About Marianne Sciucco

I'm not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, I dreamed of becoming an author when I grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. I later brought my two passions together and write about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues.

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Richard Creighton, Blogging at “Living with Alzheimer’s”

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By Richard Creighton

Why would a 78-year-old grandfather who doesn’t like to write become a blogger? The answer lies in my personal experience before my wife Kate was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011.

We played a major role in caring for our parents. There was a lot to learn. I felt we knew far too little about our parents’ experiences before our involvement in their lives. Kate and I were happy to have cared for them, but we wanted to make life easier for our own children. That meant keeping them knowledgeable about our lives. That, in turn, led me to start a journal the day of Kate’s diagnosis. This was a way to document our experiences for future reference.

After a year or two, I began to think that my journal might be of interest to others, especially those who are living with Alzheimer’s themselves. It was too much for a book, and I was continuing to make regular entries. A blog seemed like the way to go.

There are three things about our story that make it a little different from others. First, it is both an account of our post-diagnosis experiences, as well as a “real-time” account of what is happening every day. Second, ours is a story of optimism and joy. No couple escapes the challenges of dementia and the sadness that comes with it, but we have been able to live happily throughout our journey. Third, it is not a place to look for advice. I believe there are many other sources for that. This is simply our story. It tells what it’s been like for us to live with Alzheimer’s.

We’ve maintained an active lifestyle throughout our journey. Most of that has involved our everyday activities here in Knoxville. We attend most of the theatrical productions at three of our local theaters. In addition, we attend a variety of musical events that include opera, jazz, and Broadway. We have traveled a good bit over the course of our marriage. Since Kate’s diagnosis, we’ve enjoyed an African safari and trips to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, and New Zealand. Our last and final international trip was to Switzerland in 2015, where we both paraglided off the mountain top overlooking Interlaken.

About a year after her diagnosis, we started eating out for all our meals except breakfast. For us, that has proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. The meals themselves have been secondary. The important thing is that it has helped to minimize stress and social isolation. It wouldn’t be for everyone, but it works for us.

We’ve been very fortunate. We continue to enjoy life and each other even though Kate’s memory is virtually gone. It is only now that we are reaching the hardest part of our journey. Our experiences may not be representative of others, but I am sure that almost any primary care partner will recognize the issues we have faced. If you get a chance, drop by sometime: Living with Alzheimer’s Blog.

photo 2 richard creighton jpgAbout the Author

Richard Creighton is a former college professor and business owner. He and his wife, Kate, met in college and have been married 55 years. They have a daughter and a son and five grandchildren.

Caregiving has been a central part of their lives since the Fall of 1989 when Kate’s father had a stroke. Three of their parents were cared for and died at home, his father in the hospital. Kate’s mother lived in their home for almost 5 ½ years with 24/7 care provided through an agency. Through those experiences Richard learned much about the health issues, living arrangements, and personal care for people with dementia.

Kate was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years before his dad died. He says that his experiences with their parents has helped him to be a better primary care partner for Kate. He is guided by his belief that there is no greater privilege than to walk with someone you love through the last chapters of her life.

Connect with Richard Creighton

Living with Alzheimer’s Blog

Twitter: @LivingWthAlz

***
For more extraordinary books about Alzheimer’s and dementia
please visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore.
Reposted with permission of AlzAuthors, the global community of authors
and readers whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
I am a co-founder and admin.

 

The Writing Life: Are You a Pantster or Plotster? How About a Hybrid?

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In writing circles, there’s much discussion as to whether one is a pantster or a plotster.

The pantster is the writer who has a general idea of where her story’s going and often allows it to take off in its own directions, where the characters dictate the scenes, dialogues, and plot twists. She’s basically writing from the seat of her pants, picking up details and action as the story evolves. It’s an undisciplined approach but many writers will say the uncertainty involved fuels and motivates them to see where the story goes.

The plotster takes a more disciplined approach, has the entire story mapped out in her head and on paper or her writing device. Her notes include elaborate outlines, character descriptions, back story, and more. Each scene, each chapter, is well planned. There is little room to run off on tangents or be spontaneous. Many of these writers will say this ensures they get the work done in a timely manner. They need structure to meet deadlines and achieve their goals.

Is one method better than the other? If you asked a hundred writers you’d get a hundred different answers. For me, a more hybrid approach seems to work.

When I  start a new story I have to feel comfortable with what I’m writing, and actually have something to write. I’m not one to sit in front of a blank page and wait for inspiration. The inspiration has to be eating at me for a while before I start typing. I need at least a working title, a theme, the setting, a few well-thought out characters, and a series of scenes in mind that will drive the story from beginning to end. Sometimes I write this stuff down on random slips of paper or in designated notebooks. For the most part it’s locked in a special vault in my writer’s mind.

But I don’t like feeling confined and am willing to explore new directions and plot twists as they arise. For example, I’m writing a new story, “A Wedding at Blue Hydrangeas,” which is another prequel to my novel “Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story.” As I approached the end of  Chapter One, it went like this:

(Sara, our heroine, is working with her friend Rose in the garden, getting it ready for the wedding just three days away.)

Several minutes passed before the sound of a truck clamoring up the driveway caught their attention. They watched as the grounds crew exited their vehicles, unloaded equipment, and got to work mowing the lawn. The crew foreman ambled over to Sara.

“Good morning,” he said, tipping his baseball cap. “We’re here to mow the lawn, reseed where necessary, and clean up any debris. Anything else you’d like, Mrs. Harmon?”

“No, Harvey, that sounds fine,” Sara said, “although Jack will be back any minute and he might have something else for you to do.”

“When are you going over to my house?” Rose asked as she shaded her eyes from the sun.

“You’re on the list for this afternoon, Mrs. Fantagucci.” Harvey said. “When will the tents be delivered?” he asked Sara. “I want to be out of the way before they arrive.”

“Later this afternoon,” she said. “You’ve got plenty of time.”

“Sure enough,” he said, backing away. “I’d better get back to my men. If I don’t keep an eye on them we’ll be here twice as long as we need to be.” He turned and headed back to his crew.

“Nice enough man,” Rose said, “and he does excellent work.”

“Thanks for the recommendation,” Sara said. “And thanks for recommending Cape Cod Party Rentals. They’ve been very helpful, and the prices are reasonable.”

“I’m just trying to help two friends get what they need. After you’ve been here a while you’ll be a matchmaker too.”

Sara laughed. “I never thought of it that way. Jack calls it ‘networking.'”

“Different word, same meaning.” Rose turned at the sound of another vehicle chugging up the long driveway. “Is that Jack?”

Sara turned also. “It sure is. Who’s he got with him?”

Who’s he got with him? I have no idea! In fact, I had no idea Harvey was going to be in the conversation either, but he showed up and helped move the story along by showing the men at work (which was mentioned earlier) and to bring up the subject of the tents. My story had a basic outline, but these little details not only show the friendship between Sara and Rose, they impart additional information that sets the scene without doing an info dump.

Back to Jack. There are a number of people he could have with him. Obviously Sara did not expect him to bring anyone home with him so whoever it is is a surprise. He picked someone up. Was it at the bus station? Was it prearranged? I’m as surprised as she is, and will have to ponder this before I continue with Chapter Two. This is where being a pantster has its disadvantages. I’m temporarily stymied. But it was a good place to end Chapter One, and I’m curious to find out who the mystery character is.

A similar thing happened when I was in the proofreading stages of my most recent story, Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas, another prequel in this series. I was just about to enter publishing mode when I got the idea to add a cat to the story. So in the final edits Fluffy appeared and consumed a couple of paragraphs in Chapter Two, and made two minor appearances later on. But Fluffy was necessary, and I was surprised I hadn’t thought of him before. In the mother story, Blue Hydrangeas, Sara has two cats, so it was only natural she’d have a cat in this story, which predates the first by about 30 years.

So I basically make use of  both pantster and plotster tactics. Do I prefer one over the other? No. My repetitive strain injuries make it imperative for me to have some sort of plan when I sit down to write (even a simple blog post) but I’m open to chasing after new ideas, creating new characters, and coming up with surprises, even if I end up stymied and set my schedule back.

What about you? Are you a pantster, a plotster, or a hybrid? How’s that working for you? Please leave a comment. Those who do will be entered into a raffle for their choice of  a Kindle copy of Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story or Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas. 

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photo via Adobe Stock

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Susan Cushman and Her Memoir “Tangles & Plaques”

cushman, susan

By Susan Cushman

My mother, Effie Johnson, was second generation Alzheimer’s. Her mother, Emma Sue (for whom I was named) died from Alzheimer’s when she was 87 years old in 1986, in the same nursing home in Jackson, Mississippi where my mother would spend the final eight years of her life. I remember watching my mother care for “Mamaw” and wondering what our future might bring.

Twenty years later, in 2006, I moved Mother into assisted living. My father had died of cancer in 1998, leaving Mother alone. After eight years of watching her gradual decline and taking on more of her day-to-day responsibilities, especially her finances, I offered first to move her in with us—which she declined—and second to move her to Memphis to an assisted living home. She begged me to let her stay in Jackson, which I did. This meant I would spend the next ten years making the 400-mile round trip to participate in her caregiving, although she did have help, first in assisted living, and finally in a nursing home.

I never regretted leaving her in Jackson, where friends from her church would visit her, as well as friends of mine whose parents were in the same nursing home. In Memphis, she wouldn’t have known anyone but my husband and me.

Up to this point Mother’s story doesn’t sound very different than any story of a daughter dealing with an aging parent. But what’s different here is that the tangles and plaques that destroyed Mother’s brain weren’t only in her brain, but also in our relationship.

Mother had been verbally and emotionally abusive to me for most of my life. Her abuse was the catalyst for many of my mental health issues, especially eating disorders, depression, and addiction. Thankfully I am healing from most of those disorders today, at age 67. And the silver lining behind Mother’s Alzheimer’s is that at some point the disease took away the part of her memory that was abusive. She forgot how to judge and criticize, and became very loving in the final stages of the disease.

susan and effie may 07 for webI had these words published in Smith’s Six Word Memoirs during that time: “The upside of Alzheimer’s: new mother.” During the years that I was making those trips to Jackson to visit Mother—first weekly, then every other week, and in the final years, monthly—I was also starting a late-life career as a writer. I was publishing essays in various journals and anthologies, and working on a novel. In 2007 I started a blog. For a number of years the blog followed themes: “Mental Health Monday,” “Writing on Wednesday,” and “Faith on Friday.” I wrote about everything from sexual abuse and eating disorders to spirituality, art, and writing. And yes, about my mother’s Alzheimer’s and our relationship. In fact, I published 60 posts about mother between 2008 and 2016, the year she died.

I received a lot of positive feedback on the blog, and one reader suggested that I publish the posts about my mother as a book. Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s is ultimately a love letter to my mother. It’s about forgiveness—which I was able to give before she forgot who I was, thankfully. Of course it contains sad stories about difficult struggles, but it’s also full of humor and grace. Mother died in May of 2016. No more tangles and plaques. For her.

tangles and plaques coverPraise for Tangles & Plaques

“Susan Cushman is not only an accomplished writer, but she tackles a brutal topic with candor and honesty. Madness awaits us all. I pray I can confront it with equal faith and vulnerability.” —Neil White, author of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

“Cushman has written a new kind of love story, one that speaks to the very real concerns of a generation. In this true story of a daughter’s love for her aging mother within the daily trials of caregiving, we read ourselves, our families, and the ways that our losses shape who we become and how we choose to remember.” —Jessica Handler, author of Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss

 

Purchase Now

About the Author

cushman author photo high resIn addition to Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, Susan Cushman is author of a novel, Cherry Bomb (2017), and editor of two anthologies—A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (2017) and Southern Writers on Writing (2018). Her essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a regular workshop leader and conference speaker. She has three grown children, four granddaughters, and fifteen Godchildren in the Orthodox Church of which she is a member. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, she has lived in Memphis since 1988.

Connect with Susan Cushman

Website

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Blog 

***

For more extraordinary books about Alzheimer’s and dementia

please visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore.

Reposted with permission of AlzAuthors, the global community of authors

and readers whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I am a co-founder and admin.

Jeepers It’s January! Giveaway Hop

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January is here, ushering in a new year. How about starting it off with a blog hop and giveaway sponsored by the blogger moms at The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island? Join me and almost 60 additional bloggers to win great prizes.

jeepers it's january!

I’m giving away Kindle copies of my Women’s Fiction novels Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story and Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas, along with a $5 Amazon gift card so you can buy more books (11.98 total value). Enter here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

After entering, stop by the rest of the blogs to find more prizes and discover new bloggers to follow: 

Thanks for joining us! Wishing you a happy, healthy new year!

 

New Release Spotlight: “A Very Austen Valentine,” Austen Anthologies Book 2

 

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In this New Release, six beloved authors deliver romantic Valentine novellas set in Jane Austen’s Regency world. Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, and Barbara Cornthwaite, together with Susan Kaye and Mandy Cook, share variations of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, featuring your favorite characters in sequels, adaptations, and spin-offs of Austen’s adored novels. Experience uplifting romance, laugh-out-loud humor, and poignant regret as these authors deftly tug on your heartstrings this Valentine’s Day. 

I loved Book 1, A Very Austen Christmas. Why wouldn’t I? The unforgettable, irresistible Mr. Darcy starred in every story, which were well-written and entertaining. I’m looking forward to Book 2. Darcy’s in two of these stories too.

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Story Descriptions: 

I Dream of You by Robin Helm

Newly-married Elizabeth Darcy has a plan: to charm her too-busy husband into desiring her company as much as he did when he was courting her.  A series of romantic dreams gives her just the push she needs to put that plan into action.

Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

Faced with a lonely future and finding himself strapped for cash, Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot manfully decides to marry again. But his careful plans go sadly awry! A lighthearted Valentine mash-up featuring two of Jane Austen’s worst snobs.

My Forever Valentine by Wendi Sotis

Jane and Charles Bingley have married, even though Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his best effort to keep them apart. After Mr. Darcy refused to stand up with Bingley and did not attend the wedding, she despises the gentleman more than ever and finds his company intolerable. How will she endure her visit to Kent if Mr. Darcy turns up everywhere she goes?

Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite

A chance encounter with a handsome stranger forces Elizabeth to resort to subterfuge in order to discover his true intentions.

My Valentine by Mandy H. Cook

Little Charlotte was always determined and independent, traits which served her well as she battled a serious childhood illness and later as she took on Polite Society. Will those traits now deprive her of true love? Or would her lifelong Valentine win her heart?

The Lovers’ Ruse by Susan Kaye

In this Persuasion alteration, Anne is so altered by Wentworth’s love in the summer of 1806, she refuses to give him up when both her godmother and father try to persuade her. “The Lovers’ Ruse” follows Frederick and Anne through their whirlwind courtship and their secret engagement. When Wentworth returns for his Annie girl, the cat comes out of the bag. Continue reading

The 12 Days of Christmas Book Blast! Day 12: “A Gift for Lara”

12 Days of Christmas

Welcome to The 12  Days of Christmas Book Blast! Each day through January 6th I’m featuring a Christmas-themed book from an author at Clean Indie Reads. All titles are considered “flinch-free,” meaning you don’t have to worry about overt sexuality, violence, and questionable language, and can feel comfortable sharing them with your friends and family. You’re sure to find enough new titles to fill your Kindle for winter or use up that Amazon gift card Santa left in your stocking. And be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any posts! Merry Christmas!

Today’s Book

A Gift for Lara

A Gift for Lara by Suzanne G. Rogers

Lara Robinson wrote a love letter four years ago, but received no reply. Now the man to whom she gave her heart will visit Blythe Manor for Christmas. How can she enjoy the holidays knowing Miles Greystoke must despise her for revealing her feelings in such an unguarded fashion?

As an awkward youth, Miles fell in love with a kindred spirit…but his love was unrequited. Against his wishes, he’s now obliged to spend the holidays at Blythe Manor. Time has wrought changes in his physique, but his devotion to Lara Robinson has never wavered. He searches for the perfect present to show her how he feels, but nothing seems quite right…until he realizes the best sort of gift will embrace the true meaning of Christmas.

A Victorian Christmas short story.

Buy Now!

 

The 12 Days of Christmas Book Blast! Day 11: “O Come All Ye Faithful and Other Short Stories”

12 Days of Christmas

Welcome to The 12  Days of Christmas Book Blast! Each day through January 6th I’m featuring a Christmas-themed book from an author at Clean Indie Reads. All titles are considered “flinch-free,” meaning you don’t have to worry about overt sexuality, violence, and questionable language, and can feel comfortable sharing them with your friends and family. You’re sure to find enough new titles to fill your Kindle for winter or use up that Amazon gift card Santa left in your stocking. And be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any posts! Merry Christmas!

Today’s Book

O Come all Ye Faithful

O Come All Ye Faithful and Other Short Stories by Faith Blum

O Come All Ye Faithful
Edwin wanted to be home, but instead he crouched in a trench. The English on one side of No Man’s Land and Germans on the other. What a way to spend Christmas. Could anything make it better?

Peace on Earth 

Emmie and Elana are estranged sisters, torn apart by an old boyfriend five years earlier. Will they survive a night in the same hotel room after a blizzard forces them together or will peace on earth go out the window? Continue reading