Gratitude

I’ve written plenty of posts over the years on gratitude. I’ve even authored a book called Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing From Trauma and Discovering Joy in Every Moment, written under pen name Alexandra Benn.

Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing From Trauma and Discovering Joy in Every Moment by [Benn, Alexandra]It’s in large part because of gratitude that I have the life I have today. It’s gotten me through everything from monumental life events to seemingly infinitesimal daily matters. It’s gratitude that has lifted me from the depths of despair and painful moments I couldn’t see my way thorough. It’s gratitude that has carried me through the death of loved ones and fully appreciating my loved ones still with me. It’s gratitude that makes me focus on all that I have instead of desiring that which I don’t.

Gratitude is a state of mind, a decision, a choice. It’s choosing to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty. It’s choosing to look at what you have with appreciation and thanks instead of pining for that which you don’t. It doesn’t mean you have to be grateful for pain that hurts beyond anything you’ve ever felt, but I promise you there’s something in that painful mess that you can be grateful for.

Death of a loved one? You can be grateful for the time you had with him/her. For the experiences you shared. For the memories you can cherish.

Victim of a crime? Help other victims of crime and feel gratitude that you’re able to use it for good. It transforms you from victim to victor.

Passed up for the job promotion you worked so hard for? Reach deep to find gratitude that you have a job and that you have the opportunity to try again. In fact, express your happiness for the person who did get it, and you will feel like the winner.

Chronic illness? There’s always someone who’s worse off. I’m not suggesting your illness/pain isn’t real and I’m not diminishing it in any way. (I, too, had a long run with chronic pain in my past with fibromyalgia.) But if you choose to focus on and be grateful for the health you have in other areas, it makes it so much easier to bear.

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So all of this being said, it’s this time of year that I love to reflect on the past year(s) and swell with gratitude for all that I have and all that I have accomplished. Every New Year’s Eve I journal these things as a permanent visual reminder of how blessed I am. On those days life is especially hard, when I’m tired and worn, and when it’s hard to see the blessings, I pull that journal page out and review it. And then I’m so grateful for the practice that I’ve cultivated.

What from this past year are you grateful for? 

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. John Milton

 

 

Holiday Spirit

Last weekend I participated in the Harvest Craft Fair in my hometown. I look forward to it months in advance and am usually a bit bummed when it’s over. Anticipation hangover. The craft fair signals the start of the holiday season with lights, music, and community. My favorite parts of the holidays.

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Each year I have one or two new books to add to my table. If I stay the course I’ll need to add another table. 🙂 The turnout, both vendors and shoppers/browsers, was the largest yet.

The holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us.
~ Terri Marshall

The rest of my week, and the weeks to come, are more centered around these books:

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For most people, it would be frightening to see these books on someone’s shelves. For mystery writers they couldn’t be more normal. And helpful!

And with that, short and sweet as it was, I’m headed back over to Birch Haven, Minnesota, the home of Melanie Hogan, to finish up NaNoWriMo strong.

Until next week…

Carpe Diem

Vacation in Birch Haven

Birch Haven, MN

I’ve been spending November in Birch Haven, MN. And it’s in the dead of winter there. Never heard of Birch Haven? There’s a very good reason for that.

It’s fictional.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where literally millions of people commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I’m happy to say I’m on track with writing book five in the Melanie Hogan Mysteries, Shear Fear. In fact, I’m a wee bit ahead so I’ve got some breathing room. Whew!

One of the best parts of writing a novel? You get to create any setting you want and spend all the time you want there. It’s truly magical. You get to create characters you like, people you don’t mind spending all of your free time with, protagonist, antagonist, and supporting cast, and they become your friends. That probably sounds a bit crazy to non-writers, but to all of you writers out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

And with that, short and sweet as it was, I have to hurry back to Birch Haven before the portal closes to see what Melanie and her friends will get into next.

See you next week, with thousands more words under my belt.

Write On

Writer’s Joy

Happy November!

November is shaping up to be a busy month in my writing life. And I couldn’t be more thrilled. There’s something about fall (and November is still fall, although late stages) and the  holidays that follow, that brings renewed energy and enthusiasm. And when anything having to do with writing gets thrown in the mix…well, it’s the perfect recipe.

For me the moral of the story is this: A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life.  Chris Baty, Founder of National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve decided in the 11th hour to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Since I discovered Camp NaNoWriMo a few years ago and fell in love with it, I let NaNoWriMo fall to the wayside. Until this year. The differences between the two?

Camp NaNoWriMo: Takes place in April and July; campers are in virtual cabins with people who cheer each other on; we have virtual bonfires, s’mores, and all things camping; campers set their own goals, whether it’s word count, page count, hours/minutes; and there’s the opportunity to choose what to write–a new project, short stories, poetry, revisions on an already-written piece, etc. It’s flexible, a bit more relaxed, and so much fun!

NaNoWriMo: Takes place in November when the weather usually isn’t quite as nice so it allows for more writing time, not to mention the holiday weekends giving those of us with day jobs a couple of extra days off; the goal is 50,000 words in 30 days so one’s social life is pretty much put on hold for the month; the project? A new novel. Not one that’s already started, but a fresh, new novel waiting to be written, and will be written (at least the first 50,000 words of it) by November 30th at midnight. NaNoWriMo is much more intense than Camp, but the level of enthusiasm from the thousands and thousands of participants around the world, is infectious. The extra time spent in my home office–one of my favorite places to be, the sense of community, and the feeling of success, whether you’ve reached the 50,000 word goal or not, is an experience you’ll never regret. So this year, it’s on! I’ll be creating the first draft of book five, Shear Fear, in my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series.

The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline.  Chris Baty, Founder of National Novel Writing Month

In addition to NaNoWriMo, the audio book of Shear Madness, book one in the Melanie Hogan Mysteries will be released. I’ve finally gotten on the audio book train. Better late than never. And I really enjoy my narrator with ACX, Shelby Forbes. Shear Deception and Shear Malice will be soon to follow. Book four, Shear Murder, is due back from my copy editor any day with a release soon to follow.

Happy

And last, but not least, is the Harvest Fellowship Church Craft Fair on Saturday, November 17th. I participate in it each year, usually do pretty well, but more importantly have fantastic time with all of the vendors and the buyers. It’s a time to get in the holiday spirit, begin my Christmas shopping by supporting local businesses (in between people shopping at my booth), and to just have fun.

What does your November bring?

Annnndddd…Have a happy and SAFE Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

 

Cover Reveal!

Coming in November!

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When beauty salon owner Melanie Hogan joins six of her pals from beauty college for a reunion in Pinewood Village, Minnesota, one of the gang turns up dead the morning after the party. With Melanie’s shears as the murder weapon, she’s the prime suspect in the investigation. As Melanie launches an investigation of her own to clear her name and to eliminate each of her friends as the murderer, she uncovers secrets of the victim that rocks her world.

As Melanie digs into her old friends’ histories, her own past comes back to haunt her. With someone working overtime to set her up as the killer, Melanie enlists the help of her beauty salon cohorts to find the real Shears Slayer before she’s next.

All Things Gratitude

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Gratitude fills my heart, my home, my life. And I’m so grateful for that. But I also realize that it’s all too easy to get busy with living and default, as human beings often do, to feelings other than gratitude, forgetting to be grateful. Especially for the small, simple things in life that make a big difference.

So I’ve created a gratitude jar that sits on my kitchen counter. Right beside it are pre-cut strips of paper and a pen for easy access. No excuses that there isn’t time to find a pen or “I’ll get to it later.” My husband and I frequently fill out a slip as we pass by the jar, and family and friends who visit are encouraged to participate as they wish.

Our plan is to go through each item of gratitude on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of all that we have to be grateful for in the past year. And what a way to bring in the new year–with hearts filled with gratitude!

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. -Melody Beattie

Another item of mention that I’m so excited about is that a non-fiction article I wrote titled Gratitude in All Things has been published in an anthology titled Colorado’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction and has been released this week. Yay! It can be found here and here


May I suggest making your own gratitude jar? Get creative. Got kids? Have them help! Make it a family activity.

And in the meantime, let me know what you’re grateful for last week, today, in this moment.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. -William Arthur Ward

Calling for Recipes

Kitchen

With Camp NaNoWriMo over today, it’s time to get moving on my work in progress.

A portion of each book in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series includes some time spent in Nana’s kitchen. There, not only does she teach Melanie how to cook, but they make lasting memories with time spent together and connecting as can only be done in the warmth and love of a kitchen. With good food, coffee or tea, and good company, what could be better?

Each book also includes a recipe. In fact, Shear Madness, book one in the series, contains three recipes! Since the series is set in northern Minnesota (fictional Birch Haven, to be exact), the recipes included are either hotdish or some other recipe native to Minnesota. What is hotdish some non-Minnesotans may ask? It’s a casserole that contains some sort of starch, meat, canned or frozen vegetables, and canned soup.

I’m currently searching for recipes for my upcoming book, Shear Murder, book four in the series, scheduled for publication in November, 2018,  If you have a hotdish recipe, or another that is native to Minnesota, that you would like featured in the book, send it to me via email at rjblackhurst0611@gmail.com. If your recipe is chosen, your name will appear in the book as well. I will also select recipes for any upcoming books in the series.

I’m looking forward to trying the recipes I receive. The chosen recipe, along with the sender, will also be featured on an upcoming blog post.

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