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!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

January 2020 IWSG: Laughter vs the Vortex of Doom

Sometimes I forget to laugh. 

My imagination and my thoughts run "dark." Even as a kid, anxieties and fears were, like my stuffed animals, my constant companions. One particular game of "pretend" that I created involved a plane crash. A story I wrote in high school had terrified kids running through the woods being chased by some menacing presence. 

That past informs my present – my struggles with anxiety and my writing. One way I try to light the darkness is to focus on things that bring me joy, things that make me laugh. But lately, caught up in my own vortex of doom, laughter's been the last thing on my mind. 

Until my husband and I re-watched old episodes of The Office (U.S. version.) I laughed so much I almost fell of the couch. And when I finally stopped, I felt . . . lighter. And I realized that I must - for more reasons than I care to name - do more of that in 2020. 

So that's one of my resolutions - laugh more, lighten up a bit. And keep the shadows out of my mind and in my stories, where they belong. 


What makes YOU laugh? Great big belly laughs, delirious snorts, gaggles of giggles? TV shows, movies, books, podcasts, comedians, jokes/puns, funny videos on YouTube, anything and everything? (For me, the Minions from the Despicable Me movies always make me chuckle, and TV-wise, I love The Office, Seinfeld, The Big Bang Theory and The Middle.)  

Join Us!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Wrapping Up! 2019's Five Star Books and Reading Challenge

Now that the year is coming to a close, it's time to put a bow on the box of great reads of 2019. Back in August, I posted about my favorite books of the summer, and now let's pick up where we left off. Here are my five star reads from mid-August until mid-December:  

THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North – forget whispering, I am shouting about how much I loved this book. Billed as a mystery/suspense/thriller, it is all of those things but to me, it's also got elements of horror. Certain scenes will continue to creep up on you long after you put the book down. 


NINTH HOUSE (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo – fantasy is not my usual genre, but this sounded so intriguing and Ms. Bardugo is a hugely popular author, I thought I'd give it a whirl. The result? Loved. It. Dark, gritty and mesmerizing. 


THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS by Lisa Jewell – sometimes Ms. Jewell's books are hit or miss for me. This one? A definite grand slam out of the ballpark hit. The ending was one of my favorite parts. 


DARLING ROSE GOLD by Stephanie Wrobel – I received this as an ARC through a giveaway on Goodreads and it doesn't come out until March 2020, but you might want it on your radar now. I loved absolutely every minute of this warped and wild ride. 


I surpassed my 2019 Reading Challenge goal of 80 books, and I'm excited to set a new one for next year and to get my greedy little hands on some more amazing reads. Here are a handful of books – and this is just in the first half of 2020!– I'm looking forward to:

WHEN YOU SEE ME (#11) by Lisa Gardner (1/20)
DEAD TO HER by Sarah Pinborough (2/20)
BE NOT FAR FROM ME (YA) by Mindy McGinnis (3/20)
EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS by Peter Swanson (3/20)
HE STARTED IT by Samantha Downing (4/20)
IF IT BLEEDS by Stephen King (5/20)
THE DILEMMA by B. A. Paris (6/20}
THE SUICIDE HOUSE by Charlie Donlea (7/20)


Have you read any of my five star faves? Plan on adding them to your TBR list? Did you read anything that blew your mind? Any upcoming titles in 2020 you're excited about? If you had a reading goal for 2019, how did it go? Plan on setting one for 2020? And if we're not already Friends over on Goodreads - and you'd like to be! - please join me over there.