Friday, December 7, 2012

My Friend Evie

Hurricane Sandy did a number on my house: the largest tree in my woods fell on it costing my insurance approximately $200,000 in damages.  I want to thank and recommend Erie Insurance for being so concerned about me and my place; they couldn't have been better to deal with nor more accommodating.
I also want to thank Stellar Construction and, in particular, Tony Stellar, for his and his crew's timely response, as well as Brian, the general contractor lining up all the sub-contractors and workers in a timely manner, from taking the tulip polar tree off the house and getting the second story re-framed, roofed, shingled, dry walled, and spackled.   Dave is upstairs right now putting on the second coat of spackle on the ceilings over three bedrooms, the bath, and the staircase.  Yep, the tree caved in my whole upper story.

As if the hurricane hadn't caused enough misery, my favorite cat, Evelyn--Evie--suddenly went missing.  Evie is my feline house companion and has kept me company on many a lonely night.  She also watches "Family Guy," "Wipeout," and "Impractical Jokers," an absolutely hysterical show on Tru TV, with me in bed nearly every night.

Two days ago I had last seen Evie looking at me, her eyes wide, from the living room.  Evie is a shy girl, and silly and not-so-silly things scare her.  She is like a lot of us humans: when we get upset, we often don't use our heads.  Seeing all these strangers in her house and hearing them hammering, yelling, and spraying insulation into the second story must've sent her off her little feline rocker.  Late that evening when I noticed her absence, I called through the house: no Evie.  Perhaps, I thought, she had run outside as the men were carrying in the dry wall.  I had had to close the doors several times after them, so the distinct possibility existed that she could have escaped to the outside.  I called outside, but she didn't come.  I still thought that she was hiding somewhere in the house, but if she was outside, I hoped she would find a half-decently warm place--perhaps the barn--to spend the night and come back in the morning.

The next day I checked all the rooms and closets in the house: she was nowhere inside.  So, I began my search outdoors.  I trekked through the woods, the nearby fields, down to the barn across the street, and down to the neighboring woods: no Evie.  During my search, I imagined all kinds of  horrific things happening to my favorite cat: coyotes got her, she struggled in a trap, she ran and became lost in the hundreds of acres of fields surrounding my woods.  The horrific images crawled through my head like a nasty ticker tape.  By the end of the day, I was exhausted, having checked everywhere imaginable, including the basement for the fourth time.  One thing I knew for sure: she wasn't in the house, and she wasn't in my woods.

My little friend Evie was gone.

Last night the space on the bed comforter where Evie belonged was eerily empty.  Tears dribbled down my face as I imagined life without my black long-haired buddy.  This morning I dressed and went downstairs, opening the front door to the deck where, when Evie tired of playing outdoors, she always stood ready to come inside.  No Evie.  I called, and a few other barn cats ran to the door, but Evie wasn't among them.

Later this morning while Dave the spackler was spreading his stuff on the dry wall, he overheard my telling my agent and publisher about losing my best friend: my cat was missing and feared dead.  When I got off the phone, he mentioned that yesterday the dry wallers said they saw a cat run into the access hole leading to the crawl space above the dining and living room.  They had meant to tell me but forgot.  I ran upstairs, pried open the hole, and Dave shown his light around the sea of white insulation which they had re-sprayed yesterday.

There, in a far corner, two black ears peeked out of the insulation.  They belonged to Evie!

Dave tried to hold me back from going right in there and trampling down the insulation to get to her.  He recommended I let the access door open in the hope that she would eventually come out.  But I knew she was scared, and while I had her in sight, I wanted to get her before she disappeared again.  But this time I listened to the advice--sort of.  I leaned into the attic space covered with the ocean of insulation and called softly to my feline friend.  After several minutes of coaxing and rattling a cat food can, she began to walk along the back edge of the attic space.  In another moment I had her in my arms.  I guess she wondered why I was hugging her so tightly.

Then I brought her downstairs, fed and watered her, and she walked calmly away, cottony insulation clinging to her shiny black fur.

I was so happy I didn't know what to do with myself.  For sure I thought she was dead, hung up in an awful animal trap or eaten by a pack of coyotes.  I had had my most precious Christmas gift delivered early, for sure.  And, then, as I got used to the idea of having my Evie back home safely with me, I thought about the horrible death she would have suffered had Dave the spackler not told me about the dry wallers' conversation yesterday.  She would have starved to death up there: cold, without water or food, locked and withering away in that crawl space--one long day after long day and one long night after long night.

Thank goodness Dave overheard my conversation with my agent and publisher.  Thank goodness Dave cared enough to tell me about my cat.

Thank goodness a Christmas angel was watching over Evie.

And me.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beware the Brown Recluse

I have always loved all animals, from the most innocent kitten to even having a deep admiration for the Great White Shark.  And though I’ll never ever see a Tibetan snow leopard in my lifetime, I can appreciate its mystique, its ability to elude capture by the most avid, paparazzi wildlife experts.  Ever witness via TV, newspapers, or personal experience to the atrocities man and womankind have perpetrated against others of the Earth’s creatures, those not of homosapien origin, I reserve respect, tolerance, and, yes, love for these animals who prevail despite human annoyance.  Though admitting to killing a few mosquitoes and flies in my lifetime, I cannot exterminate a stinkbug, the alien-spaceship-looking insect that commits, with a Br-r-r-r-r-r, Br-r-r-r-r-r, Br-r-r-r-r-r, its kamikaze flight into my wall at night.  Indeed, I have held nothing against snakes, beetles, or spiders--until now.  I may need therapy: I am in deathly fear of a particular spider—one I have never met or ever care to—a brown recluse spider. 
            Never in a hundred years would I have ever thought I’d be intimindated by a member of the Arachnid family, having always laughed and mocked girlfriends and guy friends who cringed at sight of an innocuous bug. What fun I had making them feel silly that a human of 150-some pounds could fear an insect weighing a million times less than they did.  And to prove my fearlessness, I would pick up the daddy-long-legger in the palm of my hand, as my friend scream-ran into the next room, and place him outside in a safe place so that my cats wouldn’t find him.  I was protective of spiders whose ilk was bearing the burden of being a pox on nature.
            In the last week, however, I must break out of my web of affection for all things eight-legged.  I do now fear for my life a creature I have never seen or been bitten by.  It haunts my dreams, interrupts my farm work with possible visions of its clandestine workings in a barn corner, grinds my calm to a screeching halt whenever I walk into a common spider web while walking my woods.  This Arachnid, my experience with which has only been through an acquaintance, now holds my bravery towards all things insectile, hostage.  Visions of a recluse spider crawling stealthily from under my boxspring at night, its hairy jaws flapping and salivating, honing in on what surely to him must look like a tasty morsel--my rump—interrupt my sleep.  I lie awake like Poe’s paranoid narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” listening, fearing the inevitable, ready to tear up the floorboards to finally expose, not my guilt, but a murderously-poisonous monster.
            My fear has no real base, I readily admit, but my life has been impacted by a bite to a worker who was scheduled to take down a dead, sixty-foot tree that would surely come down on my house in the next thunderstorm or blizzard.  The man dropped his “bucket truck” on my property two weekends ago in anticipation of beginning the tree removal the following Monday.  But that Monday Joe never showed, his truck, with a boom and a wood-chipper attached, loomed large and ominous in my front yard. 
            By Wednesday afternoon I phoned him to see what was the matter.  He told me the news in a dead-serious voice: he had been bitten by a brown recluse spider one night while he slept on his pillows.
            “A spider?!” I marveled, ready to laugh.  “You’re not taking down my tree because a spider bit you!” 
            Joe said, “I’m afraid so.  Listen, I am in agony—can hardly even walk!  A week ago I was bit.  I didn’t think much of it—sort of like a glorified mosquito bite.  I’ve been putting over-the-counter stuff on it for all this time, but it’s been getting worse and worse.   I ended up in the emergency room last night!  Right now I have a red, swollen welt on my shoulder, and it hurts like hell.  I have a fever, am a bit nauseous.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t come out there to cut down your tree.  I’m on antibiotics and some other shot a doctor gave me.  And I’m telling everyone I meet to google “brown recluse spider” because these bastards are out in force, only coming out at night when you’re sleeping.  Did you know their bite can kill you, especially if you’re old or are a kid and if you have a weakened immune system.  I’m a strapping guy, so it should go away with all these meds I’m taking, but others need to look out.  This is one nasty spider; it’s a predator, and it takes no survivors.”
            Joe’s voice shaked as he clarified the recluse’s portrait: fiddle shape behind the head, long, choppy jaws—“All the better for eating you, Honey”—long front legs spread out to the size of a silver dollar.  He continued, “They come inside during the fall and take up in cluttered corners of the house.  Their web is not nice and symmetrical, like some spiders’, but it looks more like a cobweb.  Even their web is nasty-looking!”
            I cringed, worried that one could be taking up residence under my bed.  Other than that, I had little clutter around my place.  Still, if a brown recluse wanted a piece of me, he’d be able to find a suitable hideout, I was sure.
            “Seriously,” Joe said, “I’ve never had so much pain in my life.  I’m telling everyone I meet to get insect killer and spray it all around the house—outside and inside.  This spider can kill people, especially if it bites close to the heart.  And I’m not the only one who’s been bitten by a brown recluse lately—seems everyone I meet has been bitten, especially lately.  They’re out in force!  I’m advising you to call an exterminator and have him treat your whole house for brown recluses.  Trust me: you don’t want to get bitten by one.  This is the worst pain I’ve felt in my life!”
            I commiserated with Joe for awhile, wished him luck in healing up his spider wound, and hung up the phone, glancing into every corner in the office in search of a cobwebby spider house.  I saw none, but it didn’t make me feel any safer.  The bedroom would need a careful inspection, too.
            For another week Joe’s tree-cutting truck sat, a continual specter, before my house.  Every morning I expected to see Joe drive up in his car, wave, and get out his chainsaw, but he never came.  So, after the week had passed, I called him again—to make sure he was still alive.
            A weak voice answered, “Hell-o-o-o.”
            “Joe, is that you?” I said.
            “Yes, it’s me.”
            “You sound awful.”
            “I am worse.  I went to the emergency room again last night, and they switched the antibiotics.  You should see the spider bite.  It’s raised up about a half inch, it’s black, like it’s dead tissue underneath, and there’s a huge red ring around it, too.  I feel just awful—am really sorry that I haven’t been able to get to your tree.  But I just can’t.  I can’t move my shoulder, let alone climb a tree and use a chainsaw.  This bite really has me worried.  If I’d have been old, I’d be dead from it by now.  Did you get your house sprayed for spiders yet?”
            “No, I didn’t.  Can’t afford it right now,” I said.
            “Well, you need to.  If you get bit, you’ll know what excruciating pain is like.  Those bastard spiders are pure evil.  I’ve been battling this thing now for three weeks, and it’s not getting any better.  I’m really scared!”
            “Joe, don’t worry about the tree.  Get to it after you get over this bite.  I googled the brown recluse, but it’s hard to tell it apart from others.  And my woods is just loaded with all kinds of spiders.  I’m sure I’ve got recluses, too.”
            “Well, I caught two of them in my bedroom,” Joe yelped.  “I killed the bastards, too.  I’ll bring one along when I get to your place.  Then you can watch out for them.”
            “Yeah, that would be helpful,”  I sighed uneasily.

            Another week has passed; Joe’s truck sits stolid, unmoving, in front of my woods.  I should call Joe to see how he’s getting along, but I can’t stand any more cautionary tales of the brown recluse.  I’ve already developed a morbid fear of the animal—a characteristic I would never have thought I’d own--and I haven’t even seen one or been threatened by any.  On any day I deal with animals twice and ten  times my own weight: my pot-bellied pigs and the horses.  I have no fear of them or sharks in the ocean or other insects, reptiles, and such.  But I must admit that every night finds me, like Poe’s tell-tale victim, with one eye open, on guard, looking, watching, one eagle-eye gaping in anticipation of a hungry, hairy hellion on eight legs. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

David Stearman
I’ve always loved hummingbirds. There’s something mystical about them. Maybe it has to do with their diminutiveness, or their seemingly spiritual manner of movement, I don’t know, but I’ve always found them captivating. I feed them. I photograph them. I study them. As a result of all this, my new novel Hummingbird has just been released. The back-cover blurb goes like this:
“She feels like a misfit. Who is she? Where does she belong? Is she Lexa, Alexandra, or someone else?
Forced to commit a crime, she flees south of the Border–and a vindictive bounty hunter follows her.
Will she escape? Find redemption? Learn who she really is and where she belongs?
The answer lies hidden in a tiny seaside village where wandering hummingbirds rest their wings.”
Here’s the video trailer:
Now you might ask, what does a book about a criminal-on-the-run doing on Gay’s blog? Here’s the answer: my protagonist Lexa’s life, and the little coastal town in which she lives, changes dramatically through her interaction with hummingbirds (not to mention the eighteen-foot shark she adopts and names “M.C. Hammerhead.”) In fact, Lexa’s life becomes entwined with them to the degree that the villagers begin calling her Colibrí, which is Spanish for you-know-what bird.
So if you like Hummingbirds, feel free to check this story out. It’s a sometimes sweet, sometimes scary, always uplifting read I think you’ll enjoy. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks etc. Here’s the Amazon link:
David Stearman

Ministry Website:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guest blogger: Pola Muzyka

Hi there, fiction suspense lovers. My name is Pola Muzyka and I've been writing on-the-edge novels for quite some time now. Two of these novels are set to release this year in four volumes. Find them at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and ebook stores throughout the world.

The release began with Abducted to Kill, Volume I, The Terror Regime. Purchase at Amazon: or Barnes & Noble or other fine ebooks stores.

See what AssistNews press has to say about me and my work:

Be on the lookout for three more books planned to release before fall falls. They are: Abducted to Kill, Volume II, Sleeper Cells; The Freedom Inside, Volume I, Delicate Cargo, and The Freedom Inside, Volume II, Sober Vigilance.
Today, I write about strongholds, but my life wasn't always this intense--it was worst. As an actress, model, and producer I was on the edge most of the time, so naturally my writing follows suit--it keeps you moving forward. My books, Stronghold Smasher Suspense, where faith and hope shine a light on evil, unravel some of the basic laws of spiritual defence. Hope you'll delve into them and discover how others overcome evil and how you, too, can be prepared for the unnatural disasters of this world while you learn about the world that lies beyond.

Okay, now onto the good stuff: I'm going to share something with you that may surprise you--I was raised on a sheep farm. My mother loves animals and if she didn't marry Dad, she probably would have become a vet. She would take out grubs from rabbits chewing at our lettuce, nurse lambs rejected by their mother in the back of our coal stove, bandage wounded birds and keep them safe until they could fly again, take splinters out of the paws of dogs, cats, and sometimes us when we were small. She would walk down our country road with three or four sheep, cat, dog, and chickens following. Course we tagged along as well--there were four of us, and we were dubbed, the Muzyka animal parade. Mom lives alone now, but not without an animal or two tugging at her pant leg. She keeps fish in a bowl and large pond on the property, feeds the birds more than they need, and even has a horse or two trotting through the grounds every now and then.

Life on the farm may have ended for me but life living with animals never ended. Even today, as I write, a little squirrel or chipmonk comes up to my window and peeks in as if to say, "come and play today". Hmmm. He's not speaking to me, but to my cat. If he only knew. Tuxedo would love to play, too, but not as he expects.

Hope you animal lovers can find the time to get a copy of my books and the books of my friend, Gay, who is posting this blog. Thanks for reading my work. God bless all y'all--that's Georgian for all of you. Until next time, by from Pola, Tuxedo, squirrelly and chipmunk.--Pola Muzyka

Pola Muzyka
Visit Writer's Notes by PolaOr visit POLA'S BLOG, Stronghold SmashersAbducted to KIill� The Freedom Inside
Stronghold Smasher Suspense--where faith and hope shine a light on evil.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Cat and Corn on the Cob

My Cat And Corn On The Cob

I love corn on the cob.  I especially love it when my brother-in-law buys it, my mother-in-law shucks and silks it, and all that is left for me is a quick 4 minute boil.  Yes, only 4 minutes is needed to bring this wonderful creation of God to its perfect point of consumption.  In my opinion, corn on the cob is the perfect addition to most any meal.  Show up at my house around dinner time, and you run a fairly good chance of having this tasty treat.
While eating on the sofa one evening, our cat, Carson, found the smell of corn on the cob to be quite interesting.  He came up to my plate, sniffed, and decided to stick around for a few minutes.  This is unusual for a cat.  Most cats are not interested in any item for an extended period of time, so his interest in my corn intrigued me.  When I looked away for a moment, he actually tried to retrieve the corn from my plate!  I was shocked.  He has never shown interest in table food.  Being the loving mother I am (just ask me – I’ll tell you!), I gave him the cob.  Oh my goodness did he have fun.  He took it to the front door rug, flipped it in the air, rolled it on the rug, chewed its wonderful remains, and smiled.  Yes, he smiled.  He was so happy with a corn cob!  Who would have guessed?
I think we can learn from Carson and his corn cob fun.  He didn’t require a store bought cat toy.  He didn’t even require a fresh ear of corn.  He was quite content with the cob only.  I hope I am good at enjoying life as much as Carson is at enjoying corn cobs.  Life is full of wonderful opportunities to stop, smile, laugh, and show enthusiasm.  Think about that this week.  Find the good.  Find the happy.  Find the unexpected.  Toss something in the air and laugh.  It feels SO GOOD!  Come back next week and Listen To My Brain Rattle.

Carol Howell is from Rock Hill, South Carolina.  Her book, If My Body Is A Temple, Why Am I Eating Doughnuts?, is available on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kitten Love

Life is a bit of a struggle these days as I run my gentle-lady’s farm by myself.  The grass keeps growing; the horses keep eating but can’t gorge down enough grass to begin to keep the pastures tidy.  I’m trying to be true to my truck patch engulfed in weeds, but writing, riding, mucking horse stalls, fixing fence, and dealing with other things that go wrong here on a daily basis is getting in the way of “putting up” my specialty garden produce such as salsa, spaghetti sauce, and sauerkraut.  But I’m trying as best I can and am adamant that all the summer work here won’t get the best of me.

            The other day as I was mowing around the horse pastures with the farm tractor,  I noticed something black amidst the sea of green.  What is that? I thought, shocked.  The mower continued to purr, slicing the stalks behind, and I stopped the tractor and squinted at the dark lump.  A black and white kitten, no larger than a Campbell soup can, lay there.    I jumped from the cab, leaned over the fence, and scooped the kitten into my arms.  He  looked up at me with pitiful, glassy eyes.  It’s backbone protruded.  I ran down the driveway, into the house, and set him on the kitchen counter, where he lay, looking drawn and disoriented.

            Always prepared for a kitten or wildlife emergency, I went to the freezer for the KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer), which had always come in handy for raising baby raccoons and abandoned kittens that people dumped at my door.  This kitten had been left just inside my horse pasture—in the hot sun.  Had I not noticed it, the poor soul would have died there overnight or been carried away by a night creature as a meal.  Thank goodness I had seen it.  In minutes the kitten was sucking frantically on the titty bottle I had had tucked away in the medicine cabinet.

            Afterwards, I wiped the kittie’s face, lay him on a blanket, readied a litter box, and walked back down the driveway to finish mowing.  And then I had a fleeting thought: There’s never one kitten in a litter.  Where’s the rest of them?  Dread washed over me: I couldn’t afford to add one more animal to my critter family until the divorce was settled.  What if more kittens needed my help?  How would I afford them?

            Before I got back into the tractor cab, I looked up and down the fence line on the inside of the split-rail fencing.  My guts sank: two more kittens curled together on a pile.  So, I ran them into the house, fed them, and lay them next to the other kitten. 
            As I continued with my mowing, I wondered who had planted those kittens in the pasture next to where I had been mowing.  Surely the culprit had seen me driving around, had noticed that as I drove I had to keep an eye on the fence-line so as not to hit it with my wheels or the finish mower behind.  Whoever the kitten dumper was knew that I’d be looking in that direction and would probably notice the black kitten-lumps amidst the green, like red rescue rafts amid the blue ocean. 

            And whoever left those kittens for me to raise had a decent heart—a soft spot for those babies, so vulnerable, so weak, so undeserving of death by drowning or being taken to a kill-shelter.  Whoever it was knew that I would sustain them and allow them life, even at my own expense.

            That afternoon as I was taking a break on my swing, a truck pulled into the driveway.  A man carrying a white plastic bucket stepped out.  He said, “I have something for you?”  I didn’t recognize him.  I stood up, went up to him, and he tilted the bucket for me to see inside: two more kittens.  I looked at the guy, cursed him—a total stranger.  After all, I wasn’t the local humane shelter, and now my kitten stash would add another five cats to my already burgeoning feline crew.  But I knew if I’d refuse them, he’d probably leave them somewhere to die an excruciating death.  So, I reached into the bucket and took them into the house.

            Over the past week, my five charges have thrived under my care.  In fact, two of the kittens found a good, loving indoor home, thanks to other good-hearted angel-people.  The other three remain with me and always will if I cannot find good homes for them. 

            No one—not any human or any creature—should suffer a life unloved or uncared for.  Existing without love is worse than having a leaky roof or little food.  No one should have to endure lovelessness.  I believe it is that concept that the owner of the kittens realized, and that realization prodded him or her to place them at my doorstep.  And my dear friend, Terri, who put out feelers to her relatives and to their friends realizes, too, that all creatures deserve love and a chance at life.  I am so grateful for having a wonderful friend like Terri in my life, one who cares and loves innocent creatures.  And I’m lucky to have met, through her, a whole team of good folks who came together to make good things happen for these kittens.
            Thank you, Terri and Steve, Brandy and Joe, and Christen and Ryan for caring about and carrying out this kitten adoption.  Your actions will not go unrewarded.  Those kittens will continue to entertain you and love you in return for many years.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What is Dystopian Literature?

When I set out to write the America II trilogy, I wasn’t thinking in terms of a genre, especially not a genre within a genre. Sci-fi-speculative-futuristic-political-thriller-dystopian and all those labels were something I hadn’t anticipated. I merely entertained the idea: If societal trends that exist today continue full speed ahead, what would the world look like in 2073?
Then someone reviewed my book and called it dystopian. Someone else said it reminded them a little of Hunger Games, a book I hadn’t even read. I’ve heard other writers refer to their book in the same manner. So I did some research, and sure enough, America II falls within the definition of Dystopian Literature, although, it really is vastly different than Hunger Games, though it does contain some of the elements commonly seen in Dystopian books.

With the onset of the wildly popular The Hunger Games, dystopian literature is now the fastest growing preference in young adult fiction. Some experts argue the reason is because today’s young people are disaffected with today’s culture. They see little hope on the horizon.

Such was the climate of George Orwell’s 1984, written in 1948, a poignant story of a totalitarian government, a few years following the end of World War II. People were frightened of the growth of communism as well as the advent of the Atomic bomb. Hysteria and fear were rampant. World War II vets, returning from their service, could not get jobs.

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, written post World War II, also explores this loss of hope in the world as it is an allegory of the fall of mankind. Narnia was once Utopia (The Garden of Eden) but became Dystopia, ruled by an evil Snow Queen.

With a stagnant economy, housing crunch, and wide unemployment, not just in America but world-wide, I wonder if we have not grown into another aura of paranoia regarding our future.  Hence, the resurgent popularity of Dystopian topics.

Dystopia is derived from the Ancient Greek and means a bad place. By definition, Dystopia is the opposite of Utopia which is a derivative of the Greek word meaning place and sounds like the English homophone (eutopia) which is derived from the Greek to mean good or well. In combination then, Utopia, has come to mean a good place. Utopia is often thought of as Heaven on earth, paradise today, where the world lives in peace and no one dies of hunger. Where there is no such thing as crime. In the classic, The Time Machine, a scientist creeps into the future to see if the world can cure its ills. He stumbles upon a seeming Utopia until he realizes human beings are being raised as food for underground monsters.

According to Wikipedia, Dystopian literature has these in common: idea of a society, generally of a speculative future, characterized by negative, anti-utopian elements, varying from environmental to political and social issues.
Most Dystopian themes will characterize society as oppressive or totalitarian. While the world seems dark and unappealing to the reader, the minor characters or society sees nothing wrong with the way things are. There is generally a character or characters that is dissatisfied and wants things to change. Therein is the conflict, the character pitted against society, like Don Quixote, flailing his sword at windmills.
Other classic dystopian literature includes: Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and The Iron Heel.
Unlike most Dystopian themes, and more like Chronicles of Narnia, America II: The Reformation offers hope for an improved society. It also reminds the reader of God’s continued interest and involvement in the affairs of His creation.

A native of Central New York, Linda Rondeau met and married Steve Rondeau, her best friend in life, and managed a career in human services before tackling professional writing. After thirty-four years of marriage, they have relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, leaving rural America to live in a city of one million.

While writing is her greatest passion, the more favorable temperatures of Florida allow her to follow another great passion--golf.
Linda is the wife of one patient man, the mother of three, and the grandmother of nine.
An award winning author, L.W. Rondeau first book, The Other Side of Darkness (written under Linda Wood Rondeau), released Fall 2012, and won the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel. America II: The Reformation is L.W.’s debut sci-fi book and is the first of a futuristic, political thriller trilogy. A prequel is planned in the form of serial editions.
America II: TheReformation is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
You can reach L.W. through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Linked In. Soon to be on PInterest. 
Or visit L.W.’s website:
            This Daily Grind

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Writing beginnings:

Whether you are beginning a magazine article, a short story, or a book, the beginning must be superb.  A reader’s interest is captured within the first three pages of a novel.  If the author has lost her interest in those first three pages, the reader will, most likely, not continue reading.

1.  The length of every beginning is relative to the length of the whole piece.  A short story that contains a thousand words might have a beginning of 250 words or less.  An article for a magazine would have just a paragraph.  A lengthy novel might have half a chapter that serves as a beginning.

2.  A beginning snags the reader by its interest.  Lure the reader into your work with your enchanting beginning.  Write for the highest interest possible.

3.  What comprises a high-interest beginning?

            a.  A vivid description of a character or setting.  Think about local color, especially if your characters are folksy or belong to a particular cultural or community group, such as the Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch.  For setting: the Alpine region, a rainforest, a beach, a desert, a jungle, an everyday living room wherein something or someone unique is planning, devising, beginning some kind of master plan.  And describe the setting using all of the senses: sight, hearing, smelling, touching. 

            b. Action/adventure “in media res.”  Put the reader right into the middle of a murder, a rescue, thoughts about suicide, an event of some kind, such as a wedding, a funeral, a telephone call with urgent news.  Make your action immediate and so interesting the reader will be unable to resist putting down your story.

            c.  Avoid philosophical thinking, analysis, passive thought, monotonous dwelling on an issue, lecturing, proselytizing of any kind.  Avoid any issues that are inherently boring or that would annoy a reader. 

            d.  Above all: be real.  Use real, every day language.  If using verbiage of a particular group, such as the Pennsylvania Dutch, write with some dialect to the conversations.  Narrative paragraphs should sound way different from spoken words.  Even particular people within a book may speak differently and use particular accents or expressions.  Incorporate dialect, accents, and habits of speech into a character’s direct quotes. 
            Avoiding cursing just for its own sake will make your work sound hollow and unreal.  People in dire and dangerous situations swear, and there’s never a good way for good writers to get around this.  Saying “Gosh!” when it’s more believable to say “God!” is fake and phony.  Never be a phony with your reader, or you will lose her.  Don’t sugar-coat words like the “F” word—just say them when appropriate and when no other word will do.  Sometimes beginnings, because they are intense, focused, action-packed, will need some cussing.

Coming next week: How to build a believable character.

Writing for Detail and Rhythm:

Take a look at the two writing samples that follow.  The seond is a better version of the first.  Can you tell why?

First sample:

“The old, wizened man walked merrily down the gravel driveway.  He was the town dwarf and was known to everyone in the neighborhood as the go-to guy.  When anyone had a problem, James would lend a helping hand, whether it be a bit of cash or sage advice.  All the townsfolk loved James McCabe, and he loved them.  But he didn’t like me.”

Here’s the same example re-written for detail and rhythm:

“James McCabe, the wrinkled dwarf of Mysteria, Wisconsin, whistled Lady Gaga songs and nodded to each passing weary widow, texting teen, and amorous adult.  To mothers consoling crowd-weary babies, he tossed tootsie roll pops.  To beggars in restless sleep at the town’s bandshell, he stashed a five dollar bill between their fingers.  To me, however, he offered nothing but scorn.  McCabe hated me.

1.  Edit out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.  Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly, particularly adverbs ending in “ly.”

2. Use good, descriptive nouns, not abstract nouns that do not allow the reader to “see” pictures: “James McCabe, wrinkled dwarf, Mysteria, WI, Lady Gaga, widow, mothers, tootsie roll pops.”

3.  Write of  local color and culture: “Lady Gaga songs,  texting teens.”

4.  Use good active verbs, and avoid using forms of “to be,” such as “am, is, are, was, were, had been, have been,” etc.  In this example, I used “whistled, nodded, passed, tossed, stashed, offered, hated.”

5.  Edit out clichés and worn-out expressions: “go-to guy, sage advice.”

5.  Create adjectives using a hyphen and describing two states, like “crowd-weary.”  This makes writing compact. Powerful, and poetic.

6. Use figures of speech, like metaphor, similes, alliteration, etc.  Know what a figure of speech is, first.  Alliteration in “weary widows, texting teens, and amorous adults.”

For rhythmic prose:

1. Vary sentence structure.  Know what a simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence is and use each one so that your prose has a musical quality.

2.  Use short simple sentences for being rigid, shocking, funny, and abrupt. Use compound for narrating.  Use complex for combining several thoughts or actions in which one action should be subordinated or made lesser than the main action.

3.  Use repetition to enforce a point.  Notice the sentences beginning with “To” in the example above.

4.  Be conscious of the rhythm of your prose.  Vary sentence length and type and choose your sentence structure according to points of emphasis and importance.  Pace your writing, and make it have a “beat,” as in a musical beat.

5. Use qualifiers when writing: ‘however, on the other hand, by the way, nevertheless, etc.”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to Write: Jump In!

            After years of teaching freshman college English and writing books, I know a thing or two about the writing process.  I consider myself rather an authority on the subject, but I’m not too full of myself to think that differing opinions from mine are incorrect.  I do, however, know what works for most students when it comes to composing coherently-written thoughts.  And I certainly know what works for me. 

Here’s a bit of my own take on the writing process:

1.  No right or wrong way exists to the approach of and during the process of writing.
            Many scholars of writing composition believe that students must begin by slogging through pre-writing activities: brain-storming, outlining, jogging the thought process by word associations, word association trees, and journaling, to name just a few.    They insist writers start with pre-writing, as though they need to warm-up--stretch their pens and computers—before beginning the actual creation.  For some students, however, this could be a larger barrier than the writing itself.  I, myself, envision these exercises as more taxing, even annoying, than the writing because, to me, pre-writing is a waste of time and thinking. 
            Other instructors of writing will insist that each essay or story be outlined in detail, and only after an outline is accomplished should the student begin to write the meat of the story.  Some instructors will encourage students to write by long-hand first and correct sentences for structure, detail, and punctuation right on the spot.  For some students this advice will be helpful; for others it is dead wrong advice.
            No one way of creating is the end-all and the be-all of written creation.  Why?  Because each person has his own way of writing, and no one way is the correct way, and no one way is the wrong way.  Writing is as individual as are preferences for ice cream flavors,

2.  “Git ‘er done!”
            Perhaps I’m making my advice here too simplistic, but I can’t help it because of observing my own writing process.  My motto is, simply, like that of Larry the Cable Guy: “Git ‘er done!”  That’s the easiest way for me to get words on paper: by just starting—jumping in the lake cold and warming up to it.  I encourage my writing students to do the same.   I don’t want to agonize over pre-writing activities, though if writers need to engage in these activities for a jump start on a paper or article, they surely should if they feel it’s helpful.    
            So, in order to “Git ‘er done!” I recommend writers face their raw, vacant computer screen, piece of paper, or typewriter paper (yes, some writers prefer to write on a manual typewriter), grit their teeth at that blankness, hunker down, begin thinking of the most shocking, interesting way to get at their topic and JUST JUMP IN. 

And now I’m going to change to second person in order to get more personal:

BEGIN WRITING.  Let the consciousness take care of itself; allow the movie screen in one’s mind to dictate the words describing the scenes on that screen; see it, and write down what is happening.  Just “Git ‘er done!”  Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, types of sentences, or any of that little technical stuff. 
            Get the big picture down on paper first.  Go with the flow; create; let it roll out of your mind.  If one must, just use what some very famous authors have used: the stream-of-consciousness technique—few sentences, just all thoughts that blend and blur together.  As long as you get the idea, the thought, the gist, down, despite how awkwardly put, you can go back later and clean, tighten, and brighten it up so that the reader can better understand and see the “movie” from your perspective.

3.  “Clean ‘er up”:
            Delete unnecessaries and edit for detail and correctness.
            All writing is meant to be read, or it wouldn’t be written, right?  So, you must keep your reader in mind during editing, as well.  You should, once you’ve “got ‘er done,” attend to coherence and unity of effect so that your audience easily gets the perfect picture and tone—never ask a reader to struggle over your writing, neither in trying to understand your ideas nor your sentences.  If he has a hard time understanding or feels he  could be misunderstanding your intent, he will become frustrated and abandon you. 
            To insure this doesn’t happen, you should go back over the “mind-flow” with a correcting and deleting pen.  Delete anything that does not contribute to the unified effect you’re trying to accomplish.  Choose fewer words to say the same thing.  Edit out unnecessary words, details that don’t contribute to the overall effect.  And, then, after deleting the extraneous, think smaller, more technical, and attack and fix sentence structure, punctuation and grammar errors.

4.  Edit for the musical effect.
             See that your writing has a musical effect, much like ocean waves.  Writing-- even prose--has rhythm.  Punctuation and qualifiers, such as “by the way,” ”on the other hand,” ‘rather,” etc. (find them in an old grammar book) create suspense in writing just by creating a pause.  For that microsecond of a pause that a semicolon makes, for example, (“for example” is also a qualifier) the reader subconsciously awaits the final thought of that sentence with some kind of micro-anticipation.  And that is fun for the reader.

5.  Edit for grammar and punctuation.
            I have the ability, honed from much self-discipline during my college days when professors failed compositions for incorrect punctuation, to work the punctuation into my larger thoughts.  You may or may not be as adept; however, (another qualifier) if you are  not proficient in using all the marks of punctuation, you need to make yourself an expert.  You need to find an old-fashioned grammar book with the rules of punctuation and sit down and learn the rules and grammatical structures that command punctuation.  And—yes—you need to memorize them and then be able to use them.  Nothing is more distracting to a reader than having to plow through writing that is poorly punctuated.  Incidentally, you should not be placing commas wherever you feel you need to pause or take a breath.  Attacking punctuation in this way is by hit-or-miss, and for a reader, reading such slush is a thrill-killer.

**** The above is my advice, not the final word, on how go about the writing process.  Other instructors may take exception; however, I know what works for me and what has worked for my students of writing.  Think large first; “git ‘er done,” and, then,  clean ‘er up.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Faster than a Speeding Fly

I had just stepped out of the shower the other day and was drying off when I heard the buzz of a very large fly.  "Oh, no!" I thought.  "I sure don't want that loud thing bouncing off the walls of the bedroom all night."

I wrung my towel tight in a futile effort to snap it at him as he zoomed by, but I couldn't even follow his Airbus 350 body with my eyes, so quick and agile was he, let alone take him down with a towel.    As though high on Mountain Dew, the huge fly zoomed from one light to another, hitting the mirror, and I soon decided I could never target him with my damp towel.  He was just too lively.

My cat, Evie, sat on the floor, her eyes following the loud blowfly as he flew into the wall like a kamikaze, dashed to the next light, and sped, roaring, past my head.

"Get him, Evie," I said, standing back.

Suddenly the fly made a fatal mistake.  Oblivious, he tore a path right past Evie.  I saw a paw as a blurred swipe, and, then, she pinned the pest to the floor with both paws.  I giggled into my towel.  Next, she hunkered down, carefully opening her paws, her face right over them, and sucked him into her mouth.

"Chomp, . . . chomp, . . . chomp."  Evie gulped twice, and the big and, apparently, fairly juicy snack disappeared down herSpeeding Fly feline hatch.  I cheered, and she just looked at me, nonplussed.

The moral of this story is "Cats are quick, and humans are very slow."

The Centered Moth

Do you see the little "heart" in the center of my front door?

It is a moth.

When I came down the steps and saw this moth aligned so perfectly in the middle of that pane of glass, I truly marveled at the tiny creature.  I think he put himself there deliberately, intentionally, organizationally--right in the center in order to attract my attention.  He may even have been thinking and acting artistically, dare I say?

Whatever his motives or intentions, however, the sight of this centeredness of a moth struck me in a way that not much else ever does.  Could an insect with lesss than a pea brain possess enough self-consciousness to position him or herself just so on this window?  Was he trying to disguise himself from possible predators by looking deliberately placed, as though he were a part of the whole door and not a creature that could be swallowed up by a spider or bird?

Beats the hell out of me.

One thing I know: seeing the moth so strategically placed on the outside of my doorway made me appreciate the possibility of a moth having more than a brain the size of a pencil tip.  As well, I realized that art arises in so many different ways.  Yes, I do consider this finding a work of art--by Nature.  Others may not even have noticed the creature on my door, but I perceived its presence in so many different ways, another one of them being the possibility of a spirit of, possibly, my dead grandmother or grandparents, visiting me.  I know that's far-fetched, and I'm not really into spiritual happenings of this kind, but, after all, the moth does look like a heart, doesn't it?  My grandma Eckensberger would try to contact me in this way--through nature.

Just thought I'd share this strange occurrence.

Our world never ceases to amaze.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

New book out as ebook!

My new book, THERE'S A BEAR IN THE BASEMENT, came out a few weeks ago.  The publisher and I talked about it during his blogtalk radio show on Tuesday night.  If you'd like to listen to us talk about my writing process, a few characters in the book, and animals and pets, in general, go to and click on the words about his blog talk radio, the G-Zone.  After that comes up, look to the right where you will see archived blogs and click on that of Gay Balliet and Jeff Bennington.  I think you'll be happy to hear that it's quite entertaining.  Thanks.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

link to my review of There's A Bear in the Basement in

There's A Bear in the BasementThere's A Bear in the Basement by Gay Louise Balliet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Terrific read! But what more would an author say about her next book? Truly--it is very entertaining. Upload this to your electronic device, grab a towel and some goodies, and head out to the beach. Don't forget the sunscreen!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Skippy's Escape

Now that I have found myself with a rather large farm to tend and manage on my own, time is certainly precious.  Lack of hours is the reason I have been visibly absent from my blog.  Your forgiveness is greatly appreciated.  Those of you who have lived and survived divorce know exactly what I mean.  What work was usually done by two people falls heavily on the one left behind.  So, no one should be surprised that my shoulders are loaded with farmwork right now.

Mowing grass this time of year and with the amount of rain we've been having is an arduous task.  I am driving a Kabota, full-size tractor with a five or six foot finish mower behind.  On a good day when I don't bash into a fence post or tree, I can accomplish the task in a minmum of four hours.  But when the horses can't keep up with "mowing" their own pastures, I must get out there and cut their grass, too, just to make it manageable.  That one pasture, alone, takes me two hours.  So, one day a week must be devoted to cutting grass for six hours on this eight-acre farm.  And I won't even mention the weed-whacking around the fence posts and trees. 

Yet I do my chores here because I love this place and love, in a strange way, all the work it takes to keep it going and looking pristine.  It doesn't matter that at the end of my mowing stint I'm sweaty, sticky, and icky all over.  I have lovingly coiffed my farmland.  Passersby can only note that the person living here loves her property and all that goes with taking care of it.

So, the other day when I began the first hour of mowing, I unexpectedly came upon Skippy who was eating some of the farmer's alfalfa next to my patch.  When he heard the diesel chugging toward him, he became alarmed, probably thinking he was being a bad boy for sneaking alfalfa and that this big machine was coming to forcibly remove him from the field.  I laughed to myself as I kept driving towards him, and he looked each way, honing in on the sound of the tractor so that he could decide how to escape.  And I just kept going on my cutting route around the woods.  I certainly wasn't going to run him over with the tractor.  But he didn't know that.

I could see Skippy about fifty feet ahead of me, listening and deciding what to do about being caught between the alfalfa field and my tractor.  And, then, I could see that he had made a decision for escape.  Very deliberately he turned toward the woods, away from the alfalfa field, and began a slow bee-line towards the trees.  He took the shortest path--straight across--and before the tractor crossed his footsteps, he was already safely inside the woods where no loud machine could reach him.  Skippy's mad dash to the woods entertained me for the rest of the day.