Barb’s Nest

Jill Jaynes, in her excellent blog here entitled “Where do Writers Write?” talked about where her story is created, whether in her head or on the page. I’m going to talk about where I write – physically. I’m sure you’ve noticed folks in Starbucks sitting at small tables studiously tapping away on their laptops. They could have been writers. One of them could have been me. I also frequent local Corner Bakery cafes (I’m writing this blog right now in just such a place), with their free Wi-Fi, convenient electrical outlets, writer-friendly staff, not to mention yummy food. Since I’m retired why do I feel the need to get out of the house to write? Two words.

Retired husband.

But when I do write at home, I write in what we pretentiously call The Library. It was my son’s bedroom and I was measuring for desks and bookshelves long before he married and moved out. I think he was five at the time when I stood on his rumpled bed taking measurements. The room contains generous shelves brimming with books, two matching desks that cover one wall, and a round glass-topped table with three chairs for visiting writers.

Now, as a reader, I’m sure you prepare, even in some small way, a spot where you sit down with a good book. You choose a comfy chair with a squishy pillow, perhaps a lap robe iIMG_2148f it’s chilly. Others may take it a few steps further—comfy chair, plump pillows, lap robe, cozy fire, a soothing cup of tea, ottoman for tired feet, a small furry, purry friend for company. Hmmm. Sounds wonderful. As a writer, I need to create a space that is not only comfortable, but one that enhances my creativity. I build a nest.
IMG_2138Barb’s nest (pictured here) consists of a regulation office chair (soon to be replaced by a comfier one in a new house), soft pillow, my new MacBook Air, a soothing cup of tea, some of my favorite craft books at my fingertips, my Charlotte Award for encouragement, and Thor for, well, it’s Thor. The nameplate is when I’m lost in my characters and don’t remember my name. Oh, the cat with the heart-shaped mark on her forehead? She’s my furry, purry friend. My nest wouldn’t be complete without her.

What does your nest look like?

Living in the Moment

Kathy's SnowmanAs the holidays grow closer, I find myself so busy getting ready that I forget to enjoy the simple acts of preparing for the celebrations. I always work off a to-do list that seems to become never-ending. I cross off things accomplished in the evening and add things to be done in the morning. A trip to the post office for stamps. And a second trip the next week to mail packages. Then Target on Monday, Costco on Tuesday – well, you get the idea!

But yesterday my shopping errand brought me back into the moment. A moment of delight and anticipation and pleasure.

I went to Barnes and Noble.

Just walking into a real brick-and-mortar store devoted to the sale of books, books, books sent a thrill right through me. I hurried straight to the back where the children’s books are displayed, fighting the urge to check out the romance section first. (That would have to wait for another time.) I was on a mission to choose age-appropriate books for my grand-nephews. And as I picked up the familiar storybooks, happy memories flooded through me.

For many years, I taught First Grade and the highlight of each school day was story-time. How the children loved the tale of the witch who wanted to pick her pumpkin to make pie, but the giant pumpkin wouldn’t budge from the vine. Although the mummy, the vampire, and the monster all tried their best to help her, it was the little bat who solved the problem. And, of course, they all celebrated with the witch’s delicious pumpkin pie.

Once when I was sharing The Night Before Christmas and read the phrase the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath, the children stared at me wide-eyed and aghast. Santa smoked a pipe? ( The class had learned about the evils of drugs and tobacco in October.) I quickly assured them that, although he’d once smoked, Santa had given it up a long time ago.

Since none of my grandnephews are older than Kindergarten age, I had no difficulty knowing which book would be right for each child. But there were so many wonderful choices, familiar and new, that it took a long, long time to settle on two books for each boy. I found a brand-new one which was perfect for the two-year-olds: llama, llama, red pajama. (The title has no caps.) If you know a youngster who doesn’t want to go to bed alone at night, check this one out.

As I left Barnes and Noble, I had a satisfied smile on my face. Not simply because I could cross this errand off my to-do list.

For the duration of my visit there, reading children’s storybooks, I was truly living in the moment.

Memento vivere.

That’s Latin for Remember to Live!

Making Memories

My memories of Christmas have centered on food. I had a Grandmother who loved to cook. She faithfully made the same pastries and cookies every year. At the end of November, she started her season by baking at least a dozen poppy seed and walnut rolls some of which I wrapped in gold foil and delivered on her behalf as gifts to close friends. The rest she stored in the garage in tins.

She tackled cookies the first week of December and stood in the kitchen with the hot oven going for days and days. She made delicate almond crescents rolled in vanilla sugar, puff pastry bites oozing with apricot preserves, raspberry pinwheels and apple squares that no one could duplicate. To keep the family’s thieving fingers out of her cookie stash, she put a sampler plate of her product daily on the table after dinner for everyone to share. Each delicate morsel melted in my mouth with the creamy sweetness of butter.

I loved every cookie and pastry she made. Eating them became an evening ritual. I slowly savored each bite when she proudly served plates filled with her creations between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. I knew she would not bake any of these cookies or pastries again for a whole year. When I asked why not, she said she was making memories.

My Christmas would not be complete without the cookies and pastries my Grandmother made. The only month of the year I buy mountains of butter is December. I bake and put my family through the ritual of my youth. What could be better than making memories by celebrating through the sense of taste?

Have a yummy and blessed season!

 

 

My Holiday Wish For You

It’s hard to believe the hectic holiday season is upon us already. WChristmas Firee’re up to our jolly Santa hats in gifts, wrapping, decorations, holiday parties, cards and the rest. All this multi-tasking makes my head hurt. So here’s my holiday wish for you: make a cuppa—whatever soothes your soul; find a quiet corner, pull up a comfy chair (if it comes with a special furry friend, all the better); grab a good book. Relax and refresh. Then go have the most merry of times!

Barb DeLong

The Writing Life and Having a Life

Jill Jaynes

There are lots of words for it- time management, multi-tasking, work-life balance.

Some people think writers sit at keyboards all day long and write book after book- undisturbed, undistracted. Safely hidden away in beautifully decorated offices, maybe with pipe smoke wreathing their heads. And maybe there are a few like that, but I haven’t met any. And I’ve met a lot of writers.

In my experience, writers are some of the most creative time managers in the world. Many of them juggle an unbelievable spectrum of competing priorities- careers, children (extra points for toddlers and teenagers), spouses, in-laws, home maintenance, other creative passions like crafts or music, and the fabled “me time.” And yet make time to write.

It’s really all about priorities.

Sometimes your priorities are your own, sometimes it feels like your priorities own you. But really, they are your own.

One of my favorite authors Susan Squires (who I am fortunate to know), said that turning point in her career from wanna-be writer to serious writer came when she asked herself the question- “How bad do I want this?”- “this” meaning getting published. She answer? Pretty bad.

She didn’t quit her day job- she was an attorney at the time and loved her day job. She didn’t stop having a family. She didn’t stop having a life. But she knew what she wanted and that want made priorities fall into new lines. Writing became a priority she pursued like an elusive lover. Twenty or so books later, I’d say her strategy was pretty successful.

But a single priority, no matter how attractive, how satisfying, can’t be everything. Just like that elusive lover can’t provide the “best-friend-forever” fix we need from time to time. We need to refresh, refill, recharge. We need multi-tasking, and relationships. We think we balance them, but its more like they balance us.

Another author I heard speak recently shared how after writing dozens of books, surprise! She hit a wall, burned out. The well was dry. Why was the well dry? She didn’t refill it. Her editor prescribed a regimen of reading. Only reading. No writing. For six months. She hadn’t read a book in years- spent all her time writing them, and that greedy, selfish lover sucked her dry.

Feeling she had nothing to lose by trying, she picked up a book. Then another, then another. She remembered why she loved books and stories and imagination. She remembered why she wrote. To her surprise, ideas suddenly flowed and bubbled and demanded to become stories.

So, I’m offering this simple phrase, as Christmas falls upon us once more- take a tip from writers; don’t forget to enjoy this season. Refill, recharge and enjoy the wonderful things there are to experience.

You need it.

Kathleen Harrington-What’s Next

 

Kathleen HarringtonAs readers look back at the stories I’ve told, it might appear that I’ve moved without rhyme or reason from the American West in the early 1800’s to Regency London to medieval Scotland. But I know better. The backstory or the future events in each adventure – or the research itself – led me to another time, another place.

Sometimes outside influences provided the jumping-off point. For example, after reading Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, I decided to write a “journey” tale with unusual and, hopefully, fascinating and memorable characters. This goal evolved into my first book, Cherish the Dream, which took my readers on a topographical expedition across the unmapped prairies of the early US. From this initial story came my interest in the Northern Cheyenne, leading to Warrior Dreams and Dream Catcher, both set in Montana. In addition, Montana Angel came from my research there.

Not all my stories are linked in some way. Sunshine and Shadow, a Georgian romance, and Promise Me, a Regency, arose from my love of the writings of Georgette Heyer.

Most evolved, however, with an intangible thread running through them. The Dreamseekers Series brought my twin heroines to England in Fly with the Eagle, and Scotland in Enchanted by You. My research of Scotland piqued my interest in the history of the Highland Clans, evolving into my latest trilogy. The stories of three Scottish ship captains in The MacLean Groom, Lachlan’s Bride, and Black Raven’s Lady resulted in my captivation with sailing ships.

So what’s next?

I’m presently researching a series about a Boston family of shipbuilders and sea captains set in the early 1800’s – around the early U.S. Navy, of Barbary Pirates, of merchant ships sailing to the Orient and returning with cargoes of extraordinary worth. On the high seas, our young nation couldn’t compete with the power and sway of the British navy and its mighty ships-of-the-line. But Yankee ingenuity and courage took us to the far-off edges of the world and back again.

This is the time of the birth-pangs of our fledging Republic, when no one knew for certain if our country and our Constitution would survive past the first few years.

Kathleen lives in Southern California with her American Bulldog, Auron. Her latest release, BLACK RAVEN’S LADY, Book 3 of the Highland Lairds Trilogy, is now on sale.

Banner