Monday, January 3, 2022

Numbers Everywhere

I am not a numbers person, but when I look back at 2021 and look ahead to 2022, imagine my surprise when I see numbers everywhere: 


Apparently, according to my stats, I have written close to 900 blog posts. I would say I have no words but apparently I do. About 900 blog posts worth of words. And counting. 


In 2021, my husband and I signed up to do a virtual challenge of 500 miles. It did not go well. We did learn a lot, though, in terms of energy, pacing, timing and taking into account the seasons (I'm looking at you Florida melt-your-face summer!) For 2022, we decided to do two separate virtual challenges of 100 miles each, one after the other. The focus is on walking, but we plan on adding biking as well. 


For the last couple of years, the goal of my Reading Challenge over on Goodreads was 80 books. This is a totally doable goal for me, but since my focus flaps around like a palm frond in the wind, I barely squeaked by. So I'm giving myself a break and setting the 2022 Reading Challenge to 52 books. I will knock this out easily and have an early win, something I really need. 


The tortoises are now 12 years old. Larry weighs about 11 pounds. He is a sensitive soul inside that solid shell. Mrs. Larry, who is lighter and smaller, refuses to divulge her stats but wants to make sure everyone knows that even though Larry is large, she's the one in charge. Of us all. 


Honestly, I don't even remember my One Word for last year. For 2022, I played with ideas, made lists, searched for the word that will be my theme for the year, that will keep me on a good track. One word jumped off the page – WRITING. Yes, I wrote last year, but it wasn't pretty. My creativity, discipline, focus, imagination, overall oomph fizzled then flattened like an opened bottle of seltzer. My hope for 2022 is that on those occasions when I get anxious, depressed and freaked out (or, in other words, every day) my One Word reminds me of how writing is intrinsic to who I am, that I am not lost, that I am still here, that I am still me. 




How were your "numbers" for 2021? How are they looking for 2022? Do you have a One Word? Any goals or plans for 2022?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Almost There

The weather here is beautiful this time of year – breezy, cool and sunny  – and I hope to let that crisp air snap me out of my long-lasting funk, let it gush out the gunk clogging my heart, mind, and spirit. Yes, that's asking a lot from the weather, so I will help it along as best I can. Even as I take myself outside, I'll also turn inward to figure out some things, like: 


* How do I take better care of myself – physically, mentally, emotionally? 


* How do I stay focused on what's important to me and not get distracted, especially by things outside my control? 


* What kind of challenges and goals do I set for myself so I move forward, slowly but surely, and not end up standing still, weighted down with unrealistic expectations? 


Okay, so I have lots of questions and not many answers, but one thing I do know for sure is this: 


All of us here at The Shellshank Redemption wish all of you a holiday season and a new year full of more joy than you know what to do with, laughter so loud and hearty it drowns out any negativity, so much energy and good health you thrum with it, and hope so strong and sure it pulls you through any darkness that dares show its face.  


Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! 





How was your 2021? Do you have any answers or suggestions for the questions I'm mulling over? Kicking around any goals or making any plans for 2022? 

Monday, November 1, 2021

When the Ending Changes Everything

Last month, I binged on all things – books, movies, TV shows - creepy. The results? I yelled at two terrible movies, spent enjoyable chunks of time with solid entertainment, and was blown away by one movie and one book. 


Hunter Hunter is my kind of movie: dark, disturbing, tense. I was uneasy the entire time I watched it, gaze riveted to the screen. Until the ending. It was so gory I had to look away over and over. And, yet, the ending absolutely fits the story so well that I can't call it gratuitous. It haunts me to this day. (I don't usually talk trigger warnings, but this ending is not for the faint of heart.)


Come With Me by Ronald Malfi is a horror novel for people who don't like horror. In fact, I'd call this more mystery with paranormal elements than anything else. It's atmospheric, creepy, heartbreaking and lovely. Though parts of it felt kind of slow, it still stayed a solid 4 stars for me. Until the ending. When I got there, I gasped then flipped back through the book, re-reading certain moments with fresh eyes. The ending added a whole other layer that had me in tears. It leaped to 5 stars and is easily one of my favorite reads of the year.



How was your October/Halloween? Anything you read/watched that you'd recommend? Are there any endings that haunt you from books/movies/TV shows? What's next for you in November?

Monday, October 4, 2021

Oh, October!

October is one of my favorite months! We finally get cooler weather here in Florida. Our household celebrates birthdays. And all things spooky take center stage. 


I do read, write and watch scary stuff all year long, but I like to ramp it up in October, binge on stories of things that go bump in the night. I've got stacks of books to choose from and jotted notes of movies and TV shows, but I'd love to hear your recommendations.


*** What books and/or stories had you checking under the bed before going to sleep? What movies and/or TV shows had you turning on every light in the house? What was it that made your skin crawl? ***


Wishing you all a wonderful month and a Happy Halloween! 


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Oddly Compelling

Lately, I'm finding a number of things oddly compelling. I can't seem to stop focusing on them, and I'm not exactly sure why. 


For instance, I'm drawn to the phrase oddly compelling. 😁


Here are some more examples: 


* September. This month always makes me think of school supplies and cooler weather, fresh notebooks and sweaters, even though I've been out of school for many – many! – years, and I won't feel a cool breeze here in Florida until October. 


* My flash fiction story, "Oh, Brother." I have no idea where this one came from, but the main character's voice spoke up loud and clear. It's also a time-travel type story, something I don't believe I've ever written before, and the whole thing is structured as a letter to someone. I totally enjoyed writing it, and since it made the cut as a finalist for a contest, I guess it didn't turn out too badly. 


* A longer writing project. An idea has been ducking and hiding at the edges of my creative playground for some time now. The problem is, I can't quite see or hear it. I know it's there and I know it's something, but I don't know what – a novel, a novella, a story collection? I'm trying to give it space for it to show me, to see if it wants to slip down the slide or hang from the monkey bars. I'm trying to be patient, but I want to play already!


* Samantha Downing's novel, For Your Own Good. It is so much fun in a totally bizarre, insane way. I can't stop thinking about it! 


* Walking. If I did the math correctly - and that's a huge if - I don't think I'm going to complete the 500 miles for the walking challenge. It's possible, but I'm not sure I have it in me to put that much pressure on myself. I am going to keep at it though, and whatever miles I end up walking will still be more miles than I walked last year. I don't know if this is pure determination or pure stubbornness on my part, but either way, I have to finish, no matter what it looks like. 



Have you found anything oddly compelling lately? What is your September/Fall looking like? 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Frog Moments

As I write this post, it's raining outside and two baby frogs are hanging out on my office window. They startled me at first because, as you all know by now, when I see something moving at the window, my first thought is monster/psycho/zombie. But now I'm enjoying watching them, enjoying their company. (And as long as they stay outside, they're adorable.


I mention this moment because it made me smile. I've been kind of "meh" about stuff lately, everything from reading to writing. There are some reasons and there are no reasons, if that makes sense. I've struggled with this before, but this time around, I'm having trouble shaking it. So I'm trying to focus on positivity, on things that make me happy, laugh, bring me joy, and I thought I'd share a few recent examples in case you all also need a "frog moment" or two.



Here are three posts that should - hopefully! - shake off any writing blues:

Advice for the Demoralized Writer by James Scott Bell 

Stay in the Fight by John Gilstrap

The Most Significant Choice of Your Writing Career by Jessica Conoley






How about a feel good read that includes books, libraries and a cast of quirky characters you'll love to root for? Then make a note to pick up The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson! (I got my hands on an ARC – it's out 8/31/21.)






We went old school and thoroughly enjoyed re-watching "Jaws" and "Jurassic Park." We're also re-watching "Seinfeld" from Season 1 – still hilarious! 


I have fallen hard for "Firefly Lane" (Netflix.) It's not my usual thing, and I'm not exactly sure why I enjoy it so much, but hey, not everything needs to be analyzed to death, right? Unfortunately for me, I thought it was a self-contained show, so when the last episode ended on a cliffhanger you can probably imagine the angst and drama in my house when I realized what was happening. And yet, I am so in if there's a Season 2!






I'm really struggling with the walking challenge, but I'm determined to keep going, to make at least some progress this summer. 


Miles walked as of 7/30/2021 = 187/500 (Click here for what this craziness is all about.)


Seen on a walk . . . around the house to the patio - 

Photo by Madeline Mora-Summonte 7/2021

Hibiscus -
Photo by Madeline Mora-Summonte 7/2021




If/When you feel "meh" what do you do? Do you have any recent "frog moments" you'd like to share? Any suggestions for feel good books/movies/TV?


Monday, July 5, 2021

Hello, July!

Whooosh! That's the sound of summer flying by. (And believe me, that's the fastest moving thing around here. If the tortoises and I had a race, I would not put money on me to win.) Still feeling behind and overwhelmed, but I'm working on having a more positive and grateful mindset overall and that's definitely helping. 



My story, "Twisted," is out now in INFECTION: DRABBLES 1 (LEGENDS OF THE NIGHT). If you like your apocalyptic zombie fiction bite-sized (ha! get it?!), give it a try! 





The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker is chilling, compelling and heartbreaking. The author does an amazing job of humanizing a horrifying character. With a few simple lines, she makes you re-examine everything you thought you knew, making you not necessarily forgive the character but feel for them. 





Movies – We really liked "Awake" on Netflix. 





We participated in a virtual 5K that raised money for sea turtle conservation and research. During this sweat-soaked stroll, we saw so many turtles - crossing roads, sunning on banks, sticking their little heads out of lakes. They were totally cheering us on! 


Miles walked as of 6/30/2021 = 166.5/500 (Click here for what this craziness is all about.) 



How's your summer going so far? Made progress on any projects? Have you read or watched anything you'd recommend?