Tag Archives: writing

Starting Over~ From Barrett’s Garret

hands on keyboardA Year in this writer’s life~~  

As romantic a vision as it may be, I don’t really work from a freezing writer’s garret. My little old office does nicely. Today I have some writing news I wanted to share which will partly explain why I’ve been quiet these past few weeks.

I’m working on a brand new romance series called Sea View House, and I’m about halfway through the first book. The working title is The Perfect Wife, but that may change. So many things change from the conception stage to the final product that with titles, we always call it a working title until the final choice is on the book’s cover.

Funny how things come about. As the new year approached, I did NOT want to make any resolutions. Most resolutions fail. They fail after a week or two because most are tied into losing weight. As we all know by now, losing weight doesn’t happen by magic or by starving yourself for a week. Good stories don’t get magically written either. They need a lot of planning and a lot of time reserved only for thinking. Or dreaming. Thinking is not overrated. It’s a must.

By last November, I felt blah. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just didn’t have the energy for new projects. I’d lost my joy, my mojo, not only for writing, but for family fun. My golfer guy and I planned a cruise with friends, but honestly, I didn’t care one way or another if we actually went. With writing, normally, my hands start to itch for the keyboard. My mind drifts off, daydreaming about new characters and what they want and why they can’t have it. Now my mind was just blank. Burned out. So I looked back over the year to figure out the reason. I thought if I couldn’t, then maybe it was time to cover the keyboard and call it a day. Or a career.

Exactly one year ago, in January 2013, I officially started my journey as an author-publisher.  During the year, I released two full-length new works: a novel (Family Interrupted) and a memoir (Hopefully Ever After). I wrote over 60 short pieces for this blog (Starting Over), and participated in Facebook posts many times per week. I arranged for a blog tour, made personal appearances at several groups and was featured in a newspaper article here in Florida. I also gave as much support to other writer-friends as I could by sharing their FB posts or highlighting them in my blog.

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I kept up with industry news through writers’ magazines, blog posts by agents and authors as well as through group discussions with my own lifeboat of author friends and professional author loops. But by the time I boarded the cruise ship on December 30th, I had no idea where my writing was going next or if it was going anywhere at all. I was ready for a vodka tonic every night. And ordered them!

I enjoyed cruising with my friends. I learned how to snorkel and was thrilled to see the gorgeous fish swimming in front of my eyes, their bright colors flashing through the water. On the ship, if I was hungry, I ate. Without having to cook. If I was tired, I slept. Without having to make the bed. If I was in need of a shower, I took one. Without having to launder the towels. I played a Team Trivia game every day. I window shopped jewelry and other pretties. I arrived home relaxed, still undecided about the next step on my career path, but not worrying about it so much. Yes, I was born a worrier.

About three days after arriving home, after food shopping, laundry and cleaning the house, I sat down at the computer and continued working on The Perfect Wife. Time flew. It took me a week to get back on Facebook.  So what? I waited a few days to reconnect with my author friends, but I didn’t worry about it. They’d understand.

I found the joy again. As always, it lurks in the writing waiting to be rediscovered. Truly a gift that keeps on giving in the best of ways. After publishing  fifteen full-length books, you’d think I’d know that by now. That I’d remember it when days are gray. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget when  a long list of “should’s” and “have to’s” obscure it.

So my resolution this year is to be mindful of the joy. The stressors of writing must remain in a corner to be addressed when I can. Hmm….? Maybe I am shedding weight after all–from my mind, not my body.

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

Linda

P.S.  My short story Man of the House will be available soon for 99 cents at all ebook stores.

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Starting Over ~ Riding the Wave or Not

hands on keyboardOBSERVATIONS FROM AN INDIE AUTHOR AFTER ONE YEAR

If your timing was right and you were lucky enough to ride the wave of independent publishing a year or two ago, you’re probably gung-ho about this new world of publishing. Riding the wave meant: 

1) you had a backlist to promote,

2) you were adept or quickly learned to be adept at social media,

3) you understood how to promote on book selling sites and blogs and had the shekels for paid ads you deemed necessary,

4) you had a nice handful of other authors at your side to support each others’ efforts by cross-promoting,

5) you believed in yourself enough to shell out some additional bucks for editing and cover design services,

6) you had enough money left over for technological services for uploading and distributing books to all the big electronic book stores,  OR

7) you had the innate ability to conquer whatever technology you needed to learn

8) you had the temperament to jump into the deep end of a new business with not much but your own chutzpah and a lot of discipline related to time and money management

9) you were ready to work 24/7 and lucky enough to have an understanding spouse

I am here to tell you that Items 2-9 on this list are the gravy items. Without Item 1 – the backlist – don’t count on your career sky rocketing. Not even if you are a multi-published author who’s won awards. Not when your books are still owned by a traditional house. Without appreciable on-line content for sale–content that’s in your control—significant income or any income is a long shot.  

Everything’s an experiment during the first year of going indie. Assuming you have a nice backlist but sales are slow, you can change covers, promote at different sites, ride the freeway or offer big “deals,” such as 99 cents permanently for a book. If one idea doesn’t work, just try another. Sooner or later, you’ll hit the right note.  Proof will be with your income.

Most author friends have told me that during their first year as indie publishers, they worked exclusively with their backlists and didn’t write any new work. Getting those older books up and out is hard work that consumes your time. But it must be done. Think of it as the building block to your new work.

For the author without a backlist, like moi, that first year is a whirlwind of trying and learning. While you’re writing new books, you’re also trying to have an Internet presence: Facebook, Twitter, Blogging – Tribrr, Goodreads.  The goal is “getting your name out there.” I’ve heard that phrase so much, I say it in my sleep.  So I spent eight months writing two blogs a week with pictures, and posting them on my website. I loved writing them, and my readership grew from about 450 to 2000. Little did I realize, however, that maintaining that pace sapped my energy and creativity for writing new books. I didn’t expect to earn anything with my blog—I was “getting my name out!”

Lesson learned:  Take care of the muse!

I’d written thirteen books in the romance genre before my indie adventure. The rights are still held by my traditional publisher, so I started fresh. Different. I wanted to stretch my writing chops, so I wrote a women’s fiction novel called Family Interrupted. Put it on sale in April 2013. It received wonderful reviews from both professional reviewers and readers.  I promoted it, even gave it a blog tour.  The money I’ve earned so far could perhaps cover the cost of a steak dinner. One dinner. One time.

In October, I released a work of non-fiction.  A memoir of surviving two bouts of breast cancer called Hopefully Ever After. Again, the reviews were terrific, but sales so far…not so good. Maybe a chicken dinner.

Also in October I participated in an anthology with four other authors. Romance stories celebrating holidays around the year.  Price: 99 cents. I’m not counting on steak here either.

My current work-in-progress is a romance – the first book of a new series. I guess my writing chops were stretched enough. At least for this year.

Lesson learned:   Have the patience of Job, and give readers what they want.  

As always when writing a blog, essay, or opinion piece, I speak only for myself. These observations are my own. I based them on my true life experiences. I didn’t conduct any surveys – scientific or otherwise. I have a broad-based network of author friends who share stories. I read blogs written by others in the industry, and try to keep up with what I need to know. Will I ever know enough?  Will you?

This new wave of publishing is still an industry in flux. I don’t see it settling down yet. There are times I feel I’m running on empty. At other times, I can’t wait for a new day to begin. One thing I know for sure – I’m never bored.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I look forward to seeing you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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P.S.  Shh-h…here’s a little secret I’m sharing with you first. Hopefully Ever After will be only 99 cents next week, from Monday-Saturday at all ebook stores.  Regular price is $5.99.  Make a note and enjoy. Happy holidays!

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I’m very proud of the reviews and comments I’ve received about Family Interrupted. This novel is excellent for book clubs. In fact, the conversation lasted over an hour at my own book group. Hope you’ll pick up a copy.

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Starting Over ~ Fingers on the Keyboard

RESEARCH?  WHO, ME?                   hands on keyboard    

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you depend on the author to provide an accurate setting for her story. Whether it’s England in 1215 at the signing of the Magna Carta or American soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy over seven hundred years later, an enthusiastic reader will slam the book shut if mistakes in geography, dress, cultural mannerisms, scientific inventions are found. Readers expect to be drawn into the story completely. They want to be a part of that distant time, and they can be — within the pages of a well written book.  Historical fiction devotees often have favorite time periods they enjoy reading about. Regency England comes to mind. Or the Viking period. Or Colonial America. Or the settling of the American West. Authors are expected to have expertise in showcasing the attitudes and conventions of the times as well as the physical setting.

This is not a novel but a reference book about everything Regency – clothing, clubs, royalty titles, entertainment, food…etc.

What about authors of contemporary stories? The general perception is that they–myself included–get away easy.  We don’t have to bother with research because we live during the time period we write about, and therefore, we know it through osmosis and observation. The things we take for granted — television, computers, airplanes, rocket ships, supermarkets–are obvious. Who needs to research? Well, let’s see…

Try writing a police procedural and getting the crime scene wrong. Readers will condemn you forever, as well they should.

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Try writing about a health condition without getting your facts straight, and you’ll hear about it. Try writing about a career…let’s say air traffic controller, hospital administrator, or bakery owner…and not understanding what goes on behind the scenes…fugeddaboutit! You’ll have lost your readers forever. They simply won’t trust you to tell a story they can believe in. So, authors of contemporary fiction do a lot of research before writing the first paragraph of a new work.

A few years ago, I wrote a four book series set in the fictional town of Pilgrim Cove, MA. The town was modeled on a real town south of Boston along the Atlantic coast. I spent hours figuring out the tides and weather patterns in all seasons. I discovered the existence of a commuter ferry service to Boston. I researched the businesses a town that size could support. And then began the particular research regarding each main character’s background including their careers.

Moffitt Walk for the cure & Pilgrim Cove 007

In the first book, The House on the Beach, the heroine was a voice-over announcer doing radio commercials. What does a recording studio look like? Who would be with her? Does she have an agent to help get assignments? Her background in speech and linguistics helps her connect with the hero’s young son, a boy who stutters. My research included the causes and types of stuttering and how those around the child should react to him. The hero of the third book, Reluctant Housemates, was a marine biologist. I have a fat folder on that topic! And when trouble on the ocean came calling, I discovered how a Fresnel lens works, the kind used in lighthouses.

Recently, I had the idea to return to Pilgrim Cove and catch up on what’s happening. There’s a veterinarian, a single dad, who wants nothing to do with romance. If I proceed, I see tons of research ahead regarding veterinary clinics, common illnesses of dogs and cats. How about birds and bunnies? This vet happens to be part of the local greyhound rescue association. So, now we’re getting specific, from dogs in general to greyhounds and the characteristics of that breed as well as the effects of living the life of a top notch canine athlete. I started browsing this material and was blown away at the tough adjustment these wonderful dogs have when adopted by a forever family.  Of course, a romance is also brewing despite what our hero thinks. So more research awaits on the background of the heroine.

Almost all authors find the research part fun! It challenges us to learn about stuff we never knew before. And it’s interesting. But here’s the bonus:  good research might provide plot points for the story, plot points that the author wouldn’t have thought about on her own. You know how you want to look up something on Google? And how that one search can lead to ten more searches?  Well, that’s what it’s like for a writer to throw herself into her job. I love it!

So now, as part of my research, I need a favor:  can you comment on whether you’d be interested in visiting Pilgrim Cove with me? I’m thinking about setting several new romances in that town. Each romance would stand alone, but the townspeople and the town remain constant. You could jump right in, and it wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the first four books. Would readers believe that?

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

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NEW CONTEST FOR NOVEMBER:  I’m celebrating my co-authors of our Celebrate! anthology which was released last month. The winner of the November contest gets to choose two books from the list below. All are other works written by Rogenna Brewer, Barbara McMahon, Deb Salonen, Karen Sandler and moi.

Available October 3rd

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Starting Over ~ CELEBRATE!

Hi everyone – I just got back from vacation and discovered that I screwed up the schedule and never published the following blog so you’d know I’d be away until today. The blog was originally supposed to appear on August 29th. Oy.  I am so sorry. I thought I’d figured everything out and was so organized…  So now, if you’ll indulge me, I’d appreciate catching up.  As a little extra today, here comes the cover reveal–you are the very first to see this. It’s not even been on Facebook yet!

The front cover

The front cover

We’d recently talked about first lines of famous books. I introduced you to four author friends who are joining me in releasing an anthology of stories based on holidays. The book is coming out in mid-October. You’ve gotten a taste of everyone’s story except mine! So here’s what I had prepared for August 29th:

CELEBRATE! — A five story anthology plus a novella about holidays we celebrate throughout the year. All written by award-winning authors of On Fire Fiction.fw2

The month has flown by, and today is the last of the posts about holidays, short stories and the anthology CELEBRATE! of which I’m so proud to be a part. True confession: this is my very first time contributing to a group project. In the past, I just didn’t have the opportunity. But now, as an indie pubbed author, I’ve got the freedom to create opportunities simply by finding other writers who might be interested, and then–just doing it!

If you’re familiar with my work, you know that my romance novels contain lots of families. It seems I enjoy working with “a cast of thousands” rather than with a lone hero and heroine. But the families in my books are hurting and must struggle to find their happy endings. I find this set-up strange because I grew up in a very solid and happy family. So maybe I want everyone to have what I had. My short story is no different. Two lonely adults with two recalcitrant kids are challenged to find their way to love and laughter.

I chose to combine MOTHER’S DAY and FATHER’S DAY as my holidays to celebrate. It’s tough to separate them when the theme of the story is second chances for everyone–the adults and their children. Although this story has never been published before, it has been seen by other eyes. I entered the shorter version into a national short story contest when I first wrote it some years ago, and it placed in the top ten entries out of almost 2000. That achievement gave me the confidence to keep writing, to keep trying for a professional career. And here I am!

STORY TITLE:  Man of the House   

FIRST LINES:  This can’t be good news. The readout on Nancy Wyatt’s desk phone said Pulitzer Middle School, and her stomach knotted as tightly as a fishing line around bait.

Uh-oh. Doesn’t every mom’s stomach hurt when her kid’s school calls in the middle of the day? Poor Nancy. What’s in store for her after she picks up that receiver.

I hope this peaked your interest as a first line. Maybe not in the class of “Call me Ishmael,” but in its own class of contemporary fiction.  As a reminder, my women’s fiction novel, FAMILY INTERRUPTED is available at all the usual places that sell electronic books. But it’s also available in paperback at Amazon or CreateSpace.  Here’s a pic of me holding it in my hot little hands.:

 

The PRINT edition is here!

The PRINT edition is here!

I still get a kick out of seeing it!

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blogs about the authors of CELEBRATE!  And I hope you add the book to your collection.

Announcement:  I’ll be on vacation next week. Hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over on Thursday, September 12th.  Thanks for being loyal visitors. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Thanks for letting me share the background of this story a little later than I had in mind. Next Tuesday, we’ll be back to regular blogs about Starting Over.

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CONTINUING THE AUGUST CONTEST AND WILL POST A WINNER ON TUESDAY. JUST MAKE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED. THE PRIZES ARE A CHOICE OF ONE THE SELECTIONS BELOW AS WELL AS A $25 GIFT CERTIFICATE TO AMAZON OR BN. YOUR CHOICE 🙂

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Starting Over ~ CELEBRATE!

CELEBRATE! — A five story anthology plus a novella about holidays we celebrate throughout the year. All written by award-winning authors of On Fire Fiction.  fw2

I love presenting this series of posts to you because my writing friends are some of the greatest people I know. Always willing to listen and give advice. Never afraid to ask for it either. Just as with other friends, these are relationships based on trust. I’ve known most of these gals for many years, and I can say without hesitation that they work hard and love creating stories. When they get emails from their readers…well, that’s the whipped cream on the cake 🙂

I’m very pleased that my guest today is Debra Salonen, a California girl whose very first published book was released about the same time mine was. We met each other at what was our very first

Deb Salonen Yoga, anyone?

Deb Salonen   

writers conference in July 2000. Turned out we had the same editor! One of the qualities I admire about Deb is her ability to turn off the stress. Hiking and yoga are her secrets. Another quality I admire is her willingness to try something different with her writing. She came up with an adorable but naughty four book romantic comedy series for the “55 and better” generation called Screw Senility which sets a very different tone from the traditional romances she’d been writing. This is hot!  But she still managed to give her heroine a happily ever after!

What holiday did Deb choose for her story? CHRISTMAS! Here’s the story behind the story in Deb’s own words:

Kindness gets to me every time. Maybe that’s because my mother, Daisy Bagby Robson, was one of the kindest women I ever met. I have numerous memories of her generosity, including once when she decided I wasn’t using my bike anymore, so it should go to a poor child I’d never met. As I recall, I reacted as any spoiled baby-of-the-family might. I threw a fit. She patiently described this other child’s circumstance as it compared to mine…in other words, she guilted me into agreeing. 

I wish I could say I instantly became as giving and generous a my mom, but that would be a lie. Still, the memory stuck, and when my children were very young, I wanted to share the essence of this memory in a way that might teach and entertain. I wrote “My Christmas Angel.” Longhand, on lined paper. I read it to them every Christmas for a few years, then tucked it away in my files.

A year ago, my daughter asked me, “Didn’t you write a Christmas story once? Where is that? I’d like to read it to Daisy (my granddaughter).” 

Ah…life comes full circle…courtesy of epublishing.  I pulled out the story and read it. And, as happens with writers, I immediately wondered what happened to Abigail and Dickie–the little children in the story. Why…they’d be thirty-some years old by now. All grown up. With children of their own…and so the story begins.

STORY TITLE:  My Christmas Angel

FIRST LINE:   “Read me your story, Mommy. Please. Before you go. Plee…ase.”

Oh, yeah. I recognize that ploy…and I bet you do, too. One more story, Mommy. Another glass of water.  Someone doesn’t want to go to sleep. Someone doesn’t want his mom to leave. In the next paragraph, we quickly learn about young Ben and his divorced mom who was on her way to a holiday party given by her ex-sister-in-law.  Deb Salonen manages to draw us into the lives of these two lovely people very quickly and we want to know what happens next.

What’s next on Deb’s writing agenda?

“I’m back at work on my next project: a 3-book romantic suspense series called K.A.B. (Karma’s A Bitch) Investigations.”

Find out more about Deb Salonen and her books at:   www.debrasalonen.com

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This is the cover of Book 4 in Deb’s Screw Senility series. Adorable, no?

 

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. You’ll meet another of my author friends at the next edition of Starting Over.  Hope to see you then.

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POST A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY AUGUST CONTEST. THE PRIZES ARE A CHOICE OF ONE OF THE SELECTIONS BELOW AND A $25 GIFT CERTIFICATE TO AMAZON OR BN. YOUR CHOICE!

UnsuitablyPerfect_zps11428b3bLove Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

Starting Over ~ Family Stories, Part II

WORDS AND PICTURES FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION – file0001743539956

As promised, today I’m giving you concrete examples to help you write stories about your family. Whether you have a large family or a small one, you’ve got stories to share. Funny stories. Poignant stories. Life-changing events. Family traditions. And characters. Oh, yes, we can’t forget the characters. And one of them is you! I think writing family stories is not only fun, but important. How else will your children and grandchildren know who they are?

Last time at Starting Over, I suggested a number of topics for you to consider writing about. Of course, a dozen of your own ideas might have sprung to mind, and that’s wonderful. For those of you needing suggestions, however, I offered the gamut from family recipes, to holidays, to life cycle events, to particular family members. Everything is fodder. Just reach in and grab an idea.

Today we’re going to figure out some specific ways to start your story. Even for professional writers, choosing the right opening is very challenging if not the hardest part of the work. I’m here to make life easy for you!  Here are three different ways to begin your tale–examples from my own stories are included:

SETTING — Using this option, you start by revealing such items as time, place  and weather. The goal here is for your children to see and feel what you saw and felt at the time the real event took place. Use the real dates and places. After all, these stories are not fiction. If this is a story about your parents or grandparents, gather the information now.

Example:  “Houston’s so flat,” I protested, “and the houses have no basements.” Too disappointed to hide my feelings, I looked at my husband with dismay and wondered if my friends up north were right. “Too hot and humid,” they’d warned. “Don’t go.” But I hadn’t cared, In fact, I’d looked forward to getting away from New England winters…until now.

Home of the Houston Astros! Beautiful park.

Minute Maid Park — Home of the Houston Astros!   I always think of it as a happy
place.

ACTION — Using this option, you start with an event, then go back in time to explain how and why this event happened.

Example:  I often tell people that Michael and I met by accident, but that’s not quite true. My uncle Sid introduced us. On our very first date, however, we did hit a telephone pole head on. The car was totally wrecked. Fortunately, we weren’t.   (I then explained where we were, why we were out so late and what my dad’s reaction was–oh, yes, that made for a story 🙂

CHARACTERS — these are your family members, Using this option, it’s fun to describe how the personality affected you and others. The person you choose to write about can be quiet or larger- than-life or somewhere in between. Everyone is unique and worthy.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Example:  Aunt Ethel had a reputation among the kids. She was the doctor. In deference to the medical profession, however, we called her “half-a-doctor.”  She could make “it” better, whatever “it” was, but her specialties were splinters and specs-in-the-eyes. The combination of her infinite patience and excellent eyesight earned her the reward of fixing us.

I hope you’ll make a stab at writing your family stories. If you have any questions, just ask them in the comment section. And if you want to share something you’ve written, you can do that in the comment section, too. I’ll post your efforts in a later blog as a “follow-up” if you’d like. You don’t have to be Mark Twain or Hemmingway or Dostoyevsky to write for yourself. You just have to pick up a pencil and get started.

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

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot hot, while Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resothers…not so book coverMA25EC~1Release-MeNewJpgmuch. Your choice!

ARe DEBRA SALONEN BANG 2

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

The chorus presentation on July 4th, 2013

The chorus presentation on July 4th, 2013

WASTING TIME? OR BURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS?

“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My 70s were interesting and fairly serene, but my 80s are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.”

The above quote is from the best known work of Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days which she wrote in her 80s. She was a practicing psychologist and playwright who studied under Carl Jung. She lived to be 93 years old. Her book explores how to make meaning out of our later years.

Now, I’m still a long way from being 80, but I think I get it. I look around at my new friends in this community, and I see active, vibrant people who finally have the time to explore their creative sides. Perhaps, their passions.

On July 4th, I attended a celebration in honor of America’s birthday. On stage was the community chorus. It is composed of residents who not only like to sing, but can actually carry a tune! They and their director have given untold hours preparing the program, practicing the songs and arrangements and making sure to show up for every rehearsal. The audience, including moi, filled the large social hall with barely a seat remaining empty. Our applause brought such words of appreciation from the choir director as though WE were doing THEM the favor. And then I realized that a vocal performance was similar to writing a novel. They both need an audience to gain closure. The passion, however, resides in creating the art. It’s hard work, and no one volunteers unless driven to it. Is it worth the effort?  In my view, the satisfaction is immeasurable.

Another dream deferred...until now?

Another dream deferred…until now?

Along the walls of the clubhouse are glass cases displaying the creative side of other people. The Photography Club, for example, often shows pictures so well crafted,  I would pay for them. They’re of professional quality, and I know that learning the skills to produce those photographs had to have taken infinite amounts of time, attention, and practice. The names of the photographers are in small print, but I take note and compliment the creators when I see them.

In addition to photography, displays of the Woodworking, Quilters, and Ceramics Clubs make a passer-by pause to browse the offerings. Not every item is of professional quality, but I can see how some artists have improved over time. They’re taking their work seriously, haven’t gotten bored, haven’t given up. When I spoke to several in the art class, all I heard was the word love. They love what they’re doing, learning. They’ve always wanted to try. Never knew they could be as good as they are. Sure, some laughed…or snickered. But no one quit.

In the Life Long Learning program, speakers cover  topics from the stock market to the solar system. From early philosophers to logic theories. To my own offering of Writing Family Stories.

Exploring the swath of ideas and activities that we promised ourselves we’d do “one day” provides an opportunity to make meaning of these years  when our responsibilities are fewer and we finally have the time. I sincerely hope that I grow more passionate as I age. I don’t want to miss the sweet satisfaction of jumping in deep and trying something new or revisiting a long held dream.

How about you?

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

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below, written by the award winning authors of On Fire Fiction plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, hot while others…not so much. Your choice:)

MA25EC~1Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resARe DEBRA SALONEN BANG 2Release-MeNewJpgLINDA BARRETT (2)

 

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 ~ 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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