Sending Off An Adventurer

My sister left this week.

One of my sisters. I have a few.

This particular sister is nineteen. I’ve mentioned her before. She has been living with me for the last several months, but she is off now.

Off adventuring.

I drove her to the airport on Tuesday. We talked about boys the whole drive.

Okay, one boy.

Okay, Colin Firth, in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

In other words, we had a great time. After a two hour drive, I dropped her off and left her all alone. By herself. She flew to Austin, Texas, then to Iceland, and finally to Amsterdam, where she was picked up by the staff of the school she’s attending.

A lot of adventure for a nineteen year old.

In case you were wondering, yes, I’m a wreck. She’s been my best friend for a lot of years, besides being my roommate (cabin-mate?) for the last several months, and I’m going to miss her terribly. I’m not saying I cried in the car on the way home, but I cried in the car on the way home.

Just a little.

No one will sit by the fire with me in the evenings, no one will read everything I write and tell me if it’s good or not, no one will make me tea or eat all my cooking and pretend it’s amazing.

In short, I’m devastated.

But I’m very excited for her. She’ll be living in Amsterdam for three months, then transferring to an—as of yet—undisclosed location for the remainder of her school. Thanks to Skype and Facebook, I’ll be able to keep in touch with her, but she won’t really have much time to talk to me. Classes and new friends will take up most of her time.

I went to a similar school when I was nineteen, one located in West Kilbride, Scotland. I spent three months living in a castle on the beach (above), then another two months backpacking through Cambodia. It changed my life to see the sun set on the other side of the world, and I am so excited to see my sister go through the same experiences.

So, yes, I’m happy for her.

Just sad for me, because I have to live without her for a few months.

Living Like A Writer

We are two weeks into January.

Almost two weeks.

What day is it again?

Basically, 2019 has been a whirlwind of activity, even in its first two weeks. I started coaching sessions, started the first draft of my sixth book, embraced this blog, sent out several resumes for freelance writing positions, and oddly enough, repainted and rearranged my mother’s pantry.

I also took a morning to chop wood.

Because I live in a tiny house. And the only way to heat this tiny house is with a wood stove.

And it is cold in Colorado.

The lovely part of gathering wood for my house has been the long walks through the woods, finding dead wood and fallen branches to chop up. I live on thirty-five acres of pastureland and pine woods, and out here, we don’t go to Walmart and buy wood.

Although Walmart does sell firewood. Which seems weird to me.

However, we also don’t chop down trees willy-nilly. Because trees take seven thousand years to grow in Colorado due to the lack of water. So instead, I’ve been collecting logs from neighbors who are clearing their land, dead branches and trees from our own property, and old lumber from a porch that we tore down a year or so ago.

My woodpile is a study in oddities.

The long walks to find all of this wood have given me, as a writer, so much time and space to think. They’re moments outside in the trees, with the blue sky and the deer tracks in the snow and the long, winding paths up through our property. I have loved every minute of it and found that, more than just giving me wood to heat my house, they have given me rest for my soul, inspiration for my writing time, and above all, a chance to pause and enjoy the beautiful place that I live in. I am a country girl heart and soul, and nothing feeds my spirit more than time in the trees.

And, if I can ensure that I don’t freeze in the middle of the night at the same time, it’s definitely a double bonus.

A Year of Gardening

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I love the freshness of a new year.

Really. It’s one of my favorite things. I love the feeling of having a clean slate ahead of me, of days and weeks and months that have so much potential and so few mistakes. It’s like having a brand new notebook to write in, or a new set of pens to replace the old, scratched up, inked out versions.

And believe me, as a writer, both of those things are hard to beat. Bliss.

I’m not much of a party person, and I like to spend my New Year’s Eve, and, if possible, New Year’s Day at home. I brew a cup of tea, light a fire, and spend some time with my journal and my bible, discovering what I want to see from this new year, and what God wants to see.

This year, I’ve discovered that what I would like more than anything else, is to garden.

No, not actually garden. It’s January, there’s snow on the ground, I live on land that is classified as high desert, and any water poured on this dry, packed earth is immediately sucked straight to the center of the earth and devoured.

Colorado is brutal.

No, I mean I want to garden. In my life, in my soul. I want to till up the habits and routines that I’ve established in the last few years, pick out the rocky bits, and start fresh. I want to pause, to dig into what this year is going to be, and to scatter some seeds.

I have a lot planned this year, and a lot of uncertainty ahead of me too. I know where my priorities are, I know what I want and what I’m after, but I also know that life has a way of sending the unexpected. And, sometimes, the unexpected isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it really is the best thing in a garden. So I’ll leave a bit of ground open for what’s coming that I haven’t planned for, and focus on growing and tending what I know I want to cultivate in the year ahead.

And maybe, while I’m at it, I’ll try my hand at some real gardening and see if I can get a few lavender sprouts growing. Maybe Colorado will agree not to kill them right away.

What are your hopes for the year ahead? What would you like, more than anything, to see from 2019? Tell me down below!

2019, Goals, and Celebrations

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I have an announcement to make.

Ehem.

It is now . . .

2019!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

I’m guessing some of you are still asleep after a very long night and some wild parties, but you’ll wake up sometime this afternoon, and I’ll shout at you then. Or possibly just make you a pot of very strong coffee and leave you to recover in peace.

That might be kinder.

We’re one day into 2019, and already the year is in full swing and jam-packed with new adventures.  For Christmas, my sister gave me a pass to Gordon Ramsay’s masterclass, and I’m seriously excited to spend some time learning proper cooking techniques and recipes from a chef who has so much knowledge. Besides that, I will be stepping into coaching for the first time, welcoming a new child into our house, starting a new job, and preparing for the Fall release of my new book, Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons.

Besides that, I am also planning on expanding this blog, continuing to post my stories and blogging more about mental health for writers and my own journey as an author. My full-length book series is still with agents and publishers who are considering it, and I will continue to send it out until I have a contract under my belt. 2019 promises to be a year of expanding my boundaries and experiencing new things, and I am EXCITED!

So tell me! What are you excited for in 2019? What are some of your goals and resolutions for the coming year? Any changes coming up that you would like to share?

The Reality Of Being an Author

This morning, I woke up to find that my bank account was maxed out.

Overdrawn, actually.

Not the best news to find out on a Monday morning, especially when every penny I’ve made in the last several months has gone toward absolute essentials. Bills. Groceries. That’s about it.

This is humiliating for me to admit, honestly. I’m the kind of person who likes to be on top of things. I like my bills to be paid a week in advance. When I go out to dinner or coffee with someone, I like to pay. When I get support letters from friends on the mission field about this need or that one, I like to be able to respond immediately with a check.

But, the reality is that I’m an author.

And right now, I don’t get paid.

For almost anything.

I’ve been a full-time author for about seven years. I’ve written eight books in that time, amounting to more than a million words in drafts, blog posts, and other various projects. Two of my books are published and available on Amazon. One—a biography I was commissioned for—is in the final stages of revision. Four others are in varying stages of revision and editing.

One is, at this very moment, in the hands of an actual real-life publisher, being reviewed for possible publication.

None of these books, as of yet, are ready to translate into anything resembling income.

Seven years is a long time. It’s a long time to work on a project without a great amount of hope or encouragement. It’s a long time to make no money and to support hundreds of hours work with several other jobs.

If I look at the last seven years from the perspective of retirement, bank accounts, and income, I have utterly failed.

Seven years down the drain. Time to pull the plug, because this idea was obviously a dud from the beginning.

Except it hasn’t been.

It hasn’t been, because of the girl who messaged me to say that something I wrote made her feel that a part of herself was beautiful, rather than strange or weird.

Or the seven-year-old who—when reading one of my books through for the second time—declared that it absolutely deserved five stars.

Or the man who commissioned the biography I wrote telling me that it was like reading through his life and that he couldn’t help tearing up when he read it.

There is magic in what I do. In the lives I touch. In the moments when people have paused to read something I’ve written, and immediately felt the need to message me and say that I made them cry. Fortunately for my career, I have never—and will never—look at what I do in terms of cash earned, money saved, or bills paid. Because being an author is more than that.

In fact, in my very humble opinion, being a person is more than that.

As many times as I have faltered in the last seven years, I have never once questioned whether writing was really what I was supposed to be doing. It’s too much a part of me, too much a part of the way I love and think and live, to abandon. I may not be making a livable wage on it right now—in fact, I may never make one—but I’ve come too far and seen too clearly how deeply impacting my words can be to quit.

To me, that’s worth a lot more than getting a check on time every month.

Although the check would be nice.

Woodpiles, FREE Books, and Snowy Mornings

My house has a wood burning stove.

It’s beautiful. I love it. In the evenings before I go to bed, I light a fire and turn off all the lights and watch the firelight flicker on my wood floor and let all the heaviness of the day slid off.

Then, if it’s cold enough, I wake up every two hours in the middle of the night to keep the fire burning.

Because if I don’t, I will freeze.

Correction. I will not freeze. My cat would never allow that, simply because if I freeze, she’s going to freeze too, and that would be a tragedy of epic proportions. If I miss the alarm, she screams at me until I wake up, because I have the responsibility of keeping her warm.

I love her so much.

Thus, my wood burning stove, and, consequently, my woodpile is very important. I spent a good part of my afternoon yesterday chopping wood, and because I am kind and love you all, I did not take pictures.

You do not want to see me chop wood. It’s embarrassing. I do it because it must be done, but I do not claim to be good at it.

So now, my woodpile is stacked high, and life is good. We are not going to dwell on the fact that I had to run outside in my shorts and snow boots this morning because it was snowing rather hard and the wind had knocked the tarp off the wood. Wet, freezing wood is no good to anyone.

But, as I said, we are not going to dwell on that.

So, because it is snowing—and I love snow—and because today is Saturday and the weekend, and because I have a full woodpile, I would like to remind all of you lovely people that my books—Of Mice and Fairies and The Birdwoman—are both FREE on Amazon this week. I cannot invite you all to my house for a cup of hot chocolate in front of my wood burning stove, so this will have to be the next best thing. Brew a cup of tea (or coffee), snuggle up with a good blanket, and enjoy one of these books on me.

Happy Saturday, my friends! Stay warm!

 

Words that Soothe

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Last week, I went to a job interview.

A very stressful job interview.

A couple of things made it stressful. First of all, the interview was for a position that I’m very excited about. If it works out, it would mean a lot to me as a writer. Second, it was a Skype interview. Third, I’ve been out of work for about a month now, and I’m starting to feel the strain.

And fourth, which I should probably have mentioned first, I had my wisdom teeth removed six days earlier and still looked like a chipmunk that had gotten into an elephant’s secret peanut stash. And, since I was also badly bruised from the experience, it looked like the elephant had then tried to strangle me.

Unsuccessfully.

It was awkward.

But, in the spirit of being an adult and needing this job, I forged ahead. For a solid hour, I sat up straight and attempted to smile while I stumbled over the answers to about a thousand different questions and tried to remember how to say words, not spell them. There is a reason that I am a writer, not a speaker.

Talking is hard.

Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me?

When I finished, I was worn out. Completely. For an introvert, talking about yourself for an hour under that kind of pressure is more exhausting than a ten-mile run.

Trust me. I run. I know.

The trouble afterward was figuring out how to reenergize myself. I still had plenty of things on my to-do list for that day, and the world does not stop simply because your brain has been fried and you are tired.

Unfortunately.

In my time on this very weird earth, I have come up with lots of ways to cope with this emptied out, exhausted feeling. It’s a regular occurrence for me, as an introvert, and I’ve learned to react accordingly. Music, prayer and meditation, working out, and cooking are all ways to fill myself up again when I have been emptied, and they are all generally successful in their own way.

But, the best way to calm myself down after a stress is with words. Poetry, stories, prose. Words that soothe, words that empower, and words that remind me who I am and where I stand. For me, this is how I de-stress and fill myself up again. Here are a few of the words I run to when I am as stressed as I was last week.

1) Robert Frost: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

2) William Ernest Henley: Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeoning of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, 

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the Master of my Fate,

I am the Captain of my Soul.

3) Cornelia Funke: Inkdeath

There was only the path, the endless path winding up into the strange mountains, and the desire in his heart that he couldn’t tame, a wish to ride farther and farther on into this bewildering world. What did the castle to which Violante was leading them look like? Were there really giants in the mountains? Where did the path end? Did it ever end at all? Not for the Bluejay, a voice inside him whispered, and for a moment his heart beat like the heart of a ten-year-old boy, as fearless and as fresh.

There you are. Some of my favorite poems and passages, and the words that always soothe my anxious heart when I’ve had a bad day or simply a stressful one. What about you? What are some of your favorite quotes from books, poems, or anything else that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Filling the Gap in My Shelves

A while back, I wrote a post about the gap in my shelves, the book I’d lost but never quite forgotten.

The book was a favorite of mine when I was in my young teens. I read it over and over again, very nearly memorized my favorite parts, and loved it with all the devotion of an obsessive young reader.

Unfortunately, I loved it to death.

It was already a very old book. My mother bought our books at library sales and thrift stores, and when they came to us they were dog-eared and faded. Covers got torn, end pages disappeared into the trash, and eventually, the books themselves did too. With multiple siblings and quite a few avid readers in the family, it happened fairly often. Books were used, loved dearly, and replaced. New copies appeared to replace the old, and we kept reading them.

Only this one didn’t get replaced.

It simply—disappeared.

I looked for it for months. Scoured the bookshelves from top to bottom. The book had lost its cover quite a long time before it disappeared for good, and—being thirteen—I had never paid a great amount of attention to the title or the author.

I regretted that later.

And so, it faded out of my life. I left a gap in my shelves for it, but never really expected to see it again.

Until a week ago.

On a whim, I typed in a few random keywords into Google and went on a search for my missing book. I had done this before, the only result being an overwhelming realization that there are millions of books in the world. The likelihood of finding one specific book without a title or author name was very impossible. I knew it was about a grizzly, of course, but it had been so long that I couldn’t even remember his name. Ten years is a long time, right?

Or, it was until I saw the name of the grizzly in one of the links.

Then ten years was nothing, and everything about it fit. It was like meeting an old friend. I don’t often cry over books (just kidding, I totally do), but this made me tear up. It was like getting a glimpse of little thirteen-year-old Abigail, with my funny round glasses and chubby cheeks and a library card that never left my side. Despite a total book-buying ban which I wasn’t following anyway, I knew I had to buy it.

Amazon yielded . . . nothing. The book—which I now know is called The Biography of a Grizzly, by Ernest Thompson Seton—was published in 1900, and was so out of print that there were actual self-published copies available, complete with shiny plastic covers and badly photocopied pages.

Not what I wanted.

So I went looking through eBay. Thankfully, eBay almost always yields results, and it did this time too. Most of the copies were wildly expensive, after all, it is out of print, but I managed to find a decent copy for a reasonable price.

I was ecstatic.

When it finally arrived at my house, I read it in one sitting. The illustrations, the story, even the wording was so familiar that it was like stepping back in time. The story of a grizzly named Wahb and his life as an orphaned cub in the Rimrock Mountains was exactly how I remembered it. His wanderings and struggles as he tangled with wildcats, coyotes, and other bears was beautifully interspersed with the pleasures of a bear’s life—whether that be digging roots in the lush meadows or searching for grubs in the shale mountains. Wahb had many enemies, and the story of his lonely, melancholy wanderings struck a chord with me when I was a young teen.

Reading it now felt like a journey back in time. Thank goodness I wasn’t thirteen again, but I am so grateful to have found this treasure from my childhood. At last, the gap in my shelves is filled, and that piece of my reading history isn’t missing anymore.