Saturday, February 16, 2013

Life is the cure for writer's block

... in this girl's brain, anyway.

Last weekend, my oldest and I went to see a play called "Never Too Late" on Sunday evening at a community theatre. Act 1 was really enjoyable and comical. It was about a couple in their 50s who found out they're going to have a baby. It's a tiny theatre, so in lieu of an actual stage, there was a central area of the room with a set. It was made up like a 1960's living room, with a recliner and sofas to match the era. A center table an area rug finished off the living room design perfectly. I saw red tape on the floor to alert attendees of the area that was for stage vs. walking around. I like this because it's more cozy, and no matter where you sit around the set, even in the highest seats, you're still very close to the performers.

During intermission, we took a walk around, scoped out the concession stand, and went back to our seats. As I was gazing across the seating area on the opposite side, I saw an elderly man with a cane trying to get down the stairs. I felt uneasy, because I had seen this man stumble just before the show started as he tried to make his way up to his seat four rows up, and his wife held on to his arm. This time, she wasn't with him. He lost his footing at the very last step, stumbled, and fell sideways full force with his head slamming into the edge of the center table on the set! I happened in a matter of seconds right before my eyes. I got teary as I watched members of the theatre staff swarm him on the floor while another dialed 9-1-1. I was teary and energized, wanting to do something, but they had it under full control until the paramedics came. He kept reaching for his wife's hand and constantly cracking jokes with the staff. He insisted he was perfectly fine to stick around for Act 2 even though there was a gash on the side of his head. I also heard him say that he and his wife were to renew their vows the following week. They had to be in their 70s at least, and a very adorable couple they were. As he was taken away on a stretcher, the audience clapped for him and he raised his hands waving at us as he was rolled out of the building. I couldn't stop thinking about him and worrying about his condition. I love the elderly and cherish their existence in this crazy technological world of modern marvels that they have such a hard time comprehending. I love hearing my grandmother's perspectives on things like cell phones and iPads.

Here's my impression of writer's block ... 

Although I enjoyed the rest of the show (even with a pesky migraine's wrecking ball inside my head), I couldn't stop thinking about this old man even after I got home. I thought of it so much that I was imagining how the couple met, what they were like as youngsters, what happened the day before, what happened to him when he got to the hospital, on and on. With all the key players in this scenario from the theatre staff to the audience members, the couple, and the paramedics, imagine the endless possibilities for fiction here.

Almost a week later, a meteorite hits a populated area in Russia! Have you seen the video coverage of this?! If not, take a look at this freak of nature. The second I set my eyes on this thing, a marathon of sci-fi story ideas raced through my mind. How often does something like this happen? These things strike Earth all the time, just not in cities but in all the desolate and vast spacious corners of the Earth. And they disintegrate in the planet's fiery atmosphere, which makes them unnoticeable to us most of the time. The hap compelled me to go look up other such incidents, and I found stories about several craters around the globe, some that were dated to 50,000 years back. Talk about a wealth of possibilities for stories!

So you see, sometimes all a writer needs is a dose of reality to get shoved in the right direction. A jump start, if you will, to hours of happy and obsessive writing.

And, to all, a great day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book review: The Journey, by John A. Heldt

Today I'll present you my review of "The Journey" by John A. Heldt. The book was provided to me by the author for review purposes.

SynopsisSeattle, 2010. When her entrepreneur husband dies in an accident, Michelle Preston Richardson, 48, finds herself childless and directionless. She yearns for the simpler days of her youth, before she followed her high school sweetheart down a road that led to limitless riches but little fulfillment, and jumps at a chance to reconnect with her past at a class reunion. But when Michelle returns to Unionville, Oregon, and joins three classmates on a spur-of-the-moment tour of an abandoned mansion, she gets more than she asked for. She enters a mysterious room and is thrown back to 1979.

Distraught and destitute, Michelle finds a job as a secretary at Unionville High, where she guides her spirited younger self, Shelly Preston, and childhood friends through their tumultuous senior year. Along the way, she meets widowed teacher Robert Land and finds the love and happiness she had always sought. But that happiness is threatened when history intervenes and Michelle must act quickly to save those she loves from deadly fates. Filled with humor and heartbreak, THE JOURNEY gives new meaning to friendship, courage, and commitment as it follows an unfulfilled soul through her second shot at life.

This the second book of the Northwest Passage series and also the second book I've reviewed by this author. Every book has a vibe, be it scary, suspenseful, or sad. This one hits you straight in the heart, and I am quite a fan of time traveling stories. Heldt is a talented writer, and his descriptions and scene transitions are very smooth and enjoyable. I never find myself bored no matter how simplistic the scene. I'm impressed that he was able to craft such a likeable and realistic female as Michelle Preston. She found herself widowed, unaccomplished and somewhat sad, so she decided to attend her high school reunion where she rekindled memories with some old pals. They decided to go on an adventure to an old spooky mansion, and after daring to enter a dark room, Michelle finds herself in '79 when she gets scared and runs back through the same door she thought she had come from. 

She stumbled around confused, noticing all the landmarks that were there just minutes before had changed completely, and she soon realized she had been sucked into a time warp. She was her adult self but had jumped back to her high school years. The way it happened seemed so possible! It made me wonder if I stumbled through a time portal and ended up decades away from my current year, what would I do? Michelle handled herself well, and thought of just about everything. She remembered an aunt who had passed away and whose identity she could "borrow" for the time being. Her shock at seeing her father at his shop and finally meeting her younger self after getting a job at the high school was a superb scenario. She befriend "Shelly," her younger self, and inspired her to be braver than she ever was and inspired her to pursue better options in life.

The story flowed nicely, and Heldt skillfully made me feel what the characters were feeling. I kept thinking, "what if." There wasn't a whole lot of twists and turns, which is what made it realistic. That's a nice flavor for someone who reads a whole lot of fantasy and sci-fi. Michelle goes out of her way to influence her family for the better, and that is a tough predicament to be in because there's no way to know how changing one piece of history will affect the rest. Her family (who didn't know they were her family) commented on how uncannily she resembled them, but at the time, didn't figure out she was the older Shelly. 

It was thrilling when she fell in love with someone who actually made her happy, a co-worker and coach at the high school, Robert Land. She saw her younger self interact with her would-be future husband and high school sweetheart and realized what a mistake she had made. With a second chance at love and happiness, she indulged, got married and changed a lot of lives, even saved some. Trouble brewed in two phases: Since she was from the future, she knew Mt. Saint Helen's would erupt, and her family had gone to their cabin at the wrong time because of her saving a friend's life and sparing them of the eulogy they had originally attended. They ended up in the volcano's path. Second bump, her husband's friend did a background check and found out she wasn't who she said she was. Robert married her anyway because he was genuinely in love, but it still left the air of suspicion and curiosity. This is where the story came to a close with a very bittersweet ending. Let's just say Michelle kept a diary, and it landed in the best of hands. I was going to write a spoiler, but I won't, because you must get this book and find out what happens to Michelle the time traveler! 

The book left me thinking about it long after I had finished reading it, and it evoked a lot of emotions including cheer, anger, sadness, excitement, thrill. So therefore ... 

I rate this book FIVE stars! Get it here on Amazon!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Meet my friend - author Gloria Lyons

Hey, everyone!

Today, I'm introducing you to a very cool friend of mine, Gloria Lyons. In the time I have known her, she's been a huge inspiration to me as an author. Her list of accomplishments is quite impressive and so diverse. This is a talented lady! Read on to learn about all the sensational things she's done with her love for words. 

What’s your technique for coming up with story ideas?

Prompts are always a good source of inspiration. I’ve had five short stories selected and four published by Chicken Soup for the Soul (Married Life, Find Your Happiness, Inspiration for the Young at Heart, and Shaping the New You. You can read these stories on my author website: The Chicken Soup editors send out notices about upcoming topics, and if one speaks to me, I apply it to an experience from my life.

I came up with the idea to write, Kiss My Grits, Sugar: Southern Humor with a Side of Tasty Fixin’s, from a neighbor who held a contest on her blog, and the prize was a book called Putting on the Grits. Since I was born and raised in the South, I wrote a series of short stories about growing up there during the 1950s and included many of my family’s favorite recipes (including grits). Read sample stories from this book at

One of my favorite sayings is, “What’s up with that?” when I see something happening that’s just too weird to understand. That inspired me to write a collection of short stories, What’s Up with That? Humorous Short Stories About Life in Modern Day America. A couple of these stories are also on my author website.

Inspiration is everywhere. The key to finding it is to stay alert and be observant as to what is going on all around you.

Your five favorite books of all time?

I don’t have five favorite books, but I love to read cozy murder mysteries. My favorite authors are Janet Evanovich, Anne George, Susan Wittig Albert and Sue Grafton. 

Tell us all the books you’ve written and where we can find them.

I’ve written and self-published 22 books (cookbooks and how-to books about interior decorating, self-publishing, crafting, planning weddings, tea parties and theme parties, plus short story collections) and 20 e-booklets (cooking and crafting). You can see the entire list on my books website:

What can you say as an experienced writer who has sold books to a newcomer who hopes to see their books find success?

Make sure your book is the absolute best you can make it—whether you do it all yourself, as I did, or hire professionals to help you with editing, layout and cover design. You want to be extremely proud of the finished product.

How long does it take you, on average, to finish writing a book?

If I’m developing the recipes for a cookbook, as I did with Easy Microwave Desserts inn a Mug, it took a year to perfect them, photograph the samples, and then write the cookbook.

How-to books generally take about three months.

A collection of short stories can take about six months.

Do you think it’s imperative to find an agent at some point?

Personally, I don’t feel the need for an agent, since I have self-published all my books, and sell them on my websites, blogs and But my main goal is not to make the most money I can from selling them, it is simply to share what I’ve written with others. 

Do you have any hobbies besides writing?

I have always enjoyed crafting (all kinds of needlework, woodworking, metal working, painting, sewing, and anything else I wanted to try).  I sold my creations at craft shows many years ago, but, since I enjoyed trying all types of craft mediums, I began designing my own projects and got my start in writing by submitting these original designs to editors of national magazines. I had more than 125 designs published between 1983 and 1995. 

What impression do you hope people will take away after meeting you for the first time?

That I am passionate about what I do. I love learning new things and then can’t wait to share them with others through writing and teaching classes. Nothing is more fulfilling for me than helping others succeed.

Thanks so much to Gloria for sharing her story with us! And I'll see you all back here next time. Happy weekend to all!