Turn Down the Volume …

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I’M FINDING that, more and more, I like the mornings that begin in a muted fashion. Daylight that is muted with overcast skies or a dense curtain of fog, which in turn, seems to muffle sounds and light nicely. The sounds of passing cars on the canyon floor, dogs barking and the plethora of roosters all along the canyon—they all sound hushed. I appreciate all of these things.

Once upon a time, I used to turn on music the moment I awoke—I actually used music as my wake-up alarm, since the jarring electronic noises set me on edge. Not the best way to start a day, right? As I wandered through the house, another radio would be turned on (set on timers so they would go off in 30 minutes if I wasn’t in the room), whether for the simple desire of sound filling the void, or the lovely lyrics … I had a need for the radio to be on. If not the radio, then the tv. My husband used to have his talk shows on during his waking hours (which I hated—all that incessant talking …)—I preferred music over talk … and arguing.

I’m not sure when the change happened. Most noticeable was when I chose to only have the tv on for one news program, followed by my usual shows, which over the course of time dwindled to only a few … either because I grew weary of them or they were pulled by the network. So, my nights became quiet when there were no programs to watch. Time to read … or write. Then, I somehow discovered the quiet of early morning. Quite by accident, I’m sure. Once upon a time, I was a very early riser—like my dad. Since my pseudo-retirement, those days are few and far between … because I can. It took some doing, though. My dad had instilled such a powerful work ethic in his children for so long that it is still hard for me to stay asleep past 7—I find myself waking at 5 … 6 … 7. But have learned to roll back over and, though unable to fall back asleep, I use the time to plan my day—after I have a little chat with God, thanking him for things in my life. Then I do a bit of stretching before I roll out of bed. Those two things are a must, or I truly struggle getting out of bed and into my day successfully.

It must have been in that quiet morning time that I first started to seriously take notice of the stillness during that early hour. And to see and hear the thick, dampening veil lift, allowing the noisiness and brightness of the day—the hustle and bustle of everyday life—to invade my space.

It’s been well over a year since I began making this change (no, I’m not done—I will always be a “work in progress” … as we all should be). Now I cherish the early mornings. Especially the mornings where sounds and light are dampened by weather conditions, allowing for that quiet and muted feeling to remain just a little longer.

So, if you are feeling that your day is filled with too much rushing around and not enough peace, take a few minutes to listen to what is going on around you. Turn down the volume of everything in your life. Turn off the radio. Turn off the tv. Take out those ear buds … put down the phone. Shut the computer down. Remove yourself from what you are doing this instant. Take a deep breath and seriously listen. To nature. The sounds of the wind, the birds … your heart beating in your chest. Perhaps its traffic outside the window. Perhaps it’s your children. Listen to them as they play (or argue) amongst themselves. Don’t intervene, just listen. Listen to the sounds around you.

What changes would make it more enjoyable? How can you change how you engage in life to make it less crazy? More personal. More interactive. Look at things from a different perspective if they are irritating in your present mind-set.

I’m liking the changes—and, like I said before, they are ongoing—that I am making in my life. How about you?

May this day forward find you moving closer to a more peaceful state, filled with the joy of truly living in and enjoying the moments that surround you.

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and J O Y

IT IS INTERESTING WHEN I SEE DIFFERENT groups of friends bringing up similar topics of discussion on Facebook and/or in face-to-face conversations. Or, sometimes it’s a certain piece of music popping up on the radio (usually KLOVE) multiple times and then have the same thread of thought come out in a sermon on Sunday. I’ve found that when I see or hear the “same” thing possibly stated a wee bit differently multiple times, I need to take notice, since I’ve found it’s usually God tapping me on the shoulder … “hint-hint”.

So, it was with a mix of curiosity and bewilderment that I’m tackling a repetitive mention of respect. I feel I’m pretty spot on with respect. Respect of elders, peoples’ desires, etc.  Hmmm. What am I missing? Honestly, I’m still scratching my head. Is it something I’m doing—or not doing? Or, something I need to address in a blog?

I am respectful—of others in general and of people’s desires—but that does not mean that I will bend over backward to accommodate someone if it goes against what I believe to be right and true. That said, I will definitely not trample others to make sure what I believe is heard over their words, desires and beliefs. I’ve been putting off dealing with this for a long time … perhaps in hopes that it would go away.

Well, I actually know better than to “hope it will go away”. That never works. Funny, that. If it’s something that needs to be reviewed, analyzed (oh, I’m sooo bad at that) and/or acted upon it does not go away.

I’m still unsure, but perhaps this nudging was just to help me to center myself for all that has happened over the last few months. To stay true to myself. To stay true to what I believe. And to stay true to God. I think I have done that—I hope I have.

Now add to all of the above, a thread of “joy” and I’m even more perplexed. Lots of songs, a sermon and bible study centering around joy. And possible issues are developing. Will I need respect and joy to get through them? Perhaps. Only time will tell.

As with respect, I consider myself a joyful person—mostly. We all have our ups and downs, but my life seems to revolve around joy … which is a good thing. It helps pull me up from my down moments and days. As far as I’m concerned, I cannot possibly see getting though life without joy. It seems essential. Mind you, I’m not talking about “happy”.

Things make you happy. Depending on things like good company, friends, good music, yummy food to buoy spirits, to get one through life won’t cut it for me. When company or friends are absent or turn mean, jarring music rattles through my brain or a bad tasting food hits me, happiness vanishes. It is not permanent.

Joy comes from within. It’s not an external thing. It’s hard to explain. It is one of the Fruit of the Spirit, found in the bible (Galatians 5:22-23). Through our ups and downs in life, joy seems to run a parallel, dwelling in us, waiting for us to notice. I’d much rather grab hold tightly to joy, making it a partner to lean on as I dance through life. Seeing the good in things—even if the day has gone down the toilet. When people disappoint, seeking the silver lining. Joy is there to help me through those times. Trusting that God will provide an answer, no matter what. I don’t know how else to explain.

My bible study has pretty much come to an end and I’ve learned a lot from it. I plan on holding tight to joy, loosening the grips of things that try to take it away. Things that I didn’t realize were trying to suck the joy from my life (like the clutter in my life—groan). And I will succeed … eventually. I want to be a joy-giver. A joy-mentor. Someone that savours everything around me. Joyfully.

I hope you are blessed with the ability to find and cherish—and even share the joy in your life.

Big News

I’VE KEPT THIS KINDA HUSH-HUSH for a very long time (been dying to tell you), but now I can finally make it public. It’s a hodge-podge of good news and sorta bad news—depending on how you look at it. However you may look at it as a reader, as a writer I am filled with relief and anticipation (well … maybe a touch of anxiety, too).

The Good News is that I’ve been trying to find a real publisher (not a vanity press publishing company) to accept my books since I’ve become so displeased with (but tolerant of) the shenanigans of Xlibris—yes, I know they are a vanity press and I cringe at paying through the nose for every single thing, but I feel they should be professional about how they handle their business (especially for the kind of money laid out).

Recently, I approached InknBeans Press, a small company in So. California and they were kind enough to bump my request to the top of their pile of books to review because of my situation (thank you so very much—I truly appreciate what has been done for me). Those of my fellow writers that have books published through InknBeans speak highly of them.

I finally heard back on Wednesday—they are interested! Enough so that they even mentioned talking about contracts. Squeee! Later that day, I sent of a positive response to their letter to address their questions and concerns—pretty much agreeing with all they had to say, except for a few minor points. Now, I’m hovering over my email account, waiting for a response.

Perhaps I’m jumping the gun—well, yeah … I am jumping the gun—but I’ve been so completely dissatisfied with Xlibris that on Thursday, I sent my letter requesting immediate withdrawal of The Scymarian from their grips. We’ll see how long it takes them to release me from their contract.

In the meantime, there is no contract with InknBeans Press (yet). Which means, my book remains in limbo. So, the bad news is, even if I get that contract signed soon, it will be a few more months before the book is published. I have to go through submitting the artwork, their corrections (if any) of the manuscript and then the reviewing and authorization of the interior and cover galleys again (I’m sure it’ll be just fine this time). But, if InknBeans Press decides those few minor points I mentioned in my letter to them are too much, I may be forced to resort to CreateSpace to publish my book. I’ve never done it before, so a huge learning curve is before me. Plus, CreateSpace has no hardback copies for those that want them. InknBean does not usually do hardbound, but are able to provide it and will do so if ask (I will ask if enough people request it).

Lots of ifs and whens, but I feel this was the right move. The good outweighs the bad. Whichever way it goes, please know that it’s because I am trying to do the best thing for my readers—to provide a quality product. I know it’s been a very long time since my last book (nearly a year), with lots of hiccups causing delays, but I ask for your patience—yet again.

Whilst I wait for the response from InknBean Press and the acknowledgement from Xlibris about my book, I will concentrate heavily on my next endeavor … book four: “Mischiefmaker”. I’ll keep you informed.

Until then, have a blessed weekend and enjoy the weeks ahead as summer busts out into its full glory.

Well … More Delays

LIFE LOVES TO THROW ME CURVE balls … all the time. I’ve gotten used to it.

This newest one is more of an announcement … sorta.

But I’ve had a very hard time focusing on the galleys—there are so many formatting errors it isn’t even funny. I’m afraid, if I ever manage to get through them all, it will be late Summer, 2015 before The Scymarian is available.

So, instead of wading through the galleys like a good little author … I have turned my attention to my artistic side. I have a one-day workshop to help permanently (hopefully) burn the multi-stepped process of creating photopolymer plates from my photographic images. I spent all day downloading and sorting through photos, looking for images that stood out as exceptional—ones I want to turn into special works of art, rather than simply enlarged, framed photos. It was exhilarating. I had so much energy—even after spending some time weeding the raised garden beds at Open Ground Studios. I do love gardening—even weeding, but usually I end up rather spent when I’m done. Not today (insert huge grin). I was having entirely too much fun to be tired.

Tomorrow’s workshop will hopefully be the last one I need to take to feel proficient at this plate-making process. I want to be able to come in, decide on an image, play with it in Photoshop to make it “proper” for the process, then confidently create the etched metal plate so I can play with ink colors for my prints.

I’m thinking that I may take the images I’ll be using tomorrow to create large framed photographic canvases to hang along side the photopolymer etched prints so people can see the difference. And perhaps, this fall I’ll have my very own exhibition at Open Ground Studios, displaying my photography, my photopolymer etchings and other artistic endeavors—plus of course, a display of my books (…hopefully three by then!) and books to be signed and sold.

Teehee … so, that was the announcement—well, two I guess. Short an’ sweet. Relatively speaking.

Please enjoy your Friday and the upcoming weekend. May it truly be a blessed weekend for all of you. I know mine will be (wink).

Big Brother… Big Bully

THERE IS A BUSINESS THAT IS FLEXING it’s muscles a bit too much, bullying authors and readers alike. It’s taking away the ability for readers to find out about books via intelligent reviews by knowledgeable people, whether written by a writer or an avid reader wanting to let others know what they thought of books they’ve read. With their policy, they are basically cherry-picking reviews.

Personally, I feel like they are getting too big for their britches. But I am not alone. There are other authors that feel the same.  This business thinks they are justified to manipulate how, when—and by whom—reviews are provided. And they feel so confident in their position that they have refused to explain themselves.

That business is Amazon.

If you, as a reader, are following an author on Facebook or possibly even via GoodReads (owned by Amazon, if you were not aware), Amazon may decide you are a “friend or relative” and your reviews will be shoved into a no-mans-land or pulled altogether.

If you, as an author, are following other authors on Facebook and/or on GoodReads the same may happen. I have several author friends that have already experienced the unfair wrath of Amazon—their reviews pulled and telling them they cannot review certain authors because they are “friends”.

And they feel so confident in their position that they have refused to explain themselves beyond providing a copy of their review rules.

What Amazon fails to—or is unwilling to realize is that many authors utilize the knowledge and insight of others on Facebook (via various writing groups) to answer questions. They don’t “personally” know the individual. This is what Amazon is calling “friendship”—do they realize Facebook and GoodReads are social media and people are going to follow and friend authors? And that authors daring to comment back now makes them friends?

Reviews are the lifeblood for authors, as they are used to promote (some organizations require x-number of 4-5 star reviews before a book is considered worthy of their promotion) and to better their writing.

There is a petition flying through the internet, in an attempt to get Amazon to see and correct the folly of their ways.

As an author—and avid reader—I implore you to consider adding your name to this petition.

I’ve listed a link to the petition.

Please feel free to pass this on to your reader friends.

Thank you.

I’ve Been Thinking …

UH OH … THIS COULD BE DANGEROUS. I always come up with some very profound thoughts and fantastic ideas when I’m in the shower—awesome thoughts I’d love to share. And ideas for the garden or yard … or a storyline for my book—or even some places to go take photos. But it never fails—the moment I have pen and paper handy—able to get those thoughts down so I won’t forget, the thoughts evaporate from my mind. Same thing when I’m driving down the road, enjoying the scenery as I barrel towards my next destination. I’m never prepared for these moments of spontaneous thought. And it is frustrating.

Sometimes, I can compose an entire blog in my mind that is so perfect. So very perfect. Or the perfect scene for my story—but apparently not memorable enough for me to get it into written form. Artistic ideas that would be stunning once implemented into my yard or crafted on paper and framed … yet they are lost forever (well, perhaps not forever). It’s so blasted frustrating.

My head is always teaming with ideas that are begging to explode into life when I least expect it, so why is it, since this happens so frequently, that I don’t expect it? (I feel a headache coming on … giggle.) I should be prepared, right?

This is a weird month to be working on writing of any sort, anyway. With all these ideas floating around, one would think it would be ideal … but I look around my yard and house in its woefully

Back Yard View

I’d certainly like a better view as I sip on tea or nom on food …

neglected state and am drawn to work outside—away from the computer and/or pen and paper. The computer nags at me to work on my blog, the galleys for The Scymarian — and my WIP, Mischiefmaker—but the gorgeous weather pulls me the other direction.

Yard View Improved

It’s a slow process … but it is improving. It’s a pity, with this drought, that I can’t plant anything.

Away from all electronic devices.

I hate it when I’m of a divided mind. I’m not the most logical person in the world. I’ve always been a seat-of-the-pants kinda person, no matter what I’m doing. Common sense is my go-to tool, but I’ve also got this gut-level thing going, too—especially where outdoor activities are involved. Either I’m all in … or not (insert grin). Whether it’s walking, gardening, yard work, tromping through nature taking photos … yup—all in or not.

Speaking of all in or not … this is the NaNoWriMo’s July Summer Camp, which I foolishly signed up for—and am now kicking myself, for thinking I could manage to “finish” successfully. The idea behind

Tea in Pacific Grove

A very creative friend and I at Bookworks in Pacific Grove—she with her knitting and jewelry for sale, me with my books and some tea.

signing up was to give me the impetus to keep working towards an end on my WIP. The rules for the Summer Camp are (thankfully) much more laid back than in November. November requires 50,000 words minimum for the 30 days of writing. NaNo’s summer camp allow you to choose your goal, no matter how small or grand it may be. Even with that, I’ve tried it in the past and should know better that just signing up for it does not work with me. Well, at least it hasn’t in the past. I guess time will tell.

My galleys should be taking precedence over every other writing—and it’s really a non-writing task—except that I am finding many, many formatting errors and it’s keeping me from even wanting to work on it.

Petunia Up Close

The deer haven’t nommed on my flowers yet—knock on wood

I’d rather be outside, slaving in the hot sun than working on the galleys. Or wandering around the yard taking photos. Sad state of affairs, isn’t it?

It’s probably because I am one that enjoys the gratification of seeing what has been accomplished.

Yard Work in Progress

Improving my view is hard work … but I’m getting there. And it’s a lot more fun that working on the galleys …

These galleys do not afford that luxury at this point. But what I’ve been doing outside certainly has! And watching the progress of my plants is even more fun than working on the galleys. Sigh.

Succulent Up Close

Hmm. Didn’t know this variegated plant was a succulent.

Tresspasser

A young doe is sneaking around in my yard, looking for things to nom on.

And when I see a deer wander in the yard, I get excited and thrilled!

When I work on the galleys (or my WIP) at Open Ground Studios, I take a few minutes out to wander around, stretch my legs and take photos of things happening in the studio.

Playing On-Site Photographer

I try to catch our DOG (Director of Open Ground) and others as they play and work at the studio

Workshops, classes … there’s always something going on. There are so many different things to keep my mind stirred up and rarin’ to go on to the next project. Some could (and do) call that a bit like an attention deficit problem. I’d prefer to call it keeping things fresh. I certainly don’t get bored.

So … now that I’ve procrastinated whilst writing this blog, done a bit of reminiscing of what I enjoy—and shared a few photos (insert smile) … it’s now time to get back to the task at hand. Writing. Wait. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Yes, but it doesn’t count against the NaNo word count, nor does it help with the galleys…

Did I mention I am really good at procrastinating? Yup.

I hope your Fourth of July weekend is blessed with many wonderful memories. I’ll be walking in a parade with other writers (part of the Central Coast Writers group) on Saturday in Monterey. Maybe you’ll be there. Maybe not. Have fun in either case!

Enjoy your weekend.