They liked it

My creative non-fiction story, “Tuesday Night at the Triangle Bar”, was accepted by The Talking Stick.  Publication is sometime this summer.

In the spirit of spring cleaning, this week I am going to sort and organize all the stories I’ve started and left hanging and the ones that are 95% done and just need a little brush up to send off to market.  I will prioritize them, decide which have possibilities and which are dead ends for now.

This week’s work will give me a writing action plan for the rest of the month.  Energized and eager to get started, I’m looking forward to digging into my archives.  There’s gotta be gold somewhere in those messy files.


Taking procrastination to a new level. Then, turning my back on it.

The last time I published to this blog was in November.  I truly meant to pick up where I left off  and report about my evening, well seven minutes or so, reading my entry in the Edina Reads contest.  When I didn’t get to it the next day, or the day after, and pretty soon it was a month later and it was Christmastime and then I took a trip to New York and New Hampshire, came back sick, malingered for a month or so.  Now it’s March 16th.

About the reading at the Edina Senior Center .  I did okay.  Two runners-up read their stories and then it was time for me.  I read my story, trying to remember to read at an understandable, i.e. slower, pace than the one I silently read at.  A couple of times, I lost my place but no one knew what I meant to say, so I guess the whole thing went alright.  They gave me a check.  Best of all, my friends Joni and Cheri came out to support me. That made the evening for me.

You can read my story here.

On March 1, I slipped under the wire and submitted a story to The Talking Stick.  I wrote the story last year and submitted it to a local, high profile magazine but never got a response from them.   So I could have submitted far ahead of Talking Stick’s deadline.  Yes, I could have.  I must like the adrenaline rush of running out of time, though, because I waited and waited and waited.   I can’t remember their scheduling, but I should hear from them in a month or so.   I’ve had work published in their yearly anthology twice, in 2008 & 2009.

And, breaking news.  My good friend Kay suggested that 2014 be my Year of No More Procrastination.  This means breaking a long lifetime of the ‘p’ habit, but I’m ready to do it.  It’s been so easy to let deadlines come and go, to not finish good stories, to not submit the ones that are complete, to not pursue self-publishing avenues, to not, to not, to not.  So easy to drift and wonder and dream.  Well, no more.  The time will pass whether we pursue our dreams or not.  Better to make use of the time we are given and at least try to catch a dream or two and make them reality.


I came in second, and there were at least four entries

From the Minneapolis StarTribune: “Writing contest winners will read their works.”

“In honor of Edina’s 125th anniversary, Edina Reads held a contest for pieces of writing connected to city history, and the winners will read their work on Monday, Nov. 18, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Fireside Room of the Edina Senior Center, below the library.”


I was an Edina kid, so I entered the contest.  And I got the second place prize.  Pretty good for someone who never wins contests, well, because she never enters them.  Maybe I should start entering the lottery…

So anyway, the reading is tonight.  I don’t mind talking in front of a group, but I have never read my work in front of a large group of strangers.  My friend Pat, who teaches writing and also hosts a wonderful writers group once a month, keeps telling me to

s l o w  d o w n

when I read aloud.  I’m a fast reader and I typically race through my oral presentations.  I must keep that as my mantra tonight.  S l o w  d o w n.  S l o w  d o w n.  Make like the turtle and g o  s l o w.

Tomorrow: I recap tonight’s event.






Good Contest News

I entered a writing contest earlier this month.  Edina Reads is a community-sponsored program in the suburb where I spent some of my formative years; the contest was open to residents or former residents.   Today, I got a phone call: I’ve won second prize.

I’m excited about it.  It’s satisfying to have one of my stories chosen by people I don’t know.  Family and friends are always supportive, and their comments and praise are sincere, I’m sure, but in dark moments I think they pretty much have to be nice to me about it.

There’s a public reading on Monday, November 18 at 7 pm at the Edina Library.  Awards will be given and this means (oh happy day!) that I will walk away with a little something for my efforts.   Writing will no longer be my hobby. When I get that check, I will consider myself a pro.  I’ve had a few things published when I’ve gotten around to submitting them, but until now haven’t had a paying gig.  Winning money in a contest isn’t quite in the same category as work submitted and paid for, but that’s a minor detail.  I’m celebrating.


A Visitor

This morning, Luna gets me out of bed with animated barking at the front door.  It is  a frenzied canine monologue that means, “Someone’s out there!”, but not, “There’s a strange person at the door”.  Through the sidelight window next to the front door, I  see a long-legged rust colored dog.  “Dammit”, I mutter, “Mrs. W. has to start keeping her dogs in her own yard”.  The neighbor’s small dogs frequently escape their fencing and come to my property, driving Luna and Buster to barking, whining and pawing at the windows.  It pisses me off.

The animal is on the asphalt driveway, sniffing at a coil of hose I had pulled out of the garage yesterday.  He regards the three of us — me and barking dogs, one of whom seemed to have lost her senses — with a cool stare. Obviously not one of the nervous neighbor dogs, who let out ear-splitting staccato yips and scamper off.  The dog version of Ding Dong Ditch.  This guy, however, doesn’t seem to care that there is a large prick-eared dog having hysterics on the other side of a piece of glass.

By now, Buster is wagging his wiggly pit bull tail and barking occasionally, just to keep up with his big sister in the vocal department.  He probably would try to make friends with the fox if they came face to face.  Luna’s the protective German shepherd who would drive intruders away.  At least that’s how I plot out their characters in my head…

Sharp nose, dark eyes and bushy tail…ah, it’s a Red Fox.  This is the first one I’ve seen in eight years on this property.  I’ve heard stories of sightings, but they hunt at dawn and twilight.  I’m rarely up and never outside at dawn; in the twilight hours, the dogs are often  in the securely fenced backyard, their scent making a fox skirt the area.  Foxes need to be wary of larger animals as they are frequently preyed upon by coyotes, which also populate my suburban environs.  And why pick a fight with a dog when there are so many smaller animals the fox can easily catch and eat — squirrels, birds, snakes, lizards?   They didn’t come up with the term “sly as a fox” for no reason whatever.

A Red Fox. Photo is from the website of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

My foxy friend trots nonchalantly away from the hose and into the front yard.  Dogs move accordingly, tails wagging and barking less frantically as they jump on my disheveled bed searching for the visitor. They can smell him but the fox has vanished from sight. Too late, I go to the dining room window to see if I can watch him crossing the yard and heading into the woods across the street.  But, he’s already gone.

Luna has lost interest in whatever might be outside the house and is indicating that it’s time for breakfast.  Cats eat first, so she has an interest in getting me started on my morning duties.  I dish out a couple of cans of Wellness turkey for the cats, fill the dogs’ bowls with kibble and some raw-diet chicken.  Everybody seems satisfied with their meal.  Everyone’s been fed.  I can make a cup of tea and work the two crossword puzzles in the StarTribune.  Puzzles complete, I stand at the window hoping the fox will return.  He added spice to this fine September morning.

This Month Only!

My blog about surviving pet loss appears on my friend Kathi Holmes’ website this month.  She has been featuring inspirational stories by other bloggers on her site, and was kind enough to allow me a chance.  I don’t  generally think of my self as having a particularly inspirational story to tell, with my sarcastic sensibilities and all, but if you’ve gone through the loss of a companion animal it might help you to learn how someone else has experienced it.  Check it out at

Unfortunately, I had much experience with this subject a year ago, but hey, life experiences make for richer writing, n’est-ce pas?

We’re now up to 405 days without an animal death.   Things can change in an instant, but everybody seems to be in pretty decent shape now.  Even 17 year old Big Kitty, who by now could be called Skinny Old Kitty.   He has a huge appetite, but, rather annoyingly, doesn’t put on any weight.  I need to find out what his secret is.

Big Kitty. Photo by Katie Thering Berger, Kage Imagery.

So Long, Ray

Ray Manzarek died yesterday.  The Doors’ keyboardist was 74.

It’s a little disorienting to know the ages of my early rock heroes.  Obviously, I’m older, too, so it shouldn’t be so jarring.  The rebels, the ground-breakers, the stars, hang ageless in my mind… until I see video of the Stones on tour.

It’s one thing when they die of an overdose at age 27, as did Manzarek’s bandmate Jim Morrison in 1971.  Morrison would be 70 pretty soon if he’d lived, but, to me, he’s forever the good-looking 24 year old who electrified the Hollywood Bowl in 1968.   It’s quite another thing when they succumb to disease and old age. Then they just seem, well, old.  Like anybody else.  Anybody else with superb talent, that is, anybody who gave me and  my generation vibrant, textured soundtracks for our lives.

The Doors kept me going through the tear-soaked summer of 1984 after my mother died at the age of 53.   The Doors and an awful lot of Heineken got me through it.  “The Alabama Song”, especially poured into my heart, making the grief and pain and emptiness a tad less unbearable.

“Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have whiskey, oh, you know why
Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We’ve lost our good old mama
And must have whiskey, oh, you know why”

The jazz-loving Manzarek admired saxophonist John Coltrane.   His keyboards gave The Doors a sound like no other rock band in the late sixties, and after.  He continued to play and release albums when the Doors broke up for good the year after Morrison’s death.  Ray was an innovator, producing the first four studio albums for the punk rock band, X, in the 1980s.  They didn’t sound like The Doors but they certainly were influenced by them.

Ray Manzarek, like all the others, will live as long as we have CDs and MP3 players, and even those old, scratched up vinyl LPs.  Despite the technology that keeps voices and sounds alive for those of us that remain, it still means time for sad reflection when they leave this mortal plane.


Happy May Day, Writing Projects, and All That

Happy May Day; Happy Beltain to my fellow Celtophiles.  The colorful maypole in my yard is being drenched with snowy-rain this morning, so we’re calling off the pagan festivities.  Meanwhile, I’m hard at work, rather glad for a gray, drizzly day. They’re the best writing days.

I’ve got a few writing projects percolating this month.  The hardest thing for me to do is prioritize sensibly and not work on what is simply the easiest or the most appealing at the moment. Pressing deadlines, pressure from writing partners or a writing class are good motivators, though, so I’m letting them help me get my work done this month.

First, I have a handful of short stories, completed first drafts, that I’ve been avoiding doing further revisions and edits on.  The stories aren’t related, not by character or location or theme, but I’m going to package five of the best ones into an eBook.  Since I know almost nothing about publishing an eBook yet, I’m thinking that figuring the process out will take me not a little time, as will revisions/edits, so this is a new idea that is being pushed back a bit, with a “ready to publish” goal date of September, 2013.   Two of the stories are close to completion, but the others need work, possibly of the major variety.   On the whole, going this route seems a whole lot easier than trying to sell each story individually to magazines, although I don’t preclude that possibility.   Wishy-washy much?

Secondly, I have my novel, The River of Time, that was featured in my Blog Hop blog (see April 29 entry)… and, man, I am glad I’m done with Blog Hop…I am tired of typing those words.  “River” currently exists in a very rough stage with a couple of chapters written and the rest sketched out in random notes, but at this vantage point (after 20+ years) I am thinking I will need to do major rewrites on them and proceed from there.  My goal is to have a completed, usable draft by the end of this year.

Okay, I’ve committed myself.  Now, I need to f follow through because I’ve told you about it.  My capacity for self-delusion about my progress on this book knows no limits, especially when I have kept it all to myself for so long.  No more procrastination on this huge project, not any more.

Thirdly, I am working on what I think will end up being a novella and will fall into the category of Y/A (Young Adult) fiction.  The story emerged from a free writing exercise in a short story class I am taking, the idea one of those unexpected gems that hold a whole world of possibilities.  I know where the story is going, but still have a lot of writing to do.   By the time class ends at the end of May, I should have a pretty decent start, if not a completed first draft.

And finally, I am working on a Super-Duper Top Secret Writing Project that will last the month of May. It’s actually my top priority for the month, so the other three projects will need to fit themselves in where they can.  I’m working on it with a writing partner, so don’t feel completely at liberty to disclose much about it yet, but I can assure you that there will  be leaks from time to time during the Merry Month of May.

With that, I’m off to work.


Ta-da! It’s the Blog Hop.

A word from Blog Hop Central:  If you’re an author, it’s quite common to be asked at a reading, “what’s your next project?”  You always need to be working on somehting, or you might as well hang up your pen!  The question, “What are you writing right now?” inspired this blog hop, where a number of writers from all over the U.S. are writing on “My Next Big Thing”, answering the same ten questions you see here.

I’m happy to have been tagged by Kathi Holmes, author of I STAND WITH COURAGE.

Here goes! It’s my long-awaited and nervously procrastinated entry.

What is the title of your book? It’s been called “The River of Time” since it was conceived a few years ago.  The title was born easily; unfortunately, the book itself has spent many years in the womb, refusing to emerge.

Where did the idea for your book come from?    It came from crazy dreams, an over-charged imagination, and a little bit of real-life experience.

What genre does your book fall under?  Definitely fiction.  The rest would be historical fiction, paranormal fiction.  I haven’t read anything else like it, so perhaps I will have to create my own genre.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? I was afraid of a question like this.  I don’t watch many movies, unless they were made before I was born.  Okay, that’s a lie.  I watch movies from the 1960s and 1970s, too.  At any rate, my answer has to be total fantasy: Gene Tierney and Erroll Flynn for the lead couple.  If someone wanted to buy the movie rights, I would be happy to accept their check and they could cast anyone in it that they wanted.

Give us a one sentence synopsis of your book.  A modern American woman discovers she lived a lifetime in 15th century Wales, the catalyst being a mysterious new man in her life.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  As of today, I’m planning on self-publishing, probably as an e-book to start.  But, I’m open to other avenues.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  By the time I am done, it could well be twenty-five years.  I started this one in 1991, but to be fair to myself, I have to say that I haven’t worked much on it since then.  Okay, haven’t worked on it at all.

What made you decide to pull this story out and work on it after ignoring it all this time?  The damn characters won’t shut up.  They are insisting that I tell their stories.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  The series of books that most influenced me in the sense of making me realize that an author can bend reality tell her story, and do it beautifully, is Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series.  Her characters — some of them, anyway — can time-travel, so her stories take place in the 1940’s to roughly present day, and in 18th century Scotland, and America around the time of the War of Independence.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  The characters plopped themselves into my imagination one day.  A story began to coalesce around them and I thought they deserved more than a quick visit when I was waiting in line at the grocery, or stuck in traffic.  Of course, this was all before the invention of the smart phone.  But, it’s stuck with me all these many years and as I said, they are now demanding that I pull them out of the drawer and start writing about them.

What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?  If you like a good historical romance and are willing to tolerate a little paranormal adventuring — or vice versa — then this is your book.

When you find yourself feeling lazy or ‘blocked’, how do you force yourself to get past it?  I like to write pretty much in order, but if I’m not getting anywhere with the story, I might jump to a later part of the narrative work on that.  Or, I might delve more deeply into a character, what motivates him, where he’s been, where he’s going.  Just feeling free to scribble any old thing tends to get the writing juices going.

What is the most important advice you can give other writers?  Just write, dammit. Things like making sense, editing, selling the story, all that stuff can come later. You’ve got to get your story drafted before you can even worry about the rest.

Are there differences between male and female authors?  People are people, writers are writers.  That said, I’m sure there are notable exceptions and someone will likely  jump all over me for this, but I think women writers tend to focus more on emotions and inner life and male authors tend to be more action-oriented.

Anything else you’d like to say? Technology has opened up so many doors for writers.  I’m really excited about the possibility of self-publishing, whether it is via an e-book or I  go to something like to get actual copies of my work.   I think a lot of writers won’t even bother shipping their babies off to ‘real’ publishers and waiting for the rejection letters any more.  We can create our own cottage publishing industries, all from the comfort of our homes.  There are many exciting opportunities out there.  I love it!

So…wondering about the Blog Hop?

For once, failure to meet a deadline is not my fault.  Really, truly, I did what I could.

The two writer friends I tagged (or pre-tagged, since I haven’t yet posted my blog on the topic) are each working at setting up their own blogs or websites.  Things have evidently not been going well in that regard.   What are the odds that it would work out this way?  The Writing Gods intervened to make sure I would not meet my bloggerly obligations…and yeah, I know ‘bloggerly’ is not a word.

Since I have the wisdom to change the things I actually can, I am going to post my Blog Hop Blog a mere month late, and without tagging my two blogging friends.  When they get their blogs rolling, I will update accordingly.

Sincere apologies to the Blog Hop community.  I hope the whole thing didn’t come crashing down because of us.  And if it did, well, in a hundred years, who will care?