Saturday, 30 May 2015

Today is a good day to have a good day.

Life is filled with highs and lows. If we’re lucky they flow in and out of our lives equally. If we’re incredibly fortunate, our tides rise high for a good length of time and our lows ebb quickly. While I am not without my woes, I count myself firmly in the latter group. Am I a glass half-full person, or is life truly beneficent when it comes to me? I think there is a bit of both at play, but it is also about the choices I make. I’m not talking about the big decisions in life, but the every day little things and how I choose to react to them.

Lately, it seems, many people I care about are falling apart. I had dinner with a group of colleagues (well, ex-colleagues, but I just can’t think of them as ex-anything). Their workplace is filled with strife, further stressed by the political climate surrounding their jobs. They are trying hard to stay afloat but are feeling thoroughly discouraged.
My writer peeps are struggling. Rejections from agents are piling up and they are fighting defeat. Many are getting form letters and the impersonal response makes them feel like their writing is not even worthy of comment. When an agent kindly provides feedback, they revise, they cut and they work to implement all suggestions. And, they are getting dizzy from it, worried about losing their stories, worried about losing their voices, worried that they will never find an agent, never be published.

My writing is simmering on a backburner. Maybe tomorrow I will take it off and continue to stir and add ingredients. It is what I say at the end of each day when I find that, yet again, I failed to add a single word. I stress about it for a few minutes, and then forgive myself. We are in the middle of packing up 30+ years of living and getting ready to move across the country. Loved pieces have been sold and other treasures are going into boxes and into storage, to be shipped out to us who knows when. We don’t have a home to go to yet.
Yes, life is filled with highs and lows. We cannot change that. The only thing we can do is choose how we react to it. As my world here slowly disappears into cardboard boxes, I choose to embrace the rush of excitement rather than dwell on the overwhelming feeling of getting it done on time, saying goodbye and wondering what the future holds. I haven’t flown by the seat of my pants like this since I was a teen. What a thrill to be young and courageous once again.
In my career, I had the luxury of regularly addressing around two hundred people, young and old. I always encouraged them to be proactive rather than reactive and reminded them that they held the power of choice. Each and every day I had the opportunity to reinforce that with a simple message. I give it to you now my colleagues, my writer peeps and my dear readers near and far:  Make it a good day!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Universality of Love and Loss

Last week’s post prompted an unprecedented number of emails from friends and strangers. People shared stories of favourite pets and the heart-wrenching moments of saying goodbye. It was not my intention to focus on that event, but on the lesson learned through the experience. However, it resonated with so many readers and it is that response that has lingered with me this week.

It seems all of us have a story of loss wrapped in love. It is unavoidable. It is part and parcel of this cycle we call life. I was discussing this with a friend of mine who still struggles with frightening memories of her children’s life-threatening illnesses. I am in awe of those folks who take on the task of raising the little beings of our future, and told her I could never do so. I mean, look at the mess I still am over my dog. Her wise observation gave me pause. The minute you love someone is the minute you open yourself up to heartache.

Yet, it is love that keeps us human, that helps us rise above the ugliness in the world and be a better person on a small scale and, for some, on a larger scale. When we give it freely, unconditionally, we are strengthened by it. When we must say goodbye, we are devastated, never to be quite the same again. In this we are all united. In this we are all the same.

I believe it is why so many people connected with last week’s post and why they felt compelled to share their own moments of despair. Although each of us writes our own life’s story through our decisions and chance, each tale is woven with the common threads of love and loss. Thank you my friends, old and new, for sharing.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life. –Eckhart Tolle

This week one of my little dogs has been demanding my attention. Each morning when I sit at the computer, she has moved in closer and closer. She now rests her head upon my laptop as I type. She wants to be near, she wants to connect, she wants me to know she exists. And, I do. I allow her to rest there, work around her and reach over frequently to pet her head or rub her belly.

I had another Lhasa years ago. She was brilliant, entertaining and loving. I valued her in my life but I was younger, busier and had much to accomplish. She always accepted it with grace and joyfully received my attention when I deigned to give it.

One week I was working in our spare room, turning it into my personal space. I had chosen lemon chiffon, a nice light airy colour. I had been painting for hours with the door closed over, not wanting the smell of it to permeate the house. My Lhasa decided it had been long enough and came in to tell me so, gently nudging open the door and wandering in. I panicked as her tentative tail thwacked against the fresh paint, and I yelled at her. Her tail went down and she dutifully left the room.

The next day, we realized she was not well. She was only twelve, not old for a small dog, and it was unusual for her not to eat. The vet did not think that he could do anything for her but, at our insistence, took her into surgery. I was standing in that freshly painted room when the call came. She was riddled with cancer and he could not, in good conscience, let her live a few more painful weeks. He did not bring her out of the anesthesia.

I stood in that room and cried, looking around and seeing only ugly yellow. All she wanted was to connect with me, and I had yelled at her. I crushed her spirit, a spirit infused with love. I did it for a room. A stinking room. I hated that room; it was too sad. I eventually had to repaint and move out of it. It is ten years this month since I said goodbye to her and I still cry, feel the loss and the overwhelming sense of guilt.

Life is packed with drama, big and small. It gets busy. That’s unavoidable. But, whether you are working at an insular job, such as writing, working in a hectic high-stress environment, or have days packed with to-do lists, you only get to live this day once. With each moment’s arrival, another has passed, never to be experienced again. The next time your child, your partner, or your fur friend asks for your attention, stop, if only for a minute. Grab ahold of the here and now. In seconds it will be gone.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Hooked on Sequels

As I delve into the continuation of Ana and Brandan’s journey, I have been pondering the wisdom of putting my time and energy into a sequel. The publishing industry is a shifty beast, metamorphosing, it seems, daily. Is there an interest in sagas anymore? Successes like Outlander, Twilight and Game of Thrones would indicate there is, yet the industry professionals do not seem to be clamouring for them.

Love Denied is, without doubt, a historical romance. Catherine and Nicholas play out their story and leave us with a satisfying happily ever after. There are characters within their tale that demand their own stories and I have given it to two of them in novellas. Two more have so much to say that they will be getting their own novels. But, none of them are dependent upon Love Denied, nor is Love Denied dependent on them. However, readers of the next novels and the novellas will enjoy getting a glimpse of Catherine and Nicholas again and, if they are anything like me, will be pleased to know that their happy ever after continues.

Raven’s Path has been more difficult to classify. History is not just a backdrop; it is a co-pilot, assisting in driving the plot. There is a satisfying ending, but there is so much more to tell, so much more to that era and Brandan and Ana’s lives within it. I feel compelled to continue to explore it. And, the question I have been asking myself is why?

I think it goes back to my reading preferences, developed at a young age. I read every Nancy Drew book, not just for the mystery but because I got to see Nancy and crew again and again. After that I was hooked on Anne of Green Gables. Following her life was such a thrill. Mary Stewart’s Merlin series is another joyful reading memory from my early teen years. Later, as an adult promoting the joy of books to children, I fell in love with the Harry Potter series and was as disappointed as any child when it ended.

Why do I like these series and hold them fondly in my heart? When a story is good, when I fall in love with the characters, I don’t want to say goodbye. They become real in some corner of my mind and I want to know what happens in their lives. Like good friends I have not seen in a while, when I pick up the latest in a series it is as though we’ve never been apart.

I don’t think I am alone in my penchant for sagas. The longevity of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and its recent leap to fame on the small screen, is testimony to that. I await, alongside millions, to see what will happen next with Jamie and Claire.

It seems it is no different for me when I am writing. I want to know what happens next to the characters in Raven’s Path. What are the events of 1750 that impact their lives? How do they respond to them? Where will they go next? Whom will they meet? I am as anxious for the answers to these questions as a writer as I am as a reader. It seems publishing trends are irrelevant to this author. I must follow my heart. And, it leads me back down Raven’s Path.