Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November IWSG



Good morning, writers! Are you ready for the Christmas season? Every year, stores start throwing out their Christmas wares earlier and earlier, but this year was the first that I saw Christmas being pushed a full week before Halloween! And it wasn't just stores. My kids' orthodontist had her office completely decorated for Christmas. What's the rush, peeps?

Anyway, it's time once again to share our insecurities via the monthly IWSG. A big Ho, Ho, Ho to our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his merry band of elves co-hosts:  Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

This month's optional question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I was somewhat creative before I started writing. I took fine arts courses in college for sculpting, drawing, and painting. I liked to decorate. 

Writing, however, makes me stop and consider how to relate the world and my experiences in it with all the words stored in my brain. (Unfortunately, some of them tend to get lost these days.)

For example, this past month has been difficult. My dear cat, Mr. M, passed away after a long battle with thyroid disease. Our family is devastated. 




Mr. M is the third cat I've lost to old age and illness in the past five years, yet his passing really threw me deep into the dumps. Why is that? Unlike my other two kitties, I didn't pick Mr. M out from a shelter. He introduced himself to us shortly after we moved into our house waaay back in 2003. He showed up at the front door, peering in, and, being a cat lover, I couldn't have been more delighted than if a unicorn had appeared. 

I started leaving out food for this magical cat, and he repaid our kindness by staring into our windows and sliding glass doors with an eerie, Buddha-like calm, until our indoor kitty, Sidney, would wake us all from a deep slumber, yowling as if some fiend had broken into the kitchen and was chopping her into pieces with a hatchet.

After a few years, our fluffy moocher earned a name: Mr. Mistoffelees. Eventually, he decided we were trustworthy enough to pet him. But it had to be on his terms. I stopped petting him one day in the yard and turned my back to resume some yard work. Well, let's just say he went full-on assassin ninja with his claws and teeth into my bare legs.





At the seven year mark, I started letting him into our house. Or rather, he decided to grace us with his magnificent presence. Winters in Rochester can be very bitter and nothing pleased me more than seeing him snuggled up on the couch with one of my daughters.





As the years passed, he became more calm and less bitey around us. In fact, he became a total lap cat. I would lay down on my bed, bringing the covers up to my chin. He would crawl the length of my body and settle down on my chest, his nose two inches from mine, his claws kneading my neck. I'd rub behind his ears, along his cheeks, and under his chin until drops of smelly, tuna-scented drool plunked down on my face. Sometimes he would rub his nose all over mine. 

Good times. Great times.

He could have done some serious damage to my eyes or face, but he didn't. I trusted him, and apparently, he trusted me. This cat was well known throughout the neighborhood and had many fans, feeders, and providers of outdoor cat homes. Our neighbors have stories and memories of his visits dating back to 2000. (He once slid open someone's screen door, to let their cats escape.) He was Jasper. He was "The Mayor." 

Yet, for some reason, we were the lucky ones. He picked us as his home and I am so grateful that he did. 










Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October IWSG


Is time speeding up? It seems like just days ago I was typing up September's post for the IWSG. A huge thanks to our host, Alex Cavanaugh, and his co-hosts this month: Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken! Co-hosting does take time, but besides seeing lots of interesting posts, you will get valuable traffic on you website, so consider volunteering. 

This week's optional question: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?



corner

Distracted Writer Here...Please Hold


Hmm... First I gotta think about what major life events might have occurred while I was writing. There have been illnesses, a move, trips, and various milestones. Honestly, if something comes along that demands my time and attention, writing is kicked to the corner. Characters must wait, zip their lips, cross their knees, whatever...until the crisis in "real world" has passed. It may feel unfair, but I'm not the breadwinner in this household, and thank goodness. I'd make more money collecting loose change off the asphalt of parking lots.




Zebra
Image: DanDucharme

The doctor will see you now...trot this way.



On another level, do major life events color my writing? Well, yes. I live with a bunch of zebras. No, not the huge black-and-white striped variety, but medical zebras. You see, if something goes wrong, doctors (and vets) have been cautioned to consider common diagnoses before the more rare and unlikely possibilities with the saying, "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras."

I won't spew out all our medical maladies, since many in my family probably want their privacy, but for example: my husband's splitting headache and vision problems turned out to be a brain tumor (he is fine now.) Also, one of my cats distinguished herself by being the first feline my vet had ever seen with kidney stones after practicing for 24 years.

The idea of a common malady turning out to be something incredibly serious has shown up in my writing more than once. I love stories that start off with characters and situations that seem completely normal and relatable and then take six left turns into the bizarre, terrifying, or supernatural. It's so less fun when it happens in real life though. 


Dire Troll Mauler
Image: Matt Cole

Me, taking a too long break from writing:

Clean your room, do your homework, eat your veggies! Or else!


Has writing helped me through something? I know I am a happier person when I write. Without that creative outlet my alter ego, Grouchy Greta, can take over and make life for me and those unfortunate souls who live in my house quite miserable.

How do you feel when circumstances separate you from writing?


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

September IWSG



I'm so glad I checked my email today. With school set to start tomorrow and my daughter performing in a program for the district teachers at 8 a.m. this morning*, I'll admit it: I forgot about this month's IWSG! (Hangs head.) Anyhoo, thank you to our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh and the wonderful co-hosts who have volunteered their time to help out this month: Toi Thomas,T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

September 5 question - What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I'm still pursuing the path of finding an agent (stop laughing) and then getting published with a traditional publisher. (Okay, I know, I know. For my next trick, I'll win the lottery.)

I have self-published a collection of short stories and had several short stories land in various anthologies by smaller publishers. Those were all great learning experiences with supportive people. So why torture myself?

I blame the acknowledgement pages in the back of some of my favorite books. The authors tend to thank a ton of folks from marketing, to reading early drafts, and the awesome cover artist. Most intriguing, they usually credit their editor with pushing the story to heights (or depths) that the author never thought they could accomplish. 

I want that. 

Now I have no clue if this is entirely accurate or for what publishing houses, or if I could even find it by hiring my own editor, somewhere. But I do know that when I hold a traditionally published book in my hands, there is a certain quality in the materials, the reading layout, and cover art that I would love to see featured with my writing. 

However, it would probably be easier to win the lottery and foot the bill for all that lovely stuff myself. 

And then there's that dream of seeing your book on the shelves of a store...


Books


Happy Trails, writers, wherever your publishing takes you!

Would you rather win the lottery or land an agent/publishing contract?

*She was in a show choir piece singing and dancing to "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman. YouTube video: You can't see her until about the 3 minute mark when she's dead center, red feather on headband, red top, black and white striped skirt, incredibly long brown hair. Great job, kiddo.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

August IWSG and Celebrate the Small Things



Good Morning, Insecure Writers! What's new and exciting? It's time to spew forth our worries about all things writerly. Thank you to our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh and his merry band of co-hosts: Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery.

August's optional question: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Pitfall #1: Thinking publication is a good idea.


Chester Zoo




Do you have the emotional skin of a rhinoceros? The patience of Job? Absolutely no expectations of success? 

If you can answer "yes" to these questions you are a liar might be ready to attempt publication. 

But why? Why put up with the heartache and headaches of querying agents who, for some odd reason, always start their rejection with "Thank you...". Instead of cushioning the blow, I'd prefer a succinct "Nope", unless they have a specific nugget of advice, which is rare. 

Why agonize for hours how to "personalize" a query that will most likely get rejected? Why spend eons pondering the mind-numbing options for self-publication/marketing plans?

STOP NOW, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! Go back and edit you story again. Stay in your happy place. 

Pitfall #2: The query letter



Nothing Beats a Fountain Pen



You've spent weeks writing the thing. You've had it proofread by at least three, eagle-eyed fellow writers. Should you hit send? NO. FOR THE LOVE OF CHRISTMAS, DON'T DO IT!

The second you do, you'll realize you misspelled the agent's name, or forgot to change the agent's name from the last version of your query, or that somewhere in there is a "to" where you need a "too". The second you think a query is done, put it to bed for 24 hours. At least. 

Pitfall #3: The Twitter Pitch Event

Twitter icon fluffy

I've mentioned this one before. At least 3 times. So let me repeat it again. Twitter Pitch Parties often involve agents and publishers. Getting a "like" is so exciting, you'll want to send off your query/partial/bio the absolute second you get noticed, just in case the "liking" party comes to their senses and realizes their mistake.

Don't do that. 

Research your "liker(s)". (Hmm. That sounds vaguely dirty.) If you want an agent, query them first. If you want a publisher, make sure your book fits their requirements. Decide if you're cool with their quirks--like an upper word limit of 85K or possibly raising a sum of cash via GoFundMe to pay for publishing costs.


A Little Luck


Good luck. (You'll need it.) 

________________






This weekly blog is an opportunity to share the good things in life, be they big or small. It's hosted by the amazing Lexa Cain and her co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

This week I'm celebrating:

1. An Awesome Read:



Gill Sims wrote this hilarious take on parenthood that will make you believe she's been secretly watching your family and taking notes. I brought home a copy from the library and every time I turn around, my husband has spirited it away to a quite corner to read. Grr. Give it back, now. MINE!

2. Completing a big project.

My mom gave my daughter a bit of cash for her birthday with the suggestion that she might like to start a succulent garden. Yeah, right. Like that was ever going to happen. 

Then the row of holly bushes on the side of my house up and died on me. So my daughter demanded asked if we might put in a garden there. 

And we did:




It's a big area. The entire project took about a month.




The most expensive part was a pallet of flat rocks. We found the stumps and curling bits of bark at a recycling center. 




This was my daughter's idea: a pallet garden. Yep, the very pallet the rocks came on.



Another of my daughter's creations: the broken pot planter. She broke it (and glued parts back, oops) by herself.




This hidden staircase is my favorite contribution.



That's not water, it's plastic wrap and polyurethane. 



White sand and glass beads plus more polyurethane make a sparkling faux river. Apologies to the environment.




Requisite fairy house.


My back is killing me and I may never get the dirt out from under my fingernails, but it was totally worth it. Now if I could just get the chipmunks to stop destroying everything... I swear, they must think we did all this just to make them a fabulous playground. Come on, garden supervisor, go get 'em!


Chipmunk? What chipmunk?

________________

Have you published your writing yet? Good or bad experience? How do you relieve the stress of parenting? Alcohol or chocolate/sugar? Like to garden? Know how to get rid of chipmunks?



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. 

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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?


20100311-J



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:






SOME VERY MESSY MEDIEVAL MAGIC

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.  


                                           mouse 

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.)