Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry, Merry!

I've been trying to figure out something brilliant to blog about today.  Something spectacular that everyone would read and love.  But honestly, I'm enjoying sitting on my butt in my jammies that I've been in since last night.  I've been watching reruns on tv with my mom, reading fanfic on my nook, snuggling with the furkids, and napping whenever the mood comes on. :)  It's been a wonderful lazy day!

So instead of some well thought out prose, I'm just going to wish you happy holidays!  I hope you're having a great day no matter what you do or don't celebrate, and that you've done something great for yourself today.

See you next year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Better Late Than Never!

 Like the holidays are not crazy enough with the normal stuff, earlier this week I was bitten by a spider- at the base of my skull. I'll spare the details after the ouch and swelling so much it hurt to turn my head along with a headache that couldn't be zapped. By Friday I was just starting to feel normal and here came the snow. Yep, it is Michigan.
    I was on the ball this year, Christmas village up on Thanksgiving weekend, my cards went out the day after, I had the tree up and decorated earlier than any of the last four years and I was charging at a deadline for submission of a story. My mantra became "I will make this deadline, I will." I realized it wasn't the deadline. That could come and go, I actually think they're closed until Jan. anyway. It was the date, I needed to get to that date with nothing distracting me, it couldn't...or I wouldn't make the deadline. The magic date was the 15th. I don't know why I picked that date. Or maybe I do. That date has nothing good to go with it.
     Dec. 15th, the height of Viet Nam, and we had a black sedan in the driveway, two officers in dress uniforms, "I'm sorry to inform you that your son has died." Anything said after that I didn't hear, I'm not sure dad did either. We made arrangements only to be told on Christmas eve that they had lost his body.  It was the quietest Christmas ever in our house. They finally found him and we were able to lay him to rest in Feb. When I was a teenager, I was sitting at a traffic light and was hit from behind- it put me into the intersection where I was hit at least four more times. They said they just pulled and my car fell apart around me. I had been thinking about Doug, fighting back tears, wondering why I couldn't have said "I love you" just once when he was home the last time...and then BAM! It was all over and I walked away without a scratch. It took hours to get the glass out of my hair, but nothing more than a bruise on my knee.
    Years later, my Pop lost his battle with cancer on Dec 15th, and the race was on to get from where we were stationed to home. It had spread to his brain, which we found to be highly unfair- he was a strong believer in education and pushed that idea many times. The disease left him in other places and times often. My mother didn't handle it well, one day she was yelling at him because he said he didn't know her, some harsh words flew and then Pop looked at my daughter, Nicole, and said "Who is that old bat?" and she said "Grandpa, that's your wife." He looked over at mom and then whispered, "No, I married a nice woman. That one is waiting for a house to drop on her." I was on the phone with her and nearly fell over laughing at him. That was also the year of the Salt Lake City Olympic Torch Relay, I had a leg down on Beach Blvd and carried that torch, fighting tears. I so wanted him there. The night he passed Nicole's brother-in-law played the tape & Pop looked up and pointed and said "Hey, that's my kid!" An hour later he closed his eyes and was gone. Once again, I didn't get to say good-bye.  I kicked my self repeatedly for that.
   Last year it was my brother, I made sure when I went to Minnesota I told him everything I needed to say, and some things I said repeatedly. I may be slow, but not backwards. This year had several milestones I would have given anything for them and my Dad to see- I released three books, graduated with a Master's degree- the first in the family.
   I couldn't slow down, or I would think about them, if I thought about them, I would cry because I miss them all so much, so I had to keep going because I just can't stop....and then I hit send. There was nothing to do. I had nothing to hide behind. No papers for class or other assignments, no pages to edit and send back, no story to be frantically typing. It was me, and 2a.m. Grieving is hard, not doing it is worse. I cried and cussed and whined until almost 5 a.m., alone, everyone else was in bed...and then I remembered something about Rick that made me laugh, and Pop loved a joke. He was of Polish descent and had every Polish joke he could find. His favorite had been a bag of Cheerios labeled "donut seeds" that he had been given by some old lady at bingo.
     Dad was my hero- he was far from perfect, but I learned much from him and came to admire the love story he shared with my step mom Cathy. At the end of my pity party I had a raging headache, my eyes felt like sandpaper had been used on them, but for the first time in a while, I could see something other than a dark cloud.  I started writing down a couple of stories about dad to give to Nicole, something she could have and hold on to- and by the time I was done, there was ten pages and I was snorting I was laughing so hard. He used to tell me, "It'll happen, on indian time." His side of the family is Scot/Irish/Blackfoot, mostly the Blackfoot part, and he used to lament that not a one of his family could stick to a schedule- "they all run on indian time." That line came back to me today.
    I have my writing year laid out, Get the last one accepted and into print/ebook, Finish my take on the 3 Musketeers, write the kids book, a whole laundry list followed, one was slated for a May/June slot. Until today, When no matter what I did, that story hounded me. It wanted to be written now- it has its own schedule, runs on indian time...so I caved in. 6k and I made it go to bed for awhile. As I sit here, I can here all of my men laughing and saying "it'll happen, on its own time" and they may be right.  It's time to slow down and let things happen as they should.
    This took a duck walk, I was going to write about traditions....hmm, I guess it wasn't its time. There'll be another blog for that. Happy Christmas, Merry Holidays, may you be safe and happy this coming year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Goals Wrap-Up

As the year winds down, I thought I'd show you what we did. During 2012, the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group accomplished quite a lot.

Over the course of the year, we had:

221 Meeting Attendess
298 Monthly Goals
58 Completed Writing Projects
77 Submissions
7 Rejections

Great job everyone! I can't wait to see what we accomplish next year!
Take a look at our goal chart!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The week before Christmas

This year I vowed to keep Christmas simple. I tried to do as much of my Christmas shopping online as possible, but last weekend I couldn't avoid the store since I had both regular and Christmas shopping to do.
It started off with a bang.

I'm walking into Target, trying to maintain my Zen and NOT rush around like a mad woman. I'm purposely walking a bit slower, just to overcompensate for the frenzied energy in the store. I do one of those half halts- like one of those rolling stops at a 4-way stop sign. I realize I can't get distracted by the cute umbrella. I continue onward, and notice a woman ahead of me, facing my direction. Her husband is pushing a red cart a little behind me. I'm still not sure if she was referring to me, but once he reaches her, she says,


Apparently he was 3 seconds past the time on her stop watch.
So much for Zen.

I became the mad woman that decided the quicker I could get out of the insanity, the better. I feel like I've been darting, dashing, and on the verge of a serious panic attack since that afternoon because the week before Christmas is much like the week before your wedding. Suddenly there is So Much To Do!

Take a minute for yourself. I promise I will since I'm still committed to simplifying Christmas. Ten minutes even. Clear your mind. Find a quiet spot without a TV or computer. Relax. Do something simple but special for yourself. I'm going to try out this new recipe I found called Righteously Rich Hot Cocoa. Chocolate restores Zen, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Spirits dampened by a Tragic Event

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you today! The Christmas season is upon us and it’s always a busy time of year. It’s my favorite holiday and my family and I make a big deal out of decorating the tree and putting all of our Christmas decorations up. My boys have a blast!

This year we let them hang most of the ornaments on the tree. When we stepped back and admired their handiwork we noticed most of the ornaments were at the bottom of our tree! J Our little guys couldn’t reach the upper branches. We got a good chuckle out of that and left them exactly the way they were, because it was just too darn cute! J

The next thing on our list was their Christmas program. I love these precious events. My boys are in first and second grade, so this year they got to sing together.  It’s really something to see those bright shiny faces waving at you from the stage. They’re so proud of who they are and what they have accomplished so far.

Then a few weeks later I turn on the news and hear about Newtown Connecticut and my Christmas spirit is dampened by these tragic events. I sit and wonder how does a young boy go from a bright, enthusiastic youngster to an angry suicidal teenager? I worry could this happen to my kids? Why didn’t this young man’s mother see the signs? What are the signs? Would I even recognize them if I saw them?

I also worry about my boys in school. We received a letter from their school explaining the precautions that they were taking, but is it enough?

Like most parents I want my boys to have the best life they possibly can, but how can our society protect our children from these tragic events?

These questions haunt me and I hear a variety of answers. “We need more gun control.” “We need a better mental health system.” “We need better security in our schools.”

These are all possible solutions, but I wonder if we were able to recognize the warning signs of this type of behavior before a tragedy occurs…maybe we could nip the problem right in the bud. And yes I do see it as a problem…because this situation keeps reoccurring across our country.

So…how do we do that? Well…in my humble opinion it comes down to parental involvement and open communication with the teachers that see our kids every day.

I know what you’re thinking…my kids are teenagers…they don’t communicate with me. And I agree, most teens won’t communicate with their parents because they’re testing their own independence.

But what we can do is keep them involved in sports and activities that they enjoy. I feel the tighter the family bond, the sooner problems will become evident and the sooner the family can respond and get help for the youngster who’s in need of it.  

I also feel that teachers interact with our kids every day; they see a lot of what’s going on. So, if a teacher tries to inform you of a problem, listen to her.  And take her seriously because she’s doing you a favor by bringing the issue to your attention.

As parents, we have our own issues that we’re dealing with and I know at times it’s very easy to minimize our children’s problems because they're not as pressing as our own. I mean…when we’re worried about losing our job, or we’re behind in our mortgage…these are huge concerns. So when little Bobby comes to us with a problem about being bullied in school…well I can understand where a parent might brush that aside because he/she is too wrapped up in keeping their job and putting food on the table.

So as parents let’s make a conscious effort to pay attention to our kids…after all they’re the ones who’ll be choosing our nursing homes. J And we want them to pay attention to us in our old age…don’t we?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It’s Sad That We Need a Tragedy to Remind Us of What Is Important

The tragic news from Sandy Hook Elementary has galvanized the nation in support of dozens of grieving families.  Blame will be cast and speeches made, urging reforms on gun ownership and mental health treatments.  Whether any of the promises are carried out is speculation.  It’s easy to talk.

I’m at an age that I can look back at several tragedies in American history.

November 22, 1963.  A Friday.  Our elementary school was let out early.  We didn’t learn until after we arrived home that our president had been assassinated.  Before the birth of CNN and FoxNew and a hundred other cable stations, we had three.  All weekend, our family was glued to the television, watching NBC’s coverage of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

I was eight years old.

January 28, 1986. I watched in horror and a sick fascination as the Challenger exploded over and over and over again, as we tried to make sense of a senseless act.  I watched because of the novelty of having a teacher on board.  I don’t think it would have been televised otherwise.

I was home on maternity leave.  My daughter was six days old.

October 14-16.  The nation was glued to the developing story of Jessica McClure, an eighteen-month old girl who fell down a well.  It took rescuers fifty-eight hours to pull her out alive. 

I was six-months pregnant with my son.

September 11, 2001.  A man I worked with received a call from his wife, and he informed us of the hit on the first tower.  We listened in horror on the radio as the plane flew into the second tower.  I heard Jim Miklaszewski report live from the Pentagon as the third plane slammed into it.  Someone turned on the television in the cafeteria, and we watched as both towers collapsed.  Numb, the events too surreal to comprehend, we tried to stay focused on work.

I was to attend a five-year anniversary dinner for my investment club that night.  Instead, I spent the afternoon scrambling for emails and phone numbers (this was before yahoo groups) to tell the members the easiest decision I’d ever had to make: Go home to your families.


Columbine, Waco, Oklahoma City and now Newtown, CT.  The names run together in a sea of senselessness and grief.


It’s sad that we need a tragedy to remind of us of what is important – our families.  Your character's angst isn't important.  Deadlines can wait.  Forget the little things that keep you apart from the ones you love.  Pick up the phone, email a note, Skype, do whatever it takes to breach that gulf.  Hug them, hold them, show them how much you love them.  Do you want to go to bed tomorrow with their names on a list circulating the globe?


Hug your family today.  Never forget what is truly important.


Baking Satan

Yesterday I got to spend the day with a few of my favorite teens. Niether of them are mine or related to me in any legal or DNA-based sense, but they seem to like it at our house.  I've been teaching both of them to bake some of my favorite treats and we bake something every time they're here.

I was having the kids whip up a batch of Snickerdoodles, which are evil by themselves, in anticipation of the Dance Central Dance-off that they'd challenged Andrea Dickinson and myself to at the last GRRWG meeting.  I'd been promising to teach them what I've labelled Snickerdoodle muffins (a.k.a French Breakfast Puffs slightly modified) so I whipped up a quick batch before they started ont he cookies so I could show them how easy they are to put together.

The muffins came out of the oven just in time to put the Snickerdoodles in.  I quickly put the finishing touches on the batch and had one of the kids run a muffin down to my hubby.  Then they got to taste them for the first time.

They're so evilly delicious the first comment was "Oh my God, this is Satan!". Which had me laughing. A mother was called and told "I ate Satan today".  I can only imagine the look on her face. The reaction had me laughing, they are so yummy I can eat an entire batch by myself.

This morning I baked Satan again to feed the one kid that spent the night. I brought one to his mom when I returned him home. She likes them so much that now "he" has been requested as part of their Christmas breakfast.

I wonder if I can blame my weight on "Satan", seeing as how most of my excess is due to my own baked goods?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Old Stories

I recently had an experience similar to the one Marti sent out to the loop about finding something she had written a while ago.

I was going through some totes in my basement on Sunday and found a stack of school papers from 9th grade.  Included among them were two short stories I wrote as part of the creative writing unit, one of which was published in our class magazine that year.  Side note, our class magazine for Mrs. Clark’s fourth hour English class was called Anywhere a Mouse Can Go, otherwise known as her definition of a preposition.  I don’t know why, but that has always stuck with me.

Anyway, I ran across these two stories.  The one that was published was called Baby’s Breath.  It was terribly romantic and terribly tragic because the hero died and left behind the love of his life.  I think I wrote it right after our Romeo and Juliet unit.  The second story was called Jacob’s Ladder and was about a demonic little spawn of Satan born on Halloween.

Both stories were obviously written by an inexperienced writer, but what struck me most about them was that they weren’t as terrible as I expected them to be.  Now, don’t get me wrong, they weren’t great.  I’m certainly not going to let anyone else read them.  But, they had a plot, decent characters, conflict, and a definite conclusion.  And I can tell I have made improvements in my writing in the years since (thank goodness).  Since I’ve been struggling a bit with confidence lately, it was actually a nice boost.  I did this before, I can do it again and I’ve gotten better over the years.

Do you ever go back and re-read things you wrote years ago?  What do you think?  Better than you thought?  Worse? Or are they just too scary to pull out of the trunk?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beginnings, Endings and Everything in the Middle

Starting a new writing project is so exciting. My mind flits through all the ideas that could possibly fill the story - plastic Santas, a mechanical bull, an Elvis impersonator - which one will it be this time?

I dive into the project, raring to go and get words on the page. It goes well for a while. Crazy things are happening. Ceilings are falling in, cars are breaking down, women are going into labor. I fill pages with ease.

Then it comes to a screeching halt. I've hit the dreaded middle. I'm not sure where the story is going, how it's going to get there, and if a seniors' Zumba class is really possible. The story bumps along for a few thousand words like a car with a broken alternator, the engine is running, but the radio and the windshield wipers are wonky.

But as I get closer to the end, the excitement builds again. The subplots click together with the main plot. A dunk tank appears and everything moves swimmingly. I write faster too because I've finally established the story how the characters are supposed to feel when the ghostly lantern is unearthed from the tree roots.

The other reason I'm excited is that the current project is almost done and I can think about new characters and situations and canoe races and multi-level marketing schemes.

So what about you? What's your favorite - the beginning where everything is new, the middle where you are discovering the pieces, or the end where you can finally see the whole picture?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Writers Get Outed

by Suzanne Graham

It seems like there are one or two new stories a week told about a writer getting outed to their community. Some are using pen names, others are merely using their own names, but not widely advertising their books to their local communities.

The stories that get the most press are the ones that focus on high school teachers who use pen names to publish erotic romance. Because we all know that teachers are completely asexual beings, right? What could they possibly know about sex? As one student expressed when he learned his English teacher was an author: "It was just crazy," Hoover junior Justin Small told WKYC. "I don't know, I could never picture a teacher writing that."

My favorite story this past week was about a Church of Scotland clergyman whose worshippers were angered after they learned he wrote a "secret erotic novel". Heavens forbid a married minister write about one of God's gifts to mankind! These are some examples from the "racier" bits of the story, as reported in an article in the UK's The Telegraph:

Describing one of Drew’s numerous encounters, Rev McKean wrote that a female character claimed to have forgotten her nightie “but her eyes gave everything away”.

In a later section of the book, Drew, who is also the narrator, said: “We rested briefly and then came together again, hungry for each other's bodies, loving until our passion- but not our love was spent.”

Another steamy section relates how the hero, in a state of arousal, dances the tango with a lover.

So, what do you think? Do you agree that school officials should be charged with uncovering teachers' pasts or second jobs that administrators deem unbecoming to educators?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Seniors Love Their Kindles!

Will paper books disappear? I’ve always thought the answer was no. Electronic books will not disappear but I’m changing my mind about hard covers and paper backs sticking around. My reason is I sold some books at an arts and crafts Fair on Saturday.  My sales were to thirty-something mothers.  Many of the more interested customers were seniors. They loved mysteries and promised to read my books but they didn’t buy a single copy. 

What they did do was took bookmarks and post cards with the books’ information.  I asked them how they read. They all had electronic readers. They loved their Kindles. They did miss paper books but loved the ability to make the type bigger. They also liked that they could carry so many books in one small package.  They had no plans to ever buy paper books again. They collected dust.

One woman didn’t have a Kindle but had asked her husband for one for Christmas. She wanted us to tell her husband how easy they were to use.  I chatted with the man and told him how nice it would be for her to have my books already loaded and gave him information. I think she will be a happy on Christmas. Santa heard her plea.
My wish for all of you is health and happiness this holiday season and that your electronic readers come loaded with Mitch Malone Mysteries. For reviews, synopsis and other information check out http://wasgager.com  or you can enter for a chance to win a free book on the Murder We Write Blog tour that goes through next Monday. Post a comment on my blog at http://wsgager.blogspot.com

Merry Christmas.
Wendy Gager

Award winning mystery author W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him. Her third book, A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, was a finalist in the 2012 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. A CASE OF VOLATILE DEEDS, her fourth in the Mitch series will be out this February.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Back to the Basics

by Andrea Dickinson

So, I'm finally getting down to business and writing the sequel to Baltimore Heat. I've had great responses from fans of the first book showing their enthusiasm for the second one. It even has a release date already.

It's taken me a while to get ready to write this second story. The major plot points have been floating around in my head for about a year, but I just hadn't been able to settle down to get anything on paper. In fact, at one point I was sure I had written some of it down, but when I checked my computer files, they were empty. LOL

So I have been going back to the basics of starting a new book. Filling in character worksheets. Finding images online of people who look like my characters. Researching pertinent topics (tight ends in football). Reading some craft articles to refresh myself. And finally, diving in to the first scene.

What do you do to prepare yourself for starting a new book?

Baltimore Heat is available as an ebook and in PRINT. 
It would make a great Christmas present!
Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.