There ARE people who really hate Christmas. This makes me beyond sad.
How can this be?
I mean, I understand that people might hate what some people have turned Christmas into, but we don't all have to fall into that hole of too much spending, too much EVERYTHING during the holidays do we?
Make your holiday what YOU want it to be while remembering it's not about too much of everything.
I know some people get THE biggest kick out of trying to one-up one another with how many presents they've bought, how much money they've spent, how OH so tired they are from all the cleaning, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, decorating etc. etc. etc. they've done. All that stuff just bores me to tears.
And, you know, there's an answer to all that.
Don't do it.
And if you feel pressured by others, be they family, co-workers, friends, whomever, just remember - you have the ability to just say no. Just do your holiday your way. And for goodness sakes - enjoy it! Life's too short to hate Christmas.
Don't want a tree? Cool! Don't put one up. Put your favorite old teddy bear, or stuffed aligator on a table, stick a Santa hat, or a cowboy hat on his head and let your imagination go from there. Surround him with silly things that have memories or that just make you laugh.
Don't want a big Christmas feast? Fine! Start your own Christmas dinner (or breakfast or lunch) tradition by having a family favorite. Maybe it's pizza. Or chocolate cake and ice cream for breakfast. Whatever! Do it your way - make it fun.
Don't have the money to spend on gifts - or just don't want to? No reason to do it then! Find a movie or rent one that everyone likes - or one for each of you. Share your time together watching a movie eating your favorite snackies while watching a light blink on your stuffed aligator's nose and shout an occassional HO! HO! HO! (or whatever).
Martha Stewart and all those cooking crafty sorts don't own Christmas.
Take a minute to remember what it's really all about - not what some people have tried to make it be.
I've always had a bad
habit of agreeing to almost anything that's as far as a month away. Couple that
habit with the one of blurting out whatever pops into mind, I often find myself
doing things I never really meant to do. Take this year for instance.
When our historical
society president asked me if I'd help with Christmas decorations for our home
tour, I agreed immediately. After all, I love the holiday and keep two fully
decorated trees in my house year round. Getting my home all festive usually means
cutting fresh greenery, pulling out candles, polishing silver, and hanging a
wreath. Why not help decorate the old farm house that's home to our society?
The first challenge
arose when we realized that many of the decorations on hand were plastic and
not authentic to the time of the house. Remembering that I once used handmade
ornaments exclusively, I announced, "I'm sure I've got plenty of yarn and
felt ornaments and even some lace ones for a formal tree." Do you see
where this is going?
Very quickly, I was
thoroughly involved with decorating the whole house. This wasn't a problem—with
several volunteers, a couple of evenings, and maybe a morning—we'd be done.
Right. After a trip to the craft store and another to a fabric store, I was up
to my ears in yarn, felt, calico, and glue.
I enlisted my husband in
cutting a thorny bush (it has a multi-syllable Latin name that didn't stick
with me) for a gumdrop tree and in making a stand to hold it. Fortunately, my
Walgreens had a new shipment of red and green gumdrops that hadn't been
shelved, but I spotted them above the Halloween candy. The store manager was
nice enough to find a ladder and fetch them for me—claiming all the while that
it was no trouble at all. He even helped me measure the candy canes until we found
some just the right length to fit into my mouse ornaments.
I was on track to finish
everything with no pressure. Until last Monday.
Our Peak City Singers
were offered the opportunity to decorate a tree for a holiday charity auction.
Trees from civic organizations, Scouts, and, evidently, senior citizen groups
would be displayed during our downtown holiday kick-off weekend and then taken
home by lucky bidders. I bit my tongue, knowing I was already over involved
with decorating. It didn't matter. Consensus was quickly reached when one
member offered to donate the tree. "What theme should we use?"
I couldn't help it. My
mouth opened before my brain could stop it, "Music!" After making the
suggestion, it would have been churlish to refuse to help—wouldn't it? I warned
Eileen (she's the artist in the group) that I couldn't really help, but I would
research ideas for ornaments with a music theme—and bring a few prototypes.
As soon as I got home I
moved to the computer to begin a search. "This won't take long at
all," I figured. "I'll find some cute ideas, cut up some old sheet
music, make some cuts and folds, and be done." What's the right phrase
here? "Yeah, right."
I'd hardly begun my
search (would you believe how MANY handcraft projects there are using old sheet
music?) than I heard the ding of an incoming email—it was a request for the
historical society to have a Christmas display in place for the same downtown
The same imp on my
shoulder that prompted me to suggest a theme for the Singers' tree jumped into
my fingers. Before I knew it, I had suggested a full-blown idea for the
display. No sooner than I hit "send" than the acceptances came back
to me—with assumptions that I'd coordinate things!
Fortunately for me, it's
not yet the night before Christmas—'cause the creatures are definitely
Have you experienced
overbooking for the holidays?
Have you learned to say
Anybody got some vintage
decorations to share? Molly Weston lives, writes, and decorates in Apex NC with her husband and Lhasa Apso. She is editor of inSinC, the journal of Sisters in Crime. You've already seen she is a member of the Peak City Singers and the Apex Historical Society. Her website where she reviews mysteries is mysteryheel.blogspot.com.
WINNING NAMES HAVE BEEN DRAWN OUT OF THE PINK WILLIE NELSON BASEBALL CAP.
AND, THE WINNERS ARE PAT BROWNING, MARY FEATHERSTON (WHO LEFT A COMMENT AT FACEBOOK WHEN CAPTCHA WOULDN'T COOPERATE HERE), AND CARLEEN. SEND ME YOU MAILING ADDRESS, PLEASE (BARLEYKW AT APPSTATE DOT COM) AND I'LL FORWARD YOUR ADDRESSES TO SHARON SO SHE CAN MAIL YOUR ARC OUT TO YOU. AND THANKS, EVERYONE, FOR PARTICIPATING. I HOPE YOU'LL GIVE SHARON'S WORK A TRY IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY. AND LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK, PLEASE!
The Long, Long Trail
by Sharon Wildwind
There’s a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams.
There’s a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I'll be going down
That long, long trail with you.
~ Stoddard King and Alonzo (Zo) Elliott, December 1913
It’s been a long haul.
Even good things—maybe especially good things—come to an end. In three
days, my publisher ships Loved Honor More, the final Elizabeth
Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Viet Nam mystery. Five books in seven years isn’t
exactly burning up the mystery world, but I’m very proud of the run, especially
since I had a day job, family events happened and the publishing world got really
crazy. In short, it was life as usual in the writing lane.
People ask me, won’t you miss your characters? Maybe a little, but it’s
time they get on with their lives without me looking over their shoulder. When
writing the final book, I faced different questions that in the other four. Did
I want all of my characters to survive or was I going to polish off one or
more? Was I truly finished with the series, or did I want to plant a few seeds
in case I wanted to write #6,. #7, etc.?
The hardest thing was taking a dispassionate look at the fall of Saigon
and the weeks that preceded it. Thirty-five years out, it still appeared to me
to be an unmitigated disaster. Reading and thinking about it still inflamed old
passions that I thought had died a natural death. They haven’t.
plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the
more they remain the same)
~ Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808 – 1890), French critic, journalist,
The most fun thing was including a character named Kaye Barley. Yes, I
did this with Kaye’s full permission. She said I could do almost anything I
wanted, as long as the character got to wear cowgirl clothes at some point. She
One thing I’ve thought a lot about lately was the age span of Viet Nam
veterans. At one end of the scale I imagined a grizzled supply sergeant who
finished his thirty years in the military doing a tour of duty with the initial
U.S. Military Assistance Advisor Group (M.A.A.G.), which, in 1956, assumed responsibility
from the French for training South Vietnamese forces. My imaginary sergeant
would have been about 48 when he was in Viet Nam, which would make him 104,
were he still alive.
At the other end of the time span is the eighteen year-old Marine who
was on the last helicopter out of Saigon on April 30, 1975. He’d be a spry 55
Smack in the middle would have been a young Captain who led troops, flew
helicopters, or worked in a field hospital during the late 1960s. His or her
age today would be between 65 and 75. This includes my characters, and me.
We’re all a lot older, and a lot tougher than we were back in the day.
That’s a lot of water under the bridge, a lot of marriages, families,
divorces, university degrees, second and third careers, dream vacations,
hobbies, moves, and just plain survival because the ones of us who are still
alive are, in every sense, survivors. Thanks to that pesky social media, we’re
reconnecting with one another. In the past three years I’ve been contacted by
and found information to contact more of the people I served with than I did in
the previous thirty years. It’s a good feeling to get caught up on what’s
happened since the last time we saw one another.
So my last advice to my characters is when computers come along, get
one. Learn to use it. It’s going to come in really handy in about thirty-five
years. Maybe on your journey to look up your old Army buds, you’ll look me up
as well. I’ll be right here, waiting, and more than a little interested in how
you’ve gotten on over the decades.
My last advice to you is that I have 3 Advanced Reading Copies of Loved
Honor More that I’d love to send to 3 people reading this blog. I’ve left
it up to Kaye to determine how those three people are chosen. So do what she
tells you. And in the words of Bob Hope, “Thanks for the memories.”
You have never lived until you’ve almost died. To those who fight for
it, life has a flavor the protected never know.
~ sign over a Mike Forces bar, Pleiku, RVN
Sharon asked me to tell y'all how to win a copy of an Advanced Reading Copy of her latest and last Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen mystery series. I'm going to put the comments in our famous pink Willie Nelson Baseball cap and I will draw three names. I'll do this on Monday, Nov. 12 and I'll come back here and post the names at Meanderings and Muses, so be sure you check back (and to be really really for sure for sure - include your email address with your comment).
I had to wait a day to post this (and only with Sharon's consent) because after eading Sharon's post I had a very long cry. For a number of reasons - not least of which is the fact that Sharon showed a personal side of herself here. That's a rare thing for her to do, being an intensely private person.
Sharon wrote, "Five books in seven years isn’t exactly burning up the mystery world, but I’m very proud of the run . . . "
But damn it, this is a series that SHOULD have been burning up the mystery world. It should have and it still should. No one has written about the Viet Nam war the way Sharon Wildwind has from the point of view that she has. Not many people could. And many who could have chosen not to, for a wide variety of reasons - many of them heartbreaking.
Many of us were here at home while loved ones fought a war that confused us all, including many who were fighting.
It was, and remains today, an emotional time in our lives.
I first heard about Sharon's series was from my buddy Mary Jane Maffini. She mentioned the books to me because A) she loved them, and B) because Sharon mentions Boone, NC. Well, boy howdy, that was reason enough for me to pick up the first in the series. Reading about Boone always just tickles me pink. However - this time - I was hooked. Seriously hooked. And as I am wont to do when a book touches me, I dropped Sharon an email to tell her so. And squealed about it at DorothyL where I learned I was far from her only fan. Sharon Wildwind is one of those authors that just simply has not, for whatever reason, received the attention that this series and her talent deserves. I've been an advocate of this series since I read the first chapter of the first book - and I will continue long after I've read the last chapter of this last book. I urge each of you to give this series a try. And, especially, if you're of an age that remembers Viet Nam the way I remember Viet Nam, you'll thank me for the introduction.
I've been lucky enough to have been a character in a few books. Lucky and honored to have been in some acknowledgements. These things are always a thrill. But I have to say - this honor is going to live in my heart till the day I die. Thank you, Sharon. Not just for the honor of being a character in your book (which you know I love!), but for all you've done - I salute you, with great honor and great admiration.
NOTE: Because the Blogger captcha thing is such a massive pain in the neck, anyone leaving a comment under my status about Sharon at my Facebook Page will also have their name tossed into the pink Willie Nelson baseball cap. Thanks much!
When I happily agreed to
write a November 4th guest blog for Kaye, I had no idea that Gillian
Roberts would be nowhere in sight, the way alter-egos and figments often are,
and Judy Greber would be: boarding with a hitherto unknown 85 year old woman in
Florida, three thousand miles from home, working (volunteering) a minimum of 12
hours a day, seven days a week for the past ten weeks and singularly obsessed
with Barack Obama’s re-election.
4th means only: two more days to get out the vote. No time for
either meandering or musing.
Instead, I happily turn the tables and spotlight onto our
hostess, and here is(almost) everything you (or at least I) ever wanted to know
about Kaye!Enjoy—and don’t forget to
--Judy Greber, aka Gillian Roberts
What prompted you to begin a
blog? When did it start? My memory is
Pathetic memory?Oh, gee –
let’s don’t even talk about it.I had to
go to Meanderings and Muses and look up these dates – even the year had escaped
What prompted me to begin Meanderings and Muses was first being
invited by The Stiletto Gang to do a guest blog about how I had recently quit
smoking.This was in September, 2008 (I
had quit smoking in May).
The following October, JT Ellison invited me to do a guest blog at
Murderati about the “Internet Water Cooler.”
I took to writing these types of pieces like a duck to water.It was fun!
Next thing that was getting ready to happen was that I was going to
Bouchercon in Baltimore and it was my first mystery con.I knew I’d want to write about it – and I
knew I’d be taking lots of pictures.What better place to share my B’Con experiences than at my very own
blog.(This after having been pretty
outspoken about not really understanding the whole blog thing for a period of
time.One example of Kaye Barley eating
So, I started Meanderings and Muses almost as soon as I got home from
Baltimore in October 2008.It turned out
to be a very extensive piece, and honestly – no other format would have been
available or appropriate.
Where else could I have written this sort of piece with all those
pictures to go with the story?I decided
right then blogging rocked.
There was one small problem.I
had NO idea what I was doing technically.Blogger made it very easy – up to a point.Then it all became complete gibberish to me,
but, as in most things, with time came knowledge.In the meantime, flying by the seat of my
pants does usually get me where I’m going.
What was the original ‘shape’
you envisioned? Did you have an overall plan for Meanderings and Muses or did
you think you’d let it grow organically—or what?
Like practically every other thing in my life, there was no plan. Envisioning isn’t something I’m good at,
apparently.With very mixed results, I’ve
always been a, “I think I’ll give that a try,” sort of person.That’s not to say it’s something I recommend.
In the case of M&M, I now had a blog, and I had now written about
my first Bouchercon.Which was magical,
by the way – and where I met you.
So, now what?What do I talk
about?Will anyone read it – does anyone
care what I have to say?Do I have any
ideas or topics in mind that might interest and engage others?All the same niggles I had about blogs in the
first place now reared their ugly heads and stared me down.
So, I just started writing.Anything
that crossed my mind might find its way to Meanderings and Muses, and after a
while, it didn’t really matter if anyone read it or not simply because I was
enjoying the process.Blogging seemed to
have been invented with me, and people like me, in mind.
I wrote about many subjects I’m still writing about today because they
have particular meaning to me, ie, how so many people confuse being an
introvert with being shy, the importance of girlfriends and connections, and
being a small town girl.I wrote about
President Obama’s inauguration and about Aretha’s hat (which I thought was
wonderful!). And books, of course.And authors.And I did some give-aways. And I
did a “Best of 2008 Books and Authors List.”The “Best of List” is one I have
continued each year and can’t imagine not doing.
And somewhere along the line I had the bright idea of inviting
guests.That’s when Meanderings and
Muses hit its stride and, I think, found its own unique spot in the world of
blogging and in the mystery community.
What’s the best thing about
writing/managing the blog?
The best thing is the guests.Wow.I was so blissfully
ignorant.Would I, today, ask some of
the writers I invited back then to commit to doing a guest blog?Pfft.No.
As it happens, I just did
And, out of kindness, or just because they were taken completely by
surprise, who knows, but every single person I invited (except two) said
yes.I now have some of the best known
names in the mystery world as annual guests – most of whom have been with me
since the beginning.Some of these
people were already friends, some of them have become friends because of
M&M.Each has helped mold M&M
into what it is today and I’ll be forever grateful.
I’m proud beyond words of the guest list I have every year.And not just the well-known and mid-list
authors.It’s been a lot of fun for me
to discover new writers – and even more fun to introduce them to others.
And then there's one of my favorite aspects of M&M - the writers who haven’t been published yet. They’re
a very big part of the Meanderings and Muses community.I expect to see more than one or two of them
in print some day.
I sometimes have to nudge the readers who participate as guests to
write a little something each year.They
have important things to say, but some of them worry about how to say it.As it turns out, they’ve written a lot of the
pieces that receive the most hits.
I love Meanderings and Muses.It’s a big part of my life and of my heart.
What’s the worst?
At first, and up until this year, the worst thing was doing it over
dial-up.No one would believe how
manypieces I thought I was finished only to have them hang up and then disappear.
This was sometimes a major problem when guests would send their pieces
later than I had requested – and/or used a lot of fancy formatting I’d have to
strip out before posting.
There’s been a lot of midnight oil burned doing guest spots.
Any surprises along the way?
The surprises have been few, really, but some rather astounding at
times.Some of the posts, on my part, get
a little personal – to be expected because it’s my blog.I have occasionally been surprised by the
personal and quite poignant pieces by the guests.There are a few that have brought tears.Some because of their beauty – some because
they have broken our hearts.I’m touched
that people have chosen Meanderings and Muses to share some of these stories.
Surprises on a more personal level include two pieces starting their
lives as blog posts and growing into pieces juried and accepted in two separate
anthologies.I am over the moon proud
of both those anthologies and being a part of the huge talent involved.
To me, your exuberant
personality is the essenceof this blog,
but how much of yourself do you feel you actually share—or think you should
share—with your readers? Is there a “Kaye Barley, blogger” vs. Kaye Barley
wife, writer, retiree, dog-lover, beach-lover…etc., etc.
I am pretty much a “what you see, is what you get” person.And I’m very open about a lot of things.I have an opinion on just about everything
and I’m going to share it.What better
place than at my own blog?There’s no
one out there who has read Meanderings and Muses who has a doubt in their mind
about which political party I favor, or how much I detest mean people.Bullies, I’m sure, have their own circle of
hell awaiting them and that makes me happy.
I’m not one of those people who uses the internet to be any different
than I am in person.If someone has
stepped on my toes, I’m going to say so – either face to face or in
writing.But rest assured – where or how
I tell you how I feel is never going to change the fact that I am going to tell you how I feel.I’m not scared of much, and speaking my mind
has never frightened me.
This sometimes leads people to believe I’m going to share my whole
life.But, no – I’m not.Not even close.
And I try to be very careful that what I do share is actually mine to
share.Not my Donald’s, not my mother’s,
not close friends’.Their stories are
not mine just because I happen to know them.I have to remember that and walk a fine line.
Some questions for Kaye Barley,
reader extraordinaire and in addition, writer of long fiction: First, now that
you’ve written a novel (hooray!) do you read other people’s work differently or
with different expectations?
(Heeee!Thank you for that
“hooray!”Can you believe it??)
I do think I start a new book by reading differently.I find myself looking at things, studying
them and learning from them– but then
the longer I read a particular book – if it’s one I’m enjoying - that falls
away and I’m then just reading as I always did, savoring the beauty and cadence
of the words, the phrases that touch me and the story.I find myself falling in love with the
characters and the setting.And I’m
glad.I don’t want to find myself
critiquing and deconstructing everything I read.I want to read purely for enjoyment and
escape and my love of words and story.I
hope I’ll always be able to do that.
What prompted your novel?
Actually – you had a good bit to do with it.You and Earl Staggs – who both told me early
on that you thought I had a distinct voice that could work well for me if I
ever decided to try my hand at fiction.Those conversations ebbed and flowed for a long time, but my interest,
then, wasn’t in writing fiction.I
didn’t think it ever would, really.(Example #2 of Kaye Barley eating her words).
I was happy as I could ever imagine writing the sort of pieces I was
writing.It thrilled me when I learned
that they even had a name – “Creative Non-Fiction.”Cool!
I was over the moon when I submitted my first piece which was accepted
for publication in the anthology “Clothes Lines.”And just as proud to be accepted for a second
– “Women’s Spaces Women’s Places.” During a group get-together Celia Miles, the
editor of both anthologies, had for the writers she told me something I will
never ever forget.She said, “I hope
you’ll continue writing, you were born to write.”I was stunned to hear the words and overcome
emotionally.And I will never ever
forget the feeling.That coming from a
woman I admire as much as I do Celia is something to be cherished – as is she.
And then I retired.
And I wasn’t filling my days as productively as I would have liked.This after having made myself one promise
when I retired – to spread my wings.I
would now have the time to explore creative outlets I had not had the time to
explore while working.
And so, I started writing a novel.
I remembered reading the quote about writing the book you want to
read, and decided that’s what I would do.
I’m drawn to novels with strong characters with strong
connections and who share a clear, strong love and loyalty to one another.I enjoy a setting as a
character on its own.I love the south
and a lot of my favorite authors and books are southern. There was never a question about it being set anywhere but the south. I have a close bond with the ocean, an intense love of the beauty and sheer raw energy of it, the beach, the marshes and the coast.So all those things
were my “given.” Other things I enjoy, both in my life and in my fiction, include art, pretty clothes and good
food.So – I tossed those into the mix as
well.Magic?Love it – let’s have a little! Wise women - GOTTA have a wise older woman or two, and if one of them ends up being a ghost - well, it's the south so it'll work. And then, just like Alice Hoffman said – the
characters took on a life of their own and started writing the words. Wow. I had always heard writers say this
happened, but this was my first experience with it.I have to say – it’s a powerful thing.At the end of the day I would go back and
read what I had written and often find passages I truly did not remember
writing.And I’d think to myself, “did I
write that?I like it!”
It was a secret for a very long time.You knew and Earl knew.And
Donald knew.That was it.
You, being you – were supportive and helpful in all ways.Your personalized copy of YOU CAN WRITE A
MYSTERY is always close by – along with Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, and Stephen
King’s ON WRITING.
Earl, on the other hand – has stood next to me with a whip!Actually, he has held my hand and patiently
walked me through the process from day one until almost two years later we
said, “The End” together.I lost track
of how many drafts we did.Each time I
thought I was finished he’d say,“no,
not yet.”And I’d find myself working on
yet another draft.And, loathe as I
often was to admit it, each one was better than the last.
Now, the manuscript is out to a few “First Readers.”Once it comes back I’ll have some decisions
to make.More re-writes, or not.We’ll see.
Any wisdom or warnings you’d
want to impart to somebody beginning their first novel?
DO IT!And don’t wait for “the
right time.”Just do it.A year is going to pass whether you’re
writing or not.Do you want to look back
and wish you had started that book?Just
do it. And, you know what – do it for “YOU.”Forget about all the other stuff – the
publishing end, the querying, the critiques – just write it for yourself.No one will ever be able to take that
accomplishment away from you.No one.
What was your work routine
while writing Whimsey?
I wrote almost every day.At
first, my routine consisted of getting up with Donald and as he was going to
work, I would go to the gym, run errands, come home and write.Sometimes for a few hours, sometimes well
into the night – that just depended on whether the characters were feeling particularly
playful and creative that day or not.
After a while the routine changed.I would send pages to Earl and then I’d be so excited when they came
back I’d start working on them.It
didn’t matter if I saw his email at 11:00 at night or 6:00 in the morning, or
what had been on the schedule for that day.The writing pretty much took over.After that, there was no routine, really.Except that I would still write almost every
Any surprises along the way?
Had you plotted it out beforehand? Did that plot work?
Oh, you’ve made me laugh.Surprises?More than I’ll live
long enough to tell.And some I
The first surprise was how much I didn’t know, and admittedly, a lot
of which I still don’t.Luckily, I had
an angel by the name of Earl.If I had
had even a clue as to what I didn’t know about writing, it’s doubtful I would
have started.Earl Staggs made most of
the doubts disappear and had me forging forward.
Not many people writing their first novel will be lucky enough to have
a one-on-one writing class like I did.Earl Staggs is a terrific writer.He’s also a great teacher.He’s
an editor beyond the pale.He’s not one
to let you slide and when I wanted to just quit, he had a sly way of keeping me
in the game.
The next surprise was how hard it was.And a very good friend said to me, “the only people who don’t think it’s
hard are those people who haven’t done it.”True, that.
A really big surprise came when I finally finished the manuscript to
the point that I felt like it was ready to be seen.I was
surprised, honestly, that finding the guts to let it go and be seen was harder
than writing it.
So.I sent the first ten pages
to someone – a writer.The very VERY
first critique I got started off, “Oh, Kaye, I so wanted to like this.”
That was the sound of my heart hitting the floor before it shattered
into a million pieces.
But – there were valid points made and I paid attention and rewrote
some of those first 10 pages.
But then I was scared to death to let anyone else see it.
But – Hank Phillippi Ryan said to me – “Somebody’s got to see it
sooner or later – RIGHT?!”
Well – of course, she was right.
I then sent the first two chapters to four writer friends.Each replied with something kind in the
subject line of the email (something everyone should remember to do if asked to
do a critique, in my humble opinion – it made a world of difference to that
“thing" - that huge lump that had taken up residence in my stomach).Each started off with an encouraging word and
then proceeded to make comments on
what they had read.The surprise here is
that each person had totally different takes on the same two chapters.Something that bothered one, got applause
from another, etc.Interesting and an
exercise I learned from.
Had I plotted it beforehand?No.Honey, I didn’t know plots
I had a basic premise and that really didn’t waver.Characters pushed their way in (some I pushed
back out), and a story line I wanted from the very beginning changed in a major
way, then disappeared completely.
And then Earl let me know (in his inimitable gentle manner) that I
didn’t have a plot at all.Just a bunch
of really nice characters with no conflict and it was just boring as hell.Pffftt!
So now there’s a plot.There
are still some really nice characters, but there is conflict.And there’s magic.Some folks may not like it – but I’m proud of
it, and hey – I like it.And really, I’m
the person I was writing it for.I wrote
a novel I wanted to read which is just what I started out to do.If it brings others some enjoyment, that’s
the cherry on top.
Good question!I wish I
knew!!!!Right now I’m still waiting to
hear back from first readers, including another writer friend.
Depending on what the readers say, and how many agree on what they
think individually. That’s going to help determine whether or not I think I
still have more work to do or if I’m ready to start the agent query process
(which scares me to death).
If the agent queries turn up nothing, I’m thinking about what I might
do, but no decisions yet.I’ll be 64
years old this month, so truthfully?I’m
not sure I want to give as much time to the querying, the heartbreak of
rejections and all that, as some people would. I’m going to try the traditional route – but I
don’t think I’m willing to give it years of trying.An eBook is not something that puts me off
and while I’m querying I’m planning on looking into this as well.
In the meantime,
I’m making notes for Book #2.It’s not a
series, but I’d like to do a book about each of my main characters – five
lifelong women friends who are artists and have returned home to the Island of
Whimsey to pursue their art.And a
wicked pixie named Earlene who favors tight fitting designer clothes and
Louboutin stilettos and a cigar smoking matriarchal ghost who drops in from
time to time to make sure things are going as planned.
Was it hard writing both the
blog and a novel at the same time?
It’s been hard. Mostly because
if I was writing for Meanderings and Muses I felt guilty and felt like if I was
writing I should be writing for Whimsey (the working title of my novel).
In the midst of all this, I received an invitation from the elegant,
delightful and OH so talented Hank Phillippi Ryan to join the Jungle Red
Writers at their blog as “Oh, Kaye!” - a monthly contributor.I was so thrilled, I put aside my guilt.You kidding – Jungle Red!Wow!Forget guilt!So, some of what I
would maybe have written for Meanderings and Muses has instead gone to Jungle
Red, which I’m honored to be a part of.
This allowed me to pursue another love that I could use Meanderings
and Muses for - photography. Donald and I both
have been interested photography for a very long time - sharing some of our work
at M&M has become an almost daily exercise, and one we both enjoy. We're
part of an incredible group of people doing a photo a day challenge. Spreading my
wings is turning out to be a fabulous thing to do - I hope I remember to keep
doing it and not relax into a position of just existing without creative
The writing end of Meanderings and Muses is being kept afloat for the
most part by my weekly guests.They’re
getting as many hits as ever, so my not being there much hasn’t made a bit of difference
in M&M’s audience.Oddly enough,
even though there are usually a few hundred hits per day, there are not a lot
of commenters.This used to worry me,
now I don’t really give it much thought other than I worry that the guests
might feel ignored or slighted.But what
I’ve been told by many of the writers is that they see a surge in their amazon
numbers after they’ve visited.And
that’s a great thing!If someone
discovers a new writer, or picks up a book because of Meanderings and Muses I
have done a good thing and I’m happy.
What’s ahead for Meanderings
ANOTHER great question!
I don’t know.It’s never going
to go away – but it will change.And
change is good.
It has, truthfully, changed a little every year.Some of the guest writers are now writing
about things other than their books.One
year we featured people’s work spaces - one year we featured some of their
pets.This year we’ve had more “chats”
featuring two or three people at a time having a conversation.
This year I posted a lot of poetry during the month of April because
it’s National Poetry Month.This did not
eliminate our mystery writers because some are also poets. Reed Farrel Coleman is a wonderful poet and I
was happy to post some of his work. While some of our mystery writers were shy
about sharing their work, they did share privately, and some suggested poets to
me they thought I might enjoy.
Next year, however, will be different from the others in that I don’t
have a schedule of guest bloggers.I
intend to have guests – but not as many, and perhaps just randomly.I’m still sorting through all that.
I don’t feel like, right now, I have the timeto dedicate to Meanderings and Muses at a
level that I once did. At least, not while I'm working on all the many aspects of writing and rewriting Whimsey and all the things that follow, but that could change in a minute.I like knowing that if I wake up in the
middle of the night with something on my mind I have this wonderful spot that’s
all mine where I can write and sort through it all.That’s become a very important fact of my
It will always, though, always
be a place with the mystery community at its heart.
We’ll just see where it all goes . . . .
What question do you wish I’d
have asked you instead of/in addition to these?
Jude, I don’t think you missed a thing!And it’s been a bunch of fun. Before we say "The End," I want to thank you for all the support you've given me. And for always being there to answer a question, or let me bat around a few ideas. Mostly though, I want to thank you for what you're doing in Florida. You've always been an inspiration, but making this big move to temporarily leave your beloved home and much adored family to work on a cause you believe in so deeply is worthy of "Hero Status." Hugs, my friend. You are the best.