ocpl flyerThe public library system in the city in which I live recently reached out to me to kick off their adult summer reading program, Dessert & Discussion. I was thrilled to accept. The first program is on the topic of romance. Not only am I a romance author, but I am current president of Central New York Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America.

So, if you’re in the Central New York area on Tuesday, June 30, I’ll be hosting a discussion on the romance genre at the Paine Branch Library on Nichols Ave in Eastwood. We’ll be starting at 6pm. Stop by to share your favorite romance titles and hear what other readers enjoy!

 

In 2000, I bought a miracle machine. It was called an AlphaSmart. It was a portable key board with memory for 100 pages in 8 separate files. It ran (forever) on 3 double A batteries. It weighed next to nothing. The screen showed only 4 lines at a time, but could be read outside. It came with cable to hook to a computer to upload what you’d written into a file. And you didn’t have to worry about hitting a save button. “Alph” automatically saved everything. The unit was more portable than a laptop.

alphasmart

Other authors discovered AlphaSmart. In the Reno airport in 2004, after the RWA national conference, I overheard an airport employee saying he’d never heard of them until that week, and it seemed all these women were traveling with them.

I used Alph for years. I had to replace a couple of keys, the space bar, and the batteries, but entire books were written on Alph. Eventually the LCD screen popped a vessel or something a couple of years ago and the liquid crystal bled across the viewing window. The plastic holding the metal springy thingy for the spacebar broke. The “B” key split in half and fell off. The company had been sold, the new owners no longer sold replacement parts, and discontinued making the Writer’s Dream Machine. After nearly 10 years of slave labor, my original Alph had to retire. My $200 investment had been a great one.

Last year, one of my critique partners was cleaning out her office. She had an AlphaSmart she’d rarely used and offered to give it to me. I hemmed. I hawed. Eventually I caved.

Why did I hesitate for even a second?

I can pound out a page before I leave for work in the morning; another page is written on my lunch hour–all without waiting for my laptop to boot up. There’s no Internet distraction. I can sit on my patio-in-progress and just write. I still have an index card I wrote out years ago with a page conversion table on it: 0.6 Alph pages = 1 “old-fashioned” 250-word page; 1.2 = 2; 1.8=3; and so on.

Other authors I know still use their AlphaSmarts. I’m glad I rediscovered the joy of mine.

 

Last week, I posted about lack of progress on my back yard retrieval project. My above-ground pool has been gone since September. A few plants were put in around the perimeter of the pool’s footprint. We also wanted our patio extended a bit. And work slowly progressed throughout the autumn.

For some silly reason, I thought spring would see the end of the project. That I would have a larger patio and a writing garden for this summer. I finally texted the Vanishing Landscaper earlier this week: “Let’s talk about basil, parsley, cilantro and the patio.”

The next day, I came home to this:

basil

Several kinds of basil

Patio in Progress

Stones for the extended patio

Herbs

Parsley, basil, and (I hope) cilantro

And he was at the house the day after that when I came home for lunch. He did a lot then, too.

Patio in Progress

Prepping to set the patio stones

I may have my patio by my July vacation.

I sat outside  with Alph yesterday, and envisioned it all in between writing many sentences. I decided to call it my writing garden. I hope it comes to pass this year.

 

17
Jun

Sometimes I’ll mention “Tiffany” in my blog. Maybe I should explain who–er, what–“Tiffany” is.

Many years ago, I’d picked up my children from day care and was driving home when Y-Chromo–about 3 years old at the time–asked me about that “holiday after Christmas.”

“New Years?” I asked.

“No. It’s one Christians celebrate.”

He kept trying to explain the holiday to me, but my work-drained brain wasn’t making connections. And X-Chromo (8 or 9 months old) might have been fussing, too. This went on for several blocks. The he popped out with, “Oh! I remember what it’s called. Tiffany!”

Considering he was only three at the time, I was pretty darned impressed he was discussing Epiphany.

Several years later, I shared the story with my writing friends. They thought it was adorable. (I thought so, but I might be the tiniest bit biased.) And from that moment on, whenever one of us has a breakthrough while plotting a book, writing, or anything else in life, it’s a “tiffany.” The mispronunciation/misunderstanding has become so much a part of our language, we use it without thinking, forgetting other people might not know what we mean.

I had several tiffanies over the past weekend while I was on a two and a half day writing retreat.

Early morning on Owasco Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY.

Early morning on Owasco Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY.

My WIP, the next book in my Toke Lobo and the Pack werewolf series, is just flowing. When one is typing along and a plot point or incident you hadn’t consciously planned falls into place and it all makes sense–Tiffany!

I have chives!

chives

Aren’t they lovely? I used some in a pasta salad a couple of weeks ago.

I transplanted some basil, but I don’t think it’s going to make it.

basil

What I’d really like is my patio. And the lawn. I have a week off in July. I had dreams of sitting outside writing. Doesn’t look like that’s happening any time soon. Not happy about that at all.

Today is National Ballpoint Pen Day!

As a writer, I am obsessed with pens.

The ballpoint pen is considered a great improvement over fountain pens. I, personally, prefer fountain pens. The ink flows smoother. I hate using a ballpoint pen when the ink won’t flow.

Image credit: andrejad / 123RF Stock Photo

Some facts about ballpoint pens:

  • An average of 100 people die each year from choking on a ballpoint pen.
  • 125 ballpoint pens are sold every second.
  • One-third of the ballpoint pens in the United States are owned by BIC.
  • Since 1983, BIC has sold more than 7,000,000,000 ballpoint pens in the United States.
  • An average person in the United States uses 4.3 pens annually.
  • A ballpoint pen has a lifespan of about 50,000 words.
  • The most expensive ballpoint pen in the world is the Mont Blanc Ball Point which costs $730,000.

What kind of writing implement do you like to use?

 

Category: Writing  2 Comments

I don’t usually have guests on Sunday, but my friend Joanne Guidoccio has a book coming out later this week (June 12), and, as today is National Red Rose Day, Joanne’s heroine wanted to share a bit about her relationship with red roses.

Happy National Red Rose Day!

bannercountdown

5 More Days!!

MJ, thanks for participating in the Countdown to A Season for Killing Blondes.

To celebrate the publication, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Click here to enter the drawing!

When protagonist Gilda Greco isn’t dealing with four unsolved murders, she enjoys celebrating National Red Rose Day. But she doesn’t limit herself to honoring roses on only one day of the year. Since winning the $19 million lottery, Gilda has implemented several new rituals, among them treating herself to a weekly bouquet of red roses.

“An extravagance,” her mother clucks.

Penny pinching Uncle Paolo shakes his head. “For the cost of all those roses, you could fly to Italy and back during high season and still have money left over.

“Now that’s extreme self-care,” Cousin Sofia whispers loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

But Gilda is undeterred.

She ignores these comments from well-meaning (and meddling!) relatives and focuses on three special memories of her favorite flower: a Valentine’s Day rose, a beautiful song about a rose, and a recent “red rose” dream.

She never did learn the identity of her mystery admirer, but it didn’t really matter. Gilda was between boyfriends and convinced she was the only senior student at Sudbury Secondary who was unattached on Valentine’s Day. That single perfect rose elevated her spirits and kept her afloat for the rest of February.

When her disastrous one-year marriage fizzled, she found solace in music and played The Rose by Bette Midler over and over again. So much so that she had to replace the album three times.

As for the “rose” dream, read about it in this short excerpt from A Season for Killing Blondes…

Carlo wore a black tuxedo. He carried an enormous bouquet of red roses and offered them to me.

“They’re so beautiful, Carlo.” I started to count them. “And so many of them.”

“Twenty-nine to be exact.”

“Twenty-nine?”

“It’s the number of years that we have been apart.”

“How thoughtful and romantic of you—”

I woke up to the incessant ringing of the telephone.

Darn! Only a dream.

Blurb

Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.

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Watch the trailer here.

Buy the book here:

Amazon (Canada) – http://is.gd/t0g1KZ

Amazon (United States) – http://is.gd/jADjPp

Amazon (United Kingdom) – http://is.gd/8mknFJ

Amazon (Australia) – http://is.gd/r843iX

Kobo – http://is.gd/BpO9gY

About Joanne

In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but it would be over three decades before she entertained the idea of writing as a career. She listened to her practical Italian side and earned degrees in mathematics and education. She experienced many fulfilling moments as she watched her students develop an appreciation (and sometimes, love) of mathematics. Later, she obtained a post-graduate diploma as a career development practitioner and put that skill set to use in the co-operative education classroom. She welcomed this opportunity to help her students experience personal growth and acquire career direction through their placements.

In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Guidoccio 001

Where to find Joanne

Website

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

Pinterest

Goodreads

 

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Erin Bevan to Work In Progress Wednesday.
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MJ: Erin, June 3 is National Repeat Day. What life experience would you like to repeat? 
 
EB: Oh, that’s a tough one. Well, I will say labor is out. I’ve repeated that three times, and I’m good there. I don’t feel the need to experience that again. My wedding day may be a fun one. I think I would tell myself to relax and not worry so much. Or my honeymoon because I really need a vacation! 
 
MJ: If you didn’t write, what would be your creative outlet?
 
EB: Umm. . . is shopping considered creative? 
 
MJ: LOL! Other than writing, what would be your dream job and why?
 
EB: Trophy wife? Haha! No seriously, I’ve always thought working in a flower shop might be kind of fun. But dream job, I don’t really have one. Unless, you want to take that Trophy Wife thing seriously. Just sayin’! 
 
MJ: Okay, you’re cracking me up here. Describe your ideal/dream writing space.
 
EB: Eww!! Something out of a Pottery Barn Magazine. Soft colors–pale blues and creams with punches of color here and there. Very organized and not a space I share with my giant smelly dog or my husband’s engineering books and guitars!! Maybe a large window overlooking beautiful foliage, not the current dead bushes adorning my back yard at the moment! Or a beach. Gazing at a beach everyday would be nice :) 
 
MJ: What do you love most about your WIP hero?
 
EB: He’s real. He’s a guy’s guy. He’s hurt and broken but sucks up his sadness and goes on with his life for his kids. He’s got that little bit of cockiness that is just plain sexy. 
 
MJ: What do you least like about your WIP heroine?
 
EB: Least? Hmmm, that’s hard to say. I really like her, too. She’s funny and cute. If I had to pick something, it would be her eagerness to rely on a man, even when she tries not to. 
 
MJ: What genre is your current WIP?
 
EB: Contemporary. 
 
MJ: How did you come up with your hero and heroine’s names?
 
EB: So, everyone has there own formula for coming up with names. Honestly, I just think of people in my past or my family members and use their names. I don’t get too scientific with it. 
 
MJ: How did you choose the setting for your current WIP?
 
EB: Well, I wanted it to be in the South and hot. I also needed the town to be close to railroad tracks for the plot of the story. South, hot, and railroad tracks doesn’t really narrow it down too much since many towns in the south are hot and have railroad tracks, so I just made up a name for a town and based it outside of Atlanta, Georgia. That felt right and from what I have researched I believe the location will fit well with the story line. I hope anyway! I hope I didn’t royally mess up. 
 
MJ: Please share the first five to ten sentences of your current work in progress.
 
EB: The working title is The Night Train 

Prologue

I have to hide the pages of this journal in a place Papa will never think to look. For if he sees this, then I know he will kill me.

                                    -M

Chapter 1

Everything was turning out to be perfect. Just perfect. There wasn’t one detail Lesley had forgotten. There was only one problem. The guest of honor was running late. Really late.

MJ: Great hook! And I understand you have a new release available . . . today!  
EB: Yes, I have two books out now–The Ranch Hand and my latest release, Cupid’s Angels, which came out today.
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MJ: Great cover! How can readers keep up with you? 
EB: I have a website, a blog, and a Facebook page. I’m also on Twitter and Goodreads.
MJ: Thanks for stopping by and best of luck with your new release!

Today we observe National Speak in Complete Sentences Day.

In this age of Twitter, chat, and other forms of instant communication, proper grammar–whether in speaking or writing–is a vanishing skill.

Example: A recent conversation I had went something like this:

“Oh, my sister’s all toody.”

I thought, Too much information. Your sister’s intestinal problems aren’t of interest to me.

“I said leave the baby sleep, and she just got this tude and went toody and I was like, you know–.”

Ah. Attitude. Right.

But who am I to talk? When I work on guest blogs, I have to be very careful to answer the questions in complete sentences.

Example: An upcoming blog asked, “What aspects of the writing process do you find most difficult?”

My initial response was: “Getting back into the flow of the story after a break.”

The editor in me took one look at that and donned her Grammar Police hat.

The response now reads, “Getting back into the flow of the story after a break is probably the most difficult part of writing for me.”

See the difference?

 

“I thought you said you were working.”

I get that a lot when people peer over my shoulder to my computer screen. There might be words there, or there might be a game of Free Cell or Spider Solitaire in progress. And yes, that means I’m working.

I do my best plotting over a game of solitaire. When I was a teenager–long before the age of personal computers–I would sit on my bed for hours and play solitaire.

solitaire

I would also tell myself stories as I played. Whether I was writing “Monkee Stories” (fanfic about the TV show/pop band) or my own “gothic” mystery (a la Mary Stewart), my best ideas came as I manipulated a deck of playing cards.

Old habits die hard, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.