Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy . . safe . . . prosperous

Those are the things I wish for your New Year. I hope your holidaze have been happy and that 2012 will be all that you want it to be.

My New Year's resolutions are these: 1) Remember to blog at least every second or third day instead of every second or third month. 2) Lose those persistent 15 extra pounds as in doing whatever is necessary to re-set my set point. 3) Write some word or two EVERY DAY. 4) Delete the mahjong games from my Bookmarks list. 5) Read at least three on-line newspapers every day. 5) Don't light up one cigarette.

Okay, so the last one is a given because I don't smoke, but I thought I needed at least one resolution I was sure to keep.

Looking at the list, I see I need to be back here on January 2 or 3. Wanna bet?

Like Mahala, I am a friend of Nolan White, and his Christmas gift this year was a miserable one. Along with the bank's donation account, I believe the Baldwin Writers Group is also going to hold a benefit writing contest with proceeds earmarked for him. Watch for more info.

You all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


P.S. I'm getting my writing jones on by re-reading "Jane Eyre" and discovering that I actually like its Victorian voice.

Helping A Writer

In looking over my resolution list for last year, I realized how poorly I did at meeting my goals. Life has a way of rearranging the pieces on the board without any warning, much like a four-year-old child who grows frustrated with losing a game and accidently tips the board so all the pieces are askew.

I started a new phase in my writing life just as I neared the big finish line with "final" revisions to AFDOC (my novel for you newbies to our site), and I went to work full time as a freelancer, mostly online. Lest you think I'm rolling in the dough, wait for it ---- I made less this year than any working year in my life. A sobering experience that created a new appreciation for the word freelancer. That is the impetus for a new series of blog posts over the next few months as I walk you through the agony and hopefully one-day ecstasy of freelancing.

Speaking of sobering, a good, writing friend of ours has been hit with a horrible situation, and I'm posting below the information that I hope all the writers who read this (and others as well) will take to heart and find it in your heart (and pocket) to help.

Nolan White, editor and writer for Great Days Outdoors magazine lost everything he owned (except his 40+ chickens and thankfully a family member in the house) when his house burned to the ground a few weeks ago. After sifting through the ruins, he found pages from a waterlogged manuscript, which he is still drying out to help him resurrect his novel trilogy. Nolan had no homeowners insurance at the time of the fire. His son, a woodworking artisan, lived with him and lost all of his stock and equipment.

Nolan is known throughout Baldwin County, AL as a friendly fellow who helps many, many people. Having escaped the big C with a great deal of difficulty only two years ago, Nolan could now use some assistance, so please remember him as you make your resolutions to reach out to others in need.

Nolan is the guy who shows up at writers’ meetings and critique groups with fresh eggs for everyone, bakes and brings the cake for refreshments, volunteers for numerous not-for-profits, and takes care of his family. He's the guy that keeps everybody up to date about literary happenings regionally and nationally. He’s the guy other writers should help. A $5.00 donation from a lot of people would be a big help to Nolan and his family.

United Bank in Baldwin County set up the House Fire fund in his name, J. Nolan White, for donations. The bank's address is 30500 Highway 181, Suite 100, Spanish Fort, Al 36527.

We appreciate your generosity. Mahala

Friday, December 16, 2011

16 Days To Win

Santa is just around the corner and by now you've either been having a great time or pulling your hair out. Either way, it would make a great piece of flash fiction.


Friday, December 9, 2011

23 Days and Counting

It seems like every where I look and every day I get asked to write for a blog or website with a list. Lists of best gifts, lists of best mattresses {you read it right}, lists of tips for iPads, mobile phones, and on and on it goes, so here is my seasonal contribution to get you to write your very short 100 word piece for my MAC contest - a countdown of sorts.

23. Find out what MAC stands for.

22. Decide if I have anything I want edited.

21. Admit I don't.

20. Leap on the brilliant idea that popped into my mind.

19. Convince myself it's a winner.

18. Talk myself out of it because it's a silly idea.

17. Revisit the idea which has a lot of potential.

16. Throw a few words on the back of a receipt while I stand in line at the post office.

15. Get out of bed with insomnia.

14. Dig through pocket or purse for the receipt with the brilliant ideas scribble on the back.

13. Fix hot tea and mull it over.

12. Explain to the dog why I'm up at 2am talking to myself.

11. Grab a crayon {all I can find at 2am and scribble some more notes.

10. Go back to bed with the idea safely tucked in my head.

9. Type up a draft while I wait for my boss to show up at work.

8. Smugly run a copy. Take it with me to midnight church & pray over it.

7. Take a break from all the stress and enjoy Christmas Day.

6. Fold it into a one inch square and hide it in my pocket.

5. Edit {basically rewrite}it at home.

4. Edit and proof carefully.

3. Procrastinate like crazy.

2. Convinced you are the winner, you don't have anything to be edited which is the prize {it's transferable.}

1. Upload my Dear Santa piece to Mahala while I celebrate the New Year!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tracy Hurley Contest

Yesterday was bitter sweet as cj and I remembered out dear friend and writing buddy, Tracy. She went to the great library one year ago yesterday. We would like to thank the Mobile Writers Guild for sponsoring the first annual Tracy Hurley Writing Contest for middle school and high school students. Five bright, young people received awards last night and we congratulate every one of them. Their smiles of achievement {and I have no doubt about this at all} sent Tracy skidding across a rainbow in her beautiful glistening white raiment.

Tracy was a great educator and kept all of her writing friends in constant amazement as she shot us emails and industry updates continually. cj says she still starts to send Tracy some writing info and remembers she can't, and that makes her sad. The same happens to me, so I still talk to Tracy as I read something new and interesting. I'm currently putting together a book of linked short stories, and in the process, I've read six new books that Tracy told me about. They are all set in New Hampshire or very close by and that brings Tracy and her New England roots to the forefront of my mind.

We miss you, girlfriend, and no doubt we always will. Tracy loved Christmas and I wish I had done a better job of taking her picture with her "Grinch" hat on as she read her touching story about a widower whose wife left him a very special gift.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Contest Entries

Yeah! Two "Dear Santa..." stories have arrived in my box already. Forgot to include that poetry is accepted in the contest as well as short, short stories. cj has donated a brand-spanking-new copy of the 2011 Issue of the Oracle which is the fine arts review from the University of South Alabama. She has a delightful short story in it which she has signed just for the winner. And to add to the winner's pot of gold is the new New York Times best selling author, Harlan Coben's, newest entitled shelter another in his Mickey Bolitar series. He's the only author to ever win the Edgar Award, Shamus Award, and the Anthony Award. Yes - all three! Looking forward to hearing from a bunch of folks. Mahala

Friday, November 18, 2011

Contest for New and Published writers

I'm hosting a flash fiction contest from now through December 31, 2011. This is a chance for you to start the new year with your story online for all the world to see. The winner will receive a gift certificate for 20% off an editing or writing project by yours truly and have the piece posted on Lyrical Pens with your byline. My hope to is assist writers to get their work in the public eye, foster creativity, and stimilulate the imagination. Here are the rules and info you need to participate.
Rules for MAC Flash Fiction Contest

1. Finish this thought: "Dear Santa..."

2. Word count NO GREATER than 100 words.

3. No horror, profanity, or erotica.

4. Free to enter.

5. Top ten stories in addition to the winner will be posted on Lyrical Pens.

6. Submit typed in Word 12 point with 1" margins on all four sides of the paper.

7. Email submissions to

8. Submissions ignoring the above will be tossed.

Best of Luck! Mahala

Friday, October 28, 2011


Conferences are great. The Southern Breeze regional arm (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi) of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators held their annual fall conference in Birmingham, AL, on October 15 . . . and I was there. The theme was "WIK '11" -- the WIK stands for Writing and Illustrating for Kids.

Breakout workshops were led by some highly credentialed facilitators. Subjects included Creating Dialogue that Lives, How to Write Narrative Nonfiction that Pops, Achieving Tension Without Stressing Out, and, one that was a special interest to most everyone, How to Get Yourself Out of the Slush Pile, led by Alexandra Cooper, a senior editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

There were contests to enter, prizes to win, and networking opportunities galore.

In my mind, however, one of the greatest things that comes out of a conference is getting invited to send in your work to an agent or publisher. The ticket in the door, past the gatekeeper and out of the slush pile is your attendance at the conference. Definitely worth the price of admission.

I, of course, am not ready yet to do that. (Sigh) I have the nugget of an idea for a young adult novel, and the conference was to be my introduction to the complexities of the genre. Maybe next time.

After the two-day event, I spent the next week driving . . . met my sisters in Louisville, Kentucky, for lunch (they had travelled down from Michigan for other reasons), spent a few days at two of the incredible Metroparks in Cleveland, Ohio, photographing wood ducks, sped past the exotic animals on the loose in Zanesville, Ohio, drove through a near-blinding rainstorm coming out of Cincinnati, and crawled back into my comfortable bed six days after I left home and more than 2,000 miles later. My body is still humming.

Okay, that's all for now. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Month

October is, among many other things, Book Month. If you made a list of all the books that are banner or have been banned, this would be a good time to read them. Not your style? Not to worry, you have a wide selection of wonderful, inspiring, humorous, scary, educational, and just plain-ole-good books to choose from.

This is the perfect month to take your children, grandchildren,significant other, self to our beautiful and awe-inspiring Mobile libraries. The majesty of Ben May is reason enough for a visit, but just think of all the wonderful characters scrambling to get off the shelf.

Lots going on around the state, so sign up for our auto e-mails to keep abreast of conferences and all the doings in Fairhope and across our literary state.

Find a good book and fall into it.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Greenleaf Writers Group

I had the pleasure of meeting with the Greenleaf Writers Group at the Semmes Library last Saturday. One member drives all the way from Bay Minette so you know it's a good group - that's about an hour or longer for those of you that don't live down this way.

We discussed one of the subjects near and dear to my heart: critiquing each other's work. As writers we tend to think that critique groups were created to torture us (and I have certainly felt the sting), but just think what might happen if your doctor didn't ask for a second opinion now and then. And you talk about a tough crowd: doctors. They don't hold back when evaluating each other's work. I know. I sat through years of quality improvement chart reviews. Ever work with an illustrator? They keep revising until the customer gets what they envisioned. But aren't we glad? Everybody wins in the end.

It's all about learning and growing in our professional pursuits. And remember to sandwich your criticism between two layers of compliments. Writers are a sensitive lot you know.

The Greenleaf group meets every third Saturday from 10 - 12 and are lead by Betty Spence and Geri Anderson. They meet at the Semmes Public Library on Mott Road.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tracy's contest

Attention middle and high school students in Mobile and Baldwin County Alabama: Our writing partner Tracy Hurley was a wonderful creator of young adult stories, and the Mobile Writers Guild is honoring her with a contest for Mobile/Baldwin County middle and high school students.

Requirements are: Open to students in grades 6 to 8 or grades 9 to 12 -- Fiction only -- stories between 500 and 2,500 words -- E-mail entries only -- send entries "in the body of an E-mail" to

Deadline for entry is November 18, 2011.

No entry fee, but there are lots of prizes.

Check out the Guild's site for more information:

Or go directly to the contest site at

And Good Luck!

Mahala and cj

P.S. Click on the picture to see a larger version of the flyer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Return of the Writer

I'm happy to be posting on our beloved blog. I've been off-scene for over a month with what turned out to be a loathsome infection that brought me not just to my knees but flat-out (a good Southern expression)sick in the hospital. This was my first, and hopefully my last, time to feel the dreadful effects of dehydration. Yuck describes it perfectly.

Thanks cj for keeping the home fires burning and our minds on the higher good.

A brief synopsis of my writing at this juncture. I pulled AFDOC from the blog because I wanted to make a significant change earlier on in the novel and carry it through. Amazing what a 103 degree fever will do for creativity! A major swing though the novel to weave in new ideas and take out those places jammed with wonderful words and meaningless input to the story is well underway. I'm about 50% of the way through and plan to have it out to readers before the end of the year.

Along with writing copy for several clients and rewriting articles for others, the research on my second novel is going well, but I may have to push it aside as the third one is clammoring to get out of my head and on paper. The second one is a series of linked short stories much in the tone of AFDOC but from an adult perspective. The third one is a dark family saga, which may be the reason I keep clamping the lid on it as I think I'm afraid where it will bury me as I face the blank pages.

As we all faced this past weekend in a pensive and somber mood, I realized I was ready to move forward with a more positive outlook for the sake of all Americans who have died to give me the privilege to do just that.

I salute my parents, who were both veterans of WWII, and all those who have gone before and after them. Mahala

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A day of remembrance

As I pray that the families of the victims of the September 11 attack be comforted, I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Verse 8 reassures me that such dispicable evil as happened on that bright September morning will not continue unabated for there is "A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

Then Ecclesiastes 3:17 reassures me that there will be justice for all: "I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work."

Amen, amen, and amen.


Sunday, August 28, 2011


No, that doesn't mean "hi" nor is it the postal abbreviation for Hawaii. It's my shorthand for Hurricane Irene.

After suffering through several Gulf Coast storms, including the infamous Katrina, my sympathies go out to everyone on the East Coast now enduring Hurricane Irene and her associated squalls, microbursts and tornadoes.

I spent a delightful weekend (with Tracy Hurley) on Connecticut's Long Island Sound two years ago at the SeaScape Writers Conference (think Sisters-in-Crime members Hallie Ephron, S.W. Hubbard and Roberta Isleib), and I hate the thought of that beautiful setting losing seashore, trees, and buildings. I do pray for little or no damage up there.

On the writing front, I've given myself a new challenge: Write a thousand words a day. Doesn't matter what it looks like, just get it down. I will do any research either before or after, but I will not stop to check out anything. I did read of a personal challenge where some writer was doing 10,000 words at a time. I certainly couldn't do that "every" day, but may once in a while. Whether a thousand or 10,000, of course, means I'll have to kick my son off the computer and shut the office door (maybe lock it) in order to get it done. I think that may be the only way I'll quit procrastinating, using gardening and remodeling as my excuses. Do I have the discipline? Let's see.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


p.s. Of course, all those wonderfully ambitious writers who plan to participate in the November writing challenge, NaNoWriMo, have already given themselves a challenge of writing MORE than 10,000 words a day. They have to write a novel of 50,000 words in 30 days. Way to go! Check it out at

Sunday, August 21, 2011

blog block

There are books and books, and words and words, and helpful hints galore about writers' block and how to conquer it. I think I shall write a book about bloggers block. And I think I shall use quotes from famous people to fill the pages. I think I shall start with these:

“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing." GERTRUDE STEIN

“Broadly speaking, short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.” WINSTON CHURCHILL

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma . . . . In the afternoon--well, I put it back again." OSCAR WILDE

“I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction." KATHERINE ANNE PORTER

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." MARK TWAIN (Amen.)

Knowing all of the above makes me feel so much better for not writing . . . not on the blog nor on the stories I have in process. I was taking the time to be a genius. :>)

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

query quest

I've now ventured into the world of Query Quest with my completed novel. For those of you who have not experienced that, Query Quest is game played between Authors and Agents. Authors submit a Query letter to a list of possible Agents, hoping the letter contains the exact words needed to pique the interest of at least one Agent so that Agent will accept the Query and re-Quest more pages. It's kind of like trying to put your finger on a drop of quicksilver or picking up a sliver of ice.

I must say, however, I really appreciate agents who request E-mail queries. No pages of manuscript to print, no envelopes, no trips to the post office, no postage to buy = no dollars out of pocket.

I sent out my first E-mail query on a Tuesday evening and got my rejection on Wednesday morning. Now THAT's what I call a quick turn-around. No slush pile for my work! (Sigh.)

Actually, I really do appreciate that I wasn't waiting with bated breath for days, weeks, or months on end. You know the feeling . . . if I haven't got a rejection yet, they "must" be considering the story.

One rejection is not a show-stopper. It's just the opening volley, and I'm ready to have another go at it.

You-all-guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hi all

June 15. Egads. In a few more days, we'll be half-way through 2011. And just to confirm how behind I am, I'm still planting spring flowers. Seems "the hurrider I go, the behinder I get." (Sigh.)

Thanks, Mahala, for the atta-girl on the publication of two of my pieces in the University of South Alabama's fine arts magazine Oracle. That was a real kick! I am very pleased and honored to have been chosen.

Repairs to the homefront (literally) are ongoing, and it seems headway is being made. Amid all the commotion, I managed to put final touches on my story, "Deadly Star." Even had a celebratory lunch with three of my favorite fellow authors: Wanda Woods, Linda Busby-Parker, and Mahala Church. Now my task is to recruit a few kind folks who will read the 318 pages. I'm working on that.

My son, who loves western stories, which "Deadly Star" isn't, tells me "I liked it." Sadly, that's not the objective opinion I need--even if I do know he'd be just as quick to tell me "It's okay" or "It needs . . ."

I'm one of those writers who can't/doesn't like to/won't work from an outline to create my story, but I will make an outline after the fact. I'm currently going through the work chapter by chapter. I find the task helps identify holes in the story, any unanswered questions, and any loose threads that need to be tied off. It also seems to help me do a synopsis and an elevator pitch (which can become the back-of-the-book blurb).

Ooops . . . the repairman calleth. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


The painted bunting posed for a photograph by Jeff Johnston on Dauphin Island. A storm front on the Gulf of Mexico had "knocked it down" -- meaning it needed to rest for a while because it was too pooped to fly.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Illness in the Family

The brain of my poor pc is infected by what my internet provider and the pc specialist say is one of the worst replicating viruses around. I'm typing to you from my brother's system to let you know I'm anxiously awaiting the results in the bosom of my family - not even a five minute visitation every hour to my adopted daughter as she struggles to survive under the pc surgeon's skilled hands.

I'm stunned by the sadness and fear I feel as I pace the floor in anticipation of the outcome. Isn't it amazing how dependent we all are on our favorite communication system? I stagger into my office with my cup of tea every morning and stare at the empty space where usually with the push of a button the whole world comes right to my door and gently wakes me up every day. My office feels empty in the hush of the missing hum and the clicking of keys.

Here's praying the pc surgeon can work another miracle and save my baby.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Congratulations to cj

Summer is upon us. You can feel the excitement in the air as neighborhood children squeal and ride bikes till almost dark. The same excitement filled the air last Friday night when the spring Oracle 2011, the fine arts review for the University of South Alabama, made its appearance.

cj has not one but TWO piecies in the publication. She read one at the reception held last week amid the grins and "atta-a-girls" of her two sons and a roomful of people.

One is a humorous and moving, nonfiction piece about the wedding of her son, Mark. The other a noir, fictional short story with exceptional details, draws the reader into the character's life and leaves you guessing. Nothing like an O'Henry ending.

The Oracle 2011 is jampacked with well written stories and poems, a few by other writing friends, Terry Rozum and Sue Walker, plus unique artwork.

It's always a joy to see new pieces created by budding writers mixed in with the pieces of already published writers. Congratulations to Frank Ard, Editor-in-Chief, for an excellent edition of Oracle and to all the writers and artists. Mahala

Power Writing

This summer I'm offering a new creative writing program for teens rising into the 10th - 12th grades. We will meet once a week for six weeks to share ideas on the writing process. Our focus will be the basics of plot, developing characters, and grounding the reader in the setting. My hope is that not only will these young people challenge their imaginations, but learn how to create a logical progression in telling a fictional story. This will be an advantage when they return to school, take the ACT and SAT, and so forth.

I particularly enjoy working with students and their active and creative ideas. We will be reading Tuck Everlasting, a beautifully written book, that, although a little below their reading level, is an excellent book to easily see the craft of writing in one of its best forms.

Along the way, we will write and critique our work and have a lot of fun in the process of discovery.

I hope you will share this opportunity with friends and family. I can be reached through this blog or at


Friday, April 29, 2011

A New Book

Once, about a million years ago if seems now, I started a book of short stories. Along the way a number of those stories turned into my novel, A Few Degrees Off Center, which has just finished its last revision and is about to go out to readers. Tracy, one of the original Lyrical Pens, and I spent hours discussing what I wanted to do with my short stories and what kind of book I wanted to write around them, settling on what is called a linked story novel or cycle novel. That book is well underway as I've resurrected my study on that genre and I work on my stories. The title and theme have been chosen and a list of possible chapters is drafted. How I wish Tracy was here to talk it all through. I'm sure she gets a good laugh when I talk to her about it almost every day.

I'll keep you posted along the way. I've included a picture of Tracy at the going away party that Linda Busby-Parker gave her. As you can see, she loved to have fun. How cj and Linda and I all miss her. Happy Birthday, Tracy!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Yep, Spring has sprung here on the Gulf Coast. Baseball teams are on the fields, camelias blooms are dying down, and azaleas are ablaze with color. I've spent days in the yard and rose bed trying to do an end-run on all the pre-emergent weeds. I climbed the ladder to paint shutters, sawed small oak trees into firewood so I can drag what's left to the burn pile in the middle of the garden, and now, I'm officially sore. Best intentions aside, I failed to make time to blog. (Sigh) I do have a bunch of new story ideas, though.

The "Daddy's Girls' Weekend" hosted by Carolyn Haines at the Gulf Hills Resort in Mississippi in early March was a lot of fun and foolishness. Disclaimer: In the midst of a good time, I gleaned lots of info from the sessions. Really helpful to me were the conversations with young adult novel readers. The weekend facilitors included New York Times bestseller novelist Dean James, publisher Benjamin Leroy of Tyrus Books, literary agent Marian Young (who represents Carolyn Haines as well as Bret Lott who wrote JEWEL, an Oprah Book Club pick), screenwriter David Sheffield (think "The Nutty Professor" and "Saturday Night Live"), and, of course, Bones series novelist Carolyn Haines. The weekend ended with the election of Dean James as "Big Daddy."

Next weekend, the Mobile Writers Guild will host a one-day event at a local Mobile, AL, library. I'm looking forward to a critique by agent Michael Garrett of the first five pages of one of my novels.

I think this brings me to my lesson of the day: Don't ever stop building on your writing knowledge. You don't have to spend a lot of money to learn, but you do have to spend a lot of time. Read, read, read, then read some more. Write some every day. Join a critique group. Then, when you can afford it, pick a conference to attend (local is fine), and hobnob. I find that critiques, especially the ones that tell me my baby is ugly, are invaluable and necessary to improve my craft. It's extra nice when I'm able to get individual input from someone in the business.

That being said, you-all-guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


Spring Icons: A budding tree and a stalwart robin. Image by Jeff Johnston.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Spring is here a bit early this year, even for the Deep South. Temps in Mobile are already in the high seventies. Flowers are bursting open and the sound of raking and mowing fill the air. I love Spring when the earth brags about it's accomplishments and showers us with the rich smells of turned earth for planting and flowers galore. It spurs me on to new heights and to that end I'm writing up a storm and trying new ideas once again. The swirl of words on the page - whether hand written or typed - are so full of wonderful possibilities, and although not always as prosaic as my critique group would wish, I find it an exciting exercise of my brain matter to seek and find a new way of saying the same old thing.

Caroline, the protagonist of my novel,A Few Degrees Off Center,has given me such an opportunity for creativity. A twelve-year-old girl with a good, old fashioned fifties Southern accent and flair for words, she has had a ball filling my mind with new ways to describe a scene or express her sense of reality. I will miss that once she is shelved, but for now, I'm continuing to cull the words and scenes to create a worthy read for future audiences and thanks to my critique buddies, Wanda, Nolan, and Marilyn, the scenes are addressing those needs.

As for other fun activities, I had the pleasure of working with a creative writing class of high school students at Faith Academy recently and what fun we had discussing how to plot a short story. Bright and articulate, the students posed appropriate questions and kept me on my toes. Good luck to Tyler with all his enthusiasm, Haley and Josh slogging through the middle of their stories (hard for any writer) and Eric who was kind enough to staple my handouts. I will be starting a summer salon for high school writers in the near future, so to you and any of your friends, let me know if you will be interested in joining the creative process for six weeks or so. Mrs. Jester has my e-mail address if you have questions. We will have a good time growing in the creative process.

Oh, by the way, I've gotten so side-tracked on researching my new book, I put aside the idea of writing two hundred short stories and instead am focusing on the continuous short story collection for the book. As with most writers, I chastised myself for giving up what seemed like a good and organized idea, but I decided I'm going to do what my writing angel tells me to do since it always seems to be the right idea. In addition the characters in my new novel are to the point of shouting at me now, so I'm collecting background info for them as well. Gotta do what I gotta do.

For those of you still shoveling snow, spring is on its way! Mahala

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring holidaze and tax time

It's kind of interesting how this works: I party through spring--making sure I celebrate all the famous people's birthdays (including mine-Hoo hah), Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day--and then here comes April Fool, and a couple of weeks later, I have pay the piper, AKA the tax man. This week, I'm struggling to gather up all the paperwork I need for the CPA to work his magic, and it occurs to me. It'd be a whole lot less stressful at this time if I would just keep everything together throughout the year. Disclaimer: I do try, but each year, my good intentions seem to peter out along about the lazy, hazy days of summer. Perhaps I need a bigger tickler file. I might even use it if it's placed beside the one where I keep my story ideas.

Learned a lot at the recent YA writers' retreat in Northport, AL. Ginger Rue ("Brand New Emily" and "Jump") was the facilitator and the relaxed setting made for a wonderful day. Next on my to-do list is Carolyn Haines' writers and readers fun weekend in Ocean Springs, MS in early March. Carolyn writes a popular mystery series with the word "bones" in the titles and a very likeable character named Sarah Booth Delaney who is pestered by a ghost.

Well, I'm officially juiced: I received news that both of my short, short story submissions, one fiction and one non-fiction, were accepted for publication in the April issue of the University of South Alabama's literary anthology magazine, THE ORACLE.

On that note, I think I'd better quit while I'm ahead . . . You all keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.


The picture of Mardi Gras beads is by Jeff Johnston.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Robins and Mardi Gras forecast spring

I feel as though I haven't blogged in for-ev-er. Just so you know, it hasn't just been the blog I ignored . . . I had a good friend E-mail me and wonder where I was. Been busy with family stuff is the only excuse I can give, hoping no one can argue with that.

For all you snow-bound readers, I'm happy to report that several squadrons of robins have made re-fueling stops on the grassy plains of Mobile Regional Airport. Can Spring be far behind? Probably yes, because I forecast that Groundhog Phil is likely to see his shadow tomorrow if not from the sun, than from all that bright, white snow on the ground in PA.

Mobile is also the source for another early arrival. Fat Tuesday for the year 2011 doesn't officially arrive until March 8, but the celebrations have started where I live. The Wednesday that marks the beginning of Lent may not be a great big deal in the North, but the heavy Spanish and French ancestral influences along the Gulf Coast make Mardi Gras an important holiday--one that warrants not just ashes on the forehead, but days off work and school. Mobile, New Orleans, and Biloxi, Mississippi, all claim to be "THE" first city in the New World to celebrate Mardi Gras. New Orleans probably has the most well-known and maybe the largest, but as to who was first, history and Wikipedia are a little vague on that. Like Christmas, this religious observance has been transformed into an extended major secular event for these cities--the parades start early and, like the Energizer bunny, keep on going and going and going. Knights, Krewes, Kings, Maids, Mullets, Mystics, and Orders try to outdo each other in revelry and moonpie tossing. The Mobile area has already had one parade, and the next one is Feb. 5--the Krewe De La Dauphine Parade on Dauphin Island.

In lieu of hoping to catch one of those extravagant beaded necklaces or a sweetly delicious moonpie on Feb 5, I'll be at a writers' retreat in Northport, Alabama, just north of Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama. (Disclaimer: Disregarding the intense rivalry that exists between the two institutions, especially in football, and at the risk of getting mauled when I next meet up with my son's in-laws, I don't favor either Alabama or Auburn. I'm a baseball fan, specifically for whatever team needs my support at the time.) The Breeze Hill Retreat is short and small--one day, twelve writers--but intense. (Harumph, sounds like me.) I'm hoping to come away with a better idea of how to write for "young adults" since that is my next/ongoing work in process. I'm also hoping the enthusiasm of my fellow retreaters will rub off on me. It's the first of two Gulf Coast writerly events I've scheduled to attend this year. I also have eleven new books to read, "she says optimistically."

A thunderstorm is coming in, so I think I'd better unplug this lightning rod for now. You keep on keeping on and I'll try to do the same.


The Jeff Johnston picture is a trophy necklace from the Knights of Revelry. Their 2011 parade takes place on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), March 8.

Late update, Feb 2: According to his "handlers," the Pennsylvania prognosticator Phurry Phil predicted an early spring. My foot! He should have turned around; the sun was shining in his face.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Change is in the Wind

So much going on in the writing world. I hear the Writer's Digest conference in New York last week was jammed packed with over fifty agents looking for new work and new ideas. Sharpen those pencils, um, plug up the pc, and get going. Almost aged myself; although, I still like the feel of a pencil in my hand when I'm toying with plots and casting for new ideas in circles of circles or tracking a story from inciting incident to resolution. It seems so much more personal.

As you can see from our blog page,

cj and I have been busy creating a new look and so has my granddaughter. cj and I plan to share writing tips we've found helpful along the way. Gerunds have been a problem for me, since like most Southerners, I speak in gerundese, but writing it is another thing altogether and screams NOVICE to agents and editors. cj keeps me on track as she critiques my work.

Hope you like our work and will come back to join us. We love to get comments and will have some guest writers this year.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Off and Running

Happy New Year!  May 2011 be the banner year you publish a novel, an essay, a short story, win a contest!

My goals for this year include outlining a new book of composite short stories.  AFDOC was born of short stories I wrote.  I didn't use all of them by any stretch of the imagination, and I've wanted to do this composite compilation for quite a while, so I'm studying and reading and preparing to move forward with the idea.

A second goal is to write 200 short stories - yep I said 200.  Got the idea from another writer who wrote 400, sent out 200 to magazines, and got 27 published.  Small return?  No way!  In the writing world that's a huge return in one year.  I've chosen a select few magazines to study back issues along with their current issues and am writing every day.  Too often, right now, no huge and wonderful ideas have come to mind, so I'm pulling old files and ideas and moving forward, albeit slowly   Will I make 200?  Won't if I don't try.

Here's looking at you - Mahala