Monday, June 22, 2020

Time for a Break

So far, summer is hot and stressful, my focus scattering, evaporating like water droplets sprayed from a hose. 

We're moving soon – fingers crossed! It's been a huge, messy process for many reasons and even though it's far from over, I'll take whatever progress we make, whenever we make it, one step at a time, one packing box full of bubble wrap at a time. 

I'm still writing, but focusing on brainstorming and shorter projects. I'm still reading, because believe me, you don't want to be around when I don't get to read. My husband is still keeping me from totally melting down. And the tortoises are still . . . tortoise-ing. 

Since the tortoises are the sanest ones around here – I swear having shells has something to do with it - I'm going to listen to their advice about taking a blogging break until some time in August. I'll still be around, popping in and out, but no new posts for a bit. 

Take care, everyone!


How's your summer? Is your focus scattered or sharp as tart lemonade? Any packing/moving/getting settled tips? Any advice for an anxious introvert about meeting new neighbors and not appearing like a total wackadoo? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

June 2020 IWSG: A Giant Chicken

This month, the IWSG wants to know: "Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?" 

I'm not sure how much of a secret this actually is, especially to anyone who knows me, but here goes: I am a Giant Chicken. 

Yes, I read, watch and write horror, but I do it all with many, many nervous glances over my shoulder. 

Yes, I am a grown woman, but I still cower under the covers. (Mostly because I'm not sure I can fit under the bed.) 

Yes, logic and reason tell me - logically and reasonably - that most of what I create, read and watch couldn't or wouldn't happen. But, as a Giant Chicken, I must point out that's exactly what every Doomed Character says right before they go into the pitch-black basement where the light bulb has, of course, burned out but it's too much trouble to go back for a flashlight, so they keep going until they die a horrible death by way of teeth and tentacles. 

I'm a worrier from waaaay back. The anxieties and fears are worse now, and some days are extremely hard. Some days I wish I were different – braver, stronger, more normal. 

But I'm learning not only to manage my issues the best I can but also to accept how my mind works, even embrace it. So, I will continue to wring the fear from my terror-soaked imagination and splatter it on the page for you all to read and - hopefully! - enjoy. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to evict some dust bunnies from under the bed. Just in case. 

Join Us!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Superheroes and Surprises

Since a number of nice surprises have come my way recently, I wanted to share some of that positivity with you all. I hope you find something here that lifts your spirits!


I'd heard so many good things about Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center that even though it's a different genre for me - more contemporary fiction/women's fiction/romance – I had to give it a try. I LOVED it. Loved. It. It's heartbreaking AND heartwarming. I cried, I laughed, I rooted for pretty much every single character. I can't recommend it enough.


You know that saying about finding heroes in unlikely places? Well, the other day, my husband and I were out walking  – social distancing rules applying (not for each other, although my husband might have wanted a break from me but was too nice – afraid? – to ask.) We're passing by a tree with a plant – orchid? – growing around it. I keep walking, but my husband stops. Laughing, he waves me back to show me . . . 


Photo by Madeline Mora-Summonte, 2020

Of course, we then spent the rest of our walk wondering about that Batman figure. Who put it there and why? Is it some sort of secret code for local kids? Did an adult find it and place it there, hoping the owner of the lost toy would come back for it? How long has it been there? No one stole it? 


The post "Have Shocking Coffee with Your Lead Character" by James Scott Bell is a fantastic tool to get us past those "safe places" in our writing. He mentions a few different ideas in the post, and I hope to try them all, but this is my favorite: 

You, the author, imagine you are seated with your main character over a cup of coffee. She tells you she doesn’t think you’ve quite captured her. That surprises you a bit. I mean, after all, you created her.

So you ask, “In what way?” And your character tells you something that shocks you. What is it? (I have the students write for one minute.)

Then I say: You’ve spit out your coffee. Your character hands you a napkin and then tells you something even more shocking! (Write for one minute.)


After struggling with creativity and focus, I was thrilled to learn one of my flash fiction stories received second place in a contest AND will be published in an upcoming anthology. More information to come!


This month, the tortoises turn 11 years old! The surprise here is that while I like animals fine, I never really considered myself an animal person or a pet person . . . until the tortoises came along. These two make me smile every single day. They're like my own little superheroes, only they have shells instead of capes. 


What pleasant surprises have come your way lately? Read any good books? Seen any superheroes lately? Will you have coffee with your characters? Any creative/publishing/writing news? Do your pets get anything special on their birthday? (The tortoises will get banana but sssh, don't tell them! It's a surprise!)   

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

May 2020 IWSG: Happy Hour

My creativity has crawled away. My focus has flown the coop. My motivation has meandered off. I can only hope they're all together somewhere, enjoying happy hour beach-side and toasting with tropical drinks crowned with little umbrellas. 

I was doing okay overall with the COVID-19 situation. Sure, there's been bumps, like an ongoing delay with moving into our new place and issues with my husband's business, but nothing compared to what some other people are dealing with. So what happened? I have no idea.  

My most recent "accomplishment" – and I use the term very loosely – was giving my husband a haircut. Not even a cut, more of a trim. The result? He looks a lot like Larry. Larry is a tortoise. A handsome tortoise, but still a tortoise. And tortoises don't have hair. You do the math. 

What's inspiring you? What's motivating you? Please give me the kick in the butt I need to get going again. And feel free to use both feet. 

I would really like to join the rest of my gang in time for their next round of margaritas.

Join us!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April 2020 IWSG: Stay in Your Shell

On a good day, my issues with anxiety, germs, etc. remind me of children playing hide-and-seek. They dart from shadowy corners to poke my nerves with sticky fingers, giggling all the while. Annoying, but manageable. 

Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, those same issues are tantrum-throwing hooligans, hopped up on sugar, bouncing on the bed like it’s a trampoline, laughing maniacally at the top of their lungs. 

So, I act like the mother I would've been if I had children (human children, not hard-shelled ones. Besides, the tortoises know better than to jump on the bed), and I ignore them. Head down, I write. 

Not too long ago, writing had become a struggle. Now, writing is saving me. My creepy tales are actually providing some light in my darkness. I focus on small projects like flash fiction – easier to hold the story in my head – and ones with upcoming deadlines to keep me on task. I'm considering a bigger project, keeping the attitude and the plan loose, seeing what develops. And I'm going to try some brainstorming sessions, get weird and wild on the page. 

I still have bad moments, bad days. My freak-outs are freakier than usual (just ask my poor husband!) But I'm doing what I can to hold it all together and right now, that's enough. 

All of us here at TSR are sending good thoughts and prayers your way. And, in the words of the tortoises (okay, so they say it with their eyes) – 

** Stay safe. Stay well. **
* Stay in your shell. *


How are you all doing? Are you writing? What's one positive thing you can share, something you're grateful for? Not big picture like health, but on a smaller scale - a great book you read, an excellent movie you watched, a new recipe you tried, a night sky full of stars you don't normally look at - that kind of thing. 


Join us!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

March 2020 IWSG: Bye-Bye, Balance

I'm not good with balance, literal and otherwise. As a kid, I was the little girl in dance class who flailed then tipped over. I once ate so much fruit cocktail I broke out in hives. (Yes, I know. Not chocolate cake. Not ice cream. Fruit. Cocktail.) I read my Little House on the Prairie books one right after the other then started over again until they literally fell apart in my hands. 

I was actually pretty happy doing my own thing. (Okay, maybe not so much with the hives.) So, as a younger adult, I purposely made life choices that let me do just that. 

But I often found myself doubting, floundering, feeling like I had little to no emotional support or understanding. I craved balance which, in my world, gave me a sense of approval, normalcy, safety. When I achieved it, I was relieved . . . but also deeply disquieted. 

See, I didn't really want balance. I spent so much energy on finding it and trying to hold onto it I had nothing left for the life I truly wanted. The more balanced I became, the less of myself I became.

"I think balance is for people 
who don't know why they're here." 
(Blake Crouch, Recursion)

For me, balance wasn't about stability; it was about fear. I believe balance kept me from being and doing my best. (Of course, everyone is different, and if balance helps you then go for it! You do you!)  

It'll be a process, this "unbalancing" of myself. Some people, like my husband, will cheer me on, while others won't approve. (So what else is new?) I look forward to meeting myself again in my writing and in my life. I just hope I recognize her. 

Join Us!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

February 2020 IWSG: My Creative Cave

My husband and I are moving in the next few months. My anxiety level is at an all time high - big surprise! - and I am beyond stressed. We're busy trying to get all our ducks . . . um, I mean, tortoises in a row. Speaking of tortoises, they're happy their new outdoor area will be a bit bigger but they're kind of miffed their indoor habitat set-up will stay the same for now. I tell them, "Sheesh! Hold your shells! One house at time!"

So, as I declutter and downsize, I thought this would be a good opportunity to focus my freaking out and really consider my new creative cave. This is where you all come in:



And when I say "creative space" that's whatever it is to you – a home office, a corner of your living room, a patio, a favorite table in a coffeehouse. I'll have a small room of my own with a door I can close, something that makes the other members of my household – hard-shelled and otherwise – very relieved.

Join us!