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Making 2014 SPARKLE!

7 Jan

Okay, yes I know that SPARKLE! was our December power word.  And, yes I know it is now January.  And, no, I didn’t write a post in December. That’s because, frankly, I didn’t feel very sparkly in December. I felt chaotic, thankful, busy, relieved, and a lot of other mixed emotions but not really sparkly.  In the last week of the year, when most of the hosting and feasting was over, I was simply happy to feel and be lazy.  Because I’ll admit – I was exhausted from 2013.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do choose an overall “theme” for each year.  For the past few years it’s been: to be uncomfortable as much as possible. In other words, to constantly say “yes” to new things, to push myself, to make possibilities realities. Because the more uncomfortable you are, the more you grow.DSCN0049

And, it’s worked quite well. To name just a few results, I’ve gotten my own business running on all cylinders, developed some wonderful clients, taught at my former college, become a public speaker of sorts, started a new networking group, learned to paddleboard, learned to surf (barely), learned to play the piano (sort of), kayaked for the first time, made a music video with my Chicks, and written a LOT.  However, I still feel like a beginner at many of these things.

Mario Sarto CCA-SA 3.0

Mario Sarto CCA-SA 3.0

So this year, I’m changing things up a bit.  Always doing new things is great, but now I want to focus on doing things better. I’m going to focus on polishing my craft, whether professionally or personally.

In particular, in my writing, I am in the final stages of completing an approx 35,000 word Middle Grade manuscript.  I’ve started an awful lot of stories before, and finished very few.  This is the one I’m most proud of so far. And, to give myself the chance to make it bloom into something bigger, I have to stick with it, polish it and give it a chance to SPARKLE!  So, our power word for December has become my Word to Live By in 2014.  I’m gonna make it SPARKLE!

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Let Your Little Light SPARKLE

24 Dec
This creative family e-card conceived by hostingthemuse inspired me to do something fun.

This creative family e-card conceived by hostingthemuse inspired me to do something fun.

Once again this year I failed to take a decent family picture and send out holiday cards in the snail mail. So last weekend, inspired by Chick Eva, I realized that my last hope was to do something electronic. Eva is the source of much of the creative mischief in my life, so feel free to blame her for what followed.

Last Friday I got this idea for a song in my head and started fooling around at the piano. As a Florida native, I’ve never seen a white Christmas. Nor have my kids, who listen with wide-eyed amazement as my husband regales vivid tales of playing in snow during his childhood in Chicago. Why not have fun with the juxtaposition of wishing for snow in Florida when we literally were in even the 80’s over the weekend? How cool would that be?

My husband shook his head at me the way he does when he knows I’m taking on something I shouldn’t and he’ll be forced to help me. He covered me with that look that says, “Really? Again? Why?” He pretends I’m forcing him to play along with me, but I know that secretly he likes it.

Grumbling that the chord progression was too hard to remember and that he’d never be able to play it all together, he sat down next to me. We’re two music hacks trying to arrange a song, and it’s a frustrating process. But he kept working, making music from my clunking notes. “This is all I want for Christmas,” I pleaded.

Later that day, while driving my daughter to her roller skating class, I tossed my notebook to the back seat so we could brainstorm ideas for the video. She sighed loudly, as only an almost-thirteen-year-old girl can do, reluctantly scratching pencil to paper as I suggested possible visual shots we might take. She rejected thought after thought I suggested. “That’s a stupid idea,” she hissed after one. “I just don’t see the point of doing it all.”

I clawed the wheel. This was her inner critic lashing out at me, even herself. I felt adrenaline surge in my chest as if a dark hunter were trying to steal my precious bear cub. If we weren’t already late for skating, I might have pulled over.

“Don’t say stupid,” I rebuffed her before proceeding. “And don’t ever…ever call an idea stupid. You have a long time to become fearful and bitter and cynical. You’re only 12. You have a lifetime ahead of the world and experience telling you not to try, that things are too hard, that your creative ideas are stupid, pointless, worthless. Don’t start blocking yourself now, or I promise you, you’ll never feel fully fulfilled. It’s taken me a long time to stop listening to that voice in my head telling me not to be bothered, not to risk being laughed at, or worse yet, ignored. I’m 41; if you can learn from my painful journey, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

“I believe that the God who created the universe gave us the gift of creating, too. It’s a healing gift, maybe the only hope for the world you’ll grow up in, a world that often seems like it’s better suited to hating, tearing down and destroying–even killing–than to loving, building up and creating. Maybe that’s why God came to earth as a baby; maybe it’s the most beautiful literary metaphor of all time. I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know everything, and sometimes I question everything. It’s okay to question, to not know. But please don’t kill your artist now. I love you too much to see it happen to you, too… ” I drifted from my emotional diatribe back into silence.

“Fine,” my daughter finally said. “What if we had our big nutcracker lip sync one of the refrains?”

My five-year-old son was enthusiastic from the start, especially when I promised him he’d get to sing into the “mike-a-phone.” We spent the weekend working as a family, even roping in some of our awesome neighbors. Below is the result of our shared efforts. From our family and community to yours, Merry Christmas!

December Power Word: SPARKLE!

9 Dec

The Muse loves the holidays! Parties and gifts and lots and lots of cooking provide endless outlets for creative ideas. Let your creative inspiration shine and sparkle all around you this month. Are you waiting for inspiration? It’s here!

FLAVOR! Experiencing the different flavors of life

25 Nov

On facebook there was a game that if you commented or liked someone’s post about “what you might not know about me”, they will give you a number and ask for you to write something about yourself that people might not know.

Here is what I wrote:

Here are 11 things about me, in case you didn’t know.
1. I’m a level 2 Reiki practitioner
2. Lived in the projects in Queens, NY for the first 12 years of my life
3. Love Disco
4. When I was 10 years old I send John Travolta $1.00 for his birthday LOL.
5. Was an aerobic instructor in my late teens.
6. My first car was a Suzuki jeep.
7. Did a commercial for a Puertorican magazine.
8. Lived in Minnesota for 1 year
9. Owned a small business with a friend doing personalized books for children in Los Angeles.
10. I’m into genealogy! I researched my Grandmother’s family history from France to Spain and than to Puerto Rico.
11. Love to cross stitch

I found it interesting that many were surprised that I lived in Minnesota, or that I was into Reiki or enjoyed cross stitching.   They couldn’t see me doing those things or being interested in them.

I have always love experiencing new things and I’m willing to take a chance and give it a try before I say “No thanks, this is not for me”.   I want to taste, smell (well I don’t have sense of smell, so this is a hard one :-)), and see new things.  In a way I want to experience life like a toddler does.  I think we have lost that in our society.  We look at the world with eyes of distrust, judging it’s every move, and always trying to rush through it, till one day we stop and see that life has just flown by, and all the dreams and hope that we had once when we were younger are gone.   We then say I’m to old, don’t have enough money, I might as well give up on my dreams.

I’ve had those moments, that years pass by and I say “where did time go”.  But I also have had those moments that I try to cherish every second, every moment.  Because I know that today and NOW is all we have.  Life does not guarantee me that I will be here tomorrow.   So if TODAY is all I have than what am I willing to do, to savor, to experience right now!  What is my life purpose? What can I do to contribute to the world that I live in? How will my children remember me, when I’m gone?  These are the questions that I ask of myself.

cross stitchYes! I cross stitch, I practice Reiki, I love doing mud races and getting muddy, and jumping out of airplanes.  But I also love baking cookies with my girls, and watching movies on the floor when it’s raining, and playing board games.  I love making Christmas magical for them, because I too want to believe in Santa Claus!

So, I ask you, what are you choosing to experience in your life TODAY?

November Power Word: FLAVOR!

9 Nov

During this kickoff season of notoriously unhealthy eating, focus on FLAVOR in your work as well as your diet. Forgo fatty fillers that add nothing to the content of your creation. Limit the sugary sweetness that in excess dulls the palette and even makes one nauseous. Instead, savor the FLAVOR! Spicy, saucy, tangy or tart; rich, deep, succulent or simmered–that’s the stuff feasts are made of.

20131109-100424.jpg

SOAR! On a new breeze

23 Oct

It’s Fall!  My favorite season. I love when it’s still warm outside but cool breezes whisper across your skin. And you begin detecting the dusty smell of leaves drying up and falling from their homes in the sky.

Taking inspiration from this eagle in my neighborhood

Taking inspiration from this eagle in my neighborhood

I think I’ve always loved Fall also because it meant the beginning of school. Not that school was utopia for me.  Like for most people, I imagine, it was equal parts joy, terror, and boredom.  But the first day of school was the start of something new. New classes, new notebooks, new pencils, new possibilities.  In many ways I associate Fall with renewal more than I do Spring.

With that in mind, what can I do to SOAR this month?  Two things, I think.

First, to let the momentum I’ve already created in my creative projects (writing a middle grade novel and querying an early chapter book,) carry me along, like those currents in the air upon which birds soar. Second, to take stock of where I am, what I’m spending my energy on, and clear out some of the clutter that may weigh me down.

Can I tell a story people will care about? Can I find an agent who’s interested in my writing?  Time will tell.  For now, I just have to focus on SOARING!

BOUNCE! From one thing to the next

16 Oct

Yes, I know it’s October, but I’m BOUNCING back to our September power word because I’m still processing that one!

I met with my Chicks recently and we had an interesting discussion. We talked about all the things we have going on. As much as we lamented having Too Much To Do, the reality is we all still wish we could do more!  But we know we simply can’t.

In reflecting now, I acknowledge I need to say “no” a bit more, so I can focus more. But, I must let go of the idea that life will fall into a nice, neat, orderly plan.  My closet, yes. My life, no. (Maybe this is why I like organizing closets so much.)   There are so many things that are a true “yes”, that if I let go of, would diminish my life considerably.

MichaelMaggs Edit by Richard Bartz

MichaelMaggs Edit by Richard Bartz

My writing works this way too, sometimes.  I’m working on a middle grade contemporary novel this year, but I had a chapter book that I wrote a long time ago and never felt confident about sending it out.  Now that more agents are seeking chapter books, it was time to bring it back out.  So, I BOUNCED back to it.  Revised it. Polished it.  Sent it to my beloved early readers.  Read the feedback. Revised some more. Polished some more and now…I’m querying!  And, I have more energy with that off my plate to BOUNCE back to my middle grade novel.  In fact, I’ve already added a couple thousand words.

I’ve embraced the fact that my list will remain long: family time, volunteering with my kids’ schools, cooking healthy meals, my consulting work which is satisfying and keeps me engaged professionally, writing, being an active critique group member and of course, time with my Four Chicks.  But I will stop beating myself up for how I get it all done.  The way I get it done is by bouncing from one thing to the next. It’s not neat. It’s not linear. And, it’s not pretty.  But you know what? It gets done.

So, I say it’s okay to BOUNCE, as long as you finish things along the way.  Just keep BOUNCING and learn to enjoy the ride.

SOAR! to See More

10 Oct

Do you ever feel like your project is just too big, too difficult for you to handle? I did. Whenever I’d start to work on my novel, or more precisely think about working on it, I’d more often than not culminate in overwhelmed defeat and just give up.

SOAR: Feel free to expand.

SOAR: Feel free to expand.

Then last fall, I received a piece of advice from author Mark Spencer that has changed my perspective: Don’t be afraid to expand. 

This gem came to me while taking an online class through Writer’s Digest University, for which Mark was my amazing instructor. Besides writing the actual submissions each week, which was very motivating, I would whine ventexpress to my Mark how overwhelmed I felt by the whole process of trying to write. He assured me that my despondent, neurotic anxieties were actually ‘normal behavior’ for writers, thereby proving myself to be one.

Still, I complained that I didn’t even know if I could fit my story into one book, which is when he told me to feel free to expand. What a horrifying suggestion, I thought at first, to make it bigger than it already was! In retrospect, my fear was telling me to make the story smaller, simpler, easier. But the story itself was telling me otherwise. Mark told me to listen to the story, and in so doing, to myself.

When you're SOARING, the size of the sky is freeing, not frightening.

When you’re SOARING, the size of the sky is freeing, not frightening.

This fall, I’m taking WDU’s Advanced Novel Writing course. Mark’s helping me through another chunk of my novel, impelling me with insights and encouraging feedback that only an experienced author can give.

It’s still a bit scary to look at it all from up high, seeing how much there is yet to be done.

But with my synopsis providing my birds-eye view, I can soar down to my sharply focused target–crafting one precious scene at a time–without fearing the size of the surrounding sky.

October Power Word: SOAR!

6 Oct

If you’ve ever been at a very high elevation–skydiving, hang gliding, mountain climbing, skiing–you know that feeling of airy quiet where it seems the words you speak, or even your breaths, echo in your head; where the air is so thin that it takes all your stamina just to get enough oxygen (especially if you live as we do in the humid south).

Soaring to new heights requires a lot of energy and focus, and, understandably, it’s sometimes easier just to keep your feet on the ground. But the rewards are at the top, so even though it might be a tough climb, it’s worth it!

Share with us how you’re soaring this month!

skydiving

TWIST AND BOUNCE: How a story got twisted

25 Sep

I’m kind of mad at my fellow Chick Tracey because she already came up with the idea to cheat and use TWIST and BOUNCE in one post. *stamps around pouting*

Okay, so I’m not really mad. It just shows we’re brilliant (or that we put things off–in my case, WAY off)!

OLIVIA TWISTED debuts in less than two months! *Cue freaking out*

This month, I thought I’d share some of the ways I twisted the original characters of OLIVER TWIST to make it a contemporary story, giving you a little insight to the world of OLIVIA TWISTED.

CHARACTERS

Olivia (Liv) Westfield (Oliver Twist)
Olivia, like Oliver, is an orphan. While Oliver lived his young life in a workhouse, Olivia is raised in the foster care system. Like Oliver, she yearns for love and, regardless of a rough life, is still innocent at heart. But though Oliver never really did anything illegal on his own, Olivia made some wrong choices. Sometimes making the wrong choices helps guide a person to making the right ones later.

Z (The Artful Dodger)
I think I might’ve had a tiny crush on the Artful Dodger when I was a little kid and saw the movie Oliver! Just a tiny one, mind you, before I realized he probably should take a bath. So maybe that influenced my decision to make Z the hot bad boy who rides a Ducati. But I always liked how the Artful Dodger took Oliver in hand and was a friend to him (albeit a friend with underhanded motives). I thought this was the perfect opportunity to brew a romance with Liv (I like brewing things, you know). His internal turmoil begins when he starts thinking about someone else besides himself for once in his life.

Nancy (Fagin/Nancy)
Oh, poor Nancy from the original story—what a horrible hand she was dealt in life. Seriously. But I really liked her and the way she fought against everything to help Oliver, even though it led to her demise. I made her the “mom” of the Monroe Street gang because I always thought she deserved better. Though sometimes her decisions are a little messed up (hello, Bill Sykes).

Bill Sykes (Bill Sikes)
Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you: Bill Sykes. Yes, Bill is the leader of the hackers (and, cough cough, other homes of ill-repute). He was evil in Oliver Twist. He is evil in my story. Evil can be so much fun (*rubs hands together evilly*)!

Sam (Charley Bates)
Yes, I could’ve named her Charley after the Artful Dodger’s sidekick. But Sam is the type not to do anything because someone told her to. She was Sam to me from the very beginning, and her character is quite happy with that name. Sam is the fun-loving friend and partner of Z’s who befriends Olivia right off the bat. Sam is much closer to Olivia than Charley was to Oliver, though, like Z, her motives aren’t always well intentioned.

BOUNCE over to my website at www.vivibarnes.com to see more on how I twisted the classic. Then BOUNCE over to www.oliviatwisted.com to check out the new trailer for Olivia Twisted, which debuted this past week on www.Hypable.com (there’s still a couple days left to enter to win a signed book and swag)!

Dizzy yet? 😉

Add OLIVIA TWISTED to your Goodreads shelf.

Pre-order OLIVIA TWISTED from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million

OliviaTwistedCover

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