#AtoZChallenge 2020: F Is for Face

 

The good thing about going themeless through the A to Z Blogging Challenge is that the field is wide open: You can write about anything you please.

The bad thing about going themeless through the A to Z Blogging Challenge: see “good thing,” above.

There are days when the brain is empty.

There are days when nothing pleases.

There are days when both of those conditions occur simultaneously.

You’d like to blame it on twenty-five days of sheltering in place but that would be wrong.

You’ve made it for five days, can’t cop out now, so you browse Dictionary.com for something, anything, that would start a spark.

And you scroll down . . .

Aha! face mask! So obvious! So timely. A post about Sheltering in Place Day 18, when you realized you would be going to the doctor on Day 21 sans mask, and you decided you had to have one, so you would buckle down and make one.

But then you think back over the experience, the tea towels, the patterns, the videos, the having to ask David for needle and thread because, manual dexterity not being your number one attribute, you gave up on that kind of thing years ago, and he’s a better seamstress than you ever were anyway.

You remember how fast you gave up on mask-making, and just as fast, you give up on writing about giving up on making them.

And you resume scrolling down through

and you come to

And that sends you directly to Youtube and Nat King Cole, Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, and Ginger Rodgers.

You’re welcome.
***

Image of face masks by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

#ATOZChallenge 2020: D Is for Disinfect & Darn

 

This Challenge is not going as I intended.

Part 2 of B Is for Bowser was to run on Day C.

A spring allergy attack, however, turned Day C into C Is for Consequently & Can’t.

I then promised to finish Day B on Day D. Day D would have been titled D is for Dog.

Unfortunately, this afternoon, I sprayed a solution of Clorox and water in the wrong direction and disinfected my eyes. And thus Dog turned into Disinfect. And Darn.

Seven hours later, my left eye isn’t in the best of shape—it sees but doesn’t feel like seeing. According to the reflection in my hand mirror, it doesn’t feel like being seen, either.

Furthermore, applying a cold compress to the left eye precludes typing with the left hand.

I hate to do this, but Day B, Part 2 will post on Day E.

I don’t know what E will be for.

 

 

 

 

 

***

A to Z Challenge master list is here.

***

Image by agnesliinnea from Pixabay

A to Z Challenge badges designed by Jeremy Hawkins.

#ATOZ Challenge: B Is for Bowser

 

In my A post I mentioned the mistake I made in signing up for the A to Z Challenge: I registered my blog as “Author/Writer (craft of writing, stories, memoir),” instead of “Other and Miscellaneous.”

It really doesn’t matter. I mean, there are mistakes, and there are mistakes.

For letter B, I’m writing about another of my mistakes. It’s more of a mistake. But I can’t go right to the heart of the matter. There’s backstory to be dealt with. If you’ll be patient for just a little while, I’ll get there.

Here goes.

I planned, as much as I ever plan these posts, to write about a parody of the narrative poem “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” written in 1867 by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, when she was sixteen years old.

Set in 17th century England, the poem tells the story of Bessie, a young woman whose lover, Basil Underwood, has been imprisoned by the Puritans and sentenced to die that night at the sound of the curfew bell. Oliver Cromwell is expected to arrive that night, but after the bell has rung. Bessie begs the sexton not to ring the bell; he says he’s never failed to ring curfew and that he won’t fail to ring it tonight. But Bessie is determined to save her lover. The next lines describe her heroic actions.

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
‘At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die.’
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. ‘Curfew must not ring tonight!’

She with quick step bounded forward, sprang within the old church-door,
Left the old man coming slowly, paths he’d trod so oft before.
Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower, where the bell swung to and fro;
As she climbed the slimy ladder, on which fell no ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying, ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

She has reached the topmost ladder, o’er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
See! the ponderous tongue is swinging; ’tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

Out she swung – far out. The city seemed a speck of light below ―
There twixt heaven and earth suspended, as the bell swung to and fro.
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil’s funeral knell.
Still the maiden, clinging firmly, quivering lip and fair face white,
Stilled her frightened heart’s wild throbbing: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

It was o’er, the bell ceased swaying; and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder, where, for hundred years before,
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after. As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with golden beauty, aged sires, with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew did not ring that one sad night.

When Cromwell arrives, she tells him her story, and, touched by her heroism, he lets Basil live. Basil emerges from the prison expecting to die but instead finds Bessie holding his pardon. And—

In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, ‘Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring tonight.’

For years, “Curfew” was exceedingly popular: A favorite of Queen Victoria, it provided inspiration for a play and and for three silent movies. It was recited by one of the characters in Anne of Green Gables. It also serves as the basis for chamber music composed by Richard Cohn for the Music & Magic Lantern Slides project. View a performance on Youtube.

Now. I know I haven’t gotten to Bowser and Bleh yet, but the hour is late, and I am tired, so I’m off to bed.

In other words, B Will Not Be Writ Tonight.

#AtoZ Challenge 2020: A is for April (Fools’)

 

As I wrote in Monday’s not-Theme Reveal, my A to Z Writing Challenge has no theme. Officially, it’s listed as “Other and Miscellaneous.” The Archon’s Den blogger claims “chaos and confusion” as a recurring theme. I wish I’d thought of that.

Anyway, the obvious and easiest A topic is April.

On April 1, 1968, my junior English class put out a special issue of the school newspaper.

(The school was small; we twelve were the only juniors.)

One article reported the purchase of new and badly needed uniforms for the girls’ basketball team. A drawing of the outfit was included. The shorts were of your plain garden variety, but the top featured cap sleeves, a bib enhanced with vertical pin tucks and  pearl buttons, and a Peter Pan collar. There might have been a ruffle somewhere. They would spend off seasons in cold storage.

Image of Ford Mustang logo. By zopalic. Via Pixabay.com.
Ford Mustang logo.

A second article reported that the school would buy two new Ford Mustangs for use in an onsite driver’s ed. course in the fall. At the time, students had to travel ten miles to a larger district to earn the credit. Driving a Mustang, which Ford had been producing for only four years, was a Certified Big Deal.

A third item announced that the girls’ choir would sing at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign rallies that summer, which, of course meant nationwide travel. Dredging up words from the junior English vocabulary list, the reporter quoted the choir director: She said we’d been spuriously honored and that the tour would go a long way toward ending the mal de mer running rampant through the student body. I think she also said the girls were proud to be invited, and that she was sure they would continue to prosit.

Copies were distributed at the beginning of first period. Paper staff, mouths shut and expressions innocent, waited. The response was more than gratifying.

Sitting in the front row of geometry class, the co-editor and I watched the teacher/girls’ coach, brow wrinkled, examining the new basketball uniform and wondering aloud who had chosen it and why she hadn’t been asked for input. She didn’t say it looked gosh-awful, which must have taken immense restraint. While she was puzzling, the team, most of whom sat behind us, showed no restraint. They said plenty.

In the hallway between classes, students raved about the Mustangs. The district was small—high school enrollment numbered no more than fifty—and had to watch its pennies, so its splurging on two sports cars was almost too good to be true. One 1950 Chevy would have made a splash.

Image of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966. By Yoichi Okamoto.  Public domain. Via Wikipedia.
Johnson greeting a crowd, 1966.

With the exception of the co-editors, choir members hadn’t been informed that they would sing at political rallies. They appeared confused but accepted the story. It made sense; we knew a number of patriotic songs.

No one mentioned that the night before, President Johnson had announced on national television, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” No one asked why the student body was seasick. The choir director, who doubled as our English teacher, issued a compliment. She said the quotation sounded just like her.

Finally, about noon, someone noticed the date on the first page—April 1—and we were busted.

Readers were good sports. They laughed; no one chewed us out.

Some were disappointed: The choir wouldn’t sing at rallies, and the business about the Mustangs was too good to be true.

But sighs of sorrow were as nothing compared to the sighs of relief: Peter Pan collars were out.

***

Note: The choir would been happy to sing for a different candidate, but Hubert Humphrey forgot to invite us.

***

I hoped last fall’s Great Unearthing would produce a copy of the April Fools’ issue. No such luck. I would like to read it again. I would love to see the drawing of that uniform. It would make a fine illustration when U rolls around.

***

I just checked the A to Z master list and discovered that I slipped up and registered my theme not as “Other and Miscellaneous,” but as “Author/Writer (craft of writing, stories, memoir).” That is unfortunate, because the only things I know about craft are that it would be wrong to put a colon after the are in this sentence, that the lack of a properly placed Oxford comma drives me crazy, and that the price of a dedicated, supportive critique group is above rubies.

***

Here’s are links to the A to Z Blogging Challenge master list. (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/edit#gid=1617533974

Themes appear there. If you visit some of the blogs, you’ll make the writers happy. If you click Like, they’ll be even happier.

***

Image of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966. By Yoichi Okamoto.  Public domain. Via Wikipedia.

Image of Ford Mustang logo. By zopalic. Via Pixabay.com.

 

 

Still Sheltering, No Theme

 

For the second year in a row, I’ll participate in April’s A to Z Writing Challenge—twenty-six posts, one every day in April except Sundays. So far, nearly four hundred blogs appear on the master list, here. About half have announced themes: history, books, education, animals, gaming, parenting, personal, women’s interests, and on and on.

I didn’t do a Theme Reveal post, because because that would require me to know the theme. I registered under Other and Miscellaneous. I’m not about to say, “I’m going to write about _____,” only to get stuck at Q. If a theme emerges, we’ll know in May.

If I were going for the obvious, I’d spend April posting about sheltering in place. This is day 16. David has picked up groceries at the Walmart parking lot several times. We’ve placed small orders, trying to fill some gaps. Tonight I found myself considering which I would prefer, Wolf Brand Chili or sardines. The surprise was that both sounded appetizing. I chose something else.

Federal social distancing guidelines now extend through April 30. Davis household guidelines were extended that far two weeks ago, and we’ll go further if necessary. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the contagion, and we don’t want to expose anyone else. We’re grateful for those whose work allows us to retreat.

I hope reading this post isn’t as dull as writing it has been. If it has been, please don’t mention that in the comments.

As to comments, I want to thank the folks who’ve been reading, liking, and commenting while I’ve been doing none of those. I’m on my way to get a good night’s sleep, after which I’ll work on getting up the gumption to do better.

We saw a couple social distancing in the green space yesterday. A walk in the park can be gumption inducing. I’ll put it on tomorrow’s agenda.

Here are a couple of cats.

1,188 Down; 2,812 to Go: #ROW80

Here’s my A Round of Words in 80 Days report for Wednesday, March 4. It’s currently Friday, March 6, but this is my Wednesday report.

Last Sunday, I reported that I had not added 1,000 words to my Work in Progress, and that, as a consequence, I would “have to add 1,333.3333333 words per week to meet my goal” of 4,000 new words by March 26, the end of #ROW80.

Well. On Monday, my powers were under a cloud, so I didn’t add anything to the WIP. On Tuesday, the cloud thickened into pea soup, and I didn’t add anything to anything. My body was slightly improved on Wednesday, but my brain was still mush, so the WIP remained unaltered.

Yesterday, however, I added 1,188 words.

They’re bad words, slapped down off the top of my head, thrown at the page, forming one big, glutinous lump as mushy as my brain. The literary equivalent of oatmeal.

That isn’t my usual process. I write slowly and usually get it almost right the first time. This thousand words will have to be kneaded and turned and completely transformed. Into oatmeal cookies, as it were.

I hate that.

But the WIP is longer than it was two days ago. Can’t complain about that.

The next goal:

a) add another 1,000 words to the WIP; OR,

b) rewrite the oatmeal.

On Sunday I’ll report which it is.

1,333.3333333 X 3 or 160 X 25: #ROW80

I’m running a little behind in my attempt to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26.

I didn’t add 1,000 words last week.

Which means I have twenty-five days in which to add the 4,000 words.

Calling that 3 weeks, and dividing 4,000 words by 3, I’ll have to add 1,333.3333333 words per week to meet my goal.

Calling it 25 days, and dividing 4,000 by 25, I’ll have to add 160 words per day.

If the math is wrong, please don’t tell me.

I tried to find a picture associated with goals but found nothing but goals associated with sports. So I’m displaying a picture associated with nothing at all.

Why I (Don’t/Didn’t) Write #ROW80

Ernest felt fine when he woke this morning, but then he was unceremoniously hauled down to the vet’s for labs, blood draw, glucose and fructosamine, all that, and now he feels exposed, defenseless, in need of laptime. So that’s what he’s getting.

I didn’t want to work anyway.

*

Ernest having abandoned the keyboard for more interesting pursuits, I type unhindered.

I planned a brief statement about a cat and a keyboard, nothing else, but as Wednesday appears to have rolled around while my back was turned, I’ll add the #ROW80 report.

The goal I stated Sunday was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Roughly 1,000 words per week—written and submitted to my critique group—would answer.

At five o’clock Monday morning, however, my body told my brain that I wasn’t going to add 1,000  words to anything, and my brain said my body was oh, so right about that.

On Tuesday, my body said I could add some words if I wanted, but my brain said Monday’s meltdown had been so demoralizing that it had no intention of contributing one independent thought, thank you very much.

In other words, I’m where I was on Sunday.

Except I’m really a little further back than that, because I just realized the post I prepared to link to my #ROW80 announcement—which I’d put up on the group blog Ink-Stained Wretcheswas never posted here at all. I didn’t click Publish. It’s been sitting here in draft form for three days, just sitting, waiting for something to happen that never happened. 

A lot like that proposed 1,000 words.

Well. Four more days in this week. Twenty-nine more days in the month.

See § 2, ¶ 3  above.

Onward and upwards, I guess.

*

He’s back.

Rejection of Things Past

Last week I posted the following to my Facebook timeline:

I learned last month—and only now have recovered enough to speak of it—that my story was not selected for inclusion in a collection I’d submitted to. The odds were high enough against me that, although the news affected me, it did not crush my spirit. I may, however, pretend it did so I’ll have an excuse for seeking out and indulging in a couple of pounds of serotonin-producing dark chocolate, plus a large box of sugar cubes to keep the bitterness of the chocolate from curdling my teeth.

So many friends responded with comments and emojis of such warmth and kindness that, in addition to thanking them—Thank you, friends—I feel I should add an update.

Update:

I did not seek out chocolate. For four whole days, I did not seek it out.

In fact, I forgot about it.

Forgot to seek. Forgot why I’d thought about seeking.

Forgot until today when David said, “What do you want from the grocery store?”

Oh, yes. “Chocolate.”

 “A Snickers?”

“No. Maybe a peanut butter cup . . . ”

Then, remembering that Easter is icumen in: “Or maybe a Cadbury egg. But,” I said, “one Cadbury egg won’t do.”

A single egg would have sent me flying across the green space in search of a follow-up.

Dependable and then some, David returned with five Cadbury eggs.

I ate one. Then I ate another.

Two eggs for rejection of things past.

The rest I’ll polish off tomorrow, as a kind of insurance against rejection of things future.

News Flash: Bullet Books Are Here!

 

Bullet Books are speed reads for the busy traveler, commuter, and beach-goer. All are new original crime fiction stories that can be read in two to three hours. Gripping cinematic mysteries and thrillers by your favorite authors!

Manning Wolfe, attorney and author of the Merit Bridges legal thrillers, this week introduced the first set of Bullet Books. She’s co-written them with other twelve crime fiction authors, and they’re ready for readers.

I am officially chuffed because I’m one of the twelve. The book is

Available from Amazon. Click on the cover.

And on the back cover:

English professor Blair Cassidy arrives home late one rainy night to find the body of her boss-from-hell, Justin Capaldi, lying stabbed to death on her front porch. Her bloody clothes and plausible motive make her the number one suspect. When attorney and ex-husband Hart Montgomery vows he’ll keep her out of prison, she wants to believe him… 

But, Blair suspects hers is one murder case Hart would love to lose.

And the book trailer!

I’ll add that Blair has something Hart reeeally wants. And then there’s the argument over a concrete slab.

Bullet Books are short and snappy. Open one on take-off, finish on touch-down, and in between, escape into a world of fiction designed to keep you turning pages.

See all twelve Bullet Books here (and find out who the authors are): http://bulletbooksspeedreads.com/

Read more about them here: http://bulletbooksspeedreads.com/blog/

Find STABBED on Amazon here:

https://www.amazon.com/Stabbed-Bullet-Books-Speed-Reads-ebook/dp/B07XQK7YJR/

and here: https://www.amazon.com/Stabbed-Bullet-Books-Speed-Reads-ebook/dp/B07XQK7YJR/

I could say more about Bullet Books—such as, profiling the other eleven authors and mentioning the titles of their books—but I’ll save it for another time.

On second thought, it’s a little tacky of me to showcase STABBED and ignore everyone else. And this post sounds suspiciously like an advertisement. That’s a little tacky, too.

But I think I can live with it.

I will say, most sincerely, that I’m honored to have had the opportunity to write with Manning Wolfe and to be in the company of some fine authors. I hope you’ll read and enjoy STABBED and all the other Bullet Books.

By the way, air travel is not required. While Bullet Books are suitable for all modes of transportation, they’re just as entertaining in recliners, rocking chairs, and porch swings. The choice is yours.

***

9 Links and a Cat

Recent posts having focused on cats and goats, today I’m back to basics, sharing links to articles that writers—and non-writers—will find informative, entertaining, and/or thought-provoking.

 

The first appear on Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog:

“Can Common Writing Advice Be Wrong?” — by Jamie Gold

The answer to that question requires only one word, and most writers know what it is, but Gold also answers the more important question, “How should we approach writing advice if even the most frequently shared advice is often wrong?”

“5 Paying Markets for Short Historical Fiction and Western Short Stories” — by Erica Verrillo…

Once you access this site, you’ll find links to many other useful articles, such as,

“Paying Markets for Mystery and Crime Stories”

“10 Totally Free Microsoft Word Alternatives For Writers” — by Derek Haines

I use LibreOffice Writer and love it. I made a donation when I downloaded the program (app?) and do so again with each upgrade. But that’s voluntary. As Haines says, it’s totally free. Check out LO and nine others.

 

And three from Ink-Stained Wretches:

“The Writing Life—for the Sandwich Generation” — by Fran Paino

“The Scent of a Woman…Theater…Sea”— by Helen Currie Foster

“Writing in an Air of Intimidation” — by Noreen Cedeno

 

Plus three from Austin Mystery Writers:

“My Unconventional Writing Partner” — by Laura Oles

“Murdercon 2019 —the Perfect Ménage à Trois” — by K.P. Gresham

“Review of Billy Kring’s book Deguello” — by V.P. Chandler

 

Now, here’s a picture of the author’s other cat:

Which Would You Rather

 

A crime writer here in Austin closed his blog a couple of years ago. It was both informative and entertaining and enjoyed a wide readership.

When asked why he stopped writing it, he said it was time-consuming. He needed to put all his effort into his novels.

In addition, he said, which would most people rather see, a post about an author, or a picture of his cat?

That makes sense. Here’s a picture of my cat.

 

All You-Know-What Will Break Loose

 

The next driver who honks at me while I’m waiting for a pedestrian to get across the street before I turn will find out I’m not so nice a person as I tell people I am.

I don’t mean I’m going make a rude gesture.

I mean that right there in the middle of the street, I’m going to put my car in Park and get out and drag that driver out of his car, and then all hell will break loose.

And I’ll repeat my performance for the policeman.

And then I’ll go to jail and get out and use the experience as background for my crime fiction. And non-crime fiction. And blog posts.

*

Image of feet is courtesy of PaintedFeet01, via Pixabay.com.

Why I Still Go to Critique Group and Can’t Afford to Stop

 

I said to my critique partner this morning, The whole project is stinky it stinks it’s just nothing no hope.

She read chapter 13 and said, But it’s so good so funny Molly is so funny it’s not stinky.

I said, Yes, the first part of chapter 13 and the last part of chapter 13 are funny and very very good but there’s still no middle of chapter 13 and what there is stinks and anyway the other 47,000 words stink except for a few hundred here and there.

And she said, But the middle could be revised edited it has promise.

I said, But it won’t work because I have written myself into a hole and can’t get out so I have to trash that part and anyway the whole concept stinks.

And she said, NO you can fix it just keep going because I like Molly she’s so funny.

And that is why I go to critique group every blessed week.

*****

Writing is a solitary activity, but most of writing isn’t writing. It’s rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting. And then it’s revising and revising. And editing editing editing. And rewriting again. And . . .

Sometimes it’s whingeing and complaining and eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon and buying larger clothes and telling Molly she’s a heartless ***** who doesn’t deserve one paragraph of her own, much less a whole book.

And it’s feeling like a fraud and deciding you’d be happier if you gave up and dedicated yourself to French cookery or tatting or riding a unicycle.

But if you’re lucky, it’s also going to critique group and then going home and writing and writing and writing and . . .

 

 

 

I posted “Why I Go to Critique Group” here on July 9, 2010, when I was a member of the two-member Just for the Hell of It Writers, which was soon swallowed up by Austin Mystery Writers (a consummation devoutly to be wished).

I periodically pull it out and repost. It’s important.