Out with the old, in with the new (not years)

Who still has hanging flower baskets blooming in December here in the Pacific Northwest? Even the local nursery has abandoned attempts to keep theirs presentable so I’m not sure why mine are still growing. Admittedly, the blooms are few and small, but geraniums are geraniums, regardless of size, right?

My hubby had taken all the other tubs of anemic annuals off the deck in mid-October after Thanksgiving, and carried the patio furniture down to the basement where it will wait out the winter months. But the baskets still provided a minimal bit of cheerful colour as they dangled outside our family room windows.

At least, they did until this weekend’s frost. Despite the protection of the overhanging eaves, sometime during Friday night they shivered themselves out of attractive into bedraggled. Without its tiny white blossoms the bacopa maybe didn’t look too bad, but everything else…? Meh!

Yesterday we ventured out to a tree farm and cut our Christmas tree, and as my hubby was setting it into its stand this afternoon, he decided it was finally time to remove the waning greenery.

I kind of hate to see the baskets go. They’ve hung there since early May and survived through blustery late spring winds, summer holiday neglect and torrents of fall rain. I feel like I owe them something in exchange for their persistence.

Then again, it IS Advent now and the outside Christmas lights twinkling above them seem a bit incongruous.

So, “out with the old and in with the new”…greenery, that is. The sickly lantana and geranium leaves have gone to compost heaven and from the other side of the window pane I’m now enjoying the fragrance of fresh fir adorned with cheery baubles, not blossoms.

I’m sure I could find a writing analogy in this if I tried hard enough, but at the moment I’d rather just sit here squinting at the tree lights and pondering Advent thoughts. Taken totally out of context I am reminded of an applicable scripture verse:

“…the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” ūüôā ¬†[2 Corinthians 5:17b]

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Wishing you abundant Hope on this
first Sunday in Advent.

 

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Yes, it’s November

Halloween buzzed by in the blink of an eye, and suddenly it’s November. We had some gorgeous fall colours happening until a windstorm whipped through and removed many of the brighter leaves. Now the first snowfall is waiting in the wings for tonight, suggesting autumn is going to be a short, sweet season.

I’m sad about that. Fall is always my favourite, with many flowers still blooming and not-too-hot-but-still-pleasant days. I console myself by repeating, “But it IS November now.”

Along with November comes NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month. I started participating (albeit half-heartedly) in 2006 and, while I rarely succeed in completing a brand new 50,000-word novel in November’s thirty days, I¬†do use the month to focus on my writing, and am usually happy with what I accomplish.

This year author Denise Jaden is offering WriMos daily emailed encouragement and writing prompts, and critique partner Katherine Wagner has established a Facebook NaNo support group linked to the Golden Ears Writers group.

The purpose is to spur writers on toward their individual goals, and support their efforts because — face it — writing isn’t as easy as some folks might think. Sometimes ¬†words flow, but other times they drip, one excruciatingly slow drop at a time.

Occasionally I attend a write-in — WriMos who gather in one location to provide moral support (and peer pressure!) for each other during a specific period of writing. Ours are usually held in the local branch of our public library — a much quieter location than a Starbucks or cafe. Some writers like the stimulation of a busy location while others (me!) prefer silence and solitude. It stretches my introverted nature to attend write-ins, but I also like to support my fellow writers, so I compromise and go once in a while.

What’s your preference? And are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2017 or other writing-focused endeavour this month? Whatever the case, this is the month for it…because after November comes December, and we all know how much writing we’re likely to get done then!

I’m off to chalk up some words. Happy NaNo-ing!

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Saying goodbye to favourite seasons and characters

Now that the windstorm has died, we’re left with¬†bare branches. I can envision their earlier colour, once burgundy, then scarlet, now strewn as a blanket beneath. The forecast is for frost tonight.

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This is the¬†part of autumn¬†that makes me wistful. I love all the¬†weeks of lingering¬†warmth and glorious colour, and am always reluctant to see them end. Mind you, there have been compensations. We enjoyed a toasty fire¬†in the family room fireplace last night¬†for the first time in months. I’ve also been cuddling into a cozy afghan while writing this week. Oh, and the bins of winter wear came up from the basement recently and I’ve re-discovered¬†my favourite sweaters.

Nevertheless, I hate saying goodbye to what has become familiar and comfortable. I’m SO¬†not an adventurer, at least not in real life. In fiction it’s a different matter. A new season suggests¬†jumping into a new story, and that aspect is always exciting.

But am I the only one who hates to say goodbye to make-believe characters when their story comes to an end? After creating them and spending months being¬†an integral part of their lives, loves, and struggles, it’s¬†hard for me to cut them loose and send them off into the world on their own. I want to follow them.

That has to be why sequels and series are so popular. At least in a sequel¬†I¬†could¬†continue¬†with my favourite characters into¬†their new adventures and conflicts. So far, my stories have all been the stand alone kind, but there’s a growing community of people within them that wants to return. During this month’s NaNoWriMo endeavour, I’m trying to finish another independent novel, but I’m already thinking ahead.

There are whispers on the wind from earlier characters, begging me not to abandon them. Hmm … something familiar to help disperse the chill of the¬†approaching new season. ūüôā

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To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven”

[Ecclesiastes 3:1]

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Fall Snapshots: Wind Whispers

From the time of my childhood, wind and waves have always invigorated me. Put me on a shore somewhere and let me listen to the pounding surf and lift my face to the onshore wind and I come away totally refreshed.

At home the wind isn’t often strong enough to hear. Occasional breezes will flutter the branches in relative silence.¬†Prior to the current cold snap, however, the weather reports¬†included¬†wind warnings, and we had several days of blustery, gusting wind that made our trees sing.

“At home,
I love reaching out into that absolute silence,
when you can hear the owl or the wind.”

Amanda Harlech
~
Most days I prefer to write in silence, but if I think a little background music will help, I have a small assortment¬†of CDs from which I¬†select. Many are Dan Gibson‘s¬†Solitudes albums…¬†gentle, relaxing music accompanied by sounds from nature — wind, waves, birds. If you need something energizing, they¬†wouldn’t be a good choice, but when I need distracting from the bustle¬†of everyday, they are perfect.
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I’m always amazed by¬†writers who do their writing in crowded coffee shops. I’m told the background becomes white noise, but I would just get sidetracked by it and start people-watching.
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But the wind is something else. Its whisperings¬†empty my consciousness, leaving my mind ready¬†to be¬†occupied¬†by the lives of my characters. I love the wind — at least, I do until it uproots trees that tumble across hydro lines and leave my computer powerless! So far this fall we’ve been spared that inconvenience. Long may it last. I have writing to do.
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I know I’ve asked the question before, but what’s your preferred accompaniment when writing? Silence, special music, perhaps scented candles or potpourri, or…?¬†
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Fall Snapshots: Decline or Dormancy?

As the days of autumn slip and slither along a¬†rainy path, my hope for vivid fall colours continues to wane. There is undeniable beauty in the woods and gardens but it doesn’t leap out and capture my attention¬†as it did last year. The Vine Maples¬†are a good example. The photo in my blog header was taken last fall. The one below is the same shrub, but photographed¬†today.

Vine Maple 2014

We have a number of Hydrangeas around the property. One is a Climbing Hydrangea that clambers¬†up and over the arbour that leads¬†to our marsh trail. In the late spring and summer it sports large white ‘lacecap’ blossoms. Once the blossoms are done, it’s just a nice green cover for the trellis… until fall.

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In the fall it turns a bright yellow. Today, although the leaves are dropping, it’s still a vivid gold that, even in the rain, adds a sunny glow amid the evergreens in¬†that corner of the yard.

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We have other Hydrangeas in the gardens, too… the bush type with ‘mophead’ blooms. Most are pink, but as the season transitions, so does their colour. The individual petals are curling and they’ll be brown by winter, I’ll leave them in place. The birds seem to enjoy them.

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Fall Blossoms

Just as I mentioned on Monday, it would be easy to moan about¬†what was instead of celebrating what is. In the garden, however, the steady deterioration has a purpose. It’s part of the cycle of life — going to seed, resting, waiting for the new season of¬†re-energizing and production.

Today’s blog post was delayed because I spent time at a NaNoWriMo write-in. Some of the other participants were comparing their word counts and feeling embarrassed that they were so low. But everyone admitted to having written something, and I was able to remind them that those words were more than they’d had when they arrived. Those words were motivation for¬†what could¬†come next. Tomorrow will be¬†a fresh start… a time to move on and begin building again on what was achieved in the past.

Sometimes we celebrate the present achievement; sometimes it’s necessary to resign ourselves to some dormancy. Use¬†the time to¬†look ahead and maybe plan the next landscape. There are NaNo-ing days when I wonder why I’m bothering to participate in this literary marathon if my output isn’t going to be more significant. Then I remember that these waning¬†times, even dormant times, are often necessary for¬†future creativity. There is a cyclic nature to all of life… even to our writing. Tomorrow will be a better day!

How’s your writing going this week… or whatever other project you might have ‘on the go’?¬†

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Fall Snapshots: Changes

The meteorologist revealed the delightful news yesterday¬†that our October had twenty-two days of rain. Not steady rain, of course, but days that received a measurable amount, along with¬†warmer than average temperatures. Maybe that’s why the usual autumn colour hasn’t materialized around here. Usually by now the garden has shots of scarlet, orange and gold, but this year the changes are more subtle. It would be easy to overlook the beauty.

Fall Travel

(Consider clicking on the photos if you’d like a closer look.)

Fall leaves

My two day¬†NaNoWriMo¬†word total is 2,852… a couple pages¬†short of the desired daily average. Some years I start out¬†gung ho the first few days and rack up great numbers. Not so this year. I’m like the tortoise, slow and plodding. It would be easy to overlook the accomplishment and bemoan those 2,852 words instead of celebrate them.

It’s time to jump up and down, wave my arms and shout, “Yay!!! 2,852 great new words!” Then again, I don’t know how great they are. NaNoWriMo words tend to need a lot of later revision, but at least they’re¬†new words. I’m smiling.

What accomplishment, large or small, makes you smile today?

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Blame everything on the weather!

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Streaks of clouds in pre-sunset peach and charcoal-purple cut through a cerulean¬†sky. The weather is changing. There’s been intermittent light rain interspersed with brief sunny breaks through much of the past few days, but flurries are in today’s forecast.

I don’t fuss over the weather. There’s a saying here on the west coast, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Some folks also say, “If you can’t see the mountains, it’s raining. If you can, it’s going to rain.” The more optimistic of us point to how green everything is, thanks to the rain.

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My mood isn’t affected, whatever the colour of the sky. There are people whose mood is, and some who even experience S.A.D. — Seasonal Affective Disorder — during low light seasons. I tend to forget that it’s a very real, clinical disorder, and I can sometimes be insensitive to those who complain about the weather, or display negativity, discouragement and depression because of it.

During November’s NaNoWriMo my project was to rewrite the ending of a recently completed manuscript. As I rushed headlong through the words, instead of resolving my protagonist’s dilemmas, I ended up heaping more upon her. Nothing seems to go right for her, and I’ve realized a lot of the time it’s because of her negative perspective. The story happens between November and February. I’m beginning to wonder if she has S.A.D. That would explain a lot, but it complicates the plot.

The story is taking off in a direction I didn’t intend, and I’m not sure I like this feeling of losing control.

If you’re a writer, are you always in control of your story and its characters? What happens when your control slips away?

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Skipping the present to get to the future

There’s frost here this morning. Our shake roof glistens white in the sunshine, and trails of mist play at the edges of the marsh. An e-mail from family in the southeastern corner of the province brought photos of their first major snowfall — 22 cm that delighted the children but required plowing at 5 a.m. to ensure everyone could get to work and school.

I love the early fall, when bright colours dapple the landscape. It’s my favourite season.

Geese on the go in the Fraser Valley

Geese on the go in the Fraser Valley

Fall on the Fraser River

Fall on the Fraser River

Mist on our lake in BC's Cariboo

Mist on our lake in BC’s Cariboo

I’m not so enamoured by late fall. We west coasters know that many weeks of grey skies and constant rain are on the horizon. But if I dwell on what is to come, I won’t fully appreciate the present.

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When it comes to my writing, during November if I’m not revising one particular manuscript I’m working on the first draft of another. That one is still new and I don’t have a clear view of its ending. As I work on preliminary scenes I’m sometimes tempted to skip ahead and try to figure out exactly how my characters solved their dilemma. However, to do so would mean missing the excitement of discovery along the way. For now, I plan to focus on the present and worry about how the future unfolds when the time comes.

There are many different ways of constructing a novel. What’s your process during a first draft?

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Autumn’s Glow

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There is a harmony
In autumn, and a luster in its sky…

[Percy Bysshe Shelley]

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I loved autumn,
the one season of the year
that God seemed to have put there
just for the beauty of it.

[Lee Maynard]

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So many things to love about autumn!

I had leftover pumpkin on hand
and baked pumpkin spice muffins this morning.

ūüôā

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What’s your favourite thing about Autumn?

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