Six Fact Sunday- Ghost Town Writer’s Retreat

If you follow me anywhere like Twitter (HERE) FaceBook (HERE) or Instagram (HERE), you know that I have spent the weekend at my very first Writer’s Retreat. I met the most amazing group of like minded amateurs, professionals, and experts. Even though it was a horror writer’s deal, writers from across all genres were represented. Lucky for me, most of them are local to Denver and mix in circles that I have recently joined.

Anyway, it’s been awhile since I did a Sunday post, but being new to the world of writing and publishing, I have learned soooo much! And here it is:

  1.  EVERY WRITER NEEDS TO GO TO A CONFERENCE!!! You will find your tribe. If it’s 2 or 200 people, you will find SOMEONE if not most people believe in you and your work because they know what it takes to get there. They know the hours you have put into pouring over you manuscript until you could quote it in your sleep. They know the struggles of networking, pitching, querying. Whatever stage you are in, a lot of them have been there and will cheer you on.

Theses people are so amazing. Writing a book is hard, and getting your book out there is even more difficult. The writing community is one of solidarity. Others recognize that you put in the hard work and wrote to tell the tale. Beautiful hearts, theses folks.

2.   I learned how to scare people with written words. This I am super excited about. I received tips from horror writing superstars, on how to make grown people pee their pants . I also learned that true crime is glamorized in fiction. Most of the books or TV shows you watch that are “based on a true story” are 75% bullshat.

3. I learned how to talk about my book in a way that makes others excited. The biggest compliment I have received all weekend is that they loooove the premise of my story and cannot wait to read it. COMPLETE STRANGERS want to read my story. (I am floored).

4. (On the note of number 3) I learned how to query and how to pitch my book to an agent in person. I also learned how NOT to by one ridiculously famous editor. He, despite correcting my in person pitch, asked me for my manuscript. I almost cried.

5. After MANY changes, I finally hammered down the true genre of my book. It is Speculative/ Crisis Thriller. This is the first time I have felt it’s been properly labeled.

6. I Have A LOT of work to do. To include a mad amount of writing… Like 8-13k more words to actually qualify to be the genre I intend. I am humble enough to accept that my novel needs work. I did not expect to just do one round of edits and be done. I’ve put hard work into it, I won’t give up until it’s finished.

 

Of course, I have learned and experienced much more than those 6 things, but I am mentally exhausted and ready to get back to my kiddos and the mister. I miss them like crazy. So, hopefully I will have a good short and scary for you later this week. But until then…

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Not me. Not this time.

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I have never been the one to mess with. I have either always knew the rule or researched it enough to know whether my stance on the matter was right or wrong. Health/ dental insurance don’t mess with me.  I know my contract in and out. I know what I am “entitled to”.

“But Dacia, you’re a millennial, you’re not entitled to anything!

I am a ten year Army veteran. I have earned my health and dental plans. (But really they are my husband’s work’s so shut up. Yes I have ‘earned’ them)

So let me tell you women something. You do not have to agree with what they tell you.

You don’t have to go along because you don’t know any better

You can learn negative and detrimental things of you own past that bring to light something you held at high regard.

You can learn that ‘”protection” might not have actually saved you from the danger of your own family.

You can learn that after 32 years of existence, what you thought you had built your own foundation  on was a lie or was kept a secret from you, in hopes that it would go away.

I feel ashamed and defensive. I feel like I am owed the truth on the matter before I go chiseling at the details.

I feel that being so comfortably removed from the situation has, yes, saved me from the physical hurt that others have experienced but also left the remaining victims silent in their recovery, personal remorse, and unable to anonymously share their side of the story.

Ladies- You are not alone. Many have felt this pain. It is not my story to tell, but if you can help others by stepping up, then maybe it’s worth it.

It is time that you have felt this validation. That YOU know that you are loved despite the things that happened to you.

I grew up so far removed. My memories are locked in the photos I own. I try to apply principles to my own little family that has very different dynamics.

If you can please help me to understand why women lay so vulnerable to men;   not allowing their own voices to be heard. Why do you place your husband above the love of your children? Then I may be able to sleep tonight.

The Mountain Climb!

Miscarriage is devestating. I know I’ve told my stories about my struggles with fertility, but please know that though it is extremely common, it is heartbreaking to lose a child. I went through a cycle of feeling dead inside and hated myself, too. But we don’t have to suffer alone. This post was written by my sister. Love you girl. Welcome back!

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My husband James and I have been married for 7 years and in 7 years our one goal was to become parents. The sooner we could start planning and making that dream become reality, the happier we would be. I had no idea Infertility was a thing or that we would have issues. The question “Why Me” has been asked and I still ask that question. Every year our resolution is to have a baby. That’s our wish, the one thing our hearts desire for is to be a Mommy and Daddy to our very own children. We have a fur daughter Aubrey but we would love nothing more than for Aubrey to be a Big sister.

We had a hunch that this year would be “Our Year”, the year that our dream would in fact come true. The New Year started and we knew our appointment with a Specialist…

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The Generation That Built Us

Having a daughter has completely derailed me. Things that I have kept high on a shelf, have come down to tiny hands that don’t understand the frailty of the memories they hold.

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This bunny has a good 25 years on her new owner.

My father being in the military, we rarely lived close to family. When we did go “home” to visit, we stayed with my grandmother; my father’s mother. I only just recently found out my own mother hated it. But my brother, sister and I loved everything about it. The cookie jar that held snack cakes instead of just plain ole cookies, the “haunted barn” we’d explore only supervised by my aunt, who would later in life become my roommate, the smell of coffee and cigarettes at all hours of the day, and Grandma. Her cooking, her gifts, her love, and her pride in us: the grandkids.

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Always so proud of us (I’m the bottom left of the main photo.. My cousin is the innocent by-standard. Her blog can be found HERE).

My Grandmother was the face of everything that the subsequent generations wanted to be to their family: the Matriarch. There was not a get together that she was not in the center of. Her cooking alone is enough for its own post.  It was never ever about what she bought us. What she gave us, she made with her own two hands. I am happy that even at a young age, I recognized the prize that was handed to me that Christmas.

Hand sewn bunnies, like the one gifted to me in the first photo, were given to all the granddaughters she had at the time. Many MANY more came later, but as her eye sight went, and her arthritis worsened, fewer things were sewn and less gifts were made.

And now as a mother, I treasure more the things my mother makes for me and my children. I want her to be proud of my children like my grandmother was proud of us. I want my daughter to know the line of strong women that she comes from. I also want her to know the value and worth behind taking a few abstract materials, a little bit of finesse and a lot of love and transforming it into an heirloom; a token of love and life that will transcend her own if treated delicately.

Grandma, thank you for sharing your gifts with us. I hope I do well to teach my kiddos of your diligence, your love and your pride in them. Even my littlest little who did not get to meet you. We love and miss you dearly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do I Say When…?

 

As an introvert, I do not often mix work and my personal life. At work, I am “on”. I enjoy the people I work with and give as much of myself as I can. At home, I put up a protective barrier and little gets through, maybe aside from Social Media. But then there are certain people that also give of their energy instead of taking.

I have a dear friend that has such a wonderful and eloquent way with words. She is such a positive light, even in her own hurt. I sometimes joke when I introduce her to people, that she could tell you about a dog taking a poop in a way that would make you WANT to pick up that poop. She finds, identifies, and celebrates the good in people and situations. She is truly amazing in the way she breathes life into people.

So it absolutely broke my heart when I learned that this awesome woman lost her father. I am really horrible at condolences and often just give space to the grieving. But as we both are very articulate of our feelings, I simply asked if I could share her gift of word with the world.

“Nearly 15 years passed after his first stroke, but his tenacity never wavered. That ogre called stroke suppressed his body, but not his will. Today, he unexpectedly surrendered to the daily plight endured, cast hemiparesis aside, and walked into heaven’s gates unbroken. While dense fog permeates our midst, we have been lavished with an outpouring of love.”

She wrote an email upon her return from the service:

“I return to work today still feeling afflicted and emotionally bankrupt, but at the same time, attempting to find gratitude for the small lights of love in my midst. Those came by way of a multitude of messages and expressions of kindness.

I kindly accept warm embraces and must add, those have sustained me in the past week. While I will readily accept all hugs, I do ask that all refrain from questions. I know that any conversation about my dad will erupt in a flood of tears.

My dad’s services honored his life and highlighted his will to serve. I hope to continue carrying the torch he so readily upheld.

I wrote the following piece, printed 50 copies, and had all our family read along during a dove release ceremony. Thought I’d share below:

Your soul is released to a place on high;

Where trumpets sound in the celestial sky.

Those left behind your hand wish to hold;

We trust in God and will rely on one another, further cementing our bond as if cloaked in gold.

We promise to band together, to forge and cinch our allegiance and unity;

To honor your life and remember you for all eternity. ”

 

She told me that a conversation with her niece sparked her inspiration for this poem. She felt the need to pull her family together. Time had waned the urgency of family and life took priority of making memories. We talked about coming of age where we leave much behind to work hard and make it on our own, that sometimes we no longer make time for those outside of immediate day to day life. My friend did not want her family to feel regret, or dwell in a place of division or seclusion. But she wanted to honor her father in the way that memorialized who he was.

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My dad loved to spend time on the water, so we spent the weekend at Grand Lake sharing stories and honoring his life.

She went on to tell me that her father had the gift of word. That he had a way of speaking life, hope, and happiness into anyone. Something she wanted to carry in his legacy.

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“You left my world unexpectedly;

without notice or advisory, you were taken from me.

While I cannot comprehend why you are no longer here,

I try to hold on to reason and rationalize my fears.

Many of us want to rewind the clock, to hug you one more time,

and feel your embrace, hear you try to make rhymes.

Sometimes your words were poetic to me.

You were gifted and talented in prose, with a God-given ability to speak.

When inspiration knocked, a flood would emit

and the end resulted in persuasive words that yielded significance.

I will honor your legacy by appealing to others with your gift of word,

And continue your tradition of inspiring others with purpose to serve.

Your words infused conviction for all humanity.

You manifested God’s love, showcasing a life of integrity.

Thank you for the gifts bestowed along the way,

For establishing a bedrock of truth, for that and more we honor your life today.”

 

My heart is so full of this woman. Her words are always so heavy with love, encouragement and praise. It was no wonder then when she described her father’s gift of word, where she had gotten it from. She spoke of him in a way that made me wish I had known him. There is no doubt that everyone that had that privilege was a much better person because of it.

 

Dear My Sweet Friend,

I cannot fathom the emptiness left by the physical absence of your father. The hunger and thirst to hear his voice, and receive his words that would pick you back up and set you on track. You have worked so diligently to ensure that your family is able to feel warmth and love in a time when otherwise would feel cold and regretful. I also can see that this is the constructive way that you have chosen to heal. You have strength beyond measure and his light and gifts shine through you every single day. You honored him even while he lived and you continue to do so. You are allowed to be emotionally taxed. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to set those boundaries for yourself. But know that you are supported by people that admire and love you. Thank you for letting me share you, your father, and your story with the world.

Six Facts Sunday- Domestic Violence-Please Share!! It could save a life.

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Today’s facts are not happy ones, but they are true to far more women than should be. Domestic violence is “violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving abuse of a spouse  or partner” is the google definition. For some reason, this very clear explanation comes with some grey areas that I want cleared up.

  1. NO ONE deserves to be hit, manipulated or forced to remain in a situation that is unhealthy. If you would not want your daughter in the situation, you need to get help.
  2. These are some signs that someone is being abused.
    1. they are afraid of their partner or are anxious to please them
    2. stops seeing friends and family or cuts phone conversations short
    3. their partner often critizes them in front of others
    4. they are forced by their partner to do sexual things
    5. their partner controls the money in the relationship
    6. they might mention their partners temper, jealousy or possessiveness
    7. they become depressed, lose their confidence are very withdraw or anxious
    8. they have physical injuries with unlikely explanations
    9. if they leave for any amount of time for any reason, the partner constantly calls, harasses, or follows them
  3. What can I do as a friend? BE SUPPORTIVE. Judgement and criticism will discourage a person from opening up and being honest. Understand that it may seem like a private matter, but your support can make a difference. To suspect and do nothing fosters far worse consequences.
    1. Listen to what they have to say
    2. Believe what they tell you
    3. Take the abuse seriously
    4. Help them recognize the abuse
    5. Let them know how incredibly brave they are. They need confidence in themselves, now more than ever. THE ABUSE IS NOT HER FAULT!
    6. Help them protect themselves
    7. Discuss what they can do and offer practical assistance
    8. Respect their right to make decisions
    9. Maintain regular contact with them
  4. They might stay for a number of reasons. Mostly they love the person they are with. They might be afraid of what would happen to them if they leave. They are scared of getting into legal trouble. They might stay because they have all the same mutual friends and they feel there is no safe place for them to go. Understand there is nothing wrong with her and it is not her fault if she has not left. It is possible that she has been manipulated to think that she could not make it without her partner they are stupid and worthless to everyone because of past decisions she has made. These are lies.
  5. What can they do? For anonymous confidential help 24/7 anyone can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 as soon as they can. They can just ask for advice and will not be forced into anything. They can request information as well. They can also call 911 anytime they feel in danger, even if the abuse happened the day before.
  6. People die from domestic violence. This horrifying fact has wrecked my world. I wish I had known the signs and knew she was reaching to me for help before the worst occurred. I will not stand by and let it happen again to someone I love. So if you are reading this and I have described your current relationship even just a little, PLEASE reach out to me or anyone else, call the number above, please get help. You deserve to be happy and feel safe and loved.

Little Mary Magdalene

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I know it is a little early, but in the month of April I will be interviewing family members to compile stories of my late grandmother and posting them here.

My paternal grandmother, Mary Magdalene Gilliam, was the gem of the family. Every family event revolved around her. I grew up states away from my extended family, but holidays often found us back in the same house surrounded by an ever growing crowd of loved ones. Her passing a couple of years ago was difficult for many.

I recently took a trip with my two kids back home to visit this part of my family and for some personal healing. One of my aunts has spent a good amount of time on tracking our genealogy. She had a picture and a story about an ancestor from around the mid to late 1800s. We compared his photo to my daughter and could see a great resemblance even generations down the line. It was incredible. When I returned home, I wondered if anyone had ever written stories about my grandmother, and if not, someone should or else she will be lost to our future generations forever.

This journey is a tracing of not only my grandmother’s roots, but also a journey to discover the woman that was revered by her children and adored by her grandchildren. Her great-grandchildren and great-greats continue to be born. It is my hope these stories will make it from the mouths of those that knew and loved her, to the hearts of the generations to come.

Baby Grandma-

So far the earliest story I have been able to dig up was more about my Great-Grandmother, Regina Philomena Werner (Schmidt). This story was told by my grandmother to her daughter, Jacqueline, who shared it with me for the purpose of this documentation.

Grandma never really spanked. But if you got in trouble she would sit you down and lecture you for so long, you’d wish she’d have spanked you just to be done with it.

When Mary was four or five years old, she wanted to help on the farm like her older siblings. They all had responsibilities to help the family make their livelihood and she wanted to be big and help, too. So Grandma told Mary, “There’s a storm coming. Go out and collect all the baby chicks and shut them in the coop before the storm hits.”

Little Mary, bless her heart, could not tell the difference between baby chicks and baby ducks. So to air on the side of caution, she collected all the baby chicks and all the baby ducks and stuffed them all inside of the coop. When she was done, she came back and announced her success and pride at completing the task.

It wasn’t until the next day that Grandma discovered Mary’s mistake. You see, the baby ducks were much larger than the baby chicks and those ducks crushed many of the little chicks.

Grandma sat Mary down in the kitchen on a wooden stool for hours, lecturing her on the difference between chickens and ducks and the importance of the chickens to the farm and their way of life. Chickens needed to grow, so their eggs could be gathered and they could be eaten. If all the chicks died, there would be no chickens to sell or eggs to eat. Poor little Mary learned a hard lesson that stuck with her for nearly seven decades.

This is by far the cutest story I have ever heard. This would have been around the time World War II had begun but before America had joined the war. The great depression and the dust bowl of the Midwest were slowing being resolved.  I can just imagine Little Mary Warner with her brown curls chasing after baby chicks and baby ducks, with arms full of feathery fluffs cheeping and quacking maybe even unaware of the fragility of her family’s farm or the harshness of the times. I wish I could have asked her everything about this time. I am sure she would tell me that though they did without, they did what they had to do and just kept on.

 

The imaged used was found on Google Maps and can be retrieved HERE. It is an image of Claflin, Ks which I believe was where my grandmother was born.