Category Archives: Beauty

How Writers are Like Gardeners

I hope you all had a wonderful Earth Day and that you did your part in saving our beautiful planet. I spent a much needed day off in the garden this past weekend and it felt wonderful. Every drop of sweat, speck of dirt, and brutal scratches from wayward forsythia brought me closer to Nirvana. Crazy, I know. But how many writers love puttering in their gardens and digging in the fresh dirt? PJ Sharon here, sharing some of my interesting observations from my time with the earth. IMAG0023

While deep in thought as I toiled away, my mind could not fully escape my writer’s life, and lo and behold, I began to realize that writers are much like gardeners. Here’s how.

Writers start with a seed of an idea—a beautiful spark that takes hold deep in the fertile soil of imagination. The roots begin to spread, fashioning a network of connections to other characters and relationships, the story unfolding in our minds and shooting to the surface in search of the light of day and discovery. Our fingers dig away at the keyboard. Eventually we bring to life the intricate buds that seem to come from the cosmic funnel above—too perfect for our mere mortal ability to create without acceptance of divine intervention. Most days, I feel as if I’m a spectator in my writing process just as I understand that I am merely an extension of the Divine when I am in the garden–that I am ultimately not the one in control. That leaves me free to play, unencumbered by expectation. It would be nice if I could be so yielding in my writer’s life.

Interestingly though, even the technical aspects of writing mimic the gardener’s habits. As we writers plot and plan before we begin, so the gardener takes stock of their canvas. They prepare the soil, gather their tools, and imagine the larger picture and end result of the task ahead. They come to know their plants (characters), see all the necessary pieces (plot points), and work to put them in place with some semblance of order. Just as authors must balance narrative, dialogue, description, and backstory, the gardener must seek that same perfect balance, sometimes having to rearrange the plants and bulbs to assure proper flow of colors, textures, heights and compatibility.

Where the gardener adds water and fertilizer, the writer layers in depth of character and adds important details to show growth and development. When weeds invade the space, the gardener ruthlessly plucks them out in order to preserve the harmony of the whole. As such, writers too, need to be willing to be ruthless in their edits. As Stephen King says, we must be willing to “kill our darlings.” Although some weeds can add lovely color or thick greenery, left unchecked, they will infiltrate and destroy the harmony we seek to bring about, distracting us from the vibrant beauty of the flowers we plant.

Ultimately our reward comes when we share our story (garden) with others. Each story is unique to the writer as each garden is unique to the gardener. If the job is well done, the onlooker can see the soul of the creator on the page or in the beauty of a flawlessly designed garden. The love and care that goes into creating—whether it be a novel, a quilt, a beautiful painting, or a colorful garden—is what sets us apart in the animal kingdom. Our ability to create and enjoy beauty is a gift that we humans share, and it should not go unappreciated no matter if you are a novice or master–writer or gardener.

One of the wonderful lessons I have learned from working in a garden is patience. It’s easy to become discouraged by rejections, but just like rainy days, the harsh weather is sometimes necessary to bring the needed motivation for plants to grow and writers to forge on. Recognizing that we need both sunshine and rain to fully mature, the gardener takes this understanding in stride much better than the writer, who often becomes frustrated by those seemingly endless weeds and rainy days. A great review, a contest win, or kind word from a critique partner are sometimes enough of a reward to keep us going when we feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, but as any gardener will tell you, the greatest satisfaction comes from basking in the joy of knowing that you have co-created something magnificent that grew from your own soul and from the hand of God.

But that’s just me.

So, dear readers, does this resonate with you? Are you a gardener, quilter, painter, or creator of some kind? Can you see how writing mirrors so many other creative endeavors? Kind of fascinating, isn’t it?

Regroup and Relax

I had a crummy week last week. Work stuff. Family stuff, combined with two deadlines and the start of a new diet had me wanting to bite somebody’s head off by Friday. But I knew I had to hold it together. Girls like me don’t do well in prison. But fear of prison aside, I held it together because I knew I was FINALLY be able to relax this weekend.

I grabbed my two besties, piled them into the Sugar Mobile and headed to Saratoga Springs, New York. Why Saratoga Springs you ask? Have I suddenly developed a love of horse races and gambling? No, but Saratoga is a cool place to go if you’re into that kind of stuff.  We went for the mineral baths. Back in the day when people preferred natural remedies over pill popping, they flocked to these brown water fizzy hot baths to cure everything from constipation to skin diseases. So I figured what better way to relax than to float in some brown mineral water.

Cool, right? The entrance to the baths and spas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to the Roosevelt Bath and Spa which in all honesty is a little creepy when you pull up. It’s in the middle of a state park and the old brick buildings on the grounds resemble a deserted college campus. You can feel the history there and maybe a ghost or two if you believe in that stuff.

I think my friends and I were nervous walking through the door( it was kind of creepy), but when we got inside we were greeted warmly by the staff and  shown to the locker rooms where we promptly got naked and into the the comfiest white robes on the planet.

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After the bath and massage. See how happy I am!

We were then shown to the relaxation room, which is filled lounge chairs and water features and soothing music and other naked people who were also waiting for their appointments.When we were called I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Even with all the modernization, the building still has that sanitarium feel, with the original tiles and tubs from the days of Roosevelt, but once you get past that, once you get past the the idea that you are about to spend the next half hour submerged in brown fizzy water you realize how cool the place is.

The bath itself is unusual. I should stress that while the water is brown it is not dirty. It comes in clear and once the air hits it, the minerals oxidize and turn the  water brown, but the water is clear. It’s not like any bath you would take at home. You float. The water kind of bubbles around you as the minerals soften your skin. The attendant told us that there was natural lithium in the water that elevates your mood. I was like ‘yeah right’ when I heard that but it was true. I did feel a little happier, a little more energized. And for the first time in a long time I thought about happy things. I didn’t think about work or (gasp) writing. For the first time in a long time I was totally disconnected from the world. No phone. No internet. No computer. Not even a clock to stress me out about time. I was forced to relax. We followed the baths with hour long massages,where the therapist told me I had tension in my jaw and tightness in my mid back. Who would’ve thunk it? She was amazing too.

Walkway to the hotel.

We stayed at the Gideon Putnam Hotel and resort which is on the same grounds as the spa.It’s a beautiful historic hotel with a very attentive, friendly staff. Normally we couldn’t afford such an extravagant weekend but we booked the Gideon’s Girls Escape package which made everything right in our price range. They have a bunch of packages, even a romance one if you want to take your honey and do some smooching. I normally don’t recommend places but I encourage you to head there if you ever get a chance. It’s an experience you won’t have any place else.

What about you guys? What other cool places should I head to?

Affirmations and Good Things to Come

IMAG0025It’s March, (click here to find out what I’m up to this month), and one step closer to spring…and not a moment too soon for me! It’s been a cold and cloudy winter, leaving many of us with a case of the doldrums, myself included. PJ here, and I’m going to share one of my best secrets for chasing away the blues. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the practice of saying AFFIRMATIONS. An affirmation, according to my Sage dictionary, is “a statement asserting the existence or the truth of something.” When you say an affirmation, you say it as if it has already come to pass and is the truth or reality of the situation. So instead of saying, “I’m going to lose weight,” you should say, “I am in my healthiest body ever.”

I can see you rolling your eyes…stop that! Speaking your reality into existence is the surest way to find success. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a lie and the truth. It is only processing the information that you feed it, and verbal and audio cues are powerful bits of information. Most of us have lots of “old tapes” playing in our heads from as far back as childhood telling us that we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough…whatever. Of course, this is all garbage that our brains have stored and processed and that our subconscious mind believes to be true. If you look in the mirror and say, “I hate how fat I am, I’m so ugly, or how could anyone love someone like me,” you are convincing yourself that all of that crap is true. And guess what? Your brain will have you believing it to the point of making it your reality.

So let’s turn that around right now! The only way to erase those old tapes and negative thinking is to re-program how you think and speak about yourself. It takes consistency and practice, but you can completely change your mind and transform your life by doing this. If every day feels like a struggle to you and you have self-defeating thoughts, saying positive affirmations is the cure.

Here are a few of the affirmations I say often, some on a daily basis:

“You are beautiful, I love you, and I’m going to take really good care of you today.” (If you look at a picture of yourself as a child as you say this, over time you will experience a very powerful healing.)

“I attract wealth and good health.”

“I attract healthy and happy people into my life.”

“I have all the money I need.”

“I am a money magnet!” (Don’t forget to add the “thank you, thank you, thank you” to express your gratitude to the Universe for providing for you).

And my favorite, “I am an excellent writer, I am a bestselling author.”

Always use present tense and positive words to give your intention impact.

It feels silly when you first begin doing this, and the critical you will immediately want to negate what you’ve just said as being contrary to your previous programming, but if you stick with it, say it like you mean it, and believe that it is possible, your life will be transformed by this one simple practice. Even more powerful, is when you write your affirmations down, put up sticky notes everywhere, and say those affirmations out loud as often as possible. You are supercharging your affirmation by including visual, auditory, and tactile re-training. The act of writing it down alone can get your brain to start processing the new belief and making it your new reality. As an added incentive, try creating a vision board, incorporating images and words that portray the kind of life you want and the dreams you’d like to see come true. I’ve been doing it for years, and trust me…this works!

Today’s Unlocked Secret: If you want to succeed in any area of your life, create positive affirmations and practice saying them every day. Before you know it, your dreams will become a reality.

So what do you think? Can you formulate an affirmation that clearly states the reality of what you want? Care to share it?

After a Fashion–Oscars 2013

Hey there, Scribelings. Suze here. It’s the first Thursday after the Oscars and you know what that means–it’s time for Suze’s picks for best dressed! I wish I could post actual pictures here, but I can’t because of copyright issues. So I’ve provided a link in each entry below–they’re in no particular order:

Nicole Kidman. (Click here) This dress is gorgeous. I love the metallic accents at hem, neckline and waist, and I love the sleek and simple lines of the silhouette. It’s gorgeous, classy, but with a bit of an edge. I love her hair too–so soft and feminine.

Jennifer Garner.  (Click here) Will you look at this color? Beautiful. Again, a classic silhouette, but with the unexpected addition of a frou-frou bustle/train. And check out the lovely jewels at throat and wrist. Another soft, wavy hairdo makes this a pretty much perfect look.

Maria Menounos. (Click here) Again, a beautiful color in a classic va-va-va-voom gown. Note the retro-80s high bouffant–love it! (Am I showing my age? I just want to turn on the Talking Heads and dance!)

Jenna Dewan-Tatum. (Click here) I have to include this one because, for Pete’s sake, that’s Channing Tatum’s baby in there. Sigh.

Kerry Washington. (Click here) I love, love, love everything about this gown, especially the little Jackie-O-like bow at the waist.

Now, I haven’t forgotten the guys (puhleeez!). I gave you Channing Tatum (you’re welcome) above, but here are a few more:

Bradley Cooper. (Click here). The suit is classic and perfectly fitted; the hair and scruffy beard are pure romance hero. He might be my new celebrity crush because he took his mother as his date to the Oscars.

The Avengers. (Click here). The Avenger guys. In tuxes. And you just know they all smell yummy and will always pick up the check.  {Thud} That’s the sound of me hitting the floor. No, don’t bother to wake me up. I’m having a beautiful dream.

Did you watch the Oscars? Do you care about the fashion? What was your favorite (or least favorite) look of the night?

Falling Into Sandra Orchard’s Latest Book

Happy fall! Katy Lee here, excited to be ensconced in my favorite time of year—and not just because October is my birthday month, although I love that it is! Especially when I can buy myself books to read while I enjoy the beautiful fall colors of New England.

And so, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that for my birthday this year, I snatched up a fellow Love Inspired Suspense author’s latest novel, Critical Condition.

This is Sandra Orchard’s third novel in her Undercover Cops series, and I when I saw the cover, a little bit of the peace that autumn offers descended upon me like the fluttering leaves themselves. But I will say peace was not the feeling I received while reading it—at least not at first.

Sandra packs every page with twists and turns, emotional highs…and more highs, and a story that equated to a medical thriller romance that felt like The Fugitive meets luuve. Best of both worlds, in my romantic opinion.

But I also can’t forget the inspirational arc Sandra wove into the story so beautifully, touching on the many battles cancer patients and their loved ones face daily…and how many turn away from God instead of to Him. We live in a world where we have so much hurt and pain to deal with, and blaming God will not bring us healing. And it will not bring the blessings that God has for us, either.

And so, for me, autumn is a time of reflection. While I take in the beauty around me, I pray I will see every blessing God has given to me this year—even in the moments I didn’t feel His presence or I thought He didn’t care. I don’t want to enter the holidays feeling resentment of not accomplishing something I set out to do on January 1st. Or holding a grudge because my year, or even life, did not turn out the way I thought it should. If I am harboring even a bit of anger toward Him, I want to catch that before it festers so big that I disable Him from blessing me more.

The Unlocked Secret: God loves blessing us. Jeremiah 29:11 proves this. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Now THAT’S a blessing I don’t want to miss. And thank you, Sandra Orchard, for allowing God to bless you in your writing, so that you can pass His blessing onto others who don’t want to miss it, either.