Revisions, Remodels, and Retreats: July So Far…

Floyd Retreat 2018
Hotel Floyd, Virginia.

July started off with a peaceful retreat in the nearby small town of Floyd, Virginia. Floyd is a small town that’s full of music and breweries.

We didn’t partake in the breweries during our stay, but we did stay at Hotel Floyd and eat some good food at nearby restaurants, including far more ice cream than was sensible at the Floyd Country Store. In evenings, music filled the streets, and we strolled along, dreaming the dreams that arise from days of quiet work and contemplation.

In case you’re wondering, hubby and I started the month off with a creative retreat. He’s working on game development now that his master’s work is completed, and I started draft seven (Seven! Squee!) of my novel Spellfire’s Kiss. I only managed to revise two chapters, but I went over those several times.

When we returned home, we dove straight into a major home renovation project: tearing out nasty old carpet in our living and dining rooms and replacing it with vinyl floor planks. Honestly, we’ve spent more time tearing out the carpet and leveling the floors than we have actually installing the new floors. I will share pictures when it’s finished, but so far, we’re please with the results. It’s just taking us DIYers forever!

And that, of course, brings me to the revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. Migraines and problems with my hands are slowing me down. I am having mysterious pains in both hands that make it hard to work for any length of time, so frequent breaks are required. But I am slowly, scene by scene, deepening this story.

I can see what this story was always meant to be. Not a sweeping epic fantasy, but a story about love, about loyalty, about family, about magic, about the battle between good and evil that is waged in each and every person.

I continue to “revise” my home, making it a place where my soul is refreshed and I can retreat, to create, love, laugh, honor, make magic, and enjoy life to the fullest, a place where animals can play, people can gather, and stories can be told.

I continue to revise Spellfire’s Kiss, making it the quiet, magical love story it was always meant to be.

And I continue to work toward improving my health. I had an MRI this week, which thankfully was normal. My doctor prescribed something to hopefully decrease the number of migraines I get, and I’m doing well limiting my sugar intake, though the remodel means I don’t currently have a place to practice yoga. Maybe a corner of the bedroom until the living room is available again?

I’ve been stalled on chapter three of Spellfire’s Kiss since our return from Floyd, but I just purchased a much-needed copy of GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict and am hoping that book will help me figure out what exactly is going on.

And that goals list I posted last week? I’m thinking those aren’t just my goals for Round 3, but for Round 4 as well. But more on that later.

More than ever, I am working toward a life of connection—connection to community, both in person and online; connection to spirit and magic; connection to loved ones, both human and animals; connection to my characters and their stories; connection between mind, body, and spirit, and the nurturing of each one; and connection to my own dreams and visions for the future.

What about you? How are you nurturing yourself this week? If you’re participating in ROW80 (the writing challenge that knows you have a life), how has the first week gone for you?

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Turning Plans into Action: (Lots of) Round 3 Goals

Ursula Le Guin Fiction Quote

It’s time for Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days–the writing challenge that knows you have a life!

If Round 2 was about cupping an ear and listening, about learning and intensive study, about thought and preparation, then Round 3 is the action stage.

In Round 2 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, I began my studies in aromatherapy, took a workshop on deep POV, and mostly researched, prepared, and planned.

Of course, the best laid plans go oft awry, which is why I try to remain flexible, even as I put plans into action.

My list for this round is extensive. I have two projects that are about 90 percent completed but need some polishing and deepening. Those need to be finished and sent out on submission, so they are top priorities. I have several other projects that are also calling to me, but I’m more flexible on those because they’re in the early stages.

I definitely want to get back into blogging and actively visiting others’ blogs. I’ve been having some mysterious health woes that are now affecting my hands, so I’m really hoping the weird sensations in my hands don’t interfere with this goal. Seriously ROWers—I miss you!

I also recognize that my health needs attention, and I have been chipping away at bad habits—such as a sweet tooth and tendency to be lazy when it comes to cooking from scratch. Health is foundational, so I will be easing into some yoga and stretching this round while moving away from sugary or processed foods toward a home-cooked, natural diet.

And, as hubby and I debate whether to stay in our cozy townhome and for how long, we’re fixing it up, though whether for ourselves or new occupants, we’re not yet sure. In any event, worn-out carpets are being torn out and replaced with durable vinyl plank flooring, warped countertops and leaky faucets shall be replaced with shinier new upgrades, and clutter is slowly falling away, room by room.

The plan is to write daily, Monday through Friday, from 4 to 5 p.m. No interruptions, no excuses. Of course, I want to write more than that, but I’m hoping starting with this small, manageable goal will give me momentum.

As Ursula K. Le Guin said, “The use of imaginative fiction is to deepen your understanding of your world, and your fellow men, and your own feelings, and your destiny.”

As I delve deeper into my stories, I recognize that what has kept me from taking my stories to soaring heights and gut-wrenching depths is this deepening of character emotion. I’m shying away from the depths of despair, the terror of seeing your worst nightmare brought to life, the fear of repeating the past, the intense vulnerability of fledgling love.

And so, armed with new knowledge, I go forward. This round is all about crafting the stories that I so intensely want to tell—and moving forward on my storyteller’s path.

All that said, here are my goals for this round. They are extensive, but my plan is to only report on active goals.

WRITING

  • Finish a draft of Spellfire’s Kiss; query.
  • Finish and resubmit Oak-Bound.
  • POTENTIAL WRITING GOALS: first draft of Wild Tarot; first draft of Silver’s Stray, a paranormal cozy mystery; fourth draft of Rose Petals and Dragon Scales; first draft of a nonfiction project.

BLOGGING/SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Respond to blog comments and return visits to commenters’ blogs.
  • Regularly post ROW80 check-ins and keep up with commenting on other ROWers blogs.
  • Make and post one video per month.

HEALTH

  • Do yoga or gentle stretching daily.
  • Eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy whole foods and fewer processed foods. Also work on seriously minimizing the amount of sugar in my diet.
  • Try making my own bread, granola, etc.
  • Continue making my own cleaning and bath products.
  • Finish aromatherapy courses on Udemy.

HEARTH & HOME

  • Replace worn-out carpet in living/dining rooms with new flooring.
  • Remodel upstairs bathroom.
  • New kitchen countertops and sink.
  • Painting—neutral colors—where needed.
  • Hang all remaining artwork.
  • Clean attic.
  • Organize office closet.
  • Clean out storage shed.
  • Decluttering—items to thrift store.

*exhales deeply*

Wow! I have a busy few months ahead of me. What about you? As we sprint through summer, iced tea with lemon in hand, our skin sun-kissed (for those of us who dwell in the northern hemisphere), what plans do you have?

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Robins, Daffodils, and ROW80 Round 2 Goals

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Dreamstime | Creative Commons Zero

Isn’t spring the very essence of simplicity? The daffodils speak of simple happiness, and the breeze carries the merry tunes of birds. We’re called outdoors once more. One of my favorite aspects of living in a rather outdoorsy college town is how the entire town comes out of hibernation, as though winter were a spell that’s broken by the magic of spring.

Thursday it was in the mid-seventies, and I swept leaves from the patio and put out the chair cushions and pillows for our outdoor furniture. Leo and I went for a walk in the nearby park, and people were just chilling in hammocks, soaking in the sun. Everywhere, children played, people jogged or walked their dogs, and there was a beautiful aliveness in the air.

Such pleasures take no money, only time, only the ability to be present and open to each moment. And that is simple living. Being present, being mindful, knowing that each moment is a gift.

March was admittedly a crazy month, and I apologize to those of you who visited the blog and left comments. Our washer went out, which seems a simple enough fix, except that our setup required the entire laundry area to be revamped and both a new washer and dryer purchased. Then the big, name-brand store was unable to remove the old machines, so we are now waiting for a local place to complete the job. But the big dilemma was that my newish laptop died, and the fix, while not expensive, was complicated, and my hubby was too busy doing home renovations to address the laptop issue (he has a master’s in IT, so no way he would let me take it to Geek Squad—that’s just not frugal, and he’s so not into unnecessary expenses).

Anyway, thank the gods, the laptop is working again, and hopefully I can now respond to blog comments and visit fellow writers’ and bookworms’ blogs again. Whew!

On to ROW80, Round 2 of 2018. The big goal for this round is Spellfire’s Kiss. I’ve revised chapters 1 through 6. It’s currently 14 chapters but will likely be more like 15 or 16 once I add a few scenes and break up some unnecessarily long chapters. That is Goal No. 1 for Round 2. I’m trying to be flexible with other writing goals, but I would like to work on the next draft of Rose Petals and Dragons Scales (formerly A Prince in Patience Point). That story is finally telling me the shape it wants to take, and I’m doing my best to listen.

In addition, I want to blog at least once a week, comment on three blogs per day, and respond as promptly as possible to blog comments.

On the hearth and home front, in addition to the laundry renovation, I have a number of other projects in progress or that I’d like to work on. I’m redecorating the living room (which I started before the washing machine fiasco). I’d like to finish that, create a message center in our hallway (more on that later), and generally declutter. My husband’s office needs a thorough decluttering, and our bedroom could use some tidying. The bathroom is in desperate need of a facelift (cracked pink tile, believe it or not), and the kitchen needs a refresh as well.

The goal is a fresh, tidy home with touches of whimsy, a place that sparkles with magic. Expect more blog posts on that as well.

I am sooo glad to be blogging again after the laptop woes. And I am ready for spring birdsong, thunderstorms, and afternoons on the patio. Such are the things of the simple life, the joys that inspire my writing.

If you’re looking for a writing challenge that knows you have a life, join us at A Round of Words in 80 Days! We write, we blog, we cheer, we encourage!

Now, tell me about you! What have I missed? Any big news in your lives? What are your goals for spring?

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Coastal Magic Con Adventures!

Coastal Magic Con 2018 Alethea Kontis Denise D Young
With the lovely Alethea Kontis at this year’s Coastal Magic Con.

The Dreaming Gina BrigantiIt’s been an amazing, wonderful, joy-filled week and a half. I spent six days in beautiful Daytona Beach, Florida, at this year’s Coastal Magic Con. I made a few friends, including the lovely Gina Briganti, whose book, The Dreaming, I can’t wait to read, and Nancy Holland, who just published Thalgor’s Witch, the book of her heart. I also met too many wonderful authors to name, folks like Wendy Owens, Alethea Kontis, and Leanna Renee Hieber, who seem like such sweet, creative souls! I left with more books than I could ever possibly read, and a spirit filled with inspiration and buoyed by the energy of so many writers, readers, and bloggers gathered together in one place.

I’ve now returned to the mountains of Virginia, curling up with a cup of tea and trying to get out of vacation mode and back into writing mode. I have a novel critique to finish by Friday, and some lessons plans to do for Friday’s ESL class. And, of course, I have more WIPs than I can manage, all jostling and clamoring for attention. A Prince in Patience Point has a new opening and a fresh direction, and I’ve realized I really need to work out Neal’s character arc before I dig into the next draft. I’m also looking for Regency-inspired fantasy stories as research for that story, so if you Thalgors Witch Nancy Hollandknow of any, please leave your recommendations in the comments! And revisions to Spellfire’s Kiss are under way as well.

It’s been a big week writing-wise too. I had a short story accepted for publication in a magazine (Squee!!!), and received a request for a full manuscript from an editor at a publishing house. Like I said, a big, full week.

My mind is overflowing with new information and endless possibilities. The trick in the coming days will be to focus my energy and get some words on the page.

The trick, I think, is to do some grounding. Journaling helps me to get all of the ideas and information out of my head and onto the page, and meditation helps me to center and ground myself. I have some grounding stones I can use—maybe some black tourmaline or shungite?

My energy cycles seem to be closely tied to the cycles of the earth, and as the daffodils and crocuses bloom and the temperatures warm, I find myself reenergized, waking like the sleeping earth. Of course, for most of us, energy ebbs and flows, and that’s natural, but I look forward to long afternoon walks and mornings sitting outside listening to birdsong and writing on the patio.

Is spring returning where you are? Have you ever attended a convention or writing conference? I’d love to hear from you!

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Digging Deeper, in Life and Art

Mountains and Clouds in January

One of the most magical years of my life was spent living on a farm in rural Southwest Virginia. I’d rise in the morning and, before it was too hot, work in the large garden I tended. Afterward I’d sit on the porch, read poetry, work on my master’s thesis, write poetry—I even tried my hand at making jewelry.

It was a creative time in my life, one full of possibilities. Surrounded by mountains and forest, with the New River just down the hill, I was connected to nature and spirit in a way I hadn’t been in a very long time.

Though life has since moved me into town, I still strive to remain close to nature. The photo above is from Monday’s afternoon walk with my dog Leo. Though I live in a townhouse, I’m blessed to have a park filled with walking trails just steps from my backdoor, and we walk there daily.

During Monday’s walk, Leo and I were walking the hills. I paused to admire the way the clouds hung close to the brow of the mountains. I breathed in cool air, aware that cold air was soon to follow, perhaps bringing with it a dusting of snow.

This is digging deep. It’s savoring these precious everyday moments. It’s listening to the flow of things and being present. It is only when we’re connected to the flow that we can live both simply and creatively.

I returned home, where I curled up with a cup of tea and my laptop and put the finishing touches on my novella. It is officially query-ready. I’m still waiting for some feedback on my synopsis, and once that’s revised, I will be sending Oak-Bound off to editors, in hopes of finding a home for a story that began whispering to me five years ago. I wasn’t ready to tell it then, but last summer, I realized it was time.

I’ve done several drafts, each time listening intently to my characters and their reactions. Each time letting my world unfold on the page, helping the story to shine.

This is the creative process. This is why revision is so vital. Too often I’ve dreaded revision, but when I think of it not as the dreaded chore of revising but instead as the magic of digging deeper, it becomes less of a chore and more of an adventure.

With any luck, 2018 will be a year of digging deeper into my life and my art. On the home front, I’m paring away the excess, parting with objects that no longer serve me to create the sort of home I’ve always wanted: cozy, soothing, tidy—with a touch whimsy and a hint of magic. On the writing front, I’m listening intently to my stories, allowing them to unfold in their own way, not forcing them into prescribed criteria but instead letting them happen organically.

I’m a firm believer that we must envision the life we want and then find ways, slowly but surely, to bring that vision into being. What’s that saying? That goals are dreams with deadlines? Sure, maybe sometimes. But I think, perhaps, that goals are dreams made tangible. It’s not so much that we need a deadline (although sometimes, for us writers, that helps) as it is that we need a way to help dreams take root and find form.

Digging deeper allows us to pare away the excess to find the authenticity that lies beneath. Too often, our lives are buried under the stuff we own, the trappings we carry that no longer serve us. To dig deeper in our lives, we must work toward a vision of what we truly want to make of our “one wild and precious life.” To dig deeper in our storytelling, we must listen to our characters, make them and their worlds come to life.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my newly completed novella, Oak-Bound.

He landed hard against cold, damp earth. The smells of rich, fertile soil mixed with moss and mushrooms tickled his nose.

The light was diffused gray here—wherever here was. Tendrils of silvery-white mist snaked along the ground as though they were living, sentient things. One began to crawl up his leg, wrapping him like a boa constrictor. Nick took a few quick steps back.

What are you? The mist seemed to whisper in a thick, raspy voice.

He is not from here, another, higher voice hissed.

Human? The first voice.

“Yes,” Nick answered, the single word laced with uncertainty.

Ah. Welcome to The Crossroads.

“The Crossroads?” He furrowed his brow. “The place between life and death?”

High-pitched laughter met his ear.

This place is so much more. Here the roots of every tree, every plant, the energy of every living thing weave together to create a tapestry of life. The dead pass through here on occasion, but this place is not death, young one. Not at all.

Something inside Nick relaxed, a coil of fear inside his belly easing slightly. Not for himself, but for Cassie. He still had time.

What about you? How are you digging deeper into life and creativity? I’d love to hear from you!

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Celebrating “Slow”

 

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

2018 is off to a bumpy start, with various ailments keeping me under the weather off and on for the past few weeks.

But what I’m learning is not just that slow is okay. Okay implies mediocre, acceptable, just getting by.

I’m learning that, perhaps, instead of just accepting slow, we should celebrate it.

Slow isn’t lazy. Slow isn’t a waste of time.

Slow is savoring.

Slow is honoring.

Slow is being present.

Slow is thoughtful, grateful, compassionate, and kind.

Without periods of slowness, I don’t know how we live creative, purposeful lives. We need periods of stillness, reflection, and introspection.

In our society, we’re taught to multitask, work efficiently, save time, do more, more, more. We’re obsessed with more. If I only had more stuff. If I only wrote more words today. If only I accomplished more. And this builds to the destructive phrase, “If only I were more.”

But the thing about slow is that it teaches us that we are enough, exactly as we are.

The obsession with more is the opposite of gratitude. We live in a fast culture of instant gratification, but slowness teaches us to savor a homecooked meal with family or friends. Slowness is sitting with your morning cup of coffee and, instead of browsing the web or checking email, taking time to be with your thoughts. Taking time to reflect.

Slowness is not laziness, but rather a way of adding depth and meaning to our lives.

There will always be deadlines and to-do lists, days where we’re in a frenzied hurry. But there must also be periods of slowness.

So, set goals. Make them SMART. Create deadlines and to-do lists.

But also make space for that which cannot be measured, for joy and delight. For a slow dinner with your significant other or children. For a long walk in the park listening to the birds sing. For stargazing on a clear night. For gazing up at the moon with wonder. For stopping to enjoy the view. For savoring a cup of coffee and daydreaming.

These moments are precious. These moments are magic. Cherish them, and know that much of what matters in life cannot be quantified.

Most of all, celebrate slow. Treasure the times you’re able to just slow down and savor the moment. Stop trying to cram the mystery of your one precious life into some random metric. Simply live. Slow is not lazy. It’s just choosing to focus on the journey instead of the destination. It’s merely shifting our metric from quantity to quality. It’s diving deep rather than skimming the surface.

***

For ease of reading, I’m dividing my #ROW80 goals into three categories: creative living, healthy living, and simple living. Understand that there is a lot of overlap between these, and the three are interconnected and, in many ways, inseparable. But I’m going to try it.

CREATIVE LIVING

This week, as my body healed from whatever mysterious ailment I suffered from, I shook off the exhaustion and aches and continued my steady writing journey.

I began to work through my husband’s comments on Oak-Bound, a fantasy romance novella. The story is close and I hope to submit it by the end of the month. I’m also about a third of the way through the synopsis for this story.

I also responded to blog comments and made sure to visit other people’s blogs as well. I apologize if I missed anyone. I’m trying to get back into a regular habit of responding to comments and visiting others’ blogs.

HEALTHY LIVING

My goal is to ride the exercise bike daily, but this week was more about resting and healing than about exercise. I did succeed in cutting out a lot of the sugar in my diet, so I’m doing better on that front. Keeping less junk food in the house seems to be key.

SIMPLE LIVING

I took another pass at the guest room closet, tossing old crafting supplies and duplicate office supplies. I ended up with a large trash bag full of items I can now part with, and two boxes of stuff intended for Goodwill. I also organized the bookshelves—we’ve gone from five bookshelves at one point down to two, and I packed up two more boxes of books to go to the library. I organized my jewelry and am attempting an experiment with my clothing, outerwear, and shoes in which I try to only own 100 items of clothing. (I might write a post about that experiment later, if anyone is interested.)

I am not rushing, but taking slow, steady steps, letting my life unfold at its own pace. Leaning into simplicity. Gradually decluttering and tidying my home. Listening to my characters and their stories and drawing them into this world, out of the ether from which stories are born.

Sometimes we speed along toward a destination, but I’m trying to embrace the journey, to find beauty in each word, each scene, each moment. If I am to lead a life that blends simplicity and creativity, I cannot neglect the beauty of the present.

What about you? Do you find yourself racing through life and checking off an endless to-do list? How have you embraced slowness in your life—or how would you like to?

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The Problem with Perfectionism

Coffee with Crumpled Paper
Shirley Hu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Confession time: I am a recovering perfectionist. I am striving to embrace my human imperfection because I have come to realize that is the only path to meaningful fulfillment in life. And I am recovering because I know my struggle with perfectionism is lifelong. The seeds of perfectionism will always be waiting to sprout inside me, if through self-doubt and self-unkindness, I water them and provide them with fertile soil.

Reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly helped me realize what a tremendous burden my perfectionism was—and more importantly, why it had developed. Perfectionism is a form of armor against vulnerability. And vulnerability is scary. But it’s also necessary. Without vulnerability, there is no true love, no vibrant joy, no great adventure. Afraid of judgment or ridicule, I wielded perfectionism like a shield. This is especially harmful because I am a writer. I exist in the creative arena. To create anything meaningful, vulnerability is necessary.

One of my biggest epiphanies as a creative came to me in the middle of the night. As a self-professed night owl, I’m prone to midnight epiphanies, and so I wasn’t surprised, though I was moved by the awakening this realization stirred.

It went something like this: There is no such thing as a perfect book. The best of books has its critics. What one reader loves, another loathes. The best we can strive for is to create a story that moves someone, to stir human emotion, whether joy, sorrow, hope, sadness, excitement, or passion. Or, perhaps, all of these.

This seems obvious, but perfectionism is sneaky. It has its tricks to convince us otherwise.

This dawning was liberating. It freed me from the sharp briars of perfectionism. It renewed my joy in the creative process. It doesn’t make writing easy, but it does make it more enjoyable, more exciting.

Brown opens her book with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I think can serve creatives and recovering perfectionists well:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So, onward I march, flawed and imperfect. Fumbling and failing all the while, I strive forward, toiling at the page, living the life of a storyteller. Starting next year, I will be sending my stories out to editors and agents, daring greatly.

This week I started the second draft of Oak-Bound. The plan is to incorporate my critique partner’s suggestions and a few changes of my own I want to make and then send it to my husband for his feedback. After that, I’ll make some more changes and hopefully by January, it will be ready for submission. I also want to start the next draft of Spellfire’s Kiss this month and try to get that ready for submission early next year.

I’ll share another quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I think can serve creatives well:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Or, as Buffy more succinctly said:

“The hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”

Be brave. Live deeply. Dream wildly. Create passionately. Embrace imperfection.

What about you? In what areas of your life have you struggled with perfectionism? How are you daring greatly?

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Autumn—With a Dash of Chill

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

Late autumn is here in earnest this week, with some chilly temps and soggy days. It’s been a week for sipping tea and curling up under a blanket with a good book.

I’m finally getting around to responding to blog comments, and I apologize for the delay. Having two new part-time jobs has sent my schedule all topsy-turvy, and I’m still finding my groove and getting into a new routine.

It’s also been a year of introspection, as I really have delved deep into what I want out of this one wild, precious life. I want to be a storyteller more than anything, but I also want to travel, to have adventures, and to help people. So, I’m processing all of that as well as slowly progressing on my stories.

That brings me to the big progress for this week. Here’s where I’m at with my fourth-quarter goals.

  1. Finish a draft of Oak-BoundI’m officially finished with the first draft. I wrote the ending lines a few weeks ago, but there were a number of changes to make before I sent it off to my critique partner. And it’s sent!
  2. Revise Spellfire’s Kiss, once I receive feedback from my kind and helpful beta reader. On hold until December.
  3. Participate in one or two community events each month. Went to a local craft fair Friday afternoon.
  4. Meditate or do yoga twice a week. 
  5. Continue paring away the excess in our home and making the townhouse our own. I found some flooring online for the living/dining rooms, and we’re hoping to go look at it in person on Sunday.
  6. Bonus Goal: Baba Yaga novelette. Now that Oak-Bound is finished, I’m off to work on this story. I’d like to finish a draft before Nov. 20, when I meet with my CP, so I can work on the second draft of Oak-Bound while my novelette, tentatively titled Ancient Charm, rests for a while. Current: 2K/12K.

It’s hard to believe, but soon it will be Thanksgiving, with the winter holidays following fast on its heels. I’m enjoying the last stubborn traces of autumn leaves before winter sweeps them away, while embracing the coziness of the colder seasons.

What about you? What have you been up to lately, writing, reading, or otherwise? I’ve missed the online community, and I’m glad to be back with all of you!

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Round 4: Intentions

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Triberg waterfall, in the Black Forest region of Germany. Photo by my husband, Ryan Spoon, August 2017.

Since my return from my trip to Germany in August, I’ve entered a period of quiet introspection. What direction do I want to go in my life? Am I on an authentic path that will allow me to drink from the wellspring of creativity? How do I define success, and how have I internalized society’s definition of success?

My head spinning with such questions, the universe brought Tami Lynn Kent’s book Wild Creative into my life. I didn’t devour the book. I read it intently, studying some passages over and over and taking my time with the prescribed exercises. A few of my favorite quotes from Wild Creative:

“Most of our current work and life structures have been devised to emphasize production and how much we can accomplish rather than the nurturing of the soul. This routinely takes us away from our natural inclinations and the flow of our energy field.”

“Taking ownership of one’s creative life force is a conscious act to change the focus from exclusively monetary values to modes that value life.”

“Though we may tend to take note of visibly productive years where we have ‘something to show’ for our work, the less visible years are equally important and essential to the overall creative journey.”

Too often as writers, we’re obsessed with word counts. There’s the #1k1hr hashtag. There’s NaNoWriMo, in which we’re given the daunting task of writing 50,000 words in a month. There’s the infamous 1-millionth word we pen. And there are countless prescriptions out there for how many words we should write in a day.

Naturally, wanting to “succeed,” I followed such models, only to find myself burnt out. The wellspring of creativity was dry. I would write in short bursts when inspiration struck, or force myself through a revision, only to grow burnt out and exhausted once more.

So 2017 will not shape up to be a year of epic word counts. Instead, I believe, it is a year of introspection, of peering deep inside myself and trying to ascertain the life I truly want.

That life is authentic. It is imperfect. It is one of individually defined success. It is sometimes messy, often beautiful, filled with countless moments of joy. Watching Leo chew on sticks in the yard while I sip my coffee and read a book. Enjoying the color of the rose bushes as they bloom. Cooking a simple meal. Making my own home products—so far this year, I’ve discovered recipes for laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and lavender goat’s milk soap. Owning less and living more. Travel as a form of discovering self and connecting with the world around me. And, of course, creating art, stories that, if I do my job, will enchant and inspire.

My latest work in progress, Oak-Bound, is one that came to me five years ago. I wasn’t ready to write it then, and it came out flat and forced. I tried again a year ago. Same result. Back in July, I stopped and I listened. Like a tree, I stretched my roots deep into the loamy soil of inspiration, and I soaked up what I found.

I am finally ready to give form to this story, a novella-length work about loss, grief, trauma, and healing, and the human relation with the divine and nature. I want to tell stories that spring from my heart, stories that are vibrant and authentic, and Cassie and Nick’s story feels like one of those stories. I very much hope to share it with you one day.

Thus, I have no “goals” for the last quarter of 2017. Instead, I share with you my intentions for the rest of the year:

  1. Finish a draft of Oak-Bound.
  2. Revise Spellfire’s Kiss, once I receive feedback from my kind and helpful beta reader.
  3. Participate in one or two community events each month.
  4. Meditate or do yoga twice a week.
  5. Continue paring away the excess in our home and making the townhouse our own.

As the Wheel turns toward Samhain and the seasons cycle toward winter, I will continue to dig deep, to listen closely, to spend time in nature, and to move toward authenticity.

What about you? What are your intentions for the rest of 2017? Have you read Wild Creative? Do any of the quotes above resonate with you?

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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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