No Time Like the Present

Remember that novel you never had time to write? Are you writing it now?

Over the past twenty-plus years of writing for publication, I’ve heard from many folks say, “I wish I had time to write.” Heck, I was one of them when I was still working. Since I got laid off I finished the third novel in the feisty series and wrote more on the historical novel I had started some time ago. HOWEVER, I’m not writing now.

Why? I have no earthly idea.

I’d like to encourage all of you with those stories bobbing around in your heads and invading your dreams to write them down. That’s how it all started for me. It took me ten years for the whole process of idea, writing, editing, more editing, searching for an agent and publisher, and editing some more before I finally found a publisher who published my first novel.

Like most of you, I was working, keeping house, taking care of my family – you know the drill, and wrote on my lunch hours and whenever I had a break between college courses I attended at night. I was much younger then. What I’m trying to say if I could do it then, why can’t you do it now? Or perhaps I should ask myself that same question.

I was laid off a couple of years ago and decided to retire early. Since then I have had the time to write, read, and rediscover my love of oil painting. Oh, and puzzles. I had forgotten how much fun they can be. I’ve tried my hand at sewing and made a king size quilt (which I will never do again – too big). Now I’ve decided to try my hand at making masks.

The point is, many of us have time during this pandemic to try some of the things we never had time for before. I am content to paint right now, but if the need to write burns within you – let that sucker out!

Enjoy the write. “See you in the funny papers.”

Joy in Discovery

When you get to be my age you think about where you came from, your family history and ancestry. There are a lot of blanks in my family tree and with the grands being gone it’s hard to know where to go for the information.

When I was a little girl I remember my grandmother making quilts and crocheting things most every day. When I left home she gave me a quilt top with quilted animals on a large pink fabric. She’d drawn features on them just like in the color books.

My son used the “animal blanket” when he was a toddler, but when he was four or five he decided “pink is for girls” and didn’t want it on his bed anymore. I packed it away with the hope that I would learn to quilt and be able to put it together for the next little one in our family.

His son is a teenager now and too old for pink animal blankets, but I did just finish my first full-sized quilt and thought I’d pull out the animal blanket for a look. I’d forgotten it was twin-sized, and low and behold my grandmother had used it as a family tree. There at the top were grandmother and grandfather’s names, then their children, marriages and their children, and I am in the middle. One of the spouse’s last names I couldn’t recall was there in all it’s glory. You never know where you’ll find the answers to questions. This discovery still makes me smile. It’s as if my grandmother heard and came through with the answer. Thank you, Grandma. I love and miss you. Have a blessed day.

What will the new year bring?

Last year was one of the more difficult years I’ve experienced, but tough times tend to lose punch with distance. Luckily, happy memories win out and stay with us much longer. So, it’s a new year with endless opportunities and experiences waiting to happen. Are you ready? I do believe that I am. I hope you have good health and stay safe in 2020, and the joyous days outnumber the rough ones. God bless.

Where do I find inspiration?

In a word, EVERYWHERE. I’m not making fun, honest. Some days it is as simple as a sunrise. A snippet of music on the radio. A painting or photograph. A line of overheard conversation. The smell of fresh flowers. A kaleidoscope of fresh vegetables stacked at the store. A little girl with ringlets trying on pink shoes with sequins. Birdsong in the morning. Bugs singing at night. The quiet after a snow storm. Sun sparkling on ice crystals.

See what I mean? I never know what will inspire me. Dreams can get your subconscious going big time. The trick is remembering them when you wake up. Thus, I keep a handy dandy notepad and pen by my bed. I’m pretty good at writing in the dark.

That’s the key really – writing down the idea the moment it hits you. Having pen and paper at hand wherever you are so you can capture the muse as it flies by. Julia Cameron’s method: Morning Pages gives you fifteen minutes to unload whatever is stacked in the mind, clogging up the way. I used to think I had to write perfect prose in those fifteen minutes, but it wasn’t happening. It turned into a data dump, and truly that’s what I needed to do.

The main thing is to clear the roadblocks in your mind. Don’t worry about writing anything perfect. Write. Write anything. Don’t worry about the grammar of repetitive words, that’s what editing is designed to do. I heard an author once liken it to vomiting on the page. That’s vivid and not something I like to think about, but not writing can sometimes make us feel off. Sick, almost. It’s who we are and what we do.

So, if you can’t find inspiration where you are, go somewhere else. Walk in the park. Visit a museum. Sit in a cafe and eavesdrop over a cup of java. If you usually write with a computer, take a notebook and pen – mix it up! Make time for writing. Make an open space in your mind to allow the words and images to come. Like Nike says, Just Do It. There’s a slogan I can get behind. Enjoy the journey!

Local Author Day

The Wichita Advanced Learning Library hosted a local author day, with discussion panel and author expo on August 24th. Three authors were chosen to discuss their experiences with publishing and answer questions from the audience, giving guidance to new writers as well as we experienced ones.

A couple of author buddies and I (H.B. Berlow & Kathy Prichett) joined most excellent reader, Penny Sanderback for lunch. We headed out to the Anchor but the line was out on the sidewalk, so we whipped in for a burger at Five Guys. Good stuff!

In the afternoon sixty local authors, you read that right – 60 – came together at the library conference area and renewed acquaintance, set up our works with signs and props, and the doors opened at 2:00 to admit a bunch of folks. For two hours the readers came and went, we sold some books, and talked about writing. It was great fun, exhausting and I hope to be involved next year. The library staff was attentive and very helpful. Thank you Racine, Sara, and Sarah (not sure of the spelling, so I hope you’ll forgive me). Reverie Coffee kept us supplied with caffeine and sweets, too. I’m certain there are others whose names I didn’t hear.

The Five W’s

WHY do I write? My mind is filled with stories, characters, issues that need to be discussed, and sometimes a crazy idea or ten. Nature and the uniqueness of the human race and our pets often inspire me.

WHO do I write for? Mostly for women, but sensitive men have enjoyed my novels, too. Women have a unique yet shared perspective and experience. We help each other, we are nurturing, guiding, leading and comforting – as a general rule.

WHAT do you write? I write stories about women, feisty families and friends and issues they deal with every day. Abuse. Desertion. Sexual awakening. Love. Children. Loss. Forgiveness. Aging. Opportunities. Change.

WHERE do you go to write? My office mostly. They closed my favorite bookstore (Borders West Wichita) where I spent many hours on my first and second novels. Watermark Books & Cafe is another good place to hang out and write. Libraries and coffee shops work, too.

WHEN is your best time to write? Afternoons and evenings. Mornings I usually do chores (laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, gardening, care giving). Sometimes when I wake up I remember a part of a dream that applies to my current work in progress, or and idea for a character or story, so I quickly jot it down before I forget it.

A book you can sink your teeth into…

Bite Me (Demon Underground, #1)Bite Me by Parker Blue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you need a little fantasy in your life. A wee bit of butt-kicking, a girl with a few drops of demon blood to ramp up her skills. Killing vampires seems to help Val keep the demon under control, but it leads to unforeseen consequences. After being kicked out of the house for supposedly endangering her younger sister Val is bereft, but soon finds solace and a furry partner who is part Terrior and part hellhound, and does a mean job of grabbing for the dangly bits on vampires.

This was great fun to read and no doubt I will read more in the series. Parker Blue makes the dark and seedy side come to life with humor and just the right amount of tension. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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“Need to know” keeps you guessing to the very end.

Need to KnowNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vivian has it all, a wonderful husband, a home, an important job, and four lovely children. She’s having trouble juggling it all, being super mom and super central intelligence analyst. When she discovers the unthinkable, everything she believes is not what she thought it was, nor is she sure what she can do to protect her family. Lies have a habit of compounding and this story kept me enthralled. She finds she’s made of tough stuff, but the more she finds out the worse things get. Will she ever escape the downward spiral of her life – good question.

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