Saturday, October 31, 2015

Something Wicked This Way Comes

It's coming.

The wind shifts mid-month and a chill creeps through the window.

The window you THOUGH you'd closed up tight.

Should I? You ask yourself. Or shouldn't I?

The choice is yours, to let It in or let it pass.

Either way, It's THERE, seeping into your consciousness and haunting your normally placid life. If you say "no", It taunts you from the bushes, nips at your heels and calls your name, unbidden, in the night.

If you say "yes", well, It's relentless.

Your days, your nights, suddenly fill with the clacking; your eyes go bloodshot; your fingers ache. You'll wake, drenched in sweat, wondering if you'll make it, wondering if you should bow out.

But you won't.

You can't.

Gird your loins, Dear Writer, and sharpen your wits.

IT'S ALMOST HERE...

NANOWRIMO COMETH!!!


Happy Halloween, Dear Reader! Don't let NaNoWriMo fool you. It looks unsuspecting but inside beats the heart of a beast. A frumious bandersnatch! Stay strong, fellow Wrimos. Stay strong!



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The NEED to write


Write.

Craft.

Repeat.

This is my life lately. Ok, if I was HONEST, it would be more craft, repeat, craft, repeat, craft - Oh YEAH! Write!

Have you ever had to put your writing on hold and found yourself MISSING it? Found yourself reading books -old favorites and new finds- just so you can be close to words again? That's been my life for the past month. I was on a ROLL with editing a two year old novel and then -- screeching halt!

A friend and former employer of mine asked me if I wanted to be a vendor at her boutique. Of course I said yes. BOOM! I started a business. Don't ask for details. There aren't any! It's very slap-dash still. I promised a bundle of items without having ANYTHING made! HA! So I stitched like a mad woman for five days and produced some really fun items:


That was a month ago. Since then, I've been stitching MORE items (again, like mad) and have a fresh, new bundle to hand over to her on Friday. I'll have a photo by then, don't worry. They aren't actually done yet!

Funny, but getting back into embroidery has really, REALLY showed me how much I LOVE writing. I MISS it. I miss the creation of story, I miss the clack of the keyboard and the scratch of pen on paper. I miss spending mornings in coffee shops writing before work and on off days.

And I'm glad. I'm glad to have this opportunity to share my crafts with others. Where it will lead, I'm not quite sure. That's in the morphing process as we speak. But I'm enjoying seeing a new side of creativity.

And I'm also enjoying seeing this rise of WANT in terms of writing. THAT'S why I signed up for NaNo this year. I NEED that crazy deadline to get me back in the groove. Once I finish this last item for the shop, I'm taking a bit of a hiatus from stitching. I'll be designing new items during the month of November which will allow me to focus more down time on writing. NaNo will give me that extra incentive to get those words out there.

Still mulling over what story to work on. Yesterday I posted about an old draft. Now I've got two more ideas vying for my attention. The countdown begins. Knowing me, I'll decide on November 01 when I sit down at the computer and start typing.

Here's to happy "accidents" and the sheer JOY of creating!
Cheers,


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Research and Writing


Thanks to Bish Denham and her MARVELOUS blog hop yesterday, I find myself consumed with the idea of list making. Okay, okay, even MORE consumed with list making. I'm already addicted to lists of all sorts: to-do lists, grocery lists, project lists. And I'm all in favor of checking things off said lists. Unfortunately, what usually happens is a keep making new lists, adding the undone things from previous lists. In other words: I rarely cross anything off!!

Counterproductive, I know.

Anywho, all this list making and reading got me thinking: I should really make lists pertaining to my work. Not just lists of story ideas (I have plenty of those) but lists that coincide with each story and what I need to be doing in order to get that story enfleshed and out into the world.

One list in particular, a list of research topics by Chrys Fey, really got my creative juices flowing. I've never actually sat down and listed what I need to research for a current WIP. Which is really strange because I love research more than list making. (Seriously. If anyone out there knows how I can get a job as a research assistant for, say, any of Oxford University's libraries, you let me know. I'll do whatever it takes.)

My current WIP is one I started two years ago. I sat down and wrote the first draft in 8 days. Yes, I pulled Hemingway. Still, it sat for two years before I really took a good look at what needed to be done to make it publishable. I've worked a second draft and then realized the first draft had more meat in it. I tried steering it in another direction for draft 2 and didn't like the outcome. It made it clunky, limping, and I found I was going back and trying to reference draft 1.

So. Draft 3. I think (and this is a tentative THINK) draft 3 is my NaNo novel. I've gone back to the original idea but I realize it will require some research and reshaping. Or rather, some deepening. I'm not afraid of that; I just know I may not make the NaNo goal when I start digging.

So here's a little question for you, Dear Reader: I'm botched NaNo several times and I'm not ashamed to say so. I got ideas out, enfleshed some that may have not been given breath, and was able to figure out what worked and what didn't. There's a part of me that really wants to see that WINNER badge on my blog at the end of November but more than that, what I really want to see, is a carefully constructed story with carefully researched facts that allow me to weave together a believable tale. Well, as believable a tale as speculative fiction will allow :)

Just writing all this out has given me a bit of heart-peace about my NaNo decision this year. I love the idea of getting 50,000 words written. Yippee! You made it!! And it is quite a feat to write a novel in a month. I've done it several times and it is a very good feeling indeed. Still, it's never been a solid novel. Know what I mean?

Are YOU participating in NaNo this year? Are you sitting it out? Or, do you create your own NaNo and sign up just to keep yourself on track?

That last one sounds more and more like the way to go this year for me.

Write on; trust your story,



Monday, October 26, 2015

The Listing Hop!

Good morning!

Today is the Listing Hop brought to you by Bish Denham to celebrate her EIGHTH YEAR of blogging. Woo-hoo!! Wander on over to congratulate Bish and check out all the other entries. Congratulations, BISH, and thank you for hosting such a FUN bloghop!!

The rules were soooo simple. In fact, I have to say this is the simplest bloghop I've ever been involved in. All I had to do was sign up, grab the banner, and make a list of between 5 and 25 things. Seriously. That's it!

I've thought all weekend about what to list. I make lists for EVERYTHING, especially creative projects. I have this huge (and I mean HUGE) green, three-ring binder FULL of story notes, ideas for articles, and pages and pages of lists.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the things I LOVE writing about, the things I'm most interested in. It gave me an idea to make a short list of some of my favorite herbs. Some of you know that I've worked in the alternative health field for over five years and I just recently returned to it after a year-long hiatus. Herbs fascinate me not just for their health properties, but also for their beauty, their practicality and their folklore.

Oh yes, Dear Reader, herbs have tales to tell! And the funniest thing about them is I find myself having tales to tell whenever I dip my hands into the soil to plant, harvest, or just clip off a few sprigs of an herb and inhale the fragrance. Perhaps they really do have magical properties: herbs invoke stories. I like that!

I also like saying their Latin names. Makes me feel a bit Hermione-ish.

So here's my list! Just a few botanicals that can inspire, intrigue, and perhaps, even make your halloween a bit spookier :)



1. LAVENDER (lavandula angustifolia)
Ahh, lavender. That sweet, musty smelling fragrance that instantly reminds you of grandmothers and old wardrobes. Frankly, I love the smell of old wardrobes. Very Narnian of me. My mother has always loved lavender. It peppers her house and wafts from the corners, weaving past all the cinnamon and clove. Lavender is well known to calm and soothe and it's used in loads of perfumes, room sprays and sachets. I love the long, graceful, purple fronds and enjoy drying them. They look lovely bouquets or even tied to packages with a bit of string. Lavender can even be used in baking and turn ordinary sugar cookies into something a bit more posh. Try it at your next High Tea!

The next time you're feeling stressed or just a bit anxious, take a deep whiff of lavender. Better yet, keep it next to you while you're watching all these lovely Halloween movies! I've got mine right here...I just started reading The Woman in Black!



2. SAGE, CLARY (Horminum Pyrenaicum)
Sage. I LOVE this herb. It's spicy and woody and the smell is downright comforting. There are several types of sage. Common garden sage is the one most of you are familiar with. It's the one you find in your seasoning blends and at your local garden center. It has a wonderful flavor and is used in heavy meat dishes, especially stews. Clary Sage, however, is a bit more pungent and is used more often in medicinal blends than in cooking pots. ( Unless your cooking pot is a large, black cauldron...) The adjective "clary" calls another name to mind, "clear eye". An infusion of clary sage was traditionally used in eye drops and was thought to clear the eyes.

The essential oil of clary sage has also been used to help clear the mind. It's a wonderful oil to sniff when you need to remember something, like study material for an upcoming test. I've used it while writing to keep me focused on the task at hand. Also, Clary Sage has been used in extreme cases of hysteria. Do with that bit of information what you will :)



3. ROSEMARY (rosemarinus officinalis)

" There's Rosemary, that's for remembrance." ~ Shakespeare (Hamlet)

"Are you going to Scarborough Faire?
Parsley, Sage, ROSEMARY, and Thyme?" ~ traditional folk song

This has got to be one of my favorite herbs. Rosemary is found everywhere, along garden paths, growing in pots at restaurants, and in every garden center in the spring. It's sweet, warm, spicy fragrance calls to mind peaceful, happier times. Seriously. Every time I see it, I have to run my fingers through the spikey fronds and gather some of that luscious fragrance for myself. It's cleansing and always reminds me of my mother's herb garden.

See? Shakespeare got it right :)

It has been said that rosemary can be used to stimulate hair growth or strengthen hair growth when the hair is thinning or falling out. You dilute some of the essential oil in a bit of water or in some coconut or olive oil and massage it into the scalp, leave it for several minutes, then rinse. It certainly can't hurt and at the very least you'll smell lovely afterward.

Rosemary always reminds me of the folk song Scarborough Faire. Most everyone has heard Simon and Garfunkle sing it but search for Sarah Brightman's or Haley Westenra's versions. These ladies add an even more haunting spin to this enchanting song. Why is it so haunting? I honestly don't know, but I love to hum it around the house and it always puts me in the mood for a ghost story. Seriously. It's weird...



4. NIGHTSHADE, DEADLY (atropa belladonna)
**POISON**

This plant, as the name suggests, is deadly. It is a beautiful flower with tempting berries. Sadly, those berries have historically been enticing to children with disastrous results. It's deadly nature comes from it being filled with atropine, a poison that, according to Mrs. Grieve, requires only 1/10 of a grain to do it's dirty deed.

Here's a bit of fun about this plant taken from A Modern Herbal by Mrs. Grieve:

"According to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leisure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the witches' sabbath. The apples of Sodom are held to be related to this plant, and the name Belladonna is said to record an old superstition that at certain times it takes the form of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness, whom it is dangerous to look upon, though a more generally accepted view is that the name was bestowed on it because its juice was used by the Italian ladies to give their eyes greater brilliancy, the smallest quantity having the effect of dilating the pupils of the eye."

Whether or not it was delivered by the devil, it's best to leave this one alone. Lovely to look at, but please don't touch!



5. FOXGLOVE (digitalis purpurea)
**POISON**

Oddly enough, foxglove is one of my favorite plants. You've all seen it. It's sold at garden centers in the spring along side other beautiful, flowering perennials. Planted next to snapdragons, they complement the garden as tall, elegant spikes filled with little bell shaped flowers in varying shades of purple and pink. It is a wonderful plant for a bee garden as honeybees are attracted to the flowers and the pollen within. Originally it was called FOLKSGLOVE which alluded to the thought that fairies, or The Good Folk, used the flowers for gloves. It naturally grows in shady dales and valleys-prime fairy watching spots- and naturally associated with the Folk. An old legend suggests that Foxglove got its name due to bad fairies giving the flowers to a crafty fox who wished to creep unheard into a nearby farmer's chicken coop. The "gloves" muffled the sound of the approaching fox and allowed him all the fresh chicken he could eat.

Foxglove's poison comes from the chemical digitalis, found it its leaves. You may recognize the name, Dear Reader. Digitalis is a heart medication and, when administered correctly and by a health care professional, can help those inclined to heart problems. However, it's poisonous reputation comes from the abuse of this helpful nature. Too much digitalis and it will inspire a fatal heart attack.

Hmm, I suppose this little herb can teach us a bit about moderation.

So there you have it! My list. Click over to Bish's blog and find a whole list of people who are making and sharing lists. Feel free to share your own, even if you didn't sign up for the bloghop. Give me a head's up and I'll read yours! 

Do YOU make lists for your writing or any other crafty projects? For your daily life? For the sheer fun of collecting ideas? Do tell!

Enjoy your day, Dear Reader, and have a very happy (and safe) Halloween!!

Happy Listing,







(***reference material found at Botanical.com, A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve. If you wish to use herbs for any reason, do your homework. Don't be stupid. It's not becoming and it can get you into trouble in the plant world.***)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An update of sorts...


This photo is the best picture of life I can post. Piles and piles of ideas. Ideas that have been in notebooks and computer files for YEARS.

And they are suddenly, yet slowly, becoming reality.

Needless to say, like you,  Dear Reader, I've been busy. Good busy, but busy. October is the start of festival season in Savannah. Okay, okay: we ALWAYS have festivals going on. It just seems like in October, EVERYone is having a festival, a party, a gallery opening, etc. The coffee roaster where my husband works has been busy with HUGE orders AND getting out in the community. The natural health shop I work for is celebrating 37 years in business this week as well as figuring prominently at a local food festival on Saturday. Not to mention the usual buzz around Halloween and the coming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Whew!

I love it. It's what we've always wanted. To put down roots in a thriving community. Add to that a creative opportunity that takes all my spare time AND the fact I was just crazy enough to sign up for NaNo this year...

...yeah...

But I'm happy. Very, very happy.

How have YOU been, Dear Reader? Busy? Resting? Gearing up for the celebrations of the coming months?

Have a WONDERFUL Wednesday,

Thursday, October 8, 2015

BE-ing in Exchange for Success: Part II of Oct. IWSG Post


First let me say a great big THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by yesterday. Your comments were warm and the encouragement was much needed. I am constantly amazed by this fabulous group of writers that I've fallen in with. I started here some 7-8 years ago and it's been a wonderful ride. Even though I tend to get off the trail, switch horses, or set up camp in the woods for years on end, you are all still here, riding along solidly, ready to welcome a wandering soul back into the fold.

I am grateful. Truly.

***

I've been rolling around in my head the post I did yesterday. I realized it could mean two different things and it seems to have signaled a pause in my writing. Granted, I've needed that in the past (as we all do from time to time) but that's not the case this time. THIS time, I NEED to write. My hands literally (and I'm using this in the real and 'literal' sense here) itch when I think up a story or have an old tale return to my imagination. It's kind of weird, actually. Isn't there an old wives' tale that says if your palms itch, company's coming?

Does that ring true for characters? The ever elusive Muse?

There's a research project in that, kids!

Anyway, this permission to just BE is something everyone should give themselves. It is especially important for creatives. You see, I believe we are born with an innate knowing of who we are and where we belong. It's an instinct bred from stars. We KNOW who we are at a very young age, even if that knowing manifests itself in immature or contrary ways.

The very first thing I ever remember wanting to do was write. I can remember being somewhere around 4 or 5 and telling an uncle that I wanted to be a doctor but I knew that wasn't true. I wanted to be a writer. A story teller. I said "Doctor" because it impressed, even though I didn't understand "impress" at that young age. Prior to that, I'd written stories at home, in school, and I was always and forever making up games for myself and my imaginary friends. (My imaginary friend at the time was Mickey Mouse. Apparently I had celebrity connections in Imaginary Friend World.)

You see, THAT'S what I'm talking about. That need to impress. That, "Gosh if I tell them I want to write historical romance they're going to think I'm nuts!" mentality that makes us answer, "hard-boiled crime fiction" when someone asks, "So, what do YOU write?"

And have you noticed, until you're published, people ask it that way. What do YOU write? as if we're just another one of a million book author hopefuls who really can't write but think we'll be rich and famous one day? Now that's a soapbox for another time entirely.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: there's a need in all humans to be accepted. For whatever reason there are groups of people who view the arts as something nice to do on a rainy day or something to remember when you retire from your "real" job. There is another group who sees the arts as a viable career, but only if the type or medium or genre fits in with their idea of "successful" art. Or, in my experience, their idea of what YOU should be creating.

Ah, now we're getting down to the bones of the issue. We want people to be proud of us. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunt Edna, Uncle Phillip who secretly writes prize-winning Haiku under a pen name so all "the boys" won't know it's him. We want them to be proud of us! And rightfully so! No shame in that. But there are those genres, those art forms, that tend to get a gasp or a confused scratch of the head when mentioned. Or my personal favorite, the apprehensive step backwards.

Finding our place in art takes experimentation. Some people write what sells and they make a good living at it. I applaud them. I'm not able to do that. I've tried. I have a couple of finished and half finished manuscripts that I pounded out because I thought it made more sense than what I really wanted to write. And they have potential, truly. And I'll probably finish them one day and see what happens with them. Maybe I'd be foolish not too. Seriously: one of these books I wrote the first draft in 8 days. How very Hemingway of me. Why NOT pound out book after book, month after month, and submit it. What if they're successful?

Well, what if they are? Am I being un-authentic? No, not as long as I'm still being true to myself in other writing.

Perhaps THAT'S what I'm really insecure about. If I write something because it came to be easily and it was one of those, "Wow. That was kind of a breeze" things, am I selling out? Or am I being smart and taking advantage of a good idea whose time has come?

I guess as long as I still write what my soul's begging me to write, I'm doing OK. Those tales just take longer. They demand a lot from me and that's why I've shirked them. Not very loving of me, eh?

Sorry for the long post. It is rather rambling but I'm curious: have you ever put your true stories on hold -the ones that haunt you- for stories that came easily? Ones that seem to be quicker to create and possibly quicker to sale? We can't know that for sure, but I'm talking about appearances here.

Just curious.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October Edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group


Good morning! Welcome to this months' edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! We meet monthly to let out our frustrations and insecurities into the world of writers. We also offer support to those who are experiencing more than their usual amount of insecurity and fear. If you're a writer (or if you know one or two) feel free to join us! You can click HERE to learn more about our group, our mission, and our fearless leader, Captain Alex.

***

Insecurity comes from being moored on unfamiliar shores. Of this I am convinced. When I'm writing, I am free. When I'm not writing, I know I should be. Words are my breath and the expression of my soul. Reading the words of others is breathing and I am caught up in a whirlwind of stories at present, both by others and of my own making.

My insecurity this month comes from a couple of sources. First, a new job has thrust me into an unfamiliar world. The subject is known to me but the manner in which things are carried out on a day to day basis is still, even after almost a month, stressful and hectic. Second, there's that ancient niggling at night that whispers, "What are you doing? Shouldn't you be doing this, that or the other?" You know what I'm talking about. It's that well-meaning interrogation you receive from those who love you, those who knew you Once Upon a Time.

"Well, you SHOULD be ..."

"I don't understand why you stopped..."

"So what are you doing NOW?"

"Back at that old game, huh?"

Now, I know these questions aren't asked to jibe. They are sincere queries with sincere answers and expectations. It's those expectations that grate to bone and soul. What many people don't understand is that some of us have to try different things to find where we belong. Some of us have to do things we'd rather not spend our precious time doing in order to make ends meet, all the while pushing in the evening hours toward those things that bring us joy.

My insecurity this month comes from that inevitable and age-old question, "So, what have you been up to." There's a pressure, Dear Reader, to answer with EVERYTHING: working on a new novel, experimenting with this genre, creating that, fiddling with this. Oh am I guilty of the avalanche of Impressions! Someone fires off the shot and down comes all I've ever attempted.

I'm at the deep breath stage.

I don't want to cavalcade down mountain sides anymore. Not even when those I'm talking to seem to have "made it" while I'm still digging up fragments from a potentially rich archeological site. Peace is calling me to just BE. That, Friends, is hard. People rarely understand a state of BE-ing that doesn't shower with accolades or impress with accomplishments noticed.

Sometimes the victory is in the clean dishes, the folded laundry and the swept floor.

Sometimes the victory can be felt in the clasp of a lovers hand while watching and old Disney movie.

Sometimes it's the sigh before the first word is ever written.

And yes, sometimes, it's those big moments that are publishable and noteworthy.

Right now, I'm living in Ordinary Time. My insecurity? Being OK with BE-ing.

***

Have a wonderful week! Whatever your insecurities are, find yourself a support group. If you're in need of one, join the Insecure Writers Support Group. They take good care of their own.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Doorways in the Dusting


We raised with liturgy are used to the miraculous. We believe in virgin births, walking on water, resurrections of the dead.

It's the mundane Holiness we have a hard time with. I look for dragons and wardrobes that lead to untamed lands but fail to see the majesty and grace in ordinary time.

I can wait for wings of fire and hope for ghosts but the budding of a flower, brewing of coffee, wiping of rag over counter get dusted aside, polished away with spaghetti stains.

I am comfortable with conversations between stars and find no wonder in Titans. But a barefoot walk on sharp stones fails to prick me with the marvel of anatomy and the miracle of senses.

I need fresh eyes to see doorways in the dusting, lingering angels in the laundry. I look so hard for fairies I miss the cherubim in the vegetable garden.

All wardrobes lead to wonder to a willing and hungry heart. Lord, air out my cupboards. Let my spirit sing praises as the dust rises from shaken coats and shifted books.

The windows need cleaning.

They are clouded with glory.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When Fear gives way to Faith


They say "time flies when you're having fun" but what about when you're working on a dream? Writers understand this. Sure, you enjoy writing. Some days it's even FUN. But does the time fly? Do you wake up one morning, suddenly, and go, "Ha! A book! It's complete!"

No.

Real life dreams don't work that way either. It starts with a dream. Something that won't leave you alone. An idea. A character. A city. You jot down some notes, pay a visit. You start an outline, put in an application.

Then the work begins. A story is born. You now have to write it.

You get the job. Now you have three weeks to move.

The book gets written because YOU sit down and write it. And it takes work. And tears. And sweat. And many, many words which cannot be uttered here.

The move happens because you sell half of what you own, drive 250+ miles three times in three weeks to do a job interview, look at a teeny, tiny house, then pack up your cat and race to make the 3 o'clock deadline to put down a deposit so your water can be turned on.

The next day. And you have four people staying with you to help you move.

But I digress.

One year ago TODAY my husband and I packed up a waaaay too small U-Haul and chased a dream to live by the sea, in an artist-friendly town. We downsized by 700 square feet and traumatized our cat who thought it a great idea to panic and leap up on the dashboard of the car when I was driving 70 mph down the interstate.



One year ago TODAY we said YES to the craziest idea we've yet to have.

People see the dream. They see the pictures and envy the sand between our toes. What they don't see are the oceans of tears, the fear of lost jobs and mounting bills, and the many, many words that cannot be uttered here.

Chasing a dream is HARD. Let me say that again: chasing a dream is HARD. VERY, VERY, HARD. It is hard work to build a life from the bits and pieces of wonder and magic you have collected and hoarded your entire life. Parts get left out. They get left behind. And many of them don't fit the final product. But the funny thing is that the final product starts to look much better than YOU imagined.

The final product is still many years away but I'm enjoying the building process. I could have NEVER done this without my life partner in crime. Jon Chandler, THANK YOU. And thank you to everyone who has supported this massive uprooting and who still envy our beach pictures and shots of that silly fountain that still, after a year, tends to crop up in our Instagram feed on a regular basis.

Follow your dreams, Dear Reader. But let me warn you: it's one CRAZY ride!