Listening to the Prompts

All creative people devise ways to communicate with the mysterious place where ideas come from. A scientific person might call it the right side of the brain. A more mystical one (that would be me) probably calls it the universe or Spirit. Whatever the name, we all learn over time to trust the whispering prompts that nudge us into a particular direction.

Detail-from-JMW-Turners-B-007I’ve had some weird communications going on with the universe over painter JMW Turner, an Englishman I’d honestly never heard of until three months ago. I don’t know how I missed him now, since he is one of the most highly regarded of all English painters, and his style was a forerunner of the Impressionists, whom I adore with heart and soul, but there’s the truth. I had never heard of him or seen his work until I needed a painter for Brilliant. Jess gives Tyler a biography of a painter for Christmas, so I googled watercolorists and Turner came up. He was an eccentric who did things his own way and he fit the bill, so I ran with it. (Deadlines make a writer practical. Yep, works, toss it in there, move on.)

Afterward, Turner kept coming up—everywhere. At first, I put it down to simply awareness. You never notice how many cars of a certain model there are until you start driving one, then they are everywhere. Or you learn a new word and then see it in twenty places the next few weeks. I’m studying watercolors a bit, so reading in that world, and he’s a master. Of course I would see his name.

But it kept going and going. An article in a magazine I rarely read. A comment about the new movie. (Me: “There’s a movie?”)  

A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create
The first Monday of the new year, and once again, I am not home. This
I am in the very last week of writing the very last book of the

What If You Are The Star?

Christmas Eve is one of the most magical nights in Western culture, a night that celebrates peace and light and new hope being born into the world. A star lights the way for magis to come and worship new life, to offer gifts and honors. Angels sing to celebrate the moment.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zamb0ni/4103226307/in/photolist-9mm6Cw-nvybUQ-3oomWN-4kjshQ-gSp2MB-7fA7ea-8Ef12Q-64TsRU-5LGs11-nT88tP-8Zrr3A-dC3GGK-jCELhL-5TEPBK-78SnnM-8vHsw2-78WdFw-d3R6HG-ohkkKs-7qKF9f-nCpKto-an6R39-nojGNX-oUxBDt-516SXW-decZ5V-2TPUJP-dJkhFE-4bnKnc-7gDKD3-8hyqAV-fPMmTE-49PeFP-7951zX-7qKFdQ-obeCGH-2k93sw-9hHu62-vNLxE-7dy7Ms-e8VTaY-5HMaKr-JVnvq-7h7eNF-545t7x-bL9o76-cZkfgY-9vwF8A-54yNfz-54GckgIt is holy and luminous, this night, meant to remind us of the possibilities of our lives. It’s also a metaphorical jewel box, brimming with images we can use to inspire ourselves, to remember who we are, each of us, at the core of our being.

We tend to think we are small, the donkey looking on, or the sheep chewing hay in the manger. What if, in fact, we are each born to be a star that lights the night, lights the way for others? What if each of us has a corner of the world to illuminate–
perhaps the neighborhood in which you were born, or a battlefield that haunts you, or the magical worlds of some faraway, unknown land? What if your essay, that singular particular manifestation of your observations, your need to speak, is the kernel of truth that changes a person forever, even in the tiniest ways? This is how the world is saved, by each of us taking on the mantle of our vocation and giving it the very best we can give it.

You are a writer, or perhaps a creator of another sort. You have been born with this pressing desire to make things, express yourself, offer observations on the world, make things up—however it shows up in your life is the way it is meant to show up. We do it imperfectly at times, and often we fail at the vision we hoped to transfer to the page, to the hearts of readers, but the pursuit is the thing. In pursuit, sometimes also called practice, as in the practice of prayer or the practice of yoga or the practice of piano, we serve the work, and in doing so, serve that unnamable something that is holy, opposed to evil, that thing that brings light, stars, singing angels into the world.

This Christmas Eve, give yourself the gift of loving the desire to write, the desire to be better. Celebrate your own holy star-ness, and shine, shine, shine.

 

 

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

Letters to my new writer self

Dear New, Young, Passionate, Painfully Aspiring Writer Self:https://www.flickr.com/photos/rightee/1257384934/in/photolist-2V7qJA-f53bGW-aqLtfV-f53bNo-f53bKA-kfCw7-iGsrd3-bkW1jX-aj699g-5dNDc7-ifDfk3-5C5g1X-kzfbqM-8D4zwo-4SQXUM-bN1oSe-9PG53Y-j8p8pU-dmFX6J-gasMno-fxddKr-nr5Wr2-6xnrVk-eUhbNb-gsXvkx-6vaNSi-eUYdqL-bUQdeY-ezj98j-ezfUB6-ezfVik-5FQYQN-7WRZ8B-hnmLtF-dJzN2o-4VvLvq-bQu3Hz-4As9wf-9rnux-hcN3iz-3Prxu-4wZ2FW-5rnNZp-4ZZL89-7eVnCE-4wYZeh-4wZ8Ho-ek4Luu-f2BHW3-7kNGQf/

I am looking at you with great tenderness. Your passion for your craft, your hunger for publication, your commitment to continue to try makes my heart swell with pride. It is not easy, what you’re doing, writing, or rather, writing with the full intent to publish.  It’s easy to write if you are doing it only for yourself.  It’s only a joy, then, a secret pleasure, a tattoo on your inner thigh that you share only with your most intimate associates.

Writing for publication is a much more dangerous and challenging undertaking.  It means risking your ego and your standing in the community. People don’t understand your desire, even those you expect to understand, like reader friends and your librarian. Oh, I know how you’ve learned to dread that question at gatherings. You say you are a writer and someone says with excitement, “Are you published?”  You have to say no, and watch their eyes dim and their attention stray.

But you will not always have to say no. If you stay the course, you will be published.  For now, you go ahead and claim the title of writer, because you are a writer. You write. You put in the hours of study and practice, over and over, whenever you can fit it in. You do it even though no one does particularly understand or even believe that you can ever break into the hallowed company of Authors.  I am so proud of you.  Keep it up.

A few other things that will help you stay the course: pay more attention to what you are doing right than what you are doing wrong. Time, reading, and practice will heal most of your flaws, but no one can do what you do as well as you do it, so stick with that. Polish it, explore it, love it.  That’s where your voice is, in the things you love and do well.

Keep reading a ton.  People tell you that writing will corrupt your process, but that’s how you came to writing in the first place, isn’t it? You read, more than anyone you know, always.  Keep doing that, and don’t just read in the areas where you write. Read everything—articles and essays and poems and books of fiction and non-fiction. Read crap and read classics. Read genre and read literary fiction. Just read. It teaches and guides new writers better than any other single thing.

Keep your eye on the prize. You’re going to keep trying on hats until you find the one that fits, and once you do, your life is going to change in such big ways that you will never believe it could be your life. You will eat a meal in New York City with an editor. You will see your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. You will get letters from readers who love your work more than any other writer out there. Honor her, that reader, with your will to stick with it.

One more thing: don’t be afraid of editors and agents. They are busy, but they are always looking for the writer they connect with, the one they can publish, the one they adore. Some of them, over time, will become your friends for life.  Some of them will only make you crazy, but this is the great secret: editors and agents are your equal. You are all a corner in the great triangle of publishing. Don’t be intimidated.

Finally, you are more powerful than you know. Have faith in yourself, and the work, and trust it to take you where you want to do.

Love,
Your older, wiser, more experienced self

Want to read more letters from other writers to their younger selves?  Check out http://soyoureawriter.blogspot.com/

1-random-front  stoked_800  IMG_0222  echo_800  (click on covers to read more)

And don’t forget to like Lark O’Neal on Facebook, so you can stay current with new releases (and there are quite a few coming, my friends!)  https://www.facebook.com/LarkONealAuthor

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

Wild Fertility

A writing blog today…..

camille pissarro

I’m in the midst of an enormously fertile period. I’m writing in several genres, including a non-fiction project. This morning I awakened to write the next scene in a book that will eventually become a Barbara O’Neal book. There is soup and a lost child and dogs, but the underpinnings of this work have been very dark and hard to digest.  It suddenly seems ready, however, so that was where I poured my energies this morning.

I’m also working on a non-fiction book for a British publisher (to be distributed through MacMillan in the US) on writing romantic fiction.  The offer came out of the blue, but as I’d been in teaching mode through the spring, it was exactly the right project for me to write on the side, coalescing some of my ideas into a form that can be digested more easily than my exuberant but scattered blogs here.

There is also the matter of Lark, who keeps coming up with new ideas and concepts for her ongoing work in two arenas, The Otherlands and Going the Distance.  Look for more on both of those series in the near future (the 1st installment of The Otherlands will be published sometime in January, an exact date to be determined when I clear the decks and finally finish the line edits.)

All this work! You would think I’d be going crazy, feeling overworked and overwhelmed, but quite the opposite is true.  I have not been so in love with work in many years, and as I was sitting in my chair yesterday, watching it snow and doing some research reading into foster children, I did pause for a moment to realize I feel like I moved to a new land.  I’d been chiseling work out of the hard granite, chipping away a nugget at a time, and it took a lot of hard work and time to do it.

Suddenly, and I do mean suddenly—at the very end of May—I have moved to a completely different place. This is delta bottom farmland, rich with silt and sunlight and the perfect conditions for growing hearty fields of crops.  My mind feels utterly engaged, my heart excited.  I get up and go to work every morning at 4:30 without complaint, even with eager intention. My daily production rates have tripled and show signs of quadrupling.  I’m back to the younger me who wanted the world to go away and leave her alone so she could write more, more, more.

It’s glorious.

And I don’t really know why it happened. Was it the switch to getting up early? I think that has helped.  I am enormously productive during that 90-120 minute block.  It’s as if I’m giving myself an extra work day, every work day.   My evenings were never, are never particularly productive.  I watch television. I might read, but am often too tired to do any serious reading. I putter around after dinner, and for ages I’ve been ready to go to bed around 8, but would hang on for whatever reason. For about a year, I’ve been practicing the early work, but it really took root when CR decided he wanted to try swimming in the early morning.  Now we both want to be asleep early and get up early together, and on days we decide not to get up so early, we get those extra zzz’s. Healthy.

The other thing that I’ve done is give myself permission to totally play in my work, take chances, see what happens. I’ve done some novellas, purely for me, playing with the form, seeing what I like.  I’ve made a big return to romance in the new adult and young adult series, but the books are very different from each other.  The young adult is soft science fiction, highly romantic and with epic adventure undertones.  The new adult is very sexy and lots of fun, but has a serious undertone, too: Jess has to find out who she is—and that means making mistakes, discovering her history and deciding what things matter most to her.  It’s also set in part in New Zealand, which you all know I’ve fallen in love with.   The Otherlands is deeply rooted in my love for the sff genre and I carried it around with me for ages before I realized that I could just….go ahead and write it.  I also have an entire 5 (6?) book series planned as a tie-in/continuation of the St. Ives historicals, all growing out of our travels to England and New Zealand.

And don’t forget the women’s fiction. I love it a lot.  My new book, The All You Can Dream Buffet, is one of my favorites so far. I  love the characters and the setting of a lavender farm, and these women who have all had life challenges.  It was engrossing and required a huge amount of research and recipe testing, and it went back and for the between my editor and I several times, but the end result is one I am very pleased with. I hope you will be, too.

I believe this fertile, wild productivity is the result of me giving myself permission to do that play.  I can do it because of indie publishing, and I don’t have to worry that I’ll starve or that I’ll flop at a new publishing house.  I can take big chances, play in a lot of different arenas. Because I’m the one taking the risks, and I don’t need to sell 50,000 books to break even. Because I am more in charge of everything, I don’t feel that creeping anxiety that plagues all working writers over how many books are selling here and there and everywhere.  I am much freer to write the books arriving today.  I am very deeply enjoying the balance between my work for traditional publishing and my own publishing, a luxury that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.

This is not everyone’s ideal scene, I get that.  I have friends who need and like to focus on one book for a couple of years at a time. I also have others who like writing lots of books, but mostly in the same arena. That’s fine.  My brain has always loved variety and mix-ups and new challenges.  Sometimes I’ll fall on my face, but that’s fine, too.  So far, the fields are growing very well, producing a good many crops. I hope I will be wise enough to recognize when/if winter arrives and asks me to rest.

Do you like to write in many arenas or focus on one?  Do you find there are wildly productive periods in your life, and less productive ones?  

PS I’m pulling away from blogging so much elsewhere and will be spending more time here.  Hope you’ll join in the conversation.

Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, August 15 – 17, 2014, Los Angeles, CA Plot Your
Here it is, arriving suddenly.  On Thursday, it was still Indian summer, sunny and hot. 
This is what can be fun about the shift in the way books come to
First: we're working behind the scenes on the Barbara O'Neal and Barbara Samuel webpages, which
Today, I harvested two handfuls of red potatoes from a black potato sack. I’ve never

The Traits of Highly Creative Adults

I’ve written a post about the creative personality for Writer Unboxed.  This is a companion piece to that, a list of traits from Guiding Creative Talent by Paul Torrence.

Accepts disorder
Adventurous
Strong affection
Altruistic
Awareness of others
Always baffled by something
Attracted to disorder
Attracted to mysterious
Attempts difficult jobs (sometimes too difficult)
Bashful outwardly
Constructive in criticism
Courageous
Deep and conscientious conventions
Defies conventions of courtesy
Defies conventions of health
Desires to excel
Determination
Differentiated value-hierarchy
Discontented
Disturbs organization
Dominant (not in power sense)
Emotional
Emotionally sensitive
Energetic
A fault-finder
Doesn’t fear being thought different
Feels whole parade is out of step
Full of curiousity
Appears haughty and self-satisfied at times
Likes solitude
Independence in judgment
Independence in thinking
Individualistic
Intuitive
Industrious
Introversive
Keeps unusual hours
Lacks business ability
Makes mistakes
Easily bored
Nonconforming
Not hostile or negativistic
Not popular
Oddities of habit
Persistent
Becomes preoccupied by a problem
Preference for complex ideas
Questioning
Radical
Receptive to external stimuli
Receptive to ideas of others
Regresses occasionally
Rejection of suppression as a mechanism of impulse control
Rejection of repression
Reserved
Resolute
Self-assertive
Self-starter
Self-aware
Self-confident
Self-sufficient
Sense of destiny
Sense of humor
Sensitive to beauty
Shuns power
Sincere
Not interested in small details
Speculative
Sprited in disagreement
Strives for distant goals
Stubborn
Temperamental
Tenacious
Tender emotions
Timid
Thorough
Unconcerned about power
Somewhat uncultured, primitive
Unsophisticated, naive
Unwilling to accept anything on mere say-so
Visionary
Versatile
Willing to take risks
Somewhat withdrawn and quiescent

What do you think of this list? Valid, or not?

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

On The Goddess Blogs today….

I am in bliss. On every black tarred pavement in every shopping center across the southwest, vendors have set up their chile roasters and spend the day roasting long green chiles for stray motorists who buy them by the bushel to take home and freeze for the long cold winter ahead.  There is nothing I love to smell more than chiles roasting on a summer day. I am a chile fanatic, and this summer I’ve been experimenting with the most dazzling little chile pepper. I must tell you about him, darling creature.  But first–

photoEveryone has their regional foods, and here in the southwest, we have Mexican food.  Everyone has their opinions on Mexican food, right? These days, everybody eats burritos and tacos.  They have corn tortillas in the supermarkets in the midwest and Maine.

But in the west, we are aware that “Mexican food” is not just one thing.  KEEP READING >>>>>

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

The end of one cycle…the beginning of the next

We are working on a new title for my next book. I’m nearly finished with the copy edits, and cover discussions have begun.  That means it’s time for me to think about what’s next.

I’ve started working on ideas for new books. This is–by far–the most enjoyable stage of the process until I have a finished book to hold in my hands, and one of the pleasures is in building collages.  Tonight, I’ve been leafing through some of my favorites, tearing out pictures and simply enjoying the quiet, restful pleasure of looking at beautiful photos, leafing through magazines, letting images and ideas rise.

One of my favorites, Artful Blogging, actually provided the seed for the new book.  In its pages, I read story after story of women whose lives had been transformed by the act of starting and keeping up with a blog.  Some were artists, some chefs or bakers, some quilters or photographers, but over and over again, they said the same thing: “Blogging changed my life.”

I kept wondering what that would be like, to live somewhere isolated, and decide to begin this journey.  And what might my character discover? And where would it take her? And so the book was born, four food bloggers who support and encourage each other, and finally meet on the blue moon at a lavender farm….

Anyway, tonight I was leafing through all these beautiful magazines and thought of all of you. If you have not ever picked up Stampington.com‘s artful magazines, I hearby order you to go look around the site and click through a few.  And remember that little things can change your life, too.

Do you collage or quilt or make art in some way? Do you have favorite art blogs to share with us? 

Ambling around the internet this morning, I found this challenge from Book Chick City: Since
Double Delight is the name. The petals are photo-sensitive and the blossoms are highly fragrant
This is what can be fun about the shift in the way books come to
HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE by Barbara O'Neal Available TODAY in trade paperback from
First: we're working behind the scenes on the Barbara O'Neal and Barbara Samuel webpages, which

Antioch Writing Institute, Audible Books, and finally….turned in the new book!

A handful of news updates this freezing Friday February morning.

 

BOOKS

—The first is that I’ve finished revisions for my next women’s fiction book, The Flavor of a Blue Moon, which will be out from Bantam some time next spring. (Sorry–it was research intensive, four food bloggers who gather at an organic lavender farm–I hope you’ll find it worth the wait.)

—I’ve solicited some reads on The Mirror Girl, the project I blogged a year ago, and the response is overwhelmingly enthusiastic. I’ll be making another pass through it, then sending it off into the world  Hope to have news of that for you soon.

—Audio: lots of books are going up in audio, both backlist and frontlist, so if you’ve missed one, keep checking back.  I’m waiting for approval on A Bed of Spices, and will run a special promotion (because it is particularly beautiful!).  Recent new additions to the catalogue are some special reads on The Sleeping Night, Walk in Beauty, The Last Chance Ranch, and one of my favorites, Light of Day.   Check out the growing list here. Nearly all of my books have been contracted or are in production. I have had so many emails asking, so this is very good news!

TEACHING/APPEARANCES

—I’ll be teaching this summer in Santa Barbara, at the Antioch Summer Writing Institute in Santa Barbara. The week-long immersion will focus on Writing Commercial Fiction. Space is limited.   READ MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM>>>

—After many many inquiries over the past few months, I have decided to offer my six-week voice class twice this year, in April and in August.  I’ll post an official announcement soon, but if you are interested, email me at awriterafoot @ gmail.com with the subject line VOICE CLASS.   As always, there will be two scholarships per section offered, to be drawn randomly (so you don’t have to qualify).  Places are VERY limited.

Check back for more on that next week.

Now, I’m off to scribble some more on a juicy piece I’m writing for Lunch Hour Love Stories.  It will be available mid-March.

Stay warm!

 

 

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

Tilting toward Spring

It is February which means I have survived the worst month in Colorado, which is always January.  The days are short, ending claustrophobically even before I’ve started dinner, and it is often bitterly cold. The worst is the boring weather–indifferent, icy sunshine pouring from a frozen blue sky, day after day after day.   I ache for snowstorms in January, or cloudy days, or something to break up that endless blah cold.  It isn’t that I hate winter.  I just hate boring January.

And then February arrives and the earth tilts ever so slightly toward summer, and the days progress minute by minute toward dinnertime, then catch it.   In February, it can snow a lot, soaking the ground in readiness for spring.  If we’re lucky, crocuses might start popping up.  The tree branches start to swell.

My gardener’s heart turns to catalogues, oh torturous exercise!  Look at those plump tomatoes, those tender flower sprouts, even the clogs and knee protectors.  I want to go turn the compost just to smell the earth.  I spy the seedling trays and tug them off the winter shelf, wondering when I might be able  READ MORE  on The Goddess Blogs>>>>>>

 

 

 

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

The Age of Aquarius–a time of balance

Happily, the end of the world has not yet arrived, and we’re all here to begin the long awaited Age of Aquarius, which some say begins this year.  It is meant to be a time of spiritual growth for society, and to me, it  does feel like the dawn of a new age.  I’d like to think so.

I’m thinking about change and balance myself, and a few things have come together to insist that I begin to consider exactly what I want each day to contain, how I want to live, what changes I’d like to make.  In October and November, I was pulling my usual deadline marathon, finishing the new book, Flavor of a Blue Moon, which will be out in early 2014.  (Sorry, I know that will be a disappointment to some of you, but the truth is, it just took more time to research and write than some other books.  I think you’re going to fall in love with Lavender and Ginny and all the adventures they have.  In the meantime, I promise to have some novellas up this year, just for you.)

Back to the deadline marathon.  It was exhausting.  Way more exhausting than it ever has been.  By the time I emailed it to my editor and agent, I felt like a zombie, and looked like one, too: my eyes were bloodshot constantly, and my skin was the color of wax, to compliment the smeared-cinders look of the circles under my eyes.  The last week of the deadline, I realized that I had a sinus infection and dashed over to the local urgent care to get some antibiotics.

There I discovered that one reason I felt so crappy was that my  blood pressure, which I’d been trying to control with diet and exercise, had gone way too high, and my heart was murmuring and all sorts of alarms went off and I was hustled to this doctor and that and had tests and Serious Conversations and–well, the bottom line is,

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create