Tuesday, July 3, 2018

July IWSG and Celebrate the Small Things

Happy 3rd of July! Are you planning something fun tomorrow? Love fireworks? First let's thank our dazzling host, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavannaugh, and his merry band of co-hosts: Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

July 3 question - What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Novice writing goals: Get an agent, secure a 3-book deal with major publisher, and publish a bestseller once a year for a long, glorious career in which one or more books are made into major motion pictures. Extra bonus: meet Stephen King in the green room of the Tonight Show before big interview.

Mid-level writing goals: Get an agent to request a full, research the differences between independent and small publishers, rate different marketing strategies on the anxiety scale from slightly terrifying to puke-inducing panic level

Veteran writing goals: Get an actual rejection from agent instead of soul-crushing silence after six weeks, figure out how to self publish without embarrassing yourself, debate the pros and cons of starting a newsletter, stop watching movies long enough to write anything

Keep your writing goals alive, people! On July 19th, prepare those amazing tweets for #IWSGPit. It's an easy way to get your pitch in front of the eyes of publishers and agents. But realize these are two different groups. My advice? If you really want an agent, then work with them first. Don't try to send queries to publishers and agents at the same time. Their time tables are different.


This fun weekly blog gives you the opportunity to celebrate anything you want and is hosted by the awesome Lexa Cain and her co-hosts: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

This week, I'd like to celebrate:

Crystal Light

1. A wedding anniversary! This Thursday marks 15 years for my husband and I. Wow. Where did the time go? Did you know what the traditional gift for the 15th anniversary is? Crystal. The modern gift is a watch. Hmmm. Considering that everyone had a cell phone, they might need to update that again.

Phantom of the Opera at MasterCard Theaters 2013

2. A play. We went to Toronto this past weekend to see The Phantom of the Opera and it was fantastic! 

I"ll stick out my tongue but I won't say 'AHHH'

3. Animals. On our Toronto trip, we went to the zoo on Sunday, Canada Day! Did you know that July 1 is the day Canadians celebrate their independence? The weather wasn't the best: high nineties. When we went to see the camels, one of them had it's tongue hanging out--I didn't blame him. The poor polar bears were flopped face-down on the concrete in the shade. I was so tempted to jump into their pool. 


How's writing going for you these days? Have you ever seen The Phantom of the Opera? Seen an animal do something interesting at the zoo or elsewhere? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

June IWSG and Celebrate The Small Things

Well, it finally happened. I missed an IWSG post (May). But before I delve into that, let me thank our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his awesome band of co-hosts: Beverly Stowe McClure, Tonja DreckerTyrean Martinson, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

June's question: What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?


That would be character names, for sure. In my first novel, every main character ended up with a name starting with the letter J: Jody, Janie, John, Jasper, and Jahoshaphat. Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea. 

Come to think of it, that first novel also went through three title changes (Black Days to A Glass Half Full to The Destiny Thief), so maybe I have trouble with both. I've come up with some humdingers of titles for stories that have yet to be written. I'd tell you some, but I'm afraid you might steal them I'm saving them.


In this weekly blog hop, we express our thanks for the small (or not so small) things in life with our wonderful host, Lexa Cain, and her cohosts, L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

1. New releases by writer friends, specifically this one by C. Lee McKenzie:


By C. Lee McKenzie

Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...

Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand.http://cleemckenziebooks.com

2. EyeMart Express

If you're curious about how one completely misses IWSG day, here are the gory details:

eye of Horus

Last month, my dear daughter came home early from school on a Tuesday (before I could compose my IWSG post), because her contact was irritating the busakas out of her eye. (Don't ask me to define busakas, although shockingly, there is a Twitter account @busakas. Dang it. Why are all the good made-up words taken? Why?) Anyway, when it didn't resolve over the next hour, I took her to the eye doctor and discovered she had an infection. Off to the pharmacist we went to fetch the drops to be applied to the eye every couple of hours. For two weeks. (Did you read that in iambic pentameter? Bravo.)

One problem solved, but another soon reared its head. You can't wear contacts with an eye infection. So did we pull out her backup eyeglasses? Nope. She didn't have any. Why? Because one stubborn teenage girl refused to even consider buying glasses once contacts came into the picture. Grrsniks. Learn from my mistake, parents of self-conscious teens.

The next day,Wednesday (IWSG day), we went back to the eye doctor for a follow-up exam and then off to EyeMart Express. They were awesome. We picked out two frames, and the girl was posting a Instagram poll on which ones looked cooler in less than 2 hours. (My pick lost 17 to 0. Sigh.)

On Thursday, daughter number two had, by complete coincidence, an eye doctor appointment, which dragged on for almost three HGTV shows, due to some extra tests they needed to run. (Man, I miss cable.)

3. Ryan Plumbing and Heating

In addition to our magical opthalmalogical marathon (say that three times fast), we had the usual overload of homework, instrument lessons, and oh yeah, the air conditioning died. This prompted not one, not two, but three different visits by our local air and heating guys plus a major repair job, which necessitated a quick and dirty clean-up of a very cluttered basement, not to mention a fascinating discussion on the pitter-patter of little feet.  


Oh no...

Computer time? Forget about it. June will be different, I'm sure...

One week after writing the above post: Yep, so far it's much worse, but I'll save that for later.


Have you ever missed an IWSG post? Life ever steal your writing time away when you really needed it? Any new book releases to share? Made up any words like Grrsniks? (FYI, it's available as a Twitter handle. You're welcome.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group and Celebrate the Small Things

Join the fun here.

Good Wednesday morning, y'all. What's new? Are you tackling the A to Z challenge? Thrilled to see Vilanova win? But first, a big shout out to our host, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his merry band of cohosts: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

(That last one isn't exactly merry as she piles up used Kleenex around the keyboard for the fourth time since Christmas. AAAA-CHOOO!)

April 4 question - When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

Image: barnimages

When your blank screen and mind are in perfect sync, "Om" is pronounced "Ummmm."

1. Tell myself I will write, every day, for at least an hour an hour and a half, no matter how much I hate the words spewing across the screen. I can edit the swill to greatness later. Then get hit with a crisis (see below for example) and put the writing on hold, again.

2. Spend time on research. You can never do too much of this, right? Wait, does this mean I'm supposed to research topics relevant to my novel, or can I just surf at will? I mean, how can you not watch cute cat videos all day when one of your characters might need to own a pet? It's all good.

Image: Viv Lynch

3. Take a long, long, long-long-long walk and try to get into a scene, work through a plot point, or find a character's voice. This can be tough if it's less than thirty degrees outside. If you don't own a snow suit, long showers are also good places to think. It helps to have a water heater big enough to hold Shamu though. 

I interpreted this question as a colorful way to ask what to do about writer's block. I suppose, though, it could also mean: What do you do when your queries go unanswered, book sales are nonexistent, or reviews aren't stellar? Well, my husband likes to put things in perspective. As a math professor, a bad day might mean a run-in with a difficult student, a lecture that went wrong, or a grant that didn't get funded. He consoles himself by thinking, "At least I'm not a surgeon. A bad day for them means someone died."

Alrighty, then.


It's time to celebrate the small things in life with our host, Lexa Cain, and her co-hosts: L.G. Keltner and Tonja Drecker. 

This has been a challenging week for two members of our family and I'm celebrating the fact that they are okay.

1. Fruits and vegetables are really, really good your health

 This past Wednesday, my mother-in-law survived a brush with gun violence in a N.C. Walmart. After picking up a prescription, she was about to head out the door when she decided to check out the produce aisle. Moments later, gunfire was heard outside and the shoppers were herded to the back of the store until the police arrived. Apparently, two people got into an argument inside the store first before moving it outside. One of them had a gun in his car and decided to use it. Two people were injured, but thankfully, there were no fatalities.

2. Mr. M gets a hair cut.

Last Thursday, Mr. M came in from our back deck, dragging one of his hind feet. The foot was bleeding, so I took him to the vet, thinking he must have gotten into a fight with some critter in the back yard. The vet later told me I was right, but the fight most likely occurred several days earlier. A wound on his foot got infected, formed an abscess filled with blood and pus, and this abscess broke open Thursday morning. 

While under sedation, they shaved Mr. M to get rid of several bad clumps of matted fur. Otherwise, he would have torn them out with his teeth. So he may look strange, but the shaving saved him from months of painful tearing.

Today (Tuesday), his wounds are healing and he is almost walking normally. 


If you're a writer, have you experienced rough patches in your career? Has gun violence affected you or your family? Ever nursed a pet back to health?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blue Sludge Blues or Why You Should Hold It

blu eyes

Today, I am helping celebrate the release of a horror story collection titled Blue Sludge Blues and Other Abominations by Shannon Lawrence. What's more terrifying than a rest stop toilet? I can't wait to find out. But first, a little tale of terror from my past.

Many years ago, I took up jogging to get a break from the insanity that is staying at home with two toddlers who hate each other's guts at least 50% of the time. How bad was it? Well, let's just say I preferred dragging my butt through the dark, snowy streets of our neighborhood with temps dipping into the 20s to dealing with another minute of "She hit me first. No, she hit me first!" 

Standard question my husband would ask before I left: "Are you running away from home?"

Me: "Yes." 

Husband: "Are you coming back?"

Me: "Maybe."

Snow and Christmas Lights in HDR

In the months leading up to Christmas, it was kind of fun with all the different lights, inflatables, and even music ushering me along my slippery route.

Then one night, with the snow dulling the streetlights' glow to a dim blue, I saw movement about thirty yards ahead. At first, I couldn't understand what I was seeing. My first impression was legs. Lots of legs, long and not human. Too many for a single dog, I slowed down, worried I had run afoul of a pack. Which was ridiculous, right? Then the long, thin legs made me wonder if they were greyhounds. Equally ridiculous. But the bodies were too large. I stopped in my tracks. OMG, were they wolves!? 

Walla Walla wolf
Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

Then the critters trotted under a streetlamp and I realized they were not dogs at all, but a family of deer. Oh, dear!

Without further ado, let me present: Blue Sludge Blues:

Blue Sludge Blues And Other Abominations
by Shannon Lawrence

Release Date: March 15, 2018
Horror short story collection

A collection of frights, from the psychological to the monstrous. These tales are a reminder of how much we have to fear: A creature lurking in the blue, sludgy depths of a rest area toilet; a friendly neighbor with a dark secret hidden in his basement; a woman with nothing more to lose hellbent on vengeance; a hike gone terribly wrong for three friends; a man cursed to clean up the bodies left behind by an inhuman force. These and other stories prowl the pages of this short story collection.


From Know Thy Neighbor:

"She could tell he enjoyed her pain, and she grew determined to not show him anymore. She would bear this quietly, staring directly into his eyes."

Buy the Book

Also available from Apple and other countries through Amazon

About the Author

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes mostly fantasy and horror. Her stories can be found in magazines and anthologies, including Space and Time Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. When she's not writing, she's hiking the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there's always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.

Social Media Links

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Insecure Writers Support Group and Celebrate the Small Things

Happy March! Are you still shivering in winter or are you enjoying spring flowers yet? Whatever the weather, is always fun to check in with fellow writers. Thanks to our host, Alex. J. Cavanaugh and his outstanding co-hosts this month: Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner.

This month's question: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Sadly, I feel great for about two seconds and then start worrying about the next goal. Should the story be edited further? If it's a short story, where will I submit it? If it's a novel, am I ready to deal with the stress of querying? For me, the journey is truly the reward.

Which of these images would you or your characters pick to experience a journey? 

Lydia's Baptistery ... HDR

Image: Emil Athanasiou

Anaga Mountains

Image: Nico Trinkhaus, Anaga Mountains

Just before sundown at Bagan. Love this Topaz Labs effect.

Image: Neville Wooton


What happened to February? I know it's the shortest month of the year, but I think someone hit high speed on time again. In any case, it's high time for me to thank our host, Lexa Cain, and her co-hosts: L.G. Keltner and Tonja Drecker. 

Winter Wonderland

Snow Day_dec09_0045-48
Image: David Torres

1. Friday, March 2 was a snow day!

The phone rang at 5 a.m. and I knew, just knew, it was the school district calling to cancel school. I remember being a kid, listening to the radio on rare snowy mornings, crossing my fingers that my district would be cancelled. Since I lived in S.C. at the time, that hardly every happened. But Friday was our day. I guess I got a little too excited about shoveling, because I couldn't fall back asleep, but I got an excellent work-out shoveling for 2 hours. Eight inches of heavy, wet snow. Squee!

And wouldn't you know it? My neighbor, who has a snow plow, knocked down the impossible wall of ice that the city plows had left at the bottom of the driveway. That's the second time a truck with plow attached saved me from the hardest part of the job.

Open Sesame!

Image: stratman

2. I still have skin on my fingers.

My older cat, Mr. Mistofellees, has hyperthyroidism. He's been taking medication in creme form applied to the inside of his ears for the past two years, but it's not working anymore. So we had to switch to pills. 

The last time I had to shove pills down his throat was during an ear infection so severe he couldn't walk two steps without falling down. He would claw my hands to shreds. 

This time I was more crafty. I hid the pills in port wine cheese, creme cheese, and even butter. At first, Mr. M ate the pills all by himself. But then he got sick of cheese. Rats! So I had to go back to "pilling" him. At least the pills are smaller than the humongous antibiotic capsules. And so far, I've only endured one small scratch. 

Can you hear me now? 

Image: Seth Goodman

3. I don't have to worry about charging my cell phone this week.

My husband called me Sunday morning from Boca Raton, Florida, where is he currently having a blast in the sunshine state with his folks while I deal with homework, early morning band practice, and doctor's appointments attending a math conference. He told me he had accidentally taken both of our cell phones. Really? I mean, here I am, on my own, trying to coordinate activities for two active middle schoolers. With. No. Cellphone. ARRRGH! This is so 1990s. 

Did the big storm Riley impact your area? Do you have to medicate your pets? How would you cope without a cell phone for 5 days?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Souper Blog Hop! Mmm Mmm Good.

Good Monday Morning, Everyone! Today, the amazing Chrys Fey is hosting a very special blog hop to introduce her mom's book, Pea Soup Disaster, A Gregory Green Adventure. In honor of this debut, we are celebrating our favorite soups. 

I don't know about you, but I love soup, especially in the winter. Here is the soup I've been chowing down on this winter:

It is sooo good, especially with crumbles of Tostitos corn chips thrown in. It's spicy, but not enough to cause one to breath fire, full of beans and rice to keep you full, plus nice, huge cubes of chicken. (The rectangular cubes are a little odd. I'm not sure what kind of chicken they're using. Must be some special breed of geometrically perfect bird. ;)

I do make several soups from scratch. My favorite is probably a variety of chicken vegetable soup. (No cubed chicken needed.)

First I saute 3 or so heaping tablespoons of minced garlic in a large soup pot. Then I toss in chopped celery and carrots (about a cup each). I like my vegetables a little crunchy, so I don't saute them too long before adding chicken broth (two 14.5 ounce cans of Swanson's reduced salt or one 32 ounce box).

Now for the yummy part. For spices, I like to add basil, thyme, and dill. Since I sprinkle from the spice containers directly, I'm not 100% sure of the amounts, but if you held a hot soup ladle to my head, I'd guess around a 1/2 teaspoon of basil, and maybe a 1/4 teaspoon each of thyme and dill. Basil you can go overboard with and nothing bad will happen. Thyme and dill make the soup something special, but you don't want to go crazy. 

Spice rack
Image: trollhare

I let this simmer for at least thirty minutes. Before serving, I add chopped beefsteak tomatoes (1 and a half cups) and 1/4 cup of chopped green onion-also known as chives. You don't want these two to simmer with the other ingredients because they'll turn to mush. 

I'll admit, vegetables and broth alone don't make the most hearty of soups. I used to add leftover pieces of chicken from whenever we had a roast chicken, but since the soup amount is large, if you don't eat it or freeze it, the chicken would go bad after a week. Eventually I realized I wasn't a huge fan of the chicken anyway and left it out. I tried adding pasta instead, but it gets mushy and kinda gross after a few days. A better option is a can of great northern (white) beans. No mush and they won't spoil. 

And now, here's Elaine Kaye's new book:

BLURB: Gregory Green loves his mom’s pea soup, but when he eats it at school, all of his friends make fun of how it looks. He doesn’t think it looks like bugs, and it tastes good! Then at recess, his friends run from him, screaming, “He’s a monster!” Gregory doesn’t know why his friends are being mean until he sees his skin is green. The teasing gets worse until an unlikely friend comes to the rescue—his teddy bear, Sammy. Sammy usually only comes to life for Gregory and his family, but Sammy has an important lesson to teach Gregory and his classmates.

Available in Print:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Kaye got the idea for Pea Soup Disaster from her son who loved to eat her homemade pea soup. Pea Soup Disaster is the first of many fun stories featuring Gregory Green and his teddy bear, Sammy, as part of the Gregory Green Adventure series.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Find Elaine:
Website / Instagram / Litsy - @ElaineKaye
Goodreads / Amazon

Do you eat a lot of soup? Have a favorite?