Wednesday, July 01, 2020

IWSG #6 July: The Next Decade????

I've stopped counting days that we've spent staying at home since the pandemic began, for us in early March. We still wear our masks and observe social distancing with family and friends. We're not quite ready to go out to a restaurant or grocery shop. We are in at least one of those vulnerable groups who live cautiously, at least for the immediate future.

So, that's why when IWSG's question came along this month, I kind of groaned.

Optional July 1 question - There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

How can I look ahead ten years to the 'changes in the industry' when I don't understand truly how I, as a writer, have been affected by the past decade? So I'll start by looking back ten years:

  • RESEARCH: I rely so much on the internet for research into historical and other settings. For example, yesterday I watched a YouTube video that took me on a walk through a crowded, open air market in Cairo, Egypt. If I need to understand the psychology of a criminal, Google it.
  • WRITING SKILLS: I was an early adopter of technology, back in the 1970s, and I love learning new things. Today, though, I no longer head to the library first or subscribe to writerly magazines. Instead, I leap onto the keyboard, in search of my favorite writing gurus. I subscribe to far too many newsletters and enjoy online writing challenges, including this monthly post for IWSG. OK, I'm privileged with too many devices -- and I can sync them.
  • WRITING ITSELF remains pretty much the same. I dream, draw, and freewrite, then outline (somewhat) my way into stories. Sometimes on paper, more often on the computer. I do insert pictures into my drafts (visual writer) to keep me anchored in this story world. I still print out drafts to go over them again and again.
  • PUBLISHING. Way back in 2012, my first little self-published book of short stories came out. Four novels later, I remain quite happy to be an older-than-average indie writer. The publishing 'industry' has shrunk; technology keeps changing the 'how,' with competing resources increasing like mama's chickens, Amazon's gifts to indie writers like me still mean access to readers. Who could imagine back then, readers would one day  read my book on their iPhone???
  • MARKETING. Aargh. I'd rather be writing. Even traditional publishers ask their writers to do more. But we indie writers have many options that include building our own blogs, setting up readings (just not now), being active in professional associations, and developing a social media profile that is consistent and connected to our readers.
So what's coming in this next decade for writers, up to 2030? 
  1. I hope to still be alive and writing -- still an indie writer.
  2. Technology will ramp up in ways we cannot imagine, even in just ten more years, so we need to stay 'in the curve' of learning.
  3. Who we are will continue to be shaped by events around us. As writers, we may need to be more disciplined to not fall down the rat hole of unending distractions and change. 
  4. We have choices. Our passion, commitment, and the stories we write influence others. So, the themes we choose, our heroines and heroes, can influence others. Writers offer more than a reflection of life around us.
Do you remember reading Orwell's 1984?

What writers have you read that changed how you view the world? That challenged your understanding of life's potential?

What books will you write in the coming decade?

Stefan Keller (Pixabay)

The Insecure Writer's Support Group, is led by intrepid and fearless Alex Cavannagh, and with the help of this month's co-hosts: Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp (that's me!), Liesbet @ Roaming About, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox. The IWSG offers many resources to help and encourage writers at all stages. Why not join in this wonderful community of writers?

And remember our current mantra: Stay safe, wear that mask, and practice safe distancing --- and, perhaps most importantly, cherish each day!

NOTE: I don't normally do this, but since you actually read this far . . . David Gaughran, one of those writing gurus referred to above, just released his 4th edition of Let's Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should. It's free as of today (July 1st), so you could check it out 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Kindle freebie through June 29th!

Just a quickie to say you can download Poetry in a Time of Pandemic for free through June 29th.

Here you’ll find poems that may make you laugh, think about places and times far from today's pandemic – from Giza to the Old West, and poems that affirm the beauty of each day.

Share with a friend -- or just enjoy! 

Get your copy on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Weds Post: An excerpt for you!

These days of pandemic and protest, I'm never really sure what new tragedy will shake my optimism. Each morning seems to present new challenges. What keeps us hopeful? 

For me, family and friends -- online and nearby -- make the difference, even when we don't agree and especially when we do. That nurturing community keeps me motivated, except when the news is so outrageous, I cannot do anything at all. I feel helpless to bring about any real change and saddened by the grief of families who have lost everything through senseless violence.

I do try to follow a routine of writing every day and have made a commitment to post each Wednesday here. You might have noticed I missed last Wednesday. That's OK. We still have Wednesdays to come.

Today's post is a little gift, an excerpt from my latest book, The Seventh Tapestry. I hope you enjoy -- even as you persevere with challenges in your own life, to be safe, yet involved, to be creative and committed to your own dreams. May the coming month be a good one for us all.

The Seventh Tapestry -- An Excerpt

SANDRA’S OFFICE PHONE chimed, interrupting her study of museum holdings.
     “Director Hadley would like to see you upstairs,” said Margaret. “Now.”
     “I’m on my way.” Sandra rolled the kinks out of her neck and stared at the low-hanging ceiling in her office. She loved working for the Museum of Medieval Art, but she wondered what he wanted. She hotfooted it through the basement employee lounge, closed the door to the tiny, iron-scrolled elevator with a click, and hit the button for the third floor. She tucked her honey-blonde hair behind her ears and wished for the gift of clairvoyance.
     Margaret ushered Sandra into the inner office overlooking an expansive view of Princes Street Gardens below, but Sandra’s attention was on Mr. Hadley, impeccably dressed in a gray suit with matching vest, and his guest. Both rose as she entered.
     “Sandra, please join us. This is Neil McDonnell of Scotland Yard’s Art Crimes Unit. I’ve told him you are relatively new to our Curatorial Affairs department.”
     The tall man next to Mr. Hadley nodded, his face still; his hand reached out to shake hers, firm and warm. Sandra automatically catalogued him: Hair a little long, tall, lanky, sure of himself, well dressed in a casual way, sweater vest and tie with a gray tweed jacket. Perhaps too good looking?
     She sat on the edge of one of the chairs near a settee and waited.
     “Tell us what you think of our main storage area.” Mr. Hadley’s eyes looked bloodshot; his expression not as welcoming as it was on her first day at the museum.
     “The storage area seems adequate, so far.” Sandra paused, not certain what to say.
     “Were you alone in the storage area,” Mr. Hadley glanced at his notes, “on the nights of Tuesday and Thursday last week, after museum hours?”
     “Yes, sir. I was working on my preliminary collections report for Roger, I mean Mr. Ferguson. I was assured I could do so.”
     “And your findings?” Mr. Hadley glanced at the man seated beside him.
     “I’m still working on my report, but . . .”
     “Can we see your findings?” Neil interrupted, his sharp green eyes missing nothing.
     “Yes, of course,” said Sandra. “The report is little more than a list of artifacts and locations just now. I can go downstairs to print them out.”
     Mr. Hadley shook his head. “Tell Margaret the file name. She will print it out for you.”
     Within minutes, Margaret handed out copies of Sandra’s database report.
     “I haven’t finished my review of the first floor storage unit,” Sandra explained.
     Mr. Hadley waved his hand to cut Sandra off. “We can see your progress. Notice this, McDonnell.” He tapped on something in her report. “Do you have any other comment on the Saxon axe hammer than what is here?”
     Sandra shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.”
     “Was the hammer in Case 24 when you last visited?”
     “Yes, sir.”
     “Ah,” said Neil. “Can you explain why that item is no longer in its case?”
     “What? It’s missing?” Sandra’s stomach lurched. While not a major item in the collection, the hammer was still priceless. But nothing should be missing. “What do the surveillance tapes show?”
     Mr. Hadley and Neil exchanged a glance.
     “The cameras were deactivated,” said Neil.

To be continued . . . in The Seventh Tapestry!

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

IWSG #5 June: Secrets I Never Wished to Keep

Welcome to June's question of the month from the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Led by Ninja Alex Cavannagh, and with the help of this month's co-hosts, Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre, this group offers resources to help and encourage writers at all stages. Why not join in and build a community of writers?

And this month's question is: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

My secret life is very much hidden. Only in recent years, have I begun to talk about my childhood, perhaps to finally heal. Tall, nerdy, quiet, and, yes, with glasses, I tended to stay close to the door of any classroom. Ready to escape.

My favorite mode of escape? Books I chose from the library (fiction of every kind and history). The thickest ones I could find. Two Years before the Mast was a favorite -- which led me to fantasize about running away to sea. Later, much later, I met DH and we pretty much have traveled on every continent, except Asia, Micronesia, and Australia/New Zealand (though that's on the current list).

How would readers know about my childhood? I'm not sure. Perhaps the themes underlying my first four books: abandonment, violence, economic upheaval. In each book, my main characters struggle for survival. Thankfully, I believe in happy endings.

Though I don't easily talk about my childhood, some of the healing has come from writing my memoir. Yes, all the details, though this memoir may never be published. Perhaps I've learned to accept my past.

With my latest book, The Seventh Tapestry, just out May 1st as an e-book, this story takes readers right into a mystery about a theft from a museum set in Edinburgh. Sandra, a curator, and Neil, an art crimes investigator, attempt to retrieve a priceless tapestry with its own history.

This one was so much fun to write with settings in Edinburgh and Paris (and the 15th Century), that I'm already knee-deep in research for Sandra and Neil's next adventures in Egypt and the Pacific Northwest.

That's my update for the month. Even with the coronavirus (Day 86 of staying-at-home), and these latest rounds of protests to call for change following the tragic death of George Floyd, we all need nurturing, compassion, and hope for the future.

Thank you for reading. May you cherish each day.

Here's the LINK.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

May 30: Endings and Beginnings

So many days have passed
in quarantine, staying at home,
seeing loved ones well past arms length,
unable to hug, to console, to comfort.
Each 24-hour span brings more death,
more frustration, more willingness for some
to simply let go of wearing masks,
not caring for the risks to others.
My eyes do not want to remember
those crowds bullying their way into a courthouse,
swastikas and guns and MAGA hats,
a protest of a sort that marks only endings,
that doesn't mean anything at all to me.

If I ever grew restive about the singular repetitious
recounting of coronavirus cases and deaths,
I never wished for this:
the death of a man, George Floyd,
at the hands, or I should say knee
of a police officer, honor bound to serve and protect.

Still home, still quarantined, now I watch flames
and crowds of protesters, heartfelt voices raised
against this cruelty, maybe manipulated by some
to violence, now an appalling nightmare
spread across our country that doesn't stop.
This was not the legacy I wished for,
this domestic war between worlds.
How will we create new beginnings,
hope for tomorrow, and trust in those young people
with visions for change.

"Hands" by Jackson David (Pixabay)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday Update: Covers and Projects, Oh My!

This last week (and the week before), all the news about pandemic has made me feel a little wobbly, like so many others. Luckily, the daily walk up to a nearby pond comforts me. The weather finally is warmer, the birds are out in force, and  red-headed blackbirds and yellow-head blackbirds squabble for space.

This staying-at-home is not for the faint of heart. Some days are more challenging than others, especially as each day brings more distressing news, but we have enough to eat, the hot and cold water works, and so do our computers.

Now that The Seventh Tapestry (an art crimes mystery) and Poetry in a Time of Pandemic are relatively complete, I have a new project. Whenever I feel a little claustrophobic, I can dive into researching Egyptian artifacts, museums, and crime as I follow Sandra and Neil on their next honeymoon-inspired adventure.

Just for fun, I made two covers, even though the final story is most likely two years off. So, which one do YOU like?

A friend suggested that an Egyptian setting might be a setting other writers have already done. Maybe I should consider art crime closer to home, right here in the Pacific Northwest. That's a bit intriguing, and I've already found evidence of amazing thefts where I least expected. I spent some time on Bainbridge Island just west of Seattle when I was a kid, and I still remember digging in the sand there for buried treasures.

Tonight, my daughter said, "Mom, the pandemic isn't over! Where's your poem-a-day?" So, just maybe, I'll find a poem in that morning hour before everyone else is awake.

What about you? What are you doing to keep yourself reasonably happy during these stressful times?

I hope you are well, safe, and able to nourish yourself and those around you. Even if restrictions are easing, consider wearing a mask, please! And cherish each day that brings something that gladdens your heart.  --Beth

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Something beautiful happened this morning.

On its landing page, Google celebrated what would have been Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole's 61st birthday with a snippet to his rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

I burst into tears at the beauty of his voice. Part of this may be related to the pandemic. After all, today marks Day 72 for our family, and aren't we all missing so much? And concerned in so many ways for loved ones and those at risk.

But part of my reaction may be that over the last few weeks, I've been struggling with my writing, hampered by too many directions to go, and, additionally, issues with publishing that seem beyond my ability to correct.

Google explains that some of the illustrations used in the video honoring Kamakawiwo╩╗ole are actually kapa, complicated designs that carry meaning far beyond what those of us outside Hawaiian culture can understand. One stood out to me:  "The eye with no fear."

Isn't that what we need to live through these days? To face our own challenges and persevere? And so, I shall dive back into my writing, nurtured by the creativity and beauty that always surrounds us.

Rainbow on Maui, Hawaii (Staxy1 on Pixabay)

Google's video is here: