Treasure Hunt!

As I posted a few days ago, the first book in the upcoming Sci-Fi Fantasy Leoshine series, Leoshine Princess Oracle, is launching. To celebrate, author N. MacCameron and her friends have ingeniously created this Treasure Hunt to celebrate her book.

If you signed up for the hunt, this is one of the stops on this internet quest!


Welcome to our Famous Canadian Women Internet Treasure Hunt. We’re so glad you’re here to play!

You are doing well! You have signed up at Leoshine’s website and got the key to cracking the code. (If you still need to do that, we’ll hold your place here while you do!)

You have found real treasure – one of ten pictures that represent the name of a famous Canadian woman in the Tassanara script — specially developed by Travis Williams for the Sci Fi/ Fantasy Leoshine, Princess Oracle written by N. MacCameron and due to be released in May.

Your next task is to decipher the script to learn which Famous Canadian Woman you have found. Keep track of each name you decode so you can put it in the form that comes at the end.

You get bonus points if you can say where in Canada this wonderful woman lived(s) and how she contributed to the world as a better place.

Once you find all ten treasures, follow the last link to the answers form.

If the deadline – March 13th 2021 11:59pm MST – comes before you find all of them, send what you have! Prizes will be announced on March 14th 2021.

You could win an audiobook of Leoshine, Princess Oracle by N. MacCameron, an eBook of DiscerningGrace by  Emma Lombard, or a digital background of the map developed by Rachael Ward.

If you play after March 14th 2021, great! There’s a prize for you too! Keep playing through to the end! Thank you for playing! Secret codes are great, aren’t they? By following them, you get treasure! You have fun! You meet new people!

You are amazing! You completed the Treasure Hunt!!! Now go to the Answer Form and fill it out! Claim your bonus now!

A heads-up for fans of Sci-Fi Fantasy Adventure

Is Leoshine a Princess, a Slave, or a Queen?

The first book in the upcoming Leoshine series, Leoshine Princess Oracle, will lead you into the fascinating world created by talented author N. MacCameron.

To find out more about Leoshine, and the launch of this inspiring series, head over to https://leoshine.micandpen.com/ .

There you’ll also find the opportunity to get a free audiobook of another Science Fiction Fantasy Title by N. MacCameron. Hagovi’s Bridge follows the revelation and transformation of a young woman exiled to the end of Time.

To take part in the treasure-hunting fun coming up March 7, 2021,

sign up at https://leoshine.micandpen.com/ .

Review of To See the Moon Again

It’s February, when I usually pick my favorite romance novel of the past year to review.

But this time I’m deviating a bit from Valentine’s Day. This book is not a romance, or a story about a man and a woman. But is a story with a lot of heart, about a friendship between an aunt and her niece.

I love this book. It has strong characters with severe challenges, yet is full of warmth and a moving plot. And the connection with the author whom I so admire made it even more special.

Two women, one older, one younger, nudge each other to have healthier attitudes toward life and themselves. Julia, an introverted professor of fiction writing in South Carolina, is on a year sabbatical, planning a trip to New England to see famous authors’ homes. She definitely did not plan on her grand-niece Carmen disrupting her safe, orderly life. But Carmen is suffering deeply from losing her father, feeling alone, and carrying a secret.

The ending is unexpected and creative, and completely believable. This book was a treat, a typical Jamie Langston Turner book–I didn’t want it to end. Excellent writing, plot, character development, the book is current, relevant, gripping, realistic, satisfying and inspiring.

Of course, being a Jamie Langston Turner fan from wayyyyy back, this is par for the course. I have loved every moment of reading her books. Years ago, I gave away By the Light of a Thousand Stars, a favorite, to my best friend. When I later came across it at a thrift store, I bought it. When my daughter-in-law asked me what my favorite books were, I ended up giving it away again. I’m sure it will get back on my shelf somehow.

I am thankful that of the making of both friends and books, there is no end.

Sheila J Petre

I wondered if there were any of her books I hadn’t read yet. So I went to the author’s website (where I found the lovely quote above, and today found a humorous update by the author). I was surprised to find out that there were several that had eluded me, and was delighted at the prospect of reading more.

On the page that listed her works, I saw a little note saying that she still had several signed copies of To See the Moon Again, and if anyone wanted one they could send her a message. Yes, please! But I checked the date of the post and it was 2014. Well, there was little chance that there were any copies left, but I sent a message anyway.

The author immediately responded that she had one more, so it must have been meant for me! We sorted out how I could send her a cheque and she could mail me the book. What a privilege and a joy to have a personal connection with her! Corresponding with Jamie was as delightful as reading one of her books, full of warmth and friendship.

As we emailed back and forth, talking about how much it cost her to mail it at her local post office–and the exchange rate from U.S. dollars to Canadian–she decided that I had definitely sent her too much money. So the solution we arrived at was that if I was ever anywhere near where Jamie lived (or if she was near Calgary), she would treat me to coffee! (It hasn’t happened yet, but I still look forward to that!)

When I checked my local library, I saw that they had 2 of hers, Sometimes a Light Surprises and By the Light of a Thousand Stars. So I decided to recommend that they consider adding To See the Moon Again to their collection–and they did!!!

Let me encourage you, if you haven’t already discovered Jamie Langston Turner and her beautiful books, now is the time to do so! They were made “for such as time as this”.

Love and hugs, I hope you are well and safe, finding connections of all sorts to buoy you up, and realizing how much you are loved!

[Clipart courtesy of Clipart-Library.com]

Nature Break

Hi everybody, since it’s the middle of the winter,

and the world is STILL not back to normal,

here is a little “nature break” video for you – with chill music!

It’s a collection of pictures and videos I took in the neighborhood park, most in 2020.

I hope it gives you that “Ahhhh” feeling.

And especially for you, my fellow Albertans, enjoy some colors (besides white!) …and remember that those “Extreme Cold Warning” emergency alerts on our phones will one day be a thing of the past!

Here’s the link again: https://youtu.be/zKykIjbUrkY

Sit back, take a few deep breaths, relax and enjoy the gorgeous music, “Teth”, courtesy of

Angelo God’s Minstrel

on Shazam,
on Jamendo,
and YouTube.

A HUGE thank you for your generosity!

Ready for a break from all the negativity? Check out these books

Life, the news, the media, and even books can get us down. But being selective about what we see, hear, and think about can put us in a better mental state.

Here is a selection of books I’ve read recently from various time periods and genres, non-fiction and fiction, ranging from suspenseful to educational to romantic to hilarious.

What they all have in common is EXCELLENT writing, and they are NOT depressing. Have a look, maybe you’ll find a new author or title!

When you look like your Passport Photo, it’s time to go Home by Erma Bombeck – a collection of humorous travel anecdotes. I found this the perfect book for bedtime reading!

The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People With Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine – a welcome book, helping to understand a frustrating tendency that moi can relate to! (For fun, to see if you are a Renaissance soul, you can take the quiz here.)

Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop Talking by Susan Cain – very interesting and encouraging if you’re an introvert, with plenty of data from studies and statistics.

Carousel by Rosamunde Pilcher – a lovely, warm book, I couldn’t stand that it ended. A woman goes to help her aunt who broke her arm, and ends up becoming part of her aunt’s community. The neighbor’s little granddaughter connects them with a local artist who takes an interest in the newcomer.

Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray – owners of flower shops take a liking to each other, but their families’ vicious rivalries go back many generations. Warm, funny, sweet, and an unexpected ending.

My One and Only by Kristan Higgins – fantastic! This was recommended by a volunteer at a book sale when I told her I was looking for a well-written romantic comedy. A woman’s step sister marries her ex-husband’s brother, and the woman and her ex-husband have no choice but to go on a road trip from New York to Montana and back.

Marcia Schuyler by Grace Livingston Hill – an original plot and conflicts, expert revelation of deep emotions, and the vivid contrast between characters made it suspenseful and satisfying. You can read or download this book here for free.

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton, Christy Award-winning author – in this Christian historical novel set in 1774, an American Indian woman and a woman settler bring about cultural changes as they struggle over the boy they both consider their son.

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy – four tourists vacation in the tiny seaside town of Aghia Anna, Greece, and develop friendships among themselves and the locals. Each has something they are grappling with, or running away from, in their lives. After several weeks in the warm, quiet, simple, technology-free environment, they have made some decisions and found peace. A lovely setting and story; gentle thoughts and conversations, reconciliations, revelations, new strength and hope.

The Best short stories of O. Henry – O. Henry is William Sydney Porter, an amazingly prolific writer of gentle stories with brilliant scenarios. When he died in 1910 he left over 600 complete stories behind—can you imagine? My favorites were: A Retrieved Reformation, A Municipal report, The Gift of the Magi, Mammon and the Archer, The Cop and the Anthem, and The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein. Thanks to the American Literature website, these stories and many more are here , if you’d like to read them!

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – I’d been meaning to read this for a long time. What finally brought it about is that I found the DVD of the movie with Spencer Tracy, but didn’t want to watch it before reading the novel. I read this little book about Santiago (the old man, the fisherman) in about 3 hours. What a man, such courage and determination; such exhaustion! I hope you’ll find time this year to treat yourself to the unique experience of reading this Pulitzer Prize-winning book. It is a classic, and available to read for free online.

Now we are Six by A.A. Milne – such sweet, quiet poetry with fun words and rhythm. My favorites are “The old Sailor” who can’t decide what to do first, and “Forgiven” in which the nanny accidentally lets the beetle out of the matchbox. You can read or download this book for free here.

To See the Moon Again by Jamie Langston Turner – A literary novel, two women, one older, one younger, nudge each other to have healthier attitudes toward life and themselves. Excellent writing, plot, character development, the book is current, relevant, gripping, realistic, satisfying and inspiring. I actually contacted the author about this book and she sent a signed copy to me!

Show me God by Fred Hereen – the author interviews many well-known scientists who, through the latest scientific tools and knowledge, find it hard not to believe in creation. It’s fascinating how much the studies of astronomy and astrophysics have developed over the recent years, to the point of being able to measure or closely estimate the realities of our universe.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer – a humorous Regency romance. I got a kick out of how the very arrogant, take-charge hero broke character and actually acquiesced to the pleadings of Frederica’s very young brothers, taking them on “field trips” regarding mechanical engineering & horse handling, and assisted them with the many crises their oversized sheepdog created. The ending was a twist for this type of novel.

A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder by Gary Greenberg – gorgeous photos and studies of sand from various parts of the world using 3D microphotography, showing tiny bits of sea urchins, shells, coral, within the sand grains. Amazing.

A Bride in the Bargain by Deanne Gist – an excellent Christian historical novel. Anna in Massachusetts signs a contract to be a cook for a logging company in Washington state. When she arrives she finds out her boss, Joe, had signed a contract for her to be his wife (so he wouldn’t lose his property and logging business). Enjoyed everything about it: plot, characters, and history.

Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson – what fun! These are a collection of columns he wrote for a magazine about the American way of life, humorously self-effacing, often criticizing, but in a way that is usually good-hearted and hilarious. I seriously laughed ’til I cried.

Romance Rustlers and Thunderbird Thieves: a Ruby Taylor Mystery by Sharon Dunn – an amusing page-turner. Ruby is a self-appointed investigator with a dry, deadpan sense of humor (I saw and heard the actress Janeane Garofalo as I was reading). She has no interest in her mother’s new-found Christianity, and nurses wounds from a childhood and youth ruined by her criminal parents and foster homes. Ruby gets thrown into a mess of an adventure, including a kidnapping, a gorgeous cop, and a harrowing event with a helicopter.

The Forever Feast by Dr. Paul Brand – the author contributed extensively to the medical fields of hand surgery and hand therapy for leprosy patients. Interesting reading about his intricate knowledge of the human body, so much more miraculous than we’ve ever dreamed. You can read this online here.

Howards End by E.M. Forster – the classic novel about a middle-class intellectual, artistic family connecting with a staid family of wealth who own a rural home called Howards End. Aside from more philosophizing than I care for, I especially loved the story of how two patient, quiet characters–each from opposite “sides” of the family–were able to redeem a seemingly hopeless legacy of embattled, incompatible and discordant relationships.

My Lady Quixote by Phyllis Ann Karr – twists and turns and comedy. Aunt Cassandra–in an effort to help her niece Deirdre make a “match” with Rev. George Oakton, and avoid the arranged marriage with a rake–decides that the solution is to have Deirdre abducted. The idea is that when Sir Roderick, Auntie’s friend who is secretly a highwayman, abducts young Deirdre, Rev. Oakton will rescue her, realize he loves her, and marry her before the rake can interfere. But alas, most of her strategies fail thoroughly, catastrophically and hilariously.

Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake. Set in 1890 New York, Lady Sydney Hathwell of England is pledged to the overly-chauvinistic (even for that time) Rexall Hume. She escapes life with him by dressing up as a man and heading west to stay with Uncle Fuller, who she led to believe is his “nephew”. Original believable plotline, and wholesome!

The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson – a thrilling adventure set in medieval England with young Richard Shelton, fellow orphan Joanna Sedley, and a mysterious outlaw/ally identified by his black arrows. I am stunned that I couldn’t put this book down, since most of it consisted of one escapade after another of the inexperienced hero and his ragged band fighting, fleeing or stalking myriads of others (in a little too much gory detail for me!). But throughout the tale, he never stops his quest of freeing his one true love, who is the complete opposite of the helpless female so common in novels written in 1883. He is such a decent, incredibly courageous, intelligent young man, and humble, making reparation as best he can when he makes mistakes that bring harm to others. So suspenseful. Happy ending.

So there you go. I hope you find some reading materials–here, or elsewhere–that genuinely elevate your mind and spirit.

If you particularly enjoyed reading one of these I hope you’ll share the experience with us in the comments!

Review of The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

“The book, the dear, enlivening, enchanting, stimulating, informing, uplifting book, is the most faithful of all allies, and, after human friendship, the chief solace as well as the most inspiring influence in human life.”

Kate Douglas Wiggin

What a dear book this is! The Birds’ Christmas Carol is about a family who stays cheerful, strong, industrious and generous, even amid sad circumstances that require constant sacrifice.

One reason I picked this up was because I was familiar with the author, who is best known for her book Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Another reason was because I thought this book had to do with feathered friends! I imagined a delightful story about birds singing in snow-covered pines during the holiday season. But actually it is about a girl named Carol born on Christmas Day into a family with the last name of Bird.

From childhood, little Carol had a sparkling personality, always finding ways to share whatever she had, help other people, compliment them and encourage them. When her brother wondered aloud why she wouldn’t take a bite of food until she’d given some of it away, their mother said, “She is a little Christmas child, and so she has a tiny share of the blessedest birthday the world ever saw!”

As she’d grown older, Carol had “wished everybody a Merry Christmas before it was light in the morning, and lent everyone her new toys before noon.”

She had never been physically strong, and by age 10 she was a helpless invalid, yet that didn’t dampen her spirits. Since she had to spend all of her time in her room, her father renovated it so that it was a conservatory full of windows.

She had the company of birds in cages, and hundreds of books which Carol turned into her own circulating library. Every Saturday she loaned ten books to the children’s hospital, and the patients who read her books would write letters to her to thank her.

In warm-weather Carol had a “window school” where she read to the poor neighbors next door, the Ruggles. She was so contented she called herself a “Bird of Paradise”.

Carol wrote a magazine article about living in her own room for three years, and what she did to amuse herself. With the money she earned from the article, she decided to treat the nine Ruggles children to something they had never before experienced: a grand Christmas dinner—in her own room! She paid for the food and decorations, a Christmas tree and presents.

According to my book, The Birds’ Christmas Carol was first published in 1895. However, on further research, I discovered that it was originally published privately in 1886 by the American author, and copyright in 1888 by Houghton, Mifflin Company, U.S.

My copy of this little 72-page book was published by A. & C. Black Ltd., London, in 1929, and illustrated by Francis E. Hiley, an extremely prolific and popular self-taught artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

When I read the inscription, I thought, “Auntie Kate Douglas Wiggin? Did the author give the copy I am holding in my hand to her nieces?” But that isn’t possible, as the author had been born in 1856 and died in 1923.

According to her autobiography, Wiggin described her childhood as happy. But at the age of 9, her country grieved over the death of Abraham Lincoln. She described this event as her “first conscious recognition of the greatness of individual character.” It no doubt helped her form fictional children and adults in her books who developed great character struggling with tragedies.

Another influence was undoubtedly the books she read. Her favorite author was Charles Dickens, and she also read Harper’s Magazine and Littell’s Living Age, the Bible, and the most popular great novels of the era.

She dedicated this book “To all lovers of little children”, which clearly included the author. In 1878 at the age of 22—before marrying Samuel Wiggin—Kate Douglas Smith headed the Silver Street Kindergarten in San Francisco—the first free kindergarten on the West Coast of the United States. She is also credited with leading the kindergarten education movement in the United States. In fact, she wrote this little book and another, The Story of Patsy, to help fund the California Kindergarten Training School, which she helped establish.

Translated into several other languages, The Birds’ Christmas Carol sold over a million copies and remains in print. This little book was so successful, it allowed Kate Wiggin to become a full-time author and to travel extensively in Europe.

I found it interesting when I read references to the toys of that era: “So Donald took his velocipede and went out to ride up and down the stone pavement, and notch the shins of innocent children as they passed by, while Paul spun his musical top on the front steps.” A velocipede is one of the earliest forms of bicycles for children and adults—without pedals—and the musical top is a classic toy available even today.

The Birds’ Christmas Carol is the most famous of all American Christmas stories; here, if anywhere in the collection, we have Victorian tearfulness; but age has its privileges, and Americans have wept too often over this tale to decline to weep once again.”

editor Edward Wagenknecht in The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories

You can read this illustrated book online for free at Gutenberg.org.

I was delighted to discover many more delightful works by this author. One short piece, written about a surprise meeting at the age of 6 with her beloved Charles Dickens, is a must-read, here.

There are 48 of her books and short stories at Gutenberg.org, available in many formats, including the work that sold more copies than any other book (other than Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Birds’ Christmas Carol), Mother Carey’s Chickens.

Also at Gutenberg.org are two more Christmas stories by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin: The Romance of a Christmas Card and The Old Peabody Pew.

Enjoy!

And Happy New Year!

Image courtesy of Susan Cipriano susan-lu4esm at Pixabay

A Spiritual Rest during the Holidays

“Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world hath suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not the love song which they bring:

O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.”

from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by Edmund Sears

Woes, sin, suffering, years of wrongdoing, war, strife… it seems like I’ve been hearing more of those words than usual these past few years.

So here we are in the end of the year “holiday”. But is it possible to find rest with our spirit so weary from life around us?

Many of the original holidays were holy-days, a time to focus on the spiritual health of individuals, a community or nation. They were intended as an opportunity to put the day-to-day work on hold, in order to have time to intentionally celebrate or remember significant spiritual principles or events.

What about now? Are spiritual matters that important these days?

DCF 1.0

I think so. I believe that we live eternally as a spirit, we have a soul, and we dwell in a body.

It’s easy and natural to focus on the physical and mental parts of our lives. I think that’s because they are, for the most part, visible and tangible. The spiritual side is intangible, however. And intangible may mean hard it’s hard to grasp its significance.

It might be that our spirit just doesn’t make as much noise, so we need some inner quiet to hear it.

What brought this to my attention was really listening to the lyrics of some classic Christmas songs. In them I heard a longing for relief from the powers of evil, from guilt, and from the tendency to sin, to go astray from what is right. And I also heard words of joy and peace coming to hearts of those who had found spiritual hope or rest.

Here are a few examples:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til he appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices…” (from “O Holy Night”)

“Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made heaven and earth of naught, and with his blood mankind hath bought” (from “The First Noel”)

“Fear not then”, said the Angel, “Let nothing you affright… this day is born a savior… To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might…Oh tidings of comfort and joy!” (from “God rest ye Merry Gentlemen”)

“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love!” (from “Joy to the World”)

We need those things: goodness, light, a savior, mercy, a feeling of worth, reconciliation, fearlessness, deliverance, blessings, truth, grace, love. And when we can’t depend on our physical or mental powers, or mankind, scientists or governments to give them to us, we need to look at the spiritual, the divine.

I know it helps me immensely to focus my mind on spiritual good news. My spiritual beliefs center on Jesus, who created this beautiful world and everything in it, is the highest authority and power, paid the sin-debt I owed, and walks with me through life. What a relief for my conscience, and peace for each day. Now that is tidings of comfort and joy!

This holiday, especially after the strain of 2020, I hope you will find a quiet time to attend to your spirit, get out in nature, talk to God, hear his voice, and respond to Him.

And I wish you a healthy and happy New Year in 2021!

Building a Writing Routine one Minute at a Time

For those of you who are writers out there, I am curious, do you actually have a routine that helps you be productive with your writing?

If not, is it because you don’t feel the need for a routine since you are consistently productive without one? Or did you try to establish some kind of regular schedule or goal-setting and it just didn’t work?

Routines?! Ugh

Personally, I have rebelled against routines all my life. I’m not sure why. Maybe they seem to remove the creativity and novelty from life. Or maybe they make life too predictable, and I’ve always loved surprises, unique experiences and new possibilities.

But now that I’m older, I appreciate how routines simplify life and make room for what is most important to me, things like family, friends, and writing. I’m even trying to establish a routine for meal planning! Unbelievable.

I’ve finally realized that I need a writing routine because it’s still not working to “get everything done on my To Do List and then write.” (I know people say it’s impossible to get everything done on your To Do List, but I don’t understand why, so I’m still trying to.)

A To Do List seems to act just like Facebook’s news feed: when you get to the bottom, it magically adds a whole ton more, so you can never, EVER finish reading your news feed. And it feels like for every item I cross off my List, five or ten items magically appear at the bottom.

The one minute a day challenge

In my last post I mentioned writing courses, and how helpful the Reedsy courses were. In one of the lessons of “Stop Procrastinating! Build a Solid Writing Routine,” they go through some ways of setting goals that will make it easy to establish a habit of writing regularly. One tip mentions having a tiny goal.

Oh sure, I thought. I can’t wait to see what they consider a “tiny” goal. With my schedule, I doubt if I can find the time to write even 100 words that are intelligent and meaningful EVERY SINGLE DAY.

But what they suggest is considering starting with one minute of writing, or three words. Every day. Until the habit is established, then adding more.

Well, I had to laugh. That just sounded funny, and fun. So I had to try it and see what happened.

(If you are interested, at the end of this post you can see 3 days’ worth of what I came up with, using various writing prompts)

So? Any thoughts? And by the way, if you do have a routine that works for you, will you share it?

I’ll close with a story that gave me a chuckle, about James Joyce, who was apparently a notoriously slow writer:

“A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair. ‘James, what’s wrong?’ the friend asked. ‘Is it the work?’

Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always? ‘How many words did you get today?’ the friend pursued. Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): ‘Seven.’

‘Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.’ ‘Yes,’ Joyce said, finally looking up. ‘I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”

attributed to Stephen King

You might also enjoy this post, “Write Everyday, Right?”

**********************************************************************************

A 3-Day Sample of me attempting to establish a writing routine by writing one minute each day [Unedited!]

Day 1 Writing Prompt from the website Writing Fix: “Create a title for a story using unique alliterative words that begin with A, and write the story”

Adorable Avery arranged the alpacas

The chill of the morning turned little Avery’s short breaths into steam, and, as it bent down to nuzzle the clay bowl of breakfast scraps, Blondie’s breath puffed into Avery’s face. His face only coming up to the llama’s belly, Avery nevertheless barked out his annoyance. “Back! Back! You greedy girl! You’ll be last with such bad manners!” He turned away from the tan animal and squeezed his small body between two black llama’s even larger than Blondie. Setting down the bowl, Avery ducked under the necks of the hungry animals, then climbed between the round posts of the fence.

Giselda, Avery’s mother, watched from the window of their family’s small shack. She smiled, then closed her eyes and raised her face to the sun. “Gracias,” she sighed. She was watching a promise come true.

* * * * *

Day 2 Writing Prompt from the website Writing fix: “tiny pig dashing over the North Pole”

Dear tpdotnp: For crying out loud. It’s been three months. Surely you trust me enough to reveal the mysterious meaning of your username. Greg75

Dear Greg75: Okay. You’re right. I do trust you. Even though you chickened out. Tpdotnp

Dear tpdotnp: You know very well I got stuck in traffic. The four-car pile up? Remember?

Dear Greg75: Just joshin’. What are you doing right now? We could attempt another meeting.

Dear tpdotnp: I’m at work. Supposed to be working, but there are no customers, and my shoulder is still too sore to stock.

Dear Greg75: Sigh.

Dear tpdotnp: Why don’t you come on over?

Dear Greg75: Are you kidding?

Dear tpdotnp: No.

Dear Greg75: Give me the address and instructions on how to get there.

Dear tpdotnp: Black’s Photo in Southcentre.

Dear Greg75: See you in about forty-five minutes.

Delsie knew that Southcentre Mall was only fifteen minutes away. But she wanted to spy.

* * * * *

Day 3 Writing Prompt from the book, Writer’s Book of Matches, p.32 “What time is the next train?”

A man dressed in a suit and groomed sharply stood behind the yellow band of the light rail station, awaiting the train. Motionless, he stared down at the concrete beneath the steel rails for a minute without seeming to breathe or blink. It was 6:45 and the sun shined benevolently on this tardy friend, who was expected at a restaurant near his home, an hour’s train ride away. He inhaled deeply, silently releasing the breath. His expression wasn’t angry or sad; just thoughtful. Or neutral, without any thoughts. Or overwhelmed, with a crisis or a whirlwind of ideas creating noise in his head. Certainly he was oblivious to the sounds and people that came and went around him.

He looked tired now. Had it been the outburst of tears from the little girl who tripped going up the stairs to the parking lot? Clenching his jaw, he’d only glanced backward at her for a second before returning his gaze to the tracks. Was he willing the tracks to hum with the approaching train? Or did he even care if the train came? Did he care if he made it to the restaurant? Did he care if he saw his friends?

* * * * *

Okay, now that you’ve read some of my attempts, care to share one of your short writing practices in the comments section? Aww, come on…

Image courtesy of Pxfuel, https://www.pxfuel.com/en/free-photo-qzlak

Worthwhile Online Writing Classes

The amount of internet resources for writers is inspiring, but it can be hard to know which ones are the most helpful. Here are some discoveries I’ve made from my recent searches for writing classes.

First, as you probably already know, anyone looking for resources needs to have specific needs and goals in mind. “Unfortunately”, I can usually see the potential of almost any new information I come across as I bounce down rabbit trails, so I find it hard to keep my focus. (Which isn’t completely a bad thing, I guess, since the whole experience is educational, and then I can share it with you!)

I love to learn, take courses and challenge myself, so looking for learning opportunities for me is like a being a kid in a candy shop. And when I am in a candy shop, it’s pretty easy to choose what I want. All I have to do is look for brown. Brown means chocolate, and I have very little use for any candy that isn’t chocolate.

It was pretty simple to choose courses, too, in a process of elimination. I didn’t want to take any classes in person, or as part of a college curriculum. Nor did I want to be restricted by any online courses that had very specific attendance or completion times, especially since the ones I ran across were usually evening courses. I love getting instructor feedback, but at this particular time it wasn’t a priority.

I also avoided online courses that required socializing with classmates online. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love people and visiting with them! But when I’m focused on learning a new skill from an expert, I don’t find it helpful to spend significant amounts of time with my fellow learners. I prefer (what I’m calling) the traditional model of education–tell me what I need to know, give me examples, let me try my hand at it, tell me what I did wrong, let me try again. It seems more efficient to me.

I needed a short course to help me identify what skills I most needed to work on, rather than a course spread over several months or a year. So once I decided on self-guided courses, rather than reading documents, my first choice was video courses.

Then to further narrow down the search, I decided to start with recent recommendations by other bloggers to see which online platforms and websites kept coming up, and this website was one of the most helpful. I liked the way the author offered categories of writing classes, like “Best Course for Writing Creative Non-fiction”. So I concentrated my efforts on MasterClass, Udemy and Reedsy.

I started by visiting each of these to get more information on what courses they offered, and what they cost. I’d seen a MasterClass ad on YouTube with a writing class (Joyce Carol Oates!) that made me salivate, and was surprised to find that they are actually affordable! So I put MasterClass in my back pocket while I searched the others. (I need to pit them against each other before I make a decision.)

Since I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to writing until recently, I am looking to brush up on my plotting and editing skills, and to get help in motivating myself to re-establish a writing routine. (Aargh! “Routine” is not one of my favorite things!)

In the end, I actually signed up for classes with Udemy and Reedsy, who have the specific courses I want, and some were an excellent price, FREE! (I usually start with free or low-cost anything, and then if that doesn’t get me what I need, I pay. And if the price isn’t right, I do without!)

I am quite happy with both Udemy and Reedsy, and recommend them. I love the variety they offer, so I can focus very specifically on what I want to learn.

Now, you need to know that Reedsy isn’t a course platform, it’s an author services organization based in the UK. And the courses are not on video. But they connected me to three courses I was interested in:

How to Stop Talking About Writing a Book and Actually Start Doing It (in my case it was how to stop thinking about writing a book…)

Stop Procrastinating! Build a Solid Writing Routine

Novel Revision: Understanding the Craft

And they are teaching me what I want to know!

Then, I took my time researching Udemy courses, checking on:

  • the background of the instructors
  • how many hours of video content were included.
  • how much additional material was available for download
  • the content and ratings of students’ reviews
  • how many people had taken the courses (I shied away from the ones with less than several thousand students who had taken their course), and
  • how many ratings they had
  • how old the course was, and
  • watching some of the free lessons in the courses to see how the instructors deliver their lessons (immensely helpful!)

I love that they provide all the stats, ratings and comments on their courses up front! I find that Udemy has frequent sales where they discount courses by about 75%. Both of the times I searched for courses, they had amazing prices. Of the ones I purchased, the original prices were around $70-$100 for the courses, and after discounts I paid about $15-$18 (Canadian dollars). As a result, I signed up for more courses than I had time for, so I have only started one of them, which is going well.

These are the writing courses I have purchased (or signed up for, for free) from Udemy:

Starting to Write

Short story masterclass: learn from a prizewinning author!

The Easy Way to Write Short Stories that Sell

Get Your Fiction Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper

Editing Mastery: How To Edit Writing To Perfection

I’ve still got that MasterClass dream class in my back pocket. One day I’ll treat myself to it. In the meantime, these will get me closer to my writing goals without monopolizing my time.

Have a look online! I’m sure you’ll find something that will increase your writing skills, productivity, or enjoyment! I’d love to hear about it if you do.

Have you taken online writing courses? Do you have any recommendations of other online course platforms? Do share!

Online course/computer image courtesy of PxFuel.com – thanks!

Hedgerow Tales, Mrs. Gatty’s Parables of Nature

Of all the revived, republished classic books available, the 4 Hedgerow Tales are my favorites.

These were ahead of their time, “retold” back in the 1980s, forerunners of the latest trend. The illustrations by Sandra Fernandez are exquisite and appear on almost every page. (Note that these Hedgerow Tales are not related to Enid Blyton’s Hedgerow Tales.)

From the cover, they appear to be children’s picture books, which usually have few words. But these are fairly lengthy stories.

And as the author was schooled in the early 1800s when students were required to demonstrate an excellent vocabulary and use of language, these have more depth in the plot and a richer language than a typical picture book.  In fact, you’d probably need to read it aloud to children under 8.

The story of Charlotte the Caterpillar is about hope, faith and eternal life. Just as Charlotte learns faith from the lark’s wise words, to have faith is to be sure of things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.

The theme of Benjamin Bee is contentment, and a willingness to use the particular gifts God has given us so that the whole community (in this case, the hive) works together.

The story of Robin Redbreast is about God’s provision for those who trust him, even in difficult times.

The theme of Jeremy Cricket is “the heart’s true home–heaven. “This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

In the Hedgerow Tales, Pat Wynnejones retells 4 of the 29 stories from the 1855 book by Margaret Gatty, Parables of Nature.

Mrs. Gatty begins her preface to her collection of stories, Parables from Nature, with a quote from Sir Thomas Browne from his Religio Medici:

There are two books from whence I collect my divinity; besides that written one of God, another of his servant, Nature–that universal and public manuscript that lies expanded unto the eyes of all: those that never saw Him in the one have discovered Him in the other… Those strange and mystical transmigrations that I have observed in silkworms turned my philosophy into divinity. There is in these works of Nature, which seem to puzzle reason, something divine…

Mrs. Gatty was also a marine biologist.

She was well known among professional marine biologists and had several species named after her! The book she wrote in the mid-1850s, British Seaweeds, was of such high quality it was still being used in the 1950’s.

One account of her life says, “To be treated as an equal by men of science gave her a pleasure as great as any of her achievements in the literary world.” It also tells how a memorial tablet in Ecclesfield Church was raised by a public subscription by more than a thousand children ‘as a token of love and gratitude for the many books she wrote for them.’

Publishing timeline of Margaret Gatty’s books

Here is an interesting graphic from WorldCat of her publishing timeline. I love seeing how interest in her books has increased since the turn of the (21st) century!

An interesting side note is that Margaret Gatty’s daughter, Juliana Ewing, was also an accomplished writer, and lived for a time in Canada. Rudyard Kipling mentioned Juliana in his autobiography, and Henry James called her book Jackanapes “a genuine little masterpiece, a wonderful little mixture of nature and art.”

I think it’s delightful that so many homeschooling families use the classics as part of their teaching materials. AmblesideOnline, a free homeschool curriculum, includes a rephrased version of Parables of Nature here.

You can read the 450-word Parables of Nature book for free!

You can buy the four individual Hedgerow Tales books from Better World Books. I like this online bookstore because they have great service and low prices (with no shipping cost–including international shipping!). I’m partial to them because of their values and impact .”Every time you purchase a book from BetterWorldBooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”

You can read Parables of Nature online here , download it free to read in various formats at Internet Archive, and download the audio book at LibriVox .

Treat yourself and your family to feel-good, inspirational stories and visual feast of realistic, vibrant art!

I’d love to hear if you’ve read these, or anything like them–drop me a note below!   {{{HUGS}}}