Neill McKee is in the spotlight!

I'm so pleased to tell you about Neill McKee and his historical travel memoir, Guns and Gods in My Genes. This is the second day of his WOW! Women on Writing tour. About the book: Neill McKee, author of the award-winning travel memoir Finding Myself in Borneo, takes the reader through 400 years and 15,000 miles of an on-the-road adventure, discovering stories of his Scots-Irish ancestors in Canada, while uncovering their attitudes towards religion and guns. His adventure turns south and west as he follows the trail of his maternal grandfather, a Canadian preacher who married an American woman in Wisconsin, and braved the American Wild West from 1904 to 1907, finding a two-story brothel across from one of his churches and a sheriff who owned a saloon and dance hall, while carrying a gun with 20 notches, one for each man he had killed. Much to his surprise, McKee finds his American ancestors were involved in every major conflict on North American soil: the Civil War, the … [Read more...]

Still here, still writing

One of my favorite activities these days is meeting twice a month with my writing group. Before COVID we met monthly at either of the two leader's houses. Since we stopped gathering in person and now use Zoom to get together we meet on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Meeting more often a a great way to keep in touch as well as write more. Our last meeting's prompt was: Shoes – symbol of life, a way of being I immediately connected because I was a true shoe person from the time I was a little girl. Here's my writing group piece: When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I used to walk to grade school with a girl named Phyllis. We would pretend we were grownups walking on tippy toes as if we were wearing high heeled shoes. We’d also carry a handbag to match. And after school we’d go to one of our houses and spend the rest of the afternoon drawing shoes. Very high heeled shoes in all colors and styles. Except that not a one of them was suitable for walking and runni … [Read more...]

Three more poems

Thankfully I can still write my daily short poems. It's a way for me to look inside a bit and record my thoughts and goings on since my husband Bob died. Today would have been his eighty-fourth birthday. I can't even begin to tell you how much a miss celebrating with him as I did for the last fifty-three years. Here are three newish draft poems. My Days Even when I add A chore or two To shake up my day It still ends The same way. Eating dinner in front Of the television As I watch a movie. I watch one each night Some good, some bad But it’s a diversion Which I need more And more of these days. I don’t know how To get out of this rut. And when I study it Real closely, I don’t think I ever will. My husband is gone And the void he left In my life will never Go away. And nowadays I want to yell and scream At him for leaving me. Even though he couldn’t help Getting so sick,. He needed to get well And not leave me this way.   My Mercedes Is G … [Read more...]

What do I do all day?

People keep asking me what I do all day. They want to know how this new widow spends her time and deals with her loss. Well, first of all I hate the “widow” word. Isn’t there something else we could call a woman whose husband has died? Well, I suppose not. Plus, I really have other things to do than worry about a word or two. Like continuing to work on all the financial records and documents my husband left me to sort out. And bear in mind I was never a party to anything financial going on during our fifty-year marriage. He was the math guy. He called me innumerate. Even so, I have changed over all the accounts to my name and closed some I don’t want to deal with. I’ve also cancelled a couple of credit card accounts. Right now though, I’m looking through our home improvement records so when and if it comes time to sell my house, I can have write-offs to offset the thousands in taxes I’ll owe. Also, I still am writing. Since last February I’ve been writing a poem a day - it’s … [Read more...]

Three new published poems!

I'm very proud to let you know I have three poems in this new anthology that just came out from the Story Circle Network. Living on COVID Time: Sharing Stories, Sharing Lives in Prose and Poetry from Story Circle Network (Real Women Write) Paperback - January 3, 2021 by Story Circle Network(Author), Susan F. Schoch(Editor), Brooke Warner(Foreword) As its Amazon page says: Real Women Write: Living on COVID Time is Volume 19 of this annual anthology of prose and poetry by members of Story Circle Network, an organization supporting women writers and asserting the importance of women’s stories. But it is a volume unlike any other. The 52 authors of the 80 pieces in this collection were writing in response to an unprecedented global pandemic. The virus spread through a year filled with many other profound challenges and changes, while these women were writing about their lives, engaging with experiences and emotions that were uniquely their own. These selections capture m … [Read more...]

COVID even strikes without a positive diagnosis

The following is another piece I wrote in my Zoom writing group meeting. The prompt was: "Who did I meet this year who surprised or delighted us? I decided to change the "who" to a "what" and this is what I came up with. Needless to say the recent death of my husband after his long stay in hospital and rehab care was on my mind. COVID was the huge surprise this year. After a slow and quiet beginning it came upon us like gangbusters – so much so that we didn’t know how to behave in its presence. First we were told wearing masks didn’t help. Later on masks were mandated. And though staying six feet from others was recommended it wasn’t enforced very much. How does one stay six feet apart at the grocery store or even on the street. Another rule was to wash our hands for twenty seconds many times a day. But how does one monitor that. We washed using the honor system I did stay inside especially when the numbers of victims and deaths started to rise and the science doctors – and no … [Read more...]

Living with grief

I've lived alone now for over three months. first while my husband was in the hospital and then after his death on November 22, 2020. And I have to say living alone is a lonely business. I don't find anything to redeem it. And it's made much worse these days because of the COVID shut down. There is no socializing with friends and family - PERIOD. Of course I've received lots of heartfelt and loving cards, phone calls, texts, and notes on social media. However, what's missing the most is a real live hug. So I've been keeping myself busy by writing - here, in my journal, and my poem a day. I've given myself those assignments to help with the grief and to produce something meaningful throughout this time. I'm also spending a lot of time doing all the things a person has to do when a spouse dies. Coincidentally, the LA Times had an article about it just today. Here's some of the things I've been doing: Call social security about survivor benefits Cancel his health … [Read more...]

Thinking about becoming a ghostwriter?

Our Choices guest today is Jann Baylon. She writes about ways to make money as a writer by being a ghostwriter - a very inspiring occupation. I worked as a technical writer and editor for most of my writing life.  That is another fine source of income for a writer. Now let's read what Jann has to say about ghostwriting.   Becoming a Successful Ghostwriter by Jann Baylon Image Credit: Pixabay Once upon a time, there was a common narrative that writers couldn’t easily make a living. The idea was that an audience was simply too hard to come by for all but the most successful writers — those with major book deals, or notable columns in newspapers and magazines. It’s still true today that writing is only lucrative for a small percentage of highly successful (and often lucky) individuals. But this is true in many lines of work. And looking past the idea of significant wealth, it is now the case that plenty of writers find ways to make good money. This is largely thanks … [Read more...]

One step, one breath at a time

I attended my writing group via Zoom yesterday for the first time since my Bob died. Actually I hadn't attended while he was so sick in the hospital either. It was hard to show my pain publicly.  Even participating yesterday was a challenge, though I ended up writing something. Our prompt was to pick a child's toy, make it your title, and then write about it. Here's mine: Lionel Trains When my husband was a boy his father bought him and his brother a set of Lionel electric trains. They were popular in those days – the forties and fifties – before the miniature electric trains became the go-to train toys for little boys. He’d tell us that every Christmas his father would set them up on the floor of their apartment. Three engines, passenger cars, box cars, and of course the red caboose all moved along enough track to go around their living room. They also had railroad crossing gates, little benches, houses, trees and doll-like people to sit round and watch the trains go by. … [Read more...]

It’s hard to live after death

For the last several months I’ve written a little poem every day. Something that would take no more than ten minutes to compose. I’ve kept that up even through out my husband Bob’s illness and in the days since he died. Writing, as you probably know, keeps me alive. It lets me put my pain on the page. Here are a few of my most recent poems written since Bob died.   I don’t know how I am managing To walk, to live in this house To even breathe My husband of over fifty years Died last night. He just stopped breathing And thinking And talking And eating and walking He just stopped all the things That one does to live. He was done with all that He left me alone To find a way to live without him To learn to walk again Without him. And I wonder If I’ll ever be able To do that unless he’s By my side.   I decided not To see him dead, Which meant I couldn’t touch him One last time. I had seen him The day before he died During a FaceTime chat He … [Read more...]

More beautiful words about Bob Sharples

Robert (Bob) Sharples z"l As we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is with deep sadness that I share the news of the passing of Robert Sharples, z"l, beloved husband of Madeline, father of Benjamin (Marissa) Sharples, and Paul z'l, and Eric z'l. Bob and Madeline have been members of our community since the early days of CTJ in Manhattan Beach, and are cherished friends of many. Bob was a true renaissance man; an exceptional aerospace engineer and project manager at Northrup Gruman (TRW) for decades, an avid traveler and student of life.  He filled his 83 years with accomplishment, beauty, charm, and worthy achievement.  He expressed courage and faith in facing confounding illness over the past year, and seemed to be on the path to a full recovery and a return to his active life. Bob was an engaging and sincere conversationalist, and he brought wisdom and a smile to all encounters.  He will be dearly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues. His li … [Read more...]

Rest in peace, my darling

Our brilliant Renaissance man, Robert Edwin Sharples, died after a long illness this past Sunday, November 22, 2020. Born on February 4, 1937 in Ridgewood Queens New York, he was eighty-three years old. He moved to California in 1961 and became a resident of Manhattan Beach ten years later. Bob had a long career in aerospace as an engineering manager and proposal manager. He managed numerous very large proposals for Northrop Grumman/TRW, including James Webb, National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), and Jupiter Icy-moons Orbiter (JIMO). The sum of the winning bids for the list of proposals he managed is nearly nine billion dollars. He also worked on the development of the US Air Force’s Minuteman III MIRV ballistic missile weapon system, serving as the Manager of Systems Engineering and Test for the Minuteman Program Office in charge of the testing of the weapon system. Other management work included the development of real-time software for the H … [Read more...]

Crazy about books? Meet LitNuts!

Choices is happy to introduce you to LitNuts. Here's what they are all about. For Readers So, LitNuts brings you books of short stories, essays, or poetry that many other newsletters refuse to include (because collections don’t sell as well as novels). LitNuts also features new releases and award-winning books that other newsletters exclude because of price. (Many newsletters feature ONLY ebooks priced at $2.99 or less, which is fine – but not all great books are $2.99 or less!). And authors, you'll be happy to hear that LitNuts founders Mike O’Mary and Kathleen Meyer handled publishing and marketing for an indie press for more than 10 years. This is important because that means they understand the challenge of getting your books in front of readers. For Authors LitNuts is an affordable vehicle that focuses on indie books and has engaged subscribers. Their goal is to help authors increase their book’s sales rank with online retailers, generate more reader reviews, and cre … [Read more...]

Introducing Margi Preus’ The Silver Box

Welcome to Margi Preus' WOW! Women on Writing tour of The Silver Box. You'll definitely want to add this wonderful middle grade fiction book to your reading list! Book Summary In the final Enchantment Lake mystery, Francie’s search for the truth about her mother—and herself—plunges her into danger during a North Woods winter.  When she wakes in her aunts’ cold cabin on the shore of Enchantment Lake, Francie remembers: everything about her life has changed. Or is about to. Or just might. Everything depends on the small, engraved silver box that she now possesses—if only she can follow its cryptic clues to the whereabouts of her missing mother and understand, finally, just maybe, the truth about who she really is. Francie, it turns out, has a lot to learn, and this time the lessons could be deadly. Her search for answers takes her and her best friends Raven and Jay as far afield as an abandoned ranch in Arizona and as close to home as a sketchy plant collector’s conservato … [Read more...]

A terrific voting poem

I took writing classes from Jack Grapes for many years. I wrote much of my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On there. And still I go to an occasional workshop or poetry refresher. Jack has always been my favorite writing instructor. And he is a wonderful writer and actor as well. I received the following poem in an email the other day and feel it's very much worth sharing with my readers here. It validates the importance of voting and now that we finally know the results, it confirms how voting is a  power we must not throw away. I voted. I hope all of you did too. Hopefully you feel as happy with the presidential election results as I do. Here's Jack. Lori and I voted yesterday. We got to our local polling place at 9am, an hour before they opened. That great art-deco building, the Saban Theater, on Wilshire Blvd. Got a parking spot directly in FRONT of the place. Sacre Bleau! We expected long lines. Except for the guy taping up voting directions and an American flag, … [Read more...]

Some more draft (political) poems

Since election day is three days away I thought I'd post a few more of my draft political poems. Hopefully they'll make sure you get out to vote for my favorite: Mr. Joe Biden. How could anyone really want to vote for the other guy?   The last election stages Are going on: That election year ritual Of 60 Minutes interviews With the candidates Airs tonight Large venues have opened Their doors for early voting And poll watching and speculation As to who will win are going on full force. I fluctuate between confidence That my guy, Joe Biden, Will win, and win in a landslide, Considering the long lines Of early voters all over the country, And being scared Donald will somehow pull it off as a result of all his dirty tricks And paying off his base. Well, I don’t have much longer to wait Though they also say We probably won’t know on election night Maybe in the days and weeks thereafter.       Do people just pull them Off the … [Read more...]

Sepsis, a potentially deadly disease

In late August I wrote what I thought was the final report on my husband's two bouts of sepsis (blood infection). He was doing great - walking without anymore difficulty, eating well again, and even getting to the point of driving his car and going places on his own. Unfortunately, he had a third recurrence of sepsis that started on September 26 and he's been in the hospital ever since. The good news this time is that the doctors found the bacteria and the source of the infection. The bad news is it will take my husband much longer to recover than it did the first two times. In week four of his hospitalization he still is not walking, he needs to be fed through a tube in his nose, and his mental ability is still not back to normal. Because the risk of sepsis is higher in seniors, I thought I'd provide all my senior friends who read this website with some information about this potentially life-threatening disease. I certainly knew nothing about it until if affected my husband. … [Read more...]

Becoming a blogger the journaling way

I  have been a fervent journal writer for over thirty years and I love to hear about other's journaling experiences. Dr. Mona Balogh, also an avid journaler, writes little vignettes about her  patients in her new book, How to Stay Out of My Emergency Room. And she has written a post for Choices about how she turned her journal entries into a blog. Please welcome Dr. Mona Balogh. My Failed Online Bookstore Turned Me into a Blogger by Dr. Mona Balogh I began blogging when my children were little, and I had an online bookstore called “Oasis Family Bookstore.” I sold homeschool books and wrote about “Homeschooling Made Easi-er,” implying that homeschooling is not easy. After the store and website failed, I learned how not to sell books online. But I was able to convincingly write about how to homeschool a family, and even help others homeschool their own children. I also attended many homeschool groups, conferences, get-togethers, park days, and co-schooled, hired teachers and gratefull … [Read more...]

Some new draft poems

I've been writing a poem a day for several months. At first they were about anything  interesting out there. Now for the last four months or so I've chosen to write about things going on in the government, the so-called administration, and our current president. Here are a few samples - definitely still in draft form. What do you think? George Floyd's Legacy Yesterday George Floyd was eulogized By Reverend Al Sharpton. He said “Get your knee off our necks,” Sounding an alarm throughout our land. For hundreds of years we’ve had Our knees on the necks of black and brown People without let up, without pressure Of pain and arrest for doing so. Sharpton’s words hopefully will Bring our nation peace and free Us all from the white supremacy We have thought we were Entitled to. We aren’t. We are no Different from those we’re stepping on. And it’s time for us to act as if All our lives are equal. Thank you, Reverend Al Sharpton, For the power of your words. &nbs … [Read more...]

A writer’s home office

I firmly believe that a writer should have a special and private place to write. And in fact I've written about that subject many times - quoting Virginia Woolf and her adage that a writer have "a room of one's  own." See my previous post on this subject posted on February 4, 2018 here: A room of my own – revisited, which is heavy on the personal touches as described below. This post will walk you through what such a room needs in order to make your space usable, comfortable, and necessary to further your writing career. A Room of One’s Own: The Value of a Writer’s Home Office Writing is possibly the most flexible of professions. One only needs to tap into their creativity, and, of course, break out their writing toolkit — which in this day and age mostly consists of a computer. You can be anywhere in the world tapping away on your keyboard in the early hours of the morning. But if you’re serious about turning writing into a viable career, discipline is a must. What can re … [Read more...]