On Learning Roads

During this time of pandemic, writing has become a major source of solace and distraction. Focusing on my made up world of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall, and the lives of its denizens, has allowed me to focus my mind on fun things, rather than be engulfed in the ever present anxieties of the never-ending-plague.

The writing community, and the various retreats, workshops, and conferences it offers, has been a place to hone my skills as a writer and to watch how the industry is evolving in the new normal of our post-covid world. Many things have changed in the publishing industry, and staying in tune with the business side of things has also made me ponder what new avenues authors, and authorpeneurs, will take in this dynamic new world.

The fellowship, and ongoing offerings, of the writing community run by Max Regan and Rosa Glenn Reilly have been the safety net for me as 2020 and 2021 have progressed. The three yearly bootcamps, plus the retreat in June, and the monthly classes, have kept me engaged and learning. More than that, being in this community of writers has made me take my own writing career more seriously than ever before.

Being the head of the Houston Writers Guild has also motivated me as the pandemic has drawn on. Putting together the conferences HWG offers allows me to network and connect to many industry professionals. It also brings awareness of what the industry is doing, and how important it is for our members to stay up to date on the changes.

Marketing your books, finding reviewers and bloggers to help spread the word, developing a vibrant author platform, and connecting to other formats like audio book or the filmmaking industry, are all key elements that career-minded authors need to know. So as the date for the second conference of the year drew near, the board and I focused on making it as comprehensive as we could. The Indiepalooza line-up turned out truly jam packed with amazing sessions.

We desperately wanted it to be an in person event. So many of us are fighting off zoom fatigue. Unfortunately, all of our presenters ended up coming to us virtually. We had, literally, none who wanted to do their session in person. Paying a venue cost so we could all sit and stare at a screen together felt foolish, and not the best allocation of resources. So, Indiepalooza will need to be virtual.

This made me think about the future. The road ahead will bring with it in person learning conferences and other events. But it can’t over look the power of the virtual event. Yes, it isn’t as nice in terms of networking options and such. Hard to meet and get to know people in square digital boxes. But, the virtual events allow us to bring in presenters from places we could never afford to fly in — like the cover designer who will be with us at Indiepalooza who lives in Australia. And it allows people who aren’t able to travel to attend the event.

I don’t know whether we will find a way to do a hybrid event, or simply choose to do a virtual one yearly amongst the other programming we offer, but I know the digital conference will not go completely away. The digital space offers opportunities we should not toss out the window. The future will look different, and perhaps it will be that much better now that we have gone through this mess.

PS: If you are a writer and wish to check out the lineup of the upcoming Indiepalooza 2021 conference — scheduled for the weekend of October 9–11 — you can visit the event brite page here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/indiepalooza-2021-tickets-167939466465

Pandemic Road: Bumpy Ride To Halloween

Be still my beating heart, it has finally happened. The Spirit Halloween Store has opened. Halloween is coming. Really. My decorating has begun. Of course some of you might say I never stop decorating for Halloween. That is true of course, but I do try to be subtle about it from December to August. Actually, I haven’t shopped at the Spirit Halloween Store yet this year. I was there the morning of their opening day. Unfortunately, they didn’t open until that afternoon. Bummer. I left crushed and devastated, but determined to go back.

Then life got interesting in the only way it can in Houston during September. A storm formed in the Gulf of Mexico. It was heading towards the Texas Coast. Landfall would be close to Houston. We were expecting a lot of rain. At the last minute the storm intensified and we were visited by Hurricane Nicholas.

A writer friend of mine reminded me of the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. That was the movie where the Pumpkin King tried to kidnap Santa Claus and take over the Christmas holiday. Now we just experienced a hurricane named Nicholas. Could that possibly be Saint Nicholas? Was Christmas trying to kidnap Halloween? The weather was certainly fitting of a dark and stormy night. My electricity went out, but luckily I have a lot of Halloween decorations that light up. Why use regular old flashlights when I have skulls, pumpkins and haunted houses that give off fun colorful lighting.

Now I have often accused Christmas of attempting to bump Halloween out of the way when Holiday trees and wreaths start showing up in stores before Halloween. Of course this year, thanks to the global pandemic, people are being encouraged to start Holiday shopping now. We must do everything we can to save Halloween from both Covid 19 and Hurricane St. Nicholas.

Once the rain cleared out, the flooding subsided and my electricity came back on, I re-started my efforts at setting my Halloween decorations outside. I think my neighbors are used to me doing this by now.

I also noticed that there are pumpkins for sale at local stores. Another sure sign that both Halloween and Fall are right around the corner. This picture was taken at a local grocery store. Yep, that’s a palm tree in the middle of the pumpkin patch. That’s how we roll with Halloween here in Houston. And I still have my first annual visit to the Spirit Halloween Store to look forward to!

There are even rumors that we might experience a cold front next week. That means that the daytime high temperatures go from the mid 90’s to the mid 80’s. Time to get out the sweaters.

Until next time.….

Roads Not Taken

With the pandemic, I’ve had a lot of time to think upon my life. One of the things I enjoy doing is pondering moments of decision. The poem by Robert Frost always comes to my mind as I consider the roads I didn’t take.

One of the first, came when I finished my BA and first MA degrees. At that time, I had the opportunity to continue going for the Ph.D. But I was tired.

I started university in 1992, and, by 1996, I had both my bachelors and first masters degrees. I studied full time, living at home with my parents and attending University of Houston’s beautiful main campus. In four years, I had accomplished more, educationally, than most people, and I was ready to get started on living.

So, I headed off to Mexico City, Mexico. The idea was to do a Ph.D. at a university down there, while at the same time enjoying discovering more about my cultural heritage. The studying part never materialized. In all honesty, I didn’t even really try to apply to any universities. I focused on finding work, and enjoying the city.

Looking back upon that moment, I can’t help but wonder what would life had been if I had instead stayed the course, and finished my education. What if I had taken the opportunity to enter into the doctoral program at Perdue University, since my mentor professor had graduated from there? How would my life be different?

For starters, I would not have ever taught sixth graders in a public school, because, with a doctorate, I would have gone on to teach at a university somewhere. That would have opened up a whole different avenue for my writing. I have no doubt that writing would have remained a part of my life, and as a professor you have to research and publish.

Would Thyrein’s Galactic Wall, and the universe full of characters whose lives play out in my mind, have come to me? Or would I have gone on to write more in the realm of nonfiction?

I’m certain that I would have worked in fiction, because my brain loves all things wild and imaginative. Dragons surely would have been a part of my work. Yet, the universe of my books was born in that 6th grade classroom. Would it have come to me in another way? Are there things we are fated to do?

Sometimes, I believe there is a destiny we are born to fulfill. Other times, I am convinced there’s randomness to our choices. Do the roads in our lives take us inexorably to the same location?

However it may be, I didn’t take that path. I went down a different road. Perhaps, I might have saved myself some heartaches, but there would have been different ones to face. That is a certainty.

I suppose, I still could do the doctorate. That path is always there, waiting. Should I? Where might that road go?

Hmm. Something to ponder.

Pandemic Road: Tesla and Hannah

Well, now I have seen everything. Just when I thought I was becoming a grizzled old broad who could no longer be surprised, I saw this. A car dealership inside a shopping mall. I didn’t intend to see this, but there it was.

I was only getting some exercise. Yes, I am a mall-walker. Not every day, but here in Houston in August and September, it gets really hot outside. I only walk in the Galleria and only walk early in the morning. There’s less of a crowd then and it is easier to socially distance. Actually, if you know the mall well, you can actually walk a full 3 miles in about an hour or so. The time depends on how often you stop to engage in window shopping. I am glad to report that I am really good about not getting carried away with shopping during these early morning strolls. Also, since Covid, stores tend to open later in the morning.

Anyway, I was amazed and a bit gobsmacked to see a car dealership during my most recent trip to the Galleria. The view of this made my mind go off in several different directions. How did they get the cars in the mall? I need to go back and check to determine if the location is accessible without riding an escalator. Also, how does one take a test spin? Does one simply head off down the hallways past the restaurants and fashion stores? If you are taking a Tesla for a test drive, can you stop at any of the Starbucks for a latte? I have so many more questions, I might have to go back and investigate this matter further.

Finally, I would like to give you an update on my cat (and familiar) Hannah. You have seen her pictures many times in these posts. She loves to pose for the camera. Also, she has become a Zoom Queen. She loves to take part in any meetings or conversations I am engaged in on my small screen. Here is a picture of what she looks like “on camera”. While she is 16 years old, she has the personality of a much younger feline. When she went to the doctor’s office the other day, the veterinarian discovered that she has the beginnings of renal disease. She does not appear to be in any pain or discomfort at this time, but I will keep a close eye on her. Many thanks to the good folks at Richmond Avenue Animal Hospital for the quality care she receives. They are helping me adjust her diet and they are very patient when teaching me about this new phase in Hannah’s life. Of course I’ll keep you posted on her progress.

Until next time.….

On Joining RoadBroads

I am so excited to hop into this new venture along side my amazing friend and colleague, Ellen Seaton, and to take up where the talented Melanie Ormand left off. Big shoes to fill there!

In a way, I was born a RoadBroad. At first, my travels were purely in my imagination. An avid reader, I have enjoyed journeys into magical worlds, other times in history, and all manner of mystery adventures. Soon enough, I was creating my own through crazy stories written in eclectically collage covered journals.

As soon as I had a sensible job, cause we all know writing professionally doesn’t pay the bills, I took off on real voyages. I made the terrible mistake of going to Paris, France first. That city captured my heart and, now, I feel compelled to make a pit stop there on my way to where ever else I am heading,.. when I’m in Europe that is. Something about that city draws the creative energy in me. I can feel, when I’m there, why it has inspired so many authors and artists across the centuries. There’s just something magical in the air… Ah, Paris!

Road trips are the best. Heading out on an open road in your car, a coffee mug and assorted snacks by your side, appeals to me like a moth to a flame. So many places to visit and explore just waiting out there. Sometimes, you need to hop on a plane first, then hit the road… cause you know cars don’t do well in water.

Of course, the pandemic has curved all that, but not forever and hopefully not for too much longer. Still, the journey of a RoadBroad isn’t just one of physical travel. It’s the heart of exploration of new and exciting things. New seasons in our lives; new business ventures; and, of course, adventures on the written page — my own and that of other amazing authors .

I hope to share with you the adventures that are waiting for me both physical and spiritual as I journey through life’s roadways. Here, with my dear friend Ellen, we will explore together what it means to live a RoadBroad kinda life.

Thank you, Ellen, for inviting me to journey with you here. I’m excited and humbled to be a part of the RoadBroads team.

Pandemic Road: Podcasts, Skeletons and a New RoadBroad

It’s another RoadBroad first! More fun and excitement.…..and learning! Thanks to Creatrix Chats, I participated in my first podcast. I talked about my writing and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA). I talked about the world building I am doing as I write stories about ghosts and skeletons and grim reapers.….Oh My! My hostess and I discussed passion for writing and other forms of creativity. We also went over what we do to keep our muses active. We talked for over an hour.

Check out the podcast for yourself at: https://www.patreon.com/posts/54944332

The fun part was that I learned an awful lot. When the podcast was first set up, I was told by the hostess that we would talk via zoom. I have zoomed before. I know what I’m doing with zoom. I assumed the podcast would be filmed as well as recorded. So I got up early. Took a shower to make sure my hair was clean. I applied makeup. I put on a nice blouse and even put on a bra. I was ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille. So, now I know podcasts are all auditory. Now I know that bras and make up are not necessary for podcasts. Good information to know.

All in all, I had a blast. I hope you get a chance to listen the podcast. If you’ve had any interesting experiences with new online technology, please feel free to share with me.

Back at the home front, I notice that I am not the only one who has begun decorating for Halloween. There are several skeletons wandering the streets of my neighborhood. Here are two of my friends:

As you can see on the right, Ms. Bones, is ready to head out on her golf cart and go shopping. Unfortunately, Mr. Bones is curled up taking a nap in the gutter. That is a water bottle that he is using as a pillow, but I’m not exactly sure if that water wasn’t mixed with something alcoholic. Poor Mr. Bones. But don’t worry. Ms. Bones has the credit cards with her for the shopping spree and is not afraid to use them.

Fern BradyBetween podcasts and skeletons, you would think that would be enough excitement for one week, but wait there’s more! I am honored and delighted to announce that a new RoadBroad is joining the team. Her name is Fern Brady. Many of you already know of her through her own writings and through Inklings Publishing. She will be introducing herself shortly. Until then, please join me in welcoming Fern as our newest RoadBroad!

What a fun week! I can barely handle all the excitement and can’t wait to see what is around the next corner.

Until next time.….

Pandemic Road: Look At What I Found!

It happened! I really didn’t think it would happen this quickly, but it did. And when it did happen, I heard the heavens open up. Were those angels singing? Was it the choir from Hogwarts? Who cares. The sights and sounds were beautiful. So what if the sounds were only in my head. Halloween decorations! My first sighting for 2021. I can’t believe my luck.

It happened this morning when I walked into Michael’s. At first they tried to fool me with some stacks of hay and orange flowers. They even threw in some fake pumpkins. I wasn’t fooled and I held out for the real thing. For Halloween decorations to be truly official, I want to see some witches, ghosts, bats, and skeletons. I was not disappointed.

Having my first official sighting in July is early. However, I am going to blame the fact that we are still dealing with a pandemic and weird weather. So much is going on and has been going on, we need this Holiday. We need to be able to laugh at those things that scare us.….and there is still a lot of scary stuff out there.

Once I had my first sighting, I had to try other venues. Bath and Body Works told me they had some Halloween products come in, but were all sold out. Did they know when the next shipment would arrive? No. Just call back. Apparently there is a Halloween Hand that is very popular this year. I am more interested in the skull soap holder and the skeleton that will hold a candle. I’ll go back for them later. I also drove past the location where I have visited the Spirit Halloween store for the past several years. Oops. There is quite a bit of construction going on in the area. Since this work has been going on for several months, I am beginning to think the location for the seasonal store might be different this year. According to their website, they’re coming. I just don’t know when.

Do you think I might have bought a few items while I was at Michael’s this morning? Well, yes I did. Do you think I only purchased these four small items? I plead the fifth. However, I needed these things for story research. I am currently working on several Halloween themed short stories and one long story that involve witches, ghosts, grim reapers and such. I need these things for my creativity. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

All I know is that beginning to decorate for Halloween in July puts a smile on my face. Let me know if you feel the same way.

Until next time.….

Pandemic Road: Summer, No Halloween Decorations Yet

As the pandemic slowly releases its hold on me, this RoadBroad took a trip around Houston the other day. This time of year it is usually too hot to walk at all outside, but we have had a lot of rain and cloud cover lately. I figured I had one more chance to roam around outside before the heat became dangerous. To make sure I stayed safe I stood next to the worlds largest evaporative cooler. Others might know of this spot as the WaterWall. Standing as close as I was, I enjoyed a definite cool breeze as the water rushed down. When I wasn’t standing so close, there were a lot of trees that provided plenty of shade for walking. What a lovely day!

Now, I have been visiting this Houston landmark since it opened in 1985. Back then you could easily run into folks washing their crystals in the wall’s fresh water on a Sunday afternoon. This is considered to be an energy vortex within the city of Houston. Since I did feel more relaxed after my visit, I guess I could vouch for the healing properties of the location. However, on this day, there was no one cleansing crystals. Rather everyone there seemed to be caught up in the art of the selfie. Back in 1985 I didn’t own a cell phone. And even if I did, it would not have had a camera for me to take pictures of myself everywhere I went. But that’s okay, because I did not have a social media account for posting such pictures. Of course neither did anyone else. My how times have changed.

After this wonderful visit I realized that I was within walking distance to the Galleria. This was one of many places I had not set foot in since the beginning of the pandemic. Curiosity got the better of me and I put on my mask to venture inside. I felt so very brave and adventurous! Of course the first thing I saw was the ice skating rink with actual people skating. In this picture the Zamboni machine had just finished resurfacing the ice and children had received the all clear to resume skating. As I walked around this mall, I was pleasantly surprised at how many shops were still open and doing a good business. There were lines at the Lego store and a jewelry store whose name I can’t remember. The Galleria has more than a few jewelry stores. Some people wore masks and others didn’t. I wore mine and I also tried to maintain a good social distance from others.

The one thing I didn’t see were any hints of Halloween decorations. I have been keeping up with a countdown to my favorite holiday. I have been reading on Facebook how some across the country were seeing stores selling the season’s first ghosties and goblins and ghouls.….Oh My! In hopes of finding my first sighting of Halloween supplies for 2021, I went by Michael’s on the way home. Alas, it was not to be. Empty shelves. Fourth of July decorations gone. It is my hope that these shelves have been cleared out to make room for haunted bits of mischief.

I will keep my eyes open as I roam the roads in the next few months, and will keep you posted on what I find (or don’t find). Wish me luck!

Until next time.….

Pandemic Road: I Just Finished A Marathon!

Please congratulate me. I just finished my first marathon! It only took approximately 28 days. Yes, I am exhausted. Today I am relaxing. I went for a walk, did some grocery shopping and am catching up on my beloved RoadBroads blog.

What? Did you think I “ran” in a marathon? Nope. If your mind went in that direction then you don’t really know me that well, do you?

I just completed one of Max Regan’s Writing Intensive Marathons. That means that for the month of June I attended two separate writing intensives. Unfortunately, as I stated in an earlier blog, this was all done via zoom. Since I attended two intensives in a row, I was considered one of the “Marathoners”. There were about 8 of us zooming in from all parts of the country and we heard a guest author speak to us from Australia. At some point I hopefully will return to Boulder, Colorado to attend up close and personal. However, I had a blast doing this and got a lot of good writing done.

I received a lot of help from my cat, Hannah. She has turned into a zoom queen as she would walk back and forth in front of the computer. When she wasn’t doing her “cat walk” she spent a good deal of time enjoying having the couch all to herself. I left out an assortment of warm and comfy blankets and she made herself comfortable. I actually think she found it a bit inconvenient when I would try to sit on the couch with her in the evenings so I could catch up on the daily news.

Of course there was that one pesky day when both Hannah and I were disrupted by some noisy tree trimmers outside my office window. Instead of receiving her usual accolades from the other zoomers, she was busy protecting her home. As you can see Hannah tried starring down the pesky hard working trimmers. She didn’t keep them from trimming branches, but they didn’t dawdle once they were done either. Hannah kept both me and herself safe from any falling branches. What a good watch cat.…especially while she was safe inside my home. Meanwhile, I am enjoying lots more sunlight coming through the windows even if I did lose a bit of shade during these hot summer months.

Now that the marathon is over, Hannah has taken up residence in my desk chair. This spot was ground zero for my marathon sessions. Apparently Hannah wanted me to take the day off from writing and zooming today. Well, except for this blog post. Since I am showing three pictures of her, she has given this bit of writing her “paw” of approval.

Until next time.….

Third Anniversary For This Writing Broad

Cupcakes with candles! Just perfect for a celebration. What am I celebrating you might ask? Why, it’s the Third Birthday for the RoadBroads Blog! Now, doesn’t that make you feel festive? Works for me. No, I didn’t eat all three cupcakes by myself. I had help from a friend. I only ate the equivalent of one all by myself. Half red velvet cupcake and half chocolate cupcake to be exact. The flavor of the third cupcake will remain a mystery. Many thanks to the nice people at Sprinkles in Highland Village for the tasty treats.

RoadBroads is three years old? Back in 2018 Melanie and I took off on a road trip where we headed west to Boulder, Colorado for one of Max Regan’s 10-day writing intensives. During this trip we blogged on a daily basis to document our adventures. This is the Boulder Bookstore where we would meet daily with other writers to hone our craft. I also bought several books while I was there, because a writer never has enough books. In the evenings we had salons where we could share and discuss our recent writings. Whenever I was outside, I could see the Flatirons off in the distance. What a wonderful adventure.

That was three years ago. This month I am once again attending one of Max’s writing intensives, but this time I am at home and zooming through class meetings and salons. Max is joining us from Boulder, but other attendees are in Texas, California and Maryland, among other places. Instead of looking out the window to admire the Flatirons, I see the same neighborhood that I always see. Instead of staying at a nice Air B&B condo shared with other writers, I cleaned my home and stocked my fridge for the 10 day experience. Instead of traveling to Colorado, I leave daily in my head to visit the stories that I am currently writing. Since I am working on science fiction paranormal urban fantasies, I go to some very interesting locations without leaving home.

Fortunately, RoadBroads is not location specific. Where I am or whatever journey I am on, the blog goes with me. That means that this will continue wherever I am and whatever road trip I take. This blog documents my efforts to always improve my writing craft.

The most important part is that I am writing and enjoying my stories and staying in contact with my writing community.

Until next time.….……