Saturday, May 30, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group (or how to be a super-hero) and Question of the Month

Hello. Do not adjust your calendar. I've found a way to travel into the future by 4 days. I'm sending a report on my insecurities back to Saturday in order to save the planet.

That's a lie. I'm not going to be around next Wednesday. I'll be prepping for a trip. TO SAVE THE PLANET! (No, not really.)

What's bugging me about my writing? I'm not doing enough of it. After dedicating the month of April to the A to Z blogfest, May was supposed to be the month I would dive back in and start a new novel. It didn't happen.

What did happen were 4 blog posts (all blogfests) and another round of edits on my historical novel. Plus I read four or so novels by fellow bloggers and reviewed at least one so far.

May wasn't a total disaster, but I didn't work hard enough to promote the collection of short stories during their price reduction. Plus I found typos in the darn thing. Still! I need to go over one of the stories again with a fine tooth comb before further marketing attempts. Or maybe that's just a excuse. Forget maybe. It's definitely an excuse. A few reviews trickled in and they were positive, so that was great.

I want to work super-hard on something, but I lack focus. What do I really want to accomplish? The opening draft of the new novel or research for the new short story that will be due October first? I pushed off starting the last short story to the last second and it wasn't pretty. I don't want to repeat that business.

There's also a 12-year accumulation of clutter in this hovel screaming for organization. Will that unpleasantness be ignored for another season? Another year? And the yard. What a mess! Weeds, dandelions, ferocious fanged beasts! Oh wait. That's the cat. He can stay.

And what about my appalling new habit of staying up late to watch Netflix? Not cool. Serious writing is not possible at the end of the day. My children drain every available ounce of energy from me by the time they're tucked in. But I could read. I could blog. The worst part is how staying up late leads to the temptation to nap away precious hours the following afternoon. It must stop! Is there a 12-step program to wean yourself off TV-binging?

Okay, time to get fired up! Time to take charge! Time to . . . put off everything because of aforementioned trip. (Slumps over desk in defeat.)

How is your summer shaping up? Ready to tackle a big project, like saving the pla--okay, that's got to stop--or take time off?


And now for Michael G. D'Agostino's Question of the Month:

If your house caught on fire, what's the one thing you'd grab before running out?

Assuming my kids and cats were safe, the thing I would grab would most likely be my laptop. Considering that most of my writing is backed-up, I'm not sure why this is the object I'd pick, but there you go. Maybe I should grab one of my paintings instead. Or wait, I should take pictures of my paintings, but nah. It's not the same.

This is a monthly blog hop, so please join us!

(There will be a delay until I can fully participate in the June's Question of the Month and IWSG, obviously. But next month, I'm going to save the planet be a  IWSG cohost.)

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Muse Party Blogfest

Today I'm going to a shindig hosted by Sarah Foster at The Faux Fountain Pen. Grab your muse and join the fun!

Me: “Hi Sarah. Wow, what a party! No, that’s not a bum stalking me. It’s my muse, Clyde Beauredgard. He, uh, doesn’t get out much. Sorry about the stench. Clyde, couldn’t you have at least put on something clean? You smell like trout.”

Clyde: “Well, sor-ry! Maybe you should’ve left me back at my fishing hole, Sunshine. You ain’t exactly wearing haute couture, is you now? Ain’t those the same jeans you wore the past three days? With another “Life is Good” t-shirt? Damn, is that number 20 or 21? I seem to have lost count.”

Me (after stomping on Clyde’s foot): “Say hi to our host, Clyde.”

Clyde (tipping his filthy fishing cap): “Ma’am. I heard you like names and seeing we're at a party at all . . ."

Me: "Oh no. Please don't."

Clyde (chanting): "Sarah, Sarah, bo-Barah, banana-fana, fo-Farah, me-my-mo-Marah, Sarah!"

Me: "Dude, that is so last month!"

Clyde (sneering at me): "Says you. I brought a little something for your par-tay, Ms. Foster. A little family recipe called Kraft Surprise.”

Me (holding my nose): “I told you to leave that in the car.”

Clyde: “What? The casserole? Calm down, Petunia. It’s just Mac and Cheese with a little Spam mixed in!”

Me: “Not that, you idiot! I meant that keg of stink in your other hand, the homemade brew you must of strained through your socks!

Clyde: “Well, fine. I’ll jest hide this in Ms. Foster’s fridge, but if anyone steals it—”

Me: “That will be the last thing they ever do. Literally.”

Clyde: “Well at least I’m not some uptight, never-tasted-a-beer Betty like some people.”

Me: “Zip it.”

Clyde (adopting the snide tone of a haughty waiter): “Want a lemon wedge in your water, Ma-dam? Or maybe some green tea with ginger flakes, you flake.”

Me: “Excuse me, Clyde. I’m going to go say hi to the Ninja Captain. Try not to embarrass me.”

Clyde: “Yeah, you do that. And be sure and ask Alex if those Kargrandes of his are actually starfish or octopuses . . . Octopi? Octopodes? Whatever. Are they just some sea urchins on steroids? Inquiring minds want to know. Maybe I’ll go talk to that purdy lady over there about the tornado outbreak of ’84. Don’t she like disasters?”

Me: “Probably not the human kind, Clyde, so leave Chrys alone. She doesn’t need to hear about you driving your truck into a tree and blaming it on the wind.”

Clyde: “Fine. Then I’ll just stand here and listen to this sad excuse for music and try not to puke.”

Me: “You think anything recorded after 1978 is garbage.”

Clyde: “Sweetheart, I’ve got two words for you: Milli Vanilli. Stuff that in your 34B.”

Me (giving Clyde the look of death): “Watch it, Mister. Maybe the karaoke machine will have some Beatles for you.”

Clyde: “The Beatles? Please. Give me some Doors, some Hendrix, The Who. Now that’s music. Forget that karaoke sh--, I mean stuff. Let’s have some real fun.”

Me: “I’m afraid to ask.”

Clyde: “Relax, Junebug. I was just going to suggest charades. Jeez, what did you think I was going to say?”

Me: “Strip poker?”

Clyde: “Eww. Now who’s being crude? I’d sooner shimmy to that skinny chic, what’s her name? Taylor Swuft? Shake it? Yeah. I’d sooner put a lampshade on my head, coconuts on my tits, a grass skirt on my bum, and table dance to that ear-slop than play strip poker!”

Me: “And now I have that image in my head. Check please!”

Clyde (starting to boogie): “Loosen up, Lettie. This parties just getting’ started! Who-hoo! Isn’t this better than sittin’ around, thinkin’ up your sad excuses for stories?”

Me (burying my head in my hands): “Kill me now.”


What can I say? Clyde’s a real charmer. This fellow grew up in Honea Path, SC, back when color TV was a big deal. His mom was first a schoolteacher and later principal of Whitehall Elementary, his father was in the armed services, and his older brother Dillan, or Dill, used to (in his words, not mine) beat the piss out of him until he outgrew the son-of-a-BLEEP.

Me: “Really, Clyde? I’m bringing a bar of soap next time.”

Clyde: “Well, you’re the one who said I wasn’t housebroken! Just livin’ up to my hype, Harriet.”

Me: “I can’t take you anywhere.”

The Fisherman

Image Courtesy: Håkon Iversen Photog

Here’s some old blogs featuring tales from Clyde’s boyhood:

Clyde and The Rabbit Who Came For Dinner (Blog title: Fishing with Clyde)

Now I'm off to meet other's muses who, I'm sure, will be more cultured.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest

Howdy, ya'll. Today's bloodfest is hosted by Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh, author of Dragon of the Stars and the Cassa Trilogy, and Gnome Master Heather Gardner, author of One Good Catch and Already Home.

Few stories feature more blood and carnage than a zombie apocalypse. Boobs? Well, zombies give a whole other take on breastfeeding, I suppose. (Insert evil chuckle here.) Today I'm focussing on the episode Pretty Much Dead Already in the television series The Walking Dead, because not only did the flesh fly, but there was a moment of horrifying emotional carnage as well. Talk about brilliant writing!

Season 2 finds the band of survivors led by Rick Grimes out on the road, fleeing from the camp where they first met during the outbreak. Right off the bat, one of the children, Sophia, gets separated from the group and lost in the woods during a zombie encounter. Several episodes are spent looking for the girl even though the odds aren't so hot. Few humans are around to help a missing kid and hoards of zombies are hungry to eat her alive.

The group settles by the farm of Hershel Walker, retired veterinarian, to keep up the search and to save the life of another kid in the group, Carl, when he is accidentally shot. It turns out that Hershel's not too crazy about letting other survivors join what's left of his family. He's got a big, ugly secret: he's been keeping his dead, but still lively, family members and neighbors locked up in his barn where he feeds them live chickens. Poor Hershel is in serious denial that these moaning corpses can be cured of what ails 'em.

Of course, the secret gets out and one of the hotheads in Rick's group decides to do away with the barn monsters. As a viewer, I was on his side. Yes, shoot those disgusting zombies. I don't care if it's Hershel's wife, she's the grossest one. She's dead! Shoot her quick, before she can rip off her surviving daughter's head! BAM! BAM! BAM! Yeah! All those deadly (and dead) zombies are toast. High fives, right?

Well, guess what? After all those zombies, whose characters we never knew as live people, are dispatched, one last zombie shuffles out the of the dark barn into the light. The camera shows the feet first: small, unlaced sneakers, torn capris. It's Sophia. The whole time Rick's group was searching, she was in the barn, already dead.

Zombie walk 2011 México

Image courtesy: caliopedreams

It's heartbreaking, especially the mother's reaction. She knew Sophia was probably dead the whole time, but still, she had hope. And that kind of makes sense, because Carl survived a gunshot wound to the chest, so why not a Hail Mary save for Sophia too? No dice.

Then Sophia's mother has to hear the bullet that ends her child's undead existence. That's emotional carnage, my friends. I haven't felt such a kick to the gut since the opening scene in Sty Stallone's Cliffhanger, when the hiker, dangling from a steel cable, slips out of her glove, and you know the last minute (or minutes) of her life will be spent plunging to her death. That still gives me the shivers.

What show or movie has kicked you in the gut? If you're a Walking Dead fan, do you have a favorite episode?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Babadook

Blogger Note: On Wednesday, May 13, I will be over at the Unicorn Bell, asking several strange what-if questions.

Where do you wander when you need a work break? My guilty pleasure is watching movie reviews on YouTube, in particular, ones by Chris Stuckmann. He's funny and talks about movies and movie-making intelligently. Usually I agree with his take on films I've seen, but we're not quite seeing eye-to-eye on The Babadook.


This film is a psychological thriller in which a bereaved widow and her son are haunted by the frightening, but never-quite-seen, specter called the Babadook. This ghost/demon/thing comes a calling after the mom reads about it in a spooky, pop-up book.

In the review above, Stuckmann gives the film kudos based on Essie Davis's outstanding performance as the mother, and how the underlying theme of grief plays out in the movie. I'd agree with that, but I still have a couple bones to pick. Spoilers galore, so consider yourself warned.

The first several scenes paint a grim picture of motherhood. Amelia is sacrificing everything to care for a singularly unappealing child. The shots of the boy screeching for his mother's attention make him look like a baby-bird: all neck and huge eyes. He does not give his mother a second of peace. She looses the respite of work when Samuel is kicked out of school. Having Samuel in first grade is so apt, because it's supposed to be the time in a mother's life when she can enjoy the freedom that comes with a full day of school. Amelia looses her relationship with her sister and niece when her son accidentally injures this cousin. Heck, Amelia can't even experience the release of, um, being "queen of her castle" without the boy launching himself into her bed with nightmares.

But that's not the worst thing Samuel's taken from his mother. On the way to deliver her son, Amelia lost her husband in a gruesome car accident. Now enter the Babadook. Up to the reading of the book that lets the boogyman in, I was pretty content. The story was a tad slow, but as a mom, I could relate to Essie's character. Then came the pop-up pictures of a mom (with long hair like Amelia) strangling first the family dog and then her son.

I groaned. Not because it's bad film-making. Presenting the picture book this way is a great tension device. From then on, whenever Amelia gets anywhere close to the dog, you flinch, knowing what's coming. The reason I groaned was because the last horror movie I saw, The Conjuring, featured a possessed mother intent on killing her child. In The Babadook, the bad spirit jumps into the mother's mouth when she's in bed (like The Conjuring). The mother acts tired and strange afterward (ditto The Conjuring). And the family dog dies (as does the dog in The Conjuring). This again? Really?

What distinguishes The Babadook from The Conjuring is how thin The Babadook paints the line between over-stressed mother and murderous mother. Now adults aren't always the culprits. There's several horror movies featuring murderous children like The Ring, The Exorcist, and The Omen. And there's several where the adults go for the kids: The Shining, The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring, and now The Babadook. What happened to the American Dream? Deep down, do we all want each other's throats? And why, oh why, do filmmakers insist on killing the family dog all the freakin' time? I'm sick of it! Let Fluffy get a whiff of the bad juju and scamper for the hills.

I know, I know, nothing instills horror like the death of a beloved pet. At this point, however, it feels as cheap and as overused as the jump scares Stuckmann complains about. I wasn't too crazy about how The Babadook ends either. There's an odd shot of the earth below the garden that may or may not be the dog's body, and then we see Amelia digging up worms with Samuel. She takes these creepy-crawlies down to the basement to feed the Babadook, which is still hanging out after she up-chucked it out of her body. Yep. Not kidding. It's like the new family pet.

I think this symbolizes that Amelia can not completely rid herself of the resentment and bad feelings she has for Samuel, but she has safely locked them up in the basement of her subconscious, where they'll eat their worms and slink off to the corner like a good little dog when asked. The effect, however, was like seeing a snippet of Little Shop of Horrors spliced onto the end. What the . . . ?

Anyhoo, I think people who like thoughtful horror will enjoy this movie, but it wasn't an A film for me. Maybe a B or B+. Has the viewing of one film ever had a profound effect on how you view another?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Blog blah blah. I don't know about you, but after the A to Z Challenge, I am running on fumes here. This year I had a purpose: promote a collection of short stories. But I chose something unrelated for my theme: mathematics. Funny, I didn't think of the contradiction of labeling my blog (WR) and then spouting off on algebra, geometry, and the like until it was all over and another blogger brought up mislabeled blogs. Oops? Or maybe not. I am still a writer after all.

But all's well that end's well. The math was well received, surprise, surprise. And the promotion worked to an extent. By giving away free downloads of particular stories on particular weeks, over 50 copies of my stories are out there, in the hands of readers. Even better, I got a great review on Ursa Major. That was a dance-happy moment. It makes me realize how important it is to post reviews after I read something. Having downloaded over half a dozen books during the challenge, I will do that soon.

Now what? The short-story collection is at a reduced price for the month of May, so promotion should continue. But without the A to Z Challenge to bring in potential readers, I'll have to do something else. There are some blogfests coming up in May: Blood, Boobs, and Carnage on May 18 and The Muse Party on May 25. Both sound like fun whether they translate into sales or not.

For now, I will keep blogging to establish and maintain relationships. The things that make me buy a book from another blogger are the quality of writing in their blog, my interest in their particular story, and how much interaction I have with them through mutual comments.

The tough part is that I want to stray from the blogoverse to write. I have an idea to strengthen my current WIP and that's what I'd most like to be doing. Balance? We'll see . . .

What are your grand plans this May? Do you know of any other blogfests coming up?

Monday, May 4, 2015

The A to Z Blog Challenge--Reflections

This was the third year I've participated. The first two times my topics were random, so this year I picked a theme. Mathematics is a weird choice for a group composed of writers, travelers, food buffs, and homeschooling moms, but I did find an audience. Infusing the Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets with a blend of humor and info was actually tons of fun.

This was also the first year I've had something to promote. I offered free downloads of three different short stories to promote a collection and that worked pretty well. Besides buying books from other authors, I found a free download of a book on one site and a price-reduction for a book on another. I wondered what other giveaways and price-reductions might be hidden among the 2000 participants.

It made me wish there could be a separate list where bloggers could sign up to promote a giveaway, contest, or price-reduction. It would be a nice tool for both the promoters and folks looking for a bargain. This isn't a new concept. Last year, there was a separate list for bloggers having less than 100 followers, but I didn't see it this year.

This idea does have drawbacks. First, there might not be enough manpower to run separate lists. (As a minion, I only had to check 7 blogs, but it still took time.) Second, if the giveaway or promotion only lasted part of the month, keeping such a list (or lists) current and verifying links could be painful. Third, if bloggers offering a giveaway or price-reduction got their own list, then shouldn't other bloggers selling their wares at their regular price get a separate list too? Keeping things "fair" could quickly become impossible, plus the intent of the challenge isn't commercial, it's social.

But still, if I could have one wish, it would be a "freebie" list.