Mindfulness and Alice in Wonderland

Children’s books are often rightly attacked for perpetuating dominant cultural modes: the white families of “Dick, Jane, and Sally,” the world of happy housewives, and countless other stereotypes.

For the many books that attempt to subdue rebellious impulses, there are at least a few that broadcast, whether consciously or unconsciously, subversive messages.

Recently I reread Alice in Wonderland, a favorite of mine in my childhood (mainly because of the cat). In this rereading, I found the book to be highly subversive in a way that I like.

For those who are unfamiliar with or who have forgotten the story, Alice falls asleep one summer afternoon and dreams that she’s in a very strange place with unusual beings of both the human and animal variety. She ultimately becomes involved in a croquet match involving flamingos as mallets, hedgehogs as balls, and playing cards as hoops.

The Queen of Hearts, who changes her mind about what she wants every few minutes, takes a strong dislike for Alice and decides that she must die, shouting, “Off with her head!” In the middle of this dream, Alice comes to awareness and realizes that the Queen’s army is nothing but a pack of playing cards. She knocks them all down and wakes up.

As a kid, I didn’t get the deeper meaning of this. I knew that dreams and waking reality were different. Only with age and some small degree of wisdom have I come to realize that waking reality isn’t all that real.

In our conceptions of our lives, we may have created details as bizarre as Cheshire Cats and Mad Hatters and feel that life is shouting, “Off with her head!”

Imagine a world in which you can be tall and proud when you think about your children and small and weak when you contemplate changing your career. No drugs are required in either situation.

Imagine believing you’re not as good as someone else—or better than someone.

Imagine thinking that you exist for any other reason than to realize your full potential and making a difference in the world.

Imagine waking up to the reality that such beliefs are nothing more than a pack of playing cards.

Another subversive children’s writer, Dr. Seuss, has this to say: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Can you think of one good reason?

One Word for the New Year

While I’m aware that the New Year has been around long enough for even me to remember that I have to write 2016 on checks, it’s not to late to envision and mentally shape the future.

For 15+ years, I’ve been part of a writing group that meets online. For this week’s chat, the chat leader gave us the challenge of coming up with one word to describe how we plan to focus on whatever dreams and aspirations we have for 2016.

Her inspiration for this idea came from the web site below:

One Word 365

Their concept is that one word can replace a long list of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think they’re the only one with this idea, as I saw a number of other sites with the phrase “One Word” in the title, but it’s a good starting point. You can see who else has chosen your word and join their tribe. You can also get help in picking out a word.

Without further ado, my word is “Presence.” This means I intend to be present to the moment, instead of being caught up in the past or the future.

If you like this idea, and you want to post your word, please do.

Martin Luther King Day

Probably one of the most inspiring speeches given in the past several decades is the “I have a dream” speech.

In my continuing musings about goals, plans, resolutions, and intentions, it occurs to me that dreams make the top of the list.

Nothing is more inspiring than a dream that pulls you toward it, leaving all your resistance, fear, and petty concerns behind.

Have a dream today—and every day.

New Worlds to Gain

As I noted in a previous entry, I’m beginning to set goals for the new year. Before formally doing so, I take time to imagine what I want. One thing I know is that an individual’s life doesn’t change until (s)he can imagine a different way of living.

In thinking about the future, I realized I could learn from my fictional characters. In the series, A Dragon’s Guide to Destiny, each main character is challenged to imagine a world very different from the one they know.

Melancholy Druid knows he’s the Dragon of Destiny, but he is sure he’ll fail to accomplish his purpose, in part because all humans have it in for him. Learning to trust a few humans and his own abilities will move him closer to his goal, but can he take that risk?

Tara, the Chosen Kitten, harbors a similar mistrust of humans. She also fears giant dragons. Can she imagine a world in which large and small, human and feline, can join forces?

Human Serazina has unlawful psychic gifts that could lead to her incarceration in the World for the Chronically Crazy (and that would be only the first of coming attractions). Although she must exercise those gifts for her world to be saved, she will have to risk her life to do so.

Phileas, Guardian of Oasis, lives in the tightest mental straightjacket of all, imprisoned by a rigid tradition of mental superiority that suppresses his emotional intelligence. Though he realizes that these limitations are jeopardizing the people he’s sworn to guide, he fears that a world in which emotions are fully expressed will be one of chaos.

Like Druid, I often doubt my ability to succeed. I also, like Tara, sometimes question the willingness of others to cooperate in the fulfillment of my dreams. In earlier years, I felt that my gifts and talents were unrecognized by society, and I regularly check to see if this belief is resurfacing. Likewise, I know it takes commitment to keep the creativity flowing.

Each of us may have different limitations in our ability to imagine a different world, but if we want our lives to accommodate our deepest desires and dreams, we need to imagine worlds that our new selves can happily inhabit.

I used to live in a world where my novels lived only in my computer. Before that situation could change, I needed to imagine a world in which they were published, read, reviewed, etc. Without these mental architectural drawings, I had no way to begin.

Now I’m thinking it’s time for me to make the stakes as high for myself as I do for my suffering fictional friends. That’s going to call for a lot of imagination.

And some inspiration. If you’re considering setting some high-stakes goals, you may benefit listening to the music that helped me write this blog.

Both are by John Lennon

Mind Games


Happy New Year!

Dreams and Inspirations

I’m so excited Connie has invited me to guest on her blog today. I thought I’d share with you all some of the ways I get my inspiration.

I started having what I call “character dreams” when I was in high school. These dreams were more like movies and I found my awareness would bounce from the mind of one player to another. I’d only remember little snippets of these dreams the next morning, but they would stick with me so strongly that I eventually found the only way to resolve them in my mind was to write them.

Witch Way Bends started as just such a dream. I recalled a field of bodies and a woman with a pistol in hand. There were several men standing around, also bearing weapons. One man in particular drew her attention and he was obviously in charge. She had something to prove. He felt something for her and fought to tamp it down.

Years later this little clip transformed into the opening chapter for my first novel.

While I was in the process of writing Witch Way Bends I had a particular scene wherein one of the characters was injured. My heroine needed to heal him but I was having a hard time coming up with the details. I wanted the use of her healing powers to be different, unique. While jogging through the nature trail near my house about that time, I ran into a spider web. I furiously swatted the sticky threads out of my face in frustration as I tried to resolve the quandary in my book.

Inspiration has to hit you right in the face sometimes, because that cob web sprang forth an idea. Spiders. My heroine would conjure spiders to magically heal her friend’s wounds.

Probably the biggest source of my inspiration is music. Loud music blaring through the speakers when I’m driving to work. Whether it’s Muse’s “Uprising” to plan a big fight scene or Missy Higgins’ “Drop the Mirror” to explore the desperate soul-searching of one of my characters, music is very important.

I maintain the mood of my stories with music. It helps me hold tight to the theme or the atmosphere I’m trying to evoke in the words.

So I guess inspiration can be found in almost anything that stirs the soul. So many times I’ve despaired when my “muse” goes missing. Yet somehow, it always finds me again be it in dreams, in nature, in song or some other unimagined place…

About the Author

Olivia Hardin realized early on how strange she was to have complete movie-like character dreams as a child. Eventually she began putting those vivid dreams to paper and was rarely without her spiral notebooks full of those mental ramblings. Her forgotten vision of becoming an author was realized when she connected with a group of amazingly talented and fabulous writers who gave her lots of direction and encouragement. With a little extra push from family and friends, she hunkered down to get lost in the words.

She’s also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and is sometimes accused of being artistic, though she’s generally too much of a perfectionist to appreciate her own work.

A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband and their puppy Bonnie.

Connect with her Online

My Blog: www.oliviahardinwriter.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5354958.Olivia_Hardin

Twitter: http://twitter.com/oliviaH_writer

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/oliviahardinwriter

Books by Olivia Hardin

Witch Way Bends (Book 1 of the Bend-Bite-Shift Trilogy)

Devan Stowe is a woman on a quest. She has only one thing on her mind when she teams up with Kent Crosby and his associates—putting an end to her father’s child trafficking business. Her determination takes her on a journey to discover her true strength and… the one man she was destined to love. In his arms, she’ll learn the meaning of trust, honor, and courage. Old friends and new will come together to help Devan unlock an amazing gift that will free her from her past and open up a future full of magic, faeries and more things than she ever imagined possible…

Available at Amazon

Bitten Shame (Book 2 of the Bend-Bite-Shift Trilogy)

Jill Prescott returned from self-imposed seclusion to help save her best friend Devan’s life. Throwing herself into Devan’s problems and bringing an evil organization to its knees might just be the distraction she needs to keep living without the only man she’s ever loved. Her life changed forever when she was hired to spend a week with Doc Massey. On the day she became a vampire her youthful innocence ended, but Doc’s love rescued her from being consumed by the darkness. The shadow of that former life continues to loom over her, keeping her from realizing her own self-worth. Running from her past only brings her closer to a destiny that is inextricably connected to what she is trying to escape… Every gift has both a reward and a price, because All of it fits…

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Cupid Painted Blind is a collection of six short stories. Featuring authors: Liz Schulte, Lisa Rayns, Olivia Hardin, C.G. Powell, Cait Lavender and Stephanie Nelson.

“Tell A Soul” – Short Story by Olivia Hardin

He’s the dependable one. The strong and steadfast one. Still, there’s one woman who has always turned his firm resolve on end. Langston is surprised beyond… Belief to find Kristana again, and this time without a husband. Has fate finally given them the chance to be together? Kristana can’t escape her intense attraction for the strange giant Langston, but the murmuring voices in her head are threatening to drive her mad. Can she find a way to trade one torment for another and thereby find true love?

Available at Amazon

Meet Sarah Woodbury, Author and Creative Dreamer

Sarah Introduces Herself

I am a homeschooling mom of four kids (ages 7 to 20), married for 21 years. I came to fiction writing 5 ½ years ago, having done the academic thing up until then, culminating with a Ph.D. in anthropology. Until I was in my thirties, I would routinely tell people “I haven’t a creative bone in my body.” I believed it! I don’t anymore. According to my extended family, I’m now so far off the map in being arty and alternative, that I’ve forgotten there even is a map.

Sarah, since my blog is about creativity, that’s a great introduction to yourself. What created the shift in your belief about your creativity, and what did you do to encourage taking action?

When I was in graduate school, I remember talking with my sister-in-law (also in grad school), about my committee’s desire for me to come up with an original research project for my dissertation. I didn’t know how they could expect that when I hadn’t had an original thought in 12 years! We laughed because it felt so true.

Undermining that certainty, however, were my children. My daughter was born after my first year of graduate school, and my son two years later. Because of them, I postponed looking for a ‘real’ job as a professor, and then decided that staying home with them and homeschooling was a real job.

My focus had been on academics. That was my identity. That was my value as a person. With academia in the rearview mirror, I was only a mom. And that’s where my creativity began to sprout. Tiny at first. Ten years ago, we bought a house that needed a complete makeover, inside and out, and we did the outside first. Which means I designed the garden and planted it. I had told myself for years that I had a black thumb and all of a sudden, the plants grew! And were beautiful.

My daughter, in particular, has always been very creative and my next foray was into quilting, entirely because I was looking for something to do with her. Was writing a logical extension of that? I don’t know if it would be for anyone else, but on April 1, 2006, I sat down at my computer and wrote the first line of my first book. And changed my life.
I love the idea that the act of gardening and resultant success helped to make inroads into the “black thumb” belief.

You discovered that you could create beauty. That’s so powerful.

Let’s move on to the flowering of your literary imagination. Tell us about that first book: why you chose the subject you did and how it played an integral part in your creative journey.

I wrote that first book in six weeks, just to see if I could. I’m thankful that I didn’t have any desire to write the great American novel, or to exorcise demons from my past because it might have made the book harder to abandon. Again, it was my children that drove my creativity and I wanted to write something that they might enjoy reading.

This book had elves and magic in it and will never see the light of day. It is locked at the bottom of the proverbial trunk. It was very bad. Unsalvageable. At the same time, it showed me that I could write a novel (bad though it was), and gave me hints as to how I might go about writing a second one.

It is my second novel that set me on my present course. I had a dream about driving my mini-van into medieval Wales. I woke up and knew I had to write the story. This book eventually became Footsteps in Time. It is a young adult novel about two teenagers who do exactly what I dreamed: drive a mini-van from our world into thirteenth century Wales.

It is Footsteps in Time that I wrestled with and that haunted me for four years. I queried hundreds of agents about it, acquiring 72 rejections before one took me on. I read it out loud to find typos. Twice. I cut 1/3 of the chapters from it three times. I rewrote it a fourth time (cutting out 15,000 more words) before I published it in 2011. I’ve sold over 7000 copies of the book this year. And every one is like a little miracle.

I’m so glad you raised the subject of dreams, because they have always been a powerful source of creativity for me. The story of your second novel also reveals a fascination with Wales. Would you like to tell us more about the source of that fascination?

Some of my ancestors were Welsh, and that tradition is one of the stories that my family has always told about itself. That we came from Wales, even if it was 400 years ago, is a source of pride, as well as curiosity as to what that means and who those people were. My daughter and I (as a homeschool project) began researching our genealogy in the late 90’s and that’s when I began to read more about Wales. I also lived in the UK for a year while in college, visited Wales, and fell in love with the country and its people. So to dream about it was natural.

The dreaming is also one of those double-edged swords. I dream vividly (and some time horribly) every night. I don’t sleep well—to wake up a dozen times in a night is normal for me—and this pattern started about the time I started writing. I think it’s clear that my dreams inform my writing, and in turn, my writing seeps into my dreams. I’m not sure now if I could have one without the other.

Getting more specifically into your novels: While I don’t have a lot of knowledge about the Arthurian era, I am aware that probably countless novels have been written on the subject. It’s obviously a story/saga that captures the human imagination.

Why does it capture your imagination? Why do you think it has so great a universal appeal?

It is my sense that the King Arthur story appeals to different people in different ways, and on many levels because it’s got a little bit of everything in it. There’s the beginning—the young boy who becomes a king. It’s the child’s story of the mythic hero; then there’s the sophisticated interplay of politics, the machinations of Merlin, magic, and treachery—the dark side, if you will; and finally, there’s the tragic downfall.

But that’s not the King Arthur story that appeals to me, actually. King Arthur, as usually written, comes off as either as a flat character, someone whom the author employs as a backdrop to explore the personalities of other characters (Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot), or as unheroic and human, tripped up in the end by the overwhelming burden of his imperfections. Arthur is either a pawn, buffeted by the winds of fate, or so flawed, one has to ask how he was remembered as a hero in the first place.

There is a simple reason for this: it is very hard to synchronize the different aspects of Arthur’s story into a complete whole because the essential, heroic element of Arthur’s story—his defeat of the Saxons for a generation—has been grafted, at both the beginning and the end, to a romantic tale told for reasons having more to do with the medieval authors who were telling the story, and the time in which they were living, than with Arthur. In so doing, his character is incomplete and inexplicable, one who reacts instead of acts, and who never has a say in his own destiny.

Instead, it is Merlin who is the active character. It is he who sets the whole plot in motion, whose behavior acts at times like a ‘get out of jail free card’ for Arthur, who manipulates everybody else, but who is powerless to stop Arthur’s downfall in the end. In the classic Norman/French tale, it is through Merlin’s actions at the beginning of the story that Arthur becomes high king, and because of Merlin’s abandonment at the end of the story that (in rapid succession), Arthur loses his wife, his best friend, his son, and his life.

In the Welsh tales, on the other hand, Arthur is nearly super-human. He may have a few flaws, yes, but he is a ‘hero’ in the classic sense. He takes his men to the Underworld and back again, he finds the 13 treasures of Britain, and he rescues his friends and relations from danger and death. It is these tales, that appeal to me and the stories upon which I base my books.

I have three books related to King Arthur. Cold my Heart, which is set in the end of his reign: By the autumn of 537 AD, the autumn of 537 AD, all who are loyal to King Arthur have retreated to a small parcel of land in north Wales. They are surrounded on all sides, heavily outnumbered, and facing near certain defeat.

But Myrddin and Nell, two of the King’s companions, have a secret that neither has ever been able to face: each has seen that on a cold and snowy day in December, Saxon soldiers sent by Modred will ambush and kill King Arthur.

And together, they must decide what they are willing to do, and to sacrifice, to avert that fate.

The Last Pendragon/The Pendragon’s Quest, two books about the heir to Arthur’s throne: He is a king, a warrior, the last hope of his people–and the chosen one of the sidhe . . .

Set in 7th century Wales, The Last Pendragon is the story of Arthur’s heir, Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon (Cade), and his love, Rhiann, the daughter of the man who killed Cade’s father and usurped his throne.

Born to rule, yet without a kingdom, Cade must grasp the reins of his own destiny to become both Christian king and pagan hero. And Rhiann must decide how much she is willing to risk to follow her heart.
My other books are a medieval mystery, The Good Knight, and a time travel fantasy series about two teenagers who travel back to medieval Wales: Footsteps in Time/Prince of Time/Daughter of Time.

My web page: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/
My Twitter code is: http://twitter.com/#!/SarahWoodbury
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahwoodburybooks
Links to my books:
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=woodbury%2C+sarah&x=14&y=12

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=woodbury%2C+sarah&x=0&y=0

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/woodbury-sarah?store=ALLPRODUCTS&keyword=woodbury%2C+sarah

Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/sarah-woodbury/id413605519?mt=11

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=woodbury%2C+sarah