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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Be Golden

Golden reflection at World's End State Park photo by author Laura J. Bear, October 2015
Since we are having such an unusually warm December so far, I decided that a snowy picture just wouldn't work. Besides, I thought it it might be a good time to talk about some things that have been on my mind, if you'll indulge me for a moment.

The news lately has been distressing: senseless mass killings; discrimination of any number of people; fear so widespread that people are willing to cling to their weapons and their insular slice of the continent at the expense of their humanity; bickering, blaming, name-calling, and general ridicuous behavior of most of our politicians; the rampant materialism and increasing division of our nation. It's enough to make me want to scream...or lash out...or cry...or throw up my hands..or just throw up. Not to mention that this season of supposed good cheer and altruism can be a depressing hell for people who have lost loved ones because their pain is amplified by the fact that everyone else seems so damn happy. I truly can't stand it sometimes.

Yet, I am instantly lifted from the sucking power of this dark mind-muck by the tiniest hint of sweetness--a sparkle of humanity. When I am at my absolute lowest--when my heart is raw and bleeding and open in my chest, vulnerable to the jagged blade of hate--that's when I am most sensitive to the smallest kindness, the quietest act of love. A stranger holds the door open, makes eye contact, and smiles. Someone stands up with you when you speak out against the harming of an animal or some other wrong. Last week, someone told me how much they enjoyed my novel, that they loved my characters and related to them. I can think of no greater praise for a writer, and  I was deeply moved. As silly as people may believe social media to be and as easy an avenue it can be to spread lies and hatred, social media can help people join together: to learn, to grow, and to share the good things that humans do for each other. We can lift each other up, just as easily as we can tear someone down. Why not search for the gold? Caring about others doesn't subtract from your soul, it adds to your happiness bank. The more you care, the more you care. The more open you are to the experience of other human beings, the more open other people are to you.

It doesn't matter what we look like or what religion we follow or don't follow. It doesn't matter where we live or how screwed up our families are. Politics aren't people and shouldn't be treated as such. It doesn't matter what you wear or how big your house is or how much money you make or what the hell the Kardashians are doing. We're all people, damn it, help each other. Take care of each other. Take care of the Earth--our only home. The only thing worse than hate is apathy. The only cure for hatred and apathy is that four-letter word: LOVE. Can we please stop being assholes to each other? A divided nation or region or neighborhood is the breeding ground for terrorism. Hate feeds terrorism. Terrorists win every time we act out of fear and hate. So, just stop. No matter how much it bugs you, be golden instead. You want to lighten your own load? Lift someone else up. Notice how the water in the photo above looks like spun gold? Water is not inherently golden, it reflects everything around it. Be the gold and see how it reflects back to you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Company We Keep

Photo of view of Newfound Lake from Coppertoppe Inn,  Hebron, NH by Laura J. Bear
I just returned from a wonderful wrtier's retreat at a magical place called Coppertoppe Inn in the foothills of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Not only was the scenery breathtaking, with views from every room, but the company was stellar. Ten writers converged upon the Inn (including me) to share their work, refresh their spirits, and, well...write! It was my great fortune to be invited by a champion of writers: the extraordinary Gregory Norris, author of The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse, the screenplay for Brutal Colors, and Tales from the Robot Graveyard, among many hundreds of other titles. Greg is the quintessential writer: prolific with a seemingly infinite arsenal of ideas; organized with beautifully decorated files, notecards, and notebooks; and incredibly supportive and encouraging to other writers. Check out his blog: Through him, I was able to meet members of the delightful Berlin Writers group--all talented writers and lovely people in their own right.

I had been greatly needing a retreat with like-minded people. An all-consuming day job coupled with the urgent prodding of my latest project, my second novel and all the necessary daily routine stuff, not to mention the daunting task of continuing to promote my first recently hatched novel without being a bother, had depleted my soul. The desire was still there, but I had run out of fuel. I needed to recharge--a creative jump start. I found that in New Hampshire over Halloween weekend.

I arrived a day early, as my drive was the longest: six and a half hours through eastern New York, Vermont, and part of New Hampshire. One of my hosts, Sheila, of Coppertoppe Inn, greeted me on her way out to prepare for the arrival of the group the next day. Her husband Bill took over with charming and interesting conversation and recommendations for dinner in town. I had a luxioroius room with private bath and the breathtaking view above. I began to unwind and settle in for a night of writing after dinner, anticipating the arrival of the infamous Berlin Writers group the next day.

I decided to begin my morning with a  hike down the road from the Inn on the trails of a bird santuary and nature center with views of the lake. As I emerged with some confusion from one of the more overgrown trails,  a car crept down the steep dirt road to the park entrance. Peter Estabrooks and his wife, the poet Esther Lieber-Estabrooks surpised me with a warm greeting and to let me know that I should be receiving a package from them at the Inn today. This confirmed what would be an extraordinary weekend.

The rest of the group trickled in over the morning in small carloads until we were all assembled into our accomodations and had been introduced. The vibe was electric and inviting. Some of us set right to work, while others took some time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Murder mystery writer Irene G. and I instantly connected on another walk to get the kinks out before sitting to write. The talented writer and artist Judi C. quickly became a soul sister. Heaven is in the kindred spirits you meet along the journey.

On Friday evening, we agreed to read from one of our new works. I had been playing around with a short story about one of the central characters in my new novel. The reading forced me to dig deeper into it. The group consisted of writings from all different genres. Each person read with passion, and the group gave constructive criticism: honest, but never mean. Each fellow writer contributed something with genuine care. On Saturday, it was determined that we must write a short story  of 1,000 words or less with Halloween as our writing prompt. As someone who struggles with finishng anything in one month, much less in one day, this was a daunting task for certain, but I was up for the challenge.

As the newbie to the group, I somehow missed that I was supposed to have a Halloween costume for Saturday night. Sheila came to the rescue with a chic vintage hat, black fitted blouse with gold details, and a wild black skirt for my transfromation into Dorothy Parker. Each reading was a new joy and my heart grew full. The aptly named Newfound Lake was the backdrop for this retreat, and indeed, I cherish my newfound group of writer friends: Irene, Esther, Judi, Bernie, June, Natalie, Jonathan, Tina, and, of course, dear Gregory; and my inspirational hosts: Sheila and Bill, who extended the warmest hospitality one can imagine. Words are inadequate to express my gratitude for the gift of that long weekend, but words are all I know, so I hope they will suffice. Thank you all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blood Moon Rising

Super Moon Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse 9/27/15 photo by Kevin Tomasello
Harvest moon, blood moon, total lunar eclipse, supermoon: all this happened at once this month. The moon was its closest to the Earth on September 27 to 28th, causing its greatest gravitational pull on our planet and offering a rare view of our nearest orbiting neighbor. A super moon is the closest full moon to the earth, which makes for a gigantic luminescent orb as it rises in the darkening sky. Although the term blood moon denotes gothic images of werewolves, vampires, and witches, its scientific meaning is less dramatic. A blood moon is a relatively new term for the fourth total lunar eclipse in a tetrad: four total lunar eclipses separated by six full moons (six months) with no partial eclipses between. According to Earth and Sky,  the term blood moon carries religious significance as a prophesy for the end of time. I'll let you read more about that on their website, but there seem to be so many signs of the end of days that I wonder if these days are in fact much longer than our 24 hour days? In any event, it makes for a spectacular night image with associated chills up one's spine. This moon also has the distinction of being a harvest moon: the full moon that shines closest to the autumnal equinox. The brightness of this full moon supposedly allowed farmers to work at peak harvest late into the night. Great story fodder, in any event!

I've been feeling the gravitational pull of my writing. It's been a struggle lately, juggling an increasingly stressful full time job with the utter need to write. Most of my days and nights are spent piecemeal: tiny morsels of time spent on projects that scream for intense, in-depth immersion. I find myself desperate for any tidbits of distracting creativity: a line of a poem, a musical phrase, quiet solitude for contemplation and gazing at my toenails, searching for the right words to lay down on the page. Any writing accomplished is like blood-letting: laborious, scrutinized, depressing, a strangled glut of words choked from a moldy gourd. Recently, a pleasant, although obviously non-writer gentleman informed me that he didn't see the problem with writing a book. "You just come up with an outline and write it out, don't you?" I nodded, teeth clenched, head wobbling like a pumpkin on a corn stalk. If it were that easy, I suppose I would have a thousand books by now. Perhaps, a book should appear easily written, like a doctor who breezes in for a five minute visit with his or her patient, quickly diagnosing and treating a medical problem. No one sees the eight or more years of schooling and the four or more years of residency: the extended sleepless marathons of common colds and domestic abuse cases; the wretched consequences of mistakes; the soul-battering humiliation and genuine fear of not being an immediate expert. Everyone thinks they know what it is because they read it on the internet or their second cousin's nephew's girlfriend is a nurse and she said ...

Not to compare writng to medicine, but why not? It requires the skill of a surgeon, the language application of a linguist, the most passionate open-heart imaginable, and the full-body armor of a knight: not to mention the total exposure of your very soul to the whole world. To all my writer friends out there: may the blood of passion eclipse your doubts and reap your best harvest as you grow and grow and GROW.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First, Get Outside...

Photo of author in her kayak by Kevin Tomasello c. 2015
I need a distraction from working on my new novel--okay, not really, I need an excuse not to work on it. Actually, a little procrastination goes a long way. Too long. I have a whole list of writing projects I need to work on, so why do I hesitate? My mind craves silence...and nature. Ideas rush between the tortuous convulusions of my cerebrum, yet I balk at putting them to page. My much more prolific colleagues continue to create and publish every scribbled thought--or so it seems--while my words thunk to the page with all the elegance of a corpse.

The truth is, I have been pulled away from writing by the bodacious bounty of a rare and splendid summer. The hot sun has been tempered by the low humidity--almost impossible in this Susquahanna River valley, nicknamed "Sinus Valley" for good reason. Even without a breeze, the air has been warm and dry with a hint of the Atlantic sneaking in from the far-off coast. Our little dog Teddy raises his muzzle often, as if to sniff the salt air. We are several hundred miles from the coast, however, and even further from the wonderfully rocky Maine coast we love so much. Not the crowded Downeast known to most vacationers, but further up, to Acadia's Schoodic pennisula and beyond. My husband and I were married on a fishing boat 14 years ago, in the harbor. Sadly, our paradise has been discovered by developers and summer in Bar Harbor has been lost to a bulky luxury hotel that juts out into the water while masses of sightseers crowd the streets. For the first time last summer, it was a chore to buy a week's pass to Acadia National Park. People spilled from the crush of the parking lot into the park office like marshmallow Easter Peeps squished in their box. The beauty of Maine's craggy coastline, though, is that there is so much of it that one can find hidden gems in its lesser known crevices. There I go, off on a tangent again. Ah, the winding mind of a wanderer.

Anyway, I have been soaking up the glorious days of this solstice before they get away. Occasionally wracked by guilt for not writing every day, I have taken long weekends away from my day job to bicycle the rolling hills, paddle the river, amble through the local park with my spouse and my dog, pluck juicy tomatoes and alarming zucchini monsters from the garden, and generally goof off. I don't feel too bad, though (says my wretched, sniveling, shackled inner writer). Soon enough, the leaves will fall and the bite of winter will arrive. There will be plenty of days to document all this rumination. Hopefully, those pasty white words will lose some of their dead weight and dance upon the page like snowflakes. For now, let the sweet sun shine!

Thank the stars for the dark night, or I'd never get any writing done.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summertime...Lessons Learned

Author with Teddy In Ithaca
Okay, this photo is a few years old, but the subjects look about the same. I've been trying to focus on writing the next book, but I do get distracted by the beautiful weather lately. I wrote a chapter tonight on Novel 2, but I haven't been keeping up with my blog, so I thought I'd take a few moments to write an update.

We had a heavy downpour here this afternoon: cancelling our plans for bike riding or walking the dog, but helping me get back to work on my writing with little regret. It's been difficult to stay the course. My debut novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS has been doing well, but the process of discovery is slow. I know I need to get more of my work out there, but so many things tear me away from the writing each day: full-time job as a speech language pathologist, husband who likes to do things with me, and furry family members who demand attention, treats, walks, and petting. My son is all grown up and now a married man with his own demands, but I still miss him and want to talk to him all the time. The weather in upstate New York has been spectacular. A rare and welcome treat. This summer has been cooler--in the 70s and low 80s with lots of sunshine, and plenty of rain in between. We're due for a heat wave this week, but it still feels like Fall is just around the corner. The seasons move so fast any more, like life.

As I grow older, I cherish the beautiful things so much more. Is it my imagination, or are the weekends and summer days growing shorter? I wish I could talk to my 20-year-old self with the knowledge I've gained in the thirty years since. What would I tell that feckless young woman?

1) Chase your dreams, you might not get another chance.
2) Work hard, and love your work. Don't be such a lazy ass!
3) Be kind to everyone, mean people need it more than anyone else.
4) A smile works much better than an angry word.
5) Forgive yourself, you're never going to be perfect.
6) Don't dwell on the past, it doesn't change a thing!
7) Tell people what you love about them.
8) Give up the people and things that don't love you back, without regret.
9) It's okay to be still sometimes.
10) Listen more than you talk. You will learn much more than you ever imagined.

Enjoy each day, my friends. There will never be another like it!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dog Days of Writing

Teddy sound asleep in the shade of the Burning Bush.
It's the dog days of summer this weekend. Hot, humid temperatures after a mostly cool, pleasant season so far. Teddy does what most dogs do during the smoldering heat--sticks to the shade.

We spent all day yesterday pulling out overgrown weed trees and other jungle-like growths spilling over from the neighbor's into our gardens. We were a little grumbly at first, then we decided to ask our neighbor if she minded if we cut down some stuff on her side of the fence. She was relieved and even offered homemade iced tea after she came out to help. We spent the afternoon sweating and hauling brush as we chatted and learned more about each other's lives. She is recently divorced and raising a daughter with health problems. Not much time or care for what her garden was doing. A good reminder not to judge your neighbor.

Today a nice bicycle ride with a friend we haven't seen in a while. The 93 degrees didn't seem quite so bad with the breeze! I've been re-reading May Sarton's journals--THE HOUSE BY THE SEA after reading JOURNAL OF A SOLITUDE. An intelligent, somewhat tortured, talented soul who greatly inspires me. She is more positive in SEA, where she moves into a rented house on the coast of Maine. Maine is a special place for me, but today I am grateful for our little home on the hill with our wild gardens and good bicycling roads. Trips to Maine help me with my ocean fixation. I love that rocky coast with the mountains and sea in one stunning place. If it weren't so far from family, we would be there all the time.

I've been getting some positive feedback on my novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS and knocked out over a thousand words tonight on the new novel. Back to work at the day job tomorrow, then another day "off" of more writing and, if the weather holds--another bicycle ride. Life is what you make it. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants to remember.

Do something that inspires you today.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

No Time for Hate

Photo of author by Kevin Tomasello
It's been a busy couple months and updating my blog has taken a back seat to wonderful things, such as a trip to Minneapolis for my son and daughter-in-law's wedding, responding to requests for information about me and my book for the Ithaca College alumni association, and spending an evening with a wonderful group of readers who invited me to their bookclub meeting after reading Where the Heart Lands. I've also been focusing on the writing of my second novel, getting the garden and the yard in shape, and working at my full-time day job as a speech language pathologist. Now that summer is here, more bicycle riding outside is essential!

Usually, I try to keep politics out of my blog posts, but I have to give a shout out to The Supreme Court for ruling that all people who choose to marry may do so legally: Finally! After all the news about racially motivated murder and general hatred towards any of our fellow human or animal beings lately, this was uplifting. Sometimes love wins!

I don't know about you, but I don't have time or patience for hate. I don't care why you hate, there is no benefit to promoting hatred of anyone. We all have baggage. We all have feelings. Many of us had really screwed up childhoods. This does not mean that it is okay to hurt someone else or to hurt animals. Nothing good comes to a society that tolerates hatred of its members or hatred of those who are not us or harming those who are vulnerable! We are all equal in this country, remember? Not some, not a select few, but ALL. Each one of us has an obligation to promote the good for the good of all of us: every one. Instead of spending all that energy on hate, why not spend it on trying to become a better, more caring human being?

Blessings to all the newlyweds! Peace and harmony to you all.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Remembering Souls

Photo by Kevin Tomasello c. 2013
Where does the time go? The passage of time seems to speed up as I grow older. My little boy, Mitchell, was just splashing through rain puddles a minute ago, and next weekend he is getting married! My niece, Rachel, is graduating from high school in two weeks. Life passes in a blink any more.

On this day, we remember those who were taken from us much too soon: my grandfather Walter; mother-in-law, Jean; brother-in-law, Jim; our nephew, Kyle; and my father-in-law, Vito, a Sea Bee in WWII. And then there are all the men and women and service animals who gave their lives while protecting our country. We should never forget them and what they gave up for the rest of us.

When I am missing people too much, I like to remember something I read by Ram Daas in his book Still Here. He reminds us that our souls continue on, even after our bodies are discarded. I like to think of my body as a temporary wrapper for my Soul, when I am in a more open conscious state than usual. Ram Daas relates a story in Still Here where he heard an interview with Pat Rodegast, a pyschic medium through whom a being from beyond named Emmanuel described death as "absolutely safe...It's like taking off a tight shoe." Well, that sounds just wonderful to me. I only hope I can greet death with this relief when my time comes.

Our time in these earth bodies is short. Perhaps those who were more evolved were allowed to leave their bodies a little sooner. Either way, how do you want to live your particular life? In struggle or in gratitude? My dear friend and extraordinarily talented writer, Gregory Norris has learned to live his life with gratitude. Not a stranger to struggle, he chooses to focus on the positive parts of his life and is such a genuine person that his light shines over everyone. Once forced to live in his car with his significant other and his fur family, he chooses not to hold on to bitterness. Instead, he teaches by example, easily giving his time and his encouragement to anyone who needs it. I am constantly inspired by the people I treat in my other job as a speech pathologist: those who have survived stroke and brain injury, and must learn how to interact with the world as a different person.

Here is what I've learned: live your life to its fullest. Spread joy. Live as though you will be back again to try again and again, each time better than before.

In the spirit of giving back, I am giving away 10 free copies of my novel Where the Heart Lands on Goodreads. I would love your feedback and your thoughts. Here is the link for the giveaway: and here is my email address:

Many happinesses to you all.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Caring for the Soul While Getting Down to Business

Photo by Author 
It's that time of year: writing retreat on The Lake. Despite the snow flurries, the sound of the the waves is soothing and the view is spectacular from the desk in my room. You'll have to wait until I'm back home to see it, but here's a nearby magnolia bloom from a different year (the magnolia blossoms are still tight buds outside the house this year). My jaw and neck and shoulders are loose as the stress of the last few weeks slides out into the water, carried away by the wind and the churning of the waves. No phones, no sick animals, no household demands for a glorious four days. Just what my soul needed and my muse required. I have work to do. WHERE THE HEART LANDS is out there, searching for more readers. But, I must get back to work on the next book. There's been only snipets of time and less desire. A nurse at work yesterday came up to me to tell me how much she enjoyed WHERE THE HEART LANDS. After a rather disheartening few weeks of book promotion, these positive words lifted my heart. I wish I could say that I just write for the thrill of it, but the truth is, I need to know that people are reading and enjoying what I write. It makes the lonely journey of filling pages worth the effort. As much as I need to write, it still doesn't always come easily. Almost never, in fact. So, why do it?

I do it to learn about myself and the world. I do it to express all the jumble inside my head in a more cohesive way. I do it because I am compelled to do it. Because the urge never leaves me alone. Because it comes from somewhere else, somewhere deep and dark and scary (sometimes) or from joy (once in a while). Because a story wants to come out whether I mean it to or not. Hallelujah when someone takes the time to read it and especially when they let me know what it meant to them. I am humbled and exhalted that another person is moved to share their experience of the work with me. This is why I write.

Time to get down to business.

If you like, check out my website : or order WHERE THE HEART LANDS from my publisher or through Amazon: or through Barnes and Noble or from two very fine bookstores: RiverRead Books in Binghamton, NY and Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Photo of Grosbeak by Laura J. Bear, 2010
What a beautiful spring day! Birds and peepers exploded in song all along our bike ride today. It seems that all the creatures rejoiced in the end of winter this fine warm day. Green is sprouting everywhere with the yellow of daffodils and multi-colored crocuses dotted throughout the landscape. Ahhhh, yes.

Robert Frost was right, "Nature's first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold." I know all this will go away again, but the wonderful fact that spring keeps coming back year after year, reminds me that there is life after the long, cold winter. Life after death. Spring wouldn't be as glorious without the cold grip of winter (although, I have to admit, I could do with a much shorter version of the frigid gray season).

The characters in my story WHERE THE HEART LANDS go through their own catharsis. Lucy has to figure out how to reinvent her life after her unfulfilling marriage ends abruptly. Young Addie changed her name and then her life, in order to escape an abusive family. People don't change and grow without the help of others, though. Here are a few more morsels to share from the book:

Lucy's Aunt Jay was an eccentric influence on Lucy as a young girl:

"To Aunt Jay, none of this mattered. She allowed me to be myself and explore every side of my creativity that I wished. Growing up, I spent many summers at her apartment in Manhattan. The city was so exciting, huge, and mysterious. Aunt Jay was a little scary, too. She was tall and stick-thin, with a beak for a nose. She dressed in black, filmy layers, except for a purple shawl or red scarf sometimes pinned together with a huge brooch shaped like a face. It was easy to imagine that brooch coming alive after dark. Many times during my visits, I would lie awake in Aunt Jay's big, old brownstone with the high ceilings and heavy drapes, waiting for that face to float into my room. I'm happy to report it never did."

After Lucy meets Addie for the first time:

"I couldn't get my new neighbor out of my head. I was excited about having such a sweet, pretty friend next door. She was nothing like the nipped and tucked women I knew back in suburbia. I seemed to have a bit of a girl-crush on her and felt a little wicked thinking about her in that way. what was the big deal, though? I wasn't with anyone any more. No one was here to judge me except me, right?"

And let's not forget Tom Anderson, another important friend in Lucy's recovery:

"The man wore stained overalls and his hat almost covered his eyes. His skin looked like rawhide. A cigarette dangeld from his mouth. He was clean-shaven, but a long ponytail trailed down his back. His face had creases that deepened when he spoke.
     'Hello, I'm Tom Anderson.'" ...

..."Tom Anderson put out his cigarette on a little wooden box he pulled from his pocket, slipping the stub inside it. 'I know just a bit about almost everything.'"

That's all for tonight. Have the best night you can make.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Where the Heart Lands

Photo by Kevin Tomasello c.2014
A couple more excerpts from my novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS:

"The wind blew strong across the prairie, dissipating the smoke and flapping the clothes on the line. Tom appeared in his truck.

     'What happened?' he asked.

I showed him the pot on the stove. the walls were oily with soot.

     'Looks like Addie had a little spill over with her peyote tea,' he said, scraping at the hardened substance on the burner with his nail. 'She all right?'"

From a different chapter:

"There are times in my life when the picture stops and the film flaps against the reel. An old image, I suppose, but apropos. Everything happened so quickly, yet each piece was slow motion, rewinding over and over in my mind. If only life had a reset button."

If only...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Where the Heart Lands released March 14th through Unsolicited Press
A couple excerpts:

"I'm not sure why I thought I should get a cat, just that a kitten might outlive me."

"As she passed by the slow-moving train, a ragged man with a beard and dark, oily skin jumped off one of the open train cars. He waved at her, but she pretended to ignore him. She kept walking, not thinking too much about him until he appeared right in front of her."

"'Lucy,' Tom took a long inhale from his pipe,' Sometimes a question is the answer.'"

Available from Unsolicited Press

Barnes and Noble:

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Dinghy in a Sea of Yachts

photo of dinghy in Stonington, Maine harbor by author
I was thinking about all this writing business--so much so that I was dreaming about walking 20 miles in the rain with two dogs and an awkward load upon my the dark--and I have found that I have trepidation about the business of this writing business. Okay, I hate it--the part about selling stuff, promoting stuff, trying to get people to buy stuff. I don't like doing it and I'm not good at it.

Writers are generally introverted people. This is probably not a shock to anyone, but it needs to be repeated: most writers (never say "always" for anything or you may be disappointed or insane) are quiet "misfits" who spend a good part of their day inside their heads. It's not necessarily comfortable in there (I speak only for myself, but feel free to relate if it strikes a nerve). In fact, the mind of a writer/creative person can be a dangerous place for the less than timid. (I say less than timid because TIMID is often the fetus-form of the future toddler-monster SELF-DOUBT). So, let me touch upon the imagery of the little boat afloat on the water. Our little vessel is happy, floating there in the calm water unnoticed, serene. Ripples in the water begin to rock the boat, gently at first, but then become stronger and more urgent. The boat responds by riding over each ripple, buoyed by the rhythm of the waves. There is a nice creaking of the wood hull as it rocks on the fluid beneath. Suddenly, a huge cruise ship sails by. There is no danger of collision because the big ship is far away from the harbor, but the wake of that big boat travels fast and hard through the water toward the little boat. As the sea wall rolls into the shore, the little boat braces itself, pointing its bow into the wave. Maybe it gets knocked around, or loses an oar. Water splashes into the little dinghy as the wake overtakes it, but the vessel stays strong and upright. The scene repeats every time another bigger or faster boat goes by, but the dinghy stays the course.

Row, row, row your...sorry, I was daydreaming about floating on the water...where was I? Oh yes, I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if you're a little dinghy, don't let anyone call you crazy for following your dreams. Keep rowing, bail out the bad stuff, and stay afloat.

Hope to see some of you tomorrow (April 4th) at 2:00 at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, N.Y.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Into Action

Photo by Kevin Tomasello c. April, 2010
The photograph on the right was taken at Cornell Plantations by my husband several years ago when spring had actually started to bloom in April. I just can't face another picture of snow, especially when it's eternally white or slate-colored outside my window. It is officially spring now, Mother Nature. Get on schedule, lady! I know March is pushing it in this part of the country, but we're all quite tired of winter; so, if you wouldn't mind, please may we have some green? That would be nice.

All this gray gloom makes for dark story lines. It was the dead of winter when I wrote the opening line of my just-released novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS beginning with Lucy's proclamation:

"I wasn't sure why I thought I should get a cat, just that a kitten might outlive me."

Dark, but hopeful, too, right? I'll let you decide when you read the book. No spoilers here, folks. Don't be surprised if the next novel starts out a little moody due to the influence of this long, cold winter. My friend, Mari, keeps torturing me with photos of the splashing, sparkling waves and warm radiant beaches of southern California, where she lives. She always seemed like such a nice person, but this definitely shows her evil side. We get a little cranky here in the northeast by March, beware.

Spring is indeed on the way, however, and this means we in the colder climates are dreaming of new work: pouring over seed catalogs as we plan our flower and vegetable gardens; getting the meat written into the new novel (and, perhaps, adding some cheer to the darker elements); cleaning out the dust and grunge from the closed-up house; burning (storing away) the yards of winter clothing; celebrating the wedding of two young people deepening their lives together (my son and my almost daughter-in-law); and the feeding and handling of my newly hatched book. It's time to throw off the heavy afghan and spring into action! Damn the snow and cold! That faint, hesitant light will soon burn away all the shiver and paint the color back into the landscape. I may not be good at patience, but I can wait if I feel like I'm taking some sort of action. Call it a working meditation, if you will. Busy hands, quiet mind, perhaps.

Let me know how you're doing! My next book event is a reading and signing at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY on Saturday, April 4th at 2:00 pm. I would love to chat with you!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Next Leg of the Journey

RiverRead Books in Binghamton, NY March 14, 2015/photo  K. Tomasello

March 14, 2015 Book Launch/photo K. Tomasello

Author Laura J. Bear at Book Release Event March 14, 2015/photo K. Tomasello
Successful launch for WHERE THE HEART LANDS at RiverRead Books in Binghamton, NY
Where the Heart Lands Cake with matching book! March 14, 2015/photo K. Tomasello

Thank you to everyone who came out to listen, buy books, and show support. I had such a great time meeting and talking with everyone. Thank you to Connie at RiverRead for your glowing introduction and for providing such a wonderful place to launch my novel. Thank you to Donna Kordula from Cakes for Every Occasion for the beautiful and delicious cake that looked just like my book cover!

Thank you to my family and friends who traveled from near and far (Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ithaca, to name a few places). I am truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.
I could not have done any of this without the love and support of my spouse Kevin Tomasello. He took all these pictures, kept everything together, hauled books, and so many more things. My talented son remembered to take video and his lovely bride-to-be helped me navigate the quagmire of social media conundrums I have been struggling with for a while.

So, this is a love letter to all of you: readers, writers, fellow life-troupers: believe in yourselves! Follow your dreams; take in the world around you; listen; pay attention; care deeply; and most important, keep going, because the next corner you turn may be the best one yet!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Train Ride

by Laura Bear 2013
"It was a long trip from Swamp Lick, Louisiana to Far Away, but that's where Horatio promised to take her. The wind blew past the wide openings in the box cars then curled back in to touch her. The cold leaked through Rebeccah's thin jacket, making her shiver. Why aren't there actual boxes in the boxcars? She wondered, wishing she could curl up in one and stay warm. Horatio tried to put his arm around her when he saw her teeth chattering, but she pulled away. Flashes of Uncle Frank blinded Rebeccah's need for warmth."
from WHERE THE HEART LANDS by Laura J. Bear through Unsolicited Press

In Rebeccah's case, running away may be her only chance for survival. We are almost never told to run away. We are encouraged to stay the course--to fight! But, what if your life is in danger? Or your soul? What if you're a young girl with nothing to lose?

"Engine sounds purred behind her as she whirled her head around. Blinded by headlights, she ducked behind the neighbor's front hedge as the car drove past. Her heart pounding in her chest, Rebeccah waited until the vehicle was out of sight before leaving her hiding place."  from WHERE THE HEART LANDS. Sometimes the unknown is less daunting than the familiar. "Her coat thumped against her thighs, heavy with the coins sewn into it." from WHERE THE HEART LANDS.

A taste of the book to come. March 14th, 3:00 pm RiverRead Books in Binghamton, New York.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Heart Full of Daffodils

Photo by Laura Bear 2014
Okay, I know it's too early for daffodils, but aren't they cheery? I thought a preview was needed. Today was the first break in single digit or sub-zero temperatures in the Northeast in...forever, it seems. We almost hit 40 degrees today and the sun came out! Glorious day! We took the little dog for a walk at the park. Plowed road and no salt, so the snow was pure vanilla white. Each footfall produced a pleasing creaking. Teddy could run and bury his face in the snow without painful consequences. It would have been great for cross country skiing, if I had my skis with me. Still, what a glorious break from the long, frigid temperatures. Alas, tonight we plunge back into single digits.

The release of my debut novel is on the horizon! Book launch is at a wonderful little independent bookstore called RiverRead Books in Binghamton, NY on March 14th at 3:00 pm. All are invited! Book signing also scheduled in Ithaca at another wonderful independent bookstore called Buffalo Street Books on April 4th at 2:00 pm. My son and future daughter-in-law are flying out from Minnesota for the launch. I'm so excited and thankful. This has been a long, winding road to following my dream. I've met so many wonderful people along the way. Today is a day to count my blessings. Here are my top ten for the week:

1) Where the Heart Lands will be published by Unsolicted Press March 14th of this year!

2) Many of my writer friends are hitting their stride in their writing careers this year: Gregory Norris; Mari Cooper; and Julie Hedlund

3) My wonderful son is marrying a lovely young woman this May, while working on a law degree and a masters in business analytics!

4) My son and daughter-in-law will be here for my book launch.

5) I am following my dream while also working at a fulltime job that I love, helping people recover from stroke and brain injury.

6) A much better-insulated house with a new furnace and a woodstove that keeps me warm during this wicked winter.

7) A loving spouse who takes care of that woodstove and is working to understand this big change in his life of his wife as an author.

8) Working with a fabulously talented publisher and editors at Unsolicited Press.

9) Sunshine!!!!!!

10) Meeting so many wonderful people because of my writing journey.

There are so many more things for which I am thankful, but this is a good start. Hope you all have good things to cherish. Thank you for stopping by.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Winter Tale: Preview of Where the Heart Lands

Photo by Laura Bear 2013
Just spent the week battling a nasty upper respiratory virus. Rivers of mucus trying to flow from my head, continuously blocked by swollen nasal passages until the back up threatened to explode through my eyeballs. A fellow sufferer described the sore throat as "shards of glass with every swallow." Exactly right. Shudder. Gross, indeed, but thanks to all sorts of saline flushing, gallons of hot tea, and meds I am almost back to my version of normal. The world looks almost, well, cold and dreary again! But at least I can breathe! Amen!

Here's a sneak preview on my debut novel Where the Heart Lands, coming out March 14th from Unsolicited Press

 A middle-aged woman finds out her husband has been cheating on her again with a woman the same age as their middle daughter. Although she knows her husband Jack has done this before, Lucy is shaken when she learns the woman is pregnant with Jack's child. Lucy struggles with anger and then depression as she loses control of the situation. Forced to live in the same house as her estranged husband during the messy divorce proceedings, Lucy loses her way and acts out her desperation in a way that leads to her hospitalization. A glimmer of hope arrives in the form of an inherited old farmhouse in rural Minnesota.

In another part of the country in an earlier time, a young girl suffers at the hands of her abusive uncle and aunt. Rebeccah plots her escape after a particularly brutal attack through the kindness of a hobo she meets by the railroad tracks on her way to school. Together, the hobo and the little girl flee and the hobo gives her a new name and even finds her a family. The re-born Addie begins to accept the love and care of her new Mennonite family and grows into a beautiful young woman who catches the eye of Carl, a handsome fellow Mennonite man. They wed and begin raising their young family on Carl's family's farm in southern Minnesota. Addie befreinds the elderly couple who live on the farm next door, unaware of their connection to a future friend.

Lucy and Addie meet when Lucy inherits the same farmhouse several years later. They become fast friends and together with local handyman and philosopher Tom Anderson, they renovate Lucy's home as she also renovates her life. Addie is attracted by Lucy's strength and acts on her own confusing emotions about her past and her present and her own desires. Lucy takes a detour on her road to recovery and soon learns that freeing your heart means you can't always tell where it may land.

Have a healthy, happy weekend!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter Writing or Don't Leave Your Pets or Your People Out in the Cold

Photo by Laura Bear 2015
Being home sick from work during a winter storm isn't all bad. Once I arose from the bed, took a hot shower, gargled salt water, and drank hot herbal tea, I began to feel well enough to write a little. My throat still feels like two golf balls are battling to come through either side of my neck, but at least I can swallow without too much pain. All the little birds outside look fat as they puff out their feathers to stay warm. Plenty of seed and nuts in the feeders for my winged friends and the feral cat is snug in his insulated house with the feline-body-heat-specific heating pad. The rest of us have the cozy woodstove, thanks to the efforts of my spouse. Now I can enjoy the snowy scenes outside.

I can't help thinking about the people and animals that don't have adequate shelter or food or water in this frigid weather. Dogs and cats require the same shelter that we do. They are not "meant" to be outside all the time. We made sure of that through centuries of breeding. Unless your dog is a husky with a thick coat and loves to pull a sled through the icy winds of Alaska, your dog needs more than an unheated dog house and deserves much more than life on a chain (that includes the husky). Bring the dog in, feed it, give it plenty of water and love it or give it to someone who will do this. Same goes for cats. House cats are not lions. They may think they are, but they need warmth and shelter and food and drink. Take care of them or ask someone else who can do it for you. I'll get off my soapbox as soon as I mention the homeless people, okay? If you see someone out in the cold, offer to take them in for a cup of coffee or call someone who can help them find shelter if you can't. If we can't take care of each other, including animals that depend on us for food and shelter; if we won't take care of those of us who can't take care of themselves; what kind of world is it that we want to live in? A world where no one cares is a doomed world. A smile leads to more good than a scowl ever would.

That's all I have to say on this cold, February day. My intention is to keep my eyes open for opportunity to do some good. I wish the same for you. Blessings to you all.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Feed Your Creative Soul

Photo by Laura J. Bear  2012
Hello, all! I am jazzed after refueling my creative tank with some live music last night. My husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing a full night of spectacular acoustic music. Despite finding out about it the night before, I was able to get tickets in the second row of the middle of the balcony. The concert began with Michael Daves and Brittany Haas Gorgeous guitar and fiddle playing with Dave's high lonesome, chill-producing voice and fine harmonies from Brittany. Tony Trischka played a few numbers with them. Mr. Trischka is a banjo genius who makes that instrument sing like a sweet angel child. He came back to play a set with the strangely named Mr. Sun: Darol Anger, Joe Walsh (the other one), Grant Gordy, and Ethan Jodziewicz: A POWERHOUSE of ACOUSTIC IMPROVISATIONAL SOUND. Darol Anger is the exact opposite embodiment of his name. He is Mr. Sun. A fiddle virtuoso who dances all over the stage having musical conversations with each member of the band and the audience. Anger is a true genius of his instrument and an innovative force in music education and appreciation. I felt like I was part of a secret revolution of happiness, melody, and rhythm. The energy coming off the stage coursed right through my body and greatly disturbed a bat that was darting around the old theater. The mandolin player, Joe K. Walsh (not to be confused with the one from The Eagles), played every centimeter of the fretboard with precision, style, and lovely tone. Grant Gordy, the guitar player--no, the guitar master--created musical magic with his fingers on the strings: a feast for the ears. Ethan Jodziewicz, the bass player, kept the vibration moving with his steady, delicious deep tones and bluesy solos. They all sang like it was the last song on earth. I was laughing and crying at the sheer beauty of this multi-sensory experience and the obvious joy each musician shared with each other and with everyone else in the room.

But, that's not all! No! There was yet another set! The Travelin' McCourys (Ronnie McCoury, Rob McCoury, Jason Carter, Jeff White, and Alan Bartram) entertained us for another hour or so with some hard-driving then alternating lyrical, harmonious bluegrass. They, too, spread joy to all of us through their shared musicality. Almost four hours of amazing music on one Saturday night for the price of a couple nice bottles of wine! Wow.

Anyway, the point of all this swooning over the music is that, I believe, it is essential to feed your creative soul with other forms of art and to experience art from the source. Get on the train and visit some other parts of the landscape. Get involved and go see it in person. Social media helps us find out about things, but gives us only virtual life. Get out there and get the real thing! Gotta go, gotta go! See you next time.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Path Becomes Clear

Photo of author and her dog Teddy by Kevin Tomasello
Happy new year, everyone! 2015 will be exciting and busy for me. I will be launching my debut novel: Where the Heart Lands with my publisher, Unsolicited Press; my son is getting married; I am working on getting the first draft of my next novel completed; and we are hoping to pay off our house by year end! Hard work and celebrations galore!

I would like to take a moment to focus on gratitude, particularly in reference to the beginning of my writing career. Yes, I am calling it that, because there is no turning back now that the dream is real. I have been fortunate to have met so many wonderful people who have offered their time, expertise, encouragement, and enthusiasm for my writing. Years ago, I took a writing course through the community college's continuing education program. Valerie Zehl was the instructor. She encouraged me to try to get my writing "out there" and she even co-wrote an article with me to get my feet wet. It was in her class that a classmate asked me if I ever considered writing fiction. I had been writing non-fiction, not sure if I could write anything else. That was the first spark (since giving up on my writing back in the 1980's, but that's another story). During a previous career change from nursing to speech language pathology, I met a psychic intuitive woman through a friend. Never having done so before, I decided to have a session with her after meeting and talking with her. The experience was quite literally mind blowing. I came away believing that we are all, indeed, energy beings and that I had a purpose: to write. Of course, no one told me what I was supposed to write, so I put it on the back burner yet again while I worked through graduate school and started my career in speech language pathology. Through a patient, who also made a living giving psychic readings, I was again encouraged to go ahead and do this fiction thing. This time, I decided enough is enough. Deep in my heart I have always believed I am a writer. What was I waiting for? So, I searched and found a writing retreat in rural Vermont called When Words Count Writer's Retreat. I was their very second writer. Steve Eisner and Jon Reisfeld were enthusiastic about my germ of a story and encouraged and coached me into changing and creating the first few chapters of my untitled novel. After working on it, I went back several months later and met several amazing writers and entrepeneurs, one of whom was another psychic intuitive and down to earth person. We formed a core group of caring souls who continue to inspire and encourage me as I move forward with my goals. Thank you, Gregory, Mari, and Julie: you are all amazing people.

Things continued to happen from there, I met a local author, Elena Greene, who introduced me to another group of fabulous women writers: Jeanne, Kathleen, and Karen. They have become another source of inspiration, encouragement, and tremendous help. Then, through my other job, my friend Cathy introduced me to another local writer, Mary Pat Hyland. Another beautiful soul who has generously shared her knowledge and taken me in as a fellow author.

There are so many more people to thank: Jessica, Cathy, Jenny, Kristina, my mother Sandra Bear, my husband Kevin--the important thing to take away from all this, is that when you follow your dream, when you really decide to go for it, the Universe lines up to help you. The pathway is revealed. Yes, it is hard work, but work that you love is never as hard as working hard at something you don't love. And that, my friends, is my hope for you: to find what you love and work for it with all your heart.

Many blessings on your new year!