Monday, January 2, 2023

Super Simple

My One Word for 2023 is actually an acronym:


KISS – Keep It Super Simple


I recently mentioned to a friend that my brain feels too full and too empty at the same time. (Not sure if that makes sense to anyone else but it did to us!) There's too much "clutter" around me and inside of me. It's time to purge and streamline. So, in keeping with that theme, even my goals for 2023 are pretty straightforward:


WRITINGfocus on the novella/novel

PHYSICAL HEALTHfocus on losing pounds

MENTAL HEALTHfocus on managing anxiety


A lot of things will have to go by the wayside in order for me to put my energy, my focus where it absolutely, positively needs to go. I have no idea if this will work, but I'm going with it. 


(On a side note, you may recall, my husband and I had signed up for three different miles challenges last year. The results? 0/100 miles on one challenge, 30/100 miles on the other and . . .  drum roll, please! . . . 202.2/202.2 miles! Not great, but not too shabby either.) 


Wishing you all a creative, healthy, joyful 2023!



Do you have any goals/plans for 2023? Any advice/suggestions for me? 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Empty Spaces

A few months back, I mentioned how the little bougainvillea tree my husband and I planted at our new house survived Hurricane Ian. She bent and bowed and lost all her flowers and leaves, but still held on. Once the storm was over, we straightened and re-staked her. We looked for buds but didn't see any. We fertilized and watered her. We checked for new growth. We spoke to local experts. Ultimately, we had to face the fact our little bougainvillea tree was gone.   


I know I'm being a giant, sappy, silly goose. The world has so much worse going on, and here I am, all emotional about a tree. It's just she felt symbolic – of our new home, a new chapter in our lives, hope, brightness, and strength during storms. And now, that space in the front yard just feels . . . empty.


That's kind of how I feel as this year winds down. While I am incredibly grateful for so much, I've struggled a lot – with physical/mental/emotional health, with focus, with energy, with creativity and writing.   


But as an optimistic realist . . . or a realistic optimist . . . or just a plain stubborn fool, I keep going, keep trying. 


Maybe I'll go ahead and let that space just be for awhile, let it fill itself with whatever it needs – breath, peace, sun, wind. Or maybe I'll put a container garden there, one full of fun purple flowers or funky prickly cacti. Or maybe a garden gnome . . . or two . . . or three. 


All of us here at The Shellshank Redemption hope your new year provides the space and time to breathe when you need it, 

the stakes to support you when you bend, 

and positive growth full of beauty and brightness. 


*** Happy Holidays! *** 

*** See you in 2023! ***

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Focus and Looking Forward

Last month was full of hoopla – big and small, positive and negative – so November needs to be about focus and about looking forward to next year. I'll still pop in, but I'll mostly be on a blogging/social media break until December.

All of us here at TSR are incredibly grateful for so much, including our wonderful readers. Wishing you all an amazing November and a very happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

When the Wind Blows

I wrote the post below before Hurricane Ian blew in then sat over us for what felt like years. As someone who's been through hurricanes before and as someone who writes scary things, let me tell you, that was scary. Even now, I still kind of flinch when the wind picks up. But compared to what others went through, we were incredibly lucky. We only had minor damage to our home and were unable to move farther than our block for a few days. We had spotty communication, and no water or power for a while. But, like the little bougainvillea tree we planted when we moved into our home, we here at The Shellshank Redemption are bent but not broken, and we are so grateful to be pretty much upright again. Please join us in sending good thoughts, positive vibes and prayers for those who are struggling and suffering, and for all those who are helping and working to make things better.   



October is my birthday month, and I usually use this time to start thinking about goals for next year. I kind of look at it as MY new year. And, as this is one of those bigger birthdays, I have mixed feelings. What do I hope to accomplish going forward? What do I do differently? What do I keep the same? What do I try? What do I stop doing? 


How do you celebrate your birthdays? Do any soul searching or is it all party?


I think it's ironic that I was born in the spooky Halloween season, because, as I've mentioned before, I really am a big chicken. That being said, I do plan on reading and/or watching something creepy in keeping with the season. 


Do you have any Halloween plans? Any recommendations for scary reading or watching?


What I've been reading – 

Amen, Maxine by Faith Gardner and Look Closer by David Ellis are both five star reads and made my favorite books of 2022 list. I don't want to say more about them because it's best to go in not knowing too much. 


Have you read anything lately you'd recommend? Have any favorites so far in 2022?


What I've been watching – 

The movie "The Black Phone" was excellent! Creepy and heartbreaking and the child actors were amazing.


My husband and I started watching "What We Do in the Shadows" on Hulu, and I will say that while I like it, my husband almost falls off the couch laughing at least once an episode. 


Have you watched anything lately that creeped you out or made you really laugh?



At the moment, our Internet connection is still spotty, so it might take some time before your comments and my responses appear here on the blog.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Progress! And a Story!

I didn't accomplish everything I set out to do this summer, but I did make progress on a number of fronts so I'm counting the season as a win.


Back in June, I posted about wanting to get the following done – 


* Do some cleaning up, de-cluttering and organizing inside and outside the house.


Eh. A little bit here and there. 


* Finish the 202.2 miles challenge. Maybe start one of the 100 miles challenges.


Nope. I really wanted to get the 202.2 miles challenge done by the end of the summer, but for a number of reasons – not all of them my lazy butt's fault! -  that didn't happen. I did keep slogging along so miles were made!


Stats as of 8/31/2022 = 

163.2/202.2 miles (walking only)

0/100 miles

0/100 miles


* Get at least one draft of my novella done.


Nope. But I got organized, have a loose outline, wrote a chunk of chapters. I believe, think, hope, pray I've got a better handle on it than I did before.


* Write and submit at least two stories to markets.


Yes! I revised one for a contest where it made the finals but didn't rank in the top three. And I wrote a story for a flash fiction contest on literary agent, Janet Reid's, blog. It didn't make the finals, but it received a couple of nice comments from fellow readers. Some of the rules included a word count of 100 words or fewer, and it must contain five words: Depth, Froth, Phase, Showy, Atoll.


Maybe the story will give you a chill despite the summer heat . . .  




Dearest Uncle,

My terror has no depth.

With the moon's every phase, this land's black soul takes root, spreads. I curse myself for bringing my family here!

You recall the elusive beasts, tearing nightly through the fields, strewing shredded entrails as if for show. You suggested I hunt. I found no tracks.

Until now.

They led to the house. Inside, three beasts, blood frothing their mouths, fed on my wife's body.

I pray these words find you, Uncle. Before accepting the legal responsibility that befalls you after my death, know the truth.

Be afraid of my children.

A. Tolliver




How was your summer? Accomplish any goals? Make progress on some projects? Have fun?

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Sweat Sock of the Summer

Well, July was one slimy, stinky sweat sock of a month around here. Any progress made - on the miles challenges, on writing, on you-name-it – is pretty much gone. 


Thankfully, it was – for us, anyway – mostly first world problems, everything from minor health issues to my beloved coffeemaker of 10 years brewing its last cup. It was more that the problems just happened to arrive all at once, like a gaggle of unexpected guests, flinging their luggage everywhere, taking up all the space, all the air.   


So, August has to be better, right? Right! At the very least, it will be caffeinated. 


TV – "The Old Man" on FX/Hulu – it's a little slow, but the acting is excellent!


MOVIES - We re-watch JAWS every July 4thand always love it. We also re-watched and enjoyed GOONIES and STAND BY ME. 




THE PATIENT'S SECRET by Loreth Anne White – dark and twisty!

LISTEN TO ME (Rizzoli and Isles, #13) by Tess Gerritsen – I've missed this series!

A RIP THROUGH TIME (A Rip Through Time, #1) by Kelley Armstrong – the beginning of a time travel mystery series I look forward to continuing! 




How was your July? What do you do for coffee? Do you have any recommendations for coffeemakers, that kind of thing? Read or watched anything good lately? 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022


So far, my summer of getting stuff done is going . . . okay. The biggest issue for me is lack of oomph. I'm not sure if it's my meandering mind, my foggy focus or the Florida summer heat. I am convinced, though, that I'm not sweating but melting, like a giant scoop of gelato. (Hey, I'm half Italian!)



I'm struggling with the novel/novella. It's starting to sprawl, and I'm having trouble remembering everything. Apparently, my brain forgot how to hold more than one idea inside it. It's been a long time since I wrote anything longer than flash fiction so maybe that muscle is as flabby as the rest of me. I'm determined to keep at it though. I believe in it! 


I revised and subbed one story. Of course, it wasn't the story or the market I was aiming for, but I'll take it.



I recently enjoyed two YA mystery/thrillers: QUEEN OF THE TILES by Hanna Alkaf (Scrabble tournament! Set in Malaysia!) and THIS GOLDEN STATE by Marit Weisenberg (A family on the run! A home DNA test!)


And I loved Chris Bohjalian's historical fiction/thriller, THE LIONESS (1960s Hollywood and an African safari!) 



Even though we're behind on the miles challenges, we're keeping at it. I, apparently, need some sort of goal to even get up off the couch so quitting is not an option.  


Stats as of 6/30/2022 = 

124.2/202.2 miles (walking only)

0/100 miles

0/100 miles


I think I'm just going to apply – and repeat! – the tortoises' favorite mantra to everything this summer - slow and steady, slow and steady….




How's your summer going? If you were a frozen treat, what would you be? Have you read anything good lately? Do you have a mantra, for the summer or in general?