Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

Yesterday, I left Toastmasters. The send-off my friends gave me was so loving, so generous, so kind, so full of good cheer and heartfelt comments, I think I wept the whole time. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was not a decision taken lightly. I had wrestled with it for more than a year. I knew I needed to put the hours I’d been putting into the club and my speeches into writing my stories and books.

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I knew I wasn’t achieving enough real B.I.C (butt-in-chair) hours to make the progress I wanted to make with my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. That the boys still required the same amount of my input as teenagers as they had when they were little frustrated me. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Something had to give. To leave the club would seem obvious, and yet it wasn’t. A lot of self talk went on in my decision to quit Toastmasters. I love my friends there and the weekly get-togethers are fun.

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I joined a local club in June 2015, with the plan to stay for four months, hoping I would learn how to give a decent speech so I didn’t suck at my first ever book launch. September 15th arrived, and I launched my book and gave a speech my family were proud of. I knew the effort I had put into months of Toastmasters’ speeches to get to that point, and I felt proud of myself which was a lovely new feeling. The weekly meetings were stimulating and informative. I enjoyed my circle of inspirational, intelligent, interesting and funny friends. The book launch came and went, and I said, “I’ll just stay another month.”

I stayed another month for five years.

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With each year I learned more, I gained more strength; I discovered an unexpected facility for public speaking. And all in the company of some of the most wonderful folks I have ever met. In my parting speech yesterday, I said the people you meet in Toastmasters are the greatest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. You make firm bonds with others in a speaker’s club. Through the fires of facing down knee-knocking, heart-pounding challenges together you forge friendships that can last a lifetime. You have been comrades, side-by-side, daring yourselves to compete in the many speech competitions the organisation runs each year, and you have shivered together before going on stage, daring each other to grow. It creates closeness between the members and real empathy for one another.

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It was during the last five years that both of my parents died, my mother passed away in her sleep within a few weeks of my joining the club, and my father died in hospital after a heart attack a few years later. Toastmasters proved a lifeline throughout my grief. I had the comfort of friends to care about me and a creative outlet in which to express my feelings. I was grateful for the gift of being able to speak in public because this empowered me to speak about my great love for my parents at both their funerals. Prior to Toastmasters, I would have been shaking in a corner, too paralyzed by fear to step up to the lectern and do them justice. Though I wobbled at the start giving Dad’s eulogy, I recovered using my training and delivered a tribute speech I still feel good about today.

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The older members sometimes say “the system works” and that’s because it does. The Toastmasters educational program is transformative. It is an honour to guide the terrified newbies who join the club and mentor them through their journey of self development, as they turn up and do the work and find their voices, and develop self confidence, new strengths, and open their wings.

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It was Dr. Ralph Smedley who founded the Toastmasters organisation on March 24, 1905. His brainchild, the idea was to foster potential in others by teaching interpersonal skills, to do with communication, management and leadership in the community, all by teaching the art of public speaking. From humble beginnings in a room at the YMCA, today it is an international speaking organisation with over 352,000 members in 141 countries. Why? Because the system works, it develops individuals into better versions of themselves. I’ll always be grateful to Toastmasters and sing its praises to anyone who will listen. You haven’t joined yet? Why not?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever your grade or position, if you know how and when to speak, and when to remain silent, your chances of success are proportionately increased.” ~ Dr. Ralph C. Smedley

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Happy New Year! My boys and I returned yesterday from our annual holiday with the family in the Coromandel Peninsula. My sister, her kids, son-in-law and grandson, my brother and his partner and youngest son, my eldest with his fiancée and daughter, a niece and my two younger sons gathered to have some family bonding time in mum’s and dad’s old log cabin by the sea, which some family members have been running as an “Air B’nB.”

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We arrived in the Coromandel on the 29th, and we were fortunate to spend a week there. Our days comprised sleeping in, eating, talking, making communal meals, and animated discussion how best to spend our day. Usually that involved either going into “town” the little seaside resort township which hosts a few thousand resident population during quiet months swells to 50,000+ over the summer holiday period, to our favourite coffee shop to eat Hash Stacks and sweet treats with good coffee. Or we would swim in the inner harbour where the boys can jump off the bridge at high tide and the beach is a safe place for babies to paddle. Sometimes the boys went to the playground or to play basketball at the park. It was idyllic.

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There was my son’s toy poodle, Charlie, to walk in the afternoons. Then we’d drive in convoy down to the surf beach to go body-surfing. Sam-the-man and I swam and spent hours playing Snakes and Ladders on our towelling version of the game. My sweet one and a half year old granddaughter “Bells” loved the beach. She was far more agile this year. She had a real yen for eating sand and munched a good deal of it every visit. We taught her to leap over the waves and to make her first sandcastles.

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Then it was home and into the shower. There’s nothing like pitching in with all the other “cooks” in the kitchen to prepare a huge dinner, roast chicken and roast veggies, butter chicken, frittata, mashed potato and salad, with massive desserts of fruit salad with cream, apple crumble, apple cake and ice creams in the cone. While you’re conversing with the others in the kitchen, it’s nice to see other family members reclining on couches reading or having a chat over cards.

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The reserve before my parents’ property is a vast bowl shaped green space for game playing and a children’s playground. Throughout the day, our three teenage cousins would disappear to the reserve, to ride the skim board all three at once down the slope like a toboggan, or play ball, or ride the swings, and they would stay out sometimes until after dark and we could hear the yells of the boys reciting raps they’ve memorised all the way from the swings. One dusk, I said to others with me on the veranda, “The boys are down at the swings and I need to call them for dinner.” Then the three people sitting below our tract of land, listening to music on the edge of the reserve, called out, “DINNER!” and the boys heard and started back up the hill. “Thank you!” I called to the helpful strangers. “That’s okay!” They waved back. Such are the way of things when you’re on holiday.

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It feels good the way time slows down when you’re on vacation. “I like it because you’re more relaxed,” said my son. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the late bedtimes either, sitting up in the man cave hunched over mobile phones with his cousins, or the snoring until midday. We all had fun. There were no disagreements, the boys didn’t butt heads. I guess they’re growing up. The break was just what I needed. I took a breather and had long conversations with the members of my family. I had bonding time with my granddaughter.

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We spent hours together as a family, swimming, walking, eating and playing games. On the night of the 31st, we watched TV and played cards until 11.30 when we wandered along to the end of the road where we had located the perfect spot to watch the fireworks. At midnight, we gasped and whooped watching the spectacular display of fireworks released from a barge in the middle of the harbour. The bursts of colour against the black Coromandel Ranges were magnificent, and then we swapped hugs and kisses.

2020 has begun. Whatever you aim for in the coming twelve months, I wish you success. From my family to yours, Happy New Year!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is not flesh and blood, but the heart which makes us connected. ~ Johann Schiller

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I find Boxing day relaxing after the rush and bustle of Christmas day. The term ‘Boxing day’ emerged out of Britain, when it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of gifts on the first weekday after the 25th as thanks for their service throughout the year. It connected the custom of giving boxes to an older British tradition, stemming from giving servants a day off after Christmas and a gift box to take home to their families. Sometimes the gift was leftover food and leftovers still form a big part of our modern traditions in New Zealand. We celebrate Boxing day by having a rest and eating the food from the day before. Until the late 20th century there was a tradition among many in the British Empire to give a Christmas gift, usually cash to tradesmen and vendors at this time of year.

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A tradition here in New Zealand is to go to the beach on Boxing day. The boys have gone swimming with their father and his family. I thought I might prefer to sit in the shade at home. Actually, as anyone who hosts the family get-together knows, we reserve the next day in some part to cleaning the house, decanting food, sorting the gifts and attempting to restore some order.

There are arguments about the origin of the term Boxing day. Some hold that the name is a reference to charity drives. Traditions in some countries include collecting money for the poor on Christmas day and opening the box the next day – Boxing day.

While others say it relates to an ancient nautical tradition when they sent a sealed box of money aboard sailing ships when setting sail for good luck. If the voyage was a success, the captain gave the box to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents then given to the poor.

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Whatever the true origin, it’s a day of utter rest for us, while we try to recover from eating too much and staying up too late.

We had a blissful day yesterday. The boys got up at 8.30 to discover their stockings and presents. Let us just say both boys have restocked their libraries! I want to foster the youngest son’s love of reading. The middle son has always been a reader, but the youngest has only just begun. I bought him a dozen books across a wide range of genres hoping among them he would find one or two to twig his interest, and he did.

It was an effortless day. One of our family traditions is to have fresh peas for the festive dinner and share the job of shucking the peas. It’s something we’ve always done together. Instead of the whole family being here this year, the boys helped me shuck them, which was very sweet.

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My nephew who boards with us helped cook the roast turkey dinner. A niece who had just returned from a long overseas trip joined us for a day of cooking, eating, drinking, and talking. My eldest son, his fiancée, and their one-year-old daughter also came to visit. My granddaughter is vocalizing sweet garbled words, she’s walking steadily, however, she doesn’t quite have the idea of opening gifts. She was more interested in playing with the paper and moving the magnets on the fridge. Her chubby cheeks and big blue eyes held us entranced.

We all pitched in to create a lavish feast of roast turkey, hassle back potatoes, vegetables, fresh peas, spinach and broccoli and gravy. Homemade fruit cake, chocolate chip cookies, and fresh fruit salad followed this with whipped cream.

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After four in the afternoon, we were doing dishes and packing away plates. In the evening, after eating two more rounds of dessert, we strolled down the road to look at the festive lights. The boys were in bed asleep by nine, and finally mama could watch a movie with a box of chocolates.

A modern Boxing day phenomenon is the big retail sales when many people do their Xmas shopping for the following year. Not me. I far prefer some R&R and to unwind and take the time to reflect on things. As I send out thank you messages, I think of the many gifts this year has brought. I like to ponder the twelve months just gone at this time of the year and turn my thoughts for the first time towards the year to come.

May 2020 bring you peace, happiness, and love!  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us!” – H. Borland

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I will call what happened “an intervention.” A close friend took me by the hand and gave me a kind little shake up, a gentle push in the right direction. When she heard my intention was to soft launch my next book, The Last Tree, on Amazon, she was aghast. ‘But if you do the same things, you’ll only sell to the same number of people.’ It’s a privilege when someone gets real with you, because it means they care about you enough to intervene.

She asked me, ‘What do you want?’

‘To inspire more readers.’

‘If you want to reach more readers, you must do more.’

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My friend introduced me via email to two people in the business. And over the last fortnight I have met with these two wonderful successful business women, one a traditionally published author of sixteen books and a publicist, and the other a well-connected and respected literary agent. Both women generously gave their time as mentors.

I thought I should share some insights I have gained through this enlightening process.

The first advice was to use my time more wisely.

‘You have too many toes in social media. These things are time wasters.’

I think I sucked in a horrified breath. I’ve spent the last ten years working extensively on my brand, by maintaining ten social media accounts: going around the sites, liking, sharing, commenting, and by making status updates, posting photos and quotes. I thought I was building a social network of contacts, which was important for Indies. It never occurred to me I was wasting my time. Admittedly, sometimes I ran myself ragged keeping up with it all.

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In life you learn and learn, then you course correct, then you learn and learn and change more. It’s a constant process, isn’t it? I remember hearing, ‘Margaret Mahy doesn’t have any social media accounts. She doesn’t even have a website.’ I remember being surprised by that. And I remember my writing buddy,James Preller, joking that he didn’t go near sites like Goodreads because they scared him. I had always felt I needed to be present in as many social media spheres as possible to build my brand as a writer. Yet, maybe that’s why Mahy published hundreds of titles and Preller is on his 85th and I’m on my third….

A week ago, I deleted half my social media accounts, reducing my activity to this blog and my Facebook Fan Page for writing. The monthly newsletter, Pinterest, and my personal Facebook page get to stick around for a while because I can’t bring myself to release them.

The next advice was to amalgamate my blog and website.  To do what I do online better, they suggested I study what the greats are doing with their Internet presence and do likewise.

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I circled the internet and noticed the bestsellers usually have one official site which has a blog and website combined along with a few pages to read: about the author, coming soon/what’s new and links/downloads, that sort of thing.

I did the same. I shut my old website down and amalgamated my blog and website, so it is now a journal blog plus a few pages about me and my work.

The next advice was to expand my author branding. I changed my title from ‘Children’s Writer’ to ‘Author’ as the former might become limiting in future if I want to branch into other genres.

The next advice was to get out of my comfort zone. I shall start submitting to publishers, however if I do self publish, then I’ll spend the money to bring a publicist and a distributor on board, to get the book into stores and libraries and get media attention.

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Admittedly, I shall have to summon all my courage to submit to publishers again. I had gotten to the stage where I was sick of the rejections, and that was one joy of going Indie was I didn’t have to worry.

However, I will send the query letters. I will go to the Publishers Association New Zealand website and look up the member directory for publishers and then follow the guidelines on how to submit.

The last advice they gave me was to be professional. They said ‘if you want to be taken seriously in this business, have your manuscript checked by a proofreader and a copy editor. Pay the money.’

The Last Tree is with a proof reader now.

I’m taking notes. You live and learn, boy. What about you, what have you discovered lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

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I was thinking today how cool it is being an Indie Publisher. I get to do the labour of the writing and I also get to design the finished product. For instance, with my upcoming release, The Last Tree, I’m in the final stages of preparation. After two years of writing, rewriting, and editing, now I get to put the whole package together.

I will do a few illustrations, organize the formatter, the printer, the ISBN’s, and think about the book launch—you know, the fun stuff. I’m communicating with my nephew, Si, the artist, about the cover art. And I’m dreaming of what it will look like and whether it will mesh well with the first two books in the series.

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I can’t wait to see it and the artwork could arrive at any moment!

This is when you can be as creative as you like. You don’t have to go the full Lemony Snicket, but you can let your imagination run wild in your own way about how your final masterpiece will look. I like the design side of book production. I would find it difficult to hand over the decisions to someone else. I had a picture book accepted once by a Wellington publisher, but they wanted to change the names of every character, so I declined the offer. These stories are my creations. As Martin Baynton said, ‘A book belongs to you. It’s your intellectual property.’

My stories are my intellectual property, and they will live long after I’m gone, therefore I want a true representation left in the world.

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I find the end stages of book production particularly pleasing. There are lots of little details to get done. It’s when the story morphs into something real I can hold in my hand. There are delicious treats to savour ahead like seeing the cover art, when Si will bring one of my characters to life. Then there is that singular moment when I get to see my book cover for the first time. Every published author can attest that there is no greater delight than laying eyes on one’s new novel! After the hours spent nose-to-the-grindstone editing the story, these are the glory days. These are the exciting things every author dreams about.

When I pictured how the finished books in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series would look, I wanted eye-catching covers, which I created with Si, and the cover designer at BookPrint. And, I wanted a symbol to act as an emblem linking the books together visually on the shelf. So I designed the seal of the Order of the Order of Twenty-four and set that on the spine of the jacket.

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As a child reader, I always appreciated it when the author added their own artwork to their stories, which is why I also include my pen and ink illustrations inside. In last week’s post, I shared how to create a map. This week, I’m sharing how I created the first pen and ink illustration, which I finished on the weekend.

This is how I did it. I drew a rectangular frame within an A4 sheet of paper. Then I chose a scene from the book—a battle between two giants. Breaking away, Ike Lee collected a boulder with his free hand and tossed it. (chap. 63, pg 210)

I drew the scene in pencil within the frame. Once happy with the image, I went over the pencil lines with black ink pens.

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As with making my map, I used a variety of size nibs, and also black water colour paint to fill in the shadows.

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It is fun to fill in the outlines and ‘colour it in’ with ink. I like to experiment with different patterns and textures. I think it’s essential with pen and ink to have some decent areas of black and white, too, as it’s so effective in this medium, creating differentiation, drama, and maximum impact. Then imagination can let fly.

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I built up the layers, lines, dashes and dots. I spent the whole day adding more. I finished with a black key line to frame the image. It was lovely to doodle all day after the hard graft of getting the story written and edited. I always look forward to doing the illustrations as an author’s reward for making it to the final stages of production.

And here’s the finished picture. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

The seond illustration, 200 dpi

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it. ~ Roald Dahl

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Yesterday, after a slog of four doctor/hospital appointments in one day between my two younger boys, I received some horrible news. I had finally made it to sit down at my laptop and zone out with a stroll through my feed on Facebook. It was there I read the sad update of a friend’s son, to say that Robyn Campbell, beloved mother of seven, and highly regarded member of the writing community, had passed away in her sleep.

I left two stumbling messages on the post and immediately shut down my computer. I went about the rest of my evening, thinking about Robyn. She was such a great editor and writer, and a real firecracker. She and I formed a critique group of two a few years ago, called ‘The Two Amigos,’ and we spent a year or more working on our middle grade novels together.

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Robyn was sweet, and she ended every email with “SMOOCHES! Xxx”

I admired her endlessly positive attitude and spirit. She let nothing get her down.

Robyn was one of the original members of my online group, ‘Writing for Children’ over on Wanatribe International. That’s where we first met. She was so vivacious and fun. Her son was going through serious health issues, then their barn burnt down full of gear, and in the last couple of years, she fell down a hill when running away from a bear and hurt herself badly. Yet, her buoyant spirit never wavered. She was always positive. I used to marvel at her strength and willingness to get back up again and keep striving.

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One of her children, Christopher, was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, characterized by the port-wine staining of the skin and various health issues. People with Sturge-Weber have a higher risk for seizures, glaucoma, stroke, blood clots, blindness, and paralysis. It was on Writing for Children we hatched a book, compiling an anthology of stories together. We wanted to help Christopher and other children like him. We formed the idea to donate all the proceeds of the book to the Sturge-Weber Foundation which is doing research on the rare condition.

Robyn’s story took us, that when Christopher was little and had asked about the staining on his skin, she would always say, “That’s where an angel kissed you.” We thought it was beautiful. With that in mind, the title, Kissed By An Angel was born. We went over to Facebook with it, creating a page for the book where we invited middle grade authors we knew to join and take part.

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We ended up with eleven authors in all. Our theme was angelic, supernatural, or somehow not of this world. 

I wrote a story, illustrated my story and the cover. We edited the book by sending our stories to the whole group and critiquing back and forth. Then another member did the formatting and so on.

We were proud of the resulting anthology, Kissed By An Angel . After publication, we sent one copy around the world to every contributing author to sign, and Robyn gave it to her son. In the foreword, Robyn wrote that the authors of the anthology ‘volunteered time to work on their stories and the publication of this book. They’re more valuable than the finest jewels–more cherished and appreciated than mere words could ever say.’

Robyn was the best.

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In her moving story, which starts the anthology, Kissed By An Angel Robyn wrote the story from Christopher’s point of view. She retells when he says he’s sorry for having seizures and making her cry. “This is nothing you’ve done. It isn’t your fault.” Momma smooths the sheet. “…I want you to know I would never, ever need a break from caring for you.”

Robyn was a truly wonderful mother.

I remember when one writer’s mom became ill. Robyn organised a big group of writers to write a funny story by each adding a snippet and send it to her to cheer her up.

Robyn was a truly good friend.

What a giant hole she has left in her family and in everyone’s lives. I’m so sad, I could hardly sleep last night…

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And then I started to think about how much Robyn has inspired me.

She was a warrior mother, a home-schooler and a hard worker on the farm. Her nature was one of giving, and there’s a lot to learn from that. She never let things get her down and always looked to the positive.

Robyn was truly a role model.

She showed by example how to have the right attitude in life. That’s what I aspire to do, too, hopefully half as well as my amigo. 

Love you buddy, smooches! Xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

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It has been a rollercoaster couple of weeks. It all began when the youngest in the family began having occasional tummy aches.

Of all my children, he is the one who has always been the dream sleeper. Nothing wakes him up once he’s in bed. If I hear him knocking on my door in the middle of the night, I know it’s serious. “My stomach hurts.” I gave him a painkiller and he went back to sleep. After the third night of interrupted sleep for both of us, I took him to see the doctor.

The doctor said it was either appendicitis or inflammation of the lymph nodes, which boys can often experience around his age of fourteen. They did some tests, took his blood, etc. Then we went home to wait for the results.

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The youngest son couldn’t move too far without pain so everywhere we went, everything we did this week, we had to walk slowly, drive slowly over speed bumps, and he would hold onto my arm to walk long distances.

Three days passed with our groaning patient. He was bitterly sad to miss the last week of school for the third term. His squad missed him, too, by the number of text messages that flew back and forth.

When we returned to the doctor’s clinic, she could see no problem with the test results. I said he was still in pain and it was getting worse for him in the middle of the night. The doctor rang the children’s hospital to get a second opinion. A few minutes later she gave us a letter and said we should go over to the hospital.

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We came home and I quickly packed a bag with books, phones, chargers, water, food, our jackets and lip balm. An hour later, my son and I arrived at the children’s hospital. He had to have another blood test, which he gets really nervous about and squeamish. Everything is so amplified when you’re fourteen. In between seeing nurses and doctors, there were long waits in the crowded waiting room. We were told around eight in the evening that the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. We’d have to come back in the morning for an ultra-sound.

We were just happy to come home and sleep in our own beds. Unfortunately, the youngest had another bad night, with pain even worse than before. He and I returned to the children’s hospital the next morning.

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The ultrasound process was painful for him. All I could do was hold his hand and make him laugh by talking about all the cakes I’m going to bake him when he’s well enough to eat them.

Two hours later we were discussing his test results with a hospital physician. She explained the scan showed an inflamed lower bowel. This could be a common bowel infection, which will clear up by itself in time, or its inflammatory bowel disease, in which case we get to begin another round of tests with the gastro specialists. They took another blood test, and we will find out definitively what is ailing him within the next few days.

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I always worry about my kids when they get sick. In the past, when they were babies, the anxiety drained me of energy when I needed it most. I knew it was something I had to learn how to control. In the last thirty-five years the thing that’s helped me the most is learning how to keep thinking what my grandmother used to call ‘having the right thoughts.’

Nan was a big believer in The Power of Positive Thinking, and the book by the same name, written by the wonderful Norman Vincent Peale.

These days  it’s been proven that positive people live longer and are healthier than negative thinkers. Positive thoughts make us happier. Happiness floods our brains with dopamine, the one chemical that has the potential to drown out the negative thoughts and anxious feelings.

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It was Pat Riley who said, “If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.”

Faced with my current situation, what am I going to do? Spend the next three days worrying my son might have bowel disease? No, of course not, it wouldn’t serve me in any way. Besides, I want to demonstrate a good example of how an adult reacts to the crises in life.

I’m going to think about the outcome I prefer, which preserves my energy, which keeps me calm, which makes me feel proactive, which keeps my spirits up, which reassures my children. That’s the power of positive thinking.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Staying positive doesn’t mean everything will turn out ok. Rather, it is knowing you will be ok no matter how things turn out. – Unknown

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On the way home last night, I nearly had a serious car accident. One minute I was safely driving along, the next minute I was in mortal danger. It happened so fast, within a matter of seconds, but it was terrifying and I knew for sure I had had a close shave.

I had been sitting in my car, waiting at a T-junction for the lights to turn right. Finally, the light went green. As I turned right, a bus opposite turned left from a side road into the lane beside mine. Suddenly, from behind the bus, a red sports car hurtled around the corner, driven at high speed by a young man. He was coming straight for me, side-on. I had nowhere to go as there was only a concrete motorway divider on the other side. I saw him, saw my situation, and I even looked straight into his eyes for a second as if time had stopped.

He was driving so fast that I thought it was all over. I thought my time was up.

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Then the young man saw me, registered what he was about to do, and he spun the steering wheel hard left. Swerving hugely, the back end of his car skidded as he struggled to get the car under control. After that, he stuck one hand up in the air, to say he was sorry.

I was thunder-struck.

I drove off slowly, pondering life and saying prayers of thanks.

I felt as if my eyes had opened, or I had woken from a deep sleep, to this very real awareness of the fragility of life. One minute I was driving home, listening to my favourite music, everything had been fine, and the next minute, everything had been in dire jeopardy. The boy’s car had come so close to mine. It was within a hair’s breadth. Just like that we both could have been dead, or hideously injured. Anything could have happened. But in this case, he swerved at the last minute and we both walked away.

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When I got home, I was still in a state of shock. I found I was shaky. I took some rescue remedy and had a cup of tea. The incident made me contemplate my mortality, because in a very real way I had seen how easily it can all be over. Just like that, in a twinkling, your time is up and you’re gone. I felt a new appreciation of life and felt so grateful to be able to walk in the door back into the arms of my family.

Today, the feeling of appreciation continues. I can’t help myself thinking about that young reckless driver. While his speed had been life endangering, the young man’s feat of driving to avoid a collision, I have to admit, was admirable. I put it down to the good reflexes of youth, and probably the years of gaming that all the kids do now, and also the expensive car would have helped too, because he could respond to the fact I was there and turn the car on the head of a pin. But he had to slow down within seconds, as well, or he would have ploughed straight into the back of the bus. The car was fishtailing all over the place. Lucky for him he had good brakes. His car kept him alive, and possibly me, too.

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I understand that since 2000 there has been a reduction in the number of fatal road crashes in New Zealand. However, I find that fact surprising. In the last few years, I’ve seen more dangerous driving on the roads than ever. I’ve witnessed some truly brainless stunts. I see more cars with dents in the bumpers and fenders. I used to like to drive fast as a younger person, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to drive more safely.

My father always used to say, “It’s not what you do on the roads you have to worry about it’s the other person.” That’s true, and what you do contributes, too.

I get it. Everyone’s hurrying everywhere because we’re all busy and under pressure. We’re all running late and there are more and more vehicles on the roads. However, life is more precious than getting there on time. I’ve been reminded of that and jolted out of my complacency into a deep gratitude for every moment I get to have with my family.

My new resolutions: I aim to be a better driver. I want to be more aware of what others are doing when I’m driving. I intend to slow down. 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. – Richard Bach

For the last two years, I’ve been working on my third book, The Last Tree, and I’ve finally gotten it to the point where I would normally go to a professional editor and then a proof-reader. But this time, I thought I would try an online editing service as the price difference was more than three thousand dollars. A friend, who is also an Indie author, recommended a particular service, and I signed up, paying $70 for a year’s worth of “premium service.” After two weeks of fruitless attempts trying to upload my manuscript to their documents file, and many emails back and forth, I am still unable to upload my story and unable to use their editing services.

I think of myself as reasonably intelligent, however I admit to being hopeless with technology. I find dealing with all the in’s and out’s and nooks and crannies of online services mind-boggling. Nothing is ever as straight forward as you’d like it to be. Everything requires a learning manual to figure out how to use the site: ‘Just watch these ten videos to show you how to use all the different aspects of our service.’

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I may have to go back to the original plan of paying a small fortune for professional editors to do the job. I think one of the things about being an Indie writer is that these sorts of delays, the technological misadventures that happen along the way to publishing a book, are things you would normally talk about with other people, but as an Indie, the buck stops with you. The job can feel a little lonely, sometimes, because it doesn’t matter how big the problem is no one else is going to fix it.

When my grandmother was alive, she lived five minutes’ walk up the road from me. I used to visit her every Thursday, and she would have cooked for us the most amazing full three course cooked lunch. We would sit and talk for hours. And she would tell me the family stories. Every time I hugged her and turned to leave, gran would say some special saying to take away, to think about on my walk home. She’d say, “Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it” or “Reach for a star and you’ll go far.” So, these days, many years after her death, I hear her wise words and remember them. She would know that any hitch in the proceedings was fine, and all was in order with nothing out of place.

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I emailed the online editing service, and said, if we don’t get the issue sorted out this time I’ll get a refund and move on. In the meantime, I’m very happy to have another go at editing the material. You can never edit enough, that’s for sure. So I’ll happily run through The Last Tree two or three times more while I wait.

As I near these final stages of working on this novel, I have to figure out the cover, the illustrations, and the whole presentation. I have included a couple of my own pen and ink illustrations in each volume, so I knew I wanted to do a couple for The Last Tree as well. I hadn’t had a chance to look at them while I was still deeply immersed in the editing. You get onto a track of momentum when you’re editing and you want to see it to the end. I had to complete the polishing edits before I could contemplate art.

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The last two weekends, I’ve spent hours at a time waiting as I tried to get documents to upload to the online editing service, and I spent that time wisely. I picked up my pencil and dusted off my art pad. It felt so liberating to leave the laptop. I sat down and started to draw the illustrations for the third book of the trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver.

By the end of the weekend, I had a template for two illustrations: one of the hero making a deal with the bird demons, and the other of two giants fighting. I see my given deadline of spring release for The Last Tree slip, slip sliding away. Yet, now, I have some illustrations I can work on during any further delays in production. I think they call that the silver lining. It helps to stay positive, no matter what.

“Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it.”

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Staying positive doesn’t mean everything will turn out ok. Rather, it is knowing you will be ok no matter how things turn out. – Unknown

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It’s strange after your parents die, it’s the loneliest feeling. In life, there are so many hardships, there is loss, and there is suffering along the way, that’s just the way it is. But, when your parents are gone, and these things happen, you realize how much support they gave. How they sheltered you with the umbrella of their unconditional love. You suddenly appreciate how much they loved and cared about you. How they were always willing to raise a hand on your behalf, no matter what it was, they had your back and were there for you.

The power of parental love is sorely missed.

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My parents had a good life together. They emigrated from England in 1961, and raised a happy family in New Zealand. After working for forty years, mum and dad retired to spend the last twenty years of their lives living by the sea, in a lovely little town on the Coromandel Peninsula. Then, in 2015, at the age of eighty-four, my mother died peacefully in her sleep, in her own bed. Dad had a further two years of gardening, bowling, music club, helping to run the church, Probus meetings and outings with the Friendship club. While still recovering from double pneumonia, he suffered a heart attack in hospital and died at the age of eighty-six.

My parents had had good, full lives. Sometimes however, I wish they were still here.

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It’s strange after they’re gone. It takes time to adjust. Two years later, and I still find myself reaching for them in a way. When things are difficult, especially, I find myself wishing I could talk to mum. She had developed in the latter part of her life the most magnificent ability to listen. She would ask how I had been and then listen in rapt attention to every word I said. She had an insatiable interest in me, my kids and our lives. I felt I could tell her everything, and quite often, she would say something surprisingly wise in response.

I miss our long conversations.

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It’s strange after they’re gone, because you miss the little things, like the banter over the family games of cards, monopoly, and scrabble. I can remember playing scrabble for hours, and the card games sitting in a big circle on the floor. It was fun to play cribbage, as dad would keep up a constant banter of funny old English sayings that went with each drop of the cards, as he counted, ‘four’s a score’ ‘five’s alive’ ‘seven’s in heaven’ ‘eight’s in state’ and of course, ‘one for his knob’ and so on. It was quirky and quaint and particular to dad.

In their eighties, mum became a notorious cheat at cards, and dad started to make mistakes in the scoring, though we never said a word.

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When we were growing up, dad was not big on displays of affection. But as he got older, he softened. In his last decade, I received some genuinely tender cards from him on special occasions. The last birthday card he gave me said, ‘I am very pleased with you to have achieved so much in your life. Bless you, your loving Dad’ (with four kisses and one hug).

When I’d visit, dad would spontaneously hug me or rub my back – something he’d never done – he became more able to communicate his love. It was so sweet.

It’s strange after they’re gone, because there is this constant feeling that I should be going somewhere or doing something. When they were alive, although they weren’t demanding, their presence meant I was either contacting them or planning something to do with them, or worrying about them (as they got older). I travelled down country to spend time with them every five weeks, so I was often there, or sorting out the next trip. Now, the pressure is off, there is nothing to do on mother’s and father’s days, or their birthdays or for them at Christmas.

Many of the year’s celebrations in our family have changed and we need to learn how to redefine these occasions.

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To have both parents gone is the strangest feeling. I wonder if I will ever get used to it. I suppose you always miss people after they’ve died, but as time goes on, you become slowly stronger and wiser and more able to deal with sorrow.

I think it was Dr. Seuss who said sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. I value my parents more now than ever.

I realize how lucky I was to have had good parents who loved me and gave me a happy, stable childhood! It makes me more determined than ever to honour them, by being a good parent also and giving my children the same.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Blessed be the ties that bind generations. ~ Unknown

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