New Year, Big Changes

The new year has brought many challenges. There have been health issues and loss of friend and family members. But, this is only the beginning of a year that promises many great and positive things.

I’m scheduled to speak at multiple events this year. For my first appearance, I’ll be the speaker for the February 18th Tulsa NightWriters Club meeting. It’s an open meeting. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop in and see me. I’ll be discussing The Nuts and Bolts of Submissions, regarding contest and publishing submissions. Click here for more information about the meeting.

Meet the Publishers! is coming up on Saturday, March 28th. This is the sixth year I’ve held this event. I’m quite excited about our panel, as we’ve added a magazine publisher and a newspaper, too. Click here for more information.

I’m currently making big plans to change this website. So, if it goes a little off-kelter for a few days, be sure to come back and visit after I’ve fixed it up. I think we’ll both appreciate the changes.

Hope to see you next week at the Tulsa NightWriters’ meeting.

 

A Holiday Flash Fiction Story

I recently offered to post this story on my website for the holidays. I wrote the first version for a contest in 2013 and changed it over the next six years. Here is my new and improved 2019 version. Please enjoy, and have a wonderful Christmas, however you spend it!

Look What the Wind Blew In
by Renee’ La Viness

Steam rose from Opal’s cup of hot chocolate as she carried it to the living room.

The early December snow was beautiful, but to an elderly woman living alone, it was cruel. It made the bones ache and the body shiver. She set the warm drink on the side table then wrapped the small blue afghan around her legs and settled into her easy chair.

A soft thump sounded on the front porch. It was probably a wandering dog, but she decided to check it out. Slowly, she rose from the chair and shuffled across the room.

When she opened her front door, the bitter wind barged in without permission, and tiny ice crystals danced in with it. On the porch floor, a mess of shoe prints led to a pot of poinsettias trimmed with a wide gold ribbon. They were her favorite holiday flowers. In the middle, a small note attached to a plastic stick fluttered in the icy air.

Careful not to slip on the porch, Opal leaned over and snatched the flower pot. She quickly carried it inside and shut the door, locking out the wind and snow.

In the warmth of her living room, she read the note.

“WILL YOU…” The rest had been torn off.

“Will you what?” she asked out loud, as if expecting an answer. “I need the rest of the note. I wonder who left it.” She set the pot on a small table between her matching chairs. The bright red flowers seemed to make the room smile.

“I bet this is from Betty.” She picked up the phone to call her friend. It rang twice before anyone answered.

“Hello?”

“Betty? It’s Opal. Thank you for the poinsettias. They really brightened my day. But, part of the note was missing.”

“What are you talking about, Opal? I’ve not left this house. I’m not stepping outside until the ice and snow melt.” Betty chuckled, then gasped. “Flowers, you say? A note? Did somebody leave you flowers, Opal? Do you have a boyfriend I don’t know about?”

“I’m not sure,” Opal replied, absently running a finger around the rim of the flower pot. “I’ll let you know.”

After hanging up, she leaned back in her easy chair. Trying to occupy her mind with something else, she opened the newspaper. She had read all the stories yesterday, but there wouldn’t be another issue until tomorrow, so she would read ads and clip coupons today.

A dentist was running a special on dentures and cleanings, a furniture store was having a price blowout, a book club was searching for new members, and the senior center wanted grandparents for needy children, especially for the holidays. She had signed up for one of those surrogate grandchildren last week, when the medical folks gave free blood pressure checks. She always took advantage of the health checkups. A person should be watchful of their health.

When she finished reading the ads, she reached for her scissors.

THUMP.

Another sound on the front porch. She headed to the door with great curiosity. Nobody was there, but another poinsettia had been delivered. She brought it in and set it beside the first plant. Taped to the side of the pot, she found the other half of the note.

“PLEASE…”

Opal raised one eyebrow and lowered the other. “Great. Will you please what?”

Her mind struggled to put the clues together. It wasn’t her birthday, but it was almost Christmas. Could it be a romantic gesture from a secret admirer?

“No,” she surmised. “Just like Betty said, nobody my age in his right mind would be out racing to disappear after leaving me a secret admirer gift, no matter how important the question. Not in this weather.”

Her face melted. It had to be some heartless kids playing a practical joke. There was no other explanation. She wondered if they knew her husband had recently died. Having no family left, she was all alone in the world.

With shaking fingers, she called Betty and asked her to help watch for the pranksters. She would not let those brats taunt her. She would catch them and call their parents or the law. If parents don’t know what their kids are doing, they can’t fix the problem.

Opal sat back in her chair and picked up her newspaper and scissors. Maybe clipping coupons would help her sort things out.

She considered calling the police. Even if she did catch the kids, what would she say to them? She’d heard today’s teens could be dangerous to deal with.

The phone rang, startling her out of her daydreams. She quickly answered.

“Opal, someone’s walking to your porch. They’re—”

“Thanks, Betty.”

Opal hurried to the door. When she opened it, a woman and a young boy stood before her on the front porch. The boy raised a handmade sign that said, “BE MY GRANDMA?”

Opal’s heart melted and a smile stretched across her face. “Oh, my surrogate grandchild is here! Please, please, come in.” She held her door open as they entered the warm, loving atmosphere of her living room and her heart.

Closing Time

The year 2019 is closing down, soon to be a dusty memory on the shelf, while 2020 is waiting for us to make fresh new memories. This has been a good year for me, but I hope 2020 will be even better.

Although I didn’t enter as many contests in 2019, I won a fair number of writing awards, including:

Each year, I sponsor and/or judge multiple conference contests. In 2019, I added the

La Viness Short Story Writing Contest

a new contest not involved with any conference. This one is my own special offer. Check out our 2019 winners on the contest website. Being the first year, it wasn’t yet known well, but I still had some rather competitive entries in the bunch. A big “THANK YOU” goes out to the judges who helped me determine the winners. The website will be updated in early January with the 2020 contest information. Submissions will be accepted from June 1st to August 31st, 2020.

I will also be offering a new contest at the White County Creative Writers Conference in 2020. Watch for it on their website.

All the 1st Place winners of my past contests are listed here.

Along with all the writerly news of 2019, we have some wonderful family news to share. We became great-grandparents in the spring! However, the little guy lives near the east coast, so we’re hoping to meet him in 2020, if possible.

Along with the new year comes a plan to attend some different conferences. I’ll still be at some of my regulars, and I’m still offering all the same contests. But, I want to visit some events in Kansas, Missouri, or Texas. Of course, if I am asked to speak at any events, you can be sure I’ll be at those! For more information, see my ABOUT page.

I have a fabulous panel of publishers lined up for the 6th Annual Meet the Publishers! event, in Tulsa. In past years, I’ve brought in book publishers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. This year, I’ve added a magazine publisher and a newspaper publisher. So, don’t miss our 2020 event on March 28th. Check out the website and save the date! Here’s a link: www.jespiddlin.com/publishers

If you’re following me to the conferences, keep an eye on my SCHEDULE page for the latest updates on where I’ll be.

Thanks for stopping in. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season! Wishing you all the best in 2020!

Renee’ La Viness

 

Summer Progress

Each summer turns out a little different than I expect. Sometimes, I feel like I can conquer the world, but I’m lucky to survive a two-week visit with one grandchild before I get to rest a few days and have another one over for a visit. Other times, I surprise myself with how much we accomplish. We always try to spend time on some of their projects and do some of mine, if we are able. This year has been moving along rather nicely, so far. We’ve made lots of progress.

I hope your summer (or winter?) is being good to you, also.

Dangerous Storms Cross the Nation

Tornado-Purple-1000x288Tornadoes are sweeping across the nation. When the number of tornadoes that dropped out of the clouds on Wednesday are finally determined, I wonder what those numbers will be. It’s not going to be just 5 or 10, and, unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of damage displayed on every news show and then some. They may make special TV shows about it, maybe even a movie. Some of the tornadoes have been huge and violent.

And there are the floods. Northern Oklahoma has been inundated with heavy rainstorms overfilling lakes, ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. So many of our lakes are nearly at their peak containment levels. That water has to be released and will flow southward. Hundreds, probably thousands of residents have been evacuated; told to grab what they can and get out. Their homes will be damaged or completely destroyed by floods. No way to save them. Just get out. Some homes are washing into the rivers and lakes as the rushing water claws and etches new boundaries along its southward path.

And the runaway barges… When and where will they settle? If they crash into the dam, they could cause massive destruction and more flooding downstream. But, where are they? Why haven’t they already reached the dam? Did some cowboys lasso them and prevent them from making their way there? Could we be so lucky that such superheroes might possibly exist? We need such a dream to come true, right now.

A lot of people will either sleep lightly or not at all, tonight. My heart goes out to those who have damage they are trying to deal with and nobody knows about it, yet. Nobody knows to come to the rescue, because the storms have refused to let up long enough to allow us to share such news.

When the sun rises in the morning, we will see thousands of photos of damage and destruction. We will hear unbelievable stories of people who stood in doorways or lawns and watched rotating storms pass them by, or others who barely escaped floods. We may even learn of lives lost. I sure hope not.

God bless those who are able to help others put their lives back together in even the smallest ways.

Conferences, Workshops, and More

It’s that time again, folks. Spring brings lots of great opportunities to meet other authors, publishers, illustrators and editors when you attend the conferences around the nation.

Check out my LINKS page for many of the area conferences within a six to eight hour drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Some of those conferences offer opportunities to enter writing contests and win some cash. Visit their websites to learn more. Find out how your writing competes with others!

If you’re looking for a chance to actually meet some area publishers and learn more about the industry and how it’s changing with self-publishing, traditional publishers, and more, don’t miss the 5th annual Meet the Publishers! event in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, March 30th.

If you’re interested in following me through the year, check out my SCHEDULE page.

Got questions? Send me an email from my ABOUT page!

Have a wonderful conference season!

Autumn Events

It’s almost here! Autumn is days away and we are looking forward to a serious reprieve from this summer’s heat wave. I’m sure it will return in another eight or nine months, if we just hang in there.

A lot of things have been in the works, lately. Wonderful changes are taking place. We have managed to get one of our most important domain names back after years of watching it be trashed by someone who was trying to get us to pay a large sum of money to get it back. We decided to wait it out. We are glad to have it back and will hopefully have it up and running around the end of the year, although it’s going to be a little longer before we start making pool cues, again. We have felt like life was pressing us down for a long time and this seemingly small change has given us a huge emotional boost.

I have two new books coming soon. They are part of the Diary series. It is hard to contain my excitement.

I’ve also been working hard on some old and some new short stories for conference contests. I have some new stories that have surprised even me.

My computer finally decided it was tired of the flack Windows 10 was giving it. When it finally refused to start Windows, I took it to the shop. I was so scared I’d lose all my stories and other stuff I’ve collected in here for the past five years. Yes, I back everything up, but it had been a good month since the last big save. When it choked, I was in the middle of writing one of my best stories, yet. There was only one serious problem. I had to send that story with the next day’s postmark (contest deadline), so I was a bit frantic. The guys were awesome. They saved practically everything on my computer AND got that story file to me, so I could finish writing it and get it submitted on time, too. After all that, I sure hope it wins something!

Anyway, here’s a SHOUT OUT to the guys down at Same Day Computer Repair of Tulsa. Thanks so very much for saving the day and not breaking the bank! You guys are my heroes!

I’m excited about this Saturday, September 1st. A few years ago, Gene and I took a trip to Searcy, Arkansas for the White County Writers Conference. We had a wonderful time and wished we could go back. Well, this year, I’m not just getting to go back, but I’m also one of the speakers scheduled for the event. There will be three of us: Best selling author Robin Caroll, who will share some insight on writing suspense and mystery; President & Creative Director of Oghma Creative Media, Casey W. Cowan, will help authors have a better idea what publishers want; and I will be giving away secrets on writing dialogue and emotions, first thing in the morning. So, be there early, if you want to know what I know!

In October, we’ll be at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference, again. We always look forward to seeing our friends out there. I won’t be representing 4RV Publishing, this year (since I resigned in January), but I’ve been told they are planning to be on Publisher’s Row, again. I will be glad to meet up with my fellow authors from Oghma Creative Media.

Another school year is upon us and I will soon be having lunch with my grandchildren and reading for their classes, again. I am looking forward to it.

I will be back with another update as soon as I can. Things are moving along and life is good.

May your lives be as blessed as mine.

Hearts

I was about to update my website when my phone rang. It seems that my mother-in-law has had a major heart attack and is not doing well.

Take care of your health. Call home and tell your parents you love them.

I’ll post my planned update in a day or two. For now, I have things to tend to.

Meet the Publishers! this Thursday!

It’s that time again, folks. Can you believe this is the fourth year? This Thursday, March 15th, at 6:00 PM, a panel of publishers will address your questions, followed by an opportunity to visit and view their products. Learn about different types of publishing: traditional, hybrid, vanity press, and self-publishing.

This year, there will be two publishers from Arkansas, two from Oklahoma, and two self-publishers. There will also be swag bags containing helpful information for your publishing needs.

As always, this free, informative event is sponsored by Designing the World with Words and Tulsa Area Children’s Book Writers. For more information, please visit the event website at http://www.jespiddlin.com/publishers-2018 or contact Renee’ at meet-the-publishers@jespiddlin.com

For those who don’t know, I resigned from 4RV Publishing in January. After four and a half years with the company, it was time for a change, I suppose. We took on a lot of extra medical bills last year, due to my husband’s heart attack and having both his carotid arteries cleaned out. I needed more freelance editing jobs to help us out. I am a firm believer that everything happens the way it does for a reason. So, this is part of my forward momentum. I have been very pleased at how fast new jobs have come in. Thank you for your trust and support.

Not too long ago, I pitched and submitted a children’s picture book to a publishing company in Arkansas. I was offered a contract and I’ll have more info on that next time I write.

This year, I won’t be offering as many workshops, but I will be available for mobile workshops and as a speaker for writing-related events. Find my full conference schedule and become one of my Conference Stalkers at https://reneelaviness.com/events.

Are you planning to submit your story to a publisher, soon? Have you put it through a critique group to get their input? What about a beta reader or an editor? Here is a little help. Click here to download my two-page Story Checks file and use it to tighten and polish your story before you submit it. Good luck with all your contest and book submissions, this year!

Don’t forget to drop in at 6pm, this Thursday… (Click to visit website.)MeetPublishers-2018-BusCardAd2-mini

 

A Movie Review?

I’m soon to write another post here, but I left this on my Facebook page and decided to share on my website, as well. I seldom ever write any kind of a review, but I have waited for so long to see this movie.

I went to a friend’s house on Wednesday, and we watched The Man Who Invented Christmas. Here is my review of that movie.

Knowing this was supposed to be a portrayal of potentially real events gave me the hunger to see what Charles Dickens did in his writing (or how someone else perceived it) that I might learn from.

If you are not a writer, this is a great movie, because it shows very much how intense a writing project can get, especially when you are under pressure. We find our phrases, words, circumstances, and people in everyday life. Sometimes, a complete stranger has a look that sparks an entire story. When we get so absorbed the rest of the world needs to just leave us alone, we never mean any negativity to those we love. Well, we really do mean, “Leave me alone!” or, “I don’t have time, right now!” but usually, that’s only temporary, as the movie points out. It does occasionally happen, though. It’s just that we get so connected with our characters. We have to get connected to see every little quirk and interpretation that make our characters who they are. We have to see, feel, and convey these things to convince our readers the characters are real. And, we need to stay in the story until it is complete. Even stopping to sleep or go to the bathroom is a huge and unwelcome interruption.

If you are a writer, this movie has a fantastic manner of bringing those scenes and actions we see in our heads into his life, very much like the ones that play through our heads as we feverishly write what we are seeing. It also shows how we often like to enjoy life, probably a bit too much, at times. It serves as a good reminder to pay closer attention to our attitudes when we get to that intense place with our stories. If you’re a serious writer–especially if you’re a pantser–you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The main character is charming, fun to watch, full of entertaining pockets of personality. I love the different faces he makes throughout the movie.

The little snippets of info at the beginning and end of the movie are very helpful in understanding the full weight of Charles’ position.

I enjoyed the story within a story, how the writer(s) gave him his own demons to conquer as he drove himself to the end of the story he was writing, and how HIS main character played into helping him conquer those demons.

I loved the message Charles wanted to convey with A Christmas Carol. I, too, believe he achieved his purpose.

The one thing I liked least was the purple lipstick he wore. I realize it helped emphasize his facial shifts that were so cute, but the color was maybe a touch too noticeable. However, when he is portrayed as a child, you know it’s him, thanks to that ugly lipstick.

Another thing I did not like was studying over this in a political manner. I didn’t like how the story line might be used politically (in today’s twisted views), so I abandoned those thoughts early on.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t the most outstanding I’ve ever seen, and it could have been much more intense, but I still felt connected because I’ve written in a similar manner and found my inner beast can be almost as ugly as his may have been. I’m certain none of my works have been quite as earth-shaking as Charles Dickens’ masterpieces, but I’m thrilled to know that what he went through was very much like what I go through as a writer. It’s nice to feel such a connection to someone who made such an impact in our world.

If you watch this movie, I’d suggest making your atmosphere as theater-like as possible, so you can focus all your energy in the story line. Today’s world creates way too many interruptions. For that reason, I believe the theater is where this movie would be best viewed.

And, there is the question of whether to allow a child to view the movie. As many others have said, I believe children should be at least 8 to 10 years old and have recently seen and understand the movie A Christmas Carol, or even better, have the story read to them and discussed with them, so they can understand the events of this movie.

I plan to watch this movie again–very soon–with my wonderful, writer husband. I’d love to gain his insight and interpretations.

If you saw this movie, please tell me what you thought of it. I’m curious to learn the views of others.