ABSENT: Writer Missing …

IMG_2327-1.JPG

Missed me? I’ve missed you.

What happened, you ask?

In between pages, life happened.

Joined pain management group.

Snow melted.

Brother in hospital.

Dug up rose bushes.

Blazing sun arrived.

My sister and I celebrated 96th birthday of our mother’s best friend.

Brother sent to rehab.

Began editing final draft of Midnight Redemption.

Faced first cataract surgery.

Truck hit 12 vehicles at red light, car in shop, no injuries.

Brother placed in Hospice.

Need to research.

Editing slow.

Brother buried in Lampasas, Texas under a tree with weeping limbs.

Need to work, need to move.

Need to write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight in Malamulele Book Giveaway

midnight-large

Due to favorable reviews and requests for my book, Midnight in Malamulele, I’ve decided to gift my book to those of you who may not have heard of it yet.

Midnight in Malamulele is a mystery/thriller set in Africa with a touch of romance. Annabelle Chase, an American crime reporter, arrives for her volunteer gig only to discover a murdered nun in the locked down convent and her best friend Sister Bridget is arrested. Detective Baloyi asks Annabelle to join in the search, throwing them into a world of machete-wielding muti killers.

Smashwords Book Giveaway

1) Sign up for Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/signup
2) Click BUY on the “Midnight in Malamulele” page https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479684
3) During checkout enter the code GJ26Y and click apply
4) Download the book in any format you want
5) Review the book! https://www.smashwords.com/books/writeReview/479684

MARRYING WEBSITES

Forever I’d wanted to simplify my online presence by joining my two websites into one. The website can be reached by clicking on darlabartos.com. Taaa-daaa-aaa!

Thanks to a wonderful web designer in Florida, my site has become what I have always imagined it to be. Major mobile friendly and easy to read with additional content.

Hopefully, my blog will entertain, inform and educate. My passion is helping other writers navigate the forest of trees out there and giving them short cuts to becoming published in fiction and non-fiction, which consumed twenty-five years of my life.

My blog is devoted to helping writers reach their goals. I hope to entertain from time to time and entice other authors to guest blog about their journeys. In addition, there may be days I blog about anything that comes to mind. And when I have something to vent about, expect it.

FAV articles are my favorite five. Take a quick look. It was a tough selection process. I was a columnist for several newspapers and so many of those articles were dear to me. But, I had to pare down my list. Tough. You should have seen me perusing file folder after file folder.

Photo album mostly includes pics I snap myself. For instance, a good many of them will be from trips to South Africa. Plus, I threw in a photo of my parasailing. (Best Selfie ever, right?) Thank goodness my daughter was able to get that shot. I wanted proof!

When I said the web designer and I created the website, it was a true collaborative effort.

I culled information from tons of files, and we negotiated what we both agreed was most important. I listened to him. Very important in a collaboration. He created the online look, but I supervised. It was give and take all the way! Important. When you select a long distance web designer, make sure you like the person. Have a chat of introduction, interview several. Make sure that person is highly recommended and make sure your personality is compatible with his or hers. Because, if you’re lucky, that person is like family by the time you’re finished.

As the reader of my blog, if you have any ideas to offer, please go to the contact page and leave a message! I would love to hear from you! This is intended to be a conversation. And it takes you to make that happen. Let me know how you like my new site!

Thanks for reading.

Darla

The Missing Christmas Tree

The shock of my life was walking into my basement a week ago to discover that my fake Christmas tree had been stolen.

First I suspected my daughter — the one visiting from Australia. Surely she’d thrown the delapidated tree out while cleaning out her stuff for Goodwill. She’d tidied up the basement quite nicely so luckily something kept me from mentioning it right away! Lucky me because something began niggling at me and then turned into a lightning bolt.

After years of procrastination, I’d finally given that tree away last year knowing I WOULD HAVE TO find a new one this year. Only I didn’t realize it would come so quickly. I can’t tell you the four letter words that ran through my mind.

Just returning from a Thanksgiving trip which had extended into December, I was officially running late for Christmas this year. Plus, THE Christmas dinner was at my house.

Seeds of panic nestled quite nicely inside my psyche.

I went out and looked at all the traditional places. Target, Costco, and several others — all the while recalling my sister had every single Christmas ornament in place by N O V E M B E R 1. (Did you get that? NOVEMBER 1) Then I quelled the angst and remembered that last year, I’d finally pulled my Christmas decorations up in February. I love Christmas. I hang onto it. So my strategy is on the other end of the spectrum. My sister puts hers up early, I leave mine up late. Same difference.

I’ll tell you the cliff hanger to this story — Last week I finally ordered a tree from Overstock.com with free shipping to be delivered to my door in … now almost three days. I am a deadline driven person. The belated Christmas tree arriving in the St. Nick of time is proof.

So all of this to tell you I hope you have a warm and merry Christmas and a happy meaningful holiday season!

Happy Days …

 

 

FINAL COVER
Midnight in Malamulele,my long awaited breakout novel is now on Amazon and Smashwords ready to be downloaded to your Kindle, Nook or your PC.  The book is a South African murder mystery which begins with the death of a religious nun in a locked down convent in Malamulele. American crime reporter Annabelle Chase joins local Detective N.F. Baloyi to search for the killer, leading them into a savage and unexpected world of intrigue.

This is the first book in the Mamgoboza Trilogy. The second book will be out early February 2015 with hard copies to follow.

Enjoy and watch for the next blog about my journey to publication.

JOY IN MUDVILLE

Nothing can match the joy I felt when I opened a brown box with no return address. Thinking about it now, I suppose I should have been cautious. Not me. I instantly ripped right into it.

get-attachment.aspxMy cup, my cup!

An anonymous reader miraculously found the exact cup to replace my broken one. (See blog before last)

“There was joy in Mudville tonight.”  Why did that quote come to me? Why did I  say that?

I thought I had heard it before. It came creaking into my brain from somewhere. Oh, yeah, it was a poem. Junior High School.

As a writer, I became curious. I looked it up. The quote was in reference to a baseball player named Casey who struck out. The correct quote was  “But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.”

As a writer, I became curious.

Who wrote something so long ago that had resonated with me on some level even today and stayed with me for more years than I want to count?

Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Born in 1863, died in 1940.  Edited Harvard’s satirical magazine, the Lampoon. Worked on the West Coast in the newspaper era for the San Francisco Examiner, contributed occasional humorous columns to the paper under the pen name “Phin”–derived from a college nickname, “Phineas.”

Although he had poor health, he continued to write for the Examiner, much of his work syndicated by the Examiner.

DeWolf Hopper, a comedian/actor read his poem at the Wallack’s Theatre in New York City. That particular evening was a “baseball night.” The crowd loved it!

For years no one knew who Phin was, but in the early 1900’s it became clear the author of the famous poem was indeed Thayer.

As writers our work comes in many stages from many directions and inspirations, easing out into the public in many forms. And we may not know what people think of our work right upfront. In some cases, we may never know.

As a columnist for years, I received instant feedback. As a blogger, I receive instant feedback. But if you’re writing a novel, not so instant.

Thayer’s story can teach us one sure thing. If you’re writing and no recognition should ever come, would you still write?

If you are a true writer, yes.

So get to it.

 

A CUP IS A CUP IS A CUP

Windows wide open, birds warbling, rain drops struggling for freedom in grey hovering clouds. Beautiful except for one thing. I am mourning.

It is not a life or death loss many of us have had to endure. But it is a personal, straight to the heart loss that cannot be dealt with except with the passage of time.

It concerns the destruction of something very dear to me. And perhaps you will laugh or maybe relate.

Someone broke my coffee cup. And worse, I don’t have a picture of it. (The insert is nothing like my cup, but it will have to suffice.)

images

I hear a snicker or two from a couple of you. I see the roll of eyes. But you have to understand that I drink copious amounts of coffee every morning and that white cup with a red postage stamp on the outside of it was the only cup I faithfully used every morning for three years. I still see the dark steaming liquid swirling against the red interior.

It was love at first sight.  It was a celebratory white cup made for Valentine’s Day. I carefully lifted it off the Starbucks shelf as if I’d found the Ark. I clutched it and took it home as if it were the dearest friend I’d ever had.

That cup was with me through the writing of my novel, through the editing of my novel, through the angst of my novel and through the happiness and delight of my novel.

That cup was there to greet me at 3:30 in the morning. It was valiant and lovely and truly my best friend. It was devoted to me. Rarely did I share it for fear that it might break.

And when I least expected it,  it did.

To the person who threw away the pieces it was only a cup. And I can understand that. How could she have possibly known?

Immediately I searched online for another. Nada. Even if I could have procured another exactly like it, it would never have been the same. Not really.

It reminded me of one thing. Enjoy the cup you are with. Live in the very moment.

Take no cup for granted.

 

 

 

Back on the Writing Track

Am I the only writer around to unintentionally take time off?

No writer’s block.

So what was it?  Did I not know how to end the book? Maybe.

So how did I feel not working on my novel?  Like the life had been literally sucked out of me. Truly. Like I was a ship without a safe harbor. Clichés? Sometimes you have to say what you feel and just let it out.

It began with a few trips that put my writing life on a roller coaster.

Sunrise in Australia
Sunrise in Australia

You can always take your laptop with you on trips. But I’m weak. I always find other things to do.  But this much I know. I don’t like it when I’m not writing. I don’t feel whole. I’m serious. (Oh, Darla,  you’re just trying to have something to say to get this blog up.)  No, it’s the truth. I am miserable. I mean utterly miserable. I am not myself.

My first book is currently with an excellent editor.  So I have released that one. But my second book is weirding me  out. It’s moving in a direction that has surprised me. And I like it. It borders on the best writing I’ve ever done. (And remember whose opinion that is…) But I am feeling terrific today and wrote from 5 -11:30 a.m. and had a glorious reunion with myself. And how did I get back on track?

I got up, put the coffee on, kept all the windows shuttered and began reading and editing the last forty pages.  Editing words, making corrections and amazing myself at what I had previously written.

Funny thing is I got to page 240 and anxiously scrolled down awaiting the next page only to discover blank pages. It seems I had stopped there. No, no and no!!!! What happens next?It was good and it was bad.

It was good because I realized that it was exciting enough that I was in turmoil because I didn’t know what happened. Yet, I was in a funk until tomorrow the same time when I work out the dilemma I left them in. Will I kill off a character? I think I have to. Will it hurt? Probably. Will they feel it?   Hey this is fiction.

Thoughts anyone?

Sundance’s Magical Moments

As I walked through the lobby of the Yarrow Hotel at the 30th Sundance Film Festival, a young woman wearing shiny red boots, a heavy winter coat and a red star enhanced with gold in her dark hair stopped me in my tracks.

“Are you Wonder Woman?” I asked. Then Sara Fischel flashed me the full package.

Sara, a videographer and actor, turned her camera on me and asked why I was interested in Wonder Woman. WW was the only female — other than Lois Lane — who ever looked like she was having an adventure. A strong female hero for young women. And still the film industry does not do her justice. I could have talked all night.

Periodically through the festival I saw Sara dancing in the street and wandering around videotaping and being photographed. A delightful personality who’s focused on her career.

Sara Fischel
Sara Fischel stopped for photo with Darla Bartos at Sundance Film Festival 2014.

Other surprising moments bordered from wacky to serendipitous and flat astounding.

Read on.

Meaghan Rath, a Canadian film and television actor, who portrays Sally Malik on the series Being Human, walked by my son Philip and I in a narrow hallway while we were in line waiting to see her in a Slamdance movie Three Night Stand. My son is a big fan and acted quickly.  “Meaghan, could I have a picture with you?”

She whirled around flashing a celebrity smile. I grabbed his iPhone and snapped it.  “We can go home now!” he laughed.

Meeting Meaghan Rath! Meaghan and Phil Bartos
Meeting Meaghan Rath!
Meaghan and Phil Bartos

 

Whimsical moments occurred that were astounding. And here’s another one.

Phil and I were lucky enough to have passes, which meant priority seating. For our first movie,  we sat in the middle surrounded by rows of empty seats. A young woman walked over and asked if she could sit down in the seat next to me.

“What do you do?” I asked.

“I”m an actor.” The conversation sped up.  When Loren Fenton explained that she  worked mostly in the New York area, Philip leaned in and asked if she knew Nisi Sturgis, a lifelong friend of his sister, and my daughter, Benjie Ruth Bartos. Loren shot her head back and looked at us as if we were pranking her. Her eyes grew wide.

“Yes, I’ve worked with Nisi on several projects!”

I whipped out my phone, asked a stranger to shoot us, which I then texted to Nisi, who minutes later sent back a text of delightful surprise that we’d met! It was uncanny that Loren just happened to select the empty seat next to me with an ocean of empty seats available.  Coincidence?

Actor Loren Fenton, Darla Bartos and Phil Bartps, my son, at Sundance 2014.
Actor Loren Fenton, Darla Bartos and Phil Bartos, my son, at Sundance 2014.

In another theater,  Philip and I  watched as a mass of attendees searched for seats. A woman asked if the seat next to me was taken. I said no and when she was settled, I asked, “And what do you do?”

“I’m a filmmaker.” And when Frances Bodomo, originally from Ghana, said she had directed Afronauts, Philip nearly leapt out of his chair across me. “That’s all my Mom has talked about for days.  Really, you can’t imagine how much she is dying to see it.” And it was true.

Having lived in Africa, I was intrigued when I first heard of Afronauts because the story was so provocative.  http://powderroomfilms.com/film/afronauts/  Bodomo, also a writer, works for a film company. It was a grand moment when the image from her short film eased across the big Sundance Screen.

get-attachment-1

Of course, I could say a good time was had by all. But that would not convey the experience of having being among so many creative people.

At the end of each movie, the director, producer and sometimes the stars, appeared on stage to answer questions. One young man — I don’t remember which film — made the most memorable comment.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

A courageous comment and a moment of inspiration for us all.

NOTORIOUS INFLUENZA

Where do I begin?

After a robust and healthy Christmas with family, Influenza A paid me a visit.

A full-blown achiever, I was glad it was Influenza A, rather than Influenza B. (Not endowed with medial expertise, I admit freely I knew nothing distinguishing the two flues.)

But I can tell you about Tamiflu, the medication.

After five days of taking it,  I read The New York Times headline:

“Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts

Militants.” (Jan. 5, 2014)

I stared at the headline and the image before me was a sparkling prototype – something new to help my unforgiving carpet.  Now think about that for a moment. Power Vac. Five minutes later I reread it.  Oh, that’s not a new vacuum cleaner. Thoroughly disappointing.

Coming out of the flu stupor after ten days on the couch, I reflected on my forced house arrest.

The first two days I could not endure noise or light. Bummer. Nix television, which can be a lifesaver when you’re not even up to thinking.

I wrestled with life while wallowing in pain. I was determined not to give this to another living soul. My grown children delivered meds or soup to my door, which I only opened after they were safely in their vehicles.

Convinced that drugs alter our brains, I can now testify that Tamiflu can make you half crazy. On a few evenings I thought I saw the Grim Reaper. But, he vanished when my lids closed. And luckily, I was still there the next morning.

I snuggled into my pillow and relaxed on the couch again and drifted off, realizing later I might want to write about it – if I curvived. So I jotted down a word here, a sentence there so I wouldn’t forget.

All I can say is that these pills, which looked incredibly harmless, were mind blowing.

But I made it.  I’m all better. How about you?