The Word Wizards and Me
We introduced ourselves at the pool. “Maggie here, morning.
“Good morning to you, I’m Barbara Hodges.”
After the workout we chatted. “I’m a writer,” she said.
In June of 2014 I found myself in Sacramento, CA. I was there to attend the Western Writers of America Conference, and on this particular morning was one of 40 or so newbies, that is, those who published their first western-oriented book or who were attending the conference for the first time, or both. We were each asked to stand and talk what brought us there. We listened politely to one another as we extolled the virtues of our own lives and creations.
Somewhat bleary-eyed after many presentations, I snapped into focus when one author announced she was from Guadalupe, CA, because no one is from Guadalupe, Ca, and because this tiny town is less than 20 miles from where I live. I rushed over to introduce myself at the first opportunity. The author’s name, it turned out, is Bonnie Kelly. She writes Westerns, pard; I mean the real Louis L’Amour, sixgun, ‘ya got me!’ westerns. I stuck with her like a burr under her saddle for the rest of the conference.
Happens, she belongs to the Word Wizards of Santa Maria. I was seeking a good writer’s critique group. Bonnie thought I’d be a good match for the Wizards; so it has turned out.
At the time I joined, I had written and published two novels. It didn’t take long for the group to find their flaws.
I had a proclivity for length: I never used one word when two would suffice. Where is the meat? my new colleagues demanded, and it became necessary for me to write much more efficiently, sparingly, economically (To many adverbs here…BMH) to avoid my pages returned hidden under scrawled comment.
“Don’t use that.”
“Don’t begin with but.”
“You used 25 ands in one paragraph.”
“Gerunds are running amuck all over your pages.”
And so forth. This was tutelage by rote, retention by fire. Determined to have more words on my pages than my critics, I followed up each meeting with an immediate rewrite. Eventually, the cues became fixed in my mind. I no longer have conjunctionitis. Every multiple she and he pulls me up short. Red flags fly in my head as I write, often with the face of a colleague imaged in my brain.
And do you know what (did I just start a sentence with and)? I am a far better writer than I was before I joined the Santa Maria Word Wizards. Right, Barbara? I say, Barbara? Right? Barbara…?( …and, yes you are. BMH)
It was pure luck to have met Bonnie Kelly at the Nipomo Library about three or four years ago. My old critique group had recently disbanded, and I had been looking for new one. The Word Wizards were at the Friends Fair marketing their books and Bonnie invited me to join them. I went to my first meeting with a few pages of my work-in-progress and found a group of interesting and talented people, each with great advice on how to improve my story. Now, every Tuesday I look forward to our meetings. Another huge bonus, the Wizards were not only a critique group, but also marketed their books together.
Riding Babyface, the YA story I was writing at the time I joined the group, was published by Desert Breeze Publishing last year. My new WIP, Ordinary Miracles, should be completed this fall.
I am also the author of two other YA novels, Spurs for Jose and Remedy. Check out all my books at: http://www.WandaSnowPorter.com
Twenty-three years ago I moved to the central coast of California from the San Francisco bay area. After settling in I decided to step away from the work force and follow my dream of being a writer. I took a writing course through the mail and six months later began my first book, The Blue Flame. I loved to read fantasy, but hadn’t found a story that gave me everything I wanted, so I wrote my own.
Fast forward two and a half years. My book was written…. my book had been written five times, and yes it was almost ready to need a publisher. It was then I saw a notice for a writer’s group that was to be formed in Santa Maria. I thought, why not?
The first meeting was at Café Monet, which no longer exists. There were four of us….Elaine Bierbaurer, Sylva Mularchyk, Sylvia’s sister-in-law, Voncil ( I can’t remember the last name) and myself. The next week Ann Schafer joined our group.
What a great decision that was on my part. In the next twenty years, along with much help and support, I wrote and had published ten fiction novels.
There have been many members who have come and gone during those years. Some have died, Ann and Elaine that I know of, some have moved away, and some have just moved on. Sylva and I are the only original members left and poor health keeps her away from our still weekly meetings.
Now we have a core group of six writers. We have poets, non-fiction writers and of course fiction writers.
In the next two weeks I am going to introduce you to the Santa Maria California Word Wizards. They will tell their stories of how they discovered the Word Wizards and what the group has met to them.
I’ve heard stories about some writing groups, some of it not flattering. I am so happy to know that ours is a gem. I can honestly say I don’t believe I’d be the writer I am without them.
Two years ago we created an anthology. All of the stories had to involve February 14th. Below are some of the authors that had stories in Scattered Hearts. .
I attended the Public Service Writer’s Association conference July-16-19th. Like every year it is in Las vegas. The conference is for authors whose writing involves those serving the public….police officers, firefighters, CSI, FBI etc, as well as others who have them in their stories. Great conference by the way.
What I want to talk about is what I observed this time. I guess it might be nothing knew, but this time is when I noticed it. At dinner with Marilyn and Hap Meredith, their daughter and Eileen Schneider we sat by a window that looked out on to the casino floor. After a sip of wine is when it hit me….the faces of those sitting in front of a slot machine. They didn’t look happy. What they did look was intense and even angry.
I thought of all of the wonderful things you could be doing at The Orleans instead of gambling,…seeing a movie, bowling, and all the shows offered elsewhere. Why were they doing something that made them unhappy? Life is to short to willingly participate in something that puts such a scowl on your face. If you have a choice then do something that makes you smile.
I was invited to take part in this character blog tour by Wanda Snow Porter. Wanda is a friend and a talented author. I knew right away which of my characters would want to explain herself. Sherice Solomon. After all it isn’t easy being a female serial killer. I’ve heard all of her excuses, her rationales. I’m not buying it, but I’ll let you form your own opinions.
Hello, I am Sherice Solomon. My story is told in Ice. Yes, I have killed, but it is not my fault. I have never been in control of my life. Even as a child the Hunger waited inside of me, a gnawing need that must be fed. A family heritage my father said. The Hunger was what gave him, and later me, the ruthless edge we needed in the cutthroat world of business
My father was a demanding man, and although I tired I never could please him. When My David entered my life, I left my father with joy, but the Hunger came with me.
My David became my world, my guiding star. It was he who took me to Bangkok and there my life changed. It is where I found my teacher.
My David liked games of chance. On early morning he returned home with a middle-eastern blade, a shafra. When he placed the jeweled hilted knife in front of me, I felt its siren call in my heart.
That night Arahni came to me in a dream. She lived inside the large sapphire embedded in the blade’s hilt. Arahni told me we were meant to be as one. She recognized the Hunger inside of me. She would teach me how to feed it.
Arahni did. At first the shafra with its six-inch blade was awkward to handle, but after many melons split in two, I perfected my stroke.
My first kill was in an alley in Bangkok. The man certainly deserved to die. That he looked like my father had nothing to do with mine and the Hunger’s pleasure.
With the shafra’s first taste of blood, brought on by my hand, the Hunger would no longer be denied.
So we hunted, Arahni and I, but to only appease the Hunger. The hunt has nothing to do with the intense pleasure each kill provides.
I am not a serial killer. I am not a person with Ice in my veins. If I am so cold, why would I be lonely? Why would I seek another to join with me, in spite of Arahni’s jealousy?
I am Sherice Solomon.
Read my story, and then you decide.
Barbara M. Hodges lives on the central coast of California. She shares her life with her husband Jeff, two basset hounds, Hamlet and Heidi, as well as with a sassy feline Wallace. She is the author or co-author of nine works of fiction. The Blue Flame, The Emerald Dagger and The Silver Angel are the first three books in her young adult Daradawn fantasy series. A Spiral of Echoes, co-written with Maggie Pucillo is a chilling paranormal romance. Ice and One Last Sin, co-authored with Randolph Tower, are crime fiction. The Return of the Ancients and Aftermath are fantasy and Shadow Worlds, co-authored with Darrell Basin, is science fiction. To find out more about Barbara and her books please visit her website.
Her books can be found in print and electronic formant at Amazon.com and many other online retailers.
Barbara invites you to continue the blog tour by visiting on September 22nd with:
Professional editor and award-winning author of the Write It Right 5-star-review e-Book series now available in print and on Kindle, the suspense novels Tangled Webs and Sins of the Past, and the indie B.R.A.G. Medallion winning paranormal suspense novel Proof of Identity available in print and ebook format on Amazon.com.
Check out her blog at: www.SusanTuttleWrites.com
I’m a native of Arizona, born in Gila County, near the delightful towns of Globe and Miami. I spent my childhood outside, playing, roaming the hills, riding horses, shooting, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and working; and inside reading. My second home was the Miami Library, or the Old Dominion Library in Globe. Because it was low cost all our vacations were camping vacations, all over Arizona. My parents particularly liked the Verde River, so at least once a year we camped a couple of weeks south of Camp Verde; Mom and Dad would later retire across the river from where we camped. Gila County was my home for nearly fifty years (with occasional, short gaps of living in Thatcher, Phoenix, Yuma, and Eastern Canada).
I worked for 42 years for a major international mining company, the last sixteen in the corporate headquarters in Tempe and Phoenix; during that time I travelled extensively to mines and operations in Arizona and New Mexico, throughout the U.S., Canada, South America, and visited operations in Britain and Holland. For most of my career my work and volunteer service has involved writing. I have written reports, proposals, standard operating procedures, technical manuals, training manuals and aids, and newsletters. On my own time I wrote newspaper articles, poetry, short stories, and lectures and papers on community college classes I taught in Instrumentation, Robotics, Business Management, and Public Speaking.
My family had horses and raised livestock. I love the outdoors, history, travel, restaurants, researching, writing, my wife/best friend, my children, and grandchildren. I enjoy the American southwest and Arizona in particular. You will find in my writing the southwest is like a leading character.
My first novel, The Wham Curse, is in part based on the historic 1889 Wham Payroll Robbery, allowing me to tie my love of history to my love of creative writing. I have also authored a sequel novel, Saints & Sinners, published by Oak Tree Press on May 1, 2014, is now in bookstores and on-line; and have started a third story in this series, The Baleful Owl. I have been working on a ranch history of Gila County, Arizona for about five years and am aiming to publish volume 1 sometime this year.