Wednesday, June 24, 2020

How a SUD or Two Inspires Me into Action


I love quotes. There are some quotes that I use when I meditate. There are some quotes I post throughout my office as inspiration. And all these quotes, to some extent, help me to understand me--my emotions, hurts, pains, happiness--and make me better.

My most favorite quote is one that, literally, fits in EVERY SITUATION IMAGINABLE, and it comes from the late great tennis player and humanitarian, Arthur Ashe:


In both a professional and personal manner, this quote wedges in and lifts me from the muck--whether that muck is not writing or living in our current world.

image by pexels through pixabay

SUD in the Professional
For this example, I will use writing, specifically, writing this blog post.

Start where you are. I'm in a space of insecurity. I don't know if I can be effective as a writer. If I want to be. If anyone would even care if I was. Lately (and by lately, I mean a really long time), I haven't had the energy or care to write--not in any significant way. There are way too many reasons why, but the point remains that I haven't written, and because of that, it can make me feel anxious, make me believe that I'll never write again, that I'll never have another important thing to write again. And of course, these feelings, thoughts only continue me on the path of not writing. But there are times, like right at this moment as I write this post, that I think about Ashe's quote, and it pushes me to, well, write.

Use what you have. On the flip side of "where I am," I have facts: I help others write better, I have been an editor for over 20 years, I am the person people come to when they need something written to exact change. I.E., I got words and the ability to put them together for some purpose.

Do what you can. I have a quote that moves me to do things. I have words and the ability to use them. Thus, I can use those words and that ability to write this post about how my favorite quote moves me into action. Job done, eh? :)


image by geralt through pixabay


SUD in the Personal
For this example, I use, well, our current state of dismantling affairs.

Start where you are. I am heartbroken. I am angry. I fluctuate between sobs, screams, rampage, and rants throughout the day over the current goings-on of our world. Some days, I want to blow it all up and start anew. And on other days, I want to hug it so tight that I squeeze out all the hate once and for all. I am lethargic. I feel voiceless. Breathless. This world makes me wanna holler... and tear it asunder. And it also makes me want to curl up into the tiniest ball imaginable until I poof! from existence.

Use what you have. I have an empathic heart and mind. I want people well and whole. I want justice and equality and the reassurance that we all have an equal footing based on what we do and not what we look like. I have social media platforms. Again, I have my words, and I have my ability to use them. I have allies who can retweet and share and comment on these words in a way that brings about a connection that grows into meaningful exchanges and changes. I have information and the ability to craft and disseminate it to others.

Do what you can. I may not be writing novels or short stories these days, but I am doing some forms of writing. I write #loveaday posts that promote self-love, self-care, and mental health. I post (and write about) quotes, mantras, and affirmations that do the same thing. I release my hurt into meaningful posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so that others can see what this Black woman's story is, what she is feeling and believing, and my story is part of a collective of black voices that want to be heard--truly heard.


image by geralt through pixabay


How are you feeling, doing--personally and or professionally? Have you stumbled and can't seem to find your way back up? Have you lost a job and feel hopeless about what to do next? Are you enraged and saddened over the fact that in so many ways black lives don't seem to matter? Do you feel ineffective in what you love to do... or what you would like to do to help yourself, others, the world?

Start where you are.
Use what you have.
Do what you can.

Things might not change overnight, but with this quote in true practice with each step you take, a change will come.



Shonell Bacon is an author, editor, and educator with 20 years of experience in helping all levels of writers become better writers. When not editing, Shonell is writing (mysteries, literary, non-fiction) and crafting digital products for people who love planning and organizing their lives. You can learn more about Shonell and her works on her linktree page.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Writing The Truth

Marketing experts have cautioned writers to be careful about being too political in writing blogs or in social media posts. The concern is that by stating opinions about social issues we might turn off some of the people who will then decide to never buy one of our books because they disagree with us on a particular issue.

One of my friends, Tim Hallinan, decided after the election of 2016 that he would not hold back. He was so dismayed that somebody as unqualified to be a president as Donald Trump was actually elected, that he, Tim, would speak out when he saw wrongdoing or abuse of power. He knew people would disagree with things he posts on Facebook. He knew that people might decide not to buy his books because of what he posts on Facebook. And Tim has been okay with that.

For a long time I've not heeded the advice of those marketing people either. I want to. I try to. I need to build a readership not drive people away because I say something that sticks in their craw. But I can't help myself. If something is strikingly wrong, I speak out, sticky craw be damned.

I've always been strongly opinionated, never hesitating to voice those opinions vocally or on paper. For years, I wrote a weekly column for the Texas Catholic newspaper, and the editor had given me carte blanche to write whatever I wanted to. Sometimes it was humor, like the column I wrote for The Plano Star Courier, but sometimes I offered commentary on something more serious. Most of the time, the things I wrote about didn't stir great controversy, although there were times, and I've taken that same approach to my blogging.

When I've addressed social issues, especially what's wrong in our government and what's wrong in our society, I know that lots of people have not agreed with me and perhaps I've risked selling a few books because of that. But, as my friend Tim said several years ago, there are more important things in life than selling books.

What about integrity, morality, and ethics?

I firmly believe that we writers have an imperative to write the truth. That's a term related to writing that I've recently started to focus on as I write my memoir. I'm taking an online class to help me with the writing of said memoir, and the instructor keeps repeating, "Write the truth."

 Not just facts, but the truth inherent in those facts. 

Writers, think about how much truth you can spread if you forget to worry about how that will affect book sales. Do you have a blog? On that blog, can you share thoughts, ideas, truths, that relate to a social issue. On social media, can you respond in truth to all the threads being shared about systemic racism and police brutality? If someone you know posts facts that are wrong, do you have the courage to call that person out and share the truth?

Tim Hallinan is not the only well-known author to speak out. Alumni of the Sun Vallley Writers Conference such as Mitch Albom, Elliot Ackerman, David Brooks, and  Bryan Stevenson have all written op-ed pieces since the murder of George Floyd, and I'm sure there are many others.

While I'm not on the popularity level as those other writers, I do believe my voice counts, and I blog often about racism, as well as other social injustices. In a recent post I shared my thoughts, opinions, and some facts about racism following the murder of George Floyd. In that blog post, I also admitted that when it comes to understanding the truth of what it means to be black I fall horribly short.

I also made a promise to myself to do better.


Posted by Maryann Miller  who is still maintaining social distancing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page, read her Blogand follow her on Facebook and TwitterHer online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short And Helpful, can be found HERE

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Cherry Pie

Staring out the dining room window as the sunset sent orange and scarlet fingers across the horizon, Esther Hasbrook sighed. She ignored the laptop sitting in front of her on the long oak table. After months of being confined to home by the pandemic sweeping the world, she had trouble resurrecting the creativity that had kept her writing for decades. How was she ever going to meet the deadline for her column in the Seasoned Citizens Gazette, the weekly journal she published for her neighbors in the senior mobile home park? The words simply refused to come. 


Her gaze wandered to her prize cherry tree. Asher had planted it on their wedding day. Cherry pie had been his favorite, and they shared a home-baked one every year on their anniversary. This year would be a little different because Asher had slipped away in his sleep in the wee morning hours fifty-five years and one day after their wedding. In three days she would celebrate her first anniversary without him.



Those days passed in a flurry of picking and pitting and baking and early dawn deliveries. Sitting at the same spot in the dining room and staring out the window, she wiped away a tear trickling down her cheek. An overwhelming gratitude for the Anderson boys next door had overcome her. Two days before, the teenagers had climbed the ladders to pick the ripe fruit, carried full buckets to the carport, and poured them in the plastic tubs by the back door. She began working as soon as the first cherries arrived, and by nightfall she'd pitted the last one.


Yesterday morning, the baking began. One, two, three pies . . . thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. Then she stopped. Fresh from the oven, each pie filled a disposable pan that would be covered with a heavy paper lid after it cooled. Aromas of sweetness, spices, and browning dough wafted out the open kitchen window. She could almost hear Asher calling her from the back yard.


"Is that pie ready yet, Essie? It sure is smellin' good from out here."


She listened intently, but he didn't call again. Her mind was playing tricks on her. That seemed to happen a lot these days.


The kitchen telephone rang. That must be Matilda Peterson. She's the only person I know who'd call me at six o'clock in the morning.


"Good morning, Tillie."


"How'd you know it was me?"


"Nobody else calls me at this hour."


For a moment Matilda remained silent. "You've been up to your old tricks again, haven't you, Essie?"


"Excuse me?" She did her best to sound innocent. "I don't know what you mean."

"You went on an early morning pie delivery mission, didn't you? Nobody makes cherry pie like you do, Essie Hasbrook. The one I found on my porch a few minutes ago definitely came from you."

Esther suppressed a laugh. "Guess I can't fool you, can I?"

"Nope. I've already had two pieces—small ones, of course. Did you keep a pie for yourself?"

"Oh yes. It's our wedding anniversary, and I had to make one for Asher. I'll eat his piece right along with mine. Then it's almost like he's here with me."

"Thank you for inviting me to join your celebration. I suspect you'll be getting several calls from others before this morning is over." She hesitated a moment. "You're a good neighbor, Essie. All of us need some extra TLC because we're housebound during this awful pandemic. You're doing more than your share to cheer us up."



Esther heard the click on the other end of the land line and hung up the receiver. Sudden inspiration drove her back to the laptop. An unexpected spring returned to her arthritic fingers, and the words flowed. 


Asher's cherry pies had shooed away her writer's block. The reluctant column materialized on her monitor with surprising speed. It would be finished on time.


Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thrillers. You can contact her through her websites: LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Reading Dystopias during Quarantine

With life on hold, I have had endless hours to catch up on my To Be Read pile. Quite a few of the Fantasy YA novels are about dystopian societies. As I read and listened to the daily news, a few things came to mind about story building a dystopian novel.

1. Dystopian novels often minimize or ignore the range of responses from people. As I watch the arguments over quarantine, masks, and social distancing play out, it is obvious there are more than two sides to the characters dealing with the overall story problem. There are bands of resistance that want different things.

2. I am not certain that the level of dread and panic is presented enough in books. There is a lemming effect too, where people herd and move in different directions as a pod. How do your characters deal with their panic? What soothes them? What traumatizes them?

3. Stakes are crucial to every story, but should be the highest alert level in a dystopian thriller.

4. There are shades of gray. Even well-meaning basically decent people are confused about what is wrong and what is right and what is acceptable risk. How much the problem affects them personally varies widely.

5. People fear change, even necessary change. It is hard to let go of daily regimens and comforting rituals in a threatened world.

6. The toilet paper hoarding was a new twist. What would your characters hoard if they thought the end times were nigh or if their world suddenly felt uncertain? Be creative.

7. How does their world suffer in day to day operations? What interruptions change their lifestyle: trade and supply chains, embargoes, rules of law and order, access to necessary services, restrictions in mobility and travel? What are the consequences for breaking new restrictions? What clever ways do they find to subvert them?

8. What are things opportunists can utilize? While the world's focus is elsewhere, it is fertile ground for industrious and ingenious friends and foes.

9. In a Fantasy and Sci Fi, unique diseases and medications are rarely mentioned unless they are directly related to the overall story problem. Writers sometimes invent magical recreational drugs and magical illnesses and cures in paranormal novels. No matter the genre, even a passing mention can enrich the story.

10. Every story world has a past that has been shaped by things like pandemics, wars, and shifts in power. What impacted their world before it changed with the inciting event? How are they reflected in day to day life and rituals?  How has your story world adapted in the fallout?

I thank all of the writers of books and screenplays for their work. It has helped keep many of us sane during this stressful time. Which leads me to a final question: How does story affect your dystopian world? Do books, cinema, oral storytelling, etc. play a part? What urban legends do characters share?

Read More:

Ten Dystopian Novels Inspired By Pandemics

Is the State of the World Affecting Your Writing

Are Your Character's Fears Your Fears

Ten Tools for Crafting A 3D Setting

How To Build A Planet

Mastering Worldbuilding

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.