Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Weds: Getting Ready to Pack

 Wednesday morning, almost our last day here on Vancouver Island. I'm sitting out on the verandah, enjoying the quiet view of golfing green and forest as I enjoy breakfast waffles. Across the way, a dog barks, then another. A chain of different dogs take up the chorus, ending with a deep, baying howl. Something's wrong. Silence, as if we all wait to see what's next. The absolute quiet continues. No deer breaks from cover. A car starts up. Construction ratatatat echoes from a distant jackhammer. And the forest breathes again.

We leave Friday morning for the 2.5 hour Ferry ride and will cross back into the U.S. at Blaine, then down the coast cutting east just below Everett, home to Spokane. Yes, I'm eager to be home, but I will remember the quiet peace of the mornings and the beauty of this island, our trip south to Victoria (and Butchart Gardens, the Royal British Columbia Museum).

Butchart Gardens (September 2023)

Update on writing. Not much to report. I'm working on two projects at once, so slow but steady going on both. My 'doggone mystery' has new scenes, and the collection of short stories for subscribers to my newsletter is taking shape. Allen said that it sounds like some of my stories come from dreams. Perhaps. And perhaps they start when I sit on the verandah on that red swing and listen to the morning.

At the Swan's Pond (September 2023)

What's next? Football season? Settling into that time of year when the leaves change and we're reminded that winter's on its way? What one thing would you like to accomplish this winter? in the coming year?

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

IWSG September 5: From the Beginning!

This month's Challenge Question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group took me back in time. All the way back to July 2015, just 8 years ago, and I'm already at 46 (out of 118). Go HERE to read that original entry! 

What I've appreciated most . . . is how effectively this vibrant online community connects writers who care about other writers and writing, regardless of genre or level. Each month, I appreciate not only those words from those who visit me. Visiting others who post for IWSG has introduced me to others who very quickly become mentors and friends. I feel like cheering at each success, each new book released, each challenge faced down, and I learn from each IWSG member I visit.

Writing, for me, is essentially a solitary act, even when I'm doing research. Being a part of IWSG is an important way to stay connected to others who care about writing. IWSG also creates a certain discipline for looking within, to asssess where my goals and commitment to writing are taking me. This process of reflection opens up new understandings of what is possible, what I might like to do next.

And one more resource I've become addicted to: that connection IWSG has to Write ... Edit ... Publish, an every-other-month writing challenge for flash fiction. October's prompt is inspired by the appropriately ghoulish Phantom of the Opera. Just a little different way to keep those writing wings moving.

Thank you to generous IWSG members who volunteer as hosts each month. And thank you for those who work somewhat behind the scenes to create anthologies that celebrate our work. 

I hope we all will celebrate this wonderful resource!

More words next time!

May your own writing go well.

Nanaimo Cove, Vancouver Island (Sept 2023)

Our temporary home.

About the Insecure Writer's Support Group: Our goal is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Each month, an optional question is posted. You can post your response on your own blog OR talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 6 posting of the IWSG are:

Why not grab a cup of coffee, visit our co-hosts AND maybe 12 others to see what they've posted?

Friday, September 01, 2023

Walk in the woods . . . and a psychological thriller . . .

Yesterday we spent nearly an hour, strolling through the Milner Gardens, just about a 30 minute drive away from where we're staying on Vancouver Island. Billed as "an ancient forest and garden oasis by the sea," I can agree. Even royalty has sipped tea here. 

We took in the views and admired the hidden fountains and rhododendron shrubs so large, their gnarled branches looked like trees.

Old growth Douglas firs stretched hundreds of feet to the sky as we followed forest trails down to the beach, overlooking the Strait of Georgia. 

Feet tired, on the way home, we stopped at the Mykong River Restaurant to feast on a seafood hot pot (shrimp and scallops in a delicious oyster sauce). Nearly a perfect day. OK, it was truly a perfect day.

Update on the writing. Just for this month, I'm working on a side project, final edits on a psychological thriller, not my usual genre. In fact, most of the people I know don't read dark stories, and I'm really not sure what my next step is. 

I began writing Mothers Don't Die when I first retired. Excited to begin serious editing, I took a writing class. On the very first day of class, our teacher warmly welcomed us and said, "Work on any project you wish. Any stage -- prewriting, drafting, or editing. But, please, no violent stories." I set my story aside and said to myself, "I might as well write about mermaids!"

That led to my first book, The Mermaid Quilt and Other Tales. One of those short stories morphed into Standing Stones, and thus began a series of historical fiction set in the 1840s in Scotland, Canada, and Australia. 

Inspired by the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, I then switched genres to write The Seventh Tapestry, an art crimes mystery.

Mothers Don't Die is now ready for your reading pleasure, if you like dark, psychological thrillers. I'd love to hear what you think. Click HERE.

Meanwhile, I'm back to drafting that doggone mystery, Unleashed Pursuit and hope to have a workable first draft by the New Year! 

Happy September and happy reading!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Writer's Drought?


We are staying the month on Vancouver Island, near Nanoose Bay. This picture shows the cove just a 6-minute walk down the hill. Despite daily news of wildfires all through Canada, and the aftermath of the devastating fires in Hawaii, here, the air is clear blue and the temperatures are averaging about 70F. So, of course, I feel a mix of guilty and gratefulness as I watch the deer come down out of the forest to graze on the golf course just outside our patio.

And we did escape the high temperatures and smoky air back home in Spokane. At least for this month. I still remember those drought restrictions in San Francisco so long ago. The water shortage was so bad, we could only flush the toilet once a day. Ewww! Somehow, we all survived. Yet, it's hard to watch those firemen and those voracious fires that are increasingly so difficult to stop.

I also thought of a writer's drought. When do we simply stop writing and cannot seem to start again?

Actually, we could see a writer's drought as somewhat of an ebb and flow, for we do persevere. Sometimes the story itself carries us on. Sometimes a morning's reflection brings new ideas, new images, or new words.

Sometimes writing a poem, even a haiku, short and disciplined, nurtures our creativity. That's one reason I do like writing challenges -- such as NaNoWriMo (the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month), or WEP's Flash Fiction challenge every other month (that's Write...Edit...Publish...).

Sometimes belonging to a writing group or having a writing partner to share new words with brings helpful feedback and new understandings. Either can be a rare gift.

If you have ever encountered a writer's drought, what strategies or events brought you back to writing?

Meanwhile, I will return to the patio, to sit in the swinging chair, to watch the deer, and simply reflect on this complex and still beautiful gift of life.

Image from Ignited Moth

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Write...Edit...Publish: A Summer Taste of Chocolate . . .

 Just in time, here is my flash fiction post for the August prompt from Write...Edit...Publish:


I sat on the somewhat lumpy swinging chair on the veranda, hoping no one would find me. Ever since Wanda Jane began the tradition of afternoon tea, I wanted to hide. If you didn’t want to drink any of the teas she provided, from mint to ginger to green, she did offer hot cocoa. But that was nothing like the chocolat chaud we tasted in Paris. Allen wasn’t here with me now, to tease me about the lumps in the cocoa or even Wanda Jane’s officiousness, as she moved around the tables, offering hot water to dilute the chocolate.

So long ago, yet that had been our first time in Paris. We walked to the top of the Eiffel Tower, entranced by the fireworks at the end of the day, the flashes of color every bit as bright as the city lights arrayed below us. We rented a small pension, five flights up a circular stone stairway with no elevator. I smiled. No way could I walk up those stairs now. How many museums we wandered then, even that small Picasso Museum, a little out of the way in the Marais District with its rows of 17th Century houses.

We found Van Gogh’s last self-portrait at the Musée d'Orsay. A tour guide set a fast pace as she led a crowd of some forty tourists past us, pointing to the left and the right. We simply stood in one place, drinking in every moment as if we had nowhere else to be. What a joy it was to be an independent traveler.

Ah, I wouldn’t go on that long flight without him. Better to sip the hot cocoa and remember. If I close my eyes, I can still see him before me, holding out that steaming cup of rich, hot chocolate, embellished with crème, and beside it, an unforgettable crusty, warm croissant, and saying, “One day, we’ll return to Paris, my love. Even if only in our memories.”

Word Count: 437 (FCA)

About Write...Edit...Publish...  Every other month, writers are encouraged to post a flash fiction and read what others have written. You can go HERE to see more about the guidelines. 

As you may have guessed, this month's prompt was inspired by that deliciously romantic movie, Chocolat! NOTE: For this August prompt, the deadline is August 16-18. 

I barely made this deadline between problems with internet access and problems accessing files saved by that useful but sometimes frustrating iCloud! But you can still participate. A lovely prize awaits you. See DETAILS HERE.

And if writing flash fiction is new to you, Denise Covey has written a stunning and helpful 'how to' that features her take on the prompt, chocolat. Read it HERE.

HERE'S ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR WRITERS: You may want to submit to WEP's upcoming 2024 FLASH FICTION ANTHOLOGY (release approximately May, 2024). Submissions are due by December 31, 2023, with DETAILS HERE.

NOTE: That inspirational picture of chocolat seen just above my flash fiction came from with their fascinating and detailed discussion of how to make the best cappuccino! This might be fun to try once we're back home. 

May you enjoy every day of these last days of summer.

Vacation . . .


Here's the view from our temporary apartment at The Swan's Pond on Vancouver Island. I don't think I've ever simply sat on a swinging settee to simply enjoy the view without a round of tasks prompting me to work. The morning quiet was marred only by the trickle of water at a nearby pond and an occasional passing flock of Canada geese. So far this morning, I've seen three young deer scampering along a woodland trail across the way. This is our home for the next month, and barring a limited kitchen (hot plate?), I think we'll do just fine.

Yesterday, we walked about 5 minutes over to a nearby cove to discover a winding path through a sunlit forest of pine, cedar, and eucalyptus. Once at the cove, we discovered giant granite rocks to climb on and a series of little beaches overlooking Nanoose Bay. We should not have climbed on those rocks! We are too old. But the view of the cove before us, once again, was simply beautiful.

Overhead, another small flock of Canada geese just flew low over the patio. I guess they're headed north, and we'll need to think of winter some day soon. For now, it's enough to simply sit here on the patio, and, I guess more true than any other time, to be in the moment.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

IWSG August 2: Conflicted over Writing?

This month's Challenge Question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group had me thinking about where my stories come from. August 2 question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it?

This month, I'm co-presenting at our local author's group on how cultural diversity (our own and that of others) may influence our writing. At times, this issue can be controversial, so I'm digging pretty deep into what cultural diversity is and what issues it raises for writers. I was surprised to learn that what I write about comes directly from very early childhood experiences. Probably not a surprise to some of you writers out there!

I grew up in a pretty gritty blue-collar family. My mother was a Hollywood starlet and an alcoholic. One of my stepfathers was a steelworker. We moved so often I don't know how many high schools I attended, but my dream was to go to college, and one day I did.

The very first book I wrote is still in a drawer. Mothers Don't Die is about a serial murderer who terrorizes young women.

I didn't like the subject, but I loved to write, so shifted to historical fiction, inspired by that great economic disruption known as the Industrial Revolution, where rich landowners ousted sharecropper farmers from their land and replaced them with sheep. Standing Stones began a family saga set in 1840s Scotland and led me to write four books. Much of my fiction is about that struggle to create something good, despsite formidable odds. Fun to write. Happy endings. Mostly.

Fascinated by art and culture, I began a new series about art crime, starting with The Seventh Tapestry. I was about 50% into a second art crime story set in Egypt, when a dream about a dog and a runaway woman led me to a new series, organized around the working subtitle: A Doggone Mystery. Maybe I could write a cozy mystery, I thought. Here are my two working covers.

Which one do you think pulled me right in?

What I learned pretty darn quickly, 
despite excellent advice from Paul Tomlinson's Mystery: How to Write Traditional & Cozy Whodunits, is that the cozy mystery genre is a shoe that doesn't fit. Right now, I don't care. The words are coming. I love my story, and have not quite resolved if my heroine will achieve that happy ending.

So, my answer to IWSG's question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it? Maybe I left that first story in the drawer (and maybe one day, it will come out), but now I know those themes that I have struggled with and have felt conflicted about stay with me. They influence what I write today.

James Baldwin said, "“Every writer has only one story to tell, and he has to find a way of telling it until the meaning becomes clearer and clearer, until the story becomes at once more narrow and larger, more and more precise, more and more reverberating.”

Thank you, IWSG, for a question that challenges us to rethink the issue of conflicts -- both at the story and the personal level, perhaps leading us to understand anew what and why we write.

I'm looking forward to seeing what others have written this month, and you can too. As Rick Bylina says, "Write on!" And, check out the links below.

About the Insecure Writer's Support Group: Our goal is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Each month, an optional question is posted. You can post your response on your own blog OR talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 2 posting of the IWSG are
Why not visit them to see what they've posted?

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Marketing for Indie Writers? Take a Leap of Faith . . .

Today has certainly been exciting! And you can take advantage of some 150 writers offering (with no strings at all) their cozy mystery books for free in three categories: Contemporary, paranormal, and historical -- including my own art crime mystery, The Seventh Tapestry.

What are you waiting for? You can go to Amazon direct for The Seventh Tapestry OR jump onto the Cozy Mystery Book Club Book Blast page to snag some freebies until midnight tonight.

You may already know how challenging marketing can be for a self-published indie writer (that's me). So when I found out about this opportunity from the Sisters in Crime Puget Sound (a regional group linked to the national SinC group that supports and encourages those who love mysteries), to list my cozy art crime mystery, I jumped right in. By the way, my personal Kindle freebie will run through July 29.

What did I anticipate from this Cozy Mystery free book blast that runs once a quarter? Maybe some downloads. Maybe some trickle through purchases or an increase in numbers of pages read. Perhaps a review or two. But most importantly, I'm hoping for new readers who will like my stories.

What did I do to support this Cozy Mystery blast? I set my book, The Seventh Tapestry, free for four days. Sent out a ton of e-mails, posted to Twitter and Facebook, and sent out a newsletter.

So how did I do? Truly, I wasn't sure what would happen. By this afternoon, I heard back from a few e-mails, which was so nice, and I sold maybe 4 books. But the exciting results? Some 1,191 people downloaded their free copy. Even if only a few people go on to read another book of mine on Kindle Unlimited or actually buy a copy, this is the biggest response I've ever gotten on any promotion. So, playing the numbers, if even 5% read any of my other books, that's an increase of 60 people. Perhaps some will go on to write a review, and maybe some will even sign up for my newsletter! 

So, what do you think? The ability to reach new readers is an amazing opportunity -- at least for cozy mystery writers. Perhaps this opportunity will motivate me to write the second art crime mystery sooner!

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy summer! We have a few days of respite here in Spokane, but the sun will be back out with temps in the 90s next week.  Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Everything's Heating Up . . .

 Today's high is 81F, and tomorrow, we head into the 90s. My sister lives in Tucson, too close to Phoenix and those record-breaking heat blasts. Sigh. Surprisingly, I find myself missing the snow, just a little!

What I'm reading. Just now, I'm reading Olga Godim's delightful Squirrel of Magic: Short Stories. And I want to learn much more of this young witch. Olga has that ability to bring adventure and a sense of innocence to life wth a slight paranormal twist. 

On the craft side, I'm diving into Paul Tomlinson's Mystery: How to Write Traditional & Cozy Whodunits. A former librarian, Tomlinson has produced an amazing list of 'how to write' books, along with some intriguing science fiction (Robot Wrecker, Bounty Hunger: Outlaws of the Galaxy). His website has more info and maybe some free short stories.

Today, I have a snippet for you from a story that may stay in the drawer for a long while. 

Last week, I was at a local writer's meeting. One of the writers told us about a woman he'd been helping with editing. She stopped writing her memoir because it was too intense. I understand that. 

A writing friend I admire always says, "Write what you love! Tell the stories you want to tell." Yes, some stories need to be told. We need to know and maybe help those who have suffered. We can also heal ourselves and others by telling stories of light.

So, dear blog readers, what do you think? Should this story be told?


    I unlocked the door between the two apartments and led the young girl clutching her four-month-old baby inside. “You’ll be safe here. Just stay one hour, and then . . . .” I pushed a slip of paper in her hand. “Go to this address. They’ll take care of you.”
    The young woman whimpered. “They’re going to come after us.”
    “No,” I smiled. “They’re gonna come after me. Not you.” I touched the baby’s cheek. “Just look ahead and make a new life for this little one. Promise me.”
    She looked around the apartment. “But someone lives here. They’re going to come home and find me.” Her lips trembled.
    “Nobody lives here. It’s a cover. This and next door. Both are under assumed names. Just do what I say, and you’ll be fine.”
    Her hand loosened on my arm. “Alright.”
    I checked the living room, tiny kitchen, and bedroom. “Rest and then go. Check the fridge and eat something. I’ll maybe see you again later.”
    She stared at me as if she were still back in that basement with the other women that Caleb and I had gotten out, after two months of undercover. She nodded slowly. “I’ll never forget you, Serena, or that man who helped us.”
    “I gotta go. Don’t worry about me. Think about this little one.” Touching the baby’s soft cheek one last time, I went back into the first apartment, locking the door behind me.
    But I was too late. A circle of bullets snapped into the door of the first apartment. One pinged the edge of my arm, and pain blossomed. I heard cursing as whoever was on the other side shoved the door, trying to break in. I ran into the bedroom, snapped the window open, and pushed through to the fire escape. Closing the window behind me, I raced up, knowing they’d be looking for me to escape going down. I puffed my way up three stories, stopping only once to catch my breath, grateful again I was wearing all black, not especially a good look for me, but useful now. I slipped only twice, because, of course, it would be raining, and a cold rain at that. Once on the roof, I opened my mic and updated Headquarters. “Need a safe way out. I’m on the roof.”
    Sirens sounded below, and I sighed with relief. We were safe. This time.

Blue Butterfly (Pixabay)

May you stay cool these coming weeks of summer!

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

IWSG July 5: Writing Inspiration? In your dreams . . .

 This month's Challenge Question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group had me smiling:

July 5 question - 99% of my story ideas come from dreams.

Where do yours predominantly come from?

The very first historical fiction novel I wrote, Standing Stones, came from a dream about mermaids off the coast of Northern Scotland  and morphed into a four-book family saga in the mid-1840s. My next series, inspired by our travels, kicked off The Seventh Tapestry, an art crimes mystery about a mysterious tapestry that began in Scotland with ties to Paris. 

Just two weeks ago, I was about 50% into drafting book 2 of this art crime mystery series, this time set in Egypt, when I had a dream.

My dream began with a woman on the run who finds herself in a small town, befriended by the local sheriff and his dog, Max.

Now, most of the time, I'm a slow writer, 250-400 words a day. But this story is flying off my keyboard. My working outline is complete with lists of possible scenes, and my character sketches are slowly building. I'm so entranced by this story that I already made the cover using images from Pixabay and templates from Book Brush.  Here's my latest version of the cover (the first cover is posted below).

All I can say about being inspired by dreams is that I'm grateful for the dream that brought me this story. Writing this story is simply fun. I'm learning more about the mystery genre and dogs, Golden Retrievers to be precise. And I can't wait to see where Max the dog will take me next!

May your dreams inspire YOUR writing!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a database resource site and support group for writers and authors. Featuring weekly guests and tips, a monthly blogfest gathering, a Facebook group, a book club, and thousands of links – all to benefit writers! 

JUST FOR YOU FROM IWSG: Fast Five Free Gift - Mobi / Epub / Pdf

The awesome co-hosts for the July 5 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, Gwen Gardner, Pat Garcia, and Natalie Aguirre!  With special thanks to Juneta Key for facilitating this month's post! 

Why not join in by visiting our co-hosts and checking out the amazing IWSG bloggers!

IWSG Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

IWSG Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

May summer be a good month for you -- for dreaming and writing!

Thursday, June 29, 2023

A Doggone Mystery . . .

 Today, temps are heading toward 93F, and I'm deep in a new project. 

Not that I've given up on other projects . . . yet . . . but I found myself wanting to write something just for fun. I woke up dreaming about a woman on the run (Caterina) and the dog (Max) who befriends her. What's the first step? Making a 'maybe' cover and drafting that story outline and character back stories. So, what do you think? 

So far I've learned a lot about golden retrievers, the most popular name for dogs in 2023, and I have an exciting 600 words.

About that title: Max to the Rescue: A Doggone Mystery is my working title. But what about: Chasing Shadows, Unleashed Pursuit, A Fugitive's Friend, Paws of Fate, or Unleashed Destiny? All followed by A Doggone Mystery. Or these titles could be for Book 2. Am I an optimist? 

I do love dogs, but we travel too much to have one, and somehow the idea of walking a dog in 20F and in the snow isn't appealing. 

My most memorable dog story happened when I took a Policy Academy class for 6 weeks (background gathering for my first novel). During one session, an officer brought in his German Shepherd and talked about working with police dogs. He allowed the dog to wander the somewhat large class of about 40 people. That dog strolled confidently and alone around the group until he came to me. He stopped and looked at me most intently. Then he put his head and paw on my lap and stayed until I snapped my finger and said "Down." After the class, the officer came to me and apologized. He said he had never seen his dog act that way before. I can't account for the dog's friendliness. I don't wear perfume. Can't think of anything really, except I do love dogs. And maybe that's why I'm writing this story.

Other news: We're recovering from a truly nasty cold that lasted over 3 weeks. Today I took my first walk, only 15 minutes, and I'm writing again. All's good. Hubby's about 2 weeks behind me, given the severity of his cough.

For your reading pleasure: I recently finished Nick Wilford's Black & White. This dystopian novel is quite entertaining as it explores the growing friendship between Wellesbury and Ezmerelda, high school mates in a truly perfect world. In fact, their world is so perfect that it’s all white. No dirt anywhere. Even food is sanitized. These friends might just be a little bored with everything all the same; every day's mapped out with an expected routine. And then a boy mysteriously appears in their perfect world. He’s smudged with mud, and he’s sick. 

Thus begins this tale that intrigues the reader as we slowly learn who made this perfect world and what the costs were and are. At the heart are the choices Wellesbury and Ezmerelda make to bring about change – at great risk. This book brings into sharp focus how the choices we make every day separate us or create community. A thoughtful read with unexpected twists -- currently free on Amazon

And that's all for this week. May you enjoy this warmer weather and stay cool!

Friday, June 23, 2023

June 23: And summer . . .

This week truly begins summer. School's out. Temperatures are heating up. The grandkids began swim lessons. Maybe a bit of normalcy? We're home after attending a joyful college graduation and visiting friends in Oregon. OK, we're exhausted, still recovering from a nasty cold, I haven't written anything in 7 days, and all I can think of is where are the lounge chairs?

Image from digitalmom

Time to set some goals? Or let go entirely? 

Maybe ask:

  • What do I really want to do?
  • What do I need to do -- and why?
  • What should I do (and why is this a 'should')?

Imagine we're sitting together on the patio. What's your advice???? And what are YOU planning to do this summer?

Image from cheezburger

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Remembering Cormack McCarthy

 I have never read one of Cormack McCarthy's books. Widely recognized as a powerful writer of dystopian fiction, I always put reading even one of his books off. OK, so he wrote deep stuff, and I respected his thoughtful efforts. I loved the movie adapted from his novel, No Country for Old Men. But, the shoe didn't seem to fit. 

Until this morning. David Brewer, of Writer's Digest fame, sent out a newsletter highlighting 15 Lasting Quotes From The Road, by Cormack McCarthy. Fourteen of these quotes were too depressing for me, but this one, highlighted above, spoke loudly to me.

For what do we all do but make promises to ourselves in hopes of creating a better tomorrow? To dream of what could be? What provokes us to take just that small step forward?

Image from Robert Brewer

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

IWSG June: Replace Writing????

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. For more about IWSG, see below!

This month, the optional question is: If you ever did stop writing, what would you replace it with? 

I can't imagine not writing. The seemingly simple challenge of writing is such a part of me, whether with keyboard or pen, or a mix of drawing and writing. On one level, writing is a daily commitment. On another, writing allows me to connect more deeply with what's happening around me -- and inside, what I'm thinking and feeling. Stop writing? Nah.

In fact, I have a friend about my age who is writing her first poem. She e-mailed me, asking how I do this because it's so hard -- and easier to send that Hallmark greeting card. Yet she is trying to write a poem to comfort a woman who lost her husband, calling up memories of her own loss. How can I tell her that her poem is the deepest gift.

So, if the words did finally leave, what would I replace that loss with? I only can say we're not made of one dimension. Each connection outside of ourselves and within is important. So I would probably dive into another interest -- quilting, reading, walking, maybe even cooking (although after nearly 80 years, I have to confess that cooking is getting a little boring). Oh, and that new interest that popped up this spring, watercolor. Do you know that youtube has amazing mini-lessons for beginners?

Update on the writing: After last month's meeting with my writing partner, I faced anew my current wip and chopped out 4K words. That mss has been wrestled into a working shape with recognizable scene progressions, a flexible map for each section, and a nice 35K word overall draft (goal maybe 70K). I know who my characters are and where they're going. What's next: Having fun with plot twists and asking, oh dear, what can go wrong now!

What was fun this last writing session? Researching Egyptian proverbs and putting them in my draft. Here's one to pique your interest. Plus a picture from our trip so long ago to Giza:

What is still hidden is more than what has been revealed so far.

--Egyptian proverb

More about the Insecure Writer's Support Group: The Insecure Writer's Support Group provides rich resources for writers at every stage, from writing tips, to newsletters, to lists of additional resources on self-publishing, marketing, and more. To prompt our writing and build a community of writers, IWSG also posts a challenge question each month. As the guidelines say:

Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. 

Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The awesome co-hosts for the June 7 posting of the IWSG are Patrcia Josephine, Diedre Knight, Olga Godim, J. Lenni Dorner, and Cathrina Constantine!

Why not join our community of 121 IWSG writers. Go HERE to find a few new writers to visit. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

May is already nearly over?

Just about one more week, and we'll be looking back at May, wondering why the days passed by so fast. The daffodils here have already given way to those gorgeous purple irises. Yellow-headed blackbirds are still chasing those red-headed blackbirds around in our nearby ponds. And, we can go for a walk without bundling up in warm jackets.

Any lessons learned from this month? 

My personal goals are simple: Writing. Family. Travel. Not always in that order. I'm making steady progress on my own writing, but I'm not a grantwriter. This week alone, I've spent a not-so-easy 15 hours working on a draft grant, and it's still not ready to send out. Argh! 

So, the most important insight, which I may not have the discipline or courage to follow, is simply this:  Before we say yes, analyze the implications. Consider carefully what we truly want to do and how we wish to spend our precious time. And, what might go wrong.

Meme by Memedroid

Meanwhile, hubby has picked out our next travel adventure for January-March 2024 , a stay of roughly two months in Kyoto, Japan. I might know 5 words in Japanese, and that's not enough. We do have time, though, for study and planning. We've scrounged a stack of books on traveling in Japan. Already, I'm imagining walking in the temples and shrines in Kyoto, ready to learn more of the history and culture of this beautiful city.

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan (Image by Penny on Pixabay)

How about you? What promises will summer bring? How will you celebrate the change of seasons?

Oh, and any cooking tips? I just tried marinated tofu for the first time. Maybe never again.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Tales of Travel . . . to Egypt

Nearly twenty years ago, as independent travellers, we spent a month wandering the streets of Cairo, traveling up the Nile, and exploring the pyramids at Giza and Saqqara. Truly, unforgettable. So, when I wanted to write the next story in my art crime series, I thought of Cairo. 

Today, I have about 40,000 words, with another 25,000 more needed to complete The Lost Sarcophagus. I'm deep in drafting and revising and thought you might enjoy just a snippet as I work to push the tension and conflict tighter. This picture was taken at Saqqara and matches the locale of today's snippet!

A working summary: Sandra and Neil, art crime experts from London’s Art and Antiques Unit of the Metropolitan Police, are sent to Cairo at the request of the Director of the Egyptian Museum. Pulled into a network of thefts and murder, they uncover a plot to systematically steal artifacts from the Grand Museum and GEM at Giza, the site of Egypt’s newest museum.

The excerpt

“Yes, I take you to Saqqara Necropolis,” said Mohammed, the young, thin, professional guide Layla Gamal had recommended for today’s tour. Mohammed opened the back door of a small, black car for their drive of nearly an hour into the countryside.

Sandra loved the sight of White Nile Herons rising from the river as they drew closer to Saqqara, their distinctive head feathers almost an exclamation point to their long, graceful bodies in flight. The road was punctuated by small carts drawn by donkeys or skinny horses, and there, in the field, water buffalo grazed.

“I never expected to see a water buffalo,” said Sandra.

“Ah, yes, they were imported from India, long ago.” Mohammed’s eyes narrowed as he swerved their car around a pothole.

Neil pointed to one of many small houses along the road. “They look unfinished with those wires sticking up. Almost like they planned a second or third floor, but simply stopped building.”

“It’s a new tradition,” Mohammed shrugged. “The parents build the next level for their children, but they avoid taxes by not finishing the construction now.”

As the car turned toward Saqqara, a sharp line separated the green fields of alfalfa and sugar cane from the stark golden sand of the desert.

“You will see eleven major pyramids today – if we are lucky, and there are not too many tourists. Let me lead you.” Mohammed glared at Sandra. “Do not talk to any vendors, especially if they have camels. We stop at the museum here before leaving.”

Sandra and Neil both nodded.

“Ms. Gamal may have told you she’s taking us to Giza tomorrow. I wasn’t sure what to expect today, but this is amazing,” said Sandra.

Mohammed’s mouth turned down. “Sometimes, we can be surprised by what we don’t expect.”

Sandra leaned closer to Neil. “Do you know what he means?”

“No, but we are nearly there. I can’t wait to see the pyramids with you.”

Several of the pyramids were little more than heaps of rubble, yet three commanded the site at Saqqara. Mohammed looked in all four directions, then took them to the center of the grand square and pointed in each direction as he explained when they had been built. “Perhaps Egyptians should be praised as the first ones to recycle,” he noted. “For each new generation did take large blocks from older temples and pyramids to aid new building projects. Looters have destroyed much in their efforts to find treasure, which we will see now.”

A wind blew the long robe that Mohammed wore, causing Neil to miss a step. “Are you carrying a gun?” he asked.

“Of course,” replied Mohammed, his hand protectively at his waist. “It is necessary.”

“I hope not,” said Neil.

Mohammed’s smile did not quite reach his eyes. “I hope not as well.”

And the story will continue . . . Hope you enjoyed this excerpt!

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

IWSG May: Inspiration?

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. For more about IWSG, see below!

This month, the optional question is: When you are working on a story, what inspires you?

This question is both easy and difficult, for we all have writing projects that stall from time to time.

What inspires me generally speaking is unpredictable. I may be reading an article in National Geographic and a new-to-me fact catches my attention. Or visiting a bookstore and a book begs to be taken home because, of course, it has a whaling ship on the cover. Maybe that's the start of research for the fifth in the 'standing stones' series. So, I could say the beginning and intermediate sparks come from research, both focused and at random.

When I'm working on a particular story, my characters seem to lead the way. Even when I don't know them well or understand them. Their thoughts guide me. That sounds funny, but I really 'hear' their dialogue as I'm working away on the keyboard.

Lately, my current story did simply stop. You see, I do a daily word count. I discovered this was getting in the way of developing the story because unconsciously, I wanted to make that daily goal of 400-500 words. So, I kept NOT deleting words. The result? A cumbersome draft. A story that went in unintended directions. 

My much appreciated writing partner said, "Write the story you love. Don't worry about word count." 

Lesson learned: Celebrate deleting words as part of the writing process! I may go from 40K to 30K this next week, but I will persevere. And I think my characters will be happy. Me too!

Polar Bear by Markus Kammermann from Pixabay

More about the Insecure Writer's Support Group: The Insecure Writer's Support Group provides a rich resources for writers at every stage, from writing tips, to newsletters, to lists of additional resources on self-publishing, marketing, and more. To prompt our writing and build a community of writers, IWSG also posts a challenge question each month. As the guidelines say:

Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. 

Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The awesome co-hosts for the May 3 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Meka James, Victoria Marie Lees, and M Louise Barbour! 

Why not join our community of 129 IWSG writers. Go HERE to find a few new writers to visit. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

NaPoWriMo April 30: What does thirty days . . .

What does thirty days
of writing poetry mean?
Of looking within
and without? Or remembering,
reconnecting, dreaming
words, images, all tied
to that one constant: a sense
of the voice within, a beating heart,
a person alive to this moment.
Like a painter just before the brush
makes a mark on the canvas,
one word at a time
builds a new understanding.
And next? Now to read them all
and wonder anew.

Image by Roland Mey from Pixabay

Saturday, April 29, 2023

NaPoWriMo April 29: Old Books . . .

Old books, I have a few of these,
collected over the years,
one a history of an ancestor who settled New York
in 1643, then called New Sweden,
another a faded booklet by Adrienne Rich,
The Dream of a Common Language, Poems 1974-1977,
a set of postcards of Frida Khalo's paintings, and
her memoir: My Art, My Life;
even a child's story, Little Sister Snow,
written in 1909, a rare gift from my mother,
back when I first fell in love with books.
Yes, I have downsized, but these old books
I keep close, for they affirm our common experiences,
even as one by one, I begin to reread them
to understand the past all over again
and why these books were once
so important to me.

Old Books by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Friday, April 28, 2023

NaPoWriMoApril 28: Look to the Sky . . .

Look to the sky in the morning.
My grandfather's people did,
for the day began with dawn,
when they put on those worn boots,
went out to the barn to feed the horses
and the dogs. Women made bread,
took care of the chickens, cooked
and cleaned, fed the work crew,
stretching the food, turning the pot
away from hungry eyes
so no one could see how much
or little remained. Then to the fields
and later, on horseback, checking
the cattle on the open range,
the work depending on the season,
and at dusk, a moment or two
of rest, the men sitting on the steps,
gnarled hands resting,
looking to the sky for portents
of rain, the women in the kitchen
preparing for tomorrow,
an endless round of days,
marked by no change at all,
until that one day when
my grandfather left
and never looked back.
Frank and Sigrid Henry, about 1918, Montana

Just a note: I do like to guess what time it is in the morning by the color of the sky, especially in the spring when Daylight Savings Time gives us that extra hour. 

Today's poem came from stories my grandfather told me about working on the farm when he was so small, he couldn't turn the horses pulling the plow at the end of each row in the fields. In those days, life was harsh. He did leave those fields back before World War I in Missouri (what he called 'mizry') to travel west. He wanted to be a cowboy, earning money along the way west by working odd jobs on ranches, and singing and playing a guitar, until he came to Montana where he met my grandmother and became one of the first Forest Rangers. I remember listening to his stories around the campfire when I was growing up.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

NaPoWriMo April 27: While the cat's away . . .

While the cat's away, or so they say,
I should play, not stay still, lost in thought,
but I never knew a cat who cared about
tomorrow, that long to-do list,
or what to fix for dinner.
My cat had the most amazing personality,
he would climb up on my desk
as if it were his second home,
nuzzling me away from student papers,
purring for attention. I guess that's a kind
of play, just petting the cat, enjoying that moment
when he tipped his head into my hand
for more. Once, my cat brought me a gift,
a tiny mouse. I wasn't sure whether to
laugh or mourn that shortened life,
and wondered anew if mice did play.
Yet I talked to my cat and felt he listened.
Sadly, cats don't live as long as humans,
for even eighteen years is a long life for a cat.
Just one afternoon, I came home from school
to find him laying on the sofa. 
He lifted his head,
too tired to jump down or greet me.
Who knows the inner life of a cat?
I still remember in spite of all that. 
I never felt that I should play . . . 
while my cat was away.

Image by K L from Pixabay

Today's poetry challenge from David Brewer at Writer's Digest, is to write an anapodoton poem. David explains that an anapodoton is an unfinished phrase that a person can fill in the blanks, phrases like "When in Rome," "If life gives you lemons," "Speak of the devil," and "Where there is a will." I chose, "When the cat's away, the mice will play." 

With only 3 days left in April, that means only 3 more poems to write! (Or maybe 5, because somehow I did miss 2 days). One of the reasons I do like this poetry challenge to write a poem every day for a month (aargh!), really is because it gives me a little quiet time for reflection. Not that I feel my poetry is all that good, but I enjoy exploring words and memories -- and hope you enjoy reading the results!

For more inspiration for your own writing, see David Brewer's poetry prompts for April HERE.