Tribes of Israel Series by Barbara M. Britton

DWF Readers, may I introduce the book promo video for my dear friend and critique partner, Barbara M. Britton. I am bursting with pride for her!!!

 

The first in the series, Providence: Hannah’s Journey, releases in September, 2016. You can pre-order it now on Amazon, followed by Building Benjamin, release date TBA.

You need to buy and read these books. Because I said so!! And because they are awesome!

Posted in Barbara M. Britton, Book Release, Building Benjamin, Critique Partner, Down Write Funny, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Down “Write” Funny – Dad’s Blarney Stone

In honor of all dads this Father’s Day, I’m posting an old story I found while cleaning out my file cabinet. This childhood memory was published years ago in a long-defunct zine. The writing isn’t as polished as it should be, but the sentiment is still the same. Happy Father’s Day, dad. I’m sorry you weren’t around to see this in print, but I know you’re Irish Eyes are smiling, just the same.

Down “Write” Funny – Dad’s Blarney Stone

 

My father was the token Irishman in a small Norwegian/German settled town. He introduced the locals to Notre Dame and Bermuda shorts, scandalizing most of the old-timers by baring his bandy legs to the thigh. Dad also had a unique and colorful way of expressing himself, which made you mouth his words twice over in your mind before obtaining full comprehension of what was just said.

“She could hunt bear with a switch.”

“I could eat the north end of a southbound skunk.”

“Dumber than a hoe.”

“Nervous as a whore in church.”

“Couldn’t hit an elephant in the ass with an ironing board.”

“He couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel.”

You get the idea. Worked great for insults, and only added to the legendary peculiarity of the Irish folk.

Realize that my mom is German, and that none of my siblings nor I would readily admit that we had anything but pure Leprechaun green blood flowing through our veins. Sauerbraten sucks, and don’t you forget it.

My parents moved to our small town in the mid-sixties, shortly after I was born. Soon enough, dad became accepted into the fold, given his unique form of humor and outspokenness, military background, and the aforementioned novelty of his heritage. Despite himself, my dad was a good guy and easy to like once you got past his coarser tendencies. He took up with a Norwegian named Bud, and they became fast friends and Legion Hall drinking buddies.

Dad was the authority in the group on just about any subject he decided to be knowledgeable about, regardless of how little he actually knew about it. His ability to expound authentic sounding information on any given subject was well known, and the men gathered around to listen to his wisdom often. Of course, he could rattle off by route any particular Irish custom. What did it matter to a bunch of heathen Lutherans who couldn’t tell their ass from a hole in the ground, anyway? (According to my Irish Catholic Dad, no offense, please.)

Seems Dad became quite zealous on the topic of the legendary Blarney Stone in Ireland, detailing the traditions of how a true Irishman would lay on his back to kiss the suspended stone and demonstrate his loyalty to the mother country. Each of his buddies listened with beer-goggled rapt interest amidst frequent elbow ribbing to one another. An idea quickly formed amongst the easy flow of brew that fueled the story.

The big social event among the guys was the monthly Legion meeting. Not so much the read minutes or the civil duty discussions, but the big beer bash and back slapping joke-sharing afterwards. March’s assembly occurred on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, Dad worked second shift that night and was unable to attend. In his absence, his buddies concocted a plan to turn the teasing into a full-blown recognizance mission.

One of the Legionnaires was the foreman of the local gravel pit, and offhandedly smirked about a big ol’ rock just waiting to be pulverized into sand, and gee, wasn’t that a shame because it so resembled the Blarney Stone itself.

A case of Old Style and a half a dozen men later, and they were headed for the quarry.

Now, heaving that damn rock sober onto a truck would have proved quite a feat in itself. Drunk, these men were lucky no one managed a crushed limb, or at the very least, a hernia. From my understanding of the re-telling, the truck nearly got away from them, as it was pointed downhill while they were trying to load the ton of stone onto the back.

Literally. A ton of solid rock.

This thing was the size of a Sears double-load washing machine.

And they painted it green. Bright green.

My mother claimed to have heard a thump in the night but rolled over thinking it was a storm on the way. I can only imagine she must not have been half-awake. The grunts and groans and sniggering of six drunks dropping a boulder onto the front yard and then thumbing their artistic strokes over the surface of it with final touches, had to make a helluva lot more noise than that.

My eldest brothers had a paper route, so were up before it was light out. The rest of us were in bed, blissfully unaware that we were about to be abruptly awoken.

The boys came careening back into the house, papers and heels flying, shouting the news.

Six still drunken men were bent over guffawing and howling across the street at the service garage station as my father walked out onto the front porch to take notice of the new landscaping in his front lawn. Dad now possessed his own official piece of Ireland. His own personal Blarney Stone.

Of course, the first requirement was for him to kiss it and show the heathens just how it was done. And he did it with the true panache my Irishman father was famous for. I have never seen a man so fond of posturing as my dad was.

History was made.

Kodak moments abounded, some as blurry as his buddies’ vision, but one good one that was extracted for prosperity. It made the local news, took on special interest for the City news, and was eventually picked up on the wires by CBS News.

Dad’s Blarney Stone stayed put the ten years we lived in that house and then some. Easter fell early that year, surrounding the sacred stone with chicken wire and green bunnies. Mom planted flowers in one of the pockmarks and created a marigold edging around the bottom. We used to play and climb on it, scraping knees, elbows, and other various injuries. One time the heathen Protestants splashed it with orange paint, the brunt of another nighttime practical joke, but Dad’s prized possession weathered on.

When we moved away, the new people had it quietly removed, but that was fine with Dad.

They were heathens, anyway, and unworthy of his precious piece of heritage.

 

Posted in Blarney Stone, Down Write Funny, Happy Father's Day, humor, Ireland, Irish, parenting, wisconsin | Leave a comment

Down “Write” Funny – Where Do Babies Come From?

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Writers refer to their WIPs as “babies.”

I mailed my baby out today. I sold my baby! An agent told me my baby was ugly.

If you’re a writer, you understood every single one of those sentences. If not, you’re probably appalled at how mistreated writers’ babies are.

Every story teller has heard the question from their non-writer friends: “So, where do you get your ideas?”

Which is akin to a preschooler asking Mommy and Daddy “Where do babies come from?”

“Well, sweetheart, one night Mommy and Daddy had three too many Mai Tais and nine months later, the stork dropped your little brother on his head on our doorstep. We felt sorry for the little bastard, so we took him in. And that’s where babies come from.”

The explanation contradicts itself because one thing has nothing to do with the other, right? How do Mai Tais equal stork brain damage delivery service?

Because, for a writer, it’s like the convoluted path we take to explain our story. How does one detail from a recent news story spark a childhood memory that morphs into a fantasized version which ultimately becomes the latest WIP? Because that’s how a writer’s brain thinks.

Make sense yet? No? Sucks to be you.

Let me lay it down for you. Novels aren’t like babies in the traditional sense. One sperm. One egg. One baby. Okay, don’t lecture me on multiples and double baby-daddy gossip rag tales. You get what I mean.

No one single idea becomes a story. How flipping boring is that? Fiction is a mish-mash of current events, memory soundbites, whimsy, what ifs, coffee (always coffee), and perhaps even alcohol and a twist. Everyone you meet and anything you see or do is fodder for story. Overheard dialogue. Awkward moments. That one lone toilet on the side of the road. Anger, and the insults you wish you could’ve conjured up in the moment to eviscerate that stupid bitch, but couldn’t, so you used them in your WIP instead. A slap. Or a kiss. The words you’re dying to say to a crush. A happy ending instead of a tragic one. Problems solved. People erased. Life, only different. Tweaked, revised, molded to your liking.

So, when those moments hit you, jot them down. Preserve them. Use them. Become a better writer because you’re using real life to create fictional life.

Because that’s where writers’ babies come from.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go sit down at your keyboard and give birth.

 

 

 

Posted in #proudmama, babies, coffee, Down Write Funny, gestation, humor, labor, mai tai, motivation, parenting, stork, WIP, wisconsin, writing | 2 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – Cleaning Out the Pyramids

pyramid

So, since the decision to make the big move, I’ve been rampaging through my closets and tossing anything that doesn’t make the “Do I really want to pack this?” cut.

This has resulted in six trips so far donating bags and boxes of still usable stuff to St. Vincent, and many more bags and boxes donated to the curb. Furniture has been sold. The Lone Bandana is now the proud owner of The Doobie Couch which has served us well as a guest bed down in the rec room (sorry Lady Dee). And I haven’t even begun to work on the storage half of the basement yet, but I predict more will be tossed than kept of what currently hides there.

Don’t hate and lecture me about landfills. I’m sorry, environment, I’m very sorry. I’m doing my best to find homes for the big stuff, however, no one has use for seven little Luxor pyramid soaps any more than I need expired cough drops that have become one with the paper that wraps them. Garbage, be gone!

The rest of the usual weekly cleaning in my house has gone to hell, so I do not recommend that visitors utilize my powder room, but my closets are FABULOUS!

Betsy, what has this got to do with writing? We don’t care about your skid-marked toilets.

That’s because you don’t have to use them, Scooter. But I digress.

Cleaning out closets and tossing the stuff that was so precious before and useless now is like editing. Serious, scalpel and red-penned editing that guts your scenes to the lean and empowers their impact on your plot.

The superfluous crap that dilutes your story and clogs your pace and instead fills it with stupid little novelty soaps you thought were so damn cute you had to steal half a dozen of them from Vegas five years ago falls under the category of:

Stuff.  You.  Don’t.  Need.

Who uses pyramid shaped soap? With oatmeal in it? I don’t need to be scrubbing pointy, scratchy  things around my sensitive patookie parts, do you?

And if that is something you truly enjoy, get the fuck out. You’re reading the wrong blog, sicko.

Cleaning closets with the single goal of only keeping the “necessary good stuff” is the same as editing, but only if you can be ruthless and maintain tunnel vision on the point of each scene – the Goal/Conflict/Disaster format that keeps it tight and focused. The ability to easily and without regret hit delete delete delete on every pyramid-shaped soap passage you find.

You get the metaphor I’m going for here, right? Pyramid soap = the historical tidbit you just HAD to include because your hours of research shouldn’t go to waste, the paragraph after paragraph of scene description full of minutiae and details that have zero to do with your plot, the ‘yeah, uhhuh, you don’t say’ dialogue that goes nowhere. You get what I’m saying?

Stupid stuff that is basically quantity over quality. The fluffy bits that have nothing to do with the goal of your scene, your character, your plot.

Kick it to the curb. Plummet it into the landfill of your computer’s recycle bin. Get rid of it.

Because in writing, as in life, only the good and necessary need remain. The stuff that moves you, and the stuff you’re willing to move.

Posted in curb, Death Cough, Down Write Funny, editing, funny, humor, landfill, Luxor, motivation, packing, patookies, Pyramid, soap, spawn, St. Vincent, The Doobie Couch, writing | Leave a comment

Down “Write” Funny – Whoopie Wednesday!

I’ve had so many people share this recipe with me from cookiesandcups.com that I feel compelled to share it with my whoopee-lovin’ readers. I haven’t made this simple and delicious looking recipe yet, but I hope to soon!  Enjoy!

And remember: Life is short. Make Whoopie.

Whoopie Pie Cake

serves approx 12-15
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 box Chocolate cake mix (prepared per package directions) + 1 extra egg
  • *cocoa powder for dusting the pan
Filling
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
Ganache
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Grease 2 9×13 sized pans with butter and dust with cocoa powder, set aside.
  3. Prepare cake according to package directions, but add in an extra egg to the mix.
  4. Split the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Allow cakes to cool completely.
Filling
  1. In stand mixer beat butter and Fluff together until smooth.
  2. Turn mixer to low and slowly add in powdered sugar. Turning mixer back up, continue mixing for 30-60 seconds until smooth.
  3. Spread the filling on top of one of the cakes. Top the filling with the other cake.
Ganache
  1. In small saucepan bring the heavy cream to almost a boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then pour over top of cake.
Note:
You could also bake this in 2 9×9 round pans
Posted in cookiesandcups.com, Down Write Funny, whoopie, whoopie wednesday | Leave a comment

Down “Write” Funny – Opportunity Knocks

How often does Opportunity knock?

Real. Tangible. Life-changing Opportunity?

Once. Twice. At least. A dozen times if you’re lucky.

What is Opportunity?

In the writing community it could be The Call. A multi-book contract. An agent offers rep. NYT Bestseller!

In life it could be a scholarship. A new job. A marriage proposal. Relocation.

What do YOU do when Opportunity presents itself? Ignore it? Don’t believe it? Run in fear??

Or do you embrace it? Welcome it? Seize the day!

What dreams do you have that Opportunity can act upon? What if they suddenly came true? Are you ready if they do?

Careful what you wish for, they always say. Be prepared and know your answer when Opportunity comes knocking. Don’t stand there blubbering and shaking and unwilling. Grab with both hands and don’t look back!

Opportunity has rapped eager knuckles on the Norman’s door. And we’ve answered with open arms. Big life-changes coming to direct us on a new path.

How exciting. How Blessed. How wonderful this journey will be.

*knock knock*

Are you ready to answer when Opportunity comes for you?

Posted in Down Write Funny, funny, humor, karma, motivation, opportunity, wisconsin, writing | 6 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – Brain Storm

Take a look at this picture:

IMG_0226

Isn’t it awesome? Brilliant? Awe inspiring?

Hubby and I had gone for a walk the other night and then rewarded ourselves at Dairy Queen by eating three times the amount of calories burned. When we got home, the ominous spring sky presented us with some ooh and ahh entertainment to rival any Fourth of July fireworks show.

This huge cloud, lit up repeatedly on random cues to its own magical symphony. A storm encapsulated in cloud. No rain fell. No sound heard.

And of course I thought of writing. Because here was a live, natural representation of a Brainstorm. All of these ideas chasing themselves through the transparent mass in the sky. What did they represent? A short story? A poem? A novel? How did the lightening stream thread its way through the cloud to create a cohesive pattern, an inspiring rhythm, a show so mesmerizing to cause us mere mortals below to stop. Stand still. Be dazzled.

Can you brainstorm a story like this? Can your mind light up with ideas? Can you chase the word patterns around in your gray matter and turn them into a story that will leave your reader breathless? And when you do, can you be quick enough to get those ideas onto your keyboard as fast and furious?

I bet you can.

Posted in Brainstormers, Down Write Funny, motivation, writing | 1 Comment

Down “Write” Funny – #WIPcrack Wednesday – Life Support

So, I’ve been gone. We covered that. Move along. I’m not one to go too deep or personal, so let’s just say life happened while my writing sat patiently and waited, and now I’m back.

Plus, I am surrounded by a kick-ass support network of writer friends. My ultimate life support. This little tribe of ours has survived a lot that’s been thrown at us over the four-plus years we’ve been meeting each Wednesday.

Bad Stuff: Cancer. Loss. Surgeries. Aging parents. Spawn. Unemployment. Rejection.

Good stuff, too: Agents. Book Deals. Multiple-book Contracts. Self-Pubbing. New jobs. Spawn. Contest Finals. Contest Wins. New Members.

We run the full gamut here with our #WIPcrack crowd. Yes, we do. And we weather it together, good and bad. I’d truly be lost without these women.

Which is why when life puts writing on hiatus, I am blessed for the safety net that my Wednesday #WIPcrackers provide. For the coffee and brainstorming in the two hours we set life aside to be writers. Or to vent. Or to cry. Or to celebrate. They are there for me, and I for them.

Writing is a solitary beast. (I’m not unveiling any new revelation here. It is what it is.) But it doesn’t have to be. Sure, hunker down in your writing cave and pound out the chapters, but every once in a while, it’s refreshing to come up for air. And coffee. Always coffee.

Writing can also be communing with good people. Good, solid people. Who hear voices in their head and take dictation.

And if that last sentence gave you no pause, then you are a true writer. Come. Sit. Have some coffee. You are welcome here.

Posted in #WIPcrack, Brainstormers, Characterization, Down Write Funny, mentorship, writing | 2 Comments

The Return of Whoopie Wednesday

*Vigorously shakes dust bunnies off the blog*

I’m gonna give this another go, folks. Best to ease into it, so I’ll start simple and return to my roots.

Whoopies! (And, of course, Writing, so stay tuned!)

But first, we’ll start with the return of Whoopie Wednesday. Don’t know what a Whoopie is?

Then obviously, we can’t be friends. You go now.

For the die hard fans and the curious, here’s the Wiki definition:

The whoopie pie (alternatively called a black moon, gob [term indigenous to the Pittsburgh region], black-and-white, bob, or “BFO” for Big Fat Oreo [also recorded as “Devil Dogs” and “Twins” in 1835) is a US baked product that may be considered either a cookie, pie or cake. It is made of two round mound-shaped pieces of chocolate cake, or sometimes pumpkin or gingerbread cake, with a sweet, creamy filling or frosting sandwiched between them.

Here’s my definition: Creamy cakey deliciousness. Mouth Joy. Snack Heaven. And by the way, Whoopies also come in waaaaaaay more varieties than the standards listed above.

Below is my favorite chocolate whoopie recipe. A starter whoopie, if you will. From the cookbook “Making Whoopies: The Official Whoopie Pie Book” by Nancy Griffin.

Diane’s Modified Boston Globe Whoopie Pies:
(Yields 8-12 Whoopies)

Cakes:
2 cups unsifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup salad oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup milk (or undiluted evaporated milk)

Filling: (I have been known to double/triple this for LOTS of FILLING!)

4 Tbsp. butter
3-4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 heaping Tbsp. Marshmallow Fluff
1 tsp. vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and sugar. Add the egg, oil vanilla, and milk. Beat.
  • Drop batter onto greased cookie sheets, leaving space for each to spread as it bakes. Bake for 8 minutes. Cook cakes on the pan briefly, then on a wire rack.
  • Beat together the butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, Fluff, and vanilla. Spread mixture between cooled cakes.

 

Now sit back and make mouth love to your fresh Whoopie!

Do you have a favorite Whoopie recipe? Please send it to me to share on the  blog!

For those of you who could give a damn about Whoopie (and WTF are you still doing here, anyway? I told you to go.) and came her for writing inspiration, fear not. That’s on its way next time I post.

Until next time – Life is Short. Make Whoopie.

Posted in chocolate, Down Write Funny, whoopie, wisconsin, writing | 2 Comments

Down “Write” Funny – The Early Bird Gets the Word (Count)

I’ve told you about my Wednesday Brainstormer #WIPcrack crew. The one where we meet each week to inhale copious amounts of Starbucks and pound out word count.  These women are my rock.

But I have another writing group I want to tell you about. A micro-group within the group.  A group that connects each DAY at the crack of frickin’ dawn to chip out word count.

Its roots began in a bitchfest with a CP of mine. We were whining about finding time to write, enabling each other with the rote excuses of day job, family, exhaustion, etc. Basically commiserating and giving ourselves permission to prioritize everything and anything other than our writing.

Fuck it, I said. We’ve gotta do this. And we’ve gotta make the time to do it.

When? How? CP countered with. You can’t make time you don’t have.

Oh yes, we can. We’re gonna get our asses out of bed an hour early every day and write, damn it.

Are you fucking serious? CP looked as if she wanted to smack me.

Dead serious. Shut up. Do it, I say!

And so the pact was made.

And we were so eager. Hopping out of bed every morning in the easy, breezy summertime, when the morning sunshine peeked gently into our windows and sweet birds chirped their wake-up tune and the weather was warm and welcoming and stretch, yawn, we can do this. The words flowed like honey! Yay!

And then winter set in. Wisconsin winter.

When the alarm goes off like a siren in the pitch dark and you flail and smash your fist to silence it. You mummify yourself in fleece just to run through an icy house and kick-start the furnace before grabbing a cuppa to clutch and thaw your fingers out. The words don’t come so easy when the chattering of your teeth drowns out the voices in your head.

We wanted to quit. Tried to quit. Quit. Took the holidays off. But we got back at it in the new year and even initiated a new member into our early morning cult to shake things up again. We didn’t give up. We didn’t let the whining excuses win. We didn’t let the cold and dark win. Instead, we continued to check in every single morning to report word count or failure to launch. We held ourselves accountable. We wrote.

And we made progress. Because 200 words on a patookie-freezing winter morning is still 200 words more than we’d have written on an excuse and shifted priority ridden day.

Chip. Chip. Chip. Little by little. Winter will turn to spring. 200 words a day will turn into a novel. The early bird gets the word (count).

What are you willing to do to commit to your writing? What new habit could you form to reach your goals? Can you do it alone? No? Partner up. Being held accountable is the best way to stick to it.

Forget excuses. Write.

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