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16801. The Day A Nation and a Teenager Grew Up

November 22, 1963 changed an entire nation.

It also changed my life forever, but for an entirely different reason.

            My first encounter with Doctor Jordan was as a 7-year-old, when my dad decided—much to my mother's dismay—that I should be exposed to the new young doctor in town. "Mary needs a doctor she can count on in the years to come," he explained. "One who will be around to take care of herchildren."

             Oh, if only he had realized the irony of that statement.
            Flash forward, ten years.

             "Mary, the doctor will see you now." I, somehow, put one foot in front of the other and walked into the examining room to confirm what I already knew.

             Half hour later, I walked through the waiting room door, and barely heard the murmurs roaring like a tidal wave. Words like “Dallas” and “assassination” didn’t sink in since my mind filled with my own personal turmoil. The brisk November air didn't even faze me as I struggled with how to tell Mom and Dad I was going to have a baby in a few months. It seemed only yesterday I’d gotten my driver’s license, and now I was going to be responsible for steering a child through the twists and turns of life.
            Slumped beside my hand-me-down gray Studebaker, I felt overwhelming loneliness as two school buses passed by on the street with loads of chattering, carefree high school students. I could only imagine the serious discussions taking place about what to wear to the basketball game that night, or who did and didn't have a date to the “sock hop” after the game. I flashed ahead six months to the prom I’d been anticipating, and the graduation ceremony that I would probably miss because I’d have to drop out of school since, in the ‘60’s, a girl who became pregnant was not allowed to corrupt her peers by attending day classes. Looking back, I can't remember the same stigma applying to the fathers! All I really knew was that my decisions had forever altered the path my life would take from that moment on. 

             My mother came home early from work. I’m not sure if it was because of the dark events transpiring in Texas, or because intuition pulled her home. For whatever reason, the look of anguish on her face as I blurted out my news, is something I'll never forget.
           "It will be your responsibility to tell your dad when he gets home tonight."
            She might as well have said, "You're the one who has to stick this dagger into your dad's heart."

            Funny, I flashed back, once again, to the day I decided to surprise my mother with a gorgeous bouquet of the neighbor's freshly-bloomed tulips. I had expected a look of sheer joy and appreciation, instead, I got a look of horror at having ruined our sweet, elderly neighbor's prized flower bed. I can't say I ever expected a look of joy at my latest news, but the look of horror…pretty much the same.
            Yes, this was far beyond the time I'd had to admit breaking a neighbor’s window playing baseball three summers earlier. How ironic! My baseball and glove still held a prominent place on the bookshelf in my room, but soon, I would face the future…perhaps playing pitch and catch with a five-year-old.
            Through the afternoon, the steady, wrenching television coverage of President Kennedy’s death, made the wait for my dad easier. Is it any wonder that focusing on a national tragedy, rather than facing the problems and decisions that lay ahead, was welcome relief? My dad was a huge supporter of John F. Kennedy, and I knew he would be devastated by his death, so for me to add to his pain on thisday was unbearable.
           The lights flashed from left to right through the front windows signaling my dad pulling into the driveway; home from his hour commute. I let him get seated in his comfortably broken-in chair before I spoke, like that would make the news a bit easier to bear. Perhaps thinking better of her stern admonishment from earlier, Mom took me off the hook and quietly told him he was going to be a grandfather. Without saying a word, Dad crossed the room, patted me on the shoulder and kissed my forehead. He wasn’t ordinarily demonstrative, so I knew this rare show of emotion was truly loving and supportive. A tear slip from my cheek as I choked, “I’m sorry, Dad.”

             The next three days were a nightmare. Our president was dead, his alleged assassin was gunned down on live TV, and I would soon be a seventeen-year-old mother. I hardly knew which event to focus on at any given time!

            On the Monday of the President’s funeral, my emotions fluctuated wildly from overwhelming sadness and confusion, to total wonderment and respect for Jacqueline Kennedy who planned this stately funeral, and  conducted herself with amazing class and decorum. I, along with the rest of the country, cried when John Jr. gave his innocent, but timely salute. Could I learn from her strength and ability to pull an entire grieving country together?

             At that sad, confusing moment, it seemed unlikely.

             To my surprise, the sun came up the next morning, and reality hit me square in the face. It was time to confront the issues I’d allowed myself to avoid because of the assassination.  What was to happen to me and to the baby that would soon be a major part my life? In those days, even considering raising a child by myself would have been absurd. The decision that marriage was the only way out of this shameful situation, was made by our parents.
            A week later, the wedding took place in my church, with my kindly minister officiating. My brother and sister-in-law stood up with us as our parents and grandparents looked on with sad resignation. There were no flowers or elegantly dressed bridesmaids to brighten the occasion. There was no photographer to capture a joyful and positive beginning to a story-book marriage I’d anticipated from the time I was ten years old. I promised myself, however, to make the best of it.
            John Allen was born a few months later with eyes wide-open, ready to take on the world. Being two months premature, he wasn’t expected to be big enough to live, but fooled everyone, including his doctor, by weighing in over five pounds.  His father, John, always assumed that his son had been named for him, but little did he know, I wanted my precious son named John after the little boy I’d watched salute his father during that emotionally charged weekend in November. A good solid name to carry throughout his life would also have special meaning to me.
            It's been a half-century since that tumultuous weekend in 1963. I look back on those five decades with both sorrow and gratification. I was divorced the year after my son graduated from high school, and have now been married to my “soul mate” going on 30 years. My son and I have had our share of challenges, but one thing stayed constant throughout; the love for that new little life that changed my life forever.



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16802. Benefits of Pre-Plotting

A writer just tweeted that because of the pre-plotting she did, she was able to complete NaNoWriMo one entire week early! Great news. Who knows what she'll find during PlotWriMo? The important thing is she has a rough draft of her novel completed. Cause for celebration!

A pre-plot is simply a rough plot plan with key scenes mapped out for both the character emotional development plot and the dramatic action plot with some thematic elements identified and including perhaps the romance plot. The more scenes you imagine and pre-plot on a Plot Planner or whatever system works for you, the clearer your story becomes.

Eager to begin writing a new story in 2014? Join literary agent and publishing insider, Jill Corcoran, and me in one of our small group (maximum 8 writers) 4 week online video chats to pre-plot your novel, memoir, screenplay (you can begin writing at the same time you're pre-plotting).

Weekly homework is assigned from The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.

Week One of the 4-week Pre-Plotting Workshop during our 2.25 hour online video chat beginning January 7th in the evening and January 9th during the day, we'll check in on your homework, which for the first week is to begin establishing three of the most important elements in your entire story:

1) how the protagonist transforms at the end
2) what dramatic action in the middle and the end of the story causes that transformation
3) what the interaction between the action and the character change means to the story overall

We'll also cover:
What is a Book Concept?
What are the three most important considerations in choosing what book to write?
Does your voice match your genre?
How can make your manuscript stand out in the sea of books in the marketplace?
How is your story the same and different from all other stories in your genre?
Is your protagonist the very best representation for your concept?

Each writer receives feedback on your concept and has the opportunity to ask general questions during the Q&A Discussion.

Understanding the overall arc of your story, helps you better determine how best to write every scene and successfully bring your story vision  to life .

Take the PLOTWRIMO Pre-Challenge:

You have 1 week and 2 days to get a draft written in time for PlotWriMo. Beginning December 1st, follow the exercises on the Plot Whisperer blog to re"vision" and redefine the plot arc of your story. PlotWriMo is custom designed to ensure your success even during the busiest time of the year.
Begin 2014 ready for a powerful rewrite.
The following resources support you in your pre-challenge:
1) Plot your story step-by-step with the help of
The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories

2) Read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
named BEST BOOKS FOR WRITERS by Poets&Writers. The author provides insight on how to create works of fiction with powerful stories and focuses on how to devise a Universal Plot, plot lines and subplots, compelling scenes, and character transformation.
3) Refer to The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing
for writing prompts for scene #1 to the very The End, one prompt at a time.

4) Watch the Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. Scroll down on the left of this post for a directory of all the steps to the series. 27-step tutorial on Youtube

5) Watch the Monday Morning Plot Book Group Series on YouTube. Scroll down on the right of this post for a directory the book examples and plot elements discussed.

For more tips about how to use plot and the Universal Story in your novel, memoir or screenplay, visit:
Plot Whisperer on Pinterest 

*****Knowing what to write where in a story with a plot reinforces daily writing practice and allows for more productivity in your writing. Whether writing a first draft or revising, if you falter wondering what comes next in a story with a plot, follow the prompts in The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.

Today, I write.

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16803. PiBoIdMo Day 22: Bitsy Kemper Makes it Happen

by Bitsy Kemper

Ah, the life of an author. Writing, creating…it evokes images of stretched legs and hammocks by the sea.


Yeah, right. Sometimes I’d rather clean the toilet. Let’s face it. No matter how much we love what we do, and no matter how easily words may flow, there are days when it’s still work. To be a good writer, nay, a great writer, we are faced with days and days of less fun and more work. But hey, it’s still fun. And usually better than grabbing a scrub brush.

With an easily-distracted brain (IS THAT CHOCOLATE?), my biggest challenge is focus. When faced with a deadline or obstacle, my mind tends to freak out. It wanders about like a baby that’s just learned to crawl. (“Oh, I need to see that up close. Oh wait, there’s something shiny, was that always there? Can I eat it?”) Sometimes it sprints like an escaped prisoner and doesn’t come back for days.

When I *have*to focus, I usually can’t.


I figured I could better harness that energy by creating a blog. After all, writing is writing, right? In July I created a WordPress account and literally went live within five minutes. Then I spent 105 minutes picking out a font. Background color? Agonizing. Theme? Changed it four times. I could easily spend five hours a day refining and fine tuning to get it just right. And not one minute would be spent writing. That recently-sprung prisoner called distraction would be laughing all the way to the bank.

oldmanwagfingerCreating or maintaining a blog isn’t the same thing as writing one. But you can’t do one without the other, not if you want to do it well. All the time I spent obsessing over managing formatting ate away at the time I could have spent writing it. Or better yet, working on a manuscript. There’s only so much time in a day, and we need to spend it wisely. (Oh, crap, did I just turn into my grandfather?)

Some of you are very good at writing a pithy post, hitting enter, and going back to your regularly-scheduled program. You impress me. But my brain won’t let me off that easy. “Was there an extra space after the fifth sentence? Would this look better in blue? Maybe I could take a few pictures to post along with it…hang on, I’ll grab my camera…” Next thing you know I’m knee deep in gifs and jpegs and have completely forgotten the purpose was to write.

Here’s the deal: WordPress ISN’T WHAT I DO. It’s not what defines me. Sorry, blog, I mean I like you and all, but you are not what I wake up in the morning eager to work on. You are not what I think about all day and can’t wait to work on again once the kids are asleep. You are not what kept me from falling asleep last night because of all those great story ideas resulting from an otherwise painful trip to the mall. Yes, I will tend to you, dear blog, but not at the expense of my other writing progress. I can’t hand you the steering wheel.

I set the blog up only to walk away because it aggressively detracted me from my one true love: working on my manuscripts. (To think they just waited patiently for my return! They are so good to me.) My blog is imperfect and I hate that. But sometimes “good enough” has to be, well, good enough.


Bottom line: if there is only enough time in the day to get one thing right, it’s gonna be my manuscript, not my blog. I won’t be a better writer if I use the blog as a distraction away from my “real” writing, the way I use my writing to distract me from cleaning the bathroom (honestly, you’d think it’d be spotless by now).

Maybe you can replace the word “blog” with “Facebook” or “crying baby” or something else from your own life; we all have that one big distracter that keeps us from staying on track. The trick is to fight the temptation, tame the beast, focus focus focus.

Make time for yourself, no one is going to give it to you.

Now I’m off to finish those revisions my editor needs next Thursday. Sorry, bathroom and blog, you’re gonna have to wait.


bitsykemperBitsy Kemper is author of six educational picture books and one nonfiction YA that’s due 2014. Interestingly, her passion is humorous middle grade and creative, fictional picture books, but real life (or is it her blog?) has a way of interfering with finding their perfect publisher…

Busy with three kids (four if you count her husband), Bitsy has stayed focused long enough to present at writer conferences and schools from NY to CA. She’s enjoyed using her corporate background to create custom business plans for fellow writers who would rather clean toilets than market themselves. Follow her at @BitsyKemper or BitsyKemper.com.

Now stop reading and get back to writing!

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 22: Bitsy Kemper Makes it Happen, last added: 11/22/2013
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16804. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e November 22nd, 2013

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

These Two Things That Bella Andre Said Will Make You Rethink Your Life as an Author (Dan Blank)

Advertising, Print Editions, and Traditional Publishing (Discoverability Part One) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

The Prolific Author (Jane Lebak)

Are Book Events Worthwhile? (Nancy J. Cohen)

Neil Gaiman on Copyright Piracy and the Web (Neil Gaiman)

The Blurt (Mary Kole)

Don’t Stop the Story to Introduce Each Character (Jodie Renner)

When a Writer Becomes a Target (Rachelle Gardner)

Juice Up Your Characters With Inner Conflict (James Scott Bell)

Awards Profiteering: The Book Festival Empire of JM Northern Media (Victoria Strauss)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2012, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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16805. Runner’s Strip Movie Shorts: Episode 2: ‘Runner’s Right of Way’

Every runner has been there. They’re just running along, not taking up too much space on the sidewalk, when BAM…they meet the sidewalk hog!!! Walkers going five wide, a dog-owner with about 200 feet of leash slack, packs of people paying no attention to the fact that you, a runner, are in fact trying to pass through.

I hope you enjoy my latest Runner’s Strip Cartoon Movie Short:

runner's right of way movie

May all your running paths be unimpeded…but if not…

In case you missed my FIRST Runner’s Strip Cartoon Moving Short, you can find it HERE.

Got a race coming up? Race tips HERE.

Stuck in a ‘meh’ mood? Get a kick in the running motivation pants HERE.

1) Do you try to say something if you’re coming up on people from behind?
I try the loud cough first.
2) Ever been full on tripped by some sidewalk hogs?
3) When the tables are turned, if you’re walking your dog or something are you mindful of other runners?
Yuppers. :)

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16806. Before the Journey…

Ready to have your mind blown?

So… I have this friend named Aaron.  We’ve known each other a long long looooong time. Since before I could write a full sentence or he knew not to stick his paintbrush in his ear.

Nowadays, he’s busy making the most beautiful wordless picture books you’ve ever seen. But years ago, before either of us had published a book, he and I tried to collaborate.

First, on a picture book that will never exist, called Lily and the Wily Corn Bears…

And then on Inside the Slidy Diner, which would become my first picture book, though with other art.

I guess the world just wasn’t ready for us *yet…

But Aaron found these old images on a CDRom today.  Isn’t that cool?

*in fact, Aaron DID do the cover of my adult anthology, Half/Life, but adult books don’t count. Everyone knows that.


1 Comments on Before the Journey…, last added: 12/5/2013
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16807. The Dolphins of Shark Bay


Earlier this year, I had the chance to talk with author Pamela Turner about her next big thing. (Here’s that post.) I’m logging on today to let you know that thing, the ‘Scientists in the Field’ book THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY, is officially out in the world. Also? It’s a must-read.

I know. I say that about all the SITF books.

And I probably am biased, as I write for the series myself.


This is still a book I will recommend to everyone in my life, young and old. The dolphins living in the waters of Shark Bay are opening our eyes to the complexity of dolphin life and behavior … and what scientists are learning from these dolphins is rocking human notions of, well, what it means to be human. Don’t miss this one, folks!

Here’s a link to more information on the book.

Here’s a link to one of Pam’s latest blog post on the SITF website.

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16808. November 22 Birthday: Sieur De La Salle

Sieur De La Salle a.k.a. Rene-Robert Cavelier, explorer
Nov. 22, 1643-Mar. 20, 1687

Despite All Obstacles: LaSalle and the Conquest of the Mississippi by Joan Elizabeth Goodman, illustrated by Tom McNeely (Mikaya Press, 2001)

Follow La Salle from his birth in France through his Mississippi adventures through a text filled with excerpts from letters, diaries and journals.

The Handbook of Texas Online provides a biographical sketch of La Salle.

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16809. The Magic of Voice and A. R. Kahler

There are magical elements that some writers bring to the table that other writers simply lack. Their prose rises from the page to dance with you.

The characters, the setting, the action are all brought to 3-D High Def life by word choice and sentence structure. It is the difference between reading "see spot run" and "see Spot shoot toward the exit, legs fueled by terror, chased by certain death."

When I find these amazing wordsmiths, it is like finding the most delectable dessert.

I recently had the pleasure of reading A. R. Kahler's The Immortal Circus and The Immortal Circus Act Two, a story of Queen Mab's Winter Court turned circus. The enchanting protagonist, Vivienne, runs away to the circus to forget who and what she truly is.

In the hands of a different writer, this tale could have been stale and boring, a sad attempt to rewrite A Midsommer Night's Dream as a tortured YA romance.

Instead, Kahler sets the stage, defines the protagonist, and submerges us in a fantastical tale with his original narrative voice. The fairy realm has been re-imagined and placed in a contemporary setting.  I'll share a few nibbles.


The warmth of the wine is fading, and in the back of my mind I wonder if this is how undercover agents feel. I know that we're on the verge of war, yet everyone else is oblivious. I want to scream the truth in their faces, but instead I just grin and bear it and wait for hellfire to rain down.


Mab glitters onstage, like a disco ball made human. A disco ball with curves to kill, poured into sheer leggings and a ringmaster coat of pale-blue mirror shards. Every inch of her breathes sex and rock and roll and every other thing your mother told you to avoid, from the points of her gunmetal stilettos to the tip of her whip cracking in the spotlight. She is smoke and seduction, the coolest palette of blue and haze. Only her top hat seems out of place, with its ruby as bright and lush as a beating heart.


After Mab's initial whip cracks, Kingston saunters onstage. He's in his usual magician's attire, which is to say, not much at all: sequined black dress slacks, gleaming leather shoes, and a black cape slung over one shoulder. I can practically feel the estrogen flush the moment he walks on stage. And, most likely, a few jolts of a testosterone as well. If Mab is sex and rock and roll, Kingston is slow jazz and cuddling with handcuffs.


And I remember. I remember how her blood tasted. Like chocolate. Like ecstasy. It's how all their blood tasted.


I want to scratch the blood away, want to burn my skin until it flakes, but the power to do that is gone, gone. I am weak and shivering, and running through the empty field, praying no one is waking up, praying the chefs have yet to start breakfast, praying no one heard Sara's strangled screams from last night.

It's worse than any hangover, any caffeine crash, any migraine I've ever had. The moment my eyes open and register light, it's like a buzz saw goes off in my head, and all I can do is stifle a scream and bury my head in the pillows. That doesn't help. The light is still there in the shadows, blinding, searing me through. And it's screaming - screaming louder than the roar of fire in my temples, louder than my muffled groans. I clench the pillow so tight to my head, I wonder if the stars exploding in my vision are from suffocation. I don't care - I don't fucking care at all. It hurts, it hurts so much; I just want it over.


As a book addict, I am always looking for my next literary "high." I keep a list of authors I know will give me a satisfying fix. This author has certainly earned a place on it. I cannot wait for Act Three.

For more information visit http://www.arkahler.com/immortalcircus/

A. R. Kahler's books are available for purchase.

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16810. A sport biography for children about one of New Zealand's most exciting league players

Stepping with Benji Marshall by David Riley

I came across this book while researching a sports' book I'm writing myself. And I have to say that I'm impressed. I am a sucker for biographies but I'm not a rugby/league sports fan (at all). Yet David Riley grabs me from the first page with rugby league player Benji Marshall's crowning moment winning the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. We read about Benji's 'stupefying sidestep', his 'phenomenal passing', 'sizzling speed' and his toughness; subtitles that will draw young boys to read further. Author David Riley knows what he is doing - he is a High school English and Drama teacher himself.

In the next chapter, David tells us about Benji's not ideal beginnings. His 16 year old mother brought Benji up along with the help of their whanau. Benji did not have a dad but he had 8+ uncles who took him under his wing. We find out that Benji was often over-looked for junior teams because of his small stature. He compensated by learning tricks; moves that would make him stand out from the other team players.

I like that David tells us about the whole person. Read the biography to find out what else Benji was talented in - you'll find them surprising (and refreshing). You'll also find out how he was selected for the big league, how he wasn't afraid to volunteer tricky moves - moves that helped his teams win against the odds. The wins are incredible culminating in Benji winning the biggest prize of all ...

To keep the book interesting for reluctant readers David keeps the chapters small, with punchy sub-headings, lots of photographs, quotes and breakouts such as commentaries on important moments in the game: Here's How it Went Down; and Did You Know Facts. At the back of the book is a bibliography so boys can read further about Benji and rugby league. Also an interesting page about how Benji is helping other people; visiting sick kids in hospital, starting a foundation, and being an inspiration to young players. There's even a page on what to do if you're facing challenges, plus a timeline.

The book is professionally designed by Tau Ceti One (I particularly like the type-set) and printed in New Zealand. You can buy a printed and digital version of the book.

Order directly from the author  davidrileynz@gmail.com
Cost: $20 plus postage and packaging: postage in NZ: 1- 4 copies $4.50 ; 5 -10 copies $5.50; postage to Australia: 1- 4 copies $5.50. 10% discount for orders of 20 or more
Electronic version can be purchased here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/364958

For teachers - David has written an English resource teaching metacognitive (learning to learn) strategies using articles about the All Black Team players, and another book for the Rugby League team. I write teaching resources and I can tell you these are first class. If you teach an all-boy class - you'll definitely want to download these AND THEY'RE FREE! David tells me he is writing something for girls and boys who are interested in other sports that aren't rugby or league. Go to his website http://readingwarrior.com/steppin-with-benji-marshall/ for some great reviews of his book, and find out what else David has written (a play, picture book, another biography - about Sonny Bill Williams). 

An excellent book that you'll want to buy for your class, school library or for the boy (or girl) who is a rugby league fanatic.

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16811. My Notes on "Digging Deep"

"Digging Deep" is up at Every Day Fiction today. I think they're switching servers tomorrow, so it's only appropriate the last story before blackout is about death. Sort of.

Let me tell you about "Digging Deep". 

Here be spoilers.

Read the story first, if you would.


I wrote "Digging Deep" shortly before Aimee died and submitted it one time before my hiatus and return to writing. It is a story about death as I mentioned above, but more. It is a horror story, but not a Horror story. "Digging Deep" talks about Truth like I hope most of my work does. Although I've capitalized it, this Truth is human-truth, not God-truth. I'll leave that for the theologians.

I want readers to understand what moves the narrator. This is a story of big revelation rather than big events. It's not about what happened to the mummified remains the narrator helps to exhume or the horrors which might lurk on the English countryside near his home. No, it's about real horror--horror any of us can feel.

On one level, there's the horror of losing a child (or any loved one). You see, the narrator feels the connection between his daughter, Ellen, and the awful things they dig from under the standing stones. The braided hair sets him off.  My grandmother buried both of her children--my Aunt Norma Jean (who I never met because she died at 21, decades before my birth) and my father (brain cancer shortened his life). I look at my own kids, those with whom I share genes and my stepchildren, and can't imagine--don't want to imagine--such terrible ends for them. I fiercely love Kim, and the thought of anything, anything happening to her abhors me. Anyone who loves so fiercely can feel the inevitable pang of death. So yes, death stalks the narrator as it does all of us.

But that, dear readers, is only a bit of the story--even for a tale just shy of 1,000 words, there's more.

"Digging Deep" is also about the horror which comes when people become little more than objects. The mummified bodies, once living, breathing people (again, the braids), are now objects for the university men. Waxy broadens the theme when he talks about the barmaid, saying, "Wouldn't mind a roll with that one," making her little more than a sexual object. For the poor narrator, Ellen becomes a thing--both an object for the "university men" and, by extension, a sexual object for men like Waxy--as he connects the dots between the three. In the end, especially in the end, death leaves each of us nothing more than objects.

Yes, that latter bit is implied. It's what the story means to me, now, nearly two years after originally writing it. But the truth--and the truth of all fiction--is that any reader's reality is just as valid as mine.

I've written the story and now it's time to share.

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16812. Flashback #18: Take the Reins video

Wow, talk about going back! This video was created for TTR by Jo at GlassSlipper Webdesign. Originally published December 7, 2008.

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16813. Martha and Charlotte go to Indonesia

farsideindonesia bostonbayindonesia tidemillindonesian

I recently learned that an Indonesian publisher has purchased the reprint rights for my Martha and Charlotte books. The first two books in each series came out in 2011, and the rest of them are coming out this year, is my understanding. The website is a bit puzzling: the entry for “Mellissa Wiley” shows the three books above, but seemed to be missing Little House in the Highlands. Then I realized Boston Bay‘s cover was there twice, with different titles. Here’s Highlands, courtesy of Google Books:


My publisher says I’ll be receiving copies sometime soon. It’s awfully fun to see one’s work in a new language.


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16814. The Dolphins of Shark Bay


Earlier this year, I had the chance to talk with author Pamela Turner about her next big thing. (Here’s that post.) I’m logging on today to let you know that thing, the ‘Scientists in the Field’ book THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY, is officially out in the world. Also? It’s a must-read.

I know. I say that about all the SITF books.

And I probably am biased, as I write for the series myself.


This is still a book I will recommend to everyone in my life, young and old. The dolphins living in the waters of Shark Bay are opening our eyes to the complexity of dolphin life and behavior … and what scientists are learning from these dolphins is rocking human notions of, well, what it means to be human. Don’t miss this one, folks!

Here’s a link to more information on the book.

Here’s a link to one of Pam’s latest blog post on the SITF website.

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16815. Which genre?

Question: My MC grows a pair of wings a after a spiritual journey (meeting with his inner self through lucid dreams). He is then recruited by a secret

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16816. Last Week of #NaNoWriMo 2013; Let's Get This Manuscript Finished

Here we are, the last week of NaNoWriMo! And yes, I know you'd rather go to Paris for the weekend, me too. But we need to get these manuscripts finished, so Paris will have to wait for a little while.

I don't know about you, but my word count isn't looking so great right now, something I want to change by Monday at the latest. To achieve that goal, I'm going to try something brand new: 10,000 words in one day! Yes, 10K, really. I'm all signed up to participate tomorrow 11-23-13 in a fun website writing party hosted by my Twitter friend Milli Thornton at @fearofwriting: 10kdayforwriters.com.

I only learned about Milli's site a couple of days ago, and just in the nick of time. In fact, the discovery was so fortuitous that I'm still reeling from one of those "how did that happen?" moments.

But despite my best intentions to write those 10K words, I also know that if I'm going to stay motivated I'll need some trusty writing prompts. Last night I brainstormed a list of 25; please feel free to borrow, steal, or add to the list by leaving a comment or two. All suggestions will be most welcome!

My 10K Prompt List:
  1. Write about my characters' goals: why are they so important?
  2. Write back story--lots of back story!
  3. Write a character's first memory and make it essential to a present scene.
  4. Describe my main character's place of work and how that influences the plot.
  5. Various characters' neighbors: what do they really think?
  6. Have one of the characters stuck in an elevator--with the villain.
  7. A mysterious package arrives: why and what's in it? How does this change everything?
  8. A death in the family.
  9. An invitation my main character can't refuse.
  10. Write about a recurring dream.
  11. Phobias--assign one to a secondary character and use it to keep them from helping my main character.
  12. Car trouble. At the very worst time possible.
  13. Illness. Ditto as above.
  14. Somebody witnesses a crime.
  15. And then is framed for it!
  16. A big lie and the unexpected consequences.
  17. Hobbies--pick one and make it important to the plot.
  18. An overheard conversation--and what happens because of it.
  19. A stolen identity.
  20. One of the characters finds (fill in the blank) and is devastated.
  21. Something observed in a window.
  22. A favorite item is broken. What, why, what happens because of it?
  23. A sudden storm.
  24. A creepy prophecy--that comes true.
  25. The three very worst outcomes that can happen if my characters don't reach their goals, and then have them happen.
So come on, join us on Saturday--I think you can even wear your pajamas all day, just as long as you promise to write.

Tip of the Day: In case you can't sign up for this Saturday's 10K session, be sure to check out 10kdayforwriters.com anyway for one of their future writing sessions; they're held twice a month regardless of NaNoWriMo or similar events. Whichever day you choose, 10K in one day will surely help you reach THE END, a very good place to be.

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16817. When she was bad, she was horrid

Saw an interesting comment by Michael Connelly, writer of the Harry Bosch series. On being asked about his Irish roots, he replied:

“ Yeah, I have complete Irish roots, and I went to Catholic schools and all of that ….But, you know, I don’t consider myself an Irish crime writer or an American crime writer, I consider myself a storyteller. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if a character is interesting to the reader, it doesn’t really matter where that character is or where the writer is. That kind of story crosses all oceans and all boundaries.” 

It gets to the nub of writing – it is what we should all be, just story tellers with good characters. Characters that readers are interested in and who they care about. The genre is secondary – it is why good crime fiction does so well (in my view) it is because the stories are so good. Your attention is held. And you have characters in them that you care about (even more so in series where you have a central recurring character – think Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole.)

I am reminding myself here as much as others – I have a tendency to wander off from the story. Sometimes this is good as it leads the story to new places – other times it is just bad (like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead .. when she was good she was very very good, when she was bad she was horrid!). Note – I am not suggesting here that when I am good I am very very good … it just brought the nursery rhyme into my head. The ‘horrid’ still stands.

Wandering off in the middle of a story can lose you your reader – which is why I try to keep my reader in my head. They change shape depending on what I am writing – but sometimes they are a very specific person. I read aloud a piece I have written and wonder what they would think of it. It is not to say that I do not write for myself, I do, but that is not enough – I write so others can read – and if I don’t think about them I do them a disservice.

Anyway that came into my mind as I was talking to a lovely writers group during the week and it made me, once again, think about writing. The why, the what and the wherefore.

PS It is also about the words and how they are strung together – the last line of this little poem bears that out. Apart from rhyming with forehead, the use of the word horrid is just so perfect!


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16818. Over at Tumblr we’re talking Tutus

tutuuse copy

Over at my STORY STUDIO tumblr page, we’re talking TUTUs and loving and embracing our womanly hips. Check it out here.

And in honor of Tutus, I’ve developed a Pinterest page of Tutus Love you can see here.

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16819. Friday Feature: Breaking Nova

Breaking Nova (Nova, #1)

Nova Reed used to have dreams-of becoming a famous drummer, of marrying her true love. But all of that was taken away in an instant. Now she's getting by as best she can, though sometimes that means doing things the old Nova would never do. Things that are slowly eating away at her spirit. Every day blends into the next . . . until she meets Quinton Carter. His intense, honey brown eyes instantly draw her in, and he looks just about as broken as she feels inside.

Quinton once got a second chance at life-but he doesn't want it. The tattoos on his chest are a constant reminder of what he's done, what he's lost. He's sworn to never allow happiness into his life . . . but then beautiful, sweet Nova makes him smile. He knows he's too damaged to get close to her, yet she's the only one who can make him feel alive again. Quinton will have to decide: does he deserve to start over? Or should he pay for his past forever?

My thoughts:
Nova is already broken when we meet her. Her boyfriend, Landon, took his own life, and she can't get past it. She just wants him back. Every day she tortures herself by contemplating whether she should watch a video Landon left for her before he killed himself. While Nova is spiraling downward, she gets caught up in drugs, thanks to the influence of her roommate and a new acquaintance named Quinton. No one actually tries to get Nova to use drugs. She winds up doing it because everyone around her does it. That and she's tired of people telling her she's too good for drugs because she doesn't feel she is.
Quinton is also broken when we meet him. He's responsible for the deaths of two people and can't get past that. Drugs are how he gets through each day. He thinks Nova's too good for him and tries to push her away.
I really wanted to love this book. I did. But the drug use got to be too much for me. I felt like it became the focus of the novel, and since I can't relate to that, it got redundant for me. The writing was solid though. It just wasn't the right book for me.

What was the last book you read that was good but not really your type of story?

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16820. Last call for classes that start this weekend and free worksheet


A free worksheet for Empaths!

This weekend starts THE EMPATH SKILLS online class and ANIMAL MEDIUMSHIP online class. You can still sign up and if you are a subscriber there’s a cool discount! There’s personalized class course pages and individual attention. Lots of worksheets to play with and fun lessons and homework.

I may not be offering these classes for awhile. I will be retooling the Fairy Online School this winter as it morphs and changes after eight years of existence. Some classes will be retired. The school may shift altogether. We all have growth spurts and need change. Love to see you in classes now!




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vfaz cover

In November View from a Zoo was mentioned in the Pittsburgh Tribune, the Ft. Wayne Family Magazine, and received great reviews in California Kids! - page 16, and the Cincinnati Family Magazine.


Look for the iPad edition later this year from Reading Rainbow.

The Southern Newspapers Publishers Association is publishing and offering several of Artie’s children’s stories to newspapers across the United States.  To read the first three stories, please click on the illustration below.

Turkey and Pumpkin cover

Use of any of the content on this website without permission is prohibited by federal law 


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16822. passing the poetime

Last night a little party convened here in Boston.  At the table were Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm, Laura Purdie Salas, Carrie Finison of Story Patch, and Janet Fagal.  Later we had visits from Franki Sibberson, Tara Smith of A Teaching Life and Linda Baie of TeacherDance. The conversation was both broad and delightedly poetricentric.

One thing that came up was Amy's inability to keep a watch running, and her tendency to interfere with other technology.  We laughed about the strangeness of that phenomenon and remarked how (as Daisy would say) "that's a thing"--we all had heard of people who have those sort of troubles with cell phones and alarm clocks and streetlights.

This morning I went and read about EMFs--electromagnetic fields--and about our own bioelectromagnetism.  I found my way to a fascinating discussion with the flavor of quackery which I nonetheless found to be a compelling argument for increasing animal dis-ease, including our own human panoply of illnesses.  This is an area also where science intersects with earthcentric spirituality: read here for more views of our human "energy body."

But for now, all we need to know is that some people have a problem with

Killing Time

I plug it in but
nothing happens.
Lights dim and die
when I pass by.

I press the button;
nothing happens.
Clocks stop and sigh
when I pass by.

I wind my watch;
replace the batteries.
Again they die.
I don't know why.

I specialize
in killing time.

HM 2013 draft

You can productively kill a little more time enjoying the posts over at Write. Sketch. Repeat. with Katya today.  Welcome back, Katya!

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16823. Before you get that artwork made, read this.

Ow! Holy Sh***! OW!

I’m experiencing a sharp pain in my job estimator (it’s near the gall bladder). I take a deep breath, hold my side and stare at the ceiling until it passes.

Okay, that’s a little better. I’m still twitching, but at least I’m under control for now.

I get this pain every time a customer emails me artwork and I instantly see how expensive it’s going to be to print it on a t-shirt. See, the pain I feel isn’t for me, it’s for them. It’s sympathy pain.

Oh, the artwork may be gorgeous; a hand-painted original in all the shiny colors you’d find inside a bag of Tropical Skittles. It looks great on paper and even nice in the email. It might look nice on a shirt, but it’s going to cost a small fortune.

So what’s the deal? Why isn’t it cheaper? In this age of scanning and uploading art to Vista Print to get $6.00 business cards, why does getting a few shirts screen printed require a second mortgage?

I’ve covered this before in other posts, but I want to talk to you specifically about your artwork. I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of CMYK vs spot color or high res file conversion. You don’t need to know all that to get shirts printed, and you shouldn’t have to get a Graphic Design degree to save a little money. The advice I have for you is super duper simple and I can sum it up in one word: PLANNING.

In short, you’re doing it backwards. Typically what many of our customers do is:

  1. decide they want a new business logo or design for their event
  2. find an artist who will create it (free or cheap), and then;
  3. go find sources to print it.

Backwards! Well, sort of. Let me explain.

I know your friend/sister-in-law/nephew is a fantastic artist. You need to know up front if they have any experience in prepping artwork for print. Ideally, they should be the ones responsible for creating art you can actually use in different types of media. If not, all bets are off.

Even better, do a little research into the different ways your design will used. Will you need a sign made? Will you need it in one color on a stress ball? T-shirts you can actually afford to print? Self-inking stamp? Most vendors will have guidelines for you to follow. We post our artwork guidelines right here on our site. If you or your artist ever want to ask questions about our process, we give you unlimited advice free of charge. It’s what we do.

This way, you’re prepared to talk to an artist before anything is created.

No matter how much you love your artist and their beautiful art, you need to be prepared for all the different ways you’ll want it reproduced. That may require a little work on your part, but in the end you will have a much easier time getting what you want and saving money along the way.

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16824. Scenes That Work

You have an idea for a scene in your story?  Great, just dive in and write your heart out.  When you’ve finished you sit back and relax, right?  Wrong.

Only after you’ve finished that initial first draft does the real work start.  Each scene is a mini story in its own right so you need to check that most of the elements of the Story Arc are present in each scene:

Stasis:  You only need to set the scene again if time has moved on from the last scene or the action has moved to a new location or a new character.

Trigger:  If the flow of your scenes is working right the trigger for this scene should have been in the previous scene for this character.

Quest:  What is the protagonist looking for in this scene.

Complication:  Every scene needs a complication or to be about overcoming a complication that was set in a previous scene.

Choice:  Someone in the scene will make at least a minor choice of some sort, even if it is just a choice to take action, allow an emotion or feel a feeling.   Make sure you show that choice to your reader as this is part of each characters development.

Climax:  The highpoint in the action/drama, normally near the end of the scene.

Reversal:  Not normally necessary for a scene unless the scene is all about a character’s critical choice and its consequences, as part of the overall story.

Trigger:  Unlike the overall Story Arc, most scenes end with the trigger for the next scene in this characters scene flow.  This keeps the story moving and the reader turning the pages.  Classically, this might be a cliff-hanger to the next scene.

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16825. Reading Like a Writer

I read for pleasure first--because the experience of reading is one of the things I love about this world. But I'm a writer so I also read with an eye to how another writer does something well. Really good writers do some--BUT NOT ALL, which is encouraging in a way-- things really well. So I try to learn. 

For example, I look at this sentence that opens A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and I think WOW. And then I think--what makes it so good? It does a lot of things in one sentence, but I think, more than anything it makes me want to know Owen Meany and, to a lesser degree, the narrator. It's a great opening and it immediately attracts me to the characters. I want to know more.

"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany."

"doomed" (a powerful word that makes us think of fate and tragedy), a boy with a "wrecked" voice and "smallest person I ever knew"---give the beginning of this sentence almost a mythic quality, and there is something about wrecked that has the echo of forces beyond us. Shipwreck--for example. And he's not just a "small" person but the "smallest person I ever knew"--Here it's a bit like a fairy tale. In all these there is the sense that this story is larger than itself, whatever itself will be. 

And then the next line: "the instrument of my mother's death"--not that he killed her or that he was a part of her death in some way. More vague and yet full of mystery and more involved than just being a part of it --"the instrument". How was he the instrument? What does instrument mean in this context? We want answers to this question and it is always good when a writer gets a reader wanting answers to questions he's posed directly or indirectly in the text. So this is yet another thing that this sentence makes me think about.

Why does the reader turn the page? To get to the next one. This sentence makes me want to turn the page because I want to know more about Owen Meany and the plot. The reader already has me hooked on character and story and I haven't even finished the first sentence.

OK, onward------Then the "but" and we turn the corner. All of these interesting and strange things that Owen Meany is, as interesting and compelling as they are, are not the reason our narrator is "doomed" to remember Owen. This is a thrilling moment in this sentence. We've been brought to it by the choice of words, the compelling information, the rhythm of the clauses...not because, or because, or even because... THEN but because he is the reason I believe in God.

What? I didn't see that coming but when it comes it seems just right...all of this is about faith and this will be a book about faith. You don't have to be a Christian to feel that this is right. Faith or the lack of it is one is at the heart of so much of what it means to be human.

There's more to say about this sentence, of course, but let me just end with this. Here's Mr. Irving's sentence again. 
"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany."
Let me just rewrite this for him:
I have to remember a boy with a broken voice--not because of that or because he was so small or because he was part of why my mother died but because he made me believe in God.

IT'S the same information. I just changed a few words. Only a few. But what happened? I sucked the life right out of it--or most of the life. I did. I should be ashamed of myself.  Oh, it's not awful, I suppose, but that's the difference--not awful and something beautiful. This reminds me of Mark Twain's quote, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightening and the lightening bug."

I learn a lot from reading other writers. Sometimes I learn just from reading one sentence.

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