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Showing posts from August, 2020

Another Rip Van Stoltey Moment

I remember toward the end of July I decided to create a Blood-Red Pencil blog post early for August as well as finally posting to my own blog which has sat neglected since February 3rd. And then suddenly it was August 15th. No Blood-Red Pencil post. No post to my personal blog. What happened? I know I did stuff over the last month. I see the notations on my calendar. A cortisone shot in my arthritic shoulder (which did not help). My annual checkup which I passed with flying colors (for my age). A Saturday morning Crowdcast online event called Mystery in the Midlands . A grooming appointment for Sassy. Curbside pickups for groceries. A couple more online writing programs. A solid effort to apply the edits to my current almost-finished frontier fiction manuscript called In Defense of Delia . Critiques for two writers’ group meetings. And yet, without that calendar to look at, I might have had a hard time remembering what I did in the last four weeks to fill up all that ti

Crafting Characters: Seenagers

A few years ago, my husband retired from pathology and we moved to the land of eternal summer: Florida. We had scoped out many retirement communities and they were simply, to my much younger self, sad little places. I was not ready to retire to a rocking chair on the porch. Neither was he. We chose an over 55 community with 120,000 people and growing. The goal is 250,000 at the moment, but we may overtake Orlando at some point. It is often referred to as Disneyland for Grownups. You can do everything here: over 2,000 clubs from Scrabble to scuba, and every sport imaginable in addition to golf. There hundreds of Rec Centers with pools and workout equipment.  Hubs leads bicyclists on 45 mile a day ride and he is in the "slow club." There are eighty-year-olds riding at 20-28 miles per hour. There are rowing clubs, marathoners, triathletes, weightlifters, kayakers, and swimmers. There are many senior Olympians. There is dancing at the three town squares every evening, or

Putting the "P" for Productivity into the Pandemic

COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, as seen through an electron microscope. Image provided by The National Institutes of Health. Now that we're all several months into this pandemic, each of us has settled into something of a routine that may or may not be productive. I confess my first response was to turn into a human slug, sitting in my chair for countless hours with my computer on my lap, staring into space, or working endless rounds of crossword puzzles or games of Sudoku. I suddenly realized a few days ago I was in a sort of semi-coma and wondered if my epitaph would read, "She played a lot of Sudoku." I didn't want that to be my epitaph. I tried focusing on my garden but we're suffering from a plague of slugs this year and it is really one disgusting mess. This time last year, I was eating fresh organic food straight from my garden every single day. This year, the slugs are eating fresh organic food straight from my garden every single night.

Lost And Found And Other Missteps

Being somewhat quarantined at home allows for a lot more reading time, especially since writing time seems to have slowed to a snail's pace. Through most of my life, books and stories have been the great escape from difficult times. I could get lost in a story and forget for a time that my life was not always as perfect as a fictional story. When I read as a child and young adult, I wasn't a discriminating reader. I don’t mean in the sense of avoiding books written by or about other cultures or people. But when I read for pure entertainment and pleasure, I wasn’t aware of how the careful use of craft can lift good writing above ordinary writing. Then, when I started taking writing classes and being more serious about my work, I developed that reader discrimination and could see things that I call craft-stumbles. By that I mean word usage, or inconsistencies, or plot holes that suddenly pull me out of a story. Lately, the craft-stumbles that have become increasingly irri

Developing Non-Writing Talents during a Pandemic

As writers, we always say something like, "Man, I wish I had time to write. If I did, nothing would stop me." What happens when, oh, a medical pandemic arises, forcing you to stay in place? Crickets. And for many of us, no writing. Although I see a plethora of memes every day telling me that I need to hustle hard and that I'm a slacker if I'm not using this time to grind and write, overall, I have not practiced self-loathing over not writing a book a day during this pandemic. I've been doing some writing--on social media, and I've been an editing queen, but for the most part, I've used this time to develop another talent: designing digital products to help keep people organized and "planned-up." This talent has morphed into a new Etsy shop, #HUGSlove Studios . For the shop, I create digital planners, planner pages, and stickers. I've created journals for writing self-care love notes and for journaling your coffee- and

Wordless and Walking

Since I work with words in the day job as well as in my fiction endeavors, there are times when I get tired of them all spinning nonstop in my head. This is especially true in these days of hunkering down "in place," and trying to live the "new normal"— which is constantly shifting and anything but normal!  When I need to escape, I go for a walk. I don't go far, usually just around my VERY suburban neighborhood. (I occasionally walk downtown, but that ends up stressing me out since so many folks seem to think the "new normal" equates to "let's just pretend this whole pandemic thing doesn't exist.")  To calm my jibbering, always-in-overdrive mind, I walk, try to erase words from my mind, and photograph what I see. In other words(!!), I take a short, nonverbal holiday and focus on the visual gifts the everyday world has to offer. Here's a sample of the sort of images I take: You can view the photos I ta

A Genre Dilemma in a Changing World and Other Covid-19 Activities

I have a great story idea, and I can't wait to finish the rewrite. It's sort of a romance, something of a thriller, definitely a psychological drama. Because the rewrite makes it an evolving story, I'm not sure which genre it fits into. While most novels contain elements of multiple genres, one should dominate, assuring buyers they're getting the kind of story they want to read. Readers have expectations, which is why genre is essential if your goal is to sell books and build a fan base. A reader of horror may be upset if the ebook she just downloaded is a yarn about two young sisters that takes place during a storm—and one of them is horrified of lightning. Sci-fi aficionados will not likely be pleased if the science-fiction-type cover of their latest purchase wraps around a major love story that overshadows the anticipated futuristic drama. Consider the following scenario: A sweet old lady purchases an author-advertised "young adult" mystery for a pre