Don’t Get Too Attached

red shirts
Photo courtesy of :

“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

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. 🙂 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

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 😉 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!


Elephant Bill: Saving Lives in WW2 Burma

“Mommy, why do you like reading about war?”

I suppose the question shouldn’t have surprised me. My eldest is an observant, curious child, and she’d asked questions about my history books before. I’d shared little stories and anecdotes nothing too heavy or unsettling.

This…it wasn’t a question I was prepared for. I didn’t have a ready answer to hand – at least not one I could frame in a way that a seven-year-old would understand.

After some thought I told her, “I like to read stories about people who are brave, and people who are kind, even when things are hard.”

A simple answer, meant for a child, but true. I love reading history, but the stories that honor courage and kindness are the ones that resonate.

The story of  James Howard Williams, or ‘Elephant Bill,’ is a perfect example.

KristineJames Howard Williams was born November 15, 1897 in Cornwall. He was known as “Jim” to his family, “Billy” to his friends.

Williams finished his World War I service in the “Bloody Eleventh” Devonshire Regiment physically unharmed.  He found, however, that he couldn’t just resume his old life at home. He longed for a change.

He decided that an opportunity to move to Burma and work with elephants in the teak tree harvesting industry was perfect. Elephants! Williams had always loved animals- from dogs, to his boyhood pet donkey, to ‘Frying Pan,’ his wartime camel companion.

Williams took to the strenuous and dangerous life of the jungle. He befriended the elephants  he supervised and learned all he could about their personalities and care from limited texts available and from their uzis (the native elephant handlers.) He became adept at dealing with elephant illnesses, and at times would use his skills as an amateur MD for people in the isolated villages. He established an ‘elephant school’ to train working elephants, and championed humane training techniques and conditions for the infants born in captivity. He even met his wife in the jungle- Susan Rowland was keeping house for her uncle, who happened to be the chief conservator of forests.

The onset of WW2 seemed distant from the Burmese jungle- until suddenly, it wasn’t.

Japan’s entrance into the war and aggressive push into Asia left Burma vulnerable. Williams and his growing family- he and Susan had a son and a baby on the way- were also vulnerable, facing an uncertain future.

During the course of the war, Williams would have to evacuate Burma three times.

The first time involved the wives and children of his company’s employees. Once he got them over the mountains to India, Williams returned to Burma, aiding other refugees and checking on the elephants and people he left behind. He hoped to take 200 elephants back to India with him, but the treacherous mountain roads were packed with refugees, and so he was forced to retreat to India again, on foot.

He offered himself to the Allied war effort, and became the leader of the No. 1 Elephant Company, operating under the SOE (the British ‘dirty tricks’ department) behind enemy lines. He and his compatriots rescued elephants from under the noses of Japanese troops and used them to build roads and bridges and to aid the Allies in every way possible, (while still doing all he could to protect the elephants themselves.)

As the Allies geared up for a huge offensive in March of 1944, Williams was told to be ready to withdraw his elephants- they were to be evacuated so that they weren’t caught and killed in the crossfire.

Williams, the refugee families of a number of Gurkha (Allied) soldiers, his elephants and his coworkers set off on his third evacuation, across unfamiliar territory with enemy troops closing in. The group totaled 64 women and children,  53 elephants, 40 Karen soldiers, 90 uzies and 4 officers.

After days of struggling through thick vegetation, plagued by Japanese patrols and suffering from illness and lack of food, the party reached and insurmountable obstical- a 270 foot sheer rock wall, blocking their path.

Moving forward was impossible; Williams decided to do it anyway.


Williams’ party labored for two days and created an ‘elephant staircase,’ cutting steps into the sandstone cliff, trimming back brush, expanding existing ledges, hoping the elephants would cooperate and climb it.

They did.


Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A few notes about the book

Generally, I prefer to read primary sources whenever possible- I like to ‘hear’ the voice of the person who lived the events telling the story. However, Vicki Constantine Croke’s list of sources and her careful citing was enough to silence even my inner skeptic, who likes to say things like, “Sure, but how do YOU know he felt that way, hmmm?” That being said,  I’d still like to get my hands on James Howard Williams’ own books. (The library really needs to start asking me which books they ought to stock… :))

While the cover of the book highlights the WW2 part of the story, the reader has to wait until the third section of the book and past the 200 page mark to get to that era in Williams’ life. If you don’t mind the wait, the rest of his story is interesting, and I learned a great deal about elephants in those first 200 pages. (From her bio on the back, Vicki Constantine Croke writes many nature/animal oriented tales.)

Whatever source you use, the true tale of ‘Elephant Bill’ is well worth reading and remembering!


Many thanks for visiting, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Something Beautiful

For the past seventeen nights, waiting for supper to end has been torturous for my children. They can’t sit still (ha, they can barely ‘sit’ at all) as they anticipate the moment when my husband and I will finally finish eating.

No matter how fidgety they’ve been during the meal, when the time comes they are all attention.

My husband lights the candles in the little Advent wreath my two smallest ‘helped’ me construct, hand dodging the sharp barbs of holly.

I scan the rows of miniature drawers in our Advent calendar, finding the one with the proper date. Inside is a treat for one member of the family, and a small slip of paper, bearing a portion of the Christmas story.


Though my children are small, they know the story well. The two oldest helped to tell it in their school’s Children’s Service, and recite the parts they know as we read.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy, that will be for all people…”

It’s a familiar story to many, and has been retold many times, (as might be expected after around 2,000 years!) I love  discovering retellings in art, music, film or writing that give me a fresh perspective on the tale- something beautiful to add to our Christmas traditions.

Koine’s “A Son, Emmanuel” is just that.

The music alone is lovely, but combined with Jason Jasperson’s stop motion sand-art, it becomes something special- a reminder of just why the night my family will celebrate in one week is sacred to so many people around the world.

I hope that you enjoy it, too.

I wish you all a blessed and peace-filled Christmas.

I’ll be offline for a bit, enjoying some family time, but I look forward to reconnecting with you all in the New Year with fresh articles on writing, history and whatever else 2018 brings!

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 or .


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

Thanks for visiting!



On Baking, Butter, and a Shameless Deception


December is here, it’s officially Advent, and in my house that means baking season.

My cookbooks are filled with favorite cookie recipes from my mom, grandmas, in-laws, and friends. If I only make the essentials, I’ve got a half a dozen types to whip together in the next four weeks.

It gets a little crazy, and more than a little messy as the kids all pitch in to ‘help,’ but I love the memories wrapped up in the process: Grandma’s handwriting on a recipe card, the cookbook Mom assembled, the flavors of my childhood.

In a small way, dusting off the old recipes makes it feel as if the people who passed them on are part of the holidays.

The annual baking spree takes some preparation, of course. We stock up on all of the essentials. Flour, sugar, cocoa, and eggs are non-negotiable.

When we come to the dairy aisle, my internal debate begins.

Do I spring for the ridiculous amounts of butter my recipes require, or substitute a little bit of thrifty margarine? As a child of dairy country (who was also raised to spend as little as possible) it is a challenging decision.

When I visited my parents in November, we started talking about butter vs. margarine and they reminisced about when the decision was even more challenging – during the years when margarine was CONTRABAND.

Naturally, I had to do a little research.

The tale went back to the advent of margarine as a butter substitute in the late 1800s. It was cheap, and oh-so-spreadable. However, the dairy farmers of the U.S. were not pleased with the competition, and fought tooth and claw against it in the political arena.

They succeeded, to a degree.

The dairy proponents passed laws making colored margarine illegal,  hoping that the natural color of the spread would be unappealing.

The margarine companies countered by selling small packets of yellow dye with their product- just mix it in yourself at home!

Margarine was cheaper to purchase than butter, but tax laws against margarine helped to even the playing field.

Of course, you could avoid these if you could make it across the border into a different state- yes, I’ve run in to stories of margarine smuggling.

When butter became scarce during the Great Depression and the World Wars, margarine gained headway, but the butter proponents wouldn’t let little events like these discourage them.

Minnesota didn’t officially legalize colored margarine until 1963. Wisconsin was the longest holdout- they didn’t legalize it until 1967. (According to this article, it may still be illegal to serve margarine in Wisconsin restaurants without also offering butter.)

We have some of those same stubborn farmers in our ancestry, and dad shared the story of their reaction to the debate. Though the participants in our own little skirmish in the ‘margarine wars’ have been in heaven for many years, I’ll simply call them ‘The Farmer’ and ‘The Farmer’s Wife.’

The Farmer had made up his mind, and wasn’t the sort to change it easily.

Margarine- that imitation stuff- would never pass his lips.

The Farmer’s Wife disagreed. She was an excellent baker, but her passion for bread and cookies was matched by her gift for thrift.

How long the war of wills lasted, I don’t know. All that I know is that, on serving supper one night, the Farmer’s Wife made a quiet substitution.

Would he be able to tell the difference?

I wonder if she had any doubts- if she puttered around the kitchen, avoiding his eyes, or if she sat at the table to face him head on, determined to brazen it out.

Either way, The Farmer’s response says it all.

“That’s darn good butter!”

Image courtesy of “Classic Film” on My husband didn’t find it quite as amusing as I did. 😉

My first batch of cookies is finished baking! Today’s feature: Mom’s Baked Chocolate Covered Cherries. (I’ll share the recipe below, in case anyone is interested.)

As to my dairy aisle choice: I know this recipe calls for margarine… but I found a good deal on butter, and I like the real stuff. (You can take a girl out of dairy country… 🙂 )

Many thanks for visiting!


Baked Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

1/2 C margarine         1/2 tsp salt

1 C sugar                1/2 C baking cocoa

1 egg                        1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp vanilla   1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 C flour           1/2 tsp salt

36-48 maraschino cherries, drained, juice reserved

Cream butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mix thoroughly. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Push one cherry halfway into each cookie. When all cookies are shaped and cherries added, make the frosting.


1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 C sweetened condensed milk

1-1 1/2 tsp cherry juice

1/4 tsp salt

Cook the chocolate chips and milk in a sauce pan over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and add salt and cherry juice. Immediately frost the cookies, using about 1/2 tsp frosting to spread over each cherry.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes until puffy and set.

Store tightly covered.








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!

North Africa in 1941 Continued

Life being what it is just now, I will be going ‘off the grid’ for a bit, but I  couldn’t resist one more little history article, and a chance to wish you all a happy Veteran’s Day weekend. (Remembrance Day for some of you, I believe.)

Though, come to think of it, ‘Happy’ doesn’t seem quite the right sentiment for the day.

Maybe wishing you a ‘thankful’ day is better. It fits the way I look at it, anyway.

I’m thankful for the people who serve and have served with the goal of protecting others.

I’m thankful for the stories of people who hold on to bravery in the face of fear, and who can still manage to show kindness even when surrounded by cruelty.

I’m thankful for the sacrifices others have made, who have gone where I can’t.

And to those who are still serving in the present day, God bless and watch over you, and bring you safely home.

red poppy

Back to 1941.

Things were not going General Wavell’s way.

Greece and Yuglslavia had fallen to the Axis, and General Erwin Rommel of the German Afrikakorps hounded the Allied troops in North Africa, retaking the lands the Italians had lost.

True, there had been some successes- a revolt in Iraq and a struggle with the Vichy element in Syria both quelled with relatively small forces, and the Italians in East Africa were giving way before an Allied advance.

Also, the risky Operation Tiger had paid off-  slipping 300 tanks through the hazardous Mediterranian Sea to help bolster Wavell’s efforts.

Still, the positives were overshadowed by Crete and Rommel.

The Allies had expected Hitler’s armies to make a play for the island of Crete, and had prepared themselves as best they could.

Even their best preparations couldn’t ready them for the assault of Goering’s elite XI Air Corps, who attacked via parachute and glider on May 20th.

By May 30th the Allies were on their final effort to get as many men off the island as possible. 16,500 were brought back to Egypt. Between 13 and 16,000 were lost- dead, wounded or captive.

(Side note: In this conflict, Axis losses were much lower, but Goering’s only airborne division was entirely spent.)


German glider plane invasion of crete
German glider crashing on Crete

Then, of course, there was the German army in North Africa to contend with.


Here it is again! Many thanks for a helpful reference map to Gordon Smith’s


General Wavell had tried to get the jump on Rommel, even before the new tanks, nicknamed the “Tiger Cubs” arrived. His forces had been able to take Sollum and Capuzzo- unfortunately the Germans took them right back again.

Still, the British were able to leave a garrison at Halfaya Pass and Sidi Suleima, and a sortie by the still-isolated Tobruk garrison had some sucess.

Churchill and others ‘back home’ had high hopes that the new infusion of tanks would tip the balance.

Of course, tanks are only good if they work.

The ‘Tiger Cubs’ were not ready for action. It took time to unload them, to refit them, and to prepare for service in desert conditions.


crusader tank
British “Crusader Tank”


Rommel, naturally, used this time to his advantage, preparing his own 15th Panzer Division.

He suspected that an attack to relieve Tobruck was imminent. (This was, in fact, one of Wavell’s goals with the upcoming Operation Battleaxe.) He decided to attack first, taking Halfaya Pass on May 26th.

Loosing the pass would make ‘Battleaxe’ more difficult, but it moved forward.  People wanted a clear victory against Rommel.

General Wavell wasn’t certain he could give it to them. He admitted, even before ‘Battleaxe’ began that even with numerical superiority, there were weaknesses- his armored cars were too lightly armored and had no guns, unlike the German model. His infantry tanks were too slow, there was ongoing trouble with mechanical breakdowns…

…and then, of course, there was the fact that the estimates of just how many tanks the Germans could bring to bear were wrong. Rommel brought more than 200 to the show, Wavell, only 180. The Tiger Cubs’ teeth weren’t sharp enough to finish the job.

On June 15th, they took Capuzzo, but not Halfaya and they were stopped at Sollum.

On June 16th- no progress.

On June 17th,  in the Winston Churchill’s words, “everything went wrong.” In short, Rommel’s armor was too much. General Wavell flew to the battle site, to find that his commanders on site had called a retreat- he agreed. Rommel did not pursue.

Battleaxe’s edge was effectively blunted.

“The powers that be” decided that perhaps General Wavell was tired, and it was time for a fresh look at the problems in North Africa. On June 21st, he was informed that he would trading jobs with General Auchinleck, the Commander-in-Chief in India. The Bristish hoped that perhaps Auchinleck was the man to finally out-fox Rommel.


General Auchinleck
General Auchinleck-  Look out Afrika Korps, here I come…

The very next day the entire scope of the war changed, and events took place that would soon provide Britain with another, unexpected, ally.


On June 22nd, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa- the invasion of the Soviet Union.


Thanks, as always, for visiting!


For further information:

Here is a wonderful animated map of the North African Campaign on through 1943

Here are some recorded memories from the battle for Crete and here is a bit more on Operation Battleaxe.

*Most of my information came from The Grand Alliance by Winston Churchill, and World War II Album: The Complete Chronicle Edited by Hal Buell. I used various websites to double-check and verify dates and places.




I miss

the iron bones of Superior’s rocks

firm beneath my feet

holding me above the icy spray


The smell of tilled earth

below a sky stretching forever

fading to pastel dusk, the evening star

whispering possibilities


Far away

from fluorescents


weary bodies

resting  uneasily

to the perpetual shrill of beeping monitors