Thoughts on Collections

I just finished reading The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. It is the story of a man, (and then a woman) who picks up things he finds around, catalogs them, and hopes in some way to reunite them with their owners. Intertwined are the stories of the things and the occasion of their loss. I highly recommend the book.

I am also reading Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. In this book he has a chapter called “Open up Your Cabinet of Curiosities: Don’t Be a Hoarder,” where he says that we all are own own keeper of lost things. We all have a collection of all the things and experiences, thoughts and dreams of our lives. Some of these things are physical, books and knick knacks, while others are only in our hearts and minds. He suggests finding ways to share this collection.

The latest self-improvement fad is based on Maria Kondo’s best seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I haven’t read the book but understand that one of the criteria Konmari uses to decide whether an item should be allowed to stay or should be discarded is whether it “sparks joy.”

I know there are many things in my life, utilitarian things, that I must keep even though they don’t necessarily spark joy in my life. However, I think I understand what all three of these authors are talking about. I think I understand that are are special physical and non-physical things in our lives that bring a special pleasure that we may or may not be able to share with others.

Although I’ve accumulated many things over the course of my life, I have never been a focused collector. I’ve tried but I get two or three pieces in my collection, and then get bored with the process of looking for and displaying them. So I tend to pick up things that I like without any consideration of how they will fit with everything else I own. Since I’ve become a daughter of Yemaya, I do seem to be more drawn to oceania, things of or representing the ocean, but even in that case, I can’t seem to maintain my attention.

One thing that some people say, is that we should collect experiences instead of physical things. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that among the cognitive skills my mother lost as she aged was the ability to remember many of the experience of her life without help. She had scrapbooks from her many trips but she never, to my knowledge, looked at them. Instead it was the things around her that sparked her memories. Photos of her children and grandchildren, kept them alive for her when they lived too far away for regular visits. She kept other of the things close that not only brought her joy but helped her remember people and events.

I often have periods when I was feel especially afraid of falling into that type of dementia. Not Alzheimers, per se, but a simple lost of memory, short and longer term. I decided that important events needed to be memorialized by physical objects that would spark a memory or at least bring back the pleasure of an experience. Perhaps, you can say this is the kind of response Konmari is talking about but it probably leads to more clutter than she may be comfortable with. I have several trips scheduled over the next several months. Each will be a special and unique experience. Each should be memorialized with some token of remembrance.

Thinking about Kleon’s idea of our work coming out of our personal curiosity cabinet, I don’t feel as though my writing is a way to share the experiences of my life. I’m not writing memoir. My characters live in times and places completely alien to me. However, I am sure that there is a bit of my life in each thing I write, thoughts and dreams that slip out below the radar of my awareness. I do find the work of creating these characters, putting them in bad situations, and then helping them to escape brings me a special type of pleasure.

Are you a collector of things or experiences of both? Tell us about it in the comments section below


Help Design the Next Tale from the Bardo

I’m thinking about writing a a new “tale from the Bardo” and would like your help making some decisions.

As the writer, I’ve always thought The Baron’s Box only explored a small portion of the huge place that is the Bardo. So, in thinking about the next story, I don’t feel constrained to include any portion of the locations, secondary characters, or other elements in the first story.

However you, as the reader, may have certain expectations and I was hoping you could share them with me.

Here are some of the things I’m thinking about. Please put your thoughts in the comments and feel free to engage with each other.


  • Do you think opening and closing with water is important?
  • Are there any other locations you’d like me to explore further, for example,
    • The Empyrean, including the Pavilion
    • The Baron’s Palace
    • The Nether Realm
    • Kore’s Temple
    • Or would you like the next story to be in a completely different location?


  • Would you like one or more  of these secondary characters included in the next story?
    • Aurora
    • Sigrún, the Valkyrie
    • Ankou
    • Volos
    • The Baron,
    • Anubis
    • Wolf and his pack
    • The lost souls in the Nether Realm
    • Neti
    • Ereshkigal
    • Kore
    • Someone else you’d like to know more about
  • I envision the next story will have additional souls, perhaps a group of five. Should I keep the convention that everyone is named “Sam” or “Sara” or chose another naming convention?
  • All the souls in The Baron’s Box were young, white people — nothing like they were when alive. Do you think other parts of the Bardo should have more diversity?


  • Rebirth/Return was an essential feature of The Baron’s Box that surprised many readers. Should that theme continue into the next story or would it be distracting if you already “knew” that’s how the story will end?

National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo)

For the seventh year in a row I’m been participating in the challenge called National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo).

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo  is a fun approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2012. According to their records I’ve written more than 300,000 words over the years. As you can imagine you don’t end up with a perfectly polished novel at the end of a 30 day sprint toward 50,000 words but I’ve found it’s an great way to jumpstart a story. The Baron’s Box began life as a NaNoWriMo story several years ago

I am currently polishing The Seventh Sister, last year’s NaNoWriMo work in the hopes of publishing it mid-2018. This is the story of group of women in a near-future world who band together to save themselves and their families from a group of bandits the are terrorizing their small farming community.  Their home of Verdant Valley is the agricultural center of the enclave known as the Babapupa Reserve. For all the years of the drought, the officials of Verdant Valley have given the motorcycle gang known as the Demon Spawn a portion of their harvest to stave off worst depletion. Now the Spawn want more. More than the people of Verdant Valley can pay and survive.

Early next spring I’ll be looking for beta readers for this work. Please let me know if you’d be interested in join that small group of early readers. And watch for more information about The Seventh Sister as I get it ready for publication.

This year’s story, tentatively entitled The Hybrid, follows April Marshall who, after a prognosis of early-onset non-Alzheimer’s dementia, is invited to participate in a study that offers the possibility of delaying or reversing her decline through the implantation of an artificial intelligence device. Of course, all is not what it seems and April’s device become more than she expected.

Welcome to the New Dr Mary Ann’s Academy Blog

I’ve been neglecting this blog for many (many) months but starting today I’m going to try to do better. My plan is to add two new posts a month.

Around the second week of the month I’ll be updating you about my current writing projects and letting you know how you can learn more about The Baron’s Box. The fourth week of the month I’ll be sending you something I think is interesting. It might be a tidbit from one of my current works in progress, a review of something interesting I’ve read, my thoughts of the state of the world (but not too much political content, you’ve got plenty of other places to read that!). I may even experiment with new media — a video or cartoon, perhaps.

For today’s update you may be pleased to know I’m again participating in National Novel Writer’s Month. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Winners get the pleasure of having written, some goodies from the sponsors, plus a lovely print-it-yourself certificate. I’ve participated for several years — The Baron’s Box began life as a NaNoWriMo project.

My project this year, tentatively entitled The Hybrid, tell the story of April Marshall who begins the story with the prognosis of early-onset non-Alzheimer’s dementia. She is invited to participate in a study that offers the possibility of delaying or reversing her decline through the implantation of an artificial intelligence device. As of this writing I’m about 25,000 words into the story. Wish me luck.