Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Corn on the Cob Day” (if you’re reading this on June 11th).  Judging from the number of people loading up their grocery carts with ears of corn the last time I was at the grocery story, many people are planning to celebrate, and not just for one day.  It’s also “German Chocolate Cake Day”–in case you’re not a corn fan.  

Fun fact:  German Chocolate Cake is not German at all, but rather named after the American Baker’s Company German Sweet Chocolate, which in turn was named in honor of Sam German.  Personally, I think of German Chocolate Cake as more of a fall/winter dessert, so I may substitute a more seasonally appropriate choice like strawberry pie.

On a non-food related note, it’s also the “National Making Life Beautiful” day.  

“National Making Life Beautiful Day on June 11th dedicates a celebration to those who make life beautiful. Whether you’re creating beauty by building relationships or helping others achieve personal success, your actions create a ripple effect, making life beautiful not just for yourself, but for those around you, too..”

For me, today will be “Family Day” as I get the chance to see some family members in person for the first time in quite a while.  The visiting will be good, though the fact that we’ll be at a funeral will not. Fortunately, the life we’ll be celebrating was a long, well-lived one, so there’s that.  The biggest concern at this very moment is whether any of my “going to a funeral” clothes still fit; I’m pretty sure black yoga pants won’t quite cut it.  My Friday will also include spending some time on the elliptical machine  (increasing the time from 35 to 40 minutes), and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

Prompt:   Nothing to Wear

Feel free to interpret the prompt any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:   

bulge               hideous           cram              fashion

surreal             grinder            fumbling       flamethrower

affordable       endless            power            gloomy

absurdity         brilliant            crafty            fiendish

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future writing prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Elizabeth: Writers Read

My writing has been derailed recently (and this post delayed).  I blame Stephen King and his writing advice for that.

“Read, read, read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” ~ Stephen King

I don’t know about you, but when I find a series that I enjoy reading, stopping after just one book and going back to working on what I’m supposed to be working on is rather like eating just one potato chip and walking away from the rest.

Who does that?

Advice for how to be a good writer typically stresses the importance of reading.  Besides being entertaining, reading lets us enjoy new styles and different worlds, which can spur our creativity and challenge us to stretch our writing wings. In the past weeks (or months) I’ve definitely been excelling at this aspect of being a writer. 😊

In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway talks about the importance reading, focusing on the benefits of learning to read as a writer –concentrating on the craft and the techniques and choices of the author.  Deconstructing a story can be very helpful in understanding how the various pieces all work together to create an interesting, engaging tale or, conversely, where things break down and cause you to lose interest and wander away.

Regardless of why you read – whether to study the craft as a writer or for the sheer pleasure as a reader – reading can help you grow as a writer while expanding your horizons and entertaining your mind.

One way to combine reading with helping other writers is to volunteer as a judge for one of the many writing contests sponsored by RWA chapters and other groups.

I got a notice in my newsfeed today about the Virginia Romance Writers and their Medallion Awards.  Virginia Romance Writers, chapter #19 of Romance Writers of America® is an organization for writers of all levels, from unpublished writers working on their first manuscripts to award-winning, bestselling published authors. In their recent post, in addition to lauding their winners, they also put out a call for judges:

Also, we’re always interested in finding new judges. This contest is different from many in that it’s judged by READERS. If you’re interested in learning more, hop over to http://virginiaromancewriters.com/.

This is hardly the only organization looking for contest judges.  So, next time you’re looking for something new to read, consider reaching out to one of the many writing organizations that sponsors contests and see if they are looking for judges.

Who knows, you just might wind up “discovering” the next great story.

For those who have judged writing contests before, have you found the process to be beneficial to you in any way as a writer?

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Donut Day” (if you’re reading this on June 4th)–definitely one of my favorite days.  I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be doing in the morning.   If you’re not a fan of donuts (crazy, but possible), it’s also “National Cheese Day” and “National Cognac Day”, so there are definitely options.

On a more serious note, it’s also the “National Gun Violence Awareness Day” along with “Wear Orange Weekend.”

“The effect of gun violence on our communities is pervasive, long lasting, and impacts everyone uniquely. Wear Orange is an opportunity to demonstrate our collective power as members of the gun violence prevention movement, bringing together a broad spectrum of organizations, brands, and influencers working in different ways to curb gun violence.”

For me today will be a regular work day–a bit of a change after several weeks of taking Fridays off.  I’m hoping to be able to fit in a visit to my favorite donut shop before work–to help them stay in business, of course.  Whether or not that plan turns out, I’ll definitely be increasing the resistance setting my elliptical machine another notch (I’m at 6 out of 10) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Spotlighting Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams, American politician, lawyer, and voting rights activist, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017, has popped up in my news feed several times lately, and not because of politics.

In May, she released While Justice Sleeps, a “gripping thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court—where a young law clerk finds herself embroiled in a shocking mystery plotted by one of the most preeminent judges in America.”

The book, which became an instant #1 New York Times best seller has drawn a lot of praise, including:

“Stacey Abrams delivers a taut, twisty thriller, drawing the reader into the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court along the strands of a complex web of politics, raw ambition and deadly deception.”—Nora Roberts

There is an interview with her in the New York Times where she answers a variety of questions including “what books are on your night stand”,  “what is your favorite book no one has heard of”, and “which books got you hooked on romance.”

That last question may seem odd, for someone who just released a “gripping thriller,” but before she ran for governor of Georgia and before she became a Democratic power broker Stacey Abrams wrote romance novels under the name Selena Montgomery.

As noted in this NPR article three of those early novels will be re-released in 2022 by the publisher Berkely, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

“As my first novels, they remain incredibly special to me,” said Abrams in a statement. “The characters and their adventures are what I’d wished to read as a young Black woman — stories that showcase women of color as nuanced, determined, and exciting.”

The novels–which are romantic suspense–all feature a diverse cast of characters who work for an espionage organization in the U.S. government  Abrams also has five other novels under the Montgomery pen name which have been regularly reissued.

Just in case anyone needed some additions to their TBR pile.

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Hamburger Day” (if you’re reading this on May 28th)–it’s also “National Road Trip Day” and “National Cooler Day.”  Sounds like the perfect combination for friends getting together for a holiday barbeque (taking appropriate safety precautions, of course). 

On a more serious note, it’s also the “International Day of Action for Women’s Health.”  

May 28 is the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, which for over 30 years, women’s rights advocates and allies in the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement worldwide have commemorated in diverse ways. Year after year, women, girls, advocates and allies have continued to take action and stand up for sexual and reproductive rights for what they are: an indivisible and inalienable part of our human rights.

I’m guessing people (at least those in the U.S.) will be busy planning what they will be doing for the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend.  With many cities and states opening up and doing away with masks and distancing, there will be a lot more options than there were last year.  Judging from the steady stream of highway traffic I’ve encountered whenever I’ve had to drive anywhere recently, folks are definitely making up for lost time.

For me, it is likely to be a lazy day around the house.  My only definite plan is to leave my work-computer turned off.  I’ve only been moderately successful at that in the past, but I hope springs eternal.  Regardless how that plan turns out, I’ll definitely be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine (I’m up to 35 minutes) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Community Support

Writing can be a solitary business–just you, a blank page, and the characters in your head clamoring (or not) to get out.  We’ve talked before on the blog how important community is in the stories we write and it’s equally important for us as writers.  Whether it is a group of critique partners you brainstorm with; friends you do writing sprints with; or more formal organizations that provide conferences, support, and mentoring, a strong writing community can make writing both more connected and more productive.

Many of us were members of Romance Writers of America back when we first started this blog and enjoyed meeting up in person and learning new things at their annual conferences.  After RWA’s crash-and-burn a few years back, that community fell apart.  Some folks stayed with the organization–helping build it back better–but others took a step back and looked for other supportive communities.

Since that time, RWA has undergone quite a transformation–new board members, new strategy, new programs, a new award–and they are continuing their work supporting authors. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Bike to Work Day” (if you’re reading this on May 21st)–a day that probably received more activity when there were more people actually having to commute to work.  It’s also “National Strawberries and Cream Day” and “International Tea Day”, which seem to go together quite nicely. 

Great, now I’m craving a cup of tea and a bowl of strawberries and cream.

For those who missed it, yesterday was “World Bee Day.”  

To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day.  The goal is to strengthen measures aimed at protecting bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger in developing countries.  We all depend on pollinators and it is, therefore, crucial to monitor their decline and halt the loss of biodiversity.

I’ve been doing my part by choosing bee-friendly plants as I’ve been populating my backyard garden, and trying to carefully waft the bees back outside when they randomly wander into the house  So far, that’s worked out well for all of us.   For now, I’ll be continuing to work on “Stay Away from the Computer Day” on my Friday off along with “I hope the plumber doesn’t find any terrible problems” day. 

Fingers crossed on that.

Whether Friday brings a bowl of strawberries, good news from the plumber, or visiting bees, I’ll definitely be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine (I’m up to 32 minutes) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: It’s “Research”

Honeysuckle Cottage

As a fan of Regency historicals and English mysteries, the books I read tend to be set in and around the English countryside.  Having been born and raised in suburban California, with cookie-cutter houses set side by side in uniform rows, it can be a little difficult for me to visualize some of those settings, especially for stories that rely on the layout of a house or village as a plot point.

Having spent a fair amount of  time in London and slightly less time around Oxford and the Cotswolds, I can picture some things, but houses and estates and the like aren’t always clear to me, based on the author’s descriptions.

Fortunately, the internet has come to my rescue via the UK’s Country Life magazine.  I’ve purchased electronic copies of the magazine from Amazon from time to time–always taken in by a great headline and cover photo, only to find myself wading through virtual page after page of real estate listings for properties far outside my purchasing power or interest, before getting to the actual articles I bought the magazine for. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Buttermilk Biscuit Day” (if you’re reading this on May 14th). It’s also “National Chicken Dance Day” which makes a certain amount of sense.  Chicken and Biscuits do go together fairly well.

Here in the States we’re unexpectedly celebrating “No More Masks if You’re Vaccinated Day.”  I’ve gotten so used to wearing a mask that I think it’s going to take me a while to feel comfortable going without one.  It will be nice to see faces again though.  

Probably.

For now I’m going to continue working on my “Stay Away from the Computer Day” on my Friday off.  You wouldn’t think that would be so hard, but I’ve yet to master it.  I’ll also be doing a little gardening–removing a few plants that have lost the will to live and replacing them with some other with a more positive outlook.  

Whether I manage to stay away from the computer or not, I’ll definitely be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Exercising Creativity

After more than a year of pandemic concerns, political upheaval, and social unrest, my creative brain can best be described as “in deep hibernation.”  Rather than getting words on the page, I’ve been hiding out in old favorite comfort reads and watching rebroadcasts of game shows from the 1970s and 1980s.

Calming, perhaps, but probably not a good long-term strategy.

Now that I’ve been successfully vaccinated and can leave the safety of my living room (theoretically), I’ve begun to try to get back to something approaching normality.  As I mentioned the other day, one of my first changes has been to acquire (second-hand) an elliptical machine like I used to work out on at my office gym.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that I pretty much hate working out (even after years of doing it), but after more than a year with only virtual workout classes available, I have definitely missed the benefits of working out.  Fortunately, the workout equipment shortage from the early days of the pandemic has subsequently turned into burgeoning supply of slightly used exercise equipment.

Thus, I was able to purchase just what I wanted and at a pretty good price.

I’m now three weeks into my new routine, adding another minute to my workout time each day.  After a few days I noticed that, in addition to some newly sore muscles, my brain seemed to be a little clearer and I actually had a creative thought or two.  According to the recent New York Times article Can Exercise Make You More Creative?, that’s not unusual.  Apparently, “active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary.

Who knew? Continue reading