Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bad News: Cardinals Lose World Series; Good News: Well Versed Deadline Extended

My nieces who live in Western Massachusetts -- not to be confused with my niece from St. Charles who is a Cardinals fan and got to go to Game 2 of the World Series -- are no doubt celebrating last night's Red Sox victory in the World Series.

But, if you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan like me you're lamenting the fact that the Red Birds lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox. At least it took six games this time and not four!

A good way to get over disappointment is by writing, which brings me to the good news.

This morning I received an e-mail from Linda Fisher, managing editor of Well Versed, that the submission deadline has been extended.

Here is an excerpt from her e-mail:

"I’m extending the deadline to November 10. Electronic copies must be received before midnight on the 10th. You do not have to postmark your hard copies until November 12. I’m not sure if the post office is open on the 11th.
 
Visit our website for complete guidelines and prizes. Please read through the guidelines carefully. A section has been added to help you format your manuscript. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at wellversed2014@gmail.com.

You may submit five poems and three prose pieces. We do require both electronic and paper versions of each submission.

As always, CCMWG members pay no entry fee. Nonmembers pay a small fee, or can join CCMWG for $15 and pay no fee. Each edition of Well Versed is filled with outstanding prose and poetry, and we look forward to having your pieces considered for the 2014 edition.
 
My sincere appreciation to all who met the original deadline! To keep Well Versed on track, this is the only extension. Entries received after the extended deadline will not be used."

Good luck if you enter! Here's hoping one of you wins big!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Boston Bound to Watch the Cardinals Play the Red Sox -- and World Series Memories

I’m so happy that my niece left St. Louis early this morning bound for Boston—not that she’s leaving town, but that she will get to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play the Boston Red Sox tonight in Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park.

Talk about the luck of the Irish!

For baseball fans there's nothing like the thrill of being inside the stadium during a World Series game.
 
My one and only inside-the-stadium World Series experience was in 1964 when my sister Kathleen and I went to Game 7 and watched Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the New York Yankees. Our parents were huge Cardinal fans, but we still were surprised when they let us skip a day of high school to go to the game.
 
The night before, Kathleen and I bundled up in blankets, along with some of her friends, to spend the night  on Dodier Street outside Sportsman Park. On that chilly evening, we took turns running to the YMCA on Grand Avenue to warm up and use the bathroom.
 
Our efforts were rewarded when we bought $2 tickets to sit in the bleachers. In fact, we were able to buy two tickets each. We then sold our extra tickets for $5 a piece to a friend of my sister's, who undoubtedly resold those tickets for even more. But our combined $10 covered the cost of our admission with enough left over to buy snacks during the game.
 
Anyway, my niece is traveling to Massachusetts today to visit her good friend and former college roommate, who is married to a player on the New England Patriots football team, who also is from St. Louis and a Cardinal fan. I'm not sure how she scored her ticket for tonight's game, but you can bet it cost a lot more than $2.

After the Cardinals' ugly loss last night, I’m hoping she will bring along some of our family’s Irish luck while she’s cheering for the Red Birds. 

So, if you see a dark-haired, gray-eyed beauty sporting a St. Louis Cardinals cap in a sea of Boston Red Sox fans, be sure to wave.

No doubt she will return home with lots of special memories of her own after watching the Cardinals win (I hope) a World Series game.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Searching for Halloween Short Stories? Check out "Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories" and "Shadows After Midnight"

As the temperature drops and the leaves change from green to gold, red, yellow, or orange, my thoughts turn to Halloween -- and tales of ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.

To help keep my hands off the Halloween candy, I pick up a pen and write -- or grab a book and read.

If you're looking for some scary short stories to read by the fire on a chilly October night, here are two collections to check out.

Shameless plug: Did I mention I have stories in each of these collections?

Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories has recently been released by Rocking Horse Publishing.

My story about the haunted Bissell Mansion in North St. Louis "Ghost in Celestial Blue" is included in the collection, along with tales from blogger buddies, Missouri author Val the Victorian from Unbagging the Cats and Canadian author and travel writer Sean McLachlan of Civil War Horror.

I haven't received my contributor copies yet, so I haven't read all the stories, but I know what great writers Val and Sean are because I am a frequent follower of their blogs.

If you're curious about who else is in the anthology and want to purchase a copy, visit the RHP website.

If you're a frequent visitor to my blog, you might remember the title of the book Shadows After Midnight.

The e-book was published late last year by Welkin Press, but editor Patricia B. Smith has redesigned the cover and reduced the price, just in time for Halloween.

The Shadows After Midnight e-book is now available for a limited time on Amazon.com for less than a dollar. The collection of "12 Spooky Tales for Halloween" includes my short story "Stairway to Heaven."

How about you?  Do you have any scary books to recommend reading on chilly fall evenings--that is, when the Cardinals aren't playing in the World Series?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nightmare in Washington: "Walking Dead" Politicians Sucking the Blood Out of Our Nation

What’s been going on lately in Washington is truly frightening, to the point of being nightmarish.

Maybe it's because Halloween is just around the corner or because I've been watching too many scary movies on TV or it could be the spicy sandwich I ate the other night, but I have a wild notion about what is wrong with the career politicians running Washington -- and our nation -- into the ground.
 
Isn't it obvious?

Zombies and vampires are in charge of our government, on both sides of the aisle.

What else can explain their bizarre behavior?

Think about how the zombie-vampire members of Congress cleverly disguise their true essence:

During the day they roam the halls of Congress in fancy business suits and ties or dress suits and high heels. Rapt minions trail behind them, waiting to serve their every need, whim, or desire. 

To look fit – and no doubt to fit in with the living – these zombie-vampire members of Congress spend hours in the Congressional gym or on the golf course – both of which were open during the shutdown, according to news reports.

Others frequent tanning booths to conceal their pasty skin tones.

A few of the more vain Congressional members seem to have had some “work” done to hide their wrinkles and make them appear younger looking.  

Some politicians like to imbibe in alcohol after hours—or maybe that odor is formaldehyde.
 

And what do they do for us, the citizens?

They feed on our fears.

They suck the blood out of our economy.

They stomp on our freedoms.

They do sneaky things when they think no one is watching.

And we can’t seem to get rid of them!

Somehow, the same politicians get re-elected year after year. They’re like a piece of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. You just can’t shake them loose.

I have a solution to get these blood suckers the heck out of Washington – and out of office for good.

Forget silver crosses or garlic or holy water or other vampire-zombie elimination methods, whatever those might be.

There are two words that strike fear into their hearts – if, in fact, the zombie-vampire career politicians in Washington actually do have hearts:

Those two words are: TERM LIMITS.

Okay. I’m done now.

Don’t you wish you’d hear that from members of Congress?

Friday, October 11, 2013

An Overdue Post: Notes from Dianna Graveman's Presentation on “Using a Travel Journal as Inspiration for Writing Short Fiction"

This post is overdue. In late August I took notes during Dianna Graveman's presentation during the Saturday Writers monthly meeting.

Dianna's slideshow presentation on “From Open Road to Manuscript: Using a Travel Journal as Inspiration for Writing Short Fiction” was informative and inspiring.

During her presentation Dianna spoke about how she uses her travels throughout the American West as inspiration for her writing. In particular she mentioned how the landscape and the spirit of the American West “make for great conflict in stories.”

It’s been more than a month since I jotted down notes during Dianna’s talk, but here are some bullet point tips I jotted down:

* Listen for regional expressions. Ask what they mean and there they came from.

* Ask and listen for people’s stories.

* Take a lot of photos, including plants and animals.

* Use your senses: touch, feel, smell.

* Research after you see something unusual (e.g. boots on fence posts. What do they mean?)

* Watch for town names. Ask locals where the town name originated.

* Avoid tourist attractions. Take the back roads to add flavor to the story.

* Use history to spin fiction.

* Look for controversy. Talk to people. What are they worrying about; what divides them?

* Watch for historical markers.

* Be aware of connections to develop a theme: We are connected to other people through our experiences and similarities. It’s not about the place as much as interactions and connections.

To learn more about Dianna, her writing, and her business ventures, stop by her website: http://2riverscommunications.com/

After re-reading my notes from Dianna’s presentation, I’m ready to grab my camera and pen, crack open a fresh notebook, pack up the car, and hit the road.
 
How about you? How does traveling inspire you to write?
 
 Do you have any tips to share for capturing the essence of your travels?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Watching the Cardinals Win, Home from Bunker Hill and the Winner of Baker Mountain

Last week was busy and a ton of fun, but somehow time got away from me.

I had intended to post the name of the winner of Baker Mountain on October 3, but life got in the way of my good intentions.

The winner's name is posted at the end of this here's-my-excuse-for-posting-late ramble.

Wednesday I got a call from Las Vegas from a very generous writer-friend, who was returning to St. Louis around midnight.

She is a season ticket holder for the St. Louis Cardinals and had some extra tickets to the Cardinals first playoff game. She knows what big Cardinal fans my grandchildren and I are. A few weeks ago I mentioned that Cari and I made it to one game this year with her Irish dance studio, but the only game Michael got to was the game he went to on a school field trip for being on Safety Patrol.

"Would you like to go to the game tomorrow?" she asked. "I have some extra tickets."

"Are you kidding? Of course!"

"Great!" she answered.

We chatted for awhile before I thought to ask.

"How much are they?"

"Don't worry about it," she said.

I told her how good she has been to me and my family and how grateful I was for her thoughtfulness -- not only was she giving me tickets to the Cardinals playoff game, she had let us use her beach house in South Carolina for a week in June.

Did I mention she is very generous?

So, on Thursday I picked up Michael right after school. We grabbed a quick meal before heading down to the ballpark for the 4 p.m. game, where we scouted for a parking place before picking up tickets at the Will Call booth. 

As we entered the stadium, we were given rally towels, which we waved frequently during the Cardinals 9-1 win. It was hot that day and supposed to rain. I brought a jacket and an umbrella. Thankfully I didn't need either. It was a perfect evening.

During the game I offered to buy my friend something to eat or to drink. "No, thanks," she said.  While there was no way I could repay her generosity, she graciously let me buy her a bottle of water.

Michael and I had a wonderful time at the ballgame. We have a special memory, one I'm sure Michael will remember until he's my age or older--and the Cardinals brought home a winner. I'm hoping they'll win two more to move on in the playoffs.

Friday was occupied with getting ready for my trip to the Missouri State Teachers Association third annual Creative Retreat at Bunker Hill, Missouri, on the Jacks Fork River in the heart of the Ozarks.

Last fall, while I was a speaker at a writing conference in Columbia,  I was invited by the managing editor of the MSTA magazine to be a presenter during this year's retreat.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd taught adults before on my government jobs, at writers' conferences, and a college seminar, but teaching teachers? I was a bit anxious. Teachers are so smart. What if they asked a question about writing I couldn't answer? I planned and organized my material, prepared handouts and hoped for the best.

My publisher-friend Lou was also invited to be a speaker. Friday afternoon Lou and her husband Squeak arrived at my house, where Squeak and my husband Walt loaded up my VW Passat. Well, almost everything got put in my car--but that's another story.

On the drive down to Bunker Hill, Lou told me a friend of hers called right before she left to warn us to be careful because we would be driving through "Winter's Bone" country, where if someone tells you they're a cook, they're more of a cook like Walter White than a fry cook at McDonald's. We didn't she any sketchy characters or run across any meth labs, but we did see lots of strange colored mushrooms--more about them on another day.

I had a wonderful time during the retreat. It was a full schedule and I met some amazing and talented writers, who happen to be teachers. Teachers really are smart, but they also are very kind. Before we left I took  time to take photos which I'll share on another post.

Now, for the big announcement. 
 
The winner selected at random to win a copy of BAKER MOUNTAIN is:

LISA RICARD CLARO

So, Lisa, please e-mail me at dvolkenannt @ charter.net (without the spaces) with your address so I can get Doyle's book in the mail to you.

Hope you're all enjoying this lovely fall weather--and Go, Cards!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Chicken Soup for the Soul Giveaway and Share Your Story of Hope with Beliefnet

October is national breast cancer awareness month.

To raise awareness, Alice Muschany -- my generous critique group buddy and a breast cancer survivor herself -- has donated a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey to give away on my blog.

Alice's warm and witty essay, "Hats Off to Betty With Love," is included in the anthology. Compiled by Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School, the book contains "inspirational stories and medical advice for a healthy you!"

For a chance to win a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey, just leave a comment on this post by October 31. Winner's name will be announced in November.

Also, the editors at Beliefnet are looking for inspirational stories from breast cancer survivors. Stories with a message of "hope for the past, present and future" should be no more than 200 words. Winning story will be awarded $250 by Beliefnet.com.

Thanks, Alice, and hats off to you and other breast cancer survivors!