Memory Wisps

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud
~ Maya Angelou

I was rudely jolted from sleep this morning trying to remember the name of a blog I used to read. What the heck? A blog?

I punched my pillow, pulled the blankets up to my chin and snuggled deeper into the comfort of my warm bed. Eyes closed I decided six am on a rainy Saturday morning was an obscene hour to wake up. Unfortunately, the word “doctor” drifted through my consciousness about the same time. Doctor Who? Yes, I really thought that and then wondered where the TARDIS was. Don’t judge – I was barely awake.

Now I was really getting annoyed and no matter how hard I tried to ignore the compulsion to chase memory wisps the name remained just out of reach. It played hide and seek with my sleep-dulled mind until sleep became wishful thinking. Damn it.

I won’t share what I growled under my breath as I threw back the covers and went in search of my phone to check Twitter. Stay with me here – there is a method to my madness. I followed the blog on Twitter as well because the author was witty and thought provoking. If I checked who I followed I might put an end to this madness. Have you ever tried to locate information on a phone without your glasses? Yeah, it was like that. Good news, I found what I was looking for – Noveldoctor.

For most people that piece of information would be enough. End to the mystery. Sometimes I hate not being “most people”. I grabbed my laptop and pulled up Stephen Parolini’s blog and proceeded to lose myself in all the posts I had missed while I had been sucked into the vortex of insanity my life had been lately. (We’ll leave that for another day – lucky you ☺)

Writing has not been a priority for me in a very long time. The last time I wrote a blog post was over a year ago. A year! It is easy to lose faith in ones self and to let doubt become a best friend, it is much harder to move through the dark times and pull the pieces of a life back together. Finding the joy in writing felt impossible. I was wrong. Sometimes the universe gives us an unexpected gift – a nudge in the right direction – even at six am on a rainy Saturday morning.

What I read made me laugh, made me think and reinforced that I am not alone. It was timely and needed. We never know what impacts our words can have on another. Through our blogs we share our thoughts and sometimes they resonate with a reader on a deeper level. Occasionally, if we are lucky, a reader will leave a comment, but most times we never know how we may have impacted another.

So, if you ever find yourself rudely awakened much too early as I was, my advice is to give in to the inevitable and follow that compulsion. You might find something surprising that will brighten your day.

Thank you, Stephen Parolini. You made my day.

Changes

Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.

~William Arthur Ward

 

Change is inevitable.  As a general rule I embrace it and find ways to navigate the new paradigm shift.  Most of the time, the changes are positive and just what I needed to shake me out of the complacency that comes with being too comfortable in where my life is at any given moment.

At least that is what I tried to remind myself when everything recently went to hell in a hand basket.  Have you ever faced a moment when everything you expected and counted on, everything you knew about yourself abruptly went out of focus?  It is frightening, isn’t it?

Losing a job isn’t the end of the world.  Far from it.  But losing a job after twenty years with the same company tilted my world on its axis.  Finding myself standing outside the doors holding a box containing personal items from my desk left me stunned and lost.  My brain literally shut down because I couldn’t process what had just happened.  It didn’t matter that I was just another victim of corporate downsizing or that it wasn’t anything personal.  It felt damn personal to me.

I’d like to say I handled it like a pro, but the truth of the matter is there really is a grieving process with any unexpected loss – including a job.  There were days when getting out of my pajama’s was too much effort and a lot of nights I slept on the couch because it helped mitigate the panic when I woke up each morning and realized I wasn’t going to work.  After twenty years of defining myself by my accomplishments and position within my former company I suddenly had to identify myself as unemployed.  It felt like failure.

To say I am blessed with family and friends is a gross understatement.  They helped me even when I found it hard to be comforted by their support and understanding.  They offered encouragement, laughter when I needed it most and a steady presence that made it possible for me to work my way through the dark hole I fell in to.

I still have a lot to figure out and finding another job is at the top of my list.  The creativity energy to write is slowly returning and that is a huge relief.  It was doubly scary to find words had deserted me and my characters were silent.

As a general rule I am an optimist and working my way through recent events has shown me I have more strength than I realized.  I will be okay.  Truly, who knows where life will take me next.  All I know is stepping boldly to greet whatever comes my way is much better than allowing past events to defeat me.

Change is what we make of it after all.

Star Light, Star Bright

For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream.      ~ Vincent Van Gogh

What do you see when  you look up at the night sky?

It’s no secret I write about characters that inhabit a universe where space travel is commonplace.  Visiting strange worlds and looking up to see stars twinkling in a unfamiliar night sky is nothing out of the ordinary for them. But,  it wasn’t until I was mulling over a scene for my newest book that I realized I was missing an opportunity with my main character.  What did he feel as he stood beneath that glorious canopy on a world not his own.  Did he long for his home world and the familiarity of stars he would never see again? Find a measure of comfort that the stars remained when all else was gone? Or was he exhilarated by the vast mystery, ready to leap into the void and escape the past?

It was a bit of a jolt when I realized I couldn’t recall the last time I actually stepped outdoors and looked up.  How could I possibly tap into Wulf’s feelings if I couldn’t remember how I felt as a stargazer?  I’ve lived in many places over the course of my life, some where the stars are narrow strips between buildings and in others where the sky is so big I can almost see the curve of the world.  I’ve felt lost in the vastness, small and insignificant, but I have always yearned to explore.  Who knew what adventures were waiting for me.

As I stood outside I was struck anew by the beauty of the night. I took a deep breath of the cool night air and let the worries of the day drift away. I could almost imagine Wulf standing beside me whispering in my ear and I began to understand what he saw and what he was feeling.  I will never stand on a strange planet and look at its night sky, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand what it means to be in a strange place and yearn for what was lost.  Can I capture that part of him in words?  I hope so.

When you get a chance take a moment and step outside.  Look up at the night sky and dare to reach beyond yourself into that velvet darkness.  You might be surprised what you discover.

Interview with Author Monica Knightley

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the delightful Monica Knightley about her debut novel The Vampire’s Passion.

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After a lifetime of saying ‘someday’, Monica Knightley is finally fulfilling her dream of being a writer. She writes both adult and young adult paranormal and historical novels. Like the heroine in her debut novel, Monica is an anglophile who loves to travel to Great Britain whenever possible, and England seems to show up in just about everything she writes. She recently left a long career as a primary school teacher, but still shows up occasionally as a substitute. Monica and her husband make their home in Oregon.

Kylie:  Welcome, Monica!  One of my favorite things to do is interview a newly published author and share in the excitement over their book release!

Monica:  Thank you, Kylie, for having me on your blog today.

Kylie:  First off, I love the title of your book.  The Vampire’s Passion sounds intriguing, so tell us a little about your story.

Monica:  Claire Seymour has had her heart shattered by her faithless fiancé, and decides to run away and live out a long-held dream of taking a summer class on Jane Austen at the Oxford University. She has no thoughts of falling in love again, and not even in her wildest nightmares would the object of her desire be her vampiric professor who at turns repulses and attracts her. But just as Claire is opening her heart to Gabriel Augustine she learns he is hiding an even greater secret than the fact that he is a vampire—a secret that has haunted him for centuries. A secret that could break Claire’s heart, just as it is beginning to heal.

Kylie:  Jane Austen, Oxford University and a vampire – wow!  Your character, Claire Seymour, has certainly landed herself in quite a situation, hasn’t she?  Here’s a challenge for you – describe your heroine in one sentence.

Monica:  Claire is tired of allowing her broken heart to rule her, and forces herself to make choices that pull her outside her comfort zone and that reflect her new philosophy of Carpe Diem—seize the day!

Kylie:  It sounds like a philosophy she will need to embrace in order to navigate the challenges she faces, right? But, what traits attracted the heroine to the hero?

Monica:  You mean, besides the fact that he is drop-dead gorgeous and makes Mr. Darcy look like pond scum? No, Claire is attracted to the fact that Gabriel is a gentleman—he has the manners of a bygone era—and that he is intelligent, and caring, and loves all things Jane Austen. But while she is first realizing that she is indeed attracted to Gabriel, she also discovers that he is a vampire, which repulses her. Being both attracted and repulsed by the man causes Claire some angst for a while.

Kylie:  Okay, you seriously made me laugh when  you said Gabriel makes Mr. Darcy look like pond scum!  Love the description 🙂 Let’s shift gears a little away from your story and on to you as the author.  Do you use a pen name?  If so, how did you decide on the name?

Monica:  I do use a pen name. Because of my particular day job, I knew I needed one. A friend who knew I was writing, and what I was writing, went to Happy Hour with me to help me pick a name. For some reason, he thought I was writing some kind of very smutty book, so as the evening and the drinks went on, the names he came up with started sounding like pole dancer names! Dismissing his creative ideas, I decided I wanted the name to pay homage to my favorite author, Jane Austen, and came up with Knightley, for Mr. Knightley in Emma.

Kylie: Some day you and I are going to have to get together so you can tell me what names your friend suggested.  I promise not to tell, but I can’t guarantee I won’t giggle a lot.  Every writer I know is also an avid reader, so what is your favorite book and why?

Monica:  Picking ONE favorite book is like picking a favorite child! I can never limit myself to just one favorite book, but if forced under duress I would say Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Her depictions of characters are so true and clear, and feel like people you might know. And her humor is as amusing today as it was when she wrote it. When I’m laughing at something in P and P, I forget I’m reading a book that was written at the turn of the Nineteenth Century—it feels so contemporary.

Kylie:  Did you spend much time on research for your story? If so, what did you like most about it?

 Monica:  Research for this book was minimal, as I was using places and information I was already familiar with. There were a few times when I had to look something up, or had to verify a fact, but not as often as I like. I love doing research, and most of my other projects are either set in historical times, or have historical aspects to them. I gleefully go down the research rabbit holes. Of course, then the writing doesn’t always get done! It’s a fine line I have to walk.

Kylie:  It seems like you have walked that line just fine.  It has been a delight to chat with you today.  Best wishes on your release!  If you would like to learn more about Monica you can find her through these sites.

Website:  http://www.monicaknightley.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/monicaknightleyauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/monicaknightley

 

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 THE VAMPIRE’S PASSION 

The enigmatic, ethereally handsome, aristocratic Gabriel Augustine, professor of Nineteenth Century English Literature at St. Giles College in Oxford, England, is a man with many secrets. And it is not his vampiric nature that is his most deeply held secret. Though few know he is vampire, not human, none know the horror that has haunted him throughout his long existence. He has spent centuries attempting to atone for his greatest sin.

Claire Seymour needs to forget her past. She is ready to embark on any journey that will move her away from the pain that has been her constant companion since discovering her fiancé with her best friend. Four weeks at the University of Oxford, in a class on her favorite author, Jane Austen, seems like a good place to start.

Neither is prepared for the other.

 

Here’s to being an Introvert….

“Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.” 
~ Susan Cain

I’m an introvert.  I know because I took an online test 🙂  I say that very tongue-in-cheek because I have always known I was an introvert, but the validation was nice and the test kind of fun.  When I read the traits of most introverts, I saw myself clearly.  Am I more sociable and gregarious around people I know well?  Check. Do I tend to be more reserved and quiet in large groups or around unfamiliar people?  Double check.  Would I rather observe than participate….  Well, you get the picture.

 What I did not realize is extroverts outnumber introverts three to one and we can often be thought of as shy, aloof and arrogant.  Really?  I grant you I tend to be private about most things and in large groups I am more of an observer than a participant, but that doesn’t mean I am arrogant or aloof (the jury is still out on the shy part).  Admittedly I don’t have a large circle of friends, because knowing a lot of people has never held much attraction for me.  Those I count as friends I hold dear though.  I try to nourish those relationships because they are important to me.

I’m not anti-social, but given a choice I will always gravitate towards a one-to-one conversation rather than a party with a lot of people.  I can become quite animated if I am interested in the subject at hand and relish a meaningful or even light, fun conversation with friends.  Spending time alone doesn’t bother me and by the end of a long work day I am sometime relieved to have a quiet sanctuary at home where I can recharge.

Not surprising is the tendency for us introverts to seek out professions where we can work independently, jobs that don’t demand much social interaction that cause us to expend a lot of energy.  Where an extrovert thrives in a social setting and may feel recharged afterwards, the opposite is true for us.  Meetings for my day job can leave me drained and irritable some days.  I rarely stick around to chat afterwards.

Maybe that is why I love to write?   Here is a profession where I can delve deep into something that doesn’t require I expend emotional energy to satisfy social norms but can funnel my observations, thoughts, feelings and impressions through my characters.  Instead of feeling drained and weary, I feel recharged and energized.  Why is that?  I’m not really sure other than it is a quieter pursuit.

I can spend hours reading a good book and not even notice the passage of time.  Give me a hot cup of tea, a comfortable couch and a book and I am in bliss. When I eventually surface again to the real world I feel more centered and content.

So, the upshot of all of this is if you see me in a social setting – I am the one close to the corner, quietly sipping a drink and occasionally venturing into an interesting conversation – don’t think I am being a snob.  I may be enjoying myself immensely.  Most likely I am observing the interactions I see and thinking about how that tall, striking man laughing down at his companion can be described in my next book 🙂  When it all becomes a little too much for me I will unobtrusively slip away.

Oh, if you are wondering if you are an extrovert or an introvert you can take the test here: http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/quiet-quiz-are-you-an-introvert/

 

 

Doodle Away, My Friend!

People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.

~Thomas Sowell

I was channel surfing the other day and landed on a news snippet talking about doodling.  Hmmm.  I doodle – a lot.  The information presented was fascinating, but I couldn’t believe this had warranted serious study.  Curious, I did a quick internet search on the word to see what else was out there.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the amount of research, opinions and humorous blogs about something I have always done.

My desk has drawings on scattered pieces of paper all over it and I can’t take a phone call without drawing meaningless squiggles on an envelope back or any other handy piece of paper.

The notebook I take to business meetings has pages where the margins are covered in doodles. How else am I going to survive hours full of dry facts and slide presentations?  I always thought it was boredom that drove me to doodle, a survival instinct, if you will.  Not necessarily so. Imagine my delight when I found out doodling actually helps me pay attention!  I guess that explains why I can remember a lot of the finer points presented when I finally escape – um, leave – a long, long meeting.

Here’s the deal – I daydream.  All the time. I have a very active and inventive imagination.  It is part of a writer’s toolbox and, believe it or not, requires a lot of a brain’s processing ability (at least that is what researchers say).  I don’t sit here and decide I am going to daydream, it just happens and I happily go along for the ride.  My powers of concentration fade fast when I get bored and my mind will wander. It is amazing how one thought leads to another and before I know it my thoughts have gone from thinking about my drive to work, to how interesting the clouds looked on the horizon, to would clouds behave the same on another planet and on to mentally writing a description for my current book.

As wonderful as that is for the creative process, it is disastrous for retaining data for the day job.   Doodling requires just enough effort to keep me from letting my mind wander down strange and wonderful paths and pay attention to what is going on.

So, the upshot of all this is I can continue to merrily doodle my way through meetings without guilt and feel confident I am doing my part to retain the gold mine of information being disseminated.  A win, win.   Whew!

Just a thought though….what exactly do all the boxes, cartoonish tornado’s whirling across the page and intricate filled in diamond patterns say about me?  I am sure I can find the meaning of those doodles somewhere.  Maybe I don’t want to know. 😉

Non-Essential Functions Temporarily Off-Line

“This is for everyone who has ever looked at the stars, or gazed from atop a hill, or across the sea and wondered…” 
~
Tim PerkinsWorlds End: The Riders On The Storm

I’ve had some health issues lately and my system hit overload.  To top everything off I was leveled with a bad cold, a man-voice that echoed in my own ears and the energy level of an anemic slug.  Yeh, so not pretty.  I crawled home from work with the sole purpose of collapsing on my couch and pretending I was still alive.  My youngest asked me how I was feeling and I said without any pause to think – I feel like the starship Enterprise that has had to reroute all systems to basic life support.  Non-essential functions are temporarily off line.  Bless her, she didn’t even miss a beat, just shook her head, laughed and jokingly called me a nerd.  She also went to make me a cup of tea.

That brief conversation stuck with me because describing how I was feeling in that odd way really does sum up a lot about me.  I am a dyed-in-the-wool SciFi fan and have been since I discovered The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key when I was in the 6th grade.  My imagination was hijacked. I devoured that book.

When Star Trek came along I was entranced by the possibilities of space travel. The fact the Enterprise was inhabited by Kirk, Mr. Spock and Bones didn’t hurt either.  I regularly fell in and out of like with them.  Through the  years I have read countless books, watched the majority of SciFi movies and regularly take a side trip to English TV and Dr. Who.  When I wrote my first book it was inhabited with men who planet hop.  No surprise there.

I am also blessed with a friend who doesn’t blink an eye at any of this.  Of course, she is also a writer and dwells in that strange landscape of a writer’s mind where many of us reside.  Who else is going to turn up for coffee wearing a Dr. Who t-shirt to celebrate the 50th anniversary?  She and I discuss space travel, magic and difficult characters with aplomb.  We jump from subject to subject and then back again without missing a beat.  We tend to laugh a lot.  From the outside you would probably not even realize what we are so earnestly discussing.  If you did, you just might want  to join in the fun.  Resistance is futile! (sorry, I couldn’t resist) 🙂