Friday, July 31, 2015

The Friday Five: 5 Things to Do in the Next 5 Months

There are five months left in 2015! Where did the other seven go? Do I even want to know? What have I accomplished? Quite honestly, not as much as I wanted to. So what do I want to do with the time left before the new year?
Until the 18th (when school starts!) I’m committed to Mimi School 3 days a week. But after that, I plan to do an official relaunch of The Dreamland Series with new covers and titles.Though the stories have pizazz, the presenation did not. I admit it. And, I plan to branch out with them from Amazon to Smashwords which offers a wider distribution. 
Great covers as always from Jes Richardson!

My editor has completed work on Four Summer Days which is based on the old family story (I heard at least 3 versions of it!) about how my great-grandfather shot and killed his abusive stepfather. Bloodstained floors anyone? The cover is with my terrific graphic artist as we speak. But by the end of September the book will definitely be out there! 

The cover I think I'm going with!

I had planned a trip to Branson MO to do research for a new book, The Showboat Reunion, with a second stop in Eureka Springs. However, the coming events for November have cancelled these. So I think October will be a time of preparation for November--scrounging up all the partially-written chapters of The Great American Novel which I’ve ONLY been working for about 35 years and which I plan to cobble together into a first draft. Which brings us to November. . .
I’ve been accepted for a two-week residency at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs AR. It’s an experience I’ve always wanted to have, so I applied with the realization I might be rejected. When the acceptance email came, I was ecstatic! So I’ll spend the first two weeks in November getting organized--writing all my blogs for the month and doing all the promotion/marketing for The Dreamland Series and Four Summer Days, and on the 15th, I’ll drive to Eureka Springs and settle in for the next two weeks! 

Can't wait!

So what could possibly match the November experience? Christmas in Natchez MS! I’m already working on a 7-10 day itinerary to include touring some of the lovely historic homes, experiencing some non-fast-food cusine, browsing antique shops and book stores, and people-watching in cozy coffee shops. I’ve never been to Natchez, so it will be a real treat. 

Historical Holiday

What will 2016 bring? I haven’t thought that far and don’t plan to. But the next five month should be memorable!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

At Your Fingertips: Overlooked Tools of the Writer's Trade

Overlooked tools of the writer's trade

Books and websites are wonderful resources, but this week I thought I'd mention a few things slightly removed from those. I can't claim ownership of most of these ideas, but I like the old saying, "I am a part of all that I have met". So here goes.

1) Keep a camera in your car. This idea came from a good friend in upstate NY who takes fantastic pics and often shares them with me. From the deer in her backyard to places of historic interest, each picture can bring something to mind which might evolve into a story. Recently, while doing an errand, I pulled over and took pictures of a deteriorating barn/stable which had probably been top-of-the-line in its day. Across the road stood a new, bright red state-of-the-art structure. It only takes a few minutes to stop and snap.
2) Read the newspaper, preferably the Sunday edition. I subscribe to the local paper and occasionally pick up the Sunday edition of a larger publication out of Little Rock. One of the columns I hone in on is "On This Day in History". What parallels to contemporary situations can you draw from something that happened in 1821? You'd be surprised! (I file the articles I cut out and also keep a running inventory, separated by subject, on the computer.)
3) Keep a small notebook in your purse. Use it to jot down descriptions of people you see (for example, sitting in a restaurant), snatches of conversations, an interesting billboard, a piece of memorabilia in an antique shop, notes about a tour. I  buy the cheap, colorful notebooks at a local craft store and use them faithfully. (It also gives you something to do if you get stuck in a boring meeting!)
 4) Keep a tape recorder handy (also in the car if possible) to speak lines from songs that might evolve into ideas for stories, even titles for them. Titles of anything aren't copyrighted, as I understand the law, so writers are free to use them. I tried a digital voice recorder, but I wasn't technologically savvy enough to become proficient with it. But I have a small cassette recorder which continues to labor faithfully, asking only for occasional fresh batteries.
5) This from a former crit partner: Read interviews by people in particular lines of work/with expertise on particular subjects. In your writing, you'll be giving information to people not of that world, so the details that strike you as significant or interesting might also strike your reader
6) Finally, life is the greatest teacher of all, and memories, as well as feelings and emotions of the moment, can be the starting point for novels, short stories, a scene in same--or even just a line somewhere. Write them down as they come to you, and you'll end up with your own personal book of 'story-starters' absolutely free.

Hopefully, one or more of these resources will work for you!

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Take Your Mind Walking!

This might have been my great-grandparents first home in 1878.

One of the things I used to do when I got homesick--thousands of miles away in Africa with years between my home and me--was to take a walk through my home in my mind. I found myself remembering all kinds of things that might not have come to mind if I'd tried to write them down, say, as the setting of a story.
Your memories may be sharper than you expect. Close your eyes and picture a place where you spent a significant amount of time in your lifetime: your childhood home, your first home as a married person, a vacation spot, your elementary or high school. . .get the idea? So let’s take a walk.

  • Walk up on the porch and ring the doorbell. Does it ring? Chime? Buzz?

  • Can you hear someone coming to answer it? Do their footsteps resound on hardwood floors, or are they muffled on carpet?

  • Does the door squeal on its hinges or open silently? When it closes, is there a 'whoosh' or a hollow slam?

  • Inside, is the house cool and silent or warm and full of music, talk, and household sounds?

  • Have you come to a place of refuge or confusion? Whenever you enter a new place, something forms in your soul as you try to decide what kind of a place it is.

  • What do you smell? Food? Gas heat? Freshly-laundered/ironed clothes and linens?How many inside doors from the front room? Where do they lead? Are they open are closed?

  • As you walk through the house, does it have an open feel? Private? Mysterious? Foreboding? What makes you feel that way?

  • What's outside the windows on all sides? Are the windows meant to be open, and are they? Do they give light, or do the window coverings shut out light and life as well?

  • Is the furniture modern, stylish, antique, or just early-attic? How do the pieces make the room 'feel'? Are they arranged for comfort or for show? What does this say about the people who live there?

  • Does the house shout its time period? Victorian? Turn-of-the-century? Twenties and thirties? Post-war?

  • Remember, you're walking alone, but do you just happen to feel that maybe you're not? Why?

  • Open the closets. How do the doors sound? What smell wafts out? What's hidden away in the corners?

  • What's on the walls--art or family?

  • Can you hear water running anywhere?

  • Can you hear the heat (cooling) come on or going off? Where is the warm/cool air coming from?Do you want to stay--or go--or flee as fast as you can?

  • Is there any clue as to past events that happened here? Warnings about what could happen in the future?

Tweak your questions to suit where you are--a house, an office building, a store, a school. Unless a place is brand-new, it has a history, and that history includes people. Take a notebook--or a tape recorder--along on your mind-walk. What do you remember and why? And, when you leave and close the door behind you, I'll be surprised if you don't take with you at least one idea for a scene if not a whole story!
Something like 80 years separates the pictures below. The one on the left is a picture of my father, probably around the age of 9 or 10, in front of the house he grew up in. The one on the right is a picture I took on a visit back to his hometown. I had to do a bit of "sleuthing" to find the house, but I recognized it immediately from the original photograph. How I'd love to walk through it! It appears to have fallen on hard times and likely won't survive much longer. 

Side of the house
My father in front of the house

The house in 2005

Wish I could walk through here!

Friday, July 24, 2015

What's on your (writer's) bucket list?

Recycle and Repurpose
A ton of articles by bloggers with some credibility recommend recycling and repurposing blogs. It’s a great idea!
So this is recycled and repurposed from May 21, 2012--but, of course, it’s updated.
Bucket List
‘Bucket List’ has, it seems, become a new catch phrase everywhere. The invitation to my 50th high schoo reunion three years ago (when I wrote this) asked us for a ‘bucket list’ of things we still wanted to do--even at our age! (Avoid doctors? Hope our retirement funds don’t dry up? Survive? You get the idea.) I chose ‘survive’. Not unique but honest.

A Writer’s Bucket List: Fulfilled Since 2012
Penelope did well!
  • Re-wrote and published all six of the Penelope Pembroke Mysteries and racked up some great sales numbers!
  • Decided to stop looking for just the right publisher for Four Summer Days and go indie. It’s in the works  
  • Attended two great writing conferences
  • I did attend a ‘writing retreat’ -- my own homemade version in Denton for two weeks in June.

    My spot!
    My favorite coffee house on the Square

The Unfilled Buckets
  • The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs AR--upcoming in November
  • Visit Natchez MS--upcoming in December


  • Organize a marketing calendar and decide what's reasonable - in the works
  • Plan and stick to a writing schedule--evolving
  • Repurpose blogs to various writing sites online--some foot-dragging going on here!
  • Get involved with 2 online writing communities--studying, making choices

The Golden Bucket   
Write for the pure joy of writing without considering anything else--and that includes sales.

What’s on Your Bucket List?
   Need an entire blog to tell? Be my guest. Use the contact form on the left side to get in touch.       
 Or leave a comment below.

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