Ah, the giddy excitement

After procrastinating all summer, making excuse after whining excuse, I have done what I  promised my friends, family, and all five of my fans what I would do. I sat down at my computer, opened a blank Word document, and wrote:

Work in Progress

by Sandy Bruney

Chapter One

And I kept on writing for a couple of hours. Moreover, I have sat down every single day and written something, even if it was only a correction or adjustment to what I had written the day before.

And I’m excited. I’m not sure if this story is any good (I think it is) or if I will be able to maintain the pace. (I hope I can). The point is, I am writing again after a long dry spell. I feel like someone who has given up chocolate for some obscure reason and decided to try it once more, only to be reminded at the first taste how good it is, even better than she remembered. And savors the melting sweetness on her tongue, wondering why she ever gave it up in the first place.

Yep, that’s how I feel. I’m excited and energized. I’m falling in love with my characters. I’m at the point where I need to create a cheat sheet so I can keep them straight. I’ve already called one character by two different names, but I caught it before I went too far.

I am not a writer who sits down and draws up a list of characters and their descriptions, personality quirks and so on; My characters wander into the story and tell me who they are.  Sometimes they arrive fully fleshed out. Other times, I have to wait while they reveal themselves piece by piece. It’s always fun, either way.

As for the plot, I have a good idea where it’s going, but I love being surprised by the little twists and turns that pop up while I’m thinking about something else.

There’s a little added quirk to this story. I made myself a promise that I would not get sidetracked and I would not tell myself I can write as soon as I complete this or that chore around the house and yard. I know from experience that once I start raking or cleaning or whatever, I will be too exhausted to write. So my new order of business is write first and then I give myself permission to haul out the rake or dust mop.

To my  amazement, it doesn’t work in reverse order. Instead of feeling too tired to tackle the waiting chores, I finish writing and am eager to do something physical. I’ve written a couple thousand words this week and also trimmed the hedge, scrubbed the bedroom carpet, and washed the hall and kitchen floors–all chores I have been putting off for lack of energy.

I don’t know why this works, but I’m really happy it does. Moreover, my mood is better because–ta da–my guilty conscience has slunk away.

I’m not saying what the new book is about yet, but I met a woman in the library today who, being told I was a writer, asked if I wrote romance.

“There’s romance in every story,” I told her. “What’s life without it?”

What is your brand?

I have put a lot of miles on the Malibu this summer. Jim would be complaining about the mileage and wear and tear, but I think secretly he would be proud of me for getting out and not sitting home grieving.

I’ve been to Pennsylvania, Georgia, and most recently to Kentucky. I have to say Kentucky has a lot going for it: good roads, lovely scenery, and horse farms. Lots of horse farms.

In Louisville, there are horses everywhere. Not  real, live horses. The city boasts horse statues of every kind. Some are painted in bright colors. They really stand out on a sidewalk. (Click here to see some pictures of the painted horses.)

So from statues, billboards, signs, and even actual horses grazing peacefully in the countryside, you can’t forget for a minute that you are in horse country.

Kentucky knows how to brand herself.

I understand that is important for a writer as well. An author needs to create a brand that is instantly recognizable. What do you think when you see the names John Patterson, Mary Kay Andrews, Elin Hilderbrand?

If you answered fast-paced action mystery, humorous southern romance, and summer beach reads, you know what branding is.

Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Authors work hard to create a brand. Their books are aimed at a specific segment of the reading public. If Patterson suddenly published a sweet cozy mystery instead of his usual drama-packed story, readers would be as outraged as if they had opened a carton of rocky road ice cream and found a quart of strawberry swirl instead.

He might even lose a few fans.

I didn’t know this when I started writing. I wrote women’s fiction, and then switched to a kind of hybrid paranormal. I should have written the latter under a pen name, I suppose, but it seemed like too much effort to create a new Facebook author page and website. And, everyone knows that J.D. Robb is really Nora Roberts, so changing the name doesn’t fool anyone. Except that readers know what to expect when they open her books–under either pen name.

That’s what branding does. The reader sees a familiar name on a book cover and instantly knows what kind of story lies within. Yes, the cover illustration and the blurb on the back help, but the author’s name gives instant recognition.

I haven’t reached that pinnacle where people recognize my name and realize at once what kind of stories I write. But I hope I am slowly, steadily, building my brand.

Book by book.






As I write this, it is raining outside. A lot.

Jim would be checking the rain gauge every five minutes, and spending the rest of his time watching the weather channel. He loved weather.

I can take it or leave it.  Rainy days, when they are not actual hurricanes, can be restful. Notice I did not say productive.

It is a perfect time to settle down and start that new novel I promised my half dozen fans I was going to write. But, over the summer, I have learned to procrastinate. Yes, I finished my edits. Yes, I have begun sending out queries. But when anyone asked if I am writing something new, I am forced to say “No.”

The characters are in my head clamoring to be set free. I have a glimmering sense of a possible plot.

My excuse is that what with all my gadding about this summer I haven’t had a solid block of time in which to write and that I don’t want to start something only to be interrupted just when the juices are starting to flow.

Yeah, I know BS when I hear it, too.

I think I am procrastinating because I know once I start, it is going to be a long, tough road until I write “The End.” And as I once said, “the end” is really the beginning. Rewrites, edits, submissions, more edits, promoting…

I get tired just thinking about it.

To quote Cheryl Strayed, “Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

Neil Gaiman’s rule #2 for writers is “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.”

Yep. One word after another. One sentence after another; one page…

It’s the first word, not the last, that’s so darn difficult.





Answering to nobody

On Friday, I mowed the front yard. Then I began a task I had putting off all summer: clearing out the basement.

It isn’t really a basement, it is more of a crawl space under the house. You can’t stand upright, and the “ceiling” gets lower the farther you go in. But it is a space where we have stored everything from garden tools to old bottles to half-empty gallons of  paint. Clearing it out is a task I didn’t want to leave to the kids whenever…life happens.

So I made a pile of things I wanted to keep. I saved one of the many tool boxes and put in it the tools I thought I might need in future projects and home repairs. The rest I put in a pile.

Then I came inside and showered and fell into a chair where I stared at the TV until bedtime. Because I was tired.trash-3

Saturday, I got up for my daily two-mile walk, then came home and carted all the stuff to the front yard and arranged it on a tarp by the road. I added a sign saying “If you can use it, you can have it.”

Two hours later, almost everything was gone. One young man came to the door to be sure it wasn’t a yard sale. I told him he was free to take anything he wanted. In the meantime I painted the front door and trim, and then mowed the back yard.

Another shower, because mowing is hot and sweaty work, and there was the rest of the afternoon staring me in the face. I decided to go to a movie. Because I could. Because I didn’t need to be anywhere, or do anything. I still miss Jim with all my heart, but sometimes it is all right to do what you want to do when you want to do it.

The nearest theater is 30 miles away, but I figured what the heck. I got in the car and drove. First I stopped at the landfill and dumped three large trash bags of stuff that I didn’t want, and no one else did either. They fell into the bin with a satisfying clunk.

For the record, I enjoyed the movie. I came home and watered the outside plants I’d recently planted and fed the cats.

I poured a glass of wine, sat down and turned on the TV, and decided that after all was said and done, it was a productive and pleasant day.

I hope yours was as well.



The tale of a sad dog and how it grew


Some families play games together. Other enjoy family picnics,  or attending concerts.

My family likes to go antiquing.

It’s just something we do. My daughter-in-law and my niece actually make money by discovering old, dusty, rusty things and selling them. They won’t buy anything unless they think they can sell it for double what they paid for it, and usually they are right.

Jim liked to attend auctions and we have a few of his “finds.” Mostly worthless, but then he bought them because they caught his fancy and he didn’t intend to resell, just enjoy. He collected cobalt blue bottles.

Since I am an agreeable sort of person, I often tag along with whichever family member has the bright idea to spend an afternoon going through junk antique stores, thrift shops, estate sales, yard sales, or whatever is within a reasonable driving limit. My sister once told me it is more fun if you are looking for something definite instead just tagging along while your companion utters shrieks of glad discovery. Or not, if she doesn’t want the dealer to know she is that interested. Yes, part of the fun is bargaining.

One of my first discoveries.

One of my first discoveries.

I could have chosen spoons, or thimbles or any small item, but I decided after spotting one sitting forlornly on a crowded shelf, that I would collect sad dogs. Jim bought me a printer’s case after I’d bought a few and later on I bought a glass-front small curio case. I never intended to fill them up, but somehow, I did.

So on my last trip to Georgia, my daughter-in-law gifted me with some very small dogs she had found. I told her I had no more room, but I’d fit them in.

Well, what do you know. On our very first excursion to a thrift store she found a shadow box and pointed it out to me. For $5, I grabbed it.

The newest acquisition is on the right. Look at all the space I have!

The newest acquisition is on the right. Look at all the space I have!

Original printer's case.

Original printer’s case.

So that’s what I did this weekend. I cleaned up the new box, removed some art work to make room for it, and screwed it on the wall. Then I had to clean my printer’s case, and of course, clean all the rather dusty little animals. Yes, animals. I even have an armadillo. I was surprised at how many miniature cats I have, too. But it is still mostly dogs. Not all sad, but each with its own personality.

So now I have space for more.

I have no idea what will happen to this motley crew if or when I finally give up the house and move to an apartment or assisted living. (God forbid! But stuff happens.)

I suppose one of my kids will dump it all off on some poor unsuspecting dealer and let them –er–deal with it.



Feeding the birds

I have a whiteboard calendar on my refrigerator to remind me of appointments coming up during the week. Sometimes it is empty and sometimes there are two or three things listed for the same day.calendar

Three chores stay there permanently: Wednesday, volunteer at the animal shelter; Thursday, water the plants; and Friday, clean the hummingbird feeders.

It’s not that I would forget these things, but this way I keep on schedule.

My list of chores, written or unwritten, has grown during the past year. Little by little, I took over some of the heavier duties as Jim’s strength failed. So it wasn’t too much of a change to keep on after he passed. One thing I do now that he did up until he was hospitalized is feed the birds. This was more of a joy for him than a chore. He loved watching them and never let the feeders get empty.

So I added this to my list, and every time I lift the heavy feeders down, drag out the 25-pound bag of bird seed and fill them, then stand on my tiptoes to replace them, I think of him. I wonder if he is watching and giving his little nod of approval.

I’m happy to say the squirrels have disappeared and the birds have had free access to the suet feeders. And, I haven’t had to refill them every other day due to the little thieves making off with the suet, cage and all. I have had to search the yard for the cage more than once. Which isn’t as bad as my sister has it, what with raccoons stealing her bird feeders, never to be seen again. The feeders, I mean. The raccoons keep coming back.

But where the squirrels have gone, I haven’t a clue. Maybe because the they ate every one of my crop of figs, they are too ashamed to show their greedy faces. But I’d keep feeding the birds even if the squirrels did keep stealing the suet cages and tipping the feeders, spilling the seeds on the ground.

I feel Jim’s presence when I feed the birds, and when I sit on the deck and watch them in the evening. If I keep my head still, I can imagine him on my right, watching their fluttering and listening to their songs. I can hear him laugh as the hummingbirds wage war, zooming over our heads.

I don’t need to write anything on  my whiteboard to remind myself to feed the birds. It’s too much a part of me.

Of us.









It’s always the season for books

While I love September and the onset of Autumn, there is also a feeling of sadness.  On the one hand, every beautiful day is a gift, for the next may bring cold weather, snow or sleet. So we cherish it, hanging on to each hour and minute. We take one more trip to the beach or mountains before packing up our summer paraphernalia for another season.

On the other hand, we know the clock is ticking, the leaves are falling, and winter will soon be here. It’s difficult to keep those thoughtstumblr_n169124Rsc1re1snbo1_500 from encroaching, even on the most blue-skied, sunshine-filled, dazzling day.

And so we feel just the slightest tinge of melancholy. Or maybe not. Maybe you are one of those people who love winter. You are waxing your skis, checking out the snowmobile, sharpening the skate blades in happy anticipation of those first, fat flakes of snow.

Not me. I’m airing my quilt, stocking up on hot chocolate, and loading my e-reader with books. I know what I’m doing this winter.

But in the meantime, there are wonderful sunny days ahead to enjoy and I don’t intend to let impending doom Winter spoil them. The Earth spins and each season has its turn. Maybe you favor one over the other, or maybe you take each one as it comes with its own special wonder.

Meantime, there are books.And I don’t even have to wait for Winter. I have a deck and a  comfy chair where I can watch the first leaves fall, the hummingbirds fill up for their annual migration, and the butterflies get drunk on the fermenting persimmons.

And read.




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