I have finally reached the point on my journey to acceptance of what happened in July, where I would love to get back to blogging. But I am not ready to write my usual ‘light touch’ nature stories. Nor have I been able to engage in photography like I used to. Or to focus on reading.
I have realized, however, that life is a string of snapshots of the now. I will be attempting to post frequent snapshots of my life ‘now’ as it unfolds for the next few weeks. Maybe just an iPhone shot, a short poem or something similar. Simple. Often mobile. Comments closed.
To get started, I am sharing a few snapshots of my life in the past two weeks.
Waiting for some dolphins to appear on the Labor Day weekend, when Hurricane Irma was still churning far out on the Atlantic.
And they did…playful as ever. Good times. Grief slowly fading into the background.
And then there was the quiet before the storm. Calm seas. An eerily beautiful seascape on a perfect day. But nobody was enjoying it. The lonely lifeguard shack was waiting to be moved to safety. Like most of us.
This peaceful scene was in sharp contrast to my frantic search for a flight to get out of here with Dylan. Paradise in Zone A. Mandatory evacuation.
I have crisscrossed the globe, but seldom been happier to finally see a plane at the gate. One of the last planes to leave the airport before it would be closed. Our temporary home would be wherever that plane flew. A ticket to anywhere.Flashback. The last plane out from Addis Ababa at war. 1990s. A week after husband and son had been evacuated. Essential personnel.
A small studio apartment at a hotel in Philly. Waiting with Dylan and Wolf Blitzer. Wanting to go home. Whatever that might mean. Waiting.
My friend and a great bird photographer, H.J. at Avian 101, and his lovely family came for a short visit earlier this week. H.J. and I walked around the salt marsh talking and snapping pictures. Despite the very dry conditions that had lasted for several weeks, we spotted a few familiar faces. The Mayor was honoring H.J’s visit with his presence for the first time in a month!
And Mama Osprey flew over the marsh a couple of times. She looked at us, but didn’t stop at the nest.
And Miss Rosa was demonstrating her now famous beauty routine to her friends, the White Ibis.
We also found a few Snowy Egrets playing at a little mud pool amidst tall grass.
They had a little friend with them too, a Tri-colored Heron. But it was obvious there were some sandbox issues as he was playing more by himself.
It was difficult to get any picture of him…that is, until he peeked out from the grass, his long neck completely stretched out. Peek-a-boo!
Clouds started to gather and we heard distant rumble when we left the salt marsh to have lunch. As soon as we sat down in the Cuban/Spanish restaurant on the bay side, the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour with all the trimmings. We enjoyed a nice lunch while nature got a much needed soaking.
It was great to see this lovely family again. Thanks H.J., Lucy and Tyler for stopping by here and for a wonderful lunch! And thank you for bringing the much needed rains 🙂
I trust H.J. got some great captures of the Major, Miss Rosa and some of the other residents despite the quiet mood at the time.
After much more rain overnight, I walked by the marsh the next morning with Dylan and snapped an iPhone picture. What a difference! The water level was up 5-6 inches and many birds (the white dots are Great and Snowy Egrets) were enjoying the newly acquired freshness.
Around lunch time I went for a walk again. The marsh was still brimming with birds, but many of them had now sought shelter from the sun in the trees and bushes. It was very difficult to get pictures of them, demonstrated by the Little Blue Heron here. She had now turned almost blue from her very white juvenile appearance just a few weeks ago.
She had lots of company in the trees close by. Several Night Herons were sleeping nearby, like this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.
I had to almost crawl on the slippery grass to get a glimpse of Miss Rosa between the branches.
Snowy Egrets were flying back and forth, competing for the best view over the water.
And the loser was not always happy having to leave the best spot. But who would be?
Mama Sandy was back at the nest directing the traffic at and over the marsh. It’s obvious from the disarray of the feathers on her back that she’s still molting. Papa Stanley has not been around lately, I am assuming he took a solo vacation after Lady Cawcaw left the nest. Or a long fishing trip with his pal Steve.
After a while, Miss Rosa got enough of the crowded trees, or maybe she got hungry. She flew down and started looking for food.
I left the salt marsh happy for the birds, who now have lots of food in the previously dry mud flats. In the midst of all the distressing news, it is a privilege to be able to lift up one’s spirit in nature. We cannot allow ourselves to get stuck in the darkness.
Last, I have some other good news as well. My net shop, Nature Bound Art, is now open at Fine Art America. Unique and hopefully inspiring gifts based on my photos and digital art are now available in many parts of the world. Please check it out.
I hope you will lift your spirits in nature too. Peace.
After a few years of sitting at your computer during all kinds of odd hours, you finally become a blogger who doesn’t hesitate for days to press the scary Publish button. And you are comfortable whether or not someone reads your scribbles before they fly out into the cyber space.
Your pile of edits for a post now averages 15 instead of preciously 50. And your images may actually pass for photographs. You enjoy the interactions within the friendly community of fellow bloggers. You make some really good friends. Then what?
I know it’s different for all of us. The professional bloggers, authors, photographers, etc. probably get better and better at their trade in the niche they have developed, and attract a huge, ever-growing following. But those of us who haven’t really decided what we want to become when we grow up, will probably be inspired to try various new things. That’s what blogging does to us. We dare to experiment. Some pick up the brush, start painting and get really good at it. Some will become authors and publish several books. Others will become good story-tellers, photographers or graphic artists. A few will dip their toes into various creative pots. The Indecisives. I would be one of those. But then, I predicted that when I started blogging three years ago. I said my blog would be multifaceted. That sounds a whole lot better.
So after writing countless professional articles, reports and a few boring books to bring home the bacon, I tried my hand as a novelist. Last year I published “Confessions of a Rescue Dog”, a fictional story based on Bumble’s life as a rescue dog. I’m happy to say it got fairly good reviews, even editorial ones, and has brought in a few $$$ to help homeless dogs, cats, birds and rabbits to find forever homes.
One day last summer, my good friend Jackie asked me to design book covers for her new mystery series “DeeDee Watson, PI Series”. That was another first, but since I’ve been dabbling with digital art occasionally, I bravely said I would try.
Jackie published “The Canine Caper” in August! It is a delightful short story available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book. It introduces the mystery series and its main characters: Dee, a Private Investigator and Tee, her canine sidekick, among others. A quick, fun read!
At the end of October Jackie published the second story in the series. “A Case of Deceit” is a full length murder mystery, and is available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book, and as a paperback. This novel takes the reader on a wild ride on Dee’s Harley and by other means, in pursuit of the killer. You’ll love the many twists and turns, and the cast of quirky characters!
And then, inspired by many encouraging comments on the salt marsh series, I wanted to experiment with children’s books. I have just published two small photo books for kids on Blurb. This type of publishing is very expensive, so these books are for sale in softcover at production price. I feel it’s important to spark kids’ interest in the many small miracles in the natural world early on in life.
The first book is written for small kids, up to KG age, and introduces baby birds and juveniles with beautiful photos and a simple narrative. A nice bedtime read.
The second book is little more elaborate, intended for kids from KG through Elementary School. It presents bird families and their adventures at the salt marsh with a fun and educative narrative and almost 50 full color photographs.
I am now working on transforming these photo books to Amazon kids books. The Kindle versions will be interactive photobooks, but due to the paper quality, the paperback editions will need to have cheerful illustrations. Both books/editions will be much more affordable, and hopefully bring joy and learning to more kids.
Please check the Firdemonte Press page for more information on these books and on all the other stuff that’s cooking. Or click on the book covers to buy now 😀
What an ongoing adventure blogging is! I had no idea. I just wish I had more time to dedicate to all these creative facets of life, and to enjoy the great variety of inspirational reads I always find on your blogs. Thank you for being here. Much love.
It’s Saturday here in Florida. Sunny, windy and cool. And it’s November 1, 2014. This day arrived much too fast, and I’m not prepared. Not even close. But you know what? I’m a brave soul, so I’m going to do it anyway. Plunge right into the shadows.
I’ll be attempting to write my second novel during this month. A fairly complete first draft. NaNoWriMo is here, and it starts today. Unlike last year, I won’t get any help from Bumble. Why? Is this sweet dog suddenly becoming uncooperative? No, it’s really simple. He was not there, in Africa. But I’m sure he’ll sympathize, and offer a warm paw on my shoulder on a daily basis. In exchange for a light back massage.
So I’m all alone with my recollections of that time. And what I might have learned from those adventurous days, months and years when Africa changed my perspectives on life. Here’s a little teaser.
It’s all about perspective. When you lay on your back on the parched ground, you will see bright blue skies through the opening formed by your body in the tall elephant grass. It’s yellowed and crispy. It doesn’t move. You see, there is not a breath of wind. Instead, the air is vibrating in the heat, adding shifting patterns to the sky. And you think of dance. Relaxing, slow dance of the universe. Music in B flat. Your perspective on life is being adjusted by Africa.
This will not be easy. There will be some pain along the way. And doubts about the value of my story. Or how it’s being told. The crocodile is waiting. But I have to try. This story has been bugging me for quite a while now. And know myself. I work best under tight deadlines. Always have.
To reinforce the time aspect, and make it a bit more difficult to quit, I’ve put a validated word counter on my side bar. I’m hoping for some butt-kicking from my friends here when the bar doesn’t move. Such a kind act would improve the meager odds of reaching my goal of 50,000 words in November. I’m also hoping some friends will join me on this journey. It would be easier to suffer through the upcoming 29 days together.
I’ll probably post short poems and quotes to express my mood of the day along the way. And maybe one or another tiny update on Papa Osprey. I’ll need to exercise too when I sit nailed to my chair most of the time, right? I’ll also try my best to hang around your blogs to fetch inspiration for my journey. But it’ll probably be late in the day and a bit less than usual. I hope you’ll understand.
There I was, walking around at the pyramids in Giza in ancient Egypt. A few thousand years ago. With my latest Canon. It was hot and hazy, but the heat didn’t bother me. I felt happy and light on my foot, smiled at everyone I met. They were mostly traders returning to Cairo with caravans of fully loaded camels. I was over the moon because I had managed to snap a picture of a Sacred Ibis.
That bird was Thoth’s favorite. And Thoth represented many things important to me: knowledge, writing and justice. Even a little bit of magic. I had never seen him in person, of course, but he was pictured everywhere with a head of an Ibis.
The Sacred Ibis was also the first letter in the hieroglyphic alphabet. An important symbol of writing and preserving the stories for the afterlife.
After getting my all important shot, I went to see the scribes and artists in the nearby village. Some of them had simple workshops, but many were writing, drawing and painting on their papyrus rolls right in the open.
Their art was nothing short of amazing. I tried to buy a few art works but somehow my paper money didn’t do the trick. So a few of them took pity on an art-hungry stranger and gave me samples of their work for free. I was grateful for their kind gesture.
After receiving the rolls, I said my goodbyes and walked back to the pyramids. I asked one of the guards to take a picture of me. For my blog, I told him. To my surprise he didn’t even ask me how to use the camera, just snapped the picture and smiled. He was more interested in my camera bag of soft leather, and asked who’d made it. I said I didn’t know, but that it was probably made in China. He thought it was funny and burst out laughing. He couldn’t fathom that there was no art work on it.
Soon after my picture was taken the wind started blowing. A sand storm was approaching. Still remembering the previous storm, I didn’t want to get another sand corn in my eye. So I decided to return to Mena House, my accommodations for the night.
Suddenly I woke up. The sun was shining in my face. I wanted to go for breakfast in my favorite spot, out in the gardens facing one of the pyramids. But found myself back in my bed in Florida. My hubby was already up, Bumble was still snoring lightly next to me. It took me a while to wake up to my current realities of a new week in the 21st century. And I couldn’t help but wonder where this pleasant dream had come from. My hubby of course has a theory.
The little girl waiting for school bus in the 25 below, snowy dawn of Finnish countryside in 1960s wouldn’t have believed that almost 50 years later she’d be blogging about her writing process from a sunny beach in distant “America”. In a language she had not yet heard of.
Had she been told how she’d land in that situation, she would’ve smiled in disbelief at the woman holding the crystal ball. But had the woman told her that writing would be an integral part of her life, she would probably have accepted that as a possibility. The bag she was clutching held a treasure, her very first essay. It was in Finnish, of course, and detailed her first adventure in Helsinki, the capital of the world.
It’s funny how life can turn out. Lots of twists and turns. So here I am a million miles later, on the beach, blogging away. I felt honored when Michelle, a gifted writer at The Green Study, invited me to participate in this blog tour. True to my Myers ENFP, I accepted without hesitation. I value interactions with other writers and have already met a few new ones through this tour.
I’ve been writing all my life. It all started with that first school essay, followed by college papers, newsletter writing/editing and articles in journals and newspapers. And numerous white papers about intricacies in management and organizations. A few poems here and there. This was all in Finnish and/or Swedish, before my life in English began in my early 30s. That’s when I was thrown out into the big wild world. And I’ve been roaming ever since. Writing many more white papers, board papers, research publications and a couple of professional books too. We can call those “non-fiction”, although that might be a bit generous.
Anyway, three years ago I became my own boss. Now I can write papers of whatever color I like or none at all. Consultants have that flexibility. To make money or not to make money.
So having that freedom, I allocated some time for bird watching, photography, walking on the beach… and started blogging in the summer of 2012.
After a year of interacting with many writers and reading their books, I caught the bug. Writing is contagious. I signed up for NaNoWriMo and wrote my first novel at the end of last year. In close collaboration with my little poodle, I might add, and cheered on by many blogging friends. Thanks friends for your support, you know who you are!
Each writer participating in this blog tour is invited to answer four specific questions. Here are my answers:
1) What am I working on right now? After my first novel came out earlier this year, I started working on two writing projects simultaneously: a poetry collection and an Africa-themed novel. I have a suspicion that my decision will turn out to be a mistake. None of the books might get finished any time soon. There is always something that needs to get done first to ensure bread on the table. Or something else that feels much more fun to write, such as reporting from the nature reserve. Writing books is hard work, and I know I’ll need to put much greater effort into my second novel than what I did previously. The bar is somehow much higher now.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a difficult question to which I don’t have an answer. My first novel is a light-hearted tale of a rescue dog, told by a dog to dog lovers. And a little bit of advocacy and fund-raising for animal rescue too. It doesn’t fall neatly in any one genre. The second one will be very different. Literary fiction strongly influenced by personal experiences of the writer. But not a memoir. Unless I rewrite it from scratch. That might still happen, of course, I never know with myself. Settling into writing in one specific genre is an unlikely proposition for me.
As to my poetry, it’s only different in the sense that I try to keep it short, simple, inspirational and positive. I just can’t write dark or tragic verse. And I’m not gifted enough to write complex forms of poetry.
3) Why do I write what I do? I had four potential ideas when I thought about NaNoWriMo last year. To be honest, “Confessions of a Rescue Dog” was by far the easiest story to write. I thought I might actually manage to complete that project. Getting this first book out and interacting with readers has been a great learning experience. It has also given me a little more confidence. So now I’m working on a much more demanding story, but it’s the one I have the most passion for. Wish me luck.
My poetry and my general blog writing are products of my mood and the thoughts occupying my mind any given day. I think it’s obvious. Total lack of focus. I have accepted that I don’t fit neatly in any one pigeon-hole. I post when I have something to say and spend more time reading other blogs than writing on my own.
4) How does my writing process work?
I am a “marathon writer”. I get my best results when I write in long focused stretches under a tight deadline, even a self-imposed one. I’m able to write almost 24/7 if need be. That goes for any type of writing I’m working on, I’ve always been like that.
I don’t produce much when I have “all the time in the world” to get it done. You see, I can always do it later, mañana. My writing shoes tend to get lost in that kind of environment. My challenge is to get motivated enough to put on my writing shoes, get running and believe there’s a deadline to be met. When all that works, the writing marathon is on.
Editing is something I need to force myself to do. I do some light editing when I write, but always have to do several rounds after the main body of writing is done. I recall one particularly challenging “white paper” that had 26 versions. That’s probably my record. I did five rounds of editing on my book before it went to the editor, and a couple more after it came back to me.
Next Tour Stop. It is my pleasure to pass on the “hashtag” to two writers, one firmly established and published in several countries, and another one whose books we’ll soon be able to enjoy. They have kindly agreed to post for this tour in the week of May 19.
Tish Farrell writes fiction and non-fiction for young adults. In her first life she studied Prehistory, did a Masters degree in Social Anthropology and then worked in museum education, most notably at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire, UK, the place where the world’s industrial revolution began. In her second life, during the 1990s, she lived in Africa, mostly in Kenya but also briefly in Zambia. It was during this time that she began to write story books for the African children’s literature market, spurred on by a small, persistent fury that were too few books that reflected young Africans’ lives in their increasingly urbanised world. In Kenya at that time there was no free schooling. Parents had to pay all primary school expenses including books. Textbooks were deemed essential. Story books were not. Most African publishing houses, then and now, survive by producing textbooks not fiction. In Nairobi during the ‘90s the book shops stocked mainly dated European children’s fiction (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew stories, Enid Blyton) together with school texts of oral traditions. There were no contemporary young African heroes to be seen here. Tish’s first children’s book, Jessicah the Mountain Slayer, and a picture book Flame Tree Market were first published by Zimbabwe Publishing House in 1995, and later also by Phoenix Publishing in Kenya. Both books won prizes at the 1996 International Zimbabwe Book Fair, and have remained in print ever since.
Next came Sea Running and Joe Sabuni P I for Macmillan Pacesetters and Heinemann Junior African Writers respectively. Joe Sabuni, a spoof detective story, has also been translated into 6 Zambian languages as part of a (belatedly realised) project that allows Zambians to learn to read in their mother tongue rather than in their second language English. Now in her third life, Tish lives in the ancient market of Much Wenlock in the English Midlands. Recent works, Mantrap and Stone Robbers for Ransom Publishing, are novelised short stories aimed at encouraging reluctant teens to read. The stories are of adult interest, but are fast-paced and brief. She has also recently self-published a Kindle book Losing Kui. This is a new edition of a novella originally published in Cicada Magazine in the U.S.
Jackie Phillips lives in Alberta, Canada. She’s originally from the states, Wisconsin to be exact, although she has not lived there for many years. She lived in Texas for more than 20 years – and then moved to Canada’s land of cowboys and cattle! Jackie doesn’t have cattle, but she has a dog named Sam, her buddy, and two crazy cats. Jackie loves animals of all kinds and has been known to rescue some if they need it!
Jackie is a well known coffee addict, she loves it and needs it to function, especially in the mornings. She’s on a health kick right now, walking on her treadmill that she named Trudy, every day, eating healthier and exercising!
Jackie has been writing almost her whole life, first in journals, then short stories, poems, and now novels. Some of her short stories have been published at Etherbooks.com under the name JLPhillips. She has plans for the future (which she hasn’t revealed yet, but I’m sure they are awesome) and is getting ready for that at the moment.
Jackie started blogging 2 years ago and hasn’t looked back. She says she’s met some wonderful people on WordPress. Next week she’ll tell you what she’s working on right now!