Printer Conundrums

I need a balloon. A giant, pink Mylar butterfly balloon. You see, I bought a new printer two weeks ago. The other one quit functioning; printers have a way of doing that. This one almost went back to the shop three times. The first time, the printer wouldn’t print because of an “offline” message. Ditto for the second time. Both times necessitated spending time troubleshooting with the HP print and scan doctor.

This last time, I got an “error” message. That’s all it said. Error. Returning to the store wasn’t an option because we’re getting back-to-back snowstorms this week. Aside from the hazardous driving conditions, there is a long walk from house to car on icy sidewalks, thanks to the refreezing of snow.

Mr. Printer deemed himself worthy of printing off my iPhone but wouldn’t budge with my computer. I turned to my Mylar balloons for guidance, but they bobbed and said, “I don’t know.”  I ran it through the doctor again, and it is okay now. The quality of the print works nicely. I wish it wasn’t so temperamental. Why can’t it be gentle, like the Mylar balloons I find easy to work with.

I once went through a phase where I went through three printers in as many years. The technology on them has yet to get better. The print quality has improved, and they can do more functions thanks to the HP Smart app, but they remain as temperamental as ever.

As for my Mylar balloon wish, a large purple butterfly found me at the Giant this past weekend before the storms started. It rode saddle on my forehead until I checked it out with groceries, knowing the battle with the printer would resume. What are your thoughts on the temperament of printers? Have you found one that works for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here There Be Ghosts

Halloween’s coming, and I’d like to share something that makes my skin crawl. Aside from skeletons, ghosts on the walls give me the creeps. Dat’s wight, wabbits, here there be ghosts. At least, that’s my thought when I get a gander at the moonlit shadows waltzing on the walls. Take a good looksee at the photo above and tell me this doesn’t remind you of ghosts. Some specters are beneficent and will watch over you or give you good advice. They might communicate through a medium. Mylar balloons are excellent mediums for spirits to speak, and I often get advice about my diet. Because of early-stage macular degeneration, I gotta limit my sugar intake, and I’ve taken a severe reaming from the balloons or the spirits in them when I strayed from the diet. The main character in my WIP uses balloons to communicate with her dead mother and other late folks who guide her.

However, not all ghosts are kind, and I suspect those on the walls are brutish. I’ve been petrified of those white shadows since I was a kid. Why, I couldn’t tell you. The moonlight never bothered me when I used to drive at night. Maybe because a moving car gave me security. The moonlight in the picture is coming through a window. The window serves as an open gate for these ghosts. Worse are the thin slits of wall shadow seen when curtains breeze apart and when a moving car’s headlights send these figures scurrying along the wall.

I have privacy film and thick curtains in my bedroom to block the moonlight. I used to cover my window with a heavy sheet. On a high note, those reflections gave me plenty of grist for horrific scenes in my stories.

People tell me there are no ghosts on the wall. Enjoy the moonlight; it’s good for you, they say. Intellectually, I know this to be true; however, my heart thuds at seeing those whitish shapes on the wall.

So now, what gives y’all the creeps? I’d love to hear your stories. 🙂

Here There Be Ghosts

Ode to a Friend

The Great Pumpkin sighted me at the Giant when last I shopped there. It was a beautiful orange pumpkin balloon. When I saw the price, I gasped—too much money. So I tried talking myself into a small balloon, and there were some nice ones. But the pumpkin wouldn’t let me go. The pumpkin  stuck to me like glue, so I capitulated, paid for him, and brought him home cheerfully.

It’s been too long since I blogged, so I had to begin with a balloon story. Life got in the way—some good, as in my grandnephew’s wedding and new book releases. Other things were not as good—a partial rotator cuff tear and a good friend gone to hospice. Beatriz Moisset died on October 18 after a long illness. Multiple Myeloma. When treatment doesn’t go right, it behaves like Parkinson’s disease, wreaking scorched earth on the body. When Anita Stewart announced the forthcoming October blog hop, I realized I was remiss in following up on emails and communication. And all the while, while other members of our writing group and I headed to the nursing home where Beatriz went, the Great Pumpkin made his visit to cheer me.

It was a pleasure to talk with Beatriz. She gave great advice about people, finances, and family. Sometimes, she helped me understand why people do and say things. And she had a sense of humor.

Beatriz also ran the Beehive Writers’ group, offering helpful critiques. She was the thread that held the group together for several years. I’m one of the members, and the others have been very supportive of my writing. At first, the meetings took place at the Giant. When the cancer caused her to tire easily, she held the meetings at her house, serving refreshments. Others would bring treats to share. Then the pandemic hit, so she continued the meetings via zoom. All the while, she continued getting weaker but soldiered on holding meetings. I came to her house, masked and sanitized since cancer treatments wiped out the immune system. On days she felt exhausted, she started the meeting, and the conversation continued.

I turned her living room into a balloon farm. She loved her turkey in the backyard, and when it was gone, I gave her a turkey balloon. The plants I brought were surefire hits. She loved her flowers and pollinators. Last Easter, she said she wished she could go to Argentina and have one of their meat quiches. I make Italian sausage quiche every Easter, so I offered to share some of it, which I did. She later thanked me, laughing, that while she enjoyed the sausage pie, it was not what she had at home. 

She loved feeding people and often had several candy boxes on the table. Going to her house was like visiting a favorite aunt. I wish I could have gone to the Beehive meetings when they took place at the Giant.

Beatriz was very encouraging with my efforts at my work-in-progress. I have been struggling with it, especially after an extensive edit. One of the last things she told me was, “Please continue with your writing. I wish you luck.” I promised her that day that I would complete the book. Meantime, the pumpkin balloon sticks by my side, reminding me of when it’s time to work on my projects.

Bucks County Writers Group in Hatboro. Top row, left to right: Barbara of the Balloons, Allan, and Ethel. Bottom row: Beatriz, Dave, and Linda. Picture taken about ten years ago.

Editing Software Wars

author of Night to Dawn magazine

A lot of editing software has come out to help us writers improve our writing. The two top-rated ones are Grammarly and ProWritingAid. Dat’s wight, wabbits; I’m talking about editing software, not balloons, though a few Mylar balloons have followed me home from the store.

ProWritingAid has tempted me with a great deal on their premium membership, and so I got one. You must wonder why when I’ve been extolling the virtues of Grammarly. In several blogs, I’ve read that it’s best to use a combination of Grammarly and ProWritingAid. ProWritingAid looks for overused words, cliches, echoes, repeated phrases, and alliteration. It also evaluates the readability of your writing, such as paragraph lengths and consistency. It also has seminars that explain how to use these features here.

Grammarly has been convenient because I have its app in my Word file. I click on the green “Open Grammarly” button, and the software does its work. ProWritingAid has an app, but I haven’t yet figured out how to download it. After writing the introduction to NTD 41, I uploaded it to ProWritingAid and was amazed at how it caught errors. However, there’s a learning curve with ProWritingAid. I don’t know what they mean by echo, for example. Several of the paragraphs in my intro were labeled “hard to read,” and I’m not sure I understand why. Grammarly doesn’t mark a section hard to read, but if you’ve got a clunky sentence, they’ll point it out.

I will continue to use Grammarly for my nonfiction material. I used it well in my Night to Dawn stories, including the ones in Margaret Carter’s Vampire Doctor. But I want to give ProWritingAid a go, especially with my fiction work. It would behoove me to attend some of these seminars and not daydream about my balloons. However, my balloons can also listen and learn something.

Do you use editing software in your writing? What kind? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

vampire fiction by Margaret L. Carter

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. 🙂

A random commenter will receive a $10 Amazon gift card.

October Frighs Giveaway:

Book Fair:

Panel Link:

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. 😊

A random commenter will receive a $10 Amazon gift card.

October Frighs Giveaway:

Panel Link:

science fiction tale by Rod Marsden
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