One Last Time

By Jenna Jaxon

I already know the coming year will bring many changes for me because I’ve decided to retire from my full-time job as a university professor of theatre to pursue writing full time.

Last year was a very stressful one for me because basically I was working two full-time jobs at once. In addition to teaching a full load of classes, I also directed three theatrical productions, including a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which seemed to have a cast of thousands (actually 19 but felt like a lot more). change is coming curtainWhile doing all this, I was also writing two full novels and a short story, editing two other novels, and doing promotions for I don’t know how many books.

The upshot of it was I was frazzled beyond belief by the time this past May rolled around. With my writing career beginning to take off in a big way, I made the decision that the 2018-2019 academic year would be my final one. I expect the whole year to be bittersweet, each class I teach being the “last one” of its kind, the final production possibly the last one I will ever direct.

And the lyrics of George Washington’s song “One Last Time” from the musical Hamilton, keep resonating in my mind:

One last time
Relax, have a drink with me
One last time
Let’s take a break tonight
And then we’ll teach them how to say goodbye
To say goodbye
You and I

If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone
Like the scripture says:
“Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid.”
They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made
I wanna sit under my own vine and fig tree
A moment alone in the shade
At home in this nation we’ve made
One last time

Next year will be hard in many ways because it’s always hard to say goodbye to something you’ve put a good portion of your life into. I’ve been at the school since 2001, hired five days before the world changed for good on 9/11. I’ve been happy there, hopefully changing the lives of my students for the better.

 

But now it’s time to move on.

To say goodbye.

One last time.

 

Dreams Do Come True

By Jenna Jaxon

This past June marked several anniversaries for me. My 27th wedding anniversary, the 22nd anniversary of my daughter’s birthday, what would have been my parent’s 70th wedding anniversary, and the two year anniversary of receiving my first print contract with Kensington Publishing.

The latter anniversary is forever present in my memory because it happened on June 21st, 2016 on my and my husband’s 25th wedding anniversary. We had gone to a lovely French restaurant in Williamsburg to celebrate and were just being seated when I got a text from my agent, the wonderful Kathy Green, who informed me that the Senior Historical Editor at Kensington had made an offer on the first three books of my Widows’ Club series.dct

And as quickly as that one text arrived, my dream of having one of my books release in mass market paperback came true.

I’d been writing for eight years, had self-published five novellas and had published two full-length novels through Kensington’s Lyrical Press ebook line and had just received a contract for two more ebook from them. Even with all those releases under my belt, the dream I’d had since picking up the proverbial pen in 2009 had not been realized until that moment.

It takes hard work and dedication to make your dreams come true. It takes getting up at 6am to write for an hour before heading into your day job. It takes time away from your family writing because you have a deadline. It takes receiving rejection after rejection from agents and editors (my first novel got 47 rejection letters before an editor at Lyrical Press accepted it).

But dreams can come true. I am here to tell you. If you persevere, they will happen. In April of 2016 I finally got the call from Kathy Green, who I’d been subbing to for years, and who wanted to represent The Widows’ Club series. Another dream come true.

Follow your dreams. Follow your heart. And my greatest wish is that they will take you to your happy place as they have taken me to mine.

dreams arrow (2)

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

 

New Beginnings

By Cathy MacRae

Spring. The groundhog has promised 6 more weeks of winter, but, except for the wind and lack of rain, it’s pretty moderate here in the mid-west. So, I’m already chomping at the bit with an early case of Spring FeverIris and daffodils (1)

Last fall, I got a box of daffodil bulbs, iris roots and daylily roots for my birthday (thanks, mom!) and I can NOT wait for them to bloom. Of course, I grabbed some tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs to go in the new flower bed as well. I’m expecting a lot of cheerful faces in a few weeks

It is so exciting to see the green blades pushing through the dry crust of last year’s leaves. So uplifting to know that after a season of rest, everything is about to re-awaken. And with many plants in the garden, each year is better thaTulipsn the last. After a careful pruning, new branches arise, bearing new flowers, more fruit.

 The climbing rose on the back fence will soon take over, spilling fragrant yellow blooms across the metal trellis. The grapes will continue spreading their vines, creating more luscious fruits to share with my granddaughter. The daylilies will multiply, their brilliant faces waving on the ends of tall stalks.

daffodil ruffled apricot centerDaylillies

What new things feed your soul? What do you look forward to most?