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The Secret Keeper Fulfilled, Chapter One (sneak peek)

I've just delivered the full manuscript of The Secret Keeper Fulfilled to beta readers, so it's only fair all readers of the series get a taste of what's to come in the sixth and final book in the series. Enjoy! And tell me what you think!



A granola cluster sails past my head. My arms full of baby, I can do nothing more than shoot an evil look over my shoulder toward the kitchen table and growl, “Cut it out, you guys.”

Four-year-old Max informs me at high volume and maximum whine that his nearly-three-year-old brother, Harris, is eating his cereal with his hands. In his righteous indignation, Max dips his elbow in his own cereal bowl, sending milk and granola bits flying. Aidan, almost two, giggles at the sight of more airborne food. Harris’s twin, Brooks, looks on disdainfully, like he can’t believe he’s a member of this herd.

It’s a typical Monday morning in the Northam house. Five kids under the age of five. You do the math. I’m living it. It’s messy. And loud.

Holding a hungry, increasingly-impatient eight-week-old Addison in one arm, I give the anti-Norman-Rockwell tableau barely more than a glance as I retrieve a pre-made baby bottle from the fridge.

Brice steps over the puddle of milk on his way into the kitchen and says dully, “Good morning. I’ll get that.” He plucks the roll of paper toweling from its holder and steps into the fray.

“Much obliged,” I drawl, then firmly instruct Max to put his behind in his booster seat and be quiet while his father deals with the mess.

Max complies with the first request but wails about being “wet and sticky,” before screeching at Aidan, “It’s not funny!”

“Lord, deliver me,” Brice mutters (and I’m pretty sure it’s not just a figure of speech for him), peeling Max’s milk-soaked pajamas away from the boy’s body.

“He will,” I point out to my husband. “In about fifteen minutes, when you get to leave for work.”

Crouching to mop the floor with Max’s castoff pajama bottoms, Brice grins up at me. “Lucky me. I’ll be taking the mouthiest one with me, though, so… lucky you. How thankful are you for Monday morning preschool?”

“Very.” I pour his coffee and set it on the narrow slab of counter next to the stove, out of reach of any spill-prone hands, then return to warming Addi’s bottle in a glass of warm water.

Before the formula’s even warm, Brice returns to the kitchen, having made short work of de-stickifying and dressing our oldest child. He snags the mug of coffee, draining half of it in three swallows. Reaching over me to pull down a box of cereal from the cabinet next to my head, he lightly kisses the back of my neck.

Testing the temperature of the baby formula against my wrist, I smile quietly and finally return his earlier “Good morning.” I turn to face him as I begin feeding the baby her long-awaited breakfast.

“Something like that,” he replies wryly. His hand rests on Addi’s blonde, fuzzy head. “And good morning to you, Ladybug! Someone could forget about such a well-behaved, quiet baby with these bozos around.” He jabs a thumb in the direction of the squirmy boys at the table.

She blinks up at him around her bottle but continues gulping.

“No, don’t stop on my account,” he insists. “Pretend I’m not even here. I do. Often.”

“It’s not that bad, is it?”

He shakes bran flakes and raisins into a bowl, then reaches into the fridge for the milk. As he’s nudging the appliance closed with his elbow, he answers less-than-convincingly, “I’m only kidding.”

That’s not exactly what I was fishing for. I need him to tell me, like he does most days, that this is temporary, and I need him to give me an encouraging estimate for life returning to some semblance of order, a figure smaller than “eighteen years.” He normally takes everything in stride. I chalk up his uncharacteristic ennui this morning to fatigue. Neither of us has had a full night of sleep in months (unless you count that six-day sleep I took back in June, which wasn’t as restful as it may sound).

Now he levels a scolding look at me. “I do have a bone to pick with you, though…”

I pull my chin back and widen my eyes. “Moi?”

“Yes! Mitzi is so desperate to get in touch with you to set up a play date with Sasha and the boys that she’s resorted to using Jared and me as the go-between. What the higgety-heck is the deal with that?”

“What the hack?” Harris echoes, then tips his bowl toward his face.

“Exactly,” Brice says, pointing to our son with his own spoon, before flattening his flakes farther into his own bowl of milk.

I focus on Addi’s face and answer sulkily, “I don’t know. I just…” Raising my head to meet my husband’s eyes, I whine, “Do I have to?” Immediately, I regret the unfiltered question that provokes his wrinkled forehead.

“Not if you’re too tired, but you should probably answer your friend’s calls and tell her that. Are you feeling okay?”

I sigh. That settles it. I have to go. Otherwise, he’ll think all this is too much for me, and we’ll have to have that conversation again, the one that makes me feel like I’m an eyelash away from being classified as “unstable” and observed for risky postpartum behavior. It doesn’t matter that he’ll couch it in the “Remember, you’re still recovering from a major medical ordeal?” conversation.

As if I would or could forget. People are constantly reminding me of it.

The response to my health crisis and recovery has been nearly as overwhelming and daunting as the recovery itself. Peace held a 24-hour prayer vigil while I was comatose, with people taking shifts to pray for me. Me! When I found that out, I had to go to bed for a couple of hours.

Of course, I’m grateful. That goes without saying. But the mere thought of such an event in my honor, while I slept, oblivious, just a few miles away in a hospital room, threatens to smother me more effectively than a pillow to the face. If I had been aware of it while it was happening, I probably would have been hesitant to ever wake up. Don’t try to make that make any sense to you. It hardly makes sense to me. But it’s true. Even while deeply unconscious, I want nothing to do with that level of attention.

When yet another sigh is the only answer his latest inquiry into my health receives, he suggests, “Why don’t you have Mom come over and sit with Addi and Aidan, so you only have to keep track of the older boys? And go somewhere they can wear themselves out… Like the pool or one of those bounce places. You and Mitzi can watch from the sidelines and catch up with each other; the kids can go nuts without either of you worrying about having a disaster area on your hands when it’s all done.”

I stretch a brave smile across my lips. “Good ideas. I’ll give her a call.”

He grins proudly around a mouthful of cereal, chews, and swallows. “Excellent. I want a full report when you come to pick up Max.” Before I can tell him where he can shove his “full report,” he winces. “Oooh… except I won’t see you today, actually. I’m supposed to call Dr. Glendenning at that time.”

“Who’s this Dr. Glendenning that he takes priority over me?” I pull the bottle from Addi’s mouth and hold it up to check her progress. Then I transfer the baby to my shoulder, not even bothering with a burp rag or towel. These pajamas are headed for the hamper as soon as I get a chance to get dressed (which, admittedly, may not be for several hours), so I’m not concerned about spit-up.

He chases a raisin around the bottom of the bowl with his spoon, finally capturing it and shaking it into the center of the utensil. Holding it to his lips, he answers, “You know, Dr. G. Vince and I talk about him all the time. He was our favorite professor at Sem.”

Although Vince and Brice didn’t attend Concordia Seminary in St. Louis at the same time—Vince was ordained a year before Brice enrolled—many of the same professors were still around by the time Brice came through. Dr. Glendenning was one of those professors. I know that much from the stories he and Vince love to trade late into the night while I doze nearby. But if Brice is going to quiz me about the particulars of those tales, I’m in trouble.

“Oh, yes. Dr. G. I remember now. Yes. And you have to call him precisely at 11:30? Isn’t he retired by now? Doesn’t he have all the time in the world to shoot the shi—breeze with you?”

My near-curse in the presence of the kids fetches a warning look over the rim of the cereal bowl as Brice drinks his milk like an overgrown kid. Finishing, he reaches behind himself and puts his dirty dishes in the sink, earning him an equally severe look from me. Which he ignores, in favor of continuing his explanation.

“He may have all the time in the world, but I don’t. I have a busy day. But he said it was important. He’s been helping me brainstorm for a while via email about how to get Peace behind the idea of hosting a vicar.”

I groan.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Do you remember Jared’s vicarage? Or have you blocked that out? Because I remember it. I was on vicar duty 24/7.”

“It’s not going to be like that this time, Hon,” Brice promises, digging at his teeth with his tongue.

“And you think that, because…?”

He chases rogue bran flake remnants with the last of his chilly coffee. “Well, I’m not the only pastor this guy would be shadowing, for one thing. Yeah, ultimately, I’ll be the supervisor, but Jared and Wes would probably be better mentors, anyway.”

“I guess…”

Addi burps her opinion on the matter.

He smiles at the baby’s noises and taps his wedding ring against the side of the ceramic mug. “Really. You won’t have to be involved at all this time. I mean, other than making the guy feel welcome. Plus, nobody could be as high-maintenance as Jared was.”

I settle Addi in my arms for the second half of her bottle. “You’re a real glutton for punishment, you know that?”

Before he can respond to the charges, another skirmish breaks out at the table. Sighing, he sets his mug in the sink with the rest of his dishes. “And with that, I’m off. Good luck.” He plants a peck on my lips, then kisses the top of Addi’s head. “Although you don’t need luck with this one, because she’s an angel. Right, Ladybug?”

His daughter’s answer is an uncoordinated punch to his chin.

“Okay! I’ll leave you alone to eat.” He straightens and rubs his face, as if she really hurt him. Crossing to the table, he barks, “Max! Enough of the reign of terror in here. Let’s go to preschool, where you can boss around some people unrelated to you, for a change.” He pulls out Max’s chair and angles it to give his son room to hop down.

“I yanna go to school!” Brooks wails.

Harris blindly follows his twin brother’s lead in the chant.

“You guys get to stay home with Mommy and Aidan and Addi! How fun is that?” their dad gushes, struggling to speak loudly enough to be heard.

Aidan joins the chorus. Much square-mouth crying and gnashing of baby teeth ensues.

With Addi on my shoulder for another round of burping, I approach the table and shoo Brice and Max toward the garage. “Just go. Please. They’ll be fine as soon as you’re gone.”

Not helping matters, Max shoots his left-behind brothers a smug smile while his dad slides the straps of his backpack up his wiry arms. “See ya, suckas!” he tosses gleefully over his shoulder on the way out the door.

I try not to react to the four-year-old’s new favorite saying.

Brice, on the other hand, stands with his back against the open door and watches after his son, then turns his head and says to me, “I really hate that.”

“I know,” I acknowledge, doing a half-assed, one-handed job of cleaning the hands and faces of the sniffling younger boys before releasing them from their respective boosters. “But what’re you gonna do? It’s technically not a bad word, so…”

He snorts and shakes his head. “You and your technicalities. I guess I’ll have a little talk with him about it on our way to the church.”

“Yeah. I’m sure he loves those as much as I do,” I mutter. “Have a nice morning.”

He gives a final, limp wave before descending the stairs into the garage and pulling the door shut behind him.

Almost immediately, the three boys left with me stop their wailing. Brooks and Harris run to the dining room, where they jockey for position at the window, so they can watch Brice back from the driveway and give them his daily wave and short horn-honk (which I’m sure the neighbors love). Aidan follows slightly more uncertainly but eventually gets there, too, just in time to wave his dad and brother off.

I set Addi in her swing and clear the breakfast dishes. And another week commences.


Are You There, Discouraged Newly Published Writers? It's Me, Brea

Dear New Authors,

So you finally hit that publish button! Congratulations! It's a heady feeling, isn't it? And then what? Well, then... nothing. Well, not nothing, but it kind of feels like it, doesn't it? The rest of the world continues doing what it does on any other ordinary day, even though you've just performed one of the most important acts of your life. Meanwhile, you can't sit still. You sweat and fret until you get that message from Amazon or B&N or Smashwords or wherever your book, your precious baby, is live and available for the world to see. After months (or years) of plotting, writing, editing, rewriting, proofreading, more editing, more editing, submitting to critique partners' and beta readers' critical eyes, more rewrites and editing, and yes... more editing, then formatting, re-formatting, re-formatting, re-- oh, you get it. After all that.... You did it. You did it!! Let's just... take a moment to let that sink in.


Now, all that's left to do is wait for readers to discover you and for all the awards and accolades to flood into your inbox. Right? That's how it works, doesn't it?

No? You mean, your book's been live for nearly a month, and you still have a name for every single sale you've made, and those names generally coincide with your last name (or your maiden name)? Or worse, at least 100 people have promised to buy your book, yet the numbers aren't adding up, because you've hardly broken double digits?

Then let me be the first to welcome you to The Disappointed Authors Club. Come in, come in! Have a seat; make yourself comfortable. I'm sure you see some familiar faces here, even some faces you probably didn't expect. I know! They put on such brave fronts for readers and friends and family, don't they? But it hasn't been all roses for them, either. So here. Have a cookie. And let us help you out with a little advice on making it through your first few months, years, and decades as a published writer. Some of these things may apply to you; some may not but will be helpful for others. I'll try not to drone on and on.

Toughest truths first:

  1. Nobody owes you anything. Not your family, not your friends, not your pastor, not your co-workers, not your dog... As a matter of fact, you probably owe them for supporting you while you wrote your book, for listening to you talk about imaginary people like they're real, for using their life experiences as fodder for your character profiles, for putting them on the back burner in favor of spending time with your manuscript... or on Facebook, talking to other writers, who really understand you. So, no hard feelings when your sister's best friend's boyfriend doesn't want to buy your book, because he's not into sci-fi erotica. Well, he probably is, isn't he? Too bad you write new adult romance.

    On a related note, people will say anything to a new author or soon-to-be-published author to avoid or stop the "Buy My Book" conversation. Usually, the fastest, easiest way is to say, "I'll be sure to do that!" Eighty percent of those people have no intention of buying your book. What can I say? People are liars. But you've probably done it a time or two, too, so no judgment.

  2. Manage expectations. Dreams are big; expectations should be a different story. Dreams are designed to be out-of-control, unmanageable. Dream all you want about being on the NYT Bestseller list and owning a house in the mountains and one on the beach and a sweet little maisonette in London, across the street from where they filmed Notting Hill. Expect... well, expect NOTHING. And I'm not saying that in a cynical sense, like, "If you expect nothing, then you can't be disappointed." B.S. I don't know about you, but I have an amazing capacity for disappointment, no matter what I expect... or don't expect. However, there's a fine line between expectation and entitlement. Managing those expectations keeps you from crossing that line. That being said, you're entitled to your dreams. But... that's about it.

  3. Your royalties stink, don't they? Well, well, well... how soon we get greedy. How much money were you making from your writing before you were published? What's that? Zero dollars, euros, pesos, yen, drachmas, pounds, or Simoleons? Wait a minute... be honest. It was less than zero, I'm sure. Did you pay someone to write your blurb? Who designed your cover? Did you purchase a word processing or other program into which you typed your manuscript? 'Fess up. You were making NEGATIVE money before you were published. And I get that you want a return on your investment, but... give it time.

    Think of it this way:

  4. You just released a pint of water into a lake. Does it make a difference? Uh... sure! It increases the volume of the lake by a pint. But 50,000 other gung-ho authors also just poured their pints of water into that same lake. And 50,000 more will do the same tomorrow. And the next day. And on and on and on. That's a lot of water for readers to wade through. And some of that water ain't so clean. "Well, my water is crystal clear and beautiful," you might say. Doesn't matter. It adds to the volume of the lake the same as the mucky stuff the dude behind you threw in. It takes a long time for the sediment to float to the bottom and for the good, clean stuff to rise to the top. If you've done your job well (and I'm sure you have, although I may not have read your book, even though I probably said I would... I'm busy!), your work will speak for itself, and readers will recognize it for the refreshing drink it is. (Or something... Gosh. Metaphors are hard!)

  5. Going back to comparing your book to another author's work, though, let's discuss how unfair it is that someone who publishes a rough draft may see brisker sales or garner more reviews (even if they aren't the best reviews). It happens. All the time. We've all been there. We hear about a book over and over again (usually eight times, statistically) before we finally decide to purchase it for ourselves to see what the hubbub is about. And we get two chapters in and say, "Holy crap! Seriously? My book is so much better than this! Why isn't anyone talking about MY book like this one?" Again, give it time. And someday, if you're lucky, someone will say the same things about your book. Sure, they'll be dogging you to make themselves feel better, but... that's what happens. It's inevitable, no matter how brilliant you are.

    That brings me to my next point:

  6. No offense, but none of us is as brilliant as we think we are. Or as brilliant as our moms say we are. Or our friends. Or our crit partners or beta readers. Or even our esteemed teachers and professors throughout the years. Don't get me wrong: you're awesome! But you're not that awesome. The minute you start thinking you are, you're setting yourself up for some major disappointment. Because people love to knock other people down a few pegs. And the person who thinks they're all that is a major target. Practice some humility. Accept there's always room for improvement. Accept you don't know everything. Take that pressure off yourself. It's actually quite freeing.

    Sure, whether or not you think you're the greatest, you're still going to get one- or two-star stinker reviews (plural) that make sure you KNOW you're not. It'll hurt less if you already accept you're not.

  7. Nobody owes you anything. I feel like I need to repeat this one. Sorry, but I do. Because in addition to your friends and family and kids' teachers not owing you, other authors don't owe you anything, either. Doesn't matter if you've read everything they've ever written (although I'm sure they appreciate the heck out of that). Doesn't matter if you've written reviews for them, hosted them on your blog, chaired their street team, pimped their book links, retweeted their inane tweets about writer's block, or whatever. You do nice things because you're a nice person, not because you're expecting something in return. And if people do reciprocate, that's a lovely bonus, isn't it? Don't remind them about all the great things you've done for them. Don't expect them to repay you in the exact same way you helped them. Give them the opportunity to do an unsolicited favor for you, in whatever way they're comfortable doing it. Then graciously thank them, recognizing they didn't have to do anything.

    And finally...

  8. Keep in mind why you do this. Sure, most of us publish because we want to share our stories with the world (and hopefully get positive feedback on them, both emotionally and monetarily). But we write because... well, that's a statement you have to finish for yourself. I hope that however you finish it, it results in the continued pursuit of your dream to be an author.

So how do you finish that sentence? Please, let me know in the comments!

I write because...


I write because I love living in imaginary people's minds and lives whenever I have the chance. So far, I've been a neurotic admin assistant with a vivid imagination and a tragic past, an elementary school librarian, a plain--yet brilliant--writer (ha!), a secret keeper, and a male nurse posing as a bestselling author. (That last one was tricky.) I publish my works to justify my forays into those imaginary worlds and to--hopefully--bring a little laughter and entertainment to readers' days. Check out my full catalogue of books on the "Books by Brea Brown" tab above. You can also connect with me on Twitter and Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!


International Chick Lit Month

May is finally here! The weather's warming up, your cute new bathing suit's all ready to go, and you have the kitchen stocked with fixins for your favorite fruity cocktails. The only thing missing is the perfect book to read while you're soaking up some Vitamin D at the beach or pool. Good thing May is also International Chick Lit Month! To celebrate, some of the genre's funniest and most talented authors are offering their lighthearted, romantic reads for $0.99 each! So, load up your eReader and slather on the sunscreen, because your new book boyfriends are waiting for you under the umbrella . . .

A Heat of the Moment Thing by Maggie Le Page

A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March

Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got No Body by Jennie Marts

Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr

Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie

Dangled Carat by Hilary Grossman

Divine Moves by Ellyn Oaksmith

Exactly Where They'd Fall by Laura Rae Amos

For the Love of Cupcakes by Anita Kushwaha

French Twist by Glynis Astie

Good Intentions by Kathryn Biel

Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman

Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda

In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister

Let's Be Frank by Brea Brown

Lila's Choice by Laura Brown

Mail-Order Groom by Cindy Flores Martinez

Mr Right and Other Mongrels by Monique McDonell

Open My Eyes by Jennifer Collin

Reframing Emma by Missy Kierstead

Speaking of Love by Ophelia London

Tear Stained Beaches by Courtney Giardina

The Accidental Prophetess by Michelle Lam

The Bad Girls' Club by Kathryn O'Halloran

When Girlfriends Collection (Books 1-3) by Savannah Page

Whiskey and Gumdrops by Jean Oram


Little Less Conversation

I once told another writer friend that I'd never get sick of talking about writing. "I can talk about it all day, every day. It's just... fascinating. And fun!" (Oh, what a precious sapling I was.) Well, I've tested that hypothesis to the max over the past few years, and guess what? I was so wrong. It is possible for me to tire of it, and it has finally happened. I think I'm finally all talked-out on certain subjects... for now.

This is probably good news to my friends and family, who may have wondered, Will she ever get sick of talking about writing?! To me, though, this is sad news. To me, this means I've lost that youthful exuberance I once had for something I love to do.

Does that make me a grizzled veteran? I had professors in college who fit that description, and I dread the idea of being a member of that club. (No offense, former professors.) They wore tweed (except one, who wore a khaki safari jacket nearly every day, as if she were ready to hack through the jungles of our amateurish prose), and every writing and editing tip they offered also contained an implied "dumbass" at the end of it. "The words 'little' and 'tiny,' especially in front of nouns like 'puppy' or 'kitten,' are redundant, [dumbass]." "A single tear running down someone's face is sentimental, not to mention a cliché, [dumbass]."

Once brought to my attention, such rookie mistakes were obvious, and my teachers' advice made so much sense, but imagine how many times those instructors had given the same advice, semester after semester. I feel awful that I required anyone to repeat it for me that day back in 1999(ish). And sure, teaching writing is different than discussing writing with other writers or interested readers, but even that loses its lustre after a while, if indulged too often.

It's kind of like when you're a kid (or not-such-a-kid) and you dream of being an adult, allowed to eat ice cream for dinner every night, if you want, because nobody's going to tell you you can't. Maybe you even try it out when you're on your own for the very first time. At first, it's great. A different flavor every night! Who cares if the number on the scale classifies you as "technically" obese, and your cholesterol test results come back with a number more appropriate for an all-star baseball player's batting average during a career-high hitting streak? You only live once--and shortly, if you continue eating ice cream for dinner. Then, after a while, you'd give anything for a bowl of broccoli florets. It's no longer a novelty; it all tastes the same; the excitement wears off. Aw, chocolate chip again? I'd rather eat a salad.

It's the same with writing talk. At first, when I started to meet other writers, I thought, "This is great! Someone else who cares about the Oxford comma as much as I do!" And I couldn't wait to discuss all the hot-button writing topics (you non-writers will have to just trust me that they exist). Then, it starts to get a little less fun. A little less exciting. Then a lot less fun and a lot less exciting. Depending on your attention span and your tolerance for differences of opinion, this can take a while. For me, like I said, it took years.

One day, though, I noticed that I was putting the implied "dumbass" after everything I said in writing-related conversations with colleagues, especially if those conversations involved new, excited writers. And I hated myself for it. I thought, Who the hell do you think you are? You've published nine books, so suddenly you're the expert? You don't know anything. You know less every single day, as a matter of fact. And you're taking it out on others that you're bored with this conversation. Well, guess what? You're free to leave, you big meanie.

The thing is, at this point, I guess I'm going through a phase in which I'd rather write than talk about writing. Does that mean I NEVER want to talk about it ever again? Nope. But a break from talking about it is in order. Then I can approach the discussions with the fresh, honest, open, positive attitude they deserve, not the "Ho-hum... if I have to talk about sales rankings one more time, I might barf on my laptop screen" attitude I've had lately.

That means I've participated in fewer and fewer conversations of late. It's not that I think I'm too good to talk about some topics; it's more that people who are still enthusiastic about talking about writing should be left alone to do that, without me--or anyone else--lurking around in our virtual safari shirts, flaunting our cynicism. It's really better--for everyone involved--if I'm more selective and chime in only when I'm passionate about something.

And there are still topics that pique my interest. I love talking about process and inspiration and the creative side of writing. I love commisserating with other writers about fighting through the doldrums when the words don't seem to want to flow. But I'm not as jazzed about the Oxford comma debate as I used to be. (What a pity for those around me!)

Anyway, my productivity is so down lately that my work really could do with a little less conversation and a LOT more action, on my part. Socializing is important (especially for those of us prone to hermitism), but I find that in recent weeks, I run the risk of being one of those writers who talks more about writing than actually participates in the writing.

And that's just not the kind of writer I want to be.


Everybody Else Is... [fill in the blank]

You know what I'm talking about. You know, when you want something really bad (or badly), so it seems like everyone else around you has it? For example, you're trying to conceive, so you constantly run into pregnant women or newborn babies (hopefully accompanied by someone else, not just strolling the streets alone... cuz that would be creepy. And dangerous). Or you're living paycheck to paycheck, but everyone around you eats in restaurants every night and drives shiny new cars and totes the latest and greatest tech gadgets? Or all your friends are getting married while you're still searching for any guy or gal who even slightly resembles Mr. or Ms. Could Be Right, If Given a Chance? Or you're so burnt out on everyday life that people can smell your charred attitude from a mile away, but everyone else is posting photos on Facebook from their ocean-view resort balconies? Or--on a related note--it takes every ounce of strength and willpower for you to get out of bed each day and go to your mind-numbing job-that-you're-so-lucky-to-have, but the rest of your friends and family are doing what they love and loving what they do (and are really smug about it)? That's a bad feeling, idn't it?

Everyone else is... [fill in the blank]... so why can't I?

Here's mine lately: Everyone else is writing, so why can't I?

Boo hoo hoo.

The benefit to belonging to so many writers' groups is the camaraderie and support the members of those groups offer. The drawback? Sometimes (um... now), it's torture to hear everyone else talk about how much they're writing and how much fun they're having doing it and how magnificent it makes them feel. It's like being a nun in a room full of newlyweds.

Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't want my writer friends to stop talking about their writing and their successes just because I've hit a dry spell. My dry spell is my issue, not theirs. And it is good to know that some people are still cranking out the words. But dang! It's a nearly constant reminder that I'm not. And that's just not a good feeling.

If this topic seems familiar to this blog, you're not imagining things. When I'm stuck with my fiction writing, I tend to do [a lot] more blogging. And I tend to whine about how I'm writing so many blog posts and not creating fiction. Like this. (Remember the rainbow-farting unicorns?) And... this. Sometimes I have a better attitude about it than other times. And sometimes my inner whip-cracker has to step in and give me an attitude adjustment, which isn't as exciting as it sounds.

And every time I go through this, and inevitably get through to the other side, I say, "Next time, I'm not going to panic. Next time, I'm not going to whine and make a spectacle of myself and draw attention to what always winds up being a temporary issue." But the thing is, while I'm going through it, I'm not all that sure it's temporary. It doesn't feel temporary. It feels endless. It feels like there's no relief in sight. The characters are silent; the ideas are either flat or altogether nonexistent. And it's like a creativity vacuum has taken up residence in my brain.  It's just... awful.

You may have heard it said (or maybe you've even said it) that writing is a lonely business. But NOT writing, when you're a writer, is an even lonelier one. First of all, no matter how kind another writer is, he/she doesn't want to listen to someone moan and groan about not writing. That gets old real fast. Plus, it makes the poor writer who's actually accomplishing something feel guilty about his or her progress, and that's no good! On the flip side, if you get too many non-productive writers together, venting about not writing, you have a mass suicide risk on your hands before too long. Things can escalate from "I'm having a hard time finding the words" to "It sure would be nice to use my gas range as a pillow" before you can say "Sylvia Plath." Yes, misery loves company. It loves it too much sometimes. And nobody does "misery" like blocked writers. Yikes.

So I guess I'll continue to make that butt print in my couch ever-wider and resort to drastic measures like spending time with my family while I await the striking of the muse. Thank goodness most of the TV shows I watch are either starting new seasons or are back from their mid-season breaks. Lord help us if I'm still stuck after season finales in May. Oh, my gosh.... I can't even think about that. Netflix, deliver me!

In the meantime, a piece of advice from me to anyone feeling down about anything: DO NOT--I repeat, DO NOT--try to distract yourself by taking psychological tests. Trust the narcissistic, materialistic, image-obsessed, pessimistic, identity-warped, co-dependent blocked writer on that one.