A Game of Writing Tag

I offer a sincere apology to Melissa Barker-Simpson. When I initially published this post, I inadvertently got her first name wrong. I guess my fingers weren’t attached to my brain at the time. It’s a lesson well learned. Always, ALWAYS check the person’s name at least twice before you hit the button!

I follow Melissa Barker-Simpson’s blog and she posted this:

“I  know I’ve posted enough today, but as I was visiting a few of the contributors to Stream of Consciousness Saturday, I couldn’t resist a challenge posed by Doobster over at Mindful Digressions. In response to the prompt (the incorporation of scene or seen), Doobster wrote a piece of flash fiction. Readers of the story were curious about what happened next and the challenge is simple – continue where the story left off and either complete the tale or keep it going. I’ve posted the original story below, and added an installment beneath. If you would like to carry it on, please feel free. It’s the kind of ‘game’ I can never resist!”

I decided to take the challenge and wrote Part 3 of the ongoing story. Here is a link to the first two parts of I Seen It All as presented by Doobster and Melissa Barker-Simpson. Be sure to read those first. Then come back and read Part 3 below:

I Seen It All, Part 3

How much could a little boy have seen? “Over here, please,” Detective Morrisey said, encouraging them to walk as far away from the crowd as they could. “No one will hear us. What did you see?”

Ralph felt the tug of Henry’s hand as he refused to let go. He had finally caught his breath but was clearly agitated. “I seen them with her.”

Detective Morrisey’s eyebrows went up. “How many people?”

“Two men,” Henry replied confidently. “I seen them.”

Ralph’s gaze snapped around, and he peered into the crowd, looking for guilty faces or bloodied hands and shirts. Would the murderers hang around, or would they have disappeared down a quiet alley?

Henry pointed to the body lying on the ground where police were taking pictures and gathering evidence. “They were walking and talking. She yelled—” he leaned toward Ralph – “like Mom yells at Dad when he don’t take his muddy boots off.” He looked up at the detective. “They grabbed her arms.”

The detective was growing increasingly concerned. “What did they do to next?”

“They had a knife and she seen it.”

Ralph listened to Henry’s description and felt more than the prickling on the back of his neck. He was afraid, the first tendrils knotting in his stomach. He and Henry could be in real danger.

Detective Morrisey glanced at the crime scene and his brow lowered. “This is real important—what did you say your name was?”

“Henry,” he said proudly, his chin lifting. “He’s Ralphie.”

“Now, Henry,” the detective said with a gentle tone, “this is very important. Think real hard. Could you hear what they were saying? Any words at all?”

Thinking, Henry went quiet for a moment before shaking his head. “She got scared and tried to run away.”

“Did she ever call out for help? No?”

Henry swallowed hard. “They stabbed her. I seen it. Like this,” he said, demonstrating with his hand the path of the knife through the woman’s white blouse into her heart.

Ralph began to shiver. What if the men had seen Henry? They had to go home eventually. What if they were followed? Would the two men lie in wait and kill them, too? He suddenly felt the urge to run away and turned his back to the crowd, as if having no interest at all.

“If you saw the two men again, would you recognize them?”

Henry nodded and wiggled a hooked finger for the detective to come closer. “They’re over there.”

Goosebumps rushed over Detective Morrisey, and he found himself whispering, too, with urgency. “Where?”

Henry brought up his hand up to shield his mouth as if sharing a prized secret. “By the hardware store . . .”


Join in the fun! Write Part 4. Tell us what happens to the two cousins after they speak to Detective Morrisey.

January Has Fangs . . .

Or . . . My Tongue In Cheek Ode to the First Month of the Year

There’s only one thing that bothers the fire out of me every year. You see, it’s January 31st. The last day of the month. One-twelfth of the year gone. But, January is also evil. Sure it’s the first month of the year, a time for renewal and resolutions, indoor games, hot cocoa with marshmallows, and the month of white sales (a tradition that began in 1878; all sheets were white back then), but it’s still evil, and I’ll tell you why. Our objective to keep everyone in the family healthy during the month of January failed. Again. For the eleventh–11th, ELEVENTH!–January in a row, we got sick. Colds. Runny noses. Coughs.

Outside our home Christmas Day 2012
Outside our home Christmas Day 2012

One year it was strep throat. Another year, it was an intestinal bug. Usually colds–but it’s always something. We were close–so close to making this an illness free month. It didn’t happen. January is evil. We fear January.

January doesn’t seem to be kind to anyone. Bitter cold. Winter blizzards. Shoveling snow. Red noses and cheeks. More shoveling snow. Vehicles sliding amuck on icy roads. Still more shoveling snow. People fighting back with cups of hot cocoa, tea, and toddies in front of crackling fires. And bowls of hot soup. Now, I love snow–don’t get me wrong. Winter is my favorite season of the year.

When I was growing up, we had one winter storm that dumped more snow than I’d ever seen. The wind howled around the house and the temperature sank t0 -20 degrees F below zero. The wind chill was -60 degrees F below zero. We had sparkling icicles as thick as my wrist hanging like a curtain from the roof. Which proves that January has crystalline fangs and is out to get us.

On the other hand, maybe 12 is a lucky number. Maybe we won’t get sick next January.

How to Create Multi-Dimensional Characters—Everybody Lies

Kristen Lamb knows how to make a writer pause. And think. She never fails to make me think. This time she’s delving into what makes a multi-dimensional character. No hero/heroine is always good and no antagonist is pure evil (although it’s fun to write them that way). If you’re struggling with your characters, give this blog post a thorough read. Then go over to her site and read more of her articles.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 9.47.12 AM Image via the award-winning show “House.”

Back in the Spring we started talking about ways to create multi-dimensional characters. Then I probably saw something shiny and, in case you are wondering? NO, I can’t catch the red dot. But I don’t give up easily 😀 .

It’s tempting for us to create “perfect” protagonists and “pure evil” antagonists, but that’s the stuff of cartoons, not great fiction. Every strength has an array of corresponding weaknesses, and when we understand these soft spots, generating conflict becomes easier. Understanding character arc becomes simpler. Plotting will fall into place with far less effort.

All stories are character-driven. Plot merely serves to change characters from a lowly protagonist into a hero….kicking and screaming along the way. Plot provides the crucible. 

One element that is critical to understand is this:

Everyone has Secrets

To quote Dr. Gregory House, Everybody lies.

All good stories hinge on…

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From stranger to ally: How to contact an editor

You can’t go wrong with an article like this one by Martha Carlson-Bradley at Editing Queries. I published 3 books without the help of an editor and lived to regret it. I found an editor (a good one, by the way – Jenny Quinlan at Historical Editorial), but I didn’t have access to all the tips given here. With my editor’s help, I revisited the first three, and her editing was invaluable for numbers 4 and 5. My advice is to copy this. Print it. WARNING: Do not, under ANY circumstance, publish without finding a good editor. It’s just as important as your cover, maybe moreso.

The Thirty-Five Sentences Writing Challenge

My dear grandson is nothing if not clever. He always tells me he doesn’t like school and he doesn’t like math. He’s 10 years old. He will dawdle and complain to the point where it takes him up to 3 hrs. to work 25 problems. So today, I tried something different. Our exchange went something like this:

“I don’t think you can get your math problems finished in an hour.”

He had started writing his name at the top of the sheet. He looked up and stuck out his chin. “Yes, I can.”

“All right,” I said, “I’ll do my work and you do yours and we’ll see if you can do it.”

Getting ready to do math problems.
Getting ready to do math problems.

Within thirty seconds, he stopped and looked at me, a silly grin on his face. “I will challenge you.”

“Really? How?” I was writing. How would a challenge even work? Leave it to him, he was plotting in that devious, little mind of his.

“You have to write a paragraph for each problem I do,” he suggested.

A paragraph? Holy cow! “Oh no,” I said. “Writing is hard work. I’m not sure I could even write one sentence for each problem you have to work.” He had 28 problems.

It went back and forth for a minute until we agreed to the one sentence per math problem. I had to wait until he finished the header on his paper. I noted the time, made the first letter in my scene bold and when he was ready he said, “GO!”

Wow, was the pressure on! I had started a new scene, and while I had a pretty good idea where I was headed, it was new material. I simply plunged in and started typing. After every couple of problems, he’d stop to ask me how many sentences I’d typed.


“Ha! I’m ahead of you!” he boasted. “I’m on number six.”

I doubled down. He was actually going to beat me and the clock was ticking down.

“I’m on number ten,” he announced. “Where are you?”


“I’m going to beat you!” he cried.

Trying to catch up with the math wizard.
Trying to catch up with the math wizard.

Then I got stuck. There were too many possibilities for the path of the dialogue and I had to choose one. When he announced he was at fourteen (after thirty minutes), I was only at ten, and I could feel the end was near. The clock was still ticking down and for sure he would finish in under an hour.

At one point, I stopped typing and started running the filmstrip through my mind. He looked at me in glee. “Do you give up?”

“No. You know what I’m doing.”

“You’re typing in your head.”

“Mmm-hmm,” I said. “You better get back to work. I’m right behind you.”

He dug in and continued. I began to catch up, closing the distance. Suddenly we were neck and neck. Then I edged ahead and he tried to change the challenge. He wanted me to write more sentences. First, he changed it to thirty, then thirty-two and, as we struggled toward the finish line, he upped it to thirty-five sentences.

Ultimately, we finished together. The contest was a draw. It took him fifty minutes to complete 28 math problems and the same time for me to write thirty-five sentences. Afterwards, I checked the word count and it was almost 400 words. Fifty minutes for 400 words. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much so quickly–ever! Was it good writing? Probably not, but I wrote, and that’s what’s important.

I have a strange feeling he’s going to challenge me again. And why not? It was a hoot!

UPDATE: Apparently, my grandson loves the challenge and now he wants to do it every day. Today, he had 27 problems to do and he challenged me to 40 sentences. He finished in 40 minutes and we pretty much finished together. My word count was 419. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give my writing a 3. What am I saying? It was crap. Rewrite, here I come!


Irish Mythology | Healing Hands and Holy Wells

For anyone who loves historical romance, especially when it contains elements of herb lore and mystical places in the British Isles, then Ali Isaac Storyteller is a blog worth visiting again and again.


The bark of willow trees contains large amounts of salicylic acid, which is the active metabolite of aspirin. Willow bark has been used for millennia as an effective pain reliever and fever reducer. Courtesy Wikipedia The bark of willow trees contains large amounts of salicylic acid, which is the active metabolite of aspirin. Willow bark has been used for millennia as an effective pain reliever and fever reducer. Courtesy Wikipedia

In ancient times, Ireland was renowned for the skill of its physicians, particularly their herbal-lore. Mythology tells us not just of famous battles, brave warriors and tragic love stories, but tales of miraculous healing, too.

Of all the Irish Gods, the most well-known and beloved of them all were those who practised healing, such as Brigid, Lugh, Dian-Cecht and his son Miach, and daughter Airmid.

Dian-Cecht came to Ireland with the Tuatha de Denann invasion over 4000 years ago as King Nuada’s physician. When Nuada’s arm was struck off in battle, Dian-Cecht replaced it with a fully working one of silver. Later, his son, Miach, was able to cover the silver arm with skin…

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Looking Back . . . Looking Forward

Courtesy of gagthat.com
Courtesy of gagthat.com

Henry David Thoreau said, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” The past is gone. It’s over. You can’t do anything to change it. Ignore it and move on. Sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? I’m not so sure it is. Not completely. Our lives are filled with the monotony of daily living (often forgotten) as well as defining events (rarely forgotten) that secures our present and can set the path for the future.

As I see it, looking back only becomes problematic if we hold on to it so tight that it affects the present and future in a negative way. The tragedy or tragedies or the pressures of living can weigh us down or crush us to the point of near destruction. They/it fills every moment of our waking days and torments our dreams when we’re asleep. We can’t let go. We can’t forget. And we find ourselves existing in a fog.

So, what’s the alternative?

Courtesy of bitsofwisdom.org
Courtesy of bitsofwisdom.org

For starters, we can look at it in a different way. We can choose to look back–not to cling to the past–but to see how far we’ve come, the distance traveled, the amount of growth gained. Children don’t feel themselves growing, but just stand them against a wall, measure their height, and watch the smile on their faces when they see how much growth they’ve attained since the last time they were measured.

So it is with personal growth. We can’t be unaffected by the events in our lives, but we can change how we look at them. The event holding us back becomes a unit of measure, a yardstick, if you will, to show us where we were and how far we’ve come. It may only be one step away, but we gained a step. Where there was once a closed door, maybe now we’ve pushed the door open. Baby steps. Small things that mark the distance gained. A quarter of an inch of growth isn’t much, but for a child, it’s a mile. They stand taller and grin larger.

Courtesy of PersonalExcellence.com
Courtesy of PersonalExcellence.com

As an author who is approaching the third anniversary of the publication of my first novel, I can look back and reflect on how far I’ve come. Since the moment I pushed submit and nearly tossed my cookies doing so, I’ve accomplished quite a lot. Have I reached all my goals? No. Is it hard work getting out there–building a fanbase, an author platform, be active on social media and still find time to write? You betcha. And on any given day, I’m far from successful. I’m still learning. But I’ve come a long way from where I started.

And that’s the whole point. It’s the start of a new year. Let’s look back, assess, and then plan for the coming year. We should keep moving forward, unwilling to stay where we started. Being chained to the starting gate isn’t moving forward. It’s not living. If we insist on staying there, hugging what’s familiar, we stop living and time marches on without us. Opportunities that were meant for us go to someone else.

So, let’s be bold now. Let’s strike while the iron is hot. Let’s NOT give away our opportunities. Keep writing. Let’s learn something new about our craft each day. Cultivate positive, supportive friendships where we live AND online. Don’t be afraid to step out into the unknown.

2015 will be over before we know it and it will be time to look back, assess, plan, and move forward. How well we do that at the beginning of 2016 depends on what we do now, with the rest of the year.


My Wish For You in 2015

Have a wonderful 2015!
Have a wonderful 2015!

I couldn’t let the new year start without wishing all of you a happy one. On a scale of 1 to 10, 2014 will go down in history as about a 4, for me anyway. I was sick quite a bit and am still dealing with the aftermath of those darned pinched nerves. I didn’t get as much writing done as I would have liked, but that’s the beauty of a new year. By the way, resolutions aren’t necessarily bad things so long as we’re realistic and honest with ourselves.

On a positive note, I can type again, hold a book, knit, and move about freely. I have the company of family and friends, whose support is without measure. I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to my fans. I thank you for your kind words, for letting everyone know about my novels and for dipping into your pockets for a chance to read one of them yourselves.

What are my plans for 2015? I’ll hit only the highlights, both large and small.

  • Complete book 2 of that Majesta Landing series, which is Tec’s story. You met him in book 1. He’s a helicopter pilot, a laid back man with a sense of humor. Everyone is a friend–everyone that is, until he meets Dr. Mairenn Vestergaard. She gives him a run for his money!
  • Finish knitting a pair of fingertipless (is that even a word?) gloves for my son. My next project will likely be an afghan/blanket.
  • Continue therapy for the pain in my back. What started in my upper back is slowly moving southward. For some reason, it reminds me of squeezing toothpaste out of a tube.
  • My grandson wants to learn to play the piano and guess who his teacher will be? You guessed it!
  • Get the garage cleaned out. We’ve lived in our house for almost 8 years and we never finished unpacking. Why is it we park $30,000 cars in the driveway and fill our garages with stuff? (My husband regularly threatens to bring in a dumpster.)
  • Lose a few pounds (isn’t that one ALWAYS on the list?).
  • And last, but not least: do a better job of staying in touch with my fans–more blog posts, Facebook interaction, etc.

Have a great year! As Captain Picard told his daughter in the Star Trek TNG episode, The Inner Light, “Live now, Meribor. Always make now the most precious time. Now will not come again.”

Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. Make each day count.