Chasing Inspiration

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pixar Vs. Dreamworks

I have a bias. I love Pixar! I think they are highly creative and do amazing things with that creativity. Dreamworks, not so much. My opinion, people. But it's shared by others as I found here.

For your Tuesday entertainment, whether you agree with this opinion or not, I brign you Pixar Vs. Dreamworks. Click on the picture to enjoy. I couldn't figure out how to make it big enough to read in my little blog. *grin*

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear Neighbour

Dear Squirrels -

Thank you for enjoying the vast quantity of walnuts we have provided for your dining pleasure. We're glad you find them tasty and are fairly certain they will help you bulk up for winter. However, we've had some complaints regarding your behavior. As of today the following behaviors will no longer be tolerated:

* dropping walnuts on vehicles
* throwing walnuts at the house
* intentionally throwing/dropping walnuts at the dog
* smearing walnut juice on the siding, deck or deck furniture

Any squirrels exhibiting the above behaviors will be escorted from the property and not invited back.

We can all live together in harmony. All we ask are some basic manners on your part.

Thank you,
The Establishment

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Today The World Lost a Star

Today someone I knew and admired lost her battle with cancer. Today the world is a little darker and the lives of those who knew her are more empty. Today, whether in person or in prayer, we said goodbye to a witty, caring and courageous woman, a true warrior who never gave up on anything worth having in life. She will be missed for her quick smile, her sharp humor, her incredible discipline, her never-back-down attitude. She will be missed because she touched lives and made a difference. Because she lived and loved.

Please pray for Drea's family and friends. Her life ended far too soon and far too tragically.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Can I have a Do-Over, Please?

Some days it's better to stay snuggled under the quilt and let the hours pass by without ever setting foot out of bed. If I had stayed in bed that day in July, then chances are I would not have taken a header down a flight of stairs (about 12 stairs in this flight) and bruised my body so badly that the simple act of walking became an exercise in extreme pain management. I had bruises on bruises and whenever Velcro Dog brushed up against my shins I had to bite back a yelp of agony.

I didn't get a do-over for that Tuesday. I can only move forward. One painful, agonizing step at a time.

Today is another one of those days where I wish I could get a do-over. But not for myself. I want a do-over for a friend. She's battling cancer and it looks like cancer is going to win. We're at the bottom of the 9th and there is no one left at bat. Last year we all thought she had a clean bill of health after treatment for breast cancer. She fought and beat the beast back through will and guts and a great medical team. Then February came and the hard news that the cancer was back. Stage 4. There's no cure for that today. Only management. And she managed the hell out of it for a while. We thought there was going to be a miracle. She was going to be one of the few who came through.

Then yesterday I got the news. She's dying. Not that ambiguous dying in that she has months/years to live. No, she's home on her death bed and the end is a cold wind slithering around the corner, stealthy and picking up speed. She has days. Hours. Minutes.

I want a do-over. I want to turn back the clock and have that clean bill of health from last year to still be true. I want to turn the clock back even further and give her a world where she was never touched by cancer to begin with. Where she is still out there living life with her courage and her joy and determination. Where another person I know and care about doesn't have to worry about life being ripped cruelly away.

I want to reconcile my belief in an afterlife and God with the pain of seeing someone younger than me wasting away because of a disease we can't cure. I want to believe for myself - and for her - that today is a blessing. It's not the end, just an end. And that the next beginning for her will be one of peace and joy. No pain. No regrets. Just love.

There aren't do-overs. We can only move forward. I cling to my belief in a better place after death while she moves toward the inevitable. I know her life and dying aren't in vain. I know the world is better for her life and that many will be touched and changed by this end.

That doesn't make me wish any less for that do-over. But that we had that power. Go well. Go with love, as you are loved.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Soundtrack Friday

My new favorite show of the season is Glee. What is not to love? High school angst. Forbidden or unrequited love. Popular kids struggling with the pack mentality. Teachers struggling with school politics. Everyone defining their dreams and wondering if the cost is truly worth it. Oh, and the music! I love the music.Brings me back to college. :) If they did more 80's cuts maybe I would be transported to my own woeful high school days.

Outside of the entertainment value of Jane Lynch as cheerleading coach and top dog Sue Sylvester having it out with underdog and glee fanatic Will Schuester (who has an...interesting family life), the music and choreography are top notch and the drive to succeed and make a mark is played out on the small screen so convincingly that despite the obvious comedic roots of the show there is a drama bubbling softly. Layers upon layers.

I love that about some of my favorite TV shows, movies and books. Those layers that sneak up on you and surprise you with depth and understanding of human nature. I want to write like that. And live like that. With depth. And laughter. Like Will Schuester says, you may not always be the star, but you should always have fun.

For today's soundtrack Friday I give you the cast of Glee performing Journey's Don't Stop Believing. And wish you a weekend full of layers and possibilities.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Simplicity and Creativity

I love Zen Habits. I don't read the blog daily but when I do there is always something timely posted. I want to share what I read today. If you like what you read, please head over to Zen Habits today and let Leo Babauta know what you thought of today's post. Click on the post title (below) to get to Leo's post.

How Simplicity Can Help Creativity, Briefly

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” - Charles Mingus

Creativity is often made out to be a nebulous, messy, complicated, difficult thing, and it can be.

But it doesn’t have to be.

The judicious application of simplicity can help someone to create, whether that’s writing, creating art, designing, teaching, starting a small business, or in some other way making ideas take shape into reality.

People who want to create are hampered by complications — tools that are too complicated, projects that are too overwhelming, the distractions of the modern world, too many cooks, too many options, too busy.

Simplify, and many of these problems go away.

Let’s take a brief look at how simplicity can help solve some of the problems of creating:

1. Ideas. It’s hard to find ideas, right? Not necessarily. Simplify things: find vastly different ideas and combine them in a new way. This isn’t the only way to get ideas, but it’s simple and useful.

2. Ideas, again. Instead of finding ways to do more than everyone else, find ways to do less. If your competitor has a coffee shop with a wide array of beverages and food items, narrow it down: offer just one kind of coffee, but make it amazing. “We sell only one thing: the best cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted.” If you’re a blogger competing against writers who cover a vast variety of topics, cover just one, but do it better than anyone else.

3. Clear distractions. One of the biggest obstacles to anyone who wants to create these days is the distractions of the Internet, of email and IM, of meetings and people coming up to us to talk to us, of phone calls and Blackberries and iPhones. Clear these out of the way, so you can focus on creating.

4. Remove complications. Complications get in the way of creating. Find ways to simplify projects, simplify processes, remove barriers, narrow things down, remove choices, but increase focus.

5. Focus on one project till you’re done. This goes against how most people work, and in fact I have a hard time doing it sometimes, as I get excited about several projects at once. But it’s how I’ve been working recently and I can tell you, there’s no better way to create. Clear everything else off your schedule, at least for the moment, and focus on one project. Keep the focus small, so the project doesn’t take more than a week (if it does, break it into more than one project). Then just focus on that one project, until you’re done. It feels great. Now move on to the next.

6. Use one simple tool. For me, I just choose one text editor to write (usually either WriteRoom or TextEdit). The simpler the tool, the better, because full featured tools end up being distracting and you want to fiddle with all the options. A pen and pad are also great. If you must use more than one tool, keep them small and simple.

7. When you’re overwhelmed, focus on less. If the project is too big or complicated or just hard, narrow it down. If you must write a book, don’t focus on the whole book, or even a whole chapter. Just write a section — something you can do in a few hours or less. If you’re starting a new business, don’t worry about getting the whole thing up and running — what’s the smallest amount you can offer at first, the smallest unit you can create? Focus on that.

8. Do just a little each day. If you can write for 20-30 minutes a day, or take a few photos a day, it won’t be long before you’ve created something great. This tip is for those who think they don’t have time to create. It doesn’t have to take all day, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just clear 20 minutes and create — do nothing else during that time.

9. Be in the moment, let creativity flow through you. When you are creating, feel free to be messy and don’t worry about perfection and just get it out. The best way to do this is to forget about the past and future, and just focus on the moment. Pour yourself into creating, and let it flow.

10. Whittle. Once you’ve created that crappy first draft, and just let everything pour out, it’s time to edit and whittle. Get it down to simple. See if you can cut out everything extraneous.

11. Show up. The simple truth to creating. You just gotta show up. It might or might not happen, you might or might not create something great, but you sure won’t create a thing if you don’t show up.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Soundtrack Friday

Funny thing that 9/11 just happens to fall on Soundtrack Friday this year. I remember that day 8 years ago. I was working at an elementary school. One of the teachers got a call and immediately all the TVs were turned on, volume muted, and we kept sneaking glances to the screens while trying to pretend everything was normal for the kids.

I lost a friend that day. Other people I know lost loved ones and co-workers. The city of New York lost a sense of safety and harmony and a nation lost it's perspective. I don't say that to be cruel. Perspective is a difficult thing to hold on to when the symbols of what you believe in - life, liberty, the American dream - are so violently shattered at the whim of people bent on the destruction of those values and beliefs. We're still fighting to gain perspective and to feel safe and to believe that what happened on that day 8 years ago will never, ever happen again.

Today isn't about the politics and the great divides within and with out the USA. It is about remembering that while people sought to send a message of destruction and fear, strong and courageous people stood up against that and ran into the fire and did what had to be done to save people. Many of those heroic men and woman lost their lives, but they will never, ever be forgotten. Their stories live on. And as long as they live on we can remember that while there are those who think we are selfish and spoiled and godless, the history of the American culture and government stands for something. Equality. Freedom. A better life.

We may not always agree amongst ourselves what those three things mean and what they should look like, but that's the price of freedom and that's the joy of living in a nation where I can disagree with you and we can still walk away friends.

Since today is about remembering, and for me finding hope, I bring you U2 and their wonderful song Walk On from their album All That You Can't Leave Behind. Wikipedia has some interesting facts about the song. I encourage you to read them. In the meantime, enjoy the video and please, remember. And if you can, find hope.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut

Sometimes you don't. Today I'm an Almond Joy. A little nutty. My dog is a little nutty as well. We have new French doors, which I've kept open so he can run in and out at will. He's discovered a chipmunk that he chases up one of the drain pipes. Then he runs around the yard like a dog on crack. All morning while I've been working he's run up and down the stairs to the loft. At the top of the stairs he looks at me with great anticipation. I'm working. I'm not stopping my day to run outside with him or take him for yet another walk. Mostly because working from home is a privilege and I have much to accomplish.

Fortunately, he's just looking for permission to head outside and start his running and chipmunk stalking all over again. Boy, does he make me tired.

But the joy in his little doggy face when he starts down those stairs at breakneck speed and then laps the yard while searching for something, anything to chase, that joy floors me. He takes such pleasure in the moment. He is fully present. Fully engaged. Fully alive.

I can't say the same for myself. In the last few weeks I can't pinpoint when I was last fully living in the moment. My brain is always thinking ahead to the next step in the project, the next engagement, the next something. Or I'm ruminating about the past and tearing things apart to understand motivation, reactions or how I can do things differently the next time. I analyze. Over analyze.

I put the computer down and stood out on the deck and watched Velcro Dog do his thing. And consciously let the rest go. I didn't stuff the to-do list into that dark corner of my mind where it sits and grows and rumbles and taunts. I just let it go, trusting that I had either written down the important things or the to-dos would come back to me later. I sipped some tea and for 15 minutes I closed my eyes and breathed in the fresh, slightly crisp air and breathed out the shadows that hang over my shoulders, those silent sentinels that poke and prod me into analysis mode or into a worrying planning dervish. I just let them go. Breathed. Smiled. Sipped.

And listened to the tinkle of Velcro Dog's collar as he sped past me on his laps around the yard.

Sometimes I feel like a nut. I'm learning that when I do it's time to be present - fully and completely - in the moment. I have my nutty dog to thank for that insight. I hope his joy abounds forever.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

And The Feel Good Award Goes To...

Me! My friend and fellow blogger, April, gave me this sweet award. It's nice to know that someone out there is reading my little corner of the internet. In the spirit of sharing, below are the rules. If there is a blog you read and enjoy, please pass on the love! It's appreciated. Trust

The Lemonade Award is a feel good award which shows great attitude or gratitude.

Here are the rules:
~Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
~Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.
~Link your nominees within your post.
~Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
~Share the love and link to the person from whom you received the award

Here are my nominees (I'm only doing 5...)

Shannon of Blonde Ambition - a friend from the Judith McNaught Bulletin Board
Author Jill Shalvis's blog - I love her books, and her blog
Lynn Viehl of Paperback Writer - an amazing author and mentor to those who play with words
Kait Nolan of Shadow & Fang - an author in process, just like me
Zen Habits - a blog about simplifying one's life

Friday, September 04, 2009

Soundtrack Friday

Last Thursday my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. We spent the weekend together in a rustic cabin on a lake a few hours from where we live. Far enough to be away from our regular lives but close enough we didn't have to use up precious time to get there. We slept in, played in the lake, cut firewood, took leisurely walks in the woods, napped, ate and relaxed.

I remember when I first met my husband. I was in my senior year of college and so ready to be done with dorm life and college and wanting to begin my "real" life. Impatient would be a good word to describe me. I was very impatient. My husband-to-be was late to college. He was a transfer student and entering his junior year. Most of us knew he was coming because the staff kept talking about this transfer student who was held up at the border (my school was in Canada. He is from the USA). About three days into classes, I was walking from the academic building to the cafeteria and this motorcycle came roaring past. Shivers ran up and down my spine and I knew it wasn't just because I had a motorcycle fetish. Something whispered in my ear that this one was special and would change my life forever.

My husband is special and he did change my life forever. Today's Soundtrack Friday is for him. One of his favorite bands is the Canadian rock band Rush. We bonded over stories of our Rush concert experiences and Roll The Bones had been their last hit album by the time we met. One of his favorite songs is Closer to the Heart and one of our favorite Rush experiences was watching Rush in Rio in the theater.

Because I love you, husband mine, I bring to the world Rush and their in-concert video of Closer to the Heart for today's Soundtrack Friday. I hope you smile when you watch it and yes, let's make the next 15 years even better than the first.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

In Other News

Sometimes the thing you want least happens to be the thing you need the most.

In the last couple of years I've been fighting with my muse on my current WIP. I didn't want to write paranormal. Or fantasy. Or urban fantasy. I wanted to write a nice women's fiction story. A homecoming story. Something uncomplicated yet meaningful. Instead I kept hitting a brick wall at every turn.

It turns out that's because the story is urban fantasy meets post-modern inspirational fiction. Which means this story is going to be complex and twisty and possibly not be a stand alone book. It also means I have no idea how to market this thing once it's done. Great. A writer who is aiming for publication who now has no clue if this book that's been burning inside her is even going to find a place in the market. Nice one.

I battled it out with my muse for months but my muse finally wrestled me to the ground and I am writing some sort or paranormal/urban fantasy/supernatural book. And learning to love it. I'm not a strong plotter so I know it may take longer to write this book than originally planned. That could bum me out but I'm taking a word or two of advice from one of my favorite paranormal/urban fantasy authors - Marjorie M. Liu. I'm diving into the labyrinth and trusting my instincts while finding the heart of the story.

Maybe I'll learn to outline as I go. Or plot. But for now I'm not letting that gap in my skills keep me from moving forward. Wish me luck! I fear it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Books Read in August

Best laid plans and all that. *sigh* I had planned on updating this last night but since my 15 year anniversary was last Thursday and we went out of town a few things landed low on the task list.

As you can see, August was a high reading month. A lot of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Why? Because I like things that scare me or challenge my perceptions. Hence the reason I really liked Season 1 of Supernatural. *grin*

Branded by Fire
by Nalini Singh -- The latest installment of her Psy/Changling series brings up the question of interracial love in a fresh way. If you've enjoyed previous books, you'll love this one. I believe it is the 6th book in the series.

City of Souls by Vicki Petterssen -- Book 4 of her acclaimed Signs of the Zodiac series had some interesting twists I totally did not see coming. Makes me very curious about book 5, that's for sure! Well done!

The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu -- Not my favorite Dirk & Steele novel but very interesting and part of it takes place in my adopted home state. Anything by Marjorie is still worth the read. I'm just not sure what the title has to do with the story. Perhaps I need to reread it. *grin*

The Mommy Plan, The Baby Plan and Whose Child by Susan Gable -- I read quite a few contemporary romances in August. The books by Susan Gable were enjoyable and thought provoking. She's now on my authors to watch list. I love it when my favorite genres make you think. Mind candy - I think not! LOL.

People of the Book by Geralidine Brooks -- A wonderful mix of contemporary and historical as one woman searches out the meaning of who she is while exploring the people who have come before.

So Enchanting by Connie Brockway -- A wonderful historical romance that uses a touch of magic to explore greed, prejudice and love.

Halfway in the Grave, One Foot in the Grave, and At Grave's End by Jeaniene Frost -- Urban Fantasy meets romance in this intriguing series about a half human, half vampire woman who happens to be a vampire hunter. Her relationships are the most intriguing parts of the series, especially the relationship she has with her mother and her vampire lover/husband. Yes, very interesting indeed. Books 1 and 2 were well done. Book 3 was a little off to me, but I'm happy to read Book 4 and see where the series is going to take me.

From The Hip by Susan Mallery -- The third book in her Lone Star Sisters series is perhaps the best of the three books. Much more emotionally gripping to me and we get an even deeper glimpse at the villain and his motivation. A great set up to October's release of the final book.

Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James -- Lawyers competing for a single partner slot at the law firm where they have worked for the last 8 years sets the foundation for this story about unrequited love. This was a fun read and a great contemporary romance. It had everything that made me smile, including a heroine who is able to admit she is wrong.