Lamentations on Creativity in the Modern World

Creativity comes from a wilder place inside us. We can access it when we go outside and rediscover the nature of ourselves. It takes hold of us when we travel, when the entire world–even something as insignificant as a convenience store–is new and different. It swells to the forefront of our minds just as we’re about to go to sleep, preparing us as we leave reality and tumble headlong into dreamland.

Our lives aren’t built around these inspirational moments in the modern world. We get up too early, rush around too quickly in the morning, and drive too fast to work. Our employers claim they want us to be creative problem-solvers, but it can only be within their own parameters. Lunch provides little escape as we drudge through cafeteria lines or wait impatiently in clogged drive-thrus to grab the same old meal. After clocking out–not a minute too early or too late–we do it all in reverse so that we can come home to a to-do list far longer than the evening.

Our weekends are booked months in advance as we attend the ball games, practices, concerts, and meetings of our children whome we’re programming to be just as busy as we are. The demands of Perfect Parenthood require that we cook and clean and work full time and love and cherish and indulge and discipline and throw a few crafts in there for good measure.

Family gatherings, yard work, shopping trips, and home improvements gobble up the last few hours after arguing over who’s been getting more done. We take a pill to go to bed and another to get up in the morning, shoving ourselves through a daily grind that even if it varies never truly changes.

The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t make this any easier. It has only added the tasks of making/buying/cleaning masks, exploring new ways to safely get groceries, shopping far in advance in case of postal delays, and figuring out how we’re supposed to do remote learning for our children while also filling all the roles listed above.

By the time we have a few moments to ourselves, we’re too tired to pursue the creative or adventurous pursuits we’ve been dreaming of.

Where and when, then, are we to find the time to explore that other part of ourselves?

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Tarot Tuesday! Pick Your Card

Since everyone seemed to enjoy getting a chance to pick their own card last week, I thought we’d go ahead and do it again!

This week’s selection is from The Akashic Tarot by Sharon Anne Klingler and Sandra Anne Taylor. The cards are beautiful both front and back, plus they have a matte finish that I’m rather fond of.

Study the photo below and see which card calls to you (1, 2, or 3). If there’s a specific question you have, feel free to hold that question in your mind and let it guide you toward the answer you’re seeking. It’s also okay if you don’t have a question and just want a general idea of what the week has in store for you.

Are you ready? Scroll down to find your card!

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Card #1 (on the left): Archangel Raphael

This card is all about healing energy and boundless love. Raphael brings numerous positive energies to the table, and he may indicate that someone is helping you right now. Expect healing or breakthroughs on a personal level.

Card #2 (center): The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant could represent legal procedures, title transfers, or working with professionals. On a deeper, more personal level, it can refer to fulfilling your own karmic contract as you grow and learn the lessons of life. We’re never too old for this to happen! There may be others helping you with this, and you’ll want to make sure they have your best interests at heart. Understand that everything you do affects far into the future.

It’s always important to study the imagery on a card. What draws my eye is the fact that part of the Ark of the Covenant is hidden behind the tent flap. We can see the outline of it, and we know it’s there, but we can’t see the details. To me, this means that we don’t always know what the future holds for us and that’s okay!

Card #3 (on the right): Adsum

Adsum is a word that roughly means, “I am here.” This card can signify that you are where you’re meant to be, that you’ve arrived at your goals or you’re on your way.

This is a really interesting card, because there’s more to see the longer you look. Note not only how many people surround the main girl in the photo but all the different kinds of people they are. You are being helped all the tine even when you don’t know it! Everyone from Spirit, your ancestors, or the people present around you are helping you on your way, and you can’t reach your goals alone!

Which card did you pick? Did it mean anything for you? I’d love to know, so feel free to leave me a comment!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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A Vintage Find: Shaeffer Balance Fountain Pen

Can you find love on the internet? Sure. I mean, that’s how I met my husband. But you can also head on over to Ebay and find a vintage fountain pen!

I’ve loved the idea of fountain pens for quite some time, though I only started actually buying them a few years ago. It’s a dangerous hobby, as it’s addictive and can be quite expensive. There are plenty of cheap fountain pens out there (like the Jinaho X450), but I find myself gravitating toward the more expensive ones (like the Pilot Custom 823, which I definitely don’t own yet).

Though I haven’t yet felt I could justify spending $300 for a pen, I was quite interested in trying a gold nib. The cheapest way to do this was to go vintage, and that’s when I found this beauty.

I’m no photographer, and this really doesn’t show how gorgeous this pen is.

This vintage Shaeffer Balance had everything I was looking for: a gold nib in medium flex, a vacuum system (something I hadn’t tried yet but wanted to), and fully restored internals.

That last part was really important! Many older pens are lever fill, which means they have an internal rubber sac that degrades over time. The vacuum systems have rubber diaphragms that can also break down. I’ll admit that I considered restoring a pen myself, not only to save money but also to make sure I got exactly what I wanted. I need another hobby like a hole in the head, and in the end it was easier to spend a little extra cash instead of doing all the research and work.

The next challenge with this particular pen was finding the right ink. Someone in the online fountain pen group I joined pointed out that anything permanent, corrosive, glittery, or difficult to clean shouldn’t be used in a vintage, vacuum-fill pen. That filling system also meant this wouldn’t be the sort of pen I’d want to constantly swap colors in.

After a lot of late-night shopping and indecision, I settled on Monteverde Olivine. I already knew I liked Monteverde inks from previous experience, and the price was too good to pass up. I knew I wanted this ink to match the pen (I told my daughter I was looking for ink the color of an old couch, and I meant that in the most loving way possible), and since I like a smooth writing experience I wouldn’t mind that it’s lubricated.

Okay. After all that, you probably just ant to know about the pen itself, right? Honestly, it’s amazing. The Shaeffer Balance feels wonderful in my hand, with just the right Goldilocks size and weight to avoid fatigue during a long writing session. The gold nib is mostly smooth with just a touch of feedback. It writes beautifully, and since the pen is close to one hundred years old I can forgive it for a few hard starts here and there. The vac-fill holds a lot of ink and is pretty easy to fill.

If you really want to know how I feel about this pen, I’ll tell you this: I told my husband recently that if I had to sell all my fountain pens and could only keep one, the Shaeffer Balance would be it.

What’s your favorite pen? Have you had any luck buying vintage? I’d love to know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Tarot Tuesday! Pick Your Card

I hope Monday wasn’t too stressful and you’re ready for the rest of your week! I thought I’d do something a little bit different this week and let you choose your own tarot card.

I drew three cards from The Good Tarot by Colette Baron-Reid. It’s a beautiful deck with lovely, mystical energy. Study the photo below and see which card calls to you (1, 2, or 3). I often do my tarot pulls not by choosing the cards on top of the deck but by taking the ones that I’m most drawn to.

Are you ready? Scroll down to find your card!

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Card #1 (on the left): The Queen of Fire

This card is all about creativity, passion, and how those forces work when you’re with someone else. This card can speak about current good relationships and how they help you express your best self, or it can be a sign that you’re ready to reach out to others for inspiration.

Card #2 (center): The Tower

The Tower in a classic deck often looks really ominous, but it doesn’t have to be about anything that’s necessarily bad. (This is the GOOD Tarot after all, right?) It signifies a paradigm shift or sudden upheaval. You might need to let go of something you’ve been hanging onto in order to experience something better. Expect the unexpected, and watch for change with a positive attitude.

Card #3 (on the right): The Call

This card means it’s time to take action. You have what you need to go forward in life with purpose and find true prosperity. There is meaning to your life, and it’s time to embrace that.

Which card did you pick? Did it mean anything for you? I’d love to know, so feel free to leave me a comment!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Why Tarot?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve been posting quite a bit lately about tarot and oracle cards. This might seem like a strange thing to find on a fantasy author’s blog, but I’ve never thought of this page as a place that has to be dominated by marketing myself. Sure, I want to sell books (and you can buy them here!) but much of what I write about here is all about my pursuit of the Other.

For me, that Other is anything that brings a little magic into our everyday lives. Most of my books have that theme, whether it’s a woman who winds up fostering a young dragon or someone who communicates with a ghost to solve a crime. I’ve always wanted some of that magic in my own life, and sometimes I find it in studying the mystical.

I bought a tarot deck in my late teens, but life took over and I never really got a chance to learn how to use them. After taking an online course about oracles and divination through Harvard, I dug that original deck back out again. I noticed, though, that I didn’t really have a connection to this deck. Maybe it’s the artwork, but it just doesn’t click with me the way more recent decks do.

And it’s so magical to feel that connection! When I first opened my Spirit Animal oracle deck from Colette Baron-Reid, I could feel the energy in my palms and the bottoms of my feet. It lifted my heart and gave me a dizzy, exhilarated feeling. If having this kind of connection with a deck of cards sounds crazy, then I suggest you give it a shot. It’s amazing!

Tarot and oracle cards aren’t going to give me winning lottery numbers or guide me such a concrete and definitive way. I do, however, feel that they’re very effective at reminding me of the path I need to be on. I may draw a card that reminds me not to worry so much or that things are going to be all right. It maybe just be a random pretty card, and you could say I don’t need to rely on a device like this, but those messages are comforting, enjoyable, and make me feel like I’m getting a glimpse of the mystical world that’s so often hidden from us.

Have you had any experiences with tarot or oracle cards? Good, bad, or otherwise? I’d love to know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Tarot Tuesday!

I confess I missed Tarot Tuesday last week! I certainly didn’t mean to, but time has really been getting away from me lately. This week, time to forge ahead!

This card is from the Sacred Traveler oracle deck by Denise Linn. It’s really quite a stunning deck, and the matte finish on the cards feels wonderful in the hand.

Answering the Call: This card is the sign you’ve been looking for! It’s the call you must answer, because this is the time. There’s no more waiting around, feeling uncertain. Whether it’s that big decision or that exciting-but-scary thing you want to do, it’s time to do it.

I was lucky enough that this card was actually one I pulled for a friend seeking advice about her job. I often feel that the cards tell us what we already know, and I think this is the case here.

The artwork on the cards is important to me, and I think there’s an interesting message on Answering the Call. The lines in the trees and the deer’s antlers reflect similar lines on the ivy and tree behind the woman. It’s as though the entire universe conspires to help us make these choices, and even though our destiny is right there in front of us, sometimes we need it to be as obvious as a big wooden door to see it!

What does Answering the Call mean to you? Do you have any big decisions you’re making this week?

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Fountain Pen Review: Monteverde Essenza

I can’t tell you how many times I drooled over the Monteverde Essenza online. I constantly checked the prices on several retailers’ websites, hoping that someone would have it one some wild flash sale if I only managed to catch it at the right moment. It was just one of those things that reached right through the screen and told me it wanted to come home with me.

And now that it is home, let’s talk about it! The first thing I have to say is that this pen just looks nothing like the pictures online. It looks smooth, but the barrel and cap actually have long facets. Also, because it’s a resin pen, the colors are going to be slightly different on each one. I was personally hoping for a little more yellow, whereas mine is mostly blue. It’s still beautiful and a bit shimmery, but not what I expected.

This pen is heavy! I love a good heavy pen, though it can be a bit fatiguing for long writing sessions. It’s worth a little bit of muscle-building to experience this buttery smooth nib. This thing just glides!

I haven’t had any issues with leaking or assembling, and it feels like it’s well-made. It’s definitely one of my favorites!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under Fountain Pens and Ink, pens

Fountain Pen Review: Pilot Metropolitan

What makes the perfect pen? One that’s not too thick or thin, not too heavy or light, and comes in all sorts of both conservative and wild colors? Oh, and it writes beautifully and consistently? Yes, the Goldilocks pen. And it’s the Pilot Metropolitan.

As I already said, the Metropolitan is a great size. It has just the right thickness, length, balance, and weight to make for long writing sessions without fatigue. The matte finish on the metal body just feels wonderful. The classic cigar shape and the multitude of colors means it’s pleasant to look at as well as to work with.

I actually have this in two colors, one in a fine nib and one in a medium. I love the fine when I’m working with cheaper paper, so that I don’t have to worry as much about bleedthrough. What I’m really looking for in a fountain pen is the smoothness of the writing experience and the ability to lay down a lot of ink without stopping, so the medium is great for plotting out novels.

I think it’s also really important that we talk about the price point on this pen. Though of course the price fluctuates a little from one retailer to another, the Metropolitan is around $20. I admit that there was a time when I felt that was expensive for a pen, which now makes me laugh. Even if this is at the high end of your pen budget, I promise it’s worth it.

The only downside to the Metropolitan is the included converter. It’s a bladder style, which means you can’t see exactly how much ink you’ve drawn up into it. That’s not a huge deal if you’re working at home right next to your ink bottle, but it’s a problem on the road. Fortunately, the pen is compatible with the Pilot CON-40, which is more like a traditional converter. I’ve heard this converter leaks some, but so far I haven’t had problems with mine.

In short, I’m just crazy about the Pilot Metropolitan. It feels amazing, writes wonderfully, and works extremely well as an everyday pen. I already own two and am considering a third, and my husband has a few of them as well. Five stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under Fountain Pens and Ink, pens

Tarot Tuesday! Spirit Animal Oracle

Is it just me, or has today been a secondary Monday?

Today’s deck is the Spirit Animal Oracle by Colette Baron-Reid. I was immediately drawn to this deck due to the gorgeous animals it portrays, and I’ve always found the animal world to be an intriguing one. The matte finish on the cards makes them a joy to flip through, and the book that comes along with it is very detailed.

The porcupine spirit tells us to approach situations with innocence and curiosity. It’s time to throw out everything you’ve known before and enjoy things for what they truly are without the ghosts of your past hovering over them. Looking at the world with new eyes may help you find the things that you’ve been seeking, and perhaps they’ve been there all along.

This deck does allow for reversals, which are read with a protection message. For the porcupine, the message is to not be so prickly and cynical. You should always protect yourself, but don’t let that keep you away from things that will bring you abundance and happiness.

For me personally, I think both of these are incredibly powerful messages. It’s not easy to live in a time when everything we’ve known has changed, and holding on to an old perspective can be damaging. We could think of remote learning for students as a difficulty, but we could also look at it as a new challenge that will help our children grow and develop. Self-isolating could easily be construed as a time of stress and loneliness, but it could also be a wonderful time to explore our relationships or pursue projects that we haven’t had time for before.

What does the porcupine spirit mean to you?

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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A Class Forsaken by Susie Murphy

If you’ve been reading Susie Murphy’s A Matter of Class series, then rejoice! A Class Forsaken is now available! I’m thrilled to be helping such a talented author get word of her latest release out into the world.

Since A Class Forsaken is the third in the series, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. I do have to say that Murphy must own a time machine, or else she couldn’t possibly do such a good job of sucking a modern-day reader completely back into 1800’s Ireland. The story of Bridget and Cormac comes vividly to life in this sweeping tale of romance and the societal boundaries that make it so difficult.

If you’d like to read an excerpt of A Class Forsaken, you can download it here. You can also check out my reviews of A Class Apart and A Class Entwined.

And can we take a moment to appreciate these beautiful covers? I see so many that are just thrown together, but that’s absolutely not the case with this series! They say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but in this case you’re safe to do so!

If you’re interested in checking out the rest of the book tour, here are the links:

Monday 24th August

Book Reviews for U 
The Writing Desk 

Tuesday 25th August
Between My Lines 

Wednesday 26th August
The Lit Bitch 
Lisa Reads Books 

Thursday 27th August
Pursuing Stacie 
Coffee, Books and China Cups 

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books