Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

Each year of a child’s life, there is a different focus a different theme a different version of the child you knew before. Although I resist and feel the tug of nostalgia for the younger version, I also delight in the unfolding. It’s an amazing privilege to watch your kids grow up.  After a tough first year at high school, my youngest son passed his exams, and they named him one of the top thirty smartest kids in year nine. I have concluded that not only is he smarter than me he also in a lot of ways is older than I am. He’s one of those people whom they say ‘has an old head on young shoulders.’

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Already planning his years at university at fourteen? I have to admit I had no thoughts about my future when I started high school. I was the very definition of teenage and clueless. Yet, here’s son number three filling me in on some ideas already hatching. “My friends and I have lots of plans. Because we want to attend university together, we thought we might buy a house together. Because we’re all nice people. I don’t think we’ve had one argument. We just talk. We’ve known each other the whole way through school and we all get on.” Throw co-owning a house in there as well? Sheesh. Perhaps it was those years spent playing Minecraft and building his own houses again and again. At least he can think big.

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With the youngest I noticed that in year seven (11 years old) he was solely about sport and vigorous active play, in year eight it became more about friends and social networks, talking, and occasional soccer or basketball, and year nine, at fourteen the friends have taken centre stage, it’s about hanging out, catching up and occasional sport. Throughout the year he and his friends have organized many gatherings outside of school hours: bowling, movies, trick or treating and so on yet the difference is the parents did not arrange them, the kids themselves did everything. They’re motivated to socialize more outside of school, to be together more often, yet they’re still young enough that their voices squeak and their parties run from 4 to 7 p.m. They’re adorable.

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The youngest son’s still into online gaming. The language and gentle jibing that goes on continuously has changed. The age appropriate slang or “teen-speak” is a fluid ever moving river, and it’s always evolving into something else. The accepted greeting is still hey or what’s up, the endearment is bro and sometimes gets extended to a fonder brother. If things are not great with you, you can be numb, salt/salty, or scuffed, if things are not going well with the game, it’s gay, aids, or cancer. If someone’s trying too hard, they’re sweaty. If they’re smart and sexy, they’re smexy. When two people like each other, you ‘ship’ their names together. The youngest is being harassed at school at the moment for being suspected of being gay with his best friend Harry so everyone’s shipped their names and have been calling both boys ‘Hat.’ When you get lucky it’s clutch, and when things are so good it’s so gang.

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The other day, the youngest son and I were having a conversation when his teen-speak crept into the situation. He said, “Stupid, right?”

I said, “No, I don’t think it’s stupid at all.”

He said, “I mean crazy stupid… as in good.”

Ah! Ma writes a note in her mental dictionary. I love listening to it, teen-speak is a mobile, connected, ever shifting form. We must have been the same when we were young.

Yesterday, he asked me, “How old are you going to be on your birthday?”

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I said, “Fifty-five.”

He said, “That’s not as old as I thought you were.” You’ve got to laugh, right. In some ways, our teenagers are so grown up and in others, not at all.

The fourteenth year is flying by. I’m only barely keeping up with the changes the youngest is doing before my eyes. It seems with every day his limbs are longer. It’s like getting to watch a slow-motion morph as your teen swerves from child to adult and his profile fills out. He wakes taller every morning. In September, he’d crept up to standing eye-to-eye with me and two months later he’s slightly taller. Instead of our old you’re short enough to stand under my armpit game, now I fit under his. It’s very odd. I liked him being shorter because my middle child has already outgrown me.

Ever wanted to feel you’re steadily shrinking? Here, borrow my teenagers!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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

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

If you’re like me, you may have gotten busier over the last few weeks. The chores stack up, things get overgrown. It’s the end of the year, jobs need resolution, deadlines loom and time pressure mounts. The thought of the impending festive season and adding even more items to the “to do” list strikes a note of panic into the heart. For some, the financial issues at this time of the year become overwhelming, and the thought of getting together with the family can be fraught. I have a friend who calls this ‘the suicide season.’ Add the fact that once stress sets in it can reduce the duration and quality of sleep, and you’ve got a disaster walking.

Without sleep, we cannot function properly. With the right amount of quality shuteye, then we get to enjoy the benefits as it helps prevent heart disease and weight problems, and boosts the immune system.

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Without sleep, you end up the walking dead, or ‘tired and wired’ as my friend put it when she saw me the other day.

I had been overdoing it in the last month or so working long hours to finish my book. About three weeks ago, I began to get abdominal discomfort which felt almost like a mild hernia or similar. I was having sleep broken by three hours of wakefulness a night.

It’s hard to be gracious when you don’t get enough sleep. I lost all sense of political correctness, courtesy, and I lost my sense of humour. It made me impatient with the kids. This created some inner turmoil and struggle over my feelings around myself as a mother. It gets complicated. However, I have come to know that I absolutely have to have adequate sleep to function as a parent and especially as a creative person.

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By the end of this week, I felt a deadly fatigue and yet so hyped internally I was running on pure adrenalin. I couldn’t slow down and felt I was close to burnout.

I went to see a friend yesterday morning who is a healer. We’ve known each other a few years. My friend asked how I was and we talked at length. Then she spoke about the wisdom of slowing down and attending to self care. ‘To nurture our families, we need to take care of ourselves first.’ She advised two meditations of a twenty-minute duration daily, morning and afternoon.

I’d only recently seen an experiment on the BBC show, Trust Me I’m A Doctor, on the benefits of meditation. They tested people before and after several weeks meditating daily. All participants showed improved health and an improvement in a sense of their overall well-being, and they were sleeping better.

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It is vital to our health to get enough sleep each night. The nine recognized benefits associated with getting a good night’s sleep are, lower risk of heart disease, lower inflammation, a stronger immune system, better productivity, greater social/emotional intelligence, lower weight gain risk, improved calorie regulation, better athletic performance, preventing depression.

For the last few years, I’ve been starting each day with a ten-minute meditation, and I had thought that was enough. But I was also willing to do anything to sleep well and for the pains to go away. I said I would meditate twice daily for twenty minutes. I’m only on my second day and I already feel significantly better, and last night, as promised, I slept like a baby. This has given me hope for the future. With adequate sleep under my belt each day I can conquer mountains.

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The average person needs seven to nine hours sleep a night to recover and repair the body. Kids need more, newborns need seventeen hours and kids need at least ten to twelve hours of shuteye a night. Usually, we need less sleep as we get older. But if you’re having difficulty sleeping, experiments have shown there are several things people can do to improve sleep quality: make sure you sleep in a dark bedroom, turn off devices and televisions, swap the caffeine or alcohol before bed for a warm milky drink, spend time in moving about each day, and reduce stress levels by exercise, therapy, or some other means.

If all else fails, why not try meditation? I have to say, I feel the best today that I have in a long time. Have you ever tried meditation?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “We are more powerful than we have been lead to believe. Walk tall in your power and never give it to an outside source. True authority comes from within.”- R. Cefalu

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

Ten days ago I delivered the finished manuscript of my book, The Last Tree, to the printers and I told myself I would relax. I would finally take the foot off the pedal. That was the plan. It was Monday. Turns out taking the foot off the pedal isn’t as easy as it sounds. On Tuesday, I organized to meet with an old school friend who is a business whiz. She had suggested she might help get more visibility for my books.

It was the first time I’d ever seen her business side, which was very interesting. After chatting for a minute, we sat down and started to talk about my stories.

I thought her first question was brilliant. She said, “What do you want?”

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I said, “When I started out (at seventeen) it was world domination. But it’s not about that or the money anymore. People say when they read my books they’re inspired. I want to share my stories and inspire as many people as possible.”

She asked me, “Do you have an agent?”

“No.”

“Do you have a marketing plan?”

“No.”

“Do you a way of getting your book into bookstores and libraries?”

“No.”

I was feeling like a right duff by this stage! I think my friend was none too impressed. She said two things after that.

“Your problem is no one knows who the heck you are.”

“That’s true.”

And,

“You will have to up your game.”

“Oh.”

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Both these statements struck terror into my heart. Do I commit to this? I prefer low sales and no one knowing my name. I prefer gliding under the radar. I don’t want to get asked to attend ceremonies and speak at venues. I don’t want a full social agenda. I have more than enough to do every day. There is no downtime as it is and as a card-carrying introvert, spending more time with people scares me terribly.

Yet I get the shake up my friend is giving me. She’s saying ‘look what is it you really want?’ And then, naturally, ‘you will have to do more to make that happen.’ And she’s right. I know she is. But can I do it? Can I commit when I’m raising two boys on my own and have a home and a property to manage single-handed?

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Since then, my friend has introduced me to a successful author she knows. We’re meeting at a cafe up north on Monday morning. I’ll take my first two books, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta and The Sasori Empire. What I hope to find out is how to reach more readers, and whether I should submit my books to a publisher. My friend has also introduced me to an author and agent whom I’m meeting soon. I need to ask if she has access to the lucrative movie and gaming market, especially in the U.S. They should be fascinating meetings. The nerves are fraying already just thinking about them.

I have freely admitted in the past to being utterly slack at book marketing. In fact, the article I had included in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group book, The Insecure Writers Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond, The Melee of Modern Marketing, was about accepting our limits as Indies and not beating ourselves up when we do not achieve mega book marketing campaigns.

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Between the many responsibilities in my life, I am tired. I don’t know if I have the time or the drive needed to “up my game” with book marketing. It’s a serious concern. Although I respect my friend’s advice enough to take it, I do so with great trepidation.

All I can do is what my hero, Aden Weaver, did throughout The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, to get through adventure after adventure. Whenever he felt scared, he would keep putting one foot before the other. This would be an apt time for the adage, ‘don’t think, do.’ Then trust the rest will follow. Whew!

Since sending my manuscript to the printers, I’ve done nothing but work. The overgrown garden needed a machete taken to it. I had a big speaking project at Toastmasters, which required a lot of prep. The meetings with these other authors will probably lead to even more work. Rather than taking the foot off the pedal, I’ve been burning rubber.

Relax? Fail. Please tell me how you relax. I need tips!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden,” – Goethe

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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 the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

*I took the option of not answering the ‘optional question of the month’.

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I exist in that strange, no-man’s-land, the limbo on the other side of having finished a book. I only just surfaced from the gruelling, nitty-gritty hard yards of getting The Last Tree to a publishable standard at the weekend. Any Indie will sympathise. Those few weeks and days were late nights and early starts, and staring at the words on the screen, word by word, until I could barely see anymore. Then, I delivered the novel into professional hands and went into free fall.

Slowly I can feel my extremities again. I am relieved and pleased all at once.

I tried an experiment with this book. The first two books in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy cost me upwards of $5000 each to produce. To bring the price of publishing my stories down to a reasonable level, I cut out the proofreader and the copy editor, which saved $3200 and instead paid $70 for a year’s subscription to ProWritingAid.

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I worked with the online editing program and my blood, sweat and tears.

Last weekend, after developing this book for two years, the deadline for delivery to the book designer was Monday. It locked me in a deadly embrace with time. I can’t stand deadlines. However, they work to prod you into gargantuan herculean efforts of which not even you thought possible. Sunday night I was still at my computer editing hard at eleven, and on Monday morning, I was up at five to start again.

I cross my fingers and toes that by doing it all myself; I have done enough. I really hope so.

The Monday deadline also meant I needed to get the second pen and ink illustration done, because I had only completed one. The weekend of editing was so intense, I gave myself “art breaks” and during those allotted times I doodled and inked in the second picture. It was so much fun! I think I like the resulting illustration the most out of them all.

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I blogged last week about the cover art arriving. After the long haul of editing, when you reach the finish line, it’s like time speeds up and everything happens at once. These vital pieces fell into place. On Thursday night, the cover art brought the world to life. I finished the second pen and ink illustration. I prepared the accompanying copy for the back cover and the end pages. I liaised with the book designers and set up the printers.

Monday eleven o’clock, I reached the words The End and realized I had finished the editing. It was an emotional moment. At lunchtime, I emailed the whole package to BookPrint. Then I drove over and sat with the designer for an hour and a half. The great thing about going to BookPrint again is they have the files of my last two books so it should be a relatively seamless job to produce the third book in the same style as the others.

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For the actual printing of the books, I compared the costs of printing at local firms and took $400 off the price by giving the job to another local company, 3A Signs. Altogether, I have halved the price of production, bringing it to $2500. But have I done enough as the proofreader and copy editor to make the savings worthwhile? I don’t know.

I have an author friend who recommended the online editing program, and she has successfully used it for her last three books. Will it work as well for me? I don’t know.

I wait to see the cover and the layout. I’m looking forward to getting the proof copy. I want to sit and read The Last Tree as a reader would. I did the very best I could, and now, the test, does it hang together as a great story that was worth telling? I hope so.

I hope this book makes the mark, however; I don’t know, hence my insecurity at present. I linger in book limbo. Help! Thanks IWSG, for the chance to rant!

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

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!

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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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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 the first Wednesday of every of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: October reflective question: It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand how can you expect other people to want to read your writing if you don’t enjoy reading yourself? What are your thoughts?

While parenthood and other strains have sometimes prevented me from reading nevertheless books have always played a major part in my life. From listening to mum and dad reading us stories from babyhood, to being given my first book of legends, my first book of poems, fairy stories, and so on, as a special Christmas gift each year, I grew up surrounded and encouraged by literature. There were lots of books in our house. My parents sometimes even allowed me to borrow from my sisters’ library, which was considered a special treat.

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We grew up with a nightly ritual of our father reading us bedtime stories. From the time we were babies right through to young adolescents, in reward for getting ready for bed dad would come and read a few pages to us. He read slowly in his deep voice and it was wondrous to hear all the classics, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and so on.

You’ve heard the saying, you are what you eat. I believe it’s also true to say; you are what you read.

The wonderful Kate De Goldi put it best when she said, ‘I’m someone who’s been constructed by books, my sense of self, how to think about other people, how to understand other people’s realities is largely down to reading.’

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Having been an avid bookworm since the age of seven, I feel I’ve been steeped in the cultures and stories of every novel I’d ever dragged home from the library and pored through every night.

I am not sure how you would separate me from the stories I’ve heard and told and read.

So I must accept that there’s no getting away from the literature I’ve imbibed. Those books are part of my DNA. I’m re-reading the Redwall series from the beginning. I got a shock the other day, when I read a character refer to death/the afterlife as being ‘the dark gates’ because in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, I called death ‘the black gates.’ I must have subconsciously recalled the phrase from those wonderful books by Brian Jacques and made it my own. I’d completely forgotten the term until I read it recently.

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Do the best you can to be as scrupulous as possible, but sometimes these things happen. Does it mean I should stop reading to avoid such clashes? No.

Every writer has heard that they should read to write. The theory being if you don’t read the best in your genre, how do you know what those readers are interested in reading? It’s vital research to every author worth their salt, to know their genre.

When I was a younger writer I used to exist in a bubble of solitude. It was the 80’s before the internet and personal computers. I was a young mother at home and I did not understand what the marketing of books was about in those days.

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I hadn’t read in my genre (of children’s fiction) since I had been a child. I wrote about whatever I liked. The resulting epic, The Scrifs and the Stirrits, was fantasy adventure for 6- 9–year-old readers with a tale of furry little critters on a quest.

In the 80’s absolutely no one was publishing anthropomorphic, off-world fantasy adventures for 6- 9–year-old readers. They weren’t popular, but I had no way of knowing as I was not reading in my genre. There wasn’t a single publisher in New Zealand who would look at my manuscript. Those were the days before self publishing when the traditional gatekeepers really did stand between the writer and the goal of publication. It was a tough lesson.

Point taken: you have to read to write. What do you think?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R. R. Martin. A Dance with Dragons

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Subscribe to my Newsletter at www.yvettecarol.com

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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Subscribe to my newsletter, email me on yvettecarol@hotmail.com

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