Magic in a Reading Nook

This week marked the completion of the Word Crone Cottage!!! YEAH! So I’ve been enjoying the final edits, a dab of paint here, a dollhouse lamp there.

(Word Crone Cottage Loft)

I guess I’ve always enjoyed the everyday kind of magic.

(Word Crone Cottage loft/dollhouse lamp)

One of the first books I read was A Secret Garden, closely followed by A Little Princess.

In the first, the heroine finds and reclaims a garden, hidden by a stone wall and a heavy wooden door. A key admits her to this place of magic, coupled with secret incantations to honor the space.

(The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor.)

In A Little Princess, the heroine, thrown on her own resources, receives a transformation of her attic room into a magical space. Her “Fairy God Mother” turns out to be her father’s associate who takes pity on the little girl who speaks his native tongue and lives in the cold attic across the street.

(A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.)

I’ve always enjoyed Christmas with the same sense of magic I felt as a five year old. When my own children were about to step out of that magical age, I hope I impressed upon them my firm belief that if you cannot be the child with youthful belief in the magic, then the next best thing, (and I would argue that it is a lateral move, maybe even an upward evolution) is to be the maker of magic. Be the person who builds the secret garden, be the person who bestows the magic attic renovation. In my case, my little pandemic project, the Word Crone Cottage, was my magical gift to myself. It’s the space where I can make the magic of books.

This week, I spent a lot of time climbing up and down a ladder to top of the gable loft in my writing studio. No, it was not for my own benefit. Did I mention that I’m fifty-eight years old? My knees ache with “arthritis consistent with my age” according to my last doctor’s visit. Crawling around in a reading niche is probably a thing of my past, but it’s there, to cast its magic on some more agile person with an open mind. (This is a call out to you, LWDC – “ladies who drink coffee.” I’ll host the next coffee get-together. On the menu: coffee for J., something vegan for L., a salon of conversation for M., and maybe just a little bit of magic for the rest of you?)

Next week, I’ll get a start on the magic of a “secret garden”, ready to share its progress every Friday as I work my way around each “room” of the yard. I hope you will join me each Friday through this summer as I take my pleasure in being the maker of the magic.

In the meantime, I hope you will make some magic of your own: Make some art. Read a book. Share a magical space. ❤

Cozy Southern Mystery: What’s Behind Curtain Number 3?

In the vein of blogging and stretching the topic to encompass that which I write (Southern Gothic Cozy Mysteries) and setting a weekly goal toward completing my pandemic project of converting my garden variety (pun intended) shed into a writing studio, I’m back again this Friday with the near-completion of the fourth side of the Word Crone Cottage.

This wall consists of all shelving – unattractive, plywood and 2X4, potting shed grade shelving. It was tough to make it look fancy, so I painted it, divided it into three compartments with extra shelves, partitions, and some gnarly porch posts I had on hand. (Doesn’t everyone have gnarly wooden posts just laying around?) Their purpose in all this is to just cover the crap behind it with curtains made from drop cloths.

So, what is behind curtain number three? I’m a compartmentalist. (Is it a word? It is now.) Curtain number one hides everything related to the business of writing – a printer, tax documents, books on grammar and story structure. Curtain number two houses all things artsy. In addition to writing, I whip out the odd illustration. (More on that in another blog post. It’s all storytelling.) And curtain number three houses the recording studio. (Very dark, so it doesn’t photograph well, thus all the closed curtains. (Maybe I’ll share an audio short story in the future. I should write down these blog post ideas.)

I loved the ceiling solution of covering the insulation with a dropcloth. Unfortunately, Scout has decided that it and the wood slabs that are currently stored in the rafters are there for her own enjoyment. Her new favorite napping spot is either on the wood slabs (that’s fine) or in the drop cloth ceiling covers. (Not fine.)

Next week I’ll share the last bit of renovation – the loft over this wall of shelves, (thus the reason for the theater ladder.) Woo hoo. I’m really looking forward to wrapping up my pandemic project, but is anything ever truly finished? Well, we can hope to see an end to the pandemic someday.  I’ll have some painted accent pieces to share along the way, but I’m already planning the next project, so please join me on Fridays… and in the meantime, enjoy this little “before” view of the next project.

Until then, make some art, read some books!

Sofie.

Cozy Southern Mysteries and an Angel on My Shoulder

This Friday, I’m continuing the tour around the edges of the Word Crone Cottage. Every week, I tackle another corner of my writing office, a pandemic project that is now ¾ done, thanks to the self-imposed Friday blog deadlines.

Everything here was thrifted or gifted and this week, I tackled the massive walnut armoire that was neglected, a catchall for tools and arts and crafts projects. It came into my care through my daughter, who received it from a friend. When she came home from college, the armoire was “stored” in what was, at the time, a storage shed… and it suffered for the lack of climate control. Today, it’s far happier serving as a bookshelf in the shed turned office.

Are you familiar with the story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? I styled the shelf, which meant moving books, which led to sorting/donating/curating those books, which led to moving my table desk from another corner, which led to the realization that I have a lot of angels looking over my shoulder.

Tomorrow will be the first day of writing with my entourage of angels peering over my shoulder. I’m re-working a cozy southern mystery. It’s part of a series that is receiving a pretty extensive overhaul. Yes, there is some mischief in the fictional town of Poropotank, but hopefully, the angels are working to keep everyone accountable – fictional characters as well as myself. A-chapter-a-day keeps the wolves at bay.

Join me again next Friday when I’ll be sorting out the “recording studio.” Okay, okay, at present, it’s little more than a corner wrapped in insulating batting. Someone asked about the banjo in the corner in a previously revealed corner. Yes, I play, not all that well, but what I lack in skill, I make up for with heart. ❤ Click here for a little snippet.

I hope you’re enjoying the journey as much as I am. In the meantime, make some art. Read a book.

Inch-by-Inch, Wall-by-Wall…

It’s Friday, which means another corner of the Word Crone Cottage gets a reveal! This week’s task was the gable of the cottage, but as there was little to do to carry it around the corner, I’m including the gable and the other corner of this end of my office. This marks the half-way mark to completion!

I think I can safely self-diagnose as one of those special little butterflies with ADHD. It’s unfortunate that it has such a pejorative moniker. Attention DEFICIT Hyperactivity DISORDER describes it in adversarial terms, focusing on the limits created by this alternative means of processing information. But for those of us who can boast that particular means of processing information, it means the ability to make connections from a unique perspective, enhanced creativity, etc. It does, however, offer challenges to coping within the constraints of a traditional educational methodology, traditional 9-to-5 work, completing tasks set by others, etc.

For me, the greatest coping strategy I have is the ability to focus on short-term goals. I have difficulty staying on task if there is a great delay of gratification. With the Word Crone Cottage, I can imagine what it will look like when completely finished, but to tackle that entire project with that mindset? I’d be happy to dream about the outcome rather than tackle what I would perceive as an overwhelming task. But, If I break the tasks down into smaller bits with the more attainable goal to come on a weekly basis, well, that’s something even this willo’-the-wisp can handle. It’s the same strategy I use to complete a novel.

So I hope this inspires someone, a little, to tackle that giant project you’ve been dreaming about. Break it down into its smaller pieces, set small goals, and enjoy the journey. In the meantime, make some art, read some books. Enjoy!

Never mix plaid and floral?

The Magic of Space…

Whether it’s world building in fiction, or the physical space in which we work, I believe it can have an impact on what we do, who we are…

In continuation of the Friday tour of the Word Crone Cottage, this week, I finished the double doors on one end of my office. The doors are… were… the standard cheap double doors, treated plywood construction, that come standard in those little pre-fab sheds. There were not a lot of windows in the building, so when I thrifted four used windows, it was my plan to install them in the plywood double doors like full-French doors. Unfortunately, the bottom windows would cut into too much framing, so I decided against and opted to insulate, panel, and paint the bottom halves. The plaid is a work-in-progress. I underestimated the amount of time it takes to tape, paint, remove tape, wait for paint to dry, before doing it all again with the next color. I’ll add two more accent colors and next week’s tour will include the new, improved plaid panels, as well as the gable over the doors.

It’s the journey…

Familiars or Muses?

Every writer needs a muse. And this is my muse. Or is my cat a familiar?

Today, I’m talking about the difference between a familiar and a muse, but mostly, it’s an excuse to finish up a little project that’s been underway in the Word Crone Cottage: The installation of a cat door that will prevent my having to get up every half-hour or so to open the door for Scout.

Author, Joanna Bourne says, “a familiar is a muse with teeth.” 

Oxford Languages describes a familiar as “a demon supposedly attending and obeying a witch, often said to assume the form of an animal; a close friend or associate.”

Okay, I can embrace the notion of Scout being my close friend and associate, but attending and obeying? I think, by that definition, that makes me HER familiar. Either way, she does keep me company… on occasion.

By equal turn, Oxford tells me a muse is “one of the nine daughters of Zeus… who preside over the arts and sciences; a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.”

Yes, I think, in this case, a muse is the better description. She is definitely a force, a source of inspiration.

So she splits her day between her true confidant, my adult son and in-house animal whisperer, sleeping on her 6ft. cat tower that sits in front of the window with the nicest view, (obstructing the aforementioned mountain view from us lesser beings) and lastly, occasionally blessing me with her company across the yard in my office. So would I call her my writing muse? Hmm. That would depend.

Can I claim a muse as a tax deduction?

Cream, Two Sugars, and a Couple of Friends

If you know a writer, there’s probably a cup of coffee nearby. I take mine with cream, two sugars, and a couple of friends.

My day always goes – breakfast, at the keyboard in the Word Crone Cottage by 9 a.m., writing. Lunch. Then after meeting my word count, I switch gears to work on the Cottage (or house, or yard, or illustrations.) This week, I’m continuing to work my way around the Word Crone Cottage and it found me styling the area around one of the two armchairs. I like to think of my “style” as… intentional. Eclectic, for sure, but with a purpose. For this little corner of the cottage, the purpose is for hosting a friend or two, serving up a cuppa coffee, and enjoying writerly conversation.

The recipe:

Two friends and a bottomless carafe of coffee…

The upper half of the wall was painted in butter yellow with a dark gold fleur-de-lis stencil. The bottom half is striated navy blue. The trim is sage green. (Those aren’t the real names of those colors. I’ve no idea what the actual names or brands are. I tend to throw different pots of paint together until I’m happy with the result.)

The lamp used to have a glass “Tiffany”-style shade (irreparably broken of course.) I replaced it with a thrift-find. The fringe – isn’t a silk tassel at all – it’s made up of tiny metal springs! I can’t bring myself to replace the fabric covering. The chairs were also a thrift-find. They came from a yard sale at $50 each (including the shearling head coverings that are covering water stains on the backs of both chairs. The story I was told was that they found their way to Charlottesville, VA, USA by way of New Zealand. If walls… and furniture… could talk.

I hope you’ll join me on this tour of the Word Crone Cottage as I finish, paint, and style the other corners of my office. I’ll be back every Friday. So pour yourself a cuppa coffee and join me through the use of the “follow” button. There it is. Just below… 😀

Goals and Habits

One of my favorite things to do is to begin a new journal. Journals are great for:

Starting a new book
Starting a new year
Scheduling the bits that go along with writing – completion of books, social media posts, deadlines, etc.

I love books – all kinds. I make books for a living, but not just the fictive kind. I enjoy making books for journaling too. But I never let the absence of a new journal stop me from starting a new journal. I just grab up a handful of printer paper, (or I print out my template of dotted paper), soak it in a cup of extra strong instant coffee, dry it, iron it, then zip up the signatures on my handy sewing machine. It’s kind of magical.
Blank journal signature, all ready to go.​ 
There’s also something magical about the smell of books. Add to that, coffee soaked pages, and you’ve got quite the powerful tool.

So go ahead. Join me in making books. Stitch up some pages. Read some books while you’re at it. Make some art. Make magic.

The Reclusive Writing Clone

(Warning: trigger image – mouse skelaton.)

Blog regularly. Post to Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Patreon. Don’t forget to Tweet, Like, Shout… And at some point in all that, write… novels… with a distinctive brand… and regularity.
Large quantities of coffee can help with some of those things, (especially the regularity) but something’s gotta give. So I decided my best bet was to hone a brand that would allow me the leisure to do the single most important thing – to write – and to remove myself from all the rest. I would re-brand as the Reclusive Writing Crone… and write, southern gothic mysteries.
Recluses don’t have to worry about those things that would otherwise distract from the business of writing. The Crone part just comes naturally to me, because I am just naturally drawn to things that most normal people find creepy.
Case in point:

Picture

So toward building my brand as the reclusive writer, I’ve spent my time removing myself from society. Easy Peasy. There’s a flippin’ pandemic on-going. It’s called social distancing.
And something that lends itself to all these things has been my pandemic project of creating my outdoor office, away from the house, away from people, away from… distraction (although, in all honesty, renovating a shed as a writing office is a pretty big distraction from the business of writing.) 

Picture

​I just finished insulating and paneling the walls. (Yep. Did it myself, although I had a professional install the electrics which, given my history and sketchy skill set, seemed like a good idea.)
The next phase is paint. I know, I know, the wood paneling is pretty, but doesn’t match and that sort of thing bothers me. And I want light and bright and airy. (Hey, I can be a reclusive writing crone and still embrace pretty things.)
Next up, finishing the trim/paneling in the loft, insulating the ceiling, and some sort of ceiling treatment. 
So if you’re interested, you can follow the on-going renovations of the writing shed.  I’m a recluse! A writin’ reclusive crone!… with a writing shed.

Picture

The Protagonist and the Voodoo Doll

Most writers are familiar with the saying, “In the first act, get your hero up a tree; in the second act, throw stones at him, and in the third act, get him down safely.” I just learned that quote is by George Abbott, director/playwright. I’ve heard iterations of that quote for years from multiple sources, but never knew who first coined it until I tapped into the power of the Google. (That’s a capital “G”, as in deity, not “G” as in the trademarked company logo. That might be… some kind of infringement. I live in fear of infringement.)

Scout, my writing muse.

I started a new book three weeks ago and that’s what got me thinking about an expansion of Abbott’s quote. Sure, ya gotta put him up that tree, and sure, you gotta throw some projectiles, and in popular fiction, hopefully, you get him safely down out of the tree, but it’s a little more involved than that.

The Protagonist Voodoo Doll. (Poor thing.)

I started a new book three weeks ago and that’s what got me thinking about an expansion of Abbott’s quote. Sure, ya gotta put him up that tree, and sure, you gotta throw some projectiles, and in popular fiction, hopefully, you get him safely down out of the tree, but it’s a little more involved than that.

Writer, Carolyn Greene, is warm and squishy in addition to having a profound understanding of story structure. Part of her m.o. is to ask you a simple question and let you squirm until you answer it or figure out that you don’t have an answer and you need one. While whining to her about the limpid middle of whatever book I was writing at the time, Carolyn asked, “what’s your protagonist’s internal conflict?” Sure enough, I had not identified that before writing. If stories are character-driven, then knowing their internal conflict will have a profound effect on the trajectory of the story. Boom! Identify I.C. First!

But let’s take it one step further. Writer Abbie Emmons summed it up nicely in her discussion of the protagonist’s misbelief. By determining the character’s “misbelief”, it takes the internal conflict one step further to establish how the character will grow. Booya!

I work better in pictures and it’s more likely more people have seen the same movie than read the same book, so let’s do a “fer example.”

“Fer example”, let’s take the movie, BIG, with Tom Hanks. Love this movie. It’s so cleanly written. Tom Hanks’s character, Josh Baskin, thinks all of his problems could be solved if only he were big. That’s his misbelief. Over the course of the story, he grows in understanding that being BIG doesn’t matter if it’s not accompanied by maturity and that can only be achieved through life experience. The whole movie is spent showing the conflicts that arise as a result of being a child in an adult body. (Plus, I love that the inciting incident/mentor is an awesome vintage fortune-teller called Zoltar. I love creepy movie props.)

Picture
A little board art.

And that’s it in a nutshell. You figure out your character’s internal conflict by way of their misbelief and that will inform the better part of your character-driven plot.

Now, off with you. Put on a favorite movie and look for the internal conflict and the protagonist’s growth as a result of their misbelief. You won’t be disappointed… and you’ll never watch a movie in the same way.

Make some art. Write some words!
And if you are so inclined and would like to be informed of the release of my next book, feel free to contact me for inclusion in the notifications and other special stuff.