Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writing: A Positive Influence

I am participating in a writing contest that wants to know "How writing has positively influenced my life," by Positive Writer. Wow!  For me, the biggest influence writing has had on my life is certainly not the money, it is the community of fellow writers.
For twenty years after I moved to San Diego I had church friends and one very close friend. Then I joined a read and critique group and my life changed forever. The friends I made in that group are as close to me as my own family. I also joined the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and met even more writers, all of us with the commonality of trying to fit a noun against a verb and write something of interest, one word at a time.

Getting to know my fellow writers has provided a veritable feast of life lessons.

Compassion. Through our writings we got to know one another better. Hearing one person’s memoir or another’s poem, we often found ourselves in tears over what we heard because the writer dared to bare her soul and leave herself vulnerable. Through the written word we came to know that person on a much deeper level than could ever have happened in a casual friendship
Confidence. We learned to trust one another, knowing we would get good feedback on what we’d written and that no one responded out of malice, but rather with the intent to help each of us better our craft. We learned to give and to accept honest criticism.

Joyfulness. When members read chapters of their novels in progress each month, the rest of us made sure to come back to hear what happened next. It may have been Ms. X’s novel, but we all felt we had ownership of a little piece of it. When the novel was finished, we were all midwives at its birth, rejoicing and celebrating its arrival.
Self-Assurance. At my first read and critique meeting, I listened to what others read and wondered why on earth I thought I could be a writer. Then, tentatively I read, through tears, the piece I had brought. When I finished, I expected to be told “That’s nice, now sit down and shut up and let the real authors read.” Or something to that effect. Instead, after writing alone at home and not knowing if I should bother to continue, I was hearing people say “That’s really good” or “What you wrote moved me.” That did more for my self-doubts and lack of self-esteem than all the chocolate in the world could ever do. By continuing to grow through the group, I learned to reach out to others who battled their own demons of self-doubt.

Courage. Over the years, I have tried my hand at new skills related to writing such as self-publishing, uploading my book to Kindle, publishing on Smashwords, and writing an effective query letter,  Best of all, I learned not to feel the world was ending when I received a rejection letter. I know I’m in good company with my pile of rejection slips when I consider that the first Chicken Soup for the Soul Book was rejected 144 times. I’ve still got a long way to go to top that.

I am now on the opposite coast from San Diego but the friendships I made there continue as strong as ever. We may not be able to hug in person, but we can use today’s technology to get feedback on our stories, keep in touch, commiserate, and rejoice with one another. Through writing, I have made other friends across the country that are very dear to me, yet we’ve never met in person. Our passion for writing has brought us together and formed a strong unbroken bond.  I couldn't ask for a more positive influence on my life.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Warm and Cozy Author

Today I have with me Ellen Kennedy, a writer I met recently at a Raleigh event.
Ellen is the author of Murder in the Past Tense as well as other grammar-related murder mysteries.
Good morning, Ellen. Before we get into your book, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m married, we celebrated our 40th anniversary last summer. We have two grown daughters and five utterly loveable grandchildren who live just close enough to let us spoil them.
How long have you been writing?
I used to be a copywriter, turning out commercials for TV and radio, as well as print ads. I used to joke that my attention span was only 30 seconds. Apparently, as time went by, my attention span increased to the length of a novel! (About 75,000 words.) I started writing mysteries about 15 years ago, squeezing them in between episodes of real life: putting daughters through college, planning weddings, taking care of elderly relatives, etc.  My recent mystery series with Sheaf House Publishers was begun in 2012.

What type of writing do you normally do?
I specialize in "cozy" mysteries, along the lines of Agatha Christie. They combine character development, humor, romance, local color and mystery. It's the kind of book I like to read. I started writing because I had read everything Agatha Christie had written. I try to write what I'd like to read. My Miss Prentice series is about a high school English teacher and the titles reflect that: Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle and Murder in the Past Tense.

Give us a brief synopsis of your latest book.
Murder in the Past Tense, the third in the Miss Prentice series, was released last fall. Here's a description:
"It's summer, and Amelia is a lady in waiting. When she happens on a familiar face in a tabloid newspaper, she and Gil reminisce about another summer, long ago when they were teens, working in a summer stock company. There was drama that summer, along with romance and danger. Though much has changed over the years, the danger still lurks. Who killed Danny? Did they also kill Janey? What does it all have to do with an Adirondack hermit? And will Amelia uncover the killer's identity before she finds herself playing a death scene?"

What prompted you to write this book?
Some years ago, while I was waiting for my daughter to finish her piano lesson, I was bored, so I began reading a National Enquirer that the teacher had in her living room. It had an article about an actor who had been murdered and I realized that I knew him and had worked with him in summer stock theater when I was a teenager. I decided to solve the mystery, if only in my imagination.  This is almost exactly what happens to my character, Amelia.
How long did it take you to write this book?
These days, each book in the series takes approximately one year to complete.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
To tell the truth, it's not so much a single line as several. In the story, the stock company puts on a musical comedy.  Rather than risk copyright issues, I made up my own musical comedy based on a short story by O. Henry, "The Last Leaf," that is in public domain. I also made up all the lyrics to the songs. I'm rather proud of that accomplishment.

I would say so!  Is the book published and, if so, when and by whom?
It was published by Sheaf House Publishers in the fall of 2014. I use my pen name, E.E. Kennedy to differentiate myself from a rather well-known book editor in New York.

How can my readers get a copy of Murder in the Past Tense?
It's available from, Amazon and Barnes & Noble in either paperback or e-book.

What’s next for you?
Currently, I'm editing book #4 in the series which will be released in the spring next year, Incomplete Sentence, about a vicious killer who eludes punishment. And I'm working on the plot of a new book, to be #5. I'm struggling with an English-teacher related title. It's about a poem and a toy and a patent. I can't wait to see what happens in it!

Do you have any advice for would-be writers?
Don't just think about it. Get started and write. Take courses. Read, read and read some more. Read in your favorite genre and read the classics. Learn to use words correctly. (Now I'm starting to sound like my character, Amelia, the English teacher!)

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
I wish I had had the confidence to start earlier. I wish I knew how hard it is to be published and how hard it is to promote your work. But I love writing and concocting wacky and tricky plots and funny dialogue and I plan to keep on keepin' on as long as possible!

Thank you, Ellen. I encourage my readers to get Murder in the Past Tense for some enjoyable summer reading.

Quote of the Day: There will be a time to murder and create.  Thomas Stearns Eliot.



Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lovely Heaven on Earth

It's spring, tra la and the outside of my house is looking brighter and brighter.  Between the new paint job and the flowers I've planted, with the help of a friend, things are shaping up.

Before (Gray house)                                                                    After


The rose trees are blooming


And the petunias are looking beautiful.             With a little garden gnome here and there.


As you can see, we don't have good rich topsoil here; it's all clay and rocks, so we do the best we can.  My small rose bushes have new growth on them but are nowhere near blooming yet.  I expect that by next year, this walkway will be bursting with flowers.  While we live in the here and now, we also have to plan for the future.

Yesterday I was looking out the kitchen window and saw three deer watching me from the backyard.  I slowly walked onto the porch and threw them some bread which they gobbled up while standing there unaffected by my presence.


My camera is broken so I'm taking pictures with my phone (dumb phone, not smart). Hope they look alright.

One thing I know is, I don't have to wait until I leave this earth to be in Heaven; I'm in Heaven right now.  And it's warm!  Hallelujah!

Quote of the Day:  Earth's crammed with heaven/And every common bush afire with God.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning.