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 ūüėČ , 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!



Gimme Some Agape, Baby!

candy hearts

Why yes, my Valentine’s Day post is about love!

After all, ’tis the season for love- at least according to¬†all of the florists and chocolatiers.

‘Love’ seems to become very tangible on February 14th. It comes cloaked in gifts and meals, in little cards or wide-eyed stuffed animals.

During the rest of the year ‘love’¬†becomes more¬†vague-¬†harder to pin down. The word is amorphous enough to apply to the man I’m spending my life with, and also to my¬†favorite purple sneakers.

I do love my native tongue, but I find it interesting how much more clearly ‘love’ is described in other languages.

No, I can’t claim to be multi-lingual. I wish I could. I made it through my two years of Latin and Spanish, but unfortunately¬†I’ve lost so much¬†that I might¬†be able to¬†carry on a conversation with a very quiet three-year-old, provided¬†she wanted to talk about ‘queso’ and practice counting. However, I’m a pastor’s kid, and a smattering of Biblical Greek stuck, in particular some of the various words detailing (you guessed it!) types of love.

Ancient Greek had numerous specific words that all translate to ‘love’ in English.¬†A¬†couple of them¬†are easy to recognize.

For instance, “eros”¬†is the root for ‘erotic.’ Need I say more?

Philadelphia gets its name from the Greek word “philos”, and its nickname is based on the meaning: the City of Brotherly Love. (Just don’t look up the crime rates…or so I’ve heard.)

The third is¬†trickier:¬†“agape.” (Ah-gah-pay, rather than the ‘opened mouth’ pronunciation. I once saw a dentist office called “Agape Dental.” I wonder which pronunciation they were going for?)

Agape love is the love of self-sacrifice. It is love that gives, regardless¬†of whether the object of the love is deserving.¬†It’s love in action. (Going back to my first encounter with the word, it’s used consistently in the New Testament to describe the relationship between God and humankind.)

While the other types of love can be invaluable in stories,¬†including some ‘agape’ can deepen and strengthen the relationships between characters. When they show unselfish love- love that gives rather than takes- it’s so outside the realm of the typical that, when written well, it’s unforgettable.

After all, to take a few examples from varied genres, Sam didn’t have to accompany Frodo into Mordor. Mr. Darcy didn’t¬†stand to gain by secretly aiding the family of a girl who’d as good as spit in his face. Atticus Finch¬†wasn’t forced to risk his reputation and family’s safety to defend an innocent man.

They chose to do it anyway, and those stories hold a place of honor as some of my favorites.

In real life, I think of the¬†nights when¬†my husband,¬†weary from another overtime shift, rejoins the family to be pulled in three different directions by our children. I can tell that he’s longing for quiet, but he puts it aside. He talks to them, plays with them, listens to their exploits. I think of the nights when he sees the crazy in my eyes, and he sends me away for alone time in his place.

That’s love that doesn’t fit into a chocolate box.


Do you have any stories of love in action, in self-sacrifice, that you’d like to recommend? I always love new books to read!

Thanks for visiting!

BONUS: Fellas, if you’re celebrating today but can’t figure out what she really wants, Tim Hawkins has the answer. ūüôā








The Perks of Rejection Letters


I have twenty more days.

Twenty days until the month ends. Twenty days until I send out my next round of queries in an attempt to induce an agent to represent my novel.

Twenty more days with no rejection letters in my in-box.

So far, I’ve amassed 13 rejections. Some agents simply didn’t respond to my queries. Others sent out polite form letters, or more personalized notes.

My favorite started out with, “Your writing has merit, but…” It felt like receiving that yellow ‘Participation’ ribbon at track-and-field day – nice of them to offer it, but not something that you’re going to hang on your bulletin board.¬†

In the grand scheme of querying, 13 isn’t a huge number of rejections. Stories abound of famous authors who had to struggle to get their work on shelves- authors like Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, Kate DiCamillo, and J.K. Rowling.

It’s easy to tell myself that this is all a normal part of the process, but diving back in still leaves me with a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.¬†

Rather than wallow in nerves, today I’m focusing on the positives! The following are five unexpected benefits I’ve gained from the process of querying and rejection.¬†

1. No more hiding!

Am I the only one who feels a little goofy admitting that I’m writing-¬†seriously writing? (From the comments of other writers online, I’m guessing the answer is no.)

It took me months to admit to anyone that I was attempting to write a novel. It took even longer for me to allow anyone else to see it.

Creativity is personal. Sharing it leaves you vulnerable. I don’t like vulnerable.

It’s hard to admit that I’m going through this process, that I have the gall to call myself a writer. It’s even harder to admit that I might completely fall on my proverbial backside.

I might fail¬†to sell my novel to an agent. And, as I’ve decided to record this online, I can’t even keep it a secret if I do!


However, now that I’ve been querying, now that I’ve had to refine and define my ideas for strangers to judge, I’ve found that I’m much more comfortable sharing with the people who actually care about me.

I suppose it’s better to break through that barrier now, rather than just showing up one day with my finished product.

2. Skin-Thickening

I’ve failed at many, many things. Most of my failures had to do with ‘character building’ through school sports. I’m about as coordinated as an inebriated gerbil. And the gerbil would still probably have a better throwing arm…

As an adult, I have the power to choose to play to my strengths. I can stay in my comfort zone. I can do things where I’m almost guaranteed sucess.

It’s been a little hard to throw my heart-felt words out to someone I don’t know. (Ha! ‘A little hard’- that’s my Minnesota background talking. Like, when it gets down to 0 degrees, it’s ‘a little chilly.’)

If I wanted to give professional publishing a go, I had to get over it. Deal with rejection. Prepare myself for bring raked over the coals of critique.

It’s time to toughen up- better now than at the first bad review.

3. Confidence in my work

Here’s my process.

-I send out a query.

-I check e-mail compulsively.

-When the rejection comes, either in written form or in echoing silence, I attack my manuscript.

I’ve gone over and over the thing until my eyes blur, and I’ve come to one conclusion.

I like my book.

In spite of rejections, I still want this book to become. Reviewing and editing it so many times has made my confidence grow.

Growing confidence pushes me to put in the time and effort to make it happen.

4. Professionalism

I haven’t had to go to a job interview since…college? I had my degree to prove that I was a professional teacher, and I knew the rules of that profession.

The rules of the publishing world- not so much.

The querying proecess forced me to read up on publishing, on agents, on writing, oh, on so many things. Many of the agents I’ve approached include tips on their sites, cluing in prospective clients on common writing and querying mistakes.

I’ve had to learn what it takes to be a professional in this industry, in hopes of convincing professionals that they want to work with me.

Whether traditional publishing works out for me or not, I’ve got a better grasp of what I’m in for when I finally get that novel in a (fabulous looking!) cover.

5. This blog happened.

“What’s your platform?” “Who will read your book?” “What’s your sphere of influence?” (Does that last one make anyone else think Cold War? No?)

I probably wouldn’t have started consitently blogging without having to answer questions like these on query forms.

No, I didn’t start this blog thinking, “I need to find people who will read my book!” It did seem like agents expected me to be doing something on social media, though, and of the options, blogging seemed the most interesting.

I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have! Connecting with other writers and learning from them, reading about other people’s insights on history, enjoying stories and poems and fantastic cat pictures- all of these things have changed blogging from something “I guess I should do,” to a pleasure. (Thanks to all of you fellow bloggers and kind commenters!)

As I edit my query letter for the hundreth time (I’m not even sure that’s hyperbole anymore!) and recheck my lists of agents, I’ll try to keep it positive. If you’re in the same boat, I hope you can too!

Maybe this round will include an e-mail that isn’t a rejection.¬†

Whew, that would be a whole NEW level of scary…



What benefits have you recieved from rejections and delays?

Thanks for visiting!







Don’t Get Too Attached

red shirts
Photo courtesy of : https://www.flickr.com/photos/tychay/2244290630

“Here’s to peace at last.”¬†

Stan grinned and accepted the cigar. “Thanks, Mac. So, how’s it feel to be two days from retirement?”

“Heh. Why d’ya think I sprang for the¬†good cigars? Man, life couldn’t be better.” Mac leaned back and rested his heels on the edge of the consol. His boot blocked the glow of the perimeter warning light as it began to flash.

Stan drew in a lungful of smoke, savoring the flavor. “Gerda looking forward to having you home more?”

“Sure. After risking life and limb out here on the Edge for the past five years, I’m ready for some domesticity. Let me tell ya, Stan. There were days I didn’t think we’d make it…”

Ok, readers, you tell me. What’s going to happen next?

Mac’s retiring, celebrating because they’ve made it this far, confiding in a friend, and a warning light’s going off…

He’s not going to make it.

Like a red-shirted ensign on Captain Kirk’s away team, some characters are so obviously headed for disaster that it’s best not to get attached.

Here are a few common ‘expendables,’ just off the top of my head.

The Mentor. The soon-to be hero of the piece is young and inexperienced. He or she needs guidance. Enter the wise old mentor, who leads, guides, becomes a father figure…and then dies. The hero/heroine is galvanized to become who they were meant to be!!!

The Relationship. Whether it’s a spouse, a child, a best friend, or a pet, if your hard-boiled ex-super- tough-character has settled down for a peaceful life at the beginning of a story,¬† you know it’s not going to last, don’t you? Someone the character loves will be sacrificed on the altar of storyline so that he/she is galvanized to take up the fight once more.

The Innocent. How can you tell baddies are really bad? When they kill innocent bystanders who are no threat to them, naturally. (What do you mean it’s not very subtle?) Once that kitten ranch is gone, ooooh, we’re all gonna be rooting for the hero to take that kitten killer DOWN.

“I’m Retiring Next Week!”¬†Enough said. He will not be collecting his pension. Sub categories of this include “Getting married tomorrow,” or “Just had a baby.”

Cannon Fodder.¬†If you’ve watched Star Trek, you probably understand what I meant with my reference to “red-shirted ensigns.” The poor guys may as well have painted bull’s eyes on those polyester suits. In the realm of sci-fi, the only worse person to be is a storm trooper. (Sure, the armor looks good, but fuzzy mini-teddy bears can render it useless with sticks! Painful, and embarrassing.) In any story where a core team of main characters takes guards for protection, or travels in a caravan, or interacts with any group that’s not essential to the plot, look out.

This topic has been on my mind because I just caught myself using one of these types of characters.

OOPS. (Photo courtesy of Anna Ogiienko, from Unsplash.com)

I’ve had to stop and take a long look at my story arc.

Every story won’t be the most original and surprising piece of literature ever written- it’s just not possible. (How many books and shows have essentially repeated the same plot?) Still, if my story’s going to include a character’s death, I want it to count. I want it to increase the tension, raise the stakes, make readers care more.

In short, I caught myself in some lazy writing, and that just won’t do. My new goal for this draft is to make my paper people resemble flesh and blood more than cardboard cut-outs just waiting to be knocked down.

Maybe LeRoy (that’s my nice guy/best friend/cannon fodder’s name. Poor, poor LeRoy) needs to live. My, that would throw my plot for a loop! Or maybe he’ll still fall, but in a different way, or in a different time.

Maybe I just need to spend more time on his character so that he is more than a puppet, waiting on stage for his dramatic exit.


Can you add any other character types I’ve missed above-¬† ones you always suspect aren’t going to make it to the story’s end?

Thanks for visiting!

Getting You’re Homophones Rite

The teacher in me came out to play.

Yes, the spelling is deliberate. ūüôā I apologize in advance to anyone else who is driven slightly crazy by misused words!

Blue and Black Ball Point Pens on Red Hand Book
Photo courtesy of SnockSnap.com

Riting in English can be ruff. Not only are their rules of grammar and use to fallow, but, just when ewe think you’ve got it awl figured out, a homophone derails you’re efforts.


Homophones, bye definition, are words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings.

Their extra tricky to catch because since both spellings are reel words, spell check programs may overlook them. Even a discerning human I might pass over a pore word choice.

However, its important to catch them- a missed homophone can pole your reader rite out of you’re story.

What can wee due? Programs like Grammarly can aide writers in catching common errors, but some still allude their algorithms.

I’ve found that won of the best ways to insure that I use the rite words is involving another set of I’s. I like to have someone else poor over the text before I premier it to the world, if possible. Reading my own work allowed also forces me to focus on my text and notice weather anything looks bazaar!

Finally, eye am a firm believer that reeding excellent riting helps anyone to better recognize the elusive homophones, and to realize that unless their inventing a new stile of fishing, they are likely¬†not “waiting with baited breath” for their manuscript to return!

Happy writing!

Did you see all 35 errors?

Just in case- I’ve recopied it below with the mistakes underline ūüėČ Thanks for visiting!

Bonus: This post had a nice list of homophones that the spell check programs commonly miss.



Riting in English can be ruff. Not only are their rules of grammar and use to fallow, but, just when ewe think you’ve got it awl figured out, a homophone derails you’re efforts.

Homophones, bye definition, are words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings.

Their tricky to catch. Since both spellings are reel words, spell check programs may overlook them. Even a discerning human I might pass over a pore word choice.

However, its important to catch them- a missed homophone can pole your reader rite out of you’re story.

What can wee due? Programs like Grammarly can aide writers in catching common errors, but some still allude their algorithms.

I’ve found that won of the best ways to insure that I use the rite words is involving another set of I’s. I like to have someone else poor over the text before I premier it to the world. Reading my own work allowed also forces me to focus on my text and notice weather anything looks bazaar!

Finally, eye am a firm believer that reeding excellent riting helps anyone to better recognize the elusive homophones, and to realize that unless their inventing a new stile of fishing, they are likely¬†not “waiting with baited breath” for their manuscript to return!


Publishing Paths: Interviewing Lydia Eberhardt

“Are you¬†sure this is a path?”

A dear friend asked me today about my book-publishing progress.

“Welll…..” I debated whether I should give her the long version, or the quick sum-up- “Nothing yet!”

It’s not that the process is taking¬†longer than I expected.

I did not expect to have to choose between so many publishing paths: traditional publishing via agent, small-press publishing, self-publishing via Amazon, all the other routes for self or indie publishing…

Even after the work of writing and editing a book, it’s still an awful lot of work to decide how to bring it into the world.

I happen to have a few lovely ladies in my circle of friends who preceded me on this journey. While I am currently pursuing traditional publishing (or will restart pursuing it post-Christmas craziness) they have travelled some different routes.

I’ve been meaning to pester them- ahem, I mean¬†ask them- about the details of their personal journeys, and they have been gracious enough to allow me to share their answers on my site.

Today, I would like to introduce Lydia Eberhardt.


Lydia is the author of Esther A.D, a modern-day retelling of the Biblical book of Esther, Beast, a retelling of the classic fairy tale, and Global Warning, a Star-Trek flavored sci-fi tale with some interesting twists.

Welcome, Lydia! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am an educator.¬† I’ve been teaching for 13 years, and taught children from 6 months old all the way to eighth grade. My husband and I like to travel-both nationally and globally.

How did you develop your love of writing?

I have always loved to read.  I love good stories-whether it’s a book or movie or even a tv show.

I also have a good imagination.  As a child, I used to imagine myself into a book or movie when I was trying to fall asleep.  As I grew, I still did this, but the stories began to be more of my own creations rather than someone else’s.

Your three books are very different from each other. Where did you find the inspiration for them?

When I wrote Esther A.D., I had just finished reading one of my favorite versions of Esther.¬† I was thinking of how all the variations I’ve read were always set historically, and I began to wonder if it would work translated into current/future times. That idea came from my enjoyment of all the classic fairy tales being retold into modern times. It may sound odd, but it was like the story was poking me saying, “Write me. Write me.”

 Esther AD

Beast came from my love of fairy tales. Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale, but I think Beauty and the Beast is my next favorite. It’s fun to find all the different variations on the fairy tales. For example, I once read a version of Cinderella where the prince discovered her because he slipped a ring on her finger before she ran off on the third night of the ball.


¬†Honestly, I’m not entirely sure where Global Warning came from.¬† I never planned on writing an environmental science fiction. But I do love science fiction, so I guess it came from that.

Global Warning

Once you decided to publish, what was your process? Did you consider traditional publishing or did you always plan to self-publish?

Unless you are willing to get an agent, finding a publisher can be challenging. Many publishing houses won’t take unsolicited manuscripts or manuscripts not from an agent. When I was writing Esther A.D, I did some searching on the internet and found a subsidy publisher that was interested in publishing my book. Basically I paid them to publish and promote my book. I was not overly impressed with them, but I was excited because someone thought what I wrote was good enough to publish!

One of my friends is also an author, and she published through Amazon.  I spoke with her about her experience, and she had many positive things to say.  So when I was ready to publish a second book, I decided to go that way.

How has Amazon been different from the subsidy publisher? Have you liked working with them?

I am using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) services.¬† Basically, your book gets published as an ebook. Amazon also allows you to have the option of releasing your book as a paperback.

It’s a pretty neat service! They even have a cover creator, so if you are not very artistic, you can still get a decent looking cover. They do NOT provide an editing service.

KDP is interesting because they allow you to publish and only charge you if ebooks or paperbacks are ordered–and the charge comes out of the sale. Plus they tell you what it costs to make them.¬† For example: the cost to them for publishing one of my books is about $2.15. So when you go to set your price, they tell you that in order to cover printing and Amazon’s portion of the pie, you need to sell your book for around $3.60 to cover costs. So there is no up front cost like there is with a subsidy publisher.

Dislikes-you are on your own for publicizing and promoting your book.  Which can be challenging for someone who is more introverted like me.

I also have used Teachers Pay Teachers to “publish” some of the children’s plays I have written.¬† When I was teaching preschool and kindergarten, the children would put on a play at the end of the school year.¬† It was challenging to find a children’s play that was written to be performed BY children as opposed to FOR children, so I began writing simple plays for the children to perform. TPT is not for publishing books as much as it is a place where teachers can share the resources they have created with other teachers and be compensated for their efforts. Plus it’s nice to know that you are supporting the education community by buying and selling directly with other teachers. Downside-once again, how do you promote and publicize?

Do you have any advice for authors looking into publication?

Research.¬† If you Google “The Writer’s Guide” you’ll get results for some books that may be helpful. Also if you decide to go with a subsidy publisher, see if they have Google reviews.¬† Check if they have a rating with the Better Business Bureau. See what other people have to say about them before committing.

Have your friends read your writings and be willing to listen to their feedback. If something doesn’t make sense to them, it’s not going to make sense to others either.

Consider getting an agent. I currently have not gone that route, but that’s partly because I consider myself an educator first and an author sixth or seventh. If you are seriously into writing, I would encourage you to at least speak with some agents and see what they could do for you.

Money depends on what path you are taking.  There are many companies out there that will publish your book for several hundred to even thousands of dollars, and provide a variety of services for that fee.  You have to decide what you are willing to invest into you book.

 Thanks so much for your time, Lydia!

Links to all of Lydia’s published works can be found at lydiaeberhardt.com or lydiaeberhardt.wordpress.com .


Are you seeking publication? Where have your writing journeys led you?

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tastysnaks/6915532423/)

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¬†https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaptainkobold/


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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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?