Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Slowing Down for Snow Days


Time, it seems, has sped faster with each year of my life. Most days are so stuffed that at the end, I fall onto the sofa feeling like I've been run over. It gets to me after a while, even when the things my day is stuffed with are all pleasant and fun. 

I get frazzled and grumpy if I don't get to slow down, appreciate, and reflect often enough. 

Writing is good for that. It's a quiet, solo activity, reflective and thoughtful. But there are times when even that is not enough to reset my equilibrium. 

But, as I write this, I'm on my second snow day, with the possibility of yet another one coming. The timing couldn't be better. Thank you, Mother Nature! 

My house was well stocked with yummy things thanks to our Chanukah preparations. Our power
stayed on, so we could enjoy the full gamut of entertainment options we've gathered over the years. We had enough wood for fires and all four Bryants were already at home when the weather hit. 

As a group, the Bryants finished some lingering projects for school, cleaned up, caught up on laundry, baked, slept extra, played games, read, played in the snow, petted the dog and told him he's pretty, and just sat and talked beside a fire with cocoa. 

Even the husband who still had to work, because his work can be done from home, got to sleep later, avoid driving, eat warm food prepared with love, and enjoy better breaks during his day. 

We didn't run any errands, do any shopping (except maybe the clicky kind: online), visit anyone outside of walking distance, or attend any events. 

I'm glad the weather forced us into a little quiet time just as we needed it. All of us are the better for the lull. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

IWSG: Five Objects in Your Writing Space


It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the December 5 posting of the IWSG are J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker , Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey! Be sure to check out what they have to say, too!

December 5 question - What are five objects we'd find in your writing space?

So, I had to laugh when I saw the question this month because I literally just posted about making a writing space for myself LAST WEEK. I'm so excited about having a "room of my own" at long last! I totally don't mind talking about this some more.

Our house didn't really have an available space that I could claim solely for writing until the beginning of this school year, when the eldest left for college. Since then, I've been transforming the room that had been the youngest child's bedroom into an office for me.

It'll be a slow go. Remodeling takes time and money, two things I am perennially short on, since the two things I do for a living (teaching and writing) both pay rather poorly, at least in dollars.

But I am already using the space in its transitional phase and am thrilled to show you five objects from my writing space.

First, there are plants. I've never been particularly good at raising house plants, but I love having pieces of nature around me, so I'm trying to raise some house plants in my new space. I can breathe better when I'm among plants (literally and figuratively). They calm me with their silent beauty.

The room has a large window with good light and so far my three botanical guests are thriving. I have some purple Wandering Jew transplanted from my outdoor plant before the frost killed it. Since I'm vaguely Jewish myself, and a bit of a wanderer, this purple leaved beauty seemed a natural choice.

On her last visit, my mom got me a Christmas cactus. It's beautiful! And hard to kill, or so I'm told.

Lastly, I have a red begonia purchased from the kids in the gardening club at my middle school. Our science teacher is a wonder with plants and I get the benefit of that with inexpensive plants that our shared students have had a hand in. 

The view out the window right now is of a back yard full of fallen and falling leaves and winter-baring branches, so I've got a taste of Mother Nature out there, too. Sitting in here the other night when it was raining was an absolute joy.

Second, is Franklin. He's my compart-amus: a hippopotamus foot stool, with a hidden compartment.

He holds my tea on his flat back, my post-it notes and pens inside, and sometimes my poor achy feet at the end of the work day.

Occasionally my dog has been known to cuddle up to him, too.

I spotted him online and knew he was the right blend of useful and whimsical to make my office feel like my own space. Isn't he cute?

Next is my Irish shawl. I'm at that phase of life where my temperature gauge is unreliable. I go from hot to cold and back again in endless cycles that can make it hard to stay physically comfortable and focused on my words.

I'm a fan of shawls rather than jackets or sweaters. They are flexible, letting me cover whatever part of me might need covering at any given moment. They're beautiful and soft, making me feel feminine and glamorous even if I'm wearing my Punisher tee shirt and holey sweatpants underneath.

When I was earning my Master's from Bread Loaf School of English, I was fortunate in that I was able to spend a summer semester at Oxford. I admired shawls like this one, but didn't have the budget to buy one.

But my mom--champion of thrift and yard sale shopping--found one for me at an estate sale, which I have treasured and cuddled ever since. 

Fourth is my planning chart. After reading parts of the DIY-MFA book by Gabriela Pereira earlier this year, this lifelong pantser decided to try a kind of outlining.  (Gasp! Shock!)

Ms. Pereira calls this technique "scene cards." For each scene, you make a card (I used color coded post-it notes: orange for Kye'luh; green for Jason; and gold for Malcolm, my three POV characters; and pink ones for revision or other random thoughts I don't want to lose) and record four pieces of information for each scene/chapter:

  • a title for the scene
  • the major players
  • the action
  • the purpose (structurally)
I gave this a go at a summer writing retreat, making a descriptive outline of what I had already written by the seat of my pants, and using it to identify holes and make plans for the rest of the book. I was stuck big time, and I figured it couldn't hurt. 

It's really helping me visualize the work. And finally having a wall of my own that's not in the middle of family traffic is a delight because I can hang my chicken-scratch mess up and not feel bad about leaving an eyesore for others. 

Lastly:  my lamp. 

Another great thing about having my own writing space is having control over the light. 

I like soft, warm light, generally not blaring down on me from above. I get enough bright, painful lighting at school, thanks. 

This lamp is a creation of my Mom and Dad's. He wired the metal tropical fern sculpture for electricity and she affixed the Tiffany-esque light fixture atop, combining several of my favorite things into one unique piece to light my writing space and remind me of the love and support my family gives me in these endeavors.

So even though I still have remnants of the Disney princess border, an odd pink stripe that was left when I removed the moulding, ugly carpet that came with the house, and cutesy flowered wallpaper, the room already feels welcoming and right. I've found renewed productivity having my own space. 

What's in the space where you create? What do you wish you could have? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Making A Room of My Own

I officially have an office now, guys. Since September, the smallest bedroom, formerly inhabited by the youngest kid has been my office. It's not painted or furnished as I'd like yet, but it's a room that's mine. It's been a good sixteen years since I had a designated writing space and I'm so excited!

Ever since I realized that sending a kid off to college was going to make this possible, I've been plotting. Here's my kit of plans for the room:


I already have a few things. Some plants sitting on folding tables. I've got a great couple of oddball lamps (thanks, Mom!). I've purchased two things: the comic book spinner rack I bought early this year even though I didn't have a place for it yet and last month: my hippo stool.

My hippo foot stool is the bomb--his name is Franklin and since he has a compartment inside him, he's a compartamus.



Other things I'm making do with right now until time and money coincide to let me do better.

We removed the Disney princess banner that came with the house and pulled off the weird low-level moulding that I guess was meant to affect wainscoting. We removed the crappy old blinds and child-pleasing draperies, leaving me an open unadorned window that lets me watch fall leaves fall in my back yard. I'm using a futon and a chair coopted from other parts of the house for now.

It'll be a slow process, turning it into my own space, but I can already write in there and that's already so good for my head space! It's lovely to just leave the book I was reading open and not worry that it's in anyone's way. It's wonderful to stick planning documents to my walls! It's great to close the door!

Do you have a room of your own in your home? A designated space for your projects and creations? What's the best part of it? Or what do you dream of doing to make it perfect?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thankful for my Writing Life

I have dreamed of being a writer since I learned to read and figured out that someone WROTE that story I just read.

And while you can't yet find me on a NY Times Bestseller list, I've been beginning to make a living from my words, an experience that still makes me giddy inside each time I consider it. I *am* a writer, a real one by nearly anyone's definition. w00t!

So in this season of Thankfulness, here's a few things I am thankful for in my writing life.

1. The support of my family. Any creative endeavor takes time and energy, so it's important that those around you who also need your time and energy have your back. My husband, my daughters, my parents, my sister, my in-laws, my aunts and uncles and cousins, and even my dog allow me the space I need to create and have worked alongside me to make my events successful. They are proud of me, and help me do this as guilt free as a woman can be. I'm a very lucky girl.

2. The writing community. As I've found my path in writing and in selling my work, I've made a lot
Me with fellow Broads of Broad Universe
of friends and developed relationships with people who have mentored me, directly helped me, or just listened to me when I needed it.

Some are formalized relationships, through organizations like my critique group: WIP (Works in Progress), the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the Women's Fiction Writers Association, The Pen and Cape Society, and Broad Universe.

Some are just folks I met on panels or at events.

But most of the people I have encountered in this business have been kind, generous, and patient. More proof of how lucky I am.

3. A measure of success. Guys, people WHO DON'T EVEN KNOW ME have bought my books. Some of them even LIKED them. Once I even won an award.

That's such a boost. I mean, I would still write even if no one at all ever read my work. I need to tell the stories. Writing is how I process life.

But that feeling when someone else "gets" what you've done? It's one of the BEST THINGS EVER! (and getting paid? That's a relief!)


Someday I hope to be only a writer, instead of a writer with a day job and too little time, but in the meantime, I'm grateful for how far I've gotten and hopeful for the future. Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving for those who observe, and a great day to everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Guest Post: Kristen Brand: Superheroes as Metaphors

It's my pleasure to welcome Kristen Brand to my blog this week. Kristen writes superhero, too, and we've recently "met" on the internet. She's the author of Hero Status, a novel I'm 3/4 finished reading and that I'm really enjoying! If you enjoy my Menopausal Superhero books, I think you'd enjoy Kristen's work as well. 

Here's her guest post on Superheroes as Metaphors:

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You’re running late for a date with the girl of your dreams. You’ve got errands to run, a demanding boss who won’t stop contacting you on the weekends, and to top it all off, the Vulture just started attacking Downtown, so you’d better put on your costume and swing over to stop him.

We’ve all been there, right?

Well, maybe not that last part, but most of us can probably related to being pulled in five different directions by vying responsibilities.

At a glance, superheroes don’t seem all that relatable, what with their incredible powers, idealized/sexualized bodies, and often otherworldly origins. It can be hard to see ourselves in billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, who sneaks out of charity fundraisers to don a cape and cowl and beat up murderous clowns. But many of us can sympathize with having a loved one hurt by violence and feeling the burning need to do something about it.

And I doubt anyone reading this grew up on Themyscira (though if you did, could you tell me how to get there?), but we may recognize that feeling of leaving home for the first time, filled with wonder at the outside world, only to realize it’s filled with some terrible people and can be just awful sometimes. (But we have to carry on and try to make it better anyway).

The X-Men are a metaphor for prejudice and discrimination. Captain America is the perfect vehicle to explore the dichotomy of loving one’s country while fighting to fix its problems. Ms. Marvel is so popular in part because of how the title uses superheroes to address a number of social issues. As decades come and go and culture shifts, superheroes have stood for any number of things.

But boil them down to their most basic concept, and superheroes are about making the world a better place. There’s something appealing about that idea, that if you were bitten by a radioactive spider or secretly had alien DNA, you could use your powers to help people and truly make a difference in the world. Because face it—the world could really use some help, and it would be nice if all problems could be solved by flying really fast and punching a masked villain in the face.

Every year, there are articles saying superheroes are on their way out, that the market is oversaturated and there are no new stories to tell. I’m sure that will be true someday. Nothing lasts forever, after all. But as long as the genre keeps addressing meaningful themes in a way that resonates with its audience, I think it’s here to stay. Superheroes are about a lot more than epic, city-destroying fights with villains.

Don’t get rid of the fight scenes, though. That’s the fun part. 
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About the Author

Kristen Brand is a comic book fan and all-around geek. She writes novels with lots of action, witty banter, and a bit of romance. You can find out more about her work at kristenbrand.com, or check out her first novel, Hero Status, about a superhero who retired and married his arch-nemesis.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

IWSG: Evolution of Creativity


It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life. 

After you see what I have to say, be sure to check out the rest of the hope and our excellent co-hosts: Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

The November 7 question - How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?
I've been a writer since I learned how to write. Maybe even before that, because my drawings always had stories to go with them, even when I didn't know how to make letters yet. I was one of those kids that would make house guests grin tensely at my mother and say, "My, she certainly is creative, isn't she?" with a little nervous wobble in their voices. I guess not everyone was ready for gruesome ghost stories from a squeaky four year old. 

Luckily, my mom got it. She has a creative bent, too. And a leaning towards the weird and macabre. (like daughter, like mother?) She supported my endeavors, keeping me in paper, pens, bound books, and later in computers and printer ink. More importantly, she didn't try to tell me that my creations were inappropriate. I know now that I was very fortunate. A lot of young creatives don't meet with that same kind of support. 

My childhood creativity was half self-expression and half a desire to evoke a response from adults in my life. Whenever I felt strongly about something, you can bet I was going to write a firmly worded letter or a maudlin and melodramatic poem. If something I wrote got a gasp of surprise or a belly laugh, I'd feel like I'd won. 

As I grew into adulthood, writing became a coping mechanism. A lot of this was writing I would never show anyone, but writing that was really a kind of thinking and reflecting. 

Writing it out was cathartic, and helpful sometimes for organizing my wayward thoughts into a coherent understanding of my own feelings.  I still wrote all the time, but I wasn't seeking an audience for most of it. It was private. Almost a secret. 

I started lots of things and finished almost none. 

After a few years where I didn't write much at all (too much life in my way), I found my way back to writing while dealing with a bout of postpartum depression. Somewhere in there, I came full circle and writing became again what it had been for me as a child: half about self-expression and half about connecting with an audience. 

I think that's a long-winded way to say my creativity hasn't evolved at all. I just rediscovered what I once knew instinctively and claimed it again. Me and Pablo Picasso, huh? 






Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#31 of 31 Days of Halloween: Writing Horror Flash Fiction




Today I'm playing along with a blog hop: The Storytime Blog Hop and finishing my 31 Days of Halloween. Participants are asked to post a speculative fiction story less than 1,000 words quarterly.

I've been writing horror and Halloween-themed flash fiction all month for Bliss Morgan's Nightmare Fuel, so here's one of my favorite stories of the thirty-one I wrote this month. If you'd like to see the other stories, you can view the collection at this link.  I enjoy writing these short horror pieces each October and I hope you'll enjoy reading!
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Starving Artist

At first, she wove thin silken death for small foolish creatures, like the others of her kind. Subtle work, invisible unless you stood in right place. Intricate, delicate, effective.

It didn’t satisfy her. She wanted more. Something lasting.

She raged each time one of her creations was destroyed. She rebuilt over and over, until finally she decided it was time to move someplace more secluded.

She found an abandoned house and spun it throughout with masterpieces which hung glittering with condensation in morning light until the house glowed as if filled with gems. It made her heart full with delight for a while, but this too became not enough.

Wind blew through broken windows and snapped the edges, flinging her work aside. Frustrated, she fumed in cold silence, her heart turning chill with anger. Even here, alone, it was not enough.

Then she noticed the thick white ribbons of frost that streaked across a window. Inspiration. She sucked in great gasps of frigid air to fuel her. When she spun again, the strands were thick and soft and beautifully white. They glowed in moonlight and sun alike.

No insects disturbed their cold beauty, but hunger was nothing in the face of such creations. When she died, resting in the middle of a unbroken lattice of white snow, she had never been happier.

Be sure to check out the other stories in this blog hop. Happy Halloween Reading!

Snow White Tabloid Style, by Fannie Suto
The Halloween Dance, by Barbara Lund
Her Majesty, by Katharina Gerlach
Chris Bridges Posting Storytime Blog Hop.  Give her shout out and say Hello!
Black Moon, by Lauren M. Catherine
Poe's Heart, by J. Q. Rose
Hanks A Lot, by Joe Bouchard
In The Gray Lake, by Karen Lynn
The Right Honorable Brotherhood of Spirits, Poltergeists and Ghosts, by Vanessa Wells
Life of a Pumpkin, by Bill Bush
Why Should I?, by Gina Fabio
Reaper, by Juneta Key