4 03, 2024

Hooks and Scrabble

By |2024-03-02T18:16:46-06:00March 4th, 2024|Writer's Life, Writing Craft|0 Comments

Scrabble is popular at our house. Scrabble is all about words. Guess that’s why I love the game.

Scrabble players can score fifty points when they have the right tiles, the perfect fit to play on the board, and know the RIGHT word. Hubby-dear is our current fifty-point champion.

Scrabble players earn points from the words they create. Writers keep the reader hooked into turning the pages with their words.

A hook is what incites the reader to turn the page and read just one more chapter. Or decide to buy a book. In writing, hooks are words used at the beginning of scenes and chapter breaks. Screenwriters use hooks the same way.

The hook idea came from the 1914 silent movie series titled The Perils of Pauline. Pearl White starred as Pauline, the damsel in distress menaced by assorted villains, pirates, and Native Americans in the serialized movie. In 2008, the movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

In each episode the audience is convinced poor, pitiful Pauline’s situation will surely result in her imminent death until at the last minute she is rescued or otherwise escapes the danger. The damsel in distress and cliffhanger endings kept moviegoers returning.

How do successful writers use hooks like the screenwriters did with The Perils of Pauline? The simple answer is strong characters like Pauline and strong chapter breaks.  

K.M. Weiland suggests these other ideas to hook readers.

1. Promise conflict to come.

2. A secret kept.

3. A major decision or vow.

4. An announcement of a shocking event.

5. A moment of high emotion.

6. A reversal or surprise that turns the story upside down.

7. A new idea.

8. An unanswered question.

9. A portentous metaphor.

10. A plot turning point.

Weiland warns: “Not every chapter needs to end with a cliffhanger, but they do need to encompass a question powerful enough to make the reader crazy to know the answer.”

Unlike the silent movie success, the overuse of Pauline-in-peril gimmicks in stories can turn a reader off. Writers use caution.

If you’re a writer, what strategy do you use for hooks? If not sure, check out Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Hooks for great ideas.

As a reader, what hook from Weiland’s list keeps you turning the page?

26 02, 2024

Swimming and Books

By |2024-02-25T14:54:57-06:00February 26th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

 There’s a new feature at the gym where I swim. A book table is now in the hallway to the indoor pool.

That’s right, a free books table and it warms the heart of this writer/reader.  

You can leave a book or simply choose from the selection available. Sometimes the books are fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes how-to and biographies.

SOURCE: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/383017143282395248/

It’s like one of those Little Free Libraries on a stand that neighborhoods have only this free library is on a table.

I leave the gym after my early morning swim refreshed in body and a brand-new or slightly used book tucked inside my swim bag.

 Life is good for this writer who is also an avid reader.

19 02, 2024

A Smile

By |2024-02-16T16:18:37-06:00February 19th, 2024|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Smiles are powerful.

Smiles breed trust, make you happier, and help you to live longer because “smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match.”

We smile when our pictures are taken.

We smile at babies and puppies.

We smile politely at friends or strangers.

How do we tell which smiles are genuine and which smiles are fake?

SOURCE: The Science of Smiling: A Guide to The World’s Most Powerful Gesture

The key to recognizing a genuine smile is to check the eyes. True smiles are called the Duchenne smiles, named after the scientist who identified two types of smiles as the “mouth corners”-only smile and the “eye socket” one.

Crinkly eyes = a real smile.

No wrinkles around the eyes, the smile’s a fake, or the result of too much Botox.

Intense fake smiles can sometimes produce lines around the eyes. If the cheeks bunch up, making it look as if the eyes are contracting, then the smile is genuine.

Experts agree when a smile is genuine, the eye cover fold – the fleshy part of the eye between the eyebrow and the eyelid – moves downwards and the end of the eyebrows dip slightly.

Isn’t that a genuine smile if you ever saw one?

Fake or genuine smiles are powerful. They spread optimism, happiness, and joy. Most of all smiles are contagious.

Leo F. Buscaglia says it best:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Give someone a genuine smile today.

16 02, 2024


By |2024-02-15T19:31:55-06:00February 16th, 2024|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I went to TMEA last weekend (Texas Music Educators Association) conference. It is the largest music conference in the country.

There were over five hundred workshops to choose from and that was only the elementary and general sessions. There were also vocal, orchestral, and band sessions.

To top it off, the exhibit hall is amazing.

Our oldest daughter was working at a booth there so I would stop by to check on her regularly.


I told myself I would not spend all my money on materials for my classes. I needed to buy kazoos for my 3rd and 4th grade classes, things for my music store, and bulletin board materials.

I did very well. The only extra thing I bought was a wolf puppet. There is a game involved and I had promised my students I would learn new games to teach them.

I’m impressed with my self-control!

Not so sure about how good it will be at the upcoming Bookfair😉.

12 02, 2024

Valentines Say I Love You

By |2024-02-10T07:59:52-06:00February 12th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Valentine cards say the words we sometimes find difficult to voice.

When I was in grade school – not Little House of the Prairie days, but close – we had Valentine’s Day parties at school and gave our friends homemade cards. We made mailboxes from shoe boxes or decorated envelopes to collect our cards.

Those years helped form my love of Valentine cards and began my Valentine card collection. And, yes, I still have a few cards from that era. For sure, I’ve collected cards from those days.

Vintage valentines can be very valuable, especially Victorian-era pop-up honeycomb ones. Value varies and can range from the hundreds of dollars up to thousands. Check Kovels Valentine’s Day collectibles Pinterest board for examples and values.

Interested in becoming a Valentine card collector, here are some tips on how to start.

What to look for

  1. Cards that relate to the news of the day
  2. Valentines signed by someone known
  3. Older homemade cards
  4. Victorian three-dimensional valentines
  5. Postcard valentines
  6. Die-cut school-type valentines from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s
  7. Mechanical valentines with moving parts

Hairstyles, clothes, cars, or trains pictured in older valentines will help date the card.

Where should you look?

  1. Old scrapbooks
  2. Keepsake boxes for sentimental ephemera
  3. Old heart-shaped candy boxes
  4. Flea markets or ephemera shows
  5. House sales, garage/yard sales, and thrift shops

Are contemporary valentines worth collecting?

The simple answer is yes. According to Terry Kovel of Kovel’s Antiques, Inc., look for cards with certain characteristics:

  1. Current news, pop culture, and/or historical events.
  2. Cards depicting characters from Disney, children’s books, cartoons, movies, and television shows.
  3. Be cautious about modern technology cards. Those record-your-own-voice cards will stop talking as they age.

Learn more about Valentine collecting from these sites:

The Ephemera Society on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheEphemeraSociety

National Valentine Collectors Association on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/126503137423748/posts/412749768799082/

National Valentine Collectors Association. Marketplace on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1411386215859744

Here’s a peek at some from my collection. I love displaying them for Valentine’s Day each February.

9 02, 2024

Google Eyes

By |2024-02-08T17:14:09-06:00February 9th, 2024|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Google eyes are magical. They turn ordinary objects into whimsical characters. I bought a giant set of Google eyes to go with my collection.

I’m using them in my classroom this year since I have a room to decorate.

In December, I tried to put a Rudolph on my door. The wind kept blowing him off.

For January, I put a snowman on my bulletin board. The students loved it!

This month I have put a giant heart.

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