Traveling with Friends

TRAVEL IS NIGH AND I am definitely filled with excitement! I’ve completely ignored my travel-blogging lately … well, there have been tiny bits peppering my blogs of late, but not much else. Oopsie!

Just so you are aware, I will be at the mercy of internet availability during my travels, so blogging posts may be sporadic—I’ll try my best to adhere to a schedule, but it will completely depend on availability. I do have hotspots for my computer whilst traveling in Ireland and the UK, but I’ll need to figure out how to use them again (it’s been waaaay too long—hope I can remember passwords …) and I’m sure I’ll have to “feed” them before they can be used.

In the past—beginning with our maiden voyage in 2007 (or was it 2008??), I’ve traveled with my daughter for two and a half months; I’ve traveled with her and friends for a week, then just with the friends (stationed over in Germany) for another week … then on my own; I’ve traveled alone for 3-6 weeks; taken trains and buses; rented a car. Each time has been fun; each time has been a learning experience.

This time around, I’ll be traveling with my daughter’s mother-in-law. Sandy and I have hit it off well since our childrens’ nuptial tying of the knot—but we have never spent more than a couple days together, so this will be a delightful experience in patience, understanding and sharing close quarters (the car, dorm-room style sleeping arrangements with 4-8 other roommates—complete strangers—that sometimes turn into lifelong friends, short and long tours cooped up in a van together …et cetera). It’s a matter of give and take for both of us. I think we are adult enough for this trip to be wonderful for both of us. Everyone has their own personal quirks that must be taken into consideration. If you are not able to be flexible, traveling with friends may not be for you.

We will be visiting my new (and old) internet friends that live in Wales, London (and surrounding areas), and Yorkshire area. I love being able to meet my internet connections—at least one face-to-face enriches the relationship. I will be showing Sandy around places I’ve seen (and have fallen in love with) and we’ll experience other places together for the first time. And we will do tons of walking. Literally tons … my habit of “park-it-and-walk” still applies for as long as I am able to walk. We’ll stay at hostels as often as we can—I’m sure there will be a few B&Bs and hotels when hostels are booked. We’ll do mini-tours around the “big cities” via the Hop-On/Hop-Off buses, more mini-tours with some of the tour companies that take jaunts out into the nearby country-side … and perhaps take the car out to look at the lovely countryside, ruins and other little towns. As I’ve just mentioned, I prefer the “drive to a location and park it till we move on” philosophy—walking is such a wonderful way to observe and soak in the beauty of the cities and towns. But sometimes, to see special spots and places far afield, cars are required. (Usually, I find cars are way too fast for sightseeing, but with a car, I can pull over or turn around if I see something that interests me—unlike various forms of public transport!) We will have our week-long tour (with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group, a annual tour organised  by Marc Gunn) up on Isle of Skye in Scotland about a month into our journey. Then we’re back to poking around and working our way back to Dublin for our journey home. There will be two ferry rides—I love these. Allows for a re-boot.

There will be at least one ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) for us to attend in Dublin at the Jameson Distillery (insert a very happy, smiley face). The date has yet to be set … I really need to get on that soon. Yes, there is more planning to do before we set sail. All in all, I’m looking forward to a laid-back, delightful tour of Ireland and the UK.

So, until next week (after my first book signing of the year—and just before the next one), I wish you all a beautiful, blessed Friday and weekend. Toodles!

 

Mother Nature and Creativity

Whilst the Midwest and East Coast have been dealing with an extremely fickle Mother Nature, our weather on the Central Coast of California has been spectacularly beautiful the last week or so. The on again-off again wind has been a nuisance, but compared to the weather elsewhere, we cannot (or should not) complain. Chilly to simply cool mornings melding into cool to “just right” temps as the day progresses has been Mother Nature’s offering. Spring is definitely in the air. And that makes me happy!
The clouds have been amazing. Billowing cumulus (decorator clouds), the dramatic stratocumulus and cumulonimbus have paraded across our skies, keeping my eyes looking upward in awe. Late evening to early mornings have been just as delightful—our fog that rolls in and out like tidal currents makes me smile. At times, it’s a heavy blanket darkening the sky and hiding the sunsets and sunrises. Other times, it’s a white veil that caresses the hills and trees, reluctant to yield to the sun. It’s the veil-like presence that I enjoy the most. That fog that, as it finally yields to the warms of the morning air, stratifies in the nooks and crannies of the hills, finally dissipating altogether. So pretty.  As I stand at my windows watching, it reminds me of Brigadoon—the magic that happens in the mist of the morning …
And, indeed the magic of the mornings (ever so early, I might add) brings creativity. I know that I’ve been very restless (and frustrated), trying to complete the next few books in the series. It has left you, my readers, wanting more and probably just as frustrated as I am. These last few months, with my renewed energy and my mind finally bursting with more and more ideas (of all sorts—not just storylines), I find myself excited—yet even more frustrated as I realise I’ll not be able to follow through with most of them due to my trip across the Pond. Excited—but frustrated—that ideas are flowing at a rate I cannot possibly keep up with … and they come at the oddest of times. It seems 2-3 am is the most prolific creative time (insert massive eye-roll here). Seventeen years ago—when this story in my head would not go away—I was oh-so-much-younger. I was able to handle late nights and early mornings … and middle of the night “eureka moments”. Now? Well, I can still manage a few days and nights like that, but … oye vey! Sigh. Is it possible to train creativity to happen at more convenient times?? This old doddering woman needs her sleep … teehee.
Apparently not. One of my recent middle-of-the-night eureka moments produced quite a few haikus. Really? I don’t do poetry. Yet, my mind kept spitting them out—I managed to get a few written down before I finally collapsed back into my sleepy coma for what remained of the night. They’re not great, but they do adhere to the 5-7-5 rule.
Creativity/Imagination
The mind like Spring blooms
Ideas flowing anew
A canvas of words
Paintbrush poised in hand
Colours explode on canvas
Rains down settles in
I guess that’s how the mind works—at least, my mind. At these “magical hour” moments, I work out ideas for gardening, for building projects, stories—and apparently poetry in the middle of the night. It’s been a very long time since my mind was this active (maybe a year before my spinal surgery—that’d be about 3-4 years ago!). It feels good—but I sure wish it would choose daylight hours for all of these revelations … honestly (eh-hem—as I write this at that “magic” hour in the morning … which has drawn out till 4:30—good grief!). Well, at least the blog has been written.
So, my wonderful readers, even though I’m nearing the time to head off across the Pond (only a couple more weeks—yikes!) and won’t be able to concentrate fully on my edits whilst abroad, you will be able to follow me during my adventure in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland via my blog. Then, once home and recovered from my trip, I promise to dedicate time to complete book four in the series before I go back to preparing the first three books for re-publishing. I promise!
So, as the roosters begin to announce the new day, the plan is to back to sleep for a bit, before I edit and post this piece. May your Friday and weekend be blessed abundantly! Toodles till next week.

Book Arts: Medieval-Style Books

I SPENT THE WEEKEND in a workshop at Open Ground Studios, learning how to creating a limp vellum medieval book. It’s not the first time I’ve attended a workshop led by Nicky Yeager. And, it will not be the last. I like his laid-back teaching style. This particular workshop was a challenge, but I had fun … and was pleased with the final results. I was sleep deprived (only a bad night’s sleep) and my brain was a wee bit foggy—even after a few cups of coffee—all of which hindered my comprehension.

Of course since it was my first attempt, it was far from perfect—but that’s okay. I’ve always considered the first one my prototype. I found myself alternately frustrated (till I figured out how to do a step) and content—I keep forgetting how much I love working with my hands. I’ve been spending so much time editing (head-work) lately that I’d forgotten the joy of real hands-on creating. Every time I finish up one of his workshops, I want to dive into creating more of what I’ve just learned.

This weekend’s event was no different. I’m glad my mind has been kick-started with creative ideas, but with my upcoming trip, I’m not sure I’ll be able to follow through. Last night my brain wouldn’t stop thinking about the different forms of medieval books. My absolute favourite is the wood-bound books. I spent a good portion of the wee hours of Monday thinking about how I could go about getting my hands on quarter-sawn oak … (insert very loud sigh and eye roll—teehee); about how I’ll keep track of the actual costs of materials so I could price them fairly (for the customer and still make a wee bit of a profit) … and how many I should make. Oh. And I wondered about how I could re-invigorate interest in my personalised storybooks. Maybe I’ve too many interests … just maybe.

Oh, yes. My creative mind has definitely re-engaged.

But all of that must go on hold—at least temporarily, until I’m able to get all my travel plans solidly arranged. Then I’ll start planning my next art project. Oh, wait … I have five books to publish (well, re-publish three and first-time publish two). Egads. I do love a challenge—and juggling projects—don’t I? I know a few of my friends will be doing eye rolls when they see what I’ve planned for myself upon returning from across The Pond.

Here are a few photos from the weekend—not all, as many of them are not cooperating—I’ve spent most of the week

DIY Signature "Punching" Craddle

A handy device to punch holes in the signatures. I’m green with envy.

Signatures Ready To Punch ... Almost

Since I don’t have the DIY craddle, gotta poke ’em all the old fashioned way, using a template (grey sheet).

Okay ... Now I'm Ready

Punched on left, ready to be punched on right. Template at center fold (visible so you can see one of the notches used to punch uniform holes for threading signatures together).

Yeah ... I’ve two that could be entered IF they were done. Maybe next year. Thanks for the heads up.

Twisted leather strips that anchor the signature to the cover.

trying to “right” those photos that loaded side-ways (ugh). I’m giving up on correcting things and posting—I’ll add to the images later when my computer/iPhone is less twitchy! Remember you can click on each image to enlarge them.

Have a great day, a blessed weekend and here’s to Spring making an appearance (well, mostly). Hope you’ll come back next week to see what mischief I’ll be up to—personally, I have no clue (insert huge grin and a wink!). Toodles.a

Books, Books … and More Books

CreateSpace Dashboard

As always, click on image to see entire photo

I MUST BE CRAZY … REALLY. I CANNOT believe I’ve actually begun setting up my CreateSpace account—entering all of the titles I want to publish. It has me all jazzed about the possibilities (and ignoring all the hassles involved) … Honestly. And during the night last night (I actually managed a solid six hours sleep …) I had a eureka moment—I think there is a way around the cover/ISBN/publisher logo issues. That alone has me doin’ a jig. It looks like I can keep my covers, which is what I’ve been hoping for all along—IF (and it’s a big IF) what I came up with last night works. There will need to be a tiny bit of a redesign, but only for what surrounds the actual cover art. That makes me so happy, you would not believe it! And, if I can manage it, then all my promotional material remains the same and I can go ahead and order my supplies.

So, now … the most important thing will be getting the edit for book one complete, getting book two re-worked (shouldn’t require much, as I’ve mentioned before) and if I can finally get book three released from Inknbeans Press. All I need to do is concentrate on a cover for book four—Mischiefmaker. I think I can do that.

I still won’t have any of the books done before I leave on my trip—unless some miracle happens … and I’m not discounting that possibility (insert huge grin), since if He wants it to happen, it will. Just sayin’ … I’ll keep pluggin’ away, making sure all my ducks are in a row, all my i’s and t’s are dotted and crossed. Yup, I’m excited.

The next thing that needs to happen is to get my book signing schedule updated, so you know when and where you can find Joyce Oroz and me. Joyce and I had a little pow-wow over the weekend, looking at what dates/events we’d be available for and decided who would be responsible for completing which applications. I’ll be posting the information at the end of each blog, once I get it all typed up—perhaps by next Friday. There will be many “TBA” dates and other information for the events happening later in the year, but at least they will be available to see, especially for those we have done in the past.

DSL Speed

As always, click on image to see entire photo

So, on this delightful “up” note, I will close this blog so that I can get back to getting things done. There are still some travel arrangements to be made—I’ve had no internet at home (either completely dead, or so slow it’s unusable), so my time at Open Ground Studios has turned into “make-up” days … trying to catch up with things that need to happen. Hopefully that will be remedied soon!

Oh, yes … Saturday will be very busy for me. There’s a book arts workshop by Nicky Yeager—I would not miss one of his workshops … ever (this will make the fourth year he’s been coming to Open Ground Studios)! And in the midst of the workshop, I will need to disappear into my little studio to register for the 2019 Gallifrey One conference. I’ll have new books to promote. Such a lovely sound—new books! Yes! Praying I’m able to get passes!

May your Friday and weekend be gloriously fun … and blessed. See you next Friday. Enjoy. Toodles!

2018 Book Signing Schedule

Saturday May 6  Monterey Moose Lodge 9am-2pm Art and Crafts | Book Signing at the Lodge will include Joyce Oroz’s Josephine Stuart’s Mystery Series and some of her art and dj jameson smith’s Secrets Beyond Scymaria series along with her photography and art.

Thursday-Friday May 11-12  Watsonville Hospital 11am-4pm Craft Show | Book Signing with Joyce Oroz’s mystery series and dj jameson smith’s fantasy series. This is a tentative date—we will not find out if it’s a go until the last minute, unfortunately.

Saturday May 12  Aromas 10am-4pm Aromas Garden Tour | Arts & Crafts & Book Signing
Pick up the garden map at the Aromas Grange on Rose Avenue, then wander the streets to admire the gardens and art—oh … and don’t forget the books that Joyce Oroz and dj jameson smith will have available, along with some of their art.
There is a nominal “entry” fee for the Gardens map.

Date and time TBA Summer Book Signing at Jardines de San Juan’s Mexican Restaurant 115 Third Street, San Juan Bautista CA. It was so fun to do this last year, that we’ve decided to try it again. We need to get permission and lock down a date—we’ll let you know as soon as possible.

Saturday, July 28 LaSelva Beach Clubhouse and Lawn, 10am-4pm 314 Estrella Ave LaSelva Beach CA Books and Brew’s LaSelva Beach Summer Festival | Book Signing
dj jameson smith may not be ready to greet the world due to jet-lag, but she will be there. So will Joyce Oroz, with her Josephine Stuart Mysteries series. Lots of arts and crafts, lovely food and games. Come enjoy the day.

Saturday-Sunday, 4-5 August 2018 Scottish Games | Monterey Fairgrounds
Gates open daily at 9am, gates close after the ending ceremonies (5pm on Saturday, 4pm on Sunday)
Sshhh … don’t tell anyone, but since I’ll be manning the Gunn Clan booth (again) along with my Gunn Cousin all weekend long, I’ll have a box of my books with me for sale. Come and enjoy some wonderful Celtic music, watch the Games and taste the delicious, hearty food. Find the Clan Gunn booth and either Michelle or I will tell you about your Celtic roots (Gunn or not) … and I’ll offer up signed books for purchase.
There is an entry fee to the Games.

Friday-Sunday, 24-26 August West End Celebration—more details to follow

Saturday, mid-September Seascape Beach Resort 8am-12:30pm Alzheimer’s Walk—more details to follow

Saturday, 30 September Gilroy CA 10-4 Gilroy Street Fair | Book Signing—more details to follow

Saturday, 6 October  Compass Church 10-4 Harvest Jubilee | Book Signing—more details to follow

Tuesday, 16 October  Point Pinos Grill, Pacific Grove 6-8pm Central Coast Writer’s October BookFest | Book Signing—details to follow

Date TBA Friday-Sunday, November Watsonville Elks Holiday Craft Show | Book Signing—details to follow

Saturday, 3 November Aptos Grange, 12-4pm Holiday Craft Show | Book Signing—details to follow

Saturday, 10 November Casanova Oak Knolls Park Center, Monterey 9am-1pm Holiday Craft Show | Book Signing—details to follow

Saturday-Sunday 17-18 November Aromas Grange 10am-5pm Aromas Hills Artisans’ Holiday Fair—details to follow

December date TBA Kelly’s Book Store, Watsonville CA 1-3pm Book Signing—details to follow

Thursday-Friday, December date TBA 10am-4pm Watsonville Community Hospital Holiday Craft Fair | Book Signing—details to follow

 

Neverending Traveling Preparations …

AAAAH … NEVERENDING—IT SURE SEEMS that way. Once again I am spinning my wheels, attempting to prepare for the journey across the Pond. I do this every time (and I think I’ve mentioned that before … but really—it seems worse this time around). This year there seems to be more distractions, more “last minute” things that need to happen before I disappear. And, more reluctance. Not because I’m afraid I won’t have a blast, but because of all the “unfinished” business (my books and incomplete manuscripts) I’ll be leaving behind. Yes, I can work on them whilst abroad, but I’d rather not take the editing binders with me. I will take a USB with me to work on the WIP (book five: The Catalyst). Maybe, by some miracle, I can complete the edit on book one and four before I leave. Sigh—one can dream.

Aside from the books, there are a few more accommodations that need to be arranged before the departure; two cars to rent—yeah … at least two. I want to use one whilst in Ireland for the first leg of the journey, then turn it in when we take the ferry across to Wales. We’ll grab a car at the ferry station, then use it the entire time we’re in the UK (I know … seems frivilous to have it sit for a full week up in Inverness, but I don’t think I can easily find a rental agency up there—and that’s what I do once I reach a destination anyway … park and walk), then turn it in when we catch the ferry back to Ireland. I’m of a mind to spend our last week roaming around on foot in and around Dublin and/or taking mini-tours (let the business do the driving)—there are plenty of them in the area … and hailing cabs when necessary (any night activities or things too far afield).

So, in planning the rentals and accommodations, I need to know the when—need more planning on how much time we’ll spend in various places. Do we hunker down in Dublin and take day trips? Do we travel to the west side of Ireland (Galway) and make day trips north and south? My planning time is running out … I need to focus on the nuts and bolts of the trip and not the other things that keep coming up in my day-to-day life—I need to put all the other stuff on the back-burner, so to speak.

Since I’ll have my daughter’s mother-in-law with me, I’m feeling that I need to be more organised than I usually am. She has a fairly laid back personality (we don’t fit the “normal” mother-in-law profile—we actually get along …), but I still feel the need for things to flow more smoothly. Not quite so spur-of-the-moment or spontaneous … or coddiwomple (teehee … I do love unusual words. Hmmm—should I make you look that one up? Naaw!) “(v.) to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.” Yup. That’s me in a nutshell. When I travel, I like to know some of the places I want to visit, but it’s not written in stone—there are way too many things that might be even better than what I’d planned. Or, circumstances may change the direction we need or want to go. I’m all for keeping an open mind and a loose itinerary (insert huge grin).

Luggage is also more of a concern this year than in the past. I’ve usually used one of the major airlines and they are fairly lax on checked bag size—Aer Lingus is very rigid about size. Usually, I’ve taken one 21″ 2-wheel bag so it’s never been a problem—except when I return … it’s usually bulging with gifts. Once I took two—the major airlines allow two, but not Aer Lingus. Only ONE free checked bag. So, this year, I decided to upgrade—I’ve got myself a 25″ spinner (4-wheel, omni-directional suit case).. I will still pack light (wash clothes on a weekly basis) and have room for plenty of gifts without the bag bulging. I still must limit my suitcase to 50# (same with all airlines). I’ve purchased a hand-held digital scale (don’t know why I didn’t think of this before!)—it will be a great way to keep tabs on how much we’ve accumulated. Overages can get very expensive—$100 (if I recall correctly) if even one pound over the max. An added suitcase would only have a $60 fee (plus the purchase price of the bag), so if we find ourselves overweight, that may be the way to go. I’m planning on staying under the limit—hopefully. We can always ship some items home—it may be worth that extra cost. We’ll see. My advise to you is to choose your airline carefully—this is the first time I’ve flown with Aer Lingus—they were the only airline that had a non-stop to Dublin from San Francisco that didn’t cost an arm and a leg … a “cheaper” airline may not be that good of a bargain—like I said … we’ll see.

Okay … so that’s enough rambling today. We’re in for a very rainy weekend … beginning later tonight. Have a delightful Friday—and weekend—despite the weather. Make sure to keep your eyes open—check around the corner for serendipitous happenings. Many blessings and cheers!

 

 

 

Progressing Nicely …

 


 

GOOD MORNING! FRIDAY IS turning into an absolutely gorgeous day here on the Central Coast of California. I truly live in Camelot—um … well, except for the three-ish days of rain and horrific winds. And now, it is the calm before the storm—a small respite before the next storm comes in tomorrow … the proverbial “calm before the storm”. The weather seems to be mirroring my life right now—at least, somewhat.

The storm is gathering. So are all the things that need to be accomplished. They are piling up … and I either tackle them—quickly—or they will run me over like a bulldozer. These last few storms have been like that—slamming the Central Coast with monster wind and rain (seriously unusual for this area—and these new weather patterns seem to be morphing into the “norm”)—major flooding elsewhere in the state—and mudslides in Big Sur are hopefully not undoing what CalTrans has worked so hard to repair from last year’s storms.

Well, I wrote all of the above last week. Monday—after a damp rainy weekend—was another gorgeous day, as were the rest of the days this week. Truly wonderful weather. I think the serious rains are really done for the season. And I still have a mountain of things to tackle before my trip. But, better weather and my ever-improving health is making the list look not quite as daunting.

So much as been accomplished this week—so refreshing. Editing has happened all week, plugging away at transcribing corrections for book one, editing book four and adding words to book five. (Book two sits in limbo, waiting for me to start the edit.) It truly feels wonderful to be getting things done—two long years of recovery, with its ups and downs. I think I can finally put that problem to rest. Yay!

My upcoming trip has certainly put a fire under me. I’m even getting things done around the house and in the yard. Can you see me doing Snoopy’s happy dance? (Insert foolishly giant grin here). My give away pile is growing; I need to make dump and recycle runs and I’m knocking off things on my to-do list. Feels good. Definitely.

I’ve even celebrated two birthdays (sniggle—same person …), spent time with my writing group and worked on getting my ducks in a row for the trip (still need to purchase some euros and pounds to take with me). As I came home these last few nights, I’ve seen the amazingly bright almost-full moon shining overhead—the weather has been very kind in that regard. I’m looking forward to Saturday’s blue moon—apparently it is the second of two blue moons for 2018, if I read the information correctly. I may be up extra late (or would that be super early??) to catch it with my good camera whilst it’s at its peak—my Painterly side is even getting a boost this week! Additionally, I’ve a few incomplete watercolour paintings that I’ve been studying off and on this week, trying to decide what to do next. Both have nice qualities (trying to decide it I’ll be able to layer them together in Photoshop—I hope so. It will be the beginnings for the cover for book one.

My upcoming trip has certainly put a fire under me. Honestly! I’m even getting things done around the house and in the yard. Can you see me doing Snoopy’s happy dance? (Insert foolishly giant grin here). And it does feel good!

My give away pile is growing; I need to make dump and recycle runs and I’m knocking off things on my to-do list. Feels good. Definitely.

I’m looking forward to Saturday’s blue moon—I may be up extra late (or would that be super early??) to catch it—my Painterly side is even getting a boost! I’ve a few incomplete watercolour paintings that I’ve been studying … trying to decide what to do next. Both have nice qualities (trying to decide it I’ll be able to layer them together in Photoshop—I hope so. It will be the beginnings for the cover for book one.

… And, this week culminates with Good Friday. Seems an ironic name for the awful thing that happened a little less than 2000 years ago. Christ dying an agonising death, taking on all of our sins. ‘Tis solemn and sad … but not really. It is the beginning of a celebration. The BC cartoonist, Johnny Hart, Good Friday Explanationexplained things in a nutshell (click on the image to enlarge), don’t you think? Sunday is a new beginning—a new week, with Easter—the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. And with all the flurry happening in my life right now, I’m glad to have both Good Friday and Easter happening—both are humbling for me, centering me. Very special days to celebrate.

So, my friends, I leave you with wishes for a blessed Friday and weekend … and the week to come.

Happy Easter—he has risen.

Books an’ Travel an’ Stuff …

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING ARRIVED with a bang … rain and wind that I’d prefer not driving in—but I did. The third Tuesday of each month is the Central Coast Writers meeting, on the Peninsula, tucked away in a corner of Pacific Grove. This meant I was driving in the wind on very wet roads … and the wind was ferocious enough that I felt like my car would hydroplane at any moment (if it wasn’t already …). Speed didn’t seem to be a factor at all. Let’s just say I was glad to get off of the highway and onto surface roads that were protected from the wind. The roads were dryer when I headed home (thank God!), so the winds (which were still pretty stiff) were no problem.

The meeting was wonderful—the guest speaker, C. S. Lakin, was quite engaging. She’s written quite a few books—the one she spoke about on Tuesday was Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Secrets to Supercharge Your Story. She shared visual storytelling techniques and I was surprised at how many techniques I was already utilise in my series. Perhaps not as well as the examples she used, so I listened carefully to what she had to say. It was well worth the trip in the horrific weather. Well worth it! (And … by the way, I bought the book.) The timing is very good, since I will be republishing each one of the books in the series. I am still (insert rolling eyes) working on getting book one’s first edit done for the editor—or, would it qualify as the second edit, since the book was already published (insert impish grin). I am a third of the way done transcribing all of my corrections into notes for him. In any case, I can take a good look at the whole thing once he sends it back to me with all of the changes. And I can start on book two—and three, looking at them in the same light … then move forward with a more critical eye in the edit of book four and five.

It’s times like these that I question my traveling abroad this year, but I am committed to the trip, and I know I’ll enjoy myself—once I get over there. I’ve been vacillating back and forth ever since I paid for the non-refundable airline tickets. I did this last time, too … but I ended up not being able to go last time due to my neck surgery. I truly love my time across the Pond. I’d live over there if I could figure out how to afford it (and keep my home here). Not in the cards unless I find myself a “deep-pockets” hubby. Sigh. Don’t think that’s in the cards either (insert major giggling here). I will be taking photos for book art and for my photopolymer etched printing … but I will not be taking any of my usual promotional materials—or even books. Well, maybe a few books, but my supply is limited and freebees are going to be few and far between. I say no promo material because the books are not really available for anyone to purchase over there—Amazon is not carrying any of them (or will not in the very near future) and I think overseas shipping for me to mail anything would be outrageous. Hmmm … mayhaps I should find out how much it would cost before I make too many assumptions.

Anyway, back to reality. I’m serious when I say (in one of my previous blog posts) that I may need to take a hiatus once I return from my trip. Distractions abound. It will be the only way to get editing, artwork (which I’m afraid I’m going to have to start from scratch …) and publishing done in a timely fashion. But when? Almost immediately after I get back, there’s a Scottish Games that our clan tent needs to be at—a friend and I host the tent every year—I cannot back out. Then the book signing season starts up with a bit of a sputter in early September and goes all the way through the first week of December. One of the November weekends, I’ve signed up to be in Columbia, South Carolina at a book fair. I know … I am plum loco. I committed (monetarily) to that before my publisher passed away. Before the headache of regaining rights to my books. And the artwork. Sigh.

So, the challenge will be finding time, saying no to friends and OGS (insert huge pout)—unless it gets me closer to my goal, cancelling commitments that can be cancelled … and focusing—not procrastinating—on the task at hand. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’ll keep you apprised of my progress. Blogging will stay—possibly much shorter posts than my usual blogs (and I do apologise for the length of this one!), but I won’t disappear.  I promise (I may link to my other blog account, since things look nearly full again—I do not want a repeat of what happened in January!) I promise to keep you up to date.

Please make sure you subscribe to both blogs so you don’t miss anything.  I’ll add links later—or in the next blog—it’s not like I’m leaving tomorrow. Not until May, so there’s time.

I leave you with wishes of a delightfully blessed Spring—even if you’re presently knee deep in snow. It will pass (I know—not soon enough, I’m sure). Have a delightful Friday and weekend … and I will be back next Friday! Toodles!

 

Thoughts On the Publishing Path

OH, MY. WHEELS ARE TURNING very slowly as my publisher’s business is being dismantled after her death just before Christmas, 2017. It has giving me time to begin researching what I’ll have to do to get my books back out in the marketplace. But there will not enough time to accomplish it before I go on my trip across the Pond.

With my researching, I am just now beginning to see all of the costs and complications involved in publishing my fantasy series (and anything else I choose to publish) on my own. The simple way would be to use CreateSpace, use their free ISBNs and only worry about Amazon as the primary vendor for my books—and purchasing my own books to sell at book signings and fairs. But I want to be able to use other platforms. And have control over my product. This means I must step into the shoes of the publisher. Much of what the publisher does, indie authors do … but because indie authors utilise CreateSpace (a Print-On-Demand company), it’s a free venture for the author. All they pay for are the books they need for their book signings (plus any table fees at the events and marketing tools). Publishers, on the other hand, handle quite a few things—I’m just beginning to understand it all.

There are a number of things I hadn’t thought much about regarding the publisher-avenue. Purchasing ISBNs, for example. The ISBN (a necessity) is quite pricey all by itself—and one is needed for each and every form of book that goes to market—whether paperback, hardbound or the various types of ebooks (one ISBN for each ebook type—yikes). Bar codes are another element that is important if the books are to go to vendors such as brick and mortar stores, libraries and such. The code makes all of the information about the book scannable. At least these are only needed for the physical book editions—soft and hard bound. The official website wants to sell them to me, but I googled bar codes and it turns out there’s a generator that creates them for free … or I can use Word or Excel to create them. I’ll need to print the instructions out and go over them with a fine tooth comb, looking at the pros and cons of each before I settle on the method. Of course, copyright is also important. At least this element is not too expensive—I hope—but there’s quite an application process to go through. And another thing I’ll need is a LCCN (Library of Congress Catalog Control Number)—a must for libraries. This is free (yay!) and takes very little time to acquire, but the ISBN is needed. So … I’m going to be one very busy girl. Sigh.

I still am not sure I’ll have access to my cover art work or if I’ll need to make new covers. I’m already tinkering with cover art—but I’m a long way from being ready to have a finished product. Then there is getting the logo for my publishing company, figuring out where everything goes on the cover—and the first three books will need to be published as second editions. Where does that information go? Oh! The press name popped into my head earlier today and I think it’s kinda catchy—and still incorporating my business name (insert grin). What do you think: The Press at Creations by djamesonsmith—”The Press” for short. The logo will be circular, probably with some form of tree in the center.

I’m afraid this is only the tip of the iceberg—and I feel like an entire Pandora’s box is going to explode in my face in the very near future. I’ve said I’m going to take this slow, but even with a slow wade through the mire, I’m afraid It’s almost too overwhelming—leaving me wondering if it’s worth it.

It is worth it, of course—but that doesn’t make it any less daunting. By the way, I bit the bullet on Thursday and paid for a block of ISBNs for my books (and then some, since I’m trying to think ahead and keep costs down). That single act makes me committed. Committed to move forward as a Publisher-Author. So, now you will be able to follow me through this quagmire as I learn as I go—you’ll be hearing about all the craziness as I juggle the new skills needed for this new endeavour. Thankfully, I’ve a wonderful friend or two … or three that will be invaluable in this whole process. Thank God for friends. Seriously!

I’ll be going between trip preparations, editing, and juggling this thing called publishing, plus all sorts of researching in my upcoming blogs—I’ll make sure to break up all of that with some photography and art so you don’t get too bored. So … until next week, I wish you a wonderfully blessed Friday, a delightful St. Paddy’s Day weekend and I’ll be here next week with another “installment” of my craziness. Cheers!

Fascinations

I’M A CLOUD-WATCHER from waaay back when. My daddy instilled the love of cloud gazing when I was quite young and it has never wavered. There are days I yearn to simply find a comfy spot on the ground—a patch of grass to settle into—and watch them parade across the sky, imagining a line of angels, lions, dinosaurs and such, morphing as they float across the heavens. It always brings memories of my daddy, too. Very fond memories! Watching the clouds and thinking of my daddy—nothing else. Heaven. Mmmm. Yes.

Our skies have been filled with strange and beautiful cloud formations—even sundogs and pillars, which I seldom have an opportunity to see. The skies have been amazing. Simply amazing. Clouds make for exquisite sunsets and sunrises—which I’ve taken full advantage of recently. Another reason to enjoy the rainy weather we’ve had. I’ve found that I’m waking earlier, so I’m able to watch the skies unfold into daylight with or without the decorator clouds help—whether I have camera in hand or not, I’m loving it!

But, the skies are weird too. I don’t remember seeing so many con trails from high-flying jets that checker-board our skies. Contrails that are fatter—and seem to hang around so much longer than I recall. Sometimes, I wonder about them, especially since I happened upon a conspiracy article (didn’t realise it was until I neared the end of my reading—naive little ol’ me … ). The idea was planted, even if I didn’t believe anything they said in the article. Conspiracy or not, I know air traffic has increased and the con trails have changed—just don’t know the why. I only hope they are not interfering with the ecology of our planet. We’ve done enough already and are so slow—or not willing—to rectify our errors (okay … off my soapbox now).

I just want to watch the clouds float by and let my imagination go wild. It helps with my creativity in my work—both Writerly and Painterly. It has definitely helped with my Painterly side … I’ve spent a few days at Open Ground Studios playing with some ideas triggered by all that cloud watching. I’m certainly no Van Gogh—my imagined product is far from what I end up with, but putting my ideas to paper is a wonderful feeling—and knowing I can massage the results in Photoshop gives me hope that I’ll come up with some usable covers for my books. I just need to play more.  Practice makes perfect, eh? I’ll post photos later (in another post)—when I am feeling better about the finished product.

I’ve a few photos to leave with you before I bid you adieu—there have been so many photo ops, and I’ve missed so many of them whilst driving to an appointment … or was in need of my good camera (vs iPhone) to capture the essence. Have fun with the few I’m sharing today (click on them to see the full image). I sincerely hope it doesn’t end up getting me locked out due going over my allotted storage space … yeah, still working on little bits of it (trying to get questions answered—fun, fun …) Please do not reproduce in any fashion without my permission. Thank you.

Clouds at Sunset Clouds Just Before Sunset Yes, More Clouds Sunset Nearly Done Clouds Sundog Variety Is the Spice of Life Good Morning, Clouds Partly Sunny ...? Impending Rain ... Cloudy SkiesMay your Friday, your weekend and the upcoming week be filled with the blessings of joy and accomplishments. Toodles!

 

Well, I’m Back—Finally

IT’S BEEN A VERY, VERY LONG MONTH—actually, over a month … but who’s counting! At least it appears that I have access to my account again (yaaaay!). I’m still waiting for a phone call from Yahoo’s help desk to sort things out (should come before 11am—ideally sooner, as I gave them a window of availability from 9-11). It may be that they simply opened the account for me to access so that I could go through stored (but unused) photos and delete them. (Update: the phone call never happened and I’m still waiting for a written reply on my “case”, so I’ll simply get on with my life as I wait …)

I’m certainly not tech savvy enough to figure out why I couldn’t get in to fix things. The Managers Tools are like Greek to me. I still think it was a glitch at their end, but I’ll never know. Well, in doing all the deleting and reviewing, I realised I had quite a few drafts I haven’t touched over the last few years—oopsie. And there were way too many photos that I supposedly did not use in blogs, yet had them all set up with description, titles, etc (which seems weird … another thing I need to ask about, right?)

So … this blog entry will seem a bit odd—trying to play catch up, plus for those of you that were unaware, I set up another blog so I could keep posting. Thankfully, there are only three blogs entries (at this point) on the new page <— that’s the link to those posts, in case you want to check them out. It’s not set up the way I want it yet, but it serves its purpose—when I decide to leave Yahoo, I’ll have this blog to move everything to (once I find a good tech to help me make the move smoothly). Still trying to decide which platform I’ll use for my existing website which is currently tethered to Yahoo. There must be another web host that is better … there must be.

But, at this point, that is the least of my worries. I need to complete two edits—actually four if you count book two and three (they need minor tweaks for the second addition), purchase the ISBNs for the series, finish a manuscript (and edit it!), come up with cover art (whether existing art or newly created) for all of them … and plan my vacation. This year was probably not the best year to be traveling, but it was time. Tickets are purchased and I desperately need the time away to play with my camera and unwind my mind. I’m definitely looking forward to traveling.

But … even before all of that, there is the annual headache called income tax preparation, that must be dealt with. So, the moment I post this, I’m off to my cave to sort through, crunch numbers (with an unknown factor from Inknbeans—no 1099 from them this year) and submit my return. I’m determined to have it ready to send off by the 15th of this month. A whole month ahead of schedule, so I can concentrate on planning my trip and editing. Here’s hoping I’m able to do it!

So, my friends … wherever you are, no matter the weather—my little corner of the world is being buffeted by a series of storms rolling through, bringing snow to fairly low elevations (sooo pretty to see snow in our mountain range)—keep looking for small nuggets of serendipity to brighten your day. Have a wonderfully blessed Friday and weekend and I’ll chat with you next week. I think next week will be about travel preparation—soooo much to do! Cheers!

 

Challenges, Here I Come!

IT’S BEEN AN INTERESTING YEAR so far. Looks like 2018 will hold some fascinating twists and turns. And plenty of new challenges.

But right now, I’m just chillin’. It’s Sunday and I’ve been crazy busy all last week trying to scratch off way too many things on my To Do list simultaneously—which is not a terribly smart move on my part.

I sat down to begin writing a light-hearted blog—great ideas were swimming near the surface and I wanted to get them down before I forgot … aaaand, by the time I settled down to “put them on paper”, they were gone. I haven’t a clue … (insert extreme eye-roll here, along with a deep sigh).

Hence my “chillin’” … I do have a lovely lap-warmer to keep my company. I think Sebastian is not keen on my “away-from-home” schedule that I’ve been keeping lately. If plopping on my lap keeps me from going anywhere, then he’s a pro at keeping me in one place. There is an Unspoken Rule—if a cat falls a sleep or is resting on your lap (or any body part for that matter), you are not allowed to get up, let alone move … Giggle. I do have my ways of getting him to move without breaking the Rule if I must get up, but usually I can handle the length of time he camps-out on my body.  But this week has been gruelling for him. And he’s let me know—he can be a very verbal little guy when he wants/needs to be.

Well, I was hoping that I’d remember what I was going to say—no dice … so, the best avenue for me is to putter … at least, that’s the new plan. The old plan was to go to church and then work at OGS again. But I overslept (majorly) and decided maybe I need to do less today. Staying home does not guarantee that—plenty to do here too …

Aaah … memories (fleeting little guys—insert a very sad face here). There are times that I think I’ve gained back a fair amount of my my memory … then days like Sunday happen. It’s now Thursday and that idea for the blog never resurfaced. I’ve been too busy playing (… well, actually working) in my new studio space. Did I tell you about that? My new studio—still a work in progressAnother view of my new OGS stufioStarting with January of 2018, I’ve a new space to be creative. It’s an actual space with an actual door on it (I know—gasp). So, since a bit after Christmas, I’ve been working on making it “my space” (hence the inordinate time away from my cat …). Adding furniture from home, shelves and cabinets I’ve scrounged, table tops of varying heights to accommodate different mediums … things like that. It is shaping up and I’m loving the space.

The other thing I’m doing (no, not editing …) is scrambling, trying to figure out what I’m doing with my books. Since the announcement that my publisher (if Inknbeans Press) passed away, there are quite a few authors feeling shipwrecked. We’ve been notified that the business will close …. which leaves most of the authors up a creek without the proverbial paddle. We are trying to help each other with whatever experience we can share.

I’m thinking that I may be doing it on my own, creating a mini-publishing company with one author (me). So I’d be using CreateSpace or Ingram as my publish on demand vendor for paperbacks  not sure about the ebooks yet—one step at a time.

But, I cannot do anything until the executors of her estate releases all rights back to each of the author, including me. So, it’s a game of wait and see …

Whilst I twiddle my thumbs in the waiting game, I’m inventorying what I have left in the way of books and I’m putting together a The beginnings of a marketing promo ...promo package to jump start the re-publishing of the series—doesn’t look like much at present, but just wait an’ see! I also need to get book four’s edit finished and wrap up book five (then start the editing process) so I can release them in rapid succession.

My Writerly plate is full, as is my Painterly plate. But as I’ve said before, I’m always up for a challenge. And it will be a challenge—indeed!

For now, I wish you all well. May your day, weekend and upcoming week be filled with manageable challenges, serendipity just around the next corner … and a safe and healthy year ahead of you.

 

To Everything There Is A Season …

RECENTLY, I WAS PERUSING THE LAST two posts and was somewhat “amused” (not really) by the titles I chose. It was as if I was a wee bit clairvoyant about the immediate future. The direction each post went … and the titles chosen speak volumes to me now.

This has been quite a year … full of ups and downs—thankfully more ups than downs. Finally, this last quarter has found me healthier, with more energy to enjoy the things I hold dear. More energy—and creativity, too—to create whilst wearing my Writerly and Painterly hats. I’ve been loving it!

My body and brain have been so “healthy” that ideas are now screaming to be heard, so as I work out things whilst trying to sleep, I don’t get as many restful hours. But that’s okay. I’d much rather the ideas flow (Insert monster grin here). Seriously. I’ve been on a natural high—finding myself full of purpose. And I’m getting things done. A wonderful feeling—a delightful change of pace, to be sure!

Last week I titled the blog “A New Beginning” and the week before it was “In Memory”—I had absolutely no idea what was going to be happening as the next weeks unfolded. Well, I can’t really say that. Ideas popped in my head, which were immediately squashed as negativity I didn’t need, nor want.

But as fate would have it, on Tuesday morning, someone at Inknbeans Press announced (on our private Facebook page) the passing of our fearless leader … our Inknbeans Press publisher. I couldn’t breathe as I read the news. It was if a monstrous elephant had just sat on my chest. I could not catch my breath. My mind literally reeled from the news.  An unbelievable idea—she could not possibly be dead. The doctors had released her from the hospital only a couple weeks before for an unrelated issue. How could she be gone?

All of her “Beans” (as she fondly called her authors) are still reeling—in denial, disbelief and/or simply unable to wrap our minds around what has happened—we had no clue this could possibly happen. She was, after all, a genuine fighter—an inspiration to all of us “Beans”. We were her Hill of Beans and quite proud of the name bestowed upon us.

She wasn’t simply our “boss” or our publisher. She was our friend, mentor, confidante, encourager—so many things. She had an uncanny way of knowing what each of us needed and she was there for us—juggling all of our individual needs with her own. She was a strong Christian, filled with the fruit of the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. She needed all those skills, since writers can be a handful at times—doubting their abilities, dealing with writers’ block, insecurities, etc—she gracefully and masterfully helped us through it all. I think her only vice was coffee. She loved her coffee—oh, yes she did! The only other “inconsistency” (if you can call it that) was her aversion to being photographed. She was so beautiful in spirit—I couldn’t understand why she didn’t like being “captured” on camera. We teased her about being in Witness Protection … or being an undercover spy. If she was in a shot, we needed to “wipe” her from it before sharing it. Last year we did manage to get her to take a group shot—under the protection of a fan, she allowed it.

As this blog goes to “press”, we are still uncertain as to the fate of the company, our involvement with Inknbeans, and our books. The Inknbeans Press office has been closed “until further notice”, so getting additional copies, getting new books published—it’s all on hold. In limbo. We will find out more sometime next month, hopefully. I’m trying not to stress over it …

In the meantime, many of us are working on writing something up to be added to a small anthology, which will be printed, bound and presented to her family, friends and a copy for each of her authors as a memorial to her. It is rather therapeutic to do this sort of thing, so I’m glad I said yes.

We Beans have a pretty short deadline to work with and I am struggling to get it written (being therapeutic doesn’t make it any easier …). Because of that, I am going “dark” for a couple of weeks—there will be no blog till I’ve got my piece done. This blog, of course, is the last for the year—literally, since the new year begins in only a few short days. I will give myself a few weeks to concentrate on my piece for the anthology and hopefully have a new blog for the 12th or 19th of January. I may surprise myself and get it done before … but no promises.

So, to close the 2017 year … I wish you all a Blessed and Happy New Year. May 2018 hold more ups than downs—and many wonderful experiences, plus unending Joy and Peace.

Memphis Tennessee Bean Reunion, 2016

“Hill of Beans” and Boss Jo

For my dear friend, Maaijo “Boss” Lowe, may you rest in peace at the feet of Jesus with an ever-fresh, steaming cup of coffee. We Beans know you’ll be chatting up all the authors that have gone before you and spreading your indomitable love everywhere you go. I miss you so much already …

 

 

A New Beginning

OOH, TALK ABOUT BEING SIDETRACKED! I’ve tucked my edits away as I’ve worked toward digging out a few important pieces of furniture for my new space at Open Ground Studios. The OGS director texted me on Wednesday, saying the space was ready for me—talk about the ultimate early Christmas present! Edits put aside, I’ve been dreaming and scheming about how I can transform my space—I pulled together a few things (tape measure and a few tools) and drove over to begin to tidy and measure my space. I mopped the floor—in hindsight, probably should have done that last. I kinda cleaned the walls, knocked down the cobwebs and dust hiding on the windowsills (I’ve three windows—insert grin—plus a windowed door).
Then I found the key to the storage space and wrestled my box of IKEA bits into my office—they needed to be put together. Though that took much longer than I figure, I was able to successfully put together a six drawer rolling unit—it looks great!

I left OGS completely spent, with plans to return on a Thursday to deliver a few large items: two small filing cabinets, a smallish table and (now that I know it will fit—remember the measuring tape?) … a corner unit computer desk. Oh, and that was fun—not! Took two days of attempting to dismantle, then I gave up on it (I’ll have to reassemble what I’ve done as it’s staying at home). I decided to take a drop-table secretary desk instead. I’ve cleaned it out and it’s ready to go. It’s much heavier than anticipated, so getting it out of the house, into the truck and back out at the other end will be interesting … this is how I’ll be spending my Friday. I’m hoping there might be somebody at OGS to help with the desk … we’ll see.

So … I also needed to return all the stuff I had in my flat file and cubby. Most of it was done Thursday, but I’ve one more load to go (I think). Then, I’ll be going to Home Depot to look for brackets and boards for some shelving. I might even get a couple of boards I’ll need to cut down and some wheels to make a rolling table/platform. Still working on that in my head.

Sigh—no matter how “small” the move, it’s a nuisance … to say the least (she said with a grin).

Christmas is this weekend (Sunday/Monday). I’ve promised to bring some yummy food, so Saturday will be my day to prep/cook all of it. I’ll be spending Sunday at church, then at my daughter and son-in-law’s home for a Christmas Eve dinner. Monday morning—and most of the day—will be spent with his family and a few friends. So … before it gets crazy, I want to wish you all safe travels and, as you settle in with your friends and family, a blessed Christmastime.

May Peace and Joy surround you this weekend and beyond. 🎄 Merry Christmas 🎄

In Memory …

ONE OF MY MOST FAVOURITE actresses is Dame Judi Dench. When I read this article—found on a friend’s Facebook page—with a goofy photo of her, it started me to thinking …

If I were to plant trees in memory of my deceased love ones, which would I choose? With my Celtic roots, I would definitely want to research the history behind ones found in Scotland and Ireland for my family.

I do have quite a few loved ones that have left this earthly plane in my lifetime: all of my grandparents, all of my uncles, one (blood relative) aunt, my parents, my mother-in-law, my husband, a number of friends …

After reading the article, I found that Dame Judi was very particular about which trees she chose. Her friends either had an affinity to the tree or there was some personality trait that clicked with the particular tree chosen. I think I would need to research the strengths and character of each tree—and of each person before I began. I would be limited to how many I could plant, since I have a meager, not-quite-acre—on a serious hillside (with the house set in the middle of it all).

The easiest to choose would be for my dad. I’m not sure I’d only plant the Jacaranda … maybe I’d add a couple of other trees as well, plus roses. He was an avid gardener with the greenest of green thumbs. And he loved nature. I’d probably dedicate an area with various small to medium sized plants that would fair well under the umbrella of a Jacaranda. My mom loved roses—especially pinks. I think I’d probably combine their trees/garden and add forget-me-nots since pink and blue were her favourite colours.

Mom’s mom—my maternal grandmother—passed away when I was fairly young and I honestly don’t remember much about her, except that she was a wonderful cook, making sure her grandchildren had sweets and cakes to enjoy on our visits. I haven’t found any photos of her—I think my cousin has all of those, along with much of my grandfather’s photos. So I’m not sure what I’d plant in her memory. In his memory, I’d probably do best with a cactus (don’t get me wrong—I loved him, but he could be very prickly at times) … my brothers saw him in a much different light than I (I’m sure it was a gender thing after hearing stories told by my mother).

My dad’s dad (my paternal grandfather) also died before I really had a chance to get to know him—think I was only four or five. My dad looked up to him from a very early age, but all I really remember was him sitting under an old, sprawling avocado tree with most—if not all—of his grandchildren sitting or running around on the lawn around him (he was definitely the patriarch of the family). So, perhaps an avocado. I was a young adult when my paternal grandmother died, so I have many memories of her. She was the only one to send me books for my birthdays and at Christmas. This grandmother was my dad’s step mom—his birth-mom died during the flu epidemic when he was entering toddlerhood. I think, for both of his moms, I’d plant gardenias … or perhaps citrus (or maybe one of each) and forget-me-nots underneath. Not sure why—just seems appropriate. Perhaps it’s because I associate the town my dad grew up in with those plants. Both of them were of German descent, so maybe a little research will yield a beautiful tree that would survive my climate.

My husband’s mom—Czech and UK descent—and all other loved ones will need research … it’s going to be a mighty forest when I’m done (which makes me happy), but I must consider my veggie garden in the process. All trees may need to be planted only on the north-east side of the property so I will have sun to nourish my edible garden—and I don’t interfer with neighours’ viewshed.

What have you done to memorialise family and friends? I’d love to hear.

Hmm. A last minute thought: Jesus’ life/death/character was memorialised by a pine tree, in addition to the red/white candy cane and a cross …

Speaking of that … only two more Sundays until Christmas! Hanukkah began on the 12th … and all the other holidays will soon follow. Wishing you all a Merry, Happy (you fill in the appropriate blanks). Whatever way you choose to celebrate, may your holiday be blessed abundantly.

 

Winding Up … Winding Down

{Oops. My apologies—I was having technical difficulties and was unable to get into my account, so couldn’t post this until now.}

IN WAYS, THE SEASON IS just beginning to warm up, in other ways, it’s finally winding down. Today is the very last day of my crazy book signing/craft show events.

The wind-down allows me to evaluate what worked and what did not. And it allows me more time to spend with friends and family as the holidays heat up. I’ve had to say no to friends and family so many times this year, I’m sure they thought I was a workaholic.

Being able to say yes feels wonderful! I love when I can mix work with pleasure, too—the two-day Christmas at the Inns was delightful, allowing me to photograph the Inns in all their Christmas splendour … and I was able to have some quality time plus a delicious meal with good friend. I’ve known this cool lady since we moved up into my little paradise—a good thirty-plus years! We have a mutual love for cars and photography, so it was natural to share the two days of fun with her.

There are a few more photography-rich events we are doing together, plus a concert before year’s end and I have a Writerly Christmas luncheon to attend, a sports car club Christmas luncheon, time with family, too … my social calendar is almost as crazy as my business calendar was earlier in the year.

It’s all about spending time with friends and family. Friends I’ve neglected through the year. I haven’t been quite so bad with immediate family—I’ve been able to spend time with my daughter and son-in-law fairly frequently. My brothers and their families … well, sadly, that’s something else again—with no one close by, it’s hard. Now … it’s time to catch up on all that has been going on—somehow.

The winding-down means I can relax, too. I can enjoy the holiday—my very favourite season. For me, it means Christmas lights, decorations, decorating the tree … giving of ones self. Nothing is rushed. Everything is savoured. Enjoyed. And lovingly shared. That’s the way is should be.

So, my friends, make sure to set aside time to truly enjoy the season—slow down, breathe. Fill yourself with the beauty of the time of year—whether it’s filled with snow, rain or sun … find it in you to be gentler, caring, giving. And forgiving.

May you find this day, this weekend and week to come blessed and filled with joy!

Ramblings

ON MY WAY TO FINDING A WEATHER station in Las Vegas, the new home of a friend of mine, I got sidetracked. I did find the proper station so I could follow the weather patterns, but also found myself reminiscing over long ago family trips.

Probably long before the “new” Highway 101 and 5 were well established, my dad used to drive us up and down the old two-lane Hyws 101, 99 and 395 to take us on our holiday-to-the-relatives and our annual vacations. In my wanderings with the map, many memories were triggered. So many. In the past, I’ve actually retraced—or at least tried to retrace my dad’s paths … trying to find any bit of the old roads. Using key landmarks helped, but even those finally disappeared in the name of progress. But lacking landmarks doesn’t stop me. I love poking into the corners of my past.

One path I have not tried—and there are so many memories attached to this route—is Highway 395. June Lake is somewhere off of Hwy 395 and there are some fond memories from that area—both with me as a kid and as a young wife with my husband and my youngest brother. My weather station hunting had me deciding to trace the road on the map to see how feasible it would be to make a trip. It begins just west of Hisperia in the high desert of Southern California, which is about 40 miles south of Barstow. It traverses the desert along the eastern edge of California and up into the mountains, jogging in and out of Nevada several times on its way up into Oregon. It dead ends the small town of Riley at the junction of Hwys 395 an20 (which travels east to west). Well, that’s what I thought. I went back to verify the name of that little town … and after a lot more searching, found that it actually dead ended in the city of Spokane, Washington near the surface streets of S. Lincoln St. and W. 4th Ave (sharing Hwy 90). Mind you, my recollections are that my dad only drove the California section—and only parts of that. I may be wrong … but I won’t know till I look at the map in more detail (was using my smart phone’s map app first, then focused on the route only, once I switched to the laptop computer)—I wasn’t looking at what was around the route.

But the entire route, my friends, is not a quick little jaunt—that amounts to a 1,170+ mile drive! So, if I decide to make it an adventure, I’ll probably stick to the California section. As it is, that will take quite some time—perhaps three separate trips. And, with winter setting in soon, the majority of it will need to wait til spring and summer—I do not have a snow-worthy vehicle. Sure—I’m capable of driving in snow … and I could get chains for the snowy bits, but I’d rather not deal with that much cold and be putting my safety in other driver’s hands (I know I can drive in it, but what about other tourists?) …

So, I will be writing a travel blog sometime next year (maybe) about mapping out the route, packing and the actual trip (I’m sure there will be plenty of photos to insert)—in addition to my “regular” trip blog about another travel across the Pond … this 2018 trip may be my “Swan Song”—the last trip to the UK and abroad, so I’m going to do it up right.

I’ve done so little traveling of late—I am getting restless. On Black Friday, I turned my errand-running into a driving adventure  I took back roads and routes I’ve seldom (if ever) taken to get to my destinations and had a blast—and the weather was magnificent. I’m thinking I need to do this more often—even once the rain begins to be a nuisance. Perhaps once a week will suffice. I’ll have to play with timing to see how it goes—I’m a big fan of spontaneity, so who knows when my next jaunt will be (insert huge grin …)

May your Friday, your weekend and the whole of next week be blessed with spontaneous happenings.

 

Thanksgiving …

(Written on 19Nov17)

I AWOKE SO EARLY THIS MORNING—so much earlier than necessary, that I realised I’d be able to catch the sunrise for the first time in such a very long time. I grabbed my robe and slippers, trod downstairs and started to brew my tea. I watched the pre-dawn light—first light—create beautifully contrasting dark and light grey shadows just outside my kitchen window. The few clouds hanging about looked like grey wisps against a lighter grey sky.
That made me smile—sunrises and sunsets are pretty, but clouds make for a more vibrant, colourful display.

As I waited, I sipped on my tea, contemplating this chilly morning hour. Why on Earth was I even awake? I didn’t have to be at the Aromas Grange until about 9:45–which means leaving about a half-hour before. Plenty of time to do everything needed with a normal 7:30-8am rise. So, why so early? There were some very logical reasons—among others: every day I’m feeling healthier, getting more restful sleep than I’ve had in ages—both give me more energy … but I don’t think that’s the entire picture.

I try (that is a key word …) to revolve my life around God—a God-centric, purposeful life. Trying to listen to what He wants me to do, how He wants me to act, what He wants me to say … keeping my mind open to His leading whilst going about my daily life. Sometimes I fail miserably … other times, I succeed. The way I try to interact and treat others is one of the successes. I think my fantasy series is another one of these successes. So is my photography. The majority of my images are of nature—plants, animals and landscapes. This is where I shine—because He leads me to the situations resulting in lovely shots.

But, just because it looks like I’ve got the camera in my face all the time does not mean the beauty that surrounds me escapes me. My mind, my heart—it takes it all in and I do a little dance of thanksgiving. It seems I am always doing this dance. What I see fills me with joy. Sometimes, the camera takes a nice shot but my heart says what I’m seeing is too beautiful to capture in a two dimensional image. So, I simply bring the camera to rest and breathe in the scene, enjoying it for what it is—a gift to behold, to wrap myself up in. And I thank Him for the delights He brings to me every day.

So this mornings early rise was one of His gifts—a sunrise I haven’t seen in so many years … all of the beautiful blushed pinks, reds and orange-yellows popping behind the dark oak tree silhouettes.

With all of the hustle and bustle in my life lately, my heart and mind needed to see something quietly inspiring. He always knows exactly what gift to give, just like so many other times before—wonderful one-on-one conversations with dear friends, seeing someone I haven’t seen in ages and having time to reminisce, does and bucks grazing in the yard, frisky little fawns frolicking, my mocking bird with new songs to share with me, an owl carrying a conversation with another in a nearby tree … magnificently delicate blooms to contemplate … and this morning, me being wonderfully present (both physically and mentally) when the beautiful, vibrant sunrise unfolded before me.

Thank you Lord for the splendiferous abundance of beauty you provide in my life—friends, experiences … it’s all in His timing, not mind.

May He bless you and your loved ones abundantly today, on Thanksgiving Day, and beyond.

 

Perfection … ?

NOWHERE IN THIS WORLD WILL YOU find a person that is perfect. Nope. Not anywhere. One can strive for perfection. One can attain a moment of perfection—like a tear drop in the ocean of life—one tiny moment. That’s all. Life is too messy for perfection. Those that continually attempt to achieve the impossible can find themselves very unhappy because it always remains just out of their reach. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Oh, absolutely not—we must realise it is not something to attain, but rather, something to use as a goal … to continually strive toward.

For me? Well, I think I love the “messiness” of life. It creates challenges, discoveries and life lessons. Of course, there has been only one being that managed to achieve perfection. Only one—and it was not just anyone. I use His perfection is a goal—a goal I know I will never fully manage in this worldly life. But He knows that. We are all damaged goods, but He knows we are worth salvaging … worth saving, if we ask …

The messiness. I’m trying to figure out why I’m writing about this. It’s as plain as the nose on my face, right? My life is messy. Beautifully messy. And since I seem so disorganised of late, is everything around me is too (insert goofy grin). My home, yard, cars, my art and writing … it can be overwhelming. Honestly. But for some reason, it isn’t—once upon a time, it certainly was … but not now. Back when I was incapable of getting out into the yard to do the tiniest bit of cleanup or lacking the energy to do a simple pick-up around the house, or even put words on a page—oh, yes. That was overwhelming. Emotionally and physically. Thankfully, now my energy and strength is returning—finally (aaah, insert Snoopy’s happy dance here!!) I have been in the yard and puttering around the house all the time. Creativity abounds. Words flow. Still messy, but delightfully so.

The mess created over the last two years is mountainous—but I’m finding as long as I keep going (and with the occasional help of a team of gardeners), it gets better looking, which encourages me to do even more. Weird, but it’s the visual accomplishments—improvements—that keep me at it. The pressure is off (but not forgotten)—where fire safety is concerned—rain has quelled that. I’m past the “ugh—I need to get out of this mess (read: MOVE!) and start over”—I’m so glad to have moved beyond that horrible feeling of frustration. And, finally, my mind is beginning to move beyond “what’s next/now what?” to “how can I improve/beautify?” Ideas are pouring into my mind from who knows where. It’s exciting.

My messy life extends into every corner of my creativity. I find myself (finally) back to seriously working on all three of my Writerly projects—book one’s edit (so it can be republished with Inknbeans Press), book four’s edit (so it can finally be published … and book five (I am progressing in it nicely—it is an exciting “chapter” in the series). The life lessons continue through the series … and I still don’t know what the final book will be—book six? Book seven? Only my characters know for sure. They’ll clue me in at some point—hopefully.

Even my Painterly side seems to be re-ignited. I’ve acquired a new, much larger printer so I can make larger pieces of art—that definitely excites me (still have to figure out out to set it up, but that’s half the fun, right?)—I can hardly wait to begin playing with it. The funny thing is, there are only two more events (one this weekend and one the second week of December), so there’s no way I’m going to produce any new material for this year’s events. The nice thing is, that doesn’t really bother me. The important thing is that I’m re-energised … on fire. And I’m loving it!

The end of November and the whole of December are times of renewal for me … I do have personal (fun) commitments—parties, family events and outings with friends, both day and night. I am so ready to get back to being normal … it has taken two long years. God is good … especially when I remember all things can be done and will happen—in His time, not mine. So … I’m not going to waste a moment.

In the meantime, my dear readers, try not to stress over the upcoming holidays … just be in the moment, take in the joy where you can and shake off the craziness that others try to foist upon you. There is so much to be thankful for. Start counting all of those little things that help you get through each day … have a blissful, blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends, and I’ll see you just after Thanksgiving—no Black Friday for me. Maybe I’ll wander around Point Lobos or venture down into Big Sur—it’s opened partway, so it would be nice to see the area again!

And readers—watch out. Keep an eye out for New Things in the New Year.

FINAL EVENTS:
Book Signings and Art at Craft Fairs

Saturday-Sunday 18-19 November 10am-4pm
Aromas Grange, Aromas CA

Thursday-Friday 7-8 December 10am-4pm
Watsonville Community Hospital, Watsonville CA

 

 

 

Keep On Keeping On …

LOOKS LIKE MY WEEKEND NOVEMBER calendar is filled to the brim. Between Joyce and me finding things, just about the only weekend without a book signing is the weekend following Thanksgiving Day (I’ve never been keen about taking part in the Black Friday/Weekend frenzy) … at least I think we’re not doing anything—insert eye roll here … haha. I’ve actually found one more—up in Morgan Hill (another new one for both of us)—for December 9th … but I’ve just realised I already have a commitment that day. So, I’ll be chatting with Joyce to see if she will be doing it. We’ll do it next year—each of us have personal things already on the calendar. Sigh (whew!)

October ended up not being as busy as anticipated—the events didn’t get us applications soon enough, so we missed the deadlines. In a way, that was good—it allowed me to work on getting the yard squared away … still not CalFire compliant, but getting closer.

We’ve already had a little rain (not enough to dampen the level of fire hazard, so I keep on keeping on … working toward full compliance. But life is going to get very crazy with the book signing weekends, so I’ll have to focus on working in the yard during the week … and hopefully not maim myself too bad (teehee)!

So, here I am—into the second week of November. This weekend event begins on Friday 1pm-6pm at Watsonville Elks and it goes from 10am until 4pm on Sat, and 10am-3pm on Sunday. You can always check the dates and times at my Amazon Author’s page.

Next week the craziness begins on Saturday at the Aromas Grange, 10am. Right now, I need to put some finishing touches on what to take to Watsonville.

This is a brief blog post—wow … what a change! Kinda nice change—the reason is, I spent all of yesterday doing everything but work on my blog. And here it is, nearly 9am PST—which, by the way, I am loving being back on standard time!—and I’ve not yet posted …

My friends … I hope your Friday is blessed beyond belief, as will your weekend and week to come. Have an awesome day!

Pollyanna

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG ADULT, ONE of my younger brothers was called a Pollyanna by some family members. I’ve even called him that (to others—not sure if I’ve ever told him to his face). I’m not sure how he is viewed by the outside world. He’s had plenty of hardships, but he always managed to spin them positively when we were talking with him—he still does.

I’ve always been an optimistic person—for as long as I can remember, so I think I’m a bit of a Pollyanna myself—none of my other brothers have called me that to my face (but then, I don’t know if they’ve ever told my younger brother to his face either—always was behind his back with other family members). I’m forever looking at things positively (yeah, I do grumble a bit now and then, but I usually turn it around to a more positive attitude—eventually). I can’t help but have a positive outlook—God is with me and no matter how bad it gets, there always seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel I can crawl towards.

I presumed, the way people used the term (usually rolling their eyes when said) that is was more of a negative thing—that the person had blinders on, not thinking straight—not looking at the whole picture. My computer dictionary defines Pollyanna as: “an excessively cheerful or optimistic person”. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I guess it really depends on what you consider excessive, doesn’t it? So, I went a wee bit further and clicked on the definition of excessive: “more than is necessary, normal, or desirable; immoderate.” Giggle … that led me to the definition for immoderate: “not sensible or restrained; excessive”. Then I turned to the online Merriam/Webster version. It defines Pollyanna as: “a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.” I like that even more.

Well … I guess I’m found guilty. To the average person, I definitely fit into that category, but I do not see it as a negative—not one bit. Pollyanna (and all that the dictionary espouses) is just a worldly view of life. A view that makes many uncomfortable watching. For me, it’s more like I’m filled with joy. Cutting to the chase, my computer’s definition of joy is: “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Merriam-Webster’s definition?
“1 a :the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires :delight
b :the expression or exhibition of such emotion :gaiety
2 :a state of happiness or felicity :bliss (complete happiness)
3 :a source or cause of delight”

Merriam/Webster’s version is the true Me. I’m overflowing with Joy. When I’ve apologised to friends for the over-exuberance (especially my giggles and laughing), they tell me they love it—it leaves them feeling better, so please don’t stop! Knowing that has helped me know it’s not an irritant to others—I’m simply sharing my Joy with others!

There are always going to be good and bad days, but how I view each day … each hour is the big thing (at least for me). When I’m down, nothing seems to go right. The moment I lighten up and think more positively—the joyous feeling returns. The Bible’s got it right:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Phillippians 4:8
When I do that, things start to turn around (insert glowing smile …).

… and, as usual, this is not where I’d planned on taking this blog (not sure exactly where I was headed, but not down this path …) But all of my writing is guided—it sure took me a very long time to realise that and I am very much okay with it. Apparently this is what I needed to talk about today. So, I do hope this has inspired you in some way. If nothing else, it’s been a reminder for me to be more focused on what really counts in life—not all of the people-bashing, doom and gloom, and nay-sayers that is permeating the media. I’ll stand firm in my beliefs, stay positive and spread my joy. How about you?

May this day, this weekend and coming week find you blessed with abundant joy.