Category Archives: #ReadLocal

CAKE & HYPERBULL LITERARY LUNCHBREAK 10-2-2021

Since it’s Cake & Hyperbull Poetry Lunchbreak, I’m doing a lite version of the usual post. To see my book mail, visit yesterday’s post here. For the rest, here’s all the lit news I’ve heard in the last week, plus anything that comes up during the show. You can visit my co-hostess Amy Zoellers at her Etsy shop here: etsy.com/shop/HipnessAndOutrage.

Today’s poetry challenge was to write a canzonet with the phrase “my beret is full of questions.” Here’s mine so you can read along if you like:

TEARS WONDERFUL—a haiku canzonet

My beret is full
of questions, falling like curls
like tears, wonderful
falling, silver pearls.
Give heart strings a pull—
risky tenderness.
Me, vulnerable—
no love? Life is valueless.

To be a human
born under duress
is to be a broken plan
falling short of “best.”
Unlawful, flaw-full—
to spite it all, I fall short.
Shattered, beautiful
all flesh and bloodsport.

A canzonet uses a ABABACAC DEDEAFAF rhyme scheme. You can read more about this poetry form at internetpoem.com.

LITERARY NEWS FROM THIS WEEK

This evening I’ll be joining fellow Giving the Devil His Due authors Jason Sanford and Rebecca Brewer for READ FOR PIXELS 2021: The Devil at Home – Writing about Domestic Violence in Speculative Fiction, a discussion of domestic violence in spec fiction and how we can approach these issues appropriately in our work. This goes live here at 8:30 pm EST/7:30 CST.

Win a booth for SPECFAIRe coming up on October 8! More details at SPECFAIRe.com.

HAVE I FOUND MY NEIL GAIMAN?

For most of my publishing life I have sought a unicorn. The perfect story, undiscovered by the world—unsullied by the masses. It would lie waiting for me with a beginning to hold me captive, a middle that would keep me in surprise and an ending that did not drop the ball. Here is that book: Born Lucky by H.L. Seibel. Find it on Amazon here.

Born Lucky by H.L. Seibel

The story behind the story of how I found H.L. Seibel was magical enough on its own. I won’t recap, but if you missed it you can go beck to the origin: A TRUE FAIRYTALE ABOUT A GIRL, A BOOK AND AN AUTHOR. To sum up how much I love Born Lucky, I read the book in a day, something I haven’t done since Harry Potter.

I hoped Born Lucky would be half as good as my expectations. It exceeded them in giant strides. I meant to just read a page or two yesterday but before I realized anything suddenly my office was dark and I was on Chapter 11. A move to the bedroom and switching on a lamp were the only interruptions until the last chapter when I forced a stop.

I couldn’t go on because of fear. Not fear in the story… that was tense but not terrifying. I was afraid the ending would disappoint and I, as a reader, would be cheated. Spoiler alert: I was not cheated.

I finished Born Lucky this morning, steeling myself to the probability that the ending would fall short of the pinnacle of expectation I built for it. H.L. Seibel did not disappoint, and to the last word he held this story to perfection.

I have found my unicorn. I just ordered every book this mysterious author has written to date (that I know of), including both the hard cover and paperback of Born Lucky. The copy I just read will go back to the library asap so someone else can discover this literary wonder. As far as H.L. Seibel, I would love to republish this book, but he doesn’t need a publisher. As far as I know, he produced it himself. It is perfect except for one extra space between two words. That is my one critique. I’d have marked it down for correction but that would have taken me away from the story. It’s a rare tale that can shut the editor off.

The hardback edition is gorgeous

The story begins with Philadelphia Potts, an man with no luck but bad. While life has dealt him a bad hand from day one, the story begins with an actual good hand of cards, the first in his uncharmed life. Even that one shining moment turns sour, and sends Potts on a doomed adventure created from lies, mystery and murder. If Edward Gorey had a literary baby with J.K Rowling and Neil Gaiman, Born Lucky might be the precocious result.

Not a horror, though there is a whisper of that. More a mystery, but there is such an element of magic/fate/luck it has the feel of a fantasy with dark humor in spades. The ending, while fantastical, resides in logic. I can think back to what seemed like insignificant details and all lead to the unexpected conclusion. I am a jaded reader, and I can almost always ‘see it coming.’ Somehow Born Lucky gives the reader exactly what we wish for and still surprises. I will say no more… to spoil this book would be an actual crime.

During the read, I was engrossed. After, I feel like the world is a better place for this book’s existence, and I am a better person for having read it. These are the books that remain on my shelf as treasures… writing at its best changes the world. Thank you, H.L. Seibel, for mailing me your book and changing mine. I look forward to reading the rest of your work.

Am I crazy? Have I been hunting unicorns for so long that I have fooled myself into adopting a pony? I’m curious to see what everyone else thinks. Please, read Born Lucky by H.L. Seibel and tell me if I’m crazy—always a possibility.

Here’s what I just ordered (with affiliate links so I can afford more books):

Born Lucky by H.L. Seibel in hardback and 2 paperbacks (one to pass on)
The Enchanted Kingdom by Harvey L. Seibel 
Me and Poophead Penelope by Harvey L. Seibel 
The Third Impossible Thing by Harvey L. Seibel

Experimenting with Playwriting

I have never tried writing a play so of course when I was offered a chance to write something for performance I jumped on it. Written for a playgroup in Niceville, Florida, I based the story off of real places people in the town would be familiar with.

The Bog Spiders are a reference to pirantulas, of course. Pirantulas are the monster I made up for a short indie film and short story that was published both independently and in Retro Horror, available on Amazon here.

The play was written to be performed on Halloween for a mixed age audience, but it was one of the COVID cancellations this year. Maybe next year. For now, here’s my first try at writing a play. Any playwrights out there? Feel free to give me advice in the comments.

Super Noob here!

The Turkey Creek Creeper
by Angela Yuriko Smith©

Cast of Characters

OLD MAN:   79 years old, an old cook.

YOUNG BOY:  10 years old, schoolboy.

Place

Niceville, Florida

Current

Halloween Afternoon

ACT I

Scene 1

       Setting:  A back room of a cafe. A chair and an overturned bucket, some stacked up pots and boxes of supplies are stacked around.

       At Rise: OLD MAN is working in his back room. Voices are heard off stage.

                   (OLD MAN is sweeping. He wears kitchen attire and sports an eye patch.)

VOICES (Off.)

You can run but you can’t hide! If we don’t catch you, the Bog Spiders will!

                   (OLD MAN stops his work and walks to a door to peer out.) 

YOUNG BOY (Voice off. afraid.)

You’re all liars! There’s no such thing! Leave me alone!

VOICES (off. Sing song) 

Bog Spiders and witches will give you the itches. 

The Turkey Creek Creeper will sew you in stitches!

YOUNG BOY (Voice off.)

Liars! There’s no such thing!  

                   (OLD MAN is knocked to one side as YOUNG BOY bursts through the door, slamming it behind him. He doesn’t see OLD MAN at first. When he turns around, he is startled.)

YOUNG BOY (panting) 

Yikes! I didn’t see you. Let me just stay here a minute? I just need them to go away.

OLD MAN

What are you hiding from? The Bog Spiders or the Turkey Creek Creeper?

                   (OLD MAN leans in boy’s personal space against the door. Boy backs away) 

YOUNG BOY (uncertain)

Those things aren’t true. My mom said they are just made up to scare kids. I’m not scared.

(OLD MAN leans in, rubbing hands together)

OLD MAN

How long have you lived here, boy? I’ve never seen you hanging around here before.

YOUNG BOY

I think less than a month. I started school at the end of September. 

   (OLD MAN nods and moves to pull over the chair. YOUNG BOY backs away another step or two so the bucket is behind him)

OLD MAN (shaking head) 

Ah… so you wouldn’t really know then. You aren’t from around here. Someone outta have told you.

YOUNG BOY (nervous) 

What… told me what?

OLD MAN

About the Turkey Creek Creeper… you really gotta be careful. You gotta know the story… or else.)

YOUNG BOY (uncertain)

Or else what?

OLD MAN (loud and fast jumpscare)

He gets ya!

(OLD MAN leans in quickly. Startled, YOUNG BOY backs into bucket and sits down hard)

OLD MAN (laughing)

I’m sorry, boy. I couldn’t resist getting your heart beating. It’s good for ‘ya. (turns serious) But still… someone oughta tell you what to do…. In case you do ever run into the Turkey Creek Creeper. 

YOUNG BOY

You mean it’s not just a made up story? 

OLD MAN (ominous)

Not only is it a real story, but I seen him myself. When I was a boy about your age. I only wish… I’d known what to do. (taps eye patch) I might still be seeing double like you if I had.

   (OLD MAN sits down in the chair. YOUNG BOY leans forward, expectant)

YOUNG BOY (scared)

Is that what happened to your eye? The Creeper got it?

OLD MAN (ominous)

You might could say that. You might could indeed. Like you, I thought he was a joke. I had to learn the hard way to take The Creeper serious.

YOUNG BOY (transfixed)

What happened?

OLD MAN (smiles)

I thought you’d never ask. (rubs hands together) See, it was a long time ago, 50 years to be exact, on a Halloween night much like this one. The shadows were extra dark that night, like they were trying to suck in any of the light they touched. The only sounds were crickets looking for winter shelter and the bog spiders looking for…

YOUNG BOY (interrupts)

Bog Spiders aren’t re…

   (OLD MAN claps his hands to startle boy)

OLD MAN (loud) 

Who is telling this story?

 (YOUNG BOY points to OLD MAN, sheepish)

OLD MAN (loud) 

Who’s lived here longer than you were even a thought in your Daddy’s mind?

 (YOUNG BOY points to OLD MAN, sheepish)

OLD MAN (miffed) 

Okay then. Like I said, the Bog Spiders (emphasis, pause)… were looking for an easy meal. (looks at boy for response, none given, before continuing) I was just a stupid young lad then. A young lad with two eyes and and no time for foolish stories… or so I thought. It was Halloween, as I said, and I had one thing on my mind that night. Candy. I was going for the Niceville record of most candy got in a single Hallloween. 

Back then all the good neighborhoods that gave the best candy were all around Kelly Way and I lived all the way over by Sparkleberry Cove. Everyone knew not to cross through Turkey Creek after dark, but I didn’t believe that nonsense. Or what I thought was nonsense at the time… when I still had both my eyes.

Even if I had thought the Creeper was real, I might still not have listened. My head was all full of Pixie Sticks and Fireballs, root beer Dum Dums and chewy Long Boys. I was so determined to get the biggest candy haul Niceville had ever seen I would’ve risked running across the devil himself. (pause for effect) Which I pretty much did.

 YOUNG BOY (mesmerized) 

But what…

OLD MAN (loud and gruff) 

Eh! No interruptions. I’m telling this story and you’ll get your turn one day when you’re a one eyed old man. Any more questions?

 YOUNG BOY (gulps and shakes head)

OLD MAN (softer, still gruff) 

That’s what I thought. Anyways… the devil… or as good as. See, the story of the Turkey Creek Creeper is this. When he was a young boy, like you are and I was, he also didn’t listen to warnings not to wander Turkey Creek after dark. A brave and silly boy, like us, he took off one Halloween after the mother load of goodies. He also cut through Turkey Creek… but back then the warnings weren’t about the Creeper. He was warned about… the Bog Spiders. 

YOUNG BOY (interrupts)


What was his name?

OLD MAN (blinks, confused)

The Bog Spiders?

YOUNG BOY (annoyed) 

The boy!

OLD MAN (confused) 

The boy? Er… um… Sam. The boy was Sam. (loud) Now no more interruptions!

OLD MAN (continues)

So the Bog Spiders have lived in Niceville a long, long time. Back when the place was still called Boggy, back before they tried to fancy it up for the tourists… there were Bog Spiders. Some say they are a kind of vicious, freshwater crab and some say they are a kind of tarantula that migrated here on some driftwood, but everyone agrees you don’t want to meet one. Bog Spiders are very particular in their dining habits. They don’t eat bugs or mice. They don’t even eat people… not all of us anyways. No, Bog Spiders are very particular diners. (pause) They only eat… your eyes!

YOUNG BOY (jumps)

OLD MAN

So what the poor old Creeper was up against back before he was the Creeper… 

YOUNG BOY (interrupts) 

When he was still Sam?

OLD MAN (annoyed)

Who? Er… yes. When he was still Sam. Now hush up and listen. (clears throat) Back when he was… Sam… he also cut through Turkey Creek on his way to maximize his candy haul. And of course, it was after dark. Back then there weren’t no fancy boardwalk like now. Back then you crossed the creek area on foot, through the muck and mud. So he’s hurrying along, his mind all on whatever old fashioned candy they had then, and he hears a noise. A clicking sound coming up behind him. A clackety click creeping up on all sides of him. So he starts to hurry, but it’s no use. The faster he goes, the faster the clackety click goes. He hears it behind him. He hears it on both sides. Then (pause) he hears it ahead. Suddenly, poor old…er… Sam… is a believer. Suddenly poor old Sam regrets cutting through the dark, boggy muck late on a Halloween night. Suddenly, Sam thinks he’s in trouble. (pause) And Sam was right.

There, in a sliver of moonlight cutting through the tangle of dark he sees the biggest spider he has ever seen. It’s the size of a dinner plate, it has eight glowing eyes across it’s hairy forehead. Eight legs scuttled along through the underbrush, glittering in the bit of moon. Each leg ended in a spike. Sam sees this and you know what he did then?

YOUNG BOY (terrified)

Did he run?

OLD MAN (suppressing laughter)

No. (pause) He peed his pants.

YOUNG BOY (shocked)

What? No he wouldn’t! He did not!

OLD MAN (suppressing laughter)

It’s true! He was so scared he peed his pants right there! But can you blame him? (serious, eerie) There he was, face to face with the scariest thing he’d ever seen in his young life. Something so scary he’d been too scared to even consider it could be real. Not only was there one, but he knew from all the clackety clicking all around him… there were probably hundreds upon hundreds of these monsters all hungry for one thing. (pause) A young boy’s eyes. (silence)

YOUNG BOY (after long pause, impatient)

What happened? Did he get away?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Of course not. They got his eyes. Otherwise how would he become the Turkey Creek Creeper? Think, boy!

YOUNG BOY (confused)

But that’s it? That’s the whole story? There isn’t more?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Yep, that’s the whole story. (Stands up, starts to continue his sweeping ignoring boy. A long pause)

YOUNG BOY (confused, disappointed)

But… then how did you lose your eye?

OLD MAN (loud, jumpscare)

Ha! I thought you’d never ask. (creepily) So the day I was cutting through Turkey Creek, it’s dark, and I also hears this terrible clackity clicking coming up all around me, and suddenly I start thinking maybe all the tales about Bog Spiders and the Creeper aren’t such tall tales after all and I commence to running. These clickety clacks are running with me though. The faster I go the faster they go. Finally, I’m running as fast as I can in the dark, dark and tangled underbrush, screaming my head off. I think I can hear the Creepers feet behind me, running just as fast… faster even. I know he’s just about to catch me… I feel his icy breath on the back of my neck and his long, slimy fingers snatching in the air just behind my head. Suddenly, a patch of moonlight, a pale splinter of light shines on the path ahead of me and I see a sharp stick jutting up through the mud. It’s angled right at me, like a spear. (pause) What I didn’t see was a whole mess of twisted grass tangled up across that path. My foot caught up in that grass, and down I went… right on that pointed stick. (straightens up and continues sweeping) And that was the end of that.

YOUNG BOY (confused)

What? The end of what? That wasn’t the end of anything. What happened then?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Oh, I lost my eye.

YOUNG BOY (confused)

To, what? The Creeper or the Bog Spiders?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

To the stick, boy. There was a sharp stick in the path and I fell on it. Weren’t you listening?

YOUNG BOY (confused)

But the Creeper was chasing you… where did he go?

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Oh, he probably got scared off at that point. I was screaming up a storm. It really hurt, you know. (continues sweeping)

 YOUNG BOY (confused)

But… but…

OLD MAN (suddenly serious, menacing)

Look boy, that’s all I know, and I won’t be one caught telling tall tales of made up nonsense. I tell you what I know and leave it at that. But I will tell you one thing I learned that night… (pause) Screaming scares ‘em off. Both the Bog Spiders and the Turkey Creek Creeper left me alone that night and they’ve never once bothered me since. Yessir, I’m convinced that screaming scares them off. As high pitched as you can get, as loud as you can. They can’t take the frequency.

YOUNG BOY (confused)

But… but…

OLD MAN (matter of fact)

Now off with you. I’ve got work to do. I don’t feed myself sitting around telling stories. Go on…

(shuffles protesting YOUNG BOY out the door and continues sweeping From offstage there’s a sudden high pitched scream) 

VOICES (Off.)

Do it again in case that wasn’t high pitched enough.(high pitched scream again)

(OLD MAN listens and just smiles. The scream comes again. OLD MAN begins to laugh maniacally, super villain style and turns slowly to face audience)

OLD MAN (addressing audience)

Happy Halloween, ya’ll. (continues laughing as lights dim)

(END)

NaNoWriMo Done

It wasn’t pretty, but it’s over now. As I staggered across the finish line for NaNoWriMo 2020 I thought back to the beginning when I decided to set out on this wild attempt to write a romance novel. It was Halloween… and that’s all I can really remember. The rest is a blur of trying not to fictionally kill anyone, not be disturbing and end on a happy note. These are the pillars of romance, I’m told.

I may have made a few concessions for my own enjoyment. The love triangle is between a young witch, an incubus and a succubus. There is the requisite hot guy, but he is blue with a barbed tail and sexy black hooves. The heroine isn’t gorgeous because I don’t want anyone too pretty and nice living in my head, so she’s plain, a little chunky and self conscious.

And then there’s the succubus. She doesn’t die… but not all endings are happy ones. Oh, and then there’s the dream I snuck in there where a giant silver mantis severs the head of our heroine, eating her alive as she dangles helplessly in a web made of intricately knotted ropes. I’m told I may have to edit that out as too much, even for a dream death.

The most important thing is, it’s done… and I’ve learned about a new genre and gained some great survival skills. Toward the middle of the month I wound up getting almost 10,000 words behind, something that is almost impossible to catch up on given that life always seems to double down when I need it to lighten up. In desperation, I tried something new… and it worked!

I’ve had the Google recorder downloaded on my phone for awhile, but since I almost never do interviews by voice anymore I have never used it. The lovely thing about the Google voice recorder is you get an audio file as well as a typed transcript, complete with punctuation. With one click you can have the transcript (or audio) uploaded to your Google Docs. Violia! I just ‘wrote’ 8,752 words in 52 minutes.

The recorder saved me. There is still a lot of editing to do, as with any book. While the transcript has punctuation it doesn’t do quotation marks, and every long pause is transcribed as having a period so I have lots of sentence fragments to clean up. That’s all stuff to do on the long, wintry afternoons coming. I now have 51,440 words of romance-ish novel to entertain me.

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Another benefit to NaNo is that it got me back in a disciplined mindset where my writing came first. I’ve gotten into the habit of letting everything else jump into my writing space both physically (my reading chair is the favorite nap spot for canines) and mentally (work, bills, dishes, chickens, garden…). When I have no deadlines, I lose my discipline.

Where do I go from here? I haven’t processed that far yet. We will see how well a romance does from my pen later. I know I need a real cover. No, the cover was just a joke I whipped up in Photoshop. Yes, I know I need a better cover. But later…

Right now I am happy to just relax, go munch some cereal and read someone else’s book for fun. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Tonight, I’m done.

Local Author Panel for My Birthday

I can think of no better way to celebrate turning 53 than to meet new authors and chat about writing… so that’s what I did today. Joining Mel Carney, Darlene Deluca and Anola Pickett for the Mid-continent Public Library’s annual Local Author Fair we had a lively discussion about publishing, writing during the pandemic and our work.

Darlene Deluca is a romance writer so I’ve already started hopping in her inbox to connect and ask her genre questions. I’ve also repented of my genre biased ways and bought her book Something Good on Amazon so I can be more educated about the less fatal attractions.

Which, speaking of not killing anyone, I am just about at 30,000 words with Soft Deadlines and no one has died yet! There is a lightly creepy dream sequence where a giant silver praying mantis eats the head off our heroine Naomi but it’s only a dream. Dream death can be romantic, right? Side note: I’m told the praying mantis dream sequence will probably be cut before publication.

This week I did get waaaaay behind on my wordcount. This has been a crazy week of COVID issues at work. We had seven branches close almost all at once, and the decision was made to go back to curbside service only beginning this Monday. That’s the bad news. The good news is I will have time to catch up on all my emails, this NaNoWriMo and get the final issue this year of Space and Time out.

Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes across my social media. I feel loved. I’ll do my best to answer all of them because you all rock, and I love you.

And here’s the video from the 7th annual Local Author panel…

Local Author Fair Panel

Watch Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes

I was so excited to be part of the fourth installation of the Horror Writers Association’s Skeleton Hour along with editors and authors from the new horror anthology, Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. I had a lot of fun with Sister Cranes Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Nadia Bulkin, and Rena Mason for a discussion about the book.

Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife. Quiet, submissive, demure. In Black Cranes, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.

Black Cranes is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider. This episode of Skeleton Hour was sponsored by the UC Riverside Palm Desert Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. Skeleton Hour is produced in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. Please buy books by the featured authors through The Last Bookstore or another indie bookstore near you!

Tomorrow I’ll be a featured author for the final Local Author Fair panel from 1:30-2:30 p.m. CST. The Local Author Fair panel will be on Facebook Live along with Mel Carney, Darlene Deluca, and Anola Pickett. This event includes a Q&A. Details here and you can watch here.

Cover Reveal for Space and Time #139

All I can think of is… almost there! This last issue ends our third year of Space and Time. By some miracle we managed to stay mostly on schedule, in spite of everything. The Spring and Summer issues almost ended the magazine financially due to a wave of missing issues and replacement costs. We finally gave up and went POD through Amazon and that has saved us, but we are still catching up on missing issues and chaos. Thank you for your patience with the chaos.

But here we are anyway, against the odds. This issue has some crazy coincidences behind it I’ll share once it’s published. I don’t want to ruin any surprises ahead of time. I’ll just say, the lead story interference by Leonard Speiser and the cover art by Arthur Haywood were both created completely independent of each other. When I first saw the cover art I cried because they fit so well. This is when publishing takes my breath away. There’s a magic in it, I swear. This issue has that magic.

And I’m grateful, because we all need some magic right now. You’ll find some powerful messages in this issue’s art, poetry and fiction. Creative voices speak loud. Revolutions are fueled by art—by words and images that cause blood to boil and banners to wave. I hope this issue inspires unprecedented love, guerilla tolerance and politicized empathy.

There’s a lot of anger and fear right now. I hope this issue can help us to protest division and refuse nothing less but full unity and forgiveness. It’s the <insert-your-belief-system-here> way, if you look at the teachings at the foundation. Whatever the differences, we all understand kindness.

Love doesn’t discriminate, is bi-partisan, is not territorial, doesn’t withhold itself because of race, sexual orientation or beliefs. In fact, I believe a wise, ancient text most of us are familiar with says it much better than I can:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

—1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I’ll have an extra helping of that please. I just have to find out who is serving it. One day soon, I hope all of us.

But enough of my soapbox. Forgive me if I’ve offended anyone, but I find 2020 wearing away the filter that keeps most of what I think safely locked in my head. This post is to show off the latest cover of Space and Time Winter issue #139 and celebrate those that will be in it.

Congratulations to everyone who is a part of #139, on the pages and behind them. Thank you to Kyra Starr for putting the cover together and Arthur Haywood for the beautiful art.

Congratulations to all fiction and poetry selections for #139

Congratulations, and here’s the the last issue in 2020… and an end to 2020!

Space and Time, Winter 2020 #139

Poetry Live with Hipness & Outrage

November has been much more chill, but not chill enough to forget our monthly Live Poetry on Instagram! Amy Zoeller and I have so much fun chatting about death, hot guys and cake that we are talking about starting an actual poetry show… most likely called Cake & Hyperbull. Amy is already composing theme music.

Why Cake & Hyperbull? It’s just nonsense that sprang from the last show, which you can watch below. Amy seems to have a lot of poems that involve cake and I’ve challenged myself to write something bright and happy about cake. If you haven’t heard Amy’s poetry yet, you are in for a treat. Her verse is full of light and life, love and vitality. She makes me happy. We all need more happy.

So where’s Hyper Bull come from? After reading I made a comment that I often don’t know how to pronounce words properly. It was within the last five years that I found out hyperbole (hai·pur·buh·lee) is not pronounced as hyper bole (hai·pur·bowl). Amy thought I said hyper bull, as in that’s so much bull it’s hyper. We both loved the word and claimed it. Shall I use it in a sentence?

2020 is already so hyperbull, what else can happen?

Want to witness this historic exchange? Or just watch two weirdos talk about poetry and nonsense? Here’s last Sunday’s live reading, in parts one and two. Sideways, because that’s how we roll.

NaNoWriMo: Tough Week for “Soft Deadlines”

The second week started off strong. Having a blast with romance, I participated in my first live NaNoWriMo Write-In and I did over 1k words in an hour. My keyboard was blazing. I was invincible. And then something important came up and I missed a day. I’m rocking this, I thought. I’ll write extra tomorrow to keep my lead.

No worries, because I was ahead of schedule, remember? I could afford to miss a day. Then, something came up the second night and I missed a second day. But I’m really only one day behind, I reasoned. I’d been a day ahead before.

Third night I realized I had double the writing to do. I’d worked all day, one of my kids needed to talk. I squeezed in a quarter of what I needed to accomplish and limped through a third day of writing. Having soared too close to the sun, I pouted as I plummeted to earth. Why do I do these crazy things to myself, I thought. Who am I to write a romance anyway?

Fourth night was another long day at work. We have so many people out, my super-part-time job has gotten intense. I was tired and depressed. I calculated out what my word count needed to be the next day and, not being a math-er, somehow got three different answers to my problem. Math is stupid, and so am I for trying to do this, I snarled. I’m a failure at life.

Fifth morning I had two days off in a row. I woke up, downed coffee and started typing for dear life. I worked all day, off and on. I drank far too much coffee. I looked for excuses to do anything else. By evening I recalculated how short I was—less than 2,000 words behind! I can do this, I thought. I can catch up and stay on track from here.

Sixth morning, another long slog but I was hopeful. I had coffee, went on a walk with the dogs and Ryan and buckled in to work. Piles of leaves beckoned to me outside. My Pokemon Go app needed to be restarted and I got sidetracked by cleaning out my inbox… but I’d force myself back. Lucky for me I finally reached a part I’d been excited for since day one and I sped forward and caught up, at least for today.

I’m still off track over all, as you can see in my progress graph but I have hopes that I can get some extra words in this next week when things promise to slow down. If I stay at this pace I’m on track to have 50,000 words done by December 3rd. I can live with that, but I still have high hopes I’ll finish ahead of schedule or go over wordcount (if the story calls for it).

I love where the story is going and see no reason not to publish this next February (after edits and clean up, of course). That’s the important thing. Pushing myself for 30 days to write something I can work with—setting up habits that put my writing back at the top of my To Do list. In spite of everything, still here… still tapping.

And if I keep tapping, tomorrow I should hit 25,000 words—the official halfway mark. Crossing fingers, humbled and wiser.

Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Possibly the first thriller I’ve reviewed on my blog, this twisted but well crafted plot deserves the premiere position. The pacing kept me tightly bound to the story even through the recent… er, current… election dramas. Quite a feat for any book, Annie Ward kept me wrapped up until the shocking and unexpected end.

The book has the perfect beginning for this past year. “Should I see a therapist?” types the protagonist Maddie. The Google search for 2020, it sets the mood for the rest of the book. A damaged mother is trying to protect those she loves, even if it harms. This book has plenty of dysfunction, betrayal, physical and mental trauma… and a grisly murder scene of course.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

While the tendency for the storyline to jump back and forth between periods of time can be disconcerting, it’s definitely worth sticking with it.

Bouncing across time and space, from the Balkans to my own Kansas City, the book is an adventure for curious arm chair travelers who want to get a taste of the Soviet Bloc without the commitment. I especially love the Kansas City she portrays. I’d missed the fact that she is a Kansas City resident as I read. From her love and attention to detail I knew she must have at least been through here.

Tonight I got to meet her on Zoom and found out we were probably within 20 minutes of each other. When COVID is past maybe we can have coffee and I can pick her brain for more details about her real life time in the Balkans, my absolute favorite parts of the book.

Highly recommended for anyone looking for a fast paced thriller that explores our emotional dynamic along with the external clues that something is not right. This book will lead the reader on a riveting ride that will not let go until the unexpected ending—I did not see coming! A perfect read for this year of dysfunction, Beautiful Bad will have you questioning what it would take to crack up… and the answer may be less than you think.