Gearing Up for a Week of Writing

I’ve taken the week off work to write. Starting Monday, I’m blocking Facebook, email, and the few websites I occasionally view to waste time (Twisted Sifter, I’m looking at you). I’m using Cold Turkey, a program that lets you block out web access for certain periods of time. I’ve scheduled a few posts in this space, but I doubt I’ll be actively blogging. For the next week, that will mean much of my days will be internet-free. 

The weather is cold, icy, gray, and fairly miserable so there is no temptation to even leave the house. We cleaned up most of our Christmas mess on Sunday afternoon, so I shouldn’t feel compelled to clean.

Nothing but time to write.

Oh, and celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary. And have breakfast with a friend. And maybe peek in on the Rose Bowl. And celebrate my 34th birthday.

It’s still a busy and celebratory time of year, after all.

Melt

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With a predicted high today of 35 and 42 tomorrow, the icy grip on my town is beginning to ease. Friends are still without power, lines are still down all over my neighborhood, but the end is in sight now. For many, this will be a very memorable Christmas of last-minute plan changes and candlelight and frustration. But years hence, it will make a good story that I bet will get just a little bit more dramatic with each telling.

Merry (Early) Christmas

Look what I stumbled upon while I was updating my Amazon author page:

Click the cover image to get to the Amazon page where this collection is already available for Kindle for just $3.99! Printed books should be available in January or February.

And you’re going to want to hang out there at Amazon and pick up your copy of December’s short story, Water & Light. I wanted to make it free starting Christmas Eve, but the timing with uploading it made that impossible (boo!) so it will be free on Christmas Day and Boxing Day only!

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Thanks so much for your support this year as I carried out my short story writing experiment. It has been such fun and so rewarding. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store…

Encased in Ice

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Michigan woke up Sunday to the beautiful phenomenon of ice trees and all their attendant problems–power outages, downed live wires, trees utterly destroyed, roads and sidewalk blocked by debris, and an extremely small (and skewing young) crowd at church.

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The sounds of ice-laden limbs swaying, tinkling like glass, then cracking, breaking, plummeting, and shattering filled my ears as I chipped the car from its frozen skin.

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After church my son “helped” clean up the front yard by karate-chopping ice from the defeated crabapple tree, which is scheduled for demolition this afternoon.

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The ash that had thus far escaped death from emerald ash borers and being hit by a car has been severely damaged. I’m going to have to start thinking about moving plants around in the front, as it will likely be a full sun garden next year.

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I’m disappointed that these trees will have to be replaced, but grateful nothing fell on the cars or house or power lines. As is so often the case when the weather turns challenging, we have some work to do. But we try not to miss the beauty that comes with the beast.

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Mission Accomplished!

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I don’t know about you, but I have rarely, if ever, kept a New Year’s Resolution for an entire year. I can hardly keep myself eating right for three meals in a day. So when I vowed last January to write one short story each month of the year, I was really hoping I’d have the tenacity to succeed, but I figured that somewhere in there, there would at least be a month when I was late and had to make a bunch of lame excuses about how life just got too busy to write.

But lo and behold, last night I finished the 12th and final short story of 2013!

Life did get busy. Crazy busy. For the last three months, every Saturday on the calendar was full. We had to adjust our schedules to fit with a boy who is now in elementary school. We navigated a summer filled with trips and hanging out with friends and canning homemade jam. I spent many evenings with my nose in thick books to prepare for writing a novel. And of course there’s work, eating, basic hygiene, and the like. But writing only happens if you make it happen. And this year, I made it happen.

This is the cover for the last story of the year…

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I will be making it available on Christmas Eve (last minute gift idea?) and it will be FREE on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

And here are the covers of all twelve short stories for 2013…

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It’s been a fun and challenging year, but I think 2014 will be even better. I’m hoping to release a nonfiction ebook called The Intentional Writer: Finding the Time, Space, and Inspiration You Need to Write in January. It’s designed to give beginning and struggling writers encouragement, motivation, and practical strategies to make regular creative writing a part of their lives. If you like my blog posts that relate to writing, you’ll love the book.

And, of course, what I’m most excited about is getting down in words the novel that has been growing in my head and my heart over the past year.

What do you have brewing in your mind for next year?

On Cold Mornings, Doomed Goats, and Stories Waiting to Be Told

We woke this morning to the shortest day of the year in the coldest house of the year. The batteries in the thermostat had apparently died in the night, making it a toasty 55 degrees on the main floor and colder yet in the basement. A few space heaters (why do we have so many of these?) and a couple new AA batteries warmed things up fairly quickly, and the cold did allow me to see my five-year-old son looking extra adorable in his robe and slippers.

The fairly warm temperatures we’ve been having continued this morning, hovering above freezing and giving a foggy, ethereal glow to the moisture-laden air. The rooftops, the lawns, the roads, and the sky are all varying shades of white and gray. Much of our beautiful snow has melted under the constant rain we had yesterday and I fear by the time Christmas dawns it will be brown rather than white. That’s how it goes sometimes–our ideals and reality at odds.

As time winds down before Christmas I find that I have a couple more gifts to buy, I’m waiting on a few things to be delivered, I have a number of gifts to wrap. I’ve got bathrooms that need cleaning, sheets that need washing, boxes that need recycling. Probably most of this is true for you as well.

More uniquely, I’ve been invited to attend a goat slaughter and a five-hour worship service and meal (at which the condemned goat will be consumed) to celebrate Christmas with my new Bhutanese-Nepali friends. I’m still deliberating on the goat. On the one hand, I am curious about how it will all go down and I feel intrinsically that a writer should observe those out-of-the-ordinary (to us) things. Certainly I would find something of interest to report to you. But I’ve never actually eaten something I witnessed being killed. Seriously, not even a fish. I guess we’ll see how things pan out on Monday afternoon.

Tonight, however, on the longest night of the year, I will not be thinking about goats. I’ll hopefully be finishing up my last short story for 2013. Once that is done, every item on my 2013 to-do list will be checked off and my mind will be free to turn completely toward writing the novel I’ve been researching and musing upon and planning for the past year. The story has gestated and grown and morphed in my mind to the point where I am more eager to write than I have ever been.

I think about the anticipation of the child who would come to deliver his people, of thousands of years waiting for the Word. I think of the people who converged on Bethlehem–Mary and Joseph traveling to be registered, sages making the treacherous desert journey to see the fulfillment of prophecies, angels coming down from heaven, shepherds leaving their fields and flocks, and soldiers dispatched to murder innocent baby boys. And the most important–God drawing near, so near as to become one of us. To feel pain and sorrow and temptation and anguish. To make meaning from chaos. To be both conclusion and new beginning.

The coming together of God and man. The crux of history. The greatest story, which informs all of our small and secondary stories.

Throughout 2013 I told little stories. Now I am ready for a big story.

Wildflower Wednesday: Common Blue Violet

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Common Name: Common Blue Violet

Scientific Name: Viola sororia

Habitat & Range: woodlands and gardens statewide

Bloom Time: spring

About: If you have ever tried to rid your garden or lawn of violets, you know it is no easy task to dislodge these strong-rooted plants that spread by both underground runners and seeds. If you don’t get all–and I mean all–of that root, you will see them again very soon. At least they are native and make for a cheery presentation in spring. Their flowers can range from white to deep purple, and there is also a yellow variety that is not quite so low to the ground and less common in yards. The flowers can be candied and used as edible decorations on cakes and cupcakes, and even the leaves can be eaten in salads or as cooked greens. So if you can’t get rid of them and you don’t use dangerous fertilizers or pesticides on them, go ahead and eat them! I’ve made peace with the ones in the garden by the gas and electric boxes. But I still pull up about a hundred of them every year from other parts of the yard.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Winter is here, so why not enjoy it already?

After an extremely snowy weekend, today dawned clear and cold. Oh, who am I kidding? I didn’t actually get up before dawn. But it has been a sunny morning and all the world is covered in a soft blanket of white snow. My Samoyed/German Shepherd mix, Sasha, loves it.

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From inside my home office with the space heater at my feet and an unending supply of great coffee, I can enjoy days like this in ways that daily commuters may not be able to. So many of my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances despise Michigan in the winter. Perhaps, when they look out at the snow, they only see this:

Yes, the roads are a bit slick out there, but there are some simple lessons to be learned from winter. Start early, take it slow, steer into the skid, and maybe get yourself some new tires once in a while.

Seems like there might be some writing advice in there too…

Winter isn’t interested in bustling about. It isn’t concerned with appointments or ladder climbing or making a mark on the world, beyond footprints in the snow or an occasional snow angel.

Winter is about waiting, regrouping, hibernating, anticipating. Winter waits for Christmas. Winter waits for spring. Winter sits still for a while and enjoys itself.

Winter says, “Make a fire. Eat rich food. Sip some cocoa. Listen to some music.”

Winter says, “Just as the grass is there waiting beneath the snow, life will still be there tomorrow. It will wait. For now, enjoy yourself.”

Winter says, “I won’t last forever. So rest while you can.”

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