Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Connecticut Novel/Connecticut Mourns

Today is a little different as I'm honored to be part of Bette Stevens Blog Tour.

Before I tell you about my book in progress, let me just say that I'm from Newtown, CT and all the horrors that happened there last Friday affect me in a personal way because it is my town that evil has entered. I lived in Newtown for sixteen years, all three of my children grew up in Newtown and even attended Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I lived in Newtown right up until I moved to California.  My prayers are with all the people in Newtown, as the entire town is in mourning.

I didn't intend to start with a downer but felt I had to mention where I'm from.  On to the blog tour!


What is the working title of your book? Willard Manor

Where did the idea come from for your book? I was wondering one day what a house would say if it could talk and tell about its past owners. From that, I started writing about a fictional house built in Connecticut in 1840 by John Willard. Members of his family owned the house for the next 170 years. In 2010, a young married couple buy the house and in the process of renovating it, find clues to the former owners of the house. The chapters go back and forth from 2010 to 1840 and up.

What genre does your book fall under? Historical Fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play in a movie rendition? Shelley and Tony Maguire, the young couple renovating the house, would be played by Kate Hudson and Matt Damon. Other than John and Mary Willard, all the other characters in the story are born in the house, live their lives, and die, generation after generation so it would be difficult to have one person portray them as they age constantly.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? Willard Manor is the story of one house and the family who called it home for one hundred and seventy years.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Good question. I've been querying agents and publishers, which would be my first choice. As a last resort, I'll self-publish through Lulu.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Probably seven or eight months. I had to research the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, septic tanks, electricity, the telephone, polio, WWI, WWII, Woodstock, growing marijuana, making moonshine, furniture styles from different periods, etc.

What other books would you compare this story to? Not that I would ever compare myself to James Michener, but his books come to mind, where he tells the story of multiple generations of one family in a particular locale.

Who or what inspired you to write the book? The members of my writing group suggested I try a novel as all my other books were non-fiction.

What else about the book might pique the readers’ interest? John Willard's second son, Thomas, plants apple seeds as a little boy and watches the tree grow. Thomas leaves home to fight in the Civil War and comes back in a casket. That year, his tree produces its first apples. Thomas' apple tree is an integral part of the story.

For other authors' blogs, I suggest you visit:

Lisa Fender at
Candy Korman at
Larry Edwards at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Elementary

When you hear deerstalker hat, cape, pipe, magnifying glass, and London, what comes to your mind?  If you said Sherlock Holmes, then you’ve read the exploits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous literary character.  This month marks the 125th  birthday of Detective Holmes.

Some of us, most of us, who write keep our day job because the income from our efforts on the keyboard couldn’t keep a bird alive.  And my little bird, Crash, would surely like to be kept alive.  However, Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor (not bad for a day job), but he wrote stories to bring in extra income.  Would that we could be so lucky as to strike gold with a character like Holmes!

What was different about Sherlock Holmes?  Doyle introduced him as the first detective to solve crimes based on scientific methods.  You could say he became the first CSI agent.  CSI London?

I visited 221B Baker Street in London.  It was difficult to walk around the apartment, stand in front of the fireplace, see books and a pipe on an end table, and realize this was the apartment of an imaginary character.  Maybe the apartment was a product of my imagination as well!

Holmes solved his cases by observing.  Little things most people wouldn’t see, he took note of and filed away in his ever-inquisitive brain.  I’m happy not being too observing, that way I don’t see the dust on the picture frames.  What I don’t see, I don’t have to clean. But I wouldn’t mind having a few more filing cabinets in my brain to store things; maybe then I’d remember where I left my keys or what I came into a room for.  Sherlock Holmes, I’m not.  It’s elementary my dear ….      

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Few Things to Be Thankful For

As a child in Vermont, the only things good about November were my birthday and Thanksgiving.  Past that, it meant winter was coming and I absolutely hated winter.  My dad would go deer hunting but always made it home in time for my birthday.  Now that I'm in southern California, winter doesn't hold the dread and fear that it once did so now I actually enjoy November.

I read recently that we're the only country in the world that sets aside a day to be thankful for the blessings we have.  Isn't that heart-warming?  We may grumble about the economy, the price of gas, and the politicians, but I would rather live here and grumble than live in any other country in the world.  I have a feeling our problems would seem minor compared to what residents of other countries go through.

I, for one, am thankful that I have fingers that still work a keyboard, a mind that can still think rationally, and an office in a warm house in which to work.  I can write what I want and no one is going to censor me.  I have the latest technology at my fingertips to produce books or communicate with people around the globe.  This is a wonderful time to be living!

I have a family I love and who loves me.  My deepest thanks this year is that my daughter and her husband are around to enjoy Thanksgiving, after surviving a horrific motorcycle crash in June.  Every week that goes by, we're now at week 21, is one more week I've been able to talk and Skype with my daughter.  The situation could have been so different!  My children, my two daughters and my son, mean the world to me.

I have friends, near and far, that are dear to my heart.  My friends out here are my support since my family is all back East.  My writing friends and my church friends are more like close family than friends.  I have been truly blessed.

My husband is a love who is planning something special for my birthday.  I did right when I married him because he likes to cook more than I do and he does the dishes!

As you celebrate on Thursday, remember all you have to be thankful for--from the incredible country you live in to the fact that your eyes work and you can read this.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thought for the Day:  I Pray Heaven to Bestow The Best of Blessing on THIS HOUSE, and on ALL that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof! John Adams

Friday, November 2, 2012

Three Words a Minute = One Novel

Here we are in November already.  As I mentioned in my last post, November 1st was National Author's Day.  Did you hug your favorite author?  

Besides being a time when you  prepare your Christmas lists while you're deciding what to buy for Thanksgiving dinner, November is also NaNoWriMo, or, National Novel Writing Month.  The object, for those of you who have ever thought about writing a novel, is to start on November 1st and write a fifty thousand page novel by 11:59 pm on November 30.  Okay, I realize we're already a day late getting started so you'd better write in double time today!

And here's a blatant plug for my book, Twelve Steps to Becoming an Author.  If you are interested in writing, this book will help you all along the way from start to finish, and even after you write THE END.  Because, once you write THE END, your work is just beginning, that of marketing your book. 

Fifty thousand words in a month comes out to 1,667 words a day.  Or, 208 words an hour.  Or, 3 words a minute.  ANYBODY can write 3 words a minute.  Right?

So if you have an idea that's been niggling in the back of your mind for a few years, give it a whirl! And don't worry about editing and perfection at this stage of the game.  For this month, just get everything out of your head and on paper, or on the screen.  Next month, between wrapping presents and making cookies, you can fine tune your story.  

The main thing is, HAVE FUN!

Today's Quote: There are more experiences in life than you’d think for which there are no words.
Anita Shreve 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Amazing Adventures of a Nobody

Today I will pass on to you something I just learned--November 1st is National Authors' Day!!  So, if you know an author, give him or her a hug and thank that person for adding to the world's supply of riches (content, not money; we are poor authors after all).  And to all my author friends--may your muse be close by your side on the 1st.

I would like to talk about an author I have not met, but I have read his book.  His name is Leon Logothetis and his book is amazing adventures of a nobody.  I didn't type it wrong, there are no capital letters in his book title.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the tv show that aired from 1960 to 1964 called Route 66.  In that show, Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) and Buz Murdock (George Maharis, oh how I had a crush on him!), drove their Corvette along Route 66.  Each week brought them to a different town and a different adventure.  That show came to mind as I read Logothetis' book.

Tired of his well off, yet uninspiring life in England, Leon leaves it all behind and comes to the United States.  His goal is to cross the country, from Times Square to the Hollywood sign, with nothing but the clothes on his back and five dollars in his pocket.  He has to rely on the kindness of strangers and the "serendipity of the open road."  This is a true story and one you'll remember for some time to come.

From the back cover:  Along the way, Leon offers up the intriguing and charming tales gathered along his one-of-a-kind journey riding in trains, buses, big rigs and classic cars; sleeping on streets and couches and firehouses, meeting pimps and preachers, astronauts, celebrities and homeless families.  Each day of his journey we catch sight of the invisible spiritual underpinning of society in these stories of companionship--and sheer adventure--that prove that the kind, good soul of mankind has not been lost.

It took a lot of inner fortitude for Leon to walk up to a stranger and ask for bus or train fare, but he did it and, surprisingly, when people heard his story, they were more than willing to give what they could.  The further west he traveled, the more stories he collected and the quicker people responded to his pleas.  This book was published in 2011 by BettieYoungs Book Publishers.  I highly recommend it.

Today's Quote:  We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Amazing Bette, Amazing Matilda

Today I have with me an author who is a fellow New Englander.  I am from New England; she now lives in New England.  Bette A. Stevens is retired and lives with her husband in Hartland, Maine.

Welcome, Bette!  Tell me a little about your life in Maine.  Sure.  My husband and I spend our time writing, gardening, drawing and painting.  We're restoring an old farmstead, building trails throughout our 30+ acres of woodland and take occasional day trips to the coast to kick back and relax.  We have two grown daughters and five fantastic grandkids, with our first ‘greatgrand ‘on the way!

How long have you been writing and what type of writing do you normally do?  It seems like I've been writing forever. Business writing, editing a corporate newsletter, desktop publishing, journaling, photo captioning for scrapbooks, and capturing nature and human nature in poetic quips have been on my completed to-do checklist for decades. After a successful business career as assistant to the CEO of one of New England’s largest construction companies, I embarked on a new career path in search of attaining one of my own dreams: Teaching. With a B.S. in Elementary Education from University of Maine Orono in hand, I was privileged to teach a wonderfully diverse assortment of students in grades 4, 6, 7 and 8 in California and in grades 4 and 5 in Virginia. While completing my undergraduate courses, I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a creative writing course.

Tell us about your book,  AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale. Can you give us a brief synopsis?  MATILDA becomes discouraged when she is unable to fly during the early stages as a larva. But, this Amazing Monarch never gives up on her dream. Unlike her meadowland friends, Matilda doesn’t want to leap onto ledges or bound across fields, she only wants to fly. At first, Matilda’s friends laugh at her because she doesn’t have wings. They wonder: How can a creature without wings ever hope to fly? While Matilda progresses through the various stages of her metamorphosis from egg to butterfly, her friends recall how they felt before they were able to do all of the things they had dreamed of doing and how hard they had to keep trying to do all of those things. Encouraged by her meadowland friends, MATILDA learns that if she tries hard enough and long enough, she can do anything she really wants to do.

What prompted you to write this book?  As a prolific reader, and with some creative writing experiences in my new 'teacher toolbox,' I was hooked right from the start.  Meld that love of literature with a desire to inspire students to be all they can be and you’ve got a brand new children’s bookwriter: me, the author of AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale, my second children’s book. The teacher me wanted to integrate a story with core curriculum elements. A Monarch would be the perfect main character: as an indicator species and with Monarch habitat (milkweed) rapidly disappearing, it would be a great way for children to learn life science and environmental science concepts, all while enjoying an inspiring story. Monarch research was my first step. I thought the fit would be perfect because the challenges to be met in the natural world paralleled the challenges to be met in the lives of the children. And so, I started to write and rewrite and rewrite… All of the tweaking was on the literary side of the story. I wanted it to be used to teach (model) the use of repetition, alliteration, metaphor and simile in writing stories. It was lots of fun and the first year I placed Matilda’s story in a storybook format in a binder (no illustrations yet). I read it aloud and my fourth graders wanted to read it during their free time and make their own illustrations. We were raising silkworms in the classroom at the time. I continued to read the story aloud to my students (4th, 5th and 6th graders) over the years. During that time, I continued to make revisions and used those as models as a teaching tool as well. As a retired teacher, I’ve had time this year to create the illustrations (pencil sketches and watercolor). My background in desktop publishing gave me the incentive to check the internet to find out about self-publishing. Voila! After more than a decade: AMAZING MATILDA, is now written, illustrated and published.

Do you have a favorite line from the book? “What Matilda needed now was a nap. First, she found a sturdy stem and attached her bottom to it. Then, as expertly as a circus acrobat, Matilda lowered herself headfirst and began to spin.”

Is it published? If so, when and by whom? Publisher: (self-published by author using CreateSpace) July 2, 2012

How can my readers get a copy of the book?   They can go to my Webpage, where you’ll find both of my children’s books, and links directly to Amazon:

What’s next for you?  I recently started a blog and have been writing some poetry and short articles. Also, I have a short story (unpublished) that I want to expand into a YA fiction (coming of age in the 1950s and ‘60s) novel. When I read the short story to my fellow students in a creative writing class at college, they wanted to hear more. That’s my next big project. I’ve already asked some Web friends if they thought this type of book would have an audience and I’m waiting for some feedback. 

What is your advice to would be writers? NEVER GIVE UP: You can do anything you really want to do if you try long enough and hard enough, especially with help and encouragement from your friends. (The theme of AMAZING MATILDA) The internet is such a great resource for connecting with other writers, readers, marketers, publishers.  Join groups that fit into your niche. Then, connect with other writers and find out what they’re doing. Read them, follow them, leave comments and ask questions. There is a wonderful world of encouragers on the Web.

What did you wish you knew when you started your writing career? I wanted to know EVERYTHING. I wish I had known enough to join writers’ organizations and become actively involved with other writers. Today, it’s so simple. Support and friendship is only a click or a Google away! Here are a few links of resources that have been invaluable in helping me get started: CreateSpace self-publishing:  Sandra Beckwith  Where Writers Win  Goodreads  Laura Pepper Wu Connections 

Thank you, Bette, for taking time out to do an interview with me.  I would encourage all of my readers who have children or grandchildren to purchase your book.  I'll think of you walking through your thirty acres of woodland, birds singing and leaves crunching underfoot, while you compose stories in your mind.

Quote for the day:  The healthiest response to life is joy. Deepak Chopra

Friday, September 14, 2012

By Dammit, We're Marines!

Today I have the extreme pleasure of meeting with award-winning author, Gail Chatfield.  I met Gail last month at the Veterans‘ Writing Group.  At the end of a presentation given by Shirley Clukey (editing) and me (publishing), Gail handed us each an autographed copy of her book, By Dammit, We’re Marines! This book won the Silver Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America.

I confess I didn’t get too excited about a book on war, until I started reading it and then I was totally hooked!  I enjoy the stories, the conversational style of writing by each Marine, the human touch added to a horrible war. I now know more about Iwo Jima than I ever thought possible and the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi will forever be more than just a static photograph.

To give you a feel of the book, here’s one part of one man’s story, as he talks about landing on Iwo Jima.  I didn’t hit the beach until 2:30 in the afternoon.  It was a very interesting experience going in on the landing craft.  We weren’t tense at all, it seemed like everything was just going like it had always gone in training.  And then a couple of explosions occurred near the landing craft and everyone realized that by golly somebody is trying to kill us.  In all of our training nobody had tried to kill us.  

Or this from another Marine:  I was lying on the beach and a mortar shell exploded between my legs.  It raised me off the deck and exploded, but because of where it landed, the explosion caused the shrapnel to go up and out over my legs.  It hit a good friend of mine in the neck.  He was bleeding quite a bit so they got him to the aid station on the beach and he was evacuated.  His total time on the island was probably about 15 minutes…..Upon reaching the top of the mountain, we joined E and F Companies, E Company brought a small flag, 54 x 28 inches, and they found some 1½ inch iron pipe, secured the flag to it and hoisted it up around 10:30 a.m.  The troops below shouted and the ships at sea blew their horns…..I saw them raise the first and the second flags, from about ten feet away.  It was a very, very exciting moment, very thrilling, seeing the stars and stripes flying over the piece of land the Japanese owned.  We had taken it this far and the feeling was almost indescribable.

Gail, how long have you been writing? I’ve always enjoyed writing but I was not able to devote a lot of time to it until about 10 years ago. I began writing for our local paper and doing freelance stories. Then I got the idea for the book and that really got me writing!

Give a brief synopsis of By Dammit, We're Marines! Culled from interviews with 52 ‘greatest generation’ veterans, the book offers eye-witness accounts of combat on the Pacific Front during World War II. Facing an entrenched, well-equipped enemy, flesh shredding coral reefs, malarial and dengue fever-ridden jungles, mosquito and crocodile-infested swamps and a noxious moonscape sulfur island, these invincible American teenagers destroyed the powerful Japanese war machine. Told in their own words, their recollections offer a foxhole view of ordinary young men in battle—raw and uncensored with all the innocence, fear, loneliness, bravado, humor, death, and patriotism that is the universal human experience of combat. Chaplains, corpsmen, sailors and aviators who served with the Marines also share their personal accounts.  I want the readers to feel as if they are sitting there listening to the veterans personally telling their stories to them as they did to me.

What prompted you to write this book? My dad was a Marine in the Pacific but sadly he died when I was 15. He never spoke about his time in service and I never asked. He was in some very important battles like Iwo Jima and I longed to know more about what he would have experienced as a young man in war. I attended a reunion of Iwo Jima veterans at Camp Pendleton and met so many interesting men who told great tales of heroism, horror and the humor that got them through the whole thing. I thought that if I enjoyed the stories, others might as well. As these veterans die, their stories go with them. Most never spoke about it because many were not asked. I can't imagine understanding any battle, war, etc without listening to those who were there. History is painted in broad brushstrokes by generals, presidents, and politicians, but it is the ordinary man (or woman) who paint the small details to tell the complete story.

How long did it take to write the book? A lot longer than I thought it would! I had to search out the veterans, interview them on tape, transcribe their words, edit to make their story flow better, send it back for their approval, make any corrections, and do this some 50 times. I attended reunions in Atlanta and throughout Southern California to meet veterans. All in all I guess it was about two years… housework suffered and I lost weight, which was not such a bad thing, I guess.

Do you have a favorite line from the book? One line I find myself using quite a bit comes from a veteran describing what he told his squad when they hit the beaches under heavy bombardment on this hell hole of Iwo Jima. He hollered for them to keep moving so he says: “if you lay on the beach, they are going to kill you; if you move inland, they have a chance to kill you.” You can see how that is a perfect life lesson for charging ahead even under difficult circumstances….. taking a chance is preferable to being dead on a beach, so to speak.

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom? Yes, it was published by Methvin Publishing in November 2008.

How can my readers get a copy of the book? It’s available in hardcover and ebook on and at military related museums.

How long have you been involved in the Veterans' Writing Group?   We started the group about two years ago. I had led writing classes at the local VA and heard about the Veterans Writing Workshop put on by Writers Guild Foundation in Los Angeles. I wanted to duplicate it here in San Diego, perhaps giving veterans a chance not only to write but also pursue possible careers in the entertainment industry. The Writers Guild Foundation supports us with great award winning screenwriters, playwrights and novelists who come to San Diego to mentor the group on the fundamentals of great writing.

What’s next for you? I would love to put together a book of stories being written by the veterans in the writing group. We have all branches of service, all wars, all types of writing styles, all types of stories.

What is your advice to would be writers? Three things: buy a thesaurus—you will use it a lot; when you’re limited by word count, make sure the words your choose count; and submit, submit, submit---you need to develop a thick skin sometimes but remember that everyone has an opinion….what one person rejects may just be what another is looking for.

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career? That the more you write the better you get. …no one cares what draft you are on and that 15th one might just be perfection. It’s true!

Thank you, Gail!  I would encourage everyone to order this book and listen to these men tell us what it was like to have mortars flying over their heads, to take salt water showers, or to hit the beach at 9:03 a.m. with 250 officers and men and by 2:00 be down to 75.  Most former military men will joke about the fun times they had in the service but they won't talk about the gruesome events they experienced.  Read this book, you'll find out what they really went through!

Quote for the Day:  Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete.  If you're alive, it isn't.  Richard Bach

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Truly CONvincing Author

Today I'm talking with Gael McCarte, an author from Georgia.  Gael is married and has three children, ages 18, 22, and 23.

Gael, what do you do besides write?

Gael:  I work in our family business and I volunteer at least 2 days a week at the Red Cross where I'm the Manager for Social Media.  Also, I speak at various functions on any topics, more lately on "Social Media, a Writer's Best Friend."  I also blog and write for an e-zine.

How long have you been writing?   I've been writing since I was a child.  I'm involved with a local and international writer's group and an international Women's Speaker's Association.  

Tell me about your book, The Con.  Gladly.  This book is fiction based on fact. It is a crime novel for those who love the psychology of the criminal mind. The Con offers a twisted tale of cons, bikers, life in Australia and crushing Justice Department politics.  The reader gets a unique glimpse into the mind of the offender, bikers, cons, and family life in Western Australia.  They visit the cities, the famed bush, and the ocean, without needing a passport.  Anna, the psychologist in the story, proposes a solution to the offender assessment quandry, "...test the offenders to weed out, as it were, the truly psycopathic criminals, and treat the different categories of offenders differently."   The question is, will her suggestions be taken seriously or will the corrupt politics of the department neutralize them?

Can you give us a favorite line from The Con?  I love this exchange between Lachlan (Lachie) and his mother:

"Mum, why do they pronounce ninth as 'neye-nth' when there is no 'e' in it?"
If he could engage her in meaningful conversation, she might not notice he was still in bed.

You are right lovee, now pop up."

"Mum, shouldn't third be three-th?

"Why lovee?"

"Well you have fourth and fifth, why not three-th?"

"Why indeed?"

Why Australia and have you had personal interaction with prisoners?  Australia is where I was working at the time.  Since many people are interested in Australia, I wanted to offer my readers a virtual trip to that continent and to have them experience family life as it actually is rather than as they imagine it to be.  As to your second question, I've had literally thousands of contacts with prisoners.  My characters are based on real psychological concepts though, not on actual people.

What prompted you to write this book?  I would have to say that the book wrote itself since the characters would not leave me alone.  I was doing a lot of speaking within Justice and lecturing to adult and juvenile probation officers.  I presented composites of actual psychological variables seen in various offending behavior and these composites became my characters.  Colleagues begged me to tell them my "stories."  They were encouraged by them and learned there was hope.  I decided to write The Con so that a wider audience could benefit, enjoy my stories, and feel supported. 

Did you know how it was going to end when you started writing The Con?  No.  I always write to surprise the reader.  I want the reader to say, "Aaahhh she got me," but to be laughing when they say it.

Gael, is this book published and, if so, by whom and where can my readers buy the book?  This book was published by GlobalEd Advance Press in Tennessee.  It can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and GEA. I invite those who are interested, to visit my pinterest board as I have collected photographs depicting areas and cultural practices portrayed in the book. The web site for that is:

Thank you, Gael.  It's been a great pleasure.  I also enjoy following you on Facebook and seeing the uplifting messages you leave!

Today's Quote:  “Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”  Jim Tully, October 1923

Monday, August 20, 2012

Little Things Mean a Lot

The human body is amazing.  We are built with utmost care and precision.

But have you considered those pesky little gnats that fly around you when you’re trying to work?  When you squash one, it’s no bigger than the dot at the end of this sentence.  Yet, inside a gnat is a pulmonary system, a nervous system, a digestive system, a circulatory system, a skeletal system, and a reproductive system.  How on earth does all that get inside a teeny tiny gnat?

I can spend a day contemplating this miracle of creation as I’m in awe of how such little things have so much going on inside them.

Now, consider your brain.  The adult human brain weighs about three pounds and is the size of your two fists put together.  Yet, inside that little package lie not only billions of neurons, synapses, and such, it also contains every thought you’ve ever had, every sight you’ve ever seen, every word you’ve ever heard or spoken.

Let’s say you get an idea for a book and map the whole story out in your mind.  Once the story is written into a book, the physical book itself could never fit into an area the size of your brain.  And realize, every book you’ve ever read is stored in your brain.

Can you picture the house you grew up in?  The arrangement of the rooms, the color of the walls, the placement of your bed?  That entire house, as well as the surrounding neighborhood, is tucked away in your brain.  AND, surprise surprise, there’s still room left over for a lot more information.  Our brain is something we can never fill up.

Makes you feel rather special, doesn’t it?

And don't even ask me to consider the brain of a gnat.  My own brain might explode.

Today’s Quote:  People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.  St. Augustine

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dream High

How high would you dream if you knew you couldn’t fail?

This saying has been my beacon for many, many years.  It tells me that the biggest impediment to achieving my goals is my own insecure self.  I’ve been told since childhood, or at least learned by watching family and friends, that someone like me should be content to be average.  Don’t make waves.  Don’t set your expectations too high so you don’t get disappointed.

Writing a book, being a published author, doing book signings, being a success, is something “other people” do.

Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.”  Of course, if you never get up to bat, you never strike out.  Thus, you are safe in your own little world of never taking chances.  If you write a book but never submit it to a publisher, you never, ever, get one of those nasty rejection letters.  Then you can sit back and say, “My manuscript is probably great but as long as I keep it in a drawer, I’ll never know and never have to face being told it doesn’t meet someone else’s standards.”

What if, every manuscript you sent in was accepted?

What if, every goal you set, you achieved?

How high would you dream if you  knew you couldn’t fail?

The summer Olympics are on right now.  What if every athlete said, “I won’t win so why bother?”  Olympian Dara Torres says "Never put an age limit on your dreams."  She didn't and she won the gold in swimming 2000, 1992, 1984, silver 2008 and 1988, bronze in 2000 and 1988.

Are your dreams turning into nightmares?  Would you rather not try at all so you don't experience failure?

Dreams are those marvelous thoughts that tell us we can be more, have more, do more.  But we have to dream high enough.  We can’t limit ourselves by our own vision of what we “should” do or are “expected” to do.  Get out there and tear down the barriers that are holding you back.  Write that book.  Send in that query letter.  You never know what might happen when you “go for the gold!”

Today’s quote:  Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.  Winston Churchill

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Future is Here, Are you Ready?

Carrying on the theme of last week's post about technology, there is something new under the sun.

Although an espresso coffee may give you a jolt, an Espresso book machine will blow your mind. I have yet to see the machine but I have seen videos of it and heard from someone who has seen it in action.  Basically, the machine, made by Xerox, is a copying machine on steroids.  You scroll through a menu to find the book you want, insert your credit card, and, in just four minutes--out pops the book, freshly printed!

The machine prints the cover, then the text, then it applies glue to the binding and attaches the pages.  The next step is to cut the pages to an even size, then the book is deposited in the unloading tray.  It's a lot like a vending machine that takes your money, you press the button for coffee, it drops down a cup, pours the coffee, adds a little cream and sugar, then allows you to reach in for it.

The book publisher who explained the process to me said she can't tell the difference between a book that came from her printing company and a book that was created via the Espresso machine.

So what does this mean to you and me.  It means that in the not-too-distant future, book stores like Barnes & Noble will have fewer stores, and fewer books on the shelves of the stores that do remain.  Although the machine is expensive, around $96,000, it will be more cost efficient in the long run to have people print out the book they want rather than stock a multitude of books and have to return the unsold ones.  College book stores have been trying out the machine for the last few years rather than stocking a quantity of text books that might not get sold.  Students insert their parents' credit card and print out the text book they want.  The cost of the book is the same, whether it's done this way or purchased by the book store and then by the student.

AND, if this doesn't blow your mind, here's something else!  The machine will also print in braille!  And wait, there's more.  If you happen to be dyslectic, you can ask the machine to print the book out in Daisy, a language more easily read by dyslectics.  It will also print the book in a multitude of languages--English, Spanish, French, Russian, whatever language you prefer to read in.  Books are going to be available to more people in every corner of the world than ever before.

I wonder what's in store for us as we go down this highway to the future.  Will we do away with the Government Printing Office and print our own money?  We can already print our own postage at home so this idea is not that far fetched.  Maybe we'll scan a menu, insert our plastic card, and pop out a gift for a loved one; no more schlepping from store to store looking for just the right gift.  The possibilities are endless as we've only read the first page of life's book.

The merry-go-round was invented on this day in 1871 by William Schneider of Davenport, Iowa.  I love to ride on one but let's face it, you just go round and round and get nowhere.  That can't be said of today's inventions, they are taking us to places we never dreamed possible, or even dreamed of at all.

Today's Quote:  Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.  Marie Curie.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a long ago time, I was young.  And technology was young.  We were both in our infancy, technologically speaking.

In high school I took the "commercial" course to prepare me to be a secretary, which was all I'd ever wanted to be since I was old enough to hold a pencil and sit at a desk.  In my sophomore year I took typing.  The only typewriters in the room were manual.

In my junior year, I took shorthand and transcription.  By now, we had two IBM electric typewriters in the room for students to practice on.  For those of you who remember carbon paper, making a typing mistake meant having to use a typewriter eraser to correct the original, with a typing shield between the original and the carbon paper so as not to smudge the copy.  Then on to correct the copy.  Computers are such a boon to mankind that unless you lived through the era of carbon copies, you don't fully appreciate them.  In a law office, you cannot make a mistake on a will; there are to be no erasures whatsoever.  Consequently, typing a will with three carbon copies, was like telling someone on an exam table not to move--the more you're told you can't, the more you need to.  I wasted paper after paper after paper trying to get a will typed that was erasure free.

In my senior year, I continued with shorthand and transcription and added office machines class.  The calculator (only one to a room) took up an entire desk and had one hundred plus keys--each row having ten number keys (ten ones, ten twos, etc.) and there being ten rows.  It was a relic, but seemed modern at the time.  Never would I have thought that someday we'd be carrying a calculator in our pocket!

Also in the room was a Dictaphone.  This was truly a relic.  It featured a floor stand with a horizontal bar at the top on which was placed a cylinder.  The teacher would dictate on the cylinder during off hours, then we would take turns sitting at the Dictaphone, turn it on, and listen and transcribe as the needle worked its way across.  I said I was young, but then so was dirt!

I graduated and moved on to become a secretary.  One of my first jobs was with an attorney.  He had dictating equipment but nothing like what I learned on in school.  No, this was a small device on the desk that held a reel to reel cassette.  Still nothing like transcribing devices nowadays, but a far cry from the one in school.

In the basement of that office was a "copying machine."  By that, I mean we took our original, did something with it to make a copy (time has dimmed my memory), took the copy and placed it in a tub of some kind of solution to process it (having first checked the temperature of the solution), then placed the copy in a sort of neutralizer solution, then hung it up to dry!  Yes, this is what we went through to make one copy!  It wasn't much different than watching my boyfriend develop pictures in a dark room.  Come on, I was sixteen, ALL we did in that room was develop pictures.

When new machines came out advertised as being "dry" copiers, similar to what we all use today, it was probably one of the best technological advances of our time that few people appreciate unless they went through the wet copy process.  I remember when that law office got their first dry copier, the attorney and I stood there printing copy after copy, totally in awe at how we couldn't tell the copies from the original.

On a side note, in an office later in my career, I saw a woman go to the copy room, make ten copies of a document, then sit down and proof read every single copy, as though one copy would be different from another!

Technology has increased a hundred fold since those days in the fifties.  And thank goodness it has!  I may get upset if I have to wait a minute for the printer to warm up, but then I remember....

Today's Quote:  The best of times is now.  Oprah Winfrey

Monday, July 9, 2012

Some Pressing Issues

Many people assume from my email address ( that I chose that name because I don't like to iron.  You know what happens when you assume!

Actually, people, you are partly right.  It's true, I don't care to iron; consequently, my wardrobe consists of mostly permanent press clothes and almost no items consisting of 100% cotton.  If I have to iron I will, but I'd rather spend my time at the computer, writing.

No, our email address came from my husband who, although he says he doesn't write, isn't creative, etc. etc., has a tremendous flair for words.  At the time we bought our first computer, seems like eons ago but actually was in the late '90s, we were told we needed to have an email name.  Without batting an eyelash, Fred quickly said, "Noirons."  When asked why that name, he explained that he had a particular set of golf clubs in woods, but no irons in the set.  Consequently, Noirons became our email name and has lasted lo these fifteen years or so.

Now, since we just celebrated July Fourth, I would like to show you a poem Fred wrote quite some time ago when he was upset at the Hollywood celebrities bashing our country.  This poem has gone all over the world to our military personnel, in the form of a bookmark.  He says he can't write, I ask you to be the judge.

To all veterans past, present, and future:
I am no one special but I have very special
freedoms, because of you.

I am no one famous but people all over the
world would trade places with me in a minute,
because of you.

I am no one special but I have the right to speak
about whatever I please, whenever I please,
wherever I please, because of you.

I am no one special but I choose the place I
worship, if and when, because of you.

I work at a place of my choice, pursuing the
career of my choice, because of you.

I can purchase any item in any number of stores
any time I want, because of you.

I ride my bike, I go to the movies, I go golfing or
anything else I choose, because of you.

I live in a country that gives us the right to
denigrate and protest the very men and women
who fight to give us that freedom because of you.

I am no one special but I have all these freedoms
because you are willing to fight to protect those freedoms
while a few ignorant people protest and
ridicule you.

You do so much for me and all I can do is thank you
and tell you how sorry I am that you have to hear the
ignorant comments of a few ungrateful people while
you are putting your life on the line to protect them and us.
I am no one special, but I thank God you are.
THANK YOU            

Saturday, June 30, 2012

To Market, To Market...

I am on a high today because my book, Twelve Steps to Becoming an Author..., has had its final printing and is ready for sale.  There was no "official" release date, but it has been released nevertheless.  Ta daa!!  Let me hear a clink of glasses as we drink a toast to this new creation!  Fill my glass with Kahlua and cream, please.

I have been lining up the mini workshops I mentioned in my last post and (drum roll) I have my first confirmed event at a library in San Diego (Clairemont Library), scheduled for September 4th.

It was a bit of a disappointment to learn that it may take thirty days for me to get the books I ordered because I know a lot of you want a copy and I want to get one to you as soon as possible.  I should have the books the beginning of August, hopefully sooner.

Here, now, is a sneak peak at the beginning of the first chapter.

Step One: A Place to Begin.

Rhonda Gayetski pulled up to the Blue Dot Café and parked as close to the front door as the spaces allowed. She wanted to be sure of a fast exit if this meeting didn’t go at all well. 

Rhonda lives in Covington, a small town of twenty thousand, the suburb of a larger city called Crestwood. Although Covington can’t yet boast of having a movie theater, it does have a read and critique group for writers which Rhonda discovered one day in her local newspaper under Things To Do Around Town. She phoned the contact person, Judy, and now here she was, ready to go in and see what this group was all about.

To Rhonda, sitting at a computer playing with words is far more fun than playing video games. Writing is her passion. At least it was until she submitted a story to a magazine a few years ago and received a very impersonal rejection letter.  The short form letter opened with, “We are sorry to inform you that your submission does not meet our needs at this time.” So she began to question herself. Maybe I can’t write after all. Maybe that novel floating around in my head will never stand the world on its ears. Why even try if I’m going to get rejected?  I’m thirty-five and married and quite competent as a corporate accountant. So why am I now feeling like a five-year-old at my first day of kindergarten? 

She looked in the rearview mirror, fidgeted with her brown shoulder-length hair, checked to make sure there was no lipstick on her slightly crooked teeth, grabbed her purse and stepped out of her car. For the tenth time, she opened her purse and checked to make sure she had a pad and a pen and what she laughingly called her manuscript. She walked to the front door of the café.  She could smell the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee brewing.

A waitress, whose name tag read “Penny,” greeted her at the door. Rhonda said, “I’m here for the Covington Writers‘ Guild.”

Penny motioned with her hand. “It’s in a room right down here, Sweetie. Just follow me.”

Rhonda followed Penny past diners engaged in various stages of eating and talking, to a private room at the back of the restaurant and walked in to find three women and a man seated at a table, coffee cups in front of them. The older woman rose. “You must be Rhonda. I’m Judy, president of the group. We talked on the phone. I’m so happy you could make it.  While Penny is here, she’ll take your order for coffee if you’d like.” 

One by one, the others introduced themselves--Bill, middle aged with glasses and grey hair at the temples; Sharon, in her thirties, dimples galore; and Beverly, her corn rows accentuating her milk chocolate face.

The door opened and two more women came in and quickly sat down so as not to disrupt the meeting. Judy introduced Rhonda to Donna and Darlene, twins in their mid-twenties.

Rhonda relaxed, a little, realizing that these were people just like her, not Pulitzer prize winners, or whatever prize it was they gave for the best book of the year. 

Judy asked, “Now that we’re all here, is there any good news anyone wants to share?”

Bill raised his hand. “My first book, Unexpected Surprises, has just been accepted by a publisher!” The group gave him a rousing ovation and plenty of high fives. 

“Great news, Bill! Your perseverance certainly paid off. We’re all proud of you.”

Beverly asked, “Will you be getting an advance? I’ve heard of such a thing but I’m not sure how it works.”

“No,” said Bill, “I won’t be getting one. And how it works is like this; let’s say the publisher gives you an advance of, oh, five thousand dollars to finish your book and to pay your food bill so you don't starve while you write. When the book starts selling, your initial royalties go to pay off the five thousand dollars. When that sum is paid off, then you start receiving royalties, once or twice a year, depending on the publisher’s policy. For me, I‘d rather not receive an advance and start right in receiving royalties, but that‘s just my personal preference.  Small presses don‘t normally offer advances.” 

“Since you’re the Man of the Hour Bill,” said Judy, “let’s start with you today. Are you going to read from your new book, Heaven Scent?”

“Yes. I‘ll pick up with Chapter Five. If you remember, those who were here last month, Colleen had just run into Lilly and learned that David was missing.”

As Bill read his latest chapter, Rhonda felt her manuscript burning in her purse. She wanted to run out of the room and never come back. How can I compete with a writer of Bill’s caliber? 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

And Another Book is Born

My new book, Twelve Steps to Becoming an Author: A Writer's Story of Book Publishing Success, is about to make its grand entrance into the world.  My publisher is sending out Press Releases July 1, 2012 to notify the world of the book's availability. Giving birth to the book was the easy part.  Now comes the hard part--marketing it.  Unlimited Publishing wants me to start taking names of people who want to order the book.  The book sells for $12.99 plus shipping and, I suppose, tax.  I'm not quite up on that part of the process yet.

I recently learned from Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup For the Soul series, that I need to THINK BIG.  So I'm thinking BIG.  I'm thinking this book should be in every high school and college creative writing class.  It's already going to be used as a text book in a college class this fall!!!  I'm thinking computer manufacturers could give this book as a premium to anyone who buys a computer.  Why sell books one at a time if I could sell ten thousand at a time!  (I said I was thinking BIG.)

I made a web site just for this book.  It's at  From there, people can read about, and order, the book, just as soon as I learn how to add shipping and tax to the PayPal amount which should be any day now.

As I say on my website, Twelve Steps will make a great birthday gift, thank you gift, back-to-school gift, or Christmas gift.  It contains information helpful to both beginning and experienced writers.

As another way to market the book, I have prepared a one-hour free mini workshop to coincide with three of the chapters in the book.  My plan is to approach libraries, women's groups, senior centers, etc. and put on mini writing workshops.

I welcome any marketing ideas that any of you can come up with.  Just leave a comment or email me at  And if you want to pre-order one or more copies, please let me know that, too.

I gave birth, now it's time to start raising this child of mine.  :)

Today's quote:
Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. Danny Kaye 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mark Twain

I recently finished reading Mark Twain's book, Roughing It. This was a long book (419 pages) with precious little "white space." There's not even a space between paragraphs and the font seems no bigger than 8 point. The book I have was printed between 1871 and 1913 which could have something to do with the formatting style. Perhaps a more recent edition of the book would be easier on the eyes.  To be fair, there are three or four pictures scattered throughout the book which help break up some of the monotony of the small print and lots of it.

My first reaction was not unlike a grade schooler who sees a grown-up's novel for the first time--no pictures, just all words. It looked daunting.

However, I was hooked by Mark Twain's (Mr. Samuel Clemens, if you will) Prefatory (his words, not mine). This is how he starts his book:

"This book is merely a personal narrative, and not a pretentious history or a philosophical dissertation. It is a record of several years of variegated vagabondizing, and its object help the resting reader while away an idle hour...." 

The book is a record of a trip Mark Twain took in the late 1800s from the "Missouri frontier" to Nevada and then on to San Francisco and Hawaii. He meant to be gone three months and ended up staying out west for six or seven years.

Reading the book, I could see the world through Mark Twain's eyes. He left St. Louis by steamboat.  It took him and his fellow travelers six days to get to St. Joseph, Missouri where they boarded the overland stage. Then, he says,

"We jumped into the stage, the driver cracked his whip, and we bowled away and left 'the States' behind us." 

He was off on an adventure and we go right along with him.  I never would have thought that to enter Kansas, we were leaving the United States behind. When, months later, he enters San Francisco, he has this to say.

"If it is winter, it will rain--and if it is summer, it won't rain, and you cannot help it...You would give anything to hear the old familiar thunder again and see the lightning strike somebody. the summer, when you have suffered about four months of lustrous, pitiless sunshine, you are ready to go down on your knees and plead for rain--hail--snow--thunder and lightning--anything to break the monotony--you will take an earthquake, if you cannot do any better. And the chances are that you'll get it, too." 

He has a magnificent way with words! Just listen to this:

"In one place in the island of Hawaii, we saw a laced and ruffled cataract of limpid water leaping from a sheer precipice fifteen hundred feet high." 

That is pure linguistic beauty. I want to be able to write like that.

I want to thank my son for sending me this book and suggesting I read it. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story that is both a memoir and a travelogue with a few tall tales thrown in to liven things up a bit.

Quote of the week:
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
Mark Twain

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not on My Knees

Today I am interviewing Carolina Bertling of Alpine, CA about her latest book.  Carol is a member of the Alpine Writers’ Guild and works as a Spanish language translator.

Good morning, Carol.  Let’s talk about your intriguing book called Not on my Knees.

What is the genre of your book
It is historical fiction set in 1910 during the Mexican Revolution.

Can you give me a brief synopsis
Chon, the son of a wealthy Spanish landowner rebels against his father’s iron-fisted rule and harsh treatment of the poor native Indians of Mexico.  Chon slips off in the dead of night following a highly explosive verbal confrontation with his father.  Chon meets up with and joins banditos, robbing trains and coaches of their riches.  As Pancho Villa sets the Mexican Revolution in motion, the bandits become revolutionaries fighting the rich landowners and federales. Chon finds himself at a crossroad in his life having become the right hand and confidante to Chico, the bandits’ leader, and secretly loving a beautiful Indian girl.  Chon becomes the head of the family following his father’s death.  He visits his loving mother and must now decide whether to adhere to his family’s values or continue fighting for the poor and his secret love.  Is blood thicker than….?

What prompted you to write this book
Chon was my grandfather and his secret love was Antonia, my grandmother.  They were both very strong-willed people and I wanted to record their story for future generations.

How long did it take you to write the book
Two years.

Is it published and if so, when and by whom
Yes, it was self-published through in February 2011.  It can be ordered through Lulu or or

Do you have a favorite line from the book
Yes, it is a quote from Emiliano Zapata, one of the revolutionaries.  “I would rather die standing than live the rest of my life on my knees.”

What’s next for you
I just finished a book based on the story of my late husband, Peter.  It is called Prism.  Peter came to the United States from Germany speaking impeccable English and German.  He joined the US Air Force but his mother stopped him from going overseas.  With the help of a senator, she got him pulled out of the Air Force.  Peter went to Washington and became a double agent, working for both the United States and Germany.

Thank you so much, Carol.

This week's quote:
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.
Oscar Wilde

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cents and Nonsense

If you have ever thought of leaving your job and becoming a writer, think twice.  Unless your name is John Grisham, or j k rowling, or James Patterson, you'd better keep your day job.

My book, If You Don't Like Worms, Keep Your Mouth Shut, was published through Diversion Press, a traditional small press publisher.  I was ecstatic when I learned they wanted to publish my book.  The length of time from contract (April 2009) to publication (March 2011) was two years.  Since the company issues royalty checks once a year, I received my first royalty check from them last week.  I eagerly opened the envelope, pulled out the check, and nearly cried when I saw the sum of $6.78!  This check covers ten books for total sales of $67.73, of which I received ten percent, or $6.78.  I get 67 cents a book.  If that doesn't shock a starry-eyed writer into reality, nothing will.

What's the answer?  Outside of working 24/7 on marketing your book in an effort to garner more sales, another option is to self publish.  I self published Bumps Along the Way through  It cost me nothing as I did the formatting, editing, cover design, etc. all myself.  Because I didn't know what I was doing and had to learn as I went, it took me two months to get the book completed.  Compare that with two years with a publisher.  I can buy the book from Lulu for about $8 and if I sell it for $15, I've just made a $7 profit (as opposed to 67 cents).

Hmmm.  It seems that self-publishing is faster and pays better.  But here's one more reason to keep your day job.  I had a book signing lined up with Borders in December of 2010.  I purchased forty copies of Bumps Along the Way in advance and brought them to the book signing.  My friends, neighbors, and writing group were wonderful as they all came and supported me and bought books.  I ended up selling 25 books and 5 calendars that are in conjunction with the book.  The books had to be purchased at the counter and then I was to get my commission check a short time later.  My check for $350.80 never came.  In February, Borders filed bankruptcy and I had to file a Proof of Claim in hopes of getting some of my money back.  If I get anything, the most I can expect to receive is $35 and it may be way less than that.

Writing is a wonderful hobby right now and that may be all it ever is for me. But I won't quit.  There's always the hope that some day, some book, will make it big.  And since I'm retired, I don't have a day job to worry about keeping!

Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete.
If you're alive, it isn't.   Richard Bach

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Smashing Success

I have to tell you, us old dogs can still learn a few new tricks!

I spent all day yesterday learning how to publish a booklet on Smashwords, a free ebook publishing platform and distributor.  What this means is that the booklet I uploaded yesterday will now be available on all electronic readers--Kindle, Nook, Apple, Kobo, Sony, etc.  I publish with them, they distribute to digital print companies.

How did I do this?  With a little less hair and a lot of patience!  First, I downloaded a 92 page book that explains how to publish on Smashwords. Half the day was spent reading the instructions on formatting my booklet properly, inserting hyperlinks and bookmarks, copyright information, and making a cover.  The rest of the day was spent putting to use what I'd just learned.

I'm excited to say that now I know how to insert hyperlinks in my booklet.  A hyperlink is a URL in blue that you can click on and go right to the web site. Also, by bookmarking each chapter title, I added a hyperlink to the corresponding chapter in the Table of Contents.  That means a reader can go directly to the chapter he/she wants to read.  It was all very exciting to learn this new skill!

Plus, I learned a new shortcut.  Ctrl A highlights your entire document.  I don't know how many times I have scrolled through an entire document to highlight it so I could paste it into another document.  Now I just click Ctrl A, then Copy, and it's done.  Old dog, new trick.

The booklet I have now published on Smashwords is Winging it While Slinging it: 70 Practical Tips to Help You Keep Your Independence While Your Dominant Arm is in a Sling.  As a pamphlet, it wasn't going anywhere; now, it can go all around the world and can be purchased for 99 cents.  It should be available soon on Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.

I shocked Fred last night when he came home and saw me back in the sling I'd used when I broke my arm two years ago.  He relaxed when I said I just wanted him to take a picture of my sling for the book cover.

Now that I know I can do it, I'm ready to attempt putting Bumps Along the Way in Smashwords so people can access it.  What a fantastic world we live in!

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.   (or learning new things!)
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Case For Structured Poetry

          Poems that rhyme are past their time
          Some folks would have you think,
          But I still feel such poems are real
          And not at all extinct.  - Loegel

Since this is still National Poetry Month, I am going to expound a bit on my personal feelings about rhyming poetry.

I believe that metered, rhyming poems not only produce a sound that is pleasant to the ear but also offer a challenge to the poet to work within a given structure.

A poem doesn't have to be long to tell a story or evoke a feeling.  Consider the following poem by Robert Herrick:

  Whenas in silks my Julia goes
  Then, me thinks, how sweetly flowes
  That liquefaction of her clothes.

  Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
  That brave vibration each way free,
  O how that glittering taketh me!

Liquefaction.  What an amazing word.  Add to that vibration and glittering, and in just six lines Robert Herrick paints such a vivid picture one can almost hear the rustling and see the billowing of Julia's silk gowns.

In this four-line poem by Edwin Markham, called Outwitted, we have story, contrast, conflict, and resolution, all in thirty-one words:

 He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!

Working within a metered structure presents a unique challenge which free verse doesn't offer--putting a given number of syllables in a line with the proper stress on each syllable.  I had to work out this problem in a Shakespearean sonnet, written in iambic pentameter.  This required ten syllables to a line and every other syllable stressed.  There was a further requirement that every other line must rhyme.  Here is part of my sonnet:

         Way deep within my lonesome, beating heart
          Rich soil awaits the fragile, tiny seed
          Which will, when planted, give my life a start,
          Fulfilling every yearning, every need.
  I could have gotten the same message across had I written:

           Down inside
            my empty heart
            rich soil awaits
            the fragile seed
            that once planted
            will give my life a start
            fulfilling my every need.

However, there is very little challenge in free verse as I'm not bound by any strict rules of structure.  It took me two minutes to compose the above stanza in free verse; yet, the original stanza took hours to get not only the right words but the right syllabic stress in each word, and then a rhyming scheme on the last syllable of each line.  Definitely a challenge.

The rhythm of a structured poem creates its own music.  Take, for example, my lilting little poem at the beginning of  this paper:

Poems that rhyme are past their time
Some folks would have you think
 But I still feel such poems are real
 And not at all extinct.

You can almost skip to its beat.

A structured poem rolls right off one's tongue.  Listen to these two lines from Leigh Hunt's poem: Jenny kissed me when we met/Jumping from the chair she sat in.  Now imagine if it were written without a specific meter:  Jenny kissed me when we first met/Jumping up from her chair.  The second version is jarring, an abomination to the ears.  Rhythm is everything in poetry.  It's cadence carries one on a wave of feelings unmatched in any other form of the written word.  The poem's rhythm can put the reader in a lighthearted mood or in a somber mood, depending on its structure.  For example, the first and last stanzas quoted here from a ten-stanza poem called Memory, by Abraham Lincoln:

My childhood's home I see again,
And sadden with the view,
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There's pleasure in it, too.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
I'm living in the tombs.

Another poem I'm especially fond of is The Blind Men and The Elephant.  It tells a story with a moral and uses a lot of dialogue to personalize the poem.  Also, the poem was written by John Godfrey Saxe, my great, great, great, great, grandfather , born in 1778.

Another benefit to rhyming poetry is the mnemonic value of making things easy to remember.  How many of us would know how many days there are in July if it weren’t for “Thirty days hath September….?

Free verse is a fine form of poetry, of that there's no doubt.  There are times when the full impact of a poem can be felt only when presented in free verse.  However, metered, rhyming poetry not only presents a challenge to the poet to work within a given structure, but also such poetry literally sings to the reader and touches his soul.  What more can one ask of a poem? 

Now go write a four line rhyming poem and let me see what you come up with.

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.
Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Twelve Steps to Becoming an Author

Ta Daa!!  I just received the mock up of the front cover of my new book, Twelve Steps to Becoming an Author.

Here it is!

 Special Advance Release, not yet available in bookstores!
This story is cast as fiction in an effort to give a human touch to the processes and emotions of the writing process.
In the story, Rhonda Gayetski nervously attends a “read and critique” group. Before long, an exciting new world of writing opens up to her. Follow Rhonda as she embraces the writing community and learns all she can about Point of View, deciding on a title, learning how to write an effective query letter, rejection, the latest Print-on-Demand and e-Book technologies, and the growing role of the author as book publicist in today’s world. Rhonda’s story is a step-by-step blueprint for anyone who wants to get published.

Writing tip:  Observe the world around you and record what you see.  You  may use the information in a story some day.

Where there is love there is life.
Indira Gandhi

Monday, April 9, 2012

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month so if you've ever wanted to compose a poem or a limerick, this is the month to do it!  This is part of a poem my dad wrote many years ago:

My church is a tree or trees created by God
Growing to all heights from the earth’s fertile sod.

I look at God’s garden at the oaks he has grown--
Birch, maple and fir trees come from seeds he’s sown.
What better place to pray than under a stately tree
That God planned and planted just for you and me.

As I pray to heaven through the leaves so high,
Golden rays of sunlight seems to burst from the sky
Sending down blues, greens and touches of red
Like a giant stained glass skylight overhead.

This month is also the 100th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe so I guess we could also call this National POEtry month.  Do you have a favorite poem or story by Poe?  The Raven always comes first to my mind, followed quickly by his short story, The Tell-Tale Heart.  In this spine-tingling story, the perpetrator's conscience is what does him in.  Because he feels so guilty (which he is), he figures the police can hear the heartbeat of the man he murdered whose body is laying under the floor boards right under the policemen's feet.  The thump thump thump of the dead man's heart drives him wild and he finally turns himself in to the police.  Good stuff from Poe. 

What's your favorite poem? 

See you next week.

If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.
David Carradine

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
W. H. Davies