Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer's Over Already!?

I have no freaking clue where August went. All I know is that my oldest started his second year of college this week, and my youngest has tenth grade orientation tonight.

Seriously, August...what happened?

I'll admit that I'm more than ready for the cooler weather of fall. It's, by far, my favorite season. I'm looking forward to wearing sweaters and cups of hot tea.  Well, not wearing cups of hot tea, though given my super graceful track record, wearing the tea is just as likely as drinking it.

I'm ready for the changing leaves and that almost painful shade of blue the sky gets in late autumn. It's so beautiful and bright, it practically hurts your eyes to look at it. I'm ready for pumpkins and crock pot suppers and mulled wine and homemade bread. I'm ready to sit in the hammock swing in the backyard and read. And I'll definitely be reading - after all Maggie Stiefvater and Alexandra Bracken's new books will be out soon. *obsessively checks release dates again*

One thing I'll miss about summer is having my kids home. I like hanging out with them. They make me laugh every day. And they surprise me every day, too. I enjoy having their friends over and listening to their maniacal laughter. I've even been teaching one of my oldest son's friends to cook. He's trying to impress a girl. Of course. But we've had fun playing lab rats for his kitchen experiments.

But the school year is well on its way, and so are all of the great things that go along with it. I can't wait to see what this autumn brings.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Sun Award

The absolutely wonderful Shanah Wooldrage awarded me the Summer Sun Award. If you don't know Shanah, you should - she's a delightful blogger, animal lover, writer, mom and she absolutely brightens my day. I love getting emails from her - they always make me smile. In addition to calling out people who brighten our days, there's also a summer fun aspect to it.

Favorite song with summer in the title or the lyrics (give the line): Summer Vibe by Walk Off the Earth. It just makes me want to kick back by the lake. Here's the video if you haven't heard it.

Favorite book about summer: Drac and the Gremlin by Alan Baille and illustrated by Jane Tanner. It's one of my favorite children's books and it tells the story of a girl pretending to be a warrior queen (Drac) and her little brother (Gremlin) who are battling together to save the planet of the White Wizard. It reminds me of the pretend games my bother and I used to play.

Favorite hot summer film: It'll probably always be Star Wars. I remember it came out the summer that I was 11 (yeah...I'm old) and I remember standing in line that went twice around the building in the hot July sun. We got sunburned, but it was totally worth it. However, if we're talking this year's movies, my favorite is definitely the new Star Trek film.

Favorite summer memory: Hmmmm...going on our yearly writing retreat is definitely up there and so is, believe it or not, learning to drive a tractor and hauling hay.

Favorite summer holiday destination: Lake Superior - one of the most gorgeous, magical, dangerous places I know.

What books will be in your suitcase this summer? Let's see...I just read The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken while on our family vacation. It was fantastic. I highly recommend it! And I'm currently reading The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton and enjoying that as well.

What’s your likely destination this summer? I've already returned from my destination - Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's the land of wilderness, lakes and very little internet. 

What hottie would you most like to be sharing the hot days and long nights with this summer? Hmmm...aside from the hubby, I'm gonna have to go with Benedict Cumberbatch and David Tennant.

What? I'm greedy. And I like Brits.

Here are the rules:

1.     Display the Summer Sun Award logo and link back to the blog of the person who nominated you.
2.     Answer the questions listed above.
3.     Nominate further lucky recipients.

I nominate the following people for brightening various areas of my internet and life:     

Leigh Jones
Tess Grant
Lynn Dozema


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Writer's Retreat - The Wrap Up

It seems like forever since I've blogged, but I guess it's only been a couple weeks. Two weeks ago today, I was exploring Copper Harbor, Michigan, eating muffins as big as my head made by a sect of Orthodox monks who live on the shore of Lake Superior, hanging with some of my best friends and writing my fingers off on a couple new stories.

There is something amazing about hanging for a whole week with other writers. We have the best conversations, we spur each other on with word count, we help each other through plotting problems and we laugh so hard our faces and stomachs hurt. It's pretty much heaven.

Getting back to reality is tough, but I know exactly where I'll be next year and it's going to be equally amazing. These are some shots of some of the personalities of Lake Superior and the Lake Superior shoreline - my constant writing companions that week and a huge source of my inspiration.

Please join us and share your inspiration on the Thursday's Children blog hop!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday's Children - Writers Retreat

In a day and a half, I'll be leaving for my favorite place with some of my favorite people. Some dear friends and fellow writers and I will be heading about 400 miles north to Lake Superior. We're renting a house right on the eastern side of the Keweenaw Peninsula and we'll be writing our little hearts out, laughing our butts off and drinking wine.

Once we reach our daily word count, we're free to explore the area, swim or heck, even nap. It's going to be glorious. We did it last year, and I'm sure we'll be doing it again next year. Before I run around like a mad woman desperately trying to finish everything I need to finish before Saturday morning, I'd like to share some pictures of our getaway.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday's Children - Walking

Since returning from my conference last month, I've been walking everyday - 2 to 3 miles a day depending on the weather and how much time I have. I have to admit, I'm not one of those people who likes to exercise Sweating, in no way, appeals to me, and frankly, I'm much more into lounging. However, I'm now walking. Every. Day.

I'm almost sort of enjoying it. Like many other Thursday's Children have mentioned, walking is inspirational. While I'm trudging through the neighborhood, I see all sorts of things that inspire me.

The pug who purposely blocks my way until I agree to pet him.Once I pet him, he moves.
The color of bluebells as they graduate from a twilight blue to velvet white.
The little smiley face stickers that someone placed on the sidewalk on Tamarack Street once yellow and now faded to almost white.
The insanely sweet scent of lilacs and peonies. 
The band of rabid terriers that throw themselves against their gate, desperate to attack me.
The orange and white cat that insists that I pick him up and carry it from one end of the block to the other.
The squirrel with the compulsive eating disorder.
The little girl on Jennette Street who sits and pouts on her front stoop every morning before finally schlumphing off to school.
Even the mom who screams nonstop at her 3 little kids while she walks them to the crossing guard. (Though, I won't tell you what she inspires me to do...)

I've had to walk on the treadmill a couple of times because of thunderstorms. I hate it. I don't feel inspired at all. I just feel crabby. I know that for a few miles, I should be able to rely on my one brain to entertain and inspire me, but there's nothing. Just the utter loathing of the treadmill with its flashing lights and numbers.

Physically, the treadmill is probably doing an equal amount of good compared to my outside walks, but emotionally and inspiration-ally, I apparently need fresh air and the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. When I get home from my walks, I"m always ready to write even if nothing I've encountered makes its way into my manuscripts.

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday's Children - Drum Circles

Last weekend, I was able to participate in the March Against Monsanto with my mom and my oldest son. After the march there was a drum circle, and I love me some drum circles. My son, who drums incessantly to any rhythm playing, decided that he'd like to come along too. We had a blast.

If anyone is unfamiliar with the idea of a drum circle, it's basically a bunch of people coming together to hang out for an hour or two and play hand drums and other percussion instruments. 

It's also much more than that.

Other than my son, I only knew one other person in the group, but we plopped ourselves on the grass with about ten or twelve strangers and formed a circle. The woman facilitating the gathering suggested we all start together with a two tap heartbeat pattern. We all played together for a few minutes and then things started to change.

Here and there, people started to change things up. New rhythms evolved. Everyone was doing something a little different, but it all worked perfectly to complement the whole sound. There were five or six little kids running in and out of the group - occasionally picking up an instrument and playing with it or more often, just dancing around. It might sound a little chaotic, and really, it kind of was. But it was also really cool watching and listening to everything evolving organically to create this wonderful whole that couldn't possibly be duplicated.

In a way, it's like communicating through sound. Each person's rhythm changes to answer another person's. Sometimes, it's complementary. Sometimes it contrasts sharply. Just like actualy conversations.

As I sat there drumming, I realized something important - drumming in a circle of people - especially mostly strangers - is a lot like writing. Or, at least, it's a lot like my writing process. I typically start out a story with one, really solid idea or beat. And as I write and new characters and plot threads revel themselves. Sometimes they're complementary and sometimes not so much. But as I write, the rhythm of the story changes, growing fuller and more complex until I've got this organic whole that I created by listening to the beat of the story and characters.

In case anyone is wondering what a drum circle looks like, here are a few pictures and one of the drum I made.

Here's the linky code if you'd like to participate in the Thursday's Children Blog Hop - Tell us what inspires you!

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday's Children - The Chalice Well

I've been fascinated with Arthurian lore since I was a kid - probably because in addition to Winnie the Pooh and fairy tales, my mom would also tell us stories about King Arthur.

When I was in college, I stumbled across The Chalice Well. Well, not literally. But in some research I was doing for a paper for a Medieval Lit class. I was instantly fascinated - from the wood and wrought iron well cover to the history - actual and literary. 

As near as archeologists can figure, it's been in constant use for over 2000 years. The spring produces 25,000 gallons of water a day and it's believed to possess healing qualities. The well has long been associated with goddess worship and there are also connections to Christianity. Supposedly the well is the final resting place of the Holy Grail. And in Arthurian tradition, Excalibur (and according to some) Arthur and Guinevere are buried nearby.
The well is also considered a gateway to the spirit world as symbolized by the overlapping circles of the Vesica Piscis on the cover.  It represents the connection of the spiritual and the physical, the magic and the mundane and to me it symbolizes the interconnectedness of everything.

I can't write in the vacuum of only my own head. I need the interconnectedness of life and imagination, and this symbol always reminds me that everything affects everything else.

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday's Children - Jim Henson

Okay, I know this might seem like a stretch for inspiration, but bear with me.

When I was a kid, I loved Grover on Sesame Street.

Loved. Him.

He wasn't afraid to be silly or scared or even wrong. At one point in my childhood, I was pretty sure I was going to marry him. Yeah, I know.  I didn't quite get that he was a puppet. To me, he was just as real as my friends at school or my brother. I also adored Kermit and Cookie Monster and Oscar, but Grover was always my favorite.

When I was a little older, Jim Henson, one of Sesame Street's puppeteers, brought The Muppets to night time TV and my mom and brother and I fell in love with puppets all over again. It was on the one night she didn't have to work, so we'd watch it together and laugh.

I used to hate that she had to work second shift, so Muppet night was not only full of silliness and fun on the telly, but it was also full of togetherness and cuddles and stories and crafts at home. Not only did I love the Muppets, but I loved what I associated them with.

My love for Henson's puppets and his creative spirit only increased with the releases of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal which remain two of my favorite movies to this day.

My much younger siblings were born when I was a teenager. I was only too happy to share the Muppets in all their incarnations with them. My brother, Andrew, was particularly enamored with them. We'd make our own puppets and put on shows. He also drew elaborate pictures and comic strips. Some of the characters were Henson's, but more were Andrew's. He was inspired to create his own stories, characters and artwork. It was wonderful to watch his creativity at work.

I remember listening to the news when it was broadcast that Jim Henson had died. I will never forget the expression on Andrew's face. He was young, and this was his first experience with anyone he "knew" dying. And no, he didn't know Jim Henson, but he'd been profoundly affected by the man's work.

I remember he asked us who would take care of Kermit and Gonzo since their dad had died. And he cried. He cried so hard, and so did I. I hated that his little heart was breaking. And I hated that a creative light had left the world.

The broadcaster closed with a quote by Jim Henson. When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in the world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.

Andrew climbed on my lap and said, "He did make it better."

And that's one of the things that I think inspires all creative people - the desire, whether verbalized or not, to leave the world a little better place. 

A weekly blog hop where writers
share their inspirations.
Want to join? Here's the Linky:

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thursday's Children - Saying Screw It

Last week, I wasn't able to participate in the Thursday's Children blog hop because I was chin deep at the RT (Romantic Times) conference in Kansas City, MO.

It's a huge readers/writers conference that I attend every few years to visit friends, attend workshops, meet some of my favorite authors and of course, there are always chances to pitch books. They also have an amazing YA Track.

I'm also super excited because I got a chance to meet Tessa Gratton. I *love* her work. And bonus, she was absolutely gracious and wonderful.

Okay, thanks for sticking with me this far. I'm finally getting to the title portion of this post.

I figured since I was there, I'd pitch my YA to the attending editors. Only, when I read through the program, no one that I was interested in pitching to was looking for Paranormal YA. I was totally bummed. In fact, I shoved the program in my purse and headed to the restaurant for lunch.

But something happened while I was in the elevator. I realized I was being stupid. I had a chance to pitch to editors who work at houses I'd love to be a part of. I would be stupid not to take opportunity. while I had it So I said, screw it...or you know...something like that. Instead of getting off at the mezzanine level, I got off at the lobby and got in line for the huge pitch session.

I pitched to five editors and got three requests for the complete manuscript! I sent them all off Monday night, and now I'm trying not to obsess. Sometimes, saying screw it really pays off! So now, I'm inspired to take more chances. The worst anyone can say is no.

If you'd like to join the blog hop, here's the linkity info!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

The super sweet and fascinating blogger and author, Shanah Wooldrage, just nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! She said this when she nominated me: " I love reading her blog. You will too. I like almost anyone who can hug cats, but this blogger is special."

See? I told you. Super sweet! Also? Her blog is awesome! And she has a hedgehog! And loves Celtic stuff with a passion that rivals my own - what's not to like?

I'm supposed to come up with 7 interesting things about me, and then tag 15 more inspiring bloggers. I've got a few in mind, but I'm not sure I'll make it to 15. Actually, I'll be honest - it's more like 5.

For some reason, my blog is misbehaving and the links don't show up until you hover over them. However, you can click out to check out these other spiffy blogs. 

Okay 7 things, huh...lemme think.

1.) When we were little, my younger brother had an imaginary friend named Bob Hook and I was totally jealous because I didn't have an imaginary friend. I have no idea why it didn't occur to me to make up my own imaginary friend. But alas. It didn't. Also? Bob Hook hated me.

2.) I make personalized cross stitch stockings for everyone in my family (mom, sibs, kids, nieces and nephews and in-laws). I made up the patterns for most of them because I couldn't find what they wanted. Seriously, try to find an iguana in a Christmas tree licking an ornament. I couldn't do it. This is my son Killian's. Yep - that's Santa flying on a dragon's back.

 3.) In addition to cats, I adore bats. If I could have a pet bat, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Especially with that awful White Nose Syndrome that's decimating bat colonies across the US and Europe.

4.) I was a singer in a garage band in high school. We were called Rebel and the Ions. :)

5.) Instead of the typical bridal party dance at our wedding, my husband and I insisted on dancing around a maypole. So, yeah...about that...sorry to everyone I coerced into participating...

6.) Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted a VW Microbus. The first time I went to my friend's house in high school, there was a blue and white one parked in the driveway - complete with little gingham curtains. I was in love with it. And also jealous. I still want one.

7.) I collect a lot of things - mostly rocks, really, but I'm also really fond of English Cottage Ware. One of my lovely friends who lives in Wales sends me pieces for my set when she finds them. This is the first piece she ever sent me, and I treasure it.

 Okay, now it's time to tag my lovelies!  

Award Rules:

  1. Display the logo in your blog to show you’ve been nominated.
  2. Link back to your nominator.
  3. Share 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award - or, you know, less if that's what you've got.
  5. Notify your nominees.
If I nominate you and you don’t want to play, no worries. If you do decide to play, please let me know so I can learn 7 interesting things about you!

My lovely no particular order.

Leigh Jones - CP extraordinaire and fellow cat lover and fort builder.

Tess Grant - Forensic anthropologist, werewolf author and coffee lover.

Lynn Dozema - All around sweetheart and fellow Monday Muser.

Kel - A superhero who's too cool to wear her undies on the outside.

Ali Seay - Spectacular author in whatever genre she touches - also she's my kind of crazy.

Actually, to be fair, all of these women are my kind of crazy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday's Children - Inspired by Finding Joy

Okay, I know, I know. The idea of "finding joy" sounds super crunchy granola, but I'll admit, I am a little crunchy. And to be fair, this post is really more about making joy as opposed to finding it - but more on that in a minute.

I know I'm not alone when I find myself getting bogged down with all the crap that's hurled at us on a daily basis. No matter what side you're sitting on, politics are a giant suckfest. Add in war, terrorist acts, the general cruelty that people show each other on a daily basis, not to mention all the negativity in our daily lives like work stress, health and/or money issues, worry for family members etc., it's really easy spiral into negative thought patterns.

Once you're in that crappy mindspace, it's not a huge leap to think thoughts like, "I'll never figure out this scene/finish this book/get published/find an agent/sell anything."

And once those thoughts take root, writing or even wanting to write is damn near impossible.

So what's a Thursday's Child to do?

Find joy - or more precisely, make it.

When I find myself getting sucked into the ick and wallowing there, I know the only thing that's really going to help is changing my perspective. And the easiest way to do that is to change what I'm focusing on.

The first step is avoiding the internet. No matter how many awesome, amazing things and people are on there, there's a ton of awful, too and it's super easy to fall down the rabbit hole of one horrific news story after another after another after another.

The second step is to write down five or six things that I'm truly grateful for at that moment in time. For instance, at this very moment, I'm grateful for:

Listening to my son sing along to Mystery Skulls in the next room. He's super committed and it's making me smile.

Maureen Johnson's tweets. I haven't read her books yet, but I love her tweets that pop up in the corner of my screen. I just enjoy the way her mind works. (I know this contradicts the turning off the internet suggestion, but it's cool since I'm not currently wallowing.)

Getting a chance to hear amazing songs written and performed by my friend's teenage daughter.

Checking off items on my to-do list.

Knowing that as soon as I finish this post, I have a delicious lunch of cottage cheese and kumata tomatoes waiting for me. 

You'll note that none of these things are writing related. You'll also note that none of them are particularly earth-shattering, either. Of course, I have the big things I'm grateful for like family and friends, etc., but those are constants and even though they're the most important things to me they don't always help me escape the wallowing because I'm more likely to just worry about something bad happening to them. So if I can look at the little things that make me happy in that very moment, it immediately helps to lift my mood.

A lifted mood always inspires me to write!

And  third, for a quick pick me up, I have a couple songs I turn to even though my true musical love is angsty, depressing stuff. I'll share them below in case you need a little pick me up, today.

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to write. I'm feeling rather inspired.

Want to join this super awesome blog hop? Here's the Linky:
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thursday's Children - People

I'd originally planned for a much different post today, but the events on Monday in Boston have pushed that post back a while.

I'm frequently accused of being a bit of a Pollyanna. But ultimately, I believe that people are good. I'm occasionally proved wrong in epic fashion, but nine times out of ten, I'm right. I see it all the time.

I've seen my former daycare kids come home from school carrying trash to throw away because, "That crap doesn't belong in nature!"

I've had taller people reach things down for me off the shelves in the grocery store because I'm short and have T-Rex arms.

I've seen a woman at the grocery store help out a young mother in front of her because she didn't have enough money.

I've had my coffee paid for at Starbucks by the person in front of me and I've passed it on.

I've seen teenagers buy a hot meal for a homeless man  at McDonald's.

There was the man who took care of my brother when his wife was admitted to the hospital - not a staff member, just a kind soul with a relative there.

I've watched my child roll down the car window and hand over his birthday cash to a homeless man.

And this week, we saw people running into danger to offer medical assistance. We saw people opening their homes to strangers. We saw people caring about each other.

The sick, hate-fill people make the news, but it's the kind people - the ones run after you to give you your keys, or the shoe your infant kicked off while you were carrying his car seat across the parking lot. They're the ones who smile in support when your toddler is having a tantrum about wanting a baseball team. They're the ones who rip off their own clothes to make tourniquets and bandages and offer comfort.

These are the people that inspire me. These are the people who make me want to spread kindness like it's a damn virus. These are the people who make me want to write things that matter and offer comfort and understanding with the written word as well as in my everyday life.

I'll leave you with a quote by Patton Oswalt. You may very well have seen it already, but if not:

Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thursday's Children - Kitch-iti-kipi

Nope - that wasn't a sneeze. Kitch-iti-kipi is the name of Michigan's largest fresh water spring. The name is of Chippewa origins and has multiple translations - The Big Springs, Bubbling Springs, The Blue Sky I See and my personal favorite, The Mirror of Heaven.

Kitch-iti-kipi is near Manistique and about five miles from where my immediate and extended family vacation every summer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Kitch-iti-kipi is one of the most peaceful places I've ever been. It's a protected environment and my to one of my brother's dismay, there's no fishing allowed there. I think it kills him a little bit every time we see the ginormous lake, brook and brown trout swimming through the springs water. Did I mention that the water is so clear that you can see straight down to the bottom? 40 feet down at its deepest.

It's an absolutely breathtaking spot, and every time I'm there I'm inspired to write. I've actually got a historical piece I've been batting around, and whenever, I'm here, I get a little more of the story. One of these days I'll have it all. But in the meanwhile, I'd like to share the beauty of Kitch-iti-kipi with you all. And who knows, maybe I'll be able to share that story some day, too.

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

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