Wanta be a better writer? Monday Motivation

It’a not hard.

Actually it’s quite easy.

Follow these ten SIMPLE steps…

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
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Now go be a better writer


Rush, Stress, and Busyness – Blogs last month you might have missed

NaNoWriMo 2012 has ended. (btw, MAJOR congratulations to those who stayed the course and wrote 50,000 words. I’m so impressed.)

Today’s December 1st. The holiday season is upon us and closing in like a speeding bullet.

ticking clock

If you’re like me, you’re skimming and skipping on social media sites and blogs. 

Here are some blogs with writerly news or information I thought you’d want to know about:

Fictionwise is Now on Life Support – They’re Pulling the Plug in 3 Weeks’ Time

  •  Digital Reader advises now would be a good time to go download any ebooks you still can.  After December 21, 2012,  you will not be able to access any of the ebooks you bought from Fictionwise sites (including Fictionwise.com, eReader.com and eBookwise.com).

Very latest on Fictionwise’s demise:

What People Talk About When They Talk About Bad Writing

  • Writer/agent Nathan Bransford’s take on a definition of bad writing.

Why is your second novel so important?

  • Agent Chip Macgregor discusses the biggest pitfalls in a second novel.

Sell More Fiction by Activating the Power of Book Clubs

  • How to employ bookclubs and discussion questions to increase your   book sales.

6 Common Myths About Book Reviews

  • Debunks common misconceptions about book reviews

How Twitter Hashtags Help Authors Find Readers

  • Loved this list of handy hashtags to connect with readers


  • Interesting discussion about trackers in eReaders: Your data profile shows when you read and when you don’t. Will it soon determine what you read? 

YOUR TURN to SHARE: If you’ve found a blog, you think I may have missed, tell me about it in your comment.


Missing Books and Memories: Miller Farm Friday

Before the school year started, I alphabetized my books in my classroom to make it easier to find what I wanted for each class. 

 Imagine my consternation when I went to pull “Six Little Ducks” and it was not nestled right next to “Silent Night” in the “s” section. I thought perhaps I had loaned it out and would need to track it down. 

I chose another duck book, “Little White Duck,” and went on with my teaching.

Well yesterday, I wanted to read “Ten Little Indians.” It was time to start my Thanksgiving songs. It was also missing! 

My first thought was “Now I’ve lost six little ducks and ten little Indians and the craziness of the holiday season has not even began. Not a good sign!”

I had to walk away from the bookshelf to collect myself. 

Upon returning and carefully searching through the entire alphabet of books, I discovered that “Ten Little Indians” was actually titled “One Little Indian.” 

 Silly me.

 Very relieved, I looked once again for “Six Little Ducks.” 

 I discovered the title of that book is actually “Five Little Ducks,” and it was right shelved right where it was supposed to be – after “Fire Truck.” 

I slept much better last night knowing that every book and everything was in their proper spot. 

Including the black hen in the chicken yard who apparently still has flashbacks to the possum episode and tries to sleep on top of the quail cage.

Have a great weekend.

Before anyone gets excited over CW (Chicken Wrangler) Sara using Ten Little Indians to kickstart Thanksgiving, I have to tell you that she grew up where Mama (me) made sure the “real” Thanksgiving celebration wasn’t forgotten.

(Image from: www.azgop.org)

The first Thanksgiving feast was to thank the Indians for their contribution to the Pilgrims’ survival.

To reinforce the concept, I wore an Indian squaw dress custom-made for me by an Apache seamstress on the White River Arizona Reservation.

I’m sure CW Sara told her young students all about a Mama’s custom.

I do wonder if she tells her classes about how I embellished the Five Little Duck story by having the Mama Duck (NOT the Daddy Duck) call the duckies back in the song’s punch line.

I’d tell her and her siblings that disobedience to Mama Duck meant the five little duckies might not have a happy ending.

On second thought, CW Sara probably doesn’t tell that story. That would be like the black hen’s flashbacks of the possum episode—recalling unpleasant memories.


Any Thanksgiving traditions?

Or unpleasant possum memories?


Turkey Pitching Day

Last Thursday many in the U.S. sat down at tables loaded with enough food to feed a third world country for a week.

And we had leftovers.

The best part of Thanksgiving to me.

I love the smell of the striped carcass simmering with onions and celery in our traditional turkey rice soup on Black Friday. We add brown rice before serving with whole wheat cornbread. Yummy!

This year I also found great, nutritious ideas from

Turkey Taco

Click the picture for the link.

Turkey Sliders

Click the picture for the link.

Are you still moving leftover turkey or dressing or sweet potatoes around in your fridge? You need to pitch ‘em today.


Foodborne illness – Isn’t that a lovely way to say food poisoning?

In years past, I remember sitting around the table for hours talking and visiting with the food still there. Or, worse yet, moving the serving dishes to the stove top or counter so everyone could nibble all afternoon while we watched football.

Once we figured out what was causing our tummy problems, we stopped that foolishness.

Happily, most cases of food poisoning can be prevented with proper food handling.

How did you handle your leftovers? Did you refrigerate perishable foods quickly?

According to Mayo Clinic nutritionist, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. your goal is to minimize the time a food is in the “danger zone” — between 40 and 140 F (4 and 60 C) — when bacteria can quickly multiply. Meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs shouldn’t sit more than two hours at typical room temperature or more than one hour at temperatures above 90 F (32 C).

Because the bacteria doesn’t typically change the taste, smell, or look, you can’t tell until the bacteria attacks your digestive tract.

But leftovers can be kept for three to four days in the refrigerator before the risk of food poising increases.

There weren’t many leftovers at our Thanksgiving feast and what there was went quickly. If you still have leftovers after today, my advice:



Raiding Possums, Scary Times at the Miller Farm

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes, especially if it is raining, we do not close the door to the chicken coop at night. The chickens don’t know the difference and some nights we are just too tired to walk out there.

This has all changed after last weekend.

I was getting ready to get into the shower on Sunday morning when I heard a lot of racket coming from the chicken yard. I’m accustomed to hearing the roosters and can, in fact, distinguish which rooster makes each “cock a doodle doo.”

This was, however, a hen making the racket. She sounded very distressed so I knew something was amiss. I grabbed a flashlight, put on my muck shoes and headed out to the chicken yard.

As soon as I left the garage, I knew there was trouble.

A large number of the birds lined the fence looking very scared (at least I’m guessing it was a scared look on their faces.)

Something had gotten into their coop and they were trying to get away.

Had it not been 5:45 a.m. and my brain still foggy, I might have thought more about rushing into an unknown situation. All I could think about, though, was my poor chickens and how I had left them vulnerable by not closing the coop.

As I approached, I could see the announcer hen still squawking at something in the corner.

A possum and it was eating a chicken!

Not wishing to add “possum wrangler” to my titles or face-off with a possum and his breakfast, I headed back to the house for my husband. He reached for a hand gun, but I reminded him it would be illegal to fire in the city limits. He grabbed a BB gun instead, and we went back outside.

Fortunately, possums do not have a “flight” instinct and in fact will freeze when they are frightened (think deer in the headlight look). So when we got to the coop, Raider Possum was still there.

Beekeeper Brian was able to put enough BBs into him that he will not be eating any more of our chickens nor will he be able to tell his friends where to get a free meal.

As we retold our morning adventure, we did get asked several times if we were making a meal out of the possum. (The answer is a resounding “no.”)

With the danger eliminated, we coaxed the chickens back into the coop. They may have bird brains but they remembered there was something scary in that coop and balked when we tried to herd them back inside the chicken yard.

We picked each one up and placed it gently into the coop. As we lifted them, they cried out what sounded like “Ouch, Ouch.” We got as many as we could back into the coop and shut the door until the sun came up.

The chickens seem to have no recollection of the events and have gone back into the coop every night since. All except for one black hen who slept on top of the quail cage for several nights.

Now, every night, we shut the door to the coop and tell the chickens:

“Good night, sleep tight and don’t let the possums bite.”

I had to laugh over her caution to the chickens. You see, when she was little we often sent her off to bed with “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed-bugs bite. 

Strange saying, but evidently founded in the fact that bedbugs were once real threat  and have recently made a comeback.

All I meant was for her to have a good night’s sleep, which worked for Chicken Wrangler Sara and her siblings. I hope it works for the Miller farm fowl.

It has been a rough week at the Miller Farm. Chickens facing raider possums. Thanksgiving Turkey’s roasting. The fowl must have felt like they were watching a horror movie.

YOUR TURN: How do you pick yourself up after a horror movie week or day?


Grateful for YOU

I’m thankful that in this great big blog world we have connected.

If you’ve read my about page, you know I’m a writer and an antiques dealer/collector. Ephemeron fascinates me. That’s why I chose this particular greeting today.

Not familiar with the term?

Ephemera (the plural form) refers to something transitory or short-lived. Items like pamphlets, notices, tickets, postcards or greeting cards designed to be useful or important for only a short time. In this age of technology, we’re losing ephemera.  Especially old postcards like these.

Back reads “from Ray to the Baby 1913 H. R. M.”
“Wishing you a Peaceful Thanksgiving Day; With all of Earth’s fruit from the blossom of May.”
“North South East and West; Let’s all join hands So that we may truly rejoice on Thanksgiving Day” To Marguerite from Grandma, 1915.

Each card undoubtedly has a story. Who was Ray and why did he send a Thanksgiving card to Baby? Were Marguerite and Grandma feuding and needed to join hands? There’s definitely a story connect to that one.

The writers among us could probably plot some compelling stories based on these old postcards. I think that’s why I find ephemeron so intriguing.

But just for today, let’s forget about writing.

Instead, let’s

Sit around the table and visit with family and friends.
Cheer for our favorite football team. Or nap.

And most important, remember to take the giblets out of the turkey!

Thanks for showing up today to read my blog.

I’m going to enjoy my blessings today.I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving day with your family and friends.

See you here on the 26th.


Bedlam in the Chicken Yard-Miller Farm Friday

I looked out the kitchen window last evening and saw a rooster about 5 feet off the ground on top of the quail cage in the middle of the chicken yard.

This would not be a problem if he could get back down to the ground on the right side of the fence (the one with the chickens, not the dogs). However, we have learned that chickens (and roosters) are not particularly coordinated.

I headed out to the chicken yard to make sure he was safe.

Later, we decided if the rooster could make it to the top of the quail cage must be time to clip wings. While this sounds horribly painful for the birds, it is actually more like clipping fingernails.

The hardest part is catching the birds.

Since the sun was setting, the chickens headed for the coop. They are creatures of habit and every evening they go to bed in the coop, and every night I shut the door to keep non-chickens out.

Since the birds were contained, Beekeeper Brian decided to go into the coop and clip wings. He started with the smaller game birds which made the most racket I ever heard.

I was afraid the neighbors would think we were killing them. Eventually all the wings were clipped and no chicken died, though from all the noise I’m sure the neighbors did wonder.

Wing clipping prevents the birds from flying over the fence where Bella (the dachshund) could “play” with them. At the same time, wing clipping also makes it very difficult for them to fly up to their roosts in the coop.

I believe at least one of the birds held a grudge against us. 

When I went to collect eggs the next morning, she pecked at my hand. I’ve gotten used to that and it doesn’t really hurt – especially when compared with bee stings.

So I got the eggs and the chicken immediately went to the roost in front of the nest box and started squawking very loudly. I swear she was saying “Thief, Thief!!!!.”

If you spend enough time around chickens, you learn to speak their language.

That evening when I went to close up the coop, one of the birds sounded very raspy. I told Beekeeper Brian it was probably the one who had fussed at me. She’d squawked so loud she made herself hoarse.

Without missing a beat, Brian replied, “Well how is she supposed to lay eggs if she is a horse?”


Monday Motivation: Lending a Hand or a $

Mondays are usually blogs to motivate writers. Today I’m deviating a bit.

I live on the Texas gulf coast. I’ve seen lots and lots of storms. Big hurricanes, little hurricanes, and tropical storms that did more damage than any hurricane.

I’ve also been stranded in a volunteer fire department in Deep Creek, Maryland during a Nor’easter blizzard for days with three small children,  a miniature schnauzer and a husband anxious to get home to check on our house. We shared the small fire department’s building with about two hundred other motorists traveling home after the Thanksgiving holiday.

BEFORE the era of cell phones I might add. No one knew what had happened to us for days.

I’m sure most of  you have seen the pictures of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. If you haven’t, check out this site with before and after shots. Slide your mouse over the before snapshot and view the aftermath of Sandy. You’ll be shocked.

Before/After Hurricane Sandy Photos Show How Storm Devastated East Coast (INTERACTIVE PICTURES)

A week later a Nor’easter visited the east coast. Too much for an already crushed area.

There is no doubt the damaging effects of Hurricane Sandy will be with us for a long time. Today I want to encourage everyone to help out and suggest donations to:

From my personal experience with the Red Cross in a weather crisis, I know they are “Johnny on the Spot.” Red Cross volunteers offered some terrific sandwiches, warm blankets, and delivered messages for us during our blizzard experience. Just click on the logo above to donate.

Based on my research, I believe the following organizations are also trustworthy and positioned to help those in need receive immediate help and care. In order to make it easier for you to donate to these organizations, here are the direct links:

Salvation Army

Samaritan’s Purse

For our military families in the path of both storms, these organizations offer assistance:

Air Force Aid Society

Army Emergency Relief Fund

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

I’m sure you may know of other organizations where you can help out in person or send a donation. HELP.

I found Write Now Relief  on Facebook that I know isn’t a scam and offers the opportunity to win a like a 50-page critique of your novel by a published novelist in exchange for the winning donation bid.

You bid at  Write Now Relief  between Nov 9 and Nov 16. Highest bidder’s amount with be  sent to relief efforts for the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Okay,  back to the writing…


Miller Farm Friday: Bees in the Bonnet

Well the inevitable finally happened – I got stung by a bee.

I really can’t blame the bee. It flew into my hair while I was filling the chicken waterer and it got lost. The bee panicked and burrowed into my scalp and stung me.

I understand. I panic when I get lost too so I can feel its pain – literally.

I managed to avoid doing the frantic bee dance and walked quickly to the water hose where I “washed that bee right out of my hair.”

As I continued my morning chicken chores, I had two thoughts:
1. Where are the epipens
2. How long would it be before someone found me if I passed out in the yard?

Fortunately, I did not have the same reaction to the bee sting as Beekeeper Brian so I didn’t need an answer to either question.

Later as Beekeeper Brian was checking my head for stingers, he suggested that I wear a hat or bandana to prevent a repeat of the incident. This was a great idea.

I remembered the bonnets you made for us to wear at Sturbridge Village on the 4th of July a million years ago? I still have one, or at least one just like it and it works perfectly for keeping bees out of my hair. 

So now, if the neighbors did not have enough entertainment before today, they now can watch me doing my morning chicken chores wearing a blue gingham bonnet.

Ah – what a life.

Our other daughter immediately responded:

I am not sure, the bonnet might make things worse. For, as the song goes, don’t women frequently get a bee in their bonnet? Or is that just me to whom that happens?

Either way, I am quite impressed that you still had your Sturbridge Village ephemera. All I have left is fond memories of a picture taken on a canon, with either Sandra Kay or some other random individual.

With our family, you just never know who it might be… friend, foe, fowl, feline or canine.
Cheers, Steph

Interesting to me that both girls remembered the bonnets and not the reading of the Constitution or the fireworks. Which were the reason we originally made the trip!

Steph is correct we did always have a house full. Someone who needed a place to stay or escape or an animal or bird that needed rescued.

That’s why there are so many characters in my stories. Every visitor came with his own backstory which spawned a new story idea for me.

I’d recommend a trip to Sturbridge Village if not on the 4th of July then one of the other seasonal events. It made quite an impression on our children as you can tell.

And, for those of you who might want your own bonnet. Prairiebonnets.com has some excellent choices including flannel-lined for winter.


Ever been stung by a bee?

Been to Sturbridge Village? Did you have as much fun as we did/do?


Tipping point and the course of human events

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Anyone recognize that paragraph? I hope so. It’s the introductory paragraph to the Declaration of Independence. My fingers automatically typed those words instead of what I was meaning to say thanks to some teacher who made us memorize it and the Preamble to the Constitution.

Guess I became sidetracked by all the political ads and chatter everywhere. Today we have the option to cast a ballot for the Presidential candidate of our choice.

Now you go do the same. It’s our right and our privilege.

But I digress, the course of events that I meant to reference is that point in our lives when we recognize the time for change has arrived and we must do some personal downsizing.

No denying. All of us reach such a point sooner or later. By choice or by death.

As an antiques dealer, I’ve done enough estates – either as organizer, buyer or seller – to know that all our stuff ultimately has to go. Hearses don’t pull U-Hauls. We’re no longer an Egyptian pyramid culture where we entomb our worldly goods with us.

Recently, my husband and I returned from our vacation home and looked around at our beautiful home in the suburbs of the nation’s 4th largest city and experienced a tipping point.

We asked one another, “Why do we need all this stuff?”

The obvious answer was we don’t. For 4-5 months every year, we live in a small, small house in the Rio Grande National Forest and love every minute of it. We come back to hustle and bustle and headaches. So we asked ourselves, “Why?”

That’s when we reached the tipping point and decided to sell our house and stuff and vie for a simple life in the woods.

Our children are extremely grateful that they won’t be saddled with the grueling task after we’re gone. I think watching us disburse estates of our parents, his older sister, and our aunt and uncle convinced them it was an arduous job.

We’ve discovered a fringe benefit — seeing our children enjoy the things of their childhood and objects from our home in theirs.

That’s Chicken Wrangler Sara and her original Barbie house. She couldn’t believe we’d kept it all these years!
Our son and his son playing chess on the table where my husband and son played many a game.
This knife set (a wedding present to my husband and me) now hangs in our youngest daughter’s kitchen.

On Tuesdays, I’ll be blogging about our journey to simplify and the amazing freedom we’re finding as we turn the stuff loose. I’ll tell you how we decided what to get rid of and what to keep and how we disbursed the stuff.

Probably not every Tuesday. After all, this is a monumental task that takes time.

Plus I have another book due out this year. Gotta get in my writing time.