September Surprises

I have so much exciting news to share. The first is news of my two latest projects, and surprise! They are children’s books.


Sneak peek of Baa Baa Yaga art by Robin Wiesneth

It happened by accident. Robin Wiesneth, author of Tails of Imagination, suggested I do a kid book with her over coffee one day. She’s crazy, I thought to myself. My stuff is too scary for kids. The thought kept picking away at me though, and one night Baa Baa Yaga, the story of a magical sheep that rides an enchanted Airstream and knits lost children into itchy woolen cocoons and a boy named Simon. We started collaborating, and I fell in love with the genre.

Sneak peek at art for Monsers Are Everywhere by Mary-Anne Leslie

Sneak peek at art for Monsers Are Everywhere by Mary-Anne Leslie

Around the same time another idea popped into my head. Not to bury Robin who is already busy with projects galore, I asked another amazing illustrator, Mary-Anne Leslie, if she’d be interested in working together on it. She accepted, and my second children’s book, Monsters Are Everywhere, entered the conception stage. Monsters is less story and more concept lesson to tell children that it’s no good being scared of things. When we face our fears we usually find out they were nothing to begin with.

End of Mae and Mr. BoneJangles both got picked up by a publisher, Line by Lion (an imprint with Three Fates Press), so I’ve been Line by Lionreworking those stories for publication. I’m so thrilled to be part of the Line by Lion family with those two books, especially because my beloved friend and editor Amy Eye is having her two new children’s books published under the same imprint. Called Saber and Falling, she is working with the same two amazing illustrators, Robin and Mary-Anne. Yes, I copied Amy. I know a good thing when I see it :)

Ready for another surprise? My good friend and author (who shall not be named as of yet) also got picked up by Line by Lion with his two books, also still a secret. So Line by Lion isn’t really just a contract and an imprint to me – it’s becoming my literary family.

To celebrate, there’s a new contest up on the Win! Giveaways tab above. Enter for your chance to win a super high tech, magical cereal Obol that keeps your cereal from getting soggy while you read, and a signed, hardback copy of Robin Wiesneth’s beautiful and whimsical book, Tails of Imagination.

September is opening with a bang, and there’s more exciting stuff just ahead… just stay posted ;D

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Who is this?

imageThe answers to this question, and so much more, shall be revealed soon. Secrets shall soon be shared!

In the meantime, who do you think it is?

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Books Don’t Judge

Book PileI was just talking to someone about how important libraries are.

When I was young, our library was a safe haven. I could go there and hide away from peer pressure. An avid reader, I felt accepted and comfortable.

Sitting in a pile of Oz books, I accomplished quests and stood against evil. No one timed me at the library. No one limited me there. All the treasures were offered freely, with no strings.

I don’t have time to go to the library as an adult as much, but whenever I do it’s the same safe haven. My new library is half a continent and three decades away from my old one but it’s the same place. Librarians don’t judge and they forgive all sins but those committed against books.

I wonder how many misfit kids find their safe haven in the library? There are no outcasts in worlds inhabited by hobbits, vampires and mad hatters. I love the library still because there is a place where all are equal – race, politics, religion – none of it matters. Literature equalizes us.

Books don’t judge.

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Why Did the Okaloosa Chicken Cross?

imageCheck out this great cartoon my friend Robin Wiesneth made!

I’m still mad about the Okaloosa chicken ban based on opinion. To me, it represents some of the idiocy that happens when government starts over stepping their boundaries and start ruling (instead of representing) based on their opinions (which should be of “The People’s).

There are some crazy bans out there, and wheher you agree with any of them or not they are still matters of some official making a knee jerk decision without real research. Today it’s gay marriage, pit bulls, prayer in school and chickens.

Who knows what it might be tomorrow.

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More Chicken Ban Business

Sent August 21, 2014. A letter from Nathan Boyles, the commissioner who thinks we are smart enough to care for a few chickens if we want to. I’m glad somebody up there has confidence in us!

Nathan Boyles

I thought it was a simple issue but by the time it was over, I felt a bit like I had been boiled and plucked. I was trying to repeal the rule in Okaloosa County that outlaws backyard chickens – even a single hen- in all residential districts, rural or not. In truth though, the issue isn’t really about chickens at all. It is about being true to core principals. That means ending government interference into our lives – and our backyards, unless our individual actions harm our neighbors. I assumed, wrongly, that with an all Republican “conservative” Commission the issue would be a homerun.I noted a government ad from 1918 – near the end of World War 1 – encouraging Americans to keep backyard chickens to boost the productivity and self-reliance of a nation at war. The ad featured two children building a backyard chicken coop. The children represented the same generation that would later become “The Greatest Generation.” Those children, raised in a time when self-reliance and duty to the greater good existed in harmony, would face down the greatest threat the world has ever known. And yet less then 100 years later, it is okay for government to outlaw a former virtue. One fellow Commissioner scoffed at me for connecting the right to keep a few laying hens in the backyard to the development of The Greatest Generation. But is it really so foolish to think that the values we teach our children impact the people they become and the society they form? I hope and pray we never need another Greatest Generation, but what if? My son is 2 years old. With a government that regulates more and more of our lives for our own safety and comfort will this generation be up to the task if called upon? There will always be determined individuals among us; there will always be warriors who rise to the challenge, however great. But when we begin to produce warriors in spite of our shared values and expectations and not because of them, how long can we endure as the leader of the free-world?

So really, it wasn’t about a few clucking chickens at all, it was about producing people with pluck – the engrained quality of courage and determination that defined The Greatest Generation. It was about limiting the regulation of our lives and fostering a sense of independence and responsibility while discouraging reliance on government to provide for us and regulate our neighborly relations. And yet, for today at least, we cling to the status quo. But don’t worry too much. The issue is not over and tomorrow is a new day. I’ll keep you updated on efforts to turn the tide.

A more complete update on Tuesday’s Commission meeting will follow later.

Nathan Boyles 2

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Chicken Ban Smacks of Over-regulation

Chickens are PatrioticRecently, chickens were banned in Okaloosa County.

I’m pretty mad about the chicken ruling, not because I personally want to keep them, but because I object to being told I can’t without a good reason. 

In the past I had 30 hens in a backyard in Okaloosa County and my neighbor loved them. I supported the neighborhood with free food and they gave me their scraps for the birds, reducing the impact of waste in the landfill. The chickens kept the bug population down and there was no bad smells or noise problems (I got rid of the rooster).

I object because a house down the road from me has a crowd of dogs that bark like mad whenever I pass, upset my dog during our walks and the smell of dog feces wafting from their backyard is nauseating… but I can’t have chickens if I choose?

Chickens are simple, economical and ecologically friendly pets. I think the chicken ban should be over ruled and we should all be encouraged to keep a few, just like we were back in 1918.

Seems some of those that represent us are making decisions for us based on opinion. What happens when that opinion turns against something important to you?

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On Target with Archery

Varmint shootMy first shoot about a month ago was in the dark during what they call a “varmint shoot.” All our varmints were made of foam with reflective tacks set where their eyes were to simulate animal eyes.

It seemed like a crazy idea – I was running around in the pitch black with a bunch of people, all carrying pointy sticks. The air was muggy and buggy with spider webs tickling our faces as we squinted into the shadows looking for the glow sticks that marked the shooting spots. The moon came up, one of the super moons we’ve had so many of this year, and it took my breath away.

I hit one target one time, racking up a high score of 5. My proudest moment was being the only shooter to hit the ocelot… but it was the only thing I shot all night so I didn’t boast too much about it.

It wasn’t a comfortable experience, but standing in the forest bathed in moonlight I felt very much alive. I was having an adventure. It didn’t matter if I hit the targets, it only mattered that I was challenging myself.

Today was my second shoot, and I thought I’d go easy and do it in daIMG_20140823_110058_271ylight. It was what they call a “3D Shoot” because the targets look like real animals and they are hidden in the woods for us to find.

It was still muggy but being able to see the targets made a big difference to my score.
Where in the first shoot I scored 5, this time I made a more respectable 91. My proudest moment was making my first 12, or bulls eye. The most important thing is I haven’t lost an arrow yet. At $10 a pop, I’m a careful shooter.

Whether I lose a whole quiver of arrows or score another low 5 shoot, the whole archery thing is a keeper for me. Crazy as it sounds, surrounded by like minded people having a lark in the woods, fighting off heat, bugs and fatigue, is a blast.

Somewhere between the taut string and the arrow poised for flight I find an instant that bringsIMG_20140823_093753_282 me to the present moment. The past is the last target, the future waits ahead at the next, but in the temporary cooperative effort that is me, arrow and bow, I find an instance that is completely now and wholly mine.

That moment is what I am shooting for…


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Everyday Should be Black Friday

Black FridayI love wearing black for practical reasons.

It always matches. It seldom stains. No matter what, when you wear all black you seem smarter, sharper and cutting edge. Case in point: Black cats, symphonies, little black dresses, black belts, tuxedos and Johnny Cash. See?

Better in Black

In the western culture we think of black as a color of mourning and dark deeds but in other cultures it’s considered a hue of mystery, wisdom and luck.

Personally, I like wearing black for the simplicity. It represents a blank canvas – the very lack of definition defines the wearer. I find it soothing and without distraction. When I wear black, in my mind, I am making a statement of simplicity.

That’s why I wear black on Fridays.

Here’s how some other cultures feel about the color that is all colors while seeming to be none:


  • wealth, health and prosperity


  • color for young boys


  • color of mystery and the night
  • may be associated with feminine energy – either evil and a threat or provocative and alluring


  • Age and wisdom

Australian Aborigines:

  • ceremonial color
  • commonly used in their artworks
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End of Mae Took #67 out of 198

Cover End of MaeLast spring I entered my first novel contest with Critique My Novel.

I didn’t win, but as I looked over my results I’m pretty pleased. End of Mae is my first book, and honestly I had no clue as to what I was doing. I’m excited to move on and see what else I can do. To rank where I did I am thrilled. Here’s the results – what do you think?

Mae score

I could give you a blow by blow of all the scores but that would go on forever, so I’ll just share what the judges said. They each had excellent insight and critique and I will be considering what they said as I move forward with my career. Here’s their comments:

Judge #1:

-Having the character’s name so many times becomes distracting when Mae is the only character; use pronouns more instead of her name. (Where there is another character, you can use her name more to keep them straight when needed.) Having her name every (or every other) line is too many. (There are 6 in one paragraph on pg. 11, two of them in one sentence!)

-When Miss Prym first woke Mae up for dinner, I felt that Mae overreacted. For all she knew Prym could be a nurse who was helping her. Once they begin fighting, Prym’s true nature comes out, but I didn’t think Mae should be so hateful at first, unless she senses something. She notices cold stares and unfriendly face, but


So there needs to be more that pushes her to act out so violently.

-Great job getting drop into the perceptions and POV of each character.

A chilling beginning.

Thanks for allowing me to read part of your novel.

Judge #2:

Great story; I wish I could have read more of it.

Some of your scenes stretch a bit long. When she’s almost dead, that seems to carry for a very long time.

Show what she senses from the maid who is coming in to help her. She obviously senses the evil before we see any proof of it, so let us in a bit earlier. Otherwise Mae seems to be flipping out for no reason.

Judge #3:

Your story is well-written (always room for improvement, of course) and rather intriguing. I’m curious to find out more about these characters and wonder how Mae is going to get out of this predicament (seems like she’s indebted to the devil now). I actually think it should just begin with her waking up to Prym… just an idea. Weave some of the more enticing details from what happened that brought her there (like the man saying she must live) later on. Overall I’d say you have a marvelous story in the making here.

• Setting: The setting of the opening scene is very hard to visualize. I was imagining it taking place in an alley or something, beneath a streetlight. Later it is said that it happened in the woods. Add more details to make the setting clearer and easier for readers to visualize.

• Description and detail: This story could use a lot more. Slip them in here and there. Show us what

Mae and these creatures look like. Bea’s description was pretty great, but I want to see other characters as well. Especially the thing that attacked her. What does he look like in the light? Those details should be given as soon as she really sees him for the first time.

• What exactly is she looking for in the beginning? Give more details about the rumor or whatever.

It’s awesome that she’s looking for a good story—that bit is believable—but what led her to that particular place? I feel like readers would be more intrigued if they heard just a few more details about the story she’s looking to write about.

• It’s really hard to visualize the events of the story at times as well; it forces readers to go back and read through it again. Make sure the events in the story—the actions—are written clearly and simply so that your readers never feel lost.

• It throws me off a bit how much you have body parts doing the acting, instead of the owner of the body parts doing it. Example: Red eyes stared… In some cases it’s okay—good even—but I think it’s in there a little too much and I would highly recommend changing some out for: He stared at her body with his red eyes.

• Show don’t tell. Give us little details. What about his body makes it perfect? Be precise, but not overbearing. Paint a masterpiece with words.

• Consider implementing more pronouns; it’s distracting how many times Mae’s name appears when it could be a simple “she” instead in a lot of instances.

• But also be careful when using pronouns. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who, or what, is being referred to. Read through to catch places where this occurs.

• At times it’s difficult to differentiate between what’s metaphorically happening, and what’s literally happening. (Was her heart really torn to shreds?)

• Take time—a sentence or two—to introduce each character as soon as they come in. Give us a way to identify them (unique characteristic, a name, etc.) so that we can easily keep track of them.

Judge #4:

I like the character more as time goes on, but at the beginning I don’t really feel very emotionally attached to her. I’ve only barely just met her when she’s suddenly in a very bad situation. I sort of feel like

I’ve come into the story in the middle. Your story seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with the legend of the Jersey Devil, which is probably not the case with many readers. Think about how to address that early on. And is either the master or the servant actually the Jersey Devil? Once she gets caught, that whole thing gets dropped and leaves me wondering.

Great action writing, but the pace seems a little unrealistic. The scene keeps rapidly changing. The beginning in particular moves a little too fast—I’m not really emotionally involved yet in the story when the big action starts. Also, make sure that you read over your story again to check for consistency. For example, when the creature attacks Mae, “a dark blur shot out of the box,” but then a little later “whatever held her was coming out of the box.” Wasn’t it already out of the box? When the story doesn’t quite fit together smoothly, it really distracts the reader from the storyline. There are also pretty frequent grammar and spacing issues (particularly two words that are missing the space between them) that need to be fixed.


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Leftovers Get a Second Chance


Near death experience – these leftovers came back from my culinary morgue better than ever.

One of my worst bad habits in the kitchen is leftovers. Every night I make enough of something new to feed a football team. After dinner the leftovers usually go in the fridge, still in their original pot.

In a week, when I need the pot back, the leftovers often get tossed because no one wants to eat them.

Last night I decided to look at the leftovers. I put them all out on the counter: a bit of homemade pasta sauce, some fried rice, chipolte ranch dip, a quarter of a green pepper and a tube of pizza dough I bought by mistake.

I mixed everything up in the fried rice pot and added some shredded mozzarella cheese, layered it in a small casserole and covered it with the pizza dough. A sprinkle of garlic, cheddar cheese and oregano on the crust completed the experiment.

Twenty minutes in the oven at 350 and I pulled out my “best dinner ever” according to one son. The other judged it, “Mmmmmm… really good!” in between bites.

I saved time and money and got kudos? That’s inspiration enough to me to stop ignoring my leftovers. The best part was there were no leftovers of my leftovers to deal with.

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