Do-overs

by Beppie Harrison

Do-overs. What an ambiguous concept.

There are, of course, those things (there’s an ambiguous word!) that can be done over and those that can’t. For example, my sister was married at home. She fancied her procession to the living room would be down the staircase on our father’s arm. This would have worked better had she not missed her step and fallen down the last third. Fortunately she was not damaged, but she and our father had to retire to the dining room for her to get her hysterical laughter under control. By the time they came into the living room everybody else was laughing as well. No do-over possible there.

As it happened, the second the service was over (I think before the groom had a chance to kiss her) she turned to face us all and said, “I’ve never been to a funny wedding before!”

But as any writer knows, given a manuscript lying haplessly before you, that do-overs are not only common but practically inescapable. Sometimes it’s just a sentence or two that needs deleting and replacing with more splendidly crafted words, but all too often there is an entire section that turns out to have deviated from the plot into wild wilderness from which there is no way of returning.

The trouble with writers’ do-overs is that they seem to progress in defined stages. First comes the vague dissatisfaction with the way the prose is coming out. Second, re-reading and the sick realization that this will not do at all. Pause there, quite often, for bleak despair. Conviction that the writer is not a writer at all, but a charlatan who should concentrate on writing letters to Mother, all else beyond observable capacity. After suitable pause, which may last hours or years, it becomes apparent that x number of pages must be destroyed to get back to the point when the story had some life. Which is when the do-over begins. Do-overs commonly begin in hopelessness, but when successful lead to rapidly rising spirits followed by sheets of much more satisfactory manuscript being produced. Often these do-overs lead to successful completion but inevitably in some cases there are do-overs of do-overs.

Do not believe writers who claim this happens to them every single time. Nor should you believe anyone telling you that it never happens.

Do-overs or the possibility of a do-over are a gift of time. Sometimes the gift is a gift of gold, sometimes only marginally better than the first time. But do not dismiss the opportunity without thinking about it. Where would we be had Eve been given a do-over of that fatal bite of the apple?

 

Eve,_Cologne,_c._1450-1460,_stained_glass_-_Museum_Schnütgen_-_Cologne,_Germany_-_DSC00248

 

 

 

What Flowers?

by Barbara Bettis

We’ve had some wonderful posts here lately about Spring and the inspirational greening of trees and grass and the burgeoning of beautiful blossoms.

I’ve been inspired.

Yep, I recently purchased an azalea plant, two knockout rose bushes, and assorted other plants to be gently nestled into the earth.

My hope blooms….but my flowers likely won’t. Not if I put them in.

little gir with wilted flowers-1

I don’t know why I do this every year. I have no talent for growing flowers–or even the ability to learn, apparently. All those books and magazines and online articles that tell us, step by step, how to nurture fabulous flowers? I follow those instructions and still…I fail.

A few years ago, when I was strapped for time, my son volunteered to plant my annual sacrifice to Spring. Do you know that everything he planted not only grew, but flourished! In the same place I’d planted and failed, he planted and the flowers thrived.

After that, it became his ‘job’ to put out anything new every spring or fall. And he agreed to take care of the wonderful rose bushes that he’d nourished. (Forgot to tell you, when I cut back the rose bushes that I had planted, they died. He did it, same time of the year, they did wonderfully.)

 

Poor plant-1

So…last night I called my son and asked if he’d set out the new flowers for me. Of course, he said yes. (Don’t sons have to?) Now that I’ve moved into town, I don’t have room for a lot of new ones, but a few of my favorites, here and there, will make me happy.

I’ve finally conceded that there are some things I just can’t do, try as I might. I should have given up on growing green several years ago, when my sons were still in high school. One day, one of them looked at the ivy plant on our coffee table and said, “Mom, have you even considered silk flowers?”

 

wilting flowers-1

Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

Re-inventing Myself

by Jenna Jaxon

Ten years ago I was quite content with my life—or so I thought. I was working in a job that I loved, directing shows in a university setting, watching my daughters grow up, minding my own business so to speak. But an extremely stressful production caused me to become gluten-intolerant, quite out of the blue.

Six months later, to my surprise, I had a rush of energy and creativity. It was January of 2009 and I was frantic for a creative outlet. I was in Barnes & Noble and happened to find a discounted copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s final romance, Everlasting. I had not read a romance in over twenty years, but I loved her book The Wolf and the Dove, set in the medieval period (my favorite) and so I picked this one up because it was also set during that time. I loved this book as well and read it almost non-stop.

I remember clearly finishing it at my desk at school, standing up to put it with my things to take home, and thinking, “I could write something like that.” I sat down, pulled my keyboard to me and started writing the book that would become my first novel, Time Enough to Love. That was January. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote during rehearsals. I wrote at night when I got home. I got up early and wrote in the morning. Chapter after chapter.

Then, on July 28th, 2009 I wrote The End on my magnum opus, all 187,000 words of it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing as I wrote. I just wrote. And it was god-awful writing, but I didn’t know that at the time, so I kept on writing. I started another novel, and then another set of characters started yelling at me to write their story, so I did, finishing that one in only two months. I sent that one out to agents and got a total of 47 rejections over the course of two years as I revised and revised and revised it, until it was finally accepted by a small publisher, Lyrical Press.

And by the time that happened, though I don’t think I realized it at the time, I’d begun to think of myself as an author rather than a theatre director. Theatre was and is still important to me, however, I have reinvented myself until now I think of myself as an author with a day job, rather than a college professor who writes. I’m about to flip the two jobs—a complete do-over—and become a full time author in about a year. Re-inventing yourself can sound like a scary proposition, but I say go with it—you never know where you may end up!

Starting Over

By Beppie Harrison

The beginning of the year—good old January!—is the traditional starting point. The time to make resolutions, to start doing all the things you’ve been meaning to start, the time to look ahead and plan where you’re going to go this year.

So that’s the logical place where most of us begin.

Unfortunately life isn’t always logical, and the calendar is sometimes relevant and sometimes not. It would be splendid if every January started with all the issues of the preceding year neatly taken care of and a clean slate ahead. Sometimes that happens. More often, I suspect, that doesn’t. It didn’t with me. January was okay, except that what I hoped was minor spinal surgery was ahead of me in early February. However, in early February the minor surgery I had hoped for was not minor at all. I was on the operating table for nine hours, which has required a couple of months of recuperation I had not planned on. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plans: I fully intended to have a barely-started novel finished by the end of March and published in April. Only here it is the last days of March and my barely-started novel is still barely started.

My last book was a Christmas novella. Anybody want a good sale on a Christmas novella in April?

So this year it appears that January is not going to be my Great Start. How’s April for a start-again? Certainly there must be other people out there just now getting a grip. And when I look out my windows at the end-of-March landscape there are still patches of snow from the last of the March nor’easters that spread ice, snow, and ferocious wind off the ocean over our part of the world. But if I hold onto my husband’s arm to walk across the lawn (my walker doesn’t manage uneven ground all that well) I find delicious surprises.

Sometime soon we are going to have daffodils! I will take breaks from my April writing schedule to walk out with a stick—but self-sufficient—to inspect them when they burst into bloom.

Happy April, everyone! I’m starting over.

plants peeping through

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Beginnings, the Medieval Way

by Barbara Bettis

Since January, here on the blog we’ve talked about the new year and new beginnings. As spring approaches we have even more of the new as we see the beautiful rebirth of nature after a long, cold winter.

Folks in the Medieval period also celebrated the end of the long, often lean, winter months, with new beginnings in the Spring. Those observances included that of—believe it or not—the New Year.

Medieval Hedging in March

Hedging, done in March

 

 

The Spring or Vernal Equinox was welcomed between March 22 and March 25 in the Julian Calendar, used at that time in history. (We see Spring Equinox on March 20 this year.) This was the time when the earth moved from cold weather into warmth and rebirth—new beginnings. An equinox is actually that day of the year at which day and night are of equal length.

The coming of Spring, the start of which was marked by the Equinox, was considered a time of fertility and new life. It was celebrated with special feasts, events, and some good old work. Accordingly, the Medieval New Year began about this time.

Later the church combined pagan equinox and fertility celebrations with the observance of The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary  known as Lady Day, on March 25. That was celebrated then as the Medieval New Year. Not until a few hundred years later and the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar (1582) did New Year move to January 1.

Lippi-Annunciation

The Annunciation by Lippi

 

Pre-Christian spring activities included some pagan practices (of course) such as celebration of the old Saxon/Germanic goddess Ostara, goddess of spring and fertility. Closely aligned with her is the old goddess Eostra, who lends her name to our Easter—and other things. But that’s another story! Incidentally, no matter for what reason the remarkable Stonehenge was created, its stones are set in such a way that the Spring Equinox sun is centered. Currently, the legendary monument is opened for viewers to celebrate the  spring equinox.

medieval spring equinox

Stonehenge at spring equinox

 

In medieval times, the serious business of spring planting also began in March, with a few early crops going in. Otherwise, more extensive preparation of the ground took place with April the prime planting time for other crops.

Yes, the equinox marked the start of a new year—and it was celebrated seriously, just as the people knew the serious work was beginning of raising enough food to last through the long, cold winter and into the next spring. The next new beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Springtime

by Donna Hatch

Springtime never felt as sweet when I lived in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as it does here in the Pacific Northwest. For one thing, Arizona’s winter was not bleak; it was a welcome reprieve from all the heat. Though Arizona spring flowers are pretty, and precious because they didn’t last very long, and the fruit trees blossoming always brought a charming touch to an otherwise barren landscape, nothing beats the lush foliage and riot of color here in Washington. 

Admittedly, winters are much more lifeless looking, unless we are treated with a dusting of snow, so the contrast between winter and spring is sharper, but I’ve never seen so many flowers in one place nor such variety. trees in bloom

 Flowers grow wild, and almost everyone has a garden of bulbs and flowering shrubs such as the lovely hydrangeas which make me think of a living bouquet. Flowers here take very little care becaunarcisus in snowse the climate is so nurturing and blossoming trees line almost every street.  The flowers were even bloom if we get a late snow! 

  I used to think I had the worst sort of black thumb, but that was when I lived in Arizona. Now I live in what could rightly be called The Garden State, although that honor belongs elsewhere, I successfully grow flowers and even vegetables. my humble garden

One unique thing about this area is the local growers of daffodils and tulips. One of the nearby towns even has a Tulip Festival which brings thousands of visitors to stroll through the expansive show gardens and fields of flowers. For acres and acres, and miles and miles, gigantic swatches of color blooms. Photos don’t do them justice but I have made the attempt. 

Whenever I walk through or drive by those huge fields, I think of the poem by William Wordsworth about that Daffodils. My mother loves that poemtulip field and often recited it to me when I was a child. I visited his house in England’s Lake District last summer when I was on a huge research trip all over the lovely, inspiring countryside.  

Here is Wordsworth’s poem which he composed while walking through and gazing upon his own garden filled with daffodils:

daffodil fields

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud                                                                                                                      That floats on high o’er vales and hills,                                                                                                           When all at once I saw a crowd,                                                                                                                    A host, of golden daffodils;                                                                                                                        Beside the lake, beneath the trees,                                                                                                                 Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 Continuous as the stars that shine                                                                                                                    And twinkle on the milky way,                                                                                                                         They stretched in never-ending line                                                                                                                  Along the margin of a bay:                                                                                                                          Ten thousand saw I at a glance,                                                                                                                    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 The waves beside them danced; but they                                                                                                         Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:                                                                                                               A poet could not but be gay,                                                                                                                           In such a jocund company:                                                                                                                              I gazed—and gazed—but little thought                                                                                                           What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie                                                                                                                       In vacant or in pensive mood,                                                                                                                        They flash upon that inward eye                                                                                                                   Which is the bliss of solitude;                                                                                                                      And then my heart with pleasure fills,                                                                                                          And dances with the daffodils.

 

 

Beginnings and Rebirths

By Katherine Bone

Every day is a new day –
a day for new beginnings, new dreams, new action –
a day for challenge, adventure, and discovery.
TODAY, what is your goal?
What is your dream?
What action are you taking to further your goals and dreams?
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I’m looking forward to 2018 because 2017 was a major struggle. I started battling personal issues; chief among them reintroduced neck problems. My doctor, who is awesome by the way, believes in preventative medicine. A let’s do everything we can to take care of this problem, saving surgery as a last option, type of physician. I’ve had two neck surgeries to replace discs in my C 5-7. So when I started experiencing pain in my neck again last March, I kind of suspected the direction my health was going to take in 2017. Unfortunately, I was right.

Last July, I discovered that I have stenosis in my C 4, the disc above the work I’d previously had done. That revelation led to 6-8 weeks of physical therapy and traction, and when that increased my pain, I began the first of three epidural steroid shots in my neck. The past year has been a very hard road to walk, often excruciating. But the good news is my brain has emerged from the pain fog,snowdrops my body is improving, and though my neck muscles cramp up when I’m at the computer too long, I can honestly say, I can live with this. Huzzah!

Life is a struggle and living a robust existence can lead to injuries later on. A total suck fest, eh? Of course—pardon my pun—that’s life. The hardest thing we face is not only retraining our minds to overcome daily discomfort, but discovering new disciplines that will help us meet our goals. It’s not always easy, is it?

So where am I going with this? Life is like a book. Certainly, stories are intrinsic to life and the relationships we experience. Both have beginnings, middles, and ends, and pages turned one season to the next.

Last April, I got the rights back to my Nelson’s Tea Series and parted ways with a FABulous small press I dearly love, and who was very good to me and my career. The reason for my decision stemmed simply from desiring more control over my books via pricing, marketing, etc. The choice to break away was a hard one to make. Going Indie has certainly been a roller coaster ride with a steep learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. And I’m certainly grateful I was able to get all of my books back so I could start this amazing adventure.

Books-for-Kids_thumb[1]Relaunching my backlist has its ups and downs though. (This is the second time I’ve reinvented several of my books.) Hiring new editors, paying fees upfront, scheduling releases, loading for production and handling advertising while keeping up with a strenuous editing schedule has taken up a great deal of my time. Responsibilities are paramount for every small business, aren’t they? Nevertheless, at times like these, I remind myself I wanted to be in control. Being accountable for my Indie career has been scary, enlightening, and bold. (Pirate!)

The ending of a job or a relationship
may appear as the darkest night,
but it is merely the Winter season –
the time of renewal and rebirth
that precedes the new planting –
the beginning of the next great cycle.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

2017 took me to dark places; pain so intense I wanted to die and disappointment on various levels. Taking six books off retail vendors certainly cut into my income. I took the risk knowing that nothing worth having can be gained without first taking action.

2018, however, is filled with potential! Already our family has received a new granddaughter, several members have gotten new jobs, my mother (who’s been living with us for 7 ½ years) moved into a new home and is getting settled, and my brain is starting to fire on all cylinders. I continue to hope that this year will be a time of healing, awareness, and taking better care of me. It will also be the year of what’s old will be made new again, i.e., my Nelson’s Tea Series. I will struggle meeting deadlines and with the production process. But years from now, I believe, I’ll look back and see that the seeds I planted yielded an extraordinary crop.

Beginnings ARE for everyone, ALL THE TIME. Take action, me hearties. Risk doing what you fear most. Agree to the journey. Seek adventure over that horizon. Chisel indecision away. Bloom, in spite of your circumstances, like snowdrops and Crocus in the snow.

You never know when winter will give way to spring.

crocuses-in-the-snow-sharon-talson