The Joys of Being a Parent AND a Writer


Writing while parenting small children is hard.

Honestly? Simpler tasks that require no creativity, like showering, are hard.

Sometimes I catch myself focusing on the negatives of the journey- the sleepless nights, my disaster area of a living room, another diaper going through the wash, the day’s plans out the window because someone’s sick again.

The joy gets buried in the details.

Not today.

Today, I’d like to share some of the joys I’ve found in the balancing act of being a writing parent.

1. Treasuring Time

“I’m so busy!” I thought, back when I was single and childless.

Oh, if only I’d known the truth….

Granted, during those days when I ran on actual sleep vs. coffee, I bounced endlessly between teaching, music, volunteering and everything else.  My schedule was full to overflowing.

This is the difference between then and now: I had control over my level of busyness.

When I didn’t get something done, (barring emergencies) it was because I chose to make something else a priority.

Once there was a baby on the scene, that semblance of control evaporated.

Oh, she was cute, a joy and a blessing that we treasured.

I just wasn’t mentally prepared for the fact that newborns eat every two hours.


And between feedings are the diapers… and the housework…and maybe we should try to sleep…

I won’t go through the whole ‘learning to parent without going insane’ journey, but a journey it was, and it taught me a valuable lesson.

I learned to use my time.

Time with my baby was precious, and I wouldn’t give up those hours for anything.

However, when a spare minute materialized- she’s asleep! And I’m not holding her!- I learned to seize it and make it count. (Of course, then we went and had two more babies…worth it. 🙂 )

Those spare minutes gave me the title for my blog. I rekindled my passion for the written word during those stolen moments- moments that might have slipped by me if caring for my children hadn’t reminded me just how important and valuable they are.

2. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas!

On dull, gray, uncreative days, all I have to do is listen to my children play.

Elaborate plots and adventures full of twists and turns fill our living room, and I’m reminded of the excitement of story.

I’ve written before about the stories the kids and I create each year for Father’s Day. While I am the one who keeps some semblance of a plot,  they’re the ones that keep the storytelling fun.

They keep me generating ideas and telling stories in another way too. I’ve found that one of the easiest means to stop sibling spats starts with the words, “Once upon a time…”


Scan_20171031 (2)
Part of the story my eldest and I made up to help her learn her Kindergarten sight words.

3. Reduced Risk of Over-Exposure to the Computer

There are all sorts of health risks associated with spending too much time on the computer.

Go ahead and take a moment to look them up on your favorite search engine if you don’t believe me.  I’ll wait.


Ok, now that you’ve done my research FOR me (clever, huh?) I can tell you that being a writer who’s also a mom, my risk of all of those maladies is seriously reduced.

After all, the littles only let me stay online so long, and I’m a firm believer in the need for children to get outside and to make a mess somewhere that’s not in my house.

I’m forced to leave the screen behind, to play or move or find a new park for us to explore and get some exercise.

Parenting ALSO gives me the added bonus that I have a three year old chaperone to ‘force’ me to try out the swings and slides at the playground.

Breaking away from the screen for adventures rests, refreshes, and sometimes provides needed inspiration!

4. The Built-In Fan Club

My kids haven’t read any of the novel I’m querying, or any stories that I’ve written except for the Creative Writing pieces my class ‘published’ in 7th grade. (My grammar, at least, has improved a bit since then.)

Still, my eldest doesn’t miss much, and she was very aware of when I entered my novel in a contest in the fall of 2016. She watched me checking my e-mails, and occasionally, out of the blue, she’d tell me, “I hope you win!”

When I didn’t, and she found out, she was upset, even angry, for my sake.

It was a great teaching moment

We talked about how yes, I lost, but it was ok. I’d gotten feedback, and would make my story better. Someone else had just done a better job and won. (Modelling gracious loosing for my little girl was good for me too- it kept me from the temptation to wallow!)

She’s seen me keep at it, and, unknowingly, gave me some of the best encouragement the other day.

“Mommy, I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.”

“Really?” I quelled the temptation to tell her that, at 7, she’s not really running behind on this decision. “What are you going to be?”

“A teacher, AND an author.”

“Wow. Those sound like great choices.”


Yes, writing while parenting small children is hard some days, but then, most good things are.

There are many other joys, but I’ve rambled enough! Do you have any to add? 

Many thanks for visiting!





Writing Microfiction: The Sometimes Stellar Storyteller Six Word Story Challenge

I won a writing contest today!Six word story, 6 word story, writing challenge, writing promptI had never attempted writing microfiction before this year, but when I started looking around for other writing blogs on WordPress, I found Nicola Auckland’s “Sometimes Stellar Storyteller Six Word Story Challenge.”

A one-word prompt is uploaded to the site every Saturday. The challenge is self-explanatory. Write a story, based on the prompt, using only six words.

Yep. Six words.

The challenge page includes a link on ‘How to write the best Six Word Stories,’ which gives the author’s rationale for the six word story, as well as some helpful tips.

Anyone can enter, and the contest is ‘just for fun,’ but the winner DOES get to post the fabulous picture above on their blog!

While I don’t imagine microfiction will ever be my go-to writing style, I’ve found the contest to be a fun exercise which forces me to be concise.

As to my award-winning story 😉 , this week’s prompt was COMPLICATED.


My story entry was : No! Cut yellow wire, THEN red!


Just think, you can now say you read an entire story today, in about two seconds!

For more information, visit About the Six Word Story Challenge.

Writers- do you have other contests or sites that provide writing ideas that you’d recommend?

Many thanks for visiting!


Abraham Maslow and Mutant Wombats


My toolbox is woefully inadequate. I’ve got the basics- hammer, a Phillips head and…the other type of screwdriver. There may also be a pliers.

I’d pretend to regret this, but I know myself. Last time I tried to fix the plumbing…well, I don’t really try to fix the plumbing anymore. We’ll leave it at that.

I try to keep my writing ‘tool box’ better stocked. Knowledge of vocabulary, grammar rules, styles of writing, history, random cooking facts- it can look like a jumble, and I don’t use every tool for every job, but having a broad base of information to choose from makes writing easier.

We’ve had good neighbors, willing to share the tools we don’t have on hand.

In the same spirit, I’ve been considering what writing tools I might have on hand that you might find useful.

Today, I’m working on patching up gaps in characters’ motivations.

I’ll warn you up front: I’m no more a psychology expert than I am a plumber.

I took the one (required) Educational Psychology course in college. The theories my professor presented contained a fair amount of common sense, some interesting revelations, and a few things that I took with a grain of salt. (Sometimes several grains…)

Though I can still spout names like “Piaget” and “Vygotsky” and “Erikson” and give a passable summary of their ideas, the one I remember the best (and who has earned a spot in my ‘toolbox’) is Abraham Maslow.

Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” looks something like this:


The basic idea: People have needs. Some needs are more essential than others. If these foundational needs are not met, people can’t move up to try to meet their ‘higher-level’ needs.

For instance, a student is not working up to his potential. He also doesn’t have a safe home environment and is coming to school with an empty stomach. His ‘physiological’ and ‘safety’ needs aren’t being met, so it’s not a surprise that school work (which would likely fit into ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualization’) isn’t a high priority.


Your heroine nurses a passionate desire to design fancy mosaic belt buckles. However, her society has strict limitations on hiring belt-buckle designers. Being blonde (rather than the preferred brunette) she faces serious hurdles in achieving ‘esteem’ in belt-buckle accomplishments, and ‘self-actualization’ in using her creative gifts.

What if her need for ‘safety’ is also threatened by an impending invasion of her city-state by an army of mutant wombats? If you follow Maslow’s theory, the conflict- being upset about her belt-buckle failures- becomes implausible. She has bigger needs to deal with first. Creativity takes a back seat to rampaging marsupials.

GRRRRRRR! (Source:

Let’s go a step further.

What if your character is also currently living in a gutter taking care of her younger siblings, starving and most certainly belt-buckle-less? With her basic physical needs unmet, the idea that her main life-goal is centered on fashion design becomes even more unlikely.

Of course, every theory has its exceptions.

Perhaps your character had almost reached her goal before the imminent invasion. Perhaps she was one interview away from securing her longed-for position, when the belt buckle factory was transformed into an armament factory to prepare for the wombat hordes. Perhaps those belt buckles have come to symbolize everything your character has lost.

Or, to go another direction, perhaps her desire to be an artisan has more to do with meeting her basic needs- providing food for her family, and the security of holding a good job- is driving her more than higher level cravings.

In short, I’m not suggesting that we need to tie ourselves to a psychological theory in order to write.

I AM proposing that it is worth keeping ideas like Maslow’s Hierarchy in our writer’s toolbox, ready to hand.

After all, it might be the key to determining our characters’ driving needs, and bringing them to life.


Are there any writing tools you’ve found handy of late?


Roll the Dice and Hope for the Best


cards and dice
Photo courtesy of “Alan” at


Does anyone else feel a twinge of guilt when they read an article detailing someone else’s carefully crafted ‘writing routine?’

I feel that I must confess: I don’t currently have a set daily time to write.

I don’t have any more written on my second novel-in-progress than I had last week.

I don’t even have the notes lined up for the article on the WW2 ‘elephant company’ that I’ve been meaning to write for…how many months has it been now? (Though I DO have another overdue fee on the book…sigh.)

What I do have is the responsibility of raising three very small humans.

And let me tell you, while I wouldn’t trade that job for a dozen published novels, it has been a wild ride of late.

It feels a bit like one of the board games our family likes to play, except the ‘bank’ would have vouchers for free time rather than fake money, and the cards would look something like the following. (Note: I tried to make them look more like cards- then the youngest tried to use me for a jungle-gym and I gave up.)

You Shall Not Pass

The children have taken every toy they own and covered the floor. Give up one hour free time to supervise clean up. 


“Cat’s In the Cradle”

As you prepare to write, your child asks you to play with them. You are unable to resist. Give up one hour free time.



Roll the dice. 

A 1 or 2 means that your child only vomited on himself. Give up 1 hour of free time. You may still have time to write while he naps.

A 3 or 4 means that it is projectile. Give up 3 hours of free time and get on that laundry.

A 5 or 6 means that it is a bug. Give up 24 hours of free time and hope you don’t catch it.



Your child awakes in the night, frightened. Roll the dice.

The number rolled indicates how many times they wake you up. If it is 3 or more, give up 24 hours of free time, as you will be too tired to be creative.


Doctor’s Visit

Give up 2 hours free time. 

Roll once for each additional child. A 1 or 2 means that they picked up an additional illness from the waiting room. Give up 2 more hours for each additional doctor’s visit.


School Event

Give up two hours free time to participate.

You may give up an additional hour to provide the baked goods that the teacher requested. 



Roll the dice

A 1,2 or 3 means the babysitter can make it! Gain 3 hours free time.

A 4,5 or 6 means she cancels. Too bad.



Your aroma is showing that you haven’t had much time for personal grooming. You may choose to give up 1 hour free time to shower, OR gain one extra hour free time and just ignore it.

AND, the grand finale…


Roll the dice.

A 1 or 2 means that you can’t get a sitter. Try to watch a movie after the kids are in bed. Fall asleep on the couch. No gain or loss of ‘free time.’

A 3 or 4 means you manage a date night. You are so relaxed and happy from time with your spouse that you are extra productive. Gain one hour ‘free time.’

A 5 or 6 means that you manage a night away. A month later, SURPRISE! Your family is growing. Give up all free time for the next 2 years. 

What cards would you add?

As for me, I’m going to go give my kids a hug and I’m going to enjoy the blessings of these crazy years while they last…

…and maybe, just maybe they’ll sleep tonight, and I can WRITE!

Phantom Otter

A flash of movement, a lithe, furry body rolling over in the shadows of the stream bank, a glimpse of a webbed foot- I stared, unbelieving. Then, I reacted like any dignified adult would.DSCN2494


Yes, yes, I know. It was exactly the wrong reaction when spying a wild animal at close quarters. (There may have also been some jumping up and down.)

My only excuse is surprise. We’d come to watch the salmon making their mass migration upstream. The huge fish were impressive enough- I wasn’t expecting bonus wildlife.

The reasons didn’t matter. The one glimpse was all I got.

My attempt at a salmon photo. Completely otter-free. Sigh.

My ‘otter incident’ sums up my writing experience lately. Ideas surface, tantalizing ideas, good ideas.

I just can’t quite catch them.

Part of it has been timing. My site’s title is fast becoming a misnomer. ‘Naptime’ has nearly vanished from our house, and with it my one regular span of ‘alone time.’

Scores of ideas, sometimes even fully-developed articles and stories, swim through my mind while I’m driving the kids back and forth or fighting the never-ending battle to keep my kitchen counters visible.

By the time I sit down to write, they’ve swum right away again.

I’ve tried starting a little journal- when ideas come I can jot them down quickly. I have a respectable list of history and writing topics already.

The problem is, the ideas don’t seem quite as ‘shiny’ after they’ve sat a while.

Again, it’s like my otter encounter. Only a few hours later, I’m wondering if I actually saw him. After all, the salmon are close to the right size. They were rolling about through the waves, struggling to climb the fish ladder. Yes, the creature looked furry, but then some of the fish are looking a little rough around the edges by this point in their quest for a little fishy-style lovin’ before becoming food or fertilizer.

Maybe my amazing viewing…wasn’t. *

I find myself staring at the list in my little journal. Maybe my writing ideas aren’t either.

It’s easy to doubt. After all, my novel queries have only resulted in polite rejections- maybe I wasn’t as ready as I though I was. Family illness and friends’ struggles weigh heavily on top of my other obligations, and it’s hard to find words under that weight.


Salmon do not have webbed feet. Otters do.

Some of my ideas aren’t going to go anywhere. Giving up means none of them will.

Life is heavy just now, but this is a season. Seasons change.

Writers, keep plugging away. Something wonderful might be swimming just below the surface, waiting for you to write it into being!


What about you? Have you found any methods that help you keep creativity moving through the busy or difficult seasons?

Thanks, as always, for visiting!


*Amazing? Yeah, spotting new wildlife definitely fits into my definition of ‘amazing experience.’ I suppose it comes from the hours…and hours…and hours I spent in the car with my family driving around the old logging roads of northern Minnesota searching for moose or bear. (After a few hours, even the common white-tail deer were reasonably exciting!) We like our wildlife sightings 🙂

The Invisible Volcano and Keeping Writing Flexible

I looked forward to this week’s post for about six months.

Our family and several friends  invaded and conquered Seaquest State Park’s ‘Yurt Village’ for an end-of-summer camping trip. (Well, ‘conquered’ in the sense that we made reservations months ago…but in my opinion, camping with small children deserves more adventurous-sounding verbs.)


“Yurt, sweet Yurt”


Like most of western Washington’s state parks, Seaquest sports towering evergreens girded with huckleberry bushes and clumps of sword ferns. It’s pretty and peaceful. The real draw, however, is its neighbor.

Mount St Helen'sMount St. Helen’s impressed herself into American memory with a catastrophic eruption which climaxed in the collapse of the peak on May 18th, 1980.


Mt St Helen's
For perspective: The mountain before the eruption.

My husband and I hadn’t visited the Mount St. Helen’s National Volcanic Monument for twelve years or so. I remembered it as a broken, blasted landscape, still eerily empty two and a half decades after the big blow out.

On this trip, I hoped to return to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, a close viewpoint to the crater, where the words of the man for whom the observatory is named are immortalized.

“Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”

Unfortunately for him, it was.

I looked forward to sharing a blog filled with pictures taken by my talented other half, and even had a ‘writing connection’ planned out- how the history of a setting affects the mood of our writing.

I think it could have been an interesting piece.

The volcano didn’t cooperate.


There it is! Or that’s where it’s supposed to be…


The crater was entirely covered in haze. The members of our party who attempted the drive to the observatory found the same.

No volcano. No pictures. No blog article.

And no new ideas.

Except… it does serve as an example of why writers need to keep flexible…

Yeah, that could work!

Maybe your writing experience has been like mine. My best laid plans, whether for blogs, for plot points, for character backgrounds, for (insert any that apply here) constantly need adaptation.

Some changes I choose to make.

Others, I’ve been forced into.

For instance, the manuscript I’m querying for right now is historical fiction, set during the Second World War. When I started writing the piece, I already had my story arc planned out. Research, I was certain, would put flesh on the skeleton.

I hadn’t finalized the locations for all of the story events, but I had some exciting ideas. I was fascinated by unfamiliar places and names- names like Tobruk and The Desert Fox and El Alamein. I dove into sources detailing the conflicts in North Africa.

Things went well, and I wrote some scenes that felt vivid and interesting and as if they’d fit the story just right…

…and then I found one, fatal piece of information. During the time period I was scouring, the Allies were not in control of the Mediterranian. Transport to and from these North African conflicts would require an 8 week voyage around the Cape of Good Hope.

This one fact completely destroyed my timeline for the rest of the story.

Oh, I tried to wiggle around it, adapt a few things, invent some convoluted backstory, but I finally had to admit it- my characters couldn’t have been there.

Delete. Delete. Delete. Back to the books.

This wasn’t the first, or the last, time the facts forced my story to change. I’d already had to drop my research on the Norwegian campaign (sorry, distant relatives!) and would subsequently axe  bits with V1 rockets, the ‘Baby Blitz,’ and a little section with the history of the cherry tree. Granted, that last one didn’t really have much to do with anything except a clumsy attempt at symbolism. It was a good cut 🙂

As a matter of fact, they were all good cuts.

Every time I hit a roadblock, every time I found that my expectations didn’t fit reality, every time I had to rewrite and rethink, I had another opportunity to grow and improve. Flexibility in my rewrites enabled me to eliminate the dross.

I imagine that this applies to writing in other genres, too. After all, unless you are writing an entirely new universe with rules that don’t match any of ours, (and if you are, I’d like to shake your hand- that’s no mean feat,) it’s likely that you’ve got some background research to do, whether it’s the proper mix of gasses for a dirigible, the load-bearing capabilities of swallows, or just how far the sound of the murder weapon will carry with or without a silencer.

The writer’s willingness to keep their story flexible, to learn the facts and build their fiction around those facts shows through in a polished finished product.

When the facts aren’t there… I’m not certain if the author of the ‘Farm’ board book my children received didn’t quite understand the “facts of life,” if it was a typo, or if they were just confused as to how pronouns work, but somehow the cows were all referred to as ‘he.’ As a child of dairy country, I can’t help laughing a bit when we get to that page. (I’ve tried to explain, but the kids still don’t quite get it.)


(Pssst! Just in case, ‘cow’ always refers to the females. If it’s male, it’s a bull or a steer.  Bonus fact: the pretty black-and-white ones are Holsteins. :))


Forcing myself to be flexible is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be devastating.

After all, we didn’t see a volcano, but our kids likely enjoyed chasing each other around the woods more than they would have enjoyed educational hikes.

My fictional characters couldn’t get to all of the places I wanted to send them, but I kept their story tighter and more believable.

I didn’t get a photoblog about Mount St. Helen’s, but I was able to share this experience instead.  I also now have a reason to plan another yurt trip someday, and maybe next time we’ll see that volcano, and that bear we think we heard snuffling around!


Have any of your writing (or other) plans gone in unexpected directions lately?









Nightmare Season

Photo courtesy of Johannes Plenio via

It’s my nightmare season.

I had my first one just this week. After twelve years, I ought to expect them.

Each is a little different, but it’s just a theme and variations. I’ve named them “the teacher nightmares.”

I stand in front of the classroom.  I have all of my plans in my head, ready to go, and I haven’t remembered to prepare any of the materials.

Chaos slowly consumes the classroom as the children, sensing weakness, descend into anarchy. Nothing I say or do makes any difference.

I am completely ineffective.

Granted, as nightmares go, my “teacher nightmare” is a mild example. I wake feeling uneasy, and it takes a while (and a few successful lessons) to be fully comfortable again.

Some of the other dreams that drift in from time to time…they aren’t so easy to shake.

Am I right in supposing that each of us has at least one nightmare that we can’t forget? One that haunts us and lends weight to the fear of the sailors in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when they realize that they are in danger of running aground on the isle where such dreams take on flesh and bone?

No, my annual nighttime expressions of classroom anxiety aren’t my worst dreams- not by a long way. At least they serve a useful purpose- they keep me on my mettle as far as planning and preparation!

After all, fear is a powerful motivator.

The start of ‘nightmare season’ got me thinking about novels that use dreams- specifically nightmares.

For instance, in Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, Jane’s pre-nuptial nightmares blend in to a frightening reality, warning her that the future may not be as bright as she hopes. (If you haven’t read it yet, yes, I KNOW it’s long, and has a great deal of backstory at the beginning. I still LOVE IT!)

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte (Charlotte’s sister) uses a nightmare in the beginning of the novel to introduce the main storyline- the tragic relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine.

Other classics such as Frankenstein, Moby Dick, and Macbeth involve characters tormented by nighttime terrors.

More recently, the ever popular Harry Potter’s nightmares not only terrified, but provided valuable (though at times, unreliable) information, and Katniss Everdeen’s nightmares strengthened her bond with Peeta, her fellow Hunger Games contestant.

Of late, I’ve worked on writing some nightmares myself. My male protagonist in my WW2 novel is a platoon sergeant. While James is able to keep his fears in check and put on a brave face during waking hours, sleep brings little rest. He is haunted by dreams- flashbacks twisted to remind him of every way he has failed and could fail the men he’s responsible for. He runs the risk of being crippled by survivor’s guilt- made inneffective by his fears.

If you’re writing just now, and are working towards well-rounded characters, it’s worth taking some time to consider how fear motivates them. How will they react when their nightmares appear to be coming true? Will fear and foreboding galvanize them to action, or paralyze them?

Can you think of any other examples of nightmares/dreams in stories you’ve read or written or watched? Did they ‘work’ for the story?

In any case, I’ll close tonight by wishing us all sweet dreams. 🙂


EPILOGUE: Teaching day one went well. No supplies forgotten, minimal anarchy, no bleeding or tears. Chalking it up as a win 😉





Finding and Losing Time


“Put me in your hair,” says my baby, (who isn’t anymore, really.)

“What? Put you in my hair?”

“Put me in your hair, because I’m a flower!”

She proceeds to attempt to climb onto my head as I laugh and try to preserve my spine.

She’s spent the summer weaving dandelions into my hair and tucking them behind my ears.  From time to time she tries to keep up with the ‘big kids,’ but generally she’s content to wander along her own path, inhabiting a hidden world of imagination.

And she still wants me to come along.

The others run off together to play games of their own invention, only interrupted sporadically by sibling squabbles. I love to see them grow and bond, and to hear the elaborate stories they create together. I enjoy regaining time to follow my own pursuits.


The time I’ve gained is bittersweet. They’re moving beyond me.

This one, the last, stands at the foot of the rocking chair as I begin the article I planned for today, and smiles sweetly. “Mommy, will you play with me?” (She uses perfect grammar, but always in that irresistible baby lisp.)

I hesitate, then sigh. There’s so little time…

“Ok, honey.”

Her eyes light up as if we hadn’t played together in weeks. (It’s been about fifteen minutes.) “Oh, thank you!”

The dandelions are all going to seed, and the summer is waning, and next year my baby might not want to put flowers in her hair and mine.

The article can wait.







Harold Lloyd versus Snarf: Old Plots in New(er) Settings

thundercats poster

“So, you know that episode of Thundercats I was finishing?” my husband asked one morning.

“Urnghuh? Um…sure,” I answered, my foggy tones conveying that no, I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet. I wrestled my hair into order with a scrunci and tried to look awake.

“It had the same plot as that Harold Lloyd movie we watched yesterday.”

harold lloyd

That got my attention. “What?”

“Grandma’s Boy, the Harold Lloyd movie? It was the same as the Thundercats episode.”

For those of you not familiar with these two entities, Harold Lloyd was a famous comedic actor, known for a shy persona juxtaposed against daredevil stunts.

Harrold lloyd
CGI? What’s CGI?

His career stretched from the silent films in the 19teens all the way into the ‘talkie’ era.

IMDB sums up Grandma’s Boy:

“Always the mama’s boy, or in this case a grandma’s boy, Sonny joins a posse after a tramp accused of robbery and murder. He is unable to conquer his cowardice until Grandma tells him of his grandfather, also a coward, who overcame his fears with the help of a magic amulet. With new courage (and the charm), Sonny captures the fugitive and becomes the hero of the day.”

While I don’t imagine that the 1922 film was the first to use the idea of ‘the lucky charm that gives courage,’ it certainly wasn’t the last.

Enter a 1987 cartoon, in which a cat-lizard creature on Third Earth needs to save his more physically capable friends. He lacks courage until…you guessed it…he gains a ‘magical’ talisman. Which doesn’t end up being magical at all. Just like in Harold Lloyd’s film…

Don’t mess with Snarf!

Of course the two stories are different. Different setting, characters, medium of presentation…but the bones of the story are the same.

The question, I think, is whether this is a failing in the stories.

I’d say, no. (Edited to: Not always.)

Is it any surprise that ideas get reused? After all, in the wisdom literature of the Bible’s Old Testament the author acknowledges,

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

This was, oh, about 2,500 years ago…

I asked my husband the obvious question. “Which was better?”

He thought for a moment. “Thundercats.” *


Writers, I find this encouraging. If your story idea isn’t exactly original, it doesn’t mean that it is unusable. A new voice might breathe new, exciting life into an old story.

Cat-lizards don’t seem to hurt either.


My conclusion: If you use an old theme, make sure you do it well!

It would’ve been better if we were the stars, Wily Kat!

Has anyone else seen this same basic plot used elsewhere?

*My husband just gave me a hard time about ‘lying to my readers,’ so here is a disclaimer. All conversations are approximated. “Baby brain” ensures that I don’t actually remember things like words people say to me anymore. If I actually remember having a conversation pre-coffee, I count that as a win. 🙂



A View to a Query

Inspiration blog
Photo by Brodie Vissers, courtesy of Stocksnap

I’ve done it!

I’ve managed to produce a query letter that I don’t hate!

I’m not quite ready to admit to liking it, but I am ready to admit that it’s not too bad. (For a complete listing of acceptable emotional responses from my upbringing, see my post  Deepest Fears #2: Writing the (Gulp!) Love Scene)

Hours of fretting over this miniscule 200 word piece produced nothing but a few scattered sentences with no connective tissue- dry bones on the valley floor. Lifeless. Useless.

Then came the moment of change. To use the word “miraculous” seems presumptuous, but it certainly feels like something came from nothing. I woke up this morning, and the words were there, all laid out and formatted perfectly in my head.

Unwilling to lose the moment, I grabbed an unused Christmas card off of the floor and the first writing utensil that I could find- a dull, red, colored pencil. (Ahem. I may not be the best housekeeper.)

Joy of joys, the words still made sense post-coffee. I’d done it!

Yes… I’d done it, but how? Where did the inspiration come from? What changed internally or externally that finally broke the block?

Is creative inspiration is just the resurfacing of bits of background knowledge that have stewed together long enough for the subconscious to make them into a new thought? Or is it something that can be tracked down manually, by following the right steps? Or is it different for each individual?

I think I traced the roots of my novel, but how the sources managed to inspire what I’ve written is still a mystery.

Scan_20170617 (4)
Sometimes I doodle. Don’t worry, I explain it in the next part.

I had expressed my dislike for the James Bond franchise to my husband some time ago. On closer questioning, he discovered that the three films I had seen were what he would consider the worst of the bunch. The solution: watch them ALL with me. (This included the unofficial one Sean Connery did after he was retired from the role.)

Mix in the fact that I had just rediscovered my love of Agatha Christie’s cozy mysteries and had just begun reading aloud The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with my children and voila! I was visited by a dream detailing the climax of my story in vivid color. While it didn’t look a thing like the three sources I believe it sprang from, I can see little bits of influence from Bond, Christie, and even Lewis. (No, it doesn’t include anyone throwing killer hats. I wish…)

Of course a climactic scene does not a story make. The who’s and why’s and wherefore’s presented themselves as I let my mind wander while washing dishes.

The inspiration was just there without me seeking it out. I didn’t have to do any real work on the story until I started research.

In the end I don’t have any great thesis to present for why ideas come how and when they do.  I’m just grateful that they do, and for the chances I have to capture them before they slip away.

Now, if only I can stay on this ‘inspiration high’ and keep myself from picking my query apart again.  (Of course the word ‘problem’ in the second paragraph may not be the best word choice… hmm….)


Writers, where do you find your inspiration? Is it more a process or a revelation? Do you work better within defined roles, or in open-ended situations?

Deepest Fears #2: Writing the (Gulp!) Love Scene