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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

For Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, oh heck a whole week, I’m offering the Kindle version of Traveler for $0.99! If you like stories about time travel and Tudor England, give it a try. 🙂

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If you’re a writer and you’ve never tried it before, the NYC writing challenges are a lot of fun. I just entered for the second time. There are several different types of contests. Check them out here: http://www.nycmidnight.com/

On the day the challenge begins, you’re given a random topic, an action to use in your story, and a word that you must use. You only have 24 hours to submit it. In January, I’ll find out if I made it to the next round or not. In the last challenge I did, only a 100-word story, I made it through the first round but not the second. Fingers crossed!

This time in, I was assigned Sci-fi, not my favorite genre, but what the heck? Entries in this particular contest must be 250 words long, not including the title. Here’s mine, just for kicks. Tell me what you think! (Or not, lol.)

Sunset At St. Paul’s

The sun was sinking down below the spire of St. Paul’s Cathedral, brilliant with rays of orange, red and gold. Old St. Paul’s, I reminded myself. It looked nothing like Christopher Wren’s version in modern London.

I was still reeling with excitement at my success. For years, I had been tinkering, struggling, with the calculations and physics that would enable me to travel through time. I had failed, over and again, but this time it had worked!

I entered London in 1502, elated, my head spinning. Having no money, I quietly shoplifted appropriate clothes from one market stall, a steaming meat pie from another, silently promising to repay the damage later when I had re-established myself.

Earlier that day, in 2020, I had connected the final piece in the portal, and watched as finally, finally, it started to hum. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and thought once more about leaving the modern world behind. My design left no way for me to return; this would be permanent. 

I stepped though.

With that choice, I began anew. Again. Deciphering the mystery of traveling through time had consumed my every thought for years; the isolation, coldness, and drudgery of twenty-first century life weighed me down. I knew if I could open a gateway to the past, I’d return to the loving family I left behind when the flying disc creatures from beyond sent me hurtling 500 years into the future, almost twenty long years ago.

I was home.

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Click here to read my new article on Medium!

https://julieballantynebrown-68872.medium.com/head-in-the-clouds-6f6e8b2291b2?sk=656337b8584108984e57dcb976b7562c

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Click here to view my new article on Medium!

https://julieballantynebrown-68872.medium.com/adventures-in-self-publishing-559102a9880a?sk=b95739d93bd035d39477cd2430d35c7d

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This has been an interesting year, to say the least. Interesting is an adjective that encompasses all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and there has been a lot of the latter two in the last six months.

There’s also been a lot of good, too. As much as some days are a struggle because of things we can no longer do, there have also been good things to come out of this quarantine period.

I’ve been writing. A lot. I finished writing one novel and am almost halfway done with another. I have had beta readers read said finished novel and I’m really encouraged by their constructive feedback. (I also owe them a lot of cookies as payment.) I started writing articles for Medium.com, an online forum where I actually get paid for writing.

I feel like I’m getting somewhere. Slowly but surely.

Admittedly, I have also spent way too much time scrolling through social media, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself about some things. Sometimes it helps to zone out for a while.

We are going back to school this week, virtually, anyway. I’m happy that my district chose to go remote at first and they will determine what happens in the future as it comes. I won’t have as much time to write, but I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to have the time that I did this summer.

Stay tuned, good things are coming.

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If you follow my blog, you know that I make no secret about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and OCD. This week, I began writing for a journal on Medium called “Invisible Illness” that deals with mental illnesses and issues. My first article for them, on dealing with your mental health during COVID-19, came out yesterday. Here is a link to my Medium profile, if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading!

View at Medium.com

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As I write this, I’m listening to a gentle thunderstorm pass by. There is the promise of stronger storms later, but at this moment, brief flashes and quiet rumblings are providing a cozy backdrop for the evening.

Twenty-five years ago, I would not have looked at this storm the same way. I would have been hyper-vigilant about checking the news, the weather channel (pre-internet days), or standing outside, anxiously scanning the skies. Because of a scary incident during a tornado warning in third grade, I was terrified of storms.

When I had kids, I made the conscious decision to face that fear so I wouldn’t pass it on to them. It was tough, but over time, I learned to appreciate the beauty of the thunder and lightning, I came to respect instead of fear.

It was the same way with other childhood fears. Spiders used to make me shriek. Years later, I realized that it was a fear projected onto me and while I’m not BFFs with any arachnids, I usually let them live peacefully in the house or put them outside. (Usually because shower stalking is a deal-breaker. Sorry not sorry.)

Dying in a fire was another one, although I blame THAT on the hellfire sermons I heard every Sunday. Telling a four-year-old that they could burn in a lake of fire for eternity does some damage, especially when it’s being screamed from a pulpit by a scary, sweaty, man. Again, it took some work, but that fear is (mostly) gone.

There are other fears that don’t go away so easily, one that my therapist is pushing me on a bit, but I trust her completely, so it’s swimming around in my head and won’t leave me alone. Why don’t I take my passions and put them out into the universe to try and help make them happen? I take steps toward that, to be sure, but I haven’t put my whole heart into it.

Why? I’m terrified.

If I fail, the thought of having to pick myself up is really, really, scary. I’ve been to that very dark place before, more than once, and I don’t ever want to be there again. It gets more difficult to crawl out every time.

So now, I have to decide. Do I continue on with things I’m passionate about as I have before, with enthusiasm but no serious commitment because of that fear, or do I throw myself into what I really want, put it honestly into the universe, risks and all?

Childhood fears are a bit more manageable. I have things to think about.

Peace be with you.

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The school year just ended, so I’m using this time to write and to become more visible as an author. I’ve written two articles on Medium so far, please check them out. Heck, you could even become a fan if you really wanted to! Here are the links:

https://medium.com/@julieballantynebrown_68872/online-teaching-during-a-pandemic-aea0e159bf90

https://medium.com/@julieballantynebrown_68872/faith-426322259857

Thanks! You are all awesome!

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Exactly two months ago, the night of February 17, I was so excited. The next morning, I would board my plane to Boston and begin my mini-adventure in Salem.  I was packed and ready. barely able to fall asleep. I remember it well. At that point, COVID-19 was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know

Fast forward to now. It’s only been two months since my trip, but it seems like years ago. Travel isn’t even on the radar at the moment. There have been some really rough days, I’ll admit. Emotions have run the gamut: Fear, inspiration, hope, anger (this past week, especially), frustration, all ramped up due to the situation.

I’m trying not to let my OCD and anxiety run away with those negative emotions, going round and round in my brain for hours without stopping. It’s times like these when I seriously rethink my therapist’s offer of medication. I’m not going to lie, Wednesday was really difficult, watching people completely disregard safety regulations, getting out of cars and clumping together, with such ugliness, waving Confederate flags and white power signs that had nothing to do with what they were supposedly protesting. Just for the record, I believe in the right to peaceful protest; I do NOT believe that we have the right to put other people in danger by potentially exposing them to a deadly disease (including children, OMG!!! There were several children there!), clogging up streets and honking horns for EIGHT HOURS around a Level 1 trauma hospital where there are tons of sick people, children, and a maternity ward. WTF??? Seriously, what is wrong with people? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter, so trolls, step off. Don’t even try to defend that mess,

That being said, there are many positive things about this social isolation episode that I am focusing on. Such as:

  • Family time. Youngest Child is a brilliant musician and he’s been teaching (forcing) me to learn piano chords. I can already read music, I sing and play the flute/piccolo/tin whistle, but my piano experience has been limited to very simple tunes. Now, I’m learning some really cool stuff. He’s also helping me with learning ukulele. I always wanted to play and, of course, he knows how. We’ve been watching a lot of movies as a family, eating dinner together every night, and playing games. Yes, we get tired of each other and need some alone time, but for the most part, I love spending more time with Marty and Youngest Child. (Oldest lives on his own now, two hours away, and Middle is in his apartment at school since he has better internet and still has an active lease.)
  • Sleeping in. We’re working, Marty teaches, too, but no more 6:00 am wake-up times for us. School starts when we want it to. We’re honestly working a lot of hours, more than we normally do, but we have sleep. Yay!
  • I’m writing regularly. I finished the yet-unnamed sequel to Traveler, began another book, and plan to begin editing (and naming) the sequel this week. I’m also writing a lot more blog posts, in case you haven’t noticed.
  • Languages. I’ve dusted off my Italian and French and am going full-force on Duolingo. It’s awesome. Future plans…
  • I’m starting my Shakespeare garden indoors with seeds. See my Shakespeare Garden post for more on that. It’s so cool, watching everything sprout!
  • Zoom meetings. Two months ago, I couldn’t have told you what Zoom was. Now I use it every day. It helps me to stay connected to my theatre family and my church family. I truly don’t know what I’d do without it. I even get to have my therapy appointment online, which is very much needed.

Now, with things looking a bit better with this stupid virus running its course, there’s a little light shining at the end of the tunnel, if people don’t screw it up and start a giant second wave. We (myself included) need to focus more on the positive, not to ignore the problems, but to keep things from getting very dark.

In the comments, share a positive with me, some bright spot in this dark time, no matter where in the world you are. I want to celebrate with you!

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“There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you; and here’s some
for me: we may call it herb of grace a’ Sundays. You may wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” ~William Shakespeare

Ophelia, in Hamlet, Act IV scene v Lines 180-185

In the middle of this quarantine, I’ve started my Shakespeare garden. This idea was not an original one, I take no credit for that. I got the idea from the Shakespeare garden in Stratford, Ontario. Stratford holds a Shakespeare/theatre festival every year, normally beginning in late April and ending in October.

Marty and I went to Stratford last summer for the first time in many years to see Othello. In front of the theatre was a beautiful garden with all sorts of plants from Shakespeare’s works. I took a ton of pictures and the wheels started turning.

We have a lot of junk grass in our yard. We purposely use no chemicals, so the lawn is a mixture of grass, clover, and other green things. We don’t mind. We’re not the fussy type and we definitely don’t want to add to the poison in the groundwater. I would like it to look pretty, however, and at be somewhat useful, as opposed to boring grassy stuff. Hence, the Shakespeare garden.

No photo description available.

Many of the plants I’m putting in can be used in cooking or tea, some for other things. There will be thyme, rosemary, columbines, and marjoram when the garden centers open back up and I can buy established plants. Yesterday, I planted seeds for mugwort (more tea!), yarrow, rue (herb of grace), wolfsbane (I’ll finally keep those pesky werewolves away), foxglove, black seed poppies, wild angelica, and even mandrake. I can’t lie, the mandrake has a huge Harry Potter appeal for me and it comes with a full sheet of instructions, so they will definitely be getting names if they germinate. There’s even a Hawthorn bush/tree arriving in a couple of weeks so the fae folk have somewhere to live. Violets naturally grow in our yard and I already have daisies. I also plan to put little signs around the garden, explaining what they are and where they can be found in Shakespeare’s works.

I could never have started a project of this size without being in quarantine. Honestly, this would still be a seed in my mind (see what I did there?) if we hadn’t been compelled to stay at home. Will it all work out? I hope so. I hope it will be beautiful, I hope I can have friends over for drinks in my Shakespeare garden. I hope the bees and butterflies will be happy with all of their new blooms. I have hope.

I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, I ordered my seeds from https://www.alchemy-works.com/seed_index.html where they carry a lot of hard-to-find seeds. The customer service was superb, but have patience during this time of pandemic.

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