31 October 2012


Some of you can probably guess what I am going to write about today. Last Friday as I was driving to work, I lost control of my car, tipped on my side, 50 feet off the road. I’ve never had a ticket and I’ve never been in any kind of accident. The situation was terrifying, but the miracle was I walked away with only bruises. When people talked about car accidents I didn’t understand. I have a photo on my phone that I keep looking at, partly because it almost seems like a dream. I keep going over what I could have done differently, which all leads to the same results, only some of them are worse.

Moose told me that I will never forget, and truthfully, I don’t want to. There is something surreal about being so out of control. As a writer I am always trying to make my characters believable especially their reactions to situations. I don’t know if I will ever have a character in a car accident, but by being in what could be a life threatening situation and the thoughts that go through your mind afterwards. (Though I hope this is the only time that I experience this.)

Happy Halloween!

28 October 2012

*Once Spring Comes

Intro: There were two snowstorms this week. I know that it isn't even Halloween yet, but I felt like writing a snowy story.

The snow drifted down, reflected in the headlights of the train. Martha pulled the sled along behind her as she trudged along the side of the tracks. The firewood pressed the runners down so far the front of the sled pushed through the snow like a plow. As the cars trundled past she counted them. Unlike walking along the side of the road with horses and carriages, Martha had little fear of slush splattering her. She was already wet from the day’s journey. Spring could not come soon enough.

When she reached the divide in the track she turned west, the snow now blowing in her face. She hunched her shoulders, wishing to readjust the scarf around her neck. She’d already tried once and it had only allowed more snow in before settling back exactly where it had been. The soft wool was soaked through and scratchy.

A light to her right caught her attention and he adjusted her course. Walking from the tracks to her small home was dangerous with limited visibility. She was just glad the lamp had kept enough oil. She knocked the snow off her boots as habit and pulled the sled inside with her. The snow from the logs fell to the ground in small trails. The lamp in the window she would leave lit, but never the fireplace. She’d lost a house that way.

The remnants of her last gathered firewood went in the fireplace, while the snow covered wood went in the corner to dry. She used the lamp to start the fire. The fire gave enough light for her to examine her cottage. It looked exactly the same as she had left it. Ever since her husband and two sons died from the plague three years earlier, it always looked empty and felt cold.

She put a pot of water on to heat and methodically removed her outerwear. She exchanged every wet article of clothing for a dry, albeit, cold one.

She ate a dinner of stale bread and salted meat and sat on her bed. Winter was half over, and already she felt the strain of waking each morning to the cold, empty room. Last year it had only been for the last two weeks. Once spring arrived she was able to forget the troubles as she worked as a medicine woman of sorts. With the faint firelight dancing on the walls, she curled up in a blanket and fell asleep.

A wail woke Martha. The fire was embers, and her breath misted before her. She sat up, the blanket still wrapped around her shoulders, and listened. The wail came again. The window was frosted and it was too dark to see anything anyways. She moved to the door and opened it a crack. The cold air forced in, but the snow and wind had calmed. The wail came again, louder.

“Who’s there?” Her voice cracked from disuse.

Something bumped against her legs. She scurried back and looked down. An albino cat crawled out of the snow and collapsed on the dirt floor. Martha stared at it. She hated cats. She always told her children not to feed them. They were excellent mousers but did not belong indoors. The red eyes looked around, unfocused. Like many albinos, Martha realized it must be nearly blind. It wailed again. Not a meow, but moving and heart wrenching. It seemed to sense the direction of the warmth and crawled towards the fireplace.

As it approach a coal Martha scooped it up in a panic. “Careful.”

The cat wriggled and she nearly dropped it.

The draft from the door made them both shiver.

Martha moved to the door and looked out at the snow. She shut the door and moved to her bed, pulling her now dry scarf off the rack. With the cat wrapped in the scarf and the fireplace walled off by firewood, a safe distance away, Martha climbed back into bed, the cat at the foot of the bed. Martha fell back to sleep.

Fur up Martha’s nose woke her. She batted the cat away and frowned. She put the cat back on the scarf at the foot of the bed. The rest of the night was a battle of where the cat would sleep. By dawn the cat was asleep at the foot, cradling part of the scarf between its paws. Martha woke and got to work, devising something the cat could eat. She soaked some of the salted meat in hot water to soften it. As she stared out at the sun, she realized that this was the first sunrise of winter she’d seen since the death of her family. Before she had remained in bed long after she should have risen. She turned to the cat on the bed and set the meat down.

The cat raised its head and seemed to look right at her.

“This does not mean you can stay in the house once spring comes.”

26 October 2012

The Persecutor

by Sergei Kourdakov

I was trying to come up with another good book to review for Halloween. I don’t typically read much horror, but THE PERSECUTOR kept coming to mind. It isn’t horror, but some of the events that happen in it are horrifying. The novel is an autobiography of Sergei Kourdakov, a member of the KGB who turned Christian. While there are debates about the accuracy of the book, there is no denying the emotional impact it left on me when I read it in college.

THE PERSECUTOR takes place around the 1950s in Russia. During this time Christianity was persecuted. Sergei was raised to join the KGB. Even from his childhood he was taught the best way to break people. As an adult he participated in dozens of raids that sometimes ended in death. During these raids he was often struck by how the Christians reacted. In turn this influences him to look beyond what he had been taught over the years to learn more about the people he persecuted.

This book doesn’t gloss over the violence, but neither does it glorify it. Instead it offers the facts. I remember being glued to the book, wondering what was going to happen next. The idea that one human being can be so vicious to another is terrifying. Whether the book is true or not doesn’t concern me, because it is a story that I believe could be true. The book was published in 1973 a few months after Sergei Kourdakov died suddenly, though there are a lot of theories behind that as well.

24 October 2012

Back to Real Life

The last two months have been spent preparing for one conference or another. In addition to that I was working on a research paper with my father that we are hoping to present at a conference come February (we should know more next month). I have also received back the second round of edits from my editor. I am still really nervous about my novel. My editor has been really good to work with, but I still wonder how good my story is. As I go through these edits I am glad when some of the comments are positive. They are just the boost I need to think I can actually do this. I have even started telling people that I am an author. I knew I qualified for that term for some time, but there was just part of me that didn’t feel worth of that title. I have wanted to be an author since I was young. The idea that I actually get to do my dream job, even if it isn’t full-time at this point, is still just amazing.

I work with a bunch of engineers. For one of them I am pretty much his personal secretary. I type, copy, and send emails for him. Because I do all of his typing, I am learning a lot about the company. I bring him the typed pages and ask questions about what I’ve typed. The other day as I was asking questions, he asked if I had finished college. I explained that I was a technical writer. The conversation continued with him subtly hinting that I should go back to college to become an engineer. This coming from one of the coworkers I respect the most actually meant a lot. He has strong opinions about who should and should not be hired and if he thought I would make a good engineer. That meant a lot coming from him. If I didn’t already do my dream job, I just might think about it. I mean as a daughter of an engineer with lots of engineers in the family, maybe it is just in my blood.

Though I enjoyed all of my conferences, I am kind of glad I’m back in real life. I have 12 months to finish my grand plans for next year.

19 October 2012

Wait Until Dark

with Alan Arkin and Audrey Hepburn

I thought I would review one of my favorite Halloween time movies. WAIT UNTIL DARK is a great suspense film. It is clean and the violence is limited and not overly graphic. It has Alan Arkin and Audrey Hepburn. It was made back in 1967 and will remain a classic, as far as I am concerned. There are still places that do it as a play, and I have always wanted to see it live. It was originally written as a play and it takes place in a small apartment, with a kitchen, including a refrigerator.

The movie starts out with a man sewing bags of heroin into a doll and giving the doll to a woman. The woman then passes the doll onto to a man when she realizes that she is being watched. The man, Sam, has no idea that the doll is more than that, takes it home and forgets about it. The man’s wife, Susy, is blind and is still trying to accustom herself to her new trials. Three men track the doll to Susy and start terrorizing her while trying to get a hold of the doll. Susy is trapped in her own apartment and doesn’t even know who she can trust or even if they are in the apartment with her.

The movie is rather startling, so it might not be the best for younger children. I remember watching it in Jr. High and being a little creeped out, but really enjoying it. If you are looking for a good suspense film for Halloween, this is a great choice.

17 October 2012

Coffee and Kickstarter

Due to religious and personal reasons, I don’t drink coffee. I have never had a cup, and truthfully, it has never smelled appealing to me. The same can be said for my family. Because of this, I have never made coffee. My company provides free coffee. There is a coffee pot a few feet down the hall from my office. As I was walking by Tuesday, I noticed that the coffee wasn’t going into the pot, but rather trailing down the sides. I knew that was wrong. I grabbed a handful of paper towels and tried to stem the tide while trying to figure out how to work the coffee pot. I turned it off, but that didn’t do anything. I got another two coworkers involved, but they had just as much experience with coffee as I do. Finally, one of our other coworkers walked by. He grabbed the second, empty coffee pot, and told me to move the full one out of the way. Whoops. I am just glad that there were three of us who didn’t even think about the second coffee pot. It made me laugh.

So Kickstarter. My publisher has a Kickstarter campaign for their magazines. Their magazines are really high quality and a lot of fun. They already have two issues out and all of the stories are high quality. The Kickstarter has some really cool pledge gifts. (One of which are advanced reading copies of their books, mine included.) If you want to learn more head over to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1756979258/tm-publishing-emerald-sky-magazine

14 October 2012

*Lost Humanity

Intro: It is October and I always feel like I should do some creepy story. This is my take on zombies. The virus infects those who are compassionate and intelligent, and it feeds on the compassion. Those who aren’t so much are for some reason spared. What kind of society would that make?

I ran across the field between the buildings, keeping myself as low to the ground as I could while trying to be fast. The sound of gunshots ricocheted around the buildings. The magazine of my gun had been empty for over a week, but no one else knew that. I could keep my hand steady and bluff through my teeth. People moved out of my way. The problem wasn’t the people, it was those who could no longer be classified as such.

No one was sure where the virus had come from. Considering the scientists were the first to fall victim, I had my guesses. It had taken a few weeks for people to understand what was going on. The virus didn’t so much as eat the mind, but the humanity.

I saw a shape moving in one of the broken windows and rolled to the ground just before the bullets impacted. My time on the streets before the penitentiary had taught me well. Though no one was fast enough to dodge a bullet, I had the scars to prove it. It wasn’t dodging a bullet if you moved before the trigged was pulled.

I climbed through a broken window and made my way upstairs. The man stood at the window, his gun trained on the field outside. The butt of my gun struck where skull met spine and he crumpled. I took everything that was useful and left the empty gun behind.

Back outside I pulled out a compass and continued on my trek to the inner city. My shoes made little noise as I crept. A dark shape raised out of the grass in front of me. The man’s face was twisted, deformed from where he’d been injured. The virus slowed down the healing process, leaving wounds open and festering, through the blood remained clotted. Instead of being a liquid, blood more of welled and thickened when meeting with oxygen. Most of the time, the easiest way to kill a virus infected man was to open a hole to their heart. The blood would clot and cause a heart attack, that or in the brain. Though sometimes that just caused lack of motor control.

I brought my gun up and the man halted, his head tilted sideways.

“Move on.” The man said. “We have no business with you.”

I moved so I could look around. Despite my precautions I had wandered into the middle of one of their camps. I could see computers and electronic devices glowing faintly. The virus seemed to feed on compassion and intelligence. It seemed to do with the chemicals released in those types of situations. Therefore they had the technology, because they were the smart people. Criminals like me were less likely to be infected, but we weren’t the smartest of the bunch. I had dropped out of school when I was fifteen.

The man took a step forward and I raised my gun.

“Do you think that is going to stop me?”

If I couldn’t kill him with the first bullet, I was dead. The blood clotting was an advantage when it came to other wounds, because it kept them from bleeding to death.

“Just kill him. He isn’t worth it.”

I turned and fired. A woman sneaking up on me was thrown backwards and hit a building. She stood up, shook herself and stared at the hole in her side. A black gob dropped to the ground.

I ran, firing whenever anyone got too close. A bullet to me across the arm and I dropped my gun. I continued to run the people behind me hobbling, blood clots having moved through their bodies and ended up in their legs. I heard one of them drop, probably from a clot reaching their heart. I didn’t stop. Just when I thought I too would succumb to a heart attack, the sound of pursuit ended.

I crawled into a building and lay there gasping. With no humanity left on the planet, I realized that I might not want to actually live through the night, but I refused to let those monsters win. I would kill everyone if I needed to. Tomorrow I would make it to the inner city, and once I was there, I would take control of the humans left to their senses. From there we would stop the virus. I heard a faint noise and looked up. The man I had met at the clearing was standing over me, my gun in his hands.


12 October 2012

The Outlaws of Sherwood

by Robin McKinley

When I was in elementary my friends and I would spend our days playing make-believe. We would go to someone’s house and run around, pretending to be whoever we wanted. My house was often chosen as the stomping ground because it was well shaded in the afternoon, had several good climbing trees, and plentiful sticks. The majority of the time we pretended to be part of Robin Hood’s merry men, only we were the traditional Robin, we played Robin McKinley’s version, THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD. One of the big reasons behind this was the fact that there are some awesome heroines. (Though I actually played the character Much most of the time. I always liked him the best.)

In THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD, Robin isn’t necessarily an outlaw by choice. As he is headed to the fair to be with Marian and Much he encounters a group of foresters. They challenge him to an archery contest. Unlike many of the other versions, Robin isn’t that good of a shot. He is a fletcher by trade, but that doesn’t mean he can hit what he is aiming at. He actually wins and the other foresters aren’t happy. When Robin tries to defend himself he accidentally kills one of them and is branded an outlaw. From there his band grows. There are the favorite, familiar characters, but as I mentioned earlier, the females are strong and competent.

I was the only one of my friends to actually have read THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD. Though I read it as a child, it is a pretty heavy book. I wouldn’t recommend for an audience that young. It has a few slower bits, but part of that is because it goes into the political side of things including the Crusades. Whenever I see this book I have such fond memories of running around the back yard using the trimmed apple branches as swords and quarterstaffs as we acted out the story.

10 October 2012

Psyching Out the Guys

Every day at lunch I play dominos with a group of guys. Sometimes there are only two of us, but lately we’ve had as many as six. The game consisted of us trying to get the open ends to equal a multiple of five. There is some skill involved but mostly it is the luck of the draw. There are certain dominos that are good (like the double five, blank and five, and double blank). Since I am the only female that plays, whenever a spectator cheers for someone, it is usually me. The guys don’t care. We all take our turn at winning and losing.

I try and get stuff done on my lunch break, and I have never been one who just sits around. I like to be doing stuff, even if the stuff isn’t productive. Normally I write letters during my lunch break. I have written my flash fiction stories. I folded origami (one handed at one point, just to see if I could do it). I draw pictures. Whenever I bring something else with me, the guys kind of laugh. One week I was writing an especially lengthy epistle to a friend. They kept cracking jokes and would then look at me expectantly. I ended up winning a couple of games. They good-naturedly grumbled about me being more potent when I had other things to focus on.

So what am I doing now? Yesterday I took some sewing. There is a bunch of hand sewing that needs to be done on our costumes. They just asked what I was working on and the game was on. I ended up winning by one point. It’s so nice of them to let me play.

07 October 2012

*Fluffy Bunny

Intro: Moose said I should write a story about a boy who has a volcano that is his bodyguard. I laughed and decided instead of a moving mountain, he could have a cloud.

Tama looked over his shoulder. The small cloud was still behind him, looming. Tama scowled. It would stick out like a sore thumb. One cloud amidst a clear sky. At least in Hawaii his bundle of emotions had been well camouflaged most of the time. There were days he sent it to hoover over the volcano. There was nothing to do about it now.

He hitched his backpack higher on his shoulder and walked through the school gates. It was November. The school year started months earlier. Texas contrasted with his homeland of Hawaii, but since his dad had the job with Lockheed Martin, they no longer had to rely on other’s charity in order to each every day.

The sunlight faded for a moment as it disappeared behind the cloud. No one even glanced his direction and as Tama continued walking the sun became visible again. A sharp wind whipped his clothes and blasted his face, his shoulder length hair blowing behind him.

Other students milled about the school, waiting for the bell to ring before actually setting foot in the institute of learning. Tama looked around and felt his heart drop. He liked school. He was good at school. But no one here seemed to want to be here. His enjoyment would stick out like a sore thumb. The schools here were different. Instead of having middle schools, they had Jr. Highs. He was joining the Sophomore class and once again he was on the bottom of the totem.

A few drops of rain struck his head and the surrounding pavement. He stared up at the cloud and frowned. He schooled his loneliness and focused on something else. When the bell rang he joined the herd flowing into the building.

At lunch, Tama ate outside. The cloud had shifted from a dark foreboding, to a pearl gray of hope. A group of boys swaggered up. They were in Tama’s classes and one of them was a loudmouth. The others just kind of swarmed around him, never saying much, but never far from him. Every time one of the teachers called on him, he made a sarcastic remark, and then gave the answer. At first Tama thought the other boys had been feeding him the answers, but in the second class, math, he realized that they were more the strong, silent type.

“You’re new. What’s your name?”

The cloud overhead bristled. None of the boys looked up and Tama looked away.

“I’m Patrick.”

Tama looked at the outstretched hand. “Tama.”

Patrick sat down and the other boys arranged themselves around him. Tama eyed them and Patrick merely shrugged. “I’ll help them resolve their issues when school is done. My parents don’t like it when I skip school to help the dead. By the way, nice cloud.”

Tama opened his backpack and pulled out a box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts. His dessert. “Want one?”

The cloud could have been mistaken for a fluffy white bunny.

05 October 2012

Hazardous Tales

by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale is an artist, turned author. I love his books, which include illustrating RAPUNZEL’S REVENGE and CALAMITY JACK and writing YELLOWBELLY AND PLUMB, and THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. With his Hazardous Tales, Nathan Hale makes history fun, for all ages, especially for children. So far there are two tales, ONE DEAD SPY, and BIG BAD IRONCLAD! These are graphic novels that will catch anyone’s attention and leave you wanting to know more about what happened.

ONE DEAD SPY is about Nathan Hale, not the artist, but the first American Spy. During the Revolutionary War, Nathan Hale was an officer. He is also the man who said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Though he ended up being hanged by the British (you learn that at the beginning of the book). There are quite a few amazing stories that happened during the war that people may not realize. My favorite is about moving large cannons across a frozen river.

BIG BAD IRONCLAD! takes place during the Civil War. It involves a man who has to invent the Ironclad, but has a short timeline. There is also a man by the name of William Cushing. He is pretty much a Navy Seal before there were Navy Seals. He was also a huge prankster and ended up using his pranks to help sway the tide of battle. One of the pranks include making a fake Ironclad. Nathan Hale even gives directions for making an Ironclad out of Legos.

Both books are historically accurate. Nathan Hale, the author not the spy, lists the books he used as research. There are some parts, including a magic history book, that is definitely not true, but it is always obvious when he is taking liberty with the dialogue. I love these books, and though I don’t have any children, they will be added to my library. I really hope that he does more in the future. I only wish they were around when I was in school.

03 October 2012

Mad Sewing Skills

With the contest over, I have been working on our costumes. Last year I started the costumes the first weekend in October. I am pleased with how they turned out, but I was really stressed. I always felt like I could have done better, especially on mine. This year I started working on Moose’s costume in August. At this point the majority of his costume is made; I just have to add the trimmings. Mine isn’t as close, but I am more than 50% done, including my prop.

So this year has been a good indication that if I plan early, our costumes turn out better and I don’t pay through the nose for the fabric. Keeping that in mind, and due to the fact that we have really enjoyed planning this year, we have started a list of characters we can try. Some of them are far beyond what we are capable of, but it is nice to think that my sewing skills are improving enough that I would be able to try.

When I was in elementary, my mother signed me up for sewing lessons. I enjoyed it for the most part. I stuck with it for four years. I made some fun and cute things but I never enjoyed making clothes. I could just never get them to fit comfortably. I have avoided making clothes for years. The occasional skirt was as far as I breached into the “fashion” side of sewing. In this costume alone, I would say that my understanding of clothes has greatly increased. And next year, I will be teaching Moose how to sew. In return he is going to teach me how to create props out of fiberglass.

01 October 2012


I have reached the point where I don't really have anything else to say about writing. I am still learning how to be a better writer. I am going to take a hiatus from writing tips until I learn more. My last piece of advice is that writing takes practice. The more you do it, the better you'll get. This is especially true if you have a writing group to help. Writing takes time and effort.