Monday, October 30, 2023

IWSG: What about NaNoWriMo? Should I? Shouldn't I?

Yes, it's first of the month, kicking off an event and a deeplly appreciated connection to that writing community known as The Insecure Writer's Support Group.

First, heads up about that Zoom event on November 1. Linda Bond, of Auntie's Bookstore fame here in Spokane, will be interviewing me about writing and Mothers Don't Die on Wednesday, November 1st, at 2pm. You can e-mail Linda at to have the Zoom link sent to you. I am excited to be a part of this Local Authors Book Club, and looking forward to many future such events for our local authors. 

This month's challenge prompt from the Insecure Writer's Support Group is right on schedule! November 1 begins National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

The short answer is, Yes. Since 2008, NaNoWriMo has kickstarted my writing with challenges in November (drafting), and April (revising). I love being able to set my own writing goals.

Just a little background: I worked my way through college, found jobs in international banking (San Francisco and Los Angeles), corporate consulting (Philadelphia), and teaching (Oregon), always writing "between." Now retired, I combine indie writing with traveling anywhere my stories take me.

Thanks to the jumpstart that NaNoWriMo inspires, my four-volume family saga/historical fiction set in mid-19th Century is now complete: Standing Stones (Scotland), Years of Stone (Tasmania, Australia), Rivers of Stone (Canada), and Scattered Stones (back in Scotland at readers' requests). The Seventh Tapestry, my first art crime mystery, also kickstarted on NaNoWriMo, is now available on Amazon as well.

This year's project, Unleashed Pursuit, began with a dream about a woman police officer on the run who's befriended by a golden retriever. I'm about 20K into the rough draft and hoping to get close to doubling my current word count.

And that's just one of the reasons I'm a fan of NaNoWriMo. If you want to write 50,000 words in one month, that's 1,500 words a day. For me, that's a giant reach, as I usually write between 300-600 words/day. But, with NaNoWriMo, you can set your own goals. For this year, my commitment is 500 words a day. That's 15,000 new words by the end of the month, something to celebrate! 

You can find out more info directly at  NaNoWriMo

You can set up a free account on Nano's website to track your word count every day (another incentive), earn badges, connect with other writers, and even participate in F2F or online write-ins. 

The most important part of this writing month is the commitment you make to yourself about what project you want to work on and how much progress you want to make. 

If you are new to NaNo, jump right in. Have fun and just maybe you'll be surprised by how much you write this November!

Similar to NaNoWriMo, The Insecure Writer's Support Group is another online community that supports us all on our writing journey. All that is asked is to post your IWSG post on the first Wednesday of the month. You may choose (as I have done) to answer the question-of-the-month. Then, read what others have written. IWSG suggests trying for 12 new folks each month. I really enjoy finding out what other writers are up to, especially now that the winter temps have come early (22F last night). 

You might start by visiting (and thanking) the hosts for November: PJ Colando, Jean Davis, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diedre Knight! If you are active on social media, the IWSG Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Happy Halloween! Happy IWSG Day, November 1, and may your writing go well!

NOTE: If you sign up for my occasional newsletter (sent out about once a month), you'll receive a free copy of SNAPSHOT, a mash-up of very short fiction drawn from science fiction, historical fiction, memoir, and coming of age. You can click on the SIGNUP at the side of this page or HERE to sign up (and, yes, you can unsubscribe at any time).

Friday, October 27, 2023

First Snow . . . And a Recommendation

Last week, temperatures hovered around 70F. This coming week, the first snow fell (just a dusting), but temps will plummet down to 22F.

Update on my writing. Between doctor visits, minor foot surgery, and sitting in that darn chair for six weeks with no laptop, I haven't gotten much done, though I'm slowly drafting Unleashed Pursuit, that story about a female police officer on the run. Since my only experience with police was completing a Police Academy many years ago, I'm diving into research. The best nonfiction book I've found so far is So You Want to Be A Cop by Alley Evola, jam packed with day-by-day stories about what it really means to be a police officer.

Frank Zafiro is another amazing resource. His twenty years of police experience has led him to write forty novels. One series is set in River City, a pseudonym for Spokane, which happens to be where I live. 

Not only is Frank an excellent writer, honest and with gritty details, he also introduces a side of Spokane I don't know much about -- the dark side, that is, what happens after midnight on those not always quiet city street.

He also generously gives insights into the day-by-day work of police officers, gutsy and committed, in their quest to protect their community. He recently presented a zoom workshop for local Spokane writers, sponsored by Auntie's Bookstore, on all aspects of writing police procedurals, separating commonly held beliefs about the police from harsh reality. And, Frank was a featured panelist at Boucheron 2023, in San Diego, a major conference for crime writers.

You might be interested: I just finished reading (and enjoyed very much) Frank's Worst Kind of Truth (Book 11 in his River City series), which follows Detective Katie MacLeod as she balances a heavy case load. Some cases she can resolve, even if they take time; others she doesn't have quite enough solid proof to bring about a satisfactory resolution whether through a court case or an arrest. This remains the 'worst kind of truth,' that even despite our best efforts, sometimes we're not successful.

This story unfolds with strong characters, real emotion, and a realistic appraisal of what police can or cannot do to protect others. If you like police procedurals, you'll find a complex story about a female detective and the many challenges she faces. 

You can find out more about Frank on his website HERE -- with much information about his novels, podcasts, events, and more.

Meanwhile, happy Halloween. May you enjoy the coming months of winter, as we move to Thanksgiving and, hopefully, a happy New Year's ahead.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Write . . . Edit . . . Publish . . . Phantom of the Opera!

This month, Write...Edit...Publish's prompt is The Phantom of the Opera, rather a dark prompt, perhaps just in time for Halloween.

Tagline: What do we learn when we close our eyes?

"First Time"

Christine stood in the wings of the makeshift theater, a sheet for a curtain, the audience, her classmates. She shivered. They didn’t like her. She peeked at the slip of paper Mr. Gaudet had given her. Improvise, he had said. This is how we learn to act. Maybe, if she did well, she could make friends before her family moved. Again.

She shook her head. Mr. Gaudet nodded at her. Now. She stepped to the front of the raised platform, closed her eyes to the darkness within, and began to speak slowly into a room of silence. Her words lifted into the air, as if they were birds flying away from her, carrying all her sadness and fear with them. In that moment, she was truly someone else, lost in thoughts of another time, another world.

She stopped and opened her eyes. The students burst into applause. Mr. Gaudet stood at the back of the room and smiled at her.

Her heart stuttered, grew light. So, this is theater. I’ve found my home.

However beautiful the music or popular the play and movie, The Phantom of the Opera is a dark story that asks us to consider how we nurture creativity in ourselves and what happens when we become mired down in jealousy. Does the Phantom redeem himself when he releases Christine to follow Raoul, her true love? Yes, but the themes of seduction and betrayal remain. Despite Christine being vulnerable throughout most of the play, she forgives and truly accepts the disfigured Phantom – who then releases her to return to Raoul. Does the Phantom pay for his violence, his murders? Only his cape and mask are found, a reminder that he may remain among us – or within us.

Image from Wikipedia

Word Count: 173 (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. 

NOTE: For this October prompt, the deadline is October 18-20.  It's not too late for you to write your response!A lovely prize awaits you -- a developmental read for your latest novel from Yolanda Renée. See DETAILS HERE. If writing flash fiction is new to you, Denise Covey has written a helpful 'how to' Read it HERE.

By the way, are you looking for a free read? If you sign up for my occasional newsletter (sent out about once a month), SNAPSHOT offers you a mash-up of very short fiction drawn from science fiction, historical fiction, memoir, and coming of age. You can click on the SIGNUP at the side of this page or HERE to sign up (and, yes, you can unsubscribe at any time).

AND 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.

May you enjoy every bit of candy as we move closer to Halloween. I'm savoring the seasonal pumpkin spice latte and can highly recommend a slice of pre-Thanksgiving pumpkin pie! 

Have a wonderful fall season!

Friday, October 13, 2023

Welcome to Fall . . . A Writer's Notes

Walk with me through the Japanese Garden here in Spokane, at Manito Park. When all else is dark, the news relentless, here we can find a moment of hope and peace.

These last few weeks, I'm more aware of how vulnerable we are. Minor foot surgery put me in that chair, foot elevated, with limited weight-bearing activities. But, I rarely sit quietly, unless it's early in the morning and I'm writing. Aargh! And I feel guilty, for so many of us must face down larger challenges. And they do so with courage. So, I'm grateful. For friends, for other writers who persevere, and for quilters who manage to create beauty out of scraps of fabric!

Update on the writing: Still drafting away on that 'doggone mystery,' Unleashed Pursuit. I'm only aboout 18K into the story, but National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, begins in November with that maybe overwhelming goal to write 50,000 new words in one month. I'll keep you posted!

And what are YOU up to? As fall may quickly turn to winter, thanks to this year's El Niño, what are you working on? Any projects to report? Advice to share? Maybe even a new recipe or photo?

Are you looking for a free read? I just happen to have one to offer you IF you sign up for my newsletter (maybe sent out once a month). SNAPSHOT offers you a mash-up of very short fiction I've written, now in one place. These stories are drawn from science fiction, historical fiction, memoir, and coming of age. You can click on the SIGNUP at the side of this page or HERE to sign up (and, yes, you can unsubscribe at any time).

Meanwhile, enjoy that pumpkin spice latte, or even indulge in some early bird pumpkin pie. 

Have a wonderful fall season!

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

IWSG October: AI is ramping UP and I don't care . . .

Ever see one of those bell curve charts transformed into a line going straight up? Usually, a fad comes, sticks around a while, and then fades with the passing decade. AI (artificial intelligence) is like a tsunami. Even now, not widely understood, it has the power to do more than raise eyebrows everywhere.

Last month, I uploaded a new book on Amazon, and Amazon wanted to know if I used AI. Check the box.

So this month's question from the very helpful online writing community, Insecure Writers' Support Group, is timely: The topic of AI writing has been heavily debated across the world. According to various sources, generative AI will assist writers, not replace them. What are your thoughts?

Assist writers, not replace them? One of my first jobs, many decades ago as a pool typist, came with a rumored computer app. Keyboard strokes were counted and reported to management. Today, DNA samples and cell phone pings are routinely used to track down criminals. This does raise privacy issues, but in the interest of the greater safety of the public . . . .  So, efficiency? privacy? Saving money? Do I trust technology to do what is "right"?

And the real question, have I used it?
Science fiction has appealed to me since I discovered boxes of paperbacks in the basement as a teenager. Well before the moon flight, space beckoned. Aliens. Superhumans transformed by technology. Who hasn't wondered what's beyond our little solar system. 

So, when ChatGPT came along, I wanted to play with it. As a writer. I posted prompts for titles, character development, outlines for new stories, and was shocked by what happened. What took me hours, days, weeks, and months, churned out on my computer screen in seconds. 

Was it any good? Simply put: No. But the bones were there, and with editing . . . it could be. It just felt wrong. Writing, for me, is deeply personal. I had the feeling that I could use ChatGPT to increase my productivity. What routinely takes me about 3 years, could take under a year, if I used this technology. Who would know? Amazon could ask, but truly, who would know? The answer is I would know. So, sorry, folks, ChatGPT is not for me.

Do I believe generative AI will assist writers and not replace them? Nope. Given that tension between the bottom line for individuals and corporations to earn more money, and government inability to build policies that could protect us, and that drive to create the new, as well as technology's ability to improve itself, I think we're in deep do-do. 

My husband likes to tell a story about how one of these new computers was taught to play chess. Within seconds, it played hundreds of games, capable of beating a chess master. And the computer continued learning. This ability to 'self teach' does not bode well for us mere humans. Even Elon Musk is raising concerns about "uncontrollable" artificial intelligence, and Bill Gates has said we should "cautiously embrace" AI.

Now I'm wondering what others will say about this pretty complex issue that will change the lives of our children beyond our imagination.  And just in case you're interested in reading one of my books (historical fiction, art crime mysteries, or psychological thriller), each one taking about three years to write, check out my BOOK PAGE!

Why not visit the HOME PAGE of IWSG to find out and stop by the awesome co-hosts for the October 4 posting to say THANK YOU to: Natalie Aguirre, Kim Lajevardi, Debs Carey, Gwen Gardner, Patricia Josephine, and Rebecca Douglass!

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!

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!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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