Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Titles to Write By, The Monday Muse, Being Thankful

"Titles" is an occasional blog post in which we play with a single word and turn it into, what else, titles! Afterwards the object is to pick one of them and write a little something.

It was Ray Bradbury, in his book ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, who taught me about making lists of words and turning them into titles. If you haven't read it I highly recommend it.

For no particular reason, 
today's word is:

The Waffle House
Wet Willie the Waffle Whiffer
Waffle Misses Monkey
Waffle, Waffle, Who's Got the Waffle?
Waffling Waffles
The Awful Waffle
To Waffle or not to Waffle
Waffle Has Two Meanings
In which we dress up as one of the nine muses and pretend we're Greek.
Waffle Misses Monkey

Sometimes a long ago memory arises out of nowhere. It pops up while you're doing the dishes, searching for that lost sock, or watching TV. The thing you're doing isn't the trigger that releases the memory -- like a helium balloon rising out of the dark depths -- it's something else, something mysterious and metaphysical.

I've wondered, when it happens to me, if the person  who has suddenly come to mind isn't thinking of me.

Such was the case the other day when Monkey's face swam up from the depths. Intelligent and well read -- studying psychology -- Monkey was not a GQ model. He wasn't homely either but sat somewhere between the two extremes. He'd acquired the nickname in elementary school because his large round ears stuck out from the side of his head like a pair of  wings, and though the name was meant to be derogatory, Monkey made it his own.

What he didn't have in dashing good looks he made up for with dashing chivalrous behavior. He was kind, humorous, attentive and I fell hard. Because I loved waffles he'd occasionally bring them to me at work, or made them on a Sunday morning. It's why he called me his Sweet Waffle. Our friends even introduced us as Waffle and Monkey, always a good conversation opener.

But youth, being in a constant state of flux and change, doomed our relationship from the start. Our parting had nothing to do with anything either of us did, it was just the way things were. He went on to get his doctorate, and I was left behind.

So thoughts of him took me by surprise and for a moment a sad, wistful melancholia settled around me and held me close. It was warm and comfortable. I'll always remember Monkey with fondness.

"Waffle misses Monkey," I thought, and wondered if he ever missed me.
Today I'm thankful for the rain we got, even if two inches of it came in 30 minutes!

What are you thankful for? Have another waffle title to add to the list? Even have a long ago memory of someone pop up that made you feel happy/sad? 

Monday, February 13, 2017

InkRipples, Genres, Being Thankful

#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Kai StrandMary Waibel, and Katie L. Carroll. We post on the first Monday of every month with a new topic. We’re all authors, but you don’t have to be to participate.
The idea of #InkRipples is to toss a word, idea, image, whatever into the inkwell and see what kind of ripples it makes. We provide the topics and will be blogging about them on the first Monday of the month. You can spread your own ripples by blogging about the topic any day of the month that fits your schedule, just be sure to include links back to the three of us please (KatieKai, and Mary).

This month's subject is genres.

Genre: Arrived on the scene in 1770, as a "particular style of art," a French word in English (nativized from c. 1840), from French genre "kind, sort, style". Used especially in French for "independent style." In painting, as an adjective, "depicting scenes of ordinary life" (a domestic interior or village scene, as compared to landscapehistorical, etc.) from 1849.

Genre is now widely used to describe all sorts of things, particularly in writing. If you want to boggle your mind, take a look at this list of genres on Wikipedia. One could get bogged down trying to decide what genre one is writing in. There's even something called Lab lit.

For myself, I don't concern myself too much with what genre I'm writing in. I write for kids. I like anthropomorphic stories (Anansi and A Lizard's Tail). But I can branch out, as with The Bowl and the Stone which is a ghost story. And my next novel, A Piece of the Sky, would be considered Historical Fantasy. 

I'm just as eclectic in my reading. It's easier to list the genres I'm not so interested in: horror, spy thrillers, mystery (though I do like me an occasional Carl Hiaasen or Tony Hillerman). Most everything else I'm up for, as well reading for all ages.

Being Thankful

Today I'm thankful for genres and the variety they bring to us. Imagine if only one kind of novel or non-fiction book was written? How boring would that be? 

That are you thankful for? Do you read or write in one particular genre, or do you like to explore?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Island Idylls: Yeknod and Being Thankful

Island Idylls: Stories of growing up in the Virgin Islands.

Last month I wrote about the Irascible Erasmus, a donkey with a mind of his own.

This month I'd like to introduce you Yeknod.

We had her while we lived at and ran our guest house at Lille Maho on St. John. I was in my teens. I thought of her as mine and named her Yeknod, which you may have noticed is donkey spelled backwards. In temperament, she was the opposite of Erasmus.

Yeknod was docile and friendly. See how she's looking at the person taking this picture? She was more like a dog than donkey. She brayed a greeting to the first person she saw each morning. She nuzzled and pushed her head against your hands and body looking to be scratched between the ears or searching for a treat. More than once she followed me into the house when I went to fill her water bucket or get her favorite snack of grapefruit rinds.

I had a western pony saddle which I used for long rides, but mostly I rode her bareback, often without a halter and reins, just her tether rope wrapped around her neck. Unlike Erasmus, Yeknod was born to be ridden and seemed to know when I was going to take her out.

I’d wind her tether rope around her neck, (which she didn't chew through) sling my saddle bags across her shoulders, hop up, and off we’d go.

How, you may ask, do you ride a donkey without reins and bridle? All I did was tap her neck on the left and she’d go right, tap her on the right and she’d go left. Yeknod was also unique in that she could single foot, which was wonderfully smooth. To get her up to speed I’d tickle her between her shoulder blades. She had to work her way into it. The run would start out in that stiff-legged, spine jarring trot donkeys have, but with a little more tickling she'd pick up speed and then it was smooth sailing.

There were a couple of long flat places where I liked to get her to run; the stretch of road by Big Maho and the stretch by Cinnamon Bay. It seemed to me she knew what I wanted because she’d pick up her pace when we reached those places as if anticipating my fingers between her shoulder blades.

She was such an easy ride that I often rode with one leg hanging down, the other with knee bent resting across her shoulders in a kind of modified side saddle. I could switch legs and ride either side. She didn’t care.

Yeknod and I wandered all over St. John. Sometimes we only went out for a few hours. Sometimes we made a whole day of it (which is when I'd saddle her up). We’d go along the roads (most of which weren't yet paved) or explore the old foot trails. Usually on the way home we’d stop at Cinnamon Bay (the National Park Camp Ground), where I’d buy a ginger beer and take a dip in the ocean. I’d unwind her tether rope and tie her up in the shade somewhere. The people who ran the campground knew me and would loan me a bucket so I could give her water. She always attracted tourists and enjoyed their attentions. Occasionally I'd give kids short rides.

Maho flower. They are a
member of the Mallow
Maho tree
Only once did she behave out of character. I should have known she didn’t want to be ridden when she acted skittish. Foolish me, I tried to ride her anyway. She took off with me down the hill to the beach and headed towards a maho tree with low branches. I realized immediately she intended to scrape me off her back, but I didn’t have time to fling my arms around her neck, nor I could roll off her back as there were some rocks in the way. I only had time to stretch myself across her back, legs wrapped around her neck. As it was the branch she went under was so low it scraped the bottom of my chin. As soon as we were out from under the tree and free of rocks I rolled off her back onto the sand. She trotted back up the hill toward the house and brayed at me like she was laughing or heckling me.

Not long after that incident, Yeknod died of colic and was buried at sea. I cried at her loss, feeling I had somehow failed her. I loved that donkey, and I like to think she loved me.

I still miss her.

Being Thankful

Today I'm thankful for... coloring books. 
Long before adult coloring books became all the rage I was given this book (published in 1979) with beautiful illustrations by Michael Green who, for me, captured the characters and essence of Middle Earth like no other.

Here are some of the pages I colored.
 And here are some (not all) of my coloring books.

 I don't color as often as I'd like to, but this is my most recent attempt (not quite finished) from the Art Nouveau book.

What are you thankful for? Do you like to color? Ever ridden a donkey?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Posting the first Wednesday of every month, The Insecure Writer's Support Groupis  the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh. YOU can sign up HERE to participate. 

To change things up a bit, every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Let's give our co-hosts  a warm welcome! 
Misha Gericke, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Christy and Joylene Buter!

This month's question is: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I can remember wondering quite clearly in high school, while reading and writing book reports for the classics we had to read, why it was we had to search for hidden meanings, or for symbolism. Why, I wondered, can't I just read the story and enjoy it without all this digging around for the author's ulterior motive?

Although I still mostly read for enjoyment without looking for the "deeper meaning" I have a much better understanding of how layered writing can be.

In my book, A LIZARD'S TAIL, the naive, self-assured, and vain young hero learns the value of getting help from others and of not being so proud. But learning these lessons costs him something. That's the hidden message. However, it remains a simple adventure story, and can be read that way.

As for THE BOWL AND THE STONE, on one level it's a simple ghost story. But on another it's about deep and abiding friendship, even a friendship that can survive across time. 

Did I intentionally write these stories with those messages in mind? Not at the beginning. They evolved on their own. And, as I saw it evolving, I nurtured it. 

The trick, I've discovered, is not to be blatant. Let the story be told, let the message be like Easter eggs hidden in plain sight but not so plainly that the beautiful colors become a distraction. If you find the eggs, that's wonderful. If you don't, nothing is taken away from the story.

That's what I've learned from being an avid reader.

What about you? Has being a writer changed your experience as a reader, or has reading changed your experience as a writer?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Alternatives, Introducing... Brain Ticklers, Being Thankful

Alternatives is an occasion post in which I give synonyms for an over used word. Click on the tab above for a "complete" list of over used words.

Today's word is: - Get codes for Facebook, Hi5, MySpace and more
I was quite surprised by the comparatively large number of synonyms this word has. I was pleased to see juxtaposition, which for some reason is a word I like. Perhaps because it isn't all that easy to say and has an X in it. So-so is also on the list, as is ratherish, which makes me feel rawther British.

Although there are quite a few deadly adverbs, there are plenty of others to pick from that aren't.

Depending on how you use it, this list may come in handy for finding another way to say the same thing.

acting as, adjectively ,after a fashion, alike, allegorically, alliteratively, allusively, almost
analogously, approximately, analogy, appositely, appreciably, as, at any rate, at best
at least, at the least, at most, at the most, at the outside, at worst averagely

ballpark figure, being, bit, by its nature

circa, close to, closely, comparably, comparative, comparison, conditionally, consonantly, contrastingly, correspondingly


enough, equally, equation, equivalently, essentially, evenly, ever so little

fairly, foil, for instance, functioning as

generally, germanely

halfway, hardly

identically, illustratively, in a certain degree, in a manner, in the manner that, in the same manner with, in a similar way, in a way, in accordance with, in common. in moderation, in part, in some measure, in some way, in the ballpark, in the region of, in the same degree, in the same manner, in the same way, in the same way as, incompletely, identical to

just as, just for, juxtaposition

kind of

leastwise, less, like, likewise, little, loosely

merely, metaphorically, mildly, moderately, modestly, more, more or less

near, nearly, not absolutely, not comprehensively, not entirely, not exhaustively, not far from, not totally

only, ornamentally

parallel, part, partially, partly, passably, perspective, pertinently, pretty, pro tanto, proportionately, proximately, purely


rather, ratherish, reasonably, relational, relative, relatively, relevantly, restrictedly

serving as, similarly, simply, slightly, so far, so to speak, some extent, some thus far, something, somewhat, sort of, so-so, such as

temperately, to a certain extent, to a degree, to a point, to an extent, to some degree, to some extent, tolerably


upwards of

very close, visibly, within bounds, within limits, within reason

*** - Get codes for Facebook, Hi5, MySpace and more
FDR in 1893And now, I'd like to introduce you to Brain Ticklers, a new occasional post in which I will give you a writing prompt or two to tickle your brain.

Of course you can do with them what you will.

Today is Franklin Delano Roosevelt's birthday. He was born in 1882.

For a Brain Tickler, perhaps you could juxtaposition him with a few other presidents, a compare and contrast, if you will.

Or maybe you can look at the young lad in the picture and make up a story about a boy name Delano, a boy who has a dream. What is his dream? What is he thinking? ("Hurry up and take the picture, I want to go riding!") Maybe he dreams of being a jockey. He was 18 at the turn of 20th century. What might he have thought or experienced? Might he have caroused with some buddies, or would he have contemplated what it meant to enter the year 1900?


Being Thankful

Today I'm thankful for our newly trimmed cedar elm. And also, the lovely sunrise.

What are you thankful for? Got a favorite alternative for comparatively? What do you think about Brain Ticklers (please be honest, my feelings won't be hurt if you think it's a waste of my time.) Do you know any interesting facts about our 32nd president? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Origins: On Compassion, Being Thankful

Origins is an occasional post in which I delve into the history of a word or phrase.
Today's word is:

I chose this word because there seems to be for many (including myself) a sense of anxiety, disquiet, and even dread. 

The word compassion comes from the Latin compati, meaning "to suffer with."

A close relative is the word pity. But having pity for someone or something is not the same as having compassion. There is more action implied with being compassionate, where as having pity is more passive. It is easy to confuse the two. 

We can feel pity - have empathy (from the Latin empátheia, literally passion”) for someone or something - but if we have not compassion, pity is meaningless. 

Saying something like, "Oh, I feel so bad about those poor abused dogs (children, elder people, those starving, those in war-torn areas etc)," is all well and good, and most of us do feel genuinely bad about these situations. Yet we go on with our day and don't DO anything.

That's were compassion comes in. Compassion turns that pity or empathy into something more, we don't just feel bad about the situation, we actually suffer it. And in the suffering are compelled to action.

Dalai Lama 1471 Luca Galuzzi 2007
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama defines Compassion as, "...not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion. For a Buddhist practitioner, the goal is to develop this genuine compassion, this genuine wish for the well-being of another, in fact for every living being throughout the universe."

You can read more about his explination of compassion HERE.

Compassion is not limited to those we love or to our friends. Having compassion encompasses all sentient life. It is understanding that all life suffers and that all life longs for happiness, even our enemies or people we consider evil want happiness and experience suffering. True compassion expresses itself without judgement. It crosses all borders, and permeates all religions, all beliefs, all doctrines.

This non-judgmental attitude towards all is not easy to attain, but is certainly worth striving for. In fact, in my mind, it's necessary, else we will descend into misunderstanding, fighting, and even war. The only thing worth fighting against is allowing our fears, distrust, anger, and judgement towards another human being to cloud the truth that WE ALL suffer and long for happiness.

1 Corinthians 1-13: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful for all those who struggle to be truly compassionate, who choose to be all-inclusive, non-judgmental, and to bring joy into the world. 
What are you thankful for? What is your definition of compassion? Do you catch yourself judging others? (I know I do.) Do you long for an open and happy heart? (I do.) 

Monday, January 16, 2017

InkRipples and Being Thankful

#InkRipplesBlogBanner#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Kai StrandMary Waibel, and Katie L. Carroll. We post on the first Monday of every month with a new topic. We’re all authors, but you don’t have to be to participate.
The idea of #InkRipples is to toss a word, idea, image, whatever into the inkwell and see what kind of ripples it makes. We provide the topics and will be blogging about them on the first Monday of the month. You can spread your own ripples by blogging about the topic any day of the month that fits your schedule, just be sure to include links back to the three of us please (KatieKai, and Mary).
I've decided to take part in this meme, maybe not every month, but as often as I can or as long as the topic is something to which I can contribute. It's nice that there aren't any rules.

This month's theme is covers. Ooooo, so wonderfully broad and open.

Since I write for children, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite covers from my childhood.

Image result for kazan the wolf dog movie

After I read Call of the Wild, I was hooked on wolf-dog stories. No simpering Lassie for me. Though written in 1914, the adventures of Kazan the Wolf Dog has held up well. It has garnered a strong 4 stars on Goodreads.

The Secret Garden

Of all the covers that have graced The Secret Garden, this one is my favorite.  Everything is there: sunlight bathing Mary as she cautiously opens the door, and the robin watching. One wonders what she sees and if she'll step through.

This isn't a colorful cover by any means, and not much is happening. But who is that boy, why does he have a pickax, and what is that strange and frightening creature at his side? 
(Could it be Curdie and Lina?)

This is a republished copy of the cover of the book I had. The title was set differently, in a graceful scroll. Still, everything about this cover makes me feel all warm and cozy and safe. That's me.

Of course, I can't leave without sharing these.
Adrienne Saldivar's wonderful covers still delight me.

Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful for, what else, book covers!

What are you thankful for? Do you have a favorite childhood book cover? I still have two of the first four books shown. Can you guess which ones they are?