Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

July 6 question – If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?
I always try to answer these questions as honestly as possible by going with the first thought that comes to mind. My dad used to say that the gut reaction was always right. My gut feeling when I read this question? I would live in the books I’m writing. It sounds like a self-congratulatory thing to say. But every time I get precious hours to pour into my new story, I dive into this imaginary world and love spending time there. My writing has always been my way of escape and still is.
If you’d asked me this question a few years ago, when I was working on editing my middle-grade series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I would have wanted to go there. The trilogy took me a decade to write. I became so familiar with the environment I had created that I knew every nook and cranny like my own home and garden. The world, and the characters, were like family, a part of my daily reality.

When I started work on my present children’s series, it was a thrill to build a new world and unfurl my wings over unique and unknown landscapes. This year I have had a ball developing the story bible for this series, figuring out the setting, and beginning to picture it clearly in my mind.
They say that writers write for themselves. That is certainly true for me. Often, in my life, and especially in the last two years, I write the sort of world that makes my heart sing. I can’t tell you any more about that world right now, not until the stories are close to finished. Time has taught me not to speak about my stories while they’re in the nascent stages, for fear the muse will exit stage left and leave me cold. Besides, this is the genesis stage and requires nurturing and sustained silence.

When I started writing fiction for children, I was a teenage mum stuck at home with a baby. All my friends were off traveling the planet, having the times of their lives. My only way to escape the humdrum of nappies and housework was to climb out that golden window of my imagination into a better place. Creative writing was my saving grace. Literally.
Neil Gaiman once famously said, ‘I’d like to say a few words on escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds themself in.’

Like Neil, I’ve never understood why people look down their noses at escapism through literature. There are far worse things in the world. And considering the state of affairs on the planet at the moment, frankly, we need all the escapism we can get. It’s benign, nourishing, affordable therapy. And it works. As J.R.R. Tolkien reminded us, the only people who warn against escape are the jailers.
I want to provide that escape route for my readers. And I seek the same haven, too. There’s no place in the multiverse I would rather be than living inside my own story worlds. So, yes, please, sign me up.
A close second would be the world of Moomintroll.
Which book world would you escape to and why?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*

‘Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been.’ ~ Neil Gaiman

*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

May 4 question – It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?
Writer highs for me are writing the rough draft. Man, it’s fun. Starting a new middle-grade series has been a total joyride. It has refreshed my awareness of where the true nectar is in this business for me. Prior to that, I had spent ten years editing when I was working on The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. And I had lost touch with the heights of giddy joy attainable when you’re writing a new copy. Truth be told, after ten sallow years of editing I was so sick of the process, I even considered giving up this writing gig altogether. Who would do this s..t? Seriously.

But six months later, once I had recovered from publishing my trilogy and regained the will to live, I sat down with a pen and paper to see if I could still summon something from the ether.
I did a lot of looking at that %$#@ piece of paper. The words did not spring from my pen straight away. I remember thinking at the time maybe my ability to write was like a giant rusted machine with all the parts seized up, in need of an oil and maybe a jumpstart. The only way through it was to do it. I made myself sit and write for ten minutes every morning.

Slowly, the cogs started moving, the wheels turning again. I was off.

To write freely again I felt like a child riding a bike down a hill, with the wind rushing through my hair. The muse was back and we were away and flying over hills and valleys far below, the horizon endless and beckoning with adventure. Riding with the muse in full effect with a book underway is intoxicating and it feels like summer all year round. The problem is the actual writing of the story is only the first and shortest part of the process, swiftly followed by the grueling marathon that is editing.

Suddenly, as you start to read your inspired thoughts and creative witterings, you come face to face with the fact that this really is the “rough” draft. Your brilliance is in need of some elbow grease. An utterly daunting, Everest-sized, a towering mountain of work.

You buckle up your pants and wade into the uncountable writer’s low of editing. The sort of fine focus an author must now bring to bear on the words is akin to the intensity of a laser beam. Each word needs to be examined and proven worthy. Sounds easy. Believe me, it is not. This focus needs to be maintained all day every day. It takes energy and strength of character.

Me, I’m asleep by the third paragraph. The only way to keep myself editing is to put matchsticks under my eyes and prod myself with a stick. Talk about sheer agony. Jumping up to walk outside in the garden, taking refreshment breaks, all sorts of tricks must be employed to edit hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
Just thinking about the editing process to come makes my nerves go taut.
I bargain with myself. I kid myself. Maybe I won’t polish this new series. I’ll just finish it, leave it in a mess on the floor and carry on writing the next thing. Yeah, right.

Such is a writer’s life. Yet, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

What about you. What are your writer highs? And what are your writer lows? Let’s compare notes.

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*

The first step in writing a novel is to accept that you have to get it wrong before you get it right. ~ Jarred McGinnis


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

In 2020, I released my fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Burned out, I took a writing hiatus that summer to recover. In January of 2021, I started writing another fantasy adventure series for middle-grade readers. For me, the rough draft has to be pen and paper. I sit and write fresh copy in the morning. And, it is a rule that I must type up each day’s copy in the evening. It was a lesson I learned the hard way. When I wrote the original manuscript for all three books in The Chronicles, I elected to leave the typing until the end and gave myself the job of typing out 300,000 words of my tiny handwriting. It was as bad as it sounds, and I made it a rule from then on to type new notes for my stories the same day I write them.

Since the beginning of last year, I have added to the copy for the stories every day and transcribed the notes each evening, including Christmas Day. It has been soothing to my creative soul to write genesis draft material again. I thought the exhaustive editing of The Chronicles for the last few years might have drained my joy in the process. But it hasn’t, thank goodness. Throughout the rollercoaster of the past year, I have cruised through each day, escaping via my writing portal. I have taken daily flights of the imagination and returned from each trip refreshed. These new stories have given me upliftment, comfort, and joy.
Creative outlets are good for us. My firm belief is that every adult needs one.

My father used to tinker away every afternoon building things in the garage. My mother used to knit or crochet her blankets. Throughout every trial and tribulation of our childhood, Ma’s needles would click and whirr most reassuringly. A sort of soft background track to our lives.
My outlet is my writing and new stories are the best. They are my happy place. Coming up with the material is the easy part, and I have loved every minute, enjoying the wild ride of “inspired thoughts,” as my grandmother used to call them. What could be more fun than writing each day to discover where your story is going next? But I write now, in the same way the dog days of summer turn into fall, with a tinge of sadness, knowing the changes to come. The picnic of penning the rough draft is nearly over. That means the unrelenting focus of the editing is about to kick in. Summer ends. Autumn begins. And so will the editing. Soon.

I can’t think about that yet. Right now, the hard graft of editing does not exist. It is just me, the pen and the empty pad of paper, out gamboling through the rosy fields of imagination, reveling in every moment.
*Good news* Drum roll. I am happy to report that my nephew and I are already conjuring up the cover art for the first book. Si was the artistic genius behind the covers for my trilogy. As a busy young working father of two, he needs a year’s grace to work on his art pieces. I told him, take as long as you need. I believe in his artistic ability and will always champion his work. Cover art from Si Kingi is worth the wait.

As a hobby illustrator myself, I have several pieces of artwork for most of the books. Some of them feature on the side panel of this blog. I have enough to put one original illustration into each book but still need to draw a second illustration for each volume. The one character I have not drawn yet is the young 8-year-old protagonist, Emily. I told Si, I look forward to seeing her!
The wait to see Si’s work is full of anticipation.
Vincent Willem van Gogh once said, “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” Exactly. We must have all these things in times such as these to give us the strength to carry on and get through. Nature, art, and poetry are important because they bring us joy. They uplift our spirits. For me, penning new stories is bliss and to be part of the arts coming out now is exciting!
What about you. What are your creative outlets? Or are you yet to discover the right creative outlet for you?

(A pencil test piece Si created with his four-year-old daughter, my grand-niece)
*

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. – Ellen Bass


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

March 2 question – Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?
Yes, the example that stands out in my mind concerns the first book in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. In the first book, The Or’in of Tane, Aden Weaver lives with his grandparents, Nana Jeen and Papa Joe. One night, two assassins attack Aden in the vegetable garden of his grandparents’ house. A big fight ensues between Aden and the two assassins. Nana Jeen and Papa Joe arrive, and the fighting is ferocious. In the first draft of my story, both grandparents are killed in the fight.
My then critique partner, the wonderful author and YouTube queen, Maria Cisneros-Toth, took exception to this version of the book. She cited good reasons: it was too much for child readers to lose both beloved characters so early in the story, it was unnecessary, gratuitous to kill both of them, etc. But what it boiled down to, Maria admitted, was that she did not like the idea of losing both the grandparent characters. Maria pleaded with me to keep them alive and change the storyline.

In the world of writers, there are plotters and there are pantsers. Plotters map out a story in detail first. Think of JK Rowling’s grid pattern story plans which detailed every significant development and turn in the seven-book series. Whereas Pantsers write stories as they come, flying by the seat of their pants. Then they edit for years afterward. I’m a Pantser, and I write all my copy as stream-of-consciousness material coming straight from the muse onto the page. I had set down the content for The Or’in of Tane as faithfully as it came to me. In other words, I felt wedded to the content. That’s one of the things I find most valuable about joining critique groups when I’m working on new material. They offer the dispassionate third-person perspective. They can reflect things the author can’t see. When it comes to editing I can delete an adverb and correct punctuation. But, I find it difficult to question the big things. And this was one of those times. Maria was able to reflect that it was too much to kill the grandparents so early in the series. And, I could hear the truth.

When I thought about it, I felt excited at the thought of them surviving the fight. I couldn’t wait to get started on the changes. And that told me I was going in the right direction. I went back to rewrite. In the new version, Nana Jeen and Papa Joe get badly injured in the fight. It changed many things about the way the rest of the story played out. It was the right thing to do. Furthermore, having the grandparents there in the final scenes of the trilogy, to witness their grandson on his triumphant return, gave an emotional resonance to those end scenes. I never once regretted saving the grandparents and rewriting that scene. I was just glad there was a seasoned eye on hand to guide me on the story development at the right time. Thank you Maria for the advice.

I had written the grandparent characters into the narrative for a reason. As the daughter of immigrants to New Zealand, our little nuclear family grew up without the benefit of extended family. My only experience of grandparents was through letters and those grandparents I saw in the movies or read about in books. My grandmother moved out to New Zealand when she was 79. We had some sweet years getting to know each other before she passed away ten years later.

My siblings and I grew up without grandparents, and for that reason, I revere the elderly and always have to add a grandparent or two into my fiction. I didn’t want to kill off Nana Jeen and Papa Joe. But, I struggle with questioning the muse. Maria more or less gave me permission to throw out something I didn’t feel worked and to replace it with something lighter. The story immediately improved.
Some edits are too scary to make on your own.

Sometimes you need a friend to hold your hand and say, it is okay. You can do this.

Sometimes you need friends.
What about you. Have you joined a critique group? Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

I have finished reading my first novel for 2022, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. It felt exciting to reach a tally of nineteen books read in 2021, compared to thirteen in 2020. We’ll see if I can do better this year. And what a way to begin! After seeing British author, Neil Gaiman interviewed live last year, as part of the New Zealand Readers & Writer’s Festival, I bought his book, Norse Mythology. A big fan of myths and legends, the title drew me in.

Norse mythology refers to the Scandinavian mythological worldview that was commonplace during the time of the Viking Age (c. 790- c. 1100 CE). In 2017, Neil Gaiman released his version in a collection of short stories. Though neither original nor new to most of us, Neil reimagines the time-honoured tales in a way that recaptures our attention all over again. In reality, the old Viking myths are gory, tragic, and sometimes incomprehensible. You need a strong stomach. Even so, Gaiman makes them approachable to a new generation. He presents these raw, brutal, bloody tales and makes them cool.
The novel way the author gets around the oral tradition of Scandanavian storytelling is by presenting most of the stories from the point of view of an unnamed narrator. Through frequent addresses to the audience, the narration evokes that feeling of listening. Clever stuff.
In the “Introduction,” Neil Gaiman explains three things: the cultural and literary significance of Norse mythology; the difference between the traditional representations of these gods and the way they have been reinterpreted in popular culture; and the sources used. He also explains how he fell in love with the legends and his passion for the subject matter comes through loud and clear. “The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place,” concludes Gaiman, “with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”

Gaiman explains that long before the Middle Ages, the Germanic people believed in two types of Gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. Complete with a creation myth that has the early gods killing a giant and turning his body parts into the world, arrayed beneath the World Tree Yggdrasil, and the eventual end of the known world in the Ragnarök, the Nordic mythological world is complex and mysterious.
Given the timeless quality of Gaiman’s writing, he seems to be the perfect fit for a book of Norse mythology. With its influence on Marvel’s movies, heavy metal music, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the references to the mighty Gods of Asgard, who came complete with their doomsday, have become a part of daily life. It’s instructive and fascinating to have a popular author unpack the mythology for a modern audience, already familiar with the main players.

“Many gods and goddesses are named in Norse mythology,” Gaiman informs us at the beginning of his book. “Most of the stories we have, however, concern two gods, Odin and his son Thor, and Odin’s blood brother, a giant’s son called Loki, who lives with the Aesir in Asgard.”
The author fashions these ancient stories into an overall story arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. It is a truly unique worldview and an alternative perspective to modern religions. Okay, you could learn all the same information through reading it on Wikipedia but where’s the fun in that? You’d miss Gaiman’s deft turn of phrase and fairytale flair.

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman is an author of novels, short stories, graphic novels, comic books, and films. The first author to win the Newbery and Carnegie medals for the same work – The Graveyard Book – Gaiman has so far authored classics in almost each of the genres he’s interested in, primarily being fantasy, horror, and science fiction. For example, the comic book series The Sandman was one of the first graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list. In addition, several of Gaiman’s novels – such as Stardust, American Gods, and Coraline – have been adapted into successful movies or TV series. How many books has Neil Gaiman written in his illustrious career? A fan had stacked them up, and apparently, the pile reached over 7 feet. In other words, his output has been prodigious. Long may he write!
This book, dare I say it, is deserving of becoming yet another Neil Gaiman classic.
My rating: Four out of five stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
*


Before the beginning, there was nothing – no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning. ~ Norse Mythology


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line

It is New Year’s Eve when it is customary to look back at the year behind us and attempt to look at the twelve months ahead. Some people like to make resolutions or set goals about what they want to achieve in the coming year. I have always kept a journal in which I make a list of “Intentions” every New Year’s Eve. It’s an opportunity to get the glitter and stickers out and let myself dream about my aspirations. I also do a “message in a bottle” to myself. It is a wish list for the year ahead. For instance, I wrote a wish list for 2021, and today I read through the list. Then I’ll replace it with the new message I have compiled for 2022.
What a strange year, though!

At the end of 2020, I remember everyone saying how much they were looking forward to New Year’s Eve because people wanted to put their first experience of a pandemic behind them. There were hopeful memes on Facebook about looking forward to starting a brand new experience. Of course, none of us knew what lay ahead. 2021 has been just as tough in some cases, even tougher. As the virus has changed shape and name, we have learned new ways of coping. We have found new ways of staying sane and healthy.
And a great many of us have and are still suffering the repercussions of the anxiety. I have been under a great deal of stress. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas probably more than I should. However, it brings a s..t-ton of work with it. Life gets intense throughout December, having to plan things, visit people, send cards and letters, and battle to do the Xmas shopping in the insane traffic.

It does get overwhelming.

On top of all that, in early December, 18 of my trees became infected with Myrtle Rust, a fungal infection currently sweeping New Zealand. I had to trim every infected leaf and bag carefully then spray the fronts and backs of the remaining leaves. I got the trees done and organized Xmas, it’s true, but this week, I developed shingles. When the doctor said the chickenpox virus reactivates if you are under undue stress or overdoing it, I thought, oops, guilty as charged, on both counts. I have burned the candle. Yet for a good reason, people. We had a s..t year, and I wanted to celebrate the heck out of Christmas. So I overdid it in every direction. Do you know I got so stressed, there were three or four times this month when I woke in the morning with my fists clenched? And that’s a big part of how I became so run down. I let things get on top of me.
We have been through a lot in the last two years and now that we have reached the end of 2021, people are weary and a lot more subdued about what to expect.
The problem is mental/emotional stress is a killer.

The shingles have forced me to slow down and it has been an unexpected blessing. This week, I employed my youngest son and his friends to wash the exterior of the house and the windows and repaint all three verandahs. And I didn’t have to lift a finger. Not that I could have. I am on a week’s total physical and mental rest, doctor’s orders. I thought this is nice. Thing is, I’ve always walked and talked too fast. At my age, perhaps I should stop rushing around all the time, being a superwoman. Now that I’m doing everything more slowly, I find I’m enjoying each moment more. What a revelation. Being ill has given me some much-needed perspective.
N.Y.E? Okay, we might not be quite so enthusiastic about the twelve months ahead. There seems to be a general feeling of trepidation around the New Year.

Yet, I like to only plan for the positive preferred outcome. Readers of this blog may remember a post I wrote, sharing my Gran’s wisdom, Thinking the Right Thoughts. This is the method I am employing today. I will write in my journal, The theme for 2021 was …. What I noticed was… What didn’t work was… I am letting go of …. What I want for 2022 is … and I am willing to embrace… I shall say, “Thank you, 2021.” And, I will write Intentions and put a new message in my bottle aspiring to peace, relaxation, joy, abundance, good health, and rapture in 2022.
Remember, whatever comes, we can deal with it day by day, one day at a time, together. We have managed the same way for the last two years. I have never felt more bonded to the people in my life, whether in person or online than I have done since the pandemic started in 2020. I think the challenge has brought us all closer together. I feel I am part of a global family. My darling Gran would say, that’s the silver lining.
Going forward, let’s be positive and think the right thoughts. DARE TO WISH FOR BLISS.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


“Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.” ~ K. Jones

*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


*


Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

I confess. I like reading children’s literature. For years I’ve said, I have to read middle-grade fantasy fiction because I’m “reading within my genre.” Yes, if I want to have an idea of what’s going on in the world of children’s literature, then I have to read what my contemporaries are doing. If I want to add to the body of that literature, I need to read everything in my genre. Most writers know that. But the truth is the last 35+ years I have learned I prefer reading middle-grade fantasy fiction to adult fiction. Uh-huh.

Now and then someone forces me to read adult fiction and I always regret it. The only adult fiction I enjoy is the classic mysteries like those by Agatha Christie. I would say my taste is eclectic. My sister usually buys me adult literary fiction for gifts. Some of the nonfiction books she has bought me over the years have been a hit. But I confess I am not a fan of literary fiction. There has been more than one occasion where I have opened one of these books, then closed the cover, and never looked at them again. Sorry fans of the art. I just can’t.

As I turn into the crone my interest in middle-grade fantasy fiction is far from dimming. On the contrary. It has grown. Here write my favourite authors of all time, Brian Jacques, Beverly Cleary, C.S. Lewis, Tove Jansson, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, Maggie Stiefvater, Philip Reeve, and J.K Rowling. What I love about these stories, apart from the comforting point of view of innocence, is the way the stories move forward and then something special or magical or unusual happens. As the reader, it’s like lifting off into outer space. You are transported somewhere different. In children’s literature, it is a smooth transition, there is no strain or effort. Children are there already, living in the Twilight zone. They accept what happens in cartoons and animations.

It feels to me with this style of fiction as if ‘anything can happen’ and I like the creative freedom that affords me as a writer and a reader. It’s like happy juice.

It transports me to childhood. As one of my favourite teachers, Kiwi, Kate de Goldi, once put it, she ‘wrote children’s fiction to recreate the shaded places of childhood.’ I’ve thought about my writing that way ever since. Reading middle-grade literature is about childhood and it helps me to reconnect with that innocent wide-eyed part of myself, which I cherish. It helps me to connect with my target audience and better understand my readers. The benefits, I tell you, are multifold.


At least, that’s what I tell myself.


What do you like to read and why?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


Reading is dreaming with your eyes open. ~ Unknown


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

Do you have a garden bed that is in a difficult spot in your garden? Our rockery in the backyard is in a challenging position. Located behind the house, it offers drought and flood and full shadow for most of the day. Previously, we had had a dragon tree in the rockery and a young native tree that was already much too large. The job of transforming the rockery became my “lockdown project.” Change it. I would. And, here’s what I did.
The first casualty was the young tree. With the potential to grow into a grand chieftain, I removed it from the rockery, leaving a long oval-shaped dry bed featuring a lone dragon tree at one end and a spindly sapling at the other. The proposition of making this awkward bed into ‘something’ was daunting. With gardening, you have to attempt to forecast into the future how plants will grow and envisage the potential outcome. In the end, you throw the dice and leave it up to nature. Who dares, wins, right?

I started by simply clearing the weeds and scraping off years of detritus to reduce the bed to a blank canvas. The old bricks which had formed the edging had sunk into the ground over time, nearly disappearing in the mud. I dug these out, cleaning them as I went. Then I packed soil around the edges of the bed, putting the bricks back on top, thereby lifting the edging clear.
There are a few ways to go about laying the foundations of a garden bed. You can plant intensely and not worry about weeds. Or you can set down weed matting, adding bark. Or you can do what the landscapers do, lay a layer of bark at least 400 mm deep so the weeds can not grow.

In the case of the rockery, when I tried to lift the top layer of weed matting, I discovered another, even older layer of matting much farther down. So rather than excavating, I opted to leave the matting in place. If you use a weed mat, you will need to add blood and bone to the soil to correct the PH balance of the soil before adding the mat and the bark on top. So I treated every plant with a good dose of blood and bone mixed in with the potting mix.
My father built the rockery wall out of bluestone in the early 1960s. He needed a retaining wall to create a flatter area in our sloping back garden. The wall was higher than it is now, but over the years, the top tier of bluestone had been robbed out and used elsewhere.

One of my first jobs was to hunt out the rogue bluestones from every corner of the property. Then I lay the stones across the bed to create a stepping stone path, imagining my grandchildren hopping from stone to stone one day.
The rockery is a raised bed. Therefore, it’s helpful to use drought-tolerant plants. Cacti and succulents are ideal. Being situated in the lee of the house, I also needed plants that could handle shade. Ask at your local garden centre for suitable plants for the conditions in your bed. In our case, I planted a line of Buxus hedge trees, which are hardy. Along the front of the rockery bed, I dug in yellow grasses for colour and contrast.
To square off with the lone dragon tree in one corner, I moved my ponytail palm from the front bed into the rockery. Being at the other end of the bed to the lone dragon tree, it makes sense. Huzzah!

Then I planted a dwarf apricot tree. My sister donated a hydrangea, and I planted a few of my mother’s orchids. If you choose to plant an orchid, use the proper potting mix (similar to bark). They do well in the shade.
I still had a gnarly stump in the rockery and an unwieldy section of the tree trunk that was too big to cut with a chainsaw. In the case of immovable obstacles, why not turn them into features? Beneath the dragon tree, I set the section of the trunk upright. Then I turned both the stump and the trunk into wood sculptures by decorating them with my father’s aerophytes (air plants) and rocks.

The last stage of the transformation was to spread bark in between the plants and the stones. I think it looks great. Yesterday, my three-year-old granddaughter came over to visit. When we took a walk in “Nana’s garden,” she automatically dashed over and hopped from stone to stone across the rockery bed. It was a wonderful moment.
I hope you have gained some inspiration for your difficult garden beds. Let me know your stories.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com
 

Currently, we are in lockdown level 4 in New Zealand. I have been watching the news (I normally do not watch it at all). It is easy to spend time worrying about businesses trying to pay staff during the lockdown, all the overworked essential workers, and our healthcare system under pressure. You feel for the parents working from home, especially the solo parents, those with small children, the lonely old folk, and the teachers trying to teach online. It is not an easy time. However, I have noticed a heartening difference in the way people in my neighbourhood behave. The first time we went into Level 4 lockdown in 2020, when out walking, other walkers and runners would look down or away while crossing the street to avoid you. This time around we are still keeping our distance, but the other people out exercising have looked at me and waved, calling cheery hellos, and smiling behind their masks. I think there is a collective understanding that we have been through this before, and we will get through it again given the right attitude.
There also seems to be a realization we need each other, and we are more aware that we miss those human interactions when we are confined to our bubbles.

A lot of people get swept up by the fear and stressed out. I rang the doctor this morning, and the receptionist said Kia ora like she would bite my head off in one gulp. The stress is real. We have to find coping mechanisms that work for us. I always tell my friends to shut off all the devices in the house and pick up a good book. Looking back, I realized that apart from taking long breaks from the news, it was writing and reading that really helped me through the lockdown in 2020. The same coping mechanisms will help get me through the lockdowns in 2021. I have a few excellent books on the go at the moment. I’m reading, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman, Spirit Animals Fire, and Ice, by Shannon Hale, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare (thanks to fellow writer Susan Baury Rouchard for sending me that one).

If I find myself panicking, I turn off the devices, then do something I love, whether it be reading, gardening, walking, painting, or just watching a movie eating bon-bons.

Yesterday, a friend said, It looks like things are going to be turbulent for a while. I replied, We have to hold onto our joy more tightly. There is nothing we can do to alter what is going on out there. But we do have control over how we react and act while we are in isolation. There are a few tricks I have learned since 2020 about how to keep my family’s spirits up while we’re in isolation.
My Top Tips:
Limit news updates/turn off your devices
Paint your toenails (and your kids’ toenails – my boys think it is hilarious)
Sleep in! (For a lifelong early riser like myself, this has been a revelation!)
Wear bright colours. (I have shelved all the grey and black in my wardrobe. It is a simple trick, but it makes me feel happier to wear all the brightest clothes I own)
Bake!

Read! (Maybe I will make progress through my tower of to-be-read novels)
Coloured lights! (Drag out your fairy lights, or any twinkle lights and have them on all day as well as at night)
Flowers. (I pick flowers daily on my morning walk along the verges and alleyways and set out mini posies around the house)
Music! (Play your favourite tunes, sing-along, and dance like nobody is watching)
Talk! (Phone your loved ones. Talk across the fence to your neighbours. Sit and talk with the family members in your household). Check on the people you know.
Work in the garden
Dress up in crazy clothes (it makes the boys and I laugh to wear silly hats)

Exercise
Do something creative (my friend said she has started writing limericks because they make her think and make her laugh)
Do a jigsaw (My father’s favourite pastime is fun and calming)
Meditate
Write a gratitude journal
Be kind
We will get through this, just like we have done before. Stay calm and carry on and remember to hold onto your joy tightly!
What are your top tips for staying positive during lockdown?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


As we traverse this very unstable time, it is so important that we keep track of our real joy and our vitality. ~ Jai Dev Singh
 


*


 
Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com