Snow, Woe and Micro-Tales

We’ve had a fair bit of snow this past week; our world is quite dazzling white now. And it has been COLD! Yesterday our grandson, now working for his dad doing snow removal, came with a loader and cleaned out our driveway. Hard to realize he’s big enough, and mature enough, to operate such big machinery. How the years do fly!

I’ve been besieged by a new ailment this week. Old Arthritis in disguise. Monday morning my right foot — particularly my big toe — started to hurt. The pain has gotten worse, the swelling increased. Looks and feels like a genuine “club foot” now as I limp around the house. Not very nice.

Heading into Week Two of NaNoWriMo today and I’m well on the way as scenes keep coming to me for my story. Since I’ll be doing a lot of sitting this week anyway, maybe I can aim to have my 50k words written by Sunday night. 🙂 Then comes the edit — though I am editing a bit as I go along. Even if it reduces my overall word count, I will take out unwanted words and fix typos. Don’t like leaving a mess to clean up later.

Speaking of writing, I just got an e-mail telling me that one of my newest 100-word stories was published on The Drabble this morning. You might call this crime fiction — or you might not. You can read it here: “I Confess”

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Books: Gone To Green

GONE TO GREEN

© 2009, 2016 by Judy Christie

Amazon blurb:

Will a big city journalist find love and happiness in small-town in Louisiana? An ambitious newspaper editor trades her corporate life at a large paper for the ownership of “The Green News-Item” in rural Louisiana — and finds friendship with an unlikely group of people. Ready to fight for right she is unexpectedly drawn into new causes — and attracted to an appealing high-school coach who raises catfish part time.

I found this book interesting right off the bat because it duplicates a scenario in one of my stories. But instead of a lawyer inheriting a farm, this 36-year-old single city editor inherits a small town newspaper from a colleague and friend who suddenly passes just after setting up this new position as his retirement package. Hoping for a promotion in her own sphere, Lois goes down to Green, LA, has a look around, and decides to give it a whirl. For Ed’s sake.

Most of the people she meets are kind, friendly, easy-going folks. But even small towns can have their greedy types and corruption. Her main reporter gets a whiff of something rotten and she encourages him to go after it. She herself gets glimpses of racial prejudice. If they blow the whistle on certain people, the paper’s headed for a hot gumbo.

She is also getting attractive offers both from her home paper: “A great offer coming up. You should grab this opportunity,” as well as a big-business offers to purchase the paper. Decisions, decisions. And there’s this kind high school coach who lives down the road and drops by just to chat. Someone she’d like to get to know better.

I’m usually not all-out generous, but I really enjoyed this book and give it five stars. It’s well written, has an old-fashioned flavor — no immorality — and the story line is great. Makes you want to visit the place, drop in on her and say “Hi.” And this is the first in a series, so we can keep on reading about Lois’s adventures in Green, LA.

New Friends And Nosy Critters

We had quite the windy, cloudy day yesterday and our Internet wasn’t working for most of the day. Which was okay because we had friends join us for dinner and a nice visit after. In the evening we worked on a jigsaw puzzle. Thankfully this morning the wind was down and the net was up and running as usual.

Among the e-mails that came through was one from The Drabble, telling me they’re publishing another of my short stories today, titled A Friend Drop By. This one has never appeared on this blog so if you want to read it, Click Here.

We went to the city today to do some shopping. Among other things I looked at shoes, but would likely have to give an arm and a leg in exchange for a nice pair. (Around $130 CDN.) Tried to stock up on groceries to prepare for the coming writing marathon.

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow at midnight. Will anyone be up typing at 12:02 am? Here’s the synopsis for the children’s story I’ll be working on:

In the summer of 1957, 14-yr-old brother Gerry and 11-yr-old sister Joy take the train to their widowed Aunt Patty’s new home beside a small town. She’s hoping to earn a living for her and her two children by growing a market garden. Gerry and Joy are going to be her “hired help” this first summer.

Among the various characters living in and around town there’s a retired map-maker, now a famous writer of the “wild west” teen adventure stories —of which Gerry is very fond. Reginald Gentleman (who writes as Reg Savage) has just prepared a manuscript for posting when it disappears. Gerry and Joy help search for it.

I plan to work some other excitement to keep the summer hopping. A touch of romance, too. A widowed farmer from the district helps Aunt Patty whenever he can and talks the School district into having an old fashioned “Box Social” to raise money for sports equipment. Of course he’s hoping to buy Aunt Patty’s box and thus get to know her a bit better. Oh, do those plans go awry!

Books: 5000 Words Per Hour

5,000 WORDS PER HOUR: Write Faster, Write Smarter
© 2015 by Chris Fox

In preparation for NaNoWriMo I’ve been rereading this short, motivational e-book. The writer gives his system for improving your writing skills to the point you’re whacking out 5000 words per hour. Can you see yourself doing that?

Motivation is a powerful force, he says. And he knows, because he’s motivated himself to lose 100 pounds and write a dozen novels plus half a dozen other books on writing and editing. So he’s not just whistling Dixie. He has developed this system and shares it because it has worked for him.

We start with short writing practices or sprints, typing without pausing to edit in any way, including correcting typos. Here’s where I digress. While I see merit in what he’s saying, I simply must correct my spelling mistakes. (I make one or two for every ten words.) If it slows me down, so be it.

He advocates using the same “sprint” system for editing. Don’t agonize over each word during the first edits. This thought helped me a lot. I tend to want Chapter One perfect before I move on to Chapter Two. I never do get to the last chapter.

Anyway, as you practice every day and chart your progress, he promises you’ll see improvement in both speed and also your ability to plot out your scenes in advance and catch your writing flaws. By the way, this author once a pantser who rarely finished a manuscript, is now a confirmed plotter. You need to be one to crank out this much content without stopping to wonder, “Now what happens next?”

I’d encourage any writer to read his book and see what you think. Some of us older ones are so set in our ways I’m not sure it will make a lot of difference — but they say you can always learn something new.

Even if you don’t get past, say 2000 words an hour, you’re still going to ace NaNoWriMo, where you need to do just over 1670 words a day for a month to get your 50,000 words Winner’s Badge. I did a fifteen-minute sprint and my word count was 650 words, which would give me 1300 words in half an hour — spelled right. 🙂

Practice every day, the author says. That’s the ticket.

When Tales, Like Mice, Scurry Through

HELP!

Can you share a bit of your wisdom and experience with me, dear Readers? ‘Cause I really need some guidance in managing my attention deficit disorder (or whatever it is?) as I prepare for NanoWrimo.

I’ve always had trouble making decisions, nothing new about having six suggestions pop up to fill one morning and not knowing where to start. Since I had chemo-therapy my brain seems fuzzier than ever; some mornings I feel like a dozen worthwhile ideas are scurrying through my mind and I just can’t grab one and hold it still long enough to execute the task.

Kind of like mice in a cheese factory.

Saturday I re-read a book on how to become a faster writer. (Will do a book review in my next post.) Practice, he says. Time yourself. Every day; keep on track. By using this system he’s trained himself to write 5000 WORDS PER HOUR — the title of his book.

When Tales, Like Mice, Scurry Through

So I sat down to do one of the sprints he recommended and … um… what should I write? I can think of a lot of little tales and experiences I could relate. Alas! Here’s where my ADD comes in. I’m giving myself permission to sit at the computer and type straight time for fifteen minutes, and I reach to grab one of those tales I’ve always wanted to tell. Suddenly four others run across my mind, squeaking, “NO! Write ME!”

Now how to catch and nail down one of these speedy little inspiration flashes and actually get something written? Like most writers I’ve stored up a number of short stories I want to write and like mice, they all pop out of the holes in my brain as if someone had yelled, Cheese! Come and get it.”

But when I grab for one, they all dodge. I get hold of one and it evaporates while several others run across my hand. I see one but before I’ve got it by the tail it’s into some dark hole where I can’t reach it. Does anyone else have this problem? How do you solve it?

Annoying as it is, this isn’t such a big thing. Finally I do sit down and write something and it doesn’t much matter what because this is, after all, just a practice.

NaNoWriMo Challenge

My problem is that NaNoWriMo is coming up in November and I really want to do it this year. But I’m in the same predicament. Half a dozen mice are jiving around my brain, wanting to be written. How do you decide, when you can think of at least four books you’ve always wanted to write? Toss the titles in a hat and pull one out?

I did decide on one, but it’s the fuzziest idea in the bunch. Several book are resting in my “Someday Box” as I sit here, waiting to see the light of day. I’ve worked them through in my mind over the years and could just sit down and write. Yet I’ve picked the vaguest one, planning to flesh it out as I go along. Hit by a wave of cold feet now. Will I be able to?

It a challenge, right? At present this story-line is like a skeleton whose larger bones are lying at my feet, but all the small bones are scattered and must be gathered up this week. Bits and pieces are coming to me. But there are so many other stories I could start on. Or some more short tales about Winnie and Raylene. I’ve been wanting to do a short humorous book featuring those two friends. Another mouse joins the party in my mind.

If you’ve ever wondered what living with attention deficit is like, now you know. Any suggestions?

PS:
I did this bit and the book review as my first exercise, managed to write 650 words in 15 minutes, knowing exactly what I wanted to say. I wrote one scene from my upcoming book as the next day’s exercise and did 450 words in 15 minutes. The difference between knowing exactly what I wanted to say and having to plan as I write. I won’t be doing 5000 words per hour next month. 🙂

 

Janey’s Future

Time for another Friday Fictioneers tale and as usual, I can’t resist putting in my hundred words worth. In spite of the fact that Sandra Crook has donated the photo of a friendly looking old tree, there’s been murder and mayhem, death and accident in a number of tales this week. (Oh, and one hugging tree. Trust Eric to squeeze his alien in somehow. 😉 )

This Charge of the Write Brigade is being commanded as usual by Major Wisoff-Fields, DFFA, ATP. If you’d like to contribute your own tale hop over to her blog and click the Blue Frog, which will morph into a trusty charger on which you can ride into the fray.

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

JANEY’S FUTURE

“Wish he’d listened. Ditched that rotten ladder!”

Janey stared at the tree. “Chan never was one for taking advice.”

I looked around. “Can you run this place alone?” With two tykes and another due soon? Dumb, but what do you say?

She shook her head, overwhelmed. “I should sell.”

I reached for her arm. “I got an idea… You been a good wife to Chan, Janey…and a good mom. He was so lucky. I know I’m some younger than you, but…do you think…”

She considered me awhile; my heart pounded something awful.

Her eyes sparkled. “Yeah. I think.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Historical fact:
It wasn’t a park but a prairie homestead, and the suddenly widowed Mary was riding home from her husband’s funeral with her single brother-in-law, who also lived on the farm. Seeing her desperate situation, he proposed marriage. She saw the wisdom in this; in those days he couldn’t stay helping her on the farm without raising a LOT of gossip. So they turned the team around, headed back to town, and found the preacher. Tough times call for some quick decisions.

Personal note:
I’m putting the finishing touches on a pdf of my book, Silver Morning Song, and would like to give some away in exchange for some honest feedback. (And hopefully generate a few reviews on Amazon or Kobo.) If you’re interested and have the time, please let me know. I can send pdf, mobi, or epub.

Silver Morning Song is a collection of poems and short stories that consider the delightful world around us and the trials of home and family as well as Christian life. In a voice sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, in short stories and parables, the writer tells of folks facing issues, decisions and temptations. These are interspersed with accessible poetic descriptions of the natural world and the changing seasons.

Books: Reed Ferguson, PI

This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies
The Reed Ferguson Mystery Series, Book 1

by Renee Pawlish
Click here to view on Amazon.com

Reed Ferguson has always wanted to be a Private Eye and it looks like he’s finally getting his chance. Thanks to an inheritance from his grandparents he’s opened an office and hung out his shingle. Being a devoted fan of Humphrey Bogart and noir detective movies he hangs up a poster of Bogie and Lauren Bacall, as they appeared in The Big Sleep, on his wall “as a sort of inspiration.”

Enter his first real customer: a woman with a missing husband. Peter Ghering disaappeared on a business trip and his wife, Amanda, claims she wants him found. But does she really? Reed has some serious doubts by the time he’s heard her story. An inner voice is telling him to fear this femme fatale, but it’s his first real case, his first serious crack at being a professional gumshoe.

At least he tried to be professional but he’s new to this game and his skills are pretty amateur. Long on bravado, short on forethought. To complicate matters, what starts out as a simple investigation opens up a writhing can of worms for the new Sam Slade wanna-be. The wife hasn’t been up-front with all the facts; she’s actually hired him to expose the women her husband’s been dallying with on his business trips. Little by little Reed uncovers a plot and subplot that would tax Philip Marlowe’s private eye skills.

What really happened to the successful businessman? What will happen to his wife, who wanted him to disappear so she could inherit? And what will happen to Reed if he continues to be involved in this case? Some late night visitors make it plain that they won’t tolerate his efforts to ferret out the truth.

A very well written, well edited book. The writer obviously knows her craft and has constructed a plot that will keep a reader up late at night trying to find out how this story ends. No erotic or immoral scenes in this book, but some off-color language.

I’ve read several books now by this same author and one thing I do like about them is the paucity of dead bodies. There are some, but in the books I’ve read Reed mostly engages in finding lost spouses, pets (The Maltese Felon), etc. In that sense these stories remind me of the Hardy Boys. So if you like a tamer “noir fiction,” tones of Bogie mixed with the wit of Peter Falk and the impulsive courage of Frank & Joe Hardy, you will probably like this series.

Personal Note:
Up late last night typing up this book review when, around midnight, I started to notice a skunk-ish aroma. It grew increasingly powerful, must have had a disagreement with some other critter very nearby so we spend a pretty restless night trying to escape the smell. And with the temp outside almost freezing, you don’t open windows to air things out. 🙂

We’re also besieged by box elder beetles, a.k.a. “maple bugs.” They summer outdoors and once cool weather comes, thousands of them crawl into houses and other warm places to spend the winter. We vacuum them up steadily but there are always a dozen more when we look again.

Burying my head under the covers last night, I was wishing the skunk odor would at least fumigate the bugs. 😦