Dogged Perseverance in the Time of Covid-19

I mentioned last time I hoped to have happy publication news to share with you and I do! The fantastic Journal of Compressed Creative Arts accepted my piece “Ethan’s Machine” on Monday and earlier this month, my copies of the Smoldr Anthology arrived.

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Husband has been home. A lot. My normal days now need to be altered and with that has come cleaning and organizing. My closet is sorted. My massive paper pile is filed. I’ve made a master list of all the short fiction I’ve written and it now is printed out and color coded for easy reference. My office has rarely looks this neat.

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His “homeness” did accelerate the installation of the doors in front of the kitchen sink. Why yes, they are so shiny you can see the reflective of my pants in them.

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He and I kicked around ideas to protect the “babies” from this terrorist:

And came up with this protection for the cucumbers and cantaloupe I started early.

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See? They are right by her bed and still standing. 18 Mile Creek is visible through the window. More proof that we really do live “creekside.”

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In the interim of spring I chose to have some cheap bouquets that made life a little better.

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But now the snowdrops are out and daffodils will soon follow.

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And we’ve been admiring the extended unfurling of the amaryllis.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo here it is, the end of the month, and I’m writing this post. I honestly do have intentions to compose them earlier, but this year, it’s only the threat of a deadline driving me to the keyboard. Speaking of deadlines, there are a few venues closing today. And then April, I will be off to a new world as I plod my way through the goal of writing a new novel during Camp NaNoWriMo. Wish me luck and know I love and miss most of you very much. I thank you all for reading and hope you’re able to stay healthy and strong.

Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

Some Days You Tour the Darwin Martin House and Some Days You Spend Hours Dealing with Customer Service

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is from earlier this month. If I’d taken one today, it would be white from the wind whipping the snow around. Hello and welcome to the recounting of my strange day. I’ll intersperse photos from the Botanical Garden to break it up. It started last night when the cable box went wonky. I was working toward one solution via the Spectrum prompts, but hung up when I remembered Husband was recording a show. I called back after the show and talked to a human. It was close to eleven p.m. but the human said he’d have a guy out here between 9 and 10 this morning. I said, “But there’s a snowstorm predicted.” Human said, “He’ll be there.”

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I scurried to pick up and move books then went to bed. I woke to find Husband wasn’t going to work. I bent the earpiece on my glasses only to have the frame break, so that was nice. And then the cable guy ended up in a ditch. Great. Sure, I’d love to get up early again tomorrow.

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After seeing the nonsense hoops for help with an online operator, I called to retrieve my password from Tracfone. My, did I ever have fun with a gentleman who did not understand I wanted the password for my Tracfone account, not my email account. He had a script, and lord forbid he venture away from it.

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The upshot was that when I searched AGAIN for the Tracfone password, I found my Brother International password. Big deal, right? Well, Office Max quit carrying the printer I have and its accessories. I’d been on the Brother site and the drum kit I needed for my printer would not come up as an option, but when I entered my account info, it was there, so I ordered one and now it’s on its way. I’m happy since I did not want to replace that printer; it’s been a good little workhorse for me.

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There was another call from Spectrum. A different tech was in the area. Would I mind if he came by in 20 minutes? Of course not! He came, he found the problem and now I can watch the On Demand channels, too. I’m thrilled I needn’t wake up early again tomorrow.

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The day was winding down; I was a bit antsy, but fine. Husband went out to retrieve the mail and now I have a check – yes, a check, not a bill – for nearly $20.00 from the hospital. I have no clue why and when I called to find out, no one answered the phone in the billing department.

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(And as I was writing this on Thursday night while watching Rachel Maddow  – who is freaking me out about the virus and the nation – a text from the groomer’s came through. She had a family emergency and closed down, but has returned. I honestly thought she ghosted me for some reason.) I’m telling you it’s been one fun day around here…and I am happy for this fun. My problems are the best! I love them!

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She is NOT a problem; she is a delight. This is Niece from Boston who stopped by during her spring break. We kidnapped her, took her to the Botanical Gardens, the Basilica, and then to Steelbound Brewery. She spent the night then drove home in the morning.

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Earlier this month, Husband and I took a tour of the Darwin Martin House. I don’t have any pictures from that excursion – they don’t allow cameras in there unless you take a different, expensive tour. Afterwards, we went to Big Ditch Brewing for lunch. Buffalo culture involves beer, apparently. I’m glad I got to go then. Lent has begun.

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And so has the stress. I’ve sent out queries for my new novel.

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Luckily, I have books to review that will keep my mind off that part of the process. I’ve not had the urge to write a flash yet, but Monday, Gina will be back in town and we’re set to meet Mary in Lockport.

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I hope your days are not as strange as mine, that your Valentine’s Day was sweet and you’ll be back next month when I hope to have good news – either about an agent or an acceptance. Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

 

January Blues. Again…

My mind has developed this marvelous trick which I embrace every year. Instead of being paralyzed with sadness, I pay no attention to the 16th. On the 19th, the day my mind insists is the anniversary of my mother’s death, I’m relieved to discover I’ve lived through another year. I’m waiting for my mind to develop more tricks to get me past other roadblocks, but so far it hasn’t.

It has produced some decent stories and characters I’ve enjoyed spending time with. This is where I’m now – spending time with a cast of novel characters, polishing their speech, improving their verbs, possibly holding them too close. The question becomes,when will I get past the point of being afraid it isn’t good enough and let others see it? I thought I was ready, but I’m not.

My “band” is breaking up; Gina has moved to Pennsylvania so the monthly meetings will change but I do hope they continue. I’m trying out another group. One meeting in and I’m willing to see where it goes. It’s hard not to have expectations, of wanting what I had in the “cheerleaders,” but I don’t remember the beginning. Maybe it was exactly like this and the strangeness and unknown expectations are normal to joining all new groups.

Another year, another set of doldrums, same old me wishing you well and appreciative of your stopping by for the read.

 

 

Counting Down to 2020

Here it is, the last possible day to write my monthly post, and I’m starting it at 4:00 p.m. You may think I’m procrastinating but in fact, I’ve been very productive…and not just trying to capture a semi-decent picture of the cat in a Santa hat.

Actually, a lot of other “writer related” things have been going on, but I’ll be discussing those in the new year. In 2019, I did have some pieces published, but not a lot. I believe that goes hand in hand with submitting very little. In 2018, I was keeping tally with a goal – which I failed to reach – but this year? I don’t want to know. Writing – and all its aspects – is a process. So what if this year was different from others? I’m still a writer and have at least two pieces coming out in 2020 – one in an anthology (Please vote for team Blake & Jaimie!) and another in a dear to my heart journal. I can’t wait to share them with you!

This year was spent searching for experiences and connecting with people. I ran into childhood friends at the fair, enjoyed the hell out of the reunion with Husband’s family at the schoolhouse, and was joyful to attend a wedding with my family. One of my favorite parts was going back and forth with a writer friend on some of her pieces. She just revised one that would have made me cry at the end if I didn’t know what was coming. I know, I know, it’s more blessed to give than receive, but working on her stories truly showed me that and made my heart happy – though not as happy as Kobie was on Christmas with his new toys.

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And I truly was excited to receive so many holiday cards. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who sent one.

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Perhaps I’m simple, but I do love them and now threaten to send more random cards throughout this new year. I saw a Tweet about calling a person a day to thank them for something. That’s not going to happen, but sending a “thinking of you” card? I could do that. Small actions equal big results or something…

One maxim I know to be true is that children would rather play with the box than the present inside.

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The presents we found in our boxes were amazing! Many thanks to Michael, Mary, and Rachael.

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But on Christmas morning, before we had our customary pancakes & mimosas, we each thought, “Rachael, darling, what is up with you and tape?” Another tradition…

Like lovely snow, that covers tree limbs in wondrous ways.

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Thank you for stopping by and for the read! Happy New Year! I hope it treats you extremely well!

Novel Critique Groups and Writing for an Audience of One

It’s been a NaNoWriMo type of November. I can tell because I have an extra 50,000 words added to my novel and next to no pictures taken during these past 30 days. It wasn’t all writing and no socializing though. When I went to vote, I ran into old friends. I had a chance to talk to Maureen Lee and Kimberly Moritz after the SGI school board meeting – conveniently held in Colden this month. Springville Journal’s esteemed Max Borsuk was there, too. Five out of five Friday nights saw me in the Comfort Zone for the Hamburg Writers’ Group plus Husband and I went to see the movie “Knives Out.” The first snow has fallen and occasionally, it’s a pretty thing to admire as long as shoveling isn’t involved.

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After a gap when Mary Akers, Gina Detwiler and I pursued other writing projects, we each had new work to share so we reconstituted our roving novel critique group meetings. First stop: My home. Why yes, it was fun cleaning the whole house in two days and make quiche and cauliflower nuggets and two types of sweets because I wasn’t sure either would turn out. Dog went to a new groomer before the meeting and was far too sexy for a photo session.

I know, it’s a cheat to take pictures when he’s sleeping, but isn’t that the cutest Thanksgiving bow-tie? Thank you everyone at Paw Spa!

Anyways, I want to say that I’m still surprised that every book I write ends up being written in a different way. Last time, it was a ton of flashes that expanded into a whole. This time it was a lot of wasted writing trying to find a proper beginning. Regardless, once I found it, a lot of the themes and ideas I wanted to explore fell into place.

On and off through October, I worked on the blurb and the first chapter. I searched thumb drives for the abandoned bits and plumped out a catchall file with those meanderings called LineAboutMarriage. I know, it’s not a snappy working title, but it is a little more descriptive than NewBook17.0

I had sent the semi-polished first chapter to the amazing Nina Fosati and Prisoner for their take. Each were happy with it. When I revised it a bit more and sent it to Gina and Mary with no introduction to what it was about, I received my first negative response. It was a kind assessment of how she couldn’t tell if it was a romance or a mystery or what. And that was okay. I had been working at “genre” the last two books after I sent the dark literary “Ellie’s Elephants” to twenty agents and didn’t get more than a few requests for partials. “Blue” and “Near Eden” – the genr-y books had requests for fulls, but again, no agent took them on. For this novel, I’d abandoned the genre slant and wrote it for me.

Lots of people I’ve met have self-published. Some are lovely and I enjoyed them. A few people I’ve shown my early novel attempts liked them. I could have put them on CreateSpace when that was a thing, but my goal has always been to have an agent who will help with the process. Ideally, I’d like to be published by a big house. Making the long (or short) list for first-book awards would be a pleasant surprise, too. If I had self-published, I wouldn’t be eligible to strive for a lot of the goals I set out to reach from a young age. At heart, I’m still the 12-year-old who read “Peyton Place,” saw Grace Meticulous on the back cover in front of a typewriter and wanted to BE her.

But I don’t write like Grace Metalious. Or Nora Roberts. Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle, Toni Morrison, or anyone else. I write like me and while I hope as I work through the rewrite of this crappy first draft, you and others will like it, in the end, the only thing I really want is for it to be a manuscript I want to read repeatedly and be happy to call mine. I’m writing for one person. It’s taken years to understand this oft-mentioned piece of advice

In the meantime, I appreciate you and the time it took to read this post. My new assistant is waiting patiently, so I must be off…

 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Happy Halloween aka National Novel Writing Month Eve!

The competitions I was waiting to hear about last time all resulted in being long listed. Not bad, but not great either. Thank you to everyone involved in the Fiction Factory Flash Contest and the Brilliant Flash Fiction’s “Feed Me” contest for considering my work.

Tomorrow is the official start of NaNoWriMo. I’ve signed up. The book I’m working on needs focus to get it done. If I start with the pages I have, and add daily, perhaps I’ll complete my aim of a needs-little-editing first draft. I know, I know, people dismiss NaNo, but for me, it’s a matter of conditioning. I’ve done it so often, I can sense when I’ve made the midpoint of the 1667 words each day. Also, Husband and friends know I’ll be writing then and leave me to do the work.

Fewer blog posts is but one symptom of my seemingly having dropped off the face of the earth. I haven’t been to my writer’s group or to the Wednesday morning write-ins in weeks. I put off having people over. I’ve not followed up on getting together with others. It isn’t depression as much as stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. A lot of it can be pinned on Ben. And as of Tuesday night at 9:10pm, Ben is no longer in our lives.

Instead of the heartache of a decked out, unreliable Legacy Turbo, we’re now leasing a 2019 Honda HR-V. If car shopping isn’t on the list of most stressful things a couple can go through, it needs to be added. Divorce and suicide were actually considered just to make the process stop. And now it has. Just in time for the snow, but this time in a taller vehicle with all-wheel drive.

It amazes me how a body reacts to stress. A four-month-old travels from Texas to meet a million people in New York and develops a cold. Exhibit A:

When she arrives at our home, I’m exposed to those microbes. I’d been under some stress – not just Ben’s latest costly breakdown. As if in a textbook, two days later I’m not feeling well. The unwellness couples with new pressures and then I’m sick. I was looking up symptoms for walking pneumonia and getting “you must be dying” Google results on Sunday night. By seven o’clock on Monday, I felt a little better. Tuesday, I woke up and could breathe properly. Some colds linger, some are punctual with their symptoms, but all children are germ-spreading carriers of disease. Ah well, what can you do since they are necessary to the continuation of the species.

On the plus side of life is the fact that it is autumn. The leaves are changing color, it’s time to pull out sweaters and mock the pumpkin spice crowd. My red-eyed squeaking bat is suspended from the ceiling. My new novel has a roughly sketched out plot. The battery-operated ghost scares the dog. And our new cat is here. This is Glinda. Middle name Janis as in Joplin.

I hope your October was greater than mine. Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

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In the scheme of things, isn’t less more?

Years ago, at a launch for Queen City Flash, which was edited by Gary Earl Ross, I read my piece and I didn’t do it well. I was stiff, awkward, just awful. I organized and hosted readings at West Falls-Colden Library and when I introduced writers, I did it quickly because I wasn’t comfortable.

I started attending the Hamburg Writers’ Group, and they offered me an opportunity to work on those skills that I lacked. Without the help and encouragement there, I never would have been able to do as well as I did last week. I have so much gratitude to all the writers who cycled in and out of that group. Thank you to all of you!

2019 September Drop Hammer

And I again want to thank Kim Chinquee for the incredible honor of including me in the Drop Hammer reading series at Buff State.

It was an amazing experience made even better by Christina Francis being there and the surprise attendance of Linda Dinger — both HWG members.

The incredible Gina Detwiler also read and then afterwards, we stayed and talked to Kim’s class about writing, publishing, and writers’ groups. We had a delicious late lunch at Cole’s with Kim and Peter Ramos, then Gina and I extended our “author day” by going to Larkin Square’s Author Series to listen to a conversation between Lauren Belfer and Mark Sommer. Mark’s Book “Rocky Colavito: Cleveland’s Iconic Slugger.” I’m not a baseball fan, but the book sounded intriguing.

Speaking about new books… Last month, I attended Gina’s book launch for “Forgiven” at The Hub in Orchard Park. It mixed music with the presentation and I found it quite fun. Well done, Gina and all those talented musicians!

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The recent running around had me taping shows on the cable box upstairs since the one downstairs doesn’t record. When I went to watch them, I had to deal with Husband’s chair. It was a horrible, cobbled together mess. Office Depot’s had a sale. Now, we can both watch television in a comfortable chair. The old one was broken up and is now stacked on top of the wood pile waiting to go in the fire. Not quite “burning in hell,” but that’s as close as we can get.

Another household change was in my library. Now that the family is scattered, it can really be my library. The pullout couch was moved out of there. The light fixtures with glass covers that had been in there hung low and I feared hitting them with a dumbbell. My request for different fixtures resulted in compromise on going with fluorescents but I also had speakers installed in the ceiling. They have an on/off switch and a volume control. My red chair is in there now, too, so I’m set for reading, writing, and Pilates whenever I want, even if we have company.

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It’s been getting chilly at night and I’d love to start a fire, but Husband has nixed the idea. Other than that, life here has been pleasant as of late. The wood is up and with the back of the woodshed being cleaned out, I’m not as nervous about putting away the swing and benches since there is not only room to store them, but a clear easy pathway to do so. The daytime weather has been a perfect range of temperatures with low humidity. I’ve spent most of this week outside. The front lawn is mown, the trails tended, mulch applied. Yesterday though, was a long, uninterrupted writing day. I haven’t had one in a while and it felt good. I’m still feeling this new book out, but the ideas and characters are swirling. I have a project book where I’m storing character notes and themes I want to explore. I’m generally not a planner, but this book is following its own path into a hero’s journey setup. Perhaps that will help when I eventually have to write a synopsis…

I’ve gone back and forth with an editor on a longer piece recently. I’m waiting to hear whether the last round of changes were enough. I do hope it is accepted for the anthology! I’m reading a ton of submissions at Literary Orphans while I refresh my own queue. Besides the work on the book, I’ve gotten a few new flashes drafted. I’m trying to keep busy so I don’t fret and worry. I’ve submitted to several competitions and many will announce their results soon. Knock on wood, my pieces do well; if not, out they’ll go to other venues.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, (Hi Alex! Hi Rach! Hi Nina!) you’ve noticed I’m posting once a month instead of twice. I think that’s the way it’s going to go — at least for a while. Let’s face it, it’s better for all involved. Less for you to read, less for me to write and then there’s the possibility I’ll write deeper about things I post.

Anything is possible…Kudos to the Climate Change strikers! You’re inspiring the world to get it together and change!

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As always, thank you for stopping by and for the read. I do appreciate it! And I appreciate YOU!