Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are You Intrepid?

by Ramona DeFelice Long

A while back, a writer friend sent me an SOS that went something like this:

“Help! I need the perfect word to describe a character who is handsome and charming, but maybe not 100% honest; he likes women and booze and cards but he’s not a skeeve; he’s not exactly dangerous, but he’s not Mr. Trustworthy, either; he can be playful and fun even though he’s not terribly dependable; and did I mention he’s handsome and charming?”

After stewing a while (and realizing that I once dated this guy, or maybe several of these guys) I came up with three choices: Our man could be a rake, a rascal or a rapscallion.

We spent a little while discussing the differences between rakes, rascals and rapscallions. We decided that a rake is the most negative, and brazen, of the three—he’ll love you and leave you and clean out your bank account in the process. A rascal is more mischievous than dangerous; he’s young and, in my mind, Southern; he’d probably break your heart and steal your wallet, but he really did enjoy your company while he was doing it. A rapscallion is a combination of the rascal and the rake—he’s not blatantly using you and he’s not forgivable because he’s just so darn cute, so he’s kind of a bum but also kind of irresistible.

If you are a writer, you’ve probably had a dilemma like this one. Words have nuances and multiple meanings, which makes them fun little buggers, but frustrating, too.

So when you read a truly perfect word, it’s a moment. I had a one of these perfect word moments while reading a post in the SinC Blog, when the poster described her sleuth as having an intrepid nature.
Intrepid is great word. According to our friends at Microsoft Encarta, to be intrepid means you are “fearless and persistent in the pursuit of something.” Isn’t that a definitive definition of a mystery novel’s protagonist? Can there be a more succinct description of a sleuth?

I wrote this in the SinC Blog’s comments and ventured to propose that a mystery writer should be intrepid, too. Think about it. In order to craft a mystery, a writer has to sit in a chair and write and outline and plot and write and plan and edit and write. Then he or she must throw out parts of it and sit in the chair some more and rewrite and rework and cut and delete and rewrite. That’s the persistent part.

The fearless part means sending it out to a beta reader or a critique group for constructive criticism. It may mean hiring an independent editor. It means recognizing what’s not working, chucking parts (or all) of it, and sitting in the chair again and writing and rewriting.

But if writing the story takes fearlessness and persistence, working towards publication is where being intrepid really counts.

On Monday of this week, I gave myself a little anniversary party, celebrating my first year blogging as an editor. It’s been an eventful year, and I realize as I write this post how many writers I have seen be persistent and fearless in their pursuit of publication. But if I asked, I doubt many of them would see these acts as extraordinary. I doubt many of them would call themselves intrepid.

Why is this? Why don’t we see the bravery in sending out our writing?

When you join into a community of fellows, you bond over what you all have in common. You know so many other writers being persistent and fearless, your own actions don’t seem all that intrepid.

So, let me ask a few questions. This past year, did you…

…write a chapter and send it to a critique group?

…stand before an agent and give a verbal pitch?

…cut sentences or paragraphs you love because they weren’t right for the story?

…write a character you liked, and then made something bad happen to them?

…attend a workshop and ask a question?

…send some of your writing to an editor?

…query an editor or agent?

…sign up for a Face book page and describe yourself as a writer?

…pass up TV shows, movies, or other hobbies to work on your novel?

…wake up early or stay up late because a scene was driving you batty?

…spend your allowance on the works of other mystery writers?

…email a fellow writer asking for a perfect word?

…attend a retreat and refuse to leave, even in the face of a flood?

These are brave acts that require persistence and fearlessness, and no one else can do them for you. That’s the key to being an intrepid writer. Only you, and you alone, can see your story to your goal.

So, if you answered yes to all, or any, of these questions, congratulations! I hereby grant you the Ramona Long Seal of the Intrepid Writer.

But before you run off with your award, I’d like to hear some testimonials. What did you do this year that was fearless and persistent in the pursuit of your goals?

Also, if you were a rake, a rascal or a rapscallion, feel free to tell us about that, too.

Ramona DeFelice Long is an author and independent editor who grew up in the bayou country of south Louisiana. Now she lives and works in the teeny tiny state of Delaware. She’s had some short stories published, won some grants, edited some anthologies, led some retreats and taught some workshops, all of which she posts about on her very own blog. She enjoys editing WIPS in all shapes, sizes and genres. Her favorite food is crème brulee.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Aboard Ambulance One

By Pat Remick
I recently made three trips by ambulance in a five-hour period but never was examined by medical personnel.

That's because I was riding the Portsmouth, NH, Fire Department's Ambulance One for research on my novel-in-progress, which has a paramedic as one of the main character's love interests. Any member of the public can request permission to do an ambulance ride-a-long and I wanted a busy shift in the busiest area of the city.
My first challenge was deciding what to wear on the recent Friday night. I knew it should be something that could withstand blood or other bodily fluids, be comfortable, and not make it too obvious that I wasn't a legitimate member of the ambulance crew. I opted for a City of Portsmouth polo shirt, dark pants and sneakers. Just to make sure no one drove into me at accident scenes, they handed me a Portsmouth Fire Department reflective vest that I sort of forgot to return, if you know what I mean.

I was told to report at the beginning of the 5:30 p.m. shift to be assigned to the firefighters staffing Ambulance One out of the Central Fire Station. All firefighters in Portsmouth are trained as intermediate Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) but the most trained also have attained paramedic status after up to two years of additional study, which allows them to dispense up to 40 medications and do cardiac monitoring in the field. This is important in stabilizing the patient by doing much of the activities that would be done if a patient were to go directly to the ER -- and reduces the great need to drive at breakneck speed to the hospital, possibly causing an accident.

However, our first run was to the grocery store so the junior man on duty (only five years with the Department) could do the shopping for dinner, which he also had to prepare and then clean up afterward. As his more tenured partner noted, "Seniority sucks unless you have it." The five men on duty wolfed down their American chop suey, heads-down, after confiding they employ this eating method because 40 percent of the time they get called out and don't get to finish a meal. However, they noted this style of eating has become a habit that is not appreciated by significant others at meals outside of the station.

Station One, also known as the Central Fire Station, has two firefighters assigned to the ambulance and two to the fire truck that also would respond to any medical emergencies. One of the four on the shift must be a paramedic. Portsmouth has the same arrangement at its Station 2. The fire truck responds with the ambulance in case there is a need for more than two EMTs on a call. The crew quickly determines whether the fire engine guys are needed and if not, they return immediately to the station. In a city of 21,000, you'd think two ambulances would be sufficient but last Friday night, there were three ambulance calls within the same time period. Apparently this happens often (19 to 25% of the time)-- and depending on the geographic area of the call, an ambulance from a nearby town is asked to respond.

Over the course of my five-hour shift, we had three runs: a minor traffic accident (no transport after evaluation and after the victim signed paperwork), a woman said to have heat prostration but it might have been vertigo judging by repeated nausea each time she moved, and a seizure suffered by a nursing home resident rehabilitating from a stroke. Each time, the EMTs calmly evaluated the potential patients and methodically went through their mental checklists. En route to the calls, I sat in the paramedic seat in the wagon, facing backward, but in the front seat on the way to the hospital. Both were exciting.

When I asked what type of personality is preferred for the job, one of the EMTs said, "Good people skills -- and you need the ability to be able to defuse aggravated patients; you have to be a good organizer so you can prioritize and you have to have a strong stomach." Lacking in all three areas, I decided this would not be a good career change but it gave me a new appreciation for those who have. Later, the EMT elaborated on how important it can be to be able to calm patients, noting: "It's not much of a stretch for someone who's suicidal to become homicidal." Scary stuff.

During our down-time, I separately asked each of them about their worst calls. Both said they were incidents involving young children. Death is a little easier to deal with, they explained, if the victim is elderly or has engaged in behaviors that could be responsible for their demise. But children dying is another matter.

They also said they often receive calls from people seeking transport to the hospital when their issues might not seem sufficient to warrant an ambulance ride that will cost them, the insurance company or the government $400 each. But, they note, "not everything is what it seems." And if the patient complains of difficulty breathing, the EMTs cannot take the risk of not doing a hospital transport. "We picked up one woman 52 times in three months," he said. "But one of those times, she was very ill."

However, it's these types of non-emergency calls that may cause an EMT to say he's driving the "pinky wagon" -- meaning the patient being transported has a complaint as minor as an injury to his pinky finger. I learned that other common terms for an ambulance are the rig, truck and wagon.

The Portsmouth EMTs work two day shifts of 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., followed by two night shifts of 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., and then get four days off. This type of schedule makes it easier to commute from long distances or take second jobs. During the night shifts, they are required to remain awake until 10 p.m. but can then try to sleep. They say about 10% of the time, they go through the night without a call. Other times, they're called out repeatedly.

I've heard that some folks describe the night shifts as "dozing for dollars," but imagine what it must be like to go to bed knowing you likely will be forced out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night and have to get dressed, run out the door, and hop on an ambulance in 90 seconds or less. In addition, you have to be alert enough to deal with the unknown, knowing that failure to do so could result in death -- the patient's and possibly your own.

I'm not sure there are enough dollars in the world for me to take on a job like that, but I certainly have a new appreciation for the men and women who do

Monday, September 27, 2010


  by Gina Sestak

Well, folks, it's been an interesting few weeks.

Remember awhile back I mentioned a manuscript of mine that had been rejected by an agent?  Well, I've been working on rewrites and took portions to my critique group on two back-to-back Saturdays.  That, in itself, was unusual.  Our normal practice is that only one person submits per week, so it's typical for a month or more to pass between my submissions.   It was unusual, too, because, for the first time with this group, I submitted not one, but two, SEX SCENES.

Sex scenes are hard to write.  You run the risk of sounding way too clinical or just plain pornographic.  [Hint: if every third word is "Ung!" it's definitely pornography.]   Sex scenes are scary, too, especially if you draw on your own experience.  I don't know about you, but for me real life intimacy never goes as smoothly as it does in movies.   For one thing, you have to figure out where to put your elbows.  I won't go into further detail.  Suffice it to say, I identify with comedian Gary Shandling who said, "I am very good in bed.  I almost never fall out."  So I tried to capture a little of that in the writing.  My protagonist Sue isn't a smooth seductress.  She's intoxicated, acting on impulse, and her venture into free love is both awkward and inappropriate.

So this is the scary part.  You write the scene and people look at you as if you just flew in from Mars with paper monkeys dancing on your head.  Last weekend's critique wasn't quite that bad, but it was close.


That's why I've decided to change the subject and write about my cat.  That's a nice inane subject, right?  Well, not exactly.  You see, my 17-year-old cat Taffy recently went blind.  Here's a picture of him, slightly Photoshopped:

The vet says Taffy's blindness is due to detached retinas and he may regain some sight.  Meanwhile, he's locked in the back room so he won't fall down the stairs, at least until our next vet appointment.  If the disability is permanent, I'll have to let him out and help him learn to find his way around the house.

I have the feeling that, if I write about a cat who's lost his vision, people will identify with it a lot easier than my critique group did with Sue, the protagonist in my sex scenes, even though I bet more folks have had awkward inappropriate sex than have had cats who went blind.

Oops.  Sorry for digressing back to the original topic.  Ahem.  We were talking about kitty cats.

I acquired a second cat recently.  A member of the same critique group had to relocate out of town, so I took in his 9-year-old cat, Kala.   He retains visitation and reclamation rights.  I don't have a photo of her yet, so let me do a description:  a huge black female with white paws and some white under her chin.  She goes limp when I try to pick her up, so it's a lot like handling a mass of risen dough with fur.  So far, so good. She's eating and using her litter box and has started to cuddle with me on the sofa.  We've begun to bond.

This is a problem in the making.  Except for the first few days of Kala's residence here, during which time the cats avoided one other, Taffy and Kala have had minimum contact because of my having to keep him confined.  How do I integrate Taffy back into the household with this new cat here?  Will he think he has already been replaced?

So back to the sex scenes, which involve a threesome - two men and a woman.  {No, it is not based on personal experience exactly.  I wouldn't do anything like that!}  And anyway, Sue gets it on with the guys - Josh and Randy - one at a time, with a break in between.  That's why I call it two sex scenes.

On the cat front, I've got two females (me and Kala) and a male (Taffy) and, while I certainly don't intend to have sex with either one of them, it seems as if the interpersonal dynamics might be just a bit similar.  Wouldn't you think?

So, do I use the cats to help me make the relationship between Sue and her two lovers more believable, or do I just give up and go to live in some secluded loony bin?  You be the judge.

And while we're on the subjects, how do you do with sex scenes?  Kitty cats?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wedding Season Brings on the Feared Bridesmaid’s Dress

The Working Stiffs welcome Amanda Flower, newly published mystery author!

Wedding Season Brings on the Feared Bridesmaid's Dress

By Amanda Flower

I’m Amanda Flower, a brand new mystery author who is still taking stock of this crazy and exciting world of publishing. My debut mystery Maid of Murder was released in June at the height of wedding season. It was perfect time for the release of my Maid of Murder, a wedding themed cozy mystery.

In Maid of Murder, India Hayes, a college librarian and reluctant bridesmaid, is thrown into the role of amateur sleuth as she hunts down the person who murdered her childhood friend and framed her brother for the crime.

When bride-to-be Olivia turns up dead in the Martin College fountain and the evidence points to India’s brother Mark, India must unmask the real culprit while juggling a furious Mother of the Bride, an annoying Maid of Honor, a set of hippie-generation parents, a police detective who is showing a marked liking for her, and a provost itching to fire someone, anyone—maybe even a smart-mouthed librarian.

I started writing Maid of Murder when many of my friends were getting married, so I attended a string of weddings over several summers. Unlike India, I have only been a bridesmaid twice. She held that post six times to my two, but the experience of being in a wedding party certainly inspired my novel. One big difference…no one was murdered in any of the weddings I attended.

However, a similarity between Maid of Murder and a real wedding is the dreaded bridesmaid dress. If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid, you know what I’m talking about. One of my favorite scenes in the novel is early on when India tries on her bridesmaid dress for the first time. India has a fair complexion and the dress is gold. Consequently, it looks awful on her, and of course, it is about two sizes too small for her. She is horrified as any woman would be.

Unfortunately before the wedding can occur, the bride is murdered. Was it due to the horrible bridesmaid dress or something more sinister? That’s what India is determined to find out.

Thanks Working Stiffs for letting me stop by the blog today!

To learn more about Amanda and Maid of Murder visit her online at You can also follow Amanda on Facebook at or Twitter at

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Short Break

by Joyce

When we started the Working Stiffs blog way back in 2006, I don't think any of us imagined that we'd still be entertaining our readers (well, trying to, anyway) in 2010. We had no idea what we were doing. We just knew we wanted to be a little different than all the other writing blogs out there. There were so many that focused on craft--and did it well. So instead of focusing solely on writing, our theme became "Where crime writers talk about life, work, and murder."

Personally, I've written about all three of those topics. I've blogged about my hubby bonding with the Omaha Steak salesman on the phone and ordering a freezer full of steak. I've written about murders like the Boy in the Box and Baby Grace. I've done posts about my former job and some of the interesting things that happened at the PD--and some of the things that pissed me off.

I'm tapped out.

I'm going to take a break for a few months and let the well refill. But don't worry. I'll still be around. You'll see me in the comments, and occasionally I'll fill in an empty slot.

Besides, someone's got to keep this crew in line.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Undiscovered Literature

By Tamara Girardi

We all have those authors that have us running to the bookstore on release day. They're our go-to authors. When we want a solid read, a funny read, a spooky read, we call on them. But I've recently been reminded what we're missing when we fail to venture out of our favorite sections in the bookstore.

This semester, I'm the graduate assistant of the adolescent literature course at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The course is mainly directed to undergraduate students majoring in English and secondary education. The purpose is to expose the future educators to works of contemporary young adult literature they may consider teaching in their classrooms. The titles on the syllabus are primarily literary.

The titles I often read on my own are also young adult, but they are mostly genre or commercial fiction. I'm not about to take the traditionally academic stand that a foul stench tends to radiate from such work. I adore Alyson Noel, Sarah Dessen, Ally Carter, Meg Cabot and many other popular writers, but the stories I'm reading for the adolescent lit course have made me think about YA differently.

They focus on serious issues such as imprisonment, conformity, sexual abuse, slavery, war, starvation.

If you're wondering to which titles I'm referring, take a look at Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak or Chains, Walter Dean Myers' Monster, Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl or Milkweed. The stories are heavy but enlightening. Truth be told, there are times I want to run back to the light, comic, feel-good stories I often read. Maybe it's because the class forces me to keep reading. Probably that and I really do like discovering new literature (and rediscovering some novels I've read before).

So what do you think? In your spare time (since time is just something we never have quite enough of) can you step outside of your reading circle? I challenge you to discover a piece of literature outside of your reading comfort zone and give it a try. You might just learn something that will spark your own writing.

Are you up for the challenge? Got any ideas of titles you might try?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oh, Brave New Word

By Martha Reed

Because editing a full manuscript is still new to me, I’m going to continue to chronicle my further adventures with it as I explore this brave new world.

I want to do this for those writers who may be following a bit behind me in the process because I have learned that the further I go into this new editing world, the further I explore what going to this new depth means to me, the more amazing the writing becomes. Editing is forcing me to both step back and take a good hard look at what I’ve already written while forcing me to focus in closer on it (if that’s not a contradiction).

Let me give you a for instance.

In the early chapters I seem to be trimming out a lot of unnecessary back story that I needed to write down in my newbie manuscript just so I could figure out where my characters were and what they were doing. Now that I know the ending, I can go back to these early pages and a) eliminate the back story but also b) take a moment to reexamine what is happening at that moment in the storyline to see if it still holds up.

My Ah-ha! Moment happened on Saturday when I took another look at a character who was making a phone call and realized that in my earliest version I had him calling the wrong person. Now that I know ‘who done it’ I realized that he wouldn’t have called him, he would have called her. That realization upset the whole applecart until I revised it in the mss and then realized the full implications of that call. If he called her, it changed the lines of communication and tightened up an entire sub-plot in one fell swoop. Editing at its best!

Of course, the hardest part is to have to ‘kill your darlings’. Last weekend I had to delete one entire unnecessary character since she was occupying a page and a half of text the story didn’t really need. (Sorry, Elsbeth! I promise to use you somewhere else in another story soon!) The scary part is hitting a chapter that basically just needs to be overhauled in its entirety but the upside is that I can already see how the revision will improve the overall story and baby, that’s just the way it’s got to be.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cover Me

By Jeri Westerson

It’s something most authors have no control over. Yeah, we write the books, create the characters and plots, but we are not trusted to give input about what our covers should look like.

And perhaps, in some instances, that’s a good thing. Not everyone’s visual. But what about covers? Do they sell books? And what about mine, since, I mean let’s face it, that’s why we’re here?

My first published novel was VEIL OF LIES seen here as a hardcover. I had no idea what St. Martin’s art department was going to come up with. Here was a new medieval mystery, a “Medieval Noir,” so it was sort of a different take from the average medieval mystery. Those covers ran the gambit from stained glass windows, to old drawings of knights, to tapestry-like paintings. Historical novels usually employed costumed models in lush backdrops. So it could have been anything, and since I am a visual person (I was a graphic artist for fifteen or so years) I anxiously awaited what they would come up with. I knew for myself that book covers are the first thing that get my attention in a bookstore. So I was hoping for something eye-catching…in a good way.
The initial image my editor presented is the one that ended up on the hardcover. Basically, they ran out of time. He never really liked it but it was okay by me because it looked rather literary and it was, after all, my first freakin’ book cover! Though my first reaction was “Why a key?” My editor replied, “It’s a locked room mystery.” Oops. I’d forgotten that.

Anyway, after a while it did seem a bit literal. A key, a folded veil, drops of blood. Nice, classy, but did it really say “Medieval Noir?” I had in mind more of a cover like my friend Kat Richardson had; a single character on a shadowy background where you can sort of tell what city they’re in. The only thing iconic to London of the time period was the Tower of London, but you can’t have that in every shot.

As luck would have it, when it was time for VEIL to go to paperback, the paperback division of Minotaur Books absolutely hated the hardcover art. In fact, they weren’t going to spend the money on the paperback if Minotaur did not change it and pronto.

Suddenly, I was being asked for ideas, and the same guy who did Kat’s books was being looked at. I might have given a girly squeal at one point. Crispin Guest, my brooding ex-knight turned detective, is the driving force in the novels, a sort of medieval Sam Spade, and so I really wanted that single figure in a shadowy background. The fellow who did Kat’s covers was overbooked but I was given links to other artists they were considering who did similar work, artists who used model photos that are then manipulated in PhotoShop. A model was chosen for Crispin and I was shown the head shots of him. Now we were getting somewhere!

I was worried about the costume because so many historical covers get the era wrong. After all, it’s the author who does all the research, but the artist just seems to have a vague idea of “medieval” or “Renaissance.” Fortunately, someone did their homework, and Crispin is in the proper clothes. Even the right colors! I couldn’t have asked for a better job.

With different backgrounds and different moody colors (I particularly liked SERPENT IN THE THORNS with its sepia tones) “Medieval Noir” came to life.

They only get better and better. We get a rather dramatic flourish of cloak and brandishing of dagger on the VEIL OF LIES trade paperback, a preoccupied Crispin in sepia on a dark and lonely street on SERPENT IN THE THORNS, and a pensive and anxious Crispin by moonlight—a sort of Batman watching over Gotham shot—on the newest, THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT (which is apt in this one, because there is a mysterious creature stalking the streets of London). I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with for next year’s installment, TROUBLED BONES. They took a boatload of shots of this model in costume so there is a good supply for many Crispin novels to come. (And no, I do not bring him with me when I do book signings or talks. Sorry, folks. All I know is that his name is Wes and he probably lives in Oregon.)

I also credit these covers with my surprising number of young male readers. Not only is it cinematic (I get asked time and again when the movie is coming out. I wish!) but it also has a sort of fantasy feel and a video game vibe. I suppose guys pick up the books because of the cover first, perhaps thinking of a video tie-in and then plunk down the money after reading a page or two.

I am completely enamored of these covers. Oh I know that there are folks out there who will say “That’s not how I pictured Crispin.” And to tell you the truth, it’s not exactly how I pictured him either. But it’s darned close.


Jeri gets to picture Crispin all time when she writes her “Medieval Noir” series. *sigh* You can read a chapter of her latest, THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT, on her website

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall, New TV Season

by Pat Gulley

So Fall is almost here, more here than not, and I’m dragging out the Fall decorations. Yes, I like decorating for autumn almost as much as I like decorating for Christmas. Yeah, I throw in a few Halloween things, but not much as we don’t get any trick-or-treaters in the moorage. But I do bring out my two-foot-tall Hildy the Witch on Labor Day to watch over things until Thanksgiving.

Sorry, I didn’t want to bog down into décor, the other major fall event is a whole new season of TV to get excited about just moments before getting thoroughly disgusted with the new offerings. Mystery Scene On-Line Magazine had a nice list of the new stuff relating to mysteries, however they all seem to be more cops, more spin-offs of cops and variations of cops, more lawyers, more updated spin-offs of old shows about secret agents and old cop shows. Oh yeah, and another bunch of gangsters we’re suppose to care about. Of course, I’ll watch them all, but I’m bored already. Thank the sprits for vampire shows, and I did hear there will be a least two more supernatural series supposedly coming out soon.

What does this tell us? They can’t think of anything new. So why are we knocking ourselves out? Maybe we should just get in the habit of writing in to all these shows and offering ideas for stories. Maybe someone would buy one. It isn’t like creating a whole new story of any kind. You don’t even have to have the episode written. You have the whole story in front of you and all you have to do is submit an idea for a show. Chances are 100 will be rejected before you get a bite, but it could happen, and in theory how is this different from querying. Certainly is less work than having a polished manuscript ready before you start trying to get it published.

And have you noticed how many returning shows change their format and add and subtract so many characters. That leaves you free to offer, near the end of the season, a complete rewrite for them to consider. (Don’t even think about asking me who ‘them’ is.) But it’s something to consider.

So, what show would you like to write an episode for? Which would you like to totally revamp?

I’d love to write an episode of the Vampire Diaries. I want to add a Hunter.

And you?????????

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Working for a Living

By Wendy Lyn Watson

Many thanks to the Working Stiffs for letting me crash their little corner of the web!

Many thanks to you, Wendy, for being here!

With the recent release of my second book, Scoop to Kill, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about ice cream, writing, murder, cozies, Texas accents … the list goes on and on. For today, I wanted to talk about something different. Something I haven’t talked to death yet.

One thing I rarely discuss in interviews is my day job. Like most writers, I have one. Indeed, my day job keeps a roof over my head and my cats in kibble. Even if I made a mint off one of my books, I’d probably hold on to the day job, both for the security of a regular paycheck and because I genuinely love what I do: teaching.

When I do mention my gig at the university, most folks assume I teach English or creative writing. But, no, I teach political science (American politics, judicial process, and constitutional law, to be precise). I make sure our newest generation of voters know how the electoral college works and all the would-be lawyers apply to law school with their eyes wide open about what to expect.

This is where most people say, “But, uh, you don’t write about …” And then they trail off and look at me with the expression my students have when I explain the rules of a filibuster. Helpless confusion tinged with a smidge of disbelief.

They don’t have to finish their thought. I know what they’re thinking. No, I don’t write about lawyers, or politics, or any of the lovely subjects I studied in the hallowed halls of academe. By the same token, I don’t teach my students about ice cream, or murder, or any of the other lovely subjects that fill my books.

My writing life and my day job hardly overlap at all. Oh, sure, I killed off a graduate student in my newest Mystery a la Mode, and occasionally one of my students earns a bit part in one of my books. But really they’re separate worlds.

Personally, I prefer it that way. When I write, I get to play make-believe, live lives I’ll never know for real. Why would I want to spend my make-believe time “doing” what I do every day? That wouldn’t be fun (for me) at all. And while I adore teaching an occasional writing workshop to fellow travelers, the thought of spending every day trying to dissect the muse for a classroom full of college kids makes me a little sick. For me, I think it would take much of the joy out of writing.

I won’t rule out the possibility that someday I’ll write a legal thriller. Heck, maybe someday I’ll even teach writing on a regular basis. But for now, I appreciate keeping my writing life and my day job in separate boxes.

What about you? Do you write what you know? Or what you wish you knew? How much does your day job intersect with your writing life?

Wendy Lyn Watson writes deliciously funny cozy mysteries with a dollop of romance. Her Mysteries a la Mode (I Scream, You Scream [Highly recommended by Paula!]; Scoop to Kill; and the forthcoming A Parfait Murder (June 2011)) feature amateur sleuth Tallulah Jones, who solves murders in between scooping sundaes. While she does not commit--or solve--murders in real life, Wendy can kill a pint of ice cream in nothing flat. She's also passionately devoted to 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV. (

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Moment of Self Discovery

by Annette Dashofy

Two weeks ago I posted here about “Refilling the Well.” Monday, over at my Writing, etc. blog, I posted about how my Mental Health Week went. What I didn’t include there was a major a-ha moment I had on Sunday just prior to my hubby’s return from the wilderness.

On a whim, I followed a link on Twitter to an article in Psychology Today titled Revenge of the Introvert. It’s long, but if you want to read it, click here. I’m not really sure WHY I followed that link. Probably because I’m always looking for insights into the characters I write and psychology articles offer some really good stuff.

But the insight I discovered in this piece hit much closer to home. I learned something about myself.

In a nutshell, the article discusses the differences between introverts and extroverts. I imagine a lot of people might think of me as the latter. I’m president of our local Sisters in Crime chapter, area representative for Pennwriters; I coordinated a writing conference and lead meetings and occasional workshops. I can stand in front of a room and talk without freaking out.

And yet, I am most definitely an introvert. I suspect a lot of—maybe most—writers are.

Introverts prefer to live inside their own heads. Extroverts prefer social activities. Introverts thrive on solitude. Extroverts get bored with too much of it.

I used to think I was shy by nature. That’s what I was always told when I was a child. But according to this article, there’s a difference. People who are shy desperately WANT to connect, but socializing is difficult for them. Introverts simply prefer time alone. (Am I the only one who hears Greta Garbo echoing in my head?)

While reading this article, I also determined something else that explains a lot about the stress I’ve been feeling. Not only am I an introvert, my husband is an extrovert.

Introverts like quiet. Extroverts crave external stimulation. I like to read in the evening. Hubby likes the blare of the television even if he has no clue what show he’s landed on while channel surfing. After being out all day, he wants to stop on the way home to visit friends or family. I just want to go home and shut out the world.

I’ve caught myself saying (only half jokingly) that after I’ve been out shopping, I’m sick of people. Now I know why.

I also now understand why I prefer teaching private yoga classes over teaching groups in a studio. Introverts deal much better in one-on-one situations than with groups.

Personally, I’m thrilled to have discovered this. It helps to understand that my darling husband needs that noisy TV as much as I need to lock myself in my cave.

After reveling in my new self-knowledge, I turned back to my original purpose in reading that article. Now I’m asking myself whether each of my characters is an introvert or an extrovert. How does it affect the way they behave and respond?

What about you? Introvert? Or extrovert? How about your protagonist and antagonist? Which are they and do they react accordingly?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Today we're delighted to welcome Guest Blogger Barb Ross to Working Stiffs.

Even after all these years out of school, fall still makes me think of sharp pencils, clean notebooks and endless possibilities. This year that’s truer than ever. On July 26, three friends and I announced we were going to be the new editors of the Level Best Books anthologies. On August 5, the company where I was Chief Operating Officer was sold. And on August 18, my first novel The Death of an Ambitious Woman was released.

So here I am, headspinningly fast, soon to be unemployed, promoting my book, co-editing a short story anthology due at the printers, um, yesterday, and trying to finish the next novel. And I have never been happier.

In The Death of an Ambitious Woman, my protagonist is going through change as well. The novel opens the day Acting Police Chief Ruth Murphy finds out she’s won the selection process for permanent chief. In her six months in the “acting” role, she’s discovered that she loves the job. But there are times when the responsibility weighs heavily and she misses the camaraderie of peers.

So while Ruth climbs up her particular brand of the corporate ladder (the municipal ladder?), I’m at home. Trying to figure out how to manage my time now that I don’t have all those meetings to tell me where to be and what I need to know before I get there. For so long, the rhythms of my year were determined by the corporate calendar—sales meeting, user conference, industry conference, planning and budgeting. Do it again next year.

How will I find my new routine? How have those of you who’ve moved from structured to unstructured work done it?

Stephen King
“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he said. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.

“It’s not any different than a bedtime routine,” he continued. “Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on?" -- Lisa Rogak, Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King
Gustave Flaubert
“Days were as unvaried as the notes of the cuckoo.” -- Frederick Brown, Flaubert: A Biography
The Death of an Ambitious Woman is Barbara Ross’ first novel. In July, Barbara became one of the editor/publishers at Level Best Books which has produced and anthology of crime stories by New England writers every fall for the last seven years. The eighth edition, titled Thin Ice will be released in November 2010. Barbara and her husband divide their time between Somerville, Massachusetts, and Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Monday, September 13, 2010

And The Winner Is...

by Wilfred Bereswill

My wife and I are still trying to adjust to our new empty nest.  So far we've tried cleaning drawers and cabinents, straightened up the landscaping and now we're stripping wall paper from the one room in the house that is still papered.  On the to-do side of things lies things like, clean the garage (this is mamajor undertaking), do something with our kitchen countertops (that won't cost an arm & a leg), tackle the unfinished side of the basement (more major than the garage.) 

Oh, so what is the title of the blog all about?  As it turns out, one of the local casinos (Ameristar) sent me my ususal mailing with coupons to play a bit of money in the slot machines.  Most times it's a measly $5 a week, but business must be bad and the coupons were for $16 per week for September.  So I got home from work on Thursday night and realized the first coupon expired that night, so I convinced my wife to take a ride in the convertible, use our coupon and come home.  Well, we waked out that evening with $50 we didn't have before, and had some fun to boot.  We planned on returning the next night, Friday, with the second coupon. 

So I'm at work on Friday when I received a text message from a friend asking if we'd like to accompany them to the same casino on Saturday for the buffet and then a little gambling.  Our friends gamble a bit (they have the money for it) and they had plenty of Comps that they were going to use for the meal.  After a call to my wife, and a chat about how coincidental life is, we shifted our return to Ameristar with our coupon to Saturday night.

Well, Friday night, we got a call at almost 11 PM.  It was our friends and my wife was having trouble hearing her.  As it turns out, they were at Harrah's and she won $152,000 on a poker machine.  Yes, that's right, $152,000 and change.  The dinner for the next night at Ameristar was still on and we were going to celebrate their win.

At dinner we heard the details.  the jackpot was for a sequential Royal Flush on a video poker machine.  That's A, K, Q, J, 10 of Spades, IN ORDER. 

So after dinner Linda (my lovely wife) and I went into the casino with $16 coupon in hand ready to win our fortune. Less than 3 minutes later our $16 was gone and we were ready to go.  No fortune.

But wait!

We were feeling pretty good since we just got a free meal and, of course, inspired by the good fortune of our friend.  We trekked off to find that perfect slot...

I slipped in $20 and we never looked back. Two hours later, we cashed out for....

A whopping $109.53

Well, we had fun and we didn't lose, so life is good.

How did you spend your weekend?

Coming this week

Just a heads-up that our guest blogger on Tuesday will be talking about change -- something many of us face when fall begins. Don't forget to stop by tomorrow to hear what Barb Ross has to say about it and "The Death of an Ambitious Woman." 

Friday, September 10, 2010

"There's Your Sign"

By Laurissa

Years ago I had a boyfriend complain that I had to make “an event out of everything” and he didn’t like it. What did he mean by my making an “event” out of everything, you might be wondering; it’s kind of an odd complaint to make -- right?

Well this particular comment was made in reference to my driving five miles to the local farm market to buy apples instead of going to the chain grocery store located less than a mile from my home and buying my apples at the same time as I did my normal grocery shopping. I had invited him to come with my daughter and me, but he refused, because he felt that it was silly to drive that far for apples.

When somebody questions something like that, there is really no need to try and explain. When you feel that you have to defend your choice of something as small as where and how you buy apples, “there’s your sign!”

Now that September is here I’m really looking forward to my weekly visit to this particular farm market and its apple harvest. Not only do they sell an array of apples and other fruits and vegetables they also sell freshly baked donuts and pies, made to order subs, ice cream cones, apple cider for a dime a cup, and so many other items too numerous to list.

In addition to the wonderful locally grown produce, there’s a gorgeous lake with ducks and geese and a beautiful patio on the property. In October there are corn stalks, pumpkins, wagon rides, mazes, caramel and candied apples.

Oh, and by the way, he was right. It is an event, and one I won’t miss out on. I’m glad that I’m not so jaded that I can’t take pleasure in and make events out of some of the simpler things in this life. This October when my daughter is home from medical school for fall break, we’ll be there with our apple cider and blueberry donuts, sitting outside on the patio watching the children as they run and play through the maze and fallen red, gold, and orange hued leaves. It’s my favorite season, and whenever I’m there with my daughter, all’s right in my world.

Do you  have a particular activity that you participate in, place or event that makes you feel that “all is right” in your world?

Also, have you ever received an odd complaint from a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife? If it's not too personal, would you mind sharing it with us?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Where Does It Go?

by Joyce

Can someone tell me where the hell the month of August went? It was here a minute ago. I swear. One minute it was August 1st, and then all of a sudden it's September. How does that happen?

Some people thrive on being busy. Not me. I like a routine. I get so much more done that way. And as much as I like vacations and getaways, they wreak havoc on my routine. Hubby and I went to Gettysburg for a long weekend for our 30th anniversary and I've been trying to play catch up ever since. Does anyone else have that problem?

As a result, this is a really short blog post. I'm trying to outsmart myself with the next getaway by trying to get things done in advance. Think there's any chance that will work? What do you do to keep things/life/etc. on track when your normal schedule is disrupted? I'll be mostly offline until next week, but please leave your suggestions and comments. I REALLY need to know!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

What it means to learn about ourselves

By Tamara Girardi

Self-awareness is a good thing. I'm not convinced it's pervasive in our society for many reasons, but this is not a rant so I'll refrain.

As a teacher, I aim to create learning experiences that will continue for my students long after they leave my classroom. For instance, the ability to analzye yourself might be the most valuable skill you can ever possess.

This helps you in your career, your relationships, and most especially for us, your writing. Undoubtedly, there have been moments in my life I've allowed the world to chew, swallow, and regurgitate my dreams. I become lost in a cloud of things I must do and things I want to do. Soon, the muddle of life has removed me from any self-awareness.

But then there are those moments that bring me back. Like last night. Over a pitcher of margaritas, a pound of nachos, and some vibrant conversation, I realized it is time to reevaluate and get back on track - with lots of things, but especially for me, my writing.

School has been all-consuming thus limiting my writing time, but I have allowed it that control. And as a student, I've learned a lot of great lessons about my writing. The most recent one is that how you learn will most definitely affect how you write.

I'm a visual learner. I like to see pictures. When I see words, I translate them into pictures. When I write scenes, I envision them, see the characters moving, and then translate the pictures I'm seeing into words.

I'm a global learner. I see the big picture of a novel as I write it. I know the general plot. I know the beginning, the ending, and some points in between, but listing every scene from A to Z frustrates me intensely as it seems a waste of time.

There are two lessons here. For those writers who are self-aware, who understand their strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles, they are more likely to use such awareness to their advantages. On the contrary, knowing you lean one way or another might make you more conscious of what you're missing.

For instance, I could lighten up on that A to Z frustration and realize knowing the steps in the middle might actually save lots of drafting time (as you don't know what to write next) and revision time (as you'll be cutting scenes that don't necessarily advance the plot).

As writers, we relish the tales from published authors on how they got there and revelations of their writing processes. But it might be as valuable or even better to spend that time getting to know ourselves.

We know not every writing process works for every writing, so every self-evaluation process will not work for every person. But let's talk about them anyway. How do you self-evaluate? What value does the action represent for your writing?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Different Kind of Bliss

By Martha Reed

I had the opportunity to listen to a panel of nationally published Pittsburgh authors on Saturday at a SinC sponsored event at the Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Southside Works. It’s always worthwhile to hear from published authors especially when they share their insights into the business side of the publishing business and once again confirmed the fact that writing is a business and it needs to be approached as such.

I pretty much heard this same story at the PennWriters Conference last spring and I remember it struck me at the time that no one talks about the joy of creative writing. I mean, it’s got to be fun or we wouldn’t be doing it, right? It seems to me that everyone is focused on marketing and numbers and social media tweets but I’ve been known to remind folks (gently) that the creative act should be joyful and not always solely driven by the columns on a spreadsheet. Lord knows we get enough of that at our day jobs!

Anyway, I had a surprisingly new kind of creativity revealed to me this past weekend. First off, I love three-day weekends because it’s like having two Saturdays and I can usually schedule some major chunks of writing time when everyone else is busy with their holiday activities. So there I sat, looking at the very thorough and insightful comments made by my independent line editor and thinking: ‘Oh crap. Here we go. More work.’ as I dug in to my work in progress. To my surprise I discovered a whole different type of creative writing that I’m going to call the editorial steamroller. What I found was that I could take my manuscript as it stands, look at the editorial suggestions, think about things a bit more and then rewrite my work to create a purer and even more distilled version that seemed to flow from my fingertips.

The experience of this level of creative writing is new to me. It feels much more automatic than my usual experience during the exploratory rough draft stage. Perhaps it shows that I have grown as a writer. Perhaps I have learned something after all from the numberless classes and workshops I’ve attended. Whatever this new development is, I’m delighted to find that there is still something new to be learned. It gives me hope that I may never know all there is to know about the act of creative writing and that as I continue to move forward more and greater gifts will be revealed!

Monday, September 06, 2010


                 by Gina Sestak

What did the Thanksgiving turkey say as it was being put into the oven?

Well, you can guess.  That's kind of how I feel right now, having received a (polite, encouraging, etc.) rejection from an agent who had my manuscript Four Weekends for the past few months.  OK, it's not all bad - he didn't hate it and his comments indicate he actually read it.

The same manuscript was previously rejected by an agent because, "I don't represent cozies."  Let's see.  In the first 5 chapters I submitted, my protagonist gets drunk and participates in explicit sex, armed robbery, torture, beating, and a kidnapping.  That agent either didn't read it or she doesn't know what a cozy is.

Forgive the rant.  It's just frustrating!

I have a room full of unsold writing and I'm running out of space.  Yes, I know about electronic copies, but as technology changes those lose accessibility.  If I didn't have paper copies of things I wrote on my old Tandy TRS-80, they'd be gone forever.

Anyway, here's a poem I wrote about my writing/unsold manuscript storage space a few years back:

I write within a dim and timeless space
Not by my whim, nor genius' grace.
The light blew out, poor victim of a surge.
As for clock batteries, I haven't had the urge
To know how much time slips away
In keyboard touch, day after day.
The floor is oak.  The walls are green.
File cabinet: broke.  Dust bunnies: seen.
An oriental rug lies bold beneath tottering reams
Of manuscripts unsold, my wasted dreams.

 Yeah, I know.  I'm wallowing.  I should get back on the horse and start sending everything around again, maybe even revise Four Weekends to address the agent's concerns and ask if he'd be interested in seeing it again.   Or maybe I should just sit in a corner and cuss for awhile.

How do you deal with rejection?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Free at Last

by Bente Gallagher AKA Jennie Bentley

Swear to God, I had a post titled Free at Last about a year and a half ago too. Didn’t I?

I’m in the same situation now that I was in then. I’ve handed in the manuscript for the last DIY-book, tentatively titled Flipping Out!, and I’m flipping out a little myself too, being out of contract. Until my editor approaches me with an offer to continue the series, I’m unemployed.

Sure, there’s the Cutthroat Business series which isn’t finished, but I write those on my own time and submit them to my publisher when they’re ready. We’re on a book-by-book basis, not a contract. And I’m a book ahead of the game: #2—Hot Property—is in the pipeline and ready for release next summer, while #3—Under Contract, or maybe Contract Pending—is written and under consideration; that would be slotted for the summer of 2012. So I have some time I can waste until I have to get started on #4, which has a working title of Close to Home. Don’t know yet whether that’ll be the last, or whether I’ll need another to tie up the action. It’s a relationship-focused series, so it just depends on when I can get my people together and keep’em that way.

For the next four months, until DIY-4, Mortar and Murder, is released in January and I have to start promoting, I plan to write something new. Something different. Something exciting.

The question, of course, is what.

I thought I had it all figured out. I’m eighty pages into a romantic suspense/thriller/FBI-procedural sort of thing that’s—gasp!—all plotted and outlined. (I know. The world is surely coming to an end.) And I still like my story. I do. I just managed to get caught up in something else, that’s sort of taken over my brain for the time being.

Remember that flash fiction Will had me do earlier this year, during Short Month? 200 words starting with “If you have to die, February is the best month for it?” Remember Quinn Conlan? The poor galactic smuggler I left to rot in a prison colony on the moon Marica-3? I even said at the time I could have kept going and spun the idea into a book.

Well, during the month of August I’ve been taking this online workshop through RWA on how to write suspense. I thought it was a workshop on writing romantic suspense, and that I’d get a grounding in the genre I’m considering slipping sideways into, but instead it’s been more about making sure your writing is suspenseful. Which I already know how to do, at least to a degree.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m having tons of fun. First we had to write a scene or prologue—500-1,000 words; take that, Freddy!—beginning with the words, “The blood dripped on the floor” and submit it to the group. Then we had to do a character sketch for our protagonist. Then we had to write a 1,500 word synopsis for the book, and submit that and the first ten pages.

When you’re writing for publication, you can’t really throw your WIP out there for the world to see. Neither of my publishers would be happy about that. I had to start from scratch and come up with something brand new that I could share with the class. So what I did, was resurrect Quinn. And I ended up with a first scene, a character bio, a detailed synopsis, and eventually, the first chapter of a book I never intended to write.

But as I submitted it to the class, other people—including our New York Times bestselling instructor—told me how much they liked it, and that I really should consider writing the book. And the thing is, it’s got me by the throat now. I love when characters do that, when they grab you and hold on and yell in your ear until you write their stories. But I had other plans for the next four months. Other plans for the direction I wanted to go from cozies. And let me tell you, I never intended to branch off into futuristic romance.

You can read the synopsis HERE if you’d like, and tell me whether it’s something you’d read. And then you can tell me whether, if you were me, you’d abandon your carefully laid plan of writing a romantic suspense/thriller/FBI-procedural thing in favor of it.

Till next time!

Thursday, September 02, 2010


By Paula Matter

Two weeks ago, my regularly scheduled day to blog, I called off sick. Thanks, Joyce, for filling in for me at the last minute. I’d written that I had planned on blogging about the fantastic first MWA-U (Mystery Writers of America University) event I attended in Bethesda, MD in mid-August. Now here we are in September already. While writing this blog post, I’m realizing just how much I learned at the event.

Here’s the line-up of teachers, their topic, and one little nugget of wisdom I learned:

Jess Lourey, After the Idea where she discussed how to grow your idea into a compelling story. One highlight for me was this question: What’s in your main character’s wastebasket? I have done a variation of this--what’s in your mc’s purse / wallet? Looking in Maggie’s wastebasket gave me some interesting and useful info.

Hallie Ephron, Dramatic Structure & Plot One of my favorite teachers, Hallie explored the art of storytelling and plotting. Highlight: Hook the reader with the mc’s personality, voice, something that’s likeable or curious. Start with an out-of-whack event.

Daniel Stashower, Setting & Description where he discussed the process and potential pitfalls of choosing a setting, and how descriptive passages can illuminate characters and themes. Highlight was how important choosing the right word sets the tone of the story.

Donna Andrews, Character & Dialogue Creating a fully-realized unique protagonist that leaps from the page. Highlight was to test drive your characters; where was each suspect at the time of the murder?

Reed Farrel Coleman, Writing as Re-Writing More often than not, it’s the things you remove, the tweaks you make, and the tinkering that you do, that are the difference between another slush pile ms and a new book contract. Highlight: If it’s not on the page, it’s not there. How many times have you sworn you’d written something down, and it’s just not there? I know I have.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, The Writing Life The ups and downs, the solitude, the self-doubt, the revisions, the rejections and then, the rejoicing. Highlight was her story of a beta reader suggesting a major change to improve a ms, and how important it is to decipher comments made by others. When in doubt, ask for specifics.

All in all, a wonderful event. If MWA-U schedules one near you, I highly recommend attending.

What are some of your favorite conferences, workshops, seminars? Do you always get at least one nugget of wisdom?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Refilling the Well

by Annette Dashofy

The saying goes “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Only don’t ask me next week.

Yesterday morning I started to slip into a meltdown. I had tons of excuses for going all weepy. Unemployed husband with no good prospects in sight. Potentially needing to find that dreaded “real job” in spite of all efforts to avoid such nonsense. No time to write. Too many demands.

Pick one.

But as I blew my nose, wiped my eyes, and settled into my early morning yoga practice, the true reality of the situation came to light. My well is dry.

I’ve been pouring out all my energy in many different directions from mentoring new Avon representatives to coordinating a day-long writing workshop for Pennwriters to heading up the job hunt for Hubby to caring for my 90-year-old mom. I love all of these tasks. But you can’t keep giving it away without replenishing the reserves.

No wonder my writing has been such a struggle. Not only am I trying to cram a page in here and a page in there; I’m trying to tap into an emotional well that has been exhausted.

In that moment of clarity, when I diagnosed the source of my meltdown, I also knew what I needed to do to fix it.

Years ago I read a book called The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. In it, she devotes a chapter to "The Well" and talks about restocking the pond by going on an Artist Date. Once weekly, she goes on a solitary expedition to something that interests her. Perhaps a museum or a favorite store. The main requirements are that it be someplace fascinating and to go alone.

In my current situation, another requirement is that it be cheap.

Another name I’ve used for “refilling the well” is a Mental Health Day. But I need way more than that. I need a Mental Health Week.

As it happens, Hubby will be out of town for several days next week.


I was supposed to have a dentist appointment during one of those days.

I cancelled it. I’ve cleared my schedule. If you want/need me to do something next week, the answer is NO!

The plan is to practice yoga in the quiet solitude of my empty house. (Cats don’t count. Cats soothe the wounded soul.) Then I shall write and I shall read. Meals will consist of Lean Cuisine and pizza delivery. I plan to take some long evening walks. I also plan to take one of those Artist Dates, but I haven’t chosen a destination yet. And when I do, I probably won’t tell anyone.

So when was the last time you took a Mental Health Day or went on an Artist Date? And where do you recommend as a good location for one? What recharges your batteries and refills your well?