LIVING THE DREAM, Part 2: Debut Novel on The Way!


7-31-17

RV Park USA

Here we are, living in Comfort — Comfort, Texas. As if life weren’t already so so good we could hardly stand it, it skyrocketed when my publisher texted me the great news: that my debut suspense novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, would be launching sometime in the next two months on Amazon and other booksellers.

We kicked off the book-publishing process in June, while we were staying at Ransom Road RV Park in Aransas Pass, Texas. Stage by stage, I uploaded the photo for my “bio”, and chose the book cover that  communicated the soul of my story.

Last Sunday, as we were eating lunch at  Alamo Springs Cafe, near the Old Tunnel State Park, near Fredericksburg, Texas, I was scrolling through my email when I landed on a request for an interview.  While I didn’t know the sender — a WordPress blogger named Fiona Mcvie — I did see that she and I shared 74 mutual friends on Facebook and that she was from Inverness. Later, after we got home, I began answering the thirty-some questions she had sent me via email. Toward the end of the evening, I  sent my answers back to her. In a few days, the interview went “live” on WordPress. I’ve inserted the link below.

Fiona Mcvie’s Interview with me

In the meantime, I’ve been sidetracked from my WordPress blog for the best possible reason! Pictured above, is my book cover. I have set up my author site on Facebook and have inserted a link to my author page on LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and Tumblr. 

That said, I’ll soon be posting the latest adventure of the Vintage Honeymooners: the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi, Texas.

So, loyal readers, I do appreciate your comments. Please scroll down below the blog and share your thoughts and positive input on this post. And stay tuned for the adventures of Jeff and Kim, the ‘Vintage Honeymooners’. You just never know where we will turn up, next!

 

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Adios,”Thirteenth Grade”!


12-18-16

Thursday, December 15, 2016 was my last day of school. Shortly after nine a.m., when the last student in the room turned in her exam packet and Scantron sheet, I wished her a merry Christmas and told her I had enjoyed having her in class. Once she left, I erased the whiteboard, gathered my belongings, locked the room, and returned to the Adjunct Office to run the Scantrons through the machine.

Oh, happy, happy, I thought. It’s all over but the shouting.

On Monday, December 12, I had closed out my first two classes and had already done everything I intended to do for this last class. I had only to record their exam grades into the electronic grade book and then post the grades on Web Advisor. After one last once-over to make sure the correct grades were posted for the correct students, I printed two hard copies of the grades and attendance for myself and my Department Chair and then — ZIP, BAM, BOOM — hit “Submit”.

Point, click , done.

After closing out the grades, I reached into my messenger bag and pulled out one final order of business of my own: a folder from the Teacher Retirement System. Not only had I planned to turn in my grades and unload my textbooks in the English Department office, at the end of this semester, I would also take the first step in the retirement process. At the time, both my husband and I thought  the form for “Notification of Final Deposit” form was what I needed to start the ball rolling. To my surprise, a Human Resources representative from the downtown campus told me that I needed only to inform my Chair that I was retiring and ask him  to input an “EX TRM.” Once he did that, she explained, the actual retirement process would begin, even though I would still have some paperwork to fill out. I had already broken the ice with him, earlier that day, by telling  him that I would be retiring, as of the end of the Fall 2016 semester and explaining that, after twenty-seven years with the district, I wanted to retire while my husband and I were able to travel while we were young enough and healthy enough.

Less than one hour later, once I returned home, my Chair called to let me know that one of his assistants had completed the “input”. For all practical purposes, I could call myself “retired”.

To celebrate the occasion, that night, Jeff and I dined at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Campo Verde, a festive place with Christmas tree lights strung inside.

Although I’ve been planning to retire for the past year or two, I had put it off, promising to teach “one more semester”.

That “one more semester”, my last day of the Fall 2016, is here. Right now, we’re still in a daze. And, with more paperwork for TRS and the Social Security Administration looming ahead, we know that today was just the “kickoff” and that the process will take some adjustment as well as self-control. But it won’t really seem real until January 17, when I would normally return for Adjunct Orientation.

“So, what’s your next adventure” asked a Facebook friend, that night.

“Writing, writing, and more writing,” I wrote back. “From either our ‘tiny house‘ in Rockport, Texas or our Airstream or other comfortable, used recreational vehicle as we tool around the country and see all those sites — Grand Ole Opry New England, and other sights on our combined bucket list.

So that’s it, for now. As my husband told me, it’s all about deciding it’s going to happen and making a plan. I finally did it. For those of you who are thinking of retirement or have have already retired, what does your new adventure in life include?

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Coming in for the Finish


NaNoWriMo 2015 Workshop Participant and Winner Certificates

11-24-15

One night, last week, I went  on the NaNoWriMo 2015 site site to enter my word count for the night when I saw the message below:

“Winning Starts on November 20!”

Last year about this time, I was teaching Composition I at one college and Composition  II at another and dog-paddling along on my work-in-progress, Man After Midnight, on NaNoWriMo 2014.Last year, the idea that I could actually finish early was impossible, even unfathomable. Merely allowing myself to think about it would have driven me crazy.

But this year? In spite of teaching  three classes turning in just as four batches of essays before the semester is over, here I am back for more.

Color me fearless.

Pumped about jumping into a whole new work, Crimson Feathers, a paranormal romance with a healthy dose of reality, I could hardly wait for October to get out of the way. With a synopsis, a pitch, and a fistful of character sketches, I was primed to jump into my story and could hardly wait for October to get out of the way.  In the meantime, I had  managed to come down with write-in fever that raged like California wildfire and even spread into the minds of some students after I offered them extra credit for attending the presentations, signing up and posting a novel idea on NaNoWriMo,  to staying the course and pounding out a 50,000 first draft of a novel of their own.

Although jobs and other commitments caused some to fall by the wayside, one has stayed strong since the second night.  Tonight, as she and I  worked on our stories, I almost forgot for that two hours that I was  her professor and she was my student. For tonight, we were mighty writers on fire. She was working on her NaNo WIP. Since I finished and received my Winner Certificate on Friday, November 20, I was writing yet a more expanded synopsis of my work.

It  has been an exciting three weeks with presentations at the Judith Carrier Library at Tarrant County College’s Southeast Campus every Tuesday, from November 3 to tonight’s finale on November 24. Hosted by Liliana Cano, a library employee, and Yvonne Jocks, a creative writing professor, the presentation has been a huge success, at least in this writer’s mind. Even though we had brief presentations on November 10 and 17, we spent most of the evening in a write-in that, for some, could last as long as 10:00 p.m.

On November 10, one of my English colleagues, Emilee Taylor, brought a presentation on revision and editing.

On November 17,  Charles Renthrope, a former TCCD student, talked about the children’s book, Escape From Smoothie Mountain that he and his wife authored.

Tonight was the final presentation and party. People who had been attending received decals, collapsible water bottles, and certificates with their names and titles of their books on them.To come, Writers Cubes, for further inspiration.

Now that I am a two-time winner of NaNoWriMo, I have gained the confidence to help others find their way around the NaNoWriMo site. Tonight, as a reporter from the Collegian, our campus newspaper, interviewed me, one of her questions was this: “What advice would you give an aspiring writer?”

My answer was the same one I continue to tell myself over and over. And over:  “Whatever happens, keep writing.”

 

 

REVVING UP FOR NANO-TIME!


October 23, 2015

Two-time NaNo Winner!
Two-time NaNo Winner!

“Hey, kids! What time is it?” a character named Buffalo Bob once shouted.

Sparrow voices from the audience would holler, “It’s Howdy-Doody Time!”

Fast-forward *&%$ years later (ahem!). In a little over a week, NaNoWriMo writers or “Wrimos”, will flex their fingers and yell, “It’s NaNoWriMo time!”

Yes, indeed.  At 12:00 a.m on November 1, writers worldwide,  snacks and coffee beside them, will pound out at least 1,667 words, more or less, every day, stopping only on November 30 at 11:59 p.m.

When it originated, Chris Baty, author of No Plot, No Problem, and his fellow writers, started NaNoWriMo, short for  National Novel Writing Month, in July. According to Baty, the problem with having NaNoWriMo in July was that July was vacation season and the weather is still semi-balmy. So Baty and the bunch moved NaNo to November, when plunging temperatures usher in ice or snow, making our warm homes feel just right for a month-long write-in. Writers love to write at night, anyway. At least, this writer does.

In the past, my NaNo WIPS have been suspense stories. In MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT, an Internet predator calling himself  “The Man”, lurks on the “Man After Midnight” dating site as a drop-dead-gorgeous man to lure the main character’s teen-aged daughter into his web. In order to save her daughter, the protagonist must join the site, herself, and “date” the suspects until she finds the one.

In July, for Camp NaNoWriMo, I wrote THE KILLER MOST LIKELY, in which twin brothers — a convict and a class president attend their high-school  reunion hoping to reunite with the same woman, the convict’s ex-wife.

This time, for the fun of it, I’m trying my hand at fantasy. When I described my NaNo WIP to a student, he summed up CRIMSON FEATHERS as a “slice-of-life fantasy” about a homely and plump professor who meets the man of her dreams —  an Aztec warrior  — in her dreams. It is based on an actual dream I had in the late 1980’s. Now, after figuring thinking the plot over, I’ve decided to go for it.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, even schools are coming up with their own NaNo presentations. Mine will meet in our campus library, every Tuesday night at seven o’clock for presentations and write-ins. Even better, the first one, on November 3, will meet on my birthday.

If you have always wanted to say you wrote a novel — defined by NaNoWriMo as 50,000 words — this is your chance. Prepare your character sketches. Build your “worlds”, and even dash off an outline or two, but the actual work must start no sooner than 12:00 a.m. on November 1.

Have fun making a royal  mess. Change the characters’ names in the middle of the story. Send New Yorkers off on an African safari in Central Park. Above all, jump in with both feet and have yourself a ball.

For inspiration, read Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem. As you learn how to write out numbers and eschew hyphenated words, you’ll giggle over his instructive silliness.

Okay, so who wants to join me in a month-long write-in? On your mark, get set, go!

NaNoWriMo, Day 1: And We’re Off!


November 1, 2014

11:55 p.m.

“On your mark. Get set…”.

*Gun fires*. “Go!”

And we’re off. Legions of writers clickety-clicking their first 1,667 words — Milepost 1 of the marathon of all marathons: National Novel Writing Month, lovingly called NaNoWriMo.

A fitting start to the day, a half-day at the Marine Creek Creative Writing Conference, at the Northwest Campus of Tarrant County College. From 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., I soaked in writerly wisdom from the experts in three breakout sessions: Liz Lounsbury’s “Hooks, Twists, and High Concept: Grabbing and Keeping The Reader’s Interest”; Donovan Hufnagle’s “The Epistolary: Shaping Novels, Short Fiction, and Poetry with Letters, Diaries, and Newspaper Clippings,” and Yvonne Jocks’ “Smart or Popular: Can Your Story Be Both?”.

From each presentation, I walked out with fresh ideas that, in one way or another, I could relate to my own works-in-progress.

After the breakout sessions in various classrooms, we returned to the Student Center where Northwest Campus President, Dr. Elva LeBlanc introduced Susannah Charleson, New York Times Best-Selling Author. A search-and-rescue team member, she told about her experiences with her canine partner, a Golden Retriever named Puzzle, who helps her find missing persons in all kinds of settings: urban, rural, wilderness, and disaster. Her recent best-seller, Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog.

Besides for her experience, she left us with advice and encouragement for sticking to our writing, despite temptations from our families and friends.

A buffet lunch of savory vegetarian and “non-veg” pasta dishes and slices of crusty French bread followed, as did three door prizes, including two signed and personalized copies of Charleson’s work.

My favorite part of the day? Rubbing shoulders with writers of all backgrounds — fellow “tribe” members — beginners, experts, and those in-between. It helped to hear that writers more accomplished than I am share my doubts.

Now, on the eve of the “fall back” time change, I can feel pretty good about the start I’ve made in this NaNo-marathon. Now, while I ice down my aching fingers, I’m running in place, straining for the “finish line”:
the next 48,318 words and the two sweetest words a writer knows: “The End.”

GOING THE DISTANCE: the marathon of Distance-Learning Training


10-30-2012

On September 4, 2012, I launched into an adventure — Distance-Education training, a course that would last almost a semester.  Although I had to learn a new vocabulary, including the difference between an item and a file, I was optimistic about my race to the Finish Line.

Units I and II started out with the basics: learning my way around the Distance Learning home page, familiarizing myself with the “landscape” of Blackboard, interacting with peers on a discussion board.

“Hey, this is fun!” I thought, as I zoomed from one activity to another. “I might even finish in time to start  in spring, instead of summer.”

Yes, my first month in Distance Learning was like Christmas morning and a honeymoon at the same time. I was fascinated with my new “toy”. Just for fun, I composed PowerPoint lectures and devised interactive true/false and multiple-choice quizzes that student could complete on their iPhones or iPads.Working to Create Lesson Plan

Suddenly, the treacherous terrain of Unit III, “Building Content” caused me to stumble.  Sprinting ahead of the others, at first, I began moseying along at the speed of mud. As Unit III dictated, I built a course menu, devised a storyboard, composed a syllabus, and created lesson plans. Each step in the process was a study in trial-and-error, requiring me to submit and re-submit some assignments, and check my grades, only to see “Not Passed” beside the activity I had worked so hard to finish.

I marveled at the irony. After twenty-three years of teaching “Freshman Comp”, I have learned to bang out lesson plans in my sleep.  To pull them, like rabbits from silk hats,  out of thin air. To walk into a classroom, car keys still in hand, and start “professing”.  In a fit of frustration, I collared Self. and asked her, “Why am I running into these roadblocks?”

“Simple,” she said, “Welcome to Blackboard.”

Even in traditional, face-t0-face classes, we have had to begin keeping our gradebook on this mystifying new tool. We who have never used it before still don’t understand why we can’t use its predecessor, Campus Cruiser, anymore. Life was so simple, then.

Or not?

Two days ago, after submission number-four, I  passed “Adding Content” at last. My next step, “Preliminary Review” — an event in which my lesson plans and course menu are previewed and evaluated by peers. Yawning ahead are Units IV through VII, all due before November 30. James, my instructor,  assures me that I will have jumped over the steepest hurdle. I’ll take his word for it while holding my breath.

However stressful it seems now, this course is a gift from God. I’m thankful it is self-paced (to an extent) and that my instructor has been patient and encouraging with my daily phone calls to him.  Having passed the halfway mile-marker, I’m determined to limp along until I finish this marathon. My fingertips may be calloused; my spirits, trampled, and my nerves, frayed, but I’ve waited too long for this opportunity and the freedom that teaching online offers. 

I can picture myself now: ninety years old,  arthritic fingers typing out lessons  for a whole new generation of students.