Hidden Life of Vanished by Mark Bierman w Podcast Audio Version

Close up of "Vanished," cover, an action/thriller by Mark Bierman.

The Hidden Life of, “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #HumanTrafficking #Haiti #Writing #Canada Ever feel like your attempt to help the world is insignificant? When Mark Bierman, an author/blogger from Ontario, began to write an action/thriller, he found his subject ran deeper and broader than human trafficking. Within the horror, he discovered a message of hope. Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s original dream for it? Your questions, thoughts, and/or experiences are welcome here. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps: HBT introduction 1:00 Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman 3:18 My question for you 7:25 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: The blog post for this episode includes photos and links to more info. Blogger/author Mark Bierman’s site includes his contact and book info. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” is a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Mark Bierman’s guest blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and apple music and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is here.

Who knows what inspires someone to write a novel? Even authors don’t always until much later. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” seemed merely an experiment, a dive into fiction. Only as it progressed did I see it’s really a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love…

So when it comes to producing a novel, there’s deciding to write, then comes writing, and then it’s published. At that point, the author releases their words into the world for book lovers to make of them what they will. Every reader brings themself into the act of sitting with a story.

Here blogger/author Mark Bierman (click here for his site, where you can find his book and contact him) reveals what he’s learned about the writing process and readers. Born and raised on a farm in Ontario, Canada, he merges country life with his adult experiences as a correctional officer and a story teller. You can find more of his guest posts for Happiness Between Tails here and here.

Vanished by Mark Bierman cover.

The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman

A few weeks ago, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

Here’s a quick synopsis

Driven to despair by a shared loss, Americans John Webster and Tyler Montgomery try to self-medicate by embarking on a mission of goodwill to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The reconstruction of an orphanage transforms into a nightmarish hunt after a young girl is kidnapped.

Unequipped, culturally illiterate, and alone, the pair are forced into alliances with shifty characters, as they delve deeper into the treacherous underbelly of the human trafficking world. Can they survive long enough to keep their promise to the child’s mother?

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery, is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire to promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it? At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty-plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium security prisons.

Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.
Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary, which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from. I also want to emphasize that Hollywood and the news are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve led normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues. Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.        

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell you, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers. Look around, you’ll find them everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read… you get the picture, then you are a helper.

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

Here’s info at my site about how one woman works to help victims of human trafficking.

Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s dream for it?

Animals in Fiction by Peni Jo Renner: Pt 2 with Audio/Podcast

Title of blog post over photo of author Peni Jo Renner.
Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.

Animals in Fiction by Peni Jo Renner: Part 2 of 2 Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Novels #Writing #Fiction #Animals How do animals figure into your reading or writing? Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner tells us how she uses them in her books. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee.buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Animals in Fiction by Peni Jo Renner: Part 2 of 2 My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Peni Jo Renner’s blog. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Peni Jo Renner — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of the blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places

If you’re planning to be a soon-to-be self-published novelist like I am, what’s your game plan? Mine is first to gather a following of folks who enjoy my general sensibility and style. Everyone can get an idea of both through Happiness Between Tails and the other social media I use. That way (fingers crossed) there will be some people interested in reading my books when they finally debut.

How do you find out about novels, purchase them, and in what format?

Peni Jo Renner, who blogs from in Maryland, is a three-time self-published historical novelist — plus she’s a blogger. She’s featured me on it plus she’s looking for people to review books there).

Her three books are available by clicking on their titles. The 3-part series begins with multi-award-winning Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, followed by Letters to Kezia and Raid on Cochecho. All are available for purchase online.

Here she discusses the value of animals in fiction…

The Importance of Furry and/or Feathered Characters by Peni Jo Renner (Part 1 with her here)

I spent my childhood pounding out corny stories on a plastic manual typewriter that printed only in caps. Admittedly, my plots were shallow set in idyllic valleys where the protagonist’s biggest challenge was locating a runaway Palomino mare named Nugget.

Accompanied by a bloodhound named Trapper.

And a pet raven named Edgar (and no, I’d never even heard of Edgar Allen Poe yet!).

Fast-forward about 40 years, and after putting aside fiction writing for nearly a quarter of a century, the writing bug bit me again and I realized my dream of writing (and getting published!) when I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

My novels are peopled by my own Colonial ancestors, and it was really fun researching life in the 17th century. During my research, I was reminded that although styles may change and technology may advance, humans retain their proclivities throughout the centuries. 

As do non-humans.

Some of the most fun characters to bring to life are the four-legged ones. Riff, the big, loyal dog in Puritan Witch, continues his role as a devoted companion in Letters to Kezia. In the opening scene of Raid on Cochecho, the purity and innocence of childhood are embodied in a playful white kitten simply called Kitty. 

A human-only cast of characters, with their human foibles such as hate, greed, and selfishness, in this author’s opinion, needs a little respite with the sprinkling of a few animal companions here and there. After all, they can be the most fun to write!

How do you find out about novels, purchase them, and in what format?

Self-Publishing by Peni Jo Renner Pt 1 + Podcast Version

Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2 Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Novels #Writing #Fiction Do you want to write a book? Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner tells us how she published several. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2 My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Peni Jo Renner’s blog. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Peni Jo Renner Her books. 3CTl0Fn7PgHC4ITynM7O — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of the blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places

Title of blog post over photo of historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.
Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.

Many who visit here are soon-to-be self-published novelists (I’m writing novels too). Fortunately for us, Peni Jo Renner (who blogs from Maryland and has generously featured me on it plus she’s looking for people to review books there) has three self-published historical novels worth of experience to share with us…

Interview: Self-Publishing with Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner Part 1 (Part 2 here)

 

da-AL: What advice can you give to writers who want to self-publish? And who’d like to get their books into public libraries?

Peni Jo Renner: Advice? Well, in 2012, I hadn’t written in like 25 years, and I felt I needed a refresher, so I took a class at our local community college. A fellow student told me that she had published HER book with iUniverse, so I went with them. But due to the measly 20% royalties iUniverse offered, I looked into other self-publishing companies and settled on Lulu with its 80% royalty rate. LuLu took care of all the copyrights and stuff. Self-publishing with companies like this can be expensive, so if money is an issue,  Amazon’s Createspace is free. 

I’m not big on self-promotion. I didn’t write my trilogy to make money, more to fulfill a lifelong dream. However,  I do ask new Facebook friends to “Like” my author page, and I participate in #SharingIsCaring on Facebook. #SharingIsCaring is this campaign on Facebook (and I suppose Twitter and Instagram) that authors list their FB author pages on other authors’ pages. Everyone Likes everyone else’s pages. Usually, the campaigns begin on Sundays.

In the past, I have participated in local book-signing events, but they are few and far between. However, I like to keep a supply of “The Puritan Chronicles” bookmarks, and I’ll ask people, “Do you enjoy reading historical fiction?” If they reply in the affirmative, I give them a bookmark. 

As to libraries; I know my trilogy is at my local library, but that may be due to the fact I used to work there! However, a cousin in Texas did show me a photo of my book, “Puritan Witch,” that she found at HER library!

My books are POD (Print on Demand), so the best way to purchase them is online. I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

Here’s the bookmark that historical novelist Peni Jo Renner hands out.

Dear Happiness Between Tails friends: Check back soon for when Peni Jo lends us a peek into her writing process!

My fave historical novel is Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits — what’s yours?…

Oldest Blogger + Aithal’s Survival + Podcast: Vet Trip by B Christopher

This post's title over Image of Morrie Markoff, then 99, and his wife, Betty, then 97, at their home in 2013. Photo by Gary Friedman for the Los Angeles Times.

Critter Vids + A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher Happiness Between Tails

#Animals #Cats #Writing #Vets Are you wild for animals? Brendan Christoper, an animal educator and blogger out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom tells the tale of taking his cat to the vet. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. include guest’s Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Brendan and a couple of his pets. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of Critter Vids + A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

“When you reach the age of 100, suddenly, even if you did nothing notable, you are a celebrity. Friends, even longtime ones, neighbors and strangers look at you differently. You see and feel it. When perfect strangers find out, they shake your hand, as if, by osmosis, you can transfer the secrets of long life to them.” Quote from Keep Breathing: Recollections from a 103-year-old, by Morrie Markoff (born January 1914), published five years ago.

Fine art galleries sell Morrie’s metal sculptures, an art form he took up in his 90s. Then there’s the aforementioned book at 103. Today 108, he’s still blogging strong!

His secret? According to one of his many Los Angeles Times interviews, the key is to stay curious! 

Aithal has self-published six novels! He and Morrie embody “never give up.” That’s the kind of motivation I want to soak up as I plot my next steps for the novel I just finished writing.

Originally from India and now residing in Orange County, California, Aithal generously shared his publishing know-how last week, about another of his books here. His book titles and links are India Was OneBeyond The Milky WayReturn to EarthDivided States of America2120The Man From Afghanistan.

“Survival of the Fittest,” by Aithal  

Man to Shopkeeper: Please give me ten guns, 100 bullets + 1 antibiotic azithromycin tablet.

Shopkeeper: Sorry, Sir, we can’t sell you the antibiotic without a prescription…

This may be a joke, but it’s a fact of life in America.

America is no longer a land of opportunity — at least not for all. It seems to have turned into a lawless country held hostage by few. Over time it has desensitized its citizens in many walks of life, the latest being the mass shooting in Texas. It has become a standard playbook for the Right. Send thoughts and prayers, show outrage, blame mental illness, and then wait it out. They know it has worked in the past: Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and so many more. We have collectively lost our way, and not just our minds. We have become the laughingstock of the world. We no longer are respected…but feared.

How many of us know on February 19 of this year, there was a mass shooting in Portland, Oregon, at Normandale Park that left one dead and five injured. We tend to absorb the news with mild curiosity, thinking, “oh, just one dead. Not a very big deal.” Actually, it is. However, little do we realize that the Right has succeeded in desensitizing us so much that our brains take one death for granted. It shouldn’t be. We must retrain our brains to think that even one human loss is unacceptable. We must not fall for the Right’s trope of ‘mental illness’ excuse. It is offensive to all those who have an actual mental illness. They never think of taking a gun and committing mass murder. So, in conclusion, them saying an individual was mentally deranged is nothing but an excuse. Making a lethal weapon easily accessible to them is not a Second Amendment Right.

Years from now, when the current politicians are dead and gone, the future generation will have to endure their political stances. Slowly but steadily, America will experience a brain drain. The unending supply of the immigrants, who have been infusing vibrant new blood into this country’s soul, will taper down to a trickle. The American dream will turn into an American nightmare.

Think about the rules and regulations for a car. When you want to buy a vehicle, you must have a title and tags. A driver training before you can operate one on the road, a written and a practical test before getting a license, health requirements, and insurance. You can obtain this at DMV, a government body, and not just a car fair. Why can’t it be the same for guns? 90% of Americans want change in the current gun laws. 10% and fifty Republican senators are defying the will of three-hundred million Americans.

And we are proud to call America a leader in democracy.

How old do you plan to be when you quit writing, blogging, or dreaming?…

Big Cat Love + Podcast: Persian Veggie Kabobs, Tahdig, Veg Omelet Recipes

Photo of a cat looking into a reflection on water of a lion.

3 Recipes: Persian Veggie Kabobs, Tahdig, Veg Omelet Happiness Between Tails

#Cooking #Persian #HealthyEating #Recipe #Vegetarian Looking for recipes that are tasty and easy? What are you enjoying eating lately? Here are three great ones! My husband, Khashayar, isn’t just a great vegetarian cook and baker; he’s a healthy one. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:00 3 Recipes: Persian Veggie Kabobs, Tahdig, Veg Omelet by Khashayar My question for you HBT outro Photos of these dishes are available at the HBT post for this show. Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails where you'll find the complete recipe, including the list of ingredients. More of Khashayar’s vegetarian recipes, such as a great hot soup, a crunchy salad, a fruity dessert, an entree, and this appetizer, and this one — and more at HappinessBetweenTalis.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of the post below this blog post of “3 Recipes: Khashayar’s Veggie Kabobs, Persian Tahdig, & Asparagus Omelet.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

It’s still Persian New Year, still time to eat food like Khashayar, my husband, explains how to make in today’s podcast.

And it remains time to admire nature, beauty, and kindness. All those are wrapped up in Jurgen’s post (he was also linked to in this other Happiness Between Tails post) about Valentin Grüner, whose friendship with Sirga, a lioness, is as cuddly as what I had with Mooshie, a tabby house cat. (More about Mooshie in this video and here.)

Jurgen’s site also offers an excellent example of the joys of using WordPress’ Google Translate widget. It’s free to use and great for anyone with a WordPress blog.

Within Jurgen’s post you’ll find videos and more about Valentin, who is a wildlife activist. In addition, here’s a video of Kevin Richardson, who also works hard to help wildlife.

Food, nature, friendship — that’s how Persian New Year culminates. To thwart bad luck from sneaking into the year ahead, 13 days after the 1st, we’ll go picnic, play, and take walks.

Much as I love animals, hopefully no lions will surprise us. If one did, I doubt I could stay as calm as Valentin and Kevin!

Would you pet a lion? Have you?

Co-Authors: J.L. Harland + 4 Bloomers + Podcast: Peterson’s Pub’g Inspo

Blog title over photo of “J. L. Harland,” the writing duo Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett.
“J. L. Harland” is writing duo Janet Laugharne (left) and Jacqueline Harrett (right).

Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #Guinea Pigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. Here she talks about how her pets help her to relieve stress. What's your best stress reliever? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:00 Self-Publishing and Thera – Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 4:00 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of this blog post of “Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Here’s the full LinkTree list of 50+ places.

Note: click here to listen to the audio/podcast of the post below.

Fearful of getting old? Wonder what it would be like to collaborate on a novel (working on my novels can be lonely)? Read on to meet four late-bloomers who reinvented themselves, some better categorized as “re-bloomers” with several life success! Numbers 3 and 4 describe in their own words what it’s like to be co-authors…

In the interest of learning to blog at any age, have you read WordPress’s ebook/pdf, “The Ultimate Traffic Guide”? A few chapters in, there are already some broken and rather old “additional info” links, and I’m unsure it’s worth a full $17. However, it’s got me updating posts to total no more than 15 categories plus tags each to ensure (fingers crossed) they show up on searches at the WordPress Reader. Given how important WP says they are and how our success as bloggers can only help WP, wouldn’t it be great if there were category/tag counters on editing pages and the post list pages? An alert when we go over would be all the better!

Between updating categories and tags, I clicked over to try another (here’s the first one I tried) super easy near-immediate gratification Jenny Can Cook no-knead bread recipe, this one for whole wheat. After 10 minutes of measuring and mixing, a 3-hour rise, a 40-minute bake, and an hour to cool and slice — yum!!!!…

Whole Whole wheat bread ala Jenny Can Cook's no-knead recipe.  bread ala Jenny Can Cook recipe.
Whole wheat bread ala Jenny Can Cook’s no-knead recipe.

Now meet late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Grandma Moses…

Grandma Moses, circa 1950 by Clara Sipprell.
Grandma Moses, circa 1950 by Clara Sipprell, 31 Oct 1885 – 27 Dec 1975 – https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.81.8, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110147052

American folk artist of worldwide fame, Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses, September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961) grew up humbly; farming as a child, at twelve leaving home to work, and later giving birth to ten children, only five of who lived past infancy. She’d always loved creating beauty out of nothing, but it wasn’t until she turned 78 that arthritis forced her to take up painting. When one hand tired, she’d switch to the other.

U.S. postage stamp with art by Grandma Moses.
This U.S. postage stamp is only one of Grandma Moses’s many honors. By Bureau of Engraving and Printing – U.S. Post Office; Smithsonian National Postal Museum; Image enlarged and rendered for tone, clarity by Gwillhickers, Public Domain.

As practical as she was prolific, she told journalism giant William R. Murrow that painters should be self-taught, otherwise, “You’ll paint as the teacher paints.” When he asked her if it was hard to part with her work, she answered, “Oh, no. I’d rather see the money.”

Late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Colonel Sanders…

Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders circa 1974. A showman and businessman, his trademark “colonel” string tie along with bleached hair and mustache was his costume to market chicken. By Edgy01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders circa 1974. A showman and businessman, his trademark “colonel” string tie along with bleached hair and mustache was his costume to market chicken. By Edgy01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Heard of a little fast-food chain called Kentucky Fried Chicken? Harlan David Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) started it when he was 65. Prior to that, he worked as everything from a streetcar conductor and an army wagoner, to a blacksmith’s helper and a fireman. After he sold KFC for boo-coo bucks, he badmouthed the new owners for cutting so many corners they ruined the food.

In 1962, Sanders taught Tennessee Ernie Ford and Minnie Pearl how to cook their own KFC chicken…

Today’s Guests: Late bloomers/re-bloomers #3 and #4…

J. L. Harland is a duo of authors, both who “turned new pages” after retirement; Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett. Check out each of the aforementioned three links, because they also write independently. Residents of Cardiff, South Wales, UK, they met as colleagues and ended up friends for thirty years.

Jan, originally from North Wales, speaks Welsh and worked as a professor of languages in education. She writes poetry and short fiction.

Jacqui says, “Writing together has been an unexpected joy as we share much laughter in the process. Plus, it’s an excuse to meet and eat cake!”

She grew up in Northern Ireland, was a teacher and an academic before she became a multi-genre author. Her writing includes an award-winning non-fiction book for teachers and recently published crime novel, The Nesting Place.

Authors Janet Laugharne (right) and Jacqueline Harrett (left), 2 halves of J.L. Harland
Authors Janet Laugharne (right) and Jacqueline Harrett (left), 2 halves of J.L. Harland

The Joy of Co-authoring by J. L. Harland (Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett)

We are J. L. Harland: two writers with one voice and co-authors of What Lies Between Them, published by Dixi Books. The name is a combination of Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett, both former academics and flourishing in retirement.

Many people see retirement as the end of a meaningful life, especially if they have left a job which has occupied every waking moment. Retirement should be seen as an opportunity to do all those things you dreamt of doing when you were a youngster, before the need to earn a living became a reality.

As academics our working lives were busy, demanding, intellectually stimulating and often stressful so when we retired, around 2014, we threw ourselves into exploring the opportunities our new freedom afforded. Academic life consists of many different aspects and requires people skills as well as writing ability. We both published academic papers, chapters in books, modules for degrees and helped students to edit their work and expand their knowledge. It was inevitable that we should both want to do something more creative. We discussed the art of creative writing and which areas we felt we had weaknesses, set targets and then edited each other’s work. Tentative beginnings. We also took classes in creative writing. 

The first class we attended was across the city, so the journey entailed two buses to get to the venue. We met in the city centre and had a coffee and a chat before heading to class. It was during one of these chats that writing together was mooted. And so, our journey began.

What shall we write about? Where shall we set it? Who are the characters? Those were our questions and starting point. Every week when we met, we talked and planned. Our recent experiences of Higher Education gave us the setting, a fictional university in a familiar city, Cardiff, South Wales.

We each had a notebook and spent hours working out the characters first. Physical, personality, backstory, friends, relatives and what dilemma our main character had to face to ensure conflict. It was so much fun, and Elin Fiorelli was created. It should be noted that we both believe so much in this fictional character that we think we’ve seen her. Elin Fiorelli is a Welsh/Italian academic, a career woman whose life starts to unravel when she returns from a research trip abroad to find her former lover is now her boss. Can she keep the secret from her past while dealing with present day problems? You need to read it to find out.

Once we had a vague plot – we knew where it started and ended, the story arc, but the middle was more muddled – we started writing. Taking a chapter each, in turn, we wrote four chapters at a time. It was very exciting as, to keep the storyline intact, we each waited for a chapter before continuing to write. Opening the computer to find that your writing partner has completed the next stage in the story was stimulating and motivating. We are both guilty of going ‘off piste’ and creating scenes and minor characters not in the planning but that adds to the thrill of the writing process.

Cover of "What Lies Between Them," by J. L. Harland.

The story was in a very rough almost first draft when it was longlisted for a debut novel prize. That gave us encouragement and hope that it would be published. We sought editorial advice from a couple of sources, tweaked, adjusted and polished the manuscript before sending it into the world. It has been edited so many times and our writing voice so blended even we do not know who wrote which bits. 

As any writer is aware, rejection is part of the journey. Our previous experiences as academics had made rejection something to be expected so it didn’t deter us. Every so often, we’d send the novel out while continuing to write other things. 

During lockdown, when we couldn’t met in person, we Facetimed and managed, after the initial panic, to write a novella, a novelette and several pieces of short fiction. We kept a record of where What Lies Between Them had been submitted and put it on the back burner while we carried on creating. A second novel was nearing completion when we found our publisher. A couple of publishers had previously shown an interest but not the right fit, for various reasons.

For both of us having a novel published is a dream we held as teenagers. Now it’s a dream realised. The fun and laughter, as well as tears of frustration, we have shared on this journey has been a joy and we have many ideas and plans for future co-authoring projects.

Although many of the skills we learnt in our working lives have been of benefit on this journey we are still learning. Some of the learning curves have been vertical and we are busy marketing in the local area, doing talks and signings at all sorts of venues. For writers who have no public speaking experience this aspect, the need to be seen and engage with people, must be agonising. For both of us it almost feels like a return to work. 

We also pursue our individual writing and are happy to support each other in these endeavours. As well as long form writing, Janet enjoys writing short stories, flash fiction and poetry, with work published in national magazines, literary journals and online. Jacqui’s debut crime novel, The Nesting Place, was published by Diamond Books UK in 2021 and she’s busy working on the next in the series.

Retirement? What’s that? We’ve found a new career in retirement, and we are relishing all the opportunities offered to carry on living purposeful and enjoyable lives.

How many times do you hope to bloom?

Critter Vids + B. Christopher’s Vet Trip + Podcast: A. Renaud’s Inspo

Photo of Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a chinchilla.
Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a friend.

Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #Publishing #Creativity #Covid-19 #Animals Staying home, as well as animals, inspire fantasy romance author Alice Renaud, a Londoner. Here she also details how she published her award-winning books! How's your creativity going? Share your thoughts, and questions. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Alice Renaud discusses what inspires her writing My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Fantasy romance author Alice Renaud's website that tells about her and her books. Original blog post for this episode. About “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat," my novel. Posts regarding my bout with COVID are here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Photos at the HBT blog post for this show: Portrait of Alice Renaud. Alice’s photo of an amazing red butterfly. Tabitha, Alice’s aunt’s tabby, staring at the neighbour’s feline. Cover of Alice’s “Mermaids Marry in Green; a Sea of Love Novel.” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

It started with witnessing utter joy between an orangutan and a hound dog. Youtube videos are pleasant distractions when one is slogging through writing a novel, no? (A bit about the ones I’m working on H-E-R-E.) As you can guess, my fave videos involve dogs, preferably ones that look like mine. Dogs are absolute experts at befriending anything and everything…

When I mentioned the video to a friend, she replied, “Me too! I love looking at interspecies romances.”

Is that what they’re called? Now short breaks turned into hour-long procrastinations… add in baby goats and owls and… and so it goes with YouTube… That’s why I’m sharing just one more with you — so as not to impose on your busy day, it’s got five not-so-romantic romances rolled into ten minutes…

Cute, weird, adorable, scary… what a diverse world of creatures we inhabit! Here to show us in real-life terms about the benefits of human-animal relations is Brendan Christoper, a blogger (links to his work h-e-r-e) out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom. Besides writing, he’s a hands-on educator who introduces his wild menagerie to people of all ages at events, parties, and classes. Read on for how even his pets aren’t thrilled with veterinarian visits…

Photo of Forest, a black and white cat resting on a cat scratching tree, by Bren from Wild4animals.
Forest by Bren from Wild4animals.

I’m Taking My Pet to See the Vet (Wish me luck!) by Brendan Christopher

Forest, my cat, is suspicious, so he slinks behind the sofa. Then, spying from a safe distance, he spots me fumbling with a pet carrier. There’s no turning back now.

As I creep towards Forest, I pretend to act casually. But, in one swift move, I scoop him up, place him into the box and attempt to shut the lid.

Somehow, he always manages to leave at least one paw on the outside. When I push that one in, another pops out like a jack-in-the-box. Eventually, we’re ready, and that’s when the drama begins.

To be fair, Forest is usually compliant when going to the vets — well, except for a couple of issues. One involves the journey.

He hates the motion of travel and lets out the most pathetic meow he can muster. This noise sounds like a baby in distress and is designed to wreck my emotions.

Now I’m racked with guilt as I drive. But mercifully, the journey’s short, so I’m spared any lasting trauma.

On arrival, he’s usually calmed down. However, as we cross the car park, the howling starts again because he doesn’t like the instability.

Logo for Brendan Christoper's animal education work, Wild 4 Animals, an acronym for Welfare, Intrigue, Learning, and Dignity.
Brendan Christoper’s animal education logo.

There’s just another man with a cat in the waiting area and me. I sit opposite, but the two cat boxes happen to face each other. So, naturally, we humans start complimenting each other’s pets.     

Meanwhile, our cats hold a growling contest for no apparent reason. They clearly hate each other even though they’ve just met. I think to myself, ‘it’s a good job they’re on neutral ground and not meeting in a back alley’. (Or perhaps they have – who knows with cats?)

Anyway, as Forest prowls around like a big caged cat, we’re summoned. I place the box on the vet’s table and carefully unleash my feline.

Instantly, Forest makes himself look massive by fluffing up his fur and thickening his tail. However, he fails to intimidate the vet — on the contrary, she finds him cute.

All goes well until its temperature time. At this point, the vet dares to hold his bushy tail whilst inserting a thermometer. Thankfully, Forest is a gentle soul, so he tends not to bite.

Once the ordeal’s over, the vet declares him a ‘good boy’, and I beam like a proud parent.

On the way out, he looks at me as if to say, ‘And I thought I could trust you. Typical human.’

Finally arriving home, I open the carrier, and Forest shoots out. He sniffs the box, glares at me and flicks his tail in disgust — that means I’ve been snubbed. However, as soon as I stroke him (and open a packet of food), he’s back to his loving, purring self.

Well, almost… he gives me that look as if to say, ‘you’re forgiven this time, but NEVER trap me in that cat snare again!’

The only problem is I’m taking Forest for another check-up in six months. Even though I know it’s for his own good, I doubt he appreciates my efforts.

Do you have a favorite animal?

Writing Humor + Tips + Podcast: What’s Pro-Choice by K E Garland

da-AL's face covered in mud from Glen Ivy Springs, Corona, CA.
Muddy me.

Pro-Choice: what being it actually means, by K E Garland Happiness Between Tails

#ProChoice #Abortion #Women #EqualRights #Laws When were you challenged to make a pivotal decision only you ought to have decided? In sharing her personal story, author/blogger K E Garland shows how being Pro-Choice isn’t about deciding to bear a child. It’s about whether you’d want others, namely your government, to decide for you. Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 K E Garland on “What it Actually Means to be Pro-Choice” My question for you: When were you challenged to make a pivotal decision only you ought to have decided? HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode, in order of appearance: “Everybody’s a teacher if you listen.” — Doris Roberts; actress, author, and philanthropist. “My Abortion Story + Jury Service Pt 2”. K E Garland’s article first appeared at PULPMag on Feb. 13, 2020. K E Garland’s prior guest appearance at Happiness Between Tails. Aanother excellent post on the subject contrbuted by Infidel753. Planned Parenthood. K E Garland's personal blog, where you can find out more about her and her books. A site K E Garland also hosts to normalize conversations about menopause. Statistics on adolescent mothers who never attended or finished college. Some of the states where women are currently faced with the strictest abortion regulations to date. States such as Missouri have only one abortion clinic, limit access, and add stress to an already stressful situation. A study showed that women who have abortions do so because it would “interfere with their education, work or ability to care for their dependents, or they could not afford a baby at the time,” yet the current political climate ignores these as valid reasons to terminate a pregnancy.  State facts about abortion in Michigan. Photos available at the HBT blog site for this show: Photo of K E Garland. Covers of books she’s written and published. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Pro-Choice: what being it actually means, by K E Garland,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Now that things loosened up COVID-wise — and I’ve gotten immunizations 1 and 2 and booster, a regular flu shot, plus before the shots rolled out I got sick with COVID (and I’m still dealing with resulting sensory probs) — I’m socializing a bit. That’s less time to work on my novels h-e-r-e, but such is the push/pull of pleasure/work…

That pic above is muddy me relaxing at Glen Ivy Hot Springs’ many therapeutic pools, including natural mineral ones. Interestingly, when I searched for a link to describe it to you better than I can, turns out up Emissaries of Devine Light owned it until recently. They still have a huge track of lush resort-looking (at least from the outside) land next to it. Depending on who you ask, EDL is a spiritual organization or a cult started in 1932 by Lloyd Arthur Meeker.

Notes and tips, in no particular order…

Podcasting 1 — today’s episode h-e-r-e (original blog post for it h-e-r-e): Want to take part in keeping abortion rights legal? Volunteer clinics need escorts. H-e-r-e’s Infidel753’s guest blog post about his experience. T-h-i-s link tells about these Minnesota humanitarians who freeze their buts off to do it.

Blogging 1: Are you as utterly gratified as me that readers visit from all over the world? The latest reader to pop by hales from Madagascar. Did you know over 90% of the island’s wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth? Sadly, humans threaten their ecosystems and wildlife…

Podcasting 2: Since I’m using my current podcast of this blog to experiment before I convert my future novels into a serialized story-telling podcast, I love hearing of others who’ve succeeded doing just that. Welcome to Night Vale makes a tidy sum from selling stuff, h-e-r-e’s their Wiki page, like tickets to their show’s stage performances, novels, and merchandise!

Writing: When you write, do you listen to anything? Lyrics and tunes distract me. If they’re really good, I want to look up the artists, and one thing leads to another, none of it writing. Enter Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR has to do with how simple sounds, birds and footsteps and chatter and wind and such, can be lovely. Check out t-h-i-s seven-hour video of a Paris jazz dance club.

Blogging 2: Ever wonder why some images and posts on your site are more popular than others? I’m continually scratching my head over that one. For instance, I don’t have a way to formally calculate how many folks click on what, but it seems a lot enjoy these photos of Pinkie and The Blue Boy I used in t-h-i-s post about the Huntington Library.

Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence and The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough at The Huntinton
Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence and The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough at The Huntinton.

Influencing: Should I be flattered that lately junk mailers refer to this blog as a “micro influencer”?

Animation: Wanna try converting your text into animation? Great! I made a really cute one for you to see from t-h-i-s blog post of Khashayar’s healthy carrot cake recipe and t-h-i-s podcast episode, but I can’t show it to you. Whatever you do, do not use the freebie at video maker simple. Absolutely do not use it. Only after hours of learning to make and polish one using their supposed freebie, did they state I’d have to pay to upload and download it. When I complained, they basically told me not to complain. So don’t use that one.

Podcasting 3: In one way, converting WordPress dot com blog posts into AnchorFM podcast episodes is super easy. In another, not entirely. To be “read-aloud-able,” posts need massaging of image captions, links, tweaking spelling and punctuation for the sake of pronunciations and pacing, etc. To get around the incompatibility, I set up a different WordPress dot com blog where I copy posts from here, edit them at the other blog, and send the revised ones to Anchor.

For Anchor to convert them, they need to be publicly published. Rather than have the weird blog/text versions confusing people, once I finalize the audio versions, I delete the text ones.

Here’s the rub — and the solution, which took me ages to figure out when neither WordPress nor Anchor could. Once I delete the blog post, the episode shows at my AnchorFM list on my desktop computer, but gives an error message when I try to publish it. Turns out, thank goodness, I can publish it from my iPad (and iPhone maybe too?). Once published, I can further edit it on my desktop. Whew!

33 Language Funnies…

  1. A woman without her man is nothing. Sorry… A woman: without her, man is nothing.
  2. Space: the difference between a kid napping and a kidnapping.
  3. I’m giving up eating chocolate for a month. Sorry… I’m giving up. Eating chocolate for a month.
  4. A cop just knocked on my door and told me my dogs were chasing people on bikes. I told him, “That’s impossible. My dogs don’t own bikes.”
  5. I’m giving up drinking until xmas. Sorry… I’m giving up. Drinking until xmas.
  6. The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.
  7. Let’s eat kids. Sorry… Let’s eat, kids.
  8. I’m a grammar doctor: let’s have a look at your colon.
  9. You have a body like Adonis. Sorry… You have a body, like Adonis.
  10. My teacher told me to name two pronouns. I answered, “Who, me?”
  11. Help! I’m stranded on a dessert island. Sorry… I’m stranded on a desert island.
  12. Well done, well-done, or well, done?
  13. I like cooking dogs and kids. Sorry… I like cooking, dogs, and kids.
  14. “I” before “E,” except when either your weird feisty neighbor or his eight foreign heirs forfeit their beige heifers and seize freight.
  15. Help a thief. Sorry… Help! A thief!
  16. Irony is when someone writes, “Your an idiot.”
  17. He’s feeling your nuts. Sorry… He’s feeling you’re nuts.
  18. Q: What’s the difference between a cat and a comma? A: One has claws at the end of its paws and one is a pause at the end of a clause.
  19. Simple riddle: A word in this sentence is misspelled.
  20. Q: What’s another name for Santa’s elves? A: Subordinate Clauses.
  21. Someone posted they had just baked some synonym buns. I replied, “You mean just like the ones grammar use to make?”
  22. Grammar: The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.
  23. Homonyms are a reel waist of thyme.
  24. A priest, a rabbit, and a minister walk into a bar. The rabbit says, “I might be a typo.”
  25. Q: What happened when the semicolon broke grammar laws? A: It was given two consecutive sentences.
  26. I’m working in a furniture factory as a drawer.
  27. I saw an accident walking down the street.
  28. A verb and a noun were dating. They broke up because the noun was too possessive.
  29. The patient was released to the outpatient department without dressing.
  30. Funny how this sentence makes sense: “All the faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life.”
  31. I avoid clichés like the plague.
  32. When comforting a grammar nerd, tell them softly, “There, their, they’re.”
  33. My life is a constant battle of wanting to correct grammar and wanting to have friends…

Want to read an amazing feat of orthography (the conventional spelling system of a language), go h-e-r-e to Infidel753’s site and prepare to be awed.

Got writing, blog, or pod tips to share?

World Building by Chris Hall + Podcast Audio Version

‘Sunset over the Berg River ©River Tides Guesthouse’ – where author Chris Hall stayed when she began writing her book, "Song of the Sea Goddess." Owner Mike Harvey is a good friend of hers and the photo is from his website.
‘Sunset over the Berg River ©River Tides Guesthouse’ – where author Chris Hall stayed when she began writing her book, “Song of the Sea Goddess.” Owner Mike Harvey is a good friend of hers and the photo is from his website.

Imagining a New Place by novelist Chris Hall + Me and COVID Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #WorldBuilding #SouthAfrica Have you ever created a new world? In this episode, author/blogger Chris Hall describes herself as “a compulsive story-teller, cat slave and hen keeper.” Record your thoughts, experiences, and qustions on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topics and about today’s guest 1:05 “Imagining a New Place” by novelist Chris Hall My question for you 5:28 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post that corresponds to this episode. Chris Hall's website. About my works in progress, "Flamenco & the Sitting Cat," and "Tango & the Sitting Cat" Some of the posts about when my husband and I had COVID-19 are here and here. and here. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of the riverside where by Chris Hall began writing her book, "Song of the Sea Goddess.” Photo of Chris Hall. Photo of Chris’s kitty, Luna. Photo of Chris’s book, “Song of the Sea Goddess”vg83yt618kz6sxYKe9w7x3vwvtkox1p4rpaz51 — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E to listen to today’s blog post below. The audio version is on AnchorFM’s Happiness Between Tails podcast page, where you’ll find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus many more and an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Notes on the progress of my new podcast and this blog: People listen to podcasts via so many different sites and devices that it’s important to upload one’s podcast onto as many directories (such as Apple and Spotify) as possible. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent much time making lists of them, uploading, waiting for verifications, etc., and still am not quite finished. By now, the show should be find-able on at least 50 places — yay! As for this site here, it’s got a new look when you click on the tab that gives you a list of past posts.

Connection… collaboration… We affect each other, for good and bad. Please know that your visits, likes, and comments go far in helping me keep writing my novels (about them h-e-r-e) and the rest of my creative endeavors.

Writers get to build whatever world they please — sometimes our novels bend the truth only somewhat — other times they invent entire new galaxies.

My works in progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” are set in fictitious towns within Los Angeles during 2002 and 2003. Back then, COVID-19 didn’t exist…

Note: When this post was first published in January of 2021, my husband and I found we were in the initial stages of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, we were super careful. I’m reiterating this as a reminder that one can never be too conscientious about avoiding this severe illness and about working civically to help contain it. (Here’s more about our bout with it h-e-r-e, and h-e-r-e. and h-e-r-e.)

Deciding on settings, histories, and all the rest that goes into storytelling is chancy no matter what an author chooses to create. There will always be fans and foes. To be a novelist requires enough passion to outrun the discouraging thoughts that can torment us.

Chris Hall has been wonderfully prolific over the last few years. She’s published three novels and a short story collection! Originally from the UK, she describes herself as “a compulsive story-teller, cat slave and hen keeper.” To sample her short fiction, fan fiction, mini-series, and poetry, as well as to follow her on her various social media, check out her website.

“Song of the Sea Goddess,” her most recent novel, is set where she lives now, the Western Cape of South Africa. (Listen to a sample of the audiobook version h-e-r-e.) Here she describes why she decided to depict a South Africa different from how it is in real life…

Author Chris Hall.
Author Chris Hall.

“From the Writer’s desk” by Chris Hall

Writing a novel is not just about telling the story. There are other considerations that come into play. I’d like to share with you why I was motivated to write a book set in South Africa. In particular, why I chose to paint an idealised portrait of the place and why I drew on the overarching theme of environmental destruction, rather than dealing with the gritty issues of race and poverty in my latest novel, Song of the Sea Goddess.

The Setting

When it came to writing this, my fourth novel, I was determined to set it in my adopted country, South Africa. I’d been living near Cape Town for almost ten years and the time had come to give voice to the people around me. I’d also decided it was time to transition from historical fiction. It was time to write in the moment, but at the same time include elements borrowed from the ancient lore of the African continent, which are written on cave walls and embedded in the landscape.

I knew I needed a setting to match the story I was about to tell, although the story hadn’t really even begun. Then, at the beginning of 2019, while staying in a small town on our very beautiful west coast, while I sat by the banks of the Berg River and watched the little boats going past on their way out to sea, I was moved to write a story about a fisherman with a little boat.

Every writer needs a helper as inspiring as Chris Hall's kitty, Luna.
Every writer needs a helper as inspiring as Chris Hall’s kitty, Luna.

The Characters

I’m a lazy novelist. I let my characters emerge and develop and play around in my mind. Even before they are fully formed, they are always desperate to run to centre stage and act out their parts.

But there has to be a starting point.

A few of my key characters are based on people I met when I first came to live in South Africa. People whose backgrounds were unfamiliar to me; people who come from what are euphemistically called ‘formerly disadvantaged communities’ (as if their communities are not still disadvantaged in this country, which has the most polarized society on the planet).

I could have written about some of their struggles, about the conditions in which they live, about the poverty and lack of opportunity that characterizes their communities, of how they’d suffered under apartheid, but as I got to them better, I realised that none of them wants to dwell on any of that.

So I decided I could give them better lives, locate them in a much more pleasant place and put a positive spin on this beautiful country.

I mixed them up a bit, taking a little bit of one and blending it with another, but their voices are true and their characteristics mirror real life in many respects. There’s a nod to some of the darker side of people’s lives with Sam’s flight from the Cape Flats’ gangland and in the history behind Jannie’s tattoos from the notorious ‘28s’ gang.

On the lighter side, several of the comical incidents, like when Auntie Rose loses her false teeth down her pants’ leg, are little events that actually happened. The food that the Aunties make and sell in the novel is based on recipes that I tasted and talked about with people. The love of food and the common ground we found over cookery has cemented several friendships in my new town.

The Theme

Concern for the environment is a theme I continue to return to in the short fiction and poetry, which I write on my blogsite, and while watching a TV documentary about water pollution, an idea began to form in my mind for the backdrop to my novel’s narrative. Water is in short supply in our country anyway, but what if the rivers were threatened? And what would happen if the forces of nature were moved to fight back? Soon my emerging novel would take a new and interesting turn.

My love of the landscape and ancient lore of the country that I now call home will continue to feature in my work. I’m already embroiled in a sequel to Song of the Sea Goddess, where myth and magic will once again be awakened in the little coastal town where the great river flows from the purple mountains into the southern ocean.

Visit Chris' site to order her books, and to find out more about her and the rest of her writings.
Visit Chris’ site to order her books, and to find out more about her and the rest of her writings.

Have you ever created a new world?

Writing Collab by P. Springer + Podcast: COVID + P. Wight Flash Memoir

Photo of da-AL with a fluffy dog who isn't K-D-doggie.
Shhh… don’t tell my K-D-doggie that I spent a quality afternoon with this friend, Charlie.

My Wedding Henna + The Henna Artist's Bighearted Alka Joshi on Saris Happiness Between Tails

  1. My Wedding Henna + The Henna Artist's Bighearted Alka Joshi on Saris
  2. Sweet Potato Frittata Recipe by Khashayar Parsi

Click H-E-R-E & you’ll find my brand new podcast page! It’s on AnchorFM, where the most recent show is the audio rendition of my blog post (the blog version is h-e-r-e), “COVID Hair and Writing Life by da-AL + Pamela S. Wight’s Flash Memoir.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Connection… collaboration… We affect each other, for good and bad. Please know that your visits, likes, and comments go far in helping me keep writing my novels (about them h-e-r-e) and the rest of my creative endeavors.

Connection includes your postcards! Rebekah, whose mom, Pat, wrote of her challenge of getting into the Marines h-e-r-e, recently completed the very difficult “The Crucible” culmination of boot camp! Moreover, she didn’t incur further injuries!! Yay!!! Pat says Rebekah, who still isn’t allowed to communicate with the greater outside world, is extremely grateful for your support. Rebekah will soon be in town, so I can’t wait to see her 🙂

This week I’ve slogged more through learning to start a podcast, hence I only got a little novel writing done. With luck, the Happiness Between Tails podcast will appear on least 50 directories (already included are Apple and Spotify). Each directory asked for my RSS feed, bios of varying character counts, different sizes of graphics, email verifications, etc. Halfway through submitting stuff, I discovered I was copying and pasting typos and repeated sentences. Oof! There was even junk to scour from this site’s “Welcome” page.

Next week, my ToDo List includes sorting through the rubble. Meantime, I also found stuff to fix in last week’s podcast version of “Khashayar’s Healthier Carrot Cake Recipe.”

Sheesh, how do people do all this and also promote?! I’m gonna say it now: Twitter, I hate you. I’m forever feeling like I’m hash-tagging you and sharing you and retweeting you all wrong, wrong, wrong. Most people who request to friend me aren’t “friend material” anyway. And Instagram, why, oh why, don’t you make yourself easier to use?! Life would be so much easier if you’d let me share to you from WordPress and from my desktop computer. (Oh, wait, I take back the second half of my rant about Insta thanks to Ashley of Mental Health at Home. She generously commented below that there’s a new way to upload to Instagram from desktops, so here’s a how-to I found on that.)

Today I got my first follower whose link is  a Snapchat. Ms. Sexy Snapchat, I’m not falling into your minefield of clicking on your sleezy-from-a-mile-away link, although I don’t mind that you increase my “followers count.”

Add in “life stuff,” and I wasn’t getting this week’s blog post written until the goddesses came through via Pete Springer. He’s contributed the immensely heartening post you’ll read further down!

Here’s a brief intro to author/blogger Pete Springer. After retiring from decades of teaching second to sixth graders, he published a book for future teachers called They Call Me Mom. He explains, “Every elementary teacher gets the title reference because kids are forever calling the teacher mom. Even though it was said unintentionally, I always took it as a beautiful compliment being compared to a mother.”

Now he’s finished his first middle-grade story, Second Chance Summer, which he’s trying to find a publisher and agent for. Thanks, Pete, for your wise and inspiriting words that follow…

Author Pete Springer.
Author Pete Springer.

The Importance of Collaboration in Writing: 6 Steps by Pete Springer

I’ve reached the age (62) where another birthday isn’t much cause for celebration. On the other hand, I’m still here, or as my mother-in-law used to say, “It’s better than the alternative.” One perk of being older is I’ve had a lifetime of experiences. I want to think I’ve learned a few things over that time. One of those beliefs is that it’s much better to try and fail than not to play the game.

I wish I could say that I’ve always been this fearless guy—the type who wasn’t afraid to try something new and equally comfortable in public speaking situations. The reality is I used to play it safe and took the easy way out. Look where that got me! Instead, now I put on my big boy pants every morning and go after what I want. I like this version of myself better than the old one. I love it when people say things like, “How do you do that?” or “I wish I had your nerve.” 

I have a couple of advantages over most others. I was an elementary school teacher for 31 years, so I got used to speaking to other people and doing things in front of my students that most people would never consider. I’m the one who wore his tidy whities over his dress pants on Backwards Day, the knucklehead who dressed up as one of the Blues Brothers while singing and doing cartwheels on stage, and the crazy guy who took his entire class and their families on biking fields trip across town.

It’s not like I’ve got one foot in the grave, but the hourglass has turned. I don’t have time to dilly around working up my nerve. That’s why I encourage anyone reading my piece to find your inner courage and go after your writing goals. Don’t wait until retirement to start that book you want to write. Get out there and sign up for that writing class you’ve always wanted to take. Above all, don’t be afraid to share your writing with other people because you worry that it doesn’t measure up. We all have to start somewhere, and that time is now.

I’ve done a lot of things to further my writing in the last few years. I’ve taken classes, read many books about writing, joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators), started a blog, and networked with other writers. I didn’t consider myself a writer before, but now I do. Seldom does a day go by when I’m not writing something. I take my craft seriously because there is no substitute for practice if we want to improve. While these things have helped me develop better writing skills, the most crucial step was finding a critique group.

Being a retired teacher, I’ve always believed in the collaborative process. Getting regular feedback from others is a critical step in any endeavor. Anyone who has been part of a team understands that we get extra juice from our teammates and don’t want to let them down.

The most critical ingredient in a critique group is trust. I understand that when my partners make recommendations and suggestions, they’re offering their opinions because they’re trying to help. As writers, we need to be open to constructive criticism. Sometimes things that I don’t see right away become apparent when someone else points them out. I’d estimate that 90% of the time, I agree with my critique partners’ recommendations. 

Of course, sometimes there are differences of opinion. We don’t get into prolonged debates trying to prove that we’re right. Getting feedback from others doesn’t mean we always have to agree with it, but we should try to listen and understand their point of view.

Ultimately, writers must be happy with the words they choose. If someone makes a point that I differ on, I either respectfully disagree or don’t say anything and write what my heart tells me is the better choice. When my editor made recommendations and changes, I listened to these thoughtfully. She was usually right, and I trusted her judgment in most situations. On the rare occasion when I didn’t, I explained my reasoning and went with what I believed was better. Working with an editor should be a give-and-take process.

Every critique group must find a process that works for them. Because most of the people in our group are retired, we’re able to meet nearly every week for four hours. Regular feedback is critical as a story develops. I’m sharing our process, knowing that others may have formats that work better for them:

Step 1: We do a brief check-in where each member shares what has been going on in their life.

Step 2: We hold a one-minute meditation to free ourselves from outside distractions and get our minds focused on the task at hand.

Step 3: We have a regular order, so we always know who the first person to share will be. Whoever comes first after the last person who read the previous week begins. They give a brief thirty-second reminder of what was happening in their story and then pass out the new chapter to each of us. We have a limit of up to ten pages per week for each member.

Step 4: Everyone reads the paper silently and makes written notes on the draft. After everyone finishes, we share our thoughts. One of the most crucial parts of the process is that the writer may not immediately respond to any feedback. This part is vital because it forces the writer to listen to each comment critically rather than act defensively. 

Step 5:  After everyone has commented on the paper, we move into the period called “Open Discussion.” At this point, the writer may react to any feedback. Sometimes thoughts are briefly debated, but everyone understands that the writer may accept or reject the suggestions.

Step 6: We continue this format throughout the meeting. If we don’t get to someone by the end of the session, that person has the choice of whether they would like their chapter to be homework or not. Those writers who haven’t had their chapter read will go first at next week’s meeting.

I sat in one week with another group, and the group dynamics felt much different. The one person I knew from that group couldn’t attend that day, so I worked with strangers. Their format was completely different; that threw me off. Each writer read their paper aloud, and the others were making notes on their papers simultaneously. They were in the middle of stories, characters, and plots I was unfamiliar with, and I was pretty much lost. I also found it challenging to write notes while listening to the story at the same time. By the end of the meeting, I knew it wasn’t a good fit, but I didn’t have any regrets about trying.

One final area that I want to address is that of having friends read your work. I did that with my first and second books, but I’ve learned this creates difficult situations. I had friends who told me they were dying to read my story. After I gave them a copy, I didn’t hear back from some for months. I don’t want to make it sound like this was the norm because many friends responded quickly with helpful comments. When I heard nothing, it created some confusion. Did they read it? Maybe they thought it wasn’t good and didn’t want to say anything. Perhaps they were too busy and forgot all about it. I tried to keep the process moving forward, but I also didn’t want to be a pest.

Having experienced this a few times, I was left wondering what to do. If I hadn’t heard anything for several weeks, I reached out again (once) and asked if they had a chance to get to it. A few times, I got the “I forgot all about it” response or “I’ve been super busy, but I’ll get to it soon” answer. I understand that those things can happen, but I’m the type of person who follows through when I make a promise. Knowing how uncomfortable and awkward this scenario felt, I’m no longer putting my friends in that position. Perhaps they didn’t know what they were signing up for when they volunteered. From now on, I will rely on my critique group, fellow writers, and other professionals in the industry. 

While writing is primarily a solitary pursuit, all writers should periodically get feedback. I am the least experienced writer in my group, but I didn’t let that intimidate me. The others made me feel like a valued member right away. I love the camaraderie of working with others, but what I like best is seeing my improvement as a writer. 

I’ve heard of critique groups that function online with Zoom. I can see how that could work. Others don’t meet face-to-face, and instead, people respond by email. I prefer meeting in person, but this method might work better for people who are still working. If we’re serious about improving as writers, then working with a group of equally committed people is an essential step in the process.

Do you find collaborating with other writers helpful?…