Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year's Thoughts

January is almost here, so it’s time to consider New Year’s thoughts. One of mine is that different people define the year differently. For teachers and students, fall is the start of the school year, the time for new hopes and plans, and resolutions/promises to do things better this time around. January First is a reflective pause between semesters. For fishermen, tourism staff, and other seasonal workers here in Alaska, the practical beginning of the year starts at the beginning of the season. January is the time to do some planning and dreaming, but things don’t really start until spring or summer.

For those of us who live by the seasons, Winter Solstice is important because it signals the gain of daylight. (Tielle explained it in more detail in her recent blog post.) I’m one of those people who starts counting down to Solstice early in December. That feels like a renewal or beginning to me. New Year's is a bonus.

New Year’s Eve is a good time to celebrate our hopes and wishes for ourselves and our loved ones, even if it’s not really the beginning of the year for some of us. Some years it’s felt like, whew, we made it through that rough year. Let’s hope for a better one next time. Other years it's felt more like a celebration. It is still a good time to reflect, and make plans or wishes for the new year. Most of the world seems to revolve around the calendar year now, so we might as well go with the group on this one. So I’ll take a minute as I toast my husband with the traditional champagne glass, and count my blessings and make a wish for 2010. May it be the best year ever for you and your loved ones.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

It’s Winter Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. And every year they announce on the news that the Solstice occurs at (this) date and time. For 2009, it’s December 21, 8:47 AM Alaska Standard Time. (Alaska’s one hour behind Pacific time to calculate the solstice in your area).

I’d always thought of the solstice as the day—the longest or shortest day of the year. So what did the time mean? This year, I decided to find out. It might be common knowledge to the rest of you but I found it quite fascinating. The time indicates the exact moment when the sun’s rays hit (at a 90 degree angle) the Tropic of Capricorn. That’s the farthest south point the sun’s rays can be directly overhead. The Summer Solstice occurs when the sun’s rays are directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer.

Today is also the time when sun’s rays do not hit the Arctic Circle and they experience 24-hours of darkness.

Some ancient cultures and religions celebrate this day as the start of the New Year, the return of the Sun God.
For many areas, this day officially “starts” Winter.

For Alaskans, we’ve been experiencing “winter” for two months now and what this day means is…we start gaining sunlight. Just a little. Tomorrow we’ll probably gain about 10 seconds. Doesn’t matter. It’s more sunlight. And when you live in a dark climate, every little bit of sunlight helps!

Let the sun shine in! And Happy Christmas!

Total Side Note:
Taking Shape is being re-released on January 1, 2010. It was originally part of the Transformations Anthology. Check it out. It’s funny and sexy and I had a great time writing this story.

As a shapeshifter, Nick Conner can turn into anything or anyone he touches. Along with his brothers and sister, he uses this unique gift for private investigations. But something about their newest case doesn’t sit right. Their client isn’t being honest and their target, Tally, seems way too sweet to be a crook.

Or maybe it’s that Nick wants her to be innocent.

But now he has an even bigger challenge on his hands. He’s made love to Tally in another man’s form—how can he convince her to love the man he truly is

Friday, December 18, 2009


Each year, as New Year’s Eve approaches, my mind shifts into overdrive, and all rational reasoning flees. Somewhere in the sands of time, the law of New Year’s Resolutions is written. Somewhere deep within my genetic makeup is a primitive creature that answers to this law every year. With all sensible thought gone, I construct a “Must Do” or “Goal List” as long as the Alaskan Highway. I know as I write goal #256 on my paper that I will probably not get past tasks #15, if I’m lucky. So this year I asked myself, “Why do I do it?” I know how the course of events will unfold. I’ll be optimistic and motivated in January. By March, my suspicions that I won’t be completing all my tasks begin to creep in. And by June, I am prostrate on the ground in self-condemnation.

I was surprised to find that a mythical king of early Rome, and not a woman, created the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. After all, resolutions seem like the type of torture a woman would heap upon herself, much like high heels and Spanx. I do want to point out that my research said a mythical king named Janus. Hello, this smacks of woman to me. It’s said he had two faces, one to look to the past, and one to look to the future. If this isn’t woman, I don’t know what is. I believe this is where the term “eyes in the back of her head” came from. Thanks King Janus for providing us with scheduled emotional baggage.

King Janus may have been the first for resolutions, but the celebration of the New Year has been raging for centuries. This year, I choose to throw off my burden of trying to achieve the unachievable. Instead I will bask in the ancient tradition of ringing in the new year with friend, food, and wine. I will embrace the belief that everything will be okay in 2010 if my linen closet isn’t organized, or I don’t get my bathroom painted, or I don’t achieve that super-model body. No, this year I am looking to other countries for their traditions. I notice I gravitate toward the ones where food and alcohol are involved.

In Norway, they make rice pudding and hide an almond inside. Guaranteed wealth goes to the person whose serving has it. I’ll take two helpings.

In Australia, they roast a suckling pig as a symbol of good luck. Often times it’s accompanied by green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a four-leaf clover. Seriously, pork and ice cream, the only thing I can think of that could make it better is to add chocolate and wine.

In Sicily, they say it’s good luck to eat lasagna. I’m going to keep this tradition going all year long.

In Haiti it’s tradition to wear new clothing and exchange gifts. I don’t know about you, but this screams “shopping” to me, and that’s always a good thing.

In Spain you eat twelve grapes when the clock strikes midnight to ring in twelve months of good luck. Good luck and a full serving of fruit, I’m feeling better already. Peruvians add a thirteenth grape to ensure good luck. If twelve is good, thirteen must be better. Kind of like doughnuts.

In Greece bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child, the second for the father of the household, and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early. I particularly like this tradition. First of all, Jesus can have the heel of the bread. He’s welcome to it. Second, I live in Alaska, so any chance of bringing spring early, I’m doing it.

So King Janus, you can keep your old New Year’s Resolutions. As for me, I’m ringing in the new year with Lasagna, hot bread (minus the heel), and rice pudding. 2010 is already looking bright.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Doll by Juniper Bell

Hi everyone - My first book with Samhain Publishing, a red-hot contemporary erotic romance called "Doll," comes out on December 15. This book would never have seen the light of day without the AKRWA critique group. I'm so grateful for their help -- I even got great feedback from one member's husband! So here's to you all -- you know how much I love you. And now a little bit about "Doll":

Even a plaything can be pushed too far…

Chloe Barnes thought her marriage to a wealthy politician would be the stuff of fairy tales. Instead, he took advantage of her naiveté and used her as a plaything to fulfill his twisted sexual needs. Ten years is enough. She returns to Bellhaven Island to sell the summer cottage she inherited, hoping the money will buy her freedom—and custody of her daughters.

Fisherman Dustin McDougal never forgot the childhood crush he once had on the fairy-like Chloe. The woman she’s become has a haunted look that brings his feelings back, stronger than ever…with a mature edge. Along with all his protective instincts.

Their passion blows stronger than a Maine nor’easter, awakening Chloe to the joy of true love. Yet it may not be strong enough to free her from the past…

Read an excerpt here or click here to purchase "Doll" on December 15.

Thank you for letting me share my excitement about this book release! Happy Holidays!

Juniper Bell

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fifteen Minute Epiphany

There are two parts to the writing life. The solitary pursuit of putting a story down on “paper,” and the social aspect of meeting fellow writers, putting yourself “out there” and taking classes and conference sessions on learning our craft. My theory is, the most successful writers learn to enjoy both parts of the journey.

On any given day, either part could be my favorite. I definitely love the solitary aspect of writing. I am never bored when I’m in creative mode. But we all have days, weeks, months (well, we hope not months) when we’re stuck far outside of creative mode. Those days we love our social tools: crit groups, online classes, conferences, how to-books, blogs, social networks. I love meeting new people, getting new information, finding a new perspective.

In the social writer’s world we can learn how to motivate ourselves, how to enter contests, how to edit, even how to write in the first darn place! We have every tool for success at the touch of a computer key.

But what happens when your head starts spinning with all that knowledge? What happens when you’re exiled from creative mode AND burned-out on how-to’s? That’s been my question for several weeks lately. I’m information-ed out and honestly afraid of adding any new information to my brain. (As my husband says, “There comes a point when your brain is full, and if you add something new, something old gets pushed out to make room. My brain definitely feels full these days.)

In addition, trying to assimilate all this info takes so much time. I spend whole days doing things that relate only to my writing. For example, writing. And revising and e-mailing and Facebooking and blog-hopping and plotting and cheerleading and critiquing.

The benefit I’ve reaped is that I no longer need a huge incentive to write. Believe it or not, I’ve found my motivation to write or revise something every day—not always a lot, but some.

And I’m grateful for all of this.

So why isn’t my writing life going better? Why am I still often depressed about the state of my so-called career? Sometimes even my life?

It took me a while to give the problem a name. I’m out of balance. I write. But I don’t sew. I don’t scrapbook. I don’t ride my horse. I don’t do any of the things I love that used to fill my days.

Well, I got an unexpected epiphany just yesterday that has me suddenly excited. That dumb kind of excited that makes you think you’re really going to change your life. Answer the problem of no balance. I don’t know if it’s going to work. See, this potential life-changing idea isn’t on a par with, say, marrying my husband, bringing my children home from the hospital or moving to Alaska.

This was my friend paraphrasing Creativity Coach Eric Maisel’s extremely unassuming suggestion: Start every single day with fifteen minutes of something meaningful to you. Fifteen minutes.

When she said this, I thought, “Yeah, yeah, I know. Get your writing done before anything else.” Hey, I’ve been trying to do that for five years – and all it does is frustrate me because I got to great lengths to avoid work first thing in the morning. I told my friend it was a nice idea, good advice, but I’m still working on that one. I still procrastinate. I still feel guilty.

She surprised me. She said, “I decided to start my day with reading. Your fifteen minutes could be scrapbooking or sewing.”


“But I thought writers supposed to write first thing every day.” I said.

“But, what if that doesn’t work for you? You just told me you write better at night. Doesn’t that just put you in a bad mood?”


Turns out, Maisel’s advice centers around doing something you find meaningful, that will put you in a positive mood for the rest of the day. Something that lifts you into the frame of mind to work (in our case write) happily.

I tried it this morning. I got up and I read—for twenty minutes. Before breakfast. Before checking e-mail. Reading is something I normally deny myself because even though it’s fun and its honest “research,” I’ve also convinced myself it’s wasting time. Guess what? When I did it as something meaningful to me—it worked! I’ve had a better day than I’ve had in a couple weeks – mood and energy-wise.

Tomorrow, I’m going to set up my sewing table as my something meaningful. And I’m going to find a small sewing project the next day. Fifteen minutes. There’s no need to do more if I don’t want to. And the thought that doing something other than writing isn’t wasting time is more liberating than anything I’ve heard in ages. My hope is, it will give me creative energy that spills into my writing later in the day, when I actually like to write.
Now, your meaningful thing just might be writing. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Maybe fifteen minutes of writing first thing will put you in your good mood. So, what the heck? Give it a try. Whatever your fifteen minutes brings you—the best thing might be a sense of learning what a cheerful day can do for your creativity. I’m sure ready to find out!