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Category Archives: Writing Groups & Challenges

Short Story-Cold Turkey

Today’s short story comes to you with a little help from my friends. A few weeks ago, I posted a story starter and asked my readers to contribute the next line or few lines. Here is the resulting story. I hope you enjoy it.

A big THANK YOU to Tina, Olivia, and Jerri for playing along.

Cold Turkey

Dalyn flipped on the kitchen light. She shuffled toward the refrigerator and pulled the door open, hoping there was some milk left. There wasn’t of course. Tad always drank it all and never bothered to go buy more. She closed the door and stood looking around the kitchen as if a gallon of milk would instantly appear. She sighed and started opening and closing the cabinet doors, but nothing seemed as appetizing as a bowl of fruit loops.

Her disappointment quickly turned to irritation, and the more she thought about it, anger. Realizing she had no other choice, Dalyn went back upstairs where Tad was peacefully sleeping. For a moment, she thought about how crazy her actions seemed and she started back down the steps. Suddenly, she turned on her heel and charged into the bedroom where Tad lay, snoring obnoxiously. She stood in the doorway, thinking of a way to ruin his sleep as he had ruined her quest for a bowl of fruit loops. While stood there with her rage festering, Tad stirred and looked rather confused.

“Why are you standing there?” He asked weary eyed.

Dalyn gently smiled and simply said hello before she flipped on the overhead light and yanked the covers off him, rolling him into the floor.

“You asshole! I’m done!” She shouted.

She awoke in a cold sweat. What a nightmare. Fruit Loops, high fructose corn syrup. She was so glad she had abolished such atrocities from her diet. But not the milk, not the dairy. They say dreams can offer warnings. She must abolish milk as well. But, how could she live without chai lattes? Cold turkey was the only way. Turkey, there is something she hadn’t thought about in years. She had conquered meats. She could do dairy as well. She snuggled back into the pillow.

The next thing she felt was a wet kiss on her cheek. Her husband was leaving for work. “Do you need me to pick up anything from the store on my way home?”

“No, nothing.”

“Are you sure. I drank the last of the milk yesterday.”

“No, nothing.”

Dylan sunk back beneath the covers, telling herself the first twenty-four hours are the hardest.


My First Writing Conference

My First Writing Conference

I attended my first West Virginia Writer’s Conference at Cedar Lake in Ripley, West Virginia this past weekend. Olivia Ferguson, past Guest Author and friend, attended with me. We enjoyed every minute of the three day event. The conference was full of workshops, lectures, discussion panels, readings, contests, collaborations, celebrations, and so much more. While I hate to start this post with criticisms of such an overall wonderful event, I feel I must:

  1. I should have attended this conference several years ago.
  2. I hate I couldn’t go to each and every session offered!

I learned so many new things and made really great connections with other writers. Writing this post is a challenge for me as I don’t know where to start! I’ll say this before I get into the nitty gritty of the post: I’ve included the names of the speakers and linked to some of their work at the end of this post and whether you are a writer or reader, I strongly suggest you click the links and check out these amazing authors. Over the course of the three days, we attended roughly ten sessions and I filled half a notebook with notes and writing exercises.

Olivia and I gravitated toward the workshops geared toward sci-fi/fantasy (or speculative fiction) since those fit our current writing interests. These workshops focused on creating a believable “monster” or villain. Frank Larnerd pointed out how some of the most famous monster in literature and movies are all the more hideous to us because there is some humanistic quality, a familiarity, wrapped in some off-putting body or form. The other workshops included using things like tarot cards to flesh out characters and plot, Southern Gothic styles, Magical realism, and so much more.

Bil Lepp held a workshop on Tall Tales and provided the entertainment at the awards banquet. He is amazingly funny. His ability to take a mundane activity, like going to the dentist, and turn it into an entertaining story blew me away. He talked about giving the reader, or in his case listener, enough information to make them comfortable and allow them to suspend logic. While I may not be an oral storyteller that advice still applies. If I want my readers to believe my main character lives on a newly discovered planet called Arbez, I have to make certain elements of that planet familiar to my reader.

The other workshops we attended focused on non-fiction and/or memoir. While the focus for these sessions was a little different, I still pulled out nuggets of information I could apply to my writing. For example, Fran Simone talked about how scene and summary drive the story in memoir and she gave us a hand out with pages of wonderful examples. She included one of the best post-session reference/reading lists of the entire conference. This information will be helpful for upcoming Memory Monday pieces! Carter Taylor Seaton also presented a session on the importance of good research and using primary and secondary sources. Research is necessary for fiction work as well and her tips will help me “write from a position of knowledge” going forward.

The Social Media Panel was also interesting, but not exactly what I expected. The panel discussed the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Instagram, Tumbler, Google+, and Goodreads to promote yourself as an author and your bibliography. They also talked about using paid advertising packages offered by various sites. The big takeaway on paid advertising is to set spending limits to stay within your budget. There was also discussion around only using social media versus having a Web site. The consensus was social media popularity changes. Apparently Facebook is for “old people” now according to one panelist’s clients. So while social media sites rise and fall in popularity, a Web site has permanence. If you are new to building an author platform, the general advice was: be authentic and don’t try to force a social media presence, try the various sites to see what fits you best, you may use different sites for different things, and be nice.

To learn more about WV Writers, Inc visit their WVWriters (there are links to the conference and writing contest information as well).

Olivia and I are already looking forward to next year’s conference! We even have a list of must dos/don’ts for next time:

  • Pre-register as early as possible.
  • Skip most of the meals on the meal plan (breakfast and the banquet dinner are tolerable)
  • Enter the annual writing contest.
  • Bring swimwear (Cedar Lakes has a pool.)
  • Bring a chair/blanket for outdoor sitting and writing

As promised, here is the list of authors and books to check out:

EYNK-Be Talented

This is based on a Stephen King article I talked about in “Everything You Need to Know.” You can see the full article here.

King states that to be a successful writer, you must be talented.

Talent is a very subjective thing and a quick walk through a bookstore is enough to reinforce that. In the original article, King stated “talent may as well be defined as eventual success – publication and money.” He acknowledges it isn’t the best definition, but when talking in terms of getting published, those who are basically making money from their writing have talent. Maybe not writing talent, but they were talented enough to convince someone to give them money.

That might seem harsh to the thousands of unpaid writers like myself, but it’s true. Getting paid or not getting paid, doesn’t necessarily have an ounce to do with a writer’s ability to write a good story. It has everything to do with if those stories are getting out to the public in someway. I would even go so far as to say we see this happen in the music industry as well (next time you hear a Taylor Swift or Beyonce song, think about the last awesome local band or singer you heard).

Getting the story out and into the hands of other people, is the first true test of talent. The talent to put a story out there that grabs the reader and has the reader looking for and wanting more. King calls it communication and he’s right. If I as a writer, sit here at my desk clicking away at my keyboard, and never share what I write I have no talent as far as the rest of the world knows.

However, if I put the work out there, love it or hate it, I’ve communicated with someone. Hopefully for every one person who hates what I write, there are ten who love it. The more people like my work and follow my work, the greater my chances of becoming “talented” per King’s definition.

Have I mentioned my writing group put together an anthology of scary stories called Wicked Words? The royalties from the book go directly to my writing group to help us host writing events related to NaNoWriMo and cover other group expenses. Validate our talent and pick up a copy. (Apologies for this becoming an infomercial.)

Old Photographs

Photography and photos have been a big part of my life for the past month. My NaNoWriMo 2014 project focused on a photographer in the late 1870s. My MC delved into the practice of photographing the dead, which many people today would find taboo and/or fascinating. In my latest project, I also played upon the […]

The Writing Process Blog Tour Stops Here

Welcome to the Writing Process Blog Tour!


My Wordsmith Studio writer-friend Gerry Wilson invited me to participate. Gerry is a native Mississippian and has completed two books: most recently Spirit Lamp, a work of literary historical fiction, and Whatever House (upmarket women’s fiction).  She was also recently awarded a Literary Arts Fellowship by the Mississippi Arts Commission.  Check her out!  You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (@gerrywil), and Google+.

Now, on to the topic for this blog tour: Writing Process. The challenge is to answer three questions about my work:

What am I working on?

I’m pretty proud to say, I just wrapped up a first draft of what I consider my first real attempt at a novel.  I started it in November 2013 for National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo).  The draft is a little over 83k which is the longest piece I’ve ever written.  There are a couple of other “novel” attempts tucked away in my files; one has a chance of being finished someday while the other runs the risk of being deleted.  I also write short fiction and am currently working on a couple of pieces for an upcoming anthology my local writing group, The Wicked Wordsmiths of the West, will be publishing later this fall.  (Check back for updates on that!)

In the past year, I’ve branched out and tried a few new genres which is always fun.  The draft I just finished is a fantasy piece.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I write because I have to so all the characters running through my mind can have a place to come alive.  I grew up in the country and there weren’t very many kids my age around so I had to use my imagination a lot.  I’m one of those readers that can “see” the words come alive and it wasn’t long until characters, scenes, and situations started playing out in my mind that weren’t from books I was reading.  It took me a while to figure out I could write down the things in my head and make them into stories.  I also like writing about somewhat controversial issues (maybe because I like watching people argue over opinions they mistake for fact).

How does my writing process work?

I’ve found it varies.  Some days I head to my local Starbucks, other days I’m propped up on pillows in my bed, other days I’m at my desk in my office.  I write in Word when I’m at the computer.  I have Scrivener, but can’t quite seem to get the hang of it.

I do listen to music.  I listen to Enya almost exclusively.  It doesn’t matter what scene or what mood, Enya is my go to music.  I’ve found listening to other stuff distracts me and I don’t write as much.

I also have a small notebook I carry around with me to jot notes and ideas in.  I use it when I do research too so it is a jumbled mess of stuff.  I flip through it for ideas when I’m feeling stuck.  I have a habit of jotting down potential story titles and I’ve found that months later when I go back and look at the titles I’ll sometimes have a completely different character or story come to mind.  I think that is golden!

The two things I think are absolute musts for any writer:  Read–everything.  People Watch–take pictures if you can, this is great for character development.

The tour moves on!

I’ve asked the following writers to come aboard the tour. Do hop over and see what they’re working on and what wisdom they have to share:


Tobi Doyle MacBrayne

Tobi Doyle MacBrayne

Tobi Doyle MacBrayne in her own words:  I was born in Massachusetts, grew up in California, went to school in Texas and raised my children in Indiana and West Virginia, and no, I’m not in a military family.  I usually tell people I move around a lot because of credit fraud, but the truth is I take opportunities and I’m not afraid to try something new.  I knew when I graduated from college that I wanted to raise a family.  I really enjoyed staying home and raising the munchkins, and plan on titling my next book, “Hot Lunch Ladies, exposed…”  Here’s the kicker, as a stay-at-home mom, you really are stuck when re-entering the workforce.  I decided to go back to school to get more education, or maybe to just hide from growing up any further.  I found myself walking the halls of Purdue and making up a story in my quiet time.  My first quiet time in over a decade.  Not that I don’t love the hectic life of being a mom, but my dear God, silence IS golden.  For a while I now work as a science teacher, torturing adolescents with the knowledge of how plants have sex, however I discovered that the overprotective parents with perfect children didn’t enjoy I still find time to write in my own little imaginary world.  Ok, really it’s on a laptop in the laundry room.  You didn’t think I’d really escape the laundry did you?


brent blog tourBrent McGuffin in his own words:  I’m a dreamer, reader, writer, believer, poet, singer, lover, fighter, baker, parent, packrat, hard worker, gamer, geek, Browncoat, webaddict, devoted friend, strong-willed, funny at times, sad at other times, creative, moviegoer, musiclover,caring, artsy, fidgety, giving, friendly, flirty, bit of wall flower, good listener, joker, wannabe world wanderer, superhero in my own mind, thinker, typist, nightowl, wordy, peoplewatcher, amateur therapist, an optimist with pessimistic leanings. I’m me.

Through the Looking Glass

I’ve completed another book on my classics list, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

Pre-read Thoughts:  I’m using The Jabberwocky poem for my NaNoWriMo Novel so I should read this book.  Bonus points for it being on my classics list.

Post-read Thoughts:  Not as crazy as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but still a little out there.  Even reading the entire book, The Jabberwocky doesn’t make anymore sense, but I guess that’s the point, right?

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