Monday, April 30, 2012

Hello, Dear Readers,

This is a thank-you note to everyone who supported this blog during the A to Z April Challenge.  Your comments have been wonderful and engaging.  I also want to thank those of you who became followers of my blog.  I so appreciate that!

It was a busy month, with a new entry each day.  In thinking back on the exercise, I'm amazed at how quickly it went, from A is for Author to Z is for Zulu! 

 In case you're interested, the posts I wrote on places I've been seemed the most popular.  There was one exception, though.  M is for Manuscript had the most visitors, which does make sense.  After all, many of us in this challenge are writers.

Whichever you liked (or disliked) the most, I want to thank you once more.  I had a wonderful time visiting so many new blogs, too, and made some new friends.  That's the best part of blogging!

I hope to see you at next year's challenge and in others along the way.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Z is for Zulu

The Zulu are a South African ethnic group of an estimated 17-22 million people who live mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

A patriarchal society, the gender roles of Zulu are clearly delineated, with the boys and men organized as warriors in support of the king. The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in South African History during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classed as third-class citizens and suffered from state sanctioned discrimination.

 Today, they are the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and have equal rights along with all other citizens. They are famous for their bead work, which is not only beautiful but traditionally the patterns were used for communication. Their music also has become popular worldwide.

When my family and I were in South Africa a few years ago, we had the opportunity to meet several Zulu women.  They were working in a cooperative making beautiful bead work while their young children attended pre-school on the premises.

This is a win-win situation for all concerned.  The women are helping support their children, who are learning in a structured safe environment. 

The bead work made by the Zulu women is some of the finest of its kind in the world.  An empowering situation for the mothers and a nurturing environment for their young children.  What could be better for these worthy and proud people!    



Friday, April 27, 2012

Y is for Ybor City, Tampa

My husband and I have recently moved into the city of Tampa.  We have the Port of Tampa with glistening cruise ships at our back and the winking city skyline at the front.

  Having lived in larger cities before, this was an easy move. It's wonderful to be back where one can walk to restaurants and museums and stroll along the beautiful River Walk next to the Hillsbourough River, as it meanders through Tampa. 

We are literally a short trolley ride from the heart of the entertainment district. Ybor City began life as a cigar manufacturing area in the early twentieth century.  Those factories were known to hire women and people of color for the same pay as everyone else. 

 Known as Tampa’s Latin Quarter for over a century, Ybor City is an exotic blend of aromas, flavors, sights and sounds. From the scent of roasting Cuban coffee early in the morning to the rhythms of Latin music late into the night, Ybor is a fun place to be.

The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor CityWithin Ybor City is our favorite restaurant, The Columbia.  Begun in 1905, by a Spanish immingrant, it features the finest Spanish cuisine along with a great tapas selection.  Flaminco dancing is performed each night in one of the lovely dining rooms.

So today Y is for Ybor City.  A great place to visit.  When in Tampa, give it a try!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

X is for Xenophilia

Xenophilia is such a friendly word.  It is, of course, Greek and the translation is "friendly to foreigners."

As I was a foreigner living in the UK for ten years, I have some firsthand knowledge and can relate. 

Were people friendly to me?  Almost to a person, they were.  I have no complaints, and London is one of my favorite cities in the world.

Unfortunately, though, there are some people who don't feel quite as welcomed in foreign lands as I did in the UK.  During my time there, I did not take a job away from a British citizen.  I helped support the economy and paid taxes. 

We have people in the United States who are in the same position that I was across our mutual pond.  It would be wonderful if we welcomed them during their time in our country, and for the most part, we do.

Let's try to be at least a little Xenophilic, and welcome those foreigners who are traveling, doing a job or becoming a United States citizen.  We'll all feel so much better!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

W is for Wales

During the years we lived in London, it was always fun to leave the city for a weekend and retreat to the countryside.  There is no more beautiful land for that purpose than the nation of Wales. 

Welsh Flag
A two hour's drive from London, southern Wales is a place of small villages and beautiful scenery.  My mother's family come from the lovely town of Abergavenny.

We, though, usually headed north to Mount Snowden in Snowden National Park.  Our favorite town was (and is) Betws-y-Coed.  Gorgeous.  And we had a favorite inn, The Ty Gwyn. 

Mount Snowden National Park
Our greyhound, Harry, always went with us.  How he loved it!  And  the inn, too. 

 For one pound, dogs were allowed to stay at the inn and in your room as well.  Not only that, they have a menu for dogs and water bowls everywhere.  Harry loved the bangers and mash best and began salivating each time he walked into the lobby.

On those idyllic weekends, we walked the beautiful hills and valleys of the park.  We breathed the clean, invigorating air. We met friendly hikers and dog walkers on the trail.  We relaxed, cleared our heads of frenetic city life and enjoyed the beauty and serenity of a country called Wales.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

V is for Verdun

The Trenches
Verdun is a place one does not want to visit.  Yet, if you are anywhere close to the infamous battleground of World War I, it's incumbent to go.

My family and I visited when our twins were seventeen.  As hard a place as was is to be, as many ghosts as we felt and as much as we looked at our sons and thought, "It could have been them," it was necessary to have gone.

The Battle for Verdun, also called "The Meatgrinder," for terrible and obvious reasons, wae the apex of Hell for World War I.

Douaumont ossuary
TheBattle of Verdun is considered the greatest
and lengthiest in world history. Never before or since has there been such a protracted battle involving so many men, situated on such a tiny piece of land.

The battle, which lasted from February, 1916 until December, 1916 caused over an estimated 700,000 casualties (dead, wounded and missing). The battlefield was not even a square ten kilometers. 

A vew of Verdun today
My family and I were caught up in the horrible story and the restive place.  All four of us felt a disquiet the entire time we walked the battlefield.  Couldn't shake it.  Didn't even try. 

Rather, we tried to empathize with what must have been the horror of it all and the useless slaughter of a whole generation of young men.

On December 19, 1916, the Germans surrendered to the French.  Little comfort, I should think, other than more lives were not lost at Verdun.  It is a sad place, a tragic place, a not to be forgotten place.  A place where humanity should have learned everything there was to learn about the futility of war.  Alas, that was not the case, and the mad march of humans toward war never ceases.

Monday, April 23, 2012

U is for Utopia (for Writers)

I was at a writers conferencre this past Saturday.  Several of us were talking about how we began our day of writing.  It started me thinking about what's the very best way for me to begin a productive day, and why it is so beneficial.  So what makes a Utopian writing day for me?

The first thing is an early morning.  I need to be at my computer, coffee in hand no later than 6:15.  I love it.  Still dark. The city lights of Tampa continue to wink at me as they did the night before. Everything quiet except my coffee maker finishing its sputtering from producing the delectable brew.

Ah, the computer awaits.  Again, quiet in my sun room.  Jeeves, my cat, has been fed and sits on my computer ready to be part of Utopia.  I move him to my side in the hopes he'll stay awhile before insisting my lap is more comfortable.

On to email, facebook and blog stats for just a little while.  Need to get to serious work.  Sometimes, if Utopia is in full swing, I don't notice it's become light outside, and inside lamps need darkening.

As the day progresses, my manuscript takes such good form.  Everything simply falls into place.  No words that won't come.  No block.  No realizing I must go back and rewrite this or that.  Yep. Utopia in action.

By the time late afternoon sneaks up, I've happily finished a large section of my latest manuscript, I've marketed my latest book with great success, and I've been asked to conduct an intensive for a large conference.  (Remember, it's my Utopia.)

What's yours? 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

T is for Tolkien (and Dickens) Grandsons Collaborate for Book

A grandson of JRR Tolkien and a descendant of Charles Dickens are to collaborate on two new fantasy books for children.

Michael Tolkein
Poet Michael Tolkien, the eldest grandson of the The Hobbit author, will write two novels based on stories his grandfather read to him as a child.
Gerald Dickens
Gerald Dickens, (Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles, will narrate the audiobook versions.  Both works are due to be released later this year.

Publisher Thames River Press said the first book, Wish, was inspired by Florence Bone's 1923 story, The Rose-Coloured Wish.  It tells the story of two children who set out to use an evil enchanter's wishing chain of stones to save their alpine valley, only to fall into trouble.

Michael Tolkien was introduced to the tales in the 1940s and 1950s as a child, and he later read them to his own children.  He said he decided to pay tribute to the now-neglected tale and to "recreate the spirit of the original in new dress."


WISHThe second book, Rainbow, is based on Bone's 1910 novel, The Other Side of the Rainbow. Dickens said: "Wish is a timeless story which children will enjoy for years to come. Michael Tolkien has brought it to life in narrative verse."

Friday, April 20, 2012

S is for Save our Planet through Earth Day

Sunday, April 22, 2012, is Earth Day.  As I've said previously, I’m old enough to remember when Earth Day was a joke. It was. 

As teachers, many of us said, “Oh, yeah. Earth Day. I’d better do something, I guess.” Not anymore. Earth Day has a global platform and big teeth. And it should. Caring for our planet is no laughing matter. It is a deadly serious concern.

For me, Earth Day is a part of living my life each day.  After my husband and I bought a condo on Clearwater Beach, Florida, things got personal.  In walking our beach in the early mornings, I noticed more and more trash on the sand, much of it ready to be taken to sea by the surf. 

I began taking a bag and picking up as much as I could and placing it into the many trash cans (most were empty) along the route.  It was, of course, too big a job for one person.

  And that is when the Bella and Britt Series for children was born.  The first book was titled, Bella Saves the Beach.  When it was almost ready for publication, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred.

My publisher, Lynda Burch, of Guardian Angel Publishing, and I decided a children's book about the spill must be written.  She felt the Bella and Britt books would be the best vehicle for it.  She also wanted it, if possible, to be the first children's book in the US addressing the spill.

With that assignment, I worked tirelessly, ten to fifteen hours a day, and finished One Pelican at a Time in six weeks!  Happily, it was the first!  I am also happy to mention the book has won several awards, such as the Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  It was on Amazon's Bestsellers for Children for eighteen weeks.

After Pelican came Sea Turtle Summer, a book that deals with the girls' protecting a Loggerhead sea turtle's nest.  Some adults don't agree with the girls' actions, but they feel empowered to carry out their plan.

Most importantly, this book series carries a universal message of earth stewardship.  They were written to empower kids to take action for their planet, even in the face of some adult disapproval.

That is my literary contribution to Earth Day.  I know you are contributing in the ways you do best.  Working together, we can help save our planet. It's the only way forward.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

R is for Russia

I have many Russian blog followers.  In fact, Russia is my second largest group of supporters, with the UK, France and Australia following, in that order.  Why, I've asked myself?  I do not know the answer.  I do know I'm delighted to have them.

Moscow Kremlin at Night
The Kremlin
Although I've not been to Russia, my son, Colin Stewart, has.  He still speaks of the beauty of the Kremlin in Moscow, the treasures of the Hermitage in St.Petersburg and the friendliness of the people everywhere.  I would love to see it for myself.

While living in London, we had (and still have) good friends from Moscow.  It was always fun to hear their tales of living in the capital and their trips throughout the vast country.  Hearing them always made us want to visit, and someday we will. 

The Hermitage
St. Petersburg
Until then, I'll check my blog stats that show, among other things, the number of visitors from each country.  I'll continuing wondering, as I do now, what brings them to my blog.  (It is translated into Russian, and that may make a difference.)

Please, some of you followers from Russia, let me know why you visit.  Do know that I am so happy you're here.  And, please, keeping visiting!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Q is for Query

Ah, yes, query.  A word that strikes terror into the hearts of many a writer.  And with some reason, I will admit.  That short (and it should be short) letter to an agent or editor can make or break the professional life of an author. After all, this is the first impression you will make with that person who could sell your book.  And, to make matters more complicated, that person will spend about ten seconds on your letter.

How then, do we navigate the treacherous waters of querying?  There are so many answers to this question, but I'll give my readers a few tips if I may.

The letter must be short, never longer than a page. It has to be letter perfect in every way.  Again, this is the first impression the agent or editor has about you, and you certainly do not want to be the last!  This paragraph contains your "jacket flap" material.  You don't want to give away all the twists and turns, but you want to entice the person as you would a potential reader of the book.

After the synopsis, the next paragraph deals with the word count, genre and that all important ego boosting.  Tell, in one sentence, why your book would fit in his or her agency or publishing house.  A little ego stroking is a good thing.  Agents and editors are people, too!

Reading the book with a magnifying glassAnd speaking of ego, the next sentence is about you and your writing platform.  Give any information that pertains to your writing children's books.  If you're published, place those credits here.  List any organizations to which you belong, including the all-important SCBWI.  If you've attended any major conferences, list them.  If you've presented at any conferences, list them.  If you're in a critique group, mention it.  You get the idea.  If you haven't been published, skip this paragraph.  Everyone has to start somewhere!

Finally, thank the agent or editor for his or her time.  Tell them you look forward to their response.  (Many times today, you won't get a response unless s/he is interested.)

Obviously, there is much more to a successful query than in this short post.  Do your homework, research the agency or house, learn which people deal with your genre and practice writing your query.  Make it shine, then polish it some more.  Remember, this may be your only chance at the golden ring.  Make sure you prepare yourself for a good grab!  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

P is for Publishing (In a Huxleyesque New World)

The publishing world is in flux today.  So many choices.  So many unanswered questions.  What does it all mean?

Stock Photography - printing house. 
fotosearch - search 
stock photos, 
pictures, wall 
murals, images, 
and photo clipartTraditional publishing with a publishing house?  Self publishing, usually within one's own house?  Pay on Demand publishing houses?  Publishing through a company such as Amazon?  And the list grows longer seemingly with each passing month.

Gutenberg's Printing Press
Gutenberg Printing Press
It is a conundrum for writers today.  I'll let you in on a secret.  It's a conundrum for publishing houses, too!  Sands are shifting everywhere in the world of the written word, and no one knows what will ultimately happen.

Then there is the parallel world of apps.  What's the future for them, and will they really and effectively incorporate into books?  Particularly kid's books. 

 Oh, we know what they do now.  But will what they do actually sell books, eBooks, tablets for books, iPhones for books...?  Will they have the staying power to be seen again and again?  Publishers live in hope.  So do authors.

So it truly is a Huxley world out there in dealing with a time honored and ancient profession.  A profession for which the very fabric, if not unraveling, is morphing into a different frock, and only time, technology and consumers will determine the outcome.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

O is for Opportunity (Fall of the Berlin Wall)

I remember the bad old days in Berlin, Germany.  The city had been divided into separate zones after the war, and Check Point Charlie gates were not to be taken lightly.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall
Although my family and I had visited Germany many times, and my husband had studied both in Freiburg and Bonn, I'd been through the Wall once from West Berlin to the east. 

November 9, 1989.  My young son, Brian, ran down the stairs into our London kitchen yelling, "The wall's fallen!  The wall's fallen!"  I knew exactly what he'd meant and ran to the TV.

The very next day, we were watching our kids playing a soccer game in Regent's Park with our friends, Ed and Michele.  We decided on the spot we needed to go to Berlin and be part of what was happening.  We bought plane tickets and left next day. 

The wall area was chaos--but basically good chaos.  Certainly, young guards (some seemingly as young as eighteen) walked three abreast in front of the wall.  They called out in English,  "Do not defame the property of the GDR" (German Democratic Republic).  The only response to them was more and more flowers being placed into their guns' barrels.

Everyone, including the four of us, chipped away at the wall.  We were having no success, when a large German man smiled and said in English, "Let me help."  He went to where rebar was placed in the concrete--wham, wham, wham--pieces flew off like magic. 

Speaking of magic, the whole surreal experience was just that.  People from the world over came together to celebrate.  A victory of justice.  A victory of humanity.  A victory of good triumphing over evil.  Bravo democracy! 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

N is for Narcissism? Let Me Check My Blog Stats…

I’ve been thinking lots about narcissism and blogging and attention to one’s web site. Is that the very definition of narcissism?  Maybe.

Children's books are a passion of mine, and I’ve been writing them for seven years. My first one in a series of four, including One Pelican at a Time.  All were  published by Guardian Angel Publishing. All four of them took much time, thought, critiquing from my writer’s group and self-doubt right up to the end.

Never, though, during that process, did I run to the computer after having been away for an hour to look for comments or pour over stats. This realization may say something to, or perhaps, about me. Oops. There goes that narcissism word again…

The shift from creative writing to blogging/web site production may carry with it the need to be more personal, more introspective, more in tune with one’s own psyche to convey who we are to our readers and, perhaps, to define our own worthiness to ourselves. And with that may come some narcissism by task default. I certainly hope that’s what it is.

In the meantime, I’ll continue writing kids' books, consult with my publisher, speak at conferences, meet with my writing group, revise, edit, use my Thesaurus endlessly and only occasionally be deeply introspective. That is, until it’s time to write another entry for my blog. Oh, yes.

And even when it’s posted, I’ll pour over it from every angle, perhaps move a photo a centimeter or two, recheck links to be sure they’re working, read my witty words for the zillionth time and be, well, narcissistic.

Please excuse me now. I have to check my stats.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

M is for Manuscript-So You Want to Write One?

So you think you'll write a book.  Okay.  It's a good aspiration.  I have but one modest suggestion at the outset:  Be sure that's what you really want to do, as writing that book can be bad for your health, physically and emotionally, if you're not ready or willing to do what it takes.

What does it take?  From my viewpoint, it takes the perseverance of a marathon runner, the patience of a saint and the perspective of an octogenarian at least.

First, let's get an idea.  You know, that new slant, brilliant twist, blockbuster worthy, light bulb busting, aha?

Now comes the research.  Let's see if your topic's been done before.  No?  Great!  Time to get on with the real research.  Are those stats correct?  Be sure the geography is right.  Don't make a mistake with history, for heaven's sake.

Got all that in place?  Fab.  Now it's time to wait for your muse to visit.  Did I mention wait?  Oh, yes.  Because this is a being that delights in calling the shots, usually later rather than sooner.  But finally, she's come calling to accompany you through the morass of story building.

You settle in for a lovely literary liaison with her.  And things go so well!  That first draft of your manuscript is finished.  You are so proud.  So happy.  So fulfilled.

Then it's time to visit your critique group.  Didn't I mention your critique group?  Silly me.  You must have one.  No, no, no to writing in a vacuum.  But not to worry.  You have produced a masterpiece, and everyone there will sing your praises and cast literary lilies at your feet.

Yeah.  Right.  They tear it to shreds.  Nothing left but your title, and half of them hated that. They say things like, "What point of view?  You don't have a point of view." Or perhaps, "These characters are so shallow, I can see right through them."  You know.  Helpful comments.

Home you slog in a huff, manuscript still too hot to handle from all the vitriol spewed upon it. 

Next morning, you take up your quill, open the hateful pages with your fellow authors' marks covering them--and learn!  Waddya know?  Huh.  Their ideas aren't half bad.  And you summon your muse back and begin again.

Now emerges the fun part.What is it, you ask?  Two words, with an article between:  Agent or publisher.  Research revisited.  Yep.  Gotta see who matches whom, as in:  "Why did this agent reject my book?  Yes, she's known for Romance Novels, but surely she cannot resist my concept book."  Have another think about that...

Photo Tn 12But, hey, miracles still happen  (think George Bailey), and a publisher wants your book.  That's terrific.  You're gonna make millions and fast, too.  Why, it'll only take--how long?  Two years!  I could be dead by then.  What's that?  It'll be published postumously?  Swell. 

And so it goes, But, then again, there's something wonderous, delicious, glorious about writing that manuscript, polishing that manuscript, shining that manuscript, that I would not miss for the world.

L is for Live Earth Day by Kathy Stemke

Today I'm happy to welcome Kathy Stemke to the blog.  She is a fellow author, Editor and Freelance Writer at DKV Writing 4 U Writing Services. 
Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.
The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.
As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environs worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts and Symbolism of the Flag.
According to legend, it was created as a combination of the letters e and o, from the words environment and organism. This flag was also based on the Stars and Stripes of the US Flag. Green was substituted in place of blue and red. The colors represent "pure air and green land" and environmental action.
By Kathy Stemke
With Earth Day Approaching on April 22nd it's time to focus on educating our children about conservation. Trouble on Earth Day would be a great resource for this purpose and a super addition to any school or home library.
Shelby the squirrel shares what she learned in school about conservation with her parents. Together they discover many things around their house that can be recycled. The main focus of the book is to Rethink, Reuse, and Recycle. 
Why recycle? How Long Does Garbage Last?
Scientist List Degradation Times:
Banana 3-4 weeks
 Paper bag 1 month
Cotton rag 5 months
Wool sock 1 year
Cigarette butt 2-5 years
Leather boot (or shoe) 40-50 years
Tin can 80-100 years
Aluminum can 200-500 years
Plastic 6-pack rings 450 years
Plastic jug 1 million years
Styrofoam cup Unknown? Forever?
Glass bottle Unknown? Forever?
Trouble on Earth Day is available at a discounted price on my blog: and through Amazon, B & N, and other online stores.
Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep is available through the publisher, and through Amazon, B & N, and other online stores.
Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep
Award winning author, Kathy Stemke’s first children’s picture book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was published on Lulu. Her next two picture books, Sh, Sh, Sh Let the Baby Sleep, and Trouble on Earth Day were released in 2011. Both of these books have been awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval. 
Having been a teacher for 37 years, Kathy understands and loves children. It’s her desire to give parents and teachers exciting books and resources to help them teach their children all the things they need to have a successful life. 
Mrs. Stemke offers great teaching tips and children’s book reviews as well as a monthly newsletter titled, MOVEMENT AND RHYTHM, on her blog.
Throughout the book tour visitors will be asked to send their best EARTH photo to to be displayed on the last day of the tour. A winner will be selected and awarded a $10 gift card.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage

Katrina Simpkins is an All American Hero.  She is a role model to thousands of kids and adults, those with special needs and those without. 

(Please see the video of Katrina and Winter at the bottom of this post.)

Katrina at age 8
When Katrina's journey to become a "normal girl" began, she was eight years old, a birth defect survivor of a condition called Proximal femoral focal deficiency and a victim of constant vicious bullying by schoolmates.  Even with her parents' love and support, her life was a misery, and Katrina was depressed and despondent.

Then she met Winter. Winter, the dolphin.  Winter lost her tail to a crab trap and almost died.  Instead, she was rescued by a fisherman named James Savage and taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she lives safely and happily today, helping others like her to adjust and ultimately live fulfilling lives.

To that end, I've written the authorized biography of Katrina.  The book, which will be launched within the next month, is called Katrina and Winter:  Partners in Courage, published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Katrina's first look at Winter
Here is an excerpt:

Hi, I’m Katrina Simpkins and am here to see Winter,” she said to the lady behind the ticket counter.
The woman came around the desk and gave Katrina a hug. “It’s nice to see you again, dear. You’re expected upstairs.”
Katrina grinned and pushed a curl off her face. “Thanks. I’m so excited to be here. See you later.” She walked toward the stairs, the thought of her prosthetic leg struggling up the steps bothering her not a bit.
 Katrina put her hands to her mouth when she saw the dolphin. “Winter,” she half whispered. “I’m back.”
Katrina and "Winter"
Shriners Van (New Prosthesis)
“Hey, Katrina,” the trainer called. “Get into a wet suit, and come on in. Our girl’s waiting.”
“Okay,” she said, watching Winter watch her.
After Katrina changed into a wet suit, she lowered herself into the tank and waited. The trainer said, “Here comes Winter. Wow. Does she know you, or what?”
“She’s swimming right into my arms,” a tearful Katrina said. And the young dolphin stayed there while her friend whispered to her and stroked her head. “I’ve missed you so much,” Katrina said softly.
The trainer smiled. “You guys are a lot alike. No wonder you’re such good friends.”
“Video crew’s here!” the grey haired volunteered shouted, breaking the spell.
“I have to go now, but I’ll be back soon,” Katrina told the dolphin. “We’re doing a film together.” I can’t believe any of this is happening, she thought, slowly lifting herself out of the water.
It is my hope you will read Katrina and Winter.  It is a tribute to Katrina, Winter and all others who must live with a special needs problem and rises above the handicap until it is not a handicap any longer.  It's a badge of honor and a badge of courage.  Katrina and Winter.  Winter and Katrina.  Heros both.

Monday, April 9, 2012

J is for Jot

No, Dear Reader, I haven't lost it.  Know why?  Because I jot it down!  Yes, today we'll focus on the art of taking and keeping notes.  Sounds boring?  Not in an author's life.

Just about every author I know keeps a little notebook somewhere handy wherever s/he goes.  I certainly do and pull it out of my handbag or pocket more than I thought I would.

It's funny about nuggets of notions or tiny smoke swirls wafting around one's mind.  Many times they deliver flashes of clarity, and an idea is born.  As simple and complex as that.

When such a phenomenon occurs, you have to be ready to write, or the idea or nugget can evaporate back into the smoke and be gone forever.

An illustration you ask?  Okay, here's one:  As I splashed along through the surf on Clearwater Beach early one morning, my thoughts were of a pelican.  It was the pelican I was using in the book I was writing, One Pelican at a Time. 

I knew the pelican had to be different, recognizable from all others, because Bella and Britt, the heroines in the story, needed to know him immediately on sight.  Out of the smoke swirl came a pelican with a crooked beak.  An aha moment.  It had to be jotted down or could be gone forever.

Now granted, that's a simple illustration, but one nonetheless.  So many ideas come to an author, s/he has to be ready at a pen's click to put it to paper (or iPad, iPhone, etc.).

Jotting had become a way of life for me in a way I never thought it would.  Now that it's a part of my DNA, well, it's part of my DNA!

Try jotting.  You'll find it organizational at worst and inspirational at best!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

I is for Israel-Complex, Alluring, Memorable

 I took my second trip to Israel a short while ago.  My husband, who accompanied me, has been many times, as an archaeologist  excavating there some years ago.

What is it about the place that so allures?  The city of Jerusalem itself with its souk?  The Christian destinations, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem? Could it be the Galilee area where the Biblical sites, luscious scenery of the sea (a lake, really) or amazing fish, my favorite being the Peter Fish, are prepared perfectly? 

The Souk
Could it be the Golan Heights which produces wines, heady and rich? The mosques with their mysterious perfumed aura? The Wailing Wall, part of which was destroyed in 70 AD but is used every day by the Faithful for prayer and bat and bar mitzvahs?

The answer is, of course, all of it and so much more.  The country is a cacophony of people, sounds, sights, the likes of which one is hard pressed to forget.  Rather, it plays around in your head, urging me, at least, to return.

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Archaeological Site of Sepphoris
We have driven literally everywhere in a country that would fit into Florida eight times. It's been our good fortune to have visited most of the major archaeological sites, including the recently opened City of David in Jerusalem. 

Each time we return home invigorated, much the better for having gone.  It is our hope that another visit is in the offing in the future!

Western Wall of the Temple