Echoes: Reflections Through Poetry and Verse is Now Available

Echoes: Reflections Through Poetry and Verse by Dean K. MillerDean K. Miller’s poetry book, featuring some illustrations by yours truly, is now available in paperback from Amazon. Echoes: Reflections Through Poetry and Verse is a wonderful collection of poems that range from poignant and heartfelt, to clever and witty. You can read one of the poems, A Letter Home, HERE. Be sure to also see Dean’s other work. And Then I Smiled: Reflections on a Life Not Yet Complete and The Odyssey of the Monk. Dean is a brilliant poet and author who has the amazing ability to paint beautiful, vivid scenes with words—I highly recommend this book. 


Baby Shoes: A Flash Fiction Anthology

kickstarterHey, wanna support a Kickstarter anthology? Author Jason Brick, has rounded up some amazing writers (he felt sorry for me, so he included me) to take part in the flash fiction anthology, Baby Shoes. Staying true to the flash fiction concept, this anthology will be put together, well, in a flash, so we need your help. This book will feature 100 authors, 100 stories, 1000 words each. Don’t hold me to it, but there may even be a spot or two open . . . If you need a prompt, check out my last post—that’s actually where I got my inspiration for my flash fiction piece. 

So friends, it would be ever-so appreciated if you could pass this along and help support this worthy writerly venture—there’s some cool perks in store for you!

Writing Prompts: You Gotta Start Somewhere

Blank Document

Look familiar? That’s right, it’s a blank document. For many of us writers, that’s the stuff of nightmares—you know, the one where you’ve been paper cut to death by a swarm of rejection letters? That’s the one. Well, it’s an all-too common problem many us could live without. Oftentimes, instead of having this wordless screen stare back at me with a “Uhm, hello? I’m blank. You going to write something on me, or what?” I’ll close the laptop. Ha! Take that! Although that’s typically unproductive . . . unless I pick up  a pen and a pad of paper. At times, I find I’m more productive when I go Old School and write on paper; it’s less intimidating than a blank Word Doc. But then what? 

Get writing. Dennis Palumbo, author and former screenwriter, who spoke at the Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference a few years back said, “Writing begets writing.” Turns out, he’s right. However, when you need a hand to get going, story starters or writing prompts can help wake up the muse. Here’s a few to try out:

  • Emma knocked on the door and immediately regretted it.
  • Ben hated what he had to say next.
  • Had he been conscious, he probably would have said . . .
  • “It won’t hurt a bit,” she told him.
  • Most of the time, I keep my promises, but . . .
  • I thought I had more time, but the doorbell rang . . .
  • She held out the box. “No, you open it.”
  • She/He/It slipped in through the front door unnoticed.
  • They didn’t believe me at first. 
  • Daniel thought she was crazy when she first told him . . .
  • I tried to give back [fill in the blank] but he told me to keep it/them.
  • Eric wanted to take the words back the second he said them.
  • It went completely against his nature, but he had no choice but to . . .
  • He walked in and saw her sitting with . . .

The following two prompts come from The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood:

  • I could have avoided all that trouble if I had only remembered to . . .
  • Seven days ago [fill in the blank]. Now, no one will talk to me.

Okay, now it’s time to take my own advice and write.

Do you have some writing prompts? Please, do share in the comments below.

Write it Down!

Dad's notebook

Today is my father’s birthday; he would be 64. I inherited my love of writing from him, so it’s no wonder I’ve adopted his method of keeping a small notebook with me at all times. I know he didn’t invent this practice, but it’s surprising to me how many of my fellow writers aren’t in this habit. My father would not only have these small spiral notebooks in his shirt pockets, fishing vest and among his camping stuff, but his lunchbox from work usually contained slips of paper with story ideas, quick dialogue exchanges, and random words jotted down on them. When I compiled all of his writings in a book after he passed away in 2007, I included many of these “snippets”—they were too good to leave out. These are just a few of my notebooks over the years:
Writer notebooksThere are so many times when I’m sitting in my car, standing in line somewhere, or at a restaurant, when I hear something I could use in a story, or essay. In fact, the notebook on top are my notes about an incident that had happened moments earlier and became a published essay. Nothing’s worse than a writer without paper and pen, especially when inspiration hits, because we all know that a muse can be an elusive S.O.B. Another reason to buy cute little notepads, is to jot down words and phrases that catch your attention while reading. I have been wanting to do this for ages and I finally designated a notebook for it, aptly named . . .
Word.It gave me an opportunity to get down with some ’90s slang, but I also got to use my coveted label maker. Anyway, I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be reading Ivan Doig, and think, “Ooh, great word!” “Nice phrasing.” (And the occasional, “Geez, I suck.”) Doig is a true wordsmith who creates these incredible characters and settings; his work always makes me pause and admire his way with words. My father was an Ivan Doig fan as well, so I’m grateful to him for introducing me to this amazing author. I wish I had started this practice years ago because so many words are a dime a dozen; you want the uncommon ones that will make readers  say, “Damn, great word!” Buy these little notebooks in bulk for all those big ideas (and words!); you never know what short story, essay or novel will get its start on those pages.
Oh, and happy birthday, Dad! Write on.

Retreat, Revise, Repeat

Writers RetreatThis was my view for the last four days. I just returned from 3 nights in Estes Park for the annual Northern Colorado Writers retreat. As opposed to previous years, this retreat for me did not include drunken nights of playing Bananagrams. I must be maturing. Instead, I tallied 27 hours of writing time. Well, editing and revising time. I decided to wipe off the 10 years of dust and grime of an old manuscript and get it up to snuff. I started Bobbing for Watermelons (women’s fiction) back in 2004. Miraculously, (and I say miraculous because holy crap, did it need help) it became a finalist in 2008 for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Colorado Gold Contest. I thought I was golden . . . (see what I did there? I love puns) . . . I figured agents would be clamoring to represent me, but alas, after a round or two of unsuccessful querying, I stumbled into the research for Folsom’s 93. Bobbing got shelved. This retreat turned out to be the perfect time to revitalize the manuscript. I’m certainly not the same person I was ten years ago, let alone the same writer (thank goodness). Here’s what I learned from revising the first 34,000 words (over a third) of the manuscript:

1.) With age, comes new perspectives and insight (ideally), which you can apply to your writing. For instance, my main character is a 41-year-old mother of teenagers. At the time I started the book, I was 27 with a 6-year-old. I feel like now I can relate to my character in ways I couldn’t before, plus, I can add /delete/revise scenes, dialogue exchanges, and subplots based on these new perspectives and insights.

2.) Rookie mistakes are just part of the writing game . . . and man, did I make them. I sent this to agents?! What was I thinking? But hell, aren’t you glad you can catch these mistakes and correct them easily? I can’t tell you how many times my character “nodded her head,” and “shrugged her shoulders.” My critique group calls these “outrages.” So, for you rookies out there, lose “her head” and drop “her shoulders.”

3.) I was able to spot issues much easier than before. Stepping away from a writing project, whether it be 10 days, or 10 years, can give you the time you need in order to see major issues, such as bland characters, wonky pacing or stilted dialogue. I zeroed in on major mistakes that my eyes glazed over before because I was just too close to the project.

4.) My humor was pretty bad. (Not that it’s much better now) but it was really lame 10 years ago. I promise, my jokes are new and improved in this revised version.

All in all, the retreat couldn’t have gone better. In addition to getting in some quality writing time, we got up close and personal with some Estes Park residents:
ElkGot to experience the first snow of the season:
First snow, Estes 2014And I also learned that  Sarah Reichert is not only a very talented author, but a skillful mashed potato volcano builder as well.
Mashed Potato VolcanoI challenge you to unearth an old manuscript, breathe new life into it—perform CPR if necessary—and see what happens. You might surprise yourself.

Booze & Caffeine: The Creative Combo

According several studies, including this one from researchers at the University of Chicago, booze creates big ideas and caffeine makes them happen. Shit. That means as a writer, I could be screwed. You see, I gave up caffeine back in February (hello, sleep!) and 37 days ago, I had my last glass of wine (goodbye, social life)! When I had to finish up Folsom’s 93 and get it to the publisher, I took a break from booze and enjoyed a month with less brain fog (imagine that). Once the book was out of my hands, however, I practically leaped off the wagon with a box of wine under each arm.

Now, my creativity red light is flashing and it’s time for a refill. Is it really from the lack of my favorite Malbec? Do I take a cue from the famous drunk writer Ernest Hemingway who said, “When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day, what else can change your ideas and make them run in a different plane like whisky?” I don’t know. I’m not entirely convinced that alcohol made me more creative (as evidenced by previous blog posts) so I’m not going to race to the liquor store (where everyone knows my name), but I will try—what some writers may call—the less fun approach: paper and pencil. A little help from my friends doesn’t hurt either. Write Away: A Year of Musing and Motivations for Writers by Kerrie Flanagan and Jenny Sundstedt is a great book filled with ideas and advice for writers who need to refill their creativity tank. Kerrie’s excellent writing advice and Jenny’s wit is the perfect combination for getting sober writers like me to “stay drunk on writing,” as Ray Bradbury advises.
Write AwayEven though I can practically hear Edgar Allen Poe and Truman Capote guffawing at my teetotaler ways, I’m going to stick with being the designated driver for a while. Besides, someone has to recount (and retell) the events from the night before, which always has the potential to become the script for Hangover 3.

A Sneak Peek

I’m thrilled to be working again with author Dean K. Miller.  This time, it’s for his forthcoming poetry book, Echoes: Reflections Through Poetry and Verse.
Echoes: Reflections Through Poetry and Verse by Dean K. MillerIt’s not available until November, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this sneak peek of one of the several illustrations I did for the inside . . .
Past Due

You can also read one of Dean’s poems, “A Letter Home,” featured on Readwave.



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