My One Word for 2020 #OneWord2020

 

pine-cone-sig

 

I was going to switch this up a bit for 2020 but guess what? I’m not. This is (unfortunately) perfect:

Every year around this time I say, “It’s going to be different.” Well, gentle readers, it’s not. It’s quite the same. Which is to say, I let myself get caught up in a shitstorm of stress and overwhelm by choosing others instead of myself, by over-committing, by working too hard on things that don’t bring fulfillment or happiness, by helping everyone but me.

One Word for 2019 was: Move. Seriously. Like Move Yer Arse, Girl! Or, you know, something nicer, like, Excuse me but would you mind moving? Same, same. Getting unstuck was sort of the idea.

I’m still stuck but heartily sorry for it and flailing for a helping hand out of the pit.

my One Word for 2018 was: Self. It was a good choice. It worked. Some of the time. Not as often as I’d hoped.

my One Word for 2017 was Accept. I did not accept anything. I sort of UN-accepted pretty much everything. I faltered. Failed. Moved on.

Well. Isn’t that something? And here we are again. Another year, another word. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

 

I’ve noticed my blog has its share of posts about overwhelm. Just a few, really, not, like, dozens. Ahem. So I got to thinking about being overwhelmed. Too much. Too many things. So, naturally, I need to make lists. And prioritize. That will work. Except for the times it doesn’t. Which is to say always. Or never. Whatever.

I’ve got to sort out my priorities. This is more important than that. That is more pressing than the other. Things get put on The List, shifted, knocked down a number, back up, and so forth and, soon enough, nothing is done.

So, instead of putting my life on a piece of paper in order of importance, I’m changing my mindset. (FYI, this is always, always, a good idea. You should try it.) I’ve always sucked at multi-tasking but I’m not sure that’s what this is anymore. I’m thinking it’s more that I’m utterly unfocused.

So here is my ironic focus word for 2020:

FOCUS

I was at a cemetery last month and grabbed my phone to take a picture.

When I tapped on the screen to focus on the little pinecone in my face, the gravestones blurred in the background. And vice versa. Right? Because whether it’s a mobile phone or a fancy camera, it cannot focus on more than one thing at a time.

I hadn’t written my One Word post yet but, there, right then, in that cemetery, I wrote it in my head.

I’m not prioritizing the pinecone over the gravestone. But if I try to focus on both of them, they’re both blurry and I don’t get either one. If I tap and zoom in on one, I get an amazing shot. Then, *tap*, another great shot. Done.

Obviously, there will be times when something will demand my focus be drawn to that issue or situation but I will focus on it and move on.

If I’m constantly trying to focus on everything, then everything is out of focus.

Narrow my focus and, boom, I’ve got a clear shot.

As always, a definition (because I’m a nerd):

 

focus

/fōkəs/

noun

  • the center of interest or activity.

center, focal point, center of attention

Get me a spotlight, man. I’m shining it on whatever shit needs attention. Laser focused, my friends. 

  • the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition.

clear, clear-cut, well-defined

Producing a well-defined, clear-cut visual? Please hold. Your patience is appreciated. The clear visual will be with you shortly. 

verb

  • (of a person or their eyes) adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly.

Seeing clearly? Yes, please. Adapting and becoming able to see clearly are HUGE challenges for me. Two great goals.  

  • pay particular attention to.

give emphasis to, highlight

Dude, this makes me want to whip out one of those big, neon yellow markers and highlight the hell out of the book of my life. On it!

 

I’m going to focus this year. I know I said this last year but 2020 will see another book from me. The manuscripts are sitting here glaring at me. They are more patient than I.

Happy New Year, my friends. ❤ Here’s to your goals, aspirations, resolutions, or whatever floats your boat. Cheers! 🥂

 

Have you ever taken part in the One Word Challenge?

If you haven’t, why not try it? Or think on it a moment and leave one in the comments. What could your focus be this year? I’d love to hear what your One Word is for 2020.

 

When the Year Grows Old

 

 

When the Year Grows Old

And often when the brown leaves
Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
Made a melancholy sound,

She had a look about her
That I wish I could forget–
The look of a scared thing
Sitting in a net…

But the roaring of the fire,
And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
Were beautiful to her…

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

The year has grown old, died, and been reborn. It is ‘new’. There are beginnings. Yet I acutely feel the year growing old.

When the clock struck midnight December 31st, when the calendar ceased to count days for 2019…what happened?

Nothing.

It’s as if I’m waiting for some unknown force to press the ‘reset’ button.

As I work on my One Word for 2020, I realize I’m stuck. Not in my decision of which word to choose but in the way I feel caught at the end of last year. In a time when I listened to the wind whistling a melancholy tune and brittle leaves scraped the window panes, begging to be let inside.

When I had the look of a frightened bird flapping helplessly inside a net.

Yet there is a difference. The trap has weakened, loosened. I can breathe.

I find familiarity in the world around me and there is comfort and beauty in that. In the moments when I take that first sip of coffee, tie my hair up with an elastic band, lace my warm, winter boots. When I lose myself in sunlight creating intricate patterns on my floor or notice wind catching a hydrangea flower hidden since last spring.

Sometimes, when the stress is too much, when the weight is too heavy, when the ropes are too tight, our struggles increase the pain. Sometimes relaxing into the discomfort and fear is all we can do and, sometimes, that shifts our world enough to see the beauty.

 

Health and happiness to you, gentle readers.

 

Hinting at Shadows #BookReview by Harmony Kent

 

 

First wonderful surprise was seeing a tweet with the hashtag #amreading followed by my book. I smiled all day. What a lovely thing to do.

But look what I found today… A glowing 5-star review. From Harmony Kent, a multi-genre author with more than ten books to her name. (And a rating system that notes: ‘I consider a 3-star rating a positive review. Picky about which books I give 5 stars to. I reserve this highest rating for the stories I find stunning and which moved me.’) So, yeah, I’m thrilled.

Short and brilliant

I reckon I shall be re-reading this one over and over again.

I read this in one go and couldn’t put it down. It gets a solid five stars from me.

Thank you, Harmony! 💖

Please stop by, read the full review, and explore her blog. Her writing ranges from non-fiction to romance, poetry to post-apocalyptic. (With a new holiday romance due out the 6th of December.) There’s something for everyone so do check out her books.

She also writes for Story Empire: This is the home of six bestselling authors who share a passion for all things related to writing, publishing, and promoting fiction. 

 

I’m putting Hinting at Shadows back on sale for the holidays. ⛄️ Because why not? You can get a copy for just 99c/99p HERE.

My Brain Freeze

 

 

I looked at the frost on my flowers the other day and thought, “Huh. That’s like my brain right now.”

You know when you were a kid and ate ice cream too fast or slurped one of those slushie things? It was like, “Whoa! Brain freeze!” Remember that?

Yeah. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. It’s more like stumbling out of bed at ridiculous-o-clock, shuffling into the kitchen, opening the cabinet, and staring at the coffee mugs.

Almost daily now, I find myself in the middle of a task and I get brain freeze. I just stop what I’m doing and my mind goes to sleep for a second. What was I doing? Why did I come in here? What was I looking for?

This has happened to me many times, of course. Usually in the early morning. But now it’s like permafrost—it lasts all day.

On top of that, I think magical things are going to happen. Not consciously but in a “this-will-be-completed-with-no-assistance-from-me” sort of way.

If I stare at the coffee maker, I will have coffee. If I stare at the computer screen, my page will be edited.

I’m getting time back by focusing on what’s important and ditching the rest (which is awesome) but I’m not getting the stuff done I’ve made time for. I know. Irony is delicious. Just don’t eat it too fast.

Maybe I need to get used to having that bit of extra time before my frostbitten brain can thaw and function properly.

ThoughtBubble

My Sunday thoughts in (around) 200 words.

 

I know everyone wonders what they went into the kitchen for at one time or another but, realistically, how often does this happen to you? Should I be worried? 😉

I think I just need to adjust to this new-ish schedule. Hopefully, after a transition period, this will mean I actually finish the books I’m working on and get them out into the world! *fingers crossed* 

 

 

I’ve Known This Season

 

 

Four years ago, I wrote a post about a leaf. It was the last one on the tree outside my window.

And it would not let go.

Some people commented that it was possible the tree was the one who wouldn’t let go.

A few days ago, I was reminded of that post when I wrote a tweet about a tree anticipating the upcoming season. How the tree would be bare and vulnerable. How it had been through this before.

So, yes, I’ve known this season.

Many seasons of losing bits of myself. Allowing the chlorophyll to seep away and show the world my true colors. Making myself vulnerable while being brave enough to bare leafless branches. Letting go of the leaves I’ve worked so hard to grow. Ones I thought I needed.

The leaves are just beginning to turn. They are changing. Dying. I need to remember there is beauty in these deaths.

I will survive. I can let go.

Dried-up dreams are getting caught in autumn breezes and whipping around my feet. I can let them scratch my ankles or I can dance with them.

ThoughtBubble

 

🍃🍂

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less. 

 

This tweet also inspired a response to Sue Vincent’s #WritePhoto over at Lemon Shark Reef. I love the way one, tiny thought can bloom into a flash, a poem, or a navel-gazing blog post (or even a book). It’s part of the magic and beauty of the writing process. 

 

How about you, gentle readers? What is changing for you this season? Have you let go of anything recently? 

 

Just a reminder: Hinting at Shadows is on sale for only 0.99 during October. 🎃
If you’d like to download a copy, here’s the link:
Hinting at Shadows 🖤

Hinting at Shadows #BookReview by Colleen Chesebro

 

 

What a wonderful surprise to find a review of Hinting at Shadows over at Colleen Chesebro’s blog this month. (I’ve been out sick but couldn’t let this review go…unreblogged? Is that a word? Well, it is now. So says me.) Colleen’s review is awesome:

the brevity of words deepens the message.

Brentyn excels at finding and revealing even the darkest of human truths in her writing.

I’ve read this book numerous times…Brentyn is a master storyteller…

Have I mentioned the review is awesome? I am thrilled my book of flash earned five magical fairies from Colleen. 🧚‍♀️ Thank you!

Please stop by, check out the review, and explore her blog. It’s a wealth of information, magic, book reviews, and more. She also hosts a fabulous weekly poetry challenge. (While you’re there, do check out her books.)

 

What I Did Way Back BW (Before Writing) #BlogHop

 


 

I’m going to take this super awesome, fun, interesting blog hop and make it incredibly boring. It’s a talent. You can be jealous. I’m good with that.

Just taking a stroll down my cobblestone memory lane.

What did I do before I started writing?

I didn’t.

Wait. What? Let’s rephrase. I didn’t not start writing. I didn’t do stuff before I started writing. Except learn to hold a pencil.

There’s not a year in my life that isn’t connected to writing in some way. The years have all been accounted for. ALL OF THE YEARS!

 

 

What did I do way back before writing?

Short answer: Nothing. I’ve always been writing.

Slightly longer (and more technical) answer: Learning to crawl and walk, graduating from formula and baby food… At least I’m assuming that since I’ve no recollection but I’m eating solid foods and walking on my own (most days, anyway). I’ve had odd jobs over the years (like bartending) to pay the bills but have always been writing (teaching writing, studying writing, writing writing…). You get the idea.

 

 

Marcia Meara started (perhaps unwittingly) this popular blog hop (perhaps just me) about what people did before they stared writing. In Marcia’s posts, she talks about painting. Which is what she did before turning to writing. (There are pictures… Go. Look. They are awesome.) Then she asks her readers: “What did YOU do before you started writing? I’d love to know!”

So, now, it is your turn, as these things go. What did you do before you started writing? Write a blog post about it, leave a comment, send an owl…whatever. 🙂 Happy writing!

 

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

 

Wonderful Bloggers of OZ_2 - sig

 

We aren’t people anymore.

Have you noticed?

We’re the Wonderful Bloggers of OZ.

When you read an article or post or tweet, look at the language. “Bloggers”. Like some group of lost writers who crashed a hot air balloon, landing in a bizarre world: The Blogosphere.

We perform tricks to dazzle—with words and photos that aren’t quite as real as we’d make them out to be.

Because, sometimes, your dog’s foot is in the background of that perfect tulip shot and needs to be cropped out. Sometimes that amazing idea gets caught in a tornado and thoughts whirl around and around until you plop down near a Technicolor yellow brick road.

You land on a witch and get her sparkly shoes (which are wicked cool). So there’s that. But there are flying monkeys to watch out for. So there’s that, too.

The Blogosphere can be a scary place.

It’s filled with dangers and strangers but also with wonderful people who rally around you and tell you how awesome you are for arriving here with your blog.

There are always a few who are on the same journey and are more than happy to skip along that brick road with you even though there are lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh my.

When we get to The Emerald City Blog, and see the “Blogger of Oz” is just a man behind a curtain, we will show compassion.

Why?

Because none of us are wizards. We are human—vulnerable and lost and busy and stressed and trying to make the Blogosphere think we have our shit together. That we are the Great and Powerful Oz.

So, as I tag this post with “bloggers”, I know that you are, indeed, fellow travelers on this blogging journey. Or writing journey. Or both. But I do know, and do keep in the forefront of my mind, that you are people.

Here’s the thing I think we sometimes forget:

We ARE people. We HAVE blogs.

We are not our blogs.

We are human beings. (Weird, introverted, writer-types, some of us, but still.)

Just remember, gentle readers, there is a person behind the screen.

 

If you need a break, just close your eyes, click your mouse 3 times, and walk away. We’ll be here when you get back–we’ve got water balloons for the Witch of the West and flaming potatoes to fight the flying monkeys. 

 

3 Quick Tips to Keep Your Blog Reader-Friendly

 

I’ve only published a few how-to posts before so bear with me. It’s short. And has three easy tips to increase your readership.

Okay, I can only promise it will increase readership by one.

That would be me.

Hopefully that one flower (that would be me, again) will become a garden of readers.

There are some of you (I won’t name names) who have the most sweetest blogs and the most loveliest things to say. And yet…

There are a few things I’d like to discuss with you. Three, actually. I’ll be quick. Promise.

I’d like to ask a favor, my bloggy friends. Could you do something for me? That is, if you don’t mind and I ask nicely? (I usually offer cookies or something as my “nice” may not be as nice as I think it is. So, cookies will be involved. Or cake. Your choice.)

When I read your post and there’s a link, it’s wonderful if that link is a word or two (or even five), not an enormously long URL.

And then, when you have your cute, little word that is now a link, it’s quite charming if it doesn’t kick me off your blog. I’m reading your blog because I like it. And I don’t want to leave. And you don’t want me to leave. There might be other posts I’d like to read on there.

Finally, when someone leaves a link in your comments, it often flies off the side of the page and makes your blog literally swim before my eyes. And not in a cute, “Aw, look, it’s a dolphin” sort of way. No. It moves and is difficult to read and (apologies) I often click off the post. I sometimes manage to finish reading if it’s short but I certainly don’t enjoy it as much as I would if it were, say, staying in place.

So, if you’re interested (and use WordPress), these are super-quick fixes:

 

Turning a long link into a short word or phrase:

  • Select and cut link from your post
  • Highlight word(s) you would like turned into a link
  • Click on link button in the toolbar (if you hover, it says ‘insert/edit link’)
  • Paste link into the space provided

 

Having a link open in a new tab:

After you have turned your long link into a short word or phrase, have it open into a new tab so I can stay on your blog. (Unless you want me to leave. I can take a hint.)

  • Keep box open where you just pasted your link
  • Click on gear icon (it will say ‘link options’ if you hover) Skip this step if using the Reader
  • Find the tiny box that says ‘Open link in a new tab’
  • Put a check there

 

Adding/editing links in comment sections:

  • Go to Dashboard and into Comments
  • Click ‘Edit’
  • Click the ‘Link’ button
  • Cut and paste link into URL space
  • Find the tiny box that says ‘Open link in a new tab’
  • Put a check there
  • Click ‘Update’

OR

  • Go to Dashboard and into Comments
  • Click ‘Quick Edit’
  • Cut and paste the following into the comment box:
  • <a href=”www.hello.com”>Hi</a>
  • Change “www.hello.com” to link in the comment
  • Change “Hi” to whatever text you want to display
  • NOTE: This will not open the comment link in a new tab

 

So long and thanks for all the links! 🐠

 

If you don’t do these things, is it by choice? If so, why? Does it bother you to have a link open in a new tab? Do you think it’s more likely people will click on longer (obvious) links?

 

Book Launch: Fireworks or Fizzled-Out?

 

 

The other day, I got a tweet. It was like, ‘Hey, Lemon Shark. I feel all ARGH! Is this normal for a book launch?’ And I was like, ‘Hmm… I’ve never done one but, yeah, I’d say it is.’

The question was from Lucy over at BlondeWriteMore. She’s publishing her first book (finally…ahem). It’s a long-awaited romcom sure to be a smash hit. Anyway, the lovely blonde writer was wondering my way and it got me thinking.

Yes, I’ve released a book. Two, actually, but I’ve never had a launch. It was more of a whisper. I actually worked one of my releases into a post script on my blog here. Yup: ‘P.S. I’ve got a new book out.’ Shame on me, I know.

While a lot of people get a rocket launcher and have the crowd count down to blast off, I have a sparkler in my hand and run about the yard on a balmy summer’s evening alone.

If I’m honest, it’s probably more like a stick of incense. The faint aroma of ‘new book’ wafting in the air, smoke swirling and curling in beautiful patterns that go completely unnoticed (unless you happen to be passing by).

No street team, no online marketing, no book tour. I’m not blasting through the blogosphere with my new book. I’m relaxing, drinking a beer, and watching my sparkler burn down and fizzle out.

 

Where are you on the days (or months) leading up to your release date? How do you announce your new book? Fireworks? Sparkler? Smoke signals?