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Take a Break . . . Give Yourself a Mindful Minute

When was the last time you stopped to admire a tree?

 

When I was a young college student, I had a favorite tree on campus I named Alexander Hamilton Grant. (Even back in the 1960's I had a "thing" for Alexander Hamilton and Ulysses Grant). That tree was a symbol for me—a place of solitude where I could go, find peace, and sort things out. Things always became clearer after a visit with Alexander Hamilton Grant.

 

Give yourself a break. Find and admire a tree, a flower, a pond, a lake, a stream—give yourself a mindful minute to relieve stress and anxiety and open up the possibilities before you.

 

 

 

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Using Your Strengths—Key to Motivation

In a recent giveaway, Mary Jane, one of the entrants, asked this question:  What keeps you motivated to do all the inspirational things you do?

 

For me, the key to my motivation is doing things aligned with my strengths. Among my top strengths are bravery, curiosity, and creativity. I'm in my zone and get emotional and physical energy when I can combine these strengths. Acting on conviction to help women fulfill their potential led me to choose women's fiction—to write stories about women's journey to a more fulfilled self. My strengths of curiosity (exploring and discovering) and creativity (thinking of novel ways to conceptualize and do things) are a natural fit for storytelling.

 

Over the years, I 've found that people who can align their strengths to their work, hobbies, and volunteer activities are the ones who will feel authentic joy in their lives. Know your strengths and then use them every day—motivation and joy will flow naturally

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What's Up with Flower Girl?

Flower Girl is getting it last touches. What does that mean?

I'm rechecking the copyedits from my terrific editor Kim Bookless, and paper and ebook designs are in production. 

But there's still tons to do.  Yikes!  Here is the to-do list.  There's a lot of "red" going on here.

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Call Me Nuts If You Like—There’s More to Stephen King than Horror

May was Stephen King month for my reading diversion!

You might ask (and rightfully so) why thrillers and horror would attract a women's fiction writer. 

It starts with, "Once Upon a Time, a women's fiction writer read Stephen King's Writing: A Memoire of the Craft, which led (horror of horrors) to reading his first novel, which led to reading his last novel . . .

 

Read the reviews and then the books—if you dare.

 

May 13, 2021

Review of On Writing: A Memoire of the Craft – 5 stars

Just finished this great read! What a storyteller. The first part of the book is the memoir of the author's early days--I enjoyed this so much and found myself laughing out loud with many passages. I could so relate! The early memoir laid the groundwork for the rest--What is Writing, The Toolbox, and On Writing. Too many words of encouragement and insight to quote. And the book lists: POW! A real gem. Thank you! 

 

May 17, 2021

Review of Carrie by Stephen King – 5 stars

For me, this was more than a thriller or horror fiction—it is a story whose bedrock is about bias. The author connected the plot by artfully playing on implicit prejudices—biases about difference, privileged teenagers, people in privileged positions (Chris' father), religion, and bad boys, to name a few. The character development of Sue, Rita Desjardins, Tommy, and Henry Grayle, who were able to put themselves into the "other's" shoes, were takeaways and learning lessons . . . but in the end, predispositions overruled knee-jerk reactions and judgment, including those of the main character. The intermingling of dialog, inner dialog, news clippings, letters, interviews, and court proceedings with the third person POV was a strategy that kept the story fresh.

 

June 1, 2021

Review of Later by Stephen King – 5 Stars

Relationships!  It's all about relationships between parent and child, lovers, siblings, and of course, a psychopath who intrudes and tries to commandeer the life of the story's narrator.   As with other King novels, this is more than a crime thriller or horror story.  The relationship between a single mother and son with its ups and downs rings authentic and beautifully told. The conflict between lovers and the sorrow of lies and betrayal is another facet ripped from everyday life. Extracting the paranormal dimension, the primary antagonist is familiar to any reader who has encountered or lived with an abuser and narcissist. 

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Organizing and Curating (But never Purging) my Bookshelves

Books stacked up, waiting to be read

One thing led to another this weekend, and it all started with Goodreads!  I decided that two shelves—Read and To-Read—on Goodreads wasn't sufficient.  After all, I'm a reader and an author, and cataloging my books on just two shelves seemed, well . . . Juvenile? Unprofessional? Lazy?  Isn't it high time that I do something about this?

 

So, after my organizing adventure with Goodreads, I looked at the sorry mess behind me—three six-shelf bookcases across the back wall of my office.  Ye gods! Not to mention the stacks (yes, that is plural) of books next to my favorite blue rocker/recliner (yes, I'm old, and I enjoy it) that are patiently waiting to be read.  And, oh my, how about those books on the floor next to my rocker?

 

For a person who still shelves her ninth-grade algebra and tenth-grade geometry books (subjects I disliked), it's understandable that I believe purging any book, if not a mortal sin, is pretty close to it!  Fire and brimstone are likely consequences for permanently removing any book from my shelves.

 

But, as my father always told me, "Where there is a will, there is a way."

 

Today, with the advice given to Indigo Del Castillo from Emma Carbone, Senior YA Librarian at the Brooklyn Library, I found out that I could acceptably curate instead of purge my books, and best of all, this would leave my soul blemish free! 

After an hour working on my bookshelves—DRUM ROLL—I had curated three books from my stash to my husband!

 

I sure hope that he doesn't get the curation bug himself anytime soon.

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Capturing Memories in a Butterfly Net

Merida Johns Author Logo Stories of Courage, discovery and love

It's funny how memories have a mind of their own. Floating like a butterfly, they can pop into your head at the strangest times, linked by a thin filament initiated and attached to some extraneous thought not related to the memory at all.  Then poof, like the fleeting butterfly, the memory is gone.

 

Some memories are too precious to let go of—they are the ones that deserve the honor of being preserved in story.

 

Take those memories that come to you like a butterfly, cast your net and catch them, then pay tribute to them in your memory journal . .  .

 

Today, a butterfly came to visit me and brought me a childhood memory of Mother's Day. 

 

It was all excitement the day before for two nine-year-olds when Janey, my BFF, and I prepared bouquets of roses from my family's garden for our mothers.

 

We hadn't anticipated what would hold our bouquets after harvesting the flowers.  But, quick thought and two plain water glasses from the kitchen did the trick!

 

We "hid" our gifts in our bedrooms, and on Sunday, May 12, 1957, two mothers on Ivy Avenue smiled when they received the most beautiful bouquets ever!

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What's in a Brand?

Recently, I was challenged with the question: How would you describe your current brand voice? 
For example:  Upbeat, creative, fun, hip, artsy, edgy, serious, friendly, passionate, playful, sassy, whimsical, nostalgic, or . . .

 

This question forced me to do some introspection.  In my heart, I knew my brand—creative, courageous, committed to telling stories about the woman's experience in carving out a path to her North Star.

 

But had I communicated my brand to the hundreds or thousands of prospective readers who want to hear these stories?

 

At heart, I am a storyteller who writes women's fiction that chronicles the protagonist's courage, discovery, and love on a journey toward her North Star and a more fulfilled self.

 

My deepest desire is to welcome all those who find communion with my characters, and like them, are traveling on this challenging journey we call life.

 

 

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How Journals Inspire Me

We should write, above all, because we are writers whether we call ourselves writers or not." – Julia Cameron

 

Since I was a child, I've had a fascination with diaries and journals.  It's not that I'm a habitual journal keeper—it's that I'm curious and nosey!  I want to draw the curtains, peek into the windows of people's lives, hear their voices, and commune with them. Reading journals, diaries, and old letters lets me do that!

 

In the novel that I'm now writing a tattered journal arrives without warning as a secondary character in the protagonist's life.  In a meticulous script, the author's words, written a century earlier, plead with Suzanna, the protagonist, to listen—a forewarning that should not be ignored.

 

What inspired the diary in my new novel?  A suite of materials and journals from the late 1800s melded together to offer up their wisdom—an old composition book overflowing with stories of a young woman, a diary of a nineteen-year-old school teacher setting out on her own, and a monograph of the memories of a young man, tucked away in the archives of a historical society.

 

A deep bow of gratitude to these writers whose words have inspired me.

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How a New Cast of Characters Is Keeping Me Company and Comforted in 2021

"We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance as well… We should write because writing is good for the soul… We should write, above all, because we are writers whether we call ourselves writers or not." – Julia Cameron

 

This quote sings to my soul and makes it dance! 

 

In 2020, Luci, Sam, Barry, and the Gang of Nerds in Blackhorse Road guided and taught me more about perspective, perseverance, and forgiveness.  And I'm a little better because of them.

 

In 2021, Suzanna, Craig, Elliott, and a set of secondary characters are my traveling companions on life's continuing journey.   These are people who strive to live life dedicated to living their truth and love life committed to seizing the day.

 

These are not perfect people—they have their shortcomings. And the path they cut toward their North Star is compounded by challenges that seem insurmountable and potent antagonists who cause them to stumble.

 

But their strengths of courage, creativity, curiosity, optimism, love, and kindness pull them up and help them to the next steppingstone of their journey.

 

This new cast of characters has a lot to teach me. They keep me company and comforted, and I am listening and learning from the stories of their interconnecting pathways.

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How Luci, Sam, Barry, and the Gang of Nerds Helped Me Cope in 2020

As many know, I began writing a novel in late winter of 2018. Writing fiction was always a dream—to use my creativity in imagining and writing about regular people and how they faced and overcame challenges. However, it wasn't until meeting and overcoming a significant medical challenge myself that I put a computer keyboard to a digital screen and started writing my first story, Blackhorse Road. Writing this novel has been a journey of fulfillment, personal introspection, insight, and, yes, a stress reducer.

 

During this chaotic and uncertain time, polishing off my novel during its last round of copyediting has given me a quiet place to hang out with the book's characters. And my characters, in turn, have provided me with a therapeutic escape and the energy to come back and face the real world.

 

I think all people have a gift of storytelling—after all, we share stories every day with our family and friends! Give yourself a gift of time to put the computer keyboard to a digital screen and write a story, creating characters that will give you a therapeutic escape and a quiet place to hang out for a while. 

 

Originally published LinkedIn March 20, 2020

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