Thursday, December 11, 2014

One More Step

Sleep was fitful last night.

Husband is gone. Sleep is always fitful when he is away. I turned on my heating pad in the middle of the night, trying to fool my unknowing body into believing it was human heat. It worked for a while until the safety switch turned it off and I awoke and remembered once more that I was alone. Stupid safety. And I heard about how zoos will give orphaned baby animals stuffed animals as mother figures. Sometimes we just need something.

I read, once, somewhere, a line in bold print: PEOPLE ARE NOT MEDICINE. And I thought that it was actually backwards: MEDICINE IS NOT PEOPLE, it should have read. People are better than medicine. Husband is my Prozac, my Xanax, my Ambien. I live in fear of something happening to him. I'll be on a whole host of anti-psychotic drugs that I have spent years preaching against. What's wrong with using people you love to calm your crazy fears. Isn't that what people are for?

Wear your seat belt and drive safe, I want to tell Husband before he leaves the house in the morning. Don't leave me on this planet, alone with all my anxieties.

I fed children and got them to school with my brain still foggy from lack of sleep and even though I wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed, I ran the crater. I have had to narrow my focus down to one singular goal so that I don't try to live in too many directions at once. Get up the Hill. That is my goal. Or, more accurately, run up the Hill.

I made it a little further today than I did yesterday, just a step. I'm satisfied with that, because I have to be. That's all it takes though, just one more step.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rules for Hiking (and…you know…life too)

1. Pack out what you pack in. And vice versa.

2. Drink lots of water. Water is nearly always the answer. 

3. If you start to fall, turn it into a slide. It hurts less and looks cooler.

4. Remember: Up is hard, down is frightening, level terrain that never changes is easy and a nice break…but dull.

5. Never hike alone. Except…do. Do hike alone. Definitely hike alone. Yes, it is risky, but life is risky. It’s risky to get out of bed in the morning, drive a car, boil water for tea, love someone. Life is full of risks. This is one you should take.

6. Tell someone your hike plan. Except, sometimes don’t. Sometimes do things just for you, not because you need to tell the world about it. Go for a hike and then don’t update your Facebook status, tweet, write a review on Yelp, and for god's sake, please do not blog about it and some nonsense of how hiking is like life….This can also be risky (see #5).

7. Bring snacks. Snacks are the best.

8. Read Mary Oliver. Maybe not while you're hiking--seems dangerous. Maybe sit on a fallen tree trunk or large rock first and Mary Oliver.

9. Don’t worry about the serious hikers. When you see them coming, just say to yourself—Serious hiker alert! and then move to the side to let them pass. Yes, they’ll get there faster than you, but you will have heard more birds sing, smelled more raindrops on leaves, felt more wind on your face, fallen more, and have more blisters.

10. Have a map, but only let it be your guide. Have a plan, but sometimes veer from it.

11. Don’t worry about the way you look—sweaty, red-faced, muddy—nothing like those women in the Eddie Bauer catalog. You look truly god-awful, who gives a crap.

12. When you get to the top of the mountain, panting, gasping for breath, clinging to tree limbs to pull you up and you see a little old lady up there chatting away happily in rapid-fire Japanese and you think to yourself—How the hell did she get up here? Remind yourself: You are a wimp.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Doing Time

I took a month off from my novel. Saved it on a thumbdrive <outside.revision4> and vowed not to open it again until I had distance. Fresh eyes.

I became unbearably lonely without it, didn’t quite know what to do, who I was, without <outside.revision4> open on my laptop. I was uncomfortable, itchy, lost for a few days.

Then I made a list of books to read. I inhaled the books I loved, labored over ones I didn’t, forced myself to finish them. Made another list. Another and another.

I went on hikes through green woods, scrambled up the sides of mountains, searching for toeholds to propel me up. When you really need to move forward, any ole toehold will do. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I saw the true beauty of a 360 degree view—nothing in the way. I got lost and followed two highly-educated, super-fit, upper-middle class ladies until I realized their path wasn’t the one I wanted to take. Besides, they were moving too fast for me. I slipped and fell on the loose, treacherous path I ended up choosing and then soaked my scraped body in the sea.

I wrote all my words on notecards in pencil. Notecards began to pile on counter tops, dresser tops, any horizontal surface in the house and then in my car. They acted as bookmarks with my long-forgotten handwriting on them. They hid in my sheets, stabbed me in the leg in the middle of the night, waking me. The words didn’t necessarily have meaning for me. Most of it was useless, a reflection of a thing, not the thing itself.

I sat on my porch and watched construction workers on the street below—covered against the hot sun, moving dirt from one spot to another, and then a jogger sped by, gone before I even fully realized he was there.

I sat in silence.

I listened to the same song on repeat for hours, never tiring of it, but hearing something new every time—one art teaching another. I wrote a story no one will ever read based on the song. I wrote it not because it needed to be read, but because it needed to be written.

I ate no meat without even realizing it until supper one night when I picked all the chicken out of my portion of the chicken casserole I’d made. I asked myself: When have you last had meat, self? Self could not remember. So, what, are you a vegetarian now, self? "I don’t think so," self answered back.

I walked down seashores, initially insecure in my solitude, and then finding comfort in it. I wrote on notecards about it. I discovered I forgot how to spell and I really like the word choke. It kept coming up—choke. I conjugated it in my head, just because it felt good bumping around in my mind: I choke, you choke, he/she chokes, we choke, they choke. Choke.

I wasn’t taking time away from my novel. I was doing time away from it. Precious time to ask myself one question: Do you write, or are you a writer?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I'm featured in Digital Papercut today. Check it out!

Saturday, August 30, 2014


The ocean doesn’t want you.

She rejects you time and again when you attempt to enter her depths. But then . . . an act of faith, a submersion, a push, and you are past her angst—you are in her. There you are nothing—a head bobbing on water, no duty, no service. Not waiting for anything to happen, but living in the happening, being the happening. Cool blue, nothing in the distance but that place where the sea meets the sky—the horizon. When you’re feeling dizzy, prevailing wisdom says, look at the horizon to regain your equilibrium.

You know something about who you are in that moment. Who you really are when you don’t have to be anything to anyone. A truth. And even if you don’t understand the truth, it’s still there—waiting to be grasped, accepted. Behind you are the screams of those in the shallow as waves pound their bodies, but you are safe, you are deep enough.

You can’t stay forever in her depths, promises forbid it. Life doesn’t all happen in the depths: some happens in the shallows, some on shifting sand, some on solid ground. When you’re ready, she shoots you out again—a messy, ungainly rebirth—crawling back to the life you made for yourself.

Monday, August 11, 2014


My house is high on the rim of a volcanic crater. This is a good thing when you live in a tropical environment and you don’t check the weather for temperature and chance of rain (sunny, 80’s, 10% chance), but for tradewinds and the occasional tropical storm threat. This is also a good thing when you need to get in shape.

I took my lazy body for a run around my neighborhood, which dips to the valley and rises around the crater again in a three mile loop. I started strong on my one mile downhill with an exhilarating, almost childlike love of running, having a fleeting desire to hold my arms out and holler, “Wheeee!” and continued running on the flat valley where I started to feel the many weeks of inactivity in my muscles. I decided I would walk back up the crater and when the climb started, I smiled and marveled at the nature around me and felt blessed to live in such a place.

But the mountain would not end. It would not stop going up. My legs started to give out, my head was fuzzy from heat, I needed water. I worked to keep my torso upright, but kept wanting to slouch, even crawl, the rest of the way home. So, I did what I always do when I’m uncomfortable…I looked for a way out of it.

There was no way out.

The only way through was up.

There was no giving up. I couldn’t turn back, there was another mountain that way too. It was literally uphill both ways. But then it hit me. It was just like life. I have to climb the mountain to do anything, I have no choice. The only way through is up.

I had to conquer the mountain, and suddenly I had to conquer my unfounded fears too—three inch flying cockroaches and customer service reps and parallel parking. And yes, I've been trying to get a book published for six years, but that’s okay, because the only way through is up.

Then it happened, I made it to the top of the mountain. Sprinklers went off beside me and cooled my skin as I strolled along the grass-lined sidewalk. I turned a corner and saw it—another hill looming in the distance. Just when I think I've made it to the top, there’s another challenge to overcome. I will never really arrive. And the only way through is up.

My fingers started to swell on this last hill, my shirt was soaked with sweat, and when I finally saw my house, Spaceman came on my iPod, like some kind of iPod ESP. “Spaceman says everybody look down, it’s all in your mind.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014


And today I realized that less and less I am counting the hours ahead by six—what time is it back home? Are they eating supper? In bed yet? Awake for tomorrow already? What are they doing in their world?

And more and more the floors are feeling familiar, gritty with sand that reappears as soon as I sweep it away. And my ears stopped popping from the steady climb up the side of the volcanic crater where my house sits. Or maybe they didn't stop popping. Maybe I just stopped noticing it.

Here the clouds reach down and touch the mountains, aqua blue waves kiss the shore, gentle breezes tug my hair up and slowly away, flowers fall from trees like snow.

But I remember sweeping fields that line I-95, barns collapsing in the middle, smells of summer thick in my nostrils, the rumble of a distant storm, a flash in the sky.

Monday, June 9, 2014

This Thing I Do

I was asked by Jeannine at Distilled from the Stars if I would be willing to answer some questions about my creative process as part of a virtual blog tour. Uh . . . do I want to write a bit about my favorite thing ever? Why yes, I do! So here are my answers to the four questions posed:

What am I working on?

I’m about ninety percent done with the first draft of a novel. It’s about Dex Flowers, a forty-two-year-old man who is out on parole after serving fifteen years for murdering his wife. He’s trying to live clean and straight, making amends for his past, and is determined to stay away from the things that plagued his life before prison—cocaine, whiskey, and women. But he’s haunted by memories of his dead wife and is being stalked and threatened by her father who has a history of drug abuse and violence. And . . . other stuff happens—I struggle to put into words what my books are about while I’m still writing them. It’s a little too left-brained for me right now.

This is something that I wanted to write about since I first had the notion that I needed to write a novel to avoid insanity, but because it’s (oh-so-loosely) based on something that happened “for real” in my life, I couldn’t figure out the right way to approach it without it seeming trite or maudlin. Once I figured out whose story I wanted to tell, the book opened up to me and wrote itself on my brain. I became impassioned by the realization that this story would never get told, there was no way anyone would ever tell it . . . unless it was me.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I would say that the main difference in this work is in who is telling this story. My heart did not want to let my main character tell this story, it rebelled against the idea, but my gut insisted on it and ultimately won. The heart is a fickle beast anyway. The main character in this novel should be an unsympathetic character. We should hate him immediately on page one. But instead, the reader is rooting for him and forgiving him and seeing bits of themselves in him.

Why do I write/create what I do?

Once upon a time, I was a weird kid who lived in my head. I was really comfortable there and things made sense. Now, I’m a weird adult who still enjoys quiet time alone with my thoughts. Writing is a way to get my head out there into the world. I hate having to think of things to say to actual people face-to-face, that’s really stressful for me. But with writing, I can think about it, change it, sleep on it, change it again, until it’s perfect (or good enough). That’s a special kind of freedom.

I wanted this novel to be about people. Not big, showy people, but everyday people grinding out their lives day after day. The things that interest me are not necessarily the things that interest a lot of folks. I’m fascinated by the ordinary, the base, the other side of the tracks. I drive slowly through the wrong parts of town, trying to soak it in. It seems to have such a different depth than my sterile, easy life. What do I even know about suffering, heartache? I want to write about those people. I almost want to pay tribute to them.

How does my creative process work?

Oh, wow, it’s not organized in the least.

Ideas come from everywhere. Someone will tell me about something that happened to them and I’ll use it, or someone will behave very badly and I’ll use it (I love this! I wish people behaved badly more often around me!), or I’ll have a dream and I’ll use it. I have hundreds of scraps of paper floating around town with lame ideas on them.

A lot of my plotting comes to me while I’m running or cycling, when my brain gets to that place where it is in total misery and shuts down, then I’ll figure out how to make a scene work and take the shortcut home across muddy fields in my shiny running shoes to write it because my fingers will be on fire. Exercise is a kind of meditation without the candles and trippy music.

And speaking of music, it is the backbone of my creative process. I get so much inspiration from music. It helps me with the feel of the novel more than anything, setting the tone. I couldn’t write without music. I’ll spend the morning listening to the same five songs over and over and over, and then crank out twenty pages. [Shout out to The Killers!]

I write everywhere: in my car while waiting for my kids to get done with sports, at my kitchen counter while waiting for coffee to finish brewing, on my couch, on the floor, in my bed, but never at a desk. I had to kill a character a few weeks ago and got up in the middle of the night after a thunderstorm and wrote it in the darkness of my living room . . . then passed out cold on the couch. It was disturbing and magical—the best of what writing should be.

I don’t know.

It works how it works.

Sometimes I read poetry.

That helps.

Check out next week’s participant!

Emily P. DeLoach is an Indie author and blogger living in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Besides her first loves, reading and writing, she also enjoys making crafts with her children, traveling, going to the beach, and consuming massive quantities of coffee and oranges. Her first novel, Escaping the Mirror, was published in January 2014 and is available on Amazon. She can be found at

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I chase the final fly through the empty house, whacking at windows, slapping at carpets, and feel no sadness. And maybe that wasn’t the final fly. Maybe his cousin, or uncle, or wife’s second husband is lurking behind another blind. I will swat him too, and moan about what happens when you build a subdivision on a farm. 

Flies. Flies are what happen.

The swatter echoes in the empty space. The walls are too white. The baseboards dustier than I realized. And still no sadness.

I’m immune to leaving. I’ve been leaving since the day I was born. I think, sometimes, that I was born to leave, I’m so good at it. Leaving is like breathing for me.

And I told my son with a shrug the other day, “There’s a last time for everything. Don’t ever forget that.”

When you learn to leave like I have, when you’re raised up on leaving, you realize that you only leave the things and it isn’t the things that matter, but the memories. You can’t leave the memories. You take those with you. You hold the memories.

The house is stark without us, no longer a home, the last fly buzzes inches from me. And . . . no . . . no sadness.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Letting Go

It’s a sort of magic the way we let things go.

I walk on the beach I loved for so long, the April sand cold on my feet, a light rain misting, my boys up ahead hunting for washed up jellyfish. It’s the only place I ever felt comfortable calling home, the place that always acted as a kind of a marker for me:

This is me, twenty, afraid, shouting poetry at the waves, would anything remarkable ever happen to me?

This is me, twenty-three, in white, saying goodbye to myself and hello to forever.

This is me, a blur of ages, years piled on years, me unable to remember where one stopped and another began, children spilling after me with sandy feet and hair crusty with salt, as I pray they love as deeply as I do and see instead of look, and always be amazed.

This is me, thirty-three, able to take a moment, let the water lap against my feet and look for my dolphin in the distance, the slow mesmerizing bump of his back—up and down, a breath and submerge.

This is me now, saying goodbye—not forever, never forever—but for long enough that the only way I’m able to do it is to hate it a little for making my final trip miserable with storms and cold days and even colder nights. I’m reminded again how close they are—love and hate—two sides of the same coin. But I’m grateful for the grain of hate now. It’s like a gift from the island—hate me so that you can leave me.

It’s a sort of magic.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My newest story found a home. Aww, look how happy my story is curled up by the fire.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Making Memories

And this Christmas came and went too fast just like last year and the year before that and the year before that. As we wrap up the fragile ornaments in the Sunday paper and I find a safe place for my most prized possession—a tiny frayed and faded stocking with my name on it, a plastic baby Jesus inside, that a nurse put on my bassinet two days after I was born, on my first Christmas—I find myself wishing we had done so much more. All those movies we neglected to watch and songs we didn’t listen to. We forgot to go ice skating. And did we ever even make hot chocolate with the kids? Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? Making memories can be exhausting. Then when it’s all put away in plastic boxes and stored in the attic, I find him--a stowaway Santa in a snow globe--hiding under a pile of discarded packaging on the desk. And, like every year, I don’t know what to do with him. It’s too exhausting to pull out the ladder, haul it upstairs, and climb back up to the attic for one little Santa, but if I store him somewhere else, I will forget about him next year. I surely can’t leave him out, he doesn’t belong in our life anymore. I shake the snow globe, watch the flakes saunter down and understand somehow that the best memories are not forced, not made, but just happen, like the weekend we went to Virginia Beach for a soccer tournament and it was so wet and cold and muddy and we had to go to the Laundromat to wash our clothes and it was all so very . . . nice . . . in the warm Laundromat, the smells of soap and fabric softener in the air, a football game on the TV, my family safe and dry around me. One of those moments I will never forget but that I can’t tell anyone about because they probably wouldn’t understand. When we left, Husband and I looked at each other and both said hesitantly, “That was fun,” aware of how odd it sounded. I put the Santa on a shelf in the garage. I’ll find him when we move.