A Song in the Shadows

A Song in the Shadows

A Tiny Tale by Kizzi

“She was Ren, a note dancing on the air.”

“Almost there. Try again.” Her grandmother was being exceptionally patient, but Ren knew she wasn’t almost there. Still, her grandmother looked so hopeful, she couldn’t help but try again.

She pursed her lips and placed her tongue just behind her teeth as her grandmother had taught her. Clearing her mind, she inhaled deeply only to exhale soft and slow letting the air pass through the small gap between teeth and tongue.

Her grandmother tilted her head, eyes sparkling as she strained to hear anything that would indicate Ren had learned to whistle. The faintest pitch would have been celebrated, but no, there was nothing.

Ren sighed and rubbed at her jaw. She was tired from so many hours spent with her lips taut and head lifted.

Her grandmother smiled gently and patted her hand. “Don’t worry dear, it will come in time.” Ren’s shoulders slumped as her grandmother pushed her toward the door. “Play for a while, I’ll call you when dinner is ready.”

She knew her grandmother would first pick up the phone to report on her progress. Despite her grandmother’s unwavering support and continued hope, Ren knew it was far past time that she should have been able to whistle.

She didn’t know about her father, but her mother had had the most beautiful whistle in all the land. Ren could remember few things of her mother, but her whistle would ring in her memories forever.

The high whistle of morning. The fast whistle of play. The soft whistle of night.

To whistle was to be part of everything. To communicate in a way beyond words, in a way that so far had eluded Ren.

The haunting whistles of her people filled the woods each dawn and dusk. It was tradition. It was necessary. It was protection.

Most children whistled as easily as they babbled as babies. Others when they formed their first words. Ren had to be taught such things. How to place her lips. How to hold her tongue. And still, she had never uttered anything near to a whistle.

Ren kicked at some rocks sending them scattering into the woods. Dusk was approaching. She would hear the night whistles any time now. Despite the ache in her jaw, she pursed her lips once more and attempted some slight sound.

Air passed soundlessly between her lips.

She watched the woods, so much darker here than nearer the town. Shadows danced along the ground beneath the trees where light played tricks on the eyes. She had always felt drawn to the woods, but without her whistle to protect her, she had always kept her distance.

Once, she had ventured in with her grandmother.

Their people avoided the woods at all cost, but once her grandmother had dared to walk the narrow path, Ren naught more than a toddler. Ren remembered clinging to her grandmother’s hand, stumbling along the dirt path, her face buried in her grandmother’s full skirts.

Ren also remembered a great sadness. The weight of the trees bore down on them. Their shadows leaping and twisting along the path. Her grandmother was frightened and such fear confused young Ren. She remembered even then, being fascinated with the gnarled branches, the mysteries of the dark woods. But their pace had been swift and Ren was a child, she was nothing more than a spectator in her grandmother’s frantic wake.

Her grandmother had whistled nearly the entire journey. Ren had thought her whistling beautiful, but so different from her own mother’s. Where her mother had rejoiced at whistling in the woods, her grandmother’s whistle faltered and trilled.

The woods were dangerous that is what their people said. Only a whistle, pure and clear and strong could keep the darkness away.

Or so their people said.

The sky was turning brilliant shades of orange and pink and purple as the sun dipped low beyond the woods. Ren listened for the first low note of the night whistle. Her grandmother would be calling her in soon, but she loved to watch the woods at dusk.

The gray light of coming night, softened the sharp edges of the trees. The shadows stretched and faded as if preparing for sleep. And then along the narrow path, that she had never dared to walk again, the Night Shade would open.

Delicate flowers in all shades of night dotted the edges of the winding trail. With leaves of deepest green, they only showed their true beauty at night.

Tonight as Ren waited for her grandmother’s call to dinner, she watched the Night Shade open and at last heard the first low note of the night whistle. The flowers seemed to sway with the notes, opening in time. Without realizing what she was doing, Ren had walked toward the edge of the woods. She only wanted to see the Night Shade up close. Curious if they smelled as wondrous as they looked.

Her foot touched the path and the woods seemed to hum around her.

“I should go back,”she whispered, but her feet moved from memory and the heady smell of Night Shade calmed her thoughts. The smell she remembered from that first journey years ago, but something felt different this time. Not just that she was older and alone, without her grandmother’s whistle to protect her, no it was something else.

She moved along the path that seemed oddly familiar for one she had only traversed once before.

But no, she had not made this journey into the woods, it had been a journey out of the woods with her grandmother. She gasped at the memory.

She walked for a long while, the woods now dark and still. The Night Shade glowing faintly along the path, lighting her way. At last, just as the last of the night whistles faded, she heard something new. A soft humming wove through the trees, teasing the edges of her senses. Stronger the sound came, dark and low and smooth. The deep notes thrumming in her chest so as to make her heart flutter.

The sound pulsed through the woods, until every tree, flower and leaf seemed to throb with it. She swayed and stepped in time, drawn ever deeper along the path.

At last when the hum had reached a point when she could scarcely remember a time before it began, it stopped. She felt the loss in her whole being as her body buzzed with the last vibrations of the sound. She stood before a great wall of rock. The cliff face stretched high above her, the peak lost to the night.

Shadows moved along the rocks. As spiders on a wall. She might have been frightened but the buzzing sound had left her empty and the Night Shade’s scent had filled her. A shell of a girl, without thought of the dangers of the wood.

Whispers echoed along the rock face, buzzed in her ears. The humming almost began again, but more muted this time. A different song, played with the same notes.

A shadow moved away from the wall, gaining size and substance as it moved toward her.

“Why have you come?” The figure stood before her, tall and broad of chest. A man, not so different from the men of her village, though larger. He towered over her, his face hidden in shadow. His voice was low and thick, and hoarse as if from disuse.

Ren didn’t know why she had come. She felt as though she were only now awakening from a dream. Mentioning the pretty Night Shade seemed a childish venture now, and the memory of her toddler self seemed fleeting. In the moonlit shadow of this man, she could think of no reason to be here.

More shadows moved behind him. Fluid figures, that pulsed in and out of the darkness.

The man hummed deep in his chest at her continued silence.

Without thought, Ren found herself responding in kind.

A hum built deep in her belly and worked its way out, sounding clear and soft and pure. A high sweet note of longing. A longing for the woods, the Night Shade, for her whistle that could never be.

The man stood still in the night. The figures behind him frozen at the sound of her song.

When her note faded away, Ren could scarcely believe such a sound had come from her. She clutched at her throat, wanting to feel the vibrations again.

The man stepped toward her and grasped her chin firmly. His hands were coarse, callused, and his fingers spanned her entire jaw. She trembled under his sharp gaze as he leaned in to peer into her eyes.

“Who are you?” He whispered and she felt his breath upon her face. Behind him the other figures shifted nervously, excited whispers running through them.

She was many things. A girl of eight. A Myra that could not whistle. An orphan. A child too deep in the woods. A trespasser.

“Ren.” She whispered, and found that her voice hummed high and fast as a bird in flight. She was Ren, a note dancing on the air. The excitement of a fawn’s first leap, a squirrel at play, a humming song more joyful than her whistle could ever have been.

“Ren.” He said and she recognized the sound. The hum of a song long forgotten. Deep and low and strong as a buck leaping through the woods. Warm as a wolf with his pack. Loving as a father with his child.

He hummed again and it was a song of loss and love. Of one who had been taken and thought never to return. A song of a forbidden love and wife lost years ago. The low sweet hum of a child born and the high cry of a child gone.

Ren did not need to ask him anything, she closed her eyes and listened. The song wove around and through her, telling of her mother, a whistling sprite dancing at the woods’ edge. And of the young man, strong and stubborn and brave, that matched his song with hers. A man of the woods, deep and dark and forbidden. Her mother, of the light, young and sweet and fair. With a lilting whistle that was the promise of her people, and he with a song so very different.

Now only half the song remained.

The woods had called to her mother as they had called to Ren.

His song faded and Ren regarded the man before her. Her father.

In the distance she heard the faintest of whistles. A long, high whistle calling her name. She felt a pull toward her grandmother, soft and warm and familiar, but then her father hummed and his sound was all she’d ever known.

“Welcome home.” He said and she took his hand as he led her into the shadows.

Pilfered Ideas, Stolen Dreams

Ok, so the title is a bit dramatic, but this post is about the fear of having one’s idea(s) stolen.

I’ve seen it posted many times, and I myself have wondered…should I share my work online? Should I share my ideas online? Won’t someone steal my work? What if they steal my idea?

After much contemplation, I have reached the following conclusions:

  1. If someone steals my exact words, word for word. That is plagiarizing. I can’t stop someone from stealing from me, and some might say “Well you make it pretty easy to steal by posting online.” But I would say, it might be easier to steal but harder to get away with since it’s online. There are many programs now that crawl through the internet and detect work that has been plagiarized. Or maybe I’m just being optimistic.
  2. If someone steals an idea, well…ideas are meant to be shared and once someone takes an idea they can make it their own. Look at how many times fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, etc. have been retold. They all share the basic idea, but each retelling is so different from the one before because a different person took an idea and made it their own. We don’t all write the same. We don’t all think the same. So if someone gleans a bit of inspiration from an idea read here on my blog, I say go for it and good luck!

So what is this post about then?

Good Question…sometimes I don’t even know.

I wanted to post about the second point. The fear of ideas being stolen.

I am reading “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy”, by Orson Scott Card,  at the moment, and I came across an incredibly interesting passage. Well I found it incredibly interesting, you might find it as interesting as a box of rocks.

Unless you’re an archaeologist, then you might find both the passage and the box of rocks interesting.

Or just the box of rocks.

The passage from page 51 of “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” is discussing a brainstorming event Orson Scott Card hosted during a Science Fiction Convention. During this session, the group imagined a species of aliens that couldn’t communicate by speaking. Instead they send chemical signals in the water and memories are passed directly from one alien to another. The memories become so integrated into the alien that the alien receiving the memories remembers every incident as if it had happened to him.

And now the passage which I felt was of particular interest:

Someone in the group objected that they would eventually overload, remembering everything that had ever happened to everybody who had ever lived. So we decided there had to be a mechanism for forgetting –but not irretrievably. We imagined that they would have developed a way of encoding memories in solid form, building them into structures, perhaps even large edifices composed entirely of memory; and there would be many aliens whose sole job was to remember where memories were stored –librarians, in other words.

Does this passage make you think of any particular aliens?

Maybe you aren’t thinking of the same ones I am, but a certain movie instantly popped into my head when I read this passage so imagine my surprise when I then read this passage on the next page:

It was a terrific base for an alien society, with a lot of story possibilities. Then, only a week later, I found myself in Gaffney, South Carolina, talking with Jim Cameron about the novel version of his movie The Abyss.

Could Jim Cameron be the more famous James Cameron?

When I read the first passage, I immediately thought of the aliens in Avatar. Remember how they had the trees which stored their memories and they could “log on” with their tails to access all the memories? Then imagine my astonishment when on the very next page I read that Orson Scott Card discussed his memory storing aliens with none other than Jim -better known as James- Cameron!

Two brilliant minds of science fiction discussing and sharing ideas.

There is no mention of one being nervous that the other might steal an idea or take it and make it his own. Instead, the meeting was seen as an opportunity to share inspiration and draw upon one another’s experiences and ideas to create something even better.

Orson Scott Card drew upon both the brainstorming session from the convention and his talk with James Cameron, to further develop his own version of his aliens, while we see where James Cameron’s takeaway from that discussion took him.

I’m making a lot of connections from only one passage, and I’m sure both men had other sources of inspiration for their work, but I find this anecdote so fascinating in that it is a perfect example of sharing ideas. Drawing from someone else’s idea and making it completely, and wholly your own.

Orson Scott Card’s story will always be different from James Cameron’s story and your story will always be different from my story.

This is why I have decided to share some of my writing on the blog more freely now, when I was more hesitant before, and also why I share writing prompts in the hopes that you all will participate. I think prompts are a great way to spark ideas, start discussions, and give us a chance to work together.

I’m excited to share my thoughts, writing, and ideas with all of you, and I’m so excited you stopped by.

Happy writing!

My Writing Prompt Response

I must thank a fellow blogger for this post. Trisha, over at trishajennreads posted a Wednesday writing prompt , and I felt particularly inspired. You can click through the link to visit her site or I have pasted the prompt as follows:

Write 250 to 500 words on this prompt:

Very little grows in the desert.

Go ahead–get writing! Write whatever comes into your head and just let the words fly. Don’t worry about editing. Just write. Share your scene or story in the comments of tomorrow’s post.

I have several writings in progress (WIPs) but one in particular I have been working on a lot recently. I’m not sure where the story is going and I don’t have all the details ironed out, but this prompt led me to write a scene.

This has been the method to my madness lately, scene by scene writing. The scenes are not necessarily related and I write them in no particular order. When the characters pop into my head doing something, I write it down. I’m letting the characters lead me and I’m hoping it will all come together in the end. And if not, well it’s still been fun 🙂

And now here is a portion of the scene which was inspired by this prompt. This is unedited and just for fun. It may or may not make it into the final version of my story but for now, my two adventurers are discovering very little grows in the desert…

“Very little grows in the desert.”

“I’m forgetful, not stupid Axel.”

“One can never be too sure,” He purred, pleased with himself. Andarra huffed and set off down the dune, slipping and sliding in the deep sand.

“Where are you going?” Axel called, not wanting to leave his perch aboard their ship.

“There.” She pointed, and in the distance Axel could just make out a glimmer of green against the backdrop of black sand. He sighed.

“It is likely a mirage.” He grumbled. “As I said before…”

“Very little grows in the desert.” She mimicked him, adding a growl at the end. He said nothing but leaped from the bow and padded gracefully down the steep slope.

“We shouldn’t be here. There are tales of this planet. True tales. Terrible tales.” He stepped gingerly next to her, the sand hot against his paws. She didn’t acknowledge his words and scarcely acknowledged his presence. “Do you know where we should be?” He growled at her silence and his burning paws. “If you insist on running away, there were other worlds to pick from. Why this world of all worlds?”

“I have a feeling.”

“Oh, a feeling! Your feelings got us into this mess. Maybe you should follow those feelings and return to the High City.” He hopped along the sand, hissing with each step.

“You have boots.”

“You are changing the subject.” He hissed. She shrugged.

“You should wear your boots.”

“Well, we don’t always do as we should.” He glared at her. She held his gaze but said nothing. “Boots are undignified for one such as myself.”

“Shall I carry you?” She smirked. “Or is that undignified for one such as yourself as well?”

He leaped to her shoulders and kneaded his aching paws into her thick shawl.

“A king is often carried by his servants.” He purred. “Quite dignified indeed.”

Technically we are supposed to share our responses to the prompt tomorrow, but I just loved this prompt for some reason and wanted to share it with all of you in the hopes that you might be inspired to write as well.

I would love to hear what you come up with, or head over to Trisha’s blog and share your response there. It’s always great to comment and build the blogging community!

Happy writing!

Three Show Saturday!

I have not been a diligent blogger lately.

My life has felt like a three show Saturday or maybe even a three ring circus as I attempt to get my shop ready for business.

I’m looking forward to having time to get back to my blog schedule once the shop is open 🙂 I’m still reading and reviewing books, just haven’t posted as often as I should.

So today is really a three show Saturday because I’m bringing you writing prompts, book reviews, and some quotes!

Too much?


Who wants writing inspiration?

I do! I do!

I’d love to hear some of your favorite quotes in the comments below or let me know what you’re reading this week 🙂

And now ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages…on with the show!

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.
– Stephen King

I love thrillers. I don’t care for horror so much, but nail-biting, what’s inside the closet, don’t look under the bed, kind of stories are the best. I love to think about what might be lurking in the abandoned house at the end of the road.

This children’s book isn’t exactly creepy or a thriller, but it is strange.

Rosie the Raven

Written and Illustrated by Helga Bansch

rosie raven

Rosie hatches from an egg just like her brothers and sisters, but that is where the similarities end. Sure she’s a little different, but she’s still a raven….right?

“Rosie the Raven” written and illustrated by Helga Bansch is a bizarre, but enjoyable story. The illustrations are incredible and the book could be read over and over just to look at the pictures. The story itself may not be for everyone. Rosie is a tiny human hatched out of an egg and raised by Ravens. There is no explanation given for this, but that’s ok, it works. Rosie is precious and her raven family appears to love her very much. The family dynamics are cute and the message of being confident, even if you’re different, is a great one.

I read something recently that said sometimes as a writer, we are too nice to the main character. This was eye opening for me. In some of my favorite stories, the protagonist suffers greatly and has to overcome so many obstacles, but often in my own writing I didn’t want to cause my precious protagonist any undue stress or pain.

Make your character suffer.

It makes sense really, but it’s definitely hard to let bad things happen to your beloved characters. As a fun exercise, take your character and put him/her in a mundane situation, then think of all the things that could possibly go wrong. How does your character respond?

A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.
– Sidney Sheldon

I am loving Zondervan publishing. They make such wonderful Biblical themed books for children. I also didn’t realize Christian/Biblical fiction was such a huge thing. I remember reading the Left Behind series years ago, but otherwise, I’m pretty unfamiliar with this genre.

The Adventure Bible: Great Stories of the Bible

Pictures by David Miles

great stories of bible

From the Adventure Bible series comes another great collection of I Can Read stories bound in one hardback volume. This great collection of six stories includes fully illustrated Old and New Testament stories. From the creation story to parables of Jesus, each story has been carefully summarized from the Bible in words beginning readers will easily grasp. Engaging, exciting and incredibly illustrated, this book will be treasured by parents and children alike.

In “The Adventure Bible: Great Stories of the Bible”, Zonderkidz delivers another great selection for beginning readers. Geared toward newly independent readers aged 6-8, this book may be enjoyed by children reading alone or with the help of an adult. Short, interesting sentences and beautiful illustrations will keep the attention of even younger children. Some stories include a short Biblical passage, but every story includes a summary page at the end with more information from the Bible. A great resource for churches and youth groups, this is truly a beautiful collection of stories that would make a lovely gift.

I love the idea of retelling old stories. Whether drawing inspiration from religion, or from other ancient tales, there are themes of love, loss, betrayal, deceit, faith, and forgiveness that resound across culture and time.

Think about your favorite parable from Jesus or another of your favorite stories. Think about the characters and their motivations. What if your character was in the same situation? How would your character respond? Does your character seek forgiveness from someone? Why? Did your character betray someone? Why?

In stories and in real life, I love attempting to understand what motivates people. We all react to situations in vastly different ways and our characters do to.

The wonderful world of writing! These are the reasons I love it 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and happy writing!

I review for BookLook BloggersReviews PublishedProfessional Reader

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and Net Galley for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

The Unbound Book Festival 

Last weekend I attended the inaugural Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri.

The event was completely free and I didn’t really know what to expect, but the schedule had a fantastic lineup of authors and panels so of course I was fan-girl excited.

The festival was absolutely incredible!

My friend, Emily, and I only attended two panels due to our schedules, but we will plan better for next year. There were numerous authors, editors, agents and panels scheduled all across Stephens College over the course of the day. It was a bit overwhelming in a “Have I died and gone to book heaven?” sort of way.

This sign was inaccurate. There could be no dawdling if you hoped to see everything 🙂

Oh and there was fabulous food available too! Seriously, the day could not have been better. Well, if I had remembered a pen or a notebook, that would have made the day better. Who goes to a book festival without a pen? Me. And Emily. But look! Tacos!

And here we are without our pens.

2 girls. 1 festival. 0 pens.

Despite the lack of pen and paper. I managed to take a few mental notes and get super inspired.

An Abundance of Lauras

The first panel we attended was “An Abundance of Lauras”. No lie, there were a lot of Lauras!

Laura McHugh (Weight of Blood), Laura McBride (We Are Called to Rise) and Laura Seeger (Children’s book author and illustrator)

Funny. Engaging. Intelligent. Creative. There are so many words to describe these authors.

They each talked about their creative process, balancing work and writing life, inspiration and more, but my biggest takeaway came from Laura Seeger.

She keeps journals filled with all her ideas and inspirations for current and future projects. The journal wasn’t fancy, it was just a blank notebook filled with doodles, words, magazine clippings, and anything else that had caught her eye or crossed her mind.

This in itself is fun but not too out of the ordinary. The really cool thing she does with the journals though is create a content page for each of them. Sort of a table of contents which she can easily reference when she’s working on a project or has another idea and needs to reference some of her brainstorming material.

I loved this!

I have notebooks and journals and computer files all over the place with doodles, quotes, and fragmented sentences that are all supposed to be a record of my ideas, but I have no way of finding anything again unless I go through every single notebook.

She said it doesn’t take much time but she usually keeps up with the content page as she goes.

I need to get started! 🙂

First Page Rodeo

The second panel we attended included a group of experts sharing their thoughts on first pages of novels which had been submitted to the festival.

The panel included Margaret Sutherland Brown (New York literary agent), Greg Michalson (Senior Editor at Unbridled Books), Eleanor Brown (author of The Weird Sisters), and George Hodgman (New York Times bestselling author).

Lots of fabulous insight into the submission process at this one. Since the panel was critiquing first page submissions, it provided a unique view of what agents and editors look for and what will get a rejection or a full manuscript request.

Again, a pen would have come in handy, but the key point that stuck out the most in my mind came from George Hodgman.

In reference to first page submissions, he said never start off with a passage that must be reread to be understood. Avoid confusing phrasing, complicated passages or anything that might pull the reader out of the story before they even get into it.

This tied in with the other panelists’ advice to avoid excessive backstory in the first page or even in the first chapter. The recurring theme seemed to be, keep the action going on the first page. The first page needs to grab the reader’s attention and keep it until they start to care about the characters.

I loved this advice because I am always tempted to explain all about a character or give a lot of backstory when the backstory should really come later in the story or maybe never.

The festival was amazing. The speakers were insightful. And I left completely inspired to write.

Looking forward to next year already!


The Trouble with Time

I remember reading an analogy when I was little that compared a person’s day with a vase full of rocks.

If you pour the little rocks in first, the big rocks won’t fit. The little rocks will fill up the bottom of the vase and the big rocks will try to fit on top but there will be lots of gaps between them and they won’t all fit.

If you place the big rocks in the vase first then pour the little rocks in, the little rocks can fill in all the gaps between the big rocks and all the rocks fit in the vase.

The vase is all the hours of a day and the rocks are daily tasks. Big rocks = big, important, or time-consuming tasks. Little rocks = small, less important or quick tasks.

For some reason this analogy has always stuck with me.

What color is this vase? Irrelevant, you say? Fair enough.

There are so many distractions around us with the internet constantly clamoring for attention. How many times have I wasted an hour on Facebook when it felt like fifteen minutes?

Or felt like I needed something to pass the time, so I pulled out my phone to play a mindless matching game.

Oooh! I unlocked a new level!

Growing up I don’t remember feeling this desire to be doing something constantly. I remember enjoying quiet moments. Times when I could sit and think and make up stories.

I loved to watch TV and play Nintendo, of course, but I was reaching for a book instead of my phone before bed. I could take a walk in the woods and not be connected to anyone.

I only purchased a smart phone two years ago. Before that I hated the idea of a smartphone. I didn’t want to be connected to everyone all the time. I liked feeling disconnected. I liked living in the quiet spaces of my mind without the constant buzz of data humming in my ear.

But oh how addicting that smart phone is!

It’s a strange sensation now to go anywhere without my phone. I was on call 24/7 while I worked with the circus, so that helped form this attachment, but then it simply became a habit to take my phone everywhere.

Check emails. Check Facebook. Check my blog. Check twitter.

So many things to look at!

So many distractions!

So many small rocks!

Dear Google, What is the composition of these rocks?

My phone, and the constant checking of emails, social media, etc. was chipping away at all the hours in my day.

My phone time was a bunch of small rocks. Small rocks filling up the bottom of my vase and leaving me with less time and focus to fit in all the big rocks.

I wasn’t giving myself moments of quiet. I wasn’t sleeping with a book next to the bed. I wasn’t daydreaming.

I’ve been focusing on big rocks lately. There are still a few big rocks that involve the internet or my phone. Big rocks like my blog and book reviews, but there are also a lot of little rocks like Facebook and Twitter that need to wait their turn.

Writing is a big rock and it’s amazing how much I can get done in the same amount of time I might have spent on Facebook.

Leaving my phone at home is an easy way to eliminate lots of pesky little rocks from a day I’d like to fill with big rocks.

Little rocks are sneaky, they slip into the vase and before you know it all the big rocks are spilling off the top and another vase is full.

Another day is done.

Excuse me, I’d like a bigger vase.

Write, Now

I have so many writings in progress, it’s getting a bit ridiculous. It’s not that I don’t want to finish these projects (I do!), it’s just that it feels like I have all the time in the world.

What’s the rush? Now isn’t the perfect time. I’ll have peace and quiet tomorrow.

I can get to that later….right?

Recently, the theme of living in the moment has been hitting me over the head, both in the books I’ve read and in real life.

When I worked at the circus, it was easy to take things for granted. I saw elephants everyday. I could get up close with a tiger almost anytime I wanted. Cuddling with camels? Absolutely! Snakes, poodles, cockatoos, horses and one fickle donkey…so many animals to love and so little all the time I needed.


But then I left the circus.

No more crazy animal cuddles.

But, wait! There was always time to visit. I could go back anytime I wanted. My friends would be there. The animals would be there. It would be just like old times, but better! No work and all play….right?

Sure, unless the animals are taken away.

As many now know, the elephants will be retired from the show much earlier than expected.

They will live out their lives well cared for and loved, but when I visited Cincinnati last week, that was likely the last time I will see those specific elephants and possibly the last time I get that close to an elephant ever again.


Me and Asia

The abrupt departure of elephants from my life, along with all my favorite circus people, got me to thinking about what I love most.

Living in the moment, being thankful for today and making the most of it, these aren’t new concepts, but sometimes it takes something big (like elephant big) to remind us of the uncertainty of life.

Someone dies or moves. New job or no job. New births, new pets, new friends.

Tragedies and triumphs, these moments are needed to remind us, nothing is forever on this earth.

So while I’m waiting for the perfect moment to start (or finish) a story, life is moving on all around me. There will never be a “perfect” time to do what I want to do. I am not guaranteed a tomorrow, let alone a perfect tomorrow where I have copious amounts of time for writing, visiting friends, starting new projects, etc.

I’m so thankful for the many wonderful memories I have from the circus and all the time I got to spend with the elephants.

I’m also thankful for the reminder that right now, this moment, is all I have.

So I need to write, now.


All those elephant feels 🙂

(Three) Story Saturday

I just got back from Cincinnati, where I visited the circus and saw the elephants for what might be the last time. As many may or may not know, the elephants will be retired in May. It’s a sad time for my friends, and many others, who love the elephants more than anything and have devoted their lives to caring for these magnificent creatures.

There is so much I want to say on this topic and I wish people understood more about the amazing bond between the elephants and their handlers, but I will post more about that later.

I didn’t get my post up this week because of the trip, but I will have lots of elephant pictures for you in the next post.

I am back home, but my friends are in the midst of a three show Saturday!

I’ll be drawing from a couple writing inspirations today for this story Saturday.

  1. The circus
  2. This wonderful post from Linda Ashman about dialogue only stories.

I urge you to check out Linda Ashman’s post at Carrie Charley Brown’s blog where Reading for Research in going on this month. There are a ton of great posts about structuring picture books, along with tons of great recommendations for mentor texts. I am learning so much and getting inspired!

Today, these prompts are all about dialogue! Three prompts in three categories. Use as many, or as few, of the prompts from each category to craft your own “dialogue-only” story. If you want to write in true picture book form, give yourself a word limit…200 or 300 words or less.

Now, I present….inspiration for your Story Saturday 🙂


  1. The show’s about to start, your characters are backstage but they are missing an essential prop for their gag.
  2. Your characters are visiting a circus for the first time.
  3. Your characters have never seen an elephant before!


  1. The Ringmaster, and a clown
  2. Little girl and her grandpa
  3. The tiger trainer, the elephant trainer, and the camel trainer


  1. The clown’s shoes have been stolen.
  2. The tent isn’t up yet and the show will start soon.
  3. The camels don’t like their new costumes.

Hope these prompts spark some fun dialogue! As always, I would love to hear how your story turned out or your thoughts on “dialogue-only” stories.

May all your days be circus days!

Three Start Saturday

Happy (Three Show) Saturday!

I love writing on Saturday mornings. Maybe it’s the weekend feel that puts me in a good mood and makes anything seem possible. If you’ve visited my blog before, you probably know I love to share writing inspiration on Saturdays. And today, I thought three story starts could spark something fun 🙂

You know me, everything in threes 😉 Below, are three story starts, and I attempted to put three key elements in each start (Person, place, objective, problem, etc). If the three elements aren’t apparent, I failed. Yesterday was about story with holes, maybe I should reread it 😉

This is my first time writing story starts for the blog, hopefully they are helpful. You can use the start exactly as written or just use it for inspiration.

I’d love to hear what you come up with! Hopefully these starts spark a wonderful story start of your own.

Start #1

April had one goal this year, to discover a new comet, and not get stuffed in a locker. Okay, two goals, but she really hated lockers.

Start #2

When Danny Dragon tried to breathe fire, he only blew smoke. He could fly higher than all the other dragons, but what good was that if he couldn’t scorch the earth with his breath?

Start #3

The old house had secrets…and locked doors. Lots of locked doors. His mom thought it was silly, but Henry knew he had seen someone looking out the attic window.

Thanks for stopping by and happy writing!




Stories With Holes

When I was in school, one of my teachers loved word games. She loved puzzles of all sorts but she seemed especially fond of word games.

One of the best games we played was called “Stories With Holes”. In reality, they are called lateral thinking problems, but Stories With Holes sounds way more fun.

Anyway, the object of the game is to figure out which part of the story is missing. Someone would read the story aloud (and then look at the answer), then the rest of us would take turns asking questions. The trick is all questions had to be answerable with a “yes”, “no”, or “irrelevant”.

He definitely has two hands? Irrelevant!

As with all things, some of the stories were awesome and some were absurd. Some stories had logical answers, easy to guess answers, or satisfying answers. Others were so far fetched we were left wondering if there had been a misprint. But all the answers had one thing in common (yes even the terrible ones), the answer always seemed blatantly obvious once we knew it.

I loved Stories With Holes. What dastardly clue was missing? How did those people wind up dead? Why did she have long hair? Was it the cat? Do they even have a cat?


The answer all players dreaded. It meant a wasted turn. A dead end.

It meant I wasn’t looking at the story from the right angle. It meant I was focused on all the wrong parts of the story and completely missing the giant plot hole staring me in the face.

Plot holes. Who needs ’em?

So I was thinking about Stories With Holes and it suddenly hit me that this frustrating soul-crushing brain altering wonderful game was a perfect analogy for writing.

Writers are often told they’re too close to their work to see the flaws. Too emotionally tied to this thing they created to ever think it’s anything less than perfect. Maybe some writers are, but I know a lot of writers (myself included) who agonize over their work and tear it to shreds and then offer it up like a sacrificial lamb for a (hopefully exceptionally critical) critique.

I think swapping manuscripts and having a fresh pair of eyes on your work is wonderful. I love critiques, but this post is not about critiques, at least not about critiques from other people. It is about being able to see the holes in your own story.

I do think there’s something to be said about writers being too close to their work, but I don’t think the fault lies entirely in emotional attachment, rather it’s from knowing the whole story.

As a writer of fiction, I have inside knowledge about my characters and plot. I know why a character cries when Barney sings, loves cats riding roombas, and never wears socks to bed, but sometimes, because I know all these things, I might assume everyone else does too.

You have a character named Gary and you’re really stoked about his rainbow shoestrings. So stoked, in fact, that it’s easy to forget to mention how much Gary hates blue M&M’s, but such information plays a pivotal role in the plot three chapters later.

Sometimes, I forget not everyone knows my characters like I do, and something that appears blatantly obvious to me in the story, is actually terribly confusing for someone without insider knowledge. It’s like watching the Harry Potter movies without reading the books…you may not have completely understood Horcruxes, among other things. People who read the books, loved the movies (as much as anyone can love a movie after reading the book) but they had insider knowledge. When the movie glossed over certain aspects of wizarding lingo, their brains just plugged in the plot holes with information pilfered from the vast Harry Potter library.

Without even realizing it, my brain glosses over these same holes in my own writing.

I realized this was a thing my brain did after coming across an old writing in progress. It had been so long since I’d worked on the piece that I barely remembered the characters and scarcely recalled my intended direction for the plot. It was like reading someone else’s work. I was intrigued.

Hey, this is pretty good! Wrong.

 I was kicking myself for not making an outline because I was really curious how the story ended, but my main takeaway was that I didn’t really know what was going on. It was only the beginning of what was expected to be a much longer piece, but it got me to thinking about all my other writing where I struggled to make things fit together….stories where something always seemed to be….missing.

I was writing Stories With Holes and didn’t even realize it. Sometimes the holes were small, and sometimes they were huge! How in the world did I not see that the reader would not understand Gary randomly tucking a blue M&M into his pocket in chapter one meant he would later use blue M&Ms to tame the the terrifying hunger of the dragon in chapter seven, who just so happens to LOVE blue M&M’s. Oh I also forgot to mention Gary hates wasting things. He hates throwing things away so he keeps the blue M&M’s in jars in his closet.

Oh hey, but did I mention his rainbow shoestrings?


Do I think authors are too close to their work sometimes? Yes

Do I think the reason they overlook flaws is always because they love their work so much? No

Do I think my dog makes a terrible writing coach? Irrelevant!

Writers are often told to step away from their work for a while so when they look at it again they will see it with fresh eyes. I’ve always loved this advice but maybe for the wrong reasons. I thought if I stepped away, I would grow less attached and love the story less, thereby allowing me to make objective judgments concerning its worth when viewed again.

Now, I think time lets you forget some of the things you know, lets some of the details slip from your brain. And when you look at your story with this new fresh brain, you are incapable of filling the holes.

You have to figure out what’s missing on your own. It’s like reading your very own Story With Holes, and you need to figure out which questions to ask. Are you asking the right questions? Is it clear what motivates your characters? Is the plot driven by the characters actions?

Did it rain three times in one day, somewhere, once?


Cheese should have holes, stories should not.

Hopefully this story didn’t have too many holes. If it did, feel free to ask me a Yes, No, or Irrelevant question in the comments. I think I’d prefer Irrelevant questions actually 😉