As a romance writer, I love February 14th. St. Valentine’s Day is THE romance day of the year. To me, valentines are the mirror of romance.
According to legend, Saint Valentine was a real priest who lived in 270 A.D. He provided Christians with sacraments outlawed by the Roman Empire such as marriage.
Saint Valentine is also said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians.”
And thus began our custom of giving cards and reminders to loved ones on February 14th. Today, the Greeting Card Association estimates one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.
The first mass-produced valentines appeared in the 1840s. Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” used “scrap” to make elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures. The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester holds a large collection of her valentines.
If you read my blog often, you might remember that I have an ephermal holiday post card collection. I shared some of my Thanksgiving cards. Here are my favorite Valentines. While not as elaborate as Ms. Howland’s, I love the way these cards speak of romance.
Valentines tell others of our love. Homemade valentines are extra special. I found this wonderful site, www.neoformix.com where you can create your own heart-shaped tokens of love.
If you’d like to create heart-shaped design with special words, click on the heart to go to the site. You have time to come up with the perfect token of your love.
YOUR TURN: How will you show someone you love them today?
Bella, dachshund chicken watcher extraordinaire, has keep life interesting around the urban farm for the past two weeks.
First, a bee stung her on the foot. This would not have been a big problem except that she somehow acquired Beekeeper Brian’s allergy to bees. Rachel took her to the vet where they gave her Benadryl and made sure there were no other symptoms.
Bella slept off the effects of her bee sting encounter in her favorite chair.
Then a few days later, I was at lunch with Beekeeper Brian when Rachel called asking me to meet her at the vet ASAP. Bella was shaking all over and drooling – symptoms that looked like a seizure.
Since Marv, our big dog, has suffered from seizures most of his life, Rachel is well acquainted with doggie seizures. I left immediately, but a road closure cause somewhat of a delayed.
In my directionally challenged world, another (read different) way is always longer and in the wrong direction. I only know one way to get places, and since the road I knew to go down was blocked, I had to find another way. And, of course, I had to stop for every red light along the way.
I desperately wanted to get to the vet’s office in case something happened to Bella. While Beekeeper Brian and I were in Colorado last summer, Rachel had to take our chocolate lab to the vet for the last time. I didn’t want her to be in that position again with Bella.
When I finally rushed into the office, Rachel and Bella were sitting in the front room waiting for me to pay.
Bella was fine. The vet determined she swallowed a bee (I added another verse to the song – I know a dumb dachshund who swallowed a bee).
With the Benadryl, Bella slept soundly in her favorite chair.
She now has her own bottle of Benadryl in the kitchen cabinet.
This week she has managed to avoid the bees, thankfully. She did run under our bed instead of into her kennel one night. We could not coax her out until the next morning. Never did figure out what that was all what.
Then yesterday I walked the dogs after it had rained all morning, Bella managed to find every puddle to walk through. Her puddle jumping reminded me of my small children days – the puddles as well as the frantic trips to the doctor.
I’m afraid while the children outgrew their frantic trips to the doctor and puddle jumping, Bella will never outgrow this stage. Fortunately, she is very cute and so we tolerate her idiosyncrasies.
I finished Love in the Morning Calm, the prequel to The Pendant’s Promise and turned the manuscript over to the editor.
Now I’m sad.
I know I should be happy. IT’S FINISHED.
There is a sense of relief and exhaustion considering the amount of energy and focus required to “birth” this particular novel. I’ve been working on Lily and Alex’s love story for years.
My very wise book editor suggested I split the original manuscript into two books, which added a year to the writing process, but keeping the tale as one book would have made James A. Michener’s multi-generational works look like short stories.
Really, I am excited that I’m finished.
Except for this lonely feeling that keeps creeping in–sort of like postpartum blues.
I found comfort in knowing I had Lily and Alex’s romance to resume every morning and think about at night.
I already miss the arguments trying to persuade them to follow my outline. Then sometimes settling for something close to what I planned, but perhaps better and more interesting.
Other authors have shared that they experience the same sluggishness, a lack of motivation, and energy when they finish a book. I know my feelings will subside. Lily and Alex have, after all, found their happily ever after.
It’s time to do the next thing — start a new manuscript. I began that process this weekend.
I’m looking at two quotes as the new story’s theme. One fromTruth About Forever a Sarah Dessen novel: “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”
The other from Lao Tzu: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Once my new friends, Darcy and Andrew, and I have done that dance of the first 50 or 60 pages they’ll begin to talk to me then my real work will begin.
I can truly bid Lily and Ace farewell.
YOUR TURN: Do you get the postpartum blues when you finish a book? What do you do about it when you do?
Welcome our very special Friday Guest blogger, Chicken Wrangler Sara and another tale from the Miller Farm.
Adolescent roosters are some of the most horrid creatures on earth, which makes putting them on death row much less traumatic for me. However, their imminent demise does nothing for the poor hens they harass until they reach a size large enough to eat.
One poor hen, named Whitey, has been jumped on so many times I believe her right leg is broken. #2 Daughter Rachel and I found her trying to get through the fence and under the shed.
Enter Chicken Wrangler Sara wearing her chicken rescue cape.
Future nurse Rachel decided Whitney should spend time in the Miller Chicken Infirmary until her leg healed. She reinforced the sides of a wooden crate, gave Whitey a bath (yes, you read that correctly, she bathed a chicken), then put the clean hen in the crate in her bedroom.
Then Future Nurse Rachel went out of town leaving me in charge.
This is not the first fowl to be in the house. Remember, we had two rescued roosters who were much kinder than any roosters we have right now.
Eventually I moved Whitey to the garage where she spent the night.
In the morning, I set her out in the yard (while the dachshunds were inside) and cleaned her crate. Marv, our big, old lab mix, found this change in the routine very interesting.
Whitey ate some grass and hobbled around a bit. Before I left to volunteer at the food pantry, I returned her to her crate in the garage and secured the dachshunds inside the kitchen.
In the afternoon, Whitney spent more time outside in the yard although I’m suspicious that the roosters have spotted her. They lined the fence watching with great interest.
Fortunately, they cannot get over the fence so Whitey is safe.
I considered splinting her leg, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I wasn’t keen on researching how to set chicken legs – cooking them maybe, but not setting them.
In fact, one of my piano students asked why we didn’t just eat Whitey. I explained that we don’t eat any of the chickens we have named.
Just can’t do it.
Not only do I have to keep an eye on Whitey, with Rachel gone, I must turn the goose eggs in the incubator three times a day. I forgot. When Beekeeper Brian got home from work, he turned them. Since they can’t tell time, he assured me they would be fine.
We’ve decided I may be Chicken Wrangler Extraordinaire, but I’m no Mother Goose.
Future Nurse Rachel and I have also started walking the four dogs. We each take two dachshunds and provide entertainment for anyone driving down the street along with exercise for the dogs and ourselves.
Since Rachel was not home this afternoon, I took all four dogs on my own. After fighting twisted leads and pulling dogs, I’ve decided I could probably drive a bobsled now.
Tomorrow Rachel returns. I will be so happy to have her assistance with dachshunds and goose eggs.
Sunday the roosters go to death row. Whitney will return to the hen yard and be safe.
By Monday, the Miller Chicken Infirmary will close and life will return to normal – whatever that is.
So are you moving ahead on the New Year goals you set? Did you implement my plan or devise one of your own?
Whether you use my plan or any plan, I hope you’ll let 2013 be the year you claim your dream!
I found several suggestions on blogs to help us achieve writing success using a theme for the year.
The authors over at Novel Matters declared Carpe Annum – Seize the Year for their theme. Check out the details and suggestions here.
Fellow Wana112mate Sherry Isaac suggests we do some Baby Steppin’ That is, we move ahead one baby step at a time. You’ll love the clip she shares.
Whether you choose Carpe Annum or Baby Steeppin’ or come up with your own theme. Just having a theme is a great way to focus on success.
If you still harbor some fear about moving ahead with writing goals and think you don’t have the time to devote to your dream, Edie Melson, social media coach and blogger, offers this advice: Want to Do More with Your Writing—Learn to Say No She provides very specific ways to put your writing goals first.
My best advice is summed up here:
Remember, a book is just a blank page and an eReader is a blank screen until you put your words on it.
Now go be an unstoppable butterfly and fill those blank pages and screens.
No one wants to fail on purpose, but failure to plan can lead to failure. Today we’ll look at the process of goal setting for SUCCESS that I use.
My plan comes from Bob Mayer’s WHO DARES WIN, The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear and Succeed, which is available here.
There are three components:
• Strategic goals
• Tactical goals
Experience has taught me when you know where you’ve been and where you’re going, you go farther than when you just drift along.
Creation of a concrete list, imo, is critical.
But no goal setting process is complete without a review of the previous year’s STRATEGIC GOALS. Every time I do this, I never fail to discover I have accomplished far more than I thought. I’m betting you would see the same results.
Not only do I set measurable goals for myself, I also reward myself for my accomplishments!
After my review, I determine a FOCUS for the New Year.
In 2012, my focus was epubbing. btw, I accomplished my goal as you can see on the left side bar: The Pendant’s Promise, my debut novel, is available to purchase.
FOCUS is whatever will move you toward achieving your object for the year. Your yearly FOCUS can be studying a particular craft area, networking, or reading x number of books and analyzing the author’s technique.
After FOCUS come STRATEGIC TARGETS.
I give serious thought to these questions in setting my targets for a New Year.
1. What do I want to write this year?
2. What do I want to sell this year?
3. What will I do toward getting my name out there?
4. What writing craft do I need to focus on?
5. What’s on my reading list?
Once I have answered these questions, I set the targets broken into three month, six month, and one year objectives that culminate in two year and three year goals.
These are SMART goals:
• S -Specific (and Strategic)
• M – Measurable
• A – Attainable
• R – Relevant (results oriented)
• T – Time-framed
For example, a specific, strategic goal might be stated like this: At the end of the first quarter 2013, I will have two short stories submitted to such and such periodical.
Then I establish a list of METHODS to accomplish my strategic goals. My last year’s list looked like this:
1. Write 100 NEW words per day
2. Spend minimum of 20 hours per week writing
3. Attend two writer conferences
No wishy-washy, weasel-worded methods like I’ll write every day. Too easy to let life interfere and be lax with methods like that.
My methods are:
Specific. Measurable. Attainable.
Same with my TACTICAL WEEKLY GOALS which might include:
1. Write three query letters
2. Complete critique partner’s edits
3. Outline two scenes for WIP
Either I accomplish what I’ve set out to do or I don’t. I know where I’m going and whether I’m there at the end of the week.
And, yes I do write out these goals every week and record my progress.
To quote, Pablo Picasso: “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.“
I also happen to be blessed with an accountability group to provide additional focus and encouragement toward accomplishing what I’ve set out to do. We share weekly then alternately cheer or bring out the cyber whip based on our goal reports.
I hear you groaning. You’re saying all this takes too much time.
I don’t deny this process takes time, but having a SMART goal plan provides not only focus, but also helps solidify intangibles into something tangible.
I can’t guarantee SUCCESS with my plan. I do promise goal-setting will direct you on the right path because to hit a target you must aim.
Goals set your aim.
I encourage you to think about a writing plan for the New Year.
YOUR TURN: Have I convinced you? Will you set SMART goals for this year?
When I went to let the chickens out, there were two dead quail. One was in the cage – which is not completely unusual. However, there was one on the ground near the chicken feeder, which was the mystery.
How did it get out of the quail cage? Why did it die?
I’m pretty sure both quail were dead before I opened the cage so it was not the shock of seeing me in my daughter’s sock monkey footed pajamas (it was pajama day at the school where I teach) .
I guess what happens in the quail cage stays in the quail cage, and the mystery will remain a mysery.
There is justice on the Miller farm.
Three of the roosters have gotten big enough to go to freezer camp so they were put on death row (in a separate cage). The hens who were tormented by these roosters perched atop the cage with what would be the equivalent of a smug look on their faces. I consider that poetic justice.
There is also new life on Miller farm.
We have baby chicks and quail in the garage. They were due to hatch on December 21st, but one quail made his appearance on December 19. We call him the very loud overachiever. The others appeared on schedule.
Now there is much noise in the garage, which drives the dachshunds crazy.
There is randomness on Miller Farm.
My daughter received a text last week asking if should would be able to hatch goose eggs. Being an adventurous Miller she said “sure.” So we are awaiting the arrival of a special thermometer and will then set the goose eggs.
I must confess I am a little nervous. The size of eggs being hatched at the Miller Farm is becoming increasingly larger.
Eggs left to right: quail, bantam, chicken, goose
I’m not sure I want to know what will be next – ostrich eggs?
The Miller Farm is always bustling with life. I’m not at all surprised Rachel agreed to hatch goose eggs. She loves all animals. She’s going to be a caring nurse one day. I can’t wait read the email when the geese start cracking their shells. Should be an interesting email. I’m betting the geese give the daschshunds a run for their money!
After reading CW Sara’s email and looking at the picture of the eggs she included, I thought about how a story idea begins a little kernel—an overheard conversation, a picture, a senior citizen or child’s face, a building—so many little things can trigger What if for the creative mind.
That tiny what if then progresses through research, writing, editing, and finally becomes a full-blown, hold-in-your-hand book.That’s a life cycle too.
The life cycle of a novel. And writers never know what size the next kernel will be.
YOUR TURN: How are things in your world? Any mystery or poetic justice? Any surprises? Any idea kernels to share?
Last week social media was all a buzz about New Year’s resolutions. Facebook status comments offered summaries of people’s 2012 and their goals for 2013. Blogs gave statistics from last year and offered predictions for the New Year.
How about you? Are you making resolutions?
I don’t do well with general resolutions like those pictured.
BUT I am a goal setter. Goals help solidify intangibles into something tangible.
Consider this quote from Mario Andretti, “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
As a former teacher, goals (aka objectives) were an integral part of my world. I watched lesson plan objectives produce learning success for students. So transferring goal setting to my writing career was a logical, easy progression.
For me, goal setting provides the target, and I can analyze why I missed the bull’s eye and adjust as I move toward success.
Knowledge is power. When I know what works, I can do more of it. When I know what doesn’t work, I can do less of it.
Goals work for me.
If you’re not one to set goals or make New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll love Juliet Marillier’s New Year’s blog post where she shared nine gifts for a writer’s focus in 2013.
The wind in your hair, the rain on your skin, the sun on your back, the richness of freshly turned soil underfoot. (If you live in a city apartment, plant up some pots with flowers or vegies. Go for regular walks in the park, and use your five senses to experience nature. If you have a garden, make compost. Get your hands dirty!)
The joy of providing a forever home for a shelter animal. (Not all of you will be able to do this, but it’s a great way to nourish the soul. If you can’t take on a homeless animal, you could volunteer to walk shelter dogs, or help out at a refuge.)
Social interaction, and I don’t mean online! (Writers can easily get into the pattern of spending long hours alone, maintaining their social contacts mostly online. This is not great for your physical or mental health. Make an effort – go out to coffee with a friend once a week, join a book club, walk your dog at the park, meet like-minded people in the flesh.)
Writing because you love it; loving what you write. (Because otherwise what’s the point?)
Stretching yourself creatively. (Try a new genre; set yourself challenges in voice, point of view, vocabulary, structure)
Making a virtue of ‘down time.’ (Try meditation, walking, Tai Chi, swimming, playing with your children or animals)
Learning that the best motivation for getting on with things – your work in progress, your diet/exercise plan – does not come from the note on the fridge, but from deep within you. Changing your mindset; doing the right things not because you ought to, but because you want to.
Being generous with your time, even if you don’t have much of it to spare. (Read to an elderly person; help out at your kids’ school; fill hampers for the needy.)
Breathing. (Step away from your screen regularly. Go outside, look at something beautiful and breathe slowly for a few minutes. You live in the real world; it is the source of your inspiration. Honour and respect it with all its flaws.)
I love her ideas for enriching our creativity. Wonderful words of wisdom. You can read the whole blog here.
But I still believe in goal setting.
As a writer, I see this New Year as a blank book. Remember my New Year’s Eve post? If not, read it here.
We can fill the pages of 2013 any way we want. A goal plan isn’t required, but it might help us succeed.
On a recent Monday (my day to go grocery shopping and do laundry among other things), I added poinsettia delivery to my errand list.
Several people at various schools bought the holiday plant from our kids for a band fundraiser and they came in on Friday. Our living room was quite festive with sixteen poinsettia plants in it.
I took six to an elementary school before grocery shopping.
I can now add floral delivery person to the list of jobs I do not want to do full time.
When I returned home on that afternoon, I noticed bees gathered on the edge of a pot on the back porch. It was strange so I took a picture with my phone and sent it to Beekeeper Brian asking what he thought. He had no idea.
I loaded up more poinsettias and headed to the middle school. On my route, I passed Beekeeper Brian, headed for the house. My first thought was “he’s going to check on his bees.”
But when I got home after my poinsettia deliveries, he was in full beekeeper garb, standing at the stove with a glass measuring bowl full of a lemony smelling liquid. He then said the words which always signal the beginning of an adventure – “I need your help.”
He needed to know how hot the liquid was. I went into bread making mode and thought about how hot water for softening yeast needed to be. After a quick finger test, I assured him the water was not more than 100 degrees.
He then carried the liquid outside. As it turns out, the bees were making a small swarm which means they were preparing to “fly the coop.”
Oops, that would be the chickens who do that. I’m not sure what it’s called when bees leave.
Beekeeper Brian then put the queen from the swarm in a nuc (small hive box) and put feed (the lemony smelling liquid) on top. He’s watching to see if the worker bees go into the nuke with the queen.
Meanwhile, he’s thinking of alternate plans to entice the bees to hang around. This could mean another hive and more honey!
There is never a dull moment around here.
Life on the farm is certainly full of adventure with all the elements of storytelling: Goal, Motivation , and Conflict.