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Denise D. Young

Stories of Magic & Moonlight

Excitement Abounds

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It’s that time of year—the beginning of Round Two of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Feel free to join us on Facebook or on the website and hop in whenever you’re ready. I’m a few days late in getting my goals posted, but here they are…

So, Round One was a bit of a wash for me in terms of writing goals, but it also provided some much-needed downtime. I put a lot of thought into my writing path and the creative journey that I’m on. For the past few months I’ve been having trouble writing, getting words on the page here and there but not really moving forward.

And then, all of a sudden, things kicked back into gear. I realized if I want to make this path work I really need to start charging forward. During one of my tarot readings I drew the card the Ace of Swords, which is all about taking action, cutting through the briar, and moving forward. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I dug into revisions of Spellfire’s Kiss, a novel that I plan on releasing this fall, hopefully in October. I love this story; it’s the first one I wrote when I made the leap to writing full time, and I’m excited to be able to share it with readers.

So, what are my goals for Round Two? Here they are:

  • Finish Spellfire’s Kiss and send to editor by June 1.
  • Finish a second draft of Fates Entangled, a novella.
  • Finish The Forest’s Own, a short story, and start submitting to magazines.
  • Do a read-through and start revisions on Goblins and Grimoires, a novella.
  • Continue on my quest to read 30 books in 2017.
  • Read some books by writer-friends and get reviews posted.

What about you? What are your goals for the second quarter of 2017?

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The Magic Whispers…

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My plan was to write another Faerie Forest novelette—a short work, about 15,000 words, while I worked out a few plot points in my revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. Instead, what I discovered was a much longer story, a tale of family secrets and magical misdeeds that demands to be told. I know I need a few months to draft such a story, so the plan for the next couple months is to slowly allow this new story to unfold while I revise Spellfire’s Kiss so I can get it off to beta readers. I’d like to publish that one this fall, which means I need to get it to my editor by the summer so I have time for revisions.

Sometimes our stories surprise us, taking us down misty paths full of surprises. That’s the creative process, and the best thing to do is simply to allow our stories to whisper in our ear while we type madly away, letting the magic speak.

This week’s check-in:

Wrote 2,703 words in The Rogue Wore Red (working title). I spent a good deal of time trying to come up with a better title (that one is too Regency-sounding, I think), but nothing yet.

Finished reading The Crimson Spell by F. Goldsborough and started reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but the writing is amazing so far!

When is the last time one of your works in progress surprised you? What happened? I’d love to hear from you!

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Winter’s Last Stand

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Today the daffodils are resting their weary heads against the frozen earth. After a fairly mild winter, and an exceptionally mild February, winter appears to be making its last stand, complete with snow flurries and wind chill advisories. In Southwest Virginia we’ve been spared the mountains of snow that are currently blanketing the Northeast, though, so for that I am grateful—especially since many trees already have blooms and we could’ve been facing a lot of power outages.

But even as I walked Leo today, I could hear, over the wind’s roar, the hopeful songs of birds in the tree branches, and yesterday we saw a gathering of robins, pecking at and hopping along the snow-speckled earth. The promise of spring exists even on these frozen days.

I’m trying to remember the lessons of hygge that I read about in The Cozy Life. That means candles burning, a hot cup of spicy tea (I’ve recently discovered Bigelow’s Constant Comment, a blend of orange rind, black tea, and spices), and curling up under a blanket with a good book. I’ve been skipping around between books as of late. This week I’m reading The Crimson Spell, a book by F. Goldsborough based on the Charmed series. After I finish that, I’d like to get back to Little Women.

As far as writing, since my last check-in I’ve written a rough synopsis for a novelette, The Rogue Wore Red, formerly The Redcap in the Library. I’m worried the new title suggests Regency romance, and it’s really a fantasy romance story, so I might have to play with it. This week I’ve written 1,200 words in that story. I’m also getting close to finishing Michael’s character arc in Spellfire’s Kiss.

What about you? Are you digging out from under mountains of snow, shivering at the blast of icy wind, or enjoying springtime sunshine where you live? Do you think The Rogue Wore Red is more of a Regency title than a fantasy one? What are you currently writing—or reading? I’d love to hear from you!

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Sweeping away the cobwebs

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Sometimes in life it is necessary to sweep the cobwebs away. We get stuck in a rut, and it’s hard to break out. Lately I’ve been in just such a rut. I’ve been hobbling along with my writing. I’ll do well for a few days, and then I won’t write for a few days. It’s disheartening, and it’s a pattern I’m determined to break. So I’m going back to my goal of doing something writing related every day. It might mean actively writing or revising. It might be reading a book on craft or exploring an aspect of the creative process in some fashion. I am determined to get Spellfire’s Kiss finished and off to CPs and beta readers. That story is so close, and it means so much to me, and I’d like to share it with others.

I’m brushing away the cobwebs in many areas of my life. In my writing, I’m trying to establish a healthy routine that allows me to make steady progress. In my home, I’m undertaking a massive decluttering. This weekend I packed up five boxes of dishes and miscellaneous items from our kitchen and dining room. I’ve already decluttered the living room, with the exception of our DVD collection, which we plan on digitizing. Next I’ll move on to the upstairs, particularly our bedroom closet and our office, which are brimming with clutter.

What I’ve realized is this: I want to live a creative life, a life of creativity, love, and compassion. And to do that, I can’t make excuses. I have to create, daily, even as my energy waxes and wanes.

As I pare away the excess in my physical life, I hope to make mental and emotional space for creativity.

On the home front, I’ve done a ton of decluttering and painted a wall in the living room. Three walls down, one to go. I’ve hung some art in the living room and entryway and am working on decluttering room by room.

On the writing front, I’ve written a mere 121 words so far this week, in a novelette in the Faerie Forest series. The working title is Redcap in the Library, which kind of gives it away, I know. No progress yet this week on Spellfire’s Kiss, though I only have one more scene to write in Michael’s character arc and then I can start weaving that into the rest of the manuscript, after which I’ll dig into revisions.

As far as reading, I’m still reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron. I’ve thrown another book into the mix, Christine Danse’s Island of Icarus, a steampunk M/M romance. It’s turning out to be a sweet story that I’m enjoying so far. I also read Street Team Smarts by Sara Humphreys, which was more of a guide than a book, at 18 or so pages, but we’ll count that, too. And I finished reading The Joy of Less by Francine Jay this weekend, which I highly recommend. In keeping with my desire to move more slowly and thoughtfully this year, I’ve scaled back my reading goal to 30 books. I’m one book ahead of schedule, according to Goodreads.

And that’s where I’m at. Brushing away the cobwebs and paring away the excess to focus on what I love.

What about you? Have you ever taken on a massive decluttering? Did it free up mental space? How is your creative journey going?

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Simplicity

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Photo by Malewitch | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It’s a warm but rainy day in Southwest Virginia. The steady plop of rain against the townhouse provides a backdrop for a day spent inside, drinking tea and typing away at the keys. They’re saying thunderstorms are on their way, so we’re holed up inside today.

As a goal-driven person in a goal-driven society, sometimes I’m so consumed by what I want to achieve that it’s easy to overlook these simple things: a rainy day spent playing fetch with Leo inside, or an afternoon drinking tea and writing. But if we’re to truly live an inspired, creative life, appreciating the simple pleasures life offers every day is precisely what we must do.

There is magic in the everyday. Every cup of tea, every word splashed across the page, every story written or read, every simple, home-cooked meal has a drop of magic in it, if only we’re open to it.

The daffodils are already blooming outside. The promise of spring is in the air on this windy, rainy day. The blank pages of my journal call to me, offering a source of inspiration and introspection. So I think I’ll keep today’s check-in short and sweet, and focus on a quiet, creative day.

So far this week I’ve written 1,351 words in Spellfire’s Kiss. I’ve been working on this story since December 2013, and yet it’s continuing to whisper to me and surprise me. This year this story will be finished, one way or another, and it will hopefully find fulfillment in the imaginations of readers.

I’ve painted two of four walls in the living room a bright, royal blue. I’ve already hung some crisp black and white photos, and the look is more dramatic and bold than I’d planned, but I like it. I’ll share some photos once the whole room is finished.

As far as reading, I’m still working my way through Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

What about you? What simple pleasures do you find joy in? What are you working on this week?

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Slowwww…

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In our culture, “slow” doesn’t usually equate “good.” We’re all about a fast-paced lifestyle—fast food, fast lanes, and, in my case, fast writing. Last year I tried to turn myself into a speed-writing machine, churning out stories as quickly as I could. And I burnt out, forgot to fill the well and ended up with no ink in the inkwell.

Reading about the Danish concept of hygge in Pia Edberg’s The Cozy Life has helped me in this regard. I’m being more intentional, doing little things like really enjoying the taste of a cup of tea with honey or listening to good music while I do chores. Hygge is all about coziness or homey-ness, relaxing with friends and family or even by ourselves, especially during the cold winter months.

This year I’ve resolved to do differently, to pace myself and allow my stories to unfold at a natural pace. And it’s working. The characters in Spellfire’s Kiss are whispering in my ear once more, and I’m leaning into the story and working on revisions. I’m starting to see my writing as less of a machine and more of a garden. Seeds sprout in their own time, and it takes lots of tending, weeding, watering, and nurturing for things to come to fruition.

We tend to do a lot of comparing in our society, and I’m trying to step away from that. What matters is that I want to spend my life creating cool stuff. In my case, that’s primarily the stories I write. I want to put my stories out into the world, to share them because creating and sharing my creations brings me a great deal of joy—and I hope that my creations give others a lot of joy.

This week, in the spirit of allowing my story to unfold naturally, I wrote 3,361 words in Spellfire’s Kiss. Michael now has a character arc that feels organic to the story, and the new ending I’ve written has so much more resonance than the original one. I hope to finish Michael’s character arc next week and start revising existing copy, with the goal of sending this story to my critique partners by the end of March.

On the reading front, I’m currently reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron.

As far as home-keeping, I’m about to start painting the living room a rich blue called “Highland Loch.”

In the winter, my energy tends to wane, but as the days grow longer I want to get back into a regular schedule of blogging and visiting others’ blogs as well as expanding my activity on other social media.

For me, 2017 is all about slowing down and allowing things to unfold, not rushing through life—including the stories I tell.

What about you? How are your goals coming along? Have you experienced the pressure to do things more rapidly—your art or your lifestyle? And have you ever felt the need to slow down in your writing—or life in general?

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A Cozy Chair and a Room Full of Books!

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So I have been terrible about blogging in 2017. I’d like to get back into it because I’ve missed the ROW80 community and hearing what everyone is up to.

So what have I been up to, you might ask? Well, another round of decluttering my home, and trying to really settle in and make this place feel like home. We’ve lived in our townhouse for over a year, but I really need some paint on the walls and some other things to put my own personal stamp on it. That goes hand in hand with decluttering because I want to have less stuff to manage and more open space.

That being said, I think I’ll make my decluttering/decorating/organizing goals part of my ROW80 goals, along with writing and reading.

On the writing front, I’m working on a revision plan for my novella Spellfire’s Kiss. I’m toying with the idea of making some bigger changes to that one, but I want to start sending it out on submission this year, hopefully before summer.

As far as reading goes, this week I read The Cozy Life by Pia Edberg. It’s all about the Danish concept of Hygge, which loosely translates as “coziness” or “homey-ness.” If you don’t know anything about the concept, the book is worth a read—and there are some delicious-sounding recipes included that I want to try! I’m currently reading Autumn Thorns, the first in the Whisper Hollow series by Yasmine Galenorn. It’s all about a spirit shaman who returns to her roots in a small Pacific Northwest town to help wrangle the dead and undead. Picture Supernatural with a strong female lead. I recommend it!

And, on the decluttering/decorating front, I’m trying out some paint samples in the living room with the goal of getting that room painted. My home library is now up and running, complete with a cozy chair and shelves full of my favorite books!

My goals for the rest of Round One:

  • Finish the fifth draft of Spellfire’s Kiss.
  • Continue on my quest to read 40 books in 2017—that’s 10 per quarter, so 10 books per round.
  • Continue with my quest to both declutter and make the townhouse cozier.
  • At least one non-writing related creative endeavor a week—scrapbooking, decorating, cooking/baking, etc.

What about you? How has 2017 been for you?

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Lessons in Minimalism

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Saturday was a day filled with snow and biting cold wind, and so after a few excursions into the snowy hills with puppy Leo and an adventure out to do some shopping (okay, mostly to get away from the house, because I work from home and sometimes I need a change of scenery), hubby and I curled up and watched Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things. I loved it.

I am not and probably will never be a minimalist. Maybe if I’d discovered the philosophy when I was twenty, but not currently. But I think we can still learn from the philosophy. Thanks to reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve already let go of a lot of excess stuff, and am continuing to. For most of us, decluttering is an ongoing process, and that’s what makes it such a challenge.

But what minimalism teaches us, and what the documentary stresses, is emphasizing relationships and purpose over stuff. Our stuff can take over our lives, and to be honest, sometimes that’s what it feels like for me. I feel like I spend so much time dusting and organizing and rearranging. How much easier would it be to live in a small home and own a minimal amount of items? How much more time could I devote to what really calls to me, to magic and the Goddess and writing and creativity, if I owned less?

And so that knowledge drives me forward. Watching documentaries, reading books and articles and blog posts about simplifying, minimizing, decluttering, help me on my journey. And that’s what it is. A journey to less stuff–and more living.

That being said, here’s a brief check-in on my goals for this round, which are fairly streamlined, in keeping with the minimalist theme for today:

  • Write 300-500 words daily. Week One is a success! I wrote 3,349 words this week. My highest word count was 696; my lowest was 337. Not a bad start.
  • Stay close to sources of inspiration by meditating, doing yoga, journaling, spending time in nature, and exploring other creative outlets. (See specific, measurable goals below.) Walks in the snow, bought some healing crystals for kitty Roo, who has a heart arrhythmia that’s triggering seizures, and some lapis lazuli for hubby’s headaches.
  • Journal at least three times a week. 2/3. Friday’s journaling was cut short by a very poorly behaved puppy.
  • Explore another creative outlet at least twice a week. 2/2. Tried a new recipe—broccoli cheddar quiche. Baked chocolate chip cookies. Hoping to paint the trim in my office today and then next week get the library set up so I have a sanctuary for reading, writing, and journaling in the evenings.

What about you? Are you interested in minimalism? Are you a minimalist, or do you incorporate any of its teachings or philosophies into your life? How was the first week of 2017 for you writing-wise?

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A Window into My World

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Roo

It’s turning out not to be the best of days for insightful blogging. We’re having new windows installed (much-needed, too, as the cold days of winter grip us!), so my house is a flurry of activity.

And, on a sadder note, it appears my 14-year-old cat, Roo, is having seizures, so I’ve already made one emergency trip to the vet this morning and have been on the phone trying to get her some medication. Two seizures, or seizure-like events, today.

That being said, if you’d send Roo some healing energy, it would be much appreciated. In the meantime, here’s a short check-in for Round One of A Round of Words in 80 Days.

Goal Progress Check-In:

  • Write 300-500 words daily. On track. So far this week: Sunday, 497 words; Monday, 433 words; Tuesday, 696 words.
  • Stay close to sources of inspiration by meditating, doing yoga, journaling, spending time in nature, and exploring other creative outlets. (See specific, measurable goals below.) Took advantage of some mild weather by taking a couple long walks with Leo, our new Aussie mix puppy.
  • Journal at least three times a week. 1/3.
  • Explore another creative outlet at least twice a week. 1/2. Tried a new recipe—broccoli cheddar quiche. Super-easy and delicious! Also ordered some scrapbooking supplies so I can keep working on my Book of Shadows.

What about you? Has is Round One starting off for you?

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