Summer Snapshot: Sunshine

Keep your face always toward the sunshine –
and shadows will fall behind you.

[Walt Whitman]
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Sunny Brilliance

 

Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine
and does not know which has best helped it to grow,
it is difficult to say whether
the hard things or the pleasant things
did me the most good.

[Lucy Larcom]
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Blogging hiatus and a little R & R

The hot weather’s back and the timing is perfect for me to take a bit of a blogging break. I’m heading offline for a couple weeks, hoping to get a little extra writing done and maybe squeeze in some R & R.

R&R

I’ll be back in the traces and on schedule again by mid-August. Probably. Maybe. (But don’t count on it if this heat sticks around.) 😐

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In Pursuit of Coolness

 

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Nothing profound from me today. It has been, is, and will continue to be hot. Please don’t see this as a complaint. I wouldn’t dare complain for fear it suddenly changes to unending rain! Instead, I’m trying to think of a positive side to hot sunshine.

It does bring on the flowers. I’ll say that for it.

Summer Peony

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Summer Sun

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

 Robert Louis Stevenson
(from – A Child’s Garden of Verses – 1885)

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I remember reading that to my Grade One students a good many years ago. There are lots of good things to say about the sun, but I don’t do well in the heat and right now I need something cooling to distract me.

Water 1

Ahhh… yes, that helps.

Water 2

Oh, this is much better! Now I’m of a mind to go in search of a beach and some ice cubes — the perfect pursuit on a hot summer day. 🙂

What’s your best way of cooling down when it’s too hot to think, let alone write?

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There will be a shelter
to give shade from the heat by day,
and refuge and protection
from the storm and the rain.

(Isaiah 4:6)

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Writing Frustrations and Bird Poop

Bird poop is not pleasant. It’s messy, and one of the worst offenders around here right now are the robins.

Robin

Once winter is on the wane, I’m always delighted to welcome the earliest robins. They’re harbingers of spring, after all, and that makes me smile. By summertime, however, I’ve begun to tire of the white accumulations that adorn our deck railings and outdoor furniture, and I’m no longer smiling.

Robins are pretty, and they sing a sweet song, I’ll give them that. But they don’t eat birdseed. The lawn and garden are their kitchen source for earthworms and berries. The only appeal our deck apparently has for them is as a bathroom… a place to perch and deposit their doo-doo, which I don’t-don’t like! Someone had a warped sense of humour when they named the species ‘Turdus migratorius’.

We had 45 people coming here last night for a church barbecue. In preparation, we had pulled weeds and tidied the gardens. Hubby power-washed the deck, and I wiped down the lawn furniture. You get the picture. We wanted things to be neat and clean for our guests, and it was… until late-afternoon, just before the first guests arrived, when Mr. Robin Redbreast dropped in and dropped. Ackkk!!! It was too late to get out the hose, but there was no point in stressing over little blobby things, as maddening as they were. I found a rag, cleaned them away as best I could and carried on, soon forgetting all about the annoyance and enjoying a wonderful evening with friends.

The writing application that occurred to me later had to do with not overstressing about little things. No point in grinding to a halt  when the wrong words deposit themselves on the page during a first draft. Better to look at the overall picture, get on with the job and worry about cleaning up the messy bits during revision. There are bound to be more messy bits before it’s done and we’re ready to put the manuscript out on display anyway.

In future, when I’m getting really frustrated, maybe I’ll try and remember to mutter, “Oh, poop!!!” then have a laugh and get back to work.

What’s your method of banishing first draft frustrations?

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So Many Books, So Little Time!

I’m sharing an article from the archives today, updated from its original posting in 2008.

But FIRST… I have to share my daughter’s exciting news! Her first publishing contract! Head over to Shari’s blog and read about it, then come back here to continue. 🙂

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“So many books, so little time.”  If you Google this phrase you’ll come up with about 563,000,000 results — everything from a link to the quote attributed to Frank Zappa, to Sara Nelson’s book documenting a year of her passionate reading, assorted articles on the subject, even a forum of the same name on the Indigo/Chapters site debating about what ten books you might take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island.

Summer Reading GraphicFor me, the words stand alone, not as a title for anything. They emerge from my mouth sounding more like a moan, even a wail, expressing my frustration that there are more books that I want to read than there are hours left in my life. (And I’m planning for a lot of those!)

Selecting what to read — what’s worthy of my time — is always a dilemma. So I could relate to a  blog entry written some years ago by literary agent Jessica Faust.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I somehow had the impression that as a recent college grad, or just an intelligent woman, I should be reading more intelligent books (whatever that means). In other words, I should be catching up on the classics I missed out on as a journalism major or reading only books that incited great philosophical discussions… It took me a long time to accept and advertise the fact that I was a commercial fiction girl… I think all readers evolve and grow over time and eventually find their niche. I hear often from those who read only fantasy as young people and now have grown to read different kinds of fiction, and I hear from others who still can’t stomach commercial fiction but love nothing more than to cuddle into a long classic. Some typically enjoy longer literary works, but when life is tough or getting them down, they will pull out a favorite romance or thriller. What we read and when we’re reading it can say a lot about who we are in that time of our life, just like the music we listen to and the movies we watch.”

I wonder what my reading choices say about me. I’m definitely not scholarly. Today’s post is a re-run from my archives, but at the time it was first posted, my virtual coffee table held the following: Fiction — “Leota’s Garden” by Francine Rivers, “Carlyle’s House” by Virginia Woolf, “Light on Snow” by Anita Shreve and Kirsty Scott’s “Between You & Me”. Non-fiction: Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper”, Des Kennedy’s “Crazy About Gardening”, and John Fischer’s “Be Thou My Vision” (daily meditation).

Reading vies with writing for possession of my time. No matter how much I spend on either, it’s never enough! I need to live to be 120!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

  • Are your reading choices eclectic, or do you have favourite authors or themes that govern what you read?
  • Are your summer book choices lighter reading than what you choose during the rest of the year?
  • What’s on your coffee table (or bedside table) right now?
  • What’s on your summer reading list … anything you’d like to recommend?

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Seeking summertime serenity?

Summer’s eve!

Anticipating deep breaths

of rose and peony infused air

Long, languid days

Luscious berries

blossoms and bees

Deck time

and solitude

Serenity-1

Whether skies turn out to be cloudless or cloud filled, the whole idea of SUMMER conveys an element of relaxation, a less scheduled pace and some vacation time. We covet getting away from the rat race, with stolen moments of serenity in holiday destinations or secluded garden sanctuaries.

Serenity-3

Is it realistic? Probably not. Vacations aren’t for everyone. There are no holiday weeks set aside in some calendars, no opportunities to ‘get away’. But most people still dream of summertime for simpler stress-free days, and time away from the mundane.

So how can we achieve that and make summer the special time we envision? Perhaps it means getting up a half hour earlier so we can sip morning coffee on the deck or porch steps, and savour the silence before the day’s routines begin. Maybe we can plan ahead… shuffle schedules to allow for an hour or two enjoying the flowers on a walk through one of the city’s parks. Or make a picnic supper, spread a quilt on the lawn and enjoy a quiet hour in the backyard.

If we’re among the ‘house-bound’ population, we could spread out that quilt on the couch or floor, order in some deli potato salad and cold chicken, and make up lemonade for a homestyle picnic, perhaps invite a neighbour in to join us for lunch or later for an old-fashioned hour of tea, cookies and conversation. Or if company doesn’t appeal, simply set aside an hour of uninterrupted reading with tea and the current book of choice. If we’re writers, that might be an uninterrupted hour of writing! We can put on a nature-themed CD for seaside background ambience, close our eyes and savour the serenity as we develop a plot.

The point is to be intentional about creating memorable times. We’re at summer’s eve. Get ready to leap in with abandon and find your unique moments of joy.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

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Journeying IV – Coming Home

“Wisdom and understanding can only become the possession of individual men by travelling the old road of observation, attention, perseverance, and industry.”

Samuel Smiles
On the road...

On the road…

I’m a terrible homebody! If I had my druthers, I’d probably be an armchair traveller and have a clone to do any actual travelling. While I love our fifth-wheel trailer and our little Cariboo cabin and I love visiting our children and their families,  getting organized to leave home is always an effort. Staying home is comfortable.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine missing out on the sweet discoveries, the family joys, and All. The. Photo. Opps along the way. (Oh, and the cruising experiences… I have to admit to liking them, too.) So, I compromise and travel only to places that are meaningful to me. And then I come home. I said I was a homebody, didn’t I? 

I’m home again after three-weeks-less-one-day away. I had a wonderful time, but it feels good to be back. Now I get to be the insufferable host(ess) for the next while, and bring out my photo albums… 😉

(If you wish, you can click on a photo to enlarge it
or, if you prefer, you can skip the next part altogether.)

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Waiting at the Galena Bay ferry landing.

Waiting at the Galena Bay ferry landing.

On board...

On board…

Crossing Upper Arrow Lake, BC

Crossing Upper Arrow Lake, BC.

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Friday Findings…

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Another week concludes, bringing us closer to the end of summer. I haven’t taken a significant blogging hiatus yet this year, but after helping one part of our family with their house-hunting and then their moving experience this month, and getting ready to help another move in two weeks, I think a little break is in order during the continuing chaos. I’ll try to pop in occasionally with some photography posts, but you may not hear much from me here over the next little while.

But whether it’s here or somewhere else, you can always count on lots happening around the internet and blogosphere. For instance, here are some of today’s findings that I found interesting…

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With his sixth novel, HEART FAILURE, soon to be released, there’s a Facebook announcement from Richard Mabry that his first medical mystery, CODE BLUE, is free today on Kindle, http://tinyurl.com/jwe8be6, Nook, http://tinyurl.com/kovls2a, and ebook, http://tinyurl.com/k943z5d. What a perfect time to get introduced to his “Prescription for Trouble” series. Even if you’re reading this too late to get it free, I think you’d enjoy picking up his ‘medical suspense with heart’ books.

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Valerie Comer and Angela Breidenbach use an engaging way to announce the contract signings for their September 2014 release of their two novellas in CHRISTMAS TIARA, that mixes “tiara talk with farm lit and Christmas” — check out their video here.

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Here’s an earlier-this-week blog post from Laura Best with the final cover reveal for her next novel, FLYING WITH A BROKEN WING, which will be releasing at the end of September.

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From Sue Harrison, a post reflecting on her week of virtual book touring, which celebrated the recent release of her six Alaska books in eBook format. There’s also a brand new video introduction to Sue that I’m sure you’d enjoy. You’ll find it here.

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Also found a couple FB posts by Sheila Seiler Lagrand alluding to an upcoming Christmas collection called THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. “Kathi Macias is our ringleader,” says Sheila. “We each will contribute a story in which all the action takes place on a single one of the twelve days leading up to Christmas. Each of the twelve stories will be released individually as an e-book.” Keep your eyes open for this one.

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Denise Jaden’s “Friday Four” post today presented the cover for her February 2014 release, FAST FICTION:

“Fast Fiction is a quick, inspirational, step-by-step and day-by-day guide to writing a structurally sound and engaging first draft in the shortest amount of time possible. It provides a great starting point for writers as they ditch time-wasters, detour frustration, and overcome self-doubt, and it helps them decide where to go with their story and how to get there quickly, with results. Told in the empathetic and accessible voice of an author who can provide an insider’s look at her own craft and publishing experiences, Fast Fiction provides readers with their own writing coach as they embark on a quick, fun, and challenging 30 days to a first draft.”

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Take a break to listen to this hand-clapping, toe-tapping music video via a link posted by Donna Pyle, founder of Artesian Ministries. She says, “Such a cool, original way to make traditional music fresh for the next generation.”

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I’m told C.J. Box’s just released mystery, THE HIGHWAY, is a goosebump-raising change of pace from his Joe Pickett series. I’ve been a fan of his mystery stories right from the beginning. Now I’m not sure which to read first, THE HIGHWAY or BREAKING POINT, his latest Joe Pickett book.

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And for my fellow pet owners, a FB link via Sandra Heska King, with news of a dog and cat food recall:

Both Iams and Eukanuba brand dry dog and cat food are being recalled. Both have the “best by” dates within the first two weeks of November 2014 and could be tainted with Salmonella.

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There! With all that shared, hubby, dog and I are back to helping fill and empty packing boxes while enjoying the company of children and grandchildren. What are YOU up to this weekend?

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Giving readers a chance to catch their breath…

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In the study of colour psychology, red is considered to be the most emotionally intense colour. It stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing, and is also the colour associated with passion and love. In the garden a flaming bed of red Salvia or Geraniums makes a summer-long attention-grabbing statement.

 

Light

However, you won’t find much red in my garden… a solitary accidental Astilbe is the only recurring specimen, and this year it’s almost buried under ferns. I veer towards the calming effect of pastels when choosing perennials and flowering shrubs for the summer beds — a lot of white, some pink and bits of pale purple in a haphazard mixture of Hostas and Hydrangea, Cranesbill, Daisies, Lilacs, Peonies and Spiraea, Clematis and Columbines, Echinacea and Masterwort.(Whew! Don’t be too impressed that I remembered all their names. I have them written down!)

The accent is found in my annuals… a splash of colour in hanging baskets and containers on our back deck. Every pot has a couple red Geraniums peeking out — actually they’re not true Geraniums at all, but Pelargoniums (although I suppose you didn’t need to know that right now).

It’s difficult to live with sustained boldness, whether it’s from a bright flower or an intense person. Too much exposure becomes tiring, but an occasional pop of vitality is uplifting.

To some extent this can be applied to our writing. We’re told to ensure there is always escalating conflict in our novels, but continuous pages of extreme tension and scenes of constant drama or action don’t always keep the reader forging ahead. There is a need to occasionally let the reader take a breath. That’s the reason behind inserting an incident of comic relief or of the outrageously mundane… not as a letdown, but as a momentary distraction — a brief switch in focus to refresh the mind before it moves on.

Can you think of an incident in a favourite novel (or in a movie) that effectively illustrates this?

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“Our lives are dyed the color of our imaginations.”

Marcus Aurelius

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Choosing the right plant is a little like finding a publisher.

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DSC04405Daisies remind me of the “He loves me; he loves me not” chant… sunny summer days, grabbing handfuls of the roadside wildflower, pulling off petals and tossing them aside, hoping every flower would have an uneven number.

I thought all daisies were the same – wildflowers with a single row of petals surrounding a centre yellow button – until I discovered the Esther Reads. They looked every bit like a fluffy snow white chrysanthemum. I planted a clump of them along a fence at our first home, right next to a style that crossed the fence to an elderly neighbour’s yard.  The little patch greeted me with bright and cheery flowers each time I climbed the style to have tea with my neighbour that summer, but we moved the following year so I didn’t get to enjoy it for long.

I didn’t plant daisies again for nearly forty years — not until we moved to our current neighbourhood where ferns, salal and lots of moss welcomed us to a rural lifestyle. One bed at a time we’ve tamed parts of the back yard, planting shrubs and perennials. Daisies seemed an ideal choice in our informal gardens, and the Esther Read  was an early selection.

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Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Esther Read’

DSC04474Sixteen years later, overrun with other plants and overhung by evergreen trees, there is still just one modest clump. Ignored and undivided, the blooms that peek out each summer are small, but it returns faithfully every year. I’ve learned that it isn’t suited for its location, but I have a sentimental attachment to it and I’m scared to dig it up and move it for fear that’s the last straw and it dies.

Last spring I took the advice of a more knowledgeable gardener and bought clumps of the single Shasta Daisy to plant in sunnier spots. I’m a little surprised they’re doing well given my lack of a green thumb. One thing I’m discovering, however, is that finding the right plant for a particular location and giving it the kind of care it requires goes a long way to ensuring a good result. For me, that means knowing what can survive in the acidic soil here, shaded by 200’ cedar and hemlock trees, without regular watering. Oh yes, and be something the wildlife won’t eat.

But that’s a whole other story.

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In the meantime, we writers might benefit by remembering what ensures success for the daisies can also be applied to our publication efforts – provide a strong story, find the appropriate agent or publisher for our particular genre, and follow submission guidelines carefully.

I think I’ll go water my daisies now.

What grows best in your garden? Are you a nurturing gardener or more the ‘let it fend for itself’ kind? How does that translate to your writing-for-publication efforts?

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