Hitting the Ground With the Written Word

My first blog for 2023. I would say “Happy New Year”, but that phrase is getting a bit tired now. Many folks are already looking forward to the Super Bowl, the Rodeo and Valentines Day. I am working a bit slower, because I feel like I am still getting my year started. Even though it feels slow, already the calendar is full and some days have more entries that there are lines to write everything down.

I am always trying to make time for some reading. There are currently three books on my to be read right now stack. The book, A Salem Witch, was a gift from my niece, Becca. She actually traveled to Salem, Massachusetts this year. (No, I’m not jealous at all!) This book is about Rebecca Nurse who was actually tried, convicted and killed as a witch. It’s really interesting, because it gives the back story on the town of Salem, Salem Village, Rebecca Nurse herself, and her neighbors.

The second book, Wayward Girls, is written by Claire Matturro and Penny Koepsel. I don’t know Claire, but did meet Penny while organizing Haunted Holidays reading last year. The story here is good, because it follows some girls that went to the same boarding school and the myriad of ways their adult lives are affected.

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross is the third book. This one is also from niece Becca. I haven’t had time to start on this one yet; however, I think it is about witches, elemental spirits and the like. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.

Moving from reading to writing, I have already finished the first of two Writing Projects Weekends and the second one begins this Friday. These weekends are led by the one and only Max Regan. Since we meet via zoom, we have folks from all over the country. So many writers, so little time. Also, so much to write and so little time. After writing so many short stories last year, I am back to working on the Great American Novel. Well, maybe not Great, but a novel is what it aspires to be. It’s all about a Grim Reaper, a team of ghosts, a monster, a few humans and an Art Deco resident theater.

Also, I am once again Literary Chair for the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts. We have lots planned for this year and for the first time we will have a writing competition. Thank goodness, Fern Brady can help with that. There’s also a poetry reading coming up in April called Poetry by the Bay, in honor of National Poetry Month. I hope, I hope, I hope I can coordinate another Haunted Holidays reading. Then there is always the month of November where the members of WiVLA get together during the monthly meeting and read a wide selection of essays and poems.

I have much to do and am worn out just thinking about it. So, I thought about ending this blog with a picture of Hannah, my cat. Unfortunately I woke her up from a nap. Doesn’t the look on her face seem to tell me to go away and while I’m at it, turn out the light? Now she is napping once more and I have finished this blog.

Until next time.…..

The Birth of a Writer

My sister (right) and I (left) at our childhood home in Houston, TX in 2007
I’ve been an artist for as long as I’ve been alive. I was blessed to grow up in a family that valued individuality and creativity and did their best to foster the talents that my sister and I have, so from a young age I spent most of my time learning and creating and discovering what I love to do. I’ve sewed, painted, crocheted, acted, directed, but through it all one of my very deepest passions has been writing.

I taught myself to read around the age of two, so books and writing are as innate and instinctive to me as walking, talking, and breathing. Books have been the love of my life since before I was able to develop conscious memory, and while I certainly have grown and changed and lived so many different lives over the following two decades, that’s one thing that has always stayed the same.

While I can’t remember learning to read, or the first time I put pen to paper myself, I do remember the first time a book made me feel something. I was about five years old, reading my first “big chapter book”: Charlotte’s Web. When I finished that book, I think I cried for the rest of the night. I had never been so moved by something that was entirely fictional, and while I didn’t know how to articulate it at such a young age, I understood in that moment the power of words and their ability to create such complex feelings, even about something as small and seemingly insignificant as a fictional spider.

Words are powerful enough that even twenty years later, I only have to think of the final sentence of that book and I instantly revisit that combination of grief, tenderness, gentle hope, love, and recognition that while tragically fleeting, every single life has the ability to make such an impact. I’m now twenty-three and have since experienced my fair share of all of those things in my real life, but at age five, every one of those concepts was entirely new and it completely rocked me.

I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision, but in the following years, I sought out to develop my own power through words. As a child, I mostly wrote stories about the life I wished I could have. I was quiet and anxious, so I envisioned myself as a superhero saving the world, unconsciously allowing myself to experience what I was too afraid of in my real life. I wrote similar stories over and over, putting my inner self on the page and absorbing the stronger version of myself that manifested right back in.

More than anything, writing always has been, and continues to be, the number one way I am able to express every part of myself. Whether it’s fictional stories about people I want to be or things I think are interesting, reflections about things I want to talk about but don’t know how to express verbally, or silly Facebook posts because I love to make my friends laugh, the words I write are who I am, and I’m so thankful to get to share them with all of you.

New Beginnings

As 2023 crests the horizon, it is a time to reflect on what has been working and what has not in our lives. For me, this week has been a time of recalibration. That is the word for the new year: RECALIBRATION.

Life has changed. The pandemic has brought with it new realities. We seem, as a society, to try to return to the way things used to be; to hold on to how things were. But they can’t be the same anymore. The pandemic changed the landscape of life, in business and in personal ways, and it cannot be ignored.

One of the most important recalibrations for me is in how I spend my time. Last year, for my January blog, I shared how I was adjusting my space to make it more useful, and how I budget my time, creating an effective schedule. This year the recalibration is at a much broader scale. I still have my ideal week programmed, but now MY WRITING has taken on a more prominent space.

My work with WITS and with Inklings Publishing will continue, but it has to take a back seat to my writing. Someone very dear to me asked a critical question: What do I really want to be — a publisher or a writer?

As the publishing house has grown, the amount of time and commitment it requires has increased. The pandemic’s economic setback, however, has made the company’s move toward a revenue stream which would allow me to pay salaried employees to run it unattainable for at least another two years. So, as we enter into the celebration of our 10th anniversary, Inklings Publishing will have a gear shift that will allow it to continue growing, but not eat up as much of my time as it had been taking up this year.

Instead, it’s time to focus on my books. United Vidden, which recently won the silver medal in the Global Book Awards, released in July of 2020. That is two years ago now. Getting Gortive Offensive, book two of the series, completed has been an uphill battle with all that has transpired. But it’s almost there. By mid-January, the draft of the book will head to my developmental editors — Max Regan and Rachel Connelly.

By April, it should be back on my desk for the final revision pass. The goal will be to send it off to copy editing in June for a release date of December 2023. At last book two of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall series will come out, and fans will see what has been happening with Verena and Amiel.

In the meantime, Love’s Call is ready to launch. February will be the release date for book one of The Dragon and His Kitten series. This story is part of Thyerin’s Galactic Wall and the Intergalactic Alliance but it is happening before the events of United Vidden on a different planet: Gelderant. There, Nichamir Vlanespor Linput struggles to gain the trust and love of the woman fated to be his mate. The events of this romance story will have a major impact on the final outcome of Verena and Amiel’s story.

So, as 2023 opens, I will be working on Love’s Flame, book two of The Dragon and his Kitten series. And in 2024, Nichamir and Denipia’s fate will be fulfilled, with Love’s Flame releasing in early Spring of 2024 and Love’s Legacy in December of 2024. And then, we’ll be ready to see the culmination of Verena and Amiel’s struggle in 2025.

This here then is my declaration of intention for the new year: to put my writing front and center while juggling everything else life is no doubt going to throw at me. Wish me luck!

Holiday Decor

It’s Christmas time! For many this time of year encompasses a different celebration. For me, being a christian, I celebrate Christmas. Needless to say, there’s much that can be written about that. We could discuss many deep and highly sensitive topics about this holiday. BUT… it’s not that kind of blog.

So today, I want to just focus on the fun of deciding how to decorate. There are so many cool options these days for festive Christmas time decorations. The Christmas tree is of course the number one focal point. That’s usually placed somewhere very visible in the house and all the presents sit there for however long waiting to be opened.

There’s some very elegant decorating options. I’ve always favored the idea of choosing a single color and then using white and silver to brighten it up. We’ve had red and white trees and some blue and white trees. I’ve always wanted to do a pure pink and white but we still don’t have sufficient ornaments in pink to fill up the whole tree.

Of course, ornaments are only the beginning. People can add ribbons as well. If I had the skill set to make ribbons on a tree look good, I would so do it. But my ribbons always look just awful. If you ever get a present from me, you better believe it will have just a pre-made store bough bow. There’s no way I can make nice bows. My mother has that skill, but it didn’t get passed down.

Now, there are some very fun versions of Christmas trees. I love this crazy idea of making the tree look like a woman’s dress. I’m not sure how to even begin to try to create something as cool as this, but if I could I so would. And, come to think of it, that might be the best option for my pink and white tree. I’ll have to devote some thought and planning to it for next year. Too late now to try to get all creative like this.

Garlands are another wonderful decorating option. Also, candle and statuary displays. We don’t have that many surfaces that we can decorate with such elements at our house. When you have tall, big dogs, you do need to consider the tail effect. Will the items survive a husky fluff tail swipe? Of course, cat owners might have to consider their pet’s penance for tossing things off surfaces. Hmm.… We’ll have to discuss that with Ellen.

Wreathes are yet another stylistic piece to add to the holiday decor. Outdoor and indoor varieties abound. I still like the idea of color coordination more than mixing up all the colors. But that’s probably because I am more OCD than I’d like to let on.

Well, here’s what we needed up with this year for our decorations. Not as cool or elaborate as the nice pictures we found on Pinterest huh? Well, it’s been such a busy year, frankly, it was a miracle we decorated at all. 

Some of My Holiday Traditions for 2022

Happy Holidays one and all! My skeleton friends wanted to get in on some Holiday action, so you can see what they look like when they start getting festive! I, personally, stopped celebrating the actual holiday of Christmas years ago, but my friends here never want to pass up an opportunity to say “Hello” to all of you nice blog readers. Actually, I used to have an annual tradition in December. Once all of the office parties were completed, I took vacation for the rest of the year. I would always go to my favorite Austin Resort where children were not permitted, there were wonderful walking trails and a spectacular spa complete with a hot tub. I did that for at least 10 or 12 years. Unfortunately, the spa I used to go to does not exist anymore. Some hotel chain bought it up, added more rooms, a second pool, and cut down a lot of trees. It became a part of the luxury division for this particular chain. Oh, and with all of the so called updates, the prices went up significantly as well.

The good news is that ever since I retired, I am not as stressed out by the time December rolls around and I don’t need to look for a sanity-saving escape. Also, with the pandemic, I stopped traveling at all and have not picked up any wanderlust to get me back on the road.

So now on Christmas Day, it’s a full Holiday take out meal from Govinda’s that Jim and I enjoy outside if possible. Since this is Houston, we can eat outside as much as we want as long as it’s not July or August

I have another end of the year tradition in the form of getting my eyes checked and every two years I treat myself to a new pair of glasses. Actually I have three pairs of glasses which include everyday glasses, computer glasses and sunglasses. Sometimes it makes me feel old having so many pairs, but then again, I didn’t use to spend hours a day on the computer. I even use the computer for medical appointments now. Unless you plan on taking my blood, there really is no reason to see you face-to-face. With the pandemic still going strong all around the country, I prefer these techno doctor visits.

You can see in the above picture that I am enjoying my new glasses for everyday wear. I think they make a bold statement, don’t you? I think you can tell that I now spend a lot of time interacting with many writers and artists and I am trying to look like a trendy creative. Have I succeeded?

I hope everyone enjoys their Holidays in whatever way you choose to honor them. It is so cool that we have the overlap this year of Winter Solstice, Hanukkah and Christmas. So many celebrations to choose from, so little time. Maybe I’ll just take a nap instead.

Happy Holidays!

Until next time.….

World Cup Fever

I’m not a sports fan. I don’t follow sports nor watch sports. The only sport I actually play is table shuffleboard (some might say that’s not even a real sport). Yet, every four years, I turn into the biggest soccer fan ever.

The World Cup tournament is the one time in which I go crazy for sports. The best of the best compete on behalf of their countries for the coveted FIFA cup. Americans seem to lack the deep appreciation for soccer that is true for the rest of the world. Many argue that it is random and just luck. Yet out of the many years of tournaments and the 34 countries that participate each time only 8 countries have ever won the cup, many of them several times over.

Soccer is a sport that requires incredible skill to control the ball and get it into the goal. When you watch the World Cup, you are seeing the world’s best players. Some amazing stars rise, but the teams that are real winners are those who work as a team.

The whole world plays soccer. The whole world participates in the cup. Unlike other “world” championship titles Americans like to proclaim as theirs, this one tournament is the only one that truly encompasses the world. Perhaps it is time the US take the plunge and really try for a true “World Champion” title.

Unlike other sports, soccer requires endurance plus foot control. It is a beautiful dance taking the ball across the field. Precision in passing as well as laser targeting to get it past the goalie are required skills. The human body is honed to a physical perfection unattainable in other sports.

The US ladies team has won the women’s tournament repeatedly. Yet, it is the men’s tournament that is still the focal point for the world. The women’s championship is still not as popular nor well attended by all the countries of our planet. This, hopefully, will change as the tournament grows.

As I watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup, I have my favorite teams. France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, and England are top of my list. The teams of Japan and S. Korea have joined these as well. But USA and Mexico are the games that become gut wrenching. If the other teams lose, well it’s sad, but not a tragedy. BUT when USA or Mexico lose, I’m in tears. These are MY teams.

The real star of the show is the ball. Watching it make its way down the field is a pleasure, but seeing goals, that’s the glory. Goals are beautiful. Each and everyone a majestic display of skill. And the goalies are the most important players. They have to guard their nets with amazing reflexes. At the level of the world championship, these men are the very best. Watching the ball pass through into the net is a satisfactory feeling when it’s your team scoring. When it isn’t, the pain is almost physical.

I suppose those who love and follow other sports feel the same tension, joy, and pain when they watch their teams. My biggest hope is that soccer can become a significant part of the American experience, just as it is in the rest of the world. One day, the US men’s team will hold up the cup and that will be the best day of my life — as a sports fan anyway.

Maybe that will be on the next four years round. The World Cup will be played here at home and with Mexico and Canada as well as US co-hosting. Houston will be a city where some games will be played. So don’t be surprised if you see me at the stadium in 2026!

Art Openings and Armadillos

The weather has been so nice and cool lately. It has inspired me to do some hanging out at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. What did I find? Armadillos. These are usually nocturnal creatures so I could not pass up the chance to talk to one of them. The Nature Center will tell you that conditions have been dry and that the cute little critters are just looking for insects, but I suspect they just wanted to see what all the humans were up to. I kept my distance while taking some pictures and as I walked away I could swear I heard the ‘Dillo say, “Have a nice day and come back soon!”

Yes, I did. I really heard that. The Armadillo spoke to me, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If I see him again, I will ask his name.

When I am not conversing with my forest friends, I am getting ready for the WiVLA Art Exhibition. The opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, December 3rd, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the theme for the exhibition is “Reflection”. Here is the card being distributed to advertise the event:

Both visual and literary artists paired up to submit collaborative artwork pieces and literary writings to the exhibition. I paired up with two separate artists; which means that I have two literary pieces in the show. Wonderful artist Marie Casamayor-Harvey painted a wonderful picture to go along with my story entitled, Lorelei.  Here’s a hint for appreciating this collaboration: We both like the color red.

My second piece of fiction writing was done in collaboration with artist, writer and sister RoadBroad, Fernanda Brady. She developed an intense collage piece while I wrote about Different Women; Different Paths. Both collaborations are different and both are inspiring. Working with other such talented people really ups my level of creative energy.

This is all happening at Lee College , in the PAC Art Gallery. The address is 801 West Texas Avenue, Baytown, Texas. Believe me, it’s worth the drive to see all the amazing creative results.

I hope that you will be able to join us on December 3rd or make it out to the exhibition sometime before February 7, 2023.

Until next time.….

On Table Shuffleboard

In October of 2019, I joined the Fun Hangers Shuffleboard League. I had just divorced and my dear friend, Neil Rodrigue, harangued me about sitting around mopping. He said I had to get out there and do something fun and different. He’s the president of the league and he introduced me to the game of table shuffleboard.

I will always be grateful to him for the huge gift. Table shuffleboard has been an amazing experience. Yes, it’s played in a bar setting. Yes, there are those who get drunk and stupid. But, it is overwhelmingly the coolest game I’ve ever played. And the camaraderie of the league, the team members, is just wonderful. Neil often says it’s like a family and I think that’s an accurate description.

The game itself is awesome. At first blush it may seem to be easy. Just throw the weight down the table. How hard can it be? Well, let me tell you, there’s a significant amount of skill required to get that weight to a good scoring position, and then to keep your opponent from knocking it out and scoring on you.

The table may seem flat, but it isn’t. It is actually concave. And so you have to learn how to use the inertia of the board and the physics of the table, the speed of the weight, and your body position to get your weight to the right spot. You need to concentrate on your breathing, your hand position, the position of your body relative to the shot you are trying to make, and all these factors create a uniquely zen feeling when you are playing. It’s almost mediative. You can’t worry about anything else, just focus on the board, your weight, and your body.

Some people who see no value in the game just get up and throw the weight nilly willy. But when you begin to really see the beauty, the mathematical and physics elegance, of it, you take note of the various kinds of shots. There’s several ways to send your weight down the board. The primary is the Jersey shot, but there’s the span, the free hand, and several others. When you are standing there, preparing to shoot, there’s a focusing of all your energy.

Besides the game itself, the camaraderie is phenomenal. It’s competitive, but there’s no put downs if you miss. The players all encourage you to keep trying. They give you feedback on your technique. Some players go out of their way to meet up and help you practice, like the amazing John Hayes who taught me so much in my first seasons and continues to be a great sensei for the sport.

And, there’s a feeling of safety here. Sure, it’s a bar sport, but the community of shuffleboards won’t let one of their own get hurt. They step up when some idiot is trying to get stupid with one of the ladies. They walk you to your car. As I’ve engaged in some first dates with only matches, this is were I like to meet them. Because here, amongst my shuffleboard tribe, I’m going to be safe no matter who the guy turns out to be.

The Grand Championship match for the season that is closing will be this coming Wednesday at the Ashford Pub off Eldridge near Westheimer. If you want to check out what Fern is gushing about, come out and join me there. Who knows, maybe I’ll make a shuffler out of you?

Haunted Holidays: The Haunting Continues

Just when you thought Halloween was over and it was safe to go back out after dark.….…It’s time for Haunted Holidays! Yes it is definitely time to call the neighbors and wake the kids! As you can see from the banner above this exciting event is scheduled for this Saturday. Yep, this Saturday, November 5th. It will take place at the wonderful Brazos Bookstore located at 2421 Bissonnet Street, in Houston, Texas!

This event consists of several local writers reading their best work about how haunting holidays can be. Any holiday. Ghosts and goblins don’t just go away and hide once Halloween is over. Sometimes it’s just hard to see them behind all of the bright shiny holiday lights.

Both the Houston Writers Guild and the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts have joined forces with Brazos Bookstore to find the writers who are scheduled to share their work. A great partnership indeed.

Here is a list of writers that will so graciously favor us with their creative brilliance:

  • Gabrielle Langley
  • Sabina Gartler
  • Sandi Stromberg
  • Margo Stutts Toombs
  • Brenda Preuss
  • Penny Koepsel
  • Fernanda Brady
  • and yours truly, Ellen Seaton

Are you as excited as I am? I hope so! Please join us this Saturday, November 5th, at 6:30 p.m. at the Brazos Bookstore for haunting tales and spine-chilling verses.

See you this Saturday!

Last Halloween Blog Of 2022

It’s a little sad. This will be the last Halloween Blog for 2022. It also saddens me that some of you still do not know how to decorate for the season. Below you will find some sample of the kind of decorations that should be displayed in October:

As you can see in this following picture, even Starbucks knows how to celebrate the season. This picture was taken on October 27th and there weren’t any patches of red or green, no Christmas holiday cups, and no Cranberry Bliss bars. I have discovered new respect for my overpriced coffee. I will go back sometime before Monday.

I will note that I did vote for my favorite decorated pumpkin. I won’t tell you which one I voted for. We will just have to wait and see.

Now for the real scary abomination that I saw this year. This picture was taken on September 22nd. Yes, you read that correctly. September 22nd. That was before the start of the 31 days of Halloween that most of us observe. I like to celebrate October by watching all of my favorite Halloween movies on television. Why else would I subscribe to Disney Plus except to see Hocus Pocus 2? Now the Hallmark Channel has started airing Christmas movies 24 hours a day. How rude!!!!!

I also noticed one other sad state of affairs when I went to at least 5 local stores looking for some Thanksgiving decorations. I did not want a pumpkin and I did not need any fake fall leaves to scatter around. I need turkeys! No, not the kind you cook in the oven. I have been looking for silly hats and other turkey accoutrement, because the skeletons want to dress up after Halloween and commemorate the fowl holiday. They always enjoy dressing up for all holidays, but this is the first year they have asked about Thanksgiving. Finally I found a few items on Amazon. DO NOT JUDGE ME! I shopped locally first, but could find very little in the way of the November feast day. Amazon was my last resort. Anyway, you have to admit these skeleton turkeys are awfully cute. Next week, I should have received the Turkey Hats and will let the skeletons model them for you.

Except for overeating, parades and football it seems as though Thanksgiving has less and less importance in our fall holiday schedule. What will all of the live turkeys do who want to receive a place of honor in the middle of the dining room table? How will we burn down houses if we don’t deep fry the turkeys? So many questions and so few answers.

Until next time.….……Happy Halloween!