Wednesday, April 1, 2020

IWSG April 2020

Well, that was a month, wasn't it? Strangest month ever. Can you keep writing fiction when your life turns into a dystopian novel? Not me. And I'm okay about that. The focus now is on keeping the household as healthy and as happy as possible while we stay at home, day after day after day after ...
Queensway Hwy - Groundhog

Image: Robbie

You get the picture. We even watched the movie Groundhog Day so our 13-year-old could better appreciate her lament that every day seems the same now.

Let's get on with the show!

April's Optional Question: How are things in your world? 

Well, it's not boring. I guess that's a plus, right? On the morning of Saturday, March 14, the call came in. School was closed for the foreseeable future. 

There was much rejoicing. 

By the following Wednesday, teachers were sending assignments and setting up Google meets for  classes.

By this time, RIT, where my husband is a math professor, had also closed and he was developing online lectures and assignments for his students. I'm extremely grateful his job is one that can be done online.


1. Husband: cancellation of trip to Boca Raton for math conference and to spend time with his parents.

Ariel the little mermaid Ride

Image: Lee

2. 13-year-old daughter: her school play, The Little Mermaid, was postponed from late March to late May. (I'm not holding my breath on that.) This was particularly painful as it is her last year. Her Stringfest concert was cancelled. Her E.L.A. statewide standardized test was cancelled. (Yay!)

3. 15-year-old daughter: Solofest for clarinet was cancelled and she's been taking lessons for almost a year in preparation for it. Private clarinet lessons cancelled. Solofest for voice cancelled.

4. We were supposed to travel to Kiawah Island, S.C., in mid-May for our annual vacation with my parents. This year would have been especially meaningful to my 15-year-old as she was planning to celebrate her sweet sixteen there: her favorite place in all the world. I will be stunned if we are able to make this trip.

Not bummers:

1. Sleeping late every day.

Walk in the woods, Autumn 2018
Image: Claudio

2. Taking long walks, playing yard games or board games with my daughters.

3. Reframing take-out meals and Amazon purchases as our contributions to the economy.

4. Spoiling our two cats rotten with extra playtime, brushings, and belly rubs.

The news is scary and sometimes overwhelming, but there are cool things happening out there. Some of my faves include the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago letting their penguins explore things from the customers' side, and the Georgia Aquarium sending adoptable puppies racing through their exhibits. So you've got to wonder, which aquarium will up the ante? My vote's for emus. Have you seen them run?


What animal would you like to see visit an aquarium? Is your state staying-at-home yet? Any cancellations bumming you out? What "good news" has made you smile recently?


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

IWSG, March 2020

Is this the year March Madness refers to something other than college basketball? How obsessed are you with corona virus updates? You don't have to be a writer to have insecurities these days, but regardless of where your anxieties lay, let's give thanks to our intrepid IWSG host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his awesome group of co-hosts: Jacqui Murray, Lisa Buie-Collard, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence!

March's Optional Question: Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

Vampire Cat
Image: Dan Dvorscak

Say cheese, y'all!

Yes. For some of my stories, I like to stick myself in the background for fun (under a different name, of course). My current manuscript takes place at a college. I used to be a mathematics professor, and at the start of each semester, I would ask my students to take out a clean sheet of paper and write their name on it in big bold letters. Then I'd take the students' pictures holding their "name sign" and use those to learn everyones' name. My main character, a student, gets to participate in this tradition in an early chapter of the novel.

Now that I have a smart phone, I should bring back this tradition when I meet anyone new. (That wouldn't be weird, right?) I'm terrible at remembering names.


Most bizarre stuffed toys ever? Is one for the corona virus in the works?

So, how are you adapting to the pandemic, if we can call it that yet? Here are some of my questions:

1. Did the authorities wait too long to give this bug its name? Is anyone using "Covid-19" conversationally?  (I'm not.)

US states I've been to
Image: Miles Gehm

Red States: virus-affected or projected political wins?

2. Am I the only one getting political maps for the upcoming election and corona virus spread maps confused? (Probably.)

3. Have you given in to any panic buying? (Yes. Peanut Butter and Chocolate Zone Bars. My whole family is addicted to these things.)

4. How does the idea of isolation/quarantine for two weeks or more hit you? (Advantage: no getting up early for school. Disadvantage: No break from kids if they're home from school.)

Hope everyone stays healthy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

February IWSG 2020

It's February, which means a Super Bowl, Valentine's, our odd week off from school (which I desperately need to catch up on my sleep) and another IWSG bloghop. Time must be moving faster these days because I somehow managed to miss the January IWSG entirely. Too much going on. So hats off to those who can keep up with their blogging schedules on top of everything else, including our leader, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his merry band of co-hosts: Lee Lowery, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Jennifer Hawes, Cathrina Constantine, and Tyrean Martinson!

This month's optional question: Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

Hmmm. I don't think so. Although I've toyed with the idea of a story with a setting inspired from one of my favorite poems, Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Here's a sample to give you an idea of what that might look like, and of course, I couldn't pick just one. 

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:

coleridgesque (mandalay hill)
Image: pwbaker

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man


Image: John Fowler

Down to a sunless sea.

Waterfall Cavern, Smoo Cave

Image: Nick Bramhall

And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Mossy Grill

Image: Timo Newton-Syms

Alas, such a project will have to wait. I'm meandering through the second draft of my current story and it's slow going. In my earlier works, cutting and cutting to get under 100K left only dialogue and action. This time around, I've left myself space to explore the character's thoughts, feelings, motivation, and memories, which is great, but challenging.


What setting are you currently working with or would like to work with in the future?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

December IWSG

It's winter! (At least, in my mind, if not officially.) Happy, happy snow-time! We've had two good snowfalls, each around 5 to 6 inches. Pretty decent. Not enough to cancel school, though. It's also drive-yourself-crazy-getting-ready-for-Christmas time. Yeah. How's that shopping coming along?

Christmas Lights

Time for a break to celebrate being an insecure writer with our fabulous host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his merry band of co-hosts (kind of like Santa and his elves, no?): Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Tyrean Martinson!

December's optional question: Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

Hmmm. Let's see. Well, first, I would have to fast forward at least five years into the future in order to get both kids out of my hair and into college. Or else there would be no time for writing, because right now it's all homework, study, prepare for concerts, recitals, endless meals, and even more endless laundry. Blah. 

Once the kids are off skipping class to sleep in studying to become brain surgeons, I'll be happily typing the final draft of my follow-up to my debut bestseller. My amazing agent emails me that the blurb will be from none other than Stephen King himself(!!!), and that I'll probably have an interview on either The Today Show or The Tonight Show, when it comes out. (I nudge them toward the Tonight Show. I hate getting up early.) My publisher's marketing gurus have sent me brilliantly beautiful cover art possibilities, and just as I type the words, "The End", super agent calls. The movie rights to my first book have been sold. Hot dog!


Okay, that was fun. Back to reality. It's time to go pick up the kids and survive another 6 hours of algebra, causes and effects of global warming, American foreign policy in the late 1800's, and the really hard part: figuring out what's for dinner. 

To those about to parent, we salute you!


*HEXtraordinary* : Cranky Baby Mandrake

How was your Thanksgiving?

As we started our yearly tradition of going around the table to talk about what we were thankful for, there came a high-pitched squealing and screeching from a plastic-wrapped sweet potato in the microwave--a sound eerily similar to the chorus of baby Mandrakes from Harry Potter (2? I think). Needless to say, the dignity of the moment was tossed aside and my daughters and I almost fell on the floor laughing while my husband shook his head.

As a writer, I am thankful for the never-ending insanity delivered daily from family life. 

What are you thankful for?


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

November IWSG

Did you survive the Halloween Storm of 2019? What timing! At least it was great for candy lovers. If you bought for trick-or-treaters, you got to keep 90% of it, and if you had a trick-or-treater, they got tons. Too bad it's hard to write when you're in a constant sugar coma. 

Anyway, it's time to put down the KitKats and thank our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his awesome co-hosts this month: Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie!

This month's optional question: What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story?

Oooo, what a cool question! I wish I could remember all the crazy stuff I've googled over the years. My first book involved terrorists and a bomb threat, so I was looking up all sorts of things that probably put me on a security watch list somewhere. 

Vintage illustration of Quadrilles published in 1820-1820 by Sidebotham.
Image: Rawpixal Ltd

My second had me delving into all things 19th century. I once watched YouTube videos of people dancing a cotillon in period dress. 

In my current story, the setting is a college campus. I found a Wikipedia page that lists all the hazing deaths experienced by members of fraternities and sororities going back to 1838.

Speaking of the macabre, here are some pictures of our Halloween Pumpkins:

Here is my older daughter's version of Pennywise, from the movie It. All the rain dribbling down this pumpkin's many teeth made it look like it was drooling--how appropriate! Just don't look into the deadlights, folks.

The pumpkin on the right is my younger daughter's--a mummy. And the one on the left is my interpretation of a Japanese bonsai tree, crane, and water flowing under a bridge. 

My husband took me on a walk last Saturday after all the rain, and we have a huge waterfall, not twenty minutes from our house. I couldn't believe it! Rochester's Lower Falls is like a small Niagara Falls.


How was your Halloween? Are there places near your home that you've always meant to visit, but never found the time?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG October

Happy Fall! How's the weather in your neck of the woods? We're supposed to have record highs (almost 90)  on Oct. 1 followed by cool, cool 50s and 60s. Sounds perfect to me. The only thing better would be to live in Browning, Montana! 


What's better than 4 feet of snow in September? Maybe four awesome co-hosts for this month's IWSG bloghopRonel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor.

And a big thanks, of course, to our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

October's Optional Question: It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Image: Amazon

I went to an author talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck, Americanah, and We Should All Be Feminists. She told the audience that she didn't read fiction while she was trying to write fiction, because she didn't want another author's voice in her head. 

I was both impressed and horrified. It takes me months, if not years, to complete a book. (I am a tortoise). 


Hmm, now what? 

I can't imagine giving up fiction. I need to read like I need to breathe. I'd sooner give up toilet paper. Now, I don't fault any writer who does stay away from reading to focus on their own work. Their writing could very well be amazing. Adichie's books certainly are. I just couldn't live that way.

Speaking of tortoises, I've been slowly working on a new manuscript and am approaching the end of the first draft. I'll be super happy to reach that milestone, because I love to edit and expand. Right now, I've got a plot and a ton of dialogue, but almost no scenery or reflections/feelings from the characters. My first draft is an empty house waiting to be furnished and decorated. Oh, the possibilities. 

And yes, I've been reading constantly, including Stephen King's The Institute and Margaret Atwood's The Testaments. Just following my bliss.



Have you read any of Adichie's books? Did you know Half a Yellow Sun was made into a movie? (I didn't.) Read or write anything awesome lately? How do you find your bliss?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

IWSG September 2019

Okay, what happened? Didn't school end last week or so? And now the kiddos are going back? Really? I should be jumping up and down because school = quiet writing time, but I'm not. Because school = getting up at 6:00 a.m. or 5:20 a.m. NOOOOO!

Breathe, breathe. 

A-hem. I'd like to thank Alex Cavanaugh for hosting this blog-hop and this wonderful online community along with the co-hosts Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantiner!

Optional Question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

My husband was just telling me yesterday that Barack Obama's mom rented him a house on the coast of Bali so he could finish his book, Dreams From My Father. For five months. 

Wow. I can't believe it didn't take longer. If I was there, I don't think I'd do any writing. I'd just stare at the water, walk the beach, and swim.

Image: Jack

So, if I really wanted to focus on my writing with absolutely no distractions whatsoever, perhaps I should go here:


With a high speed internet connection and three meals a day, who knows what I could accomplish? Then again, a cell would destroy my sanity creativity. 

I'd much rather be somewhere scenic, in the mountains, with snow in the winter months.

Image: Carl Mueller

I might pick Banff. Lake Louise is gorgeous. There are beautiful hiking trails and the hotel we stayed at years ago had a great pool and hot tub--just the thing for relaxing after a long hike. 

Then there's the Blue Ridge Mountains. My folks live right beside them in Asheville, NC, so I'd know where to get a good meal.

Crabtree Falls, 2009 03 HDR
Image: Jim Dollar

But with the responsibility of family, house, and pets, my next book will be written at home, of course.


Have you ever written outside of your home on a vacation, business trip, or retreat?