Behind the Scenes: Writing “Halloween Spirit”

image from openclipart.org by bf5man

This post speaks to my personal writing process for “Halloween Spirit” and as such is contains spoilers for that work.  For a deeper understanding of the elements included or explained in this post please read my flash fiction (it’s short and free ^_^).

Zach Standfield challenged me to write a piece of flash fiction in August. One of the ideas I had was to create an elaborate detailed summoning rite that brought about the end of the world. The short work would focus on my strengths: lyric description and magic set in a modern world. It would avoid my weakness for action scenes and it side steps issues I have about over explaining or creating a finite conclusion.

I wrote two flash works for Zach (neither of which he’s seen) and they both took a grim turn resulting in the brutal murder of the female main character from outside forces she surrenders to. Waaaaay too close a metaphor for the suicidal tendencies slipping into my own head because I’m not handling stress well at work. For the record, I’m not contemplating a plan to end my life, it would be stupid to take a permanent solution for a fleeting problem. But the stress from ongoing conflicts at work is leading me to think “it would be much easier if I wasn’t around” and that was coming through too literally in my writing.

I shelved the third flash idea since I didn’t want it to morph into a 30 something female woman sacrificing herself on the boardroom floor, using the energy of her death to open a hell dimension that forces the people who mistreated her their to suffer for eternity.

Then, I had an idea for our blog. Each of us should write a Halloween themed flash for our blog. Awesome idea, except I suck at short stories and had no idea what I would write.

I thought maybe I’d lean into my fae angle and do a “Wild Hunt” style thing, but “The Most Dangerous Game” already exists. Plus, the idea took over 1,000 words to explore. If I wanted to do something new/interesting, it would take more than 1,000 words.

Next I thought “what’s my thing in the writers’ group?” My literary device is some kind of magic. This reminded me of the summoning story I‘d planned for Zach’s challenge. The problem: no Halloween tie in. So I changed the summons and instead of focusing on a cinematic summoning ritual, I focused on the holiday and hidden darkness that lingers in the fall. I played on the “Wicca” God and Goddess creation myth where the Goddess Births the God, they become lovers, and he dies on Samhain, to be birthed out again in the following Yule. I tossed in two cult classic “Wicker Man” (1973) references to hearken the reader back to a certain time and tone.

For birds gathering, I chose crows over ravens primarily to reference the figure “The Crow” (1994) and foreshadow the death elements. Also, crow mythology pegs the creatures as watchful, resourceful and often tricksters… all elements I wanted to elicit in my story. I thought about using Ravens in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, but those birds are larger, live in only specific regions, and mythologically relate back to winter.

I wrote the first 600 words in one afternoon and would have finished, but I had to stop and go to work. I reread/edited what I had so far and finished the first draft four days later. Ran everything through ProWritingAid and posted to Google Docs for the Writers’ Group to Critique. I read it out loud one last time and added it to our queue for publication.

While the creation process was painless, I’m torn on whether I like the final product. There are great single lines and ideas, but the word limit combined with the time constraint kept me from digging in to find a perfect moment. I usually only consider works done after months of review and reflection, so I figure in six months time, I’ll know what would make this story engaging.

 

Interested in reading more from Jessica Donegan?  Check out the NEWG bliz round robin exercise here with Jessica’s ending available here

Looking for more spooky stories, please consider Christopher M. Palmer’s work “The Ghost Strikes at Midnight

The Rules of the Game

image from open clipart.org by nicubunu

 

I am the self-appointed editor of our group round robins.  Anyone who’s read our work knows I am LEAST qualified of the four of us.  ProWritingAid is the great equalizer, or at least I have to tell myself it is.

As the editor I have self-imposed rules.

 

1. Don’t change the core of other’s sections.  Whatever they wrote is what they intended and I have to work with that, not hack and slash around to change inherent meaning.  Too much change makes it “my story” instead of “our story” which runs contrary to the round robin’s goals.

 

 2. Seamless flow from one writer to the other is the goal, but I can’t change all the phrasing to be “Jessica” (or anyone else’s) style to achieve this.  It’s not right to erase someone else’s voice on a joint work to showcase another’s.

 

This worked well in our first round robin.  I used ProWritingAid first to correct grammar, style, to catch and rework repetitive phrasing, and to delete adverbs.  The major change I made was plot continuity driven.  One writer misread another’s part of the story.  Where Anges finds a dead body that writer interpreted it as Anges being the dead body.  I had to change content.  I adjusted three lines.

 

Fast forward to our second round robin project.  We used Reedsy to find a prompt.  The gist was: “Your grandmother makes pancakes for you every morning.  Your grandmother dies, but there are still pancakes the next morning.

 

This prompt was a different challenge from the last.   The first story blooms from three words/themes.  Using a specific scenario, encouraged more partnership instead of competition to “take over” the story.  This second round robin was smoother and required a lot less finessing to make it seem like one person had written the work.

 

If reworking it was simple why isn’t it posted here?

 

The “problem”: I hate my part of the story.  Not all.  I’m happy with the first three almost four paragraphs, but it goes downhill fast.  My ambitions to churn the most words and be the first to “finish” a round robin in fifteen minutes left me with a rambling sticky mess.  I do not want to publish such a poor expression of my writing.  Everything I think is weakest in my form is on display.

 

What might be worse, my closing section only drives towards a handful of endings.  I broadcasted the only natural conclusion, and that’s driving me to play with the less obvious choices to thumb my nose at myself (because I hate authority so much I’ll rebel against myself when I become the authority and isn’t that an unattractive personality quirk).

 

Help!  Do I publish and unfinished story as it stands?  Do I scrap this work as hopeless?  Do I make my changes because if I cut the last two paragraphs I could write three kinds of separate endings on my own?  Are more drastic changes to my section a benefit I gain as the person completing the editing work?  Do I have to keep everything I wrote in the spirit of the exercise and endure the cringe?  Tell me what’s a “professional” writer/editor to do in this situation with my minor conflict of interest.

Murder, Love, & Romance

North Alabama’s Writer’s Group

Writing Round Robin Exercise

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Murder, Love, & Romance

By Christopher M. Palmer, Jessica Donegan, Zach Stanfield, and Patrick O’Kelley

Beatrice Lochley pulled her robe tightly across her sleeping gown. It was morning at Kimberley Manor and the warm sun was streaming through the bedroom window. She walked to the balcony, overlooking the rolling green grounds. Her grandfather’s Greek temple folly on the hill framed the morning sun like a druidic henge, casting long shadows over the gravel drive. The gardeners were busy in the flower beds, trimming dead blooms and weeds. Soon it would be time for breakfast. She listens to the maids making their way through the halls, but they knew from prior unpleasant surprises not to disturb her. She returned to the room, careful to avoid looking at the canopied bed. There was a little wine left in the carafe on the nightstand and she poured it into a crystal glass and downed it with a grimace.

The washbasin would be cold until they brought it warmed water, but it would have to do. Cold water worked best for bloodstains, or so she’d heard. She removed the robe, not looking down at the bloodstained gown underneath. She dropped it as well and washed. Blood coated her hands and chest and throat, but a few drops had made it onto her face.  When Beatrice finished cleaning the worst areas, she wadded up the bloody towel, gown, and the stained robe and shoved them under the bed.

As she leaned against the bed, Harry’s cold hand fell outside the curtain.  Beatrice shuddered and grasped it, moving the husk from sight again. She had loved him, once, but now she felt numb of all feelings. No love. No guilt. No fear of what would happen to her now although she had no idea how this would play out.

After a moment’s reflection, she retrieved the bloody clothes and dressed in them again, then reached through the curtains to where his bloodied body was hidden and smeared herself with blood. One quick look around the room and she crossed to the door, opened it, screamed at the top of her lungs, and collapsed sobbing.

Maids rushed from both left and right sides of the hall.  A pitcher of fresh warm water shattered, forgotten on the marbled floors.  Beatrice smells heavy herbal tea and greasy bacon.  It mixed with Henry’s dry clotted blood in strange and stomach turning ways.  

The first maid, Anges, knelt beside Beatrice and tentatively reached out her warm arm.  Beatrice leaned into the warmth, shaking and crying.  She was enjoying the body heat even if she didn’t otherwise appreciate the liberties Beatrice took to make contact.  Nothing this morning, or most of the past evening had been warm.  From blood damp bed sheets to her small attempts to wash.  Chill surrounded her and radiated from a once loving heart.  

“Help,” Beatrice pleads, a detached part of her is proud at how many tears she’s produced and how much her voice quavers.  There was a reason Henry had always indulged her whims, and it wasn’t because he’d suspected the end he’d meet if he denied her.

 Anges shushes her and pulls her closer.  She’s spent around fifteen years in service to Beatrice’s family.  She knows what her concerns need to be if she plans to stay employed.  

“What are you all gaping at!” Anges demands.  “You call the authorities, there’s been a catastrophe.  Dalia and Andrew, clean this mess you’ve all made, and Grason, prepare the spare bedroom at once!  Draw a bath for Miss Lochly.  She’ll need to wash and some strong tea,” Anges proclaims.  

Strong sure hands grip Beatrice now.  They help steady her as she rises.  Beatrice wants to tilt her head like a curious kitten.  Who would have dreamed Agnes could be so strong and sure of herself?  A woman of her late sixties, she’s demure and quiet.  Always lingering around the edges of Beatrice’s life.  Taking empty dishes, cleaning dirty rugs, stoking fires.  Anges is useful, but never worth a second thought.  Now, comparing her firm certain grip to the tepid last struggles of Henry, she wonders what attracted her to that man.  That a servant woman commands such presence when Henry barely made his last moments memorable. Henry gave up long before Beatrice struck her killing blow, accepting his death the same way he accepted an unsightly gift.  It was good she’d ended his misery.  Maybe with Henry gone and this unsightly murder behind her, Beatrice would return some sense of control to her life.  She’d no longer have to entreat anyone to fund her hobbies or clothes.  The manor and all its funds would be hers.  An unforeseen gift.

Anges led Beatrice to the far side of the manor.  A rarely aired out section the family only uses for holiday visitors.  Beatrice hiccups and wrinkles her nose at the old dust and imagined mold.   She takes a few shuddering breaths.  Sobbing lost its charm almost as soon as she took it up.  Swollen tired eyes isn’t a look someone of her station should try.   Beatrice’s throat is hot and itchy from the screams.  Her body is tight with the tension caused from the pantomimed trembling.  It’s all so tedious.  

“Please,” Beatrice whispers.  

“Hush now Miss, we’re almost there.  Soon you can rest your bones in a nice warm bath.  And I’ll bring hot tea with lemon and honey, for your throat.  Your mother alway did warn you against such hysterics,” Agnes chides.

Captain Jonah Batson arrived just as Beatrice dropped her wet towel to put her evening clothes on. The thrill and the shock of her murderous action is wearing off and softer tender emotions are taking over.  Beatrice’s hands tremble, and she wonders, what’s next. Agnes knocks at the door of the guest bedroom, and Beatrice jumps.  Her nerves can’t take all this uncertainty.

“Miss Beatrice, Capt. Batson is here. He would like to have a word with you.”

“Just a minute.”

Beatrice finished dressing, relaxed her breathing, and reached the door just as another knock came. The door opened.

“Excuse me, miss. Sorry for the intrusion but we must be getting on with this case.”

“No, no. I understand. I’m sorry. I am still a tad bit shaken as you might imagine. Henry and I have been together for a good number of years and this is a complete shock to me.”

“Oh, believe me Miss Lochley, I understand. But if we may, I’d like to ask you a few questions before I visit the scene.”

“You haven’t been to the room yet?”

“No ma’am. Based on my previous experiences, I like to get a first hand account of the situation from the witnesses if there are any. So what can you tell me about the events of last night and this morning?”

Beatrice hesitated. She had thought she would have more time.  Her story was foolproof but her performance might be the deal breaker.

“Alright. Last night was like any normal night. Nothing extraordinary happened. However, around midnight I…”

A scream pierces the air, interrupting Beatrice’s stilted performance.  Batson tears out of the room leaving Beatrice behind. Another scream. Beatrice rises and begins to follow Batson.  What now?  Had one of the servants stumbled in on Henry’s body?  No, they would know to avoid that room.  Beatrice’s nerves feel raw and tender.  She’s doesn’t have the endurance for so much intrigue.

Batson arrives to the master bedroom where the body still lies. At the window, Agnes stares down to the courtyard below, pointing down and sobbing. Batson rushes to meet her gaze.

“Now Ma’am, there’s no reason to be so close to the open window, please come inside,” he coaxes, approaching her as a well meaning man may head towards a wounded deer.  Beatrice stands transfixed in the doorway.  Why did Anges venture to this room ahead of the Constable’s investigation?

Anges shakes her head, loosing a sob.  She looks past Batson to Beatrice, and as their eyes meet, Beatrice is certain she knows exactly how Henry’s bloody corpse came to lounge in the master bed.  But she doesn’t have any time to react because Anges turns and dives toward the walkway below.

Agnes prostate body caressed the stone. Blood dribbled down the crease of her mouth and into the lawn. Captain Batson peered up to the second floor and back at Ms. Agnes.

“Constable.”

“Yes, Captain?”

“Gather up the rest of members of the estate until further notice.”

“Yes, sir.”

Moments later, Captain Batson circles the body. He rolls her upward to face the sky and delicately shuts her eyes. A refraction of light showed from her hands. She clutched a locket, its chain winds around her wrist. Batson unclasped the piece. Inside were two adolescent photos of Henry. He was dressed down in light slacks and shirt. He affected no smile and stared ahead. Batson clasped it shut and returned to Beatrice.

She wept in the parlor. A few others stood by around tending to her sobs, trying to placate the tender spasms of air she sucked in. Batson dismissed the others and faced her.

“How long was Ms. Agnes attendant to Henry?”

Beatrice dabbed at the tears.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Want more?

Christopher M. Palmer’s Ending

Jessica Donegan’s Ending

Patrick O’Kelley’s Ending.

 

Curious About the Process?

All About the Writers’ Group Round Robin

Love, Murder, & Romance~ Jessica Donegan’s Ending

Part 1

 

“Ms. Anges tends to those new to the manor.  She administered me as a child, but her allegiance transferred to Henry when he came to live here some years ago,” Beatrice swipes at her tears.  Batson offers her a handkerchief.  She nods her thanks and  cleans her face.  Murder and Suicide, such a messy business.  Beatrice must strive to avoid it.  

Batson considers Beatrice.  The whole affair is highly unusual.  There hasn’t been a murder in one of the large manor houses in many generations.  Such atrocities are left to the lower end streets.  Everything about this place seems a little off, but some things are clear.  The murder was an impetuous  act of emotion.  Anger, passion, lust, Batson has seen them all.  It would be convenient if he could wrap both deaths up and return to his usual more comfortable beat.  But something about that solution seemed too simple.  

“Did Sir Lochley have any enemies?” Batson asks, working on a hunch.

“Henry was always a kind, bright man.  He carried a compliment on his lips for everyone he met.  And he’s retired from any business dealings years ago,” Beatrice adds.  

Batson nods but his face drops.

“Thank you Miss Lochley, I believe I can proceed from here on my own,” Batson says.  

“So soon?  Of course Captain, please let me know if there’s anything I offer you to help,” Beatrice murmurs, eyes downcast.  Her lip twitches but she wills the errant smile to stay clean off her face.  

Batson takes her hand, it’s forward, but he’s compelled to reassure her.  

“We will find who did this to Sir Lochley and we will bring them to justice,” he swears.  

Beatrice nods and allows a single tear to roll down her cheek.  

“I have complete confidence in your ability Captain.”

Batson shifts under her gaze.  He wishes he had the same belief.  At least the serving woman’s suicide gives him a culprit to pin it on, if all else fails.  He should interview the rest of the staff, ensure Miss Beatrice’s safety first.  That she’s still alive and unharmed suggests the killer had no ill intent towards her, a jilted lover perhaps?  But no, people of this station don’t commit crimes of this magnitude over base emotions like jealousy and they have no need of money.  It will be a baffling case.  

“You should eat and get rest Miss Lochley, recuperate your strength,” Batson encourages.  

“Thank you Captain, but I fear I can’t rest right now.  Perhaps a walk in the garden to calm my nerves if you think it’s safe?”

“Madam, we’d have left immediately if there was any indication of danger.”  

Beatrice dips into a small curtsey.  She leaves the gore behind and walks into the rising dawn light.  Her mind wanders over the past day, replaying her kill and all the events since.

Before long, Beatrice is at the decorative Greek temple.  She stares at the lamps on either side.  Grandfather, spared no expense when he commissioned it.  Footfalls echo across the marble entryway.  She walks to the inner sanctum and kneels before a statue of Hera.  

An odd choice, Beatrice thought.  Of all the gods, Grandfather could choose, Hera seems underwhelming.  A Goddess often proclaimed powerful but rarely seen in action.  And what good did her strength ever do her?  She, like all the rest, submits to Zeus’ might.  

Warm mass presses against Beatrice’s hands, arms, shoulders, and head.  If forced to describe, Beatrice would claim it was like a person wrapping themselves around her and making her support their weight.  But Beatrice is alone and instead of the force pressing externally, this pressure comes from within rising out of her.  The strangeness passes into a kind of terror, it’s like her soul is leaving her body.  She wants to run but an external force is heavy on her brain, willing her remaining kneeling.  Beatrice’s body trembles with exertion.  

“Just wait, it will be over in a moment little one,” a feminine voice echoes.  

Beatrice believes it’s meant to be comforting, but the whole process is too unsettling such a simple salve.  What’s worse, why are these sensations almost familiar?  Like a mirror reverse of something that happened weeks ago.  Beatrice struggles to pull the thought closer, but it’s not forthcoming.

“There, that’s better isn’t it,” the voice soothes.  

She’s right.  The warm weight retreats and Beatrice is on her own.  She collapses before Hera’s statue, a trembling mass.  But for all her bodily troubles, Beatrice’s mind is clear for the first time in months.  

“I must thank you for the ride.  It’s always cathartic to help women murder their tyrants that dare to name themselves Husband.”

Flashes are coming back to Beatrice. She’d planned to remove this temple, but they told her the cost out of her budget.  She settled on removing Hera’s statue.  When questioned, Beatrice explained she didn’t want to look at a statue that reminds her of her own bondage.  Beatrice didn’t deign to explain how a woman might view an arranged marriage.  How Herny wanted her, but she never had the chance to feel the same desire.  Those details were for Beatrice’s heart alone.  A bout of dizziness befell her, and then the next weeks are a fog.  

Henry!  He’s gone, murdered with her hands, though not her will.  Never her will.  Beatrice didn’t get to choose to marry him, it was a sick parallel, she didn’t get to choose to murder him either.

“You,” Beatrice stammered.

“I did you a favor, child.  He limited you.  Gave you an allowance that kept you leashed to him like a dog when this estate comes from your family.  With my strength, my power, I freed you.  Your indecision, your resentment, your compromised soul none of it was a match for me.”

Beatrice flushes.  There is part of her that’s enticed by Hera’s claims.  Uncertain if the cost if worth the gain, Beatrice hesitates.  

“You have time and space to learn what a great gift I gave you.”

The nod is slow and tear filled.  Her large bed empty and cold fills Beatrice with loneliness, there is no way to go but forward.

“Thank you,” she whispers, bowing low.  

“I do not require thanks, I require work.  Bring me a pair of peacocks I may observe in the gardens, and fresh laurel every full moon.  Do this and I will bless your home and make you powerful within it.”  

Beatrice nods, she need not hear about what could happen if she refuses.  Hera’s possession offers a myriad of tragedies to her quick mind.  She picks herself up off the ground and heads to the exit.  

“And Beatrice,” the voice calls, “never again question my strength or plan to remove me from this place.  I will make your current loss look like a child’s punishment if you cross me again.”

Beatrice’s blood stalls even as her heart pounds.  She flees the temple, and runs mindless through her gardens, falling to one of the many benches.  As she sits in the warm sun, she cries over her foolish words and careless thoughts.  The world is full of strange and horrible consequences.

End

Like Jessica’s ending the best? Comment below to let her know! 

Want more?  See Patrick O’Kelley’s Ending or Christopher M. Palmer’s Ending

All About Writers’ Group Round Robin

image from openclipart.org by oksmith

 

What is it? 

The Blitz Round Robin is a work we create in our meeting.  We pick a random theme, choose a member to start us off, and they have to write for fifteen minutes.  After time is up, the next member gets a chance to read the work and then they have fifteen minutes to write.  We do this until all of us have a chance to write.

Why?  

There’s a lot of reasons to do this exercise.  For our group the primary reason is to encourage speed of production.  Generally, we are a group that spends too much time thinking or editing and not enough time pounding on computer keys.  But there are other reasons to participate

  1. It might jumpstart some creative juices
  2. The process offers unique challenges each of us struggles with in our personal writing and sometimes we try to trip the following writer up
  3. It provides writers a chance to collaborate and work together
  4. The Round Robin gives us a chance to complete something small while we toil with larger works
  5. The activity forces forward movement where all of us sometimes linger our own projects to languish in interia
  6. Since we’ve decided to publish the final products to our blog, these activities give us a chance for publication and perhaps create an audience for our personal style.

Hear From the Group:

The round robin is a great opportunity for me to develop speed in my writing.  The group challenges everyone to write the other in a corner, to call back to an early passage or develop and introduce new character on the fly.  I believe we all hone spontaneity and versatility every time we slam on the keys.”- Zach Stanfield.

For me, the round robin is all about collaborative writing and melding four distinct styles into a coherent story.  I enjoy seeing all my fellows’ contributions and moving the story forward with my personal flare.  The best part comes after the exercise, when we edit.  It’s inspiring to see a work created to try and make each of us fumble transform into a story in which I can’t tell where one writer’s words ended and another’s began.” -Jessica Donegan

The round robin provides me with an opportunity to practice on thinking on my feet when it comes to having an idea and throwing it on the page. A lot of times I have an awesome idea that I start but falter two paragraphs in. The round robin also creates a accountability to get something down. Plus, I love coming in where someone left off and going crazy with the story. Painting someone in a corner can be fun as well.” – Patrick O’Kelley

Where to Go From Here: 

We will publish our first group round robin.  Since the work was not completed during the exercise, we each decided to add our own alternate ending.  I, personally, am beyond thrilled to post the work and hope all our readers are able to enjoy some quick, fun stories!

Want to Read our First Round Robin?  Check our Murder Love and Romance for our beginning with Christopher M. Palmer’s ending, Patrick Jospeph O’Kelly’s ending, and Jessica Donegan’s ending all available.

New Year’s Resolutions and Writing

Did you set any New Year’s Resolutions?  If you haven’t there’s no time like the present to commit yourself.

 

I love new things.  They’re shiny, unassuming, and a perfect for a fresh start.  You can always “start again” on your journey to improve.  No need to wait till January.  March, November, or any other time of year works too as long as you’re ready to put in the work.  Still, there’s something about the crisp cold dry air paired with scales and exercise equipment hanging out in every retailer that just seems to beg of you to start a project now.

 

If you’re like me and over commit, you’re starting with a spreadsheet of some 30 odd goals to track with the silent prayer all those little measurements will lead to a larger goal down the road.  I was planning for March to see major changes when I wrote my resolutions, but two weeks in and I’m already pushing back to April.

 

Three paragraphs in and finally I’m ready to talk about my writing commitments for 2018.

 

  • Writing Daily.  I’m using 365 Writing Prompts to start each day.  I’d like to write at least 500 words per prompt.  Of this year I’ve missed 3 days so far, but I haven’t given up on writing most my days
  • Taking these prompts and creating at least one edited complete story with them a month.  This is a lot harder for me but is the logical conclusion with the goal being toward churning one full edited story every two weeks.  A June goal at earliest at this rate
  • Reading 36 books this year.  Need to look at the larger writing and publishing world around me.  Also I require full books to research elements of stories I want to write.
  • More consistently reading and providing candid, honest, helpful feedback to my writer’s group.  I want to take part more in collective writing efforts.
  • Starting up our North Alabama Writers  Group Blog.  Pushed the group to set this up over the summer and I’ve let it lay fallow.  No time like the present to force posts.
  • Not so secret yearly goal I’ve no way to measure my progress to: I want to be published and more widely read.  Words can’t contain my burning, heart pounding, chest expanding, all encompassing desire to have a readership—to share my words and know others look at them.  Don’t even care if people like them so long as they read them.

As an impatient person, progress is not going as quickly as I’d like.  Who’d have thought changing 30 points of your lifestyle wouldn’t lead to a seamless transition of success?  But, I am seeing marked progress improvement and I am moving closer to having a life more inline with what I wanted starting January 1st.

 

Our writers’ group also has goals for 2018.  As a group we’ve pledged to:

  • Have a more structured group meeting
  • Have a writing exercise every other week
  • Have monthly write-ins besides our standard weekly meeting
  • Increase our group size
  • Do something with the Group Blog (which I’m taking on as a personal crusade but I expect others to join as they are ready)

What about you, mysterious anonymous reader? We’re 1/24th of the way through the year, and no time like now to come clean regarding your declarations.  Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?  Did any of them involve writing?  And how are they going?