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? 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Summer of Getting Stuff Done

For a lot of people, summer is about having fun, relaxing and traveling. For me, this summer is about putting my head down and keeping it down. I really need to focus. Need to. Want to. Have to. My emotional, mental, physical health demands it. My writing demands it. My home and weird . . . uh, unique . . .  little family demands it. (Mrs. Larry does not care for the word "weird" in reference to her, thank you very much.


Some of what I plan to accomplish:


* Get at least one draft of my novella done.

* Write and submit at least two stories to markets.

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

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


I will have some fun, including lots of reading, TV show binge-watching and movie marathon-ing.


In the recent free version of Austin Kleon's newsletter, he mentions some advice by poet Jane Kenyon that explains exactly what my hope is for the summer – 


"Be a good steward of your gifts. 

Protect your time. 

Feed your inner life. 

Avoid too much noise. 

Read good books, 

have good sentences in your ears. 

Be yourself as often as you can. 


Take the phone off the hook. 

Work regular hours."



Do you have any fun summer plans? Any "productive" projects? Looking forward to any summer books, TV shows, movies?

Monday, May 2, 2022

What Silence Stirs

Last month, I mentioned trying to be more aware of when I spoke and of what I said, hoping to put less "noise" out into the world. 


It stirred up a memory from childhood when I was told my quiet, shy personality could possibly come across to other kids as me being "stuck-up." As an adult, I worry that those same personality traits – in addition to my now trying to not blather on for no reason - are making me seem aloof or uninterested. 


This whole experiment also reminded me of how much I crave quiet, both outside of myself in terms of sound and hoopla, and inside of myself in terms of drama and turmoil. It almost feels like within the quiet is the only way my brain, my body, my heart can breathe anymore.  



A novella/novel is slowly coming together. It's still in the notes stage but those notes are starting to form a big messy pile so, you know, progress. 



TV – We really enjoyed the first season of Abbott Elementary (cute and funny!). We just started The Queen's Gambit (intriguing!) and Better Call Saul (my husband laughed so hard at a line from the first episode he about fell off the couch.) 



I've recently read a number of enjoyable mystery/suspense novels – my go-to genre! - but sometimes I like to switch it up. I just finished Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang, an historical/literary fiction novel that begins in the 1880s, in China, and takes the reader on a journey that won't soon be forgotten. 



Whenever we take the tortoises out on the patio, Mrs. Larry enjoys sitting under the grill. There are other places to sit with better views, but Mrs. Larry is her own tortoise. 


The other day, the tortoises discovered the grill actually moves. So, under Mrs. Larry's direction, Larry "the muscle" slid the grill a little this way, a little that way, until Mrs. Larry was satisfied with the new location. And, as we all know around our house, if Mrs. Larry is happy then we're all happy.



What's your impression when you meet someone who's quiet? What do you need to "breathe"? Watched any of those TV shows? Have a go-to genre for reading? Think we should let Mrs. Larry be in charge of all things decorating and design at our place?