Chasing Mylar Balloons

Barbara Custer loves Mylar balloonsand horror fiction.

I’ve spent the past week chasing Mylar balloons, or more to the point, the balloons have been chasing me. The balloon brigade started Friday when I headed to the dollar store to get some balloons for the senior center where I volunteer. Plenty called to me—a heart and three stars. It brought a lot of smiles from the members there.

Sunday brought my weekly visit to the CVS. I needed some items there and had Extra Bucks, and the balloons there swarmed me. Mylar pumpkins, spider’s web, Mylar leaves, and more. I had in mind to get some Halloween candy, but by gosh, I plumb forgot. Nothing like a glittery pumpkin balloon to usher in the Halloween spirit. I left the store with the other items I needed, plus a leaf and a pumpkin.

On Thursday, it was time to pick up my mail. I went off to the post office, and at the doorway, a huge arch filled with pink balloons greeted me. October is, after all, Breast Awareness Month, and the folks at the post office were commemorating the cause.

On Saturday, I had a mail call again, so I got another gander at the pink balloon arch at the post office. Then, it was off to the Giant for some staples, and what do you know? More balloons. This one I bought had a “welcome, fall!” message on it. I needed this balloon for research to write my blog. It put me over the top for Halloween, and I did buy some chocolate.

On Sunday, it will be time to revisit the CVS to check out the new sales. This is part of stocking up for the winter. And I can bet that the good folks at CVS laid in another stash of Mylar balloons. So I will once again resume chasing Mylar balloons. 🙂

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science fiction tales by Barbara Custer

The I Gotta Syndrome versus Developmental Edit

With my WIP, I’m processing the edits and recommendations made by Kathryn Craft, who did the developmental edit on my sequel to When Blood Reigns. In short, she recommended replotting. I’m looking at ways I can work her suggestions into what I have. The evaluations and recommendations were extensive, but I’m trying to follow through because I’ve got the I Gotta Syndrome.

Barbara Custer's brand

In 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit, I signed up for Kathryn’s Craft’s Your Novel Year writing class. I’d been working on the book before I took her class and started with Alexis being the lead character in the first two books. This WIP comes with a cast of new characters, and Maddie, the balloon lady with a sickly husband, took over the plot. I began Kathryn’s course resigned to having two protagonists. The story wouldn’t work that way. Because Kathryn had gotten well versed in the new characters, especially Maddie, and the writing class came with a discount on the developmental edit, I hired her for the job.

After reading the evaluations and recommendations, the first thing I did was head to the supermarkets and CVS, for when the going gets tough, the tough buy balloons. After a session of balloon-buying and rereading, I began to understand some of the problems. My main character came across too needy and weak. I thought if she kicked serious zombie ass, people would think she was strong. Wrongies. It’s her handling of day-to-day conflict that defines her as a strong character—or not.

I’d gotten attached to my characters and didn’t want any of them to die. So my current version has all the characters surviving. The trouble is, the mayhem the zombies create never hit home to the reader, says Kathryn, because it reads like statistics. Statistics mean nothing until one of your family dies. So a major character will have to die.

To me, repetition connotes having everyone smile or sigh through their lines or repeatedly using the same adjective. It never crossed my mind until I read the evaluation that whole scenes can be repeated—yes, this happened. Also, character A tells character B something, then B repeats the same information to C, and so on.

I got to feeling bad about this. Before I wrote this blog, I had to fortify myself with two balloon purchases first, but Kathryn advised me to think about why I wrote the story in the first place. Mike died from dementia—there is that, but I also have several close friends caring for spouses with dementia—and therein lies my I gotta. Because Maddie’s goal is to find a cure for her husband, and I’d love for scientists to find a treatment for this insidious disease.

I can’t advise anyone how to work through developmental edits or find the motivation to finish their stories, only how it’s working for me. I will finish this, even if it means I’m pushing 90 by the time it sees print. Kathryn Craft is a great editor, and so is Gemini Wordsmiths. You can’t go wrong sending your work for a developmental edit to either one. And look to the I Gotta Syndrome to find the motivation to finish the story.

So how are you making out with your WIPs? Have you sent any for a developmental edit? I’d like to hear about your experiences. 😊

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science fiction tale by Rod Marsden

Pumpkin Season

Pumpkin season is upon us again with Starbucks and other shops selling pumpkin-flavored drinks, pumpkin cupcakes, and in one case, I saw masks with a pumpkin aroma for sale. At the store, I sighted pumpkin-flavored beer for sale. I scored a pumpkin balloon over at CVS and suspect there will be more to come. However, I started the pumpkin season officially with pumpkin perfume and the cookies in the photo. I baked the cookies a couple of weeks ago, and they have the consistency of cake. They are delicious.

So you know, I’m allergic to floral-scented perfumes, but fruit scents are okay. And the pumpkin aroma works well. I have in mind to spray some on my mask when next I go out. And yes, I’ve bought the pumpkin Cheerios. However, I’m avoiding pumpkin sauce for pasta. Pasta goes best with tomato sauce, or as we Italians call it, gravy. My to-do list includes a visit to Starbucks for their pumpkin lattes and other stores that sell pumpkin ice cream and shakes.

At every store, it seems, pumpkin-flavored goods cost more than traditional flavors, especially right about now. Fall brings a cooling down period and shorter days. Pumpkin brings back memories of a Halloween and Thanksgiving past, with homemade pies and lots of candy. Maybe I like the taste of cinnamon and pumpkin. The recipe for the cookies called for cinnamon, but I used pumpkin pie spice instead. So I plan on taking advantage of the goodies offered during this pumpkin season.

Your thoughts?

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Another Fire writen by Lyn McConchie

Do Movies Generate Ideas?

For me, the answer is yes. If you want ideas for another story, watch some movies, said my Mylar balloons. Movies used to get your muse talking. While you’re at it, how about working on some blogs.

The dialogue with my balloons began because I’m in the gray area of waiting for an edit. I finally sent my WIP to Kathryn Craft for a developmental edit. I haven’t blogged in several months because I was busy working on my novel. When I took her course, Your Novel Year, in 2020, I got going full steam with my WIP.

I assure you from experience that once you’ve taken this course, you’ll look at writing with new eyes. That said, I had a tough time with my ending. Endings never came easy for me, and this WIP was no different. I knew what I wanted my character’s last lines to be, but making the transition there didn’t go easy. I have no idea how this will pan out.

According to workshop leaders, once you submit your work, you should start working on your next story. They’re right. I realized then I had no ideas. Because of events between 2018 to 2020, I never expected to get an opportunity to write another tale. That was when my balloons pointed out that I hadn’t gone to or watched a movie in several months.

So I’ve committed to a film each week, even if it’s on Amazon Prime. After watching Stephen King’s A Good Marriage, I had a dream which provided several plot bunnies for a potential story. I found myself writing a scene. I’m not sure if I’m heading for a short story or book, but I think I’d like to interview the characters and find out.

There’s much to be said for watching movies at home with my Mylar balloons. They make an excellent shied to blot our gory scenes like those I saw in Odd Thomas last night. Where do you find your ideas? I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences.  

author of Night to Dawn magazine

Romancing the Balloons

Barbara Custer's brand

Since April, when I wrote my first post on the pandemic, gyms and hair salons have reopened, albeit with restrictions. Some of my friends are jumping into activities full force. Others remain in quarantine. Per the discussions with my Mylar balloons, the activities are okay if I can take the risk from a level 10 to a level two. The balloon brigade at the supermarkets and pharmacies hasn’t stopped; my balloons deemed that activity a level two.

I’ve gone back to my hairstylist, but not the gym. I do ZOOM workouts while Daisy, my Mylar butterfly, becomes my trainer, coaching me on which weights to use. If she thinks I’m slacking off, she lets me know about it. I contemplated getting a traditional trainer, but I have what I need at home.

The pandemic has colored the way I write. My WIP involves a highly contagious virus that had a way larger death toll than corona. This means that, as in real life, my characters have to struggle to find a store that sells toilet paper, disinfectant, and other supplies they need. As in real life, my protagonist has Mylar balloons to guide her on her daily activities.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve noticed that driving’s gone downhill. I’ve seen people blow through red lights and make U-turns on four-lane thoroughfares, despite heavy traffic. Friends tell me that some folks think nothing of driving 100 miles per hour on the turnpike. About a month ago, a van came up to my right to make a U-turn and almost plowed into me. I had to get off the road. So I’ve used the back roads and avoid rush hour traffic as much as possible. The Mylar balloon principle applies: take the risk from a level 10 to a level two.

I never know when I’ll find a unique Mylar balloon. Maybe I’ll go to CVS to pick up a prescription, and a Valentine’s day balloon with lace will beckon from the card aisle. Perhaps I’ll go to the supermarket for bread and milk. If supplies hold up, I’ll get them, but a balloon, soft as a kitten paw, will make its way into my shopping cart. The balloons go into an isolation area for 72 hours at home, then joins the others in my living room.

How are you getting through the pandemic? I’d love to hear your experiences.

A $10 Amazon gift card will be sent to a random commenter after the bloghop.

Killing your Darlings

This year, I’ve been taking Your Novel Year with Kathryn Craft, and among other things, I am learning what it means to kill your darlings. No, not my balloons. My Mylar balloons are darlings, and they’re staying right where they are. I’m referring to the darling scenes I have in my WIP. 

The trouble was, my WIP had two protagonists. I started the book with one, Alexis. Maddie was a bit character who sought help from the underground Kryszka people with treatment for her husband’s sickness. However, Maddie wound up stealing the show and became a protagonist. I tried writing with two protagonists, but you can only have one, I found out. Readers will usually sympathize with the character they meet first. I had introduced the villain first, and after a class or two under my belt, I realized I couldn’t do that. So I started with Maddie kicking zombie ass.

After consultation with Kathryn, I saw that I had to completely restructure my book. Several good scenes had to go, as they had nothing to do with Maddie’s goal. What’s more, I had 114,000 words in the book, and genre books shouldn’t be longer than 100K words. So a love scene between Alexis and her partner went. So did a scene where Maddie visits her nephew in prison. It was a touching scene, but it didn’t further the story or relate to Maddie’s goal. 

However, new scenes have cropped up that I like better than the discarded scenes. For starters, Maddie develops a spine and tells off her heartless boss. Now, I may have to change that scene again, but we’ll see. And the Mylar balloons in the story get to stay. There is that. I strongly recommend Kathryn’s course. She’s been running it once a year.

How many times have you had to kill your darlings? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

A $10 Amazon gift card will be sent to a random commenter after the bloghop.

horror fiction by Allan Heller
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