A Different Kind of Book Review: 52 Stories in 52 Weeks by Phillip McCollum #bookreview #Mondayblogs

The following is a work of fiction, but the sentiments about Phillip McCollum’s collection of short stories, 52 Stories in 52 Weeks, are factually based. You can skip this different kind of book review and go directly to Fantastic Shorts for more information on how to get your own copy of this collection of great short stories. Or proceed and then you know, you’ll want your own copy. I promise you.

***

Kate was having a good morning. After two years of living with Michael’s half-sister Misty, they finally had their small condo to themselves. Last night, the three of them christened Misty’s new apartment with a champagne-sized bottle of sparkling apple cider. Kate was proud of Misty. She had been on the fast track to becoming a juvenile alcoholic. Her stint in prison cut that short, but since being released Misty not had taken a sip of anything alcoholic. Instead, she veered to the other extreme and banned alcohol from her apartment. She would not relent even to celebrate her new home. Kate and Michael respected her rules, knowing that a chilled bottle of Chardonnay waited for them in their own home.

This morning, Kate was puttering around, filling in the gaps that Misty had left behind. First she wanted to tidy up her and Michael’s bedroom. She smiled as she smoothed down the comforter and inched around the corner to Michael’s side of the bed.

“Ow!” As usual, Kate was running around barefoot, enjoying the feel of cool tiles on a day that promised to be hot and humid. Her right big toe had just made violent contact with something that felt like a brick. Kate looked down at the offender. It was a book. A big book.

“Are you okay?” Michael had been enjoying his coffee on their little balcony and was by Kate’s side in a matter of seconds.

“Uh, yeah, I just stubbed my toe on this … geeze … it’s the size of those Norton anthologies I had to read in college.” Using both her hands, Kate lifted the book and looked accusingly at Michael. “Must you leave this on the floor?”

“Must you not look where you’re going? It’s right next to the bed stand, Kate, which you’ll notice is already stacked with books, some of which are yours.”

Kate sighed. Michael had put himself on a fast track to get a dual bachelor’s degree in literature and history. Most of the books piled next to the bed were hers but from when she was a college student. Now that she was an adjunct at the community college, she had little time for leisure reading. She gazed longingly at the stack of novels. Then she looked back at the book she was holding. “Is this assigned reading?”

The tome was titled 52 Stories in 52 Weeks. She didn’t recognized the author Phillip McCollum, but the subtitle definitely intrigued her: One writer’s journey in tackling, shackling, and shooting his inner critic.

“No, I wanted to have a break now and then from my assignments. God, I love to read, but sometimes I just want to read and not be analyzing. This is a collection of short stories and the cool thing is I don’t need to analyze anything. I can just enjoy the stories and the author follows each one with a brief explanation of how he wrote the story.”

Kate started flipping through the pages, being careful not to move the bookmark out of its place. “Wow, there’s mind maps in here.”

“Yeah, isn’t that cool–”

“And statistics? What kind of writer is McCollum?”

“Oh, he’s very versatile. I think he has a background in technology which would explain how he put this book together. You know, including statistics such as his word count and a synopsis and then his process summary after the story. Sort of reminds me of how I organized and wrote computer programs when I was in the military. Anyway, I know he has a version of his stories without all this extra information, but I jumped at the chance to get the whole kit and kaboodle.”

Kate gave Michael a sideways glance. He was so adorable when he said things like “kit and kaboodle.” Michael was tall and quite well-built. He had allowed his black hair to grow out so he was no longer seen as a Jarhead, but his physical presence could be intimidating to strangers.

“You haven’t finished it.”

“It’s fifty-two stories, Kate.”

“Are they all in the same genre?”

“Oh, no, and that’s another thing I love about this collection! Look.” Michael took the book from her. “The first story is a “weird western” as he calls it. “And then there’s science fiction, horror, some where fantasy is mixed in with sci fi or horror. You could say there’s something for everyone. He mashes up some genres like with “Lights Out: An MC Ruff and DJ Tumble Adventure.” That’s sci fi, mystery and humor.”

Kate tilted her head and appraised Michael as if seeing him for the first time.

“I didn’t figure you for a guy who would like stories like that. I had you pegged as a classic literature or literary fiction kind of guy.”

Michael smiled and leaned in to kiss Kate. “We’ve been together long enough for you to know that I believe in reading widely and often.”

He looked back down at the book. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like some of these stories but McCollum is such a good writer, he got me hooked with each one. “Lights Out” was a real eye-opener for me. I felt sure I wouldn’t be that interested in rappers in outer space but, well, you remember the series Firefly?” Kate nodded. “The story reminds me of that series plus he makes it so believable. It is laugh out loud funny too. I’m only a quarter of the way through his collection, but I’ve enjoyed each of his stories that I’ve read so far. I am partial to his westerns, but that’s just my own interest in history. He really brings to life these old western towns, the hard lives people lived back then, the desperate choices they had to make.”

“Do I have to wait until you’ve finished reading all his stories?” Kate leaned against Michael. She wondered if she could coax him into reading one of the stories out loud to her.

“No, just use a different bookmark. Or you can skip around. He gives the word count for each story so you know how much time it might to take read. Of course, you’re a slow reader so any of them might take you awhile–”

Kate slipped her hand under Michael’s t-shirt and scratched at his naked flesh, causing him to recoil.

“Stop!” He managed to protest in-between giggles.

“Be careful. I know all your soft spots. I’ll stop if you promise to read me a story.”

“Okay!” Kate pulled away and gave Michael a minute to compose himself. For a former Marine, he was pretty easy to incapacitate.

“Let’s start at the top, with “Seven Hundred and Seventy-Six.” It has a Twilight Zone quality to it. I know you’ll love it.”

“Sounds good to me!” Kate plumped and stacked the pillows and positioned herself so she was reclined, her legs resting across Michael’s thighs. What an even better morning this was turning out to be.

***

Just a reminder: You can get more information on ordering 52 Stories in 52 Weeks here. This collection is a true treasure trove of damn good writing.

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the language of trees.

This is so cool I have to share. For lovers of trees and words.

I didn't have my glasses on....

NYC Parks Are Using a Designer’s ‘Tree Font’ to Plant Secret Messages with Real TreesNew York City Tree Font Alphabet by Katie Holten

Inspired by the nature around her, artist Katie Holten recently developed the New York City Tree Alphabet. Each letter is represented by an illustration of a different type of tree found in NYC. The letter A, for example is depicted as an ash tree, and the letter O is illustrated as an oak.

Holten is one of the first creatives to become an NYC Parks artist-in-residence, where she was asked to explore “the intersection of art, urban ecology, sustainability, nature, and design.” Holten’s resulting NYC Trees font is now available as a free download to anyone who wants to write secret messages in tree code. Not only that, but the NYC Parks Department plans to actually plant some of the messages as real trees in parks and other public spaces.

“Being an artist-in-residence with…

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Essay Published in Babbel Magazine! #BabbelUSA #ampublished

I’m very excited to announce that my essay, “How I finally gave in to my ghost,” has been published by Babbel Magazine in First Person: https://medium.com/first-person/how-i-finally-gave-in-to-my-ghost-e0bf32e3ea30

My efforts to learn Spanish spans decades, although most of the essay is focused on my experiences in Ecuador.

I hope you enjoy reading my essay as much as I enjoyed writing it. While you’re there (at https://medium.com/first-person/how-i-finally-gave-in-to-my-ghost-e0bf32e3ea30), read some of the other essays. They’re fun and inspiring.

Never give up … on writing or learning a foreign language.

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Reblog: LOVING JONI by Jan Priddy and My Own Take on Reframing Myself #Mondayblogs #CNF #memoir

via LOVING JONI

I love this essay to the moon and back. I love when someone’s writing sparks me to write, especially when it’s something other than what I intended to write.

Last night my husband and I were talking about my spider phobia. He has taken up macrophotography and is excited about photos he took of a tiny spider on a fiddleneck fern. I glanced at one photo and had to immediately look away, as the sight of the severely magnified monster was like a kick to my gut. And yet … after almost 30 years living in Florida, I no longer panic when I see a Golden Silk spider. In fact, I might just walk up to it, as long as the spider is at eye level and not overhead where it might mistake my frizzy gray hair for another web.

I’ve adapted by getting over some of my phobias and dislikes. I eat foods now that I would never eat as a child. I listen to a wider range of music now, instead of only Bruce Springsteen. But what really struck me in Jan’s essay was being “allowed to be ourselves and for that self to be re-framed throughout a long life.” At 61, I often think I should have myself all figured out by now, be as constant as the sun and the moon, be as predictable as my cat Junior waking me up in the wee hours with his lonely cries. And yet I’m not. I’m constantly shifting, and the shifting drives me crazy.

When I visit my family, I see people who haven’t changed much over the decades. They have deep-rooted lives with children and grandchildren; cousins, aunts, and uncles; friends they’ve known since high school. They haven’t wavered (much) with their politics, the foods they like to eat, and the music they like to listen to. They adhere generally to the same cultural codes they always have. I’m not saying this is bad, as I’ve often envied them the ability to so strongly identify with their own people, place, and time.

Salt of the earth.

I’ve seen or heard shifting around the edges of their long-held beliefs and values as the world around them changes and intrudes. I’ve seen or heard them pushing back against injustice, inequality, discrimination, lawlessness. This is growth, but not necessarily a reframing of their lives, individually or collectively.

Since I was a child, I hadn’t felt I belonged. Any effort I made to believe that I was a member of a tribe, that I felt cohesion with a group, quickly failed. The fact that I had to make an effort belies the truth of my belonging. It’s not that I was treated as a foreigner in my own extended family, but that I felt as one which, of course, was in part because I was treated as one. I was always an oddity.

I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to go on a hike with my cousins. Vague memory as all my memories are, but the gist was this: We had been camping and were going to go for a hike up a hillside. I don’t remember my age, but I don’t think I was yet a teenager. I started off on the hike and then, for some reason I can’t remember, I turned around and went back to camp. I changed my mind. I don’t know if I saw something that scared me. I don’t remember if I thought the hike was too hard. Maybe I wasn’t dressed properly for a hike, didn’t have the right shoes. Maybe I was afraid of being left behind, which is something that seemed to happen often enough for me to be afraid of it happening again.

When I was much younger, perhaps 5 or 6, I went to the Fonda Fair with my family. There was a “Mystery House.” You were supposed to go in one end and come out the other, and it was pitch black with scary sounds and maybe ghosts jumping out at you. I was allowed to go providing I hold onto my brother’s hand. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything. People were laughing and I didn’t understand why, what was so funny. This was scary! My hand was let go and I found myself blocked by a wall or maybe a door. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear people. Some teenagers moved past me, laughing. Someone noticed me, remarked that a little girl was there and she was crying. But no one offered to help me through the house. I managed to turn around and exit through the entrance. Whenever I think of this event, I recall feeling humiliated. Not only was I embarrassed, but I sensed my family, my mom, was embarrassed too. People thought it was funny that I came out through the entrance, crying. I don’t remember anyone trying to comfort me. I could be wrong, but I’d like to think that if someone had, I would remember.

Back to the hike: I had a well-founded fear of being left behind, and I believe that even though I wanted to go on the hike, it quickly became evident that I would be left behind. No one of my cousins would be interested in lagging behind with me. If I couldn’t keep up, it was my own fault. So I turned around and went back to the camp and never asked to go on a hike again.

Flash forward 20-some years, and I’m visiting my home and family for a few weeks, after having moved to California a couple of years before. One of my cousins is also visiting and she tells me about a hike that she and some other cousins were planning. I tell her I’d like to go and she promises to call me. In the brief time I had been living in California, I had started hiking. I was broke most of the time so hiking and going for long walks was one way to entertain myself without spending money. I was looking forward to hiking with my cousins, being part of a group that I hadn’t been much part of when I lived home. It didn’t matter where we were going as long I belonged.

My cousin didn’t call. By the time she got back in touch with me, the hike had been and gone, and my cousin confessed that she hadn’t taken me seriously.

“Why would I have said I wanted to go on a hike if I really didn’t want to?”

“Well, you never wanted to go before.”

“That was years ago. I’ve been hiking in California. I like to hike now.”

“Well, I didn’t know.”

Right, she was remembering me as I had been, fixing me in a time I was trying to grow out of.

My struggles with growth, with allowing myself to reframe my self as I journey through life, have their origin in my childhood and adolescence. When my mother would jokingly complain that I was so unpredictable as to be predictable. When I go home and the contrast of how family remember me and how I am now is so stark that even I don’t always recognize myself. That might be one good thing about having lived in one place for almost 30 years, especially as an adult, when growth and reframing can be incremental, at worst a slight tremor. Not like the earthquakes of growth when I was a child and adolescent, when one day I was playing with Barbie and Ken and Midget and Skipper and the next day I was no longer a child and let my dolls rot away in an attic. I’ll say this for my mom: She tried to keep up.

My changeability was a source of frustration for my family. I understand that, but I also understand it’s why I could never “go home” again. Going home would mean going back to whoever I was that my family remembered the most, not who I am now. It’s also why I fantasize about leaving Florida and starting anew somewhere else. I want to grow, to reframe. To do that while nothing around me changes is not just hard. It makes me feel odd, like a foreigner in my own country.

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Writers: How Do You Stay Organized? #MondayBlogs #amwriting

It’s one thing to write a first draft of anything — short story, novel, essay — and save it to a hard drive or to iCloud or to Dropbox or to Goggle Docs or to a thumb drive. That’s one document saved somewhere. But when you have several short stories and a few drafts of each one, or perhaps a few versions of one novel, how do you organize your writing?

Currently, I’m using Dropbox which was fine until I needed to find some stories I had written years ago. I thought I had saved everything to Dropbox but … of course, I hadn’t. In searching for these old nuggets of gold on my hard drive, I found duplicates galore. The same story saved in multiple locations, but not the version I was looking for. I eventually found what I wanted but it was a nail-biting experience.

Over the years, I’ve had to adjust how I organize my files, and I know I’ve lost some in the process. Going from floppy disks (I’m that old) to 3.5 hard disks to various iterations of the Cloud. It’s appealing to use the Cloud and believe that I can access my work from any computer anywhere as long as there’s an internet connection. Of course, when you have an internet connection but the vendor’s server goes down, you’re screwed.

So my challenge is two-fold: (1) organize my writing so I can find what I want when I want it; and (2) find a reliable location to store my work.

I would really love to know what you do to store and organize your writing. I know I could learn from you. Please share in the comments section.

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The Astronomer’s Wife up at 50-Word Stories!

I’m very excited to share that I have a 50-word story up at fiftywordstories.com. If you’re not yet subscribed to this site, you’ll want to be. Here’s the link to my fifty-word story:

https://fiftywordstories.com/2019/01/22/marie-a-bailey-the-astronomers-wife/

And to show there’s always some truth in fiction, here is a photo my husband took of the lunar eclipse on January 21, 2019.

moon0240-hdr

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Traditional Book Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by @RuthWareWriter #bookreview

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the third of Ruth Ware’s novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading and, at this time, it is my favorite. The novel is a modern mystery with a Gothic, even Dickensian atmosphere. Hal, or Harriet, the narrator, is an orphaned waif, barely subsisting off the business her mother had started, that of a Tarot Reader. Worse, she owes a loan shark money, too much to ever pay back. Hal then experiences what most orphan fantasies consist of: a letter stating that she is (essentially) the long-lost heir to an inheritance. Hal believes this to be a case of mistaken identity, but she’s desperate. She doesn’t ask for much, only to survive. So she goes off on her adventure, to play the part of a missing granddaughter in the hope that, if she plays it well enough, she’ll be able to pay off the loan shark and live a comfortable if lonely life.

As with her previous novels, Ware gives us an unreliable but likeable narrator. All we know is what Hal knows, although most of us are old enough to know better where Hal isn’t. She’s tough but naive. She’s very good at acting, but still flubs her lines. At the first, the reader wants to protect her and even supports her attempt at fraud if only to save her own life. Better still would it be that Hal really is the missing granddaughter.

Nothing is ever that simple. Hal finds herself in a setting worthy of Daphne Du Maurier. An old, run-down mansion; an attic room with locks on the outside of the door; a menacing housekeeper; and an eclectic group of uncles that Hal might or might not be able to trust. Ware skillfully twists the many threads of family secrets, and there are quite a few. Hal’s own connection to the family is the deepest secret of all. Again, the reader only knows what Hal knows, and by the time Hal has finally pieced everything together, it is nearly too late.

The ending is satisfying and somewhat expected because it was hoped for.

Mystery and family secrets aside, one of the themes of The Death of Mrs. Westaway that I found most intriguing was that of family. Hal’s close relationship with her mother, her shaky relationship with the men who might or might not be her uncles made me think about what ties families together. Hal has had no connection with this family ever, as far as she knows. She is a stranger to them; yet, the mere idea that she might be the daughter of their missing sister is enough for them to embrace her, to some degree anyway. Without that blood connection, she is nothing to them. Yet, Hal is the same person, whether related to them or not. The rather quaint saying–“Blood is thicker than water”–is tested over and over in The Death of Mrs. Westaway. For me, the novel reveals just how tenuous family ties can be.

When it comes to family, I am most often observer, least often participant. I have three siblings, 3, 11, and 13 years older than me. I am close with my middle sister, but not the other two sibs. I keep in touch with them (okay, one of them), but I don’t share my hopes and dreams, my fears and frustrations. The less said, the better.

Contrast this with one set of cousins, a gaggle of sisters and brothers relatively close in age and, despite being thousand of miles apart from each other, have a closeness that would be the envy of best friends.

Into another set of cousins, a stranger appeared. A secret son, the oldest of his half-siblings but unknown until after their mother’s death. In head-spinning quickness, he was welcomed into the family, embraced even by those relatives he might never meet.

Another family, unrelated to me, a small unit, where a rift between brother and sister has led to permanent estrangement, where one sibling washed her hands of the other and, as far as I know, has never looked back. The brother shrugs at the memory and moves on.

I’ve often thought that what brought families together and kept them together was shared experience. At least, that gives them an advantage. I’ve physically drifted away from most of my extended family, to the point where our shared experiences begin and end with my adolescence. Not my most favorite time of life, not a time that I want to revisit when I visit them.

This meditation on family is a result of having read The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I’ve been turning it over in my head for a long time. I envied Hal. Of course, she is about forty years younger than me, not overly burdened with a past she’d just as soon chuck into a river. Perhaps it’s that sense of her being a stranger, unknown to her presumed uncles, herself a blank slate that she writes her own story on. She is, as far as we know, committing fraud and while that is a frightening experience for her, I could also imagine it being a freeing experience as well. To rewrite oneself, one’s past, one’s family.

I’m not saying I want to rewrite my family; only that I often imagine what families are like outside of what I know. Even as a kid, I would wonder what it was like to be that popular girl in my class, or the one who was taunted because her family was poor. Most often, how would I be different if I had grown up in a different family. Would I be different? People have always been objects of curiosity for me. That’s why I write and that’s why I read. For me, families are the stuff of stories.

I’m curious: How does family figure in your writing? Or do they?

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Ambushed by Dead Sea Secrets #MondayBlogs #humor

The following post was originally written in February 2009 and published on this blog in March 2013. Since I’ve gained a few new followers since 2013, here it is again. .

###

I had just wanted to get some fresh air. I had been indoors, attending training and conference sessions, for almost five days straight. It was early December, in Atlanta, and dark after 5 pm. I just wanted some fresh air, but it was too dark to stroll around the hotel grounds, so I decided to risk the rush hour traffic and walk to the mall. Malls are supposed to be good walking places, or so I’ve been told, since I usually avoid malls. I’m a bit agoraphobic. I don’t like crowds, especially, the unorganized, almost zombie-like crowds of malls. But I wanted some fresh air, and to get out of my hotel room, and maybe, just maybe, buy myself a treat since I was feeling homesick and probably suffering from SADS.

I smiled easily at the shoppers I passed as I went through the glass entrance doors. I didn’t know anyone here. I could browse and stroll with a great cloak of anonymity. I turned a corner, looking straight ahead, wondering if the mall had a Barnes and Noble or a Borders, and was prepared to bulldoze myself through the opposing traffic of shopping zombies, when she caught my eye. A diminutive young woman dressed in a black long-sleeve sweater and tight black pants, slinked around a kiosk, calling out to me, “Have you heard of the Dead Sea salts?”

She had a thick accent, almost a caricature of the Jewish accent heard on sitcoms. I thought, “Seinfeld?,” and stopped as she cautiously touched my arm. She was smiling and holding a bottle of lotion. She went on about the Dead Sea, and its salts, and how this line of skin care was Oprah’s favorite. Did I know about the Dead Sea? I said yes, and felt myself pulled toward her kiosk, although she did not touch me. It was if the kiosk had caught me in its tractor beam, and I floated toward it, the young woman still talking about the miracle properties of the dead sea minerals.

She buffed the nail on my index finger, making it shine as if it had just been lacquered. I admit I was delighted. My nails are usually so dull, I said, and nail polish doesn’t stay on. She rubbed oil into my cuticles and admonished me to never use nail polish or to cut my cuticles, not even to push them back.

“That’s very unhealthy,” she said in a tone so serious that I wanted to laugh. We bantered about the cost of the nail care kit that she wanted to sell me. “How much is it,” I asked, with a smirk suggesting that I knew it would be too much. “A million dollars,” she said, “but, for you, forty dollars. It’s such a deal.” I grimaced. Fourteen dollars was more like it, I thought but didn’t say.

“Lemme show you something else. You will love this. All my clients love this.” She grabbed my hands, positioned them over a basin, and then spritzed them with water. “This is so wonderful. You will thank me for this.” She seemed genuinely excited and I wanted to be excited, too, but I could feel myself flag. It had been a long day, a long week, and I had only wanted to get some fresh air. She put a small scoop of oil and salts in my hands and told me to rub. A lemony scent drifted up to my nose, and the rubbing, the gritty, oily sensation, made me pine for my hotel room and the bath I could take if I could only get away from this tiny woman who had thrown a spell over me.

She was very close to me, her straight dark brown hair often brushing against my shoulders. Her movements were quick and sure, and I began to feel like a solid lump of dough next to her. She never stopped talking. She never stopped her spiel. She rinsed the oily salts off my hands and then applied a thick cream that made my skin feel smooth and plump and soft.

“And how much does this cost,” I asked in a monotone voice. She responded with her usual “A million dollars, but, for you …” She explained how she could give me her discount and that she would give me her phone number so I could always call her when I needed to order more.

“Don’t buy from online,” she said, shaking her finger at me. “It’s much more expensive online.” She turned her back to me, and I looked quickly around, wishing there were more people in the mall, wishing I could step back and disappear into a sea of people. She swung around, her large dark eyes filled with delight as she asked, “Do you use eye cream?”

Before I could answer, she was dabbing at the skin just around my right eye, telling me how thin the skin is there, how it needs to be pampered, how you should never rub that area, and how this miracle gel will make my wrinkles disappear. Then she grabbed a mirror, wanting me to see the difference between the skin of my right eye and my left eye.

What I saw made me want to weep. The wrinkles around my eyes were nothing compared to the pallor of my skin and the deep criss-cross of lines across my neck. I was 52 but I suddenly felt and looked much older. The woman prattled on, seemingly oblivious to the horror I felt at my reflection. She put the mirror down and began to stack little boxes next to the cash register, again saying what a good deal she would give me, how I will bless her for this in six weeks time. I was rooted to the spot and felt my only means of escape was to pay the woman.

Pay her whatever she wanted, pay her anything if she would just let me go. She handed me a receipt. Four hundred dollars. My price of freedom was four hundred dollars.

I managed to get back to my hotel room without being seen by any of my fellow conference goers. The bag handles left deep grooves in my pampered palms, and I felt so humiliated, so ashamed at spending so much on so little.

In my room, I laid out my goods on the bed, opened up my laptop, and waited for it to boot. When my browser was up and running, I typed “Dead Sea Secrets” into the Google search bar and began my quest. I hadn’t wanted any of this stuff. I had only wanted fresh air. But I needed to know if at least I had gotten a deal.

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Published (Again) and Procrastinating #MondayBlogs #procrastinating

As I mentioned some time ago (and where does the time go …), my little-short-story-that-could, “No More Tomorrows,” was being published again (be still my heart) by Z Publishing House in their new anthology America’s Emerging Writers. You can read my announcement here.

I love Z Publishing 🙂

Because the manuscript turned out longer than anticipated, the anthology for America’s Emerging Writers was broken into two volumes. My little-short-story-that-could is in Volume One. Below are the links to both volumes of America’s Emerging Writers. Consider purchasing one or both. They hold some seriously good writing.

Volume One on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1729836720/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1543198698&sr=8-3&keywords=america%27s+emerging+writers

Volume One on our website: https://www.zpublishinghouse.com/products/americas-emerging-writers-an-anthology-of-fiction-volume-one?variant=17722976665715

Volume Two on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1729836828/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1543198698&sr=8-4&keywords=america%27s+emerging+writers

Volume Two on our website: https://www.zpublishinghouse.com/products/americas-emerging-writers-an-anthology-of-fiction-volume-two?variant=17723696840819

So what I have been doing since receiving the kind of news that would make any other writer start submitting like crazy?

Not a whole lot.

I’ve been reading … books. I just finished Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. A sweet story. A little scary in some parts, but the kind of scary that makes you shiver and want to read more. And then I finished it and felt a little unsettled, the way I feel when I’ve finished a book by a “big” writer and am left wanting. I’m now in the middle of the latest installment of a long crime fiction series and experiencing hope and anxiety. Hope that the end of the novel will make me glad I persevered. Anxiety that it won’t and that I’ll be left musing about the contractual demands that some writers are expected to meet. A book a year. A book a year. Fail that and you have to pay back your advances. Publish before your book is truly ready for prime time, and you may lose your readers.

I’ve been knitting .. a lot. I recently finished a shawl for my sister (her third one from me, talk about being spoiled, but then she does live where they have snow and cold in the winter). Next up is a button-down shawl for myself (maybe),

a cashmere watch cap for my husband (belated birthday present and because it’s late, I’ll probably knit two although the second one will be in a merino-yak-alpaca yarn),

a lap blanket for my mom,

a sweater for a friend’s granddaughter (maybe … still haven’t settled on pattern or yarn).

Whenever I start knitting like this, I know I’m procrastinating, avoiding writing. Thankfully I’m still being productive, but not in words. Unless you count all the writing I do in my  head while I’m knitting.

Or walking. I’ve been walking a lot, trying to lose a bit of weight and burn off nervous energy. On my neighborhood walks, I’ve developed an acquaintance with a local resident.

My friend, a young red-tailed hawk making eye contact with me as if to say, “Go on, you. I’m scouting for squirrels.” Now I did zoom in with my iPhone camera but that utility line was maybe a few feet above me, fairly low for a hawk to be hanging out nonchalantly, surveying his kingdom. I walked for about forty-five minutes, looping around our few streets so I passed by him three times. Even as I headed home that evening, he was still out there, on the wire.

I like hawks. They keep the squirrel population in check.

I haven’t not been writing at all. I was in a seriously boring meeting the other day and took that opportunity to jot down some ideas for my WIP. Felt rather proud of myself, but I haven’t opened my journal since and it’s been over a week now.

I’ve also taken up studying Spanish through Duolingo and French through Babbel. More procrastination but, hey, I might die multilingual at this rate.

I have an essay that I fidget with every so often. But it’s a personal essay and why would anyone want to read a personal essay from me? That’s my problem with personal essays. I envy anyone whose personal essays are published and read and enjoyed, and yet somehow I don’t think I should write them. But I want to.

I also bought a kit to make trivets using hemp yarn and embroidery hoops.

Oh, and we have a new washing machine! The old one which wasn’t very old was leaking. Seriously leaking. We put a drip pan underneath it and sucked up water, trying to stave off the inevitable. I didn’t want to plunk down several hundred dollars for one of those fancy, digital, 300+ cycle machines.

I only need one cycle.

But the old machine just got worse even though my husband tried several times to fix it. And we couldn’t suck the water up properly so it was starting to seep into the back wall. One day while I was at work, dear husband got fed up and went to Home Depot and bought the least expensive, most efficient washing machine they had. I was so relieved he went without me. I hate shopping for appliances.

It took about three weeks to get it. My goal now is to use every one of those new-fangled cycles. It even has one for “Bedding.” I’m in love. So I’m doing a lot of laundry too.

P R O C R A S T I N A T I O N

How do you procrastinate? And do you feel guilty when you do? Or is it just part of the writing life?

 

 

 

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Little Short Story That Could #MondayBlogs #justwrite

My little story “No More Tomorrows” continues to surprise me. First that it was accepted at all by Z Publishing House for their Florida’s Emerging Writers series. Then that it earned two positive reviews by writers I deeply admired: Carrie Rubin and Luanne Castle .

Now it’s slated for another publication, again by Z Publishing House. A few days ago I received this email:

Hello Marie,

It is our pleasure to invite you to join our upcoming nationwide edition of the Emerging Writers series. Out of the more than 2,000 writers who were accepted into our 2018 Emerging Writers series, yours is one of 136 writings we would like to publish in the nationwide edition, America’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction.

I had to give permission for the reprint. Ha ha ha … you know I didn’t have to think about that for long. You can count in seconds the time it took me to respond.

So I’m feeling grateful, thankful. The past two weeks has been difficult with one tragedy after another, some very close, some very far but just as heartbreaking. Although my little short story doesn’t change anything–it won’t bring back lives or restore homes–it is, for me, one tiny bright spot. “No More Tomorrows” comes from a place deep within me, a place I feel I can still touch although it no longer exists in the real world. It’s a reminder that sometimes I should just write.

But first let me thank you, my dearest writing community, my blogging friends who have been traveling with me on this weird-ass journey of writing, sharing our fears and joys, giving each other advice and propping up. As I’ve said before and will say again and again, I couldn’t, wouldn’t be writing without your support. So now I’ll …

Just. Write.

 

Posted in Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments
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