LCWG December 2, 2020: More Productive Months?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.   

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!
QUESTION: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?
MY ANSWER: I guess, it’s easier to identify the months that are the lest productive: holiday months. And the last half of 2020.
We are “swallowing the anchor.” A term sailors use when they give up sailing and move on land. La Vita, our 33 foot sailboat, has been home since 2006.
It was easy to sell our home in California and move on board 14 years ago. We sailed La Vita down the coast of Mexico and in 2011 arrived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Medical challenges kept up tied to the dock. After nine years, we accepted the fact it was time to sell.
Our home since 2006. Some may not understand, but I felt more secure owing La Vita and living in a Mexican marina than leasing a condo in Mexico.
Adjusting to this monumental change to our life style and packing/unpacking nearly 100 boxes has taken its toll. What if the landlord increases the rent or won’t renew our lease? The What If game is not fun to play.
As I adapt to this new normal, my intention is to thrive, embrace the future, and write.
I’m especially interesting in hearing from folks that have limited resources:
How have you managed major upheavals in your life?

LCWG: November 4, 2020: Why Do Your Write?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.   

The awesome co-hosts for the October 4 posting of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachn Chhabria!
November 4 question – Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.”Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?
I had a clever answer, but the truth is deeper.
Writing is my tool to uncover what is behind my thoughts and actions.
My avenue of expression is a series called, “Slices of Life.” 
Through hard work, I hope to capture your imagination and inspire.
Here’s a slice:
I grin as I smell my bagel toasting, positive it will be perfectly golden when it pops up. My own toaster. My own shower. The bed so big, I hardly know Rick is sleeping next to me. Two hours to clean.
We have swallowed the anchor. A term used by sailors when they give up sailing move on land.
We signed a year lease. Then what? As tenants we can be tossed out on our ear. The thought of starting over is daunting.
Cost? Giving up our dream to sail through the Panama canal and on to the Mediterranean. Soon our sailboat will be put up for sale. Our home since 2006. We own her free and clear. She is a treasured elegant lady ready to sail across vast oceans.

Cost? Watching the occasional sea turtle pop its head up to breath. Fish swimming along the dock nudging barnacles for bits of food.

Cost? Our friends. We sailed into this Mexican marina Valentines day 2011. We love the people and the lifestyle. Our friends in the marina wave and ask how things were going. A bunch of self-reliant, independent, and quick to offer a hand. Our soul mates.
These condo folks tend look away rather than crack a smile. We a live few miles from the marina, but it feels like a different world.
Over cups of coffee, we’d stare at each other, jot notes on yellow pads of paper, ponder silently. Against the wishes of our heart and sole, we accepted the fact someone else will love and maintain her. Rick’s fused spine and neck limits his ability to stretch into those awkward positions so often required on a boat. Swollen fingers reduce his grip.
Our faithful vessel evolved into a tiny home. I started to resent the efficient galley where the counter top doubled as the lid to the refrigerator. No room for appliances such as a microwave. I fried bread on a hot griddle. Two bright spots: took 30 minute to clean and our cozy bed allowed us to snuggle during the night.
For the last month, Rick has driven our car to the marina several days a week. With cane in hand, walks down the dock to the boat. There he packs our personal possessions into boxes.
My some miracle he moves these heavy boxes from inside the boat to the cockpit. Folks in the marina help him get the boxes off the boat and to the car. It’s a process he prefers to do alone. Perhaps it is his way of letting go of a life long dream.
Her name is La Vita. The Life, in Italian. She lived up to her name. Together we created vivid memories. Her spirit is with us as we wonder about our future.
Thank you for visiting and taking a moment to read a slice of my life. I look forward to visiting your site and reading your answer to this question.

IWSG October 7, 2020: Working Writer

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.   

The awesome co-hosts for the September 2 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!
When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?
Hobbyist: Are You A Hobbyist? Hobby artists may spend years, decades, or even an entire lifetime making art strictly for personal pleasure. They want no responsibility for a business. They don’t desire to develop a following, sell their artwork, or try to support themselves with their artwork.
Aspiring: desiring and working to achieve a particular goal : having aspirations to attain a specified profession, position, etc. an aspiring actor [=a person who aspires to be and is trying to become an actor] an aspiring novelist.
Granville Redmond: is my grandfather and he relied on patrons to promote and sell his art. Much like today, he poured his energy into his creative expression, not sales. He did not want to take responsibility for a business. So does that make him an hobbyist?
I’m reluctant to pigeon hole myself as aspiring, but I guess that’s the best fit. My focus in improving my craft. I have no interest in the business side; however the word hobbyist rubs me the wrong way. the term working writer caused me to pause. I certainly work and write, but I’m not paid.
Does every definition need to be defined by money?
I’m very curious to read how others in our IWSG blog hop answered this question.

IWSG September 2, 2020: Beta Partner

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.   

The awesome co-hosts for the September 2 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando J Lenni Dorner Deniz Bevan, Kim Lajevardi, Natalie Aguirre, and Louise – Fundy Blue!
QUESTION: If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?
MY ANSWER:  Joylene Butler The first thing this author did was give my imagination permission to soar. Next she showed me how to breath life into my stories. The rest is up to me: write, write, write.
Question: How did you expand your vocabulary?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to visiting your blog, too.

IWSG August 5: Genre/Form

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.   

The awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey! 

QUESTION: Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?
MY ANSWER:  The form chose me.
Here’s a sample:
~~ _/) ~~ _/) ~~ _/) ~~ _/) ~~ _/)

Dense gray fog surrounded us and it was dark. My eyes were fixed on the compass needle while my hands gripped the wheel as I drove La Vita, our 33 foot sailboat south. Mexico on my left and Hawaii thousands of miles on my right.

Rick set the mainsail to catch the light breeze and keep us steady. The fresh salty ocean air filled my lungs. The engine’s steady hum vibrated through my body. My first night at sea and I’m in charge.”
                                                                           ~~ _/) ~~ _/) ~~ _/) ~~ _/) ~~ _/)

My background was technical writing, so my blogs posts resembled a How To manual. I wanted to capture my adventures in vivid detail.

I joined a writer’s group in La Cruz, Mexico. After weeks of whining and filling pages with dull phrases, my writer friends sat me down and held an intervention. They told me what was missing. My stories lacked feelings and emotions.

I learned the importance of including the senses: what saw, heard, felt, smelled. That was in 2012.

Five years later, new writer to the group made a comment that rang true. She said, “You write slices of life.” I had no idea I my writing evolved or tumbled into this form: Each story a single episode. A slice of my life. The form found me.

I’m seeking an online fictional writing course that includes feedback. Any suggestions deeply appreciated.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to reading your blog, too.

IWSG JULY 1: Industry Changes

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.    

QUESTION: There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?
The awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting of the IWSG are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox! 
MY ANSWER is more current day than of the future:
Does your compensation and reward depend on a contract?
Many of us create from a deep unstoppable desire to express. Regardless of reward. As a result, many are taken advantage of. In the past an artist required patrons for support and to promote their work. Publishers were required to presented and sell books. Now days self-publishing has gained respect and working for many. These arrangements required a contract of one kind or another.
Now Covid-19 has entered the picture. What’s the connection? Our shrinking economy has caused some publishing companies to shutter their doors. Where does that leave us, the writer? What are the terms of our contracts? Do we still retain the rights to our work? Or did our rights expire with the company? What happened to our royalties; lost in bankruptcy proceedings?
I suggest those of us with contracts to look at them. Read them. Renegotiate if necessary.  Just as we are driven to express, we must divert some of that same desire to protect our-self interests.

IWSG June 3: Secrets

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.    

The awesome co-hosts for the June 3 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre!

QUESTION: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

MY ANSWER: I thought about my secrets from the time I went to Donovan State Prison in the US and Puente Grande women’s prison in Mexico. I was there to listen to their stories. Most of what I heard was dark and best saved for a different time.

Let’s move to a lighter part of my life. For the last eight years, I’ve managed an international group of writer’s called La Cruz Writers’ Group (LCWG). I will tell you my secret. But first, I must tell you last month we featured author Michelle O’Healy. She presented us with this question, “What Happens When Unicorns Fart?

Michelle is a long time member of LCWG and frequent reader. Even as grownups, we sat spellbound and giggled as we listened to her childrens’ stories. Michelle loved telling her kids original bedtime stories. Now she is beginning to publish them.

Rusty Debris, another long time member often entertained us with his guitar and we learned the similarity of song writing and story telling.

Take a moment, if you will, and enjoy the poem Rusty wrote in honor of “What Happens When Unicorns Fart?

There’s a wild and wooly creature
With a spiral horn-like feature
Tho’ not a goat, wild ass or horse
We’re talking unicorn, of course

Bearded beasts from antiquity
Eat pomegranates constantly
The crimson fruit that’s slightly tart
Makes them pee red and want to fart

As to unicorns’ flatulence
These days we strive for more nuance
Now farts are “anal acoustics”
Here are some more popular picks:

Cutting cheese or breaking the breeze
Squeezing wind or waxing the skis
Air biscuits, plonkers, anus noodles
Afterburners or fluff doodles

It sounds like stepping on a goose
When unicorns are cutting loose
Making stinky or a tooter
A mouse on a motor scooter

Butt trumpets, gas plants, ass rippers
Trouser coughs, Dutch ovens, air dumps
Subcutaneous tissue disorders
Arkansas barking spiders

Drop the bomb, play the tushy horn
Blame it all on the unicorn
When gastric gas begins to pain
Better let fluffy off the chain

©️Rusty Debris 2020
Holdingforth, MN
Always on time and in tune.

La Cruz Writers’ Group is open to all writers and our purpose is to support and encourage. Folks are encouraged to read an excerpt from their writing. Next, they receive invaluable and positive feedback on their piece.

We are a transient group. Snow Birds flock via sail, air, or land to La Cruz and surrounding areas (near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico) each winter. For years we met each Saturday in the air conditioned marina VIP room. 

Earlier this year we transitioned to monthly Zoom webinars. I host our Zoom gatherings from our sailboat, La Vita, moored in Marina La Cruz, Mexico.

Here’s my secret: I’m not a natural leader. Often I’m stressed to tears before our gatherings. Consumed with self doubt I always ask myself, “Will folks be able to join Zoom? Will our writers find value in our gathering? Have I done enough?
Rick, my husband reassures me. He holds my hand and reminds me to feel my breath as I inhale and exhale. He whispers, “You’ve done enough. It will be OK.”
I take a deep breath, dry my eyes, smile and open the Zoom Waiting Room. Sometimes, we talk about Unicorns and farts.

P.S. I’ll forever grateful if anyone can tell me how to:
     1. Create a One Click link to join Zoom
     2. Create a custom Zoom Invitation page

IWSG May 6: Rituals

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Insecure-Writers-Support-Group-Badge-e1551632609599.jpg IN this post, you will see paragraphs mushed together. KEY: The first word in each paragraph is bold and in caps. VILLAIN: my PHP is out of date…I explain in my answer below.        
IT’S the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.    
THE awesome co-hosts for the May 6 posting of the IWSG are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe Mclure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken!      QUESTION: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?     MY ANSWER: I was going to talk about my ritual: up in the quiet wee morning hours, sip tasty coffee and position fingers on my keyboard…    
THEN I opened WordPress and updated the security. Never in my wildest dreams did I realize the mess I started.     ERROR Message: “You need to update your PHP.” I still don’t know what PHP is exactly but the instructions said, “Backup your Website before upgrading PHP.”     SO I called Ballistic, (they host my Website).     I told tech support, “I want to back up my site, then update my PHP.”     HE said, “Well, that ain’t as easy as you might think.”     FOR reasons I don’t understand, I can’t update the PHP until Ballistic moves my site to a new server. That will happen in two or three months from now.     IN this post, you see sentences holding hands; refusing to separate into paragraphs. Why? PHP controls formatting in this WordPress theme. Did this post automatically popped up on your watch list. Why? For reasons I can’t understand, the post flips from public Publish to Private on a whim.     I’M worn to a frazzle. I’ve battled this for two days. It’s “happy hour” on La Vita (our sailboat and floating tiny home). I’ve traded my hot coffee for chilled wine. CHEERS!
I’m sorry the code is smarter than I am. Thanks for trying to slog through the text. I hope writing your post went a much smoother.     

IWSG April 1: Your World?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

The awesome co-hosts for the April 1 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, JH Moncrieff, Anna @ Emaginette, Karen @ Reprobate Typewriter, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

QUESTION: How are things in your world?

MY ANSWER: “Attention the fleet, attention the fleet,” a male voice commands from the VHF radio. The vast majority of folks living on boats leave their VHF radio on 24-hours a day. This how we exchange information and call for help.

My world is a floating sailboat docked in a Mexican marina about 3 to 4 days drive south of the US/Mexico border. The aroma of fresh coffee fills the cabin and squawk of squabbling sea gulls fad into the back ground as I stare at CNN in an attempt to learn the latest about the CoronaVirus.

The announcer on our VHF grabbed my attention. The speaker goes on to say, “All ports in Mexico are closed.” Apparently, the local government finally realizes visitors spread the virus.

Good friends returned to their home country and rarely heard from. Even with social networking, I guess out of sight, out of mind. They’re busy with their own life, so easy to forget those they left behind. This is an annual ritual. This year was especially painful because I lowered my guard and formed a close friendship.

My cheerful spirit dived under the covers seeking to escape uncertainty. I pop back up and read stories about medical teams exposed to COVID-19 and their pleas for protective gear fall on deaf ears. Government so slow to react, both in Mexico and USA.

I’m less focused. I want my life back. I want to walk in the outside in sunshine. A local doctor advised: no walking outdoors. The US doctors advise time in the fresh air. Although, they caution social distancing is still required.

I screwed up my courage and decided to write about my world and fears. Maybe, exposure will stop them from twisting my dreams into nightmares.

I was trained to face facts and mentally focus on the desired result. This time, I struggle to retain my internal balance. A wise person said, “Focus on the how.” I’m trying.

Local news reports are in Spanish. The English translation says: tests must be ordered by a doctor and reserved for folks with active symptoms. Just because someone was exposed, they won’t get tested. I’m convinced without more testing the number infected is under reported. Similar to certain areas in the USA.

Rick and I are in the high-risk group. Rick lives with underlying medical conditions. Without exercise his body stiffens and less oxygen in his lungs results in less stamina and reduced immune system.

I recently posted blogs about clogged arteries in my heart and neck. As i recover, I need to build my endurance. Now days, I tend to sit on the couch and either tap the keys or click to read text messages.

Mexico’s slow to recommend social distancing and need for frequent hand washing. It’s hard to do as most live with extended families live under one roof.

Food handlers rarely wear masks. If they have one, it’s usually around their mouth or chin. I wonder if other food prep folks around the world are equally lax?

Water is a precious resource on most vessels. To conserve water, I shower at the marina. Yesterday, I realized putting my shower stuff on the bench was contaminating everything. I view every door handle and all touch points as potential virus cesspools.

I wash my hands constantly. Rubbing hand sanitizer is a regular ritual. Downside? My chronic eczema thanked my efforts by flaring up.

Refrigerators on a sailboat are notoriously small. I stocked up on pears and apples leaving no room for bagels. The last two developed enough mold to cure the CoronaVirus. If I only knew how to transform fuzzy green and gray stuff into a life-saving serum.

We decided to strap on our three-year old N95 masks and walk outside. We will practice social distance. Now I read these masks can expire? I’m told wearing my mask will help prevent the spread of the virus, but not protect me?

I’m back…I just peaked at the online news. Grim. Tearful pleas for help. States bidding against each other for masks, ventilators, etc. Why in heavens name, don’t they join together and make a collective bid? Then distribute the stuff among them? Why hasn’t FEMA taken over the supply chain and kept a lid on the prices?

Thousands of folks flock our sandy beaches during Semana santa (Easter holy week). Similar to Florida Spring Break, although this time it’s Puerto Vallarta, MX. Most with little regard to social distancing and washing hands.

Mexico is waking up. Local governors are ordering self-quarantine through the end of April; possibly continue into May or beyond. As of today, charter boats filled with tourist are prohibited from going whale watching in the bay.

No paychecks for hard working folks. I’m listening for a local group to announce a food drive. If nothing presents itself, I’ll send a few inquiries.

In a week or two, we will be forced to go to the grocery store. I’m doing my best to be prepared and smart. I’m focused on the how.

I’ve spilled my guts and feel better for it. I’m curious what changes we’ll write about in our April IWSG blog hop.

Before I close I must tell you what I’m grateful:

  • My husband and I enjoy each other’s company.
  • My daughter tested negative for the CoronaVirus.
  • A good friend and mentor share Joy through in regular contact.
  • The La Cruz Writer’s Group and monthly Zoom Web Conferences.
  • Insecure Writers Support Group for giving me the opportunity to share my insecurities with fellow writers.
  • I just learned how to clean my phone.
  • I can still taste and smell…so I’m free of Covid-19, right?
  • An English online news paper: Puerto Vallarta Daily News.
  • Excellent local medical information posted by Pam Thompson-Webb.
  • A fellow on the docks said to call if we needed anything.
  • A simple text exchange restored a close friendship.
  • My gratitude list is alive and growing.

Request: I’m seeking positive podcasts and calming medications. Any suggestions?


IWSG March 4: Traditions

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

The awesome co-hosts for the The awesome co-hosts for the March 4 posting of the IWSG are Jacqui Murray, Lisa Buie-Collard, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence!

QUESTION: Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

MY ANSWER: I decided to not answer this month’s question. Instead, I’m going to tell you what happened after five stents were installed in my heart. For that part of my story read blog post: IWSG Nov. 6, 2019: Strangest Thing.

February 2020 Rick and I flew back to the States for my follow-up doctor appointment and three-week vacation. I was excited to show my US physician the CD created by my heart doctor in Mexico.

While in Mexico, my cardiologist performed an angiogram of my neck proving the blood flow in my carotid artery was normal. He was adamant: my artery was clear. No blockage. I saw the proof: a video showing my artery with normal flow. I was convinced. No surgery.

I proudly showed my US doctor the CD. I fully expected his agreement. Instead my specialist said, “The artery on your CD is not the carotid artery. That image is your vertebral artery. There is still plaque in your neck and it is blocked 80%. I advise surgery.”

I squeezed my hands in an effort to contain my astonishment. How could two specialist have such different opinions?

Whom do I believe? My heart specialist in Mexico? Or my vascular specialist in the States?

Do I trust this US physician that discovered the blockage in my neck and did not bother to check for blockage in my heart? Why was his PA (Physician Assistant) so reluctant to give me copies of my medical records? I was torn with indecision and filled with uncertainty.

As you can see from my picture, I accepted the US diagnosis and choose to operate.

My Scar (Click image to enlarge.)

I was totally unprepared for the magnitude of this surgery, or the recovery time, or the disfigurement.

I had no idea it was considered major surgery, high risk, and a two month convalescent period.

Our 21-day vacation in California was jammed with appointments including two five-hour round trips to my eye specialist in Los Angeles.

Life was a blur as we jumped to met our demanding schedule.

Meanwhile, Rick was diagnosed with basal cells carcinoma on his forehead. He was operated 11 days after my surgery. Neither of us realized Rick’s operation would be so painful.

Apparently, all the nerves from the back of the head converge near the forehead. Rick suffered intense nerve pain while I struggled to regain my strength.

We flew back to Mexico 48 hours after Rick’s surgery. We needed help getting our suitcases down the dock and placed on our sailboat, La Vita. We were both weak and exhausted.

My first opportunity to completely rest was 16 days after surgery. It was heavenly.

I’ve included a photo of my neck after surgery (see above). They assured me when the scar heals, it’ll just be a white line. Right now, I feel a long rope of lumpy flesh.

Reminder: Plaque can suddenly break off and cause a stroke. That’s why this condition is called the silent killer.

Other than being tired, I had NO symptoms of heart disease or clogged arteries.

QUESTION: Have you or your characters been forced to make a life or death decision? How did it turn out?