Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Clicking Our Heels: Unflappable or not?

Unflappable or not? When it comes to their writings, here are some thoughts the Stiletto Gang members have. 

Juliana Aragon Fatula - I’m unflappable. Ha. Bullshit. I am overwhelmed by life and writing is my escape. I create a world where I escape and then I visit there whenever I need to be in my head and not my heart.

Julie Mulhern - I'm unflappable.

Debra Sennefelder - I wish I was unflappable. Having multiple deadlines due within the same time period overwhelms me. So far, it hasn’t happened often but when it has, I felt the pain. And it made me grateful for my time management skills.

Paula Benson - Letting the fear of it not being good enough convince me not to start.

T.K. Thorne - I tend to go off in too many directions-projects-commitments at the same time and that often feels overwhelming.

Robin Hillyer-Miles - Dialogue. I write too formally. I keep forgetting that people use contractions when they speak.

A.B. Plum - Ensuring I'm writing characters who are different from each other. Writing humor is often a challenge—one I like b/c I especially like sarcasm.

Kathryn Lane - Unflappable?! Everything overwhelms me until I get my arms around it.

Debra H. Goldstein – I’m in a dither until an idea hits, but once I’m in the zone, there’s no stopping me.

Sparkle Abbey:
Mary Lee Ashford: It varies. I love the writing part and even more I love the revision and polishing part. The characters are what I love the most. I don't love the first draft and so sometimes slogging through that ugly first pass feels overwhelming to me.
Anita Carter: I wish I were unflappable. If anyone answers that they’re unflappable, I need to chat with them to get some advice. I hate the blank page and I hate the beginning when there are too many options. I can get bogged down in thinking about plot options.

Lynn McPherson - The middle of the book, first draft.

Shari Randall - Beginnings are the worst!

Dru Ann Love - Writing a musing without giving away too much of the details. Also, writing a musing for every book I read because then I won’t read. I have to pick and choose which book to do a musing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Mother of Invention

By Kathryn Lane

Writers are always combing through ideas for stories. We take in a lot of information and through our individual creative processes, we select the characters, plots, themes, and settings that we bring to life. Great authors, like Arthur Conan Doyle and Margaret Mitchell, invent characters, such as Sherlock Holmes and Scarlett O’Hara, that endure over time. Then there are authors who have penned novels that have changed society. A few examples are Homer’s Odyssey, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.

For most writers of mystery and romance, we don’t look to change the world. We intend to entertain.

But COVID-19 has changed our world. When I read or hear the news, I realize we have a plethora of ideas that can and will influence our work. For example, in mystery novels, a detective might attend a funeral service to glean information through observation of the attendees. Now that funerals have gone virtual, will that detective be able to gather information by watching the service on-line? Instead of seeing the interaction among the mourners, the video feed will limit the view of the gathering and the detective’s ability to catch suspicious nuances.

COVID-19 has ushered in hi-tech innovations, such as a bar "The Crazy Gypsy" in Seville, Spain, whose latest hire is a robotic bartender. One android bartender can serve hundreds of beers in an hour. If this innovation is widely adapted over the next decade, gone will be the days of human bartenders conversing or scaring customers in a movie or T.V. series. Think Moe in the Simpsons, Sam Malone from Cheers, or Lloyd from The Shining.  

Besides hi-tech applied to daily life, this pandemic has also brought a return to low-tech yet wonderful traditions, like the milkman who leaves containers of fresh milk, cheese, and organic fruit and vegetables near the front door. Now the milkman can be blamed for love affairs, fathering children, witnessing crimes, or even killing someone.

Innovation is great. Without it, we’d still be in the stone age. What I worry about is the loss of human interaction. Kids’ birthday parties and graduation ceremonies becoming drive-by events. My husband and I watched a video stream as our grandson “drove-by” to pick up his high school diploma. To me, it was sad that we could not be there in person and celebrate after the ceremony. But as we watched the students drive by, every single one of them was smiling and looked happy.

Crises are the mother of invention, as the saying goes. The world will adapt. And so will we. Since I’m a person who enjoys the “personal touch”, I was elated when a friend, Shana Fabio, stayed in touch not by using Zoom, but rather by sending cards through regular mail, such as the watercolor she sent us. We were touched to receive this beautiful hand-painted card, showing family members. A card I can touch, place on my desk, and admire. I love it!

Who is your favorite fictional character?

Kathryn’s books – The Nikki Garcia Thriller series and her short story collection – Backyard Volcano. All available on Amazon.

About Kathryn Lane:
Kathryn started out as a starving artist in oil painting. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. And she says she loves what she's doing these days!

Sherlock Holmes: Photo credit: dynamosquito on / CC BY-SA
Bartender Robot: Public Domain
Watercolor: Used with permission from the Fabio Family

Monday, June 1, 2020

My Shih-Tzu Doesn't Care About My To-Do List

By Debra Sennefelder

The struggle is real people. Little Connie (who turns a year old this month) doesn’t give two-licks about my to-do list. Just look at her. Does she look like she’s concerned about any of my deadlines?

The correct answer is “no”.

I had copy edits due. I have an outline to write as well as a manuscript. I have social media posts to write. Oh, and a two releases coming up soon.

I try to explain this to her but all I get in return is pure silliness.

And I couldn’t be happier!

Since she came home last October, she's been a great reminder to stop and take a breath. Or, in her case a long walk. There’s also a mid-day game of tossing the ball around or paying tug o’ war with a stretchy toy. My little pup is a ball of energy.

i get through my to-do list and meet my deadlines thanks to organizing and prioritizing my work. I rely heavily on a paper planner to track all my due dates and assigning specific tasks throughout the day. My system isn’t perfect. I’m still looking to tweak it more so that my time spent working is more productive which will give me more time for silliness with my pup. I admit, I can’t resist that face!

Since I've surrendered to all that cuteness, I've also learned to be more flexible with my work day schedule to allow for breaks and I've brushed off an old time management tool - the Pomodoro Method. It's where I work for 20 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. The first week I started using the Pomodoro Method, I hit my goal of 10,000 new words. Week 2, I got the same result. Prior to using the method, I was struggling to hit half that number, and that wasn't working for my deadline.

I think what the method gave me was the ability to look at all the work I had to do as 20 minute chunks. Rather than think "I have 2,000 words to write today", I could simply sit down for 20 minutes and write. A few sessions later, I had my word count, my emails answered, Connie tuckered out and laundry done. 

I' d love to know what is your biggest distraction during your day and how have you handled it.

Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series. She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Funky Reggae by Juliana Aragon Fatula

May 28, 2020

Dear reader,

Covid 19 took my wits and sense of humor and smashed them against the wall. The societal changes brought on by the global pandemic brought racism to the headlines. I sat among the lilacs, poppies, columbines and iris and sang with the birds in the apple tree above me. I listened to the wind speak and felt the breath of mother nature blow on my brown skin with tenderness and love. The dogs barked, the train whistle blew, the prison siren gave its seven a.m. wake up blast, and I gazed at the heavens and counted my blessings.

My husband and son are my blessings. They give me unconditional love and sometimes a bit of heart ache because they worry me and anger me and make me feel very sad sometimes.
I have many friends all over the U.S.A. far and near. Most friends share the love of writing with me and we correspond about writing conferences, workshops, contests, literary panels in academia. But they also give me what my family cannot. Support for my writing.

My friends understand that if I didn’t write, my life would drive me crazy. I’ve tried not writing and I tend toward nervous breakdowns when I don’t write. I get pissy and complain about doing dishes and mowing the lawn. I realize the problem is not the dishes but me. I long to put pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard and just write without interruptions or people asking me where the can opener or spatula can be found.

My love of writing began at childhood. I didn’t know then that I would grow up to be a writer, an educator, an activist. I thought I’d be a maid like my mother and older sisters. And I spent some time cleaning toilets and scrubbing rich ladies’ floors. I knew as a teenager that my life would not be fulfilled unless I grabbed it by the short hairs and took charge of my destiny.

First, I cleaned toilets. I went to business school and learned to type. I became a telephone operator for Ma Bell in my hometown and once listened in on a famous couples’ intimate conversation about her being pregnant and not being married to the father. I kept their secret.

I moved to the city and began my career in Denver as a Central Office framer, connecting telephone lines, security systems, climbing ladders with soldering irons and pulling cables. I became a yuppy and worked for major corporations typing, answering phones, and copying documents.

I moved to Southern Colorado and went to college, graduated at fifty years old, earned a degree, and began writing.  I taught middle school language arts and teatro in my community. I published a couple of poetry books with small presses in Denver and began my life as a writer, attending poetry readings, books signings, and writing workshops.

I retired from teaching in public schools and became a writer in residency and taught writing workshops for Bridging Borders, and Colorado Humanities Writers in the Schools. I found my niche. I found happiness.

I’m semi-retired. I still perform on stage reading my poetry, signing books, teaching writing workshops, and I do the dishes and mow the lawn. I’ve found a peace. I had to experience all of the bullshit in my life to get where I am today. It made me who I am.

Friends call me a goddess. I don’t know why, but they love me with a force I can’t understand. They push met to be a better person, a goddess. They know I have the ability to rise and do something powerful with my words. I continue to write, dream, hope, and count my blessings. The world has changed. The climate has changed. The rules have changed. I believe in One World, One Love.

“Count your blessings.” I said. I moved into my new room. A room of my own.  I changed my life.
Collie Buddz sang to me, “Smoke, drink, and love to some reggae. I’ve got weed and a bottle of booze. All I wanna doooo is smoke, drink, and love to some reggae. I don’t know ‘bout you, but I can only live my life one way. Kinky reggae.”

Thirty years of sobriety in 2020. I write. I’m a storyteller.