Monday, February 20, 2017

Where the Wild Chickens Are

The other day I posted some photos of the area where I live, and talked about how it's not the country by any means but to a girl who grew up in the city, it might as well be. Now, my husband and I take lots of walks. Outside of our development, we pass pens housing cows and horses. We see the occasional slinky otter, a trudging turtle or two, strutting sandhill cranes. Even an alligator now and then, sunning itself on the far bank of a lake. Keep in my mind, we're still on a sidewalk, near a road, with people and cars nearby. This is my kind of nature. (Otherwise, my imagination takes any kind of isolation scenario and runs cackling off with it into a dark and creepy place . . . .)

One day, my husband and I are walking along, minding our own business when something near a fence catches my eye. I don't have the best eyesight - I've been to know to mistake rocks for critters. But I knew this was an animal because it was moving. It was too tall to be an alligator, too small to be a sandhill crane. And it was round. And kind of . . . fluffy.

And it was coming right for us. 

Remember back in October, I attempted that 5K, the one with the "zombies" that come after you? Well, based on what happened next, I'm pretty sure I would've done a lot better on the 5K if it were chickens that chased me. 

I turned and ran. I prayed I could move faster than a chicken. (Seriously, how am I supposed to know how fast a chicken can move? The only chicken I ever saw was in the grocery store.) Thankfully, I could and I did. And yes, I abandoned my poor husband, left him to duke it out with the chicken, but I knew he could handle himself. Besides, he caught up to me pretty quickly. I'd like to say he stayed behind to defend me from an attack, but I have a feeling he stayed behind so he could laugh hysterically without me seeing.  

Now, to prove I am not the only one with a justified fear of chickens, take a look at a great scene from The Big Bang Theory




*****

Are you frightened by any particular not-normally-considered-scary animal? Could you outrun them if you had to? How do you feel about isolated areas?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Picture It!

I thought I'd go visual with this post and show some photos - taken by my husband or myself - of the area where we live. We by no means live in the country, but to a girl who grew up in the city, it's close enough. (One day, I'll have to tell you about the wild chicken . . . .)


Ah, sunrise!


This guy might need extra postage.


This cobweb is NOT a reflection
of my cleaning abilities.


Sandhill cranes, protecting their nest.
Check out the egg!


Every place has pros and cons,
but I love where I live

Oh, and the tortoises want to make sure you check out their two new photos over on the righthand sidebar near the top . . . . 

*****

Do you take photos of your daily life or do you wait for an event or a vacation? What critters share your space - inside or outside? Do you love where you live?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ask Yourself This

I came across the following in a magazine awhile back and it about blew my mind. I hate to admit it, but I am so guilty of this:

"WAS IT A BAD DAY
OR
WAS IT A BAD FIVE MINUTES
THAT YOU MILKED ALL DAY?'
(-sdevanny1)

Now, whenever I catch myself in a bad mood, I stop and ask myself that question. 

Sometimes the answer is "Yes, it was a bad day, and chocolate better be forthcoming." (That's when my poor husband wishes he had a shell like the tortoises!) 

But most times the answer is, "No, it was a moment of aggravation, of annoyance, of frustration that I let get under my skin." Once I realize that, it's like all the little dust bunnies of gloom scatter, and I can see all the shiny surfaces of my life - all the big things I am grateful for, like my husband, our health, our home - as well as the smaller moments of joy and peace I experience throughout the day - reading a good book while drinking hot coffee, watching the tortoises doze happily under their heat lamp. 

Sure, we all have bad days, but maybe we don't have as many as we think we do. 

*****

How about you? Are you guilty of milking those five minutes, too? Will you try asking - and answering - the question? Have any other suggestions for gaining some perspective? How do you focus on gratitude instead of a negative attitude?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: Patience, Grasshopper


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I'm revising my NaNo 2016 novel, a story I've worked with on and off for years. My progress is moving along at the speed of a tortoise. And not a tortoise on their way to eat a banana. 

I'm taking more time, diving more deeply into my story's plot, logic. This is unusual for me. I'm more apt to go splashing around in the shallow end, where, like my manuscript, we're having fun but going nowhere. 

So, with all this work, I do think the story will be better for it, but I tell you, I am struggling with patience. I feel like everyone around me is moving forward, taking on new projects, getting agents, being published, winning awards, succeeding - in writing and in life. It's not so much jealousy of others as it is frustration with myself. Why does everything I do seem to take so long? What am I doing wrong? I don't want to plod along, but I also don't want to rush. I'm struggling to find my pace . . . and my patience. 

How do you all stay patient when it feels like the world is rushing by, when it feels like everyone is succeeding, leaving you behind? Or is this just me? Is it a matter of just gritting my teeth, putting my head down and getting back to work? Is there a kinder, gentler way to deal with that frustration? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Brains? Yum!

For January's IWSG post, I talked about potentially expanding my social media presence, and you all were so helpful in sharing what you do and how you use social media. I noticed many of you mentioned being on lots of different platforms but feeling badly about not really utilizing them to their fullest. Then blogging buddy Patricia Stoltey mentioned this great post by James Scott Bell, where he asks about social media, "Are you using it, or is it using you?"

My biggest takeaway from Bell's Social Media is Eating Your Brain? I'm not crazy. 

"Here's the truth: social media is eating your brain, affecting your ability to concentrate and work deeply, and sabotaging the quality of your fiction - which is the one thing you cannot afford to have sabotaged if you want a long-term career!"

I've noticed over the last few years that my ability to concentrate has deteriorated. I thought it was just a fact of getting older or something like that. I used to write and/or read a book for hours. Now I'm lucky if I get through half an hour before becoming fidgety and reaching for my computer, my phone. 

"I noticed that I'd only get through a few pages in a book before I'd feel like checking Twitter or Feedly or some news sites. I was losing the ability to "get lost" in a book, one of the main pleasures of reading."

If I'm already struggling to concentrate on my writing and my reading, do I really want to add another social media platform? I don't think so. Bell recommends going with the one platform you really enjoy. So I'll be sticking with blogging and just stretching myself a bit over on Goodreads. Hmm, writing about writing and talking about books? Those are two social media outlets I can totally get into.  

*****

Are you rethinking how you use social media? Have you been using it more, really getting into it and enjoying it, or have you been dragging your feet, like a kid going to the dentist? Have you read James Scott Bell's article in full? I recommend it!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lists Gone Wild!

It's no secret that I am a reader. I love books. I also love lists. So it's no surprise that I actually keep book-related lists. Books I've read. Books I think other people might like. Books I want to read.

My confession to you all is that my Books To Read list is over 20 pages long. Typed, single-spaced pages. With separate sections including Young Adult, Fiction, and Nonfiction. With notations, like asterisks for books I'm dying to read. With words like "Buy" or "Request from Library."

Is that weird?

In my defense, my husband has books on the list, too. But . . . his Books To Read titles might total one page.

And I do go through the list regularly. But . . . I usually add more books than I subtract.

Sigh. I know I will never, ever be able to read all the books I want to in my lifetime. In the words of Lemony Snicket:

"It is most likely that I will die next to a pile of books 
I was meaning to read."

Well, if that's the case then I better make the most of the time I've got and get reading!

*****

Do you have a Books To Read list? How many pages is it? How do you organize it (Please don't tell me I'm alone on this!) Do you set reading goals? Participating in the 2017 Reading Challenge over on Goodreads? If we're not already "friends" over there, let's fix that asap! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gasp!

One of my favorite books of 2016 was I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. It was a great read for a number of reasons, one of which were the twists. But . . . I read a lot of books with twists. Why did this one stay with me? I couldn't put my finger on it until I read this post - "Surprise Me" by literary agent extraordinaire, Janet Reid, where she says:

"I want to gasp. I want to put the manuscript down and just enjoy that moment when the author turns the story upside down."

Yes! And that's exactly what happened to me when I read I Let You Go. I found myself scrabbling back through the pages to see what I missed. But you know what? I hadn't actually missed anything.  

Ms Reid explains it like this: "That's what surprise is: we had the info, but we didn't know what it meant. . . A good surprise makes perfect sense but you just didn't see it coming."

I want to do that for my readers, whether it's in the short form of a story or in the long form of a novel. I want them to have that moment, maybe even more than one. It's certainly something worth striving for, even if it is, as Ms. Reid says, ". . . really, really simple stuff . . . and hard as hell to carry off."

Is there a book that stays with you because of its twists and turns? How about a movie or TV show? Do you aim for that in your own writing? How do you achieve it?