Come away…

Do you remember those first-day-of-school essays? The ones that asked, “What did you do last summer?” Today I’m sharing a photo essay about what I did last weekend.

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“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place
and rest a while.”

[Mark 6:31]

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On Friday I mentioned that I was gearing up for the annual March Madness writers’ challenge. All the details, and the place to sign up and record your goal for the month, is on Denise Jaden‘s blog. But if you’ve already signed up, plan to take a moment each day to check in with the ‘host of the day’ to receive a message of encouragement and to share your day’s accomplishments (or frustrations, as the case may be). Today’s Monday, so be sure to click on over to Kim Baccellia‘s blog here for #MarchMadness Day #2.

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Oh, no! It’s almost March Madness time again!

Didn’t we just have Christmas? How can we possibly be on the eve of March? I could swear the calendar is lying to me, but there are people around me mentioning March Madness in hushed voices.

IMGP7750_2It’s the writing version (not football), and it’s a collaborative effort where we all — writers, readers, illustrators, and bloggers — set our own goals for the month of March, and encourage each other towards reaching them. It’s all about commitment, accountability, encouragement and achievement.

As the coordinator, Denise Jaden has introduced it on her blog. I’m saving you clicking time by reprinting her message below, but if you’d like to join us you’ll need to click on over to her space on Sunday and add your name and goals in the comment section there so she has you registered.

Think about joining us. It’ll be a blast! At least, it will be once I get myself psyched up for the commitment. AND THERE’S JUST ONE MORE DAY TO DO IT! ACK!! ;)

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From Denise Jaden’s Blog

MARCH MADNESS Writing, Reading, and Blogging Challenge! #WIPMadness

It’s almost March and time for an Almost-Nano Challenge! If you have a writing project you’re ready to start, or a work in progress you’re ready to finish, come and join the fun. Accountability is our main aim and the more support we have, the easier it will be to sail on through the month of March, bouncing along on each others successes!

And, like last year, we’re opening up March Madness to readers who want to challenge themselves to read more, bloggers who want to challenge themselves to blog more, and illustrators who want to challenge themselves to illustrate more! Basically, anything to do with books!

And did I mention there will be PRIZES? Prizes will not be awarded based on how much you write, read, draw, or blog, but simply on how involved you are in the Big Accountability Plan. There will be check-in points most days throughout the month of March. Each time you check in and record your progress, your name will be entered into a draw for some great prizes, donated by our fabulous blog hosts, including some high demand advance copy books, audiobooks, and a writer’s survival kit! And not only that, but the more you encourage others along the way (in the comments), the more times your name will go into the hat!

Spread the word, and check out http://denisejaden.blogspot.com on Sunday, March 1st, to put your goals officially in writing and find out the locations of the check-in points. If you’re ready to get serious, don’t do it alone…Get serious with us!

Now is the time to be setting your Ambitious Goals for the month of March! (Trust me, you will be able to accomplish much more than you normally would with the added camaraderie and support, so don’t be afraid to set the bar a little higher.) If you haven’t already, start meeting up with us on Twitter under the hashtag #WIPMadness .

Please spread the word about this Challenge. There will be lots to win throughout the month and the more support we have, the better all of our goals will go this month!

So check back in at my blog March 1st. If you’re such a proud participant that you want to let everyone know, grab the March Madness badge from below, and put it somewhere prominent.
#Wipmadness Participant!

 

Everyone is welcome and the more the merrier! Let’s march into March like the mad group of writers we are!!!

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Okay, that’s the skinny on March Madness. Now start thinking about your goals, and on Sunday head on over to Denise’s place to share them and sign up!!

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White… or not

I’ll warn you right now. This is one of those ‘musings and mental meanderings’ that gave rise to the sub-heading of this blog!

With Lent underway and Easter approaching, thoughts of Christmas should be well shelved, tucked away to rest in the basement alongside the bins of lights and decorations. Strange as it may seem, however, the anthem I chose for yesterday’s church service was joyously Christmas-themed: “I Bring You Good News.” (No, the link isn’t to our choir or even our church, but it’s a chance to hear a generic version of the song if you’re interested. I won’t mind if you’re not.) 

Christmas music in Lent. Eyebrow-raising? Maybe. But my rationale was that the good news of the Gospel is appropriate in any season. That, and the chosen scriptures mentioned good news twice, and I suddenly couldn’t think of a better title.

The trouble is, now I have the song stuck in my head. You have to know my quirky brain to understand how the tune in my head led me to notice the patches of vivid white Snowdrops that greeted me as I arrived home from church, which in turn led to conversations with myself as to why the makers of Christmas tree lights can’t seem to agree on what is white.

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It wasn’t so long ago that you could buy a new string of white Christmas lights without giving it a thought. Now, the choices include warm and cool whites, and goodness knows how many others, but the terms don’t seem to mean much when it comes to matching last year’s strings. And don’t get me started on shades of white paint!

I’m contemplating a minor redecorating project, covering a few grey walls with white to brighten the room, but who knew there were a thousand shades of white paint to choose from?

Choices come down to personal preferences. When it comes to Christmas lights, I prefer a crisp clear white, without blue undertones. Ask interior designer Candice Olson what her favourite ‘go to’ white paint is, and you’ll likely hear ‘Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White’…except it isn’t white. It’s one of the many off-whites with a hint of yellow.

Diversity is a wonderful thing, as are choices. That’s true in books, too. When it comes to writing and reading, there is a profusion of titles among many different genres — something for everyone. At one time it was simple to identify a genre, but now many authors are crossing genres with their writing. Old genre lists are no longer indisputable. I could use a good basic description of each one to simplify identifying exactly where my stories fit in.

Ah, but this isn’t the time to be worrying about that. I have paint chips to peruse. As for the colour, maybe I’ll grab a handful of Snowdrops on my way to the paint store and see if it’s possible to match them. Hmm, that might not be a bad way to choose replacement Christmas lights, too.

Do you have a favourite shade of white (white anything)? How on earth do you describe it?

(Sorry, but I warned you at the start this would be a mind meandering post. There’s no stopping my brain when it chooses a tangent to explore.)

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Super, Black and Blue, Full and New

No, I’m not bruised. I’m referring to the moon. There hasn’t been one visible in recent night skies. I would have called it a New Moon, except I read that “the third new moon in an astronomical season with four, is called a ‘Black’ moon”, and Wednesday, February 18th was a ‘Black’ one.

I’ve taken photos of Super moons, Blue moons, and just plain full moons, but a Black one defies my abilities, thus my photo of a near-full one instead. (I know, that makes no sense at all. Cut me some slack! It’s all I could come up with.)

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Wednesday also marked the beginning of Lent, the period prior to Easter when “we journey through Jesus’ adult life as he reveals to us who God is and how much God loves us.”* Somehow it seems fitting that we should begin Lent in darkness. There will be full moons between now and Easter, of course, but consider this: on April 4th there will be a full moon accompanied by a total lunar eclipse — that’s on the eve of Easter Sunday, which falls on the 5th.

I expect it will bring home the reality of the Easter scriptures.

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When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

[Psalm 8:3-4, NIV]

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 * Pastor Gerard Booy,
Haney Presbyterian Church

Working on Websites (Oh, my!)

I’m not a computer dummy, but neither am I a guru. I deal with my computer and make my way around the internet in a fairly competent manner, but some days it isn’t without a degree of stress.

Some writers have multiple websites or blogs. I have just one, but have established cyber locations for three organizations and three other writers. Mostly it has involved using WordPress templates and has been relatively easy.

Then the day arrived when it became necessary to revamp my church’s website! (Yes, that sentence was meant to end with an exclamation mark.) The original server was going down, and it was the opportune time to start over from scratch.

It was decided we needed a professional look, not achievable with a blog template. This time we would have a brand new site, created by a professional web designer.

While the new website is beautiful, it’s requiring a steep learning curve for me, and that’s both challenging and stressful. I’ll survive, but I’m sure it’s going to be quite some time before this shiny new website is ready to ‘go live’.

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For those of you who have gone this route, too, how much value do you place on the aesthetics of a site? I tend to think first impressions are important — that visitors judge the appeal and suitability of a congregation/writer/product by its cyber-face. Am I wrong? Is the bare message conveyed by text and photos more important than a polished presentation? When you visit a website, how do you react to your initial encounter?

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From the Archives: Partying in the Bedroom

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Once the bed is made, thoughts or dreams from the night before usually disappear into the fabric of a new day. But not always. The following account comes from my 2008 archives.

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By 2:00 a.m. last night (technically, I guess it was this morning) I was ready to evict everyone. Some time prior to midnight characters from my novels had decided to gather at the foot of my bed and challenge my right to go to sleep.

Normally such nightly encounters are welcome. The twilight zone between yawning and oblivion is often my mind’s most productive time. As the day’s memories slip away they are replaced with solutions to story telling dilemmas that eluded me during an earlier writing session. Conversations with my characters are not unusual. It is in those not-quite-asleep-yet moments that just the right words jump into my unfettered brain.

What was distressing about last night’s group was that they weren’t the characters from only my current w.i.p. (work in progress), but also from the previous book. Granted, some of them appear in both, but their stories are not connected and last night’s dialogues won’t fit into either plot. It was a useless waste of my mental energy. I would rather have been sleeping, but the unruly guests wouldn’t go home.

We were out for dinner during the evening. Maybe I drank too much coffee? (Or not enough wine?)

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Finding inspiration

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One of my newest treasures is this hand stitched Double Irish Chain scrap quilt made by my aunt. She was 86 at the time. It took her two years, and I believe was the last one she made. I apologize for the cliché, but it truly is a work of art.

She had a sewing machine, but it was too heavy to lift from the cupboard shelf, so she decided she would sew the quilt entirely by hand, just as her mother and her grandmother had, and as she had done before. She said if she’d realized at the beginning, however, just how much work this one was going to be, she might not have undertaken it.

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I wonder if that isn’t true for many novelists, too. Few realize how much work will go into producing 90,000 ‘just right’ words, until ‘The End’ is staring back at us from the page. If we knew how much effort and time it was going to take, and the possibility that it would never be of publishable quality anyway, would we even begin?

While some might not, I believe the dedicated ones would, simply because they have a creative spirit and the desire to try. The drive to produce something special, something of significance, has to be followed by the determination to make a start. Then, word by word, stitch by stitch, we keep going. We know our earliest creative attempts aren’t going to be perfect, but only by learning and experience will we improve, and we have to begin somewhere.

Like playing a concerto, hand stitching an intricate pattern, or painting a masterpiece, writing an outstanding story takes more than desire. It takes ability, dedication, perseverance, and very hard work.

I’m not there yet as a writer, but the exquisite beauty created by my Aunt Norma inspires me to continue on my journey.

What inspires you in your creative pursuits?

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“For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us,
so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the encouragement they provide
we might have hope.”

[Romans 15:4]

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 (Photos by Norma McGuire)