Sunday, December 10, 2017

December Challenge: Day 10 - Christmas Trimmings and Childhood Memories

I'm sure somewhere in your childhood you remember making all sorts of crafts in school. My first--one my mom kept forever--was a tiny hand print in plaster from kindergarten. Then there were the special cards for mother's day and father's day, the Easter basket made of construction paper with shredded crepe for grass, the turkey with colorful feathers--mine had an abnormally shaped beak--and of course the Christmas ornaments, using glitter and glue, crayons and markers, bright paper colors of red, blue, green, and many others. 

It's nice that tradition has carried on through generations. My children made plenty of those school crafts, and like my mom, I've kept quite a few of them. Of course, projects have become a bit more sophisticated. Ceramic pottery replaced paper constructions in many cases. But those ornaments for the tree, those were the best. Some had their photos attached, along with the year--a chronology of their lives of sorts. Ornaments made in various shapes, globe shapes, candy cane shapes, tree shapes, all kinds of shapes! But the best part were the proud smiles on their faces as they rushed off the bus, how they jumped up and down, squealing with excitement, while they pulled their treasures out their book bags and hung them on the tree. 

It's probably overdone, said too often, but it's true. These homemade trinkets are the most precious sentiment one can give and receive. They bring the holiday spirit closer to what it should be. So, lose the commercial fanfare, the insane, over-the-top frenzy and greed of who can out-spend, out-decorate everyone else. 

Remember those sweet smiles, the sheer joy on their faces, the spirit in their eyes and those precious homemade gifts. Those are the best. 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December Challenge: Day 9 - Layer by Layer

Had a fun time at Painting with a Twist today. My snow globe is not bad for beginner status. The best part was spending time with my daughter and friends. 

After my post from yesterday, I'm looking at the painting as a process, like my writing. It's a true comparison.
  • start with the background -- my story setup; 
  • fill in the bottom with table and snow -- plot events and synopsis; 
  • add evergreen trees -- characters, their roles, motives, descriptions; 
  • paint the globe base -- the main goal, climax, denoument; 
  • dot with snowflakes and draw the final touch, the star -- fleshing out the story until it's fantastic! 
See? The process of creativity is found in all mediums, writing and painting included. Sharing the work and socializing with all my fellow artistic wannabees? Just like book signings and author expos. Now, reviews are an entirely different animal! Haha. 

What gets your creative juices flowing? I'm sure there are plenty of other talented people out there who have great things to share. 

Enjoy your evening! Until tomorrow. 😊

Friday, December 8, 2017

December Challenge: Day 8 - It Starts With a "Whoa!"

Good evening! Hope all is well with you. I've been mulling over what to write about today. Several ideas popped into my head, but I'll go with this one. How my brain works an idea is complicated. Whether it's in writing or problem-solving or planning, I have a process. Let's take writing, for instance. I get this idea, some kind of inspiration from people watching or reading an article in the news or just a random personal thought where I might think, "Whoa, now that would make a neat story!" For example, when I wrote my latest project, a mystery, a cozy mystery, I had been watching Arsenic and Old Lace on the classic movie channel. I do love Cary Grant πŸ’“. He plays the role of a  Broadway play writer. His two elderly aunts are kooky as they come. They've decided killing off lonely old men who've come to their house as potential borders is the charitable thing to do. So they poison them with a dose of arsenic in their wine. It's comical. It's dramatic. It's full of murderous fun. 

I decided a cozy mystery set in a Bed and Breakfast with a cast of actors and theater buffs would be great to write. There are the Bellwethers, elderly siblings as crazy as the Brewster sisters. Some references to the Golden Hollywood era, then throw in a murder or two, a bit of romance, and lots of quirky behavior to complete the set-up. And there I had a beginning, someplace to start. Then, the hard work started. Write the story!

Here's one of my pitmad tweets for Boarding With Murder that I used during the Twitter contest last night...

Paradise B&B, the perfect place for a relaxing stay in a quaint and friendly town, but a killer is lurking. The elderly Bellwether siblings are accused of murder, and new B&B owner Alexis wants to help, if only they didn't act so guilty. Cozy spin on ARSENIC & OLD LACE.

And that's how it's done! 

Enjoy your evening!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December Challenge: Day 7: Who Knew?

Who knew? I never had a chance, not one second to stop and think, "Wait! Shouldn't I be writing? Sharing another creative or *cough* pointless post?" It's 11:51 pm. I jump out of my seat, gasp and groan and sigh. I forgot. Totally, tragically forgot. Sorry 😒.

I spent my evening--the time I'd usually be writing my daily challenge--tweeting my Twitter pitches on #pitmad, an opportunity for writers to pitch their work to agents and editors. And yes I forgot. So very sorry.

I'll try harder tomorrow. Promise. And maybe I'll share some of my tweets!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December Challenge: Day 6 - Frazzled But Full of Cheer

Sorry this is coming out so late. A tangle with my printer lasted several rounds and the printer won. 😝 

That said, first up...did you figure out the anagram greeting? Wishing everyone a holiday of happiness and plenty of family memories. Maybe you'll try creating a few of your own. Or rise to the challenge of going "Bach" and compose a music cryptogram! Enjoy πŸ™„.

Speaking of frustrated and frenzied, this time of year lays it on heavy. And that's when despite the holiday challenges your life is doing it's usual thing, normal routines. But life's not fair and most people have some kind of trouble or baggage they carry around. Remember that. When someone at the store snaps at you, think about why, what kind of baggage that person carries. We all get so wrapped up and focused on our own lives, we forget or ignore what's around us. A kind word, a smile, a selfless gesture, it's a gift that costs nothing but a little effort. Fill Christmas cheer with those gifts.

People I hold dear are suffering. Old and frail, scared of the changes in their lives, trying to hold onto what's familiar, and all while keeping their dignity. We make every effort to help and guide them. It's hard to remain constant and strong, but we do it out of respect and love. 

The smallest kind gesture you give to others lifts them little by little. It's the decency in all of us that should come out, not just at Christmas, but everyday and in every opportunity. Remember that, too.

God bless, and have a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December Challenge: Day 5 - Mixed Messages That Turn Out Fine

I love writing exercises, especially super challenging ones. Now, before you decide this will be blah, boring stuff, hold up! It's gonna be interactive and fun. Why? Well, what if an exercise turns out to be cipher and its meaning reveals something awesome? Like hidden treasure or a plan for a covert mission. Think Three Days of the Condor. (Don't know the movie? You should watch it. Seriously should.)

I used coding in one of my novels. Interesting fact: classical musicians often hid their names in music compositions with note placement on the staff representing corresponding letters. Kind of neat, right? One of the most popular music cryptograms was created by Bach, aptly named B-A-C-H motif. 

But I'm not going to draw a staff and play with notes. Sorry. How about anagrams? You know, taking a word and rearranging the letters to form a new word or phrase, but only using each letter once. For instance the word anagram could become nag a ram. Crazy and total nonsense, but a neat way to disguise what you're meaning. 

So. Let's try this. See if you can figure out my message. And good luck! (Give me a moment... *flexing fingers and brain muscle*. I'll make it easier with one word of the original message on each line. 

Whigs in
yon reeve
daily oh
shape pins
ply ten
fly aim
rose mime.

Too hard? Here's a secret... use this link to decipher anagrams: Anagram Solver

Then try this one to make your own! Anagram Creator

*Check back tomorrow for the answer 😊

Enjoy your evening and here's to mixed messages!

Monday, December 4, 2017

December Challenge: Day 4 - Taking Inventory is Crazy Stuff

Closer to the end of the year is when folks tend to reflect and take inventory of what they've done and have accomplished these past twelve months so they can figure out New Year's resolutions --which are way too hard to keep!. My idea will get a bit quirky at times, absolutely not your average assessment, because I throw all sorts of items into the mix and see what comes out! I have no shame or apologies to give for the following ... 😁

In this past year...
  • I've written two manuscripts, both mysteries, with a total of 130k plus words. Phew!
  • I've written a dozen blog posts--definitely catching up this month with my December challenge.
  • I've participated in one blog tour to promote my final book in the Lilly M Series -- A Bride, a Groom, and Happily Never After.
  • I've queried my Con Series manuscript,  Don't Judge a Con by Her Cover to --dare I say it?-- almost 100 agents. Confession: I've sent them in a frenzied flurry rather than pacing them. *sigh*
  • I've submitted my manuscript Grave Maker Blues to several small, independent publishers (I'd estimate a dozen.)
  • I've submitted my contemporary romance manuscript to a few publishers. (I'd say 5.) 
  • I've attended brainstorm days with my local author's group once a month, minus a couple when I had to, HAD TO miss for personal reasons. Much fun, very productive. 
  • I've attended ZERO local Sisters in Crime meetings this year! Gotta work on that. 
  • Attended a really fun and informative workshop/conference for authors on editing sponsered by RWA. Those ladies know how to rock!
  • I've spent an average of three hours a day on social media, which adds up to *GASP!* 1,095 hours for the year!!! Definitely need to work on that!
(Here comes the quirky and not at all useful but possibly interesting to some! 🀣🀣🀣 )

  • I've eaten pizza, lots of pizza! We'll say once a week which means 52 times. Yum!
  • Coffee? Probably 730+ cups total, which means using 50 small cartons of creamer. Yes, I cannot, can not drink it black.
  • Washed an average of 2000 dishes by hand, (using my dishwasher maybe once/week cuts down the number. AND this doesn't count utensils, pans, etc.)
  • Cooking meals? Yeah, I'm not a fan. I try to cook enough of each dish so there are leftovers, and hubby often fixes meals on the weekends. So, let's say, hmm, between 150 and 200 dinners. Not bad.
  • Eating out? Huh? What's that?!! 😜 Seriously, I'd say maybe a grand total of 10 times with hubby this year. Then I do meet with a book club once a month, of course at a restaurant! Add another dozen. So, total of 22 this year. 
  • TV watching? Oh, boy. I'm about to reach the tsunami of numbers! Let's see... have to add up the programs on network television, others on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Ah... okay, for real? A grand total of 1352 hours. Geesh. Oh, yeah. Better add in one to two hours in the morning of news five days a week = 500+ hours. Total = 1852 hours
  • Books read? I'll say 20 maybe. Blame it on the TV programs for it not being more! 😍
  • Sleep? 2920 hours... approximately. This includes naps, oh yes, gotta have those! And with only 7 hours of sleep at night, which I can't swear are quality hours!
  • Trips to the grocery store = I'll say 70? Once a week plus several one-item trips. 
  • Times I swear?  No way could I say for certain. I'll guess ... maybe 120? Yeah, I'm a saintly soul. HAHA!
  • Trips outside of Ohio? Only once this year, though it's usually three. Lots of family stuff kept us home. πŸ‘ΆπŸ’˜
  • Trips to the doctor? Twice.  To the dentist? Twice. 
  • Exercising? Ahhhhh. Okay, I walk the dog most days when weather permits. That's about a quarter mile. Let's say I go maybe 4 days a week, (being generous) that comes to 52 miles for the year. Sounds so much better totaled up that way! 
  • Housework? Pa-leese. *snort*
  • Online shopping for Christmas gifts? Waaay too much time, but oh so satisfying on Christmas day! Especially since we have our first grandbaby to join us this year! Love you, Henry! πŸ’•
  • Time spent writing this post? 44 minutes. 😀 Guess I'm out of here. Got more TV to watch and shopping to do!

Enjoy your evening! And happy holidays!