Learning From the Pros

I’m not sure when I learned of Brown Girls Books but I remember being excited about this venture created by two bestselling Black authors, my Soror, Victoria Christopher Murray, and her best friend and writing partner, ReShonda Billingsley Tate. At the time, I remember being determined to reach their level of literary success. Then I continued along my journey of writing my second novel at the time.

Last week I attended the second of their four popup writing workshops scheduled this month. The first was a beginning writer’s workshop called, Facing the Blank Page. With 20 years of writing experience that includes two published books, two stories published in anthologies, and most recently, my first story published in Chicken Soup For The Soul, I’m pretty confident that I know how to tell a story. However, the second workshop called Is Your Story Plot Driven or Character Driven and what you need to know for both, piqued my interest. For the record, I’ve always considered my fiction stories to be plot driven. At the conclusion of the workshop, I knew I was right. But it was good to hear authors deeply meshed in the industry to explain the difference between the two. Victoria made it clear that while your book needs to be a bit of both, it’s important for the author to know what’s driving their story forward. Got it!

I enjoyed everything about the workshop and I’m looking forward to the next two that I registered for this month, Tools every author can use and How to become a Bestseller. But the part that really excited me during last week’s workshop was the confirmation that I’m doing many things that these bestselling authors are doing in their writing including the two things below:

1. Using actual pictures for your character profiles for better descriptions! I started doing that with my second novel, Reconciliation to Hell, and doing the same for my current WIP.

2. Including subplots within the main plot. I credit that to being an avid reader. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to write a novel. Well, I kinda did BUT I did knowing full well what makes a good story and that’s multi-dimensional characters. Characters need to feel like real people. And when you think of a real person dealing with marital problems, aren’t they still dealing with issues at work or with other people at the same time, right. That makes for an interesting story and characters.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Next week I’ll post about the next workshop I attend.

Yours Naturally,

L.A.

Journaling Rocks!

My poodi (grandbaby) is sound asleep. I should be too, after the day of running behind her, cleaning up behind her, AND baking a decorating, not one, but two cakes!

I was exhausted after the full day and shoujd have been sleep with the baby. However, when you’ve been thinking about the memoir you’re writing all day in the back of your head, you use the quiet time to write. Or research, in my case.

I’m reading through the journal I began the very night that I lost my husband. I remember having the weirdest dream in those early months following his death and I’m sure I wrote it down. As I’m looking for that entry, and reading over my thoughts and experiences during that time, I can’t help but be grateful for the journey God has me on. The entry that I just read which prompted me to make write this post was a passage about my expectation of the good things to come my way following this devastating time in my life. I PROMISE you, I wrote on 2/23/2018 that I was expecting a new job, new confidence, new boldness, new success in my near future. And here I am as of October 29, 2021, about to start a new job, in my new career as a librarian at Royal Oak Public Library. I officially started on 10/4/21. I have some training on 11/3/21. Tears literally filled my eyes writing this, just recognizing how good God is! If you don’t know, NOW you know! #GodisFaithful #’HeWillNeverleavenorforsakeyou #KeeptheFaith

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Birthday Behavior

On Friday, October 15th, I celebrated my 46th birthday. I do NOT mind sharing my age because, quite frankly, I’m looking and feeling damn good! Thank you very much! LOL!

Chapter 46

I couldn’t have a had better birthday. The on and off rain throughout the day did not sampler my spirit. I just stepped into my my rain boots that matched the shirt I decided to where for the day.

What’s funny is that just days before my big day, I was feeling kind of blah. After all, 46 isn’t a milestone year or any thing. And interestingly, I was feeling kind of restricted in how I spent the day.

You see…I’ve been dating someone for quite a few months now and, of course, he had to a part of the day. The question was how much of the day. He hasn’t met any of my close friends, though, I’ve spoken about him. But I don’t think I’m ready to intermingle everybody just yet. The other thing is that he’s one of those that doesn’t think birthdays are a big deal. So he was definitely in store for how I do for my birthday.. At this stage of our relationship, I think it was important to not play the day down because how you start something sets the precedence for the remainder of the relationship. Let me know if you agree.

Anyway, we had a great day together. Breakfast, movies, shopping, and concluding with dinner. On Saturday, I dined with two of my sorority sisters. Finally, on Sunday, I enjoyed a fabulous brunch with my sister, my co-host of Conversations Between Widows, and my daughter and granddaughter.

Friends and Family

I love that most of my friends know that my love language is receiving gifts. I received some nice things and I’m also a believer in loving on myself as well.

Gifts, gifts, and more gifts

Finally, because I also enjoy giving, I created a coupon code to give my social media followers a free download of my first novel! How nice of me, right? If you’d like to take advantage of this limited time freebie, click here and use this code WM82B.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Question of the Summer: What are you doing?

Writing and enjoying the summer sun

My least favorite question to be asked since I left my job on July 9, 2021 is: What are you doing?

Working a 9-5 job for the last 23 years, that question was easy to answer because eight hours of my day was spent in one place. Now that I’m home and not working for a particular company, the answer is more complicated. Or maybe that’s just my perspective.

I’ve been so used to writing and building my social media platform being things I did on the side of my day job, it’s a challenge to retrain my brain to think of consider this being my full-time work right now. But that’s exactly what it is.

My days consist of a litany of activities:

Writing: I’m working on the developmental edit of my upcoming novel, the final spinoff from Unfinished Business, and working on my memoir and a holiday romance novella.

School work: I’m in my last course for my library science master’s degree program. So I’ve got school work for the class and the work to do for the graduate assessment project required for graduation.

Editing–I’ve started editing the works of other writers, including stories for my daughter’s anthology project Dear Sarah, on sale now.

Social media content- Blogging, building content on for IG and FB, trying to do reels

Podcasting: I’m co-host of the podcast Conversations Between Widows and I’m managing the blog for that as well. The podcast has created so many unexpected opportunities. We’ve been getting all kind of invitations to be the guest on other podcasters’ shows. I see branching off into my own podcast soon, but not yet. I’ve got to manage what’s already on my plate.

I’m doing so much more in a day than what I did on my day job. The only thing that’s missing is the money! LOL. Seriously, there’s a lot that goes into building your non-traditional career before the money starts coming in but I know that payoff is on the way.

Now all I have to do is structure my days for maximum production!

Got tip to make the most of my time without a day job? Share them in the comments below. When January 2022 rolls around, I want to be boasting about the books I finished writing!

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

I Quit My Job of 23 Years—The Vlog

So I haven’t posted since the brief series about leaving my job of 23 years to pursue a new beginning. That’s not because I haven’t had anything to blog about. I decided to do something a little different, more real time, to chronicle this journey—Vlog. I like this raw, authentic process of recording this journey. Check it out. Subscribe if you like it or not. Lol.

Journey to My Adventure: The Benefit debacle

Tuesday, July 5, 2021

On the way to sleep I was thinking about the week ahead. My official last week at the job. OMG! The anxiety is real.

Like, off the payroll effective 7/9.

Like, no more insurance ( I do have the option to extend it for 6 mos).

Like, no more discounts for my AT&T services (cell bill, security system, TV, internet)

Like, no more going to work and sitting there doing virtually nothing for a pretty good paycheck.

Hmmm…Why did I do this again?” I find myself asking.

Oh yeah…because I’m sick of the ish! And have been for about five years.

Truthfully, the insurance thing is kind of getting to me. One of the friend’s at work who I shared the news with about my decision to leave advised me to get all of my medical, vision, and dental appointments in by last day of payroll. Sounds like good advice, right?

But not really. It’s not likely to be able to secure appointments for two people–me and my son–in a matter of two weeks!

I tried, though. I managed to get an appointment with my primary care doctor and I used my eyeglass frame prescriptions from November 2020 to get a sunglasses frame. I called our dentist to try to schedule cleanings, left a message, and they haven’t called back. Unfortunately, but maybe not, my son cracked his tooth over the weekend and now he has to have oral surgery to get the tooth extracted. Luckily, they were able to schedule that before my last day of payroll, though a large portion of the cost is not covered by insurance.

Nevertheless, my son still needs physical and Lord knows what else could come up. Although I have to pay out of pocket, without the luxury of regular paychecks coming in, I’m glad that AT&T has an option for me to extend my coverage for six months. I’d rather have insurance than face astronomical medical bills if anything should come up for me or my son before I secure another position with benefits.

This makes me very appreciative of Obama Care. It’s good to know that if the self-employment or PT work become my way of life that I can still have insurance.

Journey to my next adventure: What This is Not

The decision to leave my job of 23 years did not come without serious thought and consideration. I did not look at my bank account one day and say to myself, “Girl, you good. You don’t need this bi-weekly paycheck you’re getting from this company.”

Read More...

Journey to my new adventure–Who to Tell first

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

By default, my daughter was the first to know what I was doing. Now, she may not have believed that I actually going to go though with it because she knows how big of a decision leaving my job is, especially not having one to go directly to. After all, I have always preached to her and, now my 17 year old son, that you don’t leave a job without another one waiting. Well, I’ll explain, it’s a little different when you’re 45 and you’ve spent the last 23 years in a place for the sake of providing stability for your family and now you’re ready to live more for yourself. And, the decision was not made with the expectation for someone else to take care of me.

Anyway, I knew the word would get out at work after I turned my paperwork in to my manager. But I wanted to ensure that my actual friends at work heard the news from me before they heard it from the grapevine. Rather than communicating with them individually, I decided to send a group text. They all responded with congratulations. All of them know of my literary efforts and probably think that I’m leaving to pursue my literary dreams.

Sharing the news with my family wasn’t going to be as easy as a group text. My core family–mom, sister, brother, and son–would definitely receive the news differently than my friends. Though they know I wouldn’t make the decision lightly, they’ll still wonder why in the world I’m leaving my “good” job. Either that, or they’ll think I’m sitting on a pile of money that I haven’t told them about! LOL

I had planned to tell them on the 4th of July when they were over celebrating on my new deck. But when the day got going, my focus was grilling and accommodating everyone’s needs. It was a few more people there than usual so I got lost in the chaos of all of it all. So, family group text it is! (With the exception my mom–she doesn’t like important news via text.)

When you have news to share with family or friends, how have you shared it? Let me know in the comments.

So This Happened Today: Journey to My next adventure

Monday, June 21, 2021

Either third time’s a charm or third time’s a swift kick in the butt by God himself: “This is you last chance to trust Me.”

Opportunity #1: March 2006. I was in a strained marriage, had just had my second child two years before, and was working on my master’s degree when the department I was in decided to move the work to Dallas, TX. I’d had great plans for my career at AT&T once I received my MBA in Human Resource Management. I’d hoped to be an encouraging and supportive trainer like the Sabrina, the woman who trained me eight years before. Plus, my eight years of service wasn’t going to garner me any significant severance package. Nothing like the 100K buyout that my husband had been offered on the job he only had 5 years employment with. Moving with the work wasn’t an option. So I stayed and waited for the company to place me in another job in the company, hoping it would come with opportunity to advance.

Opportunity #2: June 2019. I’ve been working in my current dept for nearly 15 years. The work we were doing was on the declining side of the business. There has been no opportunity for growth or promotion within the department and pursuing opportunities in other departments within the company have proven fruitless. Admittedly, all the “no’s” from AT&T was a blow to my confidence. I became discouraged and began doubting my abilities. Thankfully, though, I had my writing. Pursuing the passion eventually became my priority over anything AT&T had to offer. Still, when the offer was made to take a buyout package when the company was making cuts in the department, I was scared to make that move. A couple of major things had occurred in my life by this time. First, I’d lost my 2nd husband, Kevin, after a house fire and a terminal illness in 2017. I was back to being a single mother, responsible for an entire household on my own. Then, I suffered a stroke in 2019 and had to start a regular medication regimen of blood thinners and cholesterol reducing pills. How would I pay for this expensive medication? How was I going to manage all of this on my own?

You can’t leave now, Charmine. You need AT&T’s comfortable salary and good benefits for you and your son.

The weight of that voice influenced my decision to stay. So I remained in my daily discontentment of complacency and fear of trusting God with…what could be next.

Opportunity #3 June 2021. The restrictions of the pandemic have been lifted. My son made it through an entire year of online school and is going into his senior year of high school. I’ve been dating a guy that I really like. And I finally got connected with a contractor to build a deck in the back of my house. Then the week I made the final payment on the deck and two weeks before me and the new guy have a trip planned for Chicago, another force reduction is announced in our department. The first part of the reduction is the buyout offer.

My first thought was, This is your time. It’s now or never, Charmine.

My second thought was, Can you really do this?

Then I heard the still, quiet voice of God, “With Me, you can. I will never leave nor forsake you.”

I always give God credit for being my provider but I’m guilty of giving too much credit to AT&T for providing me a life of comfort. I’d bought into this corporate/blue collar culture of boasting about my 20 years seniority, my 4 weeks of vacation, the company 80% 401k matching, employee discounts on my cell,TV, and internet service. I wanted to get the rest of what AT&T promised me. Another recognition gift when I reached 25 years of service, another week of vacation, etc.

BUT…brace yourself…AT&T CAN’T HOLD ON A CANDLE TO WHAT GOD HAS FOR ME (AND YOU ) AS LONG AS I TRUST HIM!

So, on Friday, June 18 I signed my name on the line and dated the paper accepting the buyout offer 2021. I didn’t turn it in until the following Monday BUT the decision was made that Friday. There was no pondering over the weekend. There was pure acceptance and calm in my spirit. Then I preceded to celebrate the launch of anthology and at a beautiful party in the garden with some of my best supporters.

I must thank the people in my life who didn’t naysay me but encouraged me to fly and trust God! They include my daughter, who has been my #1 cheerleader, my friend and Conversations Between Widows co-host Tonia, the new man in my life, who shall remain nameless for the time being :), a former coworker, Karen, who likely doesn’t know how God used her to encourage. Her words to me on in a random conversation were, “I wish someone encouraged me to pursue life outside AT&T when I had the chance.” And there she was doing it for me just hours after I decided not to leave.

Follow my next several posts as I journey to my next adventure of life…

Naturally Yours,

LA