Book Review: Horse Art by Kathy Shell

I was recently given the opportunity to read Horse Art by Kathy Shell. I didn’t know anything about Ms. Shell until I started reading, but I was quickly enamored with the breadth of her work.

Kathy started out as a traditionally trained fine artist. She would often paint the Clydesdale horses that would set up near her gallery. She was given the opportunity to paint these magnificent horses for eleven years. Soon the sales of her work, both in her gallery and online, was enough for her to close her gallery and travel. Many of these works can still be seen today in magnets, quote postcards and some even still from the artist herself.

After fifty years of painting and years as a successful art tutor, Kathy has now moved into the realm of writing. I’m so fascinated by this trajectory because it goes to show how us “creatives” can move from one area of interest to another. I too started out in painting, graphic design and other art, but have now moved into the fascinating world of words.

This book is full of helpful information for the budding artist. Kathy illustrates how to buy  your supplies and what qualities to look for in superior equipment as well as how to pack your supplies for traveling exhibitions, art shows and festivals.

Now that Ms. Shell has begun to write as well as paint, this book includes excerpts from several of her novels, which are published under her pen name: Ryn Shell. Each book weaves historical facts with fictional settings full of crime, mystery, betrayal and love. And I’m anxious to read more of her fictional works after getting a taste through these small samplings!

Included at the end of this book is a step-by-step painting lesson – an invaluable and detailed part of this worthwhile book. If you’re a budding artist – this section alone is worth picking up this book.

For more information about Kathy Shell and her work and writings visit:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathrynShell

Website: http://www.kathy-shell.net/index.html

And find her books here.

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Another post about my awesome husband

Probably by now many people who know me are getting quite sick of how awesome my husband is and how awesomely he treats me. Good. Get ready because this is another of those stories.

I’ve been sick for about two weeks now. My husband has had to listen to me hack and cough around the house every night, watching painfully as I can barely take in a breath sometimes. He has rubbed my back, picked up my tissues, and slept in the guest bed because he is unsure of what else to do to help. I can see from the look in his eyes each time another cough rattles my chest that he would give up just about anything in order to make me feel better.

For the last few nights we’ve tried sleeping once again in the same bed, but my coughing has hindered both of our sleep cycles. I’ve done everything from using a humidifier to taking extra meds in order to try and calm the coughing to a bare roar, without much success.

John has endured like a champion right along beside me.

Last night as another coughing session came to its peak, my bleary-eyed and sleep deprived husband tried desperately to find a way to help. The coughing kept me from making any discernible sentences, but I weakly tried to assure him I was fine and to go back to sleep. I wanted to just hack it out and go back to sleep without disturbing him too much so I sat up on my side of the bed facing away from him. He continued to ask me what I needed and I declined any help, pushing his shoulder down to indicate he should try to keep sleeping.

The next thing I knew he was sitting beside me with a handful of cough drops.

“Is this what you need?” he asked through his red blotched, but caring eyes.

I had to smile because I hadn’t asked for anything – I only wanted him to go back to sleep and forget I was dying beside him, but he simply couldn’t ignore his wife’s painful distress so he did the only thing he knew to do: brought me cough drops.

I took a few from him, thanked him and ushered him back to his side of the bed. Although the drops didn’t really help all that much, I felt good inside because I knew someone truly cared for me – even in my sicker-than-a-dog, greasy hair disheveled, phlegm-filled state – he still loved me enough to get up from the warm bed and bring me cough drops.

It was one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me.

What about you? What sweet gesture has your spouse done for you even when you didn’t deserve it or were too sick to appreciate it?

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Christmas is a comin’

Don’t look now, but…

It's actually only 8 as of this posting...

It’s actually only 8 as of this posting…

And I’ve started my shopping. I know, I know… it’s not even Halloween yet, but I like to get it out of the way. Plus, spreading it out over multiple paychecks is the smart way to handle things. I only have my parents and the god daughters to buy for so it’s simple, but I get it done early to avoid those crazy crowds.

I first considered starting my shopping when my mother kept badgering me and my husband for our Christmas lists.

I tried to reason with her: “Mom. It’s August.”

It’s hard to think Christmas when you’re still basking in the hot, humidity of last summer.

And I don’t know why she was bothering to ask us for lists – she already had half of her shopping for us done anyway. Like, in June.

So last week my hubs and I went shopping for a few items to kick off the season. The stores are already sneaking in small displays as well. In the back. Where they don’t think anyone will truly notice or complain.

“Put it back here Earl among the other shiny household goods. Just keep adding about three items a day until this whole section of the store in piled high with Christmas knick-knackery. They’ll never know what hit ‘em.”

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October 25th

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November 1st

Yesterday, I went shopping again to help out my mom. She saw something for Dad and wanted me to go back and get it while it was on sale. I had to call her from the store to confirm I was buying the right item because the details she typically gives are incorrect. Now, to be clear, Christmas gifts are protected with a secrecy that the Secret Service would be proud of in our family. So Mom wouldn’t divulge too much info by phone “in case ears were listening”. (I can’t give to many details here now either because Dad is probably also reading this and I need to continue the super secret agent squirrel behavior until after the big day.)

She even tried to talk to Dad through the phone: “Carson! Are you listening!?”

Like he was going to answer. If he’s on there trying to find out national Christmas secrets he’s not about to say “Oh yeah! I’m here!”

I had to keep giving descriptions of the item to Mom so she could give me a yes or no answer. “He might be listening so I don’t want to say too much” was her excuse.

I kept turning around in the store and scanning the aisles, like Dad was lurking behind one of the display racks and would find me out any minute. “Aha! I knew it!” he would yell, knocking over the display of Christmas ornaments I hadn’t even noticed, and Mom would be pissed because I hadn’t played sleuth well enough.

I never knew shopping for Christmas was so nerve-wracking.

What about you? Do you dread or love the Christmas holiday? What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about shopping during this season?

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Another task accomplished

Tomorrow my writer’s group is having a small conference. It was intended to be a bigger affair with over 20 workshops for the day, but registrations were not what we anticipated so we’ve had to scale it down. It kind of breaks my heart that it didn’t work out the way we had intended, but, at the same time, I’m beginning to think this was the way God intended all along.

You see, we held this conference last year. It went well. Attendees were encouraged and they learned a lot, but there was tension between the organizers. We have a small group of individuals who all have their own lives, children and social schedules. So while we wanted to do the conference, most of it went a little out of control and the stress level prevented many of us from having an enjoyable time. This year was gearing up to be similar to last year so, in a way, I’m glad we were forced to scale it back.

I’ll still be teaching for the first time ever (although probably to a much smaller group) and I’m a bit nervous about it. I haven’t spoken in front of a group of people since college (if you don’t count being worship leader at church.) I never envisioned myself as a teacher and yet I’ve been told by a few people that I should teach. While putting together my presentations this week, I found that I was enjoying the process quite a bit. And when I had my husband look over the work, I was pleased with myself for the fluidity of the presentation.

Now if I can just do that whilst standing in front of a bunch of people.

Courtesy Flickr Commons

Courtesy Flickr Commons

It doesn’t help my anxiety levels that I’m still overcoming a severe cold/bronchial issue and sometimes it’s hard for me to talk longer than a few minutes at a time without coughing. I’m hoping that it’ll be clearer by tomorrow, but I’ll also be armed with a boatload of Ricola cough drops as backup.

Along with this new adventure, I also sent out my first query letter on Tuesday. A query letter is sent to prospective magazines when you want to pitch a story idea to them. I plan on sending out more in the near future, but this first one was certainly nerve wracking to compose. When it actually came time to hit the “send” button, my heart did a little back flip and I sent a few prayers up to God. I know this is the path He wants me to pursue so I’m praying that I can come up with additional story ideas to send out more query letters in the coming weeks.

Courtesy Flickr Commons

Courtesy Flickr Commons

It’s a daunting task to put yourself out there. So often, due to my low self-esteem, I’ve sequestered myself to the back row or kept to myself quietly in the corner. Now, in order to achieve the dream of full-time writer, editor and speaker, I have to actually push myself to the front row, toot my own horn and be willing to go after what I want, instead of waiting for it to come to me.

Courtesy Flickr Commons

Courtesy Flickr Commons

It’s challenging, scary and intimidating all at the same time. But the joy I’ve felt recently and the peace that has been within my heart is unlike any I’ve ever experienced in my life so I think I’m on the right track.

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Catching A Moment

The sun called to me today from my living room writing nook, winking in at me through the curtains. I haven’t been feeling great lately so I decided to go outside and “get the stink blown off of me” like my grandma used to say.

It’s already October 17th and I’m despising the cooler days already and loathing the prospect of winter. But today—it’s lovely. A really rare day for so late in the year and one I intend to enjoy while I can. The sun beats on my face, warming my skin and putting vitamin D into my bloodstream… it feels so good. My body feels rejuvenated just from a few minutes in the sun—what an elixir it is!

A soft breeze ruffles the amber leaves in the tree above my head, one floating down to lightly kiss the bench next to me before fluttering completely to the ground. The air moves my hair in front of my eyes, eclipsing my view and the sun filtering through the trees, plays a game of sun and shade on my face.

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My four legged companion stands guard for me as I write unencumbered, refreshed by the late summer breeze. No ne’er-do-wells will hinder my unfettered writing progress if he has anything to say about it. His ear flaps softly in the wind. He snatches at a leaf that he feels threatened by, gives a ladybug the “eye.”

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School has let out and children clamber down the sidewalk, in search of play while the sun is still shining. Their squeals and chatter reminds me of my youth, when time was slower and days were less precious. But today, like me, they intend to gather every good thing from the time before it passes.

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Their activity has alerted my sentry and he cannot relax and enjoy his moment in the sun. I coax him with soft words and promises of bully rubs, but his post remains guarded.

More leaves float down around me on the deck…would I be covered if I would not move? Would their crisp, brittle skins shield me from the winter that is to come as they protect the grass. Or would the cold still filter in and sink into my bones?

Dark words for another day…

The sun is sinking lower in the sky now and my time in the sun, for today, has come to its end. I gather up my things slowly and return indoors, already longing for another day in the sun.

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The new boss is nice

I spent most of last week in bed. “Freelancing is fun!” you say? Yes, it can be, but I was down for the count with one of the worst colds I’ve ever experienced.

Day after day I got up, hacked and wheezed my way through breakfast, tried to get on the internet and make a go of it, only to fail miserably as my snot infested brain couldn’t make sense of the words. Defeated, I would return to bed by 10 am.

In bed, my pooch and I would linger for hours, snuggling deep into the covers, and blocking out the world. It was a good week to be sick truly. The weather here in Pennsyltucky was gray and overcast for the entire week, making it quite easy to stay buried beneath a bevy of blankets. Tissues boxes were stationed in strategic places next to ever filling trash cans. (The hubs said our garbage last week was 90% snot and tissues.)

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I could have used some of these last week…

Each day my pup and I would meander back to bed, where he would take his share out of the middle and I would toss and turn trying to find the sweet spot where my congested lungs wouldn’t retaliate.

When Wednesday rolled around though, I started to get concerned. I’d been sick since last Thursday at the earliest, had gone to the minute-clinic on Sunday (“It’s a virus. Drink liquids. Get rest.”), and was getting closer and closer to the next weekend with no relief in sight. I rang up the doctor and was finally put on some meds and an inhaler for my breathing.

Sitting in front of my computer the next day, determined to make a go of the day, I realized how lightheaded I felt and how little productivity was happening.

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Was it okay to take this much time off?

In the past, I’ve taken a day off here and there due to illness, but would typically drag my sorry lump into the office after only one or two days off because they certainly couldn’t go on without me or the boss will be mad. God forbid, I’d lose my job due to sickness. So I would go, looking like death, breathing on others, contaminating my co-workers and feeling horrible.

But now… I didn’t have to do that. There was no one to seek permission from for a day off. I could take off a MONTH if I wanted. The freedom! *cough* *hack* *cough* (got too excited there…)

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My friend last week… RICOLA!

And also no one to tell me to get back to work. *wheeze* *gasp*

So even in the face of no productivity, I still sat upright, took my meds and gave it the old Yale try. I got little done that day, but the boss did admire my tenacity.

 

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Book Review: The Penal Colony

I added this book, The Penal Colony, to my kindle a few weeks ago because it was free and I thought the description sounded interesting. It sat there for awhile because I had other obligations and couldn’t get to it. When I finally sat down and dove in to the text, I couldn’t put it down.

Most of you know I don’t make a habit of writing book reviews. It’s not my main platform, but when a book grabs my attention, gets me to come a little closer and has me crying by the end: that’s the time I will write a review.

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Now this novel has been out for awhile – since 1987. Before self-publishing was so rampant and before kindles were even around. I don’t need to sell this book – it’s got great ratings online – but I want people to read it – and sometimes it takes more than good ratings on Amazon. And because I think people should read good writing.

Anthony Routledge is sent to Sert for a crime he didn’t commit, but he must fend for himself – fighting off savages to make his way back to the Village where order and civilization remain. The first part is a bit Blade Runner – it kept my interest and moved the story along quickly. (Spoiler Alert) When he does finally make it to the Village, all the defenses he has put in place can be slowly lowered – or can they? It’s a tense group. It reminded me of 12 Angry Men – forced to live together under stressful circumstances and to make decisions as a group. They have rules, jobs, duties… all very civilized, but they’re criminals of the worst kind, right? Sent to this island to live out their sad, God forsaken lives.

The reader keeps waiting… waiting for a turn of events, a big climactic moment… all these men can’t live together this cohesively. Can they?

Tension, unease and uncertainty permeate this book. I found myself going back to it again and again to finish the story, to find out what the characters had decided and to learn how it all would end. Each character is defined is such skillful ways – you get a feeling that you are living there right along side them, with their fears, uncertainties and hopes being your own. You long for them to escape, to make a fresh start and to come visit you to tell their stories.

In the end, I wanted it to continue (the sign of a good book!), but I had to let the characters go to fill out their days without me leering over their shoulders.

Check out this book for yourself and let me know your thoughts!

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