The elements sing!

Couldn't resist creating a Gregorian-style chant based on the elements. This is what came of what I input:

Another day, another mini miracle

December was rife with examples of grace in my little world. I saw antagonists mend fences, hearts soften, and kindness prevail. It was great! But it wasn't until yesterday I realized I needed to expect more of than on an ongoing basis, not just be happily surprised to see good stuff happening.

The occurrence that triggered this realization concerns a trip I'm taking folks on in 10 days. It's a walk-in-the-footsteps-of-the-characters trip, the characters being from the 1920s Tea Cozy Mysteries series set in Northern California. When I wrote to confirm the final number of guests we'd have at tea in Oakland CA at the end of our trip, I was informed by the heartbroken tearoom owner that they'd just decided they would be closing their doors, and thus not able to serve our group.

After my sorrow for the owners subsided (having had to close my own beloved restaurant once upon a time) I snapped into action to find a substitute location. Easier said than done, it turns out. I was unable to find a tea place that would be open on the holiday, and the one I did find was problematically far away. I informed the trip guests, and the whole end of the trip started to fall apart with people deciding to go off on their own and forgo the last leg of the journey—not the send-off I'd envisioned for the end-of-the-book-series final hoorah.

Through an unexpected and unusual source, I came across the historic Cohen-Bray House pictured here. They are a volunteer-run organization, and miraculously, they agreed to host our group for tea and give us a tour! We'll be dining at one large table in the formal 19th-century dining room and toast our time together in a manner befitting the occasion.

This is the sort of wonderful outcome I want to learn to expect more of, not just be floored that something good happened. Every day I see and learn more of the goodness in people and the world. It's there if you look for it. I intend to look for it more diligently.

FiddleFun - January 2020

Want to earn Plunder ducats while sharing the Omni love? Here's our first Fiddlehead inspired activities calendar to use as a springboard. 
"It's more like guidelines, really." 

The greatest gift of 2019

I've been holding off sharing this story, as I didn't want to treat it frivolously. Instead, I'm going to only touch on it briefly, as the range of particulars don't matter when it comes to the final outcome. A dream of mine since college has been to have a nonprofit that supports artists and artisans. More important, I wanted it to be an entity where the funds actually went to the artists in need rather than to the top salaries of the high-ticket all-star staff.

In 2017, that dream began to materialize with the creation of Whimsicalitea, 5a 01c3 organization created to support the 'genteeel arts.' My two other board members have been too caught up with life challenges to do much, so the bulk of the work has fallen to me. Based on my own breakneck schedule, all I've had time to do is keep up with the filing paperwork as needed and donate money to causes and artists. Certainly, I have not made any real attempts at fundraising. Other things have seemed more important. So when the charity donates money, I'm the one putting up most of it, and happy to do so.

Fast forward to Giving Tuesday 2019, the day when Facebook will match any contributions your nonprofit receives via donations made by those on Facebook. I posted the fundraiser in Whimsicalitea's very small Whimsicalidocious Facebook group, and invited others in the group to donate if they were so inspired. My plan was to give $100 each to an artist, composer, filmmaker, author, and textiler, thus my goal was to raise $500.

Here's where things get juicy. Someone in the group asked for the names of those to whom we give money. The funds are given discreetly, usually to those I find on social media who I sense are in financial distress. For example, if I see an artist post about how they can't go see their family for the holidays because they don't have the gas money, I'll send them some funds, not much, usually only about $50, stating I want to support their art. All the while, I fully expect them to use the money for gasoline or food or utilities or whatever else they need handled immediately. I don't post or give out the names or amounts so as not to embarrass the recipients. The problem is, as I now know, I used the wrong word—scholarship.

Someone in the group wanted to know about applying for the scholarships and who had received them and why wasn't that information disclosed to the public. That was where it started to go downhill. Where it landed was with the fundraiser being reported to Facebook as a scam, me being called a con artist and the nonprofit fraudulent, the list went on and on. Things got very ugly and dark, and my character underwent vigorous attack.

I realized I had a choice as to how to respond. I could fight fire with fire, or with kindness and compassion. I chose to employ the holiday maxim of goodwill toward men. I did my best to treat the irate individual with respect and calm and a virtual hug. Over the course of many written exchanges, I learned this sweet soul's brother had passed just 3 weeks prior and she was grieving. Also, she'd had experience dealing with fraudulent nonprofits and money laundering.

Within a few days of our communicating, she not only retracted the report from Facebook, but has become a cherished penpal. She's apologized a zillion times over and cited the way I handled the situation as inspiring. She said tons of other nice stuff too, for which I'm supremely grateful. More than anything, I'm thankful for the opportunity to see love in action, see it melt away animosity and do all the warm fuzzy things we expect love to do.

Over the last two months I've had two similar, albeit minor, instances where people accused me of something I didn't do and instead of getting on my high horse to defend myself with righteous indignation, I responded with empathy and genuine concern for their wellbeing. Both parties went from seething mad to sweet and contrite. These teeny triumphs not only feel great, but are helping me to become the kind of person I've always wanted to be, but never felt I had the kindness to become. I can hardly wait for the wonders and blessings the new decade will bring.

For me, it's always about hope

I'm now 27K words into book #7 of Pete Drake's Omni Tale (about 180K words to go) and I'm so giddy with excitement I can hardly write. I try not to jump ahead when I write. While most writers I know compose 'scenes' and assemble them later, I write linearly. I don't get to move on until I wrap up wherever I am at the moment ... and yet.

I confess I couldn't wait to write, or rather rewrite, the final scene. I've known for years where it would take place and more or less what it would be about, except for the fact one of the players switched to someone else a couple years back.

In so doing, the theme of the entire series dawned on me, and I can't help but share it now. If for no other reason than to remind myself what I'm working toward.

Readers' characters come alive

While it may look like I've been inattentive and neglecting my Omni duties, just the opposite has been going on beneath the surface. In order for us to launch the behemoth that is Omni, I need to complete the first draft of all novels in Pete Drake's 7-novel series. That's in excess of 1.1 million words of writing—that's the length of nearly 14 standard novels when all is said and done. The good news is, I've only got an estimated 250K words to go, so the home stretch is nearly in sight.

What this post highlights is the collaborative nature of the Omni project. A couple years back, a darling gal named Genevieve (part of the Fiddleheads Unite core team on Facebook) submitted a character for inclusion in the primary novel series. Tallulah Marin, or Tali as Genevieve calls her, is a naiad, a mythological fresh water nymph who featured prominently in book #2. Now in book #6 Tali returns!

Including the characters created both those in the Omni circle is incredibly rewarding, not to mention fun. Better yet, when I informed Genevieve that Tali was coming back, it inspired her to get back to her own writing, and she's going to pen a short story that goes with the novel scene I told her about.

If you'd like a character of your creating to be included in the final novel, drop me a line. Omni's all about inclusion, in the most magical and whimsical of ways. See you all soon. I have 4K more words to get down on paper today xo

When life gets lemony

 Now available in Kindle & Paperback formats
The day before yesterday looked to be an awful amalgamation of icky goings-on. One untoward situation after another reared its mocking hideous head, and I quickly saw my week derailing. I decided to fight back. Specifically, I decided to fight fire as it should be fought—not with more fire, but with a hose! With cool clear cleansing soothing water ... at least metaphorically.

I cleared my schedule and postponed all the things I'd planned 'to do,' and sat down to think about what I could do that would be festive and positive. I was on special-needs-puppy-sitting duty, so getting out of the house was not an option. Instead, I brought some of the All Hallows season fun and spookiness into the space where I was by writing a little rhyming story about witches.

I started out with a premise, a title, and the artwork for the cover. Then things took an unexpected turn of the broom and I ended up with a whole different tale. (Ever the repurposer, the other story will come out next year.) Before I knew it, the new little story was written. New cover art was created. Pages were designed and formatted. And now it's up and available on Amazon... in both e-book and paperback no less!

The moral of the story? Don't let the blue meanies get you down. Either kick them out, or tickle them into submission. And then enjoy your success over a cuppa or glass of that lemonade! Cheers!

P.S. All proceeds go to Whimsicalidocious' Lyle Dagnen author scholarship fund.

Tap Creativity testimonial

The other day I was asked to "share my story" with a group of female entrepreneurs in a Facebook group. The following is what I submitted:

Our darling fearless leader, Jennafer, sweetly asked me to share a bit of what I've experienced as an entrepreneur. When I started out in the mid-nineties, I was full of enthusiasm, wide-eyed, ready to dive in and work hard. Some things I tried worked. Others didn't. Still others were incredibly well received but sapped my resources to an untenable degree. I ended up opening a retail eatery, fine dining restaurant, catering company, and a theater company, running 3 of them at once. I'm single, and at the time, I owned a million dollar home, 5 cars (including a Jag convertible and Bentley prototype limo - all vehicles purchased in cash), went on trips on a whim and thought I was on top of the world.

Years prior, I'd made spirituality a priority, but looking around one day at all my "stuff," I decided to get rid of everything and live "without a net." Everyone in my family had passed, and the time seemed right to take a risk. I got rid of it all. Fast forward several years, and as I was in the throes of starting a new venture, I found myself battling with stage 4 lung cancer--the kind that involves the doctor telling you to get your affairs in order. I needed to dig in and deal with that to the exclusion of nearly everything else.

After having had many successes in business, I found it odd that none of the work projects I started seemed to bear fruit. I couldn't understand it. For the last nine years, no matter what I tried, things bombed. Then the lightbulb went on. Had the business activities I was working on while dealing with cancer been successful, I would not have been able to fulfill those commitments. I was too busy dealing with health stuff. Additionally, everything I did and learned during those years of "failure" is now being incorporated into my opus project that launches in February. Because I was down in the trenches, I didn't have the perspective to realize everything was falling into place exactly as it should, in its own time.

Business activities that I've viewed as "philanthropic hobbies" have not only paid the bills throughout this time, but I'm now seeing how they fit into the big picture going forward. There is absolutely not one single thing I've worked on in the last 10 years that was wasted effort. All of it is being incorporated into that big picture I was not able to see clearly because I was too close to it. The mega project that launches next year already has a number of programs in place because they were just waiting in the wings for their time in the sun. There is already interest, I'm finding my "tribe," folks are already participating and feeling blessed, funds are coming in, and with some of the projects I'm seeing my most cherished dreams come true.

The point of this long-winded homily is that you never how or when the seeds you sow will bear fruit. My situation has been akin to the growth of bamboo. I kept working and working and it looked like nothing was happening. Then all of a sudden, the growth has shot up to the sky. I can't wait to report back a year hence with an update, but for now, I couldn't be more grateful for my decade of struggle, as it's been the best of my life.

Tears fall like Aquis

23 August 2019 - I was talking to a friend about all the trials and missteps I've mentioned in this blog—about how it looked like I'd faced one failure after another and that for nearly a decade I couldn't figure out why that was the case. As we chatted, I became verklempt as I mentioned the myriad projects I'd started that appeared at the time to be random one-offs, but that I now realize are part and parcel of all Omni is meant to be about. On Patreon, the Academy's tagline is "cultivating community by creating a whole new world," and that is one hundred percent what all of this 'stuff' has been about.

La Vie Sirene magazine paved the way for Writing on a Whim, the upcoming Cynosurae newspaper, and Omni's anthologies, the 3rd of which publishes next month with Besties & Beasties.

The retail spot I did not open with my cohort necessitated the creation of Whimsicalidocious, my dream of starting an arts nonprofit coming true.

Fantasy Fitness is now part of the Omni curriculum and I've already taught a few classes—woohoo! The Wellemental elements-based retreat I planned long before knowing about the academy and its element structure will be held next year.

Siren School was revealed to be the academy's all-female affiliate, and its long-forgotten newscasts were the dress rehearsal for Omni's Station AOAS newscasts starting in Spring, in keeping with academy activity written about in Pete's Omni Tale.

Shared Treasure Hunt will finally leave port from Omni in July 2020, the academy having deep connections with all things piratical.

The original language Naturim is taught at the academy and features in the first OmniQuest escapish-room game that launches 1 February 2020.

Pete's story will at last be published ... more like 'churned out' ... on an oh so regular basis, with chapters released every few days on Patreon, and novellas (about a dozen chapters in length) released every 6 weeks for the next 6-7 years.

The few 'fiddleheads' who have supported this project have seen their original characters come to life in Pete's story.

Even Platen, the stepchild element at the academy, has come into its own with the running of Dim Q's Tea Travellers Societea.

All the intense work and seemingly disparate projects are all unexpectedly converging, and where they all meet is at Omni. I could not be more delighted.

The Author's Journey

Click here to visit the shiny new Author's Journey site :)
A couple weeks back, while writing book #5 it Peyton Drake's saga, I was listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks. I have different playlists for each of my projects, and thanks to the number of movies set in Middle Earth (along with their length) I had hours upon hours of Howard Shore to inspire and mollify me. The concept of the Hero's Journey flitted through my mind—not just because that is part and parcel of each of the adventure novels in the series, but because I first understood the depth of the idea when I saw the Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It was then I decided to offer a writing intensive that would take people from the very beginning of the writing process all the way through publication. I'm waiting until after all the end-of-summer, back-to-school, settle-into-fall mania calms down before announcing it, and look forward to seeing what sort of folk inquire. For now, it's back to work on a detailed mystery event I unwisely thought up and am now wondering what I've gotten us into.

Hoping to see you in Middle Earth next February!