Wednesday, December 01, 2021

IWSG: Pleasures and Pains of Writing

Here we are at the start of another Christmas season. (Yes, I insist on waiting until after Thanksgiving.) It's also time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise-Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray.

Our question for December is a simple one: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

There are many stressful things about the business of writing, but for this post, I'll focus on craft. A few things I find stressful are writing under a deadline, being unsure what happens next in the story, and having to make major revisions. As for what delights me, it's seeing the story come together and finishing it.

What do you find pleasurable and/or painful about writing? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Book Club Questions for Lyon's Legacy

I received a nice surprise last week when I found out the Insecure Writer's Support Group had chosen my novella, Lyon's Legacy, as one of this month's selections for their Goodreads book club. One of the moderators emailed me and asked me to contribute three questions to the discussion. I've listed them below:

  1. Joanna’s family history plays a big role in how she perceives herself. What are the positive and negative ways families and genetics affect her identity?
  2. Should the time travelers request permission to take DNA samples from the alternate universe, even if the people never know the true purpose for the samples? What would be fair compensation?
  3. Lyon’s Legacy was partly inspired by the author’s love for a famous rock group that she never got to see perform. If you could travel to the past to meet someone, who would it be and why? What would you want to bring back with you?

If you haven't read Lyon's Legacy yet (a science fiction novella about a scientist forced to clone a famous ancestor), you can download a permafree eBook from your favorite store here

Have you ever had a book of yours selected for a book club? What was it like? Feel free to share your thoughts below. If you celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, hope it's a happy and healthy holiday!



Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving sometimes seems to get lost between Halloween and Christmas. Fortunately, you can still find enough Thanksgiving-themed cozy mysteries to read until your eyeballs are stuffed. Here are a few books that look interesting to me, though I haven't read them yet. It looks like they're all part of series.

Gobble, Gobble Murder by Leslie Meier actually contains two mysteries about Thanksgiving. There's references to several holiday traditions, including a turkey trot.

Thanksgiving in Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth has a vegan pumpkin pie, a woman trying to feed the homeless, and two cats.

Drizzled with Death by Jessie Crockett includes a different type of tradition--a pre-Thanksgiving pancake eating contest along with a lot of puns in the blurb.

Black Thursday by Linda Joffe Hull focuses on another holiday tradition--shopping. 

Turkeys, Tuxes, and Tabbies by Kathi Daley deals with a houseful of guests.

Finally, if you need incentive to avoid dessert, A Deadly Feast by Lucy Burdette deals death by pie.

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is visiting Kristkindlmarkt in Chicago with my family. Feel free to share yours in the comments.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Crochet Project: Slippers

Instead of talking about writing this week, I thought I'd talk about a crochet project I finally finished. Several years ago, I bought myself a pair of slippers with nice thick bottoms (I had plantar fasciitis about ten years ago, so I make sure I have as much foot support as possible.) The tops of the shoes wore through and were no longer wearable, but I wanted to save the bottoms. So I came up with a plan to reuse them:



1. Remove the damaged top part from the old slippers. 

2. Crochet a new pair of slippers. (I used this pattern but omitted the cable design.) I have to admit it took me almost a year between the time I bought the materials to the time I finally made the slippers. Once I got started, though, the slippers worked up quickly.

3. Cut out felt bottoms and sew to the underside of the slippers. This would provide me with a base for gluing everything together later on. The slippers were quite wearable like this, and I used them like that while I waited to get the glue for the next step. I didn't take a picture of the slippers, but here's a photo of me using part of the old slippers to cut out the felt for the bottoms.


4. Glue everything together with E-6000 glue. The kind I used is meant for these kinds of materials.

The slippers feel heavy with the bottoms, but still comfortable. The yarn is cozy and hopefully won't rip like the wool fabric did. I may make another pair of slippers to use as slipper socks.

Have you made something new from something old? How did it work out? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

IWSG: Titles vs. Blurbs


I'm writing this post on Halloween, but it's time to welcome you to November. If anyone reading this is participating in National Novel Writing Month, good luck to you! I'll be happy if I finish the first draft of Restaurants and Revenge this month. (I'm well over 50,000 words, but I've changed my mind a couple of times about who the murderer is.) 

Since this is the month for writers, it's a good time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group Post. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Our hosts this month are Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery.

Our question for November is What's harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

In general, I find it easier to come up with a book title than a blurb. Most novel titles come to me either before I start the story or during the first draft. Sometimes they change, but not often. In contrast, I have to finish the book (not just the first draft, but also revisions) before I tackle the blurb. As a pantser, I don't know all the twists and turns before I start writing, so I need to know the entire story before I can write the blurb. It's also easier to be pithy with a phrase than a paragraph. I feel I need more feedback from readers when writing the blurb, since it's targeted at them.

What do you find harder to write, titles or blurbs? Please let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Doughnut Economics

Even if you haven't studied economics, you're probably familiar with the law of supply and demand. However, there's a lot more to economics, and economics doesn't always look at the complete picture. For example, current theories of economics don't consider the value of unpaid household labor or recognize that resources are limited. (The GDP can't grow forever.) That's why Kate Raworth wrote Doughnut Economics: How to Think Like a 21st Century Economics. 

The premise is simple: imagine a doughnut. (There's a visual on the Wikipedia page here.) The hole in the middle is where people's needs are met. (These needs go beyond simple survival needs to include education, health care, and a voice in government.) The outer edge of the doughnut is the ecological ceiling we can't cross without harming the environment. Between the social and environmental boundaries is the doughnut itself, a safe and just space for humanity.

Raworth's book discusses several strategies for "getting into the doughnut." These include viewing human nature differently, designing systems that redistribute wealth and regenerate resources the way the natural world does, and focusing on stability, not constant growth. Obviously, this is a complete turnaround from the way our current economy works, and changing this paradigm will require a lot of work. For example, thanks to interest, money gains value over time, which is unlike material resources that degrade. To force money to be used for regenerating material assets instead of being hoarded, Raworth proposes fees be instated to make money lose some of its value when it's held for a long time. It sounds like a crazy idea, but according to the book, some cities in Germany and Austria tried it in the 1930s to help the local economy. (I can't help but wonder if it would be simpler to lower interest rates for some types of investments or make investing in sustainability more rewarding.) 

I think the ideas put forth in this book are intriguing and worth pursuing, but I disagree with Raworth in her assessment of human nature. For this model to work, humans have be more socially reciprocating and interdependent, and I think it's harder to nudge people in this direction than she thinks it is. However, stories that engage people's emotions can change their attitudes and behavior. This is where worldbuilding and solarpunk come in. If we use these ideas to build new types of societies, we can inspire people to work toward them in real life. It's been said that it's easier to imagine the end of the world instead the end of capitalism. I know which one I'd prefer. 

Have you heard of doughnut economics before? If not, what's your favorite kind of doughnut? (Mine is chocolate with sprinkles.) Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Season of the Witch

October may be the traditional season of the witch, but witches are popular in cozy mysteries all year around. Typically, the heroine finds out about her witchy powers in the first book of the series and will learn more as the series progresses. Although she may use magic to find clues, it may not be used to help her find the final clue. However, it may be used in her confrontation with the killer. Some witches may use traditional types of magic with potions, wands, and spells. Others may be specialized (such as water witchery) or unique (something related to the witch's hobby or occupation. Here are just a few of my favorite cozy mysteries featuring witches.
Nancy Warren writes three series featuring witches. They include The Vampire Knitting Club (the heroine runs a yarn shop in Oxford where vampires meet to knit), The Vampire Book Club (the heroine runs a bookstore in a small Irish town where vampires meet), and The Great Witches Baking Show (the heroine is a contestant on an English baking show). The heroine in the Vampire Book Club series is middle-aged, experienced at witchcraft, and in trouble with other witches for misusing her magic. The other two heroines fit the pattern I mentioned.
Witches and baking (or sweets) seem to be a favorite combination in cozy mysteries. Erin Johnson has written a series called Spells and Caramels about a woman from our world discovering she's a witch in another one. H. Y. Hanna writes the Bewitched by Chocolate series about a witch whose magic works on chocolate. Rosie Pease's heroine uses her baking magic to bring couples together in Cookies and Curses.
Witch powers tend to run in families, which is why the heroine may have to help other witches. For examples, see Witchy Reservations or The Undercover Witch. Witches may interact with other magical beings, as in the Magical Renaissance Faire series.

I like reading cozy mysteries with witches because they mix fantasy into an otherwise realistic genre. If you like witchy mysteries, what do you like about them? Feel free to share in the comments.


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