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.