Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get to Know "The Beast" and a couple of contests!

Just sharing a photo of "The Beast", the latest addition to the household. As you know I've just finished my stint in Orlando and have my feet up on a chair at the Hyatt hotel at the airport awaiting my return home. It's been a great show for work and I've had the priviledge to work with wonderful staff! This also gives me a chance to say hello to so many vendors I've come to know over the years.

One surprise was a great conversation I fell into with two gentlemen and a lady I have known for quite awhile. They all are important people in their own fields. As I discussed my writing endeavors, I found out that the two gentlemen are writers, on efiction, one non-fiction. One has had several books and articles published while the other has many connections for his books. The lady was interested in agenting. While this all seems co-incidental, I have realized that not only does God have a plan, but that so many people we writers come into contact with are as passionate as we are or have connections that are valuable to one another!

So I guess what I'm saying is, open up a little more about what you are doing. Support those who need your help, but don't be afraid to ask if they might assist you as well! These people are so happy to do so! Now get out there, will you?

Today, take a look at a couple of contests you shouldn't miss!

The 19th Annual Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
$100,000 for a book!
Postmarked by Sept 15, 2010
www.cgu.edu/tufts or call (909) 621-8974 Big prize!!!!

Kate Tufts Discovery Award- Prize for a First Book
$10,000 prize.
Postmarked by Sept 15, 2010
www.cgu.edu/tufts or call (909) 621-8974

John Steinbeck Award for the Short Story
$1000 prize. Must be unpublished and up to 6,000 words. By Nov 1.
www.reedmag.com. $15 reading fee includes copy of 2011 issue.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Calm Before the Storm

Made it back from Portland,Oregon late on Friday and jumped on the motorcycle ffor an impromtu motorcycle weekend. We left in the pouring rain and drove 3 hrs to Dubuque where we had a great dinner and took a deep breathe. The next morning we rode the Wisconsin River Road (very scentic) north to LaCrosee,stopping at both The House on the Rock and Taliesin (Frank Lloyd's Wright's home and burial ground.) I'll share more of that later as it has a great book connected with it.
We stopped at Wilton, WI to a place that used to be called "Pies Are Square". Years ago when we bicycled most of the Wisconsin trails this was one of our favorite stops. The pies were always fresh and made in a square pan. The shop also sold vintage items making it a very unique place to stop. Well, as everything is, it had changed owners. No worry though, they were delightful, the sandwiches good, but they were out of pie! To top it off, one of the delightful women that worked there said now, "Pies are round!"
We stayed in Lacross that night then ventured back home on Sunday, enjoying the fresh smell of cut grass, cow pastures and river water. All in all, it was a much needed rest for us both. I'm headed off to Oralndo tomorrow and will get back home on Monday of next week. Then Wednesday to California, home Friday. You can see what the month of September is going to be like!

Remember when I said one of my goals is to encourage other writers? I had a great opportunity to do just that on Sunday evening. A good friend of mine, Dr. Jeff Miller and his lovely wife Kim, were on a radio show promoting his new book "The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction." He'd let me know so I tuned in via the internet. As I sat listening, I heard that listeners could call in and ask a question. Having read the book and being a fellow writer I know the importance of supporting each other, so I called in with a question.
After the show, Jeff sent a lovely message to me thanking me for the support. It's as simple as that fellow writers. Don't be too busy to give a fellow writer a lift. Who knows when you might need one! Have a good day!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Little Help From Your Friends

Sometimes a writer needs a little help from their friends. I spend a lot of time alone in an empty hotel room. You’d think with that much time I’d be able to get a lot of work done. Yet, with my job, I have to rise early, stand on my feet for hours and by the time I get back to my hotel room, I’m wiped. Right now in this semester, I’m reading 7 or 8 texts and responding to the way they show this writer how to structure her story. I won’t even get to more re-editing of the book until late September.

I’m itching to write, but a good writer must read as well. I just finished some great books, which I’ll share in a few days. As a little break, I’m looking for a market for a couple of short stories. Often before I send them out I send them to friends who have volunteered to critique them for me. It helps to get someone else’s view of my work.
If you find yourself in this dilemma, why not try out a few of these sites. They just might be the kind of help you need to get that first story out the door!

This site is free but accepts donations. You can write any genre and both give and receive reader feedback.

This is a free e-zine. The authors provide personal feedback to any author who queries and offers suggestions on how to improve the work.

This is a forum that has a Q & A sections, jobs and a critique area for novels, non-fiction and scripts.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Just got back from "The Breakers" hotel in Palm Beach, FL. It's a lovely property, but trying to choke down a $45 hambueger becomes too much for someone like me. The property sits on the ocean, (which I only saw in a drive-by) and is a wonderful resort. I got to visit with a good friend who is a property manager for a Palm Beach family. That was great to see him.

He took me to a restaurant that sat on a small marina. We had a great dinner, so I returned there the next night with two of the girls who worked in a couple of booths around me. When we arrived, a jolly man named Randy, (who looked like a sea-faring Captain) cajoled us into joining a table of strangers. We all laughed and had a great time. A lovely woman named Nancy was digging in her beach purse and pulled out a small yellow plastic shovel and gave it to me. Probably because I told her I'm a writer. She knows about the shoveling of tale tales we do. She herself is an artist. She was a delightful lady. I promised I'd carry the little shovel with me, so if you see it in photos from time to time, you'll understand why!

Because I have been having technical difficulties with my computer, I haven't been able change photos from my camera or pull my contests for you. This should be corrected in a day or two, so hang with me!

In the meantime, keep writing!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What a Trip!

Here we go with yet another klutz adventure! I’m on my way to work today—really—in the office and everything. I had forgotten that I would be attending a co-worker’s father’s funeral and Had dressed like I was marching in the Mardi Gras parade. Neon pinks and greens, white pants. I couldn’t have been any more obvious unless I had added those bright colored beads that women get in New Orleans when they flash their boobs at men.

I might not have mentioned that I was almost 60 miles from home. In Des Moines, which is where I commute to when I am in town. Most of you can picture me driving along in the car at 72 mph, radio blaring, wind whipping my hair up through the moon roof of the car, singing off-key to some country song I don’t really know the words to. I’m five minutes from work and in the left lane of traffic when I realize I’ve forgotten proper attire. I see the exit for Mills Civic Parkway, (Walmart lives there and is the only store open at 6:40a.m.) Without so much as a concern for anybody around me, I crank the wheel hard to the right and cross two lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, careening off the exit like I had it planned all along. Trust me, I could read the many gestures and lips other drivers sent my way.

I dash from my car and begin a quick chase through the store looking for anything appropriate for the event. I gather a black dress & top to cover the bulges, nylons (it’s like 100 degrees) and a pair of flat shoes that looks like a snake swallowed my feet. All totaled I spent about $4.37, but I certainly was more presentable.

Well then I get to work and my work partner, Anna says it’s getting to be time to go.
“I have to change. I’ll just be a minute,” I say and head off to the bathroom with my new garb.
I fling open the bathroom door, put my rubber soled shoe onto the shiny tile and begin a slow split to the floor, whacking my head on the wall in front of me and sending my new duds flying across the room. My right knee slams to the ground, while my left leg heads west. I come down hard on my right elbow and all !@#@! pounds splay across the bathroom like a newly butchered chicken!

And there I lay surrounded by my Wal-Mart clothes and thinking, “What just happened?” I mutter a few words like, “You are such a klutz” and “Get up, you fool, get up!” Like most people would do, I look back at the floor. I feel a pop in my back. I’m blaming the floor, but I don’t have my glasses on so I can’t see anything there. I pat my hand all over the tile then think, “I better get up in case someone comes in and sees me splayed across the room like bad carpet.” I rise slowly, accessing the aches and pains I am already feeling, but content that I neither have outward scars or blood and nobody has caught me looking like Andy Rooney!

Two seconds later, from a stall at the back of the room I hear, “Did somebody fall? Are you okay?” Then from another stall, “It wasn’t me, I think it was Ginger! Are you okay, Ginger?” Then they begin chattering back and forth about my fall. I hear the toilets flush and duck into the first stall more out of embarrassment than anything.

These women are terrific, but have me all but dead. I assure them I’m fine and get on with my changing. Before I am out the door, HR is there with a hundred forms for me to fill out. They all but call an ambulance!

I slink back to my desk and Anna who is waiting our departure. I explain what happened, sending her into stitches and promptly to our boss. We finally get to where we are going. We greet our co0worker amidst a room full of co-workers and his family. I give him a big hug with my condolences. Anna saddles up to me and whispers in my ear.

“You might want to pull off the price tag.”
“Price tag?” I say. “Where?”
“The one dangling under your armpit,” she says. I saw it across the room when you gave Rod a hug. So did everyone else,” she giggles.

I stumble my way to the car, as the pointed toes of my cheap shoes catch on every carpet thread in the funeral home and every stone in the driveway. I look like a bum after a big night of drinking. I head home. No sense fighting my bad luck anymore today. I put the window down and let my hair fly around the car. I stick my arm out the window and make waves in the passing wind.

WHACK! A field beetle doing about 200mph slaps me right in the nook of my arm. I jerk the arm in the window so fast; I hit myself in the face. I decided to pull over to the side of the road, roll up the windows and call Michael. I’m going to sit here until he comes and gets me. So if I don’t answer your phone calls for the next few days, I’m probably still waiting for him. I’ll get a blog out though! It will be from my Ipad

Now for the latest contest from Hope Clark at Funds for Writer's. (You really should subscribe!)

Deadline September 30, 2010. An annual award for the best
unpublished short fiction on any theme up to 5,000 words in
English. The author will receive $1,000, and the winning story
will be published in The Chariton Review. Three finalists will
also be published in the Spring issue. All U.S. entrants will
receive a complimentary copy of the Spring prize issue.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tinkering with Life

Had a great birthday thanks to my great family and friends! Received a ton of cards and calls. Like I'm a somebody! It was great! Had some dear friends from Elkhart spend a couple of nights with us. Deb & John were on their way to Sturgis, S.D.

Don't tell me you haven't heard of Sturgis? A gazillion motorcycles descend on a small town and create havoc for a week. Most trailer their bikes in. Wooses. (no offense John) The area is spectacular this time of year. Mt Rushmore, Custer National Park, buffalo and prairie dogs all excited about the tourism. I'm not that brave. We took off for Galena, IL instead. Great food, fun shopping and just our luck, rain. Thanks to Jim Dout for the new Harley rainsuit he left me when they moved! I was dry as dry could be. A great weekend! Now here's short book review on a new book!

I've been a little busy. Tinkering mostly. Finished my second required text for my critical paper, a Pulitizer Prize winning book called "Tinkers" by Paul Harding. Wow! Talk about a confusing mix master of beauty in prose!

Here's a quick rundown. The book opens with the main character, George, a clockmaker. He's dying of cancer. Eight days left. The reader enters as George is hallucinating. Wild stuff nightmares are made of. As he calms a bit, his father, Howard, who died years ago is introduced. Howard was a tinker, a man who visited homes with a wagon full of items housewives and farmers might need. Sort of a salesman, repairman, shoulder to cry on kind of guy. Howard is also an epileptic whose wife is tired of nursing him.

The book is framed with George dying, but the story is interspersed with Howard and George's relationship. The stories are woven back and forth leaving the reader sometimes not knowing where they are or with which character they are with. Thrown in for good measure is a how-to of clock fixing.

I was pretty much confused through the whole thing, but kept being drawn back into the story because of the spectacular use of language. This was a first novel and it wins the Pulitizer Prize! Pretty amazing feat. I finished the book yesterday having underlined and marked up the whole thing. Than I sat back and thought about it.

Maybe the author meant the reader to be drawn in and confused as that was what Geroge was going through as he lay there dying. It was also what Howard went through as he wet through a seizure. The author was tinkering with the reader! Pretty amazing stuff here!

Monday, August 2, 2010

When Life Gives You Ideas

Fast week last week. Kansas City, St Louis then Myrtle Beach. Don't let anyone tell you that flying all the time is fun! Here's my latest adventure. Recently I purchased a "Body Bugg". (www.bodybugg.com) to try and give me some motivation to lose a bit of weight. The Body Bugg is a calculator of sorts. It monitors, via a black armband you wear on your upper arm, the amount of calories you burn in a day. At night you log on to your Ipad, (thanks guys!) and put in everything that goes into your mouth. The thing then gets plugged into your computer and syncs to calculate how many calories you ate and how many you burned!

When it quits screaming, you've done okay. Well, I got on a plane to Chicago from St Louis. I'd been working all day and was feeling full of energy. For those that know me, that's not always good. I get to my row on the plane and there' a distinguished looking man, a bit older than I am sitting in the tiny seat next to me. He lets me into my seat. I take off my jacket and my Body Bugg shows. I see him looking at it, but at first he says nothing. Curiosity finally wins him over and he says, "What's that thing on your arm?"

I say, "A jail monitor."

"What did you do?"

"Murder." I say matter-of-factly.

He gets quiet and turns away. A few minutes later he looks at me and says,
"You look like a nice enough person. It must of been a long time ago."

I read the hope in his eyes, but I can't resist.

"Yeah, it was. 'Bout two weeks now."

His eyes widen. "Why are you on this plane then?"

"Going to meet my parole officer in Chicago. She thinks I'm a flight risk."

He cranks his head sideways and gives me a good long look.

"But you're on a plane, doesn't that mean you are a flight risk?"

"Naw," I say. "The police put me on this plane. Actually I was more of a driving risk. Got out of Colorado ten days ago in a golf cart. Made it clean to the Oklahoma border before someone stopped me."

"Why did they stop you?"

"I still had someone's clubs on the back end and there wasn't a golf course for two hundred miles."

By now, I'm barely able to contain myself, but the business man is so intrigued I just have to play it out.

"Yeah, even stopping for gas didn't raise anyone's suspicion," I said. "I told them I lived just down the road and had forgotten my purse. Everyone helped me out."

"How did it end?"

"How do these always end, Mr.?"I said straigh faced. "Speed trap."

He stares at me for the longest time wondering if he heard right, then bursts right out laughing.

The trip the rest of the way was hysterical and gave me a great scene for a book! When he got off the plane, he walked right up to my work partner, Anna, and gave my "parole officer" a big hug! Here's to a great flight , Bob!

And THAT's how scenes can be made!

Here's a contest from Tom Howard! Enjoy!

The $5,550 Tom Howard Poetry Contest for Verse In All Styles and Genres, plus The $5,550 Tom Howard Short Story, Essay & Prose Contest are now open for entries.
You'll find full details at respectively http://poetrycontests.exactpages.com (you will need to scroll halfway down the page for the Tom Howard Contest) and http://shortstorycontest.0catch.com

An exclusive site for the Tom Howard Poetry Contest is http://tomhowardpoetry.bravepages.com

An alternative site for both contests: http://www.winningwriters.com (you will need to click the contest of your choice at the top right or top left).