Carpe Carp! And Other C Words for the Letter C – on the A to Z Blog Challenge

Okay, technically this is from an earlier post where I shared what the QR code looks like. I had some delays getting my camera downloaded, and did so tonight. This is what the little QR codes look like, scattered around the grounds. What a lovely, unobtrusive way to share information for those of us who want to know what plant is which.

And this, Dear Reader, is a bench.

Yes, I know. B was yesterday. Tough. I just unloaded my camera and found it – and isn’t it a lovely bench? I love the design of these.

Okay, let’s Carpe those Carp!

But first, a side note: Carpe diem, which is Latin for Seize the day, was popularized by what movie?

And carp is…

Well, c’mon and take a look!

Fishy!

According to Auntie Google, a carp is “a deep-bodied freshwater fish, typically with barbels around the mouth. Carp are farmed for food in some parts of the world and are widely kept in large ponds.” Commonly seen in garden ponds, they look like large goldfish. In some Japanese gardens, these fish live over 75 years!

The pond is just lovely. And tomorrow, we’ll get to see what is waiting with baited breath to carpe those carp, when we see D is for…

But that would be telling! See you tomorrow, Dear Reader!

B Is For… the Bellevue Botanical Garden – with a Twist!

As we really get going on the A to Z Challenge, I wanted to share what it’s like to visit the actual garden. And since it’s the Bellevue Botanical Garden, I get two “B’s” for the price of one!

The Bellevue Botanical Garden

The Garden is located outside of the city of Seattle, Washington State, USA. Bellevue used to be a sleepy bedroom community, but in the last couple decades the population has exploded and major companies have hubs here: Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, to name just a few.

The Garden has a great website, located here, with information on featured plants and their cultivation, rich photographs, and a robust calendar of events. It’s just 53 acres, but once you’re there it feels like you’re not in a city the size of Bellevue. It’s truly a refuge worth coming to.

What I like as a garden visitor is that scattered throughout the Garden are stakes with QR codes that patrons can use to access information about particular exhibits and the featured plants. If you haven’t encountered a QR code, according to Wikipedia: “QR code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached.”

Most modern smartphones can interpret these, and if you don’t already have that capability, navigate to your phone’s app store and look for a free “QR Code Reader.” Then, when you find a code you’d like to read, open your phone’s reader and position the phone’s camera over the code. Wait a moment and your phone will ask you if you’d like to launch the reader – in the case of the Garden’s codes, my phone asks if I want it to open the Garden’s web page. I took a screenshot of one of the results, so you can get an idea of the wealth of information:

Tomorrow we continue our A to Z tour with the letter C. Since I found some birds that will satisfy my letter D, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do for C; so I’ll be just as surprised as you are. See you tomorrow!

If you are participating in the A to Z Challenge, please leave me a note in the comments so I can come visit you back. Happy reading!

Welcome to the A to Z Blog Challenge Day One – The Letter A!

Welcome to April, and the A to Z Blogging Challenge! This month, I’ll be blogging each day, Monday through Saturday, and the day’s post will be related to the corresponding letter of the alphabet for the day – Day One is for A, Day Two is for B, and so on, all the way through the letter Z. We don’t blog for the Challenge on Sundays, which gives us 26 days in April, corresponding to the 26 letters in the English alphabet.

My theme this year is the A to Z of the Bellevue Botanical Garden. I’ll take you with me as I journey throughout the garden, exploring the gardens, the Copper Kettle Coffee Bar, Trillium Store, and everything in between. There will be a suspension bridge, a Japanese walled garden, a meditation building, native species cultivars… in short, everything an urban nature lover could ask for. I might avoid all the garden bugs, because I don’t really get excited about them, but since the garden is talking about them this month, you might get a glimpse into the creepy, crawly world around us.

But today, I’m going to talk about A is for Alphabet, and thus, writing, which leads me to journaling. Specifically, journaling suited for a journey through an urban garden. In her class, Expressive Pages: Journaling the Everyday, Judith Cassel-Mamet shows us how to use simple manila tags and a binder ring to create something she has dubbed a “tag journal.” Pictured above is one of my tag journals, in this case with a gesture drawing of a dandelion drawn with a brush pen. Tag journals are perfect for wandering around in a garden, because you can write, draw, even staple in ephemera and it all stays in one place, courtesy of the binder ring.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow as I visit the garden and look for the letter B – B is for Bellevue Botanical Garden!

The A to Z Blog Challenge Theme Reveal – The Bellevue Botanic Garden!

The A to Z of the Bellevue Botanical Garden

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon! I know, I’ve been very, very quiet of late, and I’m doing my best to get back to doing what Noony does best – writing! So in a way, this theme reveal is a way to kick-start my writing life, blogging, and in general just pick myself up by my suspenders and carry myself onto the page.

Why the Bellevue Botanic Garden?

The Bellevue Botanic Garden is a gem, right smack in the heart of Bellevue, Washington State, USA. It’s open free to the public and houses acres of local plants, exotic trees and flowers, and even not one but two Japanese garden features. There’s a suspension bridge and a forest of local trees.

Why the A to Z Challenge?

I’ve had so much fun in years past with challenges. I’ve done “The A to Z of the Zoo,” at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, USA; “The A to Z of Letterforms in Nature and the Built Environment” on my companion craft blog, Knoontime Knitting: One Writers Journey Into 3D, and several other things both with themes and without.

Why a Theme?

Because it’s fun! I had so much fun, particularly with the Zoo and the Letterforms projects, that I wanted to reprise that for this year. I’m only doing one blog this challenge, because I’ve been so mute lately I didn’t want to overdo it, but I do have other ideas. For example, I’m thinking of making the Letterforms project into a book! But for this year, I wanted to ease myself back into blogging and out of the house. The Bellevue Botanic Garden is right here in the town where we live, not far from my office, and it’s open free – all things designed to get me out of my head, into the world, and onto the page.

What about you? Are you participating in the A to Z Challenge this year? If so, please share a link in the comments so I can come visit. And if you’re not, tell me what you’re looking forward to as part of the Challenge. And if you’ve never heard of the Challenge, tell me one thing you’re excited about whether you’re above the Equator and it’s now Spring for you, or below the Equator and it’s now Autumn. Talk to me!

Good Morning!

I’ve mentioned the three sisters, the spiders who live on my balcony? Yesterday, my husband and I did a mammoth cleaning/reorganizing session in preparation both for Spring and the arrival of long-awaited houseguests next week. I moved the two big bins that stay outside, 55 gallon size, from their winter storage spot under the eves and left them, for a while, in front of my trellises (trelli?) on their way to the corner under the light. I have to reconfigure the seating area there and was focused on cleaning inside, as I had to vacuum before my husband shampooed the carpet.

So, big production.

This morning, he’s snoozing away, snug in our bed, and I woke up like I was going to work. My brain said, “Good MORNING!” I grumbled something about it’s not morning, and go back to sleep, and my brain said, “I feel like making coffee! And morning pages. Oh, have you started writing that WIP we were doing yesterday, the one with TJ – and ooh! the memoir one! I remember, I remember, I remember!”

Sigh. Teaching my brain language may have been a mistake, but I digress.

So up I get, coffee I make and dishes wash in the dishwasher. And journal I collect. Warm pj’s put on, and oh, I’d better grab my robe. My brain is bouncing with excitement, so I grab my journal. “And the memoir book!” And the memoir book. “And the coffee!” And the coffee. “And the pen cup!” “Are you done yet?” “Yeah, as long as you have the pen cup. And the planner.” And the pen cup. And the planner.

I walk to the door. Of my nice, spring-prepared balcony.

But, as brains do, mine has a detour – before the dishing, and the coffeeing – actually, while the coffee was coffeeing and the dishes were dishing, come to think of it – I wandered over to look out the window and what do my wandering eyes perceive on our nice, clean, shampooed carpet and washed floor by the cat boxes?

Not only did my cat barf, he barfed in front of this box. And that box. And trailed down the center of the boxes for good measure. Missed the base of the cat tree and only got a little on the carpet, and left the remainder of a truly spectacular, epic barf in the middle of the pee pad we left out for my aged dog.

I swear to dog, I’m drowning in pet effluvia.

I clean all that up, collect the journal, and the coffee, and the pen cup, and my bathrobe because it might be cold outside, and turn off my phone so I’m “tech free for Sunday” (I’m writing this on my laptop, so I didn’t quite break protocol), and my planner, and I walk with relief to the balcony door all ready to do battle with the serenity gods, when I see it.

The fucking spider bitch goddess IS WEAVING HER BLASTED WEB BETWEEN MY DOOR, THE EVES OF THE ROOF, AND THE FUCKING FIFTY GALLON STORAGE CONTAINERS!

Now, I’m a weaver, and a knitter, and a maker, and I know art when I see it.

But I’m ALSO arachnophobic.

And that, Dear Reader, is why I’m sitting, sweating, in my blasted bathrobe with my planner, and my coffee, both journals, memoir book, pen cup, AND laptop, crammed into the corner of my dining room table that still has the stuff that we’re sorting. I’m planning to do my morning pages from here. Because, spider. And himself is still snoozing and can’t relocate her for me.

She’s laughing. I just know she is.

Fallow Periods and Thawing

So it’s like this: one day in April, 2017, I was abducted by aliens and then…

No. That’s not it.

Let’s see. Once upon a time, there was a summer, and that summer morphed into a tree, and the tree…

Yeah, that’s not it either.

Well, if you follow me over on Noon and Wilder, you’ll know the last year and a half have been full of upheaval, chaos, and change.

But I have good news, Dear Reader. Yesterday, while swimming, I got a new story idea. It wasn’t a big story idea, and it wasn’t related to anything we’ve already written, but it was a little snippet of a possibility.

And that, Dear Reader, hasn’t happened in a long, long time.

Stress does that to a person.

And that brings me to my post today. I am in the process of learning how to do several new things, including book uploads (which isn’t entirely new to me, but I’m learning to be more efficient with it) and website design. The publishing landscape decided to skitter off under the furniture when I wasn’t looking and, frankly, it wouldn’t have made a difference if I was – change is inevitable.

I’m most grateful for learning to incorporate meditation in my daily round. I’ve meditated all my life, but I found an app that has really helped me on a regular basis, called Calm.

And I wish that I could give you some pearls of wisdom, something like “how to keep going in the face of really triggery events and massive national trauma playing out daily on the news.” But I don’t have any. All I can say is this: remember to unplug and spend time breathing real air. Move your body and get enough sleep. Eat clean and journal daily. And even with all of that, stress happens and it’s real.

Fallow times happen, Dear Reader, they happen to all of us. And me, I feel like I’m digging up out of a really deep, fertile field and all I have in my hands is rich loam and some really fat worms.

But swimming, man. I got an idea for a story. And I’m listening. With all my ears, I’m listening, Universe.

Stay tuned.

Hate Outlines? Timeline!

Keeping the plot of a novel-length manuscript can be a challenge for the most organized of writers. If you, like me, aren’t naturally left-brained sequential, then it can be more of a headache because your mind doesn’t organize information in a stepwise fashion. Have you ever looked at your story and realize that everything is happening in one day? or two different things are going on in the same night?

Reading a manuscript that is disorganized is no fun, for obvious reasons; but what do you do when you don’t like or can’t write to an outline?

One tool is a timeline that simply tracks each chapter and includes a simple sentence or two as to the action that takes place. I find that I have a bad habit of putting all my action on one or two days, and using a timeline helps me straighten all that out and figure out the flow of the action.

Here’s an example from Rachel and I, the timeline from our book, Burning Bright:

2017-02-12 ACN Pic 1timeline

I don’t start using a timeline until I’m about 10,000 or 30,000 words into a project.  Once I have enough material to have a clear picture of the story, then I’m able to write down what I have and see where I am trying to go.

Another tool is to build a literal calendar:

2017-02-12 calendar

This is from an earlier draft of the book, when we first worked on sorting out when things happened.  It’s important for the flow of the story that the action ebb and flow, rather than clot and spurt.  The calendar can help you sort out who does what to whom when.

I hope whatever you use works for you.  Every writer is different.  But if you need some ideas for how to play with and reorganize your plots, I hope this generates some solutions for you.

Write on!


This post originally appeared on the now defunct Samhain Publishing blog, 01/28/2012.

A New Year’s Party – and a Giveaway!

2017-01 Party Image

The party over at The Romance Studio is in full swing!  Throughout the weekend, I will be blogging on different topics – five posts a day! – as will the other participating authors.  We have prizes from each of us, and the grand prize is a $100 USD gift certificate to the online retailer Amazon.  If you like to read, then this is the party for you!

Friday the 13th!

  1. Happy New Year! and a State of the State
  2. Body Movement – Walking
  3. Body Movement – Get Help, Get a Trainer
  4. Body Movement – Get Help: Body Buddy
  5. Don’t Eliminate, Add – Five Colors!

Saturday the 14th

  1. Feed Your Mind – Writing Prompts
  2. Life of the Mind – How To Read a Book
  3. Morning Pages and Self-Dialog
  4. Meditation
  5. Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

Sunday the 15th

  1. Family and Friends – a Birthday List
  2. Non-Bill Mail
  3. Renewal Weekly
  4. Crafts To Explore – Zen and the Art of Knitting
  5. Tarot and the Subconscious

Monday the 16th

  1. Kon-Mari
  2. Routine – Daily Round
  3. Simple Abundance
  4. Candles – Slow Down and Unplug
  5. Happy New Year!  The Writer Zen Garden

How My Family Survives My Writing – #MFRWauthor

2017-01-13 Pic 1

I laughed when I first read this prompt.  I mean, my family isn’t particularly negative about my writing.  My husband is a professional photographer, so he knows what is involved in creating things.  My kid is interested in his own stuff, so he’s not particularly aware of what I’m doing because he’s absorbed in his own stuff.

But then I got to thinking.  There was a weekend where I wrote for fifteen hours Saturday, and eighteen on Sunday.  My husband informed me, on the Monday following, that I would spend the next weekend with the family and go to a movie.  o.O…  So I think it’s more a matter of learning how to balance writing with other responsibilities and commitments.  I’ve also made friends and have been fortunate enough to find people that they understand me and the way I see the world.  But that took a lot of work to find those people, and to find my “tribe.”

So if I had to say what my one piece of advice would be to people trying to fit writing into already busy lives, it’s this:  hunt for your tribe and balance your writing with the other things you’ve already got in your life:  day job, kids, marriage, friends, and family.

What about you, Dear Reader?  How do you balance passion and necessity?

Sunday Box Talk – New Year, New… What?

2017-01-07-pic-1-acn

The year that just ended may well come to be referred to as the Year That Shall Not Be Named.  Aside from personal drama, (a close friend in the hospital since March and counting, my co-author’s sister’s lung function is 37%), there was publishing drama.  First, Samhain Publishing announced they were closing, then chose not to and tried to gaslight the writing community by asking in a hurt tone, why did you think we were closing?  Maybe because they announced they were.  Words have power, sunshine.  Then Torquere Press melted down in spectacular fashion, leaving those of us that believed the stories from the owner feeling lied to and cheated.  One of their top authors is owed $39,000 USD, editors haven’t been paid (one is owed $3,500 USD and another over $2,000 USD).  Then, if that wasn’t enough, All Romance eBooks announced it was closing and gave authors and indie publishers four days notice.  Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that the owner, an author in her own right, took salaries from book earnings and may actually have committed some serious financial fraud.  Then in November, the stunning upset in the U.S. election shocked many, myself included, ushering in a storm of disgusting white supremacy, homophobia, and misogynistic sentiment.  I’m ashamed to say I don’t recognize my country right now.

It’s enough to scare an author back into her hole, and I’ll admit, it did.

But that was 2016.  It’s 2017.  It’s time to rally.

So rally we shall.  It’s important for creative people to create, in times of great darkness and times of light.  I was planning on working on a memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain: Growing Up with a Mentally Ill Parent.  It’s been a rough project to work on, for what are probably obvious reasons, but now it’s more important than ever to me to tell my story.  Invisibility leads to oppression; we need to be out and proud.  Our stories matter.

Which brings me to stories – Rachel and I have recommitted to ours and are hard at work/play on the next two books in the Persis Chronicles.  That’s right, the next two books.  Here’s what happened:  we drafted Book 3, Sapphire Dream, and then realized we had a problem.  We had over 80,000 words, but half of it is not going to end up in this book.  It needs to be told from another character’s point of view.  Add to that the fact that half the story is a journey that doesn’t need to happen, and we’re into major rewrites.  But I’m pleased to say that Ruby Sands, the resultant second half of Sapphire Dream and now Book 4 of the Persis Chronicles, is nearly half done and fully plotted out.  I don’t have a release date yet, because we just got our rights back for Emerald Fire and Emerald Keep and are going to release all four books together, but it will be in the first half of this year (and in the first quarter, if I can possibly make that happen).

I’ve also started workshops again.  My passion is Story, both writing it and helping others to get onto the page.  Accordingly, I’ve started the Prompt Circles with Writer Zen Garden up again and our first one is Saturday, January 21st.  There’s more information on our Meetup page, here.  We’ll be doing some other classes online in February and March on writing, and another Artist’s Way track starting on January 22nd.  Details are on the Meetup, and also the main Writer Zen Garden page, here.

Beyond that, I’m knitting up a storm and taking classes at Craftsy in knitting, weaving, and sewing (and some other subjects).  I’ve made playdates with friends to sew and knit, both in person and online through Google Hangouts.  If you are interested in playing too, please let me know in the comments.

If you, like me, are feeling small and helpless in the face of a changed tide, please know you are not alone.  Journal.  Your thoughts matter, and having a relationship with yourself is just as important as having one with your loved ones.  Communicate.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, reach out to your friends and family for support.  There are groups online and in person that can give you much-needed community.  And most of all, make stuff.  If you cook, make food.  If you knit, sew, draw, color in coloring books, whatever it is: do it.  Make time, right now, this week, and do it.  Get off the internet.  Mindless surfing is hazardous to your health.  Creating is therapeutic.  Make.  Write.  Create.  The world needs your creations.

Write on.