Nov 14, 2017

Lost in Life Events

by Terri Wagner

Once upon a time not so long ago, I would get up at 4:30 am, exercise, shower, commute an hour one way, work, get home, walk the dogs, jump on the computer and write for hours. What happened? In at least two years I've written maybe 10 pages. Re-reading them recently, they are good. But I have little desire to continue the story. Tried working on another story....nothing. It's like I caught something worse than writer's block. Has anyone else experienced this?

In a sleazy effort to redeem myself to my writing partner, I started the ole life-events routine. You know how it goes...things have been so difficult. Work is just crazy. Dad passed away (that maybe legit), losing my furry pals, moving back into my house, dealing with financial concerns about the get the picture.

A more honest assessment would be Netflix. What an invention. It's almost like Star Trek. I dreamed about just asking the computer to play a certain song, video, TV show, movie, endless possibilities. DVR is another great distraction. I could go all spiritual and say I'm a gospel doctrine teacher and lately I've had to do every Sunday (I have a sorta partner, she's gone a lot). I could say I'm working on being more physically fit, but the truth is....the desire is gone.

So how do I get it back?

Nov 11, 2017

Who Cares About Cookie Cutters?

Who Cares About Cookie Cutters?

Well, I do. They're common enough tools, but I value those snippets of bent metal, from the early tin ones to the modern steel or aluminum ones. Don’t get me started on the tacky plastic ones; they have no soul.  I own about 300, and the collection goes on. Some are my great-grandmother’s, my grandmother’s, my mom’s, mine from my childhood. Others are  travel souvenirs: a moose from Alaska, a palm tree from Florida, a sea turtle from Hawaii, a crab from San Francisco, a snowflake from a magical December getaway in the mountains. Each has a memory, a story in its shape. 

When we designed our house, pushing out the bow window left a weird overhang, a flat wall about 15 feet long and ten inches tall. The builder lamented, “It’s holding up the roof. I just can’t fix it!” Fix it?! Clearly, that was designed for my cookie cutter collection to be displayed, part of it anyway. In the center is my family. I found a cookie-man, a cookie-woman, a cookie-girl, and two cookie-boys, one smaller than the other, representing my daughter and two sons.  I arranged them under a temple cookie cutter, and above a sideways broom. That’s a nod to my southern years; jump the broom, get it?

My latest book is a multi-generational  story told through the perspective of an elderly woman, the keeper of the antique cookie cutter collection. I’m enjoying the research phase! Did you know the most –expensive cookie cutter, called Running Slave, sold for nearly $8000 in a heated auction? As I bring the story from Queen Charlotte’s period to current times, my heart is drawn to the generations of women who baked cookies for their families. Some were servants in England, other indentured servants in the New World, some slaves in America through no wish of their own. Mothers made cookies for their children, early nurses gave the harder ones to fussy babies to teeth on. Some women made them to sell, including a couple of enterprising women who used their baked goods as a way to slip messages under the noses of King George’s troops in Boston, triggering the timing of the Revolutionary War.

My own mother always had cookies in the cookie jar.  Mom is an orderly soul; she likes identical cookies.  When I was a child, milk and cookies was a common way to sit with a  child after school and ask How Was Your Day, Honey?  One of my favorite memories was when my family was traveling when I was a child. We stopped for a gas in a very small town somewhere in the Midwest.  As soon as we stepped out to stretch our legs, we were engulfed by an overwhelming lemon-cookie aroma. The gas station attendant laughed and said Ma, the owner of Ma’s Cookies, always turned her vent fans toward the gas station when she noticed travelers stopping, and wouldn’t we like to go to her bakery across the parking lot? We drove away with warm lemon cuts outs, bags of them.

A simple tool, it’s unlikely many people count cookie cutters as anything worthwhile, just a faster way to make same-shape-same-size cookies in a hurry. I see the story in them, a memory tied up in each. And I find it hard to talk about cookies without wanting one, so here’s a recipe for you:  

Sugar Cut Out Cookies
·         1-½ cup butter  
·         2 cups sugar
·         2 whole eggs
·         2 whole eggs yolks
·         4 teaspoons vanilla extract
·         2 teaspoons almond extract
·         4 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon baking powder

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add in 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks and mix until combined. Mix in  vanilla and almond extract until combined. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly (about a cup at a time) add flour to butter mixture and combine. Just mix ingredients until they are combined, so as not to toughen the dough. Cover and chill at least one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out, cut out cookies, and bake for 6-8 minutes. Drizzle with a simple glaze or frost as desired.

Glaze:  stir one cup powdered sugar with enough orange juice or milk to make a pancake-batter consistency. Drizzle over cooled cookies with a fork. 

Nov 8, 2017

Business of Writing Workshop

by Marsha Ward

During the last half of October, I took an epic road trip to attend an 8-day workshop in Lincoln City, Oregon, hosted by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, two writers I count as mentors in the business of writing. I've learned so much over the past four or so years by reading their blogs regularly, but an opportunity came up to attend this workshop on the Oregon Coast and meet them in person, and I had to jump on it.

The venue for the workshop was the Inn at Spanish Head, a ten-story resort hotel on the beach built into a cliff. On the landward side, the reception area is on the ninth floor. The conference room is on the fourth floor. I wasn't the only one who became confused about whether one went up or down when entering the elevator.

The overall theme of the workshop was Time, since it's in such short supply for writers, whether indie, hybrid, or traditional. From 7 pm on October 21 to 9:30 pm on October 28, in three sessions a day plus late-night networking, I, and about forty-nine other professional writers, madly took notes on such topics as productivity, tracking output, deadlines, writing process for both linear and non-linear writers, health, separating the businesses of writing and publishing, making short- and long-term business decisions, structures of corporations, estate planning for authors, copyright, trusts, triage as a business plan, branding, virtual assistants, and the true meaning of hybrid.

Faces erased at the request of the participants.
Please note that we covered that extensive list of topics by the end of Monday's sessions. There were a ton more each day, and I'm still working my way through the incredible amount of knowledge and information. I expect it will be a year-long endeavor.

One thing that was impressed upon us is that we must not make any business decisions and change up our plans for at least the two weeks minimum that it will take for our brains to heal from exploding with the input of all the new facts. Another was that "should do's" and "supposed to do's" are deadly, evil beyond imagination. We must choose to do only what works for our style and methods of writing and publishing.

Since I traveled for several days before arriving home, my brain still hasn't adjusted to all the new knowledge. I have my work cut out for me as the holidays approach. I must not be pressured, though, by my inner panic to DO SOMETHING NOW! I have to study and decide what will work for me.

Oct 31, 2017


by Terri Wagner

Once upon a time, I used to dress up on October 31 and wander around my neighborhood getting candy. I usually went with a group and had a blast, the homemade treats were as tasty as the bought candy. Each house tried out do its neighbor in the scary but fun aspect of Halloween. I graduated from princess to pirate to Star Wars characters as my Halloween celebrations went from trick-n-treat to dances and parties. I had fun no matter what I did. I looked forward to being the house that dressed itself up, and handed out the flavor of the year treat.

In the words of a Tim Burton movie, "something went terribly wrong." Halloween became well weird. People started calling it Fall Festival...which just is not the same. People began x-raying candy, candy dispensing centers became the norm, think mall, and the age and time and date to trick or treat got complicated. What happened?

Did Satanists hijack Halloween like the Fall Festivalsayers claim? Did the inconvenience of a weekday Halloween just become too hard to set up? Did parties and adult tricks become the norm? Did the horror (think gross out) films take the fun from the holiday? It makes me sad.

I hope the tide changes or the pendulum swings back or whatever it takes to make it a fun kids holiday again. My favorite costume as a kid...hands down the pirate. I mean I got a sword! As a young adult, dressing up like an Ewok and singing Halloween carols to the bishop/stake presidencies at their homes, as an older adult, hands down opening the door to the cutest kids with the biggest smiles and handing out a treat.

The church's trunk and treat comes close to what I used to know. Let's take the holiday back.

My trunk and treat cuties...the mermaid and the rock star.