Home » Blog

Guest Blogger: Judy Penz Sheluk – Instructing a Creative Writing Workshop (click to leave/read comments ).

Instructing a Creative Writing Workshop by Judy Penz Sheluk

I was recently approached to instruct a one-day Creative Writing Workshop at my town’s Arts Council. Now, for three years, I was a Creative Writing tutor for an online writing school, so I did have some experience, but the school provided the content. My role was simply to critique the assignments submitted as students worked towards a 20-unit certificate. This workshop was different. There were no guidelines, no previous workshops of similar nature (though there had been a few on painting, pottery, and sculpture), and to add to the pressure, the participants were all writers who had been together for two-plus years, meeting bi-weekly to share their work.

My primary concern was to provide value for their hard-earned registration money. My secondary concern, albeit a very real one, was to make sure I didn’t ruin my reputation! In my town of 18,000, being a published mystery author lands you in the “big fish, small pond” category. It’s an amazing privilege, but it does come with some high expectations.

Since each one of my students were working on a variety of projects, I decided to place the focus on writing a short story with a single underlying theme. Enter THEMA, http://themaliterarysociety.com, my absolutely favorite literary publication. Based out of New Orleans, THEMA publishes three issues of short stories and poetry each year: March, July and November. Each issue has a theme, a deadline to submit, a promise to hear back (yes or no) AND payment of $10 to $25 depending on length.
Before the day of our course, each registrant was given the guidelines for the July 2018 issue (deadline March 1). Theme: New Neighbors.

The day of the course, participants handed a print copy of their story to the rest of us. After reading out loud, we would critique in an honest, but constructive manner, with me going last so as not to influence others. At first, the group was timid in their critiques, something that surprised me since they’d been together for so long. It seemed they’d become friends, and didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Here’s the thing. A good friend, and a great beta reader, is above all else honest. It’s not about bashing the writing, but helping to hone it. “What if Jane cried, instead of saying, ‘You hurt my feelings.’”

At the end of the day, the group became more comfortable speaking out, and I hope they continue to do that in their future meetings. As for THEMA, all but two writers decided to submit, once they’d fine-tuned their story based on our feedback. Will they be successful? Maybe, maybe not…but even if they receive a rejection letter, at least they tried. That, in my opinion, is the most important thing. Because every writer, even the bit names out there, have faced rejection. You just have to take it as encouragement to keep on trying. Write on!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE and A HOLE IN ONE) and The Marketville Mysteries (SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC)
Judy’s short crime fiction appears is several collections, including Unhappy Endings, three flash fiction stories previously published in THEMA. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.

Find Judy on her website/blog at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews and showcases the works of other authors and blogs about the writing life. You can also find all of her books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Judy-Penz-Sheluk/e/B00O74NX04


Past and Present by Debra H. Goldstein (click to leave/read comments)

Past and Present by Debra H. Goldstein

Do you remember when telephones rang? When rotary dialed objects sat on a table or hung on a wall made a ring sound? Was it that long ago before we relied on phones that fit in our purses or pockets and have individualized ringtones?

I didn’t think it was.

Or at least I didn’t think it was until I recently read two articles. The first one, in last week’s TV Guide, was a story about the television show, Young Sheldon. The second, an article dated February 16, 2018, commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the first 9-1-1 call.

According to the showrunners, because Young Sheldon is set in 1989, the set and props must be appropriate to the time. This has caused some comical problems with the show’s nine-year-old star, Ian Armitage. The most recent problem occurred when the script required Ian to make a telephone call. The prop master handed him a rotary phone and he stared at it. He had never seen one and didn’t know how it worked. After he was shown how to dial the phone, taping began. Moments later, the director called “Cut.” Ian didn’t know that in 1989 only seven digits or rotations were needed to dial a phone number.

The second article recounted how on February 16, 1968, at two p.m., the first 9-1-1 call in the United States was made in Haleyville, Alabama. Haleyville’s state Representative Rankin Fite placed the call from Mayor James Whitt’s office to the Haleyville police station where U.S. Representative Tom Bevill answered it on a red telephone given to the city by the Alabama Telephone Company.

I can’t remember a time there wasn’t 9-1-1, but I can remember rotary phones, manual and then electric typewriters, main frame computers, the first Mac, and the New York World’s Fair’s G.E. Exhibit of what the future would bring. FYI, all of the things demonstrated at that exhibit have come to be and, things that existed, like the 1989 rotary phone or the red phone are now in the Smithsonian.

Tell me, what are you surprised to hear nine-year-olds like Ian have never seen – and what do you miss?


Knowing When to Say “The End” by Debra H. Goldstein (Click for Comments)

Knowing When to Say “The End” by Debra H. Goldstein

Five days ago, I typed the words “The End” at the conclusion of eighty thousand plus other words I wrote during the past few months. I rejoiced.

Those eighty thousand plus words were probably more like one hundred plus words because on one day, I had twenty thousand words, the next fifteen thousand. The seesaw process of up and down went on a week at a time. Some days I wrote in spurts and actually liked two to five thousand words. Often, the next day when I reread what I’d written, I killed the little darlings. Other days, I completely avoided my computer or sat and stared at it wishing it to demonstrate artificial intelligence and write something for me.

The day after I wrote “The End,” I chilled. I worked on our taxes, got the car washed, went through the coffee drive through window, and while my oven cleaned itself, I watched all the shows I DVR’d for two weeks. It was heaven.

By Friday, the computer called to me. I pulled up the manuscript and again went through it looking for plot holes, spelling and punctuation errors, point of view problems, and repetitiveness. I caught a few of those things, but knew I was too close to my work product. Time to send it off to other eyes. When I hit send, it was out of my hands – temporarily. I went to bed and slept well.

Saturday, I woke refreshed and able to focus on writing blogs, columns, and the beginning of a short story. All of these were things, except one short story I dashed off in three houses because of its submission deadline, that eluded me during the past few weeks while I saw myself getting closer and closer to typing “The End.” By mid-day, I rested. The world was good, and I could do something unrelated to writing.

Sometimes, one needs to close the computer and simply say “The End.”

Guest Blogger: Kathryn Lane – It All Starts With the Subconscious (click to leave or read comments)

It All Starts with the Subconscious by Kathryn Lane

A recurring question I’m asked when I speak at book clubs is whether I plot the entire novel before I start writing. I usually respond by defining the two basic types of writers – detailed plotters or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantstypes. Once I’ve decided to begin a new book and have established the type of novel, such as a suspense thriller, I definitely fall into the seat-of-your-pants-type. I let the characters talk to me and take me along for the adventure. A few steps do happen, though, before the characters scoop me away!

At this point, it all starts with allowing subconscious thoughts to bubble up to my conscious mind. After I allow my brain a rest from a full day of activity, I lie in bed, and on lucky evenings, ideas go off like firecrackers in my conscious mind. From these mental pyrotechnics, I gather concepts and insights my busy day brain cannot possibly bring to light. I keep a notepad on my nightstand to record important concepts.

My next step consists of multi-layered research with copious notetaking. This step goes from on-line investigation and reading a selection of books on related topics to traveling to specific locations I’ve selected for the novel and speaking with people who may be experts on a topic included in the book. Traveling is by far the most fun and at times the most difficult part of the research. It is fun since I choose locations my husband and I want to visit, like northern Spain and southern France, and it is difficult as I usually fall in love with some spot or another making it nearly impossible to leave. Why not rent a cottage and remain there to write the novel? Oh, impossible for various reasons, yet an enticing idea for the future!

There’s another reason my travel research is important – it’s a globalized world. If I place a novel in Barcelona, Spain, the reader must breathe the air, feel the atmosphere, see the sights, and watch the action as if present alongside the protagonist. Too many people have traveled to Barcelona for me to let my descriptions of streets, monuments, neighborhoods, or other details be wrong.

In addition to traveling for research purposes, another reason to travel pops into my mind from an article I read recently – people who engage in activities they love, live longer. Nothing particularly new about that thought, but it came with a twist from a 104-year-old doctor in Tokyo, Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara*” who stated: “Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot.” His twist is instead of feeling good to be happy, turn it around: “Be happy and you will feel good.” Travel does precisely that for me – it makes me happy. Travel and writing – that combination makes me even happier!

Getting back to my writing style, by the time I have completed initial travel, performed research, kept copious notes, written descriptions of my main characters, and taken photos of specific spots to be mentioned in the book, I don’t feel the need to plot out the novel – I can see the “big picture” in my mind and I write the story, allowing my characters to lead the way.

*Dr. Hinohara passed away in July 2017 at the age of 105.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Originally from Mexico, Kathryn Lane was a painter in oils but changed to accounting and international finance after she discovered the artistic path led her to a starving artist existence. To cement her ability to earn a living, she became a CPA and a CMA, and worked for a multinational corporation where she traveled extensively for two decades. After jetting to over 90 countries, her travels gave her the opportunity to fulfill another passion – to write fiction.

Kathryn is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. She has been honored with a Montie Award for the Pursuit of Excellence by The Greater Conroe Arts Alliance and two Paul Harris awards from The Rotary Club of The Woodlands for her service to the community. She also serves on the Montgomery County Literary Arts Council and resides in Texas, with her husband, Bob Hurt.

Kathryn Lane is the award-winning author of the Nikki Garcia Thriller Series. Her debut novel, Waking Up in Medellin, has been named:

 Best Fiction Book of the Year 2017 by Killer Nashville
 Best Fiction Adult Suspense 2017 by Killer Nashville
 Silver Medal in Fiction/Thriller – Readers Favorite Book Awards 2017
 RONE Award Finalist 2017 by InD’Tale Magazine

Coyote Zone (October 2017) is the second novel in the Nikki Garcia Thriller Series. A mystery of high stakes danger in a kidnapping and human trafficking story with subplots, such as romance, woven into the story.

Kathryn’s collection of short stories, Backyard Volcano and Other Mysteries of the Heart (April 2017) gives you the fusion between fantasy and reality, punctuated by hints of surrealism, and symbolism with unusual twists and turns – in other words, everyday occurrences in Latin cultures.

Website: www.kathryn-lane.com
Points of Sale

Waking Up in Medellin
o Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1942428944/
o Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/waking-up-in-medellin-kathryn-lane/1123516497?ean=9781683130147
o Pen-L Publishing – http://www.pen-l.com/WakingUpInMedellin.html
o iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/waking-up-in-medellin/id1093054173?mt=11
o Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Waking+Up+in+Medellin
Coyote Zone
o Amazon – www.amazon.com/dp/1683131088
o Pen-L Publishing – www.Pen-L.com/CoyoteZone.html
Backyard Volcano
o Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1943306044/

My Favorite Shirt is Torn by Debra H. Goldstein

My favorite shirt is torn.

The minute the dryer buzzed, I stopped what I was doing and went to retrieve my shirt, so it wouldn’t wrinkle. I pulled it out, shook it, hung it, and saw the pinprick sized hole at the edge of the pocket. Perhaps it was a spot? No, a hole going all the way through the fabric at a location that makes patching or simply wearing it again in public impossible.

What will I do?

I wear that shirt when I don’t feel up to par, when I think the weather is going to be cold, when I write and things aren’t working, or when it is one of those days. It is my comfort shirt. Oversized, blue-green and white plaid, with sleeves that stay rolled up because it has little buttons and tabs to keep them in place, it would never be mistaken as high fashion. My shirt serves only two purposes: it keeps me covered and makes me feel secure.

My writing is like my shirt. I write comfort books and short stories. Readers are meant to feel embraced by the wealth of my words. The language may not be highfaluting, but it always is understandable. Whether the tale is dark or light, it hopefully wraps the reader in a different world.

Time has changed my written works, hopefully for the better. It is an inevitable evolution, comparable to life. I’ll mourn the loss of my shirt, but I’ll buy another. It won’t be the same, but different can still be comfortable.

Guest Blogger: Warren Moore – The Pinocchio Process (click to see comments)

The Pinocchio Process by Warren Moore

I’ve been writing since before I knew how to write – no, really. There are reel-to-reel tapes of a three-year-old me reciting songs and stories. My dad asks, “Did you make that up?” I say I did, and he says, “Pretty weird, kid.”

It really hasn’t changed too much since then. Although my parents aren’t around anymore, I still make up songs and stories, and sometimes, they’re pretty weird. One thing that has changed a bit over the years, however, is that some of them have been published, both traditionally and online. And in fact, that’s happened often enough in the last five years or so that I’m kind of having to reassess some things.

I have a day job: I’m an English professor at a small liberal-arts college in a small town in South Carolina, and I’ve been doing that for almost fifteen years. Make no mistake – that’s how I make my living. But since I started placing stories, and since my novel came out a few years ago, I’ve started thinking of myself a little differently. I’m still an English prof, but I’m coming to realize that I’m something else as well.

I’m a writer.

At this point, you can take a moment to shrug and say, “Well, duh.” But I think some of you may know what I mean. Five years ago, I saw myself as – I was – an English professor who did other things as a hobby – playing drums, writing stories. I still do those things, so what’s different?
Well, the way the world and I see what I do, for one. And examples of that form what I call Pinocchio moments, when I start to realize that I’m a real boy – I mean, a real writer. My stories are published (sometimes) alongside writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Stephen King. I get paid for that work. (And that’s a big one – when someone tells you that they like the stuff you make up so much that they will make you a gift of money for it? That’s an affirmation.) I’ve had stories positively reviewed in USA Today and the New York Times. I’ve appeared on panels at conferences and conventions, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest at a signing at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop. Perhaps best of all, some of my favorite writers, the folks who inspired me to write, have told me they like my work. I’m a Real Boy, it seems.

But unlike Mr. Collodi’s fictional puppet, there wasn’t a Blue Fairy to effect my transformation. I had been a Real Writer all along, even though I didn’t recognize it for a long time. What caused those Pinocchio moments? The fact that I put the work in, and that I put that work Out There. Once I did that, the world let me know what I might not have been willing to admit. And if you’re writing, you should do that as well. Reach out – let people see that, whatever else you do, you’re also a Real Writer. You may very well have been one all along. Pretty weird, huh?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

WARREN MOORE is Professor of English at Newberry College in Newberry, SC. His novel Broken Glass Waltzes was recently republished by Down & Out Books, and his short fiction has appeared in several online venues, magazines, and anthologies, including Dark City Lights (2015), In Sunlight or In Shadow (2016), and Alive in Shape and Color (2017), all edited by Lawrence Block. He blogs as “Professor Mondo” at http://profmondo.wordpress.com, and tweets as @profmondo. His work is available via Amazon and other retailers.

Guest Blogger: Heather Weidner – Plotter or Panster? What’s Your Style? I Think I’m a Binge Writer (click for comments)

Plotter or Pantser? What’s Your Style? I Think I’m a Binge Writer by Heather Weidner

Thank you so much for letting me stop by for a visit on your blog. I love to talk about books and writing.
Writers usually fall into one of two camps, plotters (those who plan, plot, and outline before writing), and pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants). Plotters know the path and the plan to get to the end. Pantsers go where the characters and story takes them.
I am probably a hybrid of the two, though I lean heavily on the plotter side. I plot everywhere. I jot ideas on sticky notes and on scraps of paper. I carry a notebook in my purse for plotting emergencies. I have outlines, character biographies, and color-coded storylines. I keep a chart of all the places and characters. I describe them to the nth degree. This is also helpful if you decide to write a series. That way, my character’s eye color or the color of her kitchen doesn’t change in a later work.
I also use this to take care of my urge to write backstory. I put all the details in this document. Some of the information will never see the light of day, but it keeps me from overloading the story with too much history. Backstory or historical details are better sprinkled in throughout the work.
After my major plotting, I’m ready to start writing. And that’s when the pantser raises its head. I always decide I like a minor character better than another, and sometimes the story takes a tangent. In my first novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes (May 2016), I planned to keep one character around for the series to create some tension. But as it turned out, I liked another character much better, and his role took on a life of its own. So, without spoiling the surprise, character two is around for book two.
After the plotting and the first draft, which my friend Mary Burton calls the “sloppy copy,” I am ready to revise. This phase takes me the longest. I can write pretty quickly once I get started, but it takes me forever to reorder, change, and revise. And what I think is chapter one during the writing stage, never ends up that way in the final, published version.
I try to write every day, but it doesn’t always happen. I work full-time in IT, and sometimes the only thing I wrote in a week were performance evaluations and budget recommendations. Life gets in the way. I’m much happier when I stopped beating myself up about writing and hitting daily word counts. I write when I can. I binge write. I get up at 5:00 AM and write or do my social media promotion before work. I write at lunch. My coworkers tease me when I write in the cafeteria (but they always want to know who dies in the next book). I write a lot on my days off, weekends, and holidays.
You need to decide what works for you and create your style. It is harder to pick up your writing after you’ve been away for a while, but you need to balance your writing with everything else in your life. The best advice that I’ve received throughout the years is to be persistent and keep writing if you want to be published.

Author Biography
Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, Lethal Ladies Write, and James River Writers. The Tulip Shirt Murders is her second novel in her Delanie Fitzgerald series.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She blogs regularly with the Pens, Paws, and Claws authors.

Private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in The Tulip Shirt Murders. When a local music producer hires the duo to find out who is bootlegging his artists’ CDs, Delanie uncovers more than just copyright thieves. And if chasing bootleggers isn’t bad enough, local strip club owner and resident sleaze, Chaz Smith, pops back into Delanie’s life with more requests. The police have their man in a gruesome murder, but the loud-mouthed strip club owner thinks there is more to the open and shut case. Delanie and Duncan link a series of killings with no common threads. And they must put the rest of the missing pieces together before someone else is murdered.

The Tulip Shirt Murders is a fast-paced mystery that appeals to readers who like a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations such as larping and trading elbow jabs with roller derby queens.

Contact Information
Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com
Pens, Paws, and Claws Blog: http://penspawsandclaws.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherWeidner1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherWeidnerAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heather_mystery_writer/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121854.Heather_Weidner
Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/HeatherBWeidner/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-weidner-0064b233?trk=hp-identity-name
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-weidner-d6430278-c5c9-4b10-b911-340828fc7003

Book Links
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077CSZ53X
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1310643581
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tulip-shirt-murders-heather-weidner/1127425899?ean=2940155054696
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-tulip-shirt-murders
Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/363967058/The-Tulip-Shirt-Murders-The-Delanie-Fitzgerald-Mysteries-2
24Symbols: https://www.24symbols.com/book/x/x/x?id=2468512
Playster: https://play.playster.com/books/10009780999459812/the-tulip-shirt-murders-heather-weidner
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36591325-the-tulip-shirt-murders?from_search=true

The End of Our Thanksgiving (click for comments)

The End Of Our Thanksgiving by Debra H. Goldstein
Thanksgiving week at the Goldstein’s house is coming to an end. The last child will be flying out tonight. The first one arrived last Tuesday. In between, a total of twelve people and one grand-dog descended on us. As parents, we will miss them and look forward to our next get-together. As curmudgeons, we are delighted to have our house back to ourselves.

Just think, we will be able to sleep until whatever time our body clock wakes us rather than setting an alarm for a dawn airport run or having a four-year-old jumping on our bed to see “are you awake?” while a 55-lb puppy bounds into our room, barely putting on the brakes before crashing into my nightstand to let me know she is awake. We won’t load carloads of people and food to take to our joint first cousin family Thanksgiving nor drag chairs from the formal dining room to squeeze around the kitchen table when we breakout the leftovers a few hours after getting home.

Uneaten food remnants are thrown out, beds changed, dog hair vacuumed up (not to mention paint dried from where the grand-dog scratched the laundry room trim to the point my son-in-law spent hours replacing, sanding, and painting while repairing the damage). Basketballs, footballs, dolls, and books are put away.

The house is quiet and peaceful, but not quite as perfect as the past few days.

Guest Blogger Margaret Fenton – Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin (click for comments)

Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin by Margaret Fenton

2007 was a great year. I went to Killer Nashville in August. I paid a lot of extra dollars and was given the opportunity to pitch my unpublished manuscript to either an agent or a representative from Oceanview Publishing. I chose the agent, a lady from New York whose name I no longer remember. I gave her my carefully prepared statement. I had written a mystery called Little Lamb Lost, about a child welfare social worker who gets to work one day and one of her clients, a boy just under two years old, is dead. The mother is arrested for murder. My protagonist, Claire Conover, was the social worker who was responsible for returning the child to the mother. Mom worked really hard to get her child back and make a good life for them both. Claire makes it her mission to figure out what happened. Sounds great, right?

The agent HATED IT. She berated me for ten minutes about how no one was going to buy a mystery where the victim was a child. Ever. I might as well give up and go home. I left that meeting feeling like my dreams would never come true, and that the two years I had spent on this manuscript were a horrible waste of time. And I had paid quite a bit of money to hear it. I went to the bar.

I ordered the largest gin and tonic the bartender could make. He noted the look on my face and did a great job. I sat in the bar and sipped. And sipped. And sipped. When my friend Don Bruns approached me, I was pretty buzzed. He asked me how the pitch went and I held back tears as I relayed what happened. Don is published by Oceanview, and volunteered to go get the rep from his publisher and let me pitch to her. I agreed and he left and returned with Maryglenn McCombs. I continued sipping.

I don’t remember exactly what I said to Maryglenn. I think it was a version of what I said to the agent, with the added statement that no one wants to read about a dead kid, apparently. She said it sounded interesting and asked to see it. I don’t think I believed her. No, really, send it to me, she said. I agreed, and suddenly the drinking became a celebration.

I mailed the manuscript when I got home and within two months I had a contract, an advance, and a pub date: June 1, 2009. I went on a small tour for the book and had the best time. Somewhere between the publishing of my first novel and my completion of the second novel in the series, Oceanview decided they were only going to publish thrillers. They asked me to make Little Girl Gone a thriller. I tried, but it’s not. It’s an amateur sleuth mystery. I sat on it for over three years, trying to decide what to do. I didn’t want to agent search. Eventually I decided to put it out through Amazon and CreateSpace. I miss having a publisher but like the freedom of making all the decisions. I’m working on the third book in the series, Little White Lies, and I hope it’s going to be out early next year. Thanks for letting me blog here, and I hope all your bad days turn to good days. If not, there’s always gin.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Margaret Fenton, author of Little Girl Gone, grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and moved to Birmingham in 1996. She received her B.A. in English from the Newcomb College of Tulane University, and her Master of Social Work from Tulane. Fenton spent nearly ten years as a child and family therapist before taking a break to focus on her writing. Her work tends to reflect her interest in social causes and mental health, especially where kids are concerned. She serves as planning coordinator of Murder in the Magic City, a one-day, one-track annual mystery fan conference in Homewood, Alabama. She is President of the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Margaret lives in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover with her husband, a software developer.

Juxtaposing “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where Did the Summer Go?” by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

Juxtaposing “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where Did the Summer Go?

You know how a song gets caught in your head? Two phrases are ringing in my ears, but I don’t know how or why my brain thinks they go together. Logically, they don’t. There just isn’t an intellectual way to reconcile “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where did summer go?”

Why I thought of the latter question is easy to understand. We’ve passed the first official day of fall, the temperature has cooled, and leaves are changing colors and falling. If these things didn’t make the point to me, a few shopping trips did. One-minute stores were filled with patriotic July 4th merchandise, the next day they were offering Labor Day specials, and the Halloween stuff was already being pushed aside last week for Thanksgiving cards and turkey decorations. What’s worse, on the internet, besides Black Friday mentions, there already are Christmas countdowns.

“Days of Wine and Roses” doesn’t make as much sense to me. The play and the movie were about a young couple who became alcoholics and their fight for sobriety. Spoiler: one made it, one didn’t, but the open-ending left a slim chance for the future. If I was thinking of apples and honey, I would say my thoughts were influenced by Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement I observed a few weeks ago. Or if it was my anniversary, birthday, or a just because day, I could understand roses (Yellow roses are my favorite, in case you ever need to know). Wine isn’t something that excites or even interests me, so why is this phrase pulsating through my mind?

Maybe it is a combination of my dislike of the change to daylight savings as this is the part of the year where it will get dark sooner and my mood will follow. Perhaps it is because I know we are in the final quarter of the year which means end of the year responsibilities loom – closing committee reports, taxes, and the year itself aging because that means the same for me. Of course, it could be the holiday commercialism that will abound for the next three months.

Then again, it could be that the juxtaposition of these two phrases represent a kind of rebirth. The year ends, but begins anew. Within the confines of family and friends, the holidays represent fun, joy, getting together, and probably partaking of a bit of wine. Days and seasons (not to mention the time to writing deadlines) pass way to quickly, but there is a constant rekindling of hope. The movie was open-ended; our writing and lives are the same.