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Friday, December 26, 2014

Heartfelt Resolutions

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
After the sudden wintry weather in November, it's spring-like in December. Spring enveloped in clouds of gray, until, eureka--the first truly sunny day in the past two and a half weeks!

The holdiays were swift this year. Thanksgiving turkey leftovers gave way to the mad shopping "season." Before I knew it, Hannakah and Christmas flew in and out before my brain could take it all in. I was a terrible Scrooge this year: a whiney sourpuss.  Tired of the commercialism, I was annoyed by cheesy sentiment. Utterly depressed, actually. As the year comes to a close, I tend to reflect on all my regrets then feel guilty and try to focus on all my blessings. There are many in each category.

The creative side of me loves the drama, the warmth, the sorrow, and the sweetness that comes from reflection on another year. Mourning people lost during the past years, I still have hope for the future. I still look forward to the next year: to new beginnings. As I age, I savor the present much more than I ever did when I was younger. The present is really all we ever have. Why not cherish every second? Because this is bullshit. It sounds great! I want so much to be "Zen," to take it all in stride. And I am grateful; quite blessed, indeed. I have a roof over my head. Fire in the woodstove to keep me warm. A husband who loves me. A wonderful, successful son. I have a book coming out in 2015: my dream! Who am I to whine? A devilish drudge, that's who. Although I need constant reminders, I hate to be told what to think. I have issues; I am working on them. Frightfully flawed,  I am guilty of being caught up in the useless chaos of daily life. Minor annoyances irk me beyond reason as I allow myself to get stuck in the piddle in the middle. I ruminate on all the things I don't have, all the things I wish I had done differently, all the things I desire. As Brandi Carlile wrote so directly, "my mind is full of razors." If only I could cut these worries from my mind with them. So, here are my resolutions for the new year:

I plan to meditate, regularly, for real, every day. Rid myself of the "monkey mind" that steals my joy.

Let go--of all things that don't feed my soul, such as resentments and anger over stupid things.

Practice acts of kindness every day, starting with my own family. This is a tough one. I lash out my anger and destructive thoughts on those closest to me then I blame them. This is the ugly truth. Which brings me to my next resolution:

I will always tell the truth. I will try hard not to be cruel, but I will tell you the truth.

I will love the damaged little girl inside like she is my own child. I will care for her as the precious innocent that she is.

I apologize for the language, but the truth is, I swear like a sailor sometimes. If you are offended, I am truly sorry, cover your eyes. I am a woman, but not always a lady. I care with all my heart. An open heart can be quite graphic.

I wish you your best new year with all my bloody heart.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From the Heart

Photo by Laura Bear
As the editing process for my debut novel winds down: the final proof reading, the cover choice, the author photo (yikes!); as we hurtle through the holiday season (I'm not ready!); as I anticipate my 50th year on this earth; as I watch my only son marry his sweetheart in the new year (how did I get this old so fast?), I find myself erupting in a jumble of emotions. In a short few months, I will be a published author, a half century old, and a mother-in-law, in that order. I have anticipated the birth of my first book with the same trepidation and excitement of the birth of my son. The excitement--and yes, fear--of my only child pledging his life to a another wonderful individual cracks my heart open further than I ever imagined. The birth of a book has some of the same parallels. For two and a half years of my life, I labored, cursed, laughed, fumed, and bled over the pages to make them come alive. I want to jump and shout and cry and laugh and SING about all of this, but I will write because that is what I do. I am rusty. I am inferior. I am NOT Harper Lee. Or Hemingway. Or Plath. Or King. Or Lamott. I am only me. A small voice, but it's mine. So much to learn, so much to do, so little time.

Every one of us has a voice, though. Even the ones who can't speak. In my other career, I work with people who struggle with the expression and understanding of language every day: language lost through stroke or brain injury. What was once so natural becomes a strangled struggle to utter a single volitional sound or a constant failure to find the right word. Words once taken for granted become wispy figments for those who travel in the twisted world of the injured brain. I love language. Written language, poetry, and story-telling create a vivid alternate world for those who can partake. What happens when that world is cut off? Language is communication: written, spoken, painted, drawn, numeric, gestured--no matter the mode, we strive to communicate our thoughts, ideas, needs, desires. We are here to interact with others. Human beings need language in some form to become both part of and separate from the whole of humanity. Each voice is an important thread in the tapestry of this giant work of art we call Earth. The differences are essential to the strength and beauty of this world. Each one, fragile on its own, but strong in union. Different, unique, but together. No one insignificant. No one discarded. I expect a lot from language. From people. From myself. I want to be moved. I want to feel as much as I can. I want to know as much as possible. I wish this for all of you, too. For all of us. Thank you for checking in. I would love to hear your voice.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

In the Shadows of the Onion Domes: Book Tour Introduction to Author Mary Pat Hyland

 This week I am pleased to introduce a talented fellow local author, Mary Pat Hyland. I went to the book launch for her latest work (see right) at RiverRead Books www.riverreadbooks.com in downtown Binghamton last evening. RiverRead Books is a jewel of a bookshop located along the edge of the Susquehanna River. People gathered close in rows of chairs as Mary Pat described her inspirations for each short story in the collection. We were rapt in our attention. Mary Pat is a gifted oral story teller, as well as a writer. The "onion domes" are the ornate, onion-shaped crowns of several of the orthodox churches in the Binghamton area that stand out from the less distinctive buildings along the highway.

Mary Pat Hyland is an Amazon Top 100 bestselling author and has published six novels and a collection of short stories. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Seasons Readings and Lost Love Letters: An Indie Chicks Anthology. In 2013, the Arts Council of Yates County selected her as an Artist in Residence. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and has worked in the commercial/fine art, journalism, education, and culinary fields. Mary Pat resides in upstate New York, the setting for her novels, and enjoys organic gardening, gourmet cooking, visiting the Finger Lakes and teaching the Irish language.

Mary Pat answered the following questions for our interview:

1. Name
Mary Pat Hyland
2. How long have you been an indie writer?
Since 2008
3. What formats do you publish in?
Paperback & ebooks
4. What genres do you write in?
Short stories, chick lit, suspense, humor, family saga
5. Are you on Twitter or Facebook?
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cailinAolain
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marypathyland
6. What’s your current book?
In the Shadows of the Onion Domes, Collected Short Stories
7. How do you want your readers to feel after they’re read your book?
This book is like a Whitman’s Sampler of my writing styles. I hope it will bring smiles, maybe a few tears, and leave you thinking.
8. What’s your next book about?
It’s a humorous suspense novel that I’m currently writing as part of National Novel Writing Month.

9. What types of jobs have you had other than writing?
Cook, journalist, art director, portrait artist, greenhouse assistant
10. What did it feel like when you were first published?
Finally, a long-held dream came true.

11. What’s your go-to song when your writing muse needs to be recharged?
“Coyote” by Joni Mitchell. Her writing is exquisite and I love the sense of being on a road trip somewhere through the strumming of the guitar chords and Jaco Pastorious’s beautiful bass notes.
12. What do you do when writer’s block strikes?
Go for a walk. There’s something about the fresh air and change of scenery that helps re-charge the imagination.

13. What’s the best compliment your writing ever earned?
That the reader kept thinking about the characters and what they were up to, months after reading the book (
The House With the Wraparound Porch).
14. If you’re stranded on a desert island with a solar battery recharger, what would you be reading on your Kindle?
I think I’d need something humorous. My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber.

15. If you could have dinner with three other writers, who would they be?
Dorothy Parker, Eudora Welty and Frank McCourt. All dead, unfortunately, but if it were possible, the conversation would be anything but that.

16. What’s your blog and/or website address?
Website: http://marypathyland.com/
Blog: http://www.marypathyland.com/thehylander/
17. Cats or dogs?
Dogs. Border collies, to be specific
18. Cake or death? (To soothe the boisterous Eddie Izzard lobbyists…)
Cake with thick chocolate frosting
19. What fictional character do you identify with most?
Sybylla Melvyn in My Brilliant Career

20. What’s the closing line of your latest book?
At that moment, knowing she was nearing the bridge between this world and the next herself, nothing else mattered but the fact that for the first time in six years, she felt fully alive.

Thank you for spending time with us, Mary Pat! If you would like to read her latest or explore her previous works, please check the following links:

PURCHASE LINKS
Barnes & Noble

The Author’s eStore

GIVEAWAY
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway contest to win an autographed copy of In the Shadows of the Onion Domes, copies of her ebooks or a piece of original art created by the author.

<a id="rc-f33c50982" class="rafl" href="http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f33c50982/" rel="nofollow">In the Shadows of the Onion Domes Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
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Mary Pat Hyland

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Introvert and the Not-So-Solo Writing of a Novel

Photo by Laura Bear
I'm an introvert. I say this with confidence after reading a recent post on social media about how to interact with an introvert: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/understanding-introverts-_n_5989656.html . According to this article, an introvert is defined not by who we are, but by how we recharge. I love that! It's true that introverted people don't dislike company. We do! It's just that it's draining and we need time alone, in our own space, to replenish that energy drain or we get grumpy, even nasty. Introvert, on social media? Actually, it's easy for an introvert to engage with other people over social media because there's no immediate demand. There's time to reflect. Reflection is important to introverts. We do a lot of staring at our navels, gazing at nature, sitting in the quiet. It seems like writing a novel would be an isolating experience--perfect for someone who needs to work alone. And while writing is often a solitary labor, it does require a certain degree of social interaction: with other writers, with readers, with editors, and, for some of us, working with a talented publisher. I relish those interactions. But, publishing comes with its own challenges. If you want to sell your book. If you wish to give other people the opportunity to read this thing that you labored over for weeks, months, years at a time, you must engage with fellow humans. And they are often delightful, but it still sucks the life out of me. And now there is an article explaining this to the extroverted people who are recharged by the very interaction that depletes us. A roomful of people is daunting to the introvert. On the other hand, the extrovert thrives on that same crowd. Let the party begin, right? I love a party, but I will need at least a day--maybe a week, depending on the party--to  recover in quiet solitude or one-on-one intimacy. Call me what you will, I know what I need to stay healthy and happy and to have enough energy to write. Wine helps, too, but not too much of it!

Many writers are introverts by nature, but I'm sure there are many who are not. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you recharge your energy" What do you love? What rubs you the wrong way?

Join me next week when I introduce you to a wonderful writer who blazed her own successful trail in publishing her books: MaryPat Hyland www.marypathyland.com . I can't wait to share her story with you! Recharge this weekend, in whatever way you need.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Brief Pause

Photo by Laura Bear
First set of revisions completed for my upcoming novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS through Unsolicited Press www.unsolicitedpress.com! A grueling month, indeed, but well worth it. I gained new insights on my characters and their story. Now for the copy editing.

Building a book is a tremendous undertaking. Yes, it really is like giving birth, but I prefer to think of it as a soul journey. This photo taken on a walk during my first visit to a splendid little writer's retreat in Vermont called When Words Count  www.whenwordscountretreat.com illustrates this journey well (minus the blood and guts it took to get there, but that's another story). It's a beautiful road, but there's mountains up ahead, so better be prepared!

Anyway, I took a day off from writing because, I admit, I was a tiny bit burned out. After all, I was working two full-time jobs all month: intensity all day in my other career, driving home, making dinner and spending a few minutes with the family (currently consisting of spouse, three cats and hyperactive canine--bless those writers who still have small children in their care), maybe a workout on the bike trainer in the basement, then writing the rest of the night until my eyes gave out. So my reward was a whole day to ride my bike (outside!), bake apple pies, and hang out at home watching shows on Netflix. It was lovely, but it's time to get back to work on the next book before I get the copy edits back on the first one. No complaints here, though. This is what I've been working up the courage to do all my life: write a book. A book of fiction, nonetheless. It's just as hard as I had imagined--the only difference is that now I'm ready for the challenge. My goal, as always, is to touch a reader and to become a better writer in the process.

I met a woman the other day on my weekly trip to the liquor store (you didn't expect me to write without a little lubrication, did you?). She was hosting a little wine tasting and noticed my t-shirt from Writer Unboxed www.writerunboxed.com. When she asked me if I was a writer, I didn't hesitate. "Yes!" I said, eyes reddened from hours of staring at words on the computer, hair tousled from lack of attention. After she asked me about my book, she told me that she was an English teacher, had always wanted to write a book, but just never made the time. I told her I had all kinds of excuses, too, but finally, I just decided to do it--no turning back. Eyes twinkling just a bit, she said, "Maybe someday."

In my day job at the hospital, I am bombarded with reasons not to wait. If you have a burning desire to create something or to visit somewhere or tell someone you love them or to follow a dream, why wait for the "right" time? Make your time right now. What do you have to lose except regrets?

Thank you for taking a little time to visit! Now, get out there and do your thing!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Revisions, Revisions

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Hello all,
Sorry I've been delinquent in my posts. I received my manuscript back from the publisher late in September and am deep into the revision process. This post will be brief, but I relish the break.

Here is a lovely photo my husband Kevin shot, showing the beautiful fall days I am missing sitting inside on the computer. Because fresh air and exercise are necessary for mental health and clarity, I will be getting out today for a quick bike ride or walk.

Revision is grueling, but also exciting. I sent my little story on its way because I thought it was ready to meet the world. Turns out, not so much. Yes, they liked it, but boy, does it need work! All the molding and shaping and creating and caressing was just the preliminary outline of a story. Now it's time to get down below the dirt, to the tap root. Didn't I slice open my soul and bleed all over the pages already? Not in the objective eyes of my fine editors at Unsolicited Press www.unsolicitedpress.com. Time to go for the jugular! More description, less redundancy, more depth, more soul, more emotional connection, more of this and much, much less of that! Indeed! What does a reader expect? As a reader myself, I should know, right? But, knowing it and feeling it are different than writing it. I have more work to do. but I am challenged to make that essential connection--to touch the reader's soul. You'll have to let me know if I do so when the book comes out. Meanwhile, back to rewriting!

Bless you for reading. Create your best day.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Writing Process Tour

Photo by Laura Bear
Hello again. Elena Greene, the author of several stunning historical romances, most recently, the re-issue of Lord Langdon's Kiss and The Three Disgraces series, has asked me to participate in a Writing Process Tour. Please check out the websites: www.riskyregencies.com and elenagreene.com. Even if you think you're not a "romance reader", you can't deny the quality of Elena's story-telling and the strength of her characters. In this tour, a writer answers four questions then invites other writers to answer those questions the following week. I totally dropped the ball when I misunderstood how this actually works, so I'm a bit behind. Sorry, but hopefully I can redeem myself at least a little. Here is my contribution to the tough questions of writing process. Please read through to next week's contributor, whom I'll introduce at the end.

1) What are you working on?

I am currently in the midst of the editing process of my first-to-be published novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS through Unsolicited Press out of northern California: www.unsolicitedpress.com. The story of Lucy, a woman who reinvents her life after a failed suicide attempt, and Addie, a young girl with a dark past. I am also working on my next novel about a killer virus triggered by technology and several short stories that have an "other-worldly" bent.

2) How is your work different from others' work in the same genre?

That is a difficult question for a new author. Although, I am not actually "new" in age. I grew up knowing that  I was supposed to write, but I could never figure out exactly what I was supposed to write. I took a circuitous route to writing my novel by starting out as an English/Journalism major, then quitting school and later going back to school for nursing. I worked as an RN for several years before deciding to go back to school again to get my degree in Speech Language Pathology/Communication Disorders. I still work full-time as a speech-language pathologist, but the dream to write never went away. I decided to pursue it head-on after several serendipitous encounters with, shall we say, magical people, and that constant nagging realization that I'm just not going to get any younger. I believe that my nursing and speech background--working with people in crisis and who have incredible stories in their own right--offers a unique perspective to my writing that not many others have had the opportunity to encounter. The privilege of sharing people's feelings at their most vulnerable has left an indelible mark on my heart that I hope comes through in my writing.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Because it's part of me and it's what comes through me. I don't have a better answer than that.

4) How does your writing process work?

My writing process is constantly evolving. I tend to ruminate on a subject or character for a long time. Some might call that procrastination, but it's active procrastination. For my work-in-progress, I have to do much more research than on my first novel. The first one was organic. It began with an idea about one particular character. The story developed as I talked about it with a couple of early editor/coaches at a life-changing writing retreat known as WHEN WORDS COUNT in the Green mountains of Vermont. I spent many months writing and rewriting the opening of the book then outlined it up to chapter 17 or so and "pantsed" the rest (as in "by the seat of my pants"). I had some beta readers that were very helpful in asking questions that I had to figure out how to answer. Once I had the story in my head, I was able to write fairly chronologically. I wrote backgrounds for all my characters so I could really get to know who they were. After that, they sort of wrote the story themselves. I just did the actual typing. The outlining helped give me a structure, but my characters would surprise me and do something completely different. I think being creative requires a little bit of "crazy" to work. I am trying to tap into that as much as possible!

I am pleased to introduce you to another fantastic writer:

Gregory L. Norris is a professional writer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines and fiction anthologies.  He once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager, and wrote the scripts for the feature films Brutal Colors (presently in post-production) and The Demon of Lakeford County (filming Winter 2015).  Norris penned the handbook to all-things-Sunnydale, The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and two recent short story collections, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse and Shrunken Heads: Twenty Tiny Tales of Mystery and Terror.  A former columnist and feature writer at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), Norris judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category.  Short stories of his are forthcoming in XIII, Anthology Year Three, and multiple releases by Cleis Press and Bruno Gmünder Verlag in Germany. Please check out his responses to the questions of writing process and other wonderful things in the coming week at: gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.

Happy writing, and always, happy reading!





Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blooms From A Deep Well

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Here's a goldfinch my husband caught on camera in our backyard. I haven't seen any goldfinches at the feeder in a couple weeks. Not since a flock of them stopped by for a few days. Must have been on their way to a warmer climate.

I've been reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm only part of the way through (I can't tell if I'm halfway through because it's on my Kindle--one of my complaints about electronic books). I like that the story actually centers on a real painting from 1654 by Carel Fabritius. It disturbs me that the bird in this painting is chained to the feeder, but that may be the point of the novel. I'm not sure yet because I haven't finished the book and I have not read any critiques of it (I want to form my own opinion). I'm also reading a steampunk novel by my friend Ani Bolton called Steel and Song: The Aileron Chronicles. Totally entertaining in a different way!

There has been too much disturbing news in the world lately. I won't go into what because we are so bombarded already. The news has triggered more ideas for the novel I am currently working on, but some of it is just so bleak and awful. When I am feeling particularly blue, it helps me to read May Sarton's memoirs. I have been re-reading Journal of a Solitude lately. It is simply a journal of her days, her thoughts, and descriptions of her surroundings, but I find it comforting, if at times sad (depressed people like to go deep into their sadness--much easier to take than all that blasted happiness!). Sarton often refers to nature as a balm and a muse. I particularly like this quote from her (not from this book, but in the same vein):

"Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, 
who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, 
and without light nothing flowers." 

Every time I read Sarton's work I think of my friend Kay in Minnesota. She introduced me to May Sarton's work years ago when I stayed with her and her husband Jon. They graciously offered their place to me as a second home so I could visit my son who lived far away because he was living with his father. His father and I divorced and my young son stayed in Minnesota when I moved back east to get myself and my life together. It was a difficult time, to say the least, and I am grateful for the kindred spirits that helped me along the way and the love of my second husband. My son grew into a fine man and he is getting married next spring to a wonderful young woman. My novel Where The Heart Lands will be published just two months before the wedding. A time of great celebration, indeed. From darkness, comes new life. New light brings new growth. I can't wait to see what blooms!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Word Debris

Photo by Laura Bear 
It's been a frustrating few weeks. The computer is still in the shop (it wasn't the graphics card after all, it's the screen...maybe). Still on the loaner computer with my hard drive inserted, but little weird widgety things keep happening to dampen my mood. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I am quite fickle, I admit. I only love it when it works well. I really hate it when it doesn't. But, yes, I need it, so I have to figure out how to work with it. I have little-- make that--noooo patience for computer malfunctions. Zero. Zilch.

Anyway, I have been searching for inspiration. I have all these ideas in my head for stories and for the new novel, but everything I try to write falls flat. So, I went to Julia Cameron's book The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart. She lists a survival rule about attitude, "Do it, don't judge it." She reminds us that we won't always like what we create. And that mood is "slippery" and "can't be trusted." That the reward for patience is process. The process itself. In other words, be patient and do the work anyway. Eventually, the stuff that you think is terrible might begin to look pretty good. Or maybe some of it will be pretty good. Great, even. Or at least, better than before. Just keep doing it or you will have nothing because nothing begets nothing. So, okay, I'm doing it.

It doesn't do any good to beat myself up for not meeting a certain word count or for not knocking out polished prose with every keystroke. I can't approach writing that way. But, I can write whether I feel like it or not. Inspiration is great, but if I had to wait for the mood to strike every time I sat down to meet a deadline, I wouldn't finish anything at all. I think Cameron has it right. Process is the reward. Sitting down and just doing it is much more likely to entice that crafty critter Creativity. But, now and then, it would be mighty fine if Creativity showed up unannounced and blew the roof off the place. Just sayin'.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Going Back to School

Photo by Laura Bear
I haven't had a computer for two weeks, so this is an overdue blog post. Thankfully, Red Barn Computers gave me a loaner so I can look forward to the beginning of the editorial process for my upcoming novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS without fear and trepidation (at least as far as tools are concerned).

Today we are cooking down the mountain of tomatoes from the garden into tomato jam (abnormally intoxicating with goat cheese on crackers--thank you, Amy, for the recipe!). This infusion of tomato, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, lime and red pepper is weaving an olfactory sensation throughout the house. The weather is cooler and cloudier than predicted--perfect for canning! Why is it not called "jarring?" We will be jarring the tomatoes today. Okay, not nearly as appealing). I can't show you a before-photo of the tomatoes because some photo files are missing from the loaner computer (of course!). Instead, here's a shot of the upper pond at Oakley Corners State Forest from about this time last year.

I am excited about beginning the "real work" on my novel for publication (any writing is real work in my book, she says with a wink). It's fitting that my calendar begins with the new school year. I've always felt like fall is a time for transformation, new beginnings, and NEW BOOKS. As a person who has gone back to school probably too many times, I always have that sense of adventure and anticipation when September rolls around. I was one of those people that loved to buy the more expensive, brand-new books for college courses, because they were unmarked and smelled like fresh glue. I did get smarter about buying used books later in my back-to-school career and even learned to love to read other people's notes in the margins (still hated to have other people's highlighting--I'll mark up my own books, thank you very much!). In any event, new books (books that may be old, but are new to you) are the equivalent of chocolate, wine, a cherished gift, a surprising award, a new bicycle, a new guitar, or, yes, good sex.

Speaking of such, if you like romance, especially unusual, historical romance with strong female protagonists, or you just like to read about the writing process, check out my friend Elena Greene's article Writing Process-No Chasing Trends at riskyregencies.com. She even gives me a nod. I didn't even have to ply her with desserts or alcoholic beverages. Thank you, Elena! I will be writing about my process there, too, in the near future.

So, it was a wonderful summer, but autumn has its own rewards. May you also find yours.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thoughts of the Week: Depression

Photo by Laura Bear
The Chris Thater Bicycle race is coming up in a couple weeks. It's a big deal around here because it brings in the pros as well as gives the amateurs a spotlight. There's a running race first then the bikes go. Here's a photo from last year to give you the sense of break-neck speed the pro-men achieve hitting the tight corners of the course. They changed to venue to a different location this year. It used to be based in a park. The course circled the park so spectators could hang out in the middle or on their front porches on the outside, and watch as cyclists completed each lap. This year, it is supposed to be held in downtown Binghamton. Not sure how this will work, but I'll let you know later.

Some sad things happened in the past week. I was struck the deepest by Robin Williams' death at his own hand. Robin Williams was a bicycle fan, which wins points for me, as well as a seemingly good and kind person and a jaw-dropping, cyclone-speed, sharp-witted comedian and talented dramatic actor. You don't have to search far on the internet to find examples of his kindness and his wit, as well as his work. This only makes the circumstances of his death all the more difficult for us to understand. Here was a man who had it all, right? Fame, fortune, a loving family, a beloved public personality. Yet, he suffered from depression. Watching him interact with Koko the gorilla on a recently shared you-tube video displayed a compassion and sensitivity that one rarely sees from public figures of late. I am pretty sure that Robin Williams understood the beauty of life, so why would he take his own?

Of course, I cannot begin to answer that question for Robin Williams, because I didn't know him. But, depression is a disease with a tremendous outreach. Being or living with a depressed person can be extremely difficult. Because depression is not rational. Depression is more than feeling "down." Depression is not a lack of being able to keep your chin up when things go bad. It is a chemical imbalance, a physical change in the brain that causes irrational thoughts and feelings and physical symptoms, such as fatigue and insomnia and irritability and crying or laughing or feeling suicidal or extremely, gravely hopeless for no specific reason. Yet, depressed people can still laugh. They may even seem okay most of the time. Perhaps people who are more sensitive to life's beauty and life's horrors are more vulnerable than most, but I would argue that anyone with a brain has the potential to get the disease. I have read that depression is anger turned inward. Maybe this is partially true, but this makes it sound like one can simply decide to express anger more outwardly and all will be well. As someone who has struggled with depression, I can tell you that this is not the case, although talking about it with someone who is trained to respond appropriately, or just someone who will simply listen, can help, at least for a little while. If only treatment were so simple.There are many triggers: a tragic event, a death in the family, divorce or any other loss, stroke, surviving a life-threatening illness, brain injury. But, sometimes there is no trigger. Sometimes, no matter how well we take care of ourselves, our brains betray us and we are left bewildered and shaken. We are alone in a crowd. No one truly understands. We want to stop feeling this way, but nothing we try seems to work. How does one stop that feeling of drowning over and over again, despite the life jackets floating just out of reach on the water? And then we reach one, but a rogue wave overtakes us anyway and we lose the life preserver. And then we get tired. Get the picture?

So, what can we do for someone who suffers this disease? What can the people who love them do for themselves? Don't be afraid to talk about it, would be a good start. Recognize it for what it is. Try not to place blame on anyone. Get help, this may include meds, so what? You take meds for other diseases, don't you? Give support. Accept support. Take care of your needs. Seek the company of others. Express your inner beauty. Acknowledge your vulnerabilities. Educate yourself. Get help. Get help. Get help. Find something that gives you reprieve that doesn't cause more damage. Physical activity, writing, meditation and medication work for me. For those who care, don't blame yourself if you can't save that person. Sometimes the disease wins.

RIP, Mr. Williams.
Photo by Laura Bear

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Taking the Scenic Route to Writing Success

Photo by Laura Bear
Bought a new bicycle last week! A touring bike. Yep, not too easy to find any more, but they had one in my size at Babcock's Bicycles. Got an old- school leather saddle for it and everything. Isn't it pretty? (See below). I've been having fun breaking it in. No, I didn't have it when we rode around Schoodic Point in Maine (see right), but I would love to take it up there next time we go.

I like the touring bike because it forces me to ride differently. It's not really built for speed, although it rolls very nicely. It's built for comfort--and for hauling gear. Just right for an all day ride in the Finger Lakes or on the packed gravel of the Pine Creek Gorge trail or some such thing. I can carry my lunch. Real lunch, not Cliff bars. I can carry the SLR camera (or my spouse can). I can carry camping gear or just some clothes to change into so we can stay overnight somewhere. I can enjoy the scenery. I can ride all day. I can go places I would never go on my fast, light road bike with skinny tires. It's all about the journey on a touring bike.

Speaking of journeys, as you may or may not know, I have been on a writing journey. Ever since I was old enough to write a sentence, I have been writing for--well, if not fun--then for the overwhelming desire to do so. I wrote "books" on the connected computer paper my father brought home from work when I was in grade school. The paper was enormous, but made great books because the pages were already "bound" by little perforated lines holding all the pages together. One side was all white with no lines (great for adding illustrations), the other was lined in light green and white and you could open the whole thing up, accordion-style, to make one long banner. I think I was in third or fourth grade when I wrote my first "novel" on regular notebook paper (I must not have had access to a typewriter). Maybe I was a little older, but I remember handing it to my best friend Emily to read. I even made a cover for it, hand-drawn with embellished curly-cues around the title: Death Around the Corner. It was a murder-mystery. I was pretty dramatic then and liked to read scary stories and Nancy Drew. It was terrible, but Emily said she liked it (best friend, remember?).

I wrote poems to get me through high school and early college. I even started a degree in English and Journalism, but got sidetracked by fear and other things. Writing was scary. What if I wasn't good enough? What if I couldn't make a living? Maybe I should get a "real" job. So, I went to nursing school, got married, had a baby, worked as a nurse for many years, got divorced, went back to school to get a graduate degree in speech language pathology/communication disorders. That's what I do now. I wrote a few articles, even had one published. I piled words into journals, but I didn't have the courage to really work at it, until...well, let's just say there were too many serendipitous events happening that shouted, scolded, and swore at me--you are a writer. Like it or not, published or not, that's what I am. I can call myself a writer now without fear. And I have a book coming out next year. My first published novel. (Please allow me to introduce my publisher again: www.unsolicitedpress.com).

I can't wait for the editing to begin next month. I am working on my next book. It's been a long journey, but I'm ready for it now. I have my touring bike.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Spirit Ritual

Photo by Laura Bear
I have been re-reading a wonderful book by Marianne Williamson called Everyday Grace. Any trip along the Maine coast always brings spirit very close to the surface for me and I want to carry that sense of communion with me in my daily life.

In Everyday Grace, Williamson talks about the importance of ritual. Not empty ritual, devoid of conscious awareness (that paying attention thing again), but, as Williamson writes, "a commitment of the heart" during ceremony. She writes that "marriage, when placed in a sacred context, is not just a 'piece of paper'" and going to a funeral and saying prayers for the dead and for their loved ones creates a sort of blanket of caring. Or as Williamson calls it, "a field of blessings." Graduations, milestone birthdays, anniversaries, the birth of a child: these are all events that rely on ritual to express great emotion and to mark the importance of the relationships they represent. You don't need to be religious to recognize the importance of spirit in our lives. Even if you don't believe in God, you can't really deny that human beings are designed to be stirred by beauty and to desire love and connection with other people.

Although not all my writing is inspired, I try to approach writing as a spiritual experience. Maybe just with myself, but also, hopefully, with a reader. Many writers have their own rituals for getting ready to write. Granted, sometimes you can get lost in the process and not get to the writing! Some of us get up before sunrise and brew a cup of coffee to drink while writing before work (not me!). Some of us wait until the drama of the day has settled and write in the evening before bed with a cup of tea. Some of us need a stretch of days with few interruptions to get into the meat of the writing. Some of us don't have that luxury and write in quick bursts whenever we have a spare ten minutes. But, most of us have a preferred way to begin: the right spot, certain lighting, visible mementos to decorate our writing space, a special pen or keyboard, a short meditation or a review of notes just before we begin, etc. I always seem to have a cat on my desk, so it's become a part of my process, with the dog at my feet. The ritual, the certain things we do to get us in the right frame of mind, are essential to the process.

Ritual is essential to spiritual awareness. Whether you do it for yourself, or most often, for someone else, the action symbolizes the importance of connection. Back to Williamson again, who says, " a sacred ritual--even something as simple as lighting a prayer candle every morning--can make a tremendous difference in the quality of our lives".

How do you take care of your spirit? I hope very well. Thank you for stopping in.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Paying Attention and Refueling the Muse

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
We just got back from a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. This was a much-needed vacation after several stressful months at the day job. We met some friends up there who spent the first part of their journey hiking up Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. We opted out of that hike due to my bum knee and my husband's doubts about whether he could make it up and back in a reasonable amount of time. This allowed us some time to explore the lesser traveled roads of Schoodic Pennisula and the surrounding area. Winter Harbor and Schoodic and the small lobstering village of Corea were stunning, to say the least. We took the scenic route on our bicycles. We had been to the other parts of Acadia before--one earlier year we got married on a former fishing boat in Frenchman's Bay and met Jen and Eddie and Mack Ten. We were fortunate to be able to see and talk to Jen again, although we did not get to take her out to dinner as we had hoped due to our poor planning. Jen was the one who married us and helped set up the wedding by sea, complete with decorations, on her husband Eddie's boat. She arranged for a flower-topped cake and lobster dinner right on the boat. Sadly, that boat was destroyed in a storm while sitting at dock and Jen and Eddie had divorced. We found this out on a return trip to Maine three years ago and the feeling of loss was overwhelming for everyone. Jen seemed happier this time and my heart was glad. Our marriage, thankfully, has survived longer than the boat, but we were so sad about the loss of The Seal. My husband, Kevin, had been on that same boat long before we met, for a whale-watching adventure. We didn't know it was the same boat until our wedding when Kevin and Eddie were talking about its origins.

Maine, and Acadia especially, is a special place for me. It inspires and soothes me. It is so beautiful that I can't really do anything else while I'm there except try to take it all in. I brought my computer and my journal, thinking I would be so inspired I would have to write. I didn't write a single word while I was there. At first, I was concerned, but then I realized, I was was refueling the muse. It was okay not to write because I was filling my tank. I did feel a little bit guilty when I checked Facebook and saw my prolific writer-friend Gregory Norris practically hemorrhaging prose in fits of amazing productivity and success. Kudos to you, dear Gregory! I will never, ever be that capable of such output. But, I think that's okay. As long as I don't stop. As long as the ideas are still flowing. I will continue to do what I can. I am excited about my next book. I have been jotting thoughts haphazardly in a notebook and on index cards and I had hoped to begin working on the meat of the story in Maine. I didn't accomplish any writing, but I did cleanse my cluttered mind with some salt sea air and got a couple things ready for my editors at Unsolicited Press unsolicitedpress.com. So, if the mission was to renew my muse, well, check that done!

It's hard to share something that means so much with other people. Writers do this all the time, I suppose. At least to the point that they cut out their hearts and bleed all over the page. Minor surgery, ha! Just as Acadia means so much to me, so does my writing. Writing needs the reader to complete the cycle, but it's not without trepidation. When we offered to show our friends the wonders of Acadia, we were a little concerned. Would they like it? Would it move them as much as it moves us? What if they hate it? At the same time, with age, I have developed some ability to distance myself from other people's experiences. If our friends did not love Acadia as much as we, well, so be it. We would be disappointed, but only in that they could not receive the full gift of such a place as we know it. Am I disappointed if someone doesn't like my writing? Yes, indeedy! But, I really try to listen now. Usually, I find the reader has something helpful to offer. I am also a reader, after all! The reader might find something I didn't notice in my first fifty writings of the thing or maybe he will offer a different perspective I hadn't considered. Hopefully, this is happening before the publishing stage, but not always, I'm sure. I might go back and rework it, if it makes sense to me. Or not. Everyone has a different experience, depending on their background. The fun part is in the paying attention. Pay attention to as much as possible, and the gold will reveal itself. That's what I choose to believe. Maybe you have a different experience. But, if I can touch just one heart, it's all worth it.

Keep paying attention. It all goes by so fast. Thank you for reading.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

When in Doubt, Change Your Perspective

Photo by Laura Bear
I went to Chicago for a work conference this week. Here's a shot of the skyline from the architectural boat tour on the river. It was neat to see the place from a different perspective.

I love to visit new places. Actually, I've been to Chicago before, but it was still new. I met new people, I learned new things, I saw a different part of the city. There was still plenty of traffic and wall-to-wall people on North Michigan Avenue, but it was easy to take a quick jog down a side street to find some green space and fewer people. I met a great lady from Texas at the conference and we had dinner and took the boat tour together. Good times! I will skip the air travel part, which was not a good time. For the price of air travel, you would think they would try harder to at least make it less like slow torture for their customers. Yes, airlines, we are your customers, not your unwanted baggage. Without us, there would be no airlines!

Anyway, I'm back and have too much to do before another trip--to Maine this time (yahoo! and no airplanes)--so this will be a short post. If you feel blocked and uninspired. If you don't know what to do next. If you aren't sure where your story is going or can't get a handle on a character in your book, try looking at it from a different perspective. Change the "I" to he or she, spend time with that minor character (maybe she is really a major one), take a walk and change your route, stop into that little shop you always thought you'd like but didn't want to take the time, write down your daydreams and see if there's a story in them. Get out of your normal groove and skip across the vinyl (yes, remember records? No? You have no idea what recorded music is really supposed to sound like). In fact, go to a live concert! Listen to live music, go to an art museum (googling artwork does not count), take a trip, even if it's only to another part of town. Take a boat ride or better yet, paddle your own boat.

It's all a matter of perspective and sometimes, we just need to find a new one to move on.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Dancing with Anxiety

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Anxiety in writers is like the common cold. It's easy to catch and hard to let go. When I feel anxious, I go to nature. These orchids offer their quiet beauty, reminding me to take a deep breath. Breathe in, exhale slowly...okay, not working. So, I will go to writing. Bear with me, I will try to resolve this issue by the end.

Of course, writers are not the only people to suffer anxiety. Any number of people can carry this affliction at any one time. But, I do believe writers have an edge when it comes to this problem. We may turn it into a character: Anxiety is a sharp-chinned rogue, too restless--or afraid-- of being ripped open with all its entrails hanging forth. Or Anxiety crept up behind her, its icy tendrils slithering up her back , encircling her throat until her breath was a gurgle. Or even: Yo, b*tch, Anxiety here, that's right, I'm baaaack. Yes, Anxiety is usually an antagonist.

But, couldn't Anxiety be a good guy (or gal, let's not discriminate)? What if it is simply The Spark? The effects of anxiety often come from indecision or lack of knowledge or lack of confidence, right? Maybe that tremor in your voice or the sweat on your palms is a sign. Maybe your heart is beating out of your chest to make you pay attention. Maybe--shall I go out on that thin limb--maybe it's a gift. That's right, you heard me. A gift.

Oh yes, I know, it's not a good feeling. Anxiety and I have a long relationship, but that doesn't mean we are soul mates. I am still learning how to dance with this bastard, er, gift. But, how, you may ask? How do we tame the savage beastie? Natalie Goldberg talks about alleviating writer's anxiety in her powerful book THUNDER AND LIGHTNING: CRACKING OPEN THE WRITER'S CRAFT. She suggests (for writers, at least, it is a book for writers, after all) that we not beat ourselves up for missing a day of writing, or two, but instead, SCHEDULE IT IN. If you only have a free half hour on Friday after the kids go to bed, put that time on your calendar for writing. Anxiety hates structure. It thrives on chaos and disarray. Turn the lion into a purring kitten. Goldberg reminds us that if we structure our time for writing, we won't be thinking about it while we're at our kid's soccer game or talking to our spouse or consoling a sick friend. We can focus on the present thing. We know we will have that time, no matter how small, to devote to the thing we are compelled to do. I think this could work for anything we want to do: writing, painting, meditation, working out, researching things we are passionate about, animal welfare, thinking up cool crafts for the kids, designing the perfect tattoo--whatever! Why not?

Don't give up your dream. If you are passionate about something, if you can't stop thinking about it, if it wakes you up at two in the morning or even if it's long buried, but kicks to the surface at odd times, it is worth putting it on your "to do" list and marking time on your calendar for it. I've had a burning desire to write all my life. I wasn't sure what to write exactly, but I knew I was meant to do it. I kept journals on and off, started articles and short stories I never finished, and  puttered around for years doing other things that I was also passionate about, but writing always bobbed its little head out of the water. I finally put it on my schedule. And I wrote a novel. I get to see it published next year. I can't wait to see what Anxiety has in store for me then! But, the point is, I went for it full throttle despite my anxiety. Keeping some structure allowed me to stay in my stride so Anxiety couldn't step on my toes. Perhaps you will do the same. I would love to hear how you manage anxiety and your plans for following your dreams.

And don't forget to breathe! Thank you for scheduling a moment with me.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Choosing Happiness

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Butterflies are a sure sign of summer. Here's a photo my husband Kevin shot of a swallowtail on an island full of flowers in the middle of the river. There's a butterfly in my upcoming novel, too, although that one appears in a vision. And it's bright blue. More on that when the publication date comes closer early next year.

So, we're not quite at the dog days yet, since summer just officially started last week, but this month went by so fast! I can't believe it's the end of June already.

I've been plotting my next novel. Mostly in my head, but I am about ready to start outlining and I have a few scenes written. This story is quite different from my first book. It's a huge project that will require quite a bit of research to pull it off well. It's difficult to switch gears when I am still in the process of launching my first novel. Speaking of which, I decided to change the title HEARTLAND after I found out there was another book and a Canadian TV series with the same name. My publisher, Unsolicited Press www.unsolicitedpress.com, agreed and so we have a new title: WHERE THE HEART LANDS. I think it works just as well. I can't wait for you to read it!

WHERE THE HEART LANDS is a story about two women who learn how to make happiness for themselves, despite circumstances of suffering. Happiness, according to Marianne Williamson in her excellent book EVERYDAY GRACE, is an acquired skill. It is easy to get lost in suffering. No one really blames you for feeling terrible when something bad happens to you. Tragedy is all around us, after all. Williamson reminds us that "there is always something to complain about, even in the best of times. And there is always something to celebrate, even in the worst of times." I struggle with this all the time. I have a tendency to look at the negative side of things. In fact, I sort of crave melancholia. Gloomy days feel pretty good to me, for some reason. I guess because they give me time to think. I like to think about stuff. Too much of anything can make one bloated, though, and thinking too much is no exception. Too many people don't seem to think enough about anything. But, thinking can lead to suffering, if you don't choose your thoughts carefully.

Williamson also notes that "those who have learned to be happy are often those who have suffered most." But, she's not talking about dwelling on sadness. No, she reminds us that "gratitude is essential to happiness." Gratitude for any little good thing that happens, like noticing how nice the warm sun feels on our skin or when your child laughs or when your little dog does a happy dance just because you walked in the door. Or how good basil smells growing in your garden. Or maybe someone held the door open for you or your husband fixed your broken bike shoe cleat or the chair you're sitting in is particularly comfortable or a tree offers you shade on a hot day. Maybe you were able to hold a cup in your paralyzed hand today or you said your first intelligible words after a stroke took them away or you can still smell your spouse's scent on the clothes in the closet after he passed away or you are able to take a deep breath without pain. Stuff like that.

Good things are all around us. We just have to notice them. That doesn't mean that we have to give up our sadness. It doesn't mean that we don't grieve. But, we can choose happiness over grief if we want to. I am inspired every day by the people I see in my day job who have lost so much because of a stroke or traumatic brain injury or cancer or ALS or some other horrifying disease. The ones who have lost so much, yet pull through and thrive for whatever time they have been given. They take each day and make it as good as they can.

I invite you to notice the good things. Choose whatever happiness you can find. I am happy that you are willing to read my words today. Thank you for stopping by.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Make Always Right Now

Photo by Laura Bear
Another weekend of perfect weather in upstate New York. I don't quite believe it, but I'm not complaining. Grass mowed, two hilly bike rides, took the dog for a drive to the soft serve, cleaned the bathroom (it had to be done), hung out some wash, worked a bit in the garden, combed mats out of the cat's fur, picked more strawberries and made shortcake. I even got a little writing in! There is one more cord of wood in the driveway that needs stacking, but a girl can't do everything in one weekend.

So, how do I sit down in my writing room when its so lovely outside? I make myself so tired I can't wait to sit for a while, that's how. And I dream about our upcoming trip back to Acadia next month--wait, maybe that's not productive--here's a little boat picture to get you in the mood. Speaking of boats, Kevin is away finishing up his last boat clinic (kayaks and canoes) for the year and for life, since the guy he works for is retiring this year. I miss you, Babe, but I will also miss having a few days at a time to myself again (see previous post titled "Solitude").

I spend far too much of my life thinking about the future and regretting the past. I don't think it's wrong to have dreams, but if you spend too much time thinking about what hasn't happened yet or worrying about what did happen before, well, you miss what's happening right now. I have to remind myself every single minute of every day (when I'm not too busy ruminating on past and future) to focus on the moment. There's a chapter in the book Living a Course in Miracles by Jon Mundy, PhD titled "Always Must be Right Now." I don't remember what he said about that (I need to reread this some time in the future), but I like the concept. Always doesn't happen except for each right now, right? So, make the most of it. Trouble is, I forget. I have a terrible memory. I have to write everything down or its gone into the ether. Unless it's some painful stupid thing that happened to me when I was eight years old, then just try to forget that! Ha! But, I digress. What was I talking about?

Oh yeah, living my life by the moment. Does that mean don't plan anything? Don't work on anything because the result only exists in the future? No, I think not. Living for the moment does not get you off the hook. I believe it means, pay attention because you don't know how many moments you have. Cherish each and every one. Even the bad ones, for without them, we can't grow or learn or be grateful for the really good ones. That's all. Simple, yes? Or not, it doesn't matter. What matters is that we make our always right now.

Enjoy your moment. Thank you for reading.





Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Spaces Between

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Here is some of our daily strawberry harvest! I am so excited that our strawberries are taking over the flower garden along the driveway this year. Usually when tendrils invade, it's a weed plague or aliens sucking the life out of you. Don't worry, still plenty of flowers, just not in the former bare spot that grew nothing for the past several years. Now we have fruit! Let the shortcake begin!

Anyway, we were supposed to have a beautiful, sunny weekend, but Saturday felt a little too much like fall. Cool and cloudy. I like fall, but not in the middle of June. Not as nice for bike riding, but perfect for wood stacking and weeding the garden. Tomorrow should be warmer and we'll be ready for the bikes again. Digging in the dirt is always therapeutic, but nothing beats a Sunday rolling through the countryside on two wheels.

As far as my writing, I have been scribbling during the snatches of time between day-job and home obligations. I have been working on the list of items sent by my publisher www.unsolicitedpress.com, a bit more on the new book, and on this blog. I have been busy trying to educate myself on the whole book promotion process and frankly, I am more confused than ever! Hopefully, I'll have it figured out well enough by the time my book comes out. I really like the characters in this book and they would love to meet you! Perhaps I will introduce you to a few of them soon. I could use a few more hours in the day...

Well, time to head downstairs to the "theater room" for a show on Netflix tonight with my spouse. When we renovated the basement, my son suggested the funky short part of the "L" shape would make a great spot for a movie theater. Our house is tiny, but we make the most of every space.

May you make the most of all of your spaces this week. Thank you for reading!




Sunday, June 8, 2014

Heart Pump

Photo by Laura Bear
These gorgeous weekends are interfering with my writing time. I had two spectacular bike rides and took care of some yard and garden work. After my favorite 40-miler with my friend Amy (hubby is out of town working), I watered the vegetables, took a quick nap on the couch and took the little dog for a walk downtown.Teddy thinks he needs a 10-mile hike every day, but he managed with the stroll through town because of the frequent sniff stops along the way. The frog posed for a photo when we were in Acadia a couple years ago. We will be headed there again this summer--our favorite outdoor playground.

So, before I crash tonight, I thought I'd get a few words down. I try to stick to a schedule with my writing, even if I only manage a few sentences. It keeps the demons at bay. I've been thinking about poetry lately. I haven't written any in a long while. Here's a short one in honor of the bike ride today:

Blood pushes through 
Roads of arteries 
As legs pump
Hard over the next hill.
Spinning wheels
Rolling out
Smiles 
From passing farms.

That's all I got tonight! Hope you found something that made your heart pump this weekend.
Thanks for taking the time to look.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Learning to Shine

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
I had a strange dream last night that a group of bears invaded my backyard and were devouring a carcass of some mystery animal. The bears were mostly very young cubs, but a few were older and I kept looking for the mother bears. There were also oodles of stray cats trotting off with pieces of legs and other bits of carrion. For some reason, I was trying to scoot some of the cats into the house to protect them from the bears. Our little dog Teddy (he's in the boat to the right, clearly not a dream) was watching the scene with nary a peep. Highly unusual for our MIGHTY dog. I had a glass of wine with dinner last night, but geeeeesh!

I am pretty sure black bears don't eat meat, but I guess they could have been opportunists. Certainly their grizzly cousins will eat meat and anything else they can find in a campground. Not sure that I can get a story from this dream, but it was interesting, nonetheless. Maybe I was communing with my name in the unconscious state.

Anyway, now that my book is written and will be published, I have to learn the business end of writing. I admit, I am allergic to business. I almost break out in hives when anyone utters the word marketing. But, I am immersing myself because, hey, it's necessary. I mean, what good is it if I write a book that no one reads? My friend Mari (check out her amazing website and radio show at http:/www.ahamomentsinc.com) gave me some good advice about this recently. She told me that marketing is not about selling. I was so relieved, because I don't think I could even sell girl scout cookies, and they're pretty tasty. She said that marketing is more like promoting who you are and what you have to offer. No pressure there, right? What she meant was, I believe, it's about why we write. Tell people the story of how you came to write the book. Who are your characters? What can people relate to in your story? Stuff like that. It's really not a sleazy thing after all. It's connecting with other people! I can do that, I think. It doesn't change who I am.

Here's a nice quote from Rumi:

If sunlight falls upon the filth,
still it's the same light:
no contamination comes to it.

Spread your light everyone.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Industriousness

Photo by Laura Bear
 What a beautiful weekend! Here is how I spent Saturday...stacking the rest of the two and a half cords of wood piled in the driveway (still need to order two more cords to get us through the winter). Then we planted the gardens so we can harvest fresh veggies this summer and fall for delectable dishes. These things took us all day because I was overzealous in my seedling buying and we had to plant the back corner garden (and mulch it and get more fencing to keep out critters and drag the hose up to water it, etc.). Our sweet little neighbor girls chatted me up over the back fence and gave me two of the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever eaten (I may have been starving, but they were delicious). I did give my husband the other cookie, although it was tempting to gobble them both up (who would know?). Damn conscience.

But, it's done and so we had time for a long bike ride today on one of our favorite routes. Just a hair under 40 miles, but you don't see me on the couch (Kevin). I can't play hookey the whole weekend. Like I said in an earlier post, I can't not write for too long, although it's much more difficult when the weather is perfect.

Actually, I have been researching book promotion in anticipation of the release of my novel next year. So much to learn! I have been doing more reading than writing lately. But, I did manage to get a couple scenes written for my next book and am working on a short story. Tonight and tomorrow I will be working on my book blurb, press release, paring down and polishing my synopsis, and coming up with a bio. Did I mention that my publisher, Unsolicited Press (www.unsolicitedpress.com) has a fantabulous journal called The Fictioneer http://www.unsolicitedpress.com/the-fictioneer.html ? They do indeed and my writer friends are welcome to submit short fiction or even non-fiction after reading their guidelines.

As beautiful as this weekend is, I do have to pause to remember our veterans. My father, who served in the airforce and my late father-in-law who was a Seabee in WWII. I am grateful for my freedom of speech, among many other things. Whenever I get annoyed by all the political rhetoric or the what ignorant people say in the press or say against one political party or another, it helps me to remember that this is possible because brave men and women have been willing to fight for what they believe is right. They sacrificed so we don't have to. How do you adequately thank someone for that? Please remember and care for our veterans, especially when they need us.

Anyway, that's the scoop for now. Thank you for spending a few minutes with me.


Photo by Kevin Tomasello

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sweet Solitude

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Sometimes--really, all the time--it's hard to balance creativity with the demands of daily life.

I am someone who needs a lot of alone time. In fact, I seem to need way more than most people. I mean, I like people, but I get grumpy if I am forced to be with others without breaks of solitude.

As a human being, it is necessary and good to connect with other human beings. I spend at least 95% of my day trying to connect with other people face to face as part of my day job. I chose this and I love it, but it drains me. When I come home, my spouse wants to connect with me. I get that. I like him. He's a pretty cool guy most of the time, except when I am on empty. Then no one is cool. He would argue that I appear to be on empty most of the time, I'm sure. I really don't try to be. My husband took the photo above, by the way. We both take so many pictures that I forget who did what, but that's his canoe. We each have our own boat. This is important for marital harmony.

I have a framed black and white photograph in my writing room of a person in a single rowing scull in the moonlight by Bruce Stromberg that I've had since high school. At the bottom is a quote from a guy named Omar Khayyam : "The thoughtful soul to solitude retires." It still speaks to me after all these years.

When my son was little, solitude was impossible. Little kids follow you into the bathroom for heaven's sake. But, then his father and I divorced and I moved far away and I missed my son more than my own breath under water. He's a young man now, planning his own wedding, and I savor any time I can get with him. I don't seem to need so much solitude when he's around.

But, I still need it...like air. Like water. I'm not a good person when I can't take time by myself in nature. Yes, the nature part is important. It's the only way I can recharge. Not that there's so much amazing activity going on in my brain that I have to commune with it. Usually, my mind is full of junk. Icky, sticky, tarry pollution that I need to purge before it suffocates me. I find it easiest to purge when I am by myself, outside...or inside on the page with the windows open, or at least with a window that looks out at nature. I use my solitude to face the world again because I do want to connect with other human beings. Here's another good quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

What lies behind us 
and what lies before us 
are tiny matters 
compared to what lies within us.

I can't find out what's within without that solitary window. And then, hopefully, whatever I can siphon from that weird wreckage of my mind is worth sharing with the world.

May you also find peace and solitude when you need it.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Joy , Validation and Perseverance

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
It's been a great week.

The big news is I am about to sign a contract for publication of my NOVEL with UNSOLICITED PRESS! A very cool independent press in Northern California. Check it out:
 www.unsolicitedpress.com

And this weekend it's my birthday and Mother's Day. And we've had a few beautiful sunny days in a row, so I got to ride my bike outside with silly bicycle shorts instead of cumbersome, restrictive bulge-inducing tights. And I got to eat birthday carrot cake from Wegman's and my mother's strawberry cake and Grandma Bear's- recipe-made-by-my-Mom chocolate cake with chocolate mocha frosting. (See why I needed the bicycle rides)?
Life is good.

That's my little dog Teddy above. He  is a little brain-damaged and doesn't know how to play with a ball like regular dogs. In fact, he is afraid of balls, even if one is simply resting quietly in the middle of the floor. Instead, he expresses joy by running around in circles. He can run faster than I can and I thought you would much rather see a furry little dog zooming around than me collapsing on my bum knee after jumping for joy. This is what it feels like to get an acceptance from a publisher you really like!

So, validation arrives for my writing. This is fantastic, but would I keep writing if no one wanted to see it? Some days I might say no, it's too hard. It's too big. It means too much. I don't have enough ideas. I don't have enough time. Whine, whine...wine! Then I remember how I feel whenever I read really good writing. I need to keep writing. I want to be that writer that stays with a reader long after the book is over. I want to keep writing better. I want to stir some souls (or at least entertain them for a while).

One of my favorite poems is actually about poetry, but it completely expresses how I feel about any creative writing. Pablo Neruda wrote a poem called Poetry that is so good I can't even stand it. I can't breathe whenever I read this poem. There is a reason this man won the Nobel Prize for his poetry. You need to read the whole thing to get the feeling, but here is how Poetry by Pablo Neruda ends:

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry 
void,
likeness, image of
mystery
felt myself a pure part 
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars, 
my heart broke loose on the wind.

Seriously! My heart breaks loose every time I read this poem. This is what writing means to me. I can moan about the process sometimes, but I can't stay away from it. It is part of me. I am counting my blessings.

Let the editing begin!







Friday, May 2, 2014

Finding My Tribe

Photo by Laura Bear
I recently spent a productive four days at a lovely house on Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York state with four talented, fascinating women. We each spent our first day decompressing from a stressful week and it was gratifying to experience and witness the gradual unfolding of peace and inspiration in all of us. Clearly, a retreat was long overdue.

Several of us hold full-time work outside of our writing lives. Although the day job may involve much writing, it is not typically of the creative soul-feeding type. As women with families, it is also unusual to steal un-distracted and uninterrupted time for that type of writing. Even more important was the chance to rekindle creative energy. I think it is safe to say that women in general spend much of our lives tending to the needs of others. Often, we do so willingly, but it drains us. That's what happens when you go with the flow, sometimes you get sucked down the drain.

The cool thing about spending four days with other women who write, is that we all write different stuff, but we could still relate to each other as writers...and people. Turns out we all like good food. And wine. Word play. And taking long walks or vigorous hikes. Or we kayak. We all love nature. We tell the truth. We appreciate beauty--whether it is a "beautiful, sleeping man" (wink wink, Elena) or a beautiful waterfall. The call of a loon on the lake. All of this feeds the muse, whatever that is. My muse is a wily b**ch. A shape-shifter who darts in and out with frustrating inconsistency. But, we all have one. I guarantee it.

Find your tribe. Invite the muse. Celebrate.

Check out the following links for excellent writerly advice, inspiration, and tidbits about literature and food:

writerunboxed.com

elenagreene.com

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/

www.thedomesticbeast.com