Tag Archives: #amwriting

Breathing Life Back Into This Blog

After an absence longer that I thought it would be, I’m resurrecting this blog. During the pandemic last year, I wrote and never posted a series of essays about what was happening. I didn’t post them because I thought we had enough voices commenting on all things related to COVID.

I talked with a lot of people about what I want to say. Some thought I should write exclusively about my writing life: what I’m writing, where I am in the creative process, what I’ve learned about writing in the process. And I looked at how many blogs I read about these topics. For me to add my voice to this cacophony seemed like hubris. That’s not to say I’ll keep readers informed of what I’m working on. I will, but that won’t be the central emphasis of what I write in this space.

And then there are the advisors who insist that I stay away from anything controversial. “Don’t write about politics, because you’ll lose readers.” Really. I write about social issues in every one, repeat EVERY ONE, of my novels. Unintended Consequences? Abuse of women. Uncharted Territory? Pastoral abuse, child endangerment, immigration. Unsafe Haven? Pandemic. And it goes on. Telling a former activist not to write about controversial topics is a futile activity. This is a woman who still has buckshot in her butt from a deputy sheriff taking umbrage at legal protestors walking along a highway. Might as well tell me not to breathe.

So, what will this be about? Whatever’s on my mind when I sit down to write. It will have updates on my books. It will have announcements of upcoming special deals.

And it will have something new. I review a lot of books every year, both written by my friends and by top-selling authors. I’ll post some of those reviews here, mostly for books written by friends. They deserve another lift up in their writing journeys.

For now, I’m announcing specials on all of my books. Print versions of all six at $10/each. For a limited time, ebooks are $0.99/each.

All books are available on Amazon at https://bit.ly/BetsyAshton.

Until next time, be safe, be happy. Read on, right now.

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#BackToSchool

By the end of July, I’d be anxiously looking forward to the first day of school, usually Tuesday after Labor Day. I know I’m weird, but I loved school. Meeting friends. New teachers. New subjects.

My mother would let me pick out two new outfits. Only two, because we couldn’t afford more. I’d also get a new pair of shoes. Patent leather Mary Janes when I was younger, white Keds as I got older.

My mother would get a letter from the school with the name of my teacher, my classroom number, and other information she needed to know.  We often had a meet-and-greet individually a week before we began classes.

So easy. Then. Now, not so easy.

No longer is it a matter of showing up when expected. No longer is it a given that children will go back to classroom learning. In this time of COVID-19, no two school districts will function in the same way. Some schools will open for two days a week of classroom instruction, paired with three days of online learning. Some children will go on Monday and Tuesday, others will go Wednesdays and Thursdays. Families have no clue how to plan for the school year.

I hear parents ask how they are supposed to home-school their kids while they work full-time. Not every family has a grandparent support system which can care for the kids and help with their education. And what if a teacher or student tests positive two weeks after classes begin? Well, one local district blithely said, “we’ll close the schools for 14 days.”

And what of those families which count on schools breakfast and lunch programs for two meals? Most districts lack the ability to prepare sack meals and deliver them.
No, this year, going back to school will not be easy. It will not be the old normal. I hope it is not the new normal, but it may very well be. My hat is off to all parents who are grappling with these serious decisions. You are my heroes.

Peace out.

#AmWriting

Still filling this stay-at-home period with an increased level of creativity in my writing cave. I’m finished a satirical essay, The Return of the Blanched COVIDians  and have sent it to various contests and online ezines.

I submitted Revenge on the Rocks this week. I hope it will be published in a new anthology, Murder by the Glass. Same folks who brought you 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Betrayal, a suspense novel with lots of explosions, is booming right along. Yes, joke intended.

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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Finding Peace in the Time of COVID-19

We’re all doing our best to stay calm in the midst of a daily tsunami of bad news. As a writer, it’s less difficult to stay home than it is for someone who works outside the home.  I mean, writing is a very solitary sport. True, some of my friends do their best work in a crowded Starbucks where the background noise of the espresso machine provides inspiration. Others prefer fast food outlets where they can act out stubborn scenes in the parking lot without fear of arrest. We’re all weird in our own ways.

I prefer writing from my home office. Familiar setting. I can control my distractions. I can turn on or off the television. I can refocus on the words on my screen and nothing else. Except when my husband, who sits six feet away and shares the home office, needs technical support. That’s an interruption I love. At least, I can get back to where I was easily. Or not.

A Few Words About the Picture Above

My mother and I read to each other nearly every night until after I was seven. As an infant, she and my grandmother read to me. Later, when I could read more than “See Dick run,” we’d take turns. The black-and-white picture was taken when I was probably seven. Mom and I shared reading one of my favorite books, Sand Dune Pony. Along with Black Beauty, we wept over and over again.

I was sorting through one of my bookshelves when I ran across that book, along with a copy of Black Beauty which has lost its spine. I sat down to enjoy both the story of Sandy the horse and memories of the hours Mom and I shared over books.

I continue to consume books in this time of “house arrest.” I have enough to keep me occupied, so I’m peacefully reading away every night. During the day, I’m writing.

Books You Might Like

I know not all of you have read my books. I’m shocked to write that, but it’s true. So, in this time of staying safe, in this time of libraries shuttering their doors, in this time of Amazon taking longer than usual to deliver to our doorsteps, you can have instant gratification. These three books are all $0.99 each. And here are the links to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX

Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap

Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Until my next post, peace out.

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Unwind

Mocha 005Such a simple word. Alas, not enough people truly unwind today.  Most of us are strung too tightly. We think we are unwinding when we stop for dinner, until we realize we are staring at a screen too much of the time. Many eat with the television on, which dampens conversation. Many more have to have phone surgically removed from their hands.

What does it take to truly unwind? Do we need to escape to a sunny beach someplace, where drinks are served with little umbrellas and the air is full of the scent of sunblock? Some unwind by hiking. Others like hanging out at home, lying on porch mats and generally enjoying life.

The first and third work for me. Years ago when I was younger, hiking was my greatest getaway. Just me and my dog, a German Shepherd/Malamute mix. We would take off on Fridays after classes ended or work was over for the day, exploring various trails in California. A couple of nights in the wilderness, disconnected from electricity and phones, sleeping under the stars where no city glow hid the Milky Way, set me back on my feet with a peaceful mind.

As I’ve gotten older and somewhat wiser, I lust more for a sunny beach or hanging around my own house, cutting myself off from screens. I find I can unwind just about anywhere. I can slip into mindfulness and savor the moment. Sometimes, it’s enough to shut down early, whether I’ve finished my writing or not, and move to the deck to sit in the sun and read. Or watch birds flit through the trees. Or boats move through the cove. Or all three.

The point is, you unwind where you can and how you can. You have to make time for it.

I have a dear friend who claims he’s wired not to unwind. He throws himself into everything and rarely takes a few hours off. Is he balanced? No way. He thinks being mindful is a waste of time, even as he occasionally walks on his green way. I’ve tried to work with him, but he’s adamant. He’s wound too tightly to relax. Probably. I know he’s wound too tightly for me to help him.

What do you do to unwind?

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The Loss of Two Artists

On January 11, 2016 I woke to two announcements in our local newspaper. One was the loss of David Bowie. I confess to being a Bowie fan. I loved not only his daring swoops in music but his glam look on stage. I sipped tea and thought about how I’d never seen him perform live but how I had a couple of his albums on my playlist. My husband and I talked about his permanent mark on the music scene.

I flipped through the paper until I came to the obituaries. We have only lived in our current home for about ten years. I never expect to see the names of anyone I know, but this day I did. One of my local writers, Michael “Big Mike” Davis lost his battle with cancer. Smith Mountain Lake readers knew Big Mike; Lake Writers found him to be a presence because of his size and out sized personality.

Big Mike walked into Lake Writers one Friday about eight years or so ago. He had published more than a dozen romantic suspense novels through a publisher in Canada, more than another of the writers who struggled to put the right word in the right place. He knew more about promoting his books than I did at the time. He offered mentoring. He offered critiquing. He offered friendship. I took him up on all three.

Over the years, Big Mike, Sally Roseveare (a Lake Writer who describes herself as a “grandmother who kills people”) and I found ourselves sharing tables at various book fairs. We got so good that we could and did sell each others’ books.

Last fall, Sally and I manned (personned?) our table at a local festival. Big Mike had finished his last round of chemo and didn’t think he should be sitting out in a cold wind. We sold as many of his books as we did our own. Our pitch: Mike’s coming off chemo and couldn’t be here. We have a special on his books, $15 each or two for $30. Not a great deal but we sold out.

This year, Sally and I are looking ahead at the two festivals where Big Mike had shared our table. Right now, I don’t want to think about it. Maybe we’ll ask his wife if she has any of his books left. We’d take them with us.

When both of these voices were silenced the weekend of January 9, one highly public and one much more local, I mourned. I mourned more for Mike and his wife Karen. I knew them. Once again, readers lost a strong voice and a good storyteller. Sally and I lost our friend.

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Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Who’s To Blame?

I originally published this in January 2104. Given what’s going on now, I’m sad to say I think it’s still accurate.

We hear it all the time. He made me do it. I’m going to tell Mo-o-om. It’s all your fault we’re grounded. On the political side, it’s the other party that’s obstructing progress.

Why did this come up right now? I was at our local coffee shop this morning waiting for my latte and shamelessly eavesdropping on conversations. I do it all the time. It’s one way I get material for my stories and novels.

Two men sat at a table. One was complaining that his daughter, who had just landed a terrific job in New York City, was going to be paying nearly half of her gross in taxes. The conversation went like this:

Guy with daughter making six figures in Manhattan: Vote the goddamned Democrats in and all you get are higher taxes, wars and poverty.

2nd guy: I hear you. Them Democrats hate all of us. We need to get ’em out of govment.

GWD: Run ’em out of town before they get us into another goddamned war.

Those of you who know me I was dying, absolutely dying, to jump in and profess a bit of reality. First, NYC. Taxes always go up. Fact of life. Mayor Bloomberg didn’t do much to lower them during the 12 years he was in charge. Second, Bush 1 = Desert Storm. Bush 2 = Afghanistan and Iraq. John McCain = get boots on the ground in Syria.

Last time I looked, these were all the good guys, the Republicans.

I smiled sweetly when I left. I decided to follow Forrest Gump’s advice: Stupid is as stupid does. I kept my mouth shut, but I wanted to rip faces off. Wouldn’t do any good. Can’t change minds set in cement.

Sigh.

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A Day in the Life of This Writer

     I’m usually at my desk by 7am, butt planted firmly on my balance ball. I either write or edit for the next three to four hours before taking a break to look at e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. If there is anything I need to respond to, I do it in small increments in what is left of the morning. By small I mean 15-minute segments. And I use a timer. Otherwise, social media becomes a sinkhole I don’t 3-minute-sand-timer-egg-timeremerge from for hours.
     Lunch, usually a walk to clear my head, and back to work in the afternoon with an emphasis on social media. I respond to all Facebook posts directed to me. I spread my promotions for my books in up to 40 different groups throughout the week. Yes, I’m anal enough to have a schedule for which groups I post in when.
     Twitter follows. I use nearly 30 different #hashtags to raise awareness of my books. I set aside 18 minutes each day to set up a week’s worth of tweets in a  Twitter storm about my books, giveaways, special sales, etc.  Late in the day, when I’m nearly brain dead, I set one Twitter storm for a friend’s book. I try and promote books I’ve read or authors I like or members of my literary agency or publisher. I pay it forward.
     When I stop around 6pm, I turn off all electronic toys unless I’m reading on my tablet. I don’t look at Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or anything else. I do answer the phone and respond to texts. Other than that, I unplug.
     The next day, I wash, rinse and repeat. I do this at least six days a week.
     Now that I look at what I do, You’ll notice I don’t work late at night. I don’t sit with a cigarette clenched between my lips, head tilted to keep the smoke from my eyes. I don’t keep a bottle of Scotch on my desk. What I do is write.
     I don’t see that exciting “life of a writer.” I see a hard-working writer who works her butt off to put words on paper that you might like to read.
Care to join me??

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