Make Mine Bold

A writer's journey through life, creation, publishing, and more

I may have been late to the party (seeing as I was born the following morning), but I am a Christmas baby. It is no secret to the people in my life that I love all things holidays. It is a special time of the year for me and my family. It has always been about making it magical for the kids in our lives while also remembering the reason for the season from a spiritual perspective. I think those spiritual reasons have become a bit more in focus for me in recent years, primarily because I am single and don’t have kids of my own. I still enjoy the festivities with those I love though. And I even get a little wistful hoping that someday I’ll meet someone that I can start some of my own traditions and make holiday memories with. I try very hard to let it all go and just stay in the moments I have with my family though.

Cakes by Me and Mom

It is also a very hectic time of the year for most people. While this year will be somewhat different for many, I am sure. 2020 has been a tough year for just about everyone you talk to. At some homes there won’t be holiday celebrations as in years past. People will be missing thanks to this pandemic. Sadly, many will choose not to gather with their family in a time when we really should be relying on family. Whether that’s because of guidelines given by medical advisors, mandated stay home orders, or fear of catching or spreading this virus it is just a sad thing that there will be families missing opportunities to make memories and share time with one another. For me, I’m looking forward to spending some time with my grandparents and my best friend. And the next few weeks are going to be full of preparations for time away from home.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner now. In fact, I’m going to have to get to the store this weekend to pick up the rest of the trimmings for our Thanksgiving meal here at home. Just my parents, myself, and the pups. However, we’ll enjoy Daddy’s smoked turkey, my devilled eggs, grandma’s dressing recipe, and Momma’s pineapple casserole just the same. It doesn’t matter that there won’t be a parade on TV. We’ll still celebrate the day, share what we are thankful for, and get into the holiday spirit.

In the next few weeks, there will be much to do. As is our tradition, my momma and I will be in the kitchen cooking, baking, and making candy for the family. Things we do every year together. And I’m looking forward to spending some time with my grandparents for Christmas. And I am increasingly grateful that I’ll have the opportunity to do so. That opportunity isn’t always there. So I am grateful to be able to do that this year.

There are always memories to be made at the holidays. I think that this year has put into perspective for me that we’re not always guaranteed time with the people we love. The reality, for me, is that I realize that eventually, I’m likely to face spending holidays alone. So, I plan to cherish the time I do have with my family and being part of something larger. I know that won’t always be the case for me. So I appreciate all that I can while I can.

I keep telling myself that I need to take more pictures, to document these times and memories so that I have them to look back on. The truth is that I get so caught up in just being in the moment that I don’t always pick up my phone or my camera to take pictures. I want to make sure that I take that time to document my memories with them this holiday season.

I also want to take some time to get some positive momentum going for a new year ahead. Please, God, let it be better than 2020!

So I’m looking forward to new projects, building new relationships online and off, and continued success as a student. I’m into my second term as an Elementary Education student with Western Governors University and I definitely have my work cut out for me. Coupled with trying to run a startup business as an author entrepreneur and likely working a day job (once I can find one). At least I’ll keep busy and hopefully focused on positive things in my life. Maybe I’ll get to have a few adventures along the way and take some time to have a bit of fun. We’ll just have to see what happens though.

As I usually do, I plan to sit down with my planners and put some goals and ideas down for things in the new year. I have several versions of planners that I use. I thought that I might do a post reviewing the different planner formats, tools, and what my planning process is for the new year. Drop me a comment if you’re remotely interested in that process and my honest reviews for the various planners I use.

Until next time, hug someone you love today. We all need a little extra TLC these days. So if you can’t hug someone, be kind and try to make someone smile.

Today was all about the baby boy. My Chiweenie, Pippin has had these small bumps on his chest for about a year. They’re small and felt like cysts to me and, as they haven’t been bugging him, I’ve not been too concerned. Except that now, they’ve almost doubled in size over the last six months. So, I decided a trip to the vet was in order to have them looked at. Better safe than sorry with the history of doggo cancers we’ve had. He loves the ride with me in the car, that is, until we pull up onto the hill where the vet’s office is. Then the whining starts. he knows that place is where he gets poked, prodded, and they always do the thing he hates most… trim his nails. It is seriously a two person job because he fights so hard when it’s done.

The good news is that the vet thinks they’re likely just lipomas (fatty cysts). She did take a sample and will analyze it to be sure. We’ll have those results tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise, he’s a happy, healthy pup. Which is good. And we got his booster shot since it was about time for that as well. Results come back good then he’s all set until April. And after the “torture” we went to get some popcorn chicken at Sonic. That’s our usual “date” when we go for a ride and I wasn’t about to skip it this time. Tomorrow he has to have his flea and heartworm pill though. That’s fun. He’ll be a sleepy boy. Tough week for my baby but, it needs to be done.

That little dog is my constant companion. Been my best bud since I got him when he was six weeks old. It is hard to believe that he is 7 years old now. Time flies before you even know it has passed. I wouldn’t trade a day with this litle guy for anything.

For all the running today, I still have the work cut out for me. I am also struggling to get myseslf on a more normal schedule. I took something to help me sleep at a normal hour last night. Of course, I set an alarm to get up about 8:30 this morning. Either it didn’t go off or I slept through it. This is why I usually make appointments for the afternoon. I am such a night owl by nature. A typical day for me doesn’t end until about 3:30 AM. That’s when I finally stop working on things and go play a game on the iPad for a while and put something on the TV until I eventually get so sleepy I put it away and drift off to sleep. Tonight, I need to work on this history class and do some work on the outlines and character sketches for the new series.

You know, my life is generally a solitary one. I spend more time with my computer and the pup than I do with people. I suppose that’s why I have weathered this lockdown fairly well. I’ve kept myself busy since I was sent home from the day job, mostly with school. There has also been a great deal of thought given to how I could move my writing career forward as well. Fresh material is a must, of course. There is also a matter of looking into additional revenue sources that I’ve overlooked and overhauling my online presence.

I’m a fiction author. There are new things coming in 2021. However, the most popular thing in my back catalog at the moment is my Slauson Cove novels. So, I am considering doing a bit of overhaul on the initial novel and designing some merchandise for people to have a little something to remember their “visit” to Slauson Cove. Tshirts, hoodies, mugs, and other novelty items will be the focus. I’m also going to do an overhaul of the website over at http://www.annebellefiction.com so that I have something up to date and fresh for visitors. Besides, any artist grows and the website should grow with them.

You may also notice that I’ve made some changes here on the blog as well. I’m redefining my presence online in general. I want to connect more with my readers and share more of my process and my life on my own platforms. I’m doing away with Facebook aside from the automatic posts about the blog. I’ve never been good at using it consistently. I don’t like to share all the little details of my life because it isn’t all that exciting or glamorous. I may start doing more with Instagram though. I’ll experiment with it and see how I like it and drop the details in a future post. Taking control of the blog is a start.

I definitely have my work cut out for me over the next few weeks. And I think it is best to get to it!

When I started my writing journey back in the 1990s I had no idea where it would lead me. All I knew, for certain, was that I enjoyed the process of creating a world that I, and others, could escape into. My life was turbulent in the best of times in those years. Writing became a way of coping with bad situations that I couldn’t control. It was a plus that people I allowed to read these early stories found them entertaining and full of promise. They enjoyed them and were encouraging in my efforts.

It has been a journey. I’m going to show my age for a moment.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The early days were simple. I wasn’t from a wealthy family who could afford early PCs for me to word process on. It started with notebooks and mechanical pencils or pens. My love affair with stationery started early and persists to this day. My other love was music. So when most kids were headed for the toy section or the new video games, I was found in school supplies and the music section. I had plenty of mixed cassettes from hours of listening to the local FM radio station waiting for favorite songs. I had a fair amount of studio-recorded albums too. But my favorites were the mixes that I got from friends and family who would put them together. My uncle bought me a walkman when I was about 12 and from then on, it became one of my favorite things. I could shut my bedroom door, put on my headphones, plug in a mixtape, and pick up a notebook and pen/pencil and I was set for hours. The real world went away for a while.

My grandparents eventually gave me a word processor. It looked like an electric typewriter only there was a small screen where you could watch your typing go across. It had a 3.5 floppy disk drive to store your work and then you could feed paper into the rollers and it would type it out automatically. It eliminated the bulk of the need for correction tape. And I would spend as many weekends as I could at their house happily typing away on it.

I migrated to a CD player when I started college in 1997. A small boom box that was enough to sit on my desk to help with drowning out noisy roommates in the dorm and portable enough to take home with me to use on the weekends I was off-campus. And eventually, my grandparents gave me a laptop. That first one must have been 3 inches thick and weighed in the neighborhood of 10 pounds, but I was ecstatic with it. Finally, I had access to Windows 95 and WORD. So began my preoccupation with writing software and computers.

Now, there are dual monitors for my PC, a laptop, and an iPad that I use for writing and schooling. My walkman and boombox are long gone, replaced by an iPhone and Amazon music. The headphones remain a steadfast necessity though. There are times I still need to drown the world out to get things done. I’ve held firm to my love of stationery though. Anyone will tell you that my biggest collection revolves around pens, highlighters, notebooks, journals and other desk paraphernalia. I write with Scrivener. Format with Word. And I’m longing to make the switch from PC to Mac lately. But, the process all begins with a notebook, my pens, and an idea.

The world is a crazy place. With lockdowns, virus panic, political turmoil, and all the rest, I’ve returned to the basics of getting lost in a world that, for me at least, is more hospitable and makes sense. I’m sure eventually these stories will find their way to others who would like to be lost in the place I’ve created.

Today, my Amazon music is set to a retro 80’s mix. Currently listening to New Sensation by INXS. I’ve got my writing buddy in his bed by my feet. I’m working on character sketches and outlines for a new paranormal series. It is time to embark on something fresh and new. That’s meant putting together a new “series bible” for reference and shifting gears in what I’m focusing on. Paranormal enthusiasts should like this series though. Yes, it will be fiction and somewhat sensationalized but it is also fun pulling from personal experiences working in the paranormal investigation field for so many years. And it’s also fun creating my own secret society.

Enough spoilers though. Time to get to work on it.

I do hope that you’re all doing well and making the most of this crazy season in life for everyone.

I want to do more posting here in the coming months. I would appreciate if readers would share the blog with others and comment if you have questions for me. Questions don’t have to be writing-related. Knowing what you’re all curious about helps me to know what to post about. If you want the scoop on the writing and publishing process, I can post more on that. But if you’re curious about hobbies or related product reviews, the paranormal experiences, or whatever, I’d be happy to do posts on those things as well. So, leave me a comment about what you’d like to see in this blog.

More soon! Stay sane and stay safe everyone!

If you’ve followed me online, here or elsewhere, you’ll likely recall that I usually take part in NanoWrimo. It is one of the few times of year that I really buckle down to focus on putting substantial word counts on the page along with other amazing writers. This year, I’m breaking away from the tradition. Not because I have no story to work on, but because I need to break from routines that haven’t served me well.

November has always seemed to me to be a bad month for such a major challenge. I mean, it is the middle of the holiday season and many people have extra obligations on their time with family gatherings, travel, end of the year deadlines looming, and events related to celebrations to attend or plan. Without fail, for me, there have just been too many distractions in the month of November to make the challenge without a significant amount of unnecessary stress. This year, when the Preptober videos started to pop into my YouTube feed, I recognized that there really was no way for me to commit to the challenge.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Life has changed for millions of us with the onset of this pandemic. It would be a lie to say that I’ve not seen some significant changes in my own life. Losing a job in April and now finding that, despite the lifting of restrictions, the job market for people with my skills is simply not bouncing back, well, that’s left me in a real predicament that I will need to remedy somehow soon. Now, add to that the fact that I’ve started back to school with a serious focus on study and there are bigger demands on my time creating more stress that factors in. Taking on a big challenge with a deadline like that is not going to make writing any easier and certainly won’t help my mental state. So, I wish those of you participating this year the best of luck in completing the 50K challenge. I’ll be cheering you all on from the sidelines!

I will say that it is not a matter of not wanting to write though. In fact, I’m happy to say that I am starting something new and what I hope will turn into something quite special for my readers. I say it is new, but it is really an older idea I’ve had floating about for a bit that I rediscovered while going through old files to organize my computer. The excitement of new characters and developing back stories is a fun part of the writing process for me. So, I will happily toil away on my laptop in my home office or in local cafes throughout November for writing and study sessions alike. In fact, I’ll probably be spotted doing just that throughout the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. I have found a great little local coffee spot closer to home. I’ll have to post a review when I get some pictures.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

I find myself slipping more lately. I haven’t been completely compliant with the idea of staying home. I can admit that much. However, I don’t get out often either. That’s something that I need to change in my life. You see, I’m one of millions that have depression. Some days are better than others. If I am truly honest, there have been more hard days than good days lately. They seem to come in waves.

For example, I’ve fought insomnia for weeks. I’ve had my days and nights mixed up making it hard to even function normally. I’ve drifted into periods of mindless surfing of social media and videos on YouTube or watching old cartoons on Amazon Prime or Netflix. I’ve read books, played mindless games on my iPad, and started to work on art pieces that never seem to get finished. Then again, I have experienced stretches where I could sleep for days on ened. Get up for just an hour or so and right back to bed for hours. My pup loves these days, mind you. I’ll try setting alarms, even multiple alarms in succession, only to sleep through them. I know that none of this is good for me, but its a viscious cycle and now being out of work, I certainly don’t have the luxury of health insurance to be able to get to the doctor.

I’ve attempted to give myself a schedule. I wanted to find things to do with myself. I think that was partly why I got back on the dating sites. Like maybe if I had somewhere to be, or someone to see and spend time with, it would help me find that motivation. It never takes long before I give up on those though. I’m just not the typical modern gal. What can I say? I’ll blog more on that at a later time though.

One good thing from all of this, I joined a local church and started getting to Sunday School more often. The insomnia has been a problem. Online services have been a blessing for me to keep up with the sermon series when I haven’t heard the alarms. The truth is, I feel like this was a very good decision and that I’m finding a group of people that are like-minded at least. So, that’s a good thing. I’m actually really looking forward to the Fall Fest they are having. It should be fun. But, despite feeling good and motivated when I leave church, it is still a struggle to find the energy and motivation to get up and get dressed to go on Sundays.

I always have good intentions when I begin a new thing. But there comes a point when you have to step back and gain some perspective on where you are in life and where you’re going. And like many others out there, 2020 dealt more than a few blows for me to deal with. I was dealing with writer’s block and trying to keep myself motivated to show up and write. Just when I was starting to get back into the groove, crippling self-doubt decided to show up. That caused me to think about what I was doing with my life. And I decided that it was time to change trajectory a bit.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I didn’t want to stop writing entirely. I love it too much to ever give it up entirely. Yet, I am not the marketing guru that many successful authors are. Frankly, I’m not the social butterfly and I don’t have the self-confidence to think that anyone really cares to hear what I have to say. So I’m a social media flop really. And apparently, it takes quite a bit of social savvy to make a writing career prosperous. I love creating characters, giving a little escape from the mundane (which I think we can all agree is needed right now), and even creating a story that people take something away from. I even love helping people to do just that. So, it stood to reason that I began to question how I could take my passion for stories and turn it into something that could sustain me financially.

In April I was laid off thanks to Covid-19. It took far too long to get on unemployment because, at first, it seemed like it would only be for a couple of weeks. Then it was extended further and by the time I was told to file by the agency I was working for, the websites were so bogged down that it took weeks to even get an application for it put in. In the meantime, I’d made applications concerning financial aid and returning to school. As it turned out, I was able to do just that. So, I enrolled at Western Governors University in their Education Program to complete my B.A.

Life is a journey though. And starting school at 41 years old seemed a little crazy to me. It’s a total career change from the office work and customer service work I’ve done in the past. Change is necessary though when you find a purpose and a goal that you feel is worth pursuing. Helping people find a love of story and perhaps pursue writing themselves is a worthwhile goal. And I know it’s not an overnight career either to get to my ultimate goal, but I can start by working with young children helping them find adventures between the covers of books that inspire them. Eventually, though, I want to teach others to write as well. Help aspiring novelists find their own voices, create characters, and twist a plot that keeps readers coming back for more.

I did a great deal of soul searching in this process. I looked at options. I thought about throwing in the towel with my books. They don’t seem to be getting any traction really. I realized that writing for the money wouldn’t make me happy. I’m not aiming to be the New York Times Bestseller. I want to be comfortable, just like everyone else, of course. That doesn’t always mean big houses, fancy cars, or lavish vacations.

At 41 and being single, I’ve made my peace with the idea that I’ll never have a family of my own. At least, it won’t be kids running around my feet. I’m likely to have a small herd of pups at some point though. I don’t even know that I’ll meet anyone to share my life with. I love kids though. And I remember how much I was influenced by amazing teachers throughout my education. I remember seeing first hand the impact a teacher can make in a community when my Great Grandmother passed away when I was young. I couldn’t even give you a number on how many former students came to pay respects. It’s a legacy of caring and generosity that she left behind. Maybe they weren’t able to pinpoint specific things that she taught them, but they never forget how she cared and tried to teach them well. I’m a part of that legacy and I want to carry it on in my own way.

So, I started the journey to getting that degree and being in a classroom of my own. I took time away from writing to adjust to academic life again. In a way, I’m glad that I’ve been out of work like this. It’s given me a chance to find a purpose again and start fresh.

I don’t want to stop creating though. But it’s time for something fresh and new to add to my catalog. Something that will showcase the progress in my writing and maybe attract a new audience.

I pulled out a partial manuscript that I was playing with before. Fresh characters, set primarily in East Texas, and with a supernatural mystery that is challenging on many levels. The concept is sound and I’m excited to get back to work on it as I await my next term to start.

Oh, that’s right, I completed a full term of my studies so far. So, we’re well on our way to that degree. And I found a new local coffee spot to make my little home away from home to work on this project. That’s promising for me. To go with it are new horizons for social interaction, putting down some roots in this community, and new attitudes for me.

For those of you who have stuck around through all my ups, downs, and lack of posts; thank you for being here and reading. I hope to be more consistent, but I make no guarantees. This is a journey worth sharing though. I hope to do just that.

In every story, there is a point where the protagonist has an epiphany and things begin to take shape into something we are hoping for them. In romances, this is usually the part where the guy makes the turn around to go and be with the heroine so they can seek out their little slice of happily ever after. In mysteries, this is when a key clue comes into play and suddenly things start to become clear. You get the idea. The point is, I feel like I have crossed one of those thresholds in this book I call life.

Turning 40, entering a new decade of life, gives you pause to consider where your life is taking you. I know that I enjoyed seeing my family over the holidays. I also enjoyed seeing my best friend and being able to help her plan her upcoming wedding. There will be more of that via Skype this year as we get closer to her big day. My nieces are growing up way too fast on me. And all around me are constant reminders of a dream I once had of having a family and home of my own one day. However, it would appear that God had other plans for me. So, I’m looking at how to shape my life and accept that won’t be part of it.

Writing is, for me at least, a solitary life. I have my pup and I spend time with family but, I need to spend some time this year putting down some roots, branching out socially, and networking more. It occurs to me that to keep from becoming a total hermit in life, it is time for me to start living and doing more outside of the usual home and studio comfort zones. While 2018 was a good and productive year, it wasn’t until the last few months that I got out and really started mingling with people. That’s something that I want to change in the coming year.

It is time for me to start doing more to pay it forward. And I’ll be branching out into new creative endeavors. I’ve taken stock enough to realize that I have a lot more skills to use than just in writing. I think I’ll take on a few coaching clients and help others make their dream of writing and publishing a reality. I also want to put my performance skills to use and help put audiobooks together for indie authors as well. Let’s not forget the need for book trailer videos as well.

This means some changes here on the blog. I really want to have more fun this year and share that with all of you. So maybe you’ll see more about the little trips I take, fun times out as I make new friends and take part in local events. What I want to bring here is more happiness, motivation, and inspiration. That may mean I review more books, movies, or even post music that moves me when I hear it.

In that vein, let me just say that I’m really digging this new track I heard on the trip back from Kentucky. Maybe you’ll like it too.

I’ve been cut off from civilization for two weeks! We had no internet for the duration of our trip to Kentucky to see family for Christmas. But, it proved to be a good thing. Lot of time to talk and spend time with people that I don’t see but every couple of years. Also lots of time to think about where the new year will take me and how to best live my own life.

Getting back to Texas was interesting. The trip back always seems to take longer for some reason. Maybe it is the let down of it all being over with and knowing that the humdrum of real daily life is just around the corner again. Anyway, we came back and I took a day to relax and rest up before getting my mindset all back into the work ahead of me.

While I was away I crossed a major milestone birthday and turned 40.  Crazy right?! I know I’m having a hard time believing that I am officially middle-aged. In many ways, I still feel like I am in my early 20s. I suppose that’s true for most of us though. I spent the actual day with friends for a bit in the early part of the day. My god-daughters made cupcakes and my bestie and I got to sit around chatting like old times and planning her upcoming wedding. So, yep, I’ll be making another trip north in the next year for that.  Then my nieces and grandparents all went out to dinner. There was lots of cake and ice cream for two days since I have my sister-in-law’s birthday two days after mine and we celebrated my niece’s birthday which isn’t until mid-January as well. But it was great to be able to enjoy time with everyone for a change and celebrate.

I have more planning to do since I got back. It’s time to set some goals for the new year on a personal and professional level. However, it also warrants me saying a heartfelt thank you to those of you who have joined my journey as an author. From your encouraging messages, comments, and social media interaction to the amazing reviews left on my books over on Amazon. I count myself truly blessed in 2018.

I’ve seen doors open and others close. I’ve found myself questioning my choice to publish at all, only to have someone pop up at the right moment and encourage me to keep going with it all. And keep going I shall!

Here at the end of another year, it is time to think about an upgrade to aspects of my platform. That newsletter is coming this year. There will be more blog posts on writing, life, and all the creativity that I do. I think at 40, I’m finally finding my feet on this living life thing. I’m excited for what lay ahead of me.

That being said, I’m getting on the ball here to make plans, do some writing on the next book, and get some blogs ready to go for the new year! There’s much to catch up on since I was cut off for so long.

My Nanowrimo effort fell off the radar early on in November. The truth is things became so busy that I didn’t have much time to write at all. However, the month was hugely productive nonetheless. It turned out that the bakery business part of my creative endeavors had an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. Our local town had its first annual Yulefest on the 1st of December. Festivities included vendors of arts and crafts, a breakfast with Santa for the kids, photo ops, a parade, the Christmas tree lighting, and a movie on the square downtown.

It was a perfect opportunity for us to get out there, meet the public, and let them get a taste of what we offer while also giving out brochures and letting them know; “Hey! We’re here!”

We had a ton of product. In fact, we made enough for a two-day event. Buckeye candy, fudge, 3 varieties of cookies, reindeer chow, and our Christmas popcorn were all on display. The gingerbread didn’t last long. In fact, we sold out of the mini gingerbread men and only had 6 of the larger cookies pictured at the end of the day.  Our Reindeer Chow was also a big hit with the crowd. People were coming back to buy seconds throughout the day. So, I’ll count that a win.

Now that we are past that event, my mind is back to writing projects. Preparations are happening for the next Armageddon Rising book. That’s my fallen angel series. You can grab the first installment here: The Fallen . I’m really excited about continuing this one and I have people who are waiting to see what Lou and Mistrael are really up to. I’m ready to explore this story arc again and I am already making outlines, adding new details about characters who have yet to make appearances. So there is a lot going on with that now that I can settle in and spend time focusing on it.

However, there isn’t much time between our little bakery extravaganza and the holiday trip we have planned.

This will be the first time in four years that I’ve been home with my family for Christmas. Now, family here includes my grandparents, my little brother, his girls, his wife, and momma. It’s overdue for me to be there. And it looks more and more like we’ll have a white Christmas given the weather reports. Mom and I are actually debating on what day we need to leave since we’re making the 16-hour drive through Arkansas, Tennessee, and across the state of Kentucky to our destination at the homestead. But I know that we’re both looking forward to all the hugs, laughs, and holiday traditions.

I’m taking my notes with me to continue working. I’m also taking my gaming materials so that I can run a D & D session or two with friends and family while I’m there. My brother is a gamer and always has been. I’m just getting into it really. But the kids will have fun since I’ll run something kid-friendly for them to participate an learn. My best friend and her girls are supposed to be making time to come and play as well so we can spend some time together.

Yes, good times are ahead of me. And I’m ready for some R&R while I’m there.

But there is also something about taking some time while I’m there to write in a place where it all started for me. In fact, my old school desk where I learned to write is in my room there. I’m amazed they still have it honestly. Not that I can sit in it anymore. My nieces sit at it now sometimes. And it’s good to see. But, the nostalgia of being at my grampa’s desk and writing in a notebook is definitely going to get those creative juices going again.

I’m also taking my pencils and sketchbook so that I can enjoy some art projects with my older niece. That reminds me, I need to finish this piece on the easel before I leave. I have a few gifts I’ve picked up to wrap up. And I know I need to take my new bujo to set up while I’m there.

I am definitely thinking of changes in the new year.  Turning 40 is definitely giving me a bit of a pause. I’m thinking this is a topic for another post but, I’m definitely thinking about life up to now and how I want things to change for me going forward. That means embracing spinsterhood and getting more focused on balancing day jobs, writing, social, and spiritual life. It’s trickier than I ever thought it could be.

More on that later though…

It stands to reason that the Haunting of Hill House story has had an influence on me from a young age. I found stories about hauntings, houses, and the supernatural to be endless sources of inspiration even in my teens. When I was in college and out on my own for the first time, movies like 1999’s The Haunting were popular. At least they were among the fans of horror and supernatural films. It was based on a novel written by Shirley Jackson in 1959. It featured an amazing house full of odd rooms, secret passages, and, of course, ghosts. My eccentric little self pined for that house and still does in a way.

It also boasted a well-known blockbuster director in Jan de Bont and a cast that included Liam Neisen and Catherine Zeta-Jones. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely say, watch it for nostalgia sake. It was pretty well done for the time.

Yet recently, it got a massive makeover and has been the talk of horror movie communities all over the internet. Netflix seems to have spared no expense in the creation of the new series The Haunting of Hill House. And I recently sat down to watch it.

I have to say, this is, in my humble opinion, one of the most well-done remakes in the genre. Once I sat down and watched the first episode, I was hooked. I ended up bingeing and watching the entire available series in one sitting. And I am hoping they continue the storyline for more.

Now, die-hard fans of the original films will point out some blatant deviations from the original storyline. However, I think that the writers did an amazing job of changing just enough of the story to enhance its creep factor, bring it to a modern audience, and still manage to make it feel original. (Which, incidentally, is a bit of a pet peeve of mine with the film industry in the USA, to begin with. More on that in another post.) They took, what some are calling a classic, and altered it enough to really tackle modern issues like drug addiction, mental illness, and child abuse. And I applaud the creators for not shying away from more supernatural and psychic elements as well. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to see how different the story of Hill House unfolded with the family who came to live there. It is a deep story that will, I’m sure, resonate with many people.

The visuals elements were immersive and full of subtle nuance. It is one of those series that you could watch several times and still see new things and draw a new conclusion each time you see it. I’m sure I’ll be watching it again myself in the near future. The darkness of the series isn’t found in the jump-scare tactics that most horror filmmakers rely on. Instead, it is in sadness, personal tragedy, pain, and loss where this series manages to pull at your nerves and set you on edge. Those tactics are well-placed and present for those classic horror film aficionados but, I honestly believe that even without those, this story has enough of a horror element to it that it fits the bill.

I admit to being skeptical about this at first. After all, why mess with something that was good, to begin with. But, I am glad to see that horror and suspense are taking a new direction. I hope that we see new voices, new stories, and a continuation of this style of filmmaking.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend a Netflix weekend when you can watch the whole thing. Once you start, it will keep you riveted to the very end.

I want to post more reviews about books, movies, and tv series that line up with what I write. So you can see more of these posts in the months to come. Have a suggestion for a series, movie, or book? Why not drop it in the comments for me? Or just tell me what you thought of either the 1999 version of the Hill House story or this new adaptation! I’d love to hear what you thought as well.

 

The holiday season is upon us again.

Thanksgiving is a week away and that means that Black Friday Sales deals are on the horizon for many of us. If you’re like me, you probably have a few people on your Christmas list that are hard to buy for beyond the usual gift selections in the aisles of your local Walmart or Target. So, I thought I would take a moment and give you some great gift ideas for the creative people in your life.

I’m going to keep this fairly general. Nothing specific for writers, artists, or crafters will be included in this post. However, I will likely do something for each niche in the next few weeks. My goal here is to give you some general ideas for how to inspire and empower the creative people in your life. You know, make sure they know you appreciate and encourage their creativity, quirkiness, and maybe even help them see that side of their personality in a new light.

I don’t have to put any disclaimers here. I’ll provide some links to sites that I think are great, of course. But, buying from these businesses (some of them small businesses) will only support them. I’m not one of these bloggers who have affiliations and get kick-backs from your purchases. So I can recommend them without a reservation on the simple premise that I like them and buy from them as well. That being said, let’s get started.

The first thing I would recommend for any creative person is so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think about it first.

A Journal

Yes, it is the simplest tool that any creative person can put in their arsenal. For the writer they are essential. A place to capture ideas, keep track of progress on projects, empty the clutter of the mind, and to refer when we need clarity. It is the same for visual artists. A blank sketchbook is an equivalent of giving an artist a world of their own to play in. And the truth is, this can be the most inexpensive gift option you could give.

A blank notebook is simple and inexpensive at Walmart. In fact, for less than $10.00 you could put together a set of journal and pens. Want to get fancy? Try heading to a stationery shop or a local Barnes & Noble or BAM for something a bit more sturdy and fashionable. Couple that with a fountain pen and you’re good to go. It’s a classic gift that will help any creative mind figure out what to do next.

Want to shop online? Try out sites like Levenger.com or Jetpens.com for options. Amazon is always a great resource as well. And I’ll give one more option at the end of this blog that will let you add a personal touch.

Bonus Idea: If your creative person is more tech-focused, you can also look at giving memberships to blogging communities like Livejournal.com or deviantArt.com that will give them a year of ad-free usage with a few other perks. There are also paid apps that you can give as well.

The next gift idea is something I have given to creative friends on numerous occasions.

Books On Creativity

There are loads of these out there and all of them have their merit.  For me, there are two that stand out on my shelf. (Hint: I’ve blogged about them before.)

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book quite literally has the power to change lives. It certainly did mine. A self-study course on how to unblock your creative self, I return to her process over and over again. It is something I have done not only on my own but with a group of others that has given my creativity a boost even when I thought it was buried. And you have several options with this because there is the original which will run you about $13.00 for the paperback, but there are continuations of this that are also included in a lovely hardback compilation edition that includes her additional books in the same process.  You can find it here: THE ARTIST’S WAY. And there are companion books, journals, and tools that you can also opt for.

Another book on creativity that I love and find inspirational is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino. (Which incidentally, will be going with me on my road trip home to see family this Christmas.). There are others and I’m not going to make a list of titles for this post. However, if you’re interested in a more comprehensive list and review of this type of book, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and make sure you subscribe so you won’t miss out on those posts. Maybe we’ll make use of the Creativity tag and category for these. Let me know.

 

And my last idea for this post is …

A personal planner or accessories for one that they already use.

I’m going to do a more in-depth post about this one closer to the start of 2019. But, all creative people need a way to keep things going, organized, and figure out what to do with their time. We’re all a little scatterbrained these days. A place to keep track of appointments, tasks, accomplishments, birthdays, and goals is essential for me. And I don’t think I know a creative person who is serious about getting projects done and out there to the public who doesn’t use some variation of a planner.

Now I’m a planner addict. I’m one of those color-coordinated people that has a case of stickers, colored pens, and stencils. I use a combination of an Erin Condren Life Planner and a Bujo that I personalize. But I’m not going to tell you that it’s a cheap gift to give. You can get cheap planners at Walmart. And you can find all sorts of accessories. Some people use travel journals for this purpose. (Yes, I have one of those too.) There are digital options, as with everything. And there are versions that range from being a very utilitarian calendar to more like a workable journal experience.

Erin Condren offers highly personalized options. I’ve collected custom covers over the years. 2019’s is a paisley design that features my initials. Last year’s looked like antique lace overlaying a pretty shade of blue with my name on it, and my first one three years ago also featured my name but was geometric and colorful with the quote “I Want to See You Be Brave” on it. That last one served as a reminder to keep going with the pursuit of my dreams.

Erin Condren also offers a lot of accessory options and they even have notebooks that also fit their custom covers which, by the way, are interchangeable throughout the year. One of these personalized notebooks would make for a great journal in my opinion! And I love the options for stickers, their pens, and their stylized sticky notes.