m already over word count because I’m going to be distracted by family movie time… and the jokes, stories, food and laughter that go along with it.

I hope you’re distracted this month too.

Let’s be clear here—four hours on Twitter or three hours playing Call of Duty is not a distraction, it’s procrastination and you should be writing! 😀


#MondayBlog CampNaNo Update

Monday Blog bannerIt’s July which means CampNaNoWriMo participants are off and writing!

And NaNoWriMo organizers have made it even easier to participate by offering different options to measure progress.

Don’t want to measure in word counts? Try hours or pages.

Don’t want to write a novel? Try blog posts, poetry or drabbles.  Even screenwriting is easier.

Authors/ writers have sprinted, plotted, pantsed, and stressed to get here. To be in the moment.

I didn’t do any of those things, but it’s already been established I have my own set of unique issues.

Beginning the process is not the problem.

Typing The End? Still working on that superpower.

I’m not starting from scratch for this writing challenge, but continuing on with the results of another writing challenge.

Stay with me.Sins of the Mother cover3

On March18th I posted a mystery and suspense flash piece for the #52weeks52stories challenge.

Twelve weeks later I was still adding to the, um…flash piece. All forty-four-thousand words of it.

Go ahead and laugh because I haven’t stopped laughing. This could be a bad sign too.

Seriously though, it’s not as though I didn’t do any planning.

I changed the title, even though it may be temporary. What was The Devil You Know is now Sins of the Mother and I made a working cover just for CampNaNoWriMo!

See? Progress!

Scene layoutI also have the first act completed.

That wasn’t any. I had to let a psychopath attack a seventy-four-year-old woman.

I’m sure I’ll pay for that somewhere down the line.

To finish on time (July 31st) I only need to add nine hundred (900) words a day to my existing WIP,  and on day one I added sixteen-hundred (1600).

The current story has a full cast–spouses and their adult children, the villian and his family, neighbors, police detectives and a coroner. There is absolutely no space for another character.

But I’ll bet one shows up. They always do.

#WIP Update!


Happy Wednesday, everyone! Hope you’re enjoying your day and faring much better than I am.

2018 started out with an easy flow, but I…-

Hears a noise.

…but I seem…-

Hears the noise again. Looks around and see no one

As I was saying, the year began pretty good…

Hears noise again. Sounds like someone clearing their throat. Turns around to find Olivia Chandler lying prone on the floor.

FD: Hello, Olivia.

OC: Olivia sighs.

FD: Is something wrong, Counselor?

OC: It’s… It’s February 28th.

FD: Yes, I know.

OC: You were supposed to release Family Matters today.

FD: Yes, I know.

OC: But you’re not.

FD: No, I’m not.

OC: But why not? It’s been edited, revised and edited again.

FD: Because I had to rewrite it.

OC: What the hell?

FD: Calm down.

OC: How could you rewrite it? Why didn’t I know? Why did you rewrite it?

FD: Anymore questions?

Olivia chuffs.

FD: I rewrote it because it wasn’t right. When life got crazy last summer, I should have put the book aside until I was focused, but I didn’t. You drifted, and I drifted… in two different directions.

OC: So, this is your fault?

FD: I wouldn’t go that far, Miss Thang.

OC: You cannot lay this at my feet.

FD: Well, you were the one going all Sybil and changing your personality in every scene.

OC: I was suffering from clinical depression. What’s your excuse?

FD: I was suffering from clinical depression.

OC: Oh. Are we okay now?

FD: You’ll be fine.

OC: And you?

FD: I’m a writer, Olivia. We’re all a bit mad.

OC: Oh, you are not.

FD: Olivia, I’m having a conversation with a fictional character.

OC: Well, there’s that.

Olivia giggles.

Felicia frowns.

OC: So, uh… the release date?

FD: I was about to blog about the delay, but discuss how I was formatting the MS before you-

OC: …interrupted you.

FD: Basically.

OC: Okay, Felicia. You go on and finish that. Then we can talk about book 3.

FD: There is no book 3.

OC: Yes, there is.

FD: Olivia Chandler, I am done with you.

OC: No, you’re not.

FD: If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few appearances in Margot and Bishop’s story.

OC: Margot and Bishop? Margot and Bishop? Why do they get a story?

FD: Margot deserves it and she has a great story.

OC: Better than mine.

FD: Different from yours.

OC: Fine. I’ll wait.

FD: It could be a while.

OC: Have you even started their story?

FD: Nope.

OC: So, what’s the problem? Just squeeze me in.

FD: Nope.

OC: Oh, why not?

FD: Let’s see… two blogs, eleven outlines, 300K of words on paper, two Camp NaNos, November Nano, a 52-week writing challenge, I’m learning drabbles, practicing haikus, and the mister would like clean clothes and a few dinners during all this. And let’s not forget my friend who’s never far away… Fibrofog.

Olivia laughs.

OC: Yeah, you zone out and double up on the coffee and pun memes.

FD: It’s not funny.

OC: It’s kinda funny.

FD: Okay, it is funny. Are we done here?

OC: I’ll go. But, seriously, Felicia, I do have another good story. A meteor crashes in the parking lot just as I’m leaving work, and the radiation gives me superpowers and-


OC: Okay, okay. I’ll work out the details. You’re going to love it. Cya!

Massages forehead.

Now I know why George R.R. Martin kills everyone.

FM Choice

Dabbling in Drabbles


Just for Now – Drabble #3

With a heavy heart, Des drove home from work, unhurried.

He wouldn’t be there tonight… or ever again.

He’d stroked her cheek and said, “I’ll always love you,” followed by, “but, I’m not happy.”

He wasn’t the first to say the words, just the latest.

And the one she’d hoped would stay.

Why did they always leave?

She was the temporary girlfriend never good enough for long-term.

Parking her car, she rushed up the walkway ignoring the pitying looks of her neighbors.

Letting herself in, she closed the door and sagged against it.

They already knew.

She was alone again.

broken heart


Image from Pixabay
©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison!

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford; February 18, 1931) is an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher, and professor emeritus at Princeton University.

Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 for Beloved. The novel was adapted into a film of the same name (starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover) in 1998. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. She was honored with the 1996 National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Morrison wrote the libretto for a new opera, Margaret Garner, first performed in 2005. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”


From Google and Wikipedia

The Visit

River Ridge

Scene from the Upcoming Family Matters. Still struggling to overcome her issues of abandonment and salvage her personal life… and sanity, attorney Olivia Chandler attempts to visit the mother she hasn’t seen in five years and who’s been a resident at a private mental facility for almost thirty years.

“Olivia Chandler? I’m Sandra Riley, Sarina’s case manager.”

The tall woman grasped Olivia’s hand into both of her own, shaking briskly. “We’re so glad you’re here today. This is a big step forward for your mother.”

“Nice to meet you, Sandra, and honestly, it’s a big step for me too.”

“Oh, I’m sure, Olivia. Any questions for me before you visit with Sarina?”

Visit with Sarina. She made it sound so cute and homey, Olivia thought.

“Does she know I planned to be here today?”

“Yes, she does. When Sarina asked about you a few weeks ago, she said she also knew you’d have little or no reason to want to see her, but she’d always hoped you come someday.””

Olivia stared at the woman blankly, not knowing how to respond to the comment.

“I’m sure this is confusing, Olivia, and now isn’t the time for me to explain all that Sarina has gone through, but please know she is fully cognizant of her aging, of you, her late husband”, Sandra paused only for a second, “she even remembers the accident. It’s everything between the accident and a few months ago that’s fuzzy for her. It’s as though a switch was flipped off in her brain that was recently turned back on.”

Olivia frowned but didn’t ask the question on the tip of her tongue.

“May I see her now?”

“Of course! Follow me.”

The case manager’s long legs covered the distance across the sitting area in no time at all, with Olivia almost scurrying to keep up with her. Margot and Randie were always teasing Olivia about her brisk walking pace, but she had nothing on Sandra Riley! Olivia would guess Sandra to be at least six feet tall… and light on her feet.

Reaching an unmarked door in the far corner, Sandra held it open for Olivia, who walked through and found herself standing in yet another sitting room, only this one resembled the average family room. Large, overstuffed chairs, throw rugs and even a flat screen television graced the area.

“Welcome to Honey Ridge East, Olivia.”

“Honey Ridge East? I don’t understand.”

Sandra pointed to a bulletin board on the wall near the door they’d just come through.

“The residents here are grouped by floor, the severity of mental disorder, and the amount of care and supervision needed. The healthiest, most independent residents reside here in Honey Ridge.”

“My mother is here…in this section?”

She nodded.

Olivia tried to digest the information. Her mother was healthy? Required little or no supervision? Trying to reconcile this new Sarina with the bedridden, incoherent woman she last saw five years ago was difficult for Olivia.

“How long has she lived here?”

Sandra pursed her lips, thinking. Then she nodded.

“I’m pretty sure Sarina was here for the group’s Valentine’s Day dinner dance, so that makes it eight months.” Sandra tried not to laugh at the horrified expression on Olivia’s face.

“Don’t be shocked. We also have Easter Egg hunts and 4th of July barbecues. Most of the residents have signed up for hayrides next week for Halloween, and…” she leaned in towards Olivia, “I heard Santa will visit on Christmas Eve.”

Shaking her head, Olivia was incredulous.

“What kind of mental hospital is this? I mean, um…I thought…”

The case manager guided Olivia past the sitting area while answering.

“River Ridge Meadows is a private care, private pay, voluntary commitment facility. We’re fully licensed by the state and the federal government. Insurance isn’t accepted here, and no resident is here against their will. We currently have one hundred and sixty-one residents ranging in age from seven to eighty-six. Most are from throughout the state, but there are a few from other parts of the country, and even four from Europe. River Ridge has two permanent, board certified psychiatrists, two permanent, board certified medical doctors, six psychologists, and a nursing staff of 40 that includes licensed physical therapists.

The residents here are used to a certain way of life, and we provide that here, within reason. That’s why we also have an event planner and a social activities director on staff.”

Sandra stopped at the top end of a short hallway. “But we have all the time in the world for me to tell you about River Ridge, and even give you a tour, if you like.” She nodded towards the end of the hall. “Your mother is expecting you.”

Olivia pressed her hand against her stomach, the tiny nervous tremors threatening to morph into a full-fledged earthquake. Heat enveloped her body as the familiar tang of bile crept up the back of her throat. Closing her eyes, the nervous woman tried to will the anxiety away.

You’ve come this far, Chandler, don’t you dare freak out now!


©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved