Christmas Magic – Yes, I Believe!

Wow! I can’t believe Christmas is so close. And the end of 2013. Where did the year go? 
Since this month is a free-for-all, and I am feeling pretty nostalgic, I thought I’d share one of my favorite Holiday memories.
When I was very young – maybe 4 or 5 – my mother (then a single parent) made these amazing shadow boxes to sell at a local craft festival during the holidays. The festival was very well-known, themed around the Renaissance period during Christmas.

On December 23 of that year, my mom let me come with her to the festival. Actually, I think I came by default – no babysitter is my guess. Regardless, I distinctly remember the different craft booths, the smells of hot chocolate and roasting chestnuts, and the beautiful costumes everyone seemed to wear. My mom and I walked around for a bit before she left me at a child-care center located within the fair.
Later that night, a quartet from the Robert Shaw Chorale was singing at the festival. They walked throughout the fair dressed in historical garb; minstrels singing the most beautiful songs.

One of their first stops was the child-care center. I remember hearing them sing and knowing that a group of angels couldn’t possible sound any better. One particular singer – the soprano – stood out from the group. Her voice was more beautiful than anything I had ever heard in my young life.
The minstrels finished their songs and moved on to the next booth. I couldn’t bear to have them leave, so I walked out of the center and followed them. Kate, the soprano, talked with me, held my hand and made sure I didn’t get lost. I really don’t remember them singing, but I do remember Kate trying to help me find my mother’s booth.

After some time past – in my 5-year old mind it seemed like it was the whole night – we made our way back to the child-center, unable to find my mother’s booth. Mom was waiting for me. And after she finished chastising me for leaving, she thanked Kate.
Before Kate left, I pulled off the bracelet I was wearing – a special charm bracelet given to me by my grandmother. The stone of the charms spelled out the word “dear”. Kate tried to refuse the present, but I told her that Christmas was about giving and since she had given me the gift of her voice, I simply had to give her the bracelet. Reluctantly, she took my gift and left.

The next day was Christmas Eve. I remember listening to a recording of the Robert Shaw Chorale over and over again. I just knew I could hear Kate’s voice in the chorus, sounding every bit as angelic as she did at the festival. The next morning, Christmas morning, I raced out of bed to see if Santa had come. Mom joined me and I opened my stocking. Tucked at the bottom of the stocking was a little package completely different from the rest. Carefully, I unwrapped the little gift until it lay in my hand – a mosaic pin with a little note.

Thank you for your kindness at the festival. You reminded me just how special Christmas and music are. Love, Kate

I couldn’t believe it. How did she manage to get a present into my stocking? Surely she was an angel. There was no other explanation in my young mind.

To this day, I listen carefully anytime Joy to the World by the Robert Shaw Chorale comes on Pandora, straining to see if I can hear the voice of my angelic Kate.

What special memories do you have about this season?

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November: A Tear and A Smile

Happy November everyone! I have always loved this time of year – the colors of the harvest, the traditions around the Holidays, and the feeling of gratitude throughout the month. It is truly such a deep and poignant time for me.

mom

Until 2010 – when November also meant the month I lost my mom.

My mom is the reason for my love of fall, the holidays, a Thanksgiving feast. She was not a super family oriented person, really. Not into traditions. At least, not the way I am. But she was into Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, losing her days after Thanksgiving was especially hard.

And now, as I put up the Thanksgiving decorations, comb through the recipes that will make up this year’s feast, and sit in meditation, contemplating all that I am grateful for, now I also think of my mom.

pics 4 grammie 004Enough time has past that I am not deep in grief anymore. I know that she is with me – I see her in the sunrise, feel her warmth as my children laugh and smile, and hear her voice in my thoughts as I walk through my day. But I miss the feel of her hand in mine, the simplicity of our conversations, and the sound of her laughter. I miss them all deeply.

So November brings both a tear and a smile each year, and the promise of another Holiday season. I hope yours is filled with all of the joy and gratitude of the season!

Jumping Into the Abyss

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce

 

This month’s topic, inspired by the season of Halloween no doubt, is fear: what makes us most afraid. There are many ways I could have chosen to answer this; but, being the philosophical person that I am, I of course and to go deep to answer this question.

I see fear as the great motivator, when it is appreciated for what it is. It is our internal warning system that something is amiss. Small fears tell us that we are off track in some way, not walking the path we are supposed to be walking, or not willing to walk that path. Big fears – these tell us much more. They tell us we are mortally in danger in some way.

For me, fear is always about the confrontation within – the juxtaposition of your deepest dreams and your biggest fears. Those fears can involve a fear of failure and a fear of success; it can relate to a fear of disappointment and loss, a fear of the unknown, a fear of risk. Whatever it is, in involved YOU. Fear is a personal thing at its core, an existential confrontation of your very being!

I know, I know…a little deeper than the topic was generally meant, I am sure.

(from http://iskander1989.deviantart.com/art/Other-side-of-the-mirror-350165817. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Okay, let me relate this back to me. I had this dream about fear once, something so profound, so terrifying, actually, that I still get chills whenever I recall the scene. I was climbing a steep cliff in the rain. Compelled to love forward, I also knew that the climb would ultimately lead to my death. I climbed and climbed. My knees became weak, my muscles sore. And still I climbed. Until I finally it a plateau. In front of my was a steep cliff. Again compelled, I ran toward the cliff, knowing I had to jump. Whatever was behind me was worse than the jump I knew I had to make. So… I jumped. The fear, the terror was palpable. I just KNEW I would die when I jumped, and yet, I had to do it anyway. In my dream, there was no other decision I could make. And as my feet left the safety of the plateau, the rain pounding against me, I discovered a simple truth…

I was only inches off the ground.

I started writing with the idea of publication within a year of that experience.

For me, the dream represented my need to push through all fear. To understand it and use it as the tool it is – to allow my own fears motivate me to take action and resist stagnancy.

I have never forgotten the dream. My heart still pounds whenever I think of it, the vision of it still so vivid. Whenever I get stuck, afraid, frustrated with writing or the direction of my career, I think of the dream. I consider what action I am resisting, what act of bravery I need to take. And then I do it. I jump, eyes wide open, into the abyss, knowing I am only inches off the ground!

As I started with a quote, let me end with another:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin.

Go, face your fears, jump off the cliff, blossom. The only limits you have are the ones you’ve set for yourself!

September Preview!

The year seems to be going by faster the farther in we get. Can’t believe it’s September already!!

Well, we have two books releasing this month.

Michelle McLean’s Wish Upon a Star (a tale of a couple who reconnect while fighting a mega-mall full of zombies created by a mad entrepreneurial scientist and his cyborg zombie creation). It releases from Entangled’s Ever After line on Sept 23rd (cover is under wraps until release day 😉 )

And Christine Fonseca’s Dominus – releasing on Sept 15th

Dominus FINALSometimes death is the only way to save a life.

Nesy knows who she is now, knows what she’s lost. Determined to save Aydan from his fate, she confronts the only one she blames for everything – Azza. But how can she fight the devil when she is nothing more than human.

The fate of Celestium, Infernum and humanity rests in Nesy’s hands. Can she find the strength to confront demons she’s never imagined, face fears she’s never voiced, and release the one things that has held her world together – her love for Aydan. Some sacrifices should never be made…even for love.

Author’s Note:
Each character’s decisions, each twist of fate has led to this – a time when confusion reigns supreme, when up is down and down is up. And when the fate of humanity rests in the balance. In this final installment, the decisions of the past have come back to haunt the future, and the fates of Nesy and Aydan, Zane and Cass, Celestium and Infernum, hang in the balance. The only question is, who will survive?

This story is filled with anguish and betrayal, love and sacrifice, as I bring the series to an end. It’s a story that has been part of my life for many years. Saying “goodbye” to these characters will be a profound experience for me. I hope all of you have enjoyed their stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

~~~

September’s posting theme is a flash fiction challenge!! Our authors will be grabbing the book they are currently reading, typing the last noun of the first sentence into Google (or other search engine), clicking the images, and writing a short scene based on the first picture that pops up.

Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

August Preview!

We’ve got some great releases coming up this month!

First up, Immortals (Runes #2) by Ednah Walters – Releases August 5
Immortal_couple_Huge_with_logoNothing can stop Raine Cooper when she wants something
Raine finally knows that her gorgeous neighbor, Torin St. James, is a legend straight out of Norse mythology, and that her feelings for him are strong. Torin is crazy about Raine too, breaking the one rule he lives by: Never fall for a mortal. The problem is he no longer remembers her, his memories erased by Norns—Norse destiny deities—to punish her for defying them.

So Raine comes up with a plan…

She will make Torin forget his one rule a second time and fall in love with her all over again. But she quickly learns that well-laid plans do not work when dealing with deities and supernatural beings. Desperate, Raine makes choices that could not only tear her and Torin further apart, but
lead to the destruction of everything and everyone she loves.

Robyn DeHart’s A Little Bit Scandalous – Releases from Entangled’s Scandalous August 12
A Little Bit ScandalousA woman in search of a gamble…

Mathematics prodigy, Caroline Jellico, plans to support herself by winning big in the gaming hells of London—while dressed as a boy. She’s tired of waiting for the elusive Roe to notice her. She’ll marry him or no man.

A gambler in need of redemption…

Monroe Grisham, Duke of Chanceworth, needs to marry off his beautiful young ward and ensure she attaches herself to the right man, not an irresponsible cad like him. But all grown up now, Caroline’s presence is an utter distraction. One he can neither act on nor deny.

A game of seduction…

But when Roe and Caroline meet across the gaming table, all bets are off. Seduction is in the cards and the winner will take all…or lose everything.

Kelly Hashway’s Stalked by Death – Releases from Spencer Hill Press August 13
15980368

Jodi knows that any slip-ups made by the Ophi–a special group of necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac–will fall on her shoulders… and that Hades is just waiting for them to screw up so he can wipe out the Ophi line.

Unfortunately, Jodi has only convinced one Ophi to join her school: A hot guy named Chase who jeopardizes her relationship with Alex. Jodi loves Alex, but Chase can enhance her powers with just a touch—making her stronger than any Ophi has ever been.

Her mixed emotions send her powers surging out of control, and the dead start rising without her conscious summoning—exactly what Hades doesn’t want! If she chooses Alex over Chase, she may lose the battle to Hades, leading the Ophi race to extinction. If she chooses Chase, she might be able to stop Hades for good… but lose everything else.

Jodi needs to figure things out fast–because death is stalking her at every turn.

Ellen Booraem’s Texting the Underworld – Releases from Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers August 15

texting the underworldPerpetual scaredy-cat Conor O’Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is—as all banshees are—a harbinger of death, and she’s sure someone in Conor’s family is about to require her services. But she’s new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school.

Even as Conor desperately tries to hide her identity from his classmates and teachers, he realizes there’s no way to avoid paying a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe.

Fortunately, he has a cell phone, and his computer-geek friend, Javier, will be holding down the home front.

“Got your cell?”

“Yeah . . . Don’t see what good it’ll do me.”

“I’ll text you if anything happens that you should know.”

“Text me? Javier, we’ll be in the afterlife.”

“You never know. Maybe they get a signal.”

Discover why Kirkus has called Booraem’s work “utterly original American fantasy . . . frequently hysterical . . . smart, earthy and thoughtful.”

Dominus by Christine Fonseca – Releases August 31
(Cover Tease)

DOMINUS teaser bookcover
Sometimes death is the only way to save a life.

Nesy knows who she is now, knows what she’s lost. Determined to save Aydan from his fate, she confronts the only one she blames for everything – Azza. But how can she fight the devil when she is nothing more than human.

The fate of Celestium, Infernum and humanity rests in Nesy’s hands. Can she find the strength to confront demons she’s never imagined, face fears she’s never voiced, and release the one things that has held her world together – her love for Aydan. Some sacrifices should never be made…even for love.

Author’s Note:
Each character’s decisions, each twist of fate has led to this – a time when confusion reigns supreme, when up is down and down is up. And when the fate of humanity rests in the balance. In this final installment, the decisions of the past have come back to haunt the future, and the fates of Nesy and Aydan, Zane and Cass, Celestium and Infernum, hang in the balance. The only question is, who will survive?

This story is filled with anguish and betrayal, love and sacrifice, as I bring the series to an end. It’s a story that has been part of my life for many years. Saying “goodbye” to these characters will be a profound experience for me. I hope all of you have enjoyed their stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

~~~

Another exciting month coming up for the Scene 13ers!

This month’s posting theme is a free choice, so each author will post whatever crosses their fancy 🙂

Be sure to check out our Blog Tours tab for ongoing blog tour links!

An Artist of Words

This month, my esteemed colleagues and I have been writing about summer reading – the books we are reading, the books we critique, the inspiration we find in books. JK Rowling, one of literary heroes, wrote in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that “words are…our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” This is exactly how I feel about words, the medium of my art. And it is precisely this that I want to briefly talk about today.

As writers, artists of the written word, we dabble in the world of words, weaving them into stories that can reach someone emotionally, provide a little escape, or insight into a new perspective.

Part of being writers means honing our craft – in this case, the way in which we use words. And what better way to hone the craft, then to read read read.

Summer is when I get the most reading in. No longer reading for work or critting for others, summer is all about finding new books and authors, catching up on the adult books I have been wanting to read, and discovering new ways to fine-tune my craft. I actively seek sources of inspiration for my writing over summer, including books, music, anything that speaks to my inner artist.

Summer is also when I clear out the junk from my everyday life, take stock, and release the barriers that are keeping me from moving forward. Being an artist and someone who is very intense by nature, I tend to get a bit “clogged” in life. So, summer brings the time and the release. I do the same thing around the Holidays.

Okay, but back to the topic of books – this summer I am reading many adult thrillers I have been saving for summer. Dan Brown’s INFERNO, as well as THE LAW OF NINES by Terry Goodkind and others. I am also “cleaning” off my iPad, reading several YA books I have never found the time to read, including Shatter Me and the sequel, The Lies that Bind Us, and others. I have read 4 or 5 books so far, and look forward to reading several more before heading back to work in August.

I am also taking a few road trips to get inspired! Hopefully this will result in a wonderfully productive fall. I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m reading, honing my craft, and feeling inspired!

How about you?

Courage

“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.”

William Throsby Bridges

Hi everyone! It feels like forever since I have posted here. Maybe because I managed to forget last month all together. Those of you who know me know how much it bothers me that I would forget. But, things have been in a bit of disarray. I have been living in a place of disenchantment – with my day job, with aspects of real life, and with writing. As a result, I have found myself withdrawing; cocooning to protect myself from whatever it was I was feeling. At least for a little while. Until I understood what was really happening.

Change.

I am smack dab in the middle of a huge period of transition in every aspect of my life. I have arrived at middle-age, am changing careers (albeit back to my previous job), and am moving forward in new directions with my writing. I have one child getting ready to move out and go to college in a year, and another beginning to embrace her teen years. It is a simultaneously exciting and terrifying time for me. And I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It would be easy for me to continue to retreat from the fear I am feeling – accept the status quo and make peace with the mediocre that had defined things in my life for a while now. But, I have never been “that” person. I am not the type to quietly go into the night. No, I prefer to chase down my dreams, holding on with a ferocity I don’t often show. I prefer to reshape and redefine my life, approaching the journey as some kind of amazing adventure. That is who I am, even if that is someone I’ve ignored for a few months/years.

So, I am venturing forward and embracing each transition that comes my way, acknowledging the journey and trying to not run away when the terror strikes. After all, it is in these periods of transition when we catch a glimpse of who we are and who we imagine ourselves to be.

As I started with a quote about transitions, so shall I end:

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”

Nikki Giovanni

How are you with transitions, with change? Do you run for the hills and wait for it to pass? Or do you embrace the inner artist and explorer and venture out into the horizon?