Category Archives: creativity

Where I’m at…

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Where I’m at…

After being in Texas for a while, you begin to pick up some of the jargon. Obviously, I find myself saying ‘y’all’ instead of ‘all of you,’ as if three words were too difficult to say. And instead of saying, ‘where are you?’ for some reason, ‘Where’re you at?’ pops out of my mouth. I do realize that after returning to Canada, I have to let go of my Texas talk. Not that anyone would say anything; folks are much too polite but they might secretly roll their eyes. Canadians are proud of their British roots, which means finishing each word properly and not leaving anything off – like the ‘g’ in words that end with ‘ing.’ It also means speaking slowly and pronouncing each syllable. To Texans, this is a foreign language.

However, I digress. I really do want to tell you where I’m at.

Where I’m at with my writing, that is.

A couple of months ago, I was not pleased with how my writing was going. Basically,  that is because it was going nowhere. It wasn’t that I wanted or had the desire to become a well known author or even make tons of money. I wanted to enjoy what I was doing but I was not. That’s where I was at then.

I decided to change my whole outlook about writing. Writing should be fun. I did not want it to be stressful in any way. When I’m not writing, there is something missing in my life. It’s good for my brain. It forces me to widen my vocabulary. In other words, it’s healthy. Especially as we age.

I was never satisfied with two of my books and I always thought that if someone read one of those books first, they would never want to read another. It feels terrible not liking your own books. However, they were there for anyone to buy. Overnight, I made the decision to republish all my books. It was as if a weight lifted off my shoulders. When you decide to do this without any premeditation, it is like plunging into a pool of cold water!

While family members worked on covers, I edited one book at a time. After publishing my books the first time, I never picked one up to read. I was too afraid they might be as bad as some reviewers wrote. Well, guess what? I read, I edited, I did some rewriting, and in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed every book! Creating covers was a bit of a challenge but I have a very talented daughter, and together with her dad’s finishing touches, I was very pleased with the end result. They were ‘me.’

I now have all my books on Kindle for 99 cents and they will stay that price. These I write for friends and family and for anyone else who would enjoy reading them. Every few weeks, I will pick one book and do a free promotion. I feel happy doing this.

And, that is where I’m at.

Two Cozy Cat Press authors nominated

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Two Cozy Cat Press authors nominated

 

AURORA, Ill.Sept. 3, 2016 — Independent publisher of mystery books, Cozy Cat Press, today announced that two of its authors––Alice K. Boatwright and Vicki Vass––have been announced as finalists in Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem Novel Writing Contest for 2016. Boatwright’s mystery Under an English Heaven and Vass’s Murder by the Spoonful are the books being honored.

According to Cozy Cat Press publisher, Patricia Rockwell, “We are extremely proud of Alice and Vicki.  The Murder and Mayhem contest is one that is quite meaningful to us because it honors cozy mysteries specifically.  The fact that two of our authors have been selected as finalists for this prize, is especially gratifying.”

Alice K. Boatwright’s book, Under an English Heaven, is her first Ellie Kent mystery and her first book with Cozy Cat Press. She is also the author of Collateral Damage, three novellas about the long-term impact of the Vietnam War, which won the 2013 Bronze Award for Literary Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. She formerly lived in the Cotswolds for several years, and now divides her time between the U.S. and Paris.

Vicki Vass has written more than 1,400 articles for The Chicago Tribune as well as Women’s World, The Daily Herald and Home & Away. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, was inspired by her journeys in the jungle of Sudan, Africa, while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief. She has also authored Killer Finds, Pickin’ Murder, and Key to a Murder in her Antique Hunters Mystery series with Cozy Cat, as well as a new series Gem Hunter. She lives outside Chicago, with her writer, musician, husband Brian, their 20-year old son Tony, kittens Pixel and Terra, Australian shepherd Bandit, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

For more information about these and other cozy mystery authors, and about Cozy Cat Press, readers may visit the company’s website:  www.cozycatpress.com. For more information about Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem contest: http://www.chantireviews.com/2016/08/18/the-mms-chanticle….

 

 

Having fun with words!

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Having fun with words!

Good morning, everyone! Well, it is the second Thursday of the month and even though we don’t have a set schedule anymore, I’m still on a schedule. I thought I would share some cute plays with words. See how many you can come up with.

“Lexophile” is a word used to describe those that have a love for words, such as “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish”, or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.” A competition to see who can come up with the best lexophiles is held every year in an undisclosed location.

..No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

..If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

..I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

..I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

..Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

..When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

..When chemists die, they barium.

..I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

..I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

..England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

..Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

..This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore

..I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

..A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

..When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

..The batteries were given out free of charge.

..A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

..A will is a dead giveaway.

..With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

..A boiled egg is hard to beat.

..When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

..Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

..Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

..A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

..The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

..He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

..When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

..Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

..Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Sharon-Rose/e/B00BL8HTZY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary

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by Sally Carpenter

The inspiration for this post came in an unusual way. In my day job, I work at a community newspaper. Recently an editor asked if I’d cover the opening of the “Vatican Splendors” exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, a mere 20-minute drive from my house.

So I went on the “Splendors” press tour a mere two days before the library closed for Nancy Reagan’s funeral preparations. Talk about timing. Anyway, the exhibit has many artifacts and artworks rarely seen in or outside Rome.

One of my favorites was a large oil painting from the Renaissance titled “The Supper of Emmaus” by the workshop of Francesco or Leandro Bassano (sons of the better known Jacopo Bassano).

The work is an unusual retelling of the story from Luke’s gospel of the resurrected Jesus having a meal in the town of Emmaus with two of his disciples, who don’t recognize him at first.

The house and clothing are from the 16th century. Servants are bustling about, cooking dinner in a fireplace. Plucked chickens hang from the ceiling. A dog barks at a cat. I was the only person in my tour group who notice that the cat was clutching a mouse (a common sight in my yard). In the center of the picture a seated man, probably the homeowner, gazes off in thought.

Tucked back in the right hand corner is a table with Jesus, the two disciples and a servant boy waiting on them.

What the painting says to me is that the household residents are so preoccupied with their daily work that they are oblivious of the special guest under their roof. Not even the disciples can see the greatness in their midst.

As mystery writers our job is to find the extraordinary events taking place in the mundane world. Our amateur sleuths go about their usual habits when bam! A dead body appears. Their routines are disrupted and chaos ensues until the killer is found. Plenty of tension for the hero, but fun for the reader.

Most people live uneventful lives that would make for dull reading. It’s that extraordinary incident that kicks the story into high gear.

In my series, my hero is either the one who finds the body, or the victim dies in his arms. This gets him out of his rut and off on his own investigation.

So I keep my eyes open for those exciting events that I can use to write a good story. I try not to miss the special guest in the house.

 

 

 

 

Musical chapter headers

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By Sally Carpenter

One distinct feature of my cozies is that I use song titles as my chapter headers. My protagonist is a former teen idol, so the story is heavy into music. And just saying “chapter one, “chapter two,” etc. is so bland.

The title makes some reference to what’s in the chapter so I can keep track of the action. And I just like the challenge and fun of finding songs to fit the story; it amuses me.

Below are the chapter titles to my upcoming cozy. “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper.” See if you know the artist who recorded the song.

1. Monday, Monday

2. I Want To Know

3. We Just Disagree

4. Carry On Wayward Son

5. Be True to Your School

6. Stiletto

7. (It’s a) Family Affair

8. If You’ve Got Trouble

9. Call Me

10. Games People Play

11. Xanadu

12. Listen to the Band

13. Sometimes She’s a Little Girl

14. Saturday in the Park.

15. Up, Up and Away

16. We Can Work It Out

17. FM (No Static at All)

18. (I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden

19 You Won’t See Me

20. Diary

21. Your Lying Eyes

22. Mr. Success

23. Thanks for the Pepperoni

24. I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind

26. Garden Party

26. Live and Let Die

27. Last Dance

Answers:

1. The Mamas and The Papas

2. Eric Clapton and The Powerhouse

3. Dave Mason

4. Kansas

5. The Beach Boys

6. Billy Joel

7. Sly and the Family Stone

8. Beatles, but didn’t appear until “Anthology”

9. Blondie

10. The Spinners

11. Olivia Newton-John from the movie soundtrack

12. The Monkees

13. Boyce and Hart

15. Fifth Dimension

16. Beatles again

17. Steely Dan

18. Lynn Anderson

19. Beatles one more time

20. Bread on the original version but Micky Dolenz recorded it years later

21. The Eagles

22. First recorded by Frank Sinatra but I have a version by Bobby Sherman

23. Extra points as this one’s obscure. An instrumental jam on the third disc of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” opus.

24. Monkees once more

25. Ricky Nelson

26. Paul McCartney and Wings

27. Donna Summers.

 

 

 

I love revisions

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By Sally Carpenter

Last week I checked out “The Muppet Show Season One” from my hometown library. The discs have a feature that allows interesting trivia to pop up on the screen during the show. I’ve learned how some of the Muppet characters evolved over several episodes.

In episode 7, for the first time Kermit shows he has a temper. A different puppeteer operated Miss Piggy before Frank Oz took her over. Over several episodes Miss Piggy’s voice became more feminine and her personality deepened. Fozzie began as just a bad comic but over time acquired more sympathetic traits.

I’ve also been listening to my Beatles Anthology records (yes, vinyl). A number of the cuts are early takes on the songs. Some of the tunes required dozens of takes-revisions if you will-before the song was perfect. It’s fascinating to hear how a complex song began with just a few chords on the guitar and some lyrics.

I used this as an example of how revisions can help any work of art.

Many writers hate revisions. They write one draft of a piece and consider it finished. Granted, this is a big time saver. Writers who face tight deadlines may need to rush out a piece out just so they can move on to the next project.

A few authors can get away with this, but the majority of writers need to go back and refine their work. Very few works are ready to go from the outset.

I look at writing like crafting a jewel. Gemstones dug from the ground look like rocks. They must be cut and polished to achieve their beauty. Likewise, I see each revision as cutting another facet and adding another layer of polish until my work shines.

My first drafts are just to dump the information on the page. It’s to get the ideas down so I can see what I have. I often don’t have character names at this point. The first draft is largely dialogue with little description of setting, clothing or faces.

In the second draft I rearrange material, shift scenes around, name characters, look for repetition, and start to work on the dialogue. I also spot continuity errors. In one chapter of my WIP, my protagonist left his house riding his motorcycle and returned driving his car! I also found I needed to add more red herrings.

I’m in the third draft of my WIP. The characters are taking on more shape, so I’m smoothing out their dialogue. I’m adding description as well and making sure the plot makes sense.

What makes revisions fun in that in each pass, the story gets better and I see the improvement. The downside is that revisions are time consuming. I want to get my book on the market soon, but it’s better to take my time and make sure it’s the best story it can be instead of rushing out a book with errors.

So I’m off to work on my book some more. And mostly likely some more after that.

 

Dead Lines… and Stuff

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As you can tell by the subject, we are going to discuss something that mystery writers talk about all the time. After all, we solve murders, right? This usually involves a dead body. Of course, there are other ‘dead’ names for dead bodies. For example, dead duck.
We usually are not referring to a literal duck when we say that, we are talking about someone who just breathed his last. Perhaps, your protagonist witnesses a man trying to escape out of a twenty-first floor balcony; he falls to his death, and she says, “Boy, he’s gotta be a dead duck!”
Because he is dead, the cop at the scene says, with a deadpan face, ‘Someone help me pick him up; he’s a dead weight.” Well, of course, he is because he is a dead body. As soon as he ran onto the balcony, he knew it was a dead end and there was nowhere else to go – only down, falling through dead air.
However, your sleuth has some solving to do. How did the killer get into the room in the first place when the door was locked with … you guessed it – a deadbolt? Do you think his ex-wife coerced him to come there because he was a deadbeat dad? When he opened the door and walked in, she aimed dead center at his heart; however, it was a dead heat and he aimed and hit and she aimed and missed.
The irony of this whole story is that the deadbeat dad sent his twin brother to knock off his ex-wife and since they were dead ringers of each other, she shot at the wrong man. The deadbeat dad then bolted the dead lock so his brother couldn’t escape. The deadbeat dad, however, could escape. He fled to Deadwood, South Dakota, and from there caught a plane to the Mediterranean where he is now relaxing beside the Dead Sea.
As you see, we use the word ‘dead’ quite often in our English language. (I refuse to say that’s because it’s not a dead language). In fact, I wasn’t even going to talk about all the words that include ‘that’ word. All I originally wanted to do was talk about deadlines! And the reason I wanted to was because I knew my turn was coming up to write my blog and I couldn’t think of a thing to say. Well, I still can’t but it seems I’ve filled up the page anyway. That’s what a deadline will do. It makes you panic and write.

I’m pleased to say that my second Historical Fiction book, The Widow’s Walk, is now available on Kindle. Please check out my other books – six Parson’s Cove Cozy Mysteries, Virtual Enemies, and Sarah’s Valley.
My website is http://www.sharonrosemierke.weebly.com
I am also on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The Review

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This is one of an author’s favorite topics (or not). We wait and watch for them. At least, those of us who are still unsure of our writing capabilities do.  If we are favored with a five star, our feet don’t even touch the ground. We never doubted that our book was anything less than five. Without saying it aloud, we are reassured that we are writers.

“It deserves a rating of 5 stars. Could not put it down!”

 

On the other hand, there are those nightmarish one star reviews. Has this reader even read our fifty thousand-plus word novel that took us almost a year to write? A year of struggle and loneliness? Days spent bent over our computer trying hard to overcome a writer’s block?  What’s wrong with these people anyway? Even if my story wasn’t as great as John Grisham’s latest novel, it certainly doesn’t deserve one star!

AVOID THIS MESS!” (one star!)

That got me thinking – how did writers in the past feel about book reviews? Were they as emotionally affected by what other people said or wrote about their work? I discovered that we are pansies when it comes to expressing our thoughts and feelings about book reviews or the publishing industry as a whole for that matter.

In 1846, Sir Edgar Allen Poe said that book reviews were a sham and riddled with nepotism. In his own words, he wrote, “We place on paper without hesitation a tissue of flatteries, to which in society we could not give utterance, for our lives, without either blushing or laughing outright.” Now I really can’t say I understand exactly what Sir Edgar was trying to tell us because no one has been quite that flattering to me; I just know he didn’t think much of book reviews. Several years later, H.L. Mencken spoke of the “inconceivable complacency and conformity” of journalistic criticism.

In 1891, Henry James, complained that we publish too many reviews and none of value. (I like his way of thinking!) Reviewing, he said, was all chatter and lacked ‘concrete literary fact.’ In 1928, Edmund Wilson wrote, “It is astonishing to observe, in America, in spite of our floods of literary journalism, to what extent the literary atmosphere is a non-conductor of criticism.”

As the years go by, I seem to reflect on some of my reviews with much more tolerance and humor. For example, one reader felt that reading my book was as painful as sticking a needle in her eye! (Personally, I have never tried that but I imagine the reader has!) Actually, I have had a similar feeling about some books that I’ve read but would I write a review saying that? Never! I know how much work goes into writing and even if it isn’t ‘my kind’ of book, I give the writer credit for the many hours of hard work he or she put into it. No one spends that amount of time writing simply to irritate readers. Not that I would give five stars for a book that I absolutely disliked; however, there is always something positive to say about any book – even if it’s only to commend the writer for the character names!

So, when all is said and done, reviews are always someone else’s viewpoint and that’s all it is – their viewpoint. We always hope everyone will love our books but that isn’t reality – some will give us five stars and some (unfortunately) will give us the dreaded one star! Let’s humbly learn from both.

http://www.amazon.com/Sharon-Rose/e/B00BL8HTZY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

 

My Cousin’s Beautiful Village?

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San Martin du varMy cousin lives in a  beautiful French village much like this one.  I think it would be wonderful to create characters and write a series of books about the people who live, love and work there.  I would create farmers and shopkeepers and crazy artists and marvelous cooks and wayward children and good children and strange pets for them.

I would write about my characters in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Every week my characters would visit a festival in a nearby village. Occasionally a visitor or two would work their way into the plot.  Some may decide to settle in my village.  Every time a new person moves into my village they would struggle to find their place in the social structure, which would upset the current hierarchy and create even more plot lines.

I would name the streets and the people and the mountains and even the colors of the buildings.  I would even be in charge of the weather.  My readers would know what to expect. Like both Maeve Binchy and Jan Karon  I would write about my world again and again.

But that is not what I do.  My writing partner Margaret and I write about two cousins of the same age whose lives span nearly the entire twentieth century.  One is a competent professional woman with children before the term even existed.  But what about the other one?  Well, much of the time both the readers and I are trying to figure out what she is doing.  Her name is Moira and she experiences WWII in England and the Cold War in America.  I am NOT in charge of Moira.  She is in charge of me and, unfortunately, she likes to tell me what to write at two o’clock in the morning.

My Great Obsession

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It’s true; I have a great obsession. It began as a child but has not only stayed with me, it has blossomed! Or perhaps, I should refer to it as an addiction.

My earliest recollection was when I was about four years old. We lived in a small town in northern Saskatchewan in Canada. Friends invited me to spend the afternoon at their cabin by the lake and my mother agreed. Sometime during my visit, I must have become bored because I left the group and discovered something wonderful. It was a PATH! I can still recall it as if it were yesterday. It was a narrow path leading out into the woods and there were bluebells growing on both sides. I picked flowers as I wandered down the trail, not knowing of course, that by this time there was a search party out looking for me. Fortunately, before they started dragging the lake for my body, I decided I’d better head back to camp!

I have always been intrigued by paths. There is something mysterious about them. Where do they go? What will you find along the way? Is there an end to the path? Is it a ‘dead end’ or is there something to see – like a waterfall or a bench overlooking a lake? Who decided to make the path in the first place? How old is this path? How many have walked the path? Was anyone famous?

My father was a professional photographer, as is my daughter, so I have always carried a camera around with me. I have one scrapbook simply filled with pictures of paths. There are pictures taken in my backyard – the path to our gazebo, the path through the snow to our shed in the winter, an overgrown path through my perennial garden. But I also have pictures of paths taken on trips through mountains, paths discovered in parks, paths leading to beaches. Every one similar but unique and filled with a memory.
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Ah, but what has that got to do with writing? Isn’t writing very similar? You start out with an idea that feels so exciting but you haven’t figured out exactly where it will lead you. As you journey down the path, you picture the ending, the characters  you’ll meet along the way, and you visualize the twists and turns you will encounter. Even though you might have to hike through some rough patches as you do on some trails, you work your way through and make it to the finish. Your story is finished. You have conquered your path! Now, wasn’t that a great adventure?

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You can find my stories and adventures on