Category Archives: The Writing Life

With a little help from my friends

From friend to friend Image: Eliza C3 (Creative Commons Flickr)

This is how we discover the best stuff. Friend to friend.
Image: Eliza C3 (Creative Commons Flickr)

Isn’t this how we discover the best restaurants and movies and reads?

From our friends.

Around here we’re smiling at the success of Robin Helm’s new Pride and Prejudice romance. Understanding Elizabeth has really taken off.

My Kindle Select numbers are smiling too.

All because of Cross Promotion.

See, now that I’m an indie author, I can participate in that. Placing a link or two at the back of my e-book that says I think you would enjoy …

Mr Darcy recommends

“Mr. Darcy Recommends”

It’s a simple concept. Robin has placed an image link to Darcy By Any Other Name at the end of her book, and I have done the same. And readers must be having a look at Darcy, because my Kindle Select numbers are way up.

While Robin and I share a blog, it appears that we don’t always share the same readers.  Who knew?

Hey, Robin has a two-book giveaway going on this week at Of Pens and Pages. Stop by, read Nissa’s review of Understanding Elizabeth, and post a comment.

logo-4-1The USA winner has the option to choose a print book prize. Love that!

Really proud of Robin. Elizabeth has held on to her #4 spot against two best-sellers (with over a hundred Amazon reviews apiece), and has even won out against a 99 cent erotica.

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A Happy Vote? This time, yes.

Photo: Ze've Barkan (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Ze’ve Barkan (Creative Commons Flickr)

For there are two really wonderful choices. How’s that for great?

Our own Robin Helm is about to release a new novel, and she’d like your help deciding.

She has two beautiful covers for her book Understanding Elizabeth. Which one do you like best?

jj1813-logoCome over to Just Jane 1813 and cast your vote. I won’t steal Claudine’s thunder by posting the images here. Nor will I tell you about the “cover girl” who is Robin’s Elizabeth Bennet. So exciting!

What are you waiting for? Click the link and vote!

Come along inside!

“Now, the very next time this happens,” said a gruff and suspicious voice, “I shall be exceedingly angry. Who is it this time, disturbing people on such a night? Speak up!”

Poor Rat! Poor Mole! To be freezing in the snow, having to encounter the grouchy, fearsome Badger. Would he give them a scold? Bar the door against their need?
mrbadger“O Badger,” cried the Rat, “let us in, please. It’s me, Rat, and my friend Mole, and we’ve lost our way in the snow.”

“Why, Ratty, my dear little man!” exclaimed the Badger, in quite a different voice. “Come along in, both of you, at once. Why, you must be perished. Well I never! Lost in the snow! And in the Wild Wood, too, and at this time of night! But come in with you.”

wind-in-the-willows-1As you probably have realized, this is from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I love Ratty and Mole and Badger, and the first five chapters are my favorites. (Mr. Toad does not deserve rescuing, but our three heroes are true friends to try.) How I’d love to “mess about in boats” as they do, and then hole up, warm and snug, during the stormy winter months.

A bookworm’s paradise, their gentle woodland world. To be sure, dangers are present, but their friendships are hearty and patient. Even Mr. Badger’s gruff manner conceals a warm and loyal heart.

wind-in-the-willows-3And truly, is there anything better than a welcome, especially one that is unlooked-for? How wonderful is that friendly open door, offering shelter from the howling wilderness. Within is warmth and cheer and (of course) plenty of food.

Badger agrees. “This is not the sort of night for small animals to be out,” he said paternally. “I’m afraid you’ve been up to your pranks again, Ratty. But come along; come into the kitchen. There’s a first-rate fire there, and supper and everything.”

wind-in-the-willows-5I love the theme of finding shelter among kindly folk, whether I’m turning pages to follow Bilbo, as he makes a hurried descent into Rivendell (that Last Homely House east of the sea), or I’m with Lucy Pevensie, taking tea with Mr. Tumnus in Narnia.

Maybe it’s because this is how I work out my struggles and conflicts. “Come and have coffee,” I say, “and let’s talk things over.” (Bonus points if there’s a fire on the hearth and if wind howls and dashes rain against the windows.)

wind-in-the-willows-4A good beginning, but Badger is the true master. “He sat in his arm-chair at the head of the table, and nodded gravely as the animals told their story; and he did not seem surprised or shocked at anything, and he never said, ‘I told you so,’ or ‘Just what I always said,’ or remarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or not to have done something else. The Mole began to feel very friendly towards him.”

It’s the quiet part of autumn now, the lull just before the Thanksgiving – Christmas rush. And you know what? We can pretend to be Mole! “Once well underground,” he said, “you know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to you, and nothing can get at you. You’re entirely your own master, and you don’t have to consult anybody or mind what they say. Things go on all the same overhead, and you let ’em, and don’t bother about ’em. When you want to, up you go, and there the things are, waiting for you.”

Wisdom from woodland animals. Who knew?
 
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Wisdom from Winnie The Pooh

pooh-gratitudeTimeless stories, like the best songs, are about more than just one thing. They are about what it means to be human, and because of this, they resonate.

A skilled storyteller (or lyricist) knows how to embed gems for us to mine out. That’s the wonder of the reread, the unexpected treasures.

This weekend I am reminded of wisdom hidden in an unlikely place: The Hundred Acre Wood.  A. A. Milne had much to say about life, but he allowed his imaginary friends to do the talking.

pooh-freezingHere are some of my Poohish favorites:

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

~ o ~

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.pooh-braver

~ o ~

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

~ o ~

“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”pooh-consideration

~ o ~

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”

~ o ~

“I do remember, and then when I try to remember, I forget.”


See what I mean? Profound, powerful stuff.
Perhaps I ought to hang out in The Hundred Acre Wood more often!

pooh-shadowsIf you’d like to read more about the transformative power of fiction, check out  S. D. Smith’s excellent article 5 Reasons You Need Fiction.

 

 


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Autumn leaves and leaves of books

A stroll in my neighborhood

Liquid Amber trees in our neighborhood park

The glories of autumn bring with them dark mornings and early sunsets. At winter I get up at night and dress by yellow candle-light…

Sort of.

I much prefer Robert Louis Stevenson’s lyrical description to my own. “I hurry along the sidewalk using a flashlight, hoping I don’t slide on wet leaves or trip on acorns. And why did I forget to wear gloves?”

With Stevenson in mind, I found this gem. Because autumn and winter are the season for books. And for bonfires, although city ordinances won’t allow them here.

Picture-Books in Winter
Robert Louis Stevenson

Summer fading, winter comes—
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.

Another autumn lovely, a plant that just keeps blooming: "Hot Lips"

Another autumn wonder, a plant that has bloomed continually since August: “Hot Lips” (seriously!)

Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children’s eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies’ looks,
In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?


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No Fanny Price winter for me!

Lovely to look at, impssiblle to heat. This is Aston Hall. Photo: Elliot Brown (Creative Commons Flickr)

Lovely to look at, impossible to heat.  Photo: Elliot Brown (Creative Commons Flickr)

The weather forecasters say a cold front is bearing down on the Pacific Northwest–and after it hits us it will make its way across the nation. Days of rain are set to return, too. For those of us who live in older, poorly-insulated houses, the struggle against the cold and damp is on.

Perhaps I should think of this as being similar to living in an English manor house? Brrr.

Fanny Price, Austen’s put-upon poor relation  and the heroine of Mansfield Park, had a small east room set aside for her use–but was never allowed to have a fire there. A freezing winter day, with snow on the ground, and she has no fire? Thank you, Aunt Norris.

They say the glory of storytelling is in the details. I wonder if, for the sake of economy, Jane Austen sometimes had to do without a fire?

Our house has baseboard electric heaters–the kind found in apartments–and they are costly to use and inefficient. So we have a passive “eco-friendly” electric heater instead. It keeps the house at 65 degrees. If we are home in the evening–and if we have wood–we light a fire.

The other half is in the backyard!

This is only half of it. Enough wood for two winters?

Ah, but this year we will be fireplace fools. Thanks to Darcy’s bounty (Darcy By Any Other Name), we threw caution to the wind and purchased of an entire cord of wood. Wow, that’s a lot of wood.

Bring on the damp winter weather, I’m set!
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Writing: Work or Inspiration?

Am I a real writer?

writers

 

According to Steven Pressfield:

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I’m going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Here’s a totally different point of view from Charles Bukowski:

““if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.”

“unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it.”

So who’s right? Do I have to pick one?

Actually, I’ve been in both places. Sometimes I have to force myself to sit down at my computer and write. Other times, the story is fighting to get out.

tasmanian-devil

It reminds me of cleaning house. Most of the time, I have to make myself do it, but if I know company is coming, it’s an act of desperation. I’m the Tasmanian devil, whirling through my house, cleaning everything in my path.

Right now, writing is work. However, when I work at writing, the inspiration comes.