Six Years and Still Going Strong!

Happy Birthday to RoadBroads! It was just six years ago when another writer and I had the crazy idea to drive all the way to Boulder, Colorado. It’s only an 18-hour drive. Easy! Once we arrived at Boulder we attended an annual Writing Retreat that was taught by Max Regan. He actually led two different retreats for 10 days each during the month of June. I had heard about these retreats for years, but this was the first time for me to attend one.

I had never been to Boulder before. Pearl Street Mall was great fun. On the weekend there were any number of street performers when you weren’t browsing at the local shops. This is a picture of the Boulder Bookstore where all of our writing classes were held. I felt like I had finally made it into the “in” crowd. In addition to the classes, there were salons where each of us had to read samples of our writing. Out loud. In front of everybody! I survived that and both gave and received good feedback.

After 10 days, we returned home. The second June retreat began without us. Some folks who lived in or near Boulder attended both sessions. I had a blast and was already deciding to go back the following year. What I couldn’t figure out was how I could go to Boulder for both June retreats and how could I afford to stay in Boulder for the entire month?

Unfortunately, the question was answered for me when the Pandemic struck in 2020. The June Writing Retreats continued, but not in person. Ever since 2020 I have attended this retreat via Zoom. The good news is that without travel and lodging costs, I have been able to attend both 10-day sessions. Instead of seeing the sights in Colorado, I get to see my desk and look out my own window for my everyday view. My work desk is not nearly as exciting to look at as the Flatiron Mountains, but I keep writing.

I have also stuck with this blog which I find great joy in writing. It’s even more fun now that Fern Brady and Rachel Connelly have joined me in this endeavor. We each have different styles of writing, but what we do together is document the writer’s life and the road we take to continue to enhance our creativity.

Actually since I have been writing a blog for six years and attending writing retreats and workshops for the past six years, you might think that I had completed something. I have many short stories that have either been published or read aloud at local events. But the Great American Novel continues to elude me. Maybe by June 2024? Stay tuned.

Until next time.….

On Deadlines

As you all know by now, I’m very intense about scheduling. I balance a lot of things and so time management is key for me. This year, my main goal is to keep my writing front and center. To make it a priority and not let other things push it over to a back burner. After all, United Vidden — which is book 1 of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall series — released way back in 2020. Book 2, Gortive Offensive, is now late!

One of the things that I have done to work on this goal is set up times in my schedule for writing. But since I have used this strategy in the past and then re-assigned the allotted times, I knew I needed additional things to keep me on track.

Illustrators:

Continent of Vidden
Planet Jorn

So I reached out to my illustrators. With Araceli Casas, I have arranged for her to make two maps for this novel. Because the book is about the Gortive Offensive, I felt that giving readers a couple maps that show the movement of troops and where key battles take place would be a good idea. In order for her to have them done in time for the production of the novel, I have to have the rough drafts of the maps by February 15. Which means, I have to finish the book before then. This pressure helps me focus on getting the book finished.

Another way to push myself is by working with Arthur Doweyko, who made the beautiful illustrations of the Gortive for my book’s cover. I arranged with him to have illustrations of a jorse and a jippo in the book. A lot of readers like the idea of the AI horse and wish they could have a picture of what I imagine it looks like. Again, by arranging this with my team, I am pushing myself to get the book done.

Royal Crown of Auldivia
Planet Jorn

Editors & Readers:

Of course, the most important people on my team are my editors and beta readers. Max Regan is my primary developmental editor and writing coach, and he is ready to get his hands on the book. The subtle and yet persistent pressure of “When is that coming to me, Fern?” from him is a good motivator.

As is the gentle push from Rachel Connelly. Her input on the book as my second editor is super important to me, especially as she has helped me compile a cheat sheet of my universe as set forth in book one, United Vidden. This has been an invaluable assistance, because it helped me realize I had already given some characters names in that book so changing them in book two was a big no-no. Plus, it will be a great resource to offer my readers either in the book or as a separate giveaway piece that helps them keep track of the world with greater ease… it certainly is helping me do so.

Chief Lorgarn of the Pathos Gortive Leader; Planet Jorn

I also have some hard core fans who are awaiting the opportunity to read the pre-published draft and give me their opinions. These help me a lot to see how readers are experiencing the novel’s events. It is also great inspiration to me as I try to make my super fans love the work even more.

This Blog:

So, basically, what I am saying is, I have to finish Gortive Offensive by February 15th.

There. Now this blog is another tool to push me to get it done. I’ve declared it here and I am committed to meeting that deadline. You all now, dear blog followers, have become a part of the pressure campaign to keep me on track to make this DEADLINE!

Wish me luck!

Hitting the Ground With the Written Word

My first blog for 2023. I would say “Happy New Year”, but that phrase is getting a bit tired now. Many folks are already looking forward to the Super Bowl, the Rodeo and Valentines Day. I am working a bit slower, because I feel like I am still getting my year started. Even though it feels slow, already the calendar is full and some days have more entries that there are lines to write everything down.

I am always trying to make time for some reading. There are currently three books on my to be read right now stack. The book, A Salem Witch, was a gift from my niece, Becca. She actually traveled to Salem, Massachusetts this year. (No, I’m not jealous at all!) This book is about Rebecca Nurse who was actually tried, convicted and killed as a witch. It’s really interesting, because it gives the back story on the town of Salem, Salem Village, Rebecca Nurse herself, and her neighbors.

The second book, Wayward Girls, is written by Claire Matturro and Penny Koepsel. I don’t know Claire, but did meet Penny while organizing Haunted Holidays reading last year. The story here is good, because it follows some girls that went to the same boarding school and the myriad of ways their adult lives are affected.

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross is the third book. This one is also from niece Becca. I haven’t had time to start on this one yet; however, I think it is about witches, elemental spirits and the like. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.

Moving from reading to writing, I have already finished the first of two Writing Projects Weekends and the second one begins this Friday. These weekends are led by the one and only Max Regan. Since we meet via zoom, we have folks from all over the country. So many writers, so little time. Also, so much to write and so little time. After writing so many short stories last year, I am back to working on the Great American Novel. Well, maybe not Great, but a novel is what it aspires to be. It’s all about a Grim Reaper, a team of ghosts, a monster, a few humans and an Art Deco resident theater.

Also, I am once again Literary Chair for the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts. We have lots planned for this year and for the first time we will have a writing competition. Thank goodness, Fern Brady can help with that. There’s also a poetry reading coming up in April called Poetry by the Bay, in honor of National Poetry Month. I hope, I hope, I hope I can coordinate another Haunted Holidays reading. Then there is always the month of November where the members of WiVLA get together during the monthly meeting and read a wide selection of essays and poems.

I have much to do and am worn out just thinking about it. So, I thought about ending this blog with a picture of Hannah, my cat. Unfortunately I woke her up from a nap. Doesn’t the look on her face seem to tell me to go away and while I’m at it, turn out the light? Now she is napping once more and I have finished this blog.

Until next time.…..

Pandemic Road: Halfway Through June Intensives

Writing Desk with computers and lots of paperJune. The beginning of summer. Also as you can tell from both Fern Brady’s blog as well as my blog, we have been attending Max Regan’s June Writing Intensives. There are two of them that we can attend via zoom. In the good old days before the pandemic and rising gas prices, we could travel to Boulder, Colorado. Oh well. Now I have my writing desk. Doesn’t it look neat and tidy? I had to clean it up to take this picture. The papers are usually much more scattered and the computer is used for both writing and research. The other day I needed a name for a character who is 85 years old. I came up with some of my own ideas, but then I literally Googled something like names for old guys. I had quite the list to choose from before I settled on the name Vincent.

Hannah the cat sitting on a pile of blanketsIs your summer as exciting as mine? It’s too hot to go outside. So, I stay inside and try to exercise with video and virtual classes. One time I decided to take a break and watch some television. This is the look I got from my cat, Hannah. She considers herself to be both my supervisor and co-author. . Considering this side eye I am getting, I decided to get up off the couch turn off the television and get back to work. Of course Hannah does take long naps in the afternoon. She is 17 years old and needs her rest. That’s when I sneak out to go to the store for more provisions and a little bit of sunshine. But only a little bit of sunshine because like so much of the nation, temperatures are just way too HOT!

Plastic Halloween Pumpkin in StairwellHowever during one of my brief journeys outside my home, I ran across this pumpkin in a stairwell of all places. I was delighted to see it. Halloween is coming! So, is the spirit of Halloween following me? I hope so and would not be in the least surprised. Just in case I feel like I am having a heat stroke or something, I can remember that my favorite holiday is only a few months away. I did not take this pumpkin, but left him right where I found him. I already have quite a lot of decorations just waiting for the chance to jump into place around my home. Also, I hope Mr. Pumpkin inspires others to remember that there will be an end to summer and fall will be here before we know it!

Now I must get back to writing. The second intensive begins this evening and I have much to do.

Until next time.….….

Happy Birthday! RoadBroads Is Four Years Old!

Has it really been 4 whole years? My how time flies. The RoadBroads Blog is actually 4 years old. Wow! No wonder I am feeling older all the time.

This project started out as a writing diversion for a couple of writers who were headed for Boulder, Colorado. That’s where Max Reagan lives and that’s where he used to always hold his June Writing Intensives in person. In 2018 a group of Houston writers made the trip out west. This was my first time to stay in an Air B&B. We would enjoy group meetings in the Boulder Bookstore. Post COVID I understand that this establishment is still going strong. Just like I have attempted to support local bookstores here in Houston during times of lockdown, the people of Colorado have supported their bookstore as well. I can’t wait until the day when I can see it in person again.

In 2018 when it came time to have one-on-one meetings with Max, we always met at the Dushanbe Tea House. Whether we sat inside or outside, this was the most relaxing place full of wonderful teas and good food. Of course in Boulder, unlike Houston, it was very comfortable to sit outside and have a meeting during the middle of the day. Good times. Last I heard, this restaurant is also still open like the bookstore.

It seemed like that wherever I was in Boulder, I could always look up and see the flatirons. I saw other mountains as well, but I had no idea what their names were.

Strolling on the Pearl Street Mall was always an interesting excursion. On the weekends there would be street performers that always drew a crowd. Back in 2018 there was no need for social distancing or masks. I understand that Pearl Street is coming back. I hope it continues. Again in Boulder, unlike Houston, one can walk around during the day without risking heat exhaustion.

We enjoyed writing for this blog so much that we continued with it after returning back to Houston. In 2020 writing a blog about road trips became quite tricky during lockdown. That’s when I started writing about the Pandemic Road.

Four years ago, I was so proud of myself for learning how to write and produce a blog. Now I have also added zooming to my technical repertoire. That is how I am attending this year’s June Writing Intensives. The first one begins this Friday. I’ll catch up with you in two weeks to let you know how it is going.

Happy Birthday to RoadBroads!
Also many thanks to everyone who has worked with this endeavor and helped to make it a success!

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.….……

Pandemic Road: Week 16

Has it really been two years? Just over two years ago in May of 2018 I retired from my long long time career as a Social Worker and set off to become a full-time writer and artist. One of the first things I did was to take a road trip with Melanie to Boulder, Colorado to attend Max Regan’s Writing Intensive. It was magical. Pearl street mall, Boulder Bookstore, the Flat Irons. I attended classes with Max at the Boulder Bookstore and then we met at the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House for one-on-one meetings. No matter where I was in Boulder, I could look out and see the Flat Irons. I was happy. I was writing. My future and my next career were in front of me.

This is how our blog, RoadBroads was born.

Two years later I wanted to go back to Boulder. I wanted to revisit the Boulder Bookstore and the Pearl Street Mall. I had made reservations for living arrangements and paid a deposit for my space at the Max Regan June Writing Intensive. Then Covid-19 happened. Travel cancelled. The Writing Intensive moved to an on-line class. There are still approximately 20 of us who want to engage in this writing exercise. Those of us who want to develop our writing craft skills are willing to meet online and share our collective wisdom. Share our stories, exchange ideas, and listen to one another. But it won’t take place in Boulder. Instead of looking out at the Flat Irons, I will look out at my living room. I will see all of the wonderful writing companions via Zoom. Little boxes with heads inside of them.

Online is not as good as being there; however, it’s what I can do for now. I love my writing community. I value their input. I will enjoy spending time with them for the next 10 days even if I’m not in Boulder. This promises to be a new adventure in my writing life.

Until next week.….

The Mindfulness Journey

Oh rats! Here we go again.

There’s been so much stressful news this week and now this.

Just 10 days into the new year and already we are facing a possible weather catastrophe. Lots of rain and severe weather is predicted. The television weather pundits are doing everything they can to scare the stuffings out of all of us. I guess that’s a good thing in that it might help some folks stay home tonight or at least get home earlier than planned.

Ever since I retired from my job with local government, I promised myself that I would never go out when the weather was threatening. However, today I am at a Texas Writing Intensive at the Spectrum Center. I love being a part of the Spectrum Writer’s Guild. I love the intensives and the classes. Max Regan is a fabulous writing coach and teacher.

So I am here. The skies are grey and cloudy. I am looking out a window at a bunch of beautiful trees and landscape. I am hoping that the rain holds off until at least 9:00 p. m.

Many years ago I worked for a hospital and had to spend the night on a couch in a patient lounge because I could not make it home due to flooding. Almost everyone in Houston has a flood story. Some only get caught and can’t get home. Some lose their homes. Stories vary, but there are many.

My “internal risk manager” has thought this all through. I am in a place where I am safe. Worst case scenario I am in a place where there is coffee and water. I packed protein bars and protein drinks. In case I can’t leave tonight, there are many couches which we can use for sleeping. I have my phone and my lap top. All fully charged. Why didn’t I think to bring a book? Oops!

Now you may understand why I practice Mindfulness Meditation. I was introduced to this over 12 years ago. I took my first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class from Micki Fine at Mindful Living. Over the years I have attended many “Days of Mindfulness” where one spends the entire day in silence and mindfulness. I have also attended a meditation group for at least the past two years. We meet twice a month and it has become a steady part of my schedule. I also practice on my own at home.

For me, mindfulness meditation is about focusing the mind on being present in the moment. Thoughts and worries come and go, but the meditation allows space to remain non-judgmental. It’s helpful when I am feeling anxious (about the weather?) and I don’t want to get hooked into my anxiety. I can feel it and acknowledge it, but I don’t have to let it rule my day. Focus on the breath.…in.…out.…repeat.

Micki just published a book for children about mindfulness. It’s called May All People and Pigs Be Happy. It is a sweet story for children of all ages and our inner child as well. Check it out at Amazon. Micki is engaging in readings and book signings all across Texas and the rest of the United States. Also, if you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness Meditation, check out her website at livingmindfully.org.

Well, now I am off to the business of attending a writing intensive. If you are interested in exploring your “inner writer”, check out the Spectrum Writers Guild at spectrumcenter-houston.com.

Road Trip to a Book Launch

What a spring time! What a weekend! What a life!

I felt excited about all three of these as I spent the weekend in Austin, Texas. Another road trip for this RoadBroad! Usually it is just fun to travel to Austin and soak in all the “wierdness” that is the State Capitol of the Lone Star State. However, I had a very important reason for this most recent trip.

My dear Friend and I went to Austin to visit the Book-Woman and enjoy a book launch for an exciting murder mystery called Death Unchartered by Dorothy Van Soest.

I met Dorothy last year when I traveled to Boulder, Colorado for the 10-day writing intensive with Max Regan. It was just after my retirement from local government and I was beginning to make my way as a full-time writer.

Dorothy lived in Austin for a while when she served as an associate dean and professor at the University of Texas School of Social Work before she became the Dean of the University of Washington School of Social Work. Turns out we knew some of the same folks in the Social Work field.

Dorothy has already published 10 books and Death Unchartered is the next one in the series of Sylvia Jensen mysteries. This is my first Sylvia Jensen mystery and I can’t wait to read the others. If you like mysteries, you will find this to be a real page turner!

The book launch was a success. The crowd was all but standing room only and Dorothy kept us all captivated as she shared several short readings with us. The story opens with a murder and gets more exciting from there. I won’t say any more, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Believe me it is good!

Several of us writers traveled from Houston to Austin for this book launch. Melanie was there dressed in her traditional orange. RoadBroads are nothing if not loyal and supportive of each other.

Actually I am delighted to know that I am a part of a really great team of writers. Between Max Regan’s Colorado retreats, classes with the Spectrum Center Writers Guild, and weekly writing get togethers, we are at all stages of our writing careers. Some, like Dorothy, are old hands at the publication game and are willing to help those of us who are just now beginning to send out essays, short stories, and the like.

From Spring 2018 to Spring 2019, I have written a lot (but never enough!), I have submitted pieces for publication and occasionally get accepted, and continue to develop my writing chops. People like Max, Dorothy and Melanie have helped me transition from being a retired Social Worker wanting to write to being a full-time writer and hanging out with writing friends at book launches.

Thanks to Dorothy Van Soest for coming to Texas for a book launch of Death, Unchartered! You can find it on Amazon, you local bookstore, or wherever you get your books! You can also check out Dorothy’s website at dorothyvansoest.com.

What a great Spring! What a great life!

Until next week.…..