January 25, 2013

Small Magic

I spent last weekend away at a magical cottage.

My family and I took some much-needed escape time over MLK weekend and tried our luck on an unknown B&B. Nestled in the big trees of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Redwood Croft is far enough away from civilization to be conveniently detached from cell phone and internet service. The owner informed us that a "croft" was a medieval word for a house, like this wood-and-stone manor, with adjoining land for a garden. (Garden might not be exactly the right word for the wild and lovely ramble of native plants that wound around the house.) The grounds begged me to tramp around with my camera. 

How do I know it was magical, you ask? Well, it was obvious, my dear Chronicles of Narnia fans. There was a lamp-post in the front yard. As if we'd come from the far country of Spare Oom.  

Actually, I knew it as soon as we turned on to the street. It was called Ice Cream Grade. 

Not to mention that there was a wishing well in the back. Pre-equipped with wishes.  

 Maybe not your typical storybook variety of magic, but certainly one that returned me to childhood: the giant trampoline under the redwoods. I hadn't jumped on a trampoline in years. I quickly rediscovered just how euphoric flying can be.  

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of some of my favorite memories, such as sitting down to the sumptuous breakfasts served on vintage dishes, with taper candles and white poinsettias on the table (there are a few photos on the B&B's website). Or curling up to read by the warm woodstove in the evenings, a strand of Christmas lights twinkling just outside the window, a little old dog named Spinner snoring on a sheepskin on the couch. 

But with views like this to photograph, I didn't have many pictures left on my camera card anyway. 

Magic is everywhere, usually in the small things, if you're looking for it. Maybe it was just a little easier to see at Redwood Croft.

Did you have any adventures over the long weekend? Discover any small magic of your own? 

January 4, 2013

Turning the Page

Well, good morning, 2013. I've been underground for a while. Nice to see you.

Time to get a new year of blogging up and running with a post about New Year's Resolutions. Someone told me recently that they don't bother with resolutions at New Year's--if they see a need for change in their life, they'll get on with changing it immediately. I respect that, and I don't hold much stock in resolutions either, but last year I talked a bit about my philosophy about resolutions vs. goals. I do like the opportunity afforded by a new year to turn a page in life. If 2012 beat down your idealism and best efforts and dragged you through the mud, it's okay. Wipe the slate clean. Cancel the debts. Start fresh. Tomorrow is another day.

I like to start by glancing over my shoulder at last year's goals. It's a bit encouraging, a bit dismal, and a bit amusing to remind myself of what I set out to do in the last year:

1. Get to know God better by reading the Bible through in chronological order

Status: in process (forever). I made it about halfway through the Bible before this year's hurricanes got in the way. I'm hoping to pick up the other half and finish it this year.

2. Have the second draft of my novel completed and be ready to start looking at literary agents by June

Status: in process (hopefully not forever). The second (and third) drafts of my novel are done (yay!) but I've learned a lot about the process of publishing since last January. I decided to recruit a squad of test readers, primarily 9-14-year-olds, to read the manuscript and help me identify its weak spots. That process is now winding up, as the last few of these loyal secret agents send me their invaluable files of comments. Armed with these, I plan to troubleshoot the manuscript one last time and then apply to some literary agents. I've also learned more about the increasingly attractive and accessible process of self-publishing, which may be another possible route for my book.

3. Take a 2-month class on blogging and social media for authors

Status: done! One down! I learned so much from this class, taught by Kristin Lamb. We may not agree on every issue, but it definitely got me thinking about writing as a business, kicked me into gear on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google+ (yipes!), and most importantly, got me connected with a network of other writers who are working toward the same goals.

4. Buy a car

Status: also done! My sweet silver ride still makes me smile. Ever since we met back in July, it's been love for Baby and me :) Incidentally, I've also learned how to check PSI, buy a pair of windshield wipers, and refill wiper fluid in the engine (hint: you can use plain water :)).

5. Read Gone with the Wind, Othello, and The Kite Runner

Status: 2 out of 3. None of these are especially happy books, but The Kite Runner was just too intense for me by the time I thought about it in mid-August. Othello--forgive me, Shakespeare--was not my favorite play ever. The conflict felt contrived and the female lead was just downright wimpy. Othello wasn't exactly a genius, either. I think the best role went to Iago's wife, who told everybody what was what (before dying in the last scene, of course). Gone with the Wind was the best of the bunch--a soaring, operatic panorama in a style that reminded me of Les Miserables, but was much easier to read. The characters are fiery and unforgettable, and the portrait of the antebellum South was detailed and dramatic. A great book, if you've got time for a long one.

And now for some new goals. We'll see how these fare in the year to come :)

1. Grow closer to God

2. See my novel accepted for publication or self-published

3. Work up to a monthly income I can live on

4. Learn the craft of bookbinding. Okay. How cool would THAT be??


What are your goals for 2013?