Sunday Scene

Good morning everyone! It’s 7am in my part of the world. Early, but very dark. And very white with all our snow.

I woke up just after 5 am and decided to get up and check to see if the writing prompt I’d scheduled over at Ragtag Daily Prompt had come through at the correct hour — and it had.

Then I fed my cats and let them out, but it’s quite frigid. Saskatoon registered -9 C a few minutes ago, with a wind at 20 klicks (km/hour) making it seriously chilly outdoors for indoor cats. Having my coffee now while visiting a few blogs, and decided to do a quick hello to you all.

Joe over at The Write Practice is offering a special deal for writers who want to join their group. More details here, if you’re interested. It really is a good deal, a writers-help-each-other plan; you can post one short story or chapter every week and get feedback from other writers. You must, in turn, critique at least three other writers’ pieces. I’ve been turning over in my mind whether I want to—or should—spend the bucks to join this group. (One-year member-ship paid up front.)

Trouble is, I’m so wishy-washy, inclined to get all enthused but not stay on the train. And I still have my ATCUSS sewing projects to finish. On the other hand, making this commitment to submit a chapter or story every week might actually get my book(s) edited. Quite a juicy carrot. (Or is that an archaic cliche already?)

The Critique Circle that I joined last year is the same sort of deal, only free — which means that the membership is constantly growing, almost 3000 active members now, lots of stories from new writers wanting a critique. If I recall rightly, you can only submit once every two weeks, each submission costs X number of points, which you earn by doing critiques.

Life is full of opportunities, decisions, dithers. 😉

And now it’s time to get ready for church. I will have a LONG nap this afternoon. 🙂

Of Cliches and Writing Prompts

I recently scanned a list of 681 clichés a writer should never use use. Absolutely passé, we’re told. No longer can you upset the apple cart, keep all your eggs in one basket, or bark up the wrong tree.

Woe is me! I LIKE some of those old expressions; they said so much in so few words. Replacing them is going to be a challenge.

As we toss out the old folk wisdom, I suppose our next expressions — and we will want them — will come mainly from screenwriters and witty sit-coms. And phrases will get old faster; some of the lines we heard back in the 70s are already considered clichés.

Anyway, “too many irons in the fire” isn’t on the list yet, so I can say that I’ve added another iron to my fire, another pot to bubble merrily on my hearth.

Pots.Pexels
Pexels – Pixabay

Or how about, “I’m growing another succulent in my bowl”?

Succulents.katerina zhang
KaterinaZhang- Pixabay

Starting tomorrow, December 1st, I’ll be supplying the prompt word over at Ragtag Daily Prompt every Sunday morning. I hope you will all to pop over and check out what prompt I’ve come up with. 🙂

You’re all welcome to join in: write a response to the prompt, post it, and add your link to the comments.

Fresh White World

“White, White, My World is White…”

Fandango’s one-word challenge: BECAUSE

Our world looks so different this morning because we’ve had a night of pure, fluffy snow.

Ragtag Daily Prompt : WINTER

After a week of spring-like weather, with temperatures descending for the last couple of days, Winter has returned to our land in all its glory. If it were sunny today, we could almost go snow-blind; instead, the sky is almost as white as the blanket of snow.

Your Daily Word prompt: OPTIMUM

Snowfalls like this afford our son-in-law some optimum earning opportunities. He has some contracts for clearing snow, so I imagine he’ll have risen early this morning and gotten his snow-removal equipment on the road.

Word of the Day prompt: RADICAL

When I got up this morning, instead of having my first cup of coffee and keeping warm inside, I responded radically: I threw on my housecoat and went out to sweep off the decks and stairs. You see, we have two cats that are eager to go outside and look around first thing every morning and they need a snow-free place to sit. Guess you could call me a super-indulgent pet owner.

Speaking of radical, have you noticed the drastic change in my blog header and background? The world was white before I signed off last night, plus US Thanksgiving is officially over, so I changed — seasonalized, if that’s a word — the appearance of my blog. What do you think of my new look?

And when I saw the various prompt words this morning, I decided that they’d all fit in a prompt about our weather, except…

Your Daily Word Prompt: WREN

There are NO wrens anywhere in this land. Every wren with a brain in his tiny little skull will be passing the next five months in some sunny clime, along with almost every other small nesting bird that spends summer here. We’re stuck with the dull English sparrows and the magpies, whose bold black & white doesn’t do much to cheer up our landscape. Maybe several blue jays will come back again this winter?

Blue Jay.cropped.jpg
Pixabay

Now I shall take optimum advantage of this winter morning by addressing some Christmas cards because that season is almost upon us. This will be a radical departure from my usual Dec 20th mailing. 🙂

I hope you’re all enjoying your day, whatever your weather.

Lovers Love Leaves

Zephyrs

zephyrs rustle
the fallen leaves
around our feet–
your laughter
my stale jokes
two lovers loving
autumn leaves
Flourish.Gordon Johnson

If you enjoy my poems you may be interested in my anthology of stories and poems. The e-book sells on Amazon for $3.99 US, the paperback for $10.99. This collection would make a great home-and-family type Christmas gift, especially for a nature lover.

cover page

I’ve  just checked the status of this book on Amazon’s KINDLE SELECT and I appear to have missed the cancellation date. Consequently SILVER MORNING SONG will be free to read, for subscribers of Kindle Select, until Feb 8th, 2020.

PS: The little flourish under my poem was done by Gordon Johnson and is one of the free images at Pixabay.

Disillusioned!

I’ve heard that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, so maybe this article isn’t true. Maybe this lady doesn’t really post five-star reviews on Amazon for stuff she’s never tried. The article is fiction — or at least distortion of the facts.

But maybe it is true. Maybe she does. And maybe there are dozens of others like her?

If today’s writing challenge were the word Dismayed, Dishonest, False, or even Phony, I’d have an easier time launching into this. But the Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is PASSAGE.

Well then, I’ve just made a swift passage from credulity to incredulity.

When I turn on my computer in the morning I get a selection of interesting news articles to choose from. This morning BuzzFeed News offered an intriguing headline about  someone who writes fake reviews of products and posts them on Amazon. READ IT HERE.

Those of us who write and have books listed on Amazon know how important reviews are. Potential readers scan the lists of books in their genre and decide — often based on reviews left by other readers — whether the book is worth their reading time. And I know there was a time when friends, relatives, and fans of this particular writer would load Amazon with glowing reviews. At times, having read the book myself, I’d shake my head and scroll down a page, where I’d see more honest reviews. “Poorly written,” “needs editing,” “grammar mistakes and typos,” “limp characters.”

Amazon has weeded out a lot of these reviews by ruling that only VERIFIED PURCHASERS may review and NO REVIEWS IN EXCHANGE FOR a free book or an equally glowing review of the other writer’s book. There was a time when small companies could make a profit by selling reviews to authors. Now the rule is NO PAID REVIEWS.

But I gather from the article I’ve just read that there are loopholes and some people are finding quite lucrative ones. Free products and even financial reimbursements from the advertiser, lots of freebies that make good gifts for friends.

While she may make some negative comments, the Reviewer in this article gives five-star reviews on all products, not matter what she actually thinks of them — or if she even tries them. But one day a co-worker asked about a product she’d reviewed and she admitted this is simply a way to get freebies and make a bit on the side. The coworker was disappointed that the review wasn’t honest.

“I definitely feel like I have to keep it a secret from people who have strong morals,” the Reviewer told the article writer.

She admits that for safety reasons she’s afraid to try some electrical devices from lands afar, but gives them a good review anyway. Her boyfriend’s a chemist and has discovered toxic ingredients in some skin care products, so she’s leery of trying them.

According to the article, a lot of her business is with small businesses in China—often claiming to be family-owned. Companies want to get their products taken seriously on Amazon and some are willing to cheat to do it, reimbursing purchasers and even paying a small fee. Sadly, where not-quite-honest people are looking for some small passage through the tangle of rules, they will find it somehow.

Oh, buyer beware!

The Irascible Agatha Raisin

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
Agatha Raisin Mystery series #3

By M C Beaton

I read the first book in the Agatha Raisin Mystery series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, and one other short story tacked onto that one. Now I’ve finished the third book in the series and have had my fill. Actually, though I hate to quit before the end of any book, I was ready to toss this one several times before I discovered whodunit.

The setting in interesting; the plotting, pacing and writing are excellent, but the main character is so disagreeable. Back in London she was a hard-nosed — and pretty much friendless — business owner and she carries this personality into her retirement years. She may want to make friends in her new home town and does mean well — at times. Overall, though, she’s self-centered and defensive. I was hoping to see Agatha mellow in this peaceful Cotswold village as the series progresses. She doesn’t.

Pugnacious and mulish are the adjectives the author often uses to describe Mrs Raisin. Belligerent and snarky would also fit. She lies constantly, swears, staggers home tipsy from the village pub, insults almost everyone, and has a real temper. In one story she invites the neighbours for a Christmas dinner, but bashes one lustful old guest over the head with a Christmas pudding.

Always competitive, she cheats in village contests. In The Quiche of Death she’s newly arrived and wants the acceptance of the villagers. She sees her chance when she discovers there’s to be a village baking contest. Culinarily-challenged herself, she buys a quiche from a great little bakery in London and submits it as her own creation. Unfortunately someone adds a bit of poison and serves it to the judge. So the truth must be confessed.

In this third book she wants to impress certain gardeners and win the local flower show, but she’s hopeless at growing things. Supposedly she’s learned her lesson with the quiche, but weakens and buys a nursery-grown rose to enter as her own. Forgetting to take off the tag. Again her deception is exposed, but village folks are amazingly tolerant.

One big plus for Agatha is that she’s made friends with Mrs Bloxby, the curate’s wife, who is a saint for sure. Sanguine, welcoming, accepting, charitable, always thinking the best, she saves and soothes Agatha’s pride several times in this story. Agatha is also friends with her bachelor neighbour James, a retired army colonel — on whom she has a serious crush as this story starts. (I gather they work together in several stories to figure out whodunit.) However, Agatha insults him, too, petulantly calling him a male chauvinist pig when he scolds her for throwing a lit cigarette into the tinder-dry grass.

Like all amateur sleuths in all cozy mystery stories, she’s nosy. When the local CID inspector Bill Wong, who has taken a liking to Agatha, tells her to stay out of the investigation, she slips on her halo and nods a meek “Yes.” As soon as he’s out of sight, she and James are off hunting for evidence and interviewing suspects. In this book she’s trying to find out why a lovely divorcee, Mary Fortune, a newcomer and enthusiastic gardener, has met a sad end in her conservatory.

Because this is fiction, the writer is able to say that in spite of Agatha’s abrasive character she’s well liked by the villagers. Some characters testify that “Mrs Raisin has many good qualities.” In real life this would be highly unlikely. I know a woman much like this: not as insolent or combative as Agatha but just as self-centered and flexible with the truth. Her friendships and relationships are all short-lived.

I have some sympathy for Agatha Raisin because she is so lacking in interpersonal skills, but find her lack of conscience hard to take. Since the villagers of Carsely are stuck with her it’s a good thing they like her. And since it’s such a popular series — as I gather from the reviews — a lot of readers are willing to tolerate her faults, too.

Ragtag Daily Prompt word: Evidence
Word of the Day Challenge: Sanguine