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1. Don’t Plot Like I Do!

Read on Wattpad - Serialized Novel

From September 11, 2014 - October 30, 2014.
Read one chapter/day. Click on cover to read the first five chapters.

I’m warning you! Don’t plot like I do.

I’ve been working on the plot of a new novel for about six weeks and I’m still stumbling around. I’ll describe the messy process here and hope that you manage to shortcut your own process.

It started last year with an idea and a short story that gave backstory on the longer story. I’ve wanted to write a sf for a while and this idea has been germinating for a long time. Besides the problem of other projects, there’s the question of audience. I had to grapple with taking creative risks.

Take Creative Risks

One creative risk was the type of story I would tell. Would it be a character story or an action/adventure story?

I plotted out something, but my left brain kicked in and compared the plot to the 29 Plot Templates Regardless of which plot structure I looked at, there were so many holes in the story.

I got advice from Optimus Prime. Hey, I take help where I find it and Optimus was obviously handing out advice on plotting.

By now, though, I was getting bogged down. What was the purpose of all this plotting? I had to remind myself that I was telling a story.

The next disappointment was the worry about how slowly the work progressed.

Listen. I know a lot about novel structure, characterization, plotting, setting and many other topics about novels. I teach this stuff. But when I write, I struggle through the writing process. One of my strengths, though, is that I am open to switching strategies. It’s also my weakness, but while I’m in the throes of plotting, I feel like I am jumping from this method, to that paradigm, to yet another novel structure. In reality, I’m just checking out my story from multiple POVs.

A Sixth Grade Aside

When my daughter was in sixth grade, she wrote an essay. The teacher asked my daughter to write an evaluation essay about writing the essay. Write down the process you went through to write this essay, the teacher advised.

And I shook my head in despair.

No, there isn’t just ONE path through the writing process. It’s cyclical, curving back on itself to ask you to repeat this task or that task. Or perhaps describing it as a maze is a better metaphor. I follow false trails until they dead end. I get lost in the middle and can’t fight my way out. I start at the beginning one time and the next time, I start at the end. Somehow, though, the writing gets done. There are strategies, ways of approaching a draft, working habits, and so on. But for any given piece of writing, the process will vary and vary widely.

Messy Writing Process

This time, I’m doing well with trying to go from general to specific.

That got me to an eight-page outline. But the 29 Plot Templates revealed major holes. I realized that I needed to concentrate on sub-plots and figure those out before I returned to the main plot. I focused on the villain as the hero of his own story: why did he want revenge? I re-read articles about writing a revenge story and one comment struck me: “Killing him would be too easy.”

Of course! Revenge isn’t just about hurting or killing the person; it’s about making them suffer as the victim has suffered. I asked myself, “What would make my character hurt/suffer the most?” Of course, that is what I MUST make happen. Voila! A new plot twist grabbed me and I was off and running with the complications from that twist.

10 page outline. But still lots of plot holes.

Over the next few days, I’ll be looking at other subplots and milking them for all the conflict that I can. Will there be a romantic subplot? After an initial attraction, there needs to be deep reasons why they must stay apart. What reason is sitting there in my story already, just waiting for me to exploit it? It’s there. I just need an Aha! Moment to recognize it. I’m jumping all around, reading odd articles, re-reading the 10-page outline and looking for the right way to approach this.

I feel like I am being asked to carve a huge statue with a bobby pin.

I have at least three more subplots to work through and slot into the main plot. I’m sure there will still be plot holes then, but I expect there will be fewer.

Should I copy this process the next time I plot? No!
Each time, the writing process creates it’s own maze and demands a different path to story. I’m just trusting that the process will eventually spit out a viable story. I know that I’ll have to decide something about the audience and tone, and spend a while on characters and their back story. I know that some personal issues are likely to complicate the timing of the writing. I know I’ll make multiple starts before I really get going.

Don’t follow my writing process. It’s messy and ugly. Besides—it wouldn’t work for you. You must find your own way through the maze of words to find the story that only you can tell.

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2. Bubble Trouble by Tom Percival (and how to breathe bubbles instead of fire)

9781408838761Even before I had finished reading Bubble Trouble by Tom Percival to the kids I knew this was a book we were going to have LOTS of fun with.

Have you ever had great fun playing with a friend but discovered things have got out of control when you try to out-do each other? That what was a shared and enjoyable activity became something competitive and a little threatening?

Bubble Trouble explores exactly this scenario, with two best friends who like nothing more than blowing bubbles together. In their desire to blow the biggest bubble, they become very inventive but some skulduggery also sneaks in. Will their friendship survive their determination to outplay each other?


Percival’s lovely book thoughtfully and playfully explores the up- and downsides of competition and the value of teamwork. It also acknowledges that we don’t always learn from our mistakes straight away, something I haven’t seen often acknowledged in picture books. The “big issues” are hidden carefully in lots of delightfulness; the illustrations are soft and sweet, and there are lots and lots of flaps to play with. Percival has worked wonders with capturing that magic sheen of bubbles without resorting to foil or silver but rather just clever use of pastels and white.

A good-natured and honest exploration of some of the trials and tribulations of friendship, Bubble Trouble offers lots of room for discussion and a great excuse to play.

So yes, having shared Bubble Trouble lots of playing with bubbles was called for. We thought we’d try something different and so I taught the girls how to breath out bubbles, big and beautiful bubbles. Who wants to breath fire when you can breathe out bubbles?


We used this recipe to make our bubble mixture:

  • 1.5 litres of tap water
  • 250ml of Fairy washing up detergent
  • 250ml of cornflour (yes, corn flour isn’t a liquid, but we used our measuring jug and filled it to the 250ml mark with the corn flour)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp glycerine (easily found in Boots/a chemist’s, probably in the sore throat section)
  • Once the bubble mixture was all stirred together, we left it for 24 hours. Everything I’ve read says that this stage is really important (though we haven’t checked what difference it makes ourselves).

    To breathe out bubbles here’s what you need to do:


    1. Dip your hands into a bowl of tap water.
    2. Dip your hands into your bowl of bubble mixture. (The corn flour will probably have settled at the bottom of your mixture. This didn’t seem to be a problem)
    3. Rub your palms together smoothly and slowly a couple of times.
    4. Open out your hands to form a rough circle: Your fingertips and wrists/bottom of thumbs will remain touching each other, and you should see a film of bubble mixture form between your two hands.
    5. Gently blow through the opening between your two hands…..
    6. Gasp at your bubble blowing abilities!


    You can also use this mixture to blow bubbles through a circle made using just your first finger and thumb (first make a fist, then slowly open out your finger/thumb before blowing), and also to make ENORMOUS bubbles using a home made bubble wand.


    wandFor the homemade bubble wand you’ll need two lengths of dowelling. Screw an eye screw into each end and then put a large loop of string between the two eyes. It’s helpful to add a small weight such as a threaded button or a washer onto on side of your string loop.

    Dip your string into your bubble mixture (all the way, up to the start of the wooden rods), lift gently out and move the rods apart. You’ll see a film appear between the strings and then if you wave them from one side to the other you’ll create amazing bubble tunnels.


    There’s nothing like a good bubble!


    Whilst mixing up our bubble juice we listened to:

  • Bubble Factory by Recess Monkey
  • You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles by Lunch Money
  • I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles by John Kellette but here sung by Vera Lynn
  • Other activities which you could pair with Bubble Trouble include:

  • Exploring the free activity pack to go with Bubble Trouble, downloadable from here. The pack includes colouring in, spot the difference and a different bubble recipe to try.
  • Painting with bubbles. Artful kids has 3 different techniques you could try.
  • Building and sculpting with bubbles. Did you ever sculpt with bubbles when you had a bubble bath?
  • Making bubble snakes, with this tutorial from Housing a Forest
  • Reading the marvellous Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. We reviewed it here (with a different bubble juice recipe, but we think our new recipe is better).
  • What are your favourite books which feature bubbles?

    Disclosure: We received a free review copy of Bubble Trouble from the publisher.

    2 Comments on Bubble Trouble by Tom Percival (and how to breathe bubbles instead of fire), last added: 9/22/2014
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    3. Vale Notions Unlimited!

    Years ago, I used to go regularly to my favourite SF bookshop, Space Age, where I bought some of the books that are among my most prized possessions, and recordings that would probably be worth a mint on eBay these days.

    When that closed, we eventually got Slow Glass on the same site. Slow Glass, like Space Age, was a shop where SF fans could congregate before meetings, where writers would sometimes come to do signings. It was brighter and less musty than Space Age.

    That too closed when the landlord tripled the rent, as they tend to do when they want to get rid of a tenant and replace them with a fast food joint; the owner, Justin Ackroyd, did open a small shop somewhere in the suburbs, which I never saw and which was open odd hours according to who had to look after the child at the time. Justin is still in business but online and at conventions, where I have to say he always brings my books.

    Still, it's not a bookshop. And much as I love my ebooks, there is something about browsing in a shop that downloading just can't match.

    For a while, there was Of Science And Swords in the CBD - gone.

    But then, out in the suburbs again, was the wonderful Notions Unlimited, run by that very funny man, Chuck McKenzie. I couldn't go regularly, because it was in the outer suburbs. But whenever I went, I'd buy $80 or so worth of books, if not more. It was like having Slow Glass back. It had a lot of classics, some small press books and non fiction which I bought eagerly. There was a Dalek and a comfy chair area around a coffee table where games were played on the weekends.

    This is the thing about fans. I don't know about the game players at NU, who were, after all, doing what they had been invited to do and no doubt bought plenty of books, but quite often, when a place becomes a centre for fannish gatherings,  the fans gather and socialise and don't actually buy anything. And it's not that they have no money, more likely that they spent it on something else, somewhere  else.  Games. The latest season of their favourite TV show.  Something on eBay. Or they simply couldn't be bothered waiting for an ordered book to arrive, when they could get it quicker online.

    Now this wonderful shop is closed, with no plans to reopen anywhere else, and it's our fault for not supporting a local business. Even friends I urged to go along and try it didn't want to bother travelling to that side of the city, though it was close to the station.

    It had been in trouble for a while and I admit I always wondered how long it would last in that
    location. In the suburbs, you can't discover a shop you wander past, you have to go there - and this
    one was in an arcade. You had to know it was there.

    Still, a lot of us did know it was there.  And now it's not and all we have left is Minotaur, which is just too big and commercial for my tastes. It used to be a fannish shop, but no longer.

    Maybe that's why it has survived.

    0 Comments on Vale Notions Unlimited! as of 9/21/2014 10:50:00 PM
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    4. Elephants Have Wings Engaging in Community

    Elephants have Wings by Susanne gervay and Anna PignataroPIGNATARO_ANNA_ELEPHANTSHAVEWINGS_FULLIMAGEWith the world so traumatised by terrorism , the world is responding with movements for change, peace, kindness.

    labyrinth in Centennial ParkLabyrinth Centennial ParkThe Labyrinth – a walking meditation – opened by Governor Marie Bashir to the blessings of the Wisdom Keepers from Aunty Ali Golding Aboriginal Elder Biripi Nation and many leaders of many faiths – Sikh, Buddhist, Moslem, Roman Catholic, Unity Church, Jewish, Zen, Anglican …. and others.

    The Sydney Sacred Music Festival joins Stephanie Dowrick author and minister for an Interfaith service in Sydney’ s Uniting Church:-

    ‘If light is in your heart you will find your way home’. Rumi

    The music played and sung by Dr Kim Cunio touched the heart.

    Sydney Sacred Music festival and Inetrfaith ServiceTAL CAMERAStephanie Dowrick and Dr Kim Cunio at InterfaithInterfaith at Uniting Church Pitt Street SydneyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInterfaith service Elephants Have Wings published by Ford Street Publishing.



    The post Elephants Have Wings Engaging in Community appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.

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    5. Will you join us for dinner?

    RSVP by 10/31 if you plan to join us for the Slicer Dinner at NCTE.

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    6. Emotional imagination

    Sometimes, I can't seem to write fiction. I blame the fact that I've been writing almost only non-fiction for a couple of years - and have just agreed to do some more. When I try to get back into writing fiction, something feels dead inside. My brain feels like an imagination-free zone. And that is a desolate thing, like a moonscape without the moonbeams.

    In October, I am going to write fiction. I am. For a long time now I have had that month set firmly aside, event-free, non-fiction-free. I've put in place all sorts of mechanisms to make this happen. I've told lots of people that I'm doing it. I've told my agent that I'm doing it. I've turned down paid work and told people that they cannot give me a deadline which involves me doing anything for them in October. At all.

    And yet (or perhaps therefore) I'm very afraid that my imagination won't wake up, won't do its job, won't show me moonbeams.

    Or I was until this morning.

    A daughter phoned. My daughters may be in their twenties but a daughter (or son, presumably) is never too old to cause instant fear in a parent's heart when her number comes up on your phone. Especially at one of those times of day when daughters aren't prone to phone for a general chat.

    Instantly, even before I heard her voice, my imagination was running riot. In that split second, this imagination had no words - it was all a rush of adrenaline and cortisol and raw, nameless dread. Emotion. Then her voice, "Don't worry, I'm fine." OMG, she's not fine. You don't randomly say you're fine unless you are about to say something not fine. And in the few seconds it took her to explain what the thing was, my imagination had, quite literally, taken me through visions of death, illness, job loss, burglary, injury (including actual details involving a bone), and a complicated combination of emergency services.

    And after all this had calmed down (because she was, in actual fact, fine) I realised the key to imagination: emotion.

    So, my October - and any time I or you want to write fiction - has to allow and encourage and nurture and conjure emotion. Maybe I'll read a poem each morning before I write; maybe I'll read the news - there's enough emotion in the human stories there; maybe I'll read a chapter of the best fiction I can find. Maybe I'll brainstorm sad words or angry words or whatever words I need to make it happen. Maybe I'll play anthemic, emotional music to waken my heart.

    But I'll draw the line at asking a daughter to phone in the morning. Mind you, it's her birthday today, so I may just phone her...


    Nicola Morgan writes novels. Oh yes, she does. She also writes non-fiction about the teenage brain and stress. BUT NOT IN OCTOBER. www.nicolamorgan.com

    0 Comments on Emotional imagination as of 9/22/2014 12:14:00 AM
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    7. Summer to Fall

    Milkweed seeds

    Milkweed seeds

    It has been a dry, almost summery week but last night we got a refreshing rain and today has been pleasant, sunny and comfortable. The tomatoes are still getting ripe, the pumpkins are still growing, the kale is very happy, and the turnips are trying really hard to make something of themselves. Otherwise, the garden is pretty much done. We haven’t had a frost yet so my garlic and I wait patiently for the right time to plant. In the mean time I keep changing my mind about where in the veggie beds I will plant it.

    I did another ph test in my blueberry beds today and was once again disappointed. Try as I might, I can’t get the ph to drop. It is stuck at 7. We’ll add more sulfur and I’ll put down leaves once they fall from the trees, but come spring if the ph still hasn’t budged, Bookman and I will have some serious thinking to do. Keep trying or get rid of the blueberries and cultivate more currants and other berries instead. Fingers crossed it won’t come to that decision.

    The anise hyssop is still blooming and covered with bees and over the last two weeks it has also been covered in monarch

    Virgin's bower clematis

    Virgin’s bower clematis

    butterflies. I walked out one afternoon and counted eight of them fluttering around on it. Amazing! Bookman and I have decided we are planting a second one somewhere in the garden next spring. The pumpkin flowers are also attracting bees like crazy. This afternoon I saw three big fat bumblebees all crammed into one flower jostling for position.

    And oh! During the week I looked out and saw a hummingbird at the red bee balm! I was so very excited because I chose it in order to attract hummingbirds and it worked!

    Yesterday while sitting in my reading nest I glanced up at some movement outside my front picture window to see a female goldfinch chowing down on coneflower seeds. She was out there for a good ten minutes before I decided I just might be able to snap a photo. Sadly she saw me moving in the window and flew off. Then I felt really guilty about interrupting a meal she was so much enjoying. I kept hoping she would come back but I didn’t see her again the rest of the day.

    Bookman got out the extension ladder to try and reach the big apples at the top of Bossy, but he only had limited success. They were still too high up on branches not strong enough to put a ladder against. So we will just appreciate what we could pick and have decided to invest in a long reach fruit harvester for next year. What we are going to do when we can reach all those apples way at the top, I am not sure. Apple pies, apple crisps, apple sauce, apple butter. I think I might have to learn how to make apple chutney which sounds so good. I might have to try that with the apples we have now. Yum!

    This has got to be one of the nifitiest things ever: swallows that figured out how to use automatic doors (via Sociological Images)

    And as I am reading a book about why our brains are programmed to ignore climate change, the largest climate change march in history took place today in New York City. An estimated 310,000 demonstrators showed up to demand action on climate change. In support, other marches took place around the world from Paris to Papua New Guinea. The United Nations is scheduled to meet on Tuesday in Manhattan for a climate summit. Is it too much to hope for that such an outpouring will actually spur world leaders and politicians to do something? Of course, we all have personal responsibility in the matter as well. Does such a gathering inspire you to make any changes?

    Maple leaves

    Maple leaves

    One thing I wonder about, many people came from far away to attend the protest and with their transportation they have added carbon into the air. I hope they have done something to offset their usage, if not, that’s just sad, demanding action on climate change while contributing to the problem. Something to think about, especially for the people who came from far away countries to join in the march. Why not organize a march closer to home?

    We’ll see what the UN does later this week. And following that, what each country is willing to do. I don’t have much hope but at the same time I can’t help but hope.

    On a happier note, someone I know who lost a big tree in her backyard earlier this year has been inspired by all my gardening talk and has decided to get rid of the lawn and grow a prairie meadow. How awesome is that? When she told me I was thrilled and tickled silly. It’s been so hard to not pester her and ask her what she’s going to grow. I explained to her how to kill the grass. I’m hoping over the winter she will want to talk plants.

    Autumn Equinox is Tuesday or Spring if you are down under. Be sure to celebrate. Take a walk, enjoy a seasonal treat, spend some time with your favorite tree or sitting on your favorite garden bench. Whatever you do, just take some time to enjoy the changing season.

    Filed under: gardening

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    8. 90 Things to Know About Your Characters Before Writing

    IF red g

    Here is a character illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. Just from the picture we can see she likes to dress nice, is probably a princess, most likely loves the color red, and likes to dance with mice. This is just the tip of the iceberg for this beautiful girl.  Every agent and editor will tell you that it is a writers characters that make or break their story, so I made up a list of questions you can answer to help you get to know your character before you start writing. It can even help you with your next revision.


    1. How old is your character?
    2. What does your character look like?
    3. Are they tall, short, fat, shinny, big nose, big ears, long eyelashes, acne, etc.
    4. Is your character happy with the way they look?
    5. What kind of clothes do they like to wear?
    6. Does your character dream? What are they about?
    7. What are your character’s favorite food? Favorite junk food, Favorite ice cream flavor?
    8. What is their favorite color? Favorite flower? Favorite movie? Favorite game?
    9. Do the kids in school like him or her?
    10. Has that changed? Did the kids like them in a lower grade or vice versa?
    11. Are they interested in sports?
    12. Are they a natural athlete or someone who has to try hard to play a sport?
    13. What was their role in their family growing up?
    14. Do they love their parents, siblings, etc?
    15. Do they have a computer? What do they do on the computer? Are there any restrictions?
    16. Are they getting addicted to any technology?
    17. Do they have a cell phone? Any problems with how they use it?
    18. Do they talk on their cell phone when they should be sleeping? Do they text too much?
    19. Do they like to read?
    20. What type of books, magazines, etc. do they read?
    21. Do they play a musical instrument?
    22. What were they most proud of as a kid?
    23. What did they find terribly embarrassing as a kid?
    24. What still embarrasses them?
    25. Who is their best friend?
    26. Does your character have a best friend?
    27. Has that changed?
    28. What is their first best friend like?
    29. What do they like about their friend?
    30. Do they like to talk? Do they talk too much? Are they shy or a loner?
    31. Does your character cry alot? Gets mad easily? Laughs easily? Make jokes?
    32. What ‘group’ are they in during school?
    33. What do they want to be when they grew up–and how is that going?
    34. Have they ever been sick or in an accident?
    35. What music do they like? Do they hate the music that other people in their family like?
    36. What are their hobbies?
    37. Does your character collect anything?
    38. Do they play video games?
    39. Does your main character like getting dirty?
    40. Do they have good hygiene?
    41. Would you say your character is selfish?
    42. What annoys them?
    43. Are they a bully?
    44. What makes them laugh?
    45. Are they a dog, a cat, or an animal person?
    46. Does your character have a pet? Want a pet?
    47. What season do they enjoy most?
    48. Do they have a favorite holiday?
    49. Is your character religious? Does that play a role in their life?
    50. Is their family rich or poor?
    51. What type of house do they live in?
    52. Where do they live? City? Suburbs? Countryside?
    53. Has your character seen the ocean?
    54. Has your character traveled anywhere other than where they live? Would they like to travel?
    55. Does your character have money to spend?
    56. Do they care about money?
    57. Do they drink alcohol?
    58. Has anyone tried to get them to take drugs? Would they take drugs? Smoke?
    59. What is the worst thing your character has done?
    60. What do they feel most passionately about?
    61. What trait do they find most admirable in others?
    62. Do they want a job that helps people or a job that makes money?
    63. Are they a leader or a follower?
    64. What scares them?
    65. What are their long term goals?
    66. What are their short term goals?
    67. What are their bad habits?
    68. If they could have lived in another decade which would it have been?
    69. What do they do when they’re bored?
    70. What do they think happens after we die?
    71. If they were to come into money what would they do with it?
    72. Have they ever been in love?
    73. What happened to that person?
    74. Are they still interested in that person?
    75. Does the person know about that?
    76. What did the family think about this person?
    77. Who was or is the love of their life?
    78. Is your character afraid of anyone? Or anything?
    79. What is their biggest fear?
    80. Do they feel safe? Of not, who or what is causing that anxiety?
    81. Are they in a sexual relationship? Would they like to be?
    82. Do they look forward to growing up?
    83. What do they want the most?
    84. How close are they to getting what they want?
    85. What will happen if they don’t get what they want?
    86. Any negative forces around your character?
    87. Does your character have anyone to confide in?
    88. What is the best thing you character has ever done?
    89. Does your character get depressed? What depresses them?
    90. Does your character look at the world as being half full or half empty?

    Thank you Dow for sending in the above illustration. Dow is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. She won the 2013 SCBWI On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award that promotes diversity in children’s books. Please visit her newly organized portfolio site at http://www.artbydow.blogspot.com. She was also feature on Illustrator Saturday: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/illustrator-saturday-dow-phumiruk-md/

    Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: need to know, Process, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: 90 Things to answer about your characters before writing, Character Checklist, Character Questions, Dow Phumiruk

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    9. Call for Submissions: Cooper Street Journal

    Cooper Street, an online publication sponsored by the Rutgers University Camden MFA program’s student organization, is looking for fiction and poetry for our second issue, slated for a January release. All interested writers are welcome. Please send work as word documents (.doc or .docx) via email to:

    ru.cooperstreetATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

    using the following format for the Subject: “Last name – Genre.” We’re interested in stories and poems about cities, particularly those set in the Northeast. But we’ll consider all subjects if the work is interesting and strong. If you have creative non-fiction, we ask that you please save it for an upcoming issue.

    Additional guidelines

    Fiction: Send either one story of no more than 5,000 words (although stories of 3,000 words or less are especially welcome) or send up to three flash fiction pieces of no more than 600 words each.

    Poetry: Send three to five poems as a single attachment, one poem per page.

    Submitters may view our May 2014 issue at our website.

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    10. 5 mins quickies from last week ...

    0 Comments on 5 mins quickies from last week ... as of 9/21/2014 10:00:00 PM
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    11. It's Not About You...

    "It's not about you.
    It's not about you getting the love you deserve from someone else,
    because I have loved you more than anyone else on this earth.
    It's not about you demanding justice or forgiveness from anyone,
    because I have shown you more mercy and forgiven you more than anyone else on this earth.
    It's not about your future or your past.
    It's about Mine.
    Time is Mine.
    The universe is Mine.
    The earth is Mine.
    The mountains and the sea are Mine.
    The air is Mine,
    and you are Mine, but.....
    it's not about you....
    it's about Me."


    0 Comments on It's Not About You... as of 9/21/2014 8:26:00 PM
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    12. New fabrics in my Spoonflower shop

    Coming soon to my Spoonflower shop

    0 Comments on New fabrics in my Spoonflower shop as of 9/21/2014 10:40:00 PM
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    13. JZ Artworks has a New Look!

    It's been a long time coming, but my website JZArtworks has a new look!  Thanks so much to my husband and personal web developer Romeo Zivoin for the beautiful new design, and for all of the UX coding to make this site more mobile-friendly.  Check it out!


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    14. getting real, with friends

    Today was full of many things—an early morning with my dad, time with a manuscript, a fantastic (even raucous) baby shower crowded with such dear friends, a trip to the Schuylkill River to experience the Flow Festival, and almost (not quite) finding A.S. King in my own 30th Street Station (we missed each other by minutes; we will not miss each other again). Tonight, day's end, I am thinking of the souls who gathered, the baby who is waiting, the joy that convened. I am thinking, too, about a conversation—the kind I've had so rarely I could count the times on my left hand.

    "We need to talk about Savas," the conversation began. The speaker was a dance friend, a tech genius, someone I hadn't seen in many months. I was so startled that at first I couldn't imagine what he meant. It was Going Over, the Berlin novel, he was speaking of. It was a decision I'd made about a character, a young Turkish boy, that he was questioning. How? he asked me. Why? Should it not have been impossible to write what I wrote down?

    My friend had questions, too, about Ada and Stefan, what my west Berlin graffiti girl saw, at first, in her East Berlin lover. He wanted to know about point of view, how I decided what was to be left on stage, and off. And where did the graffiti come from, he wanted to know. Were you (in a distant past) some kind of graffiti delinquent?

    I kept shaking my head. I kept smiling inside. I kept reminding myself—Wait. He took the time. He read your book. He thought about it. He wondered. I thought later how unusual this was. To be asked, with real interest, about something I'd written. To be invited to talk—not about all that superficial stuff that interests me less and less, but about the story itself. It's a rare friend who makes room for this—who presses you, who listens, who may not agree with some of the choices you made, but whose interest, nonetheless, is genuine.

    I have been dancing, on and off, for a few good years now. I'm no better at it than when I began. But I dance, like I do clay, for the conversations and the friends. Of this, today—among so much laughter, within such warmth—I was reminded again.

    Congratulations, in the meantime, to Aideen, Mike, and Mercy, who brought us altogether. What a family you have. And many thanks to Ms. Tirsa Rivas. One of the best party-throwers in the land.

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    15. One Lane

    When all the lanes merge into one
    And brake lights flicker on,
    You have no choice but sticking to
    The road that you're upon.

    The same applies to life; we age
    And walk the paths we've chosen,
    The other options out of reach
    While we waste time supposin'...

    How strange our journey might have been
    If other roads had beckoned,
    While opportunities still there
    Evaporate each second.

    So most of us continue on
    And hope the traffic lightens
    For turning onto routes unknown
    Once thrilled, but now it frightens.

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    16. New Literary Agent Alert: Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency

    Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.




    About Brent: Prior to joining TriadaUS Literary Agency, Inc., he completed numerous internships in publishing, most recently at The Bent Agency. Find Brent on Twitter.

    (How many literary agents should a writer send their work to?)

    He is seeking: “My tastes are eclectic, but all of my favorite novels are similar in that they have big commercial hooks and fantastic writing. I am seeking smart, fun, and exciting books for readers of middle grade, young adult, new adult, and select mystery/crime and women’s fiction. Middle Grade: for younger readers I am on the hunt for a humorous, intelligent fantasy; a scare-the-pants-off-me ghost or haunting story; fast-paced literary writing similar in style to Jerry Spinelli and Cynthia Lord. I have soft spots for larger-than-life characters and atmospheric setting (creepy and/or quirky). Young Adult: I’m always looking for genre-bending books that can be an exciting puzzlement when thinking about how precisely to market; specifically mystery and crime for teens, the grittier the better; high-concept contemporary stories with addicting romantic tension. I’m a sucker for themes of finding your place in the world, new beginnings, and summer-before-college stories. New Adult: my tastes in New Adult tend to be more darkly skewed but I would love a well-executed story that shares the same excitement, wonder, and invigoration of books like LOSING IT. Although I appreciate any story that’s told well in great language, in New Adult I’m more concerned with being entertained and gripped by the edge of my seat than in being stimulated. Adult: I would love a psychological suspense based on actual events, i.e. CARTWHEEL by Jennifer Dubois which fictionalized the Amanda Knox trial and hooked me from beginning to end. Alternatively, I’d love high-concept women’s fiction; either an exquisitely told story huge in size and scope, or a less ambitious novel that simply warms my heart.”

    How to submit:  Send your query letter and first ten pages pasted in the body of the message to brent [at] triadaus.com.

    (Should You Sign With a New Literary Agent? Know the Pros and Cons.)



    The biggest literary agent database anywhere
    is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
    most recent updated edition online at a discount.


    Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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    17. Bee Time review

           The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mark L. Winston's Lessons from the Hive, in Bee Time.

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    18. Call for Submissions: Glassworks

    Glassworks, the literary magazine of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing graduate program, invites writers to submit work to be considered for publication.

    Glassworks publishes nonfiction, fiction, poetry, hybrid pieces, craft essays, new media, and art both digitally and in print. We are currently reading until December 15, 2014.

    More information about the magazine, sample issues, and our submission manager can be found at our website.

    Submissions link.

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    19. Nick Frost to appear in the Doctor Who Christmas special (link)

    From BBC:

    Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), among others, will be in the 2014 Doctor Who Christmas special

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    20. Call for Fiction and Memoir: Blue Heron Book Works

    Blue Heron Book Works, an e-pub company, is looking for outstanding memoirs--unusual personal tales well told, or awesomely well told ordinary stories to publish as ebook, with an eye to print-on-demand later. 
    We would also like to work with fiction writers who have ideas for series fiction of any sort.  All costs are born by BHBW. 
    Check out our website to see what we like.  And query us at:
    infoATblueheronbookworksDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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    21. Call for Submissions: Sun and Sandstone

    Sun & Sandstone, a national literary journal of undergraduate writing published annually by Rocky Mountain College, is now accepting submissions for its 2015 issue. Publishable genres include poetry, creative nonfiction, short fiction, and one act plays.

    For complete submission guidelines, please visit our website.

    Deadline: February 28, 2015

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    22. Emmanuel Carrère profile

           In The Observer Robert McCrum profiles Emmanuel Carrère: the most important French writer you've never heard of. [Aside: that sort of claim should really be reserved for the truly obscure, not someone who has been widely translated into English (six of his books are under review at the complete review ...); along with 'Lost in Translation' it's probably the single worst and most over/ab-used article headline in (pseudo-)literary journalism.]
           The occasion -- rather prematurely, as readers have to wait another month in both the US and UK -- is the publication of the English translation of Carrère's "non-fiction novel", Limonov (see the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page [aside: that's a hell of a URL], or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I have a copy and should be getting to it in the coming weeks). It's based on the life of the: "wrecked, transgressive figure of Eduard Limonov" (who you might also remember from Arslan Khasavov's Sense) -- whom McCrum also devotes considerable space to.
           Disappointingly, McCrum doesn't discuss Carrère's new book, Le Royaume -- 640 pages about the early days of Christianity, and a book that has gotten much attention but failed to make even just the longlists for the biggest French literary prizes this fall, the Goncourt and the Renaudot (see the P.O.L. publicity page)
           As noted, six of Carrère's titles are under review at the complete review; The Adversary still strikes me as his best.

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    23. She walks in sneezes, like the blight.

    She walks in sneezes, like the blight.

    0 Comments on She walks in sneezes, like the blight. as of 1/1/1900
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    24. The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick

    red sheetWhat if you woke up one morning a totally different person? Even more intriguing–you think you were a major jerk, but you don’t know why. Oh, and then you have a strong desire to tie a red sheet around your neck and begin rescuing trapped kittens out of trees and helping old ladies across the street.

    The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick is a fascinating young adult novel that creates a unique “what if?” scenario. Bryan Dennison wakes up one morning and he’s a totally different person. Once a superjock, self-centered bully, the new Bryan is respectful to his mother, neighborly, and working hard at school. He’s also attracted to Scott Beckett, the former victim of his bullying, even though he can’t remember much about his relationship with Scott prior to his sudden change. As Bryan struggles to put the pieces together of who he used to be, Scott is not interested in anything the new and improved Bryan has to offer.

    I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like this before. It is superb. Kerick puts together an intriguing novel where the main character shares his story the way in which it unfolded in front of him. What happened to him is so powerful, he must share it. The reader is asking the same questions that Bryan is considering at each point in the story. What happened before his change? Why was Bryan such an obnoxious jerk? What caused him to change? Why can’t he remember the way he acted toward Scott Beckett?  And once everything is revealed, the reader might be more shocked than Bryan was.

    My only nitpick is that there was too much swearing for my taste. It might be realistic, but I don’t care for it. The same story could be told with that aspect toned down and still have a great impact.

    The Red Sheet is an excellent novel about bullying, being comfortable in your own skin, seeking forgiveness and being able to forgive. Its message is inspiring. Its plot unique. I think this is going to be a very popular book within its target market and beyond.

    Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

    Mia Kerick’s Web Site:

    Mia Kerick’s Facebook:

    Mia Kerick’s Goodreads:

    Mia Kerick’s YouTube:

    Mia Kerick’s Blog:

    The Red Sheet Goodreads:

    Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:

    The Red Sheet blog tour site:

    Prices/Formats: $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
    Genre: Young Adult
    February 20, 2014
    Harmony Ink Press

    Amazon buy link:

    Barnes and Noble buy link:

    Dreamspinner Press buy link:

    All Romance buy link:



    miaMia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

    Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

    Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

    My themes I always write about:
    Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them

    Chance to win a $25 Amazon.com gift card (or PayPal cash)

    a Rafflecopter giveaway


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    25. Call for Submissions: Psychopomp Magazine

    Psychopomp Magazine, a journal devoted to genre-bending and experimental prose, is now open for free submissions.
    Please read an issue or two to get a sense of what we're looking for. Surprise us. Ferry us away from the familiar. We like fiction and art. Please visit our website for more information.

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