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Positive psychologists say accomplishment rates right up there with experiencing positive emotions and relationships and meaning and engagement in life for people to flourish.  


If this is the case, then I'm flourishing!  Completing Flower Girl, my second novel, and having it poised for publication on January 11th—well, that's an accomplishment by itself.  Add to that is the review Flower Girl just received by Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.


Donovan's review highlights the kernels within the journey of the character Suzanna Jordan that make for a flourishing life. Donovan picks up on the underlying theme—Life is messy, but beneath peoples' imperfections, they can find a way to carve out meaning and accomplishment in life:


" . . . readers will avidly follow Suzanna's pursuit of a better life and her realizations about what influences have blinded her, in the past.

Its attention to realistic descriptions of this process and the changing momentum of Suzanna's world creates an outstanding inspection of the undercurrents and influences life holds as she strives to keep her personal North Star firmly in mind against all odds."


The final paragraph of the review, though, fills my heart with accomplishment, meaning, and positive emotion. I want to write stories about the human experience—to show how ordinary people tackle challenges, live through sorrow and betrayal, struggle with doubt, but find a way to act on their aspirations.  I want to deliver stories that transport the reader to the most unexpected places within themselves.  The final paragraph in the review shows that in Flower Girl, I might have achieved this.


"Collections strong in women's literature and fiction surrounding domestic violence and recovery processes will find Flower Girl an evocative, compelling read that chooses no easy paths to resolution. Suzanna's changing choices and perceptions are outstanding examinations of the darkness that pervades her world, and provide important keys to recovery that women will want to learn about."


For the complete review, visit:  http://donovansliteraryservices.com/december-2021-issue.html#fgg

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A Leap of Faith

Leap of faith:  Engaging in something and believing it will work out even though there is no evidence or assurance of the outcome.


By training and characteristic, I like plans. In fact, I love plans—PERT and GANTT charts, lists, timelines, data flow diagrams—you name it, and I've probably done it. No leaps of faith or flying by the seat of my pants in computer programming, either.  Systems analysis was my brand. 


So, taking a leap of faith and plunging into fiction writing was uncharacteristic. Or was it?  I'm thinking my character strengths (as assessed by the Values in Action—VIA—survey of strengths) of bravery, creativity, and curiosity were smoldering and waiting for the right time to fire up and break free from doing the sure, anticipated thing.


And what fire the flames ignited! 


For me, writing fiction checks all the boxes that make a flourishing life—called PERMA in positive psychology terms—I couldn't be happier or feel more fulfilled.


Writing sets off positive emotions—seeing and experiencing things differently and deeply—joy, happiness, awe.  Engagement—being totally immersed in the creative process where one day bleeds into another and time goes so fast it stands still. Developing new relationships—relationships with the craft of writing and an entire community of authors, writing professionals, and readers sharing their expertise and helping each other. Fulfilling my meaning in life—supporting others through my stories and characters to be their best selves; showing them that being human is messy, but we can all find our North Stars and fulfill our potential.  And experiencing the fruits of taking that leap of faith—achievement—by walking the path and saying yes to the journey, an achievement itself.


Take a leap of faith. Free those smoldering embers inside yourself—the fire it ignites may pleasantly surprise you.

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One Way or Another--Authors are Explorers

"The writer is an explorer.  Every step is an advance into a new land."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson


I am an explorer when I write. As I walk on the well-trodden path, studying my values, beliefs, culture, and experiences, scrubby side trails invite me to take a chance, leave behind the superficial and known, and take the risk to explore the concealed, unresolved, and mysterious.  Blackhorse Road took me on the forgiveness trail and led me to take more risks and roam bumpy paths in Flower Girl—ones needing more unraveling—shame, self-discovery, agency, and purpose.   


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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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