#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, fantasy, personal journeys, simple living, the writer's journey, travel

Embracing Our Inner Hobbit: Life lessons from Tolkien

Tolkien quotes, Denise D. Young, fantasy, simple living, author

I love hobbits, and I love the Shire. There’s something very hobbit-like about my version of the writer’s life. I curl up with a cup of tea, maybe something yummy to eat (croissants from the bakery down the street are a favorite), and I set to writing. I sip Earl Grey while I get lost in a book I’m reading. My husband and I laugh and share stories about our days. I walk the dog in the park, enjoying the beauty of nature right outside my door. Friends visit. No wizards, yet, but I’m still hoping.

Of course, I have, on occasion, gone on strange and wonderful adventures. The world’s oddest tea room in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the proprietor, upon seeing us eyeing the menu, asked, “You want food?” A stay in a little red cabin in Germany, where chickens awoke us and friends awaited with food and conversation.

I stumbled across this quote from Tolkien, and I wanted to share it because too often we get caught up in destinations. I do this all the time. I think, “Someday we’ll buy our house in the country”—forgetting that our little townhouse, with all its quirks, is a perfectly delightful home. I forget the rose bush I planted last year, with its brilliant magenta blooms, or the little amethyst room where I can curl up and write, or the vibrant blue walls in our living room, or the dining room table, not even second-hand, but probably third-hand, which has seen so many wonderful conversations had and meals served. Yes, the kitchen faucet leaks, but it works. Yes, the bathroom tile is hideous pink, but the space still functions.

dreamstime_xxl_82995729 creative commons stock photos dreamstime
Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

Food. Cheer. Song.

And stories, of course.

We need stories—the ones we write, if we’re writers, and, all of us, the stories of our lives, the little, everyday ones. Like my memory of the night we brought puppy Leo home, and how everything in the house startled him. Like the memory of curling up on a cold night in an unheated cabin in Germany, my husband’s warm body pressed against mine. And waking in the morning and sipping French-pressed coffee with a beloved friend. Like the time we bought solar eclipse glasses and glimpsed the event from our front yard, and how we shared them with our neighbors so everyone could take a peek, and got to know people just a little better.

This is life. These small moments. A dinner with friends. A croissant and a cup of coffee while an author takes us down a wending path of adventure and magic.

We talk about the process. We talk about the goal.

Let’s not forget the journey. Let’s not forget the small, sweet moments that unfurl every day.

Let’s not forget to turn our eyes to the wheeling stars, gaze at the watercolor panorama of the sunset, watch the dog play with one of his canine friends, listen to our children or significant other tell us a story about their day, sing in the kitchen while we do the dishes.

In the midst of doing, let’s not forget to be.

In the midst of making a living, let’s not forget to live.

So far this week, I’ve focused on revamping the website and taking a blogging workshop over at WANA International. I also revised chapter two of Spellfire’s Kiss. No work on my novelette Spun Gold yet this week. I’m also in the process of redecorating the living room. I found a couple of gorgeous art prints on Etsy to add some color, and bought a new lamp and mirrors from Target to improve the lighting. Not much else to report!

Are you a Tolkien fan? What life lessons have you taken from his work?

Blessed be.

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, the seasons

The Turning of the Wheel of the Year

1359720_95566863 autumn tree stock xchng
“A study in Scarlet 1” by boogy_man at stock.xchng

I felt the shift last week. The air, a little cooler. The leaves, with their hints of gold and red. Autumn was on its way. This week has been filled with cool mornings and autumn rain. We ate chili and snuggled up under blankets. As I walk Leo, I notice the marked shift in the leaves.

As the air grows colder, as the seasons cycle toward autumn and impending winter, I find myself turning inward. I’m reading Tami Lynn Kent’s amazing book Wild Creative, and it reinforces a reawakening that had already begun inside me. I had internalized societal pressure to “get a real job,” “make some money,” “be successful” (whatever that means).

I turned inward and realized that those pressures, reinforced by others in direct and sometimes subtle, indirect ways, were taking a toll. I was carrying them around like a load of bricks on my back. I let them fall.

I am still trying to figure out what all this means, where it will all land. Deadlines are a part of the writer’s existence, and I must manage those while living with chronic medical conditions that sometimes seem to drain the energy from my body, leaving me tired to the core and struggling to get through the day.

And I’m still processing the lessons from my trip to Germany, which taught me I’m most alive when I’m close to animals and nature. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate those lessons into my life as my husband and I contemplate an escape from life in town and into the country.

As for my writing goals, I have finally started writing again after the block that followed my return from Germany. I wrote a poem, “Call me Raven,” that’s got this very Romantic/outcast vibe to it, and just got comments back from a friend and fellow writer. And I wrote 658 words in my novella Oak-Bound last week and 357 words last night.

 

Ideally, I’d like to finish a draft of Oak-Bound by Samhain (or, as Muggles refer to it, Halloween)–when the Wheel of the Year begins a new cycle. And then I can turn toward Spellfire’s Kiss, which is very much a story about autumn, colder days, and even colder nights.

I’ll share more about my journey through Kent’s Wild Creative in my next post.

In the meantime, does it feel like autumn where you are? How do you embrace the slide into the colder half of the seasons?

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#ROW80 check-ins, animals

Goodbye, Roo.

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Sweet Roo.

A lot has happened since my last check-in. On Sunday we said goodbye to our cat Roo, who’d been with us 15 years. We watched her grow from a feisty kitten who was always getting into one misadventure after another to a feisty old lady who kept the entire house in line. Goodbye, sweet Roo. We miss you.

On the writing/reading front I’ve been fairly productive. I read Amber Benson’s The Witches of Echo Park and loooved it. I immediately ordered the next two books in the series. It’s all about sisterhood and magic and was the perfect fit for this reader.

On the writing front, I penned a new short story, Intersection, and continued working on my novella Bewitched by the Dragon. This week I’ve written 1,457 words in Bewitched by the Dragon. I just got back a beta read on Intersection and hope to get that one revised soon.

I’ve reached a crossroads with my short stories. I had begun the process of submitting them to magazines, but then a Twitter chat (thanks, #StoryDam!) got me thinking that Patreon might be a better avenue for publishing my shorter fiction. Basically, patrons (in my case, readers), would pay a set amount per creation or per month. I’m genuinely thinking about giving it a go. Something to think about as I put the finishing touches on a few more of the shorter works I so love to write.

That’s it for this check-in. We’re trying to adjust to life without Roo, and I’m finding distraction in storytelling, both my own and others, immersing myself in worlds of magic and wonder.

What about you? Have you heard of Patreon or used it, either as a creator or a patron? Thoughts on this new model?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

Changing Directions

dreamstime_xxl_88192211 creativecommonsstockphotos Dreamstime Stock Photos
Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

This week turned out to be a wonderfully productive week. I wrote 4,429 words in a new story, Bewitched by the Dragon, and wrote a 4,678-word short story, Upon the Witching Hour, a retelling of Cinderella (but with a twist). I also wrote and posted my first Insecure Writers Support Group post, and am finding IWSG to be a supportive community.

I paused a couple chapters into Bewitched by the Dragon, though, because something felt off. I felt like I was going in the wrong direction, and sometimes a couple days of distance and careful thought shows me where I went wrong, and I actually end up further ahead than I would’ve if I’d just charged through. It’s a big lesson I’ve learned on this path.

I realized that the problem was that the story itself is intended to be novella length, and for that to work the hero and heroine need to meet up in chapter one. As it was written, it took them several chapters to even meet—that’s several chapters where there’s no sexual tension, no romance developing. Plot-wise, that just doesn’t work.

Tonight the answer came to me. They need to meet up by the end of chapter one, and I figured out how to do that. There are still a ton of unanswered questions swirling around this story, involving character arcs and backstory and a host of other normal, first-draft issues. And I’m still torn between first and third person POV, as I mentioned in a previous post. But now that I’ve solved this first riddle, I can work on solving the others. Back to the page!

The next couple weeks I have two manuscript critiques to do, so those will be my main focus. I’d like to at least get the first three chapters of Bewitched by the Dragon rewritten, though. Later this month I can move forward with that. I still have to get to the next draft of Fates Entangled as well, but that probably won’t happen until June at the earliest.

What about you? Do you ever need to take a day or two away from a project for some brainstorming?

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#ROW80 check-ins, publishing

Excitement Abounds

blank page of journal
Photo by Daniaphoto, Dreamstime Stock Photos

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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#ROW80 check-ins, decorating and organization

A Cozy Chair and a Room Full of Books!

library

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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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, indie publishing, the writer's journey

Beyond Word Counts: Embracing the nature of creativity

Antique cup with tea bag.
Photo from Jabiru, at Dreamstime.com.

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my creative path. There’s a lot of chatter in the writing blogosphere about word counts—how much we have written, or how much we should have written. I’ve heard some writers say they write 500 words a day. I’ve heard others say that if you can’t write at least 2,000 words a day, you can’t make it as a professional writer.

I’m a full-time writer. This is my job. But creativity is also a spiritual thing. Some people might say it’s not—and maybe for others, it isn’t. But for me, my stories, poems, etc. are gifts from the goddess. She sends them to me, and it’s my job to write them down and share them with others.

And sometimes, when I’m tracking word count, I forget that. Take, for example, the story I wrote this summer, Goblins and Grimoires. I wrote an average of 2,500 words a day on that story. And there were days when I was pushing myself to meet that goal. I would get stuck on the story and sit there until something popped into my head, and then force myself to keep writing until I met my goal.

And the first draft of that story is a mess. And now I see why: Because for me writing needs to steep like a cup of tea. You can’t just plop a tea bag in and start sipping. You have to wait for the flavors to release—and the stronger the brew you want, the longer you have to wait. Sure, some stories arrive nearly fully formed. Others emerge slowly.

For me, thinking is part of writing. And that’s why my crazy word count goals failed. I need time to think over a plot point. Time to mull over character arc and development. Time to figure out how to weave together romance and fantasy.

For now, I’m going slowly. I have plans to revise two short stories and a poem, indie publish one short story, and submit the other short story and poem to magazines. I played around with the poem a little this week and jotted down a few notes on one short story, Spirits of Embers. I’d also like to finish a final draft of Spellfire’s Kiss and submit it to publishers by early next year.

I’m also playing around with new stories as well, to keep the creative juices flowing. I’ve written 1,672 words in Entwined Magic, a new-adult fantasy romance novel, and 574 words in The Magic of Harthwaite Manor, a steampunk romance. I’m not setting deadlines or establishing expectations for those stories. For now, I’m playing.

And that’s the plan. Getting back in touch with my creativity—and the spiritual side of that creativity. Still moving forward, but allowing things to unfold at their own pace.

One of my other goals is to work on my social media platform. I’ve been doing a bit of that. I’ve been present on Facebook more and become approved as a Goodreads Author (yay!). My next steps are to set up my Amazon author page, reengage on Twitter, and create a Pinterest board for my published books. I’m behind on responding to blog comments and visiting blogs, so hopefully I can catch up on that soon.

All in all it’s been a productive week so far.

What about you? Do you think there’s a spiritual element to creativity? Do you need time to mull over your stories as you write, or do you just write without stopping? (And, of course, because creativity is a strange and intangible thing, there are no right answers.)

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity

Surviving a Creative Dry Spell

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I have been absent from the blogosphere for a while, taking a sort of mini-sabbatical. In the past two months I’ve rekindled my love of poetry, discovered the perfect banana bread recipe, and mostly just tried to figure out my next steps.

It happened like this: I was going strong, often writing 2,500 words a day. I was churning out manuscripts like crazy. Three years ago, I left my magazine writing job, and it was like all of these stories that had been bottled up for years came pouring out. And then, one day, I woke up, and that creative deluge was gone.

At first I thought it was writer’s block, but the feeling wasn’t the same. When I have writer’s block, I desperately want to write, and can’t. This feeling was different, a sense that I no longer wanted to write.

I’m a very driven person, and I need goals to focus on. Without those goals, I started to drift, feeling like I was wandering aimlessly through life, completely disconnected from my creativity. I had, in short, entered a dry spell.

I almost gave up on it, losing faith that I would ever again pen fiction. I tried to write new stories, but my imagination couldn’t cook up plots. I read articles about authors like Ursula Le Guin, inspiring tales of the creative process. It didn’t help. I still couldn’t write.

One day, I sat down in the café of a Barnes & Noble, my laptop in front of me. “Write something,” I told myself, unable to drift any longer. “Anything.” If I couldn’t write anymore, I’d decided, I would create a new goal. I dreamt up possibilities, but nothing stuck. I longed for the days when stories flowed like spring rivers fed by melting snowpack. I longed for the days when every moment held creative possibility. My creativity had always defined me, and it seemed to have disappeared.

That day in Barnes & Noble, I wrote a poem, the lamentation of a dragon whose kind have lost a war and are on the verge of extinction. If I couldn’t write fiction, I would write something else, I decided. I came home that day with hope that I could, once again, create.

I wish I could say that that day the dam broke. But it wasn’t like that. It was more the feeling of the first fat drops of rain falling on your head. A splatter here, a splatter there, but not yet creative energy in full force.

Drop by drop, my creative energy is returning. Perhaps what I felt was creative burnout, the result of penning story after story and setting completely unrealistic expectations for myself, expectations that went against my own creative process.

My plan is to publish another short story later this year, a piece titled Silver’s Stray. I’m not going to push myself to meet a lot of deadlines. I’m not going to set crazy goals. My goals are simple:

  • To really work on my author platform
  • To finish and polish Silver’s Stray and publish it by the end of the year
  • To finish and polish Spirits of Embers, a short story, and submit to at least one magazine
  • To launch my editing business

That’s it. I took a detour, saw a glimpse of what my life would be like without the creative drive that I wake to each day. It’s a drive to write something, anything—a journal entry, a spell, a story, a poem, a blog post. It’s a drive to create, however quickly or slowly. It’s a drive to give something meaningful to the world.

Have you ever gone through a creative dry spell? How did you handle it? How were you able to begin to create again?

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#ROW80 check-ins, indie publishing, personal journeys

A Midweek Check-In—and a Request

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m on sort of a mini-sabbatical. I feel like I pushed so hard with my writing for a few months, and I’m feeling a little burned out. I’m hoping a few weeks off will help me recharge my batteries.

So there’s not much to report on the writing front. I do need to do some editing to my short story Silver’s Stray and send it to my critique partners. We’re meeting later this month, so I hope to dig into that story tomorrow and Friday and get it sent to my CPs.

As far as reading, I just finished reading Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. It was a little darker than I remembered it being at some points, but I hadn’t read it since grad school, so it was time for a reread. My mother-in-law lent me Shadow of Night and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, so I think I’ll dig into those next.

I do have a request, though. I published two novelettes last week, The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key, and I’m offering free review copies to whoever wants them. A free e-book in exchange for an honest review. Let me know in the comments or via my contact page if you’re interested. And thanks in advance!

Click here to connect with other ROW80 participants.

What about you? How is your writing coming along? Have you ever taken the time to reread a book you haven’t read in years? Did the reread surprise you in any way? Are you interested in a free review copy of one of my stories? Let me know!

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new releases

Now Available: “The Beltane Kiss” and “The Faerie Key”

It’s official; my novelettes The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key are now available on Amazon. The stories follow the McAllister sisters as they find romance and are drawn into a world of faerie magic.

More info:

THE BELTANE KISS

The Beltane Kiss fantasy romance book cover(Into the Faerie Forest: Book One)

Daisy McAllister would do anything to save her sister, Lily, plunged into an endless sleep by faerie magic. Even enter a forbidden wood.

But braving the forest means facing the “lord” of the manor—wealthy recluse Rhett Fairshadow. He sees himself as a guardian, protecting humans from the fae who inhabit his land.

When a determined Daisy meets an angry Rhett one Beltane night, sparks fly.

THE BELTANE KISS is a novelette of approximately 11,000 words.

PRAISE FOR THE BELTANE KISS:

“The magic in this story really sparkles, and the fae episodes are eerie and haunting.”— Amelia Denyven Ross

Now available at Amazon.

 

THE FAERIE KEY

The Faerie Key fantasy romance book cover(Into the Faerie Forest: Book Two)

A simple protection spell. What could go wrong?

Lily McAllister learns that spells can backfire when her magical dabbling summons a house-elf to her door—a six-foot-something, muscled house-elf with glittering green eyes.

But Neer has a history, too, and soon his past catches up with him, forcing him and Lily into the faerie forest. Together they will face the perils within.

THE FAERIE KEY is a novelette of approximately 14,000 words.

Now available at Amazon.

Enjoy!

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