Thursday, December 31 2015
For those of you who stopped by on Tuesday and didn’t find a new post, I offer my apology. I was on and airplane. Or more accurately, I was in a car, then on the Metro, through security and onto a plane, finding the shuttle to my car and back in a car to home with stops on the way to collect my dog and buy some groceries. As I’m still coping with a winter cold, I was pretty beat by this time and decided to just sit with a cup of tea and watch TV. How distressing to discover that in my absence, my TV had died. That meant, since I have only the one TV, yesterday was spent researching and then heading out to purchase a replacement and finally hooking the whole thing up – TV, U-Verse box, DVD player and Amazon Firestick. I rather amazed myself by getting it all done and working first time. The only thing that didn’t happened was getting the universal remote programmed to handle the other gadgets. Maybe another day I’ll try again and I’ll suddenly figure out what they mean by pressing the TV button – they don’t say on which remote or what button exactly since none are labeled TV. But for now, I’m ready to watch the ball go down in Times Square and welcome the new year while I contemplate my New Year's resolutions.
I make them every year. Sometimes I keep them, sometimes not so much. Last year I bought a Fitbit and promised I was going to walk every day. I started with 7,000 steps a day but by May had graduated up to 10,000. I have met that goal most days. I missed a few around Thanksgiving and more around Christmas, but for the most part I kept that resolution. However, to go with it, I was hoping to lose some weight. Actually I did lose some – 12# to be exact, but not nearly as much as I’d secretly hoped. I’d also promised that with the demise of the living history museum downtown, I’d find a new way to volunteer some of my time to others. That I did, too. I took the training and now am an official volunteer at the USO lounge at the Jacksonville airport. I had another new book come out, TRUSTING WILL, and appeared in two anthologies: with a recipe and writing organization tips in WE’D RATHER BE WRITING, and a Christmas story in SNOWBIRD CHRISTMAS vol. 3. I also completed another book in my Tide’s Way series that will come out in 2016. So, all in all, last year was pretty successful.
I started a monthly newsletter last year, which I plan to continue this year. If you are interested in signing up here’s the link: Skye-writer's Newsletter I sometimes spotlight other authors, post book reviews or writing tips or highlight a new release of my own when I have one.
I’m going to continue with my volunteering with the USO and that scale is still sitting there waiting to keep tabs on me. It’s another Fitbit gadget that sends the results of every weigh-in to my Fitbit dashboard on my computer and the app on my phone so there’s no ignoring it unless I just don’t step onto it. My doctor want’s to try another approach to weight loss to augment my own efforts so we’ll see how that goes.
I resolve to find at least one new author and to make a stab at cleaning up the to-be-read pile that seems to always overflow, my Kindle and various horizontal surfaces in my home. I will also complete the novella I’ve been plotting in my head and submit at least one new manuscript for publication. Inspired by my friend, Heather Ashby, I bought a Gratitude Journal which I have already begun and am super excited about keeping up, heightening my awareness of all the blessings I already have and being thankful for things I still hope to have, creating a whole new level of positive vibes in my life. I’m still wearing the Fitbit and plan to keep up the daily step goal. Maybe I’ll even add some new exercise beyond the walking, but I’m not going to officially add it to the list. I’ll be doing well to meet those already outlined.
If you are making resolutions this year, I wish you success in meeting them. And whether you do or don’t, I wish you all a blessed, prosperous and happy new year.
Thursday, December 24 2015
In the midst of the hectic preparation for Christmas and then in the merriment of the holiday, we should all take the time to remember how difficult this season can be for some among us. When everyone is traveling to be with family, being alone is even harder to bear. Advice often given to lonely people dreading the coming festivities is to reach out to others or to volunteer and get involved, but, while it’s easy advice to give, it’s not so easy to follow. Reaching out is difficult for lonely people. Asking for help almost impossible. Often they think they have nothing to offer anyone and can be of no value so they don’t see a point in volunteering. For the troubled of mind, holidays are even more difficult than the rest of their lives. Everything from gift giving to family to festive activities and the intensity of the holiday atmosphere magnifies the torment in their own mind.
For our military men and women, being far from home and family makes their sacrifice that much greater. For the defenders of our country, not spending time with their families, not seeing the wonder of the holiday in their children’s eyes is hard enough. Add to that the danger they live with every day and it’s hard to relax and enjoy gifts and cards from home, even when there are holiday packages to open. For the families left behind, the fact that their husband, father, son, wife, mother or daughter is missing and serving far from home leaves a hole that is hard to ignore and harder yet to celebrate around. Children, excited about the coming of Santa still cry themselves to sleep when Mommy or Daddy isn’t there, too.
The homeless are always bereft and alone, but with wreaths hanging on every door and lights twinkling all over town, the gaiety of shoppers and carolers isolates those who have nothing even more. Soup kitchens sometimes offer a holiday meal, but it’s not the same as being surrounded by the warmth and love of family in a place you can call home. Even when you have a home, many are scraping by, just barely able to support themselves and their children. It’s disappointing for a child to discover that Santa didn’t bring the one thing they yearned for most, even if there is a tree. And for the parents who wish so desperately to give their child the gift they treasure, the ache in their hearts when they cannot must be vast.
Hospitals are places of incredible healing and undoubted miracles, but they are also places of pain, anguish, and dying. Unless you’re on the maternity ward celebrating the birth of a new life, being in the hospital over the holidays means serious illness for the patients, their families, and those who care for them.
So, please, in the midst of your celebrations, take a moment to think of all those less fortunate than you. If you pray, pray for peace and healing and comfort. If you are financially able, share some of your bounty with others who have so little. Write a letter to a soldier, visit a shut-in, take cookies to someone who is lonely. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make someone else’s Christmas happier?” Then do it.
From my heart, I wish you all a wonderful holiday and a prosperous and happy new year. I ask God’s blessing on you and yours on this day and all year through.
Saturday, December 19 2015
When this month’s Blog Hop topic arrived (During the sometimes hectic holidays do you find it hard to find writing time?) I had just finished a list of the all the things that needed doing in the scant three weeks between my return from Thanksgiving in New England and my departure for Christmas in Maryland. It was a very long list. A daunting list. And my WIP was NOT on it. I guess that’s part of the answer.
Prior to an author’s first contract, it’s easy to take time off – there are no deadlines to meet, but once you have a publisher and an editor who’s waiting on your next submission, then making time for your writing is just as important as your day job. The holidays just make it more challenging.
Last year I had a December 1st deadline, which I, thankfully, met. This year I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a project in process. I finished the first major revision of Healing a Hero, book four in my Tide’s Way series and sent it off to my beta readers in November, and I play to start my final revision on January 1st. But that doesn’t mean I have nothing that needs doing right now. Two December book signings and two writers meetings don’t count toward writing time, but they add to the list on my clipboard. Neither do the promotional things I’m working on or the facebook parties I’ve promised to attend, but they take time, too. But I did have a writing project and had to make time for it amidst the sewing and shopping and wrapping and writing out Christmas cards. As a gift to my readers, those who follow my blog and receive my newsletter, I wrote a short story SAVING JUST ONE. That went out in my newsletter two days ago and a link to it will appear at the end of this blog.
So the answer is, YES – it is difficult to find the time sandwiched into all the rest of the holiday chores, the parties and family gatherings to write. But one thing about most writers is that writing is part of who they are and being away from it leaves one feeling like something important is missing in their lives. The writing moments might be fewer, or more hectic, or happening at odd times like 1:00 am, but they happen. Our characters talk to us all the time, even while we’re baking cookies and wrapping gifts and sometimes you just have to stop for a minute and catch what they’re telling you before you forget each perfect line or idea.
So, of course, I grabbed my pen and added writing to that clipboard list. As a dedicated listmaker who gains great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from checking things off a list, my writing deserved a place. And I did check it off when that short story came together.
Happy writing to all my author friends, happy reading to all those who appreciate our efforts and a Merry Christmas to you all.
SAVING JUST ONE – my Christmas gift to you.
Check out how these other authors handle their writing and the holiday rush.
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-A9
Hollie Glover http://www.hollieglover.co.uk
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
Tuesday, December 15 2015
Usually, I hope that my blog will bring something of interest to my readers, a review of a new book I just read and loved, a reflection on something of national or international interest, or just amusing stories from my adventures. But today I confess, I have no such thing to offer. I had a lovely visit at my son’s for Thanksgiving and was doubly blessed to have all my children and nearly all my grandchildren, my dad and my sister with us to share the traditional family feast day. Then I returned home with just three weeks to get everything accomplished that I needed to get done before I left to visit my daughter and her family for Christmas.
Fall and the rush toward Christmas would be a lot easier, except that I have all three of my daughters, my daughter-in-law and six grandchildren with birthdays between October 12th and December 18th. Before I even finish shopping, wrapping and shipping birthday gifts, preparation for Christmas is upon me. Mix in to that annual reality the fact that this year I had two writer’s meetings, two book signings, and my semi annual cleaning at the dentist and my annual physical. Never mind the various holiday gatherings I’ve been blessed to be invited to.
The List Sewing the dresses Jewelry making Wrapping
So, forgive me for being rushed today. I promise, on Saturday there will be a new blog up, the monthly Blog Hop that I join and this month the topic will be Being an author during the hectic holiday schedule. When the topic was announced and the question asked, “How do you fit writing into your busy holiday schedule or do you take a vacation?” I had just gotten out a clipboard to write down all the things I needed to get done before my flight on the 21st and writing was NOT on it. But there were two things I still had to get written so it should have been. I added it of course and I’m still praying to get it crossed off.
Sewing is completed in time to take advantage of a perfect day for a walk on the beach.
I also have to confess, that these last three days have been so warm and beautiful I just had to go for a walk on the beach – there won’t be many like this before spring comes back. I’m thankful also that I don’t have company coming because my house is a factory right now with sewing, wrapping and jewelry projects spread out everywhere. At least my bed and Duff’s are still clear so we can crawl in at night and rest up for the next day’s busyness. Maybe a glass of wine to unwind in the evening would also be a good idea! Anyway, check in Saturday to find out if I survived the week.
Tuesday, December 08 2015
Welcome to Blogging by the Sea
Many years ago I began a new family tradition of the Christmas Tablecloth. I bought a new white tablecloth and a set of colored pencils. When dinner was over, I cleared the table down to the bare tablecloth and invited everyone to draw some small graphic of something that was important in their life that year and include their name and the year. When the holiday was over, I set down to embroider all the little images, then I washed the tablecloth and folded it away with my holiday things. Each year that tablecloth came out to grace our table and acquire new additions. It just so happened that was my husband’s last year with us, although we didn’t know it at the time so we treasure that one especially. Now, all these years later it’s fun to check out all the images from years gone by, friends that happened to stop by, relatives no longer with us, new sweethearts, then wives and husbands and now grandchildren. It’s fun to remember the events the drawings bring to life. And it’s especially nice to realize how blessed we are with family, friends, love and laughter and memories to last a lifetime. As my children have married and now take turns hosting Christmas each of them have begun a tablecloth of their own, including my daughter-in-law. So no matter where we spend Christmas, we get to reminisce and add new memories for the future.
A few years ago, my contribution was to commemorate my first published novel, Whatever It Takes. Now I have three more, the Tide’s Way contemporary Romance series. Falling for Zoe, Loving Meg and Trusting Will are all available in print and eBook. In addition, two short stories connected to the series are available for free on Kindle: Loving Ben and Mike’s Wager. You can also visit this blog later in the month to read an additional short story which will posted on the 29th.
Leave a comment and have a chance to win an eBook copy of one of the Tide’s Way books (Kindle, Nook, iBook, or Kobo) I will be giving away one copy of each book. Or you can opt for my main stream Whatever It Takes if you prefer intrigue and action over romance. Cover summary and buy links for all of my books are available on the MY BOOKS page of this website.
Visit the rest of the blog hop for more holiday stories and more chances to win prizes.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah – Be a light in our toubled world – God Bless
Tuesday, December 01 2015
Even before Thanksgiving many are already decking the halls and getting gussied up for Christmas, but now that our annual turkey feast is over the rush is really on. Black Friday begins the night before Friday actually arrives in some stores, Saturday is more of the same and then there’s Cyber Monday – every vendor and store out there is urging you to buy something or better yet, everything. Santa parades get the kids in the spirit and tree lightings are in style from Rockefeller Center to every small town common across America. But I’m not ready yet.
Admittedly, the secular world has done a very effective job of high-jacking a Christian holiday, and lots of people who have never heard of the Christ Child and many more who have heard but don’t believe in Him are happy to jump on the Holiday bandwagon of spending, parades, lights, decorations and gifts. But our family is Christian and while the most holy of our holidays is not Christmas, December 25th has been chosen to mark Christ’s birth, and it is still an important day of reflection and prayer. So, back when my children were small I started three family traditions to help them understand what the holiday is all about.
The first was the lighting of the Advent wreath.
On the first Sunday in Advent (which happens to be November 29th this year) our four weeks of getting ready to celebrate our Lord’s birth begins. We light our Advent wreath – in our family it is always 3 purple candles and one pink, but some have all purple or blue and even red. When we sit down to dinner that first night a single candle in the wreath of 4 is lit, and a special prayer is said and the same on each night of the week. On the second Sunday two candles are lit, then three and finally all four until Christmas Eve.
After dinner the second tradition began with the drawing of names for our Kris Kindle. It’s an old custom and celebrated in many countries. Most people in the United States call it Secret Santa, but they often don’t connect the gifting with the coming of the Christ Child. For us it was not about giving gifts, but rather doing something nice for someone else in the family every day from that day until Christmas Eve. When the kids were small the tasks were simple, sometimes making the bed of the person whose name you drew, or helping a parent with a chore without being asked. Sometimes we did leave little surprises on each other’s pillows. But the point was to take the time to do something thoughtful for someone else in the spirit of a holy Christmas.
Finally we set up our crèche – or manger scene. Our crèche was a little different because it was empty except for a single cow. Mary and Joseph were placed on a windowsill as far away as possible in our house. Then, each night the children would get to move Mary and Joseph a little further along on their journey to “Bethlehem.” On Christmas Eve, just before we left for church, Mary and Joseph would finally reach the stable and be placed inside, and then we all piled into the car. I was always the last one out of the house because it was my job was to place the Baby Jesus and the angel into the crèche when no one was looking. When we returned home the kids would rush inside to see if the Baby Jesus had arrived. They got to put the shepherds in the stable before hanging stockings. And later, on the 6th of January, the Kings completed the tableau. I knew I’d scored points keeping Christ in Christmas for my children when my youngest daughter was two. We were standing in line at the grocery store when a grandmotherly woman asked my little girl if she knew who was coming to her house soon. She proudly replied, “Yes! The Baby Jesus is coming!”
So for me, this next four weeks will be hectic with preparations for the big day, but in a few quiet moments each day, I will take time to celebrate the anticipation of the day and the magnitude of the gift that Christ is for Christians everywhere. I will hang greenery and lights outside, but I’ll be putting a candle in my window to let the Christ Child know He is welcome in my house. I will shop and wrap and ship gifts to family scattered far and near, but I’ll also send gifts to soldiers, Marines and sailors stationed far from home who won’t be with their families over the holidays. I’ll bake cookies for neighbors and friends, but I’ll also take the time to think of those less fortunate and try in some small way to be Christ’s hands on earth and do something nice for shut-ins and the homeless. Advent is all about the waiting – the becoming prepared to welcome my Savior. It is all about the anticipation for the biggest gift God could give me and Christians everywhere. In the words of Robert Brooks:
“How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.”
Wishing you a blessed Advent...