Those Little Grey Cells

When I first began writing, I wanted to get kids—reluctant readers, especially—to love books. So I told them entertaining, funny stories. At least that’s what I tried to do. I didn’t truly know I hit my mark until I got a letter—yes, this was back in the day—that said, “I didn’t like to read until I read your book.”

Honestly? I could have quit right then and been perfectly fulfilled as an author.

But I kept on writing, transitioning from kidlit to the world of cozy mysteries where I’m firmly entrenched.

Figuring out how to write a novel took some time (and don’t tell, but I learn stuff every day). I’ve traveled both the traditional and independent publishing paths, enjoying and capitalizing on the best of both worlds.

There is so much to know about the publishing industry, and it changes constantly. My brain is in constant learning mode these days. There’s scads of information to digest about advertising, design, marketing, promotion, formatting, reader demographics, pricing, covers, color psychology … not to mention all the mental gymnastics involved in writing every day!

Because I’m in constant learning mode—or because I’m a knucklehead—I don’t say no to much of anything that sounds like a fun challenge.

For instance, writing a short story for a cozy mystery anthology.

Now, I should tell you that short stories are not a natural genre for me. I mean, before my feet hit the floor every morning, I’ve already spoken a hundred words. Granted, they’re to Nala and they may or may not be cogent, but still. I’m not, how you say, terse.

But I’m always up for a challenge, so when asked to contribute, I said, “Of course!”

The twenty-six or so stories in the anthology are all cozy mysteries set in or around a wedding. I used my character Charlee Russo and her sidekick, AmyJo McFarland, from my Mystery Writer’s series and plopped them into the wedding weekend of their friend from college. Not only are they surprise bridesmaids, they’re surprise sleuths!

I require everything I write to do double duty, however, so when I get my rights back to the story, I’ll offer it as a bonus to people who subscribe to my newsletter.

I have no room in my life for kitchen gadgets, toys, or writing projects that only have one use.

I’ve written a few short stories, but I’ve never been specifically asked to write one for an anthology which definitely sweetened the deal, especially because it allowed me to be in the same Table of Contents as some writers I already admired.

The thing that bumped this project to the top of my list, though, was something I’ve never seen done before. Layered over the top of the stories will be an overarching separate Wedding Whodunit with clues dropped into the individual stories. By reading all the stories carefully, and exercising your little grey cells, you can solve it. So meta!

That was something I really wanted to be a part of.

Another thing sweetened the deal too. Again, it was something I have no experience with but certainly intrigued me. The people putting together the anthology are creating a Kickstarter campaign around it.

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter (like I wasn’t), it’s a fun way to fund a project, in this case, the anthology.

For different price levels, people can choose certain reward tiers like being able to name a character in the overarching Wedding Whodunit, early access to the anthology (which won’t be out to everyone else until November 2023), extra short stories not included in the anthology, a discounted price on the paperback version, a book club package, and a solution key to help solve the overarching Wedding Whodunit … and more fun stuff.

The point of the Kickstarter is to raise seed money to publish and design the ebook and paperback which will clock in around 500 pages, as well as to help pay the authors for our work.

It has been a fascinating process—from writing the short story, to learning about the editing process for anthologies, to becoming knowledgeable about Kickstarter campaigns, and to doing some video promo (definitely out of my comfort zone!).

As I get older, I try to do crosswords and jigsaw puzzles in an effort to keep my brain nimble, but there’s something to be said about learning something entirely new to keep those brain wrinkles multiplying!

Take a look at the Kickstarter campaign and see if there’s any premium that speaks to you. Pay no mind to the goofy person who looks like me in the promo video …

What fun—and perhaps scary—things do you do to keep your brain nimble?

51 thoughts on “Those Little Grey Cells

  1. What a wonderful idea! I hope the money is raised for the anthology. I’ll check it out myself – but on my next credit card cycle!

    I think constantly breaking new stories for my mysteries keeps my brain nimble. But I also do something else that unintentionally has the same impact.

    I love dance fitness and take classes in it wherever I can find them. Zumba, of course. But also a format called Dance it Out that I love so much I used it in the plot for A Cajun Christmas Killing. I recently happened upon an article (in AARP maybe?) that said dance classes are a great way to ward off dementia because they force you to remember combinations. I think they were talking more about ballroom dancing, where you have to remember and repeat the choreo. But believe me, trying to follow an instructor’s combinations while doing low and high-impact dance moves makes for some brain nimbling too!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Ellen! The Kickstarter runs through June 15. And dance classes sound like so much fun! I’ve never taken one myself, but I can definitely see how they could help with keeping the brain active.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Ellen, I’m impressed by your dance acumen! I’ve talked often about my poor attempts at tap dancing (even though I love it), and that’s a double whammy for me … it’s difficult to tap and I can’t remember the combinations to save my life! I’m always the one in the back of the class so I can watch everyone.

      Oh, and the kickstarter was funded (and then some) within 24 hours! Now we have some stretch goals up … so much fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been a while since I’ve been dancing, but I used to take classes in high school and college (mostly ballroom). I also really enjoyed hula for a while. Tap class was the worst for me, though! (Something about tapping my feet to the rhythm didn’t work out well.)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I took a jazz dance class in college for a PE credit with some friends. We still talk about how hilarious it was! I really, really wish my numb foot let me tap better. It’s kinda there, but definitely not ready for prime-time!

          Liked by 2 people

  2. So glad to be collaborating with you on this anthology, Becky! There’s nothing like a new challenge to keep your brain engaged. This author business is a continual learning process for me as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Keep ’em coming, Becky!

    The scariest thing I do? Taking the image formed by my little gray cells and turn it into an illustration that captures the essence of a lesson learned. That way, I learn once and reuse the lesson many times. The scary part was learning how to use Affinity Designer and Photo to make sense on the screen based on the lesson’s takeaway in my mind’s eye.

    At first daunting, it’s now fun illustrating about writing, and I continue to learn new techniques all the time.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Grant! And that’s so cool! I’m no artist, but I do love the creation of visuals. Mine usually take the form of marketing graphics or photographs, but it’s very satisfying. And solidifying a lesson is even more gratifying!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I moved from unaware to aware. Then it was the old learn and practice. Now it’s an intuitive skill, which makes it fun. A pleasant break from writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Becky!

    There’s nothing like the thrill of when someone tells you they loved your story. I’m so glad you’re a part of this anthology and look forward to being in the table of contents with you on more things. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Agreed, Francelia! So often we work in a void, with only our own thoughts pinging around us. It’s a thrill to hear from readers, often just out of the blue, but it’s also fun to collaborate with other authors, something I don’t get to do very often. So excited to be in a TOC with YOU!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Best of luck on the Kickstarter, Becky! I’ve contributed to a few projects but never dared to try one on my own.
    For something new and a little scary, I just bought a car online. Other than looking at photos of it on the Vroom dealer’s site, I didn’t lay eyes on it until I took possession of it. No test drive, either. I did give the Carfax report a close study, though! 😄

    Liked by 3 people

      1. So far, so good, Lisa. I like the fact that the purchase came with a 7 day window where I could cancel the deal if I wasn’t happy with the car. It’s a 2015 Chevy Spark EV, so it’s range is pretty small compared to new EVs, but it was WAY more affordable!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, JC, that is brave! My daughter and son-in-law are in the process of selling a farm, selling their condo, and buying a new house. Every time I think about it I get sweaty palms. It makes me very happy I’m not in the market for a car or a house! I hope you’re loving your new wheels!

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Becky, congrats on your new short story–and to all of the other anthology authors, too! I can never resist a wedding book in any form. Re: the learning, I realized (this week, in fact), that I spend so much time learning that I need to make more time for writing–I feel like my brain is which way everywhere all at once lately. Hopefully I am creating a spaghettti bowl full of new neural pathways, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa, and I know, sometimes I feel the same way. There’s so much to learn, but there’s no time to put any of it into action. It doesn’t help that each topic is practically a full-time job in itself!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a fabulous idea–both the overarching clues (love that so much!) and the Kickstarter! Congrats on the story, girl!

    I, too, do crosswords to keep my brain active, and for the physical part of my body, I’ve recently started playing pickleball–which I think makes me officially “old.” But it’s so darn fun!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve heard that about pickleball, but be careful! I just heard the other day that it’s the leading cause of ER visits these days. Every time I’m tempted to get involved, I think, “Oh, wait. I don’t have time to break a bone this week.” LOL

      Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL, Liz! The mystery running through the mystery is genius. I haven’t read it yet and I’m a little worried I won’t be able to solve it! How embarrassing ….

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Can’t wait to read this anthology! Congratulations, everyone.

    My teaching job requires learning new things regularly to keep up with the subject matter and to create class materials and activities, so probably that but I wish I could travel more because that always is energizing, to be in new places learning about them!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, you’re right, Cynthia! Your job must be making your brain all kinds of wrinkled! And traveling … like you, I wish I could do more of it! Maybe a retreat somewhere exotic where we can do crosswords, dance, and play pickleball all day!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yay for this anthology, Becky! Congrats to all of the contributors! I heard about this the other day and was intrigued about the meta puzzle. Also, kudos to doing a Kickstarter!

    I keep my brain cells active by trying to decipher my kids’ lingo. I’m also always up for meeting new people and visiting interesting places & museums.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thanks, Jen! Kid lingo is definitely a workout. Just when you learn it, it changes! I’m a big fan of museums too. Especially unusual ones like the Museum of Miniatures, or Matchbox Cars, or textiles. And I REALLY love a good factory tour!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Just yesterday when my Kleenex didn’t pop out like it was supposed to, I thought, “I’d like to see the machine that does this.”


  11. Becky I absolutely loved you in the video promotion on”of the kickstarter. As for the grey cells, my day job is in tech and just moved into a different area this year. It was a steep learning curve but kept me sharp! It is definitely important to keep the brain challenged. Exercise? I am lazy but started doing squats and lifting small weights through the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Short stories are a great way to introduce readers to your novels. Your kickstarter promotion is fabulous. As to the gray matter; I’m struggling with remember why I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge door!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL, Mary! I’m sure you were on your way to get me a snack! I’d be interested to know how many people sampled one of the short stories in the anthology and then went on to investigate and read the author(s).


  13. Doing research for a new book helps exercise my brain and I love crosswords, too! These days I need to find tricks to work on my memory. This week, I went to a doctor’s appointment on the wrong day. So, I drove to the same place the next day when my actual appointment was scheduled!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Vickie, that’s hilarible. (hilarious + horrible) But at least you found your way there and back … twice! That’s something, right? And yes, about the research. Just this morning I was doing mental gymnastics to try and figure out something for this manuscript I’m editing. It had to have a few specific things, but it was relatively minor. I was relieved to finally get there but it was so annoying to have to spend so much time on it.


  14. This is SO COOL. And I absolutely love the idea of embracing our brain wrinkles. Genius.

    I used to Jazzecise (and no snickering! it’s hard!), and all that chasse-ing and box-stepping kept my brain (and body) nimble. Because of reasons, I can’t get to Jazzercise anymore, so I do some crossword puzzling. I’m not very good, but I do enjoy it. Especially when my dad sends me one in the mail–lol!

    Congrats to all on the anthology!


    1. I agree with you, Kathleen. Jazzercise can be hard to catch onto until you finally find your groove. 🙂


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