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Viewing Blog: Seize the Day, Most Recent at Top
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Herein, children's writer Molly Blaisdell raves, rants, and rambles about her craft. She also muses about juggling a job, motherhood and writing books, and there is a good dose of rallying, psyching up and inspiring for anyone who needs to seize the day.
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1. Bloom: You Were Born to Bloom

Hi, folks! Today is my twenty-eighth wedding anniversary with the sweetest man ever, Tim Blaisdell. He is also a blogger and writes over at THE MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND.  I also am in a entrant in QUERY KOMBAT. Queries are selected by judges and they go head and head in a VOICE-esque contest. Only one query moves to next level. I'm Southern Gothic Secrets and my critique partner Ellen is Mochi Monster!

What do we win? Twenty-eight agents and editor will be looking at the queries with the possibility of landing an agent or even a contract. Did you notice 28 and 28? Feels very portent-y to me!

This week I'm writing about a deep truth. We are all born to bloom. A dear friend facing who suffers from a cancer syndrome hugged me and whispered, "I want to bloom but I feel like I'm falling apart."

I hugged her back because I know what it is like to be broken on a genetic level. Some things don't need words. What we can do is focus on the splendor of now.  Blooming does not come from us but creator of all things.

I grew up with a plant-loving mom, and she surrounded my life with flowers. So this week, I'm going to share about unusual blooms that I have seen in my life. I love flowers and I pay attention. I hope you will take lessons from these blooms and realize that you are stronger that you know.

A half-of a daffodil  bloomed in my mother's yard once. It was the most beautiful thing. A genetic anomaly but more beautiful because of it was unique.

One time there was a sad rhody in my yard that covered with some kind of leaf disease. I had to hack away more than half of the plant. The next year the rhody bloomed with almost a hundred gorgeous blood-red blooms that took my breath away. It had never bloomed before.

Once my mom stopped the car beside the road and made me get out and look at this field of spiky plants with these gorgeous white blooms on tall spears. She told me to soak it in because these were century plants and this might not happen again in my life time.

I planted a cemetery rose in my backyard from a cutting that was about two inches long.  This year rose is the size of a small car and it has hundreds of blooms.

So this week, I was blessed by this: my daylilies bloomed during the 8 inches of rain that fell on my house this week in 24 hours. The splash of color on such a dreary day uplifted my heart. Bloom during the flood!

Maybe one of these blooms speaks to you. Just like you were born to share, to be merciful, to smile, and to love, you were born to bloom. Seize every day.

I will be back next week with a new series about the Monomyth.   I hope you will join me.

Here is a doodle:

Here is a quote for your pocket:

Why should I be unhappy? Every parcel of my being is in full bloom. Rumi

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2. Bloom: Bloom Where You Are Planted

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my Bloom series for the month of May.  There is nothing more heartening to me than a flower blooming in the crack in the sidewalk, the crevice of a mountain, or on a cliff face by the sea. Another surprise is a bloom in the desert place. There is no circumstance than can hold back a bloom. You must bloom where you are planted. This is your purpose. Life finds a way.

"Bloom where you are planted" is a quote attributed to St. Francis De Sales, the patron saint of writers. This is a little quote I whisper to myself often. It is a story of tenacity and one I am close to. Flowers that bloom in impossible places are the heart of tenacity. They put down roots in rocks. They cling to life when there is little chance of life. They bloom even if that bloom is stunted and its flower is deformed. Writers have a similar tenacity to bloom. I am no exception.

How does a writer bloom where they are planted? You may live on the backside of nowhere, i.e. suburbia.  You may work a mind numbing job that is mocked on national TV.  You may be over the age of 50. You may have family members with complex health issues and you care for them. You may suffer from depression during this same time.You may have received more writing rejections at this point than you considered was humanly possible. At the end of the day, it's tough to stay alive in a place like this this, much less bloom.

So how do you do it? How do you bloom?  Here some of the answers: live in this moment. Don't think about the road that brought you here. Don't think of the road that will take you on. Be here and now and exist. Place your baggage down and move on. Don't refuse to forgive yourself and others. Move on with your life. Stop the foolishness. It is time to let all that stuff go. Focus of all the good you know, have known and hope to know. Believe that you will  rise above the waves that wish to beat you down. Work when you are too tired. Be positive even if the waves crash over you.  Be positive if you are washed out to sea and must swim back to shore. Believe that your gifts will make a place for you. Never stop trying. Do these things and you find yourself blooming in some odd places and at some odd times.

Life is tenacious. Whatever you facing, don't let it choke you. Bloom.

I'm glad you dropped by!  Come back next week for the end of the Bloom series.

Here is a doodle for you. Cemetery Roses.

Here is a quote for your pocket:

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.
St Francis De Sales

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3. Bloom: House Cleaning and Fine Tuning

Hi folks,

This week I continue my May bloom series. Last week, guest blogger and awesome author, A. LaFaye, shared a master's class post on how to mix magic and realism. Hard to follow, but here goes.

I love May. My yard is blooming like crazy. Amaryllis, day lilies, roses, they are all so beautiful. This week I'm going to write about a few finishing touches that may connect with writers with readers. This post is about what puts the big show into your writing. The first finishing touch I will chat about is emotional connection.

One big deal about stories is they have to create an emotional connection with the reader. How is this done? You must communicate to your reader what is possible for your character.  Since housecleaning is another one of my expert fields: on those first few pages of real estate, remove the clutter.What is essential? What is beautiful? What is provocative? Leave that. The rest gets moved somewhere else, tossed out, or recycled.

Now rearrange the furniture until you achieve maximum effect. This means think about how you are rolling out the story. It depends on the room, the people who will inhabit it, and the purpose of the room. This is some deep thinking for you. The best writing in the world isn't going to work if no one wants to be with you in your story. What connects with the most people? Put your comfy couch in a central place, surrounded it with useful tables, place coasters around. Maybe you should just get rid of the futon chair.

Next, do a deep cleaning. After furniture rearranging,  you kick up dust.  Dust the tops of the cords, the lintels, the baseboards, under the furniture. Make your writing shine. Finally add a pop of color. One color. In terms of your story, one colorful aspect to your main character on those first few pages.

I believe your story now plants a seed of welcome in your readers. You have opened the world of possibilities with your hard work. Your story begs readers to hang out and to come again. Good job! You are blooming like crazy!

I hope this is useful for you. I hope it helps you find your way!  I will be back next week with more blooming posts. Ha! By the way, if you live in the College Station area and you are or know a teen who wants to write. Please join us for the second annual TEENS Publish program at the Ringer Library in College Station. We will have weekly workshops every Wednesday in June and July except July 6. The group will meet from 2:30 to 5:00.  Here is a link to the flyer. 

Here is a doodle.

Here is a quote for your pocket.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. Kurt Vonnegut.

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4. Bloom (in Frosting): Mixing Magic and Realism, Guest Blogger - Alexandra LaFaye!

 Did you know it takes warmth to make flowers bloom? This month's series is called Bloom. It should make you really toasty! Join me in welcoming the talented author Alexandra LaFaye as she takes over Seize the day! She is about heat up your mind with a huge dose of mixing magic and realism. Writers, get ready to bloom!

Bloom (in Frosting): Mixing Magic and Realism

 credit: Bigstock

Many of the rules of fiction haunt us – like spirits of drafts past or critiques gone wrong—they loom over us chanting, “show don’t tell” and the like, but as a writer and a mentor of writers, I’m not a fan of “the rules.” In fact, I would suggest that rules, grammar, and all of the conscious mind clutter that occupies our thoughts in the editing phase should take a backseat in the creation stage. Writers are often more empowered, creative, and productive if they write from their subconscious and leave all of the rules for the revision, or better yet, the editing phase.

And my topic for today is about getting our readers to move closer to their subconscious and loosen their grip on the rules of reality as they’re reading so that they can buy into a fictional world that resembles their own, but is infused with elements of fantasy—young wizards living under the stairs, angels hidden away in the potting shed, and the like. I’m not talking about magic realism here. That’s a whole other approach to writing that is very culturally grounded and often misunderstood. For more information on magic realism, this article would be a great start: Magic Realism

What I am talking about it reality-based fantasy or stories so well-grounded in reality that a.readers are surprised to discover that the world they’re in contains elements of the fantastic and/or b. the fantastic is convincing enough to allow readers to “buy into” the otherworldly elements being portrayed.

Since I’m generally opposed to rules, I’ll have to say that for every guideline I give you here, you’ll no doubt know of at least half a dozen works that thwart the general rule and that’s the mark of great art—knowing the rules well enough to work around them or defy them all together—creating your own magic as you go. Still, these guidelines may be helpful in giving you a place to start.

And the starting line in reality-based fantasy is “A Voice in the Fog”
On a foggy night at sea a sound in the distance has a magical quality to it simply because we cannot explain it. The change in our environment puts us on edge just a little, piquing our interest, and leading us to question our surroundings—keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

This “voice in the fog” in a story is the small element that tells us something is not quite normal in the world we’ve just entered.

To illustrate my points, I’m going to use my short story “Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3...” from the anthology Shelf Life edited by Gary Paulsen and filled with great genre-based stories by writers like Gregory Maguire, M.T. Anderson, and Jennifer Holm who are quite good at drawing readers into realistic worlds fused with fantasy and I hope my story holds its own among this talented crowd.

In “Testing,” the main character, Patrick Troy is struggling to pass standardized tests in eighth grade and in jeopardy of not being able to enter high school, so he’s only allowed to leave the house to attend school and keep up his lawn mowing job. His newest client, Mrs. Whitamore, has hired him through the mail.

As he explains, “That may seem odd, but I get a lot of weird stuff in the mail. When I hit second grade, I started getting a blank card each week. I didn't know who sent them. There was never a return address on the envelope. No postmark. Just my name. Each one was a different blind you bright color, but they never had one word on the card inside. Mrs. Whittamore's card was bright too. There was no return address. I even thought it was another blank card, but instead she asked me to mow her lawn for her every Saturday at noon.”

Here, we know something is out of the ordinary, but we’re not sure exactly what it means. This gets our “magic sense” tingling and moves us into the next element of combining fantasy and reality:

The Scully Factor (AKA Plausible Deniability)

When we’re given a fantastic premise, “being hired through the mail” it should be deniable at first or at least explainable. Here, we learn that Patrick has often gotten strange things in the mail. What we learn later is that the lawn mowing request and the cards that came before it are also a test of worth (an early stage of the hero quest plot pattern that appears in most fantastic stories). But when we first encounter them they are a foreshadowing of the magic to come and an undercutting explanation for why he’d get hired through the mail.

To draw readers into the fantasy within the realism of a story like this one, writers must

Incubate Their Dragon Eggs

Besides their size, dragon eggs aren’t that shocking. Why they could simply be housing a fetal emu for all we know. But when the dragon hatches, it’s no longer possible to deny that something fantastic is afoot or awing. And in reality-based fantasy, writers must raise the stakes, increasing the elements of fantasy, decreasing the elements of reality until the fantasy is no longer deniable—it is the new reality of the story.

When Patrick accepts the mail-delivered job offer, he is excited to see into Mrs. Whitamore’s yard because she has nine foot hedges and is suspected of being a witch—no one sees her, she has a hidden yard, and there are odd chimes emanating from her house. When he arrives, the wind opens her screen door and ushers him through the dark house to a backyard with rings of flowers that spin right up to her back porch—all increasingly unusual things that could be explained.

Mrs. Whitamore doesn’t speak, she delivers directions on cards that are, at first look, blank, but as Patrick describes the first one, “As I got up farther, the card seemed to have gray squiggly lines that moved around like curly hair caught in the wind. Standing right in front of her, squinting, the lines darkened and stiffened into letters. I thought I needed to get my eyes checked for new glasses. That happened every spring.

The card read, ‘The butterflies need exercise.’

She smiled, her misty eyes getting all shiny.

Here we get a sense that she may be writing them with her mind or he may have eye sight issues—plausible deniability (the Scully Factor at work), but we also learn that Mrs. Whitamore is a bit more than unusual because she wants him to mow her flowers to give her butterflies exercise.

His payment that first day is a blank book. He finds this odd, especially when his watch tells him the whole job took only five minutes—but he blames the time shift on a broken watch—he often makes them stop on account of his “magnetic personality,” so reality is still in the lead, but when he returns the next week and discovers that the flowers are as tall and in full bloom as they were the week before we know for certain that magic is definitely at play.

And when she tells him that the book she gave him is as blank as the card she’s holding, Patrick realizes that the magic in his life is undeniable and he has a enchanted book that eventually teaches him how to stop time and finish the standardized tests that have dogged him all year long.

In many ways, reality-based fantasy is

Like a Layer Cake with Mythical Frosting

At the base, you have a pretty ordinary plate that may be wrapped in foil, but alone it’s as ordinary as mowing the lawn, then comes the first layer which is mostly cake and homework and standardized tests, and then there’s a layer of mythical frosting where reputed witches can hire you to mow their lawn through the mail, then you mow rings of flowers as a host of butterflies take flight—the decorations on the layer of cake that’s all lawn clippings and tests looming.

Layer by layer, the elements of reality shrink like the layers of the cake and the frosting and decorations—the magic of fantasy—take center stage and we have a kid who can stop time to give himself the room he needs to learn what he wants to know and finish the blooming test. When you look at the story as a whole the glittering magic is what resonates with us, but the emotional satisfaction of a test passed is the cake in our belly.

So, I’ve either shown you how to mix fantasy and reality or simply made you hungry for cake. Either way, I’m so grateful that you joined me on this journey and I want to offer you the opportunity for seconds or at least “cake” decorating tips. AKA What questions do you have for me about blending fantasy and reality?

After all, I have this short story, a novel about a girl who discovers her adoptive parents are shape-shifting seals (Water Steps), a novel-in-verse about an Appalachian girl who can see the future (Pretty Omens), and a book about a girl whose widowed father is confidently waiting for his wife’s return (The Keening).

But don’t just take my word for it. Feel free to explore other approaches to the same fusion of reality and fantasy, here’s a good article from Fantasy Faction to get your started: "Reality Made Fantastic" If you have questions or comments, please share them here. You can also stop by and visit me on my own blog Wordy Wanderings Thank you once again, to you for reading, and to Molly Blaisdell for the opportunity to be a guest on her blog. Have a famtastic—hopefully, cake-filled day!


Thank you for sharing your genius, Alexandria! This whole post warmed me up. I'm about to bloom. Readers, thank you for dropping by and I hope that you come back next week for more of the bloom series.  

Finally, we already had some doodles, but here is a quote for your pocket:

She told me about rolling hills covered with cornfields and treeless miles of land without water. I dreamt of cornfields dotted with yellow rosebushes A. LaFaye, The Year Of The Sawdust Man

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5. April Showers: The Sweet Rain of Books

Hi, folks. Today I'm putting my writer hat aside and my creative hat too. I'm placing that reader hat on my head. Here I'm going to talk about something I don't chat about much.  I love to read. I read every day of my life. I mark off the days to a book I want to read is ready to be published. My live revolves around stories, true and fiction. There is nothing that waters my life more than books.

I'm not a high brow reader.  I occasionally read a book that is called literary fiction, but most of the time, I like children's books and genre fiction, most of all historical, historical romance and science fiction.  I occasionally binge on non-fiction.  I have had entire decades devoted to mysteries and thrillers.  I never like horror. I like the classics and read one or two a year. I read a few fantasies every year too. Occasionally, I just like an author and I read every thing they have ever written.

In books, I have lived thousands of lives. I faced thousands of problems. I've inhabited the lives of  so many and I am so much more this.

 I feel like I've survived the Battle of Talavera in 1800s Spain, and at the same time, the intrigues of Russian noblemen is the times of Peter. The history of the Netherlands for thousands of years boils in my blood. I've seen the pyramids built and inhabited huts with my fellow slaves. I lived in the bogs of Ireland thousands of years ago struggling against my harsh gods. The stories of ages inhabit my soul.

I've felt Mr. Darcy's pride and Elizabeth Bennet's prejudice. I've been with Jane and heard Edward's mystic cries through time and space.  I've survived bombings while working with my true love.  I've been broken to shards and found love with someone also as broken as me. I've missed huge swaths of life, frozen with fear, and found the fortitude to love again. So many stories.

I've traveled to the far reaches of the galaxy. I've fought aliens, terra-formed planets, and discovered the ruins of ancient species. I've been sold into slavery and been rescued by an intergalactic cop. Apocalyptic nuclear winters, jungle green worlds, the harsh conditions of Mars, I've lived in a myriad of unique environments, survived, thrived and sometimes died. Like the intense electromagnetic radiation of the sun, the heart of all life. Speculative stories have transformed me.

I've sat on the bones of dead children waiting for rescue from a white mouse. I've had my memories stolen from me and forged a new life. My puppy fell out of an airplane once! Oh, one of my best friends is spider and I might be some pig. I care too much and call it love.  I've opened my heart and believe that someone will come. I am stronger than I think, and I may not belong in the zoo but there is a place for me.  I like your hat, I understand the price, and know stories are light in this dark, dark, world.

Books water the soul. They expand horizons and open my eyes to the distance shores.  They encourage me to be more, to accept myself and others, and believe in happiness with good things beyond the bright light of last moments on Earth.

Pick up a book and read till your heart is content!

Next week a new series starts. Exciting news! A guest blogger will usher in the month of May with Bloom! Excellent author Alexandria La Faye will be here! If you don't know her  books already, please check her out!!! Edith Shay! Strength of saints!  Strawberry Hill!  So many fab stories. www.facebook.com/alafayeauthorwww.alafaye.com, a@alafaye.com

Here is a doodle.

Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Stop being so fruitlessly busy and dream. Use your imagination. Reach out into the unknown and dream of how you can enlarge your experience and improve your mind and your soul and your world. Mary Balogh

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6. April Showers: Be the Rain

Hi, folks!  Whew, it rained buckets this week. I will have to mow my yard soon. This month I've been writing about what waters my work. I've chatted about longing, forgiveness and simple moments; all water my creative ground. Now, I'm going to talk about something that waters me like nothing else, and that is mentoring.  Be the rain.

I received an email this week that just poured more buckets of water into me than any flood. It was from one of the kids I mentored in my teen writing program last year. The program is called TEENSPublish at the Ringer Library in College Station, TX. (Follow the link for the deets) She thanked me for my efforts to help her become a writer and wanted to know if mayhem was going to happen again this year. She planned to tell ALL her friends.

I said, "Of course, mayhem is happening!"

In June, I will be putting on TEENSPublish at the Ringer Library in College Station, TX.  (Cost: Free!, 2:30-5:00 on Wednesdays, skip July 6)The program is for 7th-12th graders and is all about helping young writers find their voice and share it with the world. Here is the deal, doing this will help me more.

In a rut? Surround yourself will people that beginning their journey. It will transform your life.

Sometimes we don't understand our situation. We long to grow, but instead, we are stagnating. You are no longer the ground. You have become the clouds. Stagnation is about your unwillingness to share the water within. Wring out all that water on dry ground. Let what you know flow from your heart to others.  So creative folk, if you want to water your work go out there and volunteer. Give something of yourself. Be the rain.

You are welcome.

I will be back next week with one more April Showers, and then a new series starts.  Exciting news, a guest blogger is going to usher in the month of May with Bloom!  Excellent author Alexandria La Faye will be here! If you don't know her already, please check her out!!! www.facebook.com/alafayeauthor
www.alafaye.com, a@alafaye.com

Here is a doodle for you.

Here is a quote for your pocket:
Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. Langston Hughes

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7. April Showers: Come Rain!

A Texas deluge is coming; that is what Wunderground says.  I sure hope a deluge is coming in my creative life.

This month I'm writing a series called April Showers.  My goal is to write about stuff that waters creative ground.  It's April and inside me, this feels like it should be my time, but so far it has not panned out that way.

What is going on? Hey, I'm not lazing around over here. I write every day, and I'm the mother of four, wife of one, dishwasher, grocery shopper, lawn mower, cat snack feeder, book fan, doodle drawer... I get up early and work hard every day. For years, I've been doing the same thing. I've seen people who have struggled to find their creative way and who, after much effort, found it. I want to throw confetti. I'm so glad when someone's dream comes true. I know what it like to ache for success and not find it. I also have a psychedelic imagination and can imagine finding success after that bad trip. Who wouldn't throw confetti? I'm ready to have my party.

So here it is, my crazy dreaming artists. I'm mundane. The big news in my humdrum days is I saw a weird bug or thought the pink in my amaryllis was sublime. I've written 30+ books and 1000+ articles. $$$ have happened, enough for stacks of blue jeans. Good stuff but I want to rise above commonplace.  I am dreaming of a burst of growth that makes the desert blooming look lame.

Come rain!

I hope rain comes to all of us. I hope rain comes to us all! Thanks for dropping by. More April Showers to come!

Here is a doodle for you;

Quote for your pocket:

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11Follow this link to Janet Lee Carey's blog post, scroll down the page, enter your email and win some books.  

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8. April Showers: Hacked Leaf Blades

I'm crossposting week. I am a guest at DREAMWALKS a blog by Janet Lee Carey.  We have a conversation about Art and the Crucible that may relate to you.  Please check it out and take advantage of an opportunity to win free signed books from me and Janet.

I'm continuing my series called April Showers, and my post connects with the crucible post.  Last week, I went to a writing conference, and when I got home, I found that youngest son had edged the entire yard. Good stuff, right? It wasn't until the next day that I realized that he had hacked down my almost ready to bloom Louisiana Irises in the backyard.  These flowers grow in a corner along the fence and are one of the big spring shows I look forward to each year.

A gold-green pile of hacked leaf blades and flowers stalks was all that remained. Louisiana Iris have significant meaning for me. My mother was a hybridizer and won national awards for her work.  I also had a stand of Louisiana Iris as a child and traveled yearly to Baton Rouge to international flower shows to compete with my hybrids. I won awards, and it was the corner of loveliness in my childhood.

I stared at the hacked flowers and headed to my bedroom for a good cry.

The crucible of life was heating up, and the pressure was building.  I wanted to rail at my son because he had destroyed something that meant so much to me.  My husband stepped in and let me know that the Jack had asked if he should hack down the green stuff along the fence, and Tim assumed he meant the brush on the other side of the yard.  How could these two guys be so thoughtless?  Have you ever shook inside with anger? That's what I was feeling.

I began to walk the age-old journey of forgiveness.  It works like this for me. The people are more important than all the things, no matter how much the things meant to me. The irises will come up next year. It's a setback, not an ending. Choose love, choose forgiveness, even if no one but God understands how much this hurt. Finally, remember, the stuff that hurts is the water for your work. This kind of crucible moment is the cauldron of story.

Those gold-green hacked leaf blades will inform a story I have yet to write.  I know it.

I hope that this journey helps you on yours. I hope you embrace the water that comes to your life. Let it make you grow. I will be back next week with more April Showers.

Here is a doodle for you: Louisiana Iris.

Quote for your pocket comes from Godspell, "Day by Day,' by Stephen Schwartz.

Day by day, oh, dear
Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day

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9. April Showers: Water for my creative soul

Hi folks, time for a new series! It's April. Time for water. Time for spring. Time for new beginnings. I will write about the water we need to burst with new life.

This week the post is really short but I hope helpful.  What is water to my creative soul?  Here is a simple list of stuff that makes me bloom.

1. A stroll on a sunny day.

2. A heartfelt conversation with a friend.

3. Kissing my sweetheart.

4. Hugging my purring cat.

5. Listening to an upbeat song.

6. Picking a bouquet of flowers.

7. Forgiving someone.

8. Seeing a need and meeting it.

9. Napping.

10. Stretching with breathing.

Ah, the best things in life are free.  Something to remember when seeking water.  I will be back next week with more water.

Here is a doodle.

Here is a quote for your pocket:

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
Sitting Bull

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10. Lucky March: Strange Luck

Hi folks, ah, the end of March. Everything is blooming here. Bluebonnets, Evening Primrose, Winecups, Paintbrush, so many flowers. So beautiful. It looks like bright paints have been spilled on the prairie.

This is the end of the Lucky March series. The universe seems so vast. It seems unlikely that anything interesting would happen on my watch, yet life is full of surprises. Sometimes luck is surprising, odd, and wonderful. I call this luck, strange luck. My favorite kind. The oddball moments that lead us to now. Life might seem dull right now, but don't worry if you are stuck in a rut in the road. A bump is up ahead and who knows what it will lead to.

I thought I'd list three moments of strange luck that have come my way. I got into a cab once in New York and the driver was a brother of a friend from high school. We laughed about the long ago days when we were much younger and not so wise. The experience made the world seem smaller and more manageable. Another time, I was walking near a place I lived near dusk. I walked there daily, but this one day, I saw what I thought was a rabbit trail. I thought I be like Alice and follow the trail. It lead to a mysterious pond that I had never seen before (though I had lived nearby for years), and the full moon was reflecting in the pond. The moment sent chills down my spine and it inspired me to write an entire book based on the "what if..." of the moment.

Now a last moment of strange luck. When Maya Angelou died, I was pretty down about that. I had never met her, but her fervent spirit and wild words had set fires burning inside me. I was flying across country right after she died, and the man next to me and I struck up a conversation. He was struggling with the loss of a dear friend. Soon I learned that he had worked with Maya for years. He told me something of his grief at her loss. His words reflected exactly what I was feeling. We had a sacred moment of tears. Yes, I felt lucky, blessed, and with the angels. I had that big sense that everything and everyone is connected.  Like Maya said, "I know for sure that love saves me and that it is here to save us all."

This is Easter weekend, for Christians, a day of great celebration. He is risen! Here is a blessing for you from me. May you remember all the people that made your life possible. May you seek to live a life worthy of what you have received.

I will be back with next week with a new series. :)

Here is a doodle:

A quote for your pocket.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou

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11. Lucky March: My Lucky Charm, The Children's Moon

Hi folks, I am feeling pretty lucky right now. I do what I love. I have a roof over my head. I'm the mom of four astonishing young people. I'm married to the love of my life. I have two cats. I have time to read and work in my yard.  And in happy news, I have been a busy writing bee for the last few months. Two big projects of mine have almost been brought together. Do you ever feel like you have sprouted wings and after some serious trial and error, wow, you are flying?

My work stuns me. I am an imperfect artist and writer. I'm messy. The edges of my work are always a little rough, primitive, if you will. I'm a folk artist in a time of slick, mass market production.  And yet these stacks of papers that I have produced bring tears to my eyes.  I find joy in the imperfection.  I hope that my scribbles and doodles will finally turn something up that will make some sense of this world for someone and bring some needed light and laughter into the dark the corners. Here is my promise: I will keep trying.

I had an awesome moment recently. I began querying last week and I have already received my first rejection.  I read the rejection (a classic form email), marked the rejection in my file, and moved back to what I was working on. Then I noticed the milestone! I HAVE ELEPHANT SKIN! I didn't even feel a twinge of discouragement. If you follow my blog, you might know this is a double triumph for me. I've been sort of crushed by a bout of depression for two years and the clouds have moved on. I feel lucky, blessed, favored, and among the angels, all rolled into one.

Finally, I saw my lucky charm today, the moon in the day sky. I always feel lucky when I see the moon in the day sky. The daytime moon is often called the children's moon because it's accessible to children when they are outside playing. Today's daytime moon, a pale half-round in the Texas blue sky, reminded me how lucky I am to write stories for children, to have never lost the sense of child-like wonder within, and to spend my life moving from conversation to conversation with like minded souls. Here's a question: What does the  children's moon say to you?

Glad you have dropped by. I hope good things, deep luck, and true dreams find you this week.  I will be back next with the end of Lucky March.  

Here is a doodle for you. Magic Carpet Ride.

Here is a short Irish Blessing for your pocket. 

May your fire never go out.

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12. Lucky March: Serendipitous Moments

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series called Lucky March. I'm about a quarter Irish, and this month I'm writing about about random circumstances that end up sending good fortune your way. This week I'm writing about those serendipitous moments that change everything. These lucky moments can come at any time and any place. Often they will come when you are least expecting them. 

Here are a few things that I have noticed about lucky moments. Lucky moments are rare. You must be ready to leap. Lucky moments do not check your schedule to make sure your are emotionally available. Just embrace the luck even if you have tears on your face. Lucky moments often come with a ton of kismet, deja vu and que sera, sera. Call it fate, harbinger, or providence, these lucky moments will send shivers down your spine and pull out the neat threads that stitch together your understanding of the universe. Psst, you will be better. Finally, sometimes you might totally misread your luck. Just because it doesn't feel lucky at the time doesn't mean that it wasn't lucky. 

I hope these thoughts on luck help you. Regardless of how your good luck comes, I hope it finds you this week.

I had the opportunity to ask two brilliant children's writers about lucky moments on their journey this week. One is Alison McGhee.  Alison's lucky moment was a dark and blizzardy night when she'd lost her suitcase at the airport. (not exactly feeling like a lucky moment, but her missing suitcase lead her to Kathi Appelt, a friend to treasure and a writing partner. So there you go -- luck that a suitcase went missing!

Kathi Appelt also shared a lucky moment story. Many years ago, she wandered into the only independent children's bookstore in BCS (Jacque's Toys and Books). A conversation began and by the end of the conversation Kathi had a new job that transformed her understanding of children's books forever. Yay for lucky conversations. Don't be too busy to chat, friends. Luck hunkers down in good conversations. 

I find great value in revisiting the moments that change everything. 

I know this week is short, but I am CRAZY busy! I hope you contemplate luck and if you are like me you realize that luck is just godspeed. That said, godspeed to all of you. I will be back next week with more lucky March.   

No doodle this week. I am having a cover crush. Please consider checking out Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee's new book: MAYBE A FOX.   
Here is a traditional Irish blessing to tuck in your pocket. 

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

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13. Lucky March: Luck of the Irish

Hi, folks! Welcome to the next series. I'm about one quarter Irish, hence the luck of the Irish is with me as a writer. ;) Luck is all about random circumstances that end up sending good fortune your ways. Do you want some luck of the Irish in your life?  Here is a sure fire plan.

The whole luck of Irish meme was started by miners in the gold fields back in the day. Those Irish miners kept finding gold. It's a good thing they didn't stay in Ireland. I've learned a thing or two like my Irish ancestors. Stay where you are, and things will never change.  Do things the same, and things will never change. Don't ask for help, and things will never change.

A few years back I took a novel revision class with Darcy Pattison. In this class Darcy offered an exercise, identify the weakest chapters in your book and then revise to make them awesome. As we all know, luck is really about dropping yourself in opportunity rich places and then reaping the benefits. I've made it a practice to choose the three weakest chapters of my book when I have a solid draft and revise them. I make the better. How?  I make better stuff happen. I dig into the emotional core. I cut the fat. Ooh, I was punching the sky when I finished my revision notes.

So whatever creative stuff you are doing, go to the gold fields.  If you are searching for gold, you know where those fields are. Gear up and prospect. First study the land. For you writers, read, read, read. Lose the dreams of get-rich-quick. Band together with other prospectors. You need writers who work hard and show up.  Dig in. Luck finds the tenacious. It does.

So there you have it, a road to the luck of the Irish. I will be back next week with more Lucky March.

Here is a quote for you pocket. A traditional Irish blessing:

May the blessing of the rain be on you—the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit so that all the little flowers may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.

May the blessing of the great rains be on you, may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean, and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.

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14. Creativity: Hope for the Neurodiverse Tribe

Hi folks,  Did you grow up being called the weird one? Was the teasing because you were "a different" that was off the charts? Are you a member of the neurodiverse tribe?

Here's the deal. The neurodiverse outlier faces a tough world. She is labeled (lazy, procrastinator, excessive talker, disorganized, rebellious, poor listener, challenging), shamed (you don't try, you don't care, you're disrespectful, stupid, weirdo) and failed (F for you). I am speaking from experience here. Shake hands, I'm a member of the neurodiverse tribe.

Here is a picture of my life. I'm intelligent but you may be interested to know that I am minimal student. I've failed so many classes that I have lost count.  Note, just because I failed didn't always mean I didn't learn the subject. It generally means that I was stressed out about the tests and projects. I couldn't answer the questions fast enough, or I had a tough time managing my schedule again (i.e I'd forget I had that class until it was too late -- stupid rules). Note: I make As if I'm really crunching on a subject.

I find that it is best for me to learn one subject at a time, with school it is always five at a time or more. I avoid school because there is no place in the world will kick the confidence out of me like a school room. Now to make you laugh, I love to learn. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I want to know stuff. I read like crazy. I'm always learning new stuff. I do Khan Academy lessons for fun. The internet is my friend. There is a picture, video, or blog for that. Beyond that I like to read books, attend lectures, and go to places. I am always tucking stuff inside me.

I have the same problem of all the neurodiverse: I lack this so called "self control." Let's be clear about self control -- I arrive late often. I have trouble keeping my sleeping schedule on 8 to 5 system. I tend to make As in subjects I like. I get super focused and tend to forget things. I burn up about one pan per month. The sink overflows sometimes. Note, I'm not lazy, I'm just not working according to the "rules" whatever they are. Yes, this makes people very angry: I'm traumatized like every neuro-diverse person on the planet.

Now for the creative angle. Creativity is hope in the neurodiverse (Pandora's)box. I'm a creative soul. It seems to ooze out of my pores. I sometimes wish that I could be here with Vincent Van Gogh. We could commiserate about people not getting us.  Creativity is currency for me. I think in ways that other people don't. My mind will not give up. Even if I give up, my creative soul will come to my rescue. Creativity is a geyser within like Old Faithful. It keeps spewing stuff regularly. No efforts from me needed. It makes me optimistic against all odds. It lifts me up when I can't lift myself. Remember that if you are neurodiverse.

I hope this brought some happiness to your creative soul. I believe a day will come when the world make room for the neurodiverse tribe. We will stop trying to drug it or fix it and just accept that some of us march to the beat of a different drummer. Then we will make room for the differences.

Next month, I will be back with a new series.  Yay!

Here is a doodle. A Troubling...

We are NOT average people – we are not satisfied to just do what we are told, or to do the same job for the rest of our lives without loving what we do.
Arriane Benefit

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15. Creativity: Get out of the box.

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series on creativity. This is 3 of 4. I had a fun program at Covenant Presbyterian Church and thank every one who came out to participate.

Here is my official definition of creativity: out of the box thinking that defies norms, redefines the status quo, and stands the test of time.

So what is this box? And how do you get out of it? The box. This box is plain cardboard and it doesn't hold anything but uniformly-shaped items. The box is all about norms, status quo, and the fad thinking of the moment.

Do you ever challenge yourself? I mean it. How do you challenge yourself? Here is an experiment. Let go of a closely held belief and play the other side. You are a devout Christian. Let it go for a minute and put yourself in the shoes of someone who does not have this belief. What about a dyed in the-wool-Democrat? Let go of your thinking and inhabit the mind of Trump supporter for a minute. Your eyes will open wider and see more. You might find the creative answers to some troubling questions.

Do you ever pull up your tent stakes? Have you camped in your life. Life is a temporary situation. You are just passing through. Have you gotten comfortable? Regardless of how safe and sound you feel, you are dwelling in temporary housing that is very flimsy.  One way to get out of your nice safe box is to pull up your tent stakes.  Go somewhere. Open yourself up to new kinds of people. Go hang out with those tax collectors. Stop vilifying people who are not like you and hang out with them until you see their humanity.

Do something that will never fit in a box. Break some rules. Consider options that just don't fit you. Stretch yourself in new directions. If you are a mountain climber, take a evening and be a video game. Whatever is outside the box of your life, do that. Go somewhere unexpected. Make a friend that you would not in a million years be friends with. Cook something that just sounds weird. Volunteer in a way that makes you shake in your boots.  See what happens.

Yes. Get out of the box.  The choice will infuse your life with creativity. I hope you come back next week for the last of this Creativity series.

Here is a doodle for you.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it is time to pause and reflect.  Mark Twain.

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16. Creativity: The Whole Brain and Making My Bed

Hi folks, I'm writing about creativity for the month of February. I have a speaking engagement coming up; deets at the end of this post. This week I'm debunking a myth about the creativity being a right-brained activity for manic artists and how poor left-brained people are basically OCD and dull as dogs.

I'm a creative person and I know that most creative people I know are some of the organized folks in existence.  I find that to truly be creative I have to systematic about my work and very well organized. Creativity does not happen in my life without my left-brain giving my right-brain some serious limits. As far as I can tell creativity needs my whole brain to work. I'm not a neuro-scientist, but I am freakishly observant. Imagination has to reined in. Day dreaming must lead to production, or it leads to nothing. Deep thoughts about the meaning of everything are basically useless if I don't make them actionable.

So here is the secret of creativity. Light up your whole brain. If you feel that lack creativity, your brain is out shape--kind of like you play video games all day and now have muffin tops on your muffin tops because your physical body is languishing. It took me a long time to admit that my left brain was seriously neglected, and that if I didn't give it some attention, I was never going to do a creative thing with my life.  So my journey into creativity started with this: I disciplined myself to make my bed every day. It seems like a small thing but it transformed my creative process.

I learned that making my bed was a small success for everyday that I could count on. Over time I appreciated that my life was filled with one complete success every day. Even the process of making the bed became important -- the economy of motion, the tightness of the sheets, and the arrangement of the pillows.  Routine in my everyday life, helped me establish routine in my creative endeavors. I have found greater balance and my work thanks me.

What!  I know this bed-making thing is counter-intuitive. Secret: You must be counter-intuitive as much as you are intuitive to do excellent creative work.  If you are right-brained person, seek left brain activities.  Don't go crazy, just mix some in.  If you are a left-brained person, you are annoying everyone with talk of your big imaginative endeavors and your lack of even doing one thing that will bring these endeavors to life.

So there you have it. Day-dreamers, make your bed.  Bed makers, take a cup of tea and stare out the window and dream.  I hope, my friends, that you find that innovation is flooding what ever you do.  Drop by next week for more on creativity. Need a creative jolt, come to my talk:

This creativity series is conjunction with a talk that I will be offering at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:15. It's a weekly program they offer called Onederful Wednesday. I will lead a workshop called Divining Creativity. Here are a few of the things I will dig into -- What is holding you back? What will push you forward? What will make you leap? This should shake down the cobwebs and open all the windows. Come out if you are interested. It's free. P.S. There is a meal at 5:15 p.m. and it costs $5.00 person and $20 for families. Call this number to RSVP if you are interested: 979-694-7700.

Here is a doodle: Two trees. 

A quote for your pocket

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. Pablo Picasso

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17. Creativity: Get Out of the Rut

Hi folks:

I'm out of town this week. Uh, I've crossed the urban sprawl of Houston to hear Chuck Sambuchino speak. I think it might have been easier to go to the moon.  Anyways, this is a publishing workshop, and I'm pretty jazzed.  So here is my first creativity lesson.  On a regular basis do something that is off the beaten track for you.

Get out of that rut and head off into the field.  Yes, you might get chiggers. You might step in a fire ant bed. You might get lost. You might waste your time. Stop listening to Robbie the Robot telling you, "Danger, Will Robinson!"  Creativity will spring out activity you can't predict.

Creative souls know the power of a good shake. It's about being uncomfortable in a good way.  If you want to form new and valuable stuff, if you want to make leaps to new ideas, new inventions, new art, consider trying something new this week, something you wouldn't normally do. Just do it.

This creativity series is conjunction with a talk that I will be offering at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:15. It's a weekly program they offer called Onederful Wednesday. I will lead a workshop called Divining Creativity. Here are a few of the things I will dig into -- What is holding you back? What will push you forward? What will make you leap? This should shake down the cobwebs and open all the windows. Come out if you are interested. It's free.  P.S. There is a meal at 5:15 p.m. and it costs $5.00 person and $20 for families. Call this number to RSVP if you are interested: 979-694-7700.

Here is a doodle for you. We had a rainstorm last night.

Here is a quote for your pocket.

It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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18. Novel Craft: Floundering

Hi folks, this is the last in my series of Novel Craft.  This week I'm going to address floundering. For me, there is a time in every project when things sort of stall. It sucks. BIG TIME. I lose  my mojo for a project and find myself ready to move on before it is time to move on.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend and writer Avery White (Check out his sight www.thirdpersoncreative.com if you need some fire.)  My WIP is almost done, but not quite. I should be all jazzed but instead I feel wrung out and empty.  I need to pull together the last five chapters. The notes are written. The pages are critiqued. I've said my prayers. And yet, instead of just being on fire right now, I'm searching for excuses. Even my sock drawer is organized at this point.

The way of floundering is always the same for me. I think it is partly self-doubt. When I wrap this up, I will send it out and if you are a write you know that means boatloads of rejection and people writing you notes, "This is a really good first draft." Floundering is partly separation anxiety. I have lived in the book world for years. It is tough to move on to a new world. It's time to let go. How am I going to do that?

Here's my RX. Chat with someone on the creative journey. Avery reminded me that everything is done and now it is time to trust. So here I am, letting go of my floundering and instead embracing my little list of things to-do to finish up. I may have to rip this manuscript apart in the future. It may never be read by more than a handful of people. But I have written those words. I have contributed my verse.

All the good people who invested themselves in my life are with me now. All their energy is surrounding me. The good of the universe is lifting me up above the shambles. What a lovely thing.

Hope this resonates.

Next week I'll start a series about creativity. This is conjunction with a talk that I will be offering at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:15. It's a weekly program they offer called Onederful Wednesday.  I will lead a workshop called Divining Creativity. Here are a few of the things I will dig into -- What is holding you back? What will push you forward? What will make you leap? This should shake down the cobwebs and open all the windows.  Come out if you are interested.  It's free.

P.S. Still cancer-free. Whew!

Here is a doodle.

Finally, here is a quote for your pocket.

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
Stephen Crane

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19. Gifts: Audacity

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Chris Eboch. I have had the opportunity to hear Chris speak many times. She is a friend and a writing mentor, and through critiques, conversations, and reading her books I've learned the importance of being audacious. This week's gift: audacity.

One of her books (that is not published) has had a huge effect on me as a writer. In this book, she offs the main character several times and then follows a new main character.  I can't tell you the shock I felt the first time I read her story, and the first main character died. It was an audacious move that has kicked at me for years. She did something I've never seen done in a book before. She was fearless. Her story demanded the death of her main character and she did not hesitate. This is the lesson, if you are hesitating you are not really sure of your story yet. Dig deeper.

So what exactly is audacity in writing. It's a very good thing for your plot. It's about going there in an original way. I think it has to do with the author getting out of all the muck of writing advice and serving the story. Can you march to your own beat? You are not going to make folks turn the page unless you are fearless. I mean moxie is where it is at. Chris is a soft-spoken person who climbs sheer rock faces for fun. A fast hike across the Grand Canyon, OK! She translates her own gutsiness into her characters, and readers are happy about that. Translating your daring spirit into your story will give it a mega-boost.  

 Be audacious. Scoop out the best of yourself and thread it into your work. Plots must turn with sharp, clean moves.  Don't be muddy or wishy-washy -- good advice for life too. Excellent writing should force the reader to test his or her own mettle. Yes, characters need to be dimensional to get a reader  that involved. Great stories need to get under a reader's skin. They need to demand the reader not just sit there but become involved; in the end the reader needs to changed--forever.  

Sounds hard? You bet, but totally worth it.  

This week be audacious. Write something irresistible. If you want help. I suggest you look at some of Chris's work. She writes as Chris Eboch for children and Kris Bock for adults (romantic suspense). Her books will shake you up.   You may also want to check out her writing books: ADVANCED PLOTTING too and YOU CAN WRITE FOR CHILDREN.   You are welcome!

More gifts next week. 

Here is the cover of one of Chris's (as Kris Bock)  romantic suspense books. It's so beautiful. 

You want to turn the world upside down?  
Here is a quote for your pocket.

Audacity, more audacity, always audacity. Georges Jacques Danton

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20. Writing Gifts: Tapestry

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Janet Lee Carey.She is a friend and a writing mentor, critique partner. She is also one of the best living fantasy writers. Through critiques, conversations, and reading her books. This week's gift is tapestry, everything is interconnected.

I've read many of Janet's books and love that her characters. They are always part in of this world and part of one another. Janet understands we are not just flesh and bone, there is an immaterial part of being human. STEALING DEATH. I still feel the weight of Kwaja, the sack of souls, main character Kipp has stolen. His family has died in a terrible fire and he stole Kwaja from a grim reaper type to stop death. He will never see another person die. Death disconnects us from whom we love. It must be stopped and yet death cannot be stopped. Pull one thread and the fabric unravels.

We all have these moments in life that transcend the drudgery of day to day living. The warp threads of tapestry are hidden, the stuff that backs everything up. The weft threads create the colorful picture. Janet's characters are not blinded by cold intellect but are lit with light of love. Her series The Wilde Island Chronicles: Dragron's Keep, Dragonswood, and  In the Time of Dragon Moon reveals her skill at broad canvas. Janet recreates the Pendragon myth with this series. Tapestry is especially important in the last book, where two hard to weave in threads find their place.

This is vast storytelling at it's best, but what is so important about it, is every thread is given attention. There are no blank spots on this tapestry.  Read her books reveal the value of tapestry in writing. You are welcome.

Finally, Janet was one of the precious people who put together their pennies and brought me to Washington State for a writing retreat earlier this year. I had a tough year. My poor noggin' let me down, and I spiraled into Depression. I am much much better now. But just like her characters in her books, she is interconnected to those around her.  When I was struggling to swim in the life's ocean with it's seasonal storms. She reached out and put my feet on the ground. She made sure my little warp thread continued to be a part of the tapestry of writing. (Yes, I was a hairbreadth away from never writing another word.) All of are co-creators together. No one is an island. We need all the voices.

I hope you continue your creative work. Weave your threads. I know it is hard work. Don't stop. Our life is so much richer if we create our tapestries of story.

Here are the covers of the Wilde Chronicles!.

Finally a quote for you pocket.

We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something.
Sandra Day O'Conner

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21. Gifts: Empathy

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Holly Cupala. Holly is someone who has been generous to me in so many ways I cannot count.  She is one of the most deeply empathetic people I know. She aware of the feelings of a wide range of people; she feels deeply what they are going through. She is a gift to us all.

I tend to be socially awkward. I do care about other people, but I end up seeming really callous sometimes. One reason is I don't always feel what others feel. I recognize they are feeling something, but inside me I don't feel it. I have deep sympathy for them, but that is not the same as empathy. Everything I write has to relate somehow directly to my experiences, what I have felt. This limits my creative spectrum, but there it is. Exposure to the empathetic has helped me become a better writer and a better person. 

Here is how this thing works: I've been bullied so I can write authentically about that. I wasn't at 9:11 and did not personally watch anyone die that day so I cannot write authentically about that. Empathetic people feel what others feel. The clueless part of me is I forget that people are feeling what others are feeling, because I don't. When I see someone writing about something outside his or her experience, I struggle with: "Is this authentic? Some rare individuals really do connect with experiences that are not their own. I'm blessed to know one of these people.

Holly has helped me learn to respect how others feel even if I can't feel it. She has taught me how empathy expands your world. When I am hurting, my first thought is to get away from everyone, wrap myself in blanket and deal with feeling pain.  Empathetic people feel something and realize there are people all over feeling that and reach out to others that feeling the same thing they are feeling. Empathetic people surround me. I think they get it more than most that I need some help. 

Holly's writing really shows off  her empathy for others. Her characters have greatly varied experiences. Even when she is working out of what she knows, she's injecting what she has felt from others too. Her influence has forced me into the shoes of my antagonists. No character should be flat, but each one should be full of life. Exploring the intersection of characters has greatly expanded under exposure to Holly's empathy.  

I hope something about empathy helps you march toward authenticity. I will begin a new series in the new year! Happy New Year!

Here is the cover of one  of Holly's books. 

And finally a quote for you pocket.

Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life.
 Barbara Kingsolver

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22. Novel Craft: Beginnings

Hi, folks! Welcome to a brand new year! This year I'm starting out with a series on novel craft. This week I hope I offer you some good advice about how to start your book. That's right, your book is like no other. Your start is like no other. A good novelist has come to trust her mojo. Books start in a myriad of ways: some with dialogue, some with backstory, some jump into the action, some blather on inside the main character's head, some start with character waking up, some begin with the sunrise.  Regardless, a good beginning will spill some of that writer magic on the page--the I've-got-this-attitude.

Where does this attitude come from? There is no magic formula but here are three practices that will infuse your beginnings with your mojo. First, write and write and write. Next learn how to take charge and be your own boss. Finally give yourself pep talks. I will chat about these three hallmarks of a great beginning. (A hallmark is an invisible stamp that shouts this is one authentic book.)

First, you must write, not think about, not talk about, not plan about writing, but actually write.  This involves at least a million words before you reach minimally competent. So whatever it takes begin to write. Type page after page. Fill journal after journal. Write failed story after failed story. You have found the road to a good beginning!  Kudos!

Next you must own your writing. If you are a writer, you should be receiving regular critiques of your work. That is awesome. Now you must learn to learn what to listen to and what to toss. This will take hundreds of critiques and hundreds of misses.  Take the big risks. Go to that craft workshop you've been thinking about. Read the competition and then compete. Own failure and define it is a stepping stone to success. The thing you must realize -- you are the Boss. Expose yourself on the page, take the risk. You may fail. You may go broke. Regardless, exercise your exclusive rights, own your writing. Ownership will infuse your beginnings with you.  Good stuff.

Finally, learn how to pep talk yourself.  Here's the deal, the awesomeness must come from within. This is where your voice is. The self talk needs to work like this: I can do something awesome. Why not? I will write something that will shake the foundations. This beginning will blow my own mind, and it will totally transform everyone's universe. I will make this better, faster, stronger. I'm going to totally six-million dollar man this! (Note: if you are not doing 1 and 2, and doing 3, you are not looking like a genius...)

Take a few minutes every day and give yourself the pep talk. Do not neglect this step. Don't try to get this juice from others. If you are like me, call on the grace of I AM. No, no, you don't deserve unmerited favor, but ask for it (somebody out there really loves you), and then give the glory to the Architect of all things.

I just dropped a teacup of useful stuff in your brain: Work hard, be the BOSS, and finally pep talk yourself. All this will build beginning inertia for you. Inertia is all about getting you in a tendency of writing AWESOME beginnings. If you tend to write awesome beginnings, you will continue to write awesome beginnings.  This is something you can trust.

I hope you come back next week for more Novel Craft.  If your resolution is to finally write your novel, follow the steps.  (P.S. this advice works for every creative endeavor.)  Good luck!

Here is a doodle.

Finally, here is a quote for your pocket.

Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious. ― Ralph Peters

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23. Novel Craft: Transitions

Hi folks, I'm spending the month of January chewing on novel craft. This week I'm going to talk about transitions. Transitions are about leaving one chapter behind and picking up the thread of the story in the next chapter. Chapters are a convention for ease of reading, but they are more for the novelist. Chapters help you present your story. It's a huge piece of how you keep your reader hooked and longing for more. The way writers keep readers engaged is by devising provocative transitions between chapters. These transitions grab readers attention, plunge them into new action, and ensure complete satisfaction during the reading experience. You might find that some of this transition talk helps you in transitions in your life.

Transitions are about how one chapter ends and the next one begins. Instead of trying to tie everything up in a chapter. You must think of a chapter transitions as a dynamic phase, smack dab in the middle of the action, the epiphany, and/or the relationships.  Transitions are not neat things all wrapped up in bows. A good end transition launches you toward the next chapter. Be prepare to leap in the middle of the mystery. Raise a big question and then just cut off the chapter. Journey toward something audacious but don't arrive, cut off just before that. Stop trying to end things in easy way, Complication, surprise, and turmoil? This is the true stuff of transition.

Now that you have ended the last chapter in a compelling way, it's time to turn the page to the next chapter. You have primed your reader if they had to put the book away until tomorrow. They will be thinking about the chapter all day. They must see that next page. So how do you get that next chapter going. Some transitions are easier than others. If the next chapter is in the same time frame. The next step is logical. It's usually about dialogue and a twist. It's the the transitions that require a jump that are harder, mainly because it causes the writer to leap. My recommendation, don't get bogged down with time, but launch immediately into the heart of what is important in your story. It might be musing from your main character. It might be at the next point in time that stuff is going down. The important thing is not being trapped in the minutia of time change, setting change, and interior thoughts. Cut to what is most interesting, upsetting, or exciting.

Last, it's important transitions build satisfaction, but that does not mean complacency. It's important that readers feel like they are on a journey. Transitions keep your story from being a series of episodes. They are glue for the overreaching arc. How? Stories need to going somewhere just like our lives need to be going somewhere. We are all looking for a point, even if the point is there is no point. Powerful transitions illuminate.They make the reader feel that this journey is worthwhile. Readers inhabit stories that are nimble, like a mountain goat leaping from one peak to the next--a glorious and amazing sight. Good transitions are fearless, seamless, thoughtful, and thrilling. They make for one satisfying read.

That's a teaspoon of transition chat. I hope something resonates with you. I will continue my novel craft series next week.

Here is a doodle. Veg.

Now for the quote for your pocket:

A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you're in and take advantage of it. Nikki Giovanni

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24. Novel Craft: A Better Ending

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series called Novel Craft. I'm uncovering what has worked for me in the last year as I have moved forward with my novel writing. This is a way to make a stronger ending to your book. I found it very effective. It helped me untangle some weakness in my plot and gave me new energy toward a project I had grown frustrated with.

I asked myself  a simple question, what is a better ending to this story?

Yes, that is it. I'm not great with complicated solutions. This is the absolute truth. I love to make complicated plans, but I rarely enact them. Embarrassing but true. I have to find elegant, simple solutions to succeed, and my writer-sense (not be confused with Spidy-sense) let me know that my question was going to work.

My method to answer this question may seem weird, I talked to myself about while driving my umpteen errands. I suppose people looked at me and thought that is one crazy gal. Oh, well.
I chattered on bout the tried and true ending, poking at my ideas. I started by asking myself questions. How can I make this character suffer more? How can her darkest moment be darker? What would bring this character bigger change?

There was a little drama--like I don't know if this is going to work, and then, yay, ideas popped up. I continued to chatter on about the how these new ideas might be better than my old one.  I chattered for about a half hour. I'm pretty sure I'm not the first author who uses the the professional "chatterer" technique.

Finally in midst of my chattering, eureka, a better ending to the story popped in my head.  A way better end. I wrote that ending, and, yeah, I started chanting (while writing), "I've got this!"

Hint, hint, a simple questions, a conversation with yourself may help you improve your existence. Try it. Thanks for dropping by. I will return next week with more on this series.

Here is a doodle for you:

Here is a quote that spoke to me this week. 

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. David Foster Wallace

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25. Novel Craft: Feels

Hi folks, I am spending the month of January chatting about Novel Craft. This week I'm digging into feels. Every books needs shivery moments, feels. The journey of mining your character's emotional core is tough. It takes days. It takes deep thought. If you are feeling sick at your stomach and have almost a migraine headache, chances are you are in your character's feel zone or you need to take a Tylenol.

Seriously, this emotional goop is essential to your storytelling. Let it flow through you.

Where do you get the goop? This week I went in for my yearly mammogram and before I reached home, I already had a call back for more tests. Feels came quick. Anger. I wanted to sit in my car and bang my steering wheel. Next up, hopefulness, this may be this is nothing, just a routine, let's-make-the-baseline-better call. Then despair slammed me. I just don't want to have cancer...again.  Cancer sucks. Your hair falls out. You feel so listless. Ah, my thoughts are turning to jello, a globby emotional smog monster. Not my favorite thing. As much as I don't want it, I'm in an emotional maelstrom. As much as I hate having to deal, I know that dealing is what makes me the best person.

In real life, emotions come in weird ripples. They make no sense. They are disorderly and inconsistent. It takes days to sort through all of it. In novels, emotions need to controlled, even the out of control ones. The best books reveal the essence of the emotional story. You get maybe a paragraph. Move past the surface and uncover the bones and bedrock of your characters.

Here is a little section from the emotional journey of my WIP Profit.

This was Sarai's story. She was going to die here. The cold curling around her was drawing her into its abyss. Her thoughts slowed.  She'd been so focused on her dream, she’d missed every moment and the truth nipping at her—you don’t get to choose your life. Life chooses you. If she hadn’t been so focused on herself, her dream, what she wanted, she might have seen another path and followed it. She might have found meaning in something else, but instead she’d embraced one vision and heard what she wanted to hear. 

Be present in what life chooses for you. Embrace that it is your journey. Embrace what you must feel. Don't try to get out of it. Go through it with as much meaning and dignity that you can. Then take the gold and sprinkle it your stories. Dealing makes you the best person. It makes for the best story.

Hope this connects with you. I will be back next week with more lessons.

A doodle for your heart.

A quote for your pocket.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

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