The New Book: NaNoWriMo Days 11-13

NaNoWriMo, November 2019, DAY 11 – 2006 words

Dear Diary,

Monday again, and a holiday at that. I’m feeling much better, and my shift at the radio station didn’t tax my voice too much, which is good. I thought about writing in the morning, before I left, but that didn’t happen. Based on when I’ve checked in, the NaNoWriMo website has labeled me a night owl, doing most of my writing in the evening. Which is quite true, this time around.

Once again, sprints are totally working for me. I can’t believe I never tried them before! From now on, I’m recommending them to all my writing clients…

DAY 12 – 2161 words

Dear Diary,

Again with the nightly sprints! It’s nearly a new habit now.

Tonight I came up with a new character, completely spontaneously. Her name is Pepper. I’m learning about her as I go. Fiction is so much fun.

Sometimes I get weird about fiction and have a lot of resistance to it. I think that’s because writing long-form fiction is a relatively new thing to me; I’ve only been writing it for the past five or six years.

This time around, NaNoWriMo feels entirely different to me. At first it was the shift to not planning in advance, and the struggle to finish book 2. These past few days, though, my creativity has been flowing freely. I’m going to enjoy it and try not attach too many expectations.

Easier said than done, probably.

DAY 13 –  1996 words

Dear Diary,

BlackLion and I have been doing 15 minute word sprints together. I like that length a bit better than the 10 minutes that our NaNo crew have been doing – those feel a tad too short. In a little over an hour, I’d completed another scene and made a good word count.

Each scene is being planned as I go, which is new. I’m kind of liking it. I do think about the book during the day, when I’m not writing, which contributes to the as-yet-unseen plot. Hey, if Stephen King doesn’t plan and he’s had huge success, I think I’m in good company.

I had a fantastic strategy meeting with my biz coach today. I’m being careful to build my business such that I always have time to be working on my own books. I love it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing books, as long as I live. I started late, so I don’t really think I’ll get sick of it. My books are my retirement plan.

To the Bridge: NaNoWriMo Days 8-10

NaNoWriMo, November 2019, DAY 8 – 1896 words

Dear Diary,

I feel crappy. Hack, hack, sniffle, sniffle. Standard head cold. Yuck.

Still, thanks to hot soup and Tylenol, I wrote a goodly amount of words this evening.

Also, in Googling for standard word counts in my genre, I found an article one shouldn’t read while still writing drafts (this one’s about urban fantasy, my genre for the Patterns books I’m working on). Luckily, my novels pretty much meet the criteria so far.

DAY 9 – 1721 words

Dear Diary,

I felt really sick today. Low energy, lots of coughing, not much of an appetite. I didn’t do much other than read magazines, rest, and watch Victoria with BlackLion, for most of the day. I thought I might skip writing altogether.

But then I wrote, in the evening, right here in bed. Mostly, I confess, because I didn’t want to have to make up the missed day tomorrow, or scramble to account for it later in the month.

I got in on the online sprints again. It really does help to have other writers (virtually) here with me, sharing their word counts and doubts and general silliness. I’m getting so close to the end of book 2.

Now to watch one more episode of Victoria and then crash for the night.

DAY 10 – 2243 words

Dear Diary,

I’m feeling a bit better today. After breakfast, BlackLion said we should sit down together with Scrivener. We bought the software over the summer, but hadn’t used it yet. I was impressed with how he set up his novel in there at the beginning of the month. So he showed me how to set up book 3 in Scrivener, and where to put my notes on the characters and such.

I don’t know if it’s my Virgo side, or what, but I got so inspired by organizing and getting ready for book 3, that I just sat here and finished book 2!

I wrote 2243 words, and at a whopping 120K total, Patterns of Regret is finally drafted. It’ll need a lot of work in revisions, but it’s complete. I feel so happy and relieved.

Now to start book 3 – working title: Patterns on the Sea – which feels terribly exciting. Sometime this month, though I didn’t capture it in this log, I remember saying to myself “I hate writing. Why am I even doing this?” Today, though, I’m fully in love with writing once again.

You know, just the normal ups and downs of the creative process… At least I can laugh at myself.

Just Keep Swimming: NaNoWriMo Days 5-7

NaNoWriMo, November 2019, DAY 5 – 2250 words

Dear Diary,

I voted today. I worked on my business. I took a yoga class with BlackLion at our favorite studio, and we made “breakfast for dinner” together afterwards.

And yeah – I wrote some more words. BlackLion and I did another word sprint, and then I just kept going afterwards, and ended up with a nice word count. I’m focusing more on the word count than the quality of what I’m actually writing, because I’m still not solid about this book’s ending. But I know that I can fix it during revision time, so I’m not worrying about it too much.

Reward for my writing session? Reading some more of Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. Such a great series! His world-building is fantastic.

DAY 6 – 1706 words

Dear Diary,

I was feeling kind of “off” today. I got a lot of biz stuff done, and some work for my part-time gig at the radio station, too. We went to Mom & Dad’s for the weekly family dinner. When I came home, the only thing I really wanted to do was go to bed.

But BlackLion urged me on, again, so I decided to write at least a little. I found an email from the local southern Maine NaNo leader saying she was running some word sprints on Discord (a cool app where you can chat with others who have interests in common). So BlackLion and I jumped on and did short word sprints with them for a little over an hour, and I ended up writing a bit more than the daily target. Again, the quality may be lacking – a lot of the scene was just conversation, which seems a bit boring, perhaps – but I can fix it later.

Also, Black Lion finished writing book 2 of his sci-fi trilogy tonight and is on to book 3. Celebrating with him! (In spirit, anyway – I’m taking my tired body to bed).

DAY 7 – 1910 words

Dear Diary,

I woke up with a cold. This is my body’s way of telling me to slow down. So I did. I’ve been sitting in the comfy recliner with my laptop, surrounded by books and journals. Percy cat has been keeping close tabs on me; he’s a healer. I had leftover soup for breakfast.

A bonus to slowing down is that I wrote in my journal, and came up with some new thoughts and ideas for book 3.

I took a nap this afternoon, and when I was waking up, still in that liminal space between dreaming and waking, I heard my own voice, dictating a story as part of my dream. I remembered that, at heart, stories are what it’s all about, for me. That’s been the case since I was a little girl. It reassured me that I can do this novel-writing thing, and do it well, even when I don’t have it planned out in advance, like I do with my non-fiction books. Perhaps especially then, though that remains to be discovered.

So I had some more soup for dinner, homemade vegetarian split pea this time, and waited for BlackLion to get home. We wrote, and again I got a good word count – and this time, I’m a little bit more satisfied with the content, too.

Oh, and I finished reading Oathbringer, which was amazing. Sick days aren’t all bad.

Resistance Is Futile: NaNoWriMo Days 1-4

NaNoWriMo, November 2019, DAY 1 – 2878 words

Dear Diary,

I thought I’d write about the process of writing during this November, for National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). Because, you know, 50K just isn’t enough words (is there a sarcasm emoji?). Actually, it’s because, on my 5th year doing NaNoWriMo, going for my 5th “win,” I find myself struggling.

I usually prep a bit, in advance of the start of the month. This time, thanks to an inspired idea BlackLion had, I even ran a little impromptu planning session, where 4 of us gathered online to prepare together. During that workshop, I discovered that the novel I thought I’d be writing this month was sorta, um, the wrong one.

Yeah. Originally I’d conceived of my contemporary fantasy novels as a series, and I sketched out some brief plot notes for the first 5 books. Later, after receiving the advice to wait and start publishing them only after the series was complete, I decided to shorten the process, making it a trilogy. I can always write another trilogy if I choose, and if the readers want more.

When I looked at my notes last week, I discovered that what I thought I’d be writing for book 3 was originally intended as book 4. Oops.

I couldn’t decide whether to shift book 4’s content to book 3 – which would alter the original arc of the series – or just write what I’d already planned for book 3. Confused yet? I was.

So I stopped planning.

When November 1st came along, I didn’t start my new book. Instead, I started working on the ending of book 2. More on that tomorrow. I’m tired.

DAY 2 – 0 words

Dear Diary,

I have a confession to make. No, not the fact that I didn’t write today. I didn’t, because I was out and about all day. But I knew that in advance and planned ahead for it by writing extra words yesterday.

The confession is that I’ve been avoiding finishing book 2 of the Patterns series. Like, for most of this year. Not that I haven’t written other stuff, like the non-fiction book that BlackLion and I are co-writing – but I’ve avidly avoided the ending of Patterns of Regret. Why?

Well, it turns out that I hadn’t really fleshed out my antagonist well enough to know why she was doing the crap she was doing to the heroes. That impacted the ending. It was too wishy-washy, and I wasn’t sure how to wrap things up. At my request, Quester read the story and gave me some feedback. After that, I actually scrapped an epic battle scene I’d written last November, based on the fact that it just wouldn’t have happened that way.

At the writing retreat I led this summer, one of my clients was writing a Tarot book for a deck she’d created years ago. In order to re-familiarize herself with the deck, she offered book-oriented readings to everyone. In mine, she read the cards for my mysterious antagonist, and together we came up with a whole back story, motivation, personality – it was so freaking cool!

I typed up the notes from the reading, which I’d recorded, and made some more notes, but still didn’t get back to finishing the book draft. Until now.

DAY 3 – 2250 words

Dear Diary,

Today’s writing session was blessedly easy. I’d been thinking about my novel’s ending yesterday, while doing other things (yeah, writers daydream a lot). I wrote up some notes for a couple of the remaining scenes, and the words poured out.

I love it when that happens.

It was Sunday, so I had plenty of time and could write in the middle of the day, when I was still fairly fresh. I also got lots of other stuff done around the house.

The time change is annoying, but at least it’s the one where I get an extra hour of sleep.

DAY 4 – 962 words

Dear Diary,

Mondays are always super busy for me. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d write today at all. I figured I could make it up tomorrow.

But when I got home, at 8:45pm, BlackLion challenged me to do a writing sprint with him. We’d set a timer and just write. We decided on 30 minutes.

I got 962 words written in that time! It wasn’t a whole scene, and I don’t know if it’s any good, but it’s easier to edit junk writing than a blank page. 

Thank goodness for writing buddies.

Starcat’s Favorites: High and Low All at Once

I know I’ve referred to one of Quester’s favorite quotes here before, more than once. It’s by the band Moe, and goes “it’s high and low all at once, not one or the other.” This month has been one of those times when the quote comes in handy.

We lost two dear people from our extended clan. My wonderful Uncle Merton (Dad’s oldest brother) died after a fall at age 91. He was very kind and loving and adored the outdoors. My Mom’s best friend Carol died in hospice after a short but intense terminal cancer (it’s Mom pictured here, at the beach – I’m sending her lots of love in her time of grief). I’d known Carol since I was a teen and she felt like family, too. She was funny and loyal and loved animals, especially horses. The last time I saw her, less than 3 weeks ago, a bunch of us went to see the Downton Abbey movie together.

These losses have me feeling sad and heavy-hearted. Combined with the waning moon and the shorter days of autumn, it’s been hard to keep up my usual light spirits.

At the same time, though, there’s fun stuff mixed in. We celebrated my Dad’s 79th birthday by taking him to one of his favorite places – Oxford Casino – for slots and lunch. I’ve also been leading various writing workshops. Seeing all the amazing work these writers are doing lifts my spirits. I have a creative project or two in hand, of course. BlackLion and I are co-authoring a book called Follow the Ebb & Flow: The Law of Attraction and the Tides of Life, coming out later this fall, so that’s keeping us busy. I just attended my biz coach’s fall retreat, which was amazingly inspiring as always.

I’m blessed and thankful, even in the face of loss.

Here are some links to enliven your day:

Jeannette Maw on keeping your manifesting magick going.

I met a lovely, soft-spoken artist at a local women’s meetup, and later looked up her website. I love her blog about the meaning of ritual.

Have you heard of mindful eating?

“Redefining our relationship with stuff” – seems like a good idea. A long article, but worth the read.

I adore reading lists. This one, themed around Dark Goddesses, is perfect for this time of year.

This beautiful meditation invites you to “adventure into the wilderness of your own discomfort.”

Here’s another longer read that’s totally worthwhile, on ancestral healing.

Have a lovely weekend!

What Is Enlightenment?

What is enlightenment? Yeah, I know, big topic for a random midweek post. But it’s something I’ve been pondering lately.

A friend and I tend to have impromptu metaphysical discussions when we find each other in the same space. As a martial artist, he comes at it from a perspective I find interesting.

In a recent chat, where we were talking about using our personal energy in various ways, he noted that the purpose of life isn’t to continually seek more and more direct connection with the Divine. It’s also about enjoying the journey of physical reality.

His ideas make sense to me. We emerge from the non-physical realm of pure consciousness to explore the more limited scope of this playground called Earth. One of my favorite authors, Mike Dooley, talks about this all the time. He envisions souls lining up for their chance to come down and experience what we’re already immersed in. I picture the queues for the hottest rides at DisneyWorld, with all the souls eagerly jostling for their chance on the roller coaster of life.

But as the discussion continued, I realized that often I do think of my spiritual practice as getting me closer and closer to that pure source energy. I aim for the imagined bliss of enlightenment, but I’m still here in human form.

I sometimes forget about enjoying the journey.

Yeah, I admit to being an overachiever Virgo type. I do this in various areas of my life. I set my vision, take the inspired actions, listen for guidance, and even have fun doing it – and then there comes a moment in the process where I’m all “But where are my results?! What about the awesome rewards for doing all this good Work?” 

Sigh. That’s when I start feeling resentful or victimized.

I suspect enlightenment isn’t actually about transcending the day to day. It’s not getting to a point where you’re emanating that magickal glow no matter what happens around you. It’s not being happy all the time.

It’s more about enjoying the ride – the dips into sorrow and grief as well as the lifts to bliss and joy. 

When I thought about it further, I realized that I do have spaces in my life where I’m not trying to get somewhere. Like when I’m spending time with my immediate and extended family, or reading for pleasure, or doing yoga.

The thing is, our souls are already fully enlightened. They live in the light like mermaids in the sea, emerging into the physical realm to explore what it’s like here on the other side. Our physical selves are the expression of that desire to experience something new. Let’s revel in the journey.

Dharma – It’s Complicated

I had one of those moments this past weekend where it was like: “This. This is an essential part of the work I’m meant to be doing in this world.” Have you ever experienced that? It’s such a powerful feeling.

I’ve felt it before, while writing (which can seem like such a solitary activity, though it’s really not) and when holding one of the books I wrote.

But this time it was at an in-person day-long workshop that I held at the home of a friend who lives near Boston (no, not the workshop shown here – why do I almost never remember to have someone take a picture?!).

I first noticed on the drive down that I wasn’t feeling nervous at all. I’d held this workshop before, but online rather than in person. Ordinarily, driving to a new location by myself and leading a group of new people would bring on at least a little bit of anxiety, but not this time.

The next time I tuned in to how I was feeling was about 90 minutes into the workshop. I noticed that it felt completely natural to be leading this group of aspiring authors through this material that I’d created. The word that popped into my mind was dharma.

What do I mean by dharma? It’s a complicated concept. Here’s a definition that I like, from the website (emphasis mine):

Dharma is a Hindu, Buddhist and yogic concept that refers to the idea of a law, or principle, governing the universe. For an individual to live out their dharma is for them to act in accordance with this law. In Buddhism, it is said that acting in this way is the path to enlightenment.

The implication of dharma is that there is a right way for each person to carry out their life. Dharma is closely related to the concepts of duty and service to others, or seva. It has no single-word Western translation, which sometimes makes it a difficult concept for Westerners to grasp. One close translation, however, is “right way of living.”

But is book midwifery my dharma, or is writing? Or is it leading retreats? Or priestessing?

Actually, dharma is complex. It’s not just one thing, or defined by a particular profession. It’s the best way of living, for you. It’s unique to each person.

It also, as I understand it, can change over time. Fifteen or twenty years ago, not only did I not have the experience to teach this stuff, it also would have thrown me into an anxious panic.

Here I am at 50, the author of 4 published books, with a 5th on the way soon, manuscripts for 2 in progress, and ideas for at least 3 more. My creativity is flowing like a fountain. I’m confident and empowered. I long to make a difference in the world, through writing and teaching.

And there are people who resonate with what I offer and how I share it. I’m able to be of service in a whole new way.

It feels amazing. I’m so thankful.

Starcat’s Favorites: The Turning of the Wheel

Suddenly it’s autumn! Well, it seems kind of sudden from where I’m standing. We had a whirlwind of a September, with my big 50th birthday celebration and a two-week visit from my daughter and her fiance. It was so much fun.

Now it’s almost October, and the leaves are turning. I’m craving soup and hot tea. Curling up with a good book and a fuzzy blanket is a favorite late-evening activity once again.

It’s time to start planning my NaNoWriMo novel writing project for this November.

Some people in my life are even talking about the winter holidays and beginning the preparations. Gulp! That seems a bit far away, still, but time passes quickly.

While summer is my favorite season, autumn is a close second. Once I got over my sadness about the end of summer, which coincided with the end of my daughter’s visit, I’m feeling like I’m on board for the blessings of the new season.

Here are some links I’ve collected, for you to savor as you cozy up this weekend, perhaps after a trip to the Fair or some apple picking. Enjoy!

Here’s a look at women’s time and how the constant interruptions can get in the way of our creativity. Perhaps what we need is more loitering. Here are some ways to protect your attention.

There’s a new scientific regard for how the moon affects us (it’s about time).

I love this thoughtful look at peri-menopause.

It’s road trip time, fellow geeks! These themed hotel rooms look like such fun.

A bit of music for your weekend. Sooo good.

I love taking notes by hand. Here’s why it works better than typing them on a device.

My big de-cluttering project has been going well. I was interested in this advice about organizing digital photos, as I have a lot of them. Also, this: what your stuff says about you.

As I noted above, I’m craving soup! Here’s a recipe I’m going to try soon – and another one that I want to make tonight. Yum!

May you enjoy the seasonal transition in ways that light you up.

The Big Five-Oh!

Quester playing with the band!

I did it – I turned 50! I’m so thrilled!

In the “you can’t make this stuff up” category, my 50th birthday fell on Friday the 13th and the Full Harvest Moon. So, of course we had a big party!

Maybe you’re wondering why in the world I’m so excited to be what mainstream culture calls “over the hill.” Like many things in my life, I’m doing this unconventionally. I’m aging backwards. Curious? You can read more about it here, there, and most recently, over on Kind Over Matter.

Anyway, my family and I put on a Half-Century Party and invited a bunch of my favorite people. We secured a hall, hired a band, and Quester & Elven-Tiger catered an amazing dinner. My Mom made the desserts. We had an open bar. There was a game room downstairs. Our beloved Ocean brought flowers and decorated the venue. It was epic!

The party was a lot of work – but so worth it. It felt mind-blowingly awesome to be surrounded by loved ones from all decades and aspects of my life, dancing and chatting and laughing together. My heart feels so full.

There were people from my childhood (mainly my family) and young adulthood (my high school BFF’s band!), fellow homeschooling Moms, biz sisters (including my beloved coach!), longtime friends, new friends, Wild Women, dear friends who made a 4-hour drive, some I hadn’t seen for a long time, and others who I get to see regularly. I’m blessed with some amazing people in my life!

We counted it up after the fact – there were 69 attendees, and I was born in 1969. Perfect!

Some favorite moments:

My Mom, who broke her hip in June, and a dear friend who has had ongoing problems with his feet, both dancing to my friend Emily’s fantastic 7-piece band, The Kennebunk River Band.

Live fowl was exchanged at my party – a local friend gave a duck to a homesteading family who live a couple of hours away.

Two of my friends who met that night came up to me in the game room to tell me that they had hit it off and were having a blast.

My daughter ElvenTiger, who is visiting from Colorado, gracefully dancing through the crowd holding big trays of food.

My Dad, who goes to bed at 7pm most nights, staying late because he loved the band – especially the fiddle player.

The after-party at our place, where about 10 of us stayed up all night with the full moon. Laughter and drumming around the fire, deep conversations, some fire-spinning, late-night walks to the back field, and swinging in the hammock. Bliss.

And so many more!

The hall we rented was less than a mile from the high school I attended, and it struck me how much happier I am now, at 50, than I was back then. I’m sending some love back through time to my younger self, telling her to hang in there, because life gets SO much more fun and fulfilling.

I always had a hunch that, as a late bloomer, my life would get better as I got older. How lovely to discover that it’s true!

What the…Faith?

I grew up in a household that I’d now describe as a combination of atheist and agnostic. We didn’t attend church – after a failed experiment of my Mom sending me to Sunday school at my Baptist paternal grandmother’s urging. Mom didn’t appreciate her little 4-year-old innocent child being sent home with pamphlets saying I was a sinner. Go figure.

We weren’t fans of Christianity, or at least the version we witnessed in the culture. Don’t get me wrong – if you’re following Christ and his tenets and it works for you, rock on. It’s the hypocrisy, judgement, and proselytizing that turn us off.

I remember my Mom ranting about the right-wing Christians who refused medical treatment for their dying children, assuring concerned health care workers that their faith would provide all the healing they needed.

We made fun of things like that. We thought that giving up control of your life to a deity was foolish.

The agnostic part? While we didn’t buy into the Judeo-Christian version of God, we did often speak reverently about the power of Mother Nature. We believed in the mysteries of life. We acknowledged that science, while valuable, doesn’t have all the answers.

In college, I discovered that while I’m still not religious, I am deeply spiritual. I’ve been living, practicing, and exploring that spirituality ever since. It has evolved a lot over the past three decades.

Fast-forward to today. I now describe myself as a practical mystic and a priestess of the Feminine Divine. My personal spirituality is an eclectic blend of Paganism and Buddhism with New Age philosophies. 

While I definitely seek the aid of Western medicine when it’s needed, I’m now one of the people who lives with a deep faith in the Divine. My living faith guides my life every single day.

Recently I was guided to read the book The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. It was mentioned in a discussion at a women’s networking breakfast I attended, and the very next day was recommended by one of my favorite online mentors, Jeannette Maw of Good Vibe University. So I went right out and got a copy (that guidance and me heeding it thing).

This book is fantastic. It’s a very clear illustration of the miracles that can happen when you surrender to faith in the Universe (or Goddess, God, Nature – insert your favorite name for the mysteries here).

I resonate with this tale because it’s happening in my own life. Not that I haven’t worked hard to get where I am now – but I’ve blended that work with the power of faith and letting the Universe be wiser than I am (which She is).

It occurred to me this morning that the late-1980s version of me might not even recognize the go-with-the-flow, living-in-faith version that I am now.

At the same time, the younger me was a seeker, and her explorations led me here. It’s less than three weeks until my 50th birthday, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m doing things I love, with people I love, in places I love…all the freaking time.

Is it ironic that I ended up here, living by faith? Maybe. A blessing? That’s for sure.

If you’re struggling – find your faith. Not the one you’ve been taught by others, but your personal flavor of allowing yourself to be moved by something greater than yourself. It’ll rock your world, in the best possible way.

(I’d love to hear your faith story – drop me a line or leave a comment!)