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?

 

 

 

 

Traveling on Silver Penny

By Ella Quinn

Ella Quinn 1Living on a sailboat was our retirement dream. And for the past three years my husband and I have lived on the sailing boat Silver Penny. We’ve traveled a lot. In many ways sailing today is like it was during the Regency, 200 years ago. The sailing routes we take having changed in hundreds of years.

Twice every year, we made off-shore passages either from the US, generally starting in Hampton, Virginia with the Salty Dawg Rally to the British Virgin Islands. Passages from north to south always (if one is smart) take place after November 1st until early winter. Then we made the passage back north again in April or May. Those trips usually lasted about eight days.

Ella-4-Pantry 2 March 15

Last year we decided to cross the Atlantic. The preparations took several months and a lot of research. Again, we decided to go with a rally. For those of you who are envisioning a group of boats sailing together, banish it from your minds. We may all start out together but within a day or two, other than the twice daily radio check-ins, you’re out there pretty much by yourself. Transatlantic crossings from west to east always take place between the middle of May to the middle of June. Why? That’s when the fewest people die. Before the middle of May one is still subject to storms out of the north. After the middle of June, hurricane season begins.

Provisioning (planning food and meals for everyone onboard for a month) was one of the most challenging parts of preparations. I had to make sure we had nutritious meals and snacks that weren’t boring. There is no running to the store in the middle of the ocean.Ella Quinn 2-Hampton to STT 2

Believe it or not, the actual passage is pretty unexciting, which is exactly what you want. Although, there are always those days when the winds kick up, and your sails are reefed (reducing the amount of sail you have up) or your weather router tells you to get south fast because there is a low coming. Some days you have very little wind at all. That’s the perfect time to clean the boat, enjoy the sun, and cook something more interesting.

Ella-5-Rough Seas 2

Depending on the boat and winds, the crossing will generally take between 10-16 days. We made it in fourteen. Other boats who decided to brave the 45 knot winds made in ten. The fun part was reaching the Azores and meeting up with the boats already there and greeting the incoming boats.

Ella -3-_HamptontoSTT4

Do you plan on traveling when you retire?

Everyone who comments has a chance to win an one of my books.

 

 

On Taking A Writing Hiatus

 by Mairi Norris

Authors love to write.

One might think this goes without saying, and one would be correct. We write because we love it, because we need to write. From the romantic viewpoint, our souls starve without indulging in the creativity of transcribing the stories in our hearts onto the printed or digital page. On the practical side, it’s also drummed into us that the more books we write (and the faster), the better.

Why then would an author take a five month break from the craft they love so much? There are many reasons, but I took mine simply because I needed it and because my next book is a low-fantasy medieval romance requiring months of world-building. During that time, while my ‘creative juices’ quietly worked their way through everything from names and personalities for the characters to the new world’s science, technology, foods, morals, social structure, etc., my husband and I took some ‘time off’ and I worked to finish a major personal project.

 While we could not at this time take a true ‘vacation’, we did visit some nearby places we’d not been to before. These included Bacon’s Castle, a 17th c. plantation house associated with the rebellion of the patriot Nathanial Bacon, and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond. These gardens are a place of utter magic. The Victorian style, domed glass conservatory enchanted me, especially the ‘butterfly house’ section. We bought lifetime membership and plan to make seasonal visits whenever possible.

 

Shirley-Garden-fountain

The major project I worked on was part of my hobby, dollhouse miniatures, and encompassed the creation of a large antique mall in 1/12 scale [1”=1’] I’ve named Bygone Elegance. I’ve now completed most of the construction and interior decorating of the store. Filling it with miniature ‘antiques’ comes next – but not until after I finish my next book.

Shirley-dollhouse

Yes, the hiatus from writing was needful and refreshed mind, soul, and spirit. Now I am excited and ‘champing at the bit’ to return to writing and the enjoyment of creating a new medieval fantasy world – but for those of you who love ‘real world’ medieval, don’t worry. The world I’m building won’t be all that different from our real world in the 16th century. If all goes well, the book will be ready for a Christmas release.

 So, if your favorite writer drops off the scene for a while, consider he or she might be indulging in a  rest from creating. Eventually, the need comes to all of us, but it usually results in even better stories for our readers.