My One Word

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It’s that time again. Time for My One Word.

My One Word is a movement where you prayerfully choose one word to help narrow your focus for self-improvement. I don’t know about you, but a long list of resolutions is daunting. And quickly broken! Focusing on just one word and creatively applying that word, impacts your life in all areas.

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In the past I’ve found soothing stones with my word printed on them, jewelry, posters, and anything else that happens to fall into my path with my word.

Word Bracelet

This year my word is Peace. The past year I’ve discovered that Peace can be mine, regardless of my surroundings or my circumstances. All it takes is mindful practice. More often than not, it’s turbulence from within, caused by undisciplined thoughts and actions, that robs me of peace. This year, to make the most of my word, changing my life in the direction I’m striving to go:

  • I’ve been diving deep into prayer and meditation (and already seeing results!).
  • Written great quotes about peace in my planner and my journal.
  • ¬†Typed–and laminated–four Bible verses to commit to memory, among them:
    • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
    • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
  • I’ve signed up for an online Bible Study through FaithGateway. It’s based off the book Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose by Rebekah Lyons. It starts on January 20th and I’ve got my book and workbook all set and ready to go. ūüôā
  • I’ve purchased the book Finding Peace by Charles Stanley and have been savoring each chapter I read.

And as the year progresses, I will take advantage of each life circumstance, both difficult and joyful, to practice peace. Because afterall, practice makes perfect, right?

Let’s talk:¬† If you participate in the My One Word movement, what is your word for the year. If you haven’t but are interested, it’s not too late. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. If you’re not interested, what is the one word you would choose if you did participate?

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. -St. Francis de Sales

Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace. -Dalai Lama

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. -John F. Kennedy

 

The Lure of Bookstores

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Anyone remember B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, or Borders? If you’re a writer, you likely remember all of them well. To authors, brick and mortar bookstores are the equivalent of water to a river.

We all dream of having our books holding space on the shelves. Even before I began to take my writing seriously, I spent endless hours dreaming of that exact thing at one of the bookstores in the city in which I lived for many years. Anyone remember Media Play? It was exactly what it sounds like–a bookstore, a movie store, a music store–all things media. It was a dream!

A couple of weeks ago we were in a town that has a Barnes and Noble bookstore. My husband and I looked at each other, no words needed, and both headed in that direction. I felt like a little girl going into a toy store. The minute I opened the door the smell of books hit me full on and I thought I was about to drool. I paused for a moment and inhaled deeply before proceeding into the store.

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I headed for the coffee shop and ten minutes later stood in awe of all the talent from creatives that surrounded me. Memories of days past, before life became so busy, flooded my mind. At Media Play curled up in one of the chairs with a coffee and a book. At Borders camped out on the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of shelves of books, in author/reader heaven. At the mall, veering off into Waldenbooks, disappearing behind walls of books.

We didn’t stay long (it was close to closing time). But the half hour we were there, the memories, the smell of coffee and books, the sheer joy of it all, was worth far more than what we spent on the numerous books we left with.

When was the last time you were in a brick and mortar bookstore?

You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places.
‚ÄĒJen Campbell

The Bookshop Quote

Authors Supporting Authors

Paulo Coelho

This past Saturday I was fortunate to be a part of book event at Welcome to the Bookstore with some author friends. There was a scavenger hunt, trivial pursuit, author readings, refreshments, drawings, and a whole lot of camaraderie with some amazing authors.

I’m equally fortunate to have found such an amazing writer’s group to belong to, Sisters in Crime-Colorado¬† (SINC-CO). What amazing and talented women we have, not to mention a lot of fun! We learn and build from each other, grow together, support each other, and celebrate each other’s successes. I get all that and I’m not even able to participate in several of the events because of this “thing” that gets in the way. It’s called busy-ness. ūüôā

Being part of a writer’s group has grown my writing career beyond anything I could have hoped for, and for that, I am so grateful! I’m also a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and urge you to check them out as well. I’m over-the-top excited to attend the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference next month in Denver.

Speaking from my own experience, if you’re a writer and on the fence about whether to join a writer’s group or not, I would like to give you¬†a gentle nudge, helping you to the other side of that fence–the side that finds you surrounded by the amazing support of a writer’s group.

Book Event with SINC-COThose of us that participated in Saturday’s event include from left to right:

Rhonda Blackhurst (that would be me ūüôā ), Karen Whalen, Francelia Belton, Theresa Crater, Donna Schlachter/Leeann Betts, Rosa (owner of Welcome to the Bookstore)

I encourage you to take a moment and check out their websites.

Happy reading, happy writing, and most importantly, happy living!

 

 

Book Signing

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This Saturday, September 5th, 1:00-3:00, I’m¬†scheduled for¬†a book signing at Welcome to the Bookstore. For those in the area, I would love to see you there! For those who aren’t in the area, your positive thoughts and prayers would be immensely appreciated.

I love people, I really do, and I’m always up for good conversation and a fun time, but my comfort zone is in my study behind my computer screen. But that being said, I have to admit¬†the process and planning¬†has been so much fun! And I’m thrilled to be able to help Welcome to the Bookstore by advertising my event. It’s the cutest little bookstore ever¬†that has many similarities to¬†the bookstore from the movie You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan.¬† That¬†bookstore everyone dreams of having in their home town. Well, anyone and everyone who is a romantic at heart and¬†is a book lover, that is.

If you have a chance to visit, in person or online, please do. Also, please like their Facebook page.

Happy reading! ūüôā

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Productive Thinking

Running

When I’m running or biking is when ideas for new work, or my work in progress, flows. It’s then that life seems to teach me what it wants me to learn, and when my thoughts are somewhat productive. Not only does running and biking¬†exercise my body, but my mind as well. This morning¬†I was listening to the audio book of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Some of the words of wisdom that I heard while listening to this book I’ve heard before, but today I really heard them. And¬†those words and thoughts¬†took on a life of their own as I processed them. Here they are:

1.)¬† “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” -E.L. Doctorow

I’ve used that analogy for other aspects of life, but when it pertains to writing, it makes me realize the importance of writing in scenes. Beginning a new writing¬†project, especially a long one like a novel, can be intimidating and daunting. Especially when you look at the blank screen/piece of paper, and realize all the work that has to be done to complete the novel. That can be paralyzing to the point of making one want to give up before getting started. If we think of taking it one small piece at a time, writing just one scene, no matter how small that scene is, and then the next after that¬†and the next after that, pretty soon you have several scenes to work with. By only focusing on one scene at a time, you can make the whole trip to the end of your novel without fear.

2.)¬† “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.‚Ä̬†-Lou Holtz

How do you respond when things don’t go the way you want them to? When I spend a lot of time on a piece of writing, or if a lot of time goes by without seeing any fruits of my labor, I begin to question my ability to produce something worthwhile. Last month I only sold four books and I have to admit I was feeling a little down and out. This quote by Lou Holtz boosted my mentality into another stratosphere. Selling four books last month means I reached four people I wouldn’t have had I not published the book. That in itself makes me grateful. And the fact that I published a book is an amazing feeling of accomplishment. (More on that below.) The reminder that I don’t write to sell books or quite honestly, even to make a living from it, but because I can’t not write. It’s as much a part of my existence as breathing. I’m a much better person when I write because then the rest of the world makes more sense to me.

3.)¬† And though¬†this next one didn’t come from what I was listening to, it snowballed from the others. As my thoughts and ideas frequently do when I’m running or biking. I realized the battle for writers, self publishing vs. traditional publishing,¬†doesn’t have to be a battle at all. One of the books I read by James Scott Bell, and whose books on writing I would recommend to anyone and everyone, seemed to shame self-published books. What I know now is that his words held a ship load of truth, but the way I heard it at the time was a reflection of what I was feeling within myself. I self-published my first book, The Inheritance, and at the time was battling whether I was going to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series or try the traditional route. How we perceive things is more often than not due to where we’re at within our own head, usually when we’re completely unaware of it. For instance, if everyone around you seems to be having a bad day it’s probably your perception based on the place you, yourself, are at in that moment. We hear what people say and how they react based on where we are in our own heart and mind.

That being said, when I read those parts in James Scott Bell’s book, I was insecure about self-publishing a book and if people would take that as a sign that I wasn’t successful at traditional publishing.¬†That I wasn’t good enough. Good enough for whom or for what I didn’t even know and quite possibly it didn’t matter. Just plain ole’ writer’s insecurity of being good enough. The fact of the matter is, I had decided not to go the traditional route because I wanted my first novel to be done completely by me. I wanted to experience the entire process, and I have not a single regret. Not. One. In fact, I’ve decided to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series as well, the first of which is expected to be released in July if all goes according to plan. The cover¬†reveal will be coming in the next couple of weeks. ūüôā

Now the revelation that came to me yesterday (drumroll….)

Making a difference

There are a lot of crappy traditionally published books out there, with missed typos and loose ends that were never tied up, with plot holes and poor character development, as well as with self-published books. The difference being that since e-books have become such a huge development and will only grow as time goes on, it makes it incredibly easy to self-publish work, and many are doing it without any editing, the goal being to just to get their work out there. What I’ve realized is as long as you’ve taken the time to make your¬†work the best it can possibly be, without doubt, self publishing or traditional publishing is irrelevant. Whichever method you choose, you can hold your head up as the amazing author you are, regardless of what anyone else thinks. That, my friends, set me free from the insecurity that plagued me. And what a feeling that is. ūüôā If you’re out to please people, it will only lead to disappointment. If you’re out to touch people’s lives, to simply make a difference, by doing what you love to do, you can’t go wrong.

See you after Camp NaNo. I’m almost to the finish line.

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

 

 

 

 

Hodgepodge

There’s a lot that’s swirling around in my head these days, the top of that list being sheer gratitude for life in general. There’s something about starting and ending the day with a simple “Thank You” that makes all the rest in between all the sweeter. 2015-02-15 18.37.41 Estes Jan 2015 It’s hard to believe it was a few short weeks ago that my husband and I were enjoying our time in Estes Park for Valentine’s weekend, walking along the riverwalk in the falling snow, everything blanketed in a¬†thick, pristine¬†layer of white. Then cozying up in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea and a good book while the snow piled high outside the window. The weather this past week in Colorado has been beyond beautiful. Add to that the extra hour of daylight in the evenings–thank you Daylight Savings Time–and I feel completely rejuvenated. Once the sleep issues resolved themselves from the time change. But that’s a small price to pay for longer evenings and warmer weather. Yesterday I had the afternoon off work so I slipped into yoga pants and a T-shirt and camped out on the patio. I¬†put my feet up and let the warm sun seep deep into my muscles, relaxing me into a state of bliss. The birds were flying in and out from the feeders, a squirrel ran along the top of the old wooden fence, three times,¬†for the sole purpose of¬†teasing Roxie, my dog, I’m sure–who took the bait hook, line and sinker–and the wind chimes chimed their magical meditative tune. I watched as¬†Roxie settled into a state of complete contentment lying in the grass, head dipping as she dozed,¬†and¬†I¬†savored every bite and crumb¬†of a lemon muffin and every drop of a cup of coffee. It was better therapy than money could ever buy. While on the patio, I finished reading Louisiana Longshot: A Miss Fortune Mystery,¬†by Jana DeLeon, an entertaining read that provided a healthy dose of laughter more than once, and one I would highly recommend. I will definitely be reading more of her work. I also tweaked the back cover copy of my book, Shear Madness, and have decided while editing that I don’t so much like the first person present tense. While present tense seems to add a sense of immediacy, it¬†didn’t read smoothly. So on my next run through I’ll be changing it to first person past tense. I would be interested in hearing what you¬†prefer–present tense or past? Which do you find easier to read? I’m thankful for all of my blogging–and blog reading–friends, and hope you all have a beautiful weekend. Carpe Diem

Vacation Highlight

Last week I disappeared off of the blog radar for a spell while I went on vacation. When I went back to work this past Monday I had three people ask me what the highlight of my vacation was.  The same answer to all three people resulted in the same response from all three.

Clearly these were not writing co-workers who asked me the question.

As we were walking on the sidewalk in Taos, taking in the sights–and there are a lot of sights in Taos, many of which involve people–I saw a sign propped on the sidewalk in front of Brodsky Books bookstore – Natalie Goldberg was to appear there that evening from 4:00 – 6:00.¬† I stopped dead in my tracks,¬†¬†grabbed my husband’s arm to stop him from walking any further and tried not to trip over my jaw that hit the ground. That couldn’t possibly be THE Natalie Goldberg, could it? The one who’s books Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones offered validation to my love of writing?¬† And what about Old Friend From Far Away that is now assisting me in writing my memoir? Oh Man! I seriously could not contain my excitement! And thank goodness my husband knows me well enough to allow me a moment to catch my breath before expecting to know the reason for my “crazy.”

 

The rest of the afternoon I checked my watch every few minutes to be sure I wouldn’t be late, and when I got there I unashamedly squished myself into the already packed room. My husband, bless him, walked back to the lodge where we were staying and left me there to¬†bask in the glow of the writerly atmosphere, surrounded by books, people who love words and story, and¬† listen to Natalie read her work.

After I floated dreamily back to the lodge–no joke–I thanked God for being with me on that vacation, because that was no coincidence.¬† That was a gift from my Father. And then I wrote.¬† I wrote with renewed passion and enthusiasm fueled by that blessing, hoping I was blessing my Father.

And Taos? The artistic vibe there was amazing. It bred creativity like no place else I’ve ever been.

‚ÄúLife is not orderly. No matter how we try to make it so, right in the middle of it we die, lose a leg, fall in love, or drop a jar of applesauce.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Natalie Goldberg

 

 

 

 

“V” is for…

Vacation

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Who doesn’t love a vacation? The image of my toes in the sand, a¬†cool drink¬†in my hand…ahhh…heaven.

When I was younger my definition of vacation was narrow, including only the traditional meaning of the word–“a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.” (Merriam-Webster).

As I get older–although I prefer the word “seasoned”¬†rather than¬†older–I have developed a much broader view of the word, which now encompasses the full definition–”

1:  a respite or a time of respite from something :  intermission

2a :  a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended
 b :  a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
3:  a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation
(“Vacation.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vacation)

Vacation means more than just a break.  Taking a break from something has its time and place, but taking a vacation is feeding the soul.

It means spending time reading a book in the sun, even if it’s on my backyard patio, with a glass of lemonade, without a shred of guilt from thinking I should be doing something.

Vacation means going somewhere with no phone service, no television, and no computer.

It means pitching a tent in the woods with nothing but a backpack, the smell of oak trees and bonfire smoke, sounds of rustling leaves, black coffee early in the morning, and the ripples on the waters surface to start the day.

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It means a day spent lying in a boat floating in the water for an afternoon, throwing a line in to catch dinner, and even dozing off in the sun.

It means picnics under a big oak tree, eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips, stretching out for an afternoon nap afterwards.

What does your ideal vacation look like?

He Sees – And Still He Loves

Matthew 28-20

Matthew 28:20 (NIV)
(b) “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Sometimes when I read the Bible a verse that I’ve read a dozen or more times will jump out at me with a whole new meaning. This is one of those verses. So many times I have read this and found comfort without giving it a whole lot of thought.

Today I thought about it.

And not only did it bring the usual comfort, but discomfort as well. Or maybe it was conviction. Do I live my life as though He is with me always? Would I be okay with Him seeing how I live each day? I have to admit most days that would be a big resounding “No!” Rather, I would be ashamed if He saw me:

Exhibit that eye roll at someone’s suggestion.

Firing off that angry email in response to another’s.

Cheating the system, just this once.

Offering harsh criticism and judgment instead of acceptance.

Exhibiting contempt rather than love.

Feeling entitled rather than grateful.

That all-to-quick sharp human retort.

Turning a blind eye to someone in need because I don’t have the time to be inconvenienced.

Hoping not to get caught because no one is around to see? Busted!

Psalm 73:23 (NKJV)
“Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.”

And though I may think at times, “Well, I’m not so bad, because at least I haven’t been as bad as so-and-so.” I don’t believe God measures in degrees. Rather, I believe He sees it simply for what it is–the condition of the heart.

He is with me always, to the very end of age.

Reading and meditating on this verse today has led me to a desire to want to live my life more intentionally. To be more aware of my words and actions, and to be proactive rather than reactive. To extend love in all circumstances, and to live my life in a way that shows gratitude and honor at being the daughter of a King. To love as He loves, forgive as He forgives, extend grace, as He extends grace.

To bring Him joy as He is always with me. To the very end of age.

Books, Books, and More Books

Today I got to thinking about how far back my love of reading and books really goes, and discovered it goes back to when I was about five years old and my mom used to read stories out of the Children’s Highlights Magazine to my sisters and me every night before bed. The stories and the hidden pictures in the puzzles had me hooked and waiting for bedtime so I could get my “fix.” However, my mom would tell you my love of writing actually goes back to that same time when she caught me writing on the walls with my crayons. But in my defense, what a huge, open slate for a child to express and share her wild imagination. ūüôā

Highlights Magazine
From Highlights, I graduated to reading the Dick and Jane books, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and any and all of Dr. Seuss books.
My top five favorites that got cemented into the foundation of my reading development during each stage of life from that point on include:

During my later elementary and early Jr. High years:
1)¬†¬†¬† Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
2.)   Sunshine by Norma Klein
3.)   Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
4.)¬† ¬†Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
5.)   Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down

High School Years:
1.)   To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2.)   1984 by George Orwell
3.)   The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
4.)   Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
5.)   The S.E. Hinton novels, That was Then, This is Now; Rumble Fish; The Outsiders

When I became a mom, I wanted to be sure to pass on my love of reading to my kids, so when I was pregnant, my unborn children had story time while they were still in the womb, as I would rock and read books aloud so they could “hear” my voice. When they were toddlers and early elementary age, I, as my mother did, read stories to them every evening at bedtime, often from Highlights Magazine. The other books they consistently wanted read to them, sometimes more than ten times a day, include:
1.) Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
2.) Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Love You Forever
3.) Corduroy by Don Freeman
4.) If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
5.) Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

And whether it was the first, tenth, or twentieth time reading those books, I cannot honestly say who enjoyed them more–my boys or me. ūüôā
I encourage you to check these out, whether you read them for yourself or suggest them to your children. They shaped my life, encouraged and grew my love of reading, and gave me an amazing life that I couldn’t have had without them.
Thank goodness for books and the talented and imaginative authors who write them. I hope to be counted as one of them very soon.