Monthly Archives: June 2013

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp~WE’RE GRANDMAS NOW

GRANDMAS ARE MOMS WITH LOTS OF FROSTING. 009

I wish I’d thought of that. It’s one of those sayings attributed to “author unknown.” But I’ll confirm that the idea resonates in the day camp.  Many, if not most, of my friends here are grandmothers. Do we show off the latest pictures of the kids?  You bet.  Do we brag occasionally?  Oh, yeah. Are our grandbabies the cutest, brightest, funniest, sweetest inventions since chocolate? Absolutely.

But we’re also glad when the visits are over and all the kids–children and grandchildren–go home.

MY GRANDKIDS BELIEVE I’M THE OLDEST THING IN THE WORLD. AND AFTER TWO OR THREE HOURS WITH THEM, I BELIEVE IT TOO.  — Gene Perret

A funny thing, though.  As soon as we say goodbye at the airport, we yearn to see them again.

It’s become an all-or-nothing proposition in America over the last decade or two. Extended families no longer live near one another, so BIG VISITS compensate and leave us all exhausted. First, the scheduling. Then the waiting and crossing off the days.  Then right before, a frenzy of shopping, cooking and freezing. Most important, the planning of “what to do” with everyone after arrival. We must have fun activities!  And then, finally, the tykes arrive with their parents. And with every hug and kiss, we melt. And are reborn.

IF I HAD KNOWN HOW WONDERFUL IT WOULD BE TO HAVE GRANDCHILDREN, I’D HAVE HAD THEM FIRST. — Lois Wyse

My own grandmother lived a hundred miles away from me in upstate New York. Every so often I’d arrive home from school and there she’d be!  My parents didn’t do the countdown thing. I guess they believed in surprises. A wonderful surprise. This lady was the only grandparent I had, and she was everything a little girl could want in a grandmother. Some years ago, her memory inspired me to write a story about her, and about grandmothers then…and now.  My own boys were half-grown at the time. I’m sharing my memory with you today–a story of family–so this blog post will be longer than most.

~~~~~Real Grandmas–A Family Story~~~

A real grandma has big jiggly arms. My grandma did, and when I cuddled up to her on the couch, my head fit perfectly against her unique pillow. She’d read to me in her Yiddish accent, “Vee, Villie, Vinkie vent through the town…”  It sounded just fine.

A real grandma knows how to knit. My grandma did and when she started a sweater, she actually finished it. Long after I’d go to bed, she’d continue to knit and leave her work-in-progress where I could see it first thing in the morning. I was always amazed at how red or navy blue string could turn into a bulky garment, a thing of substance, just by moving two long needles against each other. It seemed like magic, but Grandma could do it.

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A real grandma also fills the house with scrumptious aromas, and needs the special assistance of a ten year old granddaughter. Those apple pies, those rugelahs–rolled out dough cut into triangles and re-rolled into crescents with sugar, cinnamon, raisins, nuts, jelly, anything delicious would do. And the strudel made from dough so thin, you could almost see through it. They are all in my mind’s eye as clearly today as when Gram and I shared my mother’s kitchen on one of Gram’s visits so long ago.

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“Lindala, you’ll scrape the orange and lemon like this,” she said as she gave me the “rebvison,” the four-sided metal scraper used for such work. I took it proudly. This was not a baby job! She crushed walnuts, set aside raisins and kneaded the dough. The finished products looked like miracles to me, but Grandma just nodded at her efforts and brushed the flour from her hands.file2391298506940

Those delicious fragrances filled my childhood home, but no recipe was written down. How could she write: a pinch of this, a little of that with enough of the other until it was right?  Grandma’s kitchen methods did not end with baking. She made chicken soup in exactly the same way. This artstic style continued until I was about twelve years old.

Whether I had a flash of insight or whether I slowly forced myself to acknowledge that Grandma was old, I don’t honestly recall. But I do remember thinking and worrying about her dying some day. After my initial grief at this realization, I took action.

“Grandma,” I said, while holding pen and paper in my hand, “exactly how do you make rugelahs?” And she told me. Slowly, we worked the amounts out together. A written recipe was finally born in our family, and it was perfect. Anyway, that’s what my boys tell me.

My boys have two grandmas. One does aerobics and one plays catch wtih them using a hard ball and a baseball glove. Their grandmas are in their seventies, in the same decade of life as my grandma was when I grew up.

My sons think that real grandmas are athletes, that real grandmas work full-time until forced to retire at 75, and that the only food grandmas know how to cook is chicken, the quintessential low cholesterol choice. They have never seen either grandma bake as much as a cookie or knit the ubiquitous scarf.  But if you’d ask them about their grandmothers, as I did, they’d tell you that those ladies were absolutely perfect and that they were very real grandmas. Just like mine was.

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THE BEST BABY-SITTERS, OF COURSE, ARE THE BABY’S GRANDPARENTS. YOU FEEL COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE ENTRUSTING YOUR BABY TO THEM FOR LONG PERIODS. WHICH IS WHY MOST GRANDPARENTS FLEE TO FLORIDA. — Dave Barry

Leave a comment to say whether you enjoyed this type of memory and if you’d like to try writing some family stories of your own. I’ve taught others how to do it, and I can get you started right here on my blog. It’s a lovely way to pass down memories without saying, “When I was your age…”  which no child likes to hear!

June contest ends today. If you leave a comment, you have a chance of winning a choice of two books shown below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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Starting Over~Fingers on the Keyboard

file0002113684817HELP ME,  I’M DROWNING. SEND IN THE LIFEBOATS!!

There are many times I feel like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Remember how he checked his pocket watch over and over again and sang, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date…No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late…”   (Man, I pulled that out of my old memory cells).

I often feel the same way White Rabbit did. In the world of indie publishing, literally every single minute of every single day can be taken up by work. Not just the writing, but the marketing and sales effort that needs to be addressed. The noise on the Internet is overwhelming and can drown out the most brilliant of new books if your voice can’t be heard. We want to give our readers the best reads and the best prices we can. And that takes a lot of figuring out.

I have referred from time to time to a very special group of authors, very special to me, that is–called On Fire Fiction.  I am one of twelve writers in this Lifeboat.  I’m using a capital L on purpose because this group is of MAJOR importance in my life and in the life of the other authors.

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You’ve heard from me before about this group. So now, I’m happy to introduce you to multi-published, award winning author, Karen Sandler, one of my buddies in the Lifeboat. I’ve known Karen for a long time, but we’ve been together for only about six months as official Lifeboat members.  I asked her how or if On Fire Fiction has benefited her. This is what she said–In her own words:

“I’ve known for a long time that having a support group, even of one, is a great benefit for an author. After all, our profession is a solitary one. So it’s wonderful to have as a sounding board someone who thoroughly understands what  writer faces each day.

“If you multiply that sounding board by eleven authors, you have an unstoppable powerhouse. Within this one group, I have a huge store of knowledge I can tap, not only about the writing profession but about life experience.  Every one of the women involved will hold my hand (virtually) when I’m feeling down, will support my promotional endeavors, will join with me in mutually beneficial projects, and will often put a smile on my face. They’ve all been around the block, know the writing business inside and out, and aren’t shy about cheering every success.

“It’s astounding what we’ve accomplished since January: two box sets of books published, a Facebook page up and running, a holiday anthology (CELEBRATE!) scheduled for October 1st and a third boxed set of books planned. We’ve educated ourselves about effective promotion and the ins and outs of social media. Along the way, we’ve also had a lot of fun. I’m lucky, indeed, to be part of On Fire Fiction.”

Linda again – Our group is not the only lifeboat out there. Industry changes and the growth of independent publishing brought about a collective idea, almost like author cooperatives to  help each other get noticed by readers. Our buyers.  Although On Fire Fiction doesn’t have a group blog, we do have a Facebook page. Please check in with us to see what twelve multi-published, award winning authors are up to.

Here’s the latest from Karen Sandler who writes in several genres:

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Till The Stars Fade is a futuristic romance set in 2123 when humanity has pushed beyond earth into the solar system and unlocked the secrets of life with genetic engineering. Some consider this an abomination. Others laud the progress in lifesaving medical cures. Krys and Ian are on opposite sides, until she discovers the truth about ian. And nothing will ever be the same for either of them again.

Question for my readers:  Have you noted the existence of writers groups? Lifeboats? Have you bought boxed sets of books from these groups?

MAKE A COMMENT and you might win two books and a $25 gift certificate to the etailer of your choice. See below for the book choices.  I’m including this one by Karen as well.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Best,

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Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp–The Book Club

READING AND WRITING AND BOOK CLUBS, OH MY!           LINDA BARRETT (2)

About a dozen women usually show up at the monthly book club meeting in my community. These women, who are becoming friends, are totally engaged in story. They are NOT shy about expressing their opinions on what they’ve read.Or on what the author was doing. Or on figuring out the answer to: What could the author have possibly been thinking? I so enjoy these discussions. After writing professionally for fifteen years, I’m finally eavesdropping on enthusiastic readers. What a treat for me! I hope, too, that I contribute something a little bit extra to the discussions.

Maggie and her Kindle

My friend Maggie and her Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

This month, we read The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls. I’d call it a complex romance, search for love and roots. The group enjoyed the story and discussion was brisk. In our new world of publishing, I’m always curious about how people read their books–electronic vs. paper. So, for fun, I took a user-friendly survey of reading  preferences.  Of the ten women who showed up this week, four brought their eReaders with them. Two brought library copies of the book. One came with a trade paperback copy she bought on  Amazon for $6.00–new, not used. Not sure about the others. But I glommed onto the 40% statistic of eReader users.

Here’s what happened next:  We noted the book for next month (Wild Swans) and right there, my friend, Maggie and I downloaded it to our Kindle and Nook. I looked at the others and said, “You just watched me spend $12.38.”  To which Maggie replied, “And why not? It’s just like spending on a concert ticket. It’s entertainment, whether a singer or an author. And I enjoy books.”

As an author, I adore her attitude. I adore her. She spoke spontaneously and with conviction as though saying, how could you think otherwise?

I also discovered that the county library has changed its inventory. There were only two paper copies of Wild Swans – next month’s choice –  in the entire system. More and more books are to be accessed electronically. Many of the women are not happy. They want to hold a book in their hands. Frankly, there are times I want to do the same, particularly at a book club discussion. However, I love reading on my Nook and wouldn’t give it up.

I glanced down the list of forthcoming books for the club:

July – Wild Swans by Jung Chang

August – The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

September – Family Interrupted by Linda Barrett

October – The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Whoa…whoa….back up there. Did you notice that September selection?  That will be a new experience for me. I insisted that someone else is leading the discussion while I hang around quietly, like the proverbial fly on the wall. I’ll keep my mouth shut no matter what they say…unless of course, they turn to me and ask, “Linda, whatever were you thinking?”.

WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?  Let us know if you think it’s a good choice for a club discussion.

Leave a comment and your name will be entered into a great drawing for the month of June. Prizes are your choice of two books out of the six shown below, all written by members of On Fire Fiction. Plus a $25 gift certificate to your favorite eTailer.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over!

LInda

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Starting Over~~Fingers on the Keyboard

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS ARE NOT ENOUGH…

Yes, that's moi. My fingers at my messy desk.

Yes, that’s moi. My fingers at my messy desk.

I’m trying to organize my writing life so I can be as efficient as possible. I make lists. I use a calendar. I bought a tablet so I can connect to the Internet in any room of the house. And I’ve just started a new book. I think I’ve made my environment as user friendly as possible. But so far, it’s not working.  My brain is frazzled. My thoughts jump around faster than my three year old grandson on a trampoline.

Every morning I wonder what to do first. My friend, author Kathryn Shay, advised me NOT to go on Facebook before I’d written my new pages for the day. Her words made sense. A new book will only get written if I sit down and write! I’m talking about new material. But you know…?  Diving into an unfinished work, writing a new scene, figuring out motivation…is so much harder than checking out what’s doing on Facebook.  I tell myself that five minutes is all I need. But as anyone who uses FB regularly will tell you—it’s a timesuck.  It’s fun to catch up with readers, writers and friends. And I certainly want to have a presence and gently remind folks about my latest book, Family Interrupted. But an hour can fly by and suddenly, it’s mid-morning.

LINDA BARRETT (2)

Perhaps I should start my day with email. I check my email accounts several  many times (trying to be honest here) during the working day. And in the evening, it’s a choice between email and Spider Solitaire before I close down for the night. Email includes business and pleasure; my writing life and personal life. I’m part of On Fire Fiction, a writing group that supports each other’s promotional efforts, and we correspond via email. So keeping in touch is essential. Sometimes, we do projects together such as the holiday anthology which will be released in October. So, email is not a waste of time.  But it’s NOT writing new material–except new emails. And the day is flying by.

Kathryn told me that it takes discipline to ignore all things Internet in the morning. She has it. She’s trained herself to write first, then do everything else. I think her advice is sound. Intellectually, I KNOW it’s sound. Without publishing a new book on a regular basis, all the social media in the world won’t matter. In the end, the work has to come first.  As proof, here comes another book in Kathy’s firefighter series.  It’s being released on August 12th as an exclusive from Amazon.

Kathy Shay's latest book to be released August 12th exclusively on Amazon.

Kathy Shay’s latest book to be released August 12th exclusively on Amazon.

So my new resolution is to ignore the Internet in the morning. Starting tomorrow, I will write first. I couldn’t start today because I had to get this blog up. So Tuesdays are out. But from now on, no Internet in the morning for me. Starting tomorrow and every day thereafter, I will work on the new book first. Except, of course, for Thursdays because I post my blogs on Thursdays, too. But definitely starting tomorrow, I will have a new routine. If it works for Kathy, it should work for me. Right?  Hmm…I have to ask her if Saturdays and Sundays count…

So, I’ve taken care of business. And as far as my personal connections go, I’d much rather call my sister on the phone. Yes, the phone. The one in the house, not in my purse. The one we use for talking, not texting. The phone is more important to us than you can imagine because…my sister has never been on Facebook in her life!

POST A COMMENT:  How are you managing to combine business with social media and still produce your work?  Do you have a schedule you can stick to?  Make a comment and you’ll be entered into the June drawing for two fabulous prizes. First up – your choice of two books by  authors of On Fire Fiction. See below for choices.  Second, a $25 gift certificate to the eTailer of your choice – Amazon, BN, iTunes…whatever.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

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Starting Over~The Pink Ribbon Sisterhood

Br Ca Blog icon 1TOTAL RECALL–

Total recall. That’s exactly what I experienced this week when I glanced at a picture of a woman post-op with a bi-lateral mastectomy. Her name is Susie. She’s a blogger, an extrovert, with a wild sense of humor. So it was natural for Susie to put herself out there dressed in a tight elastic bra with two drains hanging down each side of her body.

With one glance, I saw myself, the ME of two years ago. Oh, God. that woman was ME! My stomach clenched, my body shivered and tears welled. My chest hurt. It hurt a lot, partly in sympathy and partly because it still hurts from scar tissue. I recalled the whole experience in a nanosecond. I shouted at the computer screen, “No, no. I can’t go back there.”  And like magic, the feeling passed, and I stared again, calmly, at the picture of another warrior who hadn’t volunteered for service. We’d both been drafted into this battle against breast cancer.

I’ve viewed many pictures of women with cancer. Many were the before and after chemo photos. You know the ones I mean: thick head of hair vs. baldness. I’ve viewed dozens and dozens of reconstructed breasts, the products of talented plastic surgeons. I’ve also seen many pictures of women who chose to remain flat after their surgeries. It’s always good to have choices.

But I have never, other than in my own mirror, seen a photo of a women within a week of having had bi-lateral mastectomy surgery. I have never seen someone else before the drains have been removed. Before the first doctor’s appointment. Before raising the arms is possible. One glance at Susie, and I was back there. Remembering, remembering…I remembered everything all too well.

I suspect that I experienced a taste of PTSD–post traumatic stress disorder–that our uniformed warriors live with for many years, some for a lifetime. My little taste wasn’t pretty. In fact, It was scary. Fortunately, I also recalled the love and support of family, friends and others who have walked the same path, and I was able to return to my normal, ordinary world without fuss. My computer screen soon reflected my current work in progress, a story which had nothing to do with breast cancer.

As for Susie? She’s fearless. With the love and support of her family and friends, “normal” is just down the block and around the corner.

Comments– I think courage comes in many forms. From the hero who sweeps a child away from an on-coming car to the single parent taking full responsibility for her family day in and day out. We all show our grit at some time in our lives, often many times. How are you fearless?  Is your courage obvious or quiet?  Make a comment and you’ll be entered into the June drawing (see below for details).

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I don’t know whether Susie’s cancer is inherited or not, but mine is. I support the non-profit organization called Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, or FORCE.  This is the only foundation in the country that focuses on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.  To find out more about FORCE, visit their website at:  www.facingourrisk.org    FORCE Logo

JUNE CONTEST!! Make a comment and your name will be entered into a fabulous drawing. Prizes are your choice of two of the six books shown below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Browse them at your favorite etailer where you can Look Inside the Book.

As always, thank you for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

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Starting Over~Fingers on the Keyboard

HERE WE GO AGAIN!   hands on keyboard

There is nothing scarier for a writer than staring at a blank computer screen, unsure where to start. Fingers, type something! Type anything. Truly, anything will do. Nora Roberts said so, and that lady knows a little something about writing books. Paraphrasing Nora here:  you can edit poor word choices, but you can’t edit a blank page.  She is so right. I’d better get crackin’.

I’m starting a new book, I’ve written fourteen other novels and should have the confidence to forge ahead without a second thought. But it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me nor for many other writers in my orbit.

I look at that blank screen and feel my heart race, my palms sweat. Oh, my God. I’ve got to come up with about 300 pages of story. I have to introduce fabulous characters and new conflicts to be resolved. I have to take readers on such an emotional ride that they won’t stop reading until the very last page.  At this point my stomach hurts, too. I visualize a tall, teetering pile of manuscript pages that should emerge at some point and have to take a deep breath. I need a pep talk. So I give one to myself.

My daily pep talk comes with coffee: Once upon a time there was a beautiful and talented writer...

My daily pep talk comes with coffee: Once upon a time there was a beautiful and talented writer…

Calm down. You can do this. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again. You love to make stuff up. You love getting to know new characters and figuring them out. You love making them work for the ending they deserve. I keep talking and listening. Everything I’m saying is entirely true. But that insecure little devil in me challenges: Aw, come on. It’s hard work.It nags at you 24/7. Do you really think you can do it again?

I’ve got the hero in mind. I’d met him a few years ago in Pilgrim Cove. A widower who’d recently gone through a broken engagement. I’d left him alone with his little girl, and ever since, readers have been after me to give Adam his happy ending. Okay, now is the time. But who would be the right woman for him? A woman who’d challenge him and drive him crazy? A woman he can’t stop thinking about? She has to be the perfect match for Adam.

I scroll halfway down the first page. My fingers rest on the home keys, and I slowly type Chapter One. I double space and Indent. I’m ready to start Page One, Paragraph One, Sentence One.

Would she use the ramp or try the stairs?

And suddenly, I’m back in Pilgrim Cove, where the ocean is at your doorstep and the residents are in your business. I’ve got a handle on this woman, but I’ll get to know her better when I see how she reacts to the situation she’s in. And the situations I throw at her.

Once again, I’m engrossed in creating a story, in finding out what happens next. I’m not thinking  about the number of pages in the whole book. At this moment, I’m thinking only about Chapter One, Scene One. This time my heart’s racing with excitement. I’m having fun! Again.    

Are there activities that scare you, but that you want to try anyway?  A parachute jump? Living in another country for a time? Or, perhaps writing a book?

POST A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE JUNE DRAWING FOR GREAT PRIZES. The winner will receive TWO of the books shown here (your choice), all written by the members of On Fire Fiction as well as a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN (your choice).

All of these books are traditional romances. Some are funny, some are more serious in tone. You can browse them at your favorite etailer and Look Inside the Books.  You might be the winner!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

LOVE, TEXAS cover

 

 

 

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Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

GET YOUR GAME ON!                  

Mah Jongg tiles. Like cards, they come in suits: bams, craks, dots, winds and dragons.

Mah Jongg tiles. Like cards, they come in suits: bams, craks, dots, winds and dragons.

When I moved to Florida almost two years ago, I didn’t know anyone in this “55 or better” community. In fact, the street I live on was only half built at the time with much land still vacant. I knew I’d have to figure out how to meet some people. Yes, I’m a writer, and I can lose myself for hours while writing a blog or a novel, but at heart, I’m not a hermit.  As much as I enjoy visiting with my fictional  characters, I’d prefer visiting with real  characters...uh..people 🙂 I like socializing. I would be miserable alone at the computer twenty-four/seven.

Mike and I have made many close friends from the time we began our lives together. Some of our friends are from our teenage years in New York. We became “family” with friends from our young parenting days in Massachusetts, and in Texas added several more friends in this category. These close friends were years in the making. These friends are the kind who anticipate what you need and what’s in your heart before your thoughts become words.

I had no expectations of making friends like these here in the day camp. A book discussion group would do. A card game would be great. As for Mah Jongg–or Mahj, as we call it–that would be even better. I’m talking about in-person Mahj, not via computer. All I wanted was to share some down time with some nice people.

I went to a book discussion and enjoyed it. At the end of the hour, I asked about Mah Jongg. By chance, two women needed another player for their game and invited me to sit in the next night. I met the other two players, and the evening turned out well. Now, we were five. I was a permanent member of this Wednesday night group. Then came a Monday afternoon group with some of the same women. Folks, I was in hog heaven. I loved this game. My life was in balance. My writing hours would be broken up with some real people face time – as well as with my visits to the gym. Just perfect.

A friendly game of Mahj.

A friendly game of Mahj. I’m in the green top.

Do you know what happens when you spend several hours a week with the same lovely women picking and discarding tiles, trying to  put the dots, cracks and bams in the right order to call Mah Jongg?  Know what happens when you spend time chatting with each other in between games? Sharing a piece of history here and there. About children. About husbands. About life in Atlanta or Boston or New York. About former careers. About childhood experiences. About parents long gone or still here. Of course you know what happens.

It took me almost a year to figure out that friendships can form at any time. A game of Mah Jongg evolves into a shopping trip or a dinner with husbands or a girls’ night out. Friendship is about heart and soul. Not age. It’s about being human.

Do you play in a regular game of Canasta, Bridge, Mah Jongg, chess or anything else  which became more than “just a game?”  Or do you participate in a weekly craft activity like a knitting or quilting circle?  Tell us about it.

A NEW CONTEST FOR JUNE!! Make a comment and you name will be entered into a new contest with great prizes. The winner will receive two of the six books shown below (your choice) all written by members of On Fire Fiction as well as a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or BN (your choice).  All of the books are traditional romances in different styles: some are funny, others more serious and evocative.  Browse them at your favorite etailer where you can Look Inside the Book. You might be the winner!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

LINDA BARRETT (2)

P.S. My friends in the day camp are insisting on reading and discussing FAMILY INTERRUPTED as part of the book club. I’ll let you know how it goes — scheduled for the fall.

Best always,

Linda

 

 

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LOVE, TEXAS cover61g61GQfe9L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_51UL1N2FFVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-57,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Starting Over~Fingers on the Keyboard

GET TO THE POINT!     

Yes, that's moi. My fingers at my messy desk.

Yes, that’s moi. My fingers at my messy desk.

Yesterday I typed The End on a new work that will be part of an anthology published by OnFireFiction this fall. The anthology celebrates holidays around the year, and my contribution honors Mother and Father’s Days.  With a dozen authors contributing to the volume, short pieces are in order. Oh, no problem–just grab an idea and jot it down. Uhh…not so fast, my friends. I can assure you most writers acknowledge that writing short is more difficult than writing long.

In a short story, there’s no time to explore the byways and detours that might intrigue you as you write a novel. You must ignore the lure of an extra and tempting, What if…?  With a very limited word count, getting from Point A to Point B is the priority, and you have to do it in as little time as possible while still providing a satisfying read.This means developing characters who readers will care about. It means creating a problem they have to resolve all within about 25 manuscript pages. For contrast, any of my traditional romance novels ran about 320 pages. Family Interrupted ran 430.  So for most novelists, the challenge of the short form is…well, a challenge.

Because of the story i was writing for the holiday anthology, I started thinking about short stories, poems and songs. I looked up some of the poets with whom we’re most familiar, and an hour flew by as Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe captured me once more. How did they do it? No wonder there are so few greats.

Frost used only six stanzas to evoke the imagination as he stood before two roads and chose “the one less traveled on.”  Poe used a similar amount of space to express the eternal love he held for his “Annabel Lee.”  The Belle of Amherst–ah, call her the Belle of Pithy:  “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me…”  In only five short stanzas–maybe a hundred words– she made friends with what we fear most and turned our thinking upside down. I’m in awe.

Many of our songwriters are contemporary poets who tell stories–and they do it within three minutes of air time. Think about “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. A complete story about raising a child–with a moral attached. He provided us with something to think about after the song ended.  It’s the same with Mac Davis’s “In the Ghetto” sung by Elvis Presley.  Billy Joel has written dozens of songs which are stories and gets his point across as a poet does–in a few stanzas. In “A Matter of Trust” he’s talking about what comes after the first flurry of love. A real marriage is based on trust. Other genres to think about are country and folk music where every song’s a story, enriching our American anthology of creative writing.

The shortest form of writing today is known as Flash Fiction:  a novel in six words. Perhaps the most famous example, attributed to Hemingway but not proven so, is:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

It’s all there. The plot, the characters, the emotion. Only the details are missing, but that’s okay. We don’t need them to feel the impact of the story. This is pithy to the extreme.

Compared to Flash Fiction, I guess my 25 page short story is a luxury! Not complaining any more 🙂

Do you read poetry? Short stories? Or do you prefer novels?

Our CONTEST WINNER for MAY is:  LISA R. CLARO. She’s aready received her package of Love Me Some Cowboy and Family Interrupted. 

A NEW CONTEST FOR JUNE!!   Make a comment and your name will be entered in a NEW CONTEST with GREAT PRIZES. The winner will receive two of the six books shown here (your choice), all written by members of OnFireFiction as well as a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN (your choice).

All of these books are traditional romances  in different styles. Some are funny, some more serious and evocative.  Browse them at Amazon where you can Look Inside the books.  You might be the winner!

 

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Best,

Linda

51UL1N2FFVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-57,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_ 51VJ6qyXifL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-70,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_ 51X0n7QeODL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_
51YO35nvckL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_ 61g61GQfe9L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_ LOVE, TEXAS cover