On Preparing to Travel

At long last, a postponed trip to Greece is here. The last throes of planning, list-making, and researching are done. I have tickets for everything I need to have tickets for. I’ve made a copy of my passport, left itineraries for my loved ones, just in case. I even got travel insurance.

I’m travelling to a brand-new place for me, Greece, specifically the island of Crete. I’ll be doing some touristy, sight-seeing things like taking a Cretan cooking class and going to visit the Palace of Knossos, and visiting a Hammam. I’m also (this will sound antithetical) gearing myself up to slow way down. I’ll be turning off my social media, disengaging from my life here in the States. I’m genuinely sorry I will miss a couple of weeks of celebrating your birthdays on Facebook.

I’m a fairly relaxed traveler these days. While I like to do a lot of advance planning (as in, I started using Duolingo to learn Greek a couple of years ago, and I love staring at maps and bus schedules), over the years my desire for a don’t-miss-anything trip has vanished. I’m looking forward to simply wandering the streets of the ancient cities of Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion. To staying in a stone house built into the side of a fortress and a 15th century Venetian palazzo turned into a hotel.

Old places resonate with me. There’s something about touching stones laid by people hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years ago. Seeing art created by artisans long turned to dust, but what they made, how they saw the world, is still here. It makes me misty. I’m looking forward to wandering twisty streets that evolved from animal trails, poking my head into odd shops, having a beverage in a tiny tavern, or trying a new dish.

The other non-touristy part of this trip will be ultra-active. My friends and I are travelling to the south of the island, to a tiny village called Loutro. It’s only accessible via ferry or walking. No cars. Cash only, too, no ATMs. Side note: I got my Euros, which are different colors and sizes for different denominations. I wish American money was like this.

During the second week, my friends and I will join with some other folks to do a SwimTrek trip. We’ll be swimming in the Mediterranean sea daily, around 2-4 miles a day. There will be boats if we get tired, or just don’t feel like swimming further, so still a vacation, not an Olympic event. There will be villages to explore, castles to climb to, and walks along the coast. The village we are staying in is right on the E4, the long hiking route that traverses Europe. It’s also near where Paul washed ashore in the 1st century as he travelled the known world spreading the gospel. We’ll be swimming off of that beach.

It will be quiet. I will be in my own little room overlooking the sea. There will be coffee, and I will keep a travel journal. This is my idea of heaven.

To prep for the trip, I’ve been swimming, of course. I am a pretty strong swimmer, kind of metronomic as in once I start up, I just sort of… keep going at a measured pace. It’s a different kind of swimming in the ocean. You’re more buoyant, which is nice, but no walls to turn off of, no convenient straight line to follow beneath you. Waves and sea creatures will keep it interesting. I haven’t been able to practice those things. No open water swimming here in Texas that I’ve taken advantage of… there are alligators in all the lakes here, and ehhh… I’d frankly rather swim with sharks, not that there are very many of those where we will be.

I’ve also been walking and laying out, so I have a nice base tan. I know, I’m so old school about that. At least I wasn’t laying out with baby oil, a foil reflector, and my Tab cola sitting next to me. I’ll use reef-safe sunscreen during the swims, and wear a hat, I promise.

As always, I am waiting until the last few hours to pack. I’ve made a list though. I’m going carry-on, and if anything is forgotten, you can just pop into one of those shops and purchase it. My kindle is loaded up, although I am giving hard consideration to toting a hefty paperback (IQ84) as well, just in case it craps out. My sons have assured me I can just use my phone, no real need to get a Greek sim card, and instructed me where to turn roaming on and off so I don’t get a surprise bill later.

I’ve also pre-loaded next week’s blog, in keeping with my promise of writing one a week for at least a year, and I got out a short story to a dark mermaid anthology I’m hoping to be part of. Book 5 of the Darkwood series is still in progress. I’d wanted to have the first draft done before leaving, but didn’t quite make it. It will still be done before the end of the year, I promise.

For now, Kalispera!

Reflections on Being the Mother of a Tortoise

This week’s blog is brought to you by my dear friend and fellow writer, R.C. Barnes. We have been friends for a Very Long Time. I loved this piece she wrote recently and wanted to share it with you.

Yesterday, I dropped my oldest son off at his impressive apartment accommodations in Mountain View, so he would be ready to start his new job at Apple. The day felt monumental. Parents cherish the sight of seeing an excited child. Ordinarily, “buoyant” is not a word used to describe Deckard (not at 6’7”).

I had a buoyant son yesterday.

And with that, the memory of a parent/teacher conference nine years ago (almost exactly to this day) came rushing into my conscious along with the words “give him time.”

I’m not going to go into detail about the fights and challenges I had with the Los Angeles school system to ensure Deckard received an honest education–one that supported my child’s interests and not the interests of others. When Deckard was a senior in high school, there was a male teacher who spoke at his final assessment. This teacher shared something with me and added that this nugget became the informed approach with all the instructors at the school regarding my son. The teacher revealed he had learned to give Deckard time. The teacher learned to not rush him. He said, “Deckard understood everything I taught him, and I had to stop pushing him to show me. Give him time.”

We all know the fable about the tortoise and the hare, and the lesson instilled there. Today, when he entered Apple Park, Deckard crossed the finish line.

Robin Claire writes YA paranormal under the pen name R.C. Barnes. She currently has two titles in her Tattoo Teller series: Ink for the Beloved and Ink for the Damned. The series focuses on a teenager with a unique psychic ability linked to tattoos. You can find the books on Amazon, or you may order through your favorite bookstore. Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/R.C.-Barnes/e/B07XLVX435

On Rebuilding and Writing a Book

The five-year anniversary of The Fire passed without much comment a few days ago. If FB hadn’t reminded me with its “on this day” feature, I would have missed it. That’s a good sign. Five years removed from the blaze that ate everything we owned, we’re still standing. Still moving forward. Resilient.

I don’t wish the dire crucible that creates resilience on anyone. But if you are experiencing one—and they can take so many different forms—I can stand as your hope that someday, your upending won’t be all-consuming. That you’ll be defined in different terms other than the daily effort of putting one foot in front of the other on the climb out of disaster.

It seems impossible that five years have passed. The first was a blur as we navigated the changes that encompassed internal feelings, our faith, and general replacing of stuff. The kindness and generosity of friends and family got us through that. You know who you are. Utter strangers stepped in to help in that first year too, even if it was simply sitting us down in the employee lounge with a cup of coffee when we were in the midst of overwhelm.

It restored my faith in humanity. And I started writing. Perhaps first out of a weird survivor’s guilt, that since being saved from death, I needed to make something of my life. Thus compelled, I challenged myself by writing a book, something that utterly terrified me. That’s how “On Rescue Dogs and Losing Everything” came to be.

It was well-received, and I’ve gotten messages that it’s helped folks through their own crises. That feels good. You can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Rescue-Dogs-Losing-Everything-Uncovering-ebook/dp/B07P1GHW7L

I got to donate a bunch of money to animal rescues and shelters from the proceeds too. That’s ongoing, by the way. The cool thing about writing a book—and the disturbing part of it, too—is that once it’s written, its out there. No turning back.

This past May, I reached a point where I wanted to try on a new career as an author/publisher. Evidentially terrifying myself by doing new things has become a habit. I took a class in YA (Young Adult) writing. Being an inveterate rule-follower, I always feel better after I’ve taken a class in something. Legitimized.

I wrote a YA dark fantasy book, which is my personal reading jam. Other people whose jam is also dark fantasy liked it. So I wrote another in the same world. Then a prequel novella to use as a free book for folks who either read my book or joined my author newsletter that goes out monthly. I’m finishing up the third in the Darkwood series this week. There are at least two more books to go that I’ll finish this year.

Some days it’s torture, but most of the time I love my new job.

 Being an Indy writer/publisher stretched me and continues to do so. I joined groups to help me wrap my head around the craft of putting little black words on white pieces of paper while also doing the jobs of a publisher and publicity person. Actual creation of new words takes about three hours daily to hit my sweet spot of 2,000 good words—that’s about eight pages of book. I write a book in a couple months, with another month for making it better and, you know, grammatically correct with the commas in all the right places. I spend two hours a day learning to get better at the skills I need to be successful. Such as Ads on Amazon and FB. Oy. My head may explode. Implementing the marketing and publicity takes another two or three hours daily. It’s not a little part-time hobby.

For those of you who think that self-publishing is a “lesser” route than going for traditionally published books by one of the big five publishing houses, I hear you. I was secretly in that camp myself until last May. While there are some absolutely terrible self-published books, there are also millions that are great. There are good reasons to self-publish. The income is better, by a lot. You control the look of the book, from the cover to the interior formatting and front and back matter. Getting your book in the hands of readers is in your control.

Traditionally published books (if they take your book, which is a long shot) take between 2-4 years to be published. And they dole the advances out over that time. Can’t feed your family on a $5,000 advance stretched out over 2-4 years. And at the end of all of that, the author is still doing most of the marketing and publicity work themselves unless they are a “biggie” like a John Grisham or a Steven King. There are new folks that make it work, which is fantastic. I’m a voracious reader, and the more books I have to choose from, the happier I am.

Resuming this weekly blog is part of my renewed determination to make a real go of this writing thing. I want it to be the career that gives back to the world. That sounds grandiose, but this is what I know for sure: Books saved my life as a lonely child, and sinking into a good book remains a refuge for me on tough days, or when the world becomes too loud. I’ve got to believe I’m not alone.

My goal is to write forty to sixty excellent books in this next decade.

That’s a solid bookshelf. I’m seeing it in my head right now. The next book in the Darkwood series comes out Thursday March 10th. It’s the 2nd in the Darkwood series but can be read on its own with no issues. You can read it for free on KU, or order it from Amazon in paperback or eBook here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09NH45625

So, that’s what The Fire sparked, five years ago. Those themes we see in fiction, of the Phoenix rising from the ashes, or in nature when new growth springs out of a terrible forest fire… they can be real in your life too.

Take a look at my author page. Come join me on the journey. I’d love to have you along.

Just click this https://www.subscribepage.com/m2f4a3 or scan the code below for access to my author page and get the free book that comes with it.