40 Days of Book Praise, Day 2

I’m joining with my friend Ramona Defelice Long in her 40 Days of Book Praise . I’m a day late but that’s okay!
This isn’t about promoting any friends’ books or even about giving reviews. More like… spotlighting books you’ve read that you liked and recommending them to other readers. ‘Sokay… brief review.
So… if you are so inclined, you can join in too. Or just read along, and find a new author or genre you may not have tried before.

Ramona DeFelice Long

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.

Day 2 – This One and Magic Life by Anne Carroll George

anne george

Mystery readers will recognize Anne George’s name from her Birmingham-based Southern Sisters mystery series. Apart from writing the adventures of Mouse and Sister and their view of the Vulcan’s naked backside, Anne Carroll George was also a poet, a publisher, and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. The subtitle of This One and Magic Life is “a novel of a Southern family” and it is true. The book portrays a Southern family in all its glorious dysfunction.

Why is This…

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99% of what Writers are hearing in terms of advice comes from 1% of Authors.

Bob Mayer always has interesting and useful thoughts on the publishing industry from both a writer’s and publisher’s point of view. Today’s post is on how outdated advice from agents/editors/authors may be the reason writers – both new and older ones who have lost their contracts and are back to swimming with the minnows – are in a major state of confusion.
How do you get your publishing/agenting/industry news? Do you follow the established speakers who pop up at conference after conference, or do you try to learn a new language and step off the cliff?
Bob’s Survival Friday posts are excellent to follow too.


Paperbacks n’Papercuts

My friend M.v. Freeman has featured me on her blog today with some quick questions on how to fuse creativity and business.
I hope you come by and say hello!


Writing 101 Day 1: Not Yet Finished… Barely Begun

If I’d known then what I know now… famous last words, right? At least they are for me.

Sometimes I look at the choices I’ve made in my life and wonder what if?
What if I’d raise my boys differently?
What if I hadn’t quit my job? Sold my business? Quit grad school?
What if I had paid more attention, tried to be more mature, conscientious, practical, studious, frugal, athletic…?
What if my words had been gentler? My actions kinder? My patience thicker?

I didn’t take “the road less traveled” – I followed along the ones set before me. Well worn and clear of hurdles and hills, crowded with the women who had also taken this road – the easier way. Staying home to raise the kids, do the housework, be the mom.
But is it really easier? It comes naturally, being at home, raising children, doing the cooking/cleaning/schlepping/caretaking.

Back in the 80’s when I was in college it was all about “power suits” and doing it all, like the Enjoli commercial. I gave it a whirl…
but the minute I knew I was pregnant, that was all I wanted. The baby, the house… baking and homemaking.

Nobody gave us a template for what to do when the babies became young adults and left the house for their own lives and careers.

So now I’m at the midpoint of my life, with Marlo and Jane and AARP urging me to start a new career and reinvent myself.
To choose another path and move forward.
To not look back.

What if I try?

Get Ready for the Next Blogging U. Challenge: Writing 101

So… it’s been waaaay too long since I’ve blogged here at writermason.
I was thinking this morning – after my third cup of coffee and some excellent eggs and toast cooked by Mr. Mason – of how fast life has changed here at Maison Mason. Our children are young adults now, off on their own… several family members died last year, so I can’t pick up the phone and chat with my mother about this transition from “Mom of Everything” to “Midlife Woman Seeking Relevance and Purpose”. Our cat died also, which was heartbreaking. We’ve rescued a dog now, and may be rescuing another dog to keep her company, nd we’ve had so much joy and companionship from her we might just rescue another. We’ve neutralized and repaired and refreshed and redecorated the house in an effort to decide whether to stay or go (looks like we’re gonna stay a little longer – or at least until the knees get too sore to walk up and down the stairs).
I’m feeling a little more confident about my writing. Last year I was burdened with a cloud of grief – several funerals will do that to you – but it’s lifted now. I’m no better than most, but better than some, which is about how everybody is. But to those who are willing to put it out there, take the criticism, and prevail – to those go the spoils.
The published.
And whether they are self published, indie published, traditional or hybrids, they are all the winners.
So… here’s to being a winner.
And there’s room enough for all, so …
Join me?

The Daily Post

Feeling a bit bereft now that Blogging 101 and 201 have wound down, or just looking for a way to cultivate good writing habits? Never fear, Writing 101 is here! (Well, it will be here, starting June 2.) Our next Blogging U. challenge moves away from the technical and design aspects of blogging to focus on your content. Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit is a write-every-day challenge designed to help you create a writing habit while publishing posts that mesh with your blog’s focus and push you a bit as a writer. Here’s how it works:

  • We’ll post a new writing assignment just for Writing 101 each weekday in June here on The Daily Post. Assignments will publish at 10:00AM EST (14:00PM GMT).
  • There are no weekend assignments — you’re free to expand on a weekday post, write something unrelated, or (gasp!) spend some time away from your blog.
  • Each assignment includes…

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Fifty Ways to [Not] Write Your Novel – originally posted on romancemagicians.blogspot.com
“The problem is all inside your head,” she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically.
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free –
There must be fifty ways to not write your novel…” — based on Paul Simon’s Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover via lyricsfreak.com

1. Look up the proper lyrics to the earworm inside your head.
2. Alternatively, fit your own words to the earworm’s tune to fit a specific reason.
3. Check out tv shows you want to record on your dvr because you’re too busy writing to watch them while they’re on.
4. Delete shows you recorded but watched already while you were taking a break from writing.
5. Log in to Facebook – ‘nuff said.
6. Call your cousin you haven’t talked to in 25 years but just friended on Facebook.
7. Try to figure out Google +.
8. Tweet that you are #amprocrastinating and keep up with the conversation.
9. Try to decipher acronyms like FMTYEWTK, YOLO, NE1, UG2BK, DUST, DGTG, COS, NMP, Def
10. Log in to Pinterest.
11. Follow links to recipe for How to Make Homemade Doggie Deodorant.
12. Check pantry for ingredients. Remember you don’t have a dog; you have a cat.
13. Attempt to engage said cat in play. Or at least, to move off your keyboard.
14. Hunt down canned air. And the phone number to the Geek Squad, just in case.
15. Log in to email.
16. Delete without reading 9 out of 10 emails.
17. Read the remaining one, follow link, contract computer virus.
18. Wonder why the he** your computer won’t stop spouting audio commercials in the background.
19. Google “Why the he** won’t my computer stop spouting audio commercials in the background?”
20. Follow one of five hundred links to computer geek forum.
21. Read ten pages of instructions for removing virus.
22. Break into flop sweat and consider making the Homemade Doggie Deodorant for yourself.
23. Mess around with your security apps and different buttons on your keyboard that have pictures on them.
24. Reinstall what you just uninstalled.
25. Get college kid on phone to walk you through “Restore”.
26. Celebrate restoring/fixing computer: chocolate and a cocktail.
27. Remember the Great Chocolate Purge of Wednesday.
28. Remember the 5 o’clock rule and take a tiny swig of booze.
29. Swig some more – according to that little clock you just discovered on your computer, it’s actually 5 o’clock in Chihuahua, LaPaz, and Mazatlán.
30. Wander around the house, into college kid’s room. Read his favorite childhood book.
31. Tidy up and discover college kid left behind all the notebooks/pens/checkbook/B&N giftcards/self addressed stamped stationery/white socks
32. Find Easter chocolate from 2012 hidden in back of socks drawer
33. Scarf it down, then briefly consider purging. Chicken out.
34. Collect all the garbage around the house as fast as you can (10 calories burned) then haul heavy garbage can out to curb (25 calories burned).
35. Haul it back – pickup is day after tomorrow (25 more calories burned – thank God).
36. Remember Katie’s show is about chronic procrastinators who can’t get anything done and decide to watch it for “characterization research”.
37. Multitask: Cook brown rice the old fashioned way on the stove while watching Katie.
38. Realize nothing’s thawed for dinner and dig out UFF (Unidentifiable Frozen Food)
39. Microwave it so it thaws; discover it’s fish that’s about the same age as the Easter egg from college kid’s socks drawer
40. Fish + Rice = boring healthy dinner. Google Cheese Sauce recipes.
41. Burn the sauce because you watched Dr. Phil and forgot to stir because you were too busy picking your own jaw up off the floor and wondering what the he** people were thinking.
42. Return to computer for writing after inspiration hits between the eyes.
43. Pour out 1,000 words.
44. Edit until they resemble nothing like the story you set out to write originally.
45. Think about outlining the plot.
46. Think some more.
47. Remember the blog you need to write.
48. Read past blogs and wonder what to write about: conferences, volunteering, characterization, Mardi Gras, fixing the computer virus, acronyms.
49. Write about how you came to procrastinate away a perfectly good day of writing.
50. Upload to blog and return to WIP.


18 Hours to Home

It was a beautiful Monday – a bright and balmy 50*. The weatherman on my news station said there was a a possibility of a wintry mix, a dusting of snow from the monster storm to our west. But it was heading across the gulf coast to the south of us. I shrugged it off and planned for a ho-hum, run of the mill Tuesday.
That was my first mistake.
5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning my radio alarm went off with the news station’s weatherman saying, “We won’t know what’s going to happen until it happens. We’re watching this system closely, but it’s too close to call.” The tv weatherman announced a “wintry mix, a light dusting”. And the traffic patterns were green, and green means go, right? I poured coffee in my insulated mug and took off for the Y’s pool and aquaerobics.
Sometime around 10 a.m. another mermaid in the pool (we call ourselves mermaids ‘cos we can) announced “Look! Snow’s here!”

Nobody panicked; we didn’t think this “light dusting” of southern snow would stick. We continued with our cardio and those who were done for the day left the pool. I stayed another 90 minutes for laps and Tai Chi. And a shower. And I had to dry my hair – it’s cold outside!

When I left the Y, I could tell from the stormy sky and the flying snowflakes and the slow moving train of automobiles struggling up the slight incline that a) I needed to pay better attention to the weather and b) I had to get home asap and finally c) this was going to be s l o w. First I called my husband to get himself on that bus and git home!, and then I called a friend who had heard a different forecaster say this would be bad but went into work anyway.

Here in Atlanta when you’re talking about snow, it’s just like my radio weatherman said – you don’t know what will happen ’til it happens.

Well, this time it happened.

It took twenty minutes to make one block and turn left onto the highway – and I didn’t stop to wait for the green arrow. I made a snap decision to take a secondary road – a short cut through a neighborhood that could leave me stranded or get me closer to home faster.
I was lucky.
I managed to follow school buses and trucks with monster tires (thank you redneck neighbors) that cleared lanes on the snow covered asphalt. But my windshield wipers were icing up; every swipe smeared ice across the windshield.
I didn’t realize that I was driving on a sheet of ice covered with snow until it was almost too late.
The highways leading to my house vary from well traveled two lane throughways with turn lanes in the center, woods and ditches to each side, to commercial multi-laned highways (that had clogged with traffic by now). I crept up to the crest of one familiar road, peering through the clearer part of my windshield down to the parking lot of cars ahead.
They sat. As in, They. Didn’t. Move.
In either direction.
No doubt that line of cars contained parents picking up students from the middle school there. But not all – some of us were fighting the same streak of ice that had my rear tires fishtailing. I pulled my emergency brake, put my car in reverse, and pulled out of the ice onto the opposing lane.
I stalled out in the middle of the street.
Let me tell you, the sound of a spinning rear tire, the sideways slip and slide of my Kia, the image passing through my mind of tripping off the shoulder and falling assbackwards into a ditch, makes me sweat in freezing temperatures.
I admit it – I turned into a cussin’ and crying, panicky puddle. There’s no telling what I would have been had I not done Tai Chi an hour earlier.
And then I straightened up and urged my car off to the side.
My next effort on the main road produced the same result – ice patch, spinning wheels, slipping backwards, tears. A young man walked up from behind and approached my window. “You’re okay,” he said.
“No I’m not! I’m slipping backwards!” boohoohoohoo….
Honestly, this was my very first time driving in snow. Southern here. Cut me some slack.
Calm Guy walked around to take a look. “Naah. Y’got plenty of room.”
Another young man approached from out of nowhere and exchanged words with Calm Guy. Together they put shoulders against my Kia’s tail lights and pushed. My Angels.
Now I was on another sheet of ice, but I managed (read: gripped the steering wheel, pushed my body forward, and yes-I-admit-it-I-yelled-out-loud-to-my-car to MOVE!) a controlled slide this time, in the right direction to the intersection where I finally gained traction.
It took three different tries at three different routes to finally make it home. When I pulled into my garage I’d never seen a prettier mess.

The tv news showed one high schooler’s car sunken in slush after crashing into a fire hydrant, school buses in ditches, and streams of red tail lights on parked cars on all the interstates that criss cross Georgia. Tired teachers with four hundred children stranded in school gymnasiums overnight, panicked parents looking for their kids, frustrated truck drivers fussing about the lack of roadsalt.
All. Night. Long.

At four p.m. my husband got on his regular bus headed out of midtown Atlanta. (We call downtown “midtown” and midtown “Buckhead” here. That’s not necessary to the story but I thought you’d like to know.) Thank Jesus he has the motto of a Boy Scout ingrained in his mind – Be Prepared. He’d bought a bottle of water, a pack of crackers, and a blueberry muffin.
And another reason to thank God – a good friend sat next to him. Company.
We stayed in contact through the night – well, until he told me at 2:58 a.m to quit texting so he could sleep.
Now I’ve learned he was really out of the bus to take a pee break. Hey, human stuff – You spend the night on a public transit bus, you get real human.
It was 7 a.m. when the bus driver managed to move the wheels forward again. Semis and tractor trailers ahead had fishtailed earlier, forcing authorities to close exit lanes. Cars were abandoned in the center lanes with engines running, as if their drivers had been raptured.
They were really walking to the nearest gas station for warmth and water and a restroom. Not necessarily in that order.
I’d like to thank the skilled bus driver for keeping his wits under eighteen hours of pressure, keeping his passengers safe and calm, and taking a back road to skip over an iced interstate bridge that could have left them still in the bus and on I20 with half a bottle of water and a smushed blueberry muffin.
Hungry, thirsty, and buttnumb.
For my husband to get home it took a total of eighteen hours – including an hour for a normally fifteen minute trip home from the park n’ ride. He had to park at the top of our hill to avoid an abandoned car that was snuggled up to a fire hydrant and walk the rest of the way home.
I met him on the sidewalk, halfway to our house. I took hold of his tired face and kissed him, held his hand, and together we walked through the snow.

Back to Normal?

It’s a New Normal at Maison Mason.
The boys are back at school, the schedule is back to what it was before the holidays threw up a sackful of glitter and tinsel in my house.
(For some more on how good it feels to see my baseboards again, see my short essay at The Southern C: (The Southern C. )

Some weekend reading for the next time you flirt with stepping on the scale and touching up those roots — Kristen Lamb’s got a couple of blogs on “Refusing to be homogenized”( ) in a world of matchstick jeans and refusing to listen to the online bullies who review (?) fiction. Fill up your inspiration and encouragement well.

And now, in the interest of following one of BlogHer’s predictions for 2014, I shall follow one of their points and keep this brief.

This mermaid’s gotta get back to the pool and back to her fiction.

What are you doing this weekend to reset to a new normal?


The List

I, for one, am ALL TOO HAPPY to leave 2013 behind. It was a sad year, a bad year (well, parts of it were good), and I didn’t complete anything on The List.

Bet you’ve got The List too.
Come on… even if you don’t have one written down titled “Resolutions” or “To Do”, you’ve still got one running through your head. Every December and August (well, it used to be September, but now that school boards have kids going to school year round with week long vacations interspersed throughout the year, like September and February, summer is a mere dot on Universe Vacay) The List rears its messy, guiltridden, unorganized and impossible head.

Late at night when the house is quiet and dark The List climbs out from under my bed where Insomnia throws parties and shouts at me. “What did you DO today? And Facebook doesn’t count! Nor does clicking on links or reading other peoples’ work! What was your wordcount? How many pages did you fill? And did you manage to buy groceries/do laundry/swim a mile/meditate?”

More monsters – Guilt, Anxiety and Overwhelmed – join in, and before I know it, there’s a Ruckus in my room.

The only way to restore peace is to forgive myself and promise to start all over again in the morning. But today I’ll go one step further, in the interest of being a helpful sort.
I’m identifying a Plan for The List.

1. No more smartphone first thing in the morning. Invariably I check email, check Facebook, check Twitter… and then I’m late for everything else all day long.
2. Daily morning exercise. I belong to the Y, where I swim, take aquaerobics and cycling classes, and walk. Chlorine and sweat make me see clearly.
3. Daily pages. Here. There. Everywhere.
4. Offload some of these ideas onto index cards when a thought, idea, or concept strikes to catch the inspiration, or a web address is mentioned on television or a magazine. (If anybody knows where to find the post with this plan please post in the comments. I’ve already lost too much precious time researching my browsing history and then Facebook to find it, so this is not original, but I can’t cite the source).
5. I’m brillant with characterization and motivation. It’s the conflict that plugs up my creativity. So now I’m going to dig deep and become vulnerable to mine my scars for pain. And if I feel embarrassed about sharing with the world, I’ll think of Bryan Cranston in his tightie-whities on Breaking Bad. Thank you Mr. Cranston, for inspiring me to be courageous.

What is on your List? Is the Ruckus happening for you too? Ready to quiet it down?
Offload your thoughts and ideas here.
We can hold each other accountable. August is only two hundred one days away.

Reinventing … Again?

I learned how to reinvent myself early in life. When we moved from New Orleans to  her drier, Baptist, more genteel sister city Mobile , I was shocked to see girls in high school wearing pony tails!

With ribbons!

And the southern y’all was drawled out much more than my N’Awlins’ yaw’ll pronunciation.

I saw how different I was – not a good thing in ninth grade – and adapted. By the end of high school I was slimmer and had grown out my boy cut. I have a drawer full of grosgrain ribbons I saved for my own daughters, who turned out to be sons. Fingers are crossed for granddaughters in the far – very far – future.

But adapting and reinventing myself didn’t bring automatic acceptance. I was always “Pam – y’know, that girl from New Orleans…?”               no matter how much drawl I put into my y’all.

After several attempts throughout my life to fit in – pseudo-preppie in college (I really was too artsy for that), glamorous working wife morphing into  business owner raising two babies (is the Enjoli jingle in your head now?), harried working grad school student – I’ve come to a place post 50 where I’m able to discern the difference between adapting myself to be something I’m NOT…

versus reinventing myself to be WHO I TRULY AM.

Instead of trying to be something I’m not, or taking the word “REinvention” to mean transforming into something so new as to be unrecognizable, my meaning of reinvention is to enhance what makes me… ME. (And you…YOU.)                                         Find your passion… make your work your play… make your comeback… start living your life the way you wanted to live it in the first place…  BE YOURSELF!

Of course this comes hand in hand with fear. Because… What if my friends all up and leave me? What if I don’t make new friends? WHAT IF NO ONE LIKES THIS NEW, REAL, REINVENTED ME?

In My Case funnily enough,  new friends – face to face and online  friends whom I’ve yet to meet  – all ‘get’ me. Reinvented Me is more ME than those ‘Me’s ‘ I tried to invent myself into being just to … fit in.

I don’t have to “fit” anymore.

I hope you give your own Reinvention a whirl.

More takes on Reinvention are on Generation Fabulous’  bloghop. Take a look!

And come see me on The Southern C – Southern recipes, travel, and southern cuisine: How Does Your Y’all Drawl?