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In an attempt to finish many incomplete projects, I’ve set monthly goals for myself. So, how am I doing on the April and May 2016 goals I set forth on April 1st?

What’s done?

Murder_Cover_CS_front1-Complete my science fiction novelette (such a charming word!) and get it into the hands of my publisher. Done! Murder on Marawa Prime was published by Pole to Pole Publishing in May 2016. If you like science fiction murder mysteries – this one is for you.

2-Finish crocheting an afghan for my granddaughter. Done! And given to her. (pastel colors)

3-Revise and add another story and poem to my fantasy story collection, The Greener Forest, so it can be re-released with a new cover, etc. Done! Now, all that’s left to be done are to get some cover comments from fellow fantasy writers.

4-Finish at least 2 short stories and submit them to publishers. Done! I await the editors’ responses.

5-Finish crocheting an afghan for youngest grandson. Done! (greens, blues, and black) Plus, I finished crocheting an afghan for my oldest grandson, too. (reds, blues, and black) Both were given to the boys earlier in June.

6-Went on a 2 week RV trip to see a niece and her husband in Indiana; visit Lincoln country in Illinois; see Mark Twain sites in Hannibal, Missouri; visit Lewis & Clark sites in St. Louis, Missouri; visit Graceland in Tennessee; visit Shiloh Battlefield in Tenn.; see Ruby Falls & Cave and Look Out Mountain in Tenn.; visit Chickamauga Battlefield in Georgia; visit godmother in Greenville, South Carolina; visit uncle in Sparta, North Carolina, see sister and brother-in-law in Staunton, Virginia; and get back to Maryland in one piece. Done!

So what’s NOT done?

1- I haven’t gotten all the letters home from World War II from a great-uncle typed, or begun research for this nonfiction book.

2- I’m still polishing one story for a publisher, and working hard on another for a science fiction anthology. I’m hoping they’ll both make it to the Table of Contents.

3- The embroidered samplers still await their borders and framing – though I have gotten out the fabric to finish the projects.

4- The black and white drawings await their scanning. Why is this not done? I want to make a few changes in each drawing.

Where do I go from here? Set goals for June and July, of course!

By the end of June, I will:

1- send in a final version of a story I’ve been working on since last June!

2- send in the first draft of a science fiction story to an anthology.

3- type at least 10 more letters from World War II.

4- add borders to and frame one of the samplers.

5- put a border and backing on a vintage redwork quilt top which has suddenly become mine. (More on this unfinished project later).

By the end of July, I will:

1- send a final version of the science fiction story to the anthology.

2- begin reading books to prepare to submit to another anthology.

3- type 10 more letters from WW II.

4- revise my science fiction and fantasy collection, Owl Light, in preparation for re-release.

How about you? Are you trying to finish up unfinished projects, too? Any tips for me?

Now, back to work on an unfinished story! – Vonnie

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Happy April Fools’ Day! One of my not-so-foolish goals for 2016 is to become more productive. For me, I know my productivity is hampered by my lack of organization. In other words, I need to get rid of the clutter (both literal and figurative) and focus.

Sometimes, thinking outside of the box, organizing in fluid ways, and having lots of pots on the stove can result in a flock of fabulous ideas. The problem is, without focus, those ideas are often not completed. And time spent on half-done projects is wasted until those projects are completed. I thought I’d take you on this journey, too:

My completed project list – March 31st

Writing: completed a science fiction novelette – time to get it in the hands of my publisher

Non-writing: finished a crocheted afghan for granddaughter

My projects to be completed by April 30th

Writing: 1- finish typing letters home from World War II from a great-uncle and begin research for this nonfiction book

2- revise and add a story to The Greener Forest for re-release by a new publisher

3- finish at least 2 short stories and submit them to publishers

Non-writing: 1- finish a crocheted afghan for youngest grandson

2- add a quilt border to 2 embroidered samplers and frame them

3- gather and scan at least 10 black and white drawings, then submit them to publishers

Even as I type this, it feels ambitious, but I think I can manage. I came across an interesting article on becoming more productive by Lisa M. Gerry: Three Ways to be Instantly More Productive in which she enlists the help of The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg to share 3 tips for becoming more efficient.  Here’s the link.

How about you – do you have any other ideas for increasing productivity?

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Vonnie2 Hello. Yes, it’s me, back at Whimsical Words. It’s been a tough 8 months since I fell and seriously injured my left shoulder and arm. I’m finally done with physical therapy (for a while at least). Plus, the heart problem discovered when I had surgery seems to be stable. Good things!

What have I been doing, career-wise during this time? Writing, editing, submitting work, and illustrating – just at a less energetic pace. Which means, I’ve edited and submitted more previously published work than usual. Finding markets which accept reprints can be challenging, but doing the research necessary to locate the markets means I’m meeting new editors. A good thing!

Fulfilling a New Year’s resolution made January 1, 2016, I’m finally sifting through my haphazard boxes of notes, ideas for art and writing, and contributor’s copies of papers, magazines, books, etc. where my work has been published. I’m trying to not only become more organized, but to create somewhat complete writing and art bibliographies. Again, good things!

At last, I’m going to return to a more “normal” routine on April Fool’s Day with an eye on completing some of the writing and art projects which sleep on my shelves and in my files like unloved orphans. Hopefully, this means I’ll have lots of new stories, poems, and art to submit to magazines and books. Though I doubt I’ll ever reach the output levels of Robert Silverberg, Jay Lake, or James Van Pelt, I hope to have many submissions in the mail (or email) in a few weeks.

As before, I will try to give my readers not only “what’s going on in my life” posts, but information which will be of interest to them (or helpful to a friend). And so, today, I want to recommend a wonderful post by the afore-mentioned James Van Pelt on Submitting Short Stories.

The first part of the article is a clear, concise list of the steps most writers would suggest to follow if you want to get your stories (and for that matter, poems, essays, etc.) published. Then, Mr. Van Pelt suggests an alternate plan for prolific writers he labels the shrapnel grenade school of submitting short stories. Besides being a most colorful name, it is an interesting approach.

Thanks for sticking with Whimsical Words. I hope to bring you lots of cool and thought-provoking posts in 2016. Here’s today’s link to James Van Pelt’s post on Submitting Short Stories. – Vonnie

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Every now and again, I let my readers know where they can find some of my stories. I’m always grateful to the editors who’ve selected my tales, and to the readers who keep coming back for more of the stories my somewhat skewed brain dishes out.

So for those looking for good reads (not just of my stories, but of the  many other wonderful tales included in these publications), here’s the list with links:

“Snowbroth,” a zombie/ghostly tale, Potter’s Field 5, edited by Robert Krog, from Alban Lake Publishing. (available)

“The Return of Gunnar Kettilson,” a zombie love story with a Norse vibe, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, from Flame Tree Publishing (UK). Flame Tree Publishing has even included a nice blog post with some of the included authors’ bios. (available for preorder)

“Scarecrow,” a dark science fiction love story, Trysts of Fate #4 – Aug. 2015, edited by lee Ann Story Sikora, from Alban Lake Publishing. (available)

“Beneath the Summer Moon,” a fantasy tale of transformation, Epona’s Children, edited by Carol Hightshoe, available soon from Wolfsinger Publications. (I’ll post link when available).

“Smoke and Sprites,” a science fiction tale set on Mars, Hides the Dark Tower, available soon from Pole to Pole Publishing. (I’ll post link when available).

I’ll add a bit of writer’s advice to the bottom of this post: Keep submitting!

I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to focus on reaching your readers. When (notice I don’t say, “If”) a story is rejected, find another market and send it out again. Keep sending your story out until you find a market, or until you’re ready to revise the story, and then, start submitting again. Persistence is the key to being published.

As I’ve told writers’ groups in many a presentation, “Sometimes, I think an editor is just tired of seeing submissions from me. They finally give up and say, ‘Let’s just take a story, so she’ll leave us alone!'” All kidding aside, a writer is never published unless they submit their stories to publications. Which means, a writer never finds their readers unless they submit their work to magazines, anthologies, etc. Best of luck to all of you writers out there as you look for publishers.

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Here’s another blog in the series of owl-focused posts to promote Owl Light, my new YA-friendly collection of stories featuring owls. If you’re a fan of owls, or know someone whooo is, follow my blog, buy my book, and be kind to these beautiful birds.

A few Saturdays ago, I wrote an Owl and Pussy Cat post. This week, I thought I’d give a nod to all the wonderful dogs out there (my beloved Black-Mouthed Cur included). Here are 4 Owl and Dog videos for your enjoyment. Three of them feature the same duo, and the other is a puppy being introduced to an owl.

Enjoy!

Owl & Dog One

Owl & Dog Two

Owl & Dog Three

Owl & Dog Four

And, of course, here’s a buy link for Owl Light.

Or buy it from The Owl Pages and help out owls.

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0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to Gail Z. Martin, author of Deadly Curiosities (and many other books), for stopping by and sharing some background information on Voodoo and Hoodoo as used in her urban fantasy novel and story series.

Voodoo and Hoodoo in the Holy City of Charleston, SC by Gail Z. Martin

“Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina, often called the ‘Holy City’ for its large number of beautiful churches. But the gracious lifestyle of Charleston’s wealthy planter-aristocrats was made possible by slavery, and in the years leading up to the Civil War, Charleston was the top port for slaves coming into the United States and for slaves being bought and sold.

My urban fantasy book and short story series, Deadly Curiosities, takes place in Charleston. Charleston is a beautiful city with a bloody past. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in the United States because by day, it’s filled with gorgeous ante bellum architecture, horse-drawn carriage rides, landmark restaurants and quirky shops. But by night, you’ll hear stories of ghosts, duels, pirates, wronged women and wrongful death as Charleston’s Id comes out to play.

In the Deadly Curiosities series, the focus is on Trifles and Folly, an antiques and curio shop that exists to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Cassidy Kincaide is the latest person in her family to inherit the shop and the job of protecting the world that goes with it. She’s a psychometric, someone who can read the history of objects by touch. Together with her assistant, Teag Logan, who has his own magic and her business partner, Sorren who is a nearly six hundred year-old vampire, Cassidy navigates the magical underside of the Holy City to handle things that go bump in the night with extreme prejudice.

Which leads me to Voodoo and Hoodoo. Voodoo, or Voudon as its practitioners prefer, comes from the Caribbean, with elements of African and island religions syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Most people associate Voudon with New Orleans. Hoodoo is root magic, incorporating African plant medicine and some shamanic aspects, and hails from the Carolina Lowcountry area.

I use both Voudon and Hoodoo in Deadly Curiosities. Cassidy’s allies include powerful Voudon mambos and houngan (male and female priests) as well as skilled root workers. The choice to include Voudon in Charleston isn’t as strange as it seems. Pre-Civil War, people took their servants with them when they moved from one place to another, certainly when a young woman traveled to marry a man from a distant city. Since there was quite a bit of commerce between Charleston and New Orleans, this kind of relocation isn’t difficult to imagine. Those servants would have brought their beliefs with them, and history shows that a surprising number of slave owners, especially women, were willing to secretly work Voudon and Hoodoo when dire personal situations needed special assistance.

DEADLY-CURIOSITIES1-140x214 Another reason why I chose to use Voudon was because Charleston was not just the top port for the importation and sale of new slaves. In the years after it became more difficult to import new slaves from Africa, Charleston became the main place where formerly-owned slaves from inside the United States changed hands. It was, for its time, the Ebay of human trafficking. So it’s not at all unlikely that some of those slaves came from the New Orleans area or had been exposed to Voudon from family members or other slaves.

I’ve learned a lot researching Voudon and Hoodoo for the books, and find the rich, complex belief systems truly fascinating. As part of my research, I’ve been to Voodoo museums in New Orleans and talked with people from South Carolina who know what it means to ‘put a root’ on someone! While these are just two of the many types of magic woven into the Deadly Curiosities novels and short stories, I think they bring a sense of depth and place to the narrative. Not only that, but the Voudon and Hoodoo practitioners you’ll meet in Deadly Curiosities are some of my favorite characters!

So if all you know about Voudon comes from The Princess and the Frog or The Serpent and the Rainbow (two movies that are not in any way designed for the same audience!), check out my Deadly Curiosities series. There’s a whole new world in the shadows, waiting for you to visit.

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here.

Trick or Treat: Enjoy The Final Death, the complete Deadly Curiosities Adventures novella here.

And a bonus excerpt from Coffin Box, another Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story here.

And a second bonus excerpt from my friend Stuart Jaffe and his short story Killer of Monsters here.

And a THIRD bonus audio excerpt from Voodoo Children by my friend John Hartness here.”

You can find Deadly Curiosities on Amazon and elsewhere.

Thanks again to Gail Z Martin for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more Monday Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, owl posts, and occasional recipes. Have a magical day – Vonnie

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Get ready to celebrate! August 4th – International Owl Awareness Day is upon us.

This is the eleventh blog in a series of owl-focused posts to promote Owl Light, my new YA-friendly collection of stories featuring owls. Each post features a mix of owl art, facts, folklore, quotes, and links to owlish sites. If you’re a fan of owls, or know someone whooo is, follow my blog, buy my book, and be kind to these beautiful birds.

Barn Owl sketch for cover Owl art: The original owl pencil sketch, which became a pen and ink drawing, which was the basis for part of a painting, which eventually became the front cover of Owl Light.

Owl folklore: A Gloucestershire legend says that Jesus visited a baker looking for something to eat. The baker put a loaf into the oven for Him, but the baker’s daughter decided it was too large, and divided it in half. Nevertheless, the dough rose to a huge size. Upon seeing this, the daughter cried, “Heugh! Heugh! Heugh!” and was transformed into an owl.

Owl quote: William Shakespeare refers to this folklore in his play, Hamlet, when he has Ophelia comment: “Well, God ‘ield you! They say the owl was a baker’s daughter.”

Owl link: Here’s the link to the Facebook Page for International Owl Awareness Day, (lots of fun owl photos here), and a video of an Eurasian Eagle Owl hooting.

And, of course, here’s a buy link for Owl Light.
Or buy it from The Owl Pages and help out owls.

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